Sunday, February 23, 2014

to the edge and back... I

every time i reach that point where i feel so trapped, so desperate, i know i will lose it if i am not careful, i pull back.

for what else is there to do? it is this wish to live, or rather, the wish to do the best one can with life that is the death of us all. i won't mind dying. if i drop dead this moment, i won't have regrets. in fact that moment when i was hit by the car in May 2012, what i felt in the longest split second of my life, was not regret or fear of death, rather the dismay that Sri would have to deal with that too. i never felt that i don't want to die, just for my death to be easier for my family, and for me not to feel too much pain. i've known for quite some time that it isn't death that terrorises me. what scares me is having to live half a life.

and that is what makes me feel desperate, trapped...every time i feel that once again my life is about to be taken over by yet another health issue. the discomfort, or pain of ill-health is nothing compared to the loneliness of it. i never want to go there again. being ill was like a prison sentence. no visitors, no kindness, no smiling faces, no concerned friends. it was as if i had been convicted of some unmentionable crime against humanity. people turned away, without a word, without a wave. just left. up and out of my life. for i had become a loser. lost jobs, lost opportunities to study, lost energy to stay up or write exams, lost the freedom to hang out at all hours, go out in hideous weather and still be right as rain, lost the carefree you, lost reckless romantic youth... oh, what precious precious things to lose.

what scares me is not the thought of having a bad liver, or lung, or stomach. or broken and missing teeth. those i know i can live with. what scares me is having my friendships go bad, having my colleagues shun me, and my acquaintances stop acknowledging me. if you are in hospital you are good - you might still have visitors. if you have a leg or an arm in plaster, even better. if you have something you can put a scary name to, you would do well socially. what would detonate your social life in a second, is something you cannot name, something misdiagnosed, something undiagnosed but troublesome enough to tie to your house. people want the name that would allow them to judge if you are worthy of their sympathy, their prayers, their concern.

you put a name to your problem, they will put the price on it. the price you pay. not a few lost evenings, a few social outings, a picnic or two, and an office party. lost years, lost names, dates, friendships. that is the price you pay if your doctor messes up his diagnosis and fails to provide you with a name to satisfy your social circle with its seriousness, its reality. even with a name you might not score high enough - people have their own ideas about what is worth worrying and what isn't. god forbid if your illness falls in the latter category. so you are not well? what's wrong? why don't you take better care of yourself? oh you are too fussy - you should be stronger...why don't you go out a bit more? you can't be that weak! stop thinking so much about your own life...blah blah blah and see everyone knows more about your life and body than you do. stupid you.

Friday, January 10, 2014


too soon, the sun has set
and now i have to walk back.
back all the way to my books
the books which made me clever.
books which make me forget.
books which make me hunger,
for the thousand lovely deaths
they bestow kindly upon me.
and, bury my terrible fears.

too soon, i have to walk back
deep into those fears, with no one
whose hands, i’d kill, to hold for a long long time.
no one but my lovely mind,
and my thin, sighing body -
wrapped up so tight in layers
to cope with the cold spread out,
around me like something familiar -
as familiar as the tautness, that tears my heart apart.
cold that has never left my side,
nor my clammy hands and feet.
till there was no warmth left, none,
except, in my lovely mind.

and now,
that i’m walking back
to my songs, my words, my tv shows
i feel my eyelids close,
close down on the sun behind the houses
taut, and drinking in, that last ounce of sunlight
greedy, petulant, stubborn . . . resigned.
and i see the darkness close down
on a million lives inside the houses
births, deaths and struggles
paychecks, cuts and strikes
lost lunches, bags and smiles
all the things in my clever books,
my mind refuses to leave behind.

and the sun goes down again,
and i wish my mind would, too.
for it is so lonely a walk -
back and forth, and back again -
looking for a cold, so cold a sun
that comes up - only to haunt
day after day after dreary day...
but, refuses,
to light up
a million lives inside a million houses
lives bursting into awesome rages, bursting into haunting song
all locked up - inside the houses, tied
to their births, deaths and struggles
and their pay-checks, cuts and strikes
those lost lunches, bags and smiles -
all the ties, my clever books
tell me quietly, are hard, to undo.

yet, for these ties to be forever undone, 
i would give up the ten minutes, 
someone kind, 
put down against my name, long back:
my ten minutes, in a blessed sun.

* * *

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

मेरा आसमान

अब्बा के बारे में वैसे तो लगभग रोज़ ही सोचती हूँ, आज ज़्यादा याद आ रही है। मुझे याद है कि जब मैं नवी क्लास में थी तो अम्मी हज के लिए गयी थीं। ओह ये बताना तो भूल ही गयी कि मैं अपने दादा-दादी की बात कर रही हूँ, माँ और पापा की नहीं। हाँ, तो अम्मी गयीं हज पर और मुझे समझ में नहीं आ रहा था कि सिर्फ़ वो क्यों गयीं। अब्बाजी क्यों नहीं गए? वो तो बाक़ायदा पांच दफ़ा नमाज़ पढ़ने वाले आदमी थे।?

तब माँ ने वो बात बताई जिसको सुनकर मैं अब्बाजी की और भी मुरीद हो गयी। और जिसे सोच-सोच कर मुझे रोज़ अपने आस-पास जी रहे कई लोगों पर बड़ा गुस्सा आता है। क्योंकि जो बात उनके लिए सरल सी, और ज़रा में समझ में आने वाली, थी, वो दुनिया को समझ में आने में शायद धरती को ही सात जनम लेने पड़ जायेंगे!

अब्बाजी का जवाब था कि, बेटा, अल्लाह तो सब जगह है, उसके लिए हज पर जाने की क्या ज़रूरत? यहीं रह कर नमाज़ पढ़ ली, क़ाफ़ी है!

अब तुम लड़ते रहो कि मंदिर कहाँ बनाना है, और मस्जिद कहाँ बनानी है। जिसको धर्म और भगवान् समझ में आते हैं, आते हैं। बाकियों को लाख मंदिर मस्जिद घूम घूम कर भी नहीं आयेंगे। ये वो आदमी था जिसके लिए पूरे मोहल्ले के दरवाज़े खुले थे। मजाल थी कि कोई शादी हो, किसी के यहाँ बच्ची पैदा हो, या कोई बीमार हो और मास्टर जी (अब्बा क़ुरान भी पढ़ाते थे, और उर्दू स्कूल में मास्टर भी थे) को बुलावा ना आये। उनके बनाये तावीज़ सारे मोहल्ले के बच्चे पहने घूमते थे। क्या हिन्दू, क्या मुस्लिम, क्या मराठी, क्या सिन्धी. . . और उस समय एक मोहल्ले में सब मिल जुल कर रह भी लेते थे।  दरअसल एक वक़्त था कि बस एक अब्बा-अम्मी का ही परिवार था वहाँ, जो मुसलमान था। मगर कभी किसी को कोई डर, कोई उलझन नहीं हुयी इस बात पर।  

हाँ, अब बात और है। अब तो इंदौर ही वो नहीं रहा। धीरे-धीरे मराठी मोहल्ला कम पैसे वाले मुसलमानों का मोहल्ला हो गया है। जिनके बच्चे कभी दिन दिन भर एक दूसरे के घर पर बैठे टी वी देखा करते थे, वही हिन्दू मुसलमान अब एक दूसरे के घरों पर छुप छुप कर पत्थरबाज़ी करते हैं। 

ख़ैर, मेरे बचपन के इंदौर के खो जाने का ग़म किसी और दिन सही। आज तो अब्बाजी की ही बात करती हूँ। तो अभी अभी फेसबुक पर एक खबर पढ़ी कि कहीं लोगों ने किसी मंदिर में ग्यारह लाख का साढ़े पांच किलो घी चढ़ाया है. . .  वो घी सड़कों पर बहा जा रहा है। आँखों के सामने भीख मांगते और होटलों, हलवाइयों की दुकानों में आस से ताकते हज़ारों बच्चों की तस्वीरें घूम गयीं। ये वही लोग हैं न जो न बाइयों को तनख्वाह देते हैं समय से, न ग़रीब को इंसान समझते हैं। जो किसी भिखारी को अठन्नी दे कर साल भर का पुण्य हो गया समझते हैं। वो बकरे भी याद आ गए जो हाजियों की बरक़त की ख़ातिर हर मिनिट कटते हैं क़ाबे पर। 

बस इतना है हमारा धर्म, ईमान। इसीलिए अब्बा याद गए। मोहल्ले भर के बच्चों को - और वो कोई अमीरों का मोहल्ला नहीं था - बताशे बांटे बिना उनकी न ईद मनती, न नमाज़ पूरी होती। ये और बात है कि उनके ही ख़ानदान को न कभी उनका ख़ुदा दिखा, न उनका ईमान ही पल्ले पड़ा। न अपने लिए पैसे जोड़े, न ऊपर वाले को कभी कोई रिश्वत दी - अब्बा इंसान थोड़े ही थे, बस सर से पाँव तक एक बड़ा-सा दिल थे। उस दिल में उनके अल्लाह मियां जितने आराम से फ़िट हो जाते थे, उतने ही आराम से दुनिया भर के लोग, जहां भर के बेटे बेटियाँ भी समा जाते थे। पांच बार नमाज़ पढ़ने वालों के जितने सीने तन जाते हैं, उतने ही दिल भी तंग हो जाया करते हैं, मगर अब्बाजी की तो नमाज़ ही कुछ अलग क़ायदे की थी। जितनी नमाज़ पढ़ी उतना दिल और आसमान होता गया उनका। जब गए तो ऐसा लगा कि सर से आसमान सिर्फ़ नहीं उठ गया, मराठी मोहल्ले से, और उस घर से आसमान का रिश्ता और पहचान ही ख़त्म हो गयी। 

* * *

Saturday, October 12, 2013

getting my own back

life -
vexing, frustrating, enticing.
as ever,
with its im/possibilities.
how i wish
i could stop 
to its maddening tune.
and oh,
how i wish 
i could live
more fully:
be, at least,
as vexing,
and enticing to it,
as it revels in being to me.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

unwell, unforgiving, unapologetic.

forgiveness has a lot to do with many kinds of suffering. but i wouldn't have figured out that it had anything to do with falling sick, had i not experienced this link first hand. at least, even if falling sick has nothing to teach one about forgiveness, remaining unwell for a long time, does.

if you are okay with learning from the insensitive brute inside you, it might teach you a lot about humility. it taught me how unforgiving and unkind i could be. how very fallible in relationships and that has made me humble enough to come out with it. i will now proceed to make my excuses to ensure that you don't hate me by the time you are done reading. i'd been very sick, i'd lost my social circle (though i've now found an assorted replacement), my social and professional confidence. basically, my nerve to deal with anyone except the three people i'd known all my life - my younger brother and my mother and father, and my eventual-boyfriend-now-husband.

you would think that that would make me especially nice and especially appreciative where these four persons are concerned. more fool you. my immense appreciation usually didn't translate into niceness. in fact, the opposite was more the norm than the exception. consider this an aside: the one thing i am not apologetic about is mixing my metaphors which i tend to do with predictable regularity. i can do a bit of hand-waving (a term i learnt from my cutest Physics professor, in the days of yore) psychoanalytical arguments and present a not-too-tattered defense for my rudeness and insensitivity. so i will get that out of the way first. and then i promise to apologise. categorically, unabiguously.

i had to clamp down on my fear and sadness and loneliness in front of everyone except my family. not that i met that many people in the first place. but there was this auto-control in my head which prevented me from thinking about it either. so i was not saying this to myself and i was not saying this to anyone else: i was scared that i'd never amount to anything, least of all an intellectually, socially and physically normal person. ('normal' being a word that has continued to drive me crazy for a decade. some day i will talk about all the different shades of gloom it turned, for me.) what was my solution to treat the clamping-down? i screamed at my family over random things, little things, over favours imperfectly delivered. i was horrid to them. till as recently as yesterday morning. i would refuse to understand their limitations, their human fallibility and their needs despite my firm conviction that they were doing their best to help me over endless bumps in my road. i was being unreasonable. yes they were bending over backwards for my sake, but if it didn't completely solve my problem at once, they weren't bending enough, and must perfect their gymnastic skills. after all, i needed it. what could be more important that? to be honest, nothing was. not for them, not for a minute. and yet, i screamed.

i screamed because i could not endlessly sit and howl my eyes out over what i saw as my absolutely wasted twenties (i turned 30 this February), over my deep-seated gnawing anxiety that i could never start afresh, never be anything i would care for. i screamed at them because i didn't know who else to scream at. i tried screaming at god, but that doesn't draw blood, does it? it's pointless, because it doesn't give you any reason to stop, to think of something else. well, if nothing else, the shame of my own behaviour often provided enough of a distraction. i screamed because i was sad, torn, frustrated. because there was no other way to vent spleen at what i saw as a supreme injustice to me.

my frustration at being less than capable - physically and socially - and my fear that i was in for a permanent status quo, made me immensely unforgiving and at times, incalculably inconsiderate. i am sorry for all the hurt i inflicted on the people who love me and want me to be happy and well more than anything else in their lives, who would give their lives to ensure it. i am sorry that instead of being endlessly grateful for their love and unrelenting support and patience, i have been endlessly selfish. they had their lives to run and i preferred to ignore that. i cannot lie that i did not resent it. i wouldn't in a million lifetimes want them to suffer like i have suffered (i know that each of them have struggled hard for whatever happiness they have found). but i expected it as my right that they should silently take whatever i dished out because, after all, they weren't the ones suffering.

it is tough to deal with ill-health, not the least because it forces you to be nicer than you are. it was a tough choice to make, and i made the wrong choice so many times. but i am now trying to choose the right thing. i have started with offering heartfelt apologies.

i will eventually say what i've actually wanted to do for each of them. and about what i find particularly adorable and cherishable in each of them. about what i've learnt from each of them that has made it possible for me to pick up the pieces and put together a life that i am actually proud of and value greatly. thank you for everything you have done, and for showing me what unconditional love is capable of. i am fortunate to have a family like this and i have been all sorts of fools - i should have realised that even the worst kind of sickness (which i was never even close to) is no trouble, is to be shrugged off when you have people who envelope you in their love to try and shield you from all hurt and harm.

i will also forgive myself because it seems impossible to move beyond my mistakes, otherwise. or maybe this is just for my peace of mind. as long as it results into peace for others as well, it's all for the good . . .

Saturday, August 31, 2013

changing what this blog does, changing who i can become

till today i have used this blog infrequently to offer my responses to social and political issues. this has taken the form of essays, poems and short notes.

today onwards, i am going to use this blog to talk about something else. i've another blog called which i now plan to use regularly to talk about issues i've felt strongly about since i was fifteen. that was an important turning point in my life. that was when i realised that what i wanted most was to actively participate in making the world a more comfortable place for unhappy and uncared for people, particularly, children. my naive ideas have since matured; my gullibility and childlike faith in strength of purpose and character have since evolved. but, my basic aim in life is still the same. amen.

so, what am i going to do with this blog? talk about an intimate aspect of my life which has run and evolved parallel to my social worker/social scientist personna in the last fifteen years. my experiences with health, ill-health and healers. it has affected me in ways i cannot count, done things good and bad i cannot always describe accurately. but i have decided to write now because i think this aspect of my life is capable of turning me into a not-so-nice person. it has in the past made me ignore discipline, basic etiquette and imperatives of self-help. i don't like that and so i've decided to use writing to get rid of it.

i've often thought in the last few yrs of (hard-found) correct diagnosis and effective treatment that i'd some day write about all of it so that others might benefit from whatever information and insights i have gained. these kinds of blogs are hard to find in India compared to what one can find in several other societies (my experience is largely limited to American and Australian blogs). we do not think health is something we can talk about, or something that can do with social and emotional support and understanding. i have often wished to mend that by beginning to talk about my life. but, finally what forced me to start writing is my fear - nagging, relentless fear of more health-related disaster - as well as fear of the kind of negative and unlovable person i might become.

i won't follow a chronological order. i will talk about anything that happens in the course of the day that is related to my health-related past and my passion for social-political change and academics. i am at a point in life where i can make all the negativity, the failures and the fears go away. or i can let myself turn into a nervous depressed wreck who is afraid of a drop of rain, a gust of wind and a more than 5 degree drop or rise in temperature.

i am about to join the department of Sociology at the University of Warwick (UK) for my MPhil/PhD. i am proud of the offer of admission and the amazing scholarship i am getting. and yet that has not been enough to dispel the ever-present gloom and the all-pervasive anxiety that i have lived with for more than ten years now. so it is high time i do something about it. what i say on this blog is part of a serious attempt to achieve just that. wish me well :)

Monday, June 03, 2013

शायद दुनिया के सबसे सुन्दर गीतों में से एक

हिन्दी फ़िल्म 'ममता' से।

~ लिखा मजरूह साहब ने और गाया हेमंत दा और लता जी ने। संगीत हेमंत दा का नहीं रोशन साहब का था। और मेरे दो पसंदीदा अदाकार - सुचित्रा सेन और अशोक कुमार।

छुपा लो दिल में यूँ प्यार मेरा,
के जैसे मंदिर में लौ दिये की ...

ये सच है जीना था पाप तुम बिन
ये पाप मैंने किया अब तक 
मगर थी मन में छवि तुम्हारी 
के जैसे मंदिर में लौ दिये की ...

फिर आग बिरहा की मत लगाना 
के जल के मैं राख हो चुकी हूँ 
ये राख माथे पे मैंने रख ली 
के जैसे मंदिर में लौ दिये की ...

:) अभी अभी बहुत समय बाद सुना और किसी से बाँटे बिना न रह पायी।