Visiting the tomb of erstwhile love

It was a damp night, mind you damp and not wet. Chennai’s weather of late has been blowing hot and cold; with almost hot afternoons packed in humid sweat and reluctant drizzles well shy of being holistic downpours in the nights. So it was one of those nights and I was coming from a night show, to find my bike seat gently kissed by several raindrops, that had deceived the sky’s vigil. One of the primary cons of riding a bike during such times is, you can’t wear your lighter trousers. One, the raindrops leave an impression, not a good one- a wet smudge on the sitting area. And two, even if you vigilantly wipe your way off the previous possibility to preserve tushy dignity, there’s no way you can go unscathed, as the several puddles and inconsiderate vehicles on the way would somehow come together to leave a graffiti on the trousers.
Anyways I was wearing a pair of black trousers that night and it held very little consequence to the other happening of the night, primarily about which this piece is .This one’s about the route I took on my way back and the the trip it took me down the memory lane.

While coming back from the theatre, there are two routes to my place. One that goes through a residential  area and the other one that comes a little ahead, connecting me to the main road.  Over the last few years I’ve consciously and later subconsciously been ignoring the former stretch to take the latter. Initially, it felt like a can filled with worms, waiting to be opened up. Worms waiting to feed on my peace of mind. Then with efflux of time, I had grown oblivious and numb to this stretch’s magnetic negativity. It had come to only be a detour and the route that led to the main road had become an obvious choice.
But today was different, I was itching to take the former route. Not to confront the can of worms, but to take stock of my quality of peace. Curiosity had the better of me and there I was in the stretch I had forbidden as a sort of reality check. This trip was straddling between literal and figurative, for so much in my life had transpired in this L shaped stretch, the gravitas of which was getting to me as I was rumbling through it, metre by metre.

A few hundred metres into this road- painted in shadows of the trees behind -came this compound wall on the left. There was nothing fancy about it, just another neglected-marshy structure raised to mark the periphery of the house. But to me, it marked a new beginning. Back then it was always enveloped from the road by a fleet of school vans parked in front of it. It was our second date, I had just kissed her for the first time inside a deserted Mcrennett a little ahead on the corner of the road. She was pink with amusement and I was a cat, who had had his first taste of meat. We soon left hand-in-hand to take a stroll, incidentally my first walk with someone from the fairer sex. She was a bundle of nerves, obviously given that her folks stayed not far away from there and she was walking with a person who had just earmarked her left cheek with his saliva. Fairly educated on each other’s favourites, we had run out of topics and were in a mood for something non-verbal. The secluded compound wall on the right, stood there with anticipation and we got the cue. I lifted and perched her on it facing me, as I placed my hands on either side of her on the wall. Before we realised, I was kissing all over her face like a caveman, rocking back and forth like doing push-ups in a near state of trance. Together we had debased base one here.

As I drove ahead, came the Mcrennett I had mentioned a little earlier on the corner of the road. Apart from being the unwilling witness and stage to our first sacrilege, it had seen a lot of us. It used to be a favourite hangout, for it didn’t pinch on my wallet hard and it served the best cheese puff known to humanity. We’ve spoken about movies, debated about choice of careers, stolen kisses when no one’s around and have even gone for each other’s necks when arguments turned futile.

We were sparrows constructing nests on unnoticed loft corners of houses with little information to its owners, raising our own little monuments in common places of others surreptitiously.

As I turned right came this place, preceded by a newly fitted majestic metal gate. Back then, there used to be no gate. It was just a long winding driveway that led to a nursery school. We fondly called it “nursery”. Only both of us knew what nursery meant, when among a group of friends. So why were two grown-ups frequenting a nursery? This under lit place became uninhabited in the evening and the unregulated driveway that preceded the nursery, with tall trees on either side, became a tantalising prospect for long walks and the accoutrements that ensued.

Here, we became night creatures that made merry after sunset. Unlike the owls, we couldn’t see too well, but we didn’t complain. We could feel and listen to each other like  in no other place with heightened awareness- finding rhythm in our heartbeats, warmth in our touches, wetness in our lips and dexterity in the fingers to render clothes vestigial. This is where we caught up every time before being away for a while and this is where we came together after being away for a while. This was our ersatz room, before we got a real one.

A few second later came this stretch inundated by tall walls that belonged in fortresses, baring faces of the neighbourhood politician and not so subtle slogans in fluorescent font. I could see a younger me going for the wall, as I discharged my bladder’s content in a blissful fountain. She used to be seated on the bike behind, embarrassed about my uncouth way of answering the nature’s call. As I got on the bike, proud and relieved, my comeuppance would come as she twisted my ear till I twirled along with it in tandem.

I pulled over my bike to take a leak. I was all alone by myself, with no one waiting behind to play mother as I sat to ride.

The L of the stretch was coming to an end as the subway in the end was becoming visible. She used to come out of this from the other side of the road, as I restlessly waited near it. I would check myself on the bike’s mirror a hundred times and would strike the best pose on , as she would pop out of the subway onto my bike in a hurry, to employ the harness on me. After dropping her back late in the evening, I would wait by it till she surfaced from the other side of the subway in one piece.In short, our days were bookbounded by this subway.

Over a decision, things that were very life itself had turned into distant memories I could only live vicariously. I  could revisit them, without craving to recreate. This stretch was like a black box that survived a crash. The drive was like going back to the place of accident after recovering- as a healed person – grateful about the second chance, stronger and peaceful. If I’ve learnt one thing over the years, it’s that there’s no such thing as good or bad in life as every experience culminates systematically in a memory. Good and bad are transitory, a mere reflection of the state of the mind from the time of impact.

The L had come to an end. And it felt like a place I was leaving place from, not one I was coming into.As I turned left to climb the flyover, I felt like Superman  emerging out of Krypton stronger than before. Life was one fear short.

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Teacher’s Day nostalgia

I’m three quarters short of stepping into the third decade in my life. My head is nothing but a cluttered space of learnings, lessons, predispositions, likes and stronger dislikes, tastes, preferences, habits and endless nostalgia. It wasn’t this way all the time. There was a time, when all it registered was the music of lullaby. It was a clean slate when I took my first baby step into PSBB, my first school.

My world was a place full of nameless objects without a curiosity to count and comfortable gibberish, before names and language dawned upon as necessary friction. It’s here I learnt to name call— for a syllabus —animate and inanimate things alphabetically. This is where my naive fingers became a counting apparatus, before algebra and logarithm came to break the cherry of numerical goodness.
Each little miscreant that steps into school is like a sown seed. Some turn out to be flower giving; some fruit bearing and others mere show pieces. But all of them, irrespective of their origin and purpose, need the dampness of soil and the warmth of the sun to become what they’re meant to be. Once they grow, so do their needs. While some grow up to be creepers, needing a scaffold to twirl around, some flourish autonomously with the occasional pruning on the rough edges. The garden metaphors- the soil, sunlight, scaffolding and the gardener are the teachers and mentors who curate the seed in each individual, till the blossom of self sustenance.

I’ve had many such wonderful teachers in my life. Some taught me maths; some accounts; some English; some science and some life itself. I remember one such person, my accounts sir- Mr.Devakumar. A stiff man in his late fifties, there was nothing conventional nor congenial about him. An air of mockery preceded him among the students. When the norm was for students to itch for a period to end, here was a man who had turned the cliche over its head. It could be a critical part of a crucial problem he would be solving on the board or a conversation he would be having with us, all it took was the ring of the school bell to bring him to a stand still. On the sound of it, the chalk would drop,mid air and the verbal exchange would halt mid syllable. You could pay him a crore, but you just couldn’t stop the man from evaporating  out of the class. We laughed at this demeanor. The nonchalant style of teaching accounts, where he would just teach the basics and expect everyone to figure things on their own. At least that’s what I thought. We would receive his assistance, but only when he saw desperation.

By the time I passed out of school I had become acquainted to the rhythm of debits and credits like a million other unimaginative dunces before me. But I had, that they didn’t was the street smartness I had picked from Devakumar in problem solving, inside and outside of books. This lighthearted approach to every situation in life.

And just like that this irreverent man who was supposed to teach me accounts had instead taught me to live life, I really don’t know, how much of this was intended by him, but the lessons from this phase of my life had left an indelible impression in my subconscious.  In a nation, that waits for an instance, any instance to worship certain designations; it is sometimes important to remember and respect the simple individuals behind these designations.

The first time I met Kamal Haasan

 

All of us have a set of things to do and words to be spoken should we accidentally bump into God or a favorite personality, to make the most of the time without remaining awestruck for too long. I’ve always thought about how I would shake hands with Kamal with a firm grip without grabbing them, the first time I meet him in blood and flesh. He’s been my God cum favourite personality since the first time I stepped into the dark of a theatre playing Aboorva Sagotharagal. Ever since, his steep sand paper voice has changed in its meaning in my life from being just a lullaby to the very sound of my conscience. He’s the matinee idol, I’ve over the years come to subconsciously imitate in my articulation and gesticulation out of affection and some kind of entitlement. So I should’ve ideally genuflected at the sight of him, like a minion at the first sight of a mountain.

But coming to think, what I actually did when I met him for the first time was a lot different than just reverential. Funny in fact. But weird most certainly. So he was the chief guest for my school culturals that year, 2005 I suppose. With a moustache that only looked thick next to a girl my age, a mushroom cut for a hair statement and trouser worn just an inch below the chest, I was in the eleventh grade and looked every bit a junior artist from a tacky B grade.

To leave a startling first impression on Thalaivar, I had left no stone unturned. I would’ve done a fifty more push ups that day than usual to look firmer in my uniform, shampooed my hair to a bouncy extent and wore a neck piece that— coming to think of now — made my sexual orientation questionable. I didn’t know how my chest being firmer or my bouncy hair smelling fruity was going to make his trip to my school any more special. But at sixteen you’re allowed your share of screw ups at trying to impress.

Anyways I was there since morning by the doors of the auditorium. Sadly I wasn’t a volunteer. Had I been one, I could’ve been a part of the entourage to take him to the dais. Luckier, could’ve stood next to him for the whole time. But wretched me wasn’t. So I had to do the next best thing to get the front row seat to the shindig.

I’d heard before that Kamal was a chronic late comer to events. I didn’t take it seriously till his car appeared outside the venue, three hours past the scheduled time. People from outside were trying to percolate into the hall, which already— with crowd ballooned inside beyond it’s capacity — was a couple of members away from a stampede. Evergreen tracks from his movies were inundating the air, which by then seemed to transmit electricity from the collective palpable excitement of wolf whistling teenagers. As soon as he walked through those doors, all hells broke loose as the roof came down with the raucous. Sporting a black V-neck half sleeve shirt with a pair of black chinos, he was every bit the debonair presence that had captured the imagination of more than a generation from the silver screen.

At the aisle of a row, I was still a several seconds away from him. He was sauntering in my direction. The seconds in my time frame became slower than minutes, as my demigod was about to cross my path. As I was taking in every bit of the moment, I was ruminating the things to do when I would be parallel to him.
Should I ambush his trajectory for a shake hand or an awkward hug? It felt a little too outrageous for my sensibility. And not only that, it would’ve drawn a lot of attention, which makes me uncomfortably nervous. Maybe I should just wave at him. But that would be too generic an expression of my unconditional love for him.
The window for decision had closed as he was a row away.

I’m going to leave a mark on him, like the way he did on me.

Before my brain could process that course of action, the index finger in my right hand had already began to act. In one quick motion, I swiftly scratched his ample forearm with my nail as he went past me. It took a moment for him to realise that he’d been scratched, by then he was a row before cursing the charlatan who’d done that. I didn’t know what I was thinking, thankfully the deafening crowd around, kept me invisible.

I did manage to leave a mark on him!

Every time I reminisce this anecdote, I can’t get myself to stop laughing. What a stupid seventeen year old have I been. Wish I had known figurative from literal back then, Thalaivar would’ve been one scar less.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Death and funeral dignities

The last full stop to a passage marks the conclusion to what was merely a motley of sentences till then; demarcating thus a context to the flow of the same. What the full stop does by facilitating the end is it adds a dimension of unilateral meaning, putting to end any further accrual to the narrative’s course.
Whether it is a happy read or a sad one after the last full stop summarizes the quality of the passage.Death likewise is this impending last full stop to an individual’s course of life. Whether the world around him is bereaved or relieved, talks about the kind of life lead.

Death is the most intimidating phenomenon among nature’s quadruplet that also includes birth, disease and old age.
Birth brings, disease weakens, old age softens and Death dissolves.
Man over the years has learnt to tame birth, cure diseases and even cover up aging to significant extent. But what unsettles him is the enigma of death and its absoluteness. The only insurmountable peak, that hasn’t gone under his scissors of regulation or the comfort of understanding.
So what embarrasses at every step towards its mastery can only be embraced. Which exactly what constitutes the hallow around funerals and the rituals that come along. For they add a rhythm to an individual’s defeat to this unconquerable force called death, yet another time.

There are different nostalgias attached to different individuals post their death, depending on the impact they’ve left.
Most people have rudimentary or say epidermal level impacts after their times like he was cherubic, fat, thin, had silver grey hair, was bearded. They’re simple men whose recollection doesn’t percolate beyond the bodily remembrance.
Then we have the kind, who we remember for the traits they exhibited primarily like being short-tempered, humorous, sensible etc. People in this category manage to penetrate beyond the physical level, but stop just after.
Some are recalled by their accomplishments which could either be the position held, the qualification possessed and organization that they had been. These men were purposeful beings, who left an impact in our heads  beyond the personality level, but fell short of the heart; courtesy the materialistic nature of pursuit.
Last are the rare men who’ve left an indelible mark on our lives by their ideologies and school of thoughts. They generally are people we looked up to as being motivators, mentors, philosophers and guides.   We miss them the most because they occupied an eternal spot in the middle ground between our intellectual and emotional realms.

There was my dad’s uncle, a patriarch who was among the most forward thinking octogenarians that I know of; not that I know of a lot of octogenarians. He was a wonderful human, holistically loving without a trace of bias or an affiliation to preserve.
He had built a tap outside his house, built on the roads of an extremely humid temple town called Kanchipuram, primarily for travelers and nurtured a lot of stray animals with  fondness reserved to grandchildren.
He had single handedly championed a lot of causes, like planting several sapling across the town, founding a trust to oversee education and foster abandoned elders among many things. He had a liberal outlook about everything under the Sun despite being a deeply rooted practitioner of a faith.
So he had passed away one day. We are these intriguing creatures strung fascinatingly to our close ones by the undercurrent of telepathy. That morning when dad’s phone rang with his cousin’s number; I knew he was no more even before my dad picked up.
But to my shock I wasn’t a wee bit sad and was letting the entire news seep in an unfettered manner.  Here was someone I had really looked up to, whose ideals I revered and wanted to imbibe and yet I was unmoved.

I just didn’t feel like attending his funeral to see his mortal remains one last time. In my heart I knew what he meant.  There were things he stood for and propagated, which were pretty much the same things I had started taking baby steps towards.  He was a virtuous man who had left a legacy behind. Legacy that needed to be preserved in the actions of similar minded people who revered him. I didn’t want to relegate my relation with him to the familiar rigmarole of funeral mourning and emotional outbursts.

To me, he was a wonderful man, who lead an illustrious life and died when his body was about to invite quotations from prospective ailments.

As aware as I felt I was, I later tried smearing myself with guilt about not attending his funeral. Was it a blasphemy I had committed in the name of falling in line with a seemingly contrived ideology; for what is life but a generic iteration of cliches formed on conversations, alter egos, relationships and the accompanying trappings
It appeared to me after some serious musing that it was important to respect a person for what he stood for, than the functionalities of a funeral. For funerals are designed as religious merchandise to tug at one’s heart strings with notes of nostalgia. It is only when a deceased person’s line of thought is towed by his close ones, does he continue to live on in their actions. It is up to us to either eulogize comfortably over a dead person’s body or take the longer route to act upon preserving their legacy  later.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vegetarian woes on a Sunday morning

 

Peeeeee Peeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwww, I was honking my presence felt, with the thumb on the shrill vocal button of my sister’s Activa— that was already kind enough to carry a person heavier than it — unempathetically navigating it on a particularly slushy stretch at northwards of 60kmph. Early morning winds blowing against one’s face, while uncombing his hair is only as pleasurable as one’s mind lets it be, which at times turns way too turn cynical to acknowledge anything other than deep slumber behind closed doors as being beautiful. At that moment I was hoping I had learnt to drive a car, my mind wasn’t exactly taking to nature’s expressions of sunshine and zephyrs with open arms.

It was five shy of six in the morning at the Anna Salai stretch. I was riding home from a sleepover at a friend’s. The roads are usually modestly occupied at this time, but it was a Sunday morning. Or the aftermath of a Saturday night to put things into context. Most people taking the road at this time aren’t going as much as returning home. And there were those commercial trucks plying to and from markets, to accommodate the spike in consumption that was typically anticipated from the day.

I was at midway point, a few hundred metres before Gemini flyover, when I saw this bike before me. It had a pillion space, wider than an average bike, covered with a green coir sheet that was wrapped over what appeared to be a sizable heap.
Sometimes the most affecting incidents in life unfurl in a languorous manner, like toothpaste emerging out of a squeezed tube. No dramatic contraptions, just impact enough to pierce the most naked part of the soul.

A leftward bound gust of strong wind, lifted the coir sheet along with the normalcy of the morning. Lying below the sheet were pale mammal carcasses— goats most likely —one above the other. Aghast with a lump in the throat, I had to pull over to avoid getting any closer to the bike. It’s not like I was seeing meat for the first time. I’ve been around meat eating people, without making faces about erstwhile living being floating in their gravy boats.

Just that I’ve  always been this frail-hearted person without an appetite for seeing, say mangled animal carcasses on a busy highway, run over by vehicles . Or a suspended headless corpse hanging on the entrance of a shawarma parlour. I tend to cringe, reimagining the pain the creature would’ve gone through under the tyres of a speeding heavy vehicle or a swinging butcher’s knife. It could’ve probably been easier I were a vegetarian alone, but I was a hopeless animal lover.

Over the years I’ve learnt to come to terms with the world around me, in which meat eating people comfortably outnumber the non-meat eaters. I’m no stranger to the killing and their place in a parallel food chain—  that lets cruelty and cooking coexist — I’m not a part of. Just that the sight of the absolute insensitivity with which it is carried about is deeply unsettling. Like the guy on the bike before, who was carrying them like a batch of gunny bags with absolute disdain. The dispassionate conditioning of his mind to see them as mere raw materials was a painful sight to witness.

I started several seconds after the morgue bike had disappeared over the flyover. I was trying to undo what I saw by focusing on things a tad more pleasant like the sight of crisp vadas blooming on a frying pan of a tea shop, a neurotic dog cleansing itself with it’s eager tongue and an elderly couple jogging together on the pavement. And just when the mood was starting to lighten up like that, a truck overtook me from the signal.

It was carrying cages— arranged in columns —with hundreds of hapless hens, suffocating against each other from within. Here was a colony of birds, most of them aware about their impending end. Some were screaming resiliently, some were protesting at the cage doors, while some were still, having given up already. If they thought the commute to the butcher’s was the painful part, they had no clue of what was coming their way. The eyes with which they saw their first sights after hatching out, would be plucked out as waste. The beaks with which they made conversation and consumption, would be no different. As if this wasn’t gruesome enough there were a few dead ones scattered across the floor, like rotten vegetables, next to the feet of the men overseeing the shindig.

History unforgivingly remembers the ones who oversaw the holocaust of thousands of their kind to upkeep the whim of their patriotism, ethnicity and creed. Yet the violence perpetrated to usher every Sunday, that too in a city alone is enough to pale every significant genocide to insignificance as a blob in history. “Livestock” to me is the worst euphemism that there is.The churn in the belly left a bigger ripple this time as the lorry went past. At the back of my mind I felt a guilt colored helplessness about not being able to do anything about all this, than just feel bad  But I was glad that home was only a minute away. Wish I could tell the same about humanity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patience and guys serving ice cream

 

From the time I’d learnt to understand temperature from places other than my under-chin, I’ve known Chennai to be this hot place, humidly so. On an afternoon, all one would just need is water,vessel and some suspension of shame to prepare Maggi on a terrace. I don’t actually need a widget on the phone or a news flash to know that I live in a city where the sun’s love fluctuates between 42 to 45 degrees. I just need to observe as to how long it takes for the beads of precipitation to form around my neck to go on and smoothen my shirt’s creases, moments after I step out. So not much of a surprise that Chennai has always been this hotbed for all forms of ice-cream activities.

So I was outside Cream Stone, one of the better places carrying out such activities. I had initially found their ice creams to lack that character. The character that elevated some ice creams from a flavour to a favour. But like in a mature relationship with an average looking person were one slowly starts noticing the other good stuff, with time their cold stone preparations started growing on me as an acquired taste. I felt like a composer inspiring an orchestra with his stick’s wield; each time I told them to add more nuts, mash up a chocolate or leave the ice cream stiff from the other side of the counter.

It was a calm Wednesday night, well past eleven. Not the time of the day you expect to stand behind a multitude of men out to get their dessert fix for the week. But there I was, one among two dozen patrons, most of whom— I’m sure —didn’t go out to vote in the last election to avoid crowds. Probably getting an ice cream is far more rewarding than a chief minister.

So after elbowing past a few hapless gentlemen, I managed to make eye contact with my friend behind the counter.
French vanilla and dark chocolate, right?“, he yells to be heard over the raucous.
As always.“, I smile back.

In the next few seconds, roasted almonds and cashews get thrown into the cold pyre of ice cream without their consent, before a Ferrero rocher can further contribute to the collective identity crisis. And like that my favourite dish is prepared the way I like it on a priority basis without even having to intervene once. I smile again at my friend and he waves back as I walk out with my sin on a waffle.

Coming to think, things weren’t this Jarvis and Stark like between us some time back. In fact on my first visit, I was this standard template asshole who expected to be treated like royalty for stepping into a new franchise and he was this new guy from another part of the country, learning his job and the shenanigans of a new demography on the go. So what happened next was what usually happens, when high handed consumerism comes face to face with lackluster soft skills of cheap labour- Shopfloor friction. I lectured his manager about how to run a shop. Threw a tantrum. Created a scene that almost would’ve prompted a demigod to intervene as a civilian, only to walk away with a half paid bill.
A few hours later, I felt embarrassed by my performance earlier, especially the soliloquy on “customer is God”. I especially felt bad for cornering the poor guy who had served me.

He’s my first or on a really unethical meal day my second ice cream maker in a week. But I’m like his 100th bickering customer since morning, who’s been waving an invoice copy at his face with entitlement. Think about your favourite ice cream flavours. Now think about them surrounding your work station. You can do a lot of things with them: scoop them, whip them up, refill them, adorn them, take in their flavor, conduct an inter-flavour marriage and ogle even; but not have them. How thankless should a life be where all you do is deal in myriad flavours of ice creams with exotic toppings for a day job, only to give the resultant work of art to a person who’s riding the high wave of capitalism. And still we go about wondering how the crime rate keeps going up.

I could’ve handled it so much more better.

The next time I went there, few months later, I was conscious. I didn’t want an encore. I went up to the same guy who I had picked on last time. Don’t know if it was the number of people he had attended to in the past few months or the fact that the composition of my facial hair had changed since then; but he somehow couldn’t place me as the charlatan from last time.

I started the transaction with a sheepish wide smile. He smiled back. Then I audited the flavours and made started making some small talk.

“Where are you from?”
“Guntoor sir”
“I thought you were from the north, given your Hindi.” 
“I was in Hyderabad for a few years. That’s where I picked it.”
“So have you seen Bahubali?”

A movie buff, I’ve often felt the way to a man’s heart is through inquiry about movies in the language he speaks.

“8 times already. Will watch again.”, his face lit up like Anupam Kher on a Newshour debate.
“I can totally relate to it.”

And like that we became acquainted over Telugu movies and Hyderabad landmarks. This was so much out of character, initiating conversation and all. But I was glad I did that. And it felt nice talking to him.

That tête-à-tête not only made my portion bigger that day, it went on to establish a bond between us. Be it tossing in a few nuts, suggesting a new flavour to try, giving preference during peak time; he started doing these little things to make my visit special ever since. And I continued to ask him about things other than the ice creams, like his shift timings, his girlfriend or the last movie he had watched.

All I had to do was just step a little, a tiny weenie beyond the line of “just-business” from where I could wipe the designation to see the person behind . From there I could see an anxious sweet guy who had left behind his friends and family, in the hope of a better life here. Not just another ice cream-sculpting- pixie who was supposed to attend to my cravings within a reasonable window. This shift in perspective definitely didn’t make me a bigger person, won’t flatter myself about that. If anything, a lesser asshole than I was. A better version of myself. The one I should’ve been since much before.

Patience and parents

Ask for Luxe cinemas on the second floor. I’m standing right next to it
I was giving directions to my dad, who was at the basement car park. I had reached the mall before him. We had come to shop clothes for the two of us, for my sister’s wedding. A loner, I’ve always liked to do most of the stuff alone including shopping. But this time dad insisted on both of us going together, as he trusted my taste and wanted me to assist him look sharp on the D-day. And I couldn’t say no.

Fifteen minutes had gone past and he was nowhere in my viewing perimeter. I had by then already checked out of two shops- hiding a few good shirts in not so noticeable parts of the racks to come back, making mental notes of the price range and condescending a few patrons who came out of the trial room for the want of a quick sport.

My instructions were quite water tight to be there under five minutes. Yet fifteen minutes later, he’s neither at Luxe or the second floor.What’s he up to? Has he turned dyslexic or what?

I was starting to get worked up. I called him again.

“Where are you pa?! I’m getting late to work.”
“I’m on the second floor.”
“Finally. Tell me the name of the shop next to you. I’ll come there.”
“Louis Philippe.”
“I’m coming.”

I walked in long strides towards the Louis Philippe showroom at the other end of the second floor, 150 calories away from where I was. En-route I was cursing the health of the next generation of every individual who was blocking my way, in pursuit of a selfie or stood there making unhurried small talk in the narrow corridor I was trying to weave a way through.
A few moments later, I could see dad appear on my viewing perimeter. Closer I got to him something strange started happening.I was starting to get engulfed in an endless supply of guilt. He was on the bridge connecting the two corridors. He appeared dazed by the hustle and bustle around him, if I were to go by the look on his face that resembled that of a child lost in a festival. Probably all of this was a making of my head and he was quite sorted. But somehow I felt disturbed. The sight of my father standing alone as people kept emerging from all directions around him, made me realize how vulnerable he had become in the world I was an adult. All the angry words I had told him over the years, came screaming back. For all my entitlement and claims of self awareness there I was as one of the worst people I knew.

Sorry raja. I didn’t hear you properly. There’s a theater there. Did you ask me to come  there?” ,sheepishly he asked pointing in the direction from where I had just come.

What do you think Luxe is pa?”, I smiled, embarrassed and guilty at once. “Let’s go, get you some clothes.”

He hadn’t heard me properly. What would he have done I wasn’t here. He neither seems to know the place or fashion. I should hang out with him more. He needs me more than he likes to admit. Fuck my “I’m a loner” rhetoric. And god, I need to be more patient with him.

Every time I’m on the cusp of an outburst with my dad, I hope god or sanity has the better of me. Each time I use a cuss word- that would sound ugly in a roadside brawl even, at him -the guilt sinks in from the very next second. But by then I’m already on a free fall, mind and mouth incongruent to each other.
Whatever the reason be, he’s lived my life’s duration twice and a couple of years more. Unlike me, he’s unconditionally loved me always. His heart is now a soft place, softened by the fatigue of a myriad experiences and his proximity to a second childhood. While mine’s still a hard place, hardened by overbearing confidence and distant memory of a first childhood. It’s my turn to be the bigger man.

When I can be patient in a traffic signal under the afternoon sun; patient with an eternally unreasonable boss at workplace and summon patience in a painfully boring movie just for an actor I like; I can bloody well afford to be patience with this man.
This man who was patient till I uttered my first words. Who patiently ran along side with me, till I started to riding my bicycle without his support. And patiently supported me till I could take care of myself.

I can never give him back enough. But I can definitely be patient with him and gracefully so.