#13 A life too long, too short

Life is precious because it’s short, that’s why it’s special, because we know it’ll end one day.

I watched 24 Netflix/Prime series this year. One of them was The Good Side, a show about afterlife that I watched mostly for Jameela Jamil, where heaven is filled with people drunk on happiness to the point where they are brain-jaded and simply want to leave. Like a death after death. At that point Kristen Bell observes Life is precious because it’s short, that’s why it’s special, because we know it’ll end one day.

Today (two weeks from the day of sharing) was not a good day. Today I also realized that Adulting is hard not only because there’s nobody providing after you, but because it feels like even Nature seems to have stopped keeping track.
At 5, 10, 15 years of age there’s a whole set of social and biological changes you (are expected to) go through. Parents walk (or maybe push, and some yank) you through some of it, but Nature takes care of the rest. There is so much to be discovered and to look forward to.

One day at school your friend tells you her elder sister got her periods, and then you wake up with pubic hair one day. Everyone watches as you grow taller/fatter with cyclically better/worse features while you can only hope it ends well. One day we’re discussing male anatomy over our biology records, and on another we are finally texting guys and on another kissing them. There is just so much new stuff to explore, so much awkwardness that you slowly find your way around.
(Okay I realize all my examples had to do with sexuality and reproductive health but you get it – or maybe that’s all we are as human beings and that’s all Nature intended to keep track of anyway, but I can’t digress today).

Then all of a sudden you’re 25. All you have to look forward to are when the barely-visible but definitely-there folds appear, when the freckles spread over like curry on hot rice and when those inevitable greys make their way. You’ve seen just enough of the world to not have too much to look forward to. Sure you learn new things about people every day but it feels never-ending. People are simple, people are complex. You’ve by now figured out what you need to do to keep in touch with those in your life and with some you indeed do, but you always wish you knew more people and yet once you do you aren’t quite sure if you want them to stay, or if they would.
And on most days they are annoying but by now you know people are what really lend your life meaning so really there’s no way out.

So then what else is left? Why isn’t daily life rife with learning? Why is personal growth all that remains? Why isn’t Nature edging me towards it? Are we just bound to witness trees change the same colors (and not even that in the tropics)?

What do I have to look forward to? So that you can help those less fortunate than you was what I came up with when I was younger (but really my mom came up with that), and I don’t seem to have discovered anything more exciting since, and I am not sure there is one. (And I do agree, it is good enough).

So today for the first time, I wondered at how long life is, and maybe just maybe wished it was shorter. What if we were told we’d only live until 40? How different would things be? My head hurts trying to picture that and I will not vomit that oft-repeated tirade on live every day as if it were your last or whatever.

What else is left?

And I get why people get married then, because what else is left? Yet it’s weird because how can it be that there isn’t more to life, especially when both companionship and progeny are optional? So then it makes sense to me now – it looks like this what Nature had in mind because it begins to deprive you of things once you pass the “reproductive age”. (At the time of publishing I have found something worthwhile, but that doesn’t change the four weeks of hopelessness when I was lost, and I can’t be sure it wouldn’t return.)

I think my issue is the realization that I have been so passionate about so many things all my life, my struggle has always been picking one thing out of my long list, life has always seemed too short to do it all and mortality has appeared cruel, and for the first time my list feels blank. Maybe I’m disillusioned because at 23 I was certain I could help everyone I wanted to but today I feel like our problems are too big to be solved (maybe that’s what a year and a half in the US did to me, or maybe that’s just mid-twenties, I’m welcoming ideas). Once blasphemous, today I can almost understand how the prospect of death might be charming to some, and for all the wrong reasons I believe.

Tomorrow I’ll come back to say life is indeed too short to do all that we want to but for today, I’m wondering what a long life I have ahead of me.

Note : As of the day of sharing, I have found one thing to add to my list so I’m happier (thank you Rohit :)). Last year I thought dancing and training my body muscles was a good personal goal to have but it somehow seems too short-lived a desire today (in other words, I’ll be over it too soon). Reading other mortals’ thoughts seems like a nice thing to look forward to. I’m still not back on the life-too-short sentiment yet but I’ll come around soon, I hope.

Also I’m not depressed, I just feel different and am still navigating my way through unfamiliar territories.

PPS : I almost forgot my GitHub reads an extremely self-centric “The day you feel that life’s long enough to do everything you want to, is the right time to get out and search for something new 🙂“. Well, child is father of the man, no?

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The comma,

The beauty of the comma lies in all it stands for. Comma is hope, just like semi-colon is (the better) alternative to a full-stop. It’s an appeal to pause and to look around, to not get lost in details when it gets too much, to not lose track of all that makes life beautiful.

I was watching 13 Reasons Why (again) and realized, If I had to get a tattoo today (maybe I wouldn’t get it or maybe I would, but if I had to) I’d get a comma.

The semi-colon has received its due, sure, but what about the comma? Not enough has been said about it. What if an impending full-stop was not your issue, what about getting through every day?

I hate talking in metaphors as well.

Comma, we’re taught, is a pause in the sentence. It’s often a necessity. At other times it’s yet another device to structure your writing, your sentence, to convey your tone.
And they’re mostly harmless.

I like trees, flowers and life.
I like trees, flowers, and life.

I wanted a pause after flowers– maybe that gave it a rhythm in my head, maybe I was pensive or maybe I’m just obsessed with adding unnecessary punctuation that infuriates the shit out of readers.

But the beauty of the comma lies in all it stands for. Comma is hope, just like semi-colon is (the better) alternative to a full-stop. It’s an appeal to pause and to look around, to not get lost in details when they overwhelm, to wait and remember all that makes life beautiful.
Because there’s always details, all day everyday. And when they appear larger than life, remember to ,

For instance, this whole year I’ve wondered how in the big picture I’ve spent my 25th year on earth without eating good meencurry while staying away from people I love. I ask myself everyday, is anything worth that? For now all I have are questions. Also I think that was a bad example.

My brother and I talked about (terribly) longer sentences the other day – how they often creep up in my writing, how he thinks the work is badly edited when he comes across one in a news article/report, to which we discussed and decided (or I did :P) that it’s cool if it isn’t formal writing, and it’s cool if the statement is still coherent.
I have stretched out so many sentences into whole paragraphs made possible only by the comma – and maybe a hyphen. 😀

And while it might sound so much like an inferior sibling to the semi-colon, in a lot of cases, comma suffices. It gets you through. It’s for daily use.

And it does its job pretty damn well too, no?

Get Your Sunshine Back

If they tell you you were the best and the rasam-est kid ever, they’re lying. That kid was me.

Some of us were born with the sun shining out of our asses.

And with the stories we saw or the stories we lived,

Slowly the world sucked all of our sunshine out, soon filling us up with its shit.

And then they asked us, Why are you so full of it?

 

The day you remember what you once were

Push it all back out.

The day you remember what you once were,

Go get your sunshine back. There’s still tons of it left in the world.

Bits of Happy (Love You Zindagi)

I shove hair out of my face to see where I’m going along the road. The black face-muffler that reaches up almost to my eyes, poking at the lower lashes, is fumbling my sight. The fickle hairs –they’ve never allowed me a thing as a good hair day-add to the horse vision. In my efforts to return the unruly waves back in place, the tiny transparent cover dangling from my fingers with the packed 10rs boiling-hot masala chai presses against my mufflered-face : an instant burn. Almost.

Across the road, next to Chinese Corner, the vadapav-poha-breadbajji counter and the indulgent after-class 10am crowd call to me. My breakfast would be waiting at the hostel. “It’s probably sticky oily Poori today”. Well the heart wants what it wants.

Of course my Indian heart’s been trained well with the co-ordinates of the lakshmanarekha of wants, lying at 2 inches from safe Vadapav.

The first time I went to the counter, I had to muster up all my mental strength to walk to the outside-counter chettan and say, “Bhaiyya ek vadapav”, playing out in my head all the horrors that awaited my HealthyForAWeekAfterBeingTaxedAlmostToDeathByInfectionsInflictedByYoursTruly stomach. In hindsight, a series of poor choices had by then taught me not every infection ends in hospitalization/death, unlike I/my super-anxious Amma had led me to believe.

After the brazenly overpriced (and blatantly bland) dosa at Sagar Ratna (Rs.167 including taxes but you can probably still sue if something happens to you), the 20rupay Vadapav was savior of the stomach and soul and precious notes.

I stop on my tracks to cross. Something brushes against my jeans at the back of my knees, I turn right and I turn left to find a black dog with his white-patched tail, watching the traffic to our right with quiet poise, unmindful of the Homo sapien next to him. I smile. My eyes (the only visible part of my face) smile along. An old uncle appooppan on his scooter next to Chinese Corner smiles.

The traffic clears in 5 seconds, I turn to see if my fellow-crosser approves – he takes a step forward – and we walk to the other side together. Another human exchange of smiles and twinkling eyes later, my road companion- the object of our joint fascination – still oblivious of it all walks away.

It’s a good morning.

After doling out yellow rice-like poha to 5 customers at once, the busy outside-Counter chettan with his back to the crowd attends to me, “Aur aapko?”

“Ek Vadapao bhaiyya,” I say, letting the pav become a pao. That’s how Himanshi says it, her full lips housing beautiful teeth within curling up to converge to a close. Almost. Making you (=me) anticipate a boiled egg. Or a boiled egg with fillings. Pao.

He grabs hold of a pao (a squarish mini bread/bun with baked brown sides – I’m loling at my definition) from its cover on the counter, looking freshly baked and warm (it’s not, from experience). He carves a side and halves it, leaving one end still attached, revealing the white bread inside.

He stains the white with a tiny circle of red, the fiery seeds and flakes awaiting you on their chilli bed. It’ll probably be a little hot, but liquid fire extinguisher in my purple Milton bottle awaits too.

Another chettan behind the counter is chaya adikkaling – because I don’t think beating tea (in long unbroken brown streams) is quite the right expression. And no air of pleasantly overpowering spicy richness hits my nose  – of thick fibrous ginger strands and crushed cardamom and hocuspocus and of course a bucket of water added to a vessel of boiling milk – the story of a tiny adorable cover dangling from my fingers.

He picks up a vada filled with potato goodness, places it between the bun halves, hands it over to me on the tiny round silver plate after pouring on its side some green chutney with white paneer shavings, the chutney I hated when I first had it, asking instead for the sweet red. Silly old me.

Making my way out of the immediate crowd, I squish the two buns together so it flattens, so my mouth can accommodate it. Dip and bite. Dip and bite. It’s over in 5. The chain interrupted by calls for more green chutney. How times changed, silly old me.

The heat hits. I pay the 20, as inside chettan hands over to outside chettan a tray of newly deep-fried vadas filled with potato goodness.

Like golden-brown muffins from overworked Anina’s oven. Like Tessa’s Nikita chechi’s love&butter cinnabuns.

Or not. But Oh what I wouldn’t give to live a life full of those. But it’s time to chill the burn from the heart’s wants.

I grin as I hear Amma in my head, “Avidunnum ividunnum oronnu kazhichitt infection!”. Past the push-carts dotting the sides. Guavas. Apples. Oranges. Greenish purplish thingies.

“Kithna bhaiyya?” How much?

“Satthar rupay kilo”.

Hiding my inadequate Hindi that’s ignorant of what satthar means – never reveal that you don’t know Hindi, or they’ll cheat – (We like to think they cheat us anyway).

“Bees ke dedo,” another dude says. For 20rs.

“Arre, bees ke do hi milega”.

2 for 20 -__- Sheri va povam. I leave with my packed-and-adored tea and my satiated tummy.

The overly priced EVERYTHING (except heart’s wants) don’t bother today though (cos it’s a good morning), nor persistent queues at random places directing to hitherto-neglected banks that nobody noticed until Modi demonetised currency, as Love you Zindagi plays in my head.

And I’m walking the thronging roads and glancing past photocopy and bookshops arranged back-to-back and stepping from pavement to road to pavement, but really, I could be hugging the hard-to-spot and probably chori-laden trees, playing kabbadi on the non-existent beach, or flying a kite thoughIknowNotHow along the shore, because incongruous bits make up your (= mine, though probably yours too) whole.

But incongruous bits of happy is still happy.

There’s a girl eating chaat on Aggarwal sweets’ high table outside, and I set a mental reminder to return for their pani puri in the evening.

Kya khoob ye Jodi hai teri meri” – what a lovely pair we make, you and me, Pani puri. The gastric juice in my stomach blushes at the prospects. I can almost hear Pazham pori accusing, “I rhymed with the lyrics too, you know”.

What a nice morning. Random people smile back at smiling eyes on foot. There’s a driverless swift deZire parked next to an empty rickshaw opposite the dry latrine. Look at the fairness of the world on this fair morning (the muffler lets no smells in) – swift deZires and rickshaws relieving their ways to ease, together.

The cute Punjabi guy outside the reading room smiles at you (no not you, me), at smiling eyes.

The neat gridded roads, the electric post that’s a brilliantly entangled mess of thick wired loops in all sides at the top, the well-swept concrete, the clothes hanging in balconies swaying in the cool early-winter breeze, the still-on Diwali lights, the orange streetlamps lit since last night, family gardens on scanty ground behind walls of homes shooting flowering trees into the sky. And the nonchalant dog on a parked car sitting up with half of his pink tongue out from a shut mouth, eyes closed and fully savoring in the sun, cocooning in the warmth of it, raising his head to the chorus “love you zindagiiiiiii”.

The last turn to my narrow hostel street with cars parked on either sides. An Indica from the opposite direction, and a scooter following it- I move to the side, behind the siderow of parked cars. I can see smiling eyes reflecting on its rear glass – I puff my cheeks and raise my brows, in the reflection the eyes swell but the muffler hiding the puffed-cheeks don’t.

I receive a sudden jerky bump against my lower half – the car right infront wasn’t parked after all – Bollywood music stops playing. A reflex of “AYYO” escapes through the muffler, the car on the left swipes past, the scooter uncle chuckles out loud. I get out of the way to the middle of the road.

A leash goes off.

Oh WOW –  no indicators, no lights, no horns. Or perhaps I hadn’t noticed. Perhaps, yet that’s no way to reverse your car. When an elated soul is making faces at your rear? No wonder they say people are stupid. They who? They whoever, since when do you backanswer?

Chuckling at a poor soul hit mercilessly by a car. BUMPED INTO? SAME THING. Cynicism takes over like an obedient hawk, repositioning on its briefly empty spot.

What if it ran me over? Of course he’d still chuckle at it. And then they’ll watch as I bleed to death. I wasn’t silly, I was right, the old red-chutney-loving cynical me.

With a defiant look (that shows only in non-smiling eyes still) I walk. Amidst the Cruel cruel world of reverse-takers and chuckling scooters and smile-destroyers, its muffler-wielding blood-boiling victim of terminal bumps, and vanquisher of premature death.

The vanquisher of premature death soon enters my hostel, makes the entry, and sees my breakfast-loyal to me and to me alone in this cruel cruel world -waiting. Sticky oily poori, I’m sure.

A cylindrical package wrapped in aluminium foil, and a dark-brown curry to accompany. Oh.
OHHH. Something vacates a recently occupied seat.

I should really watch where I’m walking – the world isn’t all that bad you know, the car had hardly touched me. Mountains out of molehills. With a smile, I take off the muffler, grab hold of my breakfast and proceed to my room.

Putt-kadala gets too much credit in my stories, I know.

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