The Ghost

The bespeckled therapist gave me a puzzled look. She asked—anger at what child?

Anger at what? At who? Why anger? Why not tolerance?

“If I knew that I wouldn’t be here”.

I am an expert at being rude and unpleasant when the situation demands it.

There was a ghost in my life. The clinical term for it is ‘dysthymia or chronic depression.’ It had haunted me since the deciding age of 11.

My ghost paid me visits at random intervals. She knocked at my door and let herself in. She can pass the barriers of wood and steel and will power. She can walk through walls and possess the soul.

She shows me alternate realities. Possibilities that make my mind go bonkers. No it’s not always black or blue. It is various colors all at once. She is moody, like me.

“Tell me what you feel when she visits,” the relentless doctor probed.

“Umm…have you ever had your skin peeled when on meth or ecstasy? It feels good and no before you ask—I have not done either. A friend of mine is a pro when it comes to this and he keeps me educated.”

“I want your version.” I could see she disapproved of my attempt at humour. Perhaps a lover or a brother had been a victim.

“Okay. Have you ever been in love with the darkness? Doesn’t the night wrap you in a warm blanket and sing a lullaby? Doesn’t looking at the moon just soothe your soul? Have you ever fallen in love with something that is bad for you Doctor? I have. All the forbidden things that ever were. I like the darkness. I like peeling my skin off me. I like the peace and quiet. I like the loneliness. My ghost gives me all those—the calm and the high all at once.”

“How about the anger?” She adjusted her frame and smoothed her already smooth skirt.

Why was she so hell bent on the anger part? Didn’t she get it? It is in the anger that the pleasure lies.

I hear about how people enjoy getting tattooed for the pain instead of the symbols themselves. Another friend of mine had tattoos all over his body. He said he did it for the pain. It was in the pain that gave him a high; made him feel alive.

“The anger is the easy part. It is just frustration that has been bottled up I guess. When a volcano erupts, it doesn’t do so with a warning. It just does. It is a relief for the earth. Same goes with the anger. The anger is easy and promises a cure.”

“Anger on what?”

Again that question. Why couldn’t she just let it go? Why couldn’t she focus on the important part? I could see her eager for the information like a kid opening the gifts on his birthday. A greedy kid.

“It doesn’t matter. Anger at everything. Why doesn’t the circle have sides? Why isn’t King Kong our president? Why am I not born in a different era, under different circumstances?”

“But don’t you get it? All your reasons are extremely stupid?” She was losing patience now.

“Lady don’t you get it? The anger is directionless and random. I don’t have any sob story to narrate. The anger is not important. How do I exorcise my ghost?”

She fumbled and gave me a few exercises to do. “Paint or read or write or listen to music when you feel low. Here are some pills you can take but take them in moderation. The most important thing to remember is—never give up hope and try to think bright thoughts whenever you feel low. And I am right here if you ever need me.”

Nice. She gave me the text book cure and increased her brand value all in the same breathe. They should have a prize for this kind of ability.

She handed me a prescription and I walked out of her office. When I reached my empty flat, I was greeted by her. She came over me like a mist on a winter evening.

“Why do you haunt me so?” I asked her.

“I like you and you know you like me too, a tiny bit. Say you do and here now, don’t lie to me. I know you in and out.”

I smirked. I did like her a tiny bit. Help can only be given to those who seek it. Who was I fooling when I said I needed help? I didn’t. I like her and she understands me. She lets me be quite and be on my own.

She is like the drug which keeps you yet takes from you a little by little.

Well, I don’t really care. She keeps me and that is enough. Now I think I will go back to my darkness. You be happy basking in your sun. We are the children of the moon and we live at night. You be happy at your side of the fence and we will do the same on our side.

 

 

The day was grey. The rain god seemed to be punishing the earth for the fools it produced. It hadn’t stopped raining for 24 hours. I was sitting in the small balcony of my nine hundred square feet flat and basking in the mist.

She was there, surrounding me like a blanket and singing me a soothing lullaby that was haunting at the same time.

“X got a job and a girlfriend…she has big ones, you know and I hear that they are about to announce their engagement soon,” she whispered into my ears.

When she got no response, she went on to play the higher card.

“They are in Europe…the three of them must be eating croissants under the Eiffel Tower right about now. She doesn’t remember her promise clearly. She still hasn’t called. There they are a family in the true sense of the term and here you are, a sorry little thing stuck with me.”

Still no visible response from my side; just a lump in my throat. It’s not like I hadn’t heard this before and neither was I completely indifferent, just yet. But she didn’t give up. She came closer still, till she was right inside my head. I could feel her strutting about looking for vulnerabilities- going through the archives and dissecting each document she found.

A few rain drops later, she hit hard.

Tring tring, tring tring…you remember it don’t you?”

In that instance, I saw my father receive the call and his face contort immediately after. It just took two words to do that to him.

Now my eyes got moist and the lump rose up and hit my nose. The flood gates opened and a rusty tasting liquid flew out of my nose and eyes.

I could feel her trying to hide her smirk. But she was like me, pathetic at hiding things and keeping secrets.

“Have fun darling. I shall be back soon.” She gave me a cold hug and left. I remained in the square of the semi open space, with the patter of the rain in my ears and a raging ocean in my eyes.

 

 

The red pen stand in her room amused me. A latest addition, I assumed. It was a pig with a hole in its back with pens sticking out of it. Some of those instruments of torture and relief, lacked a head and some were stripped to their basic minimum clothing.

“Is that new?” I asked the doctor.

“Yes it is. It was a gift from a patient. You like it, do you?”

“I think I do. It is amusing how we disfigure objects to fit our need. The color is nice though. It’s the color of life,” I was talking to another soul after long. It felt different now; needed more of my concentration and effort.

“Hmm. I will gift you one if you succeed in overcoming your condition,” she said with a 32 all out smile.

I was back in first grade again. My teacher had promised me a caramel toffee if I finished writing ‘I am Radhika’ in cursive hand at least fifty times by the end of the hour. Well of course I could manage just thirty, but the feeling remained the same.

“Let’s get back now. Tell me about your father. Are you angry with him still?”

Suddenly her dirty yellow walls looked more interesting than her banter. A bee buzzed into the room and went straight ahead and collided with the yellow. It kept colliding with the same spot for five times before it fell on the ground and gave a sigh of relief (or at least I would like to imagine).

“Radhika, Radhika.”

“Ya right…umm…angry at him? No not really. Did you notice what the bee did? It seemed like it was on a suicide mission.”

“Suicide. Well, do you have any suicidal thoughts?” she asked as she raised her glasses up to look at me. Her interest in me had doubled now. I was a complex code she was trying to decode and she had found her first big lead.

“Ah…no. It takes too much of effort and I am kind of attached to my flat. So no.”

“Haha…right.” Again the forced laugh. I bet if we counted the number of times an individual forces emotions on themselves and remove those instances from their lives, they would be left as zombies with poker faces.

“If not anger, what emotion do you feel when you think of him?” By now she was sitting absolutely upright with her back as straight as a crane’s neck.

“I can’t say for sure, really. I think I am sad but how does one know what emotion they are feeling? We give a certain type of feeling a name and get done with it. What about the other types?”

“What other types of emotions do you feel?” She was squinting now.

“How about something bordering indifference and sadness? Or something where you are so happy that you are sad.”

“Right. So your ghost…how is it these days?”

“It is a she and I would much rather you address her by her gender,” I was offended. Nobody referred to her as ‘it’.

“Why a female though?”

“She has the subtle beauty of a woman and she makes me suffer like a dog.”

Now she was confused. Who wouldn’t be? I wanted to get rid of her, but I respected her. She was slowly becoming a part of me. I would miss her if she went away. I would feel empty once more.

As soon as I realized this, I grabbed my bag, made a lame excuse about having to pick up the mail for a friend and headed towards the door.

I hadn’t much cash on me, so I headed for the subway. While I was waiting for my train, a butterfly flew next to me. It had the eye on its wings and it stood there, fluttering its wings waiting for the train, like everyone else.

It got on the train with the other passengers when the coach arrived and got off two stations before mine. I would only assume that it, like me, had urgent business to tend to.

Once I entered the apartment, I called to her. She came out running with her white teeth bared and hugged me tight.

“Welcome home darling. What would you want to see today?”

I gathered my courage, looked her straight in the eye and said, “don’t go. Don’t ever leave me. I need you for survival. I’ll make you a deal. You torture me as much as you want but don’t ever fade away in smoke. Please.”

“Never.” She looked scared.

 

 

He had dark hair and pink lips. I could see his brows burrow through the crack of the book rack. He exhaled and put the book back in its place. Ten seconds later, he picked it up again and sighed. No one can stay away from that one.

Everybody has a Rebecca in their life and so did he. Those eyes found mine and smiled.

“Don’t do that to yourself. It’s a trap. He will leave, like everyone else,” she insisted.

Suddenly I was transferred to a room from my childhood. It was decorated with souvenirs from my past and a closed suitcase, ready to board a flight. My dad came out of the adjoining room and without a second glance caught hold of the other girl with the pink ribbon, took the suitcase and left.

I was left with my souvenirs and a muffled voice that didn’t speak when it ought to have.

My fingers reached to wipe away the ocean of gloom, but instead found the desert. I checked for lumps and a fluffed nose, but found none.

“Hi. You couldn’t resist Rebecca, could you?” I asked those eyes.

“Can anybody really?” They twinkled. “You like your coffee black, I assume?”

I smiled.

“Is that what you want again?” she screamed at my folly.

“Exactly. I am sorry,” I replied.

I could feel her leaving from the back door and on her way out, she smiled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All that is not glamorous

“Did you take your meds?” the good doctor asked.

I sniffed over the phone and wiped away two drops of tears from my left eye before answering, “twice the double dose.”

“Okay.” She obviously didn’t approve of my choice of dealing with ‘stuff’.

“Can I take another of those?” I asked her. I didn’t care about what it did to my physical health….i was just concerned with the mental health bit. I needed the talking in my head to stop and the sleep to come. I needed peace and I didn’t want to hurt myself.

“No darling, you can get through this without the meds. I promise you.”

How many more promises did I need in my life right now? I was sick and tired of the pep talks and the ‘I know what you are going through’ talks. Every Time I mentioned my condition, I got a speech about ‘my uncle/brother/mother/best friend went through the same. You will come out a stronger person’ talks.

They all know how it is. They all have faced the same. I had a girl in school who wanted to get depressed. She thought it was cool. “Imagine people always at your beck and call….all the attention you would get. Wow I want that,” she would rant on.

At the age of 15 I wasn’t aware that that would be me one day. People constantly asking how I am doing and whether I am better; that gets old after a point in time. I just want to be left alone.

Right now, I feel like hiding in a corner somewhere beneath a desk. Corners protect me, even from myself. I wonder as I write this whether I should get an award for writing down my thoughts instead of sulking in some corner.

There is nothing glamorous about pain. Pain is excruciating and violent. Along with it comes its friends helplessness and no self worth. Today I am facing it, tomorrow you might. So please, for the love of God, don’t tell a depressed person to ‘just deal with it’ and ‘to control your mind’.

Instead hold them when they need and tell them it’s going to be okay; if not today then someday. Tell them it’s okay to feel the way they are feeling and this too shall pass.

What Pink did to me and what it didn’t!

I was reluctant to watch the movie- Pink since the very first moment. The reason was simple- whenever I watch films discussing gender issues and women’s issues in particular, my blood races and my heartbeat quickens. It makes me think and that is the worst thing I can do to myself because I over analyze to such an extent that I lose my night’s sleep.
 
Pink made me cry. Not because it had powerful actors (which it had) and a predictable plot (frankly a daily affair for those of us who get a chance to glance at the newspaper every other day), but because it showed Delhi for what it was.
 
I could recall the whistles and the whisperings behind my back about my cup size while I walked down the streets of Karol Bagh as I saw Minal being molested in the car by 4 boys. I could visualize how it must have felt as Falak was asked to leave her job. I could feel the gaze of the colony-walas on the girls as they got home late at night and their judgmental look was all too familiar to me.
 
As a girl who has lived alone in an apartment, had more male friends than women ones and as one who loves to party and drink, I felt the pain of Falak, Minal and Andrea. After all, which lady in 2016 would not?
 
I cried internally and then after a few drops of salt water down my eyes, the grand Amitabh Bachchan came to the rescue. The father figure, the best brand ambassador patriarchy can ever have (pun intended), was speaking for women’s rights. NO means No was hammered into the viewer’s head.
 
But I had a problem. I asked myself, “all of that is fine…justice prevailed at last, but why was it the same old narrative?” Why was a man defending a woman- the ‘pitas’ and the ‘bhais’ we tie our rakhis to?
 
Then I asked myself- how would it be if a woman had played Amitabh’s role. Instead of the father figure, if a mother figure had defended the girls or the girls had defended themselves, how would the movie have panned out?
 
After all Akshay Kumar could defend himself in Rustom. How about Minal doing the same in Pink? Then my twisted mind came to one conclusion- women, if not Kali when required (and a situation like this requires it), will become lazy if they rely on a man to solve their problems for them.
 
I don’t know about other women, but I do (unconsciously) turn to my father and boyfriend for protection when I am eve-teased or harassed. I never do what has to be done myself.
 
So today, after a day on intense debate and watching a film that made me cry, I take home one lesson only- never again will I turn to anyone else but myself for defending me. If that means fighting till the end and losing the fight, I will do so unashamedly.
 
I will lose my sleep tonight just thinking about what my world would be like- where a lady defends her own like Kali did. Call me a dreamer, but I do hope to God that I am not the only one!

Life in Grey

“Do you know who you are?”

-One question which haunts me. This question, a child had innocently asked me to which I had replied saying my name. But it got me thinking, am I just a name-one given to me by my parents or grandparents? Something I did not choose for myself yet I have to identify with? What I am? What is my purpose in life? Why do I live for the heck of it? All these questions played in my head. Then I decided that I would consciously make an effort to get to know myself.

I asked my mind, “Dear brain, what do you want out of life?” My brain woke itself up from its deep slumber and thought for a moment, then very pompously replied, “Look here my child I am too young to know what I want out of life; all I know is what I don’t want. I don’t want stagnation, I don’t want to wake up one morning and have nothing to do, I don’t want to ever not have a choice. I love my options and I need them. I want a life of adventure; change thrills me and I never want to settle down.”

Looked like some part of me was clear about what it wanted or in this case did not want. Moving on I asked my heart the same question. It replied saying, “I want to be filled with love. I am scared that I will end up all alone in a room filled with people. I want my life to be filled with people from every walks of life but after the party is over, I want to be able to go back home with the one. That person will be my reason to live and my inspiration in whatever I do. I want to be able to wake up in the morning and see his face, I want to be able to say how I feel about him before it’s too late. I want to hurt thinking of him and I want to be filled with a glow when he walks into the room. I want it all. I want novelty but with that guy by my side. I want to see Cote d’azure and the Bay of Naples with him breathing on my neck. I want to come home to him and at that point home is anywhere he is.”

After comparing these two, I felt utterly confused. Which part was me- the brain or the heart? What did I want? I had no clue. I tried every trick in the book- I meditated, I visited holy men and I tried having an internal dialogue. What did I get out of it? A labyrinth where the more I entered, the more lost I got.

Perfect Human

The world dominated by the perfect human scares me. Imagine looking at all the fashion magazines and seeing the Dolce Gabbana clad models- perfect in their waist size, hair length, height, hair style, eye makeup and clothes; and then looking at yourself. You, clad in the old pajamas with pimples over your face; possibly above the golden weight, already feel way beneath the freckle less beauties. You have an inferiority complex and start to starve yourself. After a year of forcing yourself to vomit out every meal you have eaten and matting yourself with mac makeup, you might achieve that golden weight. But to what cost? A failing digestive system and a draught stricken body that will fall down at the slightest blow of air?

Now place yourself in a world of the perfect human- one that did not have to starve itself to look good. One that has it in their gene. One engineered to beat the highest specie on the food chain- itself. The Homo sapiens would have perfected its flaws and become invincible. The parents just need go window shopping- choose the hair color and the waist size along with the gene that makes your IQ above that of Einstein’s’. How would you- the mere ‘natural born’ who has a fit of cough and cold every other day that makes you slow in performance and bed ridden even when you don’t wish for it- then feel among the almost Gods?

I, for one, would declare myself a hermit and go reside in the deepest jungle with the lesser adequate species for company, all the while living in the fear of seeing a human. Such a world would come. I am sure it would. But does that make it fair or does that make it just another form of evolution?

Let’s start from the beginning- the world as we know it now (with the primates) only came into being after five ice ages- all of which annihilated life forms. Now in a future where we manipulate nature (another name for chance- chance for the kind of genes you inherit), we would be stopping evolution. My limited knowledge of genetics teaches me that mutations (another kind of chance) are not all bad.

For example, a nucleotide combinations- ATTTGCC- that is otherwise non-coding (also called intergenic region in DNA) and seemingly useless to us may become a new combination of nucleotides- say ATCTGCC- in the child which has had a natural birth. This new combination might code for a gene that continues the evolutionary process. In my little mind, I want this gene to make our eyes go the full 180 degree in opposite directions just to increase our spectrum of vision. Call it wishful thinking; but I call it evolution.

In the world of which we talk (the one in which making a baby is equivalent to making a custom made outfit) this would not be possible. We would already be perfect. But doesn’t perfection differ from person to person and from circumstance to circumstance? Today a perfect life for me is when I can sleep 9 hours a day. Tomorrow my perfect life might entail not sleeping at all.

So in such a world what happens to choice? How is it any different from Lenin’s communist Russia or Hitler’s Nazi Germany? Having said that, it is safe to conclude that our world 500 years hence will be bereft of choice and will hinder evolution.

Now think of what would happen to the spiritual realm. There would certainly be no God. Though an agnostic myself, the fear of the Supreme Being does prevent people from committing a lot of heinous actions. For that, I am grateful to the abstraction that is God. In this society of perfection, the fear would not exist and what happens when everybody becomes God? It’s a one word answer- bloodshed and revolution.

The funny thing about perfection is that although it is advisable to chase after it, it can never be achieved. It would be like a dog chasing its own tail. Does that mean we stop genetic research? No, we don’t. We are doomed to create a society of the perfect human, only to be wiped out of this Earth by that very idea. What has to be, will be!

Drugs and blanks

Blank, blank, blank…

I am blank. My mind is blank. Just as blank as it can get.

Nexito plus was the medicine.  The good doctor told me last night that I was not all that mad. Though I did have a few screws loose but the equipment was still holding on, somehow.

Mood stabilizers- they are called. Small pink medicines which taste sweet and stick to your teeth. The absorption period is just ten minutes. Taking it is easy but the sleep after that- that is the confusing part, Not the cluster B personality type lecture that I was given yesterday.

She asked me to listen to music- said it’ll keep the thoughts and sleep away. Hence I turned to Jackson for help. I wondered what Billy Jean had to do to get a spot in the star’s musical career. Was she the scrawny girl in the garage with the three older brothers who went to church every Sunday after a night of cocaine snorting? Or was she the good girl in her pink bedroom whose bent head just wanted to be in some fat good boy’s arms?

Now playing on the music application is Eric Clapton’s cocaine. I had seen him snorting once. My drugs actually started with him; he was my first drug. He fixed us a bong shot. “you gotta try a hit…it’ll change your life forever,” he had told me.

And it had. Everything was new; all passionate and toxic. He filled me up like the smoke from the tobacco. It exhilarated and burnt the lung. Yet it was welcome. It was wanted. It was desired. That day I learnt that the devil is nothing but our desire.

Fast forward to a few years. He is back and so is his energy and zeal. I distance myself; don’t engage in the drug. But what when the drug is in your blood? When disaster is a food for your soul. What do you do then?

Do you starve yourself or do you gorge down on the spread before you like the hungry carnivore that you are?

The photograph

They were facing the sun—all three of them: a man in his mid-forties, a girl in her teens and a child of nine. Sitting in a line on the sand dune, they had their backs turned to the lens. The man wore a black Adidas cap, a cream pullover and a pair of black corduroys. The older girl seated in the middle had her hair tied in a bun and had worn a red full sleeved tee shirt and blue jeans that looked expensive. The youngest, sitting on the extreme left had her arms out stretched on both sides as if stretching and looked heavenwards. She wore a checked black-blue shirt and black tights. She had hair like a boys which flew in the wind, towards the right of the viewer.

It was December of 2010 and the geo tag on the picture would identify the location as Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. The horizon was crimson-yellow mostly but the patches of sky in the middle was bordering orange. The highest point visible in the picture was blue—the type between midnight blue and light blue. There was a slight wind that could be felt on the skin of those three. The rest of the frame had one camel standing in a distance, towards the viewer’s extreme left. It would seem that the little girl was punching the unsuspecting camel with her outstretched left hand. The camel was bending down as if searching for some foliage in the desert. It makes me believe that the camel must have been a very optimistic one. In its long years on the desert, it could only have survived due to its optimism. The image in my head right now- the camel is sitting on its back legs much like a human and meditating, exhaling deeply with its nostrils flared when it breathes out.

One can’t say much about their expressions since their back is turned to us but one can guess from their postures. The man is hunched on his back as if relaxed. You can almost see the signs of a smile on the visible part of his chubby cheeks. He wears glasses and you can see the black rim of the glass. He is a man of some style sense and gravitas.

The older girl, like the man, appears to be relaxed and staring in the direction of the setting sun. Her hands seem to be joined together in the front part of her body. She could have wrapped them around her torso to protect herself from the cold wind. I have heard winters in the desert are cold and temperatures drop to sub-zero levels in the evenings. Is that so? Have you ever been to a desert?

The youngest has an air of comfort around her. She is stretching as mentioned previously and is looking up towards the heaven as if giving thanks for that moment of peace. She is not interested in the setting sun unlike her companions. She is just breathing in the moment and is feeling the wind tease her hair. If you zoom in enough, you can see the goosebumps on her hands. She must be cold. Yet she smiles. It is like those smiles you see on the faces of Tibetan monks- ones reflecting contentment and a secret no one will ever know.

There are no visible clouds in the sky. It seems as if the great painter was too lazy to apply the final touches on his canvas and decided that that would be cloudless day and blamed it all on the wind. The sky was a large sea monster waiting to engulf the fighting sun. The yellow mango-like thing looked like it wanted to linger a little while longer but couldn’t. An invisible hand was pulling it behind the curtain of night, holding it by the scruff of its neck.

The three were on a holiday. One of those rare places which lack network connection, fast cars, geysers and emails. One of those places where the railway station can be filled with ten men standing on the platform. One of those places where people still waited for the postman to arrive and he was treated like the lover’s God. One of those places where a traveler had to strain his eyes to search for a fellow human being. One of those places where people crawled into bed by 9 pm and woke up by 6 am.

It was a week long holiday and the girls had urged their father to take them for a night stay on the desert. The tour guide had been given strict instructions to take them to a place far from civilization where the cries of monotony and routine couldn’t be heard and you were left with the wind in all its purity. A place where the sky kissed the sand without being hindered and the sun watched over the smaller creations.

It was a happy place. It was their happy place. The three musketeers sat one beside the other enjoying the silence of the desert. The desert spoke to them using a language more ancient than man himself. A language that lacks words and sounds. Something throbbed through the silence. Some mystics say it is the heart of the desert that throbs. But we will never know, will we?

Sitting on the sand dunes, they could see a vast expanse of nothingness. It was bare, dry and harsh. Yet there was beauty. A rustic, earthy kind of beauty. It took some time for their eyes to recognize the beauty of the desert but when they did, they smiled and the smile lingered on in the photograph placed right in front of me and I am glad for their smile.