The struggle with struggles!

Writing is a struggle

Writing is a struggle

I’ll be honest. I’m having to struggle to keep up with a whole bunch of things in my life. When I pause to exhale and think about my struggles I realise I’ve always struggled with my struggles. Right from childhood. Of course the struggles morphed into more mature, more adult struggles as I grew up, but they never went away. There was no magic abracadabra to make me feel invincible, or super confident, or super positive and make my struggles seem really small, like a grain of sand in the Universe.

 

I have the power to make now count

I have the power, really?

When I was young
My struggles were about being dark-skinned, euphemistically called dusky skinned nowadays. I struggled with having ‘matured’ faster than some of the other older girls in the neighborhood. I struggled with having my body thrust itself out in a hurry quicker than some of the other skinnier girls. I struggled with them giggling and poking and whispering and pointing at my blooming femininity and wondered what I’d done wrong. Why were they all  laughing? I was a smart kid and I managed to learn things by rote better and so would stand first in class. I was considered “intelligent” and I struggle with that label, till this day. I struggled with the burden of my family’s expectations of “studying well, shining bright, winning accolades and getting a great job”, none of which I really did. I struggled with the idea of having buck teeth and no one ever bothering to tell me that I could actually get it fixed. I struggled with never being great at sports and always losing out to someone better. I struggled with the idea of losing even though I was told that winning was not everything, participating was (and I know that wasn’t the truth, there’s really nothing like winning is there?). I struggled with being plump and short and dark and “smart/intelligent”, and not being good at sports.

When I was a teen

Struggling for a reason

Give me a reason

I struggled with never looking stylish enough when I was in college. At 16 all you want to do is look good in jeans and have shiny hair, a brilliant smile and hope all the boys want to take you to some party, any party. All you wanted was an invite. I struggled, because I was only giggled at and never invited. I struggled to figure out what would make extended family stop comparing me to other “prettier” girls in the family and I struggled to learn how “not to feel bad” when these comparisons and blatant favouritism was displayed. I struggled not knowing how to language it and so becoming temperamental and moody and depressed were my form of expression, for attention, for somehow wanting to tell those who hurt me to look at me as me and not as someone they wanted me to be. I struggled with the lies about my father, and his work, and the shame and the guilt that accompanied me whenever someone asked me about him. I struggled to comfort my mother and support her as my anger came in the way and I didn’t know how to channelise that anger into something meaningful and purposeful. I struggled when my grandfather died and I held my father responsible for his death and the eventual death of my grandmother 3 years later. I struggled with the guilt of being my father’s daughter.

When I was an adult
No one told me life wasn’t a piece of cake. I struggled to define my purpose. I struggled to have faith in my ability to do anything. I struggled to come up with a plan for my life. What did I want, where did I want to go, how would I go about getting there, would I find a man who could love me? I struggled every time a man came into my life and left me for another. I struggled with my desire to tell the world I could be the bride too, every single time I attended a friend’s wedding. I struggled as I grew singler and singler and older and wiser. I struggled with the chains of a 9-5 when my heart cried out to be free. I struggled to make sense of the pain of just being an adult and watching my life somehow not panning out the way I imagined – no fame, no money, no career, no travels, no books, no “love of my life”, no children – no nothing really.

Everybody has their own cross to bear

With you in yours.

When I am in the prime of my life now
I continue to struggle. My struggles are not vastly different from yours. I struggle to keep my body from sagging. I struggle with the narratives of loneliness and fear of death. I struggle to find meaning and purpose. I struggle with self-worth and coming to terms that I’m ordinary and very average. I struggle with my writing and the fact that I can never be a great writer. I struggle with acceptance and forgiveness. I struggle to keep my head high and not regret the past. I struggle with dealing with sarcasm. I struggle to keep bitterness with past behaviours of my family and find it so hard to keep my rage (rage, not just anger) at bay. I struggle when my life coach asks me about my father. I struggle to realise that I have one life to live and I haven’t achieved pretty much anything and we have Marc Zuckerberg who was the youngest billionaire in the world. I struggle when my trust is misplaced and yet I continue to place my trust in people’s goodness. I struggle with hope and I struggle to find meaning. I struggle to keep the greys out of my hair as I struggle to be patient with a parent who is only getting older, greyer, frailer. I struggle with my unexpressed passions, and I struggle to dream sometimes. And when I dream, I struggle to keep them burning, happy to put out the embers.

I struggle with struggles. All the fucking time.

Do you?

 

 

 

Is now all we have?

Are you, like me, thinking of taking a vacation, sometime in the near future?
Are you, like me, saving up for a new car, sometime in the near future?
Are you, like me, thinking of writing a book, sometime in the near future?
Are you, like me, thinking that this life of yours (as I think of mine), is forever?
Are you like me, assuming that you will remain young forever?
Are you like me, pretending that Time can be your slave?

Lol. Such fools. You and me.

Look around. Cast your mind back to yesterday. Can you live that day again?
Look around. You have your tomorrow all planned out.
6.00 am – walk
7.00 am – meditation
8.00 am – breakfast
9.00 am – get off to work
9.45 am – 1st meeting of the day
10.30 am – mails to send, follow up on that estimate, remind colleague/ team member of the report, check with boss on leave, some more mails
11.45 am – time for a caffeine rush
12.00 pm – stop by at colleague’s cubicle and chit chat – while away time – make small talk, share a joke
12.30 pm – time to head for lunch
1.15 pm – rush to cubicle, engage with some social media on your smart phone
1.30 pm – meeting again – so sleepy…shit!
2.20 pm – got to figure out what to cook for dinner
2.25 pm – quick call to boyfriend on plans for evening
2.45 pm – stop by for water cooler gossip
3.00 pm – time for caffeine
3.15 pm – send a couple of emails, thank some people, start on that report
4.00 pm – attend a few quick phone calls, get some print outs
4.20 pm – head to the loo
4.30 pm – check time – another hour to go, mental check-list – refuel car, pick up some DVDs, pay the credit card bill, pick up some ice cream, start on the tax investment planning, must speak to the cable services provider – just too bloody expensive for bullshit service – got to order the gas cylinder, sigh! am going crazy – lots of things to do…
5.00 pm – start on the report – interrupted by a few more pings on the local office intranet, a few flirty winks, sign off
6.00 pm – still finishing that report – got to send it by 6.30 pm latest
6.45 pm – pack up and rushing to the car park – mentally cursing for the crazy traffic jam and how life sucks!(why the hell can’t life get better? why am I stuck here doing this when I could be writing a book, baking cakes, finishing up my creative writing course, learning to be a teacher, go on that hike)
8.30 pm – home – exhausted, tired, irritable, hungry – and I have to cook dinner…Gawd!!!
9.00 pm – boyfriend reaches home – exhausted, tired, irritable, hungry and has to make small talk with girl friend and pretend to be interested in her day or her cribs or her queries
10.30 pm – both watch some stupid TV channel zombie-like and grope each other…quick foreplay and then retract – too tired to make out really
11.00 pm – lights out!

Look around you. White light. Blinding light. You feel weightless. You look and you see yourself, sitting there in your room, thinking, planning, for tomorrow. Worrying sick about the day after tomorrow. Angry about all the miserable things that happened yesterday, no, 10 years ago. Look around you. There’s nothing, just a feeling of weightlessness and the unbearable lightness of being. You can see your body, you can read your own mind. Worry, fear, pain, guilt, shame, lack of confidence, worry, fear, pain, guilt, shame. For what? For tomorrow? But, look, I planned out my tomorrow, I was grappling with my yesterday, but I died today. I slipped and fell in the bathroom and hit my head on the commode and had an internal hemorrhage. I just lay there lifeless, with a pool of blood slowly spreading around my head and crawling toward the ivory commode, with my eyes lifeless staring at the ceiling, my body twisted. I died today.

Such fools you and me. We plot and plan for days that were never ours to plot and plan for. We had today, sorry, now. But we were too busy giving the now the short shrift. Move over bitch, make way for a tomorrow that is going to be rosy, and healthy and rich and happy. Yeah right!

Who has the last laugh?

Look around. You and me. Such fools.

Are you like me, thinking, that tomorrow will always come? That tomorrow is another day?

Such fools. You and me. (“now” winks at me slowly, hands in pocket, whistling a tuneless tune, merrily leaving me as I chase a dark shadow called tomorrow).

“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.”
Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

What moves you?

Movies.

When I see the nuances of a relationship in a movie play itself out – daughter and mother, father and daughter, husband and wife, brother and sister, girl friend and boy friend, friends….I have always wondered why some scenes move me? Death, intense love, intense desire, separation, sacrifice, romance – am like an ice cream in an oven – sniffing and snivelling away and my throat is all constricted with unshed tears and I am transported to moments in my life when I have been desperate for luck, love, understanding, relief.

Music.

Every time I fell in love the lyrics of songs would somehow take on an extra special meaning. I have made mix tapes for boy friends, girl friends and self with specially selected songs and little notes tucked into the Sony or TDK 60 or 90 mins tape cover, hoping the man would never forget me every time he listened to the songs peeking out behind the spool. Of course the folly of living in hope in a failed or distant relationship cast its long dark shadow unrelenting and winning.

Children. Ads. Great deeds. Family. Human spirit – Sherpas looking out for the mountaineers rescued from an avalanche with worry and wondering if he/ she is alive. A heart transported from a hospital to the airport where the police, the authorities are all on standby to ensure that a little baby somewhere gets a chance at life. And so many other such stories of courage, selflessness and extraordinariness.

Why do these slice of life moments move me? Because I live a little through these experiences. Vicarious pleasure. Transposed emotions. And the throbbing of my heart becomes louder every time I see what life is, what life could be.

When I saw this movie today, I felt that the woman, a daughter was playing me in many ways – looking after her cantankerous old father – and that was her raison d’être. Parents can be selfish without realising it. Parents can be worried about being alone in their infirmity and how illness could affect their lives. When their children, especially a daughter looks after them selflessly, however acerbic, caustic or frisson-ridden the relationship may be, you do feel for the woman right? Her loneliness can burrow a hole in your soul. You wonder if there will be a great big romance. If there will be friends with whom she can share a brownie and talk about her sexless unsexy life or unshaven armpits or the need for sex the without sounding maudlin or pitiable or desperate. If there would ever be a great man-woman friendship which could turn out to be a comforting duvet enveloping her with its warmth. You wonder if she could ever take a vacation and meet someone who would be the great big adventure and soul fulfilling episode of her life.

Yes. I realise I am unbelievably alive and human when:  my 18 month old niece shouts out my name and apes evey action of mine. When my nephew and niece come straight home from the car park when they come visiting their grandmother it fills me up. When that guy in the car next to mine in a narrow lane waits patiently and actually allows me to make that difficult turn, it fills me up. When someone holds the lift for me, or someone at the cash counter doesn’t worry about the 50p change that I don’t have and tenders change, yup, it moves me.

Yes, little instances fill me up, move me to tears. In a world where basic humaneness and goodness and compassion are becoming rare commodities, think about what moves you. All the little things add up. It makes for a life beautifully lived. It restores faith.

Move it, move it, move it. Feel it.

 

 

 

 

 

Death and shit!

With both, death and shit, when you gotta go, you gotta go. Can’t control either.

This line caught my fancy at the movies today, a movie called Piku, a new Hindi feature film that has been garnering rave reviews.

So true right? I remember this really cool tongue-in-cheek poster that used to be hanging on the inside of the toilet door in my aunt’s home back in Mumbai. It was about different body parts fighting about who’s the most powerful. The asshole just clogged up and the whole body started turning black and blue and the final denouement was that you don’t need to be high and mighty to be powerful just an asshole. It was of course in a lighter vein. But well, so true again.

Well, yesterday I attended a funeral. The funeral of a neighbour’s father. He died suddenly. No lingering illness, no prolonged ailment, just a sudden something and poof, he was gone. Leaving his wife and children quite bereft. He was 74.

As I stood in a corner of the home, watching the dead body, laid out in a stretcher, garlanded and ready to make its final journey to the crematorium, with the men and women standing or sitting, sombrely, some trying to comfort the wife, some getting busy with some formalities with the priest, some just being silent, with God knows what thoughts in their head, I just started wondering about the man who lay there, mute, stiff, with life having ebbed from his veins.

I teared up and thought to myself :
my God! death can really happen in an instant. I could die tomorrow. Who will look after my mom? What is it that should really drive me – money, fame, goodness, leaving a legacy, doing good, something tame, routine, what?

I realised that in the final analysis, it was critical that I did good by people.

I also thought, so if my mom dies, what are the things I’d need immediately, like a 101 kit: instant money, at least 100,000 in Indian Rupees, phone numbers of a priest, the crematorium, would be great to have someone who could help buy the things that are essential for the final ceremony ( and I came up with a blank as I couldn’t think of anyone who would be there and help me out. You know how when you visit people’s homes or occasions or funerals, you see people magically appearing out of the woodwork and somehow everything being organized so perfectly while the immediate family is given time to grieve? Well, in my case I can’t think of anyone being there. I just have elderly aunts and uncles and so I might have to do the running around myself and not really have the time to mourn), how I wouldn’t want people to come and condole, as I hate the crowds, and so on.

I then thought, shit, I am a woman and and my mother’s only child, and as is the Hindu custom, only a son can basically perform the last rites of his parent. But in my case, will they allow me to? And if not me, who? And then I started getting angry with the nerve throbbing at my temple, I gritted my teeth at the thought of any one else having the right to perform such a duty just because of gender. I was bristling.

Then I started feeling scared. There was the finger of fear slowing moving inside my stomach. The fear of being suddenly left adrift like a ship without sails, completely without a raison d’etre, of being so alone, so directionless, so utterly alone, that I couldn’t breathe for a moment.

It hit me then. A sucker punch. In my solar plexus. I gasped. I was scared shit of being left alone, that I didn’t want to live for long without the presence of my mother around me. Yes, I have friends, relatives, acquaintances, good neighbours, etc. But everyone has a life. I would need to figure out a way of living on my own.

Jesus! It makes my throat cramp up with unshed tears, it makes my fingers shiver with dread, it addles my brain. I can’t really think, but I know I need to worry about life and purpose and meaning once my ma decides to leave her mortal coils. I need to figure out a way of making my life worthwhile. And somehow making it count. So that my mom is always proud of me, my conduct, my character, my deeds wherever she is, after she’s gone.

I don’t know how to do it really.How to make my life worthwhile? Shit!

Dear God, I know death and shit wait for no one, when you gotta go, you gotta go. But in my mother’s case I’ll be around to ensure that she’s cared for, loved for, and has the easiest of times. When it’s my turn, who will be there at my side?

Damn! The travails of being single. Tough life eh?

Nobody said it was easy, nobody said it would be this hard…