Wednesday, May 11, 2022

so, what's the plan?

it's interesting how problems seem far more manageable when viewed from a distance. my trip to London was to catch tool live (which I did! another post to follow 😁), but as a side effect, the last 4 days have given me a surprising (and unexpected) amount of time alone with nothing to do but think. I guess that's one side-effect of a solo vacation I hadn't considered, especially in a place like London, with its long, offline tube journeys. that and the book I'm currently reading on my kindle ("deep work" by Cal Newport) has led me to conclude the feeling of being in a constant struggle is actually because I'm struggling to focus on the things I want to do. and that the things I need to do to ease my struggle are actually quite simple! 

and so, when this plane lands at Belfast, I'm going to step off with a spring in my step, because I have a plan... and it's going to take me from where I am to where I want to go!

Saturday, May 07, 2022

2022 so far

I'm not going to lie, 2022 has brought plenty of not-so-nice things with it. losing dad tops the list, but there's more to it:

- despite every effort, things seem to be falling apart. staying on top of my work, personal life, staying in touch with family and friends, taking care of myself seems easy individually, but when put together becomes overwhelming and feels like too much to manage.

- my health seems to be taking a beating as a result. I've been cycling less, walking less (although that's changing now), sleeping less, eating worse.

- for the first time in my life, I've been officially diagnosed with less than perfect mental health. while counselling seems to have got me out of the red, it still seems like things are precarious.

- time seems to be passing without much to show for it. at the start of the pandemic, there were plenty of reassuring messages that in these times, it's okay to just survive. it now seems like things are about as normal as they're going to be, and yet I'm still in "barely surviving" mode.

- I've lost my taste for most entertainment. Reading, movies, board games, even a night out. the only thing that gets me going is when someone asks. and even then, it seems like whatever I do just makes my life more difficult than if I didn't go.

- I feel alone most of the time. I don't know why. I'm surrounded (physically and virtually) by people who want the best for me, but I just feel it.

it's not like I don't have things to be thankful for: my time spent in Mumbai was much more fulfilling than it usually has been. I still have the rest of my family. the pandemic has been better to me than to most (if statistics are to be believed). I live in peaceful, idyllic surroundings. I still have my motorbike (although I came very close to having to sell it), and I still enjoy riding it. I learned to sail. I have all the comforts I desire. I seem to be making progress towards my long term goals.

it's just that the overarching feeling of everything being a struggle pretty much masks everything else. 

Saturday, April 09, 2022

closure

the last few months have been difficult. it's hard to understand how the healing process starts, and what helps it along. it's hard to understand when you're actually getting better, and when you're heading towards a well disguised breakdown. it's hard to diffrentiate between greiving and all the other things happening in my life at any given point of time.

but i do know one thing: i feel better now.

i didn't want to visit dad's grave. i thought, like most other things, it'll just be anticlimactic and leave me feeling meh. i put it off for almost 3 weeks after I landed in Mumbai. but at one point, I felt ready. 3 months to the day he passed away.

his grave laid uncerimoniously bare - just a simple tombstone to mark it as his. on either side, identical tombstones indicated graves were being allocated in chronological order. the people on both sides were also 75 when they died.

i spent more time looking at other graves around than I did at his.

nearby, people were gathered around another grave - a funeral had just concluded.

as i stood there, they began to leave.

i didn't want to leave.

when the graveyard was quiet and I was finally alone, I started walking around aimlessly.

people talk about staying true to the memory of their loved ones who have passed away. that they live on through us.

i don't think any of that is necessary. dad has left his imprint on me, and i have always grown up with his influence. he was living through me even while he was still alive. not entirely though - there are things I consciously chose to reject. is that what makes me, me? it's hard to say. but either way, I am what I am.

I guess the only thing I've really learned in these 3 motnhs without dad is that I need to cherish those I love and treat them fittingly while they're still around. thoughts at a grave do not matter to the person in it.

and there's a lot to be done. it's usually only in hindsight or from an outsider's perspective that we see what could have been done. and therein lies the root of all regret.

I don't know if there's more to be learned from dad's life (are there stories I'm yet to hear that will touch me? it's possible!), but I have enough to go on. and I have finally realzied that.

the rest of my life, however long or short it may be, lies ahead for the taking. it's time to be excited about life again - because it's all I have.

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

running at night

I was on a flight to mumbai. it was dark, and the air was heavy with moisture, although it wasn't raining.

the flight was weird - when it was landing, there were no lights of the city to welcome us. we landed on an airstrip in the middle of what seemed like a jungle. in fact, the area around the airstrip was densely overgrown with what seemed like a tropical rainforest. the trees glistened dark green in the glow of the few lights beside the runway, whick looked more like street lights than anything you'd see at an airport.

once off the plane, we were in a huge shed that served as an airport terminal. while it was pretty huge, it still wasn't anywhere as huge as most airports - about a couple of hundred feet wide and a little less high, and maybe a thousand feet long. the insides were dimly lit and there were loads of people milling about, but no shops or anything like that. in fact, the floor was just tarmac! it was shaped like half a cylinder. it seemed to be made of what seemed like corrugated sheets, and a few metal girders here and there.

i didn't have any bags other than my regular purple cabin bag, so there was no baggage to claim (although if there was, I don't remember seeing any baggage claim area - or customs, border control, or anything else!).

however, I did bump into aunt Dooda! she was directing passengers to the exit of the "airport", which was at the other end of the shed from where we entered it. I asked her how come she was at the airport, and she said she took up this job as she was getting bored at home. I asked her if she would be going home anytime soon, so we could travel together. she had a few hours of work left, so she couldn't.

I also bumped into Apoorv. I had a sense that he was on same the flight as I was, but we were somehow separated after we disembarked. We decided to share a cab, as we lived near enough.

Outside the airport terminal, we got into a cab. It was a rickety white maruti omni, and as we didn't have any large luggage, we fit quite comfortably. the seating was strange though: instead of the two rows of seats facing each other, there were seats on either side. Apoorv and I sat facing each other, and as the taxi drove us to Borivali, the city seemed dark and almost deserted.

Borivali was quite usual though, the streets seemed quite well lit, although perhaps not too busy. I don't remember the time of night - it's possible it was quite late.

As we got nearer to home though, the cab didn't take the usual route - it was passing though one of the more forested areas near home. The cab was headed up a steep hill, when in the distance, I saw what looked like dad!

He was in his favourite blue checked shirt and shorts, and for some reason he was running up the hill!

My first thought was: at his age he certainly shouldn't be running!

My second thought was: let's surprise him! And then give him a lift home.

I instructed the cab driver to drive past him and then stop.

As soon as the cab stopped, we opened the back door of the cab, and while still inside, I called out "Lucian", trying to disguise my voice best I could.

He walked up to the cab and peered inside (there were no lights on inside, so he couldn't see us very well).

Apoorv called out to him and said "surprise!!" And I hugged him and asked him to come home with me in the cab.

He was happy to see me, and as he got into the cab, it started to rain.

And that's when I woke up.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

did you really go?

I was in Mumbai. At my parents' apartment. I had my work laptop with me - I was working from home. It was a bright and sunny late afternoon.

I wasn't feeling quite well. I shutdown my laptop and told mom I'm taking the day off work as I was finding it hard to work.

Although I didn't say it out loud, the reason I couldn't work was because thoughts of dad were unsettling me. I felt terrible. I wanted to curl up in bed and just do nothing.

But as I walked past the kitchen to the bedroom, dad was there!

He was sitting at his usual spot at the dining table, and although he didn't turn to face me, he asked me what happened.

I put my arms around him, and gave him a hug from behind, while he continued to sit. I told him it's just a headache.

That's when I noticed a bit of bandage on the side of his stomach. it looked like the bandage was covering up stitches.

I asked him what happened, but he did not answer.

I asked mom how dad got back here. What happened? Hadn't he gone?

She did not answer either.

I asked her if she could see dad sitting there at the dining table.

She turned to me, confused, and said, no she didn't.

I burst into tears.

Dad was there. I could feel him in my embrace. He could hear me and speak to me.

what was happening? it was too confusing to handle.

I just wanted to hold on to him until I could think straight again.

He stood up. He walked to his chair in the living room, where he loved to sit, and sat there.

He sat and looked outside while I cried.

I saw his face. It was just as I remembered.

He just sat there looking outside while I stood at the door, watching him, and cried.

I don't know why he did not react to my tears.

I got into bed and cried some more.

That's when Shruti shook me awake.

I was in Belfast, crying in bed.

I told her I just want to hug him one more time.

I told her I'm not ready to let go of him yet.

There was nothing she could say.

I closed my eyes and I was back, face to face with him.

My tears didn't bother me.

The only thing that bothered me was that if nobody else could see him, he really was dead.

But at that moment, it didn't matter if he was alive or dead, as long as I could see him again.

I opened my eyes. My alarm was ringing. I switched it off and closed my eyes again.

I don't know how long I stood and watched dad sitting there, but I didn't want it to end.

I heard Shruti apologize for not knowing what to do to make me feel better.

I ignored her and kept my eyes closed while she held me.

I don't know when I stopped crying or the dream ended.

But every time I close my eyes, or even when I don't, I can still see him in that chair.

ps: as I wrote this, I remembered a similar dream from many years ago. I don't think Jeetu has appeared in subsequent dreams though.

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

staring at a photo

 it's strange, how I've suddenly spent at least 20 hours of the last 80 staring at this photo.

one month ago, I was hanging on to every word mom and Kevin said about how dad was in hospital. what did he say? how was he reacting? was he awake? did he sleep? what was he eating? was he eating?

I remember thinking to myself, that if I was there, I'd have been by his side every moment I could - and feeling helpless at the fact that while mom and Kevin were at his beck and call, he refused to even call for them (intensive care protocol is apparently that the designated attendant can only visit the patient when the patient asks for it).

We didn't know how hard he was fighting. We thought he'd be out in a couple of days, as he had bounced back countless times before.

I wanted to reassure him myself that it will all be okay - but phones are not allowed in intensive care.

But anyway - would it really have mattered?

Either way, i must sleep now.




Monday, January 31, 2022

photographs and feelings

I spent last night browsing my archive of photo albums that we scanned some 15 years ago. What I was really looking for was a photograph of dad to frame for posterity. Something much more difficult than I had anticipated, simply because dad was behind the camera most of the time. The few photos of him were honestly of a much lower standard than the ones he clicked, simply because he was usually the best photographer in the room. I wonder how many people took a tripod on their honeymoon - certainly nobody I've asked!


As I scrolled past the hundreds of photos he clicked over 20 years, I thought back over the moments they captured - mostly events like birthdays, vacations, Christmas and the like, but also... all the pots and pans aligned in the kitchen, because he was amused by how mom arranged them so uniformly 😁


Playing with the neighbours (those planks of wood were my favourite toys at one point - and we were so violent with that double decker bus that it was retired when the top deck broke off!)


Me in hospital for apendicitis (yeah, only dad could think of clicking a photo of that!)


The weird thing about that day is, I remember he made me laugh so hard for so long I literally hated him for it - because laughing hard would make my stitches ache, and yet I couldn't help myself! Yeah, he had me in stitches 😂

A random photo of me chopping tomatoes (followed by one of Kevin chopping what looked like apples!)


Kevin and me enjoying mangoes (the photo was taken to keep a record of how messy eaters we were!)


Kevin and me posing with our creations (The houses were made using Bayco - from the 60s! Also, there's a mecanno crane in the corner of the room - another of dad's hand-me-downs)



The wonderful thing is, while dad is not captured in this photos, every he moment captured had his imprint.

My childhood wasn't perfect, but he did his best to make it magical. And when we grew up, he receded into the background and let us do our thing. His camera stopped working in 1999 (the film door started leaking light, to be specific - it gave the last couple of albums a band of red on one edge), and the next albums were clicked by me from 2004 on this point-and-shoot I was gifted. Suddenly, his imprint was pretty much gone. It was as if he had let go and let me fly.

But there is one thing never captured in any photo, that I feel every other moment of my day: his hugs.

Barring mom and possibly Kevin, I don't think anyone will ever know the warmth of his affection the way I did. I am still stuck in the moment I said goodbye to him, before I walked downstairs to catch the cab to the airport. I told him to take care of himself. He told me to call him when I reached Belfast. And gave me one last warm hug.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

even more nightmares?!!

yes, i've been having nightmares literally every single night. I wake up a few times every night, heart pounding, sometimes in a cold sweat, even though it's the peak of winter. it then takes me a few hours of tossing and turning in bed to fall asleep. I'm lucky shruti doesn't mind being woken up several times a night by me saying "i had a nightmare, please hold me" - and she does her best, but it doesn't seem to help enough for me to sleep well.

my only solution so far is to spend more time in bed, so i can make up my sleep that way.

sleeping meds are an option i don't want to consider at the moment. does anyone have any other ideas?

Monday, January 17, 2022

more nightmares

I didn't sleep much last night, although I spent close to 12 hours in bed. It was just nightmare after nightmare.


Nightmare 1

I was at my motorcycle mechanic's garage in Mumbai. We were trying to fix an engine in which the connecting rod had worn out to the point where it had knocked and dented the inside of the crankcase! The connecting rod, crankshaft, crank pin and even the inside of the crankcase were grimy and looked rusted. It took a lot of elbow grease to take everything apart, and once we did, I decided to walk back home. One of the mechanic's helpers sprayed my hands with petrol to get all the grease and oil and general gunk off them, after which I walked home.

As I entered the apartment compound, an old friend (a classmate from school) walked by on the road and called out to me. He had a matchbox in his hand, and was poised to flick a match at me (this thing we used to do as kids where we would flick a match in such a way that the match would light as it flew towards you... You'd want to dodge the lit match, obviously).

I screamed NO NO NO NO NO as he flicked the match towards me and it lit. For some reason, I tried to deflect the lit match instead of dodging it... And to my horror, it set my hands on fire. In that moment, the world suddenly turned pitch black (even though it was a bright afternoon) and all I could see were my flaming hands as I waved them frantically to no avail.

And I woke up.


Nightmare 2

I was hung by my legs, upside-down. It was a dark room, barely lit by light filtering through cracks in the walls (the walls were made of wood, as far as I could tell). I was being tortured for some reason. A man was torturing me. There were other men, standing and watching - they were armed.

My own arms were tied behind my back. I twisted and writhed, but couldn't really do much. I tried to arch my body upwards, in the hope that it would feel better. As soon as I did though, I found a noose around my neck. I tried to hold that position as long as I could, but it was unbearable. I gave up and let my body hang downwards from my legs again. The noose tightened around my neck. As I struggled, and then gave up, I felt all tension leave my body.

That's when I realized I was actually looking at myself from outside my own body.

The man who was performing the torture on me stepped forward and grabbed my neck. He twisted it until it snapped. A few more twists back and forth, and he detached my head cleanly from my body.

He set my head down on the floor, neck side down.

He took an axe and split my skull cleanly open. So cleanly, there wasn't even any blood to be seen.

He then took a knife and started to slice my brain.

He then started slashing my brain the other way, to dice it.

At around that point, one of the armed guards spoke up and said: "that's enough. he's long gone"

And I woke up.


Nightmare 3

I was sitting at the dining table of my friend's apartment. The apartment he lived at back in 1999. His mom was sitting with us too. Everyone had their hands clasped on the table, silent.

Although we didn't say a word, I heard my friend tell me his dad was in hospital. And that it should have been nothing, but he hasn't been recovering the way doctors expected him to. I heard myself thing: that's exactly what happened to my dad.

I felt a wave of fear come on: is his dad about to die?

We sat in silence, until I finally spoke: isn't it weird, the last time we met here, your dad was as old as we are now?

I woke up and calculated: that was actually pretty close to the truth!

Friday, January 14, 2022

saving the world

this dream from 30th December 2021 refuses to leave me, so I figured I should blog it for posterity.

it was the end of the world, in a sense. all technology and communication had stopped working.

we hurriedly decided to flee the city. we hopped onto a bus, with nothing other than the clothes on our backs. it was a rickety bus, seats fully occupied but not crowded. we were somewhere in Kerala - dad, mom, kevin, shruti and me. we were glad to get out of the city before the violence and looting started, and did not think even once about the life we were leaving behind. while in the bus, I discussed with kevin what could have happened. the bus was functioning, so it wasn't a complete EMP style switch-off of all electrical devices. our phones were still powered up, but there was no network signal. so i assumed it was some sort of communication outage, which resulted in the power grid shutting down. we tried the FM receiver in my phone, and it didn't pick up any channels either.

on my advice, the bus avoided national highways, and stuck to narrow village roads. I also asked the driver to head to the coast, as I felt that would give us the best chance of survival. we were not far from the coast to begin with, and it was soon within sight. the road we were on headed straight to the coast, and then turned right to follow it. to the left, was a small village. compared to the adjoining farmland, it stood out as heavily wooded, with just a few houses peeking out from among the trees. i noticed my watch was still working, and it showed me my GPS coordiantes.

I had a strange feeling about the village, as we approached it. I felt some strange fate awaited me there. I wasn't sure if I should take my folks along though. I quickly asked kevin to note down my GPS coordiantes on a piece of paper, and told him I would be getting off and getting into the village here. I told him to advise the bus driver to continue straight along the coast until he found a large enough village to accomodate all the folks on the bus, and then stop there - but do not leave the coast under any circumstances. I told him that they should stay put, and if I did not catch up with them in a month, he should try to find me - I will only leave this village if I am reasonably sure that it's safe to do so and that I can either bring my folks back to where I am, or join them.

I kissed shruti goodbye and had to quickly get off the bus as I did not want to risk holding the bus up. I didn't really get a chance to say much to my parents either.

on the dusty side of the road, i walked towards the village - the first building - a sprawling ground floor structure, surrounded by trees that covered it in a canopy of shade - was a few dozen feet from the road. it looked like a school building. I noticed people moving inside. I stood at the half open door and called out if anyone was inside. A lady walked up to the door. I told her my name and told her I need to meet the person in charge - and that it's urgent.

She asked me to sit inside and asked if I'd like a cup of coffee. I gladly agreed, as I hadn't had anything to eat or drink since we left in the morning, and it was already late afternoon. the room looked like a large dining room, with the rectangular table large enough to seat at least 20. the table and chairs were built of solid, dark wood, and seemed well used but in perfect condition. consdering it was a school, the room could very well have been a staff room. as I was finishing my coffee, a man walked in. he had shoulder length hair, but was completely bald on the crown of his head. he had a bushy mustache. I was astonished. I recognized him: he was my computer teacher from back when I was 16! and surprisingly, he recognized me too!

we didn't call each others' names out though - I have a feeling he recognized me but didn't remember my name. he said "fancy meeting you, and at such a time! the last time we met, wasn't altavista the best search engine in the world?" and I replied back "yeah, and how's your xatax game going?" to which he said something like "it's too late to practice that now".

he was someone important (being the guy in charge, obviously), and asked the lady who had promptly appeared when he entered, to make him a coffee, refill mine, and bring out some biscuits.

as we sipped our coffee, he said "i assume you're wondering the same thing as i am" to which i replied, "yeah, figuring out what the hell is wrong with the world, aren't we?"

he said I've obviously had a long journey, and he needed a few minutes to get soemthing done as well. he asked me to take my coffee and biscuits and wait for him in the adjacent room where we could speak in private. the adjacent room was a little smaller, and looked like a large office - presumably his. it had another door, which looked like it might be a private entrance. sure enough, a couple of mintues later, he entered this office from that door, and sat across me at the desk. he asked me how I am and if I'm alone. I told him about my family headed along the coast.

he reassured me that they were welcome in this village, once we figured how to get them and when it was safe to do so. but first things first: this problem that possibly everyone in the world was facing.

he dropped his tone a bit, and told me: I know an intelligent man when I see one. We are in a situation where we need every bit of collective intelligence we can muster. the people in this village are hard working and kind, but not particularly intelligent. it's a stroke of fate that we have met in these circumstances, but the situation is fragile: the villagers will follow him as long as they trust him. he said my prsence as someone he will vouch for as intelligent and trustworthy, will cement the villagers trust in him to help them navigate this situation. he said that while he thinks he knows me and i think I know him, we cannot risk being wrong about each other. so we will do our best to stay united and pretend we are long lost friends.

he said he's a man of honour and would not lie. so, in order to make sure he doesn't need to, we need to agree not to ask each other questions about each others' past, or anything that could conclusively prove or even give rise to a doubt that we are not the persons we believe each other to be. we also need to act like the situation is compeltely under control.

i told him i see the intelligence in his thought, and I agree.

he said that as there are no pressing problems at the moment in the village, and I am quite tired, I should eat and sleep for the night. we will meet first thing in the morning to discuss what should be done. he reassured me my parents wouldn't go too far, as the nearest village along that road was just a few kilometres away - I could borrow his motorbike tomorrow to visit my folks, and reassure that village as well that things would be fine soon.

as we prepared to leave that room, I asked him "what should we call each other?"

he told me I could call him Charles. I told him he could call me Kristopher (spelled with a K).

I was relieved. Charles was indeed the name of my computer teacher when I was 16!

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

thank you dad

it's strange, writing this on my blog when i'd rather be speaking to you.

you are no longer in this world.

you will not read the card i left with mom "to be opened on your 76th birthday"

you will not read the card i left with kevin "to be opened on your 40th anniversary"

but i guess you don't need to any more.

you do not need more reminders of how awesome you are.

how strong you are.

how much you mean to us.

how much we cherish your every memory.

how much you loved.

the things you taught me.

the things you let me learn for myself.

the things you took in your stride.

i look around and i see reminders of your beautiful existence everywhere.

i need to remind myself that i am your creation too.

every moment with you enriched me. 

even the moment when you finally taught me that i need to be able to let go of everything i hold dear.

thank you for making me who i am.

for making me able to do everything i have and will do.

your embrace has kept me going even when you did not know what i have been going through.

i feel it now, in this cold room.

your few words have said more than what the world's books could.

i hear them now, in the silence of my thoughts.

your ideals will live on, as long as i live on.

i will carry your spirit with me as long as i live.

our corner of the world has become a better place thanks to you.

thank you dad.

so, what's the plan?

it's interesting how problems seem far more manageable when viewed from a distance. my trip to London was to catch tool live (which I di...