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.

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...