June

Twenty Four, three months ago, had a promising start. Twenty Four, now, sits awake at night and wonders when it unravelled. Twenty Four vividly dreams about people she shouldn’t be dreaming about, she doesn’t know how or why he is frequenting her dreams so much. Twenty Four’s rock bottom has been the most difficult to fester in. Twenty Four now is nowhere close to the same Twenty Four three months ago. Twenty Four now looks like she is losing the first fight.
****

Even the most supportive friend tires of hearing the same winding tune of depression and lament over and over again if it goes on for long enough. Supportive pats become floppy hands, intent faces become disinterested and 20 minutes of listening turns into 5 minutes of impatient nods. In all of this, the saddened, struggling being wilts even more. After all, the constant cosmic pummelling is not something she asked for. Who would know, really, of being cosmically pummelled for so long, that even the being tires of being herself?

Constant reminders of This too, Shall Pass scrawled on my ribs, of the Lotus Flower blooming on my right shoulder, of a foreign voice in my head whispering that “somewhere down the line it HAS to get better” (who is this deluded person???); all of them can only take me so far out of the swamp. All of them now have less power than before. It doesn’t make sense to tell your already defeated self covered in slime and grime, barely crawling forward, that there is something better coming. There is no crutch right now, there is no help to get up, there is no one around. This lone battle has no victory affiliated to it, just a survival of it.

June, you bitch. You have malice written all over you. You have slithered forward through the days so slowly, so terribly that each day’s passing cannot be felt, the ringing thumps only continue and the end doesn’t seem like it exists. May taught you well, and I do not know what you and July are discussing. I play a waiting game to see when the turbulence will stabilise, but I have to tell you, you have taken almost everything out of me.

Almost everything.

I look forward to your demise.

Maybe 

Maybe someday I’ll run into you when it’s snowing. Maybe by then I will be ready to believe that I can be loved. Maybe by then, you’ll be ready to love me. I dream of winter days when the snow falls slowly, deliberately and when we both can watch it together. I think maybe, because it seemed so perfect, because it fit so beautifully for one week, that fate can still give us a chance. One week can’t be enough to give birth to Maybes but here I am, nursing them.

If you had told me that I would have been caught like a fish on the line, dragged painfully into the breathless outside, that I would be breathless for you, I would have laughed. I would have told you that you have no idea who I am. I would have basked in the impossibility of it. Yet here I am, throwing out Maybes into the Universe thinking, how did you know? What have you done? I’ve become completely undone.

On rainy days, amidst warm sleep, I tell myself that I can’t dream of you anymore. That you must not visit me anymore. There is too much to do, there is so much left to finish, there is too much that needs to begin. Yet there you are, looking away from me, when my eyes are closed and still searching for you. I think, what have you done?

Maybe you didn’t know me, when I was broken and I fixed myself. Maybe you didn’t know that I’ve met monsters in men and cried. Maybe you didn’t know that you shouldn’t have done what you did. Maybe you didn’t know better, but it looks like I didn’t either.

Maybe I never knew what I could become in one week, when you looked me straight in my eyes and kissed me softly on my cheeks. Maybe I didn’t know that that was all it would take. Maybe I’ve been so damaged, that even one week of sweetness made me believe that bitterness can be removed. Maybe I thought that for once, for the very first time, maybe, it could work out.

Yet I sit here, dreaming of falling snow and warm tea with you, a few years from now. Maybe, I don’t really know any better. Maybe by then you would have forgotten the week you spent with the severely damaged girl, for whom you have no time for anymore. Maybe you won’t know that someone thought of Maybes with you years ago.

Maybe, by then, I would have forgotten too. Maybe by then, the Universe will be kind enough to let me forget.

Mommy Issues

I would never have thought that I am capable of such negativity in myself. I never would have known that I could carry around the weight of hate like this. I would never have guessed at the end of the day, it would all be because of my mother.

I feel like I have been put into a very bitter tasting nightmare. I had imagined that my stay at home would be uncomfortable, filled with anxiety, dreadful in ways but it has blown up into a noxious plume of anger, disgust and absolute hate. I am confused here and there, I am curious as to what would make a woman do this to her child, I am pained by the fact that I will never have a mother as described by those that are loved by one but more than all of that, I feel such hatred. I feel like my insides are being frozen solid slowly with each passing day as I keep looking at my mother’s stone face.

It seems surreal, it seems impossible, but it is. It really is.

This past weekend, my family had a huge blowout just like the one we had a year ago. From that time till now, nothing has changed. Nothing has gotten better and now, I know for sure that nothing ever will get better. I heard things come from my mother’s mouth that no child should ever have to hear. I heard my grandmother feebly try to defend me, to feebly remind my mother of her motherly duties before being shot down by 3 people. I sat numbly as my father told me that I am not a good daughter. I sat silently as my very loved and pampered brother told me it is unfair of me to say that my mother is not capable of love. I sat next to my mother as she spat out these words “Had you guys not been there, I would have killed myself because of HER” after she literally strangled herself.

I have been sitting on the same sofa, in the same house everyday afterwards. She sent me a couple of messages saying she is sorry, but I did not respond well. Why should I?

Because I have not responded, because I am not doing what she wanted me to do, because she has not been successful in emotionally blackmailing me, she has stopped talking to me now. She walks about the house in her ice cold manner, doing what she wants, as she pleases while she shoots looks of disgust and anger at me whenever I speak. I should not be hurt anymore, especially after the worst weekend of my life yet, but what do you know? It still stings. It still hurts. It still pricks my eyes.

She seems almost like a sociopath, almost like she has no traces of any empathy when it comes to her daughter and her mother-in-law. It almost seems like she hates me too. Like she has always hated me.

Like mother, like daughter I suppose.

I have lost a childhood, a mother and any hope of recovering any of this. I carry a burden too big and too much for me right now. The days pass by slowly, the words said still on the floor of the living room. Those fat, heavy words that suffocate my chest every single moment. I pray for the times to pass, I pray for the days to leave me.

I pray that one day, somehow, somewhere, the Universe tells me why this happened. That the Universe explains itself for this huge, painful blunder in my life. That the Universe makes up for the absolute horror of my 24 motherless years. I thought for so long that I was wrong, that I could be wrong, that I have misunderstood her. That a mother could never hate her own child. That a mother could never want to hurt her child. So much guilt and anger at myself for hating my mother from the very beginning.

I should never have bothered. She has hated me right back all along.

Cursed child

After the words have been thrown at me like daggers

Going through my body,

My mother used syrup to sweeten her voice,

And thinks that wounds that will remain for years to come

Can be glazed over and forgotten, as she flashes her stone cold eyes.

Words she types in her messages of regret

Cannot stop me from seeing her eyes

Bulging out of their sockets as she threatens to die,

Only because I asked her “why?”

Father dear, I had hoped you’d come to rescue me

When it all went down.

You tell me I’m wrong, you tell me I make my mother cry,

And I wonder how I will continue to survive.

Both of you scream that family comes first,

That family must always mean more than the rest.

What kind of family makes the girl regret that she was ever born in the first place?

What kind of family silences their daughter through death threats?

Your eyes can see the whole wide world, you’ve travelled so far and wide.

Others tell me that my parents know the secret to living, because they’re so kind.

I’m considered ungrateful and a liar, angry and sullen,

The daughter a curse to parents with such open minds.

What have they seen? What can they know

Of the cold of my mother’s empty, barren eyes?

Funny, I think, that the world can see how benevolent my parents seem.

Behind closed doors, not even my father has seen my mother’s eyes lose their gleam.

Call me a liar, call me ungrateful, call me a curse upon this family so clean,

One day, if the Gods allow, they all will see what I have seen.

Till then my mother’s syrup sweet voice will continue to poison my dreams.

Cursed child, we continue to walk with head held high

And heavy chest. I know not if solace will come,

But we must walk on, we cannot rest.

Trauma 

My mother tried to strangle herself with her dupatta today,

Leaving marks on her neck that scream at me:

BITCH. BITCH. BITCH. 

I saw the same message in my father’s eyes when he said goodbye,

Before he boarded his flight back home. 

His limp hug lukewarm, his hands somewhere far away. 

And I thought to myself, 

“Is this the price I have to pay for being an outspoken girl in a conservative family?”

I have struggled and struggled to manage the dark waters, 

Keeping myself afloat just enough to get by. 

And today I saw that when I tell them they went wrong somewhere,

They only see that I have pointed my one finger at them

And have 3 others pointed at myself;

And cheekily say: you only have yourself to blame. 

I collapsed on the sofa like a ragged doll, 

Disbelief washing upon me at twilight. 

Is this what a mother is? 

Someone who needs 4 people to come rushing towards her saying: stop it, stop it, stop it! 

We believe you! Your daughter makes you want to kill yourself! 

And to think, what could I have become, 

Had my mother decided that a girl who asks questions 

Can still be loved, can still be loved. 

Rock Bottom, 2016 Edition

Twenty four, you fighter, you.
Fall seven times, climb up eight.

Almost exactly a year ago, I understood the darkness of rock bottom: the damp mustiness of the cave inside, where no light comes to warm you skin. I experienced the shrill nothingness of empty screams inside my head, on a quiet day alone at home. I felt weightless in a very frightening way, like maybe if I died, I wouldn’t go anywhere. Like not even death could pull me up into the light.

Somewhere though, in about 300 days, I felt diffuse sunlight on my skin, around my 24th birthday. And as I thought I had found a way out, as I reached out to grab another rock with my worn out hands, it all came undone. I went free-falling into the musty dark cave screaming once again. I know this place all too well, I can barely see the marking I had made when I was etching the passing of each day in mottled mud-rocks.

Here I am, Rock Bottom. It is most certainly not nice to see you again.

***

Who would have thought that you’d be seeing Rock Bottom, Twenty Four? I would never have guessed, seeing the tufts of grasslike surprise that came our way so early on. I suppose we braced ourself for something coming, May and June have been so terrible. We haven’t written. We haven’t really felt happy. We’re so tearful all the time once again. We cried on the public bus again, after so many months.

Who would have thought that all of it would end like this?

Friends who have seen the new house and the new room I have moved into ask me, “How can you be sad inside such a big, beautiful house?” I tell them, I don’t think you know the sort of ghosts and demons that are chasing me inside this house. My intense furious dislike for my mother and the immediately following guilt wage a war inside me again, and I could be in a palace made of diamonds but I wouldn’t know how to stop the nausea developing inside my stomach and I’d still cover the diamond washbasins with bile. What is a big, beautiful house when I hear my snuffled cries echo inside my big, empty room?

I keep a magical night inside my memories like an old, battered photograph in sepia tone; sometimes wondering if all of it really happened at all. Wondering if I just dreamt the first few moments. Wondering how I could have fucked it all up. Wondering when something that seemed so extraordinary contorted itself; when its anxiety became so reminiscent of my devastating past. Wondering at what point it became destined to be a 20 minute conversation ending with a good-bye.

I help so many friends pack up their bags to leave this city, and realise that there will be no friends left to help me pack if I ever do decide to leave. And I feel like I’ve jumped into a time machine to 2 years ago, when I felt so alone, that I knew if I screamed for days and days until my throat fills with blood, there would be no one to hear me choke on it and die.

Rock Bottom, your scars will be seen by everyone that dares to meet me in the future.

There will be no sunlight for a long, long time and your dark air will add tonnes on my chest and lungs. The hours and days will stretch out in front of me, lengthening maliciously. I will continue to etch the passing of the days on the mottled mud-rocks you give me.
My tear stained face, however, will continue to look up.
What you might not know, Rock Bottom, is that I’ve left breadcrumbs with each heaving effort I put into going up. You might not know that I’ve felt diffuse sunlight, and I will continue to remember it. You might not know that I’ve found my Magic Beans on the way up and that I’ve planted them somewhere inside you.
It might not be today, or tomorrow, or even a month from now, but I will find my way out again. I have to. I had gone up too far to fall back down now and make a home here.

Rock Bottom, meet Twenty Four.

Waiting

Answers, for all their relief, come to you so slowly,
The question sometimes forgotten in their pursuit.
Days pass by, months even, and you’re no closer than square one.
Unable to move ahead because there is no path
That feels stable enough,
That won’t crumble when you take the first step,
and you realise that you’re stuck for a while.

Patience came to me to talk, saying I need her.
I ask her, but why? Why? Why?
I have asked the question, and it has flown out of the window.
How long does it take to find the answer?
Why won’t it come back to me?
Why must it be so difficult?
Why must I need you?
All this while I hold her tight, because there is nothing else I can do.
Because these questions will fly out of the window too,
And their weight will stay on my shoulders
And I have asked too many questions now to stand up straight.

I look for places I can run away to for a while,
Scouring the internet for rates and cheap tickets,
All while I know that even this is a way to run away,
because those tickets remain in my browser history
and I never check into those hotels
But the feeling of running away remains.

Slivers of relief come sometimes when I talk to the window,
And ask about the day answers have come back home
Holding the Question’s hand. Fitting together. Making sense.

And sometimes, the Answer is a No. When the Question comes back
With an answer and they only stand side by side,
sometimes looking a little sad.
The answer, so much heavier than the heaviest question I had asked.

The wait has been so painful, because the answer becomes
Clearer by the day with the lingering silence
Echoing, echoing, echoing.
Who could have thought that silence can echo so painfully?

I wear these questions like chains around my ankles,
Shackled till the answers comes to free me.

Twenty One Days

In the middle of a sleep paralysis nightmare, her alarm rang.

She could turn it off, but not do anything more.

Did she turn it off?

Was she able to move?

No. She wasn’t. The alarm was still ringing.

She tried to turn it off again.

Silence from somewhere for a second.

There it was again. Beep beep beep. Beep beep beep. Beep beep beep.

She screamed, she opened her mouth.

She’s screaming. She’s trying to scream.

Beep beep beep. Beep beep beep. Beep beep beep.

Her mouth isn’t opening.

She’s trying to scream for help. Someone come help me.

Someone.

Beep beep beep. Beep beep beep.

What now? What do I do now?

Her eyes dart around the room.

A woman sits in the corner, her head resting against the wall.

She is watching.

She screams again. She’s trying to open her mouth.

The sounds of her scream echo inside her head.

Outside it is only beep beep beep. Beep beep beep. Beep beep beep.

And the watching woman.

The woman throws her a handkerchief because she wants to stifle her screams.

The woman can hear her scream.

But she can only hear beep beep beep.

It is a never ending nightmare.

The alarm does not stop ringing.

The woman sits and watches her scream.

The handkerchief lies on top of a mouth that cannot open.

It has been twenty one days.

 

The Professional Quarter Life Crisis

I’m not sure about you, but I had thought that by 24, the dust would have settled down and the path would stretch out in front of me.

When I had just begun to show understanding of social customs and norms, the women of my family would flitter around at gatherings and discuss the colour of my saree when I get married at 24. I saw how my sister’s hair, entwined with flowers and coiffed perfectly, fell at her hips as she posed for a photo at her wedding reception at 24. I remember the snarky remarks and “tsk tsks” of gossiping women at my cousin’s wedding; lamenting her face because she wasn’t “as fresh as she would have been at 24”.

The day I turned 24, I started a blog to record this momentous occasion; not because I would be getting married but because the Hump was here. Once I cross this age, I will have made my entrance into adulthood with no chance of parole.

According to all the people that have talked to me in my family, I am “at that age” now. Different coloured sarees with blouses stitched to fit me have slowly been piling up in closets. Somewhat casual remarks have been passed about learning cooking and about refining my choices in clothes to “better accommodate my future in-laws”. Astrologers and their words pipe up every few conversations, talking about how my to-be-husband may be and where my future prospects may lie. Poojas and aartis are done so that the chances of finding “a good husband” who is “fair, possibly rich and from a good family background” are increased, and that fate and destiny can be nudged along to work faster.

No one is really asking me what I want though. The frustration lies in not only being told that only your attractiveness and youth are going to get you a good husband, but also in the assumption made that this is what all women want and SHOULD want.

Discussions about career and profession are limited to conversations with my father, who has on more than one occasion told me that HR is a fine option for a young lady who wants to be financially independent. He asks me what I want, but dismisses most options I come up with to tell me that HR would be great and maybe I should think about doing an MBA (still adding at the end that I should do what makes me happy.)

Today, I find myself in a very peculiar place at 24. My auto-pilot mode in my professional life has been shutting down, followed by vivid and intrusive realisations that I am fucking up. I wanted to be financially stable by now so that I can fight off the advances of jobless, nosy aunties who may possibly giggle to me about the wonders of conjugal relations in an attempt to entice me into marriage (THE DISCOMFORT IS BEYOND DESCRIBABLE) and tell them that I don’t need someone to help me out with money and that I am fine on my own.

Right now however, I am barely managing. I don’t just mean financially, but I am struggling in most domains of my life. I am barely managing living a life, I suppose.

*

I sometimes wonder how my life would have been different if people in my family had celebrated independence and autonomy in women. The only thing I have EVER been told is that my womanhood comes attached with being a wife and motherhood, and with career as a certain backseat. I was shocked when I heard my mother tell my father that it would be better to spend money on my wedding rather than for me to pursue my masters. I don’t like it when my mother tells me to “just sit at home, it’s great” when I tell her I am running into trouble with my work.

I am eternally grateful for my father, who did imbibe this need for independence and autonomy is me, though at times I wonder if he sees how strongly I feel about it.

This week has been a huge struggle, for I have started questioning what I am doing. The last 2 jobs I have had have been the perfect way to distract myself from facing what is coming next; and let me tell you, it is coming to me FAST.

I know that within a month, my life will be taking a drastic turn and I will be put in the middle of a severe shit-storm. Family dynamics that are on the verge of falling apart mixed in with almost certain unemployment and a dwindling support system are all going to take me for what I have. Take the 24th year of my life in the middle of this and I can already hear the fights that I will be having with my parents about marriage and the forgotten pile of sarees in my closet.

*

In all the time people spent in talking to me about my marriage and the blatancy of my gender, most people don’t care about what I do to earn money. My job seems like a hazy thing, hovering in the room somewhere, but conveniently ignored when families gather. I pipe up about wanting to do a PhD now and then, but it is taken as a light comment: something a strong, independent girl is supposed to say, but will wilt to the societal demands soon enough.

I was so busy in making sure I LOOK busy enough to not be approached about getting married that I never thought about what I really want to do.

I applied to my masters program late, and it was a surprise for me when I got in because I assumed I fucked up the interview. I was again surprised when I was hired at Dharma before I graduated: I thought I might have fucked up that interview too. The day I quit Dharma, I asked an old friend if there were any openings at her company: and in the middle of the quitting day alcoholic celebration, I got an interview at my current internship. I thought I fucked that up too, but here I am, working hesitantly everyday.

I jumped, jumped, jumped without really giving it much thought: and at 24, I am looking at my career path and thinking “I fucked up.”

Square One

The waves crash upon the beach and erase everything I have been working on.

The sand once again glittering in the sun, pristinely silent.

Words I had etched into the brown sandy shores taken by the ocean,

Resting among the seaweed, forgotten.

Here I find myself in October, whose sleepy sunshine returns to slumber

Before the clock strikes Six.

And before it is 7, the dusk peeks through the dusty sky

As the cars return to their garages to fold the day into it’s pigeon hole.

I barely knew when the burning sun of Bangalore’s April in 2016

Died down today, but I knew that the evening felt odd.

Cumbersome in its manner, lifeless in a way.

I folded the day by myself before the long summer day closes its eyes

And slips into the past,

Because I felt like my footsteps in the sand were being erased

And before the day did more damage, I put it down slowly,

Into its bed and asked it to rest.

I’ve been walking for a while, and it worried me

To not be able to see how far I’ve come.

The waves kept taking it away from me.

I feel like I’ve seen that shack before,

And that plant, and those rocks, and that tree.

It all seems like I’ve come back to Square One.

The beginning. The starting line. The darkest Hour.

 

I may have a lesson to learn if I think I’m still stuck.

What am I not able to see?