16 hour flights are tedious. In order to make mine bearable, I charged my Kindle, procured a few ebooks, got my reading scarf (red and warm and comfy).

I had failed to account for my reading pace. I found myself left at the end of the last novel I had on my list and still with three hours to spare. I thumbed through the books I had on the device, hoping against hope to find something new.

I ended up finding a book of haikus by a certain Professor Jim Cox. Curious, for I had no recollection of purchasing the book, I started reading. It gave me something to dwell upon for the next three hours. There was a little quiz suggested in the references. After I reached my connecting point, after I found a wifi spot, I typed in the website name into my browser and took the quiz. My eyebrows fairly flew up when I saw the results. There is something to be surprised about everyday.

As the flight made to land at Kochi, after nearly thirty hours of travel, despite the dull pain in my old fracture, I could not help a sigh as I looked down upon the green lands cradled by the sea, kissed by the sheen of rain and the bright sun, and the yellow-whiteness of a full moon that still clung proud to the dawn, and crested with puffy clouds above through which was streaked a rainbow.

Kurunkante kalyanam, as I have heard it called in my childhood, had not been remarkable in Kerala where the sighting had been regular. It was remarkable to me after five years, and I held the view as much as I could as I walked wearily to the luggage carousels. There were porters in uniforms, dragging away on cigarettes, reading newspapers, and mixing it all with political debates over hot tea. They didn’t prove to be of much use in locating my luggage, but then again, I hadn’t expected it of them.

I am not someone who longs to return, most of the time. There are so many things that I dislike here, after all. There are so many things about myself that are socially condemned here, and nobody wants to be spat upon when they can avoid it. Yet I find it impossible to draw a curtain and often long for what I won’t have, for what I can’t have.

My brother is tall and has managed to net two extra inches by virtue of his curly hair. My parents remain as I remember. Perhaps I have selective memory when it comes to certain subjects. I chatter on about the events of last week, and life continues in various states of denial, as it had from my teenage years. It could be worse.

My mother has kept my room nearly as it was, and the sight of my books, old friends that I clung to in more sorrowful times, makes me want to go and read them all again. A window is open and I remember that it is the same window through which I had watched greedily, feasting my eyes on what I could not have. It was all so long ago but I feel overwhelmed by happiness and unhappiness both, in unequal measures.

Later, I open a chatbox eagerly, only to find my fingers hesitating over the keyboard. The stars are familiar too, the placement of them on clear skies outside, and they look on as I type away, as they have looked on me when I had been burning midnight oil desperately, as they have looked on me when I had written feverishly to keep myself intact.

Anything I want to type seems trite. There were so many reasons why I had been unhappy then, and many of them continue; I often feel the press of sorrow now as I go about daily mundanities. Yet, there had been only one reason why I had been happy then.

I am a lifetime away from the young girl who had stood in the same room, trying not to cry, trying to study as hard as she could in a bid to leave everything behind. She had been hunted by the fear of failure, by what it would have wrought on her life. I find myself today still wanting in many virtues I’d prefer to possess, still guilty of fears and crutches I’d rather have left behind, still haunted by the sorrows of my younger days, but more wholesome and happier than the young girl had been.

The chat box is still empty of words and I linger. Relationships forged in terribly unhappy times have a cost all their own.

“Believe,” I had been told when I had broken down in this very room, after a harrowing week.

“In love? In family? In God?” I had shouted then. Perhaps I shouldn’t have, for was it not fortunate that at least one of us found happiness enough in love, family and God to want to believe in all three?

“In you.”

My fingers move over the keyboard, purposeful and knowing.

~~~

~~

Room-hunting is an arcane business around here. I had hoped not to have to do it again this year, but I find myself trudging about Palo Alto, a glass of chocolate milk clutched tight in my hands as I walk from apartment to apartment, in a quest to find shelter for the intern who will arrive here in September. The rents make my eyebrows dance, even if I should be used to the amounts by now. The amenities are deplorable.

One landlady takes pity and tells me, “It is all about the location, you see.”

The room she offers is low-ceilinged, unfurnished, and has a small window. It overlooks a small street and the view from the window is of a liquor store. There is no air-conditioning and no provisions for cooking. The rent is only two thousand and she assures me it is a bargain. Very close to downtown, I am told.

~~~

“Let us be fabulous!” I tell my friend, over a video call, as I stroll through the rainbows in Haight. It is like being allowed to vote for the first time, I think, as I look upon the revelries going on around me. The cheer is all-pervading and I can’t help grinning. I hum Brazzavile’s Oh My Love and even attempt a little swing in my steps.

“No taste at all,” my friend mutters, closing her eyes as if the sight had caused her great pain, and goes back to talking about the land prices in Ernakulam.

Then again, not all of us are cut out to look good in rainbows, I reflect, tugging on the garishly multicolored, fabulous scarf I had kept around from 2012’s parade.

~~~

I am recovering from the viral infection of last week. My voice is still raspy, husky and would belong right at home on a sex phone-line, as a female version of Sean Connery. It sometimes vanishes completely and I find myself dreading that when I boss the interns around. It is much better than it was last week, when I had resorted to leaving pink sticky notes on intern monitors to give my orders. My throat is sore but copious amounts of hot chocolate has helped greatly.

I can’t sing along with any of the Bowie songs, but I am at least now able to sing with Cohen.  We contemplate the famous, blue raincoat many times together as I drive around doing errands. This is an improvement from last week, when I had been resigned to letting Black Sabbath fill my eardrums and drown my pain.

~~~

I took a trip to Milpitas, to the Great Mall that I have heard spoken of by so many. I am allergic to malls, mall parking lots, mall food-courts and mall business. This I knew. Still, I braved it all for the Ghiradelli outlet located there. Dear God, I hope I have no reason to venture there again. It was as if the whole of the Bay Area had come there. Flash sales, clearance sales, fourth of July sales, summer sales, and all other kinds of sales. So many people, and the air smelled of fried things and sweat. I was jostled around by so many shoppers, and there were babies bawling in strollers as parents tugged large shopping bags around. The parking lot was a vision from hell. I consider myself lucky to have survived it all.

And all I wanted was to buy some chocolate.

Dear Amazon, I love you.

~~~

The bank teller looks resigned when I walk to her counter. I feel irritated. I have only been to see her a few times in the last many months. One would think she doesn’t want one’s business. One is proven right, when she mutters that the counter is closed and asks me to approach the next counter. One would love to take one’s business elsewhere, however one quite loves their interest rates. One maturely smiles and wishes the teller a good day.

Sometimes, I really miss the nice tellers who worked at the Bank of America down on Peachtree.

~~~

I had a hair-cut. Now I feel a bit weird because my hair is short and I’d forgotten how unmanageable the damn thing is when it is short, curling up into my ears.

“I love your curls,” the person cutting my hair says. “A bang would look gorgeous on you, here.”

My mind is in the gutter for a while. It must be all the Japanese influence, I think. They can be really interesting at times, I have found. Then she asks me if I like the idea. Stirring back to reality, I ask what this bang business is. She shows me a picture helpfully. I pale and tell her that I can live without the extra gorgeousness, even as my mind is filled with dreadful images of bangs and poodles. She looks disappointed, but complies.

~~~

I can’t pack. I know this. I still strive, trying to channel my father’s precision-packing methods, trying to channel Yoda’s knapsack algorithms. Two hours later, I give up, curl up under my blankets, armed with hot chocolate and a book. Escapism suits me well, I find, as I grow older. My mother had accused me of that, long ago, drawing similarities between my grandfather and I. I’d like to think I am not quite as appalling as the comparison, but perhaps there was something to her words. Still, thinking about it, I find that it is not a fair conclusion. There is loyalty and determination where there is love. I have little love for packing.

As far I can remember, my grandfather was terrible at packing, but that is neither here nor there. It has been five years, and I am still deeply overwhelmed whenever I think of him. That again, is neither here nor there.

~~~

I meet a friend at Red Rock. He is muttering about the steps.

“What about the steps?” I ask, sipping my hot chocolate.

“You have frequently seen the steps which lead up to this room.”

“Yes”

“How often?”

“Well,  I don’t know. So many times.”

“Then how many are there?”

I am taken back to Holmes. Scandal in Bohemia, if I remember correctly. I smile and play along.

“How many? I don’t know.”

“Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed.”

“Seventeen, really?” I ask, curious, bitten by the sudden urge to go count the steps.

He shrugs as if that wasn’t important. I concede.

Perhaps it is time to ask about what Irene Adler he is chasing, at the moment. I do so. I lean back in my chair, bask in the bright sunlight, and listen to him regaling me with tales of the chase.

~~~

Friday, June 26, 2015

My dear hyacinth,

Something happened today that you and I had not expected to see in our lifetimes.

I wish we had been born, and had met on soil more forgiving. We were not blessed so, and you decided to stay when I decided to leave. Change is coming. Perhaps we will see it, soon enough, on shores closer to the land where we met.

This is a draft, still, and I want to tell you how happy I am today, for people here, who had waited so long to be accepted in the traditional manner, who had become issues instead of human beings to so many. I am sure you will be too. You did always care for even those whom you hadn’t met and had only heard of.

I will write more, later, once words come more easily and once I am less overwhelmed.  I suppose you will roll your eyes and call me maudlin, and still read every word I write anyway.

You will cringe at the rainbows and the sparkles, as you have done before. Still, you will tolerate it all, for this is a day that teaches us to hope. Perhaps we will be fortunate and what was extraordinary in our lifetimes shall be only ordinary in the times of our children.

26-supreme-court-gay-marriage.w529.h352.2x

The interns came this Monday. I took ill on the same day. The past few days have kept me busy battling a viral fever.  I managed to get through one of the two orientation sessions I had planned for the interns. That was before I lost my voice. I dragged my feet to work and was sent home with stern instructions not to come back until I felt better. Panicked, I got out the Nyquil and the Ibuprofen. Self-medication failed to make anything better, and I ran to the doctor.

“I have lost my voice,” I rasped.

“That is normal.”

I blink.

“Your body’s immune system will learn to fight it, and you will be stronger after that.”

When did life become a video-game? Accumulate experience battling viral infections to advance to the next level.

“Is it highly contagious?” I ask, each word difficult to articulate since my voice-box won’t cooperate.

“Everything is contagious.”

Even if I could speak easily, I wouldn’t have known what to reply. So I took the path of sensibility, which was the path of retreat. I made a pillow-fort, barricaded myself behind blankets, wrote long, meticulously detailed emails to the interns soaring on the wings of grumpy motivation granted by tea and soup.

This was my week and I have survived.

The man at the coat-check asks me how the concert had been. I tell him it had been remarkable, though unexpected. He laughs and tells me that it is all a part of the plan to draw the younger generation in (here he casts me a meaningful glance). I smile and tell him that they don’t need to do anything as drastic as that to draw me in. The first strains of Kyrie Eleison would have been bait enough.

“Know your weaknesses, work on them with confidence and determination,” was a favorite line of an old mathematics teacher. She was talking about carelessness in mathematics. Years later, when I see five-stars in a package from home, I take the advice to heart and eat them all with confidence and determination. That is one of the better weaknesses, all said and done. There are others, not dealt with, in the form of expensive symphony tickets, in the form of daily acai bowls, in the form of a crippling shyness that leads to expensive, non-shared living arrangements.

It takes demotivation to motivate me. I do badly in good times, stressing at length about what could go wrong. When everything has gone wrong, my thinking clears up. I suspect, in the grander scheme of things, I stress less when unhappy than I do when I am happy.

Lord have mercy. The words have been burned into me from childhood, painstakingly drilled into memory by nuns and grandparents. They believed (in the Father, in the Son begotten of the Father, in the Spirit). They taught me to believe. It was the most important lesson of my childhood. Do you think it is strange that someone like me, who fears that the worst is still around the corner, all the time, can still believe so fully and purely in the goodness of being? It is not strange at all. Belief, conditioned on the prior I have had, is no trifle.

Looking inwards is the hardest thing I have done, I think. Perhaps it was not as difficult as it could have been. I had the time, throughout childhood, when there were no play-mates and everyone else was too involved in family drama. I had the time, later, throughout my school-years. A sharp awareness lingered in the mind everyday – of being lost in crowds, being alone in large groups, being content with the books and the rain. There was a long and fruitful reprieve from that journey of finding out why, when I had the good fortune to know a hyacinth. The unavoidable quest came back, and I travelled away from home and myself both trying to find out. Ten or so years of running from pillar to post to find the answers, and I finally start to see them in the one place I should have looked at.

Years later, as the choirboys sing the Credo, I come back to myself weeping. The tears, I find, have very little to do with what I thought I had lost. They have everything to do with what I found then, amidst the rising coda (et vitam venturi saeculi, amen).

I was randomly browsing the stationery section of the local Target and reached the cards aisle. There was a row for Papyrus cards. I found so many cards I had purchased previously – for friends, for family, and for someone held more close. It was difficult to look at the cards and not remember. I took the easy way out, headed straight to the Starbucks, and purchased coffee. They made it decaf for me. I felt I should go back to the old ways and ask them to make it with caffeine. I found I couldn’t muster the energy to. Coffee itself is less of a lure than it once was, I find. My current addiction is to cherries from Trader Joe’s. It suits me this summer much better than iced coffee. Rainier cherries don’t seem to be here yet. I can’t wait for those.

Benefits of the move: closer to the airport, closer to work. What I don’t like: farther away from the city. I dislike the community here, in general. Often reminds me of the country I left and I have very few pleasant memories associated with the society there.

Have a demo on Monday to a few VPs who want to know the progress made since the last demo we gave a month ago to another set of VPs. I expect tomorrow to be nerve-wrackingly tense until they leave. Things will then be calm until we receive at the end of the week the tentative schedule for the next VP visit.

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