Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Re-Connecting

Yesterday night before closing my diary, my grandmother called out to me asking to help her lift a canister of water. It would have been just 1 or 2 kilograms, but the calcium deficiency in her bones made the task for her seemingly preposterous.

The night before, she complained that the channels were all mixed up after the satellite dish was installed,

'What was the need of all this filth? Just to sell us these useless umbrellas!'

Yeah, we all hated it in the beginning, we all dejected the transformation. 'So when are you going to convert from analog to digital?' they kept asking every time you turned on the TV. And it was becoming a very strange nuisance.

'Call the cable operator, Anand. Call him and ask them to fix this!', my grandfather used to say every single time those deplorable TV actresses would come up and campaign for the digital world.

'But we fixed it already', I'd keep saying but it never did sink in, even for a little while.

His dementia was taking a toll on all of us, perhaps more than it ever claimed on him. Apart from the random concerns on water bills, electricity bills, medical bills, land bills, and more-fucking-shit bills that come once in every month but twice in every hour to grandfather's depreciating memory, he was relatively calm. He enjoyed walks with Ruth, our pet Labrador, in the evening and used to play catch with him inside home. I always felt Ruth was the only one who could tolerate him and his age. As for me and grandma, well we loved him and stopped answering to every single concern of his.

It had been 3 years and 4 months since my search for a job found me here, as a content analyst in an online news sharing group. The job has become pretty boring lately with the same old garbage of Hindutva, dictatorial politics and a superhuman Prime Minister making and faking the news, but I've learnt to neglect things which do not really serve me. I earn good, and fake as much too, which is both directly proportional in a modern society! Well the thing has been that it had been 3 years and I can't remember a single day in which all the complaining and all the old-people-stuff took a turn for the better. I still end my day, lying in my bed, watching stars, listening to Pink Floyd and occasionally smuggling in and taking a pot or two.

***

'See your grandfather is in a very fragile state. I know he loves walking your dog, but I think it is time he cease activities which put his body in undue strain.'

'Yes doctor. I keep saying this to him, but he just doesn't listen', and that is how walking Ruth became my illustrious duty.

Ruth is a strange dog. He doesn't bark, he doesn't shit or piss all around (he has specific places laid out to him in the backyard) and he doesn't pointlessly loiter and drool over the entire house. I've heard my grandfather being an extreme taskmaster in his jolly good days, and like all dogs Ruth may just be an extension of his master. Walking him seemed almost like walking alone, in the beginning. He would not exert any tension on the chain, he wouldn't run frenzied behind any other animal, he won't drop his nose and pick up every scent nearby. He, well, he just walked.

I have recently grown to believe that every thing in our house has become old, including Ruth. And all the history, all the boundaries of generation and time has become too hard to traverse for a guy like me, who always yearned to be free.

'Mom, I'm moving out of here. They are your parents after all, you come here. Stay. And watch over them!'

'Just this year dear, trust me! And me and your dad will move over there.'

Well, a year was not too long a time but the signs are pretty much self-exhibitory, it would be gross!

***

It was in this backdrop that I was writing my diary, and went down to the call from my grandmother all for to see her lying down on the floor along with all the water that grumpy old canister could hold.

'Anand, call the cable operator and ask this to be fixed!' I heard my grandfather shouting from the other room. And I stood there, blank and alone.

My grandmother married my grandfather at the age of 15, which in fact was pretty old in her times for girls to get married. She had an Elementary School Leaving Certificate (ESLC), which was good enough to let you pursue a career in teaching. But the idea was chopped down even before it sprouted in her mind with the proposal of my grandfather. I don't remember how many years have gone by since I was fully aware of their relationship, which I always imprudently assumed to be purely ceremonial. There was something deeper between them which I prayed would pull my grandfather out of his dementia-tic incongruence and realize that his aide, his comrade was lying helplessly in front of me. As from his normal complaints, I was sure it didn't.

People came, people cried and people went. Locked inside the house were just us, three living beings with our divergent interests with one of them who couldn't fully express what they were.

'Where is your grandmother. Why is she not bringing tea?', I realized then that after everything that happened, all grandfather could ever find was another ominous reason to complain about.

***

The walks with Ruth became the high part of each day. I watched his drilled out routine and couldn't help but admire. There was a certain respect he demanded out of everyone he meet. In fact, as revered my grandfather was in society, Ruth held an equal share. Everyone I met during the walks knew Ruth and my grandfather. Everyone kept asking on how he was adapting to the death of his wife to which I would forge and fake a sufficiently pleasing answer. Ruth would stand stiff during our conversation and maybe think about the senile man at home who kept asking where his wife went all day.

'Anand, where is your grandmother?'

'Pa, she is dead. She died weeks ago. Please understand!'

Every time I break the news, there will be a hollow look in his eyes, as if he could understand, As if he was remembering every joy and pain shared in their long lives. But then he would wake up to his disease and say something quite arbitrary,

'But I saw her today morning!'

The nights were tough. I assumed the job of preparing dinner for the three of us, and would be showered with complaints until I finished eating. Too much salt, not sweet, quite sour, no taste at all and every other thing one could ever say bad about food. Ruth ate it all the same, without a noise, with his deep satisfied breaths. He turns out to be pretty good at cleaning up everything, like my grandmother used to say,

'Thanks to Ruth, no wastes ever!'

Well I couldn't help but thank him at times. He would fetch the milk from a nearby house, I just need to tie a bag around his neck. He has developed into a mature transactor it seems, as they claim he once waited when they forgot to put the balance amount inside his bag. My work turned tiring from boring. The Prime Minister and his enforced nonsense burns the hell out of me, and the things he say are so pathetically long that I fail to contain it to the 120 word limit. Yet, people love him it seems, as he continue saying that things are going to get jolly good under him. Well at least for me, it never did.

***

'You are shifting me to the travelogue team? Is that fucking true?',  I remember using precisely those words at our chairman when I got the call to join the travelogue department which was a relatively new venture. I must say I hyperventilated, I was excited and I inhaled an air of deep satisfaction and incredulous joy. Travelling had been my passion before I was reduced to the four corners of this office, and to retrieve it was too good to believe! I threw away the papers on my desk, ran to the parking lot, picked up my bike and sped through.

'Ruth! Grandpa! I'm shifted to the travelogue department!'

Both of them looked equally confused, and it transcended onto my face. There was this forgotten issue of being a caretaker which I failed to add to the equation.

'It is my dream, mom. Don't spoil it, please!'

'I'm asking for a few more months, Anand. We have issues here that we need to attend to. Understand that dear'

I threw the receiver of the phone away from my ears, and for the first time was disturbed by the deafening silence around me.

'Anand, call the cable operator!', I heard him shout from underneath and in a flash I raced down.

'I don't know how many times I told you that this shit has been fixed. Why do you complain so much Pa? Why can't you just shut up and die peacefully like grandmother and everyone else?'

My voice shriveled and I felt Ruth running around my legs. He was barking, he was panting. I kicked him in the rage and ran back to my room. I didn't cook dinner that night, just to express my anger at those two beings incapable of ever discerning it.

***

I woke up in the morning. Washed my face, went down. The TV screen was blank, it said that the dues were not cleared for the previous month and the subscriber was asked to contact the cable operator. With the blue light it showered all over the room, I saw my grandfather sleeping in his armchair and Ruth at his feet, faithfully. Ruth, he was a strange dog, he could never leave his master even though his master could barely remember his name!

I went to cook breakfast, the wheat bread in the pan was giving off an appetizing aroma as I called the cable operator to ask him of the dues and fix the issue today itself. He complained that many days had gone by since the cable was cut, and nobody was responding, so he had to terminate the connection. The procedures in the digital era to reconnect would be cumbersome, but it would hopefully not be too boring for a person like me. Hopefully!

Monday, 1 June 2015

Outlaws

I do not know why I fell in love with him, maybe it was because like all loves, ours were blind, perfect and with no critical intelligence.

***

'Albin, you should participate. It has been 10 or 11 times you've been here and every single time it was only me who was speaking. Say something today.'

All I could hear were faint murmurs from times begone. I had a lot to say, perhaps even more he could perceive or begin to understand. And yet I used to watch him, like everyone he was human and his features; the way he drifts his lower jaw to stress his point and the general sarcasm to perceive himself being well off and in a position to advice, dominated him throughout.

'Albin, you see, we all have problems, everyone of us hold a lifetime of emotions underneath. But we all decided to smile, ain't that what you should do?'

Ah, fuck off, Albin is dead, what you see is an image of him, perhaps your own reflection!

***

Before Albin, the person I used to be, died. And many years before the obsolescent counselling, which from beginning to be dreary turned repulsive, bothered the existing human being, there was a life I have now begun to forget, A life which would have taken an obvious route of job, marriage, kids, retirement and eventual death, unless it was drastically led into a path of revolt and an irresistible, passionate love which I found with him.

'Society serves on a brutal domination politics by the majority. It has a nature wherein it makes you think like them or destroys you completely. Go follow the tribe, or die wandering! Life is pretty much that!', Sushant once said at our Student Circle.

'All majorities were put into power with a revolution!'

'The days of the revolution have come and gone Albin, it is a continuum today, of people striving to improve their wealth while holding onto their primitive thoughts. True revolution should happen inside the human mind, sadly which is not being used too much today.'

Sushant, the person who had climbed to the thinker's pinnacle - a world where humans are not any different from animals. He wished to stay there, a place which is equally shared between the living and the non living. At first, it would have been admiration to a person who brought to words my repressed thoughts. But sooner rather than later it turned to a feeling of deep emotional appeal.

'Sushant, I don't know how to begin to say it. I am not even sure how you'd think about it. I can't help it, I have fallen in love with you!'

How clogged with perturbation his face looked then, how charged with thoughts. He hugged me, and asked me if I knew the implications.

'Do people love by thinking about implications?', I asked.

He smiled.

Loving him was like planting revolution within us, which grew like effervescence with our meetings. It bore fruits which initially tasted bitter but one whose addictive power kept pulling us into it. I felt like I was trapped inside a vortex of flame, drowning into it every time and emerging as a transformed person. Society and all its taboos, its pity views, its narrow mindedness, its filthy acts of drawing people into the tribe, and the crushing venom with which it destroyed the divergent trace would never have the expansiveness to accept us. We would be considered as the outcast, the people who poisons other minds just by physical contact. Night after night, my life kept drifting, mind playing games with the body. We were criminals. They are going to arrest you, they are going to showcase you like meat, they will mock you and they will eat you in the end!

***

By article 377 of Indian Constitution, we were criminals who could even get a life term in prison just because of who we were. At first it were our friends who segregated us as untouchables. It was the demarcation of an alien idea, which will then be subjugated by society's own law.

'Kutthhe, college khatham aapka, bilkul khatham!' 

'You dog, your college life is over!', the shouts at home grew incessant.

And both of us cracked. Sushant got TC from the college and was asked to pursue his ancestral job of fishing in the backwaters of Kerala, while I searched for redemption amidst a patriarchal law. It didn't last long, as the day my course ended I was given a job as a sales executive in a car showroom owned by my father's friend who regularly placed a scanner on the places I went and people I meet. And in that famous summer when a nationalist party residing on religious agendas obtained supreme power and when half the population was evaporating in the heat waves with nothing to dream or eat I got a goodbye letter from my friend.

'Dear Albin,

We should accept that we are different. It is perhaps a mistake that should not have happened. Both our lives should have been ordinary. It would have been better. I am going to Qatar tomorrow, I may not come back again.

Yours own,
Sushant'

*** 

'Why were we different? Was it my mistake, my wrong? Could I have been somebody else? Does this difference make me any less a man than the next person I meet?'

'Albin, it is not your mistake. Please stay calm.'

I could feel the way his jaws remained straight. He was deceptive now, his assurances were blatant lies. And I exploded with the revelation.

'You don't get what it is like do you? Can you imagine a day when you having a relationship with your wife will be considered an offence because she is a woman? Can you imagine a day when your identity, your gender would remain so obscure, so irrelevant that you yourself would fail to truly understand it?'

***

My mind kept searching new valleys of freedom, though my body remained arrested in my bed. Tomorrow, distinctly, another day shall come by, people would forget me and my story. But I could never forget Sushant, he was my friend, he was my lover, he was my world. Hopes for new horizons no longer await me, I have come to feel that no good can ever happen. Yet words from somewhere far away in time still calls out to me:

'All majorities were put into power with a revolution!'

The words still ignites my soul and brings light to my path.