Thursday, August 29, 2013

In a blink of an eye.....

There is a powerful word in Sanskrit: Kshunbhangur (K  is silent). It means something that can be destroyed in an instant of a second. Life is perhaps the biggest example of this word. Here now and gone split seconds later. That a flight later the vistas change has never ceased to amaze me. That a second later a life suddenly comes to a grinding halt just makes me wonder at this enigma called death. Yesterday death visited Monk’s family and his octogenarian Uncle passed away to what I like to believe is the Other World. He was comatose for a week and was cutting a caper on the barrier of life. He just crossed over. And left behind many manifestations of grief. A younger brother who is now the last of the preceding generation, two nephews who realised they lost an Uncle who they loved and who loved them and  most importantly a wife of five years and half a century. Today the dead is being bathed and prepared for the funeral. The neighbours and friends are pitching in with food and other requirements. Those who can’t travel from long distances will call. The numbers will dwindle and life will go on. The jolted nephews will have Monday morning meetings and phone calls and projects and the fresh wound will get a scab quickly. The grieving brother will grieve for weeks since the departed was the only living anchor to a family now only comprising of spouse, offspring and soon to come grandchildren but life will catch up there too. In this dice of life the one who is left bereft, disoriented and facing an unspeakable void is the wife, the one who has never stayed a single night alone since she was married. There are no children.

Last night a visibly shaken Monk asked me what must she be going through? What must she be feeling? I think it is incomprehensible for me to even step into her shoes. But very gingerly as  I do I go insane wondering. The body of the departed was kept in the living room. The wife slept in the bed that she shared with a very living spouse a week ago. She has been looking after him for many years now, having broken his hip bone a few years ago while exercising his pass-time to feed stray cats. This rendered him bed ridden. With renal issues and slightly compromised lungs prone to bronchial problems, the old house nestled within it an old couple going through their daily lives. There comes an age where your house and your room becomes your sanctity. The old generation television aired the daily soaps that were an integral part of their lives. The early sun down in the hills suffused quiet and silence. There were no phone calls from a son or a daughter to disturb that silence. There were no frenetic planning to spruce up the house for a visiting child or grandchild. There were no weddings to be planned. No daughter in law to love or hate. No son in law to adore or avoid. Birthdays and Anniversaries came and went. Sometimes when the nephews and later the wives visited  home there were occasional dinners. There were a few social events, a few family weddings, a few religious get together. But there was a marriage. There were two people who cohabited for years. The usual norm of a marriage is that starts with passion and  sublimes into daily business of living involving  an amalgamation of love, adjustments, resentments, annoyance, joint inspiration and individual dreams and deep musings and personal space. The institution helps you grow, experience life and learn to accept each other despite idiosyncrasies and not everything  everyday is peaches and cream.


There must be unspeakable pain, anger at being left to face life, guilt for perhaps sometimes being angry at the now departed spouse, fear of facing life alone, trepidation at ploughing through the business of living by yourself. Yes there is help at hand with a surviving brother living in the same compound and a helpful community. But I am sure at the dead of the night, when there will be no one from amongst family or friends to sleep next to her, when the raw pain will sublime into a dull loneliness, she will miss her happier younger days, days when the spouse came home for a well cooked hot lunch from his work and appreciated earnestly her efforts. She will miss planning her day where her husband was the centre of her universe. There were short trips and long postings at various places. She will miss a young man who aged and went before her and all his quirky ways. I am not sure if having a child would have impeded too much of loneliness from creeping in but she like any other woman who kept the home and hearth running she will cry as much as she will suddenly smile recalling the happier times.

I today pray as much for the bereaved as for the gone.





Sunday, March 17, 2013


Raven silken long hair falling at the hips and exotic almond eyes. Bearing this hallmark of the North Eastern India, Amy is a young woman from Manipur. Though more voluptuous and curvier than her sisters, Amy scores in the fashion department and wins the crown and title of hipness with her shorts and tight tank top. She manages my hair for me in a slightly upmarket salon in Whitefield to where I can afford a trip just once a month. I have never seen Amy with chipped nails or limp tresses or sans a smile. Her cute dimples and chirpy demeanour makes my day. Behind that life size doll’s smiles lay the common thread of truth that runs through almost every denizen in Manipur.

Separatist insurgency since 1964 is a known calamity in Manipur as in many states of the North East India. Clubbed with general apathy from the Central Government, alleged Army brutality and infighting (Manipur has twelve prominent insurgency outfits and none of them are united in their demands), the victims of home grown war and violence are the aged, the women and the children. Depending on their economic condition most of the youth come away to the Metro Cities to make themselves a life away from despair and zilch. Accoutered in trendy clothes they could be anything from waiters to beauticians to students in good varsities. They are branded “Chinks” and the women are seen as debauched. Unlike the rest of the country most of the North East does not stake a patriarchal claim on female genitalia. Like any other body part, the sexual organs are owned by the person it belongs to, not by the father or family who strives to keep it protected and then give it to another man in an arranged marriage for safekeeping and whatever else the husband may want to do. They discover sexuality as nature has ordained humans to. Society make lay down rules but hormones have their own story to tell and that explains why during Daandia and Garbhaa in Mumbai  gynaecologists cash in on sudden spikes in abortions. It is a well kept secret of Mumbai but a close friend also a gynaecologist told me how the late night dancing in backless cholis with young men leads to car park amours when Mummy and Bhaabi are not watching. However the rest of the country does not understand and respect this concept of “sex when I want not when you need”. A lot of these women are subjected to crass sexual overtures and in some serious cases rapes. They earn a good measure of local ire from those who feel that their jobs are taken away by these “chinks”. Unlike the Northern or Southern populace of this country the people from the North Eastern states don’t have an innate nature to hoard away their money. That explains why they don’t have sustained economic growth and dynastic businesses. What they earn they splurge. Someone from the same economic background from Manipur or other North Eastern states generally would have a better turn out and less squalid living conditions than people from other parts of the country. This factor has led some of the lower to middle class residential areas in Bangalore see a spike in North Eastern youths. They don’t haggle too much and are more open to paying higher rents. They are blessed with good aesthetic sense and they can’t help being sensualists and romantics. Investments is bizarrely lost on the people from thence. They rather eat well, dress well and merry make. Most people will call them irresponsible but they could not care less.

Amy is just 24. She wants to get married and have a family someday. She does not earn a lot because the services industry does not pay very well in India. She supports her aging parents and sends them money through other girls who go home or sometimes through a demand draft. Her two brothers like many men in Manipur have taken to the bottle and rock music and have left the toiling to the industrious women. She shrugged it away saying at least they don’t do drugs. She did call them some colourful names when she explained how they ask her for more money, on which they practically and technically have no right. Against her better advice to her siblings to migrate to Bangalore and make themselves more useful, they decided to stay back and hic away. 

Switching context she told me my hair needs some TLC and talks me in to buying two obscenely priced Kerastase products. I must tell her next time those products don’t seem to be weaving any magic in my hair and that my tresses are far from being as luscious as hers. I am quite sure she is using a regular shampoo. She mentioned she that changes her nail paint every night and that she washes her hair every day. So much for hair pundits booing daily hair cleansing and style Nazis extolling high end French products.

End of March she plans to undertake a seventy two hour train journey to Assam and then take a bus from thence to Manipur to be with her parents. She plans to bring them to Bangalore with her. I asked her what are her plans are once she brings her folks to Bangalore. She smiled and said in her cheerful Manipuri accent “Ma’am I weel take dem to fud court for momos. Mummy loves momos. But it is so expensif”.

I can’t help myself tipping this cheerful young woman handsomely who by the way has managed to work for the last ten years in Bangalore and recently bought herself a second hand gear-less scooter. She gives a rat’s butt to people who may tag her “loose” “available” “Chink”. Our Amy is having fun, working hard and sending home money. She holds her own very firmly. Cheers Amy!!!