To Cure Me of Myself: A Catharsis

“It seemed to me the way it must feel to people who cut themselves on purpose. Not pretty, but clean. Not good, but void of regret. I was trying to heal. Trying to get the bad out of my system so I could be good again. To cure me of myself.”

— Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

I am often told that I am not a good friend, not a good partner, not a good boss, not a good daughter. I am often told that I abuse the words always and forever. I am often told that I should connect with myself to stop hurting those who love me. I am often told that I talk myself into depression and anxiety. I am often told that I am not resilient. And I am often told that I am arrogant. I listen to those voices and I nod. They are right.

I am also told that I am kind and that I exude warmth. I am told that I am effusive, I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I bask in tiny, warm moments. I listen to those voices and I nod. I wish they were right.

Capture5I walk on this road called life. My shoulders are laden with regrets, guilt, bitter memories, and haunting shadows. My heart is filled with hope, love that can be expressed, love that struggles to marry words, and comforting light. I keep walking. Sometimes, I drop to my knees, as though genuflecting in front of an unknown superpower, and plead for my baggage to be unloaded. Sometimes, I massage my own shoulders and feet, and keep walking and walking and walking, without complaining about the cross I bear.

Capture3Many a time, I want this journey to end because the path becomes dark. I want to turn into a feather and just fly. Gently. Lightly. But when I see a streak of light, I gather my belongings and begin my walk again. On my way to nowhere, I commit myriad murders, I sprinkle seeds of love. When it is dark, the dead ones assault me. When it is not, they make me smile. I am forever haunted by them all the same.

My life, in all its glory, boils down to this — stopping and starting, hating and loving, hurting and recovering, dying and resurrecting.

Capture2In this journey toward redemption, I am a wearied wayfarer. Despite the exhaustion and self-loathing, I try to keep my head above water. I spot butterflies. I talk to animals. I stargaze. I sit in front of the sinking sun and rising moon. I seek solace in the moonbeam that falls on the oceans. I read. I doodle. I travel. I write. I cycle. I crash and rise in emotions. I laugh. I love. I live.

And these are my becoming.

“One hot afternoon during the era in which you’ve gotten yourself ridiculously tangled up with heroin, you will be riding the bus and thinking what a worthless piece of crap you are when a little girl will get on the bus holding the strings of two purple balloons. She’ll offer you one of the balloons, but you won’t take it because you believe you no longer have a right to such tiny beautiful things. You’re wrong. You do.”

— Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne: A Heartbreaker

ireland-month-17I read William Trevor’s The Story of Lucy Gault for Reading Ireland Month last year. One thing, just one thing went wrong in Lucy’s life, and it fell over like a row of dominoes. She lost her childhood, she had to live like a fugitive in her own house, she deprived herself of ordinary pleasures, and above all, she was weighed down by guilt, and self-imposed solitude. I loved Lucy.

Now, an hour after reading Brian Moore’s The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne for Reading Ireland Month this year, I can’t stop thinking about how women were the protagonists of both the novels, how they were different in the way they coped with loneliness, but how they were alike to let it drag them down the drain. My heart bleeds for both of them.

It’s Belfast. Judith Hearne was in her early forties. Single. Lonely. Desperate. Religious. She spent all her youth to look after her aunt, who raised her after her parents passed away. Hearne wanted to go to college, learn more crafts, but her aunt wouldn’t allow for she fell sick and coerced Hearne into caring for her. When she was finally free to live her life, Hearne had lost her friends, job offers, and… time.

782982Hearne, a piano teacher, supported herself on the meager income she made by teaching and on the tiny sum that her aunt left for her. She moved into a modest lodging, where she was greeted by a judgmental landlady and lodgers who were gossip-lovers.

Moore showed an Ireland where one could have no private life. His Ireland was cold, cloudy, and rainy. Perhaps, it was the metaphoric representation of Hearne’s life.

For Hearne, home meant three things — her aunt’s sepia portrait, a picture of Sacred Heart, and two tiny buttons on her shoes. They were always there for her, even when the landlady judged her for trying to date her brother from New York, even when her friend’s children laughed at her for employing same responses over and over again, even when she loathed herself for being deplorable.

Miss Hearne ate her biscuits, cheese and apple, found her spectacles and opened a library book by Mazo de la Roche. She toasted her bare toes at the gas fire and leaned back in the armchair, waiting like a prisoner for the long night hours.

Moving into the new lodge made Hearne hopeful. She began daydreaming; she wanted to marry the landlady’s brother, sail to New York, have children, and live a life that she was denied. But Mr Madden, who was torn between America and Ireland, whose ideologies were way different from Hearne’s, could see her just as a potential business partner, while Hearne was indulging in her embarrassing dreams.

Madden detested Hearne’s advances, turned her down, when he found out that Hearne was a humble piano teacher and that she would never be able to invest in his business. Hearne’s heart was broken; she began to seek comfort in her old friend — alcohol.

A drink would put things right. Drink was not to help forget, but to help remember, to clarify and arrange untidy and unpleasant facts into a perfect pattern of reasonableness and beauty. Alcoholic, she did not drink to put aside the dangers and disappointments of the moment. She drank to be able to see these trials more philosophically, to examine them more fully, fortified by the stimulant of unreason.

Hearne was wrong. Alcohol removed her from her own life. Because of the row she created at the lodge, she was asked to leave. Her relationship with her only friend became strained for she chose not to betray her emotions and confessed that she never liked her friend but visited her every Sunday only to be in the company of her children. She revealed that she envied her friend as she had all that Hearne longed for. A husband, a bunch of children, and… a home.

Above all, what uprooted Hearne’s life was her lack of faith. She barely missed the Mass on Sunday. Since she befriended satan (alcohol) and drinking was a sin, she despised religion. What was the point of religion and priests, when she was not heard, when her pain was not alleviated, when she wasn’t offered guidance, when she couldn’t gather her life again?

Hearne hated herself more when she began questioning the existence of God. The spiritual crisis and alcohol fuelled Hearne’s loneliness, and she ended up at a hospital after a series of unfortunate, awkward events.

She was feeling tired. Why, the Mass was very long. If you did not pray, if you did not take part, then it was very, very long. If you did not believe, then how many things would seem different. Everything: lives, hopes, devotions, thoughts. If you do not believe, you are alone.

All the characters — to me, it didn’t matter if they we were likeable — were memorable in their own ways. They tormented Hearne but Moore allowed me to get into their heads for a while and made me realise that they were hurting themselves too. From the young maid of the landlady to Hearne’s friends, each character was extraordinarily developed. At one point in time, I wasn’t sure why I had to learn about everybody. But they all held the mirrors which showed the myriad reflections of Hearne’s suffering. I needed their participation to empathise with Hearne.

While the whole book broke my heart, one particular scene made me feel heavier. Hearne stayed at a luxurious hotel. She relished the drink, loved the view from her room, and enjoyed sinking in the bed. The moment was perfect. She was losing her head; she was perennially inebriated, but the moment was just perfect. Something held Hearne’s shoulders and shook her. A thought. She had nobody to share that moment with.

Let me make a confession here. I couldn’t ask Hearne to be strong. I couldn’t ask her to find a purpose in life. I didn’t want to taunt her with the painful phrase — move on. I didn’t judge her for wanting to be loved and cherished. She was depressed. She was lonely. She was directionless. And it was okay to be all of that; she was only being human.

Of The Moon And Other Luminous Things

“The moon is a loyal companion. It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human.
Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.”
— Tahereh Mafi

Have I told you? I am a look-at-the-moon person. Gazing at the moon brings me back to the present. The moon is my therapist, my pet, my confidante. The child who thought that the moon followed me as I moved, still lives in me; I allow the child to seek solace in that lie. A harmless indulgence all the same.

I was lucky last night. I was offered a seat by the window in my office cab. I leaned on the window and trained my eyes on the moon that seemed extraordinarily bright. Was it me who found the moon brighter? Or was it the moon itself? I would never know.

The humble beauty was not alone. An arrogant star was beside my silent friend. The star seemed to tease me. “Hey! See! See! I am right next to your friend, basking in his flattering light. Where are you? Locked up in a car?” the star laughed. Little did that star know that I am incurably in love with both of them. Little did he know that they complement each other. Stars and their haughtiness. Sigh!

The moon and the star followed me. I couldn’t blink. I couldn’t stop smiling. Enchanted.

The clouds decided to leave the night for me. They chose to wander elsewhere. Bless their souls!

I broke my reverie when I found another tiny star next to the snobbish one. The baby star must have tried to keep herself invisible. Much to her dismay, I spotted her and sent her my thanks. Because I recognised her existence, she joined the party. Reluctantly.

Now, as my car tore the highway winds, as the ruthless headlights dispelled the darkness, I continued to look at my friends — the humble moon, the arrogant star, and the grudging star. Some group!

The moon smiled. The naughty one smirked. The baby star sulked. They were all beautiful in their own ways.

An urge surfaced in me. I wanted to ask my fellow-passenger to say hello to my friends. But I dismissed the impulse. That moment was mine. Private. Precious.

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I tried doodling that image. Please forgive me. 😉 And there was a plane too. ❤

The car flew faster and of course, my bosom friends followed me effortlessly. Their travel reminded me of several scenes.

They looked like they were holding hands and moving sideways as though they were bidding adieu to their cousin leaving on a train after spending her summer vacation with them.

The baby star was dragging the bigger one and the moon. Like a determined child pulling her parents into a toy-shop.

The stars looked like dogs who were pulling a sledge over snow. And the moon, a jolly rider.

I could give them myriad roles and make my imagination fatter. But my short journey ended.

I looked at them again for the last time that night. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and captured that memory to immortalise it here later. As I ascended the staircase to my home, I reminded myself to pin a thought down in my journal — I am never truly alone when I am followed by the luminous moon, the smug star, and the modest little one.

I belong to them.

An Overabundance That Is Magical

…human beings are possessed of something special, something extra, something unnecessarily rich, something that the novelist Marilynne Robinson calls ‘an overabundance that is magical.’

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

On 18-February-2015, I set up this blog. I didn’t agonise over the name. It crossed my mind like a loyal dog who was waiting for his human to utter his name. Worncorners.

What does Worncorners mean? The answer has been elusive. But I have always managed with the weak ones like ‘a life well lived?’ and ‘dogeared pages…’ I must be honest for I really didn’t invest a lot; the name chose itself. Ahem. Ahem. 🙂

hachiko-_a_dogs_story-01
While we talk about loyal dogs, please take a minute to go awww over Hachiko. 🙂

When I started blogging here, I reminded myself that I would write only about books. I was too shy to call them book-reviews. So I settled with something like ‘bookish thoughts.’ Despite the self-imposed restrictions, I was thrilled. I read more. I wrote more. It felt like I lived more too.

5
This is how Zennish I looked then. 😉

Life became eventful then. Naturally, my blog bore the brunt of the tempest. I ran here like a child who was determined to crayon on all the walls. No. Maybe I ran here like a mad elephant. I complained. I bawled. I sought sympathy. And… I drew strength.

The bloggers and visitors here, propped me up with kindness. Random act of kindness. In this virtual room, I found love and compassion. In this space, I went through a brief period of catharsis.

Above all, I was not judged for being human.

In between the maelstrom of my emotions, I managed to write about books too. Sigh!

I can be here when I am myself. I can be here when my head is full of scary noises. I can be here when I feel loved and cherished. I can be here when I loathe myself. And I can be here when I don’t want to be anywhere else. In time, I realised that this blog is a sanctuary where I am always, always received with warmth.

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Image Courtesy: Buddha Doodles

As I write this post, I am telling myself that I will not box this blog. I might have started with only books in my mind, but I seemed to have decided a long time ago to not cut its wings.

Perhaps, in its fluidity lies my freedom.

Also, I mustered the courage to read my first post. I squirmed as I read it. However I have now become narcissistic enough to quote myself. 😉 I had always known that I will make this blog a potpourri.

However, I must warn you, my dear reader. The pedestrian articles might unnerve you. But, there is nothing more you may expect from a self-professed writer, who has chosen to write for… herself.

Many thanks for reading my blogs! Many, many thanks for leaving comments! Many, many, many thanks for being my life-witness. 🙂

PS: Thank you for making me believe that I can write.

PPS: Thank you for reminding me about the overabundance in me. ❤

F is For Forgiveness

“I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded; not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.”

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Hurt announces his arrival with a deafening cacophony of cymbals and trumpets and accordions. He slips into a tuxedo and a pair of winkle-pickers, and swaggers in with an intimidating gait. He sinks into a black leather couch and adjusts his wayfarer, throwing a condescending glance at me. He lights his cigar, crosses his legs, and laughs and laughs and laughs. With his face turned toward the ceiling, his laughter turns into a diabolical howling.

He stops laughing only to drag a long puff. The room is filled with smoke, my heart with terror. I shudder. But in some way, I am enchanted. This man who breathes fear into me, is cliched and beautiful in his own way.

I am scared. I wail in pain. I am inspired. I loathe him. I adore him. All at the same time.

And I think of Stockholm Syndrome. Have I begun to love my captor? Is that insane?

*****

“What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I’d done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done? …What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn’t have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?”
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

16938984_10212294592336918_8725642749258915716_nAs I wrestle 75,423 questions on my adulation for hurt, Forgiveness sits beside me. When did she come? She doesn’t utter a word. She looks at her palms, runs her fingers on the prints, and takes a deep breath.

The room is foggy. Hurt is still around. I hear his roar. But his laughter is slightly muffled.

Forgiveness stops looking at her palms and offers a benevolent smile to no one in particular. Should I receive it? Or will Hurt snatch it from her? Maybe, it doesn’t matter.

The smile is blindingly bright. My eyes struggle to adjust to its luminosity. When I train my eyes on Forgiveness’s smile, Hurt leaves his couch and walks toward me. He removes his glasses; his eyes are bloodshot. Hurt is livid. He doesn’t like his hostage taking the rescuer’s hand.

Now that I have instigated him, will Hurt unleash more violence? Will I be punished for basking in the warmth exuded by a quiet stranger? Hurt doesn’t talk either. He sits next to me.

I gather that Hurt is not angry. He is upset that I am beginning to neglect him. I inch closer to Forgiveness; Hurt moves closer to me. But Forgiveness is just there. Like a banyan tree.

Forgiveness doesn’t turn or look into my eyes. She seems to be in a silent conversation with her own thoughts. Perhaps, she has no thoughts, but silence. White silence.

I am a wee bit uncomfortable between them. Quite like a child who feels stuck between her parents who have fought and who refuse to reconcile. I am torn between them.

I have always admired Hurt. But Forgiveness is here now, drawing me towards her inexplicable lightness, calm, and peace. Hurt is my good old friend. Forgiveness is my new sanctuary. Will my old friend move into my new home? For all we know, his ego is too big for that.

Hurt throws tantrums. He rolls on the floor, bawls, and recounts memories of all the days we spent together. When was he this emotional really? I pick him up from the floor. I dust his suit and tell him that I cannot leave him forever. He is flummoxed.

I hold Hurt’s shoulders, look straight into his black ocean of eyes. “Dearest Hurt, what’s life without you? I am, of course, leaving with Forgiveness. But what made you forget your own power? When did I not answer your calls? It’s true that I love Forgiveness more. Forgive me for being brutally honest. But you are inevitable. Your calls are too loud to be ignored. Always remember that I will be at the threshold of Forgiveness’s unassuming home when you want to meet me. I will listen to your stories and complaints. I will offer my sympathies. I will stay with you. Sometimes, longer than you can imagine. However, I will always, always go back to Forgiveness. Always!”

I am sure Forgiveness is listening to our conversation. She doesn’t look at us. I am sure she is paying attention. Hurt listens to me, stifling a sniffle. “Are you sure?” Hurt poses that question weakly as though he is too embarrassed to ask. I smile. “Is there any other way? Do you think it’s possible to abandon you?” I say with no trace of regret in my tone.

Forgiveness now stands up, shuffles her feet. She doesn’t offer a word. Not even a whisker. She leaves the room. I follow her.

I turn around to see if Hurt is hurt. He wears his wayfarer, slips another cigar in between his lips, and hums a song. I see a lopsided grin on his face. He is not sad. He is certain that I will come back. He is right all the same.

Forgiveness waits for me. I trot toward her, saying without making a sound. “I am ready!”

After Revisiting VTV

vinnaithandi-varuvayaCall me corny but I am going to confess now. I watched Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa (VTV) at Jazz Cinemas this afternoon. *takes a deep breath*

I watched the seven-year-old ‘musical romantic drama’ at the cinemas today only because someone whom I adore has myriad memories about it.

I must also admit that I am writing this blog to seek your forgiveness. 😉 Because…

In 2010, I hurt the sentiment of a lot of people. I arrogantly observed, “Jessie doesn’t know that there is no wall and that she is not a cat.” I offered sympathies to poor Karthik. I spotted numerous flaws in the story and patronised the filmmaker.

Please wait before you ask if I committed the cardinal sin of loathing the album too. I did not. Rather, I worshiped it; I played the songs on loop and dreamed that I would travel to Malta some day. I kept humming Mannippaaya mindlessly that I had to rehabilitate myself after a while. 🙂

Despite the brilliant, brilliant music, I declared that Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa had no depth.

Cut to 2017, be assured that I am not going to present an argument that I find the movie profound. No! I am insane. But not that much. I am seeking your forgiveness because the film made me smile today, it warmed my heart, and I walked out of the theatre, wondering if I am growing young a la Benjamin Button. Snarkier readers might reckon that my cognitive functions are degenerating; I am choosing not to pay heed all the same. At least for the nonce.

I didn’t roll my eyes when Jessie’s affection oscillated. I didn’t judge Karthik when he was hopeless and mushy. I didn’t utter ‘how convenient’ when Karthik revealed that he was a trained boxer. And I didn’t tsk-tsk over the conceited climax. I fail to fathom the reasons but the movie was like a whiff of fresh air, or like eating a fine pastry, or like basking in the morning sun. 😉 Okay. I shall stop.

Perhaps, some movies work that way. Maybe it is not about the movies; it’s about us. Maybe, some of us change that way. Maybe, life and time untie a few knots, making us to surprise ourselves by redoing the very things which we would never envisage doing again.

Maybe, we don’t lose much by revisiting our judgements.

Maybe, that’s where the fun lies.

It doesn’t matter if that stuff is saccharine. So long as it makes us feel alive, then what is wrong in being silly?

Some of Us Are Looking At the Stars

img_20170215_103553_861Father was a fast walker; his strides were long, making his gait seem effortless. When Calvin and I managed to meet his pace during our morning walks in Boat Club, I panted more than my canine companion. I was a teenager then and Calvin was two-years-old. Father was faster, brisker, and more focussed than most morning walkers we met.

We walked and walked and walked.

We trotted on the long road that snaked from Teynampet to IIT. We walked under the thick canopies of Kottupuram trees. We exchanged pleasantries with all the guard dogs while ambling around Cenotaph road.

Father related stories, holding Calvin’s leash and looking down at him once in a while to ensure he took a satisfactory dump. His stories were always hilarious. If the walking itself was testing my endurance, I suffered from pleasure when my abdomen hurt only because I laughed hard listening to Father’s stories. (Have you tried laughing while swinging your arms and taking long, long steps? It’s harder than we think.)

We walked as though life could be lived well just by walking.

We were there, absolutely alive on our feet.

Some times, I reckoned that Father was ruthlessly fast. He made the monks from Thailand walk around the mountains in Thiruvannamalai. I still smile when I think of the men clad in orange robes, breathless, trying to catch up with Father as he covered several feet in each step. He made our family walk from Mylapore to Marina Beach many times. Those walks could have been short. But we walked with our Father; we were always in a race. It was impossible to follow him when he circumambulated the sanctum sanctorum of the ancient temples in Mylapore. He muttered prayers under his breath, used his fingers to keep count of the number of times he walked around the deity, and put one foot after another.

It was quite a sight to see my Father meditate in his own way.

*****

A few years ago, Sister received a phone call from Father. In an unperturbed tone, he said he met with a road accident and he knew he had suffered a fracture. The doctors confirmed Father’s fear.

His right tibia was broken. He couldn’t walk for three months and he couldn’t walk well for six months. But above all, what shattered us was that his walk would never be the same again. Father’s right leg had become a wee bit shorter than the other one.

The anesthesia had just begun to release Father from its clutches but Father was already becoming his chirpy self. A young orthopedician broke the news reluctantly, with his eyes fixed on the fat bandage wrapped around Father’s leg. Father had to lean on a crutch. He had to practise walking.

Father patted the young man on his shoulder and politely asked, “Have you heard of Zen Walking Meditation?” The doctor seemed flummoxed. He surely was a Zen-philosophy-virgin. Father said, “I am going to be a slow, mindful walker and I am going to love it.”

During those three months, I saw Father weep. He tonsured his head, wore a gray cardigan, and watched cricket or read to endure time.

Some times, he was vulnerable. Most times, he wore a grin even when he was in pain. He was conscious about not seeking too much help. He was restless to resume work. He was determined to start physiotherapy and gain some strength. He entertained his visitors, narrated funny anecdotes. He was our Father despite the accident, despite the unpleasant change, despite his battered soul.

To him, it didn’t matter if he had to ascend a staircase only by sitting and lifting himself on his arms to move to the next step. It didn’t matter if he had to start wearing customised footwear to match his legs’s length. It didn’t matter if he couldn’t be that enthusiastic walker anymore.

All that mattered to him was that he was still on his feet and he was thankful for it.

A bone that became short could slow down his pace, but it couldn’t dampen his measured optimism and invincible spirit.

*****

I am a chronic over-thinker. After being in numerous counselling sessions with my friends and after reading a few non-preachy books on Zen practices, I am now trying not to expend my energy on over-thinking and complaining. I tell myself every morning that my life is replete with kind people and beautiful things. But I derail during the day. I succumb to over-thinking and anxiety, and get mired in the never-ending spiral of toxic thoughts.

img-20170214-wa0011But I have never seen Father complain about his leg that casts a shadow on the quality of his life. In truth, I have never seen Father complain at all. He is always filled with gratitude and hope. He jokes about his special footwear. He doesn’t pose the why-me question when he massages his injured leg.

Father has embraced the accident and the gift that he never asked for. He inspires me more for his acceptance is brave and graceful.

Through his life, he proves over and over again that making peace with changes is not an act of total surrender, but only a pragmatic approach to romance this wild, wild thing called… life.

I heart Father for that. ❤

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

— Oscar Wilde