Sunday, May 13, 2012

Digging my grave then wondering at mud that flies

A favourite panel. From Alison Bechdel's graphic memoir, Fun Home. Page 50

I do nothing these days. It's a self-inflicted, utterly unsustainable embargo on work, reasons for which we shan't get into for the potential they have to bore. But also, I don't want to talk about it. These days. These days it's all very bite nose, spite face, lather, rinse, repeat.

A couple of days ago, my father, from across the dining table, told as he often does, 'I'm just waiting for someone to sack me'. Yea, me too, I say, me too, tickled by, I don't know -  our respective common reading too much into a hardly definite outcome? Some fools will some day realise what dead weights we are. 

I have a feeling -- well actually, he corroborates this, so never mind 'feeling' -- I know all my father does in office is drink green tea, with a drop of fresh lemon for it's apparent enhanced benefits, carry out his random research (okay, last year sitting in office acting like a 'consultant', he wrote a book and got one thing off his bucket list, so I'll give him that) and send me emails from his office with subjects like the ultimate calcium guide ('Something you said about milk makes me send this to you to scan'). Bottom line: eat bananas. Potassium helps absorb calcium.

Meanwhile, his vitamin D3-deficient daughter (not so much calcium-deficient, she suspects) - all she does is troop in to work at whatever noon hour suits her highness, drinks hot water from a mug that says her-high-ness, write emails, update online wishlists, read sweet Bon Iver erotic stories, sigh, get all wistful, sometimes blog, make small talk with neighbours, all the time, do no work. What's the point, she says. Clever lady, ace justifier, grave digger.

Work is terrible. I made it so. We're having a vicious little spat. And one of these days charge will have to be taken, someone will have to crack a whip, or papers will have to be filed. There's bound to be an enough is enough moment. We play who blinks first with astounding aplomb. We. We. These days. I. I. I'm the horse who won't drink from a filthy pond even if what I long for is algae. One well-meaning colleague advised me, using perhaps a close home metaphor -- how much will you fight? how many will you divorce?

The only custody battle I foresee is who gets to keep my money plants, my beautiful, well-maintained, gorgeous life-embracing, sunlight-loving baby greens. And yet, I don't see myself walking out armed with with thirty wine bottles and a couple, champagne.

I hope you're at least enjoying this stubborn no-writing phase of yours, a friend emails. No, I reply sorrowfully. I miss writing. I'm not enjoying anything. My back hurts and I've become an exquisite look-at-her-she-does-no-work disdainful museum sloth. I'm that stationary. And on an ego trip as predictable as traffic.

When two rightfully pleased-with-themselves interns offered around a box of motichoor ladoo to office people to celebrate their first byline, I felt like a wasted relic. Bravo to them, most definitely. But yiikes, how long ago was that for me. So long ago one doesn't count. But 'one' does remember.

My father again. We're at the table; my mother isn't in town for a while. Good daughter behaviour has impelled her to rush to Dehradoon to be with Nanu - my grandmother, my mostly all-deaf now grandmother, the leggy hottie in my blogger thumbnail, who fell in the bathroom and broke two ribs. She's 91 next month. Joining dots is not cheery. It breaks me. My back and my heart are in sync these days. And these days, there's more inevitable here, with Nanu, than any half-wishful father-daughter sacking. I'll go to her next week, maybe, when my mother returns so we can nurse by turn.

Happy mother's day, I texted my mother, wish nanu also.

Thank u, lucky 2get yr message, i was/am at MOTHER PONDICHERRY ashram. love u.

She didn't say N. She said my name. But I could imagine what a nuisance it would've been for her to type that message, slowly slowly, like old people who don't use any T9 dictionary or QWERTY nothings, to get the spelling right of Ma Anandamayi . Smart, she went with Mother Pondicherry. No blasphemy, no error.

It's another meal. I'm whining again, to my father. Groaning, 'making a mountain out of a molehill,' as he likes to say. He's worried, then amused; Worried it's my back again, my infidel lower spine that's acting up. Amused that I'm lying so he doesn't worry. I'm suffering, I mutter. Why, darling? Why are you 'suffering'?

Because!! I don't want to dooo this any longer!

Do what?

This. THIS! This 'pretending' to be a journalist...

And off I launch into another crowded, inchoate monologue about the futility of my 'professional' life.Of how I think I should do something else, something that maybe doesn't involve a word count as part of a work drill. And how is it that a reasonably smart person can have zero vocation?? HOW. Obviously I was -- am! am! -- in the mood to slather on the self pity, to bring on the feelings of nagging inadequacy and bugle-shaped doubts and blow those damn things so hard that even my out of tune inner ears sob more continuously with more flowing rhythm than I ever sleep. These days.

I don't SAY this to him. Not all of it. Sigh, he says. Darling-, he starts. I can sense more indulgence. I can sense also my own ducts singe and begin to well. Hello, bugle! He says it's all his fault. I feel a snap inside. I yeowl. HOW! How the hell is this your fault?! And also what is WRONG with you?! Can't you listen to me kvetch without packing me off on a guilt trip about your alleged failings as a father ESPECIALLY where as far as I'm concerned, you have your biggest freak fan in an unmotivated daughter!

Darling -


So then he says things such as... you know, I've never had any focus. But then 30 years ago, that was perfectly alright. The army was a hobby. He was an aberration in it. Aberration. These days.
All of it makes me laugh. Momentarily I feel blest that we can, we CAN laugh at ourselves and acknowledge that constitutionally we're unable to take ourselves at all seriously. It's a good thing, the inability. To be serious a lot is bad form. And there's no need to perpetrate the malaise. God knows enough others without knowing it are properly suffering.

Still, in something of a non-half hearted vein, he's holding himself responsible for not having any real ambition to pass down. Yea. I chew my food. I think there was chana. And palak. And I like how palak makes teeth squeak.. I ask him how my brother, S, is such a motivated, doing well, competitive sort and where the hell does he get that from.

'Your mother'


She's competitive.

Don't talk nonsense, Papa.

I'm telling you...


I ask him, do you see much of yourself in S? No, he doesn't actually. And says, thank god for that. Isn't that a twinge somewhere for you, to not see much of yourself in your son, who basically is in the army because his father was in the army? 

No. Apparently, he's thankful.

Unasked, he announces, I see a lot of myself in you.

ME? HOW. I thought I was just like mama.

Darling - that too, but you've got this... Jekyll-Hyde thing going... I see myself in you. That aberration in the army thing again.

I'm a total aberration, too! I mean, I am a thoroughly useless journalist. Ask anyone! Ask my bosses! I'm sure some like me. Some think she can write. But journalist? See, NOW we bring out the smirks and rev them up to laughs. He knows this. I know this. He's worried because his battles, as he says, are mostly over.

For the amount this man sometimes irritates me with his placid, almost resigned, unflappable, deadpan accepted reasoning and survival formulae, I respect him the same amount. There is always a wryness, an undercutting comic tilt to his view of his environment. It's the flipside of that unpolished no-focus coin. I recognise that. But there's such a thing as being arrogant of your genes. I'm the apple looking at the tree who told me to watch it, kid, you're going to fall. Just not too far from me. Should I be happy about this? That I feel I'm falling off a branch?

I change the topic. I ask him. Do you think Nanu's going to die? When I spoke to her she sounded so frail. I miss you, too. The sobs have been attacking me from the depths of my stomach about this, too. And he gives me a realistic view, an honest answer. The age. The pain. The effort. The living. The dying. And I have to shut myself in the bathroom for a bit to watch the mirror watch me watch it pay an advance to debilitating grief around the corner, not my first instalment of tears.

He's worried for me. I see in you the lack of focus I never had. It's my fault. You get that from me. I'd go along with the flow, but over the last 30 years, so little ever truly excited me...

By this time, I'm about to collapse. There's nothing you can do, I tell him, full of impatience. He says he knows. So stop blaming yourself!, I yell at him again. He smiles. Daddy's little girl, hapless little darling...

Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here


Anonymous said...

So raw, this.

Self-doubt is an essential element to getting anything useful done.

But, there is also:

- k

Anonymous said...

- k

Nimpipi said...

For the links, danke, you.

Aurvi said...

You break my heart.

Good journalist or not, you do kick ass at writing.

Hope you find your 'vocation', N -- that can be another unsettling, gut-wrenching endeavour. But in the meanwhile, please don't stop writing ever.


Ardent fan :)

Nimpipi said...

Aurvi!! :DD Arre, being reminded that you're around is so, so lovely! <3<3

Following the cooking blog immediately. (tumblr anda ll.. :D) Home is where the pressure cooker is, is a FANTASTIC one. Tum KITNE cool ho! :D aur yeh dil pe laga-

When your sense of self-worth is welded so closely with how well you write, each word you type becomes significant and irritably touchy. Usually there is no room for jokes about the writing. After all, if I can’t write, what can I do?

hai hai, woman! hai.hai. beauty is you. you is beauty. that's all ye know and that's all ye need to know. (keats marega :D)

Anonymous said...

I wish there was a proper way to post links through this. Can you figure a way out?

Rereading, this post positively blisters. "Clever lady, ace justifier, grave digger"; "we play who blinks first with astonishing aplomb"; "i'm an apple looking at the tree...falling off a branch".

One piece of criticism: there could be more good writing (some examples noted above) than there is.

- k

NdeL said...

Wow. You have no idea how much I relate to this. I worked as a journalist, and then in an advertising agency. I NEVER felt satisfied or remotely happy with what I was doing. I quit my job as a journalist, sat at home for 3 months, then joined the ad agency, which i quit after 7 months. Again, dissatisfaction and a sense of purposelessness and meaninglessness. I've been at home a month now. It's taken me all this time to finally realize what I want to do, and now I'm working on it. It took me immense amount of time sitting locked up in my room, sometimes weeping, searching my soul, conversing with my (now) ex.
You might like this:
All the best N. :) Hope you find what you need to do soon. <3
Also, hope your Nanu is ok too.

NdeL said...

Oh I forgot! Here Comes The Sun is one of my favorite songs by The Beatles! :D

Nimpipi said...

K: Proper way to post links? You mean like so?
(don't use http:// -- start straight at www)

Blisters is good. Your one piece of criticism though is heh, a bit twisted. You can't criticise what doesn't exist. I mean, of course you can, but that becomes a little nebulous, no? Work with what you got. Wishful isn't criticism. Unless wishful is the harshest criticism. Jesus. You're eating pizza. You can add seasoning. But you can't say what's wrong with it is that it isn't rajma. That's a bizarro premise. Entertaining, and I'm all for it, but beyond the realm of real. You can't wish Orwell was Russell and Russell, Kinsella (Sophie)! It don't fly. It never could. Wait... unless you're saying merely that you needed more cheese on the pizza. Hmm... ok. I see your point. I got defensive. But more good wrting in the same post? Or at large, blog wise? I don't TRY for there to not be more good writing, you know. :D What comes, comes. And I have a fear of the tried too hard, the laboured clause, the backspace.

NdeL: (I'm learning to get uppercase N, chhota d chhota e, uppercase L right in the first go). I'm glad you seem like you've found your thing. I hope that goes well.

You have to be the first person who's ever posted me a tinyurl link. I love the look of tuny urls. Cutest! :D I liked the guy's list. I want to be a regular with a usual somewhere - nice. Even the comments: I want a well haha.

And Nanu's better. She said so herself. I spoke to her y'day. Thank you. =)

Beatles, lovely Beatles. My phone sings their song when someone calls: Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup they slither wildly as they slip away across the universe... :)

But you've heard her version too, right?

Incognito said...

I like my pizza with extra cheese.

Ps. If I ever do own a company, I would make sure that we have a position tailor made for you. It will include - food, writing, flora & . Let me know if you are interested :D.

Nimpipi said...

Cog: Beautiful inhuman carrots to dangle! :D I like that you include food. Furniture, also, ok? Cane, and teak. And linen. And diction. And wildlife. And cheese! And panna. :D And some airy fairy asthetics also, ok? Napkin holders and quotes and geraniums and what not. sigh.. :)

NdeL said...

Your link didn't work. But did you mean Fiona Apple's version of Across the Universe? Of course I've heard it. :)

Nimpipi said...

Fiona, no. Too deathly for me. Meant Nina Simone's cover of Here Comes the Sun

Anonymous said...

oho aap toh bura man gaye. :(

I was searching for nice phrases, and found fewer than I expected. Is all I meant. (Take it as a reverse compliment? I mean I read 50-odd pages yesterday without finding even one.) Although, like you say, the too-laboured notion, I see your point.

Hope your Nanu continues feeling well.

- k

Incognito said...

the "&" was supposed to be followed by (insert your customized job description here), however the page ate up the html tag brackets "<"">".

Something you would relate to right now:

Beautiful Inhuman Carrots? no way. I am serious. The thought has crossed my mind prior to this post.

Nimpipi said...

K Don't be silly. Bura bilkul nahi maane. I like your criticism. I also like defending myself kabhi kabhi. That's all. :)

I read this letter today. Ernest H to Scott F.G. Parts of it spoke loudly to me. Some lines vaguely reflected what I might've meant to say. But maybe I flatter myself. Still. Pretty certain you'll find something that speaks to you, too. Kehta hai: I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit. (Ha! Change masterpiece to something humbler and page to paras and that's closer to what I feel).

... 'For Christ sake write and don't worry about what the boys will say nor whether it will be a masterpiece nor what. I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket. You feel you have to publish crap to make money to live and let live. All write but if you write enough and as well as you can there will be the same amount of masterpiece material (as we say at Yale). You can't think well enough to sit down and write a deliberate masterpiece and if you could get rid of Seldes and those guys that nearly ruined you and turn them out as well as you can and let the spectators yell when it is good and hoot when it is not you would be all right.

Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to hurt like hell before you can write seriously'.

Cog: Cough Syrup. Thank you:) I like. You're right. They're right. Shouldn't care about no zombies in the park.

Admitting though that the playlist right now is a teensy bit more mellow. But I do, I DO want to get off my ass and go for a run to this on loop, too. Will.

(And I'm curious. You must tell me more about his business plan. I love being sent links, but anything more random is always super.)

Incognito said...

Pipi all in good time :D. Till then all I can offer is the song. Hope it makes you see the better side of things. It has helped me get through painful times.

Anonymous said...

It was good defense!

Keep doing your thing, whatever fool thoughts I have about it.

- k

Sanchari said...

I love it when you post stuff that highlights your relationship with your dad. Endearing would be an understatement.

As for the self doubt, ever thought of editing your blog posts, and having them compiled into a book? Could work, you know. This is the stuff of real life.

Nimpipi said...

Sanchari: real life right now is a bit, you know the phrase -- chullu bhar paani beckoning me to dive right in.

But I appreciate your.. wait scratch that. I sound like some wisened goose. I LIKE that you like the daddy stuff. Heh. I'll probably make a subconsious effort to... mumble mumble... maybe write more of the endearing stuff:)

Stuff of real life in my booky blog. Hmmm.. Would thrash Russell Brand's, for sure. Not that I think he blogs. Idiot man.

Anonymous said...

About the book = sum over blog posts idea. I think it might work. But I ain't no publisher, so what do I know.

However, there is an example from history to back this up: Jarrod Kimber's cricketwithballs

- k

(Oh I'd buy it even if I can see the same stuff online)

Incognito said...

Nimpipi said...

incog: ADORABLE! flattered. and yea, yea :) will.. sigh.

happilypensive said...

I stumbled across your blog via this route: Delhiwalla-myriadmusings-woodchuk. What a ride! I am a mechanical engineer and though I was in love with cooling towers a a year back, now I wish I could find a way to make a living out of reading and writing. And this post made me feel less phony in what I do. There are other people who feel they suck at what they do, even though thats the only thing they know how to do! Who knew! Loving you blog. Can't wait to get home and catch up with the previous posts.