|'BUT THE INFINITE GRADATIONS OF COLOR IN A FINE SUNSET|
-- FROM SALMON TO CANARY TO MIDNIGHT BLUE--
LEFT HIM WORDLESS.'
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 thru.lv.p'). 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, N.so 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!
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!
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.
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
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here