Remembering all the things my Best Friend has never ever done for me

I thought I would do this post simply because I never realized all this before this birthday of mine. Usually on my birthdays I sit and write a letter to my best friend. This year I wrote down my realizations about what the relationship has been like.

There is this incredible connection that is there. Distance, and marriage and children and none of the life events had altered that connection. In many vital ways , me and my friend we define each other, and are a comfort for each others world-weary spirits or so I had thought and felt from what we shared till 2010.

We would both grieve in the event one of us is left to face the others death and life would be different with one of us gone forever. Parts of us would die with the friend forever as each hold some things about our personalities that make up for the good parts of our selves, parts of our selves that we have come to appreciate and respect and cherish, without these parts of our thoughts and experiences, we are rendered just mundane and ordinary, but with that part we are special, stand out from the rest of the people around us.

The past two days I had been poring over all the letters we have exchanged in the course of the fifteen years of knowing each other, and this is what I discovered.

Am sure better people find better things to do – am me, I did what I wanted to do and felt like doing.

In random order then,

  1. My BFF never ever sent me a birthday card – not even once in fifteen years
  2. My BFF never called or wished me on my birthday not even once in fifteen years
  3. Never sent me a Diwali card – or wished me – in fifteen years not even once
  4. Never wished me or sent a card for Christmas – not even once in fifteen years
  5. Never called me on any of the festive days, to wish me or just share a moment together – ever, not even once in fifteen years
  6. Was never there for me on the “eventful” days, like when my father passed away. There never has been a condolence message or a phone call to console or just support or to make me feel good.
  7. My BFF never wrote to me because I wanted ir or needed it but only when they had the time to do so.
  8. My BFF never once called or sent a card or a letter saying “I wanted to share this with you, you know?”
  9. Never ever spent a dime on any kind of a present or whatsoever, never a book, or just some music or some knickknack or a blanket or a scarf
  10. I heard I am the godmother to their first born but never heard the voice of my godson that I kept sending stuff to, ever once in five years since he was born and now he can actually write. I remember our families made us write thank you and loving notes to please grandma and relations that sent us love from the time we were two years old. Later, when we were admitted to school and could hold a pencil, we would draw these terrible pictures and say “thith is mamoy” they would elaborately write that message down on that piece of paper sometimes they were just the back of cardboard boxes in which toys came in and sent them to relatives and it always made everyone so happy, we know because we got lotsa hugs when we met.
  11. There never has been a “just wanted to see what you were up to” calls, even though my best friend could afford the call.
  12. Never acknowledged gifts I sent to the friend, or the spouse or the children
  13. Never ever was there for me – no indeed, my best friend has never exactly been the proverbial friend in need at all
  14. There has three assault attempts on me in my own house, the third time was in 2014, and I had been scared and traumatized, and they never even called.
  15. “Don’t make me come and get you.” – yeah but when that was really required, they were not there to come and get the friend in real danger and genuine distress because they did not think it was a distress I could not sort out by myself.

Well, generally speaking, even though I always lived my life and have taken risks thinking I had a best friend to rely on if anything went wrong, it took me forty eight years of my stupid life to realize I never really ever had any “best friends” to speak of.

The time when my train was 24 hours late and I was stranded in a crowded station all alone, with my luggage or the time when I lost my job, or the time when I got hurt, really hurt – and was in tremendous pain, inside my head, unable to walk, talk, leave my bed, or think straight, or the time when people forced entry into my apartment in the middle of a cold December night, dragged me out downstairs, beat me up, then threw a shawl over my head and tried to stifle me dead for good measure with my mother just standing there and staring away doing nothing to either save me or stop them, or when I was faced with the trauma of being forced to come home and live with those very people that had done that to me, or the time when those people attacked me again and tried to force their way in into my apartment another night in summer last year, no – none of these times was my best friend there, either at the end of phone line or physically there.

Nothing that ever happened in our collective lives ever was good enough or important enough for my best friend to either invite me over to their place or actually come on over to mine.

My life has spiralled, had started spiralling downward, dissolution, deaths, dangerous encounters, distress, trauma, accidents, mishaps, loss, pain, since we met and became friends. My ‘best friend’s’ life was spiralling upwards, with marriage, children, new home, expanding business.

So, the thing is you have to be walking in the same direction and in the same path to be friends with people. Two people walking in two different directions perhaps cannot be friends unless both keep up the good work.

It does take some work to remain friends.

During my darkest hour of need for human support and connection, total strangers came forward to help, with care packages, mail, books, music, and shuttles and thread, well some sort of way to reach out. Some even called long distance from overseas, even if they could not afford such a long call just to comfort me and I have not been able to do much for them yet, except sporadically to send out some little tokens of gratitude. But someday I hope I get a chance to return their kindness not that one can do that of course bit just to put my mind at ease. But the thing is, when I needed my friend the most – my best friends were not just there.

Sometimes I would save for months together to be able to send my god child or my friend something for Christmas because I like these traditions and they make life beautiful and interesting this act of giving. My best friend has never given till it hurt, or ever known what it is to have to do such a thing. My best friend has never really felt the need to reach out in meaningful ways except to send in an email over free mail system when it suited them, when they had the time for it.

I have been a best friend to my best friend, I have taken a day off from work so I could go post their mail on time. Have stayed up late at night, taken time off from work, did what I had to, when I felt I needed to sit and be with my best friend or rejoice with them.

But I do think, tonight, as I sit here on the verge of another new useless meaning less addition of more time to a life that really has meant nothing to anyone or for anything, it is better to have lived like that violet in the forest where no one ever visits than to not have lived at all.

Well, it is not really, but that is what they expect you to say, and that is what they like to think, that is what they delude themselves into thinking is ‘normal’ and ‘healthy’ way to deal with out various little jail-cell existence.

I know I had written about the concept of “Ichhyamrityu” or auto destruct among the Hindus of India, once pointing out the outdatedness of the IPC 309 of the IPC. and since then, others have written about it, and I saw this about the Modi government having abolished the section and decriminalized attempts to self-destruct, but the implications are not very clear yet.

The thing is, people should be allowed real freedoms like the kind recorded in Hindu legends. When you know your work is done, you are no longer being useful in anyway that pleases you, you should be able to set yourself free from the shackles of routines and mundane existence and leave with dignity and not continue to exert upon the already limited resources of the world around you. You should have the choice to do so. choose the moment and nature or manner of your own goodbye to the world.

But then people that frame laws or run a country can be control-freaks of epic proportions and basically lack insight or courage to let people be the way nature had intended them to be. So there is a catch in that.

And so, there is just this mindless rolling on, on the wings of the fancy – knot upon knot, knot upon knot, rings, chains, flowers, and curves, shapes and sunlight playing through the mesh of my thoughts, soft threads cascading over the still firm skin of my olive hands (feeling warm) and flowing endlessly through my pensive fingers shuttling on…

On a personal note, my dear best friend that never was, to whoever or whatever is telling you your friend is trying to exploit you or use you to get out of a difficult and unhealthy environment for a little relief, let em know you have never actually given her anything much, she never ever expected nor asked for anything ever except that one time she really truly genuinely needed help, had reached out. In her darkest, most terrible time of need you not only abandoned her but had actually emailed that she should help herself. If we are going to help ourselves we should be by ourselves, live in the jungle. This is not going away ever. On my birthday, I wanted to remember this because this is Christmas, and it means something to me, it means we be there for those who need it the most and I had needed it badly when I had called out for help, Grinch had needed Christmas but Cindy Lou wasn’t there to make it happen.

Meme

Let’s Play 25 Questions

1. Has anyone ever written a poem about you? Yes.

2. Have you ever looked up and found a celebrity staring at you? Yes.

3. Has a member of the opposite sex ever impulsively kissed you? No.

4. What did you do? It didn’t happen, I did nothing.

5. Have you ever written a song? No, there already is enough to fill my whole life.

6. How many partners have you had since you became old enough? Partners? None.

7. What’s the highest amount of money you’ve earned in a year’s time? Enough to make all the trips and job-changes I wanted to make.

8. Have you ever been hit on the head by a falling coconut? No 🙂 I lived in the plains.

9. Do you have total recall? Regressively…

10. How you ever fallen in love at first sight? Never, because it usually takes the second look to register,  the third to fall in love with…

11. Have you ever eaten a jellyfish? No.

12. If you’re a guy, have you ever kept a spreadsheet on your encounters and rated them? If I were a guy, I would be a decent one, not crass.

13. If you’re a female have you ever learned that one of your encounters listed you on a spreadsheet? Suspected as much.

14. If you answered Yes to Number 13, did you want to know how you were rated? No – had to drop the person fast as I could.

15. What is your favorite city? None.

16. If you could travel back in time, what year would you choose and where would you like to go? When I could watch them build the pyramids…in Egypt.. or when Buddha received enlightenment and started to preach

17. How good are you at math? Lousy.

18. Are you still in touch with your childhood friends? Nope.

19. Would you kill an animal (not a human) and eat it to survive? No, not if I was alone…

20. What is your favorite flower? White fragrant summer flowers.

21. What is the first thing you’d do if you won a $250 million lottery? Retire.

22. Would you serve a year in jail for a million dollars? ‘Fraid not.

23. If eternal life on Earth were possible, would you want it? Nah….just thinking of so many years of eating, shitting, showering, routine makes me tired.

24. Would you spend your life in a wheelchair if the one you love the most could be financially comfortable for the rest of his or her life? No. Not  unless I loved madly, blindly.

25. Would you give your life for a loved one? Can’t say… Probably, if it were my baby, I would.

Amalendu Nag

Phoolda to the entire family of Nags from the little town of Barodi in erstwhile East Bengal, grew up in Rajshahi, was proud of his teacher P.K. De Sircar.

I have no idea why today is designated as Fathers’ Day, but as I loved mine and he loved me like nobody ever has, I wanted to write this post.

He liked to be up to date. He never was late for anything, if it was due to start at 8 a.m., he would be there by 7:45 a.m. Ready for life at all times – that was who my daddy was. No, I did not inherit this quality, merely the feeling that I should be like that and every time am late I feel disturbed, thinking am failing him in some way…

He liked to do what he did, well. “I don’t care if you choose not to do it, but if you must, then do it well or not at all”. He detested shoddiness. I do too. In this sense am his daughter.

Sometimes – no,  in fact, a lot of times before I became old, when I was a girl, he made me feel embarrassed – he seemed impossibly like an incorrigible little boy. He was always doing things I had to ‘fix’ I would feel. He never seemed to be serious about anything at all! Always laughing, always joking when we felt he should be angry and protesting.

The taxi driver comes late, daddy misses his  flight, his explanation: “He (the taximn) probably doesn’t know that watches need winding every day”. The paperman leaves the garden gate open, the neighbour’s goat eats all our blooming marigolds from the head,  buds and all. “That goat (paperman) is hard of hearing and his brother (the real goat) is smart, so what do you expect (you cant blame one because he is deaf, the other one did what any intelligent being would, so why fret) ?”

He made us laugh – but we would quickly stop  so we could sulk some more when things turned out wrong. This Pieces however was never shaken.

When the rain flooded the garden he would make us fishing rods, and we would be seen in the back steps using them – full of hope of catching something, while he coolly shut his eyes soaking in the glorious sound of  Sachin Dev Barman’s   inimitable voice belting out Bengali folk songs on our Panasonic stereo that the family used to be so proud of. I still have it, it was the latest model then.

Daddy liked to dress well, he was stylish, never looked unkempt (the way I tend to do), had fifty pairs of shoes. His shoes irritated mum when she had to clean the closet. I loved them.

He liked beauty and harmony around him, he hated it when I left home without brushing my shoes. I did it often, so,  he would sit on many Sunday afternoons while I slept,  tired from play or studying or grading classwork, cleaning all our shoes – my brother’s, mum’s, mine, his own. It was a ritual.

Some days I would also sit down to it with him.  It was a sight to see with the two of us sitting on the front or back porch, depending on what season it was, with the shoes arranged in a neat semi circle in front of us. Then when it was 4:30 p.m. mum would wake up from her siesta or just leave her paper (we read the newspaper in the morning before leaving for school or work, since mum stayed home, she read the paper, later) or her book, make tea and carry it out, to us,  where we sat.  She would pull a cane stool called “mora” and sit down to watch us. I would show her her shoes, ask her if she could ever shine it the way I or daddy could. She would laugh, “Nope” and shake her head – “that is why I got you”.

“What?!”

I would throw the brush and stomp off  inside to wash. “Put these away and go, Mithi”, my daddy would call after me. I would come back and pick stuff  up then – what was left that is, most of it he would already have put away.

My daddy recited poems when he had fever. When he fell sick, became bedridden, he would start reciting poems aloud one after the other – he never recited them when he was well. I thought he only could remember them when daddy had fever. And my daddy hated going out on his holidays. You could not drag him out for anything. We used to fight so much about this, “When we grow up,  there would be no ‘we-went-here-with-our-father’  stories for our children!”  Well, I  didnt get children. So it is fine I guess.

Daddy loved sweets, never complained if food got burned but he exploded if his rice stuck to the pan – after he retired,  he had taken it upon himself to cook  rice  when he was at home. Perfect it wouldbe,  everytime.  During exams,  when we had to wake up early,  to study, it would be my daddy that would get up before all of us to make coffee for me. All my life – till the time he passed away, I never got a chance to beat him at it. Ever.

And during his exams we had to read his stuff out for him, that is the only way he could remember. I picked up this habit.

There was not much I could ever do for my daddy except buy him stuff.  All that love, thought, that he showered upon us, I now try to give back to my children and all that I interact with – he loved people, had a kind word for everyone, people loved to do things for him, and they had flocked to the house when they heard he was gone.

Everyone came,  from the rickshaw-wallah to his eighty year old walking pratner and the dog he fed, didnt eat or leave its place in front of the front door for three days. It just sat there with his head burried in his paws waiting for daddy to call him for a game or his meal…one rainy day daddy had carried his mother in his pocket, when she was a tiny pup shivering in the sand pit near our house. He had said later to us that when he saw her, he had stopped, the little pup had slowly walked up to him and he had asked if she wanted to come home, she had wagged her little tail so he had put his hand out for her and when she had climbed up on it, he had put her in his great rain coat pocket and brought her home. Chickoo is her son. They are street dogs. They are family and mum always counted them for all meals.  She still does.

Life feels a little off centered with this man gone, who was really like a little boy.  Playing with us while making the bed. We pretended we were birds when we jumped off the bed and dived into the heavy quilt on the floor. We would hide mummy’s stuff together and tease her.  When he lost all his life’s savings at one stage,  in a chit fund, he had grinned and tried to console mummy with, “O but see how everybody’s house is getting robbed, so much money gone is so much percent of your worries diminished too, you could sleep with your windows open now “. It didn’t convince mum of course….

He never did seem like a father until he died and left this huge void in our sky, it either rains all the time now or heats up with the blazing sun.

The house became so very quiet that it feels eerie there.  Anyway, I try to trust, be nice to people because that is what he wanted us to be – nice people that were nice to people. It is hard being daddy’s girl, but  I try.

my father

I watched my father die in my dream this morning. I experienced his death all over again  – woke up scared, disturbed.

I saw him lying on his side, his face very dark. He was alive at this moment. The way he lay, the way his face looked  made me weep in my dream.  I saw me talking, heard me say, “Why is his face like this, Maa, my father’s face  was so beautiful, how did it become like this?”

He was alive when I spoke. Next minute he was gone. He hadn’t answered.

And then I saw the empty house, my mother changing into a white saree.

It was very vivid. I woke up. Could not think, or do anything. I turned picked up the phone, sms-ed a person I hadn’t thought of in months or met ever.

I sms-ed what I had seen, how I felt. Then came the tears and I found me crying like I just lost him.

I have just shifted to a new house. all my colleagues came to visit me – they said it is such a happy place, please stay here, do not change. and I had a good day at school this morning. am not ill or hungry.

I don’t understand why I saw my father again this way. I didn’t know dreams could be a “all-five-senses” experience. Wish I could do something to reach out.

I don’t really know why I wrote reach out. I know my father is just not there anymore. Maybe my mind is debilitating, disintegrating. I am aging, or going mad.

At school this morning I had said the more we know about our past, our heritage, legacy, the history of how conflicts were resolved, the more we know about how we became who we are today, the stronger we become, the easier it would be for our children to cope with forces that mangle their tender, clean trusting minds later.

I am not thinking of, but  living experiences, trying to connect with people that are just not there. Things inside my mind are probably coming apart. Life is slipping away I think.

I cannot sleep anymore.

It never hurt so very much to see the night end And watch the morning seep in through the chinks in the doors aand ventillators. And I do not wish to understand or rationalize, pretend to be allright, or normal – right now it seems dirty, ugly, unclean and dishonest and unbecoming of my father’s daughter to be so.

raining here in Kolkata

summer rain, vacation time, am at my own table, with my favourite old computer blogsurfing. the window was open so the wet wind could play with my hair and I could see the trees swaying lightly and the street below

here it is

Summer Rain in Kolkata - beginnning

Summer Rain in Kolkata - beginnning

Rains harder now,  the street lights are on

Rains harder now, the street lights are on

Thats on my right side

Thats on my right side

While I waited for the pictures to upload, this is what I was reading:

3. Marc S. Lewis, clinical psychology professor, University of Texas Austin, 2000.

There are times when you are going to do well, and times when you’re going to fail. But neither the doing well, nor the failure is the measure of success. The measure of success is what you think about what you’ve done. Let me put that another way: The way to be happy is to like yourself and the way to like yourself is to do only things that make you proud.

I thought you might like it.

childhood rainy days

Rolling spent her childhood days in the lush green North Eastern States of the Indian subcontinent.

Assam, Manipur, Agartala, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh.
The sheer fecundity of nature here and the breadth of eyespace she enjoyed, while growing up in these parts, affected her tiny impressionable mind deeply and left indelible impressions. Her mind and perspective on life is coloured by what she saw around her constantly as she slowly turned into a woman…

Heavy rainfall is a constant element of life in this part of India, as are snakes, insects, dark green, scary green, turquoise blue, electric blue, colours, thick undergrowth, dense forests, and deep growling silences of tropical jungles.

It rained here – incessantly, for days, in the monsoon season and even at other times. No water logging because this is hilly region. The sun shone immediately afterward, making everything look brighter, better, glowing with happy colours. It was then like eating ice-cream with your eyes. The coolness of the air you could breathe in and let your body savour its freshness. Growing up in the north east may have made this woman turn sensual, I think. With the way the weather and the terrain is in the north east, one’s faculties get naturally tuned to nearly every nuance of nature.

The days it rained, when she was seven or eight or nine or ten – were some of the happiest days of her life.

It didn’t rain there – it poured, like someone had turned a big bucket full of water upon your head. The drops of water felt heavy on soft skin. Temperature dropped. It felt cozy to curl up in a corner of the bed with her favourite fat Anandamela Puja edition book and wrapped in a kaantha – a Bengali quilt made of layers of old used handloom sarees, very soft and oozing with oomph. Usually, schools declared rainy days when it rained heavily. It became so dark in the morning that no one could tell it was only mid morning. You had to switch on the electric lights and look at the watch. Or switch on the radio.

A little later when mum finished with her cooking, she would come and join little bro bhai and little elder sis didi on the bed. They would play ludo or checkers together and after a few games, would watch the rain through the glass window – the lonely ghostly commuter on a cycle covered in transparent plastic sheet from head to foot, the local priest in his gumboots and black raincoat driving past in his faded green Bajaj scooter.

The dark green trees, the rain sleeked charcoal black street curving away in the east, the flaming orange red Krishnachura flowers framing the soggy blue of the sky above, hazy but glimmering shapes of people passing by outside the window pane – all of it looked like a sheet of oil pastel painting seen through a transparent grey plastic sheet. Mother and little daughter and tiny baby son all sat huddled together in a corner of the milk white bed near the picture window and watched all afternoon. Sometimes mum would break forth into a song – Doorey Kothaey Doorey doorey/ amar mon beraey go ghurey – ghureyyy/ Je baanshitey bataash kaandey/ shei baanshiro shoorey shooreyyy….far, far away in the distance/ my mind wanders/ to the tune of the bamboo flute that wails with the sound of the passing wind…

A tiny voice would join in too with the only rainy day song she knew how to sing: Boley re papiharaa, papiharaa/ Nit man pyasa, nit man tarasey….(she used to think back then it should be ‘Ek man pyasa, Ek man tarasey..’ some people are thirsty, some people are thirsting, that is what she thought the song meant 🙂 )

Until it thundered and grew dirty dark outside. Then it was mid day – time to feed her ‘babies’. So mum would gather them up and put them down on the floor together – the children would squeal with laughter as the bundle hit the floor, scramblingly splitting into two sets of feet and hands. Sometimes the bundle collapsed in a heap on the mat on the floor and mum would laugh while she stooped to separate the tangled mass of flailing arms and feet and then they would all troop like a set of Motherduck-baby-duckling toy – baby boy holding on to mum’s saree pallu, didi sis following, teasingly holding on to the back of his little shirt – to the dark kitchen.

They would switch on the light. Then they would lay the table together, baby carrying the stainless steel baby glasses, which he could now hold one in each little hand, didi sis carrying the stainless steel plates – which she tried to beat together like cymbals in rhythm with the loud pattering outside – mummy brought the china bowls of curry. These were heavy. The children were not allowed to touch these. Last of all came the rice and the colourful salad with beet in it.

This was the only sore point of the day – when they had to eat raw beet with their salad. They hated it. The taste, the wild strong scent, the way it coloured everything else up. So very dominating! Junglee!

The hot shiny white rice looked beautiful – each grain perfectly shaped and separate, like fresh jasmine flowers plucked out with the dew still on it. This is the famous Joha rice of Assam – lovely, fragrant rice that made everything taste twenty times better. They would have their simple meal starting with the greens – spinach fried sauteed with a dash of garlic, followed by bitter gourd boiled in the rice and mixed with mashed potatoes to dull the shock of bitterness for sensitive baby tongues, followed by fragrant masoor dal soup, with fried eggplant finally ending with the royal treat – fish curry. All Bengalis have their food in that order by the way. Fish or egg or meat always comes in the end and is followed by some dessert – no matter how simple it is – there would be a dash of sweet in some form at the end of a meal in most ordinary Bengali homes.

In our household, if they could not get to the store, when rains continued for more than three days, it would be home made laddoos made of jaggery and puffed rice, or a dollop of jaggery made of date-palm juice, called Paataali and is considered a delicacy in Bengali homes. They buy it in winter and stock it for the year.

After a peaceful meal – if baby didn’t spit too much and didn’t fuss too much over his meal – if he did though, an added bonus would be a story – usually he liked monkey stories – he seemed to identify with monkeys better- it would be back at the window or on the bed.

Never on the floor, which would be cold despite grass matting or dhurries that covered it. Usually, these would become damp too and had to be sunned when it stopped raining. Often there would be millipedes and centipedes trapped under them or actually crawling over them, in their bid to get away from dampness outside, they would flock indoors in this season. Sharing space with them wasn’t such a pleasant idea so we left them the dark corners in the room and the shelves and the floor – we climbed up into the safety of the bed.

There were great big scorpions too and baby snakes that would blunder in – at least that’s what mummy taught the children to believe – “Ora path bhuley dhukey podechhey – mero na oder”. Meaning, please don’t think of killing them, they forgot where their house is and blundered in here cause they are babies too and don’t know better.

There was no TV – we had a lovely silver white Panasonic 2-in-1 sitting on a table behind a door in a corner. The family was very proud of this set and is still there. Mum would turn it on. Clear voice of Ritu Guha rang out rendering Rabindrasangeet lyrics like they were magic words that transported the little minds to a dream world where it was full of light and spring fields swaying in the breeze.

When the father came home after the afternoon flight was safely on its way to homebase in Kolkata, he would find the children curled up like little fluffy lion cubs fast asleep, covered in their peach and off white flannels.

There would be Gautam uncle coming in to read the Bangla paper with Good Morning stamped on it in purple stamp pad ink slightly smudged at the edges, and his young wife Aditi aunty – the little girl would wake up at the noise and walk into the parlour to see what was going on and to get a hug from daddy. After a bit of washing the sleep out of the face and dressing up and the glass of milk with chanachur strewn over the top to liven it up – she would fish out her already battered (session started in July back then only a couple o months before Monsoon started) Geography book and get lost in the pictures of other lands and people. While the adults chatted on happily, the baby played with his mechano on the dining table, she curled up in her favourite little cane basket chair, which had been made too order for her specially and roved the world in her mind.

And another lovely, happy day would, a few hours later, end in sleep and tending to dreams that would someday shape the reality of her life.