Imprints

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Exploring the world

“Are you afraid?”

“Yes.”

“Of the pain?”

“Yes. The pain of leaving you behind. Of not being able to take my world with me.”

That day in the hospital, as I sat beside my mother, I felt helpless. She was withdrawing from me, being pulled by a world as dreary and dark as this world is beautiful, and I couldn’t do anything but grasp her hands tighter.

“Let’s watch TV?”

Or, change the subject.

Later that day, as I drove home to freshen up, the evening sun lit up the windows of my car. The sky was a golden yellow with accents of oranges and violets. Birds chirped in merriment, almost smug about their ability to fly away to alluring, distant lands even as we struggled with human problems like disease and the need to PLAN. We would draw up lists of destinations we wished to travel to, enlist pros and cons, look up hotel reservations and see if the food choices suited our palates. All the while, our limited time kept running out quietly, exactly like the hourglass someone had ominously placed at the reception in the hospital.

I was done with planning. My mother lay in a hospital bed, afraid of losing the world, worried that the hospital-smell and the 24-hour-lighting would forever obliterate the sights and sound of the brilliant world we lived in. I couldn’t let that happen. No, I decided, my mother and I would follow the birds and see the world like they did—flying to new places with our wings spread wide open.

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“But are you sure it’s a good idea? She is not keeping well.” Friends and relatives crowded around us; many of them had brought along travel brochures and guides.

“It’s the best idea I have heard in a long time.” My mother chained her backpack and re-inspected mine. We hadn’t packed any of the brochures; they interfered with our travel diary and Polaroid camera. “We are saying yes to the world.”

My mother had always been the textbook definition of a Type-A person. She arrived for appointments 15 minutes before schedule, accounting for traffic, bad weather, and cows blocking the road. She carried five guidebooks even when we went for a two-hour drive to a picnic. In her Tupperware boxes, she packed non-perishable food so we wouldn’t have to snack on anything that gave us bad digestion.

It is this woman who stood in the boarding line at the airport today, carrying nothing but a backpack, her eyes blindfolded and ears shut to sound with headphones. She nonchalantly hummed a tune, oblivious to curious bystanders and students who ventured up to ask if we were “doing an openminded social experiment”. I tightly held my mother’s hands and watched her beam from end to end.

“We are now embarking on the journey of a lifetime,” I said to her. “Make sure you collect as many memories as you can.”

She kept humming and smiling all through our flight.

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The fortnight that my mother and I spent backpacking across quaint little towns in Europe was the kind of happiness I first experienced at the local fair. I had been three, and my mother had bought me a large red balloon that bobbed and bounced and threatened to fly away if not held on to tightly. My mother squealed like a little child—very reminiscent of the red-balloon-girl—whenever we arrived in a new town.

She clapped till her hands got sore when a horse carriage in Vienna drove us around the main square. She spent five whole minutes sniffing at her chocolate waffle in Brussels. In a gondola in Venice, she made me pose for a half a dozen photographs—some of them, a bit embarrassingly, with our gondola-driver. She shopped for trinkets in the Christmas market at Copenhagen and told an elderly lady that she had “beautiful skin as pink as a rose”. Not once did she ask me about the next city in my top-secret itinerary–#TheBlindList. But every night, she slept as peacefully as a contented baby.

I did not blindfold her on the way to the last airport—the one from where we would catch our flight back home. When we arrived and walked out the gate, she gave everything around a fixed, long stare.

“Don’t you think these trees look greener than before? And I am sure the people in the airport look happier.”

“That’s only because you are happy, Mom.”

“I am. Very much. I have stored all the memories from our exploration so deeply in my heart that I am no longer afraid. They have become imprints. I am convinced I will take them with me when I go.”

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A lot has transpired in my life since that journey my mother and I undertook together. Frequently, I find myself down in the dumps, unable to find meaning in life. I then embark on travels—to places near or afar—and immerse myself in the thrill of an impromptu, unplanned journey. Rarely do I follow a bucket list; I merely endeavour to experience sights I hadn’t anticipated, meet people far removed from the stressors in my daily life, and eat foods that tingle my taste buds.

In these wanderings, I experience self-exploration that unfailingly leaves me enthralled. It is a blind date with the world that leaves me flushed with kisses—of laughter, surprise, and wonder. It is a blind date I want to keep going on, for in the incognito I find myself.

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*Written as a part of Lufthansa’s #SayYesToTheWorld campaign on Indiblogger. You can find out more about this exciting new initiative on Facebook and Twitter.

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What To Do When You’re Simply ‘Not Good Enough’

Feeling not good enough

You’re not ‘good enough’. They all have better choices, those people on the other side of the table. Better, more able candidates to fit into the job role you were aspiring for, the project you were hoping to land, the man you were crushing on.

Some of the refusals are kind. We want different things, they say. You will get other opportunities that will fit you better. I don’t think of you like that even though you’re an incredibly special person. Others are brutal. They say things to your face, going off hand-in-hand with new friends, ghosting your e-mails, expressing without an ounce of doubt that you are not worth your salt.

What can you do when you’re just not good enough? Continue reading

I’m Going Back to Malory Towers

I recently discovered this captivating blog by Meenakshi, on an afternoon when some train of thought led me to a Google search for Darrell Rivers. The Head Girl of Malory Towers, my favourite boarding school of all time lovingly built by Enid Blyton. Meenakshi wrote beautifully from Gwendoline’s perspective, one of the (un)popular girls in the school, and her writing had me completely hooked.

Where have those innocent, carefree days gone when acing it in a subject, becoming School Captain, and catching your crush’s eye was the most joyful prospect of life? In our rush to grow up – or maybe we didn’t have enough choice – so many early pleasures of life have been strewn along the way, never to be reclaimed. Continue reading

Ministry Shares Tips To Cope With Depression, and I’m Fuming

In my professional capacity as Editor, I have worked with a fair number of writers: in-house, freelancers, agencies. I have fought over word counts, especially with the last two on that list. Some writers send in desperately forced 500-word-pieces to meet their targets; at least 200 words are mere fluff. In the health and wellness space, there are two “fluff” pointers that I’ve seen many writers champion.

  1. Get enough sleep
  2. Eat fresh vegetables and fruits

Ah, the miracles of rest and fresh produce. There isn’t much that they cannot cure, it seems, from stomach problems and skin conditions to quarrels with your husband and coming to terms with the loss of your pet.

Thanks to recent communication from the Indian Ministry of Health, I’ve discovered yet another superpower these two goodies have: curing depression.

Yes!

Here’s how it works: If you are depressed or going through a “period of low mood”, don’t fret. Don’t listen to all those know-it-alls who recommend you talk to a loved one or a therapist. Don’t give it any more importance than you would to a sad evening when you’re upset because you ran out of cookies.

All you need to do is sleep for eight hours and eat fruits.

Check out, if you haven’t already, this insightful poster the Ministry recently shared on its Twitter handle.

Continue reading

Rain & Me: Old Friends Who Have Fallen Apart

Rain

There was a time, many moons ago, when I used to love the monsoon. My heart skipped a beat when it rained and my MP3 player hummed monsoonal tunes. I’d sit by the window as the rain washed the dust off my garden plants and watch everything enliven. I’d ask Granny to make onion pakoras, dip them in ketchup, and munch them with great delight.

Years have now passed since that time. Continue reading

Trust Me, This Little Habit is Truly Life-Changing

It’s unlike me to propagate life-changing advice. I usually turn up my nose at anyone who does, for come on, everyone has a life that is diametrically different from yours, unique in a manner unknowable by a generic life-coach.

But then, I am not a life-coach. I am only someone who has recently picked up a habit and is all aglow with its miraculous power.

Here it is: Continue reading

My Saturday Discovery: A Jar of Joy

It was Saturday evening – the kind of beautiful when Sunday evening’s pit-of-doom feeling is far, far away. Why, there was glorious Saturday night to live, followed by the Sunday morning quiet and drinking coffee while listening to the wind. (For me, the pit-of-doom usually sets in after 6 p.m. on Sundays.)

“Let’s have an ice-cream,” I said to R.

“Can we also have cheesecake?”

R is fixated upon cheesecakes lately, ever since we got back from Vienna. He has fallen so head over heels in love with cheesecake that even chicken has started feeling envious.

“Okay, let’s go out and explore our options.”

What is marriage if not a little bit of me, a little bit of you, I reasoned. On Saturday evenings, I am all zen-like. Nothing can touch me. I am as pleased as a hummingbird who has discovered a tree-full of fruits and is chirping away like a deranged creature.

We saw ice-cream parlours. We saw bakeries with cheesecake. We saw hipster ice-cream parlours that sold cheese-flavoured softies.

And then we found this.

Frozen Bottle

This delightful, decadent jar of ice-cream, cake and fresh mango all whipped up together. This slice of bliss hiding in Lane No. 6 of Koregaon Park though I hear they have more branches across Pune. It’s deliciousness come alive in a jar.

I have always loved experimenting with food and eateries. While some experiments succeed, others fail majestically. The latter tempt R to stick to a safety net when we eat out and give me curious glances as I make my order. But Saturday evenings like these? They reinforce R’s faith in me and my choices. Good for you, you cute-little-mango-icecream-cake thingamajig!

My Sleep(y) Resolution

Tomorrow, I will wake up before the sun.

I will make myself a cup of steaming, fragrant coffee and drink it sitting on the balcony, listening to the early risers among the birds. I will let my mind fill with beautiful thoughts about the dawn clouds, a little blue, a little white, just like human existence. I will have a whole hour or two to myself before I need to delve into the sweaty, rushed world of making breakfast, getting ready for work, and hoping I could instead lounge in my armchair, reading the eager book sitting on my bedside table. Continue reading