Of Bullets and Time.


I lucidly remember those Sundays from my schooling years when, Mum would make my favourite vegetable upma and, I would impatiently yell – “Ma! Chandrakanta will start in 5 minutes! Please make the upma fast!” As a family, we never missed even one episode of that serial that was aired on DD then. Right when the song ended, the steaming vegetable upma would be simmering hot in our plates, ready to be devoured as our eyes and soul were transported to a different era where fighters like Sabhya were fighting monsters like Krur Singh! (the two characters I remember vividly)

Even our gardener then who also took care of some house errands, Mukhesh Bhaiyya would have this breakfast along with us, while we all sat glued to the television. I think we had a TV with a peculiar name – Grundig. Listening to the name now brings a suppressed giggle in me even now. (Right now, it sounds as if Gru from Despicable Me was asked to dig….given that long nose of his! )

It was mum who always decided which brand in appliance would get the privilege of becoming a member of the 98th house on the block! And so, Grundig came home! And it is here, I would like to mention that my parents are reckless choosers when it comes to vehicles and appliances. Let me tell you why. A decade before my biological admission into the Subramanian – Venkataraman gene pool, my father owned a bullet – Enfield (I do not know the model). He and his colleagues purchased that bike while they were stationed in Orissa. And my mum recounts till this date as to how the other bikes of this brand died on their owners within a year. The bikes landed themselves in shops where they were dismantled or perhaps remodelled for good. Apparently, that model went out of business faster than it entered. But, my dad’s bike was like Marley. It survived the tart tests my dad subjected it to. One of my closest friends who is 12 years my senior, was very much a witness to my parents’ lives before I was born. And, he would regale me with ‘Enfield tales’ about how my father would actually dismantle the whole bullet, study the parts, do some mechanical stuff and then put it back! In fact, the bike had bonded with my father just like a soul mate does. 
The bullet stayed with us for more than fifteen years, long after its siblings had left the world. I still remember the horrible noise it used to make. Given that, I grew up in times when silent bikes were in vogue, I would feel embarrassed when my father chose to ride his bike to my school for PTMs, despite us owning a car! He would then tell me – “You would never understand a man’s love for bikes!” Somehow, I was hit by Déjà vu when my husband uttered the same lines after marriage. Rather, my husband has named his bike – Laila. And, when I named my active the same, he got annoyed. Well, I did not see any patent on that name. Even Alif did not. Right? 

So, talking about this bullet that my father owned, it soon caught the attention of our milkman who used to come on a bullet from a recent generation, to deliver milk at the door step. And, then began the wooing. It took the milkman about two years to convince my father that he was a genuine buyer who would not only take care of the bullet with all love and affection but would also bring it to meet him everyday. The deal happened. The milkman kept his promise. However, my father soon found that his age that brought other ailments was a deterrent in the love between his now gone bullet and him. TVS Scooty happily took the bullet’s place. 

And, time has surely flown by since then. But, there are those precious moments from the past that often visit one time and again reminding how simple, uncomplicated and serene life was then, of course leaving aside struggles of a different kind. As a family, our fights over who gets to read Outlook and India Today first or, my own nasty fights with my mum who has spanked me like there was no tomorrow when I hid Readers Digests between my academic books….those memories visit me every now and then..!! 

And we have all come a long way indeed. Off late, my father is not keeping well and, my mother who is a pillar of resilience and strong will, has begun to feel the unrest, given that she has seen more storms than sunshine in her life. Rather, both have sailed through reprehensible waves of dark times and, have stood well to the tests time subjected them to. Today, as I sit more than 2000 kms away from them, I feel how distance can make you taste the bitter wait of time. The past one week was a blur for me given my own sprained muscle below hip and worse, the son being afflicted by measles and then, the news of my father not well. 

Happy moments are like soap bubbles that are meant to melt into the air…..they are like those balloons that would go high above once the thread is let off….
And talk about moments we fear……those pregnant fears as I address them, are the ones that keep us grounded. They make sure that happiness does not overwhelm us. They make sure that we watch our boundaries with a hawk’s eye. They are our gate keepers, despite being nasty ones! 

And, time! Time is a strange mentor. He is like Pa Mei. He makes you feel the raw stab of hurt and helplessness every now and then. He gives you the experience of what it feels like to be pushed under the water for time that seems like eternity. He gives you that feeling of being trapped in a box with no where to escape. This period reminds me of my own brush with myasthenia gravis. I remember the nightmare of my life vividly. Lying helpless in the ICU with no speech, impaired vision and a heart condition, I had come face to face with my worst fears. And, somehow that moment which seemed like it would never end passed but not without making me feel the pain that uncertainty put me through. It was a phase where the mind was racing at a million miles per second while the body could not even muster enough energy for the fingers to clutch the comforter that was on me. And, it is not my own pain but the pain my near and dear ones were going through, that threw me down in a dark abyss of nightmares that had no bottom. It was only when I hit the bottom after a surreal experience of floating between incoherent worlds, I realized I had only myself to bank on. Because mind is infinitely powerful if understood. Train the mind and, one can instantly feel the paradigm shift in the energies influencing the body. It was only when I felt like Buckminster weasel on the verge of getting sucked into Rudy’s gut, I gathered that acceptance. Acceptance of what cannot be changed overnight has a great impact on how one thinks and acts. 

For instance, a throat sore is painful enough to induce fever and body ache. Even if it stays for half a day, the pain is intense enough to make one paranoid about it. Sometimes, the pain can be so intense that even a few hours feel like days. Like that tiny sore on the tongue can totally kill a gourmet experience. Or, say a small sprain in the muscle below the hip that prevents you from doing normal things like sitting, standing, walking and sleeping, can make the experience equivalent to climbing up a mountain. Worrying impetuously about situations that we cannot control any more than the weather is something that comes naturally to each one of us. No matter how well we know about the mind’s ability to influence the body, we all succumb to the fears of unknown. Sometimes it is like standing at the point where you can see the waves of the ocean snarling at you, intimidating you with its abrupt movements towards you and, you either stand there with the fear of being sucked into the chasms of death or, with the hope that something will definitely take you away from that pain of wait. Oh yes….that pain of waiting for a catch 22 situation to diffuse is like waiting for a dead one to come back. The pain feels like eternity. But in reality, the pain does not heal as such. It is just that acceptance of life gets the scars tattooed and, propels the soul to move on from the ennui. 

They say, we need to look forward into future all the time. I agree. But, I say – Look intermittently into your past too. 

Because, past is a stark reminder of how far you have come. And, every time future looks bleak and blurry, it is the past that itches those scars of pain to let one know that if heavens are important, so is hell. 

Because, the past is that mirror that reiterates your verve every now and then. 

Because if you never experienced hell, you would never truly understand heaven. 

While I write of bullets and time, I am as aware of the acid tests life is putting my near and dear ones to, much as mine. Like a couple who live in the constant fear of what will become of their mentally afflicted middle aged son after they are gone….or, that childless couple that feels a searing stab of pain every time they see their subordinates looking forward to visits from their grand children….or that sweet aunt whose husband walked out on her after three decades of marriage for another woman at a time when companionship matters most….or that dear friend who hasn’t married because her family needs her money…..
The lines that come to my mind….from the movie Amrit

Duniya me kitna gham hai….mera gham kitna kam hai…..

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