To Stay or to Go

Outside, its a beautiful morning. The sun is out, but not blistering. There's a small wind and a few clouds, and the promise of rain later. Rain: always holding out, with the hope of succour from desperate heat. The days get hotter and hotter, like a test of endurance. You try to ignore it; remember the freezing, under-the-finger-nails-numbing winters gone past and enjoy the heat. You try to ignore it, and go on with your day. You try to concentrate on your swing and ignore the ticklish feeling of sweat forming on your face. You try to ignore the sweltering oppressiveness and focus on your thoughts, the road, the other cars, the person talking to you, the journey.

Just as you are almost ready to give up, then the rains come.

First there are just a few stray drops whispering on your face, on your arms as they stick out of the window, on the windshield. Swiftly the tempo increases till there's a curtain of water all around your space. The window is covered with the constant drumming of drops. Wet crows screech in jubillient laughter. The world dims, through the sheer cover. Raindrops glisten on window panes. The light turns dim and silvery. The big red flowers on the trees shine polished. The streets are littered with torn leaves and twigs. And children dance joyfully in the wet.

Almost everybody is smiling. The rain is relief from the heat. And the clouds are the promise, the hope.

Back in my morning, down the corridor, in still dark rooms, my mother and sister sleep on. I want to wake them, for a shared morning cup of tea, but I know they went to bed late and dont need to wake up for a long time yet. The desire to sneak into their beds and cuddle up with them almost overwhelms me. But I steel my heart, and let the brush of a kiss and carress suffice.

I make my second cup of coffee: strong, sweet, black and lukewarm. I am slowly getting used to instant coffee again. I tell myself a few more minutes idling will not kill me; or my career.(;) There was a time when I would have added: 'same difference', but that phase of life is going with the wind. Thats another scary transition. Having identified with something for so long, having made an institution my saviour, my last chance, my belated battlefield, to try one last time to prove myself to myself - or die trying, to have made that one thing everything, holier than any religion - substitue for everything else - its strangely unsettling to try and move to a new pasture. I steel myself and try not to think about it.

How much steel-ing we do in a day ...

Every morning, I fight a massive surge of desire to stay back in this moment, this morning, this, my favourite time of the day. I want to just not go to work for a day and stay home with them. They are and will be on their own trips. With their own friends. Their own work. Yet now and then I will get fleeting instants: fleeting hugs, fleeting kisses, fleeting jagged edged, shining, beautiful pieces of conversations. Its enough. Having been exiled for so long, from a place I came to late and never really lived in, 'being home' with all its implications, is a potent addiction.

Little things like the 4 people under the same roof, like her in a sari, in red and white, with vermillion and white and red wristcuffed, for us, by us, of us ... strange dreams and desires, little things like her making food, like waking up with the little thing, like being driven somewhere by him, or him remembering which one of us is called what, or her remembering something i like to eat ... small things like shared memories, shared times together, shared history, little rights, priviledges and places at the table and in the sitting room ... things most people take for granted, grow up with, have enough of and surfeiting long to grow away from. We never had enough. We never could surfeit.

Its hard for most people to understand how it would feel to grow up fragmented. Many 'parents', many gaurdians, many homes, whole lot of love and affection, but never in one place for long enough. Always steeled for the switch from one environment to the next, one set of people to the next, you soon learn loyalties and things like that only make it hurt worse. You learn to 'love' whoever is at hand whenever. Because even then, you need to love. Your needs, and you are so dependant then, are catered to by so many, like juggling balls in reverse, that 'trust' is a concept you never learn, because to forget, to think that it was someone else's turn today to do the needful (to lend a lift home from the nursery, or keep in the evening after, or get coke and chips for friends for birthday party, or leave keys under doormat) is too easy, to human, to often.

Always on the roll, I miss the moss. There was only one constant, one anchor, one person who would not put career, or friends, or lovelife or 'her life' before you, specially if you were ill or scared, she'd be there. And now she's not there any more. Its a strange feeling. Its like a light going out: you know you can live in the dark, but it takes a while for your eyes to adjust.

And you grow a greed for human contact. For the strokes. For the laughter and chatter. Someone to listen to your prattling. Someone stay up for you. Someone to be selfless with you. Someone secure enough in their universality to not care if you're going or coming or hating or kicking or showering with love and affection. Someone who understands its all forms of the same thing. Someone to know when you're lying, scared, bluffing, hurt, hiding, angry, being calm, or trying to. Someone be a mother.

Below my desk, at my feet, is the yellow plastic basket, which held all my things whenever it was time to shift me from one set of arms to another, many years ago. I kick it with my feet as I write. In my cupboard, a snatch of white cloth torn from her last sari. Its dirt now and rag-ish. And in my old phone the last messages ("6th August, 2005: 1000 hours exactly: The fire is feeding"). And picture of me as she saw me, as she kept always in front of her. For the first time I see with semi-grown up eyes and see what she meant abt the look in its eyes. like a kid lost in a fair: torn between fear, incomprehension & fascination with the surroundings.

I keep holding on.

Once again, its time to go. I'm getting late. Need to decide whether to have my third cup or snap myself out of this mood of indulgence and get moving. But my 'self' says, whats the hurry. Why are you always pushing on. Where are you headed? Why are you headed there. Isnt this, here and now, everything you always dreamed of? Or did it come too late and too little to freeze my clock for?

And old song comes to mind ... "wahaan kaun hain tera, mussafir, chala hain kahaan?"

I'm late for work. Its past nine already and I havent even dressed. I need to go. Yet, I wonder why? Why do you have to go to work everyday? Why do you have to go to work at all? Why cant I stay home, where my family is, where its pseudo-familiar and wonderful?

Is it just a foolish illusion that makes us run every morning and keeps us running through our days? Or is it a misconception that makes us mistake laziness and intertia for wanting to stay back at home every morning: if I could understand that, I would solve this puzzle that tearing me up inside

Originally Posted at Prerona.

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