2019: Three Hundred and Four

When I traveled to Bangalore, I was entrusted to the care of four primary care-givers: my mothers’ parents, her sister, and her brother-in-law. I was also entrusted to the community of caretakers that resided in the city – across my parents’ families, ranging to everyone’s cousins. I was the youngest – on both sides, which meant I was pampered everytime I came into the city by a range of people. My great-grandparents have been living with my grandmother’s brother for as long as I can remember, and my great-grandmother still does.

Today I visited their household. I’ve had the fortune of visiting them in all cities they’ve stayed in (since my birth) barring one, and they’ve played a key role in so many memories I have of Bangalore. Visiting them and spending time there is always a reminder of that. Today, though, Uncle dropped me back pretty much 10 minutes away from our house, and I sat behind him on his scooter. I don’t recall ever sitting behind him when I was a child – although I’m sure I have. In that moment, though, I felt like a 6 or 7 year old he was basically protecting. Uncle has that aura, and it’s something I cherish deeply about our relationship. He’s fiercely loving.

So much so that he’s tolerated me lying about doing my holiday homework for the entirety of my summer vacation. Our daily routine was this. He’d leave for work. I’d tell him I’d do some of my holiday homework before he got home. Then I’d sit and watch TV all day. He’d come home and ask about my holiday homework. I would tell him I’ve done nothing. He would laugh and make me laugh about it. And this cycle repeated for a month.

It was great. Best time of my life.

Then in the evening, I went out to Blossoms and Brik Oven. Being on MG Road has always been special for me, because I’ve been able to discover and appreciate it – and it’s surrounding areas only after moving away from Bangalore. I didn’t pick up any books, although I surfed across pretty much every aisle and found a bunch of great titles, but I did make more memories with a school classmate – and that’s worth everything to me at the moment.

 

2019: Three Hundred and Three

Bangalore weather has had the impact only Bangalore weather can have on my body. I slept, windows open, wind gusting through my bedroom, under two rugs – without disturbance, till noon. My aunt woke me up because her feeling was that it was too much sleep. I must agree. Sleeping for longer would have just taken away from a whole day in the city. It’s not like I had too many special plans, but it’s always a pleasure to be in your home city, and well – I wanted to while away my time awake.

I woke up, had a rapid shower, and got onto reading the paper and doing a quick catch up with the news. Then I wore a pair of pyjamas, a jacket, some socks, and sat on a recliner sofa in the house, with my laptop playing reruns of The Big Bang Theory.

A few episodes in and it was lunchtime. My aunt had made masala dosas – and of course I had missed breakfast (a repeat of Pune, really), so my lunch was that and some amazing radish sambhar.

The couch beckoned me with its warmth, and so I returned to surf the internet. Then Bangalore decided that the heavens ought to open up – and I decided to mark that arrival with some chai and Parle G.

Then I took a trip to Forum Mall.

I’ve always regarded Forum as the original Bangalore mall. Its been around forever. I don’t quite know its’ exact history, but I do know that I’ve visited the mall on some holidays – to spend time at Landmark more than anyplace else. I also have fond memories because I picked up rap albums for my birthday in Grade 7 when my parents took me to Landmark. That was a strange trip. It was odd because we must’ve spent half the day or so there – hunting around for gifts. We must’ve looked at the blurbs of easily 30 to 40 books, and I rejected all of them before deciding to look at toys. That produced no results either. Ultimately, I purchased the new Lil Wayne album – something I hold dear to me because it’s the last actual album record/piece of music I purchased (not discounting a subscription to Spotify Premium which I now own). Forum was also where I’ve had happy memories waiting to meet people who study at the nearby Christ University – the mixture of eagerness and anxiousness to meet the people you love, and the doughnuts you consume throughout that wait.

Today, I was there to meet up with an old friend. Panda and I have been friends since I was in Grade 11. He was my first “jamming” buddy, and the only guy I know who has evolved my taste in music and my ability in music production. Today, we caught up – but it was almost like we were fresh friends. For the first time, we discussed our interests outside of music. I guess that happens when you’ve only been in touch over the internet for the past 4 years.

And then I met V at Cafe Coffee Day for a grossly overpriced hot chocolate – a typical end to a Jayanagar day.

Being back is warmer than I thought it would be. It’s typical of Bangalore – it may blow cold outside, but it’s glowing bright and warm inside.

2019: Three Hundred and Two

I left Pune today. My time with my grandmother on this trip has come to a close, and we return now to our grand old tradition of Sunday calls – one of the constants that dates back decades, and keeps me grounded when things go astray. She made rasam for lunch again, which was an absolute delight, and I passed into a true food coma as my aircraft took to the skies.

For in-flight entertainment, I had downloaded podcast episodes to keep me company. I haven’t tried one of these in a while, and recently discovered that Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, two of the stars of the hit TV show, The Office (US) started a podcast called Office Ladies. The first two episodes were pretty good – barring the advertisement breaks. Truly, capitalism is everywhere. It was nice to have them in my ears though, it did really provide some company (and some good insight) for the flight in my waking minutes.

Descending into Bangalore, I was struck by how you can never tell what a trip like this means to your co-passengers. On a single aircraft, there are always atleast a 100 difference motivations for taking a particular flight – and we never know (unless we interact) why people are with us on that one. For some, it could be their first trip to Bangalore, some could be flying in for a business trip, and some, like me – just visiting home. That thought – of the range of factors that bring people to a particular city, was one I soaked in.

Especially given that I could potentially be seeing Bangalore a little lesser in 2020.

I got home to my Chikamma’s place and ate more rasam for dinner (the lemon kind), and freaked out on some gulab jamuns she had gotten. Everyone clearly knows how to pamper me.

The week should see some of the stuff I love about this city the most, including my classmate V’s company, and Hari Super Sandwiches. Should be a good one.

2019: Three Hundred and One

Today is my last full day in Pune. I really just wanted to spend time with my grandmother, so that’s precisely what I did. We spent the day finishing up some chores she had around the house, eating lunch and napping away. Makes for a good day spent.

It rained here today. There was a burst of sunlight in the morning, which made me really excited about the warmth coming into the house. That quickly faded, and the rain began to hit us around 4. While it cancelled (rather, delayed) our plans to go visit the temple, it gave me some time to get up and go to the window and get wistful about my youth.

I’ve chronicled my experiences in India on the blog before. I spent a large amount of time just growing up over summers here and spending time in the care of grandparents and chikammas adnd chikappas. While I learnt a lot, I think I learned how to despise the rain more than anything else. It ruined everything fun about the vacations. My breaks in Pune especially. We had a really slow dial-up connection, so I stayed away from the computer at home. My entertainment source was my PSP and the television – I caught up on all the Indian TV I missed out on when I was in Dubai, learning about Pokemon and such. I think my first source of anger was the fact that the TV wouldn’t receive signal when it rained.

Then there was the obvious – the increased number of mosquitoes and insects, and the feeling of rain and dirt mixing together on the street. The getting hit with muddy footballs and diving around in the slush – I really didn’t enjoy any of it.

I stood today peeking over the window-sill as the rain hit the floor, mixing with the mud on the street and it evoked those memories instantaneously. Except today I’m old enough to have no real feelings about the rain. I just dislike getting drenched. Everything else, I’m okay with. It’s a weather phenomenon I’m usually grossly underprepared for (I don’t generally roam around with an umbrella because it’s never become habit). It was then that I realized I had actually grown.

The last three days have been blissful. I’ve slept so much.

Off to Bangalore tomorrow, and the adventures that beckon me there till next week.

2019: Three Hundred

Happy Deepavali to readers of the blog! And what a fine number to celebrate this occasion, with this being my three hundredth post of the year (and the three hundredth day).

Last year, I wrote about how I spent the festival alone while working in the office. It was my first week in Mumbai, and I was experiencing corporate culture by being chucked into the deep end. I enjoyed the exposure and learnt a lot, but spending the festival without sweets and stuff pushed a lot of things into perspective.

This year, I’ve been celebrating the festival by spending the day with my grandmother. I arrived in Pune with the sole ambition of sleeping off my semester/exam woes and spending large portions of the day without doing too much. The festival provided fresh opportunity to do just that – but celebrations demand some break in routine. For me, this was waking up earlier than normal to have my hair oiled, take a shower, and then have breakfast. Then I spent some time with my little cousin, and then returned home to be with my grandmother.

People celebrate this festival in a lot of ways. Fireworks, lighting lamps, generally decorating, and wearing new clothes. Sweets are often included. A lot of people are visited/come to visit and generally, there’s a lot of cheer. All of these have the commonality of celebrating light, and the presence thereof.

Last year, Deepavali gave me the opportunity to think about loving myself – and enjoying my own company.

This Deepavali, I had the opportunity to reflect on the last two months and truly think about the celebration of light. The existence of the phenomenon also implies the existence of darkness. You celebrate the extinguishing of the darkness when you acknowledge the occurrence of light. So too it goes with people. We’re all made of light and dark. Celebrating the light requires an acknowledgement of the dark. Defeating the dark mandates the invocation of the light.

When I meet people henceforth, I’m always going to remember that. I also reckon I’m going to remember it about myself. As a person, my identity is defined by everything that happens to me, and everything I do: the light, the dark, the grey.

All I’m going to ensure is that I’m constantly moving toward the light.

That’s enough philosophizing for the day I think.

Happy Deepavali, everyone!

2019: Two Hundred and Ninety Nine

I’m in Pune with my grandmother. I’ve slept through most of the day today, with the remaining part of the day spent eating gulab jamuns and saaranna. I’m well and truly being pampered and showered with affection and love. I’m also relaxing. There are no deadlines, there’s nothing to respond to, no e-mails to write. Just this blog, which I sort of got out of bed to type out.

It’s uncanny that things work out the way they do. Everytime I come to Pune, I find myself at odds with the kind of connectivity I experience when I am here. I’m mostly grateful that it enables me to be a little underground, but the lack of internet and the troubling phone network sometimes gets to me. It’s pushed me far too underground at times – not a place I’m comfortable being. I thrive on being able to engage with people, and to lose that ability, virtually, is a little difficult. It’s why I struggle with being off WhatsApp at times. I enjoy being able to respond to people, and have conversations. Staying in touch gives me happiness. But everytime I come to Pune, I realize that (a) I’ll spend less time than I usually do on my phone, and (b) that my messages deliver to people slowly, sometimes with a massive lag. I prepare myself mentally for that, but I usually get a little irritable around day 2 of the trip – just because of the fact that my messages aren’t delivering, or I’m unable to hold a conversation with someone I like speaking to.

So of course, at a time where I have virtually not too many people to speak to, nothing to respond to, really, and I don’t really need the internet for the next couple of days – the connectivity in and around this house appears to be spiking. Signal strength is still relegated to a singular bar on the cellular icon on the right corner of my mobile’s display, but things are working fine enough for me to video call my parents at length, and to play multiple rounds of Call of Duty: Mobile multiplayer.

What luck.

Other than that, today I heard my paternal grandmother speak about my maternal grandmother. I’ve always been curious about the relationship that two in-laws (so to speak) share with each other. You’re not really blood relatives. You only enter each other’s lives when you’re an “adult”, and you share a relationship by virtue of your children sharing a relationship. I wonder sometimes how difficult that is to establish, and to navigate. Or in general, to learn to trust.

My grandmothers just spoke about me. They both literally cook me the same food (to be honest, everybody does – because it’s the only thing I like eating [gulab jamuns and saaranna]), and they spoke about how my paternal grandmother has the opportunity to enjoy Diwali with me, and how I’d then go to Dubai and see my maternal grandmother. Then they spoke about how my parents were taking care of my grandparents there – showing them around the city and such.

In that moment I realized that I’m just a combination of all these gene pools. I also accepted all the affection being showered upon me in its entirety. I’m not going to be loved (flaws and all) anywhere the way I am at home. There’s no place that’s going to help me when I’m sad the way home does. There’s not really a single place that’ll give me the amount of joy home brings and the amount of affection home brings to me.

I’ve always struggled with defining what home is. In large parts this is because of how comfortable I am everywhere I go – and how I refer to each place I survive in as home. That definition tweaked a little for me today. I still think home is where I am – but in some parts, I think it’s where I search for, and find those feelings. That comfort, that warmth, that joy. That affection.

And all those gulab jamuns and saaranna.

[For the uninitiated: saaranna is rasam and rice. It is an amalgamation of the Kannada words saaru, meaning rasam, and anna, meaning rice. Saaru’s literal translation is “essence”, and it’s commonly described on the internet as a lentil soup prepared with sweet-sour stock and tomato extract, along with garnish. It’s actual translation is love.]

2019: Two Hundred and Ninety Eight

Another one bites the dust. I have to get through one more semester and I will be a B.A.,LL.B. (Hons.) graduate. Time really does fly.

This isn’t a post for nostalgia though. Next April and May will see a lot of that, don’t you worry. This is a post for reflection.

This has been by far the toughest semester I’ve experienced on campus at my University. I lost several things, gained several things. I took a bit of a hit professionally that got to me. Took a personal hit that’s gotten to me as well. The gains I’ve had from these experiences thus far have been immense. Today, I’m just grateful for the learning curve and the amount of time I’ve had to reflect about myself. It’s been a challenging semester, but I pushed through it day after day, and my reward has arrived – a two-month holiday and some time with my grandparents and my family.

As I stepped out of the exam hall in the evening and headed back to the Boys Hostel, I noticed a lot of cars and cabs waiting to pick people up – people who had their flights scheduled. A lot of goodbyes were said, a lot of wishes were wished, and for a while, time seemed to pause. When I walked past these scenes, all I noticed was the eagerness to get away for a while. To go home. To get to that internship. To go back to old friends and fond memories. To spend some time away and come back to the people you spend 24 hours a day seeing.

Around 9pm I noticed the hostel was empty.

That quiet gave me a second to remember December 2017 and the month I had the fortune of working here in the same quiet. The kind of clarity that gave me is incomparable. I had a moment of clarity today too, in the quiet.

Today, that’s what I’m grateful for. That small moment of clarity I had after I finished my ninth semester.

I’m going to come back in 2020 as a final-semester student of this University.

For now, I shall fly to Pune. Where I will spend time with my paternal grandmother, away from an internet connection (but with hotspot), and surrounded by affection and food.

Life’s looking up.

2019: Two Hundred and Ninety Seven

I’ve slept through most of today, genuinely. Tomorrow’s exam portion does not look intimidating, and for most of us in the fifth year, I feel like the exams are something we’re done with. I don’t think anybody feels like studying for tomorrow’s paper at all. The subject is also something that has limited objective content, and a vast amount of subjective application to normal content – which gives us the freedom to figure stuff out as the paper goes on.

That gave me the confidence to sleep in.

Today’s UNO Day. My roommate woke me up (or tried to) by reminding me about this fact. He cheerfully said that one day he’d like to see me celebrating it at the UNHQ.

It’s the smallest acts of kindness that remind you what to anchor yourself to. They sort of reinforce who you are and what your goals are – and the kind of person you want to be. That kept me going today, and it’s the random act of kindness I’m most grateful for.

2019: Two Hundred and Ninety Six

I already wrote a really long piece today, so I don’t fully have the stamina to write another one.

It’s been a rough evening coming to terms with what transpired. I’m actually just going to miss Dr. Gemson, nothing else.

My last exam is titled Professional Ethics and Professional Accounting System. I’m not sure what I need to study for that so I’ll figure that out tomorrow and move from there.

Dr. ‘Gem’son

It’s always difficult to receive news about someone’s passing. Death is not one of those things you get fully used to hearing about, thinking about, or witnessing. For me, it’s always been the same cycle. Each time I hear about someone’s passing, my brain flashes back instantly to my last memory with them, then rewinds back to my first memory with them, and slowly fills in the gaps. Right from start to end. It’s almost like a ticker tape, tick-tick-tick, which each tick marking off one less time I would be able to enjoy someone’s company. It’s not like I knew that then, but each time these memories play back for me, I find myself wondering if I’d interact with them any differently, or if there’s something else I would say to them. If I knew this was the last time I’d get to see them, definitively, would I do something different to ensure that my last memory offered closure?

I struggle to find the answer. Each time I hear about death, this cycle repeats, and I come up short, torn between the possibility of a perfect final memory, tailored to suit the human mind, and the affliction that is the human condition – unwise about the future.

And so too did my brain work away today when I returned from my exam to see a message on my phone about Dr. Kamala Gemson’s passing.

I’ve always shared a close relationship with the doctors who have treated me. My parents cultivated that at a very young age. This habit of developing relationships with those who are in the service sector. I’ve been fortunate to have had excellent medical care available to me throughout my life, even within my family (through my father’s brother), and that has in some part contributed to the kind of value I assign to the work they do. But it wasn’t always this way. I remember wondering why, as a child, we drove 40 minutes to go see the doctor. I was very sure there were other Paediatricians who were close by. I was also fairly certain I could find an Ophthalmologist within 10 minutes. Yet, whenever I fell ill enough to warrant a trip to the doctor, one of my parents hopped me into the car, and drove me straight to Unicare. I remember sitting on the couch and watching Tom & Jerry reruns till my name was called by a familiar face, and taken to another familiar face where I was greeted with a smile by Dr. Samitha. 10 minutes later I was fairly certain I could conquer the world, despite my insides protesting.

Graduating into adulthood was disconcerting that way. I no longer visited a Paediatrician and ended up acquainting myself with all sorts of fancy terms like the ENT, the Orthopaedic, and identifying whom my parents would take me to each time I fell sick. Moving to Bangalore presented its own challenges – not in the least because I was a skeptical soul about everything that was Indian, including the quality of medication and doctors (which is ridiculous, considering that my doctor in Dubai was also an Indian), but that’s just how my brain was wired.

Enter Dr. Kamala Gemson. Rather, I enter into Dr. Gemson’s cabin.

Dr. Gemson was experienced. I could tell that very quickly, not in the least because she used fountain pens like the ones my dad described to me when I was young – with a gold nib and a gold cap. She wore her half-moon (almost) glasses in the middle of her nose while reading the newspaper, and chuckled, gesturing to my mom and me to take a seat, and smiling. This was the first time she had seen me. My mum and she had interacted previously, but I was a blank slate to her.

And slowly she worked her magic. It started with biodata – my age and such and moved to whether I was allergic to any medicines, to which I prayed deference to my mother. Soon, like with Dr. Samitha, I felt confident enough that my throat would eventually come around. I remember asking my mother what kind of a doctor she was, and hearing the phrase “Family Physician” back. That did it for me. Through several trips (thanks to my immune system) to Dr. Gemson’s cabin, I gleaned that she was truly a Family Physician. Not because she cared for all age groups, and all sorts of illnesses, but because you may have walked in a stranger, but you always walked out as Family.

It’s so weird. I’m sitting here smiling as I type these nice things about Dr. Gemson, but my memories of her are associated with two of the physically most excruciating experiences I can recall. Both stitches. Both the result of horrible incidents. Both patched up by her. The first time I injured myself badly enough to warrant these things, my mum and I looked at each other confounded by what these things were. My mum’s seen me hurt myself way too much. Both my parents have. But for the first time, we had no idea what the repair procedure was. I remember crying in the car on the way there scared that it would hurt like crazy when I was getting stitched up, and asking my mom how bad it would hurt on a scale of 10. My mom called Dr. Gemson up, informed her we were on our way to the clinic, and Dr. Gemson was there. Sutures and all, needle in hand, ready to fix up my arm.

The second time I got stitches I literally remember praying in the car that she would be in the clinic. I had to get them on my upper lip this time and I was scared as all hell, pretty certain I would faint the minute I set my head back on the bed. It took her 3 minutes, I think, and I went back home feeling mended. Repaired. Whole. Like a soft toy whose stuffing had come loose, I had been stitched back up, stuffing intact.

Dr. Gemson helped me quickly finish off attesting medical records before I came to University. She helped me figure out my first first-aid and medical kit, which has lasted me pretty much through my five years. When I went back home and fell sick at the end of my first semester because my body forgot how to Bangalore, Dr. Gemson gave me the drugs that reminded my body what home felt like.

I interacted with her lesser and lesser over the years, because there was a doctor in Gandhinagar to help me out, but whenever I fell sick in Bangalore, I would ensure I had the opportunity to see her.

My last memory with her is actually me stopping by her cabin to tell her I was entering my final year of law school. And as always, she smiled, told me I had grown (she always meant I had become plumper, I saw right through her), and wished me the best. We caught up on what her schedule was like these days – and as I left her cabin, I noticed how thin her hair had become. As I had grown, so she had aged.

I left.

You never think that doctors die. It’s so weird to think the thought. The people who know the cure to the strangest things that afflict the human body – whether mental or physical, you always seem to think they’ll cure themselves. When my dad’s brother got married to another doctor, I remembered thinking how he wouldn’t have to figure out which medicines to take for himself if he ever fell sick. I also envisaged them fighting over which medication would cure him quicker. But it’s weird. You never think they pass. I’ve never known a doctor who has.

And today I heard about Dr. Gemson. And it made me sad. I’m going to miss her service, and my family and I will hunt for a Family Physician to take care of us. But I’m going to miss the warmth of her smile. It was that warmth that helped me graduate into adulthood and seeing these adult doctors with a little more ease. As I came into my own, it was that grace that helped me remember answers to questions like “what all medication have you already taken?” and “what did you take last time?”. That prepared me for college, man. I’ve self-medicated a fair amount thanks to the guidance she imparted and etched in her squiggly handwriting (the stereotype about doctors is true and her fountain pen did not resolve the issue), and it wouldn’t have happened without her.

I just looked down at the scar on my elbow, where I injured myself and split my arm open after falling off my cycle, needing 5 stitches. Usually, when I look down at it deliberately, it stings – because I remember the pain of falling and crashing into the floor. When I looked down now, I just felt healed. Fixed. Repaired. We may no longer have Dr. Gemson with us, but as a patient, I carry some of her finest handiwork. That’s going to stay with me forever.

May she rest in peace. Amen.

2019: Two Hundred and Ninety Five

I went to sleep really early last night (11pm early), in the hope that I would wake up this morning rejuvenated and ready to study for Private International Law, my next examination. Instead, I woke up this morning hungry & sleepy – a combination that doesn’t really spell out “energy”.

It took a cold water shower to knock me properly awake. A cold-water bucket-bath if we need to be (and we always need to be) accurate with our descriptions.

Through the day I’ve suffered from grogginess, and I slept for about 3 hours in the afternoon. Tonight is going to be a long night – I knew that coming into this subject, but the sleep I’ve slept means it’s going to be slightly longer than I anticipated.

Exams bring a strange kind of discipline to people. While mine is limited to the amount of sleep I ensure I give myself (although not in a conventional sleep cycle), I’ve noticed that for others it extends to a timely intake of food (people flock to the mess at 8pm sharp in large numbers), a lot of individualism (more people have earphones in wherever they’re walking), and generally, a higher consumption of caffeine. People might say, “well that’s not discipline”. I’d argue otherwise. Consistency is discipline. People are consistent during exam-time. They find something that works for them and they stick to it. That’s discipline enough, to be honest.

I really want to think about changing the way this blog interacts with people who are interested in reading it. Maybe that’s something I’ll think about and implement over the winter as well – in newsletter form, or some other mechanism.

In other news, I have 3 days to meeting my paternal grandmother, and I’m really pleased to be able to go to her soon.

2019: Two Hundred and Ninety Four

Today’s exam was interesting. It was the first exam I’ve had in Law School where I’ve had sufficient time to write in my own handwriting. When I write normally, I’m fond of using cursive. I like the style, and I particularly enjoy weaving it with my fountain ink pen. It usually brings me moments of joy, and a lot of comfort because it’s so deep-rooted in my memory. I’ve been writing in cursive since Grade 2, and it was a genuine struggle to get it to look decent, not in the least because of the way pencils used to smudge as I wrote across my book with my left-hand.

However, college exams have meant my handwriting has taken a turn for the worse. In the exams, I write to make sure my letters are discernable, but ensure that where I do not know case names fully I write just about enough to make them think I do. I don’t know how effective I’ve been in employing the skill, but till date, I haven’t got in any trouble for the writing. I’ve always walked out of the exam hall a little disappointed in myself – knowing that the representation of the words on paper have never fully accurately represented me, and my identity. I know it’s counter-intuitive. Exams are meant to have anonymity to ensure a lack of vindictive marking or any form of discrimination by faculty members. However, I find comfort in leaving my representation on whatever I write. To have that opportunity stolen away from me owing to lengthy question papers, an inability to write quickly, and a lot to write – it’s always heartbreaking.

Today’s question paper has just made me pleased, as a result. I’ve written in cursive that Grade 11 Tejas (who was undoubtedly at peak cursive levels) would be proud of.

I left a little bit of myself on that paper. It was a Drafting exam, so I not only had the opportunity to leave a mark in the form of my handwriting, but in terms of some of the  names and aliases I assigned to the parties to the various instruments I was expected to draft.

Things aren’t great – but they’re on the mend.