[Book Review] : How to be human

How to be human, Paula Cocozza.

” The comfort, that is the delusion of love, is an opiate beyond compare. ” – Katz

How to be human is a beautiful story of love, companionship, loneliness and madness. The tale picks up with Mary finding a baby at her door step. She holds the infant close to her heart. She decides to call the little one flora. As we , the readers, sit and wonder over the things we’ve read so far ; the story abruptly shifts its focus to the life of Mary.

Fresh out of a divorce, Mary is struggling to cope up with life. The irreconcilable reason for the divorce is a simple fact that she does not want to bring a child into this world while her husband, Mark, wants one. The fights lead to an inevitable moment in their life. A moment that is consumed by rage and anger, a moment that would fill the hearts with regret and resentment, a moment where words are uttered and lives are shattered. And bada boom, Divorce.

Mary turns to a shut-in. With fewer and fewer ties with the outside world, her world is consumed by the past. She wonders about the divorce, she wonders about her own relationship with her mother, she wonders about what ifs to life. Mary embraces the loneliness that is her current life. She accepts her fate and succumbs to it without much of a fight.

And then she spots a fox. A fox that invades both her garden and her life. Mary ferociously defends her house against her ex, Mark and odd enough, she doesn’t go all guns blazing when it comes to keeping the fox away. She finds him as an inconvenience and longs to get rid of the critter. The introduction of the fox has an unexpected effect on her life.

Mr Fox happens to be a charming fella. He’s smooth, cautiously intrusive but is neither hostile nor perceived to be that. His demeanour is rather gentlemanly. The fox soon wins the curiosity of Mary. She observes him at a distance and as the days start to grow, so does the fox on her. They both adjust to tolerate each other. The fox becomes a regular visitor in her garden and he always behaves well. Mary starts to find a sense of some misplaced comfort through the fox’s very presence.

This odd companionship inspires a change in Mary. She , without trying too hard, starts to adapt to the world around her better. In this human fox couple, She is the talkative one and he , Mr Fox, speaks through his nature’s intended body language. Mary makes meaning of everything about the fox. She manages to open up that channel of communication by correlating her own words and the response like reactions that the fox expresses.

Trippy and so far , so twisted good.

Rest of the story is about , who the hell is that infant Flora. Does Mary marry a fox? Will rabies replace Mary’s fear over having babies? Nasty pun but apt on the context.

The book is a wonderful journey of Mary’s emotions as she meets and greets the new Mr Fox into her life. She replaces the failed relationships with humans with a new relationship with a fox. Their conversations are unidirectional but that doesn’t stop Marry and her fox from having their dialogue. Your curiosity over where the roads would take them would keep your eyes glued to the book.

At the heart of this book, the central theme is that of love. What does it mean to love someone? When does love suffocate? Why do people love other people and importantly, why don’t some people ever love others?

Love, through Mary’s life is also about the nature of companionship. Love seems to be key in her fight against loneliness. Our lives do change when we lose the people that we once used to love. Mary’s desire for companionship and the fact that she finds that gratified by a fox is a testament to what makes us human. Our undying need to stay protected away from loneliness makes us human.

The other big , subtle theme is around how much humans endure in that battle against loneliness. I’m not surprised at all by how much one would choose to give, or even accept in order to build a bubble of delusion to keep that element of isolation away. With the tale, how far does Mary go is a question that keeps us hooked.

The final catharsis is quite a bliss to read. There are no ‘TA-DA’ moments to it. The sun doesn’t shine better or different, the time doesn’t pause to hint a difference, the world goes about its business and somewhere amidst all that , there is a pristine moment of a realisation.

The world indeed is a better place if you don’t house a black hole in your heart.

Two thumbs and definitely worth the time invested into the tale. You probably won’t feel disappointed.

Karthik

And coming up next : The state of freedom!

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[Book Review] The old devils

The old devils, Kingsley Amis

Cover page of The Old Devils

This is a book about old timers who’d have lived all their lives in the same town in wales. Their lives take a turn when Alun and Rhiannon decided to come back to the Wales and spend the remainder of their lives there. The arrival of the couple stirs up the neighbourhood and it does for a very good reason. Love.

Alun is an established author who follows the footsteps of Brydan, a welsh poet. Alun is a celebrity of sorts. Books, public appearance and interviews for the telly and the radio are his way of life. His wife Rhiannon, she’s something else. She coexists with her husband, doesn’t really come in his way. Together, they do make an enviable pair.

Alun’s friends , Peter & Muriel, Charlie & Sophie, Malcom & Gwen spend most of their time drinking the town dry. Everyday is an occasion to bid sobriety a farewell. Alun and Rhi quicky get inducted into the drinking games. The tale picks pace in establishing the lives of the old couples. Complications arise, because they bloody well would. Alun is promiscuous. Peter and Rhi were a couple at some point in the time before Peter got her knocked up and dumped her for someone else. Malcom and Rhi were a couple at sometime too. The men in the book go around rekindling the flame that had gripped their lives in the past. While secrets are kept close to the chest, the unspoken truth grows into a white elephant that is deaf, dumb and blind. Truth becomes an inconvenience which is not worth uncovering.

The tale is a wonderful example of how appearances can be deceiving. As we continue our journey through the tale, we take a closer look at the lives of the couple. Peter, for example, was a player in his youth. He was charming , seductive and had his way with women. In the present day where he is pushing 70, Peter’s life is lacklustre. He lives an isolated , alienated life with his wife who barely even acknowledges his presence in the house. Gone are his days of love and raging romanticism. His reality is void of any emotional connect at home. The two stay clear off each other. Peter longs for companionship and Muriel resents the very existence of Peter.

Charile on the other had is a man born for drinking, He drinks and drinks unconditionally. He battles his demons in the form of panic attacks. Charlie can’t endure being left all by himself. The dark and the loneliness gets to him. Sophie , and his brother Victor, ensure that they accompany him whenever they can. While it’s not explicitly implied, but one can fathom the dynamics of the relationship that Victor and Sophie share.

Malcom and Gwen’s lives take a turn because of Alun. Gwen an Alun were a thing. Alun and everybody else were a thing. Alun being Alun, complicates Gwen’s life. Gwen retaliates vocally under the influence of alcohol in a party. The friends reduce her hateful words as booze driven rage and set things aside.

The book is painfully slow. It does offer a subtle insight into a life of regret and resentment. In the book, nobody marries for love. The marriages are for convenience. Everybody harbours a longing that goes unrewarded for as long as it can. The stark difference between life in the prime of our youth and life of old age is wonderfully drawn. The strengths that we took for granted do vanish with time. While it’s easier to live a lie when we have the energy and zeal to compensate it, when it’s the time to slow down and sit back, the lies turn around to haunt.

My biggest take away from the book is about closure. I think it’s easier to wrap up a chapter in life and move on as long as we bag and tag the past and cast it aside, beyond our line of sight and hence beyond our realm of thought. Unless we reconcile with it, we’d never find peace with it, should the past catch up with us in the future. Considering life, the past always manages to catch up. The characters in the book are both victims of circumstances, are instigators of actions made of choices, and are aloof to owning their choices in a befitting manner. They all take to the bottle to keep their demons locked. They carry on for as long as they can maintain the faรงade.

This book ushers us to take a good look at the lies that we tell ourselves.

This is a slow book and it lacks sudden jump surprises. This book takes its time to establish the characters really well. If you endure it, it does reward you in parts. This is not a definite must read, but there is a happy ending of sorts, should that matter to you.

Karthik

Trains and coffee

“I don’t know. I don’t see a way out.” the sadness of my voice made its plea with words. I discretely wiped a gentle river of tears away from my eyes. I did hope that it would go unnoticed. Clearly, it wasn’t my day of luck.

“I’ll figure something out. Please don’t cry. I’m here now. We’ll find a way and do what needs to get done” he assured. I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, a girl could manage to get a break from the cruel talons of life.

Now that I think about it, it only takes mere moments for people to stop being strangers. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to know someone. I didn’t know David for all my life. The first time I noticed him was the morning train to work. He stood by the door, facing me. I glanced at him without an afterthought. That was that. I got off my stop and made it to work. I didn’t have a reason to spare a thought about him.

My life is a little complicated. I’m a simple girl and I’ve had a rather humble beginning. I walked into this land with hopes of a better life. I did find a better life and it was good for a while. I met my future husband at work. We both felt a mutual spark and we married soon. The troubles started slowly. There were days when my darkened glasses would mask my bruised face. The loving tender and care had soon vanished and had left behind booze fuelled rage and resentment. There were days when I saw more of his roughened fist than his caring face. I had quietly accepted my fate and had opted to succumb to the cruelties of destiny. This was my life and I couldn’t do anything about it.

It was one of those days when I noticed David. He had been taking the same train, always standing at a safe distance away from me. I was always in his line of sight, as was he on mine. I had seen enough of him to find his face familiar. He had the same kind blue eyes. I secretly wondered if he also had demons locked away behind his innocence.

A good two weeks later, he managed to muster up the courage to approach me. We had been neighbours on a train all the way. The one off glances had changed to acknowledged smiles. It wasn’t long before he had braved to speak. It wasn’t much. A generous offer for a cup of coffee. I didn’t see a harm in that. Sharing a cup of coffee with a stranger wasn’t the same as cheating. It wasn’t the same thing. It was always going to be an innocent cup of coffee.

A few cups of coffee later we realized that we had become friends. The Friday was sunny and the clouds had made way for the sun. It was a beautiful pleasant day to be outdoors. I had carried my dark sunglasses with me that morning. Things had gotten rough the previous evening. I needed someone in the world to know what I was going through. I needed someone to see me for what I was. I wanted someone to hear my trapped misery. David was all that I had.

I told him the horrors that I had accepted into my life. He was deeply saddened by it.

“I don’t know. I don’t see a way out.” the sadness of my voice made its plea with words. I discretely wiped a gentle river of tears away from my eyes. I did hope that it would go unnoticed. Clearly, it wasn’t my day of luck. It was all that I could manage to do. I had given my life the best that I could.

I do believe that in a world where Karma catches up. It wasn’t long before David came up with the solution. In his mind, a murder felt justified. It justified my pain. It justified a revenge and the most important thing to it , he knew it couldn’t be traced back to us. The simplicity of his plan terrified me. I couldn’t have imagined a sinister mind hiding behind his innocent eyes. I had made up my mind and had accepted to let fate take its course. I had to endure my cursed life for a month. Liberation was waiting for me on the other side.

It wasn’t long before David popped a proposal . It was the same coffee shop. It was the same David. I felt newer and livelier. Of course I said yes. I was always going to say yes. For good and for worse, David was the one that set me free. He had both my heart and my gratitude.

Now that I think about it, it only takes mere moments for people to stop being strangers. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to know someone.

“I don’t know. I don’t see a way out.” the sadness of my voice made its plea with words. I discretely wiped a gentle river of tears away from my eyes. I did hope that it would go unnoticed. Clearly, it wasn’t my day of luck. I had broken down in front of him.

Six months of a marriage later, I had met Michael. Same blue eyes. Same innocence. I knew there was a demon hiding away in plain sight.

“Please don’t cry. I’m here now. I mean it’s fate now aint it. We met on the train and now you have a problem and I think I know how to get that sorted” , Michael tried to console me.

As I said, I’m a simple girl with humble beginnings. Our coffee had arrived. A murder was in the horizon.

Karthik

A shoulder to go

I’ve never had trouble lending a shoulder to lean on. Offering a shoulder for folks to lean on is both a gesture and an emotion. It transcends the boundaries of age and gender. I’ve had friends across the spectrum rely on my shoulder , lean away in a comfort and loiter away in a maze of crisscrossing thoughts. Some times, being a good listener is all about keeping your shoulders open and mouth shut.

The comfort, as I’d call it, also was a service offered to the general public that was either in transit or on a routine commute. Yes. I’ve had strangers doze away in happy oblivion. I never did have the heart to discriminate and rudely awaken people. I let the heads be in their resting position and carry on with my book or music.

The thing about different days is that I usually can’t predict about the people who’d turn up and turn on their snooze button. I had the most awesome girl in the world who found her cozy comfort in my shoulder. Left shoulder to be exact. I’d place her at about less than a year of mileage in life. The morning train, as crowded as ever, she sat obediently for a while watching the strange giants around her. Her boredom inspired her to brave new conversations. A few stops later, the little lady got chatty. A world of her own, a language of her own. Rest of the world would find warm smiles , thanks to her presence.

As the train progressed on its predestined path, fatigue crept up on the little girl. She started to doze away into her slumber land. I’d sneak a glance from time to time and return my eyes to the book that I had in hand. A little person who had just started life , on my left. A book about a bunch of 70 year olds on the spectral end of life, in front of me. It wasn’t hard to ditch a concentrated focus on reading about life fading away into retired obscurity. With the little one now asleep, with the drama from moments ago vanished, I had no choice but to pay more attention to the book.

I felt a tender tug on my arm. The little one had lost balance and had found cushioned comfort in my arm. Her mother , in her pursuit of maintaining public decency and decorum, repositioned the kid a few times. Repetition ushered monotony. Thankfully, the mother gave up and let the kid be. I hadn’t even considered thinking about protesting for my personal space. It was a victory of convenience.

The thing about babies is that there are only two easy ways around them. One, either you make one or Two, you take one. I’ve not aligned myself to either of those opportunities. That said, I’ve not been a stranger to thoughts on having one. I still remember the pointless conversations that I’ve had in the past about them kids. Conversations destined to fade away in time and fade slower in thought. As chance would have it, I bumped into a wonderful kid the other day, when I was in Chennai. This kid was not any cuter than any other kid I’ve come across. This kid was not as familiar as other kids have been. Yet we shared a very small connection. We both knew it’s mom. If life hadn’t taken the course it had, there was a definite chance that that kid wouldn’t have been a stranger to me. Could have been mine.

It’s funny how life introduces moments. They pop in at a time least expected, they leave us impacted in ways unimaginable. When the events conspired, it left me with very few thoughts. A sign that I wasn’t the same bloke from the past. A sign that I had travelled a few miles from where I had once started.

It’s nice to know that an open shoulder goes a long way. Unperturbed by the comforts of once being shackled by chains of choice. Unperturbed by the uncertainties of chance. It felt nice to know that a shoulder left open ushers limitless possibilities that the future lines up. A shoulder to go on is a commitment to stay away from inertia. It is a reflection of an open mind, it’s a reflection of a willingness to give oneself a fair shot at life. Despite the challenges, right through the curve balls. It’s nice to know that I don’t know who the next stranger is who might make a dazed effort of borrowing a strangers shoulder. It’s a fantastic , insignificant, inconsequential subplot of the tale called life.

A smile and a toast to the many journeys in life.

Karthik

It happened one night

Lady luck has a profound sense of irony.

It happened one night is a template for destiny. Things just happen.

Speaking of luck and destiny, I do have a very soft corner for life’s many fairy tales. A picture perfect warm story of serendipity. As luck would have it, it was a conversation that kick started a string of other related conversations.

Do you know? A question was popped. My friends and some of their friends have managed it.

Oh tell me about it. I have a few friends who have managed it quite well too. But you know what?, I introspectively reflect. It never happens to me.

When it comes to an flight, I’ve never managed to get a free upgrade to class up my travel. I always fly for what I’ve paid for. I’ve never shared the row with a wonderful, engaging, conversationalist. I’ve never had the chance to play seated neighbour with a girl with them warm smile. That being said, there are certain things that I’m absolutely certain about. I always find myself sitting right next to a drunk slob. My neighbours tend to usually spill over from their seat and encroach into my personal space. My neighbours do have a tendency to skimp on deodorants and do manage to take my breath away.

Now that I think about it, I’ve never realized the eternal dream of a romantic fairy tale that starts with strangers seated next to each other who go on a fantastic journey of discovering each other. Nope. Zilch and I have better odds of being a CEO of a company than the other dream materialising. What’s ironic is the sense of certainty that I have when it comes to articulating about my tryst with Lady luck.

The dreams that I have are petty and are pretty inconsequential as far as life goes. While the conversation came to life about brushing aside the perks of such luck, it also ushered the seriousness of surviving an eternal spell of rotten luck. For instance, the things that we desperately want, need , desire, we never find ourselves finding it. Others seem coast through life without facing the challenges that we do. Similarly, if you feel altruistic enough, you do manage to realize that the things that we take for granted, there are so many people out there who would sell their soul to the devil to be in our place.

Hell in fact, my last evening in Chennai, I remember driving back with a single and a Single thought alone. I so wished that I could be someone else. I had even decided to sell my soul, burn the world just for a chance of being someone else. Without a moment to spare, I was very eager beaver to throw away everything that I’ve built in my life to embrace being someone. Cest la vie. That is life. Our treasures are someone’s scrap. Our scrap and junk is extremely precious to someone else. There is this gap that can never be bridged. We all must learn to live with it. We all must learn to accept it, go easy on ourselves and do what it takes to make our life mean something. It’s always been the only battle ever worth fighting. It’s the only battle worth aspiring a win. Be yourself. Continue to remain being yourself.

The ten hour flight was both horrible and eventful at the same time. While I could manage to lament my brush with luck, I also couldn’t help but feel thankful about the things that I have earned in this life. I have a bit of a character built from all the character building events from life. I am extremely lucky when it comes to the company that I keep. My friends will smack my head to knock some sense into my otherwise thick head. I am very lucky to have a very supportive family. I’m very lucky indeed to have a job, to have an ability to work that helps me play to my strengths. while some of the things that I’ve called out are beyond my control, many of them are an outcome of life’s many choices that I’ve managed to make. Each mistake has helped me make a slightly better choice. Each mistake that is waiting to be made would eventually help me learn a bit more about myself and the world around me. The key word is that while we feel that we are not in control of the million things that transpire around us, we ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS have the power and the birth right to make our choices. We either own our choices or we struggle to endure what that was a forced decision. Either way I view it, it always points back to the simple fact that we own our choices and the quicker we realize that we ought to accept it to survive, the lesser is our misery.

I’m not lucky with the fancy Disney fairy tales of life. I’m not lucky with the trinket miracles. I’m not the ‘It happens one night guy’. I do feel lucky that I’ve learnt and adapted myself to be the ‘I’m pretty certain that IF I work towards it, I might make it happen one night’ kind of a guy. Fortune favours the brave and the foolish. I kiss lady luck for bestowing me with the two traits that defines such literature heroes. I am blindingly foolish and courageous. Thanks Ms Lady Luck. Rest, I think I can manage all by myself darling.

So what’s your take on luck? It happens to me all the time, not because the world has the time to conspire against me. It’s mostly because I am written that way ๐Ÿ˜‰

Karthik

One day

‘As a child’ I started and paused for a second to see if she was paying proper attention. She was. Instinctively I smiled at her attention. I’ve always been a charismatic speaker. I’ve always been arrogant too. The lines had blurred a long while ago. I existed believing in the nonexistence of such a line.

This wasn’t a bad place to be in. The last few years of relentless pursuit of cases, the taste of victory, the parties and after parties, the ever growing stash of money in the bank, It definitely wasn’t a bad place to be in. On any other day, I’d have argued that this resort was the , or was to be treated as the eventual fruit of my labour. It hadn’t been an easy road. I had left behind many people and principles. I had grown accustomed to a solitary life. I grew into a life without strings attached. None of that mattered to me before. I don’t think it matters much now.

It hadn’t been an easy life though. I’ve always toiled hard. First, it was that struggle for being popular and noticed. I had neither at my disposal. Then it was the struggle to compete and get noted. There was a price to pay. I had exiled myself from the world in pursuit of that glory. Once I graduated, I didn’t have the need to turn back and take a stock of all my sacrifices. Only losers have the time to sit back and reflect on all the things they’ve lost. I wasn’t a loser. Not in my book. I was a winner. I went for the things I wanted. I fought for the things I wanted. I didn’t care about the moralities of the things that I wanted. If I wanted something, wrong was a word that ceased to exist. Everything was fair game. In fact, everything was a game to me. I kept winning and that’s all that mattered.

When I was a kid, I had many great many promises. All of those promises started with the words, ‘One day’. ‘One day, I’d be rich that people would flog around me’. ‘One day, I’d be successful that the world would stay envious of me’. ‘One day, I’d be too busy having fun that I wouldn’t notice that people who went missing from my life’. ‘One day I would jump of a plane and float free in the sky’.

My promises were both innocent and tainted. I promised myself a better life. I promised myself tangible treats for all the sacrifices that I had once made. I didn’t have the time to pursue the silly promises though. There was one case after another, one alleged perpetrator after another whom I had to protect in a court of law. I walked in with the guilty and usually walked out with the innocent. That’s my life. Ever heard of the phrase ‘ Swimming with the sharks’. I am a ruthless shark myself.

‘As a child, I had made many promises darling. Most of them started with the words, One Day’ I continued. She shook her head in disbelief.

I had taken my first proper , sober vacation in years. It gave me a lot of time to think. All the memories of my world gravitated back to one person. I was sitting by the beach, soaking the warm rays of the sun. I typed away a lot of lines at first. I read them once. Dissatisfied with them all, I deleted a lot of lines and gave it another iteration of a review. The lines still felt wrong. I deleted a few more. Eventually I settled down with the ones that I was happy with.

‘It’s been a while. Hope this is still your mail id. It’d be nice to hear from you’. I pulled the email address from the contacts list. It was a name that I hadn’t reached out to in decades. I had nothing to lose. This was beyond the point of pride.

I waited a week for a reply. None came. I shrugged my shoulders and flung the phone across the bed. The vacation had come to a close. I had bags to pack. I left another email. This time , I had left my mobile number. I prayed a bit , remembered god for a bit and then hit the send button. Prayers, God and my recipient, none of them answered.

Over the last few weeks, I did have a lot of time on my hands. I hadn’t taken a case. Money wasn’t a problem. I needed the time out. A few more mails sent and no responses received. I had shared the non consequential bits and bob of my life. About work, about the thrills of winning a case, about the raging parties , about how I had turned out to be a maverick. Email by email, I had opened up myself to a mailbox that didn’t reply. In course of the mails, I had learnt a few things about myself too. I had turned hollow inside. I now wasn’t even a shade of my former self. I had swapped excess in lieu for a wholesome life that had been constantly denied. I had rejected the world with the same passion that the world had used to reject me. I had gotten even with the world. Getting even and living in peace weren’t the same things.

I then opted to stop the emails. The saga had run for a month. I started to feel foolish about the exercise. I reverted to my current self. I had nothing to lose and it did help to nurture the ‘hell don’t care’ attitude. The attitude had served me well for so long.

‘So’, she asked. ‘What does that have to do with anything. We’ve talked about this before. I think you are being a stubborn child now. You are doing this because you are afraid. You are running away from life, just like you’ve run away from everything that had mattered before. This is serious.’

She did have a point. She would have made sense to me if I was the kind of a person who had the right kind of smarts to listen to people and learn from them. I wasn’t that. I had made my choice. There wasn’t much that would sway me away from my choice. I can be very dense when I’m that way. Occupational hazard, I’d tell her that. Today, the charm wouldn’t work on her. She wasn’t there to sit transfixed by my charm. She was there because she meant business.

‘I don’t care. I don’t want to care. Can you stop bothering me please?’ and finally the holy grails of emails had arrived. I read through the lines and smirked arrogantly. Of course that wasn’t the intended meaning. There was anger. Yes. There was so much hate. Yes. There was also a mobile number , right under the body of the mail. I read between the lines.

‘The thing is, I’ve lived an entire life waiting for that one day.’ I said. ‘I have a choice now. Right here, Right now. I can either sit here and make another promise that starts with One day, or I can just call tomorrow as that fateful One day and start living things up. I pick the latter. I think tomorrow is a wonderful start’. I concluded and started outside the window. The skies , dark as ever, felt inviting.

‘This is insane’ she replied. ‘I wonder what the hell made you decide such a thing’

It wasn’t a hard choice to make. Of course I didn’t feel like telling her about it. I had reached out to the mobile number. Since my number wasn’t published, my call was picked and answered. Answered it was. It drove her completely nuts. Disbelief took over her. Then came anger. Then came wrath. Then came her slew of abuses. Ten years of resentment and contempt , articulated using the flimsiest of abuses. She had vented out the block of boulder that had been buried in her heart. I listened to it patiently.

‘SAY SOMETHING’ she finally screamed. It wasn’t bad. The call wasn’t cut off. I smiled and thanked my stars for that emotionally super charged welcome.

‘I’m dying Sonia. Could be a year. Could be less. cold be more. But there is no escaping it. I can either stay here in the rehab centre while they try to prolong my life, or I can spend a bit of my time seeing you, spending a few moments and making a few memories before I conk. So the choice is yours. You are the only world outside these walls that matter to me. Either you agree to meet me, or You don’t hear from me after this’

Life wasn’t how I planned it to be. Of course, Sonia couldn’t care less if I lived or died. She refused to meet. I didn’t feel like sitting in a room and spend the time waiting for my death. I made a nice little list of the things that I wanted to do, people with whom I wanted to make a few amends. If I were to die, I’d die on my own terms.

I guess I’m arrogant that way. Or brave. I don’t know. That line had been blurred a long while ago.

‘I want to die on my own terms Doctor‘ I told her and hugged her.

‘Fine. It’s your life after all’ she said and stormed off the room. I looked at my packed bags and the empty room. It felt weird. It felt both right and wrong. I felt the pangs of anxiety grip me. In a nutshell, I finally felt alive.

#Fiction

Karthik

Book review : The travelling cat chronicles

The cat chronicles , Hiro Arikawa

Coverpage of The travelling cat chronicles

I was almost done reading The marble collector. As an insurance, I had opted to pick up a few books to keep me engaged on my train to Liverpool and back. The station is the worst place to pick a book. They usually sell books that are popular and are in demand. I’d like to believe that I’ve grown warm to reading books that are deviant from Pop Culture. Classics and Vintage are more of my thing.

I stumbled upon this book, assumed that it was a different book. I’m happy that I had picked this one. The travelling cat chronicles is a story that would leave you feeling both sad and hopeful about the future. It is the kind of a tale that would leave you with a sadness that forms a grey cloud over your heart. It will warm your heart, bring those happy smiles of tears, it would leave you feeling bad that the story is done and the book would now sit somewhere in your expensive wooden shelf. Pick it up. Enjoy the wonderful journey. Skip the review. Thank me later. God bless.

For those who need a little more persuasion, the story begins with a stray cat. A cat without a name and one that speaks. The stray finds his way to a silver van. The van happens to be his shelter of sorts. The smart cat with a sharp tongue enjoys his vagabond life. He lives a life without strings. He is the master and lord of his own destiny and boy, the cat can hold his own on a fight. It is by the silver van, where our feline hero meets a human. Unlike the rest, this human seems to be kind. He leaves food for the cat and tries to pat the cat. Apparently cats, like smart kids, are privy to strangers. They do not encourage strangers to get cozy with them. However, the cat is grateful about the food and lets the human brush him. The cat , still not domesticated, goes about its business. No strings attached.

One fine day, the cat meets with an accident that leaves him with a busted leg. In desperation, the feline hero drags himself to the silver van. He reckons that the kind human could help him. The kind human, Satoru, does end up helping the cat. He takes the cat in, nurses it back to health. The two get along well. The cat discovers that Satoru is a cat lover. Satoru names the cat as Nana. Nana considers this as a funny , weird name for a male cat. Nana also acknowledges that Satoru is very perceptive for a human. They both seem to understand each other perfectly well.

Nana, now back on his feet, is now ready to part his ways with Satoru. Satoru does feel bad about parting away with Nana, but doesn’t stop him from being free again. Nana opts to stay back with Satoru. And with that, our journey begins.

After a passage of a certain duration of time, Satoru is in search for a different home for Nana. He reaches out to his friends from the past and hopes that they can adopt Nana. And so Satoru and Nana being their adventure on the road to meet people, places and enjoy the world’s vibrant best. Each of the friend wants to adopt Nana but circumstances prevent them from keeping him home. The journey on the road brings us closer to Japan and the chemistry that Satoru and Nana share.

Why does Satoru wants to give away Nana? It does seem a bit odd because Satoru loves Nana. Why does Nana make it near impossible for Satoru’s friends to adopt him? Nana is a free spirit and yet decides to stay with Satoru. Why does Satoru make that trip to meet all of his friends? What secrets are they all holding?

You’ve got to read the book to see where all things lead.

This is a beautiful story of life. It exemplifies the nature of relationships in our lives. It talks about solitude and how it erodes us from within. It talks about the warmth that companionship provides. It’s a story of friendship. Every inch along the way, we see the beautiful blossoms of friendship bloom. The characters are beautifully drawn in this tale. Satoru’s outlook towards life and the world will win you over. Nana’s personality will entertain you and you’d fall in love with him. Satoru’s past is revealed through the eyes of his friend. Each character adds to the depth of the tale and each character enriches the reading experience. Nothing is wasted in this book. Even the back drop of Mount Fuji plays it’s wonderful part in this tale.

Life. This book is about life. It outlines the misery that we trap in our hearts. It talks about redemption that liberates us. The book calls out the quality of life that we choose to live. Why aren’t we happy? Why are we holding on to pain and the past. Why aren’t we free to be ourselves? What’s stopping us? What do we need to offset that inertia? The book manages answering all the questions without trying to sound preachy and without letting the answers overwhelm the beautiful story.

This book is a beautiful must read. I do feel sad that the tale is now over and the book will rest in a shelf somewhere.

Karthik

I want to tell you

‘Never believe anyone who tells you that they don’t know what to tell you’.

I blinked clueless. Of course, I had told a lot of folks just that. I opted let silence have its moment.

‘People know exactly what to tell you. They probably aren’t sure if they should tell you or otherwise. Anyways, I know exactly what to tell you. I precisely know where to being. I think I know where I’ll end.’

That seemed fair enough to me. I nodded my head in acknowledgement.

‘I wouldn’t disagree with others when they say that the town where I grew up , was a lousy one. There was nothing interesting ever going on there. The houses were bruised and damaged. The people never had the right amount of money to repair their homes to a satisfied perfection. The houses survived. The residents endured. Unlike the movies and books that I had read, the town wasn’t made of a bed of grass, picket fences of white, there weren’t many colourful vibrant flowers that looked like a rainbow that had fallen from its place in the sky and landed right on our town.

Dusty, filthy, grimy. That was more the realistic description of the place. As I said, I wouldn’t disagree with others on the town. I wouldn’t blame them. They were not the chosen ones. They weren’t kissed by the lady luck. They weren’t your neighbours. I was. The first time I saw you, you were holding on to your mom’s finger as you both walked into your new home. Yours, was just as dilapidated as ours. ‘Is this our new home mommy?’. That was the first time I had heard your voice. I imagined that it would have been sweeter than what I had heard. Eavesdropping , secretly , behind the incognizant comforts of my window made me believe that your voice must have sounded much sweeter in person. I was eight. It was an innocent curiosity. I had to wait restlessly for a few more weeks before I got to meet you in person. Those two weeks I had given my mom hell. I had bugged her and annoyed her to the brink of insanity. She finally managed to pick the cues on my subtle hint to meet you and your family. It took me two weeks to pass that message. Those were the most exciting two weeks of my life.’

I hadn’t realised any of this. I had never strained to even fathom a guess that there could be something beyond the norm. I did feel a bit ashamed and guilty of never having bothered to ask any of these before.

‘Well, so that was that. You did sound sweeter in person. Angelic, that was the word that had popped into my mind that day. The years that followed were good. We were thick as thieves. I thanked the stars for the options. We had none. Advantages of living in a ghost town. The years were kind. The passage of time brought us closer. I was almost sure, back then, that one of us would die in the arms of the other. I knew that we’d grow old in each other’s company. With time, I had learnt of different words that defined that sentiment.’

I was speechless now. I hadn’t known there was love locked away in his heart!

‘Well, so that was that. Your mama died one winter morning . We cried under our tree that night. You cried because your mom wasn’t there anymore. I cried because you cried. I had a nagging feeling of things to come. There wasn’t much that I could do anyway. You’d have eventually made your choice. You’d have moved off , no matter what I could have said.’

I felt bad about the broken heart. Life, I wondered. It wasn’t uncommon for folks to experience a broken heart. Hell, I’ve survived a few jolts myself.

‘So here is the deal. Never believe in anyone who tells you that they don’t know what to tell you. I’ve always known what to tell you. I’ve never had the courage to tell you though. I panicked at first. It was the right moment to tell you what I wanted to. I didn’t. And then a few more opportunities, I had squandered them away. I could have, If I wanted to. I had weighed the options. They weren’t favourable. I knew you wouldn’t leave behind your life in the big city and head back to the town for me. When you wrote to me about that ‘Ricky fella’, and I knew that I had missed my chance. And so I didn’t have a reason to tell you anything anymore.

I’ve spent many months sitting in the dark. I’ve spent a few tears. I struggled with the reality that you wouldn’t be there anymore. I felt hurt and helpless. I hated the way the time had flowed its course. There wasn’t a thing, not one thing, that I could do to change back time. It hurt to accept that. It hurt to know that I was hurting. I guess that was that.

I wish I could tell you all of this. I wish I could tell you all that I’ve always felt. None of that means anything anymore. There is no consolation to having words thrown into your ears. I see the pointlessness to it. We had become two people, separated in mind, time and thought. I couldn’t fight that anymore. It’s still nice to know that someday, when I’m gone, you’d magically get to read this. Wishful thinking. Some times, that’s all there is to things. You hope and then hope some more.

Things are getting better though. I don’t hurt as much. Doctors say that I wont remember much anymore. Amnesia does that to you. Of all the million things I once remembered about you, these days I struggle to hold on to any memory. This is my final fight against the flow of time. I shall not let my words fade away into black. I guess that’s that’.

I couldn’t help myself cry. I had never realised that Mr Credence had this side to him. I was the nurse who looked after the patients in this ward. Mr Cre had been with us for long. We are the kind of hospital where old people, who have nobody to take care of them, come to. We are like a hotel of sorts. Pay for care.

The doctor did say that he had a degrading memory. I wish I could have sat with him, listened to the tale of his life. He had passed away yesterday. I had to pack his things and box them away for scrapping. No next of kin. there wouldn’t be anybody to claim his belongings. Mr Cre’s letter , I found it neatly tucked away in his cupboard. I wish I knew who the lady was in his letter. I wish I could pass his message to her.

I turned off the lights. The room smelt of disinfectant. It was ready to house another soul. It was ready to hear another tale of a life.

Inspired by the words of Pablo Neruda. Thanks Shix. ๐Ÿ™‚

Karthik

Heart of ice

I walked up to the window to catch a view of the morning sky. Predictably, all I saw was a thick blanket of fog looming around the horizon. I paused, I hesitated for a second and then decided to open the window up. I breathed in the fresh-enough cold air.

My phone rested face first on the bed. I flipped it to check for the time. 6:30. I had beat the alarm by thirty minutes today. I resumed my attention towards the world that was, outside my glazed window. The pile of tiles that made a roof, right below my window, were frosted today. The night would have been cold. The ice was inevitable. It would be here now. The winter had finally arrived. I felt happy. I’ve always identified myself as a winter person. I like the cold. I’d love to believe that I’m immune to the frosty charms of the winter. I choose my layers carefully. It’s usually my T-shirt and my ragged cardigan. Turquoise or probably teal. I was never good at naming the colours. Things are usually red, blue, yellow, black , white or pink. I stereotype most of the other colours into these groups.

I spent a few minutes staring at the thin sheet of ice that covered the roof. There was a play of light. The sun was bright on my left. The building cast a shadow across the right side of the roof. Ice continued to persist in the shadows. Everywhere the sun touched, Ice had died away meeting it’s melting demise. The view kept my morbid mind engaged. Like most mornings, surrounded by the fresh-enough air, I called home. Dad was his usual self. All to eager to walk me through his day. It was a routine now. He’d quickly recite the things he had for breakfast, was planning to have to lunch. It was too early to chalk out the plans for the dinner.

He’d then ask me about what I had for breakfast. I’d remind him that my day had just started. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I skipped the silly meal on most days. I’ll brush, pick up a coffee and a sandwich by the shop near the station, dad. I’d religiously lie to him everyday. Today was no different. The practiced lie was delivered effortlessly. Glad that I had my morning planned, my dad handed over the phone to my mom.

‘Do you remember…’ my mom went on to introduce something. Someone. Apparently, in one of my years, I had spent probably an hour with this relative of mine. My mom alleged that I had a super good time , playing silly games, with the uncle. ‘Don’t you remember?’, my mom paused to pick a response.

With enormous, vulgar amounts of shoulder shrugged indifference, I said I couldn’t quite place the fella. My response wasn’t new. The honesty wasn’t new. My mother’s acceptance of my obliviousness to the ties of the blood , wasn’t new either. ‘That’s ok’ she effortlessly dismissed my apathy. ‘He is no more’ she declared.

Something something about something something, she continued for a while. I had lost interest and attention. I continued to steer my eyes towards the ice. My mom had finally concluded saying that she’d be off to pass her condolences.

‘Cool’ I replied. I was a victim of a routine too. ‘Have fun mom. Have a safe ride to the place. Come back safe’ I said. If my mom was cool enough, she’d have hash tagged that conversation with FacePalm. My mom ain’t cool. She handed the phone back to my dad without a tinge of an after thought. That was that.

The call now over, I pondered over the ice. The silly icicle had managed to capture my imagination. I hit the hot shower wondering about a prince , who had a heart of ice. I mulled over a plot that would talk about the juxtaposition of the coldness of ice, the lack of warmth in his heart, the prince’s inability to emote and the irony that it was emotions that had driven the prince to adopt that cold heart. Warmth and sensitivity that led to apathy and indifference. The prince , in my mind, would be a victim of circumstances.

By the time I walked out towards the station, the burning desire to pen a tale of fiction had withered away. I was bored of the melodrama. I was bored of forced tragedies that build character. The fascination that I had about the ice, was not the same that I had about the fictional tale. Something had changed. There was a loss in that translation of the state of mind and the state of the tale that mind was cooking. There was something amiss. I couldn’t fathom what.

I let the thought soak in my mind and went about the usual ritual of commuting to work. A serial killer was terrorizing through the pages of the novel. A skilled, broken, detective was in hot pursuit. The game of cat and mouse kept me entertained. I let the other thought slip by.

Ice, Cold, in fact the winter, all of these are associated to emotional coldness and unforgiving apathy in our outlook. A heart of ice is a symbolic representation of amorality, or even a complete lack of empathy. It maybe true. I’m throwing a maybe, mostly because there are only a handful of examples around people with hearts of this kind of an ice.

There is another property to ice. Ice is rock solid. It chips, but doesn’t break easy. It’s a naturally occurring state that solidifies water and hence that curtailed flow. Now that is a state, most of us are accustomed to. Right through the flow of many emotions, we solidify and freeze. That curtails the way we react , or express a reaction to the flow of emotions. Ice, a heart of ice, is an emotional response to a nature of being overwhelmed by it. It becomes a defence mechanism to brace oneself for a future collision. Ice protects and the price we pay for it is through building dams and hampering the natural flow of states of the heart and the mind.

I couldn’t help but think about the kid that I was; where I’d vex my mom because I just wouldn’t cry when watching tragedies in movies. I couldn’t help but think about the person that I am now today. My heart broke and ached when I read the books that I read. Grief stricken, emotionally overwhelmed and I couldn’t bear the crushing force of a tragedy.

All that on one hand and I expressed no sympathies for the uncle who no longer walks our plane. A river, one side and an iceberg the other. I think we are like that. Tell you what, I’ll restructure that . I am like that. I either host a wild rapid, that I call my state of emotions, or I can be as cold as ice. People either exist to me or they simply don’t. There is no middle ground. Either I care, or I just don’t.

Somewhere along those lines of thought, I did think about the tale of a prince who had a heart of ice. Awaiting judgement, enduring prejudice and secretly holding on to the greatest story that will never be told.

Winter mornings!!!!!!!!!!!! So what stories are the seasons holding for you? What do you tag to each of the season?

Karthik

Spread a little sunshine

A wise bloke once told me to keep my charities secret and stupidity published. I concur. It makes sense, on most days. Call it CSR, call it a charity drive, call it what ever you may, I choose to call it a satisfaction of spreading smiles.

I don’t think I have a bone that’s dedicated to an Altruistic cause. I don’t spend time wondering about it. I pick dates and make choices. It started with my mom’s birthday. One morning I decided to help a cause to celebrate that day. It felt good. Actually, it didn’t feel any different from normal mundane existence between Monday to Sunday. I did it nonetheless. Then I’ve been doing it for a few years now.

Then I decided to spread smiles around for my birthday. I figured that the world has had enough crying over spilt milk. 34 years of existence later, there is very little that the world can do to alter that outcome. I’m here. One way or the other. So I added that date to the cause of spreading smiles. Then added Diwali to the list. Odd enough, I don’t do anything special for my dad’s birthday. I get him a watch. Then I get him a pen. Then I get him a lame T-shirt and he pretends that he enjoys getting them ๐Ÿ™‚

It all dawned on me this morning. I had set up a meeting and was later told that I had set one up on the Diwali day. The day of lights and I had intended to turn it off for poor blokes. I apologized for my ignorance of the date. I also realized that it was the time to pass a few smiles across again.

So the wise bloke did tell me to not flaunt my good deeds. I still respect that. This is more of a challenge. I remember running one last year too. I challenge you to put a smile on a stranger’s life. Go ahead, brighten up the world around you. I’d like the sense of playing a teeny tiny insignificant superhero. It doesn’t enrich my life with purpose. It doesn’t make me feel great about myself. It doesn’t magically transform my life.

It does offer me a sense of satisfaction. The satisfaction that I could help someone forget about the bum chances and lousy cards that their life might have dealt them with. Cheating the sourness that life can provide, even it only lasts a minute, is a good victory that I’m proud of.

I don’t believe in appealing. I don’t like to appeal to the sensibilities in people. It’s not my place to promote or advice. I challenge you. That’s in line to my way of life.

A brand new day, a wonderful colourful festival of lights and laughter. I challenge you to add more decibels to that laughter.

On that note, Spread a little sunshine, darling. It’s the world’s way of telling you that you are capable of spreading that sunshine.

Karthik