Chennai: Never just a city

I’m that girl that crossed oceans to sustain myself. I live a few hours away but it’s been a while since I’ve been home.

I hear about a possible third wave. I read about carelessness. A city unmasked and unafraid. It scares me all the time – I have parents and in-laws that are old enough for me to be worried. Two dogs I haven’t cuddled my weekend away with in a really long time. A flight to Chennai is almost impossible. And that small chance of maybe? I can’t take it because it all sounds so scary from where I see.

But in the chaos of the news that feels like my worst nightmare, I miss a lot more than just loved ones.

I miss home.

I’ve been talking to my sister about it – What makes us so special? Us adults from Chennai. It’s this tie that we can’t break. In a foreign country, when everything seems different, “Chennai-ah?” is all the connection you need to be best friends.

I miss that home.

That feeling of stepping out of the flight and getting into my mom’s car. The ever-familiar road that leads you away from the airport, “Wow. So much has changed. Traffic alone doesn – epdi poraan paaru.”

You know you’re home when travel is a musical experience – radio or roadside dialogue, to each their own.

The incredible food. Gangotree pani puri, Saravana Bhavan ghee dosa, Ratna Cafe sambar idli, New Woodlands full meals. I’ve never visited without a list. I’ve never left unsatisfied. Street corner akka or Shree Mithai aunty, I miss the friendly banter with total strangers. The extra mile they always go to ensure you enjoy your meal. I often wonder how the aunty and uncle with the delicious channa samosa stall opposite SIET are doing. I wonder if they had enough saved for a rainy day – or year. The bajji akka outside Giri Traders in Mylapore. The chikoo seller outside Ratna Stores in Pondy Bazaar. So many more like them.

The helpers who walk to multiple houses. The tiny arguments our moms always have with them. “Paavam-di ava,” is how the day ends. Have they remained employed? Do you still pay them through the lockdown? There’s so much uncertainty from where I see things.

But one thing remains.

This feeling. If you’re from Chennai, you know what I mean. This particular emotion that makes you play cheesy Madras songs on a cozy Sunday evening. You’re not sad, no. You’re wishful. Longing to be back in those streets. Amongst the colours, the energy, the people.

Unmasked, maybe, but unafraid we are. The news terrifies me, I won’t lie. But I’m hopeful. I’ve seen the Chennai I can’t stop thinking of. The one that saw trouble and didn’t wait for help. The Chennai that wasn’t afraid of flooding water, rising waves or an Earth that shook. The Chennai that rose to the challenge, together. The Chennai that risked themselves to save their neighbours. The Chennai that is proud, brave and resilient.

The Chennai my husband is tired of hearing stories about.

A Chennai we won’t get to be in until – for a change – we distance ourselves and stay indoors.

A Chennai I miss, every day of my life.

I’m that girl that crossed oceans to sustain myself. Years may pass, lives may change and roots may form, but Chennai will always be home.

And the music, the movies and the million keepsakes I can’t throw away will keep me wrapped in warm memories, until I return…

To me, to you, to us

I think of January 9th everyday. It’s so crazy to think if I hadn’t worked where I work, if I hadn’t taken a cab because I can, if I hadn’t tried to not be on a call every morning, if the universe hadn’t connected a thousand dots together just so we would find each other…

I am two opposite people in one. I am traditional and I am liberal. My eyes search for the brightest of pink borders in that perfect Kanchipuram silk the way my hands are drawn to the little black dress that hugs the right places. I feel peace at a temple, sitting in front of God the way I find calm at the end of a chaotic day with a glass of wine in a loud Blues bar. I am the perfect conservative girl your parents always wanted. I am loud opinions and adamance like someone they can never tolerate.

I was raised with words of “change now” because who would marry the woman that didn’t want to be a wife? That wanted a husband who will run the house and have a career so she can claim she was tired after a long day? That wanted to wear the pants but wanted her spouse to be the man?

“How will you find a world of contradictions in one person just because you are? How will he be traditional and open? How will he accept you for all that you are while still being acceptable to your parents?

How will you trust him? You trust no one. How will he trust you? Your best friends are two men.”

It was the extra drink at a work party. The stumble home from Don’t Tell Mama. The desire to make my own money. To be richer than everyone we’ve ever known. To be married to my job. The flinch that was a reflex at the idea of becoming ‘someone’s wife’. The refusal to commit to “womanly duties”.

I was never going to find you because I was unsuitable for a man that didn’t exist.

Then you happened.

I think back to every day that we’ve spent together. Life put us through a lifetime in a year. To love, to lose, to feel helpless, feel lost, depressed and claustrophobic. To deal with anxiety attacks and temper tantrums. Physical and emotion pain. All in the middle of a pandemic.

Yet here we are. This morning I watched an episode of Schitt’s Creek. Patrick serenaded David. I hung on to every word.

“Give me a life time of promises and a world of dreams

Speak the language of love like you know what it means.”

I could see it. The stars and sparkle that enveloped us. It wasn’t my imagination. When I stand next to you, I feel it wrap around us, pulling us closer to each other. It feels like the words I told my best friend after our first date.

“It’s magic.”

Today, we finished something we started many months ago. Today, I married my best friend. My soulmate. The love of my life.

Today, I married you.

And the girl who swore she’d never be tied to a man, stands next to you, excited for the rest of our life.

“Paattisaami”

It’s been a week since she passed. A week where I woke up every morning, brushed, showered, got my morning coffee, checked my emails and got to work. At 11, I’d break to make lunch that I ate to different series on Netflix. I got a second coffee at 4 and dinner at 8.

My life went on.

It’s almost like it’s all normal. Like I’m just this kid in a foreign country, working my butt off in the middle of a pandemic and my family is intact where I last saw them but that’s not the truth. Not even fucking close and that reality is scaring me.

I don’t know what it is about it all. Is it that when I go to Chennai the next time, I won’t have to ask, “When do we go see her?”

Is it that I will never have another moment where she holds my face and kisses my cheek again?

Is it that I last saw her in a hospital bed, mildly hallucinating? Having to deal with the fact that I didn’t get to hold her hand and say, “Thank you for the best parts of my childhood. I have loved every minute of being your granddaughter.”

Is it that I will never talk about her in the present tense again?

Or the mere fact that my grandmother – the woman that held my hand on our way to markets as a toddler, bought me puzzles and games that made me smarter and faster, believed in me as if there was absolutely nobody on this planet that could be any better – is now dead and I wasn’t there?

Instead, as she breathed her last, I was texting friends, smiling and excited about a new step in my life. I cut my sister’s call when she tried to tell me because I was too busy staring at a dog. I found out via text.

I took a deep breath and called my mom. “Okay. Okay. Keep me posted.” It hadn’t passed through me. I was surrounded by flatmates, it couldn’t pass through me. I walked into my room and the door shut. I can’t remember the last time I felt as broken and helpless as I did in that moment. I couldn’t tell anyone because I have a problem letting people see me that weak. So, when my dad called to check on me, I wiped my tears and put on a smile. “I’m fine. Are you okay? Okay. Yeah, I”ll go to bed now.” That was 9pm.

I watched the clock turn to 3.10 in the morning. I woke up at 5. That was last Friday.

Here I am in this new world. Locked indoors, just a girl and her computer. I have no grandparents. I’ll be bold enough to say I was my grandmother’s favourite. Maybe not, but I’ll keep what I believe and the world will let me.

She was a bold woman. She spoke English so poignantly, it surprised people. She was independent for as long as she was able and it killed her when she couldn’t be anymore. You don’t know her. You don’t know how much she loved and cared. How she stood up for me when nobody else would. How she saw a side of me that often I didn’t even see.

She was wise and poised. She was traditional without being conservative. Words can’t ever explain who she was to me.

I feel her absence. I didn’t talk to her everyday. But the idea that I won’t ever talk to her again gets to me everyday. I won’t see her laugh at my stupid jokes or shake her head at my crazy stories. I won’t see her anymore.

But I know my life will go on. I’ll get used to the new reality. I’ll get used to trips where I don’t visit her. I’ll get used to living with only memories of her. Slowly, she’ll belong more to my past than to my present. More in my head than in person. Until every year, she becomes a day on my calendar. A smile when I cut mangoes for my kids for the first time like she used to. A smell that seems familiar when walking past her favourite products at a grocery store. A joke that only we’ll know. And my life… will go on.

But on a bad day, as I find myself in a corner not feeling all that good, her voice will speak in the back of my head, “You’re a diamond in the rough. They don’t know how to make you shine.”

And so she will remain a part of everything I will ever become. For as long as I live.

I will always be “paattisaami” <3

A Feeling So Loud

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You wake up and look in the mirror. Your bed hair isn’t perfect. Your morning breath can use a mint or two. Yesterday’s eyeliner is now almost a smoky eye. Almost.

You wake up and look around you. His side of the bed now cold. He’s been gone a while. What if he doesn’t come back?!

You wake up and see her snuggling in her corner. She doesn’t need your arms around her for a good night’s sleep. She’s alright with herself. What happens when she stops wanting me?

You wake up and feel that pang. There’s no blanket in the world to cover this one up.

Your life feels like an illusion, waiting to be taken away. Only, it was never yours.

Not that hair. Not that face. Not that girl.

It could be. But you’ll never allow it, will you?

That heart of yours will never let you have it all.

And so you sulk. A little pout forever on your lips. Some people are born to be that way. Some lives are meant to be lived that way. But not mine. Not now.

And so you look. From a glass screen as you double tap on a world that isn’t yours.

It’s the laughter. The way they live. The memories you can’t create. The life you’re afraid you won’t live fully.

It’s the heart. The way he stares at her. The love you don’t have. The relationship you may never experience.

It’s this feeling. Is he still here? Is she still in this apartment? When they leave, will they come back? But, why?

It’s the body. The muscles you won’t have. The hair that can’t be styled. The skin that’s filled with flaws.

It’s that moment. What will I ever be? Will my life ever happen?

But when that alarm goes off, you don’t get up.

When it’s time for class, you don’t show up.

When you’re invited to the party, you don’t want to dress up.

Because, “What’s the point?”

You let your wings close and find a book about a girl who took a chance to have it all. You’ll wish you were her. But when the time is here, you won’t do it.

It’s not insecurity. It’s not a complex. You’re not an introvert.

It is a feeling. The one that stops you from waking up.

She can do it, doesn’t mean I can. I am not meant to live like her. I can’t.

Funny thing – she’s like you too. But she stopped letting that feeling control her. She let her life take over her world. It wasn’t magic. It was simply a decision.

One you find so impossible to make.

But you know what? You can make it.

That voice in your head, it’s a lie.

That girl in the book you read? She’s based on a real woman. Like you. Like me.

So stop snoozing that alarm.

Stop sleeping when you have class.

Stop lazing around and pull out that dress you love.

Every life you see from a distance happened because they fought their way through that voice.

You are no different.

So turn down the volume.

Let your heart lead the way.

The Lonely Goose

Facebook, over the past year, has been taking us down memory lane. A recent trip took me to this status message:

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Romantic as it is, it also reminded me of something – I haven’t been in a relationship in five years. I’ve been in love, of course, but it never grew outside of my heart.

And if you’re as emotional as I am, you probably understand the desire to avoid that grey area in your love life. The one where you’re with someone without being with them. The moment your heart flutters at their name but you can’t call them yours. The physical and the emotional Friend with Benefits.

I can’t do that. I’m too serious. Too emotional. Too insecure. I need that security blanket we call a relationship. It may not last forever. I may know that the term ‘girlfriend’ will never turn into ‘fiancé’ or ‘wife’ even. But I still need that promise. That commitment. Even if it’s just for a little while.

And so exists those evenings. The ones we all have. The ones we can’t avoid. The ones we, as single people in our twenties, endure without a choice.

Yes, I’m talking about all you single people struggling to make ends meet with that all-too-insufficient money you’re making while working four times harder than the guy who makes four times the money you make and would just love to come home to someone for that oh-so-amazing hug but you can’t because you don’t have the time for a relationship and when you do, there isn’t someone who wants to date you!

I know how that feels! I know those long evenings where you’re struggling to not make that desperate call to that person you know is the wrong one. And it’s not because you’re horny, no. It’s because you just want to cuddle up on a comfortable couch and watch that crappy series finale of How I Met Your Mother and use that as an excuse to make out like teenagers who’re too afraid to get to second base while in the real world, they’re getting everywhere we aren’t.

It’s torture, isn’t it?! Your arms craving to hold someone. Your lips tingling to be kissed in that comforting, not-ending-in-sex way. Only, you’re sitting alone and you tell yourself – This is better. This means I’m going to end up with someone right. All this will make sense when I’m old enough to find the right one. When I have the time to find the right one. – And you believe it! You believe that little pep talk about the future and decide to distract yourself by logging on to Facebook and Voila! She’s not pretty. He was always an asshole. But here they are. Happy. In love. And you hate being jealous but “How does this person who is just not nice in life find love so fast and I can’t even find a boyfriend pillow?!”

I know how that feels. And if there’s anything that makes this worse, I know what it is.

LOVE SONGS AND ROMCOM MOVIES.

Adam Sandler, with his egg shaped head, goes on FIFTY first dates within 3 hours. You.. You can’t find one date if you lived to be fifty. So you turn off the TV and put on some loud music and try to dance your woes away. There’s only one problem.

Your playlist’s agenda of the day is to make yours worse. So your time away from all things that remind you of your singledom completely and utterly destroys you the moment your earphones blast Landon Austin, in all his glory, singing Once in a Lifetime and you’re wishing. You’re praying. That in that moment this would all fade away. That the Earth would open up and you’d be sucked into a vortex where it’s never lonely. Maybe become a part of NASA’s sleep for 72 days program so the need to walk becomes so high, you no longer want to cuddle. Or maybe take a family vacation! Surround yourself with enough drama and at the end of it, you’d scream at the idea of people!

Yes, I know what this feels like. This evening of being so miserably single that you’re almost ready to just give in and call that person who will be the biggest mistake of your life.

And I’m here to tell you, don’t do it.

Because right now, it sounds about perfect. But tomorrow, when you’re in the middle of an important meeting trying to embarrass the guy who makes more money by working less and your phone buzzes constantly getting you cold stares from every person in the room, you’ll wish you’d listened to me.

Better a lonely goose than an underpaid office clown.

 

 

 

 

 

(Not) A Mistake

Sex.

In my world, that’s a taboo word. It doesn’t matter if you’re married or not. You just don’t throw that word around. You whisper softly to ears that will judge. You blush when asked if it hurt that first wedding night. “You’ll be treated like a whore if you say that word aloud,” my parents taught me.

Sex.

I was 16 in a high school half way across the world. My only friend there said, “Oh my God. It was all about sex.” I looked around panicking. “Our Dean is here. Shh..” She stared at me like I had lost my mind. “So what? He’s married. He knows what sex is about.” Yet again, a word I wasn’t allowed to say was spoken for everyone else to hear.

Sex.

It’s the only way to grab a man’s attention I was told. It’s what a man wants from a woman. Dress carefully. Dress decently. Don’t let them see things you should show to only one man. Don’t utter words that aren’t meant for the one you’ll marry. Walk with your head down. Don’t giggle too loud. He’ll hear you. He’ll notice you. He’ll want you. And when he does.. “I can’t explain, darling.”

Sex.

“It’s nothing but an insignificant part of life. Lying naked next to a man is not what matters. It’s disgusting. How can you crave another body? How can you express a need that cannot exist? How can you want something you shouldn’t be talking about?”

Sex.

It’s what he saw in her. In that decently dressed girl who never spoke above a whisper. That girl who hid her beauty behind a mask of silent laughter and tied up hair. It’s what he needed from her until she was nothing but a ball of mess in a corner for anyone to see. Her mother’s words lost in ears that were filled with her own screams.

Sex.

All those lessons die within. When you learn from the world that sex isn’t sin. Because mother, there’s only one definition..

Sex is only sex when we’re both in it together. Everything else is just rape.

So don’t teach me not to utter words that are meant to create. Don’t tell me to hide who I am for a man who has no control of himself. Don’t taunt me when I dare say the words you’ll never approve of. The day you talk to me about it like it’s a mistake, you’ve enabled another man to believe it’s his birthright.

Sex.

It’s not what she had. She was raped. Don’t use her as a lesson. Don’t abuse what she’s been through for me to learn something that’s not true.

Teach me it’s okay to want another person. Tell me it’s okay to love a man, not just emotionally, but also physically. Taunt me when I ask you if I should let him do what he wants even if it’s not what I want.

Sex.

I’ll say it out loud for the world to read. Because it’s not a mistake. It’s not a crime, mother. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.

 

 

 

 

Everything For Her

I still remember those days. She was laughter. She was joy. She was as adorable as life got.

It wasn’t the easiest of transitions. I woke up one day and suddenly my world wasn’t just about me anymore. It sounded so horrible. But she made it better.

Someone once asked me what my favorite day ever was. I didn’t have to think because I knew. I knew the moment it happened that I’ll never forget that day. It was a day I spent with her. She played on our pretend swing while I fed her every time she swung towards me.

I remember the first time she scared me. It’s still our inside joke. She hid behind a wall and waited for me to walk out of our restroom. When I took too long, she decided against it and went for a “Hello.” Little did she know, I was so lost in thought, the mere word scared me more than a scream would have. I may be scarred for life but the way she laughs when we reminisce about it makes it worth the fear.

She is everything I’ll never be. Always has been. She was a parent’s day dream. I was the nightmare. She knew what she wanted. She didn’t aim for the sky. She aimed for what she could do. And she did it. I spent my life being lost in one dream after another that I ended up living none of it.

We’ve shared a lot. We’ve shared a room. We’ve shared clothes. We’ve shared secrets. Gossip. Life stories. Late night thoughts about the future. My dream man. Her dream wedding.

We’ve been on adventures together. Lied together. Laughed together. Fought the world together. Fought with each other. Teased people together. Teased each other. She taught me to be responsible. I taught her to sneak out. We had our differences. But we found common ground.

We’re not as close as we once were. She became a teenager. She found her friends. She found people she could relate to. But it didn’t mean we loved each other any less.

We still had our movie marathons and long late night talks. She still knew how insecure I could be. I still knew how much of a drama queen she could be.

And I still can’t believe the day is here. After so many years of treating her like a child, she’s no longer a teenager! She’s twenty!

I, of course, got her a present. Or twenty. Each one a little reminder of a moment we spent together. A moment we laughed together. A moment we lived together.

And as I continued looking for more presents that would mean something, I found this from Stylori:Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 11.24.09 am

The moment I laid eyes on them I knew I’d found the one that would mean the most. For she is drama, she is love, she sparkles above everyone and she is twice as precious as every diamond in the world.

Most importantly, no matter how big a fight we’ve had, how embarrassed we’ve made each other feel or how much she loses my stuff, we’ll never give up on each other.

Because she’s not just someone I’ve known for twenty years. She’s someone I’ve loved since the moment she was born.

She’s my younger sister.

And there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her. <3

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Please note: Upon insistence from a very dear friend, I had written this post for my blogger’s club contest. While I was okay writing a post for my friend, I still wanted to stick to who I was and what my blog stood for. So every word in this post is the truth. I’ve been wanting to write about the most important person in my life for a while now and I took this opportunity to do that. She did turn 20 in October. However, I did not buy her a pair of diamond earrings. I got her a goodie bag with chocolates, t-shirts & more of the things she loves.

Thank you for taking the time to read. 🙂 Love,

Poornima

 

The Post

So this is happening :

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I’m working on it, I am. But it just feels like something landed on my brain and refuses to move away resulting in a sudden stop of thoughts that make sense when strung together and in my inability to find an alternative string of thoughts after trying for almost a week, I have finally gotten to the point of acceptance about it.

I have writer’s block.

Bear with me please as I get my head back on track. As soon as this big piece of rock sitting on my brain decides to move, I will have a post up, no matter what day of the week it is. Pinky swear !

Thank you for understanding 🙂

Lots of Love.

PS – this picture is also from Pinterest.

Sick Again – Sketches and Photography

Yet another sick week. I’ve tried to write but everything feels like crap and hence, the third post of this kind. We’ve done poems. We’ve done doodles. This time I thought I’ll add a few of my favorite sketches and photos I’ve done and taken over the past four years. So here goes :

Taken during a lecture at university. I was bored.

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I was having a terrible week and I needed to let out some steam. This was how I did it. Charles&Keith stilettos that I still cannot walk in. Seriously, how do women do it?!

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Taken while traveling. Best of both worlds ? I was closer to the clouds than land. This picture does not do justice to the view I had.

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This is the view one has from Board Walk at VivoCity of Sentosa right before dusk. If you ever visit Singapore, you have to try and go see this view. It is the most calming thing as the sun disappears behind the buildings and the lights are turned on.

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Part of my attempts at learning to draw  human body parts. Being a self-taught artist, I am sort of proud of this.

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When I bought a sketchbook, I had no idea what I could do. This was done with the help of an online picture tutorial and this is also the second sketch I had ever done. This was the sketch that made me realize that if I keep practicing, I might be a decent artist. There began the journey that has led me to four sketchbooks, two cases of pencils and large amounts of practice.

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I look for the word love everywhere I can. If I can’t find it, I make sure I leave a little love for someone else to find. One such attempt.

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Last but not least, one of my favorite photos ever, taken on an iPhone 4 with natural lighting and no edits.

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Sorry you guys. I promise to make up for this with a kickass post next week.

Until then,

Sending a little love your way. 🙂 <3