An enema procedure for a kidney stone operation once taught me two valuable lessons. One is that I should drink more water on a daily basis. The other is that I should stop making New Year resolutions. After spending three days at the hospital, I was overcome with trepidation and boredom. Lying face down on a polished-white table, I was eyeing the tepid sloths that were the hands of a wall clock. And I was ruing the dietary habits and stress coping mechanisms that had put me in that situation.
It occurred to me then that it was a familiar feeling. It was how I used to feel while coming up with New Year resolutions.
This weekend may haunt me forever. I saw The Great Indian Hornbill feed his brooding mate for the second time in my life. It was my third encounter with these magnificent birds in the Western Ghats. I also watched a person die, a few meters away from me, in a horrific road accident.
I am unsure what affected me more – the death of a stranger or the return of a friend.
I am terrible at comforting my friends when I don’t relate to their problems. It escapes me that all they need is a good listener. Instead I ask them to get over their feelings even before understanding what they are. I conclude that the best course of action for them is to move on without paying heed to such inanities.
They rightfully claim that my disruptive perspective is based upon how quickly I want conversations to end. I argue that they should just take more responsibility for their moods. Soon I watch them, with a gleam in my eyes, toy with notion that the fault isn’t with the stars.
I am not angry, like I was when my city was drowning. I feel a little silenced; even unsentimental about the loss, the hope, and the hate that came after. Either I am only empathetic to the languishing of humanity when it directly affects me or I am just very fond of birds. To paraphrase Nick Hornby’s musing on pop music – do I spend time with birds because I don’t want to be with people? Or do I spend time away from people because I want to be with birds?
What came first – the love or the misery to go looking for it in the first place?
A few months ago, I spotted the Pheasant-Tailed Jacana for the first time. It was the best of times. The most bacchanalian of times too. I felt as though my hair was on fire. Not a wild one that leaves me with first-degree burns. Just a warm flame that makes me feel swaddled.
I was taking a stroll near a lotus pond in Chinna Avoor, a tiny village tucked away in the armpits of the town of Thiruvallur. It was one of those rare instances when I was looking for love in the right places. And there she was – a damsel cavorting through water lilies. (more…)
Does one have to be intelligent in order to be a writer? Are writers, by default, more knowledgeable or insightful? Are they more self-aware because they can better articulate their emotions? I really don’t know. Some of most self-destructive people I know are writers. Vain, isolated and insensitive to anyone’s concern but their own. Yet they are also some of the most interesting human beings I interact with; kind, observant and witty. A writer’s appetite to learn is often large, as is his/her capacity to love. But intelligent, stable or even rational?
The sun has been my city’s mischievous daytime lover for the past two days. We blew kisses to her the moment she filtered through our windows after a prolonged absence. We missed her so much. Yet she wants to play peekaboo with us. She doesn’t seem to stick around long enough for us to cuddle her.
The good news is that Chennai isn’t sinking anymore. People aren’t panicking as much. Irrespective of how or when Mother Nature unleashes her fury upon us again, we feel much safer now. While a few spells have kept the rumour mills abuzz, the city has started to recuperate. We are crawling towards the road to recovery.
The haunting isn’t over though. We can never forget Bharath – a volunteer who lost his life while trying to save others. Songs of guilt and bitterness crash around us, like rowdy cymbals. Many of our streets reek of soaking-wet garbage. We are asking awkward questions to each other, balancing superficiality with real sentiments.
Now that Chennai’s immediate dangers are temporarily at bay, the public has begun expressing extreme displeasure over the city’s poor infrastructural standards. They are baffled at how our buildings crumbled like a stack of cookies in the recent floods. They are outraged that rabid urbanization was prioritized over safety regulations. Shocked that real estate greed, along with political corruption, has led to environmental imbalance. I wish I could hug them and tell them that roses are red, violets are blue and if it takes a natural disaster to realize how much damage we cause on a daily basis – well, fuck them. You and me too.
Each one of us have to take the blame. It isn’t a matter of existential guilt. There’s blood on our hands. My palms look more wrinkled today. My stomach – a lot fatter. My eyes hurt. I feel more human than ever before, ashamed that I am not just a silent observer but an active contributor to the decay of our ecosystem. It isn’t as though I have been blissfully unaware of it. It just never struck me as being important enough until it personally affected me.
Today, I am proud to be a resident of Chennai, not a citizen of India. In case you haven’t heard, my city was affected recently by the heaviest rainfall recorded in over 100 years. Floods wreaked havoc on the lives of 2 million people. Over 325 are dead. Many birds and animals, especially strays, too. Tragically, a few other districts in the state have had it even worse.
Last week, we were either trapped indoors without electricity or supplies, stuck in traffic – with no safe route to take us home or stranded in deep waters – battling for our lives. We were helpless and frightened. Even now there is palpable tension in the air. Some are in grave danger. The rains haven’t yet bid adieu; we can still hear ambulances and helicopters. Added to that, a lot of misinformation has us in a state of paranoia. It has been an heartbreaking and nightmarish experience. Recovery is going to be a long, arduous and disease-ridden process.
Apparently, none of these qualified as being critical as far as the rest of India was concerned.