A letter to Foodies, 

As someone who does not join in the celebratory culture of food, let me tell you that it is no easy task to live amidst people who do exactly that. My appetite is a horrible surprise to everyone I meet. And the butt of all jokes and insults irrespective of whether I asked for it.
“I pity you for not being able to enjoy food.” “What a sad life it must be, not enjoying food.” “You will die soon if you continue like this.”

Do you not realize that you are plain rude? You have assumed that I hate food and that my life must be nothing less than miserable due to the mere fact that I do not enjoy something that is a huge part of your life.

My small appetite arises from both, a biological and a psychological rejection of food. It is an issue that can’t just be “dealt with”. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t like food. It means I have an irregular biological clock that does not feel hunger for 12 hours at a stretch or I get hunger pangs for days together. It means one day, I only want curd rice and chips and my body rejects everything else and on other days, I will eat anything. It means on some days, I will eat new food tentatively but on other days, I get nauseous and throw up all the time.

No, I am not faking it. I can’t try over and over and puke more and more. I do not do it to test your patience. I do not intend to waste food. I am grateful to have food but forcing me to eat more and new food, is not the answer.

And No. Life CAN be good with a mediocre appetite. I can laugh and laugh and laugh and none of it has anything to do with food. If you think it cannot, I ask you, who are you to decide whether my life is happy or unhappy?

So if you have ever been that someone who looked at a person who ate poorly and told them to quit it and eat like a “proper” person, do me a favor and stuff it.

I don’t need to be like you. And you have no right to make me be like you. You eat your food your way. And I’ll eat mine, my way.

Regards,
the Non Foodie friend.

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76.

76 days.
That’s how long I’ve worked hard to breathe,
That’s how long I’ve felt half dead.
That’s how long I’ve been living in partial denial.
That’s how long I’ve put effort into smiling.
That’s how long I’ve tried not to feel guilty for being happy.
That’s how long I’ve tried to think of you while not thinking of you.

76 days.
That’s how long you’ve been dead.
That’s how long I lost a part of me.

 

– October 14th, 2017 / 76 days without you.

Postcards to Vaikunth – 12

things you took away.

Dear Amma,

The one part about death that you never get used to is the endless list of things that you cannot have anymore.
Just when you think you have exhausted everything you would possibly miss, in a week’s time, new memories hit.
the list increase in length.

i thought i was done squeezing up memories. that i had no time for them.
turns out, you don’t need time to remember things you wish to forget.
your memory is always going to be a bastard to you after death strikes.

my list was contained.
but suddenly, it isn’t.

List of things I can’t have anymore:
1. idlis without salt.
2. hair massages.
3. your singing.
4. ‎providing unnecessary details of my day.
5. your voice over the phone.
6. ‎your constantly upraised eyebrows.
7. ‎random forehead kisses while i linger in that place between sleep and reality at dawn.
8. ‎arguments over how i cut my hair.
9. ‎illayaraja’s music.
10. ‎you calling out my name a hundred times a day.
11. queries about what i plan to do.
12. ‎diwalis and navaratris with you.
13. your hands holding mine after i watch a horror movie.
14. ‎discussion over what clothes i should wear.
15. ‎noise from the kitchen.
16. ‎mathematical memes.
17. handing over the phone to you when paati calls.
18. ‎buying samosas for you from college.
19. help to pin up sarees.
20. ‎your frustration and anger.
21. ‎your smile.
22. ‎your sense of humor.
23. ‎badam kheer.
24. ‎your laughter that sounded like a trolley of bells landsliding on concrete.
25. ‎your teasing of appa.
26. the teacher in you.
27. stories about myself as a child.
28. the random need to know new English words.
29. ‎the counsel telling me to get back on my feet. ‎

30. You.

 

– List as edited on 31st October, 2017 / 3 months without you.

Postcards to Vaikunth – 13

Death sits in your closet

Dear Amma,

You want to hear something funny? I have learnt that you never really know how much clothes you have; until you die. You crib and crib and crib about never having enough to wear. And then you die. And suddenly your wardrobe is choking on your clothes.

And there are all sorts of things in there. First you have the purples, oranges, blues, pinks, greens, blacks; and then there are lavender and rose and sunset and sunrise and sky and sea and navy and blush and peach and magenta and grass and tree and dark and darker and death.

There are silks and cottons and velvets and gauze. There is some bandhini here and some polka dots there. And oh, not to forget Anarkalis and Salwars with collars, full sleeves and columns after columns of patyala pants. And then there are the dupattas. Light ones, heavy ones, patterned ones, transparent ones, new ones, torn ones and more and more and more.

Mysore, Kancheepuram, Tanjavur, Jaipur, Cochin, Hyderabad, Gujarat and Kolkata sit next to each other inside one wardrobe of one woman who decided to leave them all in my inexperienced hands.

I never thought I would be intimidated by clothes but the sight of a six foot long bed filled with them, is pretty scary. What do I know about silks and patterns and tailoring fees and war motifs? I wear jeans. I do not understand these sacred fabrics.

This should not be my job.

And it doesn’t help when eery single piece is a memory flashing through my head. My OCD won’t take over; I don’t want to arrange them by colors and size. I don’t want to finish sorting through them. I don’t want to dump your clothes in a bag and give them to some lady who doesn’t have any. I want to be selfish; make a pile and sit on top of it and not part with a single piece of cloth.

But I have done that for three months now. Not anymore.
I have begun now and I cannot stop until your wardrobe feels light again.

Until I feel light again.

I’m just letting you know that your clothes feel weird. I think they miss you too.

Love,
Your daughter who doesn’t know what to do with the legacy you left behind.

 

– 2nd November, 2017 / 95 days without you.

Postcards to Vaikunth – 14

where are the smiles? 

Dear Amma, 

Did you know that Death has the ability to wipe smiles away from the happiest of photographs. It leaves you staring at a picture, wondering how you knew to smile. Especially when the photograph only serves to remind you of your guilt, your loss, your pain and joy.

This is one photograph I keep coming back to. And every time I see it, I count the days in my head. I count the laughter, the music, the dancing, the clothes. It’s all scenes flitting in and out and all of them, happy.

The first time I saw this photograph after you left, I fell apart. Because it all fell apart, piece by piece from then onward. When I saw it, I heard the snip from the salon scissors cutting away at my hair from that afternoon. Snip after snip after snip.
Except it was no longer my hair that fell away, but your numbered breaths.

There were eight days in between.
Sunday. Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday. Friday. Saturday. Sunday.

Saturday night I woke you up but you were too tired. Snip.

Sunday I ignored you and stayed in my room. Snip.

Monday I learnt a new medical term. Snip.

Tuesday I felt fear after you returned from the doctor’s. I wished Mittu happy birthday. I learnt more medical terms. Snip.

Wednesday, I called Anna and cried. I cried and cried and cried. Snip.

Thursday. I lied to her and said I was okay. I saw IVs and Oxygen masks for the first time in my life and felt as if I’d never be the same again. Snip.

Friday, it rained when you came home and you smiled at me, looking beyond exhausted. Snip.

Saturday. Well, Saturday I tried being normal. I told Aysh you were fine. I barely saw you. Snip.

Sunday, I sat with you on the top most stair and tried explaining the plot of Dunkirk to you. Snip.

And you tried to listen despite your heaving breaths.

Monday. I woke up. You woke up. I lived. You died.
SNIP.

Eight days was all it took. I went from ecstatic to lost. I looked through every single picture I could find but happiness seemed far away. I feel like a once completed puzzle, now scattered all over the place, struggling to find these pieces, although I knew I never will.

Because now, I have learnt to look at life this way: life with you and this existence without you. I’ve learnt that happy pictures are simply the worst. I’ve learnt that the people who can make you smile, can also not. They can only hug you, kiss you and cry for you.
I’ve also learnt that eight days is all it takes for you to feel smaller than you’ve ever felt before.

 

– 2nd October, 2017 / 64 days without you.

Postcards to Vaikunth – 11

Questions. 

Dear Amma, 

I wish someone would teach me to be happy again.

Smile, yes. That I can do.

But how do I ditch this hollow feeling on the inside? How do I learn to not be scared of everything falling apart in the blink of an eye? How do I learn to trust hope again? How do I know it won’t be wrenched from me cruelly?
How can I stop reading medical journals and not look for signs that aren’t even there?
How do I write happy again? When will I learn to love mundane things like golden ribbons and silly tee shirts again? How do I listen to all your favorite songs without crying? How do I live in this house without running away from its rooms?
Where do I hide all my sorrow and try to move on?

Where do I find you? Where do I not?
How do I read again without crying, without talking to you about the book? How do I bring myself to believe in the God who took you away from me? What about all the insults I wish to throw at him? Who do I chuck them at? How do I look at my friends and not lie to them when I say I’m okay? How do I make the nightmares in which you live and smile at me, go away?

Who do I go to with all these questions, now that you aren’t here?

Love,
your daughter with a lot of questions.

 

– 30th September, 2017 / 2 months without you.

Postcards to Vaikunth – 10

Labels

no.
you don’t
care. you lied
when you said
you wept for me
died for me,
you only thought
of yourself
and what my
eyes
words
life
breath
could do to you,
never about
what they
meant to me. what
my mind thought
of you. of your smile,
of your eyes
doling out insults
but your tongue,
compliments.
your breath smelt
of artifice and
tears tasted like
hallucinated grief,
just an empty bag
filled with
imagined drama.

if only you
learnt to smile
for yourself
to love yourself
down to the
most nonsensical flaws,
your flabby arms
poor eyesight
unruly hair
colorful clothes,
instead of picking
on mine,
i would have learnt
to love you
in return.

but you oozed
insecurity,
you delivered
only judgements
that fell like
death sentences
from your lips,
lashing at me
one second and
cooing, wooing
the next.
you dusted me
until i gleamed
like marble,
the kind you liked;
learnt to love
the idea of me
but never me.
worse:
you only loved
the idea of you
loving me.

you were flesh
and hair
and laughter
but you were
never real.
i was the dreamer
stuck within
a bubble,
i was grounded.

no.
my friend,
you do not care.
halt your proclamations.
i’m calling you
out on your
greedy lies.
you never wept
for me
or anyone.
you never
gave me love.
only labels.

Paranoia

Dear Amma,

I used to take long showers. I liked the feeling of lukewarm water cascading down my back, over my sore muscles. I used to like the smell of soap, the blue tiles and the pretty towels. I used to sing in the shower even when I got water in my mouth.

But all I hear now, are Appa’s screams.

You know that horrifying feeling creeping up on you when you shut your eyes while soaping your face? Like there is a ghost lurking nearby and it shall pounce on you the moment you open your eyes?

That feeling is every conscious second of my life now. It is present when I turn off the shower nozzle too fast, heart pounding, thinking I heard Appa scream again. It is me jolting waking in the dead of the night when Mittu yells out in her sleep. It is me urging paati to visit the doctor for a ninety degree temperature. It is the feeling of dread pooling in my stomach halfway through a lecture on Kamala Das, that something terrible was happening at that very moment, and I was unaware of it. It is the urge to get back home as fast as I can to see that every morsel of dust was the same as yesterday, that nothing else was falling apart.

I don’t sing in the shower anymore. If I sing, I can’t listen for the possible screams . I don’t take long showers anymore. The water is either freezing cold or scalding hot, to remind me how to feel, how to cry, how to not get lost inside myself. I don’t like the smell of soap, it suffocates. It reminds me of the soap I had to wash off in a hurry and rush to meet a rapidly approaching nightmare. The one nightmare that came true.

But just like how there is no ghost waiting to kill you, when the soap finally washes off,
there is nothing here either.
No screams. Nobody dying. Nobody leaving me.
Again.
All that remains, is a haunting silence and sobs of relief.

With love,
A very scared daughter.

 

23rd September, 2017 / 55 days without you.

Postcards to Vaikunth – 9

What She Said:

you said,
where do you
find your galaxies
happy places
lucky stars.
where do you
keep them?
what do they say?
what do they
look like?

and i say,
i tuck them
behind your eyelids
every night,
and at daybreak
when they
flutter open,
they smile
at me
and go,
hello gorgeous.

they look
like the color yellow,
like the shape
of your eyes,
smell like
a new batch
of freshly-brewn
joy
they look like
the fingers that
feel like home
in mine.

22nd September, 2017.

slumber ~ (n) the calm before the storm

there is a large
silence that
slumbers
within you,
do you know?
it sits amidst
waves of noise
spewed from
human engines,
patiently awaiting
a time,
a single moment
to conquer
your body.

it starts slow,
ordering its weaker
lieutenants to prod
and probe the
extent of
your joy. the
kingdom of silence
claims all
of yours. and one day
all you are left
with is a large
chunk of this
silence in the exact
place where
joy once lived.
silence is all there is,
it feels like
nothing and
looks like nothing
wearing normal’s
robes. it feels like
leaving the living.

but it slumbers again,
in days
weeks
months.
it slumbers and does
not return. it only
packs quick
and exits. so you
can finally
smile again.
live again.
breathe again.

 

all i know is silence // 4