Endings & Beginnings

Rescued from a photo I’d mentally marked as “trash,” this vista of generic sea and sky begins my blog. Endings frame any beginning.  Even a birth is the end of an 8 month swelling of the body.  From any place in the world,  this horizon is merely an anonymous mating of sea and sky.  “In my end is my beginning,” T.S. Eliot whispers from across my troubled teens, through the lines of  “The Collected Poems” from Faber & Faber press, that my mother had ordered specially for my 16th birthday.  Mum’s been dead, and gone, for over ten years.   My Dad’s been dead and buried for over 30 years now.  Then, follows my god, my Merlin–who died two years ago.   I live through  this Holy trinity, my tutors for living, my best compadrés, my ghosts, my loves.

The death of a god impels a personal beginning after 20 years of sitting still in an ashram, the defiance of  writing again.  I tumbled into this world, out of my mother’s belly (symbolically speaking), right into the waiting arms of my Swami.   I exist under his ironic gaze, a spiritual punk, a court jester amid the serious seekers of god.  And still do, though Merlin be dead and departed, consecrated in a marble tomb.   The online dictionary defines an “ashram” as “a religious retreat or community where a Hindu holy man lives.” The stress on the male gender is ironically appropriate as most holy societies, all over the world, revere their men. Women here live swathed in scarves and saris, though bosoms do peep and distract those very holy guys, rule makers and power brokers, who continue in the reflected glory of its founder.

Unclassifiable, indescribable–a being more non-human than human, ethereal but feral,swami unconfined by a body of clay, a composite paradox, Swami is the catalyst for my writing, and my living.  Without his presence, institutions (colleges, hospitals, social projects) wither into bureaucracy, the unpredictability of a living god dwindles into social ritual, almost cult in its restrictions.

I want this blog to be a ‘between’ space, going neither here nor there, seriously but trashily writing lines, between reflection and anecdote. So the nameless horizon is apt. And I at fifty-two, stumble around, fat and brown, a strange tattooed single sight in the midst of the Goan tourist scene.  (Yes, I ran away for a breather, wanting the breadth of the sea, to Goa.)  Those tattoos attest that a lean, mean, fighting machine resides within, capable of issuing forth without warning. Amid all the white bodies sporting on the beach, lying on the sunbeds, and jogging/ bicycling by, I bumble along. The domestic browns are all in couples, the women never in swimsuits, and mostly surrounded by their children. A single brown woman who drives up, alone in an electric blue Honda is an unusual sight.

I am not in search of company, at least human, though, of course, company comes by, clumsy convivial collisions of the human race. Often, I lie awake at night, feeling the dead hang by invisible threads from my fingers. I trail them around with me, they inflect my actions, italicize my thoughts, frame my dreams. But, the living determine my actions, I stumble into them, humans, dogs, cats, fish; I hurt them, heed them, and, yes, love the clumsy collisions of these different beings and my silly self.  In these random collisions of the dead and living, I search through my grief and will perhaps find my Merlin stretching out those delicate fingers to me again, beckoning, “come, come, let us go….”


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Excavating Company: After the Surgery

For those who live alone, without family, but with some friends–

went in for an arthroscopy [keyhole surgery on my right knee] on Thursday, ten years after the original injury. I had gotten so used to pain that neither myself nor the people around perceived it any more–pain had became a ghost companion for a decade, almost invisible to myself and those about me. But un/fortunately, the young doctor, whom I finally consulted, rewrote perception. I had to allow pain to assert its presence, make its existence known.Arthroscope

Almost immediately after I see the young doctor, I go in for surgery, spend one night in the hospital, and become dependent on the goodwill of others. In the process, my childhood heroes, women whom my mum had held up as exemplars of goodness, prove Mum is always right. Padmasini checks me in, discharges me, takes me home, messages me with offers of help the following morning–all the while denying that she does anything out of the ordinary.

Other friends spend the night, keep me company, but once home, I’ve myself. Being home after surgery, finally, alone, I have to struggle to throw off the habit of dependancy that hospital and enforced attendance have induced in a day. Even to answer a phone call induces stress, to move, sometimes to get up, to reach for the bloody tiny machine.

And, just as I get home, after the long process of discharge, getting my stuff together, struggling down hospital stairs, into the car, and up to my room, a friend calls. Trembling, anxious, tense [even with the good Padmasini by my side], I don’t want to answer. But, seeing the name, and grateful for her help in spending the night with me in the hospital, I pick up, intending only to let her know I’d call her back. cartoon-mobile-phone-rage-faceBut, oblivious to my panic, she continues the call, informing me that I have to call the lunch delivery guy. In my panic I yell, “PUH-LEESE, I’ll call you back!”

So, I call back after awhile when I’ve rested a bit, only to find the phone left ringing unanswered.

Yes, she did call again to inform me–“she’d call back”–which she hasn’t so far. Oh the problems of social interaction, with psychological games, when I must contend with my own resistant anxious body and mind! Moving around is a matter of judgment, as I must monitor my knee, make sure to sit down each time with my feet up, not to stand. When the phone is left elsewhere, I make a decision to lower the legs and answer. When well meaning friends call to ask “how are you? I’ll drop by sometime,” I’d rather be left alone.

And yet, last evening, when another of my childhood heroes, Kalpana, called to tell me she was coming by, despite taking her son to the dentist, despite having to see her sister in hospital [also admitted for surgery], despite nursing a horrendous cold, I am overjoyed. Pain and Panic vanish.

So, as I question throughout life, what makes the difference? What sets apart one human interaction from another? Is it the depth of emotion? Is it love versus social interaction? Is it the authenticity of the self? And, how did/ does Mum know so far back in the past??mum knows best

So–I bumble, stumble, through life and living, affection and hurt, human and social interaction….pain imperceptible, not of the body so much but of the mind, ghost companion at my side.

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