I look at my school colleagues, college friends- they get up early morning and leave for work, come back home in the evening and play with their kids, have dinner and go to sleep.
They all lead very similar lives. I watch the world pass by me, guys insecure about their lovers in relationships, guys running away from their partners for the excitement of extra-relation-affairs and one-night-stands, sons running away from parents under the same roof.
Three days ago my mom told me that it’s been 6months since I moved in to her apartment here. I was astonished! Six months and I had no clue. Six months of watching the same people go around the same routine. Six months seemed like just counting of days, days all very much the same, the first like the last, the first day I moved in here with my luggage (of 5years) just like yesterday.
I admit I am a shy person and I do try to balance things. The old and the new, the “good” and the “bad”, the “lovely” and the “ugly”, the practical and the reckless… So much so, most of the time I end up walking on the edge. Neither sane nor crazy, neither working nor idle, neither happy nor sad… And that leaves me belonging to neither of the worlds.
At times I do wish that I hadn’t read so much or known much, so that I could have fallen off the cliff easily, landed up in some psychiatric hospital instead of walking upright like this… neither normal nor crazy. Or maybe should have taken up hashish and synthetic drugs on a trip to Fantasy land. Either ways I would have had a road in front of me… albeit leading to nowhere… but a road alright.
I see no road in front of me. I’m completely lost in the dark.
Day before yesterday I stepped out of Mira Road after a long time.
Usually my day consists of trips to and fro, from Qamar’s cyber café, where I stare at the screen twiddling with the keys thinking of what site I can visit to fill the void of time. And it’s amazing how time can fly in a cyber café, without you visiting hardly any sites.
I took the train and was aware of myself as this second person, he gets into the train, chooses to stand at the side-board at the entrance. He’s aware of people looking at him from the corner of their eyes for a moment- some deciding to take away their glare to check out something/someone more interesting than me, some deciding to strip me with their stare.
I move in and take a seat in the far end of the compartment by the window. An “educated” couple enters the scene with élan, and I feel the gush of ‘Talk’ pervade the atmosphere, as they quietly take their seats in front of me. I try to keep a straight face and look out of the window so that they don’t come to know that I’ve been affected by the “aura” they wear around themselves, the shield that is Mind that has read a thousand books and chatters away even when they are quiet, scaring away people “less sophisticated” and down-to-earth. It’s like an invisible monster stares out of their bodies, having them in its clutches, while it watches other people around them like a possessive mom in charge of her child. I feel the giant monster spread its cloak on me, asking me to bow down to them, while I put up a valiant effort not to collapse.
The train chugs towards my station, and I’m glad to get out of the scene. I call my friend from a pay-phone and agree to meet him outside the church.
Again I look at this second person Suresh as he walks through the crowd of people. He tries to read faces to find out stories, anything out of the ordinary, but to his disappointment finds only blank faces. Faces that seem to be just skin, eyes, bones, flesh… nothing beyond, nothing of a person. The crowd, as I have always seen, are people who cloak up their faces with the ‘routine’ that has come to define their daily lives, and draws a curtain between them and every other person walking the street.
As I walk through the crowd of lifeless corpses, a dread takes over me. Like a chicken held by the back of its neck … Fear flies down to perch on my upper back like a lump of clay, slowing spreading its claws lower, plunging its nails deeper into my flesh to reach the carcass inside. I carry it over my back, telling myself that I have finally got Uma right, that I’m aware and vigilant because I know the exact time when fear perched on my upper back.
I’m grateful to see the steeple of the church on the horizon, just above the black Indian hair of people.
I find the ‘grotto’ where I usually meet up with my friend. I see a new concrete structure defining the entrance that has come in front of it. Candles burn at the feet of an idol of Mary clothed in blue and white, so simple that a schoolboy could have carved it.
My friend isn’t yet there. So I enter the concrete entrance and fold my hands in silent prayer.
Old words from my Christian days greet my lips, “O Mother of God”… and I can’t help reflecting on what these words convey. ‘Mother of God, mother most holy, holy virgin.” Gulp it like a bitter medicine? Let them shove it down our minds. ‘Faith must serve to compensate’. Shut your eyes and believe it. Took you 5seconds to read this, took me a battling of an eyelid to choose not to recite the Hail Mary prayer. Hadn’t I written on my blog about the Earth Mother? Yeah… I’m nearer to that idea of God now. So I choose to close my eyes and feel Spirit of the Earth. And come out not at all feeling guilty of my misconduct.
I walk up and down the pavement, looking over the road for my friend to appear. I wonder if somebody would ask me what is my business standing here. That makes me feel nervous as this image of a catholic, educated, bald and middle-aged guy walking upto me to shoo me off to the road, flickers in my mind.
I decide to enter the church.
When I left my building in Mira Road, I had this faint pressing thought that I should confess in prayer before the Lord. Confess for my wrongdoings, for being too proud in front of neighbours, the pride which is only a mask to keep them away to not invite intrusion into my privacy.
To my astonishment, in the church I find two priests seated at either end of the chapel to hear confessions. I approach a guy who has just said his confessions and is back at the bench, and confirm with him if confessions are really being taken.
I approach the old priest who sits on a chair facing 90degrees from you, and kneel down. I know what I want to confess, very much different from what I had decided earlier. “…been carrying it with me for 5years now father…”
I finish blurting out my confession, my very first formal confession in the church. This whole ‘heavenly’ setting seems to be a perfect provocation for all the guilt that has been inside me, and my feelings wash away my words as the priest waits for me to finish my confession. Pause. “…remember that Jesus came into this world for us. Father, son, and Holy Spirit”, Five Hail Mary’s.
I return to the bench and “…pray for us sinners, now and at the moment of our death, Amen.” 5times.
As I look back now…Strong Powerful words. And a lady with a nerve of steel who finally made me bow down to herself.
For the purpose of ‘readability’ I would choose to spare you the details of what transpired between my friend and me that day.
However; to be just to this piece of writing, I would certainly mention the climax.
A sleepless night with a buzzing mind, an early rising in the morning before sunrise as I cuddled up in the living room in front of the TV set, watching a movie that apparently pops up on your TV screens a perfect finale for such a grand evening- Solaris, starring George Clooney.
Even as I am trying to find out what is happening in the movie, I am aware of this fear gripping my insides, as mom goes through her early morning chores in the kitchen. I listen to the sounds and her presence and feel afraid of her…
Muddled and sleepless head, an alert body, fearful heart and a voice inside me telling myself- “…it is just a panic attack.”