Friday, July 03, 2009

A Christmas Gift

(Written Jan 2009, in a loose journal form)

2020 Baby is all right, her granma is just showing her around, but there's a feeling it is just too early for all that.

2021 Call from home. Report that things are turning out rather well, that she's making friends...and I paint a rosy picture for them as well as for myself.

2023 'X' joins me. I indicate something about the call. As I slowly walk back, along the side of the coach from where I'd alighted, she silently guides me away, so that baby wouldn't catch sight of me. I keep on talking on the phone as I accompany her.

2025 We watch her from a distance. A crowd has collected, probably just see off their dear ones. We say generally pleasant things, things like how things could possibly work out as planned. We feel like master orchestrators to whom success has become second nature.

2026 We can no longer just wish it away. It's definitely she.

2028 Now her pitch is at a crescendo. She's calling it quits, and it will not be easy getting her all the way up to CTT.

2029 We take a few steps closer, now we are only a few metres from the entrance, and we can see Granma trying her best to manage things. Her wails are intermittent, her voice is cut off when she wants to inhale, it's heart-rending. When she's got a gulpful, she starts crying herself hoarse.

2030 'X' steps in. When she returns a minute later, she tells me it's best to keep away.

2035 We've made some decisions. Now it all hits us: the plans were shoddy, though the superficial things were very well planned. We had made big mistakes.

2040 We've taken her out and her luggage out. Last minute adjustments in re-deploying some luggage either side.

2045 It's past the departure time now; 'Y' is so light-hearted (for obvious reasons) that he manages to tell Granma (his mother-in-law) that there might be some dignitaries in the train for whom it was being delayed.

2050 The train is off. now she wants to go, but it hardly matters.

2056 We slowly make the trip back after making the phone calls informing the grand parents in both directions.

2105 At the top of the foot over bridge, I have to make that remark on how optimistically it had all been planned. Things had turned out in the only possible way they could. Her father had told me just this (indicating it was probably not a good idea to let her leave). 'X' gets that chance to pour it all out and turn the rabbit on its head. Starting with a carefully modulated swear word (which was intoned very slowly, as if in a chant, but which I never really noticed—I was already kicking myself for falling into the trap), she continues. Who shall I turn to, whom will I tell all this, when will my suffering end. I was very clearly outmanoeuvred, and she could completely transfer all her guilt or shame (if at all she felt any, which I doubt) to me, because I am expendable and I am always there. Of course, not to take off the sheen from anything; she's endured physical and mental strain to attend the classes—and here's where she's taken it in the other sense—and if she's unable to complete all the papers successfully then she has this particular uttering of this superbly pessimistic bastard to apply for. (But who cares? I think she will pass all the papers she appears for; whether she appears in all is highly doubtful—which was what I was hinting at.) The big issue was not the exams. She just supposed that the big issue was passing the exams. She just took for granted the big premise to that success—which was to be completely free for the twenty or so days during which there would be exams. By not going there a few days before and settling her in—which still would have been difficult if not outright impossible—she'd made it that bit harder for herself. In the end, as she said rightly, she might have to make a few more trips daily. Would that be enough...would anything ever be enough. I guess she'd be really stressed out in the end, and I further suppose that it will be like this throughout our lives. She's a typical; white-hat thinker, and her life would be permanently marred by my red- and black-hat thinking. But she can always complain, because unfortunately the pessimist always wins. What she does not realise is that there are a few things which will not happen otherwise, and some people see it very easily. Which is why there are very few surprises in my life, and which is why my life is miserable though I always appear to be free.

2109 Car. Inside. In her misery, 'X' bangs the Baby's leg against the dashboard, soft leg buckling under the impact. Baby starts wailing like a rocket going off. I'm almost speechless; at the depths self consternation. Somehow I have the presence of mind to start the car (the other possibility would be an eye for an eye). Baby was sobbing silently, and soon she fell silent as 'X' continued mumbling. 'Y' is almost mad with a sense of shame; but somehow it keeps his mind perfectly clear and balanced, apart from the shattering sense of private loss. Things are so clear in his mind, it's almost like the calm after the bombing.

And the mumbling assumes the spitting cobra stance: the new premise is that it's only due to me that she'd pulled the baby out. The implication being, she would have stopped crying somehow, her granma would have managed somehow. With the opportunity, she now has a licence (her tongue is much much nimbler than mine) to bend facts, reason, and intentions to her liking. You're cooked, my dear fellow. for the next three weeks, you self-ignite and douse the fuse time and again.

2125 Almost home. As I parked the car in the garage, I could hear a new bout of wailing. As I move up the stairwell and reach the door, she tearfully blurts out, 'Acchaa...enne thalli.' I took her in my arms, and she was soon silent. I took her to bed. 'X' was already in bed, turned to the other side.

It exposed my biggest failings as a person. When she hinted at the gravity of my pessimism—and she's right in the essentials—that I'd already acquired the CCNA, CCNP and Oracle certifications a few times over—and that I was only trying to hamper her journey to professional sainthood by passing these departmental tests, she had a point. It is true that I don't take an exam unless it's absolutely essential; and when I take an exam, I make absolutely sure that I will not be disappointed with myself when the result comes. But that's the sunnier side of it; the bleak side is that most often the exams aren't mandatory, and I will not take that exams. The result: I get left behind. And if I get left behind, then it's a vicious circle. (I have my reasons; most of the days I waste something like four hours; but I also spend a lot of time with Baby.)

And what was I thinking before all this, I, unfailing diviner of the bleak future, foreteller of catastrophes, the one with evil foreboding, Ĺ’dipus Panathanaikos, one with the poison tongue? ('One who bends his tongue only to strike down.' But why, why notice? Why get affected so? And why, when there's even less than a hint, draw out the posion togu and forge a calamitous destiny? Why choose the curse when the words haven't yet been conceived? Why at all talk? Wh—)
  • I was thinking of at least a week of play.
  • I'd already celebrated by buying two books to read in the coming ('free') days, ad promising a dear friend that I'd write no matter how.
  • I was thinking of reorienting my life (whatever that meant).
  • Also, thinking of reading things and writing.
  • Thinking other petty thoughts, all in tasty anticipation.
  • And as I started the car to the railway terminus, I was thinking about all the nice thoughts because the outcome would supposedly be very positive.
  • As we made the preliminary arrangements inside the coach (part of those described earlier as a superficial planning success), such as securing the luggage, it suddenly strikes me that the berths are the ones right next to the exit, and she'd be sleeping with her granma on the bottom berth. If she gets up at night and tries to go out... and it was the start of the misery. I found myself rather helpless because some things had already been done, irrevocably: 'X' was not going, I was not going along either, and so it was all an open, vulnerable environment. Anything could happen in the space of a few seconds; it was an ordinary sleeper coach, and either one of the two doors would not be secured. These were, if I were given the benefit of hindsight or afterthought, a figment of the pseudo mystic bourgeois imagination.
And how did Baby clatter all my pots on to the floor?
  • Now my hopes took a nosedive; I fear I might have to reorient my life to suit Baby's.
  • To put an end to all spurious activities, to "live in the present and the now" (hackneyed phrase, have to use it because I really don't know what it means, sounds like a Wrigleys punchline to me).
Which essentially means: none of the above hopes will materialize (hopes never do; a pessimist should know at least that). No reading, even less writing, more housework, more stress, more yelling at the child, less hours at office, more marital discord (like a kilogram a day compounding to two or three kilograms henceforth). In a word: it would be totally disagreeable (a pessimist knows and does not even hope otherwise) three weeks. In the course of these three weeks, anything could happen, and family could totally disappear from the face of this painful earth. (And, true to her own dark depths, 'X' was quick enough to point out, while we started the return trip, that it would have been just as easy to band her head in the rails, which would have stopped her crying altogether—she has a way of thinking everything in such grandiose terms; if it is a personal misfortune and a protracted drudgery, it's all the more useful to paint it an absolute catastrophe. Somehow it lets her cope better; it's just one of her ways of dealing with my pessimism which she deems unforgiving and insurmountably prophetic.)

And Baby, blissfully unaware of the myriad thoughts that literally shredded 'X' and 'Y', simply announced, with the required force, that it wasn't to her liking. And when she was interrogated by a loving mother on the side bench she said just as sweetly, victory already ensured, that it had made her sad that the train was going. We'd made that big mistake that she was of an age when she could understand everything, but could still call it quits any time she wanted, and appeal successfully to having her considered as a yearling or even an infant. In a single, genuine, undifferentiated act, she's brought us face to face with the raw reality—she's made us face the real. She's just reminded us—again—that it's something about her, and not about something else and she's getting in the way.

...and she was ready to roll out the tricks, if need be; only, things will never ever be the same between 'X' and 'Y', at least not until a further catastrophe submerges this in its trail. And until then and ever after, life continues to burst in ugly bubbles regardless of how you found yourself in it: inside or outside or nowhere at all. When a bubble breaks, you all fall hard. And when you've picked yourself up and powdered your face, there's another.

At the end of the day, the three of us are still together, thrown like three forgotten pebbles on a beach washed by time. The sands shift, the pebbles weather, but they remain three until they wither. And thus ordained for life, ye men and women: life, single, always.

But this, my wholehearted wish to 'X', wishing her all success in the coming examinations. But really, the exams aren't what it's really about. What it 's really about is managing Baby and still getting to the exam hall that early, finish the paper well, and being back in time. Well, you tried. You sorted out some problems. Can't help feeling bad about it: defeat is always black and losers blame themselves. Losers don't get the proverbial straws. But this—my wish, wretched as it is. (But what more from a pessimist—

[2350; 120'; proofread but uncorrected; but what is there to correct in life? You write these things merely to help your mind from wandering and committing fouler, darker crimes. Crimes of stupidity: if only I'd shut my trap. At least she'll sleep well today, guess she's already put two hours of decent, deep sleep behind her by now. If only—but it's a little too much to ask isn't it—to ask something of oneself. Living from fall to fall, we learn nothing better than to fall deeper the next time.

In passing, I might add that X passed all her examinations and was in fact the only one among those in her office who attempted the exams to come through with flying colours.]


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