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You line them up and count your losses. Usual suspects. Loss of basic rights when you are born without a dick, loss of blood, loss of love, loss of happiness, loss of a normal life.
The second winner of our July 2020 Muse of the Month contest is Vipul Lunia.
The city is moving underneath you with such speed and alacrity that you fear you won’t be able to keep up. Standing at the open window, even watching them go from such a height makes you dizzy. You fear you will plummet among the crawlies.
Your unwilling mind thinks of those times when you would just curl up on the carpet like a cat. You could curl up now, but you realize there is no carpet. Although it doesn’t matter now. You don’t seek comfort, just refuge. But you don’t move a muscle. Moving people, shining lights enchants you. Doesn’t let you move. You want to go sit somewhere and not look at those moving lights from dizzying heights, but you can’t. You are transfixed. Then a sharp shrill ugly sound breaks the charm and you look in the direction of the sound.
Your phone buzzed and lighted up the Buddha statue, sitting in the Padmasana. Half eyes closed, meditating, looking tired of sitting on that glass shelf. He never opened his eyes to look at you, and didn’t know that you looked at him all the time, trying to find that peace he promised. You wanted to follow him, like him and unfriend him. How is Nirvana possible without hurting people, you ask. Or is hurting others in itself Nirvana? If yes, then why does the world crawl down there and not rise up?
Disorientation is a state of mind for some, a habit for you. The statue is all dark again, and you bring your gaze back to the crawling world below your feet. Crush them, squash them, just like you make chutney. You think you should write down a recipe for it, step by step cleaning and chopping of ugly humans.
You are angry, headed towards depression. But for now you head to the kitchen, grab a bottle of cold water from the refrigerator and pour it over your face. It jolts you, wrings you out and leaves you gasping for the air. Along with oxygen, you think you inhaled some Robin too, because suddenly she fills your mind. Her buffoonery, her spirit, her lasciviousness, put a smile on your dreary face. Her memory always does, but is ephemeral all the same just like her. You put the smile back in the refrigerator and close the door. Till next time.
You start to thought walk, in your one room kitchen flat, only thing in this wide city that you call your own. But you had to fight even for this flat, as you had to for everything in your life. Your parents died in an accident, without leaving any kind of will or instructions on the sharing of the assets between siblings. And your brother thought that all that is rightfully yours is the cash equivalent to the dowry amount, that parents would have borne in case they were alive.
You filed a case in the court. Then you saw your relations in the daylight, as they were – ugly, hideous, toxic. Your sister-in-law called you a prostitute, your brother called you a leech. In return, you get half a flat, some money and release from a pseudo relation. Peace of mind. Better be a leech-y prostitute than be a sad pathetic woman eligible only for dowry, you think. You miss your niece though. With the money you turn one of the two rooms into a kitchen, and there you are in the middle of your sanctuary. Here you can roar.
You are looking down at the floor, and a drop falls on your toe. You look up at the ceiling for damp patches but found nothing. So you touch your eyes, and there it is, your damp patch. You know it usually leaks, yet you have never tried to get it fixed. You pick up your phone and google “operation to remove tear glands.” You thought this is the easiest fix, no tear glands, no tears, no sadness, no melancholy evenings, no depressive nights. But nobody is offering the emancipation.
Somebody told you that there is some science behind women welling up so often. It strengthens them inside, makes them a better fighter. Tenacity. A fighter who can outlast their rivals. You wonder if that theory can help you cry less. Why didn’t Robin cry so often? Was she not a woman? What does science say on that? You don’t care anymore about the science. All you know is that it’s raining now, onset of depression.
It could be your time of the month, yes that could be the reason for all the tears and dizziness. You check your phone. It says ten days to go. You think it’s the recent events then, that is weighing on you. But the weight you carry is of the past.
You line them up and count your losses. Usual suspects. Loss of basic rights when you are born without a dick, loss of blood, loss of love, loss of happiness, loss of a normal life. Add to these a lost laptop and a camera, read it as broken dreams, and you get loss of will to live. You left your job, on which you sustained, to pursue your dreams. Photography. With all the savings from your 9 to 5 job, you buy a laptop and a camera. All your eggs in one wicker basket. And then you leave your basket in a cab, watch it depart, wave it goodbye.
You think of your options. You are still thought walking, along the wall, following the patterns of the floor. It stimulates your mind, better thoughts pop up. You think of going back to your old job. You recoil. You think you are a sad pathetic after all. You are back at the window, empty streets. Crawlies have gathered their food and are back at their lair. You want to fly out. Air is so hot, that you might glide on the thermals just like vultures.
Robin would have suggested to go out for a drive, feel some fresh air. So you grab the keys, but you can’t decide which way to go. Through the door, through the window. Robin told you not to take shortcuts, so you move towards the door. When you are about to lock the door behind you, you look inside the house from your vantage point. And the pang of loneliness hits you.
In that moment you realize, it’s the fear of loneliness. Everything else is just an argument. Alone in your car, alone on the roads. Lights looks magical at this hour, you think. Just subtract the humans from any place on earth, and it will look beautiful. On the passenger seat, Robin’s copy of ‘I am Malala’ is staring back at you. The words, ‘At night our fear is strong but in the morning, in the light, we find our courage again,’ reverberate in the car. You think its Robin speaking, she is doing this to you. In your mind, you are standing near the refrigerator, holding the door.
You slug through the streets, onto to the beach. Bare feet you walk on the sand, it feels cushy, soft, escaping. Fresh air working. Daylight breaking, pumping courage. You don’t think about life anymore, but of chai in your hand. Does it feel lonely to be separated from the rest of the pot, and be poured in one single cup to be handled by a depressed soul. Why do you need such complexities to have a life. Why can’t you live just to drink tea, you ask yourself. May be you can. You see a woman past her prime, walking along the waters on the beach. You see yourself in her. A mature self, still thought walking. Probably thinking about the losses. Realization. You resolve to think about the past when you have same amount of grey hair as the woman on the beach.
While driving back you think of borrowing a camera from someone or may be rent it. That’s ultra-positive- planning a future you don’t see. You see a lady walking by the side of the road, with a load of vegetables on her head. She is happy and jaunty, joking with her fellows. How, you think, is she so happy with this load and haplessness. I hear a voice say, The load on her head is external, while your load is internal. Its Robin again, this time she is being wise. You don’t know this yet, but your subconscious is almost convinced to live some more for the sake of beach sand and chai. All you need is a positive jolt to make your conscious self realize the same.
As soon as you reach your apartment, you hear the voice again say ‘Surprise.’ You find a woman waiting, with your dreams in a polybag. She says she is the wife of the cab driver, who ran away with your belongings. She says her husband wanted to sell the camera and keep the laptop for their children. But she didn’t want any stolen goods for her children. The minute her husband left, she came to you.
A visiting card with your belongings goes a long way. Your damp patches leak again, wetting your shoes this time. You say ‘Thank you’ loudly and mumble the same to Robin. You realize you don’t have any money to reward her. Instead you offer her a cup of tea. She is glad, you can see that on her face. She says it’s been a long time since she had home-made tea made by someone other than her. In the apartment, she is staring at the Buddha, while you are preparing the tea. All the while talking to you, about her family and small house. You realize her losses were way more than you, in just two sentences. You think Robin is torturing you now, with more sad stories. Stop this, you mumble to Robin, stop this right now. Alright, you win.
You open the refrigerator, grab the smile and close the door.
Editor’s note: Malala Yousafzai has been an inspiration for girls all over the world since her story became known. At the age of 15, she survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban. Patriarchy most fears a girl or woman who can read, think, and has her own opinion, and will make her own choices. This was taken to an extreme by the Taliban who were on a mission to eradicate all forms of learning for girls and women.
Malala has since then been in the spotlight for many reasons, most notable of which was the Nobel Peace Prize she shared in 2014 with Kailash Satyarthi. She has also lent her voice to many whose voice wasn’t being heard.
The cue is this quote by her: “At night, our fear is strong but in the morning, in the light, we find our courage again.”
Vipul Lumia wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations!
If you or anyone you know is feeling suicidal, here are some of the helplines available in India. Please call.
Aasra, Mumbai: 022-27546669
Sneha, Chennai: 044-2464 0050
Lifeline, Kolkata: 033-2474 4704
Sahai, Bangalore: 080–25497777
Roshni, Hyderabad: 040-66202000, 040-66202001
Author: Vipul Lunia. Vipul is a bird watcher in the morning, a reader by the day and a writer by the night. He left his corporate job of ten years to write full time and the first few steps of this thousand mile journey are in the form of short fiction.
Image source: shutterstock
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Vipul writes based out of India, where he obtained a degree in forest management. When
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