Broken

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The trolley clattered on the shiny tiled floor, its back left wheel swinging dangerously on its axis. But I see that now; in retrospect, at the time I only saw my mother, her groaning, incoherent lopsided form.

“What happened??”, his stethoscope dangling on his left shoulder, a doctor spoke.

“Hmmm, what happened, come, come, come here…” he prodded me away as three nurses heaved my mother onto the larger bed, the left wheel of the trolley screeching in protest.

“Nothing sir, she was sleeping, then she got up to go to the bathroom and… and fell.”

“Ok, what time…? today??”

“Just now, half an hour back.”

“Vomiting, any fits, bleeding from the nose or ears??”, he paused as I took stock of his questions.

“No sir, no, once she vomited in the car”

“BP, sugar, any other problem, heart problem??”, he rattled off, mentally checking boxes in his head. I now remember his tired eyes.

“No sir, only BP, doctor, is she alright??”

“We’ll see, we’ll see, what is her name, sir?”

“Debjani, doctor, Debjani Chakravarthy”

“Sister, vitals?” he turned towards the nurse busily scurrying around my mother.

“BP 180/100, sugar 128, doctor”

“GCS??”

“10 doctor, I think, please confirm…”

“Doctor, doctor, is she alright, what happened to her?” I followed him to my mother’s side who was now clad in a blue gown, her brown sari, bundled into a ball at the foot of the bed. The next few minutes were a blur.

“Sir, go complete the registration and get the hospital number… counter 14”

“Sir, pay for this scan and these tests and come back with the bills, counter 12”

“Sir, come, take off her bangles, here take her earrings.”

Under the mist of the oxygen mask, my mother breathed softly, the monitor beeping in the background, as I slid the bangles of her forearm. Glass ones snapped as we forced them against her wrist making her moan. Her shakha pola** though, those red-white encircling bands clung tightly to her forearm, reminders of my father, refusing to slide off and we struggled against them in vain.

“Sir, come here…”, the doctor ushered me back to the corridor. “Sir, I think she may have a bleed in her brain. We’ll do the scan and confirm it. She will require ICU admission and may need ventilation.”

“Huh..”, my head spun, actually no, it didn’t spin, it buzzed, it jumped, leapt insane, from thought to thought – bleed, I’ve to call Baba, why, why, why, how much will the ICU cost, why didn’t we take that insurance, what will Baba say…it danced a dervish within me.

“Sir, do you understand?”, he gently spoke again, “She is breathing now, but if it worsens she will need a ventilator, a machine, to breathe, for her…” he stressed each syllable speaking slowly, the words ballooning from his mouth. I nodded wordless.

Back, they heaved her onto the trolley, pushing her through the door , the wheel still clattering, into the Radiology block. And suddenly I was cold, my heart racing, I turned to her in a panic but she was still breathing softly, fogging the mask; it was only the air conditioning. Another heave into the doughnut shaped machine, she already felt lifeless.

“Sir, stay here, wear this…” and before I knew, I was wrapped in a lead apron alone in the cold with my mother. The machine hummed to life, rumbling round, faster and faster around my mother, peering into her head.

“Sir, see, see, here”, the doctor held up the scan to me, “Here is the blood, as you can see it has almost filled a quarter of the brain on the left side, increasing the pressure inside the head.”

“So… she needs Surgery??”

“No, sir, no…”, his soft voice was back, his eyes averting their gaze, he continued “this is not something we can solve by surgery, we have to admit her and see; wait for it to get absorbed”

“But will she be alright??”, I remember my voice quaking.

“Sir”, he hesitated with a breath and spoke “At this age with so much bleeding, it is difficult, it is very serious, already she is losing consciousness, we will need to intubate her and see. We can only hope for the best”

“But she will be alright, right??”

“Sir, if I connect her to the machine, it will breathe for her. I cannot say if and when she will come out, if she will talk, walk or understand you. I’m sorry.”

“Then, what is the treatment?”

“There isn’t any sir, we can only wait for the blood to be absorbed but the chance is small. the risk high. Now you have to decide sir, if you want to connect her to the machine or not. Either way, there is no guarantee, we can only hope” he was looking straight at me now. “The ICU admission will cost around 15000 per day and even after that…” he put up his hand to pause my optimism, my queries, “She may not make it out of this.”

Now my head spun, it swam and whizzed searching for footholds, adrift.

“Please, think about it, talk to your family and let me know. Please let me know in the next ten minutes or so…” he finished with a sip of water from a pink water bottle calming his parched throat. I nodded wordless.

“Sir, here take her bangles, we managed to remove them with soap.” the nurse spoke handing me a pair of soapy red and white bangles. “Sorry, one of them broke”

I nodded again, alone, my mother’s red and white bangles hanging on my fingers, clinking softly in the cold, cold wind.

 

**Shakha pola – Red White bangles worn by Bengali women

 

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Buried

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Photograph of painting at Chitra Santhe 2016 – Artist Unknown

“Listen…” Shanthi said, wrapping her arm around mine as we crossed the road towards the brightly lit house. “Relax, don’t worry, it’ll be fine, it’s just a couple hours.”

“Yeah, I know”

“So; ready??” she said and without waiting rang the doorbell.

Faint tunes of a familiar melody rang within the house. A few heavy steps and a second later, the door swung open.

“Hello, hello, welcome.”

Shanthi’s father, Pankaj Verma was a striking figure, six-two with a neatly trimmed French beard, square rimmed glasses, a deep baritone and a noticeable limp that he tried to camouflage with a walking stick. He squeezed my hand with a vigour and gave it a couple of firm downward tugs before finally letting it go. I wiped my nervous moist hands on my pants.

“Hello, I’m Anuj” I muttered as I shuffled inwards, back towards the wall.

Shanthi meanwhile already in a warm embrace of her father, barely registered my discomfort.

“Hello, Anuj, come; come inside”, Neelu Verma, a matronly aunty with a sallow thin face and an even thinner smile gestured inward into the depths of this unfamiliar home. The passage from the door led into a lavish living room and taking a seat on the roomy four-seater sofa, I drank in the room; the bookshelf crowded with medical texts, the framed photos of family trips, the neat centre table placed square in the middle, symmetrically dividing the entire room, and finally, finally the painting. The painting hung on the wall opposite the sofa was squarely opposite me and it was formidable. It was a face, except it wasn’t.

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Melancholy

Inspired by –

“Kahin pe hai dukh ki chhaaya

Kahin hai khushiyon ki dhoop

Bura bhala jaisa bhi ho

Yahi toh hai bagiya ka roop

Phoolon se, kaaton se, mali ne haar piroye

Kahe ko roye”

                                                                                Safal Hogi Teri Aradhana

Film – Aradhana

 

Lingering ruby drops trickle

Down creased wooden hands

Falling full stops kiss the waiting floor

Crimson spheres once, now broken by time

Scattering spotting my canvas below

 

Familiar tears smear my face

Arcing slivers, they move

Inking in my waiting canvas

Painting, smothering, staining me rouge

Tired eyes floating in gory deluge

 

My tongue they coat, acrid taste

Years of wounded words remembered fade

Only salt, salt remains

Choking, clogging, gagging it falls

Stifling, smothering, strangling it rains

 

My eyes defeated fall away,

The bleeding canvas still in wait

No ruby dot, no blemish on it made

Empty, disgusted, I turn away

Durrell Diaries – Chapter One

The small Tempo Traveller swerved to narrowly avoid the cyclist. Audible gasps filled the air reminding me of my foreign companions. New to Indian roads, traffic and the nonchalant reckless driving they Oohed and Aahed at every deft turn of the steering wheel. Shaking my head, I typed out on Google Maps – ‘Pygmy Hog Centre, Basishta’… No results found. Odd, I thought, Google that could find me and my obscure blog was unable to find the centre fighting to save the world’s rarest species of wild pig. Minutes later, we turned into a small clearing on the crammed road and shuddered to a halt on the slanted ground.

A rusting gate stood, green letters on a white board proclaiming proudly on it – ‘Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme’. Flagging this on the side were logos of the associated organisations one of them being the Dodo logo, I had flown to Guwahati for.

In front of me, Lee Durrell and the group from Durrell Conservation Trust walked on, into their programme to save a species most Indians didn’t know or care about. The pygmy hog for those of you who don’t know (most of you I suspect) is the world’s smallest species of pig and was once thought to be extinct. Interestingly they owe their rediscovery to the meat eaters of Assam.

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Thirteen makes a Dozen

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                  The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp – Oil on canvas, Rembrant (1632)                             Source – Wikimedia Commons

The dark cool corridor stretched out in front of us as we filed along. Nervous hands stuck deep in pockets warm, excited hands reaching out felt unfamiliar walls, forced hands listlessly hung. One hundred and fifty of us, strangers scuffled on, into the depths of the Anatomy Department, the year was 2007. We smelt them first, scrunching our noses hurriedly, tears stinging the corners of our eyes, as the dead, the preserved dead announced themselves. Sniffing we entered the Dissection Hall, eleven bodies lay bare, stripped on cold metal tables beckoning. Formalin hung in the air, stifling us as we explored our morbid settings.

“Good Morning…”

“Good Morning…”, the voice exclaimed with finality silencing our sniggers and whispers.

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I Know…

Recently there was a session at Write Club Bangalore about identifying and understanding different gender identity. The goal of the session was to write a piece from the perspective of any one of the genders and fill it with raw emotion, to push oneself out of their comfort zone and write about characters we may have met but never really understood or tried to understand. Kudos to Bright for hosting such a different and challenging session. This is what I came up with.

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I Know…

The diagram of the neatly divided penis stared at Arjun. Ramrod straight arrows spelling out its innards; corpora cavernosa, corpora spongiosa, glans, he licked his lips. The weight on his chest returned, that all too familiar empty weight. Blocking out thoughts of Ashok, he began to draw, strokes of the pencil creasing into the empty page. He drew with a calm, not copying, imagining, not replicating, reproducing; caressing the page drawing emotions, drawing…

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Thithi – A Review

 

Every so often, a rarer find now in these potboiler times, a film comes along that instead of transporting you to an imaginary world transfixes you in the forgotten magic of your own. Thithi is one such film.

When Century Gowda, the bawdy centenarian of a small village passes away, his son Gadappa, a senile gypsy of sorts with no interest in land or wealth, grandson Thamanna, a man caught in the throes of family life, and his great-grandson, Abhi, a hormonal teen on the cusp of manhood react to his death in their own ways.

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Clamour

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PC – 2014, Canon 1100D 18-55mm, Rock Garden, Chandigarh

 

The sun a fiery orb of blood red sank, its last rays glinting on the reaching waves crashing onto the beach strewn with still forms. Rivulets of blue swirls merged with conflicting red streams of blood as the waters washed incessant over the ravaged bodies.

“In a World…”, a voiceover resounded over the post-apocalyptic scape, “torn asunder by man’s greed, Gaia rose in wrath to undo all man had wrought…” Angry streaks burnt into the sky lit the beach as on its shores a body stirred. His lungs gulped air, coughing he choked, the stench of flesh hung like a curtain within him. He staggered to his feet, his gaze vacant staring at the violence before him. “Humanity’s last stand for survival…” a voice boomed through the clouds jolting him to the reality of it. He looked around for the source, the devious deranged villain wreaking such havoc. Desolation, devastation faced him.

“…will be fought by one man…”, it continued, deep rumbling, like Morgan Freeman. “Who is it??”, he said, now sure the voice existed. “One man must in the face of loss…”, unperturbed it went on, as though formed by the air itself.

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Today

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0130pm – I’d woken up late, as usual, stumbling down to the kitchen, my head splitting at the seams. Yesterday’s Monk, pizza, vodka and biscuit pudding sloshing around inside me. At first I thought they’d just gone out, my day went on. I shaved showered dancing to Sia, she sounded louder than usual. No one interrupted, no one shouted to turn it down, the minutes passed, tens, twenties of them.

0245pm – I realized this was the longest my music had ever gone on. ‘Calling Mom’, the screen flashed at me; “This phone is currently not reachable.”, she said. ‘Calling Dad’ the phone now said; “This phone is currently not reachable.”, she intoned. “Fuck it”, I say walking out into the afternoon sun locking the door behind me.

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Diary of a Scene

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Dear diary,                                                                                                     

Daddy came home today. I’d been waiting the entire week. He was so happy when I showed him my drawing. He brought me chocolates, a whole box, and a doll. We played hide and seek after that. I won, like always. After that he took me out for ice cream, chocolate cone and I dropped it over my shirt we laughed so much when I tried to eat it from my shirt. I want him to finish his work and come back home.

Amma never wants to play anymore and akka comes back late all the time. I want daddy to come again.

 

Hey Di,

Chocolates, really chocolates, who did he think I was, how old did he think I was or did he just not remember. He didn’t care. Didn’t care to ask if I’d been picked for soccer, if I’d settled down in this godforsaken new school. Ass.

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