Of Birth, Death, and Life…

Why, by the end, does everything turn into a source of pain?

Arham is known by his colleagues as someone who dwells in the past. In his defence, he always asks them “well, who doesn’t?” While everyone else is talking either about the future or their ‘could have been’ versions, he prefers to think of life as it has had happened so far. Other than that there is nothing anyone would ever be interested in knowing about him.

“You were born all messed up, shapeless, like what they eat these days, what do they call it, ha, Pasta. The doctors had to keep you in a cradle with 4 light bulbs focussed on your naked body. It was only after that you finally took a shape and began to resemble a human body, and then we all had waited till we were convinced you’d survive. And you were named Arham.” her grandmother had iterated this story like a mantra. He often wonders what would have happened if he had never taken a form. What if there were no bulbs? And does that make him as much a progeny of Edison as of his parents?

“But you can’t name a person Arham. It is blasphemous. There is so much wrong — sinful — that a person’s name is associated with. You can’t name a person with a word so sacred as that.” said the Jain monk when the fretted mother and the grandmother approached the monk and asked why is Arham always sick. The grandmother was cradling him on her legs. The mother was lachrymose. Again, he was too young to remember all of this, and it was all a hearsay, like most of the stories about one’s childhood.

“No one will eat Maggi in my house, not at least till I am alive.” his grandmother pronounced when she had heard him asking his mother to cook Maggi. “That is not our food, in fact, that is no food at all. We are vegetarians, and it has the fat from pigs.” He had cried and then slept hungry that night.

It was an unusual morning. His mother had died the other night. He had cried for as long as he could have, and then he had slept, and when he had gotten up, he had cried again, and this was repeated for the next many days till there were no tears left. He remembers his grandmother’s soft hands on his head, her old skin now flaccid almost like a cow’s udder, “I am still here, I’ll take care of you.” she was saying something on these lines. But why was she saying all of that when he knew he had her.

Now. His grandmother’s body is deteriorating. “What is happening to me?” she asked him when he last met her. And that question, that simple question, shattered his heart — the little remnant of his heart that had survived the cruelties of the world seemed too little to bear her naive question. He placed his rigid hand on her head and calmed her to sleep. And, once she was asleep, he saw her face, there was so much of that calmness that is missing from his life, the cracks on her face rose and fell with her struggled breaths, the contour of her face changed slightly with each successive breathe. He wished — even prayed — if he could make things better for her just like she had when he had lost his mother.
But some things can’t be bettered.
They can only be grieved over.
Sometimes alone and sometimes together.

But, all these reminiscences — both the happy ones and the sad ones alike — always bring along only a sense of loneliness and compels him to believe that no matter what he’d do to make himself happy at this moment, the moment would soon lapse and then, later, these doings too will end up becoming a source of pain.

And so he forces his mind to think about the time when his grandmother was healthy and they were all happy. That time must be counted too. How lucky he had been, to have gotten a chance to spend as much time with her as he had. He recalls one particular instance. She is sitting in the kitchen, crosslegged, the stove is in front of her on the ground, she is preparing Rotis — perfectly round and baked. He is sitting at an arm’s length distance from her, and he asks for a half.
She extends her hand and hands him a full.
Filling him to the full.
Completing him.
Just like she always did…

The picture linked to the blog post has been downloaded from https://www.inc.com/nicolas-cole/15-sad-reasons-people-give-up-on-their-dreams.html.

14 thoughts on “Of Birth, Death, and Life…

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  1. Your fiction always reads so much like nonfiction, it always enchants me this way… along with all the details steeped in India… that paragraph about the lightbulb-shaping was my favourite. And I thought of your real-life grandmother… the one you wrote about in the interview… I know this story is not portraying her, but I can’t help but wonder if she also made Roti. And refused to cook Maggi. :))

    So happy to see your story turn up in my WP feed — it was the nudge I felt I needed. I have picked up the interview responses you sent me in March, not believing that a month had already passed so quickly. As before, I got paralyzed in publishing… not wanting to do it an injustice… this time due to indecision over formatting details. I will say to heck with these details and put it up on the blog quite soon.

    Thanks for your patience, Akarsh, and thanks for your wonderful stories. May they long continue!

    Love from France xoxoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Only this time I must admit that this is more non-fiction than fiction, Nadine.
      Thank you for your comment. Time is a bit tough on me and the family right now. But that’s how it is with everyone, so can’t complain much.
      Hope things are good in France… I read your father is coming to visit you, do tell him about our adventure, and tell him I loved his remark about the moderations…

      And thank you so much for this: https://bloomwords.com/2019/05/01/1685/
      I love everything about it. Only you could have made it beautiful the way you always do.

      I have not been writing anything lately, been thinking a lot, not about the stories, but damn, the thoughts, the past, how it catches up with one and while it does it seems as if there is nothing else than it. I am grappling with so many memories right now.

      About the story: Yes, it is about my grandmother, she is indeed not well, but the sections about the lightbulbs and the Maggi​ are both fictitious…

      Love from India!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am so very sorry Akarsh… so very sorry indeed, what a strange expression that is, but what I mean to convey is that if this story conveys more non-fiction than fiction… well, I can only imagine the suffering you are experiencing at this moment, and my heart goes out to you…

        Meanwhile my father (and mother, lucky lucky child that I still am, even at age 46), have been and gone, since I started responding to your responses just before the last week of April. I cherished their visit… but as usual I don’t talk about writing with them… it’s complicated… :))

        Your words are so kind, Akarsh, thanks for being really generous with them… in the end I still feel I did not do it justice, at first, when I was formatting it, I also wrote a lot of replies to what you’d written, but then deleted them again, before publishing, because I felt it talked too much about myself, and I wanted it to more be about you, but the result now comes across as stilted at times. Ah well, I am happy still, happy to have had this opportunity to converse with you about writing, perhaps our favourite subject for both of us, and I am so very, very grateful to you, for your amazing, thoughtful, insightful answers to my questions. Thank you ever so much.

        And finally, I hope you will write through all your thinking, and the past, and the memories, and the suffering, even if only for yourself at first. As you know, it can be a real therapy and source of joy and awakening, inside the suffering that often comprises life. Or perhaps you could write a letter to your grandmother. Or your perhaps to your mother, bless her clearly-beloved-by-you soul, wherever it/she may be.

        With love from France
        :)) xo n


  2. She extends her hand and hands him a full.
    Filling him to the full.
    Completing him.
    Just like she always did…

    Beautiful writing ♥️ and love the way you present things!

    Liked by 1 person

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