Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The disastrous 2014

Its about that time of the year when I do my yearly wrap up.. a bit late this year actually.. was hoping for some miracle to happen 

The year 2014 was one long, challenging year. Quoting someone, "it was the year that everything happened; and nothing happened".

This year saw many deaths, weirdest tragedies, endless hours in hospital.

Despite everything that happened this year, I am grateful for many things.

1. For being alive. Seems not so easy anymore these days.

2. For having people in my life that stood by me through the tough times, pulled me up when I was sinking, wiped my tears while I was crying or simply listened while I was whining.

3. For my father, who fought his last breath, to be with us today.

4. For having a job that has been flexible with my crazy emergencies and for paying me enough to take care of my family and my impulse shopping expenditures.

5. For being able to go on my first 'very expensive' long holiday abroad.

6. For my new nephew, the new bundle of joy of the family. Hopefully.

7. For having the patience to deal with crazy doctors, lazy nurses, and annoying relatives/colleagues.

8. For finally being debt free, like completely zero debt :) Cant say the same next year. 

Bring on 2015, I'm ready to take you on. Happy new year darlings! Have a blessed one.. xx


Thursday, 11 December 2014

Under one roof..

In the corner of the waiting room, there was a lady crying on the phone with her son, informing the hours left for the father..

Along the corridors, there were bunch of old but happy men, going one room after another, picking up their gang for the morning walk, laughing away like nothing in the world mattered..

In one of the room, there was a dedicated wife, secretly wiping her tears, trying to put up a smile, hoping to fool the husband, dying in bed..

In another room, there was a secret party going on, when the entire village decides to visit, the head of the clan sick in bed..

Next to him was the old lady left alone, always looking up the door with so much hope, each time a person walks into the room..

And then there was a guy who's been there forever, educating the newcomers seriously, lecturing on the do's and dont's..

On the doorway, there was a happy daughter, smiling ear to ear, she can now take her mommy home..

Everyone becomes friends, everyone is a relative.. What race? What religion? Everyone just care, for one another..

All under the one roof.. All under the leaking roof..


Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Shadow Lives - Part 1

Janaki meticulously measured out the ingredients of the tosai for tomorrow morning’s breakfast. As the creaky old radio hummed a song from her childhood days, she rinsed out the ulunthu, rice and fenugreek. Her three children had laughingly declared the radio to be a pile of junk and had bought her an iPod for Deepavali three years ago. It was still in the box, carefully tucked between her sarees. She just never got the hang of it, much to their amusement. Oh, how she missed their banter. Nothing had been the same since the fight. Every Deepavali since then was just a scorching reminder of the painful jagged rip in their family.  
            The sound of the front door opening interrupted her sad reverie. A moment later her husband walked into the kitchen, carrying two bags of groceries. He placed it on the worn wooden table and wiped his perspiring brow with a handkerchief. Janaki ignored the plastic bag of vegetables and inspected the second one.
            “Ice-cream? And chocolates?” She looked at her husband reproachfully. “You know what the doctor said about sugar!”
            Muthu waved away her protests. “It’s for the grandchildren, Jan. Make me a cup of coffee, will you? Extra kaw.”
            Janaki muttered irritably under her breath about her husband’s blasé attitude towards his diabetes as she prepared his coffee, deliberately stirring in only half a teaspoon of sugar. She brought it to the hall. Another mindless Tamil serial was on TV. Muthu was gazing listlessly at the ceiling, his thin frame stretched out on the sofa. Her heart softened. The short walk to the shops he insisted on every morning must have tired him but he would never admit it. That was just the way he was, maddeningly set in his ways.
            “Any news from Kuhan?” he asked, when she set down his mug on the coffee table.
“He called last night. All flights are grounded and he’s still waiting.”
“Did you tell him the matchmaker has found him a new girl? I agreed to meet the family the day after tomorrow with Kuhan. He should be back by then right?”
            Janaki plunked her hands on her ample waist and scowled at his high-handedness. “You know how he feels about arranged marriages! He’s never agreed to meet any of the girls your little matchmaker crony has proposed. Why would you make plans without consulting him?”
            “The boy just needs a push in the right direction. He’ll thank me later, you’ll see. What about Sarala and the children? What time are they arriving?”
            “After breakfast.” Janaki decided to let the remark about Kuhan slide. No point getting him riled up because she wanted to bring up Deva. 
She hesitated, twisting her fingers. “Muthu… you know I never ask you for much…” She stopped, feeling her courage failing her when her husband’s eyes narrowed on her. His eyes told her she better not say what he thought she was going to say. She gripped her hands tightly together and tried again. “It’s been three years since Deva and you… please…”
“Three years or thirty years, does it change the fact that he married a Muslim?” Muthu blustered. “No respect at all for our culture and beliefs!”
Muthu’s hurt self-righteous tone annoyed Janaki. “You’re not really mad that he married a Muslim. No. What you’re really angry about is, you couldn’t control him. Like how you love to control everything and everyone around you. Well he’s happy. Why is it so hard for you to be happy for him… for them?”
Muthu picked up the coffee mug, drained the bitter contents and banged it on the table. Then he looked pointedly away from her, his face like granite. He was done talking.
Typical, Janaki thought in frustration. Shutting off the moment anyone tells him something he doesn’t want to hear.
She picked up the empty mug. “Maybe not now… but you will regret holding on to your ego one day. I hope it won’t be too late by then.”
*           *           *           *           *
Muthu watched Janaki retreating to the kitchen. Come back, he wanted to call her. I already regret it. Every single day. But how do I… I don’t know how to take back the ugly things I said to Deva and Nurul.
            He clenched his fists and closed his eyes. Back when Janaki and he were devastated when they were told they couldn’t have any more children, Deva was proof that miracles do happen.  Parents were not supposed to have favourites, openly at least, but he loved Deva more than he thought was humanly possible. Yes, maybe he was a little overbearing but why couldn’t they see it was because he loved so deeply. He wanted to protect the people he loved from what he knew were bad decisions and mistakes.
So when Deva came home one day with Nurul, confidently shrugging off all Muthu’s advice and concerns, the hurt felt like a fist of nails twisting deep in his gut. He felt useless to be disregarded like that. Of course he couldn’t let his family see how vulnerable he felt. So he raged instead.
Now, Janaki’s ominous warning rang in his head. I hope it won’t be too late by then. He was already running out of time. His doctor has given him five, maybe six months. Was it enough time to repair the damage his ego had caused?
But first he had to tell Janaki. Unmanly tears sprang to his eyes when he thought about telling her. Angrily he pressed his balled up fists to his eyes. You have to be strong, he admonished himself.  

Part 2

Shadow Lives - Part 2

“Milan! Lara!” Sarala surveyed the chaos in the hall with exasperation. Disney was blaring on TV and every inch of floor space was covered with toys. Even the cushions from the sofas had been brought down and arranged into a fort. But the two kids were nowhere in sight. “Where are you? Get in here now!”
            They came running in from the backyard, happy faces smudged with dirt. Sandy , their golden retriever, came bounding in after them. The look on their mother’s face however, immediately wiped the cheeky smiles off.
            “One more time I find you two have not cleaned up after playing, I’m throwing all your toys away!” Even as she said this, it occurred to her that this particular threat was losing its effectiveness. She’d have to think up of a new one soon.
            “Sorry, Amma,” Milan said.
            Then with all the bossiness of a six year old, he nudged his four year old sister and said, “Say sorry.”
            “Sorry, Amma,” Lara mimicked meekly.
Sarala almost smiled but she steeled herself to look stern. She rubbed her aching back and sank into a nearby cushionless sofa as the kids began to put away their toys. Sandy nuzzled her legs affectionately.
At thirty six weeks pregnant, every inch of her felt tired. Suddenly she heard her mobile phone ringing from her room. She heaved herself to her feet, scratched Sandy behind her ear and navigated her way over the Lego pieces strewn on the floor.
Her husband reached her phone before she did. He had been in the room packing for the trip to her mother’s house. He was smiling into her phone and nodding.  When he noticed Sarala at the doorway, he broke off politely and handed the mobile to her. “It’s your mother.”
“Hello, Amma.”
“Sarala, you sound tired. How are you, dear?”
Sarala burst out laughing. “I’m impressed at your detective skills from just two words I said.”
“It’s a mother thing.”
“I’m fine, Amma. Just the usual tiredness. We’ll see you tomorrow. Is there anything you want me to pick up on the way?”
“Actually, that’s the reason I’m calling. Are you sure you want to travel two hours up to KL so late in your pregnancy? Your Appa and I don’t mind coming down to your place for Deepavali this year.”
Her parents’ concern amused her though she deeply appreciated it. They still acted like she was a young bride of twenty four and this was her first pregnancy.
“Don’t worry Amma. I’m fine. Really. Besides the kids are really looking forward to Deepavali at their grandparents’. Let’s not spoil their fun.”
“OK dear, if you say so. But if you change your mind or if you don’t feel good, let us know.”
She promised her mother she would and ended the call. Her husband was watching her.
“You do look more drained than the last two times.”
“That’s because I didn’t have two little monsters to run after before, Raj.” She stretched out on the bed and sighed wearily.
Something crashed in the hall and Lara wailed. Sandy began to bark excitedly.
“Make that three,” Sarala said wryly.
Raj leaned over, brushed aside her curly hair and kissed her forehead. “Rest for a while. I’ll go handle the little monsters.”
She squeezed his firm bum as he walked past her and smiled impishly. “Wait till I start handling you.”
“I consider myself sufficiently warned,” he grinned.
             *          *           *           *           *
Kuhan clutched his boarding pass gratefully and squeezed his way out of the press of the queue at the Malaysian Airlines check in counter. He was immediately swallowed up by the mass of frustrated, stranded travelers. Cursing irritably, he bulldozed his way through to Starbucks. He ordered his caffeine fix and swooped down on the only vacant seat beating another man who was hurrying towards it as well. The man turned away, disappointed.
Kuhan rubbed his bleary eyes and dug into his pocket for his mobile phone. Between work and sleeping at the airport last night, three days of almost no rest was taking a toll on him. But he was satisfied nonetheless. He’d had a breakthrough in the human trafficking piece he was working on by chasing a lead all the way to Hong Kong.
            “Hello Amma,” he said, as soon as his mother answered the phone.
            “Kuhan! Any news?”
            “The typhoon’s cleared. I’m flying out in 2 hours.”
            The relief in her voice was palpable. “That’s wonderful! We were so worried you wouldn’t make it back in time for Deepavali.”
            Kuhan laugh tiredly. “Me too. See you soon Amma.”
            He’d just ended the call and taken a deep drink of his coffee when his phone buzzed again. His brother’s goofy face flashed on the screen. Kuhan smiled.
            “Bro! What’s up? Are you back yet?”
            “I’ll be back today. How’s Nurul doing? She’s due anytime now, isn’t she?”
            “Around the same time as Sarala actually. But she’s doing good so far. I think I’m more of a nervous wreck than her!”
            They chuckled and then Deva grew silent. Kuhan knew what he was going to say next.
            “How are Appa and Amma?”
            Kuhan deliberated on what to say. He didn’t want to make Deva feel worse than he already did.
            “Amma misses you but she’s fine otherwise. Appa’s still being an old stubborn fool.”
            “Do you think he’ll ever come around? He must want to see his grandchild for God’s sake!”
            Kuhan stared out the window at the gloomy grey landscape and said more confidently than he felt. “He will, just give him time. He’s just really old fashioned.”
            Deva sighed and changed the subject. “Anyway, if you’re around KL next Saturday, come over to my place. We’re having a little Deepavali dinner for Nurul’s relatives. I’m inviting Sarala and her family too. It’ll be really great if you guys could come. If you could get Amma to escape the old man’s clutches and come, even better.”
            Kuhan heard the raw yearning in Deva’s voice and his rage towards his father for breaking up the family almost boiled over. But he made a savage effort to control his voice. “I’ll be there bro. You can count on it. I’ll see what I can do about Amma.”
            “Thanks bro, that’s great! Alright, have a safe flight and see you soon.”
            Kuhan clicked off and checked the time. He’d better get to his boarding gate. He scrolled down his messages and rapidly tapped out a text to Jason.
            I’ll be arriving at KLIA around 5 P.M. Could you pick me up? K
His phone buzzed almost immediately with the reply.
Of course! Missed you! Can’t wait to see you! xxx J
Jason was great. What a pity I have to break it off soon, Kuhan thought absentmindedly as he typed his reply. He was just a bit too… fluffy, for his taste.
            Missed you more!! xxx K
            He pocketed his phone and smirked cynically. If his father thought Deva marrying a Muslim violated all his traditional believes, what would he do when he found out his other son was gay?  

Part 3

Shadow Lives - Part 3

The doorbell chimed. Janaki felt her heart leap with joy as she quickly turned off the stove. She hurried over and threw open the front door. Milan and Lara tumbled in, still in their pyjamas, dispelling the gloom that permeated the house.
            “They insisted on coming straight here to have their Deepavali morning oil bath,” Sarala said, waddling into the house. “Hi Amma. Happy Deepavali.” She gave her mother an awkward hug.
            “It’s so nice to have you all here!” Janaki exclaimed. She hugged Sarala back and Raj who came in after her, bags in each hand. Sandy scampered up to her, tangling between her legs, barking excitedly. Suddenly she hurtled straight to Muthu who was coming down the stairs and begin licking him madly.
            “Crazy dog! Stop it!” Muthu swatted away at Sandy.
            The kids giggled hysterically as they raced to join Sandy. Janaki noticed how Muthu’s face lit up in only the way that grandchildren could make it.
            “Guess what Taata has bought for you? Ice cream and chocolates!” Janaki heard Muthu say. 
            “Not first thing in the morning!” Janaki rolled her eyes at her daughter.
            “We know he can’t wait to have them actually,” Sarala laughed, wagging her finger in mock reprove at her father. She hugged him. “Happy Deepavali Appa. Wow, have you always been this thin? Or have I gotten so fat that I feel everyone else are stick figures?”
            Muthu laughed, a little too heartily, Janaki thought. But she was relieved to see he was not brooding like how he often was lately. Let everyone be happy today, she prayed.
            As she herded everyone into the living room, she exchanged a pained look with Sarala when they both glanced at the family photos displayed prominently everywhere. The glaring absence of Deva in every one of them was hard to ignore. But as Janaki knew she would, Sarala arranged her face into a cheerful mask. Over the years, Janaki had come to depend on her daughter’s bright spirit to carry them over the undercurrents of tension and sadness. Sometimes though, she wondered how Sarala was really feeling.
            “Hello gang! Happy Deepavali!”
            Janaki’s heart swelled with happiness to see Kuhan standing at the open doorway. The kids raced towards him and he scooped them up, one in each muscled arm. Everyone was now here! Deepavali could official begin.
            Not everyone, a tiny empty space in heart whispered, stabbing at her contentment.
            None of that gloom today, she told herself sternly. She made a deliberate effort to be merry and bustled to the kitchen to start on her tosai. Sarala followed her, leaving the men with the children and Sandy who was making a nuisance of herself with Muthu.
             *          *           *           *           *
“Oil bath! Oil bath!” Milan and Lara were shrieking.
“Ok, ok, go tell your Appa to get you ready for it.” Muthu looked around for Raj who seemed to have conveniently disappeared with Kuhan.
“Nononono.. we want Taata!”
Muthu made a show of groaning reluctantly but he was only too happy to indulge them. He let the kids drag him to his feet, pushing away Sandy who was clambering on him and whining. “Alright, alright kiddos. Let’s go!”
Sandy twisted around his legs, almost tripping him. Muthu threw up his hands with exasperation. “Raj can you please get this damn dog out of my way? What’s gotten into her? She’s sticking to me like a magnet!”
Raj stuck his head into the living room. “She’s just excited. Come here Sandy girl.”
Sandy gave Muthu a mournful look as if to say why don’t I get to have fun too?
“Oh, let her bathe with us please?” Milan begged.
Muthu shot Raj an alarmed look. He could handle the kids but definitely not the dog!
Luckily, Raj came to his rescue. “Certainly not Milan. Go on now, go with your Taata both of you.”
Muthu was relieved when the children didn’t protest and sprinted upstairs to the master bathroom. He followed at a slower pace, Sandy whining disappointedly and sniffing hopefully around his ankles, much to his irritation.
After he had slathered the children in oil and showered them in a symbolic cleansing for new beginnings, he sent them off to watch cartoons on TV. Sandy was still whining but at least she was sitting in a corner and not climbing all over him. He’d tell Raj to please put that dog outside for the rest of the day. She was getting too annoying.
“Sandy’s still here with you?” Raj was at the doorway.
“Unfortunately,” Muthu grumbled. “Can you take her outside?”
Raj was silent for so long, Muthu was about to repeat himself when he finally said quietly, “Appa, what kind is it?”
“What kind is what?”
“The cancer.” 

Part 4

Shadow Lives - Part 4

Muthu stared at Raj, stunned. And horrified too. How did he guess? He asked Raj.
Raj looked miserable. “It’s Sandy. She was this way with my grandaunt who had breast cancer. Whining and sticking to her like a leech.”
Both of them looked wordlessly at Sandy. Muthu broke the silence. “It’s my lungs. I have about six months, at most.” It felt unreal to say those words out loud for the first time to someone else.
Raj snapped his head up in shock. Don’t overreact, Muthu instructed silently. He watched in relief as Raj stoically digested the news.
“I’m guessing no one knows. When are you going to tell them?”Muthu grimaced. He’d been fighting with that question himself. Mainly, he didn’t want to be treated differently when he told his family. Like as if he was weak and to be pitied. But now Raj knew and he seemed to be handling it well enough. Maybe it won’t be so bad.
Appa,” Raj prompted gently. “They need to know.”
Muthu decided swiftly. “Tomorrow. I’ll tell the family tomorrow, while everyone is together. Let’s have this one more day to be happy.”
Suddenly they heard a blood curdling scream from downstairs. Muthu froze. “That’s Sarala!”
“Oh my god! The baby!” Raj was already sprinting downstairs, his face ashen.
Muthu hurtled down after him, panic fueling his old limbs.
Downstairs, they collided with Kuhan. “Kitchen!”
Muthu felt like he had slammed into a brick wall when he saw Janaki sprawled on the kitchen floor, unconscious, Sarala keening over her. The children were clutching their mother, crying, looking shocked and confused.
He stumbled towards his wife, dazed. “What happened?”
From the babble of panicked voices surrounding him, he managed to pick out the words “Stroke” and “Hospital”. Only then did he notice the right side of Janaki’s face was twisted ghastly.  

Part 5

Shadow Lives - Part 5

It was almost midnight. Kuhan leaned over and gently touched his mother’s cheek. Her eyes remained closed. The doctors had put her into an induced coma and now, only the beeping machines reassured him that she was alive, but just barely. He dropped his head into his trembling hands. Someone squeezed his shoulders. He glanced up. Sarala was beside him, gazing at their mother, her eyes puffy from crying. That worried him even more. She shouldn’t be stressing herself like this.
“Let me take you home, it’s really late.”
Kuhan saw the stubborn set of her jaw and knew it was useless. Just like Raj who had given up trying to pry her away from their mother’s bedside and took the children home instead.
“Have you eaten anything since this morning?”
Sarala shook her head.
“Ok, at least let me get you something to eat. You need to think of the baby.”
Sarala shook her head again and Kuhan began protesting but she cut him off. “No, I’ll go. I need to clear my head. You keep Appa company.” She nodded towards their father who was sleeping awkwardly in a stiff chair.
Kuhan relented. “Get me a Latte please.”
His phone buzzed as Sarala left. Deva had been continually texting him the whole day. As soon as Kuhan called him from the hospital, he had wanted to rush over but Kuhan had stalled him. Let’s handle one crisis at a time please, he had implored Deva. I don’t want the old man to see you and yell himself into a heart attack right now. Thank God Deva had listened to him.
But it wasn’t Deva. It was Jason.
I came as soon as I could. I’m outside. J
Kuhan jolted up in his chair. What? What?
He quickly checked to see that his father was still sleeping and noiselessly hurried out of the room, shutting the door quietly. True enough, Jason was there, pacing the empty hallway. As soon as he saw Kuhan, he flung his arms around him.
“Are you ok honey? How’s your mom doing?”
Kuhan tried to extricate himself from Jason, his thoughts spinning wildly. How to get him out of here in the fastest way possible… without hurting his feelings?
“My mother’s stable. I…err…I didn’t expect you to come here.”
“Oh thank God! I’ve been so worried since I got your text. How could I stay away at a time like this? I came as soon as my shift ended.”
“Errr..thank you Jason.” Kuhan knew he sounded lame. But right now, he just needed Jason gone before his father woke up or Sarala came back. Idiot! He should have at least warned me that he was coming.
“Is there anything I can do?”
“No, no, nothing,” Kuhan replied quickly. He began to walk towards the lifts, forcing Jason to follow. “I really appreciate you coming but it’s late and I need to rest, and, I guess I’ll call you tomorrow?”
“Oh of course! I shouldn’t have come so late. I’m sorry!”
And now Kuhan felt bad. Jason deserved better. They stopped in front of the lifts.
“No I’m sorry,” Kuhan said awkwardly. “I’m just not my self right now.”
“It’s ok honey. I understand. If you need anything, call me ok?” Jason reached up and caressed Kuhan’s cheeks with his soft palms.
At that precise moment, the lift doors opened and Sarala stepped out. Kuhan jerked away from Jason as if his palms had turned into snakes. But it was too late. He could tell from the way Sarala looked electrocuted, that she knew. Kuhan was paralyzed, unsure of whether to pretend she hadn’t seen what she had or acknowledge it. Sarala decided for him. She dropped her shocked eyes to the floor and hurried past them, gripping his Latte.  
“My sister.”
“Good night Jason.”
After Jason had left, Kuhan steeled himself to return to their mother’s room. His father was still asleep. Sarala was standing beside their mother. She turned when he entered but didn’t meet his eyes, her face blank. Only her red ears betrayed any emotion.
“Raj is coming to pick me up. I’ll come back in the morning but call me at any time if anything changes.”
Kuhan nodded and waited silently until she left. Then he slumped into the stiff hospital chair, feeling even more dejected than he thought possible. Yes, he had intended to come out of the closet to his family eventually. But certainly not tonight and definitely not like this

Part 6

Shadow Lives - Part 6

The weak morning sun filtered into the sterile hospital room. Muthu massaged his aching neck, working out the kinks. Kuhan had gone home for a quick shower but Muthu had refused to leave Janaki’s side. Finally it was just the two of them. Like how it was in the beginning - before the kids, before responsibilities, before heartaches.
            Muthu took Janaki’s hand, the one without the IV line. Despite her plump fingers, it felt fragile and dry. He couldn’t remember the last time he held his wife’s hand. Suddenly the thought of never being able to hold them again, sent pain piercing through him.
            “Don’t leave me, please Janaki. My jaan.” Tears dripped on their joined hands but he didn’t care.
            Only the machines replied him: beep beep beep. She remained beyond his reach.
            He heard the door opening quietly behind him. Must be the nurses making their rounds, he thought, still gazing miserably at Janaki’s still face.
            Muthu stiffened. It was a voice he hadn’t heard in three years. A voice he dared not hope to ever hear again.  


Friday, 5 December 2014

It's like dying...

Anyone who knows me, would know about my love for Grey's Anatomy.. There are not many things or people that really "get" me, except for maybe chocolates, ice creams and grey's.

 Anyways, here's one of my favorite excerpt from grey's.. that gets me..

"There is a reason I said I'd be happy alone. It wasn't because I thought I would be happy alone. It was because I thought if I loved someone and then it fell apart, I might not make it. It's easier to be alone. 

Because what if you learn that you need love? And then you don't have it. What if you like it? And lean on it? What if you shape your life around it? And then it falls apart? 

Can you even survive that kind of pain? Losing love is like organ damage. It's like dying. The only difference is, death ends. This? It could go on forever..."