Late Night Alchemy – Prologue

PROLOGUE 

I flip through the channels listlessly, looking for something interesting.  As  per my usual luck, there is absolutely nothing even, remotely interesting that I can find. This continuous and everlasting boredom, thus propels my essentially dysfunctional brain into an extremely meaningless monologue. One, that seems to be more or less  a broken record.  Beginning with the lack of anything attention worthy to the unquestionable lack of purpose in my life. Continue reading “Late Night Alchemy – Prologue”

If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?

Sitting on the armchair, I was turning the prayer beads.  Something I tend to do often, when I was brought out of my reverie by my daughter in law’s loud voice. I suppose it was my youngest granddaughter who was getting scolded once again. “If everyone else were to jump off the bridge, would you too?”. The same words that I’d heard so many times growing up. Those words pull me back, way back in time as I see my self standing in front of Amma. After all, this is what she had said when I asked her for permission to go to the Pathshala. This very week, my best friend Rimjhim and so many other girls from the neighborhood had started going to the Pathshala.  She said that they were being taught alphabets and numbers just like my older brother.  She said that soon she would even be able to read letters, imagine that, letters that only our old postman, baba, and other such wise people were able to read. The thought of being able to read letters and sign boards and whatnot without asking for help, and in turn being subjected to a volley of questions  sounded so very exciting. It all seemed like such a wonderful adventure, an adventure which I definitely wanted to be a part of. In fact, I even told Amma  that if I went to the Pathshala  I could even go to office, just like Chachaji does.  This was something that the very teacher had told them, Rimjhim had confided in me, delightfully.

After some pointed words discouraging me from  comparing myself to girls from such poor backgrounds, my mother had asked me the very question that Sheela had asked my granddaughter today. I was told that the Pathshala was not a place meant for girls for families such as ours. After all, what would the society say? Despite crying and being upset for days on end, and even refusing to eat on occasion, my wish was not fulfilled. I was told to stop being stubborn because, that is something that good well-bred girls of our station just did not do.I finally accepted that there was no way I was ever going to the Pathshala.

Instead, I was placated with the promise of a  new lehenga-choli with matching  bangles. After being told again and again somewhere, even I started believing  Amma. Believing that perhaps my role in life, much like my mother and others before her was just to stay at home and look after  the children. At that time, I didn’t really realize the irony in this. The very mother who had scolded me for following the other girls to the Pathshala was perfectly fine  with making me follow the path that women had been following since centuries. I didn’t realize I was simply being expected to jump off a different bridge, just one acceptable to my parents and of course, traditions.

bridge

However, I was just a 12-year old, one who had thought of school to be merely an  adventure and subsequently, accepted a pair of clothes as quite an apt settlement. It was much later  in life  that I understood. This happened only after I had gone to live with my husband in the city. Often I cried as I felt inadequate, as I experienced my husband’s and many times even my children’s hesitancy in having me near the  “polite company”. At that time, it was too late to change anything. Again, an irony as  the education that I’d been denied because of the society was something that  was considered an essential by this society.

Time and time again, I wish I’d cried more. Protested more. Perhaps, I would be somewhere else. I kept dreaming of what could have been. I imagine I’d have been a working woman like Rimjhim. A woman I could have been proud of.  Someone other than just a weak, dependent, aging mother for whom no one has time. I would not have been seen as a burden to carry, one my children could not get rid of fast enough. These are some that continue haunting me as I keep turning the prayer beads, none of the turmoil visible on my face.

Perhaps, I’ll tell my granddaughter this. I’ll give her  an answer  to this question, at least. I’ll tell her  the answer is, and has always been “Which?” .I’ll tell her that there are so many bridges to jump off and so many “everyone” jumping off them. I’ll tell her to listen to everyone but make her own decision.

She is  going to have to jump off the bridge, anyway.  So she might as well select “which” bridge she prefers and “who” the everyone is before jumping. Perhaps the, I shall be able to save her from the state I’m living in or at least regret . My dear Pari. I’ll tell her when she comes to play with me. Or perhaps, a “senile” , old woman such as me, should just stay shut?  I sigh, and continue turning the prayer beads.

Oblivion

It is the continuous shriek of the alarm that wakes me up. Up, from the comfortable oblivion of sleep the much adored world of dreams. They say a new day, a new morning is a thing of hope. A new chance, a new day to enjoy the wonder that is life.  I wonder what this great wonder is, perhaps because I don’t find anything so wonderful about it anymore.

Today, is much same as any other day. Feeling half- dead I climb out of the bed to get ready. Wonder or not, I don’t have the time to contemplate, I need to get going.   The bus journey to the office is spent with my ears stuffed with earphones.  Music, a pleasure for many and an escape for others.  Soon, I am zoned out , lost someplace else. I do not even notice the man who hurriedly steps on my toes, not even getting angry. Ah bliss, this oblivion.

oblivious

Saying my general his and hellos is no difficult as I enter the office lost in the thoughts of the bills that litter my table at home. I must remember to work extra this week. Tension grabs me as I find the way to my cubicle. No, I must not allow myself o think about it. Papers stack my desk. There’s so much work to be done.  Lots of number crunching, manipulating and whatnot. There’ s no time to think, to contemplate to even feel this innate dissatisfaction that is plaguing me.   Satisfaction and happiness, a sense of direction. Bah, these are for the self- help gurus and those hippies. I am lucky enough to be in possession of a job. Must remember this. This is reality not a book, where there are perfect lives and happily ever after.

Break time, finally. I fill this with meaningless chatter.  I listen to some tragic story just making the right sounds. Hey, at least my life isn’t that bad, I think. Though,  nothing feels right. Just then, my order comes.  Sweet relief. Food, that’s good. I does fill some space, I reckon . Next, I pull out the chocolate bar from my purse. There’s a small measure of satisfaction to be had here. At least it stops me from thinking.  Sweet oblivion, even though it may just be a chemically induced one.

The work continues and after another music blaring session I am finally home. I check into a television show, their seems to be so much happening, something to occupy my mind. Thinking won’treally do any good now would it? I fall asleep with the remote in my hand, saying goodbye to another day. Oblivion, indeed!! Till the alarm’s next cry.