2011: Acknowledgements & Year In Review

2011 Year in ReviewIt’s been a long-drawn battle with time, and I finally won. A crappy year ends and a hopeful, new one begins. There were so many instances in 2011 when I thought that things couldn’t get worse, and each time I was proven wrong. I have laughed, cried, fought, patched up, been cheated, cheated myself, been lied to, lied myself and finally, searched for the eternal peace which has seemed just barely out of reach for so long. The past year has had occasions of absolute bliss and considerable misery for me, and I will very glad to end this year on a good note, with friends, lovely strangers and a lot of well-earned alcohol.

2011 began for me on a fairly good note, with a job offer at a promising firm. Just a couple of months down the line, I realized my mistake and it was too late to rectify it. The company turned out to be a nightmarish hell-hole managed by lesser mortals and run by an insect. After being sucked dry, my will to go forth and survive took over and I quit the garage (yeah, it was a communications firm being run out of a garage) and started managing my own firm, which had been neglected so far.

I did that for a few months and made some absolutely lovely friends in the process. Here’s a shout out to Satish and everyone at Design Esthetics. A couple of more months saw me take up scuba diving as a pseudo profession. But, as luck may have it, the dive center for whom I was doing the marketing, was run by another insect who turned out to be a bastard of the highest order who cheated all his employees out of their hard-earned money and respect. It’s only sweet justice that his business is ruined and he has nowhere left to run. Oh, I’m waiting to see the asshole’s face in the papers when he gets arrested for fraud.

Things got really interesting after that, and I reached a point where I had to dip into my savings for the first time in five years, just to survive. A year-long courting ritual with a well-known and respected multinational communications firm finally reached fruition and I made the decision to move to Mumbai, tentatively at first, to check out the playing field. It was a decision that I have not regretted and I’m pretty sure I won’t regret for a few more years.

On the personal front, things couldn’t get more strange than they did in 2011. I had a lot of illusions shattered this year when the woman I was in love with turned out to be nothing more than that – an illusion. I made a few bad decisions, I agree, but when two people love each other, they are capable of both pain and pleasure. I realized that money plays a vital role in deciding how long you can love someone. So, on a fateful day in November this year, I lost someone very close to me and made me wonder if she ever was capable of loving someone for who they are and not how much their wallets can carry.

Just when I thought I’d give up hope on 2011 being a good year, I rediscovered what it was to fall in love with someone totally unexpected. A fresh feeling of puppy love, evolving into lust and desire and at this point of time, to a steady state of mutual understanding, trust and faith, made me a believer again. Here’s a warm bear hug to the woman I’m in love with – the hottest mallu chick in the world. Yeah, I’m dating a mallu, and if anyone’s got a problem with that, you can pick a number, get in line and kiss my ass when your number’s called.

If I were to send one message to 2011 and all it’s incidents and people, all it’s merry and misery, it would be this: Good riddance to bad rubbish.I can’t wait to enter the new year. I’m ever the optimist, cautiously pessimistic and according to my girlfriend, annoyingly pragmatic.

All the people who have made my 2011 bearable: Rohit Nayak, for his constant support and encouragement; Pavan Attavar, for making sure I never got drunk alone; Mum & Dad, for their support through financial famines; Satish, for his trust and belief in my limited abilities; Nargis Namazi, for making the transition to Mumbai that much more easy; Sagar Pandey, for his warmth, generosity, hospitality and for allowing me to use his PS3; Mark Monteiro, for ensuring that I didn’t kill the asshole dive center owner by replacing the air in his tank with rat poison; Mahesh Bajaj, my newest friend who took the leap of faith and is hopefully in a better state of mind after Gokarna; Renuka Balachandran and Niveditha Singh, who made my days in the godforsaken garage bearable; Nitin Kumar and Pooja Rao, for their steady supply of sex scandals, movies, television shows and porn; Gitanjali More, for making sure that I got my steady supply of interesting conversations; and finally, a very special mention of my new-found sister, Aishwarya, without whose support and love, I would not have been able to settle into Mumbai.

My love to you all and I hope 2012 will be a fantastic year for all of you.

The Christmas Nightmare

scary santa penguinEvery year, around Christmas, I am blessed with a nightmare or two about things that truly scare the shit out of me.

Very few things scare me as much as penguins do. Yeah, it’s a rare phobia to have, and I am one of those very few people in the world who are afraid of the flightless demons. They are evil and they won’t hesitate to kill you and eat you, every chance they get. They walk like they are on a mission to hunt you down and their stare is enough to turn your blood cold.

Last evening, I had one of my frequent penguin nightmares. But it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I dreamt that I was being hunted by a penguin dressed as Santa Claus.

I found myself in a strange room with three doors and no windows. A loud, disembodied voice called out to me, “Ho! Ho! Ho! Nikhil!”

More intrigued than scared, I looked around the room frantically to locate the voice. From somewhere, a draft of cold air blew threw me and I shivered involuntarily. That’s why I realized I was naked. There were absolutely no clothes on me at all. I tried to search for the source of the breeze but couldn’t find any. There were no windows, as mentioned, and no vents or cracks in the wall. There was no furniture, no electric sockets or appliances of any kind. Despite the lack of light bulbs or any other artificial source of lights, the bare room was strangely illuminated in natural light. I wondered what the hell was going on.

“Ho! Ho! Ho!” came the voice again. It was a deep, guttural voice that was a bit menacing as well.

“Santa?” I whispered.

“Have you been a good boy this year?” asked the voice in a lilting tone, as if daring me to say yes.

“Wh.. What? Yes! Yes, I’ve been a good boy!” I stammered, now thoroughly scared. I could feel my bladder filling up.

“Liar!” screamed the voice. “You’re a liar!”

“No, No! I swear!” I yelled back.

Then, the door on the far right flew open with a bang and I couldn’t see beyond the darkness of the doorway.

“Run,” said the voice simply.

I stood there, frozen on the spot. Where was I? What was going on? I took a gingerly step towards the open door when the door on the far left flung open and there, framed in the dark doorway, stood a penguin, three and a half feet tall, wearing a blood-red Santa hat and brandishing a gleaming knife. It had a sneer on its face that almost seemed to tell me that my time was up.

It waddled towards me in the sinister way that penguins do, and spoke in the same creepy, bone-chilling voice, “I said, run.”

Then came the laugh. The laugh that echoed all over the room, penetrated deep into my very soul and made my balls shrivel up into tiny dots. The laugh that seemed to cut open my skin and suck all my blood out. The laugh that echoed all around me and inside me and threatened to rupture my brain. The laugh that forced some feelings into my frozen legs and made me break into a run through the open door on the right, away from those menacing, blood-shot eyes of the crazy bird-beast.

I ran, sweating and panting and unable to scream or shout out for help. I ran as fast as I could in the darkness, not knowing where I was headed or where I was stepping. I could hear the pitter-patter of the beast’s tiny flippers chasing after me. I could still hear it laughing as it ran, as if the beast were toying with me.

“Run faster, Nikhil,” it called out to me. “Is that the best you can do?”

I could feel the voice growing louder which could only mean one thing. The penguin was gaining on me! I increased my speed and felt my lungs burning for oxygen. Every muscle in my out-of-shape body ached and screamed in pain as I forced my legs to work faster.

“Merry Christmas, Nikhil!” said the penguin-beast and laughed out one last time. I could feel the cold steel on my leg. It had caught up t0 me and was slashing at my legs! I found my voice and screamed out loud.

I woke up, drenched in sweat. I saw a Santa hat lying on the floor next to my bed, the hat that I had purchased from a roadside vendor that very same afternoon, in my misguided Christmas cheer. I glanced at my clock and saw that it was almost time to wake up. I swung my legs off and stood up, snatched up the Santa hat and threw it in to dustbin. I put the trash out and made sure that someone picked it up and recycled the bloody thing.

Merry Christmas, you say? I’d say it’s a fascinating start so far! Even now, I sit here and wonder: what might have been behind the middle door, the one that stayed shut?

Two Zero Eight Four :)

I stood on the edge of land.

“I’m back, baby,” I whispered.

“I missed you,” she said.

“I missed you too.”

She responded by gently swirling around my ankles, gurgling as she withdrew and made way for another of her waves to wash over me. I had a smile the whole weekend in Gokarna. I’ve written about what it means to me, so I won’t do it again. I missed the sea, her warmth, her cold, her whispers and her screams, her love, her fury and her caress.

I made two wonderful friends this time in Gokarna. Here’s a shout out to Mahesh and Chris. Hope life takes you both where you want to go, and I hope Gokarna has been as therapeutic to you as it has been to me.

I was born on August 20, 1984. Or, in other forms, 20-08-84. A contraction of the same – 2084 – has always been a special number to me, at least for the past few years when I discovered it. It’s a perfect contraction, and aesthetically speaking, it feels beautiful and complete.

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So, all my contemplation and thinking and chickening out ended on Saturday. I got my first tattoo, and I think it beats the shit out of any abstract designs!

Twilight Dawn

Twilight DawnOppression filled the foggy twilit dawn, the recherché feminism of the morning light danced an undulating number with the mood of the solitary cyclist as he wound his way up the serpentine path to the crest of the craggy peak, bathed in the soft glow of the fiercely burning star billions of miles away, still under the horizon. The tires of the mountain bike crunched the partly-dewed leaves, much as innocence caught under sin’s cruel tires, all its spirit squeezed out.

The cyclist himself was an old hand at judging the curves – both of the road and of the weather – and immediately realized that the hiding sun was an aftermath to something oppressive that was in the offing. That’s when he felt the oppression. The Shah of Persia had once prophesized that an oppressive feeling was an indication of impending misfortune, but the cyclist had neither heard of nor had cared for the kingdom of Persia. So when he hit the pick-up truck that was barreling down the slope head-on, he attributed the accident to plain bad luck.

The cyclist’s name was Michener, and he was a hopeful for that year’s French circuit, when his career and his life had been cut short by an obese, drunk, hardly conscious idiot thought he could do a seventy on the slope, on the way down. The first thing Michener was aware of was an intense pain in his head – in fact, the pain seemed to originate from his head and spread its claws all over his numb body. Numb, that when he recognized the perpetual numbness. He couldn’t move an inch, let alone open his eyelids. There was a consistent hum in his ears that blocked out all other noise, but even the loudness of the hum didn’t feel in the least painful. It was, on the contrary, a soothing cacophony that seemed to say, “Hush, now. It’ll all be over soon.”

Through the pain, Michener amassed enough strength to force his eyelids open. He was staring at a black expanse of nothingness. The blackness confused his numb brain – he couldn’t tell for sure if his eyes were open or closed. All he was sure of was that, he could “see” the darkness clearly enough to deduce that he was, perhaps, blind. Though this thought didn’t particularly affect him, it shook him up a bit. To live a life without having to see it, to see the beautiful face of his two-year-old daughter, the twilight dawn, and a lot of other million things worth seeing, forced some tears to his eyes. Funnily enough, he couldn’t feel the warm tears flowing down his face, but could taste the bittersweet on his tongue.

This brought new hope to Michener, and at the same time, a new sinking feeling. Hope, that he was still alive, and had the use of his mouth, which probably he could use to call out, and despair by the thought that since he was alive, he had most definitely lost the use of his eyes and ears. Then, all of a sudden, the humming in his ears stopped and was replaced by memories – memories of the time when he had first heard John Denver sing “I’m leaving on a jet plane”, the time when he had first heard his mother put him to sleep with the story of the Three Little Pigs – her voice was particularly vivid – and the time when he had his daughter cal him “Da-Da” for the first time – and he found himself trying to smile, only he couldn’t tell if he was already smiling or not. The numbness was perpetual. The hum returned with a vengeance and filled his soul with a detached horror – a horror he couldn’t feel; a horror he would have given anything to feel.

Michener had heard the expression “Light at the end of the Tunnel” for years, and was not surprised to learn that it was a load of hogwash. There wasn’t any such tunnel, let alone light. His mind freed, his soul released, his life over, Michener found enough strength to close his eyelids – again, he couldn’t tell if they were closed or not, for the blackness lingered. Salacious thoughts entered his mind and he quickly snubbed them away. He forced himself to think of something else – he remembered the time his saloppete had torn on the ski slope and he had been the laughing stock of the entire lodge back in the valley, and he tried to smile.

His soul felt a lot lighter when he could sense it! He felt the smile spread slowly across the face! He could feel the gentle stretching of the skin across his cheek. And then, he saw her.

And when he did, he knew he was really dead. There she was, the only woman he had ever loved – his wife, who had been cruelly wrenched away from him and his daughter a year ago, also, ironically, by an accident. He had always blamed himself for her death; he should have never let her cross the street alone. But when he saw her standing there in all her beauty and radiance, he could see that delicate nose, those deep brown eyes he had missed all these days, and the lithe figure he had fallen in love with. His soul felt a thousand times lighter and he felt himself standing up – it took hardly any effort – and he walked up to her.

“What about Amy?” were the first words out of her mouth.

“Oh, she’ll be fine,” said Michener. “I’ve finally seen it.”

“Seen what?” she asked.

He held her tight and kissed her on the lips long and hard, then hugged her. He could still smell the intoxicating perfume that lingered in her golden hair. He would never let her go again. Amy would be taken care of by his mother, who would be heart-broken at first, but she had always been a woman of astounding mental strength. It never is bliss to attend a funeral, but for a parent to arrange the funeral of her son was punishment enough for her unnamed sins of her past years. Her chastity and her unquestionable purity of this life was a mockery to that effect.

“I’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel, darling. It’s you,” he said and they both held each other.

Image Courtesy: TrekEarth.com

Return To The Bay Of Pigs!

A long, long time ago, I had written a piece on how men can be more successful in wooing women. I had come across a lot of men who had complained to me about the difficulties they were facing when trying to talk to a woman or flirt with a woman.

Recently, a close stranger read this post (titled ‘Bay Of Pigs’) and decided to write a rebuttal for each of the points, this time from a woman’s perspective. What started out as an experiment in killing time soon became an insightful glimpse into the mind of women, what they think of men and what they expect from a man when he tries to flirt.

You need to read the original post for this to make sense, because in the interest of time and keeping in mind my readers with attention deficit disorders, I’ve edited those parts of this article that belong to the original.

Bay Of Pigs: Redux

(Note: The text in italicized black is part of the original post, while the text in brown belongs to the stranger, the woman who wanted to argue. Any mistakes in spelling or grammar are entirely my own and not the fault of the guest author.)

men-are-pigs

Men are pigs.

They say that God created Man because he was bored and that He created Woman because he needed a challenge. Man is the blueprint while Woman is the masterpiece. […] Men can consider this post as an eye-opener and take stock of what qualities they lack, and women can consider this post as an easy read and be amazed at my insight into the female mind.

Men are pigs. Truer words were never spoken!

1. Sense of humor: Most women look for funny men. But be warned, being funny does not mean cracking inane jokes and making complete idiots of yourself. It’s the wit that counts and not your ability to remember jokes. […] Just make sure you’re laughing with them, and recognize when they’re laughing at you!

A good sense of humour does appear to be amongst the top 3 of “what women want”, and the author appears to have it figured out. I think this is what most women want. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want a man that can make me laugh as such, rather, I like it when a man can keep it simple. By this I mean, a light and easy-going conversation is favored. I am the kind of person that is rather shameless, and have no qualms about laughing at myself. Men seem to love making jokes at the expense of the ladies around them, and get terribly disappointed when it isn’t received well by their female counterpart. In that regard, I am a good subject of jokes, I would say, because I almost always laugh along.

2. Build: Women are very realistic unlike men, and they know that not all men can have a body as hot as Arnie and Stallone. […] We men need to be realistic, and not stupidly optimistic. All women are hot, no exceptions!

Let me make this clear – most women do not aspire to be at the arm of men like Arnie; Stallone maybe, but not because of his build! Men are the only ones that want Arnie bodies. I wouldn’t want a “flabby piece of shapeless dough” (I’m shallow that way) I would like a fit guy though. Let’s face it – they’re so much more fun to look at, and show off! We women tend to look awesome pretty much all of the time (unless we’re caught in midst of beauty treatments like face masks or oily hair) and men need to realise they should at least try to live up to the standard we set so early on. Digressing from build, allow me also to add that well-groomed (which means well dressed, clean and smelling good, just in case you’re clueless) is what we’re looking for. So if you’re going to show up in denims and a sweatshirt, make sure you look cute while you’re at it, would you?

3. Chivalry: The concept of chivalry, for most men, stops at holding the door open to women. Wake up, men! That’s not all what women look for in the chivalry department. […] It takes great skill and greater patience to hold your own and also defend her while arguing in a group.

Ah! This is the tricky one. You don’t want to be chivalrous to a point where we constantly feel like damsels with faint hearts,  but you don’t want to be so aloof that we feel like you don’t care. It has to be just the right amount. That’s all I will say here. Why should we make it easy for you all the way? 

4. Possessiveness: Women like men to be possessive about them. It makes them feel special and wanted. […] For more advice on this, mail me.

Do men actually enjoy being possessive? Oh yes, you have the whole Neanderthal way of expressing ownership. You might as well pee all over us to state we’re “yours”! I personally don’t like possessive men. If a guy were to “tell me at every opportunity that they’re….” yaaaaaaaawn.. Oh MY, I think I just dozed off there a second! No no noooo! I really don’t want to hear that, I’d probably end up punching you in the nose!

5. Music: Women hate tone-deaf men. Every woman has a particular taste in music and it may not always match with yours. […] Listen to her favorite tracks with her, and encourage her to play it again if she wants to. You can pull your hair out later, when you’re alone.

Looking at the next point I’d like to say, mood music is very important – make it sensuous, trust me, you’ll enjoy it too (if you can get past the fact that you’re getting it on!) I don’t know about most women’s taste in music, but I’m always open to listening to new genres of music. In fact, most of the music I listen to today was introduced to me by men. If you don’t listen to death metal and the screeching, banging sort, I’m good to go. Some women really seem to enjoy sappy music, and that’s where I think you men should just take a stance and say, “hell no!” (and knock some sense into your lady’s head, please!)

6. Sex: Do not, I repeat, do not push the woman for a physical relationship. Women are very, very careful in this matter and if you push the wrong buttons (no puns intended) you come across as a sexually-frustrated despo! Be careful!

You have to tread carefully in this department. Women may say they are alright with casual sex, and want no strings, etc. but trust me, they almost always hope that strings will develop, that they dazzle you with their sexual skills, and you’ll fall in love with them. Sometimes that does happen, but I’ve noticed that men are capable of knowing the difference and maintaining it, women are NOT. I would suggest, if you really like the girl, take it at an easy pace in this department, and things will fall into place nicely.

7. Family Values: Most women like men who have good family values. Respect her parents and her family and she will like you all the more. Never ever call her dad “Dude!” or “Old Man!” because that will being down your brownie points!

What gets to me the most about a lot of Indian men is that they’re “mumma’s boys” and they want their partners to be as domestically awesome as their mothers. It’s all very well that you love your folks, in fact, I endorse it, but come on – recognize! I don’t know about other women, but that’s a big turn off for me. On the other hand, I don’t expect that my partner will get along brilliantly with my folks. It’s almost a universal fact that there will be friction between them. That’s what keeps life interesting, eh?

(On an entirely unrelated note – what exactly are brownie points? Am I allowed to cash them in for an actual brownie or two?)

8. Perseverance: Women like to be pursued with vigor. They hate being ‘flung’ around, if you know what I mean. […] Trust me, it works!

This one’s true, makes us feel special and adds the whole romantic movie atmosphere to real life. Lots of fun! Keep it real, don’t be a big pile of mush, because that gets old real quick. We like to be shy and coy and play hard to get – it makes the whole deal feel that much more special. Indulge us, would you?

9. Fighting: Fights are inevitable in every relationship, and when there are situations where you know that the reason is trivial, just take the blame. […] You do not blame the woman!

Don’t be irrational, that’s all. We are always right, that’s true, but we would get suspicious if you always agree – we’re smart that way. And that would lead to a whole new set of fights! So pick your battles, men, put your ego aside, in fact, maybe its best if you forget you have one, while you’re with us! 

10. The Ex- factor: Do not, I repeat, do not maintain contacts with your ex- girlfriends while you’re pursuing a woman, or when you’re in another relationship. […]

Hmmm, this one is a bit tricky. If you’re staying in the same city as your ex, and have common friends, you are bound to run into her, right? What we want to see is that you’re over her, and there is no residual anything for her. You’re better off if you cut all contact, unless you want to see us turn into raging lunatics? Oh and by the way, we’re complete hypocrites about our own exes – we will want to remain “friends” with ours, and you’re not allowed to protest. So there.

Good luck. Live long and prosper. If you didn’t understand that, you’re no fun, and you’re not a geek, which is what women want! (Or do we?)

AUTHOR’S NOTE

It takes great literary skill and greater convincing skills to get a chance to write for, or be featured on MirrorCracked. To have successfully passed all the barriers and made it on to this forum, I would like to personally extend a warm greeting to the lovely stranger (who has expressed her wish to remain anonymous) for her time and effort in helping men pick up women.

One beer coming your way, ma’am.

We are open for comments, opinions and brickbats, which I will deftly deflect in the stranger’s direction.

On Being A Domesticated Housewife

Last millennium, there was a paradigm shift in the way men and women thought and behaved. Whole societies evolved into liberal entities, allowing such acts like women being allowed to work, men being allowed to marry other men, women being allowed to marry other women, women being allowed to vote, read and opine – acts that would have had them killed before. We all rejoiced this happy turn of events. Everyone could do everything, and no one would be allowed to question them. Everyone had smart lawyers who ensured the continued freedom to do and to sue.

However, I must have missed the memo, because of late, I’ve been domesticated to such an extent that I’m wondering if I’ve gone back in time to the Darker Ages, and occupied a woman’s body. A typical day in my life pans out like this: I wake up, finish my ablutions, make some coffee for myself and drink it while reading the newspaper. So far so good, right?

I then wash the previous night’s dishes, clean the kitchen counter, the stove, the shelves and the dining table, take a shower, clean up the bathroom, clean up the toilet, set the bed and go to work. I guess this is also typical of a guy living alone. But, wait. It gets better.

I get home in the evening, make some coffee or tea for myself, drink it while watching a bit of television, then make some dinner. Once I’m fed, I clean up the kitchen and the stove, and if I’m in the mood, I do the dishes right there. I then do a quick, cursory sweep of the house with a broom, dust all the table tops and the windows. I then proceed to put my dirty laundry into the washer, and while its doing its thing, I walk down to the grocer, buy some groceries, walk back, and arrange the new purchases on the shelves. I tie up the garbage bags and take it downstairs for it to be picked up. By now, the washer would have almost finished its job, so I take the wet clothes out to the line to hang them up.

But what’s this? There are clothes already present on the line, from last evening’s laundry. So, I take them down, and replace them with today’s. I fold the dry clothes and put them away in my cupboard, come back into the kitchen and clean the washer. I then make some more coffee or tea and clean up the dishes and run a wet towel over the kitchen counters again and watch some more television with my beverage.

I hit the sack, exhausted.

So, in this domesticated lifestyle of mine, I hardly find the time to socialize. I need a break, and I need a maid. Sometimes it’s a nice break from the monotony of not doing your own chores.

Oh, I won’t bother writing about my weekend schedule. It’s worse.

Second Chances: Best Non-Fiction?

Something interesting just happened. A story that I had written more than four years ago just won the APAC Regional Literary Award for best non-fiction. I don’t get any money, its just a recognition. And I didn’t have the heart to tell them that it was completely fictitious. Anyway, here’s the story.

PS: Special thanks to Shruti Srivatsan for the nefarious idea and the inspiration.

SECOND CHANCES

“Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing.”

 – Elie Wiesel
American Author
Nobel Peace Prize 1986

second chances One of the greatest attributes of life is its ability to deny us what we really want and give us what we really need. My life has been a constant game of badly-played chess, with every move as unplanned and sometimes, as stupid as it can get. Talking about friends and how they helped me reconstruct a broken foundation takes me back three years – a time when I almost convinced myself that I was a burden to everyone around me and decided that there isn’t anything else that I can offer to the world.

My time here was up, and I had to make a quick exit – to end my life and escape to that blissful afterworld where there’re no more complaints, no more angry glances, no more walking into a room filled with people who stop in mid-sentence and look at me as though I’m an unwanted piece of garbage, no more hints and subtle suggestions about me being a loser – and I chose the tried and tested path of a blade to the wrist in a bathroom alone at night.

It was in my second year of undergrad course that I found out I was really a loser. The faculty treated me with disdain as if they were teaching me only because they were forced to, and my classmates never even acknowledged my presence, let alone talk to me. What was the point to all this, I thought. Why am I here? I don’t belong here because I am not wanted.

The situation at home wasn’t any different as my parents never really had the time to sit with me and talk about anything. There was a big pile of unopened progress reports on the refrigerator, and every day I looked at them in the hope that at least one of them would be opened. My grades were good but not great, and I just wanted my parents to know about the time I got a 25 on 25 in math or the time when I cleared the physics paper. I wasn’t asking for a pat on the back and I wasn’t asking for a present in return. All I wanted was for them to smile at me occasionally, or at least look at me. I returned every day to an empty house and an emptier home. My time was up.

There was only one person in whom I could confide everything and he was the only one whom I could call a friend, in the truest sense of the word. Aziz was a fellow undergrad in my school and we’d met each other during the first semester in the English class. He was also an introvert and this is what drew me to him. I looked at him and realized that we had a lot of things in common. He never spoke in class and was always very calm and quiet and kept mostly to himself. The friendship began with a mutual smile and a lunch.

We talked about school work and girls and chess (we both had the dream of playing for the school chess team) and how we never could muster the courage to enroll. We became good friends and met up as often as we could and as frequently as our very different class schedules allowed us. I could call him a friend.

There’re times in life when we expect something, and something totally different happens. A better way to put it would be, “Things never happen as planned.”

After a month of fighting with myself, I finally decided to confide in Aziz. I picked up the phone and called him. It was perhaps the most important phone call I’d ever make. Holding the blade tightly in my hand, I was crouching in the corner of my room, and watching the thin rivulets of blood dripping through my fingers from the force with which I clutched the blade, when the call went through and he answered.

Today, as I sit here in Buffalo, NY and write about this, I feel tears weighing my eyes down. The journey from being a hopeless loser to crossing the Atlantic and arriving in USA for a Masters has been entirely due to that phone call. Aziz spoke to me over the phone for three hours even though it was almost two in the morning, and spoke to me about things so important that I’d never really considered. Being twenty-one years of age and ending my life would never allow me to discover myself. There’s a solution for every crisis, and it’s not suicide. Life has so many things to show us and teach us and it will, only if we give it a chance to do so.

Ending one’s life is so easy, but re-building it isn’t.

Aziz died on June 27th, 2006 in Bangalore, India, after being diagnosed with a malignant type of blood cancer. I held his hand in the hospital on the 26th and told him that I’d got an admission into SUNY Buffalo to do my Masters’. He smiled through his pain and squeezed my hand tightly. He had lost his speech a week ago, but I knew what he wanted to say. “You’ve given life a chance to show you the world; don’t take that chance away.”

It’s been almost a month since I’ve come to the USA and every minute I spend here, I owe it to him. In a strangely ironic twist of fate, I landed myself an on-campus job at the Roswell Park Cancer Center. There’re people like Aziz in all of us and there’re people like the old me in all of us as well. It’s important that we make the right choice.

I did, and I’m thankful for it. It’s worth these tears. He’s worth it.