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!

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The Day I Turned Ninety

Saturday, November 26, 2011 will always remain etched in my memory as a historic occasion, a day to remember and revere as I try to live out the remainder of my days painfully. I aged dramatically that day and it reminded me of The Last Crusade, where the bad guy drinks from the wrong cup and turns into an aged, shriveled skeleton in a matter of seconds.

It was a really bad decision to play a professional cricket match with no practice.

I used to play a lot of cricket as a kid. Played for the school and college teams and garnered a bit of pro experience here and there. I wasn’t a great cricketer, but I wasn’t too bad either. I could hold my own against the real professionals. But, its been an awfully long time since I’ve played competitive, professional cricket, and I’ve been woefully out of touch and practice. I have put on a few extra kilos around the middle and I don’t move as quickly as I used to. I had completely forgotten what a grueling ordeal it is to be out on a cricket field on a hot and humid day for six hours.

As I started with my warm-up stretches in the morning, I wondered whether the exercises had become tougher over the past few years. I soon realized that my body was resisting it after being accustomed to comfortable couches and soft beds. I forced myself to finish the work-out and to my horror, found out that the match had already started, that my team was batting first and that I was to bat at Number 3. For those who are uninitiated into the sport of cricket, if you’re third in the batting order, then you go out to bat as soon as the first wicket falls.

I padded up in a hurry, went out to bat when the first wicket fell and was clean bowled first ball. I didn’t seem to notice the ball zooming past my bat and my sluggish head was still trying to decide what to do about it, while I made the long walk back to the pavilion.

When it was our turn to field, I shuttled from one end of the field to the other after each over and by the time we were halfway through, I was ready to drop dead. I prayed for a natural disaster to disrupt the match, I prayed for the opposition to knock off the runs quickly and I prayed for an excuse that would allow me to get off the field with a feigned ‘injury’.

By the end of the day, after we had lost spectacularly, my feet were beyond pain and I had to remove my shoes and carry them with me as I hopped painfully into a cab to come back home. My entire body was one big bruise. I ached in places I didn’t know could ache. Muscles that I didn’t know I had, hurt each time I did something trivial. It was painful for me to spray deodorant on myself because my finger hurt when I squeezed the can.

The whole of yesterday was spent in recuperating at home, in bed, with timely cups of hot tea.

Saturday, November 26, 2011. The day I stopped being twenty-eight.

The day I turned ninety.

Pokie

“There is a deeper,
Darker side of me that no one knows
And no one shall ever know.
It will perish with me…”

– Pokie, age 6, 1999

The knife looked so good – so strong, so brilliant in its glitter. He held it in his hands and turned it around, savoring its every curve, its every niche, and its every edge with a gleam in his eye. He licked his dry lips. Locked in his room, he could still hear the screams and shouts of pain, anger and agony from his parents’ room. He felt a knot tighten in his chest – tears forced through his closed eyes. He clutched the knife tightly and held it close against his heart. Why? he asked. Why me? Why now? But the knife – Oh, it looked so good. He smiled through his mental pain, through his agony. As the voices grew louder and louder in the other room, he knew that any moment now his father would burst through his room and repeat what he’d done to his mother. He would start with the belt whipping followed by some slapping around and finally…and finally…it…it was…it was too painful and too disgusting to think about. He cried softly, afraid to make a noise lest his father heard him. “Don’t hurt her,” he whispered through his tears. “I’m sorry, mama. But I can’t protect you. I can’t protect you…I can’t…I can’t…” He rocked back and forth, crying, hugging the knife dearly, and crouching in the corner of his dark room. Pokie was six years old when he cut his own wrists.

“There is a deeper, darker side of me that no one knows. It will perish with me,” said Pokie lying on the white sheets in the white hospital. It was white all around. His mother was sitting beside the bed, in her chair, sobbing quietly. Her tear-streaked face did not hide the red scars of that night. Her right eye was swollen and was turning black. She was bleeding through the ears, but did not complain. She looked down at the tiny, frail figure on the bed.

“Oh Pokie,” she whispered. “Why did you do it, honey?”

Pokie could not hear her. He was on a life support system, battling for his life. The doctor who had looked in hadn’t shown hope in survival. “A great loss of blood,” he had said. “And his blood group’s not too common. It may take a while to acquire it. I’m sorry.” She had cried that she was his mother and he could have every drop her blood if he wanted to. But the doctor had calmly refused saying that there was a mismatch. Please, she had cried. I am his mother! We have the same blood. Not quite, said the doctor.

Now, as she sat and cried, she heard the first rambling words of her six-year-old son, and was immediately out of the chair and by his side, leaning in through the plastic hood of the life support and egging him to speak.

Pokie was six years old when the power failed in the hospital and the life support, which did not have a battery back up, failed with it. Pokie was six years old when he died. He wasn’t the only one. His mother picked up hypodermic syringe lying on the table, filled it with air and thrust it into her veins. Pokie was exactly six years old. It was his birthday.

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“Pokie” was one of my earliest short stories, which has just been accepted into the New York Times’ creative young authors’ section. Passing the final reviews, it would be published in the online edition of NYT. ~ Yay ~ 😀
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