From You To Me

Watch, Only To Watch

For the longest time I hated movies. All movies. I couldn’t bear the thought of forcing myself in front of a screen to stare vacantly at all the things happening so far away, so out of my control.

I think I hated the idea of being God. Interacting with a movie is in some way experiencing a kind of Godly power isn’t it? You sit and watch from high above, atop the mighty sofa. You observe expressions change when backs turn, illegal stares that last longer than they are meant to, and miscommunications and misplacements that drastically alter so many lives.

You watch it all knowing full well that you could change it all if you could just talk to the characters. You have that much power.

And yet, to watch a film is to give up power. You can only watch. You have no ability to alter things. You cannot burst in and whisper into the mind of the female protagonist of an 18th century narrative that her life does not have to be this way. You cannot tell Romeo to wait just a few more minutes so that Juliet can wake up. You cannot tell the hero to run back and fight sooner because the people in his village are being tortured. You can only watch in painful angst, and hope that these characters make the choices you are begging them to make. You are, at that climactic moment, completely at their mercy.

To watch a film then is to sign off consensually on this exchange of power. To be voiceless and at the mercy of your characters. And to receive in return glimpses into their lives. Lives that you would never otherwise have gained access to. To silently observe the tinier stories that these characters themselves don’t know of. And finally, to think about all these stories, digest them and accept them, even when they break your heart.

Cinema teaches you the bitter truths of life. About relationships that spiral out of your control. Cinema tells you that you cannot fix some things even if you try, because you simply don’t know enough to even begin understanding. You are, many times, a powerless observer. Your hands are tied and you can only watch in painful angst, hoping somewhere on the edge of your sofa that things will soon work out for the best.


Entries in Grief

I had been left behind. Everybody else was slowly resuming their lives at full speed, and I, like a car slowly breaking down on a smooth highway road, came to a sputtering stop. What set me aside from everybody else, making me feel absolutely left out, was the fact that I could only begin my grieving forty days after my father passed away. The following are excerpts from my diary entries:

October 19, 2020

12:00 AM

Was crying. Cleared up my tears to pick alleged ‘friend’s’ phone call. Answered his stupid doubt through my sniffles. Asked if I had a cold. I said no. He kept the phone.

How to politely say, I am hurting, the loss of my father is hurting, why do you all bug me with your stupid doubts?

October 20, 2020

12:00 PM

My mother’s tongue.

It does not sound good, no.
It does not allow a child to grieve her father,
Nor does it allow her to laugh at his tombstone.
My mother's tongue,
In the morning it insults him,
and in the evenings it prays the rosary.

October 22, 2020

12:57 AM

I miss my father very much. My phone gallery has one photo with him. I wish I had taken more. It has a video of him wishing my sister for her anniversary, the next photo is of him in the coffin, two cottons stuffed in his nose. I miss him very much, especially after my sister left to Dubai today. I wish this was all a prank and he comes back, but I know he won’t. I saw his body, bleeding, going into that horrid looking coffin, and then getting cemented in that dark hole. I saw it. I saw my papa being sealed shut. I wish I didn’t have to see it so soon.

My phone gallery is a liar. If you swipe right, my dead father comes alive. If you swipe left, my alive father lays dead.

October 23, 2020

6:00 PM

I don’t care for the photos they send me. I couldn’t be bothered about anything they say. I wish they’d all leave me alone and stop asking me things.

9:00 PM

I wanted to be a food writer three years ago, today I find eating laborious. An obstacle that comes in the way me and my writing. A pure waste of my time. I have just finished a sad meal of spicy prawn curry and rice.

October 24, 2020

3:00 PM

I strongly believe red velvet cannot exist without cream cheese. The two put together are divine. But red velvet needs cream cheese more than cream cheese needs red velvet. Any other icing on a red velvet should be illegal. Except maybe chocolate… chocolate goes with all.

But I’ve never had red velvet and chocolate, I can only assume.

4:00 PM

Can the world stop showing off their fathers?

October 25, 2020

The world thinks mourning the dead ends in a week. I don’t want sympathy, no, not at all. I merely wish they didn’t expect me to do everything- feedbacks, laugh, send assignments and answer queries. When do I mourn my dead father? Everyone else’s feelings seem to have died with him too.

October 28, 2020

I hate my own writing now. It does no justice to the tantrums in my head.

October 29, 2020

12:00 PM

Note: Grieving lasts longer than the person claims it does.

During breakfast my mother said, “Some guy died today.” I couldn’t help but think how some other family might have said that about my father. I thought of him on the ventilator. He had looked so troubled.

4:17 PM

I saw the papa butterfly today! The last time I saw him was in Wayanad after the 40th day mass when we went around looking at his old house. That black and white butterfly- exactly the color combination he always wore. That day he was fluttering around his neighbor’s plants, today he was fluttering around the pink flower plant, the one I always pluck to leave at his grave when we go visit. I saw him as I was reading the newspaper. He disappeared when mom came, and came back when I pulled my sister to come out and see.

8:06 PM

Today I am thinking of the morning of 8th September. At 4:00AM I had finished a second viewing of a documentary about the politics in a tea plantation. I went in for a shower and began to cry. I knew today was going to be day. I hoped I was wrong. I didn’t sleep until an hour later. I was crying, repeating to myself, “Papa, you were a good papa.” I just knew it was happening today. There was nothing I could do. I slept.

At 9:00 AM my brother in law was knocking loudly outside my bedroom door. By 9:30 AM I was at the hospital. What would Papa think? I was going to meet him and I hadn’t even washed my face properly.

Everyone stared at my sister and me, the phone buzzed. I didn’t look. My sister did. Her eyes turned to me, widened in fear. I didn’t look. I told her to keep quiet.

They called us into the ICU.

His chest was moving up and down, still attached to the ventilator. It looked like a cycle pump pumping air into the cycle tyre. I hate that it looked like that. The bed was not slightly raised anymore- like the last time I had seen it, it was a straight, 180 degree line. I wondered why? He was breathing after all. His eyes were mildly open, they were a cloudy grey. I began to cry holding my mother’s hand that was on my waist, I didn’t know why.

“Can he hear us?” I asked

“No he can’t”

He was dead. He passed away at 9:16AM. That was the message. I was a fool.

Phrased Phases

For People Like Me

For people like me,
it is discomfort
to navigate space, 
to stand still and observe,
to dissolve apprehensions.
Our world is a box
with no other being.
Only their effect--
their eyes. 

People like me,
We catch movements.
Hidden conversation.
Hateful eyes, 
mocking eyes. 
We reel them in with fear,
and revel in them.
It is always about us.
They hate us. 

For people like me, 
private spaces do not exist. 
There is a constant eye--
My eye 
in another's eye. 
I'm the only person we watch, 
Every move, a fault. 
Every thought, judgment. 


Baking Buns

The yeast was not forming bubbles in the water. Not after five minutes, not even after ten minutes, and definitely not after I had finished reading two more chapters.

But the yeast water definitely smelled like yeast.

So I made a little hole right at the center of my flour and salt mixture, and drowned it in my bubble-less yeast water.

After a lot more flour than specified, I had a little dough ball of sorts. I let it rest until it doubled in size and looked like saggy but smooth, olive oily skin. I poked it once, twice and folded it thrice.

Four buns were baked, golden from being generously coated with olive oil. Upon each, delicate cracks, because I had attempted to carve patterns.


Bekku kutty

One Sunday afternoon I opened my front door to find a loaf of cat outside.

Loaf of cat spotted.

Suddenly, she grew legs and befriended my cactus plant, Prickandi.

cat befriending cactus.

Any friend of Prickandi is automatically a friend of mine, and so I had to let her in.

Letting in loaf cat who befriended cactus Prickandi

She came into my house, and resumed her loaf state.

Resumption of Loaf state.

Judging her consistent desire to loaf, I named her Loaffur.

Eventually- mainly because she peed and I had to clean it up- she became a part of my house. She was clingy. She constantly wanted my attention, and wanted to be around me.

sleeping near me when I am studying

Soon I began to feel like a colonizer. Clearly, she has been born and raised in Bengluru, how can I put off one English name? It did not seem to fit. Yes, she was a loaf, but she was not always a loaf.

I needed a good name that accurately described who she was.

And so I named her Bekku. Which means Cat in Kannada. Sometimes (meaning most times) I was overcome with love and I called her Bekku kutty (meaning small cat.)

Bekku cutie ammirite?

Bekku kutty and I would listen to many songs- Kannada, English, Hindi, Malayalam, Bengali, everything. She would eat and I would watch, or I would eat and she would watch… for an opportunity to jump at my plate. I would sleep and she would climb my bed. At first I tried to push her away, but she would climb right back in. I was annoyed with her, and yet if she went out and didn’t come back I would become a mess. It seemed she was going to be here for a long time.

But I was not. I had to leave to Kerala and then the second wave of Covid came to cut us off. I am not sure when I will go back. I fear that whenever I do, bekku kutty would have long forgotten me and moved on.

I believe she came to me to do me a favour. She came because she knew I needed her company, she could sense my yearning. She came because just the day before, on a gloomy Saturday, VJ ma’am had come in, full of life, offering me two pieces of advice to end all the problems I had with men, their lives, and their unsolicited advice-

  1. Read a poem everyday.
  2. Get a cat.
Advice to Women

Keep cats
if you want to learn to cope with
the otherness of lovers.
Otherness is not always neglect –
Cats return to their litter trays
when they need to.
Don’t cuss out of the window
at their enemies.
That stare of perpetual surprise
in those great green eyes
will teach you
to die alone. 

Eunice De Souza 
Bekku loafing outside, not responding to my calls.