22 Birthdays

Every birthday I love to write about how far along I have come that year, a romantic letter for 1, if you may.

On this birthday too, I have many such accomplishments to write about. However, this heart simply has no space for pride tonight.

When I woke up this morning I wished with all my heart that I was not in bed.

Then, I lay there a lot longer.

I was thinking about where I would rather be-

roaming, exploring a palace in a quaint South Indian town, making up cute stories of everything I did there as a princess in my previous life- dancing through glorious hallways, running down winding staircases, adorning myself in crafted mirrors.

The Mysore Palace is a symbol of many things for many people. For me, it is a sign of everything that could have been. A love that I lost, a life that I could never create, a time that will never come back.

Or maybe I want to be in the cold neighbourhoods of Indiranagar, watching pretty flowers that have bloomed and children running off to school. I want to wear a large red hoodie and order breakfast dosas. I want us to share our dosas because for me the way you ate always seemed tastier. I want to feel cold hard mosaic tiles and large wooden doors. I want to feel at home, even if for just one day.

22 birthdays today.

I’ve been asking everyone what they were up to when they were 22, and my favourite response so far has been from my 26-year-old friend, who claimed he was ‘having lots of sex’, other responses had to do with college, travel, and a bunch of other FOMO inducing statements.

Be 22 or be 30, or be 40, every year I don’t celebrate with you I might never truly be happy, no matter how hard I try. But what do I know? I’m only 22.


Returning Home

I feel like the prodigal son whenever I return to this blog page.

Like someone who had something good but is taking it for granted and ignoring it. Until some discomfort comes along, then I return to this little yellow wall and begin typing like a mad woman until I feel sane again.

Once in an ambitious era I wrote a short story about a powerful woman who had men come outside her door at night and sob about the pathetic life decisions they had made. These men would sob all night, drunk. The next morning she would open her door and they would dust off their sorry selves and, fully embarrassed, come in and sit on her couch. She would never judge them, but she would observe them. She always had a big fat file about all the things they had done- because she was a powerful woman who knew everything about them.

In many ways this blog is the powerful woman and me the pathetic man who stands outside the door and whines about not being able to write until my body and mind are in-sync enough to open up this laptop and start typing again.

Thankfully my blog is kind and non-judgemental, and yellow walls are what I always dreamed my home would have.

So bear with me as I come and go. Sometimes overwhelming you, and sometimes making you forget about my existence. But constantly thinking about the freedom you gave me, yearning for it every time I sit down to write, anywhere that’s not yellow.


“Ew, fish”

Was a very common phrase I heard while growing up. The repulsion that fish has the power to bring about in vegetarians around me was something I was used to witnessing.

Fish was supposed to be disgusting. Of course, those who thought this way had never bothered to try it. It was disgusting because of the way it smelled- stinky, apparently.

When the outbursts began, I would grow very quiet- just looking and nodding. That’s how I react when anybody gets violent feelings about something that I don’t necessarily think ‘weird’ or ‘disgusting.’ Perhaps in this case it was guilt- I was hiding something.

Fish is an everyday occurrence when you grow up in a Malayali household. In fact, the absence of fish is what is weird for us. I was leading a double life. I would go to school and listen to people hate on fish, and come back home and eat it with renewed vigour. To this day, fried fish, rice, moru curry, and cabbage thoran remains one of my favourite meals.

When in school, it is easy to brush these comments aside. I didn’t know enough to be embarrassed or upset. I didn’t think enough to realise that when she said I smelled like fish she was hinting at something else.

They were talking about how South Indian- how non-veg, I was.

When I started living alone in Dubai, I began to cook a lot of fish in nostalgia. This scared my mother. When I joined a new job, she had only one piece of advice- “Don’t take fish for lunch.”

At first, I thought this was about the smell. Only the smell. Sure, granted, fish does have a very strong piercing smell. But over the past few months, I have been realising that it also has to do with the many divides in India, that are specially packaged and brought into Dubai.

Where does this inability to tolerate fish come from? They lift their noses in the air and put their hands on their chest attempting to control their gag reflexes. How can something so repulsive be consumed in front of me? how can it be offered to me? The offence intended is carefully masked by claims of vegetarianism. Is your choice really that liberal if it comes at the cost of my culture? Is your hatred justified if it stomps all over my memories and feelings?

She came and told me about how she likes South Indians a lot. We have a unique look- which she likes. She has a clear idea of how south Indians must look and must not look, it allows her to get offended when someone asks her if she is South Indian, and retort with comments like, “You look more South Indian than me.”

What do you do when your culture- one that you only began appreciating over the past few years- begins to get threatened? belittled? You have two options- forsake it, and blend in with the norm because you have the privilege to do so; or fall in love with it even harder and defend it from the effects of ignorance.

Of course, I chose the latter. After all, I eat fish, I’m too smart to give up all that I’ve learned so far.


Jelly for Papa

Today is my father’s birthday. Though he didn’t celebrate it much, I’m sure he would have liked to. How do I know this? I just know.

I remember that he wanted a very grand 50th birthday party, but that never happened. I guess we were just too small to be able to plan one for him. I wish we weren’t.

But we did something anyway, in our small capacity–We made jelly. Jelly has always looked very rich and glorious to me, like a precious ruby stone if the light hits it right. It was chosen that day because too much sugar has always been frowned upon in our house, and jelly wiggles around somewhere on the borders of that restriction.

Red jelly was made in a glass bowl, and a tiny silver teaspoon was slipped inside. I don’t know why. Perhaps because we needed a cause to eat through this wobbly substance that makes your teeth question their purpose.

Jelly in hand, we went to him that afternoon as a Malayalam film played on in the background. He sat on the edge of the sofa, legs stretched out and resting on our carpet, crossed at his ankle. He smiled kindly at our jelly. We sang happy birthday, and he scooped some of that shiny red onto his spoon.

It was a pathetic way to celebrate a birthday I think, but it is the only celebration of his birthday I can remember. So I made the jelly again today, on his 59th birthday. But there is no Asianet film no interrupt, there is no glass bowl, and there is no papa to spoon out glorious red jelly, and giggle at the spoon frozen inside.

There is only a void of regret, memories that wiggle near the border of sweet and unsweet, and a white bowl of jelly with a spoon stuck inside it. Purposeless jelly, serving it’s purposelessness.


This Panda Lamp

I had forgotten about this Panda lamp until a few moments ago when I realized all the three bulbs in my room did not have enough power except for when it came to ruining my already weak eyesight.

This Panda lamp was collecting dust in an old shelf. I suspected that it would not work, but it did not let me down. it shone through all the dust. It shone like a child trying to win her mother’s mythical praise. Mythical, because she had only heard it was possible, she never really experienced it. This panda lamp was eager to please.

I call it Panda lamp because it has pictures of three pandas on it. It shines with a soft yellow glow that reminds me of a therapy session I had been to in Bangalore where I started crying because my family was always fighting and I had just acknowledged that I had been abused.

Papa was strict when it came to external factors that impacted our studies- our spectacles had to be smudge free, and our study area well lit. This panda lamp was bought for me when we were in Dubai, and it cost him 20Dhs. It was bought from Al maya hypermarket- a one stop shop in the fourth floor of Lamcy Plaza- a plaza near our house that we would visit every weekend for home supplies, snacks, and free tastes before we went down to the ground floor to eat pizza and maybe an ice cream. Today, Lamcy Plaza has been burnt down, never to be rebuilt. Papa has passed away. This Panda lamp however, still shines.

Thank you papa, for this panda lamp. I love it very much now that I have rediscovered it.