May 12, 2014
I am quietly sitting in the verandah, eating a bowl of home-set curd. My mom’s special home-set curd is one of my top ten favourite foods on earth. And suddenly Hasan comes pattering to my seat, spies the pot of boiled milk sitting on the table, to be cooled before putting in the fridge, and with all the naughtiness of a one-year-old, smacks the entire pot to the ground.
It’s nothing, really. Children do these things all the time. A potful of spilt milk actually means little, except for our belief that all food and drink is sacred sustenance from Allah and must never be wasted. I’m mostly unperturbed and ask the maid to mop it up.
And then who should come barging in but Grandma Bazooka.
“Arrey! All the milk! The whole bhagona ! Ye larki ek minute bhi apna bachha nahi dekh sakti!” (This chit of a girl can’t mind her child for even a single minute!)
Like I said, rants such as these are commonplace in Indian homes. They’re not meant unkindly, and you learn to ignore them.
But not this time.
The hollering continues. My mind goes numb.
Each sound, each sentence passes dully through my brain like a buzz of background sounds. White noise rings in my ears. And then one by one, every vein in my brain snaps, gushing blood in the insides of my skull.
My lips don’t move. My eyes don’t cloud over. I see everything move in slow motion.
My hand hurls down the bowl of curd with all the force it can muster, spilling the curd all over the floor.
WIthout a word I get up, put on my abaya, grab my purse and laptop, and leave. Leave my hollering child and hollering grandma behind.
There is no place I want to go to. No friends left in Aligarh. No refuge.
Soon I find myself facing a popular Café. I get in there, switch on my laptop and get a coffee. And then another. And then a third. Shut down my laptop again. Go out on the road. And walk. Just walk. Several kilometres at a stretch.
“The other half of the day I walked all over town,” I write later to a close friend. “I’m not a walker. I never walk. Hardly ever. I prefer being driven around. But I had so much rage that day…. I walked and walked and walked….”
It is then that I see it: the name plate on the metal gates of a beautiful house.
Dr P, Psychologist/Counsellor.
And I know. This is what I have to do. This is what I need.
I can’t end up killing myself. Or my son.
I go right up to the door.
Locked. Just my luck.
I walk around some more, unsure of where to go. Home doesn’t seem home anymore.
And then I see the sun casting heavily slanting rays, and realise I haven’t offered my namaz.
Faith is such a funny thing. Some people kill for it. How accursed they are! Because faith is meant to save you.
“Namaz saved me,” I write in my email to the friend. “I suppose faith saves one from doing a lot of horrible stuff… However, I find no peace in prayers these days. I just pray because I can’t stop believing in God. It’s not a habit. It’s because I know.”
I go back home then, to offer namaz. But cry all through the evening, deep into the night. My eyes hurt for a long time.
“Every day I make an agenda to keep myself from destroying myself. That’s not an exaggeration. A hundred times I sit and imagine different ways of killing me. Though I know I won’t. (Faith, again). Some days are better, some are worse. Some days I wake up angry. Some days I wake up crying.”
And then I tell her. “I guess I liked Levels of Life so much for two reasons: one, I can feel the self-centred dark grief in there, the same grief that consumes now. That makes me contemplate suicide all the time. He didn’t do it, though. And neither will I.
But I like it because I can understand how it feels to be lonely and hollow all the time.”
To be in the darkest levels of life.