Lessons in Love and Loss

Last night, not for the first time, I dreamt of my cat. It was a vague dream, remembered but vaguely, but I think, in it, someone said she may have come back and pointed out a cat to me, and I looked, thinking, of course, she has returned finally, but then thought that it wasn’t her but some other…

Because I have not seen her dead body, I shall always keep alive the possibility that she merely went away. And sometimes, when I consider getting another pet, I wonder whether it would hurt her if she decided to come back and found that someone else was in her place. Of course, no one shall ever take her place, but would I be able to explain that to her?

But I need hardly worry so much. For one thing, she doesn’t seem to be coming back. For another, I strongly doubt I shall volunteer to bring another pet. The only time I did so was when I bought two bunnies who died within a fortnight. Guilt had been a predominant feeling at that time, as I regretted that I should not have brought them in without knowing well enough how to take care of them. And I wished that they didn’t have to die to prove how irresponsible/ incompetent I was.

I certainly hope to have a dog some day. Right when I have figured out how not to get my heart broken whenever I look into their eyes. And when I am confident about being able to take care of them. If that ever happens. I am also toying with the idea of rabbit(s) once more… It’s a bit like thinking of pizza and delighting in the very thought, so that I do not ultimately have to end up executing the plan.

My cat came to us of her own accord. It was natural, spontaneous, unplanned and therefore, destined to happen. She would come in the hope of fish, would be shooed away, then I indulged her a little, then some more, and before we knew it, she was raising four newborns in my bedroom. And now, the moments that I think of the most, miss the most, are those that we spent together in silent companionship – apparently almost unaware of each other, but actually very glad for it. At any rate, I was.

No friend like the friend you can be comfortably silent with.


Something Beautiful

I do not follow the news. About current affairs, my ignorance borders on the criminal/moronic. This, of course, has spelt trouble or very near it more than once. A disastrous interview at a higher education institute comes to the mind, for instance, where, when asked what are my opinions about the important political transition my state was facing, I had to admit that I had no opinion, being very uninterested in politics. The silence that followed told me, before the official declaration of results, that I would not be studying there.

There is a simple reason, however, behind my deliberate avoidance of the news. The news seems to be all bad. Every headline yells that the world is going to hell, one sure step at a time, and what’s the point of learning to what new lows people can stoop, is my feeble argument when I am reproached for being so foolish. It is a feeble argument, I suppose, somewhat like burying my head in the sand. To try and improve matters, both in the way of being slightly better informed and to feel slightly less hopeless, I am considering scanning at least one newspaper everyday, with a very definite purpose: to find at least one really good/ encouraging/ hopeful/ heartwarming news. And preferably keep a record of them.

Just last week, a friend asked for a happy story. I too, would very much want to read (and write) happy stories. Stories, of course, do not necessarily mean “fiction”. The articles in news media are also “stories”. I shall hunt and hope and hold on to happy stories in all senses of the term, then, and surely that would be an even better reason for reading the paper than preparing for interviews.

As an introduction to that project (The Happy Story Project?) and a conclusion to this week’s post, here’s a piece of niceness, not fiction but very real, unlikely ever to make it to any news medium. Near where I live is a park. The gardener who tends to it lives in the park with his wife in a dwelling for which the term ‘shed’ is too grand. They are childless. They keep cats. I believe some cat landed on their doorstep and they never turned it away and she gave birth to a litter, so that their part of the park has been dotted with about a dozen cats for some time now. Even the other day, someone dumped four kittens on them, and they didn’t turn away a single one. What is that cliche about those with less being more generous?
Anyway, the gardener and I were discussing how sad it was that so many stray cats are killed by dogs, and among a list of cats he had known who had met the same end, he said he had buried one in the park. It was a nice gesture in itself, I thought. But what made this moderately nice gesture rather remarkable and memorable to me was his casual addition that he had then planted a tree on the spot where the cat was buried.

I suppose this is what I may call a sense of beauty.

A Story of Hope

For a long time, there was the room and someone waiting inside it. Usually lonely, often sad, sometimes delighted, almost always waiting. And also, nurturing. Nurturing and protecting and caring for something that no one else had any use for. Thus the loneliness. Then, one day, suddenly and quietly, the room was empty. When there was a knock on the door, there was no ready answer. The response had been so immediate and certain for such a long time that it had seemed as if it will always be like that, but today, something was different.

For a while, the room remained empty. Everyone thought it will never be occupied again. This was only to be expected, they thought; of course it’s empty – at last. And though it was expected (as they said), it was also curiously sad.

Which is why, when the one living in the room reappeared, they shook their heads, but they were, in truth, also relieved and pleased, though they would never have admitted it.

But something had changed in the room and in the one living in it. Something had gone out of the room, of the one, and of that which she had been nurturing. This time, when there was a knock, the door was opened, yes, but instead of an answer, there was such a question in the eyes that the one who came to knock didn’t know what to say.

They both looked in silence at each other and at the solitary plant struggling for survival. Was it really going to die?

Who Is It?

I realised some time ago that I unconsciously imitate people I love. ‘Imitate’ is not the most accurate word perhaps. I incorporate their certain idiosyncrasies into myself – that’s more like it. And some of those remain with me after the people are gone out of my lives. Their habits become my habits. Then, one fine moment, I catch myself in a word or gesture and realise that it had not always been mine.

It does not always have to be people I love, though. But it most often is. Even if I don’t like to admit it. For instance, sometimes I catch myself uttering a thoughtful “Hmmm” like a certain person often does. Because I am now conscious of it, I can observe myself and remember the other and compare what exactly am I doing that is imitation. Is it the tone? Is it the accompanying look? The half-smile-half-frown? As if that person is considering a serious matter but is ready to break into a smile at the slightest mention of a joke?

Sometimes, I feel like laughing out loud, and I am inclined to do so the way one of my friends, who is no longer a friend, used to laugh. Some other times I want to laugh like another friend – lowering and hiding my face for a moment as if trying to suppress the laugh. I occasionally pass my hand over my head; I think one of my teachers used to do that and more recently I have observed two other teachers do that as well, with complete disregard to their hair, so maybe that gesture of serious thinking is common to teachers, and I do it when I am trying to give the impression that I am thinking about something while I am actually thinking about something else.

I have also noticed a tendency in myself to gesticulate with my hands while I am explaining something, and that is probably borrowed from an ex-classmate, and there really is no affection to speak of in this case (neither is dislike!); just that the gesture was noticeable – even rather irritating, but what do you know, I came very near imitating it. Sometimes I’m inclined to act like a spoilt child, and that is not (just) because I am a spoilt child, but because an ex-colleague I used to be very fond of could pull that off really well.

The way I sit at a table is copied from both my mother and my father. And probably my sibling. So is the way I sleep. The way I sometimes struggle with chewing food or tying shoelaces is a straight lift from Dad. But then, all of me, the very fibre and the skeleton, the flesh and the blood, are derived from them, so that it’s rather pointless to try and list traits I’ve inherited from the family.

The unconscious imitates what it notices, so that every time I repeat another’s word or gesture, it can remind me of that person. Is that it? This is how I keep the other with me when I cannot keep the other with me? I got you, Unconscious. That’s one of your cats out of the bag. No longer unknown, but possibly unacknowledged, uncertain, uncanny, unrhymed – this trick of yours.

(Only I know which of those words I love and which is loved by another.)


Avengers: Age of Ultron: Not a Review

Spoiler alert: certain interesting turns in the film will be mentioned in the following lines. Also, do not read if you didn’t know that the Avengers will ultimately triumph over the bad guy(s).

This version of Avengers was fun, although, as Hawk-Eye says somewhere, they have lost the element of surprise somewhat. But this is not a review, no. Just a few things that struck me.

1. America saves mankind. Again. ‘Nuff said.

2. Hawk-Eye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) has a secret, and a nice one. He has a “safehouse” tucked away in a countryside where live his pregnant wife and two children. Whoa. By the time the film ends, the third child has been born, and is very cute. This, in fact, was an element of surprise, especially for me, who assumed that if there was a part 2, then Clint and Natasha would pair up in it. But no, apparently, Natasha and Bruce are the ones who are struggling with their feelings for each other; Clint and Nat are just best friends. Alright. But a wife and children? Wonder how many people saw that coming. The other Avengers didn’t. And many of their surprise was mixed with envious awe. Clint had clearly got the best of the better world. Which brings me to my observation: no matter how far into the space you venture or how many sons of Odin you fight, a cosy home, a pretty and understanding wife, and cute little children remain the ultimate Desirables. Interesting.

3. There is a new bad-turned-good guy on the scene. In the long climax, he mocks Barton at one moment and dies saving his life a few minutes later. When Barton realises that he took the bullets for him, this new one’s signature line is also his last words: You didn’t see that coming?
I confess I was moved. Truth be told, all the points I have written about here are cliches, none so more than an initially non-cooperative figure finally proving his worth by sacrificing his life for those whom he began by criticising. But it worked on me. And it got me thinking anew about this strange thing called heroism.
People die all the time. And if it’s war, then it is surprising if they don’t. What is it, then, that is so incredibly moving, so heart-rending, so miraculous about yet another death? Well, he died for someone else! Why would he? How could he? How does one do that? And it is not always a question of dying for a friend, a loved one. It is apparently just a matter of valuing another life more than one’s own.

I enjoyed the witty dialogues, I wonder how long it will be before Bruce emerges again and Clint has to leave his home for another far-fetched adventure. Is Pepper out of the picture for good? I am also interested in what role the new Avengers will be playing in the next part(s), which I have no doubt are in the pipeline. But for some time to come, I am going to ponder mostly on this cliche, this miracle: a million acts of cruelty or baseness shriek for attention, but they pale and fade beside this one act of unfathomable nobility. What is this thing called heroism?