Questioning motives, questioning selves, questioning the hows and the whys and the roots of it all, winding down, dizzy, dizzy, down an endless warren of hollowed out rooms of darkness, and rooms of light, and rooms that are not rooms, and trying to be true, and trying to be wise, and trying to cease stumbling and walk the way one walks, slowly, carefully, shoulders back, back straight, the way one walks, the way one walks with a book perfectly balanced on one's head, carpet un-crooked. Be clear headed, be clear eyed, be clear, be straight, be swift. But why, what if, if only.
And all this questioning and all this thinking and all this logic and all this attempt to be wise and smart and experienced and fair, when really, the only thing that matters - and it may be a lie or it may be the truth or it may be bits of both - can't even be turned into a metaphor, it is so far beyond the language you speak, the language you know, but it's there, it's there, it's there.
Clarification: By using the word mothers I am committing the grave crime of generalizing. When I say mothers, I really mean my own mother. I don't know what other mothers are like but they all seem a hell of a lot more normal than mine.
Things I Don't Understand About My Mother.
1. Why she always accuses me of pinching her stuff. For instance, last year, I caught her rifling through my bureau, with her face stuck into one of the drawers, the way an ostrich supposedly buries its head in the sand.
"What are you doing?" I said, thinking she was looking for something to shout at me about. I devoutly hoped I hadn't cigarettes or condoms or similarly dubious things in there. Turned out the drawer contained nothing shady, but my indomitable mother didn't let that stop her.
"Where is my lipstick?"
"I don't know."
"No, you've taken it. I know you've taken it. Why are you so irresponsible, Trisha? Why do you always take my stuff and not give it back. That lipstick was mine. It was mine."
"Okay," I said, pretending to think deeply about this, pretending that I was letting the information that this lipstick was hers and hers alone sink deeply into the recesses of my brain and into the depths of my soul.
"SO WHERE IS IT?"
"I didn't take it," I said, feeling my own temper start to slip and desperately trying to gain control over it.
"YES, YOU DID!"
"NO, I DIDN'T!"
"DON'T FUCKING LIE TO ME!"
"I'M NOT BLOODY LYING!"
"DON'T SWEAR! AND DON'T SHOUT! HOW DARE YOU SHOUT AT ME!"
"YOU'RE SHOUTING AT ME."
"I'M YOUR MOTHER! OF COURSE I CAN FUCKING SHOUT AT YOU!"
(She ended up finding the lipstick in her handbag.)
2. Why she comes into my room and randomly starts sniffing things. Like seriously. She actually does this. I'll be lying down on my bed, reading or talking on the phone or whatever, and the door will open. She will stomp into the room and stand still for a second, not saying anything. Then she will raise her nose in the air, tilt her chin, and sniff. Like there is no other way to describe this phenomenon. It's not a deep breath, it's not a gasp, it's not a gulp of air, it's a true blue bloodhound sniff.
"You've been smoking," she will say.
I keep quiet.
"I can't believe you smoke. Kids are so stupid these days. At least when I smoked no one knew how bad it was for you. You want to end up like your father? Have you heard that hacking cough? You really want a hacking cough?"
Silence. She's not getting a reaction out of me, I think to myself triumphantly. She has to go away soon.
But no. She will not go away, not now.
She opens one of my drawers and looks inside.
Then she pulls out one of my panties and sniffs those.
"WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?" I shout, leaping up, thinking she's finally lost it, she's finally had that breakdown I've been expecting since I was six years old, and that someone will have to get her psychiatric help now.
"What?" She looks confused. She cannot understand why I am leaping around, waving my arms in the air, turning red in the face from agitation.
"WHY ARE YOU SMELLING MY UNDERWEAR? ARE YOU NUTS?"
"Oof," she waves my poor panties around airily. "I'm just making sure that your panties and things are clean."
"BUT WHY DO YOU HAVE TO SNIFF THEM?"
"Oof. It's the best way to check."
"WHY ARE YOU SO STRANGE?"
She doesn't even think about her reply, she knows this question by now and she has long had her answer ready -
"I'm your mother."
3. Why she will not order her own dessert but insists on taking bites out of mine.
This is self explanatory. Also, despite claiming to know me "better than anyone else, even better than you know yourself therefore I am always right", she apparently doesn't know that Trisha Doesn't Share Food.
Ok, let me be realistic. She knows, but doesn't care.
4. Why she will not allow herself to be compared to other parents but will compare me to my contemporaries (only if I am in some way lacking).
"WHY WON'T YOU LET ME SMOKE IN MY ROOM? MAWII'S MOTHER DOESN'T CARE WHERE SHE SMOKES."
"I'M NOT MAWII'S MOTHER AND I SAY YOU CAN'T SMOKE IN YOUR ROOM."
"If everyone else's mothers don't care, why are you making such a big deal out of it? What's your problem?"
"You're my problem. And I don't care about other mothers. I'm your mother and you can like it or lump it."
But then, she will say something like this.
"Why can't you be as neat as Mawii? Why can't you be focused like Akshay? Why can't you basically-be-a-better-version-of-yourself-by-imbibing-the-best-qualities-of-your-friends-and-none-of-the-bad-qualities-and-losing-your-own-bad-qualities-while-you're-at-it-and-turn-into-a-super-good-super-human-and-super-boring-human-being?"
5. Why she flips out if I lock my door. She doesn't understand why I need to lock it. She simply can't comprehend that it's the only way I can keep her out and stop her from barging in and sniffing my things.
"What do you do in your room?"
"You're obviously doing something if you keep your door locked all the time."
"Then why do you keep your door locked?"
"What do you need privacy for?"
I patiently, oh so patiently, attempted to explain this concept to her.
"If you knocked on my door before you came in, I wouldn't keep it locked. But you never knock, you always barge in, and I don't like the fact that you can barrel your way in any time you want. I could be doing something."
"Like dancing naked."
Now is the time where I make a noise that sounds like I'm being strangled. This is a noise I make when I actually want to strangle someone else.
"SO I DON'T WANT YOU TO SEE ME DANCING NAKED!"
"Pfft. I saw you naked when you were a baby. There's nothing to see. You're still the same."
"I still have the same body I had when I was a baby?"
"Oof. You know what I mean."
"I don't actually."
"Stop trying to be smart, Trisha. It doesn't suit you. And that's a terrible bra you're wearing. Your left breast is pointing north."
Yeah, okay man. She won that round.
Here is a photo of my mother and me taken during a moment we were obviously not fighting. There are times when I would very much like to sever her head from her body with a really sharp axe, but this photograph reminds me that there are times that I don't.
Oh actually come to think of it:
6. Why she is incapable of admitting that she is occasionally an idiot. The night this photo was taken, I got her to do shots with me. She got extremely drunk and had a terrible hangover the next day and - get this - yelledat me. When I pointed out that she was an adult woman who had freely made the decision to drink irresponsibly and was solely responsible for her own state of being, she grounded me for "emotionally blackmailing her into irresponsible drinking."
I'm going to write a long and mean blog post documenting her lunacy, and seeming determination to bully me into being a fellow lunatic, as soon as I calm down enough to type without breaking this damn keyboard.
So I finally got a job - if that's the right word - in Bangalore. It's really more of a training position. I'm going to be trained as a copywriter for two months with an advertising agency, and if I like it, and they like me, maybe I'll get to stay on. If I don't like it, or if I suck at it (a strong possibility), then I don't know what to do.
But either way, I AM MOVING TO A NEW CITY THAT ISN'T DELHI OR CALCUTTA. TRA LA LA LA LA.
I'm not ruling out that I'll end up hating it, because I usually end up hating a lot of things, on account of how nothing gives me more pleasure than to suck the joy out of life, but right now, infinite possibilities (and bars) stretch before me.
My brother has offered me lodgings for two months ("maximum three, after that you're out") so that should be ample time to find my feet, decide if I'm going to stay on in the city, and look for my own flat. I promised to babysit his dogs four nights a week in return. I am regretting this promise now, but my training will pay so little that I've realized I won't be able to go out anyway, so I may as well sit at home with the dogs.
I hope flat hunting in Bangalore won't be as disastrous as flat hunting in Delhi. I hope that no one demands ten thousand rupees for a single room, the size of a double bed, no windows, and photos of India's ten thousand gods looking on disapprovingly from the cracked walls.
I leave Aleph on Thursday. I'm feeling a little sad about leaving. I will miss smoking under the trees with Pradipta and admiring her shoes, I will miss the Thursday meetings where books are commissioned, ideas are exchanged and authors gossiped about. (I made my first contribution last Thursday, finally plucked up the courage, suggested a book on Indian theatre in English, was told that it would sell three copies, and shut my mouth again. Oh well.) I will miss David's booming voice (alright, perhaps not) and the way everyone in this bloody office smokes. I will miss reading puerile manuscripts and wondering how anyone could have dared send them in, and then feeling sort of happy at the thought that there are people out there who let nothing, nothing, not even terrible syntax, stop them from pursuing a dream. I will miss the feeling of being one of the first people in the world to read something that might one day turn into a famous book. I will miss my wine bottle where I keep my water and the black tea at eleven am and Say Cheese down the road with its Lebanese sandwiches.
So there is a lot to miss. But there is twice as much to look forward to and I can't wait for the next bend in the road. With a bit of luck, it won't send me plummeting down the bottom of a cliff, and leave me in a mangled heap of blood and bone.
I've got to work on trying to be more optimistic.
On a side note, I'm not going to do some big farewell thing when I leave Delhi. (I leave on Sunday for Calcutta where I will spend a couple of weeks before carrying on to Bangalore. So I managed getting a summer holiday despite not being a student. Ha.) I did that last year, and found myself back in this bloody city six months later. I have a terrible feeling I might be saying goodbye to Delhi for the third time next summer. I have a sinking suspicion I am bound to this damn city for life, and no matter what I do to escape, I will always find myself trudging back to it.
Also, may I just say here and now, that I am proud of myself for finding this thing in Bangalore. I have never chased anything, not even The One, with such single minded, dogged determination before. I didn't think I had it in me, but it probably means that I will sink back into my usual passivity for the next decade to make up for it.