Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Into the darkness and around the drain

A depressed person is a very depressing person.

What do people do when they need to face a person who has been depressed for a long time - not for hours, but days, weeks, months or even years?

Quotes doing the rounds in the social media space advise you to stay away from 'negative people who make you miserable'. Most people would rather keep away than see how they can help. True that it is better for those who lead a joyous or pleasant life to run away than to delve into the chasm of another's misery and ruin their own days. It is indeed a lot to ask to go sit with them and chat with them for a while, because of the radiating gloom.

A depressed person could be a very depressed person.

It is their suffocation that comes out as negativity or accusation or explosion. They know what they are doing to others, but they can't help it. They're choking on it.

Some of them may be twirling in the darkness dangerously close to the drain, wondering what it would be like to let go. Perhaps they need help to not be washed away. Perhaps you could throw them a line and pull them out. Because their life matters, too.

Maybe no one can fix their problem, but knowing that someone cares or having someone to talk to may get them out of the darkest place. It may not happen in an hour or a day. Walking away definitely does not help. Waiting for them to ask for help doesn't either.

'You must find your own happiness' is probably not the best comment to make to them. Clearly, they are well past that stage. They believe they're beyond help.

When others keep away from them because the darkness is contagious, they are adding to the frustration.

The depressed person doesn't want to be depressed either. They want to be happy too. They may be afraid, miserable, coping with grief, angry or stuck in their past.

They may appear happy one day, or laughing out loud or looking quite normal. Don't assume that they are out of the woods. Maybe what you see is their flailing arms appearing above the surface for the last time.

And if they look gloomy again the next day, the silliest question to ask would be, "Now what happened?"

Don't mock them. Don't call them insane. Don't isolate them.

Throw a line.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Walking in the rain

How was I to know?
I'd been walking in the rain.
And after all that dancing,
I thought, a perfect end to the day.

How was I to know?
You must have been in pain.
Alone amidst strangers,
Confused, helpless, maybe a li'l afraid.

The cool breeze in my hair, the droplets on my face,
Why did they conceal your distress?
And all the while, strangely though,
My thoughts had been of you.

How was I to know?
Until hours and hours had passed;
When a certain stroke of chance
Unfolded your day before me.

How was I to know
At that time? But now I do.
And I wish, from this distance,
I could somehow ease it for you.

That I could kiss your wounds,
Caress your forehead, make you laugh,
Once again see your eyes smile
In that way I know so well.

In truth, there is nothing
That I can really do for you
Be we near, be we far;
I must shred my wishes and toss them aside.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


It came to me on its way to publication, a scanned copy of a handwritten poem. Just a matter of routine; an FYI.  I ran my eyes over it quickly, and then I read it carefully, again.

I did not know the poet - was she young? old? a teenager? a mother?

There was anguish and pain in the writing, and it touched somewhere deep inside. I wondered who she was; and then I closed it and went on with my business.

The subsequent day, I spoke to the lady who had forwarded the poem to me. In passing, I asked about this unknown poet. And in the next fifteen minutes, the young poet's sad life unravelled before my eyes.

I went back to the poem again and read it with new eyes. Those ten or so lines - that was her story. The story I had just listened to. How did I miss it when I read it the first time? Why was I not able to decipher it? Why did I not see her heart?

That's the beauty of poetry, I think. When we read it, knowing nothing of its origin, there is beauty, but it is veiled. We try to connect it with our life and give it a meaning, we appreciate something we perceive in it.

We don't really wonder why the poet wrote this, or how the philosophy occurred to her, or why her lines have the power to reduce us to tears, or what inner fire caused her words to blaze like this. We probably think it insignificant. Did it come to her one sunny morning while she was sipping tea? Or when she was relaxed and happy? What difference would it make to us, if she were angry or frustrated or vengeful or in the throes of grief?

It is from our deepest pain that the most beautiful works of art are born. I would not wish such pain on anyone, but if we're destined to endure some, I'd rather its direct consequence be a masterpiece.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Art of Living in an Apartment

One of my friends recently moved to another city. When they finalised the house to live in, my first question was, ‘Is it an apartment too?’ And yes, it was. For those of us who have lived in apartments for a long time, there are several advantages associated with those. First and foremost is the safety aspect. In comparison to single houses – especially considering the news we read every day – apartments offer more security. Or, at least they give the impression they do.

Another factor is the proximity of friendly neighbours. They are right in our own building; if we need a glass of milk or a spoon of sugar, we can walk across to them in our house wear, without worrying about opening our gate or crossing the road or encountering wild beasts on our path.

Nonetheless, there are other kinds of people who know nothing about the art of living in an apartment, and who, unfortunately make up a significant part of our neighbourhood.

None of us are blameless when it comes to apartment ethics. However, there are some dwellers who test the patience of the rest of us, when it comes to garbage disposal, bursting midnight crackers, running up and down the stairs to give others a heart attack (and I am not talking of kids), etc.

When I moved into our current apartment, there were some people who lived right above us. We did not hear any sound from them, and they could have been termed ideal except when I found that one of them had the habit of standing on the balcony smoking and dropping the ashes directly down. The cigarette ash fell on the washed clothes I had left to dry on my balcony. To be fair to them, they stopped doing it the moment I let them know my problem. The people who succeeded them to that house have been ‘harmless’ so far.

Meanwhile in another part of the apartment, we heard complaints (both veiled and open) about used sanitary napkins being found blocking the drains. No amount of notices and warnings were enough to coax these tenants to properly dispose of their waste. The world became a better place when they moved out. One second floor lady has the habit of performing pooja in the morning. She would pour water from a bowl right across the balcony, not caring whether there are people walking below. The wind would hit the waterfall and direct it to the houses below, watering their plants and wetting their clothes and giving the people a free shower. Considering that it is water meant for the gods, and that she is an old lady, one can possibly forgive her.

But the first prize – a trophy, certificate and cash award – is reserved for another resident, who lives two floors above my house. One Sunday morning, I woke up hearing the sound of falling water that sounded much like heavy rain. Realising quickly that it wasn’t and assuming that some tap was broken for so much water to overflow, I rushed to the window to find my husband standing there, staring out in disbelief. When I looked outside, I was dumbfounded, too. For, flowing all over the clothes and plants on my balcony from somewhere above, was dirty water mixed with soap. Half of the clothes I had washed the previous night and put out to dry (so as not to miss the early morning sun) were now wet and sloppy. The security guard of the apartment was somewhere in view, looking up in helplessness and bewilderment.

A quick inquiry cleared things up. The residents of the house had decided that morning that it was time to wash their carpet. So what did they do? They threw it across the railings of the balcony and began to pour water and soap over it and to give it a good scrubbing. There were two houses below. Either the carpet-washers were too dumb to know that gravity has this stupid habit of pulling water down; or they did not care that the grime was flowing all over our houses. Clearly the latter, because when we brought the fact to their notice, we were told that ‘it will be over in just five more minutes.’

There is no point in talking to such people. We put our clothes back into the washing machine and gave it another round of wash and rinse. The next time we hung it out to dry (and since then, every time we hung clothes to dry), we prayed that there would be no more carpets to wash or curtains to clean in the floors above for a long time to come.

If they do not master the art of living in an apartment, we need to learn to live in spite of them.