The Creaking Chair ...

Creaking Chair - Part VII

08 August 1999
It’s Jamie’s anniversary tomorrow.
And I am shitting in my pants again…I don’t know how long this routine will continue
It’s been 17 long years and still that night gives me chills
How close had we come to celebrating on the Laguna Beach - waiting to turn this trip to his bachelor’s party ..
Jamie was always the beach person. Funny story – he lost 8 spects to the sea. I could never understand why he had to wear them near the waves.
But nerves aside, the good thing about the day tomorrow?
I get to wear the tuxedo once a year, and it is this day
Jamie was a man of fashion. And how he loved it when we all decked up for the occasion
I remember the day his Godson won the inter-state badminton finals, what a party he had thrown :: Dress code – all black (tuxedos for men & an evening gown for women)
I used to ask him if he has forgotten that this was the scene at a middle class Indian household in Andheri
And he would look at me with his beaming smile and say, ’Who would believe, right?’
We all gather tomorrow to raise a toast to Jamie …
But I must complete the ritual though before I sleep.
I must read his letter he sent me that rainy day in August.
And every year, I can almost hear him speaking these lines in his husky tone
“My biggest victory was not letting her go, my friend; It was realizing that she was already gone,
Accepting that her presence is going to stay with me, more than memories of our time together,
I do not desire to be healed, but only to carry my wounds with pride”

And so went Jamie into oblivion, to explore his adventures & find his soul
17 years and counting …
‘My raison d'être’, he said
“Adios! Old friend. I will meet you at some other place and some other time”, the last line of the letter read
P.S. We celebrate the day Jamie left (8th Aug ‘68) as his anniversary hoping someday he would gatecrash his own party!
P.P.S. I still believe ‘Letters I never posted’ is his book. The author is a mystery while we all only know his pen-name.

Creaking Chair Part VI

24 June 1999

It was one of those days which was tiring..
Not physically of course..that’s the usual story every day at my age
It was exhausting mentally.. and I somehow feel just as drained as in the year 1967
And I am glad some things in life never change
Like standing under the cold water shower for a long time
As Manu used to say, ‘as the drops run through your head to toe, it drains away your thoughts’

I still remember that day I took the plunge..
One of the hottest Summer we had seen was ending in June
And my father was fuming with rage watching me pack my bags
My mother was equally troubled … but with emotions much more mellow than my father’s
His was rage filled with concern … hers was concern filled with a sinking sorrow
And there was I, in my late 20’s … as rebellious as my grand-daughter today is in her early 20’s..
That’s what they call Generation Gap I guess

Did you feel a sudden edge in my tone there?
At least I thought so.. I think I could imagine the flaring of the nerves on my temples..
Oh boy.. I was angry that day..
After all what use is youth if not for foolish choices & ill-tempered decisions..
And so I looked one last time into his eyes, and there was this slight tinge of plea
But his vanity was too tall a wall for it to spill over..
And my blood was too young to see through the wall..
Today Manya signed up for the Army..
She says Navy & Air-force is just a façade to brag about gender equality
She wants to test her metal where it is the hardest to endure..
Her personal endurance test she says…

Of course, I did not counsel my Grand-daughter on her choices
I have learned my lessons in time..
And so shall she..
I only hope and desire them to be good, or bad but not horrific
And of course Kamal is agitated at me for not taking his side
But all he can do is sulk .. and not complain
Certain privileges I get with age on my side..

Though I doubt he would set up the lights
For the badminton in the backyard tonight…
I find it difficult to sleep without that hour of cheering..

P.S. -  Though angry my father never reproached me for my decision to take a 2 year break from my job & to go on a Solo trip round the world..The only regret I have is not sending him postcard from Alaska, his favorite destination.. (somewhere in the December of 1968 I guess)

The Creaking Chair - Part V

18 June 1988

Was it sandalwood or Rose?
The smell of incense sticks – a lazy Sunday morning
One where I woke up before 1 PM; a rarity
The days of youth come with their own little jar of idiosyncrasies
Its own set of preformed notions about rules…
Just like my grandson frowns at me for being such a pain, as he says
Nagging him to wake up early, to do his bed, to not leave food on his plate

I always wondered why the flavor of the incense sticks
always was sandalwood in the writings
And never Rose or Jasmine…or Mogra for that matter
Was it because it sounds more imperial or royal
Or was it because I read selectively
Picked up authors who would never write about
Mogra incense stick spreading its scent in the backdrop
of an Indian student living in an English household

But the ideas was not about the incense stick
Or the ideosyncracies of the aged
Or the preformed notion of rules in my young mind

I intended to write about my fight with Paul
on Religion
To be or not to be is the question
He could quote Shakespeare or Dostoevsky where you never imagined him to
I used to admire that – still do – it’s just that we don’t get to talk much now a days
Alzheimer’s has taken him to its own world of Shakespeare’s sonnets and Pablo Neruda poems

But we did have a debate that day
On Atheism, on the roots of religion,
On how I was a passive agnostic (I still don’t agree that those syllables together make any sense)
They sound like a glorified way of calling yourself an atheist while still being religious

But we did have an argument that Sunday morning
On whether the lighting of incense stick
First thing after my Sunday morning bath
With the mud colored towel still wrapped around my then athletic waist
Was an abominable attempt to run away from my identity
An argument on how I was trying to hide my nakedness  
in the garb of the rising fumes of burnt sandalwood

I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse”, and I’ll do it till he feels guilty
I knew for sure that he added the second half of the quote
But couldn’t refute for I had not yet read ‘The Godfather’

Out of all the Sunday mornings I spent with Paul (8 to be precise)
This one is etched like yesterday night’s dew on my fading memory
I guess I should pay him a visit
I could check if he is still a pious atheist or has Alzheimer’s made him forget that too…

P.S. Go to 1952 for the real fight – My diary entries were much more factual & less philosophical back then – but then those were the days of preformed notions of rules for the young me..

- Ashk

The Creaking Chair - Part IV

07 March 1949 

Sitting on the patiya on the tea stall

corner of the Jamnabai street
cigarette smoke having a duel with mental fumes
Anger - a newly discovered emotion it felt
The blacksmith pounding hammer on red hot iron
inside my head explosions of hatred intermingled with fear

The sound of the passing train
Like the wheels of revenge running in my head
'Why did I never embrace this feeling before,
Is there any emotion as vivid as this?'

Drop of hot chai fell on my feet
bringing me back to the moment
sweat drenched face of Golu, the chai wala's son
running around dodging people, balancing 5 tea glasses in his tiny hands
If only he had known how angry I was

Like the simmering heat of the Sahara desert
shaking with rage my hands were a rebellious soul
The sound of shattered glasses echo in my head even today
Poor lad didn't know where did the stars strike from
Looking with innocent eyes for explanation

Fear finally winning the duel
Would have apologized had only I had had a voice
parched throat,
The rebel now trembled with guilt
With bashful eyes and arrogant disbelief, I escaped

Anger fueled guilt and guilt fuels anger
I came to you,
Today was the day I cried for the first time in your arms

P.S. This is the first time I have had a fight with you, and u remember how angry I was when u made that cake for me when we met after the fight, with all those sinister plans in my head.
Today wisdom taught me to be angry at myself, and you taught me to handle anger

P.P.S. (Added 23 July 1998) - Now you know why I never drank tea.

- Ashk

The Creaking Chair - Part III

14 May 1998

How ironic,
death had to choose this day,
out of the other 364
it could have sent its icy kiss on...
Or maybe it was trapped like me,
in the ecstasic glow of 14 May,Friday...
The spell so strong that no other turn of the diurnal cycle
could make its presence felt...

Happy Anniversary, my Love !!!

No, not our marriage..
before you pinch me on my right shoulder,
like you always did...
when you punished me,
on one of my moronly stupid remarks,
or at the extremes of our foreplay...
The skin there is still soft...
But our marriage..
still 14 months and 14 days away...

The candle light on the first,
The second honeymoon on the tenth...
The rendezvous on the 24th...
but the one you loved the most
was the bunjee jump on the 16th...

But today is not the day we vowed the celestial ties...
You invariably forgot it year after year,
And how I used to be taciturn the whole day,
trying to show my hurt...
and how you made the day memorable 
with your proposals in the evening at 6,
I still remember the 24 ways you did it..
14 May, the day I had first proposed you...

25th anniversary...
the 25 ways I were to propose you through the day,
I still rehearse it at nights when I can't sleep,
still nervous like a nascent lover...

'Fate', you always said,'You can never defeat it,my love'

The memory of burning sandalwood,rising pyre
at six in the evening,
fate indeed...

I now know you didnot forget 14 may this time...The card i found under your pillow...scribbled upon it with rose petals...

"Happy Anniversary, my love"


The Creaking Chair - Part II
06 January 1998

I was almost enticed to skip my daily ritual,
My bath with cold water at 5 in the morning
I haven't failed for the last 63 years,but once...
Though i must accept, there were a few close calls,
once when Anne added ice cubes into the bucket..
What laugh she had at the site of my horrid face,
dripping with water,shivering,
I had rushed out of the bath to have my revenge...
12 January 1956 -
If you wish to humour yourself with the details...

Now that I mention the singular ocassion
when I did skip the routine,I must elaborate..
I doubt I had time for a diary entry that day!!
I'm sure had I even tried it,Kashish would have killed me,
She was already furious over my morning act of stupidity...

When she had been angry on me for the first time,
she had innocently added salt into my tea,for sugar..
And had stood by,watching me spue,stone faced,
but I had the best chocolate cake that afternoon...
The next time I racked her nerves,
I had to spend the night fishing...
But again she made up for it,
with the most romantic night I had in my life...
I was almost tempted to test her again,

It was as if Kamal had known my hours 
and had planned his arrival at the precise moment.
The alarm did not have its share of credit for waking me up that morning.
Her shrieks did it..
Opening my eyes I saw in horrified bewilderment
her agonised face as she screamed in her labours...

"Pradeep, He's coming..Take me to the hospital"

It must have been an involuntary wont of mine,
I rushed for the bathroom and stood frozen at the door...

"For heaven's sake, oh Idiot man!!
Don't tell me you'll bath while I writh here in labour... "

Kamal was born on 26th September 1972...

Kashish did make up for pronouncing me an Idiot..
That sorry card with the poetry she wrote is still tucked 
besides "The Trial" in the book shelf...
Though I believe it was for not allowing me the bath.. 


The Creaking Chair - Part I

21 December 1997

This is just a veritable diary entry of an old man,
so if you are sneaking through
in anticipation of some covert tell tale,
I suggest you turn to the diary entry on 16 August 1953
All that you'll get here is Cognitive Content....

Its already quarter past 6 in the morning,
and in anticipation of the newspaper
I follow my regular treading on the veranda...
"Kamal !! Babuji is again outside,this early,
Make him come in, you know how susceptible he is to the cold"
I can hear bahu in her cajolery tongue,
trying to wake Kamal from his morning slumber...

When I was his age,I used to be up and running
like a steaming engine by this time.
I was in Bangalore then,
at the center of a mushrooming entrepreneurial hub..
My mornings were mainly consumed in charting out the days work
And by 7 I used to be onto the streets,
riding on dreams,
enterprisingly spirited....

"Dadaji,its cold outside,come in,
I'll get you the paper when it arrives"
Kamal's youngest son,holds my hand
almost dragging me inside the house,
with such ingenious love,
I can hardly resist....

Dressed up in his navy blue shorts,
and white shirt,
that shimmer of a freshly fallen dew upon the pasture,
the infectious vigour,
so easily pulls me back to the days,
I was so like him,
only a bit more impish...

The newspaper has the same story every day,
Its such a regular objection,since ages now,
It has almost dubbed itself as truth...
Yet for a 70 year old man,
with all the time in the world to ponder
on situations that he possibly cannot alter
A critics position is a caper.....

Stopping abruptly....Kamal's arranged for floodlights in the backyard...
Badminton on a cold night....I was a champion once....
alas! I'll only watch today.....

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