Busy, busy place our little fibro home. Teenage children crowding: two minute noodles, friends, music: loud! And me, the middle-aged dad, knowing less about life than ever. This learning curve about me is steep and getting steeper. ‘How are the children?' my on-the-phone wife asks the voice at the other end. Wonder who she's talking to? ‘Where will they stay?' she asks. Ah! This is about old mate who's on the way out with cancer. His wife and kids need help. Something clicks! inside me. ‘They'll stay with us,' I almost yell. ‘All with us, the mother, all of them—forever!' Where did that come from? I nearly lost it right there. The day wears on. They're coming to stay. Great. Back at my screen in a dusty, cobwebbed office, something's not right. The heart's pounding, booming out of the chest like in a rugby game. This is no ordinary palpitation. Had those for years. This is like running hard: thumping, thumping, thumping but not out of breath. Walking in the yard should fix it. Nope! Still going hammer and tongs. Lying down, pressing on the eyeballs—the Vagus nerve trick—which works on palpitations. But no dice. Finally, it goes away of its own accord. Days pass and it's all good. The children come to stay. Meanwhile, we're sorting the logic of the click! and the pounding. It has to be something to do with when Mum got sick. She and Dad went away and me and the brothers went to a hostel. I was six. It's an emotional trigger event. That's all this is. Back at work. Talking to young adults about life and faith. Taking a lost boy for a long walk at night. He needs to let some anger out. Meanwhile, under my own skin: ships sinking, spaces filling with a hurrying, flooding ocean. What the hell? It's a new day. I'm caught out. Can't stop it. Here it comes: a gigantic black crate seeming to drop out of the sky. A caged monster crashing around, flames shooting out the cracks. And me the little boy, terrified. I'm supposed to flip the latch, to let it out. It goes away like a truck passing on a highway. Maybe it's medication and lock-up time. ‘It's imagination,' I say. 'You've been helping one too many traumatised kids.' But I know imagination. This is not imagination. It's real. And there's my wife and lover praying with and for me—and both of us hoping for a way ahead, that this won't be some dead end street. Not now, we have enough on our plate. Days drag on. ‘This is embarrassing bullshit,' I murmur. ‘I'll fix it myself.' ‘Whatever you do,' a friend says, ‘don't try to fix it yourself.' ‘So,' my prayer to God voice says, ‘What do I do now?' Maybe there's someone out there who could help, the idea returns to me. I laugh, thinking of all the disappointed people I know: stories of quacks and healers. Maybe you're not ready yet. Don't lose your nerve. ‘God did not give us a spirit of fear,' I say, quoting an old verse, ‘but a Spirit of power, of love and a sound mind.'* So, here we are, walking the dog down to a rippling brown river and wondering. Is there such a thing as a prayer or a question that's before its time? Or things that need to be allowed to have their day? We stop. Under a cold grey sky. The dog looks at me. What the? Did I just hear a murmur of dissent from my false-self? That middle aged—well educated—voice: offended at the suggestion that there's something on offer that I'm missing out on: terrified of the chaos this might unleash, or, if truth be told, the freedom. We reach the river, water rippling over stones and the fresh, sweet smell of a sandbar. On the haunches now, head bowed. The dog licks my hand. Before we try to sail this ship on the next Big Life Journey, perhaps we need to allow things in the harbour to float out to sea: half-formed dreams, faces running with tears, premonitions and prayers. Grievings of the Holy Spirit, longing to have a voice in the space, time and matter that is me? We make it back to the house. The un-pulling is heavier. Remember, don't lose your nerve. Trust. Pray. So tired. Have to sleep. Everyone's out, thank goodness. Here comes the lying on the floor part, paralysed. And a flashback dialogue with a fourteen year old girl, of which I'm speaking both sides—seeming to gather information about the six year old me in a trauma hell-hostel. Like a video replay. ‘Father in Heaven,' I pray. ‘What do I do now?' Relax. Lie here, wait and let it play. You're not crazy. This is real. ‘Trust in me,' the words seem to be spoken directly to me. Days and weeks pass with more monster in the cage moments, flashbacks: waiting, thinking and praying. I talk with a friend about the monster in the cage. ‘I remember that,' she says. ‘I was sitting on a huge box: all these tentacles coming out.' Oh. She's one of the sanest people I know. Maybe there is hope. ‘I had to choose to open the lid,' she says. I knew she would say that. ‘So,' she continues, ‘You're ready to open it are you?' ‘Yes.' * 2 Timothy 1:7
As a child, I would spend every summer vacation in Beijing. Every morning, I would wake up to my grandparents announcing the arrival of breakfast from the local farmer's market. “妞妞,” they would say softly. “We brought breakfast!” I would wake up every morning to the smell of delicious food and their beaming faces, arms adorned in plastic bags. There would always be tea eggs: Glorious, salty, delicious bombs of goodness encased in a cracked shell with brining liquid nestled comfortably in its crevices. I feel my mouth watering as I envision biting into the tender egg white, browned by a potion of soy sauce and tea leaves, my teeth sinking into the golden sun, the center of this eggy universe. My grandmother's (姥姥） love language was food. I distinctly remember her chasing me with a mantou in hand, calling, “Just one more bite!” She always reminded me to eat more, as I was a picky eater as a child, and at dinner time, my rice bowl would inexplicably refill every time I looked away. I pretended not to notice. It's been eight years since 姥姥 passed. Yesterday, I had tea eggs for breakfast. As I brought one to my mouth, I felt my throat clench up. I feel guilty about enjoying this treat without her. But then I remembered her reminders for me to eat more la, and I know that she would've wanted me to eat it. I swallowed the egg with difficulty as tears rolled down my cheeks. But I couldn't tell if they were tears of joy or sadness.
My Paradise: Now i am going to share my own life story which i underwent when i was 9 or 10 yers old. Let me give you first background general information : when i was 9 our family used to be one of the poorest one in our countryside my dad and mom had nothing to do and no job like other parents, once or twice in a month only my dad used to visit another countryside and he used to came back with a less amount of money. that would be enough for our living expanses, that said , ironically my father was addicted to alcohol , he was alcoholic and used drink even though we had no money for bread. So he spent half of his money for purchasing alcohol drinks. There was always conflict between my mom and dad . Whatever as i was young, immature boy i did not care of anything. I could not get on well both with my mom and dad , instead I had the best family member of us and the best friend of mine his name was alpha and actually he was my dog and both best friend. Today my story is wholly devoted to him, to his memory . i remember whenever i had fight with my father mostly due to his unconciousness i used to go away from home mostly to the hill of the nearest mountain to our home with alpha and rarely i used to cry, weep over everything I do remember once I was going to my frends home for some schoolworks almost by sunset and of course my friend Alpha was going together with me . As usual situation I faced some bullies maybe 3 or 4 , they were just hiding their facewith masks and startood to approach me , I was so proud that i had my brave friend with me . he just sprang up and went to the bullies with barking like the Lucifer , he tried to bite them, that said they ran away and did not come back again . Due to such events i was loving him more and more, day by day as buddy. we used to get, understand each other fully , whenever i came back from school firstly i used to hear the " Welcome home" bark from Alpha. several months maybe a year passed, as usual i came back home from school. hmm but I did not find Alpha he was not home so i went inside of the house there were my parents and brother all together sitting . my dad showed his kind and said " Come on son today your mother cooked soup for you, today is happy day becouse we are going to eat enough meat" . I was happy also I had not have breakfast that day i was starving. i went and sat down I ate couple of bowls of soup and probably 300gramms of meat. I was stuffed. I had never eaten such and I was feeling like a king becouse of lush food . i was a lad who always cares of his friend , I callected all bones which we had cleaned the meat of it and wanted to give them to Alpha. S o I went out and called " Alpha,Alpha come on where are you i have surprize for you". After my dad said " come back son he can not hear you now". I went to him, set down and said " did he go somewhere". Dad said " Yes now he is with you, sitting with you together ( I thought he was on good mood and joking around ) " i said " I am asking seriously, i thibk Alpha is hungr too so let me give these bones to him". Dad laughed a bit and said " No dog eats it's own bones son you now just ate your dog. Whatever I needed to do this becouse we all were hungry also we will not catch cold . do not get upset you will get used to live without him , he was just a dog". I could not say a word only , i was shocked . i felt burst of anger , i raised my noice ,c ryed and sprang up and striked my father several times. Of course my punches were not powerfull so my father asked to stop it and slapped me on face. the flood of tears were on my face i ran to the restroom, put my finger into my throat and vomited voluntary. i was almost unconcious... that is how our friendship ended up. Years passed my father went to Kazakhistan to earn money and fund us. every week i try to find a daily work for some money to pay for my Ielts courses. sometimes as this month I struggle to find 30 bucks and be needed to miss my courses for a month. I hope one day to be a rich person and provide all poor people to be the knowladgable . that is why i am trying to read and learn more everyday . THE END
If you ask any South Asian kid what their least favorite food is, you will always get one of two answers - karela (bittergourd) or khichdi (a rice dish made with lentils, resembling Italian risotto). Traditional Khichdi does not have the richness or sophistication of a risotto, reserved solely for sick days when a child has the flu or a bad cold. It's usually a soggy mush of lentils and rice, tinged yellow with turmeric and seasoned with salt and pepper. Seems like a far leap from the rich curries and vegetable dishes associated with Indian culture, right? But, at my house, Khichdi was never a boring affair. My mother was raised in a tiny village tucked away in the shadows of the bustling metropolitan city of Kolkata, called Shantiniketan. Bengali cuisine, if you're unaware, is known for the sharp taste of mustard oil, setting your palate up for the tantalizing flavors of fresh fish and vegetables simmering in the most luxurious broth. Any dish is incomplete without small mountains of fluffy white rice, adorned with a small teaspoon of clarified butter or ghee and a dollop of fiery red pickle. I would watch as my mother would stand on her tiptoes, her silver anklets jingling softly as she tried to reach the far back of the wooden cabinets. She was too short, and would call for my dad with a “soon cho?” (are you listening?) instead of his name. I have never heard my mother refer to my father by name, and true to her call, he always listened. He would put down his newspaper and walk into the kitchen, silently retrieving the tarnished container of lentils, with the special type of daal reserved for sick days. She would reach into the container with her bare hands and grab fistfuls of the tiny yellow grains, adding them to a pressure cooker with short-grained basmati rice. He would share a look with her, probably reveling in some kind of inside joke, as she asked him to put the container away. She would giggle, swat at him and tell him to get out of the kitchen. Maa would wash the mixture three times, until the cloudy water would run clear, and fill it with fresh water to the top. She would then reach for her trusty jar of turmeric and add in heaping tablespoon to the concoction, along with some salt, and I would run away as far as possible. I hated the sound of the pressure cooker, the huffing and puffing seeming like the world's worst steam engine, building up to the dreadful moment where the steam would escape with a loud whistling noise. I would count in my head every time the whistle made me want to jump out of my skin, one… and when I least expected it, two. It always made my mum laugh, and she would gently smack my head saying, “beta (child), it's just the whistle.” I would follow her to the kitchen, and watch as she chopped up some red onions and tomatoes into small cubes. It never made her cry, unlike my Dad who would start sniffling while peeling the skin. She heated up a small pot with mustard oil, waiting for the right moment to add the mustard and cumin seeds, freshly plucked curry leaves from our small garden and freshly ground spices. It was my favorite part, I loved watching the spices bloom in the oil - bright red chillies, black pepper and earthy coriander blending into the most wonderful symphonies of flavor. She would add the onions and tomatoes last, barely cooking them so the onions were still translucent and had a slight bite to them, and the tomatoes retained their fresh tart flavor. She would then open the pressure cooker, greeted with a cloud of hot steam as she poured the mixture into the rice-lentil concoction. The colors would change; the khichdi would go from a dull and boring yellow to a vibrant vermilion shade, studded with onions and tomatoes and curry leaves. It had to be served steaming hot, on the nice ceramic plates reserved for guests, adorned with a heaping tablespoon of ghee. It did not matter what ailment you were suffering from, neither did it matter if your head felt like it was stuffed with cotton, or your body was burning with a fever. I've been sick a lot of times in the past few decades, with friends and lovers offering comfort in the form of their home remedies. I have been fed comfort foods from all over the world, be it Arroz Caldo from the Philippines, Italian Pastina, or bright red Borscht. A past boyfriend would make me chicken soup from the can, boiled in a saucepan with a dash of pepper and a generous pour of sriracha. My best friend makes the best rasam, a fragrant soup originating from the South of India, flavored with fresh tamarind and tomatoes. Yet, every single time I wake up with a bad cold or when life seems to get the best of me, I reach for the container of red daal at the back of my kitchen cabinets. I make it just the way maa would, relishing in the warmth of a hug that has traveled through generations of Bengali women to reach my little kitchen.
Aside from introducing myself, I'm really unsure of where to begin. This probably isn't the beginning of my story but it's definitely a start. Have you ever heard someone say, "I had to grow up too quickly" or "I didn't have a childhood"? Those simple statements are the literal definition of my life. At 9 years old, I didn't know how to be a child. I never played with friends, went to sleepovers, or had birthday parties. I was too busy taking care of my two younger siblings. Making bottles, getting them dressed, changing diapers, cooking meals, giving baths... the whole nine yards. I was raising children that I didn't create. I was raising children as a CHILD. My "parents"? They were drunk. They were high. They were fighting. They were passed out. They were somewhere else. One of my earliest memories includes packing lunches for my sister and I before school. We lived in a little trailer in Powell, Wyoming and we walked to school every day. Rain, shine, snow, sleet. We walked. One morning on our way out the door my sister asked for popsicles. Being a child myself, I grabbed us some popsicles and tossed a knife inside her backpack so we could open them on the way to school. Here we are two young children probably 6 & 9 walking to school, eating popsicles and minding our own business. That is until we finally arrived at school and my younger sister's teacher decides to go through her backpack in search of something - but what she finds instead is the knife. Landing my kindergarten sister in the principal's office. Before long the school officer is involved, my parents are called and all of us are sitting in the office. I can remember the tears rolling down her face as the school officer explains how serious this is. Little does he know, I'm the one who put it in there this morning. As he scolds my sister, I can feel the rage welling up inside myself. Because I know it was my fault. The only other thing I remember about that day is getting whopped later that evening after school. It was "MY responsibility" to get us both to school. It was "MY responsibility to make sure she was safe. It was "MY responsibility".... But I was 9. I was supposed to be the child, not the adult. It should have NEVER been my responsibility to set an alarm. It should have NEVER been my responsibility to wake up my younger sister and get us both ready for school. It should have NEVER been my responsibility to begin with. However, looking back now I realize I'd gladly take that beating all over again because it meant that my sister wouldn't have to. I was forced to grow up early. I never got a childhood. I was "mom" to my siblings. I was the adult in my home. Even though I was only 9 years old...even though I was a child.
Having a keen eye for real estate and working on a timeline of no more than two months, Mama was scrupulous and swift when choosing the right house. After a hard and footsore morning of self-guided showings, it was on Oakridge Drive where she found just the thing: a midcentury split level, set back from the road and nestled into a hillside, trimmed with wrought iron details and a bedroom balcony that overlooked the pool. The pool was really what caught Mama's attention, specifically the thicket of verdant elephant-ear plants that wrapped around the outdoor patio, intertwining with fat terra cotta pots of bright fuchsia bougainvillea, creating the feeling of a miniature jungle. It was there, fifty-six days later, with the faintest breath of spring in the air, she gave birth to five kittens. My parents instantly regretted telling me they were there, for when we made our pilgrimage to my grandparents' tidy house I skipped polite chat and bolted down the stairs, pressing my face against the sliding door in hopes of seeing the kittens, so desperate I caused a clatter and an obvious round white fog of my breath against the glass. Startled by the commotion, Mama deftly ushered her round and mewling children back under the elephant ears, her lustrous tabby fur slipping through the giant leaves and closing them behind her like a beaded curtain. As March gave way to April, I learned to control my volume, and as I calmed, I caught more glimpses of black and white fluff, tabby tails, and tufted orange ears. With every passing day, they grew bolder. Mama sat just at the edge of the little jungle one Sunday, watching as the five tussled in the late morning light, chasing pillbugs across the patio. Mama was starting to get that restless, primeval itch that made her turn to house hunting again, and the kittens had started to find meals on their own. As I watched the little clowder tumble in the sun, I overheard the adults in the room ruminating that it wouldn't be long before all of the cats had wandered off and we should probably consider sprinkling a box of mothballs in the bushes before the next set of pests moved in. My pleading eight-year-old eyes turned to each grown up in turn, looking for weakness of will that might somehow result in my acquisition of a pet before they aged out of my grandparents' garden. A firm no, an exasperated head shake, a “don't even ask..” But bless him, my father, well into his sixties at the time and perhaps not at the peak of his physical prime, stood up and slid the sliding glass door open, startling Mama cat who dove into the thicket, teenaged kittens in hot pursuit. Dad stood as a Midwesterner does, hands-on-hips, scrutinizing the situation and evaluating all possible escape routes. Without further prompting, he plunged into the elephant-ear thicket and a great cacophony of rustling and squalling carried into the house. Just as my mother began her protests in urgent, as I clenched my fists under my chin in trepidation, he emerged— mottled old hands bloody, Dockers khakis covered with mulch, and clutching a screaming, swatting calico kitten. I called her Wildflower.
I grew up listening to tales about the television stars my dad met through his job as a carpenter and stagehand. I eagerly waited for my dad to come home from work each night to fill me in on happenings behind the camera. How I longed to meet some of those famous people. Just meeting one would make me happy, I thought as I'd drift off to sleep each night. Visions of Steve Allen and his crew, Milton Berle, and Mitch Miller danced their way through every dream. Arlene Francis became my role model. After hearing the wonderful stories of how Ms. Francis did so much for the stagehands in a tough but lady-like manner, I decided I'd grow up being just like that wonderful lady. One afternoon, my brother, Frankie, raced home from school with some incredibly interesting and exciting news. A local company comprised of young adults formed a small organization for children between the ages of 10 and 16. The purpose of this organization was to teach music and march in the neighborhood parades. It was as much to keep the kids out of trouble as it was to advertise the company. Frankie wanted to be the first to join. Now I'd have the chance to play something. The first band practice interested more than one hundred children. The elimination process lasted two weeks and among those accepted were Frankie and me. Frankie, for whatever reason, chose to learn the bugle instead of the drums and while I tried my hardest to get one note out of the bugle, it was all in vain., I found myself learning to play the bells. Soon, we were not just marching in parades but playing in movie houses when celebrities came to town to promote their latest films. Then it happened. That summer, in 1961, Troy Donahue along with his co-star, Connie Stevens, came to town. While adults ran the operation of the band, they felt as a children's band, a child should represent it. Frankie, being the oldest child in the group at age 15, seemed only natural to represent the band by shaking hands with the stars which never fazed him in the slightest. Since their arrival in town coincided with my 14th birthday, the band's owner arranged a surprise for me. As Frankie made his way to the stage, his friends hooted and hollered from the audience. To my horror and excitement, I heard that same manager call out, “And now, I'd like Donnie to come on stage. Today is Donnie's birthday and I can think of no better gift than to have her meet our guests.” I'd get to shake hands with Troy Donahue – my latest heartthrob! Connie Stevens gave me a hug while wishing me a happy birthday. Troy Donahue, then took both my hands and the crowd in the theater came to a dead quiet wanting to hear what he said to me. What seemed to be an hour, was probably no more than two minutes Mr. Donahue stared deeply into my eyes. He slowly leaned towards me and pulling me toward him, placed a huge kiss on my cheek and then whispered in my ear, “I hope your birthday is as beautiful as you are.” Late that afternoon, as I walked home with my brother, I felt as though my world crashed around me. My mother noticed a downfall in my spirits. “Donnie, what's wrong,” she asked. “I thought meeting Troy Donahue would be the highlight of your entire week.” “Oh Mom! I always dreamed of being like Daddy. Meeting famous people and having them greet you when you go to work. But this afternoon changed everything. Connie Stevens hugged me, and Troy Donahue kissed me. I waited for the star's to shine, their faces to glow or something special happen. But nothing did. Nothing! Her hug and his kiss were no different than a hug from you or a kiss from Daddy. Yours at least mean something. They're just like daddy said, they're as human as we are.” My mom smiled as she realized how much her daughter grew up in the short span of two hours. Calling her husband from another room, together, they handed me a small box. “We thought of giving this to you earlier but decided to wait until after dinner. However, now, while dinner is cooking, this seems like the perfect time. Happy Birthday, honey.” I opened the small box and found the prettiest little ring with a dark green emerald – my birthstone. I immediately put it on my finger, jumped from my chair and with both arms, grabbed my parents and hugged them tightly. “Oh, Mom, Dad! I could meet all the stars in the world and none of them could ever make me as happy as you just did.” All it took was one kiss from an adored celebrity to take the stars from my eyes and put my feet back on the ground. To this day, I will always remember that day as I laughingly call it, the day the stars fell.
I want to share my childhood with you. My childhood explained may prevent many of you to create sufferings in your life. Everyone does have a unique mindset. Mindset plays a major role in building life. The same way mindset of a country builds a nation, mindset of the Universe runs the Universe. This mind is extremely powerful, not when it plays with us, but when we play with it. Mind can easily control the elements of nature, if used properly. It is not a miracle at all to create rainfall or to create something out of nothing. But for an ordinary person mind is just a tool, which makes him or her able to adjust with others and everything. In fact mind helps us to survive. A healthy mind is always friendly but when it gets infected, it becomes harmful for self and for others too. It is very rare to find a mind with no complexity. Even a simplest mind on Earth may have multi-personalities. On the other hand a well developed mind may have thousands of independent but correlated entities, which are used to control the mass. Most people live in their individual mind without experiencing the real world, the self. Up to age of 2-3 years, every kid lives in very high level of consciousness with infinite mind. After that period their mind begins to shrink around worldly thoughts. And in a few years they get captivated in their own mind, which has already become too narrowed, rotating to and fro amid routine thoughts. And this process of narrowing of mind keeps going on. Such a mind only is considered a normal mind in our society. Mind can be developed consciously. By practice one can experience new dimensions of mind. However it may happen unconsciously too. But unlike consciously developed mind, an unconsciously developed mind can't be controlled by master of that mind. A man with such a mind is like a drunken driving a brake-less car. Such a mind behaves weirdly. Every mind has potential to grow positively and beautifully. Even worst kind of mind can be transformed into best one, if given proper nourishment. Recollecting diamonds of childhood will give best possible nourishment to your mind. In my childhood, I had a sharp but confused mindset. I was genius and fool too. I was Pious, honest, kind, devoted, undisciplined, irregular, flexible and fearful. Some lucky kids do have ability to build their lives by their own, while other kids are like soil pots. They depend on potter means outer forces. And I was not a lucky kid. But never happens anything wrong in this world. Everything is on way to its' ultimate goal. Don't complain that you have all kind of pebbles, stones, sands, dirt and dust. Also some diamonds are there, which you have lost in your childhood. You just need to find them. They will help you in every aspect of your life. Help yourself. Help your kids so that they could use their diamonds properly. One of those diamonds, I had in my childhood was WATCHFULNESS. I often remember that moment of my childhood. I was 4 years old. My grandmother had taken me to a pond to collect some lotus for worship. I always remember those moments. I was walking towards the pond by holding grandmother's fore-finger. I saw the greeneries and mysterious trees surrounding the pond. I saw the bright lotus in the water. I saw the silky waves on the pond surface. I saw my grandmother collecting some flowers. I took one flower in my hand and felt the special touch of it. I sat on the soft wet grass and moved my hand in the water of pond. I saw the changed pattern of the waves. You know, I always miss those moments in which I was a part of a live portrait. I desire to see such scenery again. In later years I saw many ponds, many lotuses. But I could never feel the same, what I had felt that time. The scenery of that small pond seems to belong from some different world. So beautiful, so charming, so young, so mysterious, so live… I desire to see such a pond again. But I know that I have lost the watchful eyes, which I had in my childhood. Without watchful eyes one can never see the real beauty. Without watchful eyes one can never feel the mysterious and heavenly element present in every atom of the existence. Everything in this existence is wonderful. You, your feelings, appearing and disappearing of thoughts in your mind, your senses, your family, your house, your locality, street dogs, dust, flowers, wind, your neighbours and strangers… You would find everything just wonderful, if you could get back the watchful eyes, you had in your childhood. Don't you feel? that you have become unavailable for everything, unavailable for yourself, unavailable for other, that you are living a predicted , a predetermined life. We have divided ourselves into many entities. If we want to recollect ourselves, we have to go back to our childhood when we were undivided. Second of those diamonds, I had in my childhood, was... Link to e-stores https://books2read.com/RecollectingDiamondsOfChildhood
When I woke up this morning I didn't think today would be any different from yesterday. I awoke to the same soft white sheets, the same pillow under my head. The same mess of long black hair in my face. But when I stood up and felt something brush over my feet I froze. My heart at a complete stop while I waited to see what would happen next. Nothing did happen and I ran out of my room as quickly as I could. That was my first mistake. I should've never left my room this morning. I should've at least checked what was under the bed first. Maybe then I Wouldn't have been so startled when I went to the bathroom. I stood in front of the sink, my hand slowly reaching for the faucet, and my reflection following everything I did precisely. I let the cold water run over my hands for a moment, the rush of frozen ice bringing me back to reality. There couldn't have been anything under my bed is what I told myself. I cupped my hands under the tap and watched as the water filled my hands, I watched as the water poured over the sides of my skin, making its way back into the basin. The mirror hanging on the wall in front of me, still keeping up with every single one of my movements. I bring the water in my hands to my face, and before splashing myself I hold my breath. I don't know why, but I've always done that. Without the sound my breath filling the dead silence I have to wonders....whose is then? I can hear it right behind me. The sound of someone breathing. Each breath louder and heavier then the last. When I spin around to my surprise no ones there. I let out a sigh in relief as I turn back to the mirror. I stare at my bitter reflection, my skin pale and sickly, my long hair in a tangled mess, my grey eyes drawing nothing but boredom and plainness. Then it happens. I jump back from the mirror, knocking into the cabinets behind me. Before I can catch my footing, I slip and fall backwards into them. The cabinets and I hitting the floor with a loud crash as my heart beats out of my chest. I know what I saw. There's no way that didn't happen. I replay it back in my head.....and every time I replay it, it's the same. I'm standing there, staring at myself in the mirror. Then the mirror slips up. It does something I don't do. It blinks. I know the safety of my closet won't save me forever, but at least it'll keep them out longer. It'll keep them out while I try to think. But the only thing I can think about is seeing myself blink.
Today is Father's day and apart from my own father, there is this person who is much more than a fatherly figure in my life. The memories with whom will forever be cherished by me no matter what. It was one fine day of April 2010. I was along with my dadajaan (grandfather) at our village house. He was teaching me in the guestroom when a relative arrived to meet him. My uncle brought snacks for the guest. They all sat together and then had the tea. After this, my grandfather and our relative had a conversation on various topics. I was also eating the savouries from that plate and had nothing to do with their talks. My seven year old self was busy drawing something on the notebook. Meanwhile, the guest asked my grandfather, "Master Sahab, Do you perform Puja? What's that?" On this, my attention diverted and went to the direction of his hands. He was referring to the calendar hanging on the wall. I looked at it carefully. I think I had never observed it like that ever before. The upper part of the calendar had Lord Krishna playing a flute and Radha standing beside him. Their pose was very pretty. It was a colourful image. Beneath the calendar, there were four pages which contained the dates and days. Overall the entire calendar was very beautiful. Dadajaan replied, "It is the current year's calendar. It has all the gazetted and restricted holidays written on it and contains all other related information." On this the relative said, "I am not talking about the dates and days written on this calendar. I am talking about the picture. You are a Muslim and there is this Hindu calendar in your house. Are you a devotee of Lord Krishna?" My grandfather replied to him in a very different yet smart way. "First of all, I don't know how to worship and since I do not know the method I obviously cannot perform the Puja. Second thing is that this calendar is just an inanimate object. And I honestly don't have any idea how a material like this can be assigned a religion? It cannot be called either a Hindu or a Muslim. It just looked very beautiful so I took it. Moreover, it was already having all the important days and events so why should I look for any other 'Muslim' calendar in another shop. And until this year gets over and a new calendar comes, we will be using this very calendar. I don't think there is anything bad in that." Although the relative was speechless and in deep thoughts for a moment but these things were not a part of any serious debate or discussion so they shifted to some other topic and the talk continued. Later on, for the entire 2010 that calendar beautified my house. But unfortunately the next year 2011 never got the opportunity to come into the life of my grandfather. I wish he was there for some more time. The father of my father. I could have learnt a lot from him.... Be it on life skills, secularism or anything under the Sun. I miss him so much!
Before my mom remarried we took trips to North Carolina. The weekend came and I grew ecstatic, knowing we would soon depart. I would eagerly look out the window. My eyes met trees dancing past. Other cars zipped beside us. However, my favorite thing about these rides were below the trees and cars. My eyes wandered down and didn't stop until they were in sight. My eyes were glued to the yellow lines. I imagined a tiny motorcycle driven by a dog in a tutu. Giggling to myself, my mother gave me a questioning look. My giggles stopped and I continued to imagine the motorcycle-driving-tutu-wearing pooch. It started doing flips. After awhile the motorcycle got boring, so I thought another amusing scene. This time, little monsters scurried around. They were different shapes, sizes and colors. Jumping on tires, climbing up to windows. One monster had 3 eyes and red skin and did the hokey pokey. Holding in my giggles was almost impossible. I didn't want my mom to give me a serious grown up face again. The red monster was joined by a purple monster. He was riding a unicycle. I stopped imagining them just in time to see we made it to our destination. Every weekend, his house became ours. Finally, we would go to bed Sunday and wake up at 3 in the morning. I was beyond tired, my eyes didn't fail to find my the lines. My imagination ran wild and the lines became my art. This time there were no motorcycles or monsters. Instead, lizards marching in cadence. It was like they were forming an army. I looked harder at the lizards and in unison I heard, "Left! Right! Left!" I couldn't help but laugh. My mother glanced in the mirror and raised an eyebrow. Quickly stopping, I turned my head back to the asphalt canvas. The unified yellow line lizards made me lose track of time. We were turning into our driveway back in Virginia. Sadly knowing that I had to wait a week to see the yellow lines again. Every day I waited patiently for Friday to come. Thursday came I packed my clothes. Then I made sure to go to bed early. At that age I was convinced that going to bed early would make the next day arrive quicker. Of course, when I awoke it felt as if it did just that. Jumping into the car, throwing my seatbelt on and impatiently waiting for my mom. My grin grew when she turned the car on. Then once the highway was in sight that grin of mine evolved until my cheeks hurt. The trees zoomed past my window, but at a slow pace. Cars joined us on the road embarking on their own journey but it seemed they were missing something. Then, my yellow lines were in sight. I pushed the dull trees and bland cars to the back of mind. I refused to let them bring me down. However, nothing happened. Well, nothing had been happening since it was merely my imagination. Except now even though I was trying, I couldn't imagine anything. Upset I closed my eyes as tight as possible. When I opened them I hoped my imagination would turn back on. It didn't turn on. Not even a small flicker appeared. My eyes became tiny waterfalls flowing to my chin. My mother heard my whimpers. She asked me what was wrong and I replied, "My imagination is broken." My mother must have not understood how serious this was. She laughed and shook her head with no reply. I peered out the window towards my yellow lines. Now, they were just two ugly yellow lines that seemed to stretch forever. The trees came into view and I hoped they would start to dance and not stay still. All the trees remained still. The only movement was the wind rustling their leaves and branches. My imagination was broken and there was nothing I could do about it. So silentlyI pouted in the backseat. Without an imagination, road trips were boring. After 4 hours we made it to North Carolina. Those 4 hours felt like an entire week though. We unpacked, ate dinner and after was bedtime. Before we all fell asleep, I went to my moms room. "Why is my imagination broke mom," I asked softly. Instead of laughing this time she gave me an explanation. Thanking her I ran to bed, excited once again. I couldn't wait until we left, mom gave me the cure for my imagination. So at 3 on Monday morning we packed and got in the car. Wide eyed I buckled up and smiled all the way to the highway. We arrived on the highway, I closed my eyes and thought real hard about what my mom had told me. I opened my eyes then looked at the yellow lines. I stared and stared and stared. I did that until we made it home. After we got home and unpacked, mom came in to my room. She asked if her advice worked and I nodded. As she was about to leave the room, she turned and asked what I saw this time. "I didn't see anything. I did what you told me to do. I just thought, instead of imagining motorcycles or monsters or lizard, I thought. I thought of our new family and when we permanently move to North Carolina. I thought of the new friends I will make and the school I'll attend," I announced. She smiled and kissed my forehead.
Because I was eight years old and the only girl in the neighborhood at that time, my ten-year old brother always let me tag along with him and his friends. When the boys played baseball, my brother would say to me, “Hey Sis, you're so good in the field, go over to that spot and wait for a fly.” That spot was not just in “out” field, it was in “left-out” field. But, at the time, I was too young to realize what was happening and way too enthralled with the idea of being part of my brother's team. At the same time, my brother, Frank, although making sure I didn't get in harm's way or the way of the game, every now and then, asked his friends to hit a ball in my direction so I could “field” it. Naturally, that play never counted but it sure made me feel important and like I was someone incredibly special. Despite being only 27-months older than I was, Frank always found a way to do just that – make me feel special. However, there was one day in particular that, to this day, brings a warm feeling to my heart. It was the day we climbed the Iron Man. In a section of the park near our house, sits a statue. I didn't know it at the time, but the statue was and still is a memorial commemorating the battle between the U.S.S. Monitor and the Merrimack, which was fought in 1862. The Monitor was only six months old at the time of its sinking and the street on which we lived was named after the massive and historic ship. The statue is huge and made of iron. It depicts a man in a semi-sitting position holding desperately onto a rope that stiffly hangs just below the ship's deck on which he sits. This was a favorite place for the boys as they would climb the statue and sit for hours looking at everyone who walked through the park. From that height, a child felt you could see for miles. On one of my “tag along” days, Frank and the other boys decided to climb the statue. I stood at base looking up helplessly. I, too, wanted to climb the big iron man, but was too small to reach. Finally, my brother stretched his hand down. “Come on, Sis, grab hold. I'll help you up.” As I took his hand, he explained where I should place my little feet and what part of the statue I should grab to hoist myself while he pulled me up. Within seconds I was sitting in the lap of this great iron man. I was on top of the world. I looked around and as my heart fluttered with excitement, saw the wonders around me that the others had seen from such a great height for so much longer than I had. As the boys laughed and joked among themselves, I was quite content to sit in silent awe. Eventually, it was time for dinner. One by one, the boys climbed down. I was the last to begin the descent, trying carefully to place my feet around the iron man's wide arm. My legs were just a bit too short. I couldn't get down. My brother realized my plight and ran to help. “Hey, Sis, turn around and kneel on the spool. Wrap yours legs around the rope. Then hold on to his arm and let yourself slide down. Once you get low enough, let your feet drop and then let go. I'll catch you,” he said. While I trusted my brother with my life, I didn't trust my life with my little hands and legs. Frank assured me I'd be okay. He stood directly beneath the stiff iron arm. I knelt at the edge and did what my brother suggested, but with one added thing. I closed my eyes. If I was going to fall and kill myself, I didn't want to watch. Suddenly, I felt Frank's gentle hands grab me. “You're down, Sis. Safe and sound. Let's go home.” I opened my eyes, gratefully and happily, as Frank gently put me on the ground. He grabbed my hand to walk the short distance from the center of the park, across the street to home. It didn't matter to him that his friends stayed and watched. After all, he was the big brother taking care of his little sister. As we approached the parks exit, I turned to give the big iron man one last look for the night. As I did, I realized I'd learned some particularly important things from my experience. Although for a while I felt like I was on top of the world, I didn't need a statue to keep me there. My brother's love and protection did that better than artificial things could ever do. I didn't need to climb a statue to see the beauty and the wonders of the world. They were right before me – at my own eye level, in my mind and heart. As we grew, I married and moved away, my brother enlisted in the Army and was sent to Viet Nam. Although he returned after his Tour of Duty, he did not return whole. There was something lacking in his spirit. Years later, we would find out that he contracted the cancer that would consume him before his 51st birthday. Several decades have passed since then, and although Frank is no longer a physical part of my life, I think of him daily. When I recall that day when I sat atop a statue, I smile and realize: my brother was my Iron Man.
My dream of being a private detective is the fault of Nancy Drew and, a bit more indirectly, my mother. I come from an avid family of readers, and my mother decided to pass this trait on to her children. Thus, when I was about six, my mother decided to convince—force—me to read a series she had loved when she was my age: the Nancy Drew series. While I was quite reluctant at first, meaning I fought tooth and nail against my mother, I had eventually given in. Sometimes I wish I had ended up hating the books, simply to avoid giving her the smug satisfaction of being right; regardless, I fell in love with those books. Nancy Drew was a smart, resourceful, tough, resilient heroine, and I devoured her adventures. While most kids spent their Saturday mornings watching cartoons or sleeping, I was begging my parents to take me to the library. I simply could not get enough of the rich and vibrant life of Nancy Drew. My deep love for Nancy Drew and her adventures culminated in my wanting to be just like her. So, I decided to perfect my detective skills. For instance, I decided to improve my shadowing skills—i.e. stalking—and followed family members around while taking notes. Sadly for me, their behavior was fairly mundane. Even so, no matter how dull I found them, I knew that a good detective must persist. This resulted in my developing a strong drive and determination. I began to grow restless, which is when it finally happened—my first case. I was beyond ready. So, at the ripe old age of ten-years-old, I decided the student had become the master. When I informed my parents of this, I was met with fake enthusiasm. Sure, their words said to have fun and be careful, but their tone of voice conveyed the truth. They did not take me seriously. Who would not take the four-foot-seven kid with missing teeth seriously? Clearly, I was a hard-boiled detective ready for whatever twists or turns my case might throw at me. This particular case came from a neighborhood friend, Drew, who needed help finding her missing ginger cat. Naturally, she asked me for my assistance. Ever the eager detective, I jumped at the opportunity. So, we set out on our bikes to canvas the neighborhood. After a while, it became clear to me that searching for clues on other people's property, or trespassing as some might call it, was probably not the best way to find a lead. Instead, we questioned potential witnesses and started with her mother. We asked her when she had last seen the cat, if her neighbors had ever had any problems with the cat, and if she could remember anything suspicious. To everything she said she did not know; however, I noticed she would not meet our eyes and kept fidgeting with her jewelry during questioning. I may not have known much about psychology at the time, but even I could tell that our questions made her uneasy. Unfortunately, interviewing our neighbors did not yield much luck either. They either did not know anything about her cat or thought we were selling something. After hours of interviewing and searching the neighborhood, I ended up looking on my own. It was then that I had finally found my first lead. Another one of my neighborhood friends told me that he spotted something somewhat resembling ginger fur through a hole in his neighbor's fence. As I looked for myself, I realized the animal was a cat that had a distinctive patch of fur on its forehead, matching the description Drew had given. I had actually managed to find Drew's cat! Unfortunately, I did not find her cat alive. The neighbor, in whose backyard the cat was in, was the owner of a particularly volatile pit-bull. Even from my obstructed view, it was clear the dog had gotten to the cat. With this sad information in hand, I realized I now had to tell Drew. I contemplated lying to her, but I knew that if it were my cat, I would want to know the truth. So, I rode my bike over to her house and told her what I had found. I explained whose backyard the cat was found in and described the distinct patch of white and orange fur on the cat's forehead. After I had finished telling her what happened, she was pretty upset, so I let her grieve in peace and went home. It was not until months later that I learned that the cat I found was not Drew's cat at all. Apparently, her cat had accidentally consumed rat poison that one of her neighbors had set out. Her mother found the dead cat and decided to bury it in the woods near our houses. Instead of telling her daughter the truth, she simply told her the cat had run away in order to spare her feelings. Though my first and only case turned out to be a complete bust, I never forgot the impact that case and the Nancy Drew books had on my life. I still have the curiosity and determination I fostered in those days. I owe a large part of my childhood to that teen sleuth and I will always be grateful to her.
Dark clouds roll in on a warm sunny day. All life goes quiet. The light that once was is suffocated. The atmosphere changes into a heavy and cold one. A flash of light and loud cracks take the place of peace. One drop, a few, and then millions of heavy raindrops puncture the earth below. Soon an aggressive wind pulls in dark clouds. A siren screams on an old T.V. and everyone escapes to shelter. A summer evening like this one struck when I was a kid. Despite all this chaos, I still snuck away unnoticed. I found myself in an open field, stunned and terrified. All alone and yet very surrounded. This is one of the few ways I can almost describe what it felt like to be diagnosed with cancer. The mood changed in an instant. Snapping from a sunny, warm, and sweet day to a cold, heavy, and bitterly salty storm of one. Out of what seemed like nowhere this diagnosis showed its ugly self. At the time I was seventeen and healthy with no family history of cancer. yet there I stood. Once all the noise dissipated, I could see all the signs that were showing me what was to come. The day's I was excessively tired and countless nights I felt brittle and paper-thin. The abundance of missed school days due to being sick. Even a large lump showed up on my neck. It choked me and gave me multiple medical tests with the word “inconclusive”. Despite it all, I graduated and was excited to live. Independence and freedom were in my view and life felt like it was just beginning. This feeling didn't last long. One summer day I came home from work full of life, but something felt wrong. Like staring into dark woods and all the birds go quiet. Something is there and looming over you, but it's unclear what it is. My parents had a look on their faces I hope to never see again. My last test finally had results, even if no one wanted to hear them. I don't remember much after hearing “you have cancer” but I do remember the rain. I remember feeling like a scared kid stuck in a storm followed by a cold shock and loud thunderous anger. The first day of chemotherapy was surreal yet normal. Like a sci-fi indie film. A 5-hour drive to the hospital, blood tests, scans, injections, and then treatment. They sat me in a private room for my first treatment. There was a point I was left completely alone, just waiting. Waiting for that first sting. For that first chemical drip into my bloodstream. Not knowing what to expect, the silence of it all was suffocating. When I was freed from this silence, I was greeted with a large needle stuck into a heavy and hard plastic bump called a port placed under my skin and on my chest. One of the oddest things was the smell and the taste of chemo. As an injection, that's not what people expect. Yet it's a flavor I will never forget and never fully describe. Anything I had eaten before, during, or after became stained with a horrible, bitter taste with an unnatural, nauseating smell that still haunts me. Although these side effects were miserable they were not the worst of it. Nothing could compare to the pain engulfing my body. Bone-breaking, skin burning, stomach-wrenching sensations got worse with every injection. If you can imagine what it's like to rot and decay, that is how it felt to be alive. Living became a challenge and all the things people said to me became overwhelming. Judgment came from all corners. Harassed for being bald and everything else under the sun my mind began to melt. I became paranoid with the words being said and the chemicals in my body. I cut myself off from everything. I was furious at people, cancer, and life. Anger and determination motivated me. I decided to push. And push I did. I worked for as long as I could, looked into colleges, and even worked out. Making myself appear as fine as possible. I was running as fast as I could, but it was a race no one wins. I grew more and more fatigued and weaker by the day. Soon my immune system really started to fail. I had to slow down. I had to finally give myself a break. Let my body rest and breathe. In learning to be ok with rest, I also had to let myself feel miserable, but allow myself to stay there. Time crawled and yet flew by. My last day of treatment finally arrived. Relief swept over me releasing many tears. Months passed and my port was removed. A weight had been lifted and I could breathe again. Years have now passed. I am still recovering, mentally, and physically. I have come to accept that I may never get back to where I was. That's typical with any storm. Just like how the land is left with marks of cracked trees and muddy rivers, I now too have scars that decorate me. Some scars are on the surface and some are hidden below many layers. They show me. They show what I have lived through and symbolize the strength I have. The scars I show are like the flowers that grow in after a storm or the new tree that grows in place of the broken one. They show that even after the heaviest of storms we can always grow back.
Kenda I decided to catch her that time. kenda always pressed my doorbell and vanished. I failed to catch her. I stayed all the night till the early morning waiting for her, I was sleepy, and my eyes became red. I waited for her 23 hours that I told myself no way, she would never come again. But suddenly she appeared holding her chair. She was creeping slowly like snakes, looking left and right in order to make sure that nobody could see her. She stopped in front of my door. I was watching her from the peephole waiting for the right time to catch her. She jumped over her chair, smiled and her hands were close to touch the doorbell then I opened the door surprisingly, and she fell off her chair, her knees were bleeding, I felt fear in her eyes. I was sorry for her. I told her, I would never surprise her anymore. Her mum called shouted “kinda, come back little naughty”. She cried more. I helped her to stand up, cleaned her wounds and, bandaged her knees. I gave her sweets and told her that she was now free to go. Days went by and she misunderstood my words. She still touches and plays with my doorbell and run while I watch her from my peephole and smile.