Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My Public Diary 2: The Termite Story

(My son Maitreya and myself in 2005)

One cannot write a diary every day. The picture that you see here does not have anything to do with what I am going to write today. The photograph was an accidental finding; rather a timely saving from a host of termites that has been working diligently on the wooden furniture at home for the last ten years. Termites attack each and every home in this part of the world irrespective of the economic status of the house owner. A year back, the large wooden shelves at my home came under the attack of termites despite the caution, which is known as pest control, was taken well in advance. The hollows left by the removal of these shelves were later on filled in by steel shelves, which generally give the middle class an added sense of security. I too was experiencing the same sense of protection as I had been brought up in a particular faith called ‘Godrej Steel Shelf’. Thieves struck on 27th January 2013 evening and took away the valuables from these very same steel shelves, leaving me a new convert into the faith called ‘fu** it’.

Yesterday, my son wanted to take out something from one of the narrow wooden cupboards left untouched till date by the termites. Optimism is the curse of the middle class. That’s why middle class people do not want to throw out anything on the first instance. They think that one day it will be of some use. So you keep accumulating things and these accumulated things are housed in various shelves. I am a chronic book collector and most of my books are kept inside steel book shelves. They spill over to other spaces available vying for space with other items like old shoe boxes, compact discs, plastic toys, old sweaters, plastic envelops, old notebooks and what not. From the lone wooden cupboard what my son wanted was a compact disc as he wanted to do something with that for a class craft work. Last night I tried to open it and found the door tightly closed. As you know, in the middle class households, especially the ones with kids, most of the shelves, cupboards, table drawers etc are often found without their knobs and handles. My house is no exception though I technically, theoretically and philosophically do not subscribe to middle class status. I belong to a sublime class though the economic status brings me under the bracket of the middle class.

Procurement of the compact disc from the cupboard was postponed to the next morning as I found a thin brown line of mud and dust along the hinges of its door. I knew this cupboard too was gone. The postponement of opening it was again a short term relief from the horrific scene that would definitely be revealed by the termites; I felt the feeling akin to the postponement of looking straight into the wound by the wounded involved in an accident. Adrenalin level would be so high at that time that one gets all courage to postpone the inevitable. My adrenalin level was normal but really wanted to have a good sleep devoid of the dreams of termites marching into my sleep. But how long one could shun such an eventuality? Morning found myself standing in front of that narrow cupboard, my better half (for the time being as mood swings could also swing this qualifier) in the supporting cast armed with broom and dust pan. The termites had done their best (in our perspective, worst). They had done a neat job of keeping the outer layers of everything intact and the innards amply shredded into dust. Who said polythene covers are anti-environmental substances? Had it not been a red polythene cover all the visual documents of my past few years in London and Delhi would have been permanently lost. I retrieved these photographs, hopelessly falling into a nostalgic feeling.

The photograph that you see here is taken in 2005. My son, Maitreya MJ was born in that year. I was working in Malayala Manorama Newspaper as a journalist. My income was not good enough to support a family with a newborn. But when I look at this picture, I find myself healthy, happy and devoid of much tension. Perhaps the touch of my son’s tender body had transcended all those worries loomed large over my head in those days. Maitreya was born in Bhopal, in a private clinic with a very affectionate doctor couple in charge. People have the tendency to romanticise anything related to conception, delivery, childbirth and child rearing. Young parents try to live according to guide books; they seek consultancy in nappy changing to breast feeding to everything. Most of the young parents recount the stories of how the newborns keep them awake whole night. Some people write blogs about their experiences, some people make home videos, some people constantly take photographs and some people even launch websites. May be they are all young parents. When Maitreya was born we were not so young. At the age thirty six I could not have claimed the status of a young parent. May be because we were not young parents, growing up with Maitreya was almost event free.

Termites had failed to reach the photographs. So I have this photograph today. But I termites have taken something very important away from my life. I have a good collection of letters written to me by my friends of which I consider two set of letters very important; the first set is written by my cousin and the noted artist, Shibu Natesan. The second one is by my then girlfriend, Kalpana. They could run into volumes and they are still kept safely in Kerala. For some reason, I had brought a few letters written by Shibu to Delhi. I had kept them safely till date. To my shock today I found them eaten away by the termites. I do not know how to describe my sadness. Those letters were not written in ink; they were written in blood, tears, desires and dreams. Those letters had come from Baroda, Delhi and Amsterdam with a lot of stories and a lot of drawings. They are lost forever. But those words still remain in me, though vaguely. If I really try I could see them before my eyes. I should make a promise to myself that one day I recount all those letters from memory.

In fact, if you remember, I was not planning to write about this photograph. I even said that this picture does not have anything to do with what I am going to write. I wanted to write about the notion of ‘happiness’. Now I think I should postpone it for another day. One solace is that my mind is not kept in a wooden shelf which is prone to termites’ attack. I can write about happiness later on. But with a little bit of shame I have to accept that what I showed here is not the sign of a good writer. I started from somewhere and ended up somewhere else. May be writers do it whenever they write things; despite their blueprints they tend to digress. Digression is the spice of writing. Still I can save my skin by removing the first line of this diary entry. But I do not intend to do so. If I am not truthful here, where else I could be? 

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