Melancholia

A host of events have transpired to bring this post into existence; events which, if it were possible, I would choose not to dwell upon. However, choice itself is a rare privilege afforded to few of us who suffer from this ancient malady, and it is, unfortunately, not a privilege I possess.

What those events are is not of consequence, and, indeed, needn’t be mentioned here at all. Suffice it to say that those events were not of a favourable nature; my reaction to them, albeit, is a result of my pathological inconvenience, and not how one would “normally” react. Ah, yes; there I go again, characteristically deviating from the topic at hand. Today, I shall attempt to put into words perhaps the greatest evil I have come to know, and come to know more intimately than I would have cared: depression.

Many of the few people I have spoken to regarding the subject at hand seem to have rather ill-conceived notions about the malady. I shall forego the medical and psychological explanations, here, for the vast web that is the Internet would do a far better job of explaining that aspect than my little corner ever could. No, instead, I’d like to show what it means to be depressed, and how it is not, in fact, your everyday case of Monday morning blues.

Imagine, if you will, a world which is tinted brown, like a town from the old wild West movies, except the sky is constantly covered with clouds, and the sun only barely manages to shine through. This world contains nothing but a road, a single road, leading somewhere into the distance. The world is densely covered with fog, and so where the road leads, exactly, is something which you do not know. The fog is not a normal fog, however; it is a fog made of some thick, gelatinous substance which makes movement difficult, as though the mist is resisting the advances of motion. It is also impossible to tell the time of day, as there are no watches, and the brown haze constantly presents itself with the same hue throughout.

Now, imagine you are woken up every morning if, indeed, it can be so called, and forced to put a heavy bag on your back. What this bag contains; who is making you carry the load; what you are supposed to do it with are questions which you are neither allowed to ask, nor have any answers to. You are then made to walk down the single road into the obscure distance, through the gelatinous fog in a brown tinted world, with the load on your back, towards a place which you do not know.  All of a sudden, presumably at the end of the night, you are asked to stop and take rest, but you are not allowed to take off the bag. Rest comprises reading through horror upon horror, penned down by a malicious writer who knew well how to make disaster seem close to home. The next morning (?), the rigmarole repeats itself, only now the load has increased from the previous day.

That, my dear readers (the plurality is assumed), is how I view depression. In the end, it boils down to a whole lot of nothingness; there is no aim, there are no dreams or hopes, there are no goals, there isn’t even the promise of a tomorrow. There is just a long, straight road, going ever onwards. The only way out of this insane, pointless ritual seems to be an absence of existence, and it is easy to see why so many of us would rather choose that path than the brown tinted one: it may not be more colourful, but black is better than brown.

It is from this melancholy that I, and hundreds of thousands others like me across the world, seek escape. Tell us now that we are just weak, or that it will get better, or some other inane shit along those lines? The dense fog that covers our world drowns out the sound of everything other than our deepest, darkest thoughts, which seem to take a personality of their own and insist upon their presence being acknowledged. It is not about weakness, my privileged friends who do not know the true meaning of despair, and it most certainly isn’t about sadness.

The cuts on my arms are not from my inability to handle the stresses that life throws at me, or my hate for myself (though that plays a major part). The cuts on my arms are from my desire to feel something, anything, other than a gnawing sense of regret for being alive. The cuts on my arms are from me trying to take back control; from me trying to tell myself that the pain which I am experiencing is my own doing and that I have the power to stop it when I wish.

This, however, is an elaborate illusion. The cuts on my arms are lies I tell myself to make the world more bearable, prolonging my journey down the road in the process. With each cut I make, I give myself the motivation to remain in this brown, murky world; it is almost as though there is a contorted feedback mechanism preventing me from escaping this very cruel, cruel world. All forms of self-sabotaging that I do, be it in terms of my relationships or to my body or in my work, they are all forms of me clutching at straws, desperately trying to regain control, knowing that I am destined for failure even before I start.

If you resonated with this, dear readers, tell me, such that we can plan our journey through this world together, and maybe find solace in knowing that others are as doomed as we are. For the only way to alleviate suffering is to not suffer alone.

Good day (hark!)

The inverse of sugarcoating

This post comes more than a week late, but then, I have never been known for my punctuality. Fortunately, it just so happens that the person to whom this post is dedicated understands my ongoing feud with time and deadlines, and so I am (I hope) off the hook.

This being a birthday post, I suppose timing was of the essence. Indeed, I had sat down to write this post in an alcoholic stupor last Sunday night; I soon discovered, however, that inebriated and articulation are not the best of companions. The post, as a result, came to a standstill. As anyone who has ever missed deadlines will tell you: once the time has passed, delays are easier to actualise than effort. However, I like to cling to the desperate notion that everything happens for the best; had the week not intervened between this post and the birthday itself, maybe the post wouldn’t have been as meaningful as it is now.

The title of this post is a phrase which the said person (to whom this post is dedicated) has used, often, to describe the way I express my views and opinions; implying, of course, that I use words which are too harsh to convey emotion which is, in essence, very pleasant. The original draft of this post was a smattering of powdered sugar on a mountain of maple syrup and honey, which is yet another reason this post feels more natural to me than the one which would have gone up on my friend’s birthday: it’s more honest.

Usually, when I undertake the Herculean task of dedicating a post to someone, it involves my assessment of their qualities and the subsequent zeroing in on the quality which I feel most strongly towards. This, however, is not the case today. It is not that the person of whom I speak is devoid of any startling qualities, nor that the person is burgeoning with a plethora of qualities from which it would be impossible to choose. No, the reason that this post doesn’t fixate on any one aspect of the person is because he, in his entirety, has done something for me which I value greatly: he has educated me in matters of which I was painfully ignorant.

Much of this educating took place after the rather tumultuous but exceptionally well-timed end to our brief courtship period. The subsequent friendship is something that I’ve come to cherish and learn greatly from. Wisdom, however, isn’t at the root of these teachings; it is not as though I have been specifically lectured on certain areas. This teaching comes from one of the most rewarding human experiences I have ever had. Not wisdom but honesty, I feel, drives this education home. The honesty of expression and feeling which my friend carries; his ability to wear his heart shamelessly on his sleeve, despite how much ever pain it may cause him; and his need to derive emotional sustenance from those he loves are the things I look towards when I feel lost in my own warped emotional psyche.

My friend has, on more occasions than I can count and with substantial damage to his inner peace, challenged my notions of correctness and emotional complexity. He has provided me with the perspective of diversity by showing me how powerful emotions can be, all while being highly delicate. He has shown me, time and again, what it means to be truly honest with oneself, even as I champion brutal honesty to the world. But more than anything, he has helped shape my ideas of the kind of interpersonal relationships I would be willing to have; ideas which were founded in reason, but perhaps hadn’t been actualised until the development of our friendship.

One of the greatest things which I will always be indebted to him for, though, is pushing my tolerance to limits I did not know I dared approach. I have always been less tolerant of dissent than I would like to believe, and this reflects heavily in my interactions with people. This beautiful, honest person showed me that my insatiable need for learning and growth, which I’ve always claimed was at the centre of my being, would never be realised unless I opened myself to things which I disagreed with and, far more than this, things which I had never even considered.

Even as I write this, I find myself edging dangerously close to a pit dense with the sorrows of nostalgia, which, I am afraid, is a luxury I cannot afford at the moment. However, one essential aspect of my friend remains to be mentioned, and poetic convenience has decreed it such that it be the last thing I discuss, glorifying it all the more. The aspect of which I speak, of course, is unbridled growth. It amazes me to see him growing as a person in every second of every day, but not being afraid to build again should he fall back. Whereas I take things from him and use them to further my own arsenal of introspection, he takes things from all around and uses them to accelerate in life. Indeed, it is satisfying to see that he is able to sustain his rate of growth, even as I am mine, and yet remain in tandem with both our ways of life.

Ah, but now emotional indulgence veers dangerously close to this rather well thought out, and unnecessarily long, (belated) birthday wish. Before I submit myself to the annals of sentimental gratification, I feel it best to set my (metaphorical) pen down, and wish my friend a lifetime of growth.

Happy birthday, my love.

Kill it with Kindness

This post is long overdue. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a symposium on “Remembering Charles Darwin”, during which the concept of Parent-Offspring conflict was extensively discussed. One aspect of the Parent-Offspring conflict was the constant attention-seeking tactics of the child, which caused the parents to devote their attention to the offspring, thereby preventing them from having the time to create more progeny. The parents, of course, cannot blame their young one for this particular phenomenon, and so the unconceived sibling is effectively “killed” by the kindness that the parents show towards the child.

This concept sent me a long way back to when I had read “The Taming of the Shrew”, where Petruchio alleges that he is killing Kate’s spirit, but he is doing it with kindness. His definition of kindness is rather crooked, for he categorises starving his wife and depriving her of sleep as kindness. In his defense, brutality at that time was physical abuse, so this kind of psychological trauma could be seen as kindness, if only in a very screwed up way.

But the phrase has evolved considerably since the Bard used it, and today it has taken on a different meaning entirely, one which is much closer to the one referenced in the case of the Parent-Offspring conflict. Today, to kill with kindness is to shower the subject of your affections with so much kindness and love, that they (figuratively) choke on the intensity of the emotion. We see it more commonly that we assume, with couples constantly asking for “space” from each other, or children needing “time” away from their parents, or any other of the myriad of examples available.

Even literature has reflected this change. The expression of affection has become more and more superficial over the years, be it the teary-eyed romance of The Fault In Our Stars or the pseud-passionate love affair of *shudder* The Fifty Shades of Grey. Art forms, in general, seem to have taken it upon themselves to be proponents of this new form of kindness genocide, with increasing amounts of pop music reflecting sickly sweet ideas which are not only gag-worthy but also completely ineffective.

The popular song by Florence and the Machine entitled “Dog Days Are Over” inevitably comes to mind when discussing this concept. To those who may not have heard this song, there is a line in it which goes: “she killed it with kisses”, and that line, for me, is a perfect representation of this idea.

We have, in my humble opinion, lost the subtle art of expressing ourselves and our emotions effectively, without making unnecessarily overt gestures. Only the other day, I was reading something written by an acquaintance of mine, and couldn’t help but notice that a very simple (and very overused) concept had been presented with gross overuse of words and an unflattering amount of literary elements. Everything stated in that page long passage could have been better expressed in a simple paragraph by a competent writer, and, of course, got me thinking.

Is it simply an unprecedented extrapolation of the age old adage “the more the merrier” which has landed us here today, at a stage where we feel it necessary to pile things on to such an extent that we eventually end up crushing our object itself?  If so, proverbialism has done us a great disservice.

In keeping with the theme of this post, I shall stop writing here, with deep hope in my heart that the mass murder of things by kindness will cease shortly.

It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird

Why was this post not published yesterday, seconds after the news of her death rattled the world? Because there are times, albeit very few, when the mind is enslaved by the heart. The mind will know what must be done and when, but the heart will put a stop to it, it will put shackles around those thoughts and force you to just feel for a second, and that second will never end.

Barely a month after souls were ripped from their bodies across the globe at the traumatic news of Alan Rickman’s death, another grave tragedy has befallen us. Death has gotten used to the taste of benevolent souls, and has forgotten that balance must be maintained in the world. For the first time in my life, I am angry with Death for being greedy, for wanting the best for itself.

She was old. Unlike with the death of Alan Rickman, the shock factor wasn’t dominant here. Maybe that is the reason the thought of Alan Rickman only crossed my mind while I was writing this post: the emotions associated with both their deaths are so different that it makes no sense to draw analogies. And so, of course, I will be helpless in drawing analogies.

On the day of Rickman’s death, I remember feeling thoroughly cheated. I felt angry, shaken, shocked to my core, and more upset than I can explain. Yesterday, though, there was a kind of resignation in the sorrow that I felt. I knew that this day was coming, and I was prepared for the bombshell to drop, and so there was no great shock to mask the sorrow. Yesterday, I felt truly sad after a long time. I felt sad like I hadn’t felt in a long time. It was the raw force of the sadness, unmasked by any other emotion, which I think was so crippling, causing the delay in this post.

I had first read “To Kill a Mockingbird” sometime in the middle of seventh grade, and had taken an instant liking to Scout. Little did I know that Scout was more or less a spitting image of her creator. Over the years, Scout and I have come to be the best of friends, and Harper Lee was like out guiding figure, a motherly presence watching as her brainchild went ahead and made friends. Two years after reading the life-altering book for the first time, I got to know Harper Lee well, due to an assignment set to us in English class.

It was easy to get to know her. I suppose it was because I knew Scout so well by then that learning about Harper Lee was just like having another conversation with Scout. Lee was a firm presence throughout my life from that point onwards, and I was secure in knowing that a wrinkly woman somewhere in the US was alive and well.

When her book came out last year, I was nothing short of elated. Getting to see her in action again was surreal! My expectations weren’t well rewarded, however, and I decided that the only memories I wanted to have of Lee were those related to her original work. All was good yet again: tarnished memories had been forgotten, disagreements had been resolved, and Scout and I were on speaking terms once more.

Then I logged into my computer yesterday evening, and things took a turn for the worse. Amidst a horde of news items about the JNU fiasco (which did nothing to alleviate my foul mood) was a single story, saying something along the lines of: “Harper Lee dies at 89”. I don’t well recall the events immediately following this one, and I don’t think I want to. Something seemed to have slipped inside: not broken, but slipped. Broken implies shattering, or an unforeseen even causing irreparable damage. No, this was different. Something had slipped, and I still don’t know what it is, or where it’s slipped from, or where it’s slipped to. Maybe I’ll find it someday and place it back, who knows?

“Harper Lee is currently thriving at the remarkable age of 84” is how I had concluded my presentation that day in English class. Death, it seems, took my remark of “remarkable” as a challenge. Death does that sometimes, in an attempt to prove itself omnipotent, it uses our words to play with us. It’s sad, really.

And so something slipped. Something was wrong. The feeling of being hollowed out will take some getting used to, which is exactly what I say every time something disturbing happens. I don’t have a problem wrapping my head around the fact that she’s gone, as I did with Rickman. But here, there is something which I’ve never felt before, and hope to never feel again, because it’s a very permanent feeling with no end in sight. That feeling, the simple feeling which is much less insidious than others but sticks on forever, is a feeling of impending nothingness, the “what not” state if you will.

So, what now?

Death has taken a step out of line this time, because whatever may have happened, one thing is undeniable: It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

To whom do we owe the pleasure?

First of all, I thought it best to state that the competition which I had spoken of last week has not yet concluded. It would seem that the dates have been extended, therefore the cunning beast that is hope still lurks somewhere deep within me. I am a child, after all, and a child liked to win. And so, as the masses say it, “fingers crossed”.

This post is related to my previous one, albeit very remotely. This post is nothing more or nothing less than my expression of gratitude to a person who seems to have made it their mission to help with the realisation of my writing dream. Though, in truth, I will never be able to thank them enough, I like to console myself in thinking that this form of expression comes a little close.

The person of whom I speak has come to be one of my favourite people in a very short span of time, which is a condition I both adore and intensely fear: it is not in my nature to bond with people I haven’t spent aeons with, and so rare exceptions such as these throw me well out of my comfort zone. This friend of mine has also, in what I believe to be heavily misguided judgement, has taken a strong liking to my writing, which I consider to be mediocre at best.

Earlier this week, while “Skyping” with said companion, I found myself victim to an unprecedented stream of compliments, and could not truthfully accept them for I knew that they weren’t strictly objective in their origins. However, those words had a most magical effect upon me, convincing me that giving up writing, as I had been planning to do for quite some time, would be nothing short of catastrophic. Armed, or rather fuelled, by the hot air which steadily replaced the blood in my body, I decided to make this particular contribution of mine a weekly affair, and am glad to say that so far it seems to be holding its own, even if it is a few days off.

Ever since that very stimulation web conversation, I have found myself deep in though about each of the things which were discussed, and have come to a rather blissful, if hasty, realisation. Every writer needs that one person who believes in them: not a fan, not even an ardent reader, and definitely not a literary critic. Just someone who knows where your writing is coming from, and would like to more of yourself expressed in words because they truly believe in your potential. Some people go their whole lifetimes without finding that one soul; fortunately, though, I can say with great certainty that I have found mine.

And so even on days when I have nothing to write about and no one to write for, not even myself, I will find myself sitting at my desk, penning something away half-consciously, just because I refuse to disappoint this one beautiful creature who has chosen to put their faith in me. I have no way to say this without sounding sinfully obnoxious, and I request that you forgive me for that, but I feel proud that I have someone of the sort, and someone who is unfathomably great in ways I can never even hope to be.

There exists between us a sort of connection which, if I am very truthful, I have never been able to feel with another. I have had friends who have been closer to me, of course, and people that I have loved more, but this connection is something entirely different. This is a connection based solely on thought: from my mind to my friend’s. This connection exists because I choose to write, and because my friend chooses to read what I write. I have an abundance of critics around me, who have helped me in ways I cannot even understand, and have helped me to grow as a writer, but the contributions of this one person will remain something different altogether.

And so the least I could do, early one Sunday morning, is take the opportunity to thank said individual, for giving me that most coveted of all offerings: their trust. Faith in a writer is, as I have said previously, an irreplaceable entity, and I am over the moon to think that I have received the same in brimming abundance from someone I myself hold in high regards.

I would be neither exaggerating nor in the wrong if I claimed today that everything I write henceforth, be it prose or poetry, has only come into existence because of my “comrade-in-arms”‘s belief in me. Ironically, it is now that I find myself at a loss for words, when words are the most important. Inept as I am at expression, I hope this will suffice as a small reflection of the deep gratitude which I feel for my dear, dear friend.

Thank you for your faith.

Home is where the mum is

Apologies for being absent from the enigmatic world of the Internet for such a long time. The ongoing exams forced me to adopt a pretense of studying and therefore the Internet, naturally, became taboo. However, I think that today, on the extremely joyous occasion of Mother’s Day, I can make an exception.

If I am perfectly honest, then I don’t really have much to say. The reason I am writing this is because today, I wish to show my mother how much she means to me in ways more than a phone call can express. Were I at home, I would have probably laid claim to the kitchen and tried my inexperienced hand at whatever I could cook up without burning down the house. Alas, I cannot. Sitting thousands of kilometers away from home, with very little skill to my credit, this is all I could think of. Apologies for being generic and mainstream, mother, you raised your kid up to be a dramatic.

All mothers are great, of course. Dysfunctional families notwithstanding, children have always found comfort with their mothers. Be it the delicious comfort food which somehow tastes tenfold better when prepared by a mother, or the long talks about trivial problems which leave one feeling all warm and chocolate-y on the inside; mothers have become a central part of our lives. Even in old age, when parents feel that they are being neglected, we have a soft spot for our mothers which will never lose importance, however bad it may seem.

Today, I want to do something which I haven’t done a lot before; something which every good child does every once in a while: I want to apologise. I know I have been a very difficult child at times, and there have been incidences where I have felt great anger towards my mother even when the fault was entirely mine. For being a colossal pain at times, and being rather unbearable most other times, I would like to apologise. I would also like to apologise for all the times I’ve let her down. Like the wonderful human being and the fantastic mother that she is, she never let her faith in me waver even a little, and I do believe that I have repaid her very poorly. I would like to apologise for not living up to your expectations.

I would also like to tell my mother that I love her very much. Most children don’t say this to their mothers often, mostly because we feel it so intensely that we believe our mothers must know it already. Between all the fights and the harsh words and the distances, it can become quite easy for emotions to go awry. So today, when the world has been kind enough to set a day aside especially for mothers, I want to tell her that I love her more than I can express, and certainly more than I can express on a small post in some obscure corner of a worldwide network.

But the apologies and the love are tacit. My mother, being the wonderfully brilliant woman that she is, knows full well that I am sorry for letting her down and a million other things. She also knows, bless her soul, that I love her despite not being regularly in touch and the incessant quarrels. What she doesn’t know, or maybe she does but hasn’t acknowledged, is my dependence on her.

Often, fear strikes within me, uncontrolled and unprecedented, about what would happen were I to lose my mother. Even though I know it’s only a matter of time before I have to say goodbye without the promise of “see you soon”, I find it harrowing to think about what would happen when the day actually comes. I feel both empowered and completely crippled when I say that I am more dependent on my mother than I care to admit. She is the greatest support system I’ve ever had and the thought of losing her drives me insane, as it does every other child on the planet, I’m sure.

It is, of course, quite possible that this entire range of emotions has been launched into overdrive by the stress of the ongoing examination. Perhaps the darkest corners of my brain have, in an attempt to have some light for themselves, latched onto the brightest deities of my mind: the thoughts of my mother. Just because these thoughts are stemming from a stressed head, however, doesn’t mean that they’re not true.

And now, as the cruel education system beckons, I must end this small token. Even though I know that the attempt has been futile, I only hope I’ve captured at least a small ray of the vast spectrum that is the love which I feel for my mother. People usually say that their mother is their friend and parent and companion and all. However, I feel that my mother is a mother; she transcends the trivial relations of friend and parent, and exists in a dimension of her own which is beyond the reach of anyone to have ever existed in the entire universe.

As tears threaten to spill onto my computer, I put an end to this little post.

Thank you for being there even when I thought you wouldn’t be. It means a lot.

I love you, mum.

More than a teaspoon

It might interest you to know that I am an absolute devotee of the Harry Potter series, and so I feel obligated to tell you that this post has sought inspiration in one of my favourite scenarios of the Harry Potter universe.

For those of you who are as caught with the series as I, you may remember the scene which took place after the “infamous” kiss between Harry Potter and Cho Chang, in the Room of Requirements, just before they broke for Christmas. The trio sat before the large fire in the Gryffindor common room and discussed the range of emotions which Cho must he feeling as a result of the kiss, to which Ron lovingly replies: “one person can’t feel all that, they’d explode!”.

As it would turn out, Ronald was wrong. For a great period of time, I was under the misconception that my own emotional range was that of, to quote Hermione from the same scene, a teaspoon. Recently, I have found myself in a great emotional upheaval, to which I simply cannot adapt due to always having believed myself as immune to the sway of feelings.

It therefore came to me as a great surprise when I found myself unable to mask an aspect of my life which I had so successfully disregarded for as long as I could remember. The surge of emotions which overcame me like a tidal wave left behind an uprooted collection of incorrect beliefs about myself which I realised had been forming the pillars of my rather faulty existence.

Today, while attending an unnecessarily lengthy seminar on “Happiness”, I realised that, for all the times I had been happy about the fact that I had matured or evolved at a respectable rate, I was as emotionally developed as a frog, assuming frogs are not emotionally developed at all. It was not the seminar which prompted this realisation, for I have heard enough old men drone on endlessly to be immune to their words. No, I learnt this because as I sat there, mechanically nodding to the discussion, I realised that I could be doing something so much more productive.

However, an epiphany was to strike first. I realised that ever since I had been delved into the stormy sea of feelings about half a week ago, my mind had more or less become numb. Impervious to the thoughts and words of those around me, I had learnt that when confronted with intense sentiment, I stopped growing. This both startled and deeply upset me. How could I be seventeen, well aware of the plagues of society, perfectly in the knowledge of what my life shall amount to, yet not know how to deal with a simple case of feelings?

Everything which my closest friends had been saying or implying struck home. I realised that I had so much to learn, so much to understand and so much to apply that I may not have been alive these past two decades at all! Nothing I knew would amount to anything because I had what I believed was the emotional range of a teaspoon, but was actually just a mass of inexperience. Not knowing how to handle basic emotions like sadness, jealousy, happiness even or the more complex ones like love and hate, remains my greatest flaw and the greatest hindrance of the mental growth which I have prioritised all my life.

Contrary to popular belief, epiphanies are rarely followed by radical change. The change does come, but after a certain “incubation” period, so to speak, after the moral of the epiphany has had tome to settle in. And so whereas I am now aware of my incapacitation to handle these emotions, there is really no evidence to suggest that I’ll be able to actually do so starting right now. Then again, maybe I will.

Time will tell.