Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lady Macbeth on soap

O bloody. I think I’m developing a hand-washing fetish.

It is a reliable diagnosis [I am almost certain] because MY MOTHER noticed. Mothers, especially mine, never notice unless they’ve said it at least a million and a half times. The halfth time is when she’s just about barely said “H…” in that sighing, soap loving, child rearing tone and my hands shoot up – gleaming and wet and exuding a gentle-wash lemony floral bouquet, my eyebrows come together, my mouth twists sourly, and starts tiching and barking short “I did” yelps. These days my mouth doesn’t twist sourly it curls into a fresh lemony smile forming floral “I did” shapes, involuntarily.

I wash my hands now. Unasked.

Just this ought to have me quailing in my chuddies, biting my nails down to my elbows, installing restrainers at the wash-basin. Instead I just keep creeping my fingers toward the press-nozzle springiness of imminent delight. You’ll be asking why, just about now and I might as well answer because it is cathartic – this blogging thing. Because it’s an alarmingly regressive hereditary condition in my family. All women on my Mum’s side of genealogy – three [not] wyrd sisters of the Burnpore outback – post-motherhood-pre-something discover a particular baptismal quality to washing. There’s nothing that a good hand washing cannot redeem. Bacteria, foul temper, poor blood circulation and bad karma. Absolution is clearly in the innocuous nozzle of a soap dispenser.

By the way, have you noticed that when you really really get the hang of the word ‘clean’, the idea of a cake of soap being used by more than one pair of hands is a gruesome, macabre, hell-raising thought?

Actually, many things now seem gruesome. For instance other people’s hands. Or going 31 minutes without washing one’s hands. Or touching things in those 31 minutes.

It can be tough when one is used to biting one’s nails. I feel I must wash my hands after they’ve hovered masochistically around [‘in’ is just too crass] my mouth. Which is odd, because mum said hands must be washed so that they could become mouth safe. Not that she said my hands must be stored away in my mouth when not in use…

But this, I suppose, as all events in our lives, is symptomatic of something else. Something larger. Something that has a perverse preoccupation with becoming cosmically meaningful. This something being dirt. The realness of it. The dirtiness of it. The absolute ill-health of it. The creepingness of it into the ridges of the skin on my phalanges and the crevices in my head.

How else does one explain the sense of morality involved in washing my hands? The glorious bursts of celestial fireworks, floral showers, soft white clouds and pristine sparkles of pureness akin to the dust that dancing apsaras kick up – okay maybe not dust – that spring forth in my head when my hands come out dolphin like from under the tap, fragrant with caressing mild liquid soap; and clean.

I think I might have a crush on liquid soap. The rich sparkly creamy floral lemony kind.

That’s it. No OCD. It’s just a bleedin’ crush. Wah hahaha. That was close.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

One day in Doon

This is where it was sucked out of me. Commas, colons and stops. And all the words in between. So it is befitting, in the deeply subliminal [because we never display overt signs of it, ever] neat virgoness of my brain, that it should begin, once more, right here.

Here, where my amma wrung my wrists with her baby hands, tugged at my jacket [and something deep inside] and kicked her legs. Life is a tenacious bastard. And pleading, I learnt, doesn’t help. But she got away. On a plump morphine cloud, in a nappy with the last deeply unreliable memory of two generations of her blood, red and alive, spilling salted sorrow and relief and regret and prayers and thanks in a pool, in a spool in a spill in the still around her and above her, hovering between being and not.

She went in peace. I’ll tell myself this. I will believe it.

She went without the burning, bastard catheter. The trickle of an insolent bowel, the embarrassment of it. The ripe blue sore that spread in abiding companionship to the purple rubber sheet, and the years that crept into the cradles of her bones.

She slipped away, thief like, with something that belonged to me.

Stories. Her stories. My stories.

Stashed away in her head, frittered carelessly to passing angels, I’m sure, she made off with my past.

Recollections of baby sized lisping fathers. Of kidnappers and bandits. Of fighters and freedom. Of death and widowhood and resurrection. Of three strong sons like the Sun the Moon and Earth. And of love.

The love she lost half of a hundred years ago. Love so quiet deep and constant that 52 years after she last beheld him, like a naughty, haughty, eager bride she crept away, early in the morning before the household awoke, to be with him once more.

How would I know?

Because she said so.

Frail fingers ran through my hair, my head lightly nestled in the bony crook of her arm as she spoke of her love. “He’s waiting for me” she said, the last time we spoke. “He keeps coming to me in my dreams”.

She even showed The Sibling, her favourite grandchild [I was the least favourite] an ivory brooch he gave her. I LOVE YOU it said, ornately. “What does it say amma?” asked the Sibling, winking at me. “Pah” spat amma, flushed and smiling and getting angry and coy and excited and shaky, “something in English. I shan’t say…”

By the end he did away with all decorum expected of the dead. Sauntered in wherever he pleased to claim his bride.

“There he is, in the doorway, calling my name,” she said once, waving to him coyly from the hospital bed. “I need to go!” she pleaded with my sobbing father.

He. That’s how she referred to him. “When he was ill…” or “When he was transferred to Lucknow…” or “he used to buy me English perfumes…” or “He was a good man, your babaji. The best there ever was”.

He. He had a fucking name. A name as sharp and handsome as he. A name that smells of pine nuts in the Himalayan foothills. A name that ripples with the thunder of thickly muscled Gods. A name befitting a king. Rudra.

And now that Rudra has his bride on the other side; my amma no more, just Shakuntala – princess Shakuntala – age fallen away from her bones, cheeks flushed sparkle in her eyes; I think we’ll begin a new story. One in which she and I could like each other.

For Duck [somewhat], because you asked. And because I couldn’t explain adequately, why.

Most of all for Amma, and three generations of her blood.