February 16, 2002

Day out with the folks

It is comforting at times to know that some things in life never change, especially when I get to face the people and the reasons that prompted some harsh decisions a long while after they were made.

Seated opposite to him at the table, the above mentioned thought like a fallen dry leaf is gently lifted and blown back into the past by a breeze of words and actions that had never changed from the first time I had seen them. The same irritation, anger, attitude and the omnipresent false front that I was first subject to years back was still intact. Somehow I did not feel any anger now, I did not feel frustrated, just solemn resignation, a sadness that comes from winning a game that you badly wanted to lose.

At one point I just wanted to reach across and hold his hand, tell him it is all right. I can understand. But I did not. Why? Maybe it is because he did not want it be so?

Sometimes it is better to just let people be what they are. Especially when they have lived in the same manner for 60 odd years. It is not a nice feeling to see the foundations that have held them together for all those years just fall apart. And I am reasonably sure it would have, if I had behaved so.

It is too huge a responsibility to take on myself. Maybe there are hidden wounds within me that might burst open and consume him if I allow myself to do that. Sanity is a precious commodity, even in miniscule amounts. Cannot let that go at any cost. The judgement call has been made. I pull out the tape they desire to see, open the tray of myself and lets it play. The lights are dimmed, hush now, the show has begun.

Vain attempts at conversation start again. I am looking blankly at the table attempting to communicate with white grains of rice that adorn the spotlessly clean white plate. As far as a having a coherent conversation goes, I have a feeling they are a better bet.

For once I am happy for the fact that I have been working nights and not slept all in more than 24 hours. Another seven odd hours and I shall be back at the drag. Lack of sleep and rest perfectly makes for a good excuse to ignore attention seekers. Yes, precisely that is what it is.

For the umpteenth time I am explaining to him that I do not have dinner at home, I have it at work. He knows that and so do I, but he shall ask again and I will answer too. He sees what he wants to see, there is no genuine understanding.

Does everybody do that? The believer is King, I am just catering to his needs. After all it is just a matter of few days, an unwelcome recess into the past. But at times it becomes too hard to keep up pretences. Under the cover of laughter tainted with a fake intellectual intonation, I feign maturity and lets the nonsensical conversation just move on.

We are back at square one. He won't give up. So won't I. What is the whole point in travelling half way across the country just to have egos clash again?

It is the minimalist's interpretation of a social chore that I am performing. Guess I am doing it well, the audience is applauding, an encore is called for, maybe one day I shall really start believing in all of this. It shall make an interesting study to see how much inane and at times outright stupid behaviour can be underwritten by the all conquering currency of success.

She is more clever, unlike him who wants to keep the proverbial cake and have it too, she knows what to give to get what she needs. Reaching out, she extracts her pound of stale, mutilated putrid flesh stacked away behind walls of ice and consumes it gleefully. I am only too happy to give. It does not take much to make people happy these days.

Everyone wants to fit into a perfect picture, only the dumb uneasily stagger out of the frame. Bystanders also join in, it is good fun, of course I am footing the bill. I have the rest of the year to recover from the emotional and moral debt that is being inflicted now.

The devouring is over, I am proud of myself. I have managed to hide the best bits of flesh, the prime tender meat. Today's show is over. I thank my lucky stars. Quick byes strongly flavoured with a fake essence of longing fills the air.

Walking out of the gate I meet myself there. The real me and the meat hawker swap places, I rush back to the tentacles of my refuge � work, home and my dearest friends.

It is not very comforting at times to know that some things in life never change. Especially when I know, a few years on, a senile me shall be making vain attempts to extort the same few rotting bits of assurances from a haughty twenty something meat hawker seated across the table.