Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Cure

I've always had trouble swallowing pills. I have this feeling, this fear that it would get stuck in my throat and choke me. When we were children my mother would crush the medicinal tablet into a fine powder, add some sugar and water to it and make us eat the whole concoction. It was awful, and left behind an unwanted bitter taste that lingered on your tongue for a long time. I was a sickly child and was constantly under one medication or the other; yet I cannot really master the art of swallowing pills.

Now as I stared at the small pile of pills I had collected, the first thing that came to my mind was how on earth I was ever going to take them all. Crush them again, I guess, and make myself a strong drink. There were pills for headache, cold, fever, stomach ache – the kind of pills you can easily get without a prescription. I had spent the last one week collecting them, going to unfamiliar localities where no one would know me. It was not easy, and there were days when I couldn’t bring myself to approach the store. I would stop my scooter near the store and sit there for a long time, not moving, simply staring in space while a battle raged in my head. People must have found me very strange, a grown woman sitting on a scooter for a long time, looking lost and bewildered. It was uncomfortable. Sometimes I’d pretend to call someone and would say loudly into the phone “If you are not here in five minutes I am going without you.”, but that meant I had to leave within five minutes. In spite of all the cold feet and the change of minds, I’d still managed to amass a good amount of painkillers of all sorts, enough to kill a person.

You see, I had decided to kill myself. I was too scared to slash my wrists or hang myself, so I thought overdosing on pills would be the easiest way. I was tired of the anger, of the fights, and the hurt that lived deep inside. All I wanted was to sleep and never wake up.

I thought of my mother, God bless her soul, dead for twenty years now. I suddenly wanted to hear her voice, suddenly wanted her help, her sound advice. She was the kindest person I ever knew, and died too soon. She was forty-six, a happily married woman with two daughters when one Wednesday morning she didn’t wake up. Nobody knew why. She was in perfect health, had a job she loved as a restaurant owner, had a husband and children who adored her; she had every reason to live for. I was fifteen and my sister Kimteii was twelve; we were devastated. My father, who was three years younger than my mother, was simply lost. He didn’t know how to live without her. I didn’t go to school for one year, and he hardly noticed.

Because I was sick so often I spent a lot of time at home, following my mother wherever she went. Her death was something I could not accept. I woke up every morning expecting to hear the sound of her cooking in the kitchen, her singing along to the radio, and would wait in my bed for her to come and wake me up. But she never came. All that was left behind was an emptiness, a silence that filled every corner, a meaninglessness that invaded our lives.

He had to feed his children, so my father continued going to work. But he didn’t know or care if his children went to school. My teachers excused me for a week, but when I didn’t appear for the second week the principal sent a note to my father asking when I would return to school. My father never saw the letter because I tore it up into pieces and threw them out of the window. My aunts and uncles then slowly realized that I wasn’t going to school, but by then it was too late. Half the school year was gone, and I was not willing to leave the house for any reason. I feared that if I left the house, my mother’s spirit would leave the house with me and fly away; I still liked to believe that she was still with us. I stayed indoors for a year, and even though I was perfectly able to do all the housework (my mother had trained me very well) a cousin came to live with us.

I went back to school the next year, a year older than most of my classmates. Everyone had heard of my tragedy, and they were all very kind to me. I was in Class 10, board exams ahead, and my father, finally recovered, was terribly worried that I might not make it through. But I passed the exam with flying colours - a nice 62%. My father wanted to send me away for further studies, but I flatly refused. How could I leave the town where my mother had breathed her last? How could I survive a day if I didn’t see my little sister who was turning out to look more and more like my mother? I was not ready to move on. So I finished my pre-university and college in Aizawl, and because my father had friends in high places I easily secured a government job as a clerk. It was not a bad job, not too exciting either, but it was an easy job and I soon became very good at it.

Ten years went by in the blink of an eye. Kimteii married a boy she had known since childhood; they were both twenty-one when they got married, and in my opinion too young. But she was happy and it was all that mattered. My father refused to get married again although there were plenty of widows and divorcees trying to hook him. Marriage was something that never entered my mind. There was a man in our office building who expressed his interest in me, said I was not like the other young girls, said I was sincere and responsible etc etc. He often came to visit me at home, but I couldn’t like him at all. He was five years older and when he laughed his nostrils would flare up. I guess that was the reason I couldn’t bring myself to like him; the flared nostrils came in the way of romance. After a year of visiting me he finally gave up, and he is now married to a hairdresser who opened shop in the building next to ours, and they already have two kids.

It was in August 2005 when I got a call from an old classmate.

“Hello, is it Dinteii, Laldinliani?”

I didn’t recognize the voice, and so I cautiously replied yes indeed it was me.

“This is Lalrinsiami, your classmate in Class 10, do you remember me?”

Of course I did, everyone knew her.

Lalrinsiami was the most popular girl in our class – funny, smart, and polite. She was now a doctor and lived in Lunglei with her doctor husband. She was in Aizawl for two months and thought it would be fun to have a class reunion; after all it had been fifteen years and not a single reunion so far. I was surprised, it was so sudden, and I hadn’t really stayed in touch with any of my classmates. But I was intrigued – wouldn’t it be nice to go? To see how everyone was doing, how they turned out, who got married and who didn’t.

“It sounds like fun, yes I will come.”

“Good. I have some more people to call and will let them know you are coming.”

“OK, and Lalrinsiam, where are we having the reunion?”

“I will call you back and let you know, but it’s most likely to be at Zoremmawia’s place, I will call you back.”


“And Dinte, one more thing..”


“They call me Siami now.”

“Oh I see. So long then Siami.”


We hung up.

The reunion was a success. Around fifteen people turned up from a class of about sixty, not a good turnout but we had fun nonetheless. Zoremmawia’s wife had recently given birth and so the event was held at the house of Siami’s husband’s parents’ house. It was a big old house in Vaivakawn, only the parents and a younger brother was at home, and they tactfully stuck to their own rooms.

Seeing people after fifteen years was strange. Some people had changed completely, some remained the same. We talked about the school, about the teachers – Brother Philip and his high singing voice, Sir Rammuana and his old noisy bike, funny incidents, and mostly about ourselves. Where we studied, who we married, where we lived now. We talked about the people who didn’t come, why they couldn’t come, how some people had vanished, and who was doing what where and how well. We complimented each other on how beautiful we turned out, and the girls of course talked about our clothes and hair and where we bought what for how much. Someone brought some old photographs and we laughed at our ugly faces and at our clothes that looked funny now but were considered stylish fifteen years ago. After dinner someone suggested singing, and we sang the school anthem and some school songs we could remember.

The party broke up at around ten. We exchanged email addresses and phone numbers, and everyone promised to keep in touch. We even suggested having a reunion every year, although we knew at the back of our minds that it really wasn’t possible.

(to be continued.......)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bookends, photographs and memories

Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, a time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you

Short and sweet. Deep and beautiful. Bookends are defined as heavy, often decorative, objects placed at either end of a row of books on a shelf or table, to hold them upright.

I guess what the song is trying to say is memories are like bookends. They hold us upright, keep us sane, keep us together, and sometimes memories are the only thing we have left of people, of a place, of a certain time in history. And pictures and photographs make memories clearer, more vivid, and bring them to life. What good is a photograph to you if it doesn’t hold memories? It becomes just another picture floating around in the world, in cyberspace. It becomes as meaningless to you as it does to a stranger.

Simon & Garfunkel released the album Bookends on April 3 1968, almost 42 years ago. Back in the days before digital cameras and photo sharing and before anyone can click a photograph with his or her mobile phone. Back then each photograph was taken with care, with love, and they were precious and treasured. Go through old photos of your parents and you could see for yourself. You may laugh at the funny poses and the serious faces, but take yourself back to those times. They don’t get photographed every hour like we do, and so they make the most of every opportunity they get. Sit with your girlfriend, put your arm around her, and look to the distance as if you dread the day you will be parted. A family picture? Make sure everyone is present - children, parents, uncles, cousins, grandparents, even a neighbour who happens to be around.  A group photo is often accompanied by a banner or something declaring the time and the occasion and who the people were. And if you take a look at the back of those old black and white photos most of the time you would find the place and date and names of the people who appeared in the picture.

I love going through the black and white photos of my parents. And I love the old fashioned album in which they are stored, you know the kind where each photo is held in place at its four corners by triangular wedges of stiff golden paper, and a delicate soft white paper is inserted between the pages to prevent the photos from sticking together. And seeing your uncles and aunts in their youth make you realise they are more than the cranky old people they are now. They were young once just like you and me, and enjoyed their lives as best as they could.

Preserve your photographs and your memories; they may be all you have left someday.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Strictly for the nerds

My travels around the web brought me to this piece which I have shamelessly copied, word by word. Don't be under any illusion that I wrote this myself. This is one of those posts which I put up just to fill up the empty space. It's already ten days into the new year and I haven't got any ideas, so here I am starting the new year with something to leave you dizzy and make your head spin with confusion.

A spoon is a hand tool used for transporting food to the mouth. For convenience, in this Entry, the material to be transported will be called the stuff.

A spoon is made up of two parts, the bowl and the handle.
The handle is designed to allow the user to support and move the bowl in comfort, and so is usually reasonably rounded and of a size which is easily held in the hand. Some spoons have their bowl and handle made out of the same material, eg wood or metal. Many use different materials, as the differing desired characteristics of bowl and handle can often be best met by two different materials.

The bowl is a structure designed to provide a local area of reduced gravitational potential, surrounded by a closed loop of greater gravitational potential. If used in a gravitational field the bowl thus constrains the content to remain within it unless the user imposes a force on the content such as to produce an acceleration large enough to overcome the gravity well. Increasing the potential difference between the bottom and sides of the bowl (by deepening the bowl) allows the user to accelerate the spoon more rapidly in a direction perpendicular to the applied field without spillage. This modification of the bowl (as well as a change in bowl/handle relationship, and often in the size of the bowl) can be seen in a related specialised tool, the ladle.

Method of Use

The stuff to be transported is introduced into the bowl of the spoon using different methods depending on its physical state. Liquid stuff is usually put in the bowl by keeping the bowl horizontal, and moving it down into the body of the liquid until the surface of the stuff is above the outer rim (the lip) of the bowl. The bowl referred to here and throughout this Entry is the bowl of the spoon, not the vessel used to hold the liquid. At this point, the liquid will flow into the bowl down the resulting gravitational potential gradient, displacing the air from the bowl as it does so. When full, the spoon is lifted out of the liquid. The liquid cannot flow out of the bowl, due to the gravitational potential well imposed by its shape. Some liquid may be lost on the way to the user's mouth, but this is usually only a small proportion of the content of the bowl.

Solid stuff is usually introduced into the bowl by rotating the spoon along its long axis, lowering one side of the bowl. This reduces the gravitational potential gradient and physical barrier presented by the side of the bowl which prevents stuff from easily entering it. Deft manipulation of the spoon, sometimes in conjunction with the use of another implement or a piece of bread can then bring the stuff inside the lip of the bowl, and returning the spoon to an axially horizontal orientation traps the stuff in the bowl.

Spoons can carry liquid stuff to a volume equal to the volume of the interior of the bowl, plus any remaining stuff that adheres to the external surface of the bowl. Granular or powdery solid stuff are intermediate cases, as they can flow under gravity or under the influence of acceleration.

Once at the mouth, the spoon is usually emptied in one of two ways:
The slurp - this is most effective for liquid stuff. The lips of the mouth are opened slightly and the bowl of the spoon, still held horizontally, is brought up very close to or touching the lower lip at the gap between the middle of the lips. The user then inhales rapidly. The pressure drop caused by the movement of the air (the Bernoulli effect) causes the stuff to flow upwards into the air stream and enter the mouth, where it is caught when it bangs into the tongue. This is usually accompanied by a rotation of the spoon along its long axis, towards the mouth, introducing more stuff into the air stream. The bowl is often introduced into the mouth at the end of this procedure to remove any remaining stuff. The slurp is particularly useful if the bowl contains hot liquid stuff, as the creation of fine droplets of stuff in the moving air tends to make it loose its heat very rapidly to the relatively large volume of air, preventing burning of the mouth.

The placing of the bowl of the spoon in the mouth - The lips are closed around the bowl and used to retain its content in the mouth when the bowl is removed.

Spoons vary in their shape and capacity depending on their intended use. They are generally low maintenance tools, having no internal moving parts. New materials continue to extend the possibilities of spoon design.

Copied from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A352739