Monday, October 31, 2011

Fried Noodle Teardrops

September 8, 2009

I must have been between 5 and 11 years of age. Those were the days when our family frequently visited our favourite neighboorhood posh Chinese restaurant. The owner new us personally, and we were hardly ever presented with a menu. The owner or his son would personally take down the order from my grandfather, if they didn't know already. Impeccable service, our specially reserved round table at a cosy nook of the restaurant, the same background Chinese music every time, the horoscope laden table tops and the shiny, heavy cutlery. It was like going from one room in my house to the other. The children (four squeaky little mice) always invariably were bunched together, sometimes shuffled and placed near our grandparents. Parents were neatly placed around the table.

It was one such evening that I recall. I had a plate of fried noodles (a standard requisite for commencing my meal) which I was happily playing with and munching on. My cousin sister sat to my left, enjoying her plate fried noodles. My grandmother was on my right. There was endless banter waltzing around me. High pitched laughs, excited tones, serious murmurs-- the lot. After a while they had blended with the Chinese music to form a soothing double malt of scrambled frequencies. I looked up from my busy plate and caught my grandfather staring at me. He had been doing so for a while, I imagined from the steady gaze that didn't flinch at my sudden attention. At that moment, everything around me dulled. All I saw were his eyes, moist with tears, a small smile and a look of ... a feeling that I seldom see him express now. All I heard was the song that he was ever-so-softly humming, which he would do on rare occasions-- possibly when he was by himself, even though physically in a crowd. The song, I cannot remember, but I distinctly remember the sound of his voice behind his closed lips. The humming at the base of his wrinkled throat. The look that created a lump in mine and made me freeze with an emotion my mind had not learned as of yet.

My mind fought the feeling, angry with me for having caused it. Why is he looking at me like that, I asked ashamed. Why is he singing to me, with tears in his eyes? Why am I causing tears to fill them? What have I done? Why can't anyone else see this? I felt hot tear drops flow down my little cheek, joining the entangled sea of noodles. It could not be hate, I knew, that poured from his eyes. It wasn't jubilation either. It was a strange happy sadness that he expressed. But I wasn't ready to accept tears of happiness then.

My grandmother noticed our silent connection and smiled at me as I cried softly, frozen but warm and raw with unbelievable emotion. Putting her warm fat arm around me she told me he is singing to me. Because he loves me and thinks I am beautiful. He isn't crying because he is sad. He is crying because of the love he has for me.

This explanation didn't settle the erect hairs at the back of my neck. I did not understand the concept of loving someone so much that it made you cry. Possibly because I had not loved as much then. Perhaps I didn't know what love was, only felt it. It was like a wild horse that needs to be broken in, otherwise it would be an uncontrollable ride.

I remember this night so well even now, more than that I still remember that feeling in my throat, the hot sensation that ran through my little body. The feeling of shame skyrocketing blood to my cheeks and teardrops forming tiny rivulets to my sea of fried noodles. I know now what I felt then because I have felt it again, and this time I can make sense of it.

I had felt love for the first time. His and my own.






(My grandfather passed away this year in August. I'm glad he got to read this in time.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

You

Yesterday I saw a film we had once seen together. It's a Wonderful Life. With James Stewart, my favourite. I remember every minute watching it with you. Every time you sighed or exclaimed at some dialogue or nuance.


And yesterday when I saw it, relived that happy warm memory, I wanted to message you and tell you I was watching it, like I have done so many times before. But I can't anymore. And it still feels strange, thinking about you.

You are not 'you' anymore. You are nothing and no more. But yet you exist, in my thoughts and memories. In my mind. You are a registered being and while I cannot prove your physical existence, you definitely are alive in my mind. But what are you now? A figment of my imagination with whom I can speak only in my dreams? For when I urge to speak to you now, nothing emerges out of my lips, and even if there is something said, it's met with silence or the thousand-and-one replies my own brain conjures up to fill the blanks. I took for granted these spaces, but now they are big, in my face, staring endlessly without blinking.

I think of you now as my 'secret' person. It hurts me to think of you, but I want to feel this pain. I don't want to hide it or bury it. I want to keep feeling for you, and not forget. I don't want to lose all sensation of you. I keep going back to what it felt like to touch your face, play with your hands, press your feet, feed you dinner. What it felt like when you looked straight into my eyes and touched the deepest darkest recesses of my soul. What joy erupted within at the sight of your smile. That look of yours which you gave me, when you knew. When you knew  about me what nobody else knew. But you were gentlemanly enough not to say. Only look.

I love you. You are my first identification of 'love'. And I love you not like a lover, neither like a relative. You, my love, and I share a bond that is eternal. And even now, when I can no longer touch you or hear your laughter in reality, I feel good to know what I have with you will always remain and can be touched by no one.

I miss you. I miss the originality of you. My mind will make up innumerable replies to my questions and thoughts, things that I think you might say. But they still are not your thoughts, they are mine. I miss your thoughts. I miss your words. I miss your thinking between sentences and constructing a reply I will understand and appreciate. I miss our debates. I miss your tears. I miss everything so so much, it aches me all over. I remember you told me what it felt like, to be dying. That you had been there twice and back. That you could feel your life being sucked out of you. I remember holding you tight, while you saw that darkness in front of you. Now you are in the dark, or somewhere else, I do not know. I know you're there somewhere. I felt you around. I know we will meet again. Will you remember me? I hope so. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Unconditioning

I just started my new job at an early childhood development enrichment centre (the first of its kind in the country). And I find it's always refreshing, exciting and a little scary when you start off at a new workplace. There's the training period, getting-to-know-everyone, new desks and phone extension and the community lunching. But the most unnerving of all is when your boss tells you, "You need to unlearn EVERYTHING you've learnt so far".

Now while that may sound like a big task. It isn't. It's GARGANTUOUS. And while she may have referred to just the work skills required, it translates to other areas of one's life too. With the passage of time and many jobs, I have been conditioned into believing in certain behavioural patterns that people have. And most are not so favourable. As a result, I'm hesitant to open up with my colleagues, but slowly am beginning to. Politics follows us everywhere. But we have the power to choose whether we want it to take over our professional lives or not. And I think my current team has chosen not to let it conquer us. I'm happy to say I'm getting comfortable in this environment, but the unlearning is still under process and I'm still a bit wary. 

I suppose if you want to work with little children, you have to go back to being a little child -- when everything is simple, innocent and full of colour, music and laughter.