Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the ‘Book’

Finished reading Haruki Marukami’s ‘Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of The World’

How I feel about it?
Let me put it this way. I had to read the last chapter again, to be sure of my feelings.

“Death leaves cans of shaving cream half-used”

That is one line that stuck, along with the many other things that found their way in me. Especially the chubby girl, ‘dig’, and the emptiness that extended its way from yesterday to today relentlessly.

The Chubby Girl:

Its this character in the book. Bold about her feelings, does not waste much time in futile formalities, and comes straight to the point. She is good at many things, something which she and her grandfather attributes to not ever attending school.
But what struck me about her, or made me feel for her, was the way she expressed her feelings for this one guy. She accepts the fact that the guy might be seeing someone else, or might just be in physical relations with someone else, but nevertheless, her feelings for him takes no step back. And she occasionally gives way to her emotions and asks him if she can touch him or have sex with him, or sometimes just move in with him. Most of this would project out as the curiosity of a girl who has never experienced sex, but there was more than that.

I remember having this same feeling for this female character in a TV series – Kyle XY – which ceased to air after their second season. There was this girl completely in love with Kyle and once when Kyle expresses his love to the character but explains why he cannot be with her because he is with someone else, she just hears the part where he expresses his love and she is content by just that.

There is this hint of complete surrender to love that I might be enjoying from such characters but I am not sure if I am game for it. I mean I am not sure if I will ever be like that or is it just a one way street where I simply imagine such emotions directed towards me from a person, while I simply bob away or around, like the guy in Haruki’s novel or like Kyle. Either way that says something about myself, and if it is the latter case then I don’t think whatever it says about myself is anything good.

‘Dig’:

This was something that made me smile and have a micro Eureka moment. There is this part in the novel where a couple of people are digging a hole in the ground and the character asks a colonel about it. He inquires the purpose of the hole, and the colonel says that they did it because that is what they do. There is no reason to it, no purpose, they just do it because they do it. That simple! and hence the hole thus created is a pure hole, not bound to any purpose or reason to make it complete. He said it was similar to how he himself plays chess, with no reason or underlying purpose.

And that made me think; Is this how the word ‘dig’ came to be used to things people liked? You have heard it and probably have used it a lot many times.

“I have a playstation at my place. You dig?”

Even though the first time I tried to use it, it came out weird, when I tried to ask a friend if he liked the works of Dan Brown the author, “You dig Dan Brown?”. That was also about the time when I understood that slang usages should be used only when it is common tongue at the place where you are using it. Otherwise you could just end up looking like a person who fantasizes to dig holes through famous authors.

Emptiness Extended:

I had left Mumbai to come to Kerala and with it I thought I should not feel that feeling of void that I had been feeling since a very long time. I was wrong there. This book is filled with farewells and characters asking each other if they will forget them, or to write letters; I could not help but reflect on my farewells.

As part of leaving my country next month I should have been doing my good byes to people, but to most, I just texted that I would be off to US and that is it. To those who inquired about how it all happened so suddenly and why did not I inform earlier, I just typed back,

“Yes, I do that. I go. I do that sometimes. Just this thing I have.”
Even though I typed and the person could not see me I remember I had done that nonchalant shrug after every time I had sent that reply, and I could now imagine the other person taking an oath to never talk to me again.

Also, there were the people who said they will “Miss me” and then the people who said they will “really miss me” just out of the blue. Both times I did not know how to reply and so usually the words that came out were “Yes”, “Hmm” and “Oh”. One particular time I also remember saying “Is it?”.

I know that it was not apt and possibly the exact opposite of apt, but in my defense, I was caught off guard. For some reason, I was not expecting people inquiring about my plans, of feeling that all this is very sudden, or of people saying that they will miss me. I was just informing people that I wont be here. That was pretty much my motive.

And now that I do know that there are people who did all that, and after I have read this book and the so well executed farewells in it, I feel a bit more pushed down in void. I wish I could go back and add some more words, I wish I could be more human on those text replies. I know I still can. I still can make amends, but as far as I know myself, I don’t think I would be doing that. I am good doing the wishing thing for now.

Anyway, the book, it is amazing. Pure marvel. I dig.

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07/07/14 : A day I might not remember

Its raining outside, heavily. It was not, some time before, but since then, it all looked so sad, so gloomy. It’s like that emptiness that had found its way into me around 2 weeks ago when I had left my rental apartment, has not left me yet, and maybe it will show up a couple of times more before I leave my permanent residence and my parents here, and fly to US next month for my studies.

Rain had always brought pleasant emotions in me, or has it? I don’t remember. Just yesterday I went through some emotional situations, though I stayed as composed as I could, but the emotions in play were strong. And yesterday was a clear sunny day.

Yesterday:

I tried out my suit which I plan to take to US with me and wear it on occasions which will require that attire. We were on the way to home, another 1 hour ride in the middle of which I had to also get my Sherwani and a couple of clothes for my dad to be taken to our one week trip tomorrow to my native place, Kerala, at my Uncle’s house. That is when dad spotted Pinto uncle, or was it Mom who did the spotting; I don’t remember. Dad parked the car, I got down, waved at Pinto uncle, who had clearly not recognized me; ‘Age takes its toll on the memory and eyes’, I said to myself to explain and make a comfortable sense of the situation. Soon and close enough, he recognized and I embraced him; I had no idea why I did that. I don’t usually go around hugging people, especially when they are very elder to me; I keep my distance, maybe smile, and maybe, if need and situation asks for it, touch their feet. I guided him towards the car where Mom and Dad waited for him, I wondered why they were not getting down. They saw him, and mom laughed in a way which was only some decibels short of a guffaw, though it was not pride, or was it? May be she was in fact the one who spotted him; was the pride for that? Was their pride at all? I don’t remember.

Dad asked him to wait while he parks the car safe. Pinto uncle nodded and kept walking. We got down the car and he was gone. He clearly did not understand what we said. Dad said it is very usual of him and we all agreed on going to his house, which is in the building where we used to live since long before I was born and till just 3 years ago when we shifted to our current residence in Kalyan, a mere 2 hours of drive by car; I don’t know why I said mere, it is not mere, it is far.

So, we went to his place, in the building where we once lived, where we have so many who knows us yet they don’t, and hence I visited only his house, and no other. He was happy to see us, Pinto auntie was there too. The happiness on their faces looked genuine, and when they heard about my plans to go to US for studies that happiness did not take time to squeeze out some tears. Pinto uncle did hide and wiped away the tears, but his voice gave him away. I did not expect this. They both got up, and prayed to the photo of Jesus and Mother Mary for me. We got up too, me and mom with our hands mimicking theirs, and dad with his hands folded; he stood just to show respect to their faith, it is not like he does not have faith in any Gods. He is a die hard fan of the Hindu Gods, he just doesn’t take the other Gods so seriously, nonetheless he stood till their prayer was over. Before leaving, I touched the feet of both of them, not Jesus and Mary, obviously not, the photos were close ups from face to shoulder, no feet to touch. I meant Pinto uncle and Pinto auntie, their feet I touched, and more tears came. I felt overwhelmed.

Before leaving I wanted to see their bedroom once, where once I had learned as a child. Seraphine didi (elder sister), their daughter, used to teach me when I was in school. It felt nice to be there. I could remember where she sat, and where I sat, and where the bed was, and where the books were, where Sindhu, another neighbor cum student of hers sat, and I also remembered didi’s handwriting, and the way she wrote, and how I tried to mimic it.

In sometime, we left for home. On the way we started suggesting each other places to eat, and on the way to one place we all voted yes for, I came close to ‘Shree Gajanan‘ that Vada Pav center in Vishnu Nagar close to Excel Classes where I was a student for about a year. Oh I remember the class, Nitin sir, Usha mam. They both were married, and both were great and enthusiastic teachers. I remember my crush on Usha mam. Mom said there is no Excel classes there anymore, but there was ‘Shree Gajanan‘. We used to have Vada Pavs over there, and when we were short on our budget we used to have Chutney Pav which came for Rs. 2. I used to love their Chutney, and I realized I still do, and I still remembered the taste. I suggested that we can have our lunch here. They did not argue and I went to get three Vada Pavs and a plate of Kanda Bhaji with lots of their Chutney. I looked around in the place, to see myself, a younger me, standing and having Vada Pavs with my friends, discussing that one girl in our class whom we all liked. She had a way of carrying herself at an age when that did not come naturally to many girls, I wondered if she is still that gorgeous, and my thoughts were interrupted by my parcel. I brought the food to the car, where my parents were comfortably waiting for me. We had our lunch and I enjoyed every bite of it.

After some more time we were off to our house.

Today:

In about 2 hours we leave for Kerala, to visit the temples and some of our relatives. It is my chance to ask the Gods to come with me to the foreign land and to bid farewell to my relative and share hopes to see them again. The heavy rains have reduced to a drizzle, but the emptiness still remains.

It is these memories I bet, so many of them. Even though I will be back to my house from Kerala in 1 week and I will be back to my house from US in some years, but the memories, the more they fill up, the more this emptiness. I guess that is the equation in play.

I am sure I should be doing something else right now, instead of typing this down. What is it? I don’t remember.

Last day at company (LDAC)

farewell mail

LDAC
or Last day at company, the abbreviated form of which – with ‘C’ replaced by our company’s initial letter – is usually used as a mail subject line when people are leaving our company.

Since the past few months, I have received quite a few LDAC mails. As in our company LDAC mails are one of the few mails that can be sent to the entire employee base, we get LDACs of even people we don’t know. Such mails do not make you think quite so much. However this week there has been two LDACs already, and I already know of one more that is to come.
Two of which are from people who are going to leave the country for future education while one may still be around for sometime, but you never know.

The thing with LDACs from people you know, is even though you have a fair amount of idea that such a mail will be seen in your inbox, but at the moment you finally receive one, you are in a mixed emotional state. Kind of how it is to be a commitate whose friends are getting committed; but for a whole different set of reasons and a different set of emotions on the palette.

Every LDAC from a friend simply implies one less friend in the company. A company can soon feel like a machine with you guys working like gears to help it run if you don’t have friends in it. Friends make you feel comfortable in your company, and that is really very important. When you have friends at your office, you have people with whom you can plan things and you don’t have to worry if your work time may clash with theirs’, you can pause from work for a moment and take a walk from your cubicle away with a friend, or you can just chat with them during office hours without being too formal. I am not saying that I always do all of that, but at least having the option to do it, sounds better.
So every time you see an LDAC from a friend you feel more like a gear. And then comes the added horror of whether they will be in contact. I mean they were in contact till now but then that might be, just because you guys had similar work timings and easy access. But with friends leaving your workplace, the fear of getting deserted becomes clearer, as now you start thinking if they will come, any more, for hangouts, chats, celebrate birthday parties and all the fun stuffs you used to have. I have kept seeing friends getting lost in the crowd from school till now, and now even though a major part of you is used to that fact; there are some friends in the crowd of colleagues that you were not expecting to have initially, and now that you do have some good bonds, no matter how used to it you are, a part of you always wants to not let go of them.

However you cannot be all sulking. They left probably for something better, and you should be happy for them. Something good is happening to them and that is something that forced you to be happy for them even though a major part of your brain is still coping up with sorrow and horror. But that is not all. There is another emotion which sneaks in at this point; and this emotion is not alone. It is a thug which usually comes with a gang to bully you.

Confusion, doubts and restlessness team up to you and they all torture you with question marks as their preferred tool.
“Why are you still here?”
“Is it not time for you to move on like them, maybe to a different company?”
“Future Education?”
“Do you have any plans?”
“Is it not about time that you have some?”

And many more, and all you can do is just sit there either answering them or listening to those questions. Either way you are bullied, but if you have answers you can get away faster, if not, let God help you.
The questions these thugs pose even overshadows the sweet questions that you should be thinking about like,
“What should I do for them on their last day”
“Where should we plan the farewell party?”
“Should I be giving a gift? What should I give?”

And after the end of the emotional chaos that can last anywhere from between 5 seconds to 5 minutes inside your head things finally settle down and you start thinking of a reply mail. You have to have a reply; that is a friend, leaving.

And I did. I did reply to them, framing my sorrow, horror, happiness, confusion, doubts and restlessness, in words that sound gentle subtle and thoughtful. I did not actually let my emotions guide my fingers as I was typing a reply mail, otherwise the mail would have pretty much been a gibberish full of half framed irrelevant sentences. I would keep that reply for the farewell party :-), if we have one :-(, I hope we do :-|.