CREATIVE NON-FICTION : Unsullied piece of me by Maansi Saksena
It’s been a while. Quite some time since I have been looking for that right job.
The last I remember, was when I said, I should be able to get one in the coming few months—about 10 years ago.
It’s been 10 holy years since then.
I got married, moved to a new city, started a new job. Moved to a new country with no work permit, had a baby in between, got the work permit. Found a job. But not quite the right one yet.
I still toss and turn in the night, unable to sleep the sound sleep a wife, mother, woman of my age should.
Sometimes even I wonder why?
I often find myself caught in this clichéd yet acute dilemma of who I was and who I wanted to be. The present is purely borne out of the situation I am in, and is not quite me or someone I connect with emotionally or even would want to remotely address as ‘I/Me/Myself’—None of the above.
So just like a meandering toddler looking for his mother, every fortnight or so, I come here, open my laptop and vomit out some turbulence that I have been going through. And writing by far seems to be the only recourse.
This is my ‘no judgement zone’.
‘For who to judge?’- You must be wondering, when no one gets to read it.
And rightly so.
Well, this instruction stands on point for none other than me. This brain right here, is like a radio with a pretty remarkable reception. Where I constantly keep juggling between the voices inside my head. It tunes itself into multiple channels, and they sometimes play all at once. World to family politics, career, whatsapp groups, motherhood, kids, anxiety, pandemic blah blah.
Sometimes I feel like liberating myself over and beyond this. And penning it all down renders that power to me.
It doesn’t help me find a solution. In fact it takes me a few inches away from whatever is left off of my so called safe haven.
It takes me straight into the deep dark pit of broken, stinking skeletons of my dreams. Lying abandoned. All over.
But even though it appears so, I know it’s not over yet. I just do. And what would make me feel that it isn’t, isn’t an odd question to throw at me, at all. This solo tryst that I keep having with myself fuels my subsistence. Like there’s more to it.
And while we all wrestle with circumstances at some point or the other-big, small, substantial, or not so, I have realised that some battles can’t be triumphed.
Just like some feelings can’t be fathomed.
They just are. A pivotal part of your existence. Like white noise. You just live them. But without giving in.
One instance you befriend them and the next abhor.
Despite shunning them away to some lame corner of your mind, some days you let them in, sit by your side and share a cup of chai.
And then you fall prey to this false hope, that you are pals. This feeling, let alone beguiling, is very uncomfortable to harbour. But can’t do much to undo this.
It found a home in you. And it won’t be a downright lie if I say, you did too. Felt at home.
Don’t trust me? Go on, take a peep inside this rumbling mind, riding the highs and lows of such feeling, trying to catch the tide. Failing at it miserably, but yet determined to keep at it. Like a warrior.
There is something about this feeling you wake up with, every morning when you see the face of your child and husband, who are happy, far more than happy than happiness could ever look like, and you still skip a heartbeat. Not because you can’t believe this beautiful, perfect world is all yours. But because sitting on the mounds of this bubble you do not feel you belong here.
And when I step down I invariably end up in the bathroom and find myself staring at the mirror. The mirror—and I am not surprised, is stained with deposits of water, toothpaste, hand wash, spluttered all over like a backsplash of my fears staring at me, in my face. And despite my frequent OCD driven cleaning sprees these stains still find a way to gleefully settle on the mirror, like they belong there. And I still manage to see through the blurry glass— a 35 year old me. Unsuccessful. Unhappy. Unexplained. Undecided.
Yet nailing at carrying, birthing and nurturing this unnamed morbidity of sorts all along, all this while.
And how it reflects on my face. Muzzled layers of silence and anger that just sits tight on my lips. Not-so-old-yet-wrinkled with worry kind of skin. The silver army of frail baby hair invading the dense black on my head, and shedding some love on the way all the way into the drainage every time I comb through them. My buried aspirations as they lay naked spread under the eyes and around, like they belong here. A graveyard of dark circles. And souls of my dreams pitting over the space inside the dreary eyes devoid of any emotion whatsoever. Just wide open. Like a tired carcass.
And if you read between the lines, you will see, a poor sketch of what once used to be full glory, now is just a shadow of the leftover, forever, dark, cold night sans moon. And those freckles are only the reminders that the sun did shine down upon me once.
Once I used to be happy – meaning how I identify with happy, at home, successful, with a promising career. And then I just settled for what most of us would give away a fortune for and never complain.
I also never complained. For a long time, until I reached a point where I had nowhere else left to go but turnaround! And seek help for myself, from myself.
The question I had been dodging for quite some time, whether I was happy? And the answer was anything but affirmative.
Some days this ‘I’ feels like nothing but just an apology for not being able to do it ‘her’ way. As If I am my two separate selves- The one I used to be before and the one I was reduced to after—I said yes, to agree to everything that looked normal to everyone.
Everyone but me.
I am not a victim of domestic violence or a bad marriage or anything alike. If at all that’s where it’s taking you. In fact that’s the best thing that happened to me. And I chose it.
I have just been in this warfare business with my own self. One of the toughest battles one can imagine to be.
To have a happy marriage, a child and yet not be able to decide if that is all you should be thankful/asking for? And I am. Extremely thankful for all that I have, except I cannot come to terms with the fact that somewhere along I lost the purpose. Of being me. Free. Just the way I like it. And should I be guilty of asking for more out of what I have?
From being the creative, passionate, career oriented individual to a dependent, having a job for the sake of it (owing to my immigrant status on this foreign soil), a sophisticated life- who do I tell, that I miss the chaos, the traffic, pollution, the challenges and the sun.
From brain storming to number crunching, writing copy to calculating interest, story boards and shoots to audits and auditors. I never complained. But I never asked for it either.
A trimmed 9 to 5 at work, then group fitness class at 5.30 followed by dinner at 7.30 and hitting the sack by 10 was never my thing! Working on my story for a deadline project and waking up with a panic attack while still at work used to be my mojo.
But things change. Right? Situations change. One doesn’t always get to do what he or she loves. Sometimes you just have to start to love what you do. And people do. I have seen it myself.
I tried too. Playing the digital way and trying a hand at dishing out scrumptious sagas, despite never being a kitchen person, always had a green thumb but the limits that weather puts on this part of the world never let me do much around that theme. A stint at creative writing did bring me some momentary gratification of the sorts but the narrow prospects soon ran dry.
And in the process I discovered, I am not. Not like those people I just spoke about.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if it’s the people I fail to understand, or it’s me. I was in denial to accept who I really was. And I still am—the part of me which was denied, more than the part of me who denied.
While caught in the humdrum of flashbacks and fast forward, it dawns upon me that in the present I am just a breathing lump of procrastination. I want to try, but I don’t know where to begin from? And this worries me to no length.
But I haven’t lost yet. I am still in the game, as I keep reminding myself.
We are the kinds who do not necessarily lose or win. We just fight. And continue to do so against all odds. While carrying out all duties and responsibilities without disowning our fears and follies. Sometimes with and sometimes without a smile. But we do not quit.
And then, I get hold of the cleaning spray and scrub the mirror. No I can’t leave it dirty. As I stow away the toilet seat cover my daughter left in the wrong place and lay the cap of the toothpaste back on, my husband sometimes leaves it like that, when he is pressed for time.
We all are, aren’t we?
But all this needs to be in place.
It’s like every time I fail to rearrange the jigsaw puzzles of my life, I start to put everything I can touch and feel in my house back to its right place.
A futile attempt at gaining some salvation, in order to not lose anything. Any more. To not break the order and try to keep things together, in its right place in the circle of chores, if not life.
The rightful place. We spend a lifetime thinking this is it. But it doesn’t feel right. Because the reality is, it never was.
They are like cold pillows. We keep searching for the warmth to catch some sound sleep that we never had. And then we just get used to it. And fall asleep.
While some are still tossing and turning. Wide awake, fighting a battle. Winners or losers, nevertheless, they are nothing short of warriors.
A childish thought is likely to get some thumbs up from a few. Some might condemn saying these are just first world issues. But I am not judging. Not my place.
Some where we have to draw a line and come face to face with our own battles and own them.
Aah, it’s time already. As I switch gears! From my surreal ‘no pretence, innate world of words’ to the real ‘Knock-knock cover up, its show time world.’
This subterfuge keeps it going for all of us. For good.
As I quickly glance at the clock, save my work and slam the laptop shut. I need to rush to pick my daughter from the day care.
A day well spent. I could savour some melancholy, running my fingers through the keyboard brewing some word-filled-angst and sieving it through the not-so-clean lens of nostalgia.
And it rained today. Albeit it’s still chilly. It always is.
Oh how I miss Pune rains. And kacchi dhabeli with cutting chai.
Few leftover moments to swear by before I get back to crunching reports and numbers. From word doc to excel sheet, I had to move on. Nonetheless. Thanks to the bank holiday.
I hear the knock on the door. It must be him.
By the way, who keeps fiddling with the temperature settings? It’s always so cold in this house. When will I get to feel the sun? I muttered while answering the door and grabbing the car keys.
May be in our next trip to India, chuckles my husband while entering, as we exchanged pleasantries.
Oh yeah, may be.
For good this time around, I wink at him.
About the Writer
With a bachelor’s degree in literature and an MBA in marketing, Maansi worked in advertising prior to moving to Chicago with her Husband. Mother to a 3 year old, alongside a full time job and a couple of freelance writing projects Maansi wishes to fulfill her childhood dream of taking up writing as a career. A poet at heart and an exuberant personality otherwise, she has maintained a very private profile as a writer. With an aim to now share her craft with public she is working on her blog.She believes that narration be it poetry/ prose is a powerful way to connect. And her work aims to showcase the real in the most palpable fashion that anyone can associate with her stories and characters.