My father is a prophet. Just like my mother was before him. She died. I hope he doesn’t. He is the only prophet left for me.
Before I left my job to sit at home and write, cushioned by my husband’s handsome salary, my dad had prophesied that a day will soon arrive when I will regret losing my independence. He begged, blackmailed, belittled me, just to keep me holding to a job that had lost its meaning in my life. I answered him, “I will manage dad, I have some savings from the three and half years I have toiled. And Sadiq is a good understanding husband, he is very encouraging about my writing this book. I am sure there will be ups and downs, but he will help me through this journey. You stop worrying and making me anxious about a new step in life.”
I had seemed so naive. And hopeful.
The life of a writer is paradoxical. You begin writing to talk to someone who will someday hold your book, transcending your death and existence. It’s an ethereal communication with another soul in the future. But it also ends up being a communication with yourself in the past.
I began writing to tell a story, but as my mental state deteriorated in my marriage and life, writing became my only rebellion. I am a coward and a selfish woman, I can only admit this in writing.
Just today I realised my selfishness for my book.
My husband was having a supposedly rough week at work, everyday he would be irritable when he entered home. The slightest provocations would make him sulk. I knew how work pressure affected your vitality, and I admit I am a very bad homemaker. I mess my home, not make it. I don’t know how to cook delicious mutton biryani like his mother does, in fact, I am the least interested in cooking. Its only reading and writing that engrosses my day, and recently, gardening.
I have always loved plants though I never had the space to have a beautiful garden for myself. My first year of keeping houseplants was quite disastrous with a lot of them succumbing to either mealy bugs, or overwatering, or plain hot Chennai weather. Only the snake plant and my adenium thrived. After marriage, I have been quite unsettled, living itinerantly in AirBnbs, office accommodation and a temporary flat stay as Sadiq tried hard to stick to a good job.
Finally his moment had arrived and he landed up a good offer with Amazon, and I moved with him to Bangalore, dreaming of finally having all the time in the world to write my book.
I have adorned the house with a lot of plants and have become obsessed with tending to them, worrying over him and propagating them. I am on a race to learn as many new plants names as I can from youtube tutorials and Instagram plant lovers. My plants are my only friends during the day, I talk to them, smother them and tell them why my plots are not forming well enough. But they are messy business, and this leaves Sadiq even more irritated.
Today the argument was over a music concert by Ustad Zakir Hussain that Sadiq wanted to attend. I would be traveling to Madurai to visit a friend with a newborn baby that weekend, so I told him I could not attend. He was upset that I don’t participate in his interests, to which I quipped, “But you have never even heard any Zakir Hussain before this, did you ever listen to any of his music?” He was offended and became sullen in the gym. I could not bear the negative energy and left the gym for a run of 6 kms.
Back at home, he tried to mollify me, but we kept regressing to our habit of analysing the argument. He started screaming that I occupy him with household tasks after he returns home. I replied, “I am also working on my book at home, you can’t shirk your share of home tasks.” And on and on, until I made the blunder of taunting him, “You just made up the excuse of a music concert to fight, even though you never cared for the artist before. You should keep your work issues to work, don’t bring them home. Try to manage your work.” His famous temper raged. And he began.
“At least I am not a wannabe writer sitting at home writing nothing of worth. You are a burden to me, you jobless person who calls herself a writer. Wannabe gardener trying to learn plant names from Instagram.”
He knew where it will sting the most and he chose his weapons well. As I heard his words while filling up my water bottle, I felt an intense rage well up in me, I wanted to throw away the glass bowls on the counter at him. I have a history of violence, both at him, on stuff, and mostly with myself.
Once I’m in the grip of my need for violence I throw myself at walls, use a knife to slice up my arms, throw glass around. I would hit Sadiq in the face, knowing he would hit me doubly back, and I can scream my lungs out and throw a tantrum.
But today as I struggled with my violent urges I remembered a passage from the Gita I found in two books I read over the week. It could not be mere coincidence that two books as different from each other as possible, one ‘English, August’ by Upamanyu Chatterjee, about an aimless, young IAS officer who dopes his days and exercises restless at night, the other, ‘Light on Yoga’, the seminal text on Yoga philosophy by B.K.S Iyengar, had the same verse from Gita in their story.
“Arjuna: ‘The mind is restless, Krishna, impetuous, self-willed, hard to train: to master the mind seems as difficult as to master the mighty winds.’
Krishna: The mind is indeed restless, Arjuna: it is indeed hard to train. But by constant practice and freedom from passion, the mind in truth can be trained.”
I kept reciting these lines in my head to control my urge to kill Sadiq with a knife nearby. His cruel words kept hurting my ears, but by reciting Krishna’s words I tried to shield his words out. Strange for a lifelong agnostic.
Tears came tumbling down my throat as I tried to control my violence and walked slowly to my study room. I locked the door, sat down on my chair and collapsed with the effort of controlling my mind.
Oh Krishna, the mind is indeed difficult to train. But thank you for saving me just this one day.
And so I began writing this essay, so I can communicate with my past self of today and say, “You did a good job. Don’t mind the poisonous words of others, your mind alone is yours.”
I could also tell myself to gather my independence, get a job and move out from such a man’s house. But I am a selfish coward who finds it easier to invoke Krishna, and write in the comfort of this man’s house. My book is a baby in the womb, I can’t prematurely risk losing it in the tiredness of another job.
I am humming a Tagore song,
“Hath bandhibi, pao bandhibi,
mon bandhibi kemon re?”
( you can chain my hands, you can chain my legs,
But how will you chain my mind?)