Wish You Were Here

( This post is on aging related memory loss, hallucinations and dementia. It is about a parent, about us all. This post is about  a wish, a song)


You call out to me from the garden. “There is a face peeping through the leaves of that mango tree. Can you see it? It moves with the breeze. The nose twitches, the eyes crinkle. Can you see it? Can you tell?”

How i wish, how i wish you were here.


There are places you  go to.

I can’t keep up with your pace and so i am content to listen to the stories that you bring from your travels. I see the adventure in your eyes, hear it in your laugh. Your voice carries me away to bamboo forests, to sand dunes, to angry monsoon rivers, to cold depressing blankets of snow. i feel the deodar leaves rustle as you touch them, i feel the sand in my hair, i breath in all the different colors of the tulips, i taste the strawberries that you managed to grow much to the surprise of everybody, and i marvel at the makeshift bamboo ‘canals’ carrying water from little mountain streams to that patch of green peas. i feel your joy, your fears, your loss. i walk through your tales and live them, never losing the thread, always wanting to hear more so that i can piece that time together.

Sometimes you leave for places i can’t reach. I squint my eyes and try to hold on to you, but you leave anyway. And it is always so sudden, without any warning goodbyes. One moment we will be pruning the plants in the garden, and in an instance the weather changes. i feel the sunlight clamp down on my heart, and i know without looking around that you have left. But you come back, you always do, and that thought itself keeps me warm. i do worry about you and to be honest, also about myself. I worry that someday you may walk on so far that you may forget the way, or that you may just be too tired to walk back.

Meanwhile, there are places you go to, in your mind. And i try to keep pace, i really do. i grasp at the stories of your youth, of my growing up years, of times long gone by and i try to keep them in the neural pathways of my memories, all nicely wrapped in soft scented tissue. You see things that i can’t, well i can’t immediately, but then i try to look at it your way and sometimes it all fits together. There IS a face that peeps through the leaves, it moves with the breeze. I see it now.

i realize how it must be for you, walking alone, wondering if you are on track. i see the confusion in your eyes at times as you hold on to me, to familiar things. i feel your desperation as you fill sheets of paper with irregular blotches of blue, trying again and again to get your signature correct, wondering who changed the boundaries. i sense your fear as you try to make sense of little things, as you falter to put a name to a face, as you struggle with the connections that conspire to confuse you. It must be so frustrating to move between worlds.

 i know now that you get lonely and afraid, that you hold on to the network of your memories as you wish desperately for a familiar name, a face, someone who could make sense of the mess, wishing someone was there with you. i want you to know that we shall walk through this together, you and i, making sense of things, building bridges over our fears., picking up the pieces of the jigsaw, trying to figure out what goes where. 


Why does everybody look on so patiently when you tell them about where you had been, where you are? There is a fine veil between what is real for me and what is real for someone else. It has always been like that, hasn’t it? All of us flitting in our spaces, so surefooted at times, and then instantly confused. Is the glass half-empty or half-full?  

Do you think you can tell? 

There is a voice within us trying to make sense of it all. There is always a wish tugging at our voids.  

How i wish, how i wish you were here.


(P.S. For the title of the post and the italicized lines, i refer you to Pink Floyd.

This post seems to fit todays Daily Prompt: Is the glass half-full or half-empty? http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/daily-prompt-the-glass/ ?  )

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The Beast Within

“You are more beautiful than you think”

I wish it was George Clooney whispering these lines to me in his trademark drawl and lopsided smile that reaches his eyes. But no (and wake up woman !!), it is actually a conclusion drawn by an ‘social experiment ‘ by Dove (the brand that sells beauty products)  which is making women all over the globe smile and cry. I am sure most of you would have seen the video. It is flooding inboxes and newsfeeds. If you haven’t seen it yet, here is the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=XpaOjMXyJGk

I have my reservations about the simplistic methodology used by the social scientists. It would have been better if all participants (including the subjects and the observers, and here by default they all would have to be women) gave the descriptions in third person, thus reducing the artists bias towards harsher (self description) and softer (third person) pencil strokes. Also, it would be better if they had a heterogeneous mix of women of varied age groups and body types.  But beyond this nitpicking, i admit that towards the end of the video, i smile. It makes me feel good.

It lifts my spirits that the roundish face framed in mousey grey hair, combed in a practical no- fuss manner that looks back at me when i stand in front of the mirror; the open pores and upraised, almost- wartish moles; the crows feet; the slightly squinty eyes that cannot function without glasses; all this and more , will not be seen by a stranger. That, someone i meet at the coffee shop, the airport or even for that matter coworkers, may describe me as an elegant woman with short salt and pepper hair, and a soft smile. It makes me feel good and brings a smile to my gracefully- ageing face. It erases my wrinkles as no botox- shot ever can. It works as an astringent and instantly closes my wide open pores. It essentially works as a soft focus camera lens and makes me want to use the strangers perception of my looks as my facebook profile picture.

So, we all are more beautiful than we think.

Or, are we? What would the results be if we were asked to describe ourselves as a person, an individual. Just that. No age profiling, no job descriptions, no educational qualifications, no marital or parenting status, no nationality, no geo-economic positioning of ourselves in the global fabric. Just five lines on how we see ourselves as a person, and in our interaction with fellow humans.

Here are my five lines on myself: i am a mild-mannered person. i believe in live and let live, as long as somebody is not living off my bank balance. i have no qualms about borrowing and forgetting to return books,  from friends and strangers. i am always ready to help family, friends and anyone i can. (WHERE is my halo?).

Five lines on me, by someone who knows me as an individual (not a close friend) at a superficial level: She is a reserved person, almost snobbish.  She dresses sloppily. She definitely has a squint. 

Beyond this, the stranger will not have much to say about me as an individual, without mentioning my looks, dress, job, family etc. Our appearance, and by that i mean our physical and social appearance, define how we are perceived by strangers. Is this why we try to fit into the social fabric?

Why are we driven towards becoming model parents and citizens? Why do we want to do the ‘right thing’ (whatever that is)? We crave acceptance. It is good for our egos and feeds our vanity. We are willing to let go of our individuality, the quirks that define us, the dreams that haunt us. Why? It is to feed the beast within us.

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The Mutants Offspring

This is a humorous take on our affection for dogs and how they may have hypnotized the humans. Asimov fans of the Foundation series will recognize the ‘Mule’ :)


The Mule was sterile.

Is that what you thought? That, when he died the random threat was over? You read the Encyclopedia Galactica and assumed that was how things went? Ah, but emotions control the chemicals in the brain you know, and they in turn control the changes in the body. That is how it had always worked for the Mule. Emotional control was his tool and he used it to solve the problem with his body.

He knew he had two flaws, his inability to produce offspring and his jarring ugly physical appearance. The initial mutations must have induced parthenogenesis and subsequently, sexual differentiation. It was changing his appearance that proved tricky. There is no guarantee of conserving good looks,  and he wanted his offsprings to rule forever, over generations. Ultimately he made a choice.  He would alter the physical features entirely such that it would not resemble the humanoid form at all. He changed the limbs and added an extended coccyx, but he did not mess with the eyes. The eyes were important.

The control over the galaxy remained, though the inhabitants were not aware of it.  That was how he wanted it.  That was how he had managed to become the greatest conquerors the galaxy had ever seen. He was a random mutation himself, and he was born with the ability to reach into the minds of others and adjust their emotions. It was because of this that though he was ruthless, he did not have to kill or torture. The people he ruled over had once hated and feared him, but he had changed their emotional waves to adoration and respect for himself.  He had probed and felt emotional patterns of individuals and of masses, and he knew it to be true.

The Mule died a natural death but his progeny remained and bred and still rule over us. The mind control is oh-so-subtle. It is the soulful eyes that do it. They seem to look straight into your heart, but they  are actually probing your mind patterns and changing them till you feel the warmth of affection flood your senses.  The emotional adjustment inflicted is almost artistic . The behavioral pattern  and memories remain intact, the ‘adjustment’ works only to create affection and a willingness to please and obey orders.

They look at you and you are mesmerized, you take them home and look after them thinking you are the master, but then that is how they wanted it in the first place. Mind control so subtle that when you make them do ‘tricks’ you have not the faintest idea that it is they who have trained you to get them food. You are only a tool.

It is the eyes that do it, and also the extended coccyx, the tail. It wags and we move accordingly, in affection.


P.S. i am under the control of a 3 month old labrador retriever. He has adjusted our mind patterns and is now part of our family.

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First (lines) Love

(This post is a story narrative put together from the opening lines of well known books. Each sentence is from a different book, so the narrative may appear a bit disjointed at places. I have stuck to the original lines and used the strikethrough minimally. This is something i have wanted to do for some time now. It was fun. )


I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. I have never begun a novel with more misgiving.

Call me Ishmael.

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.


Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. The sun shone, having no alternative, on nothing new. It was a pleasure to burn.

Somewhere in la Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing. He was an inch, perhaps two, under six feet, powerfully built, and he advanced straight at you with a slight stoop of the shoulders, head forward, and a fixed from-under stare which made you think of a charging bull.  He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad. It is a truth universally acknowledged , that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Dorothy lived in the midst of the great Kansas prairies, with Uncle Henry, who was a farmer, and Aunt Em, who was the farmer’s wife.

It was love at first sight. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins…. -Money “. . . in a voice that rustled. It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets , rattling along the house-tops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

The day broke grey and dull. The clouds hung heavily, and there was a rawness in the air that suggested snow.  Like the brief doomed flare of exploding suns that registers dimly on blind men’s eyes, the beginning of the horror passed almost unnoticed; in the shriek of what followed, in fact, was forgotten and perhaps not connected to the horror at all. They shoot the white girl first.

I am a sick man . . . I am a spiteful man. 

Where now? Who now? When now?

Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested. Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting. A screaming comes across the sky.

I am a sick man . . . I am a spiteful man.

All this happened, more or less.

They used to hang men at Four Turnings in the old days, not any more though. Granted: I am an inmate of a mental hospital; my keeper is watching me, he never lets me out of his sight; there’s a peephole in the door, and my keeper’s eye is the shade of brown that can never see through a blue-eyed type like me.


Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. ”To be born again,” sang Gibreel Farishta tumbling from the heavens, “first you have to die.”

It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.

They used to hang men at Four Turnings in the old days, not any more though. 

It was a pleasure to burn.

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Sugar and Spice?

This has been a dark and chilly December for India. The shadows have been creeping in since a long long time but this month has been particularly bad. The brutal rape of a girl in the country’s capital has shaken everybody and the last few days have seen massive public outcry to change rape laws in the country and for establishing women- friendly procedures and a fast track conviction in such cases.

The fact that crime against women be it female infanticide, dowry deaths, domestic violence and rape have been long-standing issues has a lot to do with the mindset that prevails in the society. When the president’s son, an elected representative to a state assembly, talks of ‘dented and painted women’ and questions their right to protest peacefully in a democracy while a senior scientist wonders why the girl went out for a movie at night thus putting herself ‘at risk’, one starts to wonder whether things have really changed in India deep down. The objectification of women and the rules and framework within which a ‘decent’ Indian girl should and must behave are part of a hard-wired meme that propagates through generations.

I used to take pride in the fact that I try not to reinforce gender stereotypes to my son till one day, about two years back when he was 9 yrs old, he proudly came up and informed me that if I ever was in any trouble, he would ‘save and protect’ me. While I thanked him for it, I asked just what he meant by it, and was told that ‘when girls get into trouble boys save them as happens in various cartoon shows’.

I think we should seriously analyze what information we as educated- liberal parents feed our kids. Children learn and mimic the patterns they see as they are growing up, and cartoons and movies make up a huge chunk of their database. There is a dearth of strong girl/woman oriented characters in most shows on kids channels. The ‘nice and sweet girl’ image is associated with female leads in most popular cartoon shows as well as movies. The idea that little  girls are made of ‘sugar and spice and all thing nice’ reinforces the same thing. Memes are powerful because they self-replicate and mutate and thus can influence generations.

Rape is the ultimate violation of a person, but the violation starts at every single step that we take in solidifying such beliefs in our social structure. Equality means just that, and not equal rights within a particular social frame-work or a stereotype, thus  nullifying the initial objective. It becomes our duty to pressurize the government to introduce women friendly court procedures and police action, but it is as much our duty to look within and to identify biases within our social framework, to question a system where an average working woman comes home from office and is expected to cook dinner for the family, where cases of abuse within a marriage are seldom reported even among the educated because preserving the social framework is considered more sacred than preserving a womans dignity, where boys are given better career opportunities than the girls in the family and where the absence of efficient day care support handicaps a woman to stagnate her career graph.

It is only when we question ourselves that we shall begin to understand the problem and work towards finding the answers. Till then such inequality will keep eating away the fabric even while the Prime minister of the country asks “Theek Hai? (is it all right?)”

(The incident: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/delhi-gangrape-victim-the-journey-to-death-began-with-a-movie/1/240022.html

on “Theek hai”: http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-12-25/news/35999247_1_private-bus-delhi-gang-prime-minister)

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Nine and Three Quarters

We go about our daily routine, but the tension is palpable. He has been dreaming of it for a couple of years now. He would talk of the place and the sights he wanted to see there, the things he would do, the people he would finally meet. It has been a while and he knows that it would not be as he remembered and, except for the buildings and the paths, things would have changed. “For better or for worse?” he would ask me anxiously. Somehow, I could never  give a convincingly comforting answer. That was where he belonged, he would say and I would smile. I had forgotten that dreams could be so intense, so vivid and so overpowering.

For the last six months or so, he has stopped talking of it and I find that worrying. The date of journey was approaching and I was making a list of things he would be needing there, but he doesn’t seem to be interested. Was it that anticipation and apprehension has gripped him to an extent of shutting his emotions. I mention the place in random conversations and refer to familiar things, but he is busy with the many other things that so preoccupy one at his age. Or is he just preparing himself for reality, just in case? Casual remarks tell me that he still wistfully longs to go there, that the memories are still there tucked away in an obscure corner of his brain. Now they do not haunt him though.

I think he has crossed it out from his list, and I feel a little lost and empty inside.  He laughs and I see that he has grown up and out of it, and I feel betrayed. It was as much his dream as it was mine. I pick up a book and lose myself in the hypnotic flow of black ink, but the suspense is killing.

I do realize that it is not really where we long to be, it is about the magic that is within us that matters. But dreams never sit quietly in a corner you know, and I have a feeling there is a train waiting for us at platform nine and three-quarters.

There is a voice in my head that keeps repeating, ‘There are 11 days to go. Will he get the letter on his birthday?’.

(This post is with reference to Harry Potter and the letter from Hogwarts)


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The lines blur

Google tells me its Bram Stokers 165th birthday today. I take that as a ‘signal from the universe’ as Paulo Coelho is so fond of saying. Here is a post i wrote sometime back and which has been sitting as a draft on this blogs dashboard for way too long.


So, did Dracula know the secret?

1908 A.D.

‘Red Star’ is a science fiction novel about a utopian life on Mars written by Alexander Bogdanov, a Russian physician and philosopher. The book touched upon various aspects which make the Martian lifestyle unique, one of them being their extended lifespan which is achieved by sharing of blood between older and younger individuals, so that “elements of vitality” were passed on. The book was an instant hit with the public as well as with the people in the government.

What is remarkable is that Bogdanov took the idea to the field. After many tedious negotiations with the government, he established the Institute for Haemotology and Blood Transfusions in 1924, where blood transfusion techniques were perfected and his theories were tested on mice. The study involved connecting the circulatory systems of pairs of old and young mice such that the blood from the two co-mingles. The results were startling. It was found that youthful blood revives the regenerative cells in muscles and livers, and also that there are some substances/ factors in the blood of older mice that appear to inhibit the brains ability to produce new nerve cells critical to memory and learning.

These findings have implications on aging and extending lifespan of humans. Now, it only remained to start testing it on humans, and Bogdanov started with himself.

 2012 A.D.

In the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans,  a research group from Stanford University presents its findings that blood from young mice reverses some of the effects of ageing in the older mice.

The work involves connecting the circulatory systems of an old and young mouse so that their blood could mingle.  The results show an improved learning and memory in older mice, comparable to much younger animals. The findings show an increase in the connections between the brain cells and it is concluded that there are certain key factors that decrease with age and thus contribute to ageing.

Future work along these lines could one day help people stave off the worst effects of ageing, including conditions such as Alzheimer’s.


This was an example of how science fiction overlaps with reality and the lines blur. What is also interesting is the fact that I first read of the Stanford findings and while surfing the net came across references to Bogdanov and his crazy transfusion experiments on himself.

Internet has made it so easy for us to access information on myriad things. As we sit hunched over at our desks and stare at the flickering screens, we are transported places and we fly. We may complain ad nauseam about the social networking sites and how they infringe our privacy, but we grudgingly acknowledge that through them, we find old friends and stay connected… to our sanity and to each other.

Here is a fantastic description I found in a book that describes us as we are now:

“…and he now took the fancy that he would like to …. divert his mind with it. He had his wish. The connection was made with the international telephone-station, and day by day, and night by night, he called up one corner of the globe after another, and looked upon its life, and studied its strange sights, and spoke with its people, and realized that by grace of this marvelous instrument he was almost as free as the birds of the air, although a prisoner under locks and bars. He seldom spoke, and I never interrupted him when he was absorbed in this amusement. I sat in his parlour and read, and smoked, and the nights were very quiet and reposefully sociable, and I found them pleasant. Now and then I would her him say ‘Give me Yedo;’ next, ‘Give me Hong-Kong;’ next, ‘Give me Melbourne.’ And I smoked on, and read in comfort, while he wandered about the remote underworld, where the sun was shining in the sky, and the people were at their daily work. Sometimes the talk that came from those far regions through the microphone attachment interested me, and I listened.”

That was Mark Twain in his rare science fiction story ‘From the London Times of 1904‘ where he describes a telephone based system- the telelectroscope- that connects people the world over with both audio as well as video). The story was published in 1898 A.D.

And the lines blur again.


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