How is your day?” That simple question made her speechless. She wasn’t prepared for it. It’s silly how she can do everything for others and can read people’s needs before they even say it out loud yet she is clueless when it comes to her. She thought for a bit and said “it’s good. Thank you.” Rajan smiled and asked “Good to hear. How did you spend your day?” “Oh it’s actually very productive. I made my kids their favourite milkshakes, got books for my friend, helped the neighbour with his boxes and stuff, got new glasses for my mom….” . “No Bhavana” Rajan cut her off and continued “I meant what did you do for yourself. You know ‘me time’, it’s your birthday after all, loosen up, hello?.”
Bhavana looked at him with puzzled expression and started laughing as he said something hilarious. “Haha you know I am a 45 years old woman with two kids right? Why would I celebrate my birthday like a kid?” Rajan studied her face, he saw a bit of pain in her smile. It stung him. “You are as clueless as when we were in school. Who told you to celebrate like a kid? Celebrate like an adult, silly!” He said it as he poked her head gently. “Ouch! Don’t be silly. You know I never celebrated anything in my life. It’s just how it is. It’s my kids turn now. I would rather be happy seeing them enjoy their lives than wasting things up on me.”
Rajan took a deep breath and asked “cigarette?” Bhavana looked at it with a spark in her eyes for a second then hesitated “No thankyou. As I said I am not a kid anymore. These aren’t for me.” Rajan took a puff “it’s never bad to loosen up a bit. Cheat day is for everyone in everything.”
Bhavana is staring at the beach. She doesn’t know what she’s doing here with her long lost best friend on her birthday instead of doing chores and fulfilling her roles at home but she does know she is feeling a bit uncomfortable and guilty because of it and she doesn’t know why.
Rajan tapped on her shoulder and said “earth to Bhavana! You zone out when you hate listening to something. I am sorry for making you uncomfortable but you don’t have to do things just because I told you to. Chill.”
Bhavana took the cigar from him and took a puff. She smiled genuinely and realised why she is feeling guilty and uncomfortable because she isn’t used to feeling happy for herself. After a long time she did a thing for herself without any reason.
“Loosen up a bit huh?” She looked at him and continued “I should do this more often. How about an adult party?” Rajan grinned and said “more cigarettes then.” Bhavana said “nope.” Rajan pouted “alright what about 4 cigars? “Absolutely not. I will cook and you clean that’s the party.” She said with a straight face. “Do I have to sign for your package of cleaning and hanging out with your kids just to party with you? He pouted.”Do you have any problem with that?” Bhavan said while getting up. “Nope, but about that cigarette-” a smile curled up on her mouth she cut him off and said “shut up and walk me home.”
I can feel the smell, the smell of freshly baked dough. The sweet smell of dough is throughout the street; it makes my mouth water. I looked at the bakery, and the bakers are not open yet. Maybe they are preparing for today. I look up at the sky, and the sun has not risen. But a few rays of him escaped and made the sky brighter than it was an hour ago. I wonder why I woke up this early; I can’t even eat anything till 2-3 hours pass. Wait, I know where I am, but When Am I? Are these feelings just memories?
I realised that I was drifting in a childhood memory. I am now 20 years older than that memory. It was the smell of dough that made me lose myself—the scent from the same bakery at the same time. The sun has not risen yet. And I wonder the same thing, why am I even awake? I am standing in between a road like an idiot while all the people are walking past me. They look shadowy and too dark to have any visible features. I don’t understand where there is such low detail.
I realised again; it is merely a memory. I am 23 years older than the memory of drifting away in my childhood memory because I’m standing in the same place that I stood and lost into memories 23 years ago. It is like the movie, Inception, except I’m awake. I’m drifting in memories while I’m awake. I always have this habit of losing myself into my memories.
It is not that I have only beautiful memories, but don’t know why I tend to travel a lot in my mind; revisit the memories. And this revisiting does not happen voluntarily. Something triggers these memories, and I find myself replaying all the memories that thave something similar to the present moment. But to be honest, other than the location, smell of the dough and my position, everything is different.
The main thing that is different from all the three scenarios, 43 years younger me feeling the smell of dough, 23 years younger me and the 50-year-old me, is the motive. We three were awake at the same time and happened to be at this place, but the reason behind waking up is different. Yet somehow, I travelled back in time because of the smell of dough. I heard a sharp bike horn that pierced my eardrums and made me come back to my senses.
I was in the middle of the street, trying to cross the road and the biker felt anxious, maybe he realised that my body is on auto-pilot mode. But the horn was unnecessary; I had managed ages by activating auto-pilot mode. I just leave my body to my instincts while I drift away into someplace. The screen that is present in my mind keeps playing different movies. Even when I’m riding my bike or driving my car, I drift away. It is my instincts that control the vehicle.
I have lived long enough than an average human. My hygiene is so bad that I never thought I would live past 45. I don’t sleep enough; I don’t eat enough. But I still have a potbelly, because I don’t walk sufficient either. I don’t do anything in the quantities suggested by people to live healthily because I feel everything is just a burden. I like drifting away into my memories. That is the only thing that I perform in quantities more than suggested. And then again something dragged me back to this world, and it kept my attention more than the biker. It is the nose of my building’s watchman.
Is he Pinocchio? Why is his nose growing day by day? Or is it that I never observed his nose? I guess it has something to do with his cap. He wore a monkey cap that covered all his face, and his nose was peaking out of it. He was a bit cute; I never thought of him this way. He suddenly looks adorable. After some time, I realised that I’m staring right into his face and it grew quite awkward. But I guess he didn’t notice; he was in his world of thoughts. Are all humans like this?
Maybe everyone is always lost in their own memories. It is weird how we can just switch to auto-pilot mode whenever we want. And it is a wonder how it is not a choice but an involuntary action. It is like a monitor turning into screensaver mode after a lot of idleness. The screensavers are memories which have something similar to the senses.
Like the smell of dough, somehow my brain hooked the two memories, the one first experienced and the next one when I drifted and the third time a few moments ago when I drifted away in memory of drifting away. I guess our brain links memories with our sense. The strongest of the senses that is active at that moment is embedded with the memory. The smell of dough that pierced into my nose and manipulated my thoughts. Now those three instances of memories are categorised under ‘Smell of dough’. I reached my apartment, but I didn’t want to go in.
If I chose to open the door my apartment, my mind would flood me with thousands of memories that are linked with the apartment. And nothing has changed in my apartment, the smell of older people and the smell of adult diapers. Nothing has ever changed in these 43 years, and I don’t expect it to change. When I was running in those streets sniffing the baking smells, I ran to buy medicines, for my great grandmother. I saw my grandmother and mother take care of her from she got diseased and soon became deceased.
There was a silence for a few months, and then my grandfather took the turn of falling on the bed. I guess someone should always be on the bed in this house. The smells of adult diapers, it surrounds me all my life. When I enter the house, that is the strongest of the senses that reaches my brain. The memories that flood into the mind and the movies that play in my brain’s screen are the ones that I don’t want to see. Enough of diapers! I thought a lot of times. But I’m happy that I don’t continue the trend of my family.
I don’t push the burden of cleaning my elderly butt to my child, because I have none. Unlike my family that took turns and shifted places with the next one, I’m afraid I will fall sick too. After my grandfather, it was my grandmother then my father and now my mother. They fell ill, they lived, for ages sucking the life out of the one serving them. It is a cycle what happened in our family. Our lives went on serving the elders, and there comes a time when we get the services in return. This cycle is what I want to break. I will never have children.
These thoughts rushed me as soon as I opened my door, and this is why I always pause before opening the door and making myself enter the diaper paradise. My sick mother turned her shaky head towards me from a distance. The ancestral bed she was lying on is as old as a fully grown pine tree. This movement of her head, it, in turn, triggers a lot of memories. It reminds me of all the others that turned their head to look at me every time when I enter. I love my mother! And that’s the chain that ties me to her. The bond that I can never severe. I chose to serve her rather than enjoying the life of my own; this is the bond of us.
I wish my mother were not sick. If not for that, deep down, I wanted her to die. Not because I hate her. I can never imagine my life without my mother. But what happiness does any of us have? What life have we seen other than elderly buttocks? I don’t compare myself with the life of others. The others have even sick lives. I see people thinking themselves to be independent yet somehow fall in the trap of love and have kids and grandkids. At my age, even they wipe poopy buttocks, except that it is of children’s. With the system that makes us spend our lives entirely in diversions, it is only ordinary to get lost in memories.
I sat beside my mother, and she holds my hand with a lot of difficulties. Her grip had begun to loosen for a couple of months. She smiled with her toothless mouth, and while her lips widen to her cheeks, her eyes puked out a drop of tear. “I’m sorry” she whispers, and this triggers the deepest of my fears. I couldn’t control the event; I don’t know why, but my eyes produced a lot of water. My vision became blurry, and the tears rolled down my cheeks. “You don’t need to be, Ma,” I said, kissing her forehead. I wiped my tears because I don’t want her to know that I hate my life. I do understand that this sickness only takes off her dignity.
But why did she say sorry? Did she feel guilty for making me serve her? Does she think that I didn’t marry because of her? I can never ask her these questions, and I don’t even want her to think about these things. I just want her to die peacefully. Only in death does this drifting away stops. She doesn’t have to be guilty of making me serve her. She doesn’t need to be a burden to anyone. But again, if she is dead? What am I going to do with my life? This thought struck me like a lightning bolt, and I had no answers. It is beyond me to imagine a life without the smell of adult diapers. It changes everything.
Maybe somewhere I don’t want her to die either. Perhaps that is the reason why I tender her ailments and keep her alive. I don’t want to live a life without her. I’m submitted to serve her; I need her to be there and keep me diverted from the nothingness of life. I need her alive. Or is this my irrational and moral mind speaking to me to kill my feelings of burden? Guh! I don’t know anymore. I don’t know if I wanter her alive or if I want her to die peacefully. But I think I am fine. With the earning, that is more than enough for this rag house; I can afford to serve my mother. So, I think it is okay, her being alive.
I shut the alarm that reminds of the medicine time, and I popped all the pills out of 9 different boxes. It takes 18 capsules per day for this elderly creature to be alive. I brought some water and called her name. She didn’t move; she does this. And she makes a fool out of me by playing dead. I get the doctors, and then she wakes up. Today I am not in the mood to play the fool. I shook her to wake her up. But she didn’t, and my heart started pounding. This sight of my motionless mother triggers specific memories of my father and grandparents. I stopped shaking her, and I guess I know what happened. I just stood beside her as motionless as she is.
It feels tight inside me. I am not emoting, and I am not thinking of anything else. It is just blank everywhere. I don’t want my mind to work now; don’t want it screen the memories of my mother, like some backstory. I don’t want to drift away now, and I want to be present at the moment. I want to look at this sight of the soul passing out from her body, and I want her to see the soul liberate both of us. The bond that made me stay in this world, it is severed now. Now there is nothing that ties me to this world. And no matter how much I hate to think of it, it gave me a sigh of relief. And this relief, It is a relief that made me think of all this.
I realised that it happened 21 years ago and now I’m sleeping in a cabin. The blizzard is so intense that cold breeze hacked into the gaps of this wooden cabin and entered into my room, and I can feel a sigh of relief. My 71-year-old body feels light and relieved. I understand that I cannot live any longer in this cold. My body has lost the capabilities to make me stand the cold anymore. I didn’t feel sick like my elders. That allowed me to travel thousands of miles by selling everything I had. I made sure that I keep travelling and have no redundancy in my life because I don’t want any repetitions that trigger my memories. I need new smells, new visuals, new sounds, new touches and new tastes.
But after 21 years, since my mother passed away, something took me back to all the memories that I evaded from all the time. And that is this relief that made me remember those things. There is something in my mind that feels happy and blissful. I craved to smell the dough one more time and I feel very lightweight; the cold breeze stopped bothering me. I can see something dark approaching me and erasing everything around me. And this darkness doesn’t have a taste, smell, visual, touch or sounds. It is the ultimate nothing that is filling me. And I felt happy for finally ending this loops of revisitation and go to a place where I get to have nothing. Soon it filled everything of me, and my eyelids felt heavy, I closed my eyes.