Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The delicious horror of the daily crime fix

For someone who is not at all into TV, even to know what show airs on what channel, at what time, is some sort of an unheard of event. The Hindi and Bangla channels are still a completely unseen land to me, and I continue to have absolutely no clue whatsoever of the goings on, on those planets. Nor do I wish to know. However, for the past year or so, I do find myself getting the occasional “crime fix” as a dear friend puts it.

So what is this crime fix then? Well, a large number of intelligent people – especially in India – seem to have become regular viewers, even addicts, of the regular crime shows on the English language satellite channels. And, as a result, the prime time slots on most of the channels are given over to these programs. This, in turn, means that I manage to catch at least an hour of these programs – on most days.

For me, of course, it is simply a matter of convenience. Mornings are news news news till about 9 or 9.30am. 9.30 to about 11.30am is usually spent in things like household chores, work related filing, and such. 11.30 I leave to get the little one from her school, and the rest of the day is mad. Any TV that is watched between work, food, games, homework, mum and baby projects, and more, is always of the animated variety. Her day winds up by about 7.30 pm, and it is only then that any question arises of anyone else watching TV.

One could, I suppose, watch some trashy saas bahu serial during the day, with the child sitting there open jawed and absorbing all the nastiness and tear jerking, like many mothers do. But I cannot tolerate that crap, nor can I imagine exposing my child to  regular doses of such consistently unethical, nasty, backstabbing, evil behavior, not to mention the horrible gender and community stereotypes. So, cartoons it is. And there are restrictions there as well. No child of mine is ever going to sit and watch shinchan, and monkey knows that in this house, with this mum, “no” means no. many others are on the off limits list, or on the occasionally only list. I could also watch any of the violent or gory crime series or movies
So, essentially, it is after about 8 pm that the adults finally get down to any kind of TV viewing, and that’s just fine with us. Between 8 and 9 is when the joint production of dinner is usually created, and we generally pay scant attention to the idiot box, because we have the whole day to catch up on with each other. So, it is during dinner, and in that narrow time slot of 9 to 10 pm, that we get down to some semi serious television intake, and…guess what!... it coincides with a crime show! Not a “real crime reenactment” kind of bullshit, mind you, but a thriller type show with the storyline based on crime solving activities.

Come to think of it, most of the shows I have even remotely liked in the past few years have been of this type. From CSI and NCIS to Criminal Minds, The Mentalist, White Collar, etc, most of them fit into the crime thriller genre. And no, this fascination does not carry over to the really badly made, over explained, “treat the viewer as if she is an idiot” kind of Hindi series like CID. The shows I like are the English ones, and no, its not entirely because of my English type-ness. Sure I think in English and am most comfortable in English, but no one can deny that these programs are much better made than any Hindi one can ever hope to be. They are tighter, sharper, more succinct. The science is much more current, and they don’t spend minutes at a time trying to explain every single detail of it to you. They assume that you have the brains to figure a few things out without having them spelled out for you.

Although it’s not regular, or consistent, we have kind of fallen into the habit of the 9 pm crime show and begun to call it our nightly crime fix. Last week, for one reason or another, we missed quite a few of them, and I found myself feeling vaguely uncomfortable, even contemplating catching the rerun the next day. I didn’t, of course, but it made me think about what it was about the crime fix that had me craving for it. Of course there is the morbid curiosity that is such a human trait, the thing that makes people slow down and try to get a glimpse of an accident (although I cant ever imagine doing that). Then there is the delicious fear of watching a horror film in the safety of one’s home (which I, as a horror addict, am so very familiar with). But, to me at least, it seemed to be a bit more than just that.

There seems to be an element of the talisman in the whole phenomenon. Watching the worst of the worst happen to someone else, someone imaginary, seems to somehow subconsciously convince one that it cannot happen to “me”. Its like some kind of magical catharsis that not only eases and purges those feelings of horror and pathos, but also protects the watcher against the same happening to them. That’s the only way I can explain the addiction, with a healthy sprinkling of the normal human negative traits thrown in, the morbidity, the delight in gore and pain, and yes – the subconscious reveling in the triumph of good over evil (after all the bad guys are always caught) which fits nicely with the way we imagine the world is, or should be. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Strange are the times

The last year and a half or so have been a strange kind of time. Beginning with a really happy peak, when I was so thrilled with developments in my personal life that I could almost believe I was floating, through the abyss of great personal loss and physical pain, to this place I am at now… with so much gone for good, so much lost in the personal, while so much great stuff is beginning to happen in the professional sphere; it’s more than I can do to wrap my head around everything that has happened, and continues to happen. Thinking about it, in a broken-record, destructive-cyclic, vicious circle kind of way doesn’t seem to be doing anything other than set me on the path to being clinically insane, and while books and work and life provide some much needed breaks from my own head in the daytime, nothing seems to prevent my nightly dreams from being one long horror movie fest.  

If I could ever write down my dreams (or is it nightmares?) accurately, if I was a good enough, powerful enough writer to be able to catch the eerie, macabre, blood freezing stuff my brain throws at me every single night, I would make a fortune as a writer of horror movie scripts. Trouble is, I am not. I am not a good enough artist to capture even the tiniest essence of what I live through in my dreams. Neither am I able, nor willing, to make such an attempt. That would mean having to consciously revisit all those things, feelings, fears, depressions, that I am so firmly, and mostly successfully, pushing so far into the background, that I am so resolutely ignoring, that I am so obstinately keeping from ever floating to the forefront of my mind. So… thanks a lot but no thanks. Given the way my head is, and has been for the last 20 odd months, I think I will have to give up trying to be the next Roald Dahl or Stephen King.  

One of the theories about why we have nightmares says that they are a tool our mind uses to work through our greatest fears and traumas. It replays your biggest phobias, the worst times of your life, the craziest suppressed pain you have held on to, and it does so again and again and again, apparently until the event, incident, or anticipation no longer holds any trauma for you, until you stop fearing it. If that’s the case, I am not sure my mind has quite managed to get it right yet. Considering that I am not much prone to nightmares even at the worst times in my life, and yes there have been times I’ve sauntered through hell, it is strange that I should suddenly find myself having them almost daily, and for this long. It’s been bad, yes, but not as unmitigatedly awful as some other patches I have lived through. So why all the technicolour spookiness of somnolence, all of a sudden? I don’t really know. Given that I am much older, and presumably a lot more mature, since the last stint of awfulness. And, as I think about it, there’s a lot more of the good stuff in my life now – to offset the bad – than I had at some of the worst times.

Maybe it’s a cumulative thing. Stuff has been presumably piling on for a while now, directly for some 20 months or so, building on a foundation of some pretty dark stuff from years and years ago, and maybe the combination was enough to set the whole edifice shaking. After all, therapy or no therapy, maturity or no maturity, medication or no medication, the basic truth is that some stuff just never goes away. It just gets a little bit easier to handle it on a day to day basis, and to continue functioning as a member of society or a “normal” human being or whatever, but the darkness, the pain, the monsters, it never, never completely disappears. And sometimes all it takes is a word, a smell, a sound, a tiny little incident to bring it all rushing back. Maybe that’s what’s going on here.

Or maybe, as some people tend to think, including my man sometimes, its just imagination. If I hear “apne aap ko dukhi mat samjho to sab theek ho jayega” (stop thinking of yourself as unhappy and it will be fine) one more time, I am liable to break something. The closest people in my life, at least, should know that the last thing I am is obsessed with pain. I don’t imagine myself unhappy, even when I actually might be. I’ve been known to party hard, laugh out loud, and enjoy every small happiness in my life even at my worst times. In the last 12 years or so, I have also worked hard at, and become good at, working things out in a steady and mature way, for myself as well as for others. And I am trying to be that person now as well. Neither friends for family can claim to have seen a long face in months, or tears, and although dad did notice the dark circles, that’s easily shrugged off as something physical, or ignored altogether.

So what would make someone imagine I am wallowing in self pity I have no idea. But it seems to be the popular opinion in certain circles, including the recently disowned relatives. Now these very disowned people, at least one of them, is one of the major contributors to the angst in the first place. After all, when you have loved someone like a sibling, like a best friend, for the best part of your life, sudden unexplainable coldness, sarcasm, thinly veiled insults, and sniping on public forums tends to be disturbing and hurtful. Having spent years on getting my self esteem back to a healthy state, and yes, as some people would say, being egotistical (my ego is my shield, my badge), I made the decision to cut them out of my life, permanently. I’ve done this before, since I prefer the pain (and yes it does hurt) of a clean cut to the daily stress and hurt of being ill-treated by the people I love. This cutting out has, unfortunately, dragged a little longer and taken a bit more time than I would ideally have liked, because certain events were impending which everyone wanted to go off without any unpleasantness. And this protracted tearing of the bond has created more pain, in addition to the sense of betrayal and the anger and the hurt of having someone so close to you turn on you so comprehensively.  

That’s been going on for a couple of years now. The drawing back, the turning bitter and acidic, the preferring jibes to straight talk. What made is worse was that with the recent shrinking of the friend circle, this person had become one of my mainstays in terms of socializing, especially as he was intelligent. And yes, the shrunk social circle probably has something to do with the screwed up mind too. For someone who is used to having up to 20 people around all the time, and regularly having parties with two dozen people at least, to be down to two couples for Christmas or new years’ can be a huge change. There are weeks, even months now that I don’t go out other than to bring baby from school or to go visit my mother when she is in town. When my brother was here recently, we went to get coffee, and I suddenly realized that that was the first time I had done that in over a year! And this is me! Who not so long ago went to get coffee and conversation EVERY SINGLE day!

What this essentially means is that I also have a famine in the conversation department. I miss spending hours just talking with people of similar or superior intellect. I miss the all nighters or late nighters with the mad bunch, or with bhai. Lately I don’t seem to even have meaningful conversation with anyone other than family for weeks on end! And, and this was quite a thorn, even when bhai was here this trip, we didn’t manage to get a single one of those in, for one reason or another. Come to think of it, we barely managed a single conversation! Well, that’s not helping the overall feeling of unease, malaise. After all, this man is my best friend in the world, and I saw him after a gap of three and a half years, and I didn’t get to have a single meaningful conversation. Almost beginning to forget what those feel like, and they way they get my brain fizzing. This endless domesticity, something I have never been particularly great at, this ROUTINE (dreaded word), this constant being of mother, partner, daughter, to the exclusion of all else is not helping whatever ails me.

Add to that the constant pushing and prodding I have had to do on the matter of adoption. Considering this is something that was a given, something I have been wanting to do for at least 15 yrs, something that I was emotionally promised (at a moment of great pain and loss) would happen by last December, it is amazing how mush pushing I was having to do over the last six years. I HATE poking, I HATE nagging, and I HATE having to maneuver. And I have had to do all of those, with increasing frustration, hurt and anger, as nothing, but nothing got done. And when we finally managed to even find the time to walk into an agency, we were made to feel like criminals. Our crime? We want to adopt even though we have a biological child! Hold on! Isn’t that a GOOD thing? Don’t we want more and more people to choose adoption as the way to have kids? And being able to and choosing not to is the real choice right? Not being able to and choosing to adopt is good, but its also desperation. Right? Apparently not in India. I was practically told flat out that my chances of actually getting g a kid are nil. Seems there is a chronic shortage of kids for adoption in the country, never mind the hundreds of thousands languishing in badly run, unhealthy, and terrible orphanages. So, if and when a child does become available, they will – of course – give preference to childless couples. In short, the adoption counselor, in not so many words, basically told us to go home and try to make a baby instead of trying to adopt one.

That’s presumably the end of that. And given the traumas I have been through last June, I am not likely to be trying to Produce another offspring. Also, with everything that’s going on in the professional sphere, I won’t have time to, even if I had any wish to. So, effectively, that’s the end of any chance of my ever having a second, let alone a third, child. While this may not seem like a big deal to most people these days, who choose to be unencumbered with children or to have just the one, to me it is an untenable loss. Especially since another loss is still fresh enough, and will always be fresh enough, to bring unbidden tears to my eyes every time something triggers a memory or an emotion. It’s like a solid fist of pain in the gut and the throat, all the time. And the loneliness I see in my daughter, the complete lack of a social life that her generation faces, and the thought that she will never know the closeness that bhai and I share, that can be got only with siblings, makes me sadder.

Strangely, this is also a time of unprecedented things in the work sphere. The business looks on the verge of exploding in size, which means that already things are moving fast and will soon move much faster. I might soon have to make a full time commitment to an office bound life. With big things in the offing professionally, I am going to have even less time for the things that make me feel alive. With the way the head feels right now, and with how things are going with the dreams, I have no idea how I will handle less personal time and more sensory and cerebral deprivation. There is no hope of working through what’s already going on in the head, and the near future promises fewer opportunities and much less time for it. So, I guess the demons will have to go back into the closet, the maelstrom will have to continue to be ignored, and the nightmares will continue… ah well!