Who Are You?

Knowing you
Was like trying to hear
Sheltered whispers
Of an imagined home
I never knew

Suitcase in hand
Walking out
With your back to me –
Said you could take no more
Mom was too much,
And so you left
But did you know
You left us too?

You chased your ambitions
First Hongkong, then Shanghai.
And when your dreams were
Laid bare,
you took no refuge with us
it was mom’s fault;
because she was always angry with you

Again you left,
and built your Shangri-la;
a ‘Happy Home’ in Bangkok

The moments we had
were stolen in between the
forgotten years
of your absence

Each time you came back
We had lunch or dinner
at a nice restaurant.
We took walks.
No dramas, no disasters
We felt safe – within those parameters.
Of your carefully ordered world.

You taught us
Golf, Chess, Bridge, Tennis & Swimming
Those were your favorites Dad.

Did you know mine?

From the time I was eleven
Till the year I turned 35
We lived in separate worlds,

But perhaps we always did.

How and why did things fall apart?
You tried to recount this
The last month we had together.

I broke-down when
I went abroad;
Depression years
Then success in academia
Graduated with my Masters, but
did not listen to you
chose to pursue music
and never made it.
I let you down; I was a failure.

Those were not your words
I am telling you what I heard
with my heart
When I tried tearfully to tell you
About the hurt I had carried
for decades of never
feeling truly acknowledged
for who I was

And you told me to collect myself
and come back to you
when I could ‘calm down’

You broke my heart
Into smithereens
Yet I still believed in the myth
of how kind and loving you were

Struggled to believe it
Till the very end – even till today.

Your stories and recollections
were a broken record
playing the hackneyed tunes
of memory and waste

The rhetoric of your failed marriage
And our broken family

But don’t blame mom,
you’d say
You played a part too –
Your major flaw
of ‘being too nice’
and unfortunately failing
at your business abroad

You disappointed mom
who felt the vacuum of your absence;
more than that,
when you lost your career
after decades of financial stability,
she felt so ashamed, and her anger burned hotter
you could no longer provide her with the
lifestyle she was accustomed to,

This little spiel
was aways followed by
exhortations to ‘be kind to mom’

No wonder
I felt crippled

Yet I danced woodenly to your tune
A marionette for a puppet-master
Willing my fibrous heart
To embrace your reasoning
Your knowledge;
Your values

Each tendon aching, muscle protesting
Through my battered nights
of sleeplessness
My troubled gut,
My restless mind
My riddled back

I got used to blaming myself

And kept going, robot-like
Running on your algorithm
for purpose, fulfillment and peace
But failing.

Quietly, like a filial daughter

No wonder
My wings were clipped

I could never soar
away, freely, on
The strength
of my convictions
not when there was
A stone in my shoe
everywhere I walked

Something was obviously
wrong with me, I thought
Never suspecting
Your programming was bugged

Everything was wrong in my life
Seeing mom in all of her fury
Guzzling down the cup of strife
was a constant reminder

But you, you symbolized order
and a measured life
In a world of chaos and excess

How could I begin to even suspect?
The things you abandoned yourself to
Behind closed doors?

Why should I have felt betrayed?
By your relationship with
Your maid; you had already divorced mom

Did it matter that she was only
4 years older than me,
that you kept her both as a maid
and bedmate
and that you had lied to me; boldfaced
for a decade?

The few people in my life
privy to this
called it
‘finding one’s happiness’
‘to each his own’
‘It is his life.’
‘encouraged’ me to
‘live and let live’

I was supposed to
white-wash this sordid affair
in the tidy affectations of
and respect for
your choices.

When you realized
Your days were numbered –
The last straw you grasped at
Was a sham – half-baked quackery
“natural healing”

Far from Bangkok,
You lay on the
Cold bathroom floor

Curled up, like a fetus – naked
waiting for the nurse to
administer a coffee enema
Because your system needed

As the cancer grew
pushing into your
spine and stomach
You threw up all food
and refused to eat

You were wracked with pain
Yet refused painkillers
On the blind hope that
If you only put all of your faith
In this one ‘natural’ method
It would stop the cancer

Why did I go along?

Perhaps this was
My way of claiming
Just a bit more time with you
To stop you from
Telling me to go home

To hammer away at those walls
You had built around your high castle
Even as the sun’s
last rays stretched out
across the land and
Started to shrink into the horizon

Maybe this is my way
of remembering
The person
Who knew without
words that
I would let go of
The shiny bauble in my hand
Just to see it
Fall – from the 10th story

To reacquaint myself
with the father
who had encouraged the
writer in his daughter

To enjoy
Even in the midst
of a world of pain

To savor one last time
The way those tunes
You had always loved
would light up your eyes
even in the enveloping
darkness of death

Years later, I still can’t let go
of how you left

I had gotten used to it;
Your comings and goings
were like the monsoon seasons
leaving behind a suffocating heat
in its cool wake

But each time you’d leave
Seemed more inevitable than the last
3 years ago, you left me for good.

The pain still hasn’t landed completely
And I am still searching
For the shards of you
I have buried so deep
Into my spirit
So that I can pull them out
And start to heal

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