90 First Dates with Depression

Imagine the most critical person you know, someone you absolutely hate having a conversation with. Someone who has precisely nothing nice to say, ever. Even if you’re the nicest person in the world, this person would find some flaw in that nicety and complain and whine about it to you, every time he saw you. I’m sure you have someone like that, maybe as a friend, a relative, a boss, a close person.

Now, imagine living with this person, every single second of the day. Imagine the person seeing you walk, seeing you talk, and seeing you smile, laugh, work, shower, sleep, eat and drink. Imagine this person staring, glaring and laughing at you for everything you do, I mean, everything. Imagine this person tell you, no, remind you every minute that you’re worthless, that you mean nothing, that you have been nothing but a burden, that you can’t provide happiness even to a single soul, that everybody in this world hates you. Imagine being held up in a white room, with 4 white walls and no door and stuck with this person. Imagine this person laughing viciously, batting away every speck of goodness and positivity you hold on to, as you battle it. Imagine this person bluff it away as a bauble every time you use a personal victory as a defensive reason to dispute the thought. Imagine the person tell you that everything you have EVER believed in, about yourself, has been a lie. And in your attempts to prove that person wrong, you try to do everything you can. You fight, you argue, you tell yourself that this person is wrong. You tell it with such veneration, with any little energy you are left with, but still, fail. And God Forbid, you try feeling or doing something that gives you SOME victory over this person, you end up in a feedback loop drawn directly from HELL’s worthless world, which tells you what a loser you are for even trying so hard and being pretentious.

Imagine giving in to the thought that maybe, it’s all a lie you lived in and this world of self-destruction that you live in, now, is the truth that hid from you all this while. It becomes easier by the minute to believe the lie to be the truth and the actual reality to be a façade. You never realize, how your truth can actually lie to pull you into an abyss of endless gooey quicksand.

Imagine giving up all trials and then saying, you know what let me silence it with Music, Games, Food or anything else. You feed your self-directed anger with a binge. You end up feeling even more miserable because you ended up in the loop of doing something loser-ly again.

Imagine, YOU are the voice that manipulates, humiliates, second-judges and drives a maniacal, every second. Imagine YOU, perhaps even an exact clone of YOU, being a DEMON, imagine fighting YOU. Imagine YOU convincing YOU that you’re worthless, day after day.

Sounds exhausting?

Well, that’s my depression. And I go through this every hour, every day. At the trigger of positive words, the demon in me wakes up, only to remind me how worthless I am. I battle as long as I can and then give up. That’s my depression, a feeling I hide with a face filled with irony, sarcasm and meaningless smile. Sometimes I hope, the fight ends in death. And then I look at faces that aren’t mine, to find a reason to just NOT implicate death in myself. And so I fight a lot more.

People tell me – ‘Oh you have so many reasons to be happy. Count your blessings.’ They expect me to be happy because my life is in order. They think it’s just that easy, to tell the demon in my head that my life is in order, just once and the demon would just ‘Poof! Vanish.’ How I wish I could tell them that the demon is not a guest at my brain, who would come once and leave once. The demon has taken his permanent seat sealed in stone, right at the centre of my brain. How I wish I could tell them of the sword fights and bloodbaths I have and see with the demon every day, only to find it wins every time. How I wish I could tell them, that by telling me this, you’re making me feel that I am a weaker, more loser of a person for not winning over the giant demon in my head. How I wish I could tell them that each compliment you give me, makes the black canvas a little whiter. If at all I needed anything from the world, it was that acceptance, encouragement and freedom. Not a trivialization of my state, not a solution to MY demon, not a sermon on alternative ways.

If I could tell the world, it would be that:

  1. Compliment more often. For you it is a set of words which don’t affect you much; but for the one receiving them, they may make a day worth living.
  2. Listen more. Empathize more. All one needs sometimes is someone to just LISTEN to them.
  3. Make someone smile, make someone laugh, if it’s possible. It may be a small deed for you; for them, it may be a mountain of a weapon.
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Insomniac

Do you know what it feels like to have absolutely nothing? Not wealth, not education, not peace, no anything? Of course, you don’t. You do not know how it feels to just stare at the sky and watch the day die and the next one start. I know. And I can’t stay awake for much more to go by.

My species went extinct aeons ago. I think it was the time when the world was on a rave search for alternative fuel. In the attempt to make use of the best thing they could find, they accidentally so, eradicated my entire species. Not that we were a lot in the world, but we sure did consume a part of the world. And for the one unfortunate day that I acted against my convention, against my norm, I woke up to find my world gone. I am an insomniac. An insomniac, in a world that powers itself on sleep. I meant ‘sleep’, quite literally.

Our cells are furnished with food, every day and in order to cut the costs on that, they kill us if we don’t recover in 24 months. The cells beside me once had people. The noises amused me. I would try and decipher what they did, based on the muffled sound they’d made. But soon enough, my one source of entertainment was gone. They’d be drugged or brainwashed and eventually released. I recall Jonathan say that the death rate of my friends in such kind is higher than 95%. Jonathan is my doctor. He is a whimsical, wrinkled, witty old man who comes to visit me each day. He talks to me about life in general and particular for exactly 23 minutes, notes it down on a little pad and leaves promptly. Ultimately, each man provides his own power, even a doctor. The nurses sleep during the day and so, they come for me in the evenings.

With the wholesome conspiracy of population overgrowth, there was an immense demand for sleep suppliers. Men with power are men with wealth. Some got greedy and outsource their power. Sometimes I turn on the TV to watch drowsy news reporters give a detail of how the world goes by under of Mr Laggard, the supreme leader, the wealthiest man on the planet. He is known to sleep 18 hours a day and take power naps for 15 minutes every hour in the next 6. No wonder, the wealthiest, I’d say. Maybe he even has a few of those grid farms, Jonathan showed me once.

A man wasn’t meant to sleep under a burning sky but the world now does. Some sleep in the evenings, slowcoaches sleep into the mornings, but most are like the families far below. The families were offered cash or even the chance to sleep off a few starry nights. And in return, their loved ones would have to be left blissful in their comas and be taken to the grid farms.

People like me are one in a country. I was conscious. I was a drain on the grid. A constant, waking drain. They’d show me my debts. The doctors in their white coats nod along with each expense, explaining what it would be like if I don’t change. If I don’t sleep. And so we’re left inside a cell that plays video clips of kaleidoscopes on all sides. On Sundays, they allow us the privilege of choosing an animal. They let the animal jump over fences, all day, on the screen. I wouldn’t call it a torment. I would call it exactly what it is. A prison.

Today was different. When I finished my sixth cup, I realized the dramatic influence the day was going to have on me. I held an unusual sense of calm. I climbed to the top of the tower. The lock on my cell broke long before the recent shortage. They fixed it, once, twice, then they gave up and now there’s just a breeze block leaning beside it to keep it propped open. The ledge wasn’t high. Just a low concrete wall and a drop to the runway below. I could never sleep when I wanted to. And now, with the prospect of an uninterrupted sleep ahead of me, I wanted only to stay awake. I knew that if I slept today, I would wake up a decade later, with the market prices permitting, and be right back to where I was.

I stepped onto the ledge. My sparsely tied gown caught the cool of the morning mist. Up there, I can see the entire city. The lights are bright in that pre-dawn darkness. All the sleepers, all the happy families living on the grid. All of these people, they’d wake up in a few hours. Go on with their lives. And then sleep once more only to rise and repeat. To supply and survive. But not me. I took the one step that I needed to and slept a free man.

Maybe

Maybe.

Maybe, I should write something.

A loud grin and an uncomfortable yes in the journey of a yawn that followed a sigh.

Maybe.

I start.

My fingers wobble at the keypad, unbeknownst of their journey. How are they still typing?

Why and to achieve what?

There is no idea in mind, there is no thought pondering;

if there is at all anything, it is silence. An empty silence.

What is it called when you have so much to say but it suddenly feels like you’re not even literate anymore?

Is there a word for it?

Maybe there is.

Maybe.

I don’t know;

I am hardly literate this moment.

Is there a point for this painstaking wormhole of struggle and effort?

Beneath this eternal and modest ideology of achieving a gallant motto,

Is there a selfish benefit that will eliminate my fear of oblivion?

Why does the path to everything lucrative look like a quagmire to my eyes that,

Even if microscopically,

Crave for them?

What is this need for me to be all so,

Logically,

Philosophically,

Personally,

Politically

Be and do the GOOD?

Is there a good?

Is there a right?

Is that not all but a defined system of invalid lies now?

A yesteryear human coinage for their own survival?

To the rippling effect of all these thoughts, is there a purpose?

For the betterment of this perplexed human’s sanity and peace, is there at all a trail?

Do I even seek an answer for all these questions?

Will I be prepared to face the answers?

Will I then look at the reasoning system and turn plain white and pale?

Maybe.

Maybe.

Hopeful Monotones

The first and last time I played hide and seek was with Sundar. I remember the sound of his childlike voice recalling the numbers we had just learned. That remains to be the most non-corrupted sound that I have heard ever since. Further, from the day, Every sound wave that hits my ear was just a confluence of distorted voices. One of them, however, chose to never leave. Never stop. Never die. I find it strange that the doctors now call it tinnitus. Somehow very unsurprisingly rhymes with sinister, it’s actual nature. Back in the time, it had no name. It had no cure, no existence. Except for in my ear. It robbed me of so many experiences. My mother once told me that it’s our neighbour caused me to have this. That her eyes weren’t as well wishing, I wondered then if she was confused on basic human anatomy. My father took me to multiple doctors to see if the mask of the demon could be surgically removed. He gave up after his 15th attempt.

When I hear music, I have convinced myself to believe that there is a really bad guitarist that maxed out on his notes on all the songs in the universe. I always imagined that there was a hidden robot in the house that was broken. I always wondered why nobody fixed it or much rather threw it out of the house. When I moved out of my home and the ringing followed me, I considered therapy, maybe I’m just imagining it now because I’m homesick.

But when the pleasurable times of my life were maligned, when the first cry of my newborn was a beep. I knew it wasn’t me. I knew it wasn’t the ill eyed neighbours. It wasn’t anything I ever thought or made to think. As I sit today in this doctors office, I have hope. A word I had lost the meaning to when I lost Sundar. 


3 days later.

“Mr Raman, can you hear me” I heard. It didn’t seem right. I must be dreaming, after all I was asleep for 3 days. I wanted to live in the dream, bask in the surrealism of a noiseless conversation. When I opened my eyes, the white of the ceiling felt pure.

I waited for the ring. The beep, the monotone had to come back. I looked, waited for the longest time of my life. I waited intently.

I grew up with it, I loved with it, I lived with it. I cursed it, hated it, wanted it to even die. But now that it’s gone, I missed that sound. I forgot how to be human without it.

When I wanted this surgery, I didn’t know what I was giving up. I got up, I looked around, hopeless, senseless and frantic. I hoped there was a piece of my body that was still around for me to put it back and get that sound. 

I wept, the sound of my tears hit me like the waves after a tsunami, the sound of calm after a storm. It was incomprehensible, incomplete. Yet it felt beautiful. I woke up the next morning in a soaked pillow. 

“How are you feeling now?”, she said. The melody in her voice felt like all the music I never could listen. My son, cradling in her arms looked at me, curiously. There was a peculiar sound. A sweet dreamy noise, a subtle tone of happiness, the undertone of laughter. My son chuckled. My life was now complete.

That night, I cried again. For I knew what silence meant as I slept in it. 


Living under the Earth

It has been quite a while since I have penned something. Something about myself, something for myself. Something that isn’t a pretence of having people say that I do a good job. Something that just simply expresses the mess in my head.

It has been quite a while since I felt calm and peaceful. There is chaos in every thought that relentlessly bugs my mind. Chaos in my dreams that wakes me up umpteen times in my sleep. Chaos in my restlessness to be a relevant speckle of dust in this hailstorm.

I’m not very expressive, not very open and not very mindful. I am clumsy, stuttering, and unreasonably polite. I am the enemy to my inner self-esteem that screams for a chance of relevance. I am the obstacle that stands in front of me every time I walk up to a crowd claiming something that is proudly mine. I am the rock that hits me on my head – reiterating my uselessness, under-sizing my true value at every chance of proving myself, proclaiming my worth to the world.

I say sorry, much before I can say thank you. I feel I am useless, much before I can be valued. I undermine my world of worth, much before I can receive a compliment. And so I intimidate. I intimidate myself from what I can be. I intimidate the world before they can see what I actually am.

I sometimes wonder if there are 2 people inside of me. One that’s earnest, honestly screaming for the spotlight, the relevance in this sun and proper identification. And the other that vehemently denies any order of light to seep through, perpetually hiding in the shadows. One that wants to show away from my beauty for that’s what nature declared me to be and the other reluctantly making me crass and ungroomed for the fear of being identified. One that says I am amazing and so wants to preach to the world and the other that says I am still a nothingness in this large universe, and so prefers for me to hide within the darkest of shadows.

It is not that I don’t like people. I love people. I love the variety, every sort of people there is in the world. I, however, am afraid. Afraid of judgement, afraid of abandonment, afraid of opening the door, afraid of marketing my true worth, afraid of speaking what I want to. I am petrified. Petrified of criticism, petrified of being called a nothing, petrified that my denial – even if valid – might pull me harder into the earth.

They say I don’t see what I am, I don’t understand my worth too well. They say I am wonderful, beautiful and it’s just a shame that I don’t see it at all. I say I do; I do see all the fascinating people I am inside of me. I am proud of the person I am. I am just not as strong and brave to fight myself putting me down. They say I am being too hard on myself, being too self-destructive. In my head I am thinking, isn’t that better than the embarrassment of being called a nothing when I hesitantly come out saying that I am a notable something. Why are you so pessimistic? they say. I am not, I deny. I deny because I do what I do for I know it’ll be good. I say what I say for I know it would work. I am anything but pessimistic. It is not pessimism that I deny me my right of speech. It’s fear. The fear of being under-valued. The fear of that teeny tiny possibility residing on the right side of the decimal coming true.

I live in the shadows, though I want to be the focus of the sunlight. For the warmth of the sun comes for a price and I am too afraid to even afford it.

 

Deciduous Falls

Colours fascinated me. Always. It was a fascination that I had held ever since my birth. My parents tried to engage me with sounds for a long time until they realised that my heart lay in visuals. There was an added intrigue with everything in this world that was colourful.

That remains the reason for my choice. My choice of a solemn getaway every morning. In the age where the conscience of health takes over an early morning sunrise, I choose to gaze. Gaze at this beast of a tree dripping a different colour every morning. Beyond startling shrieks, calls of panic and genuine concern, I break rules day after day. I flee from home every morning, just to gawk at this tree.

My mother once caught me in my act, when I was 10 years old. She thought I had been possessed. Of course, she did. After all, I was spending my first one hour of the day ogling at the famous “Indian Ghost Tree”. She had taken me to the ‘Sadhu Baba’ at the end of our town. There was an occasional mention of the broomstick and some odd monochromatic powders flying in the air. A flamboyant circus. Saffron seemed to be the colour of the place. Browns and whites blinked hesitantly. I was taken aback by the sacred setting that limited itself to scary people. What it withheld was an infinite love for colours. It was a well-planned trip for all the drama it entailed.

After the entire solicitation act, I had changed no way and learned nothing. What could a 10-year-old gain from a spiritual healing session for the possessed? My mother, however, was a lot more relaxed in the coming few weeks. Gradually, my caution and planning had developed in proportion to her belief in the Baba.

The tree had nothing to offer to me and neither did I. It wasn’t a tree of great fruitfulness. It was, in fact, scary for all the reasons possible. The bark was white, a stark snow-white that almost glowed as a beacon in the middle of the night. Its magnificent curves made it the warehouse of haunted stories. The leaves shed every year in a cyclic process. At first, they grew in small green numbers, struggling competition. As they approached the colder side of the sun, they turned yellow. A compassionate soft end tamed their texture. They grew nimble, humble and compassionate and in their own textures; they held a unique composure. There was no longer in a hurry, no more in a race. They slowly swayed with the wind. Once they had felt the satiable freeze, they chose to retire in their brown wide selves. A colour of acceptance. There was a smile plastered with every shedding leaf. They started one at a time and then joined everyone in their league. It was a unity that could never be found in the growing age.

As I grew up with the tree, I fell more and more in love with its existence. I realised that the stare-session we locked in each morning taught me a lot more than I had imagined. There was no reason for competition. There was no room for judgement or rush. There was no joy beyond growing up with the tree. I learnt a new thing each day, a new lesson for each leaf. There was yet one lesson I hadn’t learnt. A lesson to live without the tree. In the prime of my life, I needed this tree more than I knew it. Yet, there was only a little that a tree could do. How I wished that portability was an option for trees.

One fateful day, I sat under the tree and glared straight at the bark. I touched every inch of its bark in my reach and spoke slowly.

“I’m a creep that gawked at you every single morning for the past 20 years, tirelessly. You may not know who I am. And never once did you question me. You stood there patiently understanding my every blink – every morning. You stood tall when I cried without fear. You may not understand what you mean to me. I haven’t spoken in ages. What’s the purpose of voice for a deaf guy to the world that bases its conversations on judgement? But you, you’re an entity beyond the frivolities of judgement. There hasn’t been a word I uttered with meaning over the past decade. But I say this to you. And I say it truthfully. I will miss you.”

I hugged the tree in the cold winter. The wilderness stung me, as the wind blew hard across my thin clothing. Yet there was a slight sense of warmth that crept up my shoulders.


Location: Hyderabad

Dear Tree,

Monochrome is a way of life for the people in this city. The more colour you hold, the more value you lose. Black and white are all they have, yet they all live in the grey. I still wake up each morning in anticipation of a new colour on the leaf. Alas, there aren’t any trees on these concrete grey walls that have been a template made for monotonous lives. As I walk around the streets which huff and puff of masqueraded living, I think of you. Maybe I will adapt to this. Maybe I will learn the colours that lack lustre. Or maybe, they would see in me, a rainbow of life. Someday. One day.

The Time Machine

I have been in this old dusty shelf for about a while. Ever since the corporate lifestyles have taken over every industry, my life in this place has been far more neglected. The business is just plain awful. Each morning, as the sun shines on my eyes, I am full of hope that a little girl with a bundle of dreams picks me up. I am full of hope that she would fall in love with me, from the moment she lays her eyes on me. I dust myself off as the bell rings on the door and surface my illuminating smile. All my relentless efforts see no luck. Once in a while, Mrs Lippman would brush my edges to make me shine brighter.
She has seen me grow and age with time. Mrs Lippman got me in my first edition. Back then, I was popular and demanded. Somehow over time, classics like me have taken the back seat. People started reading more of contemporary reality. A classic was too complex for their comprehension. I wondered, sometimes, if, through my age, I was serving a purpose. I was living the life a lone reed.
One certain day, a young blonde woman walked through the aisles with inquisitive eyes. I glared at her with a poignant smile.
“Ah! This book!” she said. I have never known a happiness better than this moment, in my life. The next few hours moved very quickly for me. First, I was left hanging in a brown paper bag. Then I was smothered in many folds of cloth. Hours later, I was put between the people of my kind. The blonde woman, my owner, smiled at me as she placed me in the sparkly white shelf. Initial conversations with a certain Mr. Fitzgerald and a well-dressed Mr. Shakespeare were difficult. They spoke in a language I couldn’t understand quite easily. But they had read me inside out and welcomed me to the family. They didn’t seem very happy at the sight of my owner. She was a hoarder, they said. Mr. Shakespeare hadn’t been touched or looked at since the last 5 months. I suddenly felt an urgency and an anxiety to leave the space. I would voluntarily drop from my queue, just to grab her attention. She would just bump her foot against me and put me back. I had now come to a life, much more pathetic than the one on Mrs. Lippman’s shop. At least, she held a genuine love and concern for me.
About a year later, a visitor of my owner picked me up from the shelf. She wiggled and jiggled through my pages. I felt alive, after a long time. Someone had actually taken the effort of surveying my preface. I wished that she, the visitor, would take me home. I smiled and glared again. Thankfully, the hoarder obliged my request. This time, there was no delay in the reading. There was no smothering of papers or clothes. There was only the warm touch of an avid reader’s fingers. And the soothing and loving look from her eyes. I transformed into the best form I was designed to be.
From one world to another, from one character to the next, from one twist to another, I had lived it all. My journey from the void to a black and white experience of life was phenomenal. I had created a world, I never knew existed within me. I had felt every emotion written for me. There were tears, shivers and an awful bunch of whims and fancies. My writer has been generous with humor and humanity. It was an experience meant for every book, yet an experience only few could receive.
Over my life, I had wasted the first half sulking and smirking in the old shelf of Mrs. Lippman and the blonde young lady. In the smack dab blue of hell, my reader have brought me to the world of my own.
A world had opened for her, each time I started. A world had spaced out for each time my words were felt. A world had begun for the both of us, with no boundaries of time.
“WHY?” she’d cry each time she read me.
“WHY?” I would scream, each time she closed me.
A world had shut down, each time I was read. A world I had created for her. A world that was unknown to me, before. A world that my writer inked my body with. A world, I knew was mine.


Wells, H.G. The Time Machine: An Invention. Henry Holt, New York (1895)