Actually, it's a pigeon that nests in my kitchen, but I haven't cleared up after it in a couple of weeks thanks to my flu.
"Swine?" my mother asks, anxiously.
"Don't clean up or cook for me," my dad says generously, a few days before his visit.
One of the things that freaks me out most, is falling ill. I hardly ever do. The last time I fell as ill as I did last week, was when I was six years old...well, a long time ago. There was a time during my childhood when I looked forward to being ill - my parents were quite happy for me to bunk school whenever I wanted, so that wasn't the thrill - but it did mean a lot of TLC (not usually the privilege of the oldest of three). It meant my favourite foods being cooked whenever I could manage to eat, tea and coffee served at my bedside and everyone in the family keen to fetch writing material whenever I wanted. As a child, I spent a considerable amount of time thinking up famous last words.
This time, though, was a little different - for one, the TLC was about two thousand kilometres away. For another, what I love most about having my own place, is running it. Being ill means you can't wipe the dust off window panes and clean the tiles on your bathroom floor with an old toothbrush. It also means constant phone calls from home to make sure I'm alive. And, it means sleeping through the day during the aftermath, and waking up when the sun has gone down. It was the misery of waking up in the dark that prevented me from taking siestas until I started working odd hours.
It's not that I'm scared of dying. Maybe because I know I won't. From when I was nearly not born to missing a glider crash because I overslept, to when a Sumo ran into me, to the day I chose not to go on a turtle walk on the day of the tsunami (though, thankfully, those folks survived), I've pretty much survived every close call that's come my way. What's painful, though, is that a decade-and-a-half-long rebellion against medicines that have been tested on animals, came to an end with this attack (the neem leaves weren't available, and turmeric with milk wasn't enough). The fact that my mother knows this means I will have to submit myself to medical tests, despite my insistence that hospitals make me ill.
More than anything else, I guess it's the helplessness that bugs me. It's the fact that I haven't been able to go swimming everyday, or talk much on the phone. Well, most of my phone calls are restricted to three people, but it's irritating not to be able to talk. It's the fact that I can't write fiction when I'm ill (cribbing is not usually a problem). It's the fact that I think more than is good for me (and I do that even when I'm un-ill). It's waking up at the wrong times (sleeping at the wrong times has been a life-long habit).
The good thing about it, though, is for want of other constructive things to do, I've been able to catch up on reading and my linguistic skills. And my Tamil poetry has moved beyond the realm of the devotional. God and I are on a bit of a break, clearly.
What I'm skirting around while writing is possibly what I'm shirking from facing. The fact that, despite several jobs in several industries over the past decade or so, I've realised I've still got that book to write. Those books to write. I've got those dance recitals to do, and those concerts to give. I've got that picture to paint, and that film to make. The one night of crisis, which I was wondering whether I would make it past, all I could think was that these things would be left undone.
And when I was well enough to pray, I looked at the faces smiling back at me, and thought about life as such - I don't have a house to build or a flat to book or a car to buy. What's the point of spending three decades saving up enough to get past the other few? What do you have to show at the end of it all? Does your job matter, if people don't remember you for the time you spent here, on earth? Does your life matter, when your dreams have passed you by?
Perhaps, one should take the plunge before the pool evaporates.