31 Aug

by Mani G. Iyer

Most nights, after dinner, he meditated
dinner for him
a measly one but always
the same quantity, the same time
he believed in the maxim
eat to live and not live to eat
when we would gorge on mother’s delicacies
he would proclaim from his perch of the armchair
we were worse than pigs
another thing he could not tolerate was
talking while eating
he had his own theory of digestion to back his principle
which is still unclear to me
so, family dinners, solemn occasions.
Some nights he would fast
based on the moon’s facades
which he believed was not prescribed by
the ancient sages for any religious reasons
but a discipline for cleansing one’s stomach
wherein I detect a slight leaning toward Gandhi
which he never admitted, attributing it
to be his own theory and
the lunar positions merely served as a timetable
on those occasions too
his perch remained comfortable
When he meditated
he would sit up in his iron-framed bed
prodding and caressing his prayer beads
between his index finger and thumb
his lips quivering a repetitive phrase
he has a story about the beads
they were given him by a sadhu
who had just visited the holy city of Benares
and they were genuine rudraksh
whatever the story was,
the beads really looked worn with
time, travel and history
He meditated to drive
the rumbling forces out of his system
– he suffered from acute flatulence
this was the scene
him in his Shiva like pose
minus the coiled snake and
the ever faithful, placid bull
mother, me and brother sleeping
on the floor in linear fashion and
there would be a long roar during
the night’s eerie phase followed by
an occasional sputter at which
brother and me would wake and
snicker under our covers
we likened this noise to the startup of
an ailing Royal Enfield and
on days that he fasted, the noise was deafening
he must have been smiling at his victory.
Some nights his meditative powers would fail to
drive the rebellious forces and
he had a solution for that too
he would lie down on his bed and grumble and curse and
eventually rouse poor mother out of her sleep
she would then massage his stomach
wiry and sunken like a river bed in
the aftermath of a drought and
with her gentle fingers, conquer those evil forces and
lull him to sleep.

Mani G. Iyer was born and raised in Bombay, India and has lived in the United States since 1985.  He is deaf-blind due to Usher Syndrome.  He became deaf by the age of 4, night-blind by the age of 12, and now has very little usable vision.


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