(Published in Business Standard on August 10, 2013)
Right around this time of year I begin to worry about garlic and crosses and whether either of them might cause my flesh to start smoking. It’s mostly the fault of the monsoon clouds. Delhi goes without sun for so long that I develop an anaemic pallor, or so I assume because mirrors no longer reflect my face. I develop a cataleptic tendency to lie rigid in bed until mid-morning because the darkness is fooling my circadian rhythm into thinking that it’s still only dawn. I develop an uncontrollable craving to sink my fangs into the necks of passing municipal councillors and drain them of their blood.
My therapist says that last thing is just rage related to sitting in traffic on waterlogged roads. Or at least that is what my therapist would say if I a) had a therapist and b) could attach giant flippers to my car and swim my way to his/her office.
I’m not really turning into a vampire. The reason I know this for sure is that vampires typically make a point of being very well turned out and slick their hair back to really bring out the pallor, while I still dress crappily and don’t always bother to brush my hair. But that’s the only real difference. I was concerned enough to look up the name for the mental illness that causes you to think you are a vampire. (The internet’s best answer: Puberty.)
If this delusion is partly caused by the weather, it is also partly caused by being alone in my house. My mother has left town for a few months, so here I am, rattling around the place by myself. Everywhere I go, there she isn’t. I spent the first few days in a state of cautious optimism, but wasn’t completely convinced that she might not yet leap out from behind the fridge yelling “Just kidding! Still here!” Finally I conducted a conclusive experiment by watching four straight hours of what she calls “American bilge” on television; the only single solitary possible reason that she didn’t make acidic comments the whole time is that she is definitively not here. I celebrated by having a dinner party, at which I left my guests to fend for themselves at the bar and at the dinner table, partly because I have dislocated my thumb and can’t do much with my hand, and partly because that’s what I do anyway.
I love my mother to little itty bits and have a wonderful time when she’s here, but I also love her to little itty bits and have a wonderful time when she’s elsewhere, having a wonderful time of her own.
But I digress. I was saying that there is a downside to solitude, resplendent though it is: if you are fairly introverted and like to spend lots of time on your own, and/or have a vivid imagination, and/or have just read a bunch of short stories with vampires in them, and/or have recently seen your thumb stick out at an unnatural angle, and/or have ever seen the face of Kristen Stewart, you risk ending up haunting yourself a bit. This is payback time for all the horror movies you’ve blithely watched during the day—especially those fantastic Japanese numbers in which creepy, poker-faced women slither down staircases on their bellies, or bend over your sleeping form with their hair hanging over their faces.
Home alone. It’s fantastic. But once in a while it becomes necessary to remind oneself, by stepping out into society now and again, that one is not a vampire, just a regular, garden-variety social misfit.