The Lucas To My Haley

 

 

IMG_20151101_240652595.jpg

Lights fade and music blurs in the background,

As I walk hand in hand with you.

On that little stretch– back and forth.

You take me away,

Just as I’m about to cry and embarrass myself.

You take me away,

To you.

To me.

To where I don’t have to worry

About this performance I put up every day.

To where I can laugh and cry as much as I want.

 I’m learning to live in this strange place.

It has a weird mix of scents.

And emotions.

The rays that shine and burn and hurt.

The droplets that seldom fall and never stay.

The fog that suffocates during the day and cuddles me to sleep at night.

No matter what the weather, you, my sun, always shine on me.

I don’t have to see you all day.

I don’t have to have classes or courses or assignments with you.

Our paths may be very different. And yet. Our journey, somehow the same.

 You have faith in my frail academic endeavors.

You battle my questions for me– what do I like doing? What would I not mind doing for a long period of time? What is it that gives me a living but also a life?

You pretend like you don’t care.

And cutely fail.

 The world can struggle to fit us into some category.
 And us?

We’ll do what we do best.

Our drama.

And laugh at the ones who fall for it.

But really, what are you to me?

Whatever it is, it’s very close to family.

 

I wouldn’t be surprised if I find out you’ve been planted here.

By my family back home.

Because you’re a bit of home in this unfamiliarity.

To make sure I survive all the intellectualism.

To get me food in the middle of nights.

To let me be whiny when I feel like it.

To tell me it’ll all be okay.

To teach me to be strong.

To remind me that it’s okay to be weak.

To give me doses of warmth.

To be the Lucas to my Haley.

Advertisements

What Makes You Cry?

IMG_20151107_192539.jpg

Andhra Pradesh. Ashoka. New Delhi.

This picture carries so many words that have come to mean home to me. Each of them is so close and yet so far from my idea of belonging, fitting in, identifying with and standing out. In the beginning of college (which was around one and a half years ago), we were to write essays on what ‘home’ meant to each one of us. I found it so hard to articulate my thoughts, not just because I was new to the concept of academic writing, but also because the topic was something I’d taken for granted for so long, that it seemed almost like a non-topic. Indeed, I struggled to devise a thesis statement, an argument, a counter argument and a conclusion for something as personal as the idea of ‘home’.

 

Cut to today.

I was at Andhra Bhavan in Delhi with two of my friends. The idea of paying for food that I ate for so many years of my life, every single day, seemed ridiculous to me. I remember telling my friends “I don’t want to pay for what I’ve gotten for free all my life”. But I could feel this place pulling me towards it. Soon, we were inside a room packed with people: eating, serving, running around, waiting for their turn, walking out talking about the food. And here and there, I could here a few words of my language. I felt like an intruder. Was I allowed to listen to them? Did they know that I understood?

A person in a red uniform (that said Sai Caterers) led us to a table, and brought us plates, all the while conversing with us in broken Hindi. A part in me felt like I needed to make my presence felt. I wanted to tell them all that I was from Vijayawada, and that I could very well understand and speak Telugu. Except for a few smiling persons who acknowledged my excitement, no one else cared. Of course there would be Telugu people coming to Andhra Bhavan. What’s the big deal?

But to me, it was. A huge deal, in fact. I cannot remember the last time I savored a meal that way. And adding to the food, was the ambiance. The crowd, the dim broken yellow lights, the men with big proud paunches, women with flowers in their oiled hair and the orders being shouted from one waiter to another in Telugu, everything reminded me of home. Not to forget that one person in complete white clothes, with a gold chain and bracelet– typical of an owner from where I come from, making note of who’s sitting where and dealing with customers like they were here for his daughter’s wedding. The clatter of those steel plates with little chambers for pulihora, papad, poori, annam, sambar, rasam, pachadi, pappu and perugu. And ah! the hot neyyi, gongura pachadi and gun powders (to kill for) put on each table. For that half an hour, I was back home.

The only difference was this: I was paying attention. Living in the moment, if you like. I focused on each word entering my ear. Each smell merging with another and yet staying distinct. Each morsel touching my tongue. For some reason, I was eating hurriedly, but also carefully. It was as if all my senses were in hyper active mode. As if to take in as much as I could, before reality hits. Before I go outside and look at signboards written in English, Hindi and then Urdu. Not Telugu. Not a bit of it.

What is it with familiarity and unfamiliarity? I’ve been conditioned to think in English. Hindi is left as that reminiscence from school. Urdu has become a new excitement as I can read the signboards. Telugu? I’m probably worse at reading Telugu than I am at Urdu. I’ve never studied the language in school, never learnt how to read or write. And yet, I feel like it’s mine.

It makes me question the slang all of us so often use: “I’m missing home”, “This place can never completely be home”, “I want to run away from here and go there”, “I feel like I belong someplace else.” What is this nostalgia really about? Is there a “home” anywhere? Even as a concept? Or are we just fooling and soothing and convincing ourselves, with whatever we get, and don’t get, and yearn for and cherish?

I was never a proud parader of being born in a certain place and into a certain culture. Most of my life has been a series of culture shocks, leaving me with the idea that I might as well not belong to any one. I’ve always had friends from all over, with different foods in their lunchboxes and different languages in their families. Despite all of this, I never paid attention to how different my own differences were, to myself, and to theirs.

These days, I’m too scared to even write down about things I feel. I’m worried people will read into it and try to figure out what my political arguments are. And hence, even now, I type very carefully. I’m writing all this down not as a debate about states or languages or cultures. I felt something today. I felt closer to the idea of home. The idea that is too intense to pin down as one thing. I wish I could’ve written my essay on how food can sometimes take you back home. If only academia was so accepting. And so, I remind myself that academia is only one way of looking at the world. Before I find my voice, I need to take everything with a pinch of salt. I find my rational self battling with my irrational one. Reasons upon reasons, when a feeling just creeps in without permission. Do I let it stay? Or do I reason its way out?

I like my life here. College is challenging and exhilarating. Delhi, being the capital of this country, stretches endlessly for me to explore. The shuttle rides from Haryana to Delhi and vice versa, are the confused parts: the no (wo)man’s land. They give me time to think about the journey I’m about to embark upon, or soothe me as I relax after a tiring day. Meanwhile, pappannam with neyyi, let the trapped tears out, even as I think about it.

Not Again.

Are you ready to talk now?

Or will the eyes and the sighs do the talking still?

Remember winter, last year?

Winter is here again.

But it’s so different.

I wasn’t thinking of you.

Or writing of you.

Until you knocked.

But why?

I don’t understand.

You never asked before you decided to leave.

You never told after you left.

So, why now?

 

It was always just me, wasn’t it?

Me: worrying about your medicines.

Me, wanting to see you smile

Me, pouring in time and effort and love

Me, wondering what I’d done wrong

Me,

Me,

Me, left alone.

 

But I see this has become about you now.

Okay, you then.

Thank you for all those memories.

Thank you for being that wonderful friend.

Thank you for those basketball moments and those walks and talks and TT matches and winks and smiles and laughter.

Thank you.

Thanks also for making me…

Strong? Stubborn? Indifferent?

I don’t know.

Now, I just am.

I am by myself.

Without you.

I never asked for it, you know.

But you gave it to me anyway.

You taught me how to live without you.

I’ve finally learnt,

And hope you understand,

That I can’t volunteer to let you break me.

Again.

Lavender Days

IMG_20151102_161337

Do you have this person in your life? The one you can’t trace back your first meeting to? The one who seems to have just been there all along? The one who has been with you through highs and lows, ups and downs, stagnation and movement? The one with whom you sat to explore Paint and Pinball on the computer? The one who tore off her brown notebook wrap, to cover yours so you won’t be punished? The one who dressed up on your birthday, making all your friends wonder whose birthday it really was? The one your family called up when you went missing for 0.02 seconds? The one who approved of your signature and passwords before you could put them to use?

The one who knew your wardrobe better than you? (Mostly because she arranged it every fortnight so she could sneak in some clothes for herself) The one with whom you have proud 1.3 megapixel camera pictures? The one who held all your embarrassments in a secret box for purposes of blackmailing? The one you shared your lunchbox with? (exchanged actually) The one you celebrated all festivals with? The one you shouted the pledge and sang the national anthem with? The one with whom you counted your proudly earned coins and new ten rupee notes? The one who treated you with countless cups of mango soda? The one who reminded you to check the air in the tyres of your cycle (because really, who else would do that?) The one who wrote you letters (titled with the dates and instructions ) for every day that you would be away from school? The one you made plans to learn car driving with? The one you experimented all shampoo and face wash brands with? The one who was with you, through the confusion of picking your favorite color and number, that have stuck ever since? The one who taught you what it means to laugh? (by doing it at you, with you, because of you, or all by herself, for no reason whatsoever)

The only one who would know which parts of the above mentioned memories are absolutely true/ exaggerated/ made up just to sound poetic/ sneakily put in there because I’m too cool to say it directly to her?

I’ve shared the most naive, carefree and happy years with this person. I’ve shared nostalgia. And exams. And movies. And food. And friends. And smiles. And tears. And loud laughter. And early morning math classes. And classroom shenanigans. And cycle rides. And train rides. And scooty rides. And clothes. And family. And homes. And roads.

But most of all, I’ve shared my past, my childhood, Because no matter where I decide to go, when I look back, I’ll see the same memories as her. This person holds a part of me that I might outgrow someday. Or want to outgrow. But she will preserve it. In the repeated stories that she will narrate, in the characters that she will keep imitating, in the jokes that she will laugh at again and again, in the pictures that are buried under a pile of meaningless selfies, in the last pages of old notebooks, in the trinkets that meant the world to me, in the names that are slowly fading away…

Do you have this person in your life?

Who turns scattered images of the past years into stories you can never forget?

Do you have this person in your life?

Without whom, it would be so easy to forget who you used to be?

Do you have this person in your life?

Who may know very little about your life now,

But will remain a lingering presence throughout.

Do you have this person in your life?

I do and I’m forever grateful.

(To 11 years of togetherness,

To the one who says Thank You before I wish her a Happy Birthday,

To the one who celebrates my birthday as hers: wears new clothes, goes to the temple, uses a special coloured ink, goes around telling people, decides which chocolates to distribute in school, and most of all, wakes me up on my birthday, before people forget it’s really mine.

To the one who has made birthdays and christmases special for reasons I cannot remember. Reasons that don’t need to be remembered)

 (Happy Birthday you weirdo! I love you. Please let me hug you one of these days.)

(Also, Happy Birthday to our Shah Rukh. Do you still want him as your dad in your next life?)

(To Dates That Are Beyond Just Dates: 2nd Nov, 2015)