The Boy Who Lived

Warning: This post may be triggering. It speaks of suicide, death, and depression. Also, it may not make a lot of sense — this post neither has a point nor a conclusion. I have no message to give out. These are loose ends that, I hope, one day I will learn how to tie. Until then, this is in loving memory of the boy who lived.

Everything was different one year ago. When this is taken out of context, one would say that that is how years roll by; that things rarely stay the same. That time snatches and gives, that time flows and never halts. And yet… and yet…

Death changes us. Some label this change as trauma while others label it as disillusionment. The essence remains that it changes us — it shakes us. We lost you one year ago and although I had expected time to considerably slow down, it is startling how quickly we are back to this calendar date.

~ 10/08 ~

You impacted my life greatly; both when you were with us and when you weren’t. Your presence was tangible — it was impossible to miss you. You were everywhere. You were loved and celebrated. And then you were gone, just like that, and your absence became equally tangible — it was, and is, impossible not to miss you. You are everywhere. You are loved… and celebrated.

For me, life completely changed one year ago. The people around me changed; relationships and power dynamics changed. At points I found myself in places where I thought I could catch a glimpse, a faint glimpse, of how you may have felt — I went through depression, through intolerable days, overwhelming emotions, and all throughout, I thought of you. Had you felt the same way?

So many questions continue to remain unanswered for me. In one year I have seen the lines between right and wrong quickly blur. Grey has become the predominant colour, and emotion — morality being grey, the sky being grey, the emptiness being grey. You have had an unprecedented ideological impact on me; I view the world much, much different now. For the first time, the change that I have gone through as a person is visible; almost like I can reach into my insides and touch the growth.

We were never what they would call ‘close’ — for me, you were a mentor. I saw you as someone that inspired me. Your faith in me and my capabilities was astonishing. You were the sunshine and when you left, the light went out of our lives and there was darkness everywhere. It was impossible to believe that someone, who was so dearly loved, so dearly cherished, found nothing worth holding onto. It scared me, it continues to scare me. As I replay memories, I tightly try to hold onto whatever little I have of you — hoping to bottle it all up and cork it before all these memories become hazy moments that I struggle to recall.

After your death, I saw hundreds of people from all across the country coming forward and talking about you. I saw them grieve; the grief of your loss united people who knew you little and loved you a lot, alike. I saw you on national news, in court proceedings, and in heartbroken messages. The night I heard about your death, I wept and thought that this would be a silent grief I will learn to come to terms with alone. However, what followed was much beyond my grasp — it was out of control. People chanted your name, they protested, there was anger, and there was endless pain. The chants continue to haunt me to this day. They are loud as ever. The anger, the pain, and the small victories we won for you in the last one year are loud as ever.

I have met lots of people in my life, Sushant, and they have touched me. You, however, have impacted me in ways more than you could have comprehended. Your presence was a guiding force and your absence is a void that I have embraced. Your absence reminds me, every day, of the inadequacies in my existence. In your decision, I have found my strength and my weakness. In your choice, I have found questions and answers. You are a light that I keep in my heart — a light that I resort to when I see mine extinguishing.

So thank you, and sorry. I am sorry that there were words left unsaid. I am sorry that I decided to wait for your response on WhatsApp, one that never came. I am sorry that I did not rush to you and tell you that you are loved and everything but a failure. I am sorry that I never built the bridges that would give me the opportunity of doing so.

But thank you, thank you for being both, the reason I found myself devastated and the remedy that helped me embrace my brokenness. Thank you for teaching me about death, and in that manner, about life. Thank you for the laughter and the guidance. Thank you for being a memory that I have carefully folded and leafed in an old book that I like to pick out every now and then. Thank you… for being who you were.

The boy who lived.

One year has passed by, and I thought of you every day.

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When Anxiety Banters With Me

//On some nights, anxiety banters with me.//

It does not tie me up — instead, it seeps in slowly from the pores of my skin and mixes with my blood, warming every inch of my being. It softens my bones and heats my flesh; quickens my breath and lowers my reflexes.

//On some nights, anxiety banters with me.//

Those nights I think of U, where U is the variable for all those pretty eyed boys that I gave my heart to. I close my eyes and focus on U until I can recreate the exact smell that hung between us that summer. Other times I stare into the dark abyss and try to recreate faces too. I then sigh.

//On some nights, anxiety banters with me.//

I try to focus on one thing, failing to focus on any. My cluttered head spills out thoughts on my pillow, staining it with all shades of blue. I feel insecurity dripping down my back like one long thread of sweat. I toss, turn, and wallow in nostalgia. I longingly look at my ceiling, hoping to see stars, thinking of all the bridges that I have burnt.

//On some nights, anxiety banters with me.//

Some have said that I should try and fight it — that if I try hard enough, I will be able to defeat it. On most nights, however, I let it tease me. I invite it for midnight tea and offer it cookies. I let it consume me and break me apart in the desperate hope of feeling something, anything. I use it to escape the numbness in my soul.

//On some nights, anxiety banters with me.//

On those nights, I banter with anxiety.

Half and Half 

It shall always play out this way – you will meet someone new and they will fill your heart with joy, with hope, with butterflies.

You will be given new books, new music, and new stories to savour. You will relish each, slowly, chewing till the taste fills your being.

You will stay up nights, thinking. You will spend days, longing. You will smile more. You will shine a little more. The birds will sing. Violins will play.

Change, however, is eternal, and thus the wheels of change will move yet again –things will start falling apart. You will try to put them in place; frantically. You will race against time, you will push and pull – all in vain.

The atheist in you will pray; the numbness inside you will weep; emotions you didn’t know you had will surface. You will curse the day it all began.

You will find closure, though – of course, you will. They all do. It will heal. You will let it go. One day you will wake up and the emptiness won’t be the first thing that you feel. It will begin to get better.

And then, one day, as it rains and you travel with the wind blowing in your hair, a familiar song will play on shuffle.

A familiar song – one that came to be half-forgotten. Half savoured. Half-sung. A song that will sing of a time long gone. A time that was only half yours.

Letting In

Letting go is widely spoken of –there are books, movies, speeches, music, and experiences (I have, like most others, touched upon it as well: Learn to Let Go). It is an important part of life and the relationships that we build with others. The process is painful, bittersweet, and at the end of the day, extremely liberating.

Lately, however, I have been thinking about how beautiful, bittersweet, and tumultuous, letting in can be.

Here you are, enclosed in your space, with walls that you have built with bricks made of your fears. You exist within the walls to guard yourself against the pain that eventual letting go brings –to avoid the letting go, we build a wall that keeps us from letting in. It is our own safe space that is set to our comforts, expectations, and intensity. It is a space that has no surprises –everything is, at least on the face of it, under control.

People, however, are like rays of the sun; they creep in through cracks before we know it. It doesn’t take much, either. All it often takes is a smile, a gesture, or some kindness. Before you know it, your wall is cracked, your fears are realised, and your life spins out of the false sense of control that you had instilled.

As far as I am concerned, I resist. I frantically run around, trying to place the bricks back into their places. I try mending those cracks by pushing people away or shutting myself further. I run, I scream, and just throw my arms up in frustration. It is, after all, quite frustrating –letting in is not easy.

It is also often inevitable, this letting in. Some people just make it through before you know it. You stop resisting after a point –you fall into routines. There are patterns, jokes, secrets, and unloading of baggage. Nights are painted with secrets and days brim of laughter.

When we let someone in, it reflects in our lives. We have new ideas and new thoughts. We are exposed to new versions and a new world. We pick up their words, their styles, their thoughts. We find new things to laugh about, new stories to ponder upon. There is new music, new movies, and new books. There are new places and fresh experiences. There is shyness, comfort, and gradual treading. There is fear, insecurity, and curiosity, all laced with a weird sense of happiness. There is the birth of something new –something that has not existed before. You discover a new part of yourself.

This doesn’t really have to be romantic either. This is simply what letting in feels like –it is a new day, each filled with adventure, new thoughts, and immense self-growth.

It is not easy to do, not at all. It is also, for most bit, inevitable that at some point this letting in will transform into letting go. Change, after all, will always be the course of nature. What is important, however, is to wake up each day with a smile to remind yourself that at this very moment, something amazing is happening to you. Remember that you are creating new memories, new stories, and for all you know, new relationships.

Sure, it might hurt later –when you hear those songs again, or those jokes, or references, or perhaps simply their name. There may be triggers, tears, and something inside you may break. There is a risk, there always is.

What should keep you going, nevertheless, is that all of this adds up to what life really is. Each experience, each letting in, and each letting go, eventually becomes a part of the big book called Life. When you are older and in a different phase, you are going to look back at these little moments and know that these are what made you who you are.

Whoever we let in, big or small, influential or not, romantic or platonic, they change us. They become a part of us. Wherever you go after that –whether together or apart –you will carry a piece of them with you. They will be a part of you and you, of them.

To think of it, maybe letting in isn’t so bad.

The Struggle Called College

This morning I woke up with a brand new realisation; college tends to mess us up in more ways than we actually realise.

So much had been said about college; there would be fun, and friends, and love, and tremendous self discovery. All movies, TV shows, older friends, and books had romanticised the idea of college and the life that it offers. But now that I have spent a reasonable amount of time doing college, I am surprised that nobody warned me about screwed up sleep cycles, food disorders, and emotional trauma.

I spent my freshman year believing that I was perhaps the only one going through this. As time passed, I began to realise how common this really is. College is suicidal. It is a roller coaster ride that only goes up.

You enter a phase where you struggle hard to figure out who you are, but at the same time, externally you’re supposed to look composed and like you’ve got your shit together. You have to worry about grades, assignments, and attendance. You have to burn yourself in order to keep up with being a good student. You need to manage self care, your GPA, and your relationships.

I am surprised that nobody warned me that college is about you losing people; to death, to circumstances, and to other people. Why is that nobody spoke about the break downs, letting go, and lying awake at 4 AM staring into mental abysses. College is low key scary that way.

I have come to realise that it is a rite of passage where you don’t have the protection that school provided and the stability that future will entail. You are a fish trying to find its way in the sea. You are on your own, trying to mould what will mould you.

It is about staying alive and staying sane.

Don’t Give Up (Please)

At lunch time on August 10, I was treating a few friends. We ate our favourite dishes and chatted away happily; occasionally gossiping and majorly laughing. I had no idea, not even in my wildest imaginations, that at that very moment, some kilometres away, a friend of ours, one who we were discussing over noodles and dal makhani, was contemplating suicide.

Only if we had known.

His death was unfortunate, the news shocking, and the feeling unbelievable. He was the happiest, most joyful person we knew. Who knew that that grin was a facade and that those eyes were, in reality, battling depression.

Depression.

It’s a horrible pit, depression. You often find yourself lying on your floor at three in the morning, with dry eyes and a heavy head. You cry for help, often in vain. You scream, shout, and then give up. Some cut themselves, some run-away, some fight it, and some… Some escape it.

I have been depressed too; I think everyone has. What sucks the most about depression is the insensitivity and nonchalance that the society harbours. “It will be all right.” “Don’t think too much about it.” “It’s no big deal.” “Why are you even depressed? There are children dying in Syria”.

It is horrifying, to say the least, how people deal with depressed people. They are ignored, often left to themselves. At times, it is assumed that they are strong enough to face their challenges. Other times, like with our friend, the depression is never noticed by anyone.

I really don’t know the point of this blog post. All I know is that I feel terrible and shaken. It is chilling that someone, who was loved so dearly, had moments where he felt so alone. Haven’t all of us failed him collectively? Haven’t all of us failed in telling him that he is loved, and cared for, and special, and amazing, and everything but a failure.

This is a plea to everyone out there –shut your phone and close your Facebook tabs. Go out and look people in the eyes. Hold their hands, hug them, and talk to them. Don’t fall for their emojis on WhatsApp and don’t buy their “I am fine”. Don’t opt the path that is convenient for you. Do the harder thing –tell people you love them. Tell them they matter and tell them they are awesome. Spend time with your loved ones and kiss them goodnight. Talk to each other and find out about each other. Ask people how their day was. Be there to wipe each other’s tears and be compassionate enough to understand their battles. Pain cannot be measured; no pain is greater than the other. A child being killed in Syria is as bad as someone breaking up a relationship that lasted three years. Pain is the only thing that unites us and it is important that we be there for each other.

For everyone out there who is having a hard time –you are amazing. You are unique and you are beautiful. You have a smile that is heart-warming and you are not a failure. You are loved and adored. You may not feel that way, but it’s true. Your parents love you so much albeit they may have a different way to show it. There is always light at the end of the tunnel; you just got to wait to see it. Keep going, because the world needs you. You’re here for a purpose. All obstacles are nothing but stepping stones. The Otherside awaits you –you have to wait for it too.

I know life becomes crappy and I know that often we feel that this is the end –but it’s not. The bad time passes too, no matter how bad it seems. I never thought I’ll get over a bad relationship, or lost friends, or failure, or losing loved ones, or disappointment. But you know what? I did. Everyone does. You will too.

Please keep going and don’t give up.

Reach out to each other and talk. We’re all in the same boat –all united by pain, fear, and hope.

I wish our friend knew this too.

The Thing About Childlike Curiosity

It was a hot summer afternoon in Kolkata and I was standing in a long queue. We had decided to spend some time in the Science City before our departure to Delhi and were now mildly regretting the decision. The queue was awfully long for a 3D show (that would perhaps not meet our expectations anyway). With rumbling stomachs and impatient demeanours, we waited.

Shortly, my eyes fell on a little girl who stood on the other side of our stanchion. She was as tiny as the barrier and was playing with the elastic cord that connected two stanchions. She had short hair and an adorable frock. She was perhaps the only human there oblivious to the excruciating wait –she had found entertainment for herself in the elastic cord itself. The little girl continuously hit the elastic cord with her tiny palm. She would watch the cord vibrate and move, and then smile with glee. Her discovery had filled her with wonder. Her eyes were wide and her mirth was infectious. It was almost like NASA had finally found that alternate life existed.

Not long after, her parents noticed what she was doing. Absentmindedly, her father grasped the cord between his palm, causing it to stop vibrating. He then resumed talking to her mother. I expected the little girl to begin crying now –she had found a wonderful game that her father had successfully ruined. To my surprise, she didn’t cry at all!

Instead of throwing a tantrum, her eyes opened wider and her mouth formed an ‘O’. Cautiously, she hit her palm against the cord to make it vibrate and then grasped the cord in her palm, thereby causing it to stop. It was true –the cord could stop too! Her smile turned into laughter as she repeated the process over and over again –first causing the cord to vibrate and then making it stop. What was natural, almost immaterial, to the humans twice her size around her, became an adventure for her.

Her glee was seamless and infectious. Before I knew it, I was smiling too.

Marks Don’t Matter

This piece of news is the first thing I read in the morning and I cannot stress enough on how much it disturbed me.

 

May 13, 2016; Hindustan Times

 

A girl studying in Class XI suicides because she fails a Chemistry Exam twice.

Was it really worth it to end your life because of an exam that bears no consequences on your future? Was it really worth it to put your parents through unimaginable pain only because of an exam that will change nothing in your life? Was it even remotely, even for one second, worth it?

It wasn’t. It will never be.
This is a message to all students out there –IT DOESN’T MATTER.

As invaluable as education is, and as important a degree and a good life are, IT DOESN’T MATTER. There are things greater, and bigger, than the three hours you spend trying to score marks out of 100. What matters is how much you learnt. What matters is how much of a better person you became after a certain lecture. What matters is the amount of hard-work you put in.

RESULTS DO NOT DEFINE THE PERSON YOU ARE.

Results only define you on a scale set as a standard by some members of the society. MARKS DO NOT DEFINE YOU.

You do not get good colleges or good jobs based ONLY on your academic performance. Please take this from someone who scored two perfect 100s in her board examinations –IT DID NOT MATTER.

This is also an earnest request to all teachers and parents everywhere in all corners of the world –TELL THE STUDENTS THAT IT DOES NOT MATTER. I am extremely grateful to my parents and my teachers who gave me the space to grow and learn through my failures and setbacks. This is the kind of atmosphere we need for all students everywhere. Students need to be told the truth –YOUR MARKS DO NOT MATTER AS MUCH AS YOU THINK THEY DO. They do hold a lot of importance, but for the love of God, you cannot end your life over an exam that will create a very little difference in the long run.

Please focus on learning and growing, and exams will become cakewalks. Please choose subjects according to your ABILITY and not the society. Science is not better than Humanities and Commerce is not a ‘second option’. Do what you love and excel in it. Make learning interactive and fun, and you will realise that marks DON’T MATTER.

My prayers are with this young student who could have grown up to become an invaluable member of the society. My condolences are with her parents who must be going through ineffable misery.
What only matters is your happiness… Marks do not matter.

“Why Don’t You Go To School?”

It had been a long day at college. My friend and I sat in a taxi outside the college gate, waiting. It was 5 already. I calculated the time it would take me to reach home and sighed. Why was life so hard?
“Bhaiya, please hurry up!” we called to the driver.

The sun would set soon. The crowds on the road were beginning to thin. Horns could be heard in the distance. People gathered around in small groups near the tea-stall. Others sat and smoked, chatting. My friend and I bought something to eat. As we sat eating and talking, our eyes fell on a small boy standing near our taxi. He was young, barely over eleven years of age. He had short hair, a dirty shirt, and a frail physique. He held roses in one hand and itched his hair with the other. Looking at us looking at him, he neared us. “Please give me money, I need to eat” he said. I offered him the orange I was eating. He refused and insisted on having money only. “I can only offer you what I have,” I said and offered him the orange again. He refused yet again but silently sat near us.

“Don’t you go to school?” I asked him. “I do!” he lied. “Really? What are you doing here, then?” I asked him. “I don’t go every day…” he said. “I go occasionally.” “Do your parents know you bunk school often?” I asked. He shook his head as he swung his legs. “My mother doesn’t know. I give her the money I earn and lie to her about how I got it. She doesn’t know I do this.” he said. “And your father?” I asked, getting curious. “He fell from a train on our way to our village. The TT never stopped the train.” he fell silent. For a while, all of us only heard all of us breathe.

“You should go to school, you know?” my friend said, breaking the silence. “Why?” he asked. “Well, you will learn a lot about the world. You will be better placed. You’ll get into a good college and you’ll have a job.” I said. “But I am still earning” he reasoned. “I want to open a tea-stall or something when I grow up. What is the point of studying?” he asked. I did not know what to say. “But you’ll become a better person!” my friend said. “Education aids you in becoming a better person.”

He looked at us and then looked out towards the students smoking nearby. “A better person?” he asked. “What good has education done to you when all of you come here and smoke and drink?” he asked innocently. For a moment he didn’t seem like a small boy. “It is a terrible way of ruining your body. Why would you want to do that?” I looked at him and didn’t know what to say. I had thought of the exact same question a million times before, but here, having it come from this little child’s mouth, it felt more real than ever before. What good was education?

“It is indeed a terrible thing. I am so proud of you for understanding so. Do not fall into this trap.” I told him. “I once asked a bhaiya why he was smoking” he said. “The bhaiya slapped me and asked me to leave.” “Oh people do things when they are intoxicated.” my friend said. “Should I go and ask that bhaiya to not smoke?” he asked, pointing towards a young man lighting his cigarette at a little distance from us. “You should.” we encouraged him. He smiled and hopped towards the man. We saw him saying something to the man. The young man was obviously unmoved and did not make an effort to acknowledge the boy’s presence. He turned around, tilted his head, and looked at us disappointed. “It is okay!” we gestured to him from the car.

He came back to us, told us he needed to leave, and bid us goodbye. He made a last attempt at asking us for money, and when we refused, he smiled, waved, and left. Our driver had come back and he started the car. I looked outside of the window as the car moved forward, leaving the huge campus behind. I looked at the college buildings sprinting behind us. “What good is your education?” his words echoed in my mind.


This was originally published on buzz.universitytimes.in

All That I Planned

For the last few years, I have had a peculiar habit of hanging a wall calendar in my room. I have stained it with all possible colours, highlighters, pencils, pens, and markers. I have marked my exam dates, result dates, outings, vacation plans, class timings and what not.

However, it was not until this week that a funny realisation dawned upon me; all these years my plans had scarcely gone as planned!
I have marked, and remarked, cut and erased and overwritten.
At times the exam postponed, sometimes the results were early, often my friends would ditch the plan, and usually I would decide to succumb to indolence.

Nothing ever went exactly as planned.

It is amusing how I plan an entire week on my calendar and then as the week unfolds, everything goes haywire. This simple phenomenon gave me an insight into a deeper realisation about life; all that I have planned will probably always end up as a plan only.

People I want for life may leave, maybe I will not get into my dream college, it is quite possible that tomorrow my family decides to shift to I don’t know, Jupiter? I may plan as long as I want, and how much I want, but in the end what will happen is what is to happen.

And this is honestly a very enlightening realisation! Once I decide to stop moving my arms so much, stop trying to plan everything in advance, stop trying to control my life and the world around me, and learn to let things flow the way they are supposed to, will I not indeed be happy?
Will I not stop feeling disappointed?

Think of it; do not we usually feel anguished because things do not go as we wanted them to or planned them to?
What if we all learn the art of letting go our attachment towards goals!

Life is supposed to be a journey of spontaneity. Time will change and with that things, people and relationships. No, we will not always get what we want. Hell, we have not got what we wanted so many times!
But let us reflect and recall all those instances when things did not go as planned; in the end, we all did end up with something better, if not equivalent.

I will leave you with this food for thought.

Maybe we should all hang a calendar and then watch our life go exactly how we think it should not.
Perhaps then will we truly realise how life will go on, whether or not we plan it.