The one without a title.

Suffice to say he led a magnanimous life. I don’t normally write eulogies. I haven’t written one for someone really close to me, my grandma – perhaps I feel there are too many conflicting emotions there that I can’t do justice to it. But here’s a moment of thought for a man I barely knew. I’ve only heard about his quirks and idiosyncrasies. Yet, I write of him because of an insignificantly little thing that he did, which left a significantly lasting impact on me.

It was ninth grade and English class was on. My favourite teacher (it sounds so clichéd, but I owe a lot to Ma’am because she believed in my words and she made English come alive for me) was doing something different in class. We were playing with words, trying to write an article or short story on ‘Teenage’. Something sparked and with the help of another classmate, I came up with a funny little poem that actually went on to get published in the student edition of TOI (those of you who have studied in CBSE/ICSE might be familiar with the times NIE newsletter). There was a flock of visiting relatives at home around this time. Yes, they were everywhere, preening creatures with hawk-like features, extremely interested in the happenings of the house. And when I happened to mention the not-so-impossible feat of having my poem published, there was a whole lot of zeal and cheer. Among all these people, there was one person who stood out because he was so hearty and had a pleasant take on everything. Devdas Uncle was a cheerful sport. Many months later, when grandma had gone to Mumbai, Devdas Uncle sent with her what he called – a gift. I was genuinely surprised to receive a black and mustard, slightly tattered copy of ‘A Selection of Great Poems’. It clearly didn’t look new. But Uncle had remembered that I wrote poems and he sent me a small souvenir of encouragement. The poems were pretty deep and went over my head at that time. I didn’t think much of it, thanked him for his graciousness and kept it in the hope of reading it. I didn’t write much poetry anymore.

I met Uncle exactly a month ago. He was completely unlike the large, jovial, bundle of energy that I had seen 7 years ago. It took me a few hard moments to accept that age had really played havoc with his health, rendering him into a state of terrible weakness. He was slightly temperamental yet his wit was about him. He kept talking about the next great adventure and said he was ready to go anytime. Everyone would get hassled at this and tell him to chill, he could pull off a century in a few years. Who know the intensity of a person’s feelings at such stages of life? I’m sure that it’s not up to us to ridicule or attempt to soothe. They know the truth and they’re ready to face it, head on.

I searched for that little book of poems and I showed it to him that day, thanking him. His wife remarked that Uncle always encouraged anyone with talent. Now, he didn’t remember, he just wished me the best. At that moment, I could comprehend and appreciate the kindness behind that gesture more than I had done on the day I received it. It is among my treasured books and yes, the poems make me think and it is a gem of a collection.

I just got off the phone with Dad a few minutes ago and I was momentarily saddened to hear that Uncle had moved on. But as I remember it, he was certain that he had no regrets in life. Cheers to a man who lived with his heart on his sleeve.

Adios. May your soul rest in peace.

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Ramblings of a lone traveller

Lately,
I’ve been having days when I want to be alone…I want to think, reflect, and just keep going somewhere, alone. And this is something that’s been happening only now.

When I was in twelfth grade, I was chicken to even eat alone. I had to walk some distance from school until the bus stop and whether I was hungry or thirsty, I would patiently wait until I got home. Then in engineering, Drum introduced me to the pure pleasures of eating out. I was reluctant at first. I didn’t want to get diseases that originated at the restaurants and kitchens that weren’t high end. I was also hesitant because I wasn’t loaded with cash to eat out so often. But slowly yet surely, the tide began to change. I began to relish the food I ate out of home. If I didn’t spend any money (even if it was a six bucks tea), it felt strange like something was incomplete in my day. So then, I loved eating out but I always wanted company. I shuddered to even think of going out and sitting at a table, all alone. I thought it was just sad.

As I reminisce about those days, I feel content with myself today. I just gobbled a delicious plate of chicken lasagne at one of the popular cafés of Pune, the German Bakery (yes, you recall it all right because of the infamous blast a few years ago). As I write this post, I look back with a lot of fondness over the things that have changed. This, by the way, is my second time at German Bakery, alone. Well, on second thought, I was never completely alone for I had the window to the world open at my palms. I had my phone with me just like you do now.
A friend insisted in my best interest that I call a few friends and ask them to join me. I felt a bit mean as I told her to relax. I reminded her that there was a time when I would have liked some company to feel validated but since that time was in the past, I was all right by myself. And all this, with a smug expression.

I got the remaining food parcelled (there was too much in there and yes, I got over the hesitation of asking waiters to parcel, kind of feels like there is still some stigma attached to that) and went on a long walk. I marvelled at how the majestic trees in that particular road had sprawling branches that made a beautiful canopy. The hoardings that had fresh flower garlands because of the festivities and all the banks were shut. While noticing my surroundings and walking without a destination, I couldn’t help but wonder whether I was becoming a cold, loner. Maybe I am. But I choose to be this. ( Iti insists that I’m not a loner but it’s just the writer in me that needs these occasional moments of solitude.)

Journeys, especially those that I undertake alone, give me a strong sense of belonging. Ironically, when you’re on the move, you are without any roots to hold you back, where’s the belonging in that, you ask? Well, maybe that’s what I intend to be. A sprinkling of fine dust on a bright, windy day that travels with the flow of the breeze, eternally.

Kinare…

I have been in love and I have been depressed. It’s the one phase of life I never want to go back to again. My mind resonated with despair and darkness. I kept my pictures black, the status dreary, and my smiles were without soul. I smiled. And I laughed so hard. And I kept telling myself that I was all right. It was going to be okay. And once in a while – every other day I would break down. For something, for nothing, I didn’t need a reason. A bit of silence, an advertisement that played with emotions, or random incidents with friends because some days I just wouldn’t be able to exist. I remember a vivid incident. I remember sitting in the canteen, plans being made for an imminent trip and I broke down for no reason. I remember it vividly, sobbing into my arms and hoping no one knew. I was, but an ostrich trying to burrow its head.

This phase was also when I bonded. I tried to avoid the deep gaze that often came my way, because I was scared that if I let it touch me, then I would succumb into the vacuum that I was trying desperately to fill. It’s surprising just how dependent I was. How everything that I wanted was linked to the one person who got me into that state. Suddenly, even Bollywood’s cheesy romances became too much to handle. I stopped going to the movies. I had few friends, but I couldn’t confide into anyone. Even when I finally did, I found it oddly embarrassing. It was so comforting to be present with someone who had no idea of the turmoil in your mind. You could just be a listener, smile at the right places, interject, and respond if you felt strongly enough about something. It was nice to have someone, who was in a happy bubble. It gave me hope that I could get there too.

Yes, even the best of the people hide secrets. The best of us may have battled the oddest circumstances in life and risen from it. You’ve always admired and loved Dumbledore? Can you think of how much grief the biggest tragedy of his life gave him? He never showed it and his brother assumed that he was never bothered. The worst situations in life? That’s what builds them to become stronger and wiser. Something that even a cup of Horlicks will never give you.

The winners, the happiest people that you know of, they wouldn’t tell you things not because they are over it but because regardless of how much they’ve left behind, some things will always be a part of you. The trick is to make peace with this part of your life. Don’t let it overshadow your choices that nothing of your individuality is left in your decisions. That’s the ultimate irony if you don’t objectively decide what you want to do in life.

You won’t just wake up one day and decide that you are not depressed. That’s not how it works. It will take effect only when you put in effort. If you’ve been listening to tales about how depressed people sleep a lot, call it codswallop and get out of bed. Start empowering yourself, slowly but surely.

That fire in your belly, it has been subdued now. But light that smoke again and show yourself that you got it. Be you. Don’t be anyone else, but you.

Khud hi to hain hum, Kinaare.

Kaise honge kam, Kinaare.

Hain jahaan hain hum, Kinare.

Khud hi To hain hum. Kinare…

~As told to me by a friend~shore-at-sunset-590-706