Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ye tumhaari meri baatein

As the absolute last and final day of college draws inexorably closer, it seems everyone is feeling this bittersweet sensation of an era drawing to an end. A senior had once told me I would do well only to make business contacts in medical college and that I won't have made any real friends by the end of it. I just wish he'd stuck around to see how wrong he was.

We're all loving each other a little bit more than we ever have done in the last five and a half years. I guess we've all got our 'graduation goggles' on and the campus suddenly feels like a wistfully beautiful place to hang around with all the people you wish you had just a little more time to get to know better.

I've spent the last few weeks having this same conversation over and over and over with different people, "I wish I'd known you like this in second year. We'd have been better friends." or "Why didn't we hang out more? You're awesome!"

I was talking to T. about this last night and he was rather philosophical about it. He said we were like logs of wood carried downstream by the river-current, to draw close and then drift apart, buffeted by the force of the water. He said this was a metaphor the Geeta offered up about the transient nature of all relationships in life.

Wherever he managed to glean a Geeta to read through I may never know, but he did have a point. Such was life.

I told him I had this dreadfully forlorn sense of something important slipping away from me, a sense I'd never had in school or junior college. Back then, we'd all stay close by. Of course, we'd bump into each other we thought. But not this time. People will go off to different cities in different states or even different countries on different continents.

This was a real parting of ways. We are all done growing up now. Real life starts here on. There will always be a twinge of sadness for friends lost and friendships not mended. Even that idea of a real what-if for that one person who got away.

But it doesn't matter. We've got our lives stretching out in front of us still. And maybe the future has some real pleasant surprises in store for us.

And for what it's worth, there are always new friends to be made and old friends to be rediscovered.

Speaking of new friends, Astha of the charming letter in the previous post has just passed along a lovely blog-award which I am very grateful indeed to receive. Her post here has already led me to discover more blogs and through them, peek into more lives and perhaps make some new friends.

For that, I owe her great thanks. And from me, here's to all that could have been, all that was and most importantly, all that will be! :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

For a funky fifteen-year-old!

So last week, I read Astha's blogpost here which was a charming letter to her fifteen-year old self, full of pieces of advice and warnings and some much-needed reassurance. Quite frankly I loved the idea of writing to a younger version of me, and so if one of you is boarding your time machine any time soon, please deliver it for me, won't you?

So here goes.

Dear Cookie (that's what they call you in school I believe),

Before you ask me that question that you've been pondering so much recently, let me tell you the answer is 'yes'. Yes, you are going to, it'll take you seven years to figure it out but it will happen for you.

Also, let me get the answers to your other questions out of the way first. No, you do not make it into the state merit list. You miss it by three marks. And no, it doesn't matter eventually. Yes, you do get into that junior college your grandpa's been telling you so much about and yes, you do meet some pretty special people there.

No, you do not hook up with M. and trust me, he is sooo not the right guy for you. Three months into junior college, he'll give you a hilarious speech about how he thinks he should only date girls with straight hair because curly hair indicate 'wild' type genes and they'd be bad to mix into his straight-haired 'recessive' gene-pool. Yeah, he'll really say that to you. See, he's not as bright as Sarla teacher tells the class he is. Not nearly.

But you know what? You do meet a very nice and extremely interesting guy that year. I'll give you a hint now. Join the film club and attend their Iranian movie screenings on the weekends. Oh, and sit in the third row on the left. Smile at the tall guy with the thick glasses who'll sit down beside you. He'll tell you your smile is his favourite thing about you. However, don't try to delude yourself into thinking he is The One. There is no such thing in real life. Nevertheless, you'll have a lot of fun and he will teach you many life-lessons. Like how to let go of someone you love when it's time.

There's your questions answered. Now, time for some advice. Your team-mates on the Science Quiz team will be your best buds. One of them will go to MIT. But try and be nice to them both.

Keep writing that poetry. It's not as brilliant as you think it is sometimes but it's not as pointless as you think it is at other times, either.

Be especially nice to Chaitanya. He's going to move out of the house in two years and you'll have that room and those Asterix comics to yourself. And yes, despite what you suspect right now, you're going to miss him badly and it's going to hurt like hell to have him leave home and settle down in another country.

And here are the reassurances. You're good at science and maths and you like to read English. Don't worry. You'll still remember everything when you're in your twenties. You're going to pick a career path that requires both your intellect and your empathy. So, don't fret over over-developing one and ignoring the other. It'll work out. Trust me on this one.

Try and enjoy yourself this year, although I know it's hard what with exams and classes and all that, but it's your last school year. And once it's done, you're going to miss school and spend the next few years getting all nostalgic about the memories you're making now.

What? More questions? Okay. No, the Backstreet Boys are not that popular any more and Britney Spears isn't either. MTV will look very different in seven years. But hold on, Justin Timberlake - yeah, he's going to surprise you one day. Yes, Friends will end in two years but you'll watch it over and over for the next five years and you'll still believe you're channeling Phoebe a lot.

Also, the Harry Potter books will end. Yes, the movies, too. No, he won't die. Yes, Voldemort will.

Cut down on those romantic comedies you watch every weekend, will you? Of course, you'll fall in love, albeit more than once. But remember to hold out for the one who can recite Keats. Oh, and you know, Sherlock Holmes, whom we absolutely adore and remain ever utterly in awe of? There's going to be an awesome new incarnation of him on BBC and an absolutely fabulous guy will tell you about it. Watch out for them both.

Oh, and that "internet" thing they keep telling you about in computer class. It's going to figure hugely in your life soon. So pay attention there, okay?

Are you wondering why I'm not giving you anything too profound to live your life by? Yeah, that's because you'll want to concentrate on the little things. Those are what will one day turn you into me. Until then, you'll just have to follow the good advice Piyu's yellow tee gives you. "Be yourself. Because no one else will. " Seriously, there's some damn good advice floating around on a lot of T-shirts in the world.

Why? Still don't think I've imparted enough wisdom, eh? That's alright. You'll make it up as you go along. Of course, things won't be perfect, you may not win the Nobel prize but you will work hard and make a difference in people's lives. And that will be enough to make you very happy.

Oh yeah, and about Piyu, she's going to bail you out of many, many hopeless situations. Buy her her favourite imli candy every day from that roadside store. That's the least you could do for your soul sister.

So long, kiddo! I think you're one helluva gal. Fare thee well!

P.S. If you ever hear from the seventy-five year old version of us, do give me some heads-up, won't you?

P.P.S. Yes, I know you can spot the temporal paradox in that request. But you know what I mean. ;)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bright Star

Have you ever had this feeling? Looking at an old photograph of someone you know and love and wondering who they used to be before you ever knew them.

I tell myself he's essentially the same person - those same beloved features that can be traced now with the mind's eye. But the familiar crinkles at the corners of his eyes are missing from the still carefree smile that he's carried over into adulthood. The intent look in his dark eyes with his luxuriant eyelashes that gives him his mildly Byronic, unintentionally serious air, which was the first thing that I ever noticed about him, is already present in this photograph. The hair is almost a golden brown in this evening light, and there's more of it. The posture is one thing that's remarkably different. That ramrod straight back I am so accustomed to seeing slouches ever-so-slightly forward in the photo. The shoulders seem to have become rounded as they so often do with tall people trying to shrink themselves when photographed around considerably shorter people.

What I love most about this photograph is his hands. He clasps them together in a gesture rather frequently seen in school pictures - it's something I remember Chaitanya used to do in class photos, too. To me, it's my favourite thing about him here. This familiar quirk that my brother and this boy from half a world away have in common.

He is impatient for the picture to be taken perhaps. He's probably waiting to go back to play with his friends. In the background is a field of green grass and far off, a mountain. A school picnic in all probability.

I wonder what he must've been like at that age, more than fifteen years ago. I wonder if we'd have been friends had we met then. Likely not. What would we have talked about? At that age, a seven year age difference is unconquerable conversation-wise.

He looks like someone unfinished to my eyes. Like a pencil drawing waiting to be coloured in with crayons. And I marvel at how time sculpts us and we continually morph into different people who are too engrossed to notice its effect until much later. I tell him this and he smiles. The same smile from the photograph in my hands. I want to touch his face and tell him how glad I am for things that time doesn't change. But I can't muster enough courage yet, it would be too intimate too early I think. I decide to look some more at the old photograph instead.

"Look how tall I was at thirteen!" he exclaims. I nod. Outside it looks like the rain has stopped. "Would you like to go get some chai?" he asks. It's almost dawn. The sky is still overcast. But I can see the brightest star in the sky. "I used to look at it from the roof of my house in the summertime." he whispers in my ear. "Me too. It's always there when you look up. Even in Bombay." I whisper back.

I want to tell him what an amazing night I've had talking to him. But the tea is too hot and I scald my tongue. I need to get started with my morning collections. I say goodbye and start to walk away. "Hey Kari!" he calls behind me. "Good morning!" and he smiles. I laugh at that greeting and think to myself that this is a moment I shall always hold in my mind, much like that old photograph that I realise I've forgotten to return to him.

P.S. This was written on 15th July 2011 at 10:38 AM and thought of as too sentimental to put up on the blog. But I suppose tonight I'm too overwhelmed by the memory to care about the sentimentality.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

When we were young

"I divide my life into two parts, not really a Before and After, more as if they are bookends, holding together flaccid years of empty musings, years of the late adolescent or the twentysomething whose coat of adulthood simply does not fit."

- from When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman.

A big thank-you to the Book Florist for this quote. And cheers to all those out there like us! :)