Goodbyes That Come With a Hello

Because really, till what extent can these two greetings be kept diametrically opposite to each other? Isn’t one the place you arrive at with a startling halt, as you swerve away from the other? There is always a hello waiting after every goodbye.

It’s April now and approximately one year ago, after the over-hyped and underwhelming Board examinations got over, I was hit by infrequent bouts of panic about what college I would be accepted to, followed by the filling up of more applications. I further proceeded to create make believe lives for myself in all the 4 places I had applied to. But even as I came closer and closer to realising that life, I could never actually see myself inside a college.

Coming to Delhi was not really a a very unexpected occurence – just a couple of arguments, confusion and opportunity costs that seemed heavier than the weight of the world to me later, I ended up in a part of Delhi about which all I had ever heard was the adjective “posh.”

I knew I had to say goodbye. And here’s the thing about emotions that threaten to overwhelm me, I shut them off. So I approached everything in a matter of fact way but when I arrived in the new room which I had to share with a complete stranger, the stiffness of a new bed, pillow and furniture – all of it, hit me finally. I cried like a baby the first night.

My mind slowly started created poetry out of the place I grew up in – the smell of the strong yet sweet bathroom freshener which wafted into my bedroom, the wall along my bed which had been a silent spectator of all my break downs and adolescent romances but was marked with pencil strokes expressing angst in embarrassing verses of poetry and a shabby attempt at being tumblr-esque and my over flowing drawers carrying histories of worlds I had embezzled with words that became more careful and cautious as I grew up.

But even as I realised there was no way I could ever say goodbye to those things, changes tumbled in. Changes that had enough weight to leave behind an impression and with a jolt I realised that I was already making memories of and in a place I was still unable to identify with. There were smaller places to store my journals, books and photo frames but they were there, and there were people who seemed to carry all the roughness and wonders of the world inside of them, but they were willing to part with it a bit for my sake . The stranger in my room beside whom I silently sobbed into the first night here, became my only source of constancy in life. And as all of it grew into me, I realised how I could carry the weight of the memories and goodbyes while also creating new ones with every hello. It was beautiful to experience, learn and navigate through all on my own.

It was hard at first but I did let go of many illusions and came to terms with some truths that I had always denied before. I don’t know if I have really grown up from being dreamy and anxious and overwhelmed and impulsive, but I have learnt to identify with all of them more as actual parts of myself, than just some words that never really sunk in.

So while goodbyes are hard and all the new hellos could be harder to say, you will find your way out and in and in and out just fine. Never let a goodbye spell an end for you, for as long as you keep seeking the new, you won’t ever run out of hellos to give either.

 

Written by Ananya Vasishtha

Image by Megha Chakrabarti

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We Would Learn To Live Without

i tell myself to dance for a while, slowly
to dancing by mellow fellow
i would hold your hand, sit with you
or we could hum something of our own
while we wonder why crows are on trees
and pigeons above ac coolers.

if time slowed down
would we be feeling the way we feel
like moths, wanting to stick to those walls a little longer
or like shoes, unwilling to come out
or like those dusty chairs in the gazebo, if you know just what i mean
you will share a song about waiting
and i will wait.

i wish to tell you that it’s twenty days
i have seen a bird too shy to sing
hiding in the yellow shrub, behind walls where no cameras reach;
on twenty days in three years have i noticed
a blue bird, my eyes calculating time/regret.

if there was time
would we laugh when the squirrel will bite you, twice
while you try and try to feed it
perhaps, you would learn to love less
and maybe i would stop getting lamer each day.
maybe while waiting for each other,
we would learn to live without.

what use is this poetry
if i cannot sit back to that aged wooden chair and look at faces
that change as i change
lay my head to that table in room no. 22
which reads “i’m cyborg but that’s ok”
dated to 2015, a year
which now feels old and beyond reach
like the numbers we need to memorize.
i will write number 9 on my wrist and you will say
“what is nine? nine is not even ten.”
#yourphilosophyiseternal #elevenisnotnine
and I will laugh but I will also imagine my laughter in slow motion,
trying to cling to words which evaporate.

what use?

squirrels on the trees,
have you an answer for me please –
the blue bird not singing doesn’t know.

 

Written by Shivangi Mehta

Image by Megha Chakrabarti

All We Ever Do is Say Goodbye

I think of summer days in shades of orange, vermilion, purple – pastel, of course and glazed over with the afternoon ennui that hangs around most late summer afternoons. I remember we sat near the lake and under fairy lights; there was no breeze but plenty of mosquitoes. In retrospect, I cannot think of one good reason why we’d chosen to sit there except for the lights, almost half of which were fused by then. I don’t particularly remember the colour of the sky, but I remember how it reminded me of Champagne Supernova and how the song kept running at the back of my head.

I discovered the song almost two years back when I read the lyrics of the chorus scrawled on the cover of a yellow diary that my friend always carried around. I fell in love with the lyrics first and the song later. It still remains one of my favourite songs by the band and I still don’t understand some of the lyrics. But three years of studying literature has made me very accepting of the fact that there will always be things I don’t understand and sometimes, it is just the arrangement of words that is enough – there is meaning enough in that.

It’s almost morning now. My room is empty and most of the people who live with me have left – some of them, like me, will not return here. I’ve made my trip to the post-office yesterday and speed-posted everything that would not fit into the magenta suitcase which is getting a little worn out around the bottoms and the blue bag on which I scrawled my initials with a whitener  in a fit of anxiety of losing my luggage. It was only after I had defaced it did I realise that baggage tags always have your name printed on them. Considering my initials are also the abbreviation for a very choice cuss word, it probably wasn’t the wisest thing I could have done.

What’s funny is how you can pack three years of your life into a few boxes and a couple of suitcases and leave without leaving a trace of yourself. I think I expected there to be more but I can’t quite describe what I mean by that. I’ve lived in this room for three years now and it’s a little sad to think that in a couple of months all traces of the three of us ever having lived here will have been gone. Maybe even the eye that my roommate sketched on the mirror with permanent marker, if they manage to get it off.

And then maybe perhaps, there is hope in that. That for someone this’ll be a place to start anew – for a fresh set of expectations met and unmet to settle into the hollow space under the bed, the hinges of the door which creak despite being oiled and the study table beside my bed which I’ve always used as an extra cupboard. Maybe the next person will actually use it as a study table and get real work done there. Azar Nafisi writes in Reading Lolita in Tehran about how when you leave a place, it’s not just the place that you leave behind but also the person that you were in that time and place.

How many lives are living strange?

All the people whose daily lives I’ve been a part of in these three years and those who’ve been a part of mine – we’ll be strangers to each other now in a certain sense. I’ve always been sentimental about endings and this time is no different. I get ready for the airport and despite the oddity and uncertainty of it all, I know exactly how my next five hours will be. I will book my cab, wear something nice for the airport and do my lips – I always like to make an effort for when I go home, reach early, check in my luggage, buy an overpriced coffee at Starbucks despite having given myself anxiety the last time I did so. I will eat and hover near the boarding gates, pretend to read and watch the sun go down on the Himalayas in the middle of the flight, breathe through the inevitable turbulence (What if the plane crashes? It won’t. It won’t.) and play Champagne Supernova on repeat.

Someday you will find me.

I will take one last look, my twenty-year old, fresh out of a lit program self at the city that I loathed, learnt to like and made an uncomfortable peace with and that I’m now leaving behind as the sky outside my window is plunged into darkness and think to myself:

I’ve been happy here.

 

Written by Megha Chakrabarti

Image by Megha Chakrabarti

All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye

You’d been dying so long
nothing looked like itself.
– Mart Szybist

Goodbye is
a blindness
to misplaced items and
the ever-growing silence,
it’s the guilt that will eat us
for ignoring
the knife kept “accidentally” in the bathroom
or the fact that you had stared at your food
for exactly 53 minutes
without touching it as if you had forgotten
what food was.

Goodbye is
a collection of anxious phone calls and
looking out of a balcony into an orange sky,
all hearts closed in on themselves
when you left home one day
and turned up kilometres away somehow,
it’s you sitting in a station and asking,
“Do you want to eat rice?”
in a calm voice
when you saw us again.

Goodbye is
a large folder of scans and tests,
a diagnosis of something with no cure;
it’s a disease that will make you forget
all the parts of you that
the people around you have spent their whole life loving,
all the parts of others that
you have spent your whole life loving,
it’s the fragmentation of a life
all bits and pieces going here and there,
the least one can do is collect some
even if they hurt.

Goodbye is
the game of dominoes in your brain,
a game that you are destined to lose;
things slipping away, just out of reach like
the jar you kept on the upper shelf of the kitchen
which you couldn’t take down on your own,
the name of your country,
your address,
the words used to describe an emotion,
your daughter’s name,
your name.
(Goodbye is
admitting that sometimes,
I can’t remember it either but I know
it starts with L,
I call you love.)

Goodbye is
you looking at me for twenty seconds
when I give you a glass of water,
your eyes foggy and your hands shaky
and it is you not saying my name
even though I had told you ten minutes
before what it was,
it is me crouching next to your feet and
waiting for it for thirty minutes
and then getting up,
the glass empty.

Goodbye is
a comment about how
the Russian tennis player is from
your village and how you used to
be friends with her,
it’s you talking to the screen she is displayed on,
joyful and excited and it’s the
heavy weight of this joy
that you feel that
we have to bear everyday.

Goodbye
is an accidental good day
where you ask to
cut the vegetables,
it’s the flicker of an emotion on your face
when we call you by your name,
it’s small smiles that will go away as
quickly as they appear and we are left wondering
if they had ever existed at all.

Goodbye is
your skin giving up,
with small bandages
holding it together,
it’s a screaming match and a
curtain rod pulled down and
a pulsating desire to punish the universe
for everything and anything.

Goodbye is
you looking at yourself,
your gaze flickering back and forth
trying to place yourself among
an uncountable number of losses
unpredictable, irreversible,
it’s a body that shrinks back
from us but also eyes that
say don’t let me be lonely.

Goodbye is
the warm smile you give me when
you are writhing with pain on that bed
it’s the warm smile you give me when
I look at you even though
I am just a stranger.

Goodbye is
the loss of dignity and
a nurse with sponges in her hand
and a hand that will direct you
to a comfortable position,
it’s the children’s products lined
against your bed
mocking your decades of existence.

Goodbye is
you vomiting on your clothes
and the light leaving your face
while the doctor sat in the adjoining room
talking about
a treatment plan,
it’s the last look at the world
full of a denial of love
with strangers staring back at you.

Goodbye is
the shrill ring of the telephone and
a panicked voice and
sleeping while hugging a pillow
because escape is essential,
it’s the hand on my shoulder
which is not comforting anymore
informing me of something
that I have known for so long.

Goodbye is
sitting on a bathroom floor,
my head against
the turquoise tiles
with a voice inside my head
chanting,
She didn’t even remember your name.

Goodbye is
repressed animal grief,
obsessively cleaned surfaces,
my mother hugging me from behind and
the phantom warmth of a
frail body that I can feel against my own
if I close my eyes
and try hard enough.

Goodbye is
the door of the room
which is like a museum of grief
both yours and ours
that stays closed because opening it
will reveal more than what
we want to see,
have the courage to see.

Goodbye is
the memory of a mother smiling
next to her children
as they play in a park,
it’s the memory of a grandmother picking up
the toys scattered
all across the dining room floor,
it is the memory of an old woman
standing next to a pot of boiling rice
frowning at her grandchildren
because they have hit the window
with a cricket ball again,
it is the memory of a person
sitting on a sofa asking her younger sister
if her ear problem is better.

Goodbye is
a long, long road with all the
streetlights blinking out
one after the other
till it’s all black, all dark, all nothing.

Goodbye
is a memory which now is unmemorable.

 

Written by Pragati Sharma

Image by Megha Chakrabarti

Goodbyes

Goodbyes are wintry.
They’re often too blue,
Dressed in tears and sad smiles.
They’re melancholic, like the bare trees
That seemed to have forgotten
The joys that spring would bring.
Goodbyes are autumnal.
They are tinted in sepia,
Colored in shades of red, yellow, and gold.
They’re delicate, like the crisp, fallen leaves
That I’d step on,
Like the crisp, fallen leaves
That you’d protect.
Goodbyes are summery.
They’re laced with warmth,
Painted in the colors of hope and memories.
They’re tender, like the coy sunrays
That’d dance across your windswept hair.
Like the fragrant champa,
That you’d tuck behind your ear.
Goodbyes are like spring,
For somewhere, somehow
They lead to new beginnings.

 

Written by Avani Solanki

Image by Megha Chakrabarti

 

From Wallflower, With Love

picture

 

“It’s like you’re supposed to blossom into this new person,” says my therapist, half-laughing as we talk about the notion of self-discovery as a collegiate rite of passage, “What bullshit.”

I’m still a wallflower when she says this, sitting pretty on a black leather couch pushed against the wall, this time. A wallflower still learning to accept that it’s difficult to talk and it’s alright to often want to feel like someone is holding you and everything will be okay. That it’s alright to hope, even if it’s only for something as small as a cup of tea.

I have blossomed and I have withered, with seasons or shall we say semesters and my mixed metaphors have wreathed a neat daisy chain across them. “You’ve become thinner than me,” said one girl to the other with a hint of celebration in her tone, as they both looked into the washroom mirror together. I’ve become a lot thinner from worrying but I avoid looking at the mirror. I look down at my shoes and wait in turn to wash my hands, unsure if I should “celebrate my body.” I’m still learning how to accept that external validation matters to me as much as it does.

I still don’t know how to be the life of the party but for a brief moment, I caught a man’s attention while postured self-consciously against the wall. When he noticed me, I felt like the most exquisite lily in the bouquet but in retrospect, I realise it was probably only my body he wanted. Did he mean anything he said when he wanted to “pluck” me? I wish I hadn’t needed him to tell me I can write prose like a wallflower. Oh well, at least the words have always been mine.

Can a ‘narrative’ truly just be yours alone, though? Isn’t it a pastiche, by default? People will fuck with your narrative but the show must go on. Keep up the pretence, smile, be grateful, like my friend texted me one night. I thought it must be full bloom season when I discovered a world where it was possible to desire women and having it materialize, but I had forgotten I grew on walls, not forgone my natural habitat in realising their lack of real reciprocity. I’m so confused it was images of different people I have longed for that flashed in front of me when I thought I was dying. I’m so confused that people will be really kind to you when you appear to be dying but will see through you when you seem to have recovered, the following morning. I’m even more confused that it’s easy for me to be patient and forgiving towards almost everyone except myself. There are countless nights I struggle to fall asleep and days when I need to be reminded to breathe. I’ve learnt the hard way that substance only numbs sadness for so long before it makes you implode in panic. Keatsian synaesthesia must have been more painful than it was aesthetic and sorry, Lenon, contraband friends do not help as much as I’d thought they would.

The calmest I have felt in months is walking down a certain street that feels like childhood, the less jagged edges of it. The same little shop sits at the bend where the endless ice-candy afternoons of summer spill over my childhood – a fragile constellation of moments stolen from the adult gaze. The people have disappeared; they have grown up and grown older and even the little pink flowers of February have been left behind. All that remains is the gentle stirrings of a familiar feeling and holding on to it is like effervescent soda fizz. It’s easier to grapple with than the reality that friends will leave and letting go is a lot harder than it seems.

“I hate to break it to you, but most people you encounter will be cold and distant, you can’t change that about the world, you can only find pockets; a couple of people to be with or something to do that lets you feel otherwise,” my therapist said at the end of that session.

I write because it reminds me that it’s not my fault that it’s so difficult for me to talk. It helps me accept that there are people who will trigger childhood panic as well as those who allow me an existence that isn’t just anxious. You could say I have withered and blossomed, semester after another and I’ve found some pockets to put hope into. It’s alright to hope, even if it’s something as small as someone who says I see you or knowing someone will hold you when you’re beaten out of breath again, knowing you have held them too.

It’s alright that wallflowers cannot really blossom everywhere because they can be pressed into pockets when they start to wilt again.

 

Written by Priya Tripathy

Image by Megha Chakrabarti