Category Archives: Non-Fiction

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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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

From Wallflower, With Love

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“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

 

Love in the Time of Memes

“Love is an exasperating farrago of distortions, misrepresentations and outright lies.”

Skeptic Tharoor

I once watched a Thai movie called The Love of Siam where the manager of the protagonists’ boy band dismissed their songs and said that they must write a song about love in order to sell more records. In other words, he was trying to say that love sells. In popular culture, romantic love has always been marketed as the most surreal and sublime emotion in the world. The obsession with romantic love has also given rise to a widespread perception that people who have not experienced it are missing out on something supremely important in life. In order to dismantle this notion, this Valentine’s Day, thousands of people gathered in Mumbai to shout “Pyaar Ek Dhoka Hai” and celebrate singlehood.

The event was a culmination of what had initially started as a meme, created and shared by the popular comedy group AIB.  Once the meme went viral, the makers capitalized on its popularity and began publicizing “Pyaar Ek Dhoka Hai” as a movement. A lot of millennials became a part of, what was being touted as, a “movement” by uploading pictures and videos of themselves shouting “Pyaar Ek Dhoka Hai” with their friends in college playgrounds, buses, cafes and so on. This campaign became an outlet for a lot of single people to express their distress and anguish over the concept of romantic love on an occasion which demands its consumerist celebration through the purchase of chocolates, cards, roses, teddy bears and other frivolous indulgences. Thus, love literally sells?

Consumption of culture on the internet is much like Jean Piaget’s sensorimotor stage of cognitive development in children. According to Piaget, this stage begins at around 18 months and lasts up to 24 months in children. For children, during this stage what is ‘out of sight’ is literally ‘out of mind’. This explains viral trends and memes on the internet that is susceptible to lack, or absence, of object permanence because this is exactly what is happening today. Last month, it was Anant Ambani who became a national meme after he delivered his first speech as the new generation of Reliance Industries. He was trolled heavily by millennials on the internet because of his constipated enunciation and evidently rote-memorized speech. This month millennials are impressed with #PyaarEkDhokaHai and Priya Prakash Varrier’s eyebrow gymnastics at the same time. They have converted one to a “revolution” and have catapulted the other to the pedestal of a national crush.

Once any trend goes viral, there will inevitably emerge people who will be quick to take offence at the same. The organizers humorously referred to the “Pyaar Ek Dhoka Hai” event as “a joke gone too far”. They came under the radar for this and had to defend themselves by saying that it was just a “celebration of self-love” because everyone deserves to be happy. Simultaneously, a complaint was filed against the song “Manikya Malaraya Poovi” starring Priya Prakash Varrier by a few members belonging to the Muslim community because they felt that it affected their religious sentiments. Nevertheless, these viral trends have a clear market value associated with it and during this Valentine’s Day, love became the selling point for meme-makers. This time they tapped into the sentiments of both lovers and non-lovers because they always seem to be at loggerheads somehow. I have always wondered so as to why people can’t let each other be. After all, love is also a matter of choice. You may or may not be anyone’s Funny Valentine.

The internet will, however, not let you be in peace. It will force you to take sides and prove yours better than the other, but it is also difficult to figure out what people are up to on the internet. This is intrinsic in the fact that, on one hand, people were vociferously chanting “Pyaar Ek Dhoka Hai” on the internet, and, on the other hand, they were also vigorously sharing clips of Priya Prakash Varrier’s viral video. This would make one ponder over how people put up a facade of their emotions on the internet because at the end of the day we are all just part of a consumer culture. We feed off of viral content on the internet and then comfortably forget about it in a week or so, because as long as the meme economy flourishes, nothing else seems to matter.

Written by Ankita Adak

Image by Joy Malsawmhlui

 

A Movie Review by a Reformed Skeptic

I was a person who had only ever seen bits and pieces of “Mean Girls” on TV, and the parts I had seen gave me the impression that it was an overrated movie that people enjoyed merely for its brash, offensive one-liners and its clichéd portrayal of high-school hierarchy. So when I voted for it as the theme for this month’s issue of Jabberwock— I was prepared to roast it.

I decided to watch the entire movie once first to do justice to the article. By the time it was finished, I was very, very annoyed.

I was annoyed because I could no longer write a scathing review about it.

Yes, the movie can be watched on a superficial level, in which case all one takes away are the iconic one-liners and the Disney-esque life lesson at the end. Yes, it has its flaws since some characters are excessively caricatured, some of the acting is sub-par and some of the comedic one-liners are completely unnecessary (although extremely quotable, standalone lines, such as the woman who wanted to bake a cake of happiness).

But as a whole, the script of the movie shows a brilliantly technical circularity. The best example is the parallel between Cady and Regina, how they both become the same type of shallow and self-centred people, and how Regina goes from being the predator to the prey.

Another aspect that sets “Mean Girls” apart is its characterisation. There are many stereotyped, stock characters, but some manage to stay with the viewer. While Cady has her dark moments, overall she is an idealized and innocent character. However, Regina and Gretchen, two of the original “mean girls,” are more complex. Of course, we dislike them for their cruelty and narcissism, but their dark and petty traits are something all of us can somewhat relate to – they have human flaws. And despite these flaws, we cannot help but root for them at times. Regina is mean, no doubt, but we cannot help but feel for her when Cady exploits her body insecurities with the Kalteen bar scam. We also pity Gretchen and her strong need for approval from Regina, and validation from others.

Thus “Mean Girls” is a film which has parts that you can laugh at because it seems so exaggerated and far from reality, and parts that are almost unsettlingly realistic and almost guilt-provoking, reminding us of the ease with which we judge and slander the people around us. It is also realistic because it does not show a great deal of change in the existing hierarchy of the high school, or an ideal reform of everyone’s character. There is just a rearrangement of the “mean girls” into new, less damaging social roles and a greater understanding of existing problems – which is how change, actually begins.

Written by Madhuboni Bhattacharya

Image by Aanchal Juneja

 

Mean Girls

“Fugly slut” was a phrase I picked up while watching the film Mean Girls on television with my sister. She was about twelve and I, nine. By default, books and television would never get censored in our household. It was not until much later that I really understood what it meant; but it wasn’t just a film to me even back then for playground politics has never been just a microcosm. It is what enables the performance of power and socialization into the roles that power dynamics demand from us at a very young age.

Being eight years old is one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life. My family moved back to the city we had earlier lived in, which meant changing schools in the middle of the academic year. I spent a lot of hours learning how to spell because I was terrible at it, trying to live with the constant discord at home and waiting outside my paediatric nephrologist’s office. It was a painful and endless battle with my body and mind. I had no friends at school or otherwise and wasn’t able to do well academically either. The presence of mean girls wasn’t a welcome addition to this.

Playground politics at the “sexually latent” stage of childhood manifests itself in physical and superficial appearances, because abstract thinking isn’t supposed to have completely developed in a child’s cognition by this stage of development. When I look back, that’s exactly how it seems. The two girls in my class that everybody seemed to adore and worship, even the teacher, seemed to meet some arbitrary standard of attractiveness that pervades the world of childhood too.

Each day, I would struggle with how different I was, in the way I looked, in my quietness, in my academic and athletic incompetence. “You can’t sit with us” isn’t just a dialogue in a film to me; it has been an everyday reality for a significant part of my childhood. I remember not wanting to be associated with, being bullied and socially ostracized. I remember falling asleep each night wishing I would wake up somewhere else and not having to go back to school. I never felt like I could get any real help or talk to my parents about it and so I learnt to keep mum about way too much from quite early on. Nobody will really help us, my mother’s voice still echoes in my head from the time she used to say it when I was little.

I wanted to be like my sister. Look like her, talk like her, befriend her friends. The sheer impossibility of this consumed me with jealousy and immense rage at myself. Little did I know she was battling with the manifestation of the mean girls phenomenon within her own age group, it was only as we grew older that I learnt how to grapple with the magnitude of its presence. Unfortunately, I also happened to be one of the youngest children in the apartment where we lived, so anybody hardly ever took me seriously and nobody could really protect me. I was always a lemon/tamarind/tangerine; the rules of the game relaxed for me because I couldn’t run fast enough by virtue of being five years old. Once, an older girl who we played with didn’t slow down while she held my hand and ran with me, my feet could not keep up and I ended up skinning my knee on concrete. I remember crying and asking her to slow down; the bruise is still a shadow on my left knee; over the years, it has healed from looking like a chocolate chip cookie to a butterfly to just a faint scar of a memory. Somebody had to carry me home that day; “Ayyo, what happened?” said our neighbour’s sympathetic voice, as she leaned over her balcony ledge lined with potted cacti.

Mostly, I was an indoors-y child who hid under the large dining table with my dolls and our private tea party. Occasionally I would peep from the windows at children skating outside on Saturday mornings, only to retreat back to my hiding place. I wore pink not just on Wednesdays, but almost all the time, I gravitated towards this colour almost instinctively but it didn’t allow me any access or an entry point into an exclusive clique of girls. My sister seemed to be doing much better by having tastes completely opposite to mine. I talked so little, most people assumed I knew just as much and had little to contribute to any conversation. ”Your daughter is too quiet, she needs to talk” was a phrase my mother grew quite familiar with as everybody who ever taught me reinforced this idea.

It was only once I was a teenager that I started talking, really talking about how I feel and what I think. It took me about fourteen years of my life to feel brave enough to do that as I’d silently fought my battles until I learnt I could make friends.

A friendship I developed as an adult has grown rife with animosity but in a moment of tenderness, she calls out to me and in memory of better times, we sit together in a circle in the hostel’s inner quad, under the canopy of fairy lights at midnight. It’s fesitive, warm, fuzzy and bittersweet. There’s mellow and sentimental music drifting along with the smoke from sugary coffee in paper cups as multiple conversations encircle me. It isn’t really a circle, that’s impossible and it’s real that smaller sets of people are talking even in this arrangement. A couple of people beside me talk about how nobody really stays, how nobody can really ever stay. On the other side of the circle, there’s talk of a movie that makes you feel through and through. This moment could possibly be a scene from a film like that, I think.

Some of these people sitting along with me were the mean girls who would have bullied me in school. I often wonder if those girls ever stop and realise, if they even had a sense of the magnitude of damage they were doing or if they have grown to realise it at all. Probably not. I thought I had transcended that, that I had made peace and learned how to befriend people despite their meanness but it’s still very personal and difficult for me. It brings back a flood of unpleasant memories and I try to see these people sitting here just as people. Make allowances for all of us, even myself. Think of who messed up so bad that we feel the need to do this, in turn.

I’m no Cady Heron, and thankfully, “fugly slut” never became a part of the vocabulary I used to describe someone. I’m still learning how to live with the anxiety I learned to internalize at home and school and on some days, it gets really difficult but at least, I didn’t turn into a Plastic.

Being eight will probably be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but even then, I knew I wouldn’t always be that small and helpless. That year, I discovered I could write poems when we lost our dog to an accident one morning; the going got tough and I had nobody to confide in. The year after, I picked up reading and books couldn’t always be replacements for friends I didn’t have but it made feel less alone and powerless, at least. It taught me how to be less and less apologetic for being me and being incapable of being mean.

Written by Priya Tripathy

Image by Radhika Aneja

The Story of An Emotion

-words in context-

The English language (perhaps much like the imperial sovereigns who spoke it) has a tendency to colonise, taking certain words from other languages and making them its own. Many of these words, such as “juggernaut” from Sanskrit “jagannatha” and “foyer” from the homographic French word, were introduced to English through the historical processes of colonisation and trading.

But now, we have the internet. And the latest crop of non-English words that is taking the English-speaking internet by storm consists of words that seem to have no direct translation in English. There are innumerable lists online extolling the beauty of these subtle emotions and situations that are almost inexplicable in English. They feature words like “litost” (Czech; a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery) and “mamihlapinatapai” (Yaghan; a special look shared between two people when both wish that they would do something they both want but are reluctant to do it). And of course, words like hiraeth.

Hiraeth” is a Welsh word that can very crudely be translated to “homesickness”. It can also be used to express missing a person. However, one look at Welsh history ( people colonised by the Britishers and seen as foreigners in their own land) will tell you that “hiraeth”, as author Pamela Petro puts it, is “an unattainable longing for a place, a person, a figure, even a national history that may have never actually existed. To feel hiraeth is to feel a deep incompleteness and recognize it as familiar.”

There are certain other words found in these lists that are a product of the culture they come from, and perhaps this is why they are difficult to translate. “Yuanfen” is a Chinese word which refers to the binding force of predestination that brings people, objects or events together. In English, it is roughly translated to fate or serendipity, and is understood in a romantic context. However, in China, it can be brought up in business and work interactions, and even refer to recurring events. It reflects the importance of fate and what is “meant to be” in Chinese culture, especially among the elderly.

However, there is a certain universality of human sentiment in most of these words. In fact, Portuguese “saudade” (a feeling of longing, melancholy or nostalgia, especially in songs or poetry) comes quite close to “hiraeth”. “Hiraeth” can apply even to the Indians who are aware that the very idea of India is a construct, who still try to trace their origins to an India whose nature no one can truly remember. “Hiraeth” can apply to anyone who is struggling to find their identity and their place in this world, away from their actual past, or conversely anyone who misses a long-lost past.

So we find that words and languages are yet another example of how different we all are by nurture, and yet how similar in nature.

SOURCES:

 

Written by Madhuboni Bhattacharya

Image by Chetanya Godara

 

To Nanu, from Rooh

Dear Nanu/Comrade BD,

It has been a while since you left, and I suppose the silver lining is that it rained the day you left. You were birthed into the world amidst torrential thunders, with your superstitious mother wailing about all the bad omens surrounding you. The designated midwife was out cold from all the bhaang, the emergency midwife wouldn’t stop singing some obscure Bhojpuri songs, the bats entered the room and provided audience while your father accidentally set the curtains on fire. You were born an anarchist, and your conservative mother, God bless her soul, was massively unprepared.  I can hear you chuckle like you did when you narrated this story. You have always taught me that life is circular and that we end where we begin. On that account, I’m glad you left the way you came. A part of me feels you just wanted theatrical end credits with thunder, lightning and rain and you got them. Well, if you must know, I didn’t cry too much because the last time we spoke, you told me you wanted to be celebrated, not mourned.

That a wealthy zamindar with farmers under his thumb would have a son who spent his life fighting for peasants’ property rights from an unknown village in Haryana is a beautiful miracle that I’m proud of. You gave me my name, the borderline-obnoxious and ridiculous spelling of it, and most importantly, my nickname – Rooh. Rooh, for your belief in the resilience of the human soul. I sometimes wonder if you called me Rooh to assure me that I would always recover. I can safely say that you gave me my first sense of identity; a small blip on the cartesian map of this world that I could stake a claim to. I want you to know that I carry it on my skin every day, like one of those personalized badges of honour you would make me. I won’t lie, some days I take a ride to the Supreme Court – only to feel closer to you. You told me that this was your home and I visit to trace your origins. Maybe someday I will manage to sneak past the guards and see your chamber for myself. Maybe I will walk to the canteen and dip my simple Marie biscuits in overpriced English teas, if only to remember the winter of 2012 when we celebrated one of your cases.

I am not sure as to how I would break down these feelings stemming from your ceremonious exit. My anger was like a confused 10-year-old who carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. It was alive, and it begged for attention. But now the lividity has moved on to a better understanding of grief, loss and reconciliation. Truth be told, no self-help book will teach us to become more than our traumas. No amount of kind words from relatives we come upon only for weddings/funerals/other catastrophes will help us cope better. Grief is personal to the point where we can hardly share it and hope that the fundamental law of division would apply.

As I ponder over it, I realize that I don’t have the concept of a home in strictly physical terms. All of us are ejected violently in this world with a cord sometimes choking us. Then we decide to construct a sense of familiarity and comfort by staying rooted. I have changed enough homes up to this point to know that all of us are like the suspended plastic bag from American Beauty, caught in the winds of time. Now I think of myself as just an airport somebody, or possibly a disoriented hitchhiker – forever in transit. I can imagine you smiling at my romanticised rhetoric, but I hope you understand that although I don’t know a home, I know familiarity. You, with your quirky cufflinks and ancient khadaus, hobbling to draw water from the neighbourhood well were familiarity. You, with your booming laughter frightening my Nani into spilling her tea were familiarity. Above all, watching you climb trees to get me kaccha aam was familiarity. Now my mother smiles instead of wincing when it’s time for the annual custom of making achaar and panna from it. That’s progress.

I have lost and reconciled, in equal measures. I wish I had more time to be your unpaid legal intern, incompetent sous chef and “chanchal-mann” granddaughter, but I’m glad I had the honour of knowing and loving you, if only for a limited time.

Until next time.

Yours,

Rooh

 

Written by Aarooshi Garg

Image by Sheena Kasana

 

 

 

 

Home

On nights when the moon has forsaken me, I dream like a child while you read to me – apologies addressed to stars you’ve held captive in a bottle. One for each sentence I’ve lost. All to you. Do not misunderstand, I do not love you when I write. You are the wall I drew on as a child, painted over once I was old enough to be reprimanded. You are the heartbreak felt when I visited an unfamiliar home, the traces of a childhood gone in all but four years.

Your own home is a sad one, in the middle of this melancholy city, this ashtray of a city, this city which evokes nostalgia in all but you. You who do not see the beauty in pain. You, who do not think on account of strong medication. You who do not collect memories, anymore. Memories of a first kiss, of a father, of something less barren than a pretty house.

Tell me now, do you look around, often? Do you wonder at things, like the stray wind, a stray string and all other manner of stray things? I wonder how you manage distraction without thought? Or are you, to put it simply –  lost?

Then it seems I have found home. I have found home in a lost boy and together we’ve run away.

For it is a moonless night.

 

Written by Ishani Pant

Image by Radhika Aneja

Specialis Revelio

During winters, the thing that I miss the most is Hogwarts.

The nostalgia to return to the magical world begins as early as September, when the school is supposed to start. It goes on and on until Christmas is upon us, and that’s when I crave to be a part of the Wizarding world. It’s something to do with the lighting and the air, I think – it’s wonderfully tentative, quite how I imagine autumn in Scotland. And the leaves flutter – ever so slightly. It’s not hot, so you know it’s a chilled wind blowing. The fog forms another part of the nostalgia: it makes me dream of snow. I can see the castle, decked up in dozens of trees, brought in by Hagrid and decorated by Professor Flitwick. The sky in the dining hall will be huge, and endless – and vast! It would reach into the very heavens – literally.

When I was growing up, I used to read Harry Potter. Harry Potter got me into the business of reading, providing an outlet for my imagination, for my almost violent need to escape, be a part of some sort of magic.

And nothing can ever replicate those early adventures into Harry’s world. I didn’t have a lot of friends in school – dreadfully tragic, isn’t it? The very beginning of a philosophical movie that delves deep into the escapism of a young girl. I didn’t have friends, in any case – I had a few, but they were sort of – bullies. I’m not quite certain how to characterize our relationship, but it certainly wasn’t healthy.

So, when I was growing up – I had Harry.

It’s funny how books can save your lives, or change them. I don’t remember a time before Harry Potter. I remember, vaguely, watching the movies and not caring to read the books. I remember my Dad buying me the first one for one of my birthdays. And I have done the mathematical calculations as to when I should have read it – based on solid memories. I have a very distinct memory of showing my second grade teacher that I was reading Chamber of Secrets. I must have been seven then, so I have deduced that I ought to have read it sometime then.

I don’t remember when I met Harry for the first time. I don’t remember what, exactly transpired between him and me in his small cupboard under the stairs. I don’t remember what happened that got me so hooked. Mamma had to convince me to get through the first ten pages, and that is something I definitely remember. Sometime around the snake escaping the zoo – I think – I became part of Harry’s world.

I remember meeting Ron for the first time, I remember meeting Hermione. I remember thinking that Ron and Hermione would be perfect – they fought entirely too much to be anything else. I remember when it rained in the castle, the Quidditch pitch would become muddy and Oliver wouldn’t be happy at all. I remember Peeves, and I remember crying with laughter at some of Harry’s more sarcastic comments.

I think I remember the castle in a way that I don’t think is quite possible. In a world of small spaces, tiny areas designated for thoughts – Hogwarts expanded before me like a huge and inviting mess. Nothing about it made sense, even lesser was palpable and understandable. It was huge and complex, and in between the spaces that Hogwarts provided, I’m fairly certain I found me.

But it wasn’t mine. Hogwarts was gigantic, and enormous, and part of it was mine – and it was the most satisfying way to deal with my problems. But at some point, I think I wanted to create my own space. Hogwarts gave me the encouragement I needed – the breathing space to imagine a new space. And that, I think is when I started writing.

Fifth grade was when the seventh book was released. It was all over, and Hogwarts wasn’t there – as a growing thing. I hadn’t discovered fanfiction then, and I think I wanted more. So – I wrote.

I wrote because I found – in brief instances, that the sky could be so beautiful, and I wondered whether it was the same at Hogwarts. I wrote because Harry and I stared at the same moon – across dimensions, across realities – and I wrote because everything was so terribly beautiful. I wrote as a scream into the void – in hopes that someone else was listening – or – or someone would answer back.

My initial forays into these worlds I created were difficult. They didn’t transition well, the worlds were stacked together and odd. I began imagining them from fifth and fourth grade itself. And in sixth, I was writing. I was writing – and I was writing with an intensity that neither of my parents had thought possible. My father was surprised that my initial story writing endeavour had entered nearly fifty pages.

I got the grasp of the idea, eventually, obviously. I understood how it functioned, and I started to make sense of it. I wrote more, and more, and more. I didn’t stop for so long that I didn’t quite know how not to. I was writing horribly and chunkily and with no skill, but with the determination that I had to recreate Hogwarts. I had to find it again – I had to go back to the castle, and yes, maybe it wasn’t Harry that I found again – but god help me if I didn’t find me.

This intense foray into the world of my imagination – where murder was recreated alongside magic is fantastically interesting. But the thing that prompted this, as usual, is Hogwarts.

And yes, it’s more fun to create your own. It’s enjoyable to write constantly until your keyboard burns (I’m not kidding, my last laptop has a barely functioning keyboard), and it’s amazing to find yourself in these huge swathes of imagination – but sometimes – it’s nice to go back home again. It’s like returning to your home town: you know that there’s so many things that are problematic, so many issues that you’re not entirely comfortable with, and hell, you have grown too much for you to live there anymore, but damn it all if it’s not a comfort to be back from time to time.

 

Written by Tanvi Chowdhary

Image by Aanchal Juneja