When I see a pair of birds glide across a pink setting sky, I think to myself that there could be nothing more beautiful in the world in this exact moment – that it must have taken the forces of the universe all their power to conjure this precise sequence of coincidences – for nandi to look up, for the building to remain standing in the same spot that it was in yesterday, for the only two birds left in gurgaon to fly overhead, for the curtains to be drawn, for nandi to have typhoid so she’s actually home at this hour. I mean statistically speaking this kind of larger-than-life moment creation is pretty rare right?
And then two days later three birds glide across marshmallow clouds and my brain, despite years of inculcating rational thought and reasoning, jumps to the same ‘this must be the moment where everything changes’ conclusion. It doesn’t change, but for like three seconds into my dramatic background violin track, it really does feel like it will.
Despite the stereotype of dimly lit wooden cottages and dusty typewriter keys, where writer folk grow old in self-contained, yet content, isolation, I have found, much to the chagrin of a potential vintage-instagram post, that I really really need to get out of my bed to form any brain thoughts at all. I grew up a fairly introverted child. My Pillsbury dough body, and general disposition to pick fights with boys who stole my tazos, kept me away from your everyday playground politics. Sangs tells me now, that I was the most well behaved seven year old she knew, because while my brother was throwing washed laundry off the balcony edge and hiding in refrigerators (true story), my wandering attention would be easily distracted if someone handed me a piece of string. “Apparently,” and I must use words that throw fact into a debatable realm of ambiguity (because otherwise I would have to admit to being that weirdo kid) I would twist and turn that string around my chubby little fingers with utmost wonderment. My acceptable adult-explanation is that I was an undiscovered child genius exploring the theoretical groundwork of string theory, but my high school physics marks usually give me away. I think my imagination is a gift on a lonely doorstep, the consolation prize Santa leaves with the cookies when there aren’t any other presents under the tree. For the longest time my cardboard kingdoms, and ceiling-fan helicopter blades made for adequate evening company.
Until suddenly, they didn’t anymore.
Good writing, or so they tell me, relies on a certain internal logic and consistency. Arguments lead to other arguments, and if one were to map the trajectory of thoughts into a line graph, it would be smooth, seamless, slipping like butter from metaphor to wisdom. People, unfortunately, don’t always grow like that, and we wake up one morning to realise that we really aren’t the person we’ve been telling everyone we are. I made sense to me growing up – certain attributes pair well with others, like two peas in a pod, I have found that insecurity and self-deprecation are often secretly in bed together. Unchecked ambition and selfishness raise a glass of champagne on a balcony railing every evening; and kindness and humility drop pennies on floors for others to luck upon. See it made sense – to be a writer and lonely, fiercely independent and kind of sad, introverted and insightful. My sense of existential anxiety never stemmed from this quest to ‘find myself,’ but rather an unwavering fear that there was no purpose in this world for someone like me. ‘Someone like me’ – I knew who I was, and naive childhood principles made me believe that the integrity of my centre was free from environmental circumstance. I would remain steadfast – unchanging, always a person I could identify in the mirror.
Purpose is a strange thing, sometimes we try on costumes with the misguided belief that we’re merely role-playing. But when you wear a particular role long enough, the seams get stitched into your skin, and you become, for all intents and purposes, what you do. I was the fixer – spending 10 years of my existence acting as the knot that held my parent’s marriage together, and then the next ten as a magician trying to untie the ropes from around my neck – the knot had begun to suffocate me. And then my parents’ volatile marriage ebbed into a resignation that comes with passing life, or rather life passing you – there was no time to fight anymore, no energy for my home to fall apart – and as a consequence, there was nothing left to hold together. My cardboard kingdoms only provided escape when there was something that needed escaping from. Shit now there was peace, and I had friends can you believe it, and I lost the Pillsbury belly, and fell in love, and got into college, even started making stupid scrapbooks – God, none of it made sense anymore. Suddenly people would laugh when I said I was ‘socially awkward,’ and I’d feel angry that they didn’t believe me, because it had to be true, it had always been true – it was who I was remember. My patchwork armour had become so familiar, that when I finally needed to, I couldn’t even admit to myself that it was I who was coming apart at the seams. Who fixes the fixer, where do doctors go when they catch a cold? I’m okay, see I’m always okay because I’ve always been okay, because Nandita’s headstrong independence will see her through everything. Three years spent studying literature in college would sometimes make me forget a real-world existed outside the walls of my mind – it was slipping away, the materiality of the moment, the understanding of a world beyond these books I read, and I worried that I would vanish into an imagination that had become too strong to control. I didn’t want to write myself into oblivion, that kind of privilege is only reserved for ex-lovers. But I never made that call, to ask someone to ground me again.
I have spent 22 years of my life holding the past as leverage over my own head. All of us, after all, want to be beautiful pieces of writing – effortlessly flowing from one logical argument to the next to retain the central proposition of our souls. The truth is, and maybe two typhoid laden weeks in bed have actually made me crazy, that I don’t have a central proposition to defend anymore. I want people – to talk to, and hold, be angry and happy with, and I also don’t sometimes. I got stuck trying to live up to a version of myself that no longer existed – and that’s okay, I’m merely human, and I must remember that I’m allowed to exist within dissonance – to still be whole in the face of internal contradiction. I can be fiercely independent and in love at the same time, have strength and need help – be a fixer and need fixing. After years of denying myself the courtesy of change, I think it’s finally time to let myself be. To not have to explain or justify incongruent pairs of characteristics, and to also not believe that I am somehow obliged to be the same person tomorrow that I am today.
We don’t owe our yesterdays to anyone, not even ourselves.