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156: Another Holiday Monday

5 Jun


What if I become broke? But oh my darling, what if you become rich?

I couldn’t help adapt the popular quote to this bookshop that I first visited as a child. It was a new experience because this was a bookshop of a different kind; one where they sold old books that smelt the best and even took back books you’d finished reading. 

It was just normal instinct to walk into a bookstore enroute the restaurant my friend A and I were heading to, to stuff our face with Mangalorean ghee roast crab. 

Our afternoon was delectable, to say the least. 

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153: The Thrill In The Uexpected

2 Jun

Ever since I got here, I’ve experienced a series of unexpected joys. As I was very matter-of-factly walking towards the bus shuttle after exiting the airport, I chanced upon the first bus in line, which was relatively empty, that I decided to get home by. On approaching the bus, there she was sitting right in the front seat in direct sight – my first ever psychology teacher from back in the day. One really finds it difficult to sum up all the feelings that bubble and gurgle within you…a fine blend of shock, excitement, confusion, joy, thrill, all woven into a fabric of beautiful memories put together. We couldn’t believe our chance meeting – on a bus out of so many buses, at an airport of all places; and after what’s soon going to be 15 years. Of course this count was meant to highlight just how long it’s been, except it also reminds me just how long ago I finished my 10th board exams. It goes without saying that we spent the rest of the bus ride seated next to each other, sharing titbits from our life and experiences, and how the journey has been so far. To say that the ride was too short would fall short of how I felt; where’s that traffic jam when you really need it?!

In-keeping with this, and as if I hadn’t walked back in time enough, I passed my school during functional school hours yesterday for the first time since I’d left it. As I drove past it, I couldn’t resist the urge to get off the car and walk right in, to just perhaps see if I could meet the teachers I’d once spent every single day of my life with. And I did. I still cannot describe the feeling; perhaps the connections run so deep that they’ve remained embedded somewhere within me in a place that’s hard to access. Time really isn’t enough when you’re walking down memory lane. Sometimes words aren’t, either.

It’s a strange feeling, this. There’s always been an indefinable friction within me to go back to where I came from. Notwithstanding the trying times that they were, and not discounting the amazing things that were also happening back then, it really isn’t a road I like to walk down. Things change, people change, everything changes. Apart from this insecurity of not being remembered or being acknowledged like you perhaps once were, it’s this strange tug of war stepping back in time versus watching your memories from the safety of disconnected distance. As I walked away from these two episodes, it only reminded me that as the years pile up, so do our own thoughts and perceptions of the whats and hows. To say I didn’t take away so much from these experiences and in turn give so much to these experiences as well, would negate the actual power of reminiscence, time, and life itself.

34: Reliving Irreplaceable Memories

3 Feb


Some memories are best captured by experience, then pictures and words. It’s been the longest time since I took a train journey, so when an opportunity presented itself, I was happiest that we took it. 

While waiting for our train to arrive, my path crossed that of the platform’s bookstall, where I picked this kids comic up just for keeps. They didn’t have Tinkle, which I associate with train journeys, among other things that kept us kids busy in transit. Magnetic ludo, snakes and ladders, trump cards, comics, and when we grew up a little more, a walkman along with prized self made mixed tapes. And books. Always. 

Today I’m like a kid at a candy store or for me, a book/stationery store. My excitement knows no bounds. And with that, I take your leave, because hello window seat. :)

17: Love Lives Here

17 Jan

17th January never meant anything to me, and neither is it a day I picked out of my calendar to remember specifically. 18th January is a birthday, and so on, but 17th January holds no birthdays, anniversaries, or notes in my mind’s “do not forget” folder. And I’ve been unaware of its significance for 19 years so far.

As the calendar shuffled to today, I still woke up to my regular routine, and continued on.

Today marks the 20th year.

17th January, 2017, marks two decades since our family began what would be the next phase of its journey. I remember 1997 in hazes, but in very distinct hazes. It was the year we arrived in Bangalore in the hope to settle, and call it home. Twenty years is a lot to comprehend, if you ask me.

I graduated ten years ago. I lost my father and grandfather ten years ago. I got my first job ten years ago. I handled my first client project ten years ago. I smoked my first cigarette ten years ago. I went to a club for the first time, ten years ago. We bought a new, first-hand fridge for ourselves, ten years ago. See? A decade, while vast, is easier to deal with, than the expanse that is a lifetime lived in twenty years.

A lot of my mind used the escape of repression. A lot of my heart is still raw. But a lot of the journey we began twenty years ago, and ever since, is where love came, and stayed. My memories of living started from there; my sense of direction, while largely dormant at that time, took its roots then; my concepts of love, loss, forgiveness, joy, anger, gratitude, and family, took shape then. My sense of self, in its entirety, germinated during that time.

The past twenty years have taught me more than a lifetime ever could. And that is because love lived where our journey took us, those many years back. Love lived in our room on the roof, in our togetherness in that loneliness, in our strength in our companionship, in our protection amidst our insecurities, in our faith in times of uncertainties, in our determination during our weaknesses. Love lived in our abilities to share, hold our ground, and in our unity. Love lived. Love lives here, even today. Love will always live.

Even when journeys take on new roads.

When love lives and encompasses everything around you, even the toughest roads you find yourself walking on, become smooth. The passage of time becomes a mere amalgamation of calendar dates, chunked into one. 17th January disappeared from my consciousness, just like the many thorns that softened and blossomed into the garden this journey’s path was adorned with.

Twenty years.

Thank you, dearest universe, for conspiring, and making it happen.

Thank you, Bangalore, for being home, in every sense of the word.

Thank you, to the many angels we’ve been blessed to cross paths with.

And thank you, darling time, for always being right. :)

Wealth And Riches

8 Sep

I’m beginning to realise that the one thing that truly makes the world spin and get off its ass and work and just be nimble, is money. I don’t come from this school of thought and neither was I raised to believe that money was everything. Values, morals, hard work, respect and integrity, love…this is what I’ve grown up believing to be the way forward, and consequently imbibing. But it turns out that not everyone’s loci of motivation lies in these seemingly idealistic characteristics. Sad it is, but real it also is.

Work doesn’t get done unless there’s moolah dangled at the end of a stick; that extra bright orange carrot everyone wants a bite of and fast, and lots of, to be sure. Money makes you powerful, indispensable and supreme apparently. It’s ironic though, that something as fluid as money, rarely promises to stay – in whichever form. I remember my grandma telling me this story? about Lakshmiji, the Goddess of Wealth, back when we used to keep each other company till late at night – her with her stories and writing, me always thirsty for another story, another anecdote. It goes like this – she told me to remember that Goddess Lakshmi always visits everyone in her own way and in her own time; it’s just for us to become aware of her presence and her gifts she leaves behind. In the midst of this never ending search and thirst for wealth, she can cross your path in two ways – one on her vahan (vehicle) which is an owl, and the other when she comes with Lord Vishnu; The Protector and Preserver, The All Pervading One. Her visits with her owl (called ulloo in Hindi, also colloquially used to denote a fool), while overflowing with all the riches and more one could ever dream of, can also render one useless and bereft of everything else that makes a human being holistically rich; thus leaving her benefactor poorer than they could ever imagine. Her visits with Lord Vishnu however, indicate the provision and arrival of wealth that is hard earned, valuable, clean and perennial – one that would arrive to stay.

Deep stuff, eh?

No wonder we used to stay up nights – she because of her perpetual insomnia, and me because of the wondrous tales I’d get to hear in bargain for a quicker snooze (grandparents sleep faster while telling stories, it’s true). Such a fantastic give and take.

I just called her up to get my sketchy recollection of this story fixed, in fact. Great treasures and luxuries we’re blessed with, if you ask me.

Writing helps me. From what was turning out to be a day which promised to be irritatingly annoying and wrought with obstacles, because this world runs on money, I’m ending this post feeling richer than when I began writing it. I guess this is what it all boils down to; and this is how deep-rooted my upbringing really is. What a glowing reminder of the riches we have in our own capacities and ways, this was.

It also brings to mind those moral science books that were compulsorily enforced upon us as tiny tots. Whodathunk those big worded, large-font sentences would make their way past a pig-tailed child with a triangular-shaped hanky pinned to her, right through the pages of time to her memory?

Maybe I’ll stimulate and address this irritation another time – for right now I feel richer than I have felt in a long, long time.

01:00 am Finds

19 Aug

Usher popped back into my life late last night, thanks to Jimmy Fallon. It was just the right track to make me feel a bit better about the confused spot the full-mooned night put me; what with me swaying listlessly between sleeplessness and the need to follow my routine and sleep – I had already stayed up later than usual. It’s nothing fancy, except it has Usher in it; which I’m not afraid to admit, makes me feel like a teenager all over again. Not that such things help in aiding sleep, but when something comes my way, I’ve learned to take them in my stride. Do have a listen, just as I did when all around me was still, quiet and calm.

 

I like it; except the would you mind if I still love you bit; I mean come on! But we’ve got to give some to get some, right? This isn’t an on the loop song for me, though.

However, sleep was induced by my trusted method of reading, and so Coolie (by Mulk Raj Anand), which I’m currently in the middle of, was read.

I tried wondering why or what it was that decided to keep me awake last night but was unsuccessful in doing so. I suspect it isn’t just one thing and that the collective load of all the things I feel aren’t going as per plan, have decided to shroud me in a cloak of stress. I know because I’ve been eating more than I usually do and I know more so because eating makes me feel exponentially better, and instantly at that. Yes, a stress-eater, I am. That’s another work in progress project I’ve enforced upon myself; which I hope, will see the light of day sometime.

Yesterday was Raksha Bandhan – a popular Indian festival which celebrates the bond between siblings, reaching further out to extended family members as well, where sisters tie their brothers a thread/bracelet in return for the promise to be protected by their brothers. Or so my not so vast knowledge bank thinks. I was reminded of the many years we – my brother and I – disliked this compulsive tradition and festival in general. There is a point in time when people experience what I like to call sibling-friction, and so we had our share too. Now it has come to become one of those times when I especially want to be around my brother(s); not that one needs a special day for that sort of thing. Funny times. And how the circle of life just keeps moving — sometimes I imagine the universe laughing at us all. By the time Raksha Bandhan came along last year, I knew I was leaving. So we did have a special time; we went out, we made merry, we hung out. Stories and anecdotes were shared, laughs were had and of course, food was consumed. No photographs were clicked, fortunately and unfortunately. However, those were precious times.

I have no regrets and I’m glad I could do a lot before I left. Sometimes I feel like a sentimental fool, but it at least helped me put quite a bit on priority and focus on all the very important stuff that needed to be done, which otherwise gets put on the backburner, because hello grantedness. Rakhis were sent this year and while I felt a slight tinge of sadness, remembering last year and all the years we’ve spent in each other’s sometimes happy, sometimes crappy company, it all seemed a bit better automatically. Sometimes making memories actively and consciously is just the solution one needs.

Emails

19 Jul

Back when we were younger, there was this tradition of sending cards out on the event of birthdays, anniversaries, festivals especially (and maybe only) for Rakshabandhan and even when it was time for our boards – X and XII. The really special cards came when we were turning 13 and 18 where the words ‘welcome to the teen club’ and ‘you’re an adult now’ respectively always had their place. Board exams saw their own variations – for class X it was about enunciating our bravado and courage; that we would indeed arrive at the other side with flying colours (another term that was always used by default) and that the respective card senders were proud of us; while cards for our class XII boards urged us on to get on the other side; we’d done it once, we would definitely do it again…with more flying colours.

But what was more precious and which held a higher place on the pedestal of feeling important was the act of writing letters. There would be a furore of letting writing activity especially after our summer holidays had ended where every letter would invariably burst with memories of the summer holidays that had gone past. I remember writing letters with more regularity than anything else I had chosen to voluntarily occupy my attention with, unless reading counts. The joy of receiving a letter or at seeing the postman/woman walk towards your gate with what could only look like a letter and not a parcel or a BSNL bill was paramount. I remember waiting for those days with a sense of excitement that I now feel on finding emails from loved ones in my inbox. Apart from the excitement of what that possible email could hold, it’s a breath of fresh air to see these gems amid the trash that has alarmingly made itself into my inbox.

I must admit that I don’t have an email writing habit and sincerely hope to put that into place. But these sporadic finds in this sea of junk – what once used to have zero unread emails, now see triple digits is how despicable the scenario has become – really are those rainbow moments in an otherwise randomly routine day. Snippets from a friend here or there, emails from mom which saw a slight rise once I’d left home and which I’ve, I’m ashamed to say, not kept up…they’re all a treasure. From discussing life to love to goals to music to TEDX talks to photographs and travel to things that are an interesting share; they’ve got it all.

When I came back to a more functional internet network, I saw a lot of yesterday spent in reading the articles my friends had shared and considered good reads. Here are some of them.

An interview with Arundhati Roy done by Elle.

This very realistic piece on the fetishization of travel which is fantastic.

I found this stark read on this virtual perfectionism we see all around us via social media and promptly shared it on my wall for my friends to read as well.

Before that, I stumbled across this piece about celebrating overworking in the ways that we do, which seems ever so rational.

But my most favourite off late has been this one which not just smashes the ball out of the park but hits the sweet spot every single time. I loved it and loved it and loved it some more. Do read Get the Epidural, it’s fantastic.

Needless to say that even though my post has taken on many other tangents, it’s the base fact that taking time out to share, talk, or even send random words and sometimes even cryptic sentences (if I were to look back at my past years) to the people I love, is beyond special to me.

 

On Procrastination And Other Delights

29 Jun

When we were growing up (read: under the complete and direct control of my mother; a time whose disappearance she still laments about, naturally), there was order everywhere. There was an order to our day, our waking up routine, our study time, our food habits (oh man, do you remember those times!?)… there was a sense of strict order everywhere. It went to the extent of my brother and I ordering our lives in such a way – as if like some back alley sort of dealings that siblings especially are famous for – just so that our mother could maybe not worry so much about having to keep our life in order. Not that that worked or happened. But it was a time of infinite hope propelled by childhood fantasies, let’s go back and remember. So we fixed who would go for their bath first, who would make the bed, who would get the tiffin boxes out of the kitchen, who would water the plants, who would do the dishes… These decisions never really ended amicably, but never did we seem to learn or care much about them anyway. What had to be done, had to be done. And if mom said it had to be done, then it really had to be done now. There was no question of five minutes later.

This is applicable even today, when one of us (I’m not going to name who) is inching towards their fourth (omfg!) decade at a speed that is blasphemous on all counts. Okay I’ll just replace that ghastly fourth decade phrase with thirties. Meh. So yes, this happens even today when it comes to answering her calls or messages. Whether our phones are next to us or that we’re probably in the middle of something else which doesn’t permit the presence of a cellphone is completely negated and shunned, even. Oh well, some things won’t change. I’m sure you have your list too.

However, some things have changed. Drastically.

It was the other day when my mom’s youngest sister exclaimed in horror at my procrastination skills, going to the extent of asking me if I was even one of their own, that made me sort of look back and ponder over the course of my life and its changes. I beamed with pride at the exclamation, while she continued to remain aghast. It’s not like I’m proud to be a procrastinator as much as I am proud of my ability to function despite it. When I look back, I’ve no answers to when it happened and how, or even why for that matter – because isn’t a planned, systematic, timetable-like life good, stress-free and most importantly, brimming with success stories of one’s own past? The change, it seems, was not as sudden or as drastic as I imagined, but one that took gradual conditioning and learning. On looking back, I found that the obvious answer lay in the one key and underlying fact of it all – the relaxation of my mom’s control over our life. After a point a parent becomes less authoritarian and more authoritative about the right things, where the need to control the academic life (in particular) of their children takes a back seat slowly (or so we all hope and wish for). After Standards X and XII, the change is too drastic to even recognize sometimes. It’s a different ball game and you know what I mean. Haha!

So here I am, procrastinating as proficiently as ever. Panic attacks come and go, guilt trips fade even before they can fully make it, and well, life feels like a bundle of laziness that’s just too good to be true. Till the shit hits the fan or is about to. But by then we’re up and about and have somehow managed to steer the course of events from disaster to foreseeable results. Well almost. Like I said, it took some time, lots of trials, some amounts of panic-driven crying and attacks to have arrived at where we are today – seasoned procrastinators in just about any and every single thing!

My mother and her sisters don’t understand the need to cramp it all in and work like the world is on our shoulders, but then again, there’s not much to contest in this matter. It was just the other day that my friends and I were talking about our expert procrastination skills and we did a whatsapp hi-five to celebrate just how common and pathetic we are in this respect. It looks more universally prevalent than meets the eye, and it certainly has seeped into more areas than just our former academic years. From pesky college assignments to projects, unending classwork (oh god, those practical record submissions!) to Master’s dissertation deadlines; it went on to work where I remember my ever so sweet former manager inching from reminders to gentle reminders to plain silence and walking away among other guilt-causing tactics that would make us scramble and fret. Today, I see it in postponing small errands to do (my chappal snapped over the weekend and I’m still hobbling in that broken pair) to visits to the parlour despite the awareness of the pain I’ve brought upon my own self, to something as stupid as delaying the need to make us some food. It’s ridiculous, this disease. And so addictive, no?

The past few days have been busy and I’ve kept away from my blog by force of my own accord. The next few days may also spell the same story, but hopefully things should get a bit more clear after a week. Posting has been and may be sporadic, and I do sorely miss my blog and blogging in general, but I will get back to it after I’ve got this pile of work off my hands. The shit’s waking up to hit the fan, bro!

July seems to be exciting and filled with a lot to do. So fingers crossed on that and I’ll speak of more details once I’ve got the headspace to. Talking about headspace, I was describing the weather here as totally mindfuckable, just yesterday. The heaviness, the heat and the omfg humidity is a crazy heap piled on us all. The temperatures are considerably lower than what they were in the summer what with the 40s off the weather apps now. However, the air is pregnant with I’ve no idea what because it’s almost opaque enough to be sliced through. It promises to rain mean storms, that’s for sure. I’m looking forward to that, as I’ve mentioned in my previous post which feels old and dusty now. We’re all just waiting with bated breath for the green to stay, for the rain to not come and vanish within a couple of hours… we’re all just waiting for some good old celebratory relief, till the drainage systems conk off of course.

Keeping all that aside, I love staying in a place which has distinct seasons. It makes celebration and the cause for celebration even more special. Humans, animals, birds, plants – we’re all on the same plane here – parched, cranky, so spent. But we’re all being patient and waiting.

The best part about all this is the feeling of oneness. We’re all one and we’re all in this together. That makes me happy and that’s more than enough reason to hold each other’s hands for as long as it takes till we burst into song, dance, celebration and general elation.

The One On Exercise

30 Mar

Just typing that title out made me feel a bit tired. Whew!

From as far back as I can remember (and I don’t need to try too hard with this one), it has been more than evident that physical exercise wasn’t big on either my interests or my attention. Neither did I care too much about it and neither did I (naturally) fare too well at it either. It was always looked upon as more of a task, a chore, a must-do thanks to school priorities and less as something fun or interesting. Even those evening neighbourhood games weren’t alluring enough… Right from the horrendous PT teacher we had at the first school we studied at (she was this stern, almost gruesome Mallu lady who took no time and all the pleasure to whip us with her ever yielding black whip which had the whistle of doom as I’d like to remember it, attached to the other end) to the many activities that were enforced upon us – it was all too overwhelming and all too shaming for me… sucking at something, failing at something which was apparently so much fun and so simple, didn’t make it easy to face my peers…after all, who disliked play time anyway?

Even the many times we played catch-catch, chain-chain, hopping and catching, hide and seek, dark room, among many other games, I was always the child who either never played or was made the denner too often (and still never managed to catch people in time before they slammed one two many dabbas on the target wall) or who, whenever she finally got the chance to hide or run or basically not be the denner, always wanted to pee. This urgency to pee especially after hiding snugly in a spot during rounds of hide and seek or dark room happened on cue, every.single.time. I hated it. Apart from the fact that I’ve loved books since the very start, it was no wonder that I found my solace in reading, writing, drawing – basically being your typical nerdy kid who was good only with books…a typical bore to an otherwise normal kid who loved to play and lived for game time.

When my brother and I shifted schools to one where the rules, while seemingly more relaxed, were binding in their own ways…we had an array of activities to choose from. So I always picked yoga over taikwondo and reading over game-time, till I was snuffed out my hiding place in the library and made to play – game time was mandatory – play what you like, but play you must, was the mantra…the rule we couldn’t bend. (No sane kid wanted to bend that rule, either).

As Murphy would also like to have it, I am blessed with those set of genes that welcomes doses of adipose without much thought or effort. Therefore it isn’t with great trouble that I put on weight or feel bulky or flabby, even. My generous friends from my grown up years even have a name coined for me on the basis of this flab factor. To add to this equation, I love food too much to care about a diet, really. So it adds up pretty well, in Murphy’s favour, so to speak. Doesn’t care much about physical exercise, gifted with the adipose gene and food lover – a thrilling combination for someone who loves a great fitting pair of jeans, not.

Over the years, when it started becoming evident that it was getting progressively easier to gain weight and drastically harder to lose it, did the idea of exercise and a balanced diet make itself felt. I’ve been trying to gym ever since and at least try to think about being more strict with my food intake. I’m far from being or looking like a gym rat and neither do I pass that plateau of weight loss – basically I look the same – sometimes I feel more flabby and sometimes I feel pretty okay. It’s the underlying fact that denying myself certain foods is a no-go, which doesn’t help my case – I love food too much.

Besides, the concept of body image is a very dear one to me. It is something that started all those many years ago of not liking exercise and loving food too much which made my body the way it is today. I am not fat, neither am I skinny – I think I am my own – curvy where I am supposed to be, plump where I should be, and fine in general. Of course there are certain areas of my body I wish I could sculpt better but I’m not complaining really. Growing up in an environment where food was not equated with beauty really helped me, even today. The importance of loving ourselves, the way we are, is an immense challenge – one we are witness to at so many levels. We are the khaate peete log who love their food but are watchful of the things we eat. There exists no exclusion of things we must not eat…but there exists a sense of control on how much we eat. Of course that factor gets overridden when our favourite things are at the table and you snarf down one too many without even realizing it. But that’s life, right? To let go and live in the moment, sometimes at least?

Here I am, very aware of my ever-changing body, trying to not be an indulgent ass who only eats and doesn’t move, with a body far different from what is perceived to be sexy but feeling so very real in this moment. I’ve never had so many beers or so many carbs or snacked on so much junk food in what feels like forever. But sitting down for that quality time with the ones I love, more often than not, revolves around something to eat and drink…a habit that has formed over the years, and one that can change/evolve into something more healthy in nature. I have learned that I cannot cut out certain foods from my life no matter how hard I try because in all honesty, I never really tried hard enough to keep them at bay in the first place. I would much rather grant myself the pleasure of having that piece of chocolate or that extra bowl of mishti doi than not have it at all and feel miserable about it. If you are a food lover, you’ll automatically know what I mean. I guess it is better to make peace with who we are, work towards becoming healthier versions of ourselves and living the life we want to lead, right?

Of course I say this after having consumed some chips and not having moved my butt at all today. Maybe tomorrow will hold a salad and a walk for me…or so is the hope.

I guess what I’m trying to say (perhaps to make myself feel better) is that I don’t really love exercise or fall into any sort of category when it comes to exercising activities, that I understand the importance of making physical activity a habit and not just a passing desire, that food is an almost all-encompassing factor in my life (ice creams and wine fit this bracket too, right?), that my body shape and size is normal and is going to be as sexy as I believe it to be (thanks for the self-confidence and self-diagnosis, Babska!) and that living in the moment is a great thing we should all strive towards…

…like this sublime thing I just succumbed to, for lunch, as I wrote this post.

IMG_1771

Psst…there really is nothing more glorious than a masala omelette. Nothing.

Learning: Live in the moment; whether it requires you to grab a doughnut or those dumbbells, or both.

On Being Different

20 Jan

My brother and I owe many a thanks to our mother for her decisions and choices towards our upbringing. When she decided to enrol us in a school that was very different from the regular fare and in one which had an alternate perspective towards learning and the concept of education itself; plus having enticed us with the bait of it having no uniforms, no tests, no exams, etc, my reaction was a mix of anger and resentment – not because I’d envisioned the outcome of being different but because I wanted to go back to my regular school where I had begun my education and where I had already established a favourable reputation; but where I remembered zero of my classes or classmates and whose PT classes and teacher I despised (we were rejoining post a relocation from another city). I felt resentful at my fate for not being in my control because heck I would go back to my comfortable confines and to a place where the teachers knew me and where my report cards gave me the results any kid would love seeing. But that was (thankfully) not to be.

And so my brother and I began yet another journey in a place that reeked of a newness that I didn’t want to have to deal with. Everything was new and everything was unknown and everything needed me to start over from the very beginning. It was painful initially; and then each day rolled into the next at a speed that made me let go of any feeling whatsoever, like this universe engineers it every single time for each of us. Our entry began with a trip to a rainforest; something that was a way of this new school’s life. You almost always had to be hands on if you wanted to learn about something; including the art of learning itself. And so it was very customary for the kids to go on very educational, very adventurous and very enthralling trips that always centred around a particular theme or topic or subject. And so rainforests it was – my first ever close encounter with something I had only read about in books and whose names I’d gobbled up only to spill out very efficiently in the many tests I’d written. However, here was a name I hadn’t heard of and here was an actual, live rainforest, very far removed from the confines of a page and its writer’s perceptions. This was a rainforest for me to experience, explore and learn about.

As it turned out, the experience was both agonizing and exhilarating for someone who had never been to one and for someone who was amidst people who seemed to have visited rainforests like they did their backyards. It was a class/classroom I still remember, a lesson whose teachings are engraved in my mind’s library for I can still feel my heart racing the moment I encountered what seemed like an endless hanging bridge over a gushing river that I had to cross and was the last one to (I’m not a fan of heights), I can still hear the rising crescendo of the Common Hawk Cuckoo’s song (or the brain-fever bird, as it is more commonly known) in which I found my lullaby, I can still recollect the stories my mind told me so I could ease into a more fearless sleep surrounded by an absolute blackness that resonated with scary sounds and rustles and creeks with just a jute mat in between me and its bare floor. I told myself that even forests have stories to tell and here’s a bedtime story you’ve got the privilege of listening to. That just had to work because there was no plan b; and it did. I remember coming back home a little less scared and a lot more thirsty to learn.

At the cost of sounding preachy, I do believe that straying from the path and the norm is something we do so less of and should indulge in a lot more. We turned out pretty okay, my brother and I (as did all the other kids who graduated from that school). We fit back into mainstream educational institutes with more ease than the general public feared we lacked. And whenever I look back, I never see textbooks, report cards or confined spaces; just trees, the sea, a full moon, lakes, fields and meadows, galloping horses and elated dolphins, mountains and skies, shooting stars and telescopes, sunrises and sunsets, art, that thirst and the satisfaction of quenching it, music, dance and drama, yoga and martial arts, travel and stillness, discipline and a depth of knowledge that needed no constraints and compulsions. That’s perhaps why I hated and still do hate the word ‘compulsory’ as much as I do. I think we passed the biggest test of education and schooling because we grew up with the burning desire to think, question and understand; a facet in us that is, and always will be forever present and at the forefront.

Thank you mom, for taking us on the road less travelled. We are so proud to be different.