The Tall Girl With Her Weighed-down Head.

The Tall Girl With Her Weighed-down Head

This summer I traveled to India to meet my relatives one last time before heading off to university. On my last day in Bombay, I was having a stroll on Marine lines (which is inarguably one of the most romantic and beautiful spots in India), when I saw a young lady sitting rather dejectedly. The scene reminded me of a somewhat depressing phrase from Stephen Spender’s ‘An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum’, which I figured would make an appropriate title for this article.

Frankly, I don’t know why she was so melancholy and I didn’t try to ask her, but for some reason, my thoughts drifted to the current state of women in India. With the number of rape and sexual harassment cases rising in spite of huge protests against these horrible activities, India is slowly inching its way towards global shame.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not just another typical NRI – one who eats hamburgers for breakfast on the streets of New York and then flies to England to have a cup of steaming hot tea; all while criticising his own country. Actually, I’m more patriotic than I choose to show, and that aspect has gotten me worried about the current scenario; worried enough to ask my countrymen as to how such vile and disgusting men are allowed to roam freely in our country?

The other day I read an article written by Michaela Cross , an American student who travelled to India on a college trip and experienced sexual harassment.
As an Indian male, all I could do was hang my head in shame at the thought that a small portion of our community was tarnishing our society.

I’m aware that India isn’t the only country where such acts go on, and singling out a nation, especially when I am a citizen of that nation isn’t the way to go; but I believe that it’s high time we people take action. It’s time we make our voices heard.

But before we do that, we need to change our mentality. Our main fault lies in us branding the victim as the accused. It’s no surprise that rape is the least reported of all crimes, for in reality, it is the victim who must prove her good character, her mental soundness, and her flawless decorum!

 Rape is never the victim’s fault.

Also, a poem I wrote on the same topic a while ago:

She sits and stares,
Into the void – Her eyes tell a story;
Her memories are her only companions. 

The heir of a horrid past,
A successor to the throne of thorns,
Once the better half of a king,
Now branded sinful and impure. 

Her future sealed with blood,
Her emotions foggy; her existence insulted.
Her world unified against her,
Ready to feast over her corpse. 

Her transient soul scalding like red-hot coal,
Staring at the accusing eyes,
Craving for others to be exempted of her fate.

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A New Beginning.

The following article is dedicated to my high-school batch-mates: Indian School Muscat, Class of 2013.

 

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ― Lao Tzu.

 

For the past month or so, I’ve been suffering from a huge writer’s block. You know that time when either you’re completely out of ideas or a way of transforming those ideas into words. But today, as I was staring at my blog and feeling hopeless for not being able to think of any topic for my new post, I decided to let it go and (grabbing my iPod) I went for a walk.

Though my mood was troubling me, my mind was wandering along the tunes of the songs playing on my iPod. I had just strolled through the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, and I was about to fast forward the romance that Lady Antebellum was having with my ears, when Graduation by Vitamin C started playing. It hadn’t even reached past its first chorus, when I was already battling my emotions. My eyes had become red, yet, for some reason, the tears just weren’t coming.

The melancholy breeze and the fast pace of the song made me realize that time is literally suffocating all of us, and that the golden period of our school life has drawn to a close.

Yes, things haven’t always been easy for us – we have all gone through heartbreaks and failures. But, as J.K Rowling said in her commencement speech at the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association in 2008, – “Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. In which case, you fail by default.” Every single thing that has happened in these past years, may that be good or bad, has molded us to what we are today, and what we will be tomorrow. And that’s the best thing about it.

Right now we are sitting on the runway of life, trying to prepare for takeoff. And at this point, I can’t think of anything else but how this whole journey started. Even today, I still recall how tensed I was when I first entered the gates of Indian School Muscat (ISM). I was intimidated by just looking at the huge stone structure and the thoughts of being away from home. But little did the small me realize that this same institution would prove to be one of the sole reasons of my existence – the backbone to my skeleton, the icing to my cake, the key to my lock and the heart to my love.

In a few days (or months), we are all going to go to different universities. We are all going to be far away.

Will university life be the same as school life? No. Will our university professors be anything like our high-school teachers? I don’t know. Will life be easier? Obviously not. Am I nervous? Hell yes.

What does tomorrow hold for us, I know not, but what I do know is that we will manage like we all have till now.

We have all promised to keep in touch, but somewhere down inside each one of us knows that it’s going to be very hard. Our academic obligations and the fact that we’ll all be in different parts of the world won’t let us stay tuned with each other’s lives, but there’s no harm in hoping, is there? As they say, ‘it’s the thought that matters’.

As I said before, I’m nervous. We all are. University life is going to be a new beginning. Right from making new friends to getting accustomed to a whole new place. It’s going to be out of our comfort zone – far from friends and family. But that’s just how life is, right? Life is like a cycle – first it gives us something new and expects us to get used to it, and when we finally do get used to it, it snatches that thing from us and gives us something entirely new. And then the process repeats itself.

It’s insane. It’s life.

But is change bad? It need not be. Sometimes change is necessary.

Do you guys remember the three stages of a butterfly’s life? First it’s an ugly caterpillar – scaring young girls and feeding on poor leaves. Then it cocoons itself into a larvae and enjoys some solitude and eats, eats a lot. Finally, it transforms into a butterfly – beautiful and colourful; giving joy to everybody who lays eyes on it.

Our lives are similar. For all we know, university might be the stage where we need to cocoon ourselves (with our books) and await our transformation into a butterfly. Think about it!

With this in mind, I switched off my iPod, realizing that, no matter how nervous I am about university life, I think I’m ready for the change. Because sometimes distance is necessary. Sometimes you need to be away to know who cares enough to keep in touch.

 

For My Daughter.

I have a habit of keeping a dream diary. Every time I experience a ‘worthwhile’ dream, I note it down in it.

Last night was one such experience.

The dream started with me walking on a familiar road with a somewhat dejected stride. Apparently, I had been offered an internship at a magazine and my job entailed me having to interview a certain patient and her family at the Cancer Ward of a local hospital. So much for my first task, I thought!

Suzanne R. Fitzgerald – The youngest cancer patient in the ward, at the prime age of three years. Her family consisted of a father – Robert, and an uncle – Samuel (who was in jail). Nobody had any information on her mother. Some say she died during childbirth, while others narrate stories of her running away with her lover after leaving Suzanne with her father. Not that I really cared. I had one job to do, and I’d do it well.

I entered the hospital, the name of which I can’t recollect (It was a dream after all), but the cancer ward did look familiar. I enquired about Suzanne and was told that she’d be in room 307 with her father.

Robert was reading the morning newspaper when I entered the room. I introduced myself, and told him the reason for my uninvited presence. He was pretty welcoming and even offered to answer any of my questions until Suzanne arrived after her early morning check-up, which he said, “might take up to an hour”.

I thanked him and set up my voice recorder.

From Robert I learnt how Suzanne had developed Osteosarcoma (or bone cancer) a few weeks after childbirth. The doctors noticed it only months later and by then it had turned lethal. They had jotted down a humongous list of medications and multiple tests for Suzanne, which left Robert no choice but to shift to room 307.

“My wife, Emily, passed away 3 years ago leaving Suzzie with me. She’s all that’s left of my wife, and I love her to bits”, said Robert, trying his best to battle his tears. His in-laws had bequeathed her their family orchard, the revenue of which helped pay Suzanne’s bills.

“It’s not easy”, he asserted, “to look at your beautiful daughter, hold her, stare into her eyes, and tell her everyday that everything is going to be OK. More than giving her hope, you end up trying to console yourself because she trusts you. Every day I curse myself for having to lie to her. But I can’t do much. All I can do is smile and be there for her.”

“But she’s different. She loves it here. She has made her own friends amongst the nurses and the doctors. She doesn’t mind the check-ups, nor does she complain while taking her medications. She reads books, listens to songs, and sometimes watches movies on the television. She talks a lot, and I’m glad she does. She’s like a mystery wrapped in an enigma – No one knows what she might be up to next, but the people out here are nice. They love her and they’ve helped us a lot. One of the nurses even gifted her a doll.”

Just as he said that, a nurse brought Suzanne into the room. Standing by the door, clutching her old doll, she gifted me the most beautiful smile I had ever seen.

I had seen many types of smiles. Smiles that were masks; smiles that conveyed joy; smiles that showed enjoyment, pain and sometimes even sadness. But Suzanne’s smile was different. Her smile had innocence carved all over it. Her smile told the story of a girl who thought nothing could go wrong in this world – that hers was a world without problems. She didn’t know about war, hunger or Cancer.

Whether she knew that she was going to die soon or no, I know not. But what I know is that she was happy. I had read somewhere that ‘people wait all week for Friday, all year for summer and all their life for happiness’; but here I was standing face first with a 3 year old girl and her father who had found happiness in the worst of situations.

“Who is he, dad?” she asked as she ran up to Robert.

“He’s a friend”, replied Robert, “and he’s here to ask you some questions”.

“Actually, I’ve got all I wanted”, I said, before walking over to Suzanne and giving her a tight hug.

The wind had picked up outside, and I saw strains of black clouds near the horizon. Robert came out to drop me. “She’s nice, y’know,” he said, “I’m glad I got to spend time with her, even if it’s not much.”

“You’re brave,” I said, “Not everyone can smile through such hardship.”

 “I can cry if I want and people will be there to give me pity,” he confessed, “But I choose to smile. For My Daughter.”

The memory of the rest of my dream is unclear, as my alarm woke me up moments later. But as I stretched to clutch my dream diary from my bedside drawer, I realized one thing – “Happiness can be found in the direst of situations if only one remembers to smile.”