I stare down at the blotted ink pages on my still, silent desk. As I lay down the exhausted pen on the mantlepiece, my heart rests satisfied with the written contents of the worn-edged book. The mere words and stanzas that lucidly reveal my unpolished life. Yes. My life. My ways. Myself. The person who loves to read, draw, sing, dance, and as usual spend time with special people. I am the person who is made up of unattainable dreams and yet am aware that they could become true.This thought reminds me of a quote by Henry David Thoreau: “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” I am a strong believer of justice, anxiously awaiting a better future, a better world. I also recognize that lofty hopes require a pragmatic mindset. I am that person who knows myself, my strengths , my weaknesses, and my ambitions.
As I sit with a heart unfolded, i flip through the pages of my story, remembering the past that shaped this person who is in the process of writing her story. The strong frame for the flowing chapters, the people that touched those remarkable pages of my childhood, the school that paved a path for me. Everything. Everything in the these chapters quietly unfurls the magnificence of life. The reason for an existence. The craving dreams that are waiting to come alive.The desperate whispers that are waiting to be heard. The crippled participant that yearns to stand on its own.
Many of the pages are still empty. I am satisfied with the story thus far.
Book One. 1995-2013
I cried softly near a faded yellow wall with its wearing off paint. My hands hugged my knees tightly as i heard my father’s booming masculine voice stretched across the little timid house. My brother clutched onto my father’s hard legs, crying, to stop fighting. My sister was on the cold floor staring at the fresh she received defending our mother. My mother stood tall even though she knew she was broken inside. Her eyes were burning with fury, wet with tears. She headed towards the closed doors and made her soft departure.
Alone my father, bent by her leaving, fed us, tried to dress us, clumsily combed our hair, and then locked us in our two-roomed house when he went for work. My sister, brother, and I innocently played simple games chanting stuff that didn’t make sense. ‘Awalakki buvalakki kanchana minanmina dam doom dhus bhoos kwai kotas’, trying to distract ourselves as we anticipating my mother’s stealthy visits every hot afternoon. She would either come empty handed or with snacks or home-made food. Her visits became few and far between as months passed.
Life changed for my father. It became harder than he could have imagined, living with three young and curious kids without his wife to help him. A man who rarely asked for help, his pride telling him to solve problems on his own, found himself asking my grandmother to live with us. She was horrible. She played mean tricks on us for her own pleasure. She found it highly amusing to stick our faces over burning chilis so our eyes burned. I am not sure why my father did nothing to stop this meanness. Perhaps he was ignorant. Perhaps he was too broken without my mother. Although he wore a strong face, I could tell that he needed her. And I could tell that he knew he needed her.
Confusion surrounded my father like the air he inhaled everyday. Torn between his pride and his helplessness. In this moment of raging turmoil, Shanti Bhavan, a residential school about 70 kilometers away, came like a light in the dark distance, a balm for his splitting headache, a sip of cold water after walking across a desert. And my father hung on to it like a drowning man holding onto a piece of driftwood. This driftwood turned out to be not waterlogged debre, but a life-raft. Not a life-raft but a ship that would safely carry him and his desperate family to a whole new life.
I was filled with excitement one day when he brought a package. As I hurriedly opened it, I could already smell the fragrance of a new dress. The dress was beautiful, though old fashioned, red and white, with puffed sleeves and frills. After I put on the dress, my grandmother put perfume on me for the first time. I had never been so pampered. I felt special in that special moment, although I didn’t understand. Why was all this attention being paid to me and not to my brother and sister? My grandfather blessed me, tracing a cross on my forehead, before I left the house with my father.
I don’t remember much of the journey, only the unusual silence of my nervous father and the bougainvillea growing by the side of a lake. It was very pretty, but mostly very new. New buildings, new faces, an entirely new world. I don’t remember, either, the exact moment that my father left. A group of women escorted me into a room. I thought my father was following, but when they shut the door, I realized he was gone. They took my new dress which now smelled of home, bathed me, and gave me fresh clothes. New clothes for my new life.
Newness was replaced by familiarity. I grew to like this new place which became a home. In this home, I learnt the things expected at school–the alphabet, multiplication tables, and so on–but I also learnt so much more. I learnt what it was to have my own bed. I learned what a pancake was and how good it tasted with jam and banana and aunt jemima syrup.i learnt what it was to have people look after you with care and comfort. I learnt what it was to be a virtuous person.
Years have past. Years filled with pranks and punishment, friendship and joy, challenges and lessons. Years that have shaped me. Now I stand as an honest, caring, fun-loving, and confident woman ready to graduate. Leaving my home of fourteen years is scary, but I know that with what I have learnt within these walls I can face the outside world. I feel full of energy ready to burst like a supernova. Ready for a change. For a new beginning. For the next chapter of this book.
I look at the blank pages left in the incomplete book of warm parchment. Pages filled with invisible letters, words, and chapters yet to be written. I smile at the dead object, dead yet alive with the memories it already holds and the memories it promises. I know that this book will be finished by me. It will be my words for it is my life. It is and will be my book.