A Crash Course in Surrealism ~
A word for describing my life right now would be ‘surreal’. Everything is happening so fast and in such a dream-like way… I just don’t understand where the flow of life is taking me. It’s already ten days since the New Year, a week since I gave the entrance exam for NID (the National Institute of Design), I am already into my prelims and in just over a month I shall begin my Board Exams. Surreal. That’s what it feels like.
In two days, I shall start my 18th year. Being an adult. In magical terms, it is my coming of age. (feels surreal). How do I feel to leave childhood behind and start a new chapter of my life? To tell you the truth, I don’t feel any different.
And that’s what makes me sad. I’ve just become so used to everything around me that for the first time, I’m not even excited about my birthday. I woke up today, not with the excitement of my birthday being just two days away, but rather with a realisation that my birthday is the day after tomorrow. I don’t know why I’m feeling this way. Maybe I’m just too preoccupied with other things, prelims, deciding about what I’m going to do about my life… so this birthday is going to be just as nonchalant as turning a page of a book. You don’t even notice it.
Hence, I’m writing this to get a little into birthday mode. Putting worries such as the economics exam which is on my birthday itself and the political science one which is on the day after that… I’m going to reflect about what this year has meant for me and what the coming one implies in my life.
Art from the Heart ~
My sixteenth year… there isn’t any one word that sums it all up. This year was a kaleidoscope of emotions. On the surface, there was nothing very exciting happening. I went to college, studied, hung around with friends, mooched about at home and grew even fatter than I already was. The real turbulence was all going around inside me. For one, I learnt to cook. Or rather, learnt to appreciate cooking as an art. I realised that there are some things that give joy to both the doers as well as others, such as cooking, or playing the guitar. These are the things really worth doing. There’s a different kind of satisfaction you get when you see others enjoying something that came out of your heart, be that music or food.
I also started drawing a lot. I accept I did it more out of compulsion as I had to practice for my NID Entrance… but I rediscovered an art in myself which I’d forgotten about. It was therapeutic. I had to scribble a lot in order to free my hand, and I rather enjoyed it, mostly because I could get out all my frustration on a bit of newspaper using a pencil as my weapon!
What’s the Difference Between God and Dog?
Another incident which I would like to look upon as a milestone in my growing up has to do with dogs. Since childhood, I carried in myself a number of fears of a number of things, dogs included. I don’t know where they came from, but I would be very reluctant to go near a dog, fearing it would bite me. During the monsoons, a boy in my building adopted a small orphaned pup. We named him Lucky and everyone in the society would feed him with leftover chapatis from their homes. Initially, I was sort of intimidated by him; he was growing and was hungry very often and would come barking into our ground-floor home demanding food. He was aggressive and would jump at the sight of food. Being with him, I experienced this strange medley of emotions. There was a lot of pity I felt for him, but also a sense of power. I was the one feeding him; I could have my way with him. Watching him barking at my heels desperate for food, I would feel sad and yet a bit disgusted at his desperation.
Then one day, he disappeared. I’ve no idea where he went, why he went, but he never came back. I was shocked as his going away like this… for some reason, I felt lonely… I had come to take it for granted that he depended on me for food, and would never leave me. I felt let down, disowned. In a way, I also realised that this ‘ownership’ wasn’t as simple as I thought. I used to think I was the one who ‘owned’ Lucky. But I realised that maybe, in some distorted sense, he owned me too.
But that’s not the end of the story. Within days of Lucky’s departure; another stray near our building birthed a litter of the most adorable pink-nosed puppies. I went to play with them every morning. They were so tiny I could cradle them in my arms. They looked at me with their little brown puppy-eyes in a mixture of curiosity and fear. There were six of them initially but they get reduced to three.
One afternoon, when it was raining heavily and a cold wind was blowing around, I found a tiny, wet pup in my yard. It was shivering with cold and loneliness and crying its heart out. When I saw it sitting there, I don’t know what came over me but somewhere I felt something breaking and was suddenly enveloped in this huge wave of sorrow. I picked the pup up and put it in what was earlier Lucky’s home, a discarded box lined with some newspapers. I found a jute sack, thankfully dry and warm, and put it over the little pup. It was still shivering but it had stopped crying and was trying to snuggle deeper into the box. I sat with it there until it fell asleep. That whole day, I walked about in a daze. And at night, I cried. The weird thing was, this was the first time I was crying for, well, someone else and not for myself. It was both cathartic as well as frustrating.
The little dog stayed in my backyard for more than a month, joined by its two siblings. We made them a little house as a protection from the rains that lashed down upon the earth every night. Two of them, Hello and Pronto as I started calling them, were undernourished and remained so even after they were being fed. A congenital problem, my doctor informed (he also said that these pups didn’t have a chance of living for more than two months, but whatever). Yet, I gave them milk and extra chapatis everyday. Sometimes, I would sit on the steps of my back door and they would come and put their heads on my lap. It was such a beautiful feeling to give the warmth from my body to another warm-blooded being, I could sit like that for hours; watching the birds singing on the fig tree in the garden while my two dogs slept their tiny selves in my lap.
Another sight related to these dogs which will remain etched in my memory as something both beautiful and horribly horribly disgusting… these dogs’ mother, a thin, frail bitch who had no strength left in her after birthing six pups, would try and do her bit to feed them. Once, when I was looking out of my window, I saw her in the yard with the three pups dancing around her, demanding food. She then opened her mouth and threw up a gooey mass of partly digested food items. The pups started eating it enthusiastically. And I was frozen into
non-acceptance of the sight before me. My mom later explained that the mother-dogs usually do that so that the puppies find it easier to digest their food, but just the sight of someone giving almost all the food she had eaten to her kids when she herself was so frail and in need of it was well, I don’t really know what to call it… all I know is, should anyone call dogs or any other animals emotionless, I’ll make sure they’re proven wrong.
Hello and Pronto’s mother passed away recently. May her soul rests in peace.
Soon, the little dogs started being a nuisance to the other residents of the society. Neighbours alleged that Hello was dirtying their parts of the garden and licking the utensils kept out to dry. Let’s just say he never dirtied our side. But after some time, I was forced to accept that I wouldn’t be able to keep these pups with me forever. My mom, rational as she always is, pointed out that they were consuming more by the day and in these already economically waning times, we couldn’t afford to keep two growing and constantly hungry stray dogs with us. So one day, when we had to go out of town for a couple of days, I requested the boys nearby to move these pups somewhere else. Most probably on the other side of the river where the farms started, where these pups would surely be ‘taken’ by villagers who wanted dogs to guard their farms. They’ll grow healthier in the sunshine and by being closer to nature, Nitin (my dad) said. Well, we went to Mumbai and came back. The first thing I did after getting home was to open the back door and see if, by any miracle, they were still there or had come back. It was late evening and as I opened the door, I saw in the fading evening light neither the tiny eyes demanding food nor the welcoming barks. The birds had all flown away to their nests and the lone fig tree standing forlornly by itself. The only thing left as a memory of Hello and Pronto was their food-plate, which still contained some drying chapati crumbs. I went back in and closed the door.
I don’t know what happened to both of them. Where they are now, by which names they are called, who they are staying with or even if they’re alive. But my mom says those dogs were born with a lucky star above their tiny heads. They were and are destined to survive, wherever they go. So I’m sure they’re safe somewhere, and quite happy too, and I just hope they won’t forget that eccentric (and a bit crazy, I know) girl in whose lap they once slept. She still misses them sometimes.
The Writing on This Wall ~
This writing wasn’t competed in one day. As I write this now, I realise that an entire month (and more) of the New Year and almost a month of my 18th year has flown away and so busy was I in my prelims and orals (which have started from today) that I never found the time to sit back and regard my life in a detached enough way to write this. I’ve found some time today and am writing, but I still feel it is incomplete… there is so much more to say, so much more that happened, is happening right now, that I don’t know where to end. I’ll just be happy with the fact that I’ve manage to pen most of what was important in my life and to me the last year; and that more writing will always be appearing on the wall of my life as I proceed forward in my seventeenth year…