Jahnavi pinching Varun, because he double dipped his chips into the tomato sauce.
And then slowly, so slowly I almost miss the change, you start growing older.
Jahnavi wearing lipgloss, and me envious because I'm not allowed to yet.
And now, as they keep switching around, great switcheroos in the making, I see you and I am amazed because you are so different, and yet, still the same.
Jahnavi daring me to break into the house of the Seventh Floor People.
Jahnavi with Sidharth Pradhan's arm around her.
And so you went to where the sun rises and it rose for you there and I stayed behind, believing the album had run out of pages. And I think we were both happy- you, discovering the new, and me, content in the warmth of the familiar.
Jahnavi sitting with me at Someplace Else- the first time the two of us have ever ventured there alone without the boys.
I remember standing with you on the verandah, under a starry sky in Spain and you were crouching down by me and you pointed to the brightest, whitest star and told me that whenever I was good, that star would shine for me.
But what if I'm bad, I asked you.
I don't remember your answer to that one. I was two and a half years old, I think. But I do know that since that night, every time I look at the night sky, it's always Venus- that bright, white star- I look for. Even now at eighteen.
I remember hearing stories about the War from Daddy. He told me about the time you shot the young German pilot out of the sky. I used to watch you sometimes and try and imagine you doing that, flying a plane high in the sky under the shimmering sun. You talked to me about many things that happened to you when you were young, but you never once talked to me about the War. And I never asked. And it felt like we had a secret bond, a secret pact. But when we did the Battle of Briton in school, whenever I read that quote of Churchill's- "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few"- I felt so incredibly proud.
I remember the last time I visited you in Spain. I was twelve and Mama was with me. I remember sitting in that cafe overlooking the sea and you were so amazed because I couldn't take my eyes away from it. Is that how you felt about the sky? Like you belonged there? Maybe that's why you understood why I needed to leave the cafe and climb down to the rocks and feel the spray of the waves on my face.
I remember dragging myself away from Proiti Mashi's movies to go down and talk to you for a while. I always intended to stay for five minutes or so, but then you'd start telling me stories about Kashmir and Nehru and Manekshaw and from there we'd start talking about communism and religion and politics and you always made me feel so incredibly grown up and intelligent.
I wish I'd spent more time with you now. I wish I'd asked you more things. You always had so much to give but I never really reached out for it. But I loved you.
And every time I look at Venus shining in the sky, you will be in my heart.
I discovered the college library today.
It's always been there of course- tucked away on one side of one of the many broad pillared corridors that look out onto the grass and the wind and the hot sun.
But I've only ever seen it from the outside, looking in through unfriendly doors at the must and the dampness and the bare wooden tables and harsh tubelights.
But I went inside for the first time today- not to browse through bookshelves but to use the internet.
And it's really quite beautiful if you take the time to notice it properly.
The furniture is uncompromising solid wood- but the wood is smooth and cold and dark and you can feel the students it has held over the years, all looking alike with dark heads, bowed together over old books, thinking thoughts that are both similar and unique.
The bookshelves are lined up in straight rows and if you wander in between them, you'll probably sneeze. They hold, like all bookshelves should, the musty smell of books that have been well thumbed.
And my god- the books! I only browsed through the history section and it held volumes and volumes about dysfunctional royalty and bloody wars and great, wise movements and great, wise people and ordinary people who woke up and decided to change the world.
And I thought of visiting the library when I had nothing to do and I imagined wandering over to one of the shelves, upstairs and downstairs, and breathing in that curious smell and choosing one of the leather bound books and ambling over to one of the long, broad wooden tables and sitting there, away from noise and away from sun. And I felt curiously happy.
The quiet, satisfied sort of happiness that you feel when you put forward a tiny soul root into new land.
A.O. is someone I'm very fond of. In fact, there is also quite a lot of love involved. I try not to let him see how much he actually means to me though, because I'd never hear the end of it. My insults would lose some of their sharpness and he'd never quite believe them again.
A.O. has, for the past several weeks, been travelling around the world. He made a stopover in Delhi for two days and since he's not aware of this blog's existence, and since most of my readers are convinced I'm suicidal and I believe I should try reassuring them, I'd like to say here and now, that they were a very happy two days. Golden.
A.O.'s gone now and in some ways it's worse, because I feel more alone than I did before. But I realised something very important.
You can't be happy all the time. Experiences don't have to be positive all the time. I shall not launch into a tirade about how misery emotionally strengthens you, because that's never worked for me. I've always drawn my strength from happiness.
All I know is, being with A.O. reminded me of things I'd forgotten. How important laughter is. And ice cream- the chocolate kind with the bits of brownie in it. Teasing and mindless television and long talks and big hugs and Long Island Iced Teas and the wind in your face and an incredibly bad joke and laughter all over again. Those are things I haven't experienced in a long time, and those are the things that really matter.
I found a bit of soul in Delhi, when I was travelling around in autos with him. It is there. I just need to look for it harder.
I'm not saying that my misery (and let's face it- I've always enjoyed being a miserable person) has disappeared yet. It hasn't even grown paler. But every road has patches of darkness. And right now I may be stumbling around, feeling alone and lost and helpless, and maybe I don't know why I'm still walking or even if I want to. But I do know that the sun is going to peep out now and then and when that happens, I shall cling to the warmth and carry it with me- a talisman.
Because, I hate to say it, but the world doesn't really let you be all that completely miserable all the time. It will show you its softness occasionally and it will show you cold rain after dusty winds.
I'm still not happy and I don't know if I'm going to be happy any time soon but I remember what happiness feels like now. I'll bide my time till it creeps up on me again.
There's a verse from somewhere that goes like this:
Look to this day:
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence.
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendour of achievement
Are but experiences of time.
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision;
And today well-lived, makes
Yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day;
Such is the salutation to the dawn!
It's good advice.
I think I'm losing touch with myself. In the past three weeks, I've lost a lot of things that were really important to me. And now, I'm just kind of existing. Floating.
Waking up, going to college, coming home, sleeping, eating dinner, sleeping again. That's my life. Or at least, that's how it feels.
I guess I'm disillusioned because I thought coming to Delhi would wake me up. But it hasn't. It's deadened me.
I miss everything about Calcutta. I miss the smell of the rain and the broken pavements and the tea and Graphiti on Sunday mornings. I miss the the plants on the terrace- especially Pokey- and I miss the eagles that sleep on the paraphet come sundown. I miss playing Dota and CounterStrike at the gaming place, I miss the egg rolls at the Dhaba, I miss warm and slow sunshine days at the Tolly. I miss my mother.
I want to go back more than anything. I don't belong in Delhi. And it's all very well to say everyone has to leave home sometime, but shouldn't you go somewhere where there's soul? Delhi has no soul. I see glimpses of it sometimes though, in the broad tree lined streets and in the red stone of old homes and the freshness in the sky. But it's always snatched away somehow and hidden behind the mindless sweaty faces and the ugly yellow concrete because it's not supposed to exist.
Or maybe it's not Delhi. Maybe it's me.
I always read somewhere that happiness is supposed to be an intrinsic thing. I haven't felt happy for a very long time. I have my good moments- moments where I'm just gloriously glad to be alive. But otherwise, there's this constant dull ache which sometimes drifts into numbness.
Will try to be more chirpy next time.