(2/6) The Best Friend

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Shrti.

Oh my God, Shrti.

If it were true that people are a reflection of their best friends…

I remember when she said she was coming to visit. She’d just graduated from the dream I’d lost and my mother asked me, “Are you sure this won’t affect you?” The answer was a reflex – She won’t let it affect me. Just wait till you two meet.

The first time I ever saw her – white shirt, black slacks, high heels and a no-nonsense smile – I thought to myself, Yeah, we’re never going to be friends. But then she said, “Hi” and I couldn’t imagine anything else.

We were as different as two people can be. I was that girl you see in class but don’t really want to be seen with. And she was… She is that person who makes heads turn when she walks into a room. But she sat next to me everyday. I’d fight like a child and she’d take it in stride. She ignored my silent judgements and my open bitching made her laugh. I never understood why.

Then came that fight. The one that showed my ugly side. It brought our friendship to a screeching halt. This is it. This is how it ends. On my way to present, she came running to say, “You’re going to do just fine.” That’s who she was. She fixed things with one line.

She taught me how to socialise, how to ask for things I want, how it’s not your body that pulls of a dress – it’s your mind. She taught me to find comfort with myself and if I couldn’t, she would be there, ready with a hug.

When I moved away, I thought the distance would create a lot of space. But she didn’t let it. Irrelevant of when, didn’t matter what – All I had to do was pick up the phone and call. You see why, when she said she’s coming to visit, I couldn’t stop grinning?!

She found herself an internship and we became roommates. The last time we’d done this, it hadn’t been so bad. But I knew this time would be different. My room was my safe haven. Yet, it was okay. And not because of me.

She would insist we went out. I wasn’t allowed to whine. She’d force me out of bed for those walks that made me better. I could only complain about one thing at a time. Every time I thought I was giving up, she would all but kick my butt until I didn’t know what I was thinking about.

I’m not joking. I’m not exaggerating. I’m not being extra nice. The honest truth is – She saved me from myself.

Three months. That’s how long it took her to pick me up from my state of depression and have me signing up for internships and smiling. She’d get a cab all the way from across town to get lunch with me before we headed back to work.  She didn’t have to. She could have been that person that shrugged her shoulders and muttered, “Get over it.” Nobody
ever insisted she take that effort. But she did. Day after day until she knew I was okay.

And then she moved away. To a different house and then to her home city.

Looking back, I often wonder – maybe she came to live with me at that point just so I wouldn’t drown completely. Maybe she was meant to be my lifeguard and when she was done with it, she had to leave. Like destiny.

I never formally said ‘thank you‘ to her. We never talked about it as something significant. She didn’t do it for gratitude. But that’s what I feel when I think of it all. For the love she continues to give. For her non-judgemental listening. For her motivation. For her care. For her.

If it were true that people are a reflection of their best friends, I’d be the best damned human there ever was and Shrti, you are one of the reasons for it.

Thank you for being you. For loving me the way you do.

And always remember, I love you, too. ❤

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(1/6) The Graduate

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You remember that moment? That one moment when you’re laughing, you look around and think to yourself  I’m so happy. I hope this doesn’t go away. Imagine living everyday like that. That was university to me.

I had a ligament tear. The doctor begged me to stay in bed and rest my leg for two days. I was back in class the next morning. I couldn’t imagine anywhere else I’d rather be. I was going to be a Creative Director and have Saatchi & Saatchi never let go of me.

I remember my Dad say, “Things might get a little bit bad.” I didn’t listen. I didn’t think anything was going to mess up this life. Fate wouldn’t do that to me.

If only.

It came crashing down on me. That moment when I knew it was over. I’ve been through bad things, I’ve had to handle my emotions more times than one. But nothing prepared me for this. For the moment when you watch everything you planned, every dream you dreamt be taken away from you for no fault of yours.

I… I sank into depression. I’d sit by that window on my side of the bed, watching people park their cars. I’d think to myself, Maybe if I stand there, they’d run me over. Imagine that. And to think, I’m not even suicidal. But at that moment, anything to stop the ache was a welcome present.

It’s difficult to talk about this. It’s easier to talk about my childhood than this particular year. A part of me crashed and I didn’t know how to put it back together. I needed someone to blame because that’s what you do during a heartbreak, right? You pin it on someone. Either on you or the person who was involved in the story that broke you. So I blamed it on my father. I spent hours imagining how I’d run away from it all, my life would get better and then I’d come back. I’ll show them how I had the ability to do incredible things and they almost wrecked it. It would be the perfect revenge.

And as I lived an imaginary life, my sister began university locally. She asked me to go with to pay her fees. It’s my sister, how would I say, “No?” How would I tell her that watching her take those steps into a life that was no longer mine was emotionally destroying me? How would I explain that if I go with her I would spend the rest of my night crying into my blanket, praying to be taken away from this mess? It wasn’t jealousy. It was longing for what she had.

It cost me the three steps I’d forced myself to take forward. I took six steps back. I didn’t hate her for it. I just hated myself. For not moving on. For not finding peace. For not being supportive and positive of her life and the big steps she was taking towards getting where she wanted to be.

I began to lose control over my emotions. Anger and tears were put on hold to come rushing at any moment, in the middle of any conversation. I didn’t notice. I didn’t observe long enough to know that my sanity had been replaced with hurt, with depression, with failure. I didn’t stop long enough to think that I was no longer thinking. Because thinking meant remembering. Remembering meant hurting. Hurting meant anger. And my anger was self harming. So I numbed myself to a part of my life that I wanted to pretend wasn’t real. So much that I stood there stunned when it happened.

I didn’t realise how bad it had gotten. How I no longer controlled the things I said or did. Not until my sister stood there, crying and I couldn’t explain myself because I didn’t know what had happened. I didn’t understand what came over me. Her tears made me realise that my pain had taken over my life. It was clouding every inch of my existence and I no longer existed.

I volunteered to see a therapist. I knew I needed it. It was the best decision I’d ever made for myself. He prescribed medicines and walking. I put that pill in my wallet and told myself, “I’ll walk first.” Nature calmed me down. The silence of 5p.m. helped me breathe. Life began to seep itself into me and my best friend said words I needed to hear – “Get off your ass. Go find an internship.” So I did. I began a blog. I published articles in a newspaper. I was suddenly not dying in a hellhole.

I got a job offer I didn’t want to take. But I took it. I met people that would make life liveable again. I found comfort and for the first time in two years, I found a future. I would do this. I would live here. In this country that I was born in. This city that will always be my home. I will remain here, forever. And it’ll be okay. I was finally.. okay.

My father walked into my room – “I’m going to send you back again. It’s happening.” I didn’t believe it. Because.. What if it happens? Even worse, what if it doesn’t? I refused to let myself buy into that dream again.

But he was right. It happened. I made that call that would let me continue a dream I’d once lost. I enrolled back into university. I might not have my best friends beside me. It might not be the exact same life I lost. But I’m studying again! Or at least, I was.

You see, I graduated.

Six years after it all began, it finally ended. After our ceremony, back in my room, I picked up my wallet. Buried deep within the last pocket was the pill I was prescribed when I thought I’d lost it all. I never took it. But I kept it with me. As a reminder of where I’ve been. Of how far I’ve come. Of my grandfather’s words – This too shall pass. It made me cry. Because if it were upto me, I wouldn’t have survived.

And so you’ll see in the posts over the next few weeks. The people who kept me alive. The reason I have my dream. Because they deserve more than just a part of this story. They deserve a spotlight of their own.

Until then..

 

Crimson Tide

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I remember that day like it was yesterday,

My mother called my father and we went home again.

“You’re lucky we spotted it.

Bring some rice, Magesh. You please sit.”

 

Four days after that day,

Family and friends came to celebrate.

“This isn’t a joyful occasion,” I screamed.

But you see,

My first period is a sign of my reproductive capability.

“And it’s tradition to celebrate it.”

Or so she said.

 

“Do not enter the kitchen.

Do not hang out with men.

Do not run or exercise.

Just those four days be quiet.”

 

If I’d lived by their rules, I’d have failed every class,

Made no friends,

Met no men.

If I’d lived by their rules, I wouldn’t have lived at all.

But I had a father who hated tradition,

“She wants water, she’ll walk into the kitchen.

She’s not a princess, you’re not her boss.

It’s just her period. It doesn’t change it all.”

 

Eleven years later,  headed to a party,

A colleague stood by me.

As I bought *shhh*, the other nudged my shoulder,

“Told you not to buy it.”

Please do tell me – DOESN’T HIS WIFE GET HER PERIOD?

 

I’ll be honest,

My moods do change

My emotions run high

My irritation stays.

But here’s the thing – it’s not always about those four days.

 

When I’m angry, I’m not bleeding.

When I’m crying, I don’t have cramps.

When I’m flustered, I’m not PMS-ing.

When I’m laughing, it hasn’t passed.

 

So don’t ask me if it’s “one of those days”

Don’t roll your eyes when you see me cry.

Don’t talk about pads like a sinful secret,

It’s not shameful. I don’t have to hide.

 

So I get my period,

There’s no reason to lie.

It’s just another day.

It’s just a Crimson Tide.

Kaatru Veliyidai

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Dear Varun,

It’s been a while. Almost six years. The details had slowly become a blur but the feelings remain like it was only yesterday. When you held my hands and confessed love one week after our first date. Sounds ridiculous now. But oh, how I swooned! The cute guy with a cheeky smile and silence that was constantly inviting. You were almost too good to be true with trouble written all over you.

It was summer. I was home. You called and asked me to marry you. We’d been together less than a year. I was 19 and I wanted to. My parents hated you. That eloping plan sounded perfect for then.

Nobody had cared. People around me too busy wrapped up in their own lives to ever tell me what to do. And when you did, I felt adored. Like someone was finally looking beyond the surface. I should’ve sensed the red light but all I felt was love. Oh how much he must care if he takes the time to tell me what to wear! I should have seen the control freak in you.

One week. That’s how long I spent trying to track you down. Knowing you were in pain didn’t help the fact that you were gone. Phone calls, emails, there’s nothing I wouldn’t have done. Just to know you were okay. Just to hear your voice. I should’ve known you didn’t want to be found.

Layers. Your sisters told me “it wasn’t easy growing up.” I nodded my head and pretended to know what they talked about. It wasn’t until Christmas vacation that I finally understood. You were a different person when I wasn’t right next to you. You had so many sides, I wouldn’t know where to look. I should’ve asked for more. I didn’t know if I could.

The anger. That secret seething rage you hid so well until it was too late. Shoved against a door. Your hand mid-air. I wished I’d done more than listened. Maybe asked. Maybe helped. So I began. Untying the knots that made you sink when you needed to swim.

Suddenly I was weak. For not running. For not leaving. For staying. For loving. The child abandoned and his fear of being left. His anger for letting himself care. His need to keep me by his side and always know where I am so he can sleep with knowledge that I’m not halfway to hell. How could I blame a man that feels like a caged child for actions he wishes he didn’t commit? Someone who helps others with their emotions but has no control over his own? How do I call a man undone an emotional abuser?

I wasn’t old enough to analyse, let alone fix. But I tried. In my way, letting you know – no matter what, I’ll always stay. Even if I’m hurt. If I’m scarred. I’ll sit by your side. But marriage was not a choice. And so I watched you punch a wall. My heart hammered for how red your knuckles turned. But I wouldn’t say yes.

So you did what you feared I would. I’m not ready for this. I can’t be a life partner right now. You hung up the phone and you left.

I tried to keep track but you know how those things go.

Six years later, I saw “you” in a movie. One so many seem to hate. And I know how many layers his emotions have. I know why he feels anger he can’t control. I know why she stayed as stupid as it sounds. And it reminded me of you. I can’t even tell you. So I thought I’d write a blog.

Maybe, in some part of this world, you’ll click on a stranger’s link and find this. When you do, I hope it’ll remind you of us. And if it does, I want you to know – If I had to do it all over again..

I would.

Love,

Leela.

The Same Old Story

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It’s the same old story
That night at a party,
A drink every minute
But I never said you could.

It’s the same old story
Last evening in your cubicle,
I was doing my job
The description never said you.

It’s the same old story
This morning in a crowded bus,
My naked legs where your hands end
What could you do?

It’s the same old story
My desperate No is a drunk Yes
My reflex step back is begging to be touched
If only you knew the truth.

It’s the same old story
He’s a swimmer, not a rapist
She’s immoral, not a victim
“We’re sorry, let it go.”

It’s the same old story
It’s man bashing.
I mean, how can he be raped?
Isn’t all we want what he got?

It’s the same old story
Virginity is only for me.
For him, it’s sex.
She can’t be the victim
But neither can he.

It’s the same old story
Abuse is a conversation
Victims, liars
Abusers, oh how dare you?

It’s the same old story
It’s just another month.
What good is a conversation
When we move on to another one?

It’s the same old story.

 

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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. If you find yourself looking at someone that is a victim of sexual assault, know that it’s difficult for them to admit it and they need you at that moment. But they’ll need you more when they try to go back to normal life with the inability to feel secure. Don’t ask them to hold back, don’t treat it like it’s a sin. Talk about it. Get them help. And give them the voice they can’t find within themselves.

Yes, men are also sexually abused. And any fight against abusers is not gender-based.

Find more information about SAAM at: Wikipedia SAAM

Here’s one video that NEEDS to be watched: The Boss

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Dear Beautiful

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Dear beautiful,

How you doing today? If the answer is great, I’m happy for you. If the answer is bad, let’s fix it. Because I’ve had those days too. And I’d have loved the help too.

I didn’t know how to say these words to you. I’m not the best at giving a speech. So I thought I’d write them down and let you read.

I get it. We may look different but we suffer the same. Whether we’re openly emotional or we dump it within ourselves, we feel the same. Whether we fit into that dress or have to have it custom ordered to our size, we love ourselves the same. With a little doubt. A little insecurity. A lot of wishful thinking.

You may not feel like you’re doing the best you can – at work, at home, in a relationship. You feel unsure. You have those moments when you wonder if anyone cares. And when they do, the acceptance is a task, not easy.

You do all these wonderful things that people compliment you for but you don’t see it. It’s not significant. It’s not changing lives or the world. So you sigh in silence as you hope to be someone else. The TV version of a woman who spends her silent nights, wishing the way you do, to be someone else she sees too. But you don’t know that.

Because how can she be that and this? How can you?

There’s a room filled with paper boxes. Each with a label – Strong, career woman. Submissive, housewife. Opinionated, judgemental. Open-minded, troublesome. Rebel, anti-establishment. Goody two shoes, daddy’s daughter. Abusive, vicious. Abused, liar.

You can only fit into one of these. You can’t be stunning and insecure. You can’t be successful and homely. You can’t have a career and a family. You can’t. You Can’t. YOU CAN’T.

Stop. Stop listening to those voices. Stop letting yourself believe them. Stop underestimating who you can be.

And never stop.

In a world that focuses so much on labelling who you are and what you do, never stop being your authentic self.

Around people who tell you your choice is a mistake, never stop taking chances.

When the ones you love try to hold you back in the name of care, never stop breaking free.

And that dream? The one that you shrug about as nothing but an unrealistic wish when deep within you want it more than anything you could imagine? Never stop chasing it.

This world isn’t a kind place to us. Yes, it’s harsher to some more than others. But that doesn’t make it better. For you to get where he has, you’ll work twice as hard and be overlooked twice as much. Don’t let that keep you down.

Don’t compare who you are to who she is.

She might get ahead of you faster than you got to where you are. Don’t hate her. There are enough people in this world to tear us down. Let it not be ourselves. We need each other today more than ever before. We need each other to fight for ourselves and the ones beside us. The ones who can scream and the ones who succumb. The ones who laugh and the ones who cry.

You may count yourself insignificant in a fight to prove ourselves important. But are you sure? Imagine if we all thought that. Who’d be left? Your voice and your fight matters. You matter. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

So go be that woman.

The one who chooses based on emotion.

The one who dreams beyond reason.

The one who hiccups when she laughs.

The one whose hair tangles with the wind.

The one who can seldom get a candid picture right.

We all have insecurities. We’re all unsure where life leads. We all date that stupid guy. We all fall in love and break our hearts.

Never let someone else’s perspective of who you are affect what you know about yourself. There’s no winning with the ones who are waiting with words that poke and hurt. So take yourself out of their game.

Be outspoken and shy. Be loud and socially awkward. Have an amazing career and a loving family.

It’s not impossible. You’ve seen it. You know it. You just have to believe it.

So go on. Spread those invisible wings and do what you’ve always wanted to do.

If you fly too close to the sun, we’re right here with a lot of cold wind.

With silent wishes and loud compliments,

Me.

Someday

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We’re at that point now. I don’t know where my life’s headed. You don’t know where yours seems to be going either. It’s not a cross road. It’s fuzzy vision. What’s two steps in front of me cannot be seen. It’s scary. I feel my heart begin to race. I turn to my right. Guess what I see?

Someday.

It’s not a place. It’s not a moment. It’s a face. It’s a person.

Someday.

In a little world of our own, you’ll come home to me. There’d be no goodbyes. No airport kisses. Just you and I.

Someday.

A bowl of soup and a lot of Netflix. Dala curled up around my feet. His head resting on my ankle. Yours on my shoulder. Our hands intertwined. I’ll squeeze tight every time the wall moves and the mother screams, “Will!” But I won’t be afraid. If the walls were to ever come alive, I know I’ll have you by my side.

Someday.

After dinner that should have been lunch, we’ll go on that walk I was never allowed to. The clock past midnight. Your arms around me, tight. As the curfews of the past seem to float away, the breeze I’d longed for becomes the cherry on my cake.

Someday.

Your work will get to you like never before. My ability to understand walking out the door. That screaming match I’d always feared. You’ll give me hugs instead of papers. That tear rolling down will tell tales of insecurities. Ones I’d never had to speak.

Someday.

We’ll fight over where the tv goes. Why you’re not allowed to keep those ugly clothes. How much space you need and how little you clean. You’ll end them with your crappy jokes. That laughter reaching my eyes like it always does. Remind me again, what were we fighting about?!

Someday.

That house will slowly become a home. Something I’d spent all my life longing for. The future no more a far away dream. It’ll be now. It’ll be here.

Someday.

This fuzz will fade. Our paths so clear, but never meet. Unless you hold my hand and walk into mine. Or I… into yours. Giving up dreams. Shedding family.

Someday.

Our hearts will race. That choice we make, changing everything in its wake.

Someday.

I’ll sit on that patio, overlooking the beach. A glass of chilled wine and Dala at my feet. My children running around with sand in their hair, happy.  The door behind me opens with a little creak.

He’ll walk through the door to put his arms around me.

Someday.

In a faraway land. In a home that we built. We’ll smile at the little ones. The hands holding me, putting my heart finally at ease.

I’ll turn to my right. Guess what I’ll see?

Someday.