Everyone has a comforter; mine, for most parts, is getting a haircut. This simple routine job has developed more and more through the years; from a necessity to a fashion statement and now to even more than that, a haircut has become an essential part of how we would like to appear to the world: elusive and mysterious, chic and happening, bubbly or erratic or simply a stander-out.
But a haircut means something else to me; I realized this last year in the middle of all the things that were getting the better of my patience and anger: marks, books, coaching, school, homework, career choices, stress…the list was endless. And then I went for a haircut.
The first came the hair-wash: I love the hair-wash hair salons provide. With a towel draped across my shoulders and my hair dipped in a basin, I closed my eyes and simply breathed in and out. My hair was being washed on its own account and I could feel the water- first cold and then hot, that flew through it. My head felt lighter, my eyes were drooping and my worries flitted lazily in and out of my sight of vision until they receded into the background and the sensation of my hair and my head pre-dominated my psyche.
All too soon and still in a dream, I drifted to another chair and my dripping hair were lightly dried with a towel before the haircut finally began. Feeling my soft hair fall silently to the floor under the click-clip of a pair of competent scissors, I am ashamed to admit that I began to cry for my helplessness overcame the very precarious balance upon which I had carefully set my life, accepting and striving to auto-suggest to myself that everything was all right. But like silent snow, the fall of hair became a beautiful sight to me; perhaps not as beautiful so as to move a bard to relate a ballad but enough to send me tumbling into my own personal pool of misery like nothing else had. I shed silent tears under the curtain of hair but then the snipping stopped.
Hot hair blasted unto my face and I felt my hair turn from their everyday, worn look into something that might come out for an actress in a movie scene every day. At least for me, I felt re-ignited and my tears stopped as suddenly as they had come. I was comforted by the hot blow-dry and felt at peace, some of the anger and sadness having ebbed out of me. I was well spent and knew I wouldn’t need to cry again for a while to come.
Ten minutes later when I finally emerged from the salon, I felt as though the world had been newly washed after a storm and even though the scorching sun was at its mid-day best, I imagined dimensions I hadn’t seen before and the hair salon suddenly became my personal place of reverence. 🙂
A spin-off at the dead of the night. Maybe I don’t care.
As I stood brushing my teeth in front of the mirror right now, I glanced at my face: my slightly puffy eyes and I thought, ‘I wouldn’t have been up this late if I had school to attend the next day.’
The arrival of freedom dawned sweetly followed just a second later by something else- sadness. The end of one life, traded off for another different world. But traded off, no doubt. And nobody asked for permission before tossing us from one milestone to another, different one.
Strangely the first thing I thought of was homework. I thought of a blank page of a notebook: ruled blue and containing a narrow red margin; fresh and crisp. I saw my hand fly over it as I penned answers, drew diagrams or followed instructions; attending to questions that seemed pointless or overrated.
I imagined myself with my friends at lunch breaks, imagined filling my days with talks of teachers, of the school bell and the mixed emotions that accompanied a shuffling between periods. Hating the double periods, loving some classes for just being there. Sometimes, I admit, sitting on the last bench of my row in a frequently rotated arrangement, I would take the privilege of passing notes. It didn’t feel wrong, only felt like something ‘a lot of students did the world over.’
I’ll miss the anticipation of getting a good remark in a teacher’s flaring red pen, I’ll miss the sense of belonging in the diversity, in the crowd of a classroom full of others who were just like you: slightly curious, sometimes driven but often just looking for a good time and a friend to understand them.
The grown-up world is intriguing, I’m sure and just as scary but more than anything else, it is lonely and thus frightening. Gone is the standing up together to face a teacher without admitting who, in particular ‘did it’ and gone as well are the long, whispered and almost hopeful voices that would say, before a test, ‘Did you study much? I practically know nothing!’
A favourite song Just Breathe by Anna Nalick goes: ‘..And I feel like I’m naked in front of the crowd,
Coz these words are my diary screaming out loud,
And I know that you’ll use them however you want to’
I tend to feel the same way every time I write and a word is torn apart from me, vulnerable enough to be read by other eyes. I am not a great author, having nothing to my name but to me, whatever I write is precious beyond words. It is inexplicable. I feel soaked and drained from within tonight hence the following poem, despite my heart’s desire to keep it hidden in the safety of the drawer in my bedroom that holds all my dearest possessions:
What was my seventeen?
A passionate ride through gentle ups and downs
An undercurrent beckoned from beyond this world
I quietly, almost thankfully slew
The part of me that held me back
Dislodged those slices of life
Which no longer made any sense
And buried them in a real coffin
What was my seventeen?
Oh lord, it was beautiful
Feeling the screaming voices inside me
That led me down a still vacant heart
But then taught me to be young
To be a free bird, to make mistakes
And lay my feeling soul out on display
What was my seventeen?
An intricately woven fabric of denial
Betrayal of a heart
And breaking down to accept love in its ugliest form
Then slowly falling out of it, into an abyss
And realizing its imperfections if only to discover
That love is the sweetest treasure I still wish to seek
What was my seventeen?
The poignant realization that life is short, short
Every breath too long to take
Every tale too precious to relate
Every secret I now keep
Has an overwhelming, breathtaking capacity
And a helpless, almost urgent need
To stay deep, dark, pretty
A dreamer in my core was I
Turning in circles to defy
Reality like it was a veil
Covering what I thought was real-
Those dancing eyes, that jeweled crown
Those shimmering lights beyond this town
That maple tree, the boulevard
-Yet fifty paces across this yard
I saw at once before my eyes
The truth-reality flying by
I stopped and stared, thought I should cry
On delving further though I discovered why
My reality is but a wishful
Place I would trade any day for school
A giggling friend once did tell me
‘You? You’re crazy enough to believe
A Prince Charming to come flying past
But darling this Cinderella shan’t last’
So I rode through school a gentle breeze
That boy shan’t know; he was a tease
He always was so much less grown
Then why did I count him my own?
It is interesting but it comes to this
Wondering where that beauty is?
I turn towards a smoky hourglass of time
With all these dreams worth just a dime
But I still believe in dreaming- a curse
And would still trade it for a parallel universe
In the busy streets
At crossroads and junctions
Down every road
In the stiffling heat
And in all the smoke
In the heavily trafficked avenues
And hot, hot lanes
In the evenings
In the heavy wind that blows through my hair
In the glow of the setting sun
In the soft light that slowly dims the vibrancy
In the glitz and sparkle
In all of the city lights
In high rising buildings
And the glamour of the shops
In the silent corners
Half dark, but still a shadow
Of the flirting city lights beyond
In every eye
Though they can afford no more than a fleeting glance at me
And in every face
That floats past mine
In every nook and corner
Of this giant establishment
In every part
Of this city
I see only you
What I first remember of Assam is like a far-off, sleepy dream out of someone else’s life…
Nearly five years ago when I got down at the Dibrugarh airport, the first thing that struck me on stepping out of the sealed airplane was, ‘how humid is it?’ for the air was thick with moisture; it made it hard for me to breath but also made me want to curl up and go to sleep; in my three years there I was constantly sleepy! The airport consisted of a small, almost worn-down, thatched building that did not make me recoil in horror (as many others have reported to feel after a flight from Delhi Indira Gandhi Airport), but I stared at it in amusement for much longer than was necessary. Inside, there was a small hall with conveyor belts and a make-shift arrangement of chairs and counters to act as a laughable but quite functional airport. A small crowd was milling around beyond the building which opened into a yard which broadened into the parking area.
All I remember of the bus ride from there to Sivasagar is that I slept most of the way, drowsy and drained both emotionally and physically and that the weather was so uncomfortable that I was practically gasping for air. At one point I woke up and our bus had stopped at some station. I could hardly remember where I was or why but through the confusion a rather sweet music seeped through to my ears. I cannot say whether I liked or hated the melody but I did feel at peace with it and I returned to my sleep.
Of my three years in Nazira, Assam some moments were exceptionally sweet others unbearably bitter but whenever I look back, I can only recall fondly the good things: the green foliage there was no escaping from, the constant rain, the fear of snakes, the abnormally large insects, the lizards clicking and so on. You get the picture.
The first year our house was located next to a pond. Electricity was a problem, so was heat in the ill-ventilated house that I spent most of my time cursing. Life was only punctuated by visits to the nearby department store, long drives into the unknown after dark and playing badminton with a friend who lived nearby. But when it rained (which was often), I forgot to complain because it became worth it. Wind blew through the house from end to end and you could actually see the rain approaching from a distance over the pond. I could’ve stood for hours, just watching it. Now I miss that smell of wet earth, that exotic exhilaration I felt whenever the weather turned wet and everything mysterious and romantic became attainable.
In terms of the wind which I grew to love, the next two years were painful though life improved in other ways once we shifted to a new house and my friendships grew firmer; new ones sprang to life. It still rained a lot but the pond I’d grown so fond of was gone. Well, life is transient, as has been proved to me over and over until I accepted it.
Watch this space for more reminiscing of Nazira.