*Prize Winning Entry in Women’s Web’s Celebrating Girls, Celebrating Women Contest*
“Don’t be too late coming back.” Mom says over the phone when I go to work every morning. I tell her I wouldn’t. In the course of the day however, tasks pile onto more tasks and before I know it, the clock strikes a less-than-welcome hour. When I trudge back home, tired and sleepy, I have little motivation to appreciate the night-blossom that grows pleasantly by my window or listen to the cricket shrieking away to glory. It is a world I hadn’t envisaged growing up. Just how I graduated from walking on dew in the park to being unpleasantly mindful of stress, stalkers and fear is a transformation I am still unsure about.
Grandpa taught me to bicycle. With extra care to protect me from falls, bruises and tears. I would return to freshly made Glucon-D – the “orange flavour!” of course – and at night, would slip into dreams of lakes and hill-towns. I don’t bicycle any more. The streets overflow with way fancier vehicles to accommodate my bicycling skills. Moreover, I can no longer enjoy the freedom of focusing on the joy of pedalling. There’s too much that is wayward: traffic that cares a penny about you, constraints of time and the ever-impending deadlines, the kind of men who paint a poor picture for the clan. All, that stayed conveniently tucked under the sheets when I was learning to colour lions with golden hair.
When I get to go home, I explore every nook and cranny from back then: the lemon tree with the divine fragrance, the monsoon windowsill which fogged over each June, the terrace with glorious sunshine. When I delight over raindrops, my arms outstretched, it pours harder. The lamps on Diwali glow brighter when I put in a word to my favourite God. Sometimes, with a stray gust of the evening breeze, I realize how I am still me. The very person who would squeal with joy when Dad got home a jigsaw puzzle.
I wake up to the sound of wind-chimes in the morning. They dance lightly in the morning air, indifferent to the disharmony of the cell-phone alarm. On the duller of days, I tune into my cherished music. I put into words all that is grey, greasy and gloomy – and interestingly, I feel calmer. When stuck in a helpless situation or shocked beyond coherence, I give myself breathing space. I ain’t one of those hit-me-dolls who will bounce back to normal each time you shove her in the face. But, assisted with a little treat – a holiday, a chocolate, a pat on the back – I try. And sometimes, that’s the best anyone can do.
My world may have changed. Instead of a cheery bicycle-honk by the corner, life now springs up complications. Barring mechanized anniversaries and birthdays, a lot of my erstwhile ‘world’ stays lost in oblivion. There isn’t the glee which came with toffee being distributed in class or the bell ringing the end of the scary History period. But, there still is the comfort of proximity with the ones I love, of starry dreams on Christmas and the aroma of a good night’s dinner.
No matter what the winds of change conjure in my existence, I will hold on steadfastly to the joy of living. The celebration, as they say, will go on.