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Dear for-the-time-being-diary

Date: July 6th, 2020

Time: around 1:00 p.m. in the afternoon

Dear for-the-time-being-diary,

It’s doomsday (I’m not even religious, how-). There has been a corona case detected in our housing society, and thoughts such as – OMG. Did I sit on a surface that that person sat on? Did that guy cough on a surface that I might’ve accidentally touched? OMG. Am I even clean? Should I take a bath again? – immediately entered my prone mind. My breathing rate increased, and a person learned in the well respected subject of biology would say my adrenaline levels might’ve escalated (that fight or flight thingy).

One could say that I was having a full blown panic attack (that is, until my mommy calmed me down).

Time: around 4:00 p.m.

Dear for-the-time-being-diary,

I learnt a few things. And since I’ve had time to contemplate them, I’ve also started appreciating some of ‘em. For one, I’ve learned that there are many benefits to living in a society as close knit as mine. Everyone is so responsible about the decisions that they take, because they remember their contribution to society at times like these. Another: I’ve also noticed that there are a few different levels of society that I am respectively a part of. I am a part of Pune. Then, I am a part of my rather large housing society. Then, I belong to my building; and finally, to the floor I live on. 

I have responsibilities to all these levels of society. 

I have to keep myself safe, not just for the sake of my family, but also for the sake of all those people that belong to my society. When I feel deprived of going down to take some fresh air, I must restrain myself because at this time, the responsible thing to do is to stay at home and breathe in the fresh air that comes into my not-so-small balcony. Frankly, it isn’t so bad. And frankly, during these difficult times, my responsibilities are defined by small things like deciding whether to go down to walk for a bit or not. I must consider the feelings of those who are just as concerned about mine and my family’s health as they are about theirs; and if they feel insecure that I feel the need to go downstairs for no reason in particular, then I mustn’t go down. Such philosophical observations you have, Mugdha. Go take a break. Study a bit, ‘cause you barely ever do it. Oops.

Date: July 7th, 2020

Time: 7:00 a.m.

Dear for-the-time-being-diary,

Did I mention that I was getting sixteen books for my sixteenth birthday? How cool is that, right? Well, some of the books have started arriving, and I have greedily started reading Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee. So far, I haven’t read much of it and frankly, I prefer the first ‘un (To Kill a Mockingbird, also by Harper Lee). 

Time: 1:00 p.m. 

Dear for-the-time-being-diary,

UGH. The internet has gone out, again. I won’t be able to attend my last class, so I might as well go read some.

Time: 3:00 p.m.

Dear for-the-time-being-diary,

HOLY GUACAMOLE. WHAT A BRILLIANT BOOK. 

(And here comes a short book review on the beyond-excellence book I have just finished reading-)

Title of the book: Go Set a Watchman

Author: Harper Lee

This book has many complexities, one of them being the many different things that the author tries to convey. Of course, there is the general setup of the racial tensions that plague the quiet county of Maycomb, Alabama. However, I found most prominent the internal findings of Jean Louise. She learnt that nothing could be perfect; in the steady trap of society, one must try their best to fit in with the social order and go with the flow, however ‘shutting-out’ and wrong it may be. Her complex relation with her father escalates due to a misunderstanding; she would equate her father with God. She couldn’t handle the fact that he could make mistakes too; he was only human. These are all the technicalities of the book. 

But what I find so brilliant about this book is that it shows us that life isn’t a perfect combination of blacks and whites – there are always some grays in between. No one is ever perfectly good or perfectly bad, some excel at things others don’t, and fail at other things. I can’t just whip my opinion of someone around ‘cause they failed to exceed an expectation that I had of them. Nothing is ever perfect, and that is a necessity to understand. 

Mankind isn’t as bad as some of us perceive (and don’t any of you gimme none of that ‘humans have made such great technological advances’ and such). The problem is that, when one tries to perceive humanity in situations such as the one that we are currently entrapped within, we fail to look at the positive side of things. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. For every person who lost their belief in life, for every person who turned bitter at crimes that some committed, there has been another person doing even more positive work, helping out the ones who need it most, or even abiding by their correct responsibilities to their respective society. 

I say that it is necessary to look at both sides of the coin. I will not lose my faith in humanity, because humanity isn’t just represented by that shoddy branch of people who think that their lives and their wants are top priority. Humanity is an equivocal identity; humanity is equally defined by those who shatter the world, and those who try their level best to glue it (or whatever is left of it) back together. 

(Isn’t this random? I think I’ll stop now.)

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Random Thoughts: Friends

Friends. Those guys who totally get you. You look at their face, and you know that both of you are thinking the same thing. Burst into laughter at the same time.

Those guys who’ve got your damned back when you’re sad. They share your pain.

I had a friend. Let’s call them X. It was a fledgling friendship, but I felt like I could totally relate to X.

X has the same extremist views that I do, when it comes to topics like feminism or gender discrimination. X likes songs similar to the ones I like. X likes memes just as much as I do. X reads books from my favorite genres. Like me, X is very emotional.

I did something that I didn’t know could hurt anyone’s feelings. But it hurt X very much. I’m still confused as to what I did wrong. Maybe I came across as condescending. Maybe I was misinterpreted. I dunno.

But it caused X to say something hurtful to me, in response. X avoids me now. We aren’t on ‘speaking terms’.

Should I give it up? I’ve got tons of other friends that mean much more to me than X does. It doesn’t feel right, though.

Perhaps I should do something about it. It’s all very flummoxing. Meh. I’ll think about it later.

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Random thoughts: Trees

The flowers are in bloom. Everywhere I look, there is a vibrancy of colors! I see a slightly bent over tree, with streamlined, sap-green leaves and flowers of a shade of lavender. The petals have cascaded onto the prickly, viridian grass, and the burnt sienna of the ‘omnipresent’ dirt provides a stark contrast to them. I shift my gaze to yet another tree, at a small distance from the first one. The flowers of this one have the prettiest lemon yellow petals, and they stand out in variance to the deepest green of the leaves. This tree is rather tall, but has spread out its countless branches in a multitude of directions. I then choose another tree in the vicinity to scrutinize. It has elliptical seaweed colored leaves, with flowers having shapely, pearly-white petals. 

I love nature. I read a book last year, called The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben, and found it to be quite intriguing. There was a term he’d mentioned: the Wood Wide Web. Clever. This term refers to the network of mycorrhizal fungi that connect the roots of trees in a vicinity, and help the trees to interact with each other. For example, a mere stump of a once-magnificent tree was found to be alive, with layers of chloroplasts packed underneath. This was only possible because the trees in the vicinity of it provided it with the nutrients that they gained from the rich soil and excess water that they would’ve normally lost through processes like transpiration or secretion through the leaves. These nutrients and the water seeped through the mycorrhizal fungi, and reached the old stump and nourished it for many years. 

I wondered, as I was observing the trees growing in my society, if it was possible for these brilliant communication networks to exist here. I talked to my mom about it, and she explained to me that, in order for our society to be built, it was necessary to dig deep (around 20 meters) into the soil and take out all of the existing tree roots. Due to this, the mycorrhizal fungi networks couldn’t be formed, since they take years to develop. 

Hmm. Isn’t it interesting how we humans have managed to turn nature unnatural? And yet, at the same time, some of us are taking such stringent measures to conserve and protect it. I just found it amazing that trees could support each other in such a non-discriminatory way (the networks are not specific to certain species). If only everyone could do that.

P.S. All the information about the mycorrhizal fungi networks and the Wood Wide Web comes from the book. I haven’t done any of that extensive research, just found it to be rather interesting.

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Euphoria

Happy Birthday Ashmie! You are a brilliant artist, and we wanted to show the world that on yer birthday. You are one helluva person, and you need just a bit of motivation to keep striving for the heights (wow, I am an old librarian) and achieving your highest potential. Check the comments below to see what people think about this small section of your beautiful art!

P.S. – It was rather difficult getting pictures of your drawings surreptitiously, so we suppose you must have had some suspicions, hehe.

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Complete

The wind flows through my hair, gently caressing my face. The palm fronds surrounding me sway to a rhythm. The diminishing sun emits the last few rays of the day. The frothy waves come at me, barely touching my feet. I close my tired eyes, and think of a day well spent. I am alone, but I need no one. I am complete.

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Why am I powerful?

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My America

Look. I know this sounds sooper clichéd because it is literally the only thing that people are currently writing and talking about now, but here goes.

My America. Strong and Liberal, Firm yet Comforting. Beautiful in every aspect. If I could, I would call it a Rainbow Nation.

What is valued in My America? Equality and Justice for all. Respect for everyone. We don’t discriminate here in My America.

Look around, you’ll see people of every class, creed, and color.

We are all safe in My America. We are all free. We aren’t the minions of a baseless thought process. We know the difference between what is right and what is wrong.

So what went wrong this time? A small mistake. Perhaps, we chose the wrong leader. Actually, we did choose the wrong leader. And I think it’s about time we realized that. But this will not shake us. Something petty like that doesn’t break the foundations that our ancestors have laid over hundreds of years. They were together in creating one of the most powerful nations in the world. They didn’t have dissent because of some idiotic belief.

We are a strong people, but only when we are all together. A person living in My America may be Chinese or Indian or African or European of origin, but at heart, they are Truly American. Calling them out for the color of their skin is pointless. They are just as American as you if they hold the same values that you do. Values that My Fellow Americans have are integrity, honesty, and standing up for what’s right and against what’s wrong. We are a hardworking people, and we will eventually get out of this morass. Let’s just keep it together.

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Memories

I randomly walk around the kitchen, bugging my mom to let me see and smell what she is cooking. After much coaxing, she finally lifts the plate covering the kadhai, and the aroma of freshly cooked paneer bhurji hits my nostrils and floods me with memories of my younger years.

How we used to go to a restaurant over in Sunnyvale, called Bhavika, in our oversized Toyota Sienna. How, on entering, the numerous smells of rotis being coated in flour and the wonderful aromas of rajma or the occasional paneer bhurji (always my favorite) wafting around would fill me with an almost mouthwatering dizziness, increasing my hunger a hundredfold. How the kind, welcoming, Gujurati-accented grandpa’s (owner of the restaurant) face would light up with a smile as he recognized my dad, exclaiming, “Aao, Manish bhai!”

Those were the years following my mother’s neck surgery, rendering her pretty much helpless, unable to do anything. Forget about doing her usual work (cooking, helping me study, taking care of my baby sister), she couldn’t get up from her specially motorized bed to hug and kiss me goodnight.

I didn’t really understand the gravity of the situation then. Why my dad stayed at home more often, why we would make those frequent trips to the Stanford hospital and even sometimes stay the night there. I didn’t get why my mom had to wear the heavy neck brace, why there was a scary-looking scar on her neck, and why her face would sometimes contort into an expression of immense pain. I couldn’t comprehend it at all. Why is Aai lying on the bed all the time? Why can’t she cook me my favorite food when I want it? My dad tried his best to make everything seem normal, but nothing was the same anymore.

A year passed. My mom’s health was gradually improving, but she still had to take numerous pills that would make her feel sleepy throughout the day. She could get up and walk now, and hug me goodnight and occasionally tell me a story. That was the best thing in the world for me. Things were shifting back to ‘normal’.

Then, in a couple of years, it was suddenly goodbye to California and hello to Pune. I left behind my fledgling middle school life, all my friends that I had known from the 1st grade, and made weak promises to stay in touch. I tried to stay positive in India, but it was difficult. Adjusting to the new school, adapting to the differing methods of teaching and making new friends was a big process for me. I would cry incessantly, screaming that I wanted to go back, that I hated it here. But gradually as time passed, I made better friends with similar interests to mine. I eventually became a favorite of almost all of my teachers. I discovered hidden talents within me and began to work on nurturing them. My life became much better, and I began to see the in-betweens. The significance of our big move: we needed mutual support from our relatives. So that if anything happened, there should be someone around so that my parents wouldn’t feel emotionally alone (and physically around 8,000 kilometers away).

My mom still feels guilty for no reason. She would always feel that, because of her health, my sister and I were ‘deprived’ of a childhood. She wouldn’t remember our earlier golden days. She didn’t realize that, without feeling a small lack, how would anyone appreciate something so precious? My mom and I cherish those small mommy-and-me moments (yes, we still have those) and I have learned to live with those superficial ‘banes’. It’s okay to sometimes sweep the floor in the morning so that she won’t have to do it. She has sacrificed so much for me, and I want her to know that even if her back hurts once in a while and she feels tired because of the influence of the medicines, I am there for her. I will help her out, just as she has done for me, countless times. I want her to know that she means the world to me.

So now, before I proceed to dig into the delicious meal in front of me, I say, “Thank you Aai. You really made my day.” And she really did.

These small nostalgic moments leave me feeling kinda sad sometimes. But I don’t bother. I have wayyy more things to be happy about.

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The Solitary Rose

She was taking a stroll through the deep forest. With pinpricks of light coming through the sparse gaps in the dense canopy, it was a little easier for her to navigate. She felt drowsy. It had started to feel like she was drowning in the darkness, surrounded by countless shrubs and tall trees. It was becoming difficult for her to go on. She trudged on. Her burdens were weighing her down. She dropped to her knees and was about to completely collapse, when she saw something almost glisten behind a cluster of bushes.

She slowly crawled up to it, just to take a look at what it was. It was still hidden, so she weakly pushed through the foliage. It was a solitary rose.

The pure white of the matured and shapely petals shone, as a streak of light just happened to illumine it. It was perfect.

No rose could have flourished, if not for that bit of light that fell through the dense canopy. It was purely by chance that it happened to be just in the right place.

As she gazed intently at the rose, she started to see her own reflection in the petals. She looked at the rose in perplexity. Then, she slowly picked herself up. She remembered that she had ‘duties to fulfill’. She remembered that she had to let go of her burdens for some time. She remembered that she had to be the mirror that others could see their reflections in.

But it was difficult. It was always difficult.

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Beauty in Simplicity

I sat in my balcony, listening to some light music. It had been a stressful day. I needed to clear my head, and put my focus elsewhere. So I gazed at the majestic tree that had grown in front of our house.

It looked so serene, with its multitude of branches, standing out against the brilliant blue sky. The pinkish blossoms stood in stark contrast to the small, diamond-like leaves that were shaded with tones of emerald, that suggested that Spring was right around the corner.

The tree looked… frozen in space. Trapped in its pose for eons. And yet, doing so much for so many levels of life. It gave, without asking for anything in return. In its simplicity lay its energetic beauty.