Tag Archives: teenage

Of Strangers At A Coffee Shop

(On Somebody’s Demand)

I liked him. A lot. As a friend. As the boy who sat in the last bench and yet managed to dig up some pretty good scores. As the boy who was loved by all; desired by all; dreamt by all. I liked stopping by his class to steal a glance. I liked talking to him. I liked scrolling up numerous Facebook conversations and reading them over and over again. I liked him.

At first, back in those high school days which now roll by in a soft, nostalgic tone with a tint of grey, I liked him. That was all it was.

But then one day, I fell deeper. I found myself lost. I started wondering if he liked talking to me all the same or not. I started questioning myself whether he cared about me the way I did. I started to delve deeper and care about how he looked at me. Whenever he did, I wondered if the stories he held were true. I knew I shouldn’t, but I couldn’t stop myself.

Then, what mesmerized me, what kept me on my toes, what made me smile giddily for no absolute reason – was not him, but the idea of who we could be.

I was in love, or so I think. To this day, I still look for something that can convince me that that wasn’t love.

Over the years, something changed – as it happens in every story round the world. Something snapped. Some feeble hope that I catered in a lone corner of my heart, withered away with the sands of time. Before I could fully realize what was happening, we were drifting far away. The Cheshire cat grins were mingling into confused frowns. Heartbreaks were no longer literal; they drew blood. Sleepless nights merged into lonely days.

I never thought that I’d be this girl – someone who cared too much; someone who felt something so strongly. I kept telling myself that this would be different.

Oh, how wrong was I!

So here I sit today, inside the very coffee shop that entraps memories of the times we spent together.

The grey and gloom outside the faintly lit café reflects my mood. Drops of crystal, clear rain slide down the glass in a painfully slow stance, painting distorted images of the world outside. Cars speed by with blaring horns, casting reflections that glisten like undiscovered orbs of light entrapped in illusions.

The red walls and chestnut tables don’t catch my interest. Nor does the aroma of ground coffee beans grunting in the old coffee machine. The squeaking of sneakers and click of heels don’t break my oblivion. How can they when you are sitting right next to me!

With another girl, though.

I look at both of your reflections on the misted window glass. It is rather surprising of how clearly I can make out your smiles, yet I can’t trace the cars that roam right outside the window. Why, windows were made to look at the outside world! Did they sometimes reflect the inside as well?

For the first time in my life, I decide to order my coffee entirely black, just the way you liked it.

I hope you notice when the chirpy waitress places the cup in front of me. But you don’t. You are smiling at her, trying to make her feel better, while I’m crumbling deep inside.

You are whispering sweet dreams of everlasting happiness to her, while I’m desperately wishing you’d turn and look at me.

But you don’t.

My vision is hazy. Perhaps, it is not you. Else you’d have noticed. Or did you move on? Quicker than my scars healed?

I push away the cup of coffee and stand up quietly. I walk away. Behind me, you push away a strand of her hair and look into her eyes and fall in love. How I wish you’d look at me again and fall deeper in love this time! Your smiles are deafeningly louder. I’m blinking back tears as I walk, rather run faster.

We are both strangers now. Nobody ever told that people who had been in love could become this. Then again, nobody ever told me that people change and you’ve to let go.

Now I realize that these things needn’t be told

You’ve to learn them.

As I climb back into my jeep and watch you flashing her a wink, I don’t feel the same pang again. For I’m starting to let go of the thread that I had been holding for long – the one that you left, long ago.

The Man Every Daughter Looks Up To

(Dedicated to every daughter)

“Dad, for the world, you may be just another person,
But for me, you are the world.”

There are moments when everything seems like they are moving at a snail’s pace. Be it boring rainy Saturdays when the drops of rain seem to be racing down your window at a pace that kills mood, or winter Mondays when all you want to do is get back under the duvet and sleep off the day.

And then, there are moments which take your breath away – the ones where you wish time would just freeze; and you could live each moment, oh, so slowly!

I had this thought while having a casual talk with my bride-to-be cousin. It is always an amazing experience to sit with elder cousins and ask them the life that they see after their marriage, their goals and their apprehensions. It is almost like a beautiful story – seeking perfection in the midst of chaotic randomness.

I have seen girls crying while they are sitting next to the holy pyre or standing on the decorated aisles, decked in gold chains and loads of waterproof mascara and red sarees and pearly white gowns. If you look closely, you’ll see that their faint smiles as they pose for the impatient cameramen, bring across a plethora of emotions. They aren’t always excited or happy or satisfied. In fact, those emotions are the rarest. Their eyes hold tears of pain and it is almost like an immense sadness is weighing them down – the separation from their parents.

It is rather strange, actually. One day we are ten and eleven, playing with our Barbie dolls and shying away from the neighbourhood boys. We have dreams, so glorious that they glimmer in our eyes. The world seems such a rosy place, then, with Mom who cooks us the most delicious recipes and Dad, who has always got our back. For each daughter, their Dad stands as the best man in the world. Though we never tell it aloud, we know that if there’s one person who can wipe away our tears and make us strong again, it is Dad.

And then, something changes. We are sixteen or seventeen and the phase of rebellion begins. Occasional arguments, the banging of doors, the confusion, the rhetorical questions we pose ourselves, a tad bit of lies, before it also drowns into a drone of nothingness. Then, comes a dawn where we realize how stupid we had been as teenagers. Mom and Dad had always wanted the best for us. With each passing day, you start loving them even more.

Then, one day, you find yourself walking down the aisle or sitting next to the pyre, with your Dad by your side. Suddenly, it seems like you are standing on a boat that is slowly drifting away and no matter how much you try, you can’t reach the deck. The thread that had always held you so close to your parents looks like it is metamorphosing into a loose string and withering away with each passing second.

You look at their eyes and see happiness mingled with sorrow. How you wish you could get up from there and hug them to the end of the world! How you wish you could cry endlessly and tell your mom and dad that they mean the world to you. Do they know that, you ask yourself.

The moment is intense. You want each moment to freeze so that you can stay with your parents for some time longer. It scares you – the future. You don’t know if you can stand up on your own. You need your Dad with you. You need him to hold you as you cry. For he is the one man you’ve looked up to, for your entire life and you’ll continue doing so.

You ask yourself, whose shoulder will you cry on when thunder bellows on dark night? You think of the times when he will not be there to catch you when you fall. Your lower lip quivers as you stare into his eyes that hold stories. You don’t feel like letting go of his hand.

Biting your lip to escape the tears that threaten to slip down, with an immense pain weighing you down, you tell him, “Walk me down the aisle, Dad.”

Of The Last Letter

Dear Dawn,

And this is how it ends.

I stand in the prom, alone. I had asked you, but never had an answer. So I stand here, in a corner, dressed in something that feels too big for me. It feels like we’ve grown up too quickly and I don’t want that to be.

When we were kids, we were happy, without a bother.

And then, we grew up and our smiles became forced.

Everything that we were, was not true; our real self still hides somewhere in the blue.

We were hurt and broken and felt unloved;

When all the while we were just blind. We never looked around us – at the anchors that were trying to pull us back to the shore. We never looked back at the people who could have helped us. Matter of fact, we never opened up.

When we felt hope was scarce and footprints were missing on the sand, it was when that miniscule remainder of hope was carrying us through every difficult day.

Each day is filled with surprises. Some days will sweep us off our feet while some will crash us down, ten feet under. And even if we continue wearing a harness for the rest of our lives, we will fall. Hard.

No amount of planning can fully prepare us for what is about to arrive.

But that is just life. It is uncertain. It us a mystery. Yet, it is magical.

If we are hurt, we will heal. If we fall, we can still stand up. If we find ourselves lost, there will be light.

I leave the hall and go there, where you had asked me to.

I kneel next to you and kiss you, hard. I feel your hands coming around me and pulling me into a hug. For moments, I sit there on the cold gravel, breathing against you. The wind blows to some silent crescendo, obliterating into the maddening oblivion of the night.

When I finally stand up, I realize the uneven plaster of the tombstone has traces itself across my face. My eyes glimmer with tears and I fight them back.

Below your name, in beautiful calligraphy, is carved, “Loved by all”. How I wish I could tell you how many people cried that day. Each of us is going to miss you in some way.

It is late, but I do realize now, that perhaps every person in the world is looking for a chance and a dawn
Something to rescue;
Someone to rescue them.

Chance.

Of Knowing My Life In Ten Tags

1. I want to become a writer. But I don’t have a story. I don’t have the entire oh-my-god-that-is-going-to-be-the-next-bestseller plot with me. So far, I’ve faced 3 rejections and I know that there are many more to come. What saddens me is the fact that among perfections of character building and grammar, some have forgotten to find the story in the story.
I have a habit of creating memories about every other person I encounter. Even with the briefest encounters, I find every person to be truly interesting. And no matter how much wrong they have done, I believe that there’s a person inside them who is good and is waiting for his/her chance to shine.

2. I love train rides. I love the way the ground seems to be jerking underneath, even after I’ve stepped out of the train. Often, I look forward to longer journeys in air-conditioned compartments, minus noisy kids. I think about grabbing my phone or laptop and writing about something, but Mom keeps shooting me angry glares at frequent intervals, which is pretty disturbing. So, all I end up doing is lazing around for hours, feeling the leather carve against my cheeks and waiting for tunnels.

3. When I was ten or eleven, I wanted to have a Doctorate degree in English literature from the prestigious Oxford University. I had a knack for drawing and at twelve, I decided I was going to become an animation designer. At fifteen, I planed on becoming a doctor after having watched a few seasons of Grey’s Anatomy. And here I am, eighteen, and common sense has been slapped into me – what is in the TV, stays in the TV!
Till this moment, I’m clueless if sitting inside a cabin, 10*7, is what I really want to do with my life.

4. I have a Plan-B, but I don’t see the first steps for the staircase. Somewhere, in a crazy corner of my brain, I wish to inspire people. I wish to write something that will make them cry in joy. For now, I think I’m pretty young.

5. I think horror movies are romantic. I don’t understand why people don’t have horror movie dates! Though I agree that the best way to torture me would be to ask me to watch a horror movie, I find the fear, rather enthralling. For once, amidst the screams and shivers and darkness, something feels real!
I don’t understand why some people absolutely hate horror movies and tell that those are the scariest things in the universe. I believe, life is scarier.

6. My brother’s name is Joy and he forms most of my life.

7. I believe in God. But I do not understand Him. I do not understand why in a world so beautiful as ours, people are still in pain.
When Mom asks me to stand in front of Him and pray at a particular time, I ask her, why? Why do we have to remember Him only a particular time? I tell her that I’ve told my prayers throughout the day. He is around me and He provides me strength. Although I do not voice out everything aloud, I know that He knows all of them.

8. I’m having a hard time figuring out two other interesting points about my life!

9. Theya Catalan is basically my pen name. I go by the name “Akanksha” (pronounced: anyway-you-like-it) which means hope and aspirations and wishes, or that is what my mum tells me!

10. The Diwali of 2013 happened to be one of the most painful ones for me. I met this little boy who was an orphan and he had been lingering on the road, secretly watching us burst those crackers and shout in merry. Dad happened to spot him and called him to join us. I will never forget the glimmer of happiness in his eyes. I will never forget the way he smiled when he held those crackers in his hands and lit them with us. When it was time to leave, I gathered some packets of the left crackers and gave it to him. When his eyes lit up with unparalleled joy, I asked him to wait awhile so that I could run into the house and grab some more crackers.
By the time I returned, he had already left. I waited for long, in the chill of the winter night, thinking he would come back, but he never did.
He taught me a very important lesson that night that, don’t make people wait; for they’ll leave.
I’ll write more about him some day.

Of What I Never Told My Friends

I’m travelling in a crowded bus as I write this. And no, it isn’t like they always describe – sweltering heat and grumbling people – in fact, though it isn’t that great an experience, it isn’t that bad, either.

Sandwiched between the metal rods of the window and a heavy woman who is reading a Stephen King book, I watch the group of teenagers in front of me. One of them, a short girl with raven black locks, in her pair of faded jeans a loose shirt, is busy pulling away the earphones from a boy who is probably one of her friends. Beside them, there is another girl who is talking feverishly with the girl who sits cuddled in the furthest corner, pressed against the window. She is hearing but her eyes are trained on the duo who are arguing over the earphones. An occasional smile lights up her pale face, causing her friend to smack her on the head and demand her to listen.

I quietly turn away from them and look outside the window where the scenes are gradually fading from ordinary reality of the town to infinite possibilities.

The crisp late February air hits my face, almost numbing my senses, but I can still hear their voices, loud and clear. Though I can’t figure out what they are talking about, the one thing that is clear is, they are happy.

It reminds me of those days when school had been a daily affair. I find myself remembering that perhaps the only reason I used to wake up with so much enthusiasm on winter mornings was because of my friends. Each day, after returning from school, I’d wait eagerly for the next day so that I could get to meet my friends again. Though very little things happened in a span of six hours, at school, I found myself talking with my friends for long, discussing every insignificant detail of the day. It was strange – of how we always used to have something to talk about, no matter what.

As the bus moves over a bump, collective groans rise from everyone. The bunch of friends in front of me make dramatic noises, and then burst out laughing at their antics. A smile crosses my lips as I remember the days when I went for picnic trips with my friends. The miles never bothered us. Hours were spent gossiping, singing like badly trained artists, pulling out pranks on each other and laughing on senseless jokes! Before we would know it, the journey would have come to an end.

I see my friends in them. I see us laughing and crying and calling each other at night, discussing boys and homework and what not!

A silly grin lights up my face and I shake my head, remembering the weird conversations we used to have.

Almost immediately, it is replaced by a frown as I remember the bitter memories I’ve had with them – when they broke my trust; when they left me alone.

The bus wobbles slightly and the woman beside me, almost squeezes me into the damp corner, but I don’t mind. I’m too lost in my train of thoughts to know that the bus has come to a halt and the conductor is calling to me.

“Madam?” he shouts in his thick Bengali accent, causing me to snap out of my trance.

“I-I am so so sorry!” I tell him as I pick up my bag and manage to make my way to the exit door.

Before stepping down, however, I turn around and take a look at the bunch of friends and find their eyes trained on my movements. A smile threatens to burst, but I press my lips together tightly and get off the bus. It would’ve been so weird to smile at a bunch of teenagers!

As I walk down the street, the gravel scratching against the sole of my heels, I remind myself never to wear those shoes again.

I cross a nursery school and the little children, loitering around the gate, wave at me and I wave back.

I don’t have schools to look forward to. In a few months, I’ll be heading for college and the entire idea of a new place, of new people, makes me nervous and afraid. Having changed so many schools, I have learnt that distance does make things worse. Your friends will start fading away and then, there will be a day when you meet each other at a shopping mall and there will be no excitement.

As a teenager, I’ve always had a problem in placing my trust on people. It does take a lot of time, because after so many betrayals and the so-called “backbiting”, you know, for a fact that making friends and keeping them is a tough job. There are times when the people you trust the most, will leave you at your darkest times. And their places will be taken by utter strangers who will come to mean something more.

Now that I think about the friends I have who are still my friends, very few faces come to my mind. Along the way, I have lost people – so many beautiful people and my heart breaks in painful realization. A part of me wonders where they are now and if they remember me sometime. Then, I find myself thinking about the friends I’ve lost to numerous rumours and misunderstandings. I hope to find them some day and ask if things can go back to being the same again.

I realize that it’s not like you can protect yourself from getting hurt. Sometimes, unknowingly, you are going to hurt others. And then, there comes a point in everyone’s life, where you sit and think about all these times and what you could have done to keep those people close. Regrets. And that’s all a part of growing up, I presume.

Mom had once told me that friends are not people who will stick by your side always, but they’ll have your back.

Amidst the share of misunderstandings and hurt and happiness, I’ve come to realize that friends not only deserve second chances but also thirds and fourths. At times, we have to take a leap of faith. At times, we have to forgive them for all their mistakes and go back to being friends again. At times, we have to trust them with all our heart.

They will disappoint us.

And once upon a dark day, they will surprise us.

Of Nothings and Everythings

The sky is winter white. The horizon gleams with a thin streak of grey clouds. The grass below us is wet with the first few drops of the summer rain. A slight northern wind caresses our skin, whispering strange dreams. Against the backdrop of mesmerizing beauty, somewhere behind us, crickets chirp to some unheard tune and the poor little pigeon, flaps its wings and flies off to find some food for her kids. The few stale drops of rain trickle down the calloused branches and seep into the thirsty ground.

He tugs at my shirt and his eyes burn into mine as I look up at him. His dark pupils gleam with curiosity as he studies me.

“What are you thinking?” he asks.

Shaking my head, I push myself up and stand beside him. His fingers intertwine with mine and he pulls me lightly, urging me to take quicker steps.

The circus is here in the town, again. He wants to go to the circus. He had once told me that he held a special liking for the circus. And I had never bothered to ask him why.

As we walk on the bare grass, its tips pressing against the bare soles of our feet and flicking drops of water, he tells me that the smells will entice me. He tells me that the place will feel warmer and so better than that under the blue, infinite sky. I don’t believe him.

He tells me that the faint aromas of cotton candy and apples will tease my senses to no end, until I join them. Then, as I will walk to the stall, the magnificent smells will couple with those of the wet asphalt and lift me up to the clouds. He tells me that that is happiness. Absolute perfection.

As the noises become closer, his steps become more frantic. He pushes past the hordes of people, dreams glistening in his radiant blue eyes that have never failed to amaze me. They hold a sincerity, so profound that I can feel myself live the stories that his eyes hold.

He begs me to join him on the Ferris wheel. Amidst the howling chaos around me, I hear him tell me that the sunset from veranda will make my life perfect – that the streaks of orange and purple merging into the abyss of blue will enthrall me.

I watch him with awe, demanding to know how he knows so much about circuses when he had never visited one.

I’m afraid of clowns, but I don’t tell him so. My heart sinks when the acrobats defy gravity. And I am afraid of the fire that the ringmaster holds. I want to stand up and walk away quietly, slipping from his hold. I want to hide somewhere – far away from the world where no one will ever find me again.

“What are you thinking?” he asks, yet again, his lips parting slightly.

Before I can answer, he turns back to the stage.

The circus is over; now he wants me join him on the Ferris wheel. Grumbling, I follow him to the stands.

We are ushered into a cheap, gold painted cabin that sways to the slightest wind.

The clouds are gone. The sun is peeking out from its golden robe, spreading warmth all around. Though the darkness is descending, the sun stays there, perhaps, determined to present me a sunset.

Resting my elbows against the window, I lean out and watch the Ferris wheel slowly picking up speed. We are leaving the ground, floating up with the clouds. The sun spreads its arms, waiting to embrace us in its golden light.

From up there, the people look so tiny. I’m not afraid of them anymore. The lights that flicker on the street below, seem like iridescent orbs and fireflies. I glare back at the mocking swirls of colour, wondering how a sunset can bestow so much beauty all around me. The sunrises are supposed to be the ones filled with hopes; the sunset carries a plethora of hopes as well. The radiant glow sings the legacy of the sun. I find myself being lifted higher up to a world unlike others. It feels like I’m sitting on a cloud. It feels like I’ve finally found my place in the world – here. It feels like everything I have never ever felt until now.

This is the world I had dreamed of when I had been a kid – where sunsets don’t bring pain; where one can stand on the sidewalks and watch the world go by; where one can see the silhouette of the cityscape against the backdrop of fiery red.

“What are you thinking about?” he demands this time, his gaze not leaving mine. He raises his thick eyebrows and clasps my hand, begging me to tell him.

I don’t admit anything aloud.

As I stare into the distance, watching the daylight linger and a hundred possibilities emerge, I say, “Nothing.”

Of Expectations That Kill

Come March and I bet my parents’ blood pressures hike up drastically. It’s exam time and though children are supposed to be the ones facing the question papers, the parents are on a special marathon as well. They wake up with the child; they sit with them as they read; the house is ten decibels quieter as everyone seems to be speaking in hushed whispers and in short, it is as if someone has just died in the house! Indeed, someone has…

Think about the child for once. Do the parents have this much knowledge of what the child is going through? Waking up for late nights is no big deal, but do the parents carry that heavy burden of expectations that the child carries? Do they know that this load is slowly killing their children?

I think the biggest problem of our times is the tremendous amount of competition around. No doubt, competition pushes everyone to give their best, but in the same breath, there is no real learning because everyone is too busy, with their gazes focused on the finish line. Everyone wants to be a winner! And our universe, unfortunately, has a rule book that states that only one person can be the winner. But does that mean the person who comes last, is worthless? Does that mean the person who came second is not as good as the first? Does that mean the person with a broken leg never deserved to come first?

In the race to perfection, lies the problem.

I happened to read this in a very beautiful book : Each one of us, is born perfect.

And I agree with it. When children are born, there is absolutely no comparison. We don’t measure how loudly they cry or how many times they sneeze. We are plain happy. Period. And that implies, we all had once been, perfect!

It is when we start growing up, that comparisons begin. Suddenly it’s about how fast a child can grasp the alphabets and the other can’t! It’s about how quick one kid grows, but the other doesn’t! Comparison kills the perfection we had grown up with. And most of the parents, just wouldn’t accept that. If you are short, they’d ask you to play basketball! If you are dull in studies, they’d hire a hundred tutors! If you can’t draw, they’d send you to a class! In short, they can’t just accept the fact that each child has certain limits.

Just like everyone can’t dance or sing or paint, everyone can’t have perfect grades or a perfect personality or a perfect physique!

Why do we chase perfection? We are like this, and this is perfect! And why wouldn’t anyone understand that?

It gets particularly serious when a person reaches teenage. He/she is constantly compared and asked to become like someone else. My parents want me to become the best doctor. My neighbours want their son to become the best teacher. Why does everyone want the best? Why can’t average be just as good?

I happen to have arguments with my mum constantly, whenever she tells me to study else I can’t get anywhere in life. I ask her, why? Why do I need to get somewhere in life? Is it the sole purpose of life to get a fine job and have a fine house? Is it the sole motive and agenda of life?

She tells me that people have too many expectations from me. And the very realization, kills me from inside, just like it kills several other people in my place. It is scary. There’s always a nagging fear that if I don’t live up to their expectations, where will I be? Will people still like me?

What scares me even more is the fact that I’ve never let anyone down and it is only natural that people believe that I’ll shine again. But what if, what if I don’t? Don’t I stand a chance in the world? Will it be the end of the world?

Each night, I sit thinking of what might happen if I fail – fail to reach that mark they have set for me? I see nothing but frightening darkness. And the chill haunts me. It makes me want to breakdown and cry my heart out. Because that load of expectations is overwhelming. Each random person who I meet and who tells me, “You are a great student. You’ll do just fine!”, contributes to that load. If only they had known that I was nothing but an average student!

As I sit at my desk, writing down these random musings, I wonder of the many students who go through these depressing periods. Hope seems scarce. And in a moment of utter frenzy, it feels like everything is lost.

I tell my mum to worry less and to expect lesser. Instead, I tell her to hope. I ask her to hope that I do good, and not expect I reach perfection. To be honest, I don’t even know what is perfect perfect!

And I lean back on my chair and tell myself that even if I fail, it won’t be the end of the world. It won’t be.

Of Growing Up

When we were kids, things were simpler.

Be it our first steps or our first strokes on a paper or our first ride on a bicycle, there was always someone who had our back. If we happened to stumble, someone lent a hand. If our strokes were bent, someone taught us how to do it right. If we fell off the bike, someone picked us up and wiped our tears.

So we were not afraid to fall. We were not afraid to fail.

Our smiles were simpler.

Our words were easy.

Our eyes glimmered with hope.

If, back then, someone had told us we’d fly if we jump down the terrace, we’d have gladly done that, for we knew no fear.

When we were tucked into our blankets and whispered fairy tales, we believed they were true.

And then…

We grew up.

Smiles were no longer simple. They hid a plethora of emotions.

Each word was carefully uttered, strategically planned in advance.

Our eyes gleamed, not with hope, but with confusion.

Fear resounded in every corner of our minds. The world seemed scary.

We were careful at every step, afraid that we might fall. If our strokes were not perfect, we let them be, for there was no one to teach us. When we fell, no one was around.

And the fairytale we had dreamed of, almost every night, seemed to slip right through our fingers.

What changed in those few years?

Did we?