Sunday, April 19, 2015

My Look-Up story- Humans of New York

I won't lie. It has been a hell of time lately for me. There have been too many things going on with me, around me that I was on the edge the entire time. In a bad way. 

I don't know at which point this actually started, I only remember it building up and up till I was overwhelmed. The past few weeks had days when I had a constant lump in my throat, the smallest of things making it grow larger by the minute. There were days when I felt powerful urges to cry, to scream, to relapse into isolation and just shut away from people. 

I wish I could say I was just PMSing :P 

I wish I could tell for real what actually bothered me so much to drive me off my usual cheerful demeanour this way but there are certain dark holes inside your heart that you are too ashamed to give voice to because they simply throw away all that you believe in, all that you strive for in a single, shattering moment. 

A had a few moments of realisation lately and some of them broke me. 

I came home for the much needed weekend break (which got extended to a week-long break :P) and started healing myself, one book at a time. 

Every book I read, or re-read, acted as a band-aid on my heart. Some newly acquired Enid Blytons helped. Some favourite Agatha Christies helped. Scout and Atticus Finch helped. The Book Thief (that wonderful, amazing tale!) helped. John Dryden helped. Even Shakespeare helped :D

I won't say the healing was smooth and went without a hitch. I wonder if any process goes without a hitch after all, except in the overly optimistic movies. There were hitches because the realisations I came to about my current position in my life and in others' could not be magically glorified after a few peaceful days; they never do. 

But I was dealing with it, in my own way, through books and scribbled words and plugged in earphones.

What actually filled me with positivity was this book that arrived today-


I cannot begin to explain what a beautiful, beautiful book this is. 

I started following the FB page of HONY quite some time ago and was touched by many portraits Brandon Stanton did under his project of capturing the NY city and many more places. I was ecstatic when he came to India and I saw some amazing portraits of our people through his camera lens. 

But holding this book in my hand and flipping through its pages, though 400 portraits that took my breath away. I was overcome with so many emotions and ended up laughing and crying over it. There it was, humanity in all its essence, humans in all their glory, feelings, situations posing for one man's camera and sharing their stories with him. I was overwhelmed by the thoughts people have and how, in essence they matched with what goes in our minds, in the minds of the people around it. 

It was a book that made me connect to something bigger than all that we bother ourselves with, a book that assured me that hoping was all right, it is all that takes us through some days at times. 

Through 400 portraits, Humans of New York filled me with a strange optimism. Through 400 stories shared in this book, sometimes through a few words, sometimes through the eyes of the people in it, sometimes though their smiles made me hopeful about the future again. 

It made my naive take on things seem okay, seem human enough. And it taught me a few important lessons as well. 

I loved many so many stories from the book, but this one was one of my absolute favourites

Yes, it is a treasure and I am so glad I own it!

This post is written for Housing.com.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Change called College

College is that phase of one’s life when suddenly, everything changes. One moment you are at school, at your home, under the supervision of your parents and then all at once, you go to an unknown place full of unknown people and start a new life from the scratch. 2012 was the year that change happened in my life.

When my WBJEE seat allotment page said “Haldia Institute of Technology”, I promptly turned to Google to see what it had to say about it. Wikipedia describes Haldia as one of the biggest and most influential towns of West Bengal owing to all the industries and factories situated in it and HIT as the oldest and one of the best private engineering colleges of the state.

The first thing that welcomed my first steps in one of the most “influential towns” of WB was the mode of transportation. It was more or less a slab of wood on 4 wheels cycled by humane means. “Thela Gadi”, I said in horror, “Van” some seniors glared at me. Next were the series of tumbledown huts lining on either side of the road on the way to my hostel. “Shacks” I said, “Khopcha” was chorus. The sudden plunge from the safe home atmosphere to the bustling environment of a hostel was unsettling. But what was even more unsettling was the sight of the railway station visible from my room’s window. The first week of college couldn’t end fast enough for me to go back home in the weekend.

My first year passed in pretty much the same way – enduring five days of college to rush back home at the slightest hint of a holiday. It was only when the first year of my college ended and all my bags were packed shut for the hostel shifting that I realized what the college had given me and why it seemed so hard to leave the hostel.

I don’t know whether it was the drowsy hours spent in the classroom, or the “Golpo” sessions in the labs; the last minute scrambling before a test, or the late night “Cha” and “Adda”; the level of “Lyadh” with its ever increasing slope, or the sudden inclusion of the terms like “Cazz” in my vocabulary but somewhere along the journey the “Thela Gadi” became “Van” and the “Shacks” became “Khopchas” for me.

You can’t stay away from the charm of the college and even my weekly escape home couldn’t stop me from falling in love with the place. You can’t stay away from the endless discussions where every other person has the confidence of an expert and you most certainly can’t stay away from the ambiance of sharing a room with three other people for the first time in your life.

College had seemed scary to me at the beginning because the change involved was so drastic. But three years down the line made me realize that a change it was; a change for the best.

College is about discovering new things but more importantly it is about discovering yourself in the face of every situation that crops up. College changes you in irreversible ways, teaches you things you never thought existed and moulds you for the best. In 3 years my college life has given me memories that will make me smile for the rest of my life. It has taught me some lessons the hard way but at the same time given me friends who find funny side of everything. It has given me people I would never forget, made me incapable of treating potato as anything other than the hostel food, taught me to be shameless when it comes to tasty food and made me much wiser than I was 3 years before. 

This post is written for housing.com



Saturday, March 14, 2015

A friend in need...

There are some days in your life that you cannot erase from your memory. Days that are dark and filled with misery but lighten up with the love someone shows and gives you the courage to get up and walk on. 

In my life one of those days came as 1st February 2012, the day my grandmother passed away. I had just returned from the hospital, and I had the enormous task of not letting my grandfather know about what had happened. I was the only one at home and it was with enormous effort that I lied to my Dadu. That was the first time I was actually grateful that he could not see. 

I lay on my bed, my body numb with shock and my mind mercilessly playing that one image of my Dadi lying on that hospital bed, how her hands were still warm when I shook them, and how the blood had gushed out when the nurse pulled out the IV. 

I could not cry. I just could not. I could not accept the fact that she was never coming back. Even after 3 years, there are moments now when I involuntarily get to thinking what I would tell her when something major comes in my life. That is how it always had been and there is nothing crueler than the person you have grown around for 17 years being snatched away from you like that. 

My parents came, along with a couple of relatives- details my brain took in vaguely as I continued doing a detailed survey of the bedroom ceiling, my Chemistry notebook (I had my exam on 3rd) in my hands. 

I remember replying to my father's queries on when my practical exams were going to end so that he could do the reservations to Rajahmundry for the final death rites. I remember the hushed tones of that conversation, the closed door of my Dadu's room, the way my mother's eyes kept filling with tears automatically. 

My mind still refused to register what had happened and the only thing I remember thinking as soon as I heard that we had to make a journey was that I had to get books. Journey=Novels. The mantra I had been following since childhood. 

"I need to go to Antara's place", I said suddenly, jumping from my bed. "I need to get some books to last me a one week trip", I elaborated. 

I called her before I took my cycle out mechanically and cycled to Antara’s place. I stood at her doorstep waiting after I rang the doorbell. She came then, and before I could even start talking, she hugged me, hard, so hard that my insides seemed to melt from their frozen state. She just held me like that and I remember whispering “I don’t know what to do” repeatedly into her shoulder.

I was never a hugger. My mother is the only one in my family who has the least bit of inclination towards showing physical signs of emotion and I certainly was not of that category. I don’t have the memory of hugging my sibling, or my best friends or anyone for that matter.

So that was my first hug, a proper one and it did something to me. Something warmed my numbed heart on that chilly February night and when she released me and I saw in her eyes the empathy I had been unknowingly searching for, I felt a strange hope in my chest.

She never said anything that night, did not give me those empty words of comfort and condolences that I learned to hate in the coming days. Sometimes a whispered word, a look of understanding, a touch of love work more magic than an elaborated talk. I got all of those that night and I will always be grateful for that. 

I returned back home with a stack of Agatha Christies and the courage to cope with my loss. 

There is a quote from one of my favourite books Winnie the Pooh where Christopher Robin says to Pooh : "Promise me you will always remember: You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think." Antara is the friend who always reminds me this. The first person I call when I feel low on self esteem because I can always rely on her to give me that tiny nudge to bring me back on track.

Oh, what would we do without such friends! 

This post is written for Housing.com