Who’s Impulsive?

Last week someone asked me,

“Are you an impulsive person?”

I pulled from my stock of well thought out answers (there, doesn’t that already tell you what it is?) and replied that I made considered decisions, which included giving impulse some consideration.

This morning I thought about impulse. I thought of the two moments of impulse that frequently spring to my mind, at the word. Both culminated in longterm relationships; both came to disastrous ends.

But I stuck with another impulse, a newer one this time — the impulse to take a brighter view, a broader perspective. And I realised so many other things in my life have come out of impulse. Alphabet Sambar, my personal favorite thing of 2014, began on an impulse to tell the world that people who loved words needed nurturing too. My blog, the core of my existence today, began on an impulse to see my words on screen.

Many, many years ago a friend who is no longer a friend asked me to spend the next day with him. I protested that it was a Monday. He said,

“Take the day off. Call in sick and spend it with me.”

“But I’m feeling perfectly fine,” I protested.

He gawked and then with a look of mixed disgust and resignation, he said,
“Let me get this straight. You have NEVER taken a day off except for being sick?”

I shook my head. He turned away, seeming to have lost interest and faith in my ability to be human. And he told me to think about it and call him if I changed my mind. I went home.

The next morning, I awoke and got ready for work. I went to the railway station and I got into the train. Then I sat down in my usual seat when it hit me. I was the model of obedience, paying off my dues to long-forgotten childhood rules. No one noticed, nobody cared anymore. Except me and I was letting my life slip away. I got down from the train, seconds before it left and I called him. Unfortunately he had already arranged meetings for the day.

“But,” he said, “I can be with you till lunch.”

Having followed an impulse, I decided not to let it go. I went and met him. Then on further impulse I took a bus ride down to Borivali and surprised another friend at work(something I’d always wanted to do, just brushed it off as too silly). She only had 20 minutes to spare in the parking lot. But I still remember the day and everything that I did. While most of the other days I spent being obedient and responsible have slid by, unimportant.

The second half of this year has given me several reminders to be impulsive. Not a single one of those impulses has gone as expected. I’ve been sick through the two ‘vacations’ I planned and took. But then again, an unplanned coffee date turned into a warm, delightful friendship that I’m still in throes of Reema-I’m-so-lucky-to-have-met-you. And another impulsive hello at 1a.m. turned into this-is-s0-fun-and-magical-I-don’t-want-to-ruin-it-with-a-name. And a pair of boots in a colour I usually consider dull, travelled with me in my head and made me go back and buy them. I’ve only taken them off to get to bed, ever since.

I’ve spent most of December struggling to keep my head above water, metaphorically (I am a good swimmer; duh). Health has slid, spirits have been flagging, energy, motivation, it all have sunk. But today, I let go and succumbed. And life, just like water embraced me and let me float. I spent a lovely, unexpectedly sweet evening. I was even nice to the dog that lay at my feet even though it smelt of doggie and fleas. An hour ago, I said I was going to shut down my blog. I opened Medium to clear my drafts (because you know I’m compulsively, scruplously neat that way) and I found this post, half-written. I decided to finish it. On impulse, I’ve decided to stick with impulse. I’ll stay with red lipstick.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Corn Chips

Expressions painted on faces saying,

Welcome to Goa.

A stranger two feet from my elbow, chuckles as he reads from a Paperwhite. I want to say, I know that feeling!

That inside joke that you share with the writer,
and then in your memory with someone else the writer doesn’t know,
a secret from the creator of this word-universe.

And in these secrets that I can’t read
but i know are there (because I have those too),
I’m a little heartened over the company
(chosen by chance)
of those who take this journey with me.

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Happy Birthday, Darling Girl

You’ll always be 16 in my eyes.

But then again, you were never a giggly 16. A self-assured 16? Not quite, not yet. A serious 16? Not that either. Remember singing in Maths class? But then you also tutored the whole class before exams. You taught me Hindi. Very badly, it would seem, considering how I speak it today.

Reading in moving buses is what must have ruined your eyes for a bit. That, and pretending you didn’t see an old friend (albeit someone you’d had a fight with). Even if she was sitting right in front of you. Well, she pretended she didn’t see you either.

Anyway, she made up for it by reading out from the blackboard while sitting at the back of the class. Notes would never have gotten taken otherwise.

Learning to work with other people for the first time is always challenging. But it’s probably not as hard as learning to work with yourself. How about working with someone who you know inside out even when you haven’t seen them in awhile and they know you just the same? Sheer torture. We did it anyway. Because you know, we’re both drama queens like that.

Music and beauty go hand in hand. And sometimes they exchange places for a bit and back again. Only you would know what that means. Along the way they also add bathroom ghosts, icy blue eye pencils, chicken sandwiches and badly made poha. Then there’s always a puked-up quiche and a missed Harry Potter movie now and then.

You are so many people, so many places, so many emotions, so many mes all at once. Why do we relate? So we can be a witness to each other’s lives. Twenty years, my friend. Twenty years and counting, still witnessing. Here’s to witnessing yet another. Because witnessing is all we can do. No explanations, no controls, no bonds except to say, I see you as you see me.

Happy birthday again, best friend.

Friday Night Dinner with Friends

Imagine spending two hours with a stranger, thinking that he reminds you of someone. Vaguely.
Imagine talking, laughing, listening, joking, all the while wondering why it feels so familiar.
Imagine feeling like you know so little about someone you call a friend and there’s nothing more you need to know about someone you’ve just met.
Imagine being spontaneous and sparkling and thinking that you’ve done this too many times with too many people.
Imagine having dinner with Nostalgia and realizing over dessert, whose face its wearing.

It’s him. The last memory of him has him in a green shirt, just like this one. The spectacles are exactly the same, as is the square-cut face. Not an exact match since he was last seen, years ago. So this is him, is it? Older, nicer, easier to be with?

But wait, this isn’t him. It’s someone else. A perfect stranger. But my god, the resemblance! You can’t unsee it now that you’ve seen it. Present, dinner with friends merges into a frame from the past, nostalgia colouring in the details in this sketchy outline that is sitting in front of you. Him. HIM. HIM.

Odd it took so long to figure that out though. Really, really odd that someone who feels like he’s embedded deep inside, one with your cells, is so hard to recognise in the face of another. He eats a bit differently, though. He never used to like caramel custard and you don’t think he knew how to use chopsticks. The chopsticks click, the spoon clatters. And again the frame shifts. It’s not him. Someone else. Stranger. No, not a stranger. A friend of a friend. You turn to look at the person you arrived with, clinging to the present, to a notion of who you are now.

Maybe memories crumble like over-thumbed bits of paper and after awhile, all you have left is the vague recollection of something that used to occupy that place. A stray browned scrap of paper that floated off, after the original disintegrated. The memory of a memory.

You find yourself miles away from that once-so-familiar picture. That must have been someone else, a different you. That happened to someone else, someone who became the you that you are now. But that was another person it happened to. You find your hold slipping. You realise the memory doesn’t stick to your soul and prick you anymore. He? Who’s he? Who was he? Somebody that happened to someone you don’t even know anymore. You’re not a part of that story. That story doesn’t even exist in your world now, without you. It doesn’t exist because it is without you.

And here you are now,
in a world new enough to be interesting,
familiar enough to be comfortable.

And you’re having dinner with a stranger, not with your past.

* This is an older idea repolished and brought up again since it is still relevant.

Breaking Through My Dread #NaNoWriMo14

The first weekend of NaNoWriMo was about facing up to my own miserable excuses and the deceptions that I put up for the world. After all my bluster and pushing other people into noveling for the first time and gloating about my own success last year, I woke up on November 1 in dread. My story skeleton wasn’t in place, not really. And what good are all the conversations about Plot, Conflict, Character etc, if you don’t have a story?

I plodded through creating a Word Document and spent one hour deciding what font I’d use through the month and how I wanted my Table of Contents to look. Then I told myself to stop wasting time and write.

Then I went online to look for names for my character and spent another half an hour clicking through sites. Then I told myself I was making excuses and shut them.

Then I went to Twitter to rant about this and to ask for help. No one responded and I realised again that I was wasting time.

Bored with my own excuses, I made it back to my Word document. I struggled through the next half an hour and what I wrote seemed to have no connection to the story idea I had in mind. But I put it aside, proud that I had started something and I went out my Saturday evening. I went for a walk, ate some panipuri and dahi-vada (which usually makes me feel happy), walked a bit more and then wandered into Prithvi theatre. Refusing a kind elderly gentleman’s offer to share his table, I sat down at the base of a tree and opened my laptop. Then I ordered a Suleimani chai and balanced the laptop on my knees. How very Indian hipster, right? Cutting chai, Macbook Air and Prithvi cafe. I actually did manage to write. Not a lot though. After awhile I just shut the laptop and went over to the proferred seat. The gentleman had left though so I sat around and looked at everyone else around, hoping to soak in some inspiration. Within a few seconds the waiter was asking if I’d go back to the tree since there was a group waiting. I grmphed at him and got up and left. When I finally got home, I decided to at least update my word count — the first such update this year. And to my absolute dismay, the NaNoWriMo site wouldn’t let me do it. Hundreds all around the world must have been trying to do the same thing! Or maybe the universe was telling me that I hadn’t worke hard enough to attain that reward yet.

I began Sunday morning with my writer’s group session. The first thing I heard was one of them tell me that he had crossed 5000 words. I hated him vehemently then. Another girl, a newbie looked serene and said it would all work out. I wanted to bang my head on the table and quit. HOW WERE ALL THESE PEOPLE MANAGING WHILE I WAS JUST ABOUT SURVIVING??

I came back home, watched TV, ate lunch, exchanged barb-jokes with a friend over chat and then decided to meet another for coffee. Anything to keep that dreaded document away. I got home around 7:30 so it was too early to shrug and say that it was too late. Sighing I opened the Word document and wrestled with it for another hour.

By the end I had barely written 500 words. But I decided to call it a day and acknowledge my effort. So I logged into the NaNoWriMo site to update my word count. This time it did let me update though the abyssmal figure a little over a 1000 stared balefully at me.

Today though has been better. I woke up on time, ate on time and got to all the right things on time. I took several work items off my agenda, went for a walk, spoke to friends and sent out some invoices (another activity that always cheers me up since it chronicles how much tangible work has been done and how much money is due to come in). When I came back from my walk, the friend who was to meet me cancelled. I decided that this was the universe’s way of telling me,

“Look I know you’re really struggling with motivation and distraction. So here, I’ll take one off your plate. Work with me, will ya?”
I opened the Word document determined to break past that dread I’ve been feeling over the story wandering off in a strange direction. After all, I hadn’t even completed Chapter 1. Maybe I could just jump to Chapter 2 and come back to Chapter 1 later. But even as I typed ‘Chapter 2′, I realise it was such a niggling little bit left that I’d rather plow through it and finish it.

And would you believe, I did? When I checked the word count, it was 2191! And just like that, I broke through my dread. :-D

Completely Pointless Ramblings on Love

Today I’m going to talk about love. It’s an overused term, I know. But I haven’t written about it in a long time. Not really. I have been suspicious of love, waged war with it, tried to control it, compartmentalise it and even ignore it. Today, I sit down with it like it’s an old friend, a welcome visitor to my life. Bear with me if I sound preachy in this post. It is not my intention to do so. What claim do I have, to speak knowledgeably about love, other than my own experiences? Writing is my way of telling myself, listening to myself and trying to make sense of myself.

Love. Love isn’t sex. We keep getting told that, as well as how women tend to mix these two more often than not. I don’t know if I’ve learnt the lesson well enough. But I know it is a lesson.

Love is also not romance. This was an unexpected lesson to learn. Love isn’t pretty, pink or pleasant (or any of those ChickLitey ‘P’ words). It is not fun or euphoric. Those are caused by chemicals that burn off just as quickly as they start. I’ve been meeting a lot of charming people lately. They are good listeners, good talkers. They smile and make me smile. There are compliments and flowers and chocolates and sweetness and light. There’s charm. There’s nothing wrong with these things. Except that one tends to mistake these for love and when they vanish, there’s the heaviness of disappointment to deal with. That is really ugly.

Love is not politically correct. The last person I know with absolute certainty that I loved, is more than five years younger than I am. He wasn’t nice to my friends and they did not like him. He was antisocial and selfish. But I loved him and  he loved me, I think. That is what made the two year relationship and the engagement (which sadly, didn’t result in marriage) happen. Nothing else mattered. And that is what they mean by love conquers all.

Love doesn’t restrict itself to romance novels. It doesn’t stay within the boundaries laid by governments, families and ideologies. It refuses to be pinned down by stamped paper or weighed down by a gold pendant on a yellow thread. But sometimes it does grow in old friendships and in associations you take for granted.

Love probably should be trust. Though it’s got nothing to do with trustworthiness. Or logic or credibility or past experience. Trust – why do we use statistics of the past to determine that, when it’s about futures that can’t be determined? Statistics can’t even accurately determine whether a coin toss is going to land Heads or Tails. One trusts because one does; that’s all. And that might be the nature of love.

All Is Well

I took the first step today. I asked for help.

I’ve had a fracture and a ligament injury within a year. I’ve had a recurring cough for over 2 months. I have probably fallen asleep before 3 a.m. some 4 times this year. And I don’t remember the last time I woke up feeling refreshed and excited about the upcoming day. But I vaguely remember that once upon a time, I used to.

I went to an Ayurvedic clinic that worked wonders with my health problems a few years ago. It took about an hour to capture vital information about me. It was the first real conversation I’ve had in many, many years about myself. That is odd, isn’t it? I have one of the longest running personal blogs in the country. For ten years, I’ve talked about my feelings, my relationships, my dreams, my goals, my observations, my angst.

But in telling her why I stay up late at night, why I sleep fretfully, why the frown lines on my forehead are deeper than the smile lines on my cheeks, I found myself talking about another me. I found myself realising, I’m not happy.

Well, I know that already. After all, I’m me. But I feel like there has never been any space to say this. Here are the things that I’m scared will come in response:

Why? You have such an awesome life!

You are so lucky. You should be grateful!

Do you know how many starving people there are in the world?

At least you didn’t have to go through a divorce/miscarriage.

Nobody forced you to quit your job. No one asked you to write for a living.

You are so angsty. You complain too much. You whine too much.

You know the odd thing? I’ve rarely said ‘I’m not happy’ and yet I carry that sentence as well as all these above ones that weren’t given a chance to be said, inside my mind. And the weight of them is crushing me.

I don’t even know why I’m unhappy. Not yet, anyway. Though, I can think about it and hazard a guess.

I’m still so tired from the effort of rising from a relationship gone sour, a failed engagement. I’m still hurting from the judgement. I’m scarred by the things that went wrong.

I’m suffocating under the pressure of labels like ‘feminist’, ‘strong woman’, ‘role model’, ‘committed’ and ‘responsible’. A label looks harmless — light, papery and fluttering in the wind. The ink scrawls on it seem deceptively ordinary. But they stick to the skin and to the identity and the force of peeling them away, takes away a part of yourself. It does.

And I am tired of cruelty. Wanton, random cruelty. Unwarranted spite. Needless meanness. Unjust ‘but you promised you’d never hurt me’ heartbreak. So cruel, so much.

I don’t want to go to war with the world. This is not about how badly the world has treated me. This is about my losing my way, forgetting the only things that really matter, that make any of the other stuff worth doing.

This is about remembering to live. This is about remembering to choose living over suffering. It is a choice and this is about remembering that.

This is about remembering fun. What it looks, tastes, smells, feels like. It’s remembering what it feels like to have your eyes light up, what that feels like from inside you — the internal wiring that makes everything come on and send the charge to your eyes that the world can see.

This is about being okay. Shouting that you’re more than okay, is not being okay. It’s just being.

This song came up minutes before I walked into the clinic.

I’m not a teenager under relentless pressure to conform to someone else’s ideals. And yet, concentrated H2SO4 ne pura jeevan jala daala. I did that to myself, to appease the stern, cruel, goal-oriented, never satiated maniac in my own head.

The specialist said something that cheered me and warmed me from within. He said my disposition was one that instantly zooms in on the positive in situations and people, and sometimes forgets about the negative. And he told me that it had made me able to rise above a bad relationship more easily than some others. He was telling me one simple thing that I’d stopped telling myself for so long that I forgot it was true. He was saying,

“Ramya, you’re okay.”

———————————————————————————————————————————————

I actually wrote this post on 11 Sep 2014. But true to the reality of this post, I either didn’t have the time to or I didn’t feel I was ready to publish it (perfectionist me). Today, six weeks later, I want to report that I’m feeling much better. The cough is gone. And the doctor says I’m healing. Accepting that all is well, is some way off though.

Preparing to run #NaNoWriMo 2014

This is a year of adventures coming at me, whether I want them or not. And of jumping into them, forcing myself to forget that I could fall. So far, no broken bones. I’ll be attempting #NaNoWriMo this year. Last year I did and to my surprise, I completed it. It was my only real win in the entire year. Recently I read what I had written and it wasn’t totally cringe-worthy. That’s part of what gave me the impetus to try it this year too. Between that time and this, I’ve also managed to set up and grow a writing community in Mumbai. So this year, I’ve set myself the larger challenge of encouraging and supporting other writers too. Inspiration is infectious as is enthusiasm. There’s no room for me to falter when I have others depending on me to keep them inspired and running. Maybe this is pushing it but I’ll also try and chronicle this journey. The last time I did that was during NovelRace 5 years ago and I was a much younger, less experienced writer. The articles are still useful so I’ll try the same thing again, only bigger, better. Grammar, spelling and logical flow may be missing but my aim is going to be to capture thought rather than polish and pizzazz. Stay with me, keep me on my path and wish me luck!

What Friendship Needs (Not Preachy I Promise)

Friendship doesn’t need effort. It needs courage. The courage to reach out and say hello. The courage to not mind if they don’t say hello back. This is not the same as not caring. It’s caring, very much but not letting that stop you.

It needs a little bit of madness. The madness of looking at a total stranger and following a spark that you don’t even know why it’s there. The madness of turning into words and actions that feeling of ‘I don’t know why but I think you and I could be a part of each other’s lives.’ The madness that turns that ‘could’ into a ‘should’.

It needs selective amnesia. Forgetting who spoke first. Forgetting how many times they snatched an argument from you. Forgetting to keep tally of who made more effort.

And it needs a generous sharing. Not just of things that are big or impressive. In fact, probably none of those kinds of things. And all of things that seems mundane, likely to not be noticed, never get the repayment of acknowledgement or gratitude back.

I guess you could say all these things about love. I guess friendship is a kind of love.

A few months ago, I exchanged DMs with someone who had only been a Twitter name since so far back, neither of us can remember (selective amnesia, I told you). On an impulse I said, “Let’s meet!” and equally impulsively she said, “Yes! Today!”. There’s madness.

Never mind what happened after that. That’s not really as significant as the two actions of courage that led to us meeting, led to us happening.

Sometimes I send her a photo, a snapshot of where I am, what I’m doing. I think she might like seeing where I am when I think of her. She responds with the kind of curious, funny thoughts that run through all our heads but we rarely share because they seem so silly or mundane. Sharing mundanities seems to be a very important part of friendship, practically the spice of it.

Every now and then she writes about her life, deeply personal things, profound insights and cranky complaints alike. And once, then twice she mentions me in the same sentence as ‘peace’, ‘relief’, ‘listening’ and ‘perspective’. Also ‘beautiful’ and ‘big ear’ (though she meant that in the way that deep listening happens :D). It makes me happy to see her grow daily. And it makes me so, so YAYYY to suddenly find myself in her thoughts.

“We all need a witness for our lives.” I heard in a movie I once saw. Now isn’t that true? I need not just watching but involvement. Participation in my life and mine in others. My cup overfloweth today. I’m so very happy. And Reema, you make it so. :-)

Sunshine Moment

Have you seen Little Miss Sunshine? It’s supposed to be the story of a dysfunctional American family. But I really think it’s a story about kicking ass. It’s the age of innocence and of wisdom untainted with cynicism. It’s about rebellion, not from anger but a sense of mischief. Let me tell you my own Little Miss Sunshine story.

It was 2001, the year of big dreams that came to nothing. Of a plane ramming into the Twin Towers bringing down a shower of bricks and employment dreams for the rest of us. I had quit a great job to get a shot at the bigger corporate scene, armed with an MBA. I didn’t get into an IIM but I reasoned that it didn’t make sense to spend two years preparing for a two year program. So I took the college that I got and figured I’d make it up along the way. 9/11’s impact was felt all over the world, not the least of it, in the lives of young people on the brink of their careers.

My life was a mess of decisions gone wrong. I was in ‘class B’ of a batch that one of our potential employers described as a ‘not even tier 3 college’. I found myself sharing desk space with a lacklustre, sluggish group of people that weren’t my ideal peer group. I pushed on, nothing deterred, the sluggishness around me spurring me on to do more, rather than less. Most of my attempts ended up as duds, (comical when I look back, much like the trials of the family in the movie). I had organised and ran for the class elections only to suffer a resounding defeat. 3 votes to 42, I discovered and a little later, that my best friend was not one of those 3 and much, much later that she had sealed my fate with a dissenting opinion. I was publicly humiliated. And my classmates did not like my eagerness in class anymore than they approved of my jeans-and-sneakers-weraing self in class.

A couple of months later, some of us were at an intercollegiate festival. Our seniors had asked us to participate in as many events as we could, to rack up ‘participation points’. So while we waited to be called in for the case study competition (which was the only ‘appropriate’ event for a management college), I signed up for the singing competition. We didn’t even make it past the qualifying round of the case study. But we had travelled across town for the festival so we decided to hang around. In the evening was the music event. With not much enthusiasm and absolutely no trepidation (you’re only ever nervous when you care about the outcome), I went up on stage and sung the first song that came to my mind. To my surprise, I won. Not just a prize for the duet but also a special mention by the judge for my solo rendition.

It won me a few ‘cool’ points. The next thing I knew, was that I’d been slotted as ‘the college singer’. And so I became a regular on the college festivals scene. I made a lot of friends, lost track of the number of events I represented my college in, and brought back a few certificates that would never help further my career. My more intellectually-inclined friends would occasionally attempt a case-study competition and scoff at the time I wasted on ‘these silly music competitions’. But come lunchtime and someone would turn to me and ask for a song. I had found a place in the peer group as well. This was a time before iPods or even personal MP3 players. I was the batch’s personal jukebox. And on the larger circuit of city colleges, people were starting to recognise my name.

But my luck was running out there too. After that first win, I seemed to keep hitting dead-end. Ask me sometime about college audiences. If you can survive one of those, you can survive practically anything. This audience will rip you apart and hang up your carcass if you make the slightest mistake. I saw people get booed off stage. Once the entire audience stood up and turned their backs to the performer, mid-song. Another time, a large group of people interrupted the singer with a loud, raucous rendition of the Lifebuoy jingle, drowning out the person on the stage. I thanked my good luck that that never happened to me. People sat through my renditions and clapped nicely but the prize-winner was always someone else. And I started to wonder if I was losing my killer instincts to win and settling for what I got.

At every single competition, I got beaten by a girl with a Runa Laila/Ila Arunesque voice. Her entire repertoire was Mast Kalandar and Lambi Judaai. That was it; no one had ever heard her singing anything else. If you closed your eyes, it would sound like you were listening to the original. But, I’d seethe silently, it’s supposed to be a contest among singers not tape recorders!!! Where’s the individual style, the creativity that one must expect from an artist? No one else thought so and my much-wider repertoire went unappreciated. I had a new song for every contest (or two or three at least) but I’d always end up having to go over to congratulate her on yet another win. While she smirked back. No, she didn’t actually, but allow me a brief moment of loser bitchiness…

A few months later, I had given up. I would never defeat her and the elusive Best Singer title would never be mine, no matter how hard I practiced or how well I sang. It was time for my own college festival, the last of all of them in the city. My classmates had given up expecting a win and one of them whispered to me before I went up,

“At least if you lose this time, you can blame it on the college wanting to play good host and award it to someone else.”

I walked up on to the stage, nervous as always. I felt like I had let everyone down, even before I had even began. Then I looked out at the crowd. They had sat through so many of my performances, in classrooms, in the canteen, the parking lot and on stages around the city.  They even knew how long I’d take to overcome my anxiety and start singing. I closed my eyes for a long minute. And they waited. And when I opened my eyes, they were still there. I was going to perform and they were going to listen. That was all. The competition melted away.

I opened my mouth and belted out a song none of them had never heard before (not even my friends who had sat through my daily canteen riyaaz). It wasn’t the kind of song anybody was expecting to hear at the singing competition of a management college. It didn’t showcase my ability to span a range of notes. It did not pay allegiance to a classical raag. It wasn’t playing on every television and radio channel as ‘Top of the Pops’.

The crowd was silent for a whole twenty seconds, the entire length of the opening bars. One of my classmates, who had accompanied me at the winning duet at the start of the year let out a loud, piercing whistle. And the crowd exploded. When I began the second stanza, the compere (who was also my arch nemesis through the college years) danced up onto the stage and did a little jig behind my back. By the time I reached the last note, every single member of the audience was up and dancing, I kid you not. I ended the song but the crowd was still cheering and kicking up a storm of dust in the seats. I ran back into the audience to a wildly enthused bunch of classmates cheering. Inside of that performance, I became one with them.

A day after this festival, someone from the nearby pharmacy college stopped me on the road to congratulate me for ‘a really great performance’. In another college festival a few days later, as I walked off the stage, a lady stopped me. She had been one of my lecturers in undergraduate college. She asked me how I was. I told her I’d just finished performing. She started laughing and said,

“I was inside correcting papers when I heard this song. And I just had to come out and see the girl who had the nerve to sing this on stage. When I saw you from the distance, I just knew it was you. No one else I know, would have done that.”

There are words that hurt and haunt you all your life. And then there are words like this, which you treasure always, because they make you so proud to be you. I did not win a prize that day. Nobody told me that I had a lovely voice, for singing it. I wouldn’t have been able to list it in my portfolio of musical accomplishments. But the audience enjoyed it as much as I did. The moment paid for itself. And it reminded me of something I forgot when I signed up for b-school. I was an ambitious go-getter but I was an artist, first. Joy, living it and creating it, would always be my biggest success story.

That song went on to become the anthem of my batch. The ‘not even tier 3, not winning but having so much fun’ class B of 2003. Every time we met after that, every alumni meet, every single get-together, someone would request this song and we’d forget our ‘adult’ differences for that moment and just lose ourselves to the wild abandon of our own class anthem. I finally understand why that song and that performance was so special. It was a Little Miss Sunshine moment. It made ordinary, special.

This is the song I performed:

*An earlier version of this post is here.

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