Imagine this: You are standing under a tree waiting for someone. It is windy but you don’t try to seek shelter somewhere else. It’s a cold night. You keep waiting, wearing a jacket not only to protect yourself from a bit of thorny weather but also because you think you look kind of okay in it. It’s the jacket’s familiarity that brings you comfort and protects you.
You want to walk away. You have been a sceptic. It feels like another meeting with your fate which makes you feel both nauseatingly hopeful and hopeless. You already feel exhausted at the thought of answering the questions to your own self this encounter would raise. The idea of you being alone with your thoughts is dreadful, let alone conversing with them. There’s no sign of arrival yet but nothing within your control is granting you permission to take your leave. You continue to dare to believe in your belief.
You wonder what’s this strange urge to meet this person you know nothing about. You question it, but you still stand there, patiently waiting because you fear the act of abandoning someone. You fear they will turn up once you’ve left. And if they do, your disappointment will know no bounds.
I would often have this dream and for some reason, it effortlessly, almost mockingly, merges itself into my reality.
I don’t like the idea of giving up on myself. I remember having been a compulsive liar for most of my childhood. I would enjoy people’s tendency of giving away extreme reactions whenever I would tweak reality in the slightest way possible. I would simply adore my ability to have put someone at ease or extreme discomfort; in a way, knocking at the door of people’s personal spaces and running away like kids in their neighbourhood disturbing afternoon naps. It would be but a matter of time until I would realise that I loved telling stories.
As an adult, I grew serious and tried to do away with all the silliness I had filled my life with to make it bearable. Losing one’s innocence is a change nobody told me everyone goes through. And in that process, a new identity emerges, irrespective of what you want from yourself or life. I would find myself in a noisy and smoke-filled canteen, eating cheap and unhealthy Schezwan fried rice and thinking about why there is so much inconsistency between our thoughts and our actions, unlike the stories we read or know of.
Like a naive passer-by, I wasn’t able to derive any meaning out of random events that felt systemic then. Getting a degree, landing a job, falling in and out of love — these things just went on. Every day would be an overpowering grey smog that either blinds you or deludes you. I found comfort in that delusion for a while because I felt that’s how it is supposed to work. It sweeps under the carpet the potential discoveries you long to establish and tempts you into marinating your dreams while working towards the ambition of material living, rather than a meaningful one.
Eventually, a glitch happened. It seemed as if a recurring feeling I had suppressed for a while finally surfaced when I found myself in a theatre, engulfed in the dark. Moments before the stage would be lit up, in the few seconds when the performer’s body would come alive, I felt alive — A sensation aroused by finding a commonality of who I was in that moment with what was lost all along, and a slight inkling of what I want to be. On the stage, under the spotlight, I witnessed an individual learn the calling of his life and realised him and I were one. Subtle theatrical cues followed him silently on the stage, enticing him to accept and embrace the act he was performing, distilling the truth as if everything beyond the periphery of that dark room was a lie, quite like the stage of life would do to me in the time to come, teaching me how to lay bare with no shame or just one identity, because there is always a multitude of man.
Sometime in 2019, my accidental meeting with Varun Grover at Andheri Railway station was a testament to life’s inherent tendency of guiding you when you feel a little lost. I approached him with no particular thought in my mind. He was kind enough to have a conversation on a crowded platform, both of us waiting for 8:59 PM local. When I told him I am an aspiring writer, he grinned. He shared with me the accounts of the initial days when he decided to take up writing, how he had to begin with no proper guidance, and how he went on to honing the craft. While I was in awe of the attitude he treated me with — not in an aspiring capacity, but as an artist trying to find his ground. He also revealed to me indirectly that writing is an act of knowing more about yourself. It’s about revealing who you are, layer by layer, deconstructing, and then constructing again from scratch, and being intimate with oneself. It is an ever-evolving process that examines one’s progress as one goes about their life.
We parted during our chat due to the mass of crowds between us. He had waved me goodbye with a smile that I had taken as a message that meant “keep writing’’. Now, I realise I am waiting under that tree to meet no one but my future self in a dream trying to manifest itself into reality. A reality where I hope to come across a soul wiser than I was at the beginning of my journey, perhaps with a word of wisdom to go by in case the ember of creativity within me fades away slowly.
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