The road not taken

Two women walk past each other hurriedly, two amongst a vast crowd, oblivious to each other, concerned only with themselves. Till the point when, while edging her shoulder obliquely to move ahead, one’s saree’s pallu gets caught in one of the small projections of the other’s ring. Suddenly, both feel a tug- one at the shoulder, one at her hand.
They turn back, look at each other. One frowns, hastily trying to jerk the saree out of the catch, repeatedly. The other scowls, trying to tear the saree’s embroidery out of her ring. In their haste, they end up getting the two further engaged. She frowns some more. The other lady utters a disgusted “mmch”. She scowls some more. In the end, the saree has one half of an embroidered petal missing, and a long green thread hanging loose, from where more petals will soon be shed. The ring has a piece of green thread caught in one of her designs, out of place, an eyesore. They move apart, each with the unpleasant remains of a brief unnecessary moment.

But things could have been so different! When the tug made its presence felt, when both of them turned back to see what the pull was, one could have let out a small embarrassed smile. The other’s lips also would’ve broken into a smile, her eyes crinkling a bit- unable to supress the contagious charm of a smile, from one person to another, from lips to eyes, from heart to mind. They might have muttered a lil line of small talk, ” This saree na! Soon there will be no more threadwork left! Every single day it decides to do this!” ” Oh, ever since I have been married, this ring has been like my hubby, keeps its presence felt annoyingly”. All the while, one would have slowly tried to disengage the thread from the ring. Finally, the thread would have come off, no broken links in the embroidered flower. The other would have twisted and fit her ring a bit more snugly into her finger. They would have moved apart, strangers in meeting, strangers in departure. But with the faint aroma of a pleasant moment.

Parallel worlds or not, making our own life beautiful, is so much in our hands! Its a pity, half the times we don’t even try.

 

March 5, 2014

Blood bank, CMC Vellore

The hardest goodbyes

Flashback July 2008.
One huge auditorium. Outside, a hallowed name. Inside, 60 faces,60 naive teenagers. Faces showing a whole world of emotions – excitement, happiness, trepidation, anticipation, fear, and more often – an amalgam of it all. 60 faces, and next to them the proud faces of parents. 60 faces, looking in awe as the gentlemen and ladies of the Governing body go up one by one and introduce themselves. ” How will we ever be them?” , the question resonating in a lot of minds. 60 faces, looking at the professors, and a pair of eyes behind thick specs finds her Professor Dumbledore, McGonagall, Lupin, Sirius, and hopes to hell that she doesn’t find a Snape. ( Aah but then that was before she knew Snape! )Then their names are read out, one by one. And then the song of the silver and blue.
Stone walls filled with arts of a hundred previous batches of hostelites. Mess sessions. Ducking sessions. Pond sessions. The sudden surge of strength, when standing on the stage, the hands clasp the heart and the other hand reaches out and pledges, in booming voices, ” We the women of the batch of 2008, having been conferred the honour….”, and the fierce feelings that descend as the voice go in the crescendo, ” loyalty, sorority, and integrity“. The sorting ceremony, ” Findlay! Lazarus! Cochrane! Scudder!” , kissing the flag. And for the first time, she realises, the magic of Hogwarts was more in the traditions and the culture, and less in the so called magic. This place, makes its place in her heart.

Forward, routine days.
But in between the stone walls, inside the classrooms, on the corridors, on the roads, now a different magic begins to slowly weave its silken net. The 60 were always called a family. But through time, words and shared moments, they actually became one. And just like a family, they cared, they shared, they squabbled, they fought.
There were big things- the sadness of never winning a music comp, the fear of univs, the hugs after results, the hostel days, trips to faraway places, train journeys where the whole compartment was kept awake by groups of noisy college kids, and so on. But there were a hundred other tiny background things- the glia which no one really remembers distinctly. Things which sometimes made a memory, sometimes did but were forgotten, and sometimes were too commonplace to even deem a slot in the brain. But they were all important, and each of them changed her somewhere. Breakfasts in the 10 minute gap between 2 lectures, shared cups of coffee and never keeping track of who owes whom what, discussions starting in the evening and lasting till 4 am on topics as varied as religion to relationships, ice creams, dinners over no reason, pre music comp madness over the last minute touches to backdrops, study holidays, ducking sessions, all of it.

Things felt too long at times. At times, she was so homesick that this place with its stone walls seemed to press down on her, making her claustrophobic, squeezing the air out of her lungs. And yet, every time she came back from home, she distinctly felt that relief within her stepping into the walls of the hostel after a day of journey, the hushed voice whispering, ’’You’re home”. Things felt too difficult at times, many a times making her wonder that what were the ends that she was striving for, could anything possibly be worth all of this? People felt too exasperating at times- some too annoying, some too false, some too hypocritical, some too disturbing, some too complicated and some too narrow minded. She was often hunted by the lack of tolerance, and often disturbed by the lack of questions. And yet, somewhere through all of this, the lace and the people had all come to mean more to her than she herself allowed her to believe.

Forward, 2014.
Even before the realisation and true impact of having the title “Dr.” Before their names could quite settle, they started the drama which is very plainly titled Internship. And what a year it was! It possibly taught them, mocked them, tested them , tossed them, trained them, and changed them more than all the previous years collectively could have. She smiled some of her happiest smiles, shed some of her bitterest tears. And she couldn’t wait for it to be over.
But today? Final year farewell was not really a farewell, she knew that they were all going to be there for the whole year of internship. But today, standing at the point where they are just 24 hours away from embarking on different paths- all of them, is when it sank in. How will this place be, suddenly devoid of all these familiar faces? What will it be like, to not be able to send a message saying ‘wru’ and get a reply like ‘ASHA’ or ‘FNH’ or ‘Rounds’ ? Some she spoke to everyday, some once in a while, and some she can’t remember when she last spoke to. And yet, the very thought of all of them leaving, suddenly hurts her much much more than she had ever thought possible. Some she will miss more, some less, some maybe not. But what will life be, without all of them?
How will she stand as they depart, and how will she say that Goodbye, knowing for the first time that there will be no “Hi back” just a couple of days later?

March 31st, 2014
ASHA steps