Essay: The Anatomy of Change by Tanishka Sodhi


My bathroom door at home requires an extra push to be opened. This frustrates me a little, because the one in my hostel functioned differently –all I had to do was unbolt it. I think about how we know things. And people. I know that if I position myself between the beige sofa and the plants in my hall, I can watch the sun sink into a patch of green trees, between two skyscrapers. 

I am so accustomed to a certain kind of life, but change is here. She is sitting with me by the staircase, waiting for me to walk through the door. When I’d wake up in the morning and see my roommate still in bed, I knew I could afford to go back to sleep – she always rises with the sun. Back home in Bombay, I have been robbed of this unique way of telling the time.

When I’d have a particularly early class, I would be sure to fill a cold bottle of water from the cooler in the hostel; I would need it, and more, to stay awake. As soon as my alarm would wake me up on Saturday mornings, I’d go to my friend’s room five minutes before breakfast at the mess ended, and whisper the magic word in her ears – paranthas. That’s really all it took for her to spring out of bed.

Change. My mother says that I am not good with adapting to it. Mostly, she is right, but maybe not entirely. I feel the need to do something, to change something externally at least once a year – tattoos, hair, piercings. I can feel restlessness flowing through my fingertips as I type this – quarantined at home, I am tempted to pick up the scissors and cut off a bit of my hair.

Monotony isn’t my best friend – familiarity is.

I need external change, even though everything else around me seems to be changing far too quickly for me to process it. Perhaps, that’s why I need it now, more than ever; this distorted sense of control. My home for the past nine months was a nest I had built for myself in the humid, colourful city of Madras. Amongst the soft buttercup flowers scattered across the college lawn and the smell of podi constantly floating in the air, friends became family, a routine became a lifestyle, and I tasted independence I didn’t know I needed. Now, I long for it. 

Monotony isn’t my best friend – familiarity is. I have moulded my tongue to adapt to the spicy green sauce served with bread omelette at the tapri near my college; the eggs I eat back home feel naked without it. It is not just the sauce that is missing, but also the company, and the conversations that came as a side dish. My friend and I would eat the omelette fast, but talk slow; about the world around us, but also the ones inside us. I am used to feeling a curious combination of rush and calm when he’d hold my gaze –or my hand.

When it was 10 pm – curfew – Niki would come to my room even before going to her own (or vice versa). She’d settle herself on my messy bed and we’d look at each other with smiles that did the questioning. “Cigarettes?” Her always laughing mouth would ask me. She was my anchor; pulling me back to the shore when I’d float away from reality. Almost two months without this routine of Niki and cigarettes, I feel like perhaps, none of this was real. 

Change. My mother left my father when I was one, and we have been living with my grandparents ever since. When she got married again, I was 11, and had trouble coming to terms with it. My step-father is more than okay – he’s great. But we were a team, mom and I. Partners, through everything. That would change once she’d get married, wouldn’t it? I was her plus one, and now I wouldn’t be. It was the beginning of something, but it also felt like an ending. I scribbled some of these feelings down in my diary, but soon, adapted to the change. As I do. As we all do.

I think of the buckets of tears I have shed when a guy has told me, ‘We need to part ways’. They all break my heart gently; they all are aware – and cautious –of my sensitive heart. I think that it is the change that follows the leaving that I am most wary of. I know that I will have to adjust to the gaping hole they will leave in my heart and daily schedule, and the thought alone exhausts me. I will have to fill this pocket with friends and music and TV shows and sad poems until it is sewn shut, even if only temporarily. 

Oh, change. I am a child of change. My life is the way it is – protected, secure –only because my mother was strong enough to make a change. She left my toxic father for her sanity, but also to make sure I have a shot at a good life. And I do. Maybe beginnings are synonymous with endings.

For now, perhaps I should just get used to pushing my bathroom door a little harder, again. One change at a time.


Bio

Currently residing in Mumbai, Tanishka Sodhi has just graduated from Asian College of Journalism. Previously she worked at a newspaper in Mumbai, reporting on education in the city. She likes to read and write about social issues, and hopes to use her words to bring about small changes in the world.

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