In this personal essay, Priya M transverses through a plethora of human emotions and captures life, in its most fragile form.
The dust had hardly settled on the ground, before another car sped across the road. The siren was now clearly audible. I braced myself for the inevitable wave of nausea. Even with the ambulance so near, the vehicles on the road jostled for space, struggling to get away before it became absolutely necessary to wait for the emergency van to cross. I tightened my grip on the handle of my Scooty and made a sharp swivel to the right side of the road.
Ignoring the volley of honks and insults, I abandoned my vehicle and crouched next to the footpath. As the ambulance turned the corner onto this road, that telltale flash of red at the corner of my eye was too much for my fluttering heart. I heaved and my guts spilled along the side of the footpath.
Inspired by a visit to her ancestral home in the late nineties, Zeenat Khan shares this personal essay dipped in nostalgia.
I had seen photos of the new house in Ghorashal* sent to me by my nephew Rupak. The ancestral home on the outskirts of Dhaka was built in the early nineties. It is a Victorian-looking, modern house. It has an open car porch and the veranda is covered with mosaic tiles, on which wicker chairs are set up for sitting in the evenings. The old abandoned pond has apparently been renovated and was complete with wide steps and a pathway, with flower bushes on both sides. From looking at the photos, the house seemed to be caught between two worlds; a mix of old and new. But it appeared to be a happy and inviting place.
One summer, in the late nineties, I was preparing for my visit home after fifteen years. I still can distinctly remember that I started to have mixed feelings about the visit for a multitude of reasons. My sentiments could be best described as similar to feeling very anxious. Looking back now, I know that the anxiety had a lot to do with my long absence, and my fear of facing all that was new in Bangladesh. By that I mean how everyone in the extended family will look, new births, new additions, and more importantly how will I feel seeing my aging parents. Moreover, I was not sure how I would deal with the loss of my eldest sister to cancer. I had always associated Dhaka with my sister, where she had stayed most of her married life. It had been only three months since her passing. My worries significantly increased thinking that after a short stay in Dhaka; I will have to go to my parents’ home in the village of my ancestors. That thought was both delightful and terrifying as I will be going to a brand new house. My nostalgic feelings are tied up with memories of the old house. I had no memories that are connected with the new house, and I was not really sure how a visit to the childhood home will actually feel.
In this personal essay, Sudha Subramanian takes a walk down the memory lane, triggered by the death of a loved one.
I never knew I had so many memories tucked in the deep recesses of my brain, because I didn’t know some of them existed. The news that glowed on my screen probably triggered the whole volcano. My over the top life that galloped in breakneck speed took a short pause – a moment that should have lasted a few seconds. But that moment stretched out with unbelievable elasticity and forced many snippets of my life to the forefront. They appeared in hazy frames at first. I narrowed my brows in an attempt to focus. When the fog around those frames cleared, I felt like an old record player churning out scratchy music dusted with static. Who knew, there were so many hidden under those layers!
In this personal essay, Prerna Kalbag and Nishant Singh muse about the changes in life post the pandemic and how reading and working has changed during isolation.
The world has halted. The clocks have stopped. Perhaps for the first time since the advent of the Enlightenment, humanity is in headlong retreat. Every experience of going outside, even for such mundane things as getting groceries, is tinged with the terror and the superstition that the first Men who sailed the seas must have felt. An invisible Gorgon stalks us everywhere, her evil eye is warded off by a diligent ritual of cleansing and sanitization. This fails many times, as people still succumb to the horrid unknown, un-understood illness. Yes, the promise of Enlightenment, which was deemed to have been a mirage a century ago, has finally, completely disappeared, as humanity has once again embraced the irrationality that had been deemed by smug college professors as “medieval”.
Yet, we live. We must live, and we must work. If only because we have absolutely nothing else to do.
In this personal essay, Kalyani Raghunathan explores her love-hate relationship with the rains.
Last year I told a friend that monsoon was my least favourite time of year. I have held this view for as long as I can remember, and so, like many of my long-held and staunchly defended views, it hadn’t been challenged for a while. In making my case I cited, like any good scientist, what I thought was overwhelming evidence in my favour: the oppressive stickiness, the streams of mud that send brown flecks up the backs of your legs as you pick your way through the streets, the stagnant knee-high pool of water that surrounds my home for days on end because the municipality drains are too small and too clogged to be effective. It has been embarrassing to have friends stay with me, I tell him, for us to spend a day shopping in Delhi’s high-end Khan Market only to stop the car at the gate of my apartment complex, roll our pants up and wade through the muck to get home.
This piece walks the line between a personal essay and a book review (Zadie Smith’s On Beauty)
If we are in the habit of being honest with ourselves, we can admit we all have that seven-year itch in our marriages.
Now whether the seven-year itch happens in year four or year ten differs from person to person or couple to couple.
I had mine not-so-long-ago. In year nine, if we are also being precise. On first impulse, I toyed with the idea of venturing out to look for new pastures. But I was hesitant, fact being that I’m three children in, and my body’s been their playground for almost a decade.
In this deeply personal and moving essay, Manish Gaekwad talks about his experiences of growing up in a brothel and being queer
I was five when the boys started petting me and kissing me in places other than my flushed cheeks. Once, when I was at home in Kolkata, a lady peeped through the door and saw that a boy older than me was lying on top of me and rubbing himself vigorously in ways that adults do. He must have seen someone do it to his mother. He was trying to replicate it to see where it goes.
It went sore.
His mother thrashed him. My mother thrashed me. I did not understand why I was being beaten for doing nothing. I was merely lying down and I don’t recollect how I got there. I did not have words then to express what I felt. I sensed that what was giving the boy pleasure was not acceptable to adults.
Soon, I too got a taste of that pleasure.
We were disappearing behind curtains, playing hide and seek in the afternoon when the women were sleeping after lunch. We were kissing and fondling behind those curtains, in plain sight of the very women who had objected to it. A boy once pulled my trousers down and shoved his face in my crotch. Another time he spooned me under a quilt where we were hiding to be startled. My body tingled with the thrill of these secret games. The games children saw adults play through peep holes.
For the longest time I took pride in the fact that I would listen to only Begum Akhtar and the like. I took pride in naming several world movies and having remembered their directors. But what is not on record is that I started reading fairly late into my teenage years and started out with a railway copy of Bhagat’s Two States during my high school years, which I discreetly disposed of on my bookshelf in my later years.
My journey to develop a ‘refined taste’ was a rather self-imposed one; the one where I decided not to listen to certain genres of music, or avoid watching certain films. This intent to culturally ‘polish myself up’ was my regular homework, which was led by an unconscious need to fit into certain sects of society and a need to appease an imaginary audience.
A personal essay by Anupama Kumar on how Odell’s book how changed her experience of work and writing in the pandemic as it speaks about opting out of the attention economy, and taking time away from distractions.
What if, Odell asks, augmented reality simply means putting your phone down?
What if, indeed. Odell’s book reminds us that while the world is structured on having our attention on something all the time – even if it isn’t all our attention, all of the time we’re paying attention, there is perhaps another way to be. We have been heading here for a while. Results Only Work Environments and employment in the gig economy require us to be on our toes and “available” for anything. Time is a valuable resource in today’s world, too valuable to not be spent productively, and certainly too valuable to waste on not allowing our attention out. Odell exhorts us to disconnect, to “opt out” and re-engage with the world on our terms. She cites an instance from her own life, where she began to walk through a park in San Francisco and identify individual birds by their calls. By focusing her attention on the moment, she gained a far deeper understanding of the world around her.
This does not mean a complete disengagement with the world, or retreating into complete solitude like a hermit. To Odell, complete disengagement, and a complete retreat away from the world as we know it is impossible. Instead, she advocates that we step away from a culture that requires that we pay attention all the time – to social media, to technology, to the relentless pursuit of productivity – and instead enjoy the one life we have right now.