SOME HOURS WORTH WRITING ABOUT

SOME HOURS WORTH WRITING ABOUT

                              SOME HOURS WORTH WRITING ABOUT

                                                                                            -Yugika Mital

 

We sometimes find people outside our regular space who may be complete strangers but in that moment we feel like we belong with them. In that moment, we surrender to the imperfection of the world and vow to be optimistic along with convincing ourselves to indulge deep in the present because you don’t know when that feeling of solace will come next. You are aware of your surroundings but they feel different. A ‘different’ that has no definition and cannot be consistent for any two people.

With a hostel that has a compound large enough for new entrants to lose their way and swing sets that are a constant craving among the undergraduate students, hungry to plug in their headphones and for a couple of minutes escape this world with their feet in the air, you constantly look for new ways to spend the precious and rare leisure time in hand. Sooner or later you get used to the juggling of tasks and the people who are running the same marathon but after a certain point, familiarity is not sought in names or faces but in emotions, situations and smiles.

While you sit with familiar faces, in your comfort zone near the swings, playing some soft music, you are oblivious to the ears that pass by and the souls that are reminded of the beauty of togetherness in some silence. The four of us, after dinner, simply were going about our regular chatter – things about the unexpected free weekend with no assignment, how lazy we had been lately and other quotidian topics when we decided to let music set the mood and were later joined by three students from the same hostel but a different college. In short, we had probably passed them in the halls and the mess but were as oblivious to their existence as they were to ours. The cool but not so starry night, some wind, the swings, dim and warm fairy lights from the overhead rooms and above all music got us together.

There was a myriad of artists whose work was welcomed – from The Chainsmokers to the good old Hoedown Throwdown and then Lata Mangeshkar with some Bruno Mars. It was a collection of anything that anyone sitting in the area wanted to hear. Not a lot of words were exchanged apart from the regular ‘What’s your name?’, ‘Which college are you in?’ and ‘Hey! This professor teaches us as well!’ but that was enough for the impromptu gathering to sail smoothly and comfortably for all of us. There was no need to establish a further connection on purpose. As said, after a certain point, familiarity is not sought in names or faces but in emotions, situations and smiles. The compound lights gradually went off but more people just joined in.

In colleges and hostels, yes, different cultures collide. Different languages, different traditions and values but some things remain the same. Music is one of them. That one song from Taylor Swift brings back bizarre stories from Middle School and gradually, people do end up listening to a veteran musician/singer just like an ultimate integration of all the commonality that existed. You just wish upon the shooting star for the night to last a little longer (or the classes to get delayed the next day) just so you could enjoy the time a little more. The heart wants what it wants. People forget their phones and come together to experience a typically expected hostel night but one that was not very common in actuality.

We look for common mind sets, common backgrounds, common preferences, common interests and other intersecting points between other people and ourselves but sometimes all it takes is a welcoming nature to see how acquaintances can be established without any solid common ground. Sometimes all it takes is the willingness to hear what another person has on their playlist and what their moves to your song are. Maybe sometimes all it takes is a cool, calm and regular night at the hostel, some songs on your playlist that mean something to you and a good speaker to spend some hours’ worth writing about.

LUCKNOW, AS I HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN IT

LUCKNOW, AS I HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN IT

                                 LUCKNOW, AS I HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN IT

                                                                                                  -Yugika Mital

There is a place one likes to call home. A place that isn’t perfect but brings back a bundle of memories, surrounds you with a familiar crowd, those same buildings with a few more additions on every visit, the same public problems, an acquainted way of dealing with the locals and a reason why you call it ‘home’ and give it more importance than the rest.

Just when the flight landed, I closed my eyes to remind myself that ‘I was home’ and not in my hostel room, some thousand kilometres away, saying ‘I miss ghar ka khana’. The eerie agreement that happened right then between my mind and my heart is a conversation they alone understand. And the best part was when the passengers lined up to exit, I saw someone do the gesture of ‘pehele aap’. Though I failed to understand how that helped in that moment when we just wanted to leave, I smiled on my inside.

Lucknow.

People see it for the chikankari, the imambaras and some more things that I admit I’m not aware of because I don’t remember the last time I behaved like a tourist at ‘home’.  Home is just not the city. It is the places I visit the most, the people I meet most often, the food that satisfies me more than any fancy portion on my plate and the people I call ‘family’.

Lucknow is the comfort of home that has looked after me the entire time. The same places of the house where I crawled as a baby and then stood in my first sari. The familiar sounds of ‘good morning’ and where everyone feels they have the liberty to switch off my alarm if I snooze it too much. Lucknow is those five people in the house who wait by the gate every time I visit and hug me the tightest to last until my next.

Lucknow is kebab paratha at every street midst the chants of Tunde. A hub for non-vegetarians which managed to turn this vegetarian into a kebab lover.

Lucknow is Sharma Ki Chai in the winter when you don’t mind waiting for half an hour for some samosa and bun makkhan. If you’ve lived for nearly two decades of your life in a single city, there are chances you’ll always meet someone wherever you go and home is that feeling when you’d socialise because you want to and not because you’re bound to because you already have your crowd.

Lucknow is where ‘hum’ refers to one person and ‘aap’ is any stranger, younger or older.

Lucknow is the night Ganj where you’d walk for hours together just to get exactly what you need and a wee more, to say the least. To pass forth the Novelty cinema and see what was the single film trending in the crowd that made up half the city while people like us enjoyed myriad choices at the mall. Lucknow is being aware of what new business opened above Café Coffee Day and just thinking that it won’t last for more than a couple of months.

Lucknow is La Martiniere. While the college grows with new infrastructure every time I visit, it gives the same feeling of confidence, love and belongingness. And a new addition now, Lucknow is the annual 12-D meet at the same place, in the same restaurant and with the same people who just mature and grow closer with each day. Cities and even countries couldn’t keep us apart.

Lucknow is a long drive on the expressway or the marine drive with your favourite people. You know you’re most comfortable when there’s silence but not awkwardness. The extension of Gomti Nagar with more student friendly areas and new outlets are giving more life to the city now.

Lucknow is the irritating traffic and unbearable heat. Where if one person honks, the chain reaction is unstoppable. It is the place where you know the short cuts to your most visited places to avoid traffic. In Lucknow, cultures like slam poetry are growing and taking some spotlight because here change is slow but an audience for everything. Here The Cherry Tree Café is the common point from all areas and you are bound to know that.

Lucknow is a million other things that are overshowed by the safety issues, corruption and population. Under the label of ‘Capital of UTTAR PRADESH’. Lucknow is a place where you’ll find almost everything. You just need to know where to look and whom to approach. Lucknow is over the stereotyping that is done because it is busy establishing its new identity alongside perfecting its originality.

 

HALF OF SUMMER

HALF OF SUMMER

                                                               HALF OF SUMMER

                                                                                  -Yugika Mital

As time progresses, school classes evolve into college lectures, field trips into week long study tours, friends into ‘home team’, longing for restaurant food turns into ghar ka khana craving, nap time into grocery shopping time and vacation is all about coming home even if it is for a 9 to 5 internship. Reminiscent of the time when one of the two months of summer break meant nani ka ghar, I got to talking to one of my friends once and she said, ‘Hey! You just found your next blog!’ and this is an effort to execute the idea.

When I take a moment to recall my nani ka ghar days, the memories reach beyond the extent of my closed fists and the moment always lasts longer than I expect it to. It used to be an annual experience, a month long till I was in middle school, then it came down to 20-15 days with the high school medley and finally just a week before I had to move to a different city for college, but yes it did happen for almost every year.

Preparations would start a few weeks in advance with the entire shopping spree; collecting gifts for every individual and most importantly, rechecking the tickets to see if you got the date right. We were a group of five over enthusiastic cousins that met annually and fought unimaginably when left alone but stood for each other when a second party was involved. One of the highlights – Nani ke haath ka khana is a blessing no one should be devoid of. I would have an entire list and needless to say, always returned with a kg or two gained. Summer meals with family form a very memorable part of any summer break because at the end of the hot meal came fresh and cool fruits. All kinds of mangoes in varied forms; mango shake for breakfast, mango ice cream or simple fruit post lunch and then some more post dinner. Lychee, watermelon and muskmelon are the other essentials because these fruits come with summer remembrance wrapped around them. Lychee always meant having more than my sister and I loathed the watermelon seeds that interrupted my pleasure. They are right in saying that meals help traverse the road of togetherness.

As kids, my uncle would insist on getting up at 5 in the morning to play and exercise but he never got an encouraging response for more than 2 days. Instead, we enjoyed the evenings. After hobby classes, Nanu would take us to a park down the lane and we’d always bargain for more time. At hobby classes, we tried to put our 10 hands combined in different activities – sand painting, calligraphy, Bollywood dance, Salsa and countless others. It was our mechanism to deal with the regret of ignoring any holiday home work from school. While the adults indulged themselves in photo album sessions and more shopping, our group would get together to get friendlier with the neighbours’ kids, play detective games, do some choreography and as we grew older, even go out for a drive. Later even the park visits were replaced with badminton time with colony friends, on the streets in front of the house and none of us would return until dinner time. It is really a different authority you feel over that part of the road.

My personal favourite would be the Housie sessions post dinner (which gave me some ‘hard earned’ money), late night movie marathons, late night meals of Maggie and chips and the rain dance to welcome the monsoon. We’d dance on the terrace with the first showers and then bring buckets of water until our hearts were satisfied when the rain ended.

Broadly most of our years comprised of this activities with some moderations here or there. Sometimes we’d take a road trip to nearby cities and others we just spent playing some decent card games with Nanu. Gradually, as the trip’s duration decreased, we started exhausting the capacity of marking new adventures on a daily basis and sat recollecting the old ones to refresh the wonderful days. It is important, as I was once told and have begun to believe, to not only live but also remember because ultimately it is these memories that we shall move along with. It was during these trips that I realised that we have limited time (not life wise but a month is a month – 30 days) and we train ourselves to manage all the activities in that duration. Summer started getting booked for other priorities – school trips, college admissions and now internships. There are some people with whom we spend the best time of our childhood and some of us are blessed to have those people for the rest of our lives. From our group of five, we are studying or working in different cities now but we do look forward to this annual trip, no matter how short it is because some things are worth holding on for.

UNSPOKEN ROLES

UNSPOKEN ROLES

                                                          UNSPOKEN ROLES

                                                                                     -Yugika Mital

Sometimes when I’m half asleep and half in reality, I feel someone holding my hand. Usually an occurring during the really early morning hours that I barely seem to experience. This clasp is not too tight or too loose, it’s just perfect like ‘she’ always is. With this touch I feel safe, I feel like I’ve got more than what I deserve and I realise and though I’m semi-conscious I smile in my soul. It’s Mom. Always being the one who asks for no credits for all the security, love and courage she imparts. Maybe those are the mornings when I wake up brighter than usual but Mom never said a word regarding her role in it. Maybe it’s just her motherly instinct that she satisfies when she spends a minute or more holding my hand in the that silence but like always, she ends up doing more. Much more.

There are always those beings who do things for us without purposely making their presence felt. They probably just satisfy their own desires but in the course of it, traverse paths of selfless deeds and make our lives a tad worthwhile. For instance, your cat or dog. Probably the former just wants someone to play with or gently stroke their necks so that they enter their oh-so-no-worry land but do you think they have an idea of the stress relief they offer to the human? Dogs want company because they have this inexhaustible bag of love wrapped around their necks and they just sprinkle some of it on every person they touch. Maybe they’re socialising for themselves but did it occur to them that for a human parting from them is as painful as parting from a sibling? That when they were just ‘being themselves’, they were helping someone else live a more fulfilled life?

There are always those beings whose presence we fail to acknowledge but their absence stings. We are all aware of this fact but are we aware of these selfless contributors? Besides the obvious and visible actions of our parents, siblings, friends, guardians and others, are we aware of the deeds that they performed without our knowledge but those deeds that make our lives and existence more meaningful? Obviously, it isn’t possible to know of everything that everyone does.  All those people whose company we look forward to in the day and those who give us a base.

Maybe there was this speech you heard in a college orientation and one speaker’s experiences and words really stuck with you. These people who do not know how many lives they are impacting in their regular days. Do we acknowledge them? The person who crosses you daily during your morning walk or gym session and greets you with a smile. You don’t know their name, profession or even their favourite colour. It’s just they form a part of your routine and you notice when there’s a lapse in that happening.

A person is an individual, yes. However, we are this amalgamation of myriad experiences, words, thoughts, deeds, successes, failures, days, nights, people, pets, wishes, prayers, feelings, emotions, chords, expressions, beliefs and countless others that make us who we are. None of us is capable to gather all of this alone in a single lifetime. We pick and choose from those around us, be it in person or on virtual media. It is usually questioned that a piece of creativity is given a single name for its origin but is that correct? An idea is improved by a team; type A, type B, type C…… before the final product reveals itself.

Inspiration is gathered from different sources and it is not just one person involved in the process. (Read more on the same in Myths of Creativity by David Burkus)

Isn’t it the same way with us as humans? If we spent some time in trying to mark these invaluable people in our lives, in trying to recognise them, we shall find more confidence, more faith and a belief that there is always more than what we fathomed. Someday, maybe, we can play the same role for somebody else.

THE NEW AND THE FAMILIAR

THE NEW AND THE FAMILIAR

                                              THE NEW AND THE FAMILIAR

                                                                                   -Yugika Mital

 

The taste of independence is addicting. You take responsibility, sometimes you stumble but sometimes you also make yourself proud. You take responsibility for your tasks, decisions, words, the company you keep, the media you are exposed to, time management, the diet you keep and several other things. Once you settle is such a lifestyle, you appreciate it because you created it for yourself. You chose the places where you’d have lunch, the café whose coffee would wake you up, the same streets you’d traverse to reach your college or any other destination, the ways to deal with the local transport – whether to be firm and leave no scope for coyness or just trust the system and get on, manage the monthly expenditure and above all to balance your professional and personal lives.

Such a lifestyle keeps you busy and most get fascinated by it so much that departure seems like an impossible task, even if it is for a short period of time. It’s not like you totally disapprove of the life when the remote control was in the hands of your parents or other elders but the thought of not being that ‘free’ is a little unsettling. The journey is from this place to that is quick – you feel a stream of rush, an amalgamation of excitement and nerve, to see those familiar faces that have possibly aged a tad in the previous 8-9 months and then to know that your ‘independence’ is going to be redefined.

You still hold responsibility for all the things stated above because you are now an adult but did the feeling of coming back to the place where you once started feel a little strange? It was strange because it felt like you never left it in the first place while in reality you had been gone for months. Is it because you had spent nearly two decades of your life there before moving out? The flooring, the smell of the of furniture, the light yellow paint on the walls, the spices that dominated the kitchen and the rooms attached, the windows through which the sunlight lit the room in a particular direction, that one place on the dining table which you always preferred, the items in the fridge– all of it just seemed as warm and welcoming as ever. It seemed you had always been there. It felt like you had just got up from the sleep and now were back. Some might disagree on this thought of unexpected and overwhelming familiarity and that is totally respected. Different places have different feels for everyone. It is not necessary that a place you accustomed yourself to before gives you the exact same sentiment, atmosphere and chord as it did in the past. In this case, you just have to make peace with it, I guess.

The life that we are brought up in and the life that we make for ourselves are not necessarily all different. They are more or less built on the same grounds of basic principles that we have been exposed to. Yes, most definitely we make several and massive amendments in order to adapt, evolve and yet stay grounded and that is a good thing because without it no one would survive. We need to blend in the customs of the place, be it the old or the new because man is a social animal, right? We need to understand the demands of any place we go to and whether it all suits us or not. This in no way is like binding yourself and being too restricted. Freedom and independence are not rightly understood. It is about choice. You have the choice of where you want to go and what you want to be but some basic customs of the place that you choose need to be followed in order to maintain order and peace. It’s like not anyone and everyone can barge into your house and do as they please.

There is always going to be a ‘new’ place and a ‘familiar’ one. It is us who turn the ‘new’ ones into the ‘familiar’ category by making the connection between our independence, freedom and responsibility. We experiment in order to understand what we would prefer in the long run and stagnancy should not be appreciated.  Remember where you come from but keep your eyes to where you want to go. Let your principles guide you when you need them to and be careful what grounds you lay for yourself. Let the ‘familiarity’ be of the good and the memorable before you move on to another ‘new’ place to make it your own.

 

COULD NOT FIND A SUITABLE TITLE

COULD NOT FIND A SUITABLE TITLE

                                   COULD NOT FIND A SUITABLE TITLE

                                                                                -Yugika Mital

People are so occupied nowadays that they often forget one person – themselves. The importance of pleasing yourself, keeping yourself happy and satisfied and hearing what you have to say. Is it just now or has the human race always been like that? Where others were mostly prioritised over ourselves and if someone was made to ‘understand’, it was us and the worst part is, we ourselves did it.

Let’s get one thing straight – no one is being asked to be self-infatuated, in fact, no one is being asked to be anything at all. There’s just one bottom line to this – if it’s not you for you then who? Surely there are people who’ve supported you, groomed you, prayed for you and taught you everything you know. Acknowledge them and stay humble. This is just about those times when one fails to give that little person inside their head a voice, one that says, ‘Enough!  Live for yourself at least this day.’

Don’t be afraid to sometimes not have a ‘crowd’ around you because silence sometimes speaks more valuable words than a hundred people could. Don’t subdue that person inside you that craves your attention because if you don’t know what you want, what you desire, what is important to you, what you deem right, what you think is wrong, what your principles are, what guides you through the day and what makes you happy, then who are you? Do you even know yourself at all? The answers to these questions may or may not be guided by your surroundings, your upbringing, your morals and values and many a time, what the people closest to you expect of you and that is all right because we all need to learn good things from others and have a guiding force. The question is do we forget to be honest to ourselves? Do we get burdened by the responsibility of a public image? Do we forget to give ourselves a reality check every once in a while? Do we feel lonely in our own presence?

Again, this is not about being anti-social. This is about being close to you. This is about loving yourself. This is about knowing that you matter. If one can’t find peace in their own company, every once in a while, then no matter how crowded the place is, it won’t ever be sufficient. There’ll always be something missing. There’ll be something that’ll make you doubt your decisions because nothing would give you enough confidence to trust your conscience. The simple reason would be that you’re not close to yourself. You wouldn’t know yourself enough to make informed decisions and decisions that’ll matter to you and those around you. Decisions that’ll help you become a genuine person – something more crucial and lasting than wearing a mask whose string that goes from one ear to the other can break any moment. This doesn’t mean that people are fake, again, to remind you – it’s nice to breathe and smile even when it’s not understandable by others or to not smile if you don’t want to – there are those days, admit it.

No one has to live in an extreme. This is not Buddhism; this is just a fact of life. Once you’re comfortable with yourself, you radiate that energy to others and make them comfortable around you. What you say makes more sense and is backed by conscience, belief and of course, sound judgement and observation. Knowing yourself and being comfortable in your own presence, with or without people, makes one happy and positive. Positive energy is something we all crave and so does the universe. You attract people who are positive and it’s just a chain from then. Be considerate of others, be kind, be observant and selfless too but don’t forget yourself. You can’t run away from it. The sooner, the better. We know that we love ourselves; we just need to feel as well as mean it.

SIBLING LOVE

SIBLING LOVE

                                                                SIBLING LOVE

                                                                                          -Yugika Mital

 

My friend once expressed the fear of not being able to do justice to their feelings when they get to put them in white and black. I think that thought is penetrating into my soul now but I don’t want it to settle. I fear that this shall be an incomplete account of how dear and invaluable I hold my sister. However, to think of it, the fear is irrational, because of course, I can’t possibly express 19 years in a few hundred words. Thus, dear fear, you can find someone else’s soul to operate on.

Is it possible to have the earliest memory of a person? Someone who’s been with you throughout but the memory of an infant’s brain prevented you from registering them. I can’t recall the hospital room but she tells me that she stood by the door, in wonder, as I probably cried in a bassinet beside Mother. I can’t recall but she tells me that she tried to fit me in her laps but to her annoyance, my head always went beyond their physical space. She hoped that a year later, it would fit perfectly. I can’t recall but she tells me that she constantly attempted to make me a sunny side up (with no experience in the kitchen) until the yolk was perfectly round, the way I’ve always liked it. I can’t recall but she tells me that she made me believe that I was older in years but she was given the stature simply because she was taller. Innocent lies that harmed no one, I guess.

I recall ‘The Golden Goose’ which she tirelessly narrated every night as I stubbornly refused to listen to any other tale from those thin colourful books which put together stories that always ended with a moral. I recall my first birthday present from her, a miniature of our pet dog that I still possess. I recall her picking me up from Nursery school when she was in 3rd grade (we shared the school campus). I recall when she stayed up till really late at night; with me for my History exam preparation (ICSE has a never ending syllabus). I recall how she was always perfectly compatible with my friends and still is. I recall how none of my school projects were complete without her approval. I recall our fights over the television remote but fail to recall anytime, after she won that we watched something that I disapproved of.

In the hostel, we once had a discussion about the hilariously ‘inhumane’ acts that our older siblings put us through. That morning, at 2 a.m., I immediately called up my sister after the discussion to tell her that I had the least to contribute to the topic because she was immeasurably nice to me and laughed that I hadn’t lived my childhood wholly. After about 20 minutes of debate, she reluctantly agreed on the former but was defiant on the latter. Of course, I shall always remain grateful for the childhood that I experienced but she insisted on the fact that I should never doubt it again.

Today, we live in different cities and meet for not more than a month in a year. Not being a phone enthusiast, I fall short of sharing my entire day’s account with her but have become a better listener (though she might disagree). They say that older siblings bring you up better than your parents. I don’t know if that’s true but I can’t find one parameter where my sister has proven to be a lesser reliable person than any other elder of the family. After all, it was they who brought her up and set the standards in the first place.

If you are a younger sibling, it’s probably because your parents wanted a sane child after having some experience with a not-so-sane one because no matter how experienced the older ones might appear to be, their embarrassing tales can’t be matched. We call them names and they (mostly) just smile it off but also prove that many a time, the allotted name is only befitting. Anyway, the success of a sibling makes us a proud soul and their failure feels worse than our own. Older siblings are truly pillars of strength and a constant reminder of who we are and what we endeavour to achieve. They know us better than they know themselves and so we need to remind them that they are worth more than what they fathom. They have given us the liberty to think that our mistakes will be covered but we need to remind them that they are humans too and their mistakes do not lessen our respect and trust in them. They’ve held our hands and helped us choose which path to traverse but we need to remind them that they don’t need to make all the decisions alone and that we can sometimes aid them too. They need to be reminded that they don’t need to be perfect because it’s their imperfections that make them approachable. They need to be reminded that come what may, we shall not trade the role of being a younger sibling for any other and have no one else play their part as well. There is plenty of love in each of us to spread but one of the people who gets it more than the rest is my sister because sibling love is my favourite kind of love.