Sunday, 24 January 2016

The Road Taken

I could sense the old man halt as I overtook him. He looked like one of those tramps you see in the roadsides who talk to themselves. You don't see a lot of people on foot along this road, and his being there was outlandish. Nevertheless, I walked on without a second glance, for my legs were not used to any halts during my walks... my walks along that road. The Road.

The sun beamed down at me, radiating just about the right warmth. The wayside shrubs swayed in the breeze, the aroma perfecting the evening. Of course, it was the road, how could it not be perfect? Every now and then, a car or two whizzed past, leaving my loose strands of hair flying. A flash of memory ... "Careful, don't get blown off in the wind." he'd say, and move to the vehicle-side of the road in a protective gesture. I'd grin and reply, "Careful, don't let the vehicles get blown off!"  
I was smiling. It was the road. It always brought smiles.

It started off three years ago, my truce with this road, long and lonely, winding and windy. I wasn't alone back then. A time of jubilance to make for home with friends, to walk along together, slow with our own time, instead of the school buses that took us straight home. A time when the exhaustion from the walk was exhilarating and worth it, even when the school bus could've dropped us off unwearied and unscathed, even when other ways could get us home earlier, or perhaps shadier. A time we hadn't realized the real length of the road, too busy wasting away our laughs.

They asked me why I went that way. I had one excuse after another...'cause how could I explain to them those magical moments of companionship? And when I ran out of reasons, I told them I liked to walk. And so, the walks continued. I walked and walked...till I fell in love with it, like I told them that I did. 

And today I walk alone, with that old tramp behind me being the only other presence. And yet they ask me, why? Why still that too long a road? And I found myself asking the same. With all those little lies I made to steal a few laughs, to have golden moments, the true reason was forgotten in the end. And all I knew was that somehow, I'd made a truce with the road. Because with time as my company varied, for me the road was the same. And now it showers upon me my past, and plants a smile as I journey through it.

Did I perhaps still have that hope? Of reviving those unforgotten days? Dubious as I am, I know better...better than to linger with what was and is no more. As I walked once again today, I knew it wasn't for the unforgotten. I was irrationally in love with the road, that in some bizarre way felt homely, and in some enchanting way was divine.

It seems longer now than it ever was, and yet I find myself journey through it. And every now and then I laugh to myself, with sudden recollections of our walks in old times. Every now and then I happily hum in my head, when the road brings sudden jolts of exultation. Every now and then I am reminded of my woes, and the quiet of the road helps me brood, uninterrupted and free. There just couldn't be a better place for an introvert, no better way to escape from what everyone claims to be a necessarily busy and difficult life. 

As much as we wish to move on, there is always the tiniest little part of us that clings to the past, and if let loose could overpower our present and make us escape reality. But as long as I only let the essence of the deeply etched memories touch me and not  revert the past itself, it is but a reason to smile today. And no smile can ever go into nothingness.

No matter how different life may turn out to be tomorrow, I know that the road will fondly welcome my return, my memories awaiting to be embraced. Like Dr Seuss said, I've decided to not cry because it's over, but instead smile because it happened. :)

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

When Future Calls

There we sat, in the well-lit, air-conditioned 'multipurpose' hall, scanning the row of grown-ups seated along the sides. Having nothing else to do, we commenced our murmured comments and giggles over their outfits. They must've been in their late thirties, and they made a good enough first impression; there was this probably-beauty-conscious-straight-haired lady, the one in jeans and a funky top who looked too young to be among them, the one with bobbed hair and a Kiran Bedi face cut, the one who came with her little daughter and was pre-ocuppied trying to keep her steady, and then there were the men...all in their formal shirts and pants, which didn't seem quite as interesting (sadly).

We were busy picking out our favourites when the Kiran Bedi look-alike approached us. "Hey guys, so what are you expecting from us?" Funny she should ask that, since we hadn't any clue about who they were until we'd entered the hall. We were held captive in our classrooms for months at end, exhausted by textbooks and question papers, and at this time, whenever a certain somebody visited school we had our fingers crossed for a 'seminar' from the visitor…anything for a break from regular classes! And at such a time, when a dozen or more people arrive at once to talk with us, you can imagine our euphoria! So when they asked us about our expectations, honestly, we had none. Even if it was going  to be a lame lecture, it would still be worth the time away from the frustrating heap of school books. We were cool with whatever we could get.

But this was no lame lecture, or any one of those serious personality development or career guidance seminars we had in the past. This was some crazy group of adults acting like kids- grinning, waving, and expecting us to tell them what we expected from them. This was a group who could relate with us, who could see a lot of themselves in us. This was us twenty years from now.

Yes, they were the 'products' of our own school, now scattered and leading their own independent lives. And thankfully enough, they weren't a mere bunch of toppers here to tell us about their success. They were a mixture of all the categories that a classroom consisted- the average, the idle, the dreamers, the toppers, and the backbenchers alike, all here to tell us about their success.

We waited for them to speak, and discovered that they'd come with only as much preparation we did...close to none. There, we already had something in common! So, what followed was a spur of the moment thing, when Miss Kiran Bedi look-alike took over the mike and started introducing her old mates, with bits and pieces of nostalgia. And who would've imagined her to turn out to be a freaky styled cool dude! That crooked smile on her face when she teased her fellow batch mates, and the gesticulations arising from them in response!

One by one they interrupted every pause, filling in with their own experiences, with their timely advices and more importantly, assurances. There wasn't anybody who needed it more than we did! Three months to go and we're going to be christened the same as them - 'Alumni'. There is this dubiousness that never leaves the back of our minds...will we be able to make it? Will we reach where we're meant to be? Oh well, where were we meant to be ?

They told us about how vast a world it is out there, and how this stage of our lives seems petty. But the truth is that whatever's ahead of us is moulded by this very stage. They told us to broaden our horizon, to not sit and whine when one door closes, because that is when many other doors open. We need only just look around, and this they knew from experience.

However stupid our decisions may be today, it has to be made. Because  making mistakes now and understanding them is the beginning of growth, and this is what essentially shapes our future. So for now, all we need to worry about is to take care not to halt. Begin the journey, and the rest will be taken care of.

For once, after a very long time, relief swept over us. In their presence, we were floating in bliss. We watched them as they continued to cackle and pull each other's legs. Were they always this kind of happy-go-lucky, fun people? Or was it just a result of a ride back to school memories? I'd like to believe that this is what life would make us eventually, especially for the 'products' of our own school!

Time was up, and our dear super-seniors rose to bid us goodbye. Coming over to where we sat on the floor, they began talking to us all at once. They were like those parents giving last minute instructions to their children leaving for a long journey. The situation here was more or less the same. And we sat there nodding away like obedient kids.

And here we are now, nearing the close...or perhaps the beginning. It's 2016, a special year to us, which it must be to every one of you too in plenty of other ways. In no time we're going to break open our cocoons, and get our wings ready for flight. Before the takeoff, here's a big thank you to our alumni for that special day back in 2015, for being such an amazing inspiration. And here's another one to our school for all that we've become because of it.
Like each one of them did, we're going to script a success story of our own too. And ten years from today, we shall be back to #SpreadTheVibe ! That is our promise.