It was a chilly Monday morning in Himachal. I sat outside an Operation Theatre, at a 3-hr drive from my house in Bir, on no sleep, waiting to get an update on my friend who broke his foot in a freak accident in the middle of the night. Let me tell you one thing, if you plan to live in Himachal, make sure you’re doubled up on your health insurance and have a chopper on call to take you to a sane hospital because you ain’t getting any here.
I sat there purposelessly, frantically glancing up at any medical staff coming out of the OT, like I am on an Indian Telly Soap. My mind was racing, hosting an extempore on pretty much every topic under the sun. I remembered an interesting call I got, just before my friend had decided to break his foot. It had left me with a strange feeling I didn’t quite process then, so now was a good time.
I was asked to pen this piece down for the graduating batch of IIIT-Delhi, Batch of 2021. Another batch graduated in lockdown. It struck me then. A dainty calendar with a picture of Tulips, issued by Bharat Petroleum hung on the hospital wall opposite me. The date was 7th June 2021, a complete year had passed since I finished college.
It was strange, surreal that it had just been a year. The circumstances of my graduation were a bit better than those of the 2021-batch ones, something the batch of 2020 could not have thought of when we were graduating. Not receiving a formal farewell was nothing short of the end of the world for us. We made extensive plans with our Admin about how we’d like a photo-op (no-ifs) when we attended the convocation with the Batch of 2021. Hilarious. Like Harry Potter, we assumed we
were the only chosen ones.
I remembered my convocation day pretty well. Though the actual event of graduation was the least memorable part of it.
It was in the last week of September, time of the glorious cabbage-harvest season in the upper Himalayas.
I was trekking up to the remote village of Rajgundha with a bunch of friends. As soon as I got my signal back, my phone chimed, it was a screenshot from a friend. A picture of me from the youtube telecast of my graduation scheduled for that morning, which I had forgotten completely about.
I was still drenched from the storm I earlier got caught in. We had just hiked up a steep, gush incline, slippery enough to make a herd of cows in front of us slip, falling right back on us and had barely been able to make it out of it. I smiled at the picture, forwarded it to my mum and dad with a smiley and told them I had reached safely. And that was that. a rather uneventful end to 4 glorious years of Undergrad. My March-2020-self really didn’t have a chance at guessing what the future held.
My life, like everybody else’s, went into slug mode the day lockdown 2020 was announced. Post which, the “milestones” kept coming, offering no real change. Kind of like the 18th b’day, we’re told all our life it’s a BIG deal, but when the day comes, it’s just that, a day. Things would have been different in a non-covid world with a farewell, high-tea, IFAP, scribble day. I often ponder though, if these are just ‘Institutions’ in place to exert the importance of other institutions, making them grand & complete. Much like a bow pasted on a bouquet, useless in function, yet a bouquet is considered incomplete without it. Maybe because it hides the chaos of the ribbons underneath holding the stems together.
I could never tell if that’s what the empty feeling was, an incompleteness caused by the absence of a bow (read: parties that make time fly). Like my mind cleared out some space in anticipation of the feeling of contentment that was supposed to come with graduation, but never quite arrived. A nurse appeared coming out of the OT breaking my chain of thoughts. I hoped she’d turn towards me. She didn’t. Instead she attended to a vase of drying flowers, changing the water in the vase in a futile attempt to save them. Everybody knows they need water, soil and sunlight, basic 4th class science. The thoughts resumed but the image of the flowers stuck.
I wondered why us humans, habitual of proper appearances and quick solutions, didn’t resort to fixing the flowers by painting over the faded colours of petals and tying sticks underneath the petals to hold them up still. My now gibberish-ing brain concluded that’s just stupid. Why, though? ( I now sounded to myself a lot like my therapist. He tends to do that everytime I tell him how I feel, ask a why and that’s it. Effective effortless therapy strategy incase you want some quick cash playing a shrink.)
Why would painting the flowers be stupid though ?
Impermanence of the solution. Easy.
Then why do we try to fix our life by painting it with the colours of expectations and framing it with societal standards. In the hope of an accepted existence? occasionally gratifying ourselves with things like a picture of us throwing a black cap in the air. This fix of ours is as stupid as I sounded talking about painting flowers. The flowers will fall under the pressure of the paint and ice-cream sticks that morphed its natural form. No?
Just like the flowers, what we need is a nourished interior no?
The empty space, with time, got filled up with self doubt, instability, lack of passion? All normal, confusing, but also very important because they’re like the clutch-to-the gears-of-our-life. Without them we won’t change our pace (faster, slower whatever the need be). these emotions are indications, Similar in function to the wilting of a flower.
What nurtures us? Our circumstance. And what leads us to our circumstance? Our decisions.
My one such decision was staying back in Bir, when I originally intended to visit the hamlet for just a couple of weeks in September 2020. I wrote this in August 2021. With a paragliding pilot license in my hand (something I did to address my fear of heights and because I didn’t think I could do it), a house with a vip view of the rainbows of the beautiful Bir monsoons, a furry friend I love, and a place in the mountains to call my own.
The mountains and its inhabitants have taught me that life is perhaps nothing but a tapestry of the outcomes of our decisions, both small and big. You mess up and paint around it or coat the entire canvas with a fresh colour and start again, my favorite usually is getting a new canvas, of course.
So as to answer a few questions.
Why did I move to Himachal? to surrender to my decisions and bow out on my circumstances. I wanted to decide the minutest details for myself like what I’ll have for dinner to things as big as getting a house here or suspend myself in air, on a thin sheet of cloth.
What’s my life like here? As random as the above passage.
Am I happy ? When I decide to be.
After a 3-hour wait, the doctor came out, and there my friend was, smiling, being dragged out in a wheelchair. And I thought to myself, What a wonderful world.
Suhavi (B.Tech., Class of 2020)