My dog Oscar passed away yesterday. Or so I remember. I can’t think, perhaps the light is too bright, or that the air forced around by the whirring fan stings a little. Dadi’s smell lingers like a friendly ghost, and I can’t comprehend why she passed too.
I took a shower today, after three days. There was too much work yesterday, and the day before; clenched between the eurekas of Newton and Ampere, with the scratching of pens and nights gone into studying depths of the world that we live in, I feel exhausted. I haven’t thought about Dadi’s or Oscar’s passing, maybe I am avoiding it. But there is the silence that comes with it – an excruciating, unbearable void of absence.
Silence was never meant to be heard or noticed. It is a breakable state of laidback inner thoughts, a moment that feels unreal because we crave sound so much, any sound – it makes us feel alive in some way, doesn’t it? Silence is also pale and gravity-ridden, it is momentous although sometimes also deafening.
I close the door behind me as I enter the bathroom. The smells of soap hangs like an inescapable fog, I undress and enter the shower area. Water trickles down my arms, through the rough purples and reds on my thighs. Suddenly, a face flashes before my inward eyes – of a woman, who frowned at my shoulders last June, while whispering into her friend’s ears. A voice takes over – of a man, who once tried to slip his enormous hands into my shorts when I was 11. I go through the panic that follows, then a feeling, as if I am reliving the moment, and I remember how I screamed, kicked and ran. I was fortunate that there was a crowd around and he drove away on his motorbike. I never saw him again.
I increase the temperature of the water. With it, an electrifying rage passes through all my nerves, of the grief of not being able to save Dadi or Oscar, of not being able to stand up to teasers and bullies in middle school, of always adjusting and changing, of being unable to land upon something concrete – it frustrates me to look at how I am. To be here like a silent, secretive being, who disappears into this strange back clip, whose actions are so silent, so swift that nobody would ever know what or who they are.
I flip open the shampoo bottle and rinse my hair. I didn’t need to wash my hair, I am just trying to distract myself from everything that I was being reminded of. I try to think of the good moments and argue with everything that is accelerating these ugly memories.
A couple of moments later, I slid down the wall and sat tiredly. It is 8:30 am and it’s almost time for classes that I do not want to attend. I fumble around in my head and find some smells of childhood – like the handmade paper with which we would make cards for our parents, like carpet dust, rain, winter fog, and rusty smells of parks. These distinct memories soon swallow me up in their warm consolation. But you can’t really escape, can you? The thing about the past is that you can never get rid of it, you have lived in it, you are a part of it and no matter how hard you try you will not forget it. It often comes around in flashes and I try to resist. But sooner or later, it takes over me.
I get up from the floor and drape a towel around me. The mirror is hazy and through it, I look at my reflection. I walk out and slide into some clothes, and feel it again – an absence. But like I have observed in my mother, I too put on a smile, wear my strongest suit, and get the day going.
At the age of seven, I shook hands with the violin. Each time I played, I would play the wrong strings, my bow movement would hardly coordinate with the notes I was playing and it felt so difficult. But gradually, after hours of practice, I became fluent in what is known to be one of the most difficult string instruments in music. Thereon, I learnt the drums, the guitar, and even the keyboard for some time.
I have started to realise the wisdom of music, especially in hard times like these. The way sound can be created, with bare hands like ours, the way it transforms and evokes, the way it makes us dance, in glory or in the gloom, in celebration or in hope, its deliverance wrapped in a thousand chants, its restlessness, its stubbornness, its cheeky yet wise sharpness, music has so much to teach. Once born, it can never die, it can never face silence but it can celebrate it.
I enjoy my solitude, often I contemplate over my past frustrations through music and I will never do anything to risk losing that. Self-loathing is something I have been dealing with for a long time now, and in my journey towards self-love these past five years, I realised that before self-love becomes an abundant felicity, an obvious position of liberation, it is first a heartbreak. A whole period of agony and rage firing at how I was, it becomes a grief for all the time lost into disastrous self-perceptions, it becomes a heavy apocalypse that temporarily makes life unbearable.
With it, there is the learning and unlearning and the shocking yet enlightening realisation that love isn’t exuberance or frivolity or redemption, it is growth. And in order for that to happen, there is self-reflection, which hurts at times. Growth isn’t pretty flowers in a mud pot, or aesthetic paintings of green forests; growth is a battle, where you fight your past self to reach somewhere. And sometimes, you want to stay stagnant for a moment, but that feels scary, so you fight and you throw yourself into this infinitely strange event of all the lives won and lost and the pinnacle of it all isn’t love.
It is the moment truth comes around, she rips you apart in order to make you aware of the fact that the reward of this battle isn’t comfort, it is the courage to undo everything your past self built and replace it with something worthier. Embarking on this journey, I learnt a lot and still am. But one thing about self-destruction that no one mentions is that it is also relieving and that when the next time comes around, I will have the knowledge to accept it in all its unsightly endeavours.
Shivani Singh is a 16 year old who is currently studying in Delhi. She likes surrealism in all forms. She will never stop talking about books. You can follow her on Instagram @shivani21_singh and on YouTube @Shivani.