Reality Check: On Growing Up

At six, you look up to the sky,
Fascinated by the wings of a bird,
Your sight takes leaps from the clouds taking dragon shapes,
To orange sun rays spilled all around.
You giggle at the sight of a puppy,
Affection that you never felt before.
Your eyes sparkle when you get to shout from across the lawn, ‘Mumma, look!’
And your mother comes enthusiastically, and finds an earthworm slithering away slowly.
You want to go to space,
Wearing fishbowls on your heads,
To learn about the stars and funny looking creatures.
You watch your cartoons closely,
And you see fantasy,
But you remain unaware,
So you want to ride horses and build empires with spells,
You enact and learn,
Hoping people will call you a superhero someday.

At ten, you read your first novel,
One with smaller fonts,
Your Geronimo Stiltons sit on the shelf,
Soon replaced with Sir Roald Dahl’s elevators, chocolates and giant land,
Until you find Harry Potter and suddenly,
You grow love for wands and wizards,
And magic, that you believe, there is.
You watch movies, of the heroes and their blazing swords,
of defeated villains, wearing two horns,
Finding solace in happy endings, believing and trusting,
A world through your eyes,
Swearing to save the world from monsters,
You tuck yourself in your father’s quilt.

At thirteen, you celebrate your birthday with pride,
For you think you’re no more a child.
Wishing on those candles, you smile,
Your friends smudge cake all over your face,
Your family claps, a song of delight,
A happy birthday, they wish,
With blessings for a hundred years.
You come across bigger textbooks,
And knowledge so precious,
Your curiosity takes shape, when you hear them say ‘space’ .
Soon you learn, those are not fishbowl, and wizards do not exist,
And magic is a trick to fool eyes,
That exists only on stage.

At fifteen, you find yourself in a place,
Filled with eyes and expectations,
Glaring at you, with all their might,
And some of your friends turn their backs on you,
And you wonder whether you are doing this right.
You learn about the world in its gloom and its fights,
You experience your first push, one so hard, that you shrivel up,
Sitting in your room, you unfurl into sobs,
A look so stern in the mirror,
Reddened and diluted.
You shout at your parents and tell them they don’t understand,
‘Understand what?’, you ask yourself,
And wonder if you’re evil inside.
You lose some nights and days vanish off your calendar,
Sometimes you question,
‘Where’s the spark?’
A spark that once swore to save the world.

At sixteen, you scream and wail,
And notice that you’re filling up with an anger unknown,
You slam doors and break pens,
Drowning in a hope that the anger will stop the voices within.
All through the night, a paper sits on your desk,
Motionless in all its heaviness,
The red marks your failure,
And you reconsider the person you wanted to become.
Soon, you storm into the bathroom, and dig your fists in the walls,
A fist so small could never save the world, you iterate,
Just a fist after all.
Your earliest crayons lie dusty in some old carton of the house,
The memory of which recurs as your eyes follow through your childhood room.
You unravel into the confusion of your identity,
And find out that yours is the only voice you own.

Shivani Singh, 16, 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.

Featured image: Edward Howell/Unsplash