Maa had always had a particular affinity for plants – a middling obsession with watering them at exactly the right times and keeping them facing the sun so they could absorb all the heat. She brought home everything from cacti to hibiscus saplings. Her enjoyment always palpable on her rotund face. One day, she brought home a money plant – creepers that I had thought would soon entwine across our entire verandah.
Yet every couple of months, Maa cut it back to its original length, never allowing it to ‘swallow us whole’ as I had so desperately wanted. My mother explained then, that creepers need physical support to aid their growth, and they could not be allowed to grow forever in our small verandah.
I realised then, at 7, that it is the people who give you space to grow, who will also tear you down. Is it love if you don’t destroy it in the process?
A flock of girls in shapeless frocks at the swimming pool, after waddling for way longer than they should have, go home with wide smiles and puffy hands. Hands, like those of giants in fantasies – rubbery and blotched. This was bewildering to me and vexing for my dad, who had no way to provide a satisfactory answer to my tirade of questions. On a particularly sultry July afternoon, my Class 6 biology teacher Mrs Saha explained the concept of osmosis by submerging a kishmish in water and showcasing how pudgy it had become after an hour.
Osmosis; movement of a solvent from a region of lower solute concentration to a region of higher solute concentration.
An excess of water in our surroundings causes it to seep into our skin, thereby making our hands puffy. At 11, I recognised our involuntary predisposition for balance; that in all our lives, we ebb and flow to fill some cavity. A gap that requires more. And like water, we always move forward to provide.
We partake in another voluntary sleepless night at college, just so we could complain about it tomorrow, all the while talking the way we talk when you are just becoming friends. A friend, closer than most, explains to me then, with avuncular erudition, how cranberries are picked from their fields – a process which seemed tediously simple, except much more tedious, for accounts of it being narrated to me.
Yet I listen to him explain patiently how cranberries are picked; how the fields are flooded with water when it is time to pick them and while the ripe ones float to the top, the unripe ones stay submerged- below sea level. A man-made natural selection, to pick the ones that are ready. And I wondered, perhaps in all our lives, we are eternally floating; in grey space, in no man’s land, below sea level. Perhaps we all rise when we are ready. That someday, we shall all get picked to bask in the sunlight of our own growth.
Now I use Firefox as my browser because a boy whose heart I broke taught me that it uses less RAM than Chrome. Now I prefer Mountain Dew to Coke since he always did. Now I wear hoodies as my comfort clothing because his was the first I owned. Now I have a terrible ache to learn to cycle just so I could do it with him one day. Maybe I belong more to him than to myself.
Nowadays I sit in a different corner of the library so that I don’t see him come in. I have a strange obsession with the word ‘parapet’ since he was the first person to ever use them in casual conversation. Nowadays I dread Thursday night parties when I know he is with someone else.
Today I tell him I miss him terribly. Today I knock at his door to ask for forgiveness. Today I tell him all the things that have made my heart heavy. Today I shall fix things.
Today is a Thursday. No one answers.
Sohini Roy is a political science major and creative writing minor at Ashoka University.