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A CommonApp Backstory I Didn’t Tell

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The Professor asked the creative writing class to write a story “that involves sex, mystery, religion and royalty; and you have one hour!” Within five minutes, one student got up, handed in his paper and left. The professor read his four line story.

Oh God!

The King is dead.

The Queen is pregnant.

Who did it?

I laughed. Mom told me her favorite joke when I was only ten, kissed me good night and turned off the lights. My mother never did try to keep my feet on the ground. Always, she told me what all was possible, irrespective of what was probable, or even proper. She never told me that anything was something I couldn’t understand, but let me try, and stood by to help me if I asked. She taught me to imagine before I knew, and to appreciate the beauty of perspectives. A math teacher herself, while she instilled in me a joy of rapid solutions and numbers, she also showed me how to prove four equal to five, and amazingly, all it takes is a few basic math laws.

Sometimes, I think knowledge hasn’t been as important to me as imagination. Knowledge, to some extent, is a good book away. But to expand my imagination, I have no tricks and no guarantees. I tried imagining ‘six impossible things before breakfast’. I wrote stories and rewrote all the names. I tried to imagine a new color, until I got a cross between peach and brown and pretended that it was original. Imagination has become my closest friend. It is also my most trying one. And it is a gift my mom chose to raise me with.

Dad taught me more practical things; the machinery of a world. A man rather obsessed with meditation, organisation and assisting, he roped me into all three as soon as I could write. I rejected meditation outright, my already developed imaginative mind mocking the concentration demanded from it, changing the silence involved into waking dreams. But I happily picked up the other two. There are countless incidents in my life when sheer organisation has made everything -academic, personal, random- so much simpler and easier. Being collected also benefited me in managing my time and consequently, in helping others, and anyone who knows me today knows that I will be there when they need me.

What I am is significantly touched by other members of my family as well. My little sister is a living testament of the power of optimism. My grandmother taught me Mahjong, an old Chinese game, that adds to my life of wonders. My uncle took me across India, as I followed his transferring Air Force home, collecting music and endless hobbies along the way. My grandfather showed me that all you need to do to travel first class on an economy ticket is ask. The list is endless, just like the lessons. The result is me; Icarus, with long wings.

Today, this positive-positive combination is the bedrock to my strength. If I am known as the Ruchika that doesn’t break, its because I know how to handle hard-hitting situations. I know how to put seemingly larger than life moments in the context of time, to project my feelings in outrageous proportions just to ridicule them and make them palpable. I fail, feel lost and get hurt, but I know that anything is only as grave as I let it be.

Even if they didn’t specifically know the ripples of what they were teaching me then, my family has given me this world in an oyster. They’ve equipped me to achieve anything I truly want.

Now, I just have to choose where I want to start.

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