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.
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.
“Do you think people who live alone close the bathroom door behind them when they take a shower?” I asked, my eyes pinned on the kiwi pastry behind the glass.
In response, I got a swat on the back of my head that said everything: “Of course they do.”, “No, why would they?”, “Just do your work”, “Wut.”
I was sitting with my friend at a café. She was trying to read, I was thinking of everything in the world except differential equations. I was dreaming about college again. But simultaneously, I had imagined contingency plans A to F which were to be executed if none of the universities I applied to accepted me. Plan D or E included flipping burgers in Lisbon, where I would live, a young, single photographer, and that was where my Pivotal Question about Closing Bathroom Doors had come from. It is not usual for me to wane at things that I truly want, but when I do, I respond to them like the goofball I proudly am, joking, projecting my emotions into ridiculous thoughts until they become palpable.
Sometimes, I am the most bored teenager in the world, sitting with a Pokéball of my energy in my hand, waiting for someone to show me what to do with it.
I go to school with great enthusiasm, but this zeal is not directed towards my curriculum as much as it is to the hopes of landing something new to do, something which carries meaning, possibly causes an impact, on me for starters. It is like being in a constant state of- I can’t wait to start my life. In fact, I have an entire history of it. In ninth grade, I took to theatre at the local American Center because I wanted to test my acting skills. The next year, I scourged Delhi for ballroom classes. When I didn’t find any, I switched to Jane Fonda Aerobics videos and supplied my family with film of me waving my arms about. Then I was showed how to prove four equal to five, and despite instantly pointing out the fallacy that made that possible, I was over the moon for a month, twiddling with math laws, happy beyond limits.
My biggest break, just the thing I needed in my record, was when I got selected for a foreign exchange trip to Japan last summer. I remember thinking- This is it. Don’t you dare sleep now. And as I trudged my suitcase down the airports, I watched everything with big gleaming eyes, telling myself to believe it- I was doing something after all. I survived that weeklong trip solely on caffeine. I uploaded a few videos to my up-and-coming YouTube channel and I only kept my camera down when I did fall asleep, for not more than three hours at a stretch. Folks at home called it ‘typical sugar tourism’ but I didn’t want to hex it with tags.
The point is: I have always want to do. I want to create. I want to be on the radio, I want to write a column, I want to be in a cycling group, I want to go to concerts and galleries, I want to put another kid through college, so much and so badly, and I want to make my life worth it. I don’t find any reason to be satisfied with things that automatically happen; just as college for Indians is like a given. I want to try myself at the things that are hard to get, I want to be willful, meaningful. Living, though not started by the person whose life it is, is actively created by him through every second he exists. Whether awake or unconscious, we make ourselves people out of a mass of tissues, and I just can’t let myself go waste.
I sat at the cafe, beating songs onto the table. “So”, I asked my patent line, “What is the most unhealthy thing they have on the menu?”