The prospect of living my individuality has always excited me. Painting my life with vivid streaks of my unique personality has been my most cherished dream. As a schoolgirl, I was perennially in awe of the strong, the bold, the fabulous, the rebel and the recluse. At 18, the threshold of a new life, I essentially wanted to be, a bit of all of these. A fabulous girl, rebel at heart, strong in the mind, bold in action and a recluse to the core. After my class 12 board exam and an unsuccessful attempt at making it into the country’s premier law institute, I thought that the dream to live my life-my way, was all but shattered. To cut a long story short, I realized like everyone does, that every cloud has a silver lining. To my amazement, the unfortunate events of the past had actually opened the door to a new life for me. The depressions of the recent past forgotten, I marched forward, to begin life in a hostel, in a different city far away from home!
The train chugged in on the platform bringing me to my destination- Pune. It’s just a 22 hour journey from Bangalore, not much actually. Yet, with this journey, life as I knew it- changed- now and forever! My new life at the ILS Law College breathed of my individuality, within the framework of the Paying Guest rules. From figuring out breakfast to what to wear- each day was topped with decisions I had to make. Mind you! I came from a school, where uniforms complete with the name badges were the norm even in class 11 and 12. If that wasn’t enough, I had a lovingly overprotective family which made most decisions in my best interests.
Soon enough though, everything was under my control- including the weekly call made back home. I was running my own life, on the modest monthly allowance given by my father. But I swelled in pride when I was budgeting and shopping. The weekly toilet cleaning, the hanging and picking of washed and dried clothes was stuff that I didn’t particularly enjoy doing. The rest, I did smiling and happy with many a song on my lips. Hostel life with its myriad experiences was enthralling to say the least.
It was one such rather busy day. We had Morning College so that gave me most afternoons free to research for various college activities or just enjoy an idyllic evening. That July afternoon, I didn’t feel like anything particularly. So, I decided to give the library and reading room a skip. I headed straight to my room. Dark clouds loomed large and thunder threatened to replace itself with huge water droplets. Hopping into one of those 6 seater autorickshwas, that Pune boasts of in plenty, I scurried back. It was a short walk from the auto stand to my room. Plenty of small eateries also known as the tapries, dotted the walk and of course, many grandpa gulmohar trees provided shade. The rain gods were exceptionally pleased that day. Knowing my love for them, descended in all their might and left me drench to the bone.
I scampered into my room and quickly changed into fresh clothes. I later opened my room door to view the small veranda and tall canopy of trees beyond. I’ve always loved the rains and the earthy smell of fresh, wet mud. This time, however, as I sat at the doorstep of my PG accommodation and gazed out, memories of home came flooding into my heart.
My brother and I would return from school drenched in the rains and splashed with slush, in spite of our raincoats. Mummy would frown disapprovingly but hand us fresh towels, nonetheless. Once we’d changed, a warm cup of milk and some pakodas or fried nuts would greet us. Anyone who has lived in Bangalore knows that when it rains in Bangalore it pours. The joy of a hot cuppa in the cool monsoon breeze with a few stray droplets dashing against your skin… aahhh Heaven!!! Here I was in Pune looking at the raindrops slid down the leaves of the jasmine and seep into the earth. Mummy wasn’t around to hand me hot milk, nor was brother around for us to jump in puddles. In that instant, I don’t think there was anyone lonelier than me. My heart ached for the familiar sights and smells of home. Just the thought of making me a cup of steaming hot soup seemed demanding. I felt a warm fluid run down my face… I was glad it was raining so no one knew if the trickle was tears or rain drops.
Later that evening, I called home- it was time for that weekly call anyway. I had overcome the emotion of that afternoon and life seemed to have reverted to normal gear once again. I said ‘hello’ like I always did- the first question I heard my mother ask me was if I was ok. She said I didn’t sound alright. At that moment, the shoddy job that I had done, of putting my heart together, came apart. I didn’t say much, but I heard. I heard a lot of things that went unsaid. I heard my heart say all those little things that had been locked away.
In my first monsoon in Pune, I realized that there was more to me behind the façade of running my own life and feeling proud about it. The strength I boasted of was not even skin deep and the individuality I craved for meant absolutely nothing. I was little more than a girl who wanted the warmth of home and her people. A child who wanted to be pampered and be part of the limelight. A grownup who still sought solace in sharing the small stories of the day. An adult who was scared of letting the torrents of time pave a new destiny. I learnt my first lessons of adult life; no matter how grown up I’ll be, there’s always a little child inside who seeks love and no matter where I look for it, there is no place like home and no support like family. No matter how harsh the trial or how deep the test, all I needed to do, is dip into that pool of unconditional love and strength that existed just for me.
That afternoon rain opened to me a new window of understanding life and the relationships we build. Here I was, young and energetic, looking forward to a new life and forging new relationships. While I did just that, what I also did was leave behind many of the old ones. With every relationship I put behind me, I lost a bit of myself on the way. Every new relationship built, showed me a newer, brighter tomorrow and a part of me, I had never known. Yet, when someday, like this rainy afternoon, I needed to piece the jigsaw together; I needed not just the new pieces, but the old ones as well.