Our life is like the one tip of the many, many branches of a tree that started when we were born. Every random moment where things could have gone differently, we, by choice or otherwise, have the branch split and carry on living.
There are many, many moments like these, where we knew we did the right thing, or the right thing happened to come to us. We also remember the ones that went awfully bad, wishing, hoping deep down somewhere that it could be changed in some way.
It is like in a river of blur, you see something sparkle, and you stand up and take concerned notice of it passing you by. You KNOW something different and special is happening, and the repercussions will be felt in the far future to come.
There have been instances when I can look back and say “Woah! So that happened! And that led to this amazing thing”.
My ICSE board examination preparations with Parth when our ever-lasting friendship got its final touches was one of them.
Then that SMS from Shreya on the night of 31 December 2009 to wish a happy new year was another moment that would change my life forever. Shreya, then, just a classmate and mostly a stranger, is, now, ten years later, the greatest person I have ever known. She’s my closest friend and as she would, with time, become the sister I never had.
There were some sad ones as well, ones that often, still, give me troubles sleeping at night. Perhaps the saddest one would be the loss of two of my greatest friends whom I loved like a brother and cared for like no other, and then there happened to be a goodbye that was never said.
But then, just because some people stop being a part of our lives does not mean we stop loving them.
And roll no one and six are still loved and cherished in my heart, and they always will be.
Then there’s the bliss of The Vespa girl and the date of 23rd October when destiny paid a visit and decided to stay forever.
But this blog post is not about any of the above moments that happened to shape my life. No. This is about something and someone completely out of the blue. Something that did not feel special as it was happening, but might have had the greatest influence on my psyche.
It took years and years of build, like that perfect wine that has been brewed to perfection. The slow fermentation that builds taste with time.
But about four years of analysis and with the benefit of hindsight, this one moment has had far fetching repercussions that and have and still are, coming as a pleasant surprise.
And I happened to have a partner in crime too: Niharika Di!
Niharika Anupam, a mega senior from NIT Jamshedpur, happened to be the “ghee” in the “havan”. Why I call her the catalyst will become clearer as you read on, but first I will have to do justice to why at all we would become partners in crime to something amazingly fresh and special.
She and I, we shared many similarities.
I was from the same school she was from, and from the same section too. We were taught by the same teachers in DPS Bokaro in our times and happened to like similar literature.
We were both “bihar ka lala” and I happened to study in the same stream as hers, albeit three years later. Hence, again, we had a lot of common professors in college too.
She was the member of Literary Society that I would later go on to lead three years later in 2014-2015.
I do not recall her from my BWO event in first year (could be attributed to my general aloofness). But then, I wrote a post (in this same blog) about my trip to Mumbai and got quite a few shares on Facebook. It caught her prying eyes through a carrier or another, and she immediately took notice of this little kid with a throbbing heart and scribbling pen.
I remember it very clearly, somewhere, in the month of April, 2012, outside Seventeen Degree restaurant in Jamshedpur when we were all just parting after a very joyful LDS farewell to Di’s batch. It was then She came up to me and shook my hand and whispered, “You write so well”.
The journey further is a bit blurred and difficult to recall, but she took me under her wing, and I started to look up to her as my mentor. The standard of her writing was impeccable, and I tried my best to keep up, getting better in the process.
This followed years of pieces, opinions, stories and ideas being exchanged when we became more like family. My madness clicked with her genius, and we tried to run a blog together. Her class and my sporadic thinking got along like Timon and Pumba.
And all of this leads us to the August of 2015.
I had just graduated and moved to Chennai for a silly, monotonous job. As I put in my other post, “I came to this city all kinds of lost, uncertain of the future and regretful of the past.” I realise it now that with all the changes in people and places and lifestyle, my brain was overwhelmed with content, and simmering at just the perfect boil to create magic.
Niharika Di happened to be the proverbial pixie dust. And how!
On this random day in early august, we decided to play a game on WhatsApp chat, where we would try to finish off each other’s sentences with a rhyme. Every sentence that I could make with all the English I could muster; Di would come back with a better one. A day or two of this childish but joyful literature contest, and we had some 50-60 lines of spontaneous, contrasting and uniquely gratifying poetry.
To us it was just fun.
But fate was soon to come by to make it more.
Two days later, while browsing Quora, I came across a question, “What is the most interesting conversation a guy and a girl can have?”. So, I took screenshots of the poetry limericks we had done, and posted as an answer to it and forgot about the whole business for two-three hours.
And then… suddenly.
First in tens.
Then in hundreds.
Then in thousands!
Our silly conversation had gone viral on Quora, as the internet poured in with praise, criticism and opinions all over it and in our inboxes.
As it gathered traction of upvotes and shares, something in me was healing, something that had needed healing since long. Not because of the volume of people who had responded to the post, but more because I had finally managed to create something new that I could feel happy about.
The answer can be found at: https://qr.ae/TUtcNz
To do justice to what it represents rather than the content, I am not paraphrasing the lines of poetry we wrote.
The answer was, by no means, anywhere close to the amazing content one comes across on Quora. Nor was it the most popular or the most intellectual answer. It would eventually be buried under the weight of new content within a week, never to resurface and could only best be described as a flash in the pan. And a small one at that.
But it did something more than just gather reactions from thousands of people. It lit a spark in my mind and restored my belief in creating, trying something new without fearing that it might go wrong. The darkness in me was humongous, but this answer brought a fresh light, and for reasons unknown, gave me an anchor against the storms in my head.
This was the moment. The miracle would come a little later in form of another person.
That will be a someone who changed my life like Hagrid changed Harry Potter’s.
The answer gave me my very own Hagrid.
“It’s a dark night. Perhaps the darkest.
There’s a bad storm. Perhaps the worst.
There’s a knock on the door.
And a Hagrid walks into your life.”
And my Hagrid came when the storm was at its worst. And helped me swim my way back to sanity.
This would be a random stranger on the internet who came across our answer and decided to drop me a hello. That would start another chain of events, described aptly as “The adventures of Ayda and Soo”, a blog post that is more of a novel in its own right, and which, to do proper justice to it, I would like to avoid writing about here, as it is more of a story about stitching your soul back together.
Then there was more.
Writing those lines of poetry with Niharika Di did not solve any of my problems. The equations of my life were difficult as ever and the outside world remained the gloomy same.
But something inside me changed, for the better.
I was no longer the bitter Prince Zuko of Avatar The last Airbender. I was more like Po of Kung Fu Panda. I could feel humor again, and my dimples (which appear only when I am truly happy) had returned.
It is 2019 now. And I look back how all my decisions in life afterwards have been influenced by the strength I found in those few screenshots. It was a start. A good thing. A happy feeling of something new and fresh.
It will be 2029 and 2039 eventually.
But after all these many years, if one were to ask me where my life went wrong, I would have many instances to talk about.
But if I am asked where did my life go right?
I would always point to this very particular answer.
And to Niharika Di. For being my pixie dust. For being just the person, I needed to look up to.
“You do not have to be blood to be family.”