At Daily (w)rite, I stick to discussions, opinion, travel, writing.
While I’m always myself, it is a redacted my-self on this blog. But in the interests of remaining honest, I have to step into a new territory today. The personal.
This is because a month back, I suggested and got involved with hosting the Cherished Blogfest: along with Dan Antion , Paul Ruddock, Peter Nena, Sharukh Bamboat, I invite you to talk about an object you cherish, and why. I tried to talk about other things, but the object that surfaced and wouldn’t be denied, is here now. As a writer, I’m used to being vulnerable, but I can always hide behind the guise of fiction. No such curtains in this post.
It is a photograph. Very simple, and as photographs go, not well-framed. It shows me and a bunch of schoolmates, back when I was fourteen or fifteen, maybe younger. That girl with those two ridiculous pigtails, in a blue sweater, scarf tied around her neck, is me.
But what makes me cherish the photo, despite the bad lighting, despite forgetting the names of some of the girls, losing touch with others (which gives me a pang sometimes), is the girl who sits right beside me.
We’ll call her D, this smiling girl, her white collar uniform shirt buttoned high, one of my two best friends from my schooldays. We sat on the same bench each year of school, shared our food, notes, jokes, secrets, lives.
A few years after this photograph was taken, after I’d finished college and joined an institute, I went home for the summer and discovered why D hadn’t answered my letters, the birthday cards, in a while. This was a time in India when we still didn’t carry cellphones, when long distance calls remained out of reach for a penniless student. Letters were still relevant.
D never wrote long letters, how are you, I’m doing well, school’s good. She was studying to be a doctor. I tossed all her letters, but I liked receiving them, and knowing she was well. I was going to meet her that summer, like all the summers before.
She had strangled herself, just taken a long cloth and swung it from the ceiling fan, when her parents were out for a dinner. She’d sent her little brother out on an errand. She’d known I wasn’t around, had gone and met my parents and chatted with them over tea and snacks, a week before she killed herself. My parents didn’t have the courage to tell me when I was far from home.
Decades later, I don’t have her letters, or the cards she made me for my birthday or new year. Youth is so careless. Everything seems like it would last forever: friendships, lives, happiness.
This photograph is the only one I have of her in an informal setting, at a school picnic one random winter at some dam or park or resort. This snapshot, with the containers of food our moms had lovingly packed, a teacher, the girls, some of whom remain friends on Facebook, some I’ve lost touch with, and D.
Stupid D, who always topped the class, the school, the brightest of us lot, who couldn’t take the insult of being failed by a teacher for the first time at medical school, stupid, stupid girl, young, too young and clueless–who thought grades mattered enough to end her life–and change the lives of so many: her parents, her friends, everyone who knew her.
I’ve stared at this photo in the past years, and imagined her growing up, growing older, falling in love, getting married, becoming a mother.
But there she sits, a teenager on a sunny afternoon, surrounded by classmates, ‘tiffins’ full of food, steel dinner plates (in the days before the scourge of plastic and thermocol), a skinny street dog behind her (photobomb, right there) and that confident half-smirk-smile she always wore. And there I am, by her side, unknowing that one day, this photograph would be all I’d have of her, as I sit at my table, writing.
Are you taking part in the Cherished Blogfest? If you are, this weekend (24-26 July) please post about your cherished object, and visit others on this LINKY LIST. Share on all social media with the hashtag #CHERISHED. If you haven’t signed up yet, you still can, the linky list is open for two more days. What is an object you cherish? What sort of memories does it bring back? Would you like to write about this object?
If you’re reading this, do not have a blog, and want to join the discussion on short stories, head over to Daily (w)rite’s Facebook page!