There comes a certain point in your life, when something just clicks into place and certain memories come flooding back to you, pouring into each other at the rate at which they come and leaving behind a bittersweet smile on your face as you think of the days that went by.
Having shifted base from UAE back to my hometown in the year 2012, the sudden disparity in the way of life came much like a jolt to my senses. Suddenly, it felt like I was adrift, in an ocean, one amongst a school of fish all moving in the same direction, and yet parting ways at different crossroads, making different choices and not knowing if it would all work out in the end. One year on, 2013 had arrived, and yet here wasn’t much change in my situation.
I say disparity in the way of life and not cultures, because, despite popular perception, it really wasn’t all that different. Not to me anyway. Even back in Sharjah, I still came home to Ma’s rice and piping hot sambar, watched the same Hindi and English shows sneakily online, and was surrounded by an ocean of Keralites left, right and center.
There were differences though. It was in the way I, and many of my friends too, found ourselves hesitant to call out the answers in class even when we knew we were right. This coming from a girl who was used to shouting out her opinion without giving a damn about what others would think, even if I was wrong. It was in the vacuum I felt at no longer being able to teach my friends Malayalam swear words and learn a few choice ones in all the other colorful languages my country boasts of. The way in which suddenly I found the tables turned entirely against me, for while I did have a pretty good grasp of my mother tongue, suddenly I found myself being the ridiculed for unconsciously slipping into English at times, something I had never considered an issue before.
While I was struggling to find myself during this time, all the while wondering how someone so confident about the way she wanted her life to pan out since the time she had baby teeth had inexplicably gotten lost, I found my anchor in an Inter-school recitation competition. Or rather, I found it in a group of wonderful, extraordinary, sweet women, ones whom I am fortunate to have called my teachers and even more proud to have known as a girl.
Usha Ma’am, I will never ever be able to fully convey exactly how grateful I am to you for making me pick up The Walrus and The Carpenter. In doing so, you showed faith in me that I would be able to do something I had never done until then in all the 18 years of my life. I still remember the shock I experienced when I was told that I would be reciting a poem by Lewis Carroll. From Alice In Wonderland, of all places! I am ashamed to say that at that point, I did have a rather pompous view of my own abilities, and perhaps took myself a bit too seriously than any 18-year-old must be allowed to. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why such a poem had been given to me. Surely high school students were expected to recite Wordsworth or Tennyson or Edgar Allen Poe? And I would be reciting about oysters?!
A bit of convincing and a LOT of practice sessions later, I realized the point you had been trying to make. Sometimes you don’t have to follow down the same old beaten path, despite what everyone around you says. And you don’t always have to find the logic in everything. “But what’s the point?”, I asked you, after yet another half-hearted recital three days before the competition. I still remember the expressions of doom on all of your faces, clearly wondering what on earth was I going to do in three days, and yet obviously being too kind-hearted to say so. “There IS no point!”, you exclaimed back. “It’s absolutely nonsensical! And that’s the beauty of it!”
With conviction in my heart(finally!) and the entire English Department’s firm guidance with me, I set about to finally give my 100% and do as you told me to. A special mention goes out to Aashna, who was a huge, huge help, truly becoming a cherished friend in the process.
And what do you know? It worked! From someone who had never actually recited on a stage before(it’s true!), we somehow, miraculously, managed to win! I say we, and not I, for if it had not been for you quite literally showing me when to pause and when to stress, the whole thing would have turned into a complete, utter fiasco! (Don’t deny it!)
I’ve gone completely off track. What I was trying to really say was that there was an incredible amount of pressure on me at that time. To put it simply, that year, for various completely unrelated reasons, was one of the unhappiest of my life. I had no idea if I was supposed to swim with the tide or against it, and despite every cell in my body protesting loudly at being put into an unnatural situation, I did as I was told and pursued my studies with a single-minded focus, which, frankly, I hated. It was just so uncharacteristic of me to give up everything for just one, and yet I did it because that was what was expected of me.
In such a time, it was actually those few after school practices(the ones which I actually attended 😃 ) which helped me maintain my sanity. In a way, though I was still the same bubbly person outwardly, I learned to be happy again, something which I hadn’t been in a long time. I found my strength in your smiling faces and constant support, the way you understood my difficulty in balancing extra classes with practice and yet drawing a firm line when you had to. In showing me when exactly I had to stop neglecting the responsibility I had been entrusted with, and in the process, teaching me that the world wouldn’t end just because I loved two things equally.
It is for these very reasons, that I cherish The Walrus And The Carpenter so much. More for what it stood for, rather than the prize it got me and my school (though that also counts! 😃 ) All those voice modulations meant a great deal more to me than just the purpose it served. And for that, thank you. Thank you Usha Ma’am, Nancy Ma’am, Renuka Ma’am, Meera Ma’am, Theresa Ma’am, and Rajasree Ma’am. A billion times over, for showing me the importance of maintaining a balance in life, and helping me discover the joy that comes with just letting go and turning completely crazy once in a while.
The reason this post has come, perhaps three years too late, is that I finally hd the chance to recite this again at the All Kerala Inter-Medicos last month. And struck gold once again!(Again, all credit to you!) Honestly though, I couldn’t think of any other poem to recite than this one, and that was what set off all those memories and took me back through a journey in time.
PS: Usha Ma’am, you know who I am! I’m going to ask you not to share this on Facebook, because I enjoy the anonymity of being on WordPress, without anyone else knowing about it. It gives me a certain sense of freedom, after all, this helped me stalk your blog much before you finally accepted my friend request! I just had to break the rule this one time though. Do drop me a line here if you can!
P.P.S : Feel free to point out any grammatical errors! 😝