Read this for reference before continuing.
Sixteen years later, a full fledged, voluptuous, long dark haired girl lies on a bedsheet on the floor of her room, next to the two mattresses, both of which are depressed with mountainous solids, covered in bedsheets and flanked by multiple pillows on either side- her parents.
The room is bathed in a gentle red hue and the air conditioner’s low, constant hum creates a drowsy, comfortable atmosphere. A guitar is in one corner of the room, against the wall, behind which the red lights twinkle lazily. The opposite wall is covered entirely with scraps of paper, some printed, some written on- by crayons, pencils, pens, markers, so much that the blue paint of the wall is hardly visible; things that may make no sense to someone who doesn’t look close enough. Each bit of paper contains thoughts.
It was something that the two sisters started earlier in the year. They put their thoughts on scraps of paper and struck them to the wall. Song lyrics, some random poems, lists, words, quotes, essays in the newspapers they liked, some important deadlines, written in bold; it was their mind on the wall. It contained candid snaps of their lives. There are times when each one of us wishes to read other people’s minds. The sisters’ minds were on this wall, right here.
In the background, from a small speaker, in a low, smooth voice, sings Jagjit Singh her father’s and her favorite shayari- Woh Kagaz Ki Kashti.
“It is an experience,” she had urged her parents who were both in their beds in the adjoining rooms when she had asked them to accompany her to her bedroom. “I want to give you The Experience.”
The Experience referred to something that she had, well, experienced just that evening. She’ll lose the lights and light up the red ones, she’ll set the temperature to an optimum, she’ll envelope her body up to her shoulders in a bedsheet, arms beside the body and play this song from the speaker. She’ll close her eyes and let the song wash her over. She’ll inhale each beat, she’ll exhale each note, she’ll feel the music unravelling her, she’ll feel the words crawl up her skin. She’ll conjure images in her head, as each combination of words will make sense, second after she has registered them. She’ll let each chatoyant of every word that left his voice, enter her being and imprint permanently in her mind. Sometimes she will open her eyes and look at the shadows that the red lights will make in the room, and the music and the light will complement each other perfectly. She will think of songs that may make her feel the same way that she is feeling now. Her mind will produce a blank slate. That is when she will feel weightless.
Her parents were in the same position, eyes closed. She can feel the music weigh her eyes, and she knows that she’d be asleep soon. She pops her eyes open and looks at her parents’ resting bodies. And suddenly, she feels guilty.
In twenty three days, she would be leaving for college. For four years. For the first time, she’ll be away from them- away that she will never see them daily, away that she will not hassle with her mother over the quality of the food, away that she will not hug her father and kiss him goodnight, away that will not curse her sister for not having set the beds, away that her parents will not barge in on her before dawn and catch her on the phone. She felt guilty for leaving them with nothing after eighteen years of love and effort they put in for raising her; she felt guilty for leaving them empty handed. She felt guilty for having discovered The Experience so late that she won’t be able to compose a playlist of songs suitable for it. She felt guilty for receiving all the time. She felt guilty for taking so much from them. She felt guilty for having thought that she’d enjoy hostels, when the truth is that her heart would always be there, in this house, in this moment, when she is guilty and they are weightless.
Her parents were perfect. How can she ever have thought of leaving them, how could she have fought with them for something as stupid as a mobile phone? How could she have ever thought of living alone, embracing adulthood, when she still needed her mother to tell the doctor what was wrong whenever they visited one, for her? How could have she ever thought of doing laundry when she didn’t know how to operate a washing machine?
How could, how would she leave them?
She looks at them. She wishes, suddenly, to be two once again, when her father came from the office, straight towards her for a hearty kiss, and her mother bathed her in a small bucket in the kitchen. She wishes to be two again, because she knows she’d have sixteen more years before she’d have to leave them.
Getting up from the floor, she goes and lies down between her parents, who are, both, fast asleep by now. She cuddle with her father, his arms around her. She extends her hands towards her mother, who holds them both between her own, warm palms, as Jagjit Singh sings in the background, “Voh kagaz ki kashti, voh baarish ka paani…”
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