>Sleep came over her with a vengeance.

The Clouds couldn’t hold any longer, they had to let it rain. And because the wind had not let them when they wanted to, now they were going to be merciless. They brought those two fiends, Thunder and Lightning along. And a jolly loud party they had. So there’s that.

But she, she just wanted to sleep. She had to. How else would she dream?

The Neem outside her window began to wail. A whiny plea for relief. What had she done now? She knew she would break with the storm. But that didn’t make it any easier. An insurmountable bitterness rose through her. She shook with the wind, with anger. If only she could uproot herself and lie down on the soft pliant earth and become one again.

She heard the low patter of feet, a hush paddling towards her. Someone in the next room started clawing at the walls.

No, that was Neem. Her branches flailed at the window. She would have entered the room, had it not been for that high-quality mosquito netting. Lightning. She glowed blue in the violet night.

Someone flicked a switch on in another room. She prayed it was morning and someone had woken up. She chanced a look at the window. She could hear that clawing again. This time accompanied by sound of cracking twigs.

Had Neem really freed herself from the concrete and gone on a rampage? She was not too old, and certainly strong enough. But the Clouds were still there, lashing away at her skin and bones. And then came a deafening roar. Was it her or Thunder?

She clapped her hands over her ears and yawned widely. Exhaustion ran though her veins, the iron in her blood heavy and pulling her down. All she wanted was to sleep. But the noises never ceased. In her head and without.

The gentle drip on her window annoyed her. That tinny tip tip tip, of drops jumping from leaves and eaves into their own hasty graves, melting into mud after the fall. Torrents or drizzles, they all fell down. Descending from the clouds, sucked up by the earth. Maybe that’s what kept her calm. Wish she would keep Neem still.

Neem was now sobbing uncontrollably. You could hear her heaving gasps and piercing screams. She was no longer angry, just defeated. Her breakdown seemed to have stirred them. The Clouds started showing off, wringing and emptying themselves of everything that had made them for months.

She heard it then. Someone turned on a tap. Yes, someone had woken up and was going for a bath. It must be morning. Why wouldn’t the sky lighten? Does it have to play accomplice to the Clouds?? But her patience was running out. She was agitated and nervous. Some people overshoot on caffeine, she had overshot on lack of sleep. She didn’t care any more. She would go to sleep.

And she dreamed. Of brides in red and white on green plains. Of clear summer days seen from under old ruins. Of goats and violins. And bells. Bells rang. They clanged against each other in merry abandon. They shined golden and tinkled. They came to her from a distance, from another far away Milky Way. The sounds pulsed inside her, blinding her million neurons. The muffled rings echoed, fell and rose again, reverberating with her bones.

She felt breathless. Water flooded her. The alarm rang somewhere within the deep ocean in which she was floating, perhaps sinking. She didn’t know how to swim. She had forgotten how to. She kicked furiously at the entangled bed covers. But she couldn’t see anything beyond green. Rain and Neem were drowning her.

Swiping and swinging her arms blindly, she caught hold of steel. The cold numbed her fingers, the soft breeze biting her skin. With a huge push and rush, she came up to her window. With an effort that almost crippled her, she slid the horrible grimy net away.

And there she was. Neem. Lying on the cold gray street. Broken down, bruised. Stripped naked of her shame, beaten by million sharp needles, shoved and jostled by haughty currents. Her roots were still deep inside. Seemed like she had not been able to make up her mind. Was that why she had suffered this? Was she dead now? Worse, she had fallen. Between a restless sleep and uncertain awakening. 

There was no sign of the Clouds. They had moved on. Emptying and collecting themselves on the way.

>Of Birthday Bashing and Growing Up


It’s an universally acknowledged fact that, after you turn 21, your increasing age is inversely proportional to the excitement with which you look forward to your birthday.

Imagine you are five. You look forward to turning six. Because it means all the adults will make a big deal out of it and get you presents and cake and let you do whatever you want, for the whole effing day!! Doing whatever you want kind of loses its charm when you are grown up and an adult and know that you can do whatever you want if you wanted to or weren’t that lazy.

Imagine you are twelve. You look forward to turning thirteen. Because that means you become a teenager and have license to throw tantrums, behave badly and blame it on hormones, puberty and what-not. You will also be pleased to find yourself going higher in the school hierarchy, thinking too much about your appearance and on the brink of a long journey looking for the perfect and effective acne removal cream.

There you are, in your teens.You got voting rights when you turned eighteen, but who really gets excited about getting voting rights?? The elections didn’t even happen that year, not the big ones anyway. You sailed through your teens doing everything you wanted to and didn’t want to but did anyway because your parents didn’t want you to, doing everything others seemed to be doing or avoided doing anything that any one else did because, yes, peer pressure works that way, finally landing on twenty, swearing to yourself to get over the teenage phase and become a real adult. But who counts twenty as a non-teen age group? Hell, you’re still young, still in college, still under 21 and it is the only one year you’ve got to drink while not being of legal age. Nothing kicks a high like that, does it?

Now imagine you are twenty. And you are turning twenty-one. What are the perks? You get to drink legally. And surely, the day you turn twenty-one, you go get drunk and find it no different from all the other times before. So that perk stays for a day and then wears off. Then what? You are twenty-one, probably graduate or about to graduate. You now have to leave the comfort of college and go get yourself a job. In this universe, low attendance doesn’t mean a talk with the Principal, here it’s seeing your peanuts of a salary get reduced to shriveled skins of nuts. And failing in a test more often than not leads to a loss of means to livelihood and other comforts it brings, not to mention the fact that these ruddy tests happen too frequently and barely ever run on schedule.

Now imagine you are twenty-one and are turning twenty two. Or already have turned twenty two ten minutes back. What do you look forward to? To a day of calls, messages and wall posts wishing you fun, happiness and other nice things? To a day of more niceties and maybe an increased consumption of alcoholic beverages than what a normal day brings? To another year of sameness and minute differences? To another year of new resolutions that will be forgotten and discarded in a week? To catch up with other grown-up friends and whine together about growing older and leading a lackluster life? To put the sad moment of realization into words that will be the contents of a long whiny tirade against growing up? (check)

You know why kids look forward to their birthdays and adults dread theirs? It’s not age. Well, not age alone anyway. It’s school, college, a learning institution. With every passing year, you are glad to get the old year done with and begin a new one. Because you look forward to the next year to put you in a higher grade, to learn new stuff, to leave an old class behind, to forget old diagrams and definitions. With every coming year, you know you’ll get a certificate, a parchment, a denouement in the written word that you have sailed through past year’s storm of follies and failures and reached the shore of new undiscovered land, where there are yet unexplored territories and ample opportunities to make new mistakes.

It’s not that we stop learning after getting out of schools. It’s just that we stop getting as many frequent assurances and reassurances. Kindergarten teachers have time for their subjects, not normal adults leading busy lives. Your boss won’t have the time to appreciate the efforts you took to color-code your complicated excel-sheet so that it’s easy to understand. That’s your job, you are not going to get a star on your dossier for every task you tick off your to-do list. Your friends won’t have time to listen to you bitch about everyday activities the way they did when you pretended to be studying in the library. What used to capture attention before, will no longer dazzle your old, mature grown up audience. We’re not kids anymore. We have lists to complete and files to organize. Who cares if you can’t grow up and stop looking for a good word for every good thing you do, who has the time to care to what’s happening to you when their own lives is, as the term nowadays goes- FUBAR?

So there you are, twenty-two and still not much of an anybody. In some era, people used to start their lives at this age. Nowadays, people your age are getting into rehab for the fourth time or are being compared to legends. People much younger are becoming superstars by having a voice that only puts their gender in doubt, and here you are, sure of your gender, unsure of what you are doing with your life. The only thing you’ve got to celebrate is that your generation can now blame the phenomenon of quarter-life crisis when the going gets tough. Well, that’s good for reassurances.

Growing up can be such a pain. How can one not like Peter Pan?

PS: I don’t know if it’s a good idea to be listening to this one now-

Image: My 23rd Birthday by nyu   (It’s not my 23rd, but, same/similar sentiments)