There was a salty pull of air on that December evening, I was heavy-headed, sitting at the Queen’s necklace, Mumbai, Maharashtra, only 22 years of age. Pulling a grumpy, sad face I looked into the emptiness of the ocean, the city was a halo behind my head. I saw this man dressed as Charlie Chaplin and there were two others dressed colourfully, popularly labelled as jokers. I was extremely scared and I didn’t want them anywhere close to me, disturbing my upset aura, but it seemed I had already invited trouble. Charlie Chaplin stepped up beside where I was sitting, loosely resting one leg on the ground, his elbow on his knees, cupping his face with his hands. He kept looking at me, trying to grab attention. As discomfort slowly gripped me, in I moved my eyes their corners, away from him. He did not let go; he beckoned that I should smile and that it was a lovely evening. I absolutely adored his little non-judgemental intervention and went back to my happy pondering soon as he left, thinking that there are so many like me juggling balls of emotions.
“Mumbai is a place, Bombay is a feeling.” It was one of the most clichéd lines I had ever come across. But for me, both the names are feelings, and really very good ones. Each reminds me of the brutality of loneliness and vulnerability I have suffered here. I wanted to end a toxic relationship so bad that I wanted to run away from my beloved Delhi. I wanted to become an actor. “I want to fulfill my dreams” was the half-baked lie that I chanted. Well I was already an actor. I just wanted to get better at my craft. I never intended to become a star or a celebrity. The only joy I have found is when I am working on stage, in front, or at the back of the camera, writing a script, observing people and studying prospective characters for movies.
But I was too timid to welcome the city with open arms. I was bitter about anything and everything, but I also wanted to be accepted anyhow, hence trying to juggle being a liberal, independent woman, and in the process I stressed myself out too much. I ignored the people who genuinely wanted to spend time with me, and I never could summon the courage to trust them, and I was looking for honesty outside, my body running like a wagon in search for people who would really understand me. But in all of this, I only found more deceit. I simply did not respect my body, the suffering of which I still bear mentally and physically. I am so fucking scared that I can almost vividly imagine the shit I was letting myself get into. I have carried it so far that it has become one of the reasons for my anxiety and stress.
But you know, somehow those people who I did not want to allow in my inner circle were always there. I was in drama school when I met the people I believed were a bunch of “incapable assholes”, and I, for the major part of my studies, put up a show of being a good friend. It was only after confrontating my instructor that I realised I was trying to please an image of myself, with all its heavy baggage. And if I let go of that baggage, I felt I would be a nobody. And that’s when my journey truly started. I did not abandon my baggage, but perhaps what I did was slowly remove stuff from it one by one. But those were the hardest days of my life so far. And the people I found supporting me were those I believed were a bunch of incapable assholes.
It’s been almost two years since I left Bombay, only to return. The people I thought I would never be able to keep in touch with, certain of the fact that I would only be a foggy memory to them, if nothing else, are still very much there in the vicinity and the only thing they keep asking me is “Kab aarahi hai (When are you coming back)?”
I moved to Bangalore to study further, this time my life had taken a more academic turn, and I was hell-bent on improving and get this shit off my shoulders. But in the process, I also added a few more burdens.
The point I am trying to make is that when you are trying to trash tattered, obnoxiously, smelly baggage, you can’t just dump the heap somewhere. While you are picking and trashing bits, you also keep adding more bits, and that’s how life is. It’s not about aggressively keeping your heap a certain size, which is really not possible, nor is it about just being happy. Rather, it’s about letting emotions happen to you.
There aren’t just two categories of emotions popularly boxed as “Happy” and “Sad”. They are not even umbrella terms, my dear friend. There are thousands of words we do not identify as emotions. We are all emotional beings, whatever gender you are, so let’s just be less mean and learn every day.
It’s okay to be upset, it’s okay to be crazy, it’s okay to be frustrated, and it’s okay to feel hurt. And feeling joyous or happy are not the only emotions that are ‘normal’, or which make you strong. Perhaps accepting what and how you feel makes you strong. Sharing is not shameful; sharing is powerful.
What is NOT OKAY is making fun of someone dealing with issues, and labelling someone “crazy” or “mad”, or whatever stickers people keep printing in their thinking machines. It takes immense strength to summon all one’s courage and trust the space to share one’s story. Also, it is not cool if, on the pretext of your mental health, you think it is your right to make someone feel small.
When life feels like it’s getting easier and harder simultaneously, you don’t have to look for Charlie Chaplin or Jokers. Probably just identify your incapable bunch of assholes who actually stand there with you, whatever weather it may be, and do not look for a flawed-shining-hollow-toxic-gleam.