In the Middle of a Seesaw
up and down we go
My nose is blocked. These rains are maddening. Why is it so loud? Why is there a mass of people (or a horde of zombies) running running running? Are they chasing me? I don’t know, I don’t know! What even am I? A blob of sweat? I lived like this for 30 years? Forgive myself, I didn’t know any better. But how?
Smiling faces, kind eyes. People want to stop and chat. Shake hands. Hug. Soft paneer. Food and spices. So many spices. Is it enough? Is it ever?
These words are forming under my fingers in Bombay. I’m back at my old desk for a brief while and I did not realise how easy it is to slip into my old life. Patterns and behaviours you’d always known, some you’d forgotten, left behind, re-emerge as if you never left.
But I did.
Returning, I’ve discovered what I missed while in London. Hot rotis everyday. Stringing abuses together in Hindi while conversing with old friends. Faces in cafés I used to frequent. Cheaper coffees. Dad’s joy when I fixed his tech. Mom’s delight when I got her TV show working within a minute. Bottles of water — so much Tupperware. A kettle that does not contain a layer of limescale because the water isn’t hard here. Kindness.
Not that I can’t find this in London. They exist but like most things in London, everything is expensive and limited. Here, it’s all in excess. I still don’t know if I can handle this excess. It’s overwhelming. But its brought back memories.
I grew up beside a garden (what luck!) where we had a seesaw. If an elder kid played with you, they’d sit on one end and you’d be trapped high on the other, unable to jump down from fear of falling and bruises and your mother’s scolding for getting them. Being back in Bombay is like that — there is so much life and weight on the other end of the seesaw that I feel like I’m flying but at any moment, I may fall. That fear is constant. In London, I’m on the other side, pushing with all my might, trying to lift the weight of everything. Because if I let go, even for a second, everything will come crashing down.
There were some kids (mostly girls — females tend to have much more sense) who never played at the seesaw. Instead, they sat near the middle, both ends left empty. They’d sit together, talking. Just talking. The seesaw was like any place, a centre to sit around and talk.
Last month, I told you all about the various writing desks I haunt. In Bombay, I’m back at my writing desk. I don’t have a college library to visit like I did in London but I have my personal library and the silence I built around it over years is still there as if I’d never left.
There is a lot of noise in Bombay. There is a lot of rain in Bombay. There is a lot of Bombay in Bombay. And I’m balancing both the seesaws of London and Bombay right now. It’s not easy — my sleep cycle has gone for a toss. But when I sit down at my desk with a cup (my old, original cup) of tea, ask Siri to play some Lo-fi, and start writing, I slide down (or up) the seesaw and sit right in the middle talking to you. Everything held still. Balanced, as all things must be.
Until next month, May all shackles loose their hold on you, Akshay
My final dissertation submission is on the horizon and I’m looking for fresh eyes to read approximately 15,000 words of fiction. As a student, I do not have the means to pay you, but I promise to read and feedback your work and/or get you coffee whenever (and wherever) we meet. If you think you’ll enjoy reading an extract from a novel with zombies and high octane action (think blood-guts-gore), please reach out and let me know. I’d love to hear what you think.
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