Shabnam Aggarwal

She and I

In my life on October 27, 2014 at 1:17 pm

We’ve been together 5 years but most of the time we’re yelling, crying, or fighting with each other. We kiss and make up as quickly as we fall out, but the scars remain. We’ve talked about ending it for good, but each time we stare at each other and say nothing, we realize we could never be without each other.

I’m often unsure what it is that makes me so head over heels in love with her. She is smelly, rude, egotistical, and frustratingly impossible to change. It feels as if she doesn’t even want to change, as if she is content with her ways. She tells me I have no business trying to change her at all. I have no business trying to help her get better. She tells me I am the one that needs to change. She might be right, but I don’t believe it, so I’ve stayed with her, never leaving for longer than to go out and get fresh milk and bread.

She could never leave me either. She shows me the real world, she berates my idealism, she points her finger at the fate of the unfortunate and tells me it is impossible for me to fix, but she holds me tight all the while. She smiles while she says it, with crooked teeth, blush red cheeks, and enigmatic fiery eyes.

I know I was put on this earth to make life better for her, for us. I can feel it in my bones when I see her struggling, caught up in her old habits, I can see another way. I can see a better way. She doesn’t like to listen to me, though. I want to make her hear me, make her see what we can do together. How we can change the world together. Usually she doesn’t seem to care.

Then, every so often, she turns to me. She takes a deep breath and hears me out. She lets me in. She patiently listens while teaching me something new I could have never learnt on my own. She gives me a moment to get under her skin and leave my impression on her.  In those rare, brief, blissful moments, I fall back in love with her all over again. I remember why I am here and what we are doing together, still, after 5 long, beautiful, difficult years.

I remember our children and our commitment to them. That we would make things better for them. That we would give them the best we could possibly give. I remember their wistful eyes and innocent smiles and my heart warms with the picture of their future. I remember the future we are building together for them, to make it an equal, fair, and just place.

I find myself here, with her yet again, and I am hopeful for our future. Here’s to the next 5  years together.

Happy Anniversary to you, beautiful India.

The Path of Greatest Resistance

In idle thoughts, on life, optimistic on July 28, 2014 at 9:05 am

I’m in my head. It hurts sometimes to be so in my head. So caught up in the painstaking possibilities of the world. The future. This beautiful future we are building for our future selves. For our future children. For our future problems.

The problem today is that we don’t know what the problem tomorrow will be. So we keep on planning. Hoping we kind of know. But you never know. The beauty is in how well we learn to adapt to the change. Change in our circumstances. In the people around us. In ourselves.

We witness so much beautiful change, while we reject the idea that change could be good. It could help us wash away what’s wrong. Preserve or redo what’s right. We might get it wrong again. Then there will be more change and we will get another chance.

What can we do to mitigate the fear within us?

We attempt the things we are scared of. We try. We take the leap that feels the least enticing, we follow the path of greatest resistance.

It hurts at the start. It’s filled with thorns and snakes and quicksand. They want you to stop because you are trying to incite change. Change in the world. Change in today. Change in yourself.

But then, after you’ve given it all you’ve got, after you’re just about through with all this nonsense, the path clears. The snakes let up, the sand hardens. The thorns move aside to a scene that is…stunning, unbelievable, perfect.

You know they’ll come back because you aren’t done yet, you must keep moving, but for that brief, rare moment, you realize, it was all worth it.

You and Your Editor

In idle thoughts, on life on February 12, 2014 at 6:56 pm

I slipped in to an astro-turfed rooftop of a fancy new restaurant in south Delhi, pretending I was fashionably late. I offered the onlookers who threw me the death stare a complimentary pageant girl wave. The show may begin. Two women sat on plush couches with floor lamps you’d buy at the fake vintage shop down the street beside them. A hefty book lay open on the coffee table between them. “When you’re in the midst of writing, what type of personality do you take on?” One asked. The other thought for a moment, then answered, “Oh, I become absolutely consumed by my characters. They come and have breakfast with me in the morning and stay with me throughout the day. We never leave each others’ sides. This goes on for months and I’m an absolute angel throughout. Just ask my husband.” “What about when you’re not writing?” She ventured. “(Giggles) You don’t want to be around me when I’m not writing, it’s as if I’ve just been divorced!” “What about when you’re editing?” Awkward silence. “(Cantankerous evil laugh) (Glances towards a chair that can only hold her shifting editor in it) (More enigmatic laughter) You can ask my editor.”

We like to believe at the beginnings of things that it will all work out as planned. That things will  find their way and fall in their place. Things often go awry though. They never truly go as we had planned. The question then is how we handle the unplanned plan. How we re-plan and re-invent and re-evaluate. Who we blame for things gone awry. How we perceive our roles in the past- our character’s flaws in the storyline. How we incorporate the new characters in. How we handle the unexpected circumstance. Maybe it’s as simple as the rewrite. Maybe it’s as painful as the rewrite. As watching someone skim through your favorite belabored piece with a bright red felt-tipped marker.

It’s horrifying. Producing something that no one else loves. Not getting the traction we had expected. Getting rejected from the only school we wanted to get in to. Or job. Or relationship. We never expect it and we can never plan for it. The plan seems to matter less and less, then. What seems to matter more is what you do when the plan breaks down. How you treat the editor. How you treat yourself.

As I ambled about after the cursory reading on the candle-lit rooftop, I fingered her book in half-interest as I spied on her in three-quarters-interest. She was laughing again, that crazy bitch. And then she gave the woman to her left a suffocating longer-than-necessary hug. As they walked out I whispered to the Sherlock on my right, “Who’s that?” “Her editor,” she said. 

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