When it happened, it felt like just another day.

It was my best friend’s friend’s birthday. We weren’t very close to the friend, but the best friend was insistent we be present to celebrate it. We had a Photo Cake ordered, and decided to cut it on the beach. I was skeptical about even coming for the whole thing, and so was another friend of mine. We didn’t mind, but at the same time, there were so many other things we had to do that day. It was during our final Semester of undergrad; there were practicals and project submissions that had all been piled up for the end.

I was tired. Most of the time, I felt unbelievably tired.

Anyway, we met as planned. We did the usual stuff required of a surprise: with gasps and “I DID NOT EXPECT THIS MUCH”, cake cutting, sitting around and talking, taking pictures (it was way before the Selfie craze though). We did not know this friend very well, but in that moment, all of us felt happy and connected. We gave away most of the cake to passersby, and proceeded to talk about things completely outside our routine. After talking about teachers and submissions nonstop, it felt refreshing.

Then, at that moment, I still don’t remember what caused me to drift away from the group- the group that felt way more cohesive than it had been an hour before and a group that I was happy to be a part of, but I did. I walked towards the sea, brimming with the energy that comes from being around people who are easy to talk to.

I was close enough to smell the saltiness of the seawater, but still a good distance away from getting drenched. It was getting dark by then, and that only made the waves seem fiercer and prettier at the same time. The scene ahead of me looked so…expansive. I felt so small in comparision, and that oddly felt amazing. It was like the sight of the waves washed away my petty fears, tucked it into a box labelled “irrelevant”. The universe seemed huge and my worries seemed so insignificant. I had finally, finally zoomed out of my small world and what lay ahead of me seemed both beautiful and terrifying at the same time.

My heart surged, as instead of figures and tables that made up my record, I thought of the magnificence of the relationships I’d forged over the years. I thought about how tenuous yet how important human connection was, as I simultaneously felt more in tune with everything than I had in ages. I had read about peak experiences but it wasn’t until that moment that I understood it. Looking back on that day still gives me strength and the will to move past tough times.

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#StartANewLife: The Leap

It was three hours away, this new world I was going to move into. I had no idea what it looked like. I’d only heard about it, through a senior. And I was going to do my Masters degree there, after much deliberation of the pros and cons of various other places. It was three hours away, and I was going to live away from home for the first time ever.

There was apprehension, but there was also excitement. I had heard different stories about hostel life: the lack of privacy, the need to be careful, but also the feeling of family, the fun and the independence one got. Actually living it was a whole different thing, though. Nothing could’ve prepared me for it. There was so much freedom, hidden under the belt of responsibility. There was so much freedom, I wanted to use it well. There was so much I learned: from cleaning my room, riding a cycle (I’d never taking off the training wheels as a kid) and from the people, people who were so different from my friends back home.

I learned to trust these people, and when I got to know them better, I didn’t regret the decision to let them in. I loved the cycle rides, the extra classes we signed up for ranging from Spanish to Taekwando… I loved the feeling of the wind in my hair as I learned to let go, and just be. Without the context my previous life gave me, I started to discover who I really was.

Towards the end of my second year, we went beyond the campus. We started exploring the city, its gazillion amazing eat outs and craft shops. My room felt like my own, as I’d hung up a poster of a tree that I could lean against; a poster my senior had passed on to me. My roommates knew me inside out, knew every triviality of my life, and that didn’t fill me with a fear or insecurity that it might’ve once resulted in. I started having opinions. I started thinking for myself, though there were also moments when I got so tired, I did go with what everyone else was doing.

My two years are nearly up, and I’ll be out of this campus soon. This apparent rosy picture has had its black spots, but it’s still been great. I can recall a hundred happy moments and perhaps more here. It was a leap, moving into a completely new place, but it was a leap that changed me in a way I’ll never regret. The people, the places, my room, the trees and the cool breeze and the burger shop on campus: in each of these places, I discovered a tiny part of who I am right now.


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Hope story

It was the week that trumped all of her other bad weeks: she’d lost her phone, her friends were dealing with their own issues, and all of her course work that had been due a week back remained incomplete Living away from home had always been fun, but not this week. This week, the university campus seemed to be filled with booby traps and dead ends. It was filled with people but there was no one, really.

The last straw was when her teammate for one of her assignments had requested her to stay back to work on a Saturday.

“But I’m going home!” she exclaimed, indignant. “I was planning to take the bus home this weekend. It’s been three weeks since I’ve been home.”

“Just one day,” her teammate pleaded. “Please?”

Of course she couldn’t say no. She had every other assignment due already. How could she slack off on this as well? She had to stay. She had to stay and pore over references books that blurred over into one fat burden. She had to.

So she stayed Saturday and halfheartedly helped her teammate format the citations for the last part of their assignment. The minute she was done, she knew she had to catch the bus home the next day- however late it was.

“You’re out of your mind,” her friend said. “It’s a three hour journey. You’re saying that you’re gonna leave Sunday, reach Sunday evening, and get back to college Monday morning? That’s madness. It’ll tire you out.”

“I know what I’m doing,” she said, her voice beginning to break. “I need to go home. I need to.”

The next day, she packed her bags and took the bus home. One of her other friends had tried to talk her out of it, but had realised how futile it was when she remained resolute. The journey was long and irritating, especially when she realised she didn’t have a phone to listen to music. She borrowed the phone of the lady sitting next to her and informed her parents that she was on her way.

And yet, by the time she reached her parents looked worried.

“What took you so long?” they asked. “We called all your friends to check on you! You’re fifteen minutes late!”

“I’m FIFTEEN minutes late and you call everyone I know? Why? Why would you embarrass me like that?” she burst out. There were tears in her eyes, and she was on the verge of a breakdown. She’d waited all week to fall apart; she couldn’t stop the unraveling.

And that was when she saw the look in her parents’ eyes; the way their eyes softened but remained alert. It was like they knew what she’d been through without really knowing. It was like they understood, when no one else, even her closest friends had.

“Food’s ready though,” her mother said softly. “Go eat. You look tired.”

She followed her parents to the dining table and felt like a child. As she tasted the first mouthful of chappathi dipped in dal, it was an unveiling by itself. She couldn’t- couldn’t- hold on to the mindless rage and chaotic anxiety anymore. Her mother’s fluffy chappatis and carefully made dal melted her heart, and temporarily cured her of everything. Suddenly, there was promise, that even if things wouldn’t get better- these two wonderful people were there. That was all that mattered. That would take her forward.

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