Thursday, 14 January 2016

To You, From Your Rock'n'Roll Band

(Back-story: This was a strange and difficult letter to write. Shreya, wrote to me asking me to help Mridul feel special on her birthday. Two years ago, Mridul lost both her parents on this day and it's never been the same. That part of her life, however, is fiercely hers, the sadness, the grief, the articulation of it, what to do with it and where to put it. This letter is the opposite of that, it's from 8 of her childhood friends, who each sent me a different paragraph on "Mridi" and how much they love her, so Mridul can decide how to hold all this affection in her arms, what to do with it and how to decorate the walls of her room with it.
Happy birthday Mridul, I hope the year shines extra special, just for you.)

To You
Mridi, Mridu, MAD, Mridul

If the eight of us sang together, and blindfolded you, would you be able to pick our voices apart?
Yes, we know you'll pick Sneha out before we even get to the "To You" of the birthday song. That's because she's always hitting notes higher than the rest of us while Shreya is indulging in the opposite- cushioning the song with her velvety alto. But would you be able to pick all our different voices out? 
Or would you forget the game midway and join in because there was never a song that you didn't like to sing along to?

Happy birthday beautiful singer, the great love of our lives and the girl who is the glue holding this group together. You, with the curls you spent adolescence warring against. Those midnight waves of ringlets book-ending your cheeks; lush, Shakespearean curtains existing if only to frame the stage for that famous smile, all teeth and slow- waltzing eyes. Mridi, you've been singing since we've known you, but there's no verse you've sung with as much grace, finesse and polish as you have these last two years.

We've made all executive life decisions together, like how low our school uniform belts could could go, how many tries we could get at career Russian roulette (cardiologist-architect-singer-actor- doctor), how many pizza slices we could eat at a birthday party and how many times we could get a subject wrong till we got it right? (Hi Calculus!).
Watching our friend these last two years, this beautiful, awkward, fuzzy caterpillar (oh come on, we were all fuzzy and beautiful for it), be forced out of her cocoon too soon as a fresh butterfly with soft, still-fresh pollen on her wings, was inexplicably painful. 
You see, while we're never prepared to handle grief thrown our way, we're especially ill-equipped to watch people who own pieces of our heart struggle with it. We can't rush into their lives or inside their minds and offer them quick, easy fixes like which outfit to wear for a social or how to study for a test or how to sit down on a chair until your heart stops hurting.
We are never really given the memo that the truly grown up part of growing up is having to do it alone, in a sharp-edged recess inside your body with space designed only for one.

So, darling Mridi, here we are eight of us (Shreya, Dolly, Himani, Sneha, Saloni, Disha, Anchita, Apurva) singing our lungs out for you, hoping that our voices, our cheering and manic applause make their way to your secret recess- where you're doing your growing up, alone.

Speaking of alone Mridi, do you know that the best kind of families creep up on you? That sometimes they're taken away when you're not even looking and sometimes they're given to you when you're too distracted to notice. Like Saloni who came into your life when you were both 6 months old, Dolly in kindergarten and the rest of us (like a too crowded rock n roll band) formed in class 7. And there we were, sorta like The Beatles, singing through school about the matching scabs on our knees, the patch-works on our sometimes freshly bruised hearts, our notes, our birthdays, our journeys, our triumphs and the bun-cholla we ate at lunch or the ice-cream we ate after. Do you know what superpower this gave us? 
(No, not flying, please put that cape away Saloni.)
It tattooed us together for life.
There's a famous story on medicinal rats which talks about how a mother rat was put into a different room and separated from her baby (and hooked onto an EEG monitor). Each time the baby rat was pricked with a needle, the mother's brain wave (in another room far away), flickered to register for pain. While science is writing papers and drawing up theories for that, here's ours: some ties simply run harder and deeper than distance.

Who're today the visual merchandiser, the TV actor, the PhD aspirant (teacher), the air force cadet, the IPR Lawyer, the journalist, the MBA student, the MD student and Accenture HR manager, were all once grubby kids sharing dreams and ridiculous code names made up so they could talk about boys they had rabid crushes on (remember Dhinku?). And this means Mridi, that even though we're not in a classroom anymore, we still know exactly what you're going to say next, or what parts of a joke will make you roll your eyes or when in an awfully long story you and Sneha will lose interest. 

So, this is what we want you to do the next time you feel you're living in and continuously dusting a gigantic house of your own grief. 
Pick up a pen, and paper and write in your awful handwriting, boldly


Then think of the first boy you met in your day and play the game with his name. Once you're done take your arms and fling them towards opposite sides of the room like you're mid-scene in a Bollywood movie and announce something ridiculous, even if there's no one in the room. Head over to your bookshelf and pick up that gigantic book with the faded pale yellow cover- Linda Goodman's Love Signs- only to discover what you know, that beautiful Saggitarius girls get along best with other fire signs (Leo, Saggi, Aries).
Then stand up and picture all of X1Arts facing you, walk up to the centre of the classroom and sing out loud your favourite song from 13 goes on 30, "Why Can't I". 
Wait for applause once your performance is done and then tell all the girls , like you did some of your own friends that a transgression made on their bodies is never their fault. Ever. And when there's pin drop silence, like there was that day when we had this conversation, take a deep breath and smile at the revelation which will come to you like the winter fog: slowly, densely and then all at once -- inside you live all of our memories, our stories, struggles and strengths. You can bury your face in them when the outside everyday becomes too fluorescent and harsh. We placed these inside each other for safe keeping and for when we were too far away to give a hug. Gather these memories and all the everyday's you've lived so far and use them as your compass, armour and blanket.

They mention often that grief comes in waves. It washes over you like the ocean, never fully and never really done. Which also reminds us to tell you, so does love, forgiveness and happiness. Let each clean you, wash you and soak you from head to toe, so you can start again, knowing that there's another sunrise on the horizon and mermaids, jellyfish, sea-horses and mysterious, magical creatures of the sea bed, underneath. 
Happy Birthday Mridul.

Your Family,
Shreya, Dolly, Himani, Anchita, Sneha, Disha, Apurva, Saloni

                             (The day Mridul and her friends all became Prefects. Pic shared by Shreya)

                                          (A collage of the 9 friends. Picture shared by Shreya)

(To You is a letter writing project I started because there are not enough letters and love going around. If you have something to say with love-- for your ex girlfriend, you current husband, pizza (promise not to make it cheesy), your landlord who let you skip rent or even Ryan Gosling-- I'll write that letter for you. The love letter can go with real names, back stories, as many pictures as you like, aliases and even super powers.
The final letter will be up on my blog and a copy will be handwritten and posted to you or to an intended recipient. Kisses on the envelope only on my discretion. Give me a shout at: )