My sister and I have never been the kind you’d tag with #sisterhoodgoals, and we never will be. While I hold her singularly responsible for a staggering amount of unnecessary scolding that I received, I also hold her responsible for being my most unassuming inspiration.
So this one evening, I am returning from work and she texts me “SOS: Peer Pressure”. I smile as I call her later – my head full of my own high school traumas. Oh how we were pressurized to make the right career choices, to take up medicine or engineering or chartered accountancy, to score better than Mr. Sharma’s daughter while winning every race and school captainship and the math olympiad and “coolest person of the year” award. Not to forget, BOYS! I think of my time and prepare myself for her just-another-high-school rant, with all the world’s advises, solutions and suggestions on the tip of my tongue.
Only that, what she says takes me by surprise.
“They keep asking me to live!”, she whines. I can do nothing better than an “eh?”
“THEY KEEP TELLING ME TO STOP EXISTING! AND START LIVING! BUT THEY DON’T TELL ME HOW!”
“Well. Ideally, you should figure how you want to live and not them”, I reply evenly.
“IF I AM TO FIGURE THIS OUT THEN I WILL DO IT AT MY FUCKING TIME! WHY DO THEY KEEP PUSHING ME TO FOLLOW MY HEART! WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?!”
“It’s better than them dictating your choices, no?”
“NO! NOT BETTER! EVERY TOM DICK HARRY ASKS ME TO DO WHAT MY HEART WANTS. AND THEN – AND THEN THEY ASK ME WHAT MY HEART WANTS. WHAT MY TRUE PASSION IS! WHAT DO I REALLY WANT IN LIFE!”, she squeaks her voice uglily trying to imitate ‘them’.
“If you don’t like these questions then tell -”
“Damn right, I don’t like these questions! There’s just so much pressure to “live” these days. Fucking hell, I don’t want to live! This is my rebellion. I only want to exist in a corner with a good book and lots of Nutella. Why should it matter to them?! I have decided, I don’t want to live at all. I am going to exist!”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Yep. And if someone asks me to follow my heart one more time, i’ll break their heads open and then go back to existing in peace…”
Her ranting goes on for a while after this, but I can’t pay attention anymore (told you, I am not a great sister). Her problem is not one bit superficial as mine mostly were. Her problem is strange and ironic and very much real. I can’t get it out of my head for quite a while.
How do I teach my sister to “live”? How do I help her know what’s “in her heart”? In the face of this mounting pressure to rebel and “follow your one true passion”, how do I help her just… be?
Well. My solution was just as absurd as her problem.
She was born was I just four years old. I never got to play with clay as a kid, because she would somehow always manage to almost eat it and scare the wits out of our mother. I’ve been told that I tried selling her off to a vegetable seller once, just so that I could play in peace. (Evidently, that didn’t worked out.) And when she was old enough to comprehend the inedibility of clay, we would get into these stupid fights about who got more clay to play with. Buying two separate sets wasn’t an option back then.
All in all, I had a clayless childhood. Fate has its ways though because today I lost my way while returning from work and I landed at a local stationery shop, haplessly asking for directions. Twenty minutes later, I left the shop with a better idea of where to go and a shiny little box with eight different colours of clay in it. I just couldn’t resist purchasing it once I had seen it.
I’ve spent all night making the most unearthly creations with soft clean funny-smelling clay. I wanted to build a clay Hogwarts but it ended up looking like a weirdly shaped mountain range of colours. My Spock had an exceptionally strong squint and my Pikachu was made in five colours because there wasn’t enough yellow. I named all my little alien creations then and made stories connecting one with another, concocting one layer of intense dramatic twists over another, purely for my amusement. They were my chess pieces and I was valiantly marching against the forces of everything ugly that holds me back. In stories I have understood the world, in stories I have communicated with the world and in stories I was dealing with it.
In various ways, I felt more alive than ever.
It was exhilarating.
Funny thing to say, but I believe that’s my solution to the irony of life. It’s not a sprint, it’s a motherfucking marathon. In those moments of exhilaration, I was okay with not knowing how one should live; I was more than happy with a very small act of life.