The Unknown Battle

Walking with him out of the store, she felt grumpy. “Why was I the one who was chosen? Out of all those animals!”, she thought to herself wide-eyed. Harry looked at her excitedly, but she didn’t share the feeling. Harry Potter, the famous baby boy and all that jazz, was there, carrying her to be his companion. Anybody would have killed to be in her position right now.

But our dear old Hedwig was not just anybody.

When a giant man and a boy entered Eeylops Owl Emporium, which had been her home for almost 7 months now, she was eager. It was high time that she spread her wings and flew about. With the increasing onslaught of muggleborns bringing their technologies with them, the owls were finding it difficult to get sold to new owners. “E-mail”? for heaven’s sake! Will it match the happiness of getting your mail or package flown to you? People!” she huffed every day with her disgruntled kin. Until the boy with the lightening scar caught her eye. Oh no, anybody else, please! She had a terrible inhibition that this boy was Bad News. This inkling of hers would, of course, turn out to be spot on; 

Both Harry and Hedwig arrived at the King’s Cross Station, looking expectantly for the Hogwarts Express. Hedwig was the center of everyone’s attention, without a doubt; And she was, of course, used to having all eyes on her snowy white exterior.

Why is he running into the wall! Oh lord, stop! She hooted loudly. However, there was no crash like she though, and they were suddenly in a station- inside a station! Okay, now I’m excited.

Throughout the years she spent with Harry, she grew a love-hate relationship with him. He treated her as his friend and seemed to constantly forget she was still, just an owl. She couldn’t provide Harry the emotional support that he sometimes desperately yearned from her. And boy, did he yearn. She would constantly sit in the Owlery and tell the others, about the reality show that was “Harry Potter” and without fail every owl would think to themselves what a lucky owl she was. But, Hedwig? She was tired. She, honestly, just needed some person who would send occasional messages to their parents asking for new robes, or some Galleons to buy sweets and butterbeer from Hogsmeade. Harry’s life was a lot for poor old Hedwig. Her worst couple of months was when Harry was home in that nasty house of his muggles, and the elder male muggle did not let her leave her cage. She was stuck in that small room with Harry. They soon got pretty tired of each other, with her constant hooting and his constant sulking. She often wondered, if he were an owl, they would most definitely be friends. Unfortunate for him, he was born human.

That, however, did not mean she hated Harry; Because of him, at least she was the star of the Owlery every night. That poor kid really needed some love in his life. She was grateful for that Weasley boy. He kept Harry sane, even in his darkest times. Her favorite, though, was Hermy. She was so precious and loved her as much as Harry did. And her cat! Hedwig loved Crooks. He was so cute and incredibly smart for a cat. But she hadn’t heard of an owl and a cat being friends. And she wasn’t bothered enough to be the pioneer for that. So, she ended up befriending Pig. When that awful rat of the Weasley kid was gotten rid of on account of it being a man waiting to kill Harry (Why does he always end up being around the worst possible human beings and make everything so dramatic?) he got another Owl. Hedwig did not fully understand that friendship because Pigwidgeon was always so pigwidgeon. But it was fun talking to someone else, outside of that stuffy Owlery.

The one good thing the rat-human-pet scenario brought into Harry’s and in turn, Hedwig’s life was Sirius. She loved delivering letters to Sirius. He was always so kind to her and as little as he had, he made sure she got treats whenever she flew over there with Harry’s letters to him. She was also secretly glad Harry finally found a father figure he desperately needed and deserved. Also flying that stretch was something she absolutely loved, because of the strong cool breeze coursing through her feathers, while she breathes in her long awaited freedom.

Being part of Harry’s life was almost always exhausting. Every year, he went back to Hogwarts, he was thrown into a dangerous situation. The Boy Who Lived, they called him; Only she knew, somedays he was not living. He was just surviving. He came about the owlery, took her out and sat with her in the grounds, and talked to her. What does he expect me to do about this? Was the only thought running in her head. Nevertheless, she was always happy during those afternoons, because that meant she could be out and about. Listening to the Chosen One’s dramatic life was a small price to pay. Sure, Hedwig would have been happier elsewhere, with any other wizard leading a normal life; however deep down she knew that it was not a coincidence or a series of unfortunate events that led up to this. Hedwig always believed that she was destined to be found by the boy with the lightening scar, that day, in Diagon Alley. As adventurous as Harry’s life was to plain old Hedwig, she knew he needed her there more than she ever needed him.

She did not understand why everyone assumed that the worst person in Harry’s life was Lord Voldmort (just like her owner, she was not afraid to say his name. She hooted his name all the time. Little did they know.) Did they all just forget Umbridge? The monster in pink. She once got hold of Hedwig, while she was returning after meeting “Snuffles”, with a message from him. She tried to fight her off from taking the message attached to her. Lady, it is not for you! Let me go! However, Umbridge read the message and almost caught Sirius talking to Harry. That was the first time she felt as though she failed in her duties as an Owl. I had one job. And I could not even do that properly. She spent a whole week sulking.

Harry’s last year in Hogwarts was coming up and she knew somehow that they wouldn’t end up going back to Hogwarts. She was preparing herself for dark nights and long flights ahead.

One night, she looked over at 17-year-old Harry, he sure is not the same innocent boy that walked into the emporium. Life has gotten hold of him and shaken him up pretty rough. Is this pity I’m feeling? Or worse, love? Hedwig’s inklings are usually always right, and that fateful night, she felt it necessary to show some love for her owner before taking off. Does he need it, or do I? The flaws of being a snowy white owl always affected her, because it meant always being on the lookout and this time too, Harry thought it was too dangerous to let her fly alongside him and placed her in the cage and held the cage tightly.

Bad Idea.

She didn’t see the green flash coming her way, but suddenly-

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Mediocre

-‘When I’m older I want to be a scientist!’

-‘Yes, why not? Be a great one and get a job in ISRO or NASA’

I was taught greatness

Greatness in studies

In singing

In dancing

In Speaking

Everything.

I wasn’t taught the meaning of the word mediocre.

Why?

Well obviously, because I didn’t need it.

A 12 year old pops up on a singing show

Suddenly, I am in a music class

aiming for nothing less than the Grammy’s.

A 16 year old wins a nobel prize,

And there I was, googling “‘astrophysics for dummies’

even though it was a business studies text open in front of me.

Anything less than greatness was unacceptable to me.

Aim for the moon and land among the stars?

Nah, scratch that, I wanted to land on Mars instead

Greater than any human being ever

The young me, full of hope,

aimed for nothing less than greatness, as she was taught,

in everything she did

But somehow

every time she tried something,

she was just average

ordinary

mediocre.

People ask me what am i most afraid of,

I say, deep ocean

a lie

because what i am, have been, and will be most afraid of in my life

ever since I learned it’s definition

is being mediocre

to lead a mediocre life

And what if there is no solution?

What if that is my destiny?

I could try my best,

I could put in all I have into everything I do,

but

what if

my greatest

is the world’s

mediocre?

 

 

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Perfect Two

I wanted to write something sad, to reflect the mood I’ve been feeling, but as soon as I opened a new document, my phone started playing Perfect Two by Auburn. And man, that song took me back almost a decade. Mouthing along to the song perfectly, I was suddenly in 8th Grade sitting with Jemi and Liya. Thinking back, boy, did we take 8th grade for granted. For me, it was always something that would never live up to 7th. But it wasn’t that bad. I mean, I had my fair share of drama, laughter and boy problems. 8th grade is so underrated. I get why, at that point of time I thought it was the worst class ever.  After the “famous” 7th-I, nothing was good enough for us. However, right now as an emotionally unstable college student, I wish I could go back to Sasikala teacher’s social studies class, or Savita Teacher’s “physical science” or Tilottama teacher’s biology class. Not going to lie, but 8th grade biology was extremely interesting and controversial.

It’s strange how playing a specific song floods your brain with memories you forgot you had. 8th grade is always represented by Perfect Two and When I Look at You by Miley Cyrus. It was when my friends had boyfriends. What! Didn’t boys have cooties? I still remember Jemi taking me to meet her “boyfriend” for God knows what reason and, me awkwardly standing there. He offered me some chips and I was so self-conscious that I quickly replied “no!” and turned away. Later Jemi asked me why I blushed when he offered me chips. And the one time, my friends “fought” for me(!) in that dingy classroom of Nehru Block. Gayatri screaming, “She’s my friend! I’ve known her for 2 years” and Jemi saying “So what? I’ve known her for lesser time and I know her more than you do!” Did I have actual people who wanted to be my friend back then? Wild. Most importantly though, it was the foundation of my friendship with Liya, I think. I mean I basically shamed her for being more close to Ritwika than me, and made her tell me everything in her life. But, she should be glad I did that. Who else was going to break up with “Chris Edgehead” for her? Certainly, not “Rtiwi” or “Sangu”. I’m still convinced he was not a “student in New Indian School” like he said and was a middle aged man. Boy, were we foolish. Through all the secret codes and journal entries and Sasikala Teacher catching us saying that her actually very interesting civics lecture was boring, and making me cry(?!) and first crushes and first fights- I made friends for a lifetime. I don’t give 8th grade the value it deserves. I think, it started the mold of the person I was going to be today.

I always wanted to get out of school. Even when everyone said I will regret it as soon as I am out, I thought I’ll be the exception. But now, four years and being emotionally unstable later, I just wish I could go back and sing When I look at you, in class with Jemi or Liya and have silly crushes that don’t mean anything and cry about drama that I don’t even remember now and sit in that dingy room in Nehru block with a few friends who truly care for me and write my journal, because writing journals were the coolest thing back then (I think. I wasn’t very popular.)

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A bus journey to remember.

Getting out of the KSRTC, I started walking towards Shaktan Stand. I passed by some street vendors who were selling mangoes.

3 Kilo, 100 rupees! Varoo Varoo*” (*Come!)

I looked at them and continued walking.

“Mole, molkkum venemengil medikkam! 3 Kilo verum 100 rupees.” (You can also buy it! 3 kilos for just 100 rupees.)

I smiled thinking how they looked at everyone as a prospective customer.

Walking over to the usual place where I find the buses that take me home, I dodged so many school children crowding over different buses. Little did I know that this was foreshadowing.

The bus wasn’t in it’s usual place and I asked a bus conductor standing beside me , “Chetta, Peechi Dam bus evide?” (Where is the bus to Peechi Dam?)

“Aa anjamathe bus. Neela bus . Kandille?” (That fifth bus. The blue one. Saw it?)

I got on it and the seats had been taken already. I stood by the door, kept my bag by the feet of an old lady, hoping she wouldn’t scream at me.

A couple more ladies got on the bus. And finally, so did the bus driver.

This began a 20 minute journey that’s hard to forget.

As soon as the conductor stepped foot in the bus, there was a swarm of school kids starting to file into the bus. It was probably around 20 or so , but felt like a 100 kids minimum , in that already packed bus. I clung on the metal bar in front of me for dear life, literally. They started dumping their bags on the laps of the people sitting. One by one by one the pile grew until someone said “Mathi mathi! Oru paruthi ille makkale!” (Enough! There’s a limit to how many I can hold kids.)

The bus slowly started it’s way out of the bus stand. Between all this commotion a lady tapped on my shoulder:

“Mission Hospital ariyumo?” (Do you know where Mission Hospital is?)

“Aa ariyam.” (Yes.)

“Ethiyal onnu parayane.” (Please let me know when we reach there.)

The bus had moved for , maybe, 50 ft when it reached it’s first stop. A few more school kids got in.

The Conductor : “ullil po pillare. Malayathil alle parayunne! Aa bag okke evideyenkilum vachittu ullilekk po ellarum.” (Push inside! Keep those bags somewhere and move in.)

A small shuffle from everyone trying to move in. The Conductor seemed to think we were inside Hermione’s bag from Deathly Hallow, unlimited space inside. Honestly, How far can you go in a small private bus?

The second stop, again was filled with school children looking expectantly at the bus. It stopped and the conductor said only 2-3 students, out of the almost 20 waiting there, shall be allowed in.

Of course that was a lie and he let in as many kids as he could.

As of now, people were going in, nobody was moving out. Fun.

Then, Mission Hospital loomed in front. I tried to turn around and let the lady know that this was her stop. When I turned around it was just school children. ALL SCHOOL CHILDREN. I couldn’t find anybody else.

The bus stopped at the Hospital Bus stop, around 2 people got out and 7-8 more kids climbed on.

The bus started moving again.

Thankfully, the lady figured out that the big red building with Hospital written over it was, in fact, her stop and I heard her yell from the back,

“Ivide iranganam! Aal iranganund.” (I need to get off here.)

She started making her way through the sea of school children, still yelling that she needs to get out, reaching nowhere because they were all fully grown solid human beings and it’s difficult to push yourself through them. Somehow she made it to the front, stepping on numerous feet in the meanwhile. But her greatest obstacle was still yet to come. Getting down.

“Kutti onnu maroo please” (Kid,please move).

Which kid? Move where?

She danced around in that small space between people’s feet, their bags, tugged on their shawls and somehow reached the stairs of the bus. Everyone was waiting for her to get down to return back to their normal stance.

The Conductor was opening the door to let her out.

Everyone waited in anticipation. If she gets down, people can breathe properly.

He pulls on the handle. It’s stuck.

Everyone who sees it, groans.

He tried again. And again. And again.

The lady looked nervous. Everyone looked nervous . The same thoughts went through everyone’s minds, I’m sure.

What if the door doesn’t open and she will have to go through the back door?

I shuddered at that thought. Voices everywhere telling the man, who operates the door daily, as to how to operate it.

The driver is getting impatient.

After what seems like forever, he put his entire might and pulled on the handle . The stubborn door swung open. The lady out the door instantly. The Conductor’s face spelled out R E L I E V E D. The bus seemed to breathe properly again.

We continued the journey. And as if to increase the difficulty level in this weird game everyone was playing, it started raining. Great.

The bus halted again soon and the conductor tried to get off to go to the back of the bus. But as he rushed down the stairs , his trademark-black-money-bag got caught in the hero of the evening, handle of the bus and he slipped , and the bus started moving. Everyone screamed for him, the driver put on the sudden brakes and he fell back on the lowest step on the bus.

He was pulled back into the top of the stairs and he seemed shook. The schoolgirl beside him asked if he was okay

He replied : “Daivamme, brake ittath nannayi. Allenkil naalathe paperil kandenne enne” (Thank God he hit the brakes. Otherwise I’d be dead.)

As we approached my stop, I started digging into the heap of bags trying to find mine.

I pulled my heavy bag up from the bottom as the conductor screamed “Ollukara! Ollukara!”

I moved to the door, the bus stopped and I got out as soon as possible, making sure none of the straps were stuck anywhere on the bus as I didn’t want the Conductor’s incident to happen to me as well.

The fresh air after the rain hit my face . The door closed behind me and the ‘Neela’ bus took off leaving me with a strange set of memories about my own town.

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Her.

She laughed at my joke,

Loudly,

Her mouth wide open,

Crinkles formed by her eyes

And if someone could look away from that masterpiece

And look at my face instead,

They’d know what love looked like.

I smiled softly,

– her laughter

That sound made sense to me when nothing else did.

The first time I met her,

my eyes locked into hers

Her eyes held the sunset

She smiled and asked me my name

why was my heart beating so fast?

everything I thought I knew ,

I didn’t anymore.

I think my life was in the Stranger Things Universe

Because it was upside down.

And suddenly,

All my happiness seemed to radiate from her presence

all I wanted

Was to talk to her

Sing with her

Take stupid poloroids with her

I wanted her to hold my hand,

Stroke my hair

I craved the taste of her soft lips against mine

But I knew

Every part of me knew this was wrong

I should not feel this way

it’s not normal!

the world shouted.

And I tried to stop myself from feeling anything at all,

But God,

Everytime I heard her voice

Everytime I felt her skin brush against mine

That look she had when she got excited

The way she moved her hands through her long hair-

With every little thing she did

She made the ordinary , extra in my mind.

I’d never felt this way

It was new

this is wrong! it’s not love

Everybody seemed to say

Yet the butterflies in my belly told me something else.

if this wasn’t love,

well then I didn’t want love

I wanted her.

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From Churchgate to Esplanade

As the train slowly started coming to a halt, I got down, not waiting for it to completely stop. I checked the time. It was 10:05 am. I needed to get there only by 10:45am. I was early, as usual. I took out my oh-so-dear phone, opened up my GPS and put in “Mumbai Esplanade Court”. It was 1.7 kms away. I started my 23 minute morning walk.

The thing I noticed about Mumbai was, everyone walks as if they are in a walkathon and they need to win. Nobody has time for anyone else. Everyone has earphones in, or they’re talking on the phone, in their own world. I walk along with the crowd past the Cross Maidan where some exhibition was going on. I always wanted to check it out, but never had the time because of the aforementioned walkathon !

I,then, take a left towards the fashion street. The shops are just being opened; almost all of them are still under the blue tarp. There are a few Chai shops open, with men drinking tea and reading newspaper or looking at their phones. There is very little human conversation between them. As I walk past them, avoiding all the Paan spits and normal spits on the road, I reach the first signal on the road. I have to cross that to reach the Azad Maidan. 

Azad Maidan was a ground. What was its true purpose, I never found out. In the morning there were children playing cricket; their coaches yelling out for no apparent reason; some children sitting in the sidelines watching, eagerly awaiting their turn, others just least bothered. It is all fun and games to watch this scenario play out until you have to run for you life because some kid decided to hit the ball along your way.

But this Maidan was home not just for people who wanted to play, but also for street shopping. Everything ranging from earphones to second hand books to even clothes was sold there at different times throughout the day. This was the one thing that always fascinated me about Mumbai. Anybody can earn a living in this city as long as you’re down to do anything it is that will get you there. I got the feeling that even if you started selling cloth hangers, people will buy them as long as you market it well.

Azad Maidan connected the MG Road with the fashion street with the Hazarimal Somani Road (yes, i googled that). The road is a very small road, and always crowded. The footpath beside the road is even smaller and I assume there is a competition happening on this road on who can walk the fastest because people wiz past you, not stopping even when their shoulders use yours as a dandiya stick. At the end of that road, you see the Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Railway Station or as people still dearly call it, the VT. You can never get tired of looking at this magnificent piece of architecture. Whenever I used to walk in front of it, I spend a few minutes staring at it because it would be a shame to the building if no one paid attention to it.

As, it stood tall proudly in the morning light, I continued my walk. There was the usual crowd on my left, where there were so many small breakfast corners that had a normal mumbai wala breakfast, you know, like Vadapav, Pav Bhaji, Sev Puri and all. Coming from a land of Idlis and Dosas, this was a pleasant surprise. Another amusing thing was that every shop basically sold the same thing and they were right next to each other but there was no shortage of crowd in front of any shops. All of them were equally crowded.

Walking forward, I finally see the Court. It’s only around 10:40 and the sessions start only by 11:00, so I’m in absolutely no hurry, taking my own sweet time. There were some advocates standing there as usual asking if I wanted anything notarized. I ignored them and walked in the old court building and found Court room #3 and settled myself in there under the fan, took out my book and started reading till it was time for the court.

This was just one morning during my 23 days in Mumbai. One of the main reasons I loved walking while I was there was because I was able to see a lot more of the places and familiarize myself with the city and its people. I had heard a lot of stories and experiences of the people who’ve spent their share of time in this city. And being there, I found myself falling in love with Mumbai. There was a sort of magic to this place that can’t be explained in words.

As a friend of mine always said, and I finally was able to relate, “Mumbai is not a place, it’s an emotion.”

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For A Legend

Dear Chester,

Yesterday was the concert. A concert for you. A tribute to you, a legend.

A lot of your friends sang for you, a lot of your fans sang along with them from the Arena and watching it on their screens. Everybody was so strong. It was so nice to see. We missed you. A lot.

During the concert, Mike sang In the end, and before starting he asked “You guys know which part to sing right?. It broke me; because of course, we knew which part to sing. Your parts. The ones where you bellowed your heart out, or sang with so much emotion that literally saved so many of us. The ones which you’ll never sing from here on now.

You had to be there Chaz. So many people came out to honor you. You walked away from life feeling sad and lonely but if you were there last night you never would’ve felt that way.

When you passed, I cried. For days on end, I cried at various points. It felt silly to other people. He was just a singer from a band. He doesn’t even know you exist, why are you this upset? 

But little did they know how much you meant to me. Every song you sang was for me. So what if you didn’t know me? You were always there for me. Your music saved me. I started listening to you because of my brother and we’ve shared so many memories because of the songs. Whenever Linkin Park released new music, we couldn’t wait to listen to all of them and discuss which ones were our favorites. (Spoilers: I always loved the songs where you scream the most.)

And even now, whenever I feel lonely or sad I just listen to Numb or In the end or What I’ve done or even Heavy. They mean so much to me and I feel like, they meant so much to you.

I still miss you and I still cannot believe you are gone. You are gone without a chance for me to meet you, hug you and thank you for, well, being you.

You saved thousands of lives, but nobody could save you. We’re sorry. But we love you so much and hope you’ve finally found the peace you wanted.

The sun set for you Chester, but, God, I wish it hadn’t.

Love,

Someone who wishes you were here with your bubbly face and screaming voice to sooth this pain.

 

 

 

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