I have won the 3rd Prize in the 2021 nano-Essay Competition, “Flash Truths – Taking India’s Pulse,” organized by DownloadingMyMind (DMM) in association with the Society for Public Studies(SPS). Eminent Judges selected the winners. I am pleased to share the winning entry below:
THE OTHER SIDE OF CUL-DE-SAC
When I came back to India in 2017, after a lustrum and a half of wandering abroad, I quickly realized that time had passed me by and taken a U-turn. I had returned to a fast-forward-retract India driven by religious sentiments and resonating with the wider world’s shift to the right. The word secular had somehow become an acrimonious remark. Yet technology had homed the lives of the naïve. A flurry of unwanted WhatsApp forwards found their way through an acquaintance or the other; even my technology-averse parents had become adepts at this forwards business. While I was re-acclimatizing and subduing my occidental ways to fit in, I floundered about for a life path. Thrust into the uncertainty, creative aspirations soon petered out and were replaced by the need to be financially sound.
Being divorced and a woman in a small Indian town is fodder for chinwag. Wherever I walked in, I stood out. People were always interested to know more, and sometimes more than necessary. The fact that I lived alone by myself did not help either. In fact, it astonished most people, and some even pitied me. The first two years rattled me; perhaps it’s because I learned more about myself than I wanted to know. I was walking the path wide enough only for a person (for now): the first divorcee in the family.
At this far end of the cul-de-sac, I learned to really be with myself and soon burrowed a hole in the wall to step onto the other side. Time is elastic here, in this aloneness. In this stretched existence, voices are muffled, and the silence hums. They teach us calculus in the 11th standard, but no one teaches us how to live with ourselves. If everyone learned that, then there would be no question of intolerance. One would be so full that they would be unwilling to be less. It’s the empty vessels that make the most noise.