La Madre

Dear Mother,

Yesterday was your birthday. Over the past two years, I’ve been in Dubai to celebrate it with you. One year we’ve gone to Bollywood Park and had a full day out as a family, and another we’ve gone out to a wonderful dinner to share in your joy. This year I was not there, and it’s the first time in a while that I haven’t gotten to see you up-close, behaving like a giddy child and excited by the smallest of things on your special day. I’m glad we did what we did though. The zoom sessions, a free-entry/free-exit policy! The entire thing made it feel like it was a real party. Staying online for the entire thing brought me as much joy as it brought you – mostly because I heard lots of your childhood stories, and people laughed along with you about them.

Every single year I’ve racked my brains to figure out how to make your day memorable. Appa and I have really struggled, especially after all the things you do for us. Let’s take this year only as an example. I was fully prepared to chill at home alone on my birthday, and at the most, consider ordering some outside food. I’ve been home alone for a while now, and while I’ve enjoyed it, you were perhaps the first to sense that maybe I wasn’t a 100% sure I wanted to spend my birthday alone. Chikamma, you and the family figured out all the logistics, Uncle came and picked me up, and I was with them the entire day. But it didn’t stop there. You gave me explicit instructions to stop doing whatever I was doing at midnight and log on to a zoom call with you and Appa. Then you showed a 10-minute video that brought me to tears. It didn’t just make me well up a little the first time I saw it, but I was visibly moved by it each time I played it through the day.

Usually, people make 1-minute videos. Attention economics premises itself on the fact that human attention is a scarce commodity, but boy oh boy do you know how to make me concentrate. You managed to reach out to friends: old, new, surprises – through e-mail, facebook, and Whatsapp! I feel like if I had friends where technology had not fully penetrated, you would have sent them a postcard requesting for their co-operation in this endeavour. You got family to participate, and, you put in the effort to bring it all together, with detailed instructions, illustrations, and learning how to use Windows Movie Maker.

This is not new. It’s just this year’s story.

Do you see how much pressure Appa and I are under?

Which is why I’m glad you take your own initiative in planning your birthday parties. It makes our lives so easy to know that you’ll be happy with everything as long as we follow your instructions and comply with what you’ve envisaged in your head. For us, I think Appa and I are happy to contribute in small ways – helping with your technical setup, proofreading the party invites. Who can forget your 40th birthday celebrations – where we had instructions to play the keyboard, and dance with you, and write a prepared toast!

Just you wait though. One day we will surprise you. I just hope you let us.

Happy Birthday, again!

Love,

Tejas

Reflections on 21

And the world’s got me dizzy again / You think after 22 years I’d be used to the spin / And it only feels worse when I stay in one place / So I’m always pacing around and walking away

–  Bright Eyes, “Land Locked Blues”

Today was my 22nd birthday. I’m blessed to have this life and I’m incredibly grateful for all the affection I received today. From my parents, to my family, who were kind enough to ferry me across the city so I would not spend the day without familiar company, to the friends who wished me – I’m just very grateful for all of it. This is my third consecutive birthday in Bengaluru, the city in which I’ve spent the most amount of time in my life. It’s also my first birthday in three years without a guest appearance being made by Taco Bell.

I’m heading into a new year of my life today, so I thought it was apt to look at some reflections on my 21st year, and to write some thoughts down for the things I want to ensure I begin to imbibe in the upcoming year.

This past one year has been incredibly tumultuous for me. I achieved a childhood dream I had held onto for a while, but then went on to commit a mistake I didn’t believe I would ever commit – and had to rebuild from there. It’s been a difficult journey since.

The past two months gave me the opportunity to think about what I want year 22 to look like. A while ago on this blog, I spoke about how I didn’t like waiting around for a special day to reflect and hit a reset button, or to start something that I was interested in starting in. At the same time, however, I’m incredibly cognizant of the kind of heightened significance I attach to maybe doing these reflective things on particular days of the year. My birthday is one of them. It’s nice to hit pause and genuinely appreciate everything the world gave me last year, everything I am today, and everything I am able to enjoy.

So what do I want from year 22?

I want to be more mindful of everything I do, and everything that happens around me. I want to wake up each day feeling nothing but gratitude. Not stressed, or worried about exams, or upcoming deadlines – just immense gratitude in my heart for everything. I’d like to make gratitude and mindfulness the two central pillars around which I live my life. I’m not an ungrateful person, but I’d like to increase how much I prioritize looking for the thing to be grateful for. I’d like for it to be second-nature to me, so while I experience sways in emotions and in circumstances, I’m always centered around this.

The last call I made tonight was to someone extremely important to me. The last time we had met each other in person, I was only 16 years old. He couldn’t believe I was 22, and to be fair, I can’t quite believe it either. I’ll grow into it in a week.