These are some jottings from my journal. So far I have let only Sia read my journals. I am going to let you look at a few of my pages.
1. 8th January 2013
Joy. What is it? Does it arrive in peace and quiet? Or after one is tested and tried?
For me, I earned joy after I realised that losing it meant losing a lot.
I don’t intend losing it ever.
2. 15th January 2013
A bit of my joy leaks even as I try to hold on to it.
I hear my parents talking worriedly about attacks on guests at a hotel in Mumbai. They say many people in seven more places have been killed and injured. Even children.
What is happening? Why are people killing each other? Why children? I don’t understand. I am scared. Will we be attacked as well? I am just eight. Will I die too? We discuss these killings in class.
Mira Ma’am says the terrorists have been caught.
Who are terrorists? Why do they like terror? I don’t know anyone who likes to be scared? I still don’t understand. No one is able to explain it to me. Sia is as confused. Will someone tell us what’s happening please? I think the adults don’t know either. They pretend they do.
3. 15th February 2013
The idea of a mela has always held a fascination for me. Pictures of happy crowds, merry go rounds, balloons, fun street food and lot of baubles (bangles, bindis, fancy carry bags and slippers) crowd my mind. I had never been to one so far.
My parents, Pratik and I set off by train to Allahabad yesterday to see the Kumbh Mela held every 12 years here. Masti was left with Sia. My excitement levels touched the sky.
We boarded the train from Old Delhi. It was as if I was on another planet. The crowds were unbelievable. I have never seem so many people in my life. Nor have I been pushed so rudely. I was petrified of losing sight of Ma and Pa. I wished we had never come. Worse, the train was late by seven hours. I hated waiting in the platform. It was dirty and smelt of urine.
But once we were settled in, the fun unfolded. We ate pooris by the dozens. I was in heaven.
If we thought the crowds were huge at the station, we were gaping when we saw millions of devotees at the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad. Some were covered in ashes. Many sadhus wore no clothes at all. I was not sure whether to look or not look. Ma said there would be 120 million people attending this month’s mela. OMG!!!
And then there was the dipping. Multitudes of people dipping themselves in the Ganga.
The sights were so many: a flowing river, tents on the banks, millions of sadhus, lines of patient people waiting for food and of course merry go rounds and baubles by the hundreds.
I will never get over these sights. They are imprinted in my mind’s eye and my camera.
4. 3rd May 2013
Bollywood turns 100! Yay! This is cause for rejoicing.
Sia and I decide to bunk class along with ring leaders of class 10 students. We have never attempted anything like this before. The thrill of it is quite exciting. We go to see Dhoom 3. It was fun, but I did not understand much. So much fighting!
Sia and I got bolder. We watch another film. It is called Once Upon a Time in Mumbai 2. We emerged with awful headaches -- our punishment for the day!
A small blessing -- we did not get caught!
5. 5th February 2014
I refused oatmeal at breakfast today and threw a tantrum. I am nine and I thought asking me what I want is the polite thing to do. I ate breakfast only because I feared the silent menace in my father’s face.
When I stepped outside my gate, picked up Sia and went outside the colony gates, I saw things that set me thinking. I saw beggars and hungry children with no clothes and shoes. This in peak winter. I see them daily but today I saw them with new eyes. I saw people of another world of which I know little about. I was saddened. Why do I have so much? They so little? Who decides who is to have more or less?
A coincidence happens in my life. I watch the film Slumdog Millionaire with my friends at school when I am thinking of such issues. I catch the film as it is leaving the theatres. I soon learn our very own A R Rahman has won two Oscars for song and score!!! I am now over the moon. He has lent a voice to the voiceless.
I begin to understand why the collection box for less fortunate children is important. I decide that things I and Sia don’t need anymore can bring joy to someone else.
I hope not to fuss so much about food, knowing that many people go hungry.
6. 10th July 2014
Ma bought me up on a diet of rain songs. She made every drop of rain count with her humming of ‘Barish aaye chum chum chum’. Now she turns spoiler by insisting I wear raincoats even when the drizzle is slight. She talks of its protective powers against mosquitoes and encephalitis. Encephalitis sounds like a musical note but it is a dreadful disease.
Pa said that a few years ago, the government launched its first nuclear submarine INS Arihant in quite the same way. It was meant to protect us by allowing the submarine to stay submerged longer using nuclear power.
But as we got protected, did others get killed? Our lives at someone else’s expense? I think I have a quarrel with that too. I feel quarrelsome this month.
7. 19th December 2014
Something dreadful has happened to a girl, a little older to us yesterday. She was violated by many men in our city. She was also beaten badly.
Nothing prepares you for something like this. Whether you are thirteen or thirty.
The road where the incident took place is one we cross very often.
Could this happen to us?
I am very upset. My friends and I cry in class. I see my teachers shedding tears. At home, my parents and grandma are trying hard not to cry.
We are told that teachers will talk to us about this incident tomorrow.
But will they say anything that take away our grief, our fears and our anger. Or will they offer just words.
8. 3rd September 2016
How has the world being created? I want to understand every tinsy-winsy detail.
It is not easy. Our teachers confuse me horribly.
Our geography teacher told us about the world being created over a billion years. She talked on about the Big Bang theory. A lot of what she said escaped me as I all I could think of the funny TV serial that I watch on the sly as my parents won’t allow me to watch it with them. Are there secrets about the earth that I am allowed to know only when I grow up?
Our moral science class teacher used the Bible to tell us how the world was created in six days.
My grandma says Brahma, the creator, made the world. The secret of his creation lies in an egg, Hiranyagarbha, from which he created everything. The universe, she says, he has created is not permanent universe. Brahma lives for 100 years, then dies and then a new universe is born. She says we are now in the 51st year of the Brahma. This is as perplexing as it is scary. What if he dies permanently? Where will be all be?
Our biology teacher insists that marine life is the beginning of all life on earth.
I am always told truth is single. Why are all these people telling me different truths? Why are facts so suspenseful?
I think I will go with my biology teacher for now. This as there is much excitement around me about our country’s unmanned lunar probe Chandrayan 1. It shows Mars is not bone dry and dead but contains water, the basis of life. So I vote in favour of water being the basis of life.
9. 1st April 2017
Our government decided some years ago to provide free and compulsory education to all children between six and 14 years. I read this in The Times of India, a newspaper I have taken to reading every day.
Does this mean that our gardener Nandlal’s son and daughter, my home buddies, get to study? They idle away the day and wait for me to come home and play with them.
Nandlal was just telling me a month ago that he had no money to send his son and daughter to school. I know he will never borrow money from my parents or ask them for some.
Will he be happy when I tell him this when he returns from his holiday next week? Will my friends be happy as well? Or will this change disturb their lives?
10. 10th June 2017
Delhi is sizzling hot. I cannot bear the heat. My cousins in Nagpur complain it is unbearably hot there. We blame climate change that we are hearing so much about at school and in the news.
In many parts of South Asia I am told the heat has touched 53 degrees.
We have air conditioners. I can’t imagine how who don’t have them cope. I listen to the news in the car and hear that hundreds of people have died in South Asia.
11. 10th October 2017
This year, the Delhi government banned the sale of crackers in our city.
My friends and I prepared ourselves for this festival like we always do.
Should we burst crackers or no? Some of us were keen, others had taken a pledge at school to not pollute the air.
We then collectively decided against bursting crackers. We have made up our minds to doubly enjoy Holi, the festival of colours in March.