It is probably during the most mundane moments that I notice the presence of the humans around me. As I sit drying my hair out in the bright sunlit afternoon, a pigeon flutters and lands in front of me, looking side to side with her inquisitive red eyes. Looks at me, as if to say something. I wish she could speak; I call her a she because I see her as a human although we converse in different tongues. But no matter how frequent a companion she might be, we still remain incomprehensible to each other.
He sees me from the verandah on the sixth floor, and lifts his hand in a careless wave, a hasty acknowledgement. If we were a bit closer, one of us surely would have shouted an insult to the other, all in jest.
My phone beeps from where it lies on the wooden bench beside me. The screen lights up showing I have a new notification from Instagram. A follow request from some randomly familiar girl. She’s followed by five of my friends, and that’s enough to make me click on ‘confirm’. And all of a sudden, we’re friends online, sharing our photos and our messages, even though we haven’t exchanged a word in real life.
I have not yet been able to define these experiences that are sometimes tangible right to my fingertips, and sometimes just fleeting memories that blow away like a breeze. If I am asked to, I will probably be unable to recall the names of all the people I have crossed paths with. And maybe, so will you. 7 billion people is just a statistic; it doesn’t ring a bell within us. But it’s like we are interwoven into a web with those of the 7 billion who we recognise- or maybe have forgotten.
On top of the lightwood table which is littered with my notebooks stand a couple of photo frames. Smiling faces peer back at me- someplace, sometime, and with someone I was happy. Still am, maybe, but that’s a secret. Wouldn’t do to give away the whole story, would it?
Every year, the first week of June, when school has just finished and we are all sweltering under the Texas sun, suitcases are scattered around. Several lists- some scrawled hurriedly and some neatly written- are put up in several places. The yellow smiley magnet on the door of the refrigerator holds up one, titled ‘Essentials- don’t forget to pack!’. Another one is scribbed in untidy handwriting on the whiteboard in my room. The last item on this list is emphasized in capitals- ‘GIFTS FOR FRIENDS’. For them, with whom I spent thirteen years of my life, before we moved.
What you’re hearing about is our annual trip back home to India. The excitement is shared by all of us, but we all are excited for different reasons. My mother is looking forward to hearing the new songs on the radio, visit her favorite markets. My father is enthusiastic for us to go to his parents’ house, the very same one where he spent his entire childhood. My sister is already jabbering about which sweets she’s going to eat on which day, and which restaurants she wants us to go to first. And as for me, I am happy with someone particular in mind. I plan to see my friends, take a couple of classes from my old dance teacher, but also, to see him, and how he has changed. I hope we both never change.
And one night, when it’s dark outside, typical of the evenings in Delhi, I am feeling especially elated with life, and I pull out my diary. I am aware that such euphoric feelings can’t be preserved in a few words, but I’m still going to try.
“Dear Diary,” I start, because I see it as a person I can fully confide in. “I am so happy right now that I don’t have words to describe it.” I don’t need words, because I’m sure my diary understands.
The day of our flight I sat in the taxi, looking out the window into the dusky darkness. The last time, I whispered to myself. After this I would be in a new country, unfamiliar faces around me. I closed my eyes and imagined sitting in a circle with all my friends, holding hands, and savouring that last moment of sweet memories that string our hearts together.