Time can appear to fly in two kinds of scenarios: either you’re having so much fun, life is such a party, that you don’t realise where the time went. Or you are not living at all, but just surviving.
In my case, it was the latter for the most part of 2017. My friends and family are already tired of listening to the reasons, so there is no point extrapolating them here anymore.
Thus, instead of resigning to the fact that 2017 was a complete and utter failure, I thought of listing out the moments in each month of last year, when I felt happy. When I felt grateful. When I felt proud.
I could not cover every month, but here they go:
There are two standout moments here.
The first was watching La La Land. My spirits needed lifting, and they were soaring through every moment of this film. As I realised while reading The Romantic Manifesto by Ayn Rand, which I’d coincidentally finished just a couple of days ago – understanding was key to enjoying art. This was a film that hit me hard because of how well I understood it. I was a fool with dreams, and it spoke to my dreams.
The second moment was watching Wayne Rooney score his record 250th goal for Manchester United. I remember falling off the couch in disbelief at the free kick. We all want our heroes to win, we ache for it as they do.
It had been months, perhaps years since I’d taken a proper lungful of breath. This was the month when a surgery gave me that wish.
Supposedly a routine surgery, it never feels like that when you’re wheeled off into the operation theatre. There is a small detail in this story that I’ll never forget.
A padding needs to be put in the nose after the surgery is over. I did not read anything about the process on the internet, but my dad did. He went to the extent of finding out that there were two types of padding: the standard one had to be removed a week after surgery. But the other one, the more expensive one was dissolvable, so it wouldn’t need to be removed, thereby saving me some pain. When asked, I told my dad I’ll go with the standard option, no need to pay extra. But he did it anyway.
It wasn’t about the money. It was the research he did, to find out whether there is a way for me to feel more comfortable, and less pain. The little things that were not so that make my Dad special.
My first recording on a keyboard, of ‘Mia & Sebastian’s theme’ from La La Land. It took a weekend, a night and about 150 retakes. I felt proud. Love must meet hard work to blossom. And that kind of exhaustion feels special, when you know it was for something you really care about.
I woke up one Sunday and googled for nearby breakfast places, and found Brooke Bond Tea House. If given a choice, I’d pick tea over every other beverage. I knew it from the first sip of tea there, that it wouldn’t be my last. It became a place for me to relax for a change.
After two months of traveling alone in Europe back in 2015, I took my first solo trip in India to Mahabaleshwar on a long weekend. Walking with no sense of direction or time all day in rain, I wondered – if only I could control my daily life like this. If only I could live life at my pace, and not be caught between a carrot and a stick forever.
A friend’s wedding in Bangalore gave me the chance to meet my brother. Sure, we’d met other times at home, but this meeting stood out. I wasn’t a very good brother during my school days. I spent time only with my friends, and never took my brother anywhere for a bite or a movie.
This time I did exactly that. But it wasn’t just that, we spoke like we’ve never spoken before. I opened up to him about stress, how I was crying on the flight, unable to deal with it. And he gave me great comfort by just listening, and giving me advice. Though I was the one who took him out for a bite and a movie, he was the bigger brother that weekend.
Another wedding took me to Kerala. I had initially planned of spending all my time alone there, since I didn’t know any other guest that well.
Once the wedding was over, I changed that plan and spent it with three other friends from college, who I’d never spoken to much. They were as fresh as the tea gardens on our way to Wayanad. Looking back at the pictures, I’m surprised to see myself smiling with joy. Happiness has a knack of popping up from unexpected people, and unexpected places.
This was a month of gratefulness and pride.
Yet another wedding, this time in Jodhpur, of an old and close friend. He shouted a multitude of obscenities when I said I may not come. You might wonder how I can even think of not going if he was indeed a close friend. Well, that was the extent of how hard 2017 was for me, for you know, reasons.
But I did go. And for a change, I knew the other guests. There is no other group of people, with whom I am so completely myself. Most days of my life, I’ve never fit in with anyone, not for a prolonged period of time anyway. But these guys are special. They were a group, and I was an outsider – but my friendship with the groom extended to them. And I’m grateful to them, more than they realise perhaps.
The pride part of it was to do with a new routine I built in that month. I woke up everyday at 6 am, and started my day with reading ‘Thinking Fast & Slow’. The rationale was that if I start my day with something that really matters to me, the rest of the day would feel easier. I was right.
Work took me to Mussoorie for a week. There are many good moments to recall from that week, but two of them stand out. One was the entire team celebrating my birthday, which happened to be the day we flew there. It is usually an event that I spend quietly.
The other was when I sang to a small circle of people. Being a form of expression, singing is like writing for me. I just flow.
I know I’m not the only person who had a difficult year. Perhaps you did too. Maybe this activity will help you too, no harm in trying.
Now that I think about it, it’s like the Patronus charm in Harry Potter: the only way you can fight the Dementors is to summon a strong, positive memory. In theory, that’s exactly what I’m doing. Harry could come up with those memories, despite his dark past. You can too.
There is no secret to finding a silver lining. You just have to look for it.