Some things change you, like most things can’t, I always say. Life changes from a straight line to look like a constellation, all stars not equally bright. A class you took that changed the course of your career, the way you look at things. The day you tied your hair in a messy bun and realised you have become one of the women you hoped you would, the day you realised you are malleable. When you bought a book in a second hand book store not knowing it will be your favourite, that it will find you your soulmate.
My mother tells this story very fondly. And she laughs at the end of it. Each time.
When I was 2, she took me to a swimming pool. The only one in Yewatmal. 9 feet deep. I walked into the campus already wearing my new costume. I saw the pool, walked very close to it and asked her “Mummy, jump?”
Here she laughs. Each time.
They taught me to swim as I grew up. Don’t bend knees. Cup your hands. Don’t jump.
My grandmother pushed me in a pool 9 feet deep before I was ready. I know how birds feel when pushed off the nest. Unloved, uncared for. Proud they can save themselves.
I have never been scared of heights. I have always thought of falling from them as flying. Water, not so much. I cannot bear the idea of suffocating to death.
Today we sailed over the Teesta river. It separates West Bengal from Sikkim. We were in the middle of the stream, under a vast blue sky interrupted by hills, lush green on both sides. As we rowed forward I realised I wasn’t breathing quite the same. I wasn’t blinking at all. I had never seen anything this beautiful. The kind of beauty that demands to be done something of.
I looked at the rower and I asked “jump?”
He said “sure”
And I did.
I flowed in the river. The cold of water like it belonged on my skin. Waves splashing on my face like an angry pet after missing his human the whole day. Heart threatening to burst. Stomach in my mouth. I flowed away from the raft. Unable to stand still. Still not scared. And still very scared.
The man rowing my raft looked like he had quit trying to catch up with me. Then another raft got me.
I sat with the strangers listening to a language I wish I didn’t understand. Wishing ‘ek baat hai hooton tak jo aai hai’ would start playing in Farhan Akhtar’s voice to drown what of the world had not drowned yet. But it drizzled instead. From the brightly lit sky, like it is not supposed to. But like it wanted to anyway. And it washed away Prachi or what of her wasn’t washed away yet.
I will never be the same person again. I picked up a stone as keepsake. It has a golden glint. The constellation of my life got another star today.