At Sixteen

On my 16th birthday, I made myself very happy. I decided it had to be a big deal, regardless of who wanted to make it big and who didn’t. I procured some money from my mother and took myself to Gandhi Bazaar to shop. I knew what I wanted. At 16, I always knew what I wanted with a clarity that was almost aggressive. I have neither the gumption nor the energy to love myself like that or know with clarity, what I want anymore. Somewhere between learning to love other people between 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, and 26, I didn’t love myself enough. Or maybe I thought it wasn’t that important.

At 16, the joy of sitting alone in a coffee shop, reading something was just about enough to make me happy. Between the ages of 17 to 26, I waited for other people to love me like I loved myself. When that didn’t happen, I hated myself and later, them.

So at 15, hours shy of turning 16, I stood outside Perfumer – a fragrance shop and waited, smiling. This was the first gift I would be buying for myself. And for a long time after that, the last. I took a small vial and decided that I liked it. It was a lovely shade of green-blue, colors that appeared on my palette when I mixed the darkest green with the lightest blue in my art class at school. At the counter, I asked for the perfume to be gift-wrapped. I picked the shiniest, the most expensive wrapping paper. It was pink, a color that still reminds me of unexplored freedoms I have chosen not to take because I am too busy doing god knows what.

At home, I lit all the candles I owned on the balcony I rarely used. The walls in my bedroom were a light lavender, the furniture, dark brown. I had chosen these colors from magazines that I had read. Tall, grown up women always seemed to sit comfortably alone on oval-shaped beds, light colored walls and the darkest brown furniture. I was painting, as it were, my independent life with my father’s money.

I waited for the clock to strike at 12:00. Ash was made to look excited because I had whined and whined about this day for months now. I suspect she was glad that in minutes, all the drama would be over and she could go to sleep.

At 12:00, I blew out all the candles on my balcony, picked up my journal and began to write. I drew the number 16 sixteen times on a page before making a list of things I had to accomplish by the next birthday. I picked out my outfit for the next day. A new shirt, a new pair of jeans. I was convinced I would fall in love when I turned 16. And I did. Now that I look back, it is almost mysterious how by the time I had turned 17, I had a boyfriend and at 12:00 am on my 17th birthday, I didn’t do any of the things I did on my 16th. I waited a different kind of wait. A Nokia in my hands, blushing under the covers, I waited for him to call and since that night, I have always celebrated birthdays with regard to who remembers.

I sense now that I’m about to say things like it’s time I go back to being 16 again. While it’s true that some reflection should go that way, I am happy that my birthdays now aren’t all that self-indulgent. It’s the other days I am worried about. Those should probably be more self-indulgent.


Z – Zit





zinger burger

Went through all this bullshit before I finally hit upon ‘Zit’. How could I not think of it as my no 1 ‘words that begin with Z’? There’s nothing more personal to me than zits. They are all over my face. They’ve been loyal companions to me since 17. Right after I fell in love and all. The timing could not have been more perfect. Back then, however I didn’t quite have the patience or the sarcasm to call them my companions. They hurt and bled and oozed pus every time I so much as brushed against it accidentally. I wouldn’t go to sleep for hours worrying about my postures, trying hard as I was, to not smash them on my pillow. If I did have them popped, I would know only in the morning when I would look in the mirror, secretly hoping for a clear skin. And it would be there, unfailingly, every morning of my life. Round and red and ugly. Not to mention, hurting. A dried blob of pus mixed with blood would be sitting there, looking at me, teasing me, warning me, challenging me, even.

I would look at it painstakingly and eventually suck up to temptation and pop it. This wouldn’t happen on all mornings though. Just the ones I would be really desperate on. Most other mornings, it was easier to ignore it, like it didn’t matter, like they weren’t a part of me, like I didn’t see them. But I felt them alright. I felt them when I walked though crowds and unknown faces would look at my zits like they were forced to eat it or something. I felt it when I would pass by a mirror and would be afraid of looking at it. I felt it stronger when relatives would gape at it/me and offer wise words. ‘Avoid oily food’, ‘Do you eat lots of chocolates?’, ‘Drink lots of water’, ‘Change your pillow cover every week’ and ‘do pranayama – it really helps’. I must admit, apart from nursing strong feelings to shoot them down right away, I did take all the advice I could get. Green veggies, water, pranayama (lasted all of 3 days). I even went without eating non veg for a month. It may have helped but I can’t really say because after sometime, I just moved on.

Now I just look at them and be all ‘Oh hi, you’re back’. Honestly, zits have been the only constant thing in my life. I’ve had them for too long now to detest them. They’ve been with me everywhere. They were there for all my firsts. First kiss, first date, first time I got a phone, first time I topped, first orgasm, first time I ran away and now – First time I am writing about them. I can’t really say I love them and that I don’t mind that they are there now. Just that I have come to accept them as a part of my face. So much so that when I dream about myself, I always have zits.