This essay by Aniruddh Verma won the Barbra Naidu Memorial Prize for the Personal Essay, 2021, in the School category.
I’ve always been the poster child for immaturity, at least in my home of me, myself and I, and of course, there have been times where I would let in a character from my meagre imagination to wreak havoc on my mind. The first time this happened was when I let in a typical mother-in-law from Indian soap operas into my head, where she, well, captured control. Surprisingly enough, that was one of the only times when my uncontrollable tantrums shook the house. I still feel the foundation of our fragile family being shaken, almost as if it was an earthquake and, when I was young, I did not know what I did, and now that I sit here writing this, nostalgic, I now know a butterfly effect of great proportions has taken place.
The first spark of maturity/growing up was ignited when I saw a poor kind-eyed man raise his bowl, with all his muscle sticking to his bones, wearing ragged clothes, and grime covering his body. Being naive I pointed my finger and spoke a few words, that also unwittingly triggered another butterfly effect. The question was, “Why is he like that Aai (What I call my mother), why so?”, and my parents fell speechless. Also at the time I was 6, and my younger brother was babbling some random idea. The man heard me, and gave me a sad, understanding smile, and melted into the crowd, never to be seen again. That was the day I learnt about those who have lost the meaning of their life due to unforeseen circumstances, and the word they were called, “Unfortunates”. Being the innocent child I was, I declared in our little car. “I will get rid of poverty and no one shall pass away due to it.”, with teary eyes and a smile as bright as a thousand suns. That was the day my first bit of immaturity went up in flames.
Another spark joined the flames of adulthood when I learnt how much harder it is to stand out of the crowd, rather than be another faceless individual, lost in the shadows of someone prominent. Detachment from society is a terrible experience, no matter how large or minuscule it may be. It is always a horrifying experience. My first time this happened was in 4th grade, the reason for which has been lost to the sands of time in my memory, Maybe someday I will retrieve the memory? Only the fates will tell, momentarily, back to the topic at hand, Standing Out, as long as I can remember, I have always been the “Weird” kid, insults about me flew all around the place, and strangely enough, there was no reason to these rumors or insult, the only thing I knew out of my socially oblivious life was the fact that these rumors spread because I but heads with the popular kids and to them was misinterpreted/ vexatious, without realizing my small world was ending. Voraciously I was told, no harm no foul.
These were all small chunks of my childishness disappearing, but I remember one of the largest chunks of my immaturity disappearing into the abyss, was the day I made my mother cry. It was A Sunday, I had just woken up, before my usual time of 1 pm (chiefly due to movie nights), and I was cross and grumpy, as my sleep quota had not been accomplished, and until recently, I was a lethargic child who would groan in pain even trying to lift a finger. So I did what any 12 years old, (in my perspective) would do. I threw a tantrum. It was probably one of the worst tantrums I have thrown in my short life of 15. But then came the storm. My mother screamed, I screamed back. Both my brothers were huddled in a corner and my grandparents into the confines of their room. This went on for a while until I cracked. I screamed words I am ashamed to even think about, nor think about writing. Again, there have only a few tantrums in my life that have reached this scale. This one of them. Obviously, after screaming those words out, I have no idea why I even thought of them in the first place, I felt an ocean of regret. And my mother gave up. She sat on the sofa, and cried, tears freely dripping out of her eyes. It was karmic retribution. I also knew deep down in my heart, there was no way of immediately apologizing, so I did what I do best. I ran. I ran and locked myself into a room, only to emerge after several hours, skipping any possible meal. I went and tried to apologize, knowing it was futile, yet I still tried. I went and hugged her, crying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” but those attempts were useless. So I went and locked myself again, emerging again after several hours, and tried again. This time she accepted, and I learnt another life lesson I will hold with me all my life. Respect. I learnt how respect is an important thing for any relationship, may it be between brothers or lovers. Respect is always necessary, or you will see a plant wither even before it blooms.
Another time I recall my immaturity quietly slipping away into the darkness was when I cared for my brothers, I’ve got two brothers, and they are both silent and naughty, it is just the timing of them both that matters. For example, the naughty one in public is the silent one at home. Usually, whenever I care for them, (Which is not often, considering my immaturity) it was a train wreck of sorts, there were quite a few reasons for this, like how we feast like kings, and instead of being a strict serious matron, I was a young gullible, naive child.
Since we were children, we got off with a small scolding, most of the time. Times like this are the memories closest to my heart. Little midnight escapades, midnight snacks, movie nights and sleepovers, quite a lot are they not? Times like this brought back memories in a flood. Sudden, yet precise. Being who you are is hard, but that is for later, firstly, the time most of my immaturity went down the drain, the time I realized I was pampered and spoilt, and, a lot has changed since then.
The first time I realized this was the day, ironically, I threw a tantrum. As a reader, you must be able to see a pattern, but if not, don’t worry, I have added a formula below.
Immaturity + Tantrums ===(Under the influence of time) ====> leads to Maturity + embarrassment + understanding.
Yes, I know there is a sudden change that takes place in the presence of time. And yet again, I have strayed away from the topic again, so let me return.
I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but over time learnt to keep it under strict control, and since I was a very angry (still am, at times, to this date.) child and a very spoiled child. I never really had a person who I could call close, and as the seasons changed, so did I. Over time, I realized. I was mocked by the society around me, those I called friends I considered family, to those who I had no trace of memory about. And as the fruit matures as the season’s change, my personalities and ideologies changed, from how I believed being who you are is wrong, and you should fit into the society among you, and be confined to those ideologies only, to concluding the society we live in needs to change. At this point, towards one of my final points, I would say, still am, in my anarchist stage, this was the stage where I took off the rose-tinted glasses that were attached to me and saw society for what it is, finally, growing up.
And again, Anarchy is such a beautiful thing, we cause chaos, to live for chaos, and become chaos, only to lust for peace, and freedom, and no pandemonium. Only if the world was like this, and not that, Ideas and Manifesto’s running all over the place, in the name of peace, mayhem reigns supreme. We are who we are, yet we are not. Unmistakably, we as a human species are, and will be adaptive, after all, change is what drives us, like a rocket ship needing its fuel to drive. Evolution is change, and we as a species are [ERROR], wondering why the error comes up? Mainly due to the Human species not having a definition of who we are, if only it was so easy.
“I am the null, I am the shade, I am the Void.” – Delta (The symbol for change, and me!)
A few words that keep ringing in my head, no matter what I do. All from different backgrounds. Very few stories manage to merge into one, and the three stories I read in quick succession were like this. But the final book, “Inferno” – by Dan Brown, where his main character, Robert Langdon, solved mysteries and murders, I realized one thing we had in common, we both grew up being played like a fiddle by the hands of fate.
In the end, we all grow up.
May it be an 8-year-old or a 72-year-old, we all grow up one day, by the command of fate. Our road to self-discovery is unique, in all ways, as the road we choose is a lonely one, we walk alone. May it be during times like the COVID-19 pandemic, or at a nuclear household. We all will grow up, even though we will never know the way how. In cases like the COVID-19 pandemic, where I’d like to believe the road to self-discovery was high, due to us growing up too fast, too quickly, in ways we never believed we never would. From the road to self-discovery, may it be a midlife crisis dropping into one’s life too soon, as it did to mine? I only seem fit for me to say, “we all have 365 days, what we do with them is the only difference.”
In the end, we all learn to grow up no matter our circumstances.