Tuesday, September 27, 2016


By Sunaina Patnaik at Tuesday, September 27, 2016 3 comments

I was three when I nurtured the habit of looking out of the windows.
Misty mornings made way for warm sunshine and jaunty evenings waltzed into starry skies.
But the lofty green mountains remained strong and the bougainvillea trees stood still even in the shadows of darkness.

I was four when I felt the salty aroma of air engulfing me as I stared at the endless blue sea.
I collected shells and souvenirs and stood with my toes in the sand as the waves gently lapped me at the shore.
Even as the tides got stronger and the waves, higher by the night, the distant lights always lulled me into a strange quietness.

I was five when I cycled my way through the wide roads to a library my mother visited every evening.
The mischievous world of Bapu and Ramana, the mystical world of Viswanatha Satyanarayana, the mysterious world of Chalam enticed me into their realms.
Oblivious to the value of those writers, I cycled home with the joy of spending another evening annoying the librarian.

I was six when I discovered how the city was surrounded by mountains greener than the greens of my crayons and I was seven when I realized this was home.
I was eight when we moved to a different city, and to another, and kept moving.

It took me more than 8 years and yet another long stay to understand this city is more than just home.
It is first steps and first discoveries. First beach rides and aquarium sights.
It is first friendships and first fights. Of innumerable skating classes and injuries. First movies and first brush with literature.
The first rush of teenage and walking fearlessly into darkness without a speck of doubt.

Over the years, the city is growing older with grace.
Natural disasters have only made it stronger.
The lovers of the beach have slowly made way for the lovers in the beach.
The nooks and corners are flanked with the cosmopolitan glory.
The otherwise conventional people learned to coexist with the modern ones.
So much has changed but the air is still salty and the evenings placidly wander into starry nights.

On the roof of every home, a child like I once was dreams high of becoming big, someday.
To explore the world behind the green mountains and beyond the greenish blue waters.
To travel the cities without mountains around walk in the beaches with a different scent in the air.
Yet come back home, from distances far away.

Maybe it was only that distance that made the heart grew fonder.
After all, home truly is where the heart is, isn't it?

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Cookie Tin.

By Sunaina Patnaik at Friday, September 16, 2016 0 comments

Throughout my childhood, we had a cookie tin at home. It was made of steel and was sturdy. My fingers still remember how its nooky edges and torn label made it stand out from the rest of the tins. My mother had a habit of putting all the best cookies in this particular tin, mostly because its lid was tight. Tight enough for me to struggle opening it. I guess I was never into Marie biscuits even at the age when I couldn't spot the visible difference between biscuits and cookies. That, however, did not stop me from reaching out to that cookie jar. Because I knew it held something that I longed for.

As I grew old and joined high school, I was still adamant about eating out of that tin. My mother soon began to store more than just best cookies in that tin, but I still believed that it consisted of the things I was forced to eat in a limit. That tin survived my many maneuvers for several years, it traveled with us every time we moved from one city to another and boy, we did move a lot! It became an integral part of our kitchen and I was warned to steer clear of it.

I don't certainly remember when we lost that tin, but I haven't noticed it for years now. Especially this morning when I was storing cookies in a different tin that bore no resemblance to the lost one. I am beginning to think if life is a lot like this. No, I am serious. Did it ever happen to you? You hold on to something - a plan, a work item, a piece of clothing, a book or what the hell, the idea of doing something amazing in your mind and try your best to gain control over it. Over time, it either comes easily to you after a lot of struggle from your end or becomes a part of your existence that you lose track of it. Did it ever happen to you? That in time, you lose the purpose of the thing (or the idea) you once strongly believed in? It is kind of annoying if you actually perceive it in that fashion. Nevertheless, it does not alter the truth. We lose the purpose of myriad important things in our life. Our dreams, our ambitions, our desperate plans to achieve meaning of life - we lose it all.

Sure, the tin might be replaced with another tin that has no stains or uneven edges, but not everything can turn obsolete.

And it shouldn't. Because life does not offer another cookie tin when we lose sight of a purpose or ambition.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Tender Beginnings

By Sunaina Patnaik at Sunday, September 11, 2016 0 comments

(A twelve-year-old boy goes to study in a different city from his village and writes a letter to his mother.)


I know, I know it has been a week since I reached and I should have written you earlier. In between settling down and making new friends, writing to you slipped my mind. Finally, I sat down to tell you all that I’ve been meaning to tell you ever since I reached here.

It is 9:30 PM now. I have eaten my dinner. I am sure you must be sleeping now. Sister too must be sleeping beside you, holding one end of your saree. If I were there, I would have definitely woken you up in the middle of the night for biscuits. I miss how she would play with me every evening and the moonlit nights when you'd feed us our dinner. I think of you both often and I miss home. I’ve never imagined settling down at a new place would be this hard and tiring. But I remember dad's words, that it's important for me to pursue higher education as a part of growing up. Now, I really don't understand why I wanted to grow up.

Our school hostel is very huge. The first thing I noticed after getting down the carriage was its height. I felt so small in front of it, but I was also in awe of its size. It is an ancient building, probably 75-years-old. I have been told that the Maharaja of this town donated his house to a school to build a hostel for the boys many years ago. The branches and the leaves of the trees in the garden gently caress the lofty red walls of the building, and in the evenings, it is a true delight to sit under these trees. The playground here is vast, ma. I cannot see its end, it's that vast. There is a different and much nicer ground beside the garden where the senior boys play tennis. The world here is different and I am adapting to it, quickly.

Our warden, Mukesh ji, is an aged man and is often mistaken to be weak. But he does not entertain any funny business. He is very particular about cleanliness and checks our dirty shoes and nails each time we enter the dormitory. He wakes us at 5 AM and makes us run at least 10 times around the ground. Later, we are sent to the canteen to drink a glass of peppered milk. Then the boys take turns to shower and reach the canteen again for breakfast. The food here does not taste as good as the food you make at home. Our cook has a grumpy face and if we put his cooking skills to a test, it would be rated as something you eat to survive only. His soup is rather watery, and his potatoes lack flavour. This reminds me of the aroma of the food you cook. I remember the number of times you let me grind spices in the mortar and pestle that grandma passed on to you. Our cook’s food is barely edible, maybe I will get used to it soon. However, he makes delicious samosas and chutney in the evenings. We devour them with another glass of milk before we head out to the library. This brings me to the library -- the giant walls of it are adorned with the photographs of the Maharaja and his ancestors, who donated this building. I have discovered a lot of books here, ma. I spend most of my evenings reading Enid Blyton and Nancy Drew. The librarian told me that Tagore and Conrad are for senior boys and that I still have to wait. I have to wait to grow older for the books that have no readers in the school. What a strange world, ma!

My classes will begin in another week and I am particularly looking forward to the geography class as we'll be taught maps. I already got a globe for the dormitory and I spend several hours locating cities and countries on it. Ma, did you know that Australia is down below India and around 7,800 kilometers away from us? But on the globe, it is a one-finger distance away. My dorm mates are kind and sometimes mischievous. I've made two friends - Nakul and Nandan. Nakul is the silent one and Nandan is the funny one. Although it's been only a week, it does seem like I've known them for years. We lose the track of time when we are together. Under the apple trees, we spend hours. It reminds me of the Summer afternoons when you feed me the pickled rice under our trees.

I wish you were here so that I could come home to you and tell you everything instead of sending you a letter. But I promise to write more often and study well. I will wait for your letter. For now, I take your leave.

- Arjun

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Distances and Proximity.

By Sunaina Patnaik at Thursday, September 08, 2016 0 comments

She lived out of suitcases while he built his home, carefully.
She measured her life with the number of places her feet took her to, and he did his while reading books in the cozy corner of his room.
She traveled to various parts of different countries in the pursuit of finding a meaningful story, as he moved from one page to the other, breathing into the lives of thousand characters.
The lipstick stains on her coffee cups and the little notes on the takeaway boxes made her life a mantel of memories, but to him, collecting memories meant something more tangible.

She sent him little postcards and lovely polaroids from the towns she visited and he sent her long emails about his days, weeks and sometimes, months.
During their rare phone calls, they ran into the wee hours of the night talking about the desserts that troubled her and the writer that made him go weak in the knees, about the coffee she enjoyed at the end of a forgotten lane and about the drawings and poetry he wrote in the margins of his notebook.
She narrated how sunrise looked poles apart in different parts of the world, and he described how sunsets weren’t the same without her.
Every time she moved from one place to the other, the desire to be with her grew deep in him.
Her feet might have taken her to places she called her own and beaches that she felt like home, but her heart? Her heart stayed with him, no matter where her feet traveled.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Human Beings.

By Sunaina Patnaik at Thursday, September 01, 2016 0 comments

Human beings are strange creatures. They measure time in moments instead of numbers. They celebrate long and grieve longer. They claim to understand the pain of loss but truly do only when they experience it. The circle of life and the curveballs that it brings along makes them perpetually confused about loss, heartbreak, death, and failure.

They like to hold on to their youth strongly and want to feel the emotions of being wild and free too often. Growing old is an awful experience, even more so when they realize they turn into a burden than a responsibility on growing older.

Human beings are strange creatures. They dream but restrain from discovering the strength it takes to live the dream. But when they do, they forget to stop and appreciate the little things around them. They claim that happiness is short-lived but never realize that it's self-created and self-destroyed.

When it comes to expressing their emotions, they fall short of words. They care, but they stutter to say. They hate, but they hide behind a mask. They win, but they find meaning in failure only. They write wonderful stories, but keep them away from everyone in torn journals.

Human beings are strange creatures. They watch great movies. They read great books. They admire the lives of their favourite heroes but they compromise with their lives. Only till they realize they cannot compromise any longer.  


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