I am a gatherer of stories. I am a believer of magic. I collect miracles. I store these stories in my heart. These stories shape my soul. I’d want to share some stories with you, but I don’t have the words to reproduce them.
Sometimes, I find myself crying at night thinking about those stories.
Like this one time when I went chandelier shopping.
The salesgirl shows me crystals and mirrors and exquisite pieces. She speaks patiently, enthusiastically about why she loves those lights. But I want to know about the crepe bandage she wears around her wrist? What is her story?
“I was going home to Himachal (or was it Uttrakhand?), when our bus toppled. I found myself inside a vacant bus, my hand trapped under a seat. I couldn’t get out of the upturned bus because my hand was stuck. My hand got smashed. The doctors said it would be a miracle if it moved again,” she says as she fills the invoice. But questions begin to fill me. I start feeling giddy as visuals of a young woman lying all alone in an upturned bus, on a secluded road, with her hand trapped, rise in my stomach. I imagine her watching everyone leave that bus in chaos.
Does she feel scared lying there, trapped and immobile? “Ma’am, I thought I’d die, but I didn’t want to. I have a child. I wanted to escape death for him.” Does no one know you are inside, all by yourself, pinned to the floor, and scared? Does no one come to help?
I remember fragments of what she tells me, but I experience the same emotions every time I hear that story inside me. “I kept screaming the entire night hoping someone will come to free me. They tried moving the bench, but couldn’t. A wrestler was called from the nearby village to move it. He couldn’t. The crane will reach in the morning, they told me. A JCB came in the morning, it moved the bench. I was free.”
I imagine a young woman lying on her back in the upturned bus, tethered by hand to the bench that won’t move. On an abandoned road. I feel the pain in my wrist. I feel giddy. I sense my husband standing by my side, letting me soak in her story. I want to say something that would ease her pain, but it is I who need to hear something comforting. So as she fills my invoice, I say, ‘But thank god you are lefty!’ “Ma’am, I had to learn to use my left… I learnt to eat with my left hand…’ Tears fill her eyes, “I would cry because food would keep falling off my spoon.”
She sees my tears and smiles, “But ma’am, I am now using the right hemisphere of my brain, isn’t that great!” I smile. I leave the showroom, and her story leaves with me. I think of her at night sometimes, I still hear her screams inside me. I’ll tell you her story someday, when I learn how to write. When in March, she tells me the accident happened this June, I feel that unhealed raw wound on my soul. I write about it in September, I still hear her screams. Hot tears roll down my face.
Someday, when I learn to write stories, I will tell you the story of a young intern, who infuriates me to no end. He misses office and complains of headache all the time. I scold him and tell him he is lucky to have got an internship at a media house so divine. Until the day I chance upon a video of him at his house.
That day I cry. I break down into tears unable to hide from my peers. In his small house, I see his mother just back from doing the dishes at a big house. I see a boy fighting his circumstances to compete with the privileged classes. I see a poor boy daring to dream. I see an underprivileged boy who gets splitting headache hearing all the English conversations he struggles to keep up with.
I cry uncontrollably. I want him to live his dream. I don’t know how to articulate the feelings his story birthed in me. I request a colleague to order lunch for him the next day. I pretend to laugh with everyone when he takes it home instead of eating it there. But I have cried at nights imagining him taking it home to share with his family a meal so luxurious. I feel helpless. Does he get to be in the mainstream, from the margins he stares?
His story makes me more kind to the next intern. In the morning, I give my domestic help some extra bucks on some pretext. I still cry at night sometimes.
These stories make me. These stories are stitched on my soul. I want to hear every story out there.
When I go to Spain, I peep into houses to know the stories that live inside. Do these stories have the same colour of my walls? I feel frustrated with the uniformity of the facade. I sit inside a stranger’s verandha imagining all the stories around me. I see a homeless man eating a stranger’s leftover food on a street he calls home. I drop a few coins for him. I don’t know how to articulate the feelings that rise in my clumsy throat. Let me think of an easier story I can share with you, of hope, love and life.
I love the stories my college friend tells, of people she meets on solo trips. I see a young girl leave her small village in Haryana. I see her living in London, where she teaches them freedom. Her story sets me free. She is great at telling stories. This once she asked me about my story. There is silence and I say it’s all good. I fail terribly at telling stories. I wish I knew how to free a story. It would, perhaps, free me a little, too.
These stories are the tiny squares of my pixilated soul. These stories form my heart. They come together to make me. When I learn to transfer these to your soul, I’d drain all the blood in my heart to fill my pen. I will cut a piece of my heart to show you these stories are flesh and life. But I don’t know how to articulate these stories without scarring the piece. The raw wound, I don’t mind. It’s that piece that I don’t want to embarrass.
When I learn to tell stories without embarrassing the people they belong to, I wouldn’t be embarrassed to tell you that my driver once wanted another half-day. I wanted to know the story he’d offer in lieu of winding up the office early. ‘I am the only one at home today’. ‘So?’ I ask him, wanting him to complete the story. ‘My house doesn’t have a door, I need to be at home before it gets too dark.’ I just nod my head unable to form words. Too ashamed to admit I haven’t bothered to hear this story in my vicinity. I imagine a young man driving a BMW in the day and going back to his door-less house at night. I want to be able to tell you how the story changed something inside me. Someday, when I learn to write.
When I learn to tell stories, I’ll tell you about a young woman I met years ago. She is slender and tall. And her voice is like a soothing song. I want to know what is this girl in a little dress doing with a spiritual movement of sorts. “Oh! I once wanted to kill myself. His kindness saved me and became my guiding light,” she tells me her story in fluent English spoken with an accent of an NRI. I see a girl lying on her bed. She looks peaceful. Her eyes shut. But she is not asleep. I see red colour flowing from her wrist. I want to save her. I want to hug her. She interrupts my stream of consciousness with some joke I don’t remember now. I’ll tell you all about it someday.
I wish I knew how to tell you about a man who gave up the world but never gave up on the world. He once sat in front of me, listening calmly to my petty issues. His words soothed my soul. I want to be able to tell you how he planted peace in my being. I wouldn’t know how to articulate the kindness he sowed in me. Words fail me. I am unable to see, as my eyes fill with water and a smile travels on my face. I want to be able to communicate the peace to you.
These stories are all of me. I am a gatherer of stories. I collect miracles. These stories become a part of me. They make me. They break me. I cry at night, until the day the intern messages, ‘Ma’am, I am now a journalist’. I see a young boy turning me into a collector of hope. I want to share these stories with you.
I have cried myself to sleep many a nights. The stories are trapped inside me. I wish I knew how to free a story. It would, perhaps, free me a little, too.
I feel helpless. I see the girl at the chandelier store leaving that bus. I become a reservoir of strength. These stories define me. These stories complete me. I send chai for my driver. I hear a young man telling the office boy he always wanted to drive a Jaguar, but BMW is fine for now. I smile. His story opens my eyes to little joys I have been blind to.
The beautiful laughter of the girl in the little dress rings in my ear when I am hopeless. It heals the wound when I find myself alone. Her story fills me with life.
Someday I want to tell you all these stories. I want to be able to share it in words that will move you the way these stories move me. I will cut open my soul to you. You’ll see stories full of hope, love, strength, and life. Someday.