The sea glows orange as the sun sinks into its depths, and I watch it from the edge of the beach, writing my name with a broken stick, and letting the waves run into me as they wash it away. Behind me, Aarthi and Vidya play hopscotch in the bungalow compound. They know I’m distracted by something, because I was lost in thought all the time through the return trip from Kochi, but they don’t know what it is. How could they, when I myself do not know what it is?
“If you want to be happy, be.”
I think Tolstoy got it right. It is us who decide when to be happy and when not to. But what affects our decisions the most, in the end, are people. People who love us, and people who don’t. People who we know, and people who are but strangers to us. Their words shouldn’t really matter, their opinions needn’t become our choices, but somewhere, in this journey of our lives, they do. They change who we become, who we are, and even who we were.
I look at Aarthi behind me. I remember the party with our friends when we first fell in love. It was because I knew she’d be there that I decided to host it. I remember one of my classmates suggesting we play spin-the-bottle. I still picture the room in my mind, the eight of us sitting in a circle, and watching the spinning bottle come slowly to a stop, it’s ends pointing toward the two of us, and a little gasp of surprise coming from all of us.
“Just get it over with,” her best friend had whispered audibly enough. But Aarthi, she hadn’t hesitated. We were a little shy, a tinge of pink had crept into our cheeks, but we kissed. We had fallen in love that day, but that best friend continued to try and pry us apart. Was it jealousy? Or did she just think I wasn’t good enough for Aarthi and try to push that idea into my love? I don’t know. People are strange.
It was chance after all that we ended up in the same college. To pursue engineering was never my first choice. One morning after my pre-university results had come, my fate was decided. I wasn’t asked my opinion, or given a choice.
“You’ve got distinction, the highest in your school. Nanda, you will become an engineer. You will fulfill our desire. I’ve fallen into some debt, and you’ll have to study hard, get a good job, help me clear it,” my father had said.
Much like the 3 Idiots movie, I suppose. But I was the introvert back in those days. I kept silent when I should have spoken out. And for the sake of my people, my beloved family, I’d pursued engineering. I fit in, no one doubted my merit. But no one saw my sadness, and those who did, pretended that they didn’t. They had their happiness, so they didn’t look for anyone else’s.
Even after I successfully completed my fate, the choices seemed to be out of my hand. People like to change other people, but they themselves don’t like to change at all. Or rather, they don’t like to accept changes to what they’ve been taught as correct. There are rules and regulations, customs and norms that cannot change and everyone is expected to stand by them.
“Aalkar endha paraya? Venda. Vittekyu. Namalkariyam entha nallathu ennu.”
“What will people say?” – Did it matter really what other people thought about how we wanted to lead our lives. Did they affect us? Not at all. But the idea was that it would.
“No. Leave it. We know what’s good for you.” – I agreed with that a little. Yes, they knew what was good for me, but I knew what that was too. It wasn’t like I was a child still. My choice had to be respected too, right?
The introvert, silent Aanand had disappeared then, and I had battled their ideas to get my way. It wasn’t every day that one fell in love, and knew that she was the one.
“Enthe ee vishamam? What’s bothering you, Nandu?”
I’m snapped back to the present by Aarthi’s voice.
“Ariyilla. I don’t know. This trip has been a flood of memories. Some have been good. Some not so. I’m just thoughtful of some decisions, Aari. Sheri aayirunno, ennu oru thonal.”
She squeezes me cheeks, pulls my lips into a smile.
“Don’t think too much. Whatever decisions you’ve taken for us, for Vids, they were right. We wouldn’t be so happy if they weren’t. Whatever decisions you’ve taken for you, if they can be made again, you make them now and right them if you feel they were wrong. Not every decision is a final decision you know?”
As she walks away, I realize that perhaps not all decisions pushed on me were wrong. Maybe they were serendipitous. Had I not been pushed into engineering, I might not have met Aarthi. If I hadn’t met Aarthi, I’d not have broken out of my introvert shell, or got this curious, bubbly little darling daughter. If I’d not broken out of that shell, I’d not have stood up for my love, and if Vids hadn’t been there, I’d not be a happy father at all. Somehow, even the wrong decisions made the right pieces fall into place.
Looking over my decisions, I smile and walk towards my two pretty girls. Not all those decisions need to be final. Perhaps there is hope for change after all.
(13 Dec, 2013)