“She is a bit of a forgetting type,” do you know who said this? The 79-year-old auntie, my former landlady, who had once kept milk to boil and went to the temple! That day, she almost burned the building down. SHE thinks I am a bit of a “forgetting type!” I can’t blame her, though.
“If you do something like this again, you could lose your job!” my former manager had once said. I had sent my payslip to the entire organization by mistake and had stirred up a minor rebellion. People who had apparently been paid lesser than me sent angry e-mails to my manager. They threatened to quit if they did not get matching salaries.
“How could you be so careless?” my manager asked me as I stood in his cubicle, with my head hanging low, even though I wasn’t particularly feeling guilty. I can’t blame him either.
Sometimes, I have no control over my brain, as it hops around excitedly like a young goat in a meadow. That’s why I sometimes put washed clothes into the washing machine and wear the soiled ones. While in the bathroom, I sometimes lather myself twice, lost in my reveries. Not that I enjoy these mishaps. I have always tried to confine to a quadrant of “mildly careless,” but often end up being inside the “ridiculously intriguing” or “irresponsibly dreamy” ones.
Inside my brain, it’s like a Rio de Janeiro carnival. It’s a constant parade of twisted plots, piquant dialogs, and bizarre characters. That’s why I am the “forgetting type.” My brain seems to be incapable of retaining the mundane details of everyday life – when to buy groceries, when did I last change my bedsheets, did I pay my credit card bill, did I put salt into the curry! My brain is only interested in loitering around in a wonderland where things are much more exciting.
For example, when I see a married couple fighting in my apartment corridor, my brain starts spinning a twisted plot around it. It could be a mild domestic tiff. Instead, I imagine the husband killing his wife and stuffing her into suitcases and dropping them in the inconspicuous corners of the city. Then, like detective Byomkesh Bakshi, my brain rummages around the dark alleys of the city for the missing pieces of the wife.
“Hey, how are you doing?” the husband’s voice startles me. It’s only then I realize that I had been standing there in the corridor, gawking at him. Without a word, I run away from him, and the poor fellow is left to wonder what he did wrong.
My engineering job was a drag. The whole day I sat finding bugs in other people’s code, and they killed me. I constantly pictured myself sitting in a little shack at Arambol beach, soaking up in the sea breeze and my stories. I could almost taste the salt in the wind. In a world full of normal people running around and doing successful things, my dreamy brain was a burden to me. That is why they told me that I am a mediocre engineer and a mediocre human being. And, I believed them.
With my brain incapable of any radical thoughts, always mixed up in a potpourri of stories and characters, I started believing that I was a failure. That’s how I fell into the deep well of depression. I lay there, for years together, battling with myself. I shunned my colorful daydreams. I stayed on the bed and cursed myself for not being able to function like an ordinary engineer that I am. I wandered off to the murky lands of insanity and self-destruction.
It would have been ok if I were living alone. But, I have a husband and a three-year-old daughter. I couldn’t lie on my bed all day. I didn’t want to set that example for my daughter.
So, one day, I got up and set my brain free.
“Go, do whatever damn thing that you want to do,” I said to my brain. But, the first thing it did was to jolt me. It made me quit my job! Without a care in the world, it asked me to say bye-bye to my exorbitant salary.
Then, I freed a beast that I had caged for years – my imagination. I wandered around the streets and observed people going about their daily business - how they walk, talk, laugh, and argue. I let myself indulge in the warm intoxication of imagination. I let my brain run wild and incessantly plot stories. When my brain no longer could contain those stories, I opened a new word document and poured myself into it.
The stories came like water gushing from a broken dam – gurgling and splattering. I got lost in the world of stories – sad, colorful, happy, and terrifying. Stories with true grit and dry wit. My family had a tough time adjusting to the new me. But, without questions, they ate the salty curries and drank the overly sweet teas. They put up with unwashed clothes and lack of groceries. They put up with me while I dreamt away, shut in my room.
Then one day, I started letting the outside world into my own. And then, something magical happened. I wasn’t a failure anymore. I was neither the “forgetting type,” nor was I weird. “Who are these characters?” “Where are you getting such stories from?” “Who are these people?” “Where did they come from?” people began asking me.
“They were always there,” I told them.
My life started turning normal. Not the “wear a clean dress, go to the office, and do coding” type of a normal. Losing myself in my reveries, spinning stories about people I hardly know, giving a fictional twist to my personal experiences – this is my new normal. Now they call me a writer – I don’t care what they call me as long as they don’t stop me from dreaming away.
For the first time in my life, it feels natural. I am now at peace with my brain.