A couple of weeks ago I found myself at the intersection of my school, quite by chance. Given that I had not been there in more than a decade, I had expected to be flooded with emotion. Strangely I was not.
The reasons could have been many. First: I have grown up -- eighteen years is a long time and probably I have outgrown the people, the place, and the memories. Second, and perhaps more pertinent, that the place around the school – and the building itself – has completely transformed; it no longer looks like my school (the way a place looks, I am told, has a huge impact on how it makes you feel). And so, for almost ten days I drove indifferently through the road just like I did many, many years before, but I neither felt the agony nor the ecstasy that one usually expects to encounter in such situations.
Then one morning as we -- my husband and I -- were rushing through the street behind the school (the one in front was too crowded), I spotted a familiar silhouette. As we drove closer it became clear that it was our Geography teacher, a lady I was very fond of, as she was of me. In another few seconds she was right in front of the car, barely a few feet away from me waiting for us to pass. She had not seen me although I had. I looked away. Somehow I did not want her to see me, and she did not. In a jiffy we were past her, gliding towards our destination.
Shying away from people I have once known, even been close to, has been a habit with me. I have hidden from classmates, college friends, ex colleagues, current colleagues, neighbours, even relatives. I have dunked my head, changed course, left my meals halfway, switched elevators just to avoid making the mandatory small talk with those who had once been an integral part of my life but have little, or nothing, in common with me now.
When I told husband what had just happened, he seemed surprised: “Why did you not talk to her?” I had no answer. But it got me thinking: why is it that I shy away from people, the way I do. What is it that prevents me from talking to people? Am I embarrassed about myself? Am I just too insensitive? Do I care nothing about the good times?
I have since been thinking about it; although I do not have a definite answer, I do have an idea: it is my way of dealing with change. The change that is inevitable, yet painful.
That day by dunking my head and avoiding the teacher, I prevented myself from having to get off the car and face the reality: everything had changed in the last eighteen years, I was no longer an awkward teenager but a mother of two. By avoiding long-lost friends I do the same: evade the truth that their lives, and mine, are running just as normally without each other as they did when we were together. Perhaps that is also why I can never be friends with an ex -- wait, I do not even have an ex!
Change perturbs me. It makes me uncomfortable. While I want new things, people, experiences in my life, I am extremely frightened of letting go of the existing: I want to live in Delhi, but not leave Bangalore. I want to be a writer, but not stop training. I want to stay a girl but be a woman. I want the lover, the husband, the friend, and the boyfriend all at the same time. But I know it's impossible. And that, I think, is my problem.