A Dance of Twenty-Six, by Shrungar Bhuva

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This article has been submitted by Shrungar Bhuva for the CLATGyan Blog Post Writing Competition. If you think this article is a good read, ‘Like’ this article on Facebook (the button is at the bottom of this piece) or post a comment using the ‘comments’ section below.

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I’d vowed to not allow myself the luxury of staying up late into warm summer nights, soulful music interspersing with the lazy currents of the summer breeze as I poured my heart out in the form of words. They would be quite musings, a whirlwind of thoughts or outpourings of raw emotion. They would be reminisces, confessions or pointless blabber. It did not matter what or why I wrote, as much as it mattered that I simply wrote. For the sheer, utter delight of being able to put pen to paper, or seeing words appear on a screen; a dance of twenty six letters, coupled in ways that could make one laugh and weep. But I had vowed to not spend my nights writing. I had CLAT to prepare for, Board exams to give and parties to go to. I had things to do and places to be at. I loved the magic that the words spun far more than I loved any of these things, and yet, it is these things that I prioritized over the one thing that was my solace and liberation, my love and my salvation.

Most would call what I did sensible. It was the logical thing to do, and honestly, not that much of a big deal. Most of us are people who use reason to dictate their lives decisions. We’re not wrong; we’re smart, practical and all of those much admired things. Tonight, I choose not to be. My desk is tidy, cluttered is my state of mind. It is not the immense pressure, the biting anxiety or even the gnawing uncertainty that troubles me. Yet, it is all of these, among things I cannot recall, and emotions so intermingled with one another that I cannot tell them apart. I need this. I need to create something which will lift me up and out of this trance of hopelessness and cheerlessness. On the eve of a pure math exam, after I have battled a monster born out of the marriage of Numbers and Greek and English and random lines, I sit down to write. Despite having made a vow I never would have kept; I stare at the screen till the words flow of their own accord.

When I was six, my swimming coach pushed me from a board twenty feet in the air into twenty feet of water below. That was the only time I’ve genuinely drowned, briefly. I vaguely remember that feeling- you can’t see, you can’t think straight, you can’t breathe, you don’t know which way is up and which is down. You keep floundering confusedly, with panic rising in your constricted throat. Oh yes, I remember drowning- it’s a lot like what I’m feeling right now. Truth is, you don’t need water to feel like you’re drowning. At this, I smile wryly. Math isn’t good for me; stress messes with my head. Makes me depressed and existential.

I do not know where this is going. That is the beauty of writing: the words have a mind of their own. They dictate who they want to be. I am both their master and their slave. I see math also makes me poetic. Or maybe it’s just the stillness of the street that my balcony looks upon- radically different from the constantly throbbing highway that my French windows in Bombay open up to. Tonight is all about contrasts.

Coming back, my coach argued that plunging into the terrifying, seemingly bottomless pool would remove my fear of water, that I would be introduced to the very worst that could happen and be unafraid of it. At that point, strong and experienced hands which awaited me promptly pulled me out of the asphyxiating waters. I spluttered and choked and gasped, letting the vivifying air rush into my grateful lungs. It was a twisted theory, really. It was completely ridiculous to drown me so that I’d not be scared of drowning. It was mental. It worked. I don’t remember how or why it did; I do not recall what went through my head, if anything did at all, but I do not recall fear either. I would swim laps in an Olympic standard swimming pool for two hours every evening, battling the unyielding waters, my arms and my legs propelling me forward.

I haven’t swum in a very long time. Sure, there have been instances when I have donned my fitted, midnight blue swimsuit and ventured into the water, or even been thrown in with all my clothes on (and laughed uncontrollably when a friend got pushed into a pool with an iPhone sitting in his pocket), but I haven’t really, truly felt only the strength of my arms as they sliced through an almost solid mass that the pool held, my head devoid of all other thoughts, and the splashing of water the only sound in my ears. Yet, I remember it.

The water stung like a whiplash sometimes and sometimes it gently caressed bare skin. It was a friend and a foe. Water made for an uncertain ally, but if many ways it reminded me of life itself.  It was what I would make of it. It could not be contained, forced or stoppered; only directed, guided. And yet, while I was helpless before its power, I would have to try to harness it, if I ever was to be able to swim. The water was my life; it would nurture me or kill me. Sometimes, it would throw its full strength behind me, and sometimes, come at me with fury. I had to fight the water, but I also had to let it tend to me.  

I smile again- this time it is genuine. The words hold immeasurable sway over my emotions. Not just these words, any words. They make me cry and think and love; they make me strong. They change me. They know just what to say. Long before Leonardo Di Caprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, a Trinity examiner asked me to sell him a pen. I told him he had the chance to own the world’s most powerful weapon- something that could create or destroy, unite or divide, bring war or peace. That is one of the wiser things I’ve said during the course of these seventeen years. Words, I think to myself, are immensely powerful.  I’m feeling better, climbing my way up- inch by inch- out of this pit of misery that I found myself in an hour ago.

There will be times you must face the wild, terrifying waves of pain, helplessness and anger. They will wash away all joy and engulf you in melancholy and angst. The Gods may help you, but these will not be earthly battles. These battles will be within you. The war will rage on, it will hurt you. It will be difficult. Then on some days, it will be easy. The water will be calm; you will have peace, even happiness. The turquoise color will be as radiant as your smile, as gentle as soft kisses and warm hugs and tinkling laughter. But at it’s very best, life will be all of these things. It will be wild, for your spirit and your passions. It will be unrelenting, pushing you to be the very best you can be. It will be kind enough to have people who care about you in it. Water is a universal solvent- it has mixed with it joy and danger and sorrow and love.It will give itself to you- to direct and do with it as you please. It is a sea of possibility. A whole life, yours to live.  

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Shrungar Bhuva is a seventeen year old aspiring writer who embraces life’s uncertainties with joy, and sometimes, distaste. She is inspired by music, travel and people. She loves strange cities, storms, pulsating beats, long talks, food, T.V, and words. She believes in red, in dreams and in uninhibited laughter. She is going to Law School. 

16 COMMENTS

  1. the flow of words in your writing is sheer magic- with all the permutation and combination of the 26!!!!!!!!
    keep writing 🙂
    love

  2. It is humbling that you think so. It’s amazing what these twenty six can do, and I find myself awed every time I read or write. Thank you! 🙂

  3. “Stories, like people and butterflies and songbirds’ eggs and human hearts and dreams, are also fragile things, made up of nothing stronger or more lasting than twenty-six letters and a handful of punctuation marks. Or they are words on the air, composed of sounds and ideas- abstract, invisible, gone once they’ve been spoken- and what could be more frail than that? But some stories, small, simple ones about setting out on adventures or people doing wonders, tales of miracles and monsters, have outlasted all the people who told them, and some of them have outlasted the lands in which they were created.” -Neil Gaiman

    • Well, that’s pure brilliance. 
      “There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.”  ― Diane Setterfield, 

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