Opening a Window

Drawn by Anant Ganapathy

This article was originally published in the 2530th issue of The Doon School Weekly dated 16 March 2019.

As I leave boarding school in three months, there is a multitude of problems I will be exposed to. This article describes what I wonder I will do, what I wonder I will become, and what I want to work on in the future. I’m confused about what direction I should head in, but I do know what I don’t want to do.

The other day, I made the brave decision of letting the night-time winter wind enter my room. The aroma of kathi rolls had infiltrated the room, and it was impossible to work surrounded by the alluring scent of oil, masala, maida, and chicken. I’m not one of those people who sprays deodorant in the room to mask a smelly odour or the evidence of a feast, so I resorted to opening the windows. With the rush of cool air into the room, my mind wandered out.

I was reminded of the unique set of benefits and drawbacks presented by living in Oberoi House, tucked away in a corner of School. The extra five-minute commute to anywhere around School has been painfully endured, but the House’s proximity to the world outside has served us well too. On a bad day, we are bombarded by numbers from Doon’s baraats performing at a wedding. On a good day, the wedding hosts play music from this century. Or even better: there is no wedding, and we study in peace.

Chakrata Road brings to my ears the typical set of sounds from an Indian street. The hustle and bustle of people as some return home for the night and some head to work for the night. The incessant honking, serving as static to my mind, helps me focus on this essay instead of my overdue Theory of Knowledge essay. Amidst the honks of Maruti-s, Mahindra-s, and Scooty-s, comes a sharp and bold honk from what sounds like a BMW. The BMW must be destroying itself on our pothole-ridden roads, blinding onlookers with its unnecessarily bright LED headlamps. Do I want to grow up strapped in the seat of an extravagant BMW, or do I want to be a part of the aam aadmi?

Then comes the roar of a bike hurtling down Chakrata Road. Somebody is probably having the time of their life. Within the blink of an eye though, things can go awry. The rider endangers the lives of many, but I guess that is the cost of an adrenaline rush. Is it worth the risk?

As usual, a car with a squeaky pulley-belt system drives by. The entire neighbourhood is notified of the passage of this worn out car. Perhaps it is representative of us too, as we work day in and day out. Why do I exhaust myself every day? For 45 points in the IBDP and a spot on a Forbes list? What about you?

I am interrupted as a siren pierces the air off in the distance. My overloaded physics-conditioned brain reminds me that a moving source of sound like an ambulance causes the Doppler Effect. But the ambulance is also a reminder of the fragility of human life. Out there, somebody is probably in severe pain, waiting for it all to end. If there is a complication, the bills will amount to a sum that will make death look sastaa. The kin, if they exist, must be in extreme distress. The worst I have had to deal with till this date is a “severe” case of diarrhoea. Within a century, humans have successfully doubled their average lifespan so they can continue to stuff their stomachs, repay loans, bask in love, release frustration, and acquire more. Will I live to simply be “a slave to money”?

When the vehicles finally calm down, the barks, moos, howls, meows, and yaps from street animals become audible. Are they quipping about the obnoxious honks of that BMW, or are they lamenting the lack of food strewn across the roads today? Amongst these “animals” on Indian streets also lie our fellow 1.77 million humans — a number that may increase forty-fold, depending on how you define homelessness. As we leave behind 58 kilograms of food on our plates, we also leave behind these millions on the streets. Is a life filled with the basic necessities for existence reserved for those who win the lottery of birth?

Alas, the window is now open; in three months, I escape the Chandbagh bubble to face this world that yearns for solutions.

(Though I’m not much of a literature fanatic, I did try to integrate some smarty-pants literary devices to amplify messages in this piece. It feels nice to use such devices, but is there any purpose of using them if readers don’t detect them? Or perhaps they go undetected because normal people don’t decide to dissect a random article like we do in English class. I guess this is an ongoing debate in my head, and I welcome your thoughts on this.)