Twenty’s Twenty: Excerpts from my Journal

  1. I slide the sharp blade of knife in the middle of the white, tender paneer. I cut it in long slices first. Then, I dice them in small cubes. After sautéing in the pan, I keep the paneer cubes with red crusty patches in a bowl full of warm water. I ask myself why I don’t acknowledge the fact that I find solace while cooking. When I peel garlic, cut onions, smash ginger, warm oil, take pauses, watch it shimmer, boil and serve, I don’t take any aesthetic pictures. It just does not feel right. For me. For Aama. For Hajurama. For every woman in my family who has been cooking and serving for generations and never expected any credit. For everyday. For every meal.
  2. When I was nine years old, I had an argument with Aama for the first time. I ran to the other room and stood in a corner. I promised myself that when I have kids, I’ll never scold them. I did not say sorry and stood there until Aama came and gave me a hug. I held her tight and took it all out by crying. That was the first time we decided to give silence the power to mediate our disputes. Now, our arguments have become parallel lines that are always left hanging midway. And sometimes buried underneath the mats on the dining table. On top of which we place our plates and pour a big pile of rice.
  3. Why do we get angry at people we love so much? Aren’t we supposed to LOVE the people we love so much?
  4. Hajurama listens to the news. Morning, Day and Night. 8am, 10am, 11am, 2pm, 4pm, 6pm, 8pm. Samachar. She makes sure to listen about every single dead body reported in Nepal during this pandemic. But I don’t have the courage to accept what is happening in the world so, instead, I count the moles in her legs.
  5. I hear somebody compare the current situation with the earthquake we faced five years back and say Nepalis are resilient. I repeat it in my head, Nepalis are resilient. Nepalis are resilient. Nepalis are resilient. And you are a Nepali. No matter how long you stayed in America.
  6. When this rainy season gets over, will the entire day look the same? What did the days even look like before it started to rain? Will it not be monotonous to not have the clouds come and go? Be dark and then light? No thunder or the sound of the raindrops? When so much of my mood depends on this, once this is over, where will I get my sporadic rush from? What will I think about if not the rain?
  7. And when I dance under the rain playing Yeh Mausam Ka Jaadu hai Mitwa and it gets all romantic, I read Jhumpa Lahiri’s stories. They remind me that I want to become a writer before I want to become a lover.
  8. “Oooooo how did you guys meet?” I ask everybody who is in love. Or dating. Or married. The meeting part always excites me. ‘In college,’ ‘our parents’, ‘common friends’, ‘tinder.’ “No, no, no I meant the specifics,” I say. ‘Like were you in the same classroom? What was his first sentence? Did you guys talk for hours on the phone? And while doing that did you dim your lights? Light a candle? Was there music ? Did you take a shower and applied deodorant? Was your hair wet? Did you write letters that started with the name you gave her? Did you exchange glances and smiled only on the right side amongst the crowd? Was it a secret? How did you decide it was love?’
    My friends often tell me that my definition of love stops me from loving. And I don’t think I can ever make them understand that I love the idea of falling in love, not me falling in love. Aur bhi dukh hain zamane mein mohabbat ke siwa?
  9. Sometimes the sun slips inside the cloud like a penny inside the piggy bank.
  10. Baba says, “You will leave for America in a jet plane” and that sticks in the upper chamber of my heart, threatening to stop circulation. Circulation of blood, ideas and emotions. For grandparents, all airplanes do is take their grandchildren away to a far, far land. And, when the yellow makai is fried in the black karai with a lot of ghee, they blame the airplanes for not being able to feed their grandkids their favorite food.
  11. Sometimes I remember random details. That grey checked sandals that I wore in Rome, in dresses, shorts, jeans and everything. My yellow headband. The room in the apartment of Rome that had a poster of New York. My art professor who took us to a cemetery to sketch. There was a black cat staring right at me. Dark red roses growing around.
  12. Honey mixed with herbal dusts in a steel bowl. Hands on my forehead to check the temperature. Mutton ko khutta ko soup. Rubbing of ghee and camphor on my neck. I had almost forgotten how poetic it is to be sick at home.
  13. There used to be days when being able to make tiny bags out of the leaves from Ashoka trees was enough to make me happy. Ribbons tied around my hair. I would stand under the Ashoka tree during the tiffin time. Today I wonder how there are still enough leaves in those trees years after, when I see Kaya tear the leaves the same way. Years and years and years go by but what I did when I was nine years old is still the same as what my sister does as a nine years old. Is this why we all write about the same thing?
  14. Sipping her tea Hajurama says, “America gaye pachi eklai basne bani basecha.” But I can never be alone. I will always have an ocean full of words. And memories. And people to think about. And wonder. And write about. After managing to live in three continents by the time I am twenty three, I have learnt that I can never be alone.
  15. I look at the hills today after sunset. In the dark they look like they are hugging the entire city, giving it the strength it needs. Once the darkness takes over, I want to use the lights shining through different windows in Kathmandu as a shimmering eyeshadow over my eyelids. I take a deep breath listening to the dogs barking and make the most of it, remembering how A always mentioned that he missed that about Nepal. Something that I get so easily here is being missed by somebody somewhere.
  16. When Manisha Koirala dances in Kehna Hi Kya in her white lehenga and her green neck piece nicely embroidered in white that reflects the light and the innocence in the eyes as she looks for her lover and her pink lips that have the power to hypnotize every human being, I forget what I have gone through this year.
  17. When I ask you how your day was I mean tell me how much milk you added in your coffee. Tell me what song you played while cooking. And what consistency of daal you like. I care about every freaking thing that happens in a day. Everything you do is art. And everyday, a universe.
  18. When I see the calendar’s page moving under the white ceiling fan or watch Aama cut tomatoes in thin slices, I realize how much I missed these details and how much I will miss them again in the future. Both at once.
  19. An email in the morning makes you go back. To the snowy night. Twelve am in the library. Red jacket and headphones. Somebody had assured you that you will figure out where you will be. Just that you had to start thinking about one year. And then the next one. Not all of them at once. Not the rest of your life. You repeat in your head, the rest of your life doesn’t ALL look the same. Rest of your life is vast. Rest of your life will move. Rest of your life will differ. And diverge. And converge. Rest of your life will be happy. Rest of your life will also be sad. Rest of your life will be you questioning what is happy and what is sad. You want to tell them that you still think about that conversation in the reply but you won’t. Because you have yet not figured how much emotion is for the literature and how much for the people in your life.

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