It’s no surprise to people who know me that I’m an obsessive fangirl who lives in her own little world filled with demons and angels and wizards and lion gods and time lords and what not. And I should let you know that this obsession wasn’t new found or anything. Even as a child, I was always obsessed with stories. We couldn’t afford to own a big collection of books back then, so me and my dad would sit down every night before going to bed and he’d tell me stories about princes and princesses in castles and true love. He’d spin his own stories, bringing an odd twist to the traditional fairy tales. And I’d listen happily, snuggling into his arms and falling asleep with a smile on my face when they all lived ‘Happily Ever After’.
Being born into a religious family, I was also fed tales from the Hindu epics from a very young age. As a result, my parents and grandparents created this obsessive little doe that is me. The lack of books never discouraged my thirst. I would spend hours on the television and later I’d make up my own versions of the shows I’d seen. I’d buy my language texts waaaaay in advance and skim through the stories a hundred times even before school started. And every chance I could get, I would sneak into the library at school and pore over one fairy tale or another.
Unsurprisingly, I grew up with an absolute idea of good and bad. There was no grey area. It was either black or white. And there was always a hero to save the day.
This kind of thinking earns you a lot of brownie points from your relatives and family when you’re a kid because they expect you to not question their ideals. However, when it comes to the real world, with this kind of thinking, you will end up getting your butt royally kicked by life.
And that’s what happened to me.
I entered college with this naïve attitude of mine. Needless to say, the first year here was very confusing. It was the first blast of the air of the Real World.
I remember thinking how there were just SO MANY people and how I felt odd and out of place and small in the crazy chaos that surrounded me. And that’s when my conditioning kicked in and I fell into my own little routine. I categorized people way too easily and judged them too simply. I idolized the seniors I worked with and was intimidated by them. I was too aware of my flaws and everyone else’s talents or perfection or whatever. I spent a good eight months feeling inadequate, under confident and just plain stupid. I’m not sure I’m over it even now, to be honest.
But it was around this time that I rediscovered the magic of my all time favourite book series – no surprises here – Harry Potter.
Being the obsessive fangirl that I am, I delved deep into the fandom, and discovered so many things I’d missed the first time around. I realized how complex the characters and the story were. And I also began to see how close to reality it was. It was disconcerting at first, having the line so clearly separating the black from the white being smudged. But, oddly, after a while, it felt nice to have all that I had believed in until then questioned. It was nice to see another side to something and wonder how it all fit in together. (It also felt great to simply experience the whole story again, and in a new way, but that’s another thing).
The result of all this obsessive reading, or as some people might call it, fangirling, was simply that I was left standing at a crossroads. I had had a taste of something odd and new and exciting and scary and now I was here, and I didn’t know where to go.
I must’ve been in that state for months. I really don’t remember much except that life when on mechanically. I went to classes and did my thing. I wrote exams and partied. And all the while, I was lost. I even rewatched all my beloved Disney movies, read a whole lot of new books and thought a lot about everything – like an armchair philosopher. I began drawing parallels in between the mythical stories that I’d listened to from my grandma as a kid and the stories about metal men saving the world. I realized how every single story was just trying to tell us the same thing but I still couldn’t figure out exactly what it was.
I went through a lot in the following months (but that’s a story for another time) and I managed to discover more stories like Supernatural, Doctor Who, etc., and I learned. I learned slowly and I faltered every now and then, but I learned. I learned that it was okay to be weird, to have issues, to not trust anyone right away, to be a little quirky, a little over expressive. It was okay to not be smart and to not be perfect. That doesn’t really mean you’re any less. In fact, there really isn’t any comparison. Because we’re all weird and unique in our own way.
And I remember, one day, I was sitting in my dorm room thinking about all of this. And I felt something shift inside me. It was very odd and I couldn’t put my finger on it at that time but I almost felt….confident and…well, perfect (in my own weird way). And that was that.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, my life is pretty boring. I don’t go out much, I don’t talk much and I don’t share much. All my life, I’d stared into the pages of paperbacks and I’d carefully built a world around me. A world where I felt safe. And then I had this huge wrecking ball of reality slam into my world and it shattered everything. It took a lot of time to rebuild and to learn again, and when I did, I had built something so much more beautiful from the pieces. And all along, I’d had these stories helping me, teaching me, comforting me.
People are complex and they always surprise you. And to try and understand them is not easy. Stories help you do that (Because, in a way, everyone is but a story). Stories try and show you a bit of everyone, they give you a sneak peek into the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. And they teach you to not judge someone based on just one chapter. They teach you that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. So maybe, you just have to give them a chance.
So, yes, Life is crazy and the Real World is a wreck. But Stories…well, they make everything just a little bit better.
In the end, I don’t know if I’m any better today than I was yesterday sometimes. But I do know that I try to learn from everything I see and hear, I weave a story of my own in my head and let it teach me and guide me into my tomorrow, my next chapter. And I hope, because that’s all I can do, really. I hope that it will make a difference.