When I was around 6, we shifted back to India.
I was told,
My sister needed higher education
My brother, a more consummate learning
Me, a more wholesome childhood
“These are the things that matter”, they said.
But I didn’t despair
I was happy, in fact
With a regal and queen like flair
“I would finally get to study in the ideal school”, I rejoiced
With the perfunctory ringing of bells, the bedlam in the corridor, the nonchalantly unrelenting chit passing midway through the class
Pardon me, I was brought up on a lot of Bollywood films
So that day my schooling finally commenced and nobody could ever be as happy as I was on the first Monday of that July month
All that preparation, all that excitement, all that vigor
Only to witness a classmate pulling my chair back just as I was about to be seated
To witness a girl asking me everyday for the next 2 months, if I was from Pakistan
To witness, a teacher’s eyes bursting with flames of wrath and rage each time she heard my name or saw my face, starting within a week of my admission and continuing for the rest of the year
To witness, that one kid distorting everything that belonged to me, from my name, to my desk, to my stationery box
To one day, realize, they never showed any of this in the movies that taught me what school should be like and later, what it isn’t like
Suddenly, these things began mattering to me.
Ten years later, a guy showed up to my place
He heard I was going to my birth place for the winter break
He handed over a Parker pen and a slight smirk to me with “I’ll miss you” written all over it with subtlety.
He hugs me tight and suddenly all the bullying, and teasing, and name calling from 10 years ago, stops mattering to me.
The distorted name seems so unimportant to me, when today I hear, “we love you, fatty.”
These are the things that now matter to me.
Add two to those ten years, and I stand in front of you here, today.
The course that I said no to and chose to do something else instead
The guy I said no to because there’s so much more to life, I said
These are the things that matter to me.
So we employed a maid, lately
She’s a mother of three, with a drunk and wasted husband, a life of perpetual penury
And I realize, the brand of my mascara doesn’t really matter to her
Your hair problems are of zero consequence to her
Your guy issues and your girl issues are what she’d disparage
Except for some days, some days she wishes she was in your place instead, where she’d get to worry about- where to buy her next night-gown from, than to worry where she’d get her next meal from.
Because sadly, these are the things that matter to her.
Go ahead, stand in front of the mirror
Look at your reflection just as I look at mine and ask yourself, “Does this matter to me?”