I have memories of harbouring this feeling deep within, this inane wish to capture some moments as they occur, into a 3-D mould. I know what they feel like – the laughter, the lightheaded euphoria and this sense of something rich filling up my heart – and yet no exhaustive record of what those moments were. I have recurent memories of the times when I took a step back and viewed the scene from afar, floating above like the drones in those infinite vlogs, craving to bottle up those pieces of calm and quiet in an otherwise chaotic world, and having them adorn my mantelpiece.
Sometimes, it’s close to what is named ‘midding’ in the dictionary of obscure sorrows by the brilliant John Koenig.
feeling the tranquil pleasure of being near a gathering but not quite in it—hovering on the perimeter of a campfire, chatting outside a party while others dance inside, resting your head in the backseat of a car listening to your friends chatting up front—feeling blissfully invisible yet still fully included, safe in the knowledge that everyone is together and everyone is okay, with all the thrill of being there without the burden of having to be.
As someone who has difficulty immersing oneself in social events, unless there are people to guide me through it, being blissfully included in a gathering comes rarely. I spent five years of my undergraduate education in a fairly new college in a nondescript town, dreaming about what it must be like to be part of something bigger, dreaming of grand experiences amidst spaces that boasted of glamorous legacy. Post graduation was this dream come true – I was at one of the oldest colleges in the country, with a beautiful sprawling campus, a rich heritage, half-yearly film festivals, and week-long cultural showdowns where renowned artists performed into the wee hours of the night. It was what I had always wanted all those years, and yet when it finally happened, I let it slip by.
I longed for my undergrad friends, as I stood like a stranger, clutching myself in bustling crowds where everyone apparently knew everyone else, afraid of running into familiar faces and seeing them turn away, afraid of being the only one who was too lonely to enjoy it all. I stayed in my hostel room, listening to the music in the distance, watching everyone get dressed up and leave, and later listening to stories of raving highs. I never went for the movie fests, never partook in the literary conversations, because it never truly felt like I belonged.
S thinks I’m someone who likes to go out and have fun but is afraid to actually do it. I remember being upset at the suggestion, and arguing against it. But I know he is right, when I consider everything I missed out on in Pondicherry. I always need someone to cling on to, someone I feel safe with, in order to brave the world. Someone to explore places with, someone to stare at the night sky with, someone to dance with at a concert. And more often than not, I don’t have those people, and I end up missing out on the things I want to do. It often seems like I live constantly in the regrets of yesteryear.
Perhaps this is another reason I yearn for those moulds. To show myself everything that I did manage to do, the choices that I did end up making. The reckless drunken drive at 2 AM when I became the best version of myself. The hours spent lying on warm ground past midnight with half a dozen other people, speaking in quiet undertones as we counted the falling meteors. The times when I did dance at the concerts, and on stage. The hours of practice put into choreography, and the easy smiles shared with the team. Christmas celebration on a bare rooftop with the gift of friends and the smell of peppery gin. Trekking and camping on the hills, and playing charades by the bonfire. The covert first kiss on the roadside, in that sweet moment when there was a sudden respite from passing headlights. Sitting at the back of a car, looking wondrously around at a group of friends who sang a parody so horribly out of tune that I just had to record it on my not-so-smart cellphone. And sometimes, simply staying back home, in a cozy corner and feeling good.
The most recent of those moments happened yesterday, as MB and I sat on our messy bed, leaning against the wall, reading quietly. Alexa hummed in the background, working her way through an obscure Spotify playlist of love songs. His legs lay over mine, as he worked his way through a Hindi learning guide. I started on my new copy of short stories by Anton Chekhov, while my right hand absentmindedly massaged his calf.
For a split second I floated up, and suddenly wished there was a video camera hovering above us to catch that moment. The music, the books, the calm, the sheer daily-life normalcy of it, which ironically made it special somehow. But I didn’t have a hovering video camera, and decided I might have to make do with words.
But it’s just as well, I suppose.
Why fret about moulds, when I could write the night into eternity. Some moments extend way beyond three dimensions.