After five

When I was younger, I tried to keep a diary. That boy in my class I haven’t spoken to since I moved to Bangalore; the girl who always got double stars in class tests when I got just one; Amma, when she was younger—they all had diaries. In them they would write about anything really—their day, what bothered them, what made them happy, what they thought. I believed that everyone needed to have a diary; everyone had a lot of things to say, even if they never said them aloud. I had to have a diary.

So I began the search for the perfect notebook. It had to be medium sized, preferably ruled, with paper that wasn’t thin enough to show ink on the next page; the story on one was not the story on the next, only continuations. It also had to be unused, and I was willing to wait patiently for this—I couldn’t write in the little notepads that Appa had only partially used in his various conferences. When I finally found the book I wanted to use, it felt right—like I had known what I wanted without actually knowing it. It was larger than my school notebooks, smaller than an A4 sheet, its binding on top, rather than the side. On the cover I stuck paper, and my twelve year old self wrote a warning: “Beware, do not touch. Explosive content.” And of course, I drew a skull next to it, one bone longer than the other.

Inside, I had to write my name. Even then, writing my name in new stationary gave me an odd sense of contentment. I’d begin by hoping that the ink wouldn’t stop flowing as I wrote, with just the right amount of space between well-formed letters, slowly, purposefully almost. It was a strange happiness, much like the feeling when you open old books that smell of closed rooms left to settle, knowing that you’d find in them something.

When I finally sat on the cold floor of my room to write, to say all that I wanted to say, to reveal myself in the book before me, I couldn’t. I wrote, but I was more terrified than I have ever been, so conscious that I constantly pulled myself back and refused to say what I intended to. There was none of that disarming honesty that I had expected, no chance for a revelation, just a fear of making permanent what I was yet to process. It seemed too soon to be writing about something, a reactionary rant, and once done I simply felt exhausted and strangely full—as though I had eaten too much, and now couldn’t move. Five times I tried; five times I ate too much.

Appa always tells me to write. He says I must find some time for myself—alone time—to think, to write; when being alone only means the absence of other people, and doesn’t bother me. And now I do, I feel the need to tell stories that are often my own, but I still need the time. A new kind of diary, open.