A Cold Evening

With a sigh of satisfaction I made myself comfortable under the blanket, content with the thought of spending the rest of the evening reading my favourite book, Enid Blyton’s ‘The Faraway Tree’.
We had spent the entire morning hiking at Webster Falls, and while there were some beautiful sights to take in, the hike took the life out of my legs. I was exhausted and nothing could make me budge from the couch I was sprawled across. Except the corn chowder my aunt was cooking for dinner that night.

As I dreamt about the corn chowder, my aunt ran in from the kitchen with her apron still on, looking completely flustered. “Oh no, this can’t be happening”, she muttered under her breath and ran to my uncle to give him the troubling news. My uncle’s face grew grave on hearing the news, an expression I rarely saw on him. ” Shit ” he swore, and then cast a quick glance at me, wondering whether I was old enough to hear such swear words.
“Whats the matter?” enquired my mother.
“The heating system has completely stopped working” my aunt replied. “I’m surprised you can’t feel it! The temperature in the room has gone down considerably!”
I realised that it had in fact become colder, and that my grip on the blanket I was nestled in, had tightened.
“Well that’s alright, we’ll just wear extra layers  tonight”.
My aunt gave my mother a look of helplessness, and told my mother that no amount of clothes would make a difference.
Canadian Winters didn’t come for a friendly visit, they came to dominate. They meant business, and they dropped temperatures with no mercy. Coming from India, my family and I were used to a climate no lower than 15°C. In Canada, however, a temperature of -2°C raised no eyebrows.

An hour had passed, and the cold had now reached my bones. I shivered and hugged my blanket tightly. Outside the window, the porch was hidden under a thin layer of snow flakes, and the wind began to moan softly. The trees were dancing a slow sway in the wind, and created a rustle as they brushed their leaves against each other. My aunt was in a nervous state, and was trying her best to get the fire place to work. This little cavity in the wall, filled with wood and encased in a beige marble was beautifully constructed, and gave the room a warm and welcoming feel. However a fire had never burned there. It was completely unused as the heating system had never failed my aunt’s family.
My uncle then entered the room, and signalled at all of us to be quiet. He was on the phone with the mechanic.
“Yes, indeed it has stopped working… Not more than an hour back, very abruptly…yes, relatives from India… Okay, thank you, I’ll check.”
He walked out of the room, and returned a few minutes later, with a sheepish yet relieved look. Instantly we heard a ‘whirr’ and realized the heating was back on, and immediately felt the cold dissipating.
“Turns out, the main switch of the heating was off”, chuckled my uncle. “Foolish of us not to check that first”.
“Oh thank god” exclaimed my aunt, “I was so close to making reservations in a hotel for the night. But how did it get switched off? The switch is an inconspicuous little thing, hidden away behind a door”.
“Anyway, it doesn’t matter now” laughed my uncle, back to his cheery mood.

On listening to the conversation, I assumed a look of as much nonchalance as I could muster, and I slipped out of the room before the others recognized the guilt on my face.
‘Inconspicuous little thing’?! Yeah, not really. The switch was a fairly big one, with no indication of what purpose it served! And why was it behind a door? Shouldn’t the switch for the heating system be somewhere near the heating system? Or preferably on it?! It should be marked with big bold letters saying “Switch for heater. Do not switch off. Will lead to extreme cold and create anxiety among family”.
As a curious, eight year old girl, my hands wander!

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What Now?

The last seventeen years of my life have followed the same routine. My life has unfolded in the most ordinary, unassuming pattern. A pattern laid down before me to tread on, without the need of any second thoughts. Spending seven hours in school, making and … Continue reading What Now?

Gay?

My eight year old self was an aspiring poet. Often I would find a pair of words that would rhyme, and that would be enough inspiration to pen down a few lines on how ‘I loved the flowers, in the April showers’; or how ‘the cat sat on the mat and always wanted a pat’. One day, I came across the word ‘gay’ in an Enid Blyton book, and my eyes lit up with the thought of the several words I could use to rhyme with ‘gay’. To be ‘gay’ meant to be happy and merry, and I found numerous places for it in my poems. Simply ‘being gay in the month of may’, or ‘feeling gay when I see hay’, the possibilities were endless. The word was a gold mine to an eight year old, (lets face it, not so creative) ambitious poet.
I decided to recite one of my poems to my mother. When I proudly uttered the word ‘gay’, the word I was convinced would take my poem places, her expression shifted, and not for the better. She very uncomfortably told me to find another word for ‘gay’. Replace ‘gay’?!! But did she know how instrumental that word had become in my poems?! I would never find an easier word to rhyme with!! I had found THE word. She awkwardly explained to me that gay no longer meant happy or merry and had a different meaning now. When I asked her what it meant she shrugged and repeated that it meant something else, she wasn’t sure what.

Fast forward four years, to my twelve year old self and my best friend, sipping smoothies, gossiping about serious preteen issues such as the new ‘Wizards of Waverley’ episode. My friend was narrating to me about how a boy in her class read the palms of other students, and told them their future. The skeptic in me had not yet been born, and hence I was in awe of this mysterious future boy. He had said that my friend was destined for fame and another boy in her class was to be gay.
For the second time in my life I had heard that word. It brought back the memory of my failed poetic ambition. ‘Gay??’ I asked her. I still didn’t know what it meant. She giggled and said ‘gay is when two boys kiss’, and that was my first understanding of what ‘gay’ meant.
In the years that followed, the word ‘gay’ gradually became a word we heard very often. But always, with no exception, it was used as an insult. The word had replaced every cuss word in our dictionary. Somehow, the word ‘gay’ encompassed every possible insult we wished to throw at a person. Mean, bitchy, weird, stupid, cowardly, all found their meaning in the word ‘gay’.
At the age of sixteen, my usage of the internet had increased a significant amount. Through movies and YouTube, I finally became aware of what being gay, being a lesbian, and being a bisexual meant. It wasnt an overnight process or an event of sudden enlightenment, it was an understanding that built up over time.

I’m eighteen years old now. Looking back, it disheartens me to my very core, when I think about my entire understanding of it. Moreover, I wish it didn’t have to be something that ‘needed understanding’. I wish it was as much as a part of my growing up, as heterosexuality was. Through my entire childhood, heterosexuality as the only sexuality one can have was a concept ingrained by everything around me. I never thought about homosexuality because you simply don’t think about something you’ve never heard of.
I could say that I come from a country where a majority of people are homophobic. But a truer statement would be that I come from a country where people pretend homosexuality doesn’t exist.