Heavy Hearts and Knots Down the Throat

I find myself, once again, listening to Hey Jude. I start to mumble the lyrics at the tip of my tongue, words evaporating into thin air. Soon I realize that Nick is singing it too. So I figured that I might as well play it on my laptop.

The song of broken-hearted departure and once postponed goodbyes. The ones that I said when I had to leave my friends last summer for a new life at Andover. I was listening to Hey Jude before I boarded the plane on that warm summer night.

Mukesh Bhai enters our room. We hug each other and say words of goodbye. I feel peaceful that he is here with us; I feel sad that he is about to go. In my life, I have always been the one to leave. I thought being left was easier. Bags are packed and lined up on the kitchen counter. Ready to leave.

In a fit of anger I hurl my journal at the floor with two hands, knowing that I’m going to crouch down to pick it back up.

 “We good?” asks Nick.


We make our way down to the conference room. Mukesh Bhai is still there.

“He didn’t leave yet.” I think to myself.

We sit in a circle as usual, saying our words of gratitude and love to Mukesh. I don’t want to say anything. I already said what I wanted to say before I got here. I just want to look at him. I want to let my eyes absorb him like a pair of arms clenched around a friend. As if I won’t let him go. Knowing that he will go. And then he left.

Smart. You stole my move right there.

I don’t know why my inner happiness has to depend on those other people. If we had never met, I would have not felt this way, right? We are all taking a risk when we take that first step of trust. Then, for a while, we forget about ourselves and think about those other people. But in the absence of those people of ourselves. However, we think of ourselves as being incomplete. Once we expand, we can never think of ourselves going back to our former social confines. I wish it could be that easy. But I sometimes think it’s beautiful in some way. Otherwise I would never be able to know whether those emotional bonds were actually meaningful and whether I truly left myself vulnerable by sacrificing a piece of my heart. But we cry when the people to whom we hand those pieces walk away. Do we really cry from behind them because we lost those people or because we lost a part of our souls that we’re never going to get back again.

C.S. Lewis says, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.”

Oh wait just kidding. He’s back.

He came back to wave at us for one last time. I could see his arm shooting across the frame of space that the door allowed me to see from inside the room. Then he walked away for good. Why was he smiling? I think I knew the answer. I think it’s because that we met. In the end we’re all going to leave each other so a premature goodbye doesn’t make a difference. The initiation does however.

I’m thinking about the things that these people with whom I shared this program have given me. I’m still trying to decide whether what the things that I learned, the emotions I felt, the people that I connected with are what I’m leaving or what I’m taking with me.

I know how much my bags can take. I don’t know how much my heart can. I know when my bags are overloaded after the scale hits a number that I know is over 50 pounds during check-in at the airport. Or more proactively, I can weigh them myself.

Tears pouring out of eyelids despite all the mental warning are our hearts’ way of saying this is too much. Visions become blurry and then they get clearer but that’s also when you feel that cheeks are wet and cold under the swirling motion of a fan. It’s funny how we can’t physically observe emotions under a microscope but how they nonetheless manifest themselves in physical ways. They don’t look like they’re there but you know because you can feel them.

““You can’t see the unseen, you can only feel it.”

Namaste. Holding our two hands together to say that we see ourselves in others. Sometimes we kneel and hold our hands together and look up and ask for forgiveness. One of the most ancient gestures in the history of humankind. Please forgive me. I thought you were seeing yourself in me too, I didn’t mean to… Placing your hand on another sitting person’s shoulder to sit down. I depend on you. Placing the same hand on a friend’s back or head. I’m with you; I feel your pain and I’m here to share it. I care about you. Opening up your arms and wrapping them around someone. I missed you. Or just having your palm face someone else and simply waving it. Hi, I don’t know who you are but you seem like an OK dude.

My hands are opening and closing; my arms are shooting up and around as if to fly into space like balloons filled with hydrogen gas if they hadn’t been leashed to my torso. Eyes glittering with joy and a mouth wide open. Can’t remember a time when my arms were hanging down awkwardly on both sides of my body. Or a time when I ever felt unable in the unfamiliar. I wonder if I will take this sacred language with me or just forget it completely. I know it’s within me and I know how to speak it. I’m afraid people won’t speak it as much. In favor of what’s coined as private space. People will continue to speak words and so will I.

Will I bring the happiness with me back to my home?

Playing soccer blindfolded and trying to score against the other team while holding hands with teammates. Dhruv’s facial expressions. The calm and modest beauty of Riverside.

Shoveling all day long with my friends and cleaning the rubble on the playground of Gandhi Ashram Municipal School. The dirt on my shirt and my sweaty face, the mud in my fingernails. The sound of breaking rocks each time I drive my shovel into the ground. The sight of children in their blue uniforms, sitting in threes and looking at their teacher, listening to every word that comes out of her mouth. Maybe that was my reward. Although I wasn’t expecting to get any.

Staying at ESI. Morning meditations. Getting woken up by a parade of praying people. Dancing with 35 teachers and getting drenched in sweat and still not caring. Having people like Pankaj and Suresh who would give us breakfast and the chills that I would get when one of them would stroke my hair. I would always get off-guard. Not that I shield myself from anything. I just get surprised. The bus ride. The kids.

The kids.

My friends.

No. I can’t take any of these. I’ll be on my own on my flight to Istanbul and my family will be there to pick me up.

I could never conceive how relationships could be holistic. I look at my relationships and those of others. Always determined by momentary incidents. Sometimes one heartbreaking incident, one word can be enough for one to forget years of friendship. Sometimes the gravity of those singular moments is so insurmountable that they determine the fate of how one feels of another. Sometimes there is tolerance.

Feelings always seemed to be temporary for me. Always susceptible for change. Those that will always stay are the ones that are attached to songs, faces, fragrances, tastes, confessions at midnight, touches. Every touch leaves its mark. The feelings become so attached to their memories that they become unforgettable. Is it the feeling that evokes the incident or the incident that evokes the feeling?

I’m taking those feelings with me to my grave.

Cheers Niswarth.