Tag Archives: thoughts

This Story Is Mine.

I am writing a book
where you exist in pages,
ones I want to tear off
incinerate, erase it,
take chapters that mention you
find the will to write replacements,
but I won’t.
I won’t, because
this story is mine,
you’re a half-written character
and I, ran out of time,
and though the pain
of plotting your course
is gray and unrelenting,
I’ll let you stay the same because
this story is mine;
and you aren’t enough to change
the ending.
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Everything’s Fine.

 

She sits next to me, staring vexedly at the purple sea. An expression more complex and perplexed than it was meant to be. For the first half an hour, no one talks; the only sounds we hear are the hollow murmurs of evening walks and waves crashing against the rocks under our feet. Then, after an eternity, she turns to me, breathes, and says “You’re the worst friend I’ve ever seen”. This hurts twice as much because deep inside, I agreed.

Soon, she gets to her feet with a swoon. Tears running free, glistening in the light of the moon. Like the salt in the sea breeze was singeing her wounds, she screams– Stop suffering alone. Stop hiding behind closed doors to trick me into leaving or believing that no one’s home, not when I can see you and your mess grieving through the fucking window. Stop telling me you want to make it on your own because you don’t need to. This isn’t the pact of friendship I agreed to, stop defending the pain it takes to keep you because this suffocation is unending and I need to breathe too. Stop leaving me at every turn because by now, I’m lost and blind. I’m tired of the million times you’ve said “everything’s fine” when I can clearly see I’m being lied to. For the sake of three long years of friendship that we’ve both been tied to, tonight, just tonight, I ask for truth.”

An overwhelming urge to purge all my regret is up till here now, but I don’t. I want to justify every action, reaction, every fear now; but I won’t. With a sharpened blade of quiet restraint, I slay every word in my throat as that little voice in my head goes – We don’t speak about our problems at home.

When I was a seven-year-old, my father was fighting a war when he crashed his plane. He jumped out in time, but the forces of nature weren’t kind on the day as he fell to the ground in the most excruciating way imaginable, as bleeding on a shattered spine. Lying and dying in abominable pain, his surgeon told him he’d be lucky if he ever learnt to walk again.

But even when consigned to a wheelchair bereft of the ability to stand, my father would hold take a ball in his hand, repeatedly pick it as his 8-year-old son knocked it back to him in a game of cricket. Come to think of it, 15 years on, I can’t write on a feeling as crippling as staring at the bedroom ceiling or the walls knowing your dreams were reeling and reduced to thoughts no one else would ever know. My father taught me this- we don’t talk about our problems at home.

When I turned 18, my father asked my cancer-stricken mother to choose between a house near the hospital and one near my sister’s school. Despite her weakened defences, the impending pain, the consequences, my mother chose the latter because she could deal with her demons at hand but not with the inconvenience her daughter would feel if we moved during her board exams.

I remember on hour long cab rides back from the hospital after rounds of chemotherapy, I could hear the muffled screams of her agony shake her, on every swerve, every turn, every speed breaker on the road. But for two years,  the only sounds I ever heard were those of silent suffering that torched her, but never a single word to describe the torture or the strain. Never a single complaint about a choice she consciously made on her own. My mother taught me this- we don’t talk about our problems at home.

I want to tell her this, the reason she can’t break my walls. Why every secret is a secret, and why I don’t believe I suffer at all because I have no problems. I’ve been raised by two people who’ve been cursed to go through a whole lot worse through fate’s decisions and they never let me understand what it felt like to nurse such grave incisions.

I want to tell her about the time I broke my shoulder, as I sat on my bed groaning and moaning in pain, my father took one look at me and said “That’s cute; but I fell out of a plane”.

I want to tell her about the mother who never cried because of a terminal disease, but broke down because being in a wheelchair wouldn’t let her cook for her family every eve. My parents taught me this- pain is a very subjective entity when you put the grievances of your loved ones before your own. My parents taught me this- we don’t talk about our problems at home.

But instead of the million words inside my head that I could have said to my friend, I offer her my first line of defence – an apologetic smile. I look at her, hold her hand and say

“Everything’s fine.”


Superman.

Every morning, a Superman wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. Eyes dead, bloodshot red from the fatigue tearing apart the insides of his head. His usually perfectly combed hair is a mess; mangled, tangled, strangled dense and untidy every inch of their previously lustrous lengths. He is fully aware of his steadily declining health, but is bent on telling himself to never wait to catch a breath because when you’re Superman, the universe doesn’t expect you to reach out for help. Superman’s supposed to solve problems. Not have his own as well.

On some days, Superman feels more human than he’s ever felt. But the ungrateful world still expects him to repay a recurring, fateful debt that out of his own moral consciousness hangs heavy above his head. Superman is a soldier who’s barely slept, because guarding the borderlines of conflict are part of a duty so firmly etched in his mind that he can’t forget, even when he’s a few inches away from death- standing, taking shallow breaths in a place where its 30 degrees below zero. On most nights, Superman doesn’t need a cape to be a hero.

Every morning, a Superman wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. Awakened from a nightmarish fable, drenched in dread and cold sweat, emotionally disabled. The empty can of anti-depressants lies on her bedside table, just like her mental state; balanced precariously but barely stable. The pills ran out two days ago but she hasn’t been able to go to the corner drugstore to ask for more because you see, being a single, working mother of three is a full time job description and responsibility and she has no time to stand in line for a prescription to cure her depraving sanity. Now she’s slaving; craving answers from a mind throwing tantrum after tantrum and misbehaving. Maybe the world doesn’t realize that tonight, Superman is the one who needs the saving because every, single morning, a superman wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. Looks disgusted in the mirror, shakes his head, at a disproportionate body and an utterly skewed ratio of length to breadth gifted to him by fate. Every night he weeps for his inexplicable state. Sheds drops of fears that flow into a river of tears, emptying it all into a reservoir of self-hate. A dam overflowing so bad, that sooner or later it’s going to break. By the age of seven, he’s so afraid, he’s questioning every decision he’s ever made- from full length pictures in his phone gallery, to every calorie he ever ate.

So every day, Superman makes it a point to stay away trying not to blow his fuse. Keeps a distance from the outside world, wary of becoming its ridiculed muse. Curls up inside his room with a blanket and a box of tissues. Too old to drown the demeaning words, too young to understand the meaning of the words “thyroid issues”. So before the end of the day, he prays for world to shift its gaze and just let him be; because tonight Superman is fighting an adversary they cannot see.

As the nights get colder, every Superman wishes he had a shoulder on which to weep. Prays someone kissed his head, tucked him into bed before he sleeps. Hopes he won’t wake from a deep slumber wanting to crumple into a heap, until he’s nothing but a dune of dust. The Man of Steel might be invincible, but he’s not immune to rust.

So the next time the Superman you know wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, remind them what they’re worth. Tell them that ever since birth, every single day was spent in learning to resist the hurt that threatens to punch them all down slowly into the dirt. A soldier teaches the frigid winds of the earth a lesson in defiance, a single mother of three forges with her depression, an uneasy alliance; a ceasefire, to relieve it. Just, just, so that she can look at her kids, tell them everything’s okay, even if she herself doesn’t believe it. A kid with a malfunctioning thyroid gland wipes his tears with his hand, steps outside his room for once and slowly understands, that everything he was ever fed was all a bunch of lies and that Superman suits are stitched and sewed for each and every size. Even one big enough to fit him right. A lot of Supermen woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, but maybe they’ll sleep a little easier tonight.

 


Suicide Note.

One night, her words won’t rhyme.
Her verses will die a slow death,
a little at a time,
mocking every memory she wrote.
On that night, your poetry will write
herself a suicide note-
broken, baffled, bereft of hope,
wishing, she could feel
a little less empty,
and a little bit more.
On that night, kiss your poetry to sleep,
tear her note to shreds, give her a shoulder
on which to weep,
tell her that you believe, in her stead;
and in the simple fact that poetry
can never truly be dead.
Tell her, that you believe in her,
and in tomorrow, a time
when she’ll turn her sorrow
into the most beautiful thing the world has ever read.
Watch over her, until she rips apart
her suicide note from end to end.
Then pray, that on nights like these,
she learns to write something better instead.


What Japanese Women Taught Me About Love.

When the cold and pristine winter air first kissed my face as I got off the plane at Narita Airport, Japan, I opened my mind to a world full of infinite discoveries. I’ll be honest, there are certain concepts and elements I am yet to fully grasp as a writer; Love is one of them. I was hoping Japan would help me understand it a little better.

On the 8th day of my Japan expedition, a tiny house in one corner of Saiki Bay made a few revelations. I finally fell in love again, and I’m pretty sure I understand it a little better. So here’s what Japanese women taught me about love.

Who are you really? (Himino-chan, age 6)

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– Every relationship starts with a conversation, if not, at least with a feeble attempt at one. However, from time to time you’ll come across a woman who speaks a different language. She probably won’t share your obsession of sipping freshly ground coffee from your favourite mug. Maybe she swears by the subtleties of white chocolate while you choose the intoxicating allures of bitter dark ones; it doesn’t matter. Words are lost in translation, emotions are not. Deciphering her tongue takes exhaustive efforts; she’s met many who speak the same language but still never really understood her. She could speak Japanese for all I care; but does that mask the honesty inside her every time she starts to speak?

– Learn to intrigue every little part of her imagination to the point where it bursts at the seams. Don’t do the same magic trick over and over. You might have the upper hand now, but someday she will learn to play her cards better, or worse, learn to read yours. Be unpredictable. Don’t pull out a rabbit from your hat, pull out a cat; maybe it’ll claw at your fingers and embarrass you completely but your misery will be worth her laugh. The day magic stands still, the world will think it’s a trick; for it to remain a beautiful illusion it must be rethought, reconsidered and reinvented for what it is.

– Learn to forget yourself around her. You’re not 22. You aren’t someone who has seen more or less of the world than she has. You’re never too mature or too naive. So every time she tries to discover you, learn to blur your lines. For you to win her over, you must make yourself vulnerable to her first. Remember, no conquests were made from staying under defensive cover.

– Make a conscious effort to give her choices a chance. Don’t you already know most of what you love and prefer? Maybe it’s time for you to indulge in things that have always differed from what you’ve loved. Maybe she thinks fish tastes better fried than when it’s poached. Maybe she thinks an accompaniment of seaweed is more digestible than a helping of sautéed onions. It never hurts to try the things she loves. After all, you’re one of those things, aren’t you?

The things I never say (Tsubaki Chan, age 3)

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– When she looks at you for the first time, do not mistake her quiet, piercing gaze for aggression. Some women measure your worth before they grant you the privilege of a conversation.

– When she finally acknowledges that you exist, make every little gesture to tell her that you care what she talks about who she is. If she’s 3 feet tall and you’re 5’7, don’t let her crane her neck when she speaks. Don’t be distant. Don’t be out of reach. Instead, go down to your knees and look into her eyes when she talks. Her voice will be warm. Her smile will be warmer. You can tell by the tinge of pink that spreads itself across her rosy cheeks.

– When she pulls you by your hand (or even wraps three-year-old fingers around your solitary index finger), don’t stop to question her intentions. Let her lead you wherever she pleases. Live the quivering excitement in her voice with her, watch her eyes grow wide in anticipation when she opens the surprises she keeps giftwrapped inside her mind. She wants you to be a part of her wonderment, her emotions, her universe. Why would you even refuse?

– One day, she’ll let out slivers of thoughts you won’t be able to grasp. She’ll say words with a weight you cannot comprehend, or maybe she’ll just sit across you and break down into quite sobs from beginning to end. At times like these, let her know that you’re listening and hanging onto every thing she spills. A gentle nod, a reassuring nudge, an encouraging word; little gestures to remind her that everything she said is heard. She could speak in rapid Japanese for all you know; in the end, what you sense matters more than what you take in.

– When it is time to say goodbye, give her something to remember you by. Embrace her, leave her with a little kiss; like you want the warmth on your finger tips and your skin to fill her empty depths with happiness. When people leave, all that is left is memories; so give her one that she can go back to time and over. Be the book she never gets bored of reading, be the song she replays in her head when she’s breathing in emptiness; when she needs something to remind of reasons to keep existing. That way, if you find yourself living a day when you have to leave without knowing when you’ll return, at least you’ll say good bye knowing you did everything to be a part of something she’ll cherish all her life. She’ll grow old, she’ll grow up with them; one day when she gets to where she wants, she will remember you.


TEDx Talk: Social Media and Moving Beyond Numbers.

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. My name is Shamir Gabriel Reuben, I’m 22 years old. On most days I’m a writer, but today I’m just REALLY nervous.

When I was invited to speak at this event, I didn’t hesitate to choose a topic that I knew would resonate with the age group I am currently addressing. This aspect has in the past decade, not just become a vital part of our lives, but has become a powerful extension of how we project ourselves in the online space. Social media isn’t just an app or a network anymore; it is a parallel universe where a variety of elements co-exist to conceptualize, share and execute ideas.

To understand just how deeply we’re entrenched in this phenomenon, let me give you a few examples. The world’s population currently stands at 7.2 billion people. A little less than half that number, 3.01 billion are active internet users. 1.4 billion are on Facebook. Remember, that’s 1.4 billion despite China banning Facebook. Also, two new people are joining LinkedIn for every second that I take up on stage, which tells me I should finish early or there’s a good chance I won’t find a job. Singer Katy Perry has more Twitter followers than Spain has people. These figures are mind-numbing as they are, but we haven’t even taken into consideration the myriad of thoughts, ideas, expressions and beliefs that one individual is capable of, let alone seven billion of them. In the digital space, which is a democratic medium with minimal gatekeeping, people have the freedom and the motivation to vent. This has brought on something we call the age of hyper-information. Allow me to elaborate.

Every day, the world generates 70 million pictures on Instagram. Considering most of it is food that’s a lot of hungry people on the Internet. Also, every single day the world churns out an incredible 500 million tweets. That is enough to fill a notebook with roughly 10 million pages, every single day.
With the sheer volume of information disseminated on a day-to-day basis, one of the most genuinely intimidating questions that come to mind is – In the midst of all this mess, how do I get my voice heard? What if I have something to share, but the world won’t listen because there are a billion other people who are voicing opinions simultaneously? Intriguing thought. Before I try and answer that, I want to show everyone here how social media decides whether you’re worth listening to.

Reddit

Twitter

In one word, could I hear from the audience a common thread to both pictures? A common link that stands out for you? Take a close look at the first picture, it’s a screen grab from one of the world’s largest social networking site – Reddit. If you look to the left hand side of the picture, you’ll see a row of numbers next to each headline. These are called “upvotes”, which are basically Reddit’s version of likes. The more likes a particular story has, the better its chance of being read. The same is the case with Twitter, Facebook, Imgur and any other social networking website that comes to mind. Let’s not lie to ourselves and say that the number of likes on a picture or the number of retweets have never swayed us.

So the answer I was looking for? That’s right, numbers. Just like the real world, social media follows a hierarchy. The better your numbers, the more likely you are to be read, watched or heard. The more numbers you are able to sustain frequently, the more influence you wield in the digital space.

Sadly, it is because of this obsession with numbers, that we’re losing the true essence, purpose and strength of what social media is or can do. While the number of people on social media is rapidly going up, we’re starting to see trends that suggest that we’re not just growing, but we’re also growing apart. A study revealed that 1 in 3 people feels dissatisfied with their lives every time they visit Facebook. Multiple studies link social networking to depression, because of envy, social isolation, competitive exclusion, poor numbers and a malformed image of social standing. In fact, researchers have considered this trend to be serious enough to be given its own unique definition, called “Facebook Depression.”

Social media prob

These trends suggest a partial realization of everything wrong with the online world- insensitivity, the dangers of online disinhibition, a society with which is reckless with its freedom and constantly grappling with its own self-esteem. We’re losing ourselves to the numbers and the chaos that we’ve made social media to be.
So when I started off with social media, I promised myself that numbers would never govern the way I use my profiles. I told myself that I was going to use my social media to go beyond numbers and make a difference where it matters. Here’s how the results turned out for me.
The WordPress Chronicles

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I’m going to start with the one thing closest to my heart, but for that I need to turn back time. When I was 7 years old, my Dad, who is an ex-fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force, crashed his plane during the Kargil war and was gravely injured. He broke his spine and had other serious injuries, some of which have been causing him immense discomfort for the past 15 years. When I was 18, my Mom was diagnosed with cancer. For the next year and a half, I saw my favourite thing in the world fight valiantly in a desperate cause. When she passed away, everything changed. The only thing that kept me going through these times was my love for writing. I couldn’t really vent to anyone about these emotional predicaments, so I just started writing on things that had changed me, most notably, cancer. As I grew more able at dealing with the emotional repercussions, I started putting all of this publicly on my blog, called thedevastatedreamer. In a year or so, I realized that my personal experiences were doing far more than I first envisioned.

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This pretty lady you see behind me is Maryam Azaz Khan. Our friendship began around six months back, when she randomly messaged me on Facebook. She said she was going through my blog, and loved a post called “Happy Birthday, Mom,” a small letter I had written to my Mom on her birthday after she had passed away from cancer. She said it moved her, and she related to it strongly. She told me, that her Mom was undergoing treatment for cancer and that my letter made her realize just how much she cherishes her mother. Since then, we have kept in touch and we talk regularly about things like cancer, about coping with stress, academics and what not. We have never spoken over the phone because Maryam is from Pakistan, and well international calls are a bomb. Our friendship is kept alive by WordPress, Whatsapp and Facebook; basically the three musketeers of social media.

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A few months later, I was messaged by another girl who read the same post. She said she that she loved the letter I had written, and that it gave her strength. It was almost déjà vu in terms of what had happened with Maryam. My heart violently skipped a few beats as I asked her, why it gave her strength. She then told me, that she was suffering from bone cancer. She also told me that she was just 14.

Just like in Maryam’s case, I did my best to be there for someone who was to me before that day, just another number. I couldn’t change the physical effects of cancer, but I sure could at least try and take care of the ones that tend to cause elusive damage. She is 15 now, and thankfully she’s recovered from the cancer too. If it weren’t for social media, I would surely have missed out on an incredible person, one who inspires me even today.

Thanks to such wonderful experiences, I went on writing and on Father’s Day, I decided to write something I had wanted to say for a long time. Tired of seeing my Dad’s habit of smoking, I wrote him this little note called “Lethal Addictions.” The very same day, he promised me he would kick the habit altogether. It didn’t stop at that, a few people made their fathers read the post, and two of them told me that their Dads stopped smoking too.

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And to think it all started with me writing down my fears, inhibitions and insecurities. Now that I know that being on these social media platforms does humanity some good, it only serves to motivate me to write more, and help those who’re going through what I had to endure.  Thanks to social media and the tremendous reach it provides, I have a platform which is slowly but steadily altering people’s thought processes.

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The Ask.fm story

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What the website is basically, it is a networking site where users can send each other questions anonymously. The users have described the website as a boon for teenagers, who need a place where they can express their views without being judged, harassed or publicly embarrassed. So yeah, even I was fascinated with the entire concept, so I joined the bandwagon a year and a half ago. It started off with very innocuous questions, things ranging from “What’s your favourite colour?” to “What are your thoughts on true love.” Sometimes the questions are plain ridiculous saying “Hi I’m 13 years old, and my boyfriend left me. I don’t think I’ll ever fall in love again. Could you please help me?” I know, ridiculous! But then, at times, I end up getting questions like these.

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I remember multiple occasions that I was anonymously told that they were suicidal and needed help. Just to give you a bigger picture, Ask.fm has caused more than nine teen suicides due to cyber-bullying since its inception. And when someone sends you a message like this at midnight, you really can’t think straight. But I managed to talk to her for a while, and convinced her not to do so. During the course of my stay on Ask, I have talked to more than a 1000 people. It’s almost become like an Agony Aunt column now, and people on the website call me old man, because the site is a rave with teenagers and at 22 years old, I’m a relative grandpa. There have been six different people who have confessed to being suicidal, and I’m really relieved to say I convinced all six of them not to take the drastic step. The girl who wrote this message was one of them, and she’s doing better than we spoke the other night. So what began as an exercise in random human curiosity, has led me to a place where I am changing, if not saving lives.

ask 1Ask 3

Suicide 1
To put it all into perspective, I firmly believe that as a society, we aren’t utilizing the true power of social media and its infinite possibilities. History tells us that societies and civilizations have started revolutions to find a land where everybody has a voice, but now that we have a realm where everyone can speak, we’re all caught in a hysterical scramble where everyone is trying to shout the loudest. Stop looking at social media as a bunch of numbers to massage your egos. We need to look beyond the obvious and start making a difference where it truly matters. In a world moving too fast for its own good, be someone’s constant; give something to the world that they can hold on to. You can’t be God, but you can definitely be the answer to someone’s prayers.  So take control of what you have, and make a difference because you can.


How I Found Home Again.

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I had never felt so uncomfortable in a place that I had come to call my second home. The small, muddy ground with two rusty goalposts at each end had always been reassuringly familiar to me; but not on that one night. Over the past year, I had covered every inch of the ground more than a thousand times; right from the first day of college to the last day of the university team trials. I loved the ground so much that my once gleaming, white Star Impact Spectras were now permanently coated with a dull brown tinge that so often ended up on my shirts after rough falls. My legs had almost memorized the physical attributes of the turf; how the far left corner was slightly elevated and how a little patch halfway up the ground was particularly hard to sprint on. I can embarrassingly admit, I didn’t even know my girlfriend as intimately as I knew about the little, muddy pitch in the centre of my college.

When Mom’s cancer happened, I was forced to see two of my most cherished things in the world spiral towards unimaginable predicaments. With Mom’s steadily deteriorating health, I was slowly starting to spend more and more time away from the little field I used to practice in. I sorely missed what it once made me feel – the thrills of exquisitely timed sliding tackles, the earthy aroma of petrichor during rainy football sessions, the joys of the wind beating against my chest while sprinting; the sheer nostalgia of memories was overwhelming. Those poignant shards of a shattered imagination were now replaced with far graver memories.

On that night, I stood once again on the same ground after God knew how much time. The sound of gravel scrunching beneath my shoes felt like listening to a song that I had long forgotten, but one that I suddenly rediscovered on the radio. I could hear the crowd roaring and the bright floodlights illuminating the field radiantly, lending its brown colour an alluring, lustrous glow which I think it always deserved. I had been there so many times before; soaking in the pressure, the crippling expectations and the electric atmosphere. But that night was different. It was strange for me, this feeling. I had built my footballing reputation on being a calm central midfielder who feared little. But on that night, I felt nervous and uneasily anxious. The worst thing was that I was fully aware of why it was happening.

I didn’t look on my right-hand side because I knew she was watching me. I also knew she understood little about the game; had no clue about the intricate tactics, the industrious endeavor and the orchestrated teamwork it required to assert one team’s supremacy over the other. All I knew was that I would mean the same to her on the pitch as I did off it. She cared little about my team or the opposition’s, she was only going to watch me and be oblivious to the rest of the world. In 18 years of my life out of which I had spent 10 playing the beautiful game, this was the first time that she had come to watch me play. That night, I wanted to give her something to smile about after what had been a tumultuous few months for all of us.

I still remember how it felt the same way like my first match did. My legs felt like jelly, my stomach had turned so violently that it felt like someone had tied my guts into a scout’s knot. I couldn’t focus, I was sweating and the game hadn’t even begun. Trust me, there is nothing worse than sudden self-doubt on the big stage; that one moment when you completely forget your very purpose of existing. That horror of letting everything unravel when it matters to most was terrifying to me.

When I heard the whistle, it took me a few seconds to register that the game had kicked off. It was like the world had dropped its burdens on my shoulders, but I told myself that nothing mattered more to me than the lady who got up from a hospital bed after a chemotherapy to watch her son do what he loved. I wasn’t going to let her down, I knew I wouldn’t forgive myself if I did. Failure was unacceptable on any night; but tonight it was simply unthinkable. I had no way of knowing if she would ever watch me play again, so I knew had to make this one performance count.

Over the course of the next 20 minutes, I played like a man possessed. I dived recklessly into tackles, ran twice as hard as the man I was supposed to mark, and constantly told myself that this was just another game. I don’t think my body was listening. By halftime I looked like I had taken a momentary dip in the college’s heritage well; my head was aching with the lack of composure that usually regulated my body’s physical output. It was then that I realized what my fear truly meant. And for the first time since the match started, I smiled.

I realized that I felt different because that night, I wasn’t playing for myself anymore. I was playing for someone else, someone far more important. None of the hundreds in the crowd had ever seen what it took me to become the footballer I was, but the lady smiling quietly at one dark corner of the field certainly had. She had seen me caked in mud and exhausted from training camps, she had seen me in hospitals with sprained ankles and torn muscles, she had seen me distraught after defeat. She had witnessed and understood the true aspects of my art and my worth as an artist, which is why on that night, the weight of expectations felt heavier than it ever did before.

Before the second half began, I went up to her and talked to her. My heart felt lighter knowing that today, all I had to do to make her proud was just to be myself. Just like how I was the centre of her universe, she was all that mattered tonight and nothing else came remotely close. Win, draw or lose, it didn’t matter anymore; just knowing that she was watching me was all I could be grateful for.

I played the rest of the game with a heart that knew, for the first time that night, just what it had to do. I ran my socks off in the second half and also scored a goal that I still regard as the best of my life, considering who I owed it to. We drew the game 2-2, but the disappointment of the draw didn’t wipe the smile off my face for the whole night. The ground felt familiar once more, and I smiled again. She looked at me, she smiled too; and in that moment, I found my home again.