Subodhini Vignesh (Subo) is a young one I am happy to have in A Cornered Gurl. She is encouraging, strong-willed, open-minded, and takes on a challenge like it’s second nature to her. She recently turned sixteen years old and the second way she decided to respond to the Young Minds of Medium What Do You Miss Most During This Pandemiccall was to write about how she experienced her birthday this year. Her first submission was just as detailed and definitely a gut-punch, but this piece truly touched my heart as I read it. I give you, “My Sweet Sixteenth Birthday . . .”
My Sweet Sixteenth Birthday
Young Minds of Medium Missed Things Call
A few days ago, I found myself sobbing under my covers at night, with the rest of my family in a deep slumber. Until that moment, I hadn’t felt dejected for not being able to celebrate my 16th birthday with all my close friends and family. I felt a little lonely, but this wasn’t only because of the future physical absence of my friends on my special day; this would be the last birthday I’d be celebrating in India before shifting to another country, and my friends wouldn’t be there. Theywould forget me soon anyway, might as well celebrate what had once been- the celebration of the end of years of friendship and memories.
When I woke up the next morning, 15th May, I no longer felt the sadness that had fueled my tears; instead, I felt stupid and a bit embarrassed to take responsibility for the thoughts that had clouded my more rational reasoning. My friends would never forget me, even if I’m 1000s of kilometres away. So what if they are absent for a little cake cutting? There are still so many memories of them I can hang on to. It isn’t really their fault they can’t come — it’s beyond any of our control. It’s okay to feel bad for their absence — it’s human.
Out of sight, but not out of mind.
As of 15th May, I had zero expectations for my birthday — that is what my parents and my brother had fooled me into believing. I’m generally good at putting pieces together, so hiding something from me isn’t a piece of cake; it turns out, they hid an entire cake. That night, my parents, my brother, and I were watching a 1980s Rajinikanth movie — it being a reason to keep me up till 12 o’clock.
May 16, 2020- The Birthday
When the clock struck twelve, all my friends and family stood at my doorstep ready to wish me a happy birthday, and the beautiful blue dress my fairy godmother had gifted me turned into my rags, leaving me with only one glass slipper. Nah, not really.
My brother and my parents gave me the gifts they had secretly brought home, and all of them sang the happy birthday song at the top of their lungs. I was awestruck, to add to this, several of my relatives and buddies had swarmed my landline and Whatsapp with their wishes and love.
I had expected them to forget my birthday, yet they had won my heart with all their love.
I woke up to a video my friends had curated; it began with a picture of me in a ridiculous pose and sunglasses and then a series of pictures where each of them held an alphabet to spell “Happy Bday”. I was delighted and a bit surprised because, to be honest, for the last three months I hadn’t had a proper conversation with many of the girls — except maybe some Whatsapp “Gm’s” and “Bye’s.”
One of the most significant moments of the day was by one of my best friends. She had created an entire card and left me a long beautiful message which got me to smile so much that my jaw hurt. She and I were going to take completely different paths in our lives, and our personalities don’t really coincide, yet we are thick as thieves. I have always known that even if we end up in different parts of the planet we’d never lose touch. The gift of sweet words she had given me a pleasant reminder of our togetherness and friendship which will last forever.
She’d be amongst the ones I will miss the most, but never forget.
In the evening, I cut a delicious cake my parents had smuggled home. I was courted by my grandparents, cousins, and best friends singing the birthday song through video conference.
Throughout the entire day, I felt special and a little spoiled — a break from my scheduled day.
For me, my birthday was a refreshing reminder that everything will be fine soon, and until then, we are in this together.
I am not forgotten, I am loved — this is all I needed to know.
Stay Home. Stay Safe.
Author’s Note: I would like to apologise to those who believe that, in this period where several are losing lives, I shouldn’t babble about something as childish as a birthday. This is a tough time for all of us, even me, and I wish to share the little insignificant moments that make my life more joyous. Through this pandemic, we all have different problems with varying magnitudes; each a story unique to the individual. This is part of my story.
Our second challenge of the year for the Young Minds of Medium was themed: What Do You Miss Most During This Pandemic? The young ones came through as they always do and I wish to feature a few from that challenge. This post focuses on the second featured piece which is from one of our most recent contributors added to ACornered Gurl.
Bebongchu Atemkeng is a twenty-year-old young man unafraid to share his thoughts, feelings, and heart’s work with us. He is a regular in our A Cornered Gurl Six-Word Story Challenge hosted every Sunday and he encourages others by reading their work and responding. He is a joy to have in the publication and I am happy he’s around. His piece, Two Sides of Silencehits straight to the heart of the matter and leaves the reader feeling connected and (un)alone. Everyone, encourage his heart. I am hoping I’ll have him in YMOM for the next five years. He brings such a bright light to our community and I am sure you will feel it as you read his piece.
Two Sides of Silence
Young Minds of Medium Missed Things Call
I miss the solace within these walls; the peace and quietude that used to reign here was one of quintessence. Those nights with just me, my book and pen, and a warm cup of tea at my study table were truly special. The sight of my bed neatly made up after a long and tiring day at work was enough reason to still find happiness and courage to carry on in a world that drains you of more than it gives; the bed didn’t complicate life—it only demanded that you lay down and rest in its embrace, satisfied to have satisfied you. I miss that comforting silence.
Within this space, I was free to be me. It was just me but I didn’t feel alone—I felt at home. I was free to dream and to explore my being. I discovered the things that made me happy, that sparked that zealous fire in my bones. Writing is one of them. The words always seemed to come easy then. Writing out my truth, I wasn’t scared of the prejudices of the world. It was just me and mini-me writing our souls out hoping that it inspired someone, somewhere, somehow to break the chains holding them down and to live out this passing existence free as the blowing wind—at peace with self and with the world. The tranquility was my source of healing.
That was a different time, a different world; that was six months ago when the world was still sane. The confinement within these walls doesn’t feel all that blissful anymore. Now, a different silence seems to beckon from beyond, from the most unexpected of places, telling of a peace I had but failed to see. The solitude is poisoning; the silence, deafening.
With all the time I have to myself now, I seem to be doing nothing. The bed has grown weary from carrying my weight; she doesn’t say so, but I know. Mini-me keeps reminding me of all that I said I’d achieve during this quarantine but haven’t started. He reminds me of the books I wanted to read—Chimamanda Ngozi’s Purple Hibiscus; Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God; Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas. He reminds me of a zeal grown cold. The stories I have not written haunt me—I want to tell them but the words don’t come easy anymore. WhatsApp has had its fair share of uninstalling and reinstalling. As I fall deeper into this lonely void, I wonder if this place ever really made me happy. Where is that harmony I once shared with life?
Now I realize that there was order in the chaos, poetry in the pain, music in the noise, comfort on another shoulder, and lessons to learn from the mishaps of life. Isolated from the rest of humanity, I am nothing more than walking flesh and bones; my room was never enough of a world. Within the walls of honking cars, boring lectures, singing birds, dancing children, open skies, swaying leaves, humming bees, feeding ruminants, and busy humans is a serenity of its own, a silence more profound. Now I know it was from all these that I found the inspiration to write and the courage to live.
I miss my friends. I miss the long, warm hugs and brotherly handshakes, the heartwarming smiles we shared over a plate of hot fufu and eru, the toasts we raised our glasses to, and the wishes we made over fine wine that our good God would bless us with happier days. I hope that he’s still listening.
What is left of me is emptiness and restlessness. There was an existential equilibrium I failed to appreciate: that between my world and the world. One cannot be beautiful without the other. The interweaving of the two strings produced the sweet symphony of life. I believe that better days lie ahead; I believe that after this pandemic, we would be more grateful for the opportunity to still be alive.
I miss the balance between the two sides of silence.
They piled their things onto the ship, headed for a distant land, one where the violence of their homestate would never follow them. Captain Heras assured them of safety and provided everything needed for their journey. On the side of the ship, painted in gold: “#Ubuntu“.
This is another Twitter prompt response. Word of focus: “Ubuntu”.
They come for them, one by one. Little girls, ages 5-10: they will be groomed to birth little boys who’ll be men who’ll dictate our every move. Our #village is near passion and pain and thrives on the broken hearts of others. Our motto: “Let us ruin your lives for free.”
Originally shared via Twitter as a response to the prompt word “village.”