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In Shruti Buddhavarapu’s New Book, Loneliness Becomes Weightless In Noise And Silence Of A Millennial Life

  • IWB Post
  •  November 30, 2019

It’s a lot easier to be lost than found. It’s the reason we’re always searching and rarely discovered — so many locks not enough keys. – Sarah Dessen

In today’s day and age, feeling lost is common to everyone. Loneliness is that loyal friend who finds us at several stages of our lives bringing self-pity as its plus one; the friend who stays for many a season and in some cases never leaves.

What makes a human being’s existence so complex? Maybe, it’s a pilgrimage it takes to find a purpose inside the labyrinth of identities. A wise man once said life is a treasure hunt – we are constantly losing and finding ourselves in this world. Some of us embark on soul searching journeys while others rely on people around them to help discover their true self. In this journey, the concept of home is often lost – the physical boundaries of home are blurred. To a wanderer, no city is home, he belongs everywhere and yet nowhere.

Shruti Buddhavarapu in her book The Weight of a Cherry Blossom tells the tale of a girl, who struggles to continuously find her true self and fights illness and despair – remains of a nomadic life. Tracing her adventures in life, Shruti weaves a compelling narrative of her experiences – right from her childhood to adolescence. She outlines little Shruti’s struggle to fit in school, her relationships with her family and friends and how she feels uprooted each time her family moves.

The book touches upon the themes of loneliness in an urban context and how she learnt to be comfortable in her own skin while fighting PCOS – giving her confidence and a sense of self-reliance in this chaotic world. Layered with humour, witty anecdotes and Shruti’s deft writing skills, the book is a celebration of the struggles that one can overcome, the storms one can brave – inside and outside.

Excerpt from ‘The Weight of a Cherry Blossom’:

Early 2018.
My father sits across from me on the sofa, the phone screen reflecting in his glasses as he books a cab for the airport. We’ve sat in strained silence the whole day, the one day he’s in town visiting me. This one’s on me, though. My father, like my mother and brother, is an easy presence, and will fit into the tiniest corners of anyone’s life. I like to think I’ve got that from him, this contentment with whatever space is assigned to me in someone’s life. It’s me. As usual, something’s wrong and I can’t place it.

The night before, as we sat marinating in our own sweat, this Chennai wet hug, he asked me to turn the air conditioner on.

‘Uhh, it kind of has been on for the last half-hour. Can’t you hear it?’
My father looks baffled.
‘I thought that was a water tanker…’
‘That’s the AC’.
‘You really need to get it checked.’
Later that night, he spoke to my mother, who told him the AC was dry-heaving even when she visited back in October. It is now May. I know she’s told him because he’s already on the phone, getting in touch with someone who can come take a look at it the next day, just before he flies home.

Now, he sits across from me and raises a fist in the air and declares, ‘BOOKED!’ When I acknowledge this with a short smile, he continues to wave the fist around even more determinedly, doing his fatherly duty of pushing the joke to its limit to get that laugh. Something about his cheer roughs up against the inexplicable but routine sadness I’ve been incubating the whole weekend, and I break down. I can’t even place it:
I’m not baking to a light batter-fried crisp for the first time in months, I have a whole weekend of nothing to do ahead of me, I have a job I find meaning in, friends who continually check in on me.

Kind, as always, he sits exactly where is, refusing to make a spectacle of my crying.
‘Is it the living-by-yourself?’ he asks. I shake my head. I know he really needs to get moving to make his flight on time, and I hate that I had to do this right now. I quickly regain my composure.
‘Okay, off you go,’ I say to him with a smile. He hesitantly makes for the door, and as he ties his shoelaces, he asks, ‘Why not therapy?’

I don’t have anything to say in return, but why not indeed.

‘I’m glad I was here to get it fixed,’ he says.
‘Nanna, I can live without one. That’s why I didn’t call anyone. It’s such a privileged problem.’
‘I know you can. It’s not about the AC, though, is it?’ He hugs me at the door.
‘Can still change your mind and come back home with me forever,’ he says dramatically.
I laugh and say, ‘I’ll keep that as a last resort.’

As I see him disappear down the stairs of the building, I realize what my father meant about the AC. I didn’t realize that I ‘meant to get around to’ something and let it slip by for half a year. I thought I was just lazy, but my father was right—I was mistaking it for a water tanker when it was something else. I was depressed.

How did it come to this? How am I here, a month away from turning thirty, teetering on the edge of the rest of my life, washing the dishes and sobbing over the sink alone?

I call my mother a few minutes later and once I’m all cried out, we dissect all the reasons this could be happening. Seeing my dad only for a day, some kind of hormonal symptom of my PCOS, perhaps a side-effect of my birth control, general homesickness and ennui, mercury retrograde, Nirmal Baba’s Third Eye…

‘Of course,’ she says, rather matter-of-factly, ‘you’ve been working out and eating a low-GI diet for the last ten days. Maybe your body is registering this new change and is in shock. Maybe it thinks you just need carbs.’ Reader, it wasn’t the carbs.

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Excerpted with permission of the author.

About the Author:
Shruti Buddhavarapu is a poet, writer and editor currently living in New Delhi. She has a double masters from Jawaharlal Nehru University and the University of British Columbia. She is fascinated with politics, pop culture and how seamlessly one bleeds into the other. She is also a researcher with an interest in the rhetoric of health and medicine. Her first book, Mother Steals a Bicycle and Other Stories was co-authored with Salai Selvam.

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