"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference." -
I think everyone had this poem as a part of their English literature curriculum back in school. "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost. I remember the first time I read it. I was eleven and it took me seconds to declare that it was my favourite poem. Only, I never knew if I would actually make it my holy grail, until I did.
As a child, I loved listening to music, watching dance videos, gulping down fantasy and animated movies, sketching everything from sceneries to portraits and most importantly, reading. I always imagined myself going into the fine arts. I imagined writing like JK Rowling and dancing like Hrithik Roshan. And sometimes, I dreamed I was in the African Savanna or the deep Amazons, laying in wait, taking pictures of animals and birds, because I was working with the National Geographic Channel or the Discovery Channel or Animal Planet. No matter what I did, I wanted to travel the world and I never wanted to stop.
I was also a strange kid. This one time, I was so overexcited about a dance performance that I kept bugging the teacher-in-charge of the performance to help me dress up in my new sari and fine trinkets. I remember her laughing. I remember not losing heart. I remember performing and being happy about it. I remember running up to my mom to ask her whether she noticed me and if she was proud of me. And then I remember the teacher insulting my mom for giving me a new sari for the performance when I was clearly a background dancer and didn't need it. I remember losing excitement. I remember losing heart. And I remember never wanting to do another performance.
Of course, the very first performance in my life was in my kindergarten school. I was Mother India for Independence Day celebrations. All I did was stand in the middle with my right hand raised like I was giving blessings, so I guess it really wasn't a performance. And I remember getting really really awkward and nervous when I was pushed to recite poetry on the stage and made to dress up as a sanyasi in a go-as-you-like dress up contest, both in the community programmes of the government quarter premises where I lived.
So yes, I was all over the place. Excited and shy. Confident and awkward. It was like two different people rolled into one person. I still am like that. And I go through these phases of intense polarities of emotions. I try to think of it as something good, unique, except it's not quite. It drains me. And quite frankly, I don't know what I'd do about this seemingly permanent baggage.
I may have drifted off a little, so let me get back to the story. Yes, the crossroads. After passing the 12th standard board exams, like every other student, I had to go to college. I really wanted to study Geography. I mean, yes, I did want to do all of the things that I was talking of earlier, but when you're told that academics is really the place for you because you're shy and timid and easy to be exploited, eventually you start believing that. You start believing that the safety and the security of a realistic lifestyle is truly what you desire. So, Geography. Although, deep down, for some reason, I thought that this subject would let me travel the world, hence the choice.
It didn't work out. I ended up taking admissions for Economics, cancelling that and going for Political Science, only to cancel that again and settle for Law. And throughout those five years of graduation, I never once saw myself practising law. I simply never wanted to. I thought I'd do my Masters and PhD and go into research and teaching. But my mom got it inside my head that I should go into Judicial services. I never saw myself as a judge either, but after spending a lifetime sorting out the fights between her and my dad, I could see why she believed I'd make a good judge. I did do my Masters, narrowly missed out on the PhD and started preparing for Judicial service examinations.
Perfect, right? No. I, being the conflicted individual that I am, kept postponing this perfect life because my heart longed to travel, be adventurous, write novels, take the stage, fall in love with men from foreign lands. And the more this perfect life came closer, the more I longed to be everything I once wanted to be.
My mom told me I have escapist tendencies which were stemming from my fear of failing the service examinations, that I've always had them and that I should be realistic, that a stable job which provided a good paycheck and a lifetime of security wouldn't be the prison I thought it would become. And I was racing inside my head. Because I was chasing happiness, wasn't I?
It only took my schedule to loosen up just a little bit for me to quietly sign up for dance classes and acting classes because I didn't think that twenty seven was too late. And I had prepared too. I remember practising monologues and being absolutely in love with the 'I ate my divorce papers' monologue from Goodbye, Charles by Gabrielle Davis. I remember watching a tonne of acting advices and lectures on YouTube. I remember being sure of what I wanted to do. After all, I wasn't chasing a career or a lifestyle, I was chasing happiness. I also started working on multiple plots for various novels.
And you see, I'm glad I went crazy and did a bunch of things I was too afraid to do for fear of failure, an empty stomach and homelessness. Because as I did them, I realised that yes, I'm on the right track. My parents were furious when they found out. And I did struggle. But I made it. I got the best book deals, nationally and internationally. I went on to act in iconic movies and TV shows, both in India and in Hollywood. And on our wedding day, I tangoed with my gorgeous husband with whom I felt the safety and emotional security I'd always craved for. There are always going to be rough patches because no one is perfect but I travelled the world with him and our two kids. And today, as the two of us, sit here watching the sunset as the ocean plays with our feet, I can finally say that chasing the happiness was worth it...
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I should have divulged more details. But you see, I cannot give you the details of a life I have not lived. I am twenty seven. I am at the crossroads. There is a virus on the loose. And Robert Frost is... well, he's looking at me.