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On stories. Memoir even. Maybe.

December 14, 2023
- Sarthak Sharma

have you ever believed? in anything? how does it feel - choosing to believe something or not? it feels to me, nothing ever is truly worth believing in life. objectively, the burden of ‘universal truth’ cannot, surely, be placed on something tangible and human-y. like words. we produce more of them to encapsulate the ambiguity of existence in a nice noun, like ‘love’, ‘dream’, or perhaps ‘hope’ that we repeat as often as possible. in our songs, in our books, in our heads. not getting any closer to ‘what is’ (real). this is not to discredit any line of thinking. but to underscore an incapability, inherent in our lives. this very relentless information asymmetry in the universe’s design, itself, lies at the core of making stories work. we come across a story and maybe for a second, we choose to believe. disarming our brains from the lines of defenses that help us to sieve out the truth. to give up control, be silly & be told stuff. regardless of how the story chanced upon you, its charm is alluring.

writing a memoir is weird. is it a story? does it need to be accurate? can it be accurate? does it need to be reflective? does it need to be interesting? should it be chronological? can it be futuristic? in fact, not just a memoir, writing anything elicits plenty of questions. like why must you write? the mind is a cesspool of thoughts. choosing to immortalize those thoughts in ink and paper must require a rhyme & reason that goes beyond your conviction. a single word brings an opportunity of water-tight scrutiny upon you. the audacity to write something. the vulnerability. it must take a lot of being kind to yourself. almost a frantic burst of self-love. might as well kiss yourself in a mirror. but stories - in the word, or in winds - are sneaky ways to let your thoughts materialize. eluding evaluation. almost fun. surprising even. kind of like grandmothers. this reminds me of a lore. there’s a grandma with hair much whiter than the main building, who wears a paan-colored banarasi saree and walks around spewing a thick ‘awadhi’ accent in the campus. whoever helps her, magically gets their math grade increased by one. the catch is that the help she needs exclusively depends on the branch you’re in. she was delighted to know that i knew how internal combustion engines work, having taken that elective in my mech degree. she promptly took to me to her bike, parked near new lhc. i drew a neat diagram to explain the thermodynamic cycle occurring at a furious frequency in the engine. she studied the sheet for a moment and said, “you can go, and call me a mechanic, if you do not want to fail your endsems”.

first day at campus; one of the lasts

we expect a lot from stories. to be refreshing; hooking. to get me off my phone. i wonder how many stories we miss because we are not looking out for them. story of the person who sat next to you on the bus. story of the nesci canteen bhaiyya. story scribbled in the washroom of mgcl. stories from unknown blurry faces making foreign sounds. niche stories we bury in us. unbeknownst to the world. dying to ooze out.

but there’s a story that all of us are familiar with - the JEE story. JEE is the exam equivalent of ursula. (little mermaid ref: fish-woman, goes to ursula trades voice for legs, doesn’t get action still)


JEE is a good 50 pages torn off your journal. a poem buried six feet under an epitaph of integrals and differentials. i was always a stories person, as a kid. being lost in a good story made life livable. kind of like ‘the secret life of walter mitty’. somewhere before college, i hit my head somewhere and all the stories leaked into the abyss. i tried to write something, anything, in kshitij. stories came to me, but never made it to the real estate of paper. most of them died when i was busy reading, something i didn’t like. i don’t do that now. and, every now and then, a story does stay enough for the notes app on my phone to sneak in a little taste of it.

one of the first pictures i took in campus (for wona) article

first year for me. was me. sitting and thinking. which isn’t all that bad. and it isn’t a lot different anymore too. but i knew very well that i was not supposed to feel the way I was feeling. and now i don’t. which is kinda nice. being in campus means knowing. knowing changes you. makes your laughter more careful. people less trustable. i remember in a math class, i was told - “to know the nature of an equation, test the extreme conditions” i think college does that, a chance for you to know a bit better who you are. it’s all part of the plot.

rishikesh trip, 2019, watchout

each speckle of the world knows my woe; stands spectator to it, unstirred at least it knows my voice by now maybe it will know my name too.

the last memory of first year, was in the middle of 1-2, on the steps of the forgotten floor of MAC above ‘sattviko’, overlooking rajeev.

the edges of rajeev (the building) wore a red golden shawl, the last of the sunlight, to preserve pockets of warmth for the chilly azure awaited. with my face buried in my arms and legs. i terribly wished to go back. over the course of the next few days, we went home only to not return for almost 2 years.


I like talking. do you? in a dark room, all you hear is their voice. the silent hiss of your slow breath giving volume to the words slipping out of someone’s lips. the rest of the word blurs out in white noise. college abounds in such moments of ‘spoken intimacy’. if only words had the capacity to capture it. the muse of a story needs music, i wish there was some background music constantly surrounding us at all times capturing our moods, and playing the right tunes. or maybe there is. i swear ive heard it.

discovery of fire by ancient people would have been fun. though, talking about it is not nearly as much fun. that’s because we have talked about fire so much already. what would be really fun is to talk about the first person who stood up and witnessed the power of convincing people to do their bidding (ya jisne sabse pehle poli kari ho). what would that non-verbal story-telling look like? how different is it from ‘refreshments would be served at club intro-talk’?

silly squirrel. cute hai. iska apna koi tv series chal rha hai.

campus clubs are thriving shared-stories kept alive solely by the students. the on-paper existence of groups is barely a word in a list, like literally, if any day all members of any students decide that this group is dead, it will cease to exist (real), its the tinkerbell effect.

(disenchantment fairy)

i joined a group. it took a few goofy retakes of a video outside LHC (while googling what is consulting) and couple of interviews to get into ShARE (now known as, society of business). i have no clue, why i went into the group or why the group chose me. that is also true w good stories. you just chance upon them. and soon they become a massive part of you. so did ShARE. people are the building blocks of everything at college. why do we seek them? why does it get lonely. i think for the same reason we stare at the sky. there’s something so true and complete in the continuity of being that discreteness just doesn’t cut it. how can we be alone and discrete while the reminders of universal continuity reside above us. we want to be a part of something. a story is supposed to add-on and get a new flavor with time. don’t you find it interesting, you meet someone and your stories merge, suddenly you have the same words, same thoughts, similar circumstances. you diverge, you put your hand out, they put their hand out. you hold it. they stay. sometimes, they stay. you make the same mistakes, you grow with them, so does your story. a lot of storytellers grow, but their stories fail to age, the world moves on.

wona farewell. really ‘tied’ up the met gala theme.

things are really not that deep. like actually. fr. well sometimes they are. intense character development stuff. like you walk from mac to the main building, with an aftertaste of coffee. everything slows down, brown leaves falling nowhere and the tension of the uncertain future relaxes a bit. slowly you dissolve into the darkness that seeps into the sac building. you reach the stairs, a cold punch into your gut. black. you are in a chair. the room is burning, a scream and the roof implodes. dead shadows towering over you. the sharpness and the tension cuts you from the inside everytime you breathe. the voices get fainter as you close your eyes. there’s so much space all around. its black.

survival kit for the worst of times & all the party i need in the best of time. akshu.

but then sometimes things are really not deep. the laughs in the dingy sarojni canteen, are just laughs. and the mechanical clock atop the main building is just a clock. the green in divine is just the green in divine and not the elusive gatsby’s green. and its fine. silly things being silly are also essential. like justin bieber’s baby, or timmy chalamet’s rap - just existing there.

do you find meaning in what you do? just like velocity is just a number without a frame of reference. ‘meaning’ is highly contextual and would be just words without referring to the ‘story’ in question. some stories span a millenia with systemic skews, complicated historical contexts, and conflicting interests. others are sappy chill stories. spread across the campus life, there are different levels of meaning hidden to take a taste of. it is calming to find your interpretation out of these stories.

when we look at the campus and its story. behind the mask of white colonial relics and strictly trimmed grass, the infrastructure decays into cracks and algal growth. we live and breathe this air of promise, only afraid to look too closely at them. at us. at everything. for a place so close to the hills, i kept waiting for it to snow in roorkee. i think the world will be a better place, and every memory of the past will be wiped out. the day it snows in roorkee.

my parents. v cute. lapped up all my crazy college rants like a sponge. bhyi.

sometimes we just do things for the plot of it, to advance our arc. we must let our stories be, so that our life doesn’t have to take the fall for the what-ifs. run your pens before time runs you over. and also because stories are lost easily. evaporating black holes, systemic burial of dreams and pulverizing fossils into medicines are some instruments sequestering stories at cosmic and human scales. that’s why we must hold on harder to our stories. lest they be lost. or worse. stolen. never let your story be stolen. make it alive and let it ooze out. writing a memoir is scary. but i write. because what else do i know better. than to tell a story.

Sources of images ursula: disenchantment fairy: