Six years back (eighteen-year-old me)
I took a sip of water and put the glass at the counter next to me. My mom and dad sat exactly forty-five degrees from my couch and gazing at me for the past half an hour. It almost beats the symmetry of a random frame from a Wes movie. I had a pen in my hand and two papers stretched out in front of me. Nothing complicated, it was simple, all that I had to do was to sign in one of those. One paper which my parents brought from the highly-rated business management college and another one which I bought for ten rupees from a journalism college, apparently the admission form for journalism was not free. Now, it was all on me. I asked myself the most asked question in anybody’s life: This or that?
My family was one of those families which live in a three-floored apartment, we basically own a mansion. My grandfather was the founder of Ganesh R paper company, to be precise, one of the top thirty businessmen in India. And now, I was stuck in between picking my career: To study MBA and take care of our business or to pursue journalism, which was my personal choice. I held the pen and lifted my head from those forms, my parents haven’t even for a second moved their eyes away from me. I saw the door next to the counter opened and there came my grandfather.
“Hey, Aanya, didn’t sleep yet?” he asked. Yes, I'm a girl, in case if you haven't figured it out.
Those words hit my mind hard. I have heard those same exact words from him before, it wasn’t a DeJa'Vu.
Yes, I remember it.
Sixteen years back (Eight-year-old me)
It was almost midnight; I spotted a thick enveloped magazine with my grandfather’s face on one corner of the book rack. I took and read it aloud to my grandfather who was still awake
“How to succeed in startups? Retired but not tired. The seventy-year-old greybeard hasn’t lost his zeal yet. Thirty-eight years ago, a man changed the way paper company’s work and registered his own auteur to it. Ganesh proved that even a paper company owner will end up being a billionaire.”
“It’s me I guess” he chuckled; his cheek wrinkled.
As I said before, my grandfather was one of the richest persons in the state, probably the country. In a weird kind of way, I slightly hate him. Because of that old man, I was forced to take care of the business as I was the only child. Well, in fact, my grandpa didn’t force me, it was my parents. I slightly hate my parents. Eight-year-old me wouldn't have any idea what those terms mean.
“Aanya, didn’t you sleep yet, it’s time to sleep.” he waved his hand: come. I waved back: wait.
I flipped the magazine and randomly opened a page, to my surprise I saw an image of a person with goggles leaning against the ladder of a swimming pool. And the article read: Wanna see the next Michael Phelps! A rising star battles on his way in the water.
I climbed over the bed, “Grandpa, he was a swimmer, I guess” I said. But apparently, he was already asleep. I didn’t know exactly at what part he slept. The whole page about the swimmer was edited and designed way better than my grandpa’s.
Well, how can I compare a businessman like my grandpa with a swimmer?
On the verge of sleep, I glimpsed over the layouts.
At one corner of the page, I noticed something written, it was a bit blurry, it read: “Already gone already”. Having no idea about those words I closed the magazine; got up; placed back it on the book rack.
Is it wrong to read other’s diaries? I asked myself when I saw my grandpa’s diary at the other corner of the rack. I was sleeping in the same room for the past eight years but haven’t ever once noted that. Who cares? I took the diary and went past next door.
14th June 1954,
Some moments are hard to describe, today I had one of those. I got graduated. The moment when my professor handed me the certificate was one of the memorable instances of my life. I am going to be a businessman!
To be honest, I randomly opened a page, I didn’t expect it to be the graduation day. But man! My grandpa got his spirit right at that age.
15th June 1954,
Some moments are hard to describe, today I had one of those. I can’t continue my classes. This morning, my professor came to my house and congratulated me in front of my parents and encouraged me to become a businessman, which is great by the way. But I can’t continue my swimming classes. Apparently, one can pursue just one career path, it seems so.
Okay, now I get it.
16th June 1954,
Today is the best day of my life, usually, I will say this often, but I haven’t really been this happy for a while, indeed. I got the greatest advice that anyone could dream of. My professor saw me crying in the class and articulated to me some advice about success and happiness, what are those, how do they differ, can one be successful and happy at the same time. And gave the answers to some other unsolved questions.
I’m standing right in front of two doors, one leads to my business life and the other door leads to my fictional life which is filled with wilderness, swimming, and a ton of other stuff I had in my mind. I had to choose which door I should open.
I decided to open the first door. Evidently, success and happiness are two different terms that can collide with each other when we choose the best path. At the end of the day, all that I want is to be successful, I want people to know me, I want to be triumphant. So, I chose the first door which leads the business life.
That was the exact moment I’m stuck with now. I had to choose between two doors just like him but it wasn’t as easy like he described.
That’s a pretty good origin story, I said to myself, flipped the dairy once again, and opened a page. It was twenty years later, from 1954 to 1974, I flipped it fast, I guessed.
4th May 1974,
This evening I received the honorary award from the governor. Well, I'm happy.
5th May 1974,
It is a pretty good day. I wished to make a trip to the western ghats but I couldn't. Well, the job can take precedence over anything.
6th May 1974,
I went to the neighbouring city for making a contract. I had a good time there.
7th May 1974,
Finally, I went to a movie with my son. The premise is different, it is about some kind of machine which is used to travel backward and forwards in time. The hero gets that machine from a person from the future and goes through some adventures. It’s not bad, my son enjoyed it, that’s all I want.
A question pops up now, as I write this. What will I do if I get that machine?
What? That’s it.
I turned to the next page.
8th May 1974,
It was a good day, not great, but good.
I couldn’t believe he didn’t write what he would have done with that time machine. All that I wanted at that moment was that. I peeked over all the other pages but nothing related to time machines were mentioned.
I came back to the room. He was still in his deep slumber.
And I went to sleep.
Eight-year-old me wouldn’t have any idea how important those moments were.
Present (Twenty-four-year-old me):
I’m standing in front of a huge crowd with a gooseneck mic in my hand, I pull it towards me. I’m at the self-publishing academy getting ready to publish my book.
And I begin my speech, “Hey, hello. As you people know I’m Aanya, author of the book ‘The alternative life of my grandpa’.” People begin cheering for me, “Everyone knew my grandpa as a highly successful businessman but there is another untold exciting side of him, I just wanted to tell that to you people by this book. There won’t be any other day better than my grandpa’s birthday to publish this book.”
Yes, I wrote a novel about the unlived life of my grandpa which he wished to live. Two years back when my grandpa was alive, I held my courage and went to him and asked the reason what he meant in that diary and what does that ‘Already gone already’ mean. At first, he hesitated to reply, but eventually, he did. And the reply was beyond my imagination. Right at that moment, I decided to write a book about that magical realistic unlived life.
It’s been one year since my grandpa died, and now I’m addressing the audience about the book, who would have thought these things would happen?
I continue my speech.
“When I went to my grandpa and asked ‘What he would have done with that time machine?’ he said something beyond my expectation and that’s what made me write this book.”
The whole crowd’s attention is on me.
“He imagined himself using that time machine and reliving his life. I asked him, ‘Where were you now? What were you doing?’
“My grandpa replied, ‘I may be eighty-five this year and I think I lived a pretty good life. I have seen really neat things like kayaking all over the country... A moose family on a river in Varanasi. Big white pelicans landing just six feet over my kayak on a lake in Kerala or coming round a bend of a cliff and finding hundreds and hundreds of swallow nests on a wall of the cliff... And the swallows flying all around, reflecting in the water so it looks like I’m flying with the swallows... And little babies are hatching out. Eggshells are falling out of the nest and landing on the water right next to me, these little white shells... Walking across the Sadhan valley and spending a valuable part of my life with the nomads. And it was just so awesome, Aanya! I felt I had done enough. My life was complete.I enjoyed every bit and pieces of that ride. I felt that if I were to die right then, it would be OK. How many people can say that?’”
“That’s how he wanted to live his life,” I say.
The crowd applauds.
“Just enjoy the ride. Thank you,” I wave my hand towards the audience and walk down the stage handing the mic to another author next to me.
I saunter through the first row of the audience which is full of press people; see my spot among that row; sit in the chair which has my name on it; begin asking questions to other authors about their books.
Yes, I’m a journalist now. Probably, I opened the right door.