I’m not a Radiohead fan. It’s a band I’ve know for a while, and not really killed myself for. Like my husband does. Give him a pensive evening, he feels Radiohead like they’re in his head. I like music that reminds me to stay happy or fly away. Literally, take the cape and fly away ((n) escape). Radiohead is too realistic for me. Their music almost creeps on me like life. So, while I run from this music most times, I just got very addicted to this song recently. It reminded me of weird times that I had been hiding under dust.
Backstory: In the early 90s, we would go to grandmother’s home for summer holidays. While coming back in a 12 hour overnight journey, we would board an auto rickshaw to come home from the train station. I’d often let myself wear flip-flops and feel the polluted air of new found Delhi freedom. I largely believed (even at that time) that the forced migration had done us good. From a joint-family we had been reduced to a team of four and I had more of my parents’ time than we had ever had as babies. I liked that. I liked being our close family of four without adjustments or forced guilt.
Like most children and adults, I was a little upset that my holidays were ending. I was complaining that we had again reached hell (I had literally called it Shikast in Kashmiri, meaning defeat). My mother wasn’t necessarily liking this sentiment. My casualness and unnecessary air consumption leaning onto the doors of the auto rickshaw meant that one of my flip flops went running off to the road. I begged the rickshaw-wala to stop. You could just stop on the side of the main road in India without emergency lights. It was the early 90s and the roads were not half as crowded. Besides, people are more forgiving of road mistakes at lower speeds.
Off I went to pick up my flip flop wearing the one that remained. This one guy on a scooter had to stop because of me. He proceeded to scold me and indicated something about the traffic light. With the noise and my disorientation, I understood nothing. And asked him to repeat. That annoyed him even more.
After many years in Delhi, thereafter, I understood, it didn’t matter if it was my mistake. The city ran on whose voice was the loudest. And creeps.
When I moved to Delhi- a big city was difficult for all of us. My parents held on to their insecurities in secret, till they reached me. It wasn’t easy that in my Hindi class, I read a piece of class 3 literature, and finished with people laughing at my face. At first I didn’t understand but I was reddening up. Turned out, while I could read, I had never learned that people who speak Hindi made a sound I never knew. Kashmiri language doesn’t have stronger sounds like ‘Gh’, ‘Dh’ ( We call Ghar – Gar. Sometimes, I still make mistakes). The children were brutal about my accent and the teachers didn’t quite care.
I am a firm believer in the philosophy that children pick up brutality from their surroundings and people who influence them- including their parents. I saw this tolerance map a while ago, and I wondered about India again. As a child, moving from one state to another in a difficult situation was bad enough, bullying about a dialect and newness made it infinitely worse. And as I have lived and traveled to different places, I’ve realized, it wasn’t just one place, or one country which behaves so. People everywhere tend to group up against something they don’t understand or relate to. That’s how big nations become small.
Plenty people across genders, races and regions like to show that they’re better in the way they do things. Usually newness – in any format unnerves people. They go out of their way to strip you out of a feeling of belongingness.
Having experienced this first hand, my young self was often split between being an angry young woman and someone trying hard to accommodate. As a grown up, I exercise more control. I simply unfollow pretentious people on Facebook to get my life back.
I don’t know how but the lyrics of this song just took me there. It’s liberating not to want to be special, or think that someone else is. It’s so liberating not to hanker for everyone’s approval and liking. Because if you truly belong somewhere, you don’t need to ask for respect. You get it.
But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here.I don’t care if it hurts
I wanna have control
I wanna a perfect body
I wanna a perfect soulI want you to noticeWhen I’m not around
You’re so fuckin’ special
I wish I was special
(Backstory-1): Due to conflict and terrorist threats in Srinagar, my family had to migrate to a safer location within India in 1990. The majority community was seeking freedom and wanted to push out the small minority to avoid any discussions on who the ‘homeland‘ belonged to. We migrated in a goods truck, all four of us together with the driver carrying loads of luggage that didn’t belong to us, but the extended family, in the night time, hiding. We’ve never returned to the place I was born in. Finally we moved to Delhi in a train with my mother carrying the two of us and three luggage trunks. Freedom seeking students were protesting against a government reservation bill for some sacred minorities and literally lit our train on fire. Somehow my mother got us to Delhi, unharmed and we almost could not find dad in a crowd of thousands of people for hours.
Growing up like this means it’s just generally tough for me to associate with religious, regional or any sort of hardliners. Especially those who impose their views on others. I find them creepy. Because, no one really is f*cking special. We die on equal footing.