‘Writers Retreat’ is a new exercise I’m doing with Nive Gajiwala and Shachi Nelli, two aspiring writers who happen to be friends of mine.
Every day, one of us will suggest a brief to the group. The challenge is to produce 500-750 words, on that day, on the assigned topic.
Day 1’s topic is ‘Squad’, assigned by Nive, this little group’s creator.
Life’s just easier when you have a squad.
You know: that special group of people that allow you to be you.
The group that protects you, and promotes you, and supports you, and loves you.
In a way that no one else really does.
Your parents, your family, they love you, of course. But they were chosen for you.
Your squad? You chose them, and they chose you.
And that’s what makes your squad so wonderful, and so fragile, at the same time.
Your squad is wonderful because you choose to be around them. With them, there’s no act: there is only your real self.
Your squad accepts all your selves.
Your vulnerable self, when you feel like a dilapidated vegetable, when your job sucks and you’ve just been dumped and you’re needy and weak and horribly pathetic. When you’re a black hole, an energy sink. When you’re someone who demands attention — but for all the wrong reasons.
Your happy self, when it’s Friday night, and the pregame is in full swing, and the whole weekend lies ahead, in all its tantalising glory. When you had a smashing week, when you published 5,000 words, and got three phone numbers, and 15 new friend requests, and closed a 20 lakh deal, and bought shots for everyone, and hugged them all properly, and made them feel like they were the centre of your universe.
Your goofy self, when you’ve hiked all night, and shivered to death, when you’ve argued about the right thing to do at 4:20AM, but did it anyway, when you’ve let go of everything else, the past, the future, and surrendered to the here, and now, and the people around you, and can’t help but share every horrible joke that comes to your mind.
Your intellectual self, when you wonder about the state of things, and your place in the world, and the future, the far future, those distant millenia that your great-great-great-grandkids’ great-great-great-great-grandkids will inhabit. When you think about what kind of world and universe they’ll live in, and whether they’ll work, and what they’ll do with their time, and what they’ll be: living, breathing, human beings, or digital gods surfing through virtually entangled hyperspace, everywhere at once, subsisting not on matter but on information.
Your spiritual self, where you ask if you’re a good person, and whether your choices are moral, and if you should stop drinking, and whether you’re a participant in Indian society, or just a tourist, taking in all the good, and ignoring all the bad. Where you debate your responsibility to your soul, and the souls of others, and whether your actions, however small they might be in the grand scheme of things, are lifting the world’s collective spiritual bank account to a brighter, nobler future, or confining it to a selfish hell.
Your sexual self, when you thought about who you wanted, and who you kissed, and who you didn’t, and whether you did right by her, or him, or them, whether you used them, or they you used you. When you asked: honestly, was she really that hot? When you wondered: should I be guilty for wanting something so much that meant so little? Or maybe it meant a lot?
Your traveling self, when you’re full of wonder for the new places and cultures that your feet and passport have led you to, when you need someone special beside you, someone who knows you, someone who can say the right thing at that moment, or perhaps say nothing at all as you digest the majesty and beauty and immensity of what you see.
Your squad makes you whole. And you make your squad whole. It wouldn’t be a squad without you.
But squads aren’t perfect. They are chosen. They are not your family, though sometimes they care for you more, and know you better, than your own family does. And even though squads are mostly good, they’re mostly great, they aren’t your real family, because your family can’t be unchosen.
Squads are temporary. They splinter, they fracture, and sometimes they dissolve completely. Squads are always in flux — because of a joke you made, or because two of your friends were dating, and aren’t anymore, because you allowed resentment, and jealousy to fester towards members of your squad who are more successful, or more interesting, or more attractive, or just more happy than you are.
Squads change. People leave. You might leave. Squads are held together only by the fragile bonds of friendship, and empathy, and genuine compassion.
And sometimes, you’re just to lazy to hold them together.
Sometimes, you find new squads, that suit you better.
And when you run into your old one? Well, it’s just awkward.