Sharanya Deepak: My Friend Jaikumar

Sharanya Deepak, author ofThe Vampire Boy on writing (and lunch).

Since I do not think that I have the credibility to write a blog telling people how to write and I anxiously await the hour when what I ate for lunch will become a trend, for now, this will have to do.

When I was growing up, I had a friend named Jaikumar. Jaikumar was the coolest person I knew. He was yellowish, with grey whiskers, and a purple velvet suit, something along the lines I have given my character in the book. He was also very clever and always talked in puns. Which I didn’t like one bit because I don’t like puns. For example, when we would walk around and collect bugs he would say say “Wow, this gives me quite a buzz!”, and I would nod in exasperation. But Jaikumar was full of jokes and theories about life. He looked at the trees and said “The leaves make the trees green don’t they. Suppose I decided to call green yellow, then they would have to start saying— Make the world a yellow place.” He didn’t like how colors were made out to be in specific names. He thought that they should be called things like “sky”, or “blood”, not blue or red. He was full of such fuzzy notions, at times it made me curious and at others just impatient. Jai and I had a lot of arguments. He was always telling me to go off to funny places and collect weird plants, which we had to do because he did an annoying dance everytime we didn’t do something he wanted to. It was a sort of tap dance with both hands waving madly above his head. One day, I think when I was around eight, Jaikumar and I went to the mountains with my parents. We ran about the trees and looked for mushrooms as the grown ups sat around our house and talked and listened to the radio. We sat on a cliff near the hill-house, imagining that we were sailing through the clouds. We debated about what they were made of, cotton, paper, feathers. My mother tells me that she was positively worried when I asked for two plates to be laid down for dinner. Jaikumar was a vegetarian and loved tomatoes. She says she remembers being annoyed to death. I remember her yelling “What kind of name is Jaikumar for your demanding imaginary friend!”. I never understood the problem. One of those days in the mountains, when jaikumar and I were sitting near the cliff and assembling our mushrooms and other weird plants, I remember him walking to the edge of the cliff. And then I watched him as he tipped his newly acquired purple hat to match his clothes, and walked off the cliff. One one foot, just like that.

As an adult(somewhat) today, I know Jaikumar came out of my mind. I know is is psychological and I know that kids do this all the time. As you grow older, you are forced out of imagination. You are told boundaries between real and fiction and nothing is as much fun anymore. If you exaggerate and create, you are told not to be delusional and to get a grip. You are told that you must always tell the truth. Things are googled, and facts are presented and a big balloon in your mind full of fanciful beautiful things is burst.

When I was in school, I was sent to a counsellor because I told my classmates that there was crow that moon-walked across the room door in third period. I saw him one day, thought I was seeing things, but the day after that, he was there again! I jumped off my seat and ran to my friends and yelled “MAN! Did you guys see the crow that just moonwalked across the door!”. They looked at me strangely, and I was rushed off to a small room where I was told that I must not tell lies. Their loss, I thought. Few have as much panache as moon-walk crow. I never saw him again, but I can see him in my head right now, gliding across the door as we chanted Sanskrit shlokas.

I am still figuring out how to write, be a morning person and a productive human being. But I haven’t stopped imagining. I haven’t stopped seeing what isn’t there. I see cheekoos where there are apples, because I like them more. I see two-foot tall squirrels climbing up trees because I always wished squirrels were bigger. I imagine sometimes that people smile at me from a distance. I sit on my bed and for hours and imagine being friends with my favorite band. I fall in love in a second, or for a second and count it as real. I tell stories of people I’ve met and make them more wonderful than they are.

All the story making makes me confused. I am hazy as to things that have really happened and things that haven’t. But it doesn’t matter. History is not made up of scientific fact, but myth and storytelling. Where there are wars, there are tales magical cleansing rivers. Where there are records, there are traditions that have no basis in logic.

On the road of still trying to write and being dramatic about it, I know that my “lying” has assisted me. It has helped me see different from what everyone else sees, and I can finally be unapologetic about it. So I urge you to invent occurrences, to see irregular sized animals, and dancing birds. To see the good that may not be there in people and not be suspicious. To forget about being practical, and just be excited, overwhelmed, sad, angry whatever it is you want to be at that moment.

The world becomes a better place with each story that is made, and each moment that is exaggerated. And everyone deserves an encounter with moon-walk crow.

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