Time Capsule | Ft. Manga Nirmal
Time Capsule is a series about ideas, conversations, moments and random things I would want to revisit in the future.
I’m back. I guess. If you still haven’t unsubscribed to Curiousect, I want you to know that I’m grateful. Thank you so much for sticking around.
This one’s a small Time Capsule about one of the things that keeps me going through the day. It’s a reminder to be grateful, and to not continuously wallow in despair.
Give it a listen (or read) !
As always, don’t forget to share !
One of my favourite things to do in life is to read manga. Of the many activities that I do over the course of the day, reading a chapter from a manga is the one that keeps me the most engrossed. For as long as I can remember now, I’ve spent hours reading and dreaming about the worlds in Manga. I would put myself into the different worlds as I read and end up thinking about what my manga character would do. What would Manga Nirmal do, what k ind of decisions would he make? What kind of battles would he have? What path would he walk? This is, or rather was, a fun exercise. Daydreaming, that is. Thinking, imagining, playing in your own world.
I used to do it often, and would get lost frequently in my own thoughts.
Used to. I don’t do it anymore.
An unfortunate consequence of having begun this journey of adulting is that I have stopped thinking about that manga character Nirmal, and what he would do in different worlds. I’ve stopped imagining and day dreaming as I would often try to do. I stopped thinking about the small joys that came with this activity of getting lost in my own thoughts. All of this had come to a halt.
But, over the last few months, or maybe weeks, I’ve begun looking at a piece of art in my room with a newfound perspective. This piece of art is framed on my wall, and was given to me by friends on my birthday a few months ago.
My friends found an incredible artist, got her to make a portrait of me, got it framed and one of them came over to my house in the middle of a busy day to give it to me. I thought it was going to be some embarrassing photo of mine and was honestly excited. Ripped apart the gift wrapping and what I saw was one thing I would have never expected. My brother, who was standing on the side, remarked - “that’s manga Nirmal”. It was exactly Manga Nirmal. This character I imagined while reading manga.
It is an amazing portrait drawn in the style of a manga artist, with the Mehrangarh in the background, a beautiful sunset and let’s not forget the blue Jodhpur skies. In the portrait, I have an extremely wide smile. I’m experiencing pure unadulterated joy.
I was incredibly grateful but it also felt weird. I don’t really keep photos of myself anywhere. I wasn’t sure where to keep this. After moving it around a bit , I finally decided to hang it on the wall where I sit in my tiny room. You know this room. If you are on a video call with me, you will probably spot it. It’s right beside me.
I didn’t realise it when I received the gift. It was only during a few tough weeks that I truly began to appreciate this particular piece of art. There is a lot to say. There are so many stories captured in this one single frame. I could deconstruct the location and point you towards the sunset and the Mehrangarh in the background. That sunset was actually the first time I was able to truly experience the majesty of the fort. Two of my favourite recurring themes of blue skies and the old city, from my time in Jodhpur, captured in one single frame. I could also point you towards the kurta that I am wearing and presumably the base photo that was used to make the portrait. It’s from a Diwali celebration in 2019. A small gathering where we had a lot of fun. A memorable day. Quite special.
Like I said, there are a lot of tiny things that I could talk about when it comes to this portrait. But I want to focus on the Manga Nirmal smiling. The wide smile.
At the age of 15/16, if you were to look for photos of me, or for that matter normally interact with me, you would be hard pressed to find me smiling so comfortably. Smiles were always awkward. Displaying happiness to people outside seemed weird to me. These were private emotions, not to be exhibited and add that to the general awkwardness I felt around photos and you have a recipe of someone who found it super uncomfortable and sometimes mortifying to smile. I still do, but significantly less. It took me a while to recognize that it was alright for me to trust someone else with a display of emotions. By spending time over these years with my friends and in a different environment than the one I was used to, I learnt to be okay with my emotions, and felt comfortable enough to share them with others. I was okay with smiling.
These days, I get bogged down by tasks and my living experience right now is defined by moving from one task to the next. Reading manga is an item on my to-do list of the day. Imagining and daydreaming seems like a task to finish. Even if I have enough free time, I don’t even bother to look for smaller delights because that also seems like an imposition. You are either bound by the task itself, or by the worry about the tasks that are yet to arrive.
In this isolated situation I find myself in, being away from the same friends who gave me this wonderful gift, I catch myself being less hopeful about the future. I’m aware that there is no close proximity or continuity to moments anymore. It doesn’t really seem like there’s much to smile or laugh about, I must get on with this day, and the next one and the one after that. And yet, that smile serves an important reminder.
Amidst all this languishing, this frame that hangs right beside me, radiates joy and evokes memories. So, whenever I find the levels of hope in my mind shrinking, I look at the frame and I am able to derive some magical strength to get through the day. As John Green once remarked in a vlogbrothers video -
"Now feels permanent, but it isn't. And that mere despair doesn't tell the whole story."
That’s the thing about the frame and the character within the frame. There was progress in his life. There was a gradual change and it wasn’t linear. The path was hard at times but it was a lot of fun. Manga Nirmal did find delight in Jodhpur.
I may not be in that same position now. The lack of passion, the increase in distance and the peculiar nature of responsibilities is still hard to get used to and this transition will take some time but it is important to consciously remind myself that I am not alone. I don’t have to stop daydreaming or stop myself from getting lost in my own imagination or stop looking for the smaller delights around me. Manga Nirmal didn’t, so maybe I shouldn’t either.
Whenever I find myself in a distressing situation now, I look at the frame and ask myself, what would Manga Nirmal do?
Thank you so much for listening and reading this Time Capsule !
Let me know what you thought. I’ll leave you with a question - What photos/art/gifts/items from the past do you revisit and why?