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An Ode To Not Arriving

By Swati Ravi Nain

Perfection is not seamless. It is not uncracked, unwavering, square, unyieldingly rigid, soporifically still. It is not the thing you can place in a glass box and put on display on your parents’ mantlepiece. It cannot be captured in flash frames of white smiles and trophies and strangers clapping for you. Perfection does not have a before and after.

You cannot chase it down, muscle up to it, chisel it out of your flesh or buy a perfumed, handblown glass bottle of it over the counter, to bring home in an eco-friendly, brown paper bag. It pays no heed to what’s trending and frequents no happening places. It cannot be fed on a diet of followers or carefully orchestrated, careless laughter. Perfection does not care that you’re on a schedule. It does not keep up with the thirty-under-thirty lists you cudgel yourself with. It will not suffer anything as crass as keeping an appointment.

It does not eye the curve of your breasts and measure you for size against a cover-girl jigsaw puzzle. If you look for it in shiny, reflective surfaces (gilded mirrors, the curves of a gleaming car, the ticker tape of likes) or if you think you spotted it just around corner, it will lead you on a merry chase, running to stand still.

But if you stop long enough to catch your breath, and sit down right where you are, if you hush so as to not startle it, it tiptoes soft, and comes to rest cradled in your palms. It settles on your shoulders like the blanket your mother tucked around you. It hums like the sonorous chime of a meditation bowl, making your blood sing.

Perfection is the mess and the mystery of slow-ripening joy. Of discovering the uncharted vastness of your own strange heart. It is stretching out until you don’t just fill, but spill beyond the definitions and admonitions you learnt by rote, about what it is to be a woman. Perfection is a tiny hand muddied from play. It is a crooked gap-toothed smile, a toe curled into grass. Perfection lies in sagging shelves of as-yet-unread book, stacks threatening to topple on bedstands that say with wild-eyed hope, there is time, there is time.

It is loam and dry leaves, a panting hot afternoon and stillness. Perfection is the moment when your eyes tear up and your skin prickles because miles and years from home, when home has ceased to exist, you walk into a symphony of smells sung in the exact same melody as a summer-kissed childhood morning.

Perfection is the day you begin to raise yourself right. When you hold the child that you were in your arms and tell her she is enough. It is in turning away from the relentless tempo of voices clamouring for you to climb, climb, climb.

Perfection is an invitation to meander, to laze, to lollygag, to sprawl and saunter. To slouch and dawdle, to potter about absent-mindedly, to plant deep roots and say I will grow when I grow. It is the lushness of witnessing the passing of the seasons and feeling the earth’s slow tilt and turn in your bones. It is letting each face of the moon, wax and wane silver in your eyes. Perfection is forgetting the day and the hour in the quietness that lies beneath the act of doing things with your hands.

It is the craquelure of lines that map the life you are living onto your face. Perfection is the kintsugi of love that puts us back together when we break, more storied, more precious, more ourselves than before.

By Swati Ravi Nain

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