Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Paper Planes I flew

Time flies by and what remains are memories, some faded, some clear and some barely remembered. People's names, their faces, places you once were at, books you once read and many other things of the past, slowly slip past your hold. Things you once thought you remembered well, even they begin to slip into an abyss, where all things forgotten go to rest. Old friends, their memories, the snappy things they used to say, things that made you laugh, things that made you cringe, they all fade. For that is how time seems to move and that is how our lives seem to move forward, leaving behind memories, memories we soon don't remember. 

And yet, there are moments and there are times, snippets of time capsules, we somehow tend to always remember, even if partially. We reminisce over these snippets when we are young and contemplate over the same, when we get older. Sometimes these snippets of memories remain meaningless and sometimes, they seemed to have shaped and defined who you have become today.

I remember one of such snippets of memories, perhaps because it was meaningful, or perhaps it was part of the ritual I did every week as a high school student. Every Friday or over the weekend, many of the students at Central School for Tibetans Shimla would make this journey of a 2-3 mile walk to a little stream to wash clothes. The place was called "Dhobhi Ghat" by the locals, basically a place to wash clothes. This became a ritual, as water was scarce in our school back then, and perhaps it still is. We would walk to the place with our washables in our little backpacks, take some snack if we had money, or sell a couple of free soaps we used to get in school, for some eatable goodies. Life was hard but not unbearable, Tibetan students are in a relatively much better situation than many poor Indian students. Still, it was not easy. 

We would walk, wash our clothes and then make this hike to a nearby hill or perhaps it was a hillock. We will spread our washed clothes on the slope of this hill and lie down bathing in sun. Perhaps eat our snacks if we had any, play around and even take a nap. The best memory I have of the place was when I had a spare notebook to throw away, we took the notebook to the place and tore the pages to make "Paper Planes". 

The wind was always favorable in this little place. It was a sort of little valley with the warmth of sun as well as a perpetual breeze, not too cold not too warm. The "Paper Planes" flew high and flew far away. We would race our planes, watch it crisscross the landscape, sometimes with a swoosh, sometimes gently and reservedly. Our eyes would follow them as far as they could fly or until they crash somewhere on someone's terrace, on trees or even somewhere down the valley. 

We would play a game of wishes. Every "Paper Plane" we threw, we would wish for something and believe it to come true if it went farther than your friend's plane. Hoping and aspiring that your plane flew farther. Some kids would wish for money, some for their high school sweet hearts, some would even wish that they get an extra Tibetan Bun (Tingmo) tonight during dinner, some would wish for easier exams and some wish for another pair of socks.  I too had wished, multiple times, multiple wishes. Some wishes were grand, dreams of becoming a scientist, an astronaut, a superstar, even a dancer for some reason. Of course, wishes are just that, wishes. 

Once we were done with our game of "Paper Planes", there was always a period where one would just take a nap or lie down in silence, until our clothes were dry and we were ready to walk back to school. This was a period I dreamt about my wishes, about they becoming true, about how I would go to this college or this university and make my dreams come true. I brooded on the future, perhaps a little bit more than I should have. 

This was the age when everything seemed possible. The world was ideal. According to my teacher, all I had to do was study hard, stick to it and I will get there. Money, influence, family background, nothing mattered. The stories of successful people, who grew up with nothing, inspired us with a vigour that I hardly find these days as a grown up adult. Success was possible, life was an opportunity, if only you would study hard. But alas! Hardwork and studying hard is not the only ingredient that would fulfill your wishes and your dreams. Sooner or later, the realities of life, what the adults call "practicality" would manifest, breaking your will, crushing your wishes and trampling on your aspirations. For that is life, perhaps not for everyone, but for most of us. 

Still, looking back, do I regret flying those "Paper Planes", do I regret playing that game of "wishes"? Definitely not. I would not change anything and any experience of my past. It made me the person I am today. Perhaps not a dancer that I wanted to be, or the superstar I wished I could be, but I am still pursuing a dream I once had, a dream to learn science, a dream to excel. The last 4 years have been most productive in that direction and I am at least on the path to accomplishing my dreams. I may or may not accomplish them, only time will tell, but those "Paper Planes", that I threw back then, are still soaring, with the same innocent vigour of those younger days, but now I could see the horizon I am heading towards, the wind is favorable and my aspirations strengthened. 

Please do fly some "Paper Planes", let your dreams soar, let your aspirations drift in the unpredictable wind, for there might come a day, when your "Paper Planes" will head towards a horizon and winds will be favorable. 


  1. I saw the "Total Pageviews 48,080". I know that doesn't often mean anything special, but i can't ignore the special feeling of it. So thought I would mention that first, before I say what a sweet piece of writing this was. It brought up many childhood memories of flying "paper planes". We used to do make many planes after exams from the pages of the old books to be thrown away.

    I imagined flying with the planes, wishing to be flying high in the air
    like birds and fairies; how I would glide, swoop, and pick up food, fruits and flowers.

    Would 'through away' in para four be 'throw away'?

    1. Thank you Lobsang for sharing your version of the Paper planes....I fixed the spelling. This is what happens to you in America...hahha :)

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  3. 50 years ago, I threw a plane from the roof of Auckland House school in Simla that flew so high that it disappeared from view. I believe I've been riding that flight all my life. Gyatso