Updated: Aug 21, 2021
I learned about the water cycle in second grade: how droplets of water leave their homes in the ocean, responding to the beloved call of the sun.
Unlike Icarus, instead of burning when responding to the siren-like call of the sun, they freeze, tons of vapour condensing over dust particles in the atmosphere to form clouds.
As more and more droplets join the clouds, they get heavier. Eventually, the weight becomes too much, and even these mighty million-tonne creatures give in, and as a result, it rains.
Water flows into soils, percolating, providing nourishment to the trees. Azure dewdrops and frogs' smiles fill the atmosphere as it pours.
Most of this water, however, goes back into the oceans, where it came from and where it belongs.
Over and over again the water cycle continues, through the dinosaur apocalypse and the industrial revolution; nothing ever stops the droplets from rising, falling, and returning home again.
Generations of my ancestors have gone on to become famous people in science and commerce. Prominent industrialists to large landowners and traders, my family has them all. So when I, a quick-mouthed dark-haired girl, wanted to go on and become a writer, you can almost imagine the commotion it caused. My mother used the water cycle to explain why.
“Darling, you are a droplet of water in a vast ocean, made up of our family. Generations have followed the path of science and calculation, rising in the sky as metaphorical droplets to form clouds, eventually raining back down into the oceans. We have followed this cycle for hundreds of years and it has worked, yet here you are, a droplet of water who wants to drown instead of trying to meet the sun, it’s unnatural and impossible."
Flames rising from piles of burnt books, deleted dark academica playlists, lost bookmarks, and buried dreams, all replaced by the steely nature of cold hard calculations, chemical equations, and linear polynomials.
I was broken, to say the very least. Each word my mother said seemed to drive a knife into my heart. Imagining a world without the adventures I’d had aboard the Pequod, the moral absurdities I committed with He, who must not be named, or the tragedies I’d witnessed with my dear friend Shakespeare, seemed unnatural and impossible.
After a week of mourning, I knew that literature and writing was a path I could never venture down upon, for I was a droplet of water and I would have to rise along the path of science and reason, thus continuing and completing the cycle followed by my ancestors since the dawn of time.
Over and over again I thought of the same statement: droplets can only rise to meet the sun. But sometimes, just sometimes, when I'm alone I imagine the sun falling to meet the droplets, inverted seas, stars going supernova, darkness and light colliding, the planets melting, or even just a tiny droplet in the oceans refusing to turn into vapour to meet the sun.
Something, somewhere, somehow breaking the cycle, because if they can, then I can.
Silently I whisper to myself, if they can, then I can.
- Punya Kapoor