Blurred Faces

Written by Suchita Senthil Kumar
Art by Florian Schneider

What am I going to do with all the blurred faces in my head? 

The physics research scholar who was blunt enough to tell me my circuit was wrong, but kind enough to teach me what was right. The other research scholar of the same lab, whose face I can no longer remember, but whose name I still remember and I’ll never know why.

The stranger who made space for me in the crowded bus; the government officer who spoke to me in broken Tamizh because I told him it was my native language, because it’d keep me comfortable; the receptionist who asked me if I could string jasmine flowers together, and upon me saying no, said: learn it, you young girls have to keep our tradition alive.

The uncle who passed by me in a wedding hall and then passed away three years later. Mother says he smiled at me, told me his daughter wanted long braids like mine. I want to know if the little girl still remembers her father’s face, his voice and the warmth of his palms atop her forehead. I want to tell her I met her father. And in silence, I want to braid her hair.

The relatives who love me enough to tell me so when they see me once a year but not enough to call me on birthdays. I don’t remember some of their names; I don’t know who is whose sister, and who is whose father. My father wants me to remember that they’re family—and that word, as loosely held together as phosphenes behind the eyes, is all I’ll ever remember of them.

The friend I made in 2nd grade, the one with no other friends. The people whose photos I’ve seen in newspapers with no land to call their own and no place to seek refuge, forced to dangle in the middle of nowhere, their hands firm, clutching a broken photo frame, a torn notebook, a destroyed canvas, a prayer book. 

Maybe my classmate from 8th grade, who always arrived at class late from football practice, remembers my face in a blur of shades of the same colour. Maybe the florist in Church Street remembers me as the girl who yearned for the flowers on display and left with empty hands. And what of this existence if I’m not a blurred face in someone else’s head?

I move my hands when I speak the same way the woman I met at a concert does. I tilt my head to the side in photographs the way my Biology teacher from 9th grade does. The blurs of the faces I have in my head, they’re strokes of paint over my neck, my arms, my limbs until it’s all I am draped in. I become every stranger I have ever met.