Don’t Drown (09.14.1992)

4 min readOct 23, 2023

The months after Hetali’s death have supplied me with something I had been missing until now: structure. Before that, my life revolved around getting up at eight, showering and reading a James Hadley Chase novel, and going to college. Sometimes I had nothing to do, and I sat in my bedroom in my white Parsi vest, eating peanuts and reading the English newspaper called Indian Express, telling myself I was checking out the newer jobs in the IT field. After all, I went for interviews regularly with all top-named companies: Infosys, TCS, and Wipro, and was rejected by them without exception. On those down days, I would come back, stuff my face with whatever leftover was in our kitchen, and shut out the world. I would move only from my bed to the bathroom, where I would shit, hold my head in my hands, stare at the space ahead.

Now, in my new routinized life, I have a purpose, a reason to wake up in the morning. I am needed. The centerpiece of each day is making sure her sister Mitali stays alive, and that her parents get out of the hospital. Yesterday her father had an operation to insert a pacemaker. The day before yesterday, her mother developed an infection and needed a heavy dosage of antibiotics. I have learned the language of good, stable, serious, and critical, and how it applies. It makes me feel more alive.

On the way to the job interview with Maestek, I stop to have a glass of sugarcane juice. The interview is scheduled for late evening on a Friday and it’s for the position of an IT architect. I can barely write ten lines of code and IT architecture as a job profile is definitely way beyond me. I know this but I still have applied and here I am. It’s been 9 months and I am still looking for a job. My nails are jagged, the skin around them bitten to the pink. Usually, I get half juice and half ice, but this time I go extravagant — A full glass. When I walk out of the shop, I catch my reflection in the mirror and my face looks foreign to me.

As I walk across the Andheri metro station, heading toward the Maestek offices midtown, I have the urge to stop people on the street and tell them that my friend just passed away and that her parents are in the hospital and neither of them seems to be getting better. I wonder if they can see it on me — the fear, the shame — whether I’m wearing it like a sign on my forehead. All around me, people seem hurried and purposeful. I feel as if a layer of my skin has been peeled back, leaving me naked and raw. As I jostle through crowds of IT wannabes heading back to catch their Metro after work, a thought skitters across my mind: You’re not up for this, it whispers, but I try to push it away.

I smile at the security guard who gives me a pass to the seventh floor, take a couple of jagged, deep breaths, and try to let myself fall away as the elevator ascends. There is a cacophony of voices rising in my head, each louder than the next. When the elevator doors open on the seventh floor, I cannot move. I push my back against the wall of the elevator, grip the rail, and wait until the doors close with a ding. I watch the floors light up in descending order. Spots are floating before my eyes. I can’t I can’t I just can’t.

I walk through the lobby, past the guard, and onto the street back again, every cell in my body focused on putting one foot in front of the other. The warm Indian air slaps me in the face, and I breathe it in, hoping to freeze this panic, to stop it from growing. The tension in my body feels as if it’s going to shoot through my fingers, out the top of my head. I hear my friend Pratap telling me to charm the guy’s pants off, my mother saying Fateh karje — You will succeed, my father asking me what my chances are of getting the job. My own voice is loudest of all, screaming in my head, convincing me that there’s no one, nothing that can help me. I just can’t make it on my own.

I have to find a way. I have to get a job. I have to figure out who I am and what I want to be. There is no other way out.

If I don’t, there will be no trace of my family left at all.




Life is represented by two distinct sets of people: The people who live it and the people who observe them. These are their stories.