Most Indian parents are notorious for repeatedly reminding their children to study. During family gatherings, parents casually compare their children’s study hours, scores, and aptitude for doing well at school. Once they return from these gatherings, the conviction with which they pressurize their children to study grows manifold. Yet, my father was never among those parents. He never coerced me to study, no matter which grade I was in.
In fact, he never told me to finish my greens either, as most of my friends’ parents did. He never insisted that I complete any other task but this one. Each morning, he reminded me to do it. He repeated it to me patiently, walking into my room every 15 minutes to fetch something. However, I never understood why he was so insistent. After all, the task seemed menial and meaningless. To me, there were always more important things to do, like get ready for school, have breakfast, complete my homework, or board my school bus on time. And yet, it seemed like nothing else mattered to him but this one task.
It was not until a decade later that I understood the importance of it.
What’s the first thing you do every morning? Check your phone? Drink a glass of water? Listen to music? The first thing I do each morning is to fold my quilt, to a perfectly rectangular shape. This was the task that my father incessantly reminded me to finish. Yes, folding my quilt. I only started doing it when I moved away from my countryside home to a bigger city for university, the time when my year-long battle with depression began. I lay in bed for hours, with the mess in my room, or the room in my mess, I couldn’t tell the difference. It felt like the landscape of my room, mimicked that of my mind too.
Somehow, I wasn’t able to get myself to do anything else but stay in bed and stare at the wall. This was the time I forced myself to do the one task that I had rebelled against my whole childhood. It was perhaps my way of displaying the fact that I missed someone, anyone, being affected by what I did and didn’t do. It was then, that I began folding my quilt to a perfectly rectangular shape.
One edge in my left hand, the other in my right. Bring the two edges together to perfectly overlap. Now fold horizontally, letting the fluffy quilt hug your hands. One more horizontal fold before laying it fuzzy and flat.
Even as I started this task with a head full of doubts and a cloud of despair, by the end of it, just looking at my bed with the quilt perched on top, made me feel hopeful, happy, and more in control. Like the bed represented my life itself. It felt as though if I couldn’t control my quilt, the shape of it, or how it made me feel, I couldn’t control how I felt about everything else.
My father doesn’t remind me to fold my quilt today. At least not when he’s in the depressive state of his bipolar. Nonetheless, I fold his quilt every time I pass by his room. Hoping it helps him control how he feels. Hoping I can remind him, how his constant reminder helped me get through one of my darkest phases. Hoping it will help him get through his.