Shades of Grey

growing up shades of grey

The scene opens up to this rosy-cheeked vibrant little girl running from her governess, running away from rules, towards adventure. She watches her idols fight against the background of rising waters and soaring hills. What strikes me is the vibrant colours, the shine and this little girl with shining eyes thinking of valour and happy endings.

She listens to those stories her mother tells her and is convinced that all she needs is that one chance to prove herself. She reaches London. It is dull and harsh. She wins some fights, loses some important ones. I notice how the colours have changed. Grey. Good evil white black.

It all started when Aarwen and Lazywiz were 2 people in a car in a 3+ HOV lane. “Look at that car ahead, it has just one guy” he said. “But this is a 3 person HOV lane. We are wrong too. There is no less wrong and more wrong,” said Aarwen with an indignant shake of her head.

Then as she often does, she started telling a story. It is a true story, so listen to it carefully.


Aarwen’s class had been punished for something that she doesn’t remember. What she does remember is that a new girl sat next to her that day when 100 pages of “I will never do this again” was due. Aarwen had written 99 3/4th at home. Most others had not written anything beyond page 10.

So with a sense of barely suppressed sense of superiority, while the teacher was busy with roll call, Aarwen completed the final quarter page. “I will never do this again“, she wrote in her best handwriting. Everyone around was mumbling about the unfairness of the punishment, and busy with excuses. Aarwen was different. She had completed the work.

The teacher was angry at the class. Many had been trying to scribble and get a few pages done. They had been caught. “Only those who have completed the HOMEWORK”, declared their righteous teacher. When she asked the class to bring forward their notebooks, only a handful stepped forward. The studious boring few first benchers, probably some insignificant others and Aarwen. The teacher saved her a smile.

Aarwen was pleased with herself when she sat down. She continued to pay attention to the class, which was a difficult task, with more than half the students standing in punishment. When the class ended, Aarwen was pulling out her book for the next class, when the girl next to her spoke. “Everyone told me you were the best in class.”

Aarwen probably strutted like a peacock in her mind, till she heard what her new bench mate said next.The girl said it with no ounce of malice. Just sincerity.  She said, “But if you are the best why did you lie? You didn’t complete the punishment at home, you completed it here while the teacher was in class.”


End of story. All those years ago Aarwen realised wrong was plain wrong.

“How stupid”, said Lazywiz, not at all impressed with the flashback.

“But bu.. it’s relevant, right?” was all Aarwen could say.

“You would have been stupid and a show off if you stood up and accepted punishment for not completing the last .25%, if my Math is right,” said Lazywiz.

Just like all those years ago when Aarwen had learnt a life-altering lesson, she learnt one that moment. Grey. Growing up was about accepting that shade of grey. Wrong, could be less wrong and sometimes knowing that difference is the key factor in surviving the adult life.


She thought she could kill the bad guy, fulfil her destiny and be triumphant. She is Wonder Woman after all, Zeus’s own child, brought to life to save mankind. But even for her there isn’t all bright sunshine. Her gorgeous eyes hold sadness from years and wisdom that comes from experience. Experience, that is meant to protect you from permanent heartache as you go through life.

She learns that there is no victory. You keep trying, you get engulfed in that grey atmosphere of London or Gotham or wherever it is you chose to live. All you can do it look gorgeous in red, find those superheroes to fight alongside and come alive every few decade or so. If you manage that, you have a chance at being your own dazzling superhero who accepts the grey but doesn’t forget the black or the white.


Aarwen now has her own smiley and a coffee friend who tells her to go write stuff…


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  • Reply
    November 20, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Having the two parallel stories intertwined like this is really really awesome. And thought-provoking for sure. I wish there was a deeper synthesis at the end! Or is that up to the reader to come up with that?

    • Reply
      rhea sinha
      November 27, 2017 at 12:02 pm

      I was very worried if a reader would actually understand the narrative. Deeper synthesis? Hmm I usually prefer leaving it to the reader, and this time the title itself is grey. So how to end in black and white… Thanks a lot for reading. Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you enjoyed some rest. I know I did.

      • Reply
        November 28, 2017 at 3:42 pm

        Sure, I know how unfair my comment and expectation was. I still wanted to tell so that you get reader feedback for what it’s worth:) And by deeper synthesis, I meant some pointer on how to navigate the shades of grey and when to insist on b&w (if ever). And again, leaving this open-ended is completely fine–everybody has to answer this for themselves. Plus, sure enough, the title itself makes your stance clear.
        And as I said before, this parallel narrative worked beautifully. I don’t think I’ll forget this story, and I don’t have a particularly good memory. I couldn’t stop to think in terms of it a bit when writing this piece of my own in the past days: https://plus.google.com/+ZsoltTaskai/posts/b7Uih5TddwL (yes, some shameless self-promotion…)

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