“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

“Tell me a story,” I plead.

Speaking in crisp Tamil, my grandmother transports me to the land of gods, kings, and ethereal demons where I eventually settle into sleep. Growing up, each of my four grandparents took turns telling me bedtime stories, creating worlds that existed only for us, only in those moments.

At 13, I moved across the country to attend boarding school and struggled to find my voice. Everything changed one evening when I called my grandparents; as I began to tell them stories about my new life, the words, excitement, and emotions that I had been holding back for weeks came tumbling out, and my nervousness melted away.

Years later, my grandfather, too, found comfort in stories, as he learned to navigate life without his best friend, my grandmother. As we pieced together relics of her life through our stories, the spirit in these memories moved my grandfather to gradual acceptance of his loss. The process, in turn, moved me.

Again and again, I discover that stories have the ability to change people. Words, when they strike the right chord, have color, texture, and salt. I want to keep telling stories to fill the voids in our lives, pull us into new worlds, put us at ease, and preserve our love in time.

— Anika Ayyar