Day 136: Waiting here to find the sign, that I should take it slow

One of the expected side effects of growing self-awareness is how clear my own bullshit becomes, and despite a struggle how much quicker I am to call bullshit on some of my behaviour, patterns and tendencies.

But nobody told me it was going to also become easier to notice other peoples’ bullshit just as easily too. It often lands me in a quandary, especially with friends whom I feel I owe honesty. Do I speak up? How much should I say? And how do I say this without sounding self-important and risking trivialising the issue?

I am also realising that mostly, this self-awareness is a privilege and a gift. One that I must handle with care. I’m learning every day, to separate noticing bullshit from spilling over into judge-y tendencies that tend to go into building entire stories in my head. I slip up sometimes, but I’m getting better at noticing it when it happens, and nipping it in the bud.

On the flip side, it doesn’t make the awareness go away. For eg: when a good friend is being a jerk, or being silly, or maybe just floundering in a way that you can help fix, it’s hard not to notice. And so often, I find myself having witness a peculiar behaviour, and sometime siting with the knowledge of where it may be coming from. But more and more, I keep myself from jumping to provide an opinion or solution. I’m trying to exercise restraint more often than not, because every body has their own journey of self-realisation to make.

In a seemingly insignificant conversation this week, I noticed two things:

  • My absolute refusal to get dragged into drama that is fundamentally not mine, or drama where none is needed, has peaked.
  • Instead of flapping out polite, rational, “correct” responses, I actively take some time out to think about what is happening and how it is making me feel, before I respond.
  • Consequently, my responses are clearer. Firm, but articulate. Calling bullshit, but kindly.

I patted myself on my back for my proportionate and precise responses that keep the drama at bay, and the conversation short. N said something yesterday that really resonated with me: it’s a step up to be able to talk about things that I’d otherwise just stew about in private, allowing it to cripple and cramp me along the way. It’s nice to keep working out the kinks. And sometimes seeing proof that whatever’s at work, is working.

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Day 134: April

Last month in worries-vanish-within-my-dream

April came and went in an absolute flash, perfectly blending a few busy days where I had no time to do much else but keep swimming, a whole lot of time with family, and a very liberal dose of Goa-tinged nostalgia. It is almost like my subconscious steers me in the direction I need to move, without my ever realising or noticing it. In March I felt a bit run down and tired from not having enough time to myself. And almost in response, April gave me a lot of that.

April had so much family time — mostly down time spent at home, with them, or reading and catching up on TV. My grandmother came down for her annual summer trip and this year, more than ever before I got to spend time with her. This year, more than ever before we have actually engaged, chit-chatting as she spirals down her rabbit hole of memories.

I marvel at what it must be like to be in her 80s, in 2018, having experienced the sea change the world has seen in just one lifetime. Changes not only in the world around, but closer home, amongst her family, her children and grand children. Life today, is nothing like it used to be when she was younger. It isn’t even bear a remote sliver of likeness to what it must have been like when she was younger — having witnessed the Independence movement, the onset of liberalisation and the boom that followed. If I live to be 80 or more, I wish for at least half the agility, quiet calm and wisdom she has to watch peacefully as things change.

Time spent chatting with her also spiralled a lot of contemplation for me. And I’m thankful for the little break from hectic work and assignments to allow the churn to throw things up like it did.

Last month, in severe contemplation:

  1. I realised it is impossible to seek happiness alone, without a host of other feelings.
  2. Priorities, and the busy-trap
  3. Musing about punctuality (or the lack of it), passive aggression online, and cats
  4. On the necessary autumns of our lives
  5. Some more thoughts about my body and how it has changed as much as how I feel about it has changed
  6. A visit to LifeStyle and more thoughts about accepting our different bodies happened
  7. Self-improvement is usually two steps forward and one step back
  8. Self-improvement, change and how it sometimes affects relationships
  9. On the meaning of ambition, success, productivity and finding myself outside of it

Last month, in what happened:

  1. I read two books about marriage
  2. Unexpected catching-up with long-lost friends
  3. I finished 100 days of posting this year, on exactly the same day that I moved to Bangalore last year
  4. Some overt self-love lets itself shine through
  5. Work took over our home for a week

Last month, in indecision:

  1. I realised my Bangalore honeymoon is officially over, and this city is getting to me
  2. Consequently, I spent a whole week home-sick for Goa, and contemplated thoughts on living well and how much the city around matters

Last month, in gratitude:

  1. Because everything is never as it seems
  2. Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow
  3. I got mad, mad love
  4. All the small things
  5. Just a stirring in my soul

One month ago: Day 92: March
Two months ago: Day 60: February
One month ago: Day 32: January

Two years ago: Day 134: Things about VC I never want to forget #16

Day 115: Today I don’t feel like doing anything

I’ve been going over my blog posts from last year, and the ones from April 2017 particularly with a sort of fascination, like I can’t believe it’s stuff I wrote myself. I shouldn’t be surprised, really, because in those very words, I see the seeds of threads of my existence that sprung to life, bloomed and thrived into full, lush breathing organisms in the months after.

But, when I think back to the time, all my conscious mind remembers is the confusion. And the efforts to stay with the confusion and move through it rather than avoid it all and busy myself with easy distractions. With enough distance, restrospect is a wonderful thing. I feel oddly satisfied to see now, that I’ve been on the right track, steadfastly stuck to listening to the cues, simply going deeper, and on my way.

It’s a refreshing change from the many years before, when I flitted from this thing to that, one thing to the next, restlessly, anxiously in search of some consistency.

One post in particular really stands out. This one — that I titled Serendipity for some reason — and wrote just one day after I landed in Bangalore (clueless that I was going to in fact have to move back here).

In the essay I linked to and talked about one of my all time favourite essays — The Snarling Girl, by Elisa Albert. Notes on—and against—ambition. So much of it still speaks to me much the same, with as much intensity, if not more. But it’s nice to see how entirely different segments of it pop out at me today, 12 months after I first read it.

Same fantastic essay. Same essential thread of continuity in my life. The same thing I’ve talked about only so many, many times. Same idea, different expressions. Different times, different quotes to remember.

Same excellent essay. Give it a read, and maybe like me, you’ll find yourself going back to it so many, many times in any given year. And yet, find something entirely new and different speak to you every time.

Sample this:

The work, not the hearts and likes and dings and dongs. And maybe I can float the possibility that the work is best when it’s done nowhere near the hearts and likes and dings and dongs. Maybe I can suggest that there is plenty of time for hearts and likes and dings and dongs once the work is done, and done well. Maybe I can ever so gently point out that a lot of people seem rather addicted to the hearts and likes and dings and dongs, and seem to talk about and around writing a hell of a lot more than they actually do it. Maybe we can even talk about how some self-promote so extensively and shamelessly and heedlessly and artlessly that their very names become shorthand for hownot to be.

No prizes for guessing why that spoke to me.

On the solitary-ness of figuring out The Happy.

Nobody can tell you how to be happy because being happy is one of those things you figure out by figuring it out, no shortcuts. Or maybe you don’t figure it out, maybe you never figure it out, but that’s on you. Everything worthwhile is a sort of secret, anyway, not to be bought or sold, just rooted out painstakingly in whatever darkness you call home.

On the dangers of generalising “ambition”.

And isn’t everything we do, everything we reach for, everything we grab at, each of us in turn, a way of struggling onto that ledge, that mythical resting place on which no one can fuck with us? Don’t Fuck With Me seems as good a feminist anthem for the 21st century as any.

But the mythical resting place is … mythical. And trying to generalize about ambition is like comparing apples and oranges and bananas and flowers and weeds and dirt and compost and kiwi and kumquat and squash blossoms and tomatoes and annuals and perennials and sunshine and worms. Wanting to be first in your class is and is not like wanting a Ferrari is and is not like being the first in your family to go to college is and is not like wanting to get into Harvard/Iowa/Yaddo is and is not like wanting to summer on Martha’s Vineyard is and is not like wanting to rub elbows with fancy folk is and is not like wanting to shatter a glass ceiling is and is not like wanting to write a lasting work of genius with which no one can quibble. Our contexts are not the same, our struggles are not the same, and so our rebellions and complacencies and conformities and compromises cannot be compared. But the fact remains: whatever impresses you illuminates your ambition.

On finding rhythm, contentment and possibly ambition too, in the everydayness of life. On rejecting the glorification of striving.

Taking care of myself and my loved ones feels like meaningful work to me, see? I care about care. And I don’t care if I’m socialized to feel this way, because in point of fact I do feel this way. So! I am unavailable for striving today. I’m suuuuuper busy.

On the difference between what I call what-I-want-versus-what-I-want-to-feel.

What I would like to say (so that I might be forced to align myself) is that there is nothing material or finite that I will allow myself to rest on wanting. Okay, so dresses and clogs and art and peonies float my boat. But fool myself into thinking that these things constitute an end point, or that their acquisition will make me whole, or that people who are impressed by these things are my friends? Nope. No way. Not for a minute. (Well, FINE, maybe for a minute. But certainly not for two.)

On external validation. Possibly a la social media.

Sixty thousand shares is not a win, see; it’s a random, synchronistic event. The number of eyeballs on a given piece of writing does not confer nobility or excellence upon said piece of writing. If the number of eyeballs on a piece of writing excites and impresses people around me, that’s great, in that it makes possible more of the work I want to do. But it doesn’t make said work any easier! And I’m going to do said work regardless, so… what?

So What? Let’s add it to our list of proposed feminist anthems: So The Fuck What?

AMEN SISTER! If I had a penny for every time that someone told me I was wasting my talent by not pursuing my writing more seriously and sitting around at home, I’d be RICHHHHH.

I mean, writing is liberation. And for some of us who can afford to keep it that way, it is enough.

I don’t write because I “want to be a writer.” I don’t want to be famous and I don’t need my ego inflated. I write to make sense of things, to make order from chaos, to make something from nothing, to examine my own thinking. Because what I have found in the writing of others sustains me. Because while I am struggling to live, the writing—a kind of parallel life—helps me along. Because language is my jam. Because I never learned to play the guitar and no one ever asked me to sing in a band.

I mean, writing is liberation!

On the problematic assumptions around which ambition is conventionally defined.

Here’s what bothers me about conventional ambition, the assumption that we all aspire to the top, the winner’s circle, the biggest brightest bestest, the blah blah blah, and that we will run around and around and around our little hamster wheels to get there: most of these goals are standardized. Cartoonish. Cliché. Beware anything standardized, that’s what I would teach my daughter.

Try to be vulnerable so you’ll come acrossbetter?

Yeah, I need to tell myself this every time I have the passing thought about a blog post that I really need to write (because it’s my way of making sense of the jumble in my head) comes out feeling like “it’s not good enough,” or like “I’m so self-indulgent”.

“Try to be more vulnerable,” he said. “You’ll come across better.”

Come across? I don’t have time to orchestrate how I come across, dude. My job is to write shit down. More vulnerable? I feel like I’m walking around without skin most of the time, hello. Anyway, my vulnerability is not for goddamn sale. I’d rather suck a thousand dicks. I was overcome with weariness, and I thought: Fuck it, I give up. But no, that’s not true, either. Nope. Not at all. The snarling girl is still out there, in here, flailing, desperate, and who’s going to throw her a rope? I will. Onward.

It’s probably hard to believe that I haven’t pasted the essay in entirety down here, but really, I haven’t. These are just a few of the gems in there. So do yourself a favour and read it. Even more so if you often toss up ideas of ambition, success, productivity and find yourself struggling to choose what your heart really wants because you’ve been taught by your family, society, people in general that it isn’t enough — read it.

One year ago: I get by with a lot of help from my friends
Two years ago: Day 115: Mean things I want to say out loud, but can’t

Day 113: You know it used to be mad love

A few (more) thoughts on relationships and communicating with people in our lives. Some brain-noodles I’ve been having. Some pleasant epiphanies. Mostly notestomyself.

One of the things I’ve noticed with focusing on my personal growth is that once the process of change has begun, it’s basically a journey of turning into something entirely different from my peers. At various points of the journey, a series of differences present themselves. And they appear in so many, many ways, showing up in big and little things. Unexpectedly sometimes, predictably at others.

My immediate tendency of course is to be afraid of that change and the challenges it poses to my relationships. Or at least that was my default, until very recently when I have experienced a significant change in the way I feel and approach this.

I say this so often, and I’ve written at length before (I seem to be seeing, feeling and acknowledging it a lot more as time goes by) about the essentially solitary nature of this journey. By nature, it is a process that requires a boundaried existence, that inevitably makes me feel alone at times. But, accepting rather than fearing and resisting this has brought about a surprising change. And learning to recognise relationships that no longer serve a purpose, and letting them go has now become empowering.

I’ve realised:

It’s okay to be disappointed by people. Sometimes it gives the much needed breathing space to rethink wrongs (theirs and our our own), reaffirm the rights, apologise if necessary, forgive (ourselves too) sometimes, and move ahead. Sometimes it brings out a much needed truth that was in hiding. Sometimes it affirms the fact that a relationship has run it’s course. It’s nice to keep the lessons and let the disappointment fade, if it does. There’s no point hanging on to it. Because sometimes when the disappointment has gone, and enough time has passed, it’s easier to notice that people have changed. As much as I have. Allow yourself to change your mind about said person/s. Second and third chances are all kinds of exciting.

Words and gestures aren’t the only way to make people I love know that they’re loved. Sometimes all it takes is a conversation. Sometimes just sitting in silence, listening. It’s so nice to be seen and heard as much as I feel loved.

Communication, even when it’s hard, ugly and scary, and promises to potentially lead to disappointment, is so crucial. It’s not always easy, but I’ve been making efforts to choose that discomfort, over resentment and stagnation. Choose honesty over politeness. Without that honesty, I don’t think there’s space for anyone to grow in a relationship. And really, if we don’t keep moving/growing/changing, we’re already dead.

Funny story: I once had a friend who resented the fact that I had changed. Too fast. Too much, I suppose. And their way of dealing with it was to insist I hadn’t changed, and that everything I was saying and doing was “in my head”.

LOL.

I should have seen that as a sign then, but I didn’t. I stayed and spent my energy trying to convince them of the many ways in which things had changed for me, and why. And I encouraged them along to try it too. Several years later, after many, many fits and starts, I realised that this was the crux of the issue: our inability to have honest conversations.

I really should have seen it sooner, considering the repetitive loop we were in and how many times we found ourselves in the exact same situation. It always left me feeling emotionally exhausted.

Which brings me to the next realisation: be careful who you want to extend this honour to. Choose your people with care. This is something I’m still learning. To trust my instinct, listen to my gut feeling and overcome fear of loss when dealing with people.

Creating and nurturing an environment of honesty, seeking it in the little everyday happenings, without waiting for confrontation to test it out. Sharing opinions, even though they may differ. Speaking up when I’m hurt or offended. Sharing when I’m feeling vulnerable. Asking for help. These situations will invariably help gauge if the friendship is too precarious, is taking up a lot of energy just to stay afloat, or threatening to fall apart over difficult conversations or plain honesty.

If you feel this at any point, it means that the relationship probably needs to be examined.

If a relationship actually does fall apart as a result of a difficult but essential conversation, it wasn’t strong enough to begin with, was it?

Two years ago: Day 113: Stop

Day 111: Doesn’t mean I’ll stop

Connie is back to posting again and today’s post is smack on for the way I’ve been feeling this past week. Some Sobering Saturday Wisdom.

(If you’re reading: I love you so much, Connie!)

This feeling of taking two steps way ahead, and one mini little one back, every now and then; the feeling that I am kind of sort of lost and fumbling my way through the dark (and that’s okay, and yet knowing that I am right where I need to be; these alternating bouts of calm and restlessness like I’m at the brink of change — this is all part of the process.

I know this now.
I know it for sure.

Two years ago: Day 111: Happy music fix

Day 110: I was born this way

Two days ago, I stepped into LifeStyle after nearly a decade. And I needed to scarf down an entire donut when I stepped out, to rid myself of the horrible taste the entire visit had left in my mouth.

First, I didn’t find a single regular, well-fitting tee-shirt that 1) wasn’t trying hard to be clever with a stupid caption printed across the front 2) didn’t cost an arm and a leg for something as regular as a basic tee. Why is it so hard to find basic tees that fit well, are made in good quality cotton and that don’t have stupid slogans/captions/prints/embellishments splattered all over them? An no, there ought to be regular brands that make these without having to rush off to the sports/athleisure brands of the world.

Minor displeasures aside, the visit was a frightening reminder of just how boxy fashion trends are, no matter what the year or season. The level to which the fashion industry perpetuates truly regressive stereotypes and women and their bodies, even in this day and age, is shocking.

Sample this:

Is it just me or do each of those “fits” look nearly identical?

It didn’t help that I was there with my MIL and SIL, who are far more avid shoppers than I ever will be, and do more to keep abreast with fashion trends than I ever will. I used to think of them as my pathway to knowing what’s in and what’s not, even though I have never really dressed in keeping with a trend. But something has clearly snapped inside of me, in these weeks of re-looking at and re-examining the way I look at my body.

While my in-laws samples this and that, trying on and rejecting a pile of clothes because, too boyish, too dowdy, too transparent (“I’ll need a skin coloured bra”), shapeless, too short, too long, my husband won’t like this, I spent my time trying to will my eyeballs back from the place they were wedged in at the back of my skull, because of the constant eye-rolling.

And then I had an epiphany. That perhaps my subtle, but unconscious slip into pressuring myself to change my body in the last one year is a result of hanging around with this family. All said and done they’re deeply entrenched in patriarchal notions of what’s beautiful and attractive. There’s literally just one body type that they find acceptable or desirable, which means they’re always feeling flawed, insecure, ugly and inadequate about something or another.

I think some of it has subliminally rubbed-off on to me.

The beauty and fashion industry is always peddling a new thing every few months, and in the process instilling the idea that we are always somewhat flawed. The promise of the newest trend, product, attire to fix that flaw is strong. And more than enough women will believe what they are told and what they see in stores, in advertisements, in popular culture, movies, TV shows and drawing room conversation, without a second thought.

My discomfort with arbitrary body trends was always high, but it is fast bubbling over into a tremendous discomfort, unease and rage towards the fashion industry, and how much of it is about adhering to a certain type. So much of it perpetuates fixed, rigid ideas of gender. Tom-boy, androgynous, girly, boyfriend-this, girlfriend-that, so on and so forth.

Most bodies remain largely unchanged through the lifetime of a person. Sure, I may lose or gain a lot of weight, but my bone structure and body type underneath it all will remain the same — for good. I have a typically Indian wide-hipped body, for example. Even at my leanest, my hips were always the widest part of my body. So it would be really stupid to attempt to fit into straight-cut jeans or pants that don’t have enough room to accommodate my ample backside.

I cannot possibly aspire to make every new trend work for me, because it will mean requiring a new body every few months. I can either embrace my body as is, wear whatever I want that makes me feel comfortable and look nice, or I can believe a fashion trend and give up the idea of ever wearing an entire set of clothes that I’m told aren’t for “my body type”.

That’s one thing. Another aspect is how everything about the way we dress, and how we choose to look, is done keeping men and their desires in mind. The extent to which how we view ourselves is linked to how we think other people think of our looks/appearance is appalling when we stop to examine it. (This realisation was one of the first wake up calls in my own life. I was disgusted with why I was so interested in fitting into certain kinds of clothes because certain kinds of people would be seeing me, more than I was interested in being comfortable and myself.)

And so here’s the thing; not everything I do to my body, my face, my skin, not every piece of clothing I put on or take off, is done to be beautiful. Sometimes I just like a piece of clothing, or a fabric, or a style or cut. Sometimes it’s too hot for one thing, and perfect weather for another. Sometimes it’s practical to wear shorts, sometimes it just makes sense to be layered. Some days I feel like making the effort to look nice, some days I don’t really care. I really value the freedom I have to dress and carry myself the way I see fit, regardless of who is going to view me. My choice to wear shorts even with unwaxed legs, to not give a shit about my bra straps showing from beneath a sleeveless tank-top comes from the same place.

The flipside of this privilege is also that I don’t always think I’m pretty. And that’s okay. Some days of the month, my acne flares up and it doesn’t make me happy or feel gorgeous to see it. I have stretch marks that I live with, but don’t love or hate. My teeth aren’t perfectly aligned despite the ridiculously tedious orthodontic treatment I’ve been through. My jaw and smile is a bit lopsided some times, in some angles. I don’t necessarily find any of this to be pretty all of the time. Some days I live with it some days I think it makes no difference. Most days it’s just the part of the human being I am. I don’t have to always look and feel pretty in order to be worthy of going about a day in full view of people around me.

I feel the same way about clothes. Sure, it is important to want to look nice and presentable, wear all the clothes I wish to, yada yada. But it’s just clothes. I don’t need to be beautiful and presentable all of the time, in the way the world needs me to be, for me to feel worthy. Not every little detail about my appearance, whether physiological or sartorial, needs to adhere to an acceptable kind of prettiness suited to the male eye.

Far too much of how we dress is about making various factions of society feel safe and comfortable, and not enough of it is about how we feel and the choices we want to make. I’ve seen this happen — random uncles appreciating me in a saree, not because I just look nice but because “it’s nice to see you looking womanly”, well-meaning relatives telling me my short hair is taking away from “feminine face-cut”, enough members of my husband’s family who won’t think twice before telling me I’m “too thin” when they’re simultaneously commenting on all and sundry being “too fat”.

It’s on days like this that I wonder what it will take to really get more women to feel better about ourselves and our bodies. And how we can extend that to our clothes — sometimes the ability to wear whatever we want with confidence, sometimes to realise that there isn’t any one kind of “fashionable”, and most of all to be okay and as accepting of our bodies as with our means to clothe ourselves. Because, let’s be honest “fashion” doesn’t come cheap or easy to everyone alike.

We’ve got to take the focus off of appearances in general.

People are going to have opinions one way or another. Body trends will continue to be unhealthy and brutal to our mental health and general well-being. Fashion is going to always peddle a new normal to make us feel inadequate. But historically, and evolutionarily, human beings have been about diversity. We come in a massive range of shapes and sizes. Add to that our personal preferences, the sheer subjective nature of aesthetics, our genetic make up and predisposition, cultural backgrounds and what have you, and there’s literally a million ways in which we’ll want to dress or look.

How on earth can all of that be slotted into a handful of looks, trends, types for us to adhere to?

The mind boggles. Gimme that donut.

Two years ago: Day 110: Go far, they said

Day 95: A life of stranger things

Brain worms for a Tired.Thursday

There’s this one thing about living and working in Bangalore, that I’m still grappling with, unable to come to terms with. The prevalent sense of time-keeping. Actually, I mean the general accepted levels of tardiness. In the beginning, I thought I was encountering stray cases, when everyone from the plumber to my landlady wouldn’t show up at a time even remotely close to the one committed to. There’s also the ever-prevalent time-sucking blackhole — unpredictable traffic — that is a legitimate reason for delays. I know and understand that sometimes even when you take traffic into consideration and leave early, there can be unexpected delays. That’s just how unpredictable it is. And yet, having said that, in the many, many months that we’ve been here, I have come to realise that it’s not just about arriving late, but about a general sense of time expanding and stretching as per convenience. Appointments aren’t kept with a start time in mind, they’re scheduled within a window of time. Or at least that’s the unsaid understanding, I think. Because if I had a rupee for the number of times I’ve arrived for a meeting and had to wait upwards of fifteen minutes (which is my standard grace time), I could have probably avoided opting for EMIs when I bought a new phone last month. Yesterday, I waited for 45 minutes for the person I was scheduled to meet. And this is after they had given me the time. I’m really beginning to think this casual tardiness is a cultural shift, rather than an outcome of circumstance.

***

What’s you opinion on the kind of passive aggression subtweeting allows? Have you ever been the butt of someones subtweeted (is that the right way to put it)? I’m a bit confused, and don’t know what to make of it. I ask because a couple of days ago, it came to my notice that I was the subject of a subtweet. I’m always flummoxed and amused when this happens, but I’m downright baffled when I am become the subject of a subtweet made by someone I don’t even know. I wish I could go into details and dissect it the way I am in my head right now, but I don’t want to name names (primarily because I don’t even know this person personally, but also because it would just be pointlessly passive aggressive. Not to mention, rude.) and then I’d also just be subtweeting right? So, no.

***

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a strangely high number of instances of minor injuries to my hands. A paper cut one day, a smashed finger the next, a hangnail, a kitchen-peeler incident, a scraped knuckle, a pinched pinkie — I’d probably have not even noticed if it weren’t all so focused around my hands and fingers. Also, they’ve all been seemingly small injuries, with disproportionately large inconveniences. The paper cut, like all paper cuts are known to be made it super awkward to get through the day without wincing every time the finger was stretched or bent. The smashed finger had me seeing white spots for five seconds and profusely bawling like a baby.  The pinched pinkie made it really hard to hold pretty much anything for the next three days, let me not tell you what it did to my driving and other essential activities.

***

And then, there was this cat in my basement last night.

I returned after a long day and noticed it in the basement, wailing in loud and long complains as I approached it, fully expecting it to dart and shoot off into the dark as cats are known to do. But no, she approached me fearlessly, accosted my feet, stepping all over them, digging her paws in, outstretched limbs, curved back. And then she proceeded to trace infinity signs, winding and worming her way around and between my feet, rubbing the entire length of her body, chin and face all over my ankles and shins. I could have so easily just picked her up and taken her home, but resisted temptation. I also thought she was just there to get her evening fix of love and then run off to spend the rest of her evening. But no, she followed me into the lift and made loud protests about not being allowed in.

Two years ago: Day 95: March

Day 82: Everything is going to the beat

How liberating it is to finally acknowledge this new kind of self confidence. To accept, and own the fact that it is no longer limited to only loving the physical aspect of myself — shape, size, colour, etc — neither is it a blanket anything-goes licence to loving and embracing myself. But now, it also includes giving myself the permission, the very right to choose one aspect of my emerging self over another that may potentially be fading out. It means witnessing self-love that comes from the growing confidence and faith, that even in surrendering to the seemingly unfamiliar, there is growth. This new confidence means trusting the wisdom that is guiding me through all that is new, fast-changing, gently nudging me on to surrender fully to the choices I’m making. It comes from a wholehearted commitment to this a transition (rather than a random act of jumping ship). It’s a deep unshakeable faith in knowing that even as I allow for this give, this play, the slight easing up of taught lines that hold me up, I am developing a stronger, steady core, at the heart of it all.

Two years ago: Day 82: Silence

Day 81: Somebody holds the key

So, for a while now I’ve been sitting with a discomfort with the idea that a lot of channels of popular media and culture in India tend to use their wokeness as a convenient route to popularity or make big bucks. With influential people, social media stars, and everyone from sportspeople to movie-stars and Indian comics picking up issues of social relevance on which to create content, whether movies, webseries or even music, I’ve begun to wonder how much of their backing or feeling deeply about these issues peters beyond the purpose of creating popular content.

Does it ever translate into action beyond the obvious? Or are we settling for the easy access to hot-button topics to further our reach by creating content around issues that are highly shareable? Even as this content is being created, how much of it digs deeper by way of going a step further from the very convenient to reach superficial understanding that already exists.

Recently, this came to light in some form, with this video that called out AIB on how they “use” Feminism. It makes some really strong and hard-to-argue-with points about how the collective raises important feminist issues, but also does very little to truly represent women in a relevant and useful way, outside the boundaries of the very gendered stereotypes that already exist in popular media and culture.

And it’s not AIB alone. I have this issue with so many Indian movies. And I’m so aware of how accepting we are of it, and how that too perpetuates the cycle. Several times, I’ve debated whose responsibility it is to raise that bar, to create that one change that can take things to the next level. And if celebrities in positions of power don’t own their influence and use it even in some form, are we ever going to get beyond this?

I wrote about the #PadManChallenge that infuriated me in the weeks before the release of the movie. By then I was off social media entirely, and even then I couldn’t escape the mugshots of celebrities, wasting sanitary napkins for their photo-ops and endorsement of the movie. The entire exercise seemed tone-deaf, insensitive and irritated me enough to not want to watch the movie. I know I’m in a huge minority for having this reaction, but I had to have it out somewhere.

I was about to shoot off a rant about it on here, but decided to turn it into a story instead, and decided to shop around to place it. I’m happy to report, I cracked a publication that has been on my wish-list for nearly one year now, and it was such a pleasure working with the editor on this one. This is one fo those “big wins” for me as far as my writing is concerned, and it was reassuring and a huge validation for my new approach to work. Something is afoot, you guys. This is working, and I’m so excited to see where it will take me.

My essay is now live on A Beautiful Perspective, if you’d like to see. Or keep scrolling to read it here.

In India, fighting menstruation taboos that silence women

A Bollywood movie put periods on the big screen, but battling widespread myths and superstitions around menstruation is much harder.

Shrouded in myths and taboos, menstruation is a difficult subject in India. Studies suggest that 200 million women lack awareness of menstrual hygiene, and many don’t have access to toilets during their periods, let alone sanitary products like pads or tampons. In some areas, even discussing menstruation is anathema, silencing an entire gender into shame.

So, when I heard that Pad Man, a biopic celebrating the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham, who sparked a minor revolution in menstrual hygiene, was coming to mainstream cinema, it seemed like an enormous step. The movie would tell his story, I read. It would talk about what led him to invent a machine to mass-produce affordable sanitary pads in rural India, and in doing so, it would talk about menstruation openly, in a raw, unsophisticated manner, without resorting to shabby innuendo or weak euphemism.

But as the release date drew near, the #PadManChallenge began to crop up online. This trending hashtag saw celebrities holding up sanitary pads alongside glib captions denouncing the shame attached to menstruation, hygiene products and women’s periods in general. They would then go on to vouch for the movie and its commitment to talk about menstruation unabashedly.Full marks for good intentions, but none for sensitivity or nuance. On the one hand, celebrities (men and women alike) were using their positions of influence to push the dialogue around women’s issues into mainstream channels of communication. But as the hashtag grew to enormous numbers and spread to include movie stars, industrialists, professional athletes and socialites, the exercise also resulted ina colossal waste of sanitary napkins. In marketing the movie and promoting this message, they’d completely missed the point of the film itself.

For Arunachalam Muruganantham, India’s real Pad Man, his moment of awakening occurred with the simple act of buying his wife a packet of sanitary napkins in an effort to impress her. Shanthi was on her period, shamefully hiding a piece of menstrual cloth (that she would fold many times over and use to line her underwear) from her husband, when he questioned her about it.

“We’ll have to cut our milk budget, if I have to use sanitary napkins,” she said, revealing the bleak reality that she and other women in the family were forced to choose between buying food and sanitary products.

Fifty-seven percent of menstruating women in India, face similar choices and have to get by without access to sanitary pads. Some studies report that as many as 200 million Indian women lack awareness of menstrual hygiene, and 39 percent of girls don’t have access to soap for washing their menstrual cloth. In some areas, even cloth is hard to come by, and women resort to using hay, dry leaves or unhygienic plastic. Wateraid’s Menstrual Hygiene Matters report states that 20 percent of women lack access to a clean toilet during their periods.

If those numbers are staggering, the effects are even more so: Twenty-three percent of Indian girls between ages 12-18 drop out of school entirely when they begin menstruating, and some data shows gender disparities are exacerbated with the onset of puberty, as millions of women without access to comfortable and dignified menstrual hygiene management are forced to skip opportunities to work or pursue further education. Perhaps this has contributed to declining female participation in labor force in rural India, year over year.

These numbers point to a crucial need to build awareness around sanitation, menstrual hygiene and women’s reproductive health, and to elevate menstrual hygiene on the government’s priority list.

In 2017, India rolled out the Goods and Service Tax, lauded as a revolutionary shift in the country’s taxation structure that would benefit consumers by providing a singular transparent tax system. Where women are concerned, it exempts products like bindis, kajal and sindoor (used to indicate marriage), but continues to heavily tax essentials like sanitary napkins. Unsurprisingly, the 31-member Goods and Services Tax Council that decided the exemptions doesn’t have a single woman on it.

This is the reality in large parts of India where pioneers like Arunachalam Muruganantham and others operate, an India far removed from the one occupied by the privileged, elitist movie industry.

However, there are several organizations trying to take the spirit of Murguanantham’s work forward, provide workable solutions and empower women to take control of their menstrual health, including Aakar Innovations, Goonj (Not Just A Piece of Cloth), Azadi and the Desai Foundation.

The Desai Foundation calls itself a “public and programmatic organization” and works in the areas of health and livelihood as a means to empower women and children in India and the U.S. Asani,meaning Ease, is their sanitary pad program, currently run in 52 rural communities in the western state of Gujarat. The program is committed to destigmatizing menstruation, improving access to sanitary pads and enabling women to take charge of their own health and hygiene.

Megha Desai, president of the Desai Foundation, touches on the aspect of dignity a central to the work that they do. “Our channels are essentially health and employment, but the currency we work with is dignity. Elevating communities in terms of their dignity is key, and women are crucial to this effort because when they thrive, their communities do too.”

The foundation provides access to machinery to manufacture low-cost, almost fully-biodegradable sanitary napkins and creates rural social entrepreneurship that centers around women as employees and managers.

“We want women to really feel empowered through and through, and helping them build this as a part of their community, as a service being provided for and by them does that,” says Desai.

Taking on the traditional patriarchal family, where men have the power to bring about or withhold change, Asani employs women in their factories, not only providing avenues for income growth and independence for women, but allowing them to reclaim control over their bodies, their health and their choices. The program also conducts regular health camps and seminars where women talk about sex, reproductive management and menstrual protection, thereby fighting regressive beliefs and challenging deep-rooted cultural taboos and superstitions associated with menstruation. Bringing women and men together to openly talk about menstruation goes a long way in breaking the taboo around the topic, too.

Speaking about the Pad Man film and accompanying social media challenge, Desai is optimistic. “I am so thrilled that there is so much energy around this movie. I think any conversation around menstrual health helps to break the cloud of silence. So I was happy to see the campaign where celebrities were coming together and showing that they aren’t ashamed to talk about periods. It makes me hopeful that people are starting to see this as a basic human right. I hope that the energy and support for this issues continues long after the movie.”

That lasting change is also part of Desai’s goals for her foundation’s work. “Our long-term vision is to get the system to be sustainable, so it can run on its own. We want the women to take it on, so we can bow out. They’re capable of such greatness, but they don’t know it. It’s about showing them what they can do.”

(This essay first appeared on A Beautiful Perspective.)

Two years ago: Day 81: Giving thanks

Day 80: We’re up all night for good fun

For some inexplicable reason, March has brought with it a very scattered energy. Busy times, very few pockets of quiet, which when they came were so welcome, but didn’t allow a complete sinkage, so to speak. I’ve flitted from this thing to that, and haven’t felt very anchored to much at all for the larger part of this month.

Maybe it started with the death in the family, that had us stopping work, putting everything else on hold and spending entire days at VC’s home. Then we rushed straight into some work travel, which dovetailed right into a very hectic week of shooting (which invariably means very, very early mornings, long days, blurring one into the other) and going directly from there into my course last week, with no time to breathe or regroup in between.

It’s been busy and I’m thankful for that, but the energy has been somewhat unsettling. It’s always the chaotic times that makes me realise how quickly I am to push reading onto a lower priority. For one, being on the move and being busy means I literally don’t have the luxury of as much time to sit down with a book. But on the other hand, it also means that when the quiet few moments come, I find myself wanting to tune my brain out, rather than engage it in something that requires focus. And for me, books and reading require focus, even the books I choose to pass the time. So, reading has suffered this month with me choosing movies and TV more often than not.

***

I watched and cribbed about This Is Us, not too long ago. I was right in some part; I think the last few weeks have been a serious exercise in time-wasting just so we could get to the season finale. But I also must take back some of my harsh feelings about the nosedive, and attribute it to the inevitable need to drag plot-lines out, because OMG the finale hit the spot for me all over again. The best thing about the show is how it seamlessly dances across timelines, it’s got the movement down pat, making it so effortless, meaningful and just so apt for the stories lying within. The finale also raised the bar once again, bringing so much promise for what is to come in Season 3. But only in freaking September.

I dragged myself to Koramangala to catch what seemed like the only show of Thre Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. Why is it that the best movies are always reduced to a measly single show or two, in some far corner of the city? Why are more people not watching these films!

It was worth the trek though, because this tragicomedy lingered in my mind, far longer than I thought it would. Frances McDormand’s Oscar is so very well deserved, for her nuanced and raw portrayal of a mother pushed to the brink, because she has just had enough of the injustice and will no longer sit back and watch. On the surface, it feels like another movie with a strong woman character at it’s centre, with Mildred Hayes (Mc Dorman’s character) taking on the corrupt and racist police department, with a powerful demand for action, that almost puts her life in danger.

The entire movie is a succinct, direct look at the absurdities of our world — an unshakeable patriarchy, the injustice, the blatant double-standards and the atrocities it brings with it. But in it’s dark and dismal showing, also gives you moments of satire-like laughter. It carries the theme of absurdities right through to the end, with an inconclusive, and absurd ending that leaves you wondering which way it might go.

But, there was one detail that left me a bit uncomfortable. The movement towards (the inconclusive) resolution for Mildred Hayes, almost comes on the back of the redemption of one of the very white, very racist, very homophobic cops in the story. And I can’t help but feel like that little segue unnecessarily shifted the spotlight away from what should have been a film about the rage of a woman pushed to the brink, through and through. I felt just a tad cheated at not knowing what she eventually does to assuage that silent, festering rage that she nurtures all through the movie. This wasn’t a need to see the film have a happy ending with justice served, or all loose ends tied up, but at least some conclusive indication of how she finally deals. With far less focus on a white, racist man coming around, being used as a crutch for her own story arc.

All my confusion about the mild mixed messages of Three Billboards were assuaged a week later when I watched Black Panther, though, which just downright slayed, to use a term the young’uns do. I’m not even a comic-book, super-hero fan, but I marvelled at the beautiful way in which the super-hero theme was used as a vehicle to weave together a story about race, generations of atrocity and subjugation, the victory of good over evil, and how it did all of this deftly working across three different thematic eras — a super-futuristic one, a middle-zone in Zulu-like Africa, and the realm of the comic hero. Sheer poetry in some of the writing, gorgeous, gorgeous men, and the beautiful discomfort with the very apparent lack of white actors.

This is a film I see myself watching again and again and again.

Post three days of the module of the course I’ve started, which basically is three days of therapy, I have been mentally exhausted, as is known to happen after therapy. I have had difficulty focusing on anything for very long, so this week so far I’ve barely managed to get any work done, and haven’t really engaged in anything wholeheartedly, spending long hours in bed. So I decided to begin watching Good Girls Revolt, on Amazon. It’s been on my must-watch list for a while, ever since I read about it’s premise (and very quick discontinuation after just one season) and someone who called it “Mad Men from women’s perspective. I’m just three episodes in and it’s been hugely enjoyable.

Good Girls Revolt is a period drama, set in the 1960s, in the midst of a busy newsroom. With the backdrop of the cultural revolution brewing at the time, the series tracks four women who work as “researchers” with the newspaper, filing stories for the “actual writers” — all men — who then put the details together into full-fledged articles for publication. Over a series of events that happen in quick-succession, the women are suddenly suing the newspaper for gender discrimination, for being explicitly kept away from actual writing. It’s a poignant at times, at times insightful, and very eye-opening portrayal of what it was like in the 60s and 70s when women had to jump through all kinds of hoops just to known and own their worth, outside of the realm of marriage, home-making, and baby-rearing. It made me very, very grateful for how far we’ve come, and very conscious of some of the subtle kinds of gendered roles that still remain the same.

The very premise makes Amazon’s move to pull the show after a single, successful season, rather suspect. There was some news of the show being shopped around to other networks, and I hope it sees the light of day. Soon!

And now I’ll shut my laptop and go read because I want to finish this book I’ve unnecessarily dragged on for so long now (for no fault of its own!)

Two years ago: Day 80: On unlearning and re-learning order

Day 72: We form our own boundaries

The very first time I realised I had an issue with setting boundaries was when I realised just how bad my inability to say no was. It had caused all the classic signs of emotional fatigue and unhealthy relationships many, many times over. I’ve gone through most of my life trying to be “good” — which is to say do what makes sense, what’s safe, try and disappoint nobody. Add to it the do-it-all disease most women are ingrained with. It’s all the things we’re taught. So when the new-fangled adulthood wisdom dawned, and I realised self-love, self-care and self-esteem had everything to do with healthy boundaries and saying no, I was all torn up.

It’s not easy to unlearn that compulsive need to always do the best you can for people you love. But it’s not hard to notice that there eventually comes a point when that leaves you exhausted and depleted. A boundaryless existence is not only unhealthy, it’s unsustainable. What’s worse, it erodes the good effects of all the love, care, generosity and authenticity you might actually be attempting to bring into your life.

I’ve come a long way from where I used to be. Small steps, big developments, and there’s still so much more to work through in this respect. One of the biggest breakthroughs for me was acknowledging that if I find myself at the receiving end of behaviour that I classify as overstepping, encroaching in my space, asking for too much of me, exhausting expectations to meet up to, it is most likely because I have not set my own boundaries right.

I have not been clear about what is okay, and what is not okay.

I have been making steady progress in this area of my life, and I know the ways in which it impacts me. But recently, an event made me sit up and realise there is still some more work to be done. So back to the drawing board, I have been very seriously reflecting upon boundaries, getting a deeper understanding by reading related writing, and generally thinking about the signs and what I might have missed reading this time around.

The other thing that keeps coming back to me, again and again is seeking connection, and how being steadfastly committed to what it is I want most from relationships actually brings more of it to me. One thing is for certain, I am far more at eace with having a few good friends, than being surrounded by a brood of people that exhaust me. With that context, here’s a few new things that I’ve realised about how crucial boundaries order to have meaningful, authentic relationships:

  • True authenticity in relationships requires honesty and vulnerability. Sometimes it means choosing honesty even in the face of potential loss — ie: the risk of losing someone I love, being rejected by someone I value, potentially disappointing those same people I care about, losing comfort and familiarity and once again braving the unknown.I know this because the relationships that allow me the space to step into that twilight zone of uncertainty, with little fear of rejection or loss are the ones I turn to time and time again.
  • Drawing boundaries is a crucial act of self-respect. I’ve got to fully reject the idea that respecting myself and valuing myself enough to want to move away from a person or situation that is exhausting me, or demanding too much for me, is somehow selfish or conceited.I have this ease with literally two people in my life right now. And I noticed it exists because they too have a healthy amount of self-respect, which means that when I retreat, draw a line, express what is okay and what is not okay by me, it is respected and accepted with an ease missing in every other relationship.
  •  At the core of every act of drawing a boundary, is a value. The act of drawing a boundary, reinforces that value. Whether it’s protecting a feeling or emotion, my energy, or a part of my body even. Different people have different values towards each of these things, and therefore different boundaries too.This learning was reaffirmed when I read Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck. Increasingly I find I have the highest sense of kinship with the people who value the same things as I do.
  • The way somebody is with drawing boundaries for themselves, usually says a lot about the way they are with respecting others boundaries.This has been the big one to learn this time around, given the recent event I mentioned up top. I missed or ignored all the signs that I got along the way.

But this is not to berate myself, rather to acknowledge and understand what I missed, so I can pick up on it going forward. On the other hand, the same event made me realise what I have actually gotten better at. I saw that in my ability to separate what I am responsible for, with what I am absolutely not responsible for. I can only control what I bring to the table — which in this case was honesty, even with the risk of rejection. I cannot control how the other side takes it, what they make of it and what they choose to do about it. Similarly, it is not my job to save or fix the issue at hand.

Getting into a friendship with the hope that the other party will change, and make making that change happen my mission, is a grave mistake I’ve made, failed at and learned from very early in life. I see now that it is a heavy lack of self-respect and gross muddling of boundaries that made me venture in that direction. I try and not go there again, if I can help it.

It was liberating to realise the ease and complete lack of angst in walking away from a fatiguing argument, where I’d otherwise have fallen straight into the trap of a futile cycle of reasoning, trying to have the last word (which is another classic trait of  boundarylessness, which I very much had).

The downside, and I use the word very loosely here, of being brutally honest, presenting an authentic kind of vulnerability, drawing strong boundaries often means that they will inevitably be tested again and again. And naturally, not every situation or person will pass the test.

It is a fine-tuned sense of self awareness that helps cut through the fat and get to the heart of things. Even the bits that are otherwise difficult to digest, or make me uncomfortable — like the fact that maybe someone is trampling over my boundaries because I haven’t set them clear enough to begin with. 

Coming to that place of clarity is simultaneously empowering, and lonely. Because not all the people you’re dealing with are going to get everything I do, understand it in the same way and certainly not at the same pace or time. Dissonance and a clash of wavelengths get exacerbated all the time.

For me, this meant facing my other demon — the angst about how often people leave, or I have to walk away from people. I’m still making my peace with this. I see now that this is another price to pay, for being self aware. For being a HSP. For constantly elevating my own standards. This coming and going of people has become so normal, I now no longer fall apart every time it does, because I realise the increased frequency is a direct result of how quickly things become clear. Situations where values clash, boundaries are crossed, and emotions come to the surface no longer drag out like they used to. Things are very clear, very quickly, and  the ability to decide if I must stay or walk away has become rather free of hassles.

When I think about it this way, I know I’m actually better for it. I’m moving ahead. I’m tuning into my values. I’m strengthening my boundaries. I’m working on my self-esteem.

But, this whole moving on and leaving people behind theme of my life, that I often feel sad and confused about, beat myself up about, or take to be some kind of problem or lack on my part, I now realise is just the way it is. It’s a natural outcome of this evolution and growth. It is going to happen again and again, sometimes more often than other times.

The good news, and I know this to be true from recent experience, is opening myself up to growth invariably brings new interactions, new people, new avenues for bonding.

So I fear the loss of losing people less. Because I know others will come along, and they have come along. Some have surprised me by how long they have stayed. Others who I know will stick around, do. Sometimes it’s brought folks from my past back into my life, even if for a short period. Sometimes the same people you walked away from/who walked away from you will come back. But I’ve only seen all of this once I opened myself up to that possibility. By being selfishly committed to this learning. Of boundaries, of values, of growth.

It has meant letting go of the rails a little, and wholeheartedly refusing to shrink my capacity to grow, in favour of politeness, or in staying in the safety of familiar friends, or the security of a number of friends.

In my reading, I chanced upon this really amazing video where Brene Brown pretty much sums up everything that I was mulling over and trying to make sense of.

This really hit the nail on the head for me:

  • The most compassionate people, are absolutely the most boundaried.
  • I’d rather be loving and generous, and very straightforward with what’s okay and what’s not okay.
  • I am not as sweet as I used to be, but I am far more loving.
  • Generosity can’t exist without boundaries.
  • Boundaries are not easy because we care more about what people will think, we don’t want to disappoint anyone and we want everyone to like us.
  • Nothing is sustainable without boundaries.
  • Boundaries are not fake walls, they’re not separation or division. They’re respect, with here’s what’s okay for me, and here’s not.

If you’re interested in more, this is another excellent article on Mark Manson’s site, about on Strong Boundaries. And this TED Talk by Sarri Gilman.

Day 71: Everyday is blue Monday

How many of you watch This Is Us? How many of you got into Season 1 really gung-ho, hook like and sinker? And how many of you watched Season 2 and wondered where is this going?

*raises hand*

Yearrp, it’s going that typical route where, right after they’ve grabbed your attention with the first season that hits ohhmagad, all the right spots, season 2 dwindles in the doldrums leaving you restlessly guessing which way it will go. That’s talent too — keeping things stuck in the middle, with just enough promise to lure viewers back from the edge of completely giving up hope, but also sufficient disappointment that makes them wonder week after week why they’re still at it. And yet they’ll keep coming back for more.

I’m a classic example of that kind of viewer. Once I’ve started something, and if it does the trick for me in some part, I want to see it through to the end. I’ve wasted so much time and energy on once-promising-but-just-average books and TV shows that fit the bill.

I’m still desperately hoping This Is Us doesn’t fall into this category. Because I’ll give the show this, it has touched on an excellent set of themes. The writing is top notch in that they’ve nailed the flashback as a vehicle of storytelling. They writers have absolutely cracked the right balance of drama, suspense and heartrending segues between timelines, clutching at just the perfect inflection points in every single characters life that somehow threads the family together. This is why I actually really got into the show, the storytelling grabbed me right off the bat. The relatable emotional plot was of course a big bonus. But that’s the bit that’s beginning to now get on my nerves. The story feels like it is beginning to now drag out. With the plot moving ahead half a centimetre with every episode, it’s beginning to feel a touch monotonous. And the very traits and elements of each character that made them relatable, now make me want to hate them. Simply because I can no longer relate. I just want Kevin to deal with his daddy issues, like really deal with them rather than keep reminiscing, for example. And I just want something big to happen in Rebecca’s life already. And I want to Randolph to have some more depth and dimension than just being the near-perfect man that he is.

This is all to say, This Is Us is getting boring, and lesser and lesser relatable. I hope it’s just a time wasting tactic to stretch us out to the end of this season (tomorrow!) which if I know TV at all, will end on some sort of surprise note so we’ll have to wait for the next season for all the action to resume, and the plot to get a little more nuanced.

Right now, though, I’ll say it’s not looking promising. But once can hope.

That said, as I speak of one TV show that’s draining my energy, I many have cut the cords with the other show that was previously in it’s place — Grey’s Anatomy. I realised it’s been a year since I watched it. I’m not sure how that happened, but I tried to catch up on it on Hotstar and I just couldn’t get through a single episode of that last season. So I’ve finally given up. Huzzah!

Last week, which was a bit of a bum week spent mostly catching up on sleep and being a touch unrooted, I took a little break from the obsessive reading and watched Big Little Lies, for a change. And omg, you guys, the unthinkable has happened. I actually have found one instance where the a TV show is better than the book it is based on.

I’ve already said, I didn’t care much at all for the book. It was strictly below average, which made me wonder why everyone loved it. But the show! It takes a very simple, superficial set up, and elevates it to something so much more nuanced, and real (okay, the lives and situations are a bit OTT, but the resulting emotions are raw and real).

Each of the women is a strong character. Strong in a very unique and different way for each of them. The show really unpacks the layers of the various situations women find themselves in, as mothers who tie the family together, single mothers, business women, successful women who’ve chosen motherhood at the cost of their careers, pursuing perfection and uprightness in all that they do. And in depicting the nuances, it really goes deep into the vulnerabilities and sensibilities of women folk. That is touching, emotionally captivating and very telling.

As you know, it also deals with themes like sexual harassment, domestic abuse, bullying, the former of which is dealt with in a way that evoked a very visceral reaction in me

The story gets really catty, and that made me a bit uncomfortable, but that was the intention I guess, as a set up for the finale, which if you’ve read the book, you know how it goes. The show does a spectacular job of taking a very passe, regular picturisation and builds it into a strong end that makes a point. It got me all choked up.

Next up, A Handmaid’s Tale. Even before I read the book, yes.

***

Last week went by in a bit of a daze. Like I said, it was catch up week that saw me just trying to tie up loose ends at work, and catch up on piled up work. It was an odd week, one where lots happened, yet I can’t seem to say what, when I look back on it.

This week, I’m looking forward to being with my sister again! She was away for two weeks travelling on work, and returns today. So I’m off to spend the evening with her and mum, right after I post this!

I’m also extra, extra stoked that this is the week I will be going back to school, so to speak. I’ve signed up for a year long course in an exciting system of therapy. This is me diving in to what I think I need the most right now. This is me choosing to delve into into the theroetical side of things, and basically signing myself up for a year of intense therapy. I cannot wait. I have a set of new pens bought, and a brand new notebook N gifted me, all set.

I’m as excited to be back in a space of learning and development as I am to be doing things like essays, homework and self study.

My Monday’s been good to me. How about you?

Two years ago: Day 71: Pretending to be brave

Day 68: Come a little bit closer, hear what I have to say

I’ve been all about tuning down my aversions, cutting out the will-never-dos and the won’t-ever-happens, of late. Because if I’ve learnt anything at all in the last few years of my life, it is that anything can happen and everything can change. Even the things you swear won’t, can. And probably will. I’m trying all the damn time, not to be so cock-sure about anything. To approach everything I do, with just a little more give. To allow for that smidgen of change (that I am so sure will never happen).

A lot of this had to do with dissolving my ego a tad. Because I realise that most times, if I swore something — some aspect of me, or a situation I was presented with — would never change it was because it was too damn scared to let it, or it made me feel less in control, or small unsure and unworthy, or it felt too damn far away from where I was for me to even relate. But loosening up a little, I’ve come to believe that making room for the possibility that all those things could in fact change, doesn’t diminish who I am. It just means I’m letting the fear go, and opening myself up to possibilities — whichever way. It means that in the eventuality that things don’t go the way I am so ramrod sure they will, I will not be shattered.

One of the biggest positive manifestations of this change has been the improvement in some of the key relationships in my life. I realised my unwillingness to take feedback was a direct result of being cock-sure about my reasons for doing things and being a certain way, which in turn left absolutely no room for improvement. No give to try alternatives. I used to be impatient, impulsive and very restless in my communication. Stepping back, tuning my mind to acknowledge that there are always other possibilities, other perceptions and opinions outside of my own, has made me slow down a little. I’m not perfect, but I’ve found that swallowing my pride has meant that I do listen more, and I mean really listen not just hear. Listen in a way that makes me contemplate when I am told, the feedback I am given, and consider that maybe my way — just because I am so dead-sure I can be no other way — isn’t always the right way. And that even if it sometimes feels like the right way fr me, it could possibly have completely differing effects on the other person involved.

It’s nice to have the advantage of hindsight, to see how far one has come. For example, I often look back to where I used to be — stubborn (and I’m talking rebel-without-a-cause stubborn) steadfast and sometimes so silly — that when I now encounter statements like “That will never change” it makes me want to laugh. Out loud. Because the words “never change” almost don’t hold any meaning anymore.

Because, everything changes.

Every damned thing.

All of this recently came to light when I was in an argument with someone, and they went down that path. Something to the effect of this-is-who-I-am-and-this-is-what-you-mean-to-me which is all well and good. I laughed. But when that cock-sure, definitive edge of and-that-never-changes got added to the mix, I knew it was time to back off. Because it meant that nothing I said or contributed to the conversation from there on — no matter how honest or true — was going to be heard, let alone make an impact or be acted upon.

It didn’t matter how I felt, I wasn’t going to be heard. Which then begged the question — what use is that love and respect and empathy and generosity (this-is-what-you-mean-to-me) if the relationship doesn’t allow space for me to be heard?

That was my cue to back off. (This also led me to some new realisations about boundaries. More specifically, how much more I need to learn and apply, in this respect. But that’s a story for another post.)

The thing is, being so dead sure, of anything, often means shutting out all other possibilities. Including the possibility that one’s behaviour, actions, words, the version of oneself one bring to a relationship, might be problematic, or detrimental to the way in which the relationship is moving. Or sometimes it’s just that the way one is, isn’t making the other person feel very good, no matter how honest or noble the intentions.

There are few things worse than big, kind gestures wrapped up in ego-driven good-intentions. Perhaps one of those few things, is being cock-sure said good intentions are for the best, and will never change. Because it means there is little chance one will ever examine the effect it has on the very people one seeks to love, respect and shower with generosity; whether they’re actually feeling good or bad to be at the receiving end of it all; and if maybe, just maybe, there is a better way to be. A way that takes into account a version of reality that’s outside of one’s own. A way that could in fact mend or further relationships.

Wouldn’t that be so much nicer for us all?

Two years ago: Day 68: How we’ve aged (part 1)

Day 57: I’m glad that I’m alive

I’m grateful that I’m recognising that the choice to reclaim my worth is in my hands. I’m grateful for the patience I’m slowly cultivating. I’m grateful for the little bit of focus and stillness I’ve regained.

I’m grateful that I am less surprised, or shocked at these changes, because it means I’m aware and accepting of the work that has gone into it. And that in itself feels like an act of reclaiming my worth, my patience and focus.

I’m grateful for the grace and respect I’ve shown towards myself recently. In picking up on moments where I missed listening to my gut feeling. In tuning into my intuition, albeit belatedly. In putting a premium on myself, reminding myself what is not my circus and not my monkeys. In drawing a boundary where I most needed to. In keeping myself out of a potentially toxic, energy sapping situation.

I’m grateful for having reclaimed that power.

I’m grateful for the privilege that is this life I have, with all its blessed circumstances, that despite being in a state of flux, still allows me to just focus on literally doing what I most need to do. I’m so thankful for the timely inputs I get. From people, from books, from conversations.

I’m thankful for the mindspace I’ve finally freed up, that allows me to tie all of these elements together in a way that’s meaningful for me. I’m thankful for the little moments of stillness that allow me to sit back and see watch the moving parts come together.

I’m grateful for the ever so gentle breeze of harmony I’m beginning to feel wafting over our lives. I’m grateful for the flow and the contentment.

I’m grateful for the hidden reserves of acceptance that I’ve suddenly stumbled on. Acceptance and peace about choosing the path of least resistance sometimes, and in accepting myself as I am and where I am now (rather than hankering for a nameless spot in the future where everything will miraculously work exactly the way I want!).

I’m grateful for the awareness that only when I retain the focus on aligning my actions with my desires, rather than to-dos and must-haves, does the energy I need seem to just flow.

I’m grateful for joy that’s come from the simplest things this past week. I’m so very grateful for the experience and the affirmation, that there is plenty of joy to be had in the unburdened ordinariness of everyday life.

Two years ago: Day 57: In between mouthfuls

Day 54: All my sweat, my blood runs weak

What coming home feels like: Sometimes, like a giant cauldron of regret

Yesterday was a super frustrating day. And it came on the back of a rather tiresome few weeks. Work has been testing our limits, our patience, resilience and everything in between. It’s the kind of situation where we’re having to work really, really hard (not just at the work-work itself, but the driving around town, the hustling to schedule meetings, the constant pimping, the follow-ups to get people to fucking respond that adds to the work) for the smallest wins. At this point, I’ll take it. And I’m grateful for every little bit of movement. But, on some days like today, it takes a toll.

Yesterday was one of those days where I fully and completely regretted moving to Bangalore. The reality of it hit me when we were out to run a single, really simple errand, not too far away from home. But after wading through impossible traffic for over two hours, we had to return home errand unfinished. This completely unnecessary wild goose chase included obstacles such as one HDFC ATM with a dead server, three HDFC ATMs in the vicinity that only existed on Google Maps, but not in reality, and a mindbogglingly circuitous route home. There are few things worse than having to brave evening traffic in Bangalore when you’re all set to get shit done, and you have to inevitable return without accomplishing the only thing you set out to do.

This, at the end of a hard few weeks where I’ve kept my head down and patiently tolerated everything this city has thrown my way, broke me a little. This month, I’ve seen the worst of Bangalore’s traffic, road rage, Metro construction, white topping, the beginnings of flyovers and steel bridges we know won’t do jack, road rage, traffic jams, aggression and road rage. Did I say road rage already? I’ve been to Whitefield (twice!), Jayanagar, Koramangala (thrice!), Hosur Road, Kengeri. And I’m pretty sure I’m leaving something out.

These past three weeks, I’ve witnessed the extent to which this city has exploded physically, at very close quarters. I’ve seen how the semblance of order that is not visible in the CBD area, fades as one move outwards, and is non existent in the external, ever-expanding limits of the city. Basically, Bangalore feels like one gigantic construction site, with no sense of logic or planning in sight.

From the moment I entered Whitefield, we were in gnarling traffic jams of the worst, worst kind, and for the most part, we were squeezed into single lane traffic. The temperatures are definitely a few degrees higher there than everywhere else, owning to the rampant and thoughtless construction. Clouds of dust, people zipping around either angrily, or with vacant expressions, zombified and totally sapped of energy. It was nothing short of a dystopic image. For a newcomer, it feels like Whitefield has no more space to give. No more space, no semblance of order, no peace, no air, no energy. I kept asking VC, who would want to live in a place like this? The energy was just reeking of negativity. Also, where’s the space? But the irony of it all was we were headed to a meeting with a property developer at a property fair in Whitefield. Evidently the big Bangalore property dream is still alive and kicking. The idea that you can build yourself a fancy home, high up in the skies, walled in to a self-contained layout, is a great way to keep the festering shitfest of a city out. It doesn’t matter that the minute one leaves ones multiple-crore home in said fancy self-contained enclave, you hit areas with no roads to speak of.

How is this appealing? Are people sleep-walking through their life here? How is this the “quality” of life is being sold to hapless citizens of this city? And how are they buying into it? When will it stop?

But that’s not all. I also had a deep, deep sense of regret because it was the kind of day that makes it seem like nothing is really working in my favour. The kind of day where you feel responsible for making it all work, yet want to just throw your hands up and resign. The kind of day where you want a shoulder to cry on, but the only shoulder you have wants none of it. The kind of day where you want to poke holes in your castles in the air, and let those demons out, but your cohabitant wants none of it.

By far the worst feeling of it all, was to realise that my life is once again down to this — getting around this maddening city, trying to do work that doesn’t want to get done easily, and feeling very, very tired every single day. I’m so frustrated that I get so little done, and yet I’m busy all the time, and it just makes me so very, very tired, with nothing to show for it. It’s not that content, satisfied kind of fatigue, but the exhausted, empty sort of tiredness.

This, in a nutshell, was why I left Bangalore in 2010. And somehow, I’ve signed up for it all over again.

Yesterday, I felt trapped, backed into a corner, with no options or way out.

Yesterday, my frustration with Bangalore peaked, and I longed for the simplicity that was life in Goa.

Yesterday, I realised once again, what I am and am not wired for.

I know this too will pass, and I’ll go back to focusing on the silver linings, with the surety and confidence that I came with, that has currently left the building. But until then, let it be known that February has been rather brutal, and it is taking it all out of me to try and focus on the good bits.

Meanwhile, the trees on my street have shed their leaves overnight.

I woke up one morning to find the streets laden with brown, dead leaves. It’s a sign of new beginnings. Of summer. Of the end of a cycle. And I hope some of that freshness translates into my life too.

One year ago: Ten reasons why I love the girls I’m in long distance relationships with
Two years ago: Day 54: Working better