On learning to love with more abandon…

I have always been somebody who likes control, and many a time I have proudly declared how my “backup plans have backup plans”. Every event I organize is micro-managed, I have a book and a playlist on hand at all times in anticipation of people who will turn up late and I’m one of those people who laugh at Monica’s character in FRIENDS but is secretly her (breasts of a Greek Goddess may or may not be part of the deal).

Over the course of this year, I am learning that the semblance of control is the biggest illusion of them all. This doesn’t mean, as some might conveniently interpret it, that we have no responsibility. We do, and nothing can absolve us from doing the best possible we can, but control is something we’ve never had and will never have. I’ve always been a sceptic, naturally, innately. I’m sure I wasn’t born this way, children have this incredible fearlessness that is directly correlated to faith in their own invincibility. But somewhere over the years, like most other people, I have developed a knack of questioning, which is great, and some measure of constant disbelief in things, which is not so great.

I’d been watching Sadhguru’s videos on how we’re so afraid to lose something we do not actually possess and ever since Oree got me started on Sri Sri’s work, the videos and the book, ‘God Loves Fun’, this has been coming up more and more often. And I’m not going to pretend it’s an automatic transition, but there has been some level of a turnaround in how I approach situations now. I like retrospecting a lot in general, for better or worse. I like examining situations that have now settled emotionally, with a mental microscope. This is not so much to brood, but to learn, to see if I can spot a tear or a break point, to see where trouble began. Even this analysis is leading me to the conclusion of a lack of control.

I didn’t control when I got into love or when others did.  I didn’t control detours,exits, every moment that I should have supposedly seen coming, well I couldn’t have. I could only have lived through it, which I did, and lived through it as best as I could given my knowledge at that point. I cannot look back at my eighteen or twenty-year-old self, at age twenty-four and wonder why. There is no basis to it. I can, similarly, not try to constantly jump to look ahead to thirty or forty or even twenty-five. Again, it is equally baseless. The only moment you can control is the one you exist in right now. It is like that quintessential song. If tomorrow never comes, would they know how much you love them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I am not happy…

I am finding it harder to talk to people when I am sad or crying or not happy, and this isn’t a plea for help. There have been times in the past when I have been desolate, completely unaware of what to do to, and I haven’t been able to confide in anyone- this isn’t that. It is, in some ways, the exact opposite. I say harder, because it is the explanation of this difference that is difficult- the fact that this sadness is different from my usual bouts of self-destructiveness that have happened in the past. My friends get concerned if I mention that I have been crying, and it is but natural, because had the situation been reversed, I might have persisted in dragging it out of them. There is a fantastic Oatmeal comic which comes the closest to how I feel on certain days. After years of wondering how to, I seem to have transitioned from someone who needed/wanted people, to someone who automatically assumes that there isn’t anyone better for the job than myself.

My sadness is no longer violent, or teary, or jealous or humiliating. If I had to describe it, I’d say crying gives me the same sensation as the initial relief in getting toxic alcohol out in vomit. My tears feel the same way as the rain tracks on my face when driving with an open window, and I can usually manage to do some other mind work with perfect focus after the silent outburst. I basically sit, cry, get down with it, wipe my cheeks and move on.

Now ordinarily I’d call that a cause for celebration, because this seems like a pinnacle of the self-love argument. I only feel like giving people my company when I am positive, and productive and happy, and manage myself when I’m not. But I’m sceptical of the way this has been happening and as to how sustainable it will be. I have a suspicion I’m getting into this mindset because I am moving away from people, changing countries and time-zones, and I want to isolate myself before they isolate me, however inadvertently. Almost everyone is more excited than I am, because they envision the opportunities with a much rosier lens. Those who are not as excited are so owing to whatever ways this shift would affect their own lives. In this case, quite logically, I am the only person remaining that I can truly discuss my apprehension and insecurities with (although being with one of the most fantastic listeners I know helps a lot).

For as long as I can remember I have had this habit of wanting to be what we call in economics, the “first mover”. Even to someone who knows no game theory, it would be clear that first movers have certain advantages. When I was a shy, slow child who liked to read, I would hasten to say that I didn’t like the slide at all, and so I was letting the other children climb it instead. This averted the risk of letting my parents push me into attempting the activity and getting bullied. I quit swimming because my instructor made me feel pathetic about being scared of not getting oxygen, and said it was because some kid had pooped in the pool a day before. I pretended that school captain responsibilities took up entire lunch breaks to avoid confrontational scenarios with my so-called friends which might end in them abandoning me. I ended up reassuring men I didn’t expect our relationships to last, before they could tell me that.

And it still hurt just as much. All of it. I hate being a chronic first-mover, because it’s more like chronic first-pusher. I hate the fact that the only reason I don’t have a single thing I want, is because I’m too scared to admit I want it badly and then have it go away because of that same want. I have my eggs in multiple baskets and I pretend I don’t care which one I eat. My mother has that bit right about my commitment issues- just that she doesn’t understand why. I’m not sure I would ever have the urge to explain it to her in a way she would understand.

I think I am always trying to cut people off mentally and I know that’s probably not very healthy, given that I occasionally keep lecturing Oree and others about this same phenomenon. It is just that the futility of having people in the world but not having them close, gets to me at times. In such moments it’s just easier to tell them you don’t want to talk, to shut the world out, cry, play music and just sit in a haze. Rather than explain something they have no way of making a difference to in that moment, and having them feel guilty because of this.

Not a ‘Veere Di Wedding’ review

Although I initially thought I would write one. But then there are enough articles doing the rounds on whether Bollywood’s latest is a radical statement about the times-they-are-a’changin, or India’s answer to Sex and the City and Gossip Girls, or a completely misguided approach to feminism OR a mix of all of these. So no, this isn’t yet another review. This is me lounging in the despair of my millennial middle-classness.

Let’s face it, most of us twenty-somethings in India belong to two categories when it comes to coming-of-age films. There are those who unabashedly admit that they love them, and there are those who sardonically state that these films set unrealistic expectations, but sneakily watch them at some point anyway. I happen to flit between the two and after having spent a decade watching several of these, I have come to an overriding conclusion.

Self-actualization happens only in exotic foreign locations whilst holidaying with your soulmates and there is no way I can afford it.

Not before another ten years which is too long a time to stay confused in life. For starters, most of my Veeres (closest friends) and I are either broke, struggling between degrees and jobs, or highly paid but so ridiculously overworked that they’re barely holding on to sanity, let alone going on holiday. We’ve all grown up in relative comfort, but not luxury, which places us in the uncomfortable situation of being able to potentially plan that holiday as not impossible but definitely not as easy as surfing a website, booking those tickets and WHOOSH!

We’re twenty-five and unlike these movies, our life problems are just as confused as we are: way beyond deciding whether the Bachelor trip is in Spain or France, or whether to marry a doting partner (who will stay with you anyway) in a villa or a farmhouse, but way more insignificant than BPL incomes, discrimination and refugee situations. We’re twenty-five, all fired up with the thought of making a difference, and still have to ask our parents before planning a trip inside India, for work or pleasure. We’re twenty-five and stuck between once-in-a-lifetime dreams and what is expected of us. And movies like VDW might have funny jokes, and lovely bad-ass women. But on most days, they just make me want to curl up and cry. And I don’t have to go to Thailand to do it.

 

 

What I do when I don’t get to hold you

Dear A,

This moment, like several others in the past two years, is one where I would give anything that is mine to give, to be next to you (and trust me, giving up that “anything” is scary) I want to hold you in my arms, run my fingers through your hair, just breathe next to you- and unlike most of the other occasions when I wish this because I want you, I want this now because I can sense that you need it.

Of course, we don’t need each other. I feel glad that I am at a level now where I can say this without feeling resentful about it. But there is an expanse of no man’s land between what you need and don’t need, and sometimes we float in the “this would be nice to have for a while” territory. I am sitting in a bustling cafe in Mumbai having finished the mundane Excel work I came here to do, and as always, when there is a lull in my brain, it turns to you. Although, that is not strictly accurate- it turns to you ever so often irrespective of workload. When you say you’re keeping yourself busy and reply in monosyllables, a part of me understands exactly why. That part has been growing, and so I have ceased to question with as much frequency.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t see the other things that you’re in the midst of. The number of times that I have wanted to share your despondence are fresh in my mind, even though I veer away from most people’s sadness these days. The thing with yours is, it doesn’t need fixing. (On a somewhat related note, I remembered the “my Sadness wants to fuck your sadness” prompt). Your occasional sadness is not a toxic pit I’m going to burn my hands in- it feels to me more like one of my earliest memories, of pulling a blanket completely over my head, or getting inside the cupboard or under the study table, and staying in that confined space for a while. Or perhaps, all those evenings I spent playing alone under an umbrella covered with a bed sheet to make a tent. It was stuffy at times, inside, but I remember I always had a pang of longing when it was ultimately time to get out- I liked to pretend that if I sat inside long enough, they’d never know where I went.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve liked being hidden away for long periods. So I know for a fact that if I were with you, in such times, I would not want to draw you out until you wanted to come. Perhaps all I want is to sit at the edge, a little outside, or maybe share the darkness if you like. I want you to have a place where your light and darkness can coexist and not have to displace each other.

Yours,

A

 

Starry, Starry Night

it is only recently that i have realized that the lights of the world through tear-blurred eyes look like stars. do you think Vincent stood outside that night, wondering if he wanted to paint or die? i think he’d been at that crossroad many times before. haven’t a lot of us been? those nights when you sit, holding strings or pen or brush in one hand, that choice in the other. those nights when you barely manage to shake off the urge to do something that will leave you no further choices, and go create something that is lauded as beautiful, months or years later, by yourself if no one else. i go back and read my old writing sometimes, on such nights- not because it is a particular masterpiece, but because each of those works captures a choice, a faith that the younger me had, a faith that questions me even now, and makes me want to get up and take charge. and i know that some night, perhaps not far from now, i’ll read this, and to you, if you’re reading this, know that you went onward in faith. don’t break.

don’t break.

Turn on the light

The lead vocalist asks us to raise our hands if we’re proud of who we are, as people and as artists.

And something suddenly unravels inside me, a tightness that’s been there for a while. And with a few other wavering hands, I raise mine up in the air and smile.

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There’s a gentle drizzle. The accompanying breeze makes the yellow paper lanterns sway, as if in rhythm with the light strumming of the guitar and banjo down below. The drums weave a comfortable,solid presence as fifty-odd people, friends and strangers hum along. Music does this to people- it makes one body out of individuals, a body moving in seemingly eccentric patterns but with a wonderful coherence.

There is silence towards the end of the show as the performers play the opening bars to a song they have dedicated to survivors of depression. What amazes me is that it isn’t an awkward pause. In this audience, there are people who, in some odd way, understand, either first-hand or through their loved ones, what it is like to not want to get up at all, to not eat or bathe or write or paint for days, or to just do all of it in a frenzy until you’re not sure what you’re doing anymore. There are people for whom turning up to a live show like this is one of their greatest achievements this month- they might not have stepped out of home for weeks. There are also people who are lucky enough to be mostly non-depressed, even happy, and who take this moment to understand how that isn’t necessarily a “normal” every one is used to.

As I raise my hand, standing here in this city that I’ve been both non-depressed and depressed in before, it is because I am proud today- of myself, of being able to sing along, of showing up alone, of continuing to write even if it seems to be most ordinary on some days. It’s because I can now raise my hand without feeling weird about being happy about my own existence. And because I have done a lot of things in the past year, good, fun, somewhat crazy, mundane, only for myself, and have loved doing it. It’s because the rain, and the lights, and the songs have the ability to make the darkness beautiful and bearable. And so does my writing, and your art, and someone else’s strumming, or playing or mere existence.

There will be bad days. But try and hold on long enough, and there will be good ones.

Listen to these guys (When Chai Met Toast) here:

On turning into my mother ( And how it’s fine, really )  

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At 18, in college, as I slowly grew into my “wild” side, casting away the demure facade I’d maintained all through high school, I gave my parents some cause for concern. Suddenly I transformed from having no social life to staying out late, going on trips with my friends, and discovering the phone and internet in ways that many of my peers would have already experimented with a few years earlier. In my headstrong, teenager mind, I decided that I would have a cool life, full of new experiences each day, as if to compensate for the stagnant calm of my life hitherto.

The one thing I utterly disliked was being compared to either of my parents, be it in terms of academic excellence or personality. I was especially determined to not resemble my mother in any fashion, and derived great pleasure in telling her how I was so totally “not her”. And yet, a mere five years later, living with a set- ranging from brilliant to not-so-great- of my own choices and actions, I find that I have, in a lot of ways, realised that very fear.

My Friday plans now include figuring out which clothes to wash on Saturdays. I can’t go to bed with dirty utensils in the sink. I don’t randomly say a yes to late night bike rides with friends I don’t know very well, even though I love bike rides. I don’t indulge in crying my eyes out for more than ten minutes at a time, choosing instead to do something practical, like cleaning the room or my cupboard. I still entertain the words of lovers, but don’t really believe them as willingly as I used to.

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Of course, I am also not my mother in many ways. We are two women with vastly different character quirks. She hates being alone. I love my solitude. She can laugh off many things with a careless ease that my twenty-three-year old over-thinking self envies at times. She moves on quickly, and I have never really moved on from anyone or anything.

But look closely, and you can tell how related we are. It’s not even something we focus on most of the time, but it’s there. We both believe in six impossible things before breakfast, just that they differ in specifics. We both shut the world out when we read, and eat chocolate when someone is being indifferent to our feelings. We can finish a tissue box between us when we watch Lion King, but we also have the ability to step up to make all the logical decisions when necessary. Keeping my head when others about me are losing theirs, is something in which I’d rather take after her, than anyone else.

So yes, as I become more me, I am, in some ways, turning into my mother. And that isn’t really a bad thing.