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Posted in Musings

Nirvana

Catharsis is Nirvana.

Cave drawings. Parchments heavy with emotion. Journals soaked in pale ink and vivid memories. An envelope braving the world in search of another. Splashes of paint rebelling against grey walls.

Black letters on a white screen spilling from my fingertips.

Posted in Musings

What It Takes

What do you do when the very things you grow to hate and detest manifest in people you are supposed to love?

It is interesting how easily we forget our past – perhaps this is why journals are so important. You can go back and know who you were before you slowly and steadily became someone else; you get to remember all the trivial details of every day existence that evade your memory now; you get to re-live where you came from.

A recurrent epiphany that I seem to have these days is how different my tangent has been compared to many who surrounded me earlier in life. I left home around twelve years ago and have since been moving from one town to another in pursuit of a college degree, multiple jobs, another degree and finally marital bliss. I have gone from being a resident to an occasional visitor at what is still considered home by my heart as well as government documentation. But, as the sceneries and environments changed, so did I.

I recently learnt about a cognitive bias known as ‘false consensus effect’. It is characterized by an erroneous belief that our own behaviors or judgements are fairly common or appropriate and reflect those of the society at large. I suppose I must harbor a lot of this, as I constantly find myself puzzled or surprised at how certain things remain the same back home even when I have long left them behind. Common-place things, like how ordering something on Amazon is still a novelty, or how cash transactions are still the norm. Cultural aspects, like how the fervently everyone still celebrates the yearly festival at a local temple. Social mores, like how it is rare for women to be out in the streets after 7 PM. And then, just a layer deeper, how sexism, casteism and class distinctions continue unchallenged in the underbelly of our disjointed family tree.

What do you do when the very things you grow to hate and detest manifest in people you are supposed to love? When the aunt who puts in numerous hours to make my favorite snacks sighs about how her daughter-in-law does indeed show all the dirty qualities of her ‘lowly’ caste. When the co-worker who brings in an extra breakfast dabba for me not-so-subtly hates on a certain religion. When the cousin I idolized growing up turns out to be a torch-bearer of every patriarchal ideal. When the lone woman entrepreneur in the family is seen sharing unscientific half-truths. When your favorite uncle falls from the pedestal after you witness his renewed enthusiasm in religious conservatism. When you see a fatherly figure proudly attributing the greatness of a political figure to his upper caste roots. When you see how lineage continues to be the most important criteria when looking at a prospective nuptial alliance. When you see how the very misogyny that you seemingly fight against through clicking links and posting updates is very much alive and thriving right under your own nose.

Voicing one’s opinions to a faceless public is not the same as upholding our views against friends and family. The one time I was forced to take a stand had them stare at me in disbelief, shocked to see a glimpse of the rebel hiding inside the shy studious girl. Memories of the words that poured out that day still leave a bitter aftertaste and compel me to clench my fist and swallow all I still want to say. I see the despicable details, I smell the stench, and yet find myself incapable of taking them head on because of that cowardly thought at the back of my mind wondering if it is all really worth it. Is it simply better to look the other way and focus on strangers than digging up dirt in those who care about us? Are my ideals worth the awkward conversations, the passive aggressive interactions, the inevitable branding as being the deviant?

I know the answers of course. It is worth it. I should be standing up for what I believe in. The change does start from within.

If only it were that easy. If only I had what it takes.

Posted in Musings

Threads

Have you tasted freedom?

No, not the kind where you can speak in undertones, and hold on to secrets and tiptoe around what makes your heart sing.

No.

I talk of the kind where you throw those secrets to the wind with wild abandon, with no reason to fear reprimand or a stern glance or an awkward encounter.

The freedom to go after everything you pine for, without tripping over all the fine threads that lock your feet in. To not be confined by the little paths that you force yourself on, for that has proven to be the right one for so long.

Oh the threads.

They tighten around your ankles at the very first misstep, and you step back; you stick to your path lest you should break those fragile bonds of love, affection and kinship. A parent’s concern, a family’s honor, a lover’s trust, a son’s pride.

The threads. Fragile and delicate. Strong and fierce.

Have you ever truly tasted freedom?

Has anyone?

Posted in Musings

Faultlines

I have been thinking a lot about divorce lately. Not as a personal choice for myself, but as a social event. It is starting to scare me a bit. It is not that I disapprove of it, or consider it taboo, as many do in Indian society. I fully support divorces and feel people have the right to start over and choose happiness over a long-forgotten vow. Even if there are kids involved (for that is usually the deal breaker in most cases even now – holding on to a failing marriage for the sake of children), I do not think growing up with divorced parents is any worse than being in the vicinity of a toxic or abusive relationship.

That being said, I worry about getting divorced some day. It is not so much the social pressure that is getting to me, but the idea, the fear, that a day might come when we will come to loathe one another to a point where we no longer want to be in each other’s company. That a day will come when irritation and hatred and bitterness reigns over companionship and memories. Could it be that all marriages inevitably end up being cages whence we dream of flying away and starting afresh? I have grown up watching people being miserable together, stuck in loveless arrangements for the sake of their children, and it instilled a deep fear of commitment in me. So much so that I had cold feet about getting married to my current husband even after years of getting to know each other; even after I was sure I wouldn’t be as happy with anyone else. I would have much preferred to have a live-in relationship, but socially sanctioned legality to sleep together continues to be a necessity where I come from, and wanting to be together meant we needed to prove our love with a government issued certificate.

Spats and gossips around domestic arguments and fights peppered my childhood, but my mother convinced me these were normal, that my ideas of the perfect marriage were unreal as they were dominated by colourful imagery from novels and movies. It does not happen that way, she said. The fights, the adjustment, the sacrifices are a part of it, she said. What would have happened to us if I had left yout father? Now you are doing well in your life, people are proud of you. Wasn’t it a good thing that I chose not to break the family? Leaving a difficult situation is easy, but making is work is the right thing to do.

Is it really, though?

Growing up, I watched every one in my parent’s generation grapple with marital discord and unhappy homes. And now, I see the same repeated in mine. One by one, I see the faultlines forming 5, 7, 10 years into each of my cousins’ happy marriages. Even the one couple who I considered as the gold standard for happiness in our extensive family. I hear they are contemplating divorce, that they cannot take it anymore.

And I cannot help but wonder… is it just a matter of time before I stand alongside them? Where does it start? When? Is it the little things that grow into a giant pile of crumpled emotions with no way out? Does it set in insidiously, through disagreements over household chores or the wrong end of a joke? Or does it happen when a sudden tragedy rips through the family? When life gets too overwhelming for one to handle? When you find someone else more attractive? Will he cheat? Will I? Will it be so horrible if either of us did?

I recently had a glimpse of what it feels like to be torn apart by something out of our control, of being helpless and unable to communicate our grief. And it makes me scared. Will these experiences eventually claw into us, break us? I try to figure it out and scramble for clues to prevent the proverbial wheels from setting into motion. But do what I may, the question still lingers at the back of my mind…

Is it really only a matter of time?

Posted in Musings

Jigsaw

When does a place stop being your own? When you leave, or when others do? Or with the realization that abstract concepts like home cannot be held down by the strings of concrete imaginations pointing fingers at what it should or should not be? Or by how nothing ever belongs to anyone – no, not even if you have a name tag or a medal or a certificate to show for it, because.. well, because, don’t you see how the fine print at the back reeks of an expiry date?

Do we even need to leave, for a space to stop being the warm cozy sanctuary populated by a bunch of humans you once called your own? A glance through old photographs and some overtly optimistic videos speak of a naive me, a younger me, that thought bonds wrought of pettiness and frolic were forever immune to decay.

But how dare we even dream of calling spaces our own, or people our own, when even we do not belong to ourselves? Thoughts dissolve into a potpourri of conundrums in daily living, and as we keep tucking away memory after memory in that bottom drawer of endless relics, we lose track of what we had once been. Where we had once been. Who we had once been with.

Here is one falling out of a corner as you go about your work; perhaps you will gaze at it lovingly and move it to the mantelpiece, perhaps you would exclaim in amazement that you had ever had it, or perhaps, finding it to be so broken, you would throw it away from the clutter.

Are we not all ships of Theseus, walking around with jigsaw pieces of people and places that get replaced over and over, unknowing of the ways we change, or the moment when we become a new person altogether?

Posted in Musings

All The Nothings

I miss everything we never did.

I miss the spontaneous road trip that we were never on. I miss all the long conversations we never had, sitting side by side on a cold winter night and watching the sky darken and then lighten up all over again. I miss how we never laughed and laughed till you teared up and I fell on my side with a knot in my stomach. How we never sat quietly with a song between us and had silences to show for how we had each other’s back.

I miss how we never shopped together. How I never dragged you to stores and made you wait while my self-conscious self rejected a 100 dresses and some. I miss how we never had joints to frequent, or how we never shared a plate of street food. I miss how we never shared a tantrum, or a sore joke, or a few day’s worth of cheap revenge.

I miss the world that I was never really a part of.

I miss how we never spent so much time together that we stopped counting the moments altogether, and just let ourselves be.

I miss how I never leaned on to your shoulder absent mindedly while reading a book by your side. Or forgot all the boundaries that fall away so easily with constant proximity.

I miss the easy laughter, the fast hugs, the inside jokes, the epic stories. The shared dreams and realities that break all barriers and dissolve into that sense of deep familiarity that always stays around, irrespective of what distances may later pop up.

I miss all that we never came to be… and all that we never will be.

Posted in Musings

Out Of Sync

I am not the kind of person who needs music.

I like music, I do. And almost every genre too. I would find myself nodding my head to whatever the bus ride offered; start humming the moment I find myself close in the company of the faintest sliver of a song and take it from there, much to the annoyance of whoever happens to be in the room with me at the time.

But I don’t need music. I can go without it for any length of time. I seldom find myself searching for a song to listen to, I am too lazy to bring together my own curated playlists and I have long stopped downloading songs onto my mobile device after 4G internet and streaming became a reality. I have always been jealous of people who know what songs to play when, and somehow manage to keep themselves updated with all the best songs out there. I am more of the person who copies their playlists and then forgets to ever play them on my own.

Okay, I suppose this has been a really long prologue to the epiphany at hand. It was with the discovery of Spotify that I learned something else.

Music terrifies me.

My random choice of artists has even muddled up its algorism and has it throw at me songs from completely different genres, and every time a song changes, I can feel the emotional compass in me shifting as well. I go from happy to pensive with the change of a beat – I feel pain and a heaviness of the heart from a random indie number, I remember an old flame where a familiar songs plays out of the blue, and then feel my heart darken as some guitar strings quieten.

Prateek Kuhad’s Cold/ mess haunts me day and night, the lyrics falling off my lips and a heavy sigh leaping from my heaving chest into the evening loneliness. “Never ever associate songs with people”, warns a stranger in the comments section of the YouTube video, and I agree across avatars – every time I listen to Coldplay’s Scientist, my heart breaks just a little, over and over, remembering days covered in moss at the back of my mind.

Music terrifies me because it forces me out of my hardened fancy-free shell and makes me feel. Feel. A heaviness, a loneliness, an affection for ghosts of the looming past. and the depth of losses I choose to ignore.

Could this be why wise ones said silence is golden?

Posted in Musings

Losing My Step

I think of blogging. Quite often. Especially on the long ride to the office and back – twenty minutes every day that I dedicate to the thoughts in my head even as I manoeuvre through the crazy traffic. I think of everything that I plan to write about, everything I want to recover from the dreary mess in my life, everything I hope to accomplish that day. And then let it all dissipate the moment I reach my destination.

There are just so many things that I want to write about – my new side hustle that’s been keeping me busy as well as leading me to raise existential questions, insights into xenophobia stemming from interactions with a colleague, a drowned cemetery, my break from social media, the sheer lack of epiphanies as I finally fell out of the 20s this week – but something tells me I may never actually get around to any of them. Freelancing has sucked me into a maze of my own making, with the lure of money leading me deeper and deeper, and I am currently quite lost. I have been one to sneer at the mere concept of being a workaholic, having always identified as a lazy procrastinator, and it is quite puzzling to find myself missing language lessons and skipping Netflix to reach self-imposed deadlines. In random moments of clarity, I question myself on where this could potentially lead, and vow to not let this be the centre of my existence – till another potential client calls and I simply find myself unable to say no. And the cycle repeats. Seemingly endless commitments, at the expense of being unable to switch my phone off and sleep. How do we find balance, indeed?

Posted in Anecdotes

Pearls

I point out to Mr. Beloved that the chances of him winning the Nobel Prize are between zilch and zero, and that he might need a consultation for delusional megalomania on having such a bizarre thought in the first place. He meditates on my suggestion and rejects my hypothesis.

That’s when the sudden scuffle ensues. He twists my hand and holds me down and asks why I would say something like that and crush his (nonsensical) dreams. I reciprocate by attempting to pinch his skin and/or tickle his belly – my go to moves in times of such crises.

And it just so happens that a swift movement causes me to lose my drip on a little fake pearl ear ring that I had been holding in my hand.

“Now look what you’ve done!”

He lets go, and looks perplexed. This was definitely not part of the plan. He glances this way and that, trying to locate the fallen item and muttering random excuses before feigning sleepiness and slowly retreating out of the hall. The stud cost less than 20 rupees, but it was still my favourite. I make a mental note to buy a new one while heading to work, shout a couple of admonitions in the direction of the bedroom and carry on with my work.

I wake up late in the morning, having burnt the midnight oil (light bulb?) in the attempt to finish up in time for a deadline. As I sit up, he pulls me out of the bed excitedly, walks me to the hall and points to my desk. The stray stud had joined its companion next to my laptop.

I laugh, kiss him on the cheek and go about the day feeling quite ostentatious in those lowly pearls.

Fin. 😁

Posted in Verses

Stories

Are you the ghost of a dream

Or the dream of a younger self,

An obsession to be lost

Or a loss to be grieved,

A slice of my heart

Or a phantom in my brain,

The life of all my thoughts

Or the death of reality..?

.

I weave stories after stories

Of entangled memories –

A smile, a hug, a missed train ride,

Tears shed in the night,

A lonely song played on repeat,

Words lost when out of sight,

Days of eternal sunshine,

Coloured illusions of youth,

A wayward glance, a stolen kiss,

The taste of strawberries;

.

I weave stories after stories

Streaked with reds and blues

From the depth of every night

To the edge of sanity,

Stories after stories

Of what you and I could be

Even as my footsteps falter

And my fingers turn to dust.

Posted in Musings

Shackles

“Jobs fill your pockets; adventures fill your soul”

“Just go where your heart takes you”

“Money is not everything”

There definitely was a point of time when I believed that these were truly inspirational phrases, but now I largely view them as the coinage of elitists ignorant of their privilege. I still appreciate the underlying notion – that we should strive to make the most of what life offers us, grab opportunities to explore things outside of our comfort zone, stop ourselves from being bound by societal expectations, and widen our understanding of the world. Kudos to all that. But how feasible is all this for an average person?

Old English novels talk about the protagonists being tutored in languages and the fine arts, spending their time on literary pursuits. I remember wondering how amazing it must have been to live in an era where everyone seemed to do nothing but read and write and travel. Growing up, I obviously realised my folly – how the representation I saw was but one of the royal and elite classes, and the poor have always had sustenance above all at the centre of their existence.

Even today, the trend is the same -it is the higher classes who set the standards for an admirable lifestyle, even when that is not one of blatant luxury. We aah and ooh at travelers’ accounts of how they denounced money in the pursuit of happiness. I know that I certainly have. I knew people who traveled to a different country for every summer holiday, and I would wish and dream of doing the same, having the same experiences as them. The number of places you have been to becomes a benchmark of awesomeness.

In addition, we think of a 9-to-5 job as something to be ashamed of and convince ourselves that money is evil. But for many like me, earning money by working two jobs is a way to ensure my house remains mine. It gives me sanity in the relief that I will be able to pay for health insurance and save towards an emergency. Sure, given a choice, I would love to “free myself” and travel with abandon, but who would pay for my flight tickets, my food and stay overseas? How many can really afford to run on pure adrenaline?

So now every time I come across these phrases, I ask myself: are we really inspiring people with these, or simply reminding them of their shackles?