2017, you were badass!

For someone who writes for a living now, I sure haven’t done much documenting this last year. So many, many reasons for it. I will start with the first one. For the first time ever, I have had a truly adult year. I grow a little every year, sure. I say the same thing every year, sure! But the number of lessons I learned this year – about myself, about my marriage, about family, work, money and finances, about people in general, about what “home” feels like, what freedom really, truly means to me, about contentment, discontent and happiness, about life being a zero sum game. About feminism. About writing. About the difference between responding and reacting. I always thought I could articulate what I need to when I write. But nearly half of the lessons I learned this year can’t be articulated in words. These lessons have no form or shape. They just have impact on my mind in ways I didn’t know was possible. It wasn’t a bad year, not really. But the high highs and low lows of this year? They are going down in history for changing something inside of me. Maybe that’s what coming of age really is. Not how little or how much you lose your temper, not how much or how little you are willing to be there for others. And definitely not how much or how little you “achieve”. True coming of age comes from a strange kind of self awareness and this shifting of priorities. It comes from a deep need to be there for yourself first. Of needing to balance your own ambitions and needs with those of the people around you who you think need you. As a woman, I am starting to realise just how fine this balance really is. And how easy it is to cross over to the side of forgetting about being true to myself vs the person I need to be in the different relationships that I am part of (except R, who deserves an award for the sanity he brought to to my inner chaos and conflicts, the almost-robotic, no-nonsense straightforwardness he brought to my “I DON’T FUCKING KNOW WHAT I WANT”).

Or maybe, that balance is just harder for someone like me, who thinks too much, loves too deeply, and throws tantrums like a 2 year old whose mother is trying to drag him out of his favourite toy shop. Except my toy shop was the need to find closure on a couple of ongoing themes in my life – motherhood and true, unadulterated freedom to choose selfishness and discontent that comes from drifting further and further away from what may have been an easy, relatable, convenient, and socially acceptable choice.

While I am not going to get into the murky or glorious details of how the year rolled out for me, I need to put down the highlights for posterity.

  1. 2017 is going to be the year when I became truly self-employed. It wasn’t very hard because things practically fell into my lap. But the year did its bit to reaffirm my belief that if you have been committed, loyal, and reasonably sturdy in your past professional relationships and work, people will remember that no matter how those relationships ended or how long you worked with them. Life will come a full circle, they will give you chance, and it is up to you to say ‘yes’ wholeheartedly and see where it goes. Professionally, 2017 was a mixed bag of amazing surprises with a little bit of impostor syndrome thrown in for good measure. I am working on the latter and I will tell you this – it is harder to overcome it in your mid-30s but you’ve got to keep trying. I know I will.
  2. 2017 was also the year when I realised that it is rather impractical for me to expect to be everyone’s top priority at all times. Throwing in another syndrome here – the older child syndrome. I was a bit of a people-pleaser and the strong independent type rolled into one and boy did that suck the life out of me.
  3. It was also the year I dealt with amazing amounts of change-related anxiety and drama. Working from home didn’t help, because it meant that if the internet didn’t work or if the neighbour’s renovation didn’t end at the prescribed time – both major peril here in desh – I was stressed out more than I needed to be. I got over it in bits and pieces, but there is still work to do there. At another time in my life, I would have been stressed out about not being able to put an end to the stress. But not anymore. I am learning to be as forgiving of myself as I have been of others. It is not easy but nothing worth doing ever is.
  4. 2017 was also the year I made more feminist choices than I ever had before. I told off body shamers instead of shrugging and laughing at the fat jokes directed at me, walked away more often, uttered the word patriarchy way more times than the patriarchs around me would care for, and supported and stood up for more women than I ever have before. 2017 was the year I figured out that while men may not always be the enemies and while I continue to love the the lot of them in my life like I always have, there is nothing wrong or hurtful about pointing out the ways in which they have inadvertantly internalised patriarchy/ gender roles as the absolute truth, even when it doesn’t affect or inconvenience me. It costed me a few showdowns, sure. But they were all well worth it, eventually.
  5. With the highs and lows of the year, I also figured out that life is fluid. Things change, times change, professions change, life priorities turn on their heads, and expecting life to be youthful and glorious all the time is immature. I also saw that very little is truly in our control. If I have one regret for the year, it is letting my lows come in the way of my daily phone calls with mum. It is far easier for me to dwell on it and let the guilt overtake me. But that’s really pointless. I am making an effort to see her point while I try and say my piece and stay true to myself. It was a year of conflict and I am sure that eventually, something good will come out of it. But I will tell you this – as a child of expectations, it was always hard for me to stand my ground with my parents so I usually resorted to manipulating the truth, giving incomplete information, or just lying through my teeth. But 2017 was the year I realised that mid-30s was old enough to finally, for once, truly stand my ground as an independent adult woman. It may not necessarily have been a pleasant experience, but it was something that needed to be done eventually. I am glad I did that and hopefully, nothing is damaged because of it. It’s mum after all!

2017 had its share of immense highs that had me in a pool of awesomeness. From the baby sister becoming a bride to realising the fluid nature of my personality and life in general but also that of family, I felt more life in my pulse in 2017 that I had these last couple of years.

2017 was when everything changed. And I am glad about all of those small and big changes, significant shifts, and the ability to stay as steady as I could have been in the face of this whirlwind. My hope for 2018? Hopefully more travels and outdoors, a little less conflict, a lot more letting go, and restoring a little normalcy after what has been the year of 14 flights, five family functions and reunions, and the dramatic highs and lows that come with them. I know I could do with some equanimity and peace and some of the coldness of KL days that I had grown to dislike so much. Some balance would be nice, god. Can you please?

 

 

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Second coming.

Fear is such a common, common thing. I am probably stupid but I find it hard to wrap my head around this one emotion. I did, for a while. But the foolish bravery has returned after a whole year, almost. And I can’t let it go. Won’t.

A whole lot more to follow, let me just make sure my head’s *finally* all-clear.

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I don’t need period leave

So we have yet another raging debate, this time about period leave. And of course I have a take on it. Just that I can’t put it in a story for a website I write for on similar topics. Because my take is a little violent and a little offbeat, given how we seem to think that our employers own our time. They don’t.

Women (and men), if you have cramps, mood swings, even just a not-feeling-upto-it day, I am not sure why you need to wait for a exclusively labelled leave for it. Call in sick! Refuse to turn up. But do a stellar job on days you do turn up. And if someone still calls you out, eat them. Or – and this works better in my experience – explain your stand and be firm. The stakes are almost never as high as authority would make you believe.  Trust me. Been there, done that, and all that jazz.

I don’t understand this obsession we have with going to work when not up to it. Why would you not put self care at the very top of your list of priorities? What exactly do you do at work that the world will end if you don’t go for a day? Why are you behaving like you don’t have better options if your employer doesn’t understand the concept of work life balance? Whose standards are you trying to live up to? Don’t.

Tell you what. If you don’t behave like leave and work life balance are rightful entitlements, your employer won’t either. And till the time you are clear about this – and more importantly, united with your peers in this endeavour instead of using whining over Friday drinks as a tool to survive and get along – no business will give it to you. This is India, doston. Even newfangled, gender-neutral leaves like birthdays, adoption, paternity “duvet” days come with hazaar conditions. Your period leave will be no different and trust me, it will not have that much to do with your gender. The solution is not to wait for businesses to one day suddenly start practicing empathy. They won’t till you claim your share and protect it with all you have.

That’s all.

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Black Mirror

Remember how peaceful life was before WhatsApp forwards and Twitter hate? You gave too much tech to a bunch of explosive, over sensitive, emotive fools and look what happened.

Now with the likes of home pods, I don’t know where we are headed.

Black Mirror was real.

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Oh GOD, June!

With two more days to get to the end of what’s been an incredibly insane, AMAZING, maddening, awesome month, now is good time to reflect a little on all that’s been going on.

First off, I spent all of 14 days in the peace and quiet of home in Bangalore. And even when I was in the city, there were things to celebrate, places to go, endless to-do lists to strike off. There were two family events, one that is going to change our life in happy ways and yet, there’s been a part of me that is feeling a sense of loss. I never understood the over dramatic vidai scenes in our Bollywood flicks. At my own wedding, a June wedding at that, I was so uncomfortable in the peak 40 degrees up in the Great East, I lost no time in the hugging kissing and crying and instead, just got into the car with a harrowed expression on face, and let R drive me into the blazing sun :p But now that the baby sister’s about to get married, I can see this weird mix of sadness-tinged incredible happiness take shape. It is a metaphorical going away of sorts, and I am pretty sure things won’t change between us. But somewhere, deep down, I think it something will switch. In all of this, I also saw my baby sister look like a gorgeous almost-a-bride at her engagement. I saw her make new connections. I saw her boy and how amazing they are together. I saw her glow. I saw her dance like no one was watching. I saw her laugh with all her heart. I saw a whole lot more. And if that doesn’t bring me all kinds of feels, I’d be made of ice.

Apart from the feeeeeeels for baby sister, there were also adult responsibilities for most part this month. And a trip to the great East for a colourful family event with much laughter, music and dancing, and also lots of quintessential small town chatter about looks, skin colour, “prosperity” and the like. I saw an aunt I used to be very, very close to, age. Gracefully, sure. But age nevertheless. I saw my baby nieces become all kinds of awesome. Spirited, funny, innocent, gorgeous. And they made my heart so, so full. And they also gave me a little hope for the future of that small town chatter. You know what I mean?

It is not that I haven’t had these feels before but every time, there was R around. To listen to my emotional overload and the related verbal diarrhoea. To help me make sense of the things that didn’t and celebrate the things that did. And to really see where I was coming from or what makes my heart so easy to be so full all the bloody time! This time around though, when we weren’t in a sea of people or in different timezones when he travelled on work, we were trying hard to finish to-do lists at work. In June, I had all of two real conversations with R. When we got away for a little time to ourselves over pints of Ultra on his birthday and our anniversary.

So just like that, after a month full of mostly high highs and a couple of low lows, I had a bit of a meltdown in front of the mother yesterday. The feels took ugly shapes of unnecessary arguments and tears for a few hours till I had had enough of myself. How my mother deals with my nonsense, I will never know. And if karma really is a bitch, my child-freeness is perhaps a blessing in disguise.

In all of this, I also had a bit of an epiphany when it was pointed out to me that I set unreasonable, far fetched goals for myself. My first thought was to dismiss it because didn’t I just give up a well-paying job to work independently and wasn’t I extremely happy with the way this life was turning out? Of course that was my warped definition of ambition – that it’s got to do with designation and career. No, I aim for the stars in being the person I want to be in the different relationships in my life, in being there for the fewwww people I love but also like, in solving problems that I don’t need to solve, in happiness, state of mind. In having it “all”, in giving it all. I realised this has been a pattern in my life, a recurring theme. And now that I have it figured out, it is time to break the pattern. But no, I am not hoping to do it now. I am just hoping to. At some point.

Add to ALL of this, there was this amazing independent life that made sure that even when I could afford myself a holiday or two, I didn’t feel the need to take it. I have taken five flights in the last 28 days and have one more to go. And believe it or not, I have worked at every goddamned airport and flight this month. The only couple of days I afforded myself a complete break from work (but nothing else) was when there was no physical space around me to be able to work. Yes, I know I was being stupid and I don’t think I am going to do this to myself ever again.

So yes, dear god June, you’ve been quite something, but mostly in good ways. Dear heart, you really need to get some balls.

Dear July, stay still.

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That thing I rarely talk about now

In just five days, R and I will complete a whole eight years of marriage. Eight days into a month that we are going to mostly spend apart. EIGHT. YEARS. It has been a recurring theme in my mind of late, that I have now lived with R for almost a decade. And boy, what a ride this has been. The reason I don’t write (or even think) much about our marriage anymore because of how much it has become a part of me. How much in sync we have been and how we have both come into our own, he with his waiting before reacting, hearing every side of the story and still not forming a harsh opinion, putting his all into his work, tuning out the cacophony, and evaluating – constantly. Me? I am revelling in the cacophony, forming opinions, changing them, reacting, letting the winds of information, noise, and newfangled ambitions blow me wherever they want before stepping away for a bit and evaluating with a clear head.

These last eight years have been calm, peaceful, easy. And I can claim pretty much no credit for that. On the surface, it all just fits. It flows. Beneath the surface, our parents are ageing, our responsibilities have taken shape. Together, we have made momentous decisions. Just flowing, from one phase to another. Mindfully aware of the consequences of our decisions, even more aware of the camaraderie, the staunch, single minded support that makes the decisions that much easier. They make responsibilities feel like child’s play, even when we are aware of the significance, the landmark nature of each of them.

We have argued, we have weighed each other’s opinions, we have challenged them. I have had my share of heartburn and small victories challenging rules, questioning “the way things are done” – loudly and unabashedly. R has rebelled too, but in his own quiet way, firmly standing his ground, and mostly being sensible. If I don’t take no for an answer from the world, he seems to tell the world he doesn’t really care. And together, our approach to the rules somehow just fit. Like pieces of the puzzle, he the square one – straight, honest, focused, determined and most of all, giving. And me, the amoeba, shifting weight, shifting shape, wondering, wandering, giving. But also taking. Mental bandwidth, questions, indecision, relentless analysing and overanalysing. R? He gives. The bandwidth, the answers, the gentle goading to go out there and do what I need to, the holding back when I go too far in my vague, fantastical parallel universe, wondering, aloud, why the world is not ideal.  He gives ideas. Things to mull over. The reasons why the world isn’t what I want it to be. The reality of conditioning, that often escapes me. I lap it all up and present a whole new question in return. And somehow, the exchange goes on. Fun is made. Questions are held close. Answers, even more so.

The last time I wrote about our anniversary, it was all new. Three years down, all the way back in 2012. We were still learning to live with each other, and we were not entirely adults as far as life experience went. Now that we are, adults with life experience that is, our everydays still don’t feel any different. Our response to life is still as different as chalk and cheese. And yet, our world view has taken a whole new shape, one that is a bit of both of us. The individualistic elements are palpable but the final shape itself – all new. I am just that much more cautious, he just that much more open. And this life we have made for ourselves? All the new developments and responsibilities and work and learning (and some disappointments) have been taking our individual mindshares now more than ever, and yet life never felt easier. Or better.

Many, many, many years ago, I had a quote somewhere on the inside panel of my study table and then, get this, in my first ever email signature. It said “There are too many mediocre things in life. Love shouldn’t be one of them.” I just didn’t know what extraordinary love feels like. It feels ordinary. It feels like something you don’t think or write about. But it’s there. Palpable. In the decisions, the changes. In the jokes. In the laughter. In conversations. In the letting go. In the holding your ground. In the small things.

(Touchwood)

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What is happening to me!?

Picture this – I work from home, without colleagues. R works from office, clocking in 12-13 hours a day (hell yeah, he is clearly changing the world). When he does get home, there is a lot of conversation, some comfortable silences, and diving head first into mangoes. None of the constant, incessant bitching about my bosses, my clients, my colleagues. Those bitching sessions feel like a lifetime ago.

There are some weeks when I don’t see the outdoors five days in a row. It is almost June and apart from a trip back home to Bombay, one to Gujarat on work, and another mini getaway in Wayanad, I haven’t had a proper holiday.

I have spent the last six months (almost), holed up in my house writing my heart out. Well, writing, researching, writing a little more. Reading. Listening to music. Having miles long conversations with old, old friends, about happiness, contentment, life, perspective, lessons, an odd judgments, a ton of jokes, some nostalgia. Some days, I go out and meet people for long, lazy lunches in the middle of the week in the middle of the day. My weekends though, feel no different from what they used to be like some months ago, except I no longer feel the need to drown my angst against authority and unnecessary, outdated rules in scotch, sometimes beer.

The TV is rarely switched on unless there is something very compelling I have been meaning to watch.

On some rare days, I cook. Even more rarely, I bake. Even more rarely, I do some yoga.

In a previous lifetime, I’d have lost my mind by now but barring some PMS-y episodes, I’ve been walking around with a spring in my step. Of course it took a fair bit of consciously ignoring the news sharers and arguers and trolls and troublemakers and the social media feminists who just won’t stop talking about their first world problems, with zero perspective on what real repression looks like but shitloads of privilege. It was only so I could make up my own mind about things. I am far from it, still. But at least the projected angst against this unjust world has disappeared.

The good part about this lack of real, flesh and blood people around me constantly is that I am excitedly looking forward to two family dos coming up in the next 20 days or so. The old certainty that vacations where the extended family has any role to play are a waste of time, is now old news! In spite of all the heartburn one of them promises to be, with its regressive opinions, insensitive jokes and the special kind of scorching heat the Great East has been blessed with. Because hey, the food’s going to be great, the conditioning runs deep, and sometimes, between being warm, kind, and content and being correct, being warm, kind, and content is not such a bad thing.

And just like that, I seem to have made my peace with stillness. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME!?

 

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