The Month Of Endings

March brought endings. True endings are resolutions. They’re often messy and painful because they involve dredging up things that you were too weak or too hurt or too down to address in the past.

I met someone I had liked very, very much last year. I had told him that. We went out several times. And then he vanished. When I ran into him at a public place, he pretty much looked through me. It hurt. Much. I don’t know what I did or said. But midway through the month, I happened to see Deepika Padukone on TV, in conversation with Barkha Dutt on her depression. It reminded me of this man telling me once that he had gone through depression too. It reminded me of Reema telling me in that way she has, of gentle empathy and firm practicality both at once,

“Don’t expect the same work or personal comittments from people with depression. A lot of the times, I think they barely know what they’re doing. It’s heartbreaking and it’s best to not have those expectations of them, if you know they’re going through it.”

I don’t know if that is true of this man but I have no way of knowing the truth. So I pick the explanation, the story that is least negative, that is most peaceful and doesn’t disrupt my sense of self-worth or my opinion of him. If this be true, I hope he finds peace somewhere, if not in my company.

Then I met someone who had liked me very, very much once. It was our first conversation since we parted ways at the start of the year. What he said really hurt me. It shook my sense of balance from within and I could barely sleep that night. It took me a few days to realise that it was probably his first conversation with me, where he felt like he had some power. All our earlier conversations had been fraught with his nervous, trembling fear that I would judge him, that I would hurt him, that I would not respect him. None of those things happened but I think his fear ruined anything that could have happened between us. You can only be friends with an equal, not someone who looks up to you with fear and adoration constantly.

I don’t know if we will ever be friends; right now, I don’t think so. But there has been some righting of the balance. Much as I love admiration, I did not enjoy being on a pedestal. I hate feeling pity for the people I want to respect but he left me with no other choice. Maybe the only way he found himself able to correct that, was to hurt me. But this hurt, I’m capable of taking and letting it pass without it denting my soul. I’m just glad balance has been restored. And if we will never speak again, in time, I know I’ll be able to look back at this as a crazy, interesting story with an ending.

Early in the month, I returned to an old friend (“kissed and made up, though there was no kissing” he called it). Something was definitely off about 2014. There was so much unaccounted craziness. 2015 feels like everyone is sitting up and saying,

“What? I don’t know what came over me.”

I am not going to contest that. I really don’t know what happened to the people around me. Well, I’m really just glad it’s over (I hope it is). He came back, literally like a guardian angel. I was up all night agonising over a presentation I had to make, that just wouldn’t materialise on my screen. Something about his being there on that chat window, acted like grease to my mind’s wheels. The presentation went off well and he and I are friends again. I don’t know how that happened and you know, I don’t think I want to know.

I knew Performance Poetry would take me down emotional alleys that I had been avoiding for a long time and the trauma descended in March. The drive-by sighting of the ex on a dating site, the unaccountable public tears while listening to youtube, the bizarre fights with strangers on social media — all of the mess burst on my senses and my world through March. I don’t know whether I’m tired or truly at peace with it all. But the storm has passed. I can feel it in my stomach.

2014 was a year of the crazies and 2015 is our return to normal. March has been about cleaning up the messes it left behind. I have fallen sick every single week of this month, each time with minor, silly things like a headcold, a crippling (but temporary) period cramp and food poisoning. That’s just my body’s way of throwing out the crazy it accumulated in 2014, I think.

Thank God it’ll be April soon.

The Dating Thing: A Performance

I’ve started to figure that Performance Poetry or Spoken Word does not have to conform to specific rules. I’m choosing to interpret the form as an oral sharing of an idea, an emotion or a story. This could rhyme or not, it could involve gestures or not, could include voice intonations or not. As long as it reaches out and touches my listener, I’ll consider it complete.

With this in mind, I prepared for Rochelle’s second edition of ‘Words Tell Stories’ (the first of which saw me in my debut performance called Paper Plane). I had had a difficult month falling sick every single week and a rough few days after I saw NH10. So I picked a cheerful piece, one I had written years ago as a blogpost. I had been working on it for awhile now and I felt like I needed to end this month on a positive note.

Here is my performance and the post that it is based on: The Dating Thing.

I’m happy to say that it went off as well as I wanted it to go. I will watch the video and analyse how I could have said something better or conveyed the idea with a different eyeroll, a more evocative gesture. But for now, coffee?

Passive Aggression

I want to live in a world without words
A world where a sweet delicate combination of sounds
Cannot jolt my heartbeat the wrong way
I’ll probably listen a lot better to other sounds
like the incessant honking on an empty road
and my mother clattering dishes in the kitchen

But then
I’ll turn these sounds into thoughts
and thoughts into sounds again
ones that sound sweeter
milder
gentler
so CLONGCLINGCLANGBANG
becomes passive aggression
My tongue smoothing over the sliding ssssses

Passive aggression
is a gentle enough set of sounds
It’s a soft P
A thread of sssses
A little bump like a firm rock, that G
And more sssses.

Passive Aggression
settles over my face and my nostrils
like a film of plastic
It makes my face itch
I think that’s just the G
so I shift awkwardly under it

But it clings to my cheeks
I yank
and I hear a RRRRRRRRRRIIIIPPPPPPP
and there goes another
CLANGGGGLANGGGTONGGLINGGINGLING
against the sides of my eyeballs

Passive Aggression did that
No, I don’t like words at all
Sneaky buggers.

I Wear: My Face Is My Canvas

Towards the end of last year, I developed a love for face colour (thanks in no small part to Reema). We focussed mainly on eye make-up and lip colour. Together we explored a variety of shades, brands and styles.

Wingtips are back after a couple of decades so you of the steady hand can pull off a snappy tip or two. The corners of my forehead are high frequency contact areas (hair swishing, headscarf for when I’m travelling, ‘oh-my-head-hurts’ poses). But I made two happy discoveries in the form of gel eye pencils and Lakme Absolute Shine Line. Gel pencils combine the durability of liquid liners with the easy of use of eye pencils. Once you’ve laid on a line, it dries in a couple of seconds and no am0unt of rubbing will smudge it. On the other hand, it is a pencil so the lines never end as sharply as the wingtip designs demand. Which is where the Lakme Absolute Shine Lines have come in handy. The brush is a neat, sharp bristle. The liquid itself has stayed light and flowing without congealing (Maybelline did that!). The colour is on the sparkly/shimmery side so I’ve used it mostly to highlight. Together, these have comprised my go-to eye style kit. Here are some ways I used them:

The Mirror Never Lies: I wanted a look that was light and fuss-free but which added a little zest to my day. So I laid on a thin line of Absolute Shine Line grey on each eyelid. It gave my eyes that mirror-sparkly look. I teamed them up a light layer of Revlon ColorBurst 250 Standout Remarquable, my go-to red lipstick all winter. I actually wiped it off after applying it, leaving behind just a stain-like tinge of red on my lips.

Peacock Eyes: After bringing home a range of blue, green, teal and turquoise eye shades in liquid and gel pencils, I decided to go wild and use them all in combination. It’s a bit hard to remember the exact order and shades used right now but from experience, I guess this is what it would have been:

  • Use the lighter gel pencil colour to draw a line on the upper and lower (outer) lid.
  • Take a darker gel pencil colour and draw on top of the first colour, starting from the inside of the eye. Stop midway and make sure the colours are blended in (you may need to return with the first lighter colour to do this properly).
  • Now take the lighter colour and create a triangle at the outer corner of each eye. This shouldn’t be too hard, just lift the pencil above the lash line a little and press down harder. Fill in any gaps of colour inside the triangle.
  • Use the darker colour to join the triangle to the lower lid and draw a thin line just along the lower lash line. Depending on the colours and how striking you want to look, you can stop midway on the lower lid or take it right to the inner corner of the eye and join it to the upper lid line.
  • Use a liquid liner to outline the upper and lower lash lines. You can also outline the triangle on the outside and make the wingtips sharper.

Jhumkaed & Wingtipped: Now here’s a rare occasion when I used shape instead of colour for drama. This is the Lakme Shine Line grey but in long, dramatic wingtips. I also used it to draw a very thin line on each lower lid and filled in the inside of the lid with smokey-grey eye pencil. Blazing red lipstick and silver jhumkas did the rest.

Whimsy: Never forget that your face is a canvas and make-up, nothing more than your pallette! This is a time I went all out. In addition to teal, turquoise and navy in gel pencils and liquid liner, I also added shape drama. First the wingtips in the method I mentioned in ‘Peacock Eyes’. Then a couple of squiggles at the outer corners of each eye. In case you’re wondering, yes, I did go out like this.

My Sense Of Safety Trumps Your Right To My Acceptance

An Indian student was denied an internship because of the rapes and the idea that Indian society allows them to go on for such a long time. (See an account here) Obviously, lets outrage about the racism in that.

And now hear this. I have never liked Delhi, despite having been born there and having visited my relatives there almost every year. I tend to be much more cautious around men I know have grown up in Delhi, an attitude that gets me a lot of flak from the people in my life. I might go so far to say that I’m reluctant to date or become friends with a man who has grown up in this city.

My reasoning is this — Delhi men grow up in a culture that routinely victimises & objectifies women and glorifies the macho male oppressor behaviour. I know this from firsthand experience of the people I know from that city, from what they tell me about it as well as how they behave around women. While I know many men will probably rise above that, I have no easy way of knowing which of them do. I can only do this by trusting blindly that they are ‘just like other men’ and the only way I will discover if they are not, is when I have a bad experience. What do I owe these men that I should take that chance?

I also know that other parts of this country, including my own, also see crimes against women. But just because my home is imperfect, does not minimise Delhi’s crimes against women. It’s possible that Delhi’s violent crimes are just a better reported statistic than others. But based on information that I have (first and secondhand), I make an assessment about a large group of human beings. I have to do so because I do not have the time, energy and bandwidth to examine each person’s motives and inclinations. I also think the risk of being wrong far outweighs the fact that it might be a very small chance of being wrong.

Why should I be ashamed to protect myself? The crimes being perpetrated deserve an apology to the entire female population and we know that’s not exactly soon in coming. This is a choice I make because my safety is at stake and that is more important to me than a strange man’s right to my positive acceptance. Funny how people think that attacking my self-protective stance is more important than tackling the reasons I have to protect myself.

Now tell me why I’m different from that German professor.

I Wear: Red & Roaring

This is my last winter-delayed post, I promise. It’s too hot to even look at woolens and collars, I know. My big style (and spiritual) revelation of 2014 was returning to my soul colour – RED. Red brought back the memory of who I used to be and who I still am, deep down. RAWWWWWRRRRRRR!!!

I Wear:

  • Red suede shoes: R City Mall, Vikhroli
  • Red & black pullover: Bandra stalls
  • Glass heart pendant on a chain: Gift from Reena (see when I wore this as Neil Gaiman’s Desire)
  • Lion ‘Roar’ socks: Forever New
  • Blue jeans: Levis
  • Butterfly earrings: Connaught Place, New Delhi
  • Makeup: Red lipstick, stark black gel pencil on upper lid only (no wingtips, no glitter)

Old Healed Wounds That Ache In Bad Weather

At the Performance Poetry workshop I attended yesterday, we looked at some videos of performers. One of them had a few notes playing in the background and the performer speaking in a characteristic singsong, often-rhyming style. I blurted out,

“But that’s rap!”

The others smiled and told me that rap was quite close to spoken word poetry. It upset me more than I could explain, for a good while. It’s a good thing Rochelle had us do a meditation exercise after that to ground our creative thoughts, else my day might have been wiped out.

The ex is a rapper. That in itself should not change much since some of my other exes live in the same city and love reading and this hasn’t put me off either Mumbai or books. But rap is what he used as a weapon to put me down, to distance me from other parts of his life, to explain away why he didn’t need to put in an equal effort into the relationship.

I tried really hard to understand the form. I’m nothing else if not thorough. I looked it up online, I spoke to other people who might know something about it and I begged, yes begged, him to teach me. Every time I was met with responses like ‘You don’t really think it’s music anyway; why don’t you go listen to that white music shit?’ Add this to the fact that every book, movie, song, activity or event I expressed an interest in, would be heavily judged and condescended to, under the excuse that it was pretentious or capitalist or white propaganda. I learnt to fear anything that wasn’t rap.

At a rare event where I would be permitted to go along, I had to keep my mouth shut or be accused of trying to hijack attention from him/his friends/hiphop with my rock/pop/social media shit. I attended several open mics, sat through endless rehearsals, went to a concert, a cipher and everywhere I tried to be as inconscpicuous as possible. I learnt to fear everything that was rap.

It has been three years since he proposed marriage to me and after a very public announcement, threw me out without explanation. Several things happened after that, all good. Unexpected new friendships, professional metamorphosis and yes, love and support too.

Last week, a new friend asked me if I still loved him. I replied that I didn’t know how to answer that. I will never want to be a part of his life again. I have a full life, personally, professionally, socially and emotionally. A lot of the time I get by perfectly fine and even happily. But every now and then something pops up that reminds me of him, like a long-healed fracture that aches in damp weather. I’m unable to hate him intensely enough to want something bad to happen to him — this is the person I thought I would spend my life with, after all.

What I do feel is an absolute sense of despair. I could not have done anything to avoid being with him — there were no warning signs. I have changed greatly because of the relationship and its aftermath so I can’t exactly say I regret it either. I have plunged the depths of his troubled insides so I know where his negativity stems from. I still struggle with the guilt he has laid on me on walking away from a troubled person and I’m petrified that I’ll have to deal with it for the rest of my life. I feel unable to break free of the stranglehold he has over my happiness. The only thing I’ve learnt, is to ignore it as one ignores baying street dogs and walk away.

But in the past few weeks it seems like the darkness that he represents is drawing closer and closer. I’ve returned to one of the creative communities/platforms in the city that I avoided for three years. It is where I met him and it’s where I faded away because he left no room for any glory for me. I haven’t run into him there but I constantly fear that I will.

I’ve begun dating again and possibly because of the nature of my work & social life, I only meet younger men. I cannot stop myself from fearing the power they have that I don’t — the luxury of being selfish and needy without having to bear the repercussions.

Without a conscious desire to, I seem to have become more active in talking about gender issues. And there, I encounter people who know him and the work that he is doing. I come across public statements made by him, which I remember as things I told him (yes, this has happened more than once. Even when I was his girlfriend he didn’t think he should give me credit; what makes anyone think he’ll do it now?) It makes me sick, enough to feel like I will throw up, when I come across his statements about treating women right. He did not treat me right and he has shown neither remorse nor acknowledgement of this. But I also know that seeking vindication is not going to bring me any real sense of peace. My closure continues to be my own bloodied, tangled business.

I’ve ventured into what I thought was a new creative arena for me. It has demanded even more honesty and dealing with difficult stuff, than writing has. It has not been easy since the closest, most intense experience I’ve had, has been of him. And now, to realise that it’s so dangerously close to the creative world he inhabits. I’m two words short of running screaming from the planet.

I’ve been grappling with this for days now. Each time I’m propped up by a close friend or one of my Alphabet Sambar people (oh what good luck, what a blessing to have this community — I never thought it would serve as an emotional anchor). But today I was sucker-punched again by the internet. His profile came up on the QuickMatches on a dating site I’m on. It says we’re 82% compatible. I read through his profile the same way I stop and look at badly mangled victims of accidents. It made me sick to the stomach. No factual inconsistencies; and such a world of lies. This is the kind of profile I would find interesting, the kind of guy I’d find enchanting. It makes me question everyone else that I find interesting now. It makes me trust men, love and relationships less. It makes me fear Performance Poetry because of its closeness to Rap.

I don’t know even how to end this. So I’m going to go eat lunch and try and forget today happened. Maybe when I finish the meal, I’ll realise it was all a terrible dream and that I’m not really a writer and there’s nothing called Performance Poetry and that he’s just a figment of my tired imagination.

Thank you Ronaan for holding my hand and keeping me from bursting into tears yesterday. Thank you Adi, Reema, Rochelle, Shaunak, you keep me going.

I Wear: Goth Metal

This was back in December, of course. That’s the only time Mumbai lets you even hint at winter wear. So a smart Mumbaikar makes full use of the days that are. This was a dreary day that was set to begin with a sleep backlog, high pressure and crunched deadlines. I had to bring out the big guns. Black, red, spikes and attitude.

I Wear:

  • Faux leather sleeveless jacket with metal rivets: Forever New
  • worn over generic black turtleneck
  • with Navy jeans (not seen)
  • and Grey snakeskin boots (not seen)
  • topped up with blazing red lip colour and stark black eye pencil (no glitter, no shading, no wingtips).

It was a good day.

How To Go Viral Effectively — Ask Rega Jha

#RegaJha trended on Twitter yesterday. Here is what caused it.

A tweet that:
– appeared right after a high-emotion, visible match
– had nothing to do with cricket
– contained the keywords ‘India’ and ‘Pakistan’
– had a view that is scientifically unverifiable & subjective
– did not touch on any actual political or religious sensitivities
– was posted by a woman

So viral content that provoked attention, instigated response and sharing, sparked off conversations and loyalty-battles threading along unrelated issues (politics, beauty norms, gender dynamics) but did not get into trouble for anything.

I would expect nothing less from a Buzzfeed editor.

You can continue outraging and getting played now.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -— — — — -— — — — -

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

I Wear: Everything Matches The Headscarf

Punekars and Chennaiites have known this for years. Mumbai is not new to dust, pollution and heat but well, some things just take time to catch on, okay? And Andheri, home to the worst traffic snarls and construction sites in the city has taken to this with gusto. Well, this Andherigirl certainly has.

My daily survival kit when I leave home includes mobile phone, wallet, keys, handkerchief, water bottle and sunglasses. Only one item changes in this otherwise staple collection – the headscarf. I now have a neat collection of headscarves of various colours, patterns and shapes. Their sole purpose it to protect face, hair and throat from the rigours of Andheri.

I’ve now taken to matching my make-up and other garments to the headscarf and why not? It’s a trend I first saw in Istanbul in 2008 and I was intrigued by the oomph of fully covered women in scarves, brooches and full sleeves, all matched. So here are two of my recent forays:

I Wear:

  • LEFT – Orange, yellow, purple & blue silk rectangular striped scarf with blue eyeliner & blouse and pink lipstick
  • RIGHT – Brown, cream & blue silk rectangular abstract scarf with teal eyeliner, red lipstick and sky blue jacket
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