Flinch, Harriet

It’s a good thing June’s here. April was awful. May was better, in comparison, but not actually good. I’ve spent the first ten days of June realising that I survived my personal goal of two months of the Anti-Flinch ban. What have I learnt? That flinching is not all bad.

I read ‘Harriet the Spy’. A 11-year-old girl writes her thoughts and (sometimes snoopy) observations in a notebook. Her friends find it and read the book, hate what they read and proceed to attack her systematically. The family and system gets involved, take away her books and force her into therapy. Only a writer who has been gagged will ever understand the horror of that. I have experienced this before, when I was much younger and worse off and it was bloody.

Since the horrible incident in March, I’ve been silenced and lashed with statements like ‘Everyone thinks you’re a man-hater’ and ‘You’re just being silly, honey’. I’ve barely been able to breathe and not realised it. And the words stuffed back into me, turned into something poisonous (just like with Harriet) that made me sick. I was being suffocated.

Come first of June, I switched off my phone in a lot of pain. It hurt so much, too much to make sense of what why where who. Literally a minute later, I could suddenly breathe. I slept well for the first time in months. The next morning when I awoke, I reached for the phone. And then I thought, this feels so good, let me have just a little more. The phone stayed off 13 hours. I am not talking about freedom from social media notifications but freedom from a different sort of poison. Till I dared switch off my phone, I didn’t realise exactly what I was fearing.

I interrupt sleep, work, social occasions to respond immediately, fearing violent reactions from a few people in my life. I keep my phone on through the night, sometimes getting up at 4AM, just to show, ‘I’m there for you, 24 x 7′. In those 13 hours I realised, none of those people do the same for me. What’s more, in the past few months, they’ve been dismissive of my problems, lied to me, blamed me for things that have nothing to do with me, just not been there and shrugged it off with the excuse of ‘I’m having problems’. It was adding starvation to suffocation.

Perhaps this is my own fault. There is an ego-stroke by way of feeling needed, a grandeur in being the saviour. That same ego notices that it is being battered by being made to feel terrible for being there. No more. I can give this up, like I can give up other potential addictions. And I do those by quitting cold turkey. If that is like a flinch reaction, hallelujah, the anti-flinch ban has been lifted.

Shutting my phone off was the first step to throwing off both suffocation and starvation. Lifting my anti-flinch ban has let me just move away from situations that are detrimental to my wellbeing. I bring my best to people (as much empathy, respect and hope as I can muster). And when they let me down or disappoint me, I move on. That’s labelled as reckless, cruel, impulsive and other things that made me mistake them for wrongful. But I need to be able to do this because if I don’t, I am trapped in situations with my unexpressed emotions turning poisonous.

My flinch reactions help me move out of detrimental situations or ones that have outlived their purpose. I am not a thoughtless, impulsive person. Quite the contrary. I invest a lot in people, situations and actions. Which means, if I do not give myself the permission to cease when I say stop, I imprison myself. My flinch reactions are inconvenient to other people, not to me. Especially when these are people who demand from me what they do not feel the need to give, it’s time to take my power back. I’m reclaiming the flinch.

June has been neither lonely nor sad. I’ve slept better than I have all year. I’ve rested easier. My garden grows well and I’m feeling easier in my mind. I can suddenly read again. And now, I’m writing.

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

Poets Talk — Quoted In The Afternoon Despath & Courier ‘More Power To Poetry’

The Afternoon Despatch & Courier (Afternoon DC) ran a story today about the emergence of poetry as a modern art form. I’m quoted alongside viral stars Aranya Johan, Sudeep Pagedar and InkStation founder Harshit Anurag. It’s great to see something that we are all so passionate about, receive widespread recognition.

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

A Little Circle Of Light

I might say it’s due to the antibiotics I’ve been on, for a week. My point of view is different but the picture is very much the same.

April brought a harsh 2017 to a head. Poetry has gone big and that means the possibility of money & fame. It’s bringing out the worst traits in people. Poetry requires one to share (or pretend ). So it’s darker and more uncomfortable than the same politics elsewhere. It’s turning out to be a hard year all around. In coping with their own lives, people react in poisonous ways towards other people – by lashing out, by becoming political or judgemental or by trying to control other people.

I felt very lonely two weeks ago. It made me angry and fearful and deeply sad. It forced out an important conversation. I did not like how it went but from sheer fatigue, I succumbed to an illusion that it got resolved. It pushed me into conversations of intimacy with other people. We always tend to think of intimacy as a soft, pretty, romantic thing but it’s not. Intimacy is the tender, slick, shiny pink of exposed flesh when the skin is peeled back. It’s really hard to deal with.

Looking back, I’m not surprised I caught a bad cold. I could blame it on the weather but my body is a metaphor for everything going on in my life. All the tangles, all the unshed tears trying to burst out of me all at once. I gave up and succumbed to antibiotics and blessed, drugged sleep. When I woke up, I was on stage at the NCPA. I delivered and walked away.

Yes, I said that. On Friday, I performed on the NCPA stage, one of the most prestigious performing venues in the country. It was a collaboration with Ishmeet Nagpal and Sudeep Pagedar. Our spoken word piece ‘The Parenting Economy’ debuted at the Laadli Media Awards for Gender Sensitivity in Media & Advertising. It was a chance to perform for the likes of Barkha Dutt (who introduced us), Shashi Tharoor, Dolly Thakore, Kamla Bhasin and Dr.A.L. Sharada. After our performance, I moved into the audience and watched the wonderful work being felicitated. It made all that usually occupies my mind, seem so trivial. Feminism is such an important issue and it impacts every human being on the planet. All the people in that auditorium that evening, even with all their complex backstories – they are all people who have driven things that changed many lives. I am but a minuscule voice in this rallying cry but it is a privilege to have this voice. As a blogger, as a stage performer, I have a chance to take forward an important truth that breaks status quo. I cannot let myself fall prey to such petty things as slam poets’ insecurity or fuckboi manipulation.

The wonderful Sharanya Mannivannan was there too to receive an award for her book ‘The High Priestess Never Marries‘. I think I’ve known Sharanya from my Desi Pundit days when I featured her blog. That admiration connection flowed into Twitter. When I saw her at the India Culture Lab event last year, I was blown away with her grace (physical and verbal). Hit by a panic-attack of shyness, I barely spoke to her. I meet people I admire so rarely now that when I do, I’m back to being an awkward 5-year old. She tweeted to me later asking why I hadn’t told her I was @ideasmithy. But she was kind, never wavering in her treatment of me as an equal. So it was an extra scoop of wonderful from the universe, to spot her in the audience and realise I’d be performing for her. We sat on the grass and chatted awhile afterwards. And it was nice.

Back home, my Facebook Events and Whatsapp try and ensnare me back into the dirty politics. I am a part of it too. I’ve brought my own rage and flinch reactions to it. I can see the ripple effects they’ve caused – cracks in perfect friendships, disillusion creeping into the bonhomie and a plaintive cry of hurt from someone I set in their place. Okay. I am done. The dregs are passing out of my system. It’s time for a new world. A new goal, a new network of relationships, a new me?

No. One thing that stands out clearly to me in this is what the real me is and that never changes. The real me is this one sitting calm and still, underneath all the pain and the disappointment and rage, beneath even the love and hurt and panic. The real me is hidden under layers of rotting tears, of congealed snot and undigested acid but it’s untouched and unfazed by it. The real me watches, offers caring when it wants, sits patiently when it sees that love will not be received and waits it out till the universe is ready again. The real me is a little circle of pure light. I’m sitting inside that right now and nothing can touch me. I’ll be back when you need me again. Till then, take care, you.

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

What’s Your Poison? – Addictions You May Not Know You Have

Mondays always feel like a good thing, even in the hardest of my times. They’re a chance to start afresh, turn my back on whatever has gone on in the past week/s  and begin anew. This is true whether the times in the past have been good or bad because both of them wear me out equally. I am a different person from myself when I am sad or stressed. I also don’t quite feel myself when I’m partying or receiving an undue amount of adulation. Neither extreme feels normal and it’s a bit disorienting.

My friend Aditya has been on a journey away from cigarettes (Read his post ‘5 Things I Learnt From 100 Days Of Not Smoking‘). I’ve always been very proud of the thought that I don’t get addicted easily so perhaps I have not been as considerate or compassionate to those who struggle with nicotine, alcohol or other addictions. But it has occurred to me recently that abusive/emotionally manipulative men are my addiction. Their bad behaviour is not my fault but might I be gravitating towards conversations and situations that put me in the proximity of people like this? And why? Because it feels familiar. I know it’s bad for me but it feels known and thus, safe. Isn’t that exactly what chain smokers say? I did not realise it because no one around me other than women’s magazines thought that it was a thing. But it’s a pattern that hurts me, impedes me and that I do not know how to get out of.

Marian Keyes’ ‘Rachel’s Holiday‘ opened me up to the idea that addiction is not entirely about willpower. It is also not about alcohol, cigarettes, drugs or the substance/habit being abused. It is about a behaviour pattern in response to something else, that does not serve the addict very well. But in the addict’s mind, they’re still trying to combat whatever caused them to form the habit in the first place, never mind if it has outlived its purpose (or if it ever fulfilled that purpose well).

We all have problems and all of us face situations that are new, alarming and scary to us, frequently; this is the nature of life. This must mean, we are all creating potential addictions for ourselves, every single day. The kind of lives we live today, millennials – with the pressures of the digital world, an unstable world economy and insecure jobs, heavy gaslighting from other and our own generation – we are at high risk.

Cigarettes and alcohol seem minor in comparison. The world acknowledges these. We have nicotine patches and Alcoholics Anonymous. But what of the millions of other ways that we find to escape realities we cannot bear, and then find ourselves trapped within that escape route?

My ex spent an unnatural amount of time in his gaming universe. He owned three console devices, not including controllers and his computer. He’d reminisce fondly of the times when he could spend entire weekends gaming, never even getting up to brush his teeth, let alone anything else. He’d also invite me over then make me watch him play, resenting every instance that I protested. Every minute that he couldn’t spend with his games, was a reason for him to hate the world. And since I was a part of that, I was the recipient of his hatred. Gaming sounds like an ‘If you’re not cool, you won’t get it’ habit to a lot of us, so read this paragraph again this time substituting gaming with alcohol. See what I mean? We know the term Alcoholic but have we come up with Gameoholic?

Reema keeps me on the straight and clear in many ways. She embodies the healthy lifestyle right from her food habits to the way she thinks about people, work and life. But I worry sometimes that she overdoes it on the fitness regimen. She is almost always reasonable but I catch a glimpse of her possible addiction when it comes to exercising. There are times when I want to ask her whether that particular exercise or activity is really for better fitness or whether she’s just used to pushing herself and wants to prove that she can do it. These are two very different reasons and I think the only reason to do a fitness activity should be because it builds fitness. If it’s the second reason, it smells suspiciously like addiction.

A habit is only behaviour that we compulsively repeat. The only thing determining good or bad is its proportion in our lives with respect to other things. What’s tricky is keeping our sense of perspective. With so much going on in all our lives, just out of sheer exhaustion, most of us sink into one or two things, a few activities, a few people, a few ways of thinking.

Try this experiment. Go to your cupboard and take out all the clothes in it. How many of them have you actually worn in the past month? I’m willing to bet that it’s only around 10% of what you own, which you’ve repeated over and over again. Everything else gets pushed to the back and the chances are you forget a lot of that exists. A lot of our life is the same way. Our habits (addictions) push the rest of our lives to the back. And unfortunately for us, most of life isn’t like a nice tee-shirt. It won’t look the same if you retrieve it two months or twenty years later.

The only action I can think of is just that – keep thinking constantly. Have I missed anything? Am I doing this because I’m just used to it or is it actually furthering my life? This does not all have to be efficient, money-generating or socially respectable things. But when you spend two hours of your life with a person, is it just because there’s no one else around or is it because you really want to meet them? If it’s company you crave, does this company fulfil you the way a good meal would when you’re hungry or is it like a  cigarette that suppresses your appetite and coats your lungs with tar? If you prefer being by yourself, is it because you feel invigorated and recharged by solitude or do you fear the world’s company? If summer is your favourite season, is it really because you enjoy the heat or is it because you’re grateful that it’s not raining instead? This last is a question I am asking myself and it’s not an easy one to answer. So rest assured I really do understand.

Our addictions are very dear to us because we feel they’ve protected us from something unpleasant or scary in the past. They’ve also stayed with us long enough to feel familiar. But be aware, the walls that keep out the elements can very easily turn into prison bars. Windows and doors exist for a reason. All that stands between freedom and captivity is remembering how to get out. And we do need to get out frequently or forgetting becomes a habit too.

I wish you all a lot of courage and hope in addressing your own addictions. And I hope this week dawns easier for us all.

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

NaPoWriMo 2017: Picture-verse W-Z

And the last week of April came to a close with struggles and resolutions, some that were overturned, some that were reconfirmed. My confusion and fatigue shows in the poetry but I think it is poetry. I managed to complete the challenge, even if a day late.

April 2017 was a month of 51 picture poems. That is why I haven’t blogged all month. Here’s the last edition of the April A-Z. The others were my daily YourQuote pieces. (Also read A-HI-O and P-V)

W is for Writer

X is for X-Rated

Y is for You

Z is for Zero

Read the entire April A-Z 2017 collection of picture-poems:

A-H
I-O
P-V
W-Z

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

NaPoWriMo 2017: Picture-verse P-V

By the third week of April, the writing fatigue started to show and I got a bit lax, skipping a few days and then binge-writing. But I pulled it off. I must add that I’ve also been doing my daily YourQuote poem in addition to these. A couple of times, I doubled up the same poem to also fit that day’s NaPoWriMo A-Z prompt. (Also read A-HI-O and W-Z here.)

P is for Pillowtalk

(feat. Reema)

Q is for Quiet

R is for Retail Therapy

S is for Shadow-boxing

(the day I cheated but not quite because this one is the truest truth I’ve written all April. In other news, the darkness is back.)

T is for Trampilicious

I’m not pretty or delicate. And neither is my poetry.

U is for U-turns

Remembering an ex, but what’s the use of those unless you can turn them into writing?

V is for Vhee!

Read the entire April A-Z 2017 collection of picture-poems:

A-H
I-O
P-V
W-Z

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

NaPoWriMo 2017: Picture-verse I-O

The second week of April was full of deep, piercing questions on love, ownership, boundaries and shame. And it showed in verse. You can read A-H P-V and W-Z here.

I is for Indian

J is for Jealous

K is for Knowing

L is for L❤️ve Poem

M is for Man

N is for Nightfall

O is for Orgasm

Read the entire April A-Z 2017 collection of picture-poems:

A-H
I-O
P-V
W-Z

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

NaPoWriMo 2017: Picture-verse A-H

I attempted NaPoWriMo, the worldwide challenge to write a poem a day and mixed it in with April A-Z. I also made every day a picture-poem. Here’s week 1. (Also read I-OP-V and W-Z here.)

A is for April Fool

B is for Belief

C is for Convenient

D is for Disillusionment

E is for Egg

F is for Facebook Friends

G is for Ghost

H is for Have You?

I found that just like with the daily fiction challenge, the truth starts to come out after the first few lines of pretty words. I also attempted rhyming now and then, something I usually avoid. Some days were a forced attempt, other days it flowed. I guess that’s the thing about writing challenges. All you have at the end of the day, is your truth. And that is all writing ever needs to be.

Read the entire April A-Z 2017 collection of picture-poems:

A-H
I-O
P-V
W-Z

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

BOOK Revi: Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher

ewThirteen Reasons WhyThirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this book after hearing everyone talk about the television show (which I still haven’t seen). The Wikipedia entry promised that this would be dark and it wasn’t lying. It’s nowhere close to Gone Girl but I’d say Gone Girl’s Amy may have been something like this book’s Hannah Baker when she was younger.

The things that happen to Hannah expose the brutal gendered violence and hostility meted out to women all over the world, even in privileged groups like white urban America. Slut-shaming, fuckboy manipulation, bullying, stalking, harassment, rape…all of these find graphic mention in the story. These are important issues that do not get addressed enough and worse, are invalidated by even the legal systems across nations.

The blurb already tells you about the dead girl’s suicide note via cassette tapes. There is a whiny, accusatory tone throughout, which I suppose stays true to this being a diary entry style confessional about a suicidal (now dead) teenager. There is a very specific point where Hannah’s narrative goes from shocked victim to mentally unstable. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing since it seems to indicate that depression could be caused by external events rather than being an illness of its own kind.

It’s not very clear why Clay is part of this story at all, given there’s absolutely no foreshadowing or indication that she even knows of his existence. Similarly, Tony is a bit too deus ex machina. All the characters other than Hannah and Clay appear one-dimensional. I’m not sure that this is a deliberate attempt to establish an unreliable narrator. It just seems like poor characterisation. Even given the first person narrative, it’s interspersed with enough of Clay’s point of view to balance out the other characters. The book does not do this.

I guess in sum, I’d say this book could have been better but considering there isn’t one mainstream one addressing these issues among teenagers in an easy-to-read way, this is as good as it gets. It’s quite readable.

View all my reviews

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

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