It’s still a work in progress. But if you’re reading this, it’s likely you know that describes my entire journey as IdeaSmith. Maybe you’ve been part of this journey since 2004, when I begin as a twenty-something on the internet, my curiosity about new tools overcoming my conditioning as a woman to fear everything and venture nothing. Maybe you came my way via my first flush of attention with the mid-2000s group blogs and community projects. Maybe we connected on Twitter, back when it was the new kid on the digital block. Maybe you’ve seen me go up on stage. Maybe our paths just converged via WordPress, Alphabet Sambar digital communities. Or maybe the serendipity of life and the internet had us meet some time and brought me your way again.
Whatever be our origin story, I’d love to continue it into this new chapter. For now, I apologise for how awkward & outdated this is, in a world of quick clicks and automated migrations (things I’m still grappling with). But if you’d like to continue our connection, please go right through here.
All my posts from this blog are there (or should be, please ping me if you notice a gap). You’ll also see posts from my other blog that has run on almost as long and done its share in defining who I’ve become, XX Factor. So here I am now, the same person, an old name as well as the one you have known.
Does anybody remember Sincerity? She hasn’t been seen in a long time. We read about her in Moral Science textbooks. We co-opted her name in the style of the (insincere) British as we learnt to sign letters. Sincerely, Yours.
Sincerity was never in vogue. He’s come in under attack by Popularity who really got a leg up when it partnered with Charm. And when Diplomacy came to beautify their union, all was lost.
Sincerity succumbed to assault. Microaggressions like Condescension & Sarcasm. Transgressions of White Lies & Gaslighting. Sincerity may have been rescued by the love of Purity. But Purity, that good thing was poisoned by the powermongering of Virginity, of Vegetarianism, of Capitalism, of Exclusivity & Privilege.
I’m looking for Sincerity. Is there any out there? I think we’re doomed if it isn’t. All we’ll have left is sonic echo chambers & filtered illusions. And each other. And who are we without Sincerity?
I am hard to love. This is not news to me. This has been expressed in a range of ways, covert & overt, verbal & otherwise. The revelation is that it has only partly to do with who & how I am. The rest has to do with who & how the people who consider loving me, are. Love, after all, is an interaction, a living, flowing thing.
It is easier to love in contexts that we’ve been taught. People who look & sound one way. Lives that move in tangible directions. Decisions that are expressed in specific ways.
Considering bodies, situations & feelings that do not fit what we know, takes effort. It may need new vocabulary. It does need re-assessing how we think about affection, support, dependency, relating. And these force us to think about who we are.
So when someone is saying you are hard to love, they are saying they do not know how to love you. If they say this with anger, they’re also saying that what they see of you fills them with fear. The only context they have to process this is with blame.
But we all need love. Breaking free of a restrictive idea of how a human being should be, is an act of rebellion. The real courage lies in facing that it may take us to a place where the people still in the system do not know how to love us. They may choose not to make the effort. They may not be able to. It doesn’t matter.
At this juncture, does suffering serve us? I think it brings us to a new crossroad. We see who we are, independent of the accepted idea, separate from other people’s feelings. Do we find it possible to love ourselves? If we don’t, maybe it’s better to return to known references of being. At least there is an established currency of loving back there.
I’m currently assessing where & how to do this. Maybe identity is a journey rather than a fixed state. I’ve been a solo traveler for a long time, travelling light. It might be nice to be recognised for once.
I looked up the meaning of ‘brutalise’. I discovered it means two things. 1. To make brutal 2. To be brutal
And everywhere I looked, the first came with more explanation. We assume the quality of brutality is not inherent in people, that it is caused by having experienced such behaviour oneself. I don’t like to think there are no monsters, only victims.
When you have been treated with brutality, you have the dual challenge of healing & learning to empathise with who or what brutalised you. If not, you risk becoming the brutaliser (because the lack of empathy is what makes one a brute).
If you have bled, have you stopped the bleeding or have you drained out of all blood? In being brutalised, have you succumbed to brutality? Being brutalised & being brutal, these are separate. So does being brutalised split us into infinite fragments of brutality?
Maybe it is not a dual challenge – healing & empathising. In being broken, the only way forward is to rejoin, not to break others. The real strength then is not let brutality find a permanent mark in us.
The quality of empathy is fluid. It cannot be contained to just some situations & people & times. It is who you are. The fluid cannot be broken. Only briefly diverted & it can always reunite with itself again.
I don’t think I grasped that a new normal would have to be a new idea of normal. I don’t know if I’ll ever travel by junta public transport again, the second class compartments, the trains & metros. By the time it may be safe to, I may not physically & emotionally be as blase about it as I have been. Public transport has been my life connection to the city that has defined me. It had also been a comfortable way for me to pretend I’m ‘junta’ & not really privileged. A new normal must include accepting that.
The second wave & lockdown hit me harder than the first one. I think the first time around, I was able to build a bubble of self-sufficiency & productivity, which was still some kind of denial. The second time though, that bubble popped, the veneer wore thin. I’ve had to face who I am under these as I realise the surface bustle is just skin. It’s not all hard. It is a relief to set my guard down & admit I need help. But it’s an uncomfortable space since relief isn’t familiar to me. My new normal is learning to be at ease.
New people & connections are easier with my new normal me, which may explain my current Clubhouse fascination. It’s a clean slate. But denial has had to be dropped with old me, which means I can’t ignore or discard things that are hard. Old connections have to be transformed or closed with respect & grace. Not everyone wants to do that. But it is on me to bring grace from my end. Sometimes that means saying “Okay, goodbye.” Even if it means crying on the shoulder of someone else about this loss. Crying but still walking, even if with help, that’s my new normal too.
Eventually, the biggest struggle of this pandemic is to outlast it, even if with scars & transformation. I guess survival is normal & change has always been normal. Stay safe, stay kind, stay hopeful, you.
Clubhouse has really brought home the meaning of this phrase. The ability to read a room is a fundamental social skill involving waiting, watching & listening. Any adult who doesn’t display this is choosing not to.
People wander into rooms with clear titles, raise their hands to be called up to stage only to interrupt the conversation. A staggering majority of these are men whose first instinct is to demand to be heard & the first thing they say is “What’s going on?”. Barging into a conversation is impolite in real life (yet many men do it). Manterrupting is an especially annoying form of manspreading.
But the unwillingness to read a room isn’t limited to one gender. Any event (and now CH room) is besieged by folks with no special interest in the proceedings. They stumble in wanting to be part of something. But they do not want to engage, only disrupt. Smarmy compliments & toxic fanperson behaviour substitute for personality. But they also demand attention NOW. Interrupt-and-dash is a common M.O.
Another type is adept at slithering into rooms & making it about themselves. These are the ones who turn a group conversation into an inside joke with most people on the outside, vying to get in. Toxic couples do this with compulsive “we like this/we do that” collective pronouning. And there’s usually one such person who slides into a group & employs the same strategem to divide. They don’t stop even when they notice the group fragment; that is what they want.
I practise filteration – only allow accounts with bios to stage, push back into audience if they interrupt, don’t mute or disrupt, unfollow so they can’t enter Social rooms. Boundaries help keep socialising fun & rejuvenating rather than tiring. Because people who won’t read the room are boundary violators. Clubhouse proves this because it’s really easy to start a room of your own. If a person would rather highjack or disrupt your room, then they are looking for something other than conversation & you don’t have to be down with that. The app makes it easy to say, my room, my rules; respect them or byebye. Which after all, is just a healthy boundary.
My calling card is a color. One dab gives you a peek into a thousand stories, my stories. Ugly Duckling. Slumdog Cinderella without a Fairy Godmother. Poor thing.
Wear dark colors, the fashion mags advised. So I sat in navy, black & grey boxes. You’re ugly, he said, the pretty girl’s aggressive best friend. Books & silence became my refuge. You look easy, desperate for attention. So my spine curved as I hid inside black. The heroine’s lehenga is orange, you can’t wear that. Play the sidekick in dark blue. Use Fair & Lovely for six months before you meet my parents. I learnt to fear the burn of the spotlight
I realized then that this calling card laid out cell by cell all over me did not carry the words – Pretty. Beautiful. Lovable. Desirable. No one knew me by those names. My skin, a bag stuffed with too many pointed observations & odd shaped ends. Punctured with poetry & pain. Bursting with stories that did not fit, while everyone looked the other way, politely, waiting for me to tidy up & conform.
But the mirror said I’ll be there for the rest of your life. You’ll be alone. Better get used to me. I closed my eyes, went within. Inside I found technicolor emotions. Oil paint fractals of thoughts. Animal prints of passion. Rainbow ideas
I’d found when the world stops listening to your stories, the walls turn audience. Your breathing becomes applause. What looked good on me was what looked good to me. Who plays invisible sidekick in their own life? Who can hide in shame inside their own skin? Not me. I wasn’t even good at hide-and-seek. No room for maroon & navy & apologetic beige in my skin. So I chucked them out & painted a new calling card.
With a palette Of sunny yellow vivacity Teal and turquoise rhymes An orange slash of leadership Sparkly silver maths & science Audacious words on a blazing red mouth And I came out to the world again This time, wearing me.
The world listens . My calling card is a color. A homespun, hand painted color. Of island city melanin. And experienced grey. And it says, every hue is mine.
You had me at eye contact Kind words & other trespasses But you are uncomfortable in silences In the no-man’s land of sighs & whispers In sensations that carry no words, feelings that float So you find your comfort in speed & speech
Make it quick, you tell me, this ‘we’ thing Draw us a border Or you-and-me might just stick You’re really saying hug me like it doesn’t matter that it’s not a kiss instead And what do you know, I do
Our futures plotted in terms & conditions I sign off on our mutual definitions, Friends. We walk away seeking drama & glory Hawking plastic sentiments to anyone who will fall for our words
When we pass each other in the economy class of stories Nevertheless, we wave across our borders Flashing airbrushed relationship statuses In lieu of hellos Because who needs to?
Occasionally, when we speak Our remembering collides, Our laughter & quips Flake & chip on each other We bleed byte-sided poetry We are travelling merchants of words With love however, we will still have no dealings
And now, packing trophy experiences Boarding passes in hand, we wait, Side-by-side at some airport I hope that the call that comes for me will be yours too All I ask is that you leave the door of possibility open
But maybe you won’t No baggage, no labels No messes, no fusses We’ll be amiable fellow passengers Cordial partners even But there’s nothing in our contract that says we can’t hold hands.
I’ve been quieter with my writing recently. I try to keep my presence online positive & hopeful, a big challenge in recent times. I don’t want to disrespect the listening I get from my followers by expecting them to deal with my shit in addition to their own. So it’s been better to be silent.
I have been exploring the big new fad called Clubhouse & I have so many thoughts. With all the clashing noises, I still have to say I’m thrilled to feel this charge I get from feeling the presence of other people around me. However they are, whoever they are. Because I am a communicator. I am nurtured by connection with other living creatures. And communication is my favorite form of connection.
I wish we’d stop referring to communication as a skill. ’Skill’ implies that it can be taught & expertise gained with time. It’s not. Vocabulary can be learnt. Grammar can be memorised. But communication is about who you are. It is the desire to engage with the world, to commune with the surrounding, connect with another living being.
To communicate is to approach with respect & offer a connection. It is to be open to the unknown realm of reactions that this could invite. You really cannot do this with a script or checklist of demands.
Being a communicator & especially one in the shifting, growing space of digital brings me so much insight about my own self. I find myself overrun, triggered, trolled & violated, yes. But I’m learning to build firmer & better boundaries (rather than defense systems). And I’m learning better who I am.
This is a lot of things. But who I choose to be here, is a person of hope, cheer, gentleness & fun. And when I can’t be, to not be at all here. This doesn’t reduce me. It actually grows me because I’m exercising choice. I am more than the words I say at this moment, the words I say in one place. I am also the words I choose not to share & I am my silences too. I get to decide that.
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