A Pink Bird Flies Through The Ruins

 

Mid 2000s: I was fresh off the press, newly minted professional and facing a reality that I was not prepared for because the generation before mine had never seen it — RECESSION. I was the forerunner of a generation that would only be named a few years later but would come to define worldwide shifts. I had lived in the same city my whole life and I had rarely ventured beyond my home-college-workplace circuit – physically or mentally.

I found my dream job in an industry that I’d wanted to join and a good company. I had also been blogging for over a year and was just discovering that I had a voice and a place to exercise it. Each day was a new lesson. Even my daily commute became an adventure. I learnt about who I was and where I came from — because you really can’t have one without the other.

Mid 2010s: I took to the stage as a quest for a new life, smarting from deep wounds, forcing myself to shed every skin I’d accumulated. I started, with a promise to myself to carry a mindset of healing and not vengeance. I wanted to tell stories of hope, of inspiration, of triumph. It meant tapping into deep wells of emotion, of wading through long accumulated hurt, of salvaging the good parts, of picking out the broken bits and attempting to heal them.

One story that cried out to be shared, was of the bruised history of this city . Maybe all big cities are this way and each one in their own unique way. To me, the stage feels like a hyper concentrated experience of being a Mumbaiker. You are constantly being stripped down to your most basic truths because there is no time or space for extra baggage. And yet simultaneously, there is the sad knowledge that we cannot carry anymore, a lingering memory of all that we leave behind. It is us. I have been writing this story in diary entries, in blogposts, in poetry and finally, in performance for over a decade now.

View this post on Instagram

You can't know where you're going until you know where you've come from. And if you live in a big city like me, you may realise that with all your running, you never move from where you are. Honour that place, remember your history. I had a chance to share one of my most treasured stories on stage. This happened on the same day I crashed under the weight of #MeToo. I was naked on stage and in the story of my city. And maybe this is the only way to be. Mumbai demands it. The video of this piece is up on @indiehabitat Facebook Page and YouTube here: http://youtu.be/GldlPjCDmTg Welcome to my city. Honour the birds and honour the breaking walls. #mumbai #mymumbai @mymumbai #cityscape #cityscapes #urban #urbanliving #urbanperspectives #citylife #mumbailife #performance #storytelling #storytime #mumbaistory #sewri #chinchpokli #cottongreen #milltown #millland #textilemills #millsofmumbai #performer #liveperformance #liveperformance #oralstorytelling

A post shared by Ramya Pandyan (@ideasmithy) on

Last month, one telling of this story was picked to feature in The Habitat’s fortnightly line-up of oral storytellers. I ran through a story that sits comfortably with its words, because I’ve shared it so many times now. When I realised it was being recorded though, I asked if I could have a do-over. This is such an important story, that I felt it deserved more than an autopilot telling. They obliged.

The better part of this month has forced us all to examine in brutal detail, our emotions, our motivations and our identities. #MeToo encompasses and colours every interaction, every thought we’ve had about another person, every desire, every play for power. Raw, so raw. This is the only way I can explain what happened when I went back for a do-over telling.

I went up on the stage where I first learnt how to be a performer, with a story that finally fits right, after the years of edits and retellings and rethinkings and research. And midway, I felt myself collapse inside. The audience blurred before my eyes, my breath caught and I felt like my insides were old, withering and flammable, catching fire. and I felt like I was watching bricks and walls that make me, collapse. I mumbled “Sorry, I must leave.” and ran off the stage. I couldn’t stop shaking, sweating and feeling like I was going to drown in something unidentified that was rising from inside me. It was a good ten minutes before I recovered enough to be able to re-enter the room.

My story had nothing to do with the MeToo movement but it is laced with pain and we are living in a world of burning, screaming pain. I imploded. Where else could it happen but on stage, where one’s truths rise to the surface? When I returned, a stranger caught my hand and said, “Please go back and finish your story. It was so touching. I really want to hear it fully.” It gave me the courage to start again and luckily the host welcomed me back up.

A performance shifts in every rendition. And if you’ve seen this piece before, you might notice that it sounds sadder and more melancholy than before. But maybe that’s what the truth of this piece is — stripped of its showmanship and its sugar. This then, is FLAMINGOS, a story about the city I love and about people just like me.

Chinchpokli is a station on Mumbai’s Central train line. Cotton Green and Sewri are consecutive stations on Mumbai’s Harbour train line. All three of these roughly correspond to Lower Parel on Mumbai’s Western train line.

Most of the mills have been or are being redeveloped into urban commercial/office centers. Due to the laws, many of them are not allowed to destroy the original construction, which is why exposed beams, industrial pipes and chimneys still dot this landscape.

The flamingos appeared this year as well, delayed but in greater numbers. Bombay Natural History Society (among others) organises walking tours to see the flamingoes. You can also find your own way from outside Sewri station (on the east) to the docks where between rusty boats and fish-stained ropes, you may catch a glimpse of these migratory pink birds.

My city has flamingos.

========================================

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 #TimesUp India Is Making Me Realise About Myself

This was also published to XX Factor awhile ago since it deals with gender politics. But this post is also about who I am becoming or maybe who I’ve always been or maybe that doesn’t matter.

Last week India’s #MeToo / #TimesUp movement rose (again), sparked off by Mahima Kukreja’s outing of standup comic Ustav Chakrobarty sending unsolicited dickpics and badgering underage girls for nudes. It set off a chain reaction examining the complicit parties, the enablers and patterns of predators. Thread:

Since then it has spread to other performance spaces, to advertising, to media, to journalism, to publishing and more. All these alongside Bollywood’s own filth outing with Tanushree Datta’s allegations against Nana Patekar. And across the ocean, the US is grappling with the same issue over a man named Brett Kavanaugh. Sharing this video here as the only positive note of this story:

On one hand, I am so glad that these stories are finally finding their voices. I cannot even begin to comprehend the trauma of carrying these toxic secrets for so long and there are so many, so many of them. Every morning I’m waking up in fear over which man I’ve known, read, watched, applauded, appreciated, spoken to, smiled at will be outed as the next sexual predator. We are in so much pain.

It’s forcing a mirror to all of society and not just its toxic males. A few men I know have been outed at predators. Did I know? Did I suspect? Was that action that I shrugged off, actually an indication of something more sinister? Should I have laughed at that joke? Should I have warned this person? I introduced these people; what if one person took that as a trust guarantee and do I carry some responsibility if anything happened? What am I missing in the world and about the people around me, today?

So many of the stories I’m hearing have not even made it out yet because the victims fear that they are too young/unimportant/powerless and that their predators are too famous/rich/powerful. I am grappling with recognising that the victim of an assault or harassment can build an unreal sense of the perpetrator’s power while trying not to invalidate their feelings. How can you say “I believe you” and “No, that’s not true” at the same time?

Then there was the outing of someone I knew slightly and hadn’t really liked (though not because I had an encounter of this kind with him). He was outed by someone who in the past, has enabled my own abuser despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The question that hung over me was ‘Should I support someone who did not support me?’. It was a time of personal reckoning, figuring out who I wanted to be. I’d thought these aspects of my character would be set and figured out by this time in my life. Clearly, character is a lifelong process of testing. I passed. I don’t know that I feel good about it. Is feeling like I was denied justice, a better feeling to live with than guilt and vindication?

This same person, along with a lot of other people also put out a call asking to be told if they were friends with an abuser. It made me really angry at first. And then I realised, people don’t know what they’re asking for, when they ask for that door to be opened. When the sheer magnitude of this truth hits them, many recoil and their reaction is to assume they get to judge whether they should take action or not. No, I say. The minute you ask for the truth, you are asking for the victim’s trust. And the minute you bring judgement in, you are violating that trust. Complete trust in return for total lack of judgement is the deal. Here’s my thread on this matter:

Having said this, I’m realising that maybe I invite confessions and sharing from people just by talking about these issues. Over a decade ago, when I wrote this post about child abuse, it provoked a volley of reactions that I did not expect and did not know how to handle. I considered quitting blogging. A friend told me that I had stood for something and that mattered to the people who were sharing with me and that I had a responsibility towards them. I interpreted that to mean I’d have to be a space of listening (since I’m not qualified in any other way to advise, heal, police or protect). If you read the above post, please also read this as the conclusion of that. I am rethinking this now.

I asked a close friend (a survivor and an activist) for advice. This person asked me how many people who were spilling their truths onto me and expecting me to rescue them, showed up for me back in 2012? I could argue that some of them were too young, some too married (like this is an illness that renders one incapable of logical and just thought towards unmarried people), some not strong enough (as if strength is a talent some are born with and which becomes public property to exploit). My answer was…NOBODY. I have tried hard not to become cynical about people since then and I’ll admit I often slip up. I cannot forget that I live in a world that enables and applauds my abusers for the same things that they attack and condemn me for experiencing. It is so hard to feel empathy for enablers, even harder than feeling it for the perpetrators.

And finally, I am realising how easy it is going to be vomit, to dump, to offload resentment and rage. Neither of these are logical or fair-minded. They just are — powerful and unstoppable. I’m trying hard not to talk about my own experiences partly because I do not want to co-opt the narratives of the people speaking up for the first time and partly because it might become a case of Chinese whispers with people blaming my perps for things they did not do as part of the pervasive ‘Men are trash’ feeling. As justified as that feels, I know I cannot live with those feelings. I just can’t.

Mercifully a friend who’s been away from all this rescued me in a single conversation last evening by asking me to remember to retain my capacity for joy. That’s all. We each have to live with the consequences of our actions, our emotions and our words. What’s most important in the long, long run of life? I choose joy.

Stay safe. Stay sane. Stay you.

================================================================

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.

Seeing The Signs

I’m sitting up in bed typing this, something I haven’t done in many years. I stopped this to help me distinguish between work and leisure and to establish regular hours. It’s served it’s own purpose but today I give myself a little leeway. I wanted to say this in September and wake up to October on a fresh note.

I’ve been unwell. Seriously unwell. I woke up on Saturday with the kind of sick feeling that you feel inside your cells, painting your very mood green (because this is the colour of bile). It was so bad that for the first time in my life, my doctor paid a house call. And for the first time in a long, long time, I’ve just sagged into my pillows, into the sofa or wherever I’m breathing allowing time, sickness, medication and words to drift over me.

I know I need to get some tests done, given how often I’ve been falling sick lately. But I also know that my body usually echoes what my emotional state is. I think I’ve been unpacking a lot of old traumas since December, starting with the domestic abuse event that SXonomics conducted(very successfully).

So many things have come up since then, like they were just waiting for an outlet — including external factors. This boundary business is a lot more effort than it seems, for me. I struggled with it and now I’m not but it’s brick-by-painful-brick labour.

I’ve written about how there is suddenly an influx of people and references and conversations around me about my ex. He’s existed on the periphery of my thinking, popping up in my thoughts occasionally during PMS or residual bad moods. But the last few months have been an onslaught of being forced to think about him, about the relationship and about what it has done to me. I can only assume that this is good; I have to.

But since my birthday month, other tightly packed traumas have been unravelling. Last year I had to let go of a number of close relationships and I realise now I’ve been carrying the heavy hurt of that all this while. I’ve been struggling for closure. A friend once told me that closure would always have to be one’s own secrete recipe. And I’ve accepted that but how then, does one achieve closure? Now I know.

My closure comes when I give up on the person. Where I can no longer see any value in their being, feel no sympathy, no hurt over their actions, just a mild irritation that they are still standing in front of me or in my mind. It’s very undramatic. One moment they are saying or doing something quite trivial and the next I cannot tolerate another minute of their existence. So I erase them from my world. It’s happened before and I don’t know why I never learn that I cannot force or rush it. It always happens and it happens on its own timeline.

In my birthday month I met someone on a dating app. It was supposed to be a casual coffee and it turned into an 8 hour conversation on politics, music, people, family, culture and more. We disagreed with a lot of friendliness and mirth. And it freaked me out when I came home. He reminded me so much of my ex. The passionate political viewpoint, the quiet sardonic approach, the ideas on consent, even the exact same damn dysfunctional family problem. It was so many things to consider. I remembered what made me fall for my ex and it terrified me that these traits could still hook me in willy-nilly. I tried to distance myself after that. But oddly, we met again. And again. And it was just as bizarrely good. It was really quite traumatic, finding myself enjoying a moment with the heavy dread of “I know how this turns out and it’s not good, not good at all.”

Mercifully Mumbaiker schedules have given me pause and time away to think. I’m in a better frame of mind now, not terrified at the thought of this person’s existence. I’ve had a chance to tell him the reasons for my reticence and he has listened with that mild-mannered acceptance that I now remember can also exist alongside Capricorn’s ruthless opportunism and cold-blooded people-trampling. I will probably keep him at arm’s length (I always thought my ex and I would have made for better friends and now we are nothing but a poisonous, monstrous thing). It’s better for my emotional health this way but I don’t have to fear him so much that I’ve to run away from him.

The person I was in love with last year, showed up on my radar. I gave him one last chance and he let me down again. I didn’t even feel bad. I think I was expecting it and this chance came from a sense of fairness, not affection. I was even able to move into a work discussion with him. And there, he faltered and faltered so badly, I knew I had reached the end. So I opened that door labelled Closure and I walked out.

Recently I met someone on her birthday. All in a flash I suddenly had a name for the unease I was feeling. It’s Libra month, a sign that has always made me uncomfortable with its smooth, diplomatic manipulativeness. One of the biggest traumas of last year came from a Libra person. And here she was again, in another body, the same pretty looks, the same fussing over perfect body proportions, the same artful juggling of classy and relatable, the same charm masquerading as warmth. I held her at arm’s length too. But she slipped into my life in that smooth (I call it sneaky) way that Venus people have.

I told her it was difficult for me being reminded of someone who hurt me in the past. She hmmmed reflectively and said, 

“We draw in what we fear the most.”

She pointed out my pattern of violent relationships, comparing it to her pattern of liars. And when I told her I was scared of Libra’s twisting of the truth under the garb of diplomacy, she said,

“Yes, we do that. I’m confronting what my pattern of lying boyfriends says about me. Lies, that’s my lesson.”

See what I mean by sliding in? How can I not like someone who understands and articulates this so? As the evening wore on I relaxed into the conversation, the events around and other people.

I realised much later that some of her habits irritated me already. Venus people are full of excessive fussing over how they look, how other people, how things smell, what colour things are. I indulged it with my previous friend and called it love. And she discarded me like I was a slightly offensive crumpled tissue paper. I’m holding on to this thought now. I can choose to keep these traits alive in my memory. I do my best to treat people well and that includes not judging their personal idiosyncrasies. But I don’t have to be blind in my affections and then left hurt and bewildered when they don’t accord me the same depth of feeling.

I know the adage goes that you cannot love someone when you judge them. But maybe I need a little better judgement and a little less love-bombing. Walls are built between people, from such petty things. But a wall that serves as a protective boundary, does its job well. 

I am clearly drawing in situations that I need to examine or which afford me the chance to re-examine my own feelings. It’s bringing up all sorts of feelings of terror (I am such a scaredy-cat) and grief. But curiously, they aren’t lingering as long as I feared. They come up like large signs bearing the names of people who terrify me with how easily they’ve hurt me. And then the signs float by and I realise they’re just paper. I don’t even need to turn them into paper planes.

And that’s goodbye with thank you to September.

================================================================

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.

Lessons On Boundaries

I’ve been on a hiatus from the life I was leading through most of this year and the last. One notable conversation I had in this time made me realise the importance of boundaries in my life. 

I’ve always been a boundary tester, a rulebreaker, a label hater, an opposer of all things that feel restricting. But now I think I also need to learn how to define and maintain boundaries in my life. It’s very exciting to be able to flow and ebb and dissolve and rise from chaos. But it’s tiring and now it feels futile. 

I think all human beings and interactions need some kind of boundaries but most of our world is entrapped in boundaries set by other people that have become prisons. In that, I have no regrets over who I have been — in testing the world I live in and finding where I want to go, how far and in what way. Boundaries are only good when you set them yourself.

My boundlessness has caused systemic corrections like violent reactions from people, actions that feel like profound betrayals and my own sense of feeling drained and exploited. The cycles I go in are to love in a burst of passionate emotion and give and give because it just feels good to give — attention, affection, objects, time, energy, commitment. Unsurprisingly I’ve drawn takers, most notably the abusive men and a handful of manipulative friendships. 

With complete objectivity, I can see how I fit their scripts as well as they fit mine. But even someone who enjoys giving runs empty eventually. And the fellow actors in my scripts have punished me for not being perennial while having reached a point of not giving anything back. Balance off whack. And the solution? Boundaries, defined better, well and early.

All this is probably really obvious to anybody outside of me. But I can feel this understanding at a cellular level now. I’ve been figuring out what boundaries mean to me (outside of ‘prison’ or ‘control mechanisms’). I’ve been navigating the kind of emotions that rise, how many of them are remembered traumas and how I can proceed in spite of them.

So what has this looked like? It’s been about saying no to a work project, something that caused me a lot of agony because it runs so against the grain of my work ethic (kill myself if need be but deliver, deliver on time, deliver over the promise but DELIVER). I know this comes from a very early place of not fitting into the education and social systems (gender role, nuclear family unit etc.) and so overcorrecting in a bid to ‘be okay’.

It has been about getting off the stage. I needed to face my fears about the stage, I needed to break the victimhood of being gaslit, violated and hit for being visible and I’ve done it all. It was a hard choice getting off the stage once I’d fought my way to it feeling like a place of comfort. Especially so because I wondered whether I would ever get back on again and whether my entire life of performance would have to go hand-in-hand with reliving traumas. Saying goodbye to anyone or anything is always hard only because of this — because you don’t know if it’s the last goodbye. Thankfully, for me it wasn’t. 

And then it was about learning to walk away from situations and people. This was actually the easiest thing to do, perhaps because I’d done the more visible things like work and stage before this. Years of not having a choice of escaping traumatic situations, of being blamed and shamed for those situations made me have to grow a Warrior whose motto was never back down, take everything head on, offense before defense etc. It was so exhausting and it never really felt like me. Worst of all was being related to by the world as if that was my entire being, not just one facet developed as a defense mechanism in certain situations. That’s what all the harassment of last year (“Manhater”) was about. I’m a Creator, not a Destroyer or even a Warrior. Now that I know I can be the other things if I need to, I can retire them until further notice. All I had to do was walk away from some situations.

I’ve found help in watercoloring. Oddly enough, this is the one artistic medium that never appealed to me, even though I actually had some formal instruction in it. Maybe that’s exactly why — anything that came from the system felt like an imposition, an imprisonment to me. I started on watercolours after a friend took it up and shared his works with me. There’s something soothing about working with water, about the gentle brushstrokes, the undramatic (I used to think boring) colours. And I’ve resolved that this will not be one more thing that I turn into a competitive, goal-oriented thing. I’ve been carrying my kit to events, coffee with friends and even meetings. I joked to a friend that this is my new hipster behaviour. He just smiled and said, 

“It’s not a hipster thing, it’s just a Ramya thing.”

which is the nicest thing I’ve been told in a long time. I’ve been painting swatches, squiggly nothings, letters etc. Sometimes they look good, sometimes they’re unmemorable. And always, I feel accompanied, well-adjusted and complete with that brush in my hand.

The results have not been bad at all. I fell sick a fortnight ago — the kind of dark, no-end-in-sight sickness that afflicted my very soul. I couldn’t breathe sometimes and spent hours coughing or gasping or just passed out in some version of asleep. I don’t think this is a coincidence at all. An ex friend once told me that phlegm represents pain. It had to threaten to choke me before I could release it willingly. For the first time in I-can’t-even-remember-how-long, I spent an entire week in bed, not checking my email, not answering my phone, drifting between sleep and fevered wakefulness. The past week has been returning to the world and I’ve given myself permission to do it slowly and without apologising. It hasn’t been bad at all.

I’ve also been meeting friends. Yes, it turns out I do have a lot of friendships and people who are genuinely happy to see me. Some have even been from places I had labelled Trauma Points inside my head — Twitter and Poetry. But I’ve been doing all this with boundaries (as far as possible). Limiting my time, what I say, what I ask about, the things we do.

Maybe a wall can have my back too.

===============================================================

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.

AgentsOfIshq: ‘You Should Wear Maroon For Your Skin’ And Other Advice I’ve Ignored As A Non-Fair Woman

I’m very thrilled to report that AgentsOfIshq has run my piece on surviving dark skin prejudice and reclaiming my pride. I called the piece ‘Golden Girl’ but they changed it to

You Should Wear Maroon For Your Skin’ And Other Advice I’ve Ignored As A Non-Fair Woman’

which also works, in my opinion. Please go read. It’s not a rant, I promise.

They also carried a collage of my lipart journey, to illustrate how I found my self-worth in colour. I’ve been a longtime fan of this website so I’m very happy to add my story to all the wonderful ones in their collection.

You can also read a version of the same on my own (other) blog XX Factor which is where I usually speak about vanity, sex and other bodily matters.

==============================================================

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.

August Is Good

Birthday month came and passed. The birthday was sweet. I’m now officially in my last year of being able to write The Thirty Diaries. Soon to be officially middle-aged.

Yesterday I asked a friend if he’d let me know when I started looking old. He paused and said, “Uh okay, if you want me to.” I said yes, I did. I had about as much trouble dealing with the natural fact of ageing as the average person. But I never wanted to be that old person who still thought they were young. That’s all I want to say about Im-feeling-old.

August has been very nice but then it is the month of Leo and this sign is always good to me – with its people and with how it manifests in my own life. I’ve started a couple of new projects. It feels good to feel productive and I’ll admit it, I have missed the nerdy ordinariness of being an office worker. The glamour of entrepreneurship or creative fields have never been their draw for me. And I tired of that very quickly, not the least of which is people’s crazy perceptions about it. “You have such a glamorous life! You’re so lucky to have a talent.” – Sigh, no, it’s a whole lot of grit and hard work, just like any other job. “How irresponsible to quit a respectable job to do this..what is it that you do?” – No more irresponsible than starting a marriage based on other people’s decisions or having a baby because it’s the thing to do and yet here we are Mrs.Motherhood-is-so-haaaard. Oh well, I can flash a little bit of respectability now as needed.

I spent a lovely Sunday dipping into different conversations, events and people’s lives. A literary gathering devoid of the pressure to manage or create or even, well socialise. This is so tiring now. The more I’ve written and performed, the less I find I need to talk to people. I’m quieter inside and outside now, the more expressive I get online and on stage. Another friend catchup disguised as a workshop. And then a party that was unlike anything I’ve attended at least in the last few years. Maybe proximity to the sea does that.

I’ve been meeting more friends and few colleagues or fellow poets. I’ve been letting myself feel the ache of stress in my shoulders, my stomach and my uterus. I’ve been allowing the possibility of crushes or even fleeting interest to breeze through my day. And they pass. August is good, so good. I just wish it weren’t so ephemeral. But maybe that is the beauty of it.

==============================================================

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.

Closing The Thirties Story

The last time I wrote here, I was on the other side of a birthday. And it just struck me that I’m now in the last leg of The Thirty Diaries. Appropriately, I’ve had an article published on Arre titled ‘My Tinder Bio: Not Here To Mother 20-Somethings‘. My overall mood, as in the article is breezy, slightly scarred but relieved and hopeful.

I’ve started a few work projects and am realigning how I find myself as a professional. My work ethic is always priority so systems, organisation, quality and timeliness are at the forefront. But I’m also considering my health and the moral/emotional implications of my every action. I’ve learnt that I cannot afford to neglect these.

I thought my 20s were dramatic, full of corporate fast-tracking, flashy/useless pedigreed boyfriends, cancer devastation in the family and dealing with the post-millenium (read: Recession-riddled) economy. Have my 30s been saner? Well.

There was the BIG FAILED ENGAGEMENT. This has undeniably coloured my experiences of this decade the most. One part of this is the realisation that relationship matters will always influence my well-being and identity more than other things. After all, my 20s were also driven as response and survival instincts to one heartbreak and one abusive ex. I did become a workaholic, something I recently learnt could be close to a condition called ‘high functioning depressive’. I learnt very early to substitute professional success for emotional stability and romantic happiness. But as with any other addiction with roots in emotional tangles, it created structural cracks in my being. A lot of the things I’ve experienced in my 30s have been these, including the heavy darkness I’ve struggled with through the better part of the decade.

The other side of it is the world’s reactions to me. The 20s were about my fighting back suffocating pressure to couple up and to succeed in tradition-approved ways. I naively thought the 30s would be easier since this pressure eased up as those folks seemingly gave up on me. But the broken engagement brought them crawling back with attacks. As recently as three months ago, people who I’d never met were influencing my work by declaring that I would wreak my married colleagues’ relationships. There’s the r onslaught of people’s expectations on what kind of a ‘Strong Woman’ I should be. It’s countless people outraged that my ex is dating someone, all culminating in the expectations that I should ‘rescue’ the new girl. It’s men I’ve rejected needling me about my failed engagement with statements like “Uske talent ki kadar karni chahiye“. It’s younger people putting me on a pedestal, then expecting me to rescue them from their life decisions and attacking me when I don’t play knight in feminist armour. No, the world is just as awful in my 30s, albeit in a different way.

In that sense, my script is still the same. I’m constantly at war with the world because of who I am. I have to be, because the only choice is to surrender to a life of silent harassment and abuse. There have been a lot of times in my 30s where I’ve felt like I couldn’t go on (which I never felt in my 20s). The ‘magical’ rescues in the form of career wins and passionate friendships have been fewer. Or maybe I’ve just felt the shadows deeper. This is, I’m learning, who I am. I feel fear deeply and my reactions to it may seem disproportionately strong. I am a crab. I retreat into my shell and in that sense, I’ve done that with my entire bruised and assaulted past.

I went to a condolence visit this week, in honour of a deceased family friend, the mother of one of my school classmates. I was quiet and awkward. My past does not give me a reason to feel comfortable or happy in it. I was overwhelmed by the people expressing great warmth and pleasure on seeing me. I also met people who had not been nice to me (notably this gentleman who shuffled awkwardly, then asked why I wasn’t married). I realised that people who harass other people about their romantic choices or their bodies are desperately unhappy about their own. I told him, “I don’t think I need a reason to NOT get married, I need a reason to be married.” He shrugged and then said, “Yeah, that’s right. Smart you are. Don’t make that mistake. No one is happy.”. Sigh, strange as it may sound, that did not vindicate me. I don’t want to hear about other people’s misery, least of all people who’ve added to mine.

Almost magically (so I guess magic is actually still a part of my life), my Arre article showed up online just that instant. It felt like the universe was telling me that all things were okay. The three year old grand-daughter of the lady who passed, came and sat on my lap and told me stories. Her mother hugged me and I learnt that she’s a Ph.D., making me very proud of the world I came from, even if it wasn’t always nice.

And this morning, this picture came up on my memories. Maybe life is about creating your place in the universe. Or maybe it’s about discovering it. I hope I can enter the 40s with wonder.

View this post on Instagram

I really like this picture of myself. I think it's because I remember the exact moment I took it. Yes, it's a selfie! I was experimenting with my new phone, my first cutting edge, high end one. It was a year after my world crashed around me and people expected me to shrivel up and die (because apparently the only other choice after a failed engagement is for the woman to become a marriage-wreaker). Of course I was devastated. But astonishingly I still felt hungry, laughed at funny things, blushed when a nice looking member of the opposite sex noticed me and felt good about looking good. Vanity was a sin in the world I grew up in but when my world crashed, all bets were off the table. This was shot just before I went to a Landmark Session, as I spent the hour before enjoying the sunset on Marine Drive. When that experience never gets old, then how can I? As long as there's a sunset over the water, I'll still belong to this world no matter how many of the millions wish I didn't. #throwback #nostalgia #selfie #selfies #selfie_time #selfienation #vanity #flyingsolo #allthesingleladies #recovery #healing #selfrespect #independence #feminism

A post shared by Ramya Pandyan (@ideasmithy) on

==============================================================

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.

 

Judgements In June

Judgements. Let’s think about that.

Last month a stranger told me that their first impression of me was that I was an attention-seeker. I’ve analyzed this statement in so many ways. What’s wrong with liking attention and seeking it? How do we assign very different judgements to the same conclusion? Why is your first thought of a stranger, the most uncharitable view that you can take about them? What does it say about you when you react to the unknown with a negative view?

I pondered why I was thinking so deeply about a stranger’s words. Because they pricked. Even as I’m unapologetic in my art, my words and dressing, I know that a lot of people consider ‘attention-seeker’ an insult. For a stranger to assign one of the worst labels they could think of to me, when they didn’t even know me – feels like unprovoked malice. Why, why would you want to hurt me when I didn’t do anything to you? Except exist, that is.

They said, they had read my blogs later and decided that I deserved the right to do what I liked with my body and my life. But shouldn’t that be any person’s right, regardless of their backstory? Do my past traumas serve as tickets to your empathy? Why are we so stingy in our willingness to treat other human beings as deserving of kindness, empathy and warmth?

In the same conversation, I said,

We are all looking for our own stories. Judgement is really a fear that our stories are not what we’d like them to be.

And as soon as I said it, I knew it was true. Nice, hmm? 🙂 Yes, that happens to writers sometimes. We realise the truth as we voice it. Maybe that’s why compliments makes us feel like frauds – because I don’t know any better than you where that thought came from but it just happened to enter the universe through my words.

Maybe human beings don’t really judge because actual judgement is an objective analysis and does not change based on who you are and how you are feeling. Maybe human beings react with fear and call it judgement. And how can you feel anything but empathy for someone who is too scared to empathize back?

 

View this post on Instagram

This is not new. But it is a fresh look at a bleak world. Stay kind, always. It may be the only hope someone else has. And someday, that someone may be you. The last time I was where I went today, someone saw my patterned lips and decided to think the very worst of me. Judgement is cold, cruel and reduces someone's personhood. They told me about this opinion much later, after learning about my life and deciding that I deserved to do as I liked. I think a person's backstory should not matter. Kindness is universal, 24 x 7 and free. If you cannot be kind in your mind to a person, do not let them occupy space in your mind at all. It's really better that way, for you and for the world. Keep the stories in your head cruelty-free. This is a #NyxAmethyst heart painted on freestyle atop #FacesCanada Addicted. The eyes are #Colorbar Amethyst Spark with #LakmeAbsolute ShineLine and some #L'Oréal SilverSpice for highlights. The speckled peace of mind is my own. #peace #mentalhealth #crueltyfree #kindness #empathy #beauty #style #fashion #makeup #makeupblogger #lips #lipart #lipstick #IWear #ILip

A post shared by Ramya Pandyan (@ideasmithy) on

The news of Anthony Bourdain’s death has triggered off a waterfall of statements about mental illness, about suicide, about depression and more. I’m trying to stay away from it all because it’s so triggering, the thought that some of the same people mouthing these words are so cruel, so vicious and so thoughtless otherwise. It shouldn’t take a death to remind you to be human and if it does, I’d like to think that the reminder lasts longer than a few days. But perhaps that’s just the way my tired mind is working these days so I’m best kept away from the breaking news analysis.

I am no mental health professional or even activist. But I think we would all benefit from being just a little kinder in our minds. This doesn’t mean big, flamboyant gestures. It doesn’t have to be about massive charities or over generous contributions or zealous activism. It just means be a little slower to judging other people. It’s actually a better way to live too. Being kind is an act of generosity. You can only feel generous when you feel abundant. And you must feel abundant in order to be abundant.

I just thought I’d share that. June begins on a more hopeful note, which is odd for me since I don’t like monsoon (triggered allergies mean three months of labored breathing). Still, it’s the half year mark, it’s a month to my birthday, it’s the season of hope for our agricultural economy so in all things, it is about looking up. I hope you’re doing okay, I hope the world will be kind to you and I hope you’ll remember to be the same.

==============================================================

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.

Perspective

==============================================================

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.

 

%d bloggers like this: