Category Archives: Chronic Thinker

The Politics Of Cinema: Ideas, Influence & Agenda

Today I was asked to be part of a debate on Salman Khan’s statement that Pakistani actors are not terrorists and hence should not be asked to leave the country. I couldn’t make it to the event after all but it did force me to think about what my stance was.

My first thought was that the arts have nothing to do with politics and should not be interfered with, by politicians. But over the course of the evening, I had a chance to remember that artists and performers wield such influence that we may also bear moral responsibility for our personal ideas, beliefs and actions. Politics after all, is not just for politicians. Politics is every knotty dilemma, every complex life experience. Every single one of us ascribes to certain politics, whether we’ve reasoned them out or not, whether we live them out deliberately or under duress.

I’d be the last person in the room you’d call a cinephile (I prefer books). But I can’t deny the mass influence they wield. Three movies that I watched in the past month made me think about how they’re permanent chronicles of social mores. Especially so because they all came out in the 90s (a decade that doesn’t seem like that long ago). All three are movies I watched when they first came out, enjoyed tremendously and have watched again several times over the years.

Statements About Race

The first was Independence Day, that alien-bashing saga we all loved. It only struck me recently how independence_day_moviepostermathematically precise the film’s racial ratio was. The 80s started making a point about black/white integration. Remember the episode in ‘Small Wonder’ where a potential rich (and WASPy) employer comments on Jamie Lawson’s best friend being black and how such things would never happen in their new neighborhood?

By the 90s, it had gotten subtler and maybe storytellers were not supposed to point out how racially integrated they were. And enter Independence Day with one studly, wisecracking black male lead (Will Smith), one hunky, intellectual Jewish male lead (Jeff Goldblum) and one golden WASP male lead(Bill Pullman). Each man was paired up with a colour-coordinated female character. Is that how world is? Ha, no.

Mainstream Hollywood movies settled into all-white or all-black movies with token representation of the other racial group and barely-there nods to other racial communities. There’s a rare movie like Hitch which had a black male lead and a Hispanic female lead but did not once touch on the issue of race. Tokenism is so real, it’s an actual word.

Gender Politics in Bollywood

The second film I thought of was Rehna Hain Tere Dil Mein, which was rehna-hai-tere-dil-meinMadhavan’s entry into Bollywood. For years I have loved the film and enjoyed its music and its droolworthy hero (a Tamilian man can look like that??!). Sometime in the last decade I began thinking the story was a bit dated. Maddy’s lies (such a crucial part of the plot) started to bother me a few years ago. But it was only in my last viewing, that I was truly appalled. RHTDM is the story of a stalker with a history of violence who has no qualms about lying, cheating or misogyny. And I’ve been ingesting its narrative as a romantic film. I will never watch this movie with pleasure again. As for Madhavan, the actor. I can’t think of him as anything but Stalker Maddy anymore.

Transphobia or Awareness?

And finally, I just finished watching Mrs.Doubtfire. On this mrs-doubtfiremovie’s politics, I’m not sure. On this last viewing, I caught a subtle thread of antagonism towards the trans community. When Chris accidentally walks in on Mrs.Doubtfire peeing standing up, he reacts as if there is a criminal in the house. His sister Lydia automatically grabs a hockey stick, wielding it as a weapon. Robin Williams explains his actions and the situation is resolved. But the whole thing has an air of ‘I’m dad in disguise. I’m not really abnormal.’ He even says

“I don’t dress up like this all the time or frequent old lady bars.”

When the judge pronounces his ruling, he takes away custody because he wants to protect the children from unsavoury influences (not from a person who lies). All implying that a man who dresses like a woman is abnormal, unsavoury or a criminal.

At the same time, I can also see how revolutionary it was (still is) for a popular male actor to play a female character and do it without parody. The film deals with divorce and relationship breakdowns in a very sensitive way, projecting neither parent as bad but just victims of a broken relationship. It even makes me wonder whether transphobic attitudes were being subtly mocked. I really don’t know.

Cinema is a commercial medium and movies have to find ways to make money for their makers. They have to do this by catching attention and popular fancy but also by avoiding unpalatable ideas.

The politics of a Salman Khan

I was asked “Do you support Salman Khan?” and my answer is a definite NO. I have a problem with his history of partner abuse, endangered species killing, violence towards the media and of course, American Express bakery. I have boycotted Salman Khan films for over a decade (making a single exception for Dabangg). My politics do not permit me to support his work by paying for tickets, and that means I’ve brought politics into art too.

I’m still undecided on the original question, a prerogative I get to keep if I’m not on a debate. And here’s something of interest I found while considering the question (‘Dear India, Pakistani actors don’t need Bollywood to become stars‘). Let’s not forget that this is about economics and power, not justice.

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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.

 

The Stage Was My Doorway Out

I’ve had a rather nice September after the rough times before that. Looks like my health diagnosis was a step in the right direction. I took a break from the Open Mic scene for a month which is why there haven’t been too many poetry videos. But if you saw this post, you’ll know September brought me a bouquet of special poetry performances. That this happened right during a time I decided to take a break itself seems like a sign from the universe to me. And living through them makes me sure. I feel like I’ve finally walked through the doorway of that dark, deep dungeon I’ve been imprisoned in for years.

So, in the order in which they happened:

Gaysi‘s DirtyTalk was the one that I wrote a special piece for. I was super nervous, not helped by an unexpected Encounter, minutes before my performance. Maybe I will write about that in more detail another time. Or maybe not, it was probably the fullstop that I’ve been needing for four years. I went on to deliver the following performance and it was a great one, if I do say so myself. I really want to thank the organisers as well as the audience. You have no idea how much this performance was a turning point in my life. It was reprieve after years of struggling.

The very next afternoon was the Radiocity Free Verses feature event, where I had the pleasure to meet the vivacious Harnidh Kaur who I’ve been hearing about for ages. I enjoyed her poetry. I wasn’t feeling very well and my hands were shaking (after a long time). But again, I think that added to the flavour of my opening piece ‘A Lover of All Things Digital’. It’s nice to remember how far I’ve come from a stage-petrified girl to a feature performer.

And finally, I got to be one of the 100 Thousand Poets for Change at a ‘Women Empowerment’ themed event hosted by the US Consulate at Kitabkhana. I know a theme like that seems tailor-made for me so I brought out my old favorites ‘Superwoman’ and ‘Feminist Poetry’. I am enjoying being the fun, irreverent, fresh end of things. I don’t think I’ve been the fun side of any group that often. I wish I were also the funnier side but that’s for another blogpost. Here’s my performance from that day.

Planet Radiocity Freedom aired my recorded performance four times this month. Eventually, they’re bound to put it up in the archives and I’ll share a link then. In the meantime, they also ran a short interview with me and the photo feature from the Free Verses September event is up on the site right now.

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For a lot of reasons, I feel like I was carrying around a gigantic boulder in my mind that was blocking everything. That boulder has just been set aside. I’m still raw from where it was dragged out. But I can suddenly breathe better and see more clearly. September has been about clearing the stones and letting the dust settle. I have been to hell and back. I enter October with a lot of hope and a nod to the Sandman.

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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.

 

Pop A Pill, Define A Generation

The full health check-up I got done last month, revealed a thyroid deficiency. I’ve been advised to take a pill every day. “For how many days?” I asked my doctor. “You have to just keep taking it,” he said. It’s kept me glum over this weekend. I know science understands the functioning of our bodies as well as drugs a lot better than it did 30 years ago. I have also been made aware that the pill I’ve been prescribed, is not a medicine but in fact a supplement to make up for what my body isn’t producing naturally. And finally, the fact that there isn’t an easily known cause or reason for this happening. Only that it’s common enough for most people (and medical professionals) to not bat an eyelid.

Image via Unsplash/John Towner

Image via Unsplash/John Towner

One part of me feels like something has been completed. It’s not a dramatic sense of completion. It’s more like finally finding an answer to a long pondered-over sum. Whether it is the right one or not, who knows? After a year of stumbling about in the dark, wondering if mental illness may be a reality I’d have to deal with, it may turn out to be nothing more than a (relatively simpler) hormone readjustment. I am a woman after all; my body is a test site for all manner of hormone fluctuations known to humankind. It could also explain my frequently falling sick since loss of immunity is one of the side-effects of thyroid deficiency.

There is a sense of sombreness that has settled over me this weekend. It’s not sadness, it’s not pain, it’s not desperation. It’s not even melancholy. It is a sense of things passing, of letting some things pass or having them pass over you willy-nilly. 37 is not 22.

I’m feeling something in my spirit, subconsciously drawing lines. I cannot and do not want to keep up with 20-somethings anymore. A generation gap has opened up and I’m the one defining that line. In a sense, I’ve been moving towards this for years. My solo dates, my gradual cutting down of frantic socialising, my distaste for intoxication (even while juggling the ‘no-judgements’ stance that allows one to be a part of the social circles), my attitudes to sex and friendship and relationships. It’s all there, building up to this very thing. I don’t want to live like I’m 22 and apparently, I can’t anymore either. It is a sobering thought.

I’ve also been growing increasingly aware of other people getting older. My peers are struggling with the realities of life we weren’t taught to anticipate or handle. And my parents generation, what of them? Many of them are so admirably adapting to things that even my generation finds tough.

Amidst all the jokes about ‘My mother is on Whatsapp and I have to make sure she doesn’t see me online’ and ‘Oh god, my father sent me a Facebook friend request’, something else stands out. While my generation is already giving up on Snapchat, sex and relationships, the generation before ours is still willing to embrace technology, new connections and world views. We are neither as wise nor as strong. And their generation is only getting older, frailer, tireder. Yet they solder on valiently. But like all things, that must come to pass. And then, what will happen of us? What indeed, will happen of me?

I wonder how much of my full, active, happening life is like the pill I’ve to pop every day – a supplement to what should occur naturally but does not.

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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.

Why Are So Many Mumbaikers Desperate To Kill Time?

Around a fortnight ago, a Caferati feedback meet I was at, was disrupted by a newcomer who started shouting at all of us and attacking us for giving feedback. It was deeply unpleasant and ruined the evening for everyone else. I wrote it off as that person being the kind of anamoly that one sometimes has to encounter. Why else would someone attack a feedback group for giving feedback?
Today, I’ve just declined nearly 50 requests to join Alphabet Sambar because they don’t write. Over the past few months, we’ve been getting a lot of requests and true to our original premise, we try and welcome everyone. But we’ve been getting a lot of irrelevant messages like “Good morning, have a great day”, jokes and pictures of food that have nothing to do with writing. Do people not understand how interest groups work? This by the way, is despite the fact that Alphabet Sambar has a very clearly stated description including the sentence ‘Please consider joining only if you yourself write‘.
 
At most offline events I go to (social media meets, board games events, standup comedy shows, poetry events, music events, bicycling trips), there is always a sizeable number of people who have no interest in what’s going on. What’s a person who doesn’t bicycle doing on a trip? Or someone who thinks board games are boring and stupid, spending an evening where everyone is at a board? 
We could crib about the general uselessness of people who only disrupt proceedings and don’t contribute. Enough has been said about desperate Indian men who only want ‘to make fransheep’. But I think there’s something larger at play.
 
A lot of urban Indians are desperate for companionship, a normal human need. But many of them also lack tangible hobbies, interests, ideas of their own or social skills. They mob places that other people go to, in some sort of dim hope of making connections. They don’t know what to say or what to do. Sometimes this comes through as gaucherie, sometimes it’s aggression. And it causes further animosity, politics and exclusivity with the original activity or hobby being completely lost.
Before you think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, I’m basing this is on massive numbers of people who seem to have no reason to be at some of these events but are. Isn’t there a problem if, in a time-starved city, there are so many people just looking for ways to kill time? A hobby is a very important part of making a human being, a well-rounded one. Many of these people I encounter are well-educated and successful. But they appear to be nothing beyond their careers and their families. How is it that having an identity beyond one’s source of income is such a rare thing?
I don’t know other cities adequately but I’m told by friends and associates that it’s no different in Delhi or Bangalore. Are we making a country of people completely deficient in the vital skills of being human? Something feels terribly wrong.

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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.

Remembering To Be 18 Till I Die

I am such a sucker for nostalgia that on a day when I’m learning to put the past behind me, I go and ask Reema to pull me into this dare. She picked a year and now I have to tell you the highlights of my life. Here goes my 1997.

  • I turned 18. Boasted that I was now old enough to drink, drive and get married. The first happened several years later, the second I officially got to be able to do that very year but didn’t and the third, well, most of you know my adventures with that.
  • I found myself midway through a course I HATED. Physics had been the bane of my existence since standard eight. After 12th, I’d slunk into the relative ease of B.Sc. (easier than engineering I’d thought) and picked a combo that would lead to Maths, the only science subject I could stomach. What I didn’t know is that this meant I’d have to tolerate Physics for TWO MORE YEARS! 😢
  • I found my solace in books and other classrooms. I yearned so much to study exciting subjects like psychology, sociology and literature that I would sneak into their classrooms. Even the teachers knew me. The psychology lab had ‘adopted’ me as their pet subject for the practicals they had almost every week. That’s where my references to Pavlov, Berne, Freud come from.
  • The pressure of 12th was off and final year seemed rather far away. I spent three years in the most fashionable college in the city before I got my first lipstick. I went into grunge almost immediately (yeah, Alanis was cool in the 90s). Deliberately dusty leather boots, loose fitting pyjamas, a cycle chain as a necklace, uncut long hair – this was my trademark look. I’m told I scared a lot of people (even though no cigarette, joint or booze crossed my lips and I never beat anyone up).
  • A little later, I chopped off my shoulder-length locks and went boy-short. I got mistaken for a boy several times. But I also got propositioned a lot (boys and men are such strange creatures). A very nice-looking boy from the model/dancer crowd took a fancy to me and would spend mornings pirouetting around for my benefit. Leo men have always been such a pleasure. 😀 But the only boyfriend I had was a stray dog that would hang around the college canteen. Never a dog-lover, I avoided it like the plague. But after a long weekend once, the dog looked starved and I put out some bread and milk for it. The dog refused to leave my side for the rest of the year and would follow me around EVERYWHERE. My friends christened it my ‘boyfriend’ after it chased one of my classmates through the campus for accidentally kicking my shoe. Kaalu was the sweetest boyfriend I’ve ever had.
  • I read like a maniac. There was nothing else to do for a teenager trapped in a stifling course and before the internet and smart phones. My college had a dream library (with cards etc.) and most students didn’t even know of its existence. The college peons who ran the library would let me browse unfettered and even let me borrow more books than the quota. I read about chess and astronomy and astrology and war and music and turn-of-century literature. PG Wodehouse, Ayn Rand, Eric Berne, Aldous Huxley, Jeffrey Archer all rubbed shoulders on my library card.
  • I was drowning and I didn’t know it. The universe threw me a lifesaver in the form of Ms.Suma Narayan. She stopped me in the college corridor and asked me if I’d like to write for the college magazine. If she hadn’t done that, I may never have seriously considered the idea that I could be a writer. She published me in the magazine that year, a poem called ‘Unanswered Questions’. And life was never the same again.
  • I also sang and drew a lot. Midway through the year, I fell in with a bunch of other misfits (or maybe wiser souls). They didn’t scream COOL, they liked books and they all knew music. Alanis Morisette, Kula Shaker, Guns n’ Roses, MLTR, Bryan Adams and Aqua were topping the charts at that time. (and by the way, ’18 till I die’ was sweeping across campuses and hearts). The boys would often bring a guitar along, one of them would start a song, I’d join in while sketching something weird and strange and dark in my journals. That’s the only memory that I can pin to the phrase ‘the best of times’. Now here’s some music and attitude from my 1997.

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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.

Reluctant Learner

Three people have been needlessly, disproportionately vicious to me today. I’m choosing to take it as a lesson. A lesson in what?

Is it possible that I’ve been as reckless and feckless in my actions and words in the past? It is possible. I don’t think I’ve ever been a poisonous, manipulative person. My MO is more to shoot from the hip and ask questions later and that is more a flaw of firepower than poison. Yet, its impact may be just as damaging.

I don’t know if it’s a function of our flawed social systems where older generations never allow the younger ones to grow up. I am not sure if it has to do with being a very hungry nation, even for those of us in the privileged layer. But in our twenties we are definitely more like wrecking balls of sentiment. Even worse, we are heavy machinary being operated by a short-sighted and drunk/stoned driver. We have no sense of the repercussions of our actions. We have no ability to deal with multiple emotions. And we lack that vital ingredient in a sane life – perspective.

Am I better off now that I’m in my 30s? I can’t say. I’m finding thoughts such as these are surfacing alongside the blind trigger rage responses. Maybe that’s growing up, maybe it’s slowing down.

I am also finding I’m tiring of the 20-somethings I find myself around, in my creative as well as my professional circles. They are full of these poisonous situations, on breakneck speed down dangerous pathways. It’s all I can do to get out of the way and not get hit too hard, too much.

I’ve been suffering from a strange ailment this month. Well, that’s not new, is it? This seems to be a year where my body shouts out in languages that it hasn’t so much as bothered to whisper in before. First the recurring cold-cough-fever of January. Then the blinding nausea (yes, that is a thing) that was diagnosed as migraines. And now a voice that’s just GONE. No throatache, no cold, no cough, no fever. I just can’t speak anymore. I open my mouth and a stranger’s voice rattles through my voicebox, when it does. If I’ve forced my way through the day with that (performances, classes, webinars), I’m suddenly unable to utter a full word.

It seems fairly obvious to me that this is a call for me to slow down and speak less. I do live a rather vociferous life, after all. So I’ve taken a break from performing and phone calls. I cannot cut out work but I’ve been able to deliver those a lot better since I cut out the first two.

So what now? Let go of people. Let go of situations. Let go of pride. Let go of a sense of justice. Let go of the things I love doing. Let go of speaking. Can you imagine how hard this is for a Cancerian whose first instint is to hold on, a Leo Rising whose being revolves around expression and talking?

Sigh. Maybe this is not permanent. Perhaps as with the situations that started off this day, there is just a lesson to be learnt before comforts and loves are earned back again.

A lesson in letting others live out their crashes. A lesson in not get hit and run over. Lessons of goodbye. Lessons in silence. Shh.

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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.

Healing Into Thirty-Seven

It has been a hard year. This is a sort of birthday-take-stock post that’s about a month late but it has been the kind of year that merits that. I’ve struggled in a slow, undramatic fashion (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12). Some of you have noticed and have offered kind words while a few others spotting a chink in the armour perhaps, have swooped in vampire-like to troll. But the world at large, as it usually does, has been indifferent. One more life in a few billions here or there will not go amiss.

On my birthday, I had a few friends drop in. I put in very little effort. It was a weekday and my birthday falls right in the middle of the dirtiest, most inconvenient month in the city. By that time all the yay-rains-so-romantic mood has died down. The respite of roads still potholed but at least without the dangers of deep puddles is months away. Yet, four and then five people soldiered on to come see me and celebrate my existence.

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My dark place intruded eventually. One of my visitors said,

“I know you felt and loved deeply. But look at this. He never treated you well or cared a damn when you were together. It’s been years and you’re still so sad and he still doesn’t care. While around you, you are missing out on people who really love you.”

This is not new but maybe one needs to hear something at just a certain time, in a certain way from a certain person for it to hit home. Maybe I can take action more easily when it has to do with people I love, while I struggle if it only has to do with me. But that helped me rise out of it for awhile.

Two days later, I managed to summon up enough energy to get out of the city with Adi, something I possibly may not have been able to do if he hadn’t been around. We spent all of the day and most of the journey talking. Once again, not much new but things sound a lot more like enlightening truth and less like devastating facts when I’m away from the mayhem of Mumbai and entering the freshness of Pune.

I was only in Pune 24 hours but I had nothing but wonderful conversations. Adi’s mother showed me her terrace garden, a place of so much love, pride and effort. I’m a parent to plants myself, albeit only of a humble window garden. But I understand the supreme act of sharing that it is to invite someone into your garden. It was a sudden impulsive act of generosity that I, now used to sudden acts being only of cruelty was startled.

Then I met the Kabras and Shrikant & Gauri. There’s something about the people I know in Pune. Most of them have lived in Mumbai or similar big cities before and have chosen the saner life in Pune. They seem to radiate an unadulterated pleasure in meeting me. It is not sullied by constantly wavering attention and neither is it poisoned by regrets over how hard it is to meet or how little time we have. They look content with their lives so it’s possible for me to remember that contentment is an actual thing and that we are not only a world of walking wounded. I returned to Mumbai almost a new person. And for the first time in a year, I suddenly felt like I could see light, like I could breathe oxygen.

I brought tea back into my life. Maybe it is a crutch but I’ve been struggling so hard I need a little help and it’s okay to have that. I stopped beating on myself for not being able to make it to gym everyday. An unhappy soul in a happy-seeming-body is a grotesque farce. I’ve been in that place for the better part of three, nearly four weeks now.

Over the weekend, I stayed up late reading a review book. It was a powerful, bittersweet story and it involved depression, substance abuse and bipolar disorder. It did have a happy ending. Since then, I’ve felt sucked back into that dark place. Three conversations I’ve had in the past week have been about people who once hurt me and are experiencing confusion, maybe even regret. But what’s the point? Too little, too late, too much broken inside me to be able to heal them of that poisonous emotion called regret.

I realised today that I’ve fallen into a sort of safe, shell-like routine that minimises intimacy or contact and compartmentalises as far as possible. Performance nights, class evenings, assignment checks, solo walks, Alphabet Sambar meets. And the vast majority of the time, I struggle alone but it’s nowhere as hard as the war I have to wage just existing in the world. Everyone is so damn angry, just so cruel to each other and to themselves. I know I cannot stay in here forever but maybe being here will heal me enough to be able to deal with a horrible universe for some time.

Since the book, I’ve been on the threshold, not yet trapped in the dark room. It’s a little like being in a glass bubble and I can hear and see the world around me, even the positive bits, but distorted and detached from me. I am in my mind enough to know that most people are weak and their cruelty is like addiction – meant to escape their own problems that they are not brave enough to face. I’m sane enough to realise that the handful left doesn’t exploit me but they’re caught up in their own realities that demand a lot out of each one of them. Being alone in a dark place is not a deliberate act of malice by the universe. This weekend has been a reminder that the darkness is never that far away. Then again, neither is Pune. And the phone numbers of people who may answer, with love or at least, concern. And as long as I can remember that, I guess I’m okay. Maybe thirty-seven will be a bit kinder, a little luckier, a tad lighter than last year was.

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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.

‘Fitness Fanatics’, Kindly Get Lost

Go Back To Your Own Insecure Bodies And Leave Mine Alone!

So this whole trend of being ‘fitter-than-thou’, here’s my problem with it: It assumes that human health is a simple linear equation of calories consumed and gym hours sweated/miles run. If that were truly the case, our demigods would not be doctors prescribing medicines but engineers churning out equations.

 

The human body is far more complex than even professionals have been able to quantify. I have always been a lean person. I have not always been a fit person. I eat regardless of calories because I do not put on or lose weight. But I watch what I eat because I do not digest certain common foods (like corn, rawa and mutton) well.

I am also neither a gym fanatic nor a runner (since these are the two most popular fads in the so-called fitness space). But I have always been on the higher end among my peers, on stamina and energy. I have a high pain tolerance and I heal reasonably fast but I also have low immunity. I can’t cope without food for very long but I can manage without sleep for a longer than many others. I drink more water than average and not because I’m following some beauty editor’s advice on number of bottles translates to clearer skin. See how ‘strength’ is far more complex than one single measure?

I had a terrible experience last month with a certain ‘fitness tracker’ that promises expert consultation. The expert would not stop guilting me on what I ate (despite the fact that I said weight loss was NOT my goal). She kept insisting that I stop eating bananas (though these are the one sure-fire cure I’ve found to shut down acidity) and make my dinners even lighter. When I told her that meant I woke up hungry in the night and with acidity the next morning, she suggested I eat biscuits. If you have acidity, eat banana before going to gym, she added. So basically, cut out what already works, interrupt sleep to eat a processed, baked food instead of a fruit. And in the daytime, eat and then go exercise. The company kept chasing me after I stopped using the product. I wrote them an email explaining why it didn’t seem like the product was the right fit for my lifestyle but if there was something additional they could think of, I’d be happy to listen. The lead trainer (presumably having neglected to read my email though it was sent to him) said “Ask me anything”. I repeated what I’d said on email and he wanted to know why I had bought the product then. Whew, insecure people really go on the offense when their brittle pretences are broken, don’t they?

It’s the oldest trick in the marketing book – to make people feel inadequate, drum up that doubt into sizable insecurity and offer yourself or your product as the only solution. How come highly educated, successful, intelligent professionals (some of whom do this very same thing in other industries) are falling for this?

Yet, I know more and more people are buying into this grand myth. I am surrounded by friends and peers who inadvertently guilt me or shame me about the things I eat/do or don’t. “How long has it been since you went to gym? That long! Ah, you’ll pay for it. I never skip a session with my trainer.”, “Chocolate at night??” and so on it goes. Mercifully I’ve struggled with my own health issues and found ways to deal with them so it gives me the confidence to see their behaviour for what it is – fear & insecurity. I know that I know my body better than any other human being does and nobody should be given the right to make me feel less than that.

If you truly care about your health (and you should), stop letting commercial entities and other people’s insecurities abuse your body. And tell anyone who guilts you when you eat without counting calories or enjoy a day instead of going to gym TO STFU AND GET OVER THEIR OWN INSECURITIES.

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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 Twitterand Instagram.

 

 

A Retro Generation

Burnt Out Firecrackers & Faded Flowers

I was watching The Wonder Years. In 1968, a generation battled the one before it for identity, for a different set of values and for a new future. Just like every other generation before and after it. They walked protest marches, slipped flowers into their hair and into guns, wrote about love, peace, sex and freedom. They raged against a system and predicted doom. They opposed war with music, authority with searing stories. They challenged authority for lives other than their own.

I had a conversation with dad last month. We were on our way to watch a play and we had to park a few streets away. As we crossed the road, he brushed my shoulder and he winced. The metal studs on my faux leather vest had scraped his arm.

“What is this nonsense you’re wearing?”

“Don’t blame me. Your generation is the one that brought metal rivets, leather jackets and angry music into vogue. I’m just doing retro.”

He grinned and then, on a note of whimsy, he said,

“It was protest against things that were wrong. Against war, genocide, dirty politics.”

“It was rebellion. Just like every other generation.”

Then Prithvi loomed into sight and the conversation changed. But I’m not sure I believe my own words. What does my generation protest against? Theirs got it right, didn’t they? Yes, it’s true they succumbed. But they were young. What did mine do other than assert its differentness by parodying the same thing?

I think our differences hit home with the conversation we had over dinner after the play too. The play was Chinese Coffee (two actors only, both friends of mine – Danish Husain, Vrajesh Hirjee).

Quick to put a label on things the minute we walked out, I said,

“Well, that was a bit heavy. It’s the writerly angst thing, how we let ourselves get eaten by paranoia, how we feed off each other, how we cannot let it go and be normal human beings, how we must relish the drama of torment and be parasites on each other.”

The pater was uncharacteristically full of praise, not gushing (he never does that). He pointed out that the audience had been kept spellbound by just two actors, a simple set, no major action, only conversation and an extremely abstract idea. That’s real finesse, he said, genuine admiration for both actors.

What he said made me realise how much I’m a part of that extremely cynical analysis I offered up. Look at how hardbitten I am about a story that’s basically about me, created and delivered by people just like me, my friends. And I’m supposed to one of the sensitive ones.

It’s not a healthy life, being a writer today and I don’t mean in terms of calories, blood pressure and inches (though it’s that too). It’s the relentless cutting of self and others that we euphemistically call editing life. It’s insecurity that is supposed to fuel us instead of crippling us like it would any normal human being. It’s paranoia and shame over not doing something either valuable like our peers or meaningful like the writers before us. But with my generation, it’s also watching readership stats, subscriber counts, follower counts and hashtag campaigns. It’s dealing with trolling and being a troll and telling both sides of a story and yelling both of them out. It’s sneering at every single label while being nothing more than a paste album for labels. The branded products we use, the branded causes we support, the branded groups we align with, the branded disdain we profess for brands not our own. It’s bullshit.

1984 is here and so’s the Big Brother, only he’s called Google. Well, The Hitchhiker’s Guide is here too and it’s called Wikipedia and just as predicted, no one takes it seriously. Need I say any more? What can I possibly say that would even have a chance of being fresh as well as hopeful for the future? As a writer, all that’s left for me to do is to fashion old ideas into flashy forms that dazzle the current audience and dress it up with a label called ‘retro’.

Where are our values? Our hopes, our dreams, our unique ideal that guides humanity forward, the way a new generation should for humanity? No. I think we’re the anticlimax after humanity’s last gasp of the flower power generation. Come millenium and we’re just riding the downturn of a burnt out firecracker crashing to ground.

Look at how melodramatic and verbose all that is. Look at me editing myself. Look at us burn. Perhaps self-loathing is the only lesson my generation holds for humanity. What else is left to do after the flowers are gone?

[Note – I’m sorry I’m not kinder, Vrajesh and Dan, but I wonder if our generation has the capacity to think beyond recycled opinion to things as original as kindness. Your play and my father’s words made me think of all of this.]

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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 andInstagram.

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