Category Archives: The Thirty Diaries
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I received a call from an old college friend. It went the way you’d expect such calls to go. A lot shrieking, plenty of laughs, some quiet introspection and a lot more “I am so happy to be talking to you.”
I really am. This is more than nostalgia. We spend our 20s running smack-dab into life and learning to deal with adulthood. It’s jobs, marriage, economy, kids, loans, new homes, first health scares. The 30s have been less frenzied but also lonelier. Slowing down to catch our breaths, realising we’ve taken on wounds that won’t heal unless we do so. It’s chronic ailments, debt, cheating, divorce, career changes, addiction, depression, suicide or at the very least the thought of it. I’m not completely out clear of this decade yet but I’m on the last leg.
My friend talked about some the struggles of the past decade, personal, professional and health and also how people never really understand. My friend thinks he is the only one. Maybe because I always did things on different schedule from my peers (the first dropout, the last one with a boyfriend, the last to get a job, the first sabbatical, one of the few as yet not married, an early entrepreneur), I understand this at some level already. But I frequently forget.
Recently I’ve found myself dropping off revived friendships and conversations, because I don’t feel like explaining a broken engagement or a rising corporate career quit to follow a creative dream. My life feels like such a mess compared to other people. I terminate before it can get to the dreaded question,
“Why can’t you be more normal?”
It is there, if not in words, then in people’s eyes hanging with questions they are too polite to ask. Or in very tense silences when neither I nor they know what to say, and we’re both thinking back to when conversations ran free in a way that we didn’t even know freedom could be.
Yet, as my friend shared, I realised, we’re all living through lives that look very different from the Adarsh Balak posters. Maybe it’s a generational thing, maybe this is real life. We’re surviving (or not) situations that we are unprepared for and for a number of reasons, we assume it’s our fault. We assume that these situations are aberrations from the perfect life, rather than the life itself. We also forget and keep forgetting that all things pass, all things change. And most importantly, we forget in a spectacularly isolating manner that we are not alone. Maybe we go on so long with nobody actually seeing us as we are, that we start to believe the universe does not want to see us. Reconnecting to someone who saw us, at least once long ago is a reminder that we are not insubstantial ghosts. We are. We bear witness to each other’s lives.
In this same group, I pinged someone who used to be a dear friend with ‘Remember me?’. Her instant reply –
“The first feminist of our batch!”
This tickled and charmed and befuddled me in so many ways. Was I? Did I even know what feminism was? I was just muddling through the daily stumbling blocks put in a teenager’s life in the best way I could. Did I carry XX Factor and Sexonomics in me long before these ideas were even conceptualised? Did the people around me see some ideal in me that I couldn’t see? And wonder of wonders, does how I turned out seem ‘normal’ to them? Does my life actually make sense to some others even when it doesn’t to me? This is a profound realisation. Also one that leaves me a satisfied sort of tired. We are not the sole witnesses to our lives.
My friend told me that he reads my daily poetry and that it helps him go on, some days. I can only feel immense gratitude for the technology that allowed my friend to feel my support, even when I was absent in every way. I’ve heard a few people say this before and perhaps my reaction has not been gracious. But to be read is to be welcomed into a person’s mind and heart. It is a privilege, an honour given to me. I should only be grateful. And now I am.
So for all the friends I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet in person and those of you who welcome me into your lives without my ever having seen you – thank you. You bear witness to my life and I am very grateful. If my words mean anything to you, please consider it my way of bearing witness to yours. You are not alone.
The person who invented mirrors knew that people needed the shock therapy of truth, daily.
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If the mind is a willing student,
Even a hand can be a teacher.
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I spoke to her today. It wasn’t as unthinkable as I imagined, over a year ago. She told me the email I sent her a fortnight ago sounded like I did not want to hear from her. I said, that was probably true.
“When things happen, I deal with them in a certain way. I go into a shell. In time, I am ready to look. But not be looked that. That takes a little longer.”
She said she would need sometime to understand that. And that’s okay.
This would probably have happened in some way or the other. As it turns out, how it happened was that a common friend told that that I was being to her, how someone else is being to me at this moment. I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking about ghosting and gaslighting. These are things that we do, while also universally acknowledging that they are horrible actions. But maybe we do these because we really can’t do anything else at that time.
Match this with our superegoistic belief that everything that happens to us is our fault (because we have to feel like we can control everything, right?) But this is not true. Sometimes people are not thinking about us when they treat us badly. Sometimes they are not even seeing us, blinded by their own lives. Maybe this is nothing more than a bus running over tiny creatures in its path, its riders not intending to hurt but not really seeing or even being able to care about the casualties of their journey.
Last month I spotted another ex friend who had ghosted me. After dozens of conversations about life, love, work and existential angst and wine, she didn’t bother to invite me to her wedding. I found out about it when a stranger contacted me asking if I was still in touch with her. I passed right by and sat down at the table next to her for half an hour before I noticed who was next to me. It was awkward for awhile but maybe that’s just me. Perhaps I am dead to her for reasons I will never know. Perhaps I never existed in her world. Maybe people can achieve complete erasures.
But I think that’s only possible when your mind is so crammed with so many things that you block out the view of what is right in front of you. Well, that’s okay too. I love airy, wide spaces but I live in a city that thrives on cramped quarters. Each to their own space. And mindspace.
I attended a funeral today. This was not someone that I was close to but they died of unnatural causes and very young. So I’ve had a chance to mull over a profound experience without being overrun by it. Maybe life is kind in ways we can’t quite see.
I’ve always abhorred the living’s reactions. Loud, emotional scenes scare me. They make pain and grief into larger-than-life monsters. I dealt with the first death in my adult life (my grandfather’s) by being efficient. I saw to visitors, I answered questions, I made people eat and drink water, I tended to the cleaning and putting away of things. I was punished over and over with accusations of being cold and uncaring by the very same people who I was helping. I stayed angry for a long time over it. The same people playing that wretched game of ‘My sad is sadder than yours’ do not live with the heavy burden of feeling like they haven’t done enough. I do. They have the luxury of theatrics, holding the world to ransom with their tears and shrieks because someone else is willing to pay the price – the price of holding the world together while they bash away against it.
I realised today that this is my way of coping just as the theatrics are some (weak, selfish) people’s way of coping. Being efficient makes me feel like I can control something. Death, no matter how distant, shakes our foundations and reminds us of how little we have control. What does this have to do in a post about ghosting? It is all about the sudden shock of distance, isn’t it? And what’s more shocking and distant than death?
Why goodbye is a hard word #distance #fear #space #vulnerable #goodbye #poem #poetry #poet #micropoetry #micropoet #wordporn #writeaway #instawriters #writersofinstagram #writersofig #writersofindia #igwriters #igwritersclub #poetsofinstagram #poetsofig #picturepoetry #picturepoem Follow my writings on https://www.yourquote.in/ideasmithy
Someone who discarded me two years ago is waving furtively to me with likes on social media. I am not ready to go there. Well, actually I don’t want to. But what if I don’t have a choice? If people will go away without my being able to control it, maybe I also have no control over people coming back. It’s a horrid thought that life at large, has no concept of consent. I hate that the future is not a clean, straight line but may involve zigging and zagging and backtracking and U-turns and what not.
I am feeling my age a lot these days. 38 sounds like a very large age to be. But another part of me is relieved that The Thirty Diaries are drawing to a close. I think I will not do a Forty Diaries, counting off the milestones when my life map is so chaotic.
Maybe all we all need is time. If nothing else, time allows runaway emotions and stray ideas to settle. Time lets us reflect and clean our minds if we so choose. And time gives us perspective and clarity. And then, it’s up to us to choose what to do with a brand new day – a new possibility or even one that we thought we lost awhile ago. I wish us all the stillness that comes after we’ve regained peaceful breaths.
I wish I knew more people like me. I mean single Indians who’ve made choices and made mistakes. People who have broken some rules inadvertently and others because it was the only way to survive. The single Indian bit is important and come to think of it, being female too. But most important of all, people my age who are all this.
I have a world full of great folks who are at least 5 years younger than I am. Technology and exponentially leaping progress have made this a generation gap. While I find most of my tribe in the generation after mine, the fact still remains that I’m a few steps ahead. I’m past the time of competing for things that I know now to not be important. Or fearing things I can imagine because I’ve survived worse surprises and I know your mind is nothing but a horror movie that’s scary but can be turned off. I know all this and sometimes it gets tiresome being the only one who knows.
Specifically this applies to my romantic and to a lesser degree my professional choices. It’s only someone very naive that would say,
“Why do you care what other people think? Live life your own way.”
My world is full of people mouthing such platitudes, truly believing they’re wise and strong. They have not yet realised the impact of that idea, having rarely experienced it in its true brave-brutal-hostility-face-crippling-fear-be-attacked way. This is a brutally difficult path to follow for your career and I’ve managed it. But it makes no sense to me to think of relationships this way since relationships are about caring about other people. I’m tired of the glamorisation of the single life, possibly by unhappily married people wishing they could have something that isn’t actually real.
Today I had a conversation with a friendly acquaintance, on adjacent treadmills to be sure, at gym. She’s a few years younger than I am, happily married. She charmed me at our first meeting when she said she had no intention of having children and why should be the world’s business? That’s grounds enough for a friendship, I decided. It is and yet it’s not close enough. In conversations about love lives and life choices, she said,
“But do you even want comittment? I would think you’re the kind of woman who doesn’t really want all that. You’re so independent.”
She is so young, is all I could think. And yet, I know now that most men who’ve known me, romantically or otherwise echo the same black-and-white sentiment. Why does my desire to drive things mean that I do not want companionship? Why is my unwillingness to settle for abuse, disrespect and subjugation seen as comittment aversion?
I do want comittment, but with the right person. I know firsthand what a nightmarish hell it is to be comitted to someone who does not like you, does not care for you and wishes you harm. A lot of people think that made me afraid of relationships. It didn’t. It gave me perspective. If my only choice were a bad relationship or singledom, today I know which is the better one and that’s the one I’ve chosen. But I didn’t choose singledom over a promising (since that’s as good as it realistically can be) relationship because there isn’t one on my horizon right now.
A lot of the people in my life are men. My experiences tell me that if a man is not attracted to me, he is not likely to pay anything more than superficial attention to me. He’s just not interested in my life because I’m not a goal. If he is attracted to me, even faintly, it narrows the way I can be and things I can speak about because an innate need to compete and then judge crop up. Men are such limited human beings, no thank you for the socialisation, India.
Women on the other hand, can be bright, brave creatures. I love how many 27-33 year old women I know now who are single, beautiful, brave, intelligent and confident in their lives. I was the only one I knew when I was all those ages, and surrounded by boyfriend stealers, frenemies, girls who played dumb before the boys, girls who manipulated and tore each other down. I love that there are more women I can relate to now. But, they still are younger. They’re dealing with some of the things I’m still dealing with (thanks again for the rape culture, India). But they’ve not yet had to think about the biological clock and about annual health checkups, to name just two things. They’re dealing with other things I did not have to then (“Are you a good enough feminist?”). They are not me yet. Maybe they won’t be and I hope the world will be a better place for them when they’re 37.
Where does that put me? Running on the treadmill, alone. I did not choose to be here. But in life, as in the gym, if you’re there, you have to keep moving.
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I sang today.
Actually it’s the second time this week. Earlier this week, I met a friend visiting from out of town at what turned out to be a karaoke event. I sat through an hour of people rollicking in songs I did not recognize, trying hard not to feel outdated and irrelevant. And then my group picked out a nostalgia track that took me back to when singing was fun.
In case you’re wondering….the original:
Just before it was time to leave, something swung into place. A new year I realised, new resolutions, new promises and all that means the old burdens don’t exist any more or don’t have to matter anymore. The microphone is not new to me anymore and with karaoke, you don’t really expect anyone to be superlative in their mastery of the song or even memory of the lyrics. I chose this slightly (now) obscure song to pay tribute to the Angry Girl I started off as at seventeen. And it was good.
Today was Tuning Fork’s first challenge of the year. They had us write a piece in an hour to a prompt and just before going up on stage, they told us we’d have a predefined mood to render the performance. I started in fits & jerks, picking pieces of pretty lines and unfinished poetry from my stash. Then I decided to set those aside and go with a story that’s been lurking in the back of my lungs, waiting its turn while my voice, throat and mind got comfortable on stage.
This was the story I told. And the mood I picked was ‘Happy’ which felt like 2017 continues to be on my side and help me stay well, happy. I just listened to my performance and I’m so happy there’s still music inside me.
It feels like I’m seeing someone I’ve known all my life in a new light. Thank you for the music and the microphone. 2017, I thank you for your gifts.
This click today when I was sharing the story of my musical journey in college. #Poem #poetry #poet #spokenword #words #word #wordsmith #rhyme #verse #stanza #song #ode #performancepoetry #poets #poetryisnotdead #poetrycommunity #poetic #instapoem #instapoet #instapoetry #twitterpoem #twitterpoetry #micropoetry #micropoet
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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.
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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