Category Archives: Diary of a Writer

Vulnerability Bait

Art that is honest & vulnerable makes you want to be honest & vulnerable too. Well, honesty is infectious, or so I want to believe though I keep learning time and again, that that’s not true. But art showcases vulnerability, makes honesty accessible, believable, livable. It makes vulnerability look appealing by giving it your validation.

I rewatched EASY, the Mark Maron storyline of an ageing graphic novelist. Of course it tapped right into my fears of growing old & irrelevant, of regrets over the choices I’ve made that have turned out wrong. It’s also making me think about one of the projects I started (again) under lockdown.

Many, many years ago (and I feel able to say that since it is more than a decade ago and that’s basically three generations in digitalia), I was an anonymous blogger. I didn’t know it at the time but I was pioneering a movement, the way TikTokers are doing today. I was pushing the boundaries of what it means to mine one’s own life for the public, for art. It didn’t feel like any of that because I was protected by anonymity, a single word called IdeaSmith.

But maybe some part of me sensed it because the things that were too vulnerable even for IdeaSmith to say, I said through another name on another even more secretive blog. As a twenty-something Indian woman at the time, I was under A LOT of pressure to get married, after a whole life of being restrained from interactions with the opposite sex. I had burning questions like what does love mean, how do you judge whether someone is right for you, how do you do this in one meeting with twenty-five other people watching your every move and a whole world ready to decimate you for a wrong choice? I was navigating this world through sexual violations, through male entitlement and slut-shaming and the glass ceiling without knowing any of these terms. Well, maybe the last one a bit but not the others. That formed the meat of this super secret blog – my early meetings with prospective grooms and later, my own experiments with men I met in other ways. The word ‘dating’ wasn’t in the middle class Indian lexicon but I (and I guess we) were learning how to find answers to those questions.

I wrote about attractions, I chronicled matrimonial site meetings, I made jokes about the ineptitude of my male peers to have a conversation, I despaired in blogposts of ever finding an equal partnership. Always using elaborate nicknames and descriptions stripped of identity. Some of these themes inadvertently bled into XX Factor, one of my ‘public’ blogs as IdeaSmith in the form of general rants & humour and gained a lot of favour.

Once, sorely tempted, I made the secret blog public and linked it to the blogroll of this one, The Idea-smithy. Some of you may not remember but before there was Facebook, Twitter or even feed-readers, the only way to get to a blog was by typing in the URL in the address bar every damn time. Blogs frequently helped each other out by listing a blogroll in their sidebar, linking to blogs they liked or wanted to promote. I didn’t mention that this link was also one of mine but hid it somewhere between other friend-bloggers links.

Eight hours later, I panicked when I saw the Reader stats of my secret blog and made it private again, taking it off the blogroll. Almost immediately, I received a mail from one of my reader/blogger friends asking where that blog had vanished, who wrote that blog, where I’d found it, etc. More panic. Because I had written about this person too. I squirmed my way out of that conversation. Years later, I had a chance to tell him that I had been the author of that secret blog too. To my mortification he said,

“I knew it! I’d recognised your writing anywhere! You even wrote about me. I’m ‘….’, aren’t I?”

A few years later, I got into a serious relationship. I never told him about this blog. I wasn’t ashamed of it. It’s just I’d been burnt so badly in the past by boyfriends punishing me for having a past. And this one demanded honesty (though he didn’t extend me the same courtesy) but also cut me off from all things that made me, me – family, friends, interests and yes, the past. That relationship took my idea of hell to a whole different level and it was many years before I thought about the blog.

I had used parts of the blog to form a sub-plot of the first book I wrote. When I finally pitched it to publisher, one expressed interest, suggesting that I make it a whole book based only on the blogger character. A few months later, a new blog surfaced chronicling the dating life of one woman and promising a book at the end of it. Maybe not a coincidence that its writer was the same publisher who’d shown an interest in this format of my book. I didn’t own the idea of the format and anyway, my love life in the 2000s in Mumbai would be different from that of a Delhi girl in the 2010s.

I dug up this blog again for an Alphabet Sambar event on digital narratives. Each time I look at it, it gives me the little thrill of pleasure that nostalgia does. But this time when I read the whole thing, I found myself assessing it as a content professional. I thought about what this means in the larger scheme of things like how Indian social systems have developed, our attitudes to each other, our generational learning curve.

For the first time in this blog’s entire existence, I invited someone to read it. Actually I invited several different people and only one actually went through with it. It’s a mean little reminder of a writer’s life where nobody actually sees it as real work or worth respecting how much it matters to you, until there are numbers (viewers, readers, sales). Watching the Mark Maron episode brought up my other fear that once this blog’s contents are made public, many people will come crawling out of the woodwork – the specimens I’ve written about but also others who’ve been in my life all these years and like seeing me in a certain way and will express their BIG disappointment that there’s more. They’ll be upset they don’t appear here. They’ll be upset they do appear and how. They’ll be upset that someone else appears here. They’ll be upset that this chronicle exists. C’est la vie.

The first thing my friend said after she started reading was,

“It’s so vulnerable.”

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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.

Postcards To StorySeekers

This feels like a time to remember the things we’ve taken for granted. Walks. Conversations. Friendships. Laughter. Exploration. Experiences. Because isolation is cessation of all of these.

Too many of us have derided these things for too long. We live such over-stimulated, overexcited, hyperactive, frantic lives. An excess of anything can cause overdosing. But famine isn’t great either, as many of us are starting to realise.

A good story knows when to stop and when to pause. It holds its boundaries. And so, it can also move powerfully. We, the storytellers, need to be masters of this ability. To willingly seek ideas and to release them without pain. Sometimes this means going forth with no map but the resolve to find an experience for the joy of it.

I started #StorySeekers on @alphabetsambar to expand my endless thirst for sights, sounds, smells, ideas, people & conversations to others. Ideas are found in these, not in homogeneous coffeeshops. On each episode, we’d pick a place to experience with a Story Guide.

This photograph is from #StorySeekers: The Secret Life of Engineers. We experienced a temperature drop within a kilometre, watched birds over a lake, enjoyed a gallery of graffiti, peeped into the laboratories that nurture some of the brightest minds in the country and talked through poetry & fiction written by them. It was the perfect day.

Because there was this, I know there will be more. There are worlds beyond my room. Everything has a boundary, even pandemics. You just have to find it. Or outlive it with hope. For me, a page from the past will do to remind me that there are yet stories unwritten.

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POSTCARDS TO STORY SEEKERS This feels like a time to remember the things we've taken for granted. Walks. Conversations. Friendships. Laughter. Exploration. Experiences. Because isolation is cessation of all of these. Too many of us have derided these things for too long. We live such over-stimulated, overexcited, hyperactive, frantic lives. An excess of anything can cause overdosing. But famine isn't great either, as many of us are starting to realise. A good story knows when to stop and when to pause. It holds its boundaries. And so, it can also move powerfully. We, the storytellers, need to be masters of this ability. To willingly seek ideas and to release them without pain. Sometimes this means going forth with no map but the resolve to find an experience for the joy of it. I started #StorySeekers on @alphabetsambar to expand my endless thirst for sights, sounds, smells, ideas, people & conversations to others. Ideas are found in these, not in homogeneous coffeeshops. On each episode, we'd pick a place to experience with a Story Guide. This photograph is from #StorySeekers: The Secret Life of Engineers. We experienced a temperature drop within a kilometre, watched birds over a lake, enjoyed a gallery of graffiti, peeped into the laboratories that nurture some of the brightest minds in the country and talked through poetry & fiction written by them. It was the perfect day. Because there was this, I know there will be more. There are worlds beyond my room. Everything has a boundary, even pandemics. You just have to find it. Or outlive it with hope. For me, a page from the past will do to remind me that there are yet stories unwritten. ———————————————– Leave a comment if you'd like to join our little community of creators. ———————————————– 📸: @lumographer07 for @alphabetsambar 🎶: EL CONDOR PASA: Simon & Garfunkel #theideasmithy

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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.

When A Writer Chooses Boundaries

I have been quiet, of late. Conversations felt overwhelming, hurtful and most of all – dangerous. This is the fallout of engaging with people who are angry. Angry people are destructive people. Even self-destruction has a massive fallout radius. And anger, yes, is the most common emotion that people express, online and offline.

Many of us have never learnt how to manage our emotions. I am still learning. Disappointment is a normal occurrence in urban living because of the sped-up pace and throning numbers. And it seems to morph into fear, that emotion that triggers the primal fight/flight response. And thus, the default of living is attack, denial, withdrawal, lashing out, outrage – all aggressive acts of dealing with reality.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to survive this. I know a few people who are relocating to other cities. I don’t think this actually escapes the issue. I also know a handful that are trying to build lives in quieter, less urban spaces. But human living shifts towards the urban for several reasons and it doesn’t seem sustainable to escape it. What would I do in a place that had patchy connectivity? How do I deal with growing health issues that depend on the complex healthcare system in cities? How safe would it be for a woman who has only ever lived her life navigating urban dangers like robbery, sexual predators, corporate exploitation and white collar crime? I don’t think ‘getting away’ is an actual feasible option.

I’ve lived my whole life believing that I should not be a burden or have a negative impact on my surroundings. And that the world will function and life will be good if I do so, no matter how difficult it is. But this makes me vulnerable to those would prefer not to do so themselves. This includes people who will not take responsibility for their own responses (“I am angry/struggling/deprived/sick so it is okay for me to be destructive”). It is also people who pin the blame for their bad feelings on other people. It is those who associate justice with revenge. It is people who value rage, one-upmanship and dramatic gestures (no matter the cost) as victory. Is it possible to completely cut off people like this? I don’t know.

I’m pondering the word ‘boundaries’ that is coming up often in conversation. As with any other popular word, I see this one also being hijacked to suit the above agenda. But it feels like a powerful idea. I know it is intended not as another rage-weapon, not as another excuse to shirk responsibility from one’s responses. I think it is supposed to build your own immunity to external vagaries (whether it other people’s toxic responses or situational disappointments).

So how does one establish healthy boundaries? I feel like this means I have to examine where I am vulnerable and understand why. This is why I’ve been quieter. Going into different situations, watchful, examining what hurts and what comes up.

I realised that I already knew, even anticipated beforehand how people would hurt me. I learnt that I prefer flight response. And when I didn’t flee, I was confronted by violent responses couched in convincing justification. I was stuck here. The negative responses of people I cared for, didn’t hurt beyond a point, because I’d learnt to insulate myself in a cocoon of logic, feeling superior to those who were messy with their reactions. I did not want to do this. I did not want to feel superior (because it’s a form of distancing). I did not not want to continue hurting. And I didn’t want to cut out every close association in my life. I feared it would make me cynical and the belief that all human relationships would be that way, would take root.

I received help when a friend pointed out that I was building justifications for people’s reactions myself. I’d become adept at building coherent stories explaining (to myself) why people behave badly with me. This lesson hit me like shell-shock. I don’t want to be good at letting people hurt me.

But two writers’ meets this month brought another realisation up. I’m good at building a story. It’s silly to treat this as a weakness. I create stories and can choose the good ones. Stories that empower me, stories that keep me honest, stories that build empathy bridges between me and the world. In the past year, I’ve focused especially on keeping what I say online peaceful and positive. And it has been noticed.

But I cannot do this in isolation because even a writer is not making something out of nothing. We work with our observations and emotions. I need positive reinforcement and I need reminders of where I do not need to expend my efforts. This can only happen in conversations.

I had a revelation today that I must write. Often, daily even. Writing is how I have made sense of the world, since I was 9. In my teens, when it felt unsafe to share this process, I wrote in secret diaries. And later, on my blog as an anonymous ‘IdeaSmith’. The reactions stung but I was able to distance them when I shut down my computer.

But in the recent years, I’ve come out (a decision I took under duress, preferring to own my narrative rather than be outed). It’s easier for external things to disrupt and poison my process of making sense of the world. But I must believe that the years have also brought me strength and sense. When I refused to flee, I found people’s monstrous reactions were just that – monstrous reactions. These did not have to do with me.

I’m holding on to that thought to find my way now. Maybe the first lesson of healthy boundaries is choosing not to fight or flee. If that works (and it has so far), the next step is disregarding the temptation to engage. This means not attack, not freeze out but detach in a peaceful, non-dramatic way. I do this online by muting trolls or simply stepping away from conversations where the other person is clearly not listening. Because I have decided rage reactions are not my world and so that is not about me.

My physical health has always mirrored my emotional state. I’m still struggling with allergies (which I know now are hypersensitivity to upsetting things). I wake up every morning barely able to breathe. And the company of some people, being in certain places brings on a new bout. But I’ve been taking a few minutes away to focus on my breathing and get it back to normal. It has a way of calming me. In the worst of those attacks, I’ve also had to take the next day off and stay in bed. But I’ve allowed myself to admit that these have been misbehaviours on people’s part and it is not for me to build a justification. I get better after that. And I think I’m getting better at doing this too.

At my writers’ meet yesterday, I spoke about how I felt stuck in a rut and wondered if I had anything new to say. But I think not writing is not a choice for me, which must mean I still have things to say. I’ll figure it out, one word at a time.

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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.

Change Of Weather

We’re running out of things to say to each other. It seems as if you don’t like me very much anymore.

You hate my car, my home, my gadgets, my life – everything that makes me successful. You want us to go back to a simpler life, for me to work harder for lesser. But I have for centuries and millennia and time eternal. Now it’s time for pleasure. It’s called progress. You see green, it was never my favourite colour. I like steel and grey a lot better.

So you turn moody. It’s just like you to want to ruin my day. Starve me by burning it all up. You know, nobody likes someone who’s always raining on their parade. And yet I try, with I love yous and other peacekeeping tactics. Earth Hour. World Environment Day. Special days. Everyday used to be special. Do you remember?
I do.

Summer days where you’d wrestle me to the ground and we’d make hard, mango-scented love. Winter nights kissing me lightly awake, keeping me up talking poetry. Endless evenings standing still on the beach so still, like God stopped breathing and look, that sliver of blood moon, the tip of his big toenail as he says Peace Out.

How bold we were, how brave to play these toxic games of evolution and success, pain and pleasure. We were baiting danger at leisure. We managed to keep love, quite at bay.

Let us try to believe that even when the eyes are cold, the visions behind them are not. We are, after all, the casualties of Life’s war against itself. But you are still angry, your moodswings have given me a cold. I’ve cried all I want to, for you. And you’ve exploded far more than you can afford. But we my love, have never learnt to speak. My poetry, I see, won’t touch you any more. It’s too late to salvage what we had.

So we’ll go back to talking about the weather and you can blame it all on me again. And some day perhaps, long after I’m gone, another lover, another child, standing with you under a different sun, another season, will find lined across your body, the stretch marks of our life together and wonder whether they were not your first love.

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CHANGE OF WEATHER We’re running out of things to say to each other. It seems as if you don’t like me very much anymore. You hate my car, my home, my gadgets, my life – everything that makes me successful. You want us to go back to a simpler life, for me to work harder for lesser. But I have for centuries and millennia and time eternal. Now it’s time for pleasure. It's called progress. You see green, it was never my favourite colour. I like steel and grey a lot better. So you turn moody. It’s just like you to want to ruin my day. Starve me by burning it all up. You know, nobody likes someone who’s always raining on their parade. And yet I try, with I love yous and other peacekeeping tactics. Earth Hour. World Environment Day. Special days. Everyday used to be special. Do you remember? I do. Summer days where you'd wrestle me to the ground and we'd make hard, mango-scented love. Winter nights kissing me lightly awake, keeping me up talking poetry. Endless evenings standing still on the beach so still, like God stopped breathing and look, that sliver of blood moon, the tip of his big toenail as he says Peace Out. How bold we were, how brave to play these toxic games of evolution and success, pain and pleasure. We were baiting danger at leisure. We managed to keep love, quite at bay. Let us try to believe that even when the eyes are cold, the visions behind them are not. We are, after all, the casualties of Life’s war against itself. But you are still angry, your moodswings have given me a cold. I've cried all I want to, for you. And you've exploded far more than you can afford. But we my love, have never learnt to speak. My poetry, I see, won’t touch you any more. It's too late to salvage what we had. So we’ll go back to talking about the weather and you can blame it all on me again. And some day perhaps, long after I’m gone, another lover, another child, standing with you under a different sun, another season, will find lined across your body, the stretch marks of our life together and wonder whether they were not your first love. ——————————————– I wrote this for an event about climate change, a few years ago. #theideasmithy

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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.

Interesting Things

I read a sentence in a book that went, “She tried to be the kind of person that interesting things happened to.” And I thought that was such a pretty line. But what did it mean? And because I was enjoying the book, I immediately applied it to myself wondering if I’d ever done that. 

I don’t know if interesting things just ‘happen’ to people. You have to go looking for things that will grab you by the neck and demand that you expend breaths, thoughts and emotions on them. That doesn’t sound pleasant, does it? Interesting things rarely are. There’s a reason ‘May you live in interesting times’ is a curse and not a blessing. 

It is true that I grew up in Mumbai with multiethnic influences so perhaps I didn’t have to look very far for the next adventure. Just finding an identity and holding on to it continues to be the biggest challenge. But spiritual soliloquy aside, what are the things of interest that can happen?

Romance. Friendship. God. The next BIG idea. A flash mob proposal. A near-death experience. A chance to rescue someone. A celebrity spotting. A spiritual epiphany. A lottery. How does one become the kind of person these things happen to? It’s simple. You open your eyes and you breathe. In, out. 

In seeking these experiences (finding some, discovering other things and still seeking a few), I realised that I became that interesting thing that happened to somebody else. Inspiration to a student dropping by an open mic. Book recommendations that changed someone’s college major. Crazy makeup for a person seeing people beyond their masks for the first time. The first claps that started the round of applause for an uncertain performer. The uncomfortable thought that made someone who wanted to think of themselves as kind…think differently. A broken rule to demonstrate it could be done. 

So what interesting thing are you going to be today and whose life are you changing?

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INTERESTING THINGS I read a sentence in a book that went, "She tried to be the kind of person that interesting things happened to." And I thought that was such a pretty line. But what did it mean? And because I was enjoying the book, I immediately applied it to myself wondering if I'd ever done that. I don't know if interesting things just 'happen' to people. You have to go looking for things that will grab you by the neck and demand that you expend breaths, thoughts and emotions on them. That doesn't sound pleasant, does it? Interesting things rarely are. There's a reason 'May you live in interesting times' is a curse and not a blessing. It is true that I grew up in Mumbai with multiethnic influences so perhaps I didn't have to look very far for the next adventure. Just finding an identity and holding on to it continues to be the biggest challenge. But spiritual soliloquy aside, what are the things of interest that can happen? Romance. Friendship. God. The next BIG idea. A flash mob proposal. A near-death experience. A chance to rescue someone. A celebrity spotting. A spiritual epiphany. A lottery. How does one become the kind of person these things happen to? It's simple. You open your eyes and you breathe. In, out. In seeking these experiences (finding some, discovering other things and still seeking a few), I realised that I became that interesting thing that happened to somebody else. Inspiration to a student dropping by an open mic. Book recommendations that changed someone's college major. Crazy makeup for a person seeing people beyond their masks for the first time. The first claps that started the round of applause for an uncertain performer. The uncomfortable thought that made someone who wanted to think of themselves as kind…think differently. A broken rule to demonstrate it could be done. So what interesting thing are you going to be today and whose life are you changing? #theideasmithy 🎶: DEVIL IN DISGUISE – Elvis Presley

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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.

Paper Plane Pilot

I was a diarist through my teens. When I was 24, I discovered blogs which I learnt was short for ‘web logs’. And my diarying transitioned online. Because I wrote under the then anonymous identity of IdeaSmith, I could pour my unvarnished feelings into writing, things I didn’t feel at liberty to say in my daily life.

These were my 20s and I was accumulating new experiences faster than I could process (post-graduation, first job, recession survival, new love, matrimonial pressures). There was fear, worry, anguish and grief for what I’d left behind – things that I was not ‘supposed to’ feel or dwell on. Writing anonymously allowed me to examine each feeling and experience at leisure.

Before I knew it, I had readers and IdeaSmith was a personality, an entity built by me but also by what my readers wanted to read. Possibly because my dark emotions and experiences were not permissible in my offline life (Nobody wants brooding, angry, grieving or annoyed women even in 2019), these writings were more poignant than my cheerful work. Maybe they just suited the mystery persona of an unknown woman on the internet better.

I had a revelation in the early 2010s. I realised each time I wrote or spoke or even read a piece, I relived that memory. So in my dark, brooding words, I was keeping my pain alive. Writing, I concluded, was cathartic, not healing. And in 2014 after abuse, a broken engagement, a nondescript startup, I decided I needed healing. I needed levity & light. Words matter so much to those of us who wield them. It’s hard to bring them to destruction. But the image of a paper plane flew into my imagination.

And from that came a healing philosophy and a tattoo for reminder. This was my first performance as a stage artist, a wordsmith with flight, a new me.

Watch the video on and fly a paper plane with me.


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PAPER PLANE PILOT I was a diarist through my teens. When I was 24, I discovered blogs which I learnt was short for 'web logs'. And my diarying transitioned online. Because I wrote under the then anonymous identity of IdeaSmith, I could pour my unvarnished feelings into writing, things I didn't feel at liberty to say in my daily life. These were my 20s and I was accumulating new experiences faster than I could process (post-graduation, first job, recession survival, new love, matrimonial pressures). There was fear, worry, anguish and grief for what I'd left behind – things that I was not 'supposed to' feel or dwell on. Writing anonymously allowed me to examine each feeling and experience at leisure. Before I knew it, I had readers and IdeaSmith was a personality, an entity built by me but also by what my readers wanted to read. Possibly because my dark emotions and experiences were not permissible in my offline life (Nobody wants brooding, angry, grieving or annoyed women even in 2019), these writings were more poignant than my cheerful work. Maybe they just suited the mystery persona of an unknown woman on the internet better. I had a revelation in the early 2010s. I realised each time I wrote or spoke or even read a piece, I relived that memory. So in my dark, brooding words, I was keeping my pain alive. Writing, I concluded, was cathartic, not healing. And in 2014 after abuse, a broken engagement, a nondescript startup, I decided I needed healing. I needed levity & light. Words matter so much to those of us who wield them. It's hard to bring them to destruction. But the image of a paper plane flew into my imagination. And from that came a healing philosophy and a tattoo for reminder. This was my first performance as a stage artist, a wordsmith with flight, a new me. Watch the video on @kalart.ists YouTube channel. Link in bio. And fly a paper plane with me. #theideasmithy #paperplanes #paperplane #origami #inspiration #motivationalquotes #motivationmonday #motivation #healing #movingforward #lettinggo #lessonslearnedinlife #anonymous #pain #performanceart

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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.

You Don’t Know Me

We’ve spoken. You’ve looked at me and I, at you. You probably thought of me later. Weeks or months later, remembering, wondering why you remembered. If that thought made you smile, and I think it did, yes, I’m that one. And if it worried you, don’t anymore. It was just my perfume, a light scent that you barely notice but it lingers. Just like me.

We’ve had a conversation. We both listened. We both heard. Except you were listening to a recording. And I was listening for the raw, rough notes of being human. I found it in your breaths that were too loud and the sighs that weren’t. I know how to do that. What you heard was just the white noise before a song begins and then you don’t notice it anymore. The song you wanted to sing, that you were always going to sing and I let you. I spoke a lot but I never said a thing.

We’ve touched in ways minor and dramatic. We’ve collided. We’ve danced. But you won’t catch my fingerprints anywhere in your life. Only inside your mind and maybe not even that. You never looked at my hands.

You may think this entails an understanding between us. That’s partly true. You see, I understand you. I wanted to. But you never dived beneath the surface, never peeled back a smile layer or listened beyond my words to my pauses. You don’t know me. You don’t know me at all. 

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YOU DON'T KNOW ME We've spoken. You've looked at me and I, at you. You probably thought of me later. Weeks or months later, remembering, wondering why you remembered. If that thought made you smile, and I think it did, yes, I'm that one. And if it worried you, don't anymore. It was just my perfume, a light scent that you barely notice but it lingers. Just like me. We've had a conversation. We both listened. We both heard. Except you were listening to a recording. And I was listening for the raw, rough notes of being human. I found it in your breaths that were too loud and the sighs that weren't. I know how to do that. What you heard was just the white noise before a song begins and then you don't notice it anymore. The song you wanted to sing, that you were always going to sing and I let you. I spoke a lot but I never said a thing. We've touched in ways minor and dramatic. We've collided. We've danced. But you won't catch my fingerprints anywhere in your life. Only inside your mind and maybe not even that. You never looked at my hands. You may think this entails an understanding between us. That's partly true. You see, I understand you. I wanted to. But you never dived beneath the surface, never peeled back a smile layer or listened beyond my words to my pauses. You don't know me. You don't know me at all. 📸: @unstable_elemnt 🎶: YOU DON'T KNOW ME – Cindy Walker 1964 #theideasmithy #city #cityliving #citylife #Urbanliving #urbanperspectives #lonelycity #identity #intimacy #loneliness #lonelygirl #solitude #defencemechanism #emotional #emotions #relating #relationships #people #introspection #life #living

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A Bowl Of Soup For Hungry Minds

I wish learning were about curiosity, not a degree. I wish I didn’t live in a world where questions were deemed stupid, caring was uncool, interest was intrusive and curiosity killed. Because my curiosity is my compass, leading me mind-first into every path that makes it possible to be me.

When what we know is bartered and doled out like so many bowls of pitiful, tasteless soup. No wonder then, we treat it with hatred and fear. Information as power and knowledge as currency keep us all fearful and stupid. The most richly bound Bible is still just a fancy paperweight, unless you open the page and read. And we’re meagre in the knowledge of ourselves, scared to go inward and read and suspicious of anyone else who wants to.

The quest for knowledge has always been driven by all-consuming passion. Marie Curies and Galelios strayed blind into the valley of death, in its pursuit. Van Goghs and Sylvia Plaths soldiered against pain, in a quest to understand, to know more more MORE.

I wish we didn’t have to beg fearfully for answers, veritable Oliver Twists begging for another bowl of soup. Because knowing, unlike possessions, is free. How can you put a price on the experience of meeting an idea, welcoming it into your mind, turning it into thought and finally giving it a home inside your life in the form of knowledge?

Knowledge is not power. It is life, sustenance for hungry minds.

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A BOWL OF SOUP FOR HUNGRY MINDS I wish learning were about curiosity, not a degree. I wish I didn't live in a world where questions were deemed stupid, caring was uncool, interest was intrusive and curiosity killed. Because my curiosity is my compass, leading me mind-first into every path that makes it possible to be me. When what we know is bartered and doled out like so many bowls of pitiful, tasteless soup. No wonder then, we treat it with hatred and fear. Information as power and knowledge as currency keep us all fearful and stupid. The most richly bound Bible is still just a fancy paperweight, unless you open the page and read. And we're meagre in the knowledge of ourselves, scared to go inward and read and suspicious of anyone else who wants to. The quest for knowledge has always been driven by all-consuming passion. Marie Curies and Galelios strayed blind into the valley of death, in its pursuit. Van Goghs and Sylvia Plaths soldiered against pain, in a quest to understand, to know more more MORE. I wish we didn't have to beg fearfully for answers, veritable Oliver Twists begging for another bowl of soup. Because knowing, unlike possessions, is free. How can you put a price on the experience of meeting an idea, welcoming it into your mind, turning it into thought and finally giving it a home inside your life in the form of knowledge? Knowledge is not power. It is life, sustenance for hungry minds. ———————————————————————————– 🎶: THE FOOL ON THE HILL – The Beatles 📸: @lumographer07 at @alphabetsambar – IIT Bombay #StorySeekers #theideasmithy #knowledge #knowthyself #knowing #answers #answer #curiosity #learning #mindfulness #mindbodysoul #curious #student #studentoflife

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


What #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.

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

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