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What’s Your Poison? – Addictions You May Not Know You Have

Mondays always feel like a good thing, even in the hardest of my times. They’re a chance to start afresh, turn my back on whatever has gone on in the past week/s  and begin anew. This is true whether the times in the past have been good or bad because both of them wear me out equally. I am a different person from myself when I am sad or stressed. I also don’t quite feel myself when I’m partying or receiving an undue amount of adulation. Neither extreme feels normal and it’s a bit disorienting.

My friend Aditya has been on a journey away from cigarettes (Read his post ‘5 Things I Learnt From 100 Days Of Not Smoking‘). I’ve always been very proud of the thought that I don’t get addicted easily so perhaps I have not been as considerate or compassionate to those who struggle with nicotine, alcohol or other addictions. But it has occurred to me recently that abusive/emotionally manipulative men are my addiction. Their bad behaviour is not my fault but might I be gravitating towards conversations and situations that put me in the proximity of people like this? And why? Because it feels familiar. I know it’s bad for me but it feels known and thus, safe. Isn’t that exactly what chain smokers say? I did not realise it because no one around me other than women’s magazines thought that it was a thing. But it’s a pattern that hurts me, impedes me and that I do not know how to get out of.

Marian Keyes’ ‘Rachel’s Holiday‘ opened me up to the idea that addiction is not entirely about willpower. It is also not about alcohol, cigarettes, drugs or the substance/habit being abused. It is about a behaviour pattern in response to something else, that does not serve the addict very well. But in the addict’s mind, they’re still trying to combat whatever caused them to form the habit in the first place, never mind if it has outlived its purpose (or if it ever fulfilled that purpose well).

We all have problems and all of us face situations that are new, alarming and scary to us, frequently; this is the nature of life. This must mean, we are all creating potential addictions for ourselves, every single day. The kind of lives we live today, millennials – with the pressures of the digital world, an unstable world economy and insecure jobs, heavy gaslighting from other and our own generation – we are at high risk.

Cigarettes and alcohol seem minor in comparison. The world acknowledges these. We have nicotine patches and Alcoholics Anonymous. But what of the millions of other ways that we find to escape realities we cannot bear, and then find ourselves trapped within that escape route?

My ex spent an unnatural amount of time in his gaming universe. He owned three console devices, not including controllers and his computer. He’d reminisce fondly of the times when he could spend entire weekends gaming, never even getting up to brush his teeth, let alone anything else. He’d also invite me over then make me watch him play, resenting every instance that I protested. Every minute that he couldn’t spend with his games, was a reason for him to hate the world. And since I was a part of that, I was the recipient of his hatred. Gaming sounds like an ‘If you’re not cool, you won’t get it’ habit to a lot of us, so read this paragraph again this time substituting gaming with alcohol. See what I mean? We know the term Alcoholic but have we come up with Gameoholic?

Reema keeps me on the straight and clear in many ways. She embodies the healthy lifestyle right from her food habits to the way she thinks about people, work and life. But I worry sometimes that she overdoes it on the fitness regimen. She is almost always reasonable but I catch a glimpse of her possible addiction when it comes to exercising. There are times when I want to ask her whether that particular exercise or activity is really for better fitness or whether she’s just used to pushing herself and wants to prove that she can do it. These are two very different reasons and I think the only reason to do a fitness activity should be because it builds fitness. If it’s the second reason, it smells suspiciously like addiction.

A habit is only behaviour that we compulsively repeat. The only thing determining good or bad is its proportion in our lives with respect to other things. What’s tricky is keeping our sense of perspective. With so much going on in all our lives, just out of sheer exhaustion, most of us sink into one or two things, a few activities, a few people, a few ways of thinking.

Try this experiment. Go to your cupboard and take out all the clothes in it. How many of them have you actually worn in the past month? I’m willing to bet that it’s only around 10% of what you own, which you’ve repeated over and over again. Everything else gets pushed to the back and the chances are you forget a lot of that exists. A lot of our life is the same way. Our habits (addictions) push the rest of our lives to the back. And unfortunately for us, most of life isn’t like a nice tee-shirt. It won’t look the same if you retrieve it two months or twenty years later.

The only action I can think of is just that – keep thinking constantly. Have I missed anything? Am I doing this because I’m just used to it or is it actually furthering my life? This does not all have to be efficient, money-generating or socially respectable things. But when you spend two hours of your life with a person, is it just because there’s no one else around or is it because you really want to meet them? If it’s company you crave, does this company fulfil you the way a good meal would when you’re hungry or is it like a  cigarette that suppresses your appetite and coats your lungs with tar? If you prefer being by yourself, is it because you feel invigorated and recharged by solitude or do you fear the world’s company? If summer is your favourite season, is it really because you enjoy the heat or is it because you’re grateful that it’s not raining instead? This last is a question I am asking myself and it’s not an easy one to answer. So rest assured I really do understand.

Our addictions are very dear to us because we feel they’ve protected us from something unpleasant or scary in the past. They’ve also stayed with us long enough to feel familiar. But be aware, the walls that keep out the elements can very easily turn into prison bars. Windows and doors exist for a reason. All that stands between freedom and captivity is remembering how to get out. And we do need to get out frequently or forgetting becomes a habit too.

I wish you all a lot of courage and hope in addressing your own addictions. And I hope this week dawns easier for us all.

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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.

Ideamarked Nov2011: Window Gardens, Bookstores, PS3 & Kolaveri Di

I’ve always loved November. Diwali festivities, vacations to look forward to…as I’ve gotten older, I find the end of the year packing up. The weather is crisper, even in hot & humid Mumbai. Everyone starts to let their hair down and spends more time thinking about parties, picnics & get-togethers than work. The world takes a break next month & November is all about the planning and anticipation of just that.

It’s been a packed and enjoyable November for me. I attended the NH7 festival in Pune, in its second year. A story on women bloggers featured me in a prominent way. For the few of you who remember my long-winded adventure with NovelRace, I finally managed to complete it! Whether this ever comes out or not, I can now die happy knowing that I did write a full novel. 🙂

On that cheery note, here’s this month’s links. As you can see, there was a lot of link-love going around too!

  • DewarsIndia’s channel features music travelogues across India. (on Youtube, link courtesy Sangita Bhargavi)
  • Simi’s new show: India’s most botoxed, banal & brainless‘: Of course, I agree. (via FirstPost, link courtesy Lakshmi Shesadri)
  • MasterChef India: Guaranteed to cure you of any desire to cook‘: Sadly, I’m having to agree. MasterChef India has a long way to go before it can be in the same league as MasterChef Australia. (via FirstPost)
  • Window gardening for the urban-dweller longing for a touch of green – ‘Growing Organic Fruits & Vegetables at Home‘ (via Earthoholics, link courtesy Vishal Gadkari)
  • ‘Worklish’ is a way to cover up how much one doesn’t know. They why is it that we who don’t speak it, are left out in the cold?: ‘Buzzwords at office driving you crazy? 6 ways to cope‘ (via Huffington Post)
  • If your interest in astrology, tarot, dream interpretation & the predictive arts extends beyond mere curiosity, you should definitely visit Magick. The store  is currently looking for fulltime apprentices to initiate into the Wicca tradition. (via Swati Prakash)
  • If you ever wondered why the people you follow, don’t follow you back, here are some possible answers: ‘The Top 10 Reasons I Will Not Follow You On Twitter‘ (via Mashable)
  • Reviews, recipes and workshops, you have to stop by Tulleeho if you have a love of the drink.
  • India as the Indians see it – non PC humour (on Facebook, link courtesy Shweta Madan)
  • ‘5 Tips To Help You Decide How Much Of You Should Show Up On The Blog‘ (via SharingWithWriters)
  • Hail the motherland of idlis, software dreams & kitschy Kollywood songs! This month’s music craze – Kolaveri Di (via Youtube)
  • A 5-yr old post that’ll still interest Mumbai’s booklovers: ‘A Bibliophile’s Guide To Mumbai‘ (via The Idea-smithy)
  • A lovely gift from blogger to blogger – ‘It’s Not Just A Car‘ 55 word story by Manuscrypts!
  • Kitab Khana, a bookstore recommendation courtesy Anuradha Shankar.
  • A little thought on liking and love (via Slices of Time, link courtesy Rehab Chougle)
  • MICHEAL: PS3 Long Live Play‘: A fun advertisement for gamers (via Youtube, link courtesy Ashwini Mishra)

* Catch these links as they happen on The Idea-smithy Facebook Page. You can also post an interesting link of your own to the page and get featured on the Ideamarked post at the end of the month!

Reverb 10.30: Gifts

I like this Reverb10 but it still digs into the much-dug-into bits of my life, all through the same writing exercise. Here goes, anyway.

December 30 – Gift Prompt: Gift.

This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year? (Author: Holly Root)

Small gifts, meaningful gifts. There were several of them (lucky me!) in 2010. Off the top of my head: –

  • The Best Friend and I had a fallout just before she moved to another continent. I didn’t meet her, see her off or even call her. I felt she wouldn’t make the effort if I didn’t, so why bother. But I was wrong. She called, she reached out. And our friendship is back on track, stronger if at all, than ever. And it’s all down to her. What a wonderful gift!
  • S and I have known each other years and always gotten along. But this year he magically turned into my guardian angel. He was there to listen, to offer advice, to articulate my confusion and finally, for endless bear hugs through all the darkness of the first half of the year.
  • Shirrin was in Mumbai more than once this year. Meeting her is always a surprise. I don’t know why we get along so well but we do. Just talking to her is a gift, being able to do it sitting across her (instead of on a cross-continent phone call) and more than once a year was a delightful suprise!
  • Adi came to town and made it a special point to set aside a day for me. For a man of such popularity, a full day was the most wonderful gift he could have given me.
  • The boy cooked for me on our second anniversary. What more can I say? 🙂
  • My parents met the boy, didn’t pressurize me to set a date and when I asked them what they really thought, said, “If you’re happy, that’s really the only thing that matters.” 🙂

Ideart: Sabu-Jupiter Jwala

Another edition of Ideart! It is most delightful to be able to gift something that you’ve put a little piece of yourself into. The boy is at the slightly flummoxed receiving end of this.

Being a typical boy in all such manner of things, he’s a comics aficionado. Grave conversations have been had about the merits of desi superheroes over the firang crusaders. He’s actually a Homer Simpson fan but the American sensation’s face is plastered over teeshirts right across town. I thought it would be fun to bring in a desi touch to the comic characters-on-teeshirts fad. So I started with something familiar to every Indian kid across the country (secretly in cases like mine since my parents didn’t approve of the bad English). The world of Diamond Comics!

Chacha Chaudhary would have been the obvious choice for the tee-shirt with the telling caption of ‘Chacha Chaudhary’s brain works faster than a computer!’ But I felt the concept of a bald, alien giant clad in gold earrings, belted shorts and boots had far more potential.

I looked through a number of images online and offline to get a good sense of Sabu. The drawings were actually a lot more detailed than I remembered them. For example, Sabu’s boots aren’t always the ubiquitous black. Sometimes they match the colour of his shorts, sometimes the belt. The mustache is finely waxed and shaped (presumably garden shears would have been put to use trimming it). And finally his body language lent itself to a delightful range of renditions. Since Sabu is the muscle end of Chacha Chaudhary’s adventures, there are several panels that depict high kicks or punches (with a star-shaped ‘Pow’ bubble).

I put together some amalgamation of all of these. The result shows Sabu preparing to land either a punch or a kick. I know a villian being punched might have added to the image but I wanted a dedication to Sabu, not just a scene from the series. As it turns out, I think Sabu could be mistaken for a (rather clumsy) ballroom dancer.

White and black were my choices for the background. But when I saw this grey, I fell in love with it. Sabu has neither the pristine moral science character of Chacha Chaudhary nor the dark, brooding past of some of the other superheroes. He’s musclepower, sidekick and comic relief all in one. Chacha Chaudhary has to restrain him from some of of his more angry ideas on occasion. He’s treated like a child, a rookie and even a faithful pet. Grey seemed the perfect choice for Sabu.

Given my low confidence with drawing male characters, I took a long time sketching the figure out. The simplicity of Diamond Comics artwork made this a good first step for me. I retained the slight errors in size and perspective because that’s what I see in the actual comics too.

Colouring was the easiest bit of this project, given that Sabu wears very few clothes. A skin tone for the body,  blue shorts, gold earrings and brown belt and boots. The effect was rather like a child’s colouring book so I added some shading. The way to do this is when the base layer of paint is still slighty wet but not runny. Lay a spot or even a thin line of a darker (in the case of the skin) or lighter (the shorts) shade of the same colour and blend in.

I’m rather happy with the way the shading turned out on the arms, especially Sabu’s left arm. The brush strokes left hairfine lines and I didn’t blend them in further because they give the impression of hairiness and add to the desi machismo look.

Sabu’s expression didn’t give away much and I didn’t want the Jupiter giant to be mistaken for a dance instructor. So squiggly lines radiating from his head were added to let the viewer know that Sabu was angry!

And my favorite part of the image – the caption, was detailed below. In Hindi for maximum impact:

Jab Sabu ko gussa aata hain, to Jupiter pe jwalamukhi phatata hain!

(When Sabu gets angry, a volcano erupts in Jupiter)

Garment: Standard size XL men’s tee-shirt

Material: Tee-shirt cotton

Background colour: Gray with white flecks

Paint colours used:

  • Fevicryl no.02 Black (for outline, caption, mustache and anger strokes)
  • Fevicryl no.352 Pearl Metallic Gold (for earrings)
  • Fevicryl no.30 Flesh Tint (for skin)
  • Fevicryl no.32 Cerulean Blue (for shorts)
  • Fevicryl no.10 Indian Red (for belt, boots and skin shading)
  • Fevicryl no.305 Pearl Blue (for shorts shading)

* Cross-posted to Divadom.

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If you liked this post, also see:

Other comic book art in Doga: Born In Blood & The Making Of A Superhero: Nagraj

Reverb 10.16: Getting By With A Little Help From Friends

An easy Reverb10 prompt and a predictable one but it’s the season to be jolly after all. 🙂

December 16 – Friendship

How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?

(Author: Martha Mihalick)

Of course I’m going to have to say at first that I can’t name everyone in my (lucky me!) mani-populated life. I’m going to focus specifically on people who changed my life tangibly in 2010 (as opposed to the gradual-but-significant changes others like my parents and best friend have been making over the years).

In the order in which they’ve begun making their impactful and earth-shaking presence felt in my life, my top 3 influencers of 2010:

  1. Adi – My book is a better one to write and to read, for having felt the Adi touch. Adi opened me up to new books and new ways of seeing stories. Also, new ways of thinking, of feeling and of being with people and myself. Truly 2010 and my life have been a better place for having had Adi for a friend.
  2. The boy – He contradicts me for the heck of it, he teases me to frustration. He challenges my insofar secure notions of men and relationships. He questions my beliefs on religion, politics and the world. He pushes me outside my comfort zone. He’s not always comfortable to be around. But yes, he makes me a better person.
  3. E Vestigio – is not the galpal who’ll cluck in sympathy and say ‘Jerk’ when I whine about someone. She isn’t nice to me when I’m grumpy. She forces me to sit up and take a good, hard look at myself and my own excuses. She’d be the one that’ll say, “Okay, enough with the drama. Lie still and I’m going to yank your foot out of that sprain. It’ll hurt like hell and you’ll see stars in daylight. And then you’ll feel better. And I always do. She’s the bitter-tasting but very much needed pill of reality. Heh, but you know what? The bitterness is that of old wine. It gives me a high and so does she. 🙂

Reverb 10.15: Five Things To Remember From 2010

Here’s another Reverb10 list-prompt! And this time with a fantasy-time travelly theme to it!

December 15 – 5 Minutes

Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.

(Author: Patti Digh)

  1. Mr.Everyday (of course!) – Specifically, I never, ever want to forget that one magical autorickshaw ride in June. We’d been on nodding and smiling terms with each other for months, even spoken on a couple of occasions. But that 30-minute ride changed the course of both of our lives, hopefully forever. 🙂
  2. The first week of October – September ended gloomy, grouchy and with no promise of better weather (which always impacts my mood). Then October came in with writing projects. A column. A commissioned article. Another writing commission. And the book, again. Magical week.
  3. The best friend moving across the world – Goodbyes are never pleasant memories for me. But this move marks an important milestone in my 16-year friendship with Lady P. She moved to a new country and a new life, one she had been needing for a long time. We fought, we cried then we made up. And true to our history, we came back stronger than ever.
  4. First draft – If I never manage to get the novel published, if I have to go back to working with that horrible tag of ‘failed writer’ looming over me, it will not take away from the fact that I managed to plow through and toil over a complete first draft. YEAAAHHH!!!
  5. Swimming.

And….there’s the timer. That’s that. Five wonderful things about 2010.

Chronology

Where does a story actually begin?

You can start to tell it from the middle,
race to the end,
stop just before the last chapter,
then retrace your steps back to the start
…and then go again.

Stories are nice that way.

And so are people and conversations.

~O~O~O~O~O~

A good time may come,
And then a bad time,
And another one…or not…
And who can tell which one it’ll be?

But we’ll keep walking
And we’ll keep talking
So long as the feet on the road
Belong to both you and me.

Gentleman

I run with my words
Racing my thoughts
Getting ahead of my emotions
Because I’m scared you’ll turn away before I’m done

But then I pause
To catch my breath
And realise you’re still listening
And also that I’ve forgotten what I was saying

Then you hold me close
In a way I’ve never known
But, which makes me forget
How life was before it began

When, at length,
We move apart,
You look just as you always do
Gruff and gentle

You consider my frantic
“What? What? What?”s
And tell me I have a lot of fears, many I need not,
And then you hug me again

I giggle and thank you
When you ask, “For what?”
I reply, “For being the man in gentleman”
“Also the gentle in gentleman”, I add afterthought

You feel like home. You feel like mine. My very own. Home.

Smile

My smile is like a neon light
Lighting up all around
And drowning out all else
Brilliance in person
It says, “I’m happy!”

Yours is like a candle flame
A single flicker in the darkness
Enveloped in a warm embrace of shadows
Gentleness personified
It says, “I make you happy.”

And you do.

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