Tag Archives: Friendship

The Broken Glass Inside My Head

Last week I watched Deadpool. I hated most of it. It reminded me too much of a world that is always dancing on the edges of my peripheral vision. Memory is too close for comfort. I’ve been there. I’ve lived that life.

The movie is made for and about people living safe, suburban middle-class lives and fantasizing about how larger-than-life, how badass, how utterly above ordinary they are. It’s called substance abuse for a reason and this is a world that doesn’t live, it abuses. Every single thing that makes one feel is abused – work, the environment around, friendships, flirting, food, sex, love and conversations. The flirting-by-fighting, the ‘let’s see who’s life sucks the worst’, the assholier-than-thou attitude, it is all so toxic. And I’m never far away enough from it to feel comfortable enough to laugh.

Manisha saw one of my tweets about it being the kind of movie my ex might like and that being a good enough reason to dislike it. She told me later,

“I wondered how long you were going to let that guy get to you.”

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

I’ve been struggling to keep afloat for more than a year now, a fact that some of my more regular readers have noticed. People have been kind, very kind, the way I remember from my early days of blogging. Not at all like the poisonous cesspools that most internet forums and comments sections are these days. I am trying to be as honest as I can, after a few years of hiding behind personas (ever since I lost the comfortable anonymity of being just IdeaSmith). And I’m grateful that I’m not being slaughtered.

A stranger stopped me at an event, introduced herself as a reader and asked how I was doing, that my last post had sounded so sad. Someone who had only ever spoken to me from behind anonymity wrote me an email trying to help and turned into a friendship. And readers are speaking up again, to me, after years of silence.

It’s hard to be me, as I truly am, honestly and with dignity. I’m grateful the world allows me my tears, my messes and overlooks my indignities. Even the fact that sometimes I forget that it lets me be so.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

Today was a day of sudden stumbles. I was eating what I thought was a peaceful breakfast when the doorbell rang (uncharacteristic for the hour). I jumped and with that my glass of orange juice fell and shattered. All I could do was stare at it, bewildered. And the doorbell rang again. I left the orange-stained shards of glass lying on the floor. At the door, the watchman was standing telling everyone on the floor that there would be no water supply that day.

Mechanically, I picked up way through the glass shards, ignoring the silicon crunches and filled up water in the buckets. And then I came back and stared at the floor. I know shattered glass should be picked out in big pieces first, then swept and then mopped with a wet cloth to remove even the tiny fragments. How does one sweep a sticky, wet puddle?

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

I developed up a headache mid-afternoon, slight nausea and an enveloping darkness inside that has come to feel familiar. I shut my computer, drew the curtains, laid out my yoga mat and started a meditation on an app I downloaded ages ago but never used. I didn’t hear most of what was being said. But I awoke 4 minutes before my alarm went. It was different. Most waking up these days feels like a heart attack. Shock. Fear. Dread. Pain. Struggle. Struggle. Endless struggle. But this time, I just sat up in the darkness, curled my feet to me on my yoga mat and laid my head on the tops of my knees. A few minutes later I felt like I could stand up.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

I’ve been falling sick and relapsing chronically all this year. Last year I embraced the rose quartz, a stone that I’ve avoided ever since I developed an interest in crystals. Rose quartz is best known for being the love stone; also the healing stone. But every rose quartz I touched would give me a headache, nausea sometimes and even a feeling of giddiness. Swati, my healer friend, suggested that there were a lot of emotional tangles in me that needed to get expressed and that the rose quartz crystals were bringing them out. I finally got tired of being afraid (as I tend to do) and faced my fear, told it to do its very worst.

It started off deceptively. But that’s a feature of the energy rose quartz espouses too – subtlety is another face of gentleness. I drew a lot of Librans into my life. Crushes and flirting happened aplenty. Good food and beauty as well. And the year ended with a close brush with love. Love left too. And since then, I’ve been falling in and out of sickness.

I realised three weeks into January and a messed up respiratory system that I had had a rose quartz crystal next to my bed all that time. I immediately put it back inside. My cold started getting better the next day and it was all gone soon.

Ten days ago I took it out again. I have many flaws but I am no coward. And if that rose quartz is going to help me heal those flaws, I’ll brave whatever I must. The cold and cough were back again the next day. As was the utter deadpan dread that gave rise to my last post. I’ve been putting the rose quartz away at intervals and taking it out for one night or one day at a time. I am learning subtlety as well.

As it turns out, the crystal reads this too. I spent three hours mid-week crying. The incident that triggered it was not new. For once, I just let it all go and cried and cried and cried. To my surprise, when I was cried out, I didn’t have a headache. I even slept well and woke up the next morning feeling clearer-headed. Not angry, not resigned, not rebellious, not sad. Just that ‘one foot in front of the other and breathe’ feeling that I associate with feeling light and healthy.

Two days later I was struck with feeling so parched I spent the whole day drinking water. Even my skin started to itch and wouldn’t stop until I had slathered on three layers of cream. So thirsty. Twenty years of pent up pain is starting to come out and it’s bringing both floods and drought.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

I finished the article I was supposed to write. I even made it to the Open Mic. And when the last performers went up, I found myself tapping to their rhythms, cheering as they hit smart ideas and sharp notes in unison. They were a beat boxer and a rapper duo going by the name of SENSE. All I could feel was a sense of joy. Such young boys, not even old enough to vote but with such ideas about politics. All there was in their performance was their rhymes and their rhythm. It has been a really long time since music touched me in that blind, pure way. It has gotten so adulterated in my experience.

It made me wonder whether rap was so hard for me to deal with because my ex was just not very good. And as gently and as quickly as a wave on the beach, that idea left me. It really did not matter. It was as easy as that.

Yes, some days it is possible for the past to feel like no more than recollections in my head that can be turned off at will, like a TV set, with very little impact on reality. On many other days it feels like I’m fighting stuck inside a dark, sticky, poisonous monster.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

Yesterday was strange too. But I performed, which is always good energy into and out of me. And I watched Swamini who has never been a stranger, since our first conversation, perform. And the De is back with his twinkling eyes and his jokes hiding an occasional nugget of wisdom. Today I changed my profile pictures on Twitter and Facebook to photographs he took yesterday – both in colour and both smiling. It’s good to have smiles, colour and Shaunak back.

Life is not a party, not a lesson, not an adventure, not a song. It’s a bit of each of these sometimes. It has its moments of grace and of dignity but it’s never uniformly graceful or dignified. And the tears must fall when they will.

D for Dear Once Upon A Time Woman…

DHere’s a piece that has been germinating since January this year. A letter, a poem, a truth. This is D for April 2015 A to Z Challenge.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

Dear Once Upon A Time Woman,

We learnt a long time ago
that our most complicated relationship
would not be with men
but with each other
See, you were my person once
and I, yours
We’ve been so many things to each other

Cupboards
full of each other’s painful memories
wrapped up in soft cotton hankies
and favorite teeshirts with tear stains
Tucked away in the other person cupboard
Locked with keys that
no family, lover or friend has ever held

We’re blank sheets of paper
in each other’s hands
holding words that we never get to say
to the people who wound us
to those whose lives build our walls and our ceilings
These blueprints of ourselves,
painted in ugly thoughts and unsavoury words
on those untidy sheets of paper
That you and I are to each other

We told other people our secrets
But we gave each other
bits and parts of ourselves
that didn’t fit
into your handbag
my bookshelf
the corners of the desk that we shared

And now
my pockets are bulging
with uncategorisable ends of you
Your forgotten guilt is
poisoning my food
It’s making me ill

While your mind
it’s a whipping wind
of stray ideas
and words that I adopted
You’re tired of babysitting them,
you have your own children to care for

Dear person
My once upon a time person
it must be a once upon a time thing
Or we’ll be trapped in an eternal echo chamber
endless reflections in parallel mirrors
Memory and future, fantasy and life
muddying each other

Let us not be labels anymore?
Not Best Friends
Or Karmic connections
Or Soulmates
Or Scorpio-and-Cancer

Let us just be
you and me
And sometimes
discovering what that is
needs us to go down different paths

You take left
I’ll check right
And we’ll find each other
When we figure out how to be
when there isn’t a place
to hide the things we don’t like about ourselves

Farewell, my other self
Till we meet again.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

Follow the April 2015 AtoZ HERE.

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People I’ve Unfriended On Facebook

  • Classmates I only accepted requests from because we got tagged in old photos. They weren’t nice to me in school, I don’t want them around.
  • People I met at some event with whom I haven’t interacted again. If we need to speak again, one of us will find the other sure enough.
  • Colleagues from zillion jobs ago. Go, LinkedIn!
  • Friends of exes. Yes, truly done suffering.
  • One time crushes or flames who are married. What’s the point? (yes, I am that cold)
  • People I just don’t like. Maybe I never did or maybe this is recent. I don’t have to explain.
  • Friends who are not anymore. How many of these there have been in the past year! Maybe I was long overdue a life spring-cleaning. Sigh.
  • Spouses, siblings and other associations via the above people. Keep it clean and brutal, make it good.

I’m reclaiming the word ‘Friend’. A friend is someone whose life is engaged with mine, not just connected via digital bytes. Friendship cannot get by on nostalgia or long redundant promises. It certainly is not worth dragging along relationships that have thrown up more than their fair share of resentment, anger and hurt.

I’ve decided it is also okay for me to hold up certain things as standards for people in my life. No lies, no backbiting, no cheating, no pettiness. I bend over backwards to avoid doing these and I have the right to expect it from other people. Lying is a big deal for me and it’s time I let it become the deal-breaker too.

There are new people in there, of course. These are people I see the possibility of really sharing life experiences, with. These may be people I know from work, common acquaintances or events I’ve been to. But there has been something in our last conversations that makes me think, there could be more. If someone has faded to being one of the numbers or I feel like I’ve faded similarly in their life, I’ve hit UNFRIEND.

Relationships matter to me as do words. A cluttered friends list means a diluted life for me. To give someone I don’t like much or who I feel doesn’t treat me well or to whom I’m indifferent, the same access to my life that I give the people who matter to me — this seems disrespectful of these important relationships. And they wear me down. So goodbye, everyone who has ceased to matter and thank you for having passed through my life in whatever way you did. Go in peace, fare well and don’t look back. I won’t.

What Friendship Needs (Not Preachy I Promise)

Friendship doesn’t need effort. It needs courage. The courage to reach out and say hello. The courage to not mind if they don’t say hello back. This is not the same as not caring. It’s caring, very much but not letting that stop you.

It needs a little bit of madness. The madness of looking at a total stranger and following a spark that you don’t even know why it’s there. The madness of turning into words and actions that feeling of ‘I don’t know why but I think you and I could be a part of each other’s lives.’ The madness that turns that ‘could’ into a ‘should’.

It needs selective amnesia. Forgetting who spoke first. Forgetting how many times they snatched an argument from you. Forgetting to keep tally of who made more effort.

And it needs a generous sharing. Not just of things that are big or impressive. In fact, probably none of those kinds of things. And all of things that seems mundane, likely to not be noticed, never get the repayment of acknowledgement or gratitude back.

I guess you could say all these things about love. I guess friendship is a kind of love.

A few months ago, I exchanged DMs with someone who had only been a Twitter name since so far back, neither of us can remember (selective amnesia, I told you). On an impulse I said, “Let’s meet!” and equally impulsively she said, “Yes! Today!”. There’s madness.

Never mind what happened after that. That’s not really as significant as the two actions of courage that led to us meeting, led to us happening.

Sometimes I send her a photo, a snapshot of where I am, what I’m doing. I think she might like seeing where I am when I think of her. She responds with the kind of curious, funny thoughts that run through all our heads but we rarely share because they seem so silly or mundane. Sharing mundanities seems to be a very important part of friendship, practically the spice of it.

Every now and then she writes about her life, deeply personal things, profound insights and cranky complaints alike. And once, then twice she mentions me in the same sentence as ‘peace’, ‘relief’, ‘listening’ and ‘perspective’. Also ‘beautiful’ and ‘big ear’ (though she meant that in the way that deep listening happens :D). It makes me happy to see her grow daily. And it makes me so, so YAYYY to suddenly find myself in her thoughts.

“We all need a witness for our lives.” I heard in a movie I once saw. Now isn’t that true? I need not just watching but involvement. Participation in my life and mine in others. My cup overfloweth today. I’m so very happy. And Reema, you make it so. 🙂

The Completely Bearable Lightness of Being 35

35. I’ve been that for a month now. It tastes, smells and feels much better than I thought. I feared the implied mundanity of the phrase ‘settling down’. But I’m learning that it’s not mundane when it happens naturally, when you want to do it.

I met someone I had a crush on back when I was 13. We didn’t meet often so it stayed what it was — a mild fluttering in the stomach when I saw him, the beginning of a blush when he glanced in my direction. I saw him off and on over the years but always from a distance, like from a bus window or across the street. And a quick nod of recognition is all that passed between us. I was young and surrounded by too many distractions to give it much thought. And even if I had, I think I was not confident enough in myself to have done something about it.

So much has happened in these twenty odd years to each of us. We are past the panicky gawking of adolescence, past the frenzied social rituals of the twenties. Now, I think we tend to be okay with not always knowing what we feel. We’ve learnt to not let the awkwardness of a situation stop us from moving, from talking, from responding.

That doesn’t sound like the conventional definition of ‘settling down’ but in a way it feels like it. It’s the feeling of solidness (I wouldn’t yet call it unshakeability) that comes from knowing an uneasy situation will not stop your life.

Oh, another thing that has happened with 35. This was probably seeded in my mind a little earlier but it has grown into being me only now. When Jinal was here, I was talking about my close friendships. I told her I loved one of our common friends and that I liked her. She tilted her head and said,

“Don’t you love me?”

I grinned and told her,

“I do! And I thought it. But as I started the sentence, I thought you’d find it a really weird thing for me to say. That’s why I changed it to I like you.”

“Silly,” she grinned and added, “I love you too.”

And I realised that the weird thing is NOT telling people who are close to us, not telling members of the same sex, not telling friends who are not spouses or partners, not saying ‘I love you’ to them. Love is not bounded by relationship status or gender. It’s a free emotion, a good, nourishing one. And it only chokes and turns into other weird things when it is forced into restrictive expressions or not even that.

I say ‘I love you’ much more easily and more often now. 🙂 I say it to a lot of people and I think that doesn’t make me a bad person; it makes me a lucky person. Every person I identify that I love, reminds me of how much abundance there is in my life, of support, warmth and affection.

Oh, here’s something about being 35. Everybody is nostalgic again and wanting to reconnect with their past. It’s now twenty years since I finished school, a decade since I finished b-school. I think nostalgia goes in 10 year cycles. And because of this, it seems that ageing happens abruptly rather than gradually. The skinny girls sported post-pregnancy fat when I saw them last and now they’re back to looking the same (we are at a health-conscious age now). And the men? Most of them look exactly the same except, without hair on their heads. 35 looks the same as 25 but minus hair. 😀

Then there is the being okay with fighting and anger. I’ve tried to be all zen about violent expressions, especially after my break-up. But I realise I am a high-strung, emotional person and I attract people like that too. Friction and clashes are bound to happen. I’m realising it’s okay to not always resolve the fight. And I’m realising that disagreeing, however violently, need not have to do with how much you care about the other person.

I had a rather raucuous argument yesterday with someone that I have a complex relationship with, but whom I care about (now why should this description even be a surprise?). We sat in stiff silence for about 25 minutes. Then, just before it was time for me to leave, I realised I didn’t want the heaviness of not knowing the right way to say goodbye. So I just put my hand on his shoulder and said,

“Hey.”

I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to say after that and I think I started off with some version of

“Go home safe and sleep well. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.”

But before I could finish, he hugged me. And just like that, all the animosity vanished and what we had been arguing about, seemed like nothing more than hot air left behind in the place we were at. The situation has not been resolved. But our friendship has not been impeded because of it.

These are fun things to discover about 35.

Affection, Conversation & Everything Else That Digitalia Made Possible

Mid-week I stared at my computer screen wondering what to write. I had promised myself earlier this month that I would write more from the heart and less because it was ‘engaging content’. I struggled. I thought my love affair with this blog might have died. I thought my need to express my raging sentiments in an open space and throw my heart open to strangers might be a thing of the past. I need only have waited a day.

Yesterday I met Jinal. This was our fourth in-face meeting. The first time was years ago. Three different people who had no connection to each other, mentioned her in conversation. Who is this person that everyone wants me to meet, I wondered. A couple of days later, I found an email from her saying she had read my blog and would be in Mumbai and would I be free to meet her for coffee? Coffee turned into confessional, friendship came pouring out of that one conversation we shared. It continued over chats and emails written as if they were no different from that instant connection we made over the first coffee. Yesterday I told her I even remembered what she had said, that made me fall in love with her. See, that’s how Jinal is. Easy to fall in love with, easy to say that to.

We talked about the space that we both inhabit, this time as professionals. Years ago, when we first met, we were both like kids running around and clutching at the shiny, colourful thing that digital connectivity was. Now we each navigate it as business drivers shaping its numerous uses for commercial enterprise. We spoke of the new developments in the field, contrasted India and the US in their digital topographies. We compared notes on people that we knew in common.

jinal

10325188_10152636068485921_2911108522426901293_n

The Godrej India Culture Lab team, Parmesh Shahani (red teeshirt rockstar in the centre), Jinal (seated in center in red) and me (seated far right)

Then in the evening, Jinal went on to address a talk titled ‘Geographies of the Heart‘ at the Godrej India Culture Lab. I had wondered what it would be like to listen to a close friend, not over the cosy intimacy of a coffee but as she played a certain role on stage, cast with a projector and Powerpoint for co-actors. She spotted me and gestured to the row behind me. Her parents were sitting there. She opened her talk introducing them to the gathering as well and admitting that she was nervous because this was the first time they were to hear her speak on stage. I knew then, that my apprehensions were unfounded. Jinal would be Jinal, even labelled with a fancy corporate designation and in an impressive setting, no different from the warm girl I’d met in a suburban coffeeshop. It’s hard to describe why her talk affected me so profoundly. Maybe it is the girl herself and how sensitive and warm she is herself. But I think it also has a little to do with the story she told. I often feel it too.

We might be the only generation ever to know this painfully sweet thing. We grew up with single channel Doordarshan and now we navigate diverse connections of multimedia-enabled, access-layered communication. Communication is the building block of relationships, isn’t it? And of attitudes, of thought and ultimately of action. Dare I even say it? Digital connectivity has opened up a new lifetime for us. Jinal and I might never have met, had it not been for blogs, for common friends who in turn were linked to us, not by a shared school or workplace but by the platforms that we were exploring together. Her ideas shape some of mine as I imagine mine shape hers.

I became an active voice in conversations about the LGBT community because a friend, someone I met through digitalia again, was gay and going through a difficult time with her family. I found myself suddenly wearing the mantle of crusader for women’s rights when my personal diary became a source of interest (and very occasionally inspiration) for younger women who read it. My ideas about responsibility, about politics, about feminism, about culture, about art and writing and about myself changed and evolved through these conversations. I was all set to be a good middle-class Tamil girl who would go on to a respectable career, an appropriate marriage and family life. Instead, I became ME (none of these things but, curiously so much better). I often dwell on the problems digitalia has brought – the lack of human interaction, the unrealistic schedules and their effect on health, the hyper-stress laid on young adults. I don’t enough think about the many gifts it has brought us. Digitalia shaped my power, my place in the world. How much more of a blessing can that be?

It seems silly to me now that I would think that my love affair with my blog is over. That’s akin to my saying that my interest in life is done. Because this connection, this ability to talk to you, to a faceless stranger seeing my words on a computer screen or a smart device, this dissolving of geography, time, race, age and gender – this is what my life is about, has been for about half of it. I am so lucky. I am digital and that does not make me a robot. Quite the contrary, it makes me a global citizen, one who has the privilege of friendships across the globe, conversations & insights that aren’t money or country restricted. The world is my playground and I say that with immense gratitude.

This would be a good time to tell you that in the middle of this month, I completed a decade of being IdeaSmith. I can’t really remember the exact date but somewhere in the May of 2004, the word ‘IdeaSmith’ popped into my head as I looked at the sign up screen of a blogging platform. This journey has shaped me, given rise to interesting associations and brought me a career that fulfils and enriches me. Thank you so much, thank you for all the love and the connection that made this possible. What a wonderful 10 years it has been!

T is for Truth or Dare

T Here’s a story about one of my favourite games. This is a story of why I like it so much. I give you T is for Truth or Dare for today’s A to Z Challenge.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

T is for Truth or Dare

What an interesting game. Played between strangers, it’s a round of showing off. Exhibitionism minus context, the spills just enough to thrill, not enough to chill.

It’s nostalgia, when it’s between people who’ve known each other a long, long time. Each one adding the finest of strokes to crystallize a shared memory. Even if it is secondhand and they’ve heard it so many times before that they feel they know it.

But Truth or Dare only ever really comes into its own when it’s played between people who know only a little but matter a lot to each other. How about newlywed husbands and wives, does that describe them?

When Mubeen told me about the dinner, I had an inkling it was going to be an important evening. Sahil and Roshan had been at the wedding but I barely remembered them. Lisa I knew, from meeting her a few times. And I was yet to meet the fabled Amara. I was worried about what to wear but perhaps I need not have been. They were all so busy watching each other, watching out for each other and watching for each other that they never noticed me. And I came home with a different sense of my husband.

Amara turned out to be nice enough, if not as harsh as they had all portrayed her. Or maybe I was the only one who saw the look on her face, when Roshan asked her who her first crush was. Her eyes darted across the room to mine and returned to the bottle on the floor. Her answer prompted a number of jokes, a story coaxed out of her, till she ended with a triumphant flourish. Everyone was taken aback.

Roshan followed, with a dare that he ‘suggested’ himself – a pole dance. And while the others laughed and hooted, I saw Sahil tap his phone. Seconds later, Amara looked at hers. Her eyes flicked up to Sahil again. I expected her to snigger but instead, she thumbed something and slipped the phone back into her pocket. She didn’t look at Sahil again till the dance was over. And after that, she ignored the phone so diligently, that there was no doubt in my mind, who was responsible for it flashing intermittently in her pocket.

Mubeen had once mentioned that Amara had had a thing for Sahil in college. I think he once even said that they had gone around together for awhile. Or maybe he thought they did. Amara didn’t seem to care anymore, if she ever had. If I had to guess, I’d have said it was the other way and Sahil was the reason Amara had a less than friendly reputation in their circles.

When Roshan came back and sat down, he steadied himself with a hand on Sahil’s knee. But after he’d settled back in, he didn’t move his hand. Sahil either didn’t notice or didn’t care. Mubeen tossed him a 50 paise coin to circle over Roshan’s head and tuck into his waistband. Roshan accepted with great pleasure, more pleasure than I thought possible for a ham performance. He seemed to like Sahil’s hand on his hip.

Mubeen was allowed some ‘grace period’ since he had a new wife to impress – or so they said. But they forgot about him and he never had to take a turn at the bottle.

Lisa is the one who really surprised me. She didn’t bat an eyelid when Roshan suggested a mujra. She laughed in delight when Amara suggested Roshan acquaint himself with a cold shower. And she only smiled when Sahil asked her who she’d like to ‘do’ that night, if she had a chance to. I don’t think I even remember what she ended up doing for her dare that night. But I do remember how it ended.

First she shivered slightly and asked Mubeen if he’d reach out and turn the AC down. He had to get up and go to the window to get the remote control. Then she stood up and moved till she was next to Sahil. She looked at Amara when she sat down. And I noticed, Roshan’s hand had gone back to his pocket. Then she fixed her gaze on me and said,

Following her gaze, Sahil pointed to me and said,

“New girl’s turn.”

Mubeen was still at the window, fussing with the remote control. It was blowing the air up and down as he bashed the Sweep setting. I saw Lisa lean in and say something, her eyes never leaving me. And Sahil said,

“Tell us something you haven’t told your husband yet.”

I relaxed. Now we were talking. I looked to my feet, then up again (into Lisa’s eyes) and I said,

“I am really good at reading body language.”

Roshan giggled. Amara shrieked a lewd question at me. Sahil as he ordered me to elaborate as he leaned back in his seat, one hand on Lisa’s back. Lisa didn’t crack a smile. When she moved forward slightly, causing Sahil’s hand to slide off, I knew she had got the message. She wouldn’t be trying her games with me.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

T is for Truth or Dare

*Image (without text) via Gualberto107 on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A Conversational Weekend

The last time Adi was in town, I asked him,

“So what do you want to do?”

He sounded surprised, then he said,

“Errr, meet?”

“Yes, but what do you want to do?”

I persisted.

“Talk. Hang out. Chat. That’s all.”

he said.

Later we talked about this. He said that people in this city don’t seem to value conversations. It’s true. Mumbaikers are constantly chasing value for every aspect of their existence and what’s more precious than time? It beats even space. And we don’t appear to consider it a minute well-spent unless it is used to do something tangible.

People are always making plans to meet. Even leisure time is agenda-driven. Weekends are full of errands, bank work, shopping, mall-hopping, movies, dinner, lunch, brunch and the phlethora of meal-slash-events to attend to. It made me realize that I have very few actual conversations even in my chat-friendly, connection-happy life. Adi is one of the few people with whom I connect, not for work, not for a specific task, not for accompaniment on an activity, but just to talk. It’s true that we’re both writers and have reasonably flexible schedules. But we are both professionals in busy lives too.

This was a wonderful weekend in that regard. First, I spent Friday in the kind of work that gives me great pleasure – thinking collaboratively. I worked with people to understand their brands and consumer audiences. It was an intense 7-hour conversation that was absorbing, stimulating and fun.

Then Saturday arrived with a former colleague with lots of fun ideas camouflaged behind a lazy drawl. I accompanied her on a few errands. Then we sat down in a nondescript, tiny restaurant/shop and just talked. We talked about relationships, about growing up, about womanhood, about families and about how the world had changed so much from what we thought it would be like. We shared our respective anecdotes and angsty tales. We swapped funny, horrible stories about daily dramas. And we transitioned from ex-colleagues to friends.

Later, I met another old friend I hadn’t spoken to in a few months. Easy cushions, open windows and a coconut-flavored beverage make for the kind of comfortable setting that make complex conversations possible. We talked about love, about hurt, about guilt and of the ways we weave into, collide against and impact one another. We danced another tango in the sweet, almost-too-tender-to-bear relationship that this is.

Today another friend came calling, asking if I’d join her for breakfast. It was almost noon by the time we met and we ended up partaking of brunch. Brunch, I haven’t done that in a long time. So technically we were the ladies-that-brunch on a Sunday.

We lounged about, talking about work, about the Landmark programs that we’ve both been doing, about common friends. Then we refilled our plates and digested painful pasts with our ravioli. Afternoon arrived and we moved to a coffeeshop, where I brought out my pain, my past and the heaviness I didn’t even realize I carried, for an airing. She sat by and she listened. Then she gently offered answers, support, empathy. I listened, I ‘but-what-about’ed, I frowned, I smiled. She likened the state of being to a pig wallowing in its muck. I agreed. Then we got a coffee each and drained them dry.

It was getting to be a cool evening after a humid day. So we walked around, intending to go into the park nearby but the crowd drove us away. So instead, we tramped down the narrow lanes, over broken sidewalks and between double-parked cars. And we talked about belief systems, about books and about personal angst. It was 8pm when we finally said bye.

Gossip girls 2

I feel so much richer than I did on Thursday night. All I did this weekend was have conversations. Great conversations. Mind-bending conversations. Heartfelt conversations. Confusing conversations. Conversations that kept me up one night. Conversations that gave me the impetus to wake up tomorrow and look forward to the next week.

All the fun, important, engaging, must-do things in this city (or anywhere else) are no more than props, vehicles for people to connect and have conversations. But we’d rather get lost in those activities, wasting our energy, our money, our time and our health chasing to-do lists, than stopping to talk about what’s important.

How come we never remember that conversations are the currency of relationships? We need to spend and earn to keep the feeling economy moving, to keep the life business running. Talk, talk a little more. Do a little less.

Ideamarked Jan2013: Writing & Friendship – What Else Is There To Life?

It has been exactly a year since I did the monthly link-love roundup of Ideamarking. I also didn’t do the end-of-year roundup that bloggers usually do. But if you are a friend or regular reader, you may know that 2012 was a tumultous year for me. Suffice to say that more changes happened to me in that one year than possibly the entire decade before that. It was all good, eventually but it was tiring.

Which is why I’m glad to be out of 2012 and what I hope is the saner ground of a new year. I started this year with a great deal of hope – for ideas that didn’t get their full due earlier rather than just new ideas. So I’m bringing back the link-love. Here’s what I managed to catch through the first month of 2013, up for your reading pleasure:

  • It’s not what you know that others don’t, it’s that you say it in a way they want to take it from knowing to living it. ‘What Makes You Brave‘ (via Thought Catalog)
  • What do you do when your life turns out a grand drama instead of a prose piece you hoped it would be? Blame the Great Writer & turn a page. – Me.
  • A poignant piece of poetry from the soulful Hussain Haidry (via An Internal Exile).
  • In this time of social networking where a ‘friend’ is just a button click, do we spend enough time thinking about this extremely important relationship? ‘10 Thoughts To Consider When Making A Friend‘ (via Thought Catalog)
  • The London Writers Rooms, an interesting concept for professional writers. Relevant to writers everywhere. (link courtesy Sveccha)
  • Rather #FirstWorldProblems these but entertaining read nevertheless: ‘The 20 Most Annoying Life Situations‘ (via Thought Catalog)
  • Three things I added to Ideasmith’s life in 2013: Pinterest, Goodreads and Quora.
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