Tag Archives: Three-O

The Lone Runner On The Treadmill

I wish I knew more people like me. I mean single Indians who’ve made choices and made mistakes. People who have broken some rules inadvertently and others because it was the only way to survive. The single Indian bit is important and come to think of it, being female too. But most important of all, people my age who are all this.

I have a world full of great folks who are at least 5 years younger than I am. Technology and exponentially leaping progress have made this a generation gap. While I find most of my tribe in the generation after mine, the fact still remains that I’m a few steps ahead. I’m past the time of competing for things that I know now to not be important. Or fearing things I can imagine because I’ve survived worse surprises and I know your mind is nothing but a horror movie that’s scary but can be turned off. I know all this and sometimes it gets tiresome being the only one who knows.

Specifically this applies to my romantic and to a lesser degree my professional choices. It’s only someone very naive that would say,

“Why do you care what other people think? Live life your own way.”

My world is full of people mouthing such platitudes, truly believing they’re wise and strong. They have not yet realised the impact of that idea, having rarely experienced it in its true brave-brutal-hostility-face-crippling-fear-be-attacked way. This is a brutally difficult path to follow for your career and I’ve managed it. But it makes no sense to me to think of relationships this way since relationships are about caring about other people. I’m tired of the glamorisation of the single life, possibly by unhappily married people wishing they could have something that isn’t actually real.

Today I had a conversation with a friendly acquaintance, on adjacent treadmills to be sure, at gym. She’s a few years younger than I am, happily married. She charmed me at our first meeting when she said she had no intention of having children and why should be the world’s business? That’s grounds enough for a friendship, I decided. It is and yet it’s not close enough. In conversations about love lives and life choices, she said,

“But do you even want comittment? I would think you’re the kind of woman who doesn’t really want all that. You’re so independent.”

She is so young, is all I could think. And yet, I know now that most men who’ve known me, romantically or otherwise echo the same black-and-white sentiment. Why does my desire to drive things mean that I do not want companionship? Why is my unwillingness to settle for abuse, disrespect and subjugation seen as comittment aversion?

I do want comittment, but with the right person. I know firsthand what a nightmarish hell it is to be comitted to someone who does not like you, does not care for you and wishes you harm. A lot of people think that made me afraid of relationships. It didn’t. It gave me perspective. If my only choice were a bad relationship or singledom, today I know which is the better one and that’s the one I’ve chosen. But I didn’t choose singledom over a promising (since that’s as good as it realistically can be) relationship because there isn’t one on my horizon right now.

A lot of the people in my life are men. My experiences tell me that if a man is not attracted to me, he is not likely to pay anything more than superficial attention to me. He’s just not interested in my life because I’m not a goal. If he is attracted to me, even faintly, it narrows the way I can be and things I can speak about because an innate need to compete and then judge crop up. Men are such limited human beings, no thank you for the socialisation, India.

Women on the other hand, can be bright, brave creatures. I love how many 27-33 year old women I know now who are single, beautiful, brave, intelligent and confident in their lives. I was the only one I knew when I was all those ages, and surrounded by boyfriend stealers, frenemies, girls who played dumb before the boys, girls who manipulated and tore each other down. I love that there are more women I can relate to now. But, they still are younger. They’re dealing with some of the things I’m still dealing with (thanks again for the rape culture, India). But they’ve not yet had to think about the biological clock and about annual health checkups, to name just two things. They’re dealing with other things I did not have to then (“Are you a good enough feminist?”). They are not me yet. Maybe they won’t be and I hope the world will be a better place for them when they’re 37.

Where does that put me? Running on the treadmill, alone. I did not choose to be here. But in life, as in the gym, if you’re there, you have to keep moving.

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

Pop A Pill, Define A Generation

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

Image via Unsplash/John Towner

Image via Unsplash/John Towner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Generation Of My Own

I was 30 before I got into a ‘proper’ relationship and it was with someone younger. Someone asked my father,

“Doesn’t it seem like Ramya is five years behind her generation?”

He said,

“Or maybe, she’s five years ahead of her generation.”

Yes, that is a wonderful reference for a parent to set and sustain. I didn’t see it that way myself till I heard it.

I never identified with my age-peers. When I was 16, I couldn’t see what point there was in getting into any manner of flirtation or relationships. I could already see that there would be all manner of drama, family, friends and self-caused. Weren’t there already enough things to torment a teenager in India in the 90s?

I also never really ‘got’ the marriage thing through my 20s. Why are you marrying him or her, I’d ask my friends and get answers like, “Because it’s the thing to do”, “because my parents said so”.

And finally when I first quit my important corporate job to stop, think and catch my breath (the term ‘sabbatical’ was not common then), NOBODY got it. But a few months in, surprised at my okayness, people would keep saying, “Oh, lucky you, I wish I could do that!”. Why not, I’d ask, do you have a family to support or loans to pay off? None of these conversations ever happened with anyone who would have to say Yes to that.

All in all, I’ve never gotten the generation that people say I’m a part of.

On the other hand, my work, my hobbies, my love life and my life style are populated by people about 5 years younger than I. Since they came into the properly adult world in their mid-20s, they’ve felt more like my rightful generation, my crowd than the people I shared classrooms, playgrounds and career levels with.

But there’s something else. Haven’t I often said I feel old? I do. I carry the point of view of a 37 year old in a generation of 31 year olds. I have the memories and lessons of an 80s upbringing in a world of 90s and noughties kids. This is not about maturity because I don’t think that is a linear thing. Maturity has a great deal to do with personality, with experience and insight and time doesn’t exist on the same dimension as those things. This is about perspective and priority.

I tire often of the younger men I date because they are struggling with managing time, health and newfound economic freedom. I’ve already gone through these teething problems and woes and I know what works best for me. I have no desire to relive them in someone else’s problems this time.

I find myself getting impatient with my younger friends for their ineptitude, and in what silly ways they let ego blind their promises and work quality. It’s not that I was any better when I was in my late 20s. But I’ve passed through those tests of fire and I don’t struggle with them anymore. Even the very natural insecurities and diffidence — it’s starting to wear me down, how much there is in everybody around me.

Were we also that scared of everything? I’m sure we were but we were each so consumed in our fears that we scarcely paid heed to each other and the world around us. And therein lies a ‘we’ that I dislike. I suddenly have something in common with a generation that I never felt I fit in with.

But they don’t feel like a comfortable fit either. They’re grousing about struggling marriages (well, what did you expect with the reasons you got into them?), deadend careers (again, follow the rules not your independent mind and are you surprised?) and how ‘today’s kids’ spend so much time on Facebook and Twitter. I’m shutting that door already, saying oops, I entered the wrong room.

My two closest friends are both six years younger than I am. One of them has moved across the country for a girlfriend then moved back and changed careers. Another has quit a super prestigious corporate career, gotten married, started an unconventional (and seemingly uncool) business and then changed. These experiences undoubtedly put them beyond their age-peers in terms of perspective. They are exceptions as am I. It makes it possible for us to be very good friends. But exceptions have to be loners because we tread such unique paths.

This isn’t an angry or even a sad place. I don’t anymore feel like I don’t know my place in the universe. I know that it doesn’t have to do with what other people say and each day I’m getting a little closer to knowing what it is. I’ve gone a full circle from sitting by the phone with no one wanting to speak to me to switching off my phone to hide under hoods so I can get some private time. No, it’s not a desolate place at all. But it is a lonely place, waiting for the world to catch up, knowing maybe no generation ever will.

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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.

Designing Your Own Happy

I primarily left the corporate world because of the people. I couldn’t bear the idea of living the rest of my life, centered around pettiness and politics and that’s all I saw around me. I drifted gradually into more creative circles. I met artists, writers, musicians, actors, performers. I also met a lot of people who were doing other things independent of the corporate world. Entrepreneurs, new industry pioneers, people who had either quit or said no to more traditional and lucrative (read responsible) life choices. Yes, there is no such a thing as a compartmentalised career, especially not in a place like Mumbai. What you do for a living defines the other aspects of your life and the roles you get to play in society too.

Here too, I found disillusionment in human beings, in how often we allowed ourselves to fall into small-time manipulation and bickering instead of chasing things that really inspired us. My sabbatical hit shock after shock. My father said,

“What do you expect? It’s people. You’ll find that everywhere.”

I had had about a decade of people experiences before I walked this path. Why then, did I expect the world outside the corporate structure would be different?

Here’s why. No one becomes an insurance agent or a market researcher or a project manager for the love of it. Sure, a lot of people find tremendous satisfaction in the jobs they are doing. But how many of them would continue doing so if they didn’t have to or if they didn’t get paid to do them?

On the other hand, I left what may have been a more comfortable life behind because I saw a tiny opportunity to spend it doing what I loved instead. I would have and I did write even when I wasn’t getting paid for it, even when I didn’t have to do it. Much before the internet and blogging were realities, I was writing. I imagine these worlds are populated by people like myself, who were pulled out of their steady lives by the dream of something that touched them more. I didn’t expect to find the kind of spiritual fatigue, the weary psyche that causes people to politic rather than inspire, here.

I’ve known a poet whose primary objective is to play victim. I’ve spoken to a standup comic who spends more time brooding over how his successful peers only got that way through contacts. I’ve been with a performer whose sole objective is to maintain the identity of an angry, downtrodden rapper to the exclusion of all else. I’ve hung around with countless entrepreneurs who’ve used their business/project as an excuse to write away all kinds of terrible behaviour (cheating, disrespect, fraud). And I’ve met countless writers who are — plain and simple — assholes. That’s it, that is their whole entire identity. An asshole who happens to write.

The last gives me a little clue into what’s happening, perhaps because I know this group best, being one myself (writer, I hope, not asshole). Most of us don’t really, truly know what we’re chasing. We give it the best, easiest or most socially acceptable label we can find. It’s not cool to say I’m seeking more popularity than I have here. Or that I want to be pampered and my life doesn’t give me that. Or that I think the world owes me a favour but if I have a regular job, I’m expected to give as I take so that doesn’t work for me.

It’s really the same things that people in the corporate world are searching for — fame, money, success but also acknowledgement, belonging, approval, respect, identity. The kind of structured universe that the corporate world is, just enforces some kind of order and following of rules with or without enrollment. Maybe it’s true. Those who can’t abide by that have bigger problems.

Then again, I guess it’s okay as long as you get what you’re looking for. There’s nothing poetic about a drama queen but that’s fine if you’re looking for attention, not beauty. Resentment is not funny either but maybe you’re not looking for a reason to laugh yourself. As for the angry rapper, well, maybe my idea of unhappiness is his idea of fulfilment.

Me? I chose peace and happiness. I’m not the best writer around but I’m being the best I know how to be. I’m not the most successful or even the best known but I try to remember that I was inspired by the thought of a lifetime of writing, not a fat bank balance. It’s feeling like things are more better than worse and I feel that way. Happiness is not a 24×7 party and I’m just glad I get to go to it.

On magic and stories

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

I Want To Stop Counting But I Don’t Know How

I turned 36 five days ago. All I feel is lost, weightless, formless, restless. Less. Less. Less. Since my last birthday, I’ve had a half-year of frenzied work and I managed to rack up again all the stress and related ailments that I accumulated during my stint in the corporate world in the 20s. Friendships were made and lost, love found and gone.

And I started 2015 feeling adult and peaceful. Health was my big drug of this year. I started waking up earlier, trying to go to bed on time and after years of scoffing at the neon, synthetic brigade, I joined a gym. I’ve been plodding and I’ve seen some results. But I don’t feel happier. I feel like I’m watering a dead plant. What is the point?

Good things have happened. I’m now officially, a published author. It was anticlimactic. I feel very little.

Three men expressed an interest in me. I navigated my way out of it, ungracefully but I made it out, not wanting to succumb to temptation just because it was offered. And literally days after that went away, two more men, both friends this time showed up, affections in hand. I feel nothing but a big crease of a frown weighing me down. As my friends, I am able to see them as funny, intelligent, caring human beings. But when love, relationships and sex come into the equation, before my eyes, they grow into selfish, brutally cruel monsters who don’t feel the need to keep their promises and who will never be punished for hurting me and the brunt of which I will have to bear. It all makes me feel so tired, I just want to curl up and go to sleep forever.

I also did an Art of Living program in the weekend just before my birthday and felt very mature about doing so instead of putting alcohol, junk food, loud music and forced smiles into my life in the guise of a party. All we did was breathe in different ways. I think it brought up a lot of things (or at least I hope that’s what it was). I can’t otherwise explain the unaccountable sense of depression I felt all day through my birthday.

I think I’ve been very, very afraid of anger for the past three years, since my relationship ended. I’ve not allowed myself to feel it and I’ve walked away from situations where it could come up in other people. Things have been very civil these past few years. But I’m realising my anger is as much a part of the positive things in my life as the negative. Anger has been my way to cope with crippling fear. Anger salvaged me when the love of my life dumped me with all the cruelty a 20 year old can muster. It gave me clarity when my family went demented with grief (my grandfather’s cancer). It carried me through and out of an abusive relationship with a bad, very bad man. It gave me the impetus to battle gender biases in college, uncomfortable journeys during my early work years and the twisted politics of the corporate world. With anger gone, all I feel is dread and soul-sucking fear. All I am, is a painted shell.

There was much more substance to me when I was writing whiny poetry about a lost love or picturing horrible things happening to mean bosses in cartoons. I feel like the insides of me have nothing, only stale air. All there is room for, is fear. Fear, unlike anger is not a filling emotion. Anger consumes you, like lava churning up inside and spilling out, bubbling over in tears, words and actions. Fear, on the other hand, sucks you in smaller and deeper and tinier and lesser. I fear losing everything and everyone. I fear I have already lost everything and everyone. I fear that I never had any of it in the first place. I fear that I’ve fallen off the treadmill called life, called career, called love, called friendship. I fear that I’ve lost the ability to trust or care for another human being. I fear that I’ve lost the ability to work, succeed and sustain a comfortable life. I fear that I’ve made a mess of everything. I fear that there is nothing left to go on for.

Thirty-six seems like a very old age to be. I’m not married and I can’t anymore see the possibility of a loving, trusting relationship in my life. That can only be possible if I can give at least some of that back. And too much has happened. I feel twisted in ways that I cannot come back from. Damaged and broken. In 13 years I haven’t been able to get past my paralysing fear of Delhi men (after the bad, bad man). I think I’ll live my whole life being petrified of abuse survivors, fearing their pain, fearing they will punish me for it, the way it happened the last time round. And then again, since every new experience has brought fresh pain, what new horror will life wreak on me? I fear it all.

Career and money are slipping away and I feel like it’s a matter of time before I wake up and find myself standing by the side of the road, desperately hungry and with no money to buy food and no way to make any money. I’d be Tom Hanks in the Terminal, only without his unyielding spirit, his absolute faith in home. Where is home? I don’t know anymore. Everything hurts, everybody hurts. Attention, negligence, good health, bad health, fixedness, mobility, noise, silence — everything causes pain.

The organisers of the Art of Living program said that a lot of things would come up and that meant there was much to be resolved. I just feel so tired. Tired, but unable to sleep or rest. I can’t even summon up the energy to be angry. I don’t know if I want to see to 40. What’s the point? It just seems like a downward spiral.

Happy birthday to me. I don’t wish I had never been born. But now that it’s done, can we get it over with soon please? I’m finding it really difficult to go on.

All Is Well

I took the first step today. I asked for help.

I’ve had a fracture and a ligament injury within a year. I’ve had a recurring cough for over 2 months. I have probably fallen asleep before 3 a.m. some 4 times this year. And I don’t remember the last time I woke up feeling refreshed and excited about the upcoming day. But I vaguely remember that once upon a time, I used to.

I went to an Ayurvedic clinic that worked wonders with my health problems a few years ago. It took about an hour to capture vital information about me. It was the first real conversation I’ve had in many, many years about myself. That is odd, isn’t it? I have one of the longest running personal blogs in the country. For ten years, I’ve talked about my feelings, my relationships, my dreams, my goals, my observations, my angst.

But in telling her why I stay up late at night, why I sleep fretfully, why the frown lines on my forehead are deeper than the smile lines on my cheeks, I found myself talking about another me. I found myself realising, I’m not happy.

Well, I know that already. After all, I’m me. But I feel like there has never been any space to say this. Here are the things that I’m scared will come in response:

Why? You have such an awesome life!

You are so lucky. You should be grateful!

Do you know how many starving people there are in the world?

At least you didn’t have to go through a divorce/miscarriage.

Nobody forced you to quit your job. No one asked you to write for a living.

You are so angsty. You complain too much. You whine too much.

You know the odd thing? I’ve rarely said ‘I’m not happy’ and yet I carry that sentence as well as all these above ones that weren’t given a chance to be said, inside my mind. And the weight of them is crushing me.

I don’t even know why I’m unhappy. Not yet, anyway. Though, I can think about it and hazard a guess.

I’m still so tired from the effort of rising from a relationship gone sour, a failed engagement. I’m still hurting from the judgement. I’m scarred by the things that went wrong.

I’m suffocating under the pressure of labels like ‘feminist’, ‘strong woman’, ‘role model’, ‘committed’ and ‘responsible’. A label looks harmless — light, papery and fluttering in the wind. The ink scrawls on it seem deceptively ordinary. But they stick to the skin and to the identity and the force of peeling them away, takes away a part of yourself. It does.

And I am tired of cruelty. Wanton, random cruelty. Unwarranted spite. Needless meanness. Unjust ‘but you promised you’d never hurt me’ heartbreak. So cruel, so much.

I don’t want to go to war with the world. This is not about how badly the world has treated me. This is about my losing my way, forgetting the only things that really matter, that make any of the other stuff worth doing.

This is about remembering to live. This is about remembering to choose living over suffering. It is a choice and this is about remembering that.

This is about remembering fun. What it looks, tastes, smells, feels like. It’s remembering what it feels like to have your eyes light up, what that feels like from inside you — the internal wiring that makes everything come on and send the charge to your eyes that the world can see.

This is about being okay. Shouting that you’re more than okay, is not being okay. It’s just being.

This song came up minutes before I walked into the clinic.

I’m not a teenager under relentless pressure to conform to someone else’s ideals. And yet, concentrated H2SO4 ne pura jeevan jala daala. I did that to myself, to appease the stern, cruel, goal-oriented, never satiated maniac in my own head.

The specialist said something that cheered me and warmed me from within. He said my disposition was one that instantly zooms in on the positive in situations and people, and sometimes forgets about the negative. And he told me that it had made me able to rise above a bad relationship more easily than some others. He was telling me one simple thing that I’d stopped telling myself for so long that I forgot it was true. He was saying,

“Ramya, you’re okay.”

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I actually wrote this post on 11 Sep 2014. But true to the reality of this post, I either didn’t have the time to or I didn’t feel I was ready to publish it (perfectionist me). Today, six weeks later, I want to report that I’m feeling much better. The cough is gone. And the doctor says I’m healing. Accepting that all is well, is some way off though.

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.

One Day Past Thirty-Five

I wanted to write a post today but I’ve only gotten to it now and it’s past 2 a.m. which means it’s technically tomorrow but I’m still awake so I call it today. It’s Day 1 of being 35. I’m just past the mid-way mark of The Thirty Diaries. And 35 is the next landmark age after 30, so it feels like I should make a big deal out of it.

Celebrations. I’ve decided I’m going to have them as often and as self-indulgently as possible. Really. I now see the self-defeatingness of waiting around for other people to do something nice for me. And to hell with modesty. In fact, fuck modesty, I say. Modesty doesn’t wait around to cheer you up when you’re moping indoors, watching the grey rain outside your window (it’s always depressing weather on the birthday of a July person) and reading the one gift you got. This happened to me one year and I spent it reading a book that predicted my mood accurately – Misery. Modesty doesn’t rescue you from a broken heart and the pain of knowing that they were so petty, they couldn’t even bother to wish you a happy birthday. Two different years, neither man worth it (which petty person ever is?). Modesty doesn’t act as a shield from an insecure enemy hitting out unprovoked at you, stealing your work, cheating with your boyfriend and turning your friends on you. One year only and that was enough. I went underground all these times. I hid, I cried then I wiped my tears and went out like nothing happened. Like the fact that it was my birthday didn’t matter. Like the one ritual I was allowed to have to celebrate myself was taken away and it was okay. Never again. So, I say, fuck modesty.

This year I announced it to all and sundry. This year I threw myself a party. Actually, last year as well. And this year was a different one. Now, let’s see I’ve had a different thing every one of my Thirty Diary years.

30 was Pune, a love affair with a new city, dating for the fun of it and drinking beer like it might be worth drinking it.
31 was a home get-together with two friends and one interesting stranger. We began dating three days later.
32 was the confused cocktail of marriage talks, a trip to Kolkata and a surprise party thrown by him, a guy who hated parties.
33 was lying on the sofa, unwashed, hungry, tired, depressed, watching reruns of reality TV the whole day, with the phone switched off.
34 was dancing and drinking and cake and laughter with a new circle of friends and lovers.

And this weekend, 35 was a home get-together with good friends, brunch with the family, an evening out with my writers. All of them, my people, my world. My world revolves around me and I lead how people behave towards me in here. I must celebrate me and then the world will celebrate too – me and itself.

Adi grabbed me into a bear hug the minute it struck 12. Unfortunately I was wearing a spiked headband and it cut him on the chin, just as he hugged me. But he laughed and held up a bloodied finger and said, “Now I can say, I’ve truly shed blood for you!”

I also got birthday bumped for the very first time in my life. Hmph. I knew 35 would bring a lot of new experiences. I didn’t expect the first to be quite so, umm, undignified.

Netra gifted me a pretty dress. It’s lovely, I told her, but I don’t wear backless. You should, she said, when I saw this dress, I said it’s so you! I held it up, soft fabric caressing my face and I let myself sink into my NO. Many, many years ago an insecure man told me that I was ugly, that the heat rash on my back made me unattractive. And I never wore backless after that day. I had forgotten about that memory; it had lain in a corner, missed when I swept away all the other evil nonsense that he fed me, which had limited my life. And with that, I decided to let it go.

I wore the dress on my birthday, my back open to the world, literally and metaphorically. The only thing close to bad that happened, was when I was waiting for a friend at the National College crossing in Bandra. A strange man drove up, parked next to the pavement, rolled down his window and stared at me. I stared back at him till he stopped. But a few minutes later he resumed staring. I took a picture of him (with his license plate) and tweeted it. And then I forgot about it. Later, when I checked Twitter, I found RTs and someone offering to take legal recourse against the offender. So I took that action and then it passed out of my conscious thinking, without spoiling my evening.

My friends and I ate leftover cake. We walked around Bandra in the rain, mock-debating the merits of raincoats over umbrellas. We had chai and played ‘Whose line is it anyway’. We had pizza. And nobody told me I was ugly or attacked me. Instead, I got an otherwise reticent friend telling me it was ‘delicious’. 😀 After today, I can wear my back with pride and more newly – with freedom.

The wonderful thing about celebrations of this sort are that the hangover lasts a few days. It’s carrying me wonderfully over self-defeating messages about the supposed stability and sobriety and maturity that 35 is supposed to be. I’m 35, not dead!! I’m still twinkling and sparkling with all the jokes, the affection, the unexpected wishes, the messages that people sent my way. I feel loved and inspired. What better way to start a new year?

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Thirty-five, welcome in! Who’s coming with me?

Cruise Control And The New ‘Joy’stick

I live a charmed life.

I stumbled onto something I loved doing and that, coincidentally I was also good at. It happened late enough that I had had enough time to pick up an education and a world view so I wouldn’t grow up into a unidimensional adult. And it happened early enough that I hadn’t grown weary of mediocrity. I don’t have any real loans or bonds. I also don’t have a boyfriend or a house or a car. But all things considered, it seems to be a worthwhile trade-off.

Charmed indeed. Yet, most days I forget. I find myself tired, unhappy, unwell and sad. When I trace it back, I realise it’s because of bad eating and sleeping habits and a lack of exercise. There are external annoyances of course – an unprovoked personal attack (really now, I ask myself, you’re a digital citizen AND a woman, haven’t you gotten used to the idea that that is par for the course?) here, an unseasonal weather change there, Mumbai’s persistent pollution and traffic. But still, still, still, my ability to handle these is directly proportional to how well I manage my own well-being (food, sleep, exercise – the magic mantra).

I’ve figured out life comes down to these basics. It really isn’t about wonderful achievements, proven brilliance or unimaginable wealth. Happiness comes down to the ability to deal with daily realities of life, whatever those may be for you. And millions of human beings everywhere in every part of the world find their own unique ways to do it. It certainly can’t have to do with things more complex than food, sleep and exercise. These are what every human being has in common.

Yet, I don’t keep these on top priority and I frequently slip up. Why? I think we get used to being less than happy. We sabotage that feeling with excuses like ‘I forgot’ or ‘I got bored’.  I think I am starting to understand what the wise ones meant when they said it’s simple to be happy but it is very difficult to be simple. “I don’t know” is not a valid excuse anymore. The 20s were about experiences hitting like hailstorms, not being able to make sense, trying to get under cover and recover from the bruises of each. Post 30, I find I know myself, my body, my moods and my attitude a little better. Now to put that knowledge to good use – that is the challenge of the 30s.

By this time, one knows what one must do and how to approach it. New experiences bring up apprehension but even that is not unfamiliar. I know how to turn that into the drive for perfection. Unforseen setbacks, those are harder, but not completely new. The personal attacks, I’ve learnt to rationalise as other people’s insecurity and backhanded compliments. I’m learning compassion – this is new. And mostly it draws from the magic mantra of keeping myself clean from within – physically by not polluting my body with harmful substances but also mentally by not retaining anger, jealousy, grief or other harmful emotions.

I discover something new in the driving seat of my life – call it a ‘joy’stick . It’s so new I forget it’s there half the time. Then I discover it and grip it hard taking myself into excessive light-headedness. Then I pull back and let it drift. I’m learning a new control but I’m not a new driver. Happiness happens somewhere between delirium and stagnation. I’m not smooth but I’m learning.

I start to tie off this thought. When I end this post, I will shut down my computer. Outside the window, I can see it has begun raining. I won’t dip into sullenness, thinking of the muddy roads. I also won’t let myself whine about working on a Monday instead of going to the beach. I’ll pull on the brand new Crocs I picked up last week and ready myself for my next meeting – an exciting project with people I like and respect. And then, as I step out, I’ll remind myself to be happy. That’s my only real task for the day. Everything else is on cruise control.

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