25.

Today is my ‘lunar’ birthday, it seems. It didn’t feel like a birthday, to be honest. Definitely not a milestone like the 25th. The social constructivist part of myself laughs at this seemingly arbitrary calculation for an arbitrary number of years of existence that is deemed so noteworthy. Yet, as my ‘actual’ (oh well.) birthday looms just around the corner, another part of me – more difficult to label – titters excitedly. Why are birthdays so important to me? Perhaps because it is the only day of the year that I am so self-aware: a day that I know for sure is going to be remembered for ever; rather, has to be remembered; hence, has to be worth remembering. I have tried my best to make my birthdays these spectacular, perfect days that stories can be spun out of decades later. I have mostly failed. The failed ones are remembered in sharper clarity, unfortunately.

So here I am, once again, trying to make this one special. The failed birthday cynic in me scoffs and is already wondering what can go wrong. Some loose threads have already begun to unspool. But I shall not be daunted. So, I’m giving myself the best birthday gift I can: time to write. Write about what it means to be 25, to be flung beyond the cusp of adulthood that I was long hanging on to. Write to celebrate my learnings and reflect upon my mistakes. Or should it be the other way ‘round? Write to remember. Write to recover. Write to let go. Write to invite others into the conversation. But mostly, write because I love to.

Adulthood.

The other day, as my best friend and I were crossing the road, a group of preteen boys called us ‘Kaku’ (roughly translated as Married Aunty). We were offended, but later joked about it being the lowest point of our year. But it happens. I sometimes catch myself in the mirror and think, when did I grow so old? I have millions of grey hairs. But not the wisdom that comes with each strand. I behave like an adult but I have to remind myself of being one, at least once a week. It hasn’t sunk in yet. When did it happen, I wonder? When did I finally become an adult? Was it after I got a fulltime job, and my first salary? Was it when they let me inside a bar after checking my ID? Was it after I cast my first vote? Was it after my first sexual encounter? Was it after the first time I experienced intimacy, and relished it? Was it after my first experience with a loved one’s death? Was it the first time I drove a car? There have been so many firsts! And yet, none of them exclusively made me feel very grown up. I think adulthood is a process of adaptation. Of slowly unpeeling layers of yourself – and the pain and exhilaration that come with it.

I don’t feel like I am on the edge of a precipice anymore, though. I’ve jumped in, and am learning to swim. When swimming gets tiring, when the current is good, I float. But not for long, or else I’ll drown. So, swim I have to. It is a vast sea of loneliness at times. Other times, there’s too much company. I’ve stopped being afraid of loneliness. There was a point when I started craving it. Maybe that’s when I became an adult.

Love.

Falling in love, to me, is the easiest and most difficult thing. Easy because it just happens. Serendipitously. My most prized relationships have been ones which unfolded without us even realising it. And love is most difficult because it is not easy to love someone so constantly, so completely. Not even myself. Not even life. And yet, that’s what we are expected to do. I’ve realised that I love people contextually. I love my boyfriend in certain situations. Does that mean I don’t love him in other situations? Not necessarily. I just cannot see him in certain contexts. There are times when I desperately want to love him but cannot. There are other contexts where other people, other ideas overpower my heart completely and claim it as theirs. I love feminist theory because it allows me to see a completely new dimension of the world – one that has already been right there but never perceived, never realised, never understood. It allows me to see so starkly the workings of power in a society which invisibilises it by hegemonically normalising it. Like I have some sort of superpower, a supergaze. I love thinking about what we do once we gain this gaze. Do we bask in the glory of possessing it, gazing down upon lesser other who don’t? Do we try to spread it to more people, infecting as many as we can with this supersensory perception? Do we attempt to change what we don’t like (but care enough about)? This is my question. I think I’m in love with this question.

But loving people is much more difficult. Most people I love, I don’t know the answer to why I love them. And yet I still do. What does loving someone entail though? To me, (and I steal from CS Lewis here), to love is to be vulnerable. Permeable. Open to pain, and sorrow, and joy. It is also to be honest. This year has given me the opportunity to make myself vulnerable to people in beautiful and powerful ways. Some of my best conversations stemmed from this space of vulnerability. I think being vulnerable is important because it is the only act of political resistance left to me in a world that tries so hard to make me competitive, insurmountable, perfect, so geared to succeed. Vulnerability makes space for imperfections, for failures, for warmth, for empathy. It allows me to connect my pain to the pain in others and to collectively try and ease it. It allows me, as a wonderful lady told me this year, to come close to people. My pain may not be the same as another’s, but it pushes me to move closer.

My problem, however, is that in return for my vulnerability, I expect it from people too. And that’s where I’ve been sorely disappointed.

Disappointments.

Being an adult means being disappointed quite a lot, I’ve realised. I feel like everything doesn’t live up to the way it is made to be. I’ve been disappointed quite a lot this year. With life. With the choices I’ve made. With my boyfriend. With my job. With my friends. With people, in general. A question I’ve been struggling with is, how do I deal with this disappointment? Do I stop expecting? Do I stop giving? Do I stop trying? But I cannot. Maybe I should stop holding everyone else to the same standards as I hold myself. Maybe I should stop holding myself up to any standard. Maybe I should give a chance to people to please me. Does disappointment occur from my need to be in control? Should I let go of the reins, a little bit at least?

Life isn’t any one thing. It has its highs and lows, something everybody knows. So, the good will come with some bad. I cannot let my disappointment overwhelm the good left in this world, in people, in myself.

I think for the most part, I’m very proud of myself. For taking the efforts, regardless.

Transitions.

It hasn’t been an easy year. So many things that I thought were becoming my footholds to life were pulled from beneath my feet. I got my gold medal but didn’t get my dream job. My boyfriend – who had been my anchor for the past four years – was pulled away in the pursuit of his dreams in another city while I was left behind, with memories that became increasingly bitter. I took up a job I wasn’t sure about in a city I didn’t want to live in just because I didn’t want to stay at home. For a while, I didn’t know what I wanted. I had had a glorious, perfect post-graduate performance. I had made a thesis-baby I was proud of. I had won accolades after accolades. I had won the gold. I had a boyfriend who fulfilled all my people-needs and snuggle-needs. From this lovely, cosy little oven, I jumped into the fire of mediocrity. Those few months, I hated my life. I hated Mumbai, my job, my boyfriend, my friends, my life. They had all betrayed me.

But it got better. Conversations helped. Unexpected friendships and drinking sessions helped even more. As did Sahir’s poetry. Life was bearable, even enjoyable. But just as I was settling down into this cosy little bubble I had created for myself, it was burst, once again, by Life. Circumstances. Things Beyond My Control. Maybe being an adult is to realise that it’s a constant, unending walk over hot coals. We just need to keep dancing. Reinventing. Readjusting. Rest your feet a little longer and you just might get burnt.

Will it ever get easier?

[re]Births.

Okay, I realise this thing is becoming too cynical. I’m becoming too cynical. I’m usually not like this! I hope it’s a phase. When was the last time I was truly, unabashedly, unequivocally happy? It was almost two weeks ago, when I found out that one of my closest friends had given birth to a baby girl. The baby’s father is the closest thing I have to an elder brother, I’ve literally grown up with him. Her mother is someone I look up to, an elder-sister-role-model in many ways. Around nine months ago, I had a vivid dream that these two had a baby daughter who I would go play with. I like to believe it was some kind of premonition which actually came true. On Christmas Day, when I held her in my arms for the first time, I felt a strange sense of solidarity, an attachment of sorts, with this little fortnight-old babe. I wondered what it was.

In many ways, her birth feels like déjà vu for me. She reminds me of myself, for a number of reasons. She’s a Capricorn. Her parents, in their thinking, in their politics, and even in their relationship with each other, are akin to mine. They’ve even given her a name that’s like mine – with no surname! I see this kid growing up in a wonderful environment – a progressive, liberal, egalitarian bubble, just like I did. But it is still only a bubble! Needing to be created, preserved, protected, upheld, at all time and at all costs. Looking at her little life, I ask myself, what has changed in the past twenty-five years? How will this one’s life be different from my own? Let’s take her name, for example. Just because her mother did not change her surname after marriage, the baby’s birth certificate was rejected by the municipal authorities. Because the mother and father need to have the same surname, apparently, in our society. Because within the institution of marriage, the wife needs to take her husband’s name, according to a clerk in the municipal corporation. There is no law to validate these claims, of course, but you see, these minor discrepancies will cause you trouble, inconvenience, shame. Dare you try.

Twenty-five years ago, my parents went through the same inconveniences. The times have changed, but social customs have not. At least my birth certificate wasn’t rejected! Maybe things have worsened. All the more reason to fight. All the more reason to protest. I look at my fifteen-day-old fellow-Capricorn, sound asleep and happily unaware of her own, very controversial, name. I wonder what battles she will have to fight. I wish her all my luck and love and strength. I wish the world she grows up in the next twenty-five years will be a better one.

I promise to help make it a better one.

 

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many questions, some answers…

Suddenly I’ve begun to miss my Nirman group a lot. I had these strange dreams about our entire group back together at Gadchiroli, and since yesterday, I have been feeling like running away from all this madness that we call our life- our cities/towns, the people around us, civilized ‘society’. I just want to get away from everything, back to Shodhgram’s beautiful and peaceful space and the warm company provided by the people there… and just be disconnected from the hullabaloo that prevails in this ‘urban’ lifestyle- the complete lack of privacy due to cell phones and the internet, pollution, loud noises, blaring lights, fights, apathy, greed and violence.
The blast that happened in Pune recently has shook me up and made me reflect… I don’t really know why, similar things of greater intensity have happened in the past in places I know better, Mumbai and Delhi for example… but the Pune incident just seemed so much closer to my life and so relatable… maybe because I read in the papers that 5 of the people killed were students like me gone to a bakery for a small celebration… and I kept thinking, aren’t these celebrations and ‘hanging out’ at bakeries/eateries a part of every urban youngster’s life? Haven’t there been so many occasions when I’VE gone to such places with MY friends? What if it’s me or my loved ones, the next time this happens?
I really don’t know how to deal with this fear… and fear it is, for it’s like I’ll never know where the next bomb may be kept. I’ll never know who might be the next people to be touched by the cold fingers of death and tragedy’s mocking face. They could be people I know or someone I love… and they died for what? Some lunatics claiming to bring ‘justice’ to their respective clans or communities or religions or whatever, by murdering random innocent people who could be THEIR relatives, for all they know?
I don’t understand this philosophy of violence. I don’t understand violence, basically. I am not saying I’m completely devoid of it myself; I too, knowingly or unknowingly become the cause of violence sometimes, but I don’t understand it at all. And neither do I like it. Why commit acts that are going to bring grief and pain to the world at large? What is ANY individual’s gain from that? It hurts me and makes me shiver that there are people out there who WANT to wipe out innocent lives, who are conspiring to plant the next RDX-filled bag in a spot crowded with happy, smiling people who have NO inkling that these are the last few breaths they are going to take… how can ANYONE want that?
Looking at it from another perspective, we can say it is all meant to be. My dad says that when your time has come, you shall be called. Only this acceptance will make you live your life in a much more fulfilling way. Rather than worrying about death and the how and why of it, if we could concentrate LIVING to the fullest all the moments we have, we would be much happier. True. In a way. But a question drowns my other thoughts; is there any way of stopping it? Stopping these innocent killings of people for some fanatic, delusional ‘cause’ to ‘provide justice’? And what can I do? The only answer I think comes close is that if there are people out there spreading the message of hatred, we, the other people, should spread the message of love. And I can try to be as non-violent as I’m able to in my own life. And live my life in such a way that while facing death, I shall NOT have to look back and regret never living to the fullest.
But are there any other answers? And any more ways I can contribute? If so, do let me know.
And to anyone who has lost a friend or a relative or just someone they know to a horrifying fate like this, all I’ll say is, I can imagine your pain. And just imagining it hurts so much, experiencing it must be much, much worse. But we are all together in this, standing in solidarity and bound by love, and celebrating life and mocking death.

some soul-spills…

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt within the heart. ~ Helen Keller

At one level, this quote can be contradicted. Many a poet might say that there are scenes of visual beauty in this world that are incomparable. Vast meadows of green, valleys shrouded in thin mists, a crimson sun entering the blue realms of an ocean, a solitary flower blooming by a muddy river-bank … such vistas remain etched in our memories long after other things are forgotten. Perhaps more important than sight is touch. The cool feel of water, the warmth of someone else’s hand on our own, creamy ice-cream melting in the mouth… aren’t these things beautiful and worth cherishing? Then why doesn’t Helen Keller advocate them to be the world’s best things?

Perhaps it is a matter of changing perspective. Our world is not just made up of finite and tangible things like landscapes and objects; it is also made up of emotions and feelings, these add beauty to the world, or destroy it. When we remember a child’s hug, we remember the joy, the lightness we felt at that moment of touch. While thinking about rain falling on lush green landscapes, we remember the exhilaration felt with the wind and rain blowing on our faces, the thrill of being alive, and the gratefulness towards nature for creating such wonder, and being such an inane part of us. These little bursts of joy and bliss make the moments worthwhile. They are the ones that truly touch our hearts.

Life, again, is not just about memories. It is about these abstract powers that carry you through it; love, for example. Love cannot be seen, nor touched. It isn’t tangible, but it is there. It is what makes the world go round, as a poet once remarked. It needs expression, it needs giving and taking, sharing, and sometimes even fighting for it. Through this, it makes its beauty felt. Freedom, hope, peace, happiness, relationships… these are parts of our lives that do not make their presence felt in concrete things, indeed, if such is the case, then surely they must be fake. Money cannot define happiness. The amount of weapons one possesses does not mean peace. These are concepts which can be understood and defined only by our hearts. Also, they are the parts of our universe that are ever-lasting; they do not cease to exist by death. They may be obstructed by their negative forces, like hatred, violence, fear, but they are omnipotent. Ultimately, they are the most beautiful things in life.

Perhaps this is what Ms. Keller was trying to enlighten. Indeed, it is a subjective question, and all of us might perceive it many different ways. It is ours to believe.

was actually trying to get nt to print this, but didnt get any response. i think it is too full of philosophical randomness… anyways, so decided to put it up here.

long time musings…

I havent written in a long time, so felt like I should.

As I said, I have a nasty habit of not doing the things I promised myself I should, and most of my New Year resolutions are lying somewhere in the back of my mind, rusting, decaying, and lying desolately like an abandoned book.

There are many things going on in my life right now… some good, some bad, as it always is. After all, it is because of the bad things, the darkness of life that we are able to appreciate the first light of dawn, the little things that make us joyful that we still exist in this beautiful world.

For some days my negativity was whirling itself around me and swirling itself into my life like poison dissolving into an innocent cup of tea ~ everything around me was wrong… there was something wrong with my body, I felt like I was ill, and I was whining away to friends, demanding their sympathy for my woes, not knowing what was wrong with me… not realising that maybe me myself was to blame…

There are many things in life that frustrate or frighten me… causing me to think of bad things about everyone around me as well as myself. To list a few-

Stuff that frightens, frustrates or worries the hell out of Sakhi N.A.-

~ Things happening to my body that differ from the normal state of health, like rashes, bumps, boils, headaches, nausea, not feeling alright…etc.etc. They worry me to death and I’m frightened of going to a doctor as I’m perpetually afraid of some rare obnoxious malady that I might have caught being detected. You may call me a hypochondriac, but hey, isn’t that a disease too?

~ People not talking to me, ignoring me, snubbing me for a reason I do not understand. Maybe I’m an egoist, but I need to be praised, appreciated and yes criticized too, but fairly… the people who judge me without understanding me leave me hurt and frustrated…and frightened too

~ Being said NO to, and not being given a reason for it.

~ Meanness with money.All my life I’ve been with people who won’t spend a paisa just because it might get over… well, frankly, I don’t believe in that. Money is something that should not be saved, you get it, you lose it… so when you have it, why not utilise it for something that will give you joy, albeit for that moment itself? And I also despise those people who will lend money to others on account of ‘being generous’, but when it comes to yourself, will be cautious even for a rupee. Again, this is something I don’t believe in. I’m not against being generous, but lending someone money is not my idea of being generous. Aren’t there so many other things to give away; like new ideas, old words of wisdom, or even little things that bring joy to your life… why do people have the idea that giving money to people will help them be better people?

You may be thinking… why, I did not think this girl was like this! So mean and childish and selfish! Well, I guess its true…there is a part of me that IS very childish and self-oriented… and maybe growing up is about recognising and accepting that part within you, and trying to keep it in control. As this is my pensieve, this is a process initiated by me to try and unearth this part and see what goes on here, to try and understand it, as well as keep a tab on it. This little sphere inside the depths of my mind that is full of negative energy and which sometimes bursts at unexpected intervals to pour out all the lava that has been accumulated inside it.

But, hey… here I go off on a tangent again. I’m supposed to talk about something that made me see the good side of life again.

There is an author, Richard Bach, who wrote books such as Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Illusions. I somehow have a unique and a little weird relationship with his books… I come to read them when my mind is in some kind of emotional turmoil or perhaps I am searching for some vague answer to life’s vague and yet intriguing questions… when I happen to lay my hands on one of Richard Bach’s books… and after reading them, I feel at peace with myself and possibly, a little closer to the truth I am forever seeking. Jonathan Livingston taught me the power of being different, which was, in the end, being who you are, being true to yourself and discovering your true potential and living it to the fullest extent…

The book I read most recently is called The Bridge Across Forever and is, at heart, a simple love story. But the best part about it is that this book is a story of love that actually happened!!! For me, after feeding myself of chick-lit, the pink and starry romances that only exist in dreams and such, left me with a constant feeling of depression that I was never going to find me ‘The One’ because perfection is such a rare thing nowadays and anyways perfect guys exist only in books and movies…

But then this book came along… describing a simple story of two people who found each other, and who are growing with each other as life gives them new things to discover every day… It was a story telling me that love can be as simple as being with someone else, being true to yourself and the person you are with. Above all, it gave me the hope that I would find someone, out there…my Knight in Shining Armour… all I had to do was keep my eyes and my heart open… not setting store an idea or image of ‘perfection’, as things may not be what we expect them to be…

These books, they leave this wonderful feeling inside me… sometimes you have to appreciate the power of words… written in prose but betraying the rhythm of poetry… words that are written from the soul and hence reach the soul of the reader, like lilting music, to leave a mark that will be forever remembered, forever cherished… and be the wisdom that will travel down many lives, many ages… a bit of the truth ~

I feel open, not hidden behind the numerous masks that I build around me almost every waking moment…and sometimes also in sleep(!)… I feel that maybe, maybe there are people in this world who understand me, the person I am without my masks…my filters… and who realise that this is the beauty of the world!

The opening lines of The Bridge Across Forever ~

We think, sometimes, there’s not a dragon left. Not one brave knight, not a single princess gliding through secret forests, enchanting deer and butterflies with her smile.

We think sometimes that ours is an age past frontiers, past adventures. Destiny, its way over the horizon; glowing shadows galloped past long ago, and gone.

What a pleasure to be wrong. Princesses, knights, enchantments and dragons, mystery and adventure… not only are they here and now, they’re all that ever lived on earth!

Our century, they’ve changed clothes, of course. So crafty have appearances become that princesses and knights can be hidden from each other, can be hidden form themselves.

Yet masters of reality still meet us in dreams to tell us that we’ve never lost the shield we need against dragons, that blue-fire voltage arcs through us not to change out world as we wish. Intuition whispers true ~ we’re not dust, we’re magic!

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