Category Archives: Wanderings

I say…

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Every time you have a turn around in the way you think, you look back at most unexplained experiences and try to rationalised them (again). You hope this new insight will help explain the inexplicable. Of course that is not true. Not always at any rate.

A few days ago my mind wandered to one man who had come into my life for a brief six months. It was those six months where he was my neighbour in my new house. It was also those very six months when I was recovering from what seemed like a bad breakup (it was just a break up, no less bad or good).

He lived in a house by himself, with a terrace to boot. The terrace had a neat swing. He liked movies and books and made for a good conversationalist. The house I lived in was bigger but with fewer windows (and a pink tub!). With electricity being what it is in Delhi, I remember spending a lot of time chatting with him, discussing existential questions and even socialising some with his friends.

Once I left Delhi, we kept in touch for a while and it sort of petered off. But before it completely stopped, he indicated that when we indeed spending time together, he would have liked the relationship to have deepened beyond friendship. I was a little puzzled. Not entirely unexpected but slightly baffling because both of us ( in true breakup style – he too was smarting) would spend hours examining what we could have done differently. I had assumed what I was seeing was what I was getting, because that was true in my case.

But then when I mentioned to a couple of girlfriends, I was told, “What did you expect? You were spending so much time with him!”  So what I want means nothing? What I do only conveys intentions?  I knew why I was spending time with him, I thought he did too. I was not angry or anything at him but it left me wondering how many such friends I had lost to what they thought I wanted as opposed to what  I was actually saying.

I am usually upfront and can say things as they as are, especially when it comes to men and what I expect from a particular situation. But these times make me fumble. I have had more than my share of suggested questions about close friends ranging from “Are you seeing XYZ?” to “Why aren’t you seeing XYZ? You spend so much time with him and get along so well.” I am stumped for a reply so hopefully and gracefully, let that question pass me by.

But someone, somewhere else, recently mentioned how the whole pressure of being single, finding someone, striking a chord and letting that relationship develop has become a virtual impossibility. Should you meet some who excites you but you are still cagey to explore it fully, it is rare that your near and dear ones will allow you to do things at your own pace. Inadvertently, excited that you could be meeting some new and exciting, they titter and nudge and wink (not necessarily literally)  either pushing you closer quicker than you are ready for or just making it strange for all concerned. Of course these are friends and almost always, well-meaning ones. But what it effectively does is not allow things to develop organically. I can be secretive but I would hate to do it. When you are happy, the one thing you want to is shout it out and share with all your close friends.

But sometimes what you do is more effective than what you say, eh?

The snake eats his tail.

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There are times you know you want to say something but the words tenaciously remain out of your grasp. They hover like a taunt, just beyond your reach and you grapple as you type and erase and type and erase, wondering all along what were these oh-so-important thoughts that you wanted to deliberate but were not able to.

I guess the same analogy applies to situations. Sometimes they inflame you and inflame you so much that you want to immediately remedy or rectify them. Then, a few days later, you wonder what angered you so much. Slowly you begin to look at peaceful ways of resolving the same situation. Or in most cases, ignore that feeling till it recurs and hits you even harder this time around.

I want to agree

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What happens when there are two sides to an argument…you agree with one side.. but prefer the person making the other side of argument? How do you make up your mind? Especially if it is a subject you don’t read much about…

This essay has me in a quandary but I am the first to admit I don’t know enough about “regional writing” to comment on it. But, to me, English is an intrinsic choice, one that I make without a thought to the power it supposedly awards me or success it ensures. So do not relate to the point that nuanced writing in English is a deliberate attempt at enhancing Indianness. On the other hand, I intensely dislike writers who wrap India on a platter and serve to the West. Jhumpa Lahiri and many similar writers come to mind.

On the other hand, I am huge fan of Chandra and of his writing too. But now am feeling a wee bit forced like I have to like his opinions too (not neccesary I know). So I can’t make up my mind about which side of the issue I feel strongly for.

That apart, the essay is very well written.

Survival of the fittest?

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Sitting in my pantry, I noticed many crows on the ledge outside. Which seemed a little out of character. As there is never any food outside the pantry.

On further investigation I noticed a kite sitting further down on the ledge, eating a pigeon he had killed (I assume it was a pigeon for the crows seemed too smart)

The kite kept pecking and alternately calling his ilk. Wanting to share the loot I suppose. Very frantic calls, it sounded like.

The crows started crowding him and tried to peck at the dead bird. He kep swatting them with his tail but they wouldn’t give up. The crows even slid off the ledge, which actually made me laugh out loud.

Soon the kite had his fill but didn’t want to fly away ( or couldn’t) and kept sitting, hunched over the dead bird. The crows started to get nastier and the kite, edgier. I felt bad for the kite.. he couldn’t protect his food  even till the next meal.

I am sure that’s how nature intended it but made me feel small. When was the last time you had to fight for your own food?

I am exhausted

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Protecting the girl child is one of my pet causes, especially since so many girls die in this country with alarming regularity.
But as I grow older, I have moments when I feel it would have been better to have been a statistic rather than be a single woman in this decidedly un-modern society that I am unwittingly a part of. It’s as if I am not actually allowed to control my life (at least after a point).

[Yes I realise it's a dramatic comparison but perceived privilege is worse than actually not having that privilege.]

I consider it a big crime when I read of mothers, mothers-in-law and other sundry women of a household who encourage their pregnant daughters and daughters-in-law to kill their babies. Despite all the expected troubles in the distant future for that daughter who is yet to come into this world, how can a woman actually do that?

But now when I see my mother and see how helpless she feels with a daughter who is supposedly independent, educated and reasonably self-sufficient, and not in the bracket where the reasons for actually killing the daughter arise, I wonder if this independence has any meaning at all.

I have the education, the ability and the capability to run my life. But when strange people call my parents and consolingly ask, if they (my parents) still have an unmarried daughter, I want to push them out the nearest window.

Yes, the independence is mine while all this angst is conditioning-driven but how does one go about disassociating one from the other? Every time? More than one person has told me that all this will affect me only to the degree I let it affect me. But I am still grappling with developing a thick skin, which no one really seems to know how to do.

I hate this peddling of my parents’ unmarried daughter. I hate what it does to them, and me.  I hate that they would willingly let me marry any man (which can be looked at a positive as “anyone will do, any religion too,” my mother says.. which again dumbfounds me) just so that I, and them more importantly, rid themselves of the stigma of an old, unmarried daughter.

I hate that, in this so-called progressive and modern and urban India, there is no place for single women. Progression implies you are ‘allowed’ to have a love marriage but also to snidely hear “but you haven’t found anyone, have you?” That’s exactly what I want — my parents picking this argument to fling in my face my failed relationship(s).

My mother does not have any answer to all my whys and that always brings us to a cusp where she has not even considered challenging conventionally held norms. I respect that but since this one involves my life, I can’t help but vociferously protest. “Why can’t you just get married before it gets too late..” is one refrain she never tires off.

She doesn’t realise why I get upset when strange women call and ask if I would be willing to marry men only because I am taller than the average girl or older than the average girl. Needless to say, we don’t gel is an argument my mother doesn’t understand.

I hate the fact that my married friends (well some, not most) turn around and demand to know why I am “not doing enough to get married.” Or “why I am not willing to compromise since now am in my 30s”. Or since it worked for them (the Russian roulette known as the arranged marriage market), why can’t I believe it will work for me?

These are people I grew up with and turns out we evolved and became people we don’t recognise anymore. It’s scary. It’s upsetting. It’s futile. Especially not having people who don’t even understand what you are saying, forget believing in what you believe.

Nothing today is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ so why is this situation any different?

I have a friend who comes from a relatively conservative background (only as reference since her mother and mine are identical when it comes to some demands). Some years ago there was a tremendous pressure on her married. Demands came in all forms including emotional blackmail of a parent admitted in the hospital. But she didn’t succumb. At that point I was ambiguous since I could see her worry and her parents’ suffering.

But today I am glad she stuck it out. Not that she is my moral comfort now, but I know despite intense degrees of emotional blackmail, she survived. It takes strength and conviction that being alone won’t completely derail you – something a lot of people would have you believe and is used as frequent initiator into marriage. “What will you do when you are 50?” is a favourite question when you say you aren’t sure you cut out for marriage, or at least marriage of this kind.

Like in most areas of my life, the pressure here too exceeds everything else. I should know what I want – whether it’s my job, my life or my marriage. I should actively seek it – clamour, fight, run and do what it takes to get it, grabbing every opportunity that comes my way.

Most of my interesting experiences and relationships have been because of one chance I took. A turn I made. It has almost always been unplanned and certainly not charted. I don’t have a rose-tinted vision of life and would like to believe when the turn comes, I will take it.  It will be my decision and one I will live with, positively or negatively.

But till then, this argument which often becomes a battle of wills, is becoming intolerable. With most people I can give it back but somehow not able to get through my parents. It’s a futile, recurrent argument which only leads to cold sulks, tears, hoarse throats and me making crazy declarations.

Would it have been better if I had just not been born?