Wednesday, October 18, 2017

#metoo

Hadn't thought about these in a while.. but the posts triggered the memories . They still hurt, I can actually feel myself flinch, shrink, back off.. even at just the thought. 

How bad were the DTC buses? How bad was just walking down the road? It was so routine, and so common, and so trivially called 'harassment'. But what does that actually entail? That weekly at least once something harrowing would happen, leaving you in tears, angry frustrated, scared. Someone would follow you home. Someone would keep rubbing their dick against your back, or shoulder, throughout the journey. Someone would grab your boob. Someone would stare at you , their eyes boring right into your bone. Someone would sing lewd songs. Someone would ask for your rate, or better still just ask you to give a fuck. Someone would throw stones at you. yes literally. Someone would pull down their clothes and expose themselves. Over a decade, such stuff happened hundreds of times. In the anonymity of crowds. To everyone. Every damn week, sometimes everyday. 

But it wasn't the anonymous 'eve teasing' that left the deepest scars. No those are reserved for other instances. 

Like the time a neighbourhood uncle, nearing retirement, cornered an 11 year old in a lift and grabbed and kissed her. The stubble felt like needles.   

Like the question, can a 5 year old give consent? Does a 5 year old know what is being consented to ? 

Whats the worst part? So many women I know, shake their head knowingly about books like 'bitter chocolate', about the uncle from 'monsoon wedding', about safe short words like 'abuse', 'assault'. So many of them have said, over the decades, 'metoo' . No one wants the details. Me neither. I want to forget my own details, leave alone asking someone for theirs. Its scary how many of them I've met. 

So why am I publicly listing details today. Because I am tired of the safe short words. As if 'eve teasing' in a bus is just someone singing a love lorn song at your wistfully. It not. Because I want to shake people I love by the shoulders and say - listen. Goddammit, this is happening under your noses, how can you not see? 

Time has scabbed over the incidents. Maybe geography or age or my own armour have helped prevent much shit happening last few years. But the raw open wound is the one that bleeds every time I hear the incredulous ' wow how could it be so bad? how could x have got away for so long ? '

replace x with the flavor of the day - harvey, tarun, arunabh, travis, phaneesh, babas, bla bla

ps - please spare me the #notallmen. I know that not all men, in fact probably a majority of men, don't go around being physically abusive. I understand the 80/20 rule.  What I don't know , is what do you call a person who can't see what is happening right in front of them. 

This is a call to get glasses as a very first step. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Phones.

A couple of months back I started trying to cut back on phone use. By which I mostly meant internet use on the phone, the 'social' media, random internet browsing, incessantly checking whatsapp/twitter/facebook/newsfeeds.

It has been hard work and slow progress, with lot of hiccups, but overall it has been some improvement. The problem is that this is not a habit, but an addiction. A habit, once broken, might not come back quickly. But addictions are another story altogether.. so basically this is going to be a lifelong battle.

Last few years, we seem to keep increasing the frequency with which we keep checking the phones and cutting into all sorts of tasks ( eating, socialising, watching a movie, reading a book, cooking, working on a project). Its  self sabotaging, rude, depressing, addictive, and so hard to stop!

Need to pay closer attention..




Thursday, September 07, 2017

When is it time to let go? Of a person, of a friendship, of expectations? Today, of all days, perhaps I need to remind myself.

But letting go is not like turning off a switch. I have tried so many times in the last few years, but I still can't.

I am grateful for the space that I inhabit now, where I can at least move beyond the usual stories of - she hurt me, and how could she, and why won't she. I am grateful that I could move beyond those stories even when I didn't know why. Now I think I know why. Makes it a little easier I suppose. But I have yet to move beyond the hurt.

There is that little voice somewhere, hoping against hope, that things will go back to the way they were.

Maybe they will, maybe they won't. Maybe its me. Maybe not. Maybe its complicated. Whatever it is.. observe.. just observe.. don't get caught up in a story.. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Right and wrong..

Most conversations we have, we seem obsessed with right and wrong. I was like that for a long time, and it seemed like the most normal thing in the world.

But now, I increasingly find myself wondering, isn't it all subjective? I mean of course I have my dearly held beliefs and opinions and I am quite sure they are all right ( hah!). But isn't 'right' simply defined by the end result you want, or defined by your belief system of how things should be? Those things are changeable after all, they aren't written in stone, they are subjective. So doesn't 'right' change?

In a free wheeling discussion, on a variety of topics, I was surprised at how often the question would pop up - is it right or wrong?  To be a vegan ? To be a non-conformist? To be an introvert? To share happiness? To marry ? To adjust? To toe the line? To be driven by love, or fear? To kill?

I am wondering what am I missing that I had earlier because I never had this irreverence towards what seems like a central goal - finding out whats right. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

On gender...

An old quibble ( which has lately become a bigger fight) has been how 'culture' and patriarchy devalues what is perceived as feminine and places the masculine on a pedestal.

'Effeminate' is derogatory, while having 'balls' is a compliment.
Nurturing is for sissies, while fighting, even though ostensibly shunned, is actually a sign of strength.
Different cultures have their own phrases, stuff like choodiyan pehan rakhi hain, mehndi laga ke baithe hain etc.

And this story about a little boy not allowed to have a butterfly painted makes me sigh.

Its so subliminal and pervasive, that even strong women who would probably identify as 'feminists', urged me strongly to not allow my boy to play with dolls.

A big crying-shouting row ensued when I saw my dad trying to teach the child that trying to put on lipstick/bangles is laughable.  Not age inappropriate, or time inappropriate, but cause for scorn, laughter, derision, because it is (gasp) gender-inappropriate.

A little girl barely 5, with very strong gender equality influences, still picks up enough from the environment, to label a plain white t-shirt with a few small yellow and pink flowers, as a 'girls' dress. I look at clothing for for 1 to 4 year olds, specially in the US or the bigger brand shops here, and appalling is the only word that comes to mind.

Will just access to different toys/dress upturn a child's proclivities? Even if it did, why is that such a terrible thing? As if...






Friday, July 07, 2017

The ministry of utmost happiness - Arundhati Roy

Not really my cup of tea.

Began somewhat promisingly, and she surely has a way with words, but by the time political cataloguing began a 100 pages into the book, it became tiring.

The story of the hijras, of Anjum, of identity, ( and the problems with it)  was interesting to begin with. But everything subsequently looked like a catalogue from a left wing journal. The rise of the lalla, Kashmir, Maoists, caste, religion, the endless horrors of torture , oppression... I am sorry but  inspite of trying to live under a rock, I am very well aware of all of this. This is less a thought provoking or interesting story, and more a call to arms, a pamphlet, a shining of the light on the terrors of establishment. There is some beautiful prose in between, but unfortunately that is not enough. The ending I found specially terrible. Even making allowances for a lack of plot, character development. Even giving her the leeway  that this is more lament, litany and history, than novel. Even then, its almost like a cop out.

I am not sure who the targetted reader is, who would enjoy this.. but obviously looking at the ratings and reviews, there are quite a few who do. I am guessing that a fair number of them might be people not familiar with indian current affairs of the last 20 years. Perhaps if I read a similar novel set in Tibet with shallow plot and characters but some pretty writing, I would have been more charitable, since I would not find the cataloguing tiring.


Saturday, July 01, 2017

Sapiens - Yuval Noah Harari

Really liked it.

In a way its a history book, tracing the history of homo-sapiens right from the times of and closing all the way in 2014. But its history viewed more from a lens of living conditions, what, and why. There is mercifully much less of the 'when', at least not in meaningless dates. After all, looking across millenia, what is a few days, or even decades, here or there?

It begins with a time which has always fascinated me, the 50 thousand years ago to 1 thousand years ago. As a kid, in the truncated and geographically limited history we studied, the focus was always on how awesome our indus valley civilisation was, and oh ok, we also traded back then with a few others, here read a bit about egypt, mesopotamia, china. Perhaps I can be forgiven for thinking that everything beyond these was just jungle and monkeys. yet, there were a lot of niggling doubts, like how and when did places like america and australia get populated? But they stayed buried as niggling doubts. Then, when I read A history of the world in 100 objects, I was thrilled to find that there was indeed a lot happening all over the world in that period. This book covers a good bit of it, and is more provocative in its tone, putting forward interesting facts, and then building theories to explain them. Then hopping to the other side of the fence and demolishing some of those theories.

I found the initial parts the most engaging, the latter parts had considerably fewer facts or opinions/theories that were new to me.

Good read overall ! 

A death in the gunj - Konkona Sen Sharma

Quite loved it.

A family gets together in the quiet sleepy mccluskiegunj, for a week in the late 70s. Old friends visit. Jokes are cracked. Old alliances rekindled. Soon you can see that one of them, Shutu, doesn't quite fit in. To make matters worse, he is the youngest, the most quiet, and right then perhaps the most vulnerable. Family reunions can sometimes be celebrations in cruelty. Shutu , and his alienation are perhaps at the center of the film, but it languidly and economically takes in a lot more. I loved all the 7-8 of the actors, their performances probably make the key contribution in holding the tension in a slow moving but richly observed film.

It isn't a thriller, or whodunit. I thought the opening scene left no doubt about what happens a week later. Its not the 'who' or the 'what' .. but the why. And thats a hard one to answer. One of the most moving scenes for me was when one of the characters was being urged to empathize, and he suddenly lashes out as to why 'Shutu' needed to pull himself together. Giving out the common wisdom on what is an acceptable level of hardship to break down under, (or not) and what is the expected age to 'grow up'. It reminded me of another conversation I once had with a friend, as she rebuffed my urges to empathize with another struggling soul, and basically again listed out 'this xyz is what constitutes hardship. Our mutual friend is nowhere near this. ergo she needs to pull it together'. Most of the time, we are not on Shutu's side, he has broken too many societal norms, failed too many exams, missed too many phone calls, not participated adequately in communal revelry.

Probably won't be everyones cup of tea, but I would recommend it highly.

ps - as an aside, this movie already had an 'A' certificate, whats with the beeping out of words? so irritating. 

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Keep calm and carry on.

Its been an uphill few months. A few bad blips even. Mostly a case of one step forward, one step back. Unfortunately on occasion its two steps back. 

So now will have to catch up again on the things I have dropped after doing them for a bit. Routine, yoga, meditation, reading, limiting screen time, eliminating social media ( hah maybe it should be called anti-social media).  Reading up a bit on CBT was useful, maybe I need to find a book that explains it better and use it. 

Also need to give myself a break, forgive myself. Everything can't be up to my arbitrary standards, and specially since I am not in a position to chase or live up to those standards myself. I need to let go. k will survive in the school whose food habits are not ideal, better some random sugar and biscuits, than..  Its ok to lean and take help. Its ok if others judge, leave.. It is what it is.  

And will have to deal with the frightening thought that sometimes things don't go back to 'normal'. Sometimes when you lose a limb, its just gone. Staying strong, and positive thoughts, and just waiting for it to blow over, or willing the universe to conspire might not work. Maybe you just need to get artificial limbs. It is a relief to also stop pretending finally. Infinite gratitude for all the love and help I have got. 

Keep calm and carry on.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Fast and the furious - n - F Gary Gray

Observation:
fatf (n+1) < fatf (n)

assuming n =0, fatf (0) = 0.
when n = 1,
fatf (1) < fatf(0)
fatf < 0
fatf (2) < fatf < 0
....
fatf(8) <<<<<< 0

Sigh , I like Vin and Dwayne and Jayson and Charlize , but dumping them into the screen with a bunch of cars and no script and only cgi seems like a waste of my time.

Never again!



Friday, April 21, 2017

Logan - James Mangold

Finally got to see a movie alone at the hall recently,  after quite a while.

Liked it quite a bit, and yes I am a fan of x-men, so this isn't a neutral review!

Its a funny feeling to see your drool drool heroes grow old. Those actors you saw 25 years back looking so gorgeous and drop dead handsome, now with a slower gait, leathery skin and fraying hair.  Reminding you more of parents, who are already grandparents. A 'superhero' movie at that, which does not gloss over the last painful chapters, in an age where everything is white washed.  This one is mostly not about the shiny new powers someone is getting, its about the dulling and losing of those powers.

Its a tightrope walk of course for such movies and their directors, they can't go all out and make this only about  about those 'heroes' struggling with daily life, cooking, sleeping, disease, ablutions, death..  Of course the franchise must go on.

But much though I loved Hugh Jackmen and the x-men series, this was perhaps a fitting farewell. All things come to an end. This is how it ends.. its not pretty, but it is what it is. 

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

navratri yog class.

Completed the 9 days of navratri yoga class today.

Wasnt easy to leave at 6 in the morning as I had hoped. s woke up at all hours like, 4 , 5, 6 on all days except today. But somehow managed, although p had a tough time.

I liked the few classical poses, short and nothing fancy, and the following chanting. For someone who always hated all the chanting and temple nonsense , thats a strange thing to say. I guess partly because I stopped trying to 'believe' or argue with the belief , in a literal shiva or durga 'god'. I  let it be more like a way of centering/meditation. Like I am not 'praying' to a literal 3 eyed god sitting in a cave, asking for immortality, but just using the mantra to center my own thoughts. Using the group energy and the discipline of a schedule , since I can't muster up the self motivation to do it on my own.

And a huge part of course was that p himself was taking the class, it makes a very big  difference. I don't think I would have made the effort if it had been any other teacher. Why exactly ? Thats harder to answer. His own ethos is quite traditional and  firmly rooted in things that I have a hard time believing in. But there's something about the way he says things, without seeming to force it down, which makes it very accessible.

The post class food that different people brought was a lovely touch. Tasted a lot of things for the first time. In general, hunger , cravings and food consumption has reduced drastically, probably a combination of the weather, general attempts at healthier, smaller meals, and probably my annual episodic lack of hunger. One good thing is that sugar cravings have not only gone, but I find excessive sugar distasteful now! Mixed feelings on that one.

Would I be able to keep up with the personal sadhna going forward? I hope so. I never completed the 50 hours of solitary yog that we were supposed to do. Will try that.






Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Restarting yoga.

Finally after a long break for 8-9 months from all yoga/gym/physical activity, I somehow dragged myself and paid up to rejoin yoga classes.

I still love the classes, specially the slightly slower paced ones, emphasising body/breath/mind awareness rather than the faster paced 'power' yoga styles, which without a very talented teacher, can soon resemble the boot-camp classes. I have enjoyed boot camp classes too, but they have a very different focus.

Thanks to the long break, my stamina was at an all time low, I usually had to break the holds and take rest quite often. With the body slowly creaking back, I am also reluctant to push it right away into new, unfamiliar asans, which earlier I would have jumped at.

But perhaps consciously taking it easy, and allowing myself leeway for starting slow, also means that the practice feels lighter, less stressful, more comfortable.

The highlight for todays class was the tree pose held on both sides for quite a bit. I loved it. I hope some day to stop wobbling too!


Sunday, March 05, 2017

Looks like no one blogs anymore. A chance memory yesterday got me all nostalgic and I went back a decade, and realised that all the blogs from that time are pretty much dead. 

People tweet I suppose, or use instagram. or even facebook. or other stuff that i dont even know about ! At any rate, lets see if I continue blogging or this one will die soon too! 

Thursday, March 02, 2017

deaddiction

One of the things that really make me feel depressed and unproductive is the time I waste on the phone and internet. 

Like any other addiction, it gives a temporary high, a little bit of instant gratification, and then makes you want more and more of it, and eventually leaves you feeling very depressed. 

Plus the social media and news has been getting more and more depressing, and I know just like I stopped TV, I need to get off these social media platforms. It will mean that my already depleted friends circle and limited social interaction will take a further nosedive, but considering how much negativity I will be able to avoid, it is a no-contest. Besides , there is always good old email and the still useful whatsapp to stay in touch. 

So operation taper down has been on for a few weeks, will try to add momentum to it. Bring down daily phone use below 1.5 hours. Lets see in a week how it looks. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

connection..

sigh, with all the technology around, video chats, countless 'social media', ubiquitous phones, with all of supposedly 'connecting devices', I miss the human connection.

I miss being able to sit across a human being, without a phone, without a screen, without deadlines being counted in minutes, with just conversation, silence and the minuscule expressions on the face, which gave away so much.

I have often wondered: how much of the disconnect, is simply due to a busy life , with kids, office, responsibilities, geographical distances... and how much is just meaningless busyness.

Every now and again, a few stolen moments on chat, throw back the curtain on a huge labyrinth, and then before theres a chance to explore, the curtain appears again, the moment is lost, and we go back to our islands, with pretty pictures on the curtain.

Unfortunately, I don't see any hope of any of this getting better. The only hope is to try and limit my own use of 'technology' and keep trying to catch real life.  Which is also hard to do, more so in my current frame of mind.

A friend had once written a few lines by Nida, applies now in a different context, more than ever..

dhoop mein niklo, ghataon mein naha ke dekho, 
zindagi kya hai, kitaabon ko hata ke dekho..

Thursday, February 23, 2017

coming out.


Its been so long since I have felt any heartfelt enthusiasm or really looked forward to anything in life. On the surface it all seems so normal, I travel, meet old friends, organize meet ups, even 'parties'.  All is apparently well and good. I knew that I was somewhat depressed, but having struggled with moods and lows all my life, I thought it wasn't any more than usual. School days had been the worst , with suicidal phases lasting months, even years. Back then of course I didn't know of fancy names like a high functioning depressive. Plus there were enough circumstances that I could blame for my feeling low.

However lately, I had started 'coming out' to a few friends, avoiding the easy 'yep life is all good' and instead giving the longer , more complicated answer. Whats the point ? Maybe I was just tired of pretending.

Sometimes when you use the dreaded word 'depression', the generic , safe catchall, you find that other friends open up too. Just as your Facebook life had seemed perfect, and you had seemed like the well sorted , strong person, good parent, bla bla, but you weren't really, similarly they show their chinks too. And sometimes you learn some new way of coping they have used. Meditation apps, diet supplements, or just the relief of an honest conversation.

At other times, with friends who have never really been through anything of the sort, it gets harder to explain. When they try to 'reason' it out, how much you have going for you, how lucky you are, how you can't keep feeling sorry for yourself , have to snap out of it and move on.. it isn't as easy to explain. The 'ability to cope' doesn't really have a simple correlation with the hardship scale of the circumstances. What is the ability to cope really? Why is it that on some days a simple conversation with anyone seems terribly hard, although you may be going about your day looking perfectly normal. Why does grief strike suddenly , inexplicably, and you find yourself crying buckets for no good reason? Why do you feel nothing? or feel too much? or feel anxious? or feel paranoid? I have seldom felt anxious or paranoid, but having seen parents and close friends and family go through it , I come back to the same thing - you can't reason with these things, or explain them.

Some things help: good sleep, exercise, good food, family and friends, meditation, gratitude journals, coloring books, hobbies/enjoyable activities etc etc. Some things make it worse over the day, though they may give a momentary high: insomnia, sugar, Facebook and isolation, screens/virtual time in general, endless busyness trying to control the lives of others..

But knowing and doing are two hugely different things. Its a daily uphill struggle, and living close to the edge means small losses often tip you over.  






Friday, February 10, 2017

Parenting sucks.

sigh.. I so wasn't made for this parenting bit. And like everything else in life, its so much harder when you don't enjoy it .

Just trying to get anything done while the toddler is around , is frigging impossible. Go to the loo in peace for 5 mins ? hah. Have a bath ? seriously are you kidding, that is at least a 15 min job. Do the dishes? maybe, since you can still talk to him intermittently, and he can come and hit your legs a few times during the job. Eat a meal in peace ? All you need to do is start, and their susu potty whining will start immediately.

Should we get more ambitious?  Cleaning the house? putting away laundry? Order groceries? Too ambitious aren't we?

And then the really really ambitious stuff, read a novel, study programming, make some diy stuff, - yeah right.

And then the endless clearing up of the landmines and mess and food they leave in their wake.

Some people enjoy playing with kids, I don't. Never did, and probably never will. So theres basically no upside. Just the 'how cute, how lovely' feeling while they are sleeping.

What really pisses me off is when people ask 'what do you do all day'. I try to survive. I try to do all the above. I try not to keep crying and shouting in frustration.

I usually fail.

The only thing that keeps my sanity is the 3 hours of play school . I might just go over the bend once summer holidays start. Will probably throw him to the screens , the phones and tvs which I have mostly avoided so far. Free baby sitting , short term gain and long term pain.. but kal kisne dekha hai..






Friday, January 27, 2017

cashless crap

What was money to start with ? You bartered your goods/services with someone elses and that had its limitations. So we ended up with 'money', which was just a tool to help simplify those exchanges. It was small, portable, standardized ( sort of) , didn't perish , etc etc.

Then we had overlords, which fulfilled various needs , practical, emotional, psychological... We called them governments, or kings, or gods. At any rate they needed to take their hafta, again for various reasons, administrative, status definition, power, consolidation, protection, just because i can , etc etc. They also usually minted, printed, managed the 'money'. So we had taxes, that went to our chosen overlord.  So far so good ( or bad) .

But now we have reached a stage where we say we will do away with physical money altogether! So who pays for the systems who will move our virtual money through the maze ? Why we do of course! So this time, we are paying our hafta to icici, citibank, sbi, airtel, jio, iphone  IN ADDITION to the old hafta to our overlords. 

Maybe I choose the convinience of airtel and icici, thats one thing. but when you give me no choice, and present me options like 
1. pay 2% + tax for credit card, 
2. pay 4% plus tax for debit card, 
3. pay 20 rs for demand draft. 
4. go live under a rock in the himalayas and meditate on the goodness of our fifty six inched kaka, or his more choti soch ke bretheren and sisteren who have had their own time in the sun for ( as we are frequently reminded) 60 years...

Sigh. Deep breaths. Glass of water. 

So the new resolution is to simplify life as much as possible. Minimize all purchases, all spending of money. Declutter. Reuse. Recycle, AND USE CASH WHEREVER I CAN TO SAVE! Yes, that is my little rebellion. 

On the plus side, those are things we should have been doing anyway. Instead of falling for the commercial crap, buying endless mountains of junk, buying the insecurity the giant corporations keep selling: your wall paint is crappy, your face paint is crappy, your life is crappy unless you get this. I had been taking baby steps for the last few years, trying to break free. This year should further that journey by leaps and bounds. 

So maybe I was premature in judging the situation. Nothing is good or bad.. thinking makes it so. 



Friday, January 20, 2017

Please Touch - Susan Striker

Having already read 'young at art' , I found it quite useless.

Far too thick, repeating the same ideas over and over again, and perhaps for someone who is already on board about the broad idea of letting children explore and create, I find it too strident.

I guess one of her books is a good introduction to the ideas, but subsequent ones are just repetitive.  This one might be a better one to start with because it covers broader ground than young at art, but I don't think I will be reading any more by her. 

Young at Art - Susan Striker

Interesting read, but far too long.

This is a book by a hard-core artist. The aim is to guide your child from the age of 1 to 7, along the artistic journey while encouraging creativity and independence. I don't think I have even half an artistic bone in my body, so I can't say I instinctively 'get' the art side of it. But what I do get is the very visible effort to encourage exploration, and discourage the imposition of the 'correct' way, the coloring book driven approach.

In general that reflects my own parenting approach. I have always been keen to let s try things on his own, rather than urge him to do things the grown up , accepted way. Whether its the approach to food, ( eating roti with water!) or slides ( going head first right away) or drumming on pans instead of cooking in them.

Is it easy ? Well no, there's a strong urge to tell them - no , you have to sit up on the slide, not go down head first.  No, you eat roti with curry, not dipped in water.  No don't go near the fire.  And we often convince ourselves that we are looking out for their safety, or their skill development. But a little bit of introspection and RCA soon tells me that its not that at all. Its more that conformity seems paramount. For another it helps us feel like we are fulfilling our parental obligations by 'teaching' them something. And a big part is that it makes life simpler for us, more predictable controlled children,  less mess, less oversight , less active engagement required from our side.

I had not logically extended my laissez faire attitude to his coloring, and thats something that I have tried to change after reading the book. Some other tips seem to make sense. Encouraging them to explore different ways of coloring early on ( crayons, water colors, glue, cutting ) .  Encouraging scribbling rather than constantly asking 'what is it' . Introducing 1 color or limited colors at younger ages. Finger painting. Edible paints.

There are very detailed charts about the type of materials , sequence of colors , mixing, song and book suggestions to go with them, all of which are way to detailed for me, perhaps someone with a deeper love of art would get more out of it.

The book tends to get rather repetitive and I feel it could have been shortened. But still interesting.