The Story So Far

Much has happened since I last posted. I don’t even know where to start. There was is a lot of instability and uncertainty in my life right now.  It’s that time of my life now. Though I definitely know myself much better than I did back when I faced a similar situation. I also know it’s alright. Things are already getting better.

So, basically the company I used to work for has gone and downed its shutters. In retrospect there were warning signs and I didn’t heed them because I was too busy living my life.

At about the same time, we (mom, dad and I) went on a trip to visit my brother who lives in the US. I love travelling but have never traveled that far. I got to discover so many things about myself literally en route.

Usually, I am the stationary nomad having been to only a few places in India – Calcutta (familial duty), Shantiniketan (fun + duty), Pondicherry (learning Spanish, with friends, with family) and Mumbai (work), Goa (academic conference*) and the Andamans (sudden and short weekend getaway). I am so hoping that maybe this trip breaks the travel jinx and who knows probably soon I will be off again! Let me write about the travels in a different post. Rita has been asking me for pics. I have been so jet lagged and generally tired that I haven’t uploaded any yet. You can consider the new header image of New York from the air as a sneak peek. 🙂

The sudden departure of my regular job is I am quite convinced not a bad thing because it gives me a chance to step away and examine what I am doing with my life.  I have decided on a direction but after 14 years of working in a structured environment, this freedom is unsettling. I am the bird outside the cage wondering what I should do with my wings. It’s simple, right? Fly. However the wings are a bit rusty and flying seems a bit alien to me at the moment. My good friend A says out of uncertainty comes creativity and all artists face this uncertainty. I don’t know if I am an artist but it’s good to know I am getting the training for it.

So I am both scared and excited about what happens next. Wish me luck!

 

* I did not present a paper. I just tagged along with M, who presented a paper.

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Why are you incomplete?*

I was asked this question quite bluntly a few weekends ago right before the music concert I was attending started. I suppose the person concerned was trying to ask me why I was not getting married without mentioning ‘marriage’ directly. While I am quite used to this question by now and know how to brush off such comments without committing to anything or hurting anyone’s sentiment but this time I was put off.

If I was in a particularly charitable mood, I’d have thought he was aware of Plato’s two-souls theory and is genuinely interested in my emotional and psychological welfare. But I suspect it was nothing of the sort because the vibe I got was a distinctly weird one. At first I tried my usual tact, a non-committal smile which said nothing. Then the smile got wider and become a laugh. By this time people are usually puzzled and leave me alone. No effect this time. (Note to self: must change tact) Then I explained how I have seen some terrible marriages (and I have) which discourage me (it doesn’t but it works to deflect attention for the time being). No effect again. All I got was counter ‘gyaan’ echoing one of the quotes of Eleanor Roosevelt. I am not sure if the person concerned would have realised that he is echoing her. (Roosevelt said ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.’ I got this version: ‘No one can hurt you without your consent’). My smile become wider more forced and I wanted to throw something at him without his consent. Except I had a book and my clutch – hardly things that can be thrown. Anyway he plonked himself in front of my seat and refused to leave through the entire concert which got on my nerves. This is the same man who a few years back wanted to advice my mom on my wedding menu. An indirect way of asking when is the ‘bhalo khobhor’ (good news i.e. marriage).

I usually avoid attending events where incidents of such kind have a high possibility of happening. But didn’t think a music concert would be a place where I will be attacked. And yes, it feels like an attack. I kept trying to keep my cool by thinking of Plato and his theory and how in college I had spent several afternoons in the mezzanine floor of the college library, which housed the reference volumes of all the Greek philosophers. Those fat leatherette brown books with gold lettering in whose pages I discovered the origins of the two-souls or divided soul theory. I remember I was surprised because it was not exactly as I thought how it would be. It was better, less rigid and really well thought out. I am not going to summarise it here. I am sure you can look it up on Britannica or one of the philosophy websites. My reverie was cut off by more personal questions and more gyaan. I was thinking if he has ever heard of Plato. I doubt it because Plato would not figure in this person’s worldview at all. If given more time, I’m sure quotations of other Indian language writers would have followed including maybe the Hindu holy texts. Anyway, I looked away pointedly and refused to engage in a debate. I think he got the hint. I was a bit furious. I wanted to make sense of this. As usual when I want to understand the world, I look for it in literature. So my mind turned to one of my professors, the brilliant Jean Fernandez who taught my undergraduate class. She had once said – I am not sure if these were her own words or she quoted someone else – ‘A single woman is a threat to society.’ I kept turning that line in my head. By remaining single, she is basically challenging that very foundations of patriarchy – i.e. marriage. By refusing marriage, she is refusing to live under a man’s rule. She could be under her father’s rule unless she is financially independent. So, a single woman who is financially independent is a threat to society. Maybe that is what the person concerned reacted to. At least that is what I think it was. Patriarchy asserting itself in a different way. Now it all made sense. I might be a source of immense frustration to him. For a very long period, since I kept my interactions to just a few people with whom I can connect with, I felt free. However, the inconsiderate impolite world is always waiting out there.

And oh, just to be clear, I never thought I was incomplete or halved or quartered. I am a complete person, thank you.

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*The word chosen in Bangla was ‘kata’ or cut. That is conveying a sense of incompleteness. That is why ‘incomplete’ is the closest English term I can come up, which gives a similar sense.

The Proliferation of –ists

Of late, I have noticed this proliferation of the suffix –ist added to a verb. I have seen it in popular ads of anti-ageing creams (regenerist), blog names (imaginationist), world music groups (the dewarists), art (gallerist) among other instances. There was a time when –ism was quite popular giving birth to so many twentieth century art and writing movements—naturalism, realism, surrealism, dadaism, impressionism, post-impressionism, expressionism, post-expressionism, modernism, post-modernism, feminism, marxism, communism, and so on. And the practitioners of these –isms were the respective –ists. However, the -ists that are now taking over our commerce-driven world does not pretend to posses such gravitas. (You cannot trace regenerism, imaginism, dewarism or gallerism to a movement for instance.) It’s –ist for –ist sake, a catchy name or slogan now with a high recall value. A name that is probably as cut off from an origin as we are from the lives of early 20th century artists or writers. A name that is coined as it were in a hurry by exhausted overworked copywriters under the harsh glare of deadlines.

About the photo: Taken in the bright Pondicherry sun with the Diana Mini using expired Fujifilm Sensia 400. Head over to Lomography India for a holistic idea about lomography, photography and more.

Restless

Today, I am gripped by a restlessness that I cannot explain. Every cell of my body feels like running and in different directions. I cannot stand human company. I can hardly bear to talk with a few people. All others are bunched together as a faceless majority with whom I don’t want to talk or communicate. Every reaction from a face of the faceless majority makes me feel tied down. I just want to run away. Sitting in one place, working, and appearing normal require super human effort. Let me take a deep breath and get through the day.

Things that exasperate me

(1) I have no patience for people who see the world as either black or white. It’s either one things completely or the other. How is that possible? Isn’t the average moment, the average experience – and let’s face it, we live most of the time in this averagesphere – always between extremes? And the definition of extremes differs from person to person. My extreme is another person’s average experience.

To assume that if I don’t like Choice A, I would love Choice B is silly. It is entirely possible that I don’t like Choice A, B, or even C. I might decide to choose A.5 or something such. To deny me the space to make my own unique choice is a violation of my basic rights. I almost feel claustrophobic in such a situation. It exasperates me to have to explain such a basic thing. Maybe I like to live in media res. Thank you.

(2) I like to find answers to questions not create conflict. If on the way to finding these answers, I do create conflict, then I have to solve it. So my energies are diverted into conflict-resolution, damage-control etc and less on the answers that I seek. What a useless detour!

(3) What I intensely dislike is the way some people slot my ideas even before I have finished conveying them! I fail to see what makes them an authority on MY ideas. Most of the time I think while I am speaking. So to first interrupt me and then give me an inaccurate approximation of MY idea, is so exasperating. The only time this can be forgiven is when the thought that they finish is an accurate approximation.

I am a bit put off, and that’s an understatement!

You know how it is: you can’t stand of anyone says something bad about your city. Today, I really lost my cool with A, who was bad-mouthing Chennai big time. And I am not passionate about the city in the way that some people can be. I am really surprised by my own reaction! All I can say is I belong to two cities – Chennai and Kolkata. Even though right now I don’t even like their brand-new non-colonial names! Madras is what I relate to best and Calcutta is what comes to my lips first.

I am not saying that Chennai is like heaven on earth. (Well, neither is Calcutta; but I love it anyway!) That khitaab – as they say in Urdu – goes to Kashmir! Jokes apart, I know there are many problems unique to this city, which may make some people cringe. But I cannot stand the fact that anyone can keep telling me again and again and again and again, how bad it is. Do you get the picture?. Everything in this world is bad, wrong, mad, crazy, or on its way out; the last thing I want to know is how bad, wrong, mad, or crazy things already are. I know that. I am trying to live in its midst. And I want to ignore certain things because I have other things as priority. I have a good mind to say to A, who pushed me over the edge, “Deal with it!”

This feels good. I will write more rants from now on! 😀 Also, I know now why I write – to sort out my feelings!