Changing The Way I Look At Love

I have allowed myself to have my heart broken in the same way over and over again for years. You may say there’s a pattern but I will defend myself for a while before I actually agree with you. I have the same excuses too:

“They were different people.”

“People outgrow each other.”

“Priorities change. Sometimes, people realise you’re not their priority.”

The point always comes down to me pinning my expectations from love on to someone else. Maybe it was what my parents told me as a child: “You will have to take care of yourself because there may be a day when we’re not around to do so.” I always felt the need to fill that space. As I was telling my best friends this week, there was always a sword hanging over my head telling me that I’d have to find someone for myself because no one else would.

In a world where we’re constantly told to be independent, the need for a partner to lean on seems contradictory to me. With the burden of real life and growing up looming starkly over our heads, the fear of loneliness and the constant need for emotional support just stand out as more painful. We have been conditioned over time to seek it from outside ourselves. Maybe in cuddles, loving messages, hand-holding, and kisses, we seek a completion that we don’t promise ourselves.

And honestly, why don’t we?

I have found myself distancing myself from societal ideals of marriage more and more over time. It may be a case of bitterness and a bout of cynicism, but I rejected marriage as a necessity earlier this year. My parents told me I needed it to be “settled”, to “procreate” and I found myself asking them what I asked myself too — why the fuck should I?

Settle for what? Settle for whom? How am I supposed to settled when I was raised to not settle? Wasn’t I raised to aim higher? Why should I settle?

As far as procreation is concerned, I realised that was not my cup of tea as child-rearing is the kind of responsibility I assume I will never be ready for. Besides the fear of having to be a complete human’s go-to person for everything, there is a narcissism attached to wanting a tiny version of myself that I have never had at all. The idea of another version of myself circling the planet is more panic-inducing than exciting.

So those arguments have been settled.

Now, tell me. What else do I have left to look for when I am told to look for love to feel complete?

Companionship? I have wonderful friends and parents.

Emotional support? I have wonderful friends, parents, and a therapist I can thankfully afford.

Fulfillment? My job has blessed me with the kind of fulfilling joy that makes me love Mondays.

Something to keep me warm at night? There is a reason I sleep in the middle of the bed, holding on to two pillows, and with an extra blanket. I’m pretty damn warm when I need to be.

Altruistic love? No love is really altruistic. When we give, we do it with the expectation of getting something back. When we look for love, we look for the kind of love that we got from our parents. The kind that brought a sense of understanding regardless of the good, bad and ugly. Who are we kidding when we think that someone is going to give that to us without expecting the same in return? And how would we possibly learn to give unconditionally just by being in love?

Don’t get me wrong. I love love.

I have loved love all my life. I have sought it in my friendships, stories, movies, books, words, music… everywhere.

I have found love within myself.

It sounds ridiculous and I would not have believed it if you told me I would love being by myself and with myself a year back. But, things brought me here. Heartbreak drew me away from love and closer to myself. As I spent days crying in my own company, I found a solace that a man couldn’t give me. Over time, I spent more time with myself because I genuinely loved it. I didn’t miss pretending to enjoy getting to know someone I didn’t want to know longer than the time it took me to put my mouth to theirs and leave.

The second I realised it wasn’t my responsibility to be with someone for anything but my own happiness, I realised my search had ended. I cannot mince my words with this. It is not and has never been our responsibility to find love or to feel better in it. It is, however, our responsibility to respect ourselves and the bodies we have while we’re here. I am not a fan of living a long life, but I’d love a happy one.

Right now, my happiness is the dinner I just had and following that with finishing this piece of writing that I started today. It isn’t the best writing I’ve done. But, it made me happy. It definitely made me happier than a man has ever made me or probably ever could.

That said, if someone does want to change my mind — they’re welcome to. It just has to feel better than good food or being happy with yourself on a Sunday night does.

How “Kapoor & Sons” Made Me Wish For A Loving Grandparent

I wrote this in April last year and I didn’t have the heart to publish it till I had a conversation with a close friend yesterday about emotionally absent grandparents. I discovered this in my inbox this afternoon — like a sign from The Universe. Maybe I’ll never make peace with the grandparents I never had. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough (if I ever choose to raise children) to watch my parents become the grandparents I didn’t have. Till then, I have this.

 

When I walked in to watch Kapoor and Sons, I was expecting to be hit in the face by some extreme good looks and a tidal wave of emotion. Within the first half an hour, I was in love with the grandfather (played by Rishi Kapoor). As his stubby fingers navigated their way across an iPad, discovering YouTube and YouPorn all at once – I giggled to myself.

The flights that Rahul and Arjun take to meet this adorable old man when he has a heart attack reminded me of a flight I took two years back to my own grandfather’s funeral. He was the only living grandparent I had known till then. In contrast to my inconsolable cousin, I was a picture of nervous calm. I had a dissertation to submit in four days and while I was concerned about meeting my mother who had just lost a parent — honestly, worrying about an emotionally absent grandparent’s death was not a priority.

The family I consider my own is very small and comprises my parents and myself. Anything outside that remains an extension of it. I was always told that family is everyone you’re directly related to by blood; that you cannot choose your family. No matter what age I am, I have wished, at least once a year that I could choose my family. More importantly, I wished I could keep my grandparents – the ones I never had the opportunity of knowing.

The one I did know refused to ever look me in the eye when he addressed me. I may have been in his prayers by default, but I was never in his line of affection. His funeral two years back left me feeling a lot less than I should have when family passes away. My 12-year-old cousin looked at me and asked, “Don’t you miss him at all?” I struggled to explain that he had given me nothing to miss. The pain of being the ignored grandchild is one I don’t wish to share, but I guess it would be fair to say I have a skewed idea of grandparental love.

My other grandparents had passed before I was born or soon enough for me to have little to no memory of them. Relatives who knew Ammachi (my father’s mother) tell me that I remind them of her. She was, at least in photographs, a formidable woman and I am told that was the case. She kept to herself and dominated the kitchen with the few things she knew how to cook. I would love to describe myself that way, but my twenties-esque lack of identity stops me. I just believe what they tell me. I am told my other Ammachi (mother’s mother) would have been appalled at the way I sleep off in the middle of mass at church or that I would have enjoyed Appa’s (father’s father) dry sense of humour.

But, I will never know.

The myth-like quality to these anecdotes about my grandparents makes me wonder how my life would have been different if they were alive and a part of my life. Maybe, I would have spoken Malayalam better than the polite nodding and half-Tamil I pass it off as. Maybe, I would have appreciated a generation I have no ties with. My fear of offending people way older than I am that comes out of a fear of authority would be replaced with love for other old uncles and aunties who reminded me of my (as I would like to imagine) doting grandparents.

Instead, I have been bestowed with a blank space in my brain that I fill with pictures and anecdotes I don’t get to relive in vivid detail. I am stuck with the memory of a dark room and calling out for Appa as he called out my name. I may not remember his face outside of what my parents or old photographs tell me, but I live off this manufactured memory. I know Ammachi is watching over me as I sit in the living room of our ancestral home – a 1BHK flat in suburban Mumbai. Yet, I cannot help but wonder where she was when my best friend was showing off the sweater her Paati knitted for her in the sixth grade. I wonder if she could even knit.

Growing up in Saudi Arabia in the ’90s and the early ’00s ensured that I lived in constant fear of the wars I heard about on TV. My parents did not shy away from exposing their child to international news (But, God forbid I watched a kiss on TV) and it scared the bajeezus out of me. What if the bombs that rained from the sky obliterated the exact half of the house that my parents slept in? It didn’t make any sense and my parents laugh it off when I tell them of my childish fears, but the fear persists. As is the case with most Indian families, I wouldn’t have had grandparents to be passed on to in the event of my parent’s eventual demise. As an only child, I have been trained to understand that this is a reality and not even a far-flung one. Sure, it’s in the (hopefully) distant future, but I have been taught by my parents to never expect the safety net of family to spread wide open for me if they ever had to depart before their time.

When I watched Kapoor and Sons last week, I found myself thinking, “Huh. I don’t have a family like that.” I love stories about dysfunctional families and this one hit it out of the park for a Bollywood movie. All their problems aside, there is no way you cannot help but feel for the Kapoors trapped in their own egos and past wounds. Dysfunction isn’t ideal at all, but family is.

My parents and I often huddle up together and miss these grandparents that their parents would have become and never did. They wonder the same things that I do and marvel when they see their parents in me. This is not just a story of me reflecting over absence. It is a story of my parents’ loss too, and having to live with the fact that their parents would never see their child become the adult that I am becoming. While in the movie, Dadu Kapoor was a constant source of stories to anyone ready to listen, we made our own. Somewhere, I realise now that my parents tried their best to never let me miss the presence of a grandparent.

As Rameshchand Kapoor’s presence in the film becomes the anchor for the family that has drifted away from each other, I wonder where my anchor is. Is my anchor my father, the only man in the mother-father-child trifecta and my favourite voice of reason? Is it my mother, the pillar of strength and goofballery? Or is my anchor more like a compass within me, pushing me towards new places to call home and new people to choose as family?

Watching Dadu Kapoor made me realise that family is more about the emotion than the people in it. It didn’t matter if you hated them on most occasions, but the people you call family are just going to be there forever. It reminded me that home has to become literally where your heart lies or whom your heart lies with. It could physically be thousands of miles away from you, but if you feel you’re home – you have probably found family.

 

This week, my best friend asked me the strangest question in passing.

“What is that feeling? You know, the one between a crush and realising you’re really falling for someone?”

I remembered this song by one of my favourite bands. I am sure most of you have heard it, but won’t remember this line – “Fear is the heart of love.”

It’s true. Every time between those giddy moments of being a gushing teenager over someone and realising you’re ready to say you’re in love with someone, there is a fear. Many would say it is doubt. But, I don’t think I have wanted to piss my pants as I have in those moments.

I almost know what we are so afraid of. You see, loving someone takes courage (20 seconds, screams Matt Damon). But, being loved takes strength. It takes a lot to be able to withstand the sort of affection someone might have to offer us. The best thing about the universe and its timing is that when love arrives, it takes you by surprise. When it happens, you need to be able to accept the love someone has to offer you and take it as it comes. Let it sink in. It can be very scary knowing someone can like your ugly gob when you’re chewing down that last slice of pizza.

However, we are so used to the world we live in that anyone being remotely nice to us makes us wary of them. It’s this space between knowing and not knowing that we are consumed by suspicion. It takes time for the believers to become that way.

No matter who we are, we all crave affection. We are also afraid of it. We are afraid of what it does to us and what happens to us when we get used to it. We are afraid of the lightness it fills us up with.

But, (and here’s the secret) it’s what keeps us tied down to what we really love. The fear of loss. The fear of not knowing what is going to happen. It’s strange, but true. We hold on to things just because we don’t know what is going to happen.

Human curiosity, maybe? Maybe.
Affection? I wouldn’t know.

 I am still too young to tell. 

NB – Any musical references made in this post have added to the mood I was in when writing this.

“Who Run The World?” – Your Coffee.

This post may come across as biased because of the writer’s absolute hatred of caffeine. I’m sorry. Have you ever been traumatised by uncles whose breaths smelt like they brushed their teeth with coffee? Have you had a tumbler of piping hot filter coffee wash your hair in your sleep? Thought so.

I came across a theory yesterday that reminded me of my one true enemy. You’d think that was the education system, but I have always known that I will never escape the power of a hot cuppa. Everyone is either having one or in dire need of one. The smell of caffeine makes me look like I am constantly suffering from a tummy ache that Mommy cannot cure. It does not wake me up. In fact, it makes me want to go back to the universe where unicorn poop can power a country and no one needs coffee. Ever.

Have you ever thought why you would need coffee at all? How did people pull all-nighters before coffee? Who told you that you could not live without your morning kaapi? Have you wondered if it’s all a ruse? They have already resorted to subliminal messages. What makes you think they are not out to get you with what you drink? They will begin by tempting you with their toy. Then, they will make you pay more for coffee that doesn’t really taste like coffee (or so they say) so that we need more caffeine to sustain ourselves because one wasn’t enough.

Soon, we’ll be the generation that is always on its toes. Always on the move for the next hit of coffee. Our eyes will always be wide open and we’ll be jitterbugs. Waiting, waiting, waiting. DAMMIT, WHEN IS MY NEXT COFFEE BREAK?

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Welcome to the 23rd century. This…

Is…

The Zombie Apocalypse fueled by Starbucks.

Better

I found this from my 12th grade playlist today. Regina Spektor always puts me in a good mood and thinking. But, today this song sparked 4000 thoughts that I could not control. I remember the first time I spent all night talking to you in my living room at my old house. I remember staying up thinking of the opening line over and over again. I did not want to and I kept smiling like a fool high on a mixture of lack of sleep, endorphins and (I don’t know if the following word will ever fully explain it) excitement. 

I happened to think of the opening line again today in a different context. Or maybe, I just became more open to myself about how I feel about the song.

Today, I ask you the same question and pause to think. I was told today that being nice would kill me. Then, I wonder why I even go out of my way to be nice to you. Or you with the curly hair. Or you with that smile. Or you with sunshine in her eyes. 

I started off because I wanted Karma to be nice to me. Then, I wanted to just keep people around and get them to like me. Now, I don’t know if I care about half the people I am around but I still do this everyday.

What’s the harm in asking? What’s the harm in fixing a bad day? Who knows when you’ll have someone to look up to when you’re alone?

So, I’ll ask you again. This time to you, Sunshine (Just because). 

Will you feel better? Will you feel anything at all?