2019 Rewind

On 31st December 2018, I picked Tarot cards with one of my best friends. The cards told me I will:

  • Get out of my comfort zone and creative rut (did that when I quit my job of three-and-a-half years)
  • Take care of myself better (did that when I finally decided to take medication for my depression and anxiety), and
  • Find love (LMAO)

I am here a decade after I started this blog. I was 16 and blogs were cool then. People actually read stuff on the internet. Cute. Today, I am 26 and sitting in my bed, doing exactly what I thought I would be doing at this age — living in Bombay and getting paid to work on the internet, a little less depressed.

Of course, I have new problems now. I am out of love and I crave intimacy. I don’t feel physically healthy. I feel like I should be taking better care of my finances. I feel lost at my job that in a new industry that I didn’t dream of being in. It’s not ideal. But I keep thinking to myself about how I just don’t have the problems I was begging to be rid of at the beginning of this decade… or even at the beginning of 2019.

It makes me… grateful.

It’s been 10 years since I started noting down what I learned at the end of the year and it made me laugh when I read what I had taken away from 2010:

You are eventually stuck with yourself. The saddest worst and happiest best of yourself is revealed only to the self. No one can or should get that. In a world where social networking is bringing the walls down, these simple things are like the room you can go back to and call Home.

It’s funny not just because I believe this even harder at 26 than I did at 17. It’s also making me smile because I haven’t believed harder in community healing than I do now.

India is on edge right now. Home doesn’t feel like home anymore because I don’t feel secure here anymore. In times like these, I turn to my friends and my chosen family to help me understand and process what is happening. We only heal when we build each other up. We have been torn down so much by the systems that generations before us built and here we are, bringing it all down. We have shoulders to cry on and shoulders to lift us up when we need it. None of this is possible in isolation.

I needed my friends and chosen family to be there for me to do that for me. I needed to do that for them to understand why we need it so much.

I have been lucky to have friends to call home in the last 10 years. Some friendships carried me through only the time that they were needed in my life. Some friendships lasted me so long that they’re now family. Some friendships lasted longer than they should have. But they’ve all taught me that I cannot do this alone.

Sometimes, you need help. And it’s okay to ask for it.

At the end of 2010, I also did not think I would be the kind of person to wear my heart on my sleeve and tell people I liked exactly how I felt. As anxiety-inducing as the moment, I have done it over and over in the last 10 years only to be rejected or to be met with an awkward pause and an “Oh.”

I did that again literally two days before I wrote this. I sent the risky text and threw my phone aside, crying. I was rejected again, sure. But I spoke to him. And as I did, I joked about how I’ve had a 100% rejection rate when it comes to telling people I like them.

And he said, “Sure, till you don’t.”

It struck me then that we, as a race, refuse to take risks when the rate of failure is as high as it is with dating. It’s a 99% failure rate. Till one person says yes.
And yet, we keep trying.

Even for someone like me who hates taking risks, I do this every time. And the more I do it, the more I am convinced that it’s the right thing to do. To just tell people how you feel.

Because all kind of love, whether returned or not, is worth the risk.

Take the risk.

And regardless of whether the cards were right, knowing you are deserving of a world of affection will get you just that.

I love you.

#4: Female Friendships

Why do you think female friendships have become so important now? Is it because we’re all fucked or because of social media?

Answer:
Historically, women have found solace in community. Often with my female friendships too, I have realised that reaching out when we need help has been the norm. When it comes to celebrating each other’s successes or walking each other through our failures, we have sought each other out.

I realised only very recently that this is not a gendered reaction.That means it is not restricted to women alone.

It comes from the idea of seeking a community with people who are just as oppressed. And God knows, women are. Women across the board and spectrum know what it’s like to walk into a room full of men and feel relieved at seeing another woman, because it gives us a sense of community and safety.

Disclaimer: Of course, my oppression is much less pronounced than someone from a marginalised caste, class, religion, POC, or someone from the LGBT+ community, for example.

In the last three years, especially, women have found this community on the internet. Whether it comes to memes encouraging friendship, bonding over the hatred of a white male narrative, our periods, or even when it comes to learning outside of our own bubbles of privilege, or talking about consent — women have found a way to connect across borders effortlessly.

The internet has made it easier for us to speak up with very little fear of consequence. In fact, in most parts of the world, women have used the advantage of anonymity on the internet to speak up against regimes and structural violence. While mainstream media stuck to male-dominated narratives, the internet offered women a chance to tell their own stories, thus helping build a network of more women across the world who could relate.

The internet has fostered a sense of sisterhood that mainstream media crushed by pitting us against each other. As the internet made sharing ideas more convenient, a lot of unlearning internalised misogyny led to women finding corners within themselves and with other women to heal from generations of oppression.

Women across the world have now just realised that building this community is only going to help set themselves free. Why be a lone wolf when you can be a pack sitting across the table from each other holding hands and saying, “I know everything sucks. Let’s bring this shit down together”?

To answer your question, the concept of friendship is not new. What is new is the celebration of it. What is new is understanding the depth of each of these friendships as a way of finding comfort when fighting against systems that were built to break us; and instead building systems that were meant to lift us up. Together.


#3: Dealing With Bigotry In Your Own Homes

A few of you have asked me about dealing with the consequences of a fascist government being re-elected in our country. Especially in the home, where we learn how to socialise. Family is the first level of socialisation as a human being. It is where we learn how to deal with the outside world. We learn how to sit, stand, behave. We learn to respond immediately when called.

We learn to obey.

The problem is when families assume that obedience applies to even the way we think. As our socialisation expands beyond the circle of family, we learn to interact with the outside world. Neighbours, friends, teachers, acquaintances, people we meet on the streets, and even media. We learn to interact and apply our sense of justice to each of these areas. The same rules don’t apply in every sphere.

And our parents soon forget that the more we interact with the outside world, the closer we get to cutting the umbilical cord that ties us to them.

So when our parents say that we have grown far too big for them, they’re right.

You see, in most cases, our parents are becoming parents for the first time with us. It’s almost as if we raise our parents. We have to teach them how to treat us with the kid gloves that they forgot to touch us with, instead of the heavy adult hands they chastise us with. We have to teach them that we’re not a part of them, but rather a choice they made. While this seems like the most practical (and almost heartless) take on parenting, it’s the truth.

This is where the tough bit comes in.

For most of us, parents are also our first brush with affection. Assuming that most of our parents actually show us the love they feel for us, that love becomes the love we seek for the rest of our lives — unconditional and altruistic. It’s also how (and this is more so the case with desi parents) they like to make us feel guilt for not turning out the way they expected us to.

The frustration with their expectations not being met causes more conflict than anything else.

Once you understand that, you will understand how to deal with them.

So, to answer your questions: What DO you do when your parents refuse to see beyond bigotry, hate, and xenophobia (among others)?

1. Your parents were probably never told they were allowed to explore outside their own bubble.

2. Most of us are actually told that there is strength in sameness despite what the moral science books say. They’re seeking like-mindedness.

3. They cannot tell the difference between empathy and sympathy. So, even when they are aware of atrocity and injustice, their reaction is to “save” or “pity” the oppressed instead of trying to understand their struggles. The latter is what WE have to learn to do.

4. When we approach them with a concept that they may be in conflict with, understand why THEY feel the way they do about it. Usually their reasons will be related to emotion or tradition. Emotion can be fought with logic (most of the time), so BRING THEM FACTS. The latter — tradition — is what brings me to the next point.

5. Our parents are tied to tradition by guilt and shame. Sometimes, regret. But once they understand that they will not be hurt by ignoring tradition that harms them and other people around them, they will soften. They will not change their minds but they will consider it.

So, talk to them. Speak up. Pick your battles and speak when you should. This is easier said than done. There are people outside of my parents in the family who assume that I am an uptight bitch with a lot of opinions because I have never shut up about mine. Even if I have stated them with tact.

The difference is that our families conveniently forget we are adults. We are adults when it comes to responsibility and getting work done. We are children when it comes to opinions and obedience. It really boils down to that.

But, here’s what a friend told me yesterday that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind and I think it applies here too:

Courage is contagious

When you speak up in your homes and bring home the points that you have been making for years over and over again, not just will your parents register some of it, but maybe some who are younger than you will also.

A few months back, an uncle of mine made a homophobic comment at my cousin’s wedding which I fought back with as much politeness as I could muster. While I was told off by my mother and told to “keep the peace” at the time, I realised that someday it will pay off. Even if not then.

A couple months after that, this uncle’s daughter asked me for help in dealing with a friend’s mental health because she assumed I could help her be empathetic in a situation like that.

The point is that when people around us see us exhibit empathy, they will seek out solutions that require more empathy too.

All of the above aside, it is an absolute bitter truth that we cannot choose our families. There will be days when you will just have to shut out the noise and bear every attack on common sense. But, fight the battles in your home before you step out to fix the world.

After all, your world begins at your doorstep.

Things He Told Me – Parts IV, V & VI

The pause between pleasure and pain is more than ecstasy
and just a notch below eye-opening heaven.
I am sure your heart beats just as mine does,
when our fingers and bodies pretend to touch.

The world is connected by wires and machines we didn’t built,
but are grateful for.
The world separates us because the machines now rule us.
You say you cannot pass humans through wires and the various things that connect and separate us —
screens,
borders,
hands,
bodies,
love.

Love, I could tell you nothing is impossible.
You’d know I am right because we didn’t think we could feel this way before.
But, it’s impossible to say things you want to mean but are afraid to say.
My words hang in the air
and my cramped body cramps further inwards.
I straddle you
like I would the elephant in the room that I created,
but with more love.

“Listen, I know how hard that was to say.”
It’s an understatement, telling me that my words were as hard as you got when I told you what I wore,
when you ran your fingers through me,
feeling me,
not just dipping your feet in the water,
swimming together,
body-on-body.
It’s an understatement of the difficulty.
But — love, sunshine, a sigh in the dark–
I won’t say I’m sorry we both feel that way.


 

“I miss you a lot these days.”
“I like you. A lot.”
“I would take you out if I could.”
“I don’t know if I can say that because I have never felt it. I don’t know what love is.”
“My feelings for you have changed since then.”
“What do I do?”

“You’re the only friend I have.”
“I love you. I love you so much.”


Shame fills my entire body.
I was a fool.
Such a fool.
Such a goddamned fool.

I believed the lies that you fed me.
I swallowed them like I took you in,
Eyes, smile, words and so much more.

I can still feel your hands creep up behind my back.
I have started pushing them back down or cutting them out,
But your words weed their way in through the cracks as they always do.

My anger rises and ebbs as waves bring in your words on to my empty shore.

“I’m only trying to do the right thing.”

The right thing is leaving someone behind to watch your castle build in the distance.
The right thing, for you, has been throwing people under the bus
By playing it casually cruel.

Your righteousness will  find you a spot in hell and I will be at the doors: your worst nightmare coming to life, and death.



 

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.