“Do you think people who live alone close the bathroom door behind them when they take a shower?” I asked, my eyes pinned on the kiwi pastry behind the glass.
In response, I got a swat on the back of my head that said everything: “Of course they do.”, “No, why would they?”, “Just do your work”, “Wut.”
I was sitting with my friend at a café. She was trying to read, I was thinking of everything in the world except differential equations. I was dreaming about college again. But simultaneously, I had imagined contingency plans A to F which were to be executed if none of the universities I applied to accepted me. Plan D or E included flipping burgers in Lisbon, where I would live, a young, single photographer, and that was where my Pivotal Question about Closing Bathroom Doors had come from. It is not usual for me to wane at things that I truly want, but when I do, I respond to them like the goofball I proudly am, joking, projecting my emotions into ridiculous thoughts until they become palpable.
Sometimes, I am the most bored teenager in the world, sitting with a Pokéball of my energy in my hand, waiting for someone to show me what to do with it.
I go to school with great enthusiasm, but this zeal is not directed towards my curriculum as much as it is to the hopes of landing something new to do, something which carries meaning, possibly causes an impact, on me for starters. It is like being in a constant state of- I can’t wait to start my life. In fact, I have an entire history of it. In ninth grade, I took to theatre at the local American Center because I wanted to test my acting skills. The next year, I scourged Delhi for ballroom classes. When I didn’t find any, I switched to Jane Fonda Aerobics videos and supplied my family with film of me waving my arms about. Then I was showed how to prove four equal to five, and despite instantly pointing out the fallacy that made that possible, I was over the moon for a month, twiddling with math laws, happy beyond limits.
My biggest break, just the thing I needed in my record, was when I got selected for a foreign exchange trip to Japan last summer. I remember thinking- This is it. Don’t you dare sleep now. And as I trudged my suitcase down the airports, I watched everything with big gleaming eyes, telling myself to believe it- I was doing something after all. I survived that weeklong trip solely on caffeine. I uploaded a few videos to my up-and-coming YouTube channel and I only kept my camera down when I did fall asleep, for not more than three hours at a stretch. Folks at home called it ‘typical sugar tourism’ but I didn’t want to hex it with tags.
The point is: I have always want to do. I want to create. I want to be on the radio, I want to write a column, I want to be in a cycling group, I want to go to concerts and galleries, I want to put another kid through college, so much and so badly, and I want to make my life worth it. I don’t find any reason to be satisfied with things that automatically happen; just as college for Indians is like a given. I want to try myself at the things that are hard to get, I want to be willful, meaningful. Living, though not started by the person whose life it is, is actively created by him through every second he exists. Whether awake or unconscious, we make ourselves people out of a mass of tissues, and I just can’t let myself go waste.
I sat at the cafe, beating songs onto the table. “So”, I asked my patent line, “What is the most unhealthy thing they have on the menu?”
Time to make this personal blog personal. There are times when I am glad of this blog’s relatively small audience. It is not very comfortable to talk raw. Not for me.
I’m deep in the college application process right now. And finally, I feel tense. I don’t usually worry about results and outcomes, because sometime in the process of waiting, I have usually imagined how my world will go on just fine with any possible decision that comes out. So too, with college.
What I can not, however, settle down with is all this delay. Had the application process been just about me, I would have wrapped it up by now, 15 days from the deadline. But it involves far too much, far too many people- my school administration, my counselor, my teachers, my advisor, my parents- and I am going mad coordinating with everyone. They are all more relaxed of course, since it doesn’t directly affect them, nor are they keeping all the strings together. In fact none of them is even aware of all the dimensions I’m looking into. But then it’s not their job.
When you’ve been in charge and in control all your life, and when everyone sees you like that, it becomes harder still to even admit these things. People haven’t seen you like this, they don’t know how to help you. You have to sort yourself out.
And I’ve been trying to do that, so far. When things start slipping, I take a break. I sleep it out, or I turn up the music, just something that leaves no space in my mind to think of anything else, especially college.
Right now, I am tense. I am too awake, too free, and slowly, the tension is creeping into my sinews. Like when you hold something in too tightly, your jaw starts to ache.
There’s far too much involved in my process. Maybe it’s not like that for everyone, but it is, for me. There is an entire whole human besides me whose life depends on this. And thinking of all the levels it affects, and the depths I have to control, can seem too enormous.
There are essays I have to finish. There are transcripts and letters I have to supply. There are test scores I have to deliver, hoping badly that I get exemptions from a language test. There is fees to be thought of, in the backdrop of the BILL this process is ringing up already, in the backdrop of the tuition I need massive assistance for. There is a confidence of steel I need to have while doing all of that, otherwise I’ll fall apart, fail at reflecting the best of myself, and virtually guarantee not getting admission!
I have to do all this without even having finalised my list of schools yet.
That is like drawing lines on the ground without knowing which game you’re going to play on it. I need to be a very adept eraser. Ready to adapt.
Right now I’m just pretending that documenting this tension will place it somewhere outside of me. Let it exist if it has to, just not in me, because I can’t work like that. This blog is superb in that sense.
There is nothing else to this post really.
That’s ‘all’ just.
To anyone who wants to pamper me, truly indulge me, and see my best excited face, gift me a Danone Choco-Smoothie this January, on my birthday.
I discovered smoothies this December, and I sincerely believe that I have wasted eighteen years of my life. But thank the universe for Reliance stores that introduced me to what I am certain will become my weakness forever. So anyone who ever wants to blackmail me, spend 20 bucks on a smoothie.
This stuff is honestly worth every cent, calorie and effort that even someone as lazy as myself will make to go get it. In fact, all of that doesn’t even matter because the moment you take ONE sip, your world will completely collapse into that singular mouthful of sheer magic in liquid form. If these were available in perfume, I would wear it.
This blog post is issued in public interest. To make your life complete.
Excuse me now, I have to go and edit my About section and the list of things that completely define me.
I am my wisest, strongest, rawest and also most secretive this year. Or, this second half of the year.
I have a psychology practical tomorrow. Logically, normatively (literally according to norms), I should be dropping things at this stage, lashing out at people, downing coffee and donuts like water and be buried in my practical file. Instead of that, at this exact moment I am shutting close files of two side projects I am on, and writing my blog. I know full well that the ripple effects of every action like this and hence my performance on every little or large test this year has a compound effect on my future- the one I don’t care for and the secret one that is my Achilles’ heel, both. Yet, I am not panicked, in the least.
If you’re thinking I’m a master in psychology or your adorable right-out-of-the-movie book geek, drop it. I am just attuned. Attuned, to the years and years (and years) of lecturing in school and fortunately not so much outside school: “Take this seriously, kids! Your future rests on this. You know how important these exams are now with the nth new curriculum! YOUR kids are looking at you with hungry eyes, growing hungrier with every minute you waste on the net or in a cafe or just about an inch away from your books, because they are malnourished and there’s no food in the house because you never went to college.”
Probably not that last part. But just as threatening. Maybe I’ve said this before but the ONLY effect such fear mongering has on students is that most of them give reading up at the earliest possible age, chastised with such negativity. Many others learn to fear reading, and everything that goes with it, until the classroom just becomes a group of children who either no more respect reading or know no hope without it. Everyone does become successful robots though, and if that was the aim of education, we’ve nailed it.
I fit in this class too, of course. I’ve never turned away from reading. But I know that a world is not impossible without it. I may not be a candidate for either tight fit category, but I’ve bounced between them, just like a work-vacation time division. Currently, I am in a highly motivated, ‘blood only has adrenaline’ kind of rush for knowledge (being better/ touching glossy pages/ checking out writing styles/ especially looking for acerbic people and texts), and I STILL DON”T FEEL MOTIVATED FOR TOMORROW’S PRACTICAL.
I’m sure I’ll score good. That’s… not really the point of reading but it matters, on the ripple effect level. I’m also pretty sure that after it ends tomorrow, I’ll be lighter.
That’s because of the deadpan, silent acknowledgement I have that I don’t enjoy school anymore.
I mean the curriculum, really, but since the “studies” are the basis of time division at any school, I don’t find much joy in the plain brick structure either, anymore.
Yet, it has been nearly 14 years. Our outward behaviour and intrinsic delights find ways to merge. I am indeed my wisest, strongest, rawest and most secretive this year. That’s because nobody else sees that when I walk the corridors that everyone walks, I picture the Windsor Castle, I see the Danube, I smell burgers and I hear the piano, like the other secrets no-one needs to know.
I will continue to have a pleasant time at school, despite my unsatisfaction and despite my hopes, because that’s just who I am. I’ll find ways to put the fun back in reading.
A man once decided to live across Tower Clock; a green roof, red brick that lent it’s sharp edge to the steep intersection of two streets of the great city of Haule. The pavements of Haule were storybook grey stone, and the flowers in the balconies pink as whale tongues. I can compare because I live on the top floor of a building in the sea workers colony, and the whales my father and other workers pull onto the beach make one final contribution to the aesthetics of Haule; dropping their pink tongues out to greet the sky.
For a while let me pretend I do not wake up to the wail of a trapped sea creature or the anxious yells of workmen suddenly hopeful of getting their wages. Let me be in the middle of Haule, watching the man who decided to live across Tower Clock. The man has a not-unusual beard, just as frizzled and grey-black as real folk do, at least in Haule, but perhaps not in Hollywood. He has a plain red coat, although I like to think it was a plain grey before he bled through.
The man, with his beard anchoring his chin to the lapels of his coat was resting, one noon, when the keeper of Tower Clock poked his hand. His skin, crisp from the salt air from the sea didn’t make her any happier than she had been all last week, observing his presence. He was like the cat downhill, that everyone knew was in the church, never needing to actually see her there. Everyone knew he existed; nobody wanted to see him exist.
In any case, he had shown himself, like whale tongues eventually showing themselves to the sky, and Haule was at a standstill. The keeper, she had heard enough stories for a lifetime. She wasn’t scared of finding her money stolen, or her daughter taken, or even her precious green roof broken in. All she cared, about this unlikeable man and any other, was that he had not looked at her through the queue of windows in Tower Clock.
The man only seemed to care about the gate of Tower Clock. The gate of Tower Clock was the most insignificant component of the building, perhaps of the entire two streets on which Tower Clock stood, and if anyone had noticed this fact before, this in itself would have made the gate significant. But it was too late now, and it was sheer outrage that a man should camp across Tower Clock for seven days and look at the gate, when just behind the gate was the loveliest thirty year old of Haule.
People didn’t age in Haule, they centralized. The farther a citizen of the most ethical city on the planet was from its center, a structure not far from Tower Clock, the younger they were considered, in life, ideas and morals. The fact that I live at the edge makes me an equivalent of a chronologically young babe. Then, the fact that my father lives with me says more about his socially understood intellect than can be said about mine, and consequently whale pulling is not a demanding work. In the center of Haule, in a palace of incongruous white brick, chiseled smooth, sleeps a one month old who had cooed when the priest made a grammatical error in a sermon once.
The keeper of Haule holds the two month old in high regard. She does not, however, hold the man across her home in any. While she waited for him to break his obnoxious, silent, shut-eye reverie, and acknowledge her presence, or more physically, her poke, she decided with each semi-second that his feet had no place on the respectable grey stones of her city. His filthy, hard soles could not walk the smooth-
He opened his eyes. It was like they were never shut.
The waves on the beaches of Haule would have rushed to greet estranged sea drops, and pearls that stiffened from the wax of the sea would have shone to welcome brothers, for his eyes were blue and white and endless and liquid.
She gaped, and it hurt, looking at them hurt, until she painfully forced them to settle on the base of his nose, between his eyes. So hoarse looked his skin that her eyes fled to look at his again, checking if this was indeed the same man. Suddenly, she was grateful that he had never looked at her, and would have knelt by his feet had he not closed his eyes again, not having acknowledged anything.
This is a man who can move mountains, she thought, for that was the only way she knew to understand greatness. She turned, clutched her belly, and slowly went back to her Tower Clock and closed the gate on the man with the eyes of the sea.
The town folk talked. It was Sunday, they had nothing else to do, and they would have done the same had it been Monday. It is of same credit to the people of Haule that nobody accused the sea-eyed man of wizardry. No, they knew much better than that. Of course, he was just a man from Hollywood. In the pastel coloured town they knew, no man had ever had an eye shade too divergent from the grey of spiderwebs. But in Hollywood, the counties and wens they saw on screens, men had all sorts of eyes, all sorts of hair, all sorts of ages too. So of course he was from Hollywood. A minute later they realized that custom required that they go grab autographs, frame them and hang them under every roof in Haulle, like the common clock.
Hence the mob flocked. I watched from where I had watched everything, including the secret nighttime repairing of the infallible Tower Clock. They waved shredded strips of newspaper in his face, their courage as strong as the keeper woman’s before she had seen his eyes. It was the Sunday newspaper, with the front headline announcing the theme of the sermon at church, and a picture of the milk bowl of the cat that was supposed to live inside it. They had torn and passed around the few copies of their newspaper only hours after they had received it, because in Haule only newspaper passed as paper, everything else was a figment of their Hollywood.
Open your eyes, great man, they called. Show us your name, they stretched their arms that had hands that clasped the papers. They willed him to rid them of their wonder, half crazed that they had jinxed it by wondering. They glanced at the keeper through her windows as the minutes passed, deciding, each man by himself, that she had decentered. But at a moment when every strained neck turned forward, the man who sat across Tower Clock opened his eyes.
They saw his sea eyes. They dropped their arms by their sides. They sat down on the intersection of two streets, under the green roof and the blue sky and they saw, awed, the great man from Hollywood. The great, great man who had granted Haule his presence across Tower Clock, the man they didn’t know was born blind.
I am just sick, and tired, of noise explosions in India, in the name of religion.
India is a country where a religion goes to become a manic masquerade. Nothing has ever been or will ever be silent, or even remotely peaceful in India. The mere worth of an event is based on how much noise it has made. Really, it is as if nothing is significant until it has been shouted about from the tops of roofs by enough people, for enough days. When did faith and belief become a mass show, I can not understand, but clearly it is the norm in Indian ‘devotion’. I can continue to question the values of such a faith in the first place, but I’ll refrain from that simply because I can’t find the strength. This is a country that is basically run on religion: it will be like arguing public policy with a mob that has decided that it’s laws are given to it from ‘above’. I may also not be the most unbiased commentator, since I have received nothing but hatred from religion.
Once, irritated by the cacophonous blaring of prayers (conveniently tuned to the beats of contemporary film songs) on a microphone plugged to a loudspeaker turned up, at eight in the morning, I turned to my mother and asked- “Why MICS! Why the hell does it have to be on mics!” She, laughing, attempted to unravel the mystery: “Perhaps in the hopes that their sincerest prayers will fall on the ears of those criminals that are atheists (and possibly those of other religions) and bring them divine intervention, to make them see a god. Their god. Perhaps their god will bless us heretical fools, perhaps they believe they’re doing a noble thing for us ignorant people. It’s either that or they truly believe they need mics to amplify the sounds up till heaven.”
I wondered about this comment for a while that day, wondered whether one could really be an atheist in India. One could, but then one would be really really unsafe. If you ever want to imagine what an atheist’s life in India would be like, don’t. We have enough pain already.
This particular belligerent blogpost has sprung from an incident from thirty minutes ago. Today is Gurupurab; the birthday of the first leader of the Sikhs; A leader remembered for the passion with which he sought peace and coexistence of all. A leader who, as Wikipedia briefly puts it, set up a unique spiritual, social, and political platform based on equality, fraternal love, goodness, and virtue. He was a landmark in thought. He sought to settle society down, peacefully.
Surely, his birthday, a gazetted holiday, should be a day when one can reflect calmly on all that he taught.
But that obviously didn’t happen. A truck mounted with four loudspeakers came crawling around the roads of the neighborhood, expelling song after song by singer after singer addressing their love/reverence/fidelity to the Almighty. The truck stopped under my balcony.
I was caught unaware. I had been working the morning off, completing some very intelligent writing assignments, when suddenly my head exploded. The bed under me became an earthquake, rather a thousand panels of wood fighting to separate. My ears closed. The firecrackers began. And what firecrackers, that let out no wondrous lights, just mini explosions that stilled the world for two seconds each time, and made pressure tunnels of ears. I could get my body to coordinate long enough to migrate to another room, and shut all the doors. But those explosions continued to rock the house, as if it was coming from the earth and nothing could escape it, as if nothing had the right to. Perhaps because they were explosions for the Almighty. Growing up in such a culture has indeed prepared me to deal with such days, but today it was as if I was not supposed to escape. Today, the heretical fool was brought to justice. There was a celebration going on outside and I was forcibly made a part of it, even if it tortured my brain. I do not exaggerate when I say that if it hadn’t stopped, I would have come out a severely changed person.
It is over now. The four loudspeakers are killed, one mic continues to din in the distance. The silence is incongruous. Now I can understand what happened, I couldn’t then. It was just another communal riot: A violence with sounds. Everything they did, everything that religion apparently demanded them to do, made my brain become a block of lead sitting on top of my body, pressing down.
And that is why I have to write this post.
Today, I am pleading the masses to remember our one great silence; remember the freedom struggle, remember the simple marches, remember non-violence. Remember that greatness can, and has already been achieved in our country once, with no use of a racket. Remember that the racket was the enemy that our greatness fought against! Remember, that our Father showed the world that India held strength, not in war and madness, but in control. Remember that our leaders showed our oppressors that the clamor of their soldiers was nothing compared to the integrity of our people.
Silence is one of the best things the freedom struggle has taught us. Why are we forgetting it today.
Nobody undergoes as many radical body changes and nobody feels the impact of those changes as much as a woman. Even babies, known universally for their epic growth rates within months of their birth don’t compare to a woman’s life.
Not to sound simplistic and reduce a female’s life to revolve around her body, I can present this argument in a simple and effective way. Walk through my life with me. Or better still, walk through an anon woman’s life (a trope for all you know!) and judge for yourself whether all those videos, speeches, walks and movements for women are just a hype people need to get over.
Pause reading here, and watch this. (Found via Upworthy)
Assuming that you watched it, I shall now word the video so that you don’t have to depend solely on those beautiful music and colour effects to understand what the issue is.
Children don’t have a concept of style: they have never known what colour blocking means, or that ‘some things just don’t go with some things’. Their world, very typically, is their favourite shirt, and stretching it for as long as they can. Style, just life fashion, is an entirely grown up matter, which little girls first encounter through TV and when they go shopping. The world of elders is fundamentally cool to youngsters in every aspect; so it is not surprising that they try to imitate elders in dressing too. Soon, they start experimenting with clothes and model their appearances on other women whom they find appealing. That’s when they open themselves to tags. God forbid, if the girl likes thick kohl, she is suddenly called “goth” all through school. Similarly, it is confusing how wearing comfortable jeans is a bad thing. When they can’t answer these strange questions, girls just try to fit in.
Then comes puberty, here to unsettle everything girls painstakingly become familiar with. Mothers and educators go to great lengths to help young women accommodate their new bodies and handle themselves. But before young women can become comfortable, suddenly they find the whole world glaring at their breasts, being catcalled and what not, just because their bodies exist, as any normal female body does! How can anyone help being normal. But because they get treated in this extremely uncomfortable way, girls either become very cautious of their bodies, or very open about them, and both are ways to give meaning to this sudden attention and take back control.
From then on, it is a complete loop. It is undeniable that slim figures and glossed out hair and faces are what the world has grown accustomed to attribute to a ‘beautiful woman’. Hence, every woman, heedless of the fact that she may be ill, injured, genetically plump, healthy, pregnant, old or just plain comfortable being as she is, has to grapple with the decision of either fitting the movie woman niche or being herself. To take things one step further, ABSOLUTELY NO body type or body style is fully accepted. There will always be criticism, whether you are fat or thin, or shined and manicured or natural.
Some of us make it. Some of us just don’t. A select few find a saintly balance that every other woman envies! It’s constantly happening to every woman around you. Let me restate what is happening to every woman around you: They are having to deal with the fact that they have a body.
Which is as absurd as dealing with the fact that one breathes oxygen.