Of Popping Babies & The Age-O-Meter

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It’s that time of my life-cycle. That horrible pressuring time. It had happened seven years back. When suddenly everyone around me was getting married. Like ducks in a row (never thought I’d use that line). Every day was a call / message from someone about their upcoming nuptials.

And while you’re happy for them, you can’t help but feel that tiny thought creeping into the back of your mind. The one you try to ignore, but it’s there, like this annoying presence that keeps knocking like Sheldon, the more you try to unsee & unhear it.

At one point, A had finally turned to me (just after both his best friends had announced their engagements) and simply declared, “Listen, are you going to marry me or not?” Yeah, I know, romantic moment of the century.

The point is, we gave in to the pressure then. It’s been 6.5 years. And I’d be lying if there weren’t times when we both questioned if we fell for this societal farce too soon.

And now the next cycle has started.

Just like how your parents lied to you about your Board exams (Bas isske liye padh lo, then life set hai). And then came college exams (Bas thodi aur mehnat kar lo, good marks = good job, phir life set hai). And then you got a job (and realised it’s only mehnat and no life setting).

So after the pressure of getting married, of course, we’re at the next step.

Where EVERYONE around us is popping babies. Every call I get from friends in 2020 has been to tell me that they’ve had a kid / are going to have one pretty soon. I feel like our population is going to see a spike, and 2020 will have a new Boomer type term for all these lockdown babies (These Lockers, I tell you).

It got to me to the extent that I messaged a long-lost friend to confirm if she was pregnant (and had just not told me yet).

I typed this question before I even said ‘hi’. After probably a few years of not talking to her. Yeah, I’m a great friend that way.

Sadly, unlike tuning out shit news by news channels, I can’t exactly tune these friends / cousins out. And I genuinely am happy for them.

BUT I’M NOT FALLING FOR THAT SHIT ANYMORE.

They warn you about not taking up smoking / drinking / drugs because of peer pressure.

This is way more lethal.

Trust me.

P.S. Given how much life and plans have come to a standstill in 2020, can we somehow pause our biological clocks as well? I mean, just to add one more year to the point where I try to switch the concept of a baby in our lives with a cat.

Of Alone Time & Space

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Some days I wonder if I should start these blogs with a ‘Dear Diary’, because that’s literally what they are. Ramblings from my mind spat out on a keyboard, with absolutely no regard to whether they’re reading worthy or not.

But then, that’s what I love about this.

I once had someone ask me if I put aside some time in my day for myself. And I said, of course, I read, I write, I often watch shows and films by myself. Alone time is important to me. And she smiled and shook her head. I mean, by yourself. Just you, and your thoughts. Doing nothing else.

Well, won’t that be weird? I thought. How can you just sit, and do nothing?

But somehow, that’s the one thing I keep coming back to in this lockdown. As I type this, most of the world is up and about. In fact, most of this country is up and about (I really wish they weren’t, given the state of things). But nowadays, I find myself gravitating towards this alone time more than ever. Just me, with my thoughts. I long silence. I try to catch moments when the television set will finally be switched off (trust me, in our house, that isn’t very often), when there is no song or video playing in the background, when nobody is talking. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, I find myself sinking peacefully, my thoughts surprisingly presenting themselves in a well organised manner, politely, with permission. And it’s becoming a part of the day that I look forward to, even though I don’t know when it’ll happen.

Yesterday, I decided to make it happen. Instead of our usual coffee date, I made coffee for myself, and sat on the sofa, no cellphone, no laptop, nothing else within reach. It started to rain, and I spent the next fifteen minutes looking out at our non-existent balcony. I saw the building in front of me, with multiple people looking out of their non-existent balconies in a scene almost reminiscent of a Pascal Campione art piece. I saw the boy who sits at his balcony every day, legs dangling, playing with his football. I looked at the housewife chatting away on her cellphone, her baby hanging from her hips. I saw the house where the television set is always on, 24×7, and I wondered if they do that to numb their thoughts from presenting themselves, of ensuring there’s no alone time, no space to drown within themselves.

And I realised just how often we avoid ourselves.

Since I was a child I was taught to fill up my time with things. If you’re free, pick up a hobby. Help around the house. Go out and play. How come nobody ever teaches kids to sit down and just be with themselves? Mind you, I’m not talking about meditation here, I’m talking about quite the opposite of emptying your mind.

And as adults, it’s just so much easier to fill up your time with things, because there’s just so little time, and so many things. We spend more than half of our lives at work. And what little is left, is spent catching up on everything we’re missing out on – friends, reading, sleep.

But we need this time.

So take that cup of coffee / chai, and move to a comfortable corner of your house, and sit, and just be. Feel the restlessness, feel every moment of your brain rebelling against this freedom to bombard you with thoughts, fight the numbness, and just be.

Because this is who you really are.

And it’s scary.

And lonely.

And beautiful.

Just be.

P.S. One of the weird thoughts plaguing me yesterday was if Nolan thinks in different time & space dimensions when he takes some me-time. It seems plausible, no? Okay, sorry, bye.

Relationship Goals 2020

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Do you find yourself rolling your eyes each time you see a hot celebrity couple doing hot celebrity couple things with gossip magazines branding them #RelationshipGoals? Like, seriously, laughing together / holding hands / looking into each others eyes lovingly for the camera are your ultimate goals? Time to relook at some realistic ones, I think.

  1. It isn’t about watching your favourite Netflix show together. Anyone can do that (and how many hours have you wasted watching your partner’s choice of shows & films?)! It’s when you can watch your individual favourites in two separate rooms in the house, and not mind it one tiny bit. #RelationshipGoals2020
  2. When he volunteers to do the dishes, even though you both know it’s your turn, and neither of you makes a big deal out of it, because it’s time patriarchy died. #RelationshipGoals2020
  3. When you can compare the hair growth on your legs to his, unapologetically. #RelationshipGoals2020
  4. Having an entire conversation while brushing your teeth, the frothy toothpaste leaking out everywhere… #RelationshipGoals2020
  5. When he puts on a mask and goes all the way to the gate to pick up your Amazon parcel. #RelationshipGoals2020
  6. When you’ve heard each other fart, but are still as attracted to each other in the aftermath. #RelationshipGoals2020

Yet More Learnings From The Lockdown

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Yes, the list just goes on and on, doesn’t it?

  1. There is absolutely no real reason to bother ironing your clothes. I mean, we’ve all stopped using the video function of our office Zoom calls now, haven’t we? And do you really really care if your pajama is wrinkled? Aren’t you just going to lie around all day in it and wrinkle it further? (Or maybe even iron it by body weight & heat if you lie around just right).
  2. There is such a thing as too much Maggi. I never thought this would happen. It has always been my go-to savior. Until I finally made a face the other day at it. This, kids, is the real doomsday.
  3. Our utensils are cursed. Or charmed. But really just cursed. Remember the Gemino curse from Harry Potter? Where everything just doubles on touch in Bellatrix’s vault? Yup, I’m pretty convinced that’s happening to our dirty utensils. Because WHAT OTHER LOGICAL REASON IS THERE FOR THAT NEVER ENDING PILE IN THE SINK?!
  4. Crows are loud. And now, with less human intervention, have taken to cawing at the choicest of hours. Like just when you start talking in an office conference call. Or when you finally manage to fall asleep at 4 am. And all of you people complaining about koyals…really? Wanna trade with my crow?
  5. Rain can be beautiful, when you’re safely tucked inside your home. Maybe add an instagram-able coffee cup to the mix. A book next to the cup that you are never going to get around to actually reading. No, wait. Who am I kidding? To me rains will always be about clothes never drying for the next 4 months. Or memories of wading through knee deep water. Or jumping on a dead rat and the squelching sound that ensued. Oooh, romantic, no?
  6. Human beings are stupid. Because what other reason could you possibly have to step out of the house?! Yes I know the lockdown had to be opened up because the economy and livelihoods were at stake. But you, YOU reading this – chances are you stepped out in the last few days not for your livelihood you privileged ass, but because you wanted to walk on Carter Road / Marine Drive / some other overly crowded area. Like seriously – what part of the lockdown opening up translated into: I have never exercised in my life but TODAY I MUST WALK IN FRESH AIR and infect / get infected / possibly turn into a carrier without realising.

Just stay the fuck home, please?

Of facing ugliness and being kind

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These months of, well, I wouldn’t say isolation because I’m not really alone, but being stuck indoors have ended up in me seeing new sides of myself. I wish this was a post where I would now go on to talk about my new found love for cooking, or how the artist within me has flourished. Instead, these months have made me see sides of myself that I didn’t know existed, and am not quite ready to accept yet.

I’ve always taken pride in being that person who can disconnect from emotions when things got bad, and concentrate more on the problem at hand. Logic before reaction. And yet, for the first time in my life I find myself restless and… anxious.

Of course I use the term anxiety very loosely. I understand just how widespread and debilitating a mental issue it can be. Yet, it isn’t something you can ignore, even when the doses are smaller.

Maybe it isn’t surprising, because what these last few months have been – have been for the first time in all our lives. A pandemic. A humanitarian crisis. An impending cyclone.

I know I’m supposed to be kind to myself right now. I know I’m supposed to sit back and say, it’s okay, it isn’t in my control, and I will do what is required with what is in my control. But being a logical person means I know this all already, okay? It also means I know very well just how much things are not in my control.

It isn’t a pretty side of me. Specially when it first takes you by surprise, then a bit of disgust and introspection of when I turned into this person. The not sleeping well doesn’t help either. It’s worse because it’s so unpredictable. There are absolutely fun days when I’m enjoying being home, taking work calls and baking cakes. And then there are sudden days when I have to force myself to keep doing things in auto pilot mode, all the while disconnected with a sinking feeling inside me. Feelings that suddenly remind me just how much I miss my family, or how much better it would have been if I had gotten out of Mumbai earlier.

As I type this, I’m sitting next to the balcony, the sliding door open just enough to give me an idea of the state of the weather, close enough to shut it at any moment as required. It’s surprisingly pleasant outside, the way monsoons are when they aren’t busy wreaking havoc. And yet, so gloomy knowing where this might be heading.

So with nothing in my control, I sit back, finish work in auto pilot mode, and do something I’m not used to at all – send little prayers out into the universe.

Because, we might just need it.

How adulting has changed in lockdown

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A few disclaimers: I’m in the heart of a red zone in Mumbai, so the lockdown isn’t going anywhere for me (rightly so) for at least another month. Also I’m in my 30s. You’d think I would be over ‘adulting’ issues and just calmly be an adult by now. No such luck.

But these last few months have seen things switch gears so smoothly that it’s only a surprise when you sit to think about it.

  1. You’re no longer arguing about who will get up in the morning to open the door for the maid & cook. Instead now, those fights have mutated into who will cook / wash utensils / do jhadoo pocha that day. Negotiation skills are of utmost importance here.
  2. From putting off grocery shopping till the last minute, to applauding an algorithm that alerts you each time Big Basket slots open up. Those slots are sneaky and hard-to-get!
  3. From never having enough fancy clothes to not having enough pajamas. If you wear any. Can’t really tell in a Zoom call. Thankfully.
  4. From worrying about that promotion / increment, to worrying about still having a job at the end of the year. Things just got real.
  5. From not being able to get an Uber in Mumbai monsoons, to figuring out if you have candles at home in case of a power cut during the impending cyclone. I can’t even believe I just typed that sentence.

Okay, that got too real. I’m going to go and numb myself watching stories of workouts, banana breads, coffee and… oh wait, that’s my own feed. Shit.

P.S. I don’t know why I chose that pineapple pic for this post. It just seemed fun. And in the middle of all this shit, we could use some fun, no?

Of shame & getting shit done

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“What’s the worst that can happen?”

I’ve been asked that by A multiple times. I know why it’s one of those things he doesn’t get. Because to him, I’ve been one of those people who really don’t give a crap about what people think about me. And to a large extent that’s true. When we’re talking of ‘people’ as this collective group of faceless people who gossip. But every time he asks me this question, I know in my head I already have an answer.

“Because I’ll make a fool of myself.”

And it’s hardly ever about making a fool of yourself in front of the faceless people, is it? No. It’s the ones you know. The ones whose opinion you find yourself caring about, even against your best judgement. And the more I think about it, the more I realise that over the years there have been many times I’ve felt shame (I’m sure we all have), but the ones I remember, have been moments I’ve been shamed by people close to me. And it’s always worse because they never say things to hurt you. How easy it would be to brush words off because you know the intent behind them is hurt. But here, the intent is the meaning of the words themselves, carelessly thrown at you, sometimes as a joke. But they stick.

Your thighs look like you have elephantiasis.

How is your sister so fair, and you’re so dark?

Your voice is weird.

Why did you date so many guys?

He called you easy.

You’re average looking.

You’re cute, but don’t let it get to your head. You aren’t like hot or anything.

You’re cold hearted.

These have come from family, close friends, lovers. And while now, years later, I know a lot of them to be untrue, why do I still remember them so clearly? Why do I think about my legs when wearing a short skirt? Why would I never try to lend my voice to a video? Why would I think ten times before talking to a guy, just in case he got the wrong idea? Why would I never step out without kajal to hide my dark circles and complement my dusky skin?

The funny thing is, most of those comments caused me to rebel in ways while growing up, anything to prove them wrong, or to show I didn’t care. But the fact that they’ve stuck around, shows I clearly care.

And I wish I didn’t.

I wish I could embrace Brene Brown’s thoughts on vulnerability and just get out there and do what I want to, irrespective of the outcome. Every day, I’m hoping I’m building towards that moment – that step towards overcoming shame.

But acknowledging shame is step one, right?

P.S. How do you deal with shame?

P.P.S. Also one of my favourite quotes from Brene Brown’s book (must read, in case you haven’t!):

A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor. They just hurl mean-spirited criticisms and put-downs from a safe distance. The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives. For me, if you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.

things i’m craving for this lockdown

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There’s nothing like being told you can’t have something, to make the spoilt kid in you want it even more.

  1. Coffee with Friends. Can’t believe how much I’ve taken this for granted. How this was always an option. Until it wasn’t. Sure you can do zoom coffee dates, but if you don’t hug each other before and after, did you really meet at all?
  2. Dreaming that I want to start running. It’s one of those things I’ve always wanted to do (but I suck at), and never got around to seriously trying. But one could always keep thinking, tomorrow, right? Even that dream seems a bit distant now 😦
  3. Unhealthy food delivered to the doorstep. Yes I know this is still on. It’s just one of those things we’re staying away from. And there’s nothing like the dream of a way-too-sweet American Chopsuey or overpriced Avo on Toast or good ol’ butter chicken to get the cravings started. Of course, we try and cook these things. But by the time we’re done we’re too exhausted to actually enjoy them. Bleh.
  4. Making excuses to stay at home. Who am I kidding, I was anti-social on most good days. But where’s the fun in staying at home curled up with a book when it isn’t an active choice over loud noise and lots of humans?
  5. Positive news. It would be nice to know that something good is happening in the country. Something that didn’t leave you feeling infuriated or helpless or panic-stricken. Something. Anything.

5 random facts you may or may not know about me (also known as narcissism max)

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Here goes, in no particular order:

  1. I can no longer have alcohol. Apparently there’s an enzyme in your body that helps digest alcohol. Apparently, I barely have any of this said enzyme. This is also cutely called Asian Flush (because a lot of Asians suffer from this and turn red). I do not suffer from any such cute side effects. I go directly to the ugly dizziness and nausea. I do however often dream of mojitos and sangrias. Then somehow remember they are bad for me. I can’t even get high in my dreams anymore.
  2. I can’t stand hair being brushed the wrong way. Any hair. I don’t have any explanation for this. The best way to annoy me – stand in front of me and brush your eyebrows in the wrong direction. I might slap you to make you stop. Also I’ll HAVE to brush your eyebrows back the right way to make it all okay. You’ve been warned.
  3. I do not care for music. This is that one thing that I lied about while growing up. I listened to every new song and kept up with the trends and had an answer for the inevitable ‘what kind of music do you like?‘. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate music. I’m just indifferent to it. Like, if somehow music altogether disappeared from the world tomorrow, I really won’t miss it in my life. At all.
  4. I have a phobia of driving. Yes, I know it’s supposed to get better with time. It didn’t okay? I used to drive from Andheri to Lower Parel, and then spend the entire day shivering and stressing about the fact that I had to drive back. It’s astounding how trusting pedestrian on the roads are. How sure they are that I won’t run them over when they randomly jump in front of my car. I have regular nightmares about this.
  5. I have a bigger phobia of lizards. Also a constant in my nightmares. I might choose risking my / (your?) life driving instead of being stuck with a lizard in a room. Just saying.

Of labels and not giving a fuck.

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This is something I have struggled with my whole life. My fear of labels.

I never wanted to be a type, or someone you could really peg down and understand. I was studious but not the teacher’s pet. Rebellious but not disrespectful (or at least I tried not to be). Serious, but loved to party. Not slim, but not really fat. Okay fine, the last one was never in my control.

But having spent a lifetime running away from labels, I realise now that I’m perpetually scared of owning them, even when I’d want to.

Which brings me to my real point – don’t ever let the world tell you what you are / are not.

I’ve been blogging / writing stories / penning poems for over sixteen years now. And yet, I struggle to call myself a writer.

More than anything, it’s because I’m surrounded by great writers around me at my place of work, and I know that on most days my work can’t even begin to compare.

But that’s where the issue really is, isn’t it? Why compare at all? Why do you need to be a writer by profession to call yourself one? Why must you be good enough to have 10k+ followers, or get paid to write, before you consider yourself a writer?

I didn’t start writing to see what other people thought of it. I never even showed my first few stories to my parents. It wasn’t until something my teacher submitted won an award that they even realised I could write. I never blogged because of what people would say – I blogged because it helped me release my frustration, express anger in a healthier way, cry and crib and feel all the emotions that I couldn’t otherwise. And why should that ever change? Why does that make me any less of a writer?

This is so easy to spell out, yet so difficult to remember. It’s one of those things I need to remind myself over and over again, every time I’m feeling low, on confidence or otherwise.

And it’s something I’m putting out here to remind you – the person who likes to put on music and dance when no one’s looking, the one who likes to sing out loud but doesn’t outside the shower, who doodles in their notebooks but doesn’t know the what impressionist art is – you’re a dancer, a singer, an artist. Don’t shy away from labels. Own them.