Interpretations

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Category: personal experience

Disengage!

This week marked the start of an experiment to find myself, again.

18 months have been a roller coaster ride of unbelievable joys and deep cuts in the heart; but through all of this something else completely faded away – a sense of space from where creativity used to emerge in the form of sparks, and anything it touched would glow in its own way. That space, which I had parked in the corner of my heart, with a few guards around it, had been taken over. I hoped that it would emerge, only to realize that even if it did, I’ll pay a heavy price.

I tried several ways to cope. I created plans, laid out over weeks and months, to find a new rhythm. Each plan showed its goodness but nothing stuck around. I just got used to the recurrent disappointment.

Finally, over the months of September and October, I broke down – sometimes with unexplained yet severe outbursts, sometimes with petty quarrels and most of the times with a deep sense of resentment towards everyone around me who got by.

My partner intervened and acknowledged that I need help and support. However, to let other people help me, I had to accept it their way.

So I have been set free from all things family. It’s painful to lose the only sense of self you have held on to for 1.5 years; but the goodness of it has already surfaced.

Stay tuned, there’s stuff to come over the next few months.

 

 

 

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The Wedding Planner

My sister got married 2 weeks ago – in style! It was a 2-day event that concluded with a beach wedding. There were over 150 family members and close friends, who were all put up in a resort for a night.

My sister and her fiance belong to different parts of India and the customs of both families are significantly different. The couple began to plan and prepare for the wedding about 2 months ago. There was extensive discussion on the nature of the functions, type of rituals and the scope of the celebration. About a week or two after their engagement, that happened in October, they had finalized on the major parts. The wedding was to happen in a beach-town that was miles away from either of their hometowns. The functions included bridal art (henna), a cultural evening and an early morning wedding ritual. There were 4 meal sessions and a couple of tea+snack breaks. The girl and the boy wanted to be thorough in their preparations, especially because of the lack of time. Hence, they hired a wedding planner to ensure that the logistics involved would be well taken care of.

It made a lot of sense, especially because I live in a different country and despite my best intentions, it was hard for me to be in-charge. The resort was finalized after multiple visits to the town; the caterer was booked after many food sampling sessions and the wedding planner was hired to take care of everything outside of these two major items. The planner’s responsibilities included :

  • Decor for all the functions
  • Food service in the function areas
  • Permit for the beach
  • Seating arrangement for all guests
  • DJ and runner-boys
  • Stationery, flowers and other function requirements

The word ‘planner’ means much more to me. It includes a careful study of the client’s requirements and then, a proposal that offers a couple of possible designs. However, I felt that even if he wasn’t a typical planner, he would ensure that all the individual tasks were streamlined, were well-designed and packaged together to put up a stress-free show.

The show was indeed stress-free; because the person who caused great stress missed the event. My uncle checked in to the resort 2 days before the wedding and quickly took the information from both my sister and her fiance. I observed him as he went after each person and made a note of various things.

While I have a lot of experience in leadership, I find it impolite to claim charge unless it’s handed over to me. To watch my uncle, taught me how to do that with politeness. However, I was 4 months pregnant and I might have not been happy about all the running around. So, I decided to go about the tasks I had taken up.

  • Photography and Videography
  • Conduct the Sangeet Ceremony (cultural function)
  • Brief the wedding planner on the Mandap design
  • Order 50m of flowers and distribute them when required

The first event went quite well; even though I had my own self-criticisms. I had also briefed the wedding planner multiple times and discussed the mandap design. Finally, I had ordered the flowers and when they came, I gave a bunch for one of the bridal rituals.

On the morning of the wedding, I went through a series of stresses over a period of 2 hours. I woke up to a message by my photographer that she was denied transportation the previous night. I panicked because the photo-crew could have decided to not show up for the 4am bridal makeup. I called into my sister’s room to check and the entire 5-people team had arrived on time. Next, I thought I will get ready and look my best. My mother walked in after I had taken a shower and asked me for the flowers; they were required for my sister’s hairdo. I realized that I had left it in the banquet hall the previous evening. I rushed to look for it and didn’t find it in the place I had kept. I called my uncle, who tried to call the planner and order a new batch, while I went to the reception to check with the cleaning team. The over 15-minute of crisis lead to a great deal of disappointment. I couldn’t believe I had forgotten about it. My sister, however, had used the batch of flowers from the previous evening – and that made me feel even worse. My greatest worry was to find loose flowers for the wedding ceremony. Unsure about it, I moved on to the wedding part and got into the bus with my family and the couple.

We reached the venue after a couple of transfers between a bus and a jeep. As we walked into the beach spot, I started to observe the decor. It was random and the horror stuck us when we saw the Mandap. Almost nothing was arranged on it and we had ordered 180 chairs and there were less than 70! I had personally explained the decor for the Mandap to the planner but none of it was as discussed.

We all hurried towards the Mandap. Panic drove us all, especially the couple. The groom’s father grabbed the phone and began to scold the wedding planner; my mother began to give some instructions to my sister and the groom himself tried to assemble a couple of his friends around. He asked them to manage the chaos. I decided to walk down at that moment. I spotted 2 guys perched up on the mount that sidelined the beach. They were the planner’s guys and they sat next to 2 huge baskets of flowers. I demanded that they gave me at least 2kgs of lose flowers quickly. One of the groom’s friends helped me and to my relief, I had 2 bags of flowers before the priest finished the mandap set up.

I settled myself next to my sister; the groom’s sister sat next to him; both set of parents were on 2 sides of the table and the priest sat right across from the couple. The planner’s part was over. The wedding had begun.

———

Later that day, after a great session of swimming, I bid goodbye to my relatives. The happy faces, the content hearts and their joyful spirits humbled me. My sister and her new husband had left for their first drive and night out together. Finally, it was just me and my friends with a few cups of coffee.

“I have barely spent 2 years in USA and I find myself a misfit here,” I said.

“What do you mean?” Friend said.

“I have worked with many talented, efficient people; they work like children”

“Children?”

“Yeah – and when they are done, they make your eyes shine with their love-filled work.”

“Wow!”

“In the last few days, I saw someone behave like a kid without any creativity.”

“That child wanted us to run after him, poke him, remind him to get the job done; it had gone astray.”

“Hmm..”

“I couldn’t exercise my greatest ability – to get heard without raising my voice”

“In fact, I saw my uncle lose his voice. Yet, that child who called himself The Wedding Planner, didn’t hear our calls.”

 

 

 

Chocolate & Childhood

“One espresso escape and One drinking chocolate.” She said.

Me, my partner and my sister (who is visiting us for a month) were at Ghiradelli Square a couple of days ago. Despite that the place is a tourist trap and the quality of their products is not extraordinary, we salivated at our chocolate delicacies; within minutes, all the cocoa disappeared.

It reappeared in the form of hysteria.

Just like regular intoxication, we have no clarity on how it all started. My sister and I began to laugh at some childhood games that we used to play. One thing lead to another and we cracked up on how strangely senseless those games were. And yet, so much fun that they gripped us for the rest of the night. We had to leave Ghiradelli before we got arrested for ‘suspicious’ behavior. I am not kidding, we couldn’t control our laughter.

When we reached home, my partner decided to film our games, replayed after 20 years or so. These days, that video brings me out of intermittent episodes of depression.

It’s strange that when we are children, things make less sense and are a lot of fun. As we grow old, we try to find sense in everything that we do and miss out on a lot of fun.

Hence, I refuse to grow up.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Emergency

“tring-tring”

“tring-tring”

“tring-tring”

He cut the call, like he would snooze the alarm. It was 4am and G had slept at midnight after an over 8-hour workday.

We got up to a bright Saturday morning but it was 10am by the time we acknowledged that we were ready to start the day. G checked his email log (first thing after he woke up) and the comment thread on the web-application, where they filed all the software bugs.

I lazed around in the bed, to recover from a busy half-year. To relax, I picked up a book next to me and began to read. In a couple of minutes, I heard footsteps, heavy and erratic. It’s a sign of either a great idea or unwanted stress. “Must be an idea” I thought. But then the steps developed a rhythm and I heard them approach the bedroom.

“It was a critical issue.” He said.

“What?” I said.

“They called me at 4am no? I decided to look at it in the morning.”

“And you did?”

“Yes, and the issue is fixed too.”

“Then?”

“I am on call this weekend.”

“Yeah, your weekend work-time just started!”

“According to some people, work time is 24 by 7.”

“Bullshit!”

“I was expected to pick that call…”

He mumbled a bit more and marched out of the room. He hadn’t had a drop of water, a cup of coffee or a bowl of cereal since he woke up. “Is it the weekend yet?” I closed the book and walked to the front room to check. I saw him in his favorite drape, topless; his fingers were wrapped in his long hair strands. As he rolled and unrolled his hair, he stared deep into the computer screen.

“Aaargh” He said.

There was a broken robot that a parent dropped at the warehouse at 4am. The diligent repair guy woke up to fix the toy, only to find that someone else took care of it. But the father was disappointed with the repair man, even though the child had forgotten about the robot. So, Mr. Fix It found a note in his warehouse that said, “It’s because of men like you who work hard for a good-night’s sleep, that a child wakes up men like us! Next time, at least wish us Good Night before you ignore.”

It was 11am on a Saturday and my lovely life was there; hungry, half-naked and almost homeless.

Nanaji

It was a warm summer day in the year 1990. That Sunday, an old respectable looking man visited the house neighboring mine. My neighbors were 5 women. A mother and her 4 daughters and this was the mother’s father. He was an 86-year-old man. It was probably the first time I saw an opportunity to interact with a man so old. I was a part of a nuclear family where all of us were agile, active people and my parents were working hard towards giving us a decent & caring environment. To have someone elderly around us was a privilege that I didn’t usually have.

I was quite friendly with the girls who lived in the house opposite ours. So when this man visited, I was very curious and decided to ask more. To my excitement, this man was not just their grandfather but was also the retired principal of a school. I was naturally tempted to grab the opportunity to ask & listen to the great things that he would have to tell about his life. I sat next to the white-haired, slim man who seemed to have innumerable stories to narrate. As I went about talking the little bit I could, I realized that here was a man who could teach me early modern English. I was a student at heart and not just in school. I decided to make the most of this opportunity and learn whatever he could teach me.

I was asked to prepare a notebook, cover it and label it. I can’t remember what I wrote as part of the label but I can remember being as eager for my first lessons as someone would be to watch the sun rise for the first time. The first class began somewhere around 12 in the afternoon during one of my vacation days. I heard, repeated and noted everything I was told to; a lot of the notes were made by this old man, I called ‘Nanaji’. I think at that time I was closest to reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet than I ever got later in my life. I felt like I was learning something that very few of my friends will get to learn. And then the class got over. It had lasted barely an hour.

As I was thanking this man for the lessons, he grabbed me from behind and pulled me on to his lap. I was an 8-year-old child. I felt like I was being a really good student and my teacher was rewarding me for the same. But then I felt something strange. The hands that were writing ‘thou’, ‘thy’ on my notebook were going places. On my chest they just seemed fine but then the grip got stronger and I could feel the hands feeling and tightening for something. I didn’t know what that was but my confusion made me spring up. I think at that moment Nanaji asked ‘Kya hua? (What happened?)’. I thanked him and said I had to get back home for lunch. I promised him that I would be back the next day. I can’t remember how the next couple of days went but the rest of the summer classes were not eventful. Nanaji told me that he will be back during my winter vacations and check my progress. Only if I had my lessons rehearsed, he would continue with more lessons.

Winters in my city used to be quite nice. December afternoons in Delhi would make people happy. With the sunshine being an angel in days of dipping temperatures, kids my age with their families could be seen relaxing or having a picnic lunch in parks. I had Nanaji who would give me classes on the terrace of my house. It was a great idea to use daylight and have no-one disturb us during the classes. My body language had already evolved to behave in a certain way during these classes. I would sit close yet far enough to seem obedient & interested. The class will get over and I would be revising my notes without really suspecting that my teacher actually was ever doing anything wrong to me. Then one sunny afternoon, just when I was revising, two hands grabbed me by my chest and I was back on this man’s lap. I was still smiling yet wondering what was happening. The hands this time did not just stop at squeezing the little meat that my body had developed. The hands traveled far down, below my frock and then went under; they started rising above, went all over my thighs and before I realized  were inside the garments that would hide my ‘shame’. I can’t remember what the hands were doing inside that piece of clothing but I remember blanking out. And then I heard these words whispered into my ears “Accha lagta hai? (Do you like it?)” I think I didn’t respond the first time and ran down to my house with my notebook. It happened again the following day and I told the Nanaji that I had some weird discharge and he suddenly took his hands out. I thought it probably was a good excuse and that there was something about that detail that scared him or grossed him out.

Classes

Classes

It was the third terrace class that I refused to attend. That same evening, I told my mother exactly what was happening even though I was not sure if there was anything wrong.

I know I have always been fortunate to have parents who trusted me with my words and took necessary action. My mother called Nanaji’s daughter and I was asked to be in the other room. Even while I was oblivious to the shameful nature of the act, I could hear Nanaji’s daughter (who was herself in her late 40s) crying and leaving our house. I saw Nanaji leave next day with his head down. I never saw him again.

Yet I can see him as I write this.

By 1993, I had become a cautious kid even though I didn’t really understand sexual offenses. There was this other old man whom I tagged along with for some morning walks along with another friend. I did it totally out of curiosity to find out if all men that age were like that. Consider it my bad luck but that Nanaji turned out to be yet another molester who took children to remote corners. But this time I sped before anything could really happen.

In the year 1995, I experienced eve teasing for the first time. It was Janmashtami and I was with my friends looking at small clay models built across the colony. After a fun evening, my friends went home and I was walking home when I heard some people whistling. I turned around (as usual out of curiosity) and I think I saw the most unpleasant smile ever. I ran. I don’t know why but I ran in my pavada. I reached home and I remember my mother’s face which was straight at first. She asked why I was panting. When I told her what I had encountered, she smiled and told me that it happens. She asked me to be careful and just informed me that I was growing up. For some reason I just did not like that look, the dialogue or what I was told.

Much of my “sexual education” happened through Hindi films which showed the disparity between men & women as a natural phenomenon and not a social-consequence. I grew up being highly aggressive towards any approach made by a man. I did not have great male friends throughout my school life. I was angry. Not at Nanaji but at the fact that everyone after that was not made to feel ashamed of their acts.

I grew up being groped on the road but had the guts to slap the groper. I would not even tolerate a comment that had anything to do with me being a girl. To some extent I never really accepted sexuality being a part of people’s identity. When I was told that I had to broom the house because I was a girl, I threw the broom. I told my dad that I would do any household work as a member of the family but will not sit with my legs crossed just because I was a woman. I don’t think he ever used the ‘girl’ reference to get me to do anything ever again.

I was very proud of the fact that I had dealt with most of my issues with sexism fairly well. I did go through few more disgusting episodes including the one in which my music-teacher’s 40-year-old brother who was also a father of a daughter, felt & squeezed my boobs when no one was looking!

I thank the handful of good men whom I met during the first part of my professional life. They prevented me from considering men in general perverts. I realized people are people; sexuality takes over because of a mix of various conditions. I met men with a great sense of humor. And I started laughing off at the little beings who troubled me for a while and that probably my encounters with these men refined my personality than destroying it.

After a long period of sexual ignorance, in the year 2007 I realized for the first time that my attitude was dangerous to no one else, but me. I had almost no friends in this island country called Australia. But I knew some people whom I thought I could hang out with. They were 4 boys who were also my classmates. One evening I told them that I wanted to celebrate my new job which I had grabbed barely 3 months of landing in the country. It was a great opportunity and I was looking forward to putting an end to my hand-to-mouth existence.

We partied. Intoxication was the biggest part of the celebration. I was sloshed for the first time ever. I went on to talk about and cry over my failed love story. And then I threw up and was put to sleep. I had passed out. And then, like a bad dream, I saw diluted darkness and a face in it. I didn’t hear anything but felt something between my legs. I realized I was incapable of being sure about anything. And then I sensed it. I was half-naked and there was this one “friend” who was on top of me. I wanted to move away. I wanted to ask questions and I wanted to push this person away. I could barely move. Last I remember, I was falling back and this person was trying to climb on.

I woke up the next morning, to the darkest morning of my life. It ‘dawned’ on me in those few seconds that something in me had changed, changed forever. I got out of the bed and noticed that all doors & windows were closed. That one ‘friend’ was lying on the bed next to mine. I wanted to stab a dagger into that spineless back, I wanted to cry, I wanted to cry out loud. I did nothing.

I got out of the room and saw this other ‘friend’ who was awake. I picked up my jacket and walked out of that house. I remember that I just walked that morning. It was the longest short walk ever. I went to a medical shop and bought a 72hr emergency contraceptive. It costed me $35 but that night costed me a demon of a life for the next 12 months.

I never was sure what it was that happened that night. I was outraged. I was raped, almost. In dilemma.

Today, I don’t have a long list of men whom I have dated. But my life does have an 86-year-old teacher and a 22-year-old friend rape me of my freedom to think that the world is a wonderful place.

Hurt beat

I fear it will be lost

I fear it will be gone

I fear it will fade

All that would be, will be in vain.

 

Love and its labor

Love and its promises

Love and its glory

Will all bury in a moment of fury.

 

For in the end

despite the depth

the passion, the strength

we are all a body, a vanishing heart beat

 

And it takes very little

to have the heart beat

and takes even less

to make it the hurt beat.

 

 

 

 

 

(Un)Clean Shaven

As I was tying my first pony tail in 10 months last Friday morning, I started thinking in retrospect. I realized that the day I went bald, I did not lose my hair or identity, I created an opportunity to learn about this world a little more. Learning that will last a lifetime.

It began 5 years ago. I was living in Australia then. Life was not going the way I would like it to and everything was beyond hopeless. Somewhere in the dilemma of the purpose of my life, I wanted to shave my head. I wanted attention. Not because I wanted to feel important but because I wanted to communicate. I was suffering from lack of human interaction. I just wanted to share, convey and exchange. I thought the best way to get someone to talk to you is to make them notice you in the first place. At that time, one of the methods was to do something strange or shocking. Going bald seemed easy. But then I saw some girls with their heads shaven. I realized that my idea may not work. Worse, I though I might suffer some repulsion.  Eventually, I found other channels to connect with people around me.

If I had shaved my head then, I would have never learnt what I discovered in the last year.

The thought of going bald kept knocking my head. In 2010, I just wanted to do it. I felt that not everything in life needed an objective. Somethings one should just do. And anything new is always refreshing, if you welcome the experience with arms wide open. Conversations with my partner made me wait. I decided to wait till we are done with the wedding ceremonies or else the priest might have gotten confused between the bride and the groom (my male counterpart has long hair).

15th Sep’11 is the date that I had chosen. Post all the wedding ceremonies, I thought it will be fine to just do it and travel. But then, my sister-in-law’s wedding date was announced. I had to wait till the 30th of October. We dropped my mother at the airport and headed straight to a saloon – Lakme Studio.

Conversation summary before the chopshop started working :

Me : I want to get my head shaved.

Receptionist : Oh, please wait.

Hair Stylist 1 (2 mins later) : Yes ma’m, what services would you like?

Me : I need my head shaved.

HS1 : Oh, really? Please wait. (disappears)

HS2 : Yes Ma’m, I heard that you want your head shaved?

Me : Yes please.

HS2 : Like, completely shaved?

Me : Yes?

HS2 : Oh, that’s challenging (disappears).

HS3 : Ma’m, is it true…

Me : Yes please!

HS3 : You are the first female client in my career who has asked for this.

I finally get to sit in front of the mirror and the real discussions begin. It took few minutes, an electronic shaver and 850 bucks to lose every hair strand on my head. Post the savage, the staff gets pictures clicked with me! One of them even thinks that my partner and I have a music-band.

We get out of the saloon and I could already feel the cold. My partner looks at me “Not bad at all!”

The real experience begins.

I call my mother and tell her. She snaps “Girls put flowers in their hair after marriage, and you got your head shaved? Do not talk to me!”. She bangs the phone on my face. I didn’t expect anything different but I wanted her to know. We mail a picture to my sister and she shows it to my dad. My dad reacts in the most surprising way “Come here (to my mother). She actually looks pretty.” My brother-in-law sees me and feels a bit uncomfortable at first. After 2 hrs of being around me, he finally says “I was taken aback at first. I think I like it now.” I informed my close-friend-circle and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of compliments on “my guts” and even more amused by the attention-drawing capacity of my new look.

I had this sense of rejuvenation which felt silly yet good. However, I took some people’s advice and kept it away from my extended family members, especially the conservative ones. This does not include my partner’s family. During the course of few weeks, some  picture by somebody on social media made the news spread in light-speed. I tasted the bitterness of judgement. I was called a rebel, naive and someone who does not care about other people’s opinions. Best, I got to know that it had been concluded that what I had done would weaken the family support that I had. During the course of next few months, I went through a lot of discomfort and painful contemplation.

My thoughts took me to the blueprint of the family structure in our society. I realized that the family foundation is so shallow that beyond your parents and kids, the idea of love is just an idea. The honesty of relationships is not based on compassion. Heck, the honesty does not exist at all. The family network is superficially drawn on theories of reputation, success, profession, decency and respect for elders. What’s even worse is that your image is formed without even interacting with you. People are scared of others being different, even if it’s a family member whom you are supposed to be affectionate towards.

There was one question that was monstrously dancing in my head “I shaved MY head. How does it matter to anyone?” For once, I felt like I had beheaded someone else.

I lead an honest life that makes me a victim of my strong emotions. Every brilliant idea that i have is also fueled by my sensitivities towards this world. It’s all there in what I feel. And I feel sad when I talk about my unclean shaven experience.

However, everything was not bad.

For your reference, the following are the advantages of doing something as drastic and superficial as a bald-look.

  • You will be taken a little more seriously as a creative professional.
  • Save 10 minutes every morning while rushing to work.
  • You will learn that personality does not reside in your hair, eyes or  color.
  • You will always have something to talk about.
  • You will manage to deal with boredom, at least for a while.
  • While you will face extreme criticism and judgement, you will mostly figure out the ones who truly love you

I should elaborate on the last point. While most people of the last generation did not like the look, some of my family members did not let that effect their deep-rooted feelings for me. These were the people who took the effort to ask and understand me, and not pass a flying judgement.

So, yes. Good times always have some bad moments to stop you from taking your life for granted. Living bald actually made me wiser as a person. While I don’t care about my looks, I don’t care about how others look either. At least, not on the surface. I have learnt to see through the barriers of an image through self-experience. I have also understood the ability of others to break that barrier. As of today, I wish to be surrounded by those who can break that barrier.

I love. I don’t look.

I look. I don’t judge.

I judge. I don’t conclude.

I conclude, to love you still.