Day 137: V and V

V1

He definitely won brownie points for being on time and for picking a decent place, well suited for the occasion. But, as soon as I saw him and exchanged that formal handshake, I knew that this was not going to be. This arranged setting of meeting prospective matches has been going on for a while now. So, if there were a resume for life, I could add ‘Filtering Prospects’ as an added skill. I saw this one and I knew it was not going to be; two hours of talking down, I was more than convinced.

Over the years, my filters, the items in “the checklist”, have all been refined and made to suit the practical needs of the scene. I no longer want a guy who’s more or less my age, has an interest in the languages and photography, and loves dogs, cultures, food and traveling as much as I do. I no longer want him to be a writer, and world-savvy, and a biker-rider. I no longer expect a man to be spontaneous enough to move to a new city, or better yet a country, and start life afresh. But there are a few things that are still required. Please…

  • Have an interest that keeps you going. There is a world outside of just work and home; it matters.
  • Live to eat, or Eat to live. Enjoy it nonetheless.
  • Throw yourself outside your comfort zone every once in a while. The more you rest in one safe spot, the closer you are to becoming a tree.
  • Ooze out with passion. Whether you’re laughing, crying or fighting like lunatics, let it all overflow with passion. Do it like you mean it.
  • Be a gentleman. Respect. In today’s day and age, a man that holds the door open not because the woman is incapable of doing it herself, but because she deserves that amount of respect, is the true gentleman.
  • Leave the shores of your country at least once. It is a great test of one’s personality, to be in a country that is not yours, amidst a culture that is not yours. It takes some nerves to keep an open heart and let yourself be drowned in the new. And you learn to take care of yourself.

I have met some wonderful men in the past and it has not worked out for whatever the reason may be. But, I’d like to think that there were all the right men for someone else, and not me. That gives me the hope that there is a right one for me out there somewhere.

ViToo

The universe plays funny jokes on you and I was purview to its latest recently. I met two people, poles apart, and with the same name. ViToo, of course, has the benefit of time since I’ve known him for a few years now. I got introduced to him at TCS, when we were working on the same project, but from different locations. Different reasons bring people together, in this case it was our shared roots in CBE. Now that I was back in home base, we decided to meet up and take the mere online conversations off.

It did not, for once, feel like I was meeting someone for the first time in hard flesh. The conversations kicked off as if they were merely in limbo for a few years. There was a certain comfort factor with the person and the conversations that was welcome. Very soon we were talking about family and long-term plans, successes and failures, like it was but the next logical information trivia to share. It was clear that I would be in touch with this gentleman for a while to come.

V1 vs. ViToo

The difference between the two new people that I met within the span of a week was all too blaring. Certain people have that presence and climate around them that automatically brings out your best. Certain people have the opposite effect as well, where your guards are automatically up. This doesn’t mean that I was guards up during my meet with V1. But, the social setting or the expectation from the meeting invariably brought out a different me from what I truly was.

It makes me wonder if the arranged marriage set ups are flawed by definition, because they bring out the fake, made-up version of people. In this case, it’s highly likely that the real-me would have scared V1 all the way out (the mellow me was apparently ‘aggressive’ for the gentleman). But I wonder if I would have been a different, more-charming me, had I not gone to these meetings with the pressure of evaluation and selection. If I knew that the other person wasn’t checking off items on his mental check-list, would I have been forgiving of his follies?

This doesn’t discount the fact that us human beings are designed to judge and evaluate. So, I am confident that the meeting with ViToo also had its fair share of judgement and checking off of mental checklists. What was different was how these assessments did not matter majorly. When you have a wavelength match with another, I guess it doesn’t matter how you evaluate the other or vice versa, because you’re probably checking off similar items.

People’s behaviors and interactions are clearly becoming a topic of interest. A few more years of meeting prospects and I should probably pick a Doctoral topic from all this learning. Time will tell!

Scotch: Kids these days put too much time into this marriage thing. Life is a journey and if you find someone that makes the trip more fun, hold on to them.

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Day 129: Mind work

The last discussion with the psych was an interesting one; it felt satisfying to review a recent decision made with a certain mindset and to revalidate it with a mind in a different space.

 

I blame it on the cliché about distances and the hearts growing fonder and on the hallowed mental image we build of people when they are not around us. But in the middle of my first week in Switzerland for two weeks, it dawned on the SoulSurfer that we were meant to be something more than just friends. Between discussions about loyalty and support systems, and what makes people gravitate towards a few and not others, he asked me to be his exclusive ‘girlfriend’. And I said yes.

 

Fast forward two weeks, and there is an exciting surprise pick-up at the airport, there are new friends in my life that I hadn’t anticipated or planned on having, and something doesn’t feel right. A day of being back in the country, and I am already worried by that decision from two weeks ago. He is extremely raw and inexperienced; Who talks to their Mounts at such an early phase when even the other partner isn’t sure?; How far can you deal with the naiveté before it becomes too much?; And all of the discussion is based on some “Gold-coin” grand scheme of things that might not even interest you in the first place. What if?

 

I turned to H for her expert advice on the matter and at the end of that conversation, I had convinced myself about how difficult this whole relationship felt. That’s exactly what I shared with the SoulSurfer, when asking for a time-out. Relationships are supposed to be like well-oiled machines shifting into gear; smooth and effortless. Here, between his immaturity and his Mount and my absolute confusion about whether I wanted this or not, it all felt cranked up and rough; it felt like we were sanding the edges too hard to make them fit. The man walked away with a new compass in his hand, completely lost.

 

At the psych’s couch, I retold the whole conundrum that lay ahead, half expecting her to revalidate my decisions and to tell me what a wonderful move I had taken in my life by asking for a break in this complicated situation I had put myself into.

 

Instead, she gave me a theory about the different ‘kinds of minds’ that we all have. The emotional mind – the one that makes all the feeling-related decisions; the rational mind – the one that analyzes the pros and cons of every decision; and the wise mind that consolidates information from the other two before making a balanced decision.

 

It made absolute sense. In Switzerland, away from the physical reality of the SoulSurfer, my emotional mind had felt comfort in his proposal and had jumped to accept it. Back in the country, grounded in the reality of the day-to-day, my reasonable mind had researched on all the negative data points that predicted trouble and had immediately withdrawn from the bargain and boxed itself up. The wise mind had stayed quiet through it all.

 

As I sat in her couch, eyes shut, and reflected on what both the emotional and the rational were telling me, the wise mind finally took over. A lot of my worries with the man were related to my mental image and impression of the Mount, all formed purely based on my discussions with the SoulSurfer. Biased and unfair. Unfair twice over, because we cant really blame someone for how their families are, can we? Moreover, if I myself wasn’t sure of a future together and the expiry date of such a future, then why was I worrying today thinking about that unclear future? It was evident that a powerful, subconscious fear in me was to get into an engagement similar to the last one, with the mallu man. If you knew that there would be no forever and beyond in a relationship, would you still get into it because it felt right today? But, we didn’t know enough to validate that there wouldn’t be a forever and beyond in this one. And we did not even know if the forever and beyond was truly what I was looking for. And it did feel right today, didn’t it?

 

The wise mind reviewed the question from earlier, and answered with a ‘Yes’. There were things that needed clarifying, there were issues that needed resolving, there were priorities to be sorted and there was growing up to do. But all of that could happen, together, as we gathered more data. During that growing up, and gathering data, the wise mind always had the power to reevaluate and decide on the next course of action. It would have to deal with the consequences of that decision then.

 

But why worry today about something that needs to happen tomorrow?

Day 128: Dil-pasands

Runaway Beast

It had been a productive morning, interviewing a counselor for an assignment. As I drove back home, a serene pace in, a certain nostalgia took over and I remembered the amazing cakes and goodies from The Iyengar Bakery in Domlur. While I don’t seem to have too many fond memories from growing up in that that over-crowded, dingy locality, I do remember the bakery. Every time we’d drive by on the Airport Road, the smell of their freshly baked bread would waft into the air and my mind would wander.

I quickly pull over, smack in front of the bakery, and examine the wares in the display case that hasn’t changed in the last 20 years. Half dil-pasand, 2 honey cakes, 1 apple cake, 2 masala sandwiches – I would eat their goodies for breakfast and lunch for the next few days. He packs my loot into an eco-friendly cloth bag, I pay him a little extra, wait for the change and turn to look behind me cursorily. I see the Red Beast standing a few meters away from me, diagonally opposite to where I was standing, at the Bakery. I turn back to the boy hunting for change, and wonder what all the commotion around the Red Beast was!

Had I parked it obstructing traffic on the road? Wait! Did someone scratch my car? I look back urgently to spot signs of an accident. I see a rider in a scooter and a pillion point at me, frantically.  I think the spot I’ve parked in bothers him and I wave back – “One minute, sir, I will move very soon”. I turn back to concentrate on my goodies and it hits me! I hadn’t parked the Red Beast where it stood right now. I had parked it right behind me, while I could see it diagonally away from me. It had found itself a new parking spot. All the while, I was busy buying sweet bread.

I run back to the car and the words of the scooter man become clearer “Can’t you see that your car is rolling away, madam?” I quickly jump into the car, stare in wonder at the disengaged hand break, and imagine the tragedies that I would have caused with this little act of stupidity. I pull over closer to the kerb, shut engines, turn on the hand brake and run back to collect my goodies.

I had fallen down in my own standards as a good driver. I was on probation until I decided when.

Glum Baker

I had seen the owner of the Bakery today, after a few decades. He was much younger then, with more blacks than greys; Heck! So was I. A certain fondness took over me, a certain familiarity or willingness to connect. Would he know if I told him that we used to visit him as kids? Would he remember the number of times we bought his apple cakes and dil-pasands? He smiled back with knowing. But, would he remember the scrawny 10 year old and her chubbier older sister who would buzz around their bakery for those delicious honey cakes?

I lost my train of thought as soon as the man opened his mouth and yelled at the two assistant boys in the store. He wanted them to pack some breads, and weigh some cookies, and repack the bread, and attend to the lady waiting for her dil-pasand, and stop talking on the phone, and run to the back to check on the ovens, and do a million things more. As he started talking, I noticed a distinct change in the demeanor of the gentleman serving me. He suddenly felt emasculated, unimportant and stupid. He hurriedly stuffed all my goodies into a bag, and whispered my final bill.

It instinctively reminded me of how rude the baker had been when we were kids too. I do not remember a moment of smile or mirth from him. He’d always treated us with disdain, yelling at us for bringing too much change or too little. He would speak with just an ounce of respect when my dad came along, and in those occasions he’d ignore the fact that we even existed. All that angst and discomfort came right back to me. I no longer wanted to make small talk with this guy; I was ready to leave.

The thing, I see, about morose people is that they never change over the years, and continue to be miserable all through their lives.

Day 125: Valley and Flights 

Valley

A week and a half in the Valley School, and my mind was more rejuvenated than a long time. I had walked in with a conflicted heart and a dark cloud hanging over my head. But I also had an open mind and that brought in such experiences with it, that I was changed.

  • The most important standout from the experience was how interested people were in sharing their life. There was a willingness to open up and let another in, something that is becoming very difficult to find in the modern world. They wanted you to live their life, walk their path and see how life was.
  • The second highlight was the quality of conversation. Not once did anyone ask my why I hadn’t married yet, why I chose a career I didn’t like or who my newest boyfriend was. They knew that they all lived in glasshouses and any judgment sent out would return their way eventually. Instead, they spent their times talking about the life, the universe, meaning to life and things that mattered.
  • They were content in their lives and unmoved by the trivialities that come with modern affiliations. They did not have the newest fancy smart phone and so they did not spend their together-times staring into each other’s phones or wondering why the wifi speed was so poor. Something bigger mattered and they knew.
  • The relationship that the students shared with their teachers was inspirational. They called them uncles and aunts, hugged them around in class, and openly spoke to them about period pains and worries. There was a stark absence of fear for the role of the teacher. And teachers walked with a mindset that they were co-learners too. This made them awfully powerful, with a direct connect to young minds.
  • “Are you trying to kill us, uncle vipul? “, yelled a 6year old, as Vipul opened his laptop in class. Technology was a necessity and nothing more. It did not take up such a dominant part of their lives that they forgot to smell the rain, hear the birds, or be sensitive to each other.
  • A study center discussion that explored the difference between the mind and the brain sent me on an unknown path, one where I had no footing. I still felt comfortable enough to try out the discussions and I was stunned. Mind is what thinks not merely based on facts in front of us, but based on all past experiences, heartbreaks and successes. So, it automatically becomes a source for conflict. If we could think, but without all those added baggage, then imagine how powerful our brain would really be.
  • Another intriguing conversation was with Saqhib, where he shook my foundation about alternative schooling. By calling yourself alternative, you are automatically boxing yourself into a system, simply by trying to opposing to the mainstream. That invariably means there’s very little you can do differently, because you have a level of comparison in the form of another schooling system. What we should truly try is to be different in all forms, not bound by norms.
  • The highlight of the whole time was how ready the whole school, from the principal to every other teacher was, in inviting me to join their team. Very rarely do we see a case where an institute invites you to join in, only to learn from them, and contribute back. No resumes, no portfolios, no past experiences. Just an open mind.

Overall, I came back positive, both mentally and emotionally, ready to take on the next semester head on.

Flights

The flight out to Switzerland, the multipart journey, started off with a rocky start. Met H and HMan at the airport and the fissures were very evident. It is scary to think of how much one would change by simply being in close proximity with another all their life. We seek relationships to comfort us in times of need and despair. But what if those relationships are the reason for the despair?

The trip from Bangalore to Amsterdam to Geneva was hilarious, with the kids trailing around, completely distracted by the glitz and whatnot. It was kind of all too powerful, knowing the ways of traveling, especially international, while the others struggled reading boards and signs. I was constantly conflicted between helping them out and letting them be. I wouldn’t have enjoyed being told every step of the way. I see myself as the teacher that would let someone try for their own before I step in.

And so, I sat around and played the silent observer.

The flight in to Amsterdam brought a strange new companion to chat along. Punjabi was a good person to talk to, knowing when to not push it and when to bring in his views. We had a good talk about road tripping to Ladakh, about the power and the need to go on solo trips, and about Engineers becoming Management consultants. For a Punjabi living in Bangalore, he seemed aware of the differences in cultures and was filled with the desire to try life out.

For all the writing I wanted to do on the plane, it was a rested time, where I managed to get sufficient sleep. It also reinforced my principle that being nice brings it back to you. The airhostess was awfully nice, bringing me refills even when I didn’t ask for it. Punjabi enjoyed the benefits of my niceness too. The warmness felt evident when he invited me over to walk along to our next stop as well.

Pics4mSwiss: When you have a fond heart, hearts smile back at you from the sky. 

Day 121: Respect Shespect

I see the OldMan going through a major life struggle, something that is affecting him so heavily that it is evident in his every interaction with the family; especially with the OldLady. He is invariably aloof, struggle with his inner demons through the day. He lazes around during the day, making minimum conversations with us. When forced to participate, he generally snaps or spits his answers out. He’s given enough of those that OldLady responds in an equally frustrated manner. For a third person, their conversations qualify for a road-side brawl between sworn enemies.

He diligently dresses up at sundown and steps out for his daily dose of intoxicants. With it in the system, he suddenly gets very verbose, would like to know what my life plans are, would advice H on her marital woes and would push OldLady’s buttons some more. The daily drama is painful, an all too evident sign of a crumbling relationship. And yet, he finds no value in salvaging it.

It would have been much easier if I were able to relate to either sides; I would have easily picked a person to support and fought the other. Unfortunately, I’m unable to see either positions of view. I do not understand why one would resort to escape routes to sort their life struggles. I do not understand how one would blame their family for all their life’s sufferings when they would be nothing without the family in the first place. I, in fact, do not even know if that is the reason for all the melancholy. On the other side, I do not understand how one could be so submissive for these many years, without a voice of their own. I definitely do not understand a woman building her entire life around one man, making him her Achilles’ heel.

I do not understand relationships.

Humans are so complicated, S. All this yelling and screaming and loving and doving. Why! 

Eat, Sleep, Repeat, remember?” Scotch 

Day 118: It’s raining ameeras

Speaking of the dead

ChemProf was in town to attend to his familial duties, and I tagged along. We went early in the morning and paid our last respects to a granmy that passed away. It was funny to listen to all the planning, and the beliefs behind them, that went into checking on the dead, in fact on the living left behind. It’s preferable to go in the morning, because you anyway have to come back and shower; so might as well club it with the daily wash. You must have coffee at home and go, because it’s generally not recommended to eat at the house. Once you’re back, you should make sure you don’t touch any item of clothing; or be ready to do a lot of laundry. When leaving their house, you’re not supposed to say goodbye since it would tempt more mourning in the house; we left with a lot of awkward nods.

The conversations there, however, were all over the place. There was a lot of sharing of sob stories of every other oldie that one knows, that suffered more than the one in question. There was some fond reminiscing of the life lived and the love shared. There was a lot of rationalizing the death over the suffering. At the end of it all, the adults seemed like awkward teens at the class party, making small talk and waiting for closing time so they could leave. And like young adults, the men were more out of place in such a setting than the women.

The Kabir within

I dropped ChemProf and the Mrs off at their bus, and was an hour early for today’s kabir session. Unlike the last session where there was a nice quiet before the class, today was mayhem. There was a ballet recital coming up and the overly British-accented tutor was screaming her lungs out to get her students, ranging from 5 year old girls to 25 year old boys to follow instructions. I spent the 45 minutes before the session trying to not listen to her while trying to digest the lyrics for today’s kabir song.

However, the magic from the first session continued when we holed up in the room, the noise of anticipation and eagerness drowning out any external sounds. Tu  peele ameeras dhara, gagan main jhadi lagi – go ahead and drink the stream of nectar, there is a huge downpour in the sky. Yet another wonderful pick for the class, by Vipul. Catchy tune, a much happier number than the last one. The conversations were much deeper than the last, if you asked me. The interpretations for true knowing, a drop vs. the plenty, thirst, and the guru were inspiring to listen to.

In the end, the message that I took away was simple – There is nectar in the guru or the teacher’s words. And do not look for the guru outside you, he resides within. Simple. Indeed.

Sneaking coffees

I had a cross-country trip from South to far East, for the last event of the night. And fancy ideas snuck in a coffee break on the way over. SilverGhoster was free and saturated from the prep for his exams and I needed some filter coffee. So, off we went to grab a cuppa from some good ole Udupi bhavans in Koramangala. As we passed by a couple of CCDs and Costas, brim with their falsified lights and promises of caffeine satiety, I was reaffirmed of my love for pure, simple coffee, the traditional Indian way.

The conversations were haphazard, but I left with a feeling of glee. There was a strange, and yet familiar reaffirmation; the kinds one feels when you know that this would not be a graduate-and-forget kind of a friendship. Not reading too much into what lay within either of us, I felt a platonic comfort that I haven’t formed with another in a while; not since I let MalluMan in and paid for it.

As I drove back to the last event for the day, I wondered what the universe’s grand scheme of things was. Both of us joined the university at the same time, both of us had similar aspirations of leading an educational institution at some point, and both of us loved classic rock in this day and age of the Biebers. And yet, the universe did not put us in the same class. It did not even find reasons for us to meet until an entire year was spent going ahead in the same direction, but on parallel tracks. The logic beats me. If it had put us in the same class, we may have been at each other’s throat by now; there is that commonality of being the loudest in the class between the two of us. If we had met sooner, the circumstances would have made it just another trivial acquaintance.

Whatever it’s strange plans were, or are yet to unfold, I met the SilverGhoster at the apt moment that the universe intended for us to. And we shall wait and watch what lies ahead.

Petting projects

The final event of the day was a dynamite explosion. I was in the company of two, young and overly bright minds – the GardenMan and the ProjectPetter. GardenMan and I were both a little skeptical when ProjectPetter told us of her plans to be in Bangalore, and to meet up. But the first few minutes into the conversation and it made sense. We all loved education, and it’s state in India, how could we not connect?

ProjectPetter told us a lot about the extended personality development program that she was on. I’d probably try it when the timing is right, because the energy levels in the young lass were very evident. Something that she asked me has been plaguing me for a while and could be the answer to a number of the country’s youth hoping to contribute to education. What truly creates the most impact to the education space – working with the government, working for an NGO, or starting a localized program of your own? A worthy thought with no easy answer yet. Do we shoot for quality or quantity? Do the sprout of localized agencies truly justify the impact? The questions are still afresh in me.

Overall, a very eventful day indeed.

Eventful indeed. But is that some interesting food that you gave up there? When are you going to make me taste them?” Scotch 

Day 117: Most of that is the popular impression in media

And semester 3 ended in style, with a short 2 hour paper. This meant that the three of us got up mid-way, disturbed the tranquility of the exam hall, and walked out, in royal fashion. Like I’ve ranted about numerous times in the past, I’m glad this is over and I’m one semester away from graduating.

First time on the couch

The frustration associated with the university and the 3 semesters here poured out as I sat at the therapist’s couch, my first ever. I’d like to think that I was prepared for her deductions since I’d studied Psychology and Advanced psychology in the last year. But who am I kidding? It gave me enough information about mental health to make me realize that I needed to seek professional help. But beyond that, it was an eyewash of a course.

I poured out to the therapist about that, and the hypocrisy of the entire university, and the bureaucracy of the department, and the impending doom of the sector itself being so, and the family scenes, and the relationship conflicts, and then some more about each. She scratched her notes rabidly, while trying to guide me through a sane thought process.

It’s funny how a number of discussions in this preliminary session itself rested on a few key topics – body issues, father, mother and societal independence. As much as I complained about the uni, it was not in the top 3 things that I wanted to work on. Surprising.

What was also surprising is how heavy I felt, walking in to the session, anticipating definite water works, and how relieving the session was on the contrary. That may be the power of speaking to an independent, unrelated entity. Her judgments about me are as third-party as they are about my parents, and that makes it acceptable to the logical mind.

The need for a psyche consult has put me on the backfoot though; looney meds are scary, irrespective of how reassuring her rationale was. But I liked her point, it’s my mind and my medical course to work on it. I would get to choose where I go next. And so, I choose to get a preliminary psychiatric consult for the need for medication and then go back to the psychologist for the next session.

ChemProf Arrives

The house got an extra round of cleaning and prepping today because the ChemProf arrived. Two minutes into return ride, and he was already sighing and fluffing about how Bangalore is bursting from the seams and the Government is just a sham. I have mentally prepared myself for some serious debates on minority-provisions, partitioned India, black pepper’s ill effects and decluttering.

You went to seek external help? But why? We have a comfy couch here. Lie down. Look into my eyes. Tell me all your problems, and I’ll lick them away” – Scotch