Day 136: Mango mandi

Only 50 kilos a? That’s a little too less, no? How much do you have? Some 80 at least? Yeah! Then 50 is too less. I mean, nothing wrong there. 50 for 5.5 is good. Only from our side, we’re not all that perfect. What to do! At least a 70 would have been manageable.

But how can you decide just by looking at a picture and reading the specs? Don’t you have to see with your eyes and decide based on things that matter?

It’s the same thing as online shopping, no? You buy a product on Amazon. Do you touch and feel? So, you look at the product and that’s how you decide; based on their pictures and yours. And compatibility.

But… Are we buying mangoes here?

Scotch: Relationships are after all like buying mangoes, S. You pick one based on what you think is the best. And then you’re committed to it all the way until it ends up in your stomach. A juicy one, a ripe one, a wormy one – you pay for everything that you picked. No?

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Day 134: To act or not to act

A certain commotion caught my attention when walking into my block at lunch hour today. The security guard and the block maintenance in charge were in argument with a girl student. She made multiple protests and even tried eluding the security and running to class, while he way laid her and brought her back to the entrance.

I knew I had to do something. I had heard a lot about the rude behavior of the security. And this maintenance in-charge has been on my radar for a while now for speaking very rudely to a number of the support staffs. So, i intervened and asked the girl what the problem was. ‘I got late and bought a packet of food for lunch. Now my class is about to begin and I need to go in. He’s not letting me in with this covered food container’, she pleaded, looking desperately for some support. My mind had expected some serious argument – dress code maybe, or missing ID card. The minute I heard her protest, I immediately shrugged my shoulders and walked away. I almost did something to help but my sub-conscious walked away.

I thought about what I did, or didn’t do, for the rest of the day. There were many reasons why the girl needed support and I could have helped. The security had no control over students that bring lunch from home and eat in the classrooms. So why detain students that do not have the luxury of a home cooked meal and depend on the cafeteria? There was no crime committed here for which he had to chase her down the corridor like she were a thief. If anything, he could have warned her for the subsequent time and let her in. I could have reminded him of all of this. I didn’t.

Wasn’t this the reason I joined the student council? Wasn’t I interested in standing up for student problems? Then why was I taking a high-grade, especially by picking battles that mattered to me versus those that didn’t. Shouldn’t I be concerned about them all nonetheless. The elevator issue in the central block affected me even though I was directly not effected by it. This incident happened in my block; it was a security guard that I see on a daily basis. Shouldn’t this work me up more?

Sometimes I surprise myself with my actions, or inaction.

Pics4mswiss: Every winter, the earth covers itself in white, to cleanse itself of all that is. 

Day 132: Oppressors unlimited 

The weekend started on a great note, the 4OfUs met to watch a forum theater by the TO community working with Srishti school of design. SoulSurfer stuck to the plan of  my first metro ride in the city, and I was glad that he persisted. The anonymity that comes with public transport and the novelty that came with the ride in the city was very energizing. A little stroll in and around Cubbon Park and we were seated in for the play.

For all that I read about the uniqueness of forum theater, I was impressed by seeing it in action. It’s quite likely that most of them in the audience were there, like me, because of some basic introduction into TO. But it was also likely that they were just random passers-bys, ones that were really moved by the scene that was playing out in front of them.

It was very encouraging to watch some men come up, and take on the role of the oppresed lady. It was very disturbing to hear some men talk about how they had experienced such violations of their personal space too. It was most disappointing to hear more and more stories of women facing these violations on a daily basis. Ten minutes back, half an hour back, 1 day back, 2 months ago, since 15 years; and the tyranny continues.

Being in the role of a spectactor was unnerving, especially to realize that the obstruction or the oppression that my role was facing could be faced in real life too. There could be a creepy Vijay slowly falling on you in the bus, there could be a driver who’d refuse to listen to all your protests, there could be a situation where you’d have no other option to try; and at that point, you might not get a retake.

It makes me angry to think about how inhuman mankind truly is, to be able to ignore another’s will and interest entirely, and to thrust one’s own want and needs. What bothers me more is to see men of the privileged backgrounds act like there was no problem at all. I’d like to see more men, like the SoulSurfer and MadO, step up and realize that women all around them – girl friends, mothers and sisters – were stepping on thin egg shells every time they were walking out the door. I’d like them to join the dialogues and become a voice of sanity in this deafening discussion.

I believe that without enough voices from the other side of the fence, we’d just be prisoners rattling our cages in a sound-proof room.

Pics4mswiss: When darkness prevails, the heavens open up and a new sunrise is seen. 

Day 131: Class Bully

B for Bala. B for Boss. B for Bully.

My class teacher chanted, laughing at her exquisite sense of humor. I have to give the lady the credit for at least being man enough to say it in front of me. I heard today that it’s the general term that teachers use to refer to me when I’m not around – bully.

I don’t know what bothers me more – the fact that the very teachers teaching us about professionalism, and the negatives of labeling children, are the ones that are guilty of breaking that moral code; or that none of my classmates have stood up against the teachers’ “joke” every time they made it. It specifically botheres me because I feel strongly against bullying and bossing around and being called that when you’re not is hurtful.

I am definitely guilty of voicing my discomfort when I feel it in class. I’ve said this before; I did not quit my career of  ten years to put up with sloppy syllabi and teachers that don’t plan their lessons. I am also guilty of being the first to respond to teachers in class, because the other two have either spaced out or do not have an opinion on the matter of discussion. And if my expressing my opinions about things that I’m passionate about warrant a tag on my head, then guilty as charged. Put me on the chopping block.

Pics4mswiss: colors of a day that ended well.  

Day 130: Being mean – not! 

It’s not easy when you act out what you’ve been meaning to for a long time.

One of the most powerful, and irritating, experiences that I’ve had on campus was at the kiosk; I was waiting to pick up some tea. This was almost a year and a half back, in semester 1, when I was fresh from my professional and western sense of personal space. This college, and most of India, knows nothing about personal space. There was already a row of students directly behind the counter, picking up tea and snacks that they needed. I stood in the next row, behind them, waiting to move in and order when they were done. Yes, life would be wonderful if we had a queue system now, wouldn’t it?

As I waited there, money in one hand and my phone in the other, a young lady joined the melee at the kiosk, in the circle (the crowd equivalent of a queue) behind me. How did I know she had joined our little, uncomfortable party? She was breathing down my neck (literally), was close enough to check my hair for split ends and her arm was stretched above all of the 5 foot and 7 inches of me. The icing on the cake was her shrill-pitched voice yelling ‘Bhayya, ek chai, bhayya, ek chai’. I realized that subtlety and hints were generally lost on this lot when none of my shuffling and mch’ing did any difference to her yelling. I wanted to turn around and shush her. I wanted to ask her if she thought I enjoyed standing where I was, stuck between a sweaty boy in the front and the shrieking her in the back. I wanted to remind her that I was there to pick up tea too, and it would only be fair for me to be served first, before she got her turn. I wanted to remind her of the sad situation that the anna was in, where he had his 2 hands and 2 ears competing against at least 100 hungry hands clawing at him. I stood still and waited for the sweaty boy in the front to get his job done.

Not a second later she yells ‘Abey chai dena, kutte ki aulaad’. It was of course drowned down by the rumpus around and never made it to the guy behind the counter. But I heard it crystal clear. I was fuming red. I turned around to let her have all that I had subdued only a second back, but all I could muster was a cold-dreaded stare. She got the message and walked away.

I think of that episode a lot, especially when I am at the kiosk and I see the persistent commotion. I often think of that young girl that I stared back at, and I wonder if she had learnt a lesson. I beat myself up for not coming up with a wittier response than a simple stare down. I worry for a generation that would go out of the safe confines of the university, and into the world, thinking that it was their legal entitlement to be served without a minute’s delay, and that it was okay to use any words they deem needed to get that done.

With all the thinking that I had done on this matter, today I was better prepared to respond when a similar incident replayed. I was waiting my turn for chai (I should probably stop drinking this much chai), and a young girl butts in from behind me and yells ‘Anna, ek tea’. I smile at her, she smiles back, and I ask her if I look like I was standing there for fun. Her smile drops half-way down, confused. “What happened?”, she asks. I explain my protest and her smile is completely gone. We stand there awkwardly as I pick up my tea and egg puff. As I head out, I say “Now is your turn. Luck!”, and she smiles, sheepishly.

And I felt miserable at the end of it all. Maybe more so than the previous time. I beat myself up this time for not picking the stare-down route. It actually hurt me to vocalize my discomfort because it made me sound like a bad person, where as I was not. Stopping someone from walking all over me made me feel like the one at fault.  Why did I get disturbed for simply expressing something that I had played out in my mind many times before?

I finally understand something that I had heard over the weekend at Diversity Dialogues. Some of us are very comfortable being the victim; being the one oppressed. Some of us never speak up against what troubles us simply because we are comfortable playing the role of a traditionalist. We do not want the world to think ill of us because of our conflicting opinions. We play along in order to get that gold medal, a fake smile and a nod of acceptance. We conform!

Pics4mswiss: One of the chairs of Einstein, in the old city Berne. Sit with the man and talk about conforming. 

Day 123: Bumps 

Early morning bump

The OldMan decided to head back home much sooner than originally planned; Daddyma needed him more. I shudder thinking of the midnight conversation with him, when he caught me up with his newly made plan, with his slurring words. I knew I wouldn’t have been able to put up with another day of conflicting emotions anyway. So, I was up at 4, and he drew himself to the station while I sat along.

He managed to find an unreserved ticket, and a seat, with sufficient time for the train. So I headed out, slowly inching out of the train station and a cabbie in front of me navigates the hump very poorly and rolls back into me. Great start to the day!

A little argument and some yelling on my part down, and I no longer had a front number plate. For the rest of the way, I drove more watchful than before.

Mid-day bump

Since heading home from the dinner last night, I had a strange unease about the whole thing with SilverGhoster. That unease, coupled with the early morning train run, meant I slept poorly all night. All I wanted was to catch a decent snooze during the day, to recoup, and yet it failed me. At some point mid day, SilverGhoster and I connected, and the entire reason for my unease became evident; there were ill vibes coming my way and the universe has a way with such things anyway. Turns out that post dinner, he had met his pals, and updated them on the dinner. What followed was a barrage of teenage mockery, directed at my age, my body, my life choices and everything that lay in between. Like that wasn’t enough, he went home and a similar tirade came from the mother.

I accept that body, age or fat shaming is not new to me anymore and I’ve seen more than my fair share growing up. But I would be kidding if I said that it did not affect me. While one can put up a straight face, or laugh off the comment, something inside crumbles. In fact, as I think about it, something inside you builds another wall. Another layer of fortification is added, and you push yourself deeper behind shut doors. If you didnt face such negativity, you wouldn’t be hurt in the first place.

What annoys me is the triviality of the world. For one to be a friend with another, why would gender, age, orientation, or any such factor be of any importance? And who gave mankind the authority to always play the role of the high-horse, judging others as if it were their birth right? A 30 year old is not married yet, and something HAS to be wrong with her. She quits an enticing career, and she MUST have been kicked out for poor performance. Four years into her marriage and she still hasn’t popped a baby, and it HAS to be her fault. She finds a friend in a younger man and she HAS to be a cougar. The man is more well-off than her and she HAS to be after his empire. She is chubbier than the society approved size zero and she MUST have an eating problem.

If only we all spent our days looking into the mirror and judging, as much as we do otherwise, we’d be more gentle on others.

Dusk drive bump

All that riddling and puzzling left me in a dizzy all day, and I left for Valley School much later than I’d planned. I’m looking forward to spending the next week or so at the school, observing from close quarters the functioning of an alternative school. I started the drive on a great mood, knowing that running away from civilization, and toward such an environment might be the answer to all my problems.

Chatted with SilverGhoster on the way to Valley, talking about the complexities of relationships. It amused me to think of how certain relationships complicate our lives by simply caring too much. By being overbearing, you invariably push someone away. By being overly snoopy, you unconsciously force them to life. Little things that you don’t realize until you’re deep into it.

It was relieving to hear SilverGhoster revalidate my theory on the universe and its strange mysterious ways. It’s something that I’ve internalized over the years of heartbreaks and of talking to random men for the arranged marriage scenes. If the timing is not right, if the universe hasn’t sorted its plan for you, come what may, your trials would go in vain. And the opposite is true too. In that comfort, I rest for another day.

Wait a minute! You’ve gone back to bangalore already? Means I’m with dad and mom now? And I can beg for food to the entire neighborhood? 

Guffaaaw!” Scotch

Day 122: Journeys

Driving with the OldMan

The short vacation ended sooner than I anticipated and it was time to be back in the TrafficCity. Even before the blues of having to go back set in, the OldMan proposed his plan of coming along to attend some of colleague’s grand event. So, I had a driver.

I thought of a strange conversation I had many many years back, where I told Dodo that he was only my third favorite driver, after my dad, and Michael Schumacher. Driving back, I didn’t feel all that confident anymore? He drove at 140 and was of course completely in control. He braked on time and overtook like a pro. And yet, I wasn’t confident. After a while, I fake slept so that I wouldn’t have to imagine my death at every turn.

Was I relating his drinking habit to his waning driving skills? He himself did mention a reduction in reflexes. Was his age really catching up? Were my biases catching up with me?

As I sat opposite the OldMan at Nagarjuna, quietly observing him lost in thought while eating, I felt an eerie feeling of pity take over me. For the last few years, I have been slowing inching away from him, for reasons I’ve ranted out before. As my principles and ideologies solidified, I realized how opposite they were to his; that automatically made us on opposite camps. But sitting there at lunch, I felt a deep connect to his troubles.

I felt like the weakling in the family, always trying to compete and prove my worth. I felt like the failure son that could never be enough for a stickler father, and now the conservative brothers . I felt like the outcast that fell in love and wanted to marry before an older brother had. I felt the pain of the sole bread winner, lugging three women around, and fending for their every need. I felt the pressure of an underpaid job that kept me on the road for 20 days a month, and still did not give enough. I felt the pinch of the rising prices and the growing needs of the daughters. It hurt me when the teenage daughter rebelled and talked back. It stung when the adolescent called me the worst dad yet. I remembered how my inability to give them a more comfortable life caught on and was discussed much later. It pained me to think that my wife was more comfortable speaking about my troubles to someone else in the family, than to me. It hurt me to think that all three could lead a life on their own now, and didn’t really need me.

I felt the pain. Something inside me stirred a little too deep.

SilverGhoster’s birthday and beyond

SilverGhoster turned a year older and a dinner was due. It felt like a Boondock kinda evening, reveling in the classics of an era gone by. As I look back at the night, and the conversations from the dinner, there is an odd familiarity about it all. It felt like we had been this way for years, and this was just another dinner. We talked about cars, mothers, shitty curriculum, dowry system, growing up, growing old, friends, foes, food and whatnot. I realized that with Switch, H, and Dodo all gone, I missed this the most – the random musings under the sun. In fact, I lost Dodo on that front a long time back. I feel the conversations touch on some mundane topics these days, topics that don’t resonate beyond a basic courtesy level. This night, it felt right.

A little part of me wondered if this could lead to something more than just conversations. A major part of me smacked itself in the head, reminiscent of the heart breaks of the past, and the societal anguishes and the battles that lay ahead. Between us, we had the paradoxes, too alike and yet absolutely different from each other. He was the conformist while I had a rebel blood oozing out of every vein. He was the calculated, capitalist businessman, while I was the dreamer who wanted to move to an island and learn to swim. He wanted the machines and the money, and I’d give it all up for the peace of mind. We were poles apart.

Yet, the other Gemini twin smirked and reminded me of the poles that intertwined within me. If the opposites can co-exist within, why could they not thrive in two bodies outside? The rebel wanted to reach out and see if the connect existed, but the loner drew the shutters down and mourned.

Had my heart aged beyond repair so much that it did not want any more battles? Wouldn’t that leave me alone for the rest of my life; any relationship comes with its heart breaks? Was I ready to be my own support system when all was dark and bleak? Was I just imagining the demons in the shadows when at the end of the day the universe had it all sorted out? It always does sort things out on its own. Was the cosmos smiling animatedly as I shook his hand briefly, got out of the car and ran home, lest I do something stupid?

You don’t really have to be alone, S. What is life without a warm shoulder to lean on during the cold and dull nights? 

Fine, that’s your leg, I know. But you get the point, right?” Scotch