Day 66: Breaking point

You never really know when you’ve had enough and it’s breaking point. It happens suddenly and yet slowly, it surprises you and yet you know it was inevitable all along. Things build up, one on top of another, very soon and they all rest on this narrow and flimsy foundation made up of your ideologies, principles, past experiences and relationships. The narrower and more flimsy this base is, the sooner the entire mountain of thoughts, ideas, worries and fears that you are carrying around begin to sway, gently at first. You still keep piling them on, confident that your base will hold enough, for all those thoughts, ideas, worries and fears need to find a resting place after all.

Before you know it, your pile is sky-high and sways from side to side like a sail boat caught in a storm. As more and more of your fears are realized, or dreams are squashed, little pieces of that already flimsy foundation are chipped away, and the vicious cycle continues. At what point are you ready to ask for help?

The drive back with garden_man got me thinking about my own flimsy base and if the swinging needed immediate attention. I pondered on how ready I was to get help, and more importantly, if I was ready to hear the things that I would hear at the end of such a session. The pondering continues.

But, an important realization that came from our discussion was about how society, and even our immediate family, perceives this external help that one would need to reorient oneself time and again. The very mention of a therapist typically brings references to a mental asylum, probes on the head, and looney meds. Parents still question why children can’t speak to them about their problems, instead of seeking out an external therapist. Aren’t they just glorified listeners anyway? There’s always the question about each individual’s pain tolerance, and a comment about how each subsequent generation was only becoming weaker and weaker. The society wonders if the media and knowledge abundance has made us overthink simple matters, and thus complicate our own lives. Someone that visits a therapist is met with more disbelief and scorn that the gentleman queueing up in front of a toddy shop at 10 Am.

The National Mental Health Survey conducted by NIMHANS in 2015-2016 states that 1 in 20 people in the country suffer from some form of depression. Depression was pretty high in females, those between the age of 40-49, and those residing in urban metropolitan cities. It also reported that except for God’s Own Country, all other states did not even have 1 psychiatrist for every 1 lakh of their population. The low number of trained mental health professionals along with poor awareness campaigns on the matter of mental hygiene would automatically result in the continuing stigma attached to these issues concerning the mind.

Until care and concern is more readily available, we will have more people treading that fine line between sanity and utter chaos; people dancing around the breaking point, almost tipping over.

You humans are brutal, man. I know! Us doggies have very little things wearing us down.

You know what we say, if something is troubling you, just pee on it and walk away. You should try it too.” Sri Sri Scotch Baba


Day 63: Expert Amateurism in Art

Over the summer, I realized that there was a term for people like me, better than “Jack of all trades”. I have no problem being Jack, but the maxim ends with him being the master of none, remember? Well, anyway, the term is ‘expert amateur‘. David Perkins, Research Professor at the Harvard School of Education, through his book “Future Wise” introduced me to the concept of an expert amateur. I can see that I am an expert amateur in a number of things. I can file my taxes by my myself, and my dad’s, enough to understand our deductions and our investment benefits. I can draw and paint enough to make a scene convey a mood. I can photograph enough to make it not look like an early attempt at photography. I can write enough to keep you all reading now, can’t I? I don’t know the little boxes that I could open to further reduce my taxes, I definitely cannot draw eyes and lips for the ladies in my paintings, and I cannot submit my photographs to the upcoming world-wide photography competition. I am not an expert, I am an expert amateur.

One other thing that I am an expert amateur at, and brings me great joy, is home crafts. I love upcycling products, and sketching stuff up to put up on our walls. I hadn’t done crafting in a while – life had caught up – and it bothered me. I remember getting some idea in the middle of the night, feeling that strange urge to get up and execute it, then reminding myself of the schedule for the next day, and going back to sleep. So, this Sunday, I finally decided to act on one of these ideas, dusted those sharpies and canvases, and the following happened.

Live, Love, Life. No?

“It’s always fun to have you doing all this again, S. Now I can rest in peace that I am not the only one messing up the house anymore. There’s as much of your stuff scattered around as there is mine, and that’s equality, bro!” Scotch


Scotch’s mess 

in the kitchen today. Martyrs: 4 Tupperware boxes, 1 cardboard box, and a packet full of sesame seeds

Day 60: 2 months of Journaling

It’s Day 60. Except for a few days where I had to hold off the blogging for another day, because of work, stress or lack of motivation, I’ve written (or ranted) consistently for the last 2 months. I is definitely been fun. I think I see enough value in this little project to keep going.

They say old habits die hard and there are a number of these ‘old habits’ from my past life that have followed me into this new one. They’ve been mostly received with appreciation, and some amount of awe, and I think I’m not letting go of those in the near future.

So, I decided to run one of those process – oriented tools on my blog. I went ahead and did a Start-Stop-Continue analysis on the journal.

Start

  • Writing on a daily basis
  • Including more research-based data (yes, even day to day observations can be backed by research)
  • Observing and reporting on the little things that matter

Stop

  • Putting off for tomorrow what can be done today
  • Making every post sound like a rant
  • Chasing Scotch around with a phone camera

Continue

  • Chasing Scotch around with a phone camera
  • Using Scotch as the anti-ego to all posts
  • Having fun while blogging.

What surprised me the most about the blog is the readership, something that I did not anticipate when I started off. Some of you have been regulars, following me, reading every post and sharing your thoughts and opinions on what I write about. You’re my new best friends. Hang around and I promise to give you that fast pass into my thoughts. Some of you have popped in once in a while, caught up on things that matter to you and me both, and left your love behind. Do keep coming back.

A strange aspect of my Indian upbringing, something that I wrote about as early as Day 2, is the importance I seem to associate, albeit unknowingly,  to competition. I see this part of my psyche act up when I look into the Insights section and see a spike in the visitors. I am slowly getting out of the mindset that a quantitative assessment or a number can help judge the value associated with an act. I am trying to slowly look away from the Insights feed, and qualify my experience through the few that do go on this journey with me and the kind of relationships we build over time.

So, here’s to 60 days of journaling, and at least 60 more to come.

Yes, Fun! Journaling! Exciting! Whatever! Can you get those kids off the water tank, Please? Irresponsible parenting, I say. I’m going to bark my tail off until they get down from there.” Scotch

Woof!

Day 57: Nice People

I’ve always been all ambient, an introverted extrovert. Left in a novel situation, I’d rather be by myself than take the first step and interact. But if I’ve been put out there, I do not hold back and I’m my ‘charming best’. A stranger surprised me today and made me wonder if I should work on changing my introverted ways.

A and I were breaking off exam prep monotony with a cup of tea, when this girl walked over, patted on my shoulders and asked if I was from the Student Council. I remembered her from the Open Forum I chaired recently. Thus far, any conversation that started with ‘Are you from the Council?” had gone on into a ramble about leaking toilets and overly priced sanitary pads. Don’t get me wrong; I strongly believe in the power of student voice and I’d like to help in getting that heard where possible. It’s just how tuned my brain was to what I expected the upcoming line of discussion to be, that I was caught completely off guard by what really happened.

In three quick sentences, she appreciated me for the way I conducted the open forum, congratulated my command over the language and said how impressed she was with the way I carried myself. She reiterated how very people are able to say a little yet mean a lot. And she left.

My mind was so unprepared for compliments, especially from a stranger, that I just stood there, frozen, nodding. I might have mumbled a Thank you back at her. I wondered what was that command she was appreciating me for when I was stunned by such an innocent exchange.

I admired the girl’s courage for walking up to me and speaking her mind. I’ve been in such a position, of awe and admiration towards another, in the past and I kept it to myself, smiled, enjoyed the feeling of contentment and walked away. I should probably do this more often; let people know that they are appreciated.

It might just make their day after all. This beautiful young girl sure made mine.

It’s always nice to let people know how awesome they are, S. Especially in this mean and cynical world. 

Let me say a quick Thank You to Elvis and James who are out here scratching me right now.” Scotch

Day 52: Periods and men

The proposed Period Leave for women has got a bunch of fun friends chatting vigorously on the topic. We all seem to agree on what a narrow-visioned and short-sighted plan that is. But what impressed me the most was the men on the group discussing the topic and some of their progressive views about the whole topic of menstruation.

Continue reading →

Day 9: Of growing women and sex education

It has always pricked my mind to ride a car to college all by myself. For someone trying to be considerate about one’s impact on the environment, avoiding this selfish, fuel-guzzling mode of travel seems like the least one could do. But when circumstances forced that to be the only feasible mode of transport for me, I started exploring options to car pool, so that we are at least sharing the load on poor mother earth. While this might make me come off as overly clingy (doesn’t she have other friends!), or a little psychopathic tending towards a sex offender (Cmon! Who offers a car ride without some ulterior motive, right?), I was doing it purely to share the ride with another.

And so, Tooti and I drove back from college together. She is a peppy kid pursuing her undergraduate course in bio-technology, and a great bharatnatyam dancer. I’ve noticed her before for her quirky whatsapp status messages and that’s exactly what got the conversation going today. “You reveal more than me and yet I’m always criticized. Why? A distressed crop-top asked a saree

There began our ride talk and it went from the culture stereotype that a saree brings in, to even the 9 yard revealing more than what it should, to teachers always having to confine to the stereotype of being saree clad for being taken seriously. This was some ten minutes into the ride and I completely lost track of time or the flow of thoughta after that.

We spoke about sex education in schools, or the lack of it entirely. It seems that even now, the tenth graders get a gist of sex education, through a gruesome video that is cringe-worthy. We commented about our mutual disbelief at how little our parents are ready to talk to us about sex, and how most girls learn about sex from their friends or cousins, or the all-knowing porn industry.

We realized that the problem was worse with men, who are barely given information about menstruation and the associated problems. Most men see their mothers, sisters and even wives go through it and yet it’s a topic of utmost taboo to talk about. Imagine the quality of life of a married couple, where an entire perspective of the wife is unknown to the man, and they choose to not even talk about it.

All my friends are making out for at least 40 minutes every day“, she said, wondering aloud if she did a mistake by breaking up with her boyfriend of three years. That led us to talking about pop culture and peer pressure and how it drives our relationships these days. Girls flaunt the ‘bases’ that they progressed with their partner, like a baseball trophy to be proud of. This peer and media-induced pressure is making girls like Tooti wonder if they were wrong by holding their ground and not putting out. “What if it was really love, and I should have allowed him to experiment?“, she questions herself.

We laughed at our parents and how unsure they are about talking to us about these sensitive topics. While her generation seems to have progressed and her father was okay about her watching a kissing scene on TV, I only remember awkward side-glances when someone on TV got cost when I was growing up.

All this talk made me realize that a major gap in Indian education system is the lack of awareness given about these real-world issues. What if each school had an S, for the Tootis and others in the school to go and ask their doubts to, and get answers alone – not judgements? What if the counselors in schools are able to build such a rapport with the students that they are able to have such ride talks, and walk out with a smile and a ‘we definitely have to talk some more’? What if the education system broke all stereotypes in the society and let children be children?

Deep, man! I’m just gonna lie here while you rant about sex ed and what not. Poor lasses like me don’t have to worry about such things. 

For us, the struggle is more real: like will I get 1 egg for lunch or 2.” Scotch 

Napping, leaving the worries to the world. 

Day 5: Of communications, miscommunications and Bulimia

Communication

We had a productive two hours with this gentleman, independent research reviewer at the University. He was definitely able to set himself apart from the canned academia that I see in the college and was able to bring in a research vocabulary that was different from the masses too. While a lot of what he suggested was simply repackaging the same old wine, he reaffirmed my belief that a smart talker can make even a curse sound poetic.

A few things that I observed at the end of the session were:

  • Teachers, more than students, need to be taught about the basic etiquette of formal conversations. Cutting in when someone else is talking is uncool at every age. When your point has been heard and is being countered, listen! I’m sure that repeatedly stating your view point doesn’t make it the popular opinion.
  • It is always, always, good to accept your mistake the minute you realize you’ve made it. Go drink a sip of water and set things right. Almost always, the audience can know the exact moment when you realized your flaw: your eyes give you away.
  • Keep personal vendettas out of public forums. Nobody wants to hear or see you wash your dirty linen in a common learning space.
  • If you’re quoting books and authors, you better know more than just one. Going back to the same one over and over again doesn’t prove much about the depth of your knowledge: not even if that one book were the Bible.
  • A degree doesn’t define your true caliber. When I see M. Phil and Ph.D scholars attend such learning workshops in silence, with not a question asked or a point countered, I wonder if they are already all-knowing or if the degree were just a farce.
  • The smart and awesome ones are always taken first. 🙂

Miscommunications

The junior MA class is a place I do not want to be in right now. I am confident that being a Master’s class of three is better bet than a Master’s class of 12 lost in a group of 40 Bachelor’s. That’s probably a scene that I would have quit and left soon enough. Destiny set me up right and I dint have that choice to worry about.

But I worry about the current batch. So do some of them. I wanted to talk to them about it, as a group, and also fold in an informal freshers lunch into it. A and I went to our designated location at the designated time and found not one of them. We waited for 15 minutes and left feeling cheated. We resolved not to expend any more of our energies on them, for it was their battle to fight and not ours.

We walked back up to the department and a bunch of the juniors came running, exhausted, wondering why we stood them up. Turns out they waited for us at a concrete park with some pebbles, while we waited for them at the pebbles park with some concrete. Ha! Meeting postponed to Monday.

Bulimia

All that is OK, but why am I behaving like the bulimic supermodel? I love to eat it all, but puke that and half the garden out immediately so that it doesn’t show on my waist. 

No pictures today, please” Scotch. 

That’s all you get on sick day.