Day 113: I would never have forgiven myself 

When Scotch almost got me killed

Well, technically, it started with me almost killing Scotch today. I left some rat kill cakes, for the rats to eat, and I was confident that when I woke in the morning, they were intact. Our little rodent pals had found other sources of nutrition. Except, about an hour after checking, I see that both the cakes are missing, and Scotch is sitting in the area, smacking her lips.

I was convinced that she had eaten both and was going to turn all fizzy and die any minute. Worst of all the luck, all this happened between 4 and 6 AM and I had an exam at 9. Would I have to skip the exam entirely? Should I rush her to the hospital now? What if I came back from the exam and found her limp? Would I ever forgive myself for poisoning my own dog?

A quick chat with H helped reorient my thoughts. I immediately called Cessna emergency and we were on our way in 10 minutes. They checked her vitals, and deducted that she was normal, especially since it was about 4 to 5 hours since the suspected act. Her pupils were normal, no frothing or excessive salivation, and she was still alive. Phew!

They anyway gave her a charcoal cleanse and a vitamin K shot, to soak out any poison that might be in the stomach. And she would stay with them, in their day-boarding, while I wrote my exam. I don’t think I would have been able to sit through 3 hours of torture if I had not taken her to the vet.

Exams done, quick lunch with A and SilverGhoster done, and I was off to pick her up. That’s when I learnt about the unprofessional behavior of doctors and how much it affects a layperson. I picked up Scotch from her cage, and she tumbled out in a dizzy. Her hind legs shivered and shook as she stumbled a foot forward. I took her to the vet’s table and asked him if she had been sedated during her boarding. He nodded confidently – no, she wasn’t. And the next 4 hours were spent in my trying to quiz them and myself, on reasons why a normal dog, who had clearly not eaten rat poison, would act dazed and confused after spending 4 hours in a cage. She usually has separation anxiety and comes back from all boarding with a sore throat, from all the barking. But she was never this.

Every post on Facebook, from loving pet parents who’d lost their pet due to hospital negligence, shot in front of me. The guilt from the morning returned all over again. Scotch had gone into some strange depression after my rushing her to the vets early in the morning, feeding her charcoal and locking her up in the cage for 4 long hours. She must have been convinced that I was trying to kill her, and this was her showing signs of depression. I had broken my dog.

Or so I thought, until the vet called me at 9 PM and clarified his mistake. There had been 2 labs today with similar issues – rat poison. And they mixed up Scotch for the other. Yes, Scotch had been sedated because for the first hour that I was gone, she had barked her vocal chords off and unsettled most other boarders. They just had her name confused. A fancy establishment, earning millions of rupees every month from treating and working with pets and they haven’t found a better system to identify dogs.

Shame!

First kisses

Conversations with SilverGhoster took an interesting turn and we got talking about first kisses. It reminded me of past conversations about the same. It reminded me of the past first kisses, and the emotions that come wrapped in with that simple act of a kiss.

The moments of furtive glances and stolen touches before the kiss. All the years of preparation and still being unprepared for what lies ahead. That nanosecond before your lips meet, where you question the next act that lies ahead. With that kiss, you’d be changed forever. In that nanosecond, you remember every opportunity for a kiss that you took before, and every opportunity that you’ve missed. You walk two steps aways and yet two steps forward, as you feel an energy draw you on. Unimaginable.

And then, it repeats again with the next one.  It’s the first kiss all over again.

The feeling that binds it all

The factor that makes it truly special, the reason you couldn’t just pay a professional prostitute to give you your first kiss, is the feeling of belonging or oneness that comes with it. Ask any man that has lost his virginity to a paid masseuse, and he’ll tell you about the strange sense of regret that is typically associated with the act. Sex is no longer about love making, it’s purely an item to check off on life’s to-do list.

A lot of today’s generation seems to be stuck in this rut, the one where sex is no longer love-making; it’s a solution to a heartbreak, and is an international flight and some bahts away. There is a queer pressure to belong, a sense to ‘lose it’  because all your friends already have. I’m reminded of the conversation with the Danseuese aka Tooti, where she thought she didn’t have a boyfriend anymore because she didn’t put out yet. I hear silent sighs when I share the first time I made out. It feels like I was a few years too late compared to today’s youngsters.

And yet, I’m able to look back at my first with a sense of pleasure and wonder. It’s not like we’re getting awards for the best first sex. But, I can still look back at my first with a sense of wonder and awe. It still has a memory of amazement, a strange mutual exploration, that was still not pushed by peer pressure. And that’s honestly all that I’d like to send out there as a consolation message to the kids of today – hold off until it feels right, and it will totally be worth the wait.

Checking off checklists

Turns out the initial conversation with the SilverGhoster did get him thinking. As I was talking to him today, I realized that he had a newer, a more updated version of the checklist, and some of the major stereotypes were gone. It feels powerful, almost God-like, to know that someone’s interests and wants in life are shaped by discussions with you. But with that feeling comes great responsibility. By sharing your thoughts and views on varied social issues, you could be altering an impressionable mind, something that can go either ways.

A surprise that lay at the end of the conversation was the realization that I’d checked off a lot of the items on his list. Was I creating such an impression on the SilverGhoster that he was shaping his future aspirations based on me? What would happen when I start showing sides  of me that have scared men away in the past? The last few days have been good conversations. But doesn’t this new twist in the tale just remove a friend from the list entirely? Is this going to be another choice between a friend and something more than a friend?

Doesn’t the past trend say that the friend is the one lost in all such cases?

Woah! All that charcoal and sedative is making me feel funny in the head. And you’re up all night chatting up giving big lectures! Show me some love man!” Scotch

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Day 111: He has 4 Masters degree and a law degree

Reconnecting with friends is always fun. And, PeePee has been a variant of all sorts amongst the friends circle. What started off as mutual likes on each other’s photo blogs, graduated to comments on the blog and moved on to email exchanges. I still remember the random, unexpected, first email that PeePee sent, full of techniques on shooting a closeup of the moon. I would generally have marked it as spam a d ignored the man on my photoblog. But, I followed it to the last T and this beauty happened. Since then, our mutual acquaintance would go through the phases of the moon; the full moon and its everyday conversations, on everything under the moon, that would wane to the no moon, with some serious virtual silence. He’s been one of those rare acquaintances that I felt at ease with almost immediately and we could talk after years and still catch up like nothing changed.

We reconnected today; I messaged him because I was captivated by his dp when reviewing contacts on the old phone. The new, self-grooming, was definitely spot on. And, we quickly caught up. A successful move to the US, a shack of his own decked up to his interests, new hobbies (wood work :)), and persistent old hobbies, family that lived a few miles away and parents that visited often, and he seems to be living the classic 30-year old’s dream life. And yet, the consistent underlying thread of regret was the mismatch between the familial expectations of marriage versus that of our generation.

He has been riding the same boat of evaluations for marriage as I have, mostly driven by parents. There are staunch restrictions for prospects; should be of the same caste, sub-caste even and all other factors, including matching interests, are trumped by superstitious beliefs. No amount of convincing, discussing have changed their mindset on that. ‘My father has four Master’s degrees, even a law degree, and my mother is equally qualified too. And yet…‘, his voice trails off.

Education vs. Family

A lot of their opinions, and life choices, seem to be affected more by their immediate society than the educational qualifications. Shouldn’t education automatically help you sift out the right from the wrong, the outdated from the relevant? I’ve had this similar query when having sociological discussions with ChemProf as well. Despite being one of the most educated in the larger family, he still has such obsolete, conventional, ideas about relationships, social statuses and gender equality. And I can emphasize with PeePee: the more I talk to ChemProf, the more I realize how futile the whole effort is, and how deep rooted some of these stereotypes really are.

Riding the wall

What also caught me in the whole conversation was the sincere pain I felt in PeePee for hurting his parents. Our generation has very strong principles and has the will to live by it; but it is also aware of the barrier that rests between our generation and the previous one; especially the big barrier about ideologies. The last time I said yes to getting married, it was not because I liked the gentleman; it was purely because I was tired of hurting my parents. And yet, my conviction to my own principles didn’t allow me to see it through.

We’ve become a generation that is strong about its own interests and needs, but is equally aware of the effect of these on the previous generation. We cannot hurt outright, and yet we cannot give in completely as well. We ride the middle line, a balanced act on the tight-rope, and only time will tell if we make it through or the rope tips over.

Talk about long distances, and you now know how we Yoga in KL. Well, mommy tries to do Yoga, but I usually beat her to the mat. And the dogasanas begin.” Goose

Day 108: You should never meet your superheroes

I don’t know whether I should blame the sociology paper or the extended conversations with SilverGhoster, on everything under the roof, but I have a strange cloud hanging over my head today. Some of the points of discussion during the leeching episode stayed with me and that kicked off our next big rant about relationships.

Black or White

Between the SilverGhoster and the DubaiCassanova, I see the two extremes that define the young men of today.

On one end of the spectrum are those that still believe in chivalry, address even women their own age as ‘Madam’ no matter how awkward it sounds to the modern ear, and prefer the clinical perspective on life, where superheroes exist only in fan fiction. They believe that trying to live the fancy life of glitter and glam painted by mass media will only result in heart break, and nothing is worth a lost peace of mind. They will settle with the charming damsel their mother, and the stars, pick for them, and will love that lady to the end of their life.

On the far blue corner, are the partyholics, who define the quality of life based on the glamour shown on their Instagram page. Their badges of accomplishments vary from the number of men/women one has slept with, to their varying sexualities, to the ability to fool the system entirely. They flout rules like their fathers owned the world, and if money was sufficient to build a social repute, ideologies could be dumped into the farthest shelves of living.

Neutral Ground

Does the world stay in stability because of the two extremities that abound in it? Or is the reason for all these doldrums in the world the very fact that such opposites try to co-exist?

As I continued probing and questioning the life choices on one of these extremities, my natural tendency was to advice him to loosen up, and enjoy the world for what it was. My recommendations were for a more loosely bound life-system, where it was acceptable to put oneself out there, to love and to crash and burn. I asked him to look at those on the other side, their learnings, and realize that he was missing out on so many interesting experiences just because of his principles of life.

And then, I stopped myself short. Was this just my human tendency to change anything that exists and to alter its natural state? If I had been talking to the DubaiCassanova, would I have instead advised him to look at the other end and be more sensitive? Now, wouldn’t this whole process, of advising one to become like the other, define my hypocrisy. While I profess hatred towards any form of advice, especially the uncalled ones that are very generously dished out by the society, wasn’t I doing the same thing by asking the SilverGhoster to let his ghosts of the past lay to rest and explore the world’s colors?

I still stand by what I said about my hatred for advice; any man that has a girl child will give you advice on how to raise a girl; anyone that has loved and lost will start dishing out relationship advice; anyone that has written a competitive examination is now your guide on how to crack it; and anyone that has raised a child, albeit a crack addict, will turn parental coach. What qualifies them to wear the superior cape of a guide, shaping your opinions and experiences, based on theirs? For me, someone that truly qualifies to advice another would be one that has seen that person in their entirety – at their massive highs, their utmost vulnerabilities, and knows the truest principles that shape their life. Or, is a qualified, certified psychological practitioner.

Anyone else is just using their number of years on the earth, their supposed experience, to place themselves at a position of power over you; the holy I’ve-been-there-I-know-it position.

The elusive karma

My barrage of counters on why he didn’t do a lot of things a typical 27 year old would do increased, and the sober SilverGhoster brought in the elusive karma. He said his interpretation of karma was that ‘anything that was meant to happen, would happen anyway, without any known push from your end‘. So, in love and life, he let things take their own course and watched how they evolved.

Funny how I think that’s the pop culture interpretation of karma while the true intent behind it is the opposite. From up his holy chariot, Lord Krishna said ‘कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन। मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥ २-४७’, or, ‘Karmanyevadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadacha na. Ma Karmaphalaheturbhurma Te Sangostvakarmani’. With this background, I see karma as the duty that you have to do for any result to come by. And inaction, or letting the universe do its thing, doesn’t count for karma.

So, when we say ‘What will be will be’ and use that as a reason for not doing something about it, we are basically doing anti-karma, and not the reverse.

That’s some deep stuff brewing, S. If you ask me, the man is right. Just relax, smell the rain in the winds, and things will fall into their place. And maybe that idea of relaxing and having fun is the karma we are all chasing. 

What say?” Scotch

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