Day 110: Surprised by Forum 

A late night, last ditch effort to study. Economics of education. Bus to Uni. Missed a Volvo and found a beautiful blue bus. Peace at college. That morning big, strong coffee. Rants and revisions with A. Annoying male supervisor with his ‘stand up for question papers’. Three hours of hand-breaking pain. Choices, choices, choices.  There should be a better way to test. Walk to the parking lot, but I have no car. Lunch plans for bitching. The hunt for Clinique continues. Forum has a front and a magical back entrance. Love it. Didn’t find Clinique. Ran away from parottas and chole bhatures. Plans for Melt flopped by crazy traffic that won’t let you cross the road. Soup, corn flake chicken and Lassi. True stories of DubaiCassanova. Gossiping is for girls. Reminder about fun conversations in the past. Have I missed these for too long? Blue and green buses are hot ovens. Back home. Scotch needs psychiatric help. Kitchen is in shambles. All dishes for washing on the floor. She tried to help. Bakeware sacrificed. Didn’t scold or hit her. Muzzled for an hour. Hurt me more than her. She’s the boss. Another dog, maybe?

“I told you I loved what you cooked yesterday. And you give me just a slice? So, I tried to help myself to all the goodness still stuck in the pan. In all the excitement, shit got real.” Scotch

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Day 109: One can only hope 

Sleep, sleep, sleep. Noon. Brunch. Read, rest, relax. Snooze, Snooze, Snooze. Wake up, bathe, study. Realize all content is from Mumbai University distance program. Feel miserable about life’s choices. Crib to SilverGhoster. U came here for a reason. You’ll understand that sooner or later. Sniff, Awhh. Bake some yummy keto bread. Coconut flour over Almond. Back to study. Give up by 10. Off to sleep. Up at 3. Finish the rest. Listening in class pays off, always.

​Highlight of the day – Make it to the corner. There is always hope just around it. Even Pandora’s box was closed in time to prevent hope from escaping.

Study all you want. Sulk all you want. But why don’t you share that yummy goodness? I mean, something more than just a slice. What good did 1 slice do to anybody?” Scotch

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 107: Explain Unity and Diversity in India

As expected, the Sociology exam was a bummer. 1/5th of the paper was simply about Unity and Diversity in India. Reminded me of writing similar essays in school; Social Studies, we called it back then. And at least then, all this was new knowledge and there was hope.

Now that I’ve spent 33 years in this world, I see how language divides us more than it unites. Ask every child who’s ostracized for not speaking English. I know that there is as much division between the North and the South of India, as there is between India and Pakistan. We are so hung up on our food preferences, that we’ll go hunting for an idli-vada place in New Delhi, and then complain about the poor food taste.

Our culture, our language, our eating choices, our dressing choices, our sexual preferences, our movie picks, our living spaces, the car we drive, the tourist spots we go to and the money we earn or spend; all make us more and more divided from each other than united.

As I wrote about the beauty of a Durga puja pandal in Bangalore and a Muslim community hosting Ganesha celebrations, I felt hypocritical. I felt like I was using stray incidents of color, to obscure how dull and grey this world really is. As I highlighted the cosmopolitan nature of every Indian city, I felt like I was hiding the fact that every city is one Kaveri verdict away from a curfew and localities burning.

Have I just been wearing my dark shades for too long?

I have never

The much-awaited MAED-MBAELM party happened; in the middle of the day, with the lure of free booze. Well, technically it was four out of the 12. But, it was the most likely crowd, I would say. The usual, shots, beer, pizza and I-have-never.

The dark black shades were on through the day, and I wondered if I was just becoming too cynical in life. As A guffawed at every silly joke, and touched and petted DubaiCasanova at every feasible opportunity, I reminded myself what a make-believe world this was. ‘I have made out with more than 50 men’ and ‘I have hooked up with a teacher in the Uni’ were worn like awards of honor. Such is the pitious state of today’s youth.

And through it all, what surprised me was the overly comfortable Gemini twin in me. An outsider would have found me at the center of it all, reeling in the fun, not feeling an inch out of place. I laud and condemn this strange ability that I seem to possess.

You know it’s a myth that dogs see only in black and white, right?  We actually have a reduced color spectrum, but definitely not the Grey scale. Maybe that’s the filter you need to look at the world. 

What do you think?” Scotch

Day 106: It’s a popular symbol of feminism

I’ve been nose deep in literature to prepare for the upcoming end semester exam. I start off with the subject that brought out the true expertise of the teachers in the department – Sociological foundations of Education. After the high-charged discussions on social justice and socially relevant issues of education over the summer, at Bhor, I was excited when I found out that I had this subject this semester.

And boy! What a disappointment it has been!

A few things I remember being said in class, by the respected sharer of information.

  • I wouldn’t allow my son to find himself a girl friend. It’s against my culture and culture is our God.
  • All these live-in relationships and all must make your parents so sad and disappointed in you.
  • The sole aim or purpose of a family is to give birth to young children.
  • Social stratification is natural and it’s these strata that bring a sense of calm in the society. If we were all in one big societal class, we’d kill each other and die.
  • I don’t know why the syllabus has Economic studies as a part of Sociology. Let’s skip that part.
  • All women in certain families in North India have to wear a ghunghat. They are not allowed to enter the living spaces with men without wearing the ghunghat down to their chests. It’s a popular symbol of feminism.

And a bonus one.

  • Myanmar is the capital of Burma.

I feel cheated at the end of this semester. A Master’s program should not be spending 60 hrs dishing out definitions and meaning of ideas like culture, social classes and Inequality. These should be pre-reading for the students to come prepared to class with. And the discussion should be around matters of social relevance. Nobody will ask you for the definition of gender bias in real-life. It will stare you down your face when a father chooses to pick his teenage girl out of school. And you will be unprepared to handle that situation.

All this studying and you seem to be in pain. Do you need a hug?” Scotch 

Day 105: Life is so much better with a filter on

He was the Chief of the regiment and had a huge battalion waiting to welcome him. They were all lined up by the lake, with its crystal water and lush green beds all around. Four crisply dressed soldiers held a big chest from all four sides; it was well-decorated with a red velvet sash, and some gold embellishments. He got off his buggy, dressed in a crisp white shirt, with sleeves folded all the way past his elbow. Years of training showed in his sculpted biceps. He had a baseball cap on, bright red, and turned backwards. Chocolate Croissant at Michael’s! Some Chief, to break uniform, no? His briskly walked up to the lake front, not marching, but keeping step with the soldiers leading up front, with the chest. They marched on, into the lake.

He hesitated for a second before laying his foot into the water, looking to his men for a reaffirmation. He got what he was looking for, and followed the men in. As he moved, he casually looked over to our side, peasants lined up far behind the edges of the lake, behind the thorn barricade that set us in our place. I caught his sight, and looked down immediately, almost blinded by the sparkling white of his shirt. I look up as I hear a splash in the water, and a general murmur amidst the crowd. He has nose-dived into the lake, waving his men to return to the bed the usual way. Where did that chest go already? His men quickly step back to the lake shore, and start their regiment song in full furore. Badluram ka badan, zameen ke neeche hai.

 

He swam to the shore nearest to our barricade, hoisted himself up the slope of the lake bed, and reached to the other side of the barricade. He put his right hand on the railing and recoiled immediately; silly man didn’t know how cruel these iron thorns were. He squeezed himself between two rows of the wire, clearly trying to make his way through. The rest of the crowd took a step or three back, suspicious of this man, wet to his toe and yet sparkling in his bright white. I put a strong foot on the lower railing, and muscled the one above, to make a decent pass for this strange man to get through.

He stumbled on to the other side, smiled his shiny whites, stretched an arm out my way, and said, “Ayatoozarooola! Mazi waqawoori Hashitooshiwashi Wooshi

Me: *Confused* “Hello, I am Swetha

Mr. White: *Switching tongues on me* “Hello Swetha. I am Raam!

I get up from my sleep, kicking my feet up in the air, as if I’d seen a ghost.

I remember seeing a bicycle, resting lazily in a narrow, stone pathway, brightly colored houses in the background, a camera framing this beautiful scene for permanence, and me saying “Buoy! Life is so much better with a filter on.

 

 

Day 104: They tend to leech you away from your parents 

Last working day of the semester and I have more glee than sadness. This semester has taken a huge toll on my emotions and my general sanity of mind, questioning my principles and the will to stick around through every bit of the way.  I’m grateful that with the exams, this will be all done. And that will leave me with just one more semester to go.

SilverGhoster

The last month or so has been a fun learning time, with all due thanks to the SilverGhoster. His 4 wheel drive accords him that name; the alternative that he picked for his ride was ‘Doll’. Haha! Anyway, it’s been chitter-chatter about the education scene in the country, some traditional views that run schools, cars and gals, and general love trouble.

Over lunch and tea, we got talking about his big checklist for the prospectives. Can’t blame the man for having one; I’ve been there, striking items off with each passing year. I’d like to mention a few here, not with the intention of outing the man’s super-secretive list, but to remember the discussion that followed each.

  • The girl has to be from Bangalore.
    • Why so? Well, there’s a friend of a family of a friend of the family, who got married to someone from UP. And when the mother of a friend asked about the friend of a family of the friend’s wife, she made a face when he said UP.
  • The girl has to have a younger brother.
    • Why younger? Older brothers tend to be overprotective, you know. And now you have a father and a mother and a brother to worry every time you make a move. And younger brothers can easily be brought in line, no?
    • Why not a sister? Younger or older? Well, a girl will eventually leave the house and the parents will have noone to take care of them anyway. Which means, the in-laws are around a lot, or the wife is gone a lot.
    • Why the whole hassle or siblings? Why not get a single child? Oh! We’ve seen a few of those and their long tentacles. They are too attached to their parents and are always trying to make the man leave his parents and live separately.
  • The girl had to love dogs.
    • Why? Who am I kidding? This one’s a no-brainer.

What caught me off was not just the patriarchy oozing from those demands, but also the naivete of not seeing through the stereotypes. Every time I prodded the discussion, questioning the idea, it all stopped at the societal norms and expectations, and him just being a regular man trying to meet those demands. While a lot of thought had gone into understanding why he needed a girl remotely interested in cars, the others had just gotten added with each societal eyebrow that raised around him.

Well, has he ever thought of how a girl would feel when she heard that her main intention was to ‘leech’ him away from his parents? Umm no. Does he know that research proves that daughters tend to take full custody of their aging parents while sons prefer to resort to hospicecare facilities? Oh, really? Why is it OK to expect a girl to leave her parents, her social circles, and fit right into the husband’s, while the reverse is unimaginable? Hmm valid thought.

I think we need to have more such over-the-coffee conversations with boys in this country. A number of these smart, intelligent, young men are simply looking for a spark to get them thinking. All they are missing is someone to tell them that the other side has a point of view too.

I’m not going to pat myself in the back and claim to have lit a spark. I would consider my karma done if that man at least started thinking on these lines.

While you’re busy lighting sparks, can you also feed me some mummum, please? I know it’s right here and I just have to lick it. But it feels like a lazy day. 

Pretty please?” Scotch