Day 140: 2017 Highs – Bhored

It’s 2018. 2017 has gone by, and the cyberspace is overflowing with messages of positivism in the upcoming year, reviews of the year that went by and promises for the new year. Here’s my year in review but focused on the major highs and the lows.

Bhor-ed

The summer spent in a little town, south of Pune, definitely tops the list of highlights for the year.

The internship started at the end of Year 1 in the new career, at a point when the University and the teachers had left a strong sense of doubt in my mind. While the subjects were novel and insightful, a welcome change from the days of Engineering, the methods of teaching, the mindset of the teachers, and the management, in general, where a hard reality-check of an industry overflowing with archaic ideologies and bureaucracy. I was left questioning their ancient ways, and the effect that they were having on the minds of the next generation. The pain compounded when the realization sunk in that this was a department training teachers, tasked with equipping the citizen for tomorrow.

It was with that broken morale that I joined the group of educationists in Bhor, and the group saved me from the dark dungeons of my own mind. I realized that while I was stuck in a place that was still shuffling in the industrial era of education, there were agencies out there that had moved on to the modern ages. The group made me realize that all it takes is a few like-minded souls to get together in order to bring a change in any area that one is passionate about. The gang reinstated in my mind the belief that all one needs in life is hope to keep surviving. The team also reaffirmed the idea in my head that it was very easy to join a certain school of thought, make its registers our own, but that it took an open mind to walk the middle path and understand both points of view.

  • The whole experience reinstated my respect for simplified living. One does not really need three different sizes of coffee pots or five dupattas in varying shades of the same black. The clarity that comes with losing clutter is very powerful and the month at Bhor helped me realize that.
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Some chai and samosas at the school

  • The weekly Tuesday markets were absolute fun. We were the outsiders that got stared at every time we went out of the house. And yet, I did not feel the awkwardness that typically comes with walking out in public in the cities.
  • The sunrise and the sunset were absolutely out of this world. We did not have to drive 100 kms away from the city, hike up 2 hours and fight off a crowd for the best views. I looked out the window at day break and there it was, the beaming ball of fire. Equally easy was the sunset. And the million stars that popped out when you looked up at the night sky are hard to come by even 100 kms away from the city.
  • The planning that goes into running a household is beyond compare. From picking up groceries on a Tuesday for the whole week ahead, to planning dinner-breakfast-lunch for the next day, everything was done systematically. This completely removed the last minute frantic run that one normally does before a meal. This experience helped me tremendously in planning for Keto. Yay!
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And, we made amazing an Chocolate Cake!

  • Fooood! The mallu mango curry, the great chicken curry, the super-thick lassi/malai, the chocolate cake, the banana bread, the yellow pumpkin pooris, the overly simple yet tasty sabudana poha. There was just too much of too yummy food to keep us going.
  • At the end of the day, the highlight of the whole trip was the quality of the conversations. Whether we were arguing about something or agreeing to the same perspective, whether we were discussing the men in our lives, there was a high level of involvement and zeal in the conversation and immense respect for the parties in the discussion.

 

They were very different people, with varied interests and life experiences. They were very successful in their lives; Doctorates, educationists and designers. Some walked the straight-out leftist path, while others trod a little left of center. Some wanted technology to play a larger role in education while others didn’t care too much. Nonetheless, they loved talking education, especially with each other; they loved goofing around while getting serious work done; they had an open mind to try varied things, and were learners for life.

Here’s to more such great company in the years to come!

dav

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Day 138: Lust at first sight

She stayed up all night thinking of how life would be with him. They would get up early, walk the little mutt, follow it up with some yoga and enjoy a glass of OJ together. They would do road trips on the bike, soaking in the sights of the little villages they’d ride by. He would hold her close and comfort her with his confident grip, when she felt unprepared for life’s turmoil. He would join in and they would goof around the house, doing things inappropriate for their age. They would stare into maps together and get lost in the new city, walking in different directions before following each other. They would get drunk like goats at New Year’s Eve and nurse each other’s hangover the next morning. They would enjoy being lost in their individual conversations at the party, while continuing to keep an eye out for the other. They would sit quietly, elbows touching, watching the sun set at the horizon, the waves washing their lives away.

But, did she even know if he liked biking? What if he hated the sea and he psycho-planned his trips to the point of being boring? What if he did not think that women should have a voice of their own and he liked people to simply follow him while he led the way? She knew so little about him and yet here she was losing critical shut-eye concocting the impossibles in her head. Did he not mention his wife and two grown boys? Where did they fit into this impossible dream of hers?

Nowhere! Logic and reason had no room in a house commanded by lust. They had met after a long time and she knew there was something about him that clicked immediately. She felt at ease in his company, the conversations felt unforced and the whole atmosphere felt like home. The trivialities that people often delved too deeply into, the mundanes about the outwards, seemed to be quickly brushed off. It wasn’t the sapiosexual her getting turned on by the depth of the conversations. And yet!

Whoever coined the phrase “Love at first sight!” was so mistaken. Love takes its time, progresses gradually, considers the positives and the negatives and weighs its losses before surfacing. What happens when you meet someone for the first time, the instant need to connect, the warmth in the hug, the affirmation that you belong, the validation of a chemistry match – none of that is Love.

It is but “Lust at first sight!”

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 100: You don’t have to sing like me, you only have to sing like you

PsychGoddess showed up fresh in the morning, and the Sunday was worth it all.  We started the day off with some dosa, coffee and loads of life. Scotch was the most excited of the lot though. Having spent so many months with only me, she was all out of bounds for another company.

Adopt, Don’t shop

Since the trip to Bhor, I was in awe of PsychGoddess and her perspectives on life. That awe transformed into respect, and one of a different level, when I found out that her son was an adopted child. H and I have had conversations about adoption in the past; it’s been a decider for me on a number of prospectives. But they’ve typically sounded wishful thinking, and something that we’d have to battle against the world to see it through. Talking to her about it made it seem very relatable; doable of sorts.

It’s clearly a big decision to choose to give life to a child that has been abandoned. But a few things she said will stay with me if I get to that point of having to make that decision.

  • It’s not your right to have a child, especially to adopt one. It’s the child’s right to have a decent life. And that always trumps every other justification you might have in your head.
  • If you’re a married couple adopting, each of you has to decide for yourself, if you, as an individual, wants to have a child.
  • Every child reacts differently to the knowledge of her adopted status. Know your child enough before having that conversation. And even then, anything might happen. Be there.
  • Do not overcompensate for the status of the child. At the end of the day he’s your son. And he needs to realize that being adopted doesn’t give him extra goodies than any other child around.
  • Be open and speak about it in the house. The more hushed the conversations are, the more the child feels different.
  • Leave no opportunity to remind the child that she is loved and wanted in the family. It is all that matters.

Marriage

It’s always refreshing to hear PsychGoddess’ perspective on marriage. It changes you, she says, and warns me to be prepared for even the most sensitive men to give up their views when in this institution. It’s very uplifting to hear men, and boys, like SPD and GardenMan talk about the status of women, and to see them empathize with the lopsided role of women in the society. But to imagine that all this would change when they get married makes it seem like the soul sucking institution that I’m imagining it to be.

I believe more in the idea of spending time together, living through the good and the ugly. None of the pain and the joy would be changed by the fact that you’re legally bound by marriage or not. Not being married, but living together somehow puts you on an even scale. Societal expectations from the roles of the man and the woman no longer seem to apply. And it seems less stressful to explain why the man stays at home to cook or why the woman wears pants all day.

And if marriage seems like a logical celebration to the past, the time that you’ve spent together, then by all means – do get married.

Finding Ram in Kabir

A great perspective that PsychGoddeas introduced me to this time around is the Kabir Project. What started off as a project to find Kabir, as the opposite of finding Ram, ended in a beautiful collection of hymns and poems that seem to talk about life more than religion.

She signed us up for a Kabir singing workshop today and I was excited to try out something I’d normally never do. We reached the studio, Shoonya, early enough to soak in the beauty of how the terrace had been transformed into a positive living space. Mental note made for future terrace spaces.

When the event started, a group of 28 very different people got talking and singing about Kabir. The group was led by Vipul Rikhi, who worked as a translator at the Kabir Project. The song for the day was called ‘Haalo ri mori sajni’ and it deserves a post of its own. The workshop was well conducted, and we spent enough time talking about the lyrics, and listening to him sing it that a number of the participants were singing the song like naturals at the end of the 3 hours.

What caught me off guard was the silence that I felt inside me when the whole group finished singing the song one last time. We’d talked about detachment and the palace of colors, had laughed at each other’s singing voices, and had held each other’s hands through the stress of singing in smaller groups. But in the end, as we all sang together, I felt a strange attachment with the idea of the group while still feeling extremely detached from it.

Oh! And Vipul was super hot with his salt and pepper and the beard. ❤

Singing or not, I’m happy that she is here. She made me a special batch of upma, anf I had it with a side of amma’s mango pickle. She even bought me fresh dates for dessert. It’s only weird she left it all on the kitchen counter, and it was a little tough reaching them all. But I managed.

Can we keep her, please?” Scotch

Day 44: Religion’s Drama

Buoy, did the Tuesday end with the drama of the century!

We had a group presentation that the three of us split the work into, SrA, A and I, and we were due to submit it today. We reviewed all our work and started consolidating before the class, when we realized that SrA had done a lazy-ass Copy-Paste, and did not pull up screenshots that we really required. So, I explained the simplest Windows function, Print-Screen, to dearest SrA. 15 minutes, and no progress. A went a step ahead, walked up to the board to replicate the keyboard, and drew it out. Of course, SrA had shut down by then.

No amount of our telling anything to her on how to take a simple screenshot of the screen took us any closer to where we had to be. As GD, our teacher, walked in, SrA had gone into a trance, had completely tuned us out, and was staring at the same dot on the screen. GD checked on progress, we updated her about the only missing piece, a 15-minutes’ worth screen print, and how we’d finish it up in a bit. GD acquiesced, smiled, and noticed SrA’s trance. One small probing question, and SrA started the water works.

I haven’t such a dramatic wailing in years; assuming I did something like this when I was 5. For at least three long minutes, she was stuck to the door, crying like her life was at stake. When A brought her back, and GD started asking SrA to settle down, SrA went into this major ramble about not knowing SPSS, or anything technical, and us trying to help her extensively, but she not understanding technology at all, and having spent time till 2 AM the previous day, and not having slept at all for the last few weeks, and us being helpful and her not being able to reciprocate at all. Of course, GD was overflowing with concern for her mentee’s feelings, being a sister of the Christian congregation and all. The height of dramatics in the whole episode was unimaginable; hands flaying up in the air, falling body-front on to the desk, pulling GD towards herself and pushing her away; dramatic to the C.

The charade went on for 20 minutes, a class of 3 and of 45 minutes, completely disrupted by one person’s inability to learn how to take a screenshot on their laptop.

If I had any respect for the clergymen, and women, this drama squashed it entirely. I have seen a 45 year old mother of two come back to college to get their second Masters. I worked with a 65 year old gentleman pursuing his PhD at that post-retirement age. My mom, of 55, learns something new with her computer every day, and never says “I can’t do it!”. Aren’t they all working on the basic educational philosophy that we are all learners for life? Isn’t there a life philosophy that you’ve lost the minute you’ve given up trying?

When did it become OK for one to use their religion as a handicap badge to get a parking spot? Whatever might have been the reason that pushed SrA into entering the church, she chose it for life, spent 20-odd years preparing for her life in the seminary, and had to be vested in it entirely. Did that somehow give her a permission for preferential treatment? I understand she wakes at 4 AM, works towards the convent’s upkeep, attends college from 9 to 4, goes back to complete some more chores in the convent, finishes course work, and hits the bed by 10. I understand she squeezes in a number of rounds of prayer in the middle of all this, because it is after all the life she chose. Do you know how I know this level of detail about SrA’s day? She makes sure that she tells us about it at every possible opportunity.

Well, none of us non-clergical people (is that even a word? What’s the word for ‘us’? Normal people?), have an easy life now. We pay for our own education, we struggle with interviews and rejections, we see a life outside the four walls of religion, that may not be all that pretty as promised. We live with the harsh realities of life every single day. But do we wear it around our necks as a badge? Do we carry it around like the blind man’s stick, expecting the road to pave the way ahead for it?

Nope!

It’s no wonder that I relate to atheists the most. Religion has invariably become a banner for you to hold aloft and claim reservation, preferential treatment, when there are others spending their energy going where they need to. It has become that fast pass that you’ve used one too many times and yet never get pulled up far. Religion? Rubbish!

“You humans are weird. Religion? What does that even mean? 

If it doesn’t help you with ‘eat, sleep, repeat’, then why even bother?  No?” Scotch