Weeks gone by..

Last few weeks have been a new high of national stupidity in the name of nationalism. The anger it generated in me is that typical brand of futile rage that consumes me and then leaves an empty feeling in its wake along with added cynicism. All it did was leading to a lot of angry debates with friends and as usual a realisation that a person is actually quite lonely when some beliefs are at stake. Husband and I agreed not to engage in these discussions with certain people- but always lost out to temptation when utterly stupid statements were made with perfect arrogance and ignorance. Anyway. Since my anger or my beliefs are wishy washy to begin with, there is no real reason for complaint as such. My university JNU thankfully has more committed and strong people who keep on fighting without any of this self-cynical-pity that I have. And I am sure it will come out flying high in the face of these dumbfucks.

I spent a week in London. It was cold, miserable. It is a testament of how much like dog I have become – happy in my territory – that I didn’t stay for a single additional evening than my official itinerary there. I like my colleagues and I like English beer! However, must say that my favourite time in the great metropolis was the one evening I had free- spent in hotel room, blissfully eating take-away, sipping Guinness and reading Harry Potter. And wishing all the evenings were like that! Add boring to anti-social. That is me now. A dear friend had this quote framed on her work-table ‘ World Is like a Book and if you haven’t travelled- you have read only one page’. I am content to have read only one word in that case. I am so over travel and new experiences- that very soon I am going to turn into a German Shepherd. Except the physical beauty and strength.

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Selfish as a nature

I am. Not at all proud of it. Add privileged, small-hearted, insincere to it.

Yesterday, at a friends place for brunch, we indulged in the ‘ intelligent’ debate about the recent suicide of a Dalit student. Some people flat out denied that him being a Dalit had anything to do with his suicide. Most of them had an opinion that being Dalit is not a modern handicap anymore in modern India. These same people had, a couple of months ago, debated furiously with me, husband and a friend about reservations in India. As we three again went on- and an hour later- everyone including us three agreed that this noon shouldn’t be spent getting in fights- but enjoying the food- and went on to discuss a recent celebrity divorce, it struck me for the first time how vehemently self centred my life has become. And then it struck me that not that it ‘has become’, but that it was always that way, leading slowly to the ultimate privileged and small hearted insincerity.

What actually disturbed me was that this sharp realisation, which I had voiced several times before, chiefly to self , husband and brother- didn’t hurt me anymore. A few years ago, I still felt guilty about many things. I reasoned that since I am not in the league of people who refuse the necessity of reservations- this moral conviction must be proof of some small goodness in me. I thought, quite honestly, that I was a liberal, progressive person who cared about social injustice.

But yesterday, I embraced the fact that my life has been and most likely will be small and mediocre even in intent. That the goodness in me was limited to an extremely small circle of my life- most of which has seen little to no challenges to this goodness.

It might sound delusional to a more committed and sincere person- she might point out that I should have realised this long time ago. After all , haven’t I made these choices which have shaped my life?

And she is right. This liberal delusion is nothing, but my own squashed pride at thinking of myself better than others, thinking of myself as more evolved simply because I thought on the right track without ever choosing anything that doesn’t immediately benefit my small world.

What I am unable to figure out, and again this is extremely self-centred and passive- is what am I going to do with this realisation?

I very much doubt that I am going to change. So what is this realisation worth? Yet another pat on the back for self?

I don’t know.

Karmanye Vaadhikaraste.. maa faleshu kadachanam..

Every year, every hour, even every nano second brings change. Some changes are profound. Some are incidental. Some shake you out violently while some slowly drip in your future and you realize quite later the change that happened oh so slowly that you didn’t realize while you were going through it.

I THINK ( read : HOPE) I have finally, truly accepted that things , well, they tend to change . And unlike earlier times when I spouted Zen-ness everywhere but in my own life, 2015 has been actually Zenified. And this has happened gradually and without me actually planning it. So much for the will and self motivation and all that.

Life is full of accidents. Good and bad. Small and big.

But to accept it without grudge, truly in your heart/head and for it to be a continuous organic process- is something which doesn’t come out of ‘knowing’ alone.

IT happens. Like shit happens, IT also happens.

It has been more than 12 months that I have, more or less been largely accepting . Of the fact that things will change. That most of them are outside of my control.

Even when there were some pretty unique experiences which changed my perspective. Even when after there have been significant changes in my work profile. Even when husband went through a rough professional patch of his own.

So far – It is more or less calm acceptance.

For example. Recently when there were regular redundancies at work and half of the people I knew were laid off, the very fact that I wasn’t bothered for my security just brought home the point as to how seriously accepting I have become.

This job had literally fallen out of nowhere exactly a year ago. Just when I had prepared myself to branch into something else- out of my long frustration with corporate life- a honcho who knew me ten years ago called and made this fabulous work-from-home happen with the same role and money that I would have made had I stuck around in the asshole ridden place I worked for. Even when there were a couple of weeks of uncertainty about whether I will get this job or not- husband got a bit edgy- but- pat on the back- I was epitome of cool. I really didn’t worry whether I would get this or not.

When I did, I worked my ass off. But I could have easily been redundant- especially with the new structure across our corporate behemoth. I know it is my work, which without false modesty has been best of the lot. But it would be stupid to assume that it was other people’s work which made them lose their jobs.

It does take experience to bring home the humbleness that it is chance, quite often blind and almost always out of your control which changes your life.

And maybe it is time, it is experiences, it is slow knowledge that life beats you into- but I have stopped bothering about changes, especially the ones which are not in your control.

And an organic apathy is developed to what the changes mean for me.

Of course it means further changes just might be around the corner. It could be me sending the ‘It has been great working with you bleh bleh’ email a few months down the line, who knows.

But can I do something? In this case, nope. So I am content to work hard- something which I have accepted is in my blood. Accept that I do have a year more at least, or it could be a few more months of this wonderful earn a lot while you spend your working day in shorts thingie. It is quite possible that some high level strategic plan might upset this utopia. Who knows. Who cares. Not me.

What it means is that for the new few months at least I can work in conditions which I love. And that is more than enough.

Karmanye Vadhikaraste and all that.

Marriage, islands and ships.. a totally Marine post. AHOY!!

Why is it that women spend inordinate time discussing and thinking about marriage?
( It is a rhetorical question aimed to kickstart a kickass post. Yes yes , the answer is social conditioning and Pride and Prejudice.)

I am into 10th year of my marriage. I need a pause and an applause here. The sentence sounds just so.. awesomely auntish… The reader would immediately know what to expect: a bittersweet description of the decade of togetherness… how it has not been easy, but how it is all worth it….. how it is fulfilling, but how you need to work on it…. how you have evolved in it, but how you have also lost that ‘little free bird’ in you in the process…..and blah da ding tong ta.

Because, people who spend ten years living with one man sort of become ding tongish. And ( soft music playing in the background) there comes a time.. when ding tonging seems like.. ( music picks ups) a natural and comfortable way of existence ( drumbeat). So naturally they want to ding tongify everyone else- sort of like spreading the gospel of the lord. Or spreading germs by refusing to take sick leave from overcrowded office.

I realised, contrary to my claims and self-image, I am dingy tongy for marriage when my brother decided to get married a few months ago. And how I hid my glee and how I would have high-fived him when he told me the good news, had we been siblings who high-fived at important moments, and not the ones who crack vulgar jokes and/ or stare in tea cups intensely. As I stared in my cup intensely, I was bubbling from inside with thoughts like:

Companionship!! Love!! Unlimited sex!!! Someone to hold his hand through life’s ups and downs!!

Translation: Someone else is responsible for him now!! HE HAS HIS OWN ISLAND!!

This Island this is a big thing for me. I need an island badly to exist. And by island I mean a small world of my own in the middle of big world. I step in, wipe myself off the sea surrounding my island and I am free to exist.

My books,my obsessions, my relationships, my angst are all on my island- kept dry and safe from that jaded mediocrity of the world.

I visit and hop onto other islands I love, but in the end, I want my own island to sleep in and to breathe in.

Most of the people I am close enough to give advice ( doesn’t matter if they take it or not) or a comforting shoulder to cry on to, are commitment phobic in a weird way. They are all very sincere, oddly simple and little childish. But none of them are really easy to live with. Unless we live in a commune with separate rooms with doors and large acres of land to get lost in.

These are fairly intense people. And laid-back in their lives. If you have read Secret History of The Likeness, we are a bit like that, me and the people I love. Except we don’t live in the same house and we haven’t killed anyone. But the tone is the same.

So I have advocated marriage or a live-in to virtually all of them, or a live-in because I believe it is not possible to have a commune like the aforementioned Secret History or The Likeness YET. So, we need our own ‘couple a.k.a plan B’ meanwhile.

Translation: We need someone on our little island in this sea of humanity.

This is the perhaps the most loveable and beguiling aspect of Marriage/ Live-in. It gives you, in a socially acceptable way, a little island in this heaving sea of world.

And if you are like me and my people- then you want to create your island.

And when you are on your own, then you are not an island, but essentially a floating ship or something. Which is great a post on the great floating ship a.k.a single life.

But virtually everyone I love are more like a canoe material/ Because of their intensity and weirdness, their canoe can sail literally anywhere, I would rather they have an island and at least be a bit stable.

I am sure this makes absolutely no sense but this is what I feel about marriage OR live-in.

Nest…

Earlier this month, I opened my bedroom ventilator door after years. Kites were creating a ruckus for 3 days and I wanted to see what was all the tamasha. The moment I opened it, I felt it pushed at something wooden, but before I could stop myself, it opened all the way out and dislodged a nest built by the kites. The nest hung precariously from our 14th floor parapet and I saw a large egg. The kites didn’t come back after this incident and the egg lay untouched for days after the nest was abandoned.

I felt horrible and all the novels I had read about eco-disaster came back to me. I am a total atheist, but I wondered if the kite would curse me for harming their home. Husband laughed it off and talked about billions of animals loosing their homes because of the very development we are part of. This of course didn’t make an iota of difference to the misery. I felt like a fat builder in Khosla Ka Ghosla. I would climb unto the ventilator every day and peer from the glass to see if the couple had come back. They didn’t. Their unspoken condemnation hung around the ruins of their home.

A few days after this, I went to my parents’ home for 2 weeks and came back yesterday.

I saw that the egg had disappeared but the ruins of the nest are still littered on the parapet.

The sight of the missing egg, the kites who don’t come near the flat anymore and the sad-looking sticks lying outside the window saddened me for no rhyme or reason. I thought of my own nest in my hometown. My still agile parents whose health will eventually deteriorate. The loneliness they must be feeling and not sharing with us.

I am not sure if it is a generational thing, but people of my generation, especially my friends and cousins, are perennial children. They have never progressed to that ultimate parental role. There are hundreds of socio-cultural reasons, but the bottom line is that when you go to your parents home, you feel like a child no matter how old you are and how many homes you own and how many kids you have.

What is it about your childhood home, your parents, your extended family that is totally missing in your adult world?

Is it the complete acceptance of you as ‘you’? Lack of adult pressures and responsibilities? Feeling of nostalgia and being a child again?

Every time I leave my childhood home after an extended holiday, I feel terrible coming back to my adult world. I feel morose, angry at people around me and unwilling to do anything but sleep.

I am officially an auntie aged person now, and it is really weird that I feel like a child going to hostel for the first time even now.

This has been a bit of a problem with me. I have never been able to really nest in any place I have been to. Be it US, Hyderabad or Mumbai. I have always thought of my parents’ home as ‘home’ and my homes as ‘ rooms’. Even when I bought a house in Mumbai, it failed to give me that sense of a true nest.

This time, I wallowed in the sadness since my beloved brother has left Mumbai to get married and settle down in Pune. I know it is barely 200 km and chances of meeting him there are higher than in Mumbai. It is also best for him and I have been pushing him to look outside Mumbai for a few years now. But the sheer thought made me boil in anger at this city which cares a damn for anyone coming or going, at husband- because of whom I have to live here ( which is a false statement, but I like to blame someone in helpless anger situations), at myself who stepped out of my small town at a tender age to make it big. Without my fellow eggling in town, how can this dirty city be my nest?

But I have decided to be extremely positive, hurrah, and so I didn’t daydream about my childhood home, as usual, but rather daydreamed about a project coming my way. Enough of being torn from both sides, I decided. Till the time I am here in Mumbai, I will be ‘fully’ here. No both feet planted on both sides of the line or shit like that.

If I am a migratory bird by nature, I need to learn from them and consider my current place as current home.

This is a mature step up for me, the eternal escapist, the eternal daydreamer and the eternal dissatisfied-but-don’t-know-at-what person.

I feel as if I have got an anchor, if not roots.

Because, the comforting thought is, I have a place to go to where I already have roots. Till I go there, let me rock gently with my anchor weighed down for the time being.

Wah wah, a marine theme and all. Superb self-realisation, albeit a little late in the life.

And I hope that the kite couple realises that they can come back and build nests here because they have the right to and that it was a sad mistake. So there.

Good going..a.k.a self-congratulatory back-pat

So I wrote this self-important angsty tale of my troubled relationship with books and vowed to read less this year.

And so far it has been a success. Me- the queen of self-control.

Yes, there have been withdrawal symptoms. I have been  irritable and prone to snap at people. I am also filled with more than the usual ‘where is this life going’ kind of existential thoughts. I avoided all the book sales and all those wonderful offers from Amazon and felt like a sacrificial queen a la Nirupa Roy.

But overall, I stuck to my resolution, more or less, at least as far as the new books were concerned.

I just read 4 new books, all of which turned out to be fairly crappy, which helped me stick to the strict no-new-buys policy.

I re-read all volumes of In Search of Time, which was predictably great.

A fellow reading addict uncle claims that now he will only re-read the books he has truly liked for the rest of his life, since life is too short to be wasted on new experiences. He is not that old, just dramatic.

I already am a re-re-re-reading kind of person. I can re-read my favourite books dozens of times. When I am truly peeling out from boredom, I like to pick up a well-worn volume, sniff the familiar smell and swelter in the anticipation of the familiar.

I also re-read my Film Studies reader. When I first got into cultural studies, I used to lay awake in excitement getting all those ‘aha’ moments one after another. It was like a series of intellectual orgasms, however corny and pseudo it sounds. I felt like I got the key to unlocking the mystery of life, of culture, of society. I realised that the kick is gone now and is replaced by a quiet appreciation of slow unfurling of life’s little moments.

I realised that now I am controlling my addiction, I had got tonnes of time, so I actually met a few people I hadn’t for a while- hurrah. And started thinking about future options.

And started running. Double Hurrah. My ambition is to be able to run consistently for half hr. @ at least 8 km per hour. Like those sinewy muscled  gods in tight running clothes and a fierce determination on their face you see running in European cities,  no matter whether it is snowing, raining, or baking. Mumbai is not exactly running friendly, I will be run over if I start running in the city. But a trade mill if not a bad option. It is the sign of wisdom that comes with age. Don’t expect beautiful paved cities just so that you start huffing puffing running. Dust your old treadmill, plug in iPod and start.

I started listening to music again. Since husband hates loud noise of whatever variety, I had gradually stopped listening to music, which for me has to be on full volume or none at all. I have no idea why I hadn’t been using the headphones. Now that I am, I behave as if I have invented them. Friends roll their eyes when I gush about merits of Bluetooth enabled headphones as if they are some sort of time machine level of sci-fi achievement. NO WIRES…Hallelujah..Mom.. look.. no wires.

Overall, it has been a good month. I finished my course. Didn’t panic at the thought of ‘what next?’. Controlled an addiction. Got into couple of new things without obsessing or overdoing them.

Yes, I agree that I am soon going to grow horns with all this smug-self-congratulatory spirit.

Not bad at all.

 

 

Jungle Jungle

This morning, I came back from the final camp of the Biodiversity and Conservation course.

There is nothing more soul-stirring than rambling through the forrest. The light that streams from leaf sprays overhead, loose lianas streaking the space like doodles, roots of trees stretching across twig-strewn earth with giant rocks sitting like praying swamis with fresh water gurgling around them, bird calls, langoor calls, insects and animals hiding in the foliage, leaf litter crunching under your feet.

The course gave me a good framework of theory, information and scientific tools. A good portion of the coursework was dedicated to conservation activities in one’s locality. Because bio-diversity and conservation is not only about going to national parks, but focusing holistically on environment around you, issues you can tackle and influence and sustain.

A classmate of mine, as part of the project, virtually restored a portion of small lake in Banglore and has now developed a full-fledged conservation process. I think she is heroic.

But I have remained more of a jungle person. I do not have the patience of convincing the society committee and hundreds of members who do not care about birds or insects or trees, that we need to make these and these and these changes. I care more about conserving places I genuinely care about and that is not going to be an urban area. However shallow it sounds, I have tried, did a few small things, but have more or less given up my hope to bring the change, maybe too early.

Anyway. So. The interesting thing was, this particular camp was dominated by women. Our course officer is India’s leading insect scholar and has a great sense of humour and fantastic way of explaining complex things to amateurs. I have a huge crush on her from the beginning of the course. Our ever smiling course-co-ordinator and majority of classmates who attended the camp were women. And they hail from different backgrounds. Students, engineers, software programmers, scientists and media ( represented by moi). Our expert scientist confessed that she didn’t expect so many women to participate so enthusiastically in a course that requires a lot of physical hard labour. She said that over the last few years, she has seen more women in this field. Not only scientists but also volunteers and amateurs.

Maybe because it was all women, but the macho craze about identifying a species FIRST and photographing it BEST as if your life depended on it was largely missing. I recalled one of the experts during a previous camp angrily snatching a camera from a guy and asking him to go back if he thought he was on a photography tour and not on a study trip. The identification race is also counter-productive and I have noticed, it makes the environment competitive rather than inquisitive. I am not saying that only men students do it, but most of them, in my experience, have been men. I observed a distinct difference of approach in this camp and so did our expert.

There is a growing number of conservationists- amateur and experts-who are women. We still see very few on them on field, simply because NGOs do not want to get into logistics of having women volunteers in uncontrolled areas.
I will not take names, but I had quarreled with a very reputable organisation organising tiger count for refusing woman participants, unless she was accompanied by men, or was part of a large group of friends, on safety and logistics grounds. I understand that agencies have little funds and little time. I have also seen in the past that there are many women who are not truly ready to rough it out and who expected organisations to treat them with kid gloves when on site. So yes, it is not easy to include women volunteers for a lot of physically demanding work in challenging living conditions.

All these genuine problems exist, but I there are significant number of women who want to contribute and are ready to work as hard as the guys. I do hope we get mobilized as women who care for nature and want to be part of the active conservation of our natural resources. I am toying with an idea of setting up a women’s group for the same reason. Let us see how it works out with my non-existent networking skills and patience.

Overall, I am not sure if I have identified a topic I want to delve in further, but I know that it is going to be something to do with plant communities.

Lets see…right now I feel like this tree….

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