So you’re 30 and still single, what now?

30+

With the recent shutdown of Mint on Sunday, my column died too. My dream of having a column in a national newspaper about love and relationships was pretty short-lived, but lived nevertheless. Sigh. So I shall continue to publish my works here.

A couple of months ago, I wrote that the average age at which people are starting to look for partners nowadays has gone up significantly and how the lack of liquidity in that market has made it challenging for people to find mates and easily settle down. An overwhelming number of people reached out to me and said #metoo (no pun intended). Most of those emails went, “I am in my 30s and struggling to find a partner, so what’s the solution?” There is no simple answer really. I wish life were straightforward – you install an app, right swipe twice, find your soulmate on day 2, download a child on the same app, outsource its maintenance and live happily ever after. Wait, you knew that already.

What most of you don’t know (or prefer not to acknowledge) is that a part of the reason you are in your 30s and struggling to find a partner is because of you. The other part is the universe not providing enough liquidity, but that’s not something you can do anything about, so let’s talk about things you can do on your own. So, the first thing to do is to figure out why/ how you got here in the first place. Despite each of us having our own little quirks, we are more similar than we think and so, I’ll closely classify us into 3 different types to help explain why we are where we are and how to get ourselves out of the trap –

I want a love marriage types

These are people who have not come to terms with the fact that they are in the arranged marriage market where finding a spouse is anything but serendipitous. You are introduced to a fairly curated list of people that have been double filtered like groundnut oil, and you are not meant to fall in love. But still, these people will diss every prospect in the market because they didn’t feel a “spark”, being fully aware that the process is not designed for sparks, instead it is a fairly regimented process to make a rational (or superficial) decision on who best fits your template for a partner. So, the sooner you start playing by the rules, the faster you will move ahead in the game.

I am still not over my ex types

This is fairly self explanatory. I am reminded of gully cricket, where the first couple of balls a batsman faces are deemed as “trial” and don’t count towards the game. And then what Bangaloreans call “all reals” begins.

In a similar manner, people who get into the arranged marriage market even before they are over their previous relationships pretend like the first few prospects don’t count. The problem is, sometimes you have met the best people you could’ve possibly met early on, and then by the time you have made up your mind to move forward, you have exhausted your supply. So moral of the story – get over your ex quickly and move on, because like most other things in real life, there are no “trials” in the arranged marriage market. It’s all reals from the get go.

Thes ones with daddy issues

These are people who think they have grown up, but actually haven’t. These are people who haven’t thought through what it means to live independently and grow their own family without the oversight of a guardian. They will constantly talk about their parents on a date, or let their parents make all decisions for them even after getting married, sometimes outweigh the wants of a parent over the needs of a partner without realising that the new relationship needs nurturing and their partner needs to be included in all decisions. What is the solution for this you ask? Realising that you suffer from these issues is more than half the job done, so I’d say ask yourself if you really have the confidence to run a house independently.

Obviously, there are nuances to each type and the more you think about them, the more you’ll be able to relate to one or more of these types. The sooner you get yourself out of the shackles of these types, the closer you’ll be to finding a partner. If not, you know where to go.

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Crossing milestones, experiencing new pains

milestones

Every time you embark a new milestone in your life, you feel like you are alone. You feel things you have never felt before, you feel things that no one warned you about and while you are struggling to come to terms with what’s happening with you, someone comes along and tells you that what you are feeling is perfectly normal. For instance, when you loose your first milk tooth and you want to bury yourself in shame, people tell you that everyone goes through this and it’s perfectly normal. I suppose people have good intentions and want to ease your pain, but does that really make you feel better? Perhaps not. May be because you don’t care if it’s normal or not, but you just want the feeling to go away.

As a woman, when you start getting menstrual cramps and you think you won’t survive the day and people dismiss it as normal, it doesn’t help because the pain ain’t going anywhere. When you get married and you are squabbling every day with your partner about unimportant stuff, and people say it’s normal, it doesn’t make you feel better because you are so unhappy deep-down. When you have a child and suddenly no one, including your own husband and parents care about you anymore, and people come and tell you this is normal, it doesn’t make you feel better. Because being deeply unsettled is an unfamiliar feeling and people assuring you that you are supposed to be feeling this lousy is NEVER a good thing.

While the experiences feel strange, sometimes painful while we are in the midst of it, looking back, it begins to feel a lot more familiar. This probably causes people to dismiss the newness and strangeness that freshers are experiencing. If possible, we all would like to play a part in preventing someone from getting hurt, however, we can play a pretty significant role in how people perceive pain/ gain in the way we respond to them when they share their stories. When I say that I feel like a mother more often than I feel like a wife or a daughter, you could either say “Oh come on, that’s natural after having a child!” or you could say “Oh, why’d you say that? Tell me more about what you’re thinking?”

Now, depending on who you are, you might prefer one or another, but I definitely prefer the latter, because it indulges me and allows me to own my experience as my own rather than let every other mother on earth take credit for it.

Immigrant hatred and pining to belong

Being born and raised in Bangalore from pre-IT boom days to now, I have seen Bangalore transform from this chilled out city that everyone thought of fondly to one of the most hated cities in India (more than Delhi even). Everyone has this strange love hate relationship with Bangalore, because it’s supposed to be this cosmopolitan place (thanks to the British) which is a land of opportunities for people all over, but not quite. Until recently, I had only one view of Bangalore – being from the city watching it from the inside, as if everyone was coming in from the outside.

4 years ago, I moved to Barcelona. I found it damn strange that people didn’t speak English. Did that make me angry? A little bit. But I had to get by and I picked up enough Spanish to just live there for two years, not because I was trying to integrate with their culture, just because I wanted to get by easily. To be fair, it was our middle ground since people in Barcelona prefer to speak Catalan, which I had no means of learning easily.

Similarly, when people move to Bangalore, personally, I prefer they speak English (the language I know best) to make it easy for us to interact. I don’t expect them to learn or speak in Kannada, because they probably have no utility for the language unless they are dealing with people who can’t/ won’t speak any other language. When people automatically speak in Hindi, it makes me squirm because my Hindi ain’t great (and I see no utility to improve it) and that conversation is bound to be purely transactional, making us seem like an unfriendly lot.

I am sure a lot of people who have moved to Bangalore in the last 20 years have stories of hatred with my city, and I am truly sorry that you didn’t get the best of my city, and if you think Bangalore deserves to be hated, please hate it because cities that don’t along new people to move in and integrate deserve to be hated. Your experience is that of a handful of incidents, with a small set of people you unfortunately encountered and that might be your story, but that isn’t the story of my city and I shall not stop loving it although a lot has changed since I last checked.

These hate stories are also a testament to us pining to belong someplace, while we miserably do so and decide to blame everything on the city. If that were the case, I could have hated Barcelona instantly. In my early days there, I was robbed and I had to explain everything to the police in Spanish while all I wanted to do was scream and cry in English. It’s not their fault that they didn’t speak English or felt the need to understand me in my own language. I could have thought that they were horrible people and vile, but having travelled extensively, I knew better.

I didn’t really want to belong, so I didn’t mind that I had carefully jotted down everything I had to say and literally just repeated it. I felt no shame, neither did I feel any hatred. I just simply did what I thought would work best. So, sometimes, I just wish we all did that, having fully acknowledged that our place anywhere isn’t as permanent as we think it is.

 

 

Bendekai huLi and being a naughty wife

Mummum

I grew up in a household where what my dad wanted to eat was always more important than what my mum wanted to eat. For most of my child-hood, my mum ate leftovers from dinner for breakfast and so I don’t think it ever mattered what she made for breakfast, as she never ate fresh breakfast. My mum was/ is a very devoted wife. She comes from a world where she believes that satisfying her husbands dietary needs is her duty as a wife. Most of her generation is like that and I don’t think any of them ever questioned it’s premise and validity in a world where women worked just as hard as men outside of home, if not more.

We never appreciated each other in our house very much. We all did things for each other as if it was our duty, and expected nothing in return. Then I got married to Karthik, in whose house people always gave each other feedback on every meal that one cooked. It was strange in the beginning, but I began to appreciate the new tradition until I had a series of “not nice” from Karthik. I realised I was making all this effort to cook and make him happy due to social conditioning. I always only cooked the vegetables he approved of, in combinations and proportions his mother had got him used to. I stopped eating all the vegetables I really liked – bendekai, tondekai, etc. because after all, what the husband wanted to eat was always more important than what a wife wanted.

Then I moved away from home for my MBA for about two years and I could suddenly eat what I wanted, and I didn’t have to ask anyone. Also, I lived with two guys who did most of the cooking at home, even when their girlfriends were visiting. I suddenly saw a world difference in how romantic partnerships worked outside of my society, and I couldn’t help but wonder why we led such illogical lives that were just legacies left by our grandmothers who didn’t have full-timejobs. I couldn’t understand how I’d just dropped everything I wanted to make this partnership work, even thought no one had explicitly asked me to do so.

I would constantly be reminded of an episode from when I was 21. My mum had had a viral arthritis attack, and she was basically bedridden for a few weeks leaving my dad to sub for her in the kitchen. He was used to making lunch on Sundays, but this seemed like quite a lot for him to handle apart from going to office and taking care of my mum. His frustration was obvious sometimes, although he is too nice to say anything out loud, and that would make amma guilty for being ill, which seemed silly.

Although today, my dad gets more involved in the kitchen than amma given that he is retired, I can’t help but feel like my mum had a huge role to play in terms of not involving my dad equally in running the household early on. My ajji (the mother-in-law) might have played a role in setting expectations around what is to eaten at home/ what not, but I had no such pressures in my marriage. Everything was self-inflicted, may be due to social conditioning, or sheer stupidity, but ever since I have had a chance to re-live my life away from home, I have become a very naughty wife.

While I love to feed the family, I bail the moment I smell lack of gratitude for the efforts I make beyond what is fair in this relationship. I make sure I am always fair to myself, and have no regrets around how I treat myself in a relationship. This grossly scribbles all over the template of a wife my society has drawn for me, but I am living exactly how I want to. That’s precisely why after being criticised by the husband about my cooking 3 times in a row, I decided to make bendekai huli (picture above) for the 1st time in 7.5 years of my marriage because I love bendekai huli (and the husband hates it!). Berry and I absolutely enjoyed our meal, while the husband went out and ate Sushi at a nearby restaurant. So, I guess that was a win-win situation for all of us?

Berry might grow up to either endorse/ rubbish my way of living, but it’s for her to figure out how she wants to lead her life, I am by no means trying to set any examples.

 

What kind of fighter am I

The best part about Marriage Broker Auntie for me is the stories I have the privilege to listen to, personal thoughts that I am privy to, and sometimes, if I am lucky, I get to stir up a poet in some hopeless romantic. This one is called “What kind of a fighter am I”, which was written by someone in response to me saying that fighting is an inevitable part of every relationship and so, it’s important to be aware of what kind of fighters we are. I read it, and I loved it. It’s simple, yet says so much without really saying much.

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I think I am a fighter whose prime premise is that the other person is rational too and that a logical argument should win. I admit, this is not always true in a fight that involves relationships. 

I like to be sarcastic in fights and have often tipped over a fight to serious just because I used words which I shouldn’t have. 

I feel the physical bits, like making food, putting a blanket on her while she’s asleep etc shouldn’t stop just because we are fighting. 

I feel super hurt for no reason and expect the other person to go to great lengths to make up. 

If fights could have a intended decision at the end of it, that’s great. If its a passive aggressive tension in the air kind of fight, that’s scary. 

Fights shouldn’t interfere with work or the broader family or how we are with friends.

Both of us should have the ability to push a fight to later so as to not spoil a special event, planned outing, milestone etc. 

Letters to my Berry#18

cooling glassI can’t help but comment on my lateness at the start of every letter to you, giving you the impression that I really need to be more disciplined in my life. May be I do, but if I haven’t already, I want to give you some context. I juggle several different things like a demanding full-time job at Amazon, running Marriage Broker Auntie, my side matrimonial advisory gig, running a household, looking after you (where I am supported equally if not more by appa, and thank god for that!) and trying to keep you connected with the rest of your family across the world. So, I hope you’ll cut me some slack, whenever you are old enough to read this, which might be soon given the pace at which you are going.

This month has been quite an eventful month with us moving house, you being sick and all that, but you have been so cooperative, that I can’t think you enough for your patience. You might think it’s strange that I am thanking you, but sometimes kids can be damn exhausting to deal with and you have been good, and so this deserves some appreciation. You are just about getting used to your new house having been here for almost a week now, but in the beginning you woke up every morning crying, running around the house wondering where you’ve come and all that. there are more changes to come in the next couple of months with you going to India for a month, moving to a new nursery after, etc., and I hope we get through it in one piece.

In the last couple of weeks, as we visited a few nurseries in the area, I feel we are a minority as appa and I don’t seem to have thought much about what schools you should go to – if it should be a Montessori or not. I know that personalities are forged pretty early on and our environments have a huge role to play, but it seems ludicrous that one needs to think about all of this when their child is 18 months old! I suddenly feel very underprepared for all this, but given that I always see how best to wing it, I might just manage this one too.

Apparently most parents nowadays, prefer that their child’s learning foundation be laid right and so, they like kids to start school late. I don’t even know what that means. I think the only choice one has to make in life is whether to be a part of the system or whether to escape it. Once you have decided to go through the regiment, you are better off getting ahead of the game rather than simply playing by the rules. So, if you are two and you can do 2 digit addition, you should find a way to nurture your abilities rather than wait 4 years till everyone else catches up.

I have obviously mentioned that you can say your numbers, but now you can even show off with it. Whenever I mention to anyone that you can say 1-10, you immediately begin reciting, making us very proud. In fact, you can even show the numbers on your fingers now, which is commendable. We were visiting nurseries close to home yesterday and when we were taken to the topmost floor with the pre-school class that is about to join Reception, you found some number blocks. When asked to recognise some of the numbers, you immediately did, like a pro. This is all too exciting to watch you learn everything, but by no means does this mean that we want you to go study Math at Princeton. Hahaha.

You have this really cool ability to suddenly switch from singing ABCD to Twinkle Twinkle. I think you have always had a flair for music, given that you sing sa ri ga ma with taLa and all. You love dancing too, as any peppy music gets you to get grooving. You are always singing something with your own lyrics that no one can really understand. We can only catch a few words here and there, but as far as I have noticed, you can understand and speak in both English and Kannada. We consciously talk to you in Kannada at home, and thankfully. that’s had some influence over you, which is great, especially when we go back home in May as you can communicate well with everyone you meet.

Also, in preparation for going home, we bought you some fancy clothes along with sun glasses for the summer in India, and may I say, you are addicted to your kannadi. You love showing off by wearing it everywhere. You will make thatha proud, which you already do by religiously reciting every number, alphabet and animal sound you know. You also love jumping up and down on the bed now, guess thanks to Peppa pig who has showed you how to jump up and down (in muddy puddles!). Not just that, you have been a major climber this month, not only tires us to no end, but makes our lives more fun. Berry climingIt is also quite evident this month that you are very very attached to appa, probably because you spend thursdays with him now when he takes you to the park and does fun things with you outdoors, which you are a big fan of. You both are very similar in terms of wanting to go out always, picking out kadlekai from your chitranna, etc. He calls you a mini-me. It’s quite cute how you keep screaming “Ka-ha” and trying to find every excuse to hang out with him, which he absolutely loves but also gets bugged by sometimes. He thinks I manipulate you to seek him out and he fights with me about it. You get so upset about us fighting, and try to calm us down by crying yourself or coming to give one of us a hug or a kiss. Despite everything we do to scare you (unintentionally!), you are so forgiving and the very next minute, you come give us a hug or one of your infectious smiles, and it totally melts our hearts.

One day, you gave us a silly smile and we happened to say you look like “Paapalakshmi”, your ajji’s cousin and ever since, whenever we ask you to make “Paapalakshmi face”, you give us that same silly smile. You can also recognise people you speak to regularly on FaceTime, you keep chanting their names – Ajji, thatha, Barbie, Avva, Addu, Avani and you know when the phone is ringing, it’s one of them you are about to speak to and so you run towards the phone. By run, I mean run. You have also picked up new life skills like brushing your teeth well (although you have been brushing for some time now!).

I am always amazed as to how you are learning so many new things at once, and that’s the bit I love about being with you on this journey apart from being showered with kisses/ hugs randomly. You know, I could go on about everything you have learnt over the last one month, but I’ll stop for now and save the rest for next month.

Happy vonendoff Berrima!

 

 

 

Letters to my Berry#17

IMG_9213Warning: This is going to be a very disjoint letter with a random collection of thoughts coming together in a random order as we have all had a very tiring day trekking King Henry’s mound in Richmond Park. So, please bear with the incoeherence.

You’ve turned 17 months and are running 1.5 years now. It’s crazy how quickly time has flown. You are the oldest in your play group at the nursery and you’ll soon move out to the next level in a month or two. You can eat on your own with forks, spoon and chopsticks. You can take off your jacket all by yourself. You are pretty self sufficient in most of your day-to-day things, which is very impressive especially because your appa and I have had such an insignificant part to play in it. All thanks to your nursery and your carers.

This month I realised that you have some strange fascination for veils, blankets, throws and other flows things. Every morning, when I am making the bed, you come running to go under the blanket as I sway it in the air. I realised this comes from the veils used by your music and movements teacher in the nursery, whose class you enjoy so much. So the other day, you found this stole of mine and kept playing with it. I decided to wind it up around you like a sari and you seemed to fascinated to have a tail like pally hanging behind you. This is probably one of those rare moments when you’ve let me put a clip on your hair and take a photo, else you usually pull off hair clips the moment I put them on. Anyway, you got so mad when I took the veil off after this picture.

You are a bit short-tempered, you express displeasure pretty quickly, although it is very rare. Couple of weekends ago, we took you to the park and let you play there for about an hour after we which we tried to put you in your stroller, and you got so angry. You clearly seemed very pissed, and we could tell by your face. Of course you got over it pretty quickly as we wheeled you by the duck pond and you’d forgotten all about the swing and the slide by then. It’s funny how these things come to us so young.

Talking about things that we are pretty good at early on in life, is pattern recognition. We were in the tube one morning on the way to work (and nursery), and you suddenly screamed “Cece” (Cece is a girl in your nursery, who has some Vietnamese heritage). I looked around to see who you saw and it was a woman, who looked East Asian. When I was young, I thought all men with Mongoloid features were called Danny, thanks to Danny Denzongpa.

Although it gets misconstrued as cultural insensitivity as we grow up, I would say it’s some fantastic pattern recognition. Think about google photos, it uses the same concept to classify photos. Just like how with more data, google learns better about differentiating between baby photos of you and your cousin as being different individuals, we learn better with more exposure.

For a brief period this month, we had moved the sofa close to the book shelf, so you learnt to climb up to help yourself to some krishnamurthies (jumping jacks). You pulled apart all of them and even tried to eat some of them. You found a few pens and books, so you happily scribbled away to glory. You also learnt that you can jump from the arm of the sofa onto the sofa and so you kept saying “deddy deddy wow” (ready steady go) and jumping till we decided to save ourselves some anxiety of you rolling over and moved the sofa away from the book shelf.

You are also now beginning to watch our lip movements very closely so you can imitate some of the words and sounds we teach you. The number of animal sounds you can make is growing in scope. You haven’t gone beyond 10 in numbers, you say ABCD until around P, but just start clapping immediately after. I’ve mentioned several times before that you have some strong connection with music, so it’s not surprising that you can sing sa ri ga ma with such great melody. It would be great if you want to learn more and pursue music more professionally at some point (ok, I am acting like a tiger mother now).

Not only sounds, you even imitate actions. When I do yoga sometimes, you come lie next to me and try to imitate my moves, and pretty well that too. You want to do everything we do. If we are on our computers, you want to be on it too. If we are putting stuff into the dishwasher, you want to play a part too. If we are hanging clothes, you are daddy’s little helper and so on. I am so going to miss all this as you grow up because the older we grow the less like our parents we want to act. No?

When you woke up this morning, you were hungry and asked for milk. I passed the bottle that was next to me, but the milk was cold. You wanted it warmed up, so you said “bisi” (which means hot in kannada) and I said “drink it as it is if you want or leave”, because I was still sleepy and was in no mood to get off the bed to warm up your milk. And to that you said “No! No! No! and murmured something babbles that sounded like get your ass of the bed and go heat my milk” and so, I did. You are fairly manipulative you know? I think kids are designed that way, and hence, we return the favour when you grow up. Haha.

Ever since we came back from India, I always worried that you’d be very sad to not have too many people around you, but you make up for it by being quite friendly with random strangers here. You also absolutely love speaking to people back home on FaceTime, and so you keep wanting me to call your ajji thatha Barbie and avva. When I don’t do that often enough, you pick your toy phone and make pretend conversation with them anyway. It makes me wonder if you are too Indian to live here in the UK. It makes me miss home. So, guess what, we’ll be going there soon, so you can meet everyone again. Whee!