Being an auntiepreneur

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I found this picture on Twitter and I thought it does a pretty good job of illustrating my life – I am a proud Auntiepreneur. Also, I prefer auntie with “ie” rather than y.

It’s been 6 months since I chose my high life of passion over pay check, and it’s been great. Not great in the sense of “I’ve this billion dollar idea that I am working on that’s about to go live in 3 days and will be a unicorn in 3 months”. But great in many other ways.

I love that the sun rises every morning.

Apart from the fact that I now have a desk facing the sun rise, I love waking up to each day. I have never felt lousy about waking up, the way I would sometimes feel while I was employed. I don’t know what it is about being an entrepreneur, I am now like a sponge that absorbs every piece of feedback, comment or criticism like I never did before. I could almost never buy into the “I am advising you for your own good” bourgeois from any of my managers. May be I was a terrible employee, may be I had trust issues or may be I was never interested but I’d much rather hear it from a customer than someone who speaks for themselves in a business.

Mistakes aren’t exactly costly.

When I started four months ago, I picked up from where I’d left off back in 2016 when I ran M.B.A full-time for 6 months during my maternity leave. Over the last six months, I’ve let epiphanies from conversations with customers add new services. I don’t need documents or approvals to turn ideas into reality. I am all the stakeholders rolled up into one. I am the business person, I am the customer service, I am the ops person, I am the tech person and I am the janitor. If my ideas don’t work, I’ll clean up my mess and move on. With my current burn rate, mistakes aren’t costly. And I can’t tell you what a lovely feeling it is. Sure it might be a phase because its such early days but I want to cherish every bit of it.

I don’t have to pretend to care anymore.

I understand how large organisations work because I’ve almost always only worked in such places. You need to make sure your employees are accountable, and so you have control mechanisms in place to ensure you are getting your money’s worth. Nothing wrong with this, except to be a part of a system like that felt extremely claustrophobic. Nothing you ever do is enough. So, sometimes you find yourself pretending to care more than you actually do because you want people to know you’re doing enough. The system thrives on such feedback, and frankly, I needed a break from that. Being on my own means I am the only one judging me, and the best/ worst part is that I can’t even pretend. So, the nagging feeling of not being good enough just never goes away. But for once, it doesn’t bother me.

Money matters more.

With a pay check, you have your sense of self-worth about once a month when you get a message from your bank when your salary gets credited. Through the month, you take money for granted. Now, every buck matters. I am currently building a cashflow business, and so every buck I make adds to my self worth. I make far lesser than I did in my recent job, but the money I make now makes me feel so much better. There is a lot of randomness and uncertainty too, and sometimes effort isn’t rewarded, just as in a job, but when it is rewarded, it is that much sweeter. Ideally, I’d want to work less and make more, but I’ll get there, someday. 😉

Grass is greener on the other side.

When I was employed, I constantly didn’t want to be anymore. I wanted to break out of the system and be on my own. Now that I am, there are of course moments when I wonder if I should get back. Not as often of course, but I do have my moments. Sometimes, I wish I could just go on a 15 day vacation and still pretend like my professional life is in order. The daily existential crisis about what the heck I am doing with my life is sometimes a little bit tiring. I know it’s a phase, and it shall pass, but I’m just saying that while the freedom of being on my own is great, it comes with its own challenges too. Of course you know that, but I’m merely owning up to it.

This blogpost is an attempt to capture my thoughts 6 months into being on my own in case I become too famous one day and I am quizzed about the initial days. Or just to remind myself that I at least tried in case I abandon everything and go back to a job in a few months/ years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letters to my Berry#29

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Until you were two, I wrote every month. Then for a year, I wrote every quarter. Now that you are 3, I don’t quite know how often I can write but I think I am going to try and do once a quarter again because I am afraid I’ll forget a lot of things if I do it any less often. So, here’s one for turning 3.25 on Sunday.

Where does shadow live, Amma?

We were walking back from the gym yesterday, and you were awfully quiet. You didn’t ask to go to the park on the way. We walked quietly hand in hand under the neon orange street lights. Just when we were walking into our gate, you asked “Where does shadow live, Amma?”

P: Umm..It lives with you, Berry.

B: Is it a girl, mamma?

P: Yes. Your shadow is a girl.

B: Does it live in London?

P: No, it lives here. With you.

This morning, on the drive to school, we chatted some more about shadows – what they are, where they come from and so on.


Ever since you turned 3, you’ve suddenly transitioned from asking what is that and what is this to “Why”. So, we call you the Why why girl, just like the one in your book. Asking why, being curious is great. I hope I’ll always be able to answer you or find you the resources to help find the answer yourself. You now have an ability to connect seemingly unconnected things to reason. This one time, you were looking for your “nightie” and then discovered that I’d left it in your gramma’s house. So you called gramma, and yelled at her for taking your nightie to her house. Next day, when you called gramma, she didn’t talk much with you. For no particular reason, really. You started wondering if she was still upset with you for shouting at her. At that moment, I knew we were onto something new.

While all is well with being able to connect seemingly unconnected things, I think your ability to see patterns has also been unhelpful. For instance, you’ve noticed that the girls in your class wear a lot of pink, orange, white and yellow, so you call them “girl colours” and the boys wear black, blue and brown and hence, they are “boy colours”. I’ve tried so hard to explain to you that colour has no gender, but in vain. Maybe this is similar to how I feel all cats are female. I know they are not, but that’s just the way I “feel”. I think feelings are usually irrational, it’s hard to really know why we feel the way we feel. So, I just hope you learn better, irrespective of how you feel. I don’t want to impose my views of gender on you, and I want to let you form your views on these things but I am trying (to some extent) to facilitate learning, mostly in vain.

Thanks to your pattern recognition and stereotyping, you believed that mummies can’t drive. Only daddies have to drive. I’ve known how to drive for the last 14 years, but I haven’t driven much, atleast not in the last 10 years. I felt like I’d almost never ever drive in my life and the more I thought about it, the less confident I felt about driving. I don’t know if I wanted to shake up your idea of who can drive and who can’t, or prove to myself, I started driving one day after Dasara. And guess what, I can drive now, all in a matter of a month. I drive you to school sometimes, take you to ajji mane, go out for dinners with you, and what not.

So, my little friend, anyone can do anything. You don’t need to be a mummy or a daddy to do anything in the world. Just remember that.

The upside of you wanting to be “girly” is that going to weddings or other family functions has been an absolute breeze. You get ready before anyone else does. You pick out all your clothes day, may be even months in advance. You even have your own name for Indian ethnic wear – “Punjami”, and I’ll tell you where this came from. We were supposed to go Appa’s friend Anuroop’s wedding in Punjab, and we’d been talking about it for months. So, you’d been excited to go to this “Punjami” wedding for the longest time, and hence, everything about weddings started becoming “Punjami” for you.

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The highlight of this quarter had to be “Nikhil’s mama wedding”. You were quite little when Shreya mama got married last year, and so Nikhil mama’s wedding was a big deal for you. You picked out all your outfits, and in fact, you even got one custom made according to your own design. Yes, you designed a “cold shoulder” dress for you.  You told the tailor that you want open here and closed there, and the tailor asked if you mean cold shoulder, and that was the beginning of your designing career. You also wanted “dappattas” for all your Punjami clothes.

You want to wear matching shoes, bangles, jewellery and bindi. You even put on your own make up. And do not even get me started on the number of times you change your clothes in a day. I pretty much spend all my afternoons folding your clothes. I’ve even tried to get you interested in folding, but you don’t see it as something that needs your attention. You’d much rather encourage me to do it. See, these are things I never understood, mostly because I’ve never cared about these things in my life, but I am appreciative of these being important to you. Hence, we’ve hung a mirror for you in the balcony garden, and are also getting you a new dressing table just so you can stand there and stare for hours, so we can get some time off in the afternoons. 🙂

You go to school full day (8:30-2). Obviously these are much shorter hours than your nursery back in London, but since you are expected to “work” in school, I am sure it’s far more tiring. You are learning to cut paper, stitch, polish wood, do the dishes, dust things, make snack, etc. to help develop strong motor skills. You are also learning to read, write and speak 3 languages – Kannada, Hindi and English, as a result of which you aren’t quite able to speak any language fully well. While your Kannada has improved quite a lot, your English has deteriorated quite a bit. Sigh. You feel quite shy to speak in Hindi outside of school, because you don’t have anyone to practice it with, but I am sure you’ll learn enough to save your life, and that’s alright with me.

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Earlier, you had atleast 30mins of playtime in school everyday, but now that’s reduced I think since you guys aren’t taken to the park. In general, you love running around and being physically active. You go to Little gym once a week, and have learnt many gymnastic tricks. You really enjoy those classes and hence, we are planning to keep at it till you get bored. You even come to our gym with us 3-4 times a week. You love all the coaches in our gym and get along with them so much that they wait for you to come by everyday. You are like baton exchange for appa and me as we do consecutive classes at the gym. You love doing dead hangs at our gym and also doing jumping jacks during the warm up. Arvind purposely makes everyone start with jumping jacks on the days you come. You also love riding your scooter at home. I can’t remember the number of times you’ve fallen off it but it never bothers you. You can even ride your cycle quite well, with trainer wheels on. I plan to take off one trainer wheel soon, so let’s see.

Apart from this, you’ve been asking for a baby car and a baby computer for the longest time. There’s a baby toy shop near your school and when we pass by the store every day, you are reminded of it. We told you that we don’t have money to buy you that since you don’t let us do our work at home. But the truth is, there isn’t much place for you to drive the car at home. We are also trying to teach you the concept of how you make money. You work, you earn. Sometimes you get money without working – on birthdays, as dakshine, etc. and so you think that’s how you can get money and you don’t have to bother working. When we once showed you a picture of Warren Buffet and told you that he is one of the richest people in the world, you weren’t a least bit amazed. You said he has money, you have money and everybody in the world has money except appa and me. Fair enough.

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We usually buy you almost anything and everything you ask for, and much more. You get a lot of presents from ajji and thatha as well. But sometimes it doesn’t make much sense to give you so many things because you hardly play with them after. It would be so nice to be a part of some circular economy where toys could be shared and you constantly played with new things and gave away things you no longer used to someone who could use it. The problem however is with the giving away bit – just when we want to give away something, you cry so much and make us guilty of taking away your things. The picture up there is definitely one of those rare moments when you were playing by yourself. This is one of your favourite games – doing a picnic and having tea with your friends.

Oh yes, that’s a new thing you’ve started since you turned 3 – Crying. Urrgh, it is so annoying because you are a child who communicates so well, and have little reason to cry. We have no idea where you picked up the need for this sort of a drama. I don’t know if you are going through some sort of a mental growth spurt that is leaving you feeling frustrated, but you cry. You cry for the silliest of things. We don’t quite know how to deal with it sometimes because you’ve almost never cried needlessly until you turned 3. You have helped maintain our tolerance levels so low that every time you throw a fit now, we end up losing our shit – appa more often than me. That’s when you get very upset with appa and keep telling him that he’s not very nice and you don’t like him very much. You raise your finger and shout at him when he gets impatient with you, and right now, it’s damn adorable.

You are a little bit bossy like that. Bossy might be the wrong word, but you usually know how to get your way around, and you do so like an adult with words. You have very strong managerial skills, mostly because you’re damn lazy and if you can find an easier way of doing things, you’ll do it. You know how to get everyone to do your work quite well as you appreciate people for their efforts and thank them making them forget that they’re doing your work. We sometimes worry you might be a bit too lazy, hence, we thought we should start putting you in some sort of classes so you learn to endure things for longer than your attention span can handle.

We started music lessons for you. Nothing too serious, but Mads, my friend, comes home to teach you music – singing and playing the keyboard. You really enjoy your time with her. You hang out with her for 45mins or so once in a while, and it’s amazing to see you being interested in something. You like playing the keyboard more than singing songs. You prefer making up songs. You love dancing too, you knew that. So I am planning to take you for some dancing lessons just to help explore your interest in it.

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No, I am not trying to be a tiger parent. I am just trying to offload some guilt of being so overly self-obsessed. As you know, I quit my full time job to work on my own business idea. This has meant that I am constantly thinking about how to build my business, much more than I ever did when I was working for someone else. So, I don’t think I am spending quality time with you, unlike before. I try to find ways to keep you engaged while I can’t do it myself. There are moments when I realize this, and I try to sit down and read with you. I’ve got so many books for you in the last couple of months because you enjoy the time we spend reading together, and it motivates me to sit with you and not think about anything else.

 

This break also allowed me to re-start celebrating Dasara. We arranged all the dolls together, I told you stories of all the dolls and we invited your friends to come see the dolls. You enjoyed having so many guests at home during the 10 days of Dasara. In general, you love socialising, and that means, we don’t need to take care of you at all when guests come over. You were such a doll yourself, taking such good care of the doll display and never ever disrupting the setup. The reason however was because they were all my dolls, and hence, you didn’t want to do anything with them. You made so many new friends during this time, and also got to meet some old friends. You continue to meet and play with some of them – Bhargav, for instance.

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Your ability to observe the most random things, and remember them so fondly is a gift. You remember Manti and the way she spoke to you, you remember so many things about London, you remember people you’ve only met once and remember everything they did/ said, it’s crazy. But it’s selective memory.  May be that’s why it’s been so hard for you to get over London. You keep wanting to go back ever so often. I think I’ve felt more guilty about relocating you in the last 3 months than I did in the beginning. You prefer that people speak less, they are gentle, etc. which was a big part of your surroundings in London, and it’s just the opposite here in India. I get that, but I think there are parts of India you love – all the people you get to meet and talk to, the festivals, the Punjami things, etc. Unfortunately, I can’t take you back, not right away at least. So, I’ll let you grow up and decide for yourself where you prefer to be, and I am okay with wherever you want to be.

I don’t know if its because you meet so many people, you’ve managed to learn the concept of names. This is something you hadn’t figured for the longest time. You didn’t think cats and dogs could have names although you have a bhatta and a ganapathi in your life. It’s only when you decided to name your baby doll “Avyath”, we realised you understand names. Avyath is your baby, and I am still not a 100% sure if Avyath is a boy or a girl, but Avyath comes with you for all weddings. There is also the mamma monkey “Madrath” and the horse, “baby betty” and a “brother monkey”. But then again, you think all cars are Ubers. I’ve tried explaining to you about platforms, but in vain. But hopefully we’ll get there soon.

You’ve also had the chance to go to a few birthday parties in school in the last quarter, and clearly you love them. You enjoy playing “mamma, papa, baby” with your friends Avya, Advika and Milan. You love some of the older kids in your class who baby you around. You are less generous with smaller babies, except Veda may be who is a year younger than you but you guys get along so great. You also have imaginary siblings – Billy and Molly who are in your belly. You always pick out things for them and want to keep aside some of your smaller clothes for them.

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You have started showing an inclination to understand concepts. We’ve successfully thought you addition using an abacus. Just one digit for now, but we find that you get quite interested and bored equally quickly, so we haven’t made too much progress. You can do jigsaw puzzles upto 20-30 pieces yourself. We haven’t tried bigger ones yet to figure out if you can do them or not. You really love building different shapes with blocks. We’ve been noticing this for quite sometime. You also love playing with your doctor set and keep wanting to become a doctor. This time when Barbie and Nakul visited, you had fun playing doctor with Barbie. Your favourite things to do as a doctor is to check temperature, knock people with the hammer, giving injection and putting a plaster. You are obsessed with plasters. You randomly keeping wanting to put a plaster always. And you love drinking disgusting tasting syrups.

I don’t know if it’s just playing with the doctor set, but I think you are generally very compassionate and kind. You sometimes appreciate it when I drive “faster like appa” by saying things like “Amma, I am so proud of you for driving faster”. You are very observant, and you appreciate anyone who dresses up well and looks nice. You are so kind to ajji, and give her suggestions on how to wear her bangles. Your friend Bhargav loves animals, and you’ve observed that. So you want to take presents for him that you think he might enjoy and that’s so thoughtful of you.

You generally give people a cuddle if you see that they’re upset. You tell them that everything’s going to be alright. In fact, if we ever shout at you, you immediately run up to us and ask us for a cuddle. Off late, I’ve been noticing that you are starting to develop these feelings of abandonment where you worry a lot that we’ll leave you and go somewhere. So you constantly need assurance from people that they will wait for you and not leave you. I am yet to get to the bottom of it, hopefully I’ll have more to say in the next letter to you. Now now, this one has already gotten way too long for anyone’s attention, let alone yours…so I better go.

Happy 3.25, love!

P.S – I forgot to mention one thing – You can make your own snacks and breakfast sometimes. Here’s a picture for a proof.

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“But it talks like a boy. But why does it talk like a boy”

Nava

I am going to watch a play later this evening. It’s called “Nava” and it stands for the 9 emotions experienced by humans. I like watching plays. Ever since I moved back to Bangalore, I have this ritual on the 1st of every month when I fill out my planner with events for the rest of the month. I open up the Rangashankara website, and look for plays that seem interesting and put it on my calendar. Usually it’s one or two plays at the most because I only like to go watch Kannada plays that have either a good story or is expected to have good production. I go alone and watch these plays. It initially happened out of necessity because Rangashankara doesn’t allow kids under 8 for most plays and looking for ad-hoc babysitting options isn’t straightforward for us. But now, I think I prefer to go alone. It feels like my thing.

The thing about “Nava” that caught my attention is that it is a play that is being produced by the Aravani Art Project. The actors are all transgender people who are using the stage to share their stories. I have never interacted with transgender people, but I’ve always been curious. I’ve usually felt scared to interact with them just like how I feel around birds. I feel overwhelmed when they flap their wings too hard and when I don’t know where they might fly to. The pace of it makes me feel disoriented. I feel the same way when I’ve been confronted by transgender people at traffic signals or at religious ceremonies. The uncertainty of what they might do scares me. I don’t look them in the eye in the hope that they might go away.

But I think what I really want gone is not them, but how I feel when I see them.


The other day, when we were huddled up in the car at a signal, with our windows rolled up, my 3 year old daughter pointed to the car in front and said “Look, there’s a hijra.” I was surprised to hear her say that because 1. I didn’t know she knew. 2. She obviously saw a pattern that helped her recognise. I didn’t say anything to her, but I felt uncomfortable. I don’t know if it was the word, or the fact that my daughter saw a pattern that I didn’t want her to see. Anyway, our car moved, and we forgot all about it.


Another day, we are at a traffic signal again. An old lady came and knocked on our window, and my daughter said “Look, there’s a hijra.” Strangely, I felt very relieved. Her idea of a hijra was different from the one I was afraid she thought. I said, “No, that’s not a hijra, it’s a beggar.” Being the Why why girl that my 3 yo is, she asked “What’s a beggar?” I said, “People who ask you for money”.


We were at a traffic signal yet again, and looking at a few transgender people, Berry said, “Look, there’s a beggar”. And then she asked, “Why do they ask for money?” “They don’t do work and get money?” I said, “Sometimes, some people don’t have money and so they ask other people for help”. I felt less scared. I also wished I could take Berry along with me to the play tonight because I want her to see that no matter how disadvantaged some people are, they try their very best to work and earn an honest living just like anybody else.


Yesterday, we were sitting and folding clothes. She said “When it’s a boy, we say he or him, and when it’s a girl, we say she or her”. She’s been practising this for a few days now because she always mix them up before that. I said, “That’s great, Berry. We should learn some more. When there’s more than one person, you say “they”. If it’s a table or a chair or a lamp, then you say “it”.” She didn’t repeat after me, so I assumed it was too complex for her to process, so I let it go.

An hour later, I was watching a video on Youtube about the Aravani Art Project in preparation for the play I am going to watch tonight. The video featured a few transgender people talk about their experience being a part of the art project. My first thought was that they seemed so “normal” unlike the ones I’d previously been scared of.    In London, transgender people were almost always “normal”, they lived like me, they took the train like me, no one seemed to notice them or stare at them as being abnormal except me maybe. I think we are so conditioned to feel like they are not “normal” or that they are different from the rest of us. I was still coming to grips with how I felt watching this video about transgender people doing “normal” things like us right here in Bangalore, when Berry started giggling:

She said “Look at that, it’s so funny. It’s talking like a boy.”

I said, “Who it?”

She said “That it”.

I said, “That’s not it. That’s a girl. Look at her long hair.”

She said, “But it talks like a boy. But why does it talk like a boy”.

I said, “Should you say “he” then?”

She wasn’t convinced. She wouldn’t let go of the it.

I said, “Sometimes, people can be a boy or a girl or anything they want to be.”

I wasn’t convinced. I didn’t know enough to say any better. I came to my desk and googled for books on gender diversity, events on gender diversity for children. I am still researching, I haven’t found anything compelling yet. But I do know one thing – I don’t want Berry to be scared. I don’t want her to build these walls around herself about gender, colour, or anything that we seem to have made a big deal of.

I am not entirely certain I fully comprehend gender fluidity myself, and so may be I am hoping I get to learn with her. Now, I don’t even know what my views on this topic are. My theory is that, we probably started not knowing the difference, and over time used patterns to concoct these classifications that may represent a general population but unfortunately misses out on a lot of detail. Given that we are a generation that is more interested in detail, thanks to the vastness of the internet, we are starting to uncover the details that make us. It is this detail that I am hoping to uncover and learn with Berry, so that she can see her own patterns instead of the ones that we can’t seem to break.

For starters, I read Berry this book.But I continue to research on ways to expose Berry to the details of gender, colour and everything else where we’ve only seen the dominant patterns of till date. I want to continue to engage her in conversation about things she finds “funny” because they don’t comply with ideas we already know. So, if you have recommendations on books to read or things to do on this front, I’d be glad to hear.


P.S. – Although I am looking forward to tonight’s play, I am scared that I am likely to feel like an outsider rather than see it as a story that could be mine too. Anyway, fingers crossed.

 

Kissing behind a tree

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I have a binge watching problem, I admit. But we’ll get to that another time. I generally avoid watching sitcoms, simply because you end up wasting a lot of time on them unlike a movie. While a movie goes on for about 2-3 hours at the most, shows are usually at least 8-9 hours long. I recently indulged in one that was 26 hours long. Sigh.

This show is called Rishta.com. It’s about a marriage bureau, so I could justify it as research for my work as well. Well, that does make me less guilty now. Anyway, it’s about two friends, a girl, Isha Mirchandani, and a boy, Rohan Mehra, who run a marriage bureau based in Bombay. Each episode is about a different case, a different type of client and how these guys manage to find them a perfect match. Each episode is also about Rohan meeting a new girl, somewhere in a bar and how he flirts with her. Through-out the show, Isha is shown as a girl who is mostly asexual who barely even reciprocates occasional flirting. Her widowed father on the other hand has a girlfriend. So, relatively speaking, through-out the show, Isha appears like an old lady with a cat.

Now, it’s easy for someone to predict that the two protagonists will end up falling in love. But each and every episodes beats that doubt out of your mind. Isha and Rohan even seem like siblings at some point because of how much they tease and bug each other. Towards the last few episodes, Isha starts getting really close to another co-worker, and so stop worrying too much about Isha and Rohan ever ending up together. And just in the last 5min of the last episode of the show, they end up bringing Isha and Rohan together as romantic partners.

You know what the best part was? Ok, actually there were two great things about the show:

  1. There was a massive build up without really making you feel like you know where the show is headed
  2. In the last scene, which is rather blurred, they show the two kissing behind a pole. Meaning, the intention is clear, but not the scene.

This made me realize how rare subtlety is these days. I miss the days when kissing scenes happened behind a tree or a rose or a blurry screen. I would like to leave a few things to my imagination. Sure it’s obvious, but I’d rather imagine it than see it. Something about seeing it makes it utterly unsatisfying.

I remember the first Indian movie where I saw an explicit kissing scene on screen was Hassena maan jayegi. I was so overwhelmed by such explicit portrayal of the kiss. By the time I saw this in the next movie, Jab we met, I was done. I didn’t want to see any kissing scenes in Indian movies or TV shows. Well, actually, I don’t want to see it on non-Indian ones either, but such explicit display of affection is such a big part of some cultures, you don’t feel strange. Now, I am not saying I don’t support Indian culture heading in this direction, but given that I have not known this to be a part of Indian culture so far, I am just not conditioned to receive it well.

Ok wait, may be it’s not even the cultural aspect of it, I think it’s more to do with what turns one on. Explicit display of affection doesn’t give me butterflies in my belly. It feels like eating a large bowl of curd rice, that too without thadka. I prefer that some things be unsaid or not explained. Call me an auntie (which I am btw), but I’d much rather watch a movie with a sexual undertone than a movie with explicit scenes. Curious what kids these days enjoy. By kids, I mean < 20 year olds. If you are one of them, tell me what you think.

This day, a decade ago.

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and indoorThis day, a decade ago, I met Karthik for the very first time. I wouldn’t have met him, if he hadn’t suggested or insisted. I was perfectly happy seeing his name pop up on talk, and I could live with that for the rest of my life. He was my online friend, and I was apparently his stalker. He loves telling everyone that. Now, in about 10 years, I’ve made my peace with his version of it. Anyway, I think I should set the record straight by trying to recollect my version of the story here. Just in case.

Someday in 2005 (maybe!), I was loitering around Orkut, the social networking predecessor to Facebook. I happened to chance upon a certain Manu Bharadwaj’s Orkut profile. Manu, is my first cousin’s second cousin. I had happened to inherit Manu’s ABC Chemistry textbook when I’d borrowed books from my cousin while I was in 11th grade. I knew this because Manu had written his name on the first page. Now, that’s all I knew about Manu until this point. So, obviously, I was thrilled to discover that this Manu Bharadwaj was an actual person. In his about me, I found a link to his website which was something to do with his engineering project or some such thing. On the left sidebar, I saw a list of live journal links he follows, and I started exploring them.

They were all blogs. Until this point, I didn’t even know what a blog was. I lurked around “Churmuri” and “Pertinent Observations”, which were the top two links on Manu’s website. I was absolutely fascinated by the idea of someone sharing their thoughts with public, and letting random people comment on them. I used to be an avid journal keeper, but it would mostly include my rants about being yelled at by my mum or fights with my sister. But I wondered what it would be like to have a blog of my own. So, inspired by “Pertinent Observations”, I started a blog. My first post, which I can’t remember what it was about anymore was a load of rubbish, but I was too thrilled to care.

I continued to read more of “Pertinent Observations”, and somehow found my way to Karthik’s Orkut profile. He looked like a massive uncle in his DP, and I couldn’t quite relate his writing to his face. His writing was so outright, funny without trying and sometimes utterly distasteful, but in a very honest way. I happened to notice that Karthik was part of IIT Madras and IIM Bangalore communities, but I didn’t realize it was because he went to these colleges. He wrote a lot about marriage and relationships, so I assumed that his joining those communities was more aspirational. Right, I did stereotype IIT dudes as being people who only discussed Irodov, and not “Illdeyrodov”.

Anyway, overjoyed with my first ever blogpost, I decided to let Karthik know that he’d inspired me to start a blog. There, that’s how I became his stalker. I think. He responded with some courtesies, but it was clear he hadn’t looked at my blog despite sharing a link. I felt a bit insulted, although I was a first time blogger. I needed him to genuinely look at my blogpost and give me an honest opinion, so challenge accepted. I decided to write a leading post about bigotry or some such obviously controversial theme, and decided to leave him a puzzle to solve to get to my blog. It ain’t rocket science, but if you ever want to get someone’s attention, beat them where it hurts, or wait, just tap them where they can feel it.

Challenging him intellectually was enough to get his attention, he managed to find my blog, and even commented on it. By this point, I’d had way too many online friends, so it didn’t take much for me to get his Yahoo messenger ID and start chatting. To be clear, I wasn’t hitting on him. He was one of my many many online friends. Our first conversation was damn weird. We discussed our jaathis and what not, and quickly decided to move conversation to Gtalk, I can’t remember why. Thereafter, we chatted quite a bit. Rather, I pinged him a lot, and he would sparingly respond. Again, I wasn’t hitting on him, I was just online a lot, and found it endearing to chat with him.

He was really cocky, almost always. But hey, karma always finds a way to get you. He doesn’t even know how to spell cocky anymore, so tamed he is. In fact, I don’t even have to do anything anymore, my three year old spokesperson handles him better than I do.

At some point, may be after a year or so, especially after his ex-flame got married, he started chatting with me quite a bit. We became good online pals, who were always quite thrilled to find each other online. Again, we weren’t in love or anything. Someday, he suggested that we meet, given that we’d been chatting for a while. I didn’t think it would be a great idea, because I was worried things wouldn’t be the same anymore. Actually, they weren’t. But in a good way though. I mentioned this to my mum in passing, and she wanted to know more about this boy. I showed her his Orkut profile, and told her more about him. She thought it was okay to meet him as a friend. And so, we met.

But before that, I decided to take his number and call him. I may have wanted him to hit on me, not because I was hitting on him. But you know, just for kicks. Okay no, you won’t get it. Girls are a bit twisted like that. We could use some fans occasionally. I wanted him to hear my voice, which was famous for being sexy and so, I thought may be that could help accomplish my mission. May be it helped, I don’t know. Just to be sure, I decided to throw a random trivia involving number theory and coitus over an SMS. I think that did it. He most definitely wanted to meet. And so, we met.

It was September 28th, 2009. It was Vijayadashami. We were meeting in Gandhibazaar, at the corner in front of Vidyarthi Bhavan. I was already in that part of town, breaking up with one boy. I walked down the road to Vidyarthi Bhavan to meet Karthik. We stood at opposite sides of the main road. I crossed the main road to go over to the corner by Vidyarthi Bhavan. He literally pounced on me to give me a hug. I was slightly flattered, but mostly damn creeped out, but didn’t say. We decided to put beat in that part of town.

Till date, this happens to be one of my favourite dates. May be, we’ll do this again today. We didn’t have the pressure to look at each other, but felt so comfortable in the crowded Gandhibazaar, allowing ourselves to indulge in distractions around. We chatted endlessly about random things including superstitions involving mail vans and what we wanted to name our respective children. We even parked at a coffee day for a quick cup of coffee. He ordered an espresso, me a frappe. He let me split the bill since he was worried that I’d judge him if he didn’t. I’d say, he’s cheap and he won’t admit it. Anyway, I didn’t mind, mostly because I wasn’t hitting on him and hey, it was hardly 100 bucks.

Just after dusk, we walked up and down the Gandhi Bazaar main road, over and over again, till we were sure that we might meet again. Riding back home, I was feeling having met him and things not having gotten weird between us. You know how sometimes when you talk to someone for 2-3 years just over text, and suddenly meet them, things might get weird. I was worried about that, but now, I was glad that we were okay. Except, when I came home, first thing my dad asked me was “So, how did you feel meeting that boy?” I wanted to throw up in my mouth. My parents burst into their own madness of what this meeting meant and how that boy might have felt and what not. Parents of “settled” children, I tell you. Crazy they are.

After coming home, we chatted on Gtalk again. All was well, it didn’t feel weird. Thank God I thought. I enjoyed meeting him for sure, but did I love him? No. Did I want to marry him? No. Did I think he was marriage material? Sure, why not. But I wasn’t sure what he was thinking until he write this post. And then, somehow, things were just never the same. Now, ten years since then, things aren’t the same at all. We are no longer Gtalk pals. He is the husband, and me, the wife. Oh wait, no. He is the daddy, and I am the mummy. But whenever, we are in town on this day every year, we make it a point to repeat our beat. So, may be we’ll put a beat in Gandhibazaar tomorrow, except this time it will be with the daughter bugging us to carry her every 5 min. Not so romantic, but hey, I’ll take that.

Not like I’m asking for a column in a newspaper. Just saying. Happy 10th anniversary, SK!

P.S. – 4 years ago, Karthik made this video to celebrate our anniversary while I was away in America. Don’t want him bugging me later to link this video to my post, so putting it off now only. Bah!

 

 

The 5-3 rule.

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In the last few months, I cannot count the number of times I have tried to help people prioritise their partner preferences through M.B.A. So, I created this 5-3 rule which helps people in sorting out their preferences. I know it works when people genuinely follow it. In fact, this might work for just about any major life decision. I think. Try it and tell me, may be? But let me explain this in the context of choosing a partner in the arranged marriage market. Rest, you go figure.

So, who should you marry? What should you optimise for?

Dating apps and matrimonial sites have made us believe that what constitutes a happy marriage is our partner’s caste, mother tongue, education, profession, salaries, height, weight, body type, etc. Now, I am not saying all of this is B.S., but I have an alternate view – Relationships are essentially a series of actions and reactions, day in and day out. It’s what you do to your partner and what your partner does to you. You could scream at your partner, they might take it lying down, or they could scream at you and it might shake the daylights out of you. After a point, this happens on auto-pilot, so essentially, it’s the initial set of actions and reactions, that occur repetitively without us thinking twice.

Now, there’s no way to accurately predict how you or your partner would initially react to a situation when you enter a relationship relationship. But you can always lay out your . This way, you hedge yourself against unpleasant situations that could occur over and over again in a relationship.

How do you even optimise for what you want, you ask?

Here’s where you use my 5-3 rule. It’s simple. You just have to list the things you want from a relationship. Start with as long as list as you want, then, sort it based on what matters most. Then pick only the top 5 from this list. Remember that nothing from the rest of the list can ever beat the top 5. So keep going at it till you have your absolute top 5 things that matter.

Here are a few examples of things people have typically wanted from relationships:

  • Mutual respect
  • Great conversation with intellectual stimulation
  • Space
  • Being able to share responsibilities in life
  • Being able to talk things out and resolve issues

These things are usually deeply personal, and stem from past relationships, observing marriages around us or even movies.

Once you have your list of top 5 priorities in a relationship, ask yourself what are the “not so pleasant things” you can put up with given that all or some of the above 5 things are being met. After all, love’s not blind, it’s about all the faults you don’t mind. And no, I am not talking about faults like your partner being ugly, or not having a masters degree. I am talking about things that really have an impact on the relationship, and will take you coming out of your skin to make peace with it.

Here are a few examples of real faults (real, because they belong to real people):

  • Inability to make independent decisions, relying overly on his/ her family
  • Anger management issues
  • Lack of desire to build a life together

Now, you could be someone who is okay putting up with any or all of the above. Your reasons to do so may vary, but you need to build a list of 3 things in a relationship you are willing to put up with because that’s where you are drawing your boundaries. Those are the actions you know how to react to. Now, unknowns are going to be unknowns, you don’t know what you don’t know. You could learn that your tolerance to over socializing might be very very low, and that might become a deterrent in the future, but you’ll always find something much more positive to counterbalance it, in a healthy relationship.

Once you have the 5-3 list, what next?

Essentially, each time you meet someone in the market, take a look at your 5-3 list and ask yourself how this person fares on your list. I’d say if they are a 4-1 atleast, you should consider giving them a real run for their money.

If not, I mean dash. I’m sure you know better.

Honestly, you could rationalise the shit out of anything in life. As cliched as it may sound, when you are ready to take the plunge, when you ready to settle down with someone, you’ll know. We all have pretty strong instincts, so sometimes, we’ve just got to listen. It ain’t love, it’s just instinct, so don’t get all excited thinking that you are getting a love marriage. Just saying.

Letters to my Berry#28

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Happy 3rd Birthday bubba! Time really flies, it feels like it was only yesterday that we brought you home from the hospital and worried endlessly about not rolling over you in our sleep. And now, we worry about the contrary. You like body warmth, so you like to tuck yourself into our crevices and sleep. This always means you wake up soon after the warmth vanishes when we wake up. So usually all our plans to wake up early and work is foiled. We got around this issue in London by making you sleep in your own room, but here, your room is too far to let you sleep alone. But may be we can try, when I am brave enough.

On the occasion of your 3rd birthday, we went to a zoo, yet again. This time in Mysore. We saw lots of animals as usual, but I figured that I don’t want to continue to show animals in captivity, especially because you love enjoying animals do their thing. So, may be next year, we could go a jungle. Every birthday has been about us spending time with you but we decided you are old enough to have a party as well, so we are going to celebrate with other kids later this month. You’ve already declared what you want to wear and what sort of a cake you want. So, hopefully, you’ll have a great time.

Instead of rambling on, I want to break this letter into different bits of your development:

Physical: For the longest time since we moved back from London, you hadn’t gained much weight. Ever since you’ve been home with me, we’ve been able to follow a decent routine with you which has helped you gain over half a kilo. You eat dinner at 5:30pm and go to bed by 7pm everyday, and this has helped you get more rest which had evaded you while you went to daycare. You love jumping (on your jenga jenga), exercising at the gym with us, running around in school with friends. You come to our gym everyday with Appa, and hang around while I finish my class and even exercise with appa’s class. The trainers there love having you around as well, it’s quite sweet. So, we are planning to either send you to a gym or start making you play a sport so you can release all that excess energy through some physical activity.

The last quarter has also been phenomenal in terms of getting over your fear of water. You love being in water. We realised this when we went to Maldives, when you swam in the ocean, with a tube of course. You even dived under water (which you call doing “buLa buLa”) to snorkel. You saw black and white fish, that you were very excited by. You saw dolphins jump about in the Indian ocean which was the first time you experienced nature. You enjoyed floating about in the pool in both Maldives and Mysore.

Emotional: I think emotionally, you might have regressed a little bit ever since we moved back home since you keep wanting to be a baby. I think back in London, when you saw that you daisies (the group you were in) were older and more capable than the babies, you felt more responsible and accomplished. That sense of accomplishment is missing now in your school where you are among the youngest and are paired with someone older. You constantly want to be a baby, you won’t graduate from your feeding bottle, and you keep crawling sometimes to get our attention. In fact, on your third birthday, you refused to be a big girl and turning 3 borderline upset you. I mean, if I had a choice, I’d rather be ten years younger and so I get it, but I am not quite sure what is upsetting you about growing up.

In the last month or so, you have started making peace with living here. You’ve stopped calling London home, although there are still times when you want to go back to “London house”. I think the trip to Maldives helped. You saw that we had a “house” there, that only had a room and a bathroom with a bath-tub. You think that homes should either have a bath-tub or a pool, else they aren’t homes. So, we might have to fix that one for you by installing a new bathtub at home (okay, there we go, falling yet again for one of your demands!). Anyway, you are slowly starting to forget your routine in London, getting used to the new routine here, and even enjoying it.

Mental: You are phenomenal at pattern recognition. You strongly believe correlation means causation. When you get bothered by boys in school, you think that it’s normal for boys to behave this way because they are boys. You think only boys can drive because Appa drives us around. But then again, I think that’s how kids learn to make sense out of the world. Even as adults, sometimes, we all fail to distinguish between correlation and causation. You have also learnt the ability to reason, both explain why you are doing what you are doing and ask us why something is the way it is. Twos was the year of whats, and now it’s the why’s. So, there’s no getting away with telling you something without explaining why, and thank god for that.

Also, you believe you have two imaginary baby siblings, Billy and Molly who will come on Friday, and who needs to get all your baby things. I can’t quite fathom how it works, but I love that your imagination is so strong.

Math, memory, etc. : For the longest time, you knew how to say 1-20, but we didn’t bother teaching you beyond. Recently, you’ve learnt to recite upto 100. Yes, recite, and not count. However, you have learnt to count, but until 10 only. You know that you can only move up a count with each distinct object you hold. At this age, Appa not only counted, but could probably do long division (kidding!), but you get the drift. I always find it so surprising that he doesn’t ever try to teach you what you knew as a kid at this age. I don’t know if it’s intentional to shield you from turning out like him or if he’s plain lazy. Although, he has started teaching you chess. You now know how to place all the pawns in its place correctly.

I used to show you names of countries and continents from the Atlas everyday during bedtime or dinner time, but we’ve sort of stopped doing that off-late. Your memory of countries have started to fade. You can only recognise the ones in South America, a few in Asia and Europe. But I must say you have a really good memory in general. When I was shampooing your hair once with a different shampoo, you told me it smelt exactly like the one we had used in a homestay we visited 4 months ago. Another time, you told me another shampoo smelt like London. You even remember the weirdest of things and stories we tell you. You are in general so observant that random things stick with you. You remember things that people you’ve met once have told you, it’s simply amusing.

Communication: In general, you’ve had better communication skills than most kids your age. When you need something or have to say something, you use words to say it, not force, or physical aggression. While this is useful with adults, it hasn’t always helped with kids, especially the ones whose communication skills are inferior to yours. You have two friends in school – Milan and Yashwanth, who constantly bother you physically – by hitting you or pulling your hair or pushing you around. You tell them not to do it, and you use words, and that too polite language to explain your displeasure, but they don’t get it. You came home bitten by one of them. Unfortunately, I had to tell you to shout rather than say the next time you felt bothered. I hope you can find the force from within to resist someone perturbing you rather than in your voice.

Language: You have started picking up Kannada, and are getting over your hesitation to speak in a language that isn’t natural to you. Lakshmi talking to you in Kannada helps, and I think even the school’s Kannada lessons are helping. You are also picking up Hindi, but you don’t have anyone to practice it with at home. May be we can ask Ranjith to converse with you in Hindi. In terms of English, you have almost completely lost your British accept, it is as Indian as it can get. Your grammar has deteriorated, thanks to being here. Your vocabulary hasn’t grown much either. It’s only natural given that your environment had changed, and we aren’t doing much to change that. We’d even taken a break from reading you bed time stories, since we found that you  weren’t as interested in picking up a book yourself and reading, but we are planning to resume that now. Hopefully, this will help you get back your language skills.

Character: Since I’ve been home the last couple of months, you and I have been hanging out quite a bit. We do lots of random activities together – puzzles, craft, reading, gardening, cooking, etc. but I still feel like I am constantly running out of ideas to keep you entertained. I sometimes wish you were interested in doing something on your own all the time, but I might have to wait a few months or a year for that I hear. That’s the one thing about you which is quite different from me – you ask for help almost immediately, you almost never try to do anything on your own if you can get help, including entertaining yourself. I don’t really believe it’s a phase, it might be who you are. But I guess it’s hard to tell for another 20 years. Whether this is a good thing or not, I can’t say.

We bought you a cycle for your 3rd birthday, and while you keep trying to ride it, you keep screaming for help each time pedalling becomes just a little hard. In fact, you insisted that we buy you an “easily scooter” because riding your cycle was so hard. As if that wasn’t enough, you wanted us to buy you a car too, but we didn’t cave. We told you that we didn’t have any money, to which you suggested that we get money from the shop. Then we explained how money is earned – you work, you get paid. Then you wanted to do some dusting work for me, so I can pay you. Then you got some cash from relatives for your birthday, and then realised you didn’t have to bother dusting. So yeah, you still think we are going to buy you that car with your “easily” money.

Interests: Dressing up continues to be an area of interest. Lipsticks and nail polishes enamour you to no end. You are already a shopaholic. You keep wanting to go shopping and buying yourself clothes, toys, etc. I sometimes worry if we are re-enforcing this behaviour by constantly indulging in your demands. You know exactly the kind of clothes you want and how they must be styled. Your latest obsession is with “dappattas” and cold shoulder tops. I mean, I didn’t even know what a cold shoulder was until a week ago, and you are only 3. Phew.

Also, we celebrated a festival with you for the first time ever and realised you love pooje, mantras and the sound of ghanTe. May be you’ve taken after your paternal grandmother. You keep wanting to go to temples, and you instinctively fold your palms in front of idols. It’s all quite strange given that Appa and I are not religious. But that doesn’t mean we won’t let you do what you like doing, after all, you have shastri genes according to Appa.

So, on that very auspicious note, I shall sign off. I look forward to another wonderful year of surprises, learnings, etc. which I am so immensely grateful for, everyday. If not for you, we wouldn’t have had a chance to re-experience growing up, from a different perspective this time around. So, thank you.