Relationships, spinach and their expiry dates

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If you’ve gone grocery shopping to a super market, you’ll know that the fresher stock (with later expiry dates) is always stocked up behind the older stuff because supermarkets like to follow FIFO (first in first out). However, what they probably don’t realise is that there are people like me who know this and they will end up with LIFO (last in first out) instead. Someone like my husband would think why bother making the effort of sorting through the stock as long as they are all within the expiry date – what’s the big difference anyway? It makes a huge difference – If I know the spinach is going to expire in 7 days instead of 3, I could happily dump the spinach in the fridge for a few extra days not worrying about making the decision of salvaging it. It’s not always because I want to cook with fresher spinach, sometimes, it’s about having the option to not cook with it immediately despite buying it. Strange you think?

Think about this – When you are fresh in a relationship, you could have a fight or two in a day and still be snuggling up in bed later that night, but if you’ve been together for a long time, a fight is always ugly – you always have to deal with it immediately, it can take a few days for you to “resolve” it before you can snuggle up in bed. The fresher a relationship, the longer you can keep stuff in the fridge and not bother about it (until the expiry date), whereas older relationships can’t be taken for granted for too long because relationships have expiry dates, egos that grow with time and the longer you’ve been in a relationship, the more likely you are closer to its expiry date.

With age, relationships mature, like old wine or single malts – so in a way, they don’t really ever expire. But some people enjoy the taste of it, some don’t. For those that don’t, that relationship has an expiry date. We all want fresher spinach because some of us want our relationship to retain its novelty, some of us want to take it for granted for longer, but we all want it to be fresher for longer. So when you’ve picked up spinach that is going to expire in 4 days and you see someone next to you who has picked up a packet that’s due to expire in 5 days, you want their packet so bad because apparently even one extra day can make all the difference.

We always want to go back in our relationships, even if it’s one step, because we are a day farther away from it’s expiry, its fresher by one day or we have a day longer to take it for granted. Familiarity increases with time, quirks become exposed, our reactions to the other person’s quirks mellow down over time (because you can’t possible break up with someone because they leave the toilet seat up all the time, come on!! that’s what men do right?), we start to become comfortable with things that were unthinkable at one point. Then, someday, something hits you hard, an expiry date or existential crisis for instance, and you start thinking and overthinking all the changes in your life and suddenly, you want your neighbour’s packet of spinach, you want to go back in time, just so you can shove your problems in the fridge for longer and not have to make the decision of whether you need to salvage it now or not.

God, this is such a morbid view of relationships. Sometimes, I can be very cynical. Most of us are, and it’s okay. As Yuval Noah Harari says, it’s also just our imagined order.

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Does your memory embarrass you?

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Ishita, my friend from Ross asked me if I knew this guy, Rohit Nair, who is her teammate at work. Yes, I know the guy. I mean, I don’t “know” know him, but I know of him. He is the same batch as me, and went to a different branch of the school I went to. He went to the same NTSE summer coaching class as me, back in 2002. Now, did we know each other then? No. We had this tradition in class, where the teacher would call out the names of kids with the top scores every week and his name was probably called out once or twice.

Now, if that wasn’t enough to get registered in my memory, I met this chap again in 2003 at an inter-school fest called Vivum at The International School, Bangalore. He somehow knew one of my classmates and by the virtue of having a common friend, we hung out for about 30min, not talking to each other really, but talking to the common friend. And now, 14 years later, I still remember the guy. If he ever read this, he would think I am creepy. But you see, it’s not me, it’s just my embarrassingly good memory.

At the very same fest, there was another girl who was a co-finalist in the personality contest – Akshaya Megharikh. She’d danced for this very popular number from this movie, Dil Too Pagal Hai, twisted her ankle mid way through her performance and yet won the contest. She was trained at the Shamak Dawar Institute. She beat Divya Suresh (who sang a song from Evanascence) and me (who sang Tere bina zindagi se koi). Now why do I remember all this?

Following on my classmate, Nikhila’s advice, we must remember the times we’re beaten because that’s what makes us stronger, I guess I just remember her because I was beaten? In any case, I had the great fortune of working with her on the same team 11 years later and creeping her out with my memory, although she confessed to having similar traits because she remembered one of my close friends, Rahul’s birthday, who used to be her neighbour 2 decades ago.

A lot of us remember such random details about other people that it’s almost embarrassing to say, because may be the other person won’t remember and they’ll probably think you are making stuff up or think of you as a creepy stalker. It takes a lot of courage to confess and that’s why, I love people who are brave enough to walk up to you and tell you that they recognise you from somewhere (even if they have just stalked you on Facebook!).

There are, of course, other reasons apart from being plain embarrassed or being too snooty to walk upto someone and tell them you recognise them – sometimes you wait to long before you make up your mind about coming forward and then the moment has passed and it’s too awkward. Once my husband met a friend and his wife, and the first thing he realised about the wife is that she used to be another friend’s crush and he knew the songs that his friend used to listen to when he was trying to get over this girl. Now, this is the kind of stuff you can’t say out loud, or you shouldn’t!!

People don’t mind remembering other people, they are more finicky about remembering events. Sometimes, people actively shut out memories of events they are not very proud of. So, it’s a good idea to not remind them if you happen to recollect it, even if you think it’s normal to recollect. For instance, my sister hates being reminded of her past, while I don’t mind. I had a good friend remind me of something she said when we were 16 about how a crush is like a sneeze and the harder you try to hold it back, the more painful it gets – it made me smile. It brought back good memories and I was glad to be reminded.

I think what is harmless to remind people about is if you happen to recognise them and they are able to recollect meeting you, with your help. Most of the time, I am pretty good at remembering people, if not events or numbers or anything else. If you ever find me not acknowledging you when you think I should know you, just come grab me, I am probably just too shy/ embarrassed by my own memory to come say I know you/ know of you.

 

 

We need real’er cartoons!

Until I had Berry, I’d always tell myself that I would not resort to letting the kid watch cartoons/ videos to make him/ her eat, but then, when you actually have a kid, your priorities change. I have mostly been optimising for my time and also getting everything done, which means I have resorted to cartoons just because it means I can prepare Berry’s dinner without her being stuck to my leg like a leech. But I have been quite picky on the cartoons I let her watch since I have to like watching them too.

By that metric, Peppa Pig had been a clear winner for us. I am personally more addicted to it than Berry, who honestly couldn’t care less about it. What I love about it is how relatable it is from a kid’s perspective. Compare it to a cartoon like Popeye from my times. It was about two men being in love with one woman, and one of them popping a can of spinach to beat up the other guy to win over the woman. I mean, why would you even care about this as a 4-5 year old?! Or take Perils of Penelope Pitstop – about this dainty little car racing chick who is always putting on make-up while this shady guy (with a cute dog, Mutley) is always trying to de-rail her path while he ends up sabotaging his own life – this doesn’t even make any sense.

On the other hand, Peppa pig is all about everyday stuff. Peppa Pig has several other animal friends who are all a different shape and colour, which accurately represents life in London which is such an amalgamation of diversity. I think it’s important to see and acknowledge the difference early on, else we have difficulty appreciating diversity of thought as adults. Apart from such big learnings, there is also little stuff like understanding what parents do at work in this episode where Peppa and George go to their Daddy’s office – There’s a cat that prints shapes (read makes presentations), there’s another person that looks at “very important” number (read the finance guy) and there’s daddy pig who does some analytics. So all everyday regular stuff that makes it easier for kids to understand the present life around them.

So you can imagine why I love Peppa pig as a practical guide to growing up. But it all changed last evening when I watched the episode “Sun Sea and Snow” in which Peppa’s family is supposed to go the beach the following day. It snows all night and the whole city including their house is kind of buried in snow by the next morning, so Peppa and George go jump on Mummy and Daddy pig while they are still in bed, asking them to wake up to come see the snow. And the next scene is all 4 of them going down the stairs fully dressed.

I mean, how could they all be ready that quickly? This can’t be real life. Getting ready and stepping out of the house with little kids is like a military expedition. You can’t skip the getting ready to go out bit, just like that. I was completely thrown off by how easy they made stepping out seem.

Who was going to pack George’s diaper bag (he’s 2!!), snacks and drinks for both Peppa and George, change of clothes just in case one of them gets messy, raincoats for everyone (because it’s Britain and the weather is so erratic), sanitisers, tissues and what not. How are kids ever going to understand what it really takes to step out, so they be more helpful in getting ready? I can’t wait till Berry becomes a parent to realise this. We need some real’er cartoons!!!

Re-drawing social lines

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When I was a teenager, I used to secretly watch sex and the city late in the night at 11:30pm every single night. I could do this only when I used to sleep downstairs in my grandmother’s house since my parents are light sleepers and any light or noise would wake them up and I wouldn’t be allowed to watch TV late on a school night, especially not if people on the show constantly spoke about dating/ sex.

The show felt like a fantasy – women who were in complete control of their lives, who could wear what they wanted, who did what they wanted and changed men like the many clothes in their closet. I didn’t idolise Carrie Bradshaw (the protagonist) for any of this though, I was enthralled by how she could take a step back from her life, objectify it and then concoct theories about it, and make a living out of it. Ever since, there’s always been this tiny desire in the back of my head to be a writer – to be able to write about love, dating and relationships just like her.

So, finally after 14 years of secretly dreaming, I lived my dream just a little bit last night when I saw that my article titled “Love, and other arrangements” had been published on the Mint on Sunday, a HT Media publication. It felt surreal. I wanted to share it with all my friends who’d been a part of this over the last 14 years and what better way to do it than share it on Facebook, because there are a lot of friends who I am not in touch with on a regular basis but would love to share the joy with. Except, there is one big problem with Facebook – it’s impossible to draw lines on your friend-list unless you are super disciplined about who you allow and who you don’t into your virtual social circle.

I had someone post a really mean comment about me sharing my joy. I was sharing how a life long dream had come true and this person thought I’d imposed my world view of relationships on the article, which he thought was inexperienced and judgemental. If it was a general critical view of my article by a random reader/ or even a friend for that matter when I asked for critique, it would have been fine. But trying to rubbish my attempt to share joy with friends was uncool. Now, he shouldn’t have been a part of the group I wanted to share this happy news in the first place, which is taken care of now.

It’s this mixing of various social circles that makes people very uncomfortable with Facebook. Yes, you can choose who is an acquaintance, who is a friend and who is a close friend but aren’t statuses of friendships fairly dynamic? Does Facebook expect me to evaluate my level of friendliness with everyone on my list ever so often? For the longest time, I was very uncomfortable with accepting requests from colleagues (in the pre-privacy settings era) except if they were really good friends outside of work but then I’d have these people reminding me in person about their pending requests. How could I tell them that they had no place in my virtual life except in my work mailbox? If I have ever crossed this line myself with any of you by adding you on Facebook (in my desperate attempt to pry on your life), please feel free to unfriend me. It’s okay.

I think this is generally a great metric to have – If I want to share something happy or sad on Facebook, do I feel safe to do so? If there are people on your friendlist who don’t make it a safe place for you because they are going to post mean comments or talk behind your back for posting so many “happy pictures”, they shouldn’t be on your friendlist. Same goes when you feel unhappy seeing someone post happy pictures, you shouldn’t be on their friendlist since you don’t have good intentions for them. We need more safe spaces, more happy places in the world today, especially when it’s so easy to spread hatred.

 

Adult-rated friendships

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I have never been great at friendships. In fact, I have struggled and failed miserably several times at keeping friendships. So, my view on friendships might be rather morbid, so bear with me. Although, if you do relate to this, great – PM me, maybe we can be friends? or not!

I think friendships are time-bound. You can continue to be friends with someone from childhood even when you are 50, but it’s not going to be the same. There are people I went to school with and we had so much in common at that point, however, as we moved onto different colleges, our lives changed. We made new friends, we thought differently, we didn’t see old friends just as much, yada yada yada and so the nature of our friendship could just never be the same. The same happened with people I went to college with and then we chose different careers there after.

I tried to keep them in the loop on all the life changes and the evolution of my personality, but could just never get into the same level of detail that I used to be able to back in school/ college. And over time, you just move farther away from the details and I think the friendships that have been based more heavily on the details of my life have been the hardest to keep. The ones that were based on connect are far easier to keep because even if I don’t stay in touch with these people, the intensity or coherence seldom withers. But what differs over time is the frequency of these intense discussions and it’s probably for the best?

Historically, people remained in the same jobs or houses or cities through their entire adulthood and seldom acquired the ability to make new friendships. Today, people move jobs, houses and cities so often that it’s more important to make new friendships than keep old ones. The common mistake we make is to chase old friendships to recreate the intensity – We artificially keep each other plugged in the details of our new lives after have moved away from it. This exposes the divergence in our personalities and often, instead of trying to learn about the new people we have become, we find the divergence odd and unsettling.

We expect our lives to be magically back to how they used to be and we find it hard to be unstuck in time. Some of us like to deal with this head on, some of us prefer to run away, and the problem is when you have the different types in one friendship. When will we learn to live friendships in present, move on when we have to and just be okay with it? I recently read somewhere that we are an average of the people we surround ourselves with at any given point of time, so if we are constantly being stuck in time, does this mean we are trying to reach our local maxima instead of expanding our range?

However, the irony here is that our ability to expand our range as adults is quite limited, resulting in us wriggling our way back to old nests. It’s like saving an old pair of skinny jeans in the hope that you’ll lose enough weight someday to fit back in it as opposed to buying yourself a new pair because you can’t come to terms with the fact that you’re not the same size anymore.

Okay wait, this post became way too deep and I forgot where I started, so I’ll just stop instead of digging deeper. Kthnxbhai.

P.S – Note to self – I should stop reaching out to old flames to make myself feel sexy, because it might just make me more pathetic after all.

 

 

My bayesian learnings about parenthood

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Recently, I took the Myer’s Briggs test and learnt that I am an INTJ, and I must confess that I wasn’t really surprised, especially because I’d taken a similar test over 10 years ago and I had the exact same results. I suppose you could look at this two ways – I don’t learn or my core personality is rock solid and nothing can ever change that. The permanence of personality is interestingly reassuring – I’ve had so many new life experiences in the last decade, learnt and internalised so many new things, yet at the very core, I am still the same person.

It was interesting to validate that I am an introvert – often when I tell people I am one, people don’t believe me. Being an introvert does not mean I lack social skills, it just means I prefer being alone to being in a group. I get my energy from being with myself than with a group of friends/ family. I prefer intense/deep meaningful discussions with smaller groups of people, I don’t enjoy small talk about the weather or weekend plans.  Every monday morning, when people at work ask me about how my weekend was, I feel exhausted to engage in that conversation and so, I try to distract by asking people how their weekend was even before they ask me about mine.

Anyway, this post is not about introversion. It is about J for judgement. The way I learn is Bayesian, through priors. I judge as soon as I hear something or see something, and then, over time, I learn as I assimilate new information. This is quite contrary to the most common advice people give you about being open as you embrace new experiences or meet new people, because not all of us react to new environments much the same way. I don’t view judging as a problem, and this could be fundamentally different to a P (for perceiver) and so, if you don’t relate to what I am saying, it’s okay.

For the last several months, ever since I started a full-time job at a big corporation, I have been struggling to strike a balance between me as an employee, a mother, a wife and Berry’s personal CCTV (for family back home) because I am one of those bad women who likes to have it all. It’s mostly because I just didn’t have enough time for each role as the number of roles I managed increased over time. Imagine this to be on a team with missing people, and you having to manage multiple roles. Trying to keep up with the different roles, I felt like I had lost all sense of what my original role was.

As I said earlier, I like to have it all and so, my quest to find my original self began with me wanting to make more time for myself, so I could think and remember. The only way I could make time for myself was to stop playing a few roles on somedays or even for a few hours. On weekends, I don’t play employee/ mum/ wife/ Berry’s CCTV for a couple of hours in the mornings and I spend this time writing, because I think better when I write. Keeping up this routine is an important part of bringing back my original self.

A few months ago, I had written this post about mothers on Instagram where I said

You can’t possibly have full-time jobs AND be running a well orchestrated lobby on Instagram!

This was me judging at the first glance. However, over time now, I have learnt that there is much more to this lobbying. I started to stalk and rummage through the virtual lives of these women and learnt that a lot of these women have given up their full-time careers to support their spouse/ raise children in meaningful environments and doing this is not easy. Most of us adults define ourselves (I am a doctor, I am an architect, I work with Amazon, and so on) based on our full-time jobs and when that doesn’t exist anymore, it becomes hard to identify ourselves.

In the internet generation, our society gives very little credit to roles such as full-time mums or full-time wives and so, the most challenging bit about giving up a full-time job is losing a sense of our core self. Being active on social media is an attempt to reclaim ourselves. Staying active on the Gram imposes a routine and helps us define ourselves through our virtual identities. This may have led to the advent of a lot of mom-run internet businesses.

It is no mean feat to keep up a daily Instagram feed or a weekly vlog. Being an aspiring writer struggling to write more regularly, I can vouch for the amount of dedication it takes to run a regular column. So, having learnt more about these social media mums has broadened my perspective on parenthood, even though I may not be fully aligned on the content of these posts. All our journeys as parents are so similar, yet so unique and so even though every story you read, might seem like glorifying the obvious, we are contributing to the richness of our history.

 

Love in the time of ADD

When I was in 1st/ 2nd year of college, I remember one of my uncles telling me not to fall in love with north Indian boys in college.   I did have a crush on one north Indian boy at that point in life, but it wasn’t serious, so I wasn’t too concerned by the uncle’s warning. But over time, I have realised that most well meaning parents are very concerned about their precious South Indian child being abducted by this ever elusive north indian character who looks good and knows how to charm innocent good looking kids from respectable families (girls and boys included).

So I know about one such girl, who did seek such forbidden love in a north indian boy. Believe it or not, a lot of south Indian men don’t really men don’t really dig the typical fair good looking chick, unlike the parents of these men (for obvious gene propagation reasons you see). These men like unconventional beauties, who are beautiful because they are confident. The women who are not so confident about themselves, despite having a pretty face, possibly because they are too short or too fat etc. end up falling in love with this north Indian character, much to the disappointment of their parents.

This girl fought hard to make her parents like this boy, almost to the point where they were about to be married. A week before the wedding, the couple decided to call off the wedding because the boy confessed of being on medication for a mental illness. As you can imagine, this is enough reason for the parents to have won the case back but from the girl’s perspective, it was one hard decision to make, especially because this time she wasn’t fighting her parents, she was fighting herself. Mental illnesses come with a lot of shame, ignorance and stigma that we haven’t developed mechanisms to cope with. It’s the new age drinking problem – uncle aunty think it can be fixed if you have kids.

When I got married, I knew nothing about the husband’s mental condition, I doubt he knew about it himself. Even if he did, he didn’t say. When we found out a year later, I felt a bit cheated and sometimes, even a bit trapped. Having to deal with his emotions, and along with my own, was overwhelming. Everyday I thought I wouldn’t wake up to the next day – that’s how little courage I had. But today, we are in a much better place, I could have never imagined being here while looking forward 6 years ago.

Strangely, we always overestimate the impact of challenges on our lives and grossly underestimate our abilities to cope with them. It’s only in retrospect that I can confidently say that had I known of the husband’s mental condition, I would still marry no one else but him. But, I’m afraid most of us are not brave enough to even imagine how much we can endure, hence, we give up even before we can try.