Hobbies, habits and hobbits

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In the past, women were made to sing or have their hobbies like tailoring/ crochet skills praised at the bride seeing ceremony because most of the time these women were going to be housewives and had to justify how they would spend time productively at home besides cooking and tending to the family. Today, both men and women work and their time at home after work is their own and nobody needs to justify what they do with it. However, people care about hobbies of a potential partner like never before.

There’s a good chance you might not relate to this post at all because this post is based on data gathered from my extended social circle. I have a friend who has been single for a while. He is a good looking, well educated, cultured, comes from a good family and pretty much checks off everything a great tharkari should, but is still single only because he is looking for a girl with a serious hobby. Simple enough, right? But you’ll be surprised to see how few people have hobbies as adults. The last time most people have hobbies is the first time they make a professional resume.

People with decent careers think they have their lives sorted and there is no reason for them to struggle in the marriage market, but they falter to even sustain another person’s attention because they are so one-dimensional. These people are exhausted after a hectic 5-day work week and the only way they know how to blow off some steam is by binge-watching sitcoms or drinking one’s gut out just because these are the easiest things to do. In fact, drinking is considered more of a “habit” in the marriage market (Lolz).

This is essentially a result of not knowing how to productively engage oneself in interesting activities. This leads to us looking for inspiration in a partner to make our lives more interesting putting unnecessary pressure on the relationship. This one time a girl rejected a boy with a very hectic creative career because she felt he wouldn’t have the time to spend with family. While this may or may not be true, someone assessing quality based on quantity of time  could potentially be a liability in the relationship.

If both the boy and girl have serious interests they pursue, this means minimising the time each of them spends alone wanting attention from the other, hence keeping expectations from the relationship at bay. Even at an individual level, they’d be more content with themselves allowing them to contribute positively to the relationship.

Now, there is a flip-side to having serious independent interests beyond work because you might have little chance of overlap in your lives to grow closer, but that’s a risk some people are willing to take because if they didn’t, they’d probably end up with someone who will neither let them be happy with themselves or in the relationship.

PG rated spouse hunting

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Despite pivoting from matchmaking to matrimonial advisory, I continue to get tonnes of calls everyday from some aunty or another about their son (not daughter, mind you!) who is in the market. I try to explain what I do but somewhere through the conversation, I just give up and tell them to ask their wards to get in touch.

The most common immediate reaction I get from these mothers is them thinking how absurd it is that I want to talk to their wards because after all parents know whats best for their children, right? As parents, some of us really have a tough time letting go. We are so used to double guessing what’s good or bad for them from the time they are infants that we refuse to see that figuring things out on their own is a part of growing up and living life itself.

Thanks to education and advent of feminism, daughters have made way for better parents who have learnt to strike a balance between holding on too tight and letting go. A lot more urban women choose their partners independently as compared to urban men, if the number of mothers who call me about their sons over daughters is any metric. Here are some of the most common reactions I get when I ask mothers to let me speak with their sons –

“I can tell you everything about him myself. “

“Oh my son is quite well mannered and shy, he hardly speaks to any other women apart from me, so I am not sure if he’ll open up to you.” (I independently learnt from the son that he had recently broken up with his girlfriend and wasn’t ready to get married yet. So much for being shy huh?)

“What do you want to speak to my son about? We can’t even see your photo on WhatsApp, so he is wondering why he should speak to you. Can’t you just find him a bride without talking to him? I have already told you what kind of a bride we want.”

“We only want a simple working girl who can support herself and also balance work at home without being too career driven. My son is too nice to tell you this himself.” (This was from a mother who claimed to be a feminist)

And saving the last one for the best –

“Nan maga antha helkothilla aadre yelladrallu munde idaane avnu. School time inda nu ashte, yelladrallu avne firstu. Avnu school drama nalli sugreevan part maadidda, tumba channaagi madidda. Yellru yesht claps hodidru gotta (I am not saying this because he is my son but he is good at everything. Since his school days, he has been the best at everything. In a school play, he played the part of “Sugreeva”, the monkey king and he was so good at it that everyone clapped a lot). ” 

All of this point to the fact that these parents have a tendency to interfere a bit too much in the lives of their children and it might not do much good to the marital lives of these kids. While the kids might have found a mechanism to deal with this level of parental influence in their lives but the new couple is going to struggle to keep pace, especially in cases where they all live together. There’s no way to make parents mere search agents without allowing them the joy of colouring the search criteria. Its only human.

If you are the type of person that needs your parents to play such an active role in finding you a life partner, that says something about the type of person you are. Judgemental much? May be. If you do not enjoy the journey of understanding yourself, sourcing your  own partner and then pursuing them to forage a meaningful long term relationship, then it probably says a little bit about how much effort you are going to put into your marriage.

Think about this like campus recruitment. Parents are like career services and bring in great companies for you to apply to and interview with. While you might be cool enough to make an impression and get the job (or spouse) you want, you might not be brave enough to put yourself out there into an off campus job market where you face greater competition and you really have to sell your worth to lock a job down. So, just like most campus jobs, you might mostly end up with cookie cutter or run of the mill type marriages that are formula driven.

Real joy is in spending time to understand yourself and sourcing your dream job (or spouse) and pursuing it until you have locked it down, sort of like love marriage. It is this journey that makes for a great story, people like to recount. While everybody wants love marriage, it takes a little bit of talent to make that happen and not everyone has it. So for everyone else, there’s always PG rated spouse hunting and I am not going to help you with it!

Pinning memories on a wall.

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My wall at home in Barcelona (2014-15)

In an attempt to preserve/ pass on some of our customs, Karthik and I have decided to celebrate a few select festivals since the birth of our daughter, Abheri. The most recent one was Sankranti and as per tradition, we went to a few of our relatives’ houses to “beer yeLLu kabbu”. We happened to visit Karthik’s grandaunt and it was the first time I was entering her prayer room of sorts (part of the kitchen) after having known her all these years. She had an entire wall full of pictures of people from her family, some of whom I recognised and some others I couldn’t, but all of them long gone. There were pictures of siblings, nieces, niece-in-laws and grandnephews, some chosen for the purpose of obituary, while others were just candid.

The way she had chosen to remember all of these people was something like I had never seen before. I wish I had a picture to share here. Its funny how some people are part of our lives so much and all of a sudden one day when they are gone, we all find our own ways to hold them back from exponentially fading into our memories. My parents have a picture of my paternal grandparents and maternal grand-dad on their fridge. My paternal grandfather had a picture of his father on a wall in his room. We have a picture of Karthik’s parents on a wall in our living room.

It doesn’t always have to be people who aren’t alive anymore. We all outgrow people who were once so significant in our lives and every once in a while, we remember the times we shared and sigh in nostalgia. That warm feeling that swells up in our heart due to nostalgia is worth making more relationships for. All our lives are essentially a sum total of our social interactions and it would be lovely to be able to wake up to a pictorial summary of mine, every single day!

Connectivity and de-existentialism

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Have you ever incessantly checked your Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, WhatsApp, etc. through the day wondering if you have some poke, like or a notification, some sign from the virtual universe that it cares? And after doing this about a 100 times a minute, wondered what the hell is happening with you? Then maybe you contemplated getting off social media for good, but instead convinced yourself to start with a mild detox by deleting all the apps on your phone and decided to use chrome/ safari to open these sites if a “business” need arises?

So, you are sitting there quietly staring at your phone wondering how you managed to start living your life as a string of social media posts rather than experiences that stay as memories until moments before we die? While leaving remnants of our life all over the internet is a great way to crowdsource a distorted history for a future generation, it degrades the quality of our present lives.

While online social networks have greatly helped in reconnecting with people we’ve lost contact with, it crosses the line once in a while. When I meet a friend after 10 years, I want to enjoy the feeling of still being able to connect despite all the lost time between us. I don’t want to have a conversation just for the sake of verifying someone’s Facebook timeline. I almost hate it when people I am introduced to for the first time tell me they know all about me through Facebook.

It’s like the digital you is more important than the real you. I wouldn’t be surprised if some day our physical existence gets banned and “de-existentialism” becomes a thing like demonetisation. Imagine if we aren’t allowed to talk about or use any bits of our personality that isn’t already uploaded on the internet? Every time I felt overwhelmed by advancement in technology and how it is affecting the human race, I want to curl up in a ball and disappear. It feels like we are swimming away from a whirlpool, but in vain. Okay wait, maybe I’m watching too much Black Mirror?

Why am I complaining when I can make and stay connected every second with friends in every corner of the world (at literally no cost) like my parents couldn’t? Why am I complaining when I can capture and imprison every moment of my life without rationing like my grandparents never could? Why am I complaining when I can get you to read what I write so much more easily than Shakespeare ever could with his plays? We have made so much progress, yet we want to regress into time warps that would take us back to our yesteryears because we have seen times that were radically different.

Is it just us? or does every generation feel this way?

Optimizing for ourselves

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Whenever we do something for someone, we expect that person to feel good about the favour they received. But the truth is, we do these things to make ourselves feel better that someone could have felt better because of us. Whether you’d like to reflect and acknowledge or not, we are all wired to optimize for ourselves. When we try to kid ourselves or remain in denial, we cause ourselves more harm than doing any good for anyone.

For the last 6-7 years, I have been trying to push, handhold, support (every combination of these things) my husband to get all his assets related paperwork sorted since he once told me that having so many things to take care of stresses him out because my husband’s peace of mind should be paramount for me, right? Over the years, the list has grown longer than it has reduced and me trying to help him complete it has not only given him more stress, it has started to affect my peace of mind too.

It’s easy for me to feel bad that he is wasting his parents’ hard earned money by not trying to claim it (since we all only amass wealth for our offspring), but it’s only a matter of perspective because essentially all of us have the right to do what we want with our lives as long as we aren’t purposely causing harm to another form of life. So, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to pull back and let him deal with his life and guess what, I already feel happier. He probably does too because he has one less reason to be stressed out about.

If we all just thought about ourselves, we would be so much happier. If giving a beggar 10 bucks is going to make you feel better about yourself, do it. If it’s going to make you feel terrible for encouraging beggary, don’t give them anything. But if it’s going to make you feel bad about making such a big deal of 10 bucks that you’re better of parting with, give them money. As a side-effect of your actions, you will always be influencing someone else’s life. So, just go ahead and make yourself happy because the universe will take care of the side effects.

Most of us belong to a society where we worry more about others than ourselves and that’s why we are so conscious how our actions influence others (which btw, is only our perspective) and lose track of how it makes us feel. As a result, no one is really actually happy. I don’t mean to sound like the back of an auto rickshaw, but you’ve got one life and so focus on that one life you have and let others worry about their own.

P.S – As a mother, I tend to my child, not because she needs care but seeing her being taken care of, makes me feel better. We are all constantly looking for motivation to live on and our means to achieve this varies over different stages of life, but we are always only optimising for ourselves.

Being materialistic

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Today has been a strange day. I sent away two pieces of furniture from home and I feel like there’s a huge void in my heart that’s represented by all the extra space in our home. Two pieces that made our house a home when Karthik and I were newly married. One, a two seater sofa that we lovingly called “madhuve sofa” and a coffee table that was made from old sofa frames that belonged to Karthik’s maternal grandfather.

My life’s mission has been to amass all things old that tell a story – sarees, utensils, homes, furnitures or just memories. I inherited an old wooden chest from my paternal grandfather, that belonged to his grandfather and so it’s probably over 150 years old. It sits quietly in my living room today and everytime I look at it, I feel like a part of him still remains with me. It’s funny how a materialistic thing does a better job at reminding me of him than plain old memory. Maybe memory fades faster with time than good teak wood.

All the furniture at home speak of people of the past, some we know and some we don’t and so, all of these people, including strangers, live on with us in our home. I love to think about what they could have done with these pieces and what their lives were like. Its funny how our lives intertwine with that of those we never knew and good wood has a way to play messenger. I feel immensely grateful to that we were chosen to share a part of their lives.

About 7 years ago, Karthik and I chanced upon this lovely couple who run a furniture store called Maram, who have since made almost every single piece of furniture that make our house a home. One of the first things you will notice (or not) about Maram is that it is not easy to spot since they are located on the terrace of a lovely house in the thick of a quiet residential area. The moment you enter the store, the whiff of good old teak wood transports you to a different era. The ambience is surreal and the people who run the store , Sheila and Krishna, are really special.

In an age when we want use and throw furniture that we can buy at the click of a button and part with yet another click, there exist people like Sheila and Krishna who custom-make furniture using refurbished wood that come from old furniture they collect from houses that are torn down (sigh!). This is shared economy that carries stories across years and transcends generations from a time before shared economy even became a thing. I am so glad Maram’s given me the privilege of hiding a little piece of me in these pieces of furniture forever.

Being materialistic is human. You know how they say we are born with nothing, we take back nothing when we die and while we are in between we amass materialistic things that mean the world to us. While we take nothing when we are gone (and I’m glad we don’t), we leave a little piece of us in materialistic things, genes and memories and I choose to lock my immortal remains in teak wood.

Letters to my Berry#4

4months

On the 22nd of December, a week after you turned three months old, we took you to the doctor for your vaccination. For the first time, you cried loudly when you got pricked – before that you had hardly cried when we had given you your vaccinations – not even for the BCG which was given when you were two days old.

During this visit, we told the doc about how you were such a lazy bum – while you were quite active in terms of making noises and “talking” to us, you had shown absolutely no inclination in doing anything physical – be it turning around, or grabbing things or trying to move.

And as if to prove us wrong, the very next morning you reached out for something. We had left you alone in your baby gym while we made breakfast, and when Appa came to check on you, you had held on to the rings of the green turtle in the baby gym. It was fascinating to watch, as you reached out and held on. However, you still didn’t know how to let go, and cried to make us help you get rid of the turtle.

And then again, three days later, you made your next move. Once again it was in the morning, and once again it was on your baby gym. You flipped around. You had contorted your head in a weird position and tried to make the movement, and after many tries, like the mythical story of King Bruce and the spider, you finally succeeded. And once you succeeded in flipping over on 26th December, you wouldn’t stop. Every time we put you on the mat, you would try to flip and lift your head up to look all around the place.

And then Appa gave you your very first cold. He had been sleeping away from us for two nights because he had a cold (it’s a case of shepherd boy crying wolf since he always keeps cribbing about “getting a cold” but this time it was real). And then on the third day when I had gone out to meet a business associate, you seemed cling on to appa so much  that his virus came into you.

But you took to the cold like a sweetheart. While you made noises in your nose, and put out plenty of goNNe, you were always the same old smiley papa. We found your spirit to be rather inspiring on this front!

And when you were still down with the cold, you learnt to go the full circle – you found this manoeuvre with your legs up in the air where you could turn yourself on your back, and thus face the TV!! And once the TV was switched off, you continued turning to reach where you started off from. It was at this time that we made the decision NOT to get a TV when we went to London.

A few days before you completed 4 months, I had taken you to ajji thatha mane for 2 days and by the time we got back home, you had become quite addicted to socialising and having people around that you would just start screaming every time we left you alone. I am not sure if this means you’ve now become a clingy child or if its just a growth spurt, I’m hoping its the latter.

You’ve definitely been growing up and becoming more human as you can recognise appa and me since you like being cuddled by us or you like to cuddle us yourself. We are starting to miss the times when you were a clueless blob but we have decided to enjoy every phase for what its worth. This hopefully will not include our crazy efforts to get you accustomed to a feeding bottle (don’t even get me started on this!). 😀