Where the mind is without fear

One of the reasons I started writing a lot in 2015 is because there were too many thoughts in my head and most of them too negative to be in there. I found writing to be a very powerful weapon to drive those thoughts out of my head and make space for productive thoughts. Several days later, I remember complaining to Conor Neil that I find my blog too cynical and that I’d like to write positively as he does but he told me it was important to have a balance of positivity with cynicism and that I mustn’t beat myself about this. So, putting out my negative thoughts here fulfills that exact purpose of filling the void in my head with some much needed positivity.

For the last several years, I have been suffering from some mild form of passive depression – I say mild because I have been living in denial and pretending like it doesn’t exist. It’s come on more strongly ever since Berry was born. Yet again, I brushed it off as being normal to suffer from post natal depression. This is mainly because I once did try seeing a therapist and it made me feel incredibly stupid for allowing myself to be bogged down by negativity enough to believe I needed help.

Even now, I continue to fight the little voice that wants me to seek help because some part of me strongly believes I know how to fix this problem myself. When you have a series of not so positive feedback loops, you start to wonder if you are making any progress in life and self doubt becomes a constant companion. So, when someone calls you out for not being good enough anywhere, you naturally become defensive. When you are defensive, you can’t offer logical arguments and you end up on an emotional tangent making your case much worse.

When you have gone so far off track, you really need help coming back – be it a therapist, a loving friend or a mentor. However, the important thing here is to make sure you still want to come back on track because if you don’t, I’d say that’s pretty serious and you need to just stop and scream for help immediately. Just any form of help, really. If you don’t, you’ll end up going in so deep that there’s no coming back.

The way I like to deal with my negative thoughts is by driving it out onto this blog and let go off it forever. The only reason I have refrained from doing that more recently is because I have bills to pay. But, I realise that this is just feeding a vicious cycle further and I’d rather dwell in a world where the mind is without fear, because fear makes you shrivel into something smaller than you really are.

So, I am back, back with my cynicism, negativity and everything chaotic that lies inside me dying to get out, so it can be replaced with some much needed positivity and joy.

Letters to my Berry#9

IMG_8561

If I had observed you too closely this month, I probably wouldn’t have realised this because this change in you is so subtle that it’s easy to miss. No, you haven’t learnt to walk on your own yet. Neither have you learnt to talk. But what you have learnt is to disobey your parents. Yes, apparently, it does start this early. So you see, children disobeying their parents has very little to do with parents and there’s no reason for us to be hard on ourselves for not “discipling” you. You clearly have a mind of your own and I highly doubt I can control it too much, so I’ll remember not to try too hard as you grow up and be more difficult.

Ever since you started crawling, you have been too busy exploring the world on your own terms. You go from one room to another in the house in pursuit of everything dangerous – be it to lick the sockets, eat the ends of chargers, fiddle with the heaters, eat chappals, pull out drawers, hang onto the floor lamp as if you are a pole dancer, drum on the dustbin, try to get into the dishwasher or washing machine or try to open the kitchen cabinets to pull out everything inside. You won’t stop if we asked you to, you won’t stop if we pulled you back and in fact, that only makes you go back to it faster. The only weapon I still have is to attract you with some food. Mwuahah. You love the sound of opening a packet (of food!).

Yet another step change we have seen this month is your ability to communicate. You know how to ask for more food. You scream and signal for us to continue feeding you. You also understand what we tell you, although you conveniently act like you don’t since there is no way for us to verify either way. When we try to show you different animals in your animal book and make noises that animals make, you laugh because the sounds are strange and something we don’t make normally. This is the only way to keep you quiet or sane on the tube everyday. Sometimes I even swing the swara of all the geetes I can remember and when all else fails, I stand up in the corner and pretend like we are getting off at the next station.

You have learnt this really funny fake laugh (very much like your dad’s) that you keep using to act cute so we pick you up. This reminds me of what Ajit had told me about Arhita being a master manipulator even though she didn’t talk yet. Ahem. But I’m not complaining because I love your laugh, even the fake one because it shows how happy a child you are. I remember ajji always telling me that you’ll turn out to be a grumpy baby because I was always so grumpy/ deep in thought through the pregnancy that I might pass off some of that energy to you. I know it’s too early to say, but let’s hope that you keep this happy spirit about you.

You are super friendly, you like to extend your hand to anyone who says hello to you. You like touching their face or maybe even plucking their nose. You like kids who are slightly older than you. You wanted to play with Vasu (Appa’s friend ID’s son) when we visited their house but he was so into his own younger sister, Anika that I felt a bit sad for you. But you have Rehan (Amma’s friend Sam’s son) and he absolutely loves playing with you. You like hugging him and following him everywhere whenever we visit his house. Sometimes I secretly wish I could buy you an older sibling (Yeah, I used to think you can buy them in a shop when I was a little girl). Sigh.

Another big achievement of the month is that you have two teeth (I can attest for it because I have been bitten!!!) and you can eat on your own. In order to make sure we feed you healthy food everyday, we have a fairly standardised non-creative eating routine for you which includes feeding you a small portion of our breakfast, mashed vegetables (carrots, potato, tomato, spinach) with salt, pepper, ghee and cheese for lunch and a portion of our dinner as your mummum. Most days we let you eat your own breakfast and feed you the other meals. Check it out.

IMG_8532

That’s Rehan’s highchair btw. He is probably the first kid I have seen till date who happily shares all his toys with you, in fact, he even lets you take some of them home with you. I am still a bit unsure about if this is a trait I want to actively nurture or not because I think you shouldn’t share if you don’t want to and if you want to, you should absolutely do so. Ok, I am on the fence but I know I don’t want to force you just to seem like I’m doing the right thing as a parent. So, I will allow you to beat me if I shove some random parenting gyaan on you that I don’t truly believe in.

I can’t believe as of this month, you have lived longer outside of me than inside of me. Happy 3/4th Year Berry!!

P.S – Here’s a list of all the random names I call you (some are super mental, sorry!) – Berry mumma, tinamma gundu, gundamma, halka laudi (you are super light!), gundamma bitheth, missklaudi, Berima, mumma, billi, tinamms, chinnamma, smileypaaps, smellypaaps, baeripaapa. Ok the list goes on..

 

 

 

 

 

The curse of the keep-in-toucher

IMG_8550

Recently, I touched base with a friend I hadn’t spoken to in ages (2 years almost) and sometime through the conversation, she mentioned she wasn’t good at keeping in touch at all and so was glad that I reached out. And so you’d think that she’d reach out the next time we lose touch right? No, wrong. This is the exact thing she’d said two years ago when I’d reached out to her after a gap of 4 years. Now, you’d think that I’d be pretty stupid to think she’d ever reach out on her own right? No, wrong again! This was a friend who kept in constant touch back in college when we were physically around each other, so much so that I don’t ever remember initiating a single conversation.

This is not a story in isolation. It happens to my all the time. I just thought people grow up, get very busy in their own lives, hardly find time to keep in touch and so, I am doing a great thing by giving them an opportunity to reconnect with old friends except when recently, an old friend who I’d (obviously) reached out to after years, needed no updating on my life as he’d already stayed upto date about it through my Facebook feed. This is when I started reconsidering my argument about people not having the time and realised that the real problem was that I am a big “keep-in-toucher” unlike most of my friends.

When I reach out to friends and they say they’re glad I got in touch, I assume that they’re going to take the cue and reach out on their own the next time. But they don’t. Also, they don’t stop saying how glad they are that you reached out since they are terrible at keeping in touch because they’d much rather stalk you and ask you to mark yourself safe from a terrorist attack on the internet than pick up the phone and text you. It’s a vicious circle – a curse on every keep-in-toucher.

It’s strange, but not unexpected that nature of relationships change over time and place. I always found the phrase “Keep in touch” very funny, especially when really close friends wrote that in slam books because you’re so young and unmarred by life that you think nothing could ever change the fervour of your friendships. But I can tell you, even if I exchanged a 100 messages one day with a long-lost friend (that’s the only way to speak with friends strewn all over the world) and felt like nothing had changed between us, I could bet that the next day won’t be the same as a following day in the previous era when we were best friends. This certainty of loss of ferocity over time which completely replaces the certainty of the ferocity, is hard to deal with as adults.

So, if you ever get a text from me, it’s because I am a compulsive keep-in-toucher, not because I am trying to kill time on my commute  (there’s no signal on the tube, mind you).  And don’t apologise for not being good at keeping in touch because I know you better than that!

 

The work-life balance

use-mobile-tech-to-achieve-a-work-life-balance-con-3054-768x432-main

When you are constantly slamming (fn+C) on your Mac, you know that your work (where you use a Windows PC) has completely consumed your life. I could try to get a Mac at work as well or switch to a Windows laptop at home, but I wouldn’t. I am one of those people who likes to keep work separate from life because when you mix the two, you are bound to be partial to one over the other and it’s not fair for either. For the past month, I have everything mixed up so badly that it breaks my heart when my 8 month old daughter constantly crawls up to me and tries to shut my computer, even late into the evening. This is also probably why I haven’t written in the longest time, because I’d rather play with her in the little time I see her awake than tap away on another laptop.

A lot of people like to make their jobs, their entire existence. I, on the other hand, is always fighting to make the two disjoint. I fundamentally believe that a job is a means to fund my living and as long as that job is making a net positive contribution to the world, I am doing the right thing. We trade our skills for money because we can then trade our money for happiness, which seems a bit convoluted but given that Tesco on street won’t give me a bag full of groceries in return for my number crunching skills, I am forced to rely on money as a middleman. Having said this, I’ve always had a choice in terms of what skills I trade for money but apart from changing the perception of contribution I make to the world, this doesn’t change a thing about wanting to strive a work-life balance.

I know that the west and east differ very much in terms of how we view our jobs, and so my view of this could be severely culturally biased. I am reminded of something an ex-colleague once told me, “I have a side business because I can’t live the life I want with the salary my employer gives me. I only work for money, and if my employer needs loyalty, they should hire daawgs (read kannada accent)”. I will not speak for the entire world, or for the east or for India, but I play many roles apart from being an employee – a writer, a thinker, a painter, a cook, an organiser, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a grand-daughter, a daughter-in-law, a niece, a cousin, an aunt, a friend and much more. So it’s very important for me to be able to make time for everyone in my day. The only way I can do this is by living every role as efficiently as possible.

Whether as an employee or as an entrepreneur, I simply hate carrying the burden of my inefficiency at work into life or the other way around and so, this commitment to be fair to every bit of me makes me try harder to be as efficient as possible, on an average. I am nowhere near the efficiency I’d like, and hence, I continue to constantly fight to keep every bit disjoint.

You live only once!

I was listening to a podcast the other day about correlation between our childhood and political views during adulthood. Given that we are governed for the very first time at home, our political preferences are very much shaped at home. I have mostly been a very obedient kid at home, where I’ve constantly feared the consequences of being otherwise. Having said that, I have done my share of sneaking behind my parents back to do things that they’d have never approved of, but everybody does that.

I have seldom challenged this invisible rule book for an acceptable format to life  – You study, you get a job, you get married, you buy property (more than one is preferable), you have children, you attend all family functions, you organise a few yourself, you go on foreign vacations, bring back presents for family, you continue to keep your job, go on business trips, bring presents again, religiously market your life on social media and so on. I may not have necessarily followed this myself, but I acknowledge the need for such rule based existence.

Naturally, when Karthik left a stable job within the first year of our marriage, you can imagine how distraught I must have been. I could never come to terms with his need to “take a break” because I was raised to slog my ass off in the hope of a post-retirement hibernation when I’d be free from all my familial duties. Karthik and I fought lots, not because he didn’t have a constant source of income, but just him sitting at home all day, everyday was just not healthy for him or our relationship.

The only way I knew how to get him to do what I wanted was to threaten him, and obviously, that didn’t work and we fought more. Sometimes it got very ugly, but none of that convinced him to get back to a job. He was so stubborn because life had been so unfair to him in the last few years that he genuinely believed he didn’t owe anyone anything. But I wouldn’t give up either – I revived my own dreams of studying further to make up for our combined dreams being shattered.

Recently, Karthik met a friend of his who was visiting London for a business meeting. This chap lives the epitome of a professional life that I had once aspired for. He found it hard to fathom that Karthik had moved to a new country just like that without a job. When Karthik told me this, I found myself getting extremely defensive although in the last 6 years I would never been seen defending Karthik’s life’s choices. I realised that I am incredibly proud of everything Karthik has done ever since he quit a stable job with Goldman Sachs, including moving to a different country just to support his wife live her dreams.

For a child prodigy, having always been miles ahead of his class, having topped JEE and CAT, it must have been incredibly disorienting to see that one needs a very different set of skills to survive the corporate world unlike in school years. After having been disillusioned at his first consulting gig, having gone through several less than stimulating jobs consequently, and dealing with the death of both parents, it must have taken enormous efforts to pull off a stellar consulting business, become a faculty at his alma mater, become a national newspaper columnist and a soon to be published author (Skipping the part where he has been an amazing partner putting me through business school, managing an entire household and surviving long-distance, because this would need an entire blogpost).

Over the last few years, I have begun to make peace with Karthik’s aspirations being very different from mine, and how we optimise for different things in life – me for stress and he for the lack of it. As a couple, if our focus had been on nurturing common formula driven dreams, building complexes and farm houses, we’d have learnt so little about embracing differences and me, about challenging meaningless rules.

Most people just cannot take risks and in turn impose the limitations of such a life on everyone around them. Anyone not following the prescribed path for success is warned of the potential dire consequences instead of just being understood. We think we are doing this out of concern for the other person, but in reality, we are trying to validate our own path by being skeptical/ condescending about someone else’s. It’s this lack of curiosity that deams us to failure as a society.

P.S – In our madness of shuttling between abiding and challenging, we have managed to study, get jobs, buy properties, have a child, travels loads and have the balls to quit jobs and move countries whenever we’ve wanted because you live only once!

Why is suffering a much glorified idea?

Growing up in India, every kid has probably heard Gandhi ji’s famous quote about non-violence – “If someone slaps you on one cheek, show them your other cheek as well”. But my philosophy in life is modelled after actor Malasree in the Dynamic star-Devraj starrer Kannada movie, Gruhapravesha, where she champions self defence by stopping her mother-in-law Satyabhama from slapping her, in turn letting  everyone know she is not to be messed with. I don’t like to actively cause any harm to others, however, I also don’t like to cause any harm to myself in the name of propagating Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence.

Suffering is a highly glorified trait in India and I realised that this is much more commonplace among womenfolk. As women, we are designed to endure more physical pain (menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth and so on) and yet, we try so hard to prove that we can take on more. We want to be great wives, great mothers, great professionals, we want to have it all even if it means killing ourselves over making it all work. In pain, we seek happiness and validation because our lives are pretty thankless otherwise.

Above and beyond our society,  most religions also preach that suffering is the route to heaven. If you don’t eat meat or drink alcohol on certain days of the week and endure the pain of controlling your craving, you are somehow better off than people who’d rather take pleasure for a place in heaven. If you fast in the name of god and kill yourself from hunger, you’ve earned yourself a spot in heaven. Its almost as if suffering has been glorified over the years just to induce some sense of fear so people don’t enjoy pleasure guilt free.

Pleasure/ happiness is desirable. When we see others have it while we can’t, it makes us jealous. We need a way to believe either that we shall have a shot at pleasure too or that the ones who are currently enjoying will soon join us in misery too because this is the only way for us to feel at peace. And so, our society devised this great trick for us to believe that giving up short-term pleasures and enduring suffering gives us long-lasting benefits at some unforeseeable point in the future. We obviously believe this because humans are greedy and we’d rather enjoy a little extra happiness tomorrow versus limited happiness today.

Complicating our lives

fc66a8405d5765a9971672e19b96cc4e

As I walked out of my office this evening, I started thinking about how I want to organise my evening once I reach home in order to make the most of my time. I wanted to clearly segregate the time I spent cooking, cleaning up, etc. from the time I spent with Berry. The context switch was so instantaneous, as if I exited one stage and got onto another. Until today, I was never conscious of the many roles I play everyday – mother, wife, employee, daughter, sister, daughter-in-law, blogger, marriage broker auntie, friend, etc. I think it’s so easy to lose oneself while you are too busy playing all these roles that it’s important to be able to distinguish between them very clearly.

For the last two weeks, I have been unable to spend quality time blogging and having left that part of me incredibly dissatisfied, I can feel the pressure trickling down onto other parts of me. So, I try to set little goals for every part of me so each of them try to do their best to inspire the other parts. Okay, I know you think I’m insane now and I don’t blame you because sometimes, I think so myself. I think we are all constantly finding ways to make our lives more meaningful in ways that we feel like we are headed somewhere or are striving to get “better” even though, deep down, we know all of this is quite insignificant in the grander scheme of things (at a multiverse level).

As a child of 8 or 9, I remember lying down on my terrace and looking up at the stars and thinking how insignificant my problems (not studying for the test next day level) in life were. I remember thinking how silly we were to take our stupid little lives so seriously (of course not the fact that we actually had lives), trading happiness and simplicity for drama in the name of “meaning”. It gave me solace to let go, I enjoyed letting myself feel insignificant, yet today, I try to make my life a bit more complicated than it actually is because I want to feel like it’s worth living.

I’ve gone a full cycle in exploring if I’ve aged exponentially or I’m plain depressed to entertain such morbid thoughts ever so often, but I haven’t found any answers yet. The fact is we all eventually die and until then, we want to justify why we haven’t died yet.