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!

Emotional dependence and why we remain unmarried

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Marriage is a (wo)man-made institution to legalise two people choosing to live together as romantic partners, engaging in procreation and so on. But at a very carnal level, there is no need for it and we can very well do away with it. So, if any one of you believes that you “have” to get married for your parents’ sake, we have a problem because you’ve probably surrendered to the society much more than you should have (Okay, that’s a judgement alright).

While we know our parents would love to see us married and “settled” (an unattainable state of stability that parents dream of for their children), it’s okay if we don’t settle. A lot of parents’ hopes/ dreams for us, get shattered at various points in their lives and so one more won’t make so much of a difference unless they are convinced we don’t have much else going on in our lives. So trying to get us married is their desperate attempt to find us a “purpose (read distraction)” in life, so we don’t die of loneliness/depression as we age. So, if your parents are breathing down your neck constantly, either you need to convince them that you have a bigger purpose in life or go find that purpose asap before their concerns can break you to pieces.

Some one or two generations ago, parents bulldozed their choices on children in terms of when, whom and how they must marry, but that was usually quite premature and you couldn’t quite blame the kids for not having picked their own partners by then because the kids were usually busy focussing on their careers (mid-late 20s). Off late, I’ve been meeting more and more fully grown adults (in 30s) with mostly sorted professional lives still waiting for their parents to find them partners or play the primary role in deciding who they should marry, which makes me wonder if our parents were too focussed on keeping the family close-knit and in the process missed raising independent decision makers.

Now, I don’t blame our parents because their generation was fighting the transition from joint families to nuclear families and hence, resorted to emotional blackmail (not consciously of course) to retain family bonding. Naturally our generation values emotional independence having got very little of it growing up and so, we might be headed towards raising more nuclear lives. And as we raise more independent thinkers, our children might get very little of the warmth and closeness of a huge close knit family resulting in them making up for it in their own ways as they raise their following generation and so on. But that’s not for me to worry about.

As far as my generation is concerned, we might probably focus on raising strong independent decision makers because it is scary to see the number of people who remain unmarried because they haven’t found a partner, their parents approve of. It scares me to see that lack of parental concurrence is an acceptable excuse for someone even in their 30s. If you had found your life’s greatest passion, would you let someone else (even if its your own parents) tell you what to do with it?

Karthik often said he wanted to marry someone who has lived in a hostel (I’d spent 22years of my life living with my parents at the point when I met him), but I never really understood what he meant until recently. Living in a hostel away from home allows us to “grow up” in so many ways that staying home with parents doesn’t. We learn to take control of our day-to-day lives, make independent decisions and uproot a few roots that have grown deep into our families over the years.

While this might recalibrate our bond with our families, it is an especially important trait for us to be truly marriage-ready since the recalibration facilitates welcoming a new bond in our lives. Some of us get confused by this recalibration as having to choose between the family and a partner. It is not one or the other, instead it is making way for both in the long-term while giving the partner short-term benefit of being new in our lives. And there is no way you can strike this balance gracefully if you haven’t learnt to make your own choices.

P.S – Don’t be like Wilbur Saragunaraj and go in an auto with your mummy!

Can infidelity be nourishing?

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That’s an absurd title you’d think? But we understand very little of infidelity to be sure we don’t encounter it in our own lives and if it hasn’t happened to us, we usually hold the right to judge. The way we traditionally understand infidelity is when someone gets physically intimate with another individual of the opposite gender, who is other than their partner. Now there are several levels even within this age old definition of infidelity – one kiss, several kisses, one night stand, many night stands and so on. It can be argued based on convenience that one is less worse than the other but the truth is, its all bad enough or its all quite irrelevant in the larger scheme of things.

If your wife imagined making love to another man (or even woman) while making love to you, would that be adultery? If your husband sat next to you and enjoyed a text conversation with someone else while you longed for a conversation with him, would that be adultery? What if one of you thought a complete stranger in the mall was good looking, now, is that adultery? What if you were about to have a meeting with a new colleague someday and you spent some extra time dressing up to make a good first impression, would that be adultery? What if your recent searches on Facebook featured your exes because you had nothing better to do on a commute back home, would this be adultery?

Neetisaara dictates the virtues of an ideal wife as “Karyeshu Dasi, Karaneshu Manthri; Bhojeshu Mata, Shayaneshu Rambha, Roopeshu lakshmi, Kshamayeshu Dharitri, Shat dharmayukta, Kuladharma Pathni”, This features as a part of the wedding vows you take as a couple in a Hindu wedding ceremony and it dictates the behaviour of a spouse through the relationship over 7 incarnations but today, we like to do this in a different order. We like to verify all the different bits before we commit to marrying someone and hence, stepping outside (even in your imagination) for sexual, intellectual, emotional and social stimulus makes a strong case for infidelity in a marriage.

Given that we have such a high bar for fidelity (almost making it an imaginary concept), I can tell you with reasonable confidence that we encounter infidelity in different forms in our own lives. It’s easy to let society dictate our reaction to infidelity because that’s how we have been conditioned. In the Mahabharata, Arjuna brings back Subadra from the time he is on an exile and Draupadi (who already has 4 other husbands) gets pissed off, but the story of how she feels about either Arjuna’s exploits with Chitrangada or Ulupi is not very famous. It’s our society’s way of setting boundaries on what’s acceptable and what is not – feel free to screw whoever but don’t bring them home and all will be well. But honestly, to each their own and I am going to tell you why it needn’t always mean that we are heading to doomsday.

We feel the need to step outside when we seek something that we don’t get from our existing relationships anymore. When our spouse doesn’t make us feel the way we used to feel when we first fell in love, in an attempt to get rid of this feeling of not being explicitly desired, we have this intense urge to turn back time to when we felt good about ourselves. We try to reconnect with our glorious past, we try to re-invent ourselves to be more interesting or just try all of this in our imagination, disconnecting ourselves from our realities, in turn straying from our present commitments. Our spirit doesn’t settle unless we see some hope for all glory being restored and no amount of sexy lingerie can change that.

Given that routine sets in contempt and this feeling is bound to consume all of us at some point at different levels, feeding this feeling with opportunities to make ourselves feel better could possibly be nourishing for us and our existing relationships. In an attempt to look sexy for someone else, you might make your husband notice you. This might trigger him to reciprocate and this could set things back on track. Or not. But that’s a chance I urge you to take because infidelity stems from a need to revive a dying spirit, that has the potential to be happier in any relationship, in or out. If you find your partner cheating on you, at any level, give them a chance because it doesn’t mean your relationship is dying but it means your partner is trying hard to prevent his/ her spirit from dying.

(Over)worked!

There’s no real substance to this post. It’s merely a journal entry for the sake of remembering exactly how I feel today because some day I may not remember how it all began. As a teenager and a young adult, I remember asking my mum very often why she overworked herself both at home and at work while she could simply share the load at home with my dad. I blamed her for not learning the skills to delegate, I blamed her for not being explicit with my dad about the help she could’ve used and I blamed her for all the stress she brought upon herself, affecting her health. Today, looking back, I wonder why I used to be so harsh on her because I find myself beginning to walk down the same path. How did I get here not wanting to get here?

Its been 3.5 hours since I got home from work and it’s only now that I am sitting down to do what I’d wanted to do the moment I got home – catching up on all my pending blogposts (I don’t know when I’ll really get around to doing it). I came home and went straight into the kitchen to make a soup for the husband who has been a bit sick. By the time I kept out all the ingredients for the soup, Karthik and Berry came home. I picked up Berry and not surprisingly, she wouldn’t let go. So, I tied her up into my ever so handy cotton dupatta and started making the soup, while Berry juggled between fiddling with my face and watching me cut vegetables. By the time we were done drinking the soup, it was 8pm and time for Berry’s feed.

In the background I was wondering if I should stop feeding, give Berry a bath, put her to sleep and then cook or the other way round. But if she didn’t sleep, I wouldn’t be able to cook and so I chose to cook first while I let Berry hang out with Karthik. Meanwhile, Karthik was too tired to entertain Berry and wanted me to take her away, but I couldn’t since I was making our dinner, which needed to be ready by 9pm. I murmured something and refused to take her and went back to my cooking. Then, I gave Berry a massage followed by a bath, fed her and when I saw that she was no where close to sleeping without a solid meal, gave up and decided to go serve dinner.

I made Berry’s dinner (rice, dal and vegetables) and fed her, while I ate my own dinner. Having been fed, I knew I could leave her for a few minutes on her own, while I cleaned the bath-tub. While scrubbing the tub and mopping the bathroom, I wondered if I should get a maid and then when I realised that I might have to lead the search, I let that thought fly by and continued with my scrubbing. Then I did all the dishes, prepared Berry’s lunch for tomorrow and cleaned up the kitchen. Once I was done, it was time to get back to Berry, feed her and put her to sleep.

At the end of it, I felt a strange sense of accomplishment. It was not because I had been a dedicated wife or a mother, it was more so because I had done something I never thought I’d ever be able to do a few years ago. At the same time, I felt sick in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t like feeling proud about this achievement. I felt cornered, like I’d brought this self fulfilling misery upon myself. I remembered those conversations with Amma where I blamed her for being too unfair with herself, for putting herself through stress that she didn’t deserve but yet, I was here, doing the exact same thing to myself.

I wonder if feeling satisfied/ accomplished/ proud is a way we incentivise ourselves to get by all the mundane tasks that just need our attention? Is this our inland letter “promoting us to standard “ because we need some validation that we are getting ahead in our lives? Is this us, overcompensating for having a thankless job that seldom receives any acknowledgement from anyone at all? Or maybe it’s us losing sight of the bigger picture in life, being caught up in minor operational glitches. So, maybe that sick feeling in the belly is all it takes to knock us back into our senses and look beyond meeting day-to-day operational targets (Lulz!).

Oh and by the way, did I say, I have been quite sick too? Probably not.

What if?

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I am in the business of promising people that I would make them more marriage-ready through one-on-one coaching. While I try my best to keep up my end of the deal, there are some things in the world I cannot influence – supply of soulmates. Even if you are more marriageable at the end of three months, what if you never meet anyone you like? There’s a self selection in my clientele – people who are less inclined to settle, reach out to me for help and so convincing them to settle would seem like a measure of success. But should I?

The longer you are in the market, the more jaded you become. The strange thing though is that you end up lowering your bar while becoming more picky, so essentially you are stuck in this paradox unable to make a decision. When you find yourself in such a situation, you have got to start asking yourself what if you never find a partner and if you don’t have a good enough answer for that, I’d say your chances of finding a partner at all are slimmer than you think it was.

So, there is good single and bad single. Good single is when you are single and loving it because your life is so exciting and full of things to look forward to. Bad single is when you are single because you can’t get yourself to un-single – when all your energy is really just invested in finding yourself a partner. We live by this social checklist where we believe our twenties must be diligently dedicated to sourcing ourselves a partner without paying any heed to much else, in the process becoming very boring. This happens very slyly and we don’t even realise till its really late.

Instead, if we spent our energies in just living – making our lives more interesting by pursuing our passions, we would be much more appealing and attract a far superior set of potential partners. This way, we won’t have to lower our bar while being picky. More importantly, our lives will be too awesome to be wasted looking for someone else to complete it. So, whether you are fresh or well into the market, ask yourself “what if” because its the only way you’ll manage to get someone better than you think you deserve!

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.

Schrodinger’s relationships

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Growing up, we are all made to believe that we have one soulmate specially manufactured for us, hiding somewhere in this universe and in case our stars align well, we might just be able to meet this person. So, the first time you fall in love, you genuinely believe that this person you are in love with is your soulmate until for no apparent fault of yours, the relationship crumbles like soft cheese. You just can’t stop blaming yourself for the failure of this relationship because you think you couldn’t make it work despite the universe doing its miracle of making you meet with your soulmate. I mean, how many people in the world actually get a chance to be with their soulmate and you, on the other hand, completely ruined your chance.

You’ve hardly managed to get some sort of a closure on this awry relationship, when you meet someone else who you get along reasonably well with. Having been at a certain stage in your previous relationship, you find yourself much more uninhibtied this time around. While you took one year and twenty dates to get to a quick peck on the cheek that warranted a 10-page dear diary piece, you find yourself easily indulging in public display of affection on the second date itself. Whats worse is that this experience doesn’t even warrant a 140 character text to your date saying you had a good time until he/ she expectantly reaches out to you to tell you how much it meant to them.

It’s completely okay (and normal) to feel this way when you’ve failed in your very first relationship for no fault of yours. What’s not okay is to not take the other person’s relationship quotient into consideration. What if this was their first time? What if you tattered their spirits with your inability to love back the way you did the first time around? You will just end up creating one more person like you who believes in love just a little bit less than they ever did.

We are little bit like ants. We keep sharing a little something with everyone we meet in our lives as we crawl. Every interaction makes us a little bit of who we are cumulatively today. If you show someone a little bit of love, you make them capable of doing the same with the next ant they meet and this gets positively reinforced there onwards. If you aren’t sure you can commit to loving someone, don’t bother trying because all you’ll end up doing is damaging someone for good because even cynicism spirals negatively like that.

It takes a few empty flings or meaningless relationships for you to realise that the concept of one love is just a popular cliche that’s been over-romanticised and that there’s no such thing as a soulmate. So, you either end up as a desperate romance hunter with the facade of a cynic or hippy polyamorist who has so much love to give that you need to sow seeds of your affection as far and wide as possible draining all magic out of love, making the world a worse place.

But how do you commit even before you are fully sure this  is “real” love, you may ask? This ain’t your first time to naively believe this person is your soulmate and even if he/ she were, you should have known right away given that you are smarter with relationships having been burnt once, right? I know its a little bit of a Schrodinger relationship problem. You don’t know if this is love until you have opened the door to this relationship (read get them in the sack) and once you’ve open the door, you know it is isn’t love. So as long as you haven’t opened the door, this could be both love and not.

Essentially, there’s no perfect solution to the above question and that’s precisely why our society has evolved a reasonable alternative called marriage. Let me explain. You don’t open the door until you really have to, at which point you are either married or too old or don’t care if the love is dead or alive since you have “settled” for what seems to be a less gut churning, stable, long-term relationship only to be occasionally reminded of your shortcomings as a lover when you see a distant friend’s filtered pictures on Instagram with their high school sweethearts.