Exclusivity and taking joy out of love

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Woke up this morning to some happy news. A close friend who’s been single for a very long time, sent me a text saying he and this girl he’d been meeting on and off over the last several months decided to be exclusive. While I was overjoyed, I also thought it was a funny way of saying it. Maybe because I fell in love in another era where people would say I love you instead.

Do we now assume that people are in an open relationship by default, that there is a need to explicitly clarify? There have always been people who didn’t subscribe to monogamy but in general, we are less likely to take monogamy for granted today. We live in the world of Tinder where you can go from one person to the next in just a swipe. Before your relationship with one person has ended, another has already begun and so we find ourselves being fairly non-commital to either relationship, just to be safe. There’s no incentive to stick it out and make it work with anyone because choice is infinite.

So, when people explicitly state that they want to be exclusive, it’s a big step. Even if it is for a limited duration, it’s huge because then you become accountable to upholding your word through the life of that relationship – be it physical, emotional, intellectual or social exclusivity. Accountability takes the joy out of love, or atleast love as we know it. Love as we know it (thanks to media) is about uncertainty, that ever fleeting feeling of elusiveness and it’s about being young and irresponsible. Love as we like it isn’t about being accountable – because you know, love makes us do stupid things.

Most people don’t make it past this first step of establishing accountability because it’s hard to stay exclusive. Strangely, we embrace uncertainty in love better than certainty in a stable relationship. We are so used to going from one stage to the next – being single to getting into a relationship to make it exclusive that we don’t know how to cope with the stability exclusivity brings in our lives. The few of us who brave the exclusivity, stay on in the memory of that ever fleeting feeling of elusiveness that preceded this life of accountability because it’s what makes the mature aftertaste worth it.

 

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Daughters of Destiny

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I am one major sob queen and I am not ashamed to admit it. Any piece of media I consume makes me super emotional and cry like someone just died. As expected, the new documentary on Netflix, “Daughters of Destiny” made me weep like a baby all afternoon yesterday. This documentary is about children from socially and economically backward families being provided with an equal opportunity to education and basic quality of life, all thanks to the vision of one man, Abraham George, and the contribution of several generous donors. It is an attempt to break poverty at the most grassroots level, one child at a time.

The one thing that stood out to me from that documentary, which has been shot over 7 years, was how fluently these children spoke in English. It doesn’t feel like India. It feels like the West, where everyone including a homeless person speaks English with the same accent and it’s hard for you to know what their social or economic background is. This is so powerful, especially given that these children would have otherwise been social outcastes given the castes they come from and the stigma attached to it, till date.

To put things into context, one of the kids, was born to a woman who works in quarry and lives in a tiny thatched hut roof by the same quarry. She lived there until the age of 4 before she received admission into “Shanti Bhavan”, a residential school for the underprivileged in South India (near Hosur). She is now a corporate lawyer in Delhi, after having graduated from NUJS in Kolkata. Her two worlds are strikingly different as her family continues to live by the quarry in the same old tiny hut. I cannot even begin to imagine the level of maturity this girl has to be able to cope with the differences.

I have a lot of admiration for people who give their precious time for the betterment of others, especially at the grassroots level. We are all so caught up in our own lives that we don’t have a minute to pause and reflect on how lucky we all are to be born to our parents who could afford to provide us with opportunities to dream, and then go chase those dreams, let alone help others have those opportunities. We think it’s not our problem that these kids are born into poor homes and to each their own fate because there are people who are much richer than us and they don’t make our lives any better.

Helping someone who could use our help enriches our lives as much as it enriches theirs.   It’s impossible to know who has how much potential without being given the opportunity to explore it. All we can do as having had the privilege to explore our own potential is to be able to help one other person explore theirs, because who knows, one day, this person might become the president of our country and you’ll play a huge part in it. Just saying, in case you are curious about what’s in it for you.

I myself had the privilege of enriching the lives of close to 200 such kids that came from various parts of rural Karnataka while I ran civic education program for them over 4 years at Toyota in Bangalore. I benefiting from the experience as much as any of these kids since I learnt a great deal about life in different parts of rural Karnataka I’d have otherwise never known first hand and this made me grateful for the life I had, growing up in a city. That’s when I realised that opening yourself up to give, allows you to receive as well.

Letters to my Berry#10

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The very fact that I am wring this post 8 days after you turned 10 months old shows how useless a mother I have been this month. Blaming it on my job could be an easy way out, but I want to set a better example than that. I am late, and I am sorry. But, hopefully, my memory will make up for being this late.

You made your first trip to a children’s park this month and enjoyed several rides with Tank. You guys ran around Walpole park and enjoyed ice cream. We should probably take you to a park more often given your obsessions with bubbas. You are ever ready to step out. The moment you hear the keys jingle, you race to the lobby so the person with the keys picks you up to take you out. It’s a game we like to play with you now, we jiggle the keys when we want you to come away from some crazy thing you are up to like putting your hand into a socket (mean I know, but still!).

The highlight of this month has to be the time you have spent with Ajji thatha. They got here on 5th July. You woke up feeling strangely excited that morning even before we went to the airport to pick them up, as if you somehow knew that they were coming to visit you. You so happily went to ajji thatha without an inkling of stranger anxiety, that you normally have with others. Wonder if you made the FaceTime connection? You took to them unexpectedly well since you spent the whole day with them on Day 2 and didn’t cry for us one bit. They also surprisingly handled you quite well (surprising given how many years it had been since they took care of us as babies).

Voice modulation is probably the highlight of this month. Although “ta” is the only sound you can make, you modulate your voice quite effectively to communicate. While “tuh-tuh” is for bye, taataa is for grandpa. The reason you probably started communicating a lot more is because ajji thatha have been around and talking to you constantly. Another benefit of them being around is that you are always well fed and have probably gotten gundu’r. I am a little nervous about not being able to feed you as well once they leave. I’ve never been quite good at these stereotypical motherly things.

You had a health visitor check on you this month and it turns out you are on the same growth trajectory that you were on when you were born, which means we have been doing quite well in terms of maintaining status quo if not having done worse. You are 7.2Kgs and 70cms now (in case you were curious?). Although built quite small, you are fully capable of pushing dustbins or buckets from one room to another, and it’s almost impossible to pull anything out of your grasp.

I know I have said this before, but you clearly have a special relationship with music. It calms you down like nothing else. Whenever you scream endlessly on the tube back home, I keep singing swara of varnas and geetes and you listen to it mesmerised. Thanks to your thatha you have learnt to even sway to music and clearly show your appreciation for it. You enjoy listening to rhymes when thatha sings them for you, you keep bringing him your sheet of rhymes so he can keep singing the same old thing all the time. But it’s incredible how close you’ve gotten to both ajji and thatha. How I wish you could grow up with them around just like Barbie and I did around ours. Sigh.

There’s been a step change in your ability to comprehend what we are saying – you give us things when we ask for it, you come when we call you, etc. You are very adventurous at home, you keep crawling off under everything at home, climbing up and down from everywhere and as appa says, you have figured out edge detection since you now know how to carefully get off a bed/ sofa. You are even training well to becoming a hand-slave as the other day you were picking up clothes from the bucket and giving it to appa and me as we were hanging clothes on the clothes line.

You can now stand up on your own without much support, although you haven’t mustered enough courage to walk. You are pretty happy crawling on all fours, especially to ajji thatha’s room to go hide behind the door to play Berry Kalla with thatha. You keep trying to bulldoze into the wall behind the door because you think it’s some sort of Platform 9-3/4th and you can escape into some hogwarts level place but the point is, you are really dumb. Haha. Fine, I know twenty years hence you’ll think I’m dumb, but it’s okay, it’s my turn now.

I soooo don’t want you to grow up, my 4 teethed monkey (You keep gritting those pearls, use them effectively to bite into things like your carrot/ cheese sticks and also randomly bite me. You’ve even started brushing your teeth occasionally (whenever we remember to. Lol)). Mwuuah my babbeshwari!

 

When experience doesn’t give rise to empathy

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Some day last month, I was taking the Picadilly line back home when I gave my seat to a pregnant woman who walked into my compartment. She asked me for the seat before I could offer it. So the first two seats on either side are reserved for either old people, pregnant women or people carrying little children. Some people automatically offer them to you even before you ask whereas sometimes people don’t. However, you can always ask people to get up if you want to claim your reservation. I carry Berry on the tube everyday and I usually don’t ask for the seat unless offered. Sometimes I don’t accept even when I am offered a seat.

Maybe it has something to do with my upbringing – having never been eligible for any sort of reservation, I have fundamentally been opposed to the concept of reservation. I think reservation makes us less human. It leaves very little room for character. I appreciate that someone came running to the train before me and was glad to get a seat and it is unfair for them to get up just because I walked into the compartment with a baby. Sometimes I am super hungry and tired and all I long for is someone to offer me a seat but something very innate in me stops me from demanding a seat. Having said this, I immensely appreciate the people who do offer me their seat, especially when they aren’t even sitting on one of these reserved seats as this gives me hope for humanity.

Since I don’t claim my reservation on the tube and a lot of times I am dying from tiredness (is that a word?), I like to distract myself with a little game. I like to watch the people who are seated to see who is noticing me and how they are feeling about being seated while they aren’t offering their seat to someone who could use it more than them. This is classic capitalism in the train right? A lot of people show guilt, I can almost read the conversation they are having with themselves if they should offer me their seat or not, while some pretend to be too busy to notice and some others are blissfully in their own worlds. The best are the ones who won’t themselves offer their seats instead ask others to get up to offer me a seat.

You’d think that people who’re subject to difficult situations themselves would be more empathetic of me carrying a child on the tube, but it’s quite surprising to see the number of people from minority communities that don’t give a damn. You’d imagine that people who are supposedly subject to discrimination (based on their gender, race, community, etc.) or have lesser opportunities would be more sensitive to people in need of support but we probably don’t think about topics like disability, racism, sexism, etc. most of the time unless it personally inconveniences us or our loved ones.

So experience doesn’t necessarily give rise to empathy always. I think people are more likely to be empathetic when they are shown compassion in times of their need and feel indebted to give back. Since I am offered a seat on the tube ever so often and I am met with smiles of compassion by random strangers on the street, I am more conscious of giving back, even if it’s just a smile in acknowledgement of someone’s pain. Strange you think? Sometimes just acknowledging someone is a show of empathy and it can take both of you a long way!

Letters to my Berry#9

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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.

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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..

 

 

 

 

 

Is age just a number?

Ever heard someone say “Age is just a number?” Don’t believe them. Age is a number, yes but not “just” a number. A few hundred years ago, when people asked you “ASL?”, you couldn’t just say “14/F/Bang” because 14 was never a good enough age on the internet. You had to be “18/F/Bang” for anyone to remotely continue a conversation with you. Sure, it would usually be with a guy who’d eventually creep you out with a dick pic but atleast that made you feel like you belong. Early teens is an awkward phase to be in because you are battling all these adult like feelings in a kid’s body and it always feels like no one gets you. Fast forward a decade, and you start feeling the exact opposite – battling kid like feelings in a fully grown adult’s body and again, it feels like no one gets you.

For the first time in several years, I wasn’t nervous about my birthday. I didn’t pull out my notebook and make crazy lists of people who wished me. I didn’t mind that I wasn’t woken up by any midnight calls. I didn’t expect anything  from the husband, who is forever nervous in the days leading up to 10th June every year. So, it was pleasantly surprising to see that he’d spent whole of 9th sitting and writing 13 blogposts for me (I keep bugging him to do that, in case you thought he was being creative!). All I wanted to do was have a quiet day with no grand agenda or unnecessary drama because I wanted nothing to remind me of raging.

Within the last one year, I have grown by several years. Gaining new relationship status does that to you. Your age doubles when you have a child or atleast, it feels like. You could go to an ex lover and he’ll probably mistake you for your grandmother. Sometimes when a stranger walks upto me and tells me that I’m just being cynical, I go back and ask my old pair of jeans. They are stretch and so I don’t entirely trust them. Then, I go and ask my husband if he’ll buy me Olay anti ageing cream and he promptly says yes (because his instincts are trained to say yes for anything over the last 7 years), but quickly comes back to check if it was a trick question. So, thank god, maybe I am indeed just being cynical.

Every time I begin a new decade, it feels like I have started a new descent. This starts with a phase of denial followed by bitter acceptance. At 10, I said good bye to frocks. At 20, I said goodbye to innocence. At 30, I am saying good bye to a 26” waistline (just kidding, I am sure i’ll be 26” again, soon!). But hey, I am saying hello to unwanted wisdom and knee pain. What more could I ask for?

P.S – This ageing thing clearly doesn’t suit me.

 

 

The curse of the keep-in-toucher

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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!