Of stringing joys
And streaming pain
Of love that hurts
And hurt that remains
Of unfinished books
And solemn songs
Of that what is right
And all with the world
Of all that touches
And all that tears it apart
Of the ideas set me on fire
Of the heart’s unbridled ire.
There’s so much to be said
While we walk
And navigate through
But often it just ends
With small talk
Darkness will entice us into its tentacles
Envelop our lonely hearts
Throw us in a volley
But light always has a way
Of creeping into hearts cold with fear
Through the unlikeliest corners
Just read this the other day and it got me thinking. When do we probe enough to peel the layers? How often do we scratch the surface and look at ourselves or other people sans the layers? Do we care to scrape the masks and see people without labels? Without trappings of a function or a designation. We live in such transactional and mechanical times, where people matter to each other as long as they are of some use to each other. The moment they stop being of utility, they cease to matter or exist. Then there are others who become a role. They identify themselves so obsessively with a particular role that it percolates into all spheres of their lives.
What are we beneath all those layers? What are we beyond the trappings of labels, societal expectations and materialistic paraphernalia? We’re all achingly vulnerable and trapped in longing. Lost in translation. We bear the burden of buried dreams, of having loved , of winding in a sense of loss, of being trapped in fear, aching to be liberated from the lies we weave around ourselves. We’re waiting to be accepted, hungry for approval. We’re seeking our space, creating a metier. We’re all wounded little children waiting to fly away from hurt.
We live for the moment and we die in moments. I wonder why we fret over the future or dwell on the past, while all we ever have is a sequence of moments. Life is interspersed across those peals of laughter, in the eyes that brim over with tears, in the curve of lips that silently twist into a smile or in an energizing effervescent exchange of ideas. Life is squeezed between the moments when you reach out to someone in need, or when someone wipes off those tears, in moments when you give of yourself without expecting anything in return. When you stand up for what you believe in or brush your knees after a fall. Moments where you rise from the ashes or start from scratch. Life is transient, ever-changing, always evolving and yet we hold on, cling to its familiarity, hang on to its sameness. Seize these moments, yet let go of them. Carry their essence and yet leave room to embrace new experiences.
An epiphany has a way of unfolding in the most chaotic of moments. In one of those rare reflective moments, it dawned on me that we attract the difficult situations and people we need in our lives. These are merely a reflection of all that we refuse to confront in ourselves. Our relationships or conflicts with other people will always reveal something about our own selves that we refuse to own up to, they hold a mirror to the chaos that we mask with our seemingly calm exteriors. All that we deny or brush under the proverbial carpet surfaces during tumultuous encounters.
If you’re the kind of person who is essentially non-confrontational, you will inevitably be thrown into situations with aggressive people who want to corner you and pin you down. People who go please others at their own cost, inevitably attract people who want to exercise control and those who refuse to be pleased with anything you would do. These difficult situations and people keep manifesting in one form of the other, until we draw our lessons. Until we unfetter ourselves from all that holds us from being our authentic selves. . Life has its ways of catapulting us into situations that force us to wrestle and confront our demons rather than shoving them in a quiet corner of our souls. We can choose to resist and close our eyes and carry on the business of life. Or take on these demons head on and emerge wiser and buoyant.
There is only one thing that adulthood teaches us. To curb our spontaneity and natural instincts. The more I observe my little one growing up, the more it dawns how messed up we adults are. Social conditioning ruins us. We say not what we want, but what others want to hear from us. We don’t do what our heart wants, but what is expected from us. We don’t ever grow up, only get better at putting on an act of being able to get through the days and years with a veneer of knowing what we want. Even if we’re crumbling inside adulthood teaches us not to let our defences down. Because people shouldn’t see our vulnerabilities, because being an adult means you can hold your own. We think by not letting other people get a peak of our helplessness, we’re being strong and not giving them ammunition against you. We’re so edgy about giving out information about ourselves, wondering what will be held against us and thinking of ways and means of letting the world know only what we show on the surface. We don’t realise our strengths lie in accepting our weaknesses not masking them.
Parenthood is so meaningful, only because it allows you a chance to undo all the damage we inflict on ourselves and on others. It gives you a fresh perspective and an opportunity to see authenticity and experience pure emotions from close quarters. I observe my son and realise children are more sorted than we are. They cry when they are upset and smile when they are delighted. Their emotions and actions are so pure and authentic. They’ll turn up their little noses at what they don’t like and stay absorbed for hours fascinated by everyday objects we don’t even bother a second glance at. As children we’re all mindful and authentic. We get so caught up with trying to be the plastic, politically correct beings who toe the line and live by the rule book that we forget who we really are. Our true selves get buried in the debris of societal expectations, gender stereotypes and conditioning. We think we evolve as we grow older, but at a certain level we regress. We just learn to tame our impulses and with that our ability to be curious and creative dies a natural death. We lose the ability to express ourselves while being true to our emotions. I sometimes wonder, we mask our true dreams, desires, fears and wants under so many layers that we dissolve who we truly are and settle for a shadowy existence. Every once in a while, try saying what you really want, give in to the impulse to cry your heart out or laugh till you’re teary-eyed. Confront and embrace your quirks and eccentricities. Try awakening the spontaneous, artless and natural child within. Every once in a while give wings to the child within who is hiding beneath layers of dos and don’ts and societal sanctions.
We live in decadent times. Hedonism starts early where parents fulfil needs and wants even before children realize they have needs and wants. They are given easy access to mobiles, gadgets and tabs which ensures they get to tap into a host of information at the touch of a fingertip. How will that ever leave room for creativity and curiosity to find roots? I too have been guilty of leaning on nursery rhymes to soothe a bawling toddler. Yes that is the trouble. We’re so busy strutting about like zombies starved for time that we look for quick fix solutions for everything. Even the things that matter like relationships, parenting, friendships. We think we can compensate for the poverty of time by amassing material possessions. We think we can punctuate our emptiness by acquiring brands and gadgets we’re going to lose fascination for soon. We are so gladly ignorant of the long term ramifications of all these quick fixes. Our parallel existence in the realm of social media is yet another space where we seek instant gratification by getting instant likes for our rants and rambles, narcissistic selfies or vacation snapshots.
As a parent and a bystander I shudder to think about the self-gratification seeking monsters we’ve become and the little monsters we’re in process of rearing. We’re heading towards a world where we’ll find it hard to think beyond our own needs and wants. A world where we’d want instant solutions for all our troubles. We’ll be men and women who’ll find it hard to look beyond their own noses and whose sympathies will be narrower than Kendal Jenner’s nimble waist. Where nothing will hold our attention and instead of finding solace and satiation in real human interaction we’ll depend on the deceptive virtual world to seek companionship and derive sense of self-worth.
Is that where we’d like ourselves or our children to be?
I still remember the eager beaver I was in the first few years of working in the corporate worlds. Brimming with ideas, going that extra mile to make a positive impression on my seniors and trying to strike the right note always. Time and experiences leave no one untouched. Our optimism gets tempered with realism. The enthusiasm makes way for the ability to question rather than conform. But one lesson that stayed with me both personally and professionally was that there is only one recipe for disaster : trying hard to please everyone around us. By falling into an incessant trap of saying and behaving in a manner which we feel will go down well with those around us; we’re signing up for misery. What we don’t realize early on in our lives is that how people judge or perceive us has little to do with how we are. And a lot to do with how they are. By trying to please all and sundry with end up pleasing no one, including ourselves. We bear an unnecessary burden of supposed expectations we think people have of us. We’re too self conscious to notice that everyone has their own baggage bogging them down, to scrutinize or judge us is probably the last thing on their mental screen.
While I am not suggesting we behave in an obnoxious or atrocious manner, but donning a veneer or mask can’t last forever. It perhaps is best to be as authentic as possible while staying civil. We can voice alternatives, opposing ideas and our concerns without stepping on someone’s toes. The only caveat is we need to be prepared to leave our egos in the cold storage. We need to be prepared for our ideas to be shot down, our suggestions to be shelved or opposed. I still am trying to learn to strike that balance. How do you tackle this?
I still remember being this child who would break into tears at the slightest admonishment. I would internalize other people’s opinions and judgements and try my best to be accepted and liked.Being reared as a cosseted and overprotected child made sure I was oversensitive to criticism and rebukes. I used to be someone ever ready to take these to heart. And then life happened. Life has a way of making sure we grow up and evolve. It dawned on me if there was one recipe for disaster in life,it was trying to please and placate everyone. The futility of trying to be someone to everyone. Allowing ourselves to be steamrolled and ride an emotional roller coaster depending on how people blew hot or cold. We’re never the people we once were. Forever changing, evolving and sometimes wondering how could we metamorphose into someone we never thought we could be?
With time I learned being too thin skinned was like handing over the world ammunition to judge you and hurt you. By being too sensitive one was allowing oneself to internalize and reflect other people’s opinions of you. And experiences drove home the fact we are all much more than people’s opinions of us.
As a friend puts it,motherhood helps us become more immune; almost indifferent to what people think of us. We become so used to being scrutinized, judged and harangued for how we choose to raise our kids.
And then we gradually develop a veneer of indifference and devil may care attitude.It can be a rather liberating experience to decide what we choose to accept from other people and what needs filtering out. The realization comes with time that how other people evaluate us is none of our business, it is their problem alone. Perhaps the first step towards emotional empowerment and autonomy.
All of life is a choice between love and fear. We can choose to open our heart to new experiences, people and situations. Take each day as it comes, dig up opportunities to grow and learn and jump into the helm of action instead of spending all our time overthinking and pondering over the imponderables. We can muster courage to make our own choices as well as the gumption to live them down immaterial of the consequences. We can decide to embrace change as a way of life and look at each tricky situation as an opportunity to grow and learn. Not antagonizing over people who think differently than we do. Instead we can entertain their perspective to enrich our own. We can navigate through ups and downs by seizing the moment, by choosing to change what we don’t like and exploring the world for its diverse people, places, flavours, sights and sounds.
Or we can choose to be shrinking violets cower quietly in a corner, allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by people and situations. Walk through life with our eyes half closed and half engaged, dwelling in the zone of inactivity and endless speculation. Hoping if we shut or eyes to them or shove them under the carpet our troubles under the proverbial carpet; they will disappear. Magnifying and feeding of each other’s fears. Resisting and shunning change and shutting ourselves from new people and experiences. We can choose to stunt our personal growth, find solace in sameness and monotony. Lead an incestuous existence where we meet and accept only people who think and talk like us. Shun newer experiences, revel in the sameness. Crib and complain about our existing relationships, jobs and situations yet refuse to change. Because change is catastrophic and what is familiar is a solace even if we don’t quite like it. We learn to get comfortable with the discomfort because only the known is a safe choice.
The mind keeps waltzing between choosing love and faith and getting paralyzed by fear and inaction. We can choose to overcome our mental hurdles or to stall our lives fearing a catastrophe all the time. We’re forever fighting this battle at the back of our mind at each juncture of life. I personally have found myself swinging between the two extremes when faces with all of life’s major changes and choices. As the ancient fable goes, much of our life depends on which of these two we choose to feed and grow.
Thanks to social media we’re bombarded with a volley images of beauty photo shopped to perfection, picture perfect relationship moments and postcard like vacations. We share carefully scripted and manufactured moments of our lives for sharing with friends and family. What about our fears, our weak moments, our vulnerabilities and fragilities? Well, they lay buried under the debris of the stories we weave and the images we share on-line. What makes it worse is most people who consume these anecdotes and stories consider this our only reality
Everyone has their own set of demons to fight. Battles to conquer. No one I know has ever had it easy, a smooth run. There are peaks and troughs, but what we see instead are airbrushed moments of joy and success.
This has set most of us on a wild goose chase .But this quest for perfection in any sphere is a mirage. It takes away from us the ability to value and cherish what we’ve got. We’re forever searching for that ephemeral perfection which we’re never quite able to meet. Because we seldom know what it looks like.
Won’t it be just be a whole lot easier to breathe easy and share instead what we really feel and not what we want to project? Focus on how the imperfections and quirks in our lives and our relationships actually add the extra zing and spice. It is actually our fragilities, our imperfections and scars that make us more human and relatable. Let us just make peace with them instead of battling them.
We’re brought up to believe patriarchy eulogizes men and downgrades women. It considers men superior to women! I’d grown up thinking our society is unfair to women alone. We are expected to be ideal wives and mothers, daughters-in law and doormats that don’t let out a whimper despite the demands made on us. Women aren’t given equal opportunity, nor pay parity. Ironically it is women who are not only the perpetrators of the myth of male superiority even as they are the biggest victims. But are men really meted out any preferential status? Even though they are raised with a sense of entitlement and are labeled as the preferred gender, they too are slotted in fixed moulds early on in life and are expected to toe the line.
Men really are in no better position in our country. They are pulled in diametrically opposite directions when they have to choose between giving up their dreams to meet societal and familial expectations. A patriarchal mind-set enslaves men just as it chains women to zany ideals and exacting standards of how they ought to behave and act. With time and experiences I am willing to believe that the masculine ideal is as exacting of men as it is denigrating of women. If women have to conform to ideals of beauty, men too are forced to fit into the ambiguous macho image. If society expects women to be soft, feminine and mild it encourages its men to fit into stereotypes of being the strong, resilient and silent ones sans emotions. If women are expected to put their career on the back-burner and meet familial responsibilities men are thought of as nothing but primary providers and are balked at if they ever display an instinct to nurture and care. Things are changing but most people still remain wedded to the ideas of traditional gender roles. The only legit emotional expression in a man is often anger and in a woman silent acceptance of her circumstances and calm even in the face of the biggest storms.
These gender stereotypes are thrust into our faces early in life. Gradually they seep through the layers of our skin and embed themselves in our impressionable minds and malleable little souls. We become clones of people in the generations before us. They start early on in life, when we dress our boys in blue and girls daintily in pink. When we give our daughters a Barbie to hold and tell her fairy tales that endorse the fact she needs to be pretty and her life’s sole purpose is to wait for her Prince Charming ( Who is more often than not a prince harming in the Indian context!) Or it stealthily creeps into our psyche when we give our sons cars and guns and overlook their rowdyism and aggression with the done to death and rather blanket ‘boys will be boys ‘expression. Or when an eyebrow is raised when our daughters and sisters are boisterous and all hell breaks loose at home if our sons are sensitive enough to express emotions or shed tears. They get crystallized when we praise our daughters for their beauty and our sons for their achievements.
Stereotypes perhaps came into being for us to slot people easily based on gender or race, because we can’t comprehend and are intimidated by anyone or anything that we can’t label or put in a box. But they are at their very root judgemental and burdensome. They dilute our individuality and compel us to subscribe to a set of pre-conceived notions and societal expectations.They are tied intricately with our complex social fabric’s need to maintain status quo.
Of course we have the odd rebels and the far and few thinking intellectuals who often break barriers and defy societal stereotypes. But such people are far and few. When we’ll stop judging and alpha female or a woman who is a go-getter at work and stop praising men for pitching in at home or participating in parenting is when we’ll truly overcome these traditional societal typecasts.
For people who mock feminism, it’s time to see it in a new light. Feminism isn’t the opposite of patriarchy, rather it is based on a balanced and healthy world view. It puts individual before gender, people before labels and demands equal opportunities immaterial of gender. Women’s liberation not only empowers women it also liberates men from bearing the cross of traditional gender roles. Unlike patriarchy feminism works with the assumption both men and women have equal rights and that they are humans before being ‘Men’ and ‘Women’.
I’ve forever struggled with an existential question, is most of life sheer chance and destiny or do we have choices to make? Are we mere puppets dancing to the tunes of destiny or is our life governed with the choices we make? It is so easy to blame circumstances and blame everything on sheer chance. Isn’t it? This stand saves us the responsibility of making difficult choices and living with their consequences. But with time I have reached the conclusion it is much a dance between choice and chance, an intricate web of destiny and giving our lives a conclusive direction. Destiny can only give us a framework and surreptious opportunities disguised as challenges. How we respond to these chance encounters is our conscious choice. Few of us have the courage to live down our choices and own up our mistakes. We need an alibi or a scapegoat to incriminate and often circumstances or fate are the most common refuges. I wonder what if we don’t give ourselves an alibi or an exit route? If only we were to own up even the most messed up of choices and believe we are fallible ! Accept we are entitled to falter, yet dust our knees before we amble on. Own our entangled choices and brace up to face their consequences. If only…
Nothing drills in us a sense of inadequacy as does parenthood. Or rather motherhood. Especially in a country like ours where we’re always bothered about what will people think and we’re forever poking our nose in everyone’s business. As if in India we are programmed to play on people’s sense of insecurity and inadequacy. Relatives and ‘well-wishers’ hound you with comparisons of how XYZ’s kids is smarter, healthier, chubbier, quick to meet milestones! The list never ends. And as a first time parent you descend into a pall of gloom fearing you’re no good at this parenting jig.
But what is worse is when we as parents internalize these comparisons and start looking at what is missing in our children. When we allow these comparisons to get the better of us and we become exacting and demanding of the little beings that need nothing but unqualified love and acceptance from us. When we begin to view our children with society’s lenses, we dilute their sense of individuality and uniqueness. Constant comparison is the death of uniqueness. We begin to treat our kids as projects instead of individuals. We enforce our standards of judgement and success on them rather than allowing their individuality to flower and for them to discover their own path.
There is absolutely no harm in reveling in your child’s achievements but no point turning them into puppets and asking them to conform to societal expectations of success, beauty or achievement.
Children are the happiest and most successful when they are allowed the space to make mistakes and the courage to make their own choices. We as parents forget we don’t own them; they are their own little people. Loving them does not mean we control them or not let them fall. It means a safe space where we don’t judge them or compare them with someone else’s child.
More than a homily or rant, this is a reminder for me as a pre-schooler’s parent to allow him to grow at his own pace and set his own standards. I am hoping somewhere I don’t turn into a parent who expects her child to bear the burden of her unfulfilled dreams and half-baked desires. Sometimes hope is all we need.
Back in college when I was an idealistic feminist, I was always told we women have to work twice as hard to prove we’re half as good as men. I would roll my eyes in sheer disbelief! And then the words echoed true when motherhood happened. Along with being flooded with a plethora of emotions primarily the nurturing instinct I became familiar to a perpetual feeling of guilt. It became a constant companion when I went to work leaving a cranky toddler or came back from work. Till it dawned on me, we women often prey to paralysis with over-analysis. Life is best lived when we go with the flow. What needs to be done has to be done sans guilt. I realized how millions of working mothers walk a tight rope and often the noose is of their own mind’s making.
We allow ourselves to be shortchanged, when we aren’t considered for challenging assignments and are often given the excuse, how will you manage ? No one has the gumption to ask men how will they juggle parenthood and careers. Then why does the buck stop at women alone? Why do they get derisive stares when they want to leave early to pick kids from daycare or when they are on leave to tend to sick kids.
It is okay to delegate and ask for help. Both at work and on the personal front. You can’t be a lone ranger fighting a solitary battle. Having a strong support system works and what really helps is the close circle of non judgemental women who look out for you and egg you on to get it all done. Let’s lean on each other as we juggle the balls of work and life.
We are forever doing the trapeze walk between work and life. We are searching for that ever elusive balance between these two ends of the spectrum. This balance is like chasing a firefly, you’re never able to catch it! There are times when life becomes a lot of work and work becomes your life. With time it dawns on us neither is mutually exclusive of the other. The answers lie somewhere in the middle. We juggle, we falter, get our act together and keep walking. While scouring for answers I came across this evocative excerpt from former US supreme justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s recent Stanford speech. Here is the link if you too are looking for answers Link to the video
Would love to hear back on how you figured it all out.
From smoothening the jagged edges
Of raw emotions
To have ourselves catapulted into
A volatile emotional jazz
Scouring the world to seek equanimity
To striving to become it
Meandering for meaningful existence
To finding it in the eyes
Of a pint sized doe-eyed baby
From looking for warmth
To find it in the tiny fingers that tug
At your heart strings
Traversing the globe
To have tiny footsteps
Leave eternal imprints
In erstwhile unknown
recesses of your heart
Pursuing warmth of home
In unknown alleys
To becoming your child’s safe place
Emotions are so transient and yet we allow them to get the better of us. Getting swept by a pool of tears or swamped by joy, or to experience soul seething rage, they govern so much of our existence. We deny, digress, avoid hoping these emotions disappear. Yet they surface and erupt like volcanoes, when we try too hard to escape them.
But the trouble is not expressing emotions, instead being asked to repress them. Ours is a society that exists on brushing everything under the carpet and pretending all is hunky dory. We’re judged when we say what we feel and often are conditioned to express ourselves in how society would like us to respond. Which is a sure-shot recipe for disaster. As I juggle the role of a parent I make a conscious choice to let my child express all emotions; the pleasant ones as well as the non-pleasant ones. Because with age it dawns on me it isn’t an anomaly to feel and express ourselves rather it is the lack of feeling and expression that is an aberration.
If there is anything I have learnt from life lately it’s been by observing my 1 year old gallivant about the place from close quarters. It keeps reminding me how societal conditioning and upbringing curbs our natural instincts. As children we know what life is all about, we just lose the plot during our journey into adulthood!
My son’s teaching me to wake up with a smile each day.
Seek pleasure and soak in joy in the small things in life
Cry when I fall but get up the very next moment as if nothing ever happened
Ask to be comforted when I am upset instead of expecting others to understand my need
Explore, be curious and be fascinated by everything new I encounter each day
Express my displeasure and delight in equal measure
Stand on my toes to reach greater heights and never give up
Be my unabashed, unrestricted self sans bothering how others judge me
These are just a few that come to the top of my head as I watch him scoot around reconnoitering and scrutinizing about the house with an endless energy, while I huff and puff to keep pace with my diminishing energy levels.
Congratulations! If you just made time to read this you aren’t amongst those Indians who spend one in every four minutes logged onto social networking sites. It’s no exaggeration how the internet, smartphones and tablets have ensured we’re virtually connected digitally round the clock. From posting status updates on Facebook, to joining professional networks on LinkedIn, getting a flavor of news on twitter we’re hooked to our phones as if our life depends on them. Phew! There is barely any breathing space we give ourselves from our phones and laptops.
The irony is our virtual connections have overpowered our real relationships. We sleepwalk through the day like zombies staring into our phones. Forget finding time to connect with the people around us we’re all disconnected from ourselves too.
When was the last time you managed to enjoy a breath-taking view without wanting to capture it on Instagram? When was the last time you enjoyed a dinner with friends and family without caring to check-in on Facebook? If you can’t remember, perhaps you’d like to consider a digital detox? Have you ever contemplated spending only 30 minutes a day sans fiddling with a phone or clicking away on your laptop? 30 minutes to contemplate, connect with yourself and the people around you? Beam a real smile at the person who sits right across your desk rather than create several smiley emoticons at a joke cracked on WhatsApp? If that’s something you haven’t tried in a long time, perhaps give it a shot now.
This place has been languishing in neglect. The blog which was my sanctuary and sounding board is now a place I haven’t visited in nearly an year ! So the arrival of M in our lives left me virtually at a loss for words or rather left me a tad too overwhelmed emotionally and physically to find time to write. Motherhood took me by surprise, never did I realize I was capable of feeling a plethora of emotions all at once. One little being was capable of throwing my perspective of life as it was leaving me flooded with a gush of emotions I had reconciled in the last three decades of my life I was incapable of feeling.He’s been catapulting my routine existence completely out of gear, I gush over baby blabber and clap my hands in delight at any sound, smile or milestone. I am loving every bit of the chaotic and uncertain journey for once!
Coming back to the blog, I think I owe it to myself to revive it and write more often. Let’s see for how long I am able to keep the resolve though!
Feelings which were
Buried beneath the mundane
Forgotten smidgen of
Pleasure and pain
They lay strewn
In the creases
Of time that
Flows between us
They lie there
Restless and listless
Waiting to be embraced
Aching to be owned
Yet we amble on
In laden silence
Letting them hang
In the air pregnant with meaning
Waiting for them
To dissolve in
The foggy winter of
Our prosaic existence
Something that I haven’t quite able to fathom is the Indian obsession with maintaining status quo. We will go all out to endure misery as long as it is familiar misery. The moment the possibility of change looms large in front of us, we retreat like shrinking violets. We’ll stay rooted in a rotten situation but will shun the possibility of the unknown at all costs. Whether it’s a troubled marriage or a job that sucks the very life force out of you; one is asked to endure it all rather than leap into unknown territory. Why are we so anti-change? Why do we hide under the carpet at the thought of being catapulted into new situations?
What is it that makes us so stubborn and so rooted in our situations? Perhaps our belief in good old karma keeps us from changing, we feel we’re paying for our sins and have no way out but to endure and labour through a despondent life situation. We refuse to entertain the possibility that we can choose to seize the situation and steer it to a better place. It is a strange learned helplessness that is passed on from generation to generation. We never realize, there is no merit in misery and making a martyr of oneself.
We glorify suffering and pain and then expect our future generations to pay the price for the sacrifices we made because we were too chicken to change. Yet we hide our cowardice under the glory of martyr hood and self-victimization. We think we’re being noble, when in fact we’re just being plain and simple rigid and refusing to flow with life. The quote floating around on the internet sums it up only too well, “We can’t see our chains as long as we aren’t moving.” Why don’t we realize that by opening up to new possibilities we open ourselves up to life? We can’t live by rigid rules and archaic notions only because they are familiar and comfortable. Because rigidity and in-elasticity only makes you say no to life’s possibilities and opportunities. You can exist in a cocoon but you can’t grow or live in it ever. Nothing ever grew in the shadows of the familiar and comfort except moss and molds.
I choose to see life
From the fringes
Where there is
Neither love nor hatred
You just watch life
Unfold in its totality
In Its beatific beauty
And threadbare ugliness
In its charmingly wrapped deceit
And heart-breaking truths
I choose to watch life
From a quiet surreptitious corner
For I can’t muster courage
to take center stage and
Live it, feel it
From the core
Life seldom unfolds evenly. There are euphoric highs and abysmal lows. There are peaks and troughs. That is how each journey is meant to be. We take the rough with the smooth. There are days you wish you hadn’t woken up at all and days that feel like a nightmare from start to finish. And then there are days when we seem to cruise smoothly sans a hitch. There are days when we have it all going for us and days when our inner world and the one around us in crumbling into pieces without us being able to do anything at all and just amble on helplessly.
But demanding and disgruntled as we human beings are we only want to question the bad days and the dark days and seldom seem to raise any questions when the going is easy. We don’t realize life is no buffet spread where we choose and cherry pick what we want and how we feel. Instead life has its own menu and serves us its own varied spread which we’ve got to relish all the way, even if it isn’t always to our taste. Well some of us do think life owes us a lot. Sorry to disappoint you. It doesn’t owe us anything. Only we owe it to life and ourselves to gracefully accept all that comes our way and keep going. All moments are ephemeral and shall dissolve at the touch of time. Both good and bad will always touch us. The tough and the easy shall always follow each other around. Each moment, each incident has meaning and lessons that come with it. The prerogative is ours to draw the right kind of lessons and move on. The irony is uncertainty of what the future holds for us is disconcerting about life when the going is good and the same can be a source of comfort and solace on a not so smooth day.
All we need
Is a little wisdom
That the dark dreary nights
Will have a dawn
All we need
Is the faith
To be able to
Start from scratch
All we yearn
Is a little love
When they are torn
All we have
When people are gone
All we’ve got
Is the choice
To dust our knees
When we fall
And move on
Romanticism has its pitfalls. All through my twenties I’d always keep assessing the reality of life, relationships and career vis-à-vis vague notions of what they ought to be in an ideal world. Until I realized that these fuzzy ideas I hold on to for dear life are nothing but the concoctions and contraptions of my overactive imagination and hyperactive mind. And it dawned that the ideal world was la la land of my creation.
It took me agonizing amount of time, several battles with myself and unwarranted heartache to finally figure out that the idea of how life ought to be and how it really turns out seldom meet. In fact forget meeting they are miles apart. There is really nothing you can peg life into. There is nothing you can compartmentalize, judge or assess life’s varied situations and people’s unpredictable reactions.After all who are we to assess? And isn’t life meant for living and experiencing rather than wasting it judging, comparing, making notes?
As long as we keep holding on to the notion of how it ought to be, life will always be less than perfect, it will leave us feeling cheated and dissatisfied. We’re letting go of even half a chance at relishing life’s bittersweet experiences. There is nothing we can do, but to go with the flow of things and gracefully accept what is thrown our way. There really is no harm in reflecting or mulling over our actions and reactions. But it is absolutely pointless to slot our life or compare it with zany ideas of how it should have or could have shaped up. People and situations will always be less than perfect, but that really is the charm of life. There is absolutely no one who can complete or fulfill us except ourselves. It is a trap we create for ourselves by waiting people to rescue us from self-inflicted miseries and make us happy. No one or no situation can act as a salve to our souls or make our existential angst or loneliness disappear. We have to falter our way through life, meander, make mistakes, fall down, cry our hearts out and finally find our own answers. Perfection is the biggest myth we feed ourselves and unfortunately our society reinforces it at each step. Making us wallow in the cages of endless self-pity and a bottomless pit of having unrealistic expectations being razed to the ground.
To love and accept people for who they really and not what we think they should be is perhaps the only way we find peace. We can neither cage people or relationships with expectations and naïve hopes. But we can certainly spare ourselves and others much heartache and drama with sheer acceptance and consideration.
Memories don’t live
They nestle surreptitiously
In the quiet corners of our minds
Moments aren’t ephemeral
They stay inked in our hearts
Feelings don’t fade away
They just learn to bury
Themselves under the
Insignificant debris of the mundane
They just gather different dimensions
People don’t change
They just don different
Masks and masquerade
Hope doesn’t extinguish
It just blends with dreams
And weaves new realities
Nothing makes us feel more fragile and helpless than not being able to reach out to people who matter in times of distress. It leaves one with an aching regret that we tuck away in a quiet dark corner of our being. We’re left thinking about if only life had shaped up differently. We let guilt set in; knowing all the way there is nothing we could have done to alleviate someone’s pain except reach out. We throw our hands helplessly in the air knowing not how to absorb what life’s throwing our way. Until we realize we never had a choice but to accept what life’s given us stoically even if with traces of reluctance.
Yet no matter how expected and foreseeable we can’t escape a sense of loss and the chasm that grief drills into our being. A sense of loss no matter how inevitable still leaves us with a throbbing emptiness. When we lose people who’ve been a part of our lives since we were little children, it feels like our memory and childhood is being amputated slowly. Nothing can punctuate the void again. The irreversibility of it all makes one feel even more abandoned.
We do so much to avoid and ignore pain. (Most of it in vain) We rationalize, deny or lose ourselves in the mindless humdrum of daily activity, yet in those quiet reflective moments the memories come back to haunt us. Nothing can alleviate hurt except yielding to it, allowing tears to wash over one’s soul is perhaps the only way one heals.
There is time
Sometimes like a silent river
Bridges we build
Walls we erect
Sometimes rolling like
A reckless stream
Roaring like impassioned waves
We do all we can to
Slow it down
Outstretching our hands
Tightening our fists
Around the sands of time
Thinking it’ll stay still
Yet it slips away
Sliding away from
Beneath our feet
Leaving stamped memories
Weaving lasting moments
Leaving the creases
Of age on our hearts
We do all
We can to defy its traces
We think we walk free
Yet we walk chained
To our perceptions
Enslaved by our prejudices
Confined by the limitations
Of our narrow minds
We think we are free
Yet we are caged
By our desires
A captive of our
Imprisoned in the
Glory of the past
Or trapped in
Of an embittered past
We think we live free
Yet we remain
Locked in an ennui
Feet firmly ensconced
in the arms of security
We trade our dreams
Tuck away our
Streaks of madness
For the mask of
And we all run together
Trying to ace an ephemeral race
As long as we’re moving we’re experiencing life. Whether it is moving places, moving jobs or moving on from things that no longer nourish or teach you anything, we feel alive as long as we’re moving. Staying rooted is for plants and trees not for human beings. In fact we need to move away from our roots to grow and mature. Leave the comfort of the familiar cocoon to experience life in totality. If we choose to stagnate and stay rooted we’re just growing old but choosing not expanding the horizons of our minds and souls. The realm of our experiences is limited and nothing ever grew between limitations and boundaries. We just end up reinforcing our preconceived notions and prejudices in familiar milieu and refuse to learn anything new. To nurture ourselves we need to step out of our bubbles, open up to unacquainted experiences, unfamiliar people. Change is the law of life and those of us, who choose to defy it, are choosing not to open ourselves up to experiences. Saying no to movements is saying no to life and all that life has to offer to us. This also holds true for those of us who cling on to past memories or glory. Our refusal to move on and accept our not so glorious present is living a sham. Living in denial can’t be a permanent address. It can be a phase for sure. We’ve got to learn to let go of the past, memories and experiences to make room for the new. Life is a process of constant self renewal and reinvention. Life opens up opportunities for those of us willing to anticipate and entertain them. For the rest of us it is a matter of staying stuck in the rut.
A philosophical viewpoint has always been my shelter and shade from life’s lows and unexpected turns. It has given me the space to ruminate and reflect rather than react spontaneously and has often been my anchor in the worst of times. Perhaps that’s what forces me to take stock when life doesn’t pan out as I hope it would. Often looking back I realize, sometimes being disillusioned and disappointed does you a world of good. Yes you heard me right. I’m not propagating self-flagellation or wallowing in the oceans of self-pity and cynicism. But somehow the twists and turns on the turf of life have taught me that every once in a while being disappointed with what life brings you, can alter your perspective. It forces you to take stock of what you’ve been doing and how you can do things better. It only inspires you on to approach life’s quandaries more creatively. Often we fall into the trap of being a tad too complacent, often only a disappointment can shake you out of your stupor and prevents you from being too self-assured and smug. We all need the blows to temper us down, bring us back to reality. Not to say we shouldn’t let them bring us down but they can certainly keep us grounded. So after all, there is an upside to everything that happens. We see it only when we want to see it.
Dreams that gather the
Dust of reality on a forgotten shelf
Ideals that reek of indifference
Running and pacing
To keep up with the mundane
While hopes and desires
Just wilt away in vain
Until we figure
We’re chasing a mirage
We don’t know what
And we seldom
Know where we’ll get
Yet we’re dashing
In pursuit of that
which was sold
To us in a glossy packet
Until we can no
Longer run anymore
And we figure
All this one big
Hoax, a societal racket
To ensure we blend
With the crowd
And don’t dare
To stand out
So that we’re lost
In the milieu
And never raise a cry
But often by the time
Does this dawn
Our dreams are too stale
As I touched the third decade last week, there was this incessant need to take stock, look back and reflect on all the foolish notions I held so dearly. I can’t help and laugh at how impressionable and wide-eyed I was.
If there is one thing I would want to tell my younger impetuous self it would be not to invest time in equations and relationships that are a one-way street. You can’t keep giving. Most relationships need to be mutual to last long enough. You can’t keep giving without expecting anything in return. We’re all human at the end of the day let us not try to be ascetics when we’re not.
I would also like to tell myself to be more discerning of people and situations. Don’t look after you’ve leap. It is better to take your steps slowly and steadily.
Go with the flow. Irrespective how well you treat others, you can’t accept the same in return. Know where to draw the line for yourself and for others.
Idealism is good, it might fade with the touch of time, but never let enthusiasm and zeal to try anything new fade with it.
Most of our limitations, all that holds us back looms large in our head. Half the battles we fight are the ones we fight with ourselves. We can be our own best allies and worst enemies. It all boils down to how we perceive ourselves and our circumstances.
Don’t waste your time being self-conscious and worrying about what other people will think of you. Immaterial and irrespective of how hard you try they will like you or detest you based on their own perceptions and prejudices. Don’t try too hard to win other people’s approval. Try instead to do what you love, be what you want. You can’t live a path someone else has charted out for you. It is a sure shot way to fall flat on one’s face.
Being sensitive doesn’t mean being thin-skinned for ourselves. It is being sensitive to other people’s needs to. The world doesn’t revolve around you. Speak to others as you would like to be spoken to.
I can rant on endlessly, for the sake of time I’ll pause for now and perhaps come back later to rant some more 🙂
You in its folds
In its outstretched arms
Of your being
Encircling your tender heart
In concentric circles
It gazes at you longingly
With hazel eyes
Hounds you till you yield
Probes you till you bend
To its elfin charms
Till it engulfs you
An enticing mistress
It chases you till
Twirling through the days
Whirling through time
We run through life
As if there’s no looking back
Mindlessly chasing ephemeral goals
Asininely running through streets
Cobbled with dreams and desires
We run and fly
Sans a pause or sigh
Seldom stopping by to listen
To the song of our hearts
Never pausing to appreciate
Nature or art
We think we’ll win the race
Only to evaporate
In the masses sans a trace
Between the dredges of freedom
And the chains of security
Between life’s stagnant ways
And rapidly changing days
In the folds of cynicism
And the circle of hope
In the euphoric peaks
And the abysmal troughs
Floating amidst dreams
And dragging through reality
In the companionable silences of faith
And disconcerting conspiratorial
Whispers of doubt
Floating in joy
And soaking in sadness
Amidst the gossamers of togetherness
And the tatters of loneliness
It was words that kept my sanity
It was only words that set me free
Emotions and I had very awkward beginnings. When I think back to my childhood, I used to be that shrinking self-conscious violet who would cringe while being hugged by her mom at the bus stop waiting for the school bus to come. Any kind of public display of affection had me running miles away. I was way too self-conscious and almost impassive. Be it love or grief I chose to cover it under a veneer of stoicism. I don’t know why but I grew up with the misconception that any display of emotions leaves you weak and vulnerable. That is rather strange for my gender, since most women are wired to feel and express more compared to men. I thought I had it all sorted one could walk through life masking what one really felt. But time and experiences ensured such fuzzy notions flew right of the window. I realized true strength lay in being your authentic self. In expressing what you felt: grief, sadness, anger, joy or love.
Emotions aren’t pickles that you bottle them and preserve them in an arid corner of your heart. You were meant to flow with them. To let grief wash your heart. To let the waves of joy splash all over your soul. To soak in the seas of sadness and float on the boat of hope is a part and parcel of our existence. That is the essence of life. To feel, express and move on. We do no one but ourselves a lot of harm by suppressing how we really feel. The emotions brew within like a vortex and then erupt like a volcano. We think we can go on living like the pigeon who thinks by closing its eyes the approaching cat won’t eat it. But not only does that make you miserable within but holds you back from relating authentically with the people who matter to you. I don’t know what prompted me to rant about feelings and expression. But I am only glad that life taught me otherwise. That I finally learnt to express and to let go and the realization that strength never lay in silent endurance instead it lies in learning to be vulnerable. To bare our ugly souls to the world and yet live in the security we will be loved in spite of how we feel. I might not be quite there but still learning to tap the resilience that comes with letting your defenses down.
Chasing a mirage called security
Seeking the stamp of approval
And permanence from society
We tie ourselves in knots
Chaining people with expectations
Worrying about what will be
Watching the present slip by
Into oblivion’s sea
We soak in the glory of
A fading past
Our effort is to drag
On to ensure we
Walk the trodden path
Till the very last
We delude ourselves
Into chasing stability
Knowing little life
is in fits and starts
It dances alive in the
Ephemeral and momentary
It is strange how we learn to value people only when we know we are going to lose them. Only when life begins to ebb out of the people we love do we realize how much they matter and how little we can do to alleviate their pain. We look on helplessly and watch them endure pain and suffering. This is when the past comes back and brings back the moments and memories we shared with them. It is as if the floodgate of memories open and everything from the past gushes out washing over our arid minds. We hope against hope praying a miracle will see them through. Yet little do we realize that sometimes we hold on to people out of our own selfish neediness. All of life and death are nothing but learning the act of accepting our helplessness and learning the art of letting go. Perhaps learning to let go is the hardest act of all, it makes us aware of how weak and helpless we really are. It tells us all our meticulous planning and designs of how we would like life to be are just a mirage; an illusion that makes us feel as if we are in control of our lives. Life has its own plans and designs that unfold with time. Perhaps all we need to do is relinquish control and flow with where life takes us. Yet we hold on with all our might to familiar situations, people and places. Because familiarity breeds security, we find solace and strength in familiarity.
The realization that life is so fragile and uncertain dawns on us in our weakest moments yet we keep running without acknowledging this fact. We think we can control everything and yet death and birth are something we have little control over. We lead vulnerable uncertain existences yet we demand security and surety for everything. It is our fallacies that tell us we can control everything! But life and death teach us it is yielding and molding ourselves with time that sees us through the peaks and troughs of life.
Our society has its own share of eccentricities and idiosyncrasies. Every once in a while I can’t help but observe them and ponder over them. Life is trodding along smoothly yet some instances always surface now and then forcing one to think whether we’ve actually progressed or are still trapped in a time bubble refusing to budge from how we view the world, digging in our heels while insisting how we view the world is how it ought to be. Being reared to question instead of conforming and thinking instead of toeing the trodden line can be quite an aberration in our country. It only makes matters worse. For the life of me I am unable to fathom why most of our country is still trapped in a time warp. We refuse to let go of how things should be a certain way. Any fluctuations from the designated path are seen as abnormal. We weave a framework for ourselves and the people around us. Anyone outside that frame is an outcast. We’re eager to shun anything that threatens our patterned mundane way of thinking. We love to glorify miseries, sing paeans of sacrifice and then expect our progeny to do the same for us. To seek pleasure is to walk the path of decadence, so is to follow one’s heart. Our duty is to obey and please people who are senior to us in age and stature. We have this ambiguous sense of what morality entails. And “being good” and morally upright comes with its own baggage. The baggage of pomposity and self-glorification and righteousness. The view that how we’ve lived life is how others ought to. Self-denial is seen as the supreme goal of our lives. We are so willing to demolish dreams at the altar of duty and then expect our future generations to do the same. We still let gender decide an individual’s destiny and course of life. Not sure if we pass on values and ethics from one generation to another but we certainly hand over our prejudices, our rigidity and our biases only too gladly. If you refuse to lap up these gracefully be ready to get an earful. We’re so ingrained in our stick in the mud attitude that change is shunned as an outsider. How long will we stay wedded to status-quo let other people decide the course of our lives and stay ingrained in passivity ? Perhaps forever. We’re so eager to label and anything radical, different or new as ‘evil’, dangerous or threatening. Our refusal to budge from our stances is seen as being sure of what we want while it is merely sheer pig headedness. What makes me so sad is to see people of our generation to fall prey to such fallacies and archaic notions. We seldom gather the courage to voice what we feel since it is easier to conform and get validation for doing so. But who ever said that what is easy is the best for us?
It is strange how most of life shall only make sense in retrospect. After life has happened to us the whys and how suddenly begin to make sense. We find answers to all questions that haunted our minds.
But all of this seldom makes sense in the realm of action. When we are in the middle of chaos, in the whirlwinds of change we just get pulled in to dance with the winds. Without having time to breathe let alone finding time to pause and make sense of where life is headed. Yet when storms have passed and the dust begins to settle. Leaving us partly broken, partly wiser it all begins to fall into place. The missing pieces fit snugly in harmony. But by then we’ve written off, given up on what we want till we discover this glimmer of hope to hang on to. And we hang on to it with all our might.
Only to realize that all life asks of us is to learn to let go. To let go of how we think life ought to be, of our fixed ideas, our prejudices and notions. To let go of it all and flow like water. Become supple and nimble souls that go with the flow of life without letting it break us, yet enriching everything we touch. All these realizations dawn only in the surreptitious and quiet moments of introspection.
Such moments are far and few because we prefer to succumb to the maddening and frenetic pace of action. To lose ourselves in our work, drown ourselves in frivolous worries and speculate mindlessly. We chose not to think and feel and rather act and react. It takes courage to think, to reflect, look at ourselves sans blinders as well as look at the people we love objectively. It asks of us to look at ourselves and our existence in the mirror and have our vulnerabilities and weaknesses stare right back at us. It takes strength to be vulnerable. But our social conditioning ingrained it in us that true strength lies in denial, in masking what we really feel and want. So we run mindlessly, chase ephemeral dreams and desires yet nothing quells the restlessness within. Instead of chasing a path the world charted for us if only we could find courage to succumb to our impulses, chase silly dreams and just be our true authentic selves sans the fear of censure and non-acceptance. If only….
With less than 3 months to go as I edge towards the dreaded yet much anticipated third decade of my life. I can’t help but look back at the turbulent and tumultuous twenties. I left the comfort and warmth of home, moved cities, got a job,made mistakes, faltered, realized what an emotional fool I am, changed two jobs, fell in love, got married, traveled, learned to take a stand for myself. This list could probably run into pages. Too much happened in this time, it makes me even breathless to recall it all !
It is strange how we change intrinsically with time without realizing it at all. If I meander back to my early twenties I was a die-hard optimist peeking at the world with my rose-tinted glasses. Time and experiences tempered this optimism with a lot of realism. Time taught me to have realistic expectations of people, life and the world at large. As I now edge towards the big 30 I’m none the worse for it. Realism has left me in a happier and less restless space. Yet that strange restless urge nestles in a corner somewhere and takes charge of me every now and then. I miss the heady feeling that told me I could change the world. Now I just make peace by changing how I respond to the world. Much to my chagrin.
Earlier I would be befuddled and wide-eyed by perpetually everything. But time has taught to do all of the rolling of the eyes and raising eyebrows in my head while maintaining a calm exterior. Time has also mellowed down my spirit. I no longer react strongly to people’s idiosyncrasies and quirks ( although the voices in my head still react but I manage to quiet them self deprecatingly). My impatience might not have been tamed but time has almost taught me to conceal it.
Sometimes I miss the whip-lashing feminist I was. Mouthing women’s rights in college while carrying around a copy of Germaine Greer’s Beauty Myth .The present day me has settled for egalitarianism ( that too is a distant dream in a country like ours that is caught in a time warp) We still have different rules for different genders.
Earlier I couldn’t quite fathom why people are a certain way. Let’s say experiences brought home the fact that it is none of my business. If the twenties taught me anything it would be to live and let live and let peace prevail.
I could keep looking back at life and ambling on endlessly but for now let me just get back to work and end my rant here.
Every statue can crumble
Every wall has cracks
That we try so hard to conceal
Every eye has unshed tears
That well up and flood the heart
Each smile has sadness
Outlining its edges
That we try so hard to rein
Boiling rage beneath
A calm veneer that
We struggle to contain
Yet the cup of forbearance
will flow over some day
When you’ve borne
Life with stoicism
For too long
will echo on