In other news, I bid adieu to the old job and had my first taste of real shark infested corporate waters in 2016. The funny thing I used to reflect on frequently was how my perception of *working late* changed. At the old office, working past seven used to be a brow raising thing for me. Little did I know as an apprentice that things only got rougher from there before they would get better. The new job had me working past ten o’clock even at times. The only thing I remember from this is just the breakneck speed of working, the anxiety of forever being on a deadline, trying to win a rat race that I had not entered with full knowledge or free consent, in a sense. It is during this period I learned how to navigate social connections and politics at work, how the two are often insidiously connected. I realised that being good at the job was not enough, there was another component to being given better projects and that was likeability. Now, I perceive myself as a fairly likeable person but there was an absurd race to form “friendships” and pack in as many moments as possible. That almost hit all the right notes but still left me numb, somewhat empty and wanting more in terms of quality although there was an appreciable increase in the quantity I had managed to cultivate around myself as opposed to the near friendless years of 2008 – 2012. Never before had the episode of Friends about Chandler’s work laugh been more relatable. The crazy long hours and the unhealthy lifestyle started to take a toll on my emotional stability and my physical health as well, so in 2017 I joyfully closed the corporate chapter in my life. I will never forget the feeling of liberation in my veins when I walked out on that last day. Or that poem that practically wrote itself. It tore itself free from my mind and the words brought to the fore all of the bubbling frustration which forced me to take the leap I had been hesitating about, for a while then. There were a few who were visibly emotional at my decision, but I…once again, it was like Valedictory Day all over again. I simply moved forward, looking to the future filled with possibilities. I had not managed to form any genuine connections yet enough to actually miss the place or its people.
2012 really marks the beginning of a new era, in that my voice was finally freed from under the crushing weight of an educational institution, more capitalistic and corrupt than focused on creating quality content to be dispensed through competent communicators of ideas. It was the place where passion and ideas came to die, singular voices suppressed by a tyrannical administration. The institution excelled in cultivating a wasteland of wretched, limited mindscapes. It very nearly robbed me of my passion not just for my profession, but for life itself. It is those years that had me careening into a deep melancholia I would not recognise for a while to come, thanks to the poor awareness we have here about mental health issues. However I am a positive person, so I will say that the one good it did me is to be that shadow aspect of my life so I can fully appreciate how I overcame those challenges, and what I am/have now. All I remember of 2013 was a special family trip I took, memories of glistening waters and the sand between my toes, magnificent churches, the first time I drank (locally made) wine without having to hide it from the family (which was kind of a big deal and indicative of a positive shift in relationship dynamics) and the cruise I went on. I still remember that bitter taste of holding back from fear of what someone might think. You see, I was not entirely comfortable in my own skin and body. There are days when I still regress and have to make a conscious effort to remember and reprogram my behaviour. The rest of the year must have passed without event except for the addition of a few friendships. 2014 brought about some laurels, in the form of graduation and clearing the requisite licensing exam for practising my profession. That’s also when I joined my first apprenticeship and learned a lot. Mostly about how the education system needs to be revamped keeping in mind a utilitarian, pragmatic approach. Going from the books to being thrown into real life scenarios was something that not even my internships could have prepared me for. Internships are like floating in a kiddy pool. Work was…like swimming with the sharks and knowing how to make it out alive. With this, we trudge into 2015. A year where I near effortlessly “hacked” my way into a fantastic institution for a post graduate program. Of course when I say it was effortless, what I really mean is that I took the decision on a calculated whim and had little time to prepare. So I had to optimise the time I did have, to break down the structure of the process and system in order to find ways around it. The other big thing that happened was, I began writing more frequently. Free of the need for validation that came through the readership statistics that had previously discouraged me, I expanded my writing space. I became more organised in my digital writing corner. I started writing for myself.
(continued from Part 1…)
Now I can be honest with myself that while I hated that period of inaction and how I went into a shell, how I desperately wish that I’d taken young Me’s hand and told her what she wanted to hear; that period led to tremendous self – growth brought about by period of introspection and developing greater empathy towards individuals which was a trait I think, I did not have the opportunity to develop too much before the early 2000s. I did not discover a rich, inner world because primarily all I saw was a shriveled up ghost of a person who just wanted to be so many things. The lens through which I saw myself was cracked from side to side, rendering my vision of myself distorted. Everyone has those aha! moments and I did too. Unfortunately I do not remember when it happened but one day I remember getting up and deciding that I had shuffled through life with a metaphorical psychosomatic limp long enough. I just decided no longer to let pain define who I was and to tear off that label, reinvent myself. There were years in my life that I was into exploring the symbolism of the Tarot cards, and not for predictive purposes. Tarot too, was a journey where I grew greatly in the sense of it putting me in touch with my intuition and spiritual side even more. It was not without its pitfalls. It fed into my need for control over situations and worsened my anxiety in situations that I could not control the outcome of. It was arduous, rewarding and equally punishing. Yet it must be given due credit for shaping me. There is a card in the decks known as the Queen of Swords. While she is intelligent, analytical and brutal when she needs to be… She too suffered a crushing blow in the patriarchal smear campaign and had her protective, nurturing side replaced with a grotesque side that held the head of a decapitated man. Indeed, it even came to represent a woman in pain, a divorcee, heartbreak, or even a woman whose heart had closed itself off from loving or showing any sort of emotion etc. and was a dreaded card to draw. I was like the Queen of Swords in many ways but also knowing this thing about her and the perception shift throughout history was vastly helpful. Also whenever I drew a significator card, many a time it used to be the Queen of Swords. That changed once I had my aha moment and stopped identifying with her sword alone, and started to embrace the roses engraved on her throne and the butterfly that rests carefree on her lap. I was free, from my past. Unshackled and moved into 2012, I think.
Happiness is the ability to constantly re-invent oneself. I have been thinking about the flexibility of mindsets for a multitude of reasons including creating an environment where a dialogue on #metoo can be open, constructive and not have that unfortunate and idiotic side effect where people denounce the campaign as something that goes against sexual freedoms or being used as a power play gambit by man bashing feminists. However, I am not going into that right now. The idea here is to create a sort of map of the self and see where I was, to how far I have come, reconciling the knowledge of the two to understand the factors that have and will continue to shape who I will be in the future. This is applicable not only on a micro scale, but a macro level as well. A friend and I were talking about the possibility of creating a timeline to track our past selves and the growth we have undergone to become the present selves including the impact of the good times and the crappy moments as well. And, in the hopes of not repeating one’s mistakes. So here is me doing that.
My earliest memories of childhood are less of being a human toddler and more like a werewolf cub :)) I say this with good reason. People who used to come home to see me used to bring offerings of cream biscuits and chocolates to appease so as to make sure they didn’t get bitten. I remember childhood being an energetic, frenetic blur of outings, friendships, “investigative work”, pressure to achieve academic excellence. I recollect summers spent at my grandfather’s, a person I was close to and tried to emulate for well over a decade after his passing in 2002. I remember the sticky sweet juices of the jackfruits and watermelons we used to eat together, while watching TV. The jackfruits used to grow in a neighbour’s orchard behind our house, it became a symbol of a close knit community mindedness and kindness. An era in which neighbours knew each other by name and stood by them in times of difficulty. Today’s reality though is we don’t even know who our neighbours are. The fact that I live in an old but developing part of the city resolves some part of the issue because the residents have known each other for more than three decades but the newer crop of neighbours who have moved in, we don’t know them at all. Not really. Moving on to the years spent in school, the things I remember the most are the classrooms, the dusty corridors with the narrow benches outside the Principal’s office where we used to wait, to be congratulated by her for winning some music and creative writing competitions, Olympiads etc. I remember the dark blue blouse and white pleated skirt that always remained nearly immaculate because I was never too much into sports in any case except for shotput and running. I used to prefer board games with friends so we could utilise the opportunity to continue our talks, while not being chastised for not participating in the “P.T.” period. School was a whirlwind of conversations. As thrilling as it was, neither school nor college left me with that aching sense of nostalgia on those last days. I shed no tears at the idea of not being able to meet my classmates again, I was ready to move on. I was excited even. Throughout, the years saw me transform from a bubbly, outgoing achiever to a deeply insecure, reserved, young woman who shut herself off from much of the world for reasons of her own. Part of it, and this is so important to state…is the mentality of society that tends to stigmatize people with speech impediments or other kind of issues. The other thing of course is how your primary caregiver or doctor treats you. It is not enough to be merely competent. It is equally imperative to be compassionate else you are just an asshole. An asshole who leaves the patients shaking with fright, self – doubt and has the power to rewrite the trajectory of some of the most dynamic years of their lives. In any case, my memory palace is composed of tiles stacked up with their impressionist art style of events running from side to side. Often overlapping and colliding to create a larger picture of a certain haze of colour for a particular time period.
Do you ever have one of those moments where… You are in that moment but also, you are observing yourself and the people in the moment like someone peering in through a frost caked window pane? When you are experiencing the moment, but also watching it play out before you like a movie? I have often felt that way. Like I am in two places at once. Belonging someplace, and being an outsider. Actor, and Director of the moments in my life. Much of my life has been an inner strife between wanting to spread my wings, soar and never look back but also about chasing the concept of home, a place where I won’t peer in and for once, I can be at peace. Just belong. Just enjoy. But with advancing years, something I am coming to terms with is that home isn’t something to be chased. It is something you find. You can only be a Seeker. Home is something that’s made. Home is like Asgard. And life? May be it is about evolving from Midgard to Asgard. A spiritual journey of integrating the duality represented by the qualities of both, Loki and Thor. Becoming worthy of the metaphoric Mjolnir. What is the Mjolnir that you are striving to become worthy of, this year?
As a new year comes around the corner, I want to write a little about it. Not your perfunctory New Year’s post. This is part of my morning musings today, when I was thinking about resolutions. Whether to set any. The theme I have set for 2018 for myself is progress. Push out that which does not belong, change only if present behaviour is detrimental to my own welfare, or that of the people I care for. Or, humanity at large in terms of shaping the bigger picture. Friendships are growing more fragile than ever, people are drifting apart. It is an ophidian line of people. Too many people packed in a rat race. In an age where the social Internet fosters an unreal, unnatural sense of intimacy and belonging while in reality creating an environment of codependency. How different are they from those we form in our real lives? And sometimes, it is those friendships that are staying while the old ones, the offline ones are paying the price. Did real get mundane? Is it reeling under the burden of catching up with the exciting possibilities offered by the social Internet? Yes, it is exciting to have these mental sparks go off in what I imagine is a nonstop, psychedelic sequence of neurons firing off, bouncing off the stimuli offered by a faceless entity on the social Internet. But behind those faces run strands that are dripping, masked by explosions of colour. The social Internet feeds into this frenzy of being satiated instantly, you don’t mind who is dealing you the good stuff as long as you are getting some. The real deal though, it is like a plant. It needs to be watered and cared for, after some point it becomes self – sustaining but are we in too much of a hurry to develop these new bonds, put the effort into them? And somewhere between who you want to be seen as, who you want to be and who you are, is where you are at. The greater the distortion in your multiple frames of perception from your reality, you start to feel like an outsider. Like looking in on someone’s life. Except that someone is you. So this new year, (I am going to) stop looking in and go out. Engage! Live your best life! Happy 2018, everyone. May this be one of your best years yet.
There was a challenge online a while ago which asked for intimate details of one’s morning rituals. Kind of like a sharply zoomed in snapshot of that one moment without which the day isn’t complete. Sitting on the porch with my mug in hand, I tried hard to come up with something. I wanted them to publish my piece, so I did my best to come up with a morning ritual. One that I don’t have. While looking for it though, I have realised that I do have one morning tradition. Daily musings. And no, it is not just musings on gratitude or motivating myself for the day ahead. Each new day brings with it a different set of thoughts. Today I hold in my hand, a mug that’s got cat ears, if you will. Filled to the brim with peppermint tea. I close my eyes and enjoy the sweet, fresh flavour that wakes me up with a gentle jolt. I think of all the hands that have worked together to bring that small smile on my lips, and the contented sigh. Right from the tea plantation workers to the packaging good folk, to the suppliers, to the wholesalers and then the ultimate consumer. Then, the loving pair of hands that prepares or oversees the preparation of the said beverage. Which brings me to think of why we fight about all the ways in which we are different when we should be exploring how we can get together and make progress with the combined potential of our intellect working in tandem, providing multiple diverse perspectives. Making diversity the strength that it should be, instead of dividing a world that’s already fraught with tension, violence and intolerance. Now, I am not saying that such is the case everywhere. A couple of the people who read this, and myself could well be living in progressive, tolerant environments but that’s not enough. The voices that drown out our own are getting louder. Fingering the rim of the cat-eared mug, I think to myself “If we don’t unite now, who is going to save us when the cat overlords invade us?” Whoa, I went a little too deep there for a bit. Too deep for early morning musings anyway. So, I will go back to imagining what might happen once the cats take over. Would the dogs be their bitches? (in a sense, literally) Would the crazy cat folk be honoured for their devotion to their pets? Or in a sadistic streak, would the cats ensure that they are the first ones to go?? Their screams of anguish drowning out their feelings of betrayal? Would Grumpy Cat lead the revolution? It is far more satisfying to think of a cat overlord hostile takeover of the planet. For it is something that may or may not happen :)) Unlike the inevitable wrecking of our home, which is already happening. We have to fix this mess we have created, as an unwise man once said “We inherited a mess”… No, we didn’t. We took a beautiful plot and wrecked it in the name of flipping it. Instead we have just flipped off the next generation for no fault of theirs. Except that their predecessors happened to be careless, complacent folk who screwed them over. It is time we change that; so our next generation won’t be forced to look beyond to fend for themselves. Let them focus on fighting whatever it is they will fight. Be it cats, rogue Replicants or the first of the lab – bred monsters that someone might end up creating “accidentally”.
Am I child like because I believe in the magic of books like Harry Potter? Or took the Sorting on Pottermore somewhat seriously? Or the Patronus quiz(zes)? Are adults not allowed to want an escape hatch? A wonderful, fantasy land where good people triumph over more often than not bureaucracy, red tapism, sexism, nepotism and sometimes of course, downright evil? Or even a world, where the truth still prevails? Of course these are subtly woven into plots, and at other times, these themes are in-your-face. This isn’t exactly a Harry Potter appreciation post. I don’t know what this is. Post midnight ramblings, I guess. The day draws to a close, words jump and dance seductively before my eyes. They are keeping me from what I should be doing. Ideally. And yet here I am. I digress. What I want to say is, Harry Potter is so much more than a series of a fantasy world to me. I am not waiting for my Hogwarts letter. I am not waiting for any wizened old people to come and tell me I am special, and take me along on a grand, life changing adventure. How grand it would be, if that were the case but no. “Adults” swallow the reality of their existence. Therefore, shouldn’t I? All we do is to try and make things tolerable. We paint them with shades of drama, humour, escapism, even draping around ourselves tightly the satin folds of faith just to be able to not open our eyes to what states us in the face. To me, identifying as a Gryffindor itself is like a label that enables me. It is the over arching themes of these books that make them so popular. It seems open to interpretation, and that’s why every person loves it. Nobody reads the same book. Not really. Gryffindor, case in point gives me the courage to be emotionally open or vulnerable, go stand up for someone (or even myself) in small, probably unnoticed ways because these acts take courage too. It is not always all fireworks a-poppin’, all guns blazin’ and diving head first into danger. Sometimes, the courageous task can be something as simple and painful as swallowing one’s pride and admitting fault or saying sorry. Or telling someone you love them. Those words can be rusty and taste foreign on your lips if you haven’t said it in a while. Not that words mean anything, if they aren’t backed up by action. Even these could mean nothing. Words. They keep getting added to the dictionary every year. Like twerk. An unfortunate development. Then there are words like courage, kindness, honesty, empathy. Success, power, money, drive, motivation. Somewhere these two paths have to converge. May be a rainbow bridge connects these two. And I am that seeker. Eternally seeking that timeless rainbow bridge that connects these two, so that somewhere in the heart of all these I can make a place to call my own. Home.
But what is home? Is it a place to kick back and unwind? Is it something to come back to? Is it a place? Is it a person? Is it a people? The arms of a lover, or the cajoling of a mother? Where is home, in the vast expanse of this timeless, limitless universe any way? Is life a testament to the defiance of the human spirit in the face of mediocrity? An attempt to transcend the basal nature of the human race, and evolve into something else entirely? Is it an endless cycle of permits and licenses, from birth till that last breath. Whatever it is, the answer has to wait till tomorrow. My thoughts start to wander, even as the eyelids start to grow heavier. I must go now.
As I look for the perfect way to close this post, the irony of that strikes me. There isn’t a perfect closing. Not always. So here it is. The ending. The search for answers however continues…