Men explain things to me

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I was reading this book of essays by Rebecca Solnit when the news was filled with the latest Hyderabad gang rape. For once, I didn’t rant on social media. What is the point? It is exhausting. Year after year after year it is the same. The angrier we are, the less things seem to change. Many people would like to argue that rapes of Dalit or women from less privileged backgrounds don’t get half as much attention. I agree. But if a privileged women in a metro city running an errand at a decent hour, who called her sister and reached out for help can get raped and killed so easily; what hope is there for anyone else?

Rape is an extreme point of the problem. Rape isn’t the issue. Rape is the symptom of the problem. The problem is misogyny. The problem is patriarchy. And even the smallest form of patriarchy is part of the problem. And it is everywhere. Once you start identifying patriarchy, you can see it everywhere around you. And it is impossible to close your eyes to it. I fought with 2 brokers (mine and the owner’s) in Kolkata to remove Mrs in front of my name, write my name before KC’s on the rent agreement and replace “wife of” with “daughter of”. Why should his father’s name be on the agreement and not mine? I wish I could have fought to have my mother’s name included instead of father’s but that battle is a long way off. Every battle matters no matter how trivial it seems.

I thought I had read every thought on the topic of feminism. That nothing could surprise me but this book did.

  • The book talks about tracing the pattern of violence against women. Today, it is under categories- rape, marital rape, domestic violence, bride burning, dowry deaths etc etc. These are all part of the same problem. They are violence against women. More women have died due this compared to deaths in riots or The Holocaust. There are systems in place to prevent women from being treated like human beings. This isn’t a coincidence but by design.
  • The problem aren’t women. The problem are men. Our discourse continues to be about women as victims of violence instead of men who are violent. The problem isn’t the rape but the rapist. We need to start talking about men who rape instead of women who get raped. The % of women who are violent is far, far, far lower than the % of men of who are violent. Why aren’t we doing something about that? Why aren’t we inventing a vaccine or a drug to reduce the violent tendencies in men? Why isn’t there research to find out why men are so violent? Are they born violent or are they brought up to become violent?
  • Same sex partnerships have helped bring equality to heterosexual unions. This was a new of looking at homosexuality. Same sex marriages don’t have a gender imbalance. There is no power play due to gender. So, women in heterosexual relationships have realised that marriage can be between equals. It does not require sacrifice from someone due to their gender.

I don’t know about you but am tired of never leaving my balcony door open because am worried someone will climb 4 floors and try to rape me.

I am tired of being aware when I open my house door so nobody is lurking and tries to force their way in.

I am tired of requesting the househelp and cook to stick around till the male cleaner who washes the bathrooms leaves.

I am tired of being on my guard outside and inside my house at all times.

I am tired of knowing this isn’t going to change in my lifetime, atleast.

And I am tired of women who won’t use their privilege to fight against everything that is wrong with the world, in whatever way possible.

Posting the meme of “India’s daughter” amongst your chutiyaap IG stories isn’t raising your voice in solidarity for women. Ok? OK.


The MOST annoying things about me

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If you have the misfortune of spending long hours with me or worse, actually living with me, these are the most annoying things that could (and probably) drive you mad:

  • I am sensitive to the AC. To put it bluntly, I HATE the AC and am never comfortable with the vent overhead or pointing towards me. When I would travel to Mumbai from Gurgaon for work, I would book a hotel instead of staying over at a friend’s place after hanging out with her at her home because her AC was always on high and I couldn’t sleep. Every morning and evening when I step into the Uber, my first sentence is “Please reduce the AC”, and the cab driver’s answer is “Madam, AC is at the lowest temperature”. KC wonders why I take an Uber instead of the regular cab. In a restaurant, I always, always check where the AC is and pick a seat accordingly.
  • Hanger is a real emotion. Hanger = hunger+anger. When am hungry, I get angry. Eating meals on time is my basic, human, uncompromising requirement. Lunch at 1 pm. Dinner by 9 pm.
  • I’d rather wear shorts and stay warm in a blanket rather than cover up my legs. Except in the extreme Delhi winters. Milder winter days/nights call for shorts next to a heater.
  • Being in bed by 10 pm is a biological need beyond my control. I have to be the most boring person on weekend nights but well, it is what it is.
  • I will never be up for drinking, pub hopping, partying my life away. EVER. For anyone. It is akin to a dementor’s kiss for my soul.
  • I need alone time everyday. It could be reading or writing or just lazing around in bed. Nobody talk to me for 30-60 mins and we can stay friends.
  • Bath times are meditation time. Don’t nag me for being in the shower for 20 mins+.
  • I will always have an extra toothbrush, enough shower gel to last 10 humans for a whole year and a lip balm in every room. Don’t question my feminine aura.
  • 6/7 am is too early for a conversation. Let’s not talk till I have returned from my morning run.
  • My wardrobe, side of the bed and my stuff have a Lakshman rekha around it. Nobody gets to cross it. I don’t like sharing my space.
  • My phone is off limits and I respect another person’s privacy. Have never snooped into anyone’s phone and never will. Basic human right.
  • Morning run >>>> morning sex
  • I can eat the same meal every day for a whole month. Feed me dalia khichdi for lunch everyday and I won’t get bored.
  • I can’t stand loud music in the house. Splurge on the expensive headphones and use them. Bad music is irritating.
  • I hate entertaining people at home. A home is where I chill and not a place where am worried about other people’s comfort. Inviting people over is a cause for stress.

Is that enough stuff to sympathise with the person stuck with me in a house?

 


Ramblings – home, overthinking, ghosting, timing

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HOME

I was in Gurgaon yesterday and didn’t get nostalgic at all. In fact, I could barely remember what life was like last year there. It made me wonder which city I can consider home now.

Mumbai is comfortable like an ex I would rebound with. I know I will hate it afterwards but atleast it feels familiar. It is bad sex but atleast there are no unwelcome surprises.

Kolkata is too new to be home. It isn’t even a contender. This city is a short term adventure.

Gurgaon feels like a love I need to get away from because I was obsessed. Not feeling anything is a relief. I can move on and make space for a new love.

Birth city (Himmatnagar) is a painful reminder of everything I had to give up for the life I craved to live.

So, where is home exactly? Where do I nest? Where do I escape to recoup?

Is it a city?

Is it wherever we decide to anchor for a bit?

Is it wherever KC and our stuff is together?

OVERTHINKING 

People constantly ask me to stop “overthinking”. C’est La Vie. Whatever will be, will be.

I told Mann, “it is like I can see colour and everyone around is asking me to start seeing only black and white. How can I stop seeing what I can see? How do I close my eyes and senses to everything around me? Isn’t colour more fun than black and white?”

I’d rather be an overthinker than someone simple. Thankfully, there are enough “overthinkers” around to never let me feel out of place. This blog wouldn’t be half as interesting without it. Or would it? Do you want me to go back to posting my to-do lists? Would those get more hits than these ramblings about the same topics over and over again?

GHOSTING

I have ghosted many people in the last few months and some of it is coming to bite me back. Because going back to someone you have ghosted is very, very, very hard. It takes weeks and months of consistent effort and explanations to build back the trust and friendship. Lesson learned – be absolutely sure before ghosting someone. Even then, string them along till am sure I never want them around. Or just string them along and keep up a pretence. Who knows when someone is needed. Right? What if am up at 3 am and need someone to talk to? Ghosting the only 3 am friend is foolhardy. Everyone can be useful at the right time.

TIMING

Timing is everything. Right things at the wrong time mean nothing. If you don’t reciprocate my feelings, they will disappear. Because nothing lasts forever. Only things you work towards, last. When it ends, it is gone forever. There is no turning back. You could make many gestures but they will be futile. Every human has boundaries and limitations. And those are time bound.

Stuff I would like to spend time doing everyday

  • Reading. 10 pages everyday and then gradually increase it to 50 pages
  • Working out. On track
  • Writing. On the blog or in a journal.
  • Overthinking

That’s it. This week is filled with travel, work pressure, stress, long days and early mornings.

Good night.

Puts out the scented candle

Closes the balcony door

Turns off Spotify

Sets the alarm for 6 am wake up call

Double checks the locked door

 


No happy thoughts at 11 pm

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Few weeks back during a conversation with my coach, she said “Am sure the experiences of this year have made you stronger and you will now be able to deal better with a similar situation”.

My learning in life has been that every adversity makes you stronger but this year’s learning has been that some adversities break you and it is harder to build back the resilience and confidence.

Everyday I expect things to do terribly wrong and even when they are going right, am scared to appreciate them.

Why be optimistic in life and get disappointed when it is easier to be pessimistic and prepared for the worst?

The thought of living this whole life all over again is highly depressing. If I could do it again, I would choose not to.

Ciao. I am finally sleeping comfortably in Kolkata and do not want to break the routine by staying up late.


4 months progress

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It has been an exhausting day and am so completely drained that I walked out of the gym without working out. Now am unable to move my ass off the bed and have surrounded myself with essentials – water, phone charger, laptop charger, Bath and body works candle, Cleo (my cuddle buddy), lip balm and water (staying hydrated is important). I still have to take off my make up, put the uneaten dinner in the fridge and turn off all the lights.

To counteract the mood, let me list out all the positives of the last 3-4 months, as suggested by the gym coach and life coach.

4 months back the search for a training plan started. I was looking for an affordable plan which includes workout as well as nutrition. This is hard to find because most trainers are experts at only one or the other. After stalking many, many people on Instagram I found someone who is young, has a good IG presence, is affordable, provides both workout and nutrition help and is hot (mandatory requirement). Last year this time, I had hired a personal trainer, Mac, at Fitness First. I had known him for 3 years and his TRX workouts were amazing. He was always helpful and had given lots of free advice on workouts, nutrition and helped me with workout plans. What could possibly go wrong? For starters, the ME time in the gym became US time which wasn’t very appealing to me. I realised that the only moment in the day I spent focusing mentally and physically on myself was now time spent with another person. I missed listening to music at the gym. That was my first and last experience of hiring a personal trainer. Never again. Unless, the guy is absolutely hot, great to have a conversation with and I have a crush on; am not paying him and replacing ME time. The only thing that works for me is an online training plan I can follow at my convenience and pace.

Joining a new job, travelling and moving to a new city may seem like the worst time to start a new workout regime but for me it was the best. It ensured the damage was minimised.

4 months later, this is where I am:

  • Tracking daily calories and staying within the calories range most days of the week. I haven’t missed tracking for even one single day in the last 1 month. It took me 2 months to even start this and then in the 3rd month, any day when I consumed junk wouldn’t get entered.
  • Eating 100 gm+ of protein most days of the week. The challenge is when am travelling and don’t have time to consume whey. Because getting so much protein without whey is impossible right now.
  • Eating veggies on most days of the week. Target is to eat atleast 2 servings per day. Still a challenge but far better than before.
  • Following 16 hours IF on most days. Breakfast is now a luxury I indulge on the weekends.
  • Working out regularly. Even when am tired because of a 7 am flight, I get atleast a core workout done. It will only get more intense next month onwards.
  • Eating home cooked food when am not travelling and in Kolkata. Absolutely look forward to it.
  • No sugar days. This isn’t planned but there are many days when zero sugar is consumed because I eat 2 meals and 1 whey smoothie. *Chocolates do not count. I still have a piece of dark chocolate every night*
  • Keeping in touch with important people. People I think will be around for the next decade. Everyone else has been dropped.
  • Keeping in touch with (most of the) family.
  • There is a lot that needs to be done at work but am taking each day at a time instead of getting stressed. Sure, days like today are hard. The thought of the amount of work next month along with house shifting is giving me the jitters. All I want to do is plan a vacation but that seems like a dream right now.

Ok, am done. Can’t think of more ways that am awesome. Trust me, I started from nowhere and am one of the most consistent pupils in the training batch.


KIFF

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I want to make my usual excuses about not blogging – too much work, too little time, writing is a high intense activity and am not upto it after a long day of work, socialising, reading, watching series and gym. Something will fall off the rails, for now it is blogging.

Last week was the Kolkata International Film Festival week in the city and it was quite an experience. My team member A was telling me everything Kolkata has to offer. He mentioned Nandan, a theatre close to my workplace, which screens art house movies. His sister worked on the brochure for KIFF and he arranged for a delegate pass. This was quite helpful because apart from the schedule, the website had no other details.

On the first day of KIFF, I walked to Nandan in my lunch break to enquire. The entire place was strung up with streamers and very lively. I walked up to two gentlemen, one middle aged and another in his 20s and asked them

Me – Where do I book the tickets for the movies?

Them – You just need the pass. Stand in that queue for the pass.

Me – I have a pass

Them – Then you can just walk into a movie

Me – I can walk into any movie without booking? What if there are more people and less number of seats? How much does the pass cost?

Them – The pass is free. Where are you coming from? trying not to laugh

Me (sheepishly) – Mumbai. Anyway, thank you.

At MAMI, you have to buy a pass (cost reduced from Rs 1700 to Rs 500) and book movies (for free) online a day in advance. For walk ins, you need to queue up 2 hours earlier.

But at KIFF, everything is free. The government organizes the event and around 10 theatres screen movies- international and Indian, for 7 days at specific schedules. While people did queue up an hour in advance, everyone got seats. The advantage of living in a city nobody is migrating too. People who have left Kolkata don’t want to return to the city and outsiders have zero interest in moving here. As someone who has spent 7+ years in Mumbai, a city with an infrastructure that can support the population is just mind boggling. And a government that can afford to spend on an event for cinephiles is astonishing. I am sure there are other cultural events organized by the government here.

Am not sure what it is people detest about the city. The food is great, weather is better than Mumbai, househelp is very affordable and a cook can actually cook instead of just pretending to. Not understanding Bengali is a big advantage at work because I can pretend to be oblivious to the gossip. Sure, the Bengali does get to me after a long day and I crave for conversations with non Bongs but those moments are infrequent.

Ciao. I promise to blog more often next week.


Good fences make good neighbors

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I arrived in Guwahati yesterday and had planned to go for a morning run today. Running in a new city is scary and exhilarating and it has been months since I ran in an unfamiliar one. But as soon as the cab arrived, it started raining and I don’t want to run in the rain.

So am doing the next best thing, snuggling under my blanket with the AC on and blogging.

Last night my parents, who are holidaying in Mauritius, called. I was in the cab on the way to dinner with the team at 9 pm. I imagined the conversation and dreaded it.

Mom- Where are you?

Me- Going for dinner

Mom- So late? Alone? At 9 pm? What is wrong with you girls? Who are you going with?

Me- With my team

Mom- And they are all men?

Me- Yeah. They are usually all men everywhere

Mom- Can’t believe this. I told you take up finance or HR in college. Don’t understand sales. All this travel and eating out. How do you like it? Should have taken up a desk job only. But my kids have to complicate everything. Etc etc etc

I wondered if it would be easier to lie instead and tell them am in Kolkata and on my way home from work. Or that am heading home from dinner. Or that I met a female friend for dinner and am about to reach the hotel.

Thankfully, they didn’t ask much. My dad wanted to know if am in Guwahati on vacation. And then he wanted to know which state Shillong is in (as a normal sarcasm alert Indian who knows absolutely nothing about North East, I had to google this). Then mom admonished dad for wanting a Geography lesson while he is in Mauritius and to save it for a phone call from India.

I realised that slowly and steadily I have been moving from lying about everything in my life to my parents to being honest about many things. It is a huge change. Maybe because I know I can live without their presence in my life and don’t feel the need to please them. They are around because they WANT to be around and ditto for me. There is no obligation in the relationship. I don’t call my mom because am supposed to. I call her because I want to. And when she is unhappy with me and doesn’t call for weeks or months, I don’t feel hurt. I call her even then and pretend like nothing happened or things are normal.

Good fences make good neighbors

  • From the poem Mending Wall by Robert Frost

Some people aren’t friends but they are like neighbors and you can only have a conflict free relationship or keep conflicts as few as possible when you stop being affected by them. That is when you can step back and be able to see clearly who they are as people. When you are too close, too emotional, too hurt, it is impossible to mend a relationship.

Ciao. Hope I don’t get a call from home asking me to take this post down and shut down the blog.

 

 


Overthinking … again…

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I am someone who is constantly told I “ovethink”. Whatever the hell that means. Thankfully, not by my partner because well, then it would be a deal breaker. If your partner dislikes the most core characteristic about you, then she/he doesn’t deserve your time of day. My definition of “overthinker” is someone who is in touch with her/his emotions, moods and whatever lies beneath the surface. She/He is also aware about other people and what lies beneath their exterior. If, there is anything at all. Some people are just empty from the inside and the least complicated and also the least interesting ones.

My safe space is with my coach (therapist isn’t the right word for our sessions). She never makes me feel am overthinking or my emotions/feelings don’t count. Sure, being a woman she understands that some things have to be dealt with and don’t require more than a passing thought. Like, the relationship with MIL. It isn’t of too much relevance but has to be tolerated in a country like India. And an argument with my family where you have to hear the worst things about yourself. Things you have been hearing since you were a kid and those arguments never really change or evolve. It always comes back to the same things. But, why get affected by what anyone else has to say? Why should it make me feel bad when I have been hearing them for ages now?

My current work environment is so different from any other I have been part of. The East region works very, very differently and I have to constantly contemplate on the right way to deal with every situation. Take people for chai and gup shup twice a day even though I barely drink tea and am too focused on completing work to make time or just avoid it because does it even matter? Put a plug on the gossip sessions at work (even my skipping breakfast is a topic of conversation for people) or use that channel to put out unimportant information (like my food habits) to keep people’s minds diverted? These may seem like little things but they are not. Being aware of the dynamics and people relationships are very, very crucial to my success from this level up in the corporate.

Every good organization provides a coach for the senior management and those who don’t get one, generally invest into one. Because you can’t always find the right answers yourself. We all need help and I want to be aware as a manager about my strengths and weaknesses to ensure am making the right career moves. It is an important part of my life and a part where I dedicate most of my time and it will always stay that way.

Adios. Time to reach work so early, it is being cleaned when I arrive.

 


New connections…

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Last night was great. So was the night before that. I had a 2 hours conversation with someone I disliked immensely 10 years back. I thought this person was shallow, vain and superficial. This person thought I was brash, arrogant, rude. There were other things added to the mix and it was a disaster.

But life has changed, we have changed, we know people can be complicated, life can be dreary and we do what we can to survive. We envy people whose biggest problems in life are (more) money, status, perception. How simple are the battles that we wage outside vs those inside us. There are people who go through life never doubting or questioning themselves. There are people who are content with who they are. Their discontent is external. What an amazing life is that.

Many great conversations last only through that dinner or lunch. There isn’t enough depth in the connection for a next meeting. Sometimes, there is.

Sometimes, all night conversations (till 11 pm because we all have to hustle the next morning) last for more than one night. I have had quite a few of them in the last 1 year and am grateful.

Sometimes, the differences will crop up anyway.

Sometimes, you will lose touch and reconnect once a year through Diwali wishes.

Sometimes, there is a connection but not enough time to explore them because social media cannot bridge physical distance. WhatsApp cannot replace a face to face conversation.

But other times, it can. The luxury of replying at leisure depending your moods and making it easier to express deep and dark thoughts.

Sometimes, you have to call and speak to someone to confirm the person on the other end is who you think it is. It isn’t a prank. They sound so different and unlike what you know about them.

Sometimes the connection is felt both ways in equal measure. And that is rare. That deserves a post even if it is a one time thing.

Sometimes, losing a friend makes space for new people. Or maybe destiny works that way. You are supposed to connect with a finite set of people and when one person is dropped, another person will be provided so that you feel anchored at all times.

Let’s face it. We are all lonely and recognize it more than ever. It isn’t the loneliness of being alone in a city or a house. It is just the loneliness within. It is within us, at all moments. Our day is spent being distracted by a job, kids, partner, daily hustle to avoid the feeling. But at nights, lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, it refuses to go away. And if you aren’t exhausted from the gym, sleep will be miles away. You can turn and twist and wait for the morning to bring the diversions.

 


Empty days…

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Now that I have brought my (personal) laptop to Kolkata I will TRY and blog daily (!!!).

Since am old fashioned,

Writing on paper with pen >>> Typing on laptop >>> Typing on Ipad/Phone.

The writing has been slow recently not because of lack of intent but once I come home, I like to chill. Work, followed by gym, gets exhausting and all I want to do is not think at all at night. Writing needs lots and lots of brain activity which is why I may not be upto it on a weekday. Weekends are spent travelling to Mumbai and catching up on chores, not to mention unpacking + packing.

In short, life is quite busy and “me” time is a luxury. It will get better in a few months. After all, if I can’t have a work life balance in Kolkata, which other city on this planet will be able to offer it to me?

Some days are a mixed bag. You may come across a bit of good luck and a bit of bad luck. Today was one such day.

Anyway, adios.

I will get better at this in a few days so stay with me while I meander through an empty mind for now.