An Ode

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Lilly passed away last evening. Everyone who knew her is in shock. She was an ex colleague and I don’t remember having a conversation with her after 2010. By the time I moved to the Head Office in Mumbai, she had moved to Paris and when she moved back I had already quit the organisation. But everyone who knew her, even as an acquaintance, is speechless.

The words that come to my mind when I think about Lilly are happy, always smiling, beautiful grey eyes, sweet, pretty, exuberant and someone who brightened up any room she walked into.

I don’t remember the first time I met Lilly. But by the time she joined the branch office in Mumbai in Saki Vihar, I already knew her. We went on 1 or 2 lunches along with the RSM. I complimented her purple nail paint and she told me it was from Inglot and a gift. Until then, I hadn’t bought a purple nail paint or walked into an Inglot store. But after that, I did. She had organised a cricket screening in office on a Saturday during the World cup which I managed to bunk.

She was someone who was happy to be alive. Which is why the news of her last stage cancer and passing away at such a young age comes as a shock to all of us.

This also puts into perspective all those people who are unhappy with their lives and don’t treasure what they have. Including me.

There is one life. Only one. And it can end any day. Nobody would choose a painful death over a painful life. It is worse when the choice is between death and a beautiful life you are happy with. We don’t get to choose.

I hope Lilly’s parents, her husband and 8 month old baby find the strength through this.


You are officially old…

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… when…

  1. People don’t call you at midnight because they know you treasure 8 hours of sleep at night and are rarely up at such ungodly hours
  2. You use the discount coupons brands sent you as a gift to buy much needed underwear. And throw in something slutty and racy too because there is no dress code for bras and chaddis. Yet.
  3. It has been another year of saving time and energy not having to reply to birthday wishes from inconsequential people by removing the date from facebook.
  4. The only people who called on birthday are those who call every year and bookmarked the date on their calendar before social media. Thanks to my birthday I get to speak to my favourite people on the phone once in a year.
  5. You woke up with regret, dread, disappointment and existential crisis gnawing at your soul. Not at the years gone by but for what is coming next. At still being alive on this planet.
  6. You decided it is time to update CV.
  7. When partner asks you what you want for birthday, you can’t think of anything money can buy. He does all the household chores without complaining to make you happy.
  8. You order a small piece of pastry instead of a whole cake to celebrate. I guess this is what growing up means. Being more boring than usual.

The June Trip 

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June and Diwali are when we take major trips in the year. Smaller trips dot the rest of the year. And we avoid long weekends because every place is overcrowded. Instead we enjoy the empty city by exploring it. I mean, the point of a vacation is to avoid people so why travel when everyone else is going to? One trip a year is for Goa. 

This year I have been stressed and overworked and in no mood to plan a trip. There was a part of me that contemplated skipping the tradition this year. It isn’t like KC is going to care. We can always make up for it next year. It is just a birthday. Maybe postpone the trip to August. 

Another part of me was horrified. Would work get in the way of tradition? Would I go to office on my birthday? Gasp The horror. It isn’t like things will fall apart if I take a few days off. Ok, maybe they will. But then if someone is indispensable, something is truly wrong with the organization’s structure. Are the stakes higher this year? Sure. Will they be higher next year? Most probably, yes. 

Who do I want to be as a professional? 

Overworked, underpaid, over stressed with no time for vacations and extra curricular interests? 

OR

Overworked, underpaid, over stressed but finds time for vacations and extra curricular interests?

We debated on the locations. It was too late to book an international trip. I can go to Himachal any time. It would be raining in Kerala so we wouldn’t be able to explore it. North East required too much planning. It was too late to book a safari at Bandhavgarh or Kaziranga or other national parks. Goa was backup incase nothing else worked out. Treks were out unless I wanted to get divorced. We zeroed in on Coorg. It has been on my wish list since Manipal days. It also coincided with my work trip to Bangalore. 

Finding a good place to stay was the biggest challenge. Most places in Coorg are freaking expensive and above our budget. Most of them were booked out. Basis recommendations from friends on fb, Tamara sounded very inviting. (Thank you AC for the suggestion). 

I managed to get a great deal on Makemytrip and our trip fell into place. Please note that MMT offers different rates to different people. When KC tried to make the booking he was getting charged an additional 5k/night (= 15k additional for the trip). A few hundred rupees are fine but a few thousand rupees are humongous. I am cost conscious and make all my bookings in advance while KC books everything at the last minute. He has probably been getting charged higher for all online bookings and his shopping. This means all hotel bookings in the future have to be done by me. Being organised only has downfalls. 

This was the most hastily planned, last minute trip. Till 24 hours before the trip, we had no idea how we were going to travel from Bangalore to Coorg. Take a local cab? Ola outstation? Zoomcar?

Somehow everything fell into place and we are enjoying the rains of Coorg. 

I am going to be back at work relaxed, refreshed and looking forward to the slavery. Because it pays my bills for awesome vacations. Not a bad payoff. Now I have to remember that for 8 hours every weekday. 


Couch to 10 km

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It has been 6 months since I ran a 10 km. Don’t ask me why. There was no plan to run a 10 km today. In fact, all the circumstances were against the run. 

I slept at midnight.

There was no way I would wake up at 6 am.

I hadn’t decided which route to run on. 

My plans with runner friends were tentative. Since am not a flaky person I make plans only if am going to turn up. 

There was no question of running a 10 km when I went to bed last night. All I knew was that I was getting a workout in, either at the gym or on the road. 

After an uneasy sleep filled with work related nightmares I woke up at 6.30 am. Hanging in the purgatory between sleep and wakefulness is the worst state of mind. Rising early is a habit and going back to sleep was out of the question. I brushed my teeth and opened the window. The cool breeze melted away any leftover sleep. With the weather on my side, I laced on therunning shoes. It was too late to drive to Delhi. The plan was to run around Galleria. Maybe 2 loops which would be 8 km. Or maybe stop after an hour, at 7.5 km. The recent 4 km was a struggle so 8 km seemed impossible. 

As much I feared the long distance, missing the run and the resultant bad mood was my bigger fear. I missed one crucial point, that I genuinely like running and being outdoors. Nothing gives me greater happiness than spreading a Sunday morning sweating on the open roads or in a park. 

At 2 km, I changed theroute and headed towards Leisure Valley. Why stop at 8 km? Why not just get a 10 km done? An additional 16 mins wouldn’t kill me. 2 loops inside Leisure Valley took me to 6 km and I decided to head back towards home which was 2.5 km away. 

This is why I prefer straight routes over loops. You just run away from home for 5 km and the 10 km will become mandatory. Better yet, don’t carry any money and you will be forced to run, walk or crawl back home. Unfortunately, in Gurgaon nothing is that far away. Delhi is less than 5 km from where I stay. Oooh, it has been years since Gurgaon to Delhi rote has been explored. Must try it soon. 

I completed 10 km so comfortably that am wondering why I was so afraid. 

So many barriers are in our mind. During the climbing class yesterday, I was stuck halfway towards the top. My mind said “Can’t do it. Too hard. Not fit enough. Come back in a few weeks” but I didn’t let go because it was class 3. I couldn’t pretend to be a beginner and let go without at least trying. If I wasn’t letting go, the only option was to move up. That doesn’t work in the corporate world where it is better to let go instead of being stuck somewhere. Please don’t apply any of the fitness advice to your jobs. Am not responsible for the consequences. 

Anyway, I moved up the wall till my hands were too sore to hold on, which was near the top. Fitness is less about the body and more about your mind. I ran a 10 km after 6 months not because my body felt up to it but because my mind convinced my body that it could be done and it should stop being a chicken. Every morning that I trained myself to get out of bed early morning on weekends is what helped me today. 

I’d rather be the person who can and does run 10 km every Sunday morning than someone who woke up hungover or one who spent Saturday night on meaningless late night conversation. Our time on this planet is limited and every minute is a choice on how we decide to spend it. 


Positivity at the workplace and in life

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There are certain people who are so positive you wonder why you have a special connection with them. How does your down-to-earth, always-believing-the-worst-about-yourself, super critical, never believing good things could happen to you vibe gel with these people? Don’t they get tired of your negativity and self doubt? How have they stayed sane through all the shit they have seen? How do they see the good things in a person after all the horrible things they must have experienced?

I am not referring to the diabetic people with fake sweetness and positivity. I am talking about those whose heart is large and who genuinely believe in the fairness of the corporate world.

There are two ways to deal with bullshit:

  • Ignore it and focus on the boring tasks at hand. Swallow your ego and pride, put your head down and make a change in whatever way you can. Even if it’s small. If it is just starting monthly birthday celebrations at work. Even if that is the only impact you have the power to make.
  • Hope and believe. If the process is right, the results will come. Even if it takes time. Even if you aren’t around to experience the good times.

Sometimes you have to believe something is possible to make it possible because then you will make all the efforts to make it possible. If you don’t even try, failure is inevitable.

Whoa, guys. I must be really drunk or having an out of body experience to type out a positive post. Good night. Must get my mojo back by morning.


13 reasons why….

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…. we didn’t need season 2

…. am never getting 13 precious hours of my life back

…. I would have watched season 2 anyway

…. we don’t need season 3

WARNING ****SPOILERS AHEAD****

Season 1 was great. Despite low IQ audience’s rant that it glorifies and encourages suicide, it was very much appreciated. I loved the book too and thought the series did justice to it. The only reason why season 2 was required if there was going to be justice for Hannah Baker to make the fans happy. So we could get a happy ending and go to bed feeling like all’s right with the world. Even for victims of bullying, sexual harassment and rape. Except there isn’t. And I understand where season 2 is coming from. It talks about so many issues that exist and parents don’t know about. How many women spend their school and college life trying to shirk off the label of a ‘slut’? Or just embracing it? Or watching every step and interaction with the opposite sex avoiding that label? Show me one female teenager who hasn’t dealt with this? Even as grown women in the corporate, we are constantly aware about being labelled.

Were you alone in a hotel room with a male colleague?

Did you get promoted?

Does a guy from the top management spend more time with you over others?

Did you actually sleep with a male colleague?

Did you step out for lunch/dinner with a male colleague?

Are you chatting after hours with a male colleague?

Did you drink too much at a corporate party?

Did a male colleague find your short dress offensive?

Is your cleavage showing? Do you have no compunctions about showing your cleavage?

Do you earn more than your male colleagues?

Are you charming?

Does your boss like you?

Are you loud? And friendly? And flirtatious? Not averse to using your charm at the workplace?

So many ways to get labelled a “slut”. The only emotion left to show safely is aggression and an impenetrable wall. Oh wait, the feedback of being “too aggressive” is waiting for you during the appraisals.

But that is a whole other rant.

Basically, season 1 was awesome. Season 2 is dark and there is no payoff. The bad guys get away. There are no consequences. Which is a shitty thing to do to the fans who empathised with the characters in season 1 and wanted them to be happy. Season 2 is a shitty follow up to season 1.

But on it’s own or as a different show it is brilliant. It is dark because it is based on reality. There has been a controversy over the explicit rape scenes. Because how dare the show not tone down horrific teenage rapes of males and females? We live in a bubble in our ivory towers and how dare the show burst this happy, frothy, pink bubble? How dare they base it on real life events where a teenager was gang raped by her school mates at a party and people took videos of the crime, when she was passed out drunk. That is what women who drink deserve. Now ask us why we turn down a drink when we are offered one.

Season 2 covers too many topics – Hannah’s suicide and the case around it, bullying of more students, the school’s response, the bad guys, sexual abuse, shooting at schools, rape, dealing with rape, drug addiction.

Like Tim Gunn would say in Project Runway, “there is too much going on”.

Give me one issue at a time and close the loop.

Give me a season focused on bullying and how it can be prevented and dealt with.

Give me another season about date rape.

Another one about male rapes.

Yet another one about social media bullying.

Make the series about issues that teenagers deal with in today’s times and why they are so fucked up in the heads as adults. Give me solutions. Follow this up with on ground activities like the helpline and counselling.

The series has started a conversation. Let us keep it going.


Social media trolling

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At 17 yrs of age, after giving my whole heart, soul, time and energy to studying for 12th boards I savoured the first taste of freedom in a chat room in a dark (but not dingy) cyber cafe. “What is this place?”, I wondered in excitement. I am actually cool here. Most importantly, am articulate, funny, flirtatious and nobody cares about my boobs size. Or maybe they do but I can pretend to be double Ds.

I started meeting random people from the internet and it continues to this very day. And am still in touch with a few people I met and connected in a chatroom at 17. They’ve known me longer than my closest friends.

One important lesson on the internet is the difference between online and offline. There are social media friends and there are friends. I find it hilarious when people I haven’t met get offended when I correct them that we aren’t friends. If you aren’t on my speed dial and we don’t talk in real life, we aren’t friends. If it doesn’t hurt when you leave my life, we aren’t friends.

Social media isn’t real life. People have a different personalities online or assume one. It isn’t real. Some of us are adept at compartmentalising and balancing both. But it has taken years and years of practice.

Now that I have womansplained social media to people on social media through social media, let me get to the point.

Urban dictionary defines trolling “as it relates to internet, is the deliberate act, (by a Troll – noun or adjective), of making random unsolicited and/or controversial comments on various internet forums with the intent to provoke an emotional knee jerk reaction from unsuspecting readers to engage in a fight or argument ” .

I am a nobody on the internet. Less than 1000 followers on Instagram and Twitter. My posts never go viral. My blog posts rarely have readers in double digits. And yet, I get trolled. That is the price we pay for being active here and being vocal about our opinions. It is worse for celebrities. Specially for female celebrities, who are at the receiving end of rape threats and abuses of the worst kind. Anonymity makes us bold. We say things we wouldn’t dare face to face. Even during debates, the objective isn’t to engage but to offend. The currents times are the worst time to be active on social media.

There are two instances when I faced horrible trolling, one is absolutely ridiculous and the other absolutely harrowing.

Few years back I had started a blog for movie reviews. Its readership was lower and only my facebook/Twitter followers visited it once in a while. I had reviewed Bombay Velvet, a movie that was creating a lot of controversy because people hated it so much. Anurag Kashyap’s trolls were having a field day over its failure. I love AK’s movies and will watch even his worst ones AND like them. I waited in a queue for 2 hours for the premiere of Mukkabaaz and would have gladly waited for another 2 hours AND loved the movie. I loved Ranbir Kapoor in BV, loved Karan Johar as the villain and the Jazz music blew me away.

Filmmakers of non commercial, small films retweet reviews from everyone since word of mouth is very important for their success. I guess I was the only person with a positive review on the entire internet and AK retweeted my review. My one tweet of fame followed by torture. The trolls came after me. I was like Rajnikanth surrounded by bad guys on all sides. Being accused of sleeping with AK for a positive review. Unlike Rajnikanth I couldn’t swat them away with panache and so I gave up. My phone kept buzzing all night with Twitter notifications. In the morning I blocked each troll to restore the peace in my life. It didn’t end there. I had criticised Raveena’s Tandon look in the movie. And her support brigade, who are trolls, came after me. Another sleepless night was spent blocking some 50 odd abusive anonymous handles.

Now I block incessantly. I block acquaintances who join Twitter so they can’t discover my handle. I block colleagues who check out my IG stories. I block random commentators and keep my feed clean. I block anyone who abuses. I don’t approve crap comments on the blog.

Your freedom of speech allows you to type out any shit you please online and my freedom of speech allows me to ignore and block your shit on my feed. Win win.

But it takes a lot of time on the internet to develop a thick skin. I learned it the hard way. In 2006, the year Twitter started, I started writing a blog. Hardly controversial or personal. My batchmates, friends, social media friends, acquaintances frequented the blog when they were bored or looking for entertainment. One day I started receiving comments from an anonymous id. Until then I was against comments moderation. There are 2 options for comments posted on a blog:

  1. No comments moderation : When anyone can comment and it gets published automatically. Approval is not required.
  2. Comments moderation : When the comment is held for approval and I can choose to mark it as spam, trash it or approve. Another sub option is if a user has a previous comment approved, their comments can get automatically published.

I turned on comments moderation since the anonymous id was quite abusive. The comments were posted everyday. They mentioned my private parts, described my body, talked about my female friends, our relationships, conversations, other friends etc. Someone we knew and met with everyday was posting them. I remember getting upset everytime a comment popped into my inbox.

13 reasons why season 1 isn’t fiction but a reality in social media times. Since this was a residential B school, there was no getting away from whoever this person was. We weren’t even sure if it would be possible to trace the IP address. Complaining to the authorities didn’t even strike me and my friends. Not that they would have done anything, anyway. I cried to sleep. I was scared all the time. Everytime I stepped out I was worried about who was watching. Every nasty thing anyone had thought or said about me was in my inbox. Everyday.

Initially, I reacted to the comments. But after a while, I got tired and stopped reacting. A lot of life’s shit goes away when you stop reacting. When you build an impermeable wall around you. The troll stopped. Just like that. Maybe he got bored. Maybe it wasn’t fun when the other person wasn’t responding. Maybe he found someone else. Maybe he got laid.

I could have a private account for a clean social media life but where is the fun in that. I’d rather be the rebel with a public account where you got to play by my rules if you want to stay.

Except when it is my family and then I may have to go private to keep their prying eyes out of the separate identity I’ve created online.

 

 


Bucketlist for my big toe once it heals

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Things am going to do once my toe heals

  1. Wriggle them
  2. Run 10 km. Fuck, I miss this so much. What a fool I’ve been to avoid running one in the last few weeks.
  3. Walk barefoot on the grass at Lodi gardens
  4. Stretch my body and touch them
  5. Pull someone’s leg hair with them. I have too many useless skills.
  6. Paint them
  7. Soak them in hot water and experience Nirvana
  8. Calf raises
  9. Shave them. Ya, ok, I have hair on my toes like a normal person and we have to be very, very close for you to have the honour of seeing them.
  10. Appreciate that they are an important part of me and their normal functioning makes my life complete.

Writing everyday

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Based on the votes on fb, IG and twitter, here is the post on writing everyday.

I assume that people who voted for this topic want to know how to write everyday. I don’t have an answer for those who haven’t written anything and want to start now. Not because it can’t be done but am not the right person to give that advice.

My tryst with writing started in school. I don’t remember the first thing I ever wrote but we were encouraged to write creatively and use our imagination in our English assignments. Most of my school mates were voracious readers. Bunking games period to finish reading a new novel was common. I wrote poems as a teenager. Tacky and embarrassing ones, of course but I have all of them saved up in a book. An actual book. With my handwriting. From maybe 20 years back. I do have a heart, guys, but it is buried deep within layers and layers of sarcasm and darkness.

Language also makes a difference. I joined a convent boarding school when I was 7 years old. I spoke Sindhi at home and a mix of Gujarati and Hindi in school. During the 9 months every year, it was compulsory to speak in English. Hindi was restricted to that one period everyday. I started thinking in English and spoke mainly Sindhi in the balance 3 months of the year. Hindi isn’t my strong forte and am not being pretentious. Gujarati is now too broken for a comfortable conversation and I can’t read or write Sindhi. If you think in a regional language, writing in English is slightly more difficult.

Like most hobbies in school, writing could have met its end due to paucity of time once I joined college. But I started a blog in 2006. Blogging was “in” then. Pretty much anyone who was internet savvy had a blog. Even people who had not written an original paragraph in their life had a blog. My posts were quite shallow. I didn’t really share any real life experiences. Sometimes, I wrote about conversations I had with friends about interesting topics like religion or sex or other random stuff.

I joined the corporate world in 2007. During the first year I didn’t have a laptop and would kill time at the cyber cafe on weekends. I blogged about my travels and the experience of working in sales in remote towns. Somehow the blogging continued. The tricky balance of keeping your real life private and finding interesting things to write about kept me hooked. During my lowest point the blog just has to-do lists but it had posts. Maybe not every week, but at the very least every month.

I started the current blog few years back when I paid for the domain and for hosting it on godaddy. If I stop paying for it, either all the posts will be lost or they will have to be backed up and moved to another hosting site. Godaddy charges a bomb for retrieving old posts and the latter is very tedious, boring and time consuming. Basically, am stuck with paying for the blog month after month and the only option is to keep it going by churning out post after post.

In the last 2 years, the readership and engagement have dropped because I was too busy to write regularly. Sure, the link is not accessible to people on my restricted list on facebook though I have no compunction about sharing it with strangers on Twitter. Last month I vowed to write everyday. My biggest worry wasn’t whether I will be able to make time but rather what will I write about. I spend lesser time on social media now, there are fewer people I engage with on a daily basis, my life as a corporate whore isn’t interesting enough and there is only so much I can reveal about work without getting fired or sued. The good news is there hasn’t been a dearth of topics to write about. Reading helps. It takes you into a different world you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. This is why writers are voracious readers.

I write at night, mostly. Sometimes I can write with the TV on, other times (like now) I need alone time in another room to type out a post. Sometimes the thought of spending 10 mins on a laptop after a long day at work makes me chicken out.

Though I’d rather write on paper and drop it at everyone’s doorsteps. Just kidding.

That would require putting on a bra and would be too much effort for the readers of this blog. Not kidding.

Blogging vs journaling:

Journaling is more personal. Your real self can be revealed through journaling and it is cathartic. But there is no pressure to frame a coherent thought, focus on grammar and engage another person. Journaling has its benefits but does it make you a better writer? I don’t know. Blogging forces you to complete a thought or an idea and write about diverse topics. It pushes you to write for an audience. You can’t chicken out by writing 10 miserable lines. There has to be a beginning and an end to every post. Also, writing happy posts is so much more difficult in a journal. A journal is for your deeper and inner thoughts but do we want to deal with those on a daily basis? I’d rather live in denial.

Blogging and social media:

It is so easy to put out any thought in real time on social media. With Twitter increasing their characters count and encouraging threads, blogging is a dying art. Who wants to type out a whole post, publish and share it when threads are easier to read and share. We are all on social media all the time anyway. A blog needs to be logged into and requires patience to read.

I get it. I truly do. This is like journaling with real pen and paper. But it is what it is. Till there are people engaging with the blog, it will be alive. When they stop, I will move on to Medium or Twitter threads or podcasts or whatever the hell everyone is on then.

Or maybe I will continue to blog.