Fluid…tere badan pe fisalti pani…oh meri rani

{{{Lets go, get up, get up…oh meri rani…teri jawani….get up get up}}}
[Translation: {{{Lets go, get up, get up…oh my Queen…young lady…get up get up}}}]

{{{{6:00 am, Monday}}}}

Just like any other day, today I woke up to that insufferable alarm tune blaring at my bedside: {{{Lets go…teri jawani…get up get up get up}}}

It’s one of Honey Singh’s songs and I, many months back, had even enjoyed dancing to its beats in any number of house-parties and nightclubs before I decided to set it as my alarm tune and thus rendered it utterly irritating. But, something about today made me feel curiously different about the song, about myself, and I actually felt like I could groove to that beat all over again.

“Good morning, World!” I uttered, half-asleep yet uncannily upbeat, trying to heave myself off the bed. It was still pretty dark in the room as the early morning winter rays were too weak to penetrate the thick, layered curtains of my ornate bedroom. Standing on the cold hard floor on my bare legs I shuffled the rug about to spot my phone which was still playing the muffled *get up get up get up* song. After a good thirty seconds of shuffling and shoving the rug about cautiously (so as not to send my iPhone 6 crashing helplessly to the floor), I managed to locate it and put the alarm to rest. But, by then the beat of the song had percolated deep into my brain and it was gonna play on a loop in my head for the livelong day.  I didn’t mind one bit as I felt it was cool to be able to enjoy an alarm tune. It was a rare privilege. After all, all alarm tunes are insufferable but to listen to an ex-favorite song every day in the alarm-avatar is a daily tragedy. But, today was not one of those tragic days, I felt. The next moment, I was grooving and jiving  in the shower as I easily recalled the lyrics to the song which aptly went: *tere badan pe fisalta pani / kasam khuda ki aag lagati / oh meri rani, teri jawani / get up get up get up wooh* [Translation: *The water dripping and slipping over your body / By God, it’s flaming hot / Oh my Queen, young lady/ get up get up get up wooh*] My pet name being Rani (which means ‘Queen’), all of a sudden and all over again, I felt like the song was written about me. And, staring at myself in the large-sized bathroom mirror from under the hot shower, I couldn’t help appreciating my body and the lyrics *your round round booty / your lips so juicy / tere badan pe fisalta pani / kasam khuda ki aag lagati* “Wow, I actually embody the song, don’t I!” I thought with brimming pride.

After a prolonged shower, I rushed out back into the cold bedroom with only a towel wrapped around, turned the lights on, walked into the closet and out quickly with a dry-cleaned business suit. I am extra-careful about the colors I choose, the buttons, the lengths and the cuts. They all play a vital role in the outcome of a business meeting, more than even the graphs and  ideas splashed about on the projected screen, believe it or not. So, I picked out a pantsuit of a silvery grey hue, with a short-sleeved silk white sweater to go underneath, for today. My fashion sense is not all that great by real world standards but it is considered ‘high fashion’  at my conservative workplace. I was a regular nerd at college, with a brag-worthy GPA, unsocial social circle and rudimentary fashion sense. Just regular. Then I made a bunch of artsy female friends at the business school I went to after college and learnt a thing or two about functional fashion knowledge. Now I’m approaching thirty, embracing the 3 Fs – fashion, femininity and finance; and working in the finance industry, by the way. And you would’ve guessed by now, from all the clues I inadvertently dropped so far, the glaring fact that I am single. There’s no Prince Charming in my story; no Raja (meaning: King) sleeping next to this Rani in that ornate bedroom. I sleep single, shower single, and ride the metro to work and back single. And, what’s more, I’d like to keep it that way.

I jostled my way into my usual 7:10 metro train and got a standing spot among the sweaty, smelly office-going crowd. “May be the government should hand out free one-time-use deodorant sticks at every station like how they dispensed Nirodh condoms at one time. Yeah, that would actually fit into the ongoing ‘Clean India Campaign’!” I chuckled at my own idea. I could reach office right on time if there were no unexpected technical snags on the line today. “That’s the only thing that could fuck my day up – a technical snag on the metro line – god forbid,” I whispered to myself. At the next station, a good chunk of the sweaty mass moved out and created breathing space around me. There was still no place to sit though. Three more stations to go and twenty minutes to the meeting. At the next station, as the automatic doors of the metro swung open, a gust of cold breeze hit me right in my face and also swept in an irritating office colleague from a different department.

A short, stubby fellow who seemed to have shrunk in height due to the winters. We interacted once or twice in the boardroom as representatives of our respective departments while updating the CEO about our key targets and achievements; and that was the length and breadth of our acquaintance. He was in my face already before I could rub my nose, wipe off the tears from my eyes and recover from the attack of the cold wave. He was what the ladies in his department called ‘a misogynist, male chauvinist swine’. “Hi, too sensitive to the cold, eh Boss?” said he seething with male pride, seeing that the cold breeze disheveled me but not him. (By the way, ‘boss’ was not to indicate that I was his superior at work but it was his way of saying ‘pal’ or ‘mate’ and that’s how he referred to all people in informal settings, from rickshaw-pullers to pizza delivery boys to air-hostesses to workplace colleagues. “Boss, how much for extra cheese and mayonnaise dip?”, “Boss, can you get me a glass of water when the flight takes off?” etc.) I swallowed a “Fuck off” and didn’t bother to respond. I instead focused on the song playing in my head.

He pursued the one-sided conversation with, “You are looking different today, Boss; not in a bad way certainly; there’s something different but I can’t quite put a finger on it,” stressing on ‘CAN’T QUITE PUT A FINGER ON IT’. I may have been imagining the lewd stress on the last part of his sentence, given his reputation. So, I flashed a brief courtesy smile in his direction, in the manner of acknowledging a compliment, and looked away. “The word ‘finger’ can be made to sound so sleazy”, I thought. ‘Finger’ is as smutty a word as it is innocent, if you think about it. ‘Digit’ takes the smut away. ‘Finger’, on the other hand (figuratively speaking), is crude and nasty. It’s an essential prop in all manner of pornography. More than lips, hips, sexual organs, it is the fingers that run the show. A ‘finger’ is a secondary pleasure center. It’s like a sex-wand almost, almost rival to..to..the penis..the phallus. Oh wait, of course, a finger is THE quintessential phallic symbol. It’s got the length, the texture, the colour, the sense of touch…it’s the closest possible mimic of the male member. Obviously. I came to the obvious in a roundabout way.” Another station passed by.

“Boss, water?” he asked, unscrewing the cap of his water bottle. “Boss, would you like some water?” he inquired, tapping on my shoulder with the tips of his fingers when I pretended to not hear him the first time. The short man removed his fingers off my suit when I seemed to turn towards him. I said, “No, I got my own water, thank you.” I didn’t feel thirsty was what I wanted to say but somehow I said “my own water”. The use of the words “my own water” was stupid. “How could anyone OWN water! That was an unsavory use of words, Rani. May be every drop of water becomes the property of the drinker of it and one can’t own it before drinking it. Argh! Own water, own air, own planet…ridiculous concepts. I should have said “my own bottle” or better, “not thirsty” instead of “my own water”. I can’t now turn back and eat my words, or undo history. May be, I can make up for my puerile use of words by saying a kind word or two, for my sake,” I decided.

Thinking thus I turned back towards him. He was drinking his “own water” from his “own water-bottle” without making contact between his mouth and the bottle, by raising the bottle high up above his head and letting the water pour out of the nozzle into the widened mouth of his upward-looking face, through the intervening medium of air, the way conservative Indian men and women are wont to do, for fear of religious defilement rather than fear of germs. I waited for him to put the bottle down in a moment and at that precise moment, there was a jerk and jolt in the metro, a sudden power shutdown, darkness, screeching halt, and a cold splash of water all over my suit from my work-colleague’s “own water-bottle”. “Shit! Shit! Shit! a technical snag!” I shouted in the dark. Light from mobile phone screens of co-passengers started flashing across the dark compartment and through the general commotion I could hear a voice directed towards me – my infamously sexist colleague asking me, “Did I just MAKE YOU WET, Boss?” It was clearly an unintended innuendo but it made me mad.

“I am definitely going to be late for the meeting today,” I surmised. “But hey, it’s hardly my fault,” or, so I justified my time management skills. The water was beginning to soak into the suit and drip down my body and I could feel every bead of water running down the front portion of my body, tracing the entire length from neck to lower abdomen. The song started in my head again *tere badan pe fisalti pani / oh meri rani* “Yes, the song itself  is accentuating the parody that my current ‘wet’ situation is to my early morning’s ‘hot’ shower scene,” I observed to myself. At the same time, as the water dripped down the skin beneath my silk sweater, I realized how water or any fluid stands for ‘continuity’. Continuous, yet separate, at the same time. Every drop magically merges into the next and yet it doesn’t hesitate to separate. Fluid, merging, separable, like the colors of a rainbow, like space and time, like human behavior, like gender itself. Well, we all know gender is fluid, right? Another station passed by, nobody entered or exited my coach.

The fluidity of genders is obvious to me as the fluidity of water. I didn’t have to take up gender studies at college or binge-read books like ‘Middlesex’ to get it. But, what escapes me is the hypocrisy of binary gender rules. There is a ‘He’ and a ‘She’ and every thing else is an inanimate ‘it’. There ought to be a range of ever-evolving pronouns to bridge the gap between the static poles of human pronouns. Just like irrational numbers between two whole numbers. Hell, even the number system is revealed to be fluid after Class 5 in school. What if irrational numbers, decimals and all such oddities which are not ‘natural’ numbers were excluded by the ‘men’ and ‘women’ of society, of science, when they came up with number systems. Why was it so natural for them to accept the unnatural numbers but not so to accept  supposedly ‘unnatural’ genders! Why haven’t the ‘natural’ genders agitated in all of history against the programmed inhuman exclusion of the ‘others’ who fill the gaps between the opposite poles..who provide the continuum between the violet and red ends of the rainbow of human gender! It’s a shame that the ‘other genders’ and ‘other sexualities’ are  all crammed into the innocuous-sounding umbrella term ‘third gender’ and double-shame that it is recognized in this part of the world in as late as 2014 A.D. It’s like saying we pledge to  accept all ‘irrational numbers’ as the Nth number from 2014 A.D. It’s a shameful reflection of the regressive attitudes of all the previous generations and the present one that such a conservative step towards inclusive growth in 2014 A.D. is looked upon as inclusivity or progress at all today. How could all the scientists, linguists, historians, writers, thinkers, philosophers, or anybody to do anything with the written word, be so blind and unmoved all these centuries by the ever-so-obvious and numerous gender anomalies, that they could deliberately exclude the fluidity of genders with the rigid adherence to ‘he’ and ‘she’ in language! What if I refuse to be a feminist and go beyond feminism and refuse to be a ‘he’ or a ‘she’ or an ‘it’. What if there is a Pronoun Revolution! Would that bring out the acknowledgement of fluidity of gender into common human discourse and collective conscience of the public? Would it? Would it?” The lights in the train came back on.

The train started moving. Every body was at ease again in the compartment. It was all a matter of seven minutes but I was definitely going to be late for the meeting. My station was now just a minute away. I bent down towards my bag (which was resting against my leg on the floor of the compartment) and pulled out the water-bottle from it as I was beginning to feel thirsty. All of a sudden my colleague squealed in excitement: “Boss, I know what’s different! You are taller than usual today!” Having said that, he as well as I looked down at my footwear in unison, as if we were a detective-duo, like Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence, or if you prefer, Richard Castle and Kate Beckett, who’ve had the exact same brainwave at the exact same moment. Both of us kept staring at my gorgeous brown pumps for a good fifteen seconds. For a while, I did not realize what was odd. But my heart started pounding in my throat at the sight of the brown leather-work. I got it soon enough.

He looked up at me and then I at him. There was a medley of shock, confusion, disgust, hatred and condescension in the way he looked at me. I was petrified. All I could hear him say was, “Mr. Sen, you are…” and the next station was there already, the last station on the line, our station, and we both flowed out onto the platform in the direction of the moving crowd. I couldn’t spot him thereafter.

His “Mr. Sen…” kept ringing in my ears. I reached my office building which was just outside the station. I couldn’t see him there either, nowhere within my field of vision. I stood at the building gate as if I was forbidden by the natural law of the land to enter that building. Like an outcast. I looked down at my shoes again. I couldn’t dare to go inside the building. Standing there, I pictured my colleague telling every soul in office what he witnessed on the metro today. “Rani, just fucking go back to the apartment in an auto-rickshaw and call in sick today,” persuaded my inner voice. Just as I turned, an auto-rickshaw stopped near where I stood and the driver asked, “Where to, Sir?” I was tongue-tied. His “Sir” pierced my conscience. “M.G. Road, Street No. 4,” I said blankly and got in. I didn’t dare look down at my brown peep-toe pumps and the red nail colour peeping through them, for I was afraid the auto-driver would also look down and deny me a ride.

“Sir, if you don’t mind I’ll make a short stop at the Hanuman Temple, just for one minute, if you are not in a hurry?” he queried. I said, “I don’t, take your time.” He parked his black and yellow vehicle at the side of the road and all I could think of when he was away was that may be he went to bring some men along to beat me to my death; that may be the reason I didn’t have to call for an auto and the reason he stopped the auto-rickshaw was that he noticed a ‘Queen’ in ladies’ shoes in the middle of the road and decided to eliminate ‘it’; may be I should get down and escape; may be he really went to the temple and if I get down now he’d notice my shoes and call out to hooligans to beat this freak-show to death. Hearing the temple bells made me think that may be I should pray to God…may be it’s at times like these that one prays to God but then, those who pray to God do so everyday so that at times like this God actually comes to their aid even if they don’t pray to him at these times; so, by that logic, God wouldn’t give a shit to this irreligious prayer of mine, I concluded. I closed my eyes and appealed to the Universe, to the pure miracle of space and time and lucky coincidences and serendipity.

When I opened my eyes after a few minutes, the auto-driver was back in his seat, was adjusting his rear-view mirror and I felt enormously relieved to find that there were no hooligans or hockey-sticks. He asked, “Sir, hope I didn’t take too long?” I said, “No, but can we go a little faster..I am in a bit of a hurry.” I got down at my destination, paid him off hurriedly, hoping that no one should notice my attire mismatch. The elevator was all mine all the way up to my flat on the 23rd floor. The whole building was in fact wearing a deserted look. I unlocked my apartment, locked it behind me as I entered and dashed into my bedroom. It was still dark inside because of the curtains. I chose to keep the lights off. I took off my shoes – flung them into a corner with force – then my belt, then my masculine blazer, shirt and pants. I put on a gender-neutral set of T-shirt and shorts. I could recall the childhood jeers at school, “He is a fucking queen. Not Rajat or Raja, dude. He is Rani. Ha ha ha.” At home I was alternately called Raja and Rani, to make me feel accepted and loved and self-assured, given my propensity to be fluid. “Rani, come help me in the kitchen please if you’re done with homework,” my mother would say. My father, who secretly resented my fluidity, would playfully challenge, “Raja, I’ll get you a new makeup kit if you can beat me at chess today.” Home, sweet home.

Lying motionless on my bed, I could hear the mocking voices from past, present and future. “I was in a hurry, that’s all. I wore the wrong shoes to work. I picked out the correct suit, shirt and cologne too but I slipped up at the footwear. I picked my party shoes, by mistake, ’cause I was happy and absent-minded. It’s okay. It is not a sin or a crime.” Inside my apartment, just as at home, I was no more Mr. Rajat Sen; I am Rani, or maybe I am just ‘it’, or whoever or whatever I wanted to be from one day to the next, from one fluid moment to another, just flowing and ebbing between ostensible masculinity and ostensible femininity. “Even the ocean flows and ebbs. And every human being is 70% water. Nature is the best teacher, said H. W. Longfellow, for precisely this reason. The ocean is never still. It is continuously ebbing and flowing and tidal movement often brings up beautiful, mysterious treasures from deep within,” I thought. That thought propelled me to activity. I got out of bed and retrieved my phone from my gray blazer. I called my boss.

He picked the phone almost instantly as if he was awaiting my call. I told him that I had to stay home for the day due to a personal emergency.  He asked me firmly if I was under psychological stress. I said, “No, I am not. I’d come back to work tomorrow as usual.” After a moment of hesitation, my boss said, “Er, um, I heard from Mr. Mukherji that he spotted you on the train today on his way to work and you were dressed in female attire. If that’s true, we are worried if you may be under stress and, perhaps, would like to see a counselor about any psychological issues you may be facing. It’s fully covered by the company, let me assure you.” I said, “No, I am feeling perfectly normal.” My boss, in a sterner tone, asked, “Are you a cross-dresser, Rajat?” I said, “No, I am much more than that. I wouldn’t actually fit into that narrow terminology you invented to make sense of your own limited, confused, repressed worldview. Am I getting an off today? Shall I come back to work tomorrow?” He hung up without waiting one extra second. An hour or so later, the HR department called me and a morose female voice at the other end of the line said, “Mr. Rajat Sen? Hi, I am Meenakshi, the HR Head at XYZ. I would like to meet you tomorrow about your termination process with XYZ. Kindly come to Cabin Number 377, Tower 3 at 9 a.m.  Thank you for your time.” There went the job. It felt peculiarly liberating to let go of the job, to let go of the pretense, to let go of the exclusionists who were forever striving to shut the door on the ‘others’.

Then the doorbell rang. I shuddered. I tip-toed to the peephole and saw that it was the watchman. “Did the watchman notice too?”, “What if he complained to the landlord and the landlord decided to evict me?”, “What if the whole building looked empty earlier because all the men and women were in a meeting with the landlord, discussing about my secret fluidity?”, “Would I be homeless too by the end of the day?” I opened the door determined to face my fears. The indolent watchman slipped an envelope into my hands and without saying a word, left. I tore the envelope open and unfolded the piece of paper in it feverishly. It read: “Water Bill”. A poetic touch and a perfect finish to this amusing anecdote. “Water Bill” made me laugh so hard and I am still laughing while typing out this hilarious account of my curiously upbeat day.

* Tere badan pe fisalta pani / Oh meri rani, teri jawani / Lets go, get up get up get up *

It’s your Ex’s Birthday! 3 Things NOT to Do

As shameful as I’m to admit it, I had been, for some time over the past month, brooding over some dates and anniversaries that fall in September. September is the most sensitive area of the year for me, you see, only surpassed by New Year, (and the oh-so-dreadful Valentines’ Day, maybe) because my b’day falls in September. Anyway, before I could jump into doing some stupid shit like composing a b’day poetry-book (yeah, I’ve grown stupid enough over the years to graduate from “composing poetry” to “making whole poetry-books” in the field of ‘candid anniversary gifts for unworthy male companions’!), I had the good sense to take advice from the internet on ‘what not to do’ on a forgettable anniversary. ‘Existential addict’ put up some great piece of advice on his blog and it literally saved my day! His whole existential theme makes it all the more appealing to me specially because I’m just done reading Camus’s The Stranger. Thanks for the words, existential addict!

But then, somewhere in his blog he talked of not doing anything out of spite. He wrote, “If you shove the world, the world will shove you back.” Doesn’t this writing activity of mine (which I’m convinced I’m doing to vent out my frustration, “to soothe my flailing soul”) count as shoving the world out of spite? I wonder.
I wish things turned out different for me. May be what’s happened is for the best. I have no way to judge my station now till I make a safe landing somewhere, because right now I’m suspended mid-air like a hot-air balloon and dangerously close to getting punctured in any one of million ways. My fingers are crossed for a safe landing. I can take no punctures, no crashes, no dilemmas and no depressions before that. So, thank you for not being around anymore, birthday boy.

The Existential Addict

karma graffitti

If you read my blog, you know that I have a thing about dates and anniversaries. For the past few months, I’ve been on a quest to reclaim days/holidays and keep my hard-earned peace. However, today is my ex’s birthday.

Anyway, I’ve been turning this over in my mind for weeks, trying to figure out what would be appropriate for me. Do I wish her a happy birthday? Do I intentionally forget? Do I do some ritualistic cleansing, reclaiming ceremony? Or do I just pray? I knew I wasn’t at the point where the day would just go by with a passing, deferential nod.

Instead of doing any of these, I decided to write this blog and maybe, just maybe, someone would benefit from my past (and present) experience. (Or I would just get it out of my system.)

So…if you are still raw from a recent breakup or you…

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Write here, write now

“Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel like I should be doing something else.” ~ Gloria Steinem

Last night I received a surprisingly warm reaction from a special friend, Miss SS, on one of the stories I had written on this blog way long back in 2010. I was somberly happy about her reception of the story ‘Emily and Sam’ and slept over it (a writer’s joy) almost immediately. When I woke up early today morning I felt a strange sort of psychological pain in my head. At first I put it down to a nightmare that I couldn’t recall and with that thought, I proceeded into the cold shower hoping for the pain to go away. No sooner than I shook off the drowsiness, thanks to the snipping cold shower, did I realize that the pain was caused not by a forgotten nightmare but by the much memorable compliment of the previous night. Yes! the compliment had had that strange effect on me. With the healthiest use of words it stirred up a deep-seated regret of not having written enough over the last few years, especially before my last birthday (which was four days ago)! I realized that in an attempt to avoid making the most-cited regret of writers (“I regret letting writing come in the way of life”) the story of my life, in the past few years I have immaturely sidetracked my writing habit. And to me, writing is more life-affirming than breathing itself.

“Have you been breathing just a little and calling it a life?” asked Mary Oliver in one of her poems. In a similar fashion, the compliment of last night made me question myself,”Have you been avoiding writing to live life and calling it a life?”

Before stepping out of the shower, I mentally sifted through the entire pile of regrets I had been listing down since my birthday this past week and, at the moment, none matched up to the pangs of conscience caused by the regret of not having written enough. I really regret not having written more and more when I was younger. Because essentially, as grown-ups say, it’s not the things you did but the things you didn’t do that you end up regretting the most. I lived life by my own rules in the recent past, almost without limit at that, at the cost of writing. Today I ought to realize, now that I am one of the grown-ups too, that my urge to live unfettered ought not to come at the cost of my urge to write. Not writing and not living are the two regrets I cannot really live with when I’m much older. (I am slightly ashamed of having to remind myself of a fundamental tenet – writing – of my own life at this age, but hey, life’s like that!) Writing and living are not contradictory but complementary elements of my existence. There are other things I’d be glad to compromise on and sacrifice, like sleep or food or internet BUT NOT writing, when life comes flooding through the sluice gates again.  I promise!

I did make a resolution this new year, to write regularly but life took over even before I realized it. Now that things are back in control, more or less, I am looking forward to a great AOC (ass-on-chair) time. What’s more reassuring is that, my career-plans now demand professional writing abilities, which means that I am required to spend at least three months from now AOC. So, in effect, there can’t be a better time than now to align my personal writing agenda with some professional AOC action.

Plus, I endeavor to get my creative streak back this year, shifting focus from the self-pitying write-ups I’ve been indulging in these past few years, those few times that I ever sat down to write. Imagine riding those flights of fancy again, just like the teenage days..!

I’d have done a great disservice to my older/future self had I not written this very blog post tonight. I’d be doing a great disservice to this post if I fail to push myself everyday from hereon to keep up the promise in this post.

“Being a writer is a bit like eating garlic–even when you stop the act itself it seeps out of your pores [but only if you’ve not been away from it for too long],”  writes Naturi Thomas-Millard, to metaphorically illustrate how an ‘in-the-zone’ writer’s emails et al become unappreciated works of art.  I know exactly what she’s talking about and I want exactly that garlic-seeping-out-of-my-pores feeling and emails-becoming-unappreciated-arts feeling real soon!

P.S.  Thanks to Miss SS for pushing the right buttons in me, knowingly or unknowingly.

Five things I hate about my job

‘Private’ post, never again!

rashmitha rao

5. Old Men
The average age of my office is 45 years. Old fucking men everywhere. By old men, I do not mean salt-and-pepper-haired handsome ones – like George Clooneys of real life. No. Nor am I referring to the friendly neighborhood grandpa type who smells like farm-fresh milk and oven-baked cookies his sweet old wife makes (and sends over to the entire neighborhood every fortnight). No, no. I’m talking about wobbly, wrinkled, wretched old men who smell like diabetic dick. They are EVERYWHERE. And I truly mean EVERYWHERE in the office. They are disgracefully aging in the cabins, trying to make sense of the computers in the cubicles, feeding on soft-boiled food in the canteen, quite imaginably pissing all over the toilets, vegetating at the gates dressed in security guard uniforms, and mostly crawling up and down the corridors all day long on their creaky knees trying to peek into…

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Testing times

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” – Zora Neale Hurston.

I just read that quote here and it resonated most vigorously with me because for more than nine months now I have been going through questions, questions and more ‘testy’ questions..and I still can’t seem to find the light at the end of this dark and dreary question tunnel..

The more troubling part is that I can’t find the thread that holds my whole life story together. Why is this annoying year even happening to me? Is this year going to end soon or is it going to run into another year, or more? It’s certainly not going to be like this forever, right? Right? RIGHT?! Oh hell, say something!

This year has had possibly the most number of nerve-wracking months in any year since 2010. The current year is like a minefield with an extensive variety of landmines. By ‘landmines’ I mean bad days; but not just your average bad day…a little worse than that…like, a bad day in a bad week of a bad month of a bad year. In my case of landmines, there’s at least one such day in a week waiting to explode in my face, tear me limb from limb, and send me into an emotional vortex, and finally plonk me into a teary grave. I sleep it off. And if the next morning I still feel like a train wreck then I write it off. I mean I LITERALLY WRITE-OFF the discomfort. (RELEASE: wRiting hElps Lighten thE loAd, wordS Escape.)

All the exploded landmines in the year so far have made me so sensitive from the inside that I keep my guard up constantly. So in this state of affairs it has naturally become unthinkable to think of anyone beyond myself and that has to be the sickest part. It feels like I don’t even know myself anymore. Had I always been this selfish? There is no way to retrace my path back to where I felt I was on the right track to being a better human being: I lost track of the path of my evolution. It’s all a mess. I’m probably what one calls a ‘spiritual goner’. And for a spiritual goner I have too many emotions, soft spots, and depression-triggers. The only good thing about this condition is that PMS pales in comparison to it.

This year is also marked with intermittent phases of depression like black-holes in the unbounded space of bad days. Depression is the only thing worse than the landmines. I can never pinpoint the entry points, nor map the escape routes out of these holes. I just keep dreading them. Only last week, on a dusky Saturday evening, when I had lain down on my bed to soak in my ocean of depressing thoughts I felt a common red ant crawling up my arm to bite me any second then. I instinctively crushed it with my thumb and a sharp pain of anguish and remorse shot through my entire body, top to toe, a million times more painful than what the poor ant would have caused me if at all it had bitten me. The horrible pangs of repentance, I can vividly recall even now. I retracted my thumb almost immediately but the damage had been done by then: the ant’s limbs were all twisted out of shape. It was the first time perhaps that I truly, with the full force of truth and wisdom, realized that an ant’s life or the life of any living creature was in no way inferior to mine.  This also made me realize that I wouldn’t have had this realization, this intense shock of repentance, had I not been soaking in depression. Depression ‘marinated’ me, and brought out the sensitive side of me to a great extent, like how chicken marinated in yogurt brings out its flavors…!!!! Oh the thought of killing, marinating, cooking and consuming a hale and hearty bird! Horrendous! That meant that I had lived through the major part of my life being remorselessly insensitive, growing harder and tougher and more self-obsessed with time, not to mention killing ants and hens left and right. The awareness that I had otherwise (that is, when I’m free of depression) become so self-obsessed added to the already cluttered baggage of emotions: guilt. Guilty of not sparing a thought to family, guilty of forgetting to wish best friend on her birthday, guilty of not staying in touch with many other special ones…the list is endless.

In the midst  of all this shit, the year also featured the re-emergence of a love affair which I had thought was dead and gone by the beginning of the year. I interpreted the re-emergence of ‘love’ as the return of the cool monsoon showers after a particularly torrid period of solitude and soul-searching. I thought that that ‘love’ might be the elusive light at the end of the tunnel. It was neither monsoon, nor light: it was a farce. The guy had inadequacy, insecurity, and insincerity written all over him but my love was as blind as true love. “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.”  The differences/alterations we found along the way, of religion, caste, creed etc. would not have altered this ‘love’ had it been love. I always knew he was a hypocrite and a snake but I also believed that no person was constant, which was why I gave him a second chance. Thus, I had it coming for me. And, before I could judge correctly and get my guard up, it exploded with the force of a truckload of landmines right in my unsuspecting heart. He ditched me all over again. The re-emergence resurrected all those fuzzy feelings, at times warm and at times hot, which gave it enough pressure to finally explode. After all, the whole re-emergence episode was a mega-landmine in the array of landmines, and the year continues to test me. And in the aftermath, today’s newspaper headlines indicatively and rather mockingly read, “Ebola’s re-emergence, a wake-up call”. If ‘Ebola’ stood for ‘ex-lover’, the ‘wake-up call’ in my case pertains to perhaps these questions: “Had I not learnt anything from the previous episode of rejection by the same fucking guy?”, “If and when Ebola (read: any ex-lover) strikes again, would we be able to deal with it better?” It’s high time I worked on the answers to these questions. In any case, I have always maintained and still do maintain this: It’s his loss. I love back, like always. ‘Redamancy‘ is a beautiful word.

The year so far with all its helter skelter rush through the minefield was not without its aleatory moments of happy clarity. For instance, right now I clearly think that when all of this passes, whenever that may be, I shall be glad I had one day taken the time out to write this post. I longed to write this one for over two weeks now but could not as last Sunday I had a major ‘test’ (which was a mini-minefield in itself), which surely added a lot of heat to these testing times, and it took me till today to reorient myself to the normal pace of things. So relieved the test is done, so glad the post is written and so ready to sleep today’s landmine damage off!

Micchami Dukkadam

Khamemi Savve Jiva
Savve Jiva Khamantu me
Mitti me Savva Bhooesu
Veram Majjham Na Kenvi
Michchhami Dukkadam

The above literally translates to:

I forgive all living beings.
May all souls forgive me,
I am on friendly terms with all,
I have no animosity toward any soul.
May all my faults be dissolved.

                              Thanks to my brush with a particularly specious variety of Jainism which came in the form of a particularly specious boyfriend in an equally specious relationship which ends just about now in my head. R.I.P, Love Affair. It was as a ramification of this acquaintance that I had started to take more than a casual interest in ‘true’ Jain philosophy. To hell with the specious variety that most of the Jains of the day, like this aforementioned ex, have tailored out of real Jainism to suit their non-spiritual needs and ultra-violent desires.
Anyway, today happens to be Jain Samvatsari celebrated as Kshamavani or Forgiveness Day. Like all religious doctrines formulated by thinkers and philosophers such as Buddha, Mahavira, Bodhisattvas, Tirthankara, Prophet Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Forgiveness Day was quite obviously devised and put in place to drive home the psychological concept and virtue of forgiveness; in other words, it was cleverly brought into common conscience to give the common people a taste, on one day of the year, of the benefits of the state of mind of a forgiver. Kinda like a primer. And by driving home this concept, the thought leaders envisaged that subsequent generations of followers would make every day of the year a Forgiveness Day, that they’d absorb the virtue into their spiritual beings (as it fits perfectly with the overall Jain ideology) and that the need for a particular day (of the  year) set apart as Forgiveness Day would fall off eventually like dead skin off a healed wound.
But, as mortifying as it must be for all the dead saints, their subsequent followers (like my specious ex-boyfriend) have perverted the idea of Kshamavani in more than one way in the name of religion. For instance, I can think of two ways off-the-cuff, coming directly from ‘up-close and personal experience’. One of the ways: a specious, deviant Jain would not think it fit to forgive someone or some creature on an ordinary day of the year as he thinks he ought to forgive, if at all, only on Kshamavani! Another of the ways: a specious, perverted Jain would interpret the purpose of Kshamavani as a foolproof license to hurt and torture every living creature all round the year in the expectation of washing all the guilt away on Kshamavani!
What I am trying to say is that I am dismayed at how this perverted set of Jains has totally killed not only Kshamavani but also every single virtuous tenet of Jainism, be it truth or non-violence; my sentiment is succinctly put by Martin Luther King Jr. when he said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”
On this day, as henceforth on all other days of the year, I, in the spirit of true humanity, forgive all and seek their forgiveness. Also, I forgive me for cracking under pressure, for having insecurities about my precious identity ever (which has to stop), for giving untrustworthy assholes the benefit of the doubt every single time (which I won’t stop anyway because everyone deserves yet another chance to prove their sincerity and I haven’t yet learnt/identified the limit where one ought to stop giving chances when pleaded with for that ‘one last chance’!). I also forgive, with no reluctance, my specious, insincere, untrustworthy, spineless, unscrupulous, double-dealing ex-boyfriend for every last bit of pain that I took upon myself.

Micchami Dukkadam

Gandhi: Mahatma or not?

This post is intended to be a candid confession, not a rant.

As a kid, as most kids in the Indian school system must be, I was progressively made disciple to Gandhi through programmed exposure to his “shining virtues” and “exemplary method of living” throughout my school life. Even before being exposed to Gandhi in school curriculum, I was aware of the throbbing presence of Gandhi in Indian ethos because October 2 and January 30 (two days of the calendar related to events in Gandhi’s personal life are declared dry days) are two prominent national holidays in India, only next in importance to  (or may be even treated equal in importance, by many Indians, to) August 15 and January 26.

Well, academically, my first full-fledged brush with Gandhi happened, as far as I can remember now, in the 8th grade. We had a full textbook on Gandhi’s autobiography, as part of our second language curriculum. In my second language, the autobiography was titled ‘Satya Shodhana” (Translation: Truth Experimentation). So, it being Gandhi’s own account of his life, he had the full liberty to chisel it according to his taste as well as hidden agenda. Back then I failed to realize the beauty of the “free-hand” nature of this account because I was too innocent and too enamored by the illusion of it being a “True and Fair Account” for the book deals with the autobiographer’s relationship with and advocacy of truthfulness itself!

Anyway, having gone through the whole volume, many times over, I was truly star-struck by Gandhi. In school, and at home, I raved and raved, to the point of tears, about his unabashed confessions of his weaknesses and his unassuming method of relation of his own story. ‘Speak the truth’, which was always guiding me, became my renewed guiding principle because Gandhi had said so. My school motto, ‘Seek Truth’, made a thousand times more sense from thereon. I adopted Gandhian way of living, in tiny ways. Like, I started carrying my wristwatch in the pocket of my tunic (school-uniform for girls in my school was a tunic) for I learnt that Gandhi had never worn a wristwatch but carried a pocket-watch tucked into his dhoti. I remember having given up on non-vegetarian food, temporarily, because Gandhi advocated vegetarianism (only after he had experimented with non-vegetarian food, mind you!) Two years down the line, I was so deep down the spiral of obsession that I found it hard to disbelieve that I was Gandhi-reincarnate!

So, since then it took me…let me count the years..close to 10 years to FULLY invert that obsession with Gandhi and the illusion of his “truth”…Today, since I have begun to see Gandhi for what he really was, I am truly on the path of seeking truth.

In the past few days, I have read enough subaltern literature to plant my feet firmly on my new-found path of truth. But, the brainwashed product of Gandhian propaganda that I was for the major part of my life, I struggled with the question of whether it is acceptable to refer to “Mahatma Gandhi” as Mr. Gandhi, or Gandhi, or what. I was afraid if it meant sedition or some such drastic crime against the country to not refer to him as “Mahatma” (,specially in national-level examinations/interviews where I expect my competency would be judged by likely mainstream propagandists). A little more recently, after some more exposure to his unwholesome morality, I came to terms with not calling him ‘Mahatma’ for I could not bring myself to call him so even if I tried. But, I was still jittery about my changing attitude because they were after all my own organically formed thoughts and I needed a higher authority on the subject to confirm the validity of my ideas, head-on.

Today, providentially, I came across a BBC interview recording of Dr B. R. Ambedkar by Francis Watson, on YouTube. The last few words of the interview, spoken by Dr. Ambedkar were these:

“He was never a Mahatma and I refuse to call him a Mahatma. I’ve never in my life called him Mahatma. He doesn’t deserve that title; not even from the point of view of his morality.” ~ Dr. B. R. Ambedkar

And, throughout the interview he referred to Gandhi as Mr. Gandhi.

So, there goes. I am unlearning idols, “truths”, and deceptive titles for my own good. And, the universe is helping me along.

I fondly remember my first Sociology teacher. Thank you, Professor.

Bye bye, Mahatma Gandhi. Hello, Mr. Gandhi.