Monday, June 27, 2016

On not having any maternal juices


At what point does one stop politely answering questions about when one is coming? What is the point where it is alright to snap and tell people to really shut the hell up and mind their own uteruses? Of course it is not enough to simply say that I do not want to be a parent. I must, must, must give patient explanations to all those who ask – stranger in a lift, lady threading my eyebrows, cousin’s neighbour’s brother-in-law. Pretty much everyone. And it is not appropriate to bite someone’s head off because these people are just asking for the first time no? They only mean well. But why is curiosity about what goes on in my uterus of any concern to anybody? Why is it well meaning when someone wants to opine about one of the most important decisions of my life? I read somewhere that it is hardly about concern. If I had piles would people really care to enquire about the status of my shit on an everyday basis?

It is also not enough to take deep breaths and give your explanation calmly and ‘rationally’. There is always a counter argument.

“You are being selfish”
Whaaa? This I really cannot understand. How is selfishness related to the choice of being a parent?

“They bring so much joy”
I am sure they do. For you. But I am a different person remember?

“What is going to give your life purpose?”
Are you seriously saying that this little human is going to have the massive responsibility of giving the elusive ‘purpose’ to my life? Do you even realize how dangerous the statement sounds?

“Babies reduce the risk of breast cancer”
Umm. Ok then.

“You are a child hater”
I am not one actually. I like some children, in the same way as I like some adults. But keep pressurizing me like this and maybe I will become a child hater.

“Every woman wants to be a mother”
Nope. No. Nahi. I was conditioned into thinking for most of my life that I had maternal instincts. It was actually during a field work placement with children where I realized that I seriously have none. And it was feminism which made me realize that it is okay to feel that way.

“Who will take care of you when you are old?”
This is a question I have given a little thought to. The idea of dying alone is a little scary. But then, there is really no assurance that your child is going to take care of you. My child could hate me and want nothing to do with me. Just google elder abuse.

“You may regret it later”
I might. I really might. But it is a better regret to have than a regret about actually having children. It may come as a shock to you, but there are many parents who wish they did not have children. So if I do regret not having children ten, twenty, thirty years from now, I will have to suck it up and deal with it. It seems really, really stupid to have a baby now just so that I avoid regret later.

This debate always becomes polarizing and divisive. Between parents and non-parents. And it really does not have to be that way. Just look at the language we employ – childfree and childless. The former makes children seem like hair lice. The latter makes the women seem like she is stuck alone in a lonely tower. My decision to not have a child, is NOT a judgment on your decision to have one. We can both co-exist.

TL;DR: I don’t want children. Don’t try to convince me otherwise.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Happy, shiny lives

There is this need we all have to project that our lives are wonderful. All our relationships are glorious, all we eat is yummy and all we see is instagram worthy. It would be lazy to blame social media for this.Yes, social media makes it easier to project this but really, we all wear this shiny mask all the time. In real life as well, when we meet others, we project the awesomeness that our life is. It is unlikely that we share the mucky parts of our life.

I have a great family. I really do. But if I look at the family (extended one as well), I know that it is rather dysfunctional. When I was younger, this troubled me greatly. I felt that you could not let these stories of the family be known, as there is a great need to paint the picture of a perfect family. Else, there is something wrong with you and you would be asked to live in the margins of society. It gets all the more highlighted when you are an awkward adolescent desperately trying to fit in. Only later I realized that all families are dysfunctional. Everyone has their weird scandals and dark histories. So why does it become so important to project this image of being 'normal'?

Projecting a 'normal' life can be exhausting. Running into a loo, to wash your face to make it look like you haven't cried. Fighting with your friend with gritted teeth and fierce whispers so that nobody else knows. Laughing along with people when you are actually screaming inside.

Now, I am not asking for you to invite people over and give a them guided tour of these skeletons. But really, is it is so horrible to acknowledge that they exist? Just to be able to say, 'Hey, I am having a horrible day and I don't want to hang out'. Or letting people know that you just had a fight with your partner and need some time to cool off. Just simply acknowledging that not everything in your life is perfect at that moment. I find it super liberating to not have to put up a mask of normalcy. Worth a try, methinks.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The one which I hope will write itself

I realize that I have these multiple thought bubbles popping up all through the day and feel a need to expand on them and to put them down somewhere. Then I realize that I am fooling myself into thinking that my thoughts have that much of depth and breadth, that each one of them can become a lengthy post. Those thought bubbles are just that. There is always a constant chatter going on in my mind. This often means that I take a long time to fall asleep. I am rambling. Right. So, I am just going to post these arbit thoughts which I want to talk about. 

Bullet points? Alright, then.

  • I am a very introverted person. I always knew that but it is only now that I accept it in all its glory. Buzzfeed and various other sites have done these posts about what an introverted person is like, how to be friends with them, how to talk to them and how to not roll your eyes at them. Being an introvert has become cool now for some reason. Introverts are seen as these deep, brooding and intense people.  You see the exaggeration here? While all the articles were pretty spot on about the traits of an introvert etc., they also seemed to be passing a judgment about those who are not introverts. Totally unnecessary and pointless. 
  • I mentioned my mind chatter. I think there is so much of a conversation going on in my head all the time, that I probably find it difficult to take the time out from it to engage in a real life conversation. No, I am not crazy, thankyouverymuch. And most of these self conversations are so mundane that they are hilarious when I think of it. Let me give an example. I was on this long train journey recently and I realized that I did not have toothpaste. It took me about 30 minutes to figure out whom I would ask for toothpaste and how I would approach them and how it would seem because I had spent the previous day pretty much ignoring them and so on and on till my mind just yelled at me to just shut the fuck up and ask for the damn toothpaste. The point is that even though there is a lot of internal monologue, most of it is so silly that even I laugh at it. 
  • The best thing about growing older, is that you start embracing your quirks and weirdness instead of being embarrassed by them. You have grown into your skin, surrounded yourself with people who love and accept you and are generally more loving towards yourself. 
  • But. The other thing about getting older and being an introvert is that I have become so selective about the people I spend time with. I think this has reached the point of being socially awkward. Small talk now scares the shit out of me. Forced social interactions drain me. I need copious amounts of alcohol to get by with people I don't know. Seems contradictory to the previous bullet point? I think so too. What only.
  • I quit my job sometime back and wanted to use the time to 'find myself'. It is a load of bullshit if you ask me. I am nowhere close to finding myself. I have become like a sloth jelly which just moves along by default. I hope that there is something very useful which came out of this period which I will realize later. Right now, I don't see it. I think taking a break also requires some planning for people like me. If I am to take a break again, I would need to plan it with some concrete activities- reading, travelling, meditating, analysing TV shows or some such. I am the sort of person who can be perfectly happy doing nothing much. Give me the internet, give me food, give me books, and my life is set. I was often asked what I do all day long. I had to struggle to think of answers because I never felt that the day was dragging along and that I needed to do something to fill the time. I used to sometimes make up answers to tell people. True story. I read this strip of Calvin and Hobbes sometime back in which Calvin proclaims "There isn't enough time to do all the nothing I want". It completely echoes my thoughts. 

  • I have become slightly better with my reading habits. I look forward to long train journeys now because it means completely immersing yourself in a book. If you are lucky and get the side lower berth, then you even have the changing landscapes for company. And chai.
  • I am embarrassed to admit that I do occasionally enjoy the genre which is called 'chick lit'. These books I read on the Kindle so that nobody will know what exactly I am reading. I am shallow like that. So. Even though it is chick-lit and even though it is problematic in some ways, I really enjoyed Anuja Chauhan's 'Those Pricey Thakur Girls'. Mostly because I found another fictional character I could be dreamily in love with. Dylan Singh Shekhawat is D for delicious. Enough said.
  • Speaking of embarrassing genre, mainstream young adult fiction is another one. I had read all the three books of The Hunger Games trilogy sometime last year. I found the premise very fascinating even though the writing was terrible. It was engaging and all that but still, very stilted and banal writing style, I thought. But as I said, the plot was truly fascinating, especially because there are SO many parallels to the political scenarios of our times. Everywhere you look, you see the Capitol and you see the resistance movements. 
  • Another aspect of the book I really liked was the characterization of Peeta. Peeta who is the male lead, is not the conventional masculine types. He is sensitive, he bakes, he paints, he is kind, he knows how to comfort people and he is pretty much useless in the jungle and in the arena. Katniss who is the main character is the opposite in many ways. She is a hunter, she feeds her family, she suppresses emotions, she keeps Peeta alive. I find it interesting how strength and courage is shown in so many different ways. While Peeta cannot hunt or shoot or fight, he is incredibly brave and has immense inner strength. This he displays in many ways through the books.
  • I have always loved Rohinton Mistry's books. They just consume me, even though I sometimes feel that he makes the plot too thin and obvious. There are some moments in his books which I think of even later and am close to bawling. In Family Matters, it is when the bed ridden Nariman, begs for a bed pan because he has to pee. The way Mistry writes it out, Nariman whimpering, begging, pleading and Yezad steadfastly ignoring him. A retired college professor, a grown man, a sharp, sarcastic, witty man, a loving man, has to beg his son-in-law to help him to do something so basic. Sigh. In A Fine Balance, the scene which somehow moved me and stayed with me is somehow a less obvious one. When Ishvar and Om, are left homeless, they manage to sleep outside a gate (?) because the watchman allows it. They then fix the watchman's uniform, and tell him that they can stitch all kinds of clothes including baba suits. I think this scene has so many layers and is so poignant. The history of Om and Ishvar. The hard work and struggles they had to face to even learn the trade. The people they lose, the move to the city, almost touching stability and having it yanked away. I cannot even begin to articulate it. I am not sure why this is the scene which stays with me the most. 

I started writing this post some weeks ago and it is still writing itself. In this period, my biggest fear in terms of electoral politics has come true. We are now a saffron country in terms of poll results. Anyone who is speaking against the demi-god, is a divisive person. The irony. Oh, the irony. 

I was struggling to keep hope alive. I was lucky enough to attend a lecture by P. Sainath whom I completely hero worship. His is the book which changed my life. Anyway, he said this in a different context (not related to poll results): "Somewhere in between cynical pessimism and fake optimism is a space called hope. I live there. I invite you to join me there". And that is the hope, I will cling on to. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"Homophobia dhoka hain, dhakka maaro mauka hain!"

I admit that I used to be mildly homophobic and openly transphobic. It would be cool to be the kind of person who always had the wisdom to understand things beyond her narrow world. But unfortunately I was not. I can say I was mildly homophobic because I never met a person of alternate sexuality. If I had, perhaps I would have to admit that I was a crazy homophobe.

My first interactions with trans persons were when I was about 5 years old. They used to come home to ask for money once in a while and I was terrified of them. Because I just could not wrap my head around the concept of it all. Unfortunately, my mother did not have the knowledge and the tools to explain things to me. I grew up carrying this irrational fear. I would see them in trains and ignore them. I would think they are loud and crass. I bought into narratives of how they would molest men to get money. In short, I was an idiot.

I used to crack 'harmless' jokes. If two girls were holding hands, I said 'Ooooh Fire'. Referring to the movie of course. Any guy wearing pink was 'So gay!'. When I saw terrible representations of alternate sexuality in mainstream media, I would laugh. I used to say 'How can they be like that?'. When two friends in my hostel were hugging on the bed, I joked 'Homosexuality is illegal in India. Stop it!'. God, I thought I was hilarious. I should have been slapped.

I think back about all this, and feel deeply, deeply ashamed. There were no excuses for my behavior. The words which have been misquoted to Morgan Freeman, resonate with me. He (actually someone pretending to be him) said, "I hate the term homophobia. It's not a phobia. You are not scared. You are an asshole".

Hello world, I was an asshole.

I shudder to think of the impact my words could have had. Was there someone around me struggling with their identity and sexuality who was further pushed into the closet? Was there someone seeking support but couldn't find it because of my insensitive jokes and the laughter that followed? Was I responsible in some way for someone's depression?

What makes us so insensitive and cruel? In my case, I would like to pin it on a lack of awareness. Nothing I grew up with equipped me to understand people who were different. It is difficult to remove the filters of heteronormativity. I wish someone had sat down to talk to me about sexuality (among other things).  I have a feeling that I might have understood. I would have grown up as a more sensitive person. I remember the sole sex ed class I had growing up. A doctor was called in. She used slides and as she spoke, I think she mentally ticked off the checklist - adolescence, breasts, periods, pubic hair, voice cracking, STDs.  That's it. So sex only means STDs or pregnancy. Nothing about feelings. And absolutely nothing about alternate sexuality or gender identity. I believe that conversations can be powerful if done the right way (I often do it the wrong way but that is another story in itself). And I wish that as kids, these conversations were made possible.

Having said all that, if it is not clear yet, I grew up and I have changed the way I think. Completely. And I thank the universe for that. But apparently our esteemed judges at the Supreme Court have not grown up at all (this reminds me of a scene in Jab We Met).

It came as more of a surprise because all around me I was seeing the changes. And it was not because my work involved working on this issue exactly. Other people, people outside of my social sciences universe were all growing up. Even if it was not in a fiery everyone-has-rights way but just shrugging and saying "Well, that is a personal choice. I don't care". Considering the homophobic and transphobic reactions I had heard before, it did seem like a step forward. In this climate, the judgment came as a kick in the gut. Unbelievably stupid. Unbelievably ignorant. Unbelievably discriminatory. I could go on.

It is difficult to even call this judgment regressive because enough has been said and written about alternative sexuality and gender identity being accepted in society from ancient times. 'Same sex love in India' is an excellent book highlighting the same.

So, for the community, the battle lines are drawn again. It is back to the streets, back to the protests, back to the advocacy, back to the conversations. The rainbow protests are the most fun protests I have attended. All the rage, gets channeled in a cheeky and colorful manner. Slogans are catchy, voices are loud, clothes are bright and there is a fair bit of humor and drama. Sample this. My favourite slogan which is used in the protests in Bangalore goes 'Kanoon antha kanoonu. Avara appandanta kanoonu'. I am struggling to find an appropriate translation. Loosely translated, it means, 'They think the law is their father's'. The protests post the judgment have given me hope again. This is such a strong community. They have fought so many battles already. This is seen as just another large obstacle. The boundaries will continue to be pushed. Change is coming.

I end with another favourite slogan, 'Nodi swami. Naavu iravadu heege'. It is a dialogue from an old Kannada movie. It simply says, look boss, we are like this only. Like this only. Like this only. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Chill out ya!

Over the past few years, I have been accused of being humorless. Of taking life far too seriously. Of reading too much meaning into everyday occurrences. Of buying into conspiracy theories. And of being too argumentative in general.

But pardon me if I do not guffaw at your sexist joke of how wonderfully your girlfriend cleans the kitchen. Or if I don't cheer on when you call a woman a slut because she has had multiple relationships. Or continue to calmly sip on my beer when you call someone a faggot. Or calmly smile and ignore your ignorance when you say that all Dalits are actually well off and do not need reservations. Or nod and agree when you say that the country now needs a fascist.

I simply cannot. And believe me I have tried. I cannot sit around listening to oppressive conversations without bursting a nerve in my head. The casual dismissal of people, the ill-informed yet loudly articulated opinions, the complete insensitivity. All masked in the fabric of humor. A joke. It is not funny. It just isn't. It is not normal. Jokes are a way of normalizing the situations we speak of. Of giving expression to the societal fabric of sexism and casteism and what not.

I have been told to 'chill'. To not pick on 'harmless' comments. To keep political thoughts separate from friendships. I am at this stage in life where I wonder if this is possible at all. My politics remains at the core of my being. It is not a job, or a hobby, or something which adds to conversations at dinner parties. How then am I supposed to continue friendships with people who think it is alright for a whole section of people to be eliminated as long as there is 'development'? With those who will make jokes about a woman's place being in the kitchen?

It is far, far easier to engage with strangers in such debates. Doing this with people you love just kills you. Do you then realize that you have outgrown these relationships? Or do you truly try and hold on to what you had and continue to engage? 

I do wish I was not so hot headed. I wish I had the ability to calmly engage and debate. I think what I say would then make a lot more difference than it does now.

What to do? What to do?

Friday, April 19, 2013

A friend sent me a poem by Charles Bukowski a few months back. I quote from it:

"if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything, 
don't do it. 
unless it comes unasked out of your 
heart and your mind and your mouth 
and your gut, 
don't do it. 
if you have to sit for hours 
staring at your computer screen 
or hunched over your 
searching for words, 
don't do it".

The poem talks about writing of course. What did you think?

I have been taking this rather literally and not writing at all. Save for work reports and mails. Oh, and Facebook statuses. 

I am also surrounded by people who write so beautifully. Those who articulate their argument with such breathtaking eloquence. With such passion and incisiveness and wit and warmth. It makes me feel unworthy of writing at all. 

Also for some strange reason, I have hardly been reading for the past year or so. With this, I feel both my vocabulary and my imagination has shrunk. This could also be a sign of getting very, very old.

Despite all this, I want to take a stab at writing again. For whatever it is worth. And for that, this blog of hyphens would have to do for now.

Friday, November 02, 2012

At a protest a few days back.

Comrade V is giving impassioned speech filled with rhetoric.

Comrade V: These are troubled times. The government does not care about the poor. Do you know how much rice costs nowadays?

Woman 1 (from the protestors, shouting into a mike): Rs. 40/- a kg

Woman 2: No, it is Rs. 35/- a kg

Woman 3: No, it actually depends on what rice you buy


Maybe it is time to stop with the rhetoric. I think it is the same rhetoric my grandfather used in his speeches.