Traditions

I read about traditions in many families, see them on the television. People have traditions for holidays, for birthdays, where family gets together and does the same thing every year. Some cook a certain meal, some watch a certain film, some play a certain game or just sing a certain song.

During every festive season, I watch my family, having small arguments, always being a mess and not figuring it out, someone crying, people fighting with each other and wonder if we are broken and try to figure out why don’t we have any traditions. Am I missing out on a lot of happiness?

My dad teases my sister when she is making rangoli and she always gets mad. Me and my dad go on a shopping run at the last minute and have some snacks while buying sweets, and get so full that we are never able to have the lunch that mom cooked at home. During the pooja, my brother, I and my mom always start laughing uncontrollably and get scolded by dad. Somebody is always dying for the pooja to get over soon so they can go downstairs to their friends.

It all appeared broken to me at first, but now I’ve started to wonder, there’s a pattern in this chaos, there’s some playfulness in the things that seem a bit unhappy. And maybe that’s our tradition.

Winters.

The cool winter breeze has started knocking on my door. Sudden chills run down my spine every now and then. I get goosebumps without getting scared. The season I hate the most and yet enjoy the most is almost here.

As if I was not lazy enough, winters make me 10 times more lazy. Stuffed inside hundreds of clothes, my range of motion is limited and my will power is almost non existent. I want to stay buried inside my blanket, or a fortress of blankets and pillows, all day long. Hibernation should not be limited to just animals.

Even though I don’t exactly celebrate Christmas as I follow a different religion, Christmas feels are all around. My playlist slowly shifts focus from random songs to requesting Santa for a light blue convertible, or convincing my sister to build a snowman.

Warm, chocolaty drinks, come into my dreams and eventually in my hands. I am transported to all those winters that I really enjoyed with my friends and families. Lying in my bed, I begin to wonder how did I used to go to school or college in such a weather, how did I used to study. Work seems impossible to get to.

I have my favourite sweaters, that I cannot part ways with even though they surprise me with shredded threads. They smell different, of a different place & time, of a different me. Only they are able to satiate the chills that I feel, and without them I am lost.

I dread how I will survive the coming months, yet I always find myself longing for more winter clothes. I have to ask my sister and friends to not let me buy another sweater and yet my heart just keeps leaping out of my body every time I lay eyes on one. I look a lot fatter than I am because of so many layers and yet I feel the smartest in winter clothes. What kind of game is that?

I am gonna complain every minute of every day for the entire season and yet miss this cozy season a little when it’s all over.

Independence day

I often end up fighting with my mom when she asks me to not step out late at night, to not go on road trips alone with girls. I ask her difficult questions as to why I am not allowed to do this whereas guys can do the same thing. Ofcourse I know the answer but I still probe her. I understand it’s for my safety but I don’t want to understand it anymore.

Why am I supposed to not go out because the world is unsafe for me? Because some creep lurks behind the shadows and might attack me? Why cannot something be done about that creep?

And the worst part? My parents think I can be independent, i can be safe from all harm in the world after getting married, because they think having a man in my life is going to protect me from all the lurkers in the world. Women are to be passed around from possession of one man to another, from father to husband, to take care of them, to stop them from being independent. But the same men cannot be taught how to make the world a better place for us.

I am fed up of begging for my independence, to be called a rebel for asking what is rightfully mine, to demand to live in a safe place where I can freely roam around without a pepper spray. I feel that the term independence was only coined for men of our society, because thanks to them, girls can never truly be independent.

Balconies

My day starts and ends with screens. From phone to laptop to television, screens are all around me, making me disoriented. There is hardly any escape because I am stuck in my home.
I often wander to my balcony to escape it all, because that is the nearest place closest to nature. A perfect getaway from our box like apartments into the arms of the real world. In times like this, I try to take in every piece of nature city life can offer. I fill my ears with the music of the horns of the passing cars, the animals fighting over something or maybe just playing with each other. I take in the lush greenery of the flora, some on the streets, and some harboured in my balcony. I stare at the sky, the many shades of blue, the moving clouds, and feel myself flying away with them. I feel the breeze on my face and close my eyes. This is all I want, this is all I need.

Photographs

Who doesn’t love photographs? Some like clicking it, some like posing for it, some just like to post them, and some waste hours just watching what others have posted. They are all around us, created to hold on to memories a little bit longer, to live in some old moment again and again, to give a visual form to old thoughts, to honor our closed ones by adding their pictures around the house or in an album, to keep the picture of someone special hidden away in the corner of the wallet, to feel something more than mere thoughts could have allowed.

But photographs were just meant to let us hold on to the memories a bit longer. When did photographs become the memories itself?

Cameras and reels used to be costly and hence we only spent them on the choicest of events. Now that phones make every click free, everyone goes clicking away 100 times every hour in a day. They are not memories anymore because we fail to create any memories as we are so often busy in capturing the said memory. I’ve been part of numerous occasions when the outing was only centred around taking pictures, and there is no conversation, no event from that day that I remember, other than the fact that we clicked pictures.

We visit great picturesque locations but instead of marveling at its beauty, everyone is busy in taking the perfect picture of that place. We attend concerts and instead of enjoying the music with closed eyes, our heart entwined with someone we love, swaying at the beats, we are just looking at the concert through the screens, and the entire focus is on keeping the hand still to get the best shot. We meet a friend after years and all we want to do is click a picture and add a story with the hashtag #feelsLikeYesterday, but are we really feeling anything?

Is it just me or have we taken this picture taking business a tad bit too far? I get it why professional photographers spend time on it or someone who has a hobby. But why is every other person so obsessed with taking pictures of every moment, every day, and not even going back to look at them because the gallery is so cluttered.

We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves

These were some great words said by Ed Sheeran, let’s please not change the meaning of them please !

Next time you meet a friend, you go somewhere, please think for a while about that very moment first, stay in that moment & enjoy it, and then maybe later consider documenting it and showing off (or maybe just skip the latter).

Minimalism

I recently watched a documentary on Netflix about minimalism, how leading a minimalistic life, i.e. living only with the things that give us happiness or something that we truly need to function, can help us in living a happy and successful life. It talked about how we often buy things just because we have this false need of validation that owning that particular thing will make us happy, or sometimes it’s just because we compare the things that we own with others, thus always trying to fill a void with useless garbage, but not realising that the void is always going to keep asking for more (it’s a black hole :|). It was very motivating and inspiring, and I ended up cleaning out some old stuffed toys from my parent’s showcase, that I had received as birthday gifts when I was a teenager. But this post is not about how to clean up your house or your closet. It is about cleaning up your mind.

Agreed that living with minimal things is satisfactory. But what about all the extra noise that we keep hoarding up in our minds? Signing up ourselves for infinite activities and bearing the burden of not being able to do them? Along with materialistic things, also craving for all the experiences that others are experiencing and feeling that doing that would make us happy?

I see a new book, I put it in my TBR list. That list keeps on getting bigger and I know I am never going to read them all, and yet I don’t stop. Watching that list only gives me anxiety and I have actually lost the names of the books I actually want to read in that junk. Same goes for trying to watch all the movies and shows, that I have been told are the most amazing piece of content ever created. I am sure they are. But do I want to watch everything, or can I even? The same way where we keep buying useless things to impress others, we keep on reading or watching things we don’t want to just to impress others or to get some sense of achievement, but the list never ends.

If that wasn’t enough, there comes travel. This earth is never going to fall short of the places where one can go to blow off some steam. And someone or the other is always going to go to places that you have not been to, and you will always keep craving for that, for more. More often than not, this craving is just out of FOMO and not because you actually want to see so and so place.

Along with that, there’s a crazy need for trying to excel in so many things, trying this out, trying that out, burning ourselves out. It’s good to be ambitious but it’s also good to know when to stop. And it’s best to realise which things actually make you happy, and not go crazy while juggling between activities because if you keep your foot on many boats, you are just going to fall down.

Minimalism goes a long way. I am not sure how ready I am to throw away many things that I own yet, but maybe I can throw away some items from my To-do list and get some peace!

Hyderabad, I miss you. And I miss myself along with you.

Living alone was one of the dreams that I never knew I had. Living with friends, F.R.I.E.N.D.S taught me, was an even better dream to have. This living alone time came and flew away so quickly, I hardly got time to grasp it all. And here I am, thinking back and wondering if it’s ever going to happen again.

I am about to complete one year since the time I came to visit home for 2 months, and I mentioned this to every person who asked me because I needed a constant reminder that I am not done with Hyderabad yet, that I’m gonna go back. 2 months turned to 3 to 4 and then reality struck that going back is not happening so soon. I left that city for good, while not even getting a chance to go back and say goodbye.

This city, perfectly balanced between happening and laid back, safe enough to never let me feel I cannot go somewhere because I am a girl, and empowering me in the process, will always remain special in my heart. Letting me make new friends, and helping in re-kindling old faded friendships, teaching to stay alone even in a crowd and also somehow making me feel whole when I used to be alone, this city has given me all kinds of days; good, bad, happy and sad.

From a timid college fresher, always second guessing herself and asking for reassurances, to a grown up, helping others fight the same battle; looking from this other end of the spectrum reminds me of the innocent and scared person I used to be. But I cannot separate that person from this city because that’s where that person used to live. I am afraid that going back is never going to be the same (if it happens), because people, relationships, situations, and even I would have changed. I do look forward to more challenges that are gonna come in front of me, and I know I am a more mature person than I used to be to face them. But goodbyes are always difficult. Here’s to the goodbye I never got to say, and one which I would like to say, even if I go back.

To the experiences I had, and the ones I couldn't,
To the person I was, and the one into whom I grew,
Hyderabad I miss you.
And I miss myself along with you !

Gratitude

Amidst these difficult times, everyone is striving and trying to do their best. I do not really want to comment on what should or could have been done differently because I am not best equipped to shed light on that. But I do want everyone to hold on to every string of positivity that we can, to show gratitude to all the people and things.

I am grateful to all the shopkeepers and daily workers around me that were always there to provide with the necessities on our every beck and call. Be it the shopkeeper who was delivering the medicine to our society, or the vegetable vendor that my mom could call to provide certain fruits and vegetables to us. And also to the guard and other helpers working in our society who kept delivering everything till our flat’s gate because we weren’t allowed to step out. They were not doing this just for my family but for all those families that were infected in our society. I am grateful and thankful to all these people for putting up with my and my families’ needs first, even though they were at risk as well.

I am grateful to all the helpful families that live nearby us, who kept asking us if we needed anything, kept sharing their experiences and all the tips and tricks they used to get over the illness themselves. And I am so grateful to all the aunties near me who provided us with proper home cooked meal because we lacked the energy to do so. I cannot even express how much it meant to us and I cannot imagine how they were so selfless and upfront about it. I keep imagining to cook a lot of tasty food for them whenever I can!

I am grateful to all my friends who kept checking up on me, who kept making me feel better and asked about my whereabouts from time to time. And also for keeping the conversation light hearted at times, because that is what we need in these times, something to hold on to and not to be reminded of the bad things all the times. Thank you for always being there.

But I am not just grateful to the people who helped me directly or indirectly. I am grateful to all those people who are in a similar or maybe a worse situation than me and who are doing everything in their power to survive through it all. I cannot imagine the hardships of millions of people out there, who might not have the same facilities that I have. I am grateful for people for fighting and not giving up. I am grateful to all those selfless souls, doctors, other front line fighters, and all the people who are constantly helping others for any contacts round the clock, for doing all those things that I don’t think I could have done. I am also grateful to all those people who are putting aside their personal plans because of the current situation, because that ain’t easy for anyone to do after so much planning. But this in no way undermines anyone who had to go through any plan because everyone faces different circumstances and does what is the best for them.

I know we will all get through it all, because that is inevitable. Yes the world will be a little more difficult to be in with so much pain, so much suffering and loss, but we gotta stick together through it all and do our part as much as we can, whilst also caring about our physical and mental needs, because everyone needs time to recover and everyone cannot be a superhero. So just let’s do whatever we can, guilt free, but let’s do our part because together we can all survive it!

Finding Peace

One of the greatest question, stretched across humanity. Something that we want to find for ourselves and for the world as well, something that we think will bring utmost happiness to us. There have been numerable books that talk about how you can achieve it, or can come closest to achieving it. I haven’t really read any such books because I am afraid that I am too messed up to find something meaningful out of them, and too lazy to make efforts and bring considerable changes in my lifestyle. But that does not mean that I have given up on this search for finding peace.

The meaning of peace for me changes often, because mostly it is related to giving a rest to what has been bothering me. Resolving things with a friend, having a good cry after long, letting out my feelings in front of someone, replying to that one text that I have been afraid to open since the morning, addressing the small and big issues that I didn’t want to, sometimes these small wins make up my day and result in a good night’s sleep.

If there aren’t these small wins in my daily life, sometimes (rarely but there are days) when my office life saves me. Even if I don’t like my work on many days, that one day when I do some good work, solve some bug, make that code work, learn something which changes my perspective, even if that something is small enough for the rest of the world, that day I feel utterly happy and at peace with myself. And sometimes, the joy of closing 10-20 tabs are enough for some peace of mind.

Sometimes there are days when nothing happens on its own, neither small nor big, that can make me feel good about myself and I need to put in some effort. I need to try something new, be it some dish or some yoga asana. If not something new, I have to fallback to following a routine because all the checked items give a satisfaction at the end of the day. Sometimes doing a small thing differently is great as well, like sitting on the balcony floor for a cup of tea or doing nothing and listening to good music (and not simply as a background noise while working).

Though on most days, I don’t find peace in anything. I struggle. I roam around, unable to enjoy anything. Unable to grasp any word of the book I am reading, watching episode after episode just to get lost, sometimes not liking even my favourite dish and simply swallowing it, having conversations that I forget within the next 5 minutes.

But when there are these rare peaceful days, I feel really thankful and enlightened, that the answer had been here all along. I am reminded of how sometimes some effort is needed to make your own day. For days when nothing great happens, it is important to have those small easy tasks that you can quickly finish off, it is important to do something nice for yourself, it is important to take a break, it is important to unwind in whatever way suits you and understand yourself better.
I know I’ll go back to my normal lost self tomorrow, but it feels good to say it out loud and be aware of the answer, that if I want to find that peace, even though temporarily, I don’t have to do a full fledged soul searching, cleaning my room might also work for me today 🙂

Patriarchy

Living in a country like India, (well I am not gonna blame India completely), so yes living in this world in the 21st Century and also India, patriarchy is all I have seen while growing up and even more so after as an adult, and old enough to recognize it.

I live in a country where women are supposed to know all the household chores as soon as they come out of the womb. Nobody bats an eye if a woman is going crazy, trying to juggle house and work together. But I do get to hear phrases such as, “Look at him, even though he is a boy, he helps out his mom so much”. Because obviously, he is not supposed to help out his mom at all but he is an amazing boy that he did so. But a girl does not have a choice. If she cannot cook, most likely she will remain unmarried.

A boy is asked to learn how to wash utensils because how else will he survive in the progressive world that we are going to become and how will he manage to live with a wife who won’t have such things in her house. Maybe a little better, but even now the reason is not this that he should learn to do it because it is correct, because it is his duty as well. He is just a victim who has to step up his game because girls are progressive nowadays.

Mom takes care of everybody’s needs. She is asked to cook various things because that’s what all the people in the house demand. But maybe it is ok, dad works and mom takes care of the house. But what about in the lockdown? Nobody is working anymore, but now mom is supposed to take care of everybody 24*7 (which used to be less earlier, thanks to schools and offices), and also entertain them because they are getting bored in the house.
Even if mom is not feeling well, she has to manage the work on her own. Nobody steps up, maybe her children but definitely not her husband because he is the man of the house and he is entitled to get all his needs fulfilled, whilst sitting on the chair all day long.

If a girl gets married and wants to stay with her maiden family for a couple of months, she has been blessed with a very good husband because he “let” her do this. Because obviously, now that she is married, he and his family have a right on her and they can refuse that she is not supposed to stay with her family for a long duration.

When series such as “Indian Matchmaking” use phrases like “you have to be flexible”, “compromise a little”, “girls have to adjust”, they definitely hit home because this is all I have heard while growing up. You are a woman and you have to be more understanding if you want to make a marriage work. Obviously two people have to be understanding to make something work but I, being a woman, have an added responsibility on me to stay quiet at times, to just nod my head and agree with the other person in order to save my marriage.

If a girl is short tempered, the phrase used is “she is like a man” because usually it’s men who have a short temper. Or have you wondered that a lot of short tempered women had to learn to keep the anger inside and allowed all the men to show this side, because again, men are entitled to do so?

I am not okay with this, and I know a lot of women and men are not okay with this as well. But nobody speaks up. Because we don’t really know what to do. If a girl voices out such things, she is called a feminist, by people who clearly don’t understand what this term means, and it’s said that she is being too aggressive. She is told to shut up and told that nobody, especially the family of the boy she’ll marry, will put up with such behavior.

This is not a rant about marriage, or in any way trying to undermine that guys do not have problems or are not judged by the society. I am sure that is true and many of those problems are a direct result of the patriarchal system that surrounds us. But enough with this. If remaining unmarried is how it’s gonna be, then be it. But I do not want to be a part of something that I detest so much. And I am not going to set a wrong example for the coming generations, that look at that girl, she adjusted and had a happy life, where maybe I might not have been happy at all.