There She Goes Again, With Her Dancing Shoes

It was in the third grade (or second, or fourth, I forget) that they decided to split the dance and gymnastics classes at my school. At first, all the students of a class would attend both. After the split, girls attended dance and boys attended gymnastics. If you had a written note from your parents, you could attend gymnastics even if you were a girl. Boys either did not want to attend dance (or their parents did not want them to), or were not given the option. I’m inclined to believe the former. This was the 90s and schools just casually propagated certain stereotypes this way.

We had been learning kathak until then. That year they made us switch to bharatnatyam. We were asked to wear a frilly skirt over our school uniforms. The new dance teacher was a formidable looking woman who wore a teardrop bindi that started between her eyebrows and touched her hairline.

Every year, I looked forward to the day we got new books and other supplies from school. This included a new pair of ghungru – for dancing. But then I was a skinny, awkward little thing whose ghungru came loose and slowly got dragged across the dance floor, held by an almost undone knot around my ankles. Add to it that bharatnatyam and I didn’t get along as well as kathak and I did. I thought I wanted to switch to gymnastics then, and chop my hair off like the other girls who chose that route.

My mother, an accomplished bharatnatyam dancer from a time in her life pre-marriage/pre-kids, took this as a personal affront (which is weird, because I was never enrolled in lessons outside of what was offered in school, but we’ll get to that). She had her waterworks and emotional blackmail at the ready. To which my father, when I thrust a pen and paper under his nose to write the note, said, “You broke your mother’s heart. You can even stop going to school from tomorrow.” Yup, my family is the overreacting kind.

Anyway, ghunghrus trailed, the elastic band of the skirt pinched, and a deadly looking teardrop bindi made me wanna pee my pants every time it looked my way. Then we moved, as we did every time, and the dancing stopped. Flash forward to a stranger asking my mother why I, the daughter of a once-famous (or so I hear) dancer, never learned it myself. She giggled in that schoolgirl way and left it at that. Later that day, I repeated the question to her. She had her reasons. I had my minor resentments.

I danced anyway, for school functions and such. I knew my limitations as a dancer, but I also knew I had fun while dancing. That’s all that mattered. And my teachers had enough confidence that I would not mess up on stage.

Flash forward to me as a 25 year old, dancing (if you could call it that) with a bunch of my friends atop a platform to steps that had nothing to do with the slow sad song that was playing (I think the DJ was going through a rough patch. You’d guess the same if you knew which songs he played). Best day of my life. Until…

Flash forward to me as a 27 year old. My friend B was teaching me some sick moves, which I was copying with my two left feet and some mustered grace. At some point, I tried to show her that step from Timber, slipped, and landed on my ass. Several hands shot out to help me up. I’d never laughed that hard before. Best day of my life! (So far)

Last year B asked me to join dance classes with her, to which I replied, “Uhhh, I don’t think so!” What followed was that she joined the classes and I went off to Pondicherry. And you all know how that turned out.

Then it started gnawing at me and I wondered, Should I? After all, the best days in my life have seen me dancing. And by dancing, I mean, looking like someone drowning calling for help, but whatever. After toying with the question for a bit, I decided, Yeah, I should.

It… did not go very well.

Joining the dance class was like going back to the skinny, awkward little thing that I was (minus the skinniness). I realized I cannot keep count in my head, you know, of the 1, 2, 3, step, 5, 6, 7, step variety. Dancing while completely sober is not that fun, and dancing with strangers (not to mention more graceful and with more practice) will make you feel more like a misfit than you already do most of the time. (Also, some other shit happened that day that I may talk about during the A to Z Challenge. Or not. I’m not sure yet, just keep your eyes peeled, yeah?)

So I left, thinking, Ok, so what’s new, I always quit everything, boohoo. And then I told myself, This is why we never wanted to learn dance in the first place. It’s ok. (Sour grapes, I tell ya)

Flash forward to a few days ago when another friend told me about yet another place from where he is taking dance lessons. Another form of dance. One which I wanted to learn a long time ago, but never did because I’m a graceless two-left-feeter.

And now it’s begun to gnaw again. Should I give myself another chance to learn? Or just accept that any form of real dancing isn’t for me?

PS: I write some of my posts in advance and schedule them, including this one, so it’s possible that by the time you’re reading this, I have already joined said lessons. I’m impulsive like that.

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Changes, Self-Indulgence, and The Four Year Cycle

Of late, this rough little slimy rope has been growing around my mind telling me I sound overly self indulgent, a la Elizabeth Gilbert from what I assume to be a pre-Eat Pray Love era. I have criticized the book in the past because I felt it was the work of a privileged person who had the means to indulge if she so wished. But I stand here corrected, because unless we’ve been on the edge of chaos and confusion, I don’t think we are in a position to judge. So humor me while I too find my footing like she did.

While I do not have the resources to take a year off work and go eating in Italy or cycling in Bali, I do know that I’m going to move out of my comfortable box. For two whole years now, I have been caught in this conflict between stagnancy and listlessness. This is partly because I’m used to things changing – change, as the saying goes, has been the only constant in my life.

Growing up, we changed cities every four years (give or take one year). Which meant every four years, I had to leave behind friends, houses, familiar settings. Which means, even now, while I am surprisingly loyal to my friends, I remain a tad detached out of fear of being eventually uprooted from their lives. This is my normal.

This paved the way for the identity issues I’ve spoken about before. This also paved the way for the what bothers me most: the lack of a place I can call home. I’m perpetually homesick for a place I do not even know for sure exists. (And I’ve written so many times about this subject, I sound repetitive even to myself).

This year, I will complete eight years in Bangalore. That’s double of what I’m used to. This February, I will have lived in my current residence for four years. Those who know me know that every part of me rejected this house since the day I moved in. The reasons why I have my name on the contract, the forceful ways I’m tied to it – all of it only caused me to reject it more. You cannot turn a house into a home if you’re so busy disconnecting from it. Did I give it a try? Yes, because as I mentioned above, it’s a house that’s been forced on me, so goddammit, I tried to make it work. But eventually you reach a breaking point. One where the dissonance around you shakes everything you know and you’re willing to let go of it all. Why now and not before? That’s a story for another day.

The next part of my grand 2017-figure life out plan/idea is that I’ve decided to move to a different city. Which city? I don’t know. Am I jinxing it by speaking too soon about it? Maybe. Is the world a hostile place right now (quite possibly on the brink of war)? I do believe it. But eight years ago also the world was a shaky place and I still quit a cozy job to move cities for my own reasons – a move which was unanimously labeled “hasty and stupid” by family and friends. I still like to think I made it, professionally at least. Only back then, I knew where to move and what I wanted to do. Elizabeth Gilbert knew where she wanted to go and what she wanted to do. Right now, I do not know either.

Who’s got advice for me?

Decisions at a (Metaphorical) Gun Point

I had life all figured out as a six year old. There was nothing to it – you grew up, became an adult, and then everything would be at your fingertips. Quite simple.

It was as I grew older that I felt I was losing fragments of my grand plan, and that things weren’t as transparent as they seemed. This led to maturity giving way to immaturity. Like I’m Benjamin Button, but on the inside. Frankly, I was at the peak of my maturity and ambition at age six.

How did I get here?

There’s a reason why we are told to make decisions with a cool head. The reason being, the decisions we make at a metaphorical gun point are often terrible.

Depression does not allow you to have a cool head. It is a permanent gun pointed at you when you have it. Your actions seem mechanical and you feel you’re just going through the motions. At the same time, there’s an incessant restlessness in you, a tingling in your feet that tells you to run away, do something reckless just so that something happens and you feel something. Anything to forget what’s hurting you; anything to feel anything else.

In December, I made some poor choices out of the desperation that comes from being there – I got back in touch with a group of people I had broken ties with because I intensely dislike their hypocritical and negative outlook towards life [it drains your energy right out], just so I could have someone to talk to. I was so terrified of the fact that if someone did not tie me up, I might harm myself, and my future looked so blank and bleak (mostly blank) that I just wanted someone from the future to come and tell me everything was going to be OK. Reassurance. I wanted to take a trip, just to get away from everything. I wanted to relocate to a different city, because I felt claustrophobic over here all of a sudden.

I held myself back.  For once I let lessons learnt in the past rule me. While I did reconnect with the people I mentioned above, and also may have said/done some borderline imbecilic things, I did not let myself make any decisions that would in the long run have severe repercussions. I decided to give myself a month to “calm down” so to speak.

A month later, the immediate restlessness had subsided and I collected my follies from the previous month. Whatever hurt me then was still hurting, but not in a slice-your-heart-open way. I was definitely calmer, could sleep better, and while I still desperately wanted to see a therapist and get help, I was stopped by the doubts I have on the competencies of Indian therapists, given some less than satisfactory experiences I had had in the past [If anyone reading this has a recommendation, I would surely welcome it]. I considered a career change, and when nothing came to light, and I began to feel restless and directionless again. I did the only thing that I could think of then – call up my oldest friend in the middle of the night and cry (this is not alarming – she’s used to it by now, I think).

My friend and I look alike; everyone tells us so. When my son was a year old, he met her and was confused as hell. It is because of this that when I look at her, I think of her as me in a parallel universe – a universe where I have not made the mistakes I’ve made. I always looked up to her for her independence and her levelheadedness. She never bowed down to parental pressure (yet another gun point of sorts) and has so far made a good path for herself. So imagine my shock when I was crying that night about how lost I was feeling and she replied with, “Dude, we’re all lost.” Of course, I insisted I was more lost, and that at least she had a plan. Turns out she also did not have a plan. No one has a plan.

In any case, having a plan negates everything I believe in. But I had assumed as a six year old that by now, I would be thirty and thriving. Instead I’m thirty and confused. Which is frightening, because a decade ago, I was twenty and confused. I have said it before that nearly every mistake I’ve made in the past twelve years can be traced back to one great mistake. So while I still do not have a plan, contrary to what I had hoped for at the end of my previous post, and may never have one, what I do have is an idea: to retrace my steps to that one great mistake, and start over.

Let’s see where this goes.

Everything Must Go

First it was goodreads.

Well, obviously. What else could it be, knowing me. It’s cluttered with nearly everything everyone’s ever recommended. Friends, acquaintances, even enemies. Even the site’s own recommendations based on what you’ve already read. Which is a good thing; it isn’t annoying like Facebook’s People You May Know. Even a bad book, after all, trumps human beings. I had even added books based on my mood or ideology – I went through a phase where I added a bunch of Christopher Hitchens and Dawkins and whatnot.

All the books I own are enshrined in a lovely oak wood shelf in my room, placed in a way that it’s the first thing I see when I wake up. Creepy, perhaps, but better than mirrors or photographs of lovers. Never one to willingly give in to egotism or sentimentality. There was no way anything was going to happen to those books, so it was goodreads that took it. For really, an ideology is for yourself. If I am an atheist or a feminist, I already know that that is what I am without having to read a book about it. I don’t need other authors to validate what I already know. When you realize that, you suddenly wonder why there are books on the subject on your TBR shelf. They may be interesting, but why read over and over what you already know. So out they all went, books I had added in the spur of the moment, knowing for sure I would never read.

A relative’s solution to all of the world’s problems is to clean. Pick up a mop, scrub or duster, and clean. every surface, wood, marble, glass; clean. I never believed in that wisdom, because it is but a distraction, the newly shined house, much like a new haircut, or new clothes. A distraction, not a solution.

A distraction of the kind that would explain the mountains and mountains of clothes piled up in my wardrobe. My old roommate would often complain to her friends about how I had too many clothes that took up precious shared closet space. I didn’t have a fraction back then as I do now. Or did, until recently. The depression led to more and more being bought and brought in, until they piled on, piled on and on like garbage, like vomit, like the blackness in my mind threatening to swallow me whole, like the wooden doors of my wardrobe were an obese stomach about to burst through the shirt that tried to hold it in. I couldn’t take it anymore. They disgusted me, once what were my favourite colours and shades. So they went next, after the many books on virtual goodreads shelves. Eight large bags. Why in hell did I have so many clothes? Why do I still have so many that I can go on for months without having to repeat. Why, really? I have no paparazzi hounding me waiting to smear me the moment I was seen in the same outfit twice. Why then do I have this ridiculous number of clothes and shoes? They went next, the shoes. Even looking at my little indulgences made me sick to my stomach, like a bug from mayonnaise gone bad.

Having gotten rid of these little materialistic things, I let go of friends, both false and true. So many of the former, so few of the latter. The ones that mattered and the ones that didn’t. And strange how quickly they scattered, for what was I but a speck of dust in their minds, swatted away with the lightest gush of breeze. The shock of it, as if they were waiting for me to say goodbye so they could finally leave. The surprise at the support from unknown, unexpected quarters. I bade them all goodbye for who they were friends
with once wasn’t who I had turned into; they deserved none of it, none of
my burdens, no matter how obligated they felt to shoulder it. I couldn’t figure out myself who I had turned into.

Then the connections to them – the internet, for who makes phone calls
anymore. Does anyone? If someone does, I don’t answer; so much easier to not
let anyone hear my voice, worried that they may ask what truly happened and worried that my voice might crack and shatter like the mirror I refuse to look at.

Then went the music. The new phone is a stupid piece of junk. It has the storage memory that could as well have been a small single digit number and the stupid thing doesn’t even come with an external memory slot. So out went the music, the favourites, the ones that
made me cry and smile and reminisce. But I’m only pinning blame because I am pushing off admitting that music had been on its way out since the past couple of years. Why have I, whose life and emotions were so inextricably tied with music, denied myself this simple, but necessary pleasure? Why tear off a part of my soul like the skin off my palms? I can’t say, I don’t know, except that all the roots begin at one place.

I do not wish to give up writing. I don’t think I could. But who am I fooling, I couldn’t write well if my life depended on it. I do it cos it gives me something to do, somewhere to vent. And in all honesty, I wish for once someone would give me something more than empty words. I waited and waited some more; I wrote and I wrote some more. But I can’t. Not anymore.

I’m exhausted.

tl;dr: hiatus.

The Heavier Expectations

A few weeks ago, I was discussing Past life regression with an acquaintance. While I was always interested in the study of the mind, and the subconscious, and Freud’s theories, past life regression is a wholly new area for me. I had, of course, heard of it, but it was not something I gave much thought to. To me, until then, reincarnation, or past life, or the manifestations of accumulated karma were a largely religious concept, and therefore something to be dismissed as hokum. They were also, to some extent, a Bollywoodesque idea, that had run its course somewhere in the 90s.

No matter, because the idea was still intriguing, and I have to say, all of a sudden, I wanted to know if I had lived lives before. Wait. I’d be lying if I said the idea took root when the discussion happened. The fact is, I had been curious about past lives ever since I read Ashwin Sanghi’s The Rozabal Line, back in 2009. It has come and gone like a whiff every now and then since then. If such a thing exists, then I’d like to know something about it. Anything. It is difficult not to romanticize about it once the idea has planted itself.

But this particular discussion dug its toes deeper into my head. Suddenly, I was googling past life regression in the middle of the night, in the midst of a splitting headache, and reading all I could find on the subject. I dreamed up all kinds of scenarios, where I sat with a practitioner and discovered who I was, and dramatically discovered my relationships with those who are in my present life. Most prominently though, I secretly harbored this fantasy that I would discover I was Sylvia Plath or Anais Nin in a past life. A girl can dream, eh?

One of the articles I read said that the only people who are advised to perform past life regression are those who feel there is something lacking in their present life, or those who are trying to find the root cause of a problem or emotion. I have always felt this strange sense of “not belonging”. Not to this world, not to this period in time. Always a little lost, always searching for “home.” Always trying to figure something out. I have written several posts about this as well. This explains the Sylvia Plath fantasy!

The reason why I am a writer today is partly because I have been trying to explore these questions. On the other hand, I believe writers must keep an open mind – to all hypotheses, to all ideas, to all experiences. I also believe writers must give in to instincts and emotions. Writers grow through excesses. The excesses they fit into their short attention spans. The whys. The hows. The alrights. The welcomes. The loves. The lusts. The harmonys. The cordialitys. The honestys. The opennesses. The acceptances. The understandings.

The being.

My error was, however, I bracketed all writers into these open-minded souls. I forgot, at the end of the day, we are humans. Humans with our pettiness and our general smallness of mind. I went out into the world expecting the same openness from everyone around me, placing the burden of my heavy expectations on their broad but weak shoulders.

Where I went looking for open-mindedness, I found the same kind of world I sought to abandon – closed, small souls, calling themselves creators but being nothing more than lice trying to trample each other on one head of hair. Angry souls. Dishonest souls. Backstabbing souls. Lonely and afraid souls. Friendless souls. Judgmental souls. Mocking souls.

Not souls. They were mere humans.

I went looking for people, who, perhaps felt as lost as I. I believed I would find the honesty and humility I was looking for in a crooked world. That maybe, in being among my own kind, or who I thought were my own kind, I would find myself. That together, we would better ourselves. Instead, all I found was a subset of the same people who already thought they were higher than the rest simply because they could string sentences one after the other. Who I found were those looking for instant fame. Writers on the outside, nosey, obnoxious neighbours on the inside.

Not writers. They were mere marketers.

Often, even in friendships, my expectations of others have been too great a weight for them to bear. Perhaps, this is an extension of it, and perhaps, this feeds my somewhat dormant misanthropy. It cushions the disappointments that come my way.

I wonder if I were to actually do the regression (since that is, after all, what we were discussing), what would I find about myself that would explain my boredom? What would I find that would stop me from placing so many expectations on simple-minded folk who do not deserve it.

 

Artists on the Boulevard

BA
Image Source: GettyImages

Reclusive I had been so long

Forgotten the ways of the world

Forgotten the art of speech known

The misty window said outside was cold.

 

My old, worn, brown jacket

That had seen better days

Now with ink splotches it’s dotted

Signs of my moods and rage.

 

I took a stroll on the boulevard

Where lost artists set up their easels

The colours of their palette clashed

Against the grey painted by the winter.

 

Shocked was I to find my songs

Printed on sheets yellowed

Fingerprints and wasted brushstrokes

Accompanied verses of our love now gone.

 

And such paintings our songs inspired!

Breathtaking; they would leave you speechless

Such talent, yet in the cold they’ve to perspire,

I merely watched as our words took form on canvas.

 

I continued to stroll when one artist

Cried aloud in despair, and in anger

Rushed to destroy what he had just painted

One of two lovers; he smeared on black and red.

 

The result seemed beautiful even then

Two bodies writhing in ecstasy or turmoil

I noticed the verse he used; it was my favourite

Reminded me of so much; I paid a sum royal.

 

Now it adorns the wall above my typewriter

Reminds me of why I’m a recluse in a world of colour

Had I not been a poet, with my whims and swings of anger

Would we be like those paintings, still together?

YOLOs, FOMOs, and MOMOs

“Has it ever occurred to you that life is an excruciatingly long wait for death.”

-Not A Famous Person

‘Twas I who said those words. Ok, tweeted. It is a universally acknowledged fact that we hate to wait. Combine that fact with what I have written above and what you have is a sinister idea – well, suicidal, but please do not try anything stupid at home, because I don’t want this blog post to be held responsible.

Also, you’re all already performing various acts of varying levels of stupidity all around me.

I know a lot of people blame social media for a whole lot of things, and rightfully too. I have one major grievance against it and that is – inspirational quotes. Especially of the YOLO variety. Oh wait, apparently YOLO is now outdated, because evolution somehow started working in reverse or something and all of us now have the attention span of a fish. I have no idea about the real attention span of fish, that’s just an expression but I am guessing that also could be a possible acronym which completely encapsulates the idea of short attention span – Fuck It, Shithead (FISH) ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Oh, digressing. Blame the FISH attitude. So, YOLO is now outdated, and acronym of the year 2014 (two years ago, so probably wayyyy outdated) was FOMO – fear of missing out. The idea of fomo (I don’t feel like capitalizing it, meh) is that people want to do too much, too soon, because they are all convinced they’re gonna die tomorrow or in the next hour and are terrified they wouldn’t have DJ’d at a pub before then. Or grown potatoes on Mars.

Ugh, how morbid.

I sometimes binge-read wikipedia late at night, as I am sure you all do (no? okay) and last night for reasons beyond the ideas and constraints of logic, I started reading about Drake, the rapper. Apparently he is credited with popularizing “YOLO.” He must be feeling real foolish now. Also, I noticed, he is my age, so I guess that’s ok – ’86-borns are used to feeling foolish from time to time. Then I woke up this morning, and Facebook slaps my face with this:

Capture

Then I just lost it. I wanted to wail, please stop putting so much pressure on me to enjoy my life! I never even thought about Feb 29th before this as anything other than just another day – an attitude I reserve for every day, including NYE, because I, boring as it sounds, don’t wanna over-drink and die of alcohol poisoning or being bonked on the head by over-enthusiastic party-goers.

What are we so afraid of? Of death? Because sounds like we’re more afraid of life. Life, as idyllically and unhurriedly as it comes – we seem terrified of it. We are, propelled by those nonsensical quotes (admit it – it’s all it is!), doing so much that our heart isn’t in any of it. Everybody I know is travelling like a maniac, playing four musical instruments, getting tattoos they don’t like, dating a new person each day, screaming off rooftops, enjoying NONE of it. Why? Because they’re too afraid of not enjoying life while it lasts. Oh, the irony.

I agree, life is short. I mean, I’ve been doing it for 29 years, but yeah, I’d probably find it short when I’m on my deathbed, and I still find the manuscript of my novel unfinished on my desk (I’m not fooling anyone, I started off in 2012, it’s been bloody 4 years, that’s not getting written, LOL). But do you really have to rush through life? In your chaotic frenzy to create an unforgettable one, aren’t you just creating an utterly forgettable one, one that even you can’t remember, thanks to the fish?

Ask yourself, what do you really want. Tell me it isn’t just a blanket and more hours of sleep.

And some momos (cos it’s there in the title, and I had to put them somewhere in the post. Also they’re tasty)