On Being A Sore Loser

A few years ago, at my workplace we had a colouring contest – like they have in kindergarten. It was around this time, that is, around Holi. But we weren’t allowed to use the actual names of the festivals when these competitions were held. Even in December, when we all decorated the place with Christmas trees and whatnot, we weren’t allowed to say we were celebrating Christmas. Season’s Festivities, I believe, was the accepted phrase.

So, back to the colouring contest. We were divided into teams, project-wise, and each team was given a set of items to work with. Our team got a white chart paper and a box of crayons. The theme was “Saving the environment” Because that’s what Holi is about – saving the planet, and its resources. Especially water.

Flashback: Back in school, I was reasonably good at art. I wasn’t great, and I was lazy when it came to attention to detail, but reasonably good nevertheless. But after the eighth grade, I had more or less given up on pretending I was ever going to be great at it. I had never picked up my brushes after that.

As of that moment, when the coordinator handed me the crayons, I had not tried my hand at anything artistic for nearly a decade. Upon hearing the theme though, I had a fairly decent idea to work on. But here’s the catch, this was supposed to be a group activity. But let’s say my then team members were, well, I don’t wanna use expletives, so let’s just say they were a bunch of parachutes.

But I really shouldn’t complain. I work best when I work alone. So I did. But later on I realized you could get disqualified if the team didn’t participate. So I forcefully handed everyone a crayon and asked them to at least pretend to participate. Some of them did add a few touches. It looked quite nice. Overall, the picture wasn’t half bad as I had initially imagined it to be.

Aside: Now hold on. Before you make any assumptions about me, let me clarify a few things. I don’t have any great illusions about my mastery of any craft. I have always been in my place with how good or bad something is. If I’ve ever won anything in a contest or something, it’s almost always been rather unexpected (cos I’m a pessimist who believes in being pleasantly surprised) and I have always been humbled by those wins (shocked, I believe, would be a more correct term). Every time I enter a writing contest, I go with the firm belief that I will lose, and most often than not, I do. I’m also my own worst critic. That said though, there are certain things you create that you become exceptionally proud of. Admit it, you have a few of those too.

This particular picture was one of those things. I was proud to enter it into the contest. I walked with my head held as high as it possibly could be held. But here’s what happened.

On the stage, we were asked to explain our submissions. Thanks to crippling stage fright, I could not, and I threw (yes, threw) the responsibility towards a colleague like it was a dead cat. The colleague was (of course) caught unaware, and really, it was unfair of me to ask her to explain what was my idea and my work. She fumbled.

We lost.

I did not take that well. I mean, to all appearances I did; I wasn’t three years old. But on the inside, I was seething. That was a good piece of art! What sort of parachutes don’t give a prize to what was a good piece of art!

(What’s worse was, later that year, there was another contest during Diwali. Oh, I mean, October’s seasonal festivities. Which I won, by the way. So on stage, they were discussing the Holi contest for some reason. They were discussing the teams who had participated back then, and you know what? For our team, they gave all the credit to my colleague!
Oh well.)

So, as I said, I was seething. I walked back to my desk, held up the box of crayons and announced, “Main yeh leke ja rahi hoon.” (I’m taking this home). There was no “May I?” or a “I was wondering if…” I straight up announced, this belongs to me, I am taking this. No one objected. They sensed my mood. Wise of them.

Now I know you want to tell me I was being immature back then. But I am just gonna tell you, I care about things I love. I may be a pessimist most of the times, but sometimes, I’m just not. Some things matter more than they should. Some things wear the suit of expectations you force on them. Ergo, I can be a sore loser if I want to. In fact, I think I even have the nerve to say we should all be sore losers. Be passionate about things. And take a box of crayons home.

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The Mandatory Birthday Post – That I Almost Forgot To Share

Every year, I share a post on my birthday in which I analyze all the times I goofed up that year and list down more ways in which to goof up the coming year. I almost forgot to write one this time. Maybe because I did not goof up at all this year.

Ha-ha! Hahahahha! Ok, moving on.

In all honesty, this year was a good year (jinxing it by saying so). I feel like someone who’s accomplished some stuff. Nothing major, I mean, they haven’t called me about my Nobel yet, but still.

My birthday posts in the past have led people to shun my blog entirely or just be pissed off in general. For those of you who don’t know, for most part of my 20s, I suffered from major clinical depression, a condition I used to write about through years 26-28, it may have been that some of my birthday resolutions included something on the lines of, “At least one successful suicide attempt this year.” I had to take down my posts because my family “felt offended” by it and felt it should not be spoken about on a public platform, cos chaar log problems. I should not talk about MCD in the past tense, because one can never assume it will not come back – I still have grey days. But because I have seen the worst of it, the least I can do for myself is laugh at myself. Which I do, quite successfully, if I do say so myself.

But I am glad to say that at age 29, I don’t feel like making that resolution, because, as I mentioned before, I have accomplished some stuff this year, and learned (?) some stuff (I think).

From: Wikipedia
From: Wikipedia

If you believe internet listicles, there’s a lot of stuff you’re supposed to do before you turn 30. Clearly, like every deadline, I have waited for the last minute, and now I feel there’s too much pressure on me. At 29, I have only one year to do utterly bizarre things like waltzing with a penguin in Antarctica and taking a leak on Mt. Everest, next to a flag that I planted. Fingers crossed for all that, but before that, a recap:

A lot of people are complaining that 2015 is rushing by too soon. I am inclined to agree but as I look back, I feel it wasn’t all that short. One of my resolutions for year 27 was to travel more (travelling is the new losing weight!). This year, I travelled quite a bit around south India. Even TripAdvisor seems shocked by my activity! And Instagram is wondering why I am behaving like everyone else. Though I would like to travel more, a lot, lot, lot more, I feel like I’ve taken the first step – especially because I didn’t completely go the “Check these touristy sites off the list” way.

In terms of blogging, I made one major goofup. Actually I don’t know if I can call it so, because I like this interface a lot more than what I was used to before. But I have lost a lot of readership – down to 1/10th. Does it matter? That’s up for debate [subtle hint – read me more, I am awesome. Pretty please.].

One more thing is I am not writing as much fiction as I used to – a fact that worries me, but not overwhelmingly so (yet). Poetry seems to have died entirely. That worries me, and yes overwhelmingly so. I’ll wait and watch.

But on the plus side, BlogAdda included my blog in their Top 5 Creative Blogs list for WIN ’15. I was exhilarated when that happened, because (entirely without pretense and exaggeration) I never thought that would ever happen. Ever. And I finally understood why they say during the Oscars “It’s such an honour to just be nominated” because the other 4 people on that list were big shots! It was a humbling moment.

There’s more I want to say about that though. Now, I am not a big believer of zodiac signs as such. But they say Scorpios are vengeful. I have always known I am more of the passive aggressive types (how sad), although you have to admit, the notion of being all vengeful with flaring nostrils has a certain romantic appeal. When people I know learned that I blog, I had some outspoken detractors. Some who said I would never write anything worth reading. One person openly said he would stop reading books if I ever – haaye raam – got published. I don’t know what makes people so openly mean, but apparently something can. When BlogAdda announced its nominees, the first thing I wished was to see the faces of those people. Maybe I am a little vengeful?

Speaking of being published – I self published my poetry in June this year. A poem I wrote on my 28th birthday got published in an anthology, and a story of mine got published in an anthology of love stories. Yet another one got selected for a women-centric anthology. I am considering another project, which also I will self-publish (I am not ready for the big ones yet, but I’ll get there – as soon as I stop procrastinating!). So that’s probably the first thing I’ll do this year. I am really glad the guy I mentioned earlier will now stop reading books – people like that should have no access to them anyway.

Yet another subtle hint: Buy my books, y’all.

Another accomplishment is the sheer number of books I read in the past year. I don’t do those goodreads challenges, because this isn’t Roadies, and there’s nothing I want to “prove to myself” (dafuq does that phrase even mean?!) but if I had set a number, I would have definitely crossed it. Hell, exploded over it! And the sheer variety – I read only indie stuff till April, and after that I read nearly everything from drama to literary to erotica to horror to fantasy. Pulitzer winners, Man-Booker winners, Nobel winners, everything. I think I am shocked at how much I read this year – touchwood, no jinx, shut up *spits thrice, throws salt over shoulders* At least this I have to credit to the death of my laptop. Hence proving – technology dying can be a good thing. (Also, shoutout to anyone planning to buy an ASUS device – my laptop was merely months old when it died, still in warranty but could not be fixed by the service centre guys – I lost everything. Just saying)

After all that, you’d think I would take a year off just to chill. But listicles tell me otherwise, as I already mentioned. Also, I have not yet been featured on any 30 under 30 lists, so I have to do something (desperately) to change that. So I am gonna go meditate on that for a bit. If you need me, I’ll be on top of Mt. Everest squatting next to a flag.

Relationship Status: It’s Complicated, With Onions

I dislike vegetables and most fruits. I am using “dislike” here politely, so as to not hurt the sentiments of any fruits or vegetables that may end up reading this post – it’s so easy to offend anyone and everyone nowadays. If it helps, I like potato and okra, but that’s about it. Back in the hostel, the girls often asked if I would like a strainer or sieve with my gravy, because that’s how carefully I avoided vegetables.

But that relationship is easy to explain, because it’s either love or hate – there’s no grey ground. When it comes to onions though – neither the husband nor the mother can figure out what it is with me and onions. If I am out with friends on lunch, my relationship with onions becomes a topic of heated debates – and some dirty looks. So I decided to do what every writer worth his or her salt does – documents it for posterity. Because who else would write a detailed post about onions! (Also, if Himesh Reshammiya decides to produce, direct and act in another movie, maybe I’ll sell this to him as a juicy plot – that is, of course, my ultimate aim)

So gather around, you little folks, and read my 10 Onion Rules. And take notes, I can’t repeat this at EVERY outing.

  1. I do not like onions cooked in gravy. They feel like spider webs or boogers in my mouth. Cooking them this way gives them a certain flaccidity, and that… let’s just say, I dislike all things flaccid.
  2. On the other hand, I like onions ground to a paste, cooked in oil to perfection (until light brown – not transparent and definitely not pink), and then added to the gravy. That way I don’t know what I am eating.
  3. I like onions in raita – As long as you add tomatoes, cucumber, cilantro and green chillies. All finely chopped. As fine as you can without hurting your fingers in the process.
  4. I also like onions when sprinkled over other, tastier food – such as fried chicken, or pav bhaji (I think of the bhaji as the ideal vegetarian dish – it’s all mashed, so I don’t have to look at individual vegetables, and it all blends well and tastes great) as long as (there’s always a rule) there’s a generous amount of lemon juice masking its… umm.. flavour.
  5. I like onions in chaat, as long as the sweet chutney and the spicy chutney are in equal amounts.
  6. I don’t like onions in rolls, subs, and sandwiches – raw or cooked. Just no.
  7. I don’t like onions on my pizza. Baked in cheese? Cheese ruined with that horrid, horrid taste? I call it sacrilege!
  8. I like onions in Mexican-style rice. Because it’s finely chopped.
  9. I don’t like them in salads. I don’t like salads. Period.
  10. I hate onion pakoras. Unless they’re burnt and served with lots of ketchup. Yes, burnt.

You think it’s complicated? Oh you think it is! Hrmph!

Please take a printout of this or save a copy on your mobile phone so that the next time I am out for lunch or dinner with you, you don’t stumble. You’re welcome!

PS: Reshammiya’s mind is buzzing with ideas. His next movie is going to be titled either Pyaazi Aatma or Aatma Do Pyaaza.

The Women That Contribute To Male Chauvinism

A few weeks before my wedding, my mother decided to give me “the talk.” Now I know what you’re thinking but my mother is an Indian woman with her Indian sensibilities. Her opening line was, “If you dry roast all the masalas for a few minutes until the raw smell goes, the dish will taste better.”

Believe me, that’s no euphemism.

After her instructions on spicing up my (ahem) curries, she told me the following words to live by that I never lived by, “A man’s ego needs to be constantly stroked. Keep flattering him every now and then.” She further went on to add that there is no harm in apologizing at times even if he was at fault, because “men are like stubborn children” (well, I agree to some extent to that bit in quotes).

Luckily for me, the Mr. had by then seen me at my nicest, and also during my absolute vampiric worst, when he knew the safest way to approach me was to hand me hot beverages held on one end of a stick, while standing preferably two rooms away. His sans-moustache-Rhett-Butler attitude preferred someone who spoke her mind over someone who mindlessly flattered him, and thus was qualified to handle me at my best.

What about all the other girls whose mothers have told them the same thing? How are they happy with the “Oh, Johnny Bravo, you da best!” line even at times when he is being only ok? The sad bit is how they do it in hopes of something in return – often a little material something. When I tell my husband he makes the best prawn curry in the world, it is simply because he does. Not because I expect shoes in return.

Women are conditioned – by the world, by their mothers – to keep buttering men up. They are encouraged to bow their head, not make noise, handle the household, quit their jobs. If your husbands are kind enough to let you retain your jobs, then by no means earn more than him, or even equal to him – you are threatening him and his fragile ego. So used are women to being treated as second class human beings that they have led themselves to believe a man who walks all over them is what they want and need. Such is the extent of this belief that they shy away from wanting equality and become eternal male pleasers. Such is their need to be approved by the Alpha Male, that they would rather join a fight for male superiority than demand equal rights. This okayness to be trampled upon is something I’ll never get. What they require is not a companion to share dreams, make plans with and enjoy a lifetime with, but a protector whose classless jokes about nagging wives they can demurely smile at. There are women who have gone so far to believe that by keeping their husbands chests pumped, essentially they are the ones benefitting. Right, what benefits are we referring to here? Again, the little treats?

And the mothers of these great men in our lives – they probably contribute more to male chauvinism than any testosterone fueled mainstream feature film. All a boy has heard growing up is how privileged he is simply because he is a boy and how he will always have more and better opportunities than his sister. At social gatherings, the proud mommies will show off their sons’ successes, much to the envy of everyone within earshot. The same mommies measure their daughters’ successes differently – how much the sons in law earn, or where they work – USA or UAE or Uranus – the fancier the better. And the poor misguided daughters believe that what they want is not success of their own, but a successful man, who can – and we’re back to this statement – buy trinkets! The only other measure they have for their daughters’ successes is how much dowry they gave the groom (dowry-abolishment-laws-are-for-losers, hashtag YOLO). The same daughters teach the same to their “privileged sons” and “substandard daughters.” And so the cycle continues.

Once the Mr. told me that a colleague advised him about “keeping women under control.” Then I told him about the general belief around a man’s constant need for validation and flattery. Then we shook our heads and had a good laugh. Because when you marry someone, you’re looking at a friend and an equal partner. You laugh your heart out at ironies. You are not marrying the Colossus of Rhodes and you do not smile abashedly at his embarrassing spanks on your shoulder in the presence of his drinking buddies. Have some pride!

We all have a very small space in eternity, if you ask me. Instead of fighting for dominion, we should be treating ourselves equal, laughing more often, hugging tightly, and kissing sweetly. Instead we have turned our pathetic lives into a battleground. Funny, only by the time we die in this battleground, we’ll realize there are no winners.

 

A Tale Of Nordic Walking, Blogging and Empty Ad Spaces [#FridayLessons]

Image – Shuttersock: Val Thoermer

One of the chapters of Like The Flowing River describes how Paulo Coelho and his wife discovered Nordic Walking. They loved the activity because though it was rigorous and burnt a lot of calories, it did not make them tired at all. One day, Coelho went online and found out that they were doing it wrong! The next time they did it, they decided to do it “by the rules.” It was terrible, it was boring and it was tiring! So they went back to doing it “the wrong way.”

I attended a very interesting session on blog monetization the other day. As someone who once swore to never monetize her blog, it was a pretty drastic step for me to choose otherwise – huge shift, really! My main takeaway from this session was that every blog needs to have a niche. Or better yet, a micro-niche.
Mine doesn’t. Hell, it’s not even streamlined! Nor does it have a definite pattern. I do have another blog though – which focuses solely on books – mostly indie books. Let’s talk some numbers for a bit, shall we?
True, that I don’t make any money through my blogs (the ads started appearing only recently if you’ve noticed; less than a month ago – this blog was started in 2008). What do I know; I haven’t even applied anywhere except AdSense. But if we were to talk sheer pageviews and numbers: my niche-crafted blog gets hardly any visitors, whereas I am pretty satisfied with my broad, all-encompassing blog, i.e., this one.
Another thing that was mentioned that day (at the session) was how anyone without the intention of monetizing their blog would soon lose interest in blogging. I did have another blog, created solely for the purposes of “making money” (hey, don’t judge me). It was fun for about three months. I even got some tiny voucher type thingies. I stopped updating this one, cos I have only one brain. They say women are great at multitasking, but I’m secretly a man I couldn’t focus on both at the same time.
Then I got bored of it, simply because whatever that blog was about – it wasn’t me. This blog is me – telling stories and yakking, that is who I am. That blog was unicorns and puffy pink sleeves – made me feel like Deedee from Dexter’s Lab. I stopped updating it and eventually deleted it.
I am still interested in this one though! Very much so. I am also interested in my book blog, despite its low pageviews, because I love books. That’s it, I love books, period. I don’t know if I am doing something right here and something wrong there, because I feel I am doing the same things for both, so I don’t understand the disparity of numbers. But my point is this – monetizing isn’t the only aim; money isn’t the only thing that keeps us hooked. Some of us genuinely love writing.
I’ve forgotten what this post was about. Oh, right, rules. There are those who say Follow These Blogging Rules, Be Successful, Hire People To Wipe Your Bum! They may be making money and that’s great (for them)! I, on the other hand, was a happier blogger when I wasn’t looking at numbers or monetization. I didn’t feel like there’s this whole “performance pressure” sort of thing on me; as a result my mind was entirely focused on what I was writing, as opposed to whom I was writing it for. Probably, there’s no predictable, quantifiable “right” way to go about blogging. 

The lessons learnt thus were these: 1) Don’t let anyone tell you a niche-less blog is a good for nothing blog 2) Don’t let anyone tell you that you will lose interest in your blog unless you monetize it 3) Don’t listen to the “guru” with the rules.

Blogging is my Nordic Walking.

What Is Wrong With This Post?

The number of hours one spends grooming or admiring one’s own self is not the only measure of one’s narcissism. Nor is an individual’s speech, wherein he or she may wax eloquent for hours, irrespective of and disrespecting the audience’ tolerance level. Some people simply have more than one autobiography to present, because their level of greatness goes beyond a single publication.

However that may be, it seems unfair to say that only one subset of the population behaves this way, for if one does, then he or she has clearly not observed the way he or she speaks on a daily basis. It often goes unnoticed by the individual, but not always by backbiting, gossiping listeners, who are keen to make note of such faults as narcissism only to present the same with similar narcissism at every social gathering they chance upon.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to write this post without making an error, and thereby prove the point of this post, but this post is not over yet. Observations of linguistic narcissism include, not only speaking excessively about oneself but also interrupting another speaker with references to oneself. To find anecdotes startlingly similar to that of the original speaker, but rushing in with one’s story before the original speaker is done is not only rude but downright assholeish behaviour. Sooner or later, someone will punch the interrupter where he or she deserves.

As it has been mentioned above, this is not conscious behaviour. Admittedly the letter “I” appears only once in the English alphabet; but it is probably the most used, most over-used, most abused letter in even a minute’s speech or conversation. While guilty of the same, I just thought…

I mean,

That is, I

..shit..

Guests In The Large House

There was once in a blue corner of the world,
A large house that stood with welcoming smile
It greeted guests from all over with love.

A comforting mist settled all around it
Even when golden sunshine made its way through
The rich aroma of coffee teased your senses each morning.

For the longest time, the guests lived happily with their hosts
Mutual respect worked the gears in harmony
The delicious food was praised, and the gardens were loved the most.

Years later came a set of travellers
In their own sense of superiority, were they forever lost;
The hosts smiled politely, but they were rather loud revellers.

From the beginning, they disliked the sights and sounds,
The hosts however, to accommodate them, cleared some of the lovely gardens
They still refused to be contented; even the famous coffee did not make them come round.

Tired of all the insults, the hosts saw red
Not knowing which guest was causing trouble,
Turned on them all, but were chastised, “Is your hospitality suddenly dead?”

Thus the hosts decided to quietly suffer,
Still wondering if it was right to let all these outsiders in
“But we never caused any trouble,” the older guests sadly wondered.

Seeing the helpless hosts, the new guests grinned
Their sense of superiority received another boost
Contemptuously they announced, “Let us show you the ‘right’ way of things.”

And thus the hosts silently watched while seething inside
How their gardens to deserts were turned,
How the coffee now tasted burned,
For their hospitality seemed to be their ruin, and now in their own kitchens, their food they couldn’t find.

And that’s the story of the large house with the welcoming smile
Unrecognizable now, with a simmering anger hidden beneath
Why must guests overstep their bounds? If unhappy with hosts, why not simply leave?