A Mid Year Review of the 2017 Plan

In the month of April, I was involved in a minor accident, that resulted in a knee injury and a badly cracked phone screen. It was an oddly proud moment for me.

I see you going, “Huh?” Allow me to explain.

Growing up, I didn’t fall down much. I had one big fall in ’92 (hurt my nose, shin, and foot), and another big fall in ’07 (fractured my elbow). Smaller, forgettable injuries may have taken place, who knows? This injury-free childhood and adolescence is a result of a life lived with extreme caution. When you live over-cautiously, you rarely make mistakes. Nothing, of course, is a bigger mistake than not ever making mistakes.

By this, I mean actions you perform out of your own volition. There were plenty of things that happened to me that I see as mistakes, but ones that I always found someone else to pin the blame on. There’s only so much anger and resentment you can live with before you start suspecting if you’ve developed a victim complex or if you’re simply so unlucky that you’re always at the wrong place at the wrong time. Both of these explanations were unacceptable to me. I had reached my threshold.

The accident I mentioned happened on a trip I took. I’ve written in multiple birthday-resolution posts about how I pine to take trips but life does not allow me to. Taking off on my own was a big deal for me. Getting injured, therefore, was an indication of reduced caution. Reduced caution was an indication of being open to more risks, being open to finally making mistakes. Being open to finally learning from them. Being open to finally taking ownership of my life. There is something so liberating about being to look in the mirror and say, “I am the reason I’ve hurt my knee and broken my phone. Me. No one else, but me.”

I started this year with some major stocktaking and a desire to go back to the root of what caused my depression and fix it. I even decided to document my journey, with the hope that it may benefit someone. What I didn’t mention (explicitly) was I had decided to go back to college to earn a Master’s degree – that had been my big plan at the start of the year. That didn’t work out (for this year) because the Uni I really wanted to go to rejected my application, and my second choice, where I got accepted, was asking for the kind of tuition I couldn’t afford even with student loans.

I have a tattoo on my right wrist – a tribute to two books I like – that, roughly translated, means to accept whatever happens in life because it has all been written beforehand. A rather fatalistic view that, at the beginning of this year, I forced myself to reject and take action to affect the outcome that I wanted. It is true that I once believed in fatalism (hence the tattoo). But such a world view makes us complacent. You wade through life, accepting your lot, believing, hey, this is all predetermined anyway. 

For this reason, I’m glad that I did something this year: applied to college, returned to writing, took three trips (so far), became more accepting of things I cannot change, and more that I will speak about when the time is right. Whatever the result may have been, I can’t say I sat idly by, watching life unfold. From here on, whatever mistakes I make will be my own, and my scars will make me as proud as my accomplishments will.

While I’m no longer the kind of fatalist I started out as, I do still believe there’s a plan in the cosmic scheme of things that we cannot see. However, that is no reason for us to be lazy. Good things come to those who, instead of waiting for miracles to happen, get off their asses and make miracles happen.


Linking to #ChattyBlogs

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Waking Up To Brown

“What is the one color you would never use to paint your room?” he asked.

“Brown,” I said without missing a beat.

“Why?”

“It’s so dull and depressing. Waking up to that every morning is not something I imagine is a pleasant experience.”

My answer niggled at my mind for the rest of the day. As if I had lied. I had given that answer without so much as a thought; aren’t answers you give without thinking often the truth? Why then did that answer feel like a blunder? After all, there were actual blunders I could waste time pondering over and feeling foolish.

I reached home, exhausted after a long walk, and plopped into bed. It was then that I noticed the walls.

Why had this never registered before?

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.

Hopeless Romantic: Part 1 – Tokens

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There was a time when I thought of myself as a hopeless romantic. Even as I wrote endless reports on Shakespeare’s villains for school or wrote about gruesomely severed heads to amuse myself, my secret ambition was to write a love story of epic proportions. And when no one was looking, I would let the facade crumble and write poems of love (which sound horribly cheesy now) on the lines of “I haven’t found you yet.”

All of this was before I became the hopeless cynic that I am now.

One of the reasons why I was a hopeless romantic was, I think, because unlike everyone else I knew, I was single (is single too heavy a word to be assigned to teenagers?), and the proverbial grass beckoned me like the glint of green glass. My grandmother and her sister firmly believed I was destined to die an old maid, and my academic achievements were therefore null and void. We are, sadly, after all, raised to believe that if you do not find a Prince Charming for a companion, you’re worthless. It took a lot of years for me to come out of that demeaning mindset, but the day they uttered that “prophecy”, I think a part of me believed all of life was meaningless, and everyone I knew had something that I did not. But I digress.

One day, while helping a friend choose a birthday present for another friend, I found myself looking at a greeting card. A simple one, no fancy fonts or glittery picture. All it said was “For you”. It appealed to the romantic in me, and I thought if there was a chance in hell that I wouldn’t die an old maid, then this would be something to gift whoever it was I hadn’t found yet. I bought the card, and kept it hidden in a notebook.

That was the first in a series of “tokens” I bought. My fairy tale idea of love was cemented with each token I bought, fed and watered by all the notions pop culture offered. More song lyrics, more secret poetry followed. All of it hidden in the same notebook with the greeting cards, quotes and sometimes, even old bits of gift wrapping paper, if they happened to have hearts on them.

That picture of me isn’t something I can relate to today, over a decade later. A few years ago, I was back home, in my old room, and decided to throw all the tokens away. I just decided it wasn’t me, and all those bits had no place in my life. Interestingly, I could not find the notebook. Maybe somebody found it, had a hearty laugh and threw it out. I can’t say.

Or maybe, it will turn up years later, when I’m older, to remind me who I used to be – full of wide-eyed innocence and dreams of impractical puppy love.

 

 

 

What I Learned From My Garden About Loss and New Beginnings

Some of my earliest memories are those of hiding in the little kitchen garden in our house. What I remember most vividly are the hibiscuses and the roses. Roses of that deep magenta color, the color of sirens and wine. Hibiscuses, I think there were red, pale pink, and peach. There were a whole lot of other plants that I can no longer recollect, but I remember they were all roughly as tall as I was, so the setup was, to me, quite a jungle! In all of my photographs from that era, I have two braids on either side with a rose pinned to each, and a neat bindi in the centre of my forehead – like the “good” south Indian girl my mother desperately wanted me to become. There was one particular photograph of me smiling away among the hibiscus pots; it was a particular favourite of mine, and is now with an old classmate who liked collecting childhood photographs of her friends. I wonder if she still has it.

This was while we were living in Goa. When I turned four, we moved to New Delhi, and I think the saddest part of that move for me was to lose my mini jungle. In our new flat, there was a balcony twice the size, but perhaps the loss of the old garden hit my mother hard, and she was not motivated enough to start a new one, knowing even this residence was temporary. Nevertheless, she planted a money-plant. A low maintenance little thing that you find everywhere, from office corridors to desks to nearly every Indian home. She put it in the corner of the balcony where it got a lot of light, and the rest of the balcony remained bare. Boring. Like a desert. Un-homey. Like New Delhi.

To this day, I hate money-plants.

Now that I’m all grown up and nearly the age my mother was when the events described above occurred, I decided to start a small garden of my own. I don’t know the first thing about gardening, and I would not have gone ahead at all, but at my last job, I had a lot (way too much) free time, and I stumbled upon a kitchen garden website. As I read, all those long ago memories, buried like shadows, resurfaced and I just wanted to do SOMETHING. I have three balconies, and they’re all bare, and they reflect the hot sun like steel and concrete. Like deserts. Like New Delhi.

I went to a nearby nursery and picked up two plants. My son made friends with the owner’s puppy and that’s a story in itself, but for another day. And bit by bit, I got one side of my balcony lined up. I have a creeper that grows on the grilles and the leaves are the richest shade of green I’ve ever seen.

Last week, one of my plants died without a warning. It seemed healthy the day before but was all wilted the next. That was the first plant in my care that died. The thud in my heart was painful, and strange as it may seem, but I’m sure I could see the cloud over my head. I did not have the heart to throw it out. I’m trying to revive it, but I don’t think it’s working.

Ever since I’ve set up the mini garden, the balcony is the first place I go to as soon as I return from work. I examine each of my plants, ask them how they’re doing, if it’s all good, if I could get them anything else, some water or a pair of scissors to prune them perhaps? Like a good waiter who wants a good tip. I see each new leaf, healthy, waxy, and so beautifully tiny come out the parent branch and each time I’m filled with renewed wonder. I spend several minutes just staring at them – too afraid to touch – like it’s a miracle happening right in front of my eyes.

On the day the plant died, in a neighboring pot, I saw a new shoot come up. I had planted seeds the week before, and I’ve heard from people that seeds you get in the market never germinate, which is why you should always go for saplings. I have to say I was shocked when I saw the shoot raise its head in the sun. It was so beautiful, so fragile.

And the day after, there were more shoots.

There is a certain joy that comes from seeing something that you least expected. Dramatic misty-eyed-ness aside, it’s the surprise that fills you up to the brim.

Yesterday it rained here in Bangalore, and the raindrops rested on the leaves of my creeper. I was mesmerized by it. It was like a love affair in itself – the stormy clouds, the heavy rain, and a gentle flutter of the leaves letting the raindrops rest on them.

I still don’t know much about gardening. I still haven’t gotten over the death of the plant. (Or even the loss of the mini garden from childhood, for that matter). But I talk to these plants, and sometimes, they smile back to me. They know I’m there, and I can feel it. And little by little, they grow like a wonder.

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