10:33 AM, Walking Down The Hospital Hallway

It’s my first Sunday morning here and it’s beautiful! On the outside at least. On the inside, there’s no water in the faucets and I’m going stir crazy. 

The view I have from my 3rd floor shows me a road that goes on and on. I want to be on that road. I want to be able to drive down to the city and then, drive away from it. It’s Sunday, I have nothing to do and nowhere to be until 8 in the night and I want to get out of this campus.

This is all due to the bad habit I picked up during college and then, reinforced later when I was at home for the last 3 years. I would go out every week. At least once a week. Sometimes, more. Of course, it’s not a bad habit, per se. But, when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere and the most reliable mode of transportation you have is your own two legs, you tend to curse all those friends who indulged your crazies and went along with your unplanned outings for not being here, with you, right now.

So, dear friends, new and old, you’re in my thoughts this lovely Sunday morning, and I curse you all to hell. 

Now that that’s off my chest, I’m going to go enquire into those beautifully rickety auto rickshaws I see standing outside the gates. Happy Sunday, y’all!

😀

08:10 AM, In A Mirror-less Room 

My new room has a door, a window, a bed, and nothing much else. I’m living among suitcases strewn across the floor because there’s a closet-sized bathroom, but no closet and I have an extra 30 minutes to sleep in every morning since there’s no mirror to get ready in front of. 
But this morning, I woke up before my alarm went off, I washed up an hour before I had to and I had so much extra time on my hands that I finally decided to reacquaint myself with my face. Hence, came out the little compact with its tiny mirror and me, feeling like quite the diva holding it up to my face. 

While it’s no fun trying to apply kohl single handed, there’s yet another reason to dislike these teeny-tiny reflective surfaces, I realised; they show your face in agonizing detail. I could spot every little testosterone-y strand of hair on my upper lip. I could see just how bushy my eyebrows had gotten. I could study in great detail the dark hollows beneath my eyes where shadows seem to have taken up permanent residence. 

Along with all of these newly-acquired concerns, my hand stopped and my face rushed close to the mirror when I noticed these little pockmarks guarding my nose from either side. Remnants of an adolescent battle with acne that, obviously, I lost. I poked, I prodded, I stretched the skin between my fingers and admired the tenacity of a little pocket of dirt in the scar that it left behind on me. 

And then, I couldn’t help it, I laughed. This entire exercise of looking at my face, pointing out its many faults, studying my perceived defects…it rushed through my head in one shot and I felt like I was in the middle of a Bridget Jones’ movie. So, I laughed. 

Why are we so afraid of looking like we do? We want to change this, tweak that. Well, change is constant and shouldn’t be feared, I agree. But, that goes both ways- change that’s apparently good and change that’s apparently bad. Laugh lines, wrinkles, grey hair and even pockmarks left behind by an earlier bout of acne.

This morning, my mirror helped me take a walk down memory lane into those times when exams meant a pimple blooming on my cheek and summer was heralded by another one under my eyebrow. It reminded me of all those arguments between my mother and me over things that apparently needed to be applied to my face. I remembered shared commiseration over teenage issues in college- a discussion that started with pimples and ended in women’s lib during those days of idealism and greasy food. 

So many memories rushed through my head in a moment all due to a few pockmarks and a mirror. See, I’ve lived for 25 years on this planet. Six of those were spent being a teenager. These marks on my face- they are reminders of a time when I cried dramatically in a locked room, of when I fought tooth and nail with my mother against every little thing, of a time when friends meant everything. They remind me of times that make me laugh fondly when I look back at them now. 

These tiny scars that showed up in my mirror are all part of and signs of a life well-lived and memories made. So, in that moment, I grew rather fond of those pockmarks on my face. I hailed their good job in guarding my nose and blew myself a kiss. 

😀

01:39 PM, In An Empty OPD

So, I’ve started my residency in psychiatry as of yesterday in a hospital that’s smack in the middle of a highway. I could walk up and down the road for as far as 5 kilometres without coming across one store that would sell me chips.

So I thought, when I was moving here, that’s good. With my weight hitting an astonishing number on the scales and my mother seeing a blob everytime she looked at her daughter, it’s a very good thing that my school is in the middle of nowhere. With no options, I’d have to eat whatever they serve in the college mess and they definitely wouldn’t serve me chips or instant noodles. The time felt finally ripe for a junk food detox and I decided this was it.

A decision that lasted for a grand total of 30 minutes after my mum kissed me goodbye. 

You see, I hadn’t reckoned with the tuck shop packed beneath my hostel. I hadn’t reckoned with how fond I was of dinners with my laptop. I hadn’t reckoned with the strength of my reluctance to go to the mess alone. Try as I might, I couldn’t bring myself to mingle with the crowd talking over a shared dinner.

This almost irrational fear of a potential awkward meal trumped the rumbling of my stomach last night. It even trumped the knowledge that I’m going to wake up in the middle of the night aching for a snack that I don’t have because of that imagined detox. My options narrowed down tragically to live on water or go, buy that packet of instant noodles from the tuck shop.

Well, you can guess what I did. 

I’m not hungry anymore. But, two meals have gone by since then and I haven’t gone to the mess for either of them. But, I’m an optimistic person. So, I have high hopes for sociability quotient. One day it’ll improve and that day, I’ll go to the mess, alone and confident. 

Until then, I’m seeing a potential new friend in the tuck shop guy.

😀

08:06 AM, In a new city

Well, city might be a stretch. It’s more of a town that’s still in the process of becoming a city. And into this confusing mass of cement and flesh, I moved!

Well, again it’s a stretch to say that I moved into the city… because the school that I got into is about 25-odd km away from that place. But, I can’t​ bring myself to care. Because I’m getting to start my residency in psychiatry and I don’t really want to look beyond that.

Beyond that, you see, is a shitty room at an exorbitant price, weather that melts my face off and my car that I left behind at home. 

So, let’s not think too much, I tell myself as I get dressed this morning. Let’s ignore the running nose that I developed last night due to the amount of dust in my new room, let’s ignore the fact that I think a bout of gastritis is just round the corner and let’s also ignore the butterflies and excitement in my belly as I head to the first day of work.

Wish me luck 🙂

We Ain’t Bros

I recently came across a video titled Girls can be Bros too. For some reason, it irritated me. The video had beautiful pictures, an evocative background score and the best part- the syntax which went like this: IF being <good adjective> and <positive attribute> means being a bro, then your girlfriend is a bro too.

But, while I applauded the intelligent use of the conditional clause, I still felt a smidgen of irritation at the end of it all. Why?

Because see, I know girlfriends can be loyal and dependable and committed to having fun; and they will carry you home when you’re drunk; put you to bed, even take off your shoes before placing a thoughtful bucket by your lolling head. I have girlfriends like that. I have a girl group like that, or is the word in vogue “squad” nowadays, who will always have my back. But, for all of that, I’ve never felt the need to validate our friendship by calling them my “bros”.

Bro kinship is inherently a male domain. Something that guys have used to qualify their friendships since times of clandestine brotherhoods. It speaks of an easy alliance that doesn’t require too much effort to maintain; a safe zone for insults to be hurled at each other without unnecessary feelings getting in the way; a relationship where possessions are shared without fanfare and evenings are spent in gaiety. Bros are people that you can call up once in 6 months and they’ll still pick you up from the airport. They are also people who remind you that the world is full of shit and the best way to deal with it is to keep it simple. It’s a beautiful friendship to have in your life. But, it’s not the only way to have friendship in your life.

I have friends (mostly guys) with whom I have this equation. But, my friendship with my girlfriends is a little different.

With my girls, as much of a luxury as it seems to be able to call only once in 6 months, it doesn’t work that way. Our friendship takes a constant effort to maintain. It’s frail enough that if you’re not keeping in touch, you might lose the connection. It’s delicate enough to think before I say something mean. And it’s precious enough that I don’t even consider these things an effort.

These girls are my bastions of support and my relationship with them takes nurturing. Should that deter me? Should that make me go in search of a bro-ship? I think not. Because I need someone to call when I’m feeling down for no particular reason and I like having someone who thinks of calling me when they’re feeling down for no particular reason.

I’ve been a tomboy for most of my life. I’ve grown up with guy friends in spite of graduating from a girls’ school. Then, I went to college where 105 boys were balanced by 25 girls. It’s like the odds were never in the favour of my worried mother’s peace of mind. But then, much to her surprise, the first friend I told her about turned out to be a girl and she turned out to be my best friend in the 8 years since.

She was instrumental in the formation of the close-knit group that we have now and she was instrumental for my inclusion in it. While she educated me, through many trials and errors, in the ways of friendships where fights are fought and made up over a week, where you can insult each other but some lines can never be crossed, where nothing is limitless or without boundaries- except the ability to forgive (and no, we don’t forget), I discovered that I grew more comfortable with every disagreement, with every argument and with every surprise birthday party that was planned down to excruciating detail (including finding the least stinky corner of the bathroom to hide in).  I also discovered, while cocooned by these tumultuous relationships, that I don’t need to be a boy to be equal to boys. I learnt to be happy with myself when I learnt that equality doesn’t mean similarity. I can safely say that I grew into a woman because my friends weren’t my “bros”, rather they took on the roles of sister, brother, mother and father and even wizened grandparents at different times and different occasions.

We graduated from college a few years ago and went our own ways. But, in a world where emotions are seen as a weakness and where women are put under the microscope and watched for that one tiny step out of line, our friendship gives us the space to wear our hearts on the sleeve; it gives us people of whom we can make demands; it gives a safe zone where we can get hurt, get frustrated, get bloody effing pissed off and learn to deal with it. That’s what I want my girls around for.

So, yes. I’ll never call my girlfriends my bros. Even when we are all plastered and hurling abuses at each other while rolling on the floor laughing; even when we’re sitting around during our long-awaited holiday trip each one doing her own thing; even when one of us is getting married and we throw the best bachelorette party ever, I don’t need to validate us by calling them my “bros”. I’d rather call them my bitches.

 

*END*

To My Little Nephew, From Your (Kinda, Sorta) Old Aunt

25 July, 2016

 

My darling sleepy Baby,

 

Some time, as you grow up, you’ll hear the words “like a boy” and “like a girl”. What is like a boy or like a girl? People can come up with a lot of answers.

Blue is for boys, pink is for girls. Skirts are for girls and pants are for boys. Boys play with monster trucks and Barbies are for girls. Girls will enjoy cooking, sewing and the finer arts while boys enjoy driving, sports and roughhousing.

Don’t let them fool you. More importantly, don’t let these arbitrary differentiations limit you.

IMG-20160730-WA0001The amazing thing about being born a human in this world is our ability to make our own choices. But, society and its preconceived notions may sometimes come in the way of that special ability. We are all born as unique beings and then, we spend the rest of this blessed life trying to squash that uniqueness out of ourselves and each other and become one of the crowd.

Isn’t that sad? In fact, I believe it would be the saddest thing if you, our dearest baby, the apple of our eye tried to squash the uniqueness out of you.

I’m not saying don’t listen to people. Certainly, listen to people. But, after they are done speaking and you’re done listening, remember to make the choice that suits you best. You are under no obligation to keep any promise you haven’t made or fulfil any dream that’s not yours. So, take advice from the grown-ups around you, but, make the decision by yourself.

Of course, when you make your decisions, you will also be responsible for any and every consequence out of it. But, that’s a topic for another day.

For now, all I want to tell you is whether you like pink or blue, pants or skirts or it be monster trucks or Barbies, remember that the world is at your feet and the choices are yours to make; and whatever the world may say, I’ll always be in your corner. Be kind, little baby and be you.

 

Cheers,

Your ridiculously wise aunt.
(No, really, I am!)

07:47 hrs, At The Temple

My country is a land of 330 million gods, and over 2 million places of worship; that we know of. You might wake up one morning and find your favorite tree hideout covered in multicolored ribbons and worshipped and you wouldn’t bat an eyelid.

We are a land of religious zealots, religious politics and religious riots. But, the majority of our people are just ordinary people searching for some faith and finding it in one of the various ways of life that are preached as a religion.

The reason I’m talking about religion is because, as the title says, today, I’ve been brought to visit a temple by my mother. I protested hotly. But, deaf ears. So, here I am, walking around the structure and writing this in my head.

I don’t identify myself as an atheist. Because, even if I don’t believe in ritualistic religion or a god with form and name, I do take some comfort in blaming a higher power when things go wrong in life. Like my mother said, when something is out of your hands, don’t you ask for divine guidance? A miracle?

My answer to that is: miracles don’t happen. At least, not in a divine sense. The miracles that I know of occurred because one person decided to care about a fellow person. And so, a village becomes self-sustaining in spite of the drought; a cardiomyopathic patient receives a young beating heart; an orphan gets adopted and a child on the streets gets admitted to school.

Now, if you want to see divine providence in the kindness of people, that’s your prerogative. But, I prefer trusting in what I see and what I see is that, as much as we complain that the world is going to dogs, it’s not really.

Yes, neighbours don’t know neighbours; there are too many selfies and kids talk back more than they ever used to. But also, social issues are able to be discussed and argued in an open space, medical care is flourishing by leaps and bounds and ever since demonetisation happened in my country, I’ve been feeling a sudden kinship with my fellow broke countrymen.

My philosophy is: having faith is not wrong. Having beliefs is not wrong. But, when your faith or when your belief system is coming in the way of your humanity, then, something is surely wrong. When your faith justifies the killing of your fellow people; when your beliefs make you insensitive to the grief of someone who lost a loved one; when your “God” apparently lets you sleep peacefully at night even after the role you’ve played in the violent destruction of something or some one, then, please take a good long look at yourself- because something is very very wrong.

A person’s average lifespan, as of now, is 79 years. And throughout these 79 years, the innate survival instinct that we are all born with, keeps reminding us, however subconsciously, that in the end, we are alone. 79 years is a long time to live with that kind of a reminder. So, it’s understandable that we turn to a higher power who knows all, who sees all and who has the ability to grant wishes. It’s understandable that we make up rituals and prayers and protocols that will, allegedly, bring us closer to that higher power. All of this is understandable. But, when you shell out a hundred bucks for the temple priest without second thought, but, turn your face away from the one-legged beggar outside its gate, I don’t understand. When, in your hurry to make your prescribed rounds around the sanctum, you push and pull with scant thought for the rest of the devotees around you, I refuse to understand. And when people start killing people in the name of god, I’m horrified, I’m furious, I’m heart-broken, but, in no way am I close to understanding.

See, I’ve been told by my mother that faith can bring about miracles. Religion makes me question faith. So, I refuse to be a part of any religion; I refuse to indulge in rituals and rules. Instead, I’ve decided to place my faith in people. In the miracles I see happening everyday: when an old man is helped down the stairs by a stranger, when an older woman gives up her seat for a young pregnant lady and when a friend stands up to bullies for her friend; in these, I will place my faith.

For any act of kindness, that you’ve ever shown, I thank you.

 

*END*