A few of my favourite things

First things first. CHAI. I absolutely love chai. Be it 2:00 PM or 2:00 AM. Something about how inclusive the beverage is; it appeals to me, makes me feel warm and fuzzy, and of course, the taste of a hot cup of chai is absolute bliss. Plus, it’s versatility facilitates conversations right from politics to fashion trends. It’s a little bit of heaven, chai. 

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on to a couple other things I absolutely love.

Travelling is another thing I thoroughly enjoy. Yes, I’m a cliched millennial in numerous ways, and this is one among them. And hey, as much as I love Pondicherry as the next guy, I also love to go to less-touristy cities like Cuttack, Tirunelveli and such. And like anyone who enjoys travelling, I want to visit every corner of the country (and the world!).

Moving on. I can’t express my love for chaat enough. In fact, I love food in general, but that’s too vast a topic. So chaat. It’s one food category that is so uniquely Indian. Plus, there’s something for everyone. And need we talk about the crazy innovation it allows for? 

Not chaat. But this picture rightly articulates my love for food.

Indigo, Ikkat, Ajrakh, Mangalgiri, Phulkari, Kanjeevaram, Banarasi. I immensely adore the classic Indian fabrics. Be it a beautiful saree or a vibrant dupatta, these fabrics suit all occassions. For me, it’s an added advantage that my mum has an exquisite collection of the most impeccable sarees. 

Lastly, reading. There have been a couple books that I came across this past year. And they have changed my life, to say the least. There’s something very powerful about the written word. It compells and inspires you to stop and reflect about the choices you’re making in life. I came across a bunch of books written by Indian authors like Arundhati Roy, Anand Neelakantan, Devdutt Patnaik, and Amitav Ghosh who have all produced some thought provoking literature. Reading is one skill I’d endorse and urge everyone to develop.

Thoughts on Patriarchy 

I’m not a small town girl. I was never asked to discontinue my studies because I’m a girl. I was never forced to learn to cook and clean. Yes, patriarchy still is my problem. 

Growing up, my mom has always been the big decision maker at home. And she’s always been fiercely independent and ensured to teach her daughters to be independent as well. However, I haven’t always been immune to the deep rooted problems of Patriarchy. 

In retrospect, although my mother regrets saying it, there have been numerous times when she said “If I had a son, this wouldn’t be the case….he would’ve done that….he would’ve done this”. And these statements she made have affected me strongly. I have gotten over it by convincing myself that although my mom’s actions might suggest otherwise, she was brought up in the 60’s and 70’s. And this was a time when a woman was considered incomplete without the existence of a male figure in her life, a time when having a son was considered having supreme power, a time when women were not allowed to make life choices freely. 

Granted, we’ve come a long way in trying to step away from this supressive way of societal norms. But the ideology of patriarchy is so deep rooted, we have a really long way ahead. 

There are a few things that both women and men of this generation and the previous generation say and do that feeds this ideology. 

1. The assignment of chores in the household based on the concept of “Man of the house” and “Woman of the house” baffles me. They’re chores. They just need to get done. Man or woman. Period. 

2. Educating a woman and letting her make her own career choices, only to finally give it up and get married at 22 or 23 because a “well settled” 29 year old male is available is STILL REINFORCEMENT OF PATRIARCHY.  Statements like “Oh he’ll take care of you” is not the reassurance we’re looking for. Give us some time to show you that we can take care of ourselves. 

3. Patriarchy deeply affects men too. A majority of men around the age of 25 are under extreme pressure to find a well paying job so that they can be deemed fit to “support a girl”. Give them a chance to explore career options and experiment. 

4. Need we revisit the preposterous “boys don’t cry….boys don’t get hurt” concept? We as society, need to stop teaching people how to feel. We’re humans. We’re capable of feeling. Let go and show it. Laugh, cry; just emote. (And hey, if remaining stoic is your thing, go for it. You do you, human!)

5. Another huge problem I have faced and have seen most of my girl friends face is body shaming on the premise of “Which boy is going to find you attractive?”. If a boy needs to find my appearance attractive before he can fathom a conversation with me, no thank you.

There are so many more problems that I have faced at the hands of patriarchy. Both directly and indirectly. And it’s been a struggle. I strongly feel that we neither require patriarchy, nor matriarchy to function smoothly. It’s coexistence. Surely we can do that as equals? 

Riveting Content I Found

I came across this article on Medium. It is an absolutely riveting narrative. I haven’t seen a man take a more relevant and compelling stand. 

The article rightly empathizes with what  women, of this century, face everyday at our work places. And more so, the negativity faced by women in leadership positions. 

It goes on to describe how sexual predators are nurtured in our society within the security of the “locker room talk” culture and proceeds to rubbish the presumption that this is a seemingly harmless culture. 

The author ambitiously foresees a day when all men get over their fragile egos and stop blaming abusive behaviour on their “natural leader” instincts. 

Find the article here: “#MeToo vs. the ‘Assertive Women in Business are Bitchy’ Trope” @RemakingManhood https://medium.com/@remakingmanhood/metoo-and-the-assertive-women-in-business-are-bitchy-trope-c850aaf22488

Learning to let go

Growing up with an elder sister, I’ve always tried to be like her. I dressed like her, listened to the music that she did, read the books she did, tried to do everything that she did. Never wanted to miss out. And I think that’s how my fear of missing out on things began. 

Ever since, I’ve tried a whole range of activities, without pausing to think whether or not I want to do it. All because I was too scared to not do it. I’d feel a rush of anxiety whenever I wasn’t trying something new that others were. This deep, unsettling feeling that I was missing out on something, would creep in. And eventually, I’d give in and try it out. Repeatedly. Although I knew deep down, that I’d never pursue said activity. 

Granted, I’ve tried a bunch of pretty epic things. But I can’t help but think of how I’ve gone out of my way to try these things. I’ve been in deeply uncomfortable places, at the least suitable times; just to try something someone else was. 

I have gradually grown to realise that it’s completely okay to let go. For multiple reasons of varying importance. From sheer lack of interest to lack of time to making certain other things a priority. I have tried to limit going out of my way to try something just because it is someone else’s idea of fun. And in the process, I have discovered things I genuinely enjoy doing. Discovered the music I like, the kind of clothes I like to wear, the kind of people I like to keep company of. 

I believe that this is a process of self-discovery and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I have found peace in the fact that I cannot be at multiple places at the same time, and I cannot please every human being I meet. I’ve also realised some of my quirks, along the way. For instance, I realised I’m a complete chai person, I absolutely enjoy old Hindi music, I’m a total sucker for spoken word poetry and that I love dressing Indian. 

Letting go of other’s idea of what life should be like and therefore discovering my own idea of fun has been a rewarding experience, to say the least. It’s brought me immense peace and it has helped me control my anxiety as well. I am so much more at peace after I realised that there is nothing wrong is embracing your true self and letting go a little. 

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For as long as I’ve known to understand these things, I have always tried to speak out about the atrocities that we face at the hands of a bunch of repulsive lowlifes. Never have I shied away from a conversation revolving around this topic. From eve-teasing, to groping, to rape, I’ve had heated, and emotional conversations about it all. With either a group of friends, a boyfriend or a family member. There even might have been a social media post or two. Having a dialogue about otherwise tabooed topics like these, for me, has always been important. 

Growing up, I had no idea these were topics we could bring out in the open and discuss. I thought the “ignorance is bliss” concept applied to situations and always kept mum. I was sexually exploited by an elederly man when I was ten years old. I have been groped, at parties, on the street, and in public transport. I have been ogled at uncomfortably by innumerable strangers on the road. And I’m sure that most of you will relate to this. Yet, it’s only recently that I realised that talking about these instances will only help to find a solution to this. 

Earlier this year, I was groped by a drunk man on a busy street in Juhu. I was completely dumbfounded by the act and couldn’t bring myself to say anything. I had seen the lowlife who committed this immoral act. He was drunk and I could have easily stopped him and given him a piece of my mind. I even had the “advantage” of being on a crowded street. And it was only 6:30 PM. But I did nothing. I went absolutely blank. Just. Blank. And I can’t seem to find an answer to the why. 

I have always tried to teach myself to stand up against these disgusting atrocities. Hell, I have even encouraged others around me to raise their voice against these heinous acts. However, each time I’m faced with a ridiculous scenario like this, I have nothing to say. My mouth runs dry and I have no clue what to do. My heart starts pounding and my brain stops functioning. And my entire body goes numb. In retrospect, I can think of a million things I could’ve said or done to the perpetrators. And from endless discussions with my friends, I’ve come to realise that I’m not the only one who goes absolutely blank. 

Why I Chose Dance

You were dancing even before you could walk, my mother tells me. She feels the need to remind me of this every now and again. Why? I will never know.
She’s explained to me a few hundred times in the past about how, as an infant, I would sit on her lap, while she taught Bharatanatyam to smart little preteen girls in a small room on the first floor of our Jayanagar home, and tap my little feet to the rhythm of her Tattukazhi.

For someone who has been practising, competing and performing since she was three years old, it should come as no surprise that dance is the one language I am completely fluent in. Regardless of whether or not you know to dance, I can convince you of my sheer joy, utter grief, excitement, anger, lust even; just by dancing. It has been the one skill I have spent years acquiring and trying to perfect.

Dance has not always brought me happiness. I have spent far too many hours being upset over how I’m not a good enough dancer, how I don’t possess an appealing stage presence, how I was reprimanded by my teacher in dance class and spent hours more grieving over lost competitions and less-than-average performances. From being forced into it to being convinced out of it, I have come a very long way from sitting on my mum’s lap and tapping my feet. I have fallen in love with the art form, struggled with it, ignored it, blamed it and yet again, fallen in love with it.

But after having spent close to two decades, making this art my everything, I have understood one very important thing. Dance is never going to bring me happiness. In fact, nothing is ever going to bring me happiness. I can only pursue this state of being, this emotion that we call ‘happiness’, with every cell in my body. And when I am dancing, I feel like I’m finally, truly moving forward in that pursuit, with every cell in my body. Better yet, I feel like I’m finally, truly moving forward in that pursuit, with every inch of my soul. And that is why I chose dance.