Versions

I don’t know how many different versions there are of me. I don’t know which one to trust. But there is a fake one, a moody one, an overthinking one, a frequent one, and a dishonest one. I have become increasingly suspicious of what I am saying to people in moments of intimacy. I think that whatever I say will be lodged somewhere in the air or in my own head, and that it will be said and used by the people they were told to. Or it will be said repeatedly in my own head until I have extracted all possible meaning out of it, tested it and vowed to never open my mouth again. This does not mean that I cannot trust people, this simply means that I am losing what I was once capable of: the ability to keep quiet and not offer comment.

I am growing more and more desperate because I am not able to decide who I want to be. On any given day, I am the over-thinker. I watch myself cautiously, pausing now and then to test the waters, exercise free speech – withdrawing every once in a while and eventually reserving all my comments for people I am comfortable saying anything to.

Lately, I have been asking myself – Should there be people in my life I can say anything to? Why? Why risk it especially since I know for a fact that I have never been able to continue friendships? That the bottom line of all failed friendships has been never to grow too attached to people?

Then there are other days when I manage myself pretty well. I listen and say nothing. But then there are also days when I blurt things out to people in moments of excitement and wonder why I am alive. Although with a lot of practice now, I know when I am saying things that I will later regret — my brain sends me green signals but my tongue ignores it and goes at it. This is followed by five minutes of recalling what I have just said and ten minutes of considering becoming Buddhist.

At one level, I am losing respect for myself because I think I have become information hungry. Like some fucking news channel. My only option now is Buddhism.

All my energy today is going into not explaining why I have so much free time.

Mirrors and Lights

My sister and I were watching Home Alone this morning and she turned to me and said that every time she heard that some older man’s name was Kevin, she would look at him weirdly and wonder what the hell was wrong with him. I laughed at this for four and a half minutes. And then I drank my tea quietly and came up to write.

I am scared now. I am worried that my biggest nightmare may come true. I like to think that people see me the way I see myself in my head. But then something happens and I wonder what if they don’t, what if they never have?

My dressing room has a yellow light. I got it installed deliberately because the yellow dims the blemishes on my face and the bags under my eyes. I like to look at myself with yellow lights. The white is harsh and too real. It scares me. There is a mirror in my bathroom. A broken yellow bulb hangs over it. This is removed from both yellow and white. A dusty, transparent light shoots across from the window. This is what I come to when I am bored with the yellow and too afraid of the white. It is soothing only and only because it’s in between 2 things I cannot fully trust.

I stand before the mirror in my dressing room every morning and look pleased. That’s the image I am carrying when I am riding to college. That is the image I will remember shrinking before my eyes when somebody says something that interferes with and destroys what I have carefully picked. I will read something they have written in a language that doesn’t speak the language of our intimacies and wonder if they’ve ever looked at me the way I look at myself. I will overhear what they whisper into corners and the people in it and wonder if I’ll ever be whispered at or whispered about.

I find myself thinking about simpler times, I am squinting at a hazy memory that will return with the only time I traveled by myself. I will think about Goa and its muddy little houses, that one big church I went looking for in the mirror- glaze of the sun on the highway. I will think about the insides of these houses that I have not seen and wonder if the corners will have cobwebs that I will want to touch.

I should go back to Goa. I should have when I had the time and the money.

I should write more because I feel unprotected when I don’t.

I flipped through his photos yesterday and missed him. And then I remembered how vulnerable I am when in love and hated myself.

I have my corner back but I don’t like it anymore. I need a ‘me-place’. They took away Parisian Cafe from me. And my corner is not a corner anymore. It’s a bustling mall that I am beginning to grow afraid of.

I worry about my writing. I think about what they have said behind my back and finish saying what they haven’t. I am too easy a target for them. I am vulnerable because they know where to find me. I have nothing to put in between them and me. Their laughter grows louder, their voices rise to hushed gossip.

I talked to a student about his writing yesterday and it left me very afraid. He didn’t understand me and I was too eager to help him. It scared him and he became impatient. I wondered if I was doing a good job at anything at all.

Over waffles and Irish coffee last evening, P said that he worries he isn’t good at anything. I laughed in his face. He has the rare ability to take off, to cut off from people so he can have time to read. He looks for crevices in the department, in the media lab and everywhere else he can find one and disappears into it to read. He emerges after everybody’s had their share of laugh, after everybody’s become hero and made everybody else laugh and roll on the floor. That is brave no? To be ok with not being a part of the fun everybody is having.

It’s only when I looked at the mirror in my bathroom that I understood what he meant. That sometimes you will do everything and feel happy but what do you say to the nagging poke that wants to know what you are good at?

I am now beginning to wonder. Maybe I am a terrible teacher. But that’s ok. What if I am a worse writer and nobody is telling me?

Stupid Vacations

None of my friendships have sustained my growing detachment from myself. They were all headed for their regular doom right from the day they began. My first few friendships suffered because they got miserably entwined with my personal life, it was a world I liked to have kept separate and I should have. The next set of friendships suffered because I kept them far away from any of my other lives.

The only friendships that seemed to have survived were the ones that were left alone to grow. I like these. They aren’t bound by meeting regularly or time or the kind of information you give them and its proportions. They sustain over a period of time because of willing conversations. That is probably the only kind of relationship I am capable of today. They don’t hamper the necessity that space seems to have become for me. And for some reason I grow fonder of my space when there are too many people around it. Closeness has started to scare me. The lack of energy or interest to invest in new relationships isn’t the only reason why I seem to be running away from it. There is also this lazy comfort I have grown used to. It’s the slowness of a routine that I like when there aren’t any people around.

From previous lessons learnt, I have grown suspicious of how much of ourselves we allow the world to see. Before long you begin to wonder what the world is going to do with all that information. And how much of your self are you ever going to put through the test of friendship after being bitten thrice and more? I have never been one to learn from the experience of once bitten, twice shy. For all that cocky talk of space and boundaries, I am still a little child who wonders if people become best friends after spending a lot of time together. Maybe that’s what scares me, the fact that I am a little child who cowers in temptation to let go but does not.

Maybe I am just a prick who takes herself way too seriously because vacations have begun and I am jobless and Sarah Waters is not calling me like she used to. Pah.

Relief

It’s the relief that conversations sometimes bring to us. It’s how your face curves into its own ends with big smiles, when clouds of grey are moved aside and you begin afresh. You hope it’s not long before something triggers you into going back to the dull ghetto that your mind becomes. Tracing finger with finger, exchanging stories of shame and insecurity you draw each other into a comfort that can only come from knowing that the other is fighting a similar, if not, harder battle. In your head, you are punishing yourself for all the things you got used to believing about the world and its meanness and how if you don’t equip yourself with a tough solitude, you are going to be broken. Solitude may be you friend, your savior but it is also what sometimes pushes you into believing that you don’t need conversations and maybe you don’t, but you do.

Girlfriends

Too often I have had girlfriends in my past I couldn’t stand to be around. They were all kinds of dreadful and the only defence I had against them was to be mean to them or ignore them completely. I just wish I had done something I have learnt to do only recently– Laugh and laugh loudly. There were so many of them. I resisted, fought, cried, got insecure, pitied myself and kept doing it repeatedly until they disappeared from my life. Too much was at stake then. I was trying to balance my new found feminism with going gaga over a man I loved whose approval I strongly sought. Things fell apart– I slapped one of his friends because he was a sexist hog and spent months crying over it. Now I look back and laugh because all it took was one tight slap and he was gone from my life.

The cooking girlfriend made my life difficult because she cooked and believed all women should cook. She pampered all the men around, including the love of my life, whom I didn’t mollycoddle usually but when I saw her doing it, I got sucked into the madness and pampered him crazy. Yes, I was insecure. No, I don’t feel stupid now because I am convinced I had to cross all of that to stand here and laugh.

I am a different person now which doesn’t mean I am less insecure about stuff. I just wish I hadn’t spent months fussing over my reactions to each of these shitheads. When I look back at the women I fought with, I miss them. Because minus feminism is important, I had a nice time with them. I was so busy trying to give them gyaan about how they should instead live their lives, I didn’t realise how nicely they would fit into my stories. I could have written then, when my anger was less funny and my writing, forceful and lame yet ambitious in a way it is too scared to be now.

I wish I was more invested in their lives and how they came to think the way they did. Despite all the irritation they harboured for me, which would come out only in moments, they were nice to me in a motherly yet real way. One of these women I am in touch with now is married and has just given birth to a boy. Around 8 months ago over a fury of whats app chats, she told me she didn’t want the baby. She was confused. She thought it was too early but was too scared to tell her husband. The final verdict came from her mother who convinced her that a year into the marriage is not too early to have a baby and that in some cases; it is the perfect time, especially if you have been living abroad.

This got me thinking of the many things I had chosen to ignore over my squabbles with her. Even so, I am not in a very forgiving place right now. I just wonder what she is doing now, at this moment. Feeding the baby or trying to shut it up because it has been howling all day.

Then there was another bored housewife up in arms against the F word, whom I laughed at 3 months ago on Facebook. That was fun but I felt really bad later because she was paavam and struggling with marriage issues, you know like spellings and stuff. Not fun.

I am listening to the soundtrack of Amelie now and wondering whom to think of fondly while I smile shyly. Not that there are many. It’s just that I want love to be perfect only in these moments — when I am listening to a nice song and don’t have to fret over whom to think of. This is the only time where Polygamy = 0, Monogamy =1.

Self pity

Like prisoners, they line up one after the other waiting to enter space. Mind, body and soul. A thought, an image, a song, a movie scene and you feel the corners of your mind opening up to the clawing need of self pity. It’s 6 in the morning, you open your eyes to the yellowed darkness in your curtains. Gates open and close, school vans stop and honk, two-wheelers sustain their starting problems and you cringe. The alarm didn’t wake anybody up today. You wait for it to ring and turn if off. Last night’s thoughts crawl up under your thighs and mock the wetness in sheets, now they creep into your mind and the toying mirth in its blankness upsets you.

Thoughts become gestures, gestures become insults, insults become hot and burning tears. Rewind. You have to be properly upset, there should be more meanness in the enemies’ gestures. There should be more tears. How can you fashion a dramatic walk out on somebody without letting them know you are crying?

Fatal illnesses like cancer aren’t fun anymore. You have cancer, your friends come, cry, and then you die. Where are the bullies? The friends who become enemies on such mornings? Where is the evil in their villainous plans to ruin your life? Their actions aren’t knifing through your heart like you want them to. Try and harder. It’s 6:45 now. You have cried. The pointlessness in this exercise doesn’t bother its dramatics. As long as your face now is imitating the one in your imagination – sad, lonely and crying, it’s ok.

In the shower, steam seeps through your toes and you watch it rise up as your stories fall through all around you and vanish into the drain along with soap, dirt and hair. You feel new but it’s still not a new morning. You don’t want it to be, not yet. The pulling away from self pity can happen later, at a time when you have to think about work and life seriously. But now you just want to be left alone with the miserable liberties your mind takes with all the bad things that can happen to you. And they are rarely the very bad things that can happen to you in real life, like losing a limb, losing your job, not getting to go abroad to do that fabulous PhD. They are ridiculous, small and almost laughably petty: a friend choosing somebody else over you, them forgetting you and leaving you, them not remembering your birthdays. The fear becomes bigger along with more elaborate stories that you create, more details, more play on memories until you find somebody else, but the story is always the same, the fears are always the same, those of abandonment.

When you step out, you feel lighter because the day is starting to catch up and suddenly time is a real thing, like a problem, then you think about work and eventually the day becomes real.

The women

Robin Scherbatsky came into my life like much needed bacon on mornings that eggs aren’t allowed to be eaten at home, like Saturdays. My bacon reference is because she was fresh from what I had been stalking until then. Lorelai Gilmore, Rachel Green blah blah blah… I like these women because they brought to me more than just whom they were dating. I don’t mean the strong, rounded characters and other such bull here, speaking of which what the fuck is a rounded character? What does it mean? That they are round? Heard too much of that. Anyhow, for a long time those were the women I wanted to be like.

I liked Rachel Green because she snapped out of her secure world of daddy’s yacht and credit cards and being rich orthodontist’s wife and became her own person much like Lorelai Gilmore. These women stepped out of a rich world to see if they could survive and they did. Naïve, I know. There are 100 different scenarios doing kathak in my head right now. Don’t get me wrong, I know that these are plastic women and white. But that doesn’t stop pampered spoilt girls like me from dreaming about breaking out of our own shells and becoming independent.

Robin I grew fond of,  because she had the courage to turn down what could have been the perfect love life for her because it got in the way of who she was and her work. No matter how deep the promise of romance was – stability, faithfulness, consistency and all that crap. She still said no. It takes not just courage but an immense understanding and respect for the self to do that. And that is the woman I want to be like. Why am I still appreciating women who are able to do that? Because I’m still not able to do that and I don’t know how long it is going to be before I can.

Finding self can be a pain in the ass. And I couldn’t be in a better position to tell you why. There are so many things to choose from, so many things that define you. It’s crazy. Do I want to be the girl who found true love at 16 and got married to him happily ever after? Do I want to be the girl who has an hour of brilliant love making session and then leaves immediately after? Am I strong enough to be in an open relationship? What the fuck does open mean anyway?  

I do know that I cannot get physically intimate with somebody without falling head over heels madly in love with them. That also means I do not want to marry them and have their kids. That also means I cannot casually date them. That also means I cannot see them once a week, make love and then go off. I value connections. I value relationships so what the fuck am I?

Right when I was in the middle of this horseshit, I met Jessica day. She didn’t change my life and all that but I stopped taking myself all too seriously. I think it had something to do with the fact that Jess is far different from any of the characters I usually look up to. She isn’t in the least bit independent, cannot do one night stands, wants love and care, gives people blankets and homemade cup cakes before starting a conversation with them; likes ribbons and adores pink, doesn’t think it’s necessary to stand up to herself at all, smiles her way out of difficult situations and is very touchy-feely.

For somebody who has been mesmerised with Robin’s non touchy feely diktat, Jessica may come off as blah… but that’s the great thing about New Girl. It acknowledges the need for creating strong and independent women characters but also gives you a taste of Jess who is real and independent in her own weird ways. She’s flesh and bones and believable. She reinstates certain girly things in ways that you will not want to question because, so what?

She likes pink, she likes blanket-cupcake during conversations, she likes passing around what is called a ‘feel-stick’ to allow people to share their feelings (remember she is a teacher) and she’s not ashamed. In some ways, she seems to be asking you the question ‘does revolution have to come only by hating pink’? She can be touchy feely and still be the most amazingly in touch with herself.

This is what I have picked up from watching 14 episodes of New Girl. That it’s ok to not have everything figured out yet, that I don’t have to be like just one of these characters. I can choose to be who I want to be each day. There are so many to pick from. I owe this person a huge thank you for making me see that I don’t have to take myself so seriously. I can just chill for now.