Offense

Today I saw a poster on FB that read “Stop being offended by what someone to you, by that FB post, by a piece of art, by people displaying their affection. Be offended by war, poverty, injustice.” These words reminded me of a blogger, someone whose posts I read sporadically. Her blog has its fair share of loyal readers, who would cheer it on and comment on her posts. A while ago, she announced the “end” of said blog with a long rant that went on about how she was not interested in sharing her thoughts on this platform anymore because people were not commenting/responding to what she wrote. She took deep offense at their silence, and decided to stop writing once the validation ended.

I feel two ways about this. One, I certainly understand. In fact, I’d written in an earlier post myself on this very blog that I would love to read comments if my readers felt something resonate. Who doesn’t like a word of feedback, or a signal that something that we have done has been noticed? Who wouldn’t like a little nod of acknowledgement or involvement? But slowly, I found my opinion changing. I realized this a while into beginning this little blog of mine: I enjoy this a lot more when I don’t spare a thought to you, my reader. It is exhausting to write with even an abstract, faceless reader in mind. Now I just write when the fancy strikes me, and I say what I please. A part of me wishes I could just pass on this (unsolicited) opinion to the bitter blogger I mentioned earlier, but few things are more unwelcome as unsolicited advice.

But back to the poster. I have come to believe that the world is too big, and too deeply screwed up, for any one person to make any significant difference in the mess we find ourselves in worldwide. Being angered at the injustices that riddle our world is an impotent act at best, and forgotten the moment our phones beep with a new notification. We are enmeshed in the little details of our own lives, not caring about much else outside of that little orbit.

Yesterday, the H and I purchased a loveseat. It had been an exhausting few days for us, and we really just wanted to get it over with. Purchase made, paid for, truck rented, packed couch hauled upstairs. We had some scary moments with trying to move it upstairs, and I realized I am not cut out for moving giant couches as part of a two-person team. He left to return the truck before our 75 minute rental ran out, and I proceeded to tear open the packaging. You know what is coming, don’t you? Wrong couch. This one was bigger (we had assumed it was well-padded to protect while moving) and a more expensive model and we weren’t even sure it would fit in the space we had kept aside for it. It was not a fun half hour for me to sit stewing about in the house with a too-large couch on my floor and the H away. We go back to the store, and while they acknowledge their mistake, they would like us to pay more for the couch or bring it back to replace it (at our own cost). My indignation boiled over, predictably. In all likelihood we will keep the bigger model. We might pay more for it as well.

The H had to endure a long angry speech from me about the injustice of it all. And about how annoyed I was about the whole thing. About how it’s not our fault. I ended with the announcement that after this whole sorry mess is sorted out, I will be sending a strongly worded email to this store describing just how dissatisfied I am with their service. For the entire duration of this tirade, the H heard me out with a patient look on his face. While he agreed with every word, he didn’t want me to write any email to the store, and ended with saying that either ways, we get a good couch, but my email might cost someone their job, or some pay, or whatever. And we didn’t need that. That stopped me. What with my struggles to find a good job, I would never want to be the reason for someone else to worry about theirs.

Reason came flooding back, along with the realization that I had been railing and ranting over a very first world problem. He went back to work leaving me with the couch and the half-torn plastic packaging all over the living room. An hour later I saw that post about offense. It was the final piece of context I needed to just stop stewing about it. So now, with my new-found wisdom (ha!), I just need to figure out how to fit this couch in our room. Problems problems.

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Money money money

Have you whittled away an entire afternoon just by hopping links on the internet? I have happily spent this entire Friday afternoon doing just that, while waiting for the (hopefully) fun evening ahead of me tonight. (It’s Friday!). I just read an article on WordPress about some guys tips to save money. I don’t even remember exactly how I ended up on his page, and something I read there earlier seemed promising and I liked the way he wrote. So after an approving initial impression, I started on this list.

First tip. Look for change in every change dispenser you see. Second tip. Look for metal and scrap to recycle. Tip three. Look for cans to return to recycling facilities in your state. Tip four. Look for change in parking lots of busy malls.. I don’t think I could’ve stopped reading this even if I wanted to. Was he kidding? No. He concluded by saying he has saved tons of money by following exactly these tips (and a few more) for decades. Decades. I am still wondering if the whole thing was tongue-in-cheek or if this guy was earnest. Finding out would mean reading this list again, something I do not wish to do. There is a tiny part of me that feels bad about this whole thing though. I don’t even know where you’d have to go to return those soda cans at a recycling facility, to collect the five or ten cents you get. I haven’t even remotely considered doing that for any reason, even for recycling purposes. And change to me is just a nuisance that weighs down my wallet, not a source of newfound income.

A while ago, I found out that I wasn’t chosen to interview for a job I really hoped to get. It was not a good feeling. I spent a while being sad and angry about it. Angry about visa restrictions, mostly, but that is a post for another day if I ever write about it. Reading this possibly funny, or perhaps serious article makes me feel fortunate for the many things that I do have. The two of us are still a single-income family for the moment, but we are a happy two, and we don’t look for change on the street. For this, I am glad.

Neighbors

This evening we visited a family that has lived here almost as long as we have. It was all quaintly old-fashioned. My dad called them in advance, checked if they are free, mentioned that I am in town, we just want to say hello. My parents have a firm sense of propriety about these things and as a kid, I hated the very idea of visiting someone and making small talk (or watching someone else make it). I  would wriggle out of as many of these as I could, but there were always some visits more important, that required the presence of the entire family. So we’d march out, one sulking kid in tow. Sometimes walking to see neighbors; and sometimes in a car to visit relatives. I was evenly prejudiced against all this.

A couple days ago, my mother mentioned that she would like to see the C’s. I found myself agreeing.This evening at their home, I found that suddenly I was making small talk having a conversation on one of these visits, and I enjoyed myself immensely. Now I see that there is a pleasure to be had in conversing with someone you’ve known since you were born, whom your parents have known since before you were born. It is a comfortable and assured friendship that carries no fuss to it. Such friends do not hold grudges that it’s been more than a few weeks since we’ve talked, or keep any sort of count about such things. They welcomed us into their home with warmth and I finally understood why my parents enjoy this.

We are lucky to have many such neighbors like this, and many more relatives. Last night I was the recipient of another such neighbor’s generosity. I see them take happiness in simply talking to others, and I find myself sharing the same. I have many friends myself, but you begin to discover that you won’t carry them all into your latter twenties, or thirties, and so on. This is a shrinking set of people, and the ones that survive all these decades are the ones that need little explanation, who become friends like the kind my parents have.

I’ve read somewhere that one of the hallmarks of being in your thirties is that you will begin to understand, and empathize with, your parents more. With this evening, I’ve got a head start on this!

 

Friends

I’ve never found it easy to make friends. Almost every kid who grew up watching the show Friends has longed for ones like that, as have I. Since my wedding consisted of a small and intimate gathering of people, I had to pick specifically whom to invite, saving the bigger list for the reception party. This was not at all a tough choice to make, as I realized there were but a handful of people I needed there at that ceremony. Perhaps by the time people hit their latter twenties, this is a common enough event. The number of friends steadily dwindles down and you’re left with a handful that will remain yours for a lifetime. And most of these people, I’ve known for a long time. New friends are fewer and getting fewer still, it seems.

I’ve lived in three cities for a significant time period each and I have dear friends from each. This latest phase, this post-wedding life, will be a year old very soon (How did that happen!) and I am only just beginning to find people here that could become important to me. You know how it is. How you meet some people at a party or dinner, and you begin talking and discover many shared interests. Which then serve up so many avenues for future conversations. Then they’re added to your Facebook, the obligatory mutual liking of pictures, posts and updates follow, then perhaps texting. There’s a pattern that is obeyed almost always, this steady progression of events. Then, usually, a big nothing.

Almost all of us have grown up having a rather large bunch of friends, of which there are definitely some whom your parents (or an older brother, perhaps?) disapprove of. I sure have! It’s mildly funny now to recall some conversations that have come up due to this. But the number of people I talk to and share with on a regular basis has been steadily decreasing for a while now, and I can see this happens to almost everyone. For some of us, our bonds with family become stronger as we grow older.

Sometimes Facebook can make it seem like you’re the only person who doesn’t make friends effortlessly wherever you go, but FB is the lens through which people wish others saw them. Spend too much time on FB and no matter who you are and what your life may be like, you end up with a vague dissatisfaction that is born from too much social networking. Sometimes I don’t know why I am still on that site, as it has nothing to do with any of the enduring friendships I enjoy. For every friend I have, we’ve bonded over a single conversation that goes beyond a simple discussion of likes or opinions or things like that. It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact nature of this, but there has been one exchange that has turned an acquaintance into something more. It’s when they, or I, have shared something that just unlocks a friendship for us. Perhaps it is this way for everybody, I am not sure. But for me, it can be no other way.

This post came about from a conversation I had with the H this week about how our parents would’ve been when they were 30 and 28, our ages. For one, they were already parents by this time. And we couldn’t imagine them at that age or now, spending too much time thinking about social relationships the way that me or my contemporaries do. They have deep bonds with their friends as well, but with a lot less talking, meeting, and planning than our current relationships entail. It’s another one of those things that has changed irreversibly between their generation and mine.

Work

When we drive past office buildings and I see uniform little cubicles lit up inside, I get slightly wistful. I am looking for a job, and it is a process that tests my patience a lot. The H and I were agreed on me taking a small break of a year, as I quit my old job to move to this city. Isn’t that the case of so many people who get married and then leave the country to join their spouse? When I informed him I would be getting married in a few months, my old boss asked me “So are you relocating or is he?” It is not a question often asked, and I will always remember that he asked me that. While it was not the job that I had dreamed of, it was still a good one. As with so many things, I see it better for what it is now, a year after.

Few things are more agonizing than building a resume. Well, perhaps going over the document afterwards is worse. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve managed or not to accomplish, the whole resume-building-evaluating-experience is a draining one. Followed by anxious days of waiting and more waiting. It’s no fun trying not to think thoughts like “They saw it and they hated it” “They didn’t receive it” “They won’t sponsor a work visa”. I’ve received phone calls these past few weeks where I rush to the phone in a mild panic and answer it, only to hear a cheerful recording of a woman congratulating me on low credit card interest rates. It has happened at least six times, this sequence of events. Same voice. Same reaction. When I was a child, my image of God was of a person sitting on a cloud and swinging his legs, watching the world in amusement. I’ve thought of that often these past weeks. Someone up there is certainly chuckling away at my expense.

Not that I am not busy or my days not full. There are always things to do, books to read, stuff to write. The H jokes that some of my days are more full than his workdays. I arm myself with an ever-growing list of things to do, from which I remove and add things to, all day. I think perhaps I started this habit to convince myself that I will still be a busy, productive person while being a housewife. Now I’ve been doing it so many months it’s become second nature, this list-making. Which is not to say that there is anything wrong with being a housewife, or a stay-at-home-wife, or a homemaker or call it what you will. But it has taken me some a lot of getting used to.

My mother, my grandmothers, all of my aunts except one, they’ve all stayed at home. Some by choice, some by circumstance, some worked for a tiny bit a long time ago but have all but forgotten it now…All of them built and shaped my family in ways only they could have done. And it goes without saying that they are the busiest people in the house. They still are. I do not entirely know why I feel this unease about my being in the same position. Not being used to it is a definite part of the reason why. Being child-free and having only to think of the H and myself adds to it as well. But there is more to it I cannot articulate.

When I was younger I used to think the right career is absolutely essential to well-being. I do not have experience with a bad job, but I have changed my mind about this now. The right people complete you. A job is simply that, a job. It affords you what you need in order to lead the life you desire. The H and I have built a strong foundation for our marriage this last year (I know I am going to laugh at this a few years later, when I am older still). Now it’s time to find work! I realize that everyone has searched for a job at some point in their lives, everyone has faced rejection, had embarrassing interviews, had disappointing results. I know all this becomes fodder for stories at a later stage in life. But right now, I am just keeping my fingers crossed and hoping the wait is not too long. 

Women and Traditions; Happy.

It’s not even 5 pm yet and the sun will set soon. The days are shorter, colder, whiter (yes!) and beautiful. Every evening the H stomps his way home, all tall and cold and trailing snow on the carpet. And it doesn’t seem to matter because it’s snow. Christmas is nearing and this time of year reminds me of Eliyamma aunty. Every year, for as long as I can remember, we’ve feasted on her plum cakes. This is a tradition beloved in Kerala, the Christmas plum cake. Rich and crumbly crust, baked a beautiful brown, studded with raisins and nuts and candied peel, these cakes do not contain plum at all but are known by no other name. We’d wait, all of us, for aunty to finish her marathon baking sessions for a taste of the best homemade cake I’ve had.

Last year, she passed her recipe to me when I asked. Mom woke me up so early that morning, and I went groggy, book in hand, to a warm house bustling with activity. There it was in the centre, a big urli, Sanu anna was stirring it gently, mixing the flour. Aunty was calling out instruction after instruction, Pappa walking back and forth, checking, correcting. Julia, Joanna watching TV, as yet unaware of the lovely tradition they were passively witness to, Sibi aunty smiling indulgently at Sanu, making jokes. I sat there for around two hours, watching the lovely alchemy of flour and egg and sugar turning into fragrant cake. The recipe I wrote down then is my most scratched, corrected one. Everyone offered me suggestions and corrections and tips to bake it the ‘perfect’ way. They shared generously, happily.

This is a generosity all women I know share.  Sharing this wisdom earned over years of experience, their own and others’. They pass it on, and I am lucky to know many women who have. My mother taught me everything I know about caring, be it for a person or a home or myself. My aunt taught me what the ‘unconditional’ in unconditional love means. Another aunt taught me by example just how undefeated it is possible to be. Raman aunty taught me music and so much more.

I don’t know if it’s because I am newly married and away from home, but their lessons trigger memories quite often. There are very few days, if at all, where I am not reminded of something my mother says or does, which in turn likely was something her mother used to say. A particular turn of phrase, even a turn of wrist while flipping a dosa in the kitchen. It might be as simple as me being homesick at certain times, but I am sure it is more than that. Every woman is shaped most by the older women in her life. They leave bits and pieces of themselves in her. She collects and stores these carefully, watching them grow and age with her. Their legacy never really goes away, even if it’s source might be forgotten eventually.

Next week, I will begin my own annual tradition at home and use the recipe Eliyamma aunty shared with me.

Deviation.

Too many people in our country have made it their national pastime to point their fingers, roll their eyes, and judge the rest of humanity on the many ways in which they are deviant. Clearly, the people who look down in disgust at the so-called “modern” woman or a gay man or an atheist or anything else that has stoked the national ire, is not part of that demographic themselves. This being established, why does the average joe in India have a problem with somebody else being gay? Why does a “conservative” woman look down on the women who are different from her? Why are atheists targeted as immoral? These people, these armchair judges of our modern world, are not being asked to join any movement or change their sexual orientation (while we are on this topic, let me state: sexual orientation cannot be changed. It is part of your identity, it is not a choice you make) or being asked to renounce their God. Why then do they have an overwhelming need to shove their beliefs down other unsuspecting throats?

I am not gay, and my faith in God is strong and alive everyday. My faith in humanity, on the other hand, dies a little everyday. I wish I could find one person who can sit me down, and calmly state to me his reasons for wanting everyone to be the same. Everyone should believe in the same God, everyone should have the same sexual orientation, everyone should know their place in the social strata and never attempt to change the status quo. Whatever happened to dissent and differences of opinion? Whatever happened to embracing difference?

Today, we reached a new low. When the Supreme Court passes a ruling saying that homosexuality is illegal, that’s when you know that the judicial system has failed us all. When a court declares illegal an activity confined to the private lives of consenting adults, when it remains powerless against the thousands of public ills that plague us everyday but passes judgement on being homosexual, it has taken away the rights of Indians. It bends down for an archaic sensibility that has no place in today’s world.

India is headed toward dangerous times. We are among the most unsafe countries for women. Child labor, child prostitution and trafficking, caste and class discrimination, Dalit oppression, religious and regional and communal discord, rampant corruption, and now this, we keep adding to the malaise that already ails us. None of these issues are being addressed in a manner constructive enough to make a difference. But the list grows. Where will it stop?

No good will come of this.

Thoughts.