Christmas Blues and Winter Greens

I woke up today (24th December) completely alone in the city. I like to believe that most of us rush to our computer screens to look for consolation and so did I. While, most of the festive cheer on Facebook made me retch a little bit inside, I got a couple of messages from people who sort of understood. The next week is going to be a real Home Alone moment, especially if you knew where I lived. And I’m sort of looking forward to it.

This happens to be a shoutout to all those souls who are spending Christmas and the New Year alone; holed up in their apartments, hostels, and flats. It’s not a bad deal. I came back home to cup noodles and some coffee liqueur; some Asterix and potato chips. Take a hot bath, put on the heater, pamper yourself with that expensive body butter while listening to this playlist I found. (Nothing can be more festive than an Indie Christmas playlist.) Maybe your holiday plans fell through, and now you have nowhere to be but on the other hand, there all people dreading to go back to relatives who will judge them for their lifestyles. People who are already worrying about stashing that ugly sweater somewhere at the back of their cupboards. 

As one spends the day at work, wondering how to spend this evening where everything and everyone is cheerful, it seems a shame to be the petulant child. You slap on a smile, when your colleagues ask you what your plans are and go, “I’m going to read.” Don’t you worry, your no-fuss, simple book might not have gold festoons on it but at the end of the day, you’ll be in a cozy bed with your feet in warm socks and you’ll discover the joys of Ernest Hemingway. I mean that last bit facetiously. But you know how it is. For years, I have wanted to stay in the city instead of going to Calcutta each year. And now, I can promise you, that it’s all a classic case of the ‘green grass’ and ‘other side’.

And for all you know, in your loneliness, you might just come across a TV series to binge watch, catch up on all those real friendships that have gotten lost in the work rush {especially when your pet is concerned} or even get invited to a bar-b-q somewhere. Now would be a good time to discover some great music, and honestly, when did 2015 even go by? Time is passing us by and soon 2016 will be upon us and I haven't even made my first million. Have any of you? That, if not anything else, gives me reason to believe that I am slowly losing my mind to the corporates. So, I’m going to look forward to my writing challenge and cup of sugary, coffee alcohol and read a comic book, for god’s sake. I deserve it, for I don't have a holiday to begin the new year with.

Adding a song that sort of made me smile and feel all gooey inside with all its talk of Santa, mulled wine and love. See what I mean about finding good music? All the best, loners.

We are All Assholes, in Our Own Special Way

Some people have this talent—of ruining every single nice thing that comes their way. Or ruin it for others, at the very least. I’m that asshole. Worry not, this is not going to be a rant of self-hatred, with an eventual roll in the hay with self-pity. No, this is about how each of us this year has been a terrific asshole. What’s the point, you ask? None. Other than the fact that maybe in the next couple of weeks, you will be able to change one thing. The one thing that truly made you an asshole this year.

I’ll tell you what, this year I’ve done a lot of mean things. And without going into too much detail, I can vouch for the fact that some of you have too. Maybe you, like me, couldn’t deal with your own inadequacies and pushed the blame onto others? Maybe you, like me, gave the silent treatment to people who love you most? Maybe you, like me, deliberately lost touch with someone who was close to you once upon a time? And maybe I, like you, need to atone a little in these last couple of weeks.

Superficial? Yes. Frivolous? Maybe. Will it help? Absolutely not. I’m not given to regrets, and I believe that regret is the most unproductive and lame *ahem* thing to do/feel. Unless you’ve murdered someone (Honestly, that’s not the audience this is targeted towards). But, you’ve also done good things. Heck, great things. You’ve probably volleyed through an exam, made new friends, faced your fears or been patient in an exceptionally dense situation. You might have even ‘liked’ a page, because of pure goodwill *hint, hint*. So, you’re not all bad, but just enough.

The Failure of a Start-up

Note: What you are about to read is an opinion piece regarding the current milieu of start-ups in the city. This is the average reaction of a person who jumps in thoughtlessly into a career path without acknowledging its hardships. This is in no way a reflection of the writer’s current environment and relationships. You may read on. 

Sometimes I wish I wrote about food. Or fashion. Or art. Or design. It is not to say that I do not know enough (or understand) about these umbrella terms, but then again, it does at some level guarantee your writing to be more shareable or (to some), readable. But there is some comfort in knowing that you can send out your mind-words out into the world and perhaps, only three (I can count my readers on my fingers) people would care. Nevertheless, one must find the courage to pen or type these letters onto a page when things are going well, somewhat well or not at all.

The last year has been terribly giving in some ways, and horribly infuriating in others. Before I launch into a rage and beat the living daylights out of people in my wish-fulfilling fantasies (yes, I seem to have a problem), it must be said that more than anything else, the last few months have been an exercise in disillusionment. When one imagines working in a start-up, the premise is an idyllic bean-bag laden, creative enterprise with free wi-fi and coke zero and one takes no time to tumble head-first into something that all of us romanticise and few of us honestly understand.

The start-up life is hard. And after sometime, the illusion of freedom, of creative space and of a idyllic beanbag startup is just that—an illusion. The honest reality (but what is reality really) or at-least, my perspective of it has been… harsh. Enjoyable but harsh. We must take into consideration that most startups or even small businesses in Delhi (I cannot speak of the entire country, for I do not know enough of it) are run by and are full of young twenty-somethings, fresh out of college. They have their teenage angst, manic episodes of euphoria and depression as well as quarter-life crises to deal with. But. They had a great idea and the wherewithal to turn that into one of the averagely successful businesses in less than a couple of years. And before you know it, there are founders, co-founders, managers or highly positioned workers in a great company with sadly, very little experience.

Most people join start-ups because the work is fun, money is great and your colleagues seem very approachable (In fact, too approachable). But at the kernel of all that is the space to ideate. The platform to make something of your own. A brand, a persona, a project, anything, everything. Often one forgets, that at the end of the day, it is about what sells. It has always been about what sells. So when funding is being sought and the money is simultaneously drying up, you can say goodbye to free nachos and the comfort of working from your couch. Instead, you are accountable for every minute of creative drought; your euphoria runs short as the work piles up and approachability quickly fades into hurt and (this is my favourite) you see some pretty gritty emotional meltdowns that are downright destructive. In short, you are now working for a corporate. The truth about startups is not too different from the truth about corporates. And let us not waste time in differentiating the two since they are the same, with the exception of how much they pay. Only, corporates look better on your CV.

I would not have thought that petty tantrums in the workspace would be something that I would ever write about. But here we are. While the small-time office politics, involving mutual backscratching, crab-like behaviour of dragging others down and the herding of people into a blanket terms of ‘teams’ are common enough and not of particular note, the silently mounting pressure is something no one talks about. It scares us, doesn't it? The Failure of a Start-up. ‘What if it doesn't work?’ ‘What if people hate it?’ ‘What if everyone is taking advantage of the current success and are looking to move onto better and bigger things?’ All of them important questions…for a person with the bird-eye view. For a mid-level employee who seeks to complete day-to-day goals, the questions are different. ‘Are we supposed to work on holidays?’ ‘Are we to take orders from a person less experienced and less educated than us?’ ‘Are we so dispensable that the management can honestly not see the injustices?’ ‘What does a “flat organisation” mean in the face of rampant secrecy and alarming leg-ups (read ‘raises’)?’ All of them, important questions.

Make no mistake, the pure rush of seeing others appreciate and encourage your work makes the endeavour worth the while. And it does come. From readers, from colleagues, from friends, families and strangers. But it does not come from those above you. It is your job and you will do it, without expecting real positive material reinforcement. There is, perhaps, a lack of wisdom, mental strength and some amount of motivation. And that, my friends, is the real Failure of the Start-up.

Ducks in a Crowd

Every thriller, every hospital drama, every tragedy, or even rom-com, more often than not, has a scene in which there is a race against time to save a victim. Often the victim dies. Of suicide, of being killed by a stranger; parent; friend. Often the said person’s close ones die in the incident. Then again, some live. You see the patient strapped into a bed with sterile white sheets and a steady heartbeat. And we, as audience, heave a sigh of relief that life goes on. 

The stench of survival is so strong amongst human beings that we wait with bated breath to see if the murdered, orphaned, maimed, suicidal ‘live’ on. But one must question, how does one live with that kind of violence? How is it okay to continue living and eventually moving on from your trauma? Is it just one of those things that you get used to? Sometimes I wonder if it is somewhat like putting on noise cancelling earphones and staring at a blank screen. Does it feel like nothingness?

The Right Kinda Lemon

It happens way too often for anyone to be comfortable with it. It comes up time and again and one can do nothing but keep doing what they swear to never do – give in and wallow. Wondering what the hell I’m going on about? Negativity. Pessimism. Self-victimisation. And general self-pity. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. I’m probably not a good person. To be the agony aunt feels like a terribly great job initially (One feels very wanted). One listens to all that others want, need, are despairing about and at times, ones own grievances against the world also pour forth creating a balance of give and take. But sometimes, it doesn’t.

When you don't have anything to pour back and when life is giving you the right kind of lemons, you begin to appreciate the aftertaste and develop some sort of culture. The trouble is, we still blame everything but us to be the cause of our predicaments. In the last couple of months, all I have done around people is listened. Listened to how much they hate their jobs, theirs lives and invariably, the city they live in. I could go on – how little money they make, how they aren’t learning anything, how the timings are horrible and more and more. 

Convoluting the L-word

People can write the most evocative things about love and its various affiliates. They meander in the newness and the hopelessness of it until they get annoyed or irritated or bored, albeit begrudgingly. I have never been able to write about love. I have discussed, argued against and for it. One even tends to consider and theorise the crazy ideas of the anomalous occasions that defy reason. But never written. It seems like almost everything has been said; maybe even this. We are a species that enjoys convolution. We like to roll around in the complexities of situations that might actually be simple. Sort of like complicating a really plush bed sheet by talking of thread counts.

Love: A Dialogue

I recently had a couple of intriguing conversations on what comprises the idea of love. And since it has been a terribly big and all-encompassing idea for me, I have always prided myself on being the one who cannot practice it. To not be flooded with the stereotyped connotations of what it has been or what it should be. But it must be said here that I’m an amateur just like all the rest of us and what can we really say about something as simple an idea of adoration that can become a complex join-the-dots of teenage drama at a single move of a Tinder swipe. These dialogues are not fictitious and are presented here as a mish mash of what transpired between One and Other.

A Game of Patience

There comes a time when try as you might, you are unable to stop yourself from doing exactly the thing that you are terrified of. For me, it is to give in to anger. Generally, I have a lot of patience. Yes, sure that means I’m argumentative and stick to what I think is right. But I pride myself on not getting angry or calling names or spewing absolute screaming bitchiness towards those I must and do love.

Today, I just let rip my unrestrained anger on someone who probably deserved it but was least expecting it. I should have been calm. I should have been the better person. I should have taken a deep breath and stepped back. But I didn't. I felt that my personal mind space was being encroached upon. That no one, least of all someone who is not my family or friend, can tell me what is right for me. Or that I don’t have a right of my own to make certain decisions for myself. It probably was a flooding over of reaction to incessant nagging but that is not the end.

Right in the Middle

Middle School is an unforgiving graveyard of broken pinky promises and not fitting in. It has been an absolute pleasure to not think about those unsaid and obsessive thoughts that ran through my mind when I would assume that the random guy on the road was probably whispering lies about me to his friend. To not have worried for so long about another teacher telling me that I had potential that was completely underutilized. Frustration on both ends can never be healthy I believe. But there are snippets of conversations I remember that have carried me along my way to here and today.

On having forgotten to bring a blank map to class: Teacher– After failing a class? Old habits die hard, I guess.

When you go to an all girls’ school, many things take different connotations. Mere admiration for another is fodder to occupy an entire batch of schoolgirls for weeks on end. Chinese whispers of rumors gain import that can ruin nights of sleep. And that is where you learn to rein your likes and dislikes in. To understand that it is too late to form ties who will take your side. “A new girl in the city” is a romanticized version of a naïve impressionable child who gets called “lesbian” a lot.

On having an “unnatural” desire to be like the class topper: Classmate teasing loudly– She likes the topper. She likes her.

Lead Me to Distress

We meet. We end up laughing together. I laugh with you and you look at me. I look at how your eyes crinkle and how you say the words differently. You show me pictures and I show you my life. Constantly tugging at each other, almost tearing away at the seams. My phone pings and I pick up, browsing for meaning, for what you think I mean. You tell me of making things and being someone and I slide into a simple comfort. I slide into what I want to be an equal exchange. But I show you less and you keep asking for more.

Soon, you want to hold my hand, my wrist, my arm, me. And as easily I sidle into you, I glide out. I make excuses and I curse myself for leading us both into this skewed give and take. As the comfort and coddling turns into a heady suffocation, happiness metamorphoses into a silent dread. As I keep up the pretense of trying to maintain conversation, I feel guilt running through my veins. How am I to know where this is going? How to know if you feel more than me? So you tell me.

That you want talking, walking, rain and sun. You want touch, tangle, linger and laugh. Some of those things I give freely but others I can’t. So you assure me of being the same and that nothing changes. But knowledge can be a fickle power. I know now that you would move mountains for me and I would only let you down. You would stay and give me shoulders to rest my head on but I would rather turn towards a bottle of rotten grapes. I would climb into someone else’s bedclothes.

While you will happily become my crutch, I would seethe in my guilt and unfairness. I would believe that I’m leading you into the Utopian space where you want to be led. Until. Until you see the distorted trade of our bond. Until you find that you give and give and I have, after much internal arguments, leeched you of your wants. Blame and accusation will come galloping through the puddles of ire and you will find the end of the rope.

You will slowly unravel the rope from around us and break the bonds that tied us into a working lever. After the carnage, I will heckle my past self for meeting and laughing and sharing. Where in fact, I should have maintained the distance as people had advised me to or avoided completely. Because no one wants to be led on and I don’t want to lead myself to this distress.

Misconceptions of the Remarkable

Perhaps bubbles are boons. They do the needful. They give us a false sense of security while the world around us crumbles. Bubbles are fantastic until the pinprick of reality misunderstands us and brings us abruptly back to a misconception that maybe renders one helpless and hopeless. Recently, I was jerked back to my past and that left me a little negatively impacted in the scheme of things where I had been, maybe, clueless.

Your actions define you. It is said that we are what we do. So if I have been called a suck-up or narcissist or a sophisticated maniac, then I know that maybe one of my more social actions have backfired. Maybe one of my actions triggered a perception that may or may not have been correct. And though, we say that such people don’t matter, it is generally a hard wall to put your back up against. Social beings, aren’t we?

Some won’t agree with what you were; some will be uncomfortable with what you have become; some both. And maybe you will be aware of it and it makes me more bemused than ever to come across evidences of this in my daily life. We will be told that we take advantage of being inconvenienced and that will throw some light on how biases and personal grievances are entrenched in our acquaintances. They meet and greet and invite us. They charm and chase and chalk us up to something that we don’t want to be.

And that should only enrage us. It should make us angry at how misunderstood we are. And how people use a surface markup to give us labels that we will only balk at. Whispers of our God-complexes and rumours of our aggression should make us gloat. Because we are the people who get things done. We take our destinies into our hands and craft it to be something useful. To be something admirable. So, today they call us negative, inappropriate, mad. They call us lustful, gluttonous, monstrous. But how much do they know? How much do they scratch the rust to reach the iron beneath? Not much.

If what we are makes for awkward conversation and addles the notion of what we must be, then this cultural misunderstanding needs to be nipped. And eventually, we shall find that we might not have reached the pinnacles of success or even made a dent, but we would have been able to silence the buzzing mouths and minds of these fleas. They who flit from filth to filth and spread sickness. Our confidence will have swatted away the last bit of unnecessity and directed us to that which makes you ambitchous. So they can either get on the bandwagon of the remarkable or be left behind. Because you know, life with us is a roller coaster. Maybe a really old and dangerous one. But we can fix it.

The Afterthought

His hands, splayed against the small of her back, hinting at things only the two of them could know. She could smell the need on him. Frantic heartbeats and his heavy body upon hers only emphasized the insignificance of her alterative. Within the cramped space of the car, it was painful even to think. She pushed him off a little and asked softly, “What about your girlfriend?” “What about her?” he asked. “Aren’t you going to tell her?” “Ria, you know how it is. I’m serious about her.” “Why are you here then?” “Because you are important to me too. You know I need you.”

Yes. She did. She knew it and she let that belief wipe away the sense of apprehension that she was burdened with. His hands continued on the trail that they were on as he pulled her back to him. Those hands, powerful and certain.

Fandoms and Academia

The update this week is that I completely lost my mind and spent a couple of days holed up in my one-bedroom-and-nothing else-apartment. And since I’ve been staying alone for the last couple of years, it’s been a pretty recurring phenomenon. This last year has been a little different though, where I’ve been socialising on and off but this last week was a spot on Kasturi-move of ‘don’t talk to me, I’m a sedentary cesspool’. It was an absolute joy to have ruined my back sitting up for 11 consecutive hours immersed in a book till 1 o’clock in the night. And then showered, only to fall back to sleep. (Don’t mock me. I’m a millennial). Unmade, unshowered, uncleaned. I finished reading two things off my list. Not the best time really. Finals approach.

This also made me fall sick for a couple of days and I’m absolutely sad that it wasn’t anything fun like the swine flu. I didn’t even get to wear a fake mask.  Speaking of which, I’ve been trying to occupy myself with other things just so that I don’t have to deal. Unfocused, undone, under. So to keep from being distracted, I’d decided to do the one thing I am probably better at than all the other things I’m okay at. Reading. I read a ton of sad young adult novels and it must be said, pain can elicit an exacting response of pain. I have made my peace with the fact that morbidity is my morning read, right before the lemon honey water. Of bodies racked with illnesses, of minds festering with “disorders”, of abuse, of alienation, hurt, anger and disappointment. Of older men unable to deal with life and having undergone seriously worrying amount of pain and grief (oddly specific, you’d say). This is what evolution is perhaps. And maybe I have gained a perspective, now that Masters is almost done and over. 

How to Be Cool

I should probably rename this to How Not to Make a Complete Mess of Yourself When You Casually Bump into Your Ex, in Public, While Marauding with Persons You are Currently Romantically Involved with. But they say titles should be catchy. And less than 120 characters. While digressing from my generic rants about existentialism and the worthy worthlessness of life, this was one of my more insightful moments this past week. Here goes it. 

  1. Try not to hang out in the same neighbourhood where your ex and you ‘chilled’ in your heyday. And who you know still continues to while away his/her youth and semblance of physique/figure in a campus environment as a monstrosity of a rebel adult (read unemployed, sunken-eyed wastrel).
  2. Try not to go out on a limb and catch his/her attention when you really don’t want to (or that is what you tell yourself and others later). Especially when with your current SO. I mean, maybe don’t change your direction and wildly flail your arms to say ‘hello’. Not to say it prompts a certain raised eyebrow and resentment in the long run, I guess.
  3. After having created a palpable situation of future grief and overthinking, do try not to engage in small talk and face-palming so hard when they wish you a ‘belated happy generic festival’. Jesus Christ. Do adhere and get a smoke ASAP. Also remember, there was no heyday. This person cheated on you. 
  4. This bit is a tad important. Do not let this fester and ruin your day. Sure you made a mistake five minutes back. And that one time five years back. And continued making mistakes through high school and graduate school. BUT it has made you the complex but composed young wo/man that you are. Or not.
  5. Try not to indulge you SO every time s/he says, “Do we need to talk about this?” Insist otherwise and continue to act mildly flustered each time they push it. You know it in your heart of hearts that this will probably make everything super cringe worthy. Or you could talk and cringe (a lot) and get over it.
  6. Continue to maintain your pretence of calm while you slowly rot away inside worrying about what the hell is wrong with you!? You are in a perfectly good place in life, albeit with hipster millennial problems. You aren’t wasting away because of bed sores or crippling self esteem issues or a cheating boy/girlfriend (hopefully). You don’t abuse substance (Do get back to me on that) and generally do well on Buzzfeed quizzes. You even probably have a person to ask you if you need to talk about things. You’ll be A-Okay. 
  7. Chalk it up to momentary panic and spend your day doing things you see fit. Understand that it really doesn’t matter in the long run. It was a mere stumble while climbing. And you just gotta be happy pushing that rock up the hill. Camus knows what’s up. Camus understands.