3.12.14

work rant

I would write a whole paper about how tiring writing is, if only it wasn't so damn counterproductive. 

27.11.14

the real question

about the modi government, one that i have no answer to, is this:

where is their faith in technocratic solutions coming from?

25.11.14

why

problematize?

10.11.14

making monsters

Cross-posted from the wonderful Scribbler.co

**

"I know people who belong to the RSS tradition," someone commented on a Facebook discussion I was reading recently, "and they are all good people with tremendous discipline" (emphasis mine). 

I think of this today again in the context of the recent Kiss of Love in Delhi, where the protest was pitched against 'sanghi gunday'. The image that appears before you is instantly of a saffron-clad man with a bright red tilak on his forehead aggressively protecting an abstract "Indian culture" that nobody can quite define, but everybody knows. 

And it is in this context that I wonder: Is it a mistake to make monsters of those on the extreme right of things? 

Because I don't think it is truly the Sanghi Gunday that one is up against. 

It is the regular middle-class Mama who wants his daughter to have a PhD from a foreign university and a stunning career, but also wants his to know how to make the perfect keeray molagutal and is afraid of her daughter marrying a Muslim. It is the Aunty who thinks it is perfectly fine to have a drink with her daughter on Saturday evenings, but will bring down the skies if her skirt is a single inch above her knee. Write a thesis on sexuality, sure, as long as it is part of your academics, but the choice of marriage will be made by horoscopes and stars. You have to be financially independent, but you cannot have a say in when you want to come home at night. Have as many friends as you want, but don't eat in the Muslims' houses - their food smells. Those gays, you know, it's okay whatever they do on their own time. You don't have any gay friends no? 

There is nothing more political than falling in love. Identity (caste, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation…), ways in which you define your relationships (not defining it, intimacy, love, live-in, open, closed, committed, married, engaged, the list goes on), spaces, institutions you engage with in the context of the relationships - all of these have to be negotiated. So much has been said on love jihad/'jihad against love'; about personal laws regulating marriages, laws against homosexuality. It is naive to argue that any decision is made by the two (or, indeed, more) people in the relationship. People are acid attacked, hacked to pieces, thrown under trains, shot, beaten up brutally, raped, kidnapped, I mean - you've all watched the films and read the news - all for love. But you have also heard of people who give up, compromise, "be pragmatic". It doesn't have to be extreme - even little things like keeping quiet when your partner's mother calls. Love isn't ever only pretty

But at the heart of this is control over sexuality. 

Let's for a moment think about why the media felt entitled to put up footage of a couple kissing at a cafe; and about why (I use the term loosely) 'sanghi gunday' felt entitled enough to beat them up. It didn't happen out of the blue. 

I don't know if this is true specifically of Kochi, but I know it is true of any college in Hyderabad, many colleges in Chennai, Bangalore, Madurai, really any city in the South -  but for over a decade now, educational institutions have been violently curbing any expression of women's sexuality. Dress codes, separating men and women in classrooms, having rules about girls and boys talking to each other in class, not allowing any physical contact whatsoever, strictly regulating time between classes, also regulating after-college hours - these are all "normal" in most colleges. It is apparently okay to suspend students for laughing loudly

I read this week that Bangalore College Principals published guidelines on how girls should behave in colleges, and this is endorsed by most people who send their children to these colleges. I wouldn't be surprised if these guidelines regulate women's access to spaces, their friends, how they speak on the phone, which staircase they take, where they sit, how they sit, who they eat with, what they eat; there is nothing about the way a woman conducts herself that the principals couldn't have set a guideline about. 

These principals are regular, educated, middle-class men and women of all shapes and sizes; but really, how are they any different from 'sanghi gunday' who protest against men and women sitting together in a cafe? The only difference I can see scares me - The fact that they are organised, have direct power over women's lives and careers, have support (whether explicit or complicit) from the families of the women they seek to control and the fact that they use it intelligently. 'Sanghi gunday' are reactionary, angry and violent; but men and women like these who are 'well-intentioned' and are 'only doing it to protect our girls' are the real threat. 

They're good, well-intentioned people. Their only visible fault, of course, is their warped sense of entitlement on women's bodies. Women (because make no mistake, they are adult women) who have no way to own their bodies with some integrity. At the heart of it is the fact that it is a power relationship.  I've been in the women's position. I've done it - I wore salwar kameez for five years in a girls' college, where I was sent back home a few times because my kurta was higher than my knees by a few inches, I wore a stole instead of a dupatta, I wore jeans instead of a salwar, my sleeves were too short, even thinking of the list is tiring me. I've justified not fighting it, too - there are bigger battles to fight. I can't win this.  

So I wonder. Are we making monsters of the wrong people? 

4.11.14

glass of wine, chocolate ice cream, yellow lights. 

i miss my home. :(

24.10.14

#4

Close to the top of the list of things that piss me off:

People who romanticise poverty. 

I understand it's difficult to find poetry in things; I understand the need to find expression in what you believe is most indigenous. It might speak to you in multiple ways; you might see it as beautiful imagery. You might write it as beautiful imagery. But there is no romance in poverty. There are only people struggling for their dignity while they make their ends meet. Write about them, please. But don't project your romance onto their lives. 

21.10.14

adolescence

You are the latest addition to my private collection of people. 

There are all sorts in there. An old woman I saw the day after I got my tenth standard board exam results. I was in a bus on the streets of Delhi. She was in a rickshaw with a bag of vegetables. A man whose butt crack was peeking from the back of his pants on a train. He was snoring on the upper berth of a train from Bhopal to Godhra. When we reached, he jumped off the upper berth, dragged his suitcase out, pushed me out of the way and got off the train. I can't remember his face, but I know his butt crack intimately. 

A woman with short hair I saw five years ago. She was in the library, going through books in the women's studies section. I practiced talking to her everyday for a whole week in the shower. I haven't seen her since, but I still have conversations with her sometimes. She has longer hair now, the kind that falls along her shoulders in waves. She sings like a dream. She sings in my dreams. 

You're different. You have a name and a place in my world. You like potatoes and spend a large part of our time together convincing me about them. You have a way of saying my name. You emphasise the first half, lilting on the second half. There is warmth in it, but there is ownership in it. I have never had a private person who could own my name. It says something of you, I am not sure what.

Your hands are a beautiful shade of dark. Which is strange, because nothing else about you is. But your fingers and long and warm. I’ve never kissed anyone with long fingers. Only stubby and fat. Or short and pretty. (With their nails either bitten or cut. Usually bitten off.) I'll very quickly skip everything else and arrive at your hair. It is almost straight, only slightly wavy where it is ponytailed, which is also a novelty. I’ve done the whole range of super crazy fizz to stick straight, but I haven’t done yours.

Faces are difficult. Yours, especially. I can think of everything in its own way. I know your ears. I know your teeth: There is something blackish stuck in them but your grin is overpowering. I know your lips, but not the way I would like to. Your nose hooks a bit like mine. Your eyes. But I can’t put them all together coherently in one face. It’s as if I have bits of a puzzle to put together, but just don’t know how. I always wonder if I will recognize you if I see you out of context. Suddenly in an airport. Or eating pani puri on the road. 

Do you like chaat? It’s an important parameter.

16.10.14

cookies crumble

i feel like i'm living my life between one crisis and the next with crap hotel rooms in between.

in other news, i'm presently homeless. any kind souls who read my blog, live in delhi and know someone who's looking for a flatmate please write to me/call me.

sigh.

10.10.14

:\

what if i'm just being stubborn? if there's value in what they're saying? am i missing out on something i might regret not knowing? am i going to go my whole life carrying this feeling?

i really don't want to watch game of thrones.

ps. in other news, i like being alone in good hotel rooms that have star world at 9PM. i hate being alone in hotel rooms otherwise. also, muzaffarpur has the worst hotel(s) in the country. muzaffarpur, however, has a baskin robbins. i've never eaten so much ice cream in my life. 

5.10.14

postsecret

all of us turn into creepy internet stalkers at 2AM.

but if you need help, i'm pretty good at it. 

27.9.14

splosh

too exhausted to tell a story about this woman i met in the sea who just kept swimming but kept missing the boat. 

25.9.14

kadaknath

my blood might turn to
coffee one day. thick, bitter,
5% chicory, half a spoon of
sugar and completely black.

but i must tell you a story
about a kind of chicken
they breed in jhabua:
whose flesh is black
whose bones are black
whose wings are black

i don't suppose
it drinks very much
coffee. 

23.9.14

/

don't want to write/can't write anyway. 

14.9.14

fall in love in cities by the sea

old loves
kiss me softly
on my nose, like a
duck on my chin;
nibble my ear a little
to the left while i
dream about
popcorn, the sea
and winter rain.

10.9.14

drunk post about a book

i am drunk. i haven't been drunk in 3 1/2 weeks. there are two reasons for this - the first is that there really isn't any alcohol legally available in rural gujarat (and i didn't know a bootlegger); the second is that the only kind of people who get drunk in rural india are men or witches. in any case, this isn't a post about my being drunk, this is a post about a book. 

cities nauseate me. i mean this in a literal sense. i am asthmatic, and this means when i don't pay attention to how my lungs work, i suffocate and feel nauseous. when i don't swim, when i don't jog/walk/do yoga/exercise, i start to pay attention to things like air density and humidity levels.

this has nothing to do with how much i love cities.

i recently read the latest murakami book, colourless tsukuru tazaki and his yeas of pilgrimage.

i talk about how cities are nauseating because i have belatedly come to a conclusion about all of murakami's books. his most central concern, or the one that i relate to most anyway, is the condition of urban loneliness. or to put it in another way, he writes about people who put themselves in boxes. i may mean this literally - because what are urban homes if not boxes; but i most certainly mean it in a metaphorical sense. we become people without names or faces; we become persons whose lives are only meaningful to ourselves. 

we become concerned with what we eat and what we wear and our daily routines and who we are friends with and what sort of books we read and what towels we use and whether we use conditioner meant for dry hair or oily hair  and what sort of music we listen to and whether we think epubs are better than whatnot and where we download our music from and whether we are indie enough and whether we support the right kind of hip issues and whether we are green but what the hell is wrong with any other colour which brings me right back to murakami. 

i love him, and i was asked recently what it is i love about him, i love him because he is so bloody good at talking about the urban condition. murakami, better than anyone else, talks about what it is like to be a person of one's own - not merely in the sense of being independent - but in the sense of being singular. that's not true. i love murakami because i associate my own solitariness with his characters. they are not driven or passionate about any one thing; they do what they do because they do it. they have no strong sense of direction - they go where they go because life takes them there. and that's just how it is. 

but the truth is also (okay i'm drunk so i'm gping to tell this story - someone had a whole 45 minute conversation with me today assuming i was about 5 years younger than i really am - i'd blame it on my new and fancy haircut) that i love murakami because i loved him when i was younger. when i needed him, he was there. when i read after dark at 17 alone in a cafe-cum-bookshop after a fight with my best friend when i was sure i'd never talk to her again (it has been ten years since, we're still talking) it struck a deep resounding chord in my heart and i was hooked. five years after, when i read dance dance dance, it spoke to me in ways noone else did. his work has left a deep blemish on how i read and write fiction, no question about it. but do i love him as i did four or five years go? not really. is he as relevant? may be more than ever. 

i might delete this post tomorrow, but right now i'm super astounded by how few spelling and grammatical errors there are.

also i read the book on a sunday on my kindle on my phone in a village 10000000 miles from a mobile phone tower. and i'm back in delhi now. i really feel on some days that i should make my google calendar public, just in case someone wants to hang out with me. (while we're still on the urban loneliness thing). okay post ends.

edit: tomorrow, when i'm sober, remind me to talk about cities, anonymity and loneliness; and why sleeping under the stars is all fine but really airconditioning is where it's at.

5.9.14

burdens

i think a promise
slipped out of my bag
yesterday. i can't seem
to remember which or
where but i know
i'm just not feeling
it weighing down
on me.

15.8.14

where are you going

YES LET'S POLICE EVERYBODY because that's the bloody answer.

(i'm constantly surprised by my own capacity for anger at things i was sure i had made my peace with. oh well.)

13.8.14

learning from this week

sita does not know how to take a selfie.

*groan*

11.8.14

air

i hate people
who never know when
to use
"air quotes"

26.7.14

milestone

saw my first ever dancing peacock today in baria, gujarat.

:)
 

20.7.14

who'll stop the rain

the thing about happiness nobody tells you about is this: when you're happy, the things that you used to cling to for life, don't matter so much anymore.

not television, not books, not frantically being the first to read everything the internet has to offer, not music, not alcohol, not the right shade of lipstick. it doesn't bother me so much that i haven't read a book from start to finish in weeks. i haven't read july's issue of so many magazines, and july's almost over. i haven't listened to three weeks of podcasts, but it doesn't irk me. i haven't eaten red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, and i've been craving it since mid-june. (i haven't even zomato'ed it more than twice.) 

i'll tell you what matters though. deodorant that works. orange juice in the morning. the right music in the shower. pedicures. the right berth on a train. sleep. and crappy movies, always. 

obviously happiness and loneliness are compatible too, and that's a good thing also. 

14.7.14

grown up

i hate growing up.

*grump*

(ps. grown ups just don't have fun on their birthdays, is it? bah.)

30.6.14

yah.

this is all very exciting, blog.

i have a new job! i have a place to stay! i paid rent! and will prospectively pay bills!

adult, i.

*excited, but soonly broke*

(yeah yeah i have to read and write and meet deadlines and generally spend quality time inside my head. and not at work. i get it. i'll do it soon in my cool new apartment with nice showers)

(or not, because i'm traveling for the rest of my foreseeable future. but what are trains for if not for writing!)

24.6.14

squee

i've been cheery and high all day. like you know the annoying kind of cheery, that you just want to slap?

yeah. me.

and it reached a peak just now: i discovered that an author i love and i have *several* mutual friends on facebook. OMIGODCANTHISWORLDGETANYSMALLER.

(don't answer that with a rant about political economy or i might hit you.)

22.6.14

guide to loneliness and back

peaberry plantation mix,
song on my iPod,
metro card,
i.

the smell of home
the sound of urban
nothings and
me.

the guide to loneliness
and back
is a secret nobody
shares.  

27.5.14

allusionary

a shimmer, a glimpse
a word for the sea

a thing you want to say
to me.

petrichor/ coffee/
japanese/ cherry/ blossom

a hum a whisper a murmur
of things you will not say
to me. 

(only things within
parantheses, of course
like characters in comic books
will you?)

17.5.14

alien

the magic trick: making the real, illusionary.

because we are so blinded by it, so deeply taken in, so sold, that we only see from within. whatever is outside, whatever is incongruous, whatever is not a part of this performance is really not real at all. we have no vocabulary for it; we render it voiceless by our limited imagination.

and we perpetuate it. we teach unbelief; we teach unbelief as belief. because, after all, cities can only rise from the ashes of those that burn. we watch the smoke rise from a distance, and we think of the possibilities that it can offer. we dream the limited dreams that are sold to us in packaged boxes, we live the limited lives that are offered to us in advertisements.

we look for magic only in places we think there should be: our unicorns are always white, living in rainbows of every colour. we are so involved in looking for the magic trick, we don't realize that the magic is outside the performance.

and we forget. we are so happy with our illusions, our mirrors, our box-sized dreams, that we forget there is magic at all.

14.5.14

mango yoghurt

breakfast is really the only food i need.

obviously i don't mean i only eat in the morning (morning, what is that?) - i mean i can live on muesli, fruit and yoghurt. or eggs and toast. or both.

oh wait, were you expecting deeper insights?

that doesn't happen to happy people, apparently. :D

(you can let me know when this happiness starts to annoy you. i'll go back to being grumps. promise.)

13.5.14

hi!

being happy is pretty awesome. i recommend.

3.5.14

new story in reading hour

I have a new story out in print, you guys!

You can buy it here - http://www.readinghour.in/

Or preview it here:


(Or, of course, I can send you a copy if you write to me.)

20.4.14

making mountains

I am losing myself in a wind.

I was gathered in a heap
(like a mountain)
with apparent seamlessness
(like garbage is gathered)
And when the wind came
(the wind always comes)
It took me away from me
(the edges first always)
But I am flapping my arms
(gathering always gathering)
I know it's not working
(paper boats in a rain pool)
because my edges are frayed and

I am losing myself in a wind.


18.4.14

april is the cruellest month

Everything is falling apart: but everything else is falling into place. 
If I ask the right questions: what are the right answers?
A romantic's desire: at the end of this, there will be sleep.

Not a dreamless alcoholic's respite; not restless nightmares.
Sleep, and dreaming. 

Surely.
 

8.4.14

monster

"All your life - all your love, all your hate, all your memory, all your pain - it was all the same thing. It was all the same dream. It was a dream that you had inside a locked room.

A dream about being a person.

And like a lot of dreams, there's a monster at the end of it."

-Rustin Cohle, True Detective.

(Also, is that a little tribute to Sandman, with the man in the gas mask immediately after this quote? So much joy!)

2.4.14

a paler shade of grey

Another story about a story.

It passes from hand to hand in secret.

Those who have heard it are distinguishable instantly: they seem to be shrouded in darkness somehow, as if they see a little less of every colour. When they pass it on, they won't know it, but they're sharing a bit of themselves.

The story itself grows. From each person, it takes its weight until there is too much of it. It hides inside allusions and leaves traces nobody can recognize.

A day will come when everybody knows the story but nobody will tell it.

Everything will be in paler shades, but you won't be able to say why.

**

(If paintings add layers and photographs peel them, what do stories do?)

27.3.14

extinct

"But Tanay, why did you paint over all your pretty fishes?"

"It's time for them to go extinct."

24.3.14

a god in every stone

by Kamila Shamsie
I don't have the time to write something longer, but I have to note these down or I'll forget.

1. The anticipation of love: The whole book is full of it. It is always standing around at the edges, teasing you, testing you, seeing if you'll fall for it. I did, convincingly, every time. I fell for every character meant for love, whether or not anyone in the book actually did. I fell for Qayyum Gul (with his hands behind his head alone on a berth in a train; one eyed Qayyum, sure yet so very unsure of himself.) And I kept hoping she would too. I kept looking for it - Now it will happen, oh, now she will recognize him, wait this is the moment. A moment. I can't say if I loved the book for the anticipation of love, or for the love there actually is.

2. Reading Shamsie is like reading a non-fantasy Guy Gavriel Kay. It feels like you're really reading a book on history in story form. It's well-researched and a terrific pleasure. Makes you want to read up on little things. (May be I'm drawing this comparison because I've been reading Kay like a beast. But if you read Kay and Shamsie in succession, I dare you not to make it too). I loved her account of wartime Britain for its little details, the politics, the opinions. I loved how Vivian grows through the book: I love her idea of service to a nation in wartime, and how it changes as she becomes her own person. I love the tension in the book when the man from the government comes to meet her. You know she can't be that silly, you want her to not be that silly. When she is, you're immediately heart-broken. You know what is coming, it's an inevitability. But you hope because she hopes.

3. I really really want to go to Turkey.

4. My southern school education somehow missed out on the immediacy and intimacy of the history of partition, and I think this is true of many of my South Indian friends. A lot of North Indian friends of mine have a romantic notion of Pakistan - they have roots there (a grandparent who left, lands, families, that sort of thing). To me, it has always been a different culture, a different people. When I found out that they have a Punjab too, somehow Pakistani butter chicken became something I had to try. (I was 11. Not much has changed). So when I read Pakistani writers, I read them as I would read any other writer. Suddenly little unexpected things pop out at me and I think aha, there's something I didn't expect you to be like. With Mohammed Hanif's Alice Bhatti, I kept thinking that way about caste. About how I understood its perpetuation without really thinking about it as different/Pakistani. 

It happened with Shamsie too, but not in the same way: With her, it was about the cultural references. The train stations, the quaint streets, the clubs. (In my head, they look like old Hyderabad, and I can say with some certainty that the clubs are the same everywhere. I've been to Gymkhanas all over the country, and if they haven't changed between Hyderabad, Bangalore, Calcutta and Delhi, I doubt they're largely different or the sandwiches are much better in Pakistan).


20.3.14

pieces

in breaking,
my heart
surprises. 

18.3.14

fat

Published in The Scribbler.

There is a whole rant in my head about skinny people who think they are fat. Since most of it is inappropriate (and politically incorrect) I will rant instead about why skinny or fat are both stupid ideas. And why accepting your body the way it is - is the new hot. (And why I'm not any of the three).  

**

For as long as I can remember, the shape of my body has been wrong. When I was a child, I was too skinny for anyone's liking. An aunt would actually call me 'Kuchi' ("stick" in tamil). I have close to a dozen books that she gifted to me in which she writes, "Dearest Kuchi, hope you like this book!" And in her defense, those were some of the best books I read. My mother would count my ribs as if to make a point. I was encouraged to eat, and I ate lots. I made myself love food. I ate as much cheese and paneer as I could lay my hands on. 

And then, I got fat. The period between being really skinny and being fat is hardly worth mentioning. A couple of months, at best. I was waist size 26, then I became waist size 30. It was almost an overnight transition. I must have been 13 when this happened. Eighth Standard. I developed asthma and was put on steroids. 

And nobody was happy about the fact that I had now put on weight. 

In college, I started swimming. I didn't really become a supermodel (ha!), but I was fit. I became addicted to my work-out routine. More than anything, it was a way for me to relieve stress. Especially during my tests and exams, I had to swim or else I would be really irritable and angry. I would also feel bloated, like I had a period. I ate whatever I wanted, I drank like a fish, but I swam close to two miles a day (65 - 80 laps a day of a 25m pool in about an hour and a half). But none of this meant my body was worth not making sarcastic comments about.  I still had (have) a tummy that made me look like I was pregnant, I was still at least 5 kilos over my ideal weight, and I was a FabIndia 'L'. 

Then, I moved to Bombay for my Master's. I didn't find a swimming pool, but I also didn't have time for exercise. I tried yoga, but it was really boring. I was (am) too shy of working out around people, so I didn't go to the university gym. Instead, I took to running. I had myself a nice, pretty route and I would go a few times a week. Sometimes, my roommate would force me out of the room to go with her. Sometimes, I would go all by myself. And then my knees started to hurt, and I couldn't run anymore, so I stopped. I rapidly put on weight that year. I put on at least eight more kilos, and two more inches on everything I wore - jeans, bras, whatever. I was a FabIndia XL by the end of my Master's. Something I hated, because I didn't fit into any of my nice clothes anymore.

So when I moved to Delhi four(!) years ago, I started swimming again. Swimming in Delhi is such a tricky proposition. It's seasonal - pools are only open in the summer, and when they are open, there are close to a hundred and fifty people in any damn pool in the city at all times. But I persevered, and I am now seasonally fit. In the summer, I swim around a mile a day (because I am not young anymore - it takes me at least an hour to swim fifteen laps of a 50m pool). In the winter, I am fat. Like a cute labrador. But I haven't really lost any weight, I'm still a FabIndia XL (sometimes XXL) and my boobs just keep on growing. 

I have never been happy with the way I look. Even now, I feel like my ass is too big and my arms are too flabby and don't get me started on my thighs. (I have come to accept my tummy as a part of my being. I no longer worry about that.)

So this year, I decided I will come to terms with it. I will learn how to enjoy my body - I will dance, I will run, I will swim as much as I can. I won't let my image of myself hamper what I do or what I wear. This year is my year of the summer dress. I won't check my weight. And I won't let other people tell me I am fat. This is difficult. Not because of all the logistical constraints (the pools aren't open yet, my jaundice recovery etc.)

This is difficult because I am constantly telling myself and being told that my body isn't supposed to be the way it is. This is difficult because I am getting new stretch marks in places I didn't imagine would grow. This is difficult because the shape of my body is changing everyday and looking at myself in a mirror is never something I am happy to do, but I do it all the time anyway.

** 

The problem with being "fat" is not so much that you are unhealthy (I definitely am). The problem with fatness isn't even something that you can deal with as a personal problem. The problem is much more political than that.
 I realize that whole systems are geared towards what some people think everyone needs to be like. (I mean, what the hell is the deal with "Special Cornflakes for Weight Loss" or even, my favorite, Diet Coke?!) Things you don't think about till you do: I dread going to my family doctor because he will make me stand on the weighing scale and then lecture me about the shape of my body, and that I have to think about diabetes or heart disease which are real risks and I will have them anyway but I can push their onset. The reason people tell me I'm fat, apparently, is because they are concerned for my health. You want to think that just because the reason for saying a thing is medical, it is a legitimate thing to say. You want to think that just because there is a scientific reason for justifying your outlook towards my body makes it fine to say it. I did, and I still don't have a coherent enough argument about why this shouldn't be the case. But I do think that medicalizing a prejudice that exists in society does not make it a legitimate concern. Sure, I do run a larger risk of heart failure and obesity. But I also run a large risk of Alzheimer's, hearing impairment, cancer.

My biggest issue with the size of my body used to be that I don't get clothes my size. In India, nearly every brand I know makes their XXL just short of size 16, sometimes even at size 14. I used to laugh about this, make jokes at the horrible business models of the people making clothes. If I have to wear clothes from Pantaloons, for example, I have to go to All, their plus size store. (How considerate of them to have a plus size store). I stopped buying clothes at Lifestyle and Shopper's Stop more than ten years ago. Instead, I buy clothes at Marks and Spencers (which, over the past couple of years has started a new clothing line for pretty clothes, and this stops at size 16) or Chemistry (which, bless their souls, makes the prettiest clothes for normal sized people in this country). I also buy at Sarojini Nagar, which seems to stock all the clothes that clothing companies think are too big.

Now, I realize that there is a message in this too: This message is not "You're too fat to wear the clothes we make", this message is "You're not normal people."

**

So my point is not merely about fatness, it is about an "abnormal" body type. Lots of people I know are also too "skinny" for their own good. Of course, this also comes with problems. ("I have to buy clothes in the kids section", "I am too weak", "My bones are too brittle", and my favorite, "I'm prone to heart failure.") Obviously, these problems have scientific validity. Of course they do. I don't know enough about the problems skinny people face, mostly because I have always been at the other side of the spectrum. But I do know that it is as offensive to be too skinny as it is to be fat. Obviously, like Goldilocks, everything has to be just right.

Admit it, we all know what the "ideal weight" for our body type is. (I am 5ft 8in and so the internet told me that mine is 68, for those who are curious). Since the day I saw this number on some blessed Yahoo! search, it became what I wanted to see on a weighing scale. When I first saw it, I was 70. Now, I am way heavier (I can't say how much because I haven't weighed myself in a long time) and just as abnormally shaped as I was twelve years ago.

Little things become signs of fatness; little deviance from an ideal type: a double chin, a flabby arm, a thick ankle (how many of you know what a cankle is, raise your hands?), a big thigh. Some things you can't even help: my breasts are too small/big, my hips are too wide/tiny, my ass protrudes too much/I have no ass, my neck is too fat/my neck is like a giraffe's.

Each image you see of yourself comes under expert scrutiny for everything you didn't see in yourself in the mirror. Each image in which you look drastically different from what you imagine you should look like becomes a sign of how much weight you need to lose, a symptom of how unhealthy you are, a sign of how ugly and unacceptable you are. Worse, each image gives other people the right to point these things out to you. They may notice and comment on these things for the good of your own health. ("Do ab crunches," I have heard for nearly all my life - "It will help you reduce your stomach.")

**

My solution is to learn how to love myself the way I am, stretch marks and everything. My solution is to be fit enough to take four flights of stairs, and then not give a fuck about what a doctor or a well-meaning relative says about the size of my butt. My solution is to wear what I think I look good in, eat what I feel like eating, and then swim like a whale.

Like I said, this isn't easy. I'm faced nearly everyday with my fatness and the corollary, ugliness. I count my stretch marks, the black lines along my thighs, the folds on my stomach, the creases on the back of my knees. Everyday, these are physical reminders to me about the person I am not and the person I am meant to be constantly endeavoring towards.


7.3.14

z

why are afternoon naps so damn addictive?

4.3.14

illegal

"Oh, please. It's not like you don't do any illegal things."

"Well, underage drinking. But I don't do that anymore."

27.2.14

wholes

A box of old pieces of paper. I have no idea why I saved them.

A letter I wrote to my grandfather when I first moved away. "I wonder if my language is different because I am writing to you" I wrote. "I don't know how formal I must be since I have never written an actual letter before." A few sentences before I read that, I think the same thing. I am surprised I don't remember either writing the letter or thinking that thought. I can't even remember where I wrote it; whether I posted it or handed it to him when I saw him. Did I write it so that I could find it later? Was this something I did so that I could be nostalgic about it later? I can't remember.

A notebook. There are less notes in it and more conversations with friends in class. "Lunch after?" "This is boring." "Do you have balance on your phone?" These seem to be staple conversations I had then. Most of the conversations are one-sided. I imagine that my friends' books are full of these as well. In some places, there are other people's handwriting. Loopy, clear and beautiful. A chicken scrawl. Large, child-like lettering. Long, skinny lettering. I know exactly who these people are. I miss them.

A postcard from a friend in a foreign country. She loves me and she misses me and she hopes she could have made this trip with me instead. I remember calling her when she was on this trip. She was washing her socks and underwear. "I ran out! I didn't want to buy new ones!" I laughed at her. What a thing to be doing in Barcelona - wash your socks! Significantly, I washed my socks on my holiday to Barcelona too. This postcard makes me want to call her.

A note a lover passed to me in class. In Hindi, it says "Don't call me dirty, Sitay!" I remember this day. My whole class took about a hundred photographs, and then went out for lunch after. I remember trying not to giggle when I got the note. I remember our professor admonishing us with a stare. I remember not caring. I remember sneaking into the toilet in the break to kiss. I remember laughing because our mouths tasted of too much bad coffee. When did I save the note, though?


18.2.14

day 21

Sunning in Bundelkhand!


14.2.14

vday 5

(alt title: day 20)

happiness is a corporate scam.  (there, i said it.)

i don't mean to make vikram seth's poetry a yearly tradition, but this felt like this year's theme.

here's to loving differently.

Through Love's Great Power 
by Vikram Seth 

Through love’s great power to be made whole
In mind and body, heart and soul –
Through freedom to find joy, or be
By dint of joy itself set free
In love and in companionhood:
This is the true and natural good.

To undo justice, and to seek
To quash the rights that guard the weak –
To sneer at love, and wrench apart
The bonds of body, mind and heart
With specious reason and no rhyme:
This is the true unnatural crime.



**

(find older v-day posts here: 2013, 2012, 2011 and my favorite, 2007. :) )

11.2.14

day 19

today was an accept-your-hair-the-way-it-is day.

(which translates into: shower/shampoo, auto, no comb, no scrunchie, sun, air-conditioning, auto, frizzzzzzzz-ugz.)

not sure if it made me happy, but it didn't make me sad.

10.2.14

loves me (not)

the anticipation
of a kiss.

(i might leave
lipstick stains
on the insides of your
white, collared shirts)

you leave me breathless.

(like i've climbed
four flights of stairs
just to hear
you laugh)

let's do something
stupid together
so i can write

(fiction). 

8.2.14

day 18

ComicCon Delhi tried very hard to make me very very grumpy and irritable.

I'm glad to say it failed, and I am a happy beaming child.

Say hello to my signed copy of Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba. :)



5.2.14

day 17

List of Things That Made Me Grumpy Today

1. Dear Delhi (cold and grey), did you really have to be this way?

2. Photocopying is so fucking expensive at Teen Murti. (Also, Book I Wanted, may be you could be available for download?)

3. Getting my already-wet-from-my-shower hair wet in the rain.

4. Not getting any writing done.

List of Things That Made Me Happy Today

1. One Whole Bar of Hershey's Milk Chocolate.

I feel like this happiness project is getting on my nerves. I'm going to be normal and grumpy for a while, okay?



3.2.14

day 16

Postcard Love! :)


2.2.14

shells

why do we love,
may i ask you?

this
poetry leaves more
empty
inside than full,

wounds that can never
really be healed:
scars
that will never
show.

why do we love,
i ask you,

and what of us
who don't?

1.2.14

day 15

Party time!

(Sometimes I amuse myself by being full of shit. This was not one of those parties.)

29.1.14

day 14

flirting.


(because there isn't
anything as fun
as making someone
blush)

27.1.14

day 13

6000 words. 30 hours.

WHO'S A BOSS.


Please note the extremely pretty Lucknow home I am currently a resident of.
(And the pretty furniture is genuinely old!)

26.1.14

day 12

Lucknow is an endless kabab. Can we all please just stop talking about food?

(Since I didn't take pictures of that amazing bunch of kababs and that pretty not-so-great biryani, here's a picture of the sunny spot I made my workplace yesterday.)




24.1.14

day 11

there's a shop in my office. i bought the indigo.

how does the universe expect me to have any savings at this rate? bah.


23.1.14

day 10

Just reached Lucknow.

I guess what they say about the food is true. I just got kababs in a bun for lunch! And are they awesome or what.

(Plus, can I emphasize the joy there is in not having to wear a jacket at 3 in the afternoon? I mean, I love Delhi in the winter and all that, but can it please stop raining?)


(Okay so I broke the healthy food rule, but Kababs in a Bun!!)

22.1.14

day 9

Tatkal tickets on IRCTC!

Let's throw a party, everybody!

(Seriously). 

21.1.14

day 8

Yesterday was another of those sit-outside-and-work days, so that's what I did! This is the canteen at Teen Murti, where I got a corner table all to myself. (I would have taken more pictures of the place but there were so many people with the same work-outside idea, that I couldn't). 


(Today is all rainy and grumpy again. Bleh).


20.1.14

day 7

Book sales make me happy. (The Landmark Sale is EPIC, by the way. At least it was last year in Chennai. This year is just meh. Still bought lots of stuff, make no mistake. But not as epic as last year.)

Long evenings with people I love make me happier.

Strawberry frozen yogurt makes me happiest?


19.1.14

crushes

six months ago
i worked up the courage
to ask a stranger
i had a crush on
out to dinner.

it was going to be
anything but smooth.

"hi," i was going to say
"this might sound silly,
but would you like
to have dinner
with me?"

may be it was
my indian upbringing
or just plain
bad luck,
but i didn't see him that day.
or the next.

i ran into him
again yesterday,
he smiled at me
as if i was an old, old
friend.

i frowned as if
i did not know him,
and walked away. 

18.1.14

day 6

As I get older, I find myself more and more reluctant to stay over in someone's house. I have this need for privacy when I sleep, not necessarily because I need my own space or anything, but because I'm constantly paranoid about what I might do in my sleep. I am told I snore, and I know I make funny throaty noises. I also think I say stuff in my sleep, and this might be extremely embarrassing. More than anything though, I have a lot of scary dreams so I tend to wake up a lot during the night. Sometimes, I need to take a walk or listen to music before I can go back to sleep.

My favorite thing about sleepovers is waking up in someone else's house. There is a kind of intimacy that comes with sharing morning routines, reading the newspaper, making tea/coffee, generally staring at a toothbrush. Especially if it's someone I'm generally close to, I love the comfort of the waking up in their homes and making tea or toast for myself. 

So that's my happy thing for Day 6. 

I woke up late on a foggy Saturday morning, sat in someone else's living room, sang a lot and shared a newspaper. 

May be this is why morning people like mornings. :)


17.1.14

day 5

Delhi is asking me not to bother with happiness today.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

*Retreats into Blanket*

Edit: Later:


16.1.14

day 4

  • fun conversations with new people about music in the sixties.
  • friendly shopkeepers who returned the wallet i forgot in their store.
  • writing with bullet points.
things i can't photograph also make me happy. :)

15.1.14

day 3

Happiness is bath products.

Most people (who read this blog) know this about me (because I have made them carry moisturizers and body mists and shower gels and soaps and loofahs and foot scrubs and other bathing paraphernalia across continents). So when I got a whole set of Body Shop things as a New Year's Gift, I was absolutely delighted.

Used the first of those today. :)

Moringa is not the best smell ever (possibly on my list of least favorite), but that's what I smell of today.
 

In other news, I haven't been able to write. I don't know why. It has been months. (I also mean writing for my PhD). So I'm going to spend the next couple of weeks (hopefully this will be enough) reading as much as I can.