Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rebel without a Cause

Last night, Kosta and I got into one of those unnecessary shouting matches. It all started with him talking about an argument he had with his girlfriend when he said, "Marriage is a dead institution". I'm personally sick and tired of hearing this - it's like beating a dead horse, over and over again, daring it to raise it's head and make us care. The fact is, i agree that the traditional definitions and role-play within a marriage, and even a relationship, has changed dramatically over the last 20 years, leaving a lot of confusion in its wake. But what really annoys me is this - Kosta ALWAYS brings it up.

He's seeing a girl who has been brought up in the world where marriage is taken for granted. She sees herself getting married. She (i assume) wants to marry Kosta because they have been seeing each other for soooo long (1 whole year... see what i mean about changing definitions?). Kosta knew this when he started seeing her, and yet, he keeps railing against lack of autonomy that exists in a 'relationship'.

"There are times when you need space, and i don't get it."
"I want to see my other friends, but she doesn't understand that it's not about her"
"I can't just be."

These have been common refrains i've heard over the last one year and frankly i'm bored. Either get happy about spending time with your loved one, or tell her she's driving you crazy.

It all started when he said that there are only three kinds of relationships possible - sexual attraction, romantic love and companionship. While it is possible that the relationship with one person can touch on all these aspects over its duration, at no point can a relationship have all of them. Which is why, it's abnormal to limit our expectations of all these aspects from one person. Ergo, 'marriage', with it's traditional insistence on deriving all three aspects from one person, is defunct.

One would think that if he's managed to logically deduce this, then it should be easy for him to tell the girlfriend, "babe, i love you, but i want to have sex with someone else and i'd rather just hang with someone else entirely. What say?" Maybe sugarcoat that a bit.

"We have talked about it... it's an ongoing dialogue." Yeah, right. (Remember i said that Kosta is the super-intellectualiser, for whom everything is a mental process? He manages to obfuscate even the simplest desire into a deep analysis of hormone levels and psychosis).

For the girlfriend, it's all an academic discussion because, well... they WILL be getting married. It's understood. And marriage means 'emotional and physical fidelity.' Poor Kosta somehow knows that the wedding will take place, and somewhere in there, he knows that it'll be a marriage which is fairly traditional in its role play. He wishes he could come clean...but he can't. Because he loves her and can't hurt her feelings. And, more importantly, wants her to agree with his perspective. That way, they will be 'together' but also separate. The perfect mix of permanence and no strings. She won't see that as a viable, workable scenario. So instead, he finds me to argue his point with, all the time hoping that some miraculous third-way will become visible to him.

What he doesn't realise is that a third way does exist, has existed for centuries. The only problem is that its followers have invariably been shunned by society or died horrible deaths. The third way is this - to work on the premise that ALL relationships have simultaneous aspects of the three elements - attraction, love and companionship. We are primarily attracted to a person, we love them and care about them and we derive companionship from them. That means, in each of our relationships (and i genuinely mean all - girlfriends, boyfriends, siblings, parents, etc), there exists the possibility of that special connection... that spark (i don't need to cite examples of the elektra, oedipal attractions, gay, lesbian lovers, incest, older woman-younger man, uncle-niece, etc - societal mores dictate how we feel about them, but the fact remains, 'abnormal' rewarding relationships are formed everyday.) It requires that genuine openness to accepting and demonstrating the honest extent of the spark that you feel. And only when there is an equal intensity of the feelings returned by a person, does the relationship take a leap into the sexual and romantic. The down side? It may not always be with an 'appropriate' person.

In short, love the people in your life, express it, welcome it when it's expressed right back at you and always know that all relationships are temporary. Kipling had it right when he said, "Let all men (women too) count with you, but none too much." And don't expect to be the centre of someone else's Universe either.

Freedom comes at a price.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Conversations II

You're back

Yes... there have been developments

Oooh... please elaborate

Well, somehow it seems that wherever i turn, there is someone from my past, who wants to get back with me

You mean wants to get into your pants

Most likely, yes. But not just that.


Remember what i was telling you about Alex and Kosta and Sam... how there had been a chance of building something lasting with them?

Uh huh

Well.. it looks like they're all revisiting that place too. Sam had been hinting for a while that something was afoot. He was attempting to flirt with me (i know this because he told me so. As far as i was concerned, he was just making mildly lewd suggestions because he was bored) and finally just came out and asked me if i was willing to give "us" another chance - to see where it goes.

wow. Sam? The same guy who always went with the flow? Same guy who asked you to make it official - and you agreed - to take it back 5 mins later? same guy with whom you had unending arguments with about nothing? The same guy who...

yep. same guy.

And you're conflicted because?

I'm not conflicted at all. Told him "Thanks but no thanks, life's too short."

It's a pretty big deal for Sam to come around like that...

I don't really care. He's been someone who has barely been around, has treated me like a random acquaintance over the last many months and now seems to be expecting me to swoon at the thought that he wants me now. Why would anyone put up with that?

Ok ok... calm down. If it's bothering you so much, then there's gotta be something there, right?

Not really... i'm just irritated with the whole idea that now that it seems to be the right time for all these guys to want me, i'm supposed to agree or lose a friend. It's fucking annoying.

Who else apart from Sam?


Ah ha.

he said he loves me. He was drunk... which is when he's the most affectionate with me. But lately, he had been dropping bricks around like "You spend the most time with me, don't you think you should care what i want?" and "you belong to me", etc

You love him?

Yes I do. He's just a really cool guy. But again - we had a shot together. He ran. Things went up shit-creek. It took me a really long while to get back to even keel with him. And now he "loves me" and i'm supposed to... what? Roll over and play coochie-coo?

What about Kosta?

Well.. nothing about Kosta. in his case, i ran (big surprise!) And then he says that it's 'amusing' to see me scram for cover whenever someone professes to liking or loving me....

Ah ha

Don't 'ah ha' me. I'm pissed off... because maybe he's right. And now there's London Guy.

London Guy LOVES you?

No! He's met me once. But he has said things like 'i don't want to just be friends with you anymore', and 'there's a connection that we have missed with others over the last 15 years...". It all smacks of over-commitment.

Maybe over-commitment is what you're reading into what for him is a genuine emotion... and maybe it suits you to not trust his feelings because that will mean that you have to seriously consider him.

Do i want to? Because serious consideration will just open a gigantic can of worms - the two-country long-distance thing, unless one of us decides to shift base which would mean (for me) turning my whole life topsy-turvy for something that may just fall flat... and then what?

Gosh! I wasn't suggesting marriage and kids already, you know. I just said that maybe long-distance isn't that bad..

Isn't that BAD?? Do you not remember Mocha? Fantastic as long as we were spending 10 days in 2 months but the minute we started living together, it became unbearable - for both of us. And we were in love!

And you aren't in love with London Guy?

No... but i could be.. i mean, given the right circumstances...

Which would be?

I don't know... that maybe he's nice to me.. you know, attentive, loving, funny..

And you don't think he is all of those things yet?

Well... we've met once. And now he wants to come to Bombay to see me. And he's insisting that i come and see him in London, for longer than just a day (i told you that already, right?). But i'm hesitant.

Why? It would be the perfect opportunity to get to know each other, make him understand you, for you to show him your world, your friends..

My friends? I'm not going to introduce him to my friends... I mean, isn't it too early to be introducing friends to each other? There will just be assumptions made, one more person that will be open to discussion and nit-picking if things fall apart...

So you're more confident of things falling apart than staying together?

No, i'm just aware that the nature of the Universe is "from Order to disorder". I mean the multiple variables that need to be just so for two essentially stable individual elements to fuse together to form another stable compound makes it almost a miracle when these things do happen. Right now, we're just in the process of seeing if those variables exist. Introducing a third element in the form of friends may just create a false or unstable environment for that...

So... this is your shot at stability?

I was using a chemistry metaphor.... But think about it... I'm going to be 32 and, as my mom said, this is the time to decide if i want to be in a couple, or be single. The single scene is tired and boring, and it's making me cynical because i'm beginning to believe i can see through people - the cheesy opening lines, the 'witty repartee', the high energy flirting, and the constant struggle for control... all for.. what? a no-strings attached encounter of 21st century love? I think i really want the strings now..even though i may have forgotten what to do with them.... i really want to be out of control, and not fighting for it either. And he seems to want the same things with ME... so maybe i should trust that?

So you ARE planning to trust him, and give him serious consideration despite your reservations about turning your world topsy-turvy...? Because he wants you to?

... Sounds like that, doesn't it? Well.. i'm going on holiday... what else is there to do, huh?

Hmmm... so... you want London Guy? Like.... really WANT him? You feel it?

I don't know... It's been so long since i felt or allowed myself to feel anything romantic... I mean, i don't know if what i'm feeling is passion for the person or pure, unadulterated panic at the thought of getting into something stupid again...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Things I Don't want to Forget..

I went on a long vacation recently, and took a lot of photographs - approximately 400 or so. These photographs were not so great in terms of composition or even clarity, but they captured the essence of the time.

A couple of days ago, on my way back from my extremely long holiday, I lost my camera.

This is my attempt to recapture those moments which were, for me, the highlights of my trip.

1) "Wow... what was that?"
The Artist known as James. Using spare parts of automobiles, James has made a profession out of creating massive pieces of pop culture in all their detail. On Venice beach, he had exhibited pieces of the Predator, Terminator, Alien as well as Wall.E...

In fact, Venice beach will have to be a highlight in itself. The street art, the medical store that prescribes and supplies medical marijuana, the young boy in front of the clinic with a sign that says, "The doctor is in", massive flaggons of sangria, the cold soft sand, the lifeguard's outpost whose metal parts are picked out by the fading sunlight and then the bright moonlight... and through it all, discovering a new friendship.

And then later, when Meg, despite the ravages that chemotherapy has inflicted on her body, completely lost her temper, i was thrilled to hear in her furious voice that the spirit of the girl i loved was intact. She was on her way back, and i was there to see it.

2) "That looks like a UFO.. right?"
The day after i reached, jetlagged and exhausted and completely disoriented, i helped my friends move home. It was surreal in a very fun kind of way. That night, completely shattered and wired, having been refused a drink at the local tavern (because i wasn't carrying ID!), but starting the evening with stolen sips of a leftover stash of tequila, my friends and i made the night a memorable one. Helped along by copious amounts of wine, tequila, weed, etc, the three of us decided to explore the new place. Somehow this involved racing each other in torn footwear, staring at a mist-covered building (the UFO), and laughing... Oh, how much we laughed! Enough to get two warnings from the community security to "keep it down.. or else.." :)

3) "Meet the Folks"
My family, who decided to show me a bit of LA, were wonderful. They're kind, and funny (anyone with tax problems? My aunt's in the IRS! Talk about useful connections!) and young at heart. This very nature allowed them to give me a trip to Universal Studios - the theme park for the movie lovers. Getting up close and personal with the Jaws, the Mummy, the Terminator, Shrek (4D!!! Who needs good seats when the movie is happening around you, huh?), the Jurassic era, the War of the Worlds, the Psycho... absolutely fantastic!

4) "Oh look, naked lady!"
Entry into a strip club - $20
A pint of beer while some pretty semi-naked woman chats you up - $5
A private lap dance - $20
The expression on the faces of my two male friends who look as if they've been allowed into heaven's candy store - priceless
And the life lesson that maybe i really am not into women. Sigh.

5) Welcome to Hollywood!

A movie premier. the walk of fame. Strolling along santa monica blvd. People dressed as Superman, batman, Captain Jack Sparrow, Napoleon Dynamite. All good. But my favorite part will have to be being introduced to sake at a small japanese dive. Yumm! Oh, and bumping into some celebrity,that no one could really place, but whom my friend almost had an orgasm while trying to point out (Ben Stein, the sleepy professor in the Wonder Years). That was funny.

6) "So long and thanks for all the fish."

A day spent by myself, exploring the further ends of London. Late October. Bright sunny day. And i walked through Hampstead Gardens, upto HighGate Cemetary, to sit beside a simple stone plaque. This stone plaque had a small golden dolphin, a robot and a few other curios. On the plaque was written "Douglas Adams". I sat beside it, ate a sandwich and somehow felt good after a really long time.

7) "Oh! Hello Stranger!"

There are people i met at almost every step of the way with whom i shared a few moments. The watercolor artist, who wasn't certain her art would be seen by anyone other than herself and maybe a few passersby within Hampstead Gardens, the ex-military octogenarian who loved Bombay almost as much as i did and thought that i was "like sunlight" (*blush*), the bartender at Venice Beach who fixed ginormous drinks and is one of the chief reasons i got completely plastered on one of my most fun evenings... oh! and the very cute guy who stepped off the subway just as i was getting on... I'm going to tell myself there was a moment there... so cute!

8) History Lessons

Speed walking through Washington DC, past the monuments to achievement, great loss and political and financial power, thinking of petitioning the US Government to allow for auto-rickshaw ferries in between the tourist hot-spots, I remember the awkward way my father held me when i burst into tears in front of him for the first time in 20 years. I remember missing my mom. I missed having my family.

9) "Home sweet home"

Landing in Bombay, walking into my silent home, falling down on my perfect bed, finally feeling comfortable about who i was. Through my journey, i'd felt censored - i couldn't talk to my friends about my family (because they didn't really know much), couldn't speak to my father about mom, couldn't speak to my aunt about my father, couldn't speak to my cousins about London Boy, couldn't speak to London Boy about anything... and that was just the tip of the iceberg. And then, i was home. And around 3 am in the morning, two of my friends dropped in on me. And i couldn't talk to them about any of it - because... well, they're not those kind of friends.

I remember thinking that i'd travelled the world, met my entire family, and friends - and i still felt so very alone.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Marriage Dysfunction

My mother said recently, "Now is the time to decide if you're getting married or whether you're ready to be single for the rest of your life." She said it in the context of someone she thought i was on the verge of getting serious with. And ofcourse, her own grandparent-biological clock is ticking - she yearns for the sound of her own grandchildren - something that neither of her children seem inclined to provide in the near future.

Here is my question: What's the deal with marriage? Yes, i understand the innate need to connect with someone, a connection which over time, just becomes richer with meaning and depth. I understand the battle against loneliness.

Over the last few weeks, i have had opportunity to observe a few marriages from closer quarters than usual. My friends and their spouses, my father and his wife, and finally, my cousins. Each marriage is unique in its dysfunction. NOT that dysfunction is necessarily a bad thing. The bottom line is that all these marriages seem almost content.

I wonder if that should really be the goal. I have been raised on stories of 'true love' and that magical link that two people share. And in truth, i have had the privilege of being party to such intimacies. But they have not lasted... perhaps because their unique dysfunction didn't have the ability to also act as the glue. Maybe the opportunity cost of feeding that dysfunction was way higher than the benefits?

Or maybe all of that is a load of bullshit.

An ex of mine recently said, of his new fiancee, "She has brought so much love into the family." That hurt a little because of the implied thought that i hadn't...

Maybe that's what marriage is about.. the ability to channel love into the watering hole that the whole family drinks from. Maybe the inability to do so is my personal dysfunction. And if that is true, then i (and everyone else) shall probably be better off with me choosing the 'single-forever' option.

I guess i'm just hurting a little, because someone i DID like a lot (talk about delayed understandings) appeared to not like me that much. And i think i was party to the classic "reject him before he rejects me" move.

The real dysfunction is that i don't know if that's true. Or whether i'm meandering in the alleys of self-pity because it makes for a better story.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Some Secrets...

... are just too big to keep within myself.
But i dare not write it here - too many people know i write here, too many hearts will break if they know the truth.
Where do i put this down?

Ok, Universe, just ONE sign, please!

... as opposed to the many signs you keep sending, with absolutely no concern for the mixed signals that are bound to confuse me. So London Guy has become as AWOL as the sensible soldiers of any war. This does not mean that LG is sensible, by any standards. Then, from out of nowhere, you send me these really cute but totally not-right guys. Which does not, again, mean that LG is necessarily Right. And then you let us brew so many different kinds of alcohol which we throw into the mix, making me do all sorts of totally Wrong things. And then i suffer the consequences - silent awkward moments with people who used to be friends, but now are just guys who share silent awkward moments with me.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I think I met someone....

wow. someone new or someone whom you've known for a while but just saw a whole new facet of?

A bit of both. We used to be really good friends in school. And then we lost touch. Now, 15 years later, thanks to Facebook, we got back in touch a month ago...

Go on.

And then i went and met him for a day in Bangalore

Really? That was... fast...

Well.. yes and no. We had been talking for a bit. And he was in the country for a week. And i needed a break from this city anyway... And yes ofcourse i was curious.. What does that even mean? Fast?

Nothing. Don't worry. So why didn't he come to Bombay to see you?

He doesn't like Bombay.

So he dislikes Bombay more than he likes you?

Maybe. Does it matter? Is that even relevant?

I don't know. Just saying that you met him on his terms on his home turf.

You're saying he manipulated me?

I'm not saying anything. Yet. So how was it?

It... it was fun

Fun? Like a roller coaster ride is fun? Or watching a movie is fun?

More like a movie... you know, some of it is familiar and funny and sweet, and some of it is new... and you don't know if the character is pretending or if he truly believes what he says... and whether you should believe him or wait for him to reach for the axe under the bed... you know?

Hmm. Clearly it's a thriller then. With an axe and ambivalent characteristics.

I don't know that. It could even be a romantic comedy. Ofcourse, only the people watching the film know that. Anyone within the film don't know that anything is funny. Or romantic. Or psychotic.

You like him?

I like what i've seen of him, and what we've spoken about over the last few days..


But i'm wondering if i'm looking at him too much through the blurry glasses of time travel...

Time travel?? What kind of meeting was this anyway?

You know... remembering foggy details of our friendship in school and imagining that the adult today is the same guy who was my friend. It could be that i'm not looking at the person today.

Hmm. Interesting. So let's do a fact check. What do you know of this total stranger you met in Bangalore?

He's about 32 years old. He started his career as a NIFT designer, went on to work in Gap in Los Angeles, then moved from there to GE and now works as a Management consultant for Accenture in London. Builds / designs pipelines (?). Lives in Primrose hill. Close to his brother's place. But he and his brother are not close. He has a cousin in Bangalore whom he's very close to. He makes several trips a year to meet his mom, who's in Delhi. He seems to be doing well professionally and is quite close to certain members of his extended family and is a self-professed "mama's boy".

Mama's boy, hmm? Does that worry you?

Yes. Because the few people whom i've been with and have been Mama's boys, they have always chosen Mom over me. And i don't do well with Mothers.

Maybe you need to work harder on that. All guys are Mama's boys at some level.

Hmm... I don't think i care that they're Mama's Boys, so long as they're My Men.

Fair enough. Maybe he'll outgrow that.

Oh, i don't buy that. I have reached the point where i don't believe Men change dramatically. And i also believe that when men say something, even in jest, they mean it.

Really? So what else has he been saying?

He invited me to come and see him in London "as soon as i can for as long as i can". He has promised me that i will see the worst of him because he will be super busy at work and not on easy holiday mode as he was in Bangalore.

And that's supposed to attract you because?

Because apparently, if i see him at his worst, and don't run away screaming, then it'll all be up from there.

well, atleast he's consistent.

How did you get that?

He's invited you back to his home turf. You get to make the effort. And he gets to be a boor. All for the greater good.

Sounds like a scam, right?

Maybe. What else?

He keeps dropping references to his 'insensitivity' (an inside joke as he kept forgetting what i told him about my life), to his multiple chips on his shoulder about his past (home, school, family, etc) and how rich he is and important at work.

And you're wondering if he really IS that hung up on things or if it seemed like that because you shrunk 15 years of life into 24 hours.


So what's the good news?

The good news is that he's unnervingly direct about his attraction to me. He likes to 'keep things simple', says what's on his mind, makes me laugh, can laugh at himself.... It's good news if it's true ofcourse.

Why won't it be true?

Because... you know.. it's the chase.. everyone likes the chase... and everyone has a trick to win the prize.. Maybe his trick is to 'honestly' say flattering things - so it's not flattery, and yet wins him brownie points...

What's your trick?

My trick? I don't know. My friends say i get all flirty and laugh a coquettish laugh. I make the guy believe whatever he wants to believe?

Is that wrong?

well yes... considering he could very well be belabouring under a false impression of being the centre of my Universe, thus upping the ante of his pursual, making me more flattered by his attention, etc etc... the cycle continues. It's good if i mean it, and it's all honest. But just like in my case, the flirtatious behaviour is all just reflex, not necessarily driven by the qualities of one person, but of the 'chase' in general... it could be the same for him too.

It probably is. But what's the problem?

The problem? Haven't you been reading what i've been saying?

This is what you have said so far. A guy, whose data sheet doesn't peg him as an axe murderer, has made it clear he likes you. His motivations, so long as they're not malicious, and they don't seem to be, are his business. What are your motivations for pursuing this?

I don't know... the chance to build something with someone that has some kind of lasting power?

That you have had with various people - Alex, Kosta, VJ, Sam...

VJ was great. But really young and not into building something long term.

Did he say so?

No.. but..

You assumed as much.

He didn't refute me.

Maybe you seemed certain about wanting out. Anyway, go on.

Kosta... he was just too cerebral. Everything was thought out. Analysed. Planned. And terrible sex.

Ok. So bad sex is a deal breaker?

Yes, ofcourse. Good sex can solve problems. Bad sex can make good days look dull.

So.. have you had sex with this guy?

No. We kissed. But when things started getting.. umm.. heavy, i backed off. He didn't push it.

That's sensitive.


So he's already refuting his self-claimed 'insensitivity'.

Yes. But....


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Psychology of Boy gets Girl...

So many triggers, so many reactions. In the book i'm reading currently, the author-psychologist tries to outline the psychological triggers that makes people behave a certain way - most notably as consumers. But while reading it, I realised that those very triggers work just as well in the mating dance.

So let's say Boy meets Girl...

Scenario 1:
..in a bookshop. They start talking about their favorite authors and then the girl sees a book that she really likes, but does not want to buy (too expensive, too heavy, whatever). The Boy swoops in and buys the book for her... and gives it to her the next time they "accidentally bump into each other." She's touched and he invites her to join him for a coffee. Without having intended to spend more time with him, the Girl is actually now almost on a date. And thus starts their love story.

Sweet huh? I did think so. Except examine this: As a culture, we feel obligated to 'repay a kindness'. And it's not just India but around the world. Someone helps you carry your bags in the heights of summer, and you invite them into your home for some cold lemonade. Next day, you're a small headline, and a cautionary tale about how to not let strangers into your home. And yet, here you are, inviting a total stranger into your world.

Scenario 2:

... and they have coffee and a conversation.

Boy: (looking at the other patrons) Can you imagine that most of the people sitting here probably think we're girlfriend-boyfriend (haha) just because we're having coffee and laughing (haha)..?

Girl: That would be pretty narrow minded... after all, guys and girls can be just friends.

Boy: Exactly! I mean, just because we're leaning close (leaning close) or holding hands (grabbing hand playfully) doesn't mean we're going to 'do it' (haha)...

Girl: (Keeping hand there, after all, they're friends...) Exactly...

Boy: I'm just so tired of being defined by how the World sees me... I mean, i like someone as a friend, but the minute i am affectionate, everyone tries to label the "relationship"... you know, that's why guys are probably so cut off... I mean, i'd hate leading a friend on... But women and society have these narrow minded definitions... right?

Girl: I'm not narrow minded, but i know what you're saying... The only people who should have anything to say about the relationship are the two people in it, whatever be the rules.

And later.... Boy invites Girl home. Girl isn't sure if she should.. after all, it's late, and there has been this crazy tension building up..

Boy: Oh... Even you think that if you come up to my house, at night then it means just one thing...

Girl: No i don't..

Boy: So much for living by our own rules huh? Come on, we're friends right? You trust me, right?

Girl: Yes ofcourse...

Boy: Great! So come up, i'll make you coffee, and then drop you home. We can chat.. whatever...

Girl: Allright... But i'm not staying long.

And the spider and the fly walked up to the parlour... simply because the fly couldn't break out of her own need to prove her 'consistency' as a friend... We have been taught the value of being consistent because it implies a commitment to "who we are"- our self image. It's what gets us to shop only at Louis Vuitton, wear only high heels, never use public transport, etc. And once that commitment to ourselves has been made, we do anything to justify it in our minds... even if it is breaking the bank, or getting us into "friendships" we don't want.

Scenario 3:

... in a club. Girl is sitting at the bar, with her friends, scoping the place out for cute boys. Suddenly, an un-cute boy shows up next to her, and says, "You have a cute smile / beautiful eyes / any other line that you think may work." The girl raises her eyebrow, and then rolls her eyes at the friends with a "Oh Lord, another one" expression.

The girls titter among themselves. The guy shrugs, takes his beer and goes back to his table... which has a bunch of people (women and men) who clearly like him. He's laughing with them, enjoying his drinks, and a particular very attractive woman is doing everything in her social arsenal to get his attention. In the meanwhile, the Girl at the bar is already re-thinking her initial assessment. After all, if ALL these people like him, then it's pretty certain he's got something.

Sound familiar? This is the standard trigger of social proof of value. If so many others like something, it must be good. It even works in the art-circle, where it's not talent so much as the right people thinking you're talented that gives art it's value. Back at the bar, it's a different matter that the table full of people may just be colleagues, and he may be the easiest target of ridicule in that group and the Hot chikita is his colleague's wife who's doing him a favor of being his "wing-woman". But the end result - the Girl at the bar now wants him... not for any real value that he may have, but the imagined great qualities that merit such a ginormous proof of his desirablity - a table full of strangers.

Scenario 4:

... at any place, it doesn't matter. The only thing that's relevant is that they just met. Kinda. And there are sparks. But the Boy's about to leave town, the Girl's about to take a vow of chastity, the steady girlfriend is pressurizing the Boy to make a serious commitment... all of which will happen.. Unless.

That "unless" is a potent decision maker. It gives the sense that you may miss out on the best thing UNLESS you go on a date / sleep together / any other enticing option. Because this is a limited time offer. If you don't take it up now, it's gonna be gone. Forever. And you wouldn't ever have known just how great it could have been just because you couldn't commit to a teeny-weeny date/fling?

Most of us don't want to miss out. The greener grass is not a new concept... and we all want it. The promise of something better - more exciting, more passionate, more meaningful - is hard to pass up. How many times have we bought things we don't really want just because it said, "Hurry! Limited stock only!" only to suffer from buyer's remorse later?

There are a few other ways that involve our need to be liked and our desire to be led by a figure of authority...

My point is, this is the time and age of people being relegated to the position of marketable products languishing on the shelves of the relationship supermarket. But if these are the only games we can play, is there a place i need to go to opt out?

Monday, June 1, 2009

On Why Life is Not a Box of Chocolates...

Theory: Life is not like a box of chocolates because somewhere we do know what we're gonna get.

The assumption: A great assembly line manufacturing system for all living things. This is what controls evolution, growth, genetics, etc. And yes, this is the only place where you have free will... kinda.

Here's what i think. Every time we hit the Pearly Gates, we renew our membership to the greatest freeloading party in the sky. There is an all-you-can-consume buffet of values that you can be born with. However, the only catch is the slightly bitter aftertaste that every succulent morsel leaves behind.

A dear friend of mine - Vinter - asked me, "Where is my sexy pool-boy and the rich but mostly absent husband who adores me and buys me lots of sparkly things?" This was just another question meant to float into the rhetorical cybervoid - but then it met me. And i tried to put my theory to the test.

I told her - because it wasn't the birth value you chose, for whatever reason. She, understandably, gaped at me uncomprehendingly.


"Of all the birth values available to you (subject to a hypothetical upper limit of 5), you picked the ones which precluded the pool, the pool boy and the rich husband."

"what should i have picked then?"

"Maybe a lower IQ and blonde hair?"

"That sounds fine, if the pool, the boy and the rich husband were the consequences. Everybody would pick that then."

"Well no... you see, if you picked blonde + 85 IQ, maybe you would have to factor in a poor upbringing, with atleast one abusive parent, a string of one-night-stands and multiple heartbreaks with atleast three pregnancies, finally ending with a rich husband who buys you sparkly things but also cheats on you - with animals - and a pool boy who is robbing you of those sparkly things..."

"Eww.... ok.. so what if i picked blonde and smart?"

"You understand that this isn't the definitive answer, right? I'm sure the real process is a lot more complicated and subtle..."

"Yes yes, but what can possibly be the flip side of being beautiful, intelligent, rich and talented?"

"Hmm. You could be stuck in a wheelchair due to a degenerative muscular disorder, your existence limited by how far the cable from the emergency crash cart goes; or you could be a healthy specimen too, but with a nasty temperament, no friends, doomed to live and die alone in your palace... maybe."

"So what did i pick, then?"

"Well, i don't know. But whatever it is that you picked, you probably picked it because they were the best of the choices available to you, the consequences of which were also palatable."

"A career stuck in reverse gear, no love life, and a weight problem... and these were the best choices available to me??"

"No, the choices available to you were loving parents, a childhood spent on the beaches of Goa, enough money to live comfortably, a prodigal literary talent and a constant support group of friends...."


"What you do with those things is ofcourse entirely upto you."

"I guess between receiving the birth values and returning to the great buffet in the sky is where Life happens."

"Yeah, and maybe here is where you learn to be a lot more specific about what you want your birth values to be... thus being able to thwart or atleast limit the consequences thereof... "

"A little like being trained to look for the loophole."

"Yes. Exactly. And learning to be aware that there is always a loophole. There's a reason why the House always wins."

"What would be the perfect balance then?"

"If I knew, I'd be on the management side of this whole production."

"So... we're all employees, trying not to get too badly screwed?"

"Yep, and with every try, like with every new job offer, we learn a little bit more about the carefully negotiated legal contract... and become a little clearer about what we definitely want in our benefits package and the ways and means of avoiding the tax liability."


Tuesday, May 26, 2009


– noun:
a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety or lack of interest; boredom:

- a word which very delicately yet effectively says, "I'm boooorred!" while taking an elegant sip of fizzy wine.

I look around me and see my friends all steeped in the same quagmire of ennui-dom. There are no movies to watch, the elections, IPL and American Idol are all over... and all of us (even people like me who weren't remotely involved in any of the three) are wondering "what's next?"

My day job has now been taken to a point of no recovery. I don't care anymore if i sell more toothpastes or soaps or medicines or insurance, or even that i need to try harder to sell more of the same for clients who are making them. Really. I'm pretty sure someone else can do a better job than me, and i'm not ashamed to admit it. It's truly soul-sucking to be considered a great salesman. It implies artifice. Yes, i'm knocking the great capitalist aim to increase profits and, in these days of the recession, it's bad manners to suggest that there's more to life... But really, i hope to God, there's more to mine.

Now all i need to do is become un-ennui-ed long enough to figure out what that may be.


Monday, May 25, 2009


Have you ever thought of what dreams may mean? Yes, as human beings we're cursed to search for meanings everywhere... but really, have you never had dreams that you were certain were ... something more... than just electrical impulses flowing through our synapses?

Just last night i was racing through just-partitioned India, part of the nascent BSF, trying to keep hurting, enraged de-homed hindustanis from killing each other. I was the only woman there, i was leading a group of scared yet valiant soldiers, determined to keep death at bay. And then i was shot for my efforts.

A few days before that, i was in college - an environment for the feminazis among us - trying to find a friend. I found a few people - the 'inner circle' - and i tried to convince them of the uselessness of trying to be separate... until i found my real friend... and understood the futility of trying to change anyone's mind through the over-hyped medium of conversation.

I called my friend yesterday, to hear how she was doing, Not very well, i'm afraid. Life has had it's way with her and, the knowledge that we had - that we would be fighting back with all our will - that knowledge has been proven false. She ... and i suppose I too, have realised that fighting back was never part of our deal. We're just the examples that are presented to the World. True story.

A couple of days ago, i had an impromptu discussion with my team about ... well.. "what's it all about?". I realised i don't believe in global warming, that i do hope that human beings are reaching a state of transcendence, that 2012 is the start of the Age of Aquarius and all the positivity it's the harbinger of, that telepathy and the extra-senses can be practised to be made perfect and that all of us are just searching for meaning in our lives.

Or maybe just searching for the experience of being alive.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Just thinking of you...

.... reminded me of myself.

Brief minutes of honesty

A few days of lingering passion

A few weeks of sweet romance

A few years of amusing regrets...

So many promises in one life...

And yet, she won't love me.

Thank you for the compliment, Mark.

Monday, May 4, 2009

"Love" or "In Love"?

What's with that distinction?? God knows i've used it myself over the years, usually to ward off unwanted advances from "friends". Apart from that, i've used the "we're friends!' clause too. But really, what's the deal??

I spent last weekend with three of my closest friends, one of whom is Megan. Megan completed her chemotherapy cycle a few weeks ago and is now working on building her strength and resilience to handle an 18 hour flight back to LA. We decided to pay her a last visit before she left... and even though i was a heartbeat away from canceling the whole thing, i'm so very glad i didn't. Because it has got me here, feeling happier than i've been in a long time.

The thing is, over the last few posts, i have been maudlin and angry and self-pitying. But three days with two guys, a girl and a household of parents, I see what a waste of time that has been. I have always prided myself on being "sorted" whatever that word may mean at different times of the day. I have been proud of my boundaries when it comes to friends, and been very self-critical about the kind of leeway i allow them when it comes to walking all over me.

But this weekend, i realised that that leeway is really what it's all about. We played "wake him up, he's trying to sleep" followed quickly by human trampoline and "what's there to eat even though we just ate" and "Who's the elbow rest" etc etc. Taboo was played with the usual fights and sulks and "you're cheating" accusations (all true). Outrageous requests were made every mealtime, and met without a raised eyebrow from anyone; we fought and made up and showered love on each other every minute of the three days.

And now i know what it is i really was talking about. I miss being held - not with lust but with affection. I miss being touched playfully, instead of with 'intention'. And i get really mad when my so-called friends don't telepathically understand that about me. The thing is - friends (that inner circle that really gets you) do instinctively understand what it is you need. The others - acquaintances - don't. And yet, we use the word "friend" so loosely that sooner or later, you just kind of ascribe those qualities to everyone and then get disappointed when they don't match up. or atleast i do. Or did (hopefully).

Yes, i know it's basic kindergarten kind of knowledge. But this weekend i realised that with friends, there is really no distinction when it comes to love. I love them... and am also a little bit in love with them. I don't know if that makes it simpler to forgive myself when i curse myself out for caring too much...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Blast from the Past

There is a common saying: If something's present in your life, it's because you brought it there, to learn something from it. If the same thing persists in your life, it just means you haven't learnt your lesson.

Keeping this thought in mind, i sat back and took a long hard look at my life. I find that as i've grown older, i've lost my ability to focus on the prize, quite happy to let Life have its way with me however it wants to. I marvel at the clarity of thought i used to have, my understanding of right and wrong, what is ok and what should not be tolerated, and i crave some of that again.

So... in a probably misguided step, i've decided to attempt being the person i was 15 years ago. And to do that, i have resolved to undertake a few things -

1) Get rid of the deadwood in my life. Deadwood is people / jobs / life situations that offer nothing but instead manage to suck me dry. Be ruthless.

2) Lose weight. This has been driving me wild - i'm 10 pounds overweight which really isn't much. But when i look in the mirror i see a humungous giant. I realise that my self-image needs recalibration, but until that happens, the gym and starvation it is.

3) A friend told me recently, "as long as you keep saying that you are okay with 'just sex', that's all you're gonna get. Say you want more, and immediately you'll see hordes of people just disappearing, and the ones who don't.. they're the ones you wanna keep. It will make you lonely, but it'll keep you unhurt." I'm gonna take her advice. No sex.

4) Finish off the basic structure of my stories BEFORE someone wants to buy them. It's always better to put my easy periods to better use than watching sitcoms.

5) Go to live music nights alone if i can't get a group to come along. Gotta do what you wanna do. It's the only way to happiness i've been told. It's scary... but then, gotta face your fears!

6) Keep expectations to a minimum.

Maybe this will help. Maybe it won't. I'll try anything.

Monday, April 20, 2009


: To deprive and make desolate

He was a friend, until he proved otherwise.
I miss him.
And then i think, maybe he wasn't ever there.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Just Another Life.

She was 3 weeks old. Maybe she was the one who was supposed to be mine. I want to be able to feel something for that life, the life that wasn't. What did her existence mean, if it had to end in 3 weeks? Was there a purpose to the whole exercise? Why did she show up? And why did she have to leave? And i felt nothing except a mild discomfort. I look at the sky and think... if she was one born still... would that make me the walking dead?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Random Wrath II

I'm so pissed off!

a) i wasn't looking to form any attachment of the romantic kind with Alex. I was happy, and i knew that anything we attempted would fuck with the friendship. so i let it be.

b) But then he brought it to the table, and then he took it away because "it would affect the friendship". That was the second shortest 'relationship consideration' i've ever been subject to after Sam (20 minutes). What the hell??? Is it wrong for me to assume that the bloke should have thought it through before even involving me in this??? After i'd been saying it for so long already???

c) And now, he's hitting anything in sight. And it bothers me that i have to pretend to be the friend and listen to it!

And NO, I DON'T HAVE FEELINGS FOR HIM! Gosh! Just because i'm pissed off that a "friend" of mine treated me with such off-handedness doesn't mean cupid has struck, as my stupid other friend would want me to admit to!

Cupid wouldn't want me to be with a drunk, stoned, inconsistent guy who believes that the solution to everything is to get FUBAR'ed with a few nymphets, that it's ok to make me want something, however ephemerally, and then walk away, thinking it's gonna be ok.

God dammit!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Venus Turned Retrogade...

.. or something to that effect was in my horoscope a few days ago. It warned me about this time of conflicting emotions, where the battlefield was my psyche. As usual, i pooh-poohed the literature, and went hunting for proof.

I wasn't disappointed.

A few days ago, Alex decided to ask me out (my last post), after thinking about it for a couple of months. One would have thought that during those few months, he would have considered the dreaded possibility of what would happen to the friendship if the 'relationship' went up shit-creek. The fact that he still popped the question led me to believe that he had been convinced that there was no major reason for that to happen. Despite my reservations, his nonchalant approach to 'us' gave me confidence.

Then two days ago, on an impulsive whim, i went across to Delhi for a few drinks with a couple of my dearest friends. And while i was having a vodka, i realised that they were aware of my blog, and that they had read a few of the posts there - the ones they thought was about them. And i realised that despite knowing what i had written (and hence, really felt about one of our meetings), they hadn't let on ever.

See? conflict of emotion. On the one hand i was thrilled to see them, on the other i was mortified that i was the cause of any embarrassment to them... to him. And then i was astounded that the relationship hadn't changed, despite the truth. They hate me, they hate me not....

Then i went and hung out with my closest friend Meg. She has been successfully undergoing chemotherapy and was looking healthy when i reached. But then we got the news that the tumor marker test had come back very high... higher than it had been originally. Which basically meant that the cancer had grown and probably spread.

Things were stressed out in the household.

But when i got back home today, i got the news that the scan had come back clean. Hurrah! My friend is truly cancer-free!

As if these emotional upheavals weren't enough..

...on my first day back, Alex told me that he doesn't want to see me anymore. He, one of my closest friends, who has known me for a couple of years, finally discovered that he didn't want me... that the 'friendship' was worth more.. that we could gracefully end this... before either of us got really involved.

Maybe the sex was terrible (yes, that happened too.. a little too soon, even by my standards, but it did happen). Maybe he realised that there was no one he could speak with about 'us' without it affecting the entire dynamic of the common friends group. Maybe he just was never into me.

Whatever the reason, he is right. After all, i'd been saying the same thing for the last 6 months... obviously in latin, because he now FINALLY understood. Ok, so he understood it after I, in some tiny part of my brain, did give 'us' a chance... But he is right. As i was.

All for nothing because, whether i like it or not, the friendship has still changed. There is now a layer of deceit which will always be a part of what I say... as i pretend that i don't care.


Lesson: If the paper says life's gonna suck, you better believe it. Oh, and never, never, ever, never mix romance and friendship.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

He is a friend...

He's a friend.
A very good friend.
He wants to date me.
He uses terms like "for the rest of my life" as if they're easy
They are easy, particularly when one doesn't mean them
Does he mean them?

He's a friend
A man whom i trust
A man i actually like
It's a two-year long friendship
Where every syllable of the word has been earned
Can i risk that?

He's a friend.
My heart doesn't flutter wildly when i think of him
It just beats with a deep assured thump
(And a slightly panicky 'lead in my stomach' arrhythmia)
Am i trying to convince myself?
Is this an opportunity to test the "ask questions first, fall in love later" philosophy?
Or do i reject him... just because i always do?

He's my friend
And he's always sweet to me
But he has an awful track record with his girlfriends (now ex's)
He has been described as mean, insulting and volatile
I've known him to be rude and indiscreet about them to his friends... my friends..
Do i risk joining that list?

Should i jump in and hope for the best?
Or should i just cease and desist, guaranteed in my current feeling of bonhomie, and wait for "Mr Perfect"?

This is when i need a definite sign from the Universe.

(I know this looks like it wants to be a poem... Fortunately, it isn't one.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Get Over It.

I hate those three words. They are usually said when you really CAN'T get over something. That's why you're talking about it with someone... which gives that other person the chance to be condescendingly wise and say, "Get over it." I can't, dammit!

One of those many things i couldn't get over was my less-than-ideal relationship with my father. Usually, i just mentally shrug the thought away, be all cool about it and come up with cliches such as "It is what it is" and other such nonsense. But inside, i knew that i was hurting.

This particular soul-searching episode started on my birthday. Well actually, it was a few months before that when i realised that my once-in-two-years visitation with my Dad was coming up. He did the whole "i love you, i miss you" ending to the phonecall, and i found that i, for once, couldn't parrot back those lines to make him feel better. I mean, he didn't even know who the hell i was to be comfortable making those pronouncements. I was damned if i was going to continue paying lip-service to this non-starter of a relationship.

Anyway, speed-forwarding to my birthday: The day began with a two-hour long phonecall with my one-and-only brother. Now, things had been on pretty thin ice with him ever since the London trip, so it was good to be talking again. however, before i knew it, the conversation shifted to my relationship with dad, and how nervous i was about meeting him, and how i wished we could have an honest dialogue, etc etc. And suddenly, as if a nuclear bomb just went off, we were screaming at each other. He was yelling at me for not being completely honest about my fuck-ups with dad, and how i always blamed him for everything, etc... and then that conversation segued almost seamlessly into how Mom was the real screw-up in the family, and how she has changed me into a man-hating, closed-off woman.

It was ugly.

The day ended with my Mom and i fighting about how i could let my brother (and, by extension, my Dad) get to me like this. Hadn't she done her best to raise me? Hadn't she been a good mother? Did i regret choosing her as my parent? As expected, that conversation also moved very quickly into weep-territory. I was exhausted.

All i wanted was to have an honest conversation with my biological father, and see if i could get some kind of closure regarding my non-relationship with him. Was it so terrible a thing that i needed coaching lessons from my brother or emotional blackmail from my mom?

Anyway, that day i decided that come what may, this time, i will get to know my Dad, and i will let him get to know me. And then we'll see if a 'real relationship' is a possibility. Either ways, I was ok because i would know that i gave it my best shot.

Speed forwarding to D-day: I met my Dad and Susan, his wife, at Goa. And to cut a long boring story super short, i did what i promised myself i would do. I talked to him, I listened to what he said. I held no judgements till the time we came back. And this is what i realised:

My dad is... flawed. He seems to have almost-completely forgotten his 45 years in India in favor of the 18 years he spent in USA. From this, i gather that India must have been truly traumatic for him. I also realised that there is so little he remembers of our life together here, that he probably wasn't being deliberately hurtful. What a letdown. Imagine being totally jazzed about reliving your best/worst memories with the most significant man in your life, and hearing him say, "Really? we did that? huh."

So, i spent 4 days with my Dad and my step mom and discovered that while he wasn't someone i would go out of my way to stay in touch with, through some inexplicable twist of destiny, he had married someone who was.

And walking on the warm sands of Baga beach, watching the two of them together, i felt the bonds of angst melt away. In the end, thankfully, i got over it.