Figure It Out

travelnow-or-crylater-721285-unsplash.jpgNobody has it figured out.

I know how they make it look and I’m sorry we all do that one another. I look like I’ve got it figured out, too. I’d even tell you I do. But the truth is, none of us know where we’re headed.

And the ones who tell you they do, they’re telling you their imaginary version of their future. Because there are too many variables. In the things we know. In the things we don’t know. In the things we couldn’t possibly know. And they all matter in my ability to eat McDonald’s for lunch today. Let alone my ability to become a successful author 10 years from today.

But I’ll pretend. I’ll pick out my lazily ironed clothes, wear my ID around my neck and walk out of my apartment, computer in hand, looking like no-one can take away how good I feel about myself. Truth is, I feel like a mess most mornings. I’m rushing. I’m trying to be calm but I know my boss is probably already at work. I know I didn’t make lunch and will spend more money on food again. I know my hair and my life are a flipping mess. But I look like it all couldn’t be more under control and… I’ve got it all figured out.

That’s most of us, isn’t it?

I could look at your fancy new haircut, brand new clothes and that great job you have and not know that behind the screens, you went to a cheaper salon than you used to, looked for the cheapest new thing to buy because even the greatest job ever isn’t paying you enough to have sustainability and you’re struggling to make ends meet. Your responsibilities are sky high and your finances are at rock bottom. I wouldn’t know.

Your bright red lipstick and your pointy stilettos – you look like the world will bend its knee to you. But maybe, you’re depressed. Behind that smile you throw to a stranger on the train, there’s a sadness they’ll never know. That lipstick isn’t confidence. It’s the thing that holds you together. It makes you feel like you can survive the day.  Yet, I’d smile back at you as I think to myself, “I bet she knows where her life’s headed. I bet she has it all figured out.”

And so you fool me as I fool another and the cycle goes on as each of us live our lives believing that the other has it all together, has it all planned out. That the other has it better and figured out. But I… I’m just here.

I’m just in this life with no idea where I’m headed. Every plan I make, I’m terrified because something goes wrong. Something… always goes wrong. Because you wouldn’t know, looking from the outside, I struggle to make ends meet too. You wouldn’t know that I hang my head as I ask my Dad for more money. You wouldn’t know that I work so hard because I’m so afraid of being replaced. Because in this horrible, horrible world, in our terrible economy, in this shitty, shitty, shitty period of time, if you don’t have a job that pays you money, any amount of  money, you can’t really figure it out. But when you have that job, you spend all week looking forward to the weekend and you spend all weekend preparing for the week and the farthest future you end up planning are the Fridays that almost never work out the way you want it to because… You still don’t get it, do you?

Welcome to life.

I know I sound like a ball of negativity but that’s not what this is about.

It sucks. Your teenage plans don’t work out all the time. That one classmate may have made it. But he or she’s the exception, not the rule. And the thing is, it’s okay.

I like going home tired at the end of the day. I like sitting in my room with my sister and watching the most ridiculous TV show ever. I like spending my weekend preparing for Monday and I like walking into work feeling like it was all utterly useless. Because I know I’m not alone. Because I know the ones sitting next to me are just as clueless as I am.

Just as clueless as our parents are.

Just as clueless as the rest of the world is.

Because nobody has life figured out. I don’t think anybody ever did.

That’s exactly what makes it all the more interesting.

And scary. But mostly, interesting. Right?

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Anxiety

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I try to explain to her,

“Nothing scares me, nothing at all.

But from the moment I’m awake till the moment my eyes close,

I’m afraid of everything around me.

The things that could go so right and those that will go wrong.”

She laughs. She doesn’t understand. “How could you be so afraid?”

I want to tell her how this works.

I want to show her all my thoughts.

Instead I explain with a lot of words.

“I fly a lot, don’t I? I’ll tell you how this goes.

I’m packing at home. I’m terrified of leaving Mom.

I worry my dogs will die again. This time I won’t be around.

I worry I’ll leave a medicine. I worry I’ll leave my passport.

I worry I’ll miss my flight. I worry of getting caught.”

“Caught for what?” Her cluelessness makes me smile.

“If I knew, I’d be careful. But I don’t.

And that’s just where this all begins.”

She shakes her head with a smirk.

I don’t blame her.

I sound insane, even to myself.

But how else can I explain?

“I’m afraid of sitting next to a stranger.

I’m afraid he’ll be drunk.

I’m afraid the flight will face turbulence.

I’m afraid we won’t reach at all.

I’m afraid our parents will find out.

I’m afraid I might land safe.

I’m afraid that I won’t have a place to stay.

I know I booked that great space,

But what if it’s a scam? What if they had issues?

What if I’ve lost our money on something that doesn’t exist?

What if my trip sucks?

What if I get mugged?

What if you find me dead?

My life revolves around a series of what-ifs

And I’m at a point where I don’t know how to tell

If what I’m feeling is an instinct or just plain ol’ anxious.”

 

“You sound stupid. You should be like me.

Not a care in the world. Things will happen as they should.”

 

I want to tell her that’s my biggest fear.

“What if it all goes wrong and I can’t stop it?

It’s out of control and my life goes to shit?

How will I survive in the middle of chaos?”

I hear his words from a recent memory,

You can do this, darling. I believe in you.”

I smile a little.

His words calm my racing heart, if only for a minute.

 

But then it starts all over again.

And I sit on a train, clenching my fists, holding my tears,

“Oh God, please. Not again.”

She’s lost, yet right next to me.

She has no idea how fast my mind was running

We were headed to sign a contract,

Another thing that makes me cry.

 

Not just tears rolling down my face

Like a yesteryear actor and a bottle of glycerin.

I cry like a baby does in the middle of the night

Loud, breathless, arms at my side.

Unable to speak,

Unable to move,

Unable to breathe.

I cry hysteria but I sit where I am.

“Because I can’t move.”

“Why not?”

“Because it will be the death of me.”

“Says who?”

“Me. A dark version of me.

A deep voice inside of me.

I can’t move.”

One hand on my chest, I remain as I am.

Waiting for it to end.

Waiting to breathe again.

“Until the next time

I go through it all over again.”

 

She tells me she doesn’t understand.

I’m now afraid to explain.

I Don’t Want Children.

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“I don’t want children.”

My mother tells me I’ll change my mind,

“Age will get to you. You’ll want it because I did, too.

And before that, I didn’t, either.”

I want to believe her. To take her word for it. To tell her, “Yes, mother. You’re probably right, again.”

But I can’t. My heart yearns to be truthful and so I find myself lifting my shoulders.

“Maybe.”

 

“Say something nice to me. Something about my mind, not my body.”

“You’re fast when you work. I hope our children get that from you,” he answers.

My heart skips a beat. It is not excitement. It’s anxiety. Children, I think to myself.

He’s always wanted them. I told him I don’t. But my mother’s words came back to me.

“Maybe I will?”

So I told him, “Yes. We’ll have plenty.”

“Or just two?”

“Yes. Just two.”

 

“You’re going to be an aunty!”

That text message was long awaited. But there it was.

“He’s here!” I was so excited. For her.

“Meeting him for the first time!” I looked in. Into the crib. At his tiny, scrunched up face.

“Yeah. First time,” I said awkwardly, not moving any closer.

He was cute, sure. But not to me, no.

To me, he was tiny. That was precious.

You look at precious. Not play.

 

“Oh, who cares of stink?” She asked as she lifted our friend’s baby.

I’d just said, “No, thank you.”

I didn’t understand her maternal instinct. Only the stink.

“I don’t think I’m meant for this,” I tell myself as I look at them.

“Think or know?” My mother asks in my head.

I want to say Know. I know it, really. I simply lift my shoulders with a silent maybe.

 

The thing about children is…

I’ve been through this life. This long, tiring thing we call life.

It’s not easy. I’ve struggled. I struggle.

For respect. For opportunity. For money.

To have all that and not be lonely.

I struggle to hold the right to my body.

To what I clothe. To what they touch.

I struggle. To exist while I find purpose.

To find purpose I can fulfil without hurting.

I hurt. Everyday. For years at a time.

I struggle and I don’t want to carry that forward.

To create a life and send them out there.

“Your turn now.”

To feel what I feel. To live what I live. To love. To break. To lose.

Why should I?

I didn’t ask for this life but it is mine to deal with.

Why must I do this again? To birth and allow to struggle?

To desire to protect what I can’t? To fight. To yell. To hurt.

To learn to let go all over again. To watch from afar and say, “Repeat, darling.”

 

But it’s a crime to admit to it, isn’t it?

“Mom, I don’t want to be one,” is going against my purpose.

Every woman is a mother at heart, they’ve told me.

I’m not, I whine to deaf ears.

Maybe they’re not deaf. Maybe they know better.

Maybe she’s right.

Like when she told me that, “Teenage love will pass.”

Maybe when I’m 30, I’ll long for that baby. The one they lift with joy as I observe from afar.

Maybe I’ll wish I’d never uttered these words as I drag myself to that treatment I can’t afford.

Maybe they’ll point and laugh for cursing myself so young.

 

But today, it’s still my turn. It’s still my words.

And in the middle of all the “Maybe,”

All I really want to say is…

“I don’t want children, just give me my damn dog.”

Mika

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“You haven’t blogged in a while. Don’t you want to write something?” So I opened a new document and stared at it. The only movement in the room was the blinking cursor. It’s been a while since I wrote anything. Not because I haven’t had ideas. But because nothing feels right. The first blog I write after April 16th had to be about her. It couldn’t be about anything else. But how do I write about her?

How do I put words to paper without crashing – body, mind, heart and soul? How do I ever communicate with words what it’s like to lose someone unexpectedly? To lose someone for the first time? To lose her?

Do you know how fragile our lives are? Her life was ten times worse. But nobody told me. I was so focused on him. “He’s older. He’s fat. He’s never been extremely healthy. I have to be prepared to lose him someday. It made so much sense. She was younger. She was active. She had always been a lot healthier. How could I have known? How could I have been prepared? It was a skin infection. He’s had thousands of them. He’s been okay. She should as well, right? No one told me she wouldn’t be. Because that was just the beginning of one week of pain. Physically, for her. Emotionally, for me. 

I still remember the 15th like it was yesterday. I went home from the vet but I just couldn’t stay away. How could I sit there and eat? And sleep? And watch TV when my little one was struggling to live? So I went back. I held her. I kissed her over and over again. I told her I understand she has to do what she has to do. But then the 16th morning happened.

I kept calling the vet, “Is she okay?” They responded that she’s sleeping. At about 10am, I felt this pang. I went crying to my Dad, “Let’s not put her to sleep. She’ll live. She’ll come back.” It was this rush of a feeling. I sobbed to my Mom, “She’s going to be back here. She’s ours. She can’t go away from us.” My mom tried to calm me down. She made me sit down. The phone rang. “Her temperature shot up. We tried. But she couldn’t make it.” I just went very silent. I told them in my calmest voice, “I’ll have Mom call you back in 5 minutes.” I put the phone down on the bed and screamed.

Have you ever lost someone? For the first time? That was my first time. And since the moment we knew that she probably wouldn’t make it, I knew I’d be the one to get that call. I knew it would be me who told my family. But I didn’t really tell them. I couldn’t. How could you say words that are synonymous with, “The girl we loved is now gone”?

We went and said our goodbyes. The vet clinic vibrated with my mother’s cries. When you live in a dysfunctional family where saying, “I love you,” is the most awkward thing they can imagine, a furry baby’s love means the world. That little girl was my mother’s world. 

It’s taken me three months to acknowledge the fact that she’s gone. Three months to write this post without tearing my skin out because that would be less painful. But my heart is still broken. I wonder at times if she can still hear me. If she came still see me. If she knows that when I lie down at night, I wonder if she’s sleeping just like I’m about to. I wonder if I should go find her and check on her one last time. This world will never be the same. She came to us in a cardboard box, wrapped in old newspapers. I looked at her and said, “She’s a Mika. This is our Mika.” And that’s who she’ll always be. Our Mika.

I walked out of that clinic completely devastated. Never wanting to step back there again. I held my mother’s hand and told her, “She’ll give you a sign. She may be gone but she’ll always be around. You’ll know it when you feel it. I promise.” I had my doubts about that promise but I had hope and faith in her love for my mother. We went home and I headed out because there was a lot of difference between being home and knowing she’s at the vet compared to being home and knowing she’ll never walk back into that house again.

I struggled to sip tea and prepare for an interview for the job I now hold because all I really wanted to do was sob my heart out. My mom had gone to visit her friend. She called. I picked up with fear because I knew she was fragile. Her first words were, “Mika has come back!” 

You could imagine my confusion for I held her breathless body four hours earlier. Mom was at her friend’s house, crying. A friend’s house that we’ve visited a million times since I was, maybe, 12 years old. I’m 25 now. You can imagine. We’ve always parked at the same place. She always comes to our car. We always sit in the car and talk. But of all days, on April 16th 2018, the day we lost our baby girl, a bunch of school boys ran up to my mother and handed her a rescued baby boy. 

I’ll give you a little background. The doctors sat us down when Mika was sick and told us to never adopt pugs again. Because their many health complications are painful for the pet and the parent. Mika had Pug Encephalitis. A disease that mostly affects pugs under the age of 3 and is almost always fatal. We told him how we’d talked about it. How our third baby was going to be an Indian Mongrel. And this time, we’d get a boy. So we’d have two boys and a girl. The perfect family.

There, in mom’s hands, on the day we lost Mika, was an Indian mongrel furry boy. And what’s more astonishing? He jumped into her arms and nestled into her shoulders like Mika used to. It was a sign. It was meant to be. We named him Subramani, a.k.a., Subbu.

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There have been a lot of difficulties in our process to keeping him. From a father who wasn’t ready for another furry member to the reality of adopting another pet with an existing 5-year-old boy who was extremely emotionally attached to Mika, we had the odds lined up against us. So we tried to give him up for adoption. But every time he went away, something brought him back to us. He is ours. It was meant to be.

He’s not Mika. They’re extremely similar. But he’s not her. She can’t be replaced. She was the sassiest dog I’ve ever known. She could be a real bitch sometimes, too. But she was who she was… Small body, loud personality and a giant heart. Our lives will go on. I’ll have more furry babies in my life. But I’ll never forget the tiny puppy that wouldn’t stop licking me for as long as I live. No-one can ever replace her. Nobody will ever be my Mika. 

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Dear Chennai Super Kings

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We have a problem. A real one. People think the ones sitting at home, wanting to watch the match and hoping the match goes on don’t get it. But we do.

There are people in my state who spent their year’s earning on new crops. The money will go to waste if they can’t harvest it and while the banks may give hundreds of crores to someone who can leave the country, our farmers can’t get bank loans as easily. So they need the water. And they need it NOW.

But problems like these are the reason why we elect our government. You have to understand that the government now ruling my state wasn’t elected by us. The woman we elected has passed away and the current party is incapable of handling a situation even though the warning signs showed up three days ahead.

What so many have forgotten is, those elected or unelected officials sitting in ruling positions aren’t named Dhoni, Bravo, Billings or Jadeja. You are cricket players. You play for our country. You stay away from your family, or even worse, have them travel the world with you while you represent us. And during the IPL season, you come closer to home because you represent US. My city. My home. We have waited two years to see you back in the yellow jerseys. You did not deserve to be treated that way.

I can tell you a hundred other ways they could’ve handled this. They could’ve even showed up at the stadium with banners that held their protests while still cheering you on. They could’ve peacefully protested while letting you get on the bus and go to Chepauk with pride that CSK is back! As a marketer, I can think of a lot of things that they could’ve done instead.

But as a human being, I’m sorry.

I say ‘they’ because I hope you know, the man who threw a shoe at Jadeja doesn’t represent who this city is.

The people who tried to run behind your bus aren’t who we Chennai-ites are.

We’re warm. We welcome everyone from anywhere with open arms to create their homes here. We’re the city that rolls up their pants and says, “Let’s make our home liveable again,” when disaster strikes. We’re loving to a fault.

And I’m sure you know this, but I hope the 10th of April hasn’t taken away the memories we, you and my city, have created together for years. Thank you for still winning that match and not letting the hooligans get to you.

The people who rallied against you don’t represent us. I can tell you who they represent but what’s the point?!

I don’t know how you feel about the matches being moved to Pune. I feel bittersweet. You deserved a better homecoming. I’m sorry we couldn’t give it to you. I’m happy they can’t use you for their political gains anymore.

I hope you still want to come back next year. I hope when you think of us, you think of the ones who got so excited for you to be back. The ones with IPL schedules written in yellow stuck to the back of their closet doors. The ones who showed up to that stadium, knowing they could be hit at any given moment because they wanted to show you their support.

I hope, when you think of us, you remember the Chennai that loves you.

Because we do.

I Don’t Believe In Women’s Day

Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 12.13.41 PM.pngI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

If you’ve wished me, I’ll wish you back because you believe in it and I won’t ruin it for you. But I will not buy into the facade that you’ve dedicated an entire day for me when the remaining 364 days of the year, I have to walk around afraid of what label you’re about to give me.

“Celebrating women, their beauty and their strength!” – Forward message of the day. Really?! How? How are you celebrating our beauty and our strength? By whistling at us? By winking at us? By grabbing us? By making kissing faces at us as we walk to our car in broad daylight with our father less than two feet away? By telling us children aren’t a choice? By judging us for not being married? By labelling us for dating? By relating the respect we deserve to the number of times our vagina has been touched?

You’re right. Not all men do this. But almost all women go through it. So good for you that you’re not all bad. But there’s enough of you to ensure we’re ALL suffering from the perverseness and your belief that you have the right to choose for me.

To choose my career – when it begins, when it ends, how far I go, how much money I make,
To choose my marriage – who I marry, when I marry, how big my wedding is, how long the wedding lasts,
To choose my role as a parent – if I can be a working mom, if I can be a full-time mom, if I can be the only parent who gives a fuck and changes diapers, IF I WANT TO BE A MOM,
To choose what I want done to my body – if I want to get tattoos on it, if I want piercings on it, if I want you to touch it, if I want you to admire it, if I want you to take pictures of it, if I want you to fuck it,

You believe you have the right to choose it all for me.

So where, in all of this, are you celebrating me?

From the moment I wake up until I fall asleep, I have to watch what I eat, how I look, how I smell, how I laugh, how I stand, how I sit – because you can’t keep your eyes, your hands, your words, your thoughts and your penis to yourself.

But hey! I have a day to celebrate me!

And it’s not just the men. Women label each other, too. Sometimes, we can be the worst kind of hypocrites. She’d show up at her house past midnight every night but, “Hey! Did you know that other girl’s out late every night? Someone’s a little slut!”

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a woman bitch about another, I’d be buying myself that Rolex right now.

Because having the latest gossip gives you street-cred. Knowing who is currently sleeping with whom makes you the talk-of-the-town. Because sometimes, the only way to get attention for yourself is to focus on someone else’s life.

The truth may be a hard pill to swallow. But if you can’t relate to the above, you’re probably the one doing it.

I mean, it’s so nice to sit at your favourite restaurant on a pleasant day with your best friend, updating each other on your other friends’ lives, isn’t it? “Oh she gained so much weight,” comes so naturally. That’s not bitching. That’s updating. Right?

But is it?

Remind yourselves of your conversations with this person. Have you ever mocked someone? Have you ever talked ill about someone?

Newsflash: If you’re an adult, chances are your best friend has another best friend and if she’s bitching about her to you, she’s bitching about you to her. Doesn’t feel good, does it? To know that you’re being spoken about? Yeah, I thought so.

It’s the year 2018. I’m a 25-year-old afraid to speak her mind, afraid to wear what I want, afraid to hold my boyfriend’s hand in public, afraid to show up home late, afraid to post pictures of alcohol, afraid to walk outside once it’s dark, afraid to scream at that asshole driver and afraid to live my life without watching every little thing I do. Because I’m not just afraid of the men and their minds and their hands.

I’m afraid of both the genders. Because being violated physically is horrifying but that doesn’t mean gossiping about me and saying mean things behind my back while calling yourself a friend to my face is great.

You feel like celebrating Women’s Day?

Then do it the right way.

Teach your children (and yourself, if necessary) the freedom of choice. Not the freedom for you to choose for me. But MY freedom for ME to make MY OWN CHOICES.

For something as simple as being able to wear my favourite pair of shorts without having to worry about what man is looking, what man’s going to corner me on the street, what he’s going to say, what face he’s going to make or if he’s going to come touch me against my wishes. And without having to wonder if at that moment you’re looking at me and smiling, you’re also texting your other best friend – fat-shaming, name-calling and mocking me.

Until then, I’m calling this day what it is…

A SHAM.

Memories

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Who do you remember when you think of me?

Do you remember the girl who laughed with her head thrown back? The one who looked at you from the space between her fingers as she covered her blushing face? The one who pressed her nose to yours and scrunched her forehead?

Do you remember the girl who couldn’t share food? The one who needs that extra spoon of sugar? The one who can never eat enough?

Do you remember the girl who’d hug you at random? The one who’d hold your hand until the door opened? The one whose face lit up when you walked in?

Do you remember the girl insanely in love with you? Or the mess, sitting on the floor, head between my knees, sobbing uncontrollably?

Do you remember me at all?

Because I remember you.

When we talk about coffee, I remember your jokes about decaf.

When someone says movies, I remember the ones we watched.

When I pick up my first book, I remember your words.

When “Spiderman” plays on TV, I remember that little boy you healed.

When I read the word love, I remember how you said it to me.

How you showed it to me. Every minute of every day. And I smile wide. Until suddenly, I don’t.

Because I remember when you stopped.

I remember when your hand made my face hurt, not happy.

I remember when your words brought pain, not peace.

I remember when I was afraid of you, not in awe.

And I remember when we became you and me.

It all comes flooding to me. Like it was only yesterday. Like you have just walked away.

And I have to remind myself that in the end, I’m okay.

That I have no reason to cry.

That the pain need not exist anymore.

But that’s the problem with all the things we wish we’d forget.

Their reality hurt once.

Their memories haunt forever.

 

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Inspired by Kavipriya Moorthy’s “How do I look like in your memories?”