Skeletons in the closet

We all have our demons that we battle with, every single day. This battle takes away a fair share of energy and mental peace. We live in times where it seems everyone is at unrest. Everyone is struggling with too many things humanely possible to handle. But somehow we do. Every single day.

I have been dealing with anxiety since I was a kid, been taking medication for almost 8 years now. I was also recently diagnosed with Borderline personality disorder – an illness that is debilitating and draining at the same time. Needless to say, I live with a lot of weight on my chest every single day. This weight doesn’t just come from my illness and anxiety though – it comes from certain bad decisions that have stayed with me like ghosts under my pillow. Their shadow follows me around everywhere, never letting me forget the error of my ways.

Certain situations become so messy and complicated that they render your ability to differentiate between right and wrong completely useless. You feel numb, almost like an inanimate item being flung around without truly understanding what’s happening. It’s only once the dust settles that you realize what the storm destroyed in it’s wake. What can you do then? Besides looking around and lamenting at the fact that things went wrong? How do you undo a bad decision?

This is very hard to write about, but I need to start acknowledging what has happened so that I can find ways to overcome it. Also because – hiding and living under a rock does no good when you’re trying to deal with the ramifications of something. It’s best to face your fears, actions (good or bad), feelings and thoughts head on. Fearing them will only make the burden worse.

It’s hard living with this burden. After years of mulling over it and thinking about what to do, I finally decided to do something to undo that bad decision. Will it work? I don’t know. I am not sure. But I will go to bed every night knowing that I tried to retrace my steps and fix it. If there is a silver lining, it it this – I don’t stop fighting for the right thing until the right thing is done. It has been long overdue. If I want to shed some of the weight off my chest, I will have to make sure the right thing is done.

I will keep trying.

The problem with Kabir Singh (and it’s director)

Kabir singh

Kabir Singh has become a smashing success, owing to it’s insecure and misogynistic massive fans. People who derive great pleasure from watching a man toy with a woman like she is an object, and direct her life as per his wishes. What’s more, to watch the same woman actually dance to his tunes happily and then call it love, was the cherry on the cake. According to the director of the film, that’s true and passionate lowwee. Because afterall, if you cannot touch your woman wherever you want, slap each other casually – then is there something even there?

Any mentally healthy person will advise this guy to go get some help, and get his ideas about love straight. But then I went onto twitter and youtube and read some of the most vile comments I have read in my entire life. I realized then that this country is full of people like him, and actually consider this heroism and bravery.

What exactly is so wrong with Kabir Singh and Arjun Reddy? First of all, let me make one thing clear – there is absolutely nothing wrong with the portrayal of flawed characters. In fact it makes for a much more interesting viewing. What IS wrong though, is the validation and glorification of such characters. To depict these characters through the template of a “hero”, is a problem. When people clap at his assholery, bad decisions, wrong choices and horrible behavior – it IS a problem. And most people will take away validation from the film – not the fact that he is a flawed character whose traits are not to be emulated.

There are a few arguments in support of the film saying – What about films like Wolf of the wall street? There, too, the protagonist was an asshole and got away with his wrongdoings with minimal punishment. Well, quite honestly, I don’t know about others – but the way the film had been made, it made me absolutely hate the character. I didn’t think the gaze of the film glorified him or his actions. The film itself was good, but the character was deplorable and the film made sure he was hated, because that’s what he deserved. Most of the people who watched Kabir Singh absolutely loved his character and felt he was “ballsy”, “honest” and “brave”. In fact it’s the feminists who are now being abused and trolled (yet again) for having issues with the film. Not a single supporter of the film has a problem with the character of Kabir Singh. So how is it not problematic when a sexist, sadistic and mentally unhinged character is worshiped?

Another argument in favor of the film is – so what if Kabir slapped Preeti? Preeti slapped him a couple of times too! Well let me say this loud and clear – they’re BOTH wrong. Nobody in a relationship has the right to abuse the other. Even when you’re in an intimate relationship, there is a certain boundary that needs to be respected.

When I started watching this interview, I couldn’t watch it for more than 5 minutes. Seriously, what is this man on? This is an unhinged guy who casually justifies domestic violence and physical abuse and calls it “love”. This is a guy who has absolutely no regard for any critique of his work and calls everyone who has a different opinion than his own, ‘psuedo’. He body-shames people and attacks them personally simply because they didn’t like his film. I don’t think he even thinks that Kabir Singh is a flawed character – as per his ideas, he is the personification of the purest form of love! These are the kind of people who are going to make mainstream films now?

I don’t say such films or such characters should be depicted on-screen. That’s the whole point of freedom of expression – to be able to express one’s ideas without censorship. But I do think that glorification of such toxic masculinity is a problem, especially since Indian audiences are so impressionable. If there were ever a society that had difficulties in differentiating between cinema and reality, it would be ours. We are so heavily influenced by what we watch onscreen. We believe the character IS the actor and vice versa. If Kabir Singh hadn’t been depicted as the hero, or if he didn’t end up with the girl in the end, or if he actually faced the consequences of his actions in the end – it wouldn’t be such a bad film. The film essentially gave him the clean chit for everything he did PLUS a happily ever after too.

P.S – Is it true that this kind of toxic masculinity and warped sense of romance is commonplace in the south Indian film industry? Perhaps that is why Arjun Reddy wasn’t met with so much criticism? However I do remember watching OK Kanmani in 2015 and thinking that Bollywood has a long way to go!

What is Contemporary Dance?

..Honestly, it sounds like a fairly simple question. We have watched and experienced contemporary dance enough times to form a visual of it. It is loosely used all around us and has been given a rather permanent face thanks to the reality shows – jumps, tricks, turns, pointed feet and sorrow. The moment a sad/romantic song comes on, you know its going to be contemporary dance. But what exactly is the form about?

The Green Table - C

(The Green Table: Kurt Jooss)

It developed during the mid to late 20th century as a natural evolution of modern dance and the need to incorporate elements from different dance styles across the world. Because it employs aspects of technique from jazz, modern and ballet – it is often seen as being limited to only that. However, contemporary is not actually a fixed or structured form of dance, its boundaries are far reaching and malleable. It allows current influences and cultural developments to become a part of it’s expression. Its doors are open to the influence of all dance styles across the world.

People often confuse modern dance with contemporary. Afterall, both advocate that the origin of movement should be organic and real, and less about aesthetic quality or showcasing of technical prowess (like ballet). The difference between the two lies in the history. Modern dance originated in the early 1900s with Isadora Duncan, who wanted to rebel against the strict structures and irrelevance of ballet. Other iconic figures like Martha Graham joined in with their fierce stand against the form and fueled their performances with raw energy and passion. Over the years, modern dance grew as more and more dancers subscribed to the freedom it offered.

Modern dance, however, is an amalgamation of different schools of choreography and style, each with it’s own set of principles. Graham, Cunningham, Dunham, Horton etc – all developed their own unique style. Contemporary dance, while owing it’s roots to modern dance, isn’t really that definitive. In my opinion, ‘contemporary’ isn’t really a dance style but rather a never-ending wave of evolution and transformation that allows dance to change, grow and remain relevant.

This doesn’t, ofcourse, mean that any dance form can be termed as contemporary. One cannot mix hip hop with salsa and call it contemporary. As mentioned before, it does owe its roots to ballet and modern. Certain concepts like contact-release, floor work, fall-recovery and improvisation are employed by contemporary dancers all over the world. Lets just say it may not be definitive, but it does have a frame of reference.

It is still new in the Indian conscience, and not surprisingly, most people are confused about what it means. We have come to associate it with something like this:

While this is entertaining to watch and can be considered a part of contemporary dance, that is not just what it is. We have come to associate contemporary with tricks and flexibility, which is closer to gymnastics than the dance form. Thanks to it’s imperfect and elastic nature, contemporary dance is a sponge for the current happenings, cultural and political developments and social changes. It reflects the state of the “now”. Basically, it is a very relevant form of dance.

In the end, though, the beauty of contemporary dance lies in the freedom it offers to each individual to be interpreted differently. Every contemporary dancer has a different definition and experience of the dance form, and best part is that not a single one of them is wrong.

 

Choreographic fables

My very first creation as a choreographer was titled “Earthworm”. I am not sure why I decided to call it that – maybe I was just trying to stand out. But it was the first name that popped up in my head. Earthworm is the only choreography through which I have not tried to say anything in particular. It is simply a collection of movements and arrangement of movements that I found fascinating. At that time, I was deeply inspired by Ohad Naharin’s “Virus” and his choice of music. I considered that piece as my bible for the project and asked all my dancers to watch it repeatedly.

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I was also influenced a lot by Sharon Eyal’s “Killer pig” and her use of canon, repetition and different directions to create an impact. Her movements were small, subtle and very powerful. We had learnt a part of her repertoire when I was in Italy in 2015 and Killer Pig was one of them. I don’t ever remember being so confused in a dance class before. Even though the movement wasn’t very difficult, their arrangement was. The combination was so primitive and internalized, and it was repeated by the dancers many times throughout the choreography. Every time I start to get too overwhelmed by the process of choreography, I watch this piece and remind myself to keep it simple. It works best.

I tried to incorporate tools such as repetition and reverse as an experiment. At that time I was unsure of what would work. I also didn’t give much thought to the message that I was trying to put across. Later during one of the performances, I was asked – “What were you trying to say?” and I honestly didn’t know what to say. Now, I feel like the piece was just a physical representation of the chaos that exists within my head.

As a choreographer, I like to approach my pieces with a lot of clarity. I know what I want from A-Z. If I start with an open ended approach, I often get confused and am left feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of ideas. Improvisation, though a widely used method to create movement, has never really yielded good ideas for me. At least so far, movement comes to me first as a thought and then gets translated physically. Perhaps this approach comes from me being a control freak, but it has worked for me so far. I once tried to initiate a piece without any clarity; I led the dancers into a space of structured improvisation to see if it generated some fitting ideas. There were some workable things that came out of it but mostly I discarded it all.

Choreography is a strange process. It simply cannot be forced. There are people who say creativity is a craft and becomes better with practice. While I agree with the argument, I also think that it applies more to the process of movement creation rather than the ‘getting the idea’ bit. That still is a mystery. Sometimes an idea is so explosive that you just know what needs to be done in order to materialize it, and sometimes it is just a feeling that needs to be explored as much as possible. There is one, fixed way to approach it. There is no one way that works for everyone or even all ideas. For me, it seems like I am constantly inventing and re-inventing my methods.

As a choreographer, I will always be a learner.

Feeling roadblocked as an artist?

Lately, I’ve been feeling extremely frustrated and upset. But it isn’t a feeling I am not familiar with. As an artist, I have gone through this phase many times. It never gets easier or better though, and I always end up throwing a tantrum and shedding tears while slumped against the bathroom wall.

I feel roadblocked when, despite having ideas, I cannot find a way to materialize them. I  think about my idea, write about it, talk about it, dream about it – but I can’t make it a reality because there are so many variables that I can’t control. It’s extremely frustrating when you can see your destination, but cannot find the means to wade through the blockages along the path. I struggle with finding the right dancers, fixing a suitable schedule, making sure I have all the equipment for the final product etc. But most of all, I struggle with finding an audience for my work. I simply don’t know where to take my work.

When I get an idea for a project, it’s like a freshly lit fire. The more I dwell on it, the bigger it becomes. My reason for investing all my creative energies in this idea is simple: I am passionate about it and I want to see it materialize. But unfortunately, that alone is not enough for an artist to survive. We need an audience to subscribe to our work and consequently some remuneration. What does an artist do when he/she don’t get that? They quit.

Most of us have come close enough to the point of tipping over before mustering the will power to take a step back. But there’s no denying that it gets tough more often than not. I’ve seen a lot of artists trying to juggle their full-time job and passion, hoping to find a break through in the latter so that they can quit their jobs. But that never really happens. In the times we live in, financial security is an unavoidable need. Our country, unfortunately, cannot provide artists that security. Artists fizzle out without reaching their maximum potential because there is not enough infrastructure, opportunities and revenue to support them. We have reached a stage where artists are doing work for free, just to keep themselves alive in the industry. I don’t think it is possible for us to see a worse time than this for our community. The performing arts are dying.

Performing arts in our country are mostly supported by the Ministry of Culture, that has set up various bodies across the country to support the arts: The sangeet natak academy, Indian council for cultural relations and seven zonal cultural centers to support the arts in their respective zones. But most of their funds go in the upkeep of the existing state infrastructure, which hardly leaves any funds for the promotion and welfare of artists. Their grants and schemes offer meager amounts and are hardly enough to sustain an artist for a few days, leave alone an entire month. As a matter of fact, the Ministry of culture does not even utilize 100% of it’s allocated budget because of it’s refusal to modernize it’s procedures and become more accessible to newer, upcoming artists.

Other avenues such as private corporations, do not feel the need to include promotion of the arts in their CSR programs because of it’s low ROI. Given that the audience for performing arts is shrinking, they have an even lesser incentive to invest in them. Most of the private bigwigs are moving towards cinema because of it’s massive outreach and profits. Even when they do fund festivals, they promote performances by well-known artists to attract audiences and media attention. I personally have gone through a similar experience where my dancers and I went all the way to Bombay to put up our piece – “Earthworm”, with a lot of hopes and expectations. However, the limelight was hogged by a famous performer who was specially called in to give a concluding performance. We ended up being just one of a 15 odd performers on the list. The show belonged to someone else.

There are bilateral agencies, funded by foreign governments and private funds, such as the British council, Goethe institute, Swedish council etc that are slowly gaining momentum across the performing arts landscape. They support and promote cross-cultural exchange of artists, ideas and performances. Some of them even support performances within India, but their outreach is extremely limited and hence their support is availed only by a select few individuals or organizations. The Gati dance forum is one such example of an organization supported by these agencies. Foundations such as Tata trusts have been offering support to the performing arts for the last 15 years, but they too, hardly have any visibility and only a select few artists are even aware that they exist.

Overall, I probably know more about some random app, which is of no use to me that recently released on google play store, than I know about these agencies, trusts and foundations that offer grants for performance making and sharing. Unless one sits down to dig information out of their websites, no one really knows they exist. There is not a single database that covers all the grant providing schemes and/or sponsors in our country, so that an artist can conveniently apply for one. 

Why don’t these agencies, trusts and foundations make themselves well-known and accessible to artists? Why are they repeatedly supporting the same artists/organizations (tata trust has been funding attakkalari for 15 years)? Why is an effort not being made on their part to market their presence more so that more and more upcoming artists can realize their potential?

We have arrived at dismal junction in the history of performing arts in our country where artists have started to refer to themselves as being a part of the “entertainment industry”. Well trained dancers are turning towards ad shoots, corporate shows, weddings and school performances to earn their livelihood. These are platforms where they’re treated like expendable commodities and are not compensated fairly. Nothing is streamlined or well-regulated in the industry, which leads to a lot of abuse and exploitation. Due to lack of work and money, artists don’t bother to follow professional channels of communication and go along with verbal word, which leads people to not take them seriously.

Most of the artists are freelancers as there is hardly any company that can afford to have artists on regular payroll. They survive on a project-to-project basis and more often than not undervalue themselves. There is no body that regulates and ensures the welfare of these freelancers. There is no where they can go in case of exploitation. Subscribers of bollywood dance are increasing both domestically and internationally, leaving no room for other forms like Indian classical, ballet, contemporary and folk. Even ICCR is now sponsoring bollywood extravaganzas to be performed overseas. Experimental artists who want to work on new and original ideas are practically abandoned. Their ideas won’t sell without commercialization.

As I said before, I don’t think the performing arts industry and specifically dance can see a greater low than this. People with new and original ideas are slowly diminishing, and no one cares.

Research: http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/ey-creative-arts-in-india/$FILE/ey-creative-arts-in-india.pdf

Dear Indian Parents, why so entitled?

Now this is something I feel I need to talk about, especially in the context of our society. I haven’t written in a while and my writing skill has become quite rusty, but I have been feeling extremely confused, hurt and misguided lately and I needed to vent. So, coming to the question I am trying to pose – Dear Indian parents, why are you so entitled? Why do you think that you are entitled to your kid’s love, respect, obedience, compliance and support? Why do you think that your kid, in some way, is obligated to make you happy?

Because you went through pain to have them? Because you invested time, money, emotions and energy into raising them? Because you made sacrifices and compromises? Because you fought with others to keep them happy and safe? Because you put their well-being above your own? So now that they’re a little grown up and have a mind of their own, you expect something in return for everything you did? Wait. Was this arrangement supposed to work in this investment-ROI like fashion? Why wasn’t I told?

Before addressing the core issue here (which is extremely unhealthy and screwed up) I would like to pose another question – Why do people decide to have kids? Is it because you are already in a happy place in life, and feel emotionally, mentally and financially secure and strong enough to be able to share love with another human being without expecting anything in return or is it because you’re extremely unhappy with your life and feel that a kid will make it better? or because you’re lonely? or because you’re too bored in life and want a ‘project’ to work on? or because you can’t stand your spouse and want a reason to stay in the marriage? or because you are concerned about your old-age? or because you want someone else to fulfill your incomplete dreams? or because you want to fill a void in your life?

What is it?

I truly feel that people don’t decide to become ‘parents’ for the right reasons, especially in our country. Even if we exclude the people who are pressurized into having a child, the remaining percentage don’t have very healthy reasons either. That is where the dysfunction begins and keeps spiraling out of control. If you decide to have kids for any reason other than unconditionally sharing love and raising a healthy human being who will be (and should be) independent enough to make his/her own choices, then you my friend, have a problem. You are invariably going to download all your problems, issues and sorrows onto your kid and expect him/her to somehow a) either give you a solution or b) be the solution.

There are so many parents who tell themselves – we will not end up being like our parents. Well, bullshit. You are your parents plus more issues. It is so difficult to dissociate ourselves from our parents’ identity and personality in our culture – it takes a lot of awareness and almost an entire lifetime’s work to achieve that. Why? Because most of us are brought up within enmeshed relationships. Boundaries? What are those? Our parents have a right to know and interfere in everything. Free will? What’s that? I can only go out with friends that my parents like and marry the love of my life as long as my parents approve. Questioning parents’ decisions, opinions and beliefs? Prepare for a crash landing, kids. That’s never going to fly.

We’re never taught to be individuals with our own separate set of beliefs, opinions and principles. We’re always an extension of our parents. Any form of disagreement is seen as disrespect. (Because ‘respect’ is gulping down your opinion and putting your parents’ happiness above your own) Respect is a concept that only works one way, because parents will never respect our choices and decisions. And if those choices fall way beyond their radar of “what’s ok” – then you’re officially a rotten kid and have given them so much pain you should die in a pool of guilt. In short, the term ‘Indian parents’ should officially be synonymous with ‘insecure’. They’re so insecure about themselves that they cannot stand their kid being too different, or else – a question is raised on everything they did based on their belief system so far in their life, and they cannot be in that uncomfortable position of accepting that they might have been wrong at some point. (The horror)

You see, part of being a secure and mature human being is the ability to empathize and accept your mistakes when you make them (everyone does). In my understanding, Indian parents are neither. But the blame isn’t just theirs, it’s a dysfunction that has been passed down generations.

Coming to the core issue – if you think your kids owe you anything in return for your love and care, then you have issues that need to be dealt with before assuming that you deserve to be parents. Love, respect and care are mutual emotions that should be given unconditionally without expecting anything in return. If you are going to guilt trip your kids about your sacrifices and financial investments – Don’t be a parent. If you’re going to use the victim card to get what you want – Don’t be a parent. If you’re going to expect your kid to support you emotionally – Don’t be a parent. If you’re going to shove your beliefs and opinions down his/her throat – Don’t be a parent. If you have a problem accepting your kid as a separate individual who will have different opinions – Don’t be a parent. If you cannot accept the fact that your kid will not always agree with you – Don’t be a parent. When you bring a child into this world, he/she needs you and depends on you for physical, mental and emotional well being and continues to need you until he/she becomes an adult. You do not, and should not, need or depend upon your kid for any of those.

You don’t have the emotional bandwidth or maturity to be a parent. Please deal with your issues first. Also, if you do your parenting right – your kid will shower you with unconditional love and support, without you having to ask for it. A child’s first impression of the world is his/her parents. If you have truly loved your child without emotionally fucking him/her up – he/she will always stand with you and before you. Try it.

A kid’s love is a precious gift. It’s not your right. You chose to have a child and bring another human being into this world. If you’re putting your best foot forward to take care of him/her, it’s not a favor or a debt the kid has to repay later. If you have problems, they’re your responsibility, not your kids’. In US, if you put undue pressure on your kids or raise them in unhealthy households, the social security services will come and take your kid away. They have an accountability system in place. Raise your kid in a healthy environment or lose your right to be parents. Unfortunately in India, just having given birth to a child is enough criteria to qualify to be a parent. You can do whatever the fuck you want with that child. Because maa ke charnon mein swarg hota hai.

If a kid is being abused emotionally and physically in a house, there is absolutely nowhere he/she can go to seek safety and protection. We just have to wing it. And the number of kids being raised in abusive and unhealthy homes in our country is shocking. What is even more shocking is that most of them don’t even know they’re being abused.

I may not be a human child’s parent, but I am a pet parent to a wonderful and amazing dog called Brownie, who I adopted out of my own free will. It is my responsibility to make sure that she receives care, love and a safe environment. I didn’t do it because I wanted a watch dog or because I was lonely. I did it because her being there truly made me happy. Sometimes I have to put up with messy situations, she poops and pees anywhere, she tears everything apart, she whines for no reason and doesn’t listen to a single command, she demands too much attention, interrupts work and hardly shows any affection in return – I get annoyed sometimes. But I have to remind myself that I signed up for this. If I wanted a picture perfect dog who would sit when I asked her to sit, stand when I asked her to stand, mingled only with the dogs I liked and showed affection to me all the time – I would just sit and watch Scooby Doo on TV.

Even after 4 or 5 years, if I give her too much stress or take away her sense of safety, she will either show me aggression (biting) or simply run away, and I wouldn’t be able to do a single thing. She felt threatened and left to preserve herself. Is she obligated to stick with me despite the stress and abuse, just because I took care of her for so long?

NO.

I am just glad that I have a dog who will bite me if I cross her boundaries, as compared to a human child who will continue to suffer in silence thinking it’s okay just because I’m a parent. Nothing scares me more.

 

Chapter: New

Adjusting in Singapore hasn’t been as much of a hassle as adjusting in Europe was. Indians do occupy 9.2% of the population after all.  We have an entire community called “Little India” dedicated to us. If being in a foreign land ever bugged us we could just catch a bus and go there to be […]

Choices

The power of choice is not given enough significance in our country. People attribute their predicament to almost any factor except the one that matters most – they chose to be where they are. It’s a difficult concept to grasp, but everyone always has a choice. People like to look at themselves as victims in a lot of situations to escape the burden of that fact. Saying “I had no choice” is a defense mechanism we all use to make ourselves survive the night. Coming to terms with the gravity of the fact that no one is to blame for who, where or what we are besides ourselves can be overwhelming.

I have come across different sections of people constantly using the “I had no choice” card in our country – specifically middle aged women who are disappointed with everyone and everything in their lives. They’re miserable and blame people around them for their misery. I don’t know how many times I have heard someone from my family say “I couldn’t leave him. I had no choice”, “I couldn’t continue with my job. I had no choice”, “I couldn’t follow my dream. I had no choice”, “I couldn’t take a stand for the right thing. I had no choice”…and on and on and on. They paint such a sad picture that even Nargis from Mother India would watch their lives in awe. Hearing their tales of sorrow makes me feel sympathetic for a while, even pitiful. But my sympathy and pity only extend so far. Letting things happen without taking control of your own life is nobody’s fault except your own. You chose to be powerless. Period.

The other side of the coin is the never ending blame game and guilt tripping. They blame their husbands, in-laws, children, relatives and even neighbors for the smallest of their problems. Had to quit working? Husband’s fault. Had to be submissive? In-law’s fault. Had to work like a slave in the house? Children’s fault. Your child is more interested in movies than studies? Relative’s influence. There are mosquitoes in the house? The neighbors probably didn’t drain the water from their cooler. They’re simply the helpless victims who are at the epicenter of everything evil. What is unfortunate is that their children perceive them as victims and grow up believing that everyone around has wronged his/her mother in some way. They tend to develop a very skewed idea of what’s “good” and what’s “bad”.  The absolute worst is when their mothers use that perception to guilt trip them all the time. Ever heard the following lines?

“I did so much for you. Is this how you repay me?”

“I went through so much pain to raise you. All those sacrifices. For this day?”

“I work like a slave every single day, just to provide you a good life. What do you do for me?”

“You will take care of me when I’m old, right? I have no one other than you”

Etc. Etc. If your child is your investment – you’re doing something wrong. If you’re child is your emotional punching bag – you’re doing something wrong. If you think your child is obligated to do things to make your life better – you’re doing something wrong. If you think your child is not doing enough things to make you happy – you’re doing something wrong.

It was not your child’s decision to be born into your family. It was yours.

Which is not to say that men don’t act the victims or don’t play the helpless card. I have come across my fair share of men constantly cribbing about how destiny has failed them at every account. How they had to do what their parents demanded of them and how they had to marry a girl of their parents’ choice. These sad, miserable men then dump all their unfulfilled wishes on their children and then start the blame game all over again. It’s quite the vicious wheel that can keep on spinning for generations if we don’t stop and see what we’re doing. Are we parenting or are we just finding ways to channel leftover resentment through kids who had nothing to do with it?

What I’ve also seen is how people tend to fall apart when it comes to making a choice. They may appear strong and decisive through words, but when push comes to shove and they actually have to choose between X and Y – their whole graph crumbles. Life is a journey that is full of difficult choices. We can try to dodge such crossroads all we want but they will keep coming back unless we make a decision. We can take a longer route to buy time, or try to find an easier way out; but it never really works. Passion or money? Relationships or career? Kids or no kids? To fight for what you believe in or settle for a comfortable life? To voice your opinion or swallow it to avoid hurting someone close? To be honest and get hurt or lie and be safe? To do what’s right and stand alone or to do what’s easy and stand in the crowd?

It’s not easy making a decision. We may talk all we want about what we would do if we were faced with a situation hypothetically – but honestly we don’t know how we will react until it hits us in the face. You don’t know how you’re going to dance unless the music comes on. But you do have to dance; their is no avoiding that. Unfortunately  most people leave the dance floor despite having made tall promises about their ability to be courageous.

In the end, there are two universal truths: 1) You’re always looking for ways to sleep better at night. 2) You always have a choice. Make it.

When love conquers all

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This only happens in Bollywood films, when the hero takes the heroine and elopes away into the sunset and they live happily ever after. When the hero fights with the entire world for his lady love and protects her like a shield from all the evil in the world. When they sacrifice everything for love and set a legendary example. We have all grown up watching those films. We even have those typical aashiqs slashing their wrists and writing names of girls on their arms with blood. Yes, it all seems very attractive. It ‘sounds’ cool, doesn’t it?

Reality is different though. There are no knight in shining armors. There are no lovers who would actually follow each other to the edge of the world. There are no men who would fight with all the enemies to be with their women, and no women who would break every other relationship just to maintain one. Love in reality is very calculated, safe and convenient. Couples fall apart at the drop of a hat. Relationships don’t sustain beyond the first sign of resistance. “I love you” is a very absolute statement. It doesn’t really leave any room for doubts or second thoughts. It’s isn’t subject to terms and conditions. It’s a commitment that should be fulfilled with life, if need be. You don’t measure pros and cons after that. You don’t think about society, family or money. You don’t think about consequences. All you know is that you would do anything to be with the person you love. Everything else is just a blur.

But maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m just not familiar with the term ‘duniyadaari’ that we Indians so dearly love to use for all our fuckups. Maybe it’s because I see the world in the shades of white and black and nothing in-between. Maybe it’s because concepts like ‘khandaan’, ‘money’ and ‘society’ make me laugh when they’re used as excuses to not fulfill commitments. I’m just not in tune with the very many factors that come into play after the three words are uttered. Thankfully, I’m not.

I used to think that I’m the only one. But then something happened that made me believe that maybe there still are some people who would go the distance. Despite everything they had to face, despite all the hurdles, despite all the pain, suffering and torture – they made it through and saved their love at all costs. Their story is classic bollywood. Girl and boy meet. Become friends. Fall in love and decide to be with each other forever. But the girl’s parents resist and make their lives a living hell.

Starting with a temporary house arrest, the girl’s parents do everything they can (and more) in their power to separate the two – they snatch away her mobile, stalk her social media, don’t let her leave the house alone, follow her around like hawks and manipulate her day and night to leave the boy. They forbid her to meet him for 3 months to prove that their love is true. They cut her off from the rest of the world completely. They take away her ID proofs and her financial means. She only has a 100 rupee note in her bag at any given point of time, because as per her parents’ calculations that’s all she needs to pay for the auto.

The boy faces his fare share of shit – her parents tap his phone, have a police officer investigate his background, get in touch with people at his workplace, his friends and even his ex-partners. They threaten him time and again to stay away from their daughter. But when both refuse to budge, they bring the 3-month condition into play as a hogwash – to make them believe that they are ‘in the process’ of accepting their relationship. Because the couple is desperate to convince her parents, they agree (By all means, the “we need time” tactic is only used to buy time to manipulate and blackmail more)

3 months go by. 4 months go by. 5 months go by. They meet him once or twice, and by all means – only as an excuse to humiliate and insult him. They ask for his bank statements, his salary proofs, his hometown address, his educational certificates and grill him at length about his financial decisions. They consistently make him feel inferior but he takes it, only and only because of the girl. After all the interviewing, investigating, blackmail and manipulation – nothing changes. Her parents still don’t approve of him and she still isn’t allowed to meet him. One fine day, after a period of 6 months, something happens and all hell breaks loose. The girl’s father beats her up badly in front of the rest of the family and even relatives. He calls up the boy and spews a handful of hindi abuses at him. He threatens to screw up his entire life. He completely confines the girl in a room and doesn’t let her leave. Her mother and brother side with the father too.

It is then that the couple decide that enough is enough. They decide to elope and marry. They go to extreme lengths to make that happen. They would have to shift to a different city, so the boy quits his job and starts making arrangements for travel and marriage. The girl prepares herself to leave her family behind and build a new life. Once every single detail is taken care of – the tickets are bought, the lawyer is hired, the mandir and pandit are ready – they take the plunge.

The girl runs away from her house and takes her flight to freedom. They take the plunge knowing that the consequences can be dangerous. Her parents can have him beaten up, they can file a case of kidnapping, they can have his house vandalized, they can insult his parents and family, they can ruin his professional future – these are scary possibilities. But they still go ahead and risk them all. They know that togetherness will be worth all this and more. On the day of 2nd June, they marry in an Arya Samaaj mandir. The happiness on their faces is hard to forget. All their faces said at that point of time was – “Finally”. It took me all my courage to not weep in that moment.

It takes an incredible amount of faith and trust to stick to your partner through thick and thin. An episode like this could have torn them apart; it would have torn anyone apart. Leaving your life behind for a new life is never easy, especially more when there are so many risks involved and when you have less than a month to plan it all. All your future plans and dreams go for a toss. You spend years building a life in a place and then suddenly have to throw it in the fire and you do it happily, when you could easily have broken your commitment and stuck with your comfortable life. It would have been easier for both to simply bid adieu to each other and continue living their respective lives. The girl in question was a good friend of mine and I know how many plans she had in regard to her career in this city. But she didn’t think twice about that.

Why? Because plans can be remade and jobs can be changed, money can be earned again and houses can be rebuilt – but strong relationships cannot be rebuilt or found again. You have one moment to either hold on or let go, and that moment decides it all.

They are now happily married and figuring out their lives. No jobs, limited money and less time. Financial burdens, emotional pain and the trauma of leaving parents behind – everything must seem so small now. Togetherness conquers all. Love conquers all.

Some people are lucky to have found such partners. Others have to be happy with simply witnessing and writing about such miracles.