Love vs Career

I feel a little small writing this at a time like this, when our country is slowly being set on fire by fascist forces. But nothing I write will ever do justice to the suffering and pain being inflicted upon scores of people in Delhi. Honestly speaking, this was a volcano waiting to erupt the moment BJP came into power. This is what they wanted. This is what their entire machinery was gearing towards..

Coming to the topic at hand – Love vs Career; it seems to have become the most important and relevant question for our generation. What do you choose, when you are a crossroads such as this? What matters more?

But my question this – why should one have to choose only one? The truth is, neither of these choices alone can bring you complete fulfillment and happiness for a lifetime. If you choose love, and completely sideline your career, it will haunt you forever in the form of resentment. You may also feel like you didn’t achieve your highest potential and let go of the chance to do something great. Nobody wants to feel like that, especially if you derive a great part of your self-esteem from your career or ambition. Eventually a relationship in which one sacrificed his or her career completely, is going to tank. On the flip side, if you choose career over love, it will all feel pointless and hollow after a point, when you will have nobody to share your success with. Happiness is best experienced when you have someone who feels it with you, someone who understands you completely.

A lot of times, couples find themselves in situations where they find it impossible to balance the two. One may have gotten an opportunity to go abroad (or a different city) while the other may want to stay back or one may want to settle down while the other may still want time to build their career. There can be many examples. So what should one do? After years of torturing myself over this question, I came across the answer one fine day in my therapy session. It’s called finding ‘common ground’. Let me explain. The idea that all we go according to our plan in life is the biggest farce. The truth is, there are a lot of factors in life that are completely outside your control. I have learnt that the only two things you can truly control in life are your actions and your reactions. You can’t control the outcome.

My point is, the only time people think they have to make a hard choice between love and career, is when they want to stick to the plan they have made for themselves. No, I don’t say that having goals is pointless, all your goals are achievable. But, the journey may not be as you mapped it out to be. It can meander, change, take U-turns and even offer massive roadblocks. Which doesn’t mean you won’t get to your goal, it simply means you’ll find a different way. I am a massive control freak and like to plan everything in advance, so accepting this concept was like climbing Everest for me. A lot of this acceptance comes with letting go of the imaginary control we think we have over the outcomes of our decisions.

Coming back to the term ‘common ground’. Now I think a lot of us live our lives with the either-or theory. I surely did for the longest time. The thing is, no matter where you are in life, certain adjustments are inevitable. Happiness isn’t a magical island where you’ll arrive one fine day after all your hard work. It’s a choice that needs to be made every single day. To make that choice, you may need to sometimes put others’ needs above your own, sometimes your own. For example, it’s your loved one’s birthday, but it’s also an important day at work. So what do you do? Instead of sacrificing one for the other, you find an alternate solution – you call your loved one to your workplace so that you can be with each other while you work and then go out and celebrate his or her birthday.

In another situation, you may have got an opportunity to go abroad to study or work, but your partner either 1) wants to stay back or 2) still needs time to figure out an opportunity for themselves abroad. In the first situation, you can either figure out an equally lucrative opportunity in your homeland or discuss the feasibility of a long distance relationship. But while discussing that option, you must also know the end goal. A long distance relationship succeeds only when there is a plan to get back to each other in the end. If both agree to work towards that end, then it can work. (I, personally, do not subscribe to the idea of long distance relationships. But that’s just me) In the second situation, you can surely put your partner’s needs above your own and defer your admission or joining date until your partner, too, figures out an option. This way, you don’t sacrifice anything.

I firmly believe that relationships sustain only when you put in hard work. The moment we start taking relationships for granted, they slip away. If you think your relationship will work out on it’s own or your love will survive the distance no matter what, then you’re wrong. We need to prioritize work and relationships differently in different situations. You cannot put your career on the #1 spot for your entire life and expect your relationship to flourish, and vice versa. And quite honestly, there is no support system in life like a strong relationship. If you have a steady, honest and real relationship in your life, it will help you scale heights that you couldn’t have done alone. Your partner will become both your anchor and your wings.

Let’s not forget, it’s only when we’re happy and content in our personal lives, that we can find happiness and meaning in our professional lives.

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!

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.

 

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

2

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.

In another time, In another world

In another time, in another world. 

“I love you”

“I love you too”

“But I need time”

“Time for what?”

“To sort things out”

“But what if I need you now?”

Her eyes jerked open with sweat tingling on her forehead and upper lip. Her dreams usually held answers for everything, except this. A question, a pause and then the end. The question lingered in the air even after the moment had passed. She could see her own pained face slowly fading away from her memory.

In another time, in another world.. 

“I love you”

“I love you too”

“But I need to go”

“This can wait you know”

“I’m sorry, it can’t..”

“But why not?”

Like always, her eyes opened with a snap to the darkness of her room. She allowed it to engulf her completely, as the anguish from the dream slowly left her mind. It felt too real to her. She just didn’t know where to find all these answers. The questions haunted her dreams every day. The lack of answers was agonizing.

In another time, in another world..

“I love you”

“I love you too”

“But I can’t go against my family”

“But I can”

“I’m sorry, I can’t do it..”

“But why did you promise?”

A sudden rush of the wind, her book fell off her lap and her eyes opened. She had dozed off in her chair, reading a book she had read a thousand times before. She put her head in her hands and let the same feeling drain out of her system. She got up and walked over to the window that beat against it’s frame due to the wind. Shutting it firmly, she stared at the tree swaying violently outside. It mirrored her inner turmoil – thrashing and whipping uncontrollably in whichever direction the wind blew.

 In another time, in another world..

“I love you”

“I love you too”

“But I can’t talk right now”

“I really need to”

“I have to go, I’ll call back later..”

“But can’t you see I need you?”

Her eyes opened as the plane landed. Landings always scared her, for some unknown reason. All around her people seemed unaffected. The dream left an aching aftertaste, as always. She wondered when these dreams would stop bothering her. She was beginning to get exhausted and worn down. They were starting to leave a permanent dull ache, like an old bruise.

In another time, in another world..

“I love you”. This time, she said it first.

“I love you too”

She paused for a bit, “No, that can’t be true”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because if it were true, I wouldn’t have so many unanswered questions”

“But I do love you”

She looked at him sadly, “No, you only love yourself”

For the first time, her eyes slowly opened at the crack of dawn and the feeling of agony didn’t haunt her. The need for answers didn’t pain her heart anymore. She didn’t feel aimless anger and rage flowing through her veins. She didn’t feel like a prisoner stuck in her own thoughts. Suddenly a weight lifted off her chest, as though she had surprised herself by finding the end of the tunnel. She realized something. It was never true. He didn’t love her.

Because if it were true, there wouldn’t be any questions, buts, ifs and pauses. Because if it were true, the answers would be simple. Because if it were true, her dreams would end at “I love you too” – because that was enough.

Counting those days – One shot | Fiction

I’ve written so much fiction and posted it across so many portals over the years; I don’t even remember all my stories. Which is a shame because it seems like I had much more clarity of thought back then. I wrote this about 6 years ago 😮 (I know, I’m equally shocked) when I had the emotional range of a teaspoon and had major rose colored glasses on. I should really hunt down all my stories and upload them here. For a perspective check, if nothing else. Look at me, trying to be all mature at the age of 17 about things like love. Pfft. (I’m no better now btw)
Anyway, here it goes.
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2 months, 28 days, 7 hours and 20 minutes since he walked away, and I’m still counting.

I get into my car and start the engine, something that I do everyday. My body has coped with the fast pace of my life, and it has become more of a machine, that responds to orders quicker than emotions. Start the engine. Get the car into gear. Go back home. Eat. Sleep. Back to the hospital. Simple routine.

I don’t want to feel the rush of emotions in my heart, because it gives way to vulnerability,always. Vulnerability is one of my top 10 fears of all time. It gives others the power to control some or the other aspect of your life. A mechanical life maybe difficult to get used to, but in the long run, it’s better than feeling pain.

Then why am I still counting ? I don’t know, probably because it’s just another custom I follow in my daily routine. Probably because maths is my passion. Probably because I’ve lost my mental balance. My brain keeps giving me all sorts of reasons, but my heart always gives me one reason – I haven’t let go. I refuse to believe it.

2 months 28 days, 7 hours and 25 minutes.

It’s raining outside. It fails to stirr any emotions within me, haven’t I mentioned that I’m a robot ? Well, I am, and accepting this fact doesn’t stirr any emotion either.

I don’t blame him, he had to go, but back then when I was human, I did feel angry at him, at my fate. I did feel shattered, I did feel deperate to cling onto him as long as possible, but over the time, all those feelings have evaporated, and have left behind a fully functional robot.

“God Neeta, you look like hell. You need a break dude” said one of her colleagues and friend, Rohan Khanna.

She smiled, “No Rohan, I’m fine. Besides, Hospital hours don’t allo-“

“Let go Neeta..” he cut her off, staring at her intently.

She stared at him for a long moment and then lowered her gaze, “I’ve moved on, Rohan..I have”

Rohan slightly shook his head, “Don’t expect me to believe that. For how long will you be in denial ? Face it Neeta, running away from this fact is not courage”

He paused for a long moment, and then said, “Please Neeta, free yourself from this misery”. He patted her arm, warmly nodded at her and walked away.

My best friend Rohan thinks I’m in denial. I don’t understand why. I’m absolutely ok, and it’s high time he accepted that. I don’t need a break, hospital is the only place that helps me retain my sanity.

2 months, 28 days, 7 hours and 51 minutes.

I’ve reached my house, it’s still raining. Darn, I forgot my umbrella at the hospital. I jump out of my car and quickly lock it. Not long after I start walking towards my house, I see him.

He’s completely drenched, from head to toe, but he’s standing at my doorstep, waiting for me to come back. I’m standing in my place, transfixed. All the nuerons in my brain seem to stop functioning at once. All the rational commands stop overpowering my heart, I’m standing here like a statue, unable to move an inch.

He turns to look at me, and even though it’s raining, I could make out that he’s been crying. Involuntarily, my feet start taking me towards him. I don’t know whether I want to slap him or hug him, whether I’m esctatic or angry. I had said I don’t want to feel the rush of emotions, but right now, a huge tide of emotions is sweeping through every part of my body, overwhelming me to an extent that the heavy downpour seems non-existent.

We’re standing close now. He’s saying something, I’m not listening. All I can see is his face, and slowly, the walls that I had built around me start crumbling. I don’t want them to, but it’s as if a strong force is destroying them and my brain is too numb to do anything. The last wall cracks, and tears form in my eyes.

I manage to hear his last line, “Neeta..I-I’m sorry..I’m-“

I cut him off, trying hard to fight my tears, I say, “Shekhar, Can we talk..please ?”

He looks at me and nods. All the pent up emotions can wait. Although all I want to do at that moment is bury myself in his arms and allow myself to succumb to my feelings, but all that can wait. There are questions, and there are answers, there are misunderstandings, and there are solutions, and they need to be cleared before we can make space for emotions between us. Before I give in again, I need to talk with the man standing before me, and I know he understands.

We’re finally aware of the rain, and walk towards my house. I finally allow myself to be happy to see him.

Deep down, I’m hoping that I’ll get my happy ending, and that he’s back forever, because I’ve finally stopped counting, and the robot in me just stopped functioning.

Revisiting Saathiya

The phase from 2000-2005 was arguably one of the best phases Bollywood has seen; it’s just not given enough credit. The industry churned out some pretty amazing films before the mindless south-indian remakes and Rohit Shetty took over. Films like Hera Pheri, Mission Kashmir, Dil Chahta Hai, Lagaan, Kal Ho Na Ho, Munna Bhai MBBS, Swades, Yuva, Hum Tum – and many many more amazing films were made during these years. I think the above films pretty much sum up my favorite films of all time (minus the terrific 90s of course)

I will probably re-watch them all and dedicate one blog post to each film. This one is about Saathiya – one of a very, very, very few bollywood romantic films that I have loved. Bollywood has always been about formulaic stories when it comes to the romance genre with little variations and tweaks here and there. Up until now, which I consider to be bollywood’s transitional phase, we have hardly been served any truly moving romantic film. Saathiya, however, is a major exception to that norm and stands out in the past decade and a half as a game changer in it’s genre. Perhaps not to the same degree as DDLJ, but a strong voice nonetheless. Mani Ratnam, who is undoubtedly a genius when it comes to the romance genre, is not surprisingly the architect of the screenplay (the original Alaiyapayuthe was directed by him as well) and owing to his solid writing and the presence of a strong reference point, Shaad Ali pulled off a brilliant product.

Films that explore the dynamic of marriage fascinate me. It’s not an easy feat. I assume that’s the reason why bollywood has always chosen to drop the curtains when the hero and heroine are galloping away into the sunset. No one wants to talk about what happens after the grand finale; when the cheers die down and the celebration ends – that’s when the actual journey begins. Saathiya does exactly that. The romance is cute. The chase is fun. The chemistry is great. The passion is scorching. All of that adds up to rosy dreams about a gorgeous future filled with nothing but happiness and togetherness…but when those dreams start to become reality, the couple realize that it isn’t as rosy after all.

The beginning of every romance is exciting, it gives you a high like no other and makes you feel like you could conquer any problem. But the excitement can only get you so far. Real life isn’t exciting all the time. You can’t be romantic and passionate when there are bills to be paid and food to be cooked. Marriage is in the mundane things of life. It’s loving someone even when you don’t like them. It’s about seeing the same face for years and years and still finding some magic. It’s about fighting over issues like laundry and wall color and grocery lists. It’s about supporting each other through thick and thin because not supporting is simply not an option…and it’s not always a pleasant journey. It’s not always as appealing as popular culture would have you believe.

Saathiya is about a young couple who fall madly in love with each other and elope away after their families don’t accept their marriage. They make a vow to never turn back as they enter this exciting new phase of their lives. Afterall, what could be worse than being kicked out of your respective homes? The worst is already over, right? Apparently not. After the first few blissful months of matrimony, when the chase is over and there are other problems waiting to be addressed, cracks begin to appear in their relationship. The guy isn’t the romantic goofball the girl had fallen for. The girl isn’t just a challenge anymore. They aren’t always there for each other.

One of the important scenes in the film that highlights how much of a thin ice their marriage is on is when Suhani has had a bad day at work and hugs Aditya in the balcony of their house, not caring about all the eyes. But apparently Aditya does, and squirms as she clutches onto him. She realizes how emotionally distant they are from each other and that he cannot even understand her state of mind, leave alone being supportive. That is also the moment Aditya realizes – shit, I didn’t know I would have to be emotionally available as well. 

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Everything starts to spiral into a downward abyss after that. They can’t seem to put their marriage above their personal interests. A love that had survived the resistance of society begins to crumble under it’s own pressure. They reach the breaking point when Suhani’s father dies unexpectedly and their marriage is not able to take the strain of that setback. Suhani blames herself for his demise and Aditya feels resentful about his perennially sad wife who can’t seem to put her mind anywhere else. These are the times when a solid partnership, mutual understanding and maturity are the need of the day. One person needs to take a step back and allow the other person to take as much space as he/she wants, because he/she is the one going through a hard phase. Unfortunately, Aditya doesn’t put Suhani’s needs above his own and they reach a point where they can no longer stand each other.

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The film captures the failing marriage brilliantly. Their immaturity was one of the major reasons why their relationship was always on uneven grounds and that fact is highlighted many times. They were too young to be able to have a successful marriage. Like I said, love and passion can only get you so far. After that, it’s being selfless and truly wanting someone else’s happiness more than your own that matters.

Despite their immaturity though, they still try to hang onto small threads. Aditya’s attempt to reconcile Suhani’s sister and ex-fiance is endearing; more so because he knows it would mean something to Suhani. It is this event that both becomes a boon and a curse for them. It makes Suhani realize that Aditya isn’t a completely unsupportive husband afterall; but it also leads to her getting into a fatal accident, that puts her at the verge of losing her life.

The film is beautifully interspersed between the present and the past and slowly merges into one. The one thing we know about the present is that Aditya is looking around madly for Suhani. What we get to know from the flashbacks is that he is looking around madly for her despite all the problems in their marriage. Her absence makes him realize her worth and importance in his life; and how much he took her for granted. It is only when he is at the point of completely losing her that he tries to hold onto their relationship with his life. As he says at Suhani’s bedside – “Sach toh yeh hai ki, aaj samjha hoon main humara rishta. Ab tak to bas khud hi ko dhoond raha tha” – being with Suhani was also one of his attempts to find himself. It wasn’t selfless love until she was about to be snatched away. It always takes a life changing event to make us realize the most obvious things.

Another wonderful arc is the highlighted relationship between Yashwant Rao and his wife, Savitri (brilliant cameo appearances by SRK and Tabu). The way Yashwant supports his traumatized wife and acts as a strong anchor even in the most tense of times is heavily contrasted against Aditya’s casual approach to his own marriage, thereby also establishing the difference between the commitment of a man and the passion of a boy. He is there for his wife to fall back on when she is crumbling down in a way that Aditya never was.

In the end, a dialogue from Alaiyapayuthe sums up marriage perfectly – “A young tree might look beautiful with it’s lush green leaves and blooming flowers; but can’t sustain a storm because it’s roots aren’t thickly embedded into the ground..an old tree might look ugly and rusted, but it can sustain hurricanes because it’s roots are so firmly sewn within the earth. That’s what a strong marriage is”

A Leap of Faith

I sometimes wonder if I walked into this world with a special type of kismat – one that guaranteed non-stop action and chaos. I feel like I’m constantly on a roller coaster ride, and even though I enjoyed it in the beginning, now it’s simply wearing me off and making my nauseous. In Geet’s words in Jab We Met, “Bahut excitement ho gaya ab is raat mein. Boring bana do ji is raat ko ab”

A boring life would be such a relief. I wish I didn’t want to be a professional dancer. That way, I could do what my parents wanted me to without the burden of that choice. How simple and straightforward life would be, if all I had to do was follow a pre-laid, well structured and 100% positive-results-guaranteed wala plan towards success and happiness. Then I could build my life around getting good grades/a high flying degree and then getting a well-paid job that would give me just enough liberty to take a month off every year to go an exotic location like The Maldives or Bahamas and take endless selfies for my jealous colleagues to see. In a nutshell, how I wish I wasn’t someone who endorsed and practiced the idea of ‘choice’, because it comes with a truck load of responsibility and accountability that can suck the happiness right out of you like a dementor.

This post isn’t about how pathetic my life is. It’s about what I’ve learnt, time and again, from my experiences. A lot of people advocate the idea of free will (just like me). But there are very less people who are willing to face the consequences of their choices. These are the ones who shout “Mah lyfe, Mah rulezz” until reality kicks in and they scurry away like rats. Life is unfortunately a bitch and even though in an ideal world, the ability to make one’s own choices would be celebrated, we live in a far-from ideal world and even farther-from ideal country. A country where a 15 year old student does not have the liberty to pick the stream that he/she wants without the consent of at least 51% of his/her (existing) family. A country where a woman does not have the liberty to wear what she wants without the entire city ogling her. A country where a couple cannot decide to marry without the 100% consent of their (even the dead ones) families. A country where a person does not feel supported or encouraged enough to follow his/her passion. A country where a director cannot make a film with the following – sex, drugs, smoking, drinking, history, religion, politics, poverty and cows – without having either the censor board or some political wing/religious fanatics/people who have nothing to do with their lives and are sexually frustrated, jumping down his/her throat.

A country where someone cannot express his/her opinion without the fear of being physically attacked.

Even then, people who strongly believe in their choices and beliefs, stand by them no matter the cost. Whether it is a gay couple fighting for section 377 to be scraped off or a straight couple fighting with their families to let them get married – These are people who make their choices and stick to them for life.

Then there are people who make their choices and later chicken out because of the fear of (a) family, (b) extended family, (c) society and/or (d) failure. Interestingly I’ve seen how the combination of ‘fear of family’ and ‘fear of failure’ works wonders when it comes to someone changing their stand. Our society has manufactured some very standardized templates of “success” and anyone who strays too far from them risks the chance of ending up a loser AKA not earning enough money and a ‘respectable’ job. Let’s just make it simple.

Success = Money {jhooti izzat + commendable social standing (AKA foreign return) + expensive clothes + tons of hypocrisy + PROPERTY (oh, heaven)}

Just multiple everything with money. I took it common.

As a dancer, I’ve come across many people who give up on their passion and talent simply because the idea of taking it up professionally scares the heebie jeebies out of them. It’s a risky career in terms of every parameter. There is absolutely no guarantee of success and even if it does come, it does not fetch too much money. It is a life full of uncertainty, disappointment and lack of money. People don’t take our profession seriously and think we’re wasting our lives. That kind of pressure is too much of a burden to carry apart from the challenges that the profession has to offer. It can be mentally and emotionally exhausting along with being physically demanding. Most people want to keep doing it “on the side” along with their mainstream profession. Some people choose to go ahead with it, but crack under the strain midway.

And then there are people who sail through despite all odds. They may have been kicked out of their houses, looked down upon by immediate society, faced failure multiple times, been discouraged by peers and colleagues – whatever the situation may have been, they make it out alive. And there is only one driving force behind them – conviction and commitment.

This is the kind of force that enables us to make decisions and stick to them in all areas of life – career, relationships, friendships and even the commitments we make to ourselves. Whether it is to lose 5 kgs in 20 days or to begin a start up with a small idea. If we believe in what we want and where our heart lies, then we would find that mustering up courage is not such a difficult thing to do. We just know that we’re doing is right. The end.

Unfortunately, nowadays people “know” a lot but stand for nothing. They have a lot of information but no knowledge. They have degrees but not real education. They want many things and forget about what they need. They make money but not wealth. They invest in property but not in themselves. I remember reading about the difference between a “crowd” and a “group”. A group has a face; it stands for something. A crowd has no face. Just people scurrying around trying to nab the closest possible gratification.

I guess that’s what all of us want now – immediate gratification. If something doesn’t fetch success immediately, it’s useless. If someone doesn’t make you happy anymore, they’re not worth it. If a relationship is causing trouble in your life, drop it. If a job is putting you under too much strain, change it. If your wardrobe isn’t getting you any attention, get a new one. If your profile picture on facebook isn’t getting enough likes, click a new one.

We have nothing worth fighting for in our lives. We have nothing we would put our necks out on the line for. There is no commitment, passion, loyalty and most importantly, love for anyone or anything. None of us know what we want, or why we want it. We just know it will make us instantly happy and therefore it is something we are willing to take a step forward for. Taking a leap of faith for something though? No, that’s just not practical anymore.