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.

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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.

Random ramblings

Here I am, sitting in one of the expensive-for-no-reason DB trains, travelling from Berlin to Amsterdam and tapping my fingers on the keypad thinking about what to write. I am normally very bad at coming up with good topics to write about. My thoughts are too scattered and open-ended to come up with a concrete idea. My mind jumps from one topic to the other in a matter of seconds, and all the content that I thought of for the previous topic(s) is immediately lost. So I think it’s better for me to write a running commentary.

Trains journeys are the best metaphor for life. Just like a train ride, life meanders through different terrains and stops in one place for some time. People come and go in your life throughout it’s course, people come and go throughout the course of a train ride too. None of them are permanent, even if you manage to develop a strong bond with them. Everyone leaves at some point or the other. You are only left with your own company.

I often think about what “being content” means. Sometimes I think it’s about chasing your dream to the best of your ability, other times I think it’s about finding that one person who makes you feel like you’re home. But then there are moments of clarity when I realize that maybe it’s about feeling happy when you are with yourself. None of us really love ourselves. We are constantly looking for something, someone to fulfill a void we can’t fill ourselves. It’s not an easy feat. Heck, definitely not for a royally messed up person like me. God knows I have issues that will take several lifetimes for me to fix before I can love myself. I am a loner because that’s my comfort zone; not because I love my own company. If I had to spend an entire evening with my own clone, I would dash for the first exit. True story, I would not date my male counterpart. The two of us would rip eachother’s hair off.

It’s difficult to come to terms with the fact that there is no one who is meant to be by your side forever, especially not in a world that tries to sell us the concept of ‘eternal love’ all the time. Movies like The Notebook make you believe that you will die in your soulmate’s arms in the hospital bed. Who doesn’t want to believe that? It’s the most comforting idea in the world. I want to believe that too. I want to be able to close my eyes and not feel scared. We want another human being for that comfort and security because going through life and all it’s problems all alone is too much to imagine. We just might be capable of it; but the idea still scares the crap out of us.

Does that mean we should all declare celibacy and head to the mountains to meditate? Hell no. I cannot abandon a lot of small comforts for anything. I think maybe what I’m trying to say is that we need to stop trying to find ‘contentment’, because we are just too mortal to find nirvana (unless you’re snort coke) We will always be in a state of unrest. We will always be looking for something, despite not knowing what is truly is. Perhaps learning from the journey is more important than dwelling over the destination, because you don’t know if you will ever get there…or if it will be what you wanted if you do get there.

If you have something that makes you feel happy right now and makes you smile before drifting off to sleep, fight for it. It can be anything – a dream, a person, a job, an idea, a friend, a new recipe or a tv show. Don’t give up before giving it your heart and soul, because you never know when it’s going to slip through your hands. Trading present happiness for an expected future gain is the worst bargain in life. (Not to be confused with ‘not stepping out of your comfort zone’. There is a difference between being comfortable & lazy and truly happy)

Anyone who knows me knows I hustle hard. I never think I’ve done a good enough job. Whether it is doing the dishes or putting up a choreography – I will always be dissatisfied (not satisfied with this post either) But this constant relay makes me happy. It makes me feel like there is one thing I can truly call my own.

And I will fight for it until the day I die.

 

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.

 

The curse of the 20’s

So you’re now in your 20’s. The teens are over, so according to your social learning, you should now turn into a responsible person overnight. “Bade ho gaye ho beta, zimmedari ko samjho” – becomes your daily music. Friends, parties and most importantly selfies begin to take a backseat, while your career starts crawling to the forefront. There are options to be explored, potential ROI of your chosen field to be discussed and very importantly, wedding planning to start.

Each year that passes by without you having achieved any of the subsets of the above, your forebodings and fears increase. What if I’m a failure? What if I never get anywhere in life? What if I’ll always be financially dependent on my parents? What if I never get married? What if I’m impotent? Unless you’re a rich dude from a rich family, these thoughts will plague your mind like the Ebola virus. Having entered the 20’s club myself a couple years ago, I deal with these thoughts every single day of my life. I try to imagine my life 5 years from now, and can’t seem to see anything but a couch and a pillow.

For a long time, I was under the impression that I was born to do something great, that I was different. But now that I’m letting the years pass me by, I’m beginning to wonder whether all I was suffering from was delusions of grandeur. I have ideas that I want to explore and pursue, places that I want to visit, different fields that I want to experiment with; but none of that ever materializes. It’s all just in my head. Like everyone else in my age group, I too am shackled by the ‘karna hi hai’ thought process.

What makes everything seem worse is when I see people around me doing well for themselves. FB feed has officially shoved me into depression. I see people getting new jobs or getting married every single day. It’s a harsh reminder of my own imperfection. I’m surfing reddit, twitter and instagram while people are out there doing something worthwhile.

We’re living in a century that has spoilt us for choices beyond imagination. Every single time you go out to do something, you have hundreds of options glaring at you from every direction. Which one to pick? Which one will offer maximum utility? The truth is, no matter what you choose, you will always feel buyer’s remorse. If you choose to do MBA, you may spend years thinking about how it would been if you chose MA. If you choose to become a driver, thoughts of becoming a waiter will torture you forever. And on and on it goes. In the end, despite having a plethora of choices at your feet, you choose to not take a step in any direction at all.

I want to be a writer, a dancer, a psychologist, a cook and a driver. But I don’t know which way to go first; which opportunity is worth giving up for something else. And it just seems as though I’m letting this confusion rule my life instead of working towards something. Can’t I get a mysterious signal from gravity so that I can find my way towards a high-functioning facility that will transport me to another planet via a worm hole or something?

Arranged Marriage vs Love Marriage

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V/S

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This is an age-old debate, much like the tussle between men and women. However, with changing times perspectives change too, and so does the meaning of relationships. Back in the day, an arranged marriage was a pretty strict affair. It wasn’t a union of a man and a woman, it was a union of two families who were economically, socially and caste-wise matched. All the dendaari was discussed between the parents in the absence of the two people who were actually getting married. It was a business deal camouflaged as a wedding.

Love marriage, on the other hand, was not completely accepted because as they say, love is blind and does not see caste, economic or social status. The families were eternally torn between allowing their kids to have their way and log kya kahenge. Countless Bollywood movies have mirrored this situation. However, what they have also done is romanticize the idea of a love marriage and made it seem like saccha pyaar is everlasting and transcends all mortal boundaries. The ‘honeymoon phase’ of a relationship is the one that needs to be taken least seriously, but unfortunately, couples are blinded by their saccha pyaar to the extent that they take the plunge while their hormones are in an overdrive and decide to get married after only a few months of courtship.

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Guy says: “I love you!” Girl says: “Let’s get married!”

As times have progressed, the idea of ‘love’ has slowly been condensed to a few factors – the relationship status on facebook, not ignoring whatsapp texts, cheesy late night discussions about future plans (about a beach house, a dog named Rosy and kids called Shona and Shonu) and saying “I love you” to each other at every chance. This sentence is now being thrown around so casually then I fear very soon people will start greeting each other with “I love you” instead of “How are you?”. What is love? I don’t know yet, but I know that it’s none of the above either.

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Marriage is the ultimate commitment, and cannot be made on the basis of a few stray dreams sold to us by companies like Hallmark, Archies and Bollywood. It’s easy to stay together when the world is pink and emotions are raw, but the real test is when you hit a rough patch and still find the strength to be with each other. Everyone has a temperamental and weak side that they hide, especially in a relationship. Occasionally it does come to the surface, but the thing about being in “the romantic kind of” love is that people ignore each other’s faults. They keep telling themselves “Oh he’s not like that, he would never shout at me infront of everyone again” or “She won’t flirt with him again, it was only this one time..” But this can be ignored only for so long. Eventually it creates resentment and hurt. This is usually the time when most relationships fall apart, and partners claim that only recently saw each other’s “true self”. The truth is, it was always there, albeit hidden or ignored. The question that then arises is – Didn’t you know the person you loved and decided to get married to?

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Check: if you can hear violins playing each time you see your partner, then it’s not the right time to make important decisions. However, if this continues then you probably have schizophrenia.

Which is what brings me to the next part – why this generation needs arranged marriages. Arranged marriages are not what they used to be. Now they’re progressive. Although the family still looks for the potential partner, an individual has the right to say no if they don’t click. What happens here is, that people skip the honeymoon phase completely. They know they have been brought together by their family for marriage. They haven’t met each other before. They aren’t in love (as defined above) so they give each other a real chance. They don’t overlook each other’s faults because they aren’t blinded by saccha pyaar. If things work out, then the relationship follows the logical path and the two people fall in love after getting to know each other. If not, then they can amicably say goodbye.

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I’m not against love marriage. In fact, I used to be an ardent advocate of it. But then I realized that what’s important is free will and personal choice. Dowry deaths in arranged marriages are still happening and so are honour killings due to love marriages. One should have the freedom to choose. Of course, given the rate at which the meaning of love is being compressed to fit a Karan Johar song raises quite a few concerns about the sustainability of a love marriage in my mind, but there are people who do give their relationship enough time before making the commitment. They do spend years being in a relationship, gauging their compatibility, before getting married, which is something I respect and admire. As far as the concept of chat mangni, pat byah is concerned, I’d rather just watch a Bollywood film.

10 procrastination excuses we give ourselves everyday

Procrastination should officially be declared a religion, because you will find more followers of this practice alone as compared to all the religions in the world combined. Procrastination is one of the most common human tendencies, apart from lying and avoiding. For example, I waited until the very last minute to write this article. I’m procrastinating about writing on procrastinating. That’s like procrastineption. Anyway, let’s delve right into the top 10 excuses we give ourselves to procrastinate.

10) Honestly, it’s not even that important!

Each time we sit down to work on something or study, we always tell ourselves that it’s not that important after all. I mean, there is a whole bunch of other, more important, things that we’d rather be doing – like watching TV, surfing the net or playing games on Playstation. Who wants to study the IS-LM Model in economics two days before an exam when there are almost 10 levels of Call of Duty remaining to be played?

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9) I’m so tired!

Surprisingly, fatigue catches up with us each time we plan to finish some work. You only realize how tired and unwell you are a second before you sit down to getting that assignment done. You watched TV for 2 hours, so now your eyes are hurting. You were online on whatsapp for another 1 hour, so now your fingers are hurting. You ate too much pasta for lunch, so now you’re sleepy. And on top of all of that, you cleaned your room! Pssht, all of this is enough to knock anyone out. How can someone even think about working after this?

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8) I’m so distracted!

You just went online to do some research for your pending project, and suddenly the forces of nature and technology are conspiring against you. There is a new amazing music video out that you just have to watch. There are millions of game requests on facebook and even more interesting tweets on twitter. You need to remain updated, after all.

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7) I’m too smart to be working on something as mundane as homework, I need to do some research on something deep like aliens and supernatural forces.

Really, homework is for common people who love being a part of the herd. You are different and smarter than everybody else. While everyone is busy doing regular stuff like homework, you are more interested in the science involved in black holes, the gravitational force of Jupiter and whether Jesus Christ was black or not. So what if you don’t know your calculus formulae? You know stuff that really matters in the real world.

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6) I would sit down and do work, but my favourite movie/game is on right now. It won’t air tomorrow.

It’s India vs Pakistan today, and there’s no fun in watching the repeat, especially when you would already know who won. Are you trying to stop me from being patriotic, bro?

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5) I haven’t spoken to XYZ friend in so long. Work can wait, friendship is more important.

You suddenly remember a hundred friends who want to talk to you when an impending deadline is looming above your head. These friends have been dropping messages for you to speak to them for ages, but this is the moment that you had been delaying them for – hours before you need to submit a project. Friendship is for life!

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4) I need to eat something before I start.

Hunger pangs strike just before something needs to be done. You poke around in your refrigerator a hundred times before getting frustrated about there never being anything good to eat. You then proceed to ordering pizza from Pizza Hut and spend hours staring at the menu, trying to decide what to order. Mustard sauce and extra oregano seasoning is essential, otherwise you would be rendered physiologically incapable of working on anything.

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3) I’ll do it when I’m in a better mood. Life sucks right now.

You suddenly remember things that have upset you in the past couple of days – Your distant friend backstabbed you, your parents scolded you, your teachers hate you and your net pack got over. At that time, these things didn’t really bother you, but they do now. Everything comes back in full force and suddenly you’re depressed. How can someone work when they’re depressed?

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2) I can’t focus because my there is too much disturbance around!

Your phone keeps beeping each time you so much as get a spam text from Moksha Spa. Your mom keeps peeping into your room to talk about something or the other. There is some or the other commotion going on in your house at that very moment. You absolutely cannot focus amidst all this disturbance. You’ll do it when there is peace in the world.

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1) I promise I’ll do it after an hour.

The number 1 excuse for not getting to work immediately. You keep fooling yourself into believing that you will definitely get to work after an hour. After that one hour, you give yourself another hour, and then another one, and on and on it goes. Eventually, you get to work only when you realize that it’s a choice between death and work. All nighters combined with black coffee – a pro procrastinator’s better half!

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All Images are from: Fun with Franchise