Songs of The Doors make good blogpost titles.
When I first came home, I thought it’d be a throwback to my saaftware days of 2008-2009. Lots of BMTC blog-fodder, lots of the sorts of frustrations unique to saaftware companies, lots of aahen-bharna, lots of adda…. it has been anything but all that.
For starters, I actually like what I’m doing. That combined with the fact that I sort of know what I’m doing, and there’s always someone who’s got my back when I seem to be falling head-first into an abyss (which happens more often than I’d like to admit), removes part of the frustrations I would have otherwise gone through. That however brings with it its own set of frustrations, but they aren’t the sort I’d agonize over and write veiled blogposts over.
Oh, and there’s tons to blog about, but hardly enough time to sit down and type things out. And tweeting is a great alternative, so, hell, that gets every bitty thought out of my head before it has had a chance to germinate properly.
I finally went to Ranga Shankara and watched an English play. I have lots to say about the play, but that’d be a post all by itself. The most interesting bit of the experience was the number of times the word ‘Experimental’ was used by folks in the audience…. on a rough scale, I’d say it was commensurate with attending one quarter’s worth of seminars in machine learning. I wasn’t following the deep symbolism or whatever was in the play I watched, and so during the interval asked this soul-searcher firang woman to explain. Her first question to me was “Are you an engineer?”. I don’t know what tipped her off… most possibly my asking “Why not say all these things directly? Why the whole need to bury the meaning deep?”.
And I find that the one word that has defined much of my life since college has been Meh. I began writing a post about it, but it just sort of ended flatly and without much of a point, so I’ll just put that bit here:
When you live at NITK, you see enough of diversity to not mind or take offense at anything that comes your way. You come to terms that different people like different things at different times. You stop expecting homogeneity, you even stop expecting people to be nice. You stop expecting people to understand. You come to terms with a wide spectrum of smartness levels – you stop being shocked and awed and overwhelmed by those smarter than you while not looking down on folks who get things less quicker than you.
And all the chatting and arguing and talking acquaints you with all possible arguments for any given topic.. face it, there are a limited set of topics to talk about. So when you hear someone say a dictatorship is the best form of government for the 12,489th time, giving a subset of the arguments your roommate at NITK used to give, all you can do is groan.
Or better still, Meh.
When someone’s whining on the phone in an unknown language and a loud voice, Meh.
When someone’s playing bad music at 100 db, Meh.
When someone’s listening to Backstreet Boys, Meh.
When someone’s dissing homosexuals, Meh.
When someone calls Sean Paul ‘Seen Paul’, Meh.
The couple next to you giggling and cuddling when you are slaving away and shouldn’t ideally be disturbed, Meh.
Bad food, super-Meh.
You’ve seen it all, mostly.
And when you meet someone who hasn’t, and who is effing fascinated by every darn thing around you, and the stories you have to say, you guessed it right. Meh.
No more breath wasted on outrage. No more words wasted in arguing with a wall. The sudden rushes of breath to the head and heart get rarer.
You reserve your energy and heart rate and blushes and giggles for better things.
Meh-ness makes you Calm. Cool. Collected.
But it turns out there are things that breach the cloud of Meh-ness I’ve collected around myself. Gender equality, for one thing. No, not the usual Hum Tum sort of crap. Or the “women are so complicated ya” sort of nonsense. It’s just that I find it extremely shocking that well-educated well-rounded men from good families argue vehemently that it’s not a sin to expect a woman to be at home after marriage. Reasons cited include ‘divison of labour’, that children are naturally predisposed to prefer the female parent, and about women being predisposed to catering to the emotional needs of children. And the mother of them all – children grow up better in a house where the mother is ever-present.
Now I don’t even want to lend those arguments any sort of legitimacy by countering them, but I just have to get this out of my system.
My mother mostly worked from home during her prime, a variety of jobs. This more or less ensured she was around when I came back from school… this is a big deal for me, because I was the sort of kid who’d never eat well (my sister however was the model child) and she was the only person who could ensure I did have a balanced diet. And no, that is not just because she is a woman, or because she is my mother. It is because she was someone genuinely concerned and well-informed about the basics of a good diet, and on how to get troublesome kids to eat.
Her working from home also was another big plus for me – long before I learnt anything else, I had learnt to answer phonecalls. And also to sound much older than I actually was (No one gave messages to an eight-year-old, hence the necessity to sound like a twenty-year-old). And also type (as opposed to hunt-and-peck), a skill I pride myself on acquiring when I see my bosses, colleagues, fellow students and others do a two-finger hackjob while coding or writing an email.
For a while though, she gave all this up, and devoted herself to family. Was I thrilled? Hell no. Was I seeing more of my mother? HELL NO. Her time ceased to be hers and hers alone. Everyone took her time for granted. Hell, everyone began taking her for granted. There was no more predictability in her schedule. She didn’t have much to share with me anymore, now that she didn’t meet a menagerie of weird people on a daily basis. And given that she didn’t (and doesn’t) have a liking for saas-bahu sagas, she actually felt the time hanging heavy on her hands… hell, there’s only so much gardening you can do. And only so much responsibilities to your family, especially when your kids are used to being independent. Eventually she busied herself with foreign languages and this and that, but now when she’s taking a break from it all, it burns me to see her mind idle, and not enough variety to spice her day up. When it tells so heavily on a woman who has led a full life with myriad experiences and no dearth of interesting stories to narrate, and who is well into middle age where she has earned her rest, I cannot begin to imagine what the effect of being confined to home would be on a young woman who still has much more to experience of life.
‘Bringing up the future of the nation’ is frankly not that demanding a job that you cannot juggle it along with some routine activity. In fact having a second string to your bow ensures there’s always something to cushion the blow if things don’t go well. If your kids disappoint you, you can always throw yourself in work to tide over the depression you would otherwise fall into, and if your job sucks, you can always look at your children and say “I have wonderful kids. Screw the rest of the world”. And a job ensures you have your own life, and that people respect your space and time.Which ensures you can choose how much time to make for who. Hell, people take my time for granted the days I decide to Work From Home, is it going to be better for a housewife (alright, Homemaker, or even Home Minister) who, even on her busiest days, has to face the question “What do you do all day at home?”.
Plus, having your work accepted by a dozen others does wonders to your self-esteem than to do the routine at home which gets taken for granted. From what I have seen, when you take a man and a woman of equal ability, the man always seems to be more cocksure and self-assured than the woman. Or more like the woman is more often less sure of her own abilities and is more likely to think she ‘lucked out’ than got where she is because of her own hard work and skills.
And ah, body image as well. Even the worst-looking guy is more brazen about his body image than a decently goodlooking girl. This disparity is what totally kills me (figuratively) and kills a lot of women (literally, thanks to various eating disorders). And on those lines, I rather liked this song by Kimya Dawson. Especially where she says “I like giants / Especially girl giants / Coz all girls feel too big sometimes regardless of their size”.
On a different note, this is also the period where I am saying Mera Bharat Mahaan and meaning every word of it. Now even if you take away the friends-and-family aspect from the experience of living in the Motherland, it really strikes me as a great deal. There’s always something to do, there’s always somewhere to go. And for all you Amits and Ishas who say Bangalore is a boring city yaar, you need to be airdropped into cornfield country or the great outback in order to know what ‘having nothing to do’ actually means. Oh, and apparently most of Paris shuts down at 9 pm…. can someone tell me if that’s true?
And the food. At Irvine, I have more than enough cuisines to sample from, from all over the world, even when I’m vegetarian. Yet, all of that doesn’t beat the sheer variety of textures and tastes in Indian food. And I don’t mean the scrumptious Gujarati Thali or the wonderful lunch spread at Maiya’s. Even in the randomest More outlet, you have enough varieties in biscuits, short-eats and other things to beat even the largest Walmart or Target, trust me. And I’m not saying this in some pseudo-patriotic jingoism. For proof, it turned out that in spite of having healthy wholesome home-cooked meals at Irvine, I lost quite a bit of weight. Which I promptly put back on within a month here. Turns out, that was because I had totally cut off the junk from my diet in Irvine. So, even including the chocolate chip cookies, the tubs of icecream, the corn chips, the Israeli sweets whose name I can’t recall, the Greek yogurt, mac-n-cheese, enchiladas and the various brands of soft drinks, junk food elsewhere sucks. There is no dearth of brands, but all of them taste the same! Quite unlike here where no two chaatwalas’ fare taste the same. Give me anyday churmuri chaat, grilled sandwiches, Britannia cream biscuits, Kurkure and the Indian flavours of Lay’s. And yes, death to Ranch-flavoured anything.
And about a quintessentially non-Indian dish – Pizza. Turns out, I eat more pizza in India than abroad. The different (vegetarian) varieties elsewhere all taste the same, mainly because folks abroad known only one way to cook vegetables – burn them. And there is no subtlety to the flavour, no layers, no differences in texture you can savour. And no variety in ingredients. The taste of a cheese burst pizza topped with succulent cubes of paneer and tangy masala sauce wrapping the whole thing up is not an everyday pleasure in many places outside.
Getting from A to B is not so effort and cost-intensive here as it is elsewhere. And heck, that means a big deal. As for the traffic, I whine about it everyday, I wish the streets were empty everyday, but heck, seeing so much of humanity milling around every day, going about their business, it’s the sort of thing that lends you some momentum to start your day. I am not romanticizing or rationalizing, but it’s possible I’m just a crowded-city girl at heart, and I don’t know what to do with so much elbow room or miles of empty space to stare into, and the pace of the city is what puts the extra zing in my step and the extra edge in my actions.
Sure, we can beautify our cities a lot more, be a little less corrupt… but for operations of such a huge scale, we are remarkably awesome. I don’t think any place else (except maybe China?) is so scalably efficient. And please don’t give me the equality crap. Except in extremely cosmopolitan niches, the rest of the world can be remarkably racist.
And if you’ve actually gotten to reading this far, I’m impressed! 2200 words and counting… phew, done venting for all that I didn’t over the past few weeks.