Grounding myself: March

It’s the second day of March and I wake up freezing in bed. There’s a definite drop in temperature. Is autumn on the threshold, I wonder. Because if so, I’m pleasantly surprised. I realize that Kiwi summers aren’t my thing. Yes, there are beaches and a couple of months of wearing less clothes but in terms of my mood and mental health – NAH. I now understand the hype around autumn, especially since it isn’t a thing for us folks back home. It’s the pleasant kinda cold, just enough to make you wear light shrugs and an occasional beanie. I think to myself that maybe this is a sign that better days are coming, given how tumultuous February had been.

March begins with frequent therapy sessions. I figure I have some exploring and inner chronicling to do understand myself better. I realize sleep is paramount. However, there are days when I wake up feeling tired despite having slept for around 8 hours – from 11pm to 8am. This worries me as consider myself to be a morning person.

Meanwhile, I successfully completely my fifteen-day goal to bring down my usage of Instagram. I realize that on an average I spend between 40 to 60 minutes on the platform, which isn’t terrible given how crazy my usage times were in the beginning. I decide to extend the goal to another month, where I would limit my usage to 60 minutes in the first half and then reduce it to 50 minutes in the second. This doesn’t go as planned; I find myself lapsing back into unhealthy scrolling habits. On the days I stick to my goal, I notice my overall screen-time shooting up as I fill the void left by the gram with other apps such as YouTube and Twitter. But I am patient. Deep-rooted habits don’t die overnight.

I use this month to recuperate from my ill mental health. I resume an illustrative journaling course by Kate Sutton on Domestika that I had signed up for last October. This exercise proves to deeply therapeutic as I throw caution to the winds and draw from memory, illustrating a day from my life, my favourite things, the food I love, the walks I have gone on, etc. I toy with the idea of buying myself a pack of Posca markers but hold back as they are expensive. I finally resolve to make use of materials I already own before giving into impulses.

I manage to read one book – Anxious People by Fredrick Backman – that steals my heart. The plot is delightful, funny, wholesome yet thrilling. Backman’s quirky prose makes me chuckle (when I am not being choked up with emotions). I love the feminist undertone to the storyline. I find myself gushing about his book for days to come and send a copy to S as a birthday present. In the meantime, I get back to almost binging on K-dramas after what seems like a year. I complete watching the first season of Hospital Playlist, Doctor John, and follow up with a new show titled Thirty-Nine. There are days when H and I watch episodes from Keeping Up With The Kardashians as the content is asinine; it is fun to watch rich white people doing Rich White People Things.

March doesn’t fly by without its share of downs. There are days when I’m bogged down by homesickness. The last week is marred by tense conversations with my partner about our future that trigger my anxiety. After one such conversation, I sleep poorly and wake up with a pit in my stomach. I am immobilized by gloom which leads me to swap my teaching shift with another tutor on the pretext of a migraine. I end up binging on some episodes from the second season of Hospital Playlist. I order myself a breakfast takeaway to lift up my spirits but the meal turns out to be disappointing. I let myself crash up until around late afternoon, after which I force myself to shower and get out for a cup of coffee. I drain a cup of flat white at a nearby cafe – it is delicious – and walk towards the Ferry Building. I sit on one of the stone benches overlooking the water front with a newly curated playlist playing in my ears. As I watch the waves bob up and down, a sense of calm washes over me. I breathe deeply and watch the sky gradually change hues from sepia yellow to pastel pink. I love this city, I think to myself. I silently vow to focus on my goals and not get bogged down by what the future may hold.

April, bring it on.

K and L are for Kenopsia and Loss

My intention while beginning this challenge was to keep my posts upbeat and not dreary. But circumstances dictate one’s mood. Though life in NZ is back to normal, the situation back home appears to deteriorate with each passing day. Emphasizing on how dandy my life is as compared to folks back home seems inconsiderate, heartless almost.

I’ve been encountering this post on Instagram about a word that acutely describes a state of being that falls between depression and contentment – languishing. And I cannot relate more. I don’t have anything in particular that stops me from being satisfied here but there are days such as today when I feel absolutely weighed down by purposelessness and the lack of vigor to tick off all the items on my ToDo list. My work seems to be going OK. I have a cat here for company. But here I am getting sucked into lassitude. I hate it.

To fight this feeling, I immerse myself in a barrage of activities and hobbies that range from making art, playing the guitar and recording music to bouldering and dancing to bhangra music. For the most part, it doesn’t seem like I am resisting a negative emotion – I am truly happy, the cool Auckland breeze blows in my face, the sky is crystal clear and Sid Sriram’s melodious voice fills my ears; kairosclerosis. But happiness and satisfaction are not isolated; they are relative to those around me and away from me miles away.

And so my anxiety returns, fueled by news and visuals of a collapsing health system, citizens at the mercy of an apathetic ruthless state, chaos and grief. My Insta and Twitter feeds have transformed into covid lifelines. Websites and apps have been developed overnight for free, none of which are sanctioned by this government. The news is inescapable. My family placates me by describing all the cautionary measures that are in place at home and how no one ventures out unless absolutely necessary. Their consolation is bittersweet – my folks, having been compelled to stay at home beyond a year are trying to assuage my fears whilst normalcy prevails where I live. My sister has irrevocably lost her final golden year in college. My grandmother fears the outside world. This isn’t to sideline the fact that we are seeped in privilege as compared to the masses. It is indeed a privilege to be safe and sound during these unimaginable times. But are they really safe?

Last year, I used to often think of home and my favourite haunts. On days I was consumed by homesickness, I would miss walking on Salunkhe Vihar Road, meeting friends at Coffee Jar, Pune’s winter breeze, the swanky cantonment road to Camp, and dancing my butt off at Swig. I would crave the smell of filter coffee wafting into my room at 6am, watching KBC with the entire family at dinnertime, shopping with my mother and eating chaat at a roadside stall. Strangely, I’ve noticed a shift in the way I reminisce over the past few months. My longing has been replaced with deep sadness; a sense of kenopsia

kenopsia
n. the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that’s usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet—a school hallway in the evening, an unlit office on a weekend, vacant fairgrounds—an emotional afterimage that makes it seem not just empty but hyper-empty, with a total population in the negative, who are so conspicuously absent they glow like neon signs.

When I left Pune, it was familiar to me. The streets, schools and offices were bustling with activity, masks and social distancing were alien concepts, concerts and music festivals were round the corner, and restaurants and eateries were brimming with people. My city had been fairly resilient, having had its share of epidemics and flu outbreaks, but nothing on the scale of covid. The sheer magnitude of this devastation that may have infiltrated the homes and families of familiar faces is something I cannot fathom, or rather be prepared for. Earlier, my friends had reassured me that nothing had changed but was it pure denial? Denial of the fact that this virus would be inescapable? Denial of inevitable fear and health anxiety? No matter what, my city seems unfamiliar to me, partly due to my long absence and more significantly, due to the pandemic.

Two months into my move to Auckland and a week before an almost worldwide lockdown, I lost my grandfather to cardiac failure. Over time, relief overtook grief because the thought of him languishing amidst covid patients made for terrifying imagery. Such is loss where some of its forms are more tolerable than the rest.

F and G are for Friendship and Gratitude

While I wouldn’t call myself an out-and-out extrovert, I do like having good company. I like being around folks who are easy-going and unproblematic.

Perhaps one of the aspects of moving out that flooded me with dread was the scenario of not being able to find a reliable circle. At the time, pandemics did not feature in my list of worst-case scenarios. Yet, I opted for an expensive studio instead of a shared flat as the idea of living with a stranger in a new country made me anxious. Little did I know that I was about to meet a motley bunch of strangers at my university accommodation – who like me were in the process of figuring out their new lives – would become my friends for keeps.

The universe has been very kind to me. I keep repeating myself because these scenarios – getting settled fairly soon in a new city, having good coworkers and finding a lovely friend and flatmate – were mostly left to fate. I’d like to think of it as a combination of my privilege, good fortune, as well as the vibes I send out to the universe, sub-consciously. Back in 2019, these were wishful thoughts.

Despite the good stuff that has come my way throughout my life, there has always been a niggling thought – a faint voice – trying to convince me that I am, perhaps, not deserving of these things. I tend to downplay my struggles – three years of having been in limbo, in a job that didn’t completely satisfy me whilst dealing with poor mental health stemming from extreme indecisiveness about my future. I have been afraid of happiness even though I spent a long time chasing it.

Gratitude has become a fixture in my life ever since I moved to Auckland. To have someone who reminds me to carry my house-keys, phone and wallet before leaving the house maybe be a small but a meaningful gesture for which I am immensely thankful. Home isn’t just a place but a potpourri of such gestures that convey intimacy, comfort, warmth and ease.

I assumed I was destined to stay in my shoe-box studio for the entirety of my program until I met H. We have solaced each other since the beginning of our friendship, weathered homesickness and several lockdowns together; there were no doubts regarding sharing a home together.

As much as I wanted to limit interactions with my coworkers to our workspace, it turned out that we did make great buddies. I have learnt a new hobby – bouldering! – courtesy my awesome friend/coach/coworker A. I have had another lovely coworker-now-friend, stitch a Halloween costume for me from scratch. We’ve hung out together, confided in and comforted each other during rough times. I couldn’t have asked for more. I feel overwhelmed at times.

I tell myself that I deserve the good stuff. Cliched as it sounds, everything comes in waves – the great and the ugly – that you gotta ride.

D is for discovering a new city

Whilst I spent the first eight years of my life in Bombay, I spent the rest of it – until the age of twenty-six – in Pune. The latter saw me awkwardly transition from a preteen to an under-confident teenager but subsequently step out of it gracefully into my early-twenties. Before Auckland, it is safe to say that I had only known one city to a reasonable extent; reasonable since I only began exploring the city interiors as a graduate student. I am ashamed to confess that I would still require Google Maps to navigate through significant parts of Pune.

My therapist assured me that over time my homesickness would be replaced by appreciation towards Auckland, undoubtedly so as one of my reasons for moving here was the charm it held over me even when I was miles away in my room in Pune filling out doctoral application forms. And boy, she was right.

“this is how I’ll remember the end of my first week alone in a city that is slowly growing on me – the sea, a lovely evening breeze, a smile, my John Mayer tee, Shamoon Ismail and a playlist that seemed to have been made for this place, not to mention meeting a lovely stranger who offered to click my pictures. I feel good!

an excerpt from my caption on Instagram

In my first post, I fleetingly mentioned some of my favourite haunts such as the park with the friendly trees aka Cornwall Park and the Ferry Building. For today’s post, I’ll let my pictures do the talking.

These are a few pictures from an astronomical collection that continues to grow with each passing day.

Bombay watched me grow into a carefree child doted on by her grandparents.

Pune witnessed me brave adolescence – my first bout of period cramps, my first heartbreak, my first panic attack, the grief of losing my grandparents, the heartache associated with losing your loved ones to distance or/and irreconcilable differences – and my metamorphosis into an anxious young adult who found love by serendipity , a post-grad degree (in a course she truly enjoyed) and her first job unexpectedly. Pune watched me endure a flurry of disappointing circumstances coupled with the intense anxiety of having overstayed in one place for too long. Finally, she watched me arrive at a solution – the resolve to leave the comforts of a home life and carve a new one for myself.

Auckland observes me navigate adulthood, easing me into it with her quiet charm.

A change of thought

I’m sitting here in the computer lab, thinking about the school reunion slated this Sunday.  The distraction is real – I have actually minimized the dull terminal box with various scripts running on it. Fortunately,  I am seated away from my colleagues and I’m quite thankful that they won’t be able to steal surreptitious glances at my monitor.  Whew!

I feel guilty about wasting work hours over my blog that has been neglected for quite sometime now – possibly more than a year. But, the only solution for my mind-diarrhea is to excrete it here on this white space. Apologies for my graphic choice of words!

I don’t know what made me RSVP to the event. When I first saw the page on Facebook, I promptly scrolled past it, not bothering to read details. When it popped up again on my feed a few days later, I went ahead and clicked on it. A bunch of batch-mates I barely know had liked the only post displayed on the page.  I contemplated on ticking the box titled “Interested” on an event poll located below the post but then decided against it. It would make sense to first check with three of my friends who have stuck with me since school-days.

Pat came the reply on the WhatsApp group that we are a part of .

“Nope. I’d give this a miss,” said S.

I get her discomfort on attending social gatherings full of several unknown or barely-known faces. That I wanted to attend this reunion in spite of having been a nobody in school did seem unusual. When A declined my offer, I re-considered my decision. In fact, talks about the reunion triggered some unpleasant school memories. Clearly, this was a bad idea.

I had almost forgotten about it until I casually let the question slide into a conversation with another friend who happens to be my schoolmate. Her reaction was equally predictable, considering the uncanny similarities in our school experiences. Being awkward background characters, we had watched the popular kids bask in the glory of the limelight. Jeez, I sound bitter. I guess the onus had equally been on us to take charge of ourselves and participate in school events. A part of me would have definitely enjoyed the adulation of teachers and friends, had I not been crippled by self-doubt for the most part of my teenage. Our school did propagate a toxic competitive culture amongst us girls.  All in all, our discussion had me convinced that the reunion would unnecessarily engender distressing thoughts about the past.

Fast forward to last night, I stumbled upon that intrusive page on my feed again. This time I lingered. The list of attendees had markedly increased and it mainly comprised acquaintances and some unfamiliar names – those from the Boys’ Section, the ones I have no idea about to this date. The Boys’ Section has always been the Forbidden Forest of our school. There were strict rules to be followed and consequences that rule-breakers had to face. From what I recollect, a bunch of girls would stealthily hang out with members of this region in undisclosed locations. Back then, Facebook was the only portal into such meetings and parties which were rather fancy affairs.  These were the ways of the elite I suppose, as most of the partakers weren’t financially inconvenienced. Those were my days of being a novice at social media stalking or researching as I termed it. I would scroll through scores of pictures of my posh batch-mates in their cutesy dresses, tank tops and slim fit jeans, sipping juice, hand in hand with pubescent boys. A part of me desperately craved to suspend my middle-class values, orthodontic braces and bell-bottom jeans and embrace this hip lifestyle with cute boys, indulgent parents and copious monthly allowance.  My life seemed to follow the trajectory of a typical American teenage drama that would ultimately culminate in a big prom. No guesses for what would have happen there – I would meet the love of my life!  Little did I know that I would voluntarily skip the prom aka my tenth grade after-party, only to meet my love (an alumnus of the Boys’ Section) six years later at a party, albeit one that was low-key.

Naturally, given my expertise in social media groundwork,  I sneaked up on some profiles to familiarize myself with new faces. My boyfriend was quite unhelpful with divulging information about his school days because to him those held no significance whatsoever. My handsome K is very much like me in this aspect – he was a reticent kid.  In a way, this whole exercise did seem absurd and unfruitful. I don’t comprehend my ferreting tendencies and curiosity about individuals who were (and probably are) unaware of my existence. Anyway, after a quick mental debate I messaged Sa asking her to accompany me to the venue Sunday. She miraculously agreed and I finally had my way. For all my unsavory opinions on school, the hypocrite in me does want to be there to gauge how everyone has turned out to be. To see whether the bully is still a bully, whether the all-rounder is still ruling the roost.

Ever since I’ve impulsively RSVP’ed, my mind has been fraught with a flurry of anxious thoughts and questions, the first one being, why in the world am I so compelled to attend this reunion? K being a man of few words, puts it succinctly – it’s just a matter of one night that will be forgotten within a week. He is absolutely correct, but I’m never going to give him the satisfaction of knowing that he is right.

I have already begun to rummage through my cupboard to assemble an outfit that will suit the occasion which quite obviously reeks of sophistication. Maybe I’ll go with soft smoky eyes to complement my look. Heck, my make-up skills are quite good. This anxiety associated with choosing a chic attire is way too familiar. How many times had I questioned my sartorial choices during them school days?

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Blast from the past : This was snapped right before my school farewell party

So why am I attending this reunion?

Sa echoes my sentiments – “Hahaha, curiosity and to rub our happiness in people’s faces.”

Do I really want to rub my happiness in people’s faces and be vindicated? There’s no discrete answer to this. My mother is of the opinion that my confidence waned after having joined this school. Back in Bombay, I was a carefree kid who studied in a simple co-educational environment. There had been no pressure to perfect my English speaking skills or to ogle at boys through rose-tinted glasses. I was good at art and music. I could wear anything and not feel shy about my lanky body. However, everything changed after we moved to Pune.

To make up for my lack of participation in cultural programs and debates, I would cook-up scenarios in my head. Usually, I would visualize myself to be quite popular, extremely smart, displaying my talent in music, dance, debate, you name it, before a huge audience. I imagined myself to be an ace guitarist. Teachers liked me and spoke highly of me to my parents. In this parallel world, I was a part of the elite group with friends from the forbidden part of the school.

Of course, the reality was anything but pleasant. I suffer from mild social anxiety, the roots of which trace back to high school. I was used to being overlooked by my own classmates, to being one of the last ones to be picked in the basketball team. My seniors in the school bus were bullies and had no shame in “taking my case”.  My grades dropped when I was in the tenth grade. I could have never imagined that I would start my own blog because I sucked at writing essays.  Heck, I doubt if my teachers remember me. Aye, I have gone ahead and thrown myself a pity party here. But some background is necessary to show you the absurdity of my decision to attend this party on Sunday.

The answer to my question is glaringly obvious. I’m dying to see where I stand amongst these girls and boys – now women and men. To prove to myself that I’m somebody and that I will be no longer intimidated by them.

It’s strange. I am, of course, in a much better place now as compared to where I was aged fifteen. I am grateful for the people in my life, the ones who know me in and out and take me the way I am. I know that I don’t need to prove a point to anybody.

You may think I’m being petty and counter-productive, as this may only fuel my insecurities further. There are bound to be people who are doing better than me. And not all my school-mates were terrible. I can still change my mind and cancel plans. Why go out of my way to prove a point to those who have no inkling whatsoever about my intentions?

Figuring myself out is so hard sometimes. But it’s okay, I’ll go with my impulses for once.

Curiosity may have killed the cat but I’m willing to risk it this time.

IMG_20161101_121502242

Circa 2016 : The lasting effects of puberty. It did me a good turn.

Ambiguity

Dear Diary,

I have begun to hate Facebook. But I don’t find myself deactivating or deleting my account. On one hand I detest scrolling through my home feed, browsing though pictures of my friends’ holidaying in the UK,  or attending Coldplay concerts, or eating exotic food, or experiencing the ultimate student life in Ivy League universities, and so on and so forth. On the other, a part of me fervently wishes my life were half as interesting as theirs.

As you may have already guessed from my tone, I am clearly not in the best of spirits. Unemployment has never been a part of my vocabulary before this. Until now I didn’t know it meant applying in tons of companies or startups only to receive poorly worded mails in response to a polite cover letter and a good CV. I didn’t know grades would be the least of all my concerns, in spite of having toiled for two years to learn the ropes of computational biology. I didn’t know being disciplined in the absence of a definite routine would be this hard. I didn’t know I would begin to dread staying at home alone with my laptop for company. I didn’t know it meant downing endless cups of coffee to keep myself rejuvenated. I didn’t know it meant writing endless to-do lists daily to convince myself that I have work to do, only to end up not achieving half the tasks listed in my pocket diary. Why has my life come to a standstill? Why has it come to feeling so mediocre in spite of having pushed myself to give my best all these years? Competition is the worst thing to deal with, doubled with anxiety.

Yesterday I forced myself to come up with a game plan for my future. A part of me truly wishes to pursue research in academia, which translates into years of commitment and independent work. It also means living for extended periods away from family and my boyfriend. It means stress yet it spells satisfaction.  Am I ready for that? I don’t know. I don’t think so. I have always been an over-cautious kid. I hate taking risks. I have never lived away from home. It’s the scariest thought ever.

I want to be independent. I want to move out, yet be able to visit home regularly. As much as going abroad sounds exciting, I love the comfort of my country. Somehow, it has always been a challenge to voice my opinions to most of my peers, who are currently in pursuit of a life abroad. That being said, there are a thousand things wrong about our country with “mediocre” and “poor” being appropriate adjectives to describe its state of affairs. But what if I want to stay here in spite of all that? What if my relationship matters equally? Attachment to family seems to be too feeble a reason to defend my argument. I can’t have the best of both worlds. I know my words are conflicting. It’s a mere reflection of my thoughts.

The past few months of ambiguity have been tolerable only because of Karthik. We have been together for two years now. We have managed to survive the distance that separates whenever he’s off sailing. Sometimes, it seems unreal. I find myself wondering how someone could sincerely love me in spite of my temper, impatience and selfishness, to say the least. It’s true that I do occasionally suffer from bouts of low self-esteem, but his affection astonishes me. “Of course you take me for granted!” he jokes, which is true for the most part. But I feel lucky. We may be jerks to each other at times, but I cherish every second I get to spend with him.

I hope this phase passes soon. Trying to remain positive requires effort. Negativity is easy to fathom. I will write again soon, but that’s all for now.

Coming to terms

It’s been a long time.

It’s been a long time for various reasons.

Today I have decided to complete this post after having contemplated on finishing it two months ago.

Today I have decided to forget that I’m a student pursuing a gruelling post-graduate course that usually eats up my Sundays.

Today I am not free.

I wrote my previous post sometime in December. I  know that unlike the past two years, I did not bother to come up with my usual year-end ramble about how much 2014 meant to me, my experiences that year, etcetera,  etcetera .

The reason for this exception isn’t anything very special –  I’m still trying to hold onto the past year and the much-deserved warmth it infused in me. I refuse to accept that 2015 is another new start as every year has always been, or rather, has claimed to be.

The one thing I miss the most is the summer of 2014, especially our whirlwind trip to Paris and Switzerland. Out of the two destinations, Switzerland felt more like home to me; a second home that I had previously been unaware of, a home that had existed all this while, quietly, amidst snow-capped peaks and lush green meadows. This time we decided to deviate from the usual hotel accommodation, and chose to spend three days in a chalet owned by an old Swiss couple. Why did I fall in love with a locale and setting as humble as this? There are answers to this question, of course. I could owe it to the balcony overlooking the Alps, or to the contentment of letting words run in my diary whilst the mountains gave me company, to the wisps of smoke arising  from my coffee one particularly cold morning, to the wooden flooring, to the joy of wearing winter clothes and boots after a winterless year, to the winding streets of Grindelwald that led to an old station which could transport you back in time, to the snowman we built, to being overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the rugged yet kind nature that greeted us everyday, to being a part of the quaint surroundings – oh the list is indeed endless.

Every minute spent in the country that wasn’t my own, counted, and more so because I knew what awaited me back home. I wanted to push away my anxiety and worry regarding academia, temporarily.

Though the holiday blues took a long time to fade, the year turned out to be a great one. What I have been left with ever since, is a dull craving to somehow experience it all once again, though dejavu will never be the same.

I have been asked to, or rather, been telling myself to stop myself from clamming my head with too many questions and expectations. I find myself wondering if I would have indeed done better, had I left this city to pursue my academics elsewhere. Would I be still loathing myself for being so dependant on my parents for everything? Would I still be that person to whom everything comes easily? A good university within the city, a fabulous vacation, good grades, a steady relationship with a good boy,  good food, and good friends. I’m probably jinxing everything good in my life by flaunting it on social media but the fact is everything good doesn’t guarantee one hundred percent satisfaction.

I have gone on severals rants bout my dissatisfaction, and I have noticed that it’s one of those things that lasts temporarily, fades away, only to sneak into your routine sometime later. And folks like me express it through words whilst there are some who find other mediums of venting it out. Also, I can’t help but notice how stoic I sound.

As much as I would like to deny the fact that it was change that made the whole international experience so memorable and that it’s the lack of change I have been sensing all this while, I have to come to terms with it. On one hand, it scares the s*** out of me on the other hand I guess it’s the only thing that can guarantee some peace. My close friend told me that living on my own is a lot harder than I think. It will be really hard but I guess that’s what I need. Change comes with a price.

It’s turning out to be a long post, but who cares, I’m amazed at my train of thoughts. 2014 was a great year, because at some point it seemed like a year different than the rest.

It’s time I acknowledge this year and appreciate it for its worth.

I have two examinations due this week and I’m not free. Coming to terms with that isn’t so hard. 

Untitled.

What began as an attempt to reorganize my blog, change its look and start afresh with bubbling enthusiasm fizzled out to be a long sabbatical from writing, not to mention a writer’s block being the most convenient excuse to spout.

For starters, I deleted the Facebook page that I had created for my blog. Why? Because my neglect towards the poor page began bothering me to such an extent, that I began to feel like a hypocrite who had initially promised to blog regularly with fancies of hitting 500+ likes within weeks. No, that page didn’t deserve my neglect, and nor did my blog deserve to anticipate audience.

Moreover, I recently read something in Derek K. Miller’s blog (archive), that instantly struck a chord with me. He says, “… I can’t not write, but I’ve never been able to keep a diary, because I’ve always wanted an audience. I write my blog for myself, of course, and as something for my family and friends, as a record of my thoughts. But deep down, selfishly, I also want an audience of strangers, people who know me because of my writing, and who find some value in what I publish on its own merits, not because they are my friend or my relative.”

For the longest time, I had wanted to pen down something along the aforementioned lines, without making myself seem like a pompous idiot, mind you! And I’m grateful to Mr.Miller for making it easier for me.

However, in retrospect the page was a reminder of my overambitious tendencies. Not only this page, but also my Soundcloud and Flickr profiles serve as classic examples of my habit of biting off more than I can chew. Followed by vehement denial on my part to massage my ego, of course. Interspersed with spurts of devotion. I realised this when my blog page popped on my newsfeed after what could have been months, the latest post dated around January.

I’m pretty sure you readers (if at all, there are any), might go all deja-vu on reading the previous paragraph. The same disappointment,  the more-than-frequent lapses, the same rant, all over again. It is but ironical that I’m only answerable to myself at this point, and not a so-called audience. Because,

a) The so-called audience resides in my mind
b) The whole purpose of a hobby is misplaced whilst trying to please this imaginary audience.

I consider myself as another victim of the Jack-of-all-trades disease. I write, I sing, I click pictures. But, can I proudly flaunt any one of those with conviction? Probably not. I sense that my quality has deteriorated in the process of focusing my energies on my unknown spectators. Let me just talk about writing. I realise I have been restricting the content of my blog in order to be appreciated by my friends and other fellow bloggers. Previously, I had to force myself to come up with inspiring posts, when all I wanted was to whine about the weather, or vent out my frustration, or talk about my break-up, or probably just describe a delicious mango. And here comes the weirdest bit – I wasn’t obliged to do so actually; the Facebook page just amplified the need to popularise my blog.  Good riddance, I suppose. But I feel sorry that I couldn’t stick to it.

What have I been upto over the past three months? Well post an unforgettable whirlwind trip to Paris and Switzerland, I unhappily returned to the oppressive Pune heat only to get neck deep in a college hunting process. June was worrisome considering I had nightmares about not making it to a good institute to pursue a postgraduate degree in Bioinformatics.I had to eliminate some institutes from my list and additionally appear for a couple of examinations. I was subjected a lot of why-don’t-you-go-abroad and what-about-that-college conversations, plus feeble don’t-worry-it-will-work-out reassurance. I had to run around from one office to another, and likewise make my poor dad run around to procure a Domicile Certificate, an unnecessary document to prove my residence in Maharashtra. My admission in Pune University, depended on that damned piece of paper. After dealing with nerves for what seemed like eternity, I was finally offered admission in the said institute which had always been my first preference. College resumed a fortnight ago, and I have been happy and occupied, ever since. Besides a good campus, crowd and staff, there’s a coffee stall next to my department. What more could I ask for…

On the downside, I haven’t been writing, playing my guitar, or clicking photographs that often. It bothers me. Classical music has taken a back seat; the playlists on my phone are craving to be updated. The persistent rains have draped a blanket of gloom on the city. Plus, Pune tops the list of India’s Worst Public Transport Systems (I just made that up, but you can imagine), and commuting obviously sucks. Moreover, I joined the Teach For India volunteering service, only to withdraw from it because of my (already) hectic academic schedule. Also, saying goodbye to some of my oldest friends who moved out of the city recently, has affected me to an extent.

As of now, my motive is to be consistent in all my endeavours. I don’t want to be that person who turns to her blog only when “shit happens”.  My blog is indeed a solace during rough phases, but it deserves better. I am also contemplating on deleting my Flickr account and switching to a daily/weekly photoblog. That way I can concentrate on writing and photography, simultaneously.

On a lighter note, I will be turning 21 in two days. I don’t feel excited as of now but I hope to, by tomorrow! My resolution for my 22nd year is to hold onto my resolutions, develop a thicker skin, and write more. At this point, I can only wish myself luck.

Thank you Akoustik, for standing by me through thick and thin.

There is no Secret

I never wanted to believe that book.

First of all, I love the comfort of staying in denial (well, who doesn’t?). I applaud myself, as I type this because I swear, I’m not too comfortable with confessions. But then, I’m barely the person I was last year, who preferred basking in illusions. So hey, here’s to self-awakening. Cheers.

For long, I have been trying to evade the law of attraction mumbo-jumbo. I must say I still disagree with it sometimes, especially its implausibility in certain scenarios. However, as much as I’d love to deny it vehemently, I think it’s pretty fail-proof.

Oh man.

I’m not worried. I’m not. I’m not. I’m not..I’m..

Of course, I was worried. Worried about not getting into a good college. Worried about being subjected to a miserable social life. Worried about being in anyone’s bad books. Worried about getting into a bad relationship. Denying simply brought me more grief in the form of anxiety attacks.

And it just attracted more worry. It still does, at times. I ask myself, what comfort did/do I cling to by perpetually floundering in a sea of unease? I suppose the answer lies within me. Oh, I tend to get intense, once in a while.

As I type this, I try to unwind or ‘chill’ (I loathe that word). But, anxiety is a loyal friend, that strives to stay as long as it can. I have tried or rather, am trying to abandon it with the help of my faithful Fender, or an occasional bottle of Old Monk (though I may add, this is hardly the weather to relish rum).

I think at this point, I’m drifting.

I don’t remember what I intended to write in the first place. All I know is, I actually had no intention of finishing this post when I began typing and deleting word after word, two weeks ago. That was when my examinations were successfully on their mission of zapping my enthusiasm. But, strangely enough, I kept convincing myself that I was going to finish typing something that day, maybe spout some deep-seated wisdom that I usually reserve for myself and my moody conscience. Of course, that was a farce. I hope I manage to finish writing something, today.

I told myself I will steer away from romance (the sort that allures a girl on the brink of twenties, portraying itself to be rational) and the ephemeral rosiness it brings along, during my final year of undergraduate studies. I told myself a lot of other things like I’d blog more often. That I’d complete all the unfinished music, that bothers me till date. The fact that I had to constantly make a note of such things, makes me realize that I had always wanted to do the opposite. And that’s why I ended up heading towards the opposite.

I entered third year, love struck. I now exit feeling blank.  I blog once in three months. My music lies unfinished in a virtual closet. Because, this is precisely what I wanted. I don’t know why. But I think I do.

On the lighter side, the one thing that I did finish is my project. My final semester project was successful, because I wanted it to be so. And that time I didn’t need to make notes, and set up reminders.

The book says the same. I don’t follow the book. It’s bullshit.

But I know I do. Subconsciously.

There’s no secret. You get what you think.

Pictures in my mind

There are times when I open my blog feeling inspired, but then end up staring blankly at this box because inspiration seems to have disappeared in the blink of an eye, or isn’t there to begin with because it probably must have been something I imagined.

Frankly, I’m not inspired to write today. I am writing because I feel like I should, and I am hoping I will get some inspiration along the way.

The year has begun on a tedious note, with academics and more academics, and one messed up entrance examination for a Masters degree in IIT (something which I had been looking forward to since the past six months). I know I’m beating myself over it;  I feel regretful and disappointed. I should have worked harder. I should have done this. I should have done that.
And these thoughts run a vicious cycle.

Sometimes, I wonder what is it that attracts to me to this institute. Is it the prestige? Its grand campus? Or the course structure? The crowd? I can picture myself studying there, but does the picture truly hold any meaning? Is it another chunk of my whims and fancies? I would like to say I don’t know because it’s convenient, but I do know. Let that be a secret.

Three months ago, I indulged in a counselling session with Mum. Yes, she was the counselor, and a good one that too. For those two hours, it wasn’t my mother who addressed me. It was a counselor who had a third person perspective regarding my career and interests. We spoke about what worried me the most. I remember talking about dropping Biotechnology as a career option, and instead opt for a media-related field, something along the lines of photojournalism. And then began the tumult of questions.

“Why are you confused?”

“What appeals to you more?”

“What made you think about this?”

“Have you jotted down the pros and cons of both options?”

“How do you picture yourself in each field?

“Do you see yourself enjoying the field you’ve chosen?”

The first three questions seemed pretty straightforward, but the latter got me thinking. Imagining. Picturing. Maybe, the picture I had in my head wasn’t going to be the real thing. I mean, it felt great (it still does) to see myself as a photographer, waltzing with a camera in hand and clicking pictures on-the-go . The flip side being monotony, extensive travelling, low stipends, and lack of creativity on a daily basis, was hard to picture. Not to mention, unpleasant to analyse. And yet the real thing is a mix of both. I just liked the former.

I had a stereotyped image of a career in biotechnology. I think I still do. I’m not too fond of wet labs, and research is something that doesn’t appeal to me. On the other hand,  I haven’t explored the field, and sticking to the stereotype seems to be a more convenient option.

I find myself asking the same question each day. What is it that I really want? Am I scared of flip sides and cons? Do I expect too much out of everything and everyone? Or do I just prefer seeing those pictures that I want to see?

One reads stories, hears rumors, swallows what the Internet has to say,  absorbs opinions flying around, or probably gets influenced by others, that invariably creates a slideshow of scenes in one’s head. What are these scenes? Do they reflect the actual circumstance? Probably not.

Then again imagination always runs wild. It maybe positive. It could be negative. Rationality is something else altogether. And where imagination is, illusion exists. Illusions are unidirectional. Almost dreams.

All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” 

– Edgar Allan Poe