Thought jam.


Thought jamEvery time I reluctantly say ‘yes’ to something new and love it, my alternative self in another dimension that chooses otherwise, remains oblivious to the wonders, and marvels of engaging in novel ideas and acts. It remains unvisited by the consuming euphoria and ecstasy that novelty brings with it. It persists ignorant of what could be. A scenario tragic, and familiar.

I want to be the ecstatic version of myself in this reality, not the oblivious one. I’ve had my share of lacklustre experiences playing out in my timeline following the “Noes”. I’d leave those to the other me now, in another world.

I wish to dive deep into the world of unfamiliarity; unrealistic agendas, and impractical schemes; to leap long over the chasm that separates me from myself; drift away from ideas of propriety, and sobriety that keep me from walking wobbly and falling. I wish to be high on adventure, spinning with rapture, roaring with a frenzy of exaltation; walking that tight rope between being an artist and a neurotic, because that’s where all the magic happens.

I want to transcend and be more than myself, more than what happens to me, more than what people do or say to me, more than what they think, or imagine me to be. I want to lead a life unknown to people, unencumbered by conventions and norms, by cultural blasphemies and familial bondage; away from those who celebrate mediocracy and those who glorify the ordinary, and those who denounce genuine efforts to rise above it all.

I want to spin my own tale, and improvise my own life; I want to render my own reality, and not go on being a survivor in someone else’s orthodox story. I want to exercise volition in determining how my story unfolds, and how it comes to an end. I want agency over my own narrative, and yet have a subtle understanding, certain wisdom, at the back of my head, warning me about unforeseen catastrophes with the potential to capsize my very being.

I want to be the most phenomenal version of me, and yet wish to die with a sense of having achieved greatly and at the same time never knowing my ultimate potential. I want to fade away with a lingering dichotomy of being in the know, and the anticipation of still not knowing enough. I want to recede into unconsciousness with a paradox unsolved, to be pursued in another life, unsure of life beyond. That, would be a beautiful life; lived and un-lived, experienced and unwitnessed, embraced and untouched. I don’t want answers or solutions; only discourses and theories, discussions and disagreements, problems and brainstorms.

After all, what’s the fun in knowing something with finality, when you can savour the nuanced flavours of uncertainty, relish your devouring insatiability, and jam with jostling ideas all your life. What is the fun..?

 

 

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Of diamonds and discord.


When my parents rather curiously and considerately asked me 8 months ago, about how much I would want to contribute to my wedding expense from my savings, I told them I would happily spend on one event- the engagement ceremony. They seemed delighted and proud, until I told them I wanted to exchange rings in Europe, with no guests. *grin*

What followed was chaos. I was met with dropped jaws and wide eyed faces. Obviously. They discarded my idea as a gross social fiasco. “How can you go abroad before the wedding? There’s already so much expenditure to do, and you want to spend on a Europe trip? Go after the wedding!”

I had been planning this trip for over a year, but parents being parents!

To be fair, I didn’t want any of that expenditure on my wedding. I wanted a small and simple ceremony. But soon I realized you can’t really have your way with parents. They have had this dream of planning your wedding since the day you were dropped on this planet, and there’s no way they are going to let you ruin it. So here I am, from wanting to be a trend-setter and not have a conventional wedding, to giving in to the demands of my over sentimental Punjabi parents. We all mutually decided to keep the expenditure controlled though, which I’m very happy about. And they also had to finally agree on the engagement idea! So,*success* 

While I was super excited planning my Euro- trip, and charting out the budget, it dawned upon me, with a rather sudden sense of tragedy, that we would also have to buy rings!

For someone who dislikes wearing jewellery, and has never bought anything but junk accessories, the idea of going to a real jewellery store, to buy REAL jewellery was plain strange.

So there I was, sitting in a glittery ostentatious jewellery store, across the counter from a charming salesman, discussing the flaws and brilliance of a small sparkly piece of stone, which if chosen, would be fixed on top of a shiny gold band with some more stones, and would potentially mark the onset of a new phase of my life. 
Wow.

I couldn’t stop noticing the salesman, who was playing with this small microscope, trying very hard to focus on the diamond and fetch some important information for us. Ha, this one here has only one small spot on the right. Not in the centre, He announced, looking up from the stone, to meet our blank faces.

He asked me to take a closer look at the piece he was holding, “See this tiny spot here? that’s the only scar this diamond has, and that’s why it has clarity.. bla bla, and it will cost you xyz rupees more”  *grins*

“Oh, I see. Interesting. So this spot is not visible without the microscope?” I asked inquiringly.
(Smiles annoyingly) “no mam.”
“So I pay you more because this spot that’s anyway not visible, is on the side, and not in the centre?”
“Ummm mam…”
My mom hushed me, as I stared at him, and then at the lifeless piece of (expensive-af ) sparkling stone, thinking how I could just skip buying this silly ring and upgrade my Euro-trip by adding another city to my itinerary. Ah choices! I guess I can never understand spending on jewellery.

After some more useless discussion about the cut and colour of some more useless stones, I decided to go for a ring that wouldn’t haunt me or my partner in our dreams forever. It was harder choosing a ring for him, and our mutual and deeply felt hatred for spending on diamonds made us a notch more compatible. *we high-fived*

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We exchanged rings in Italy last year in May. It was a beautiful moment. And now our rings are safely set in a fancy velvet box, in a locked drawer because we both don’t like wearing rings. *Sigh*

People tell me I will grow fond of diamonds and jewellery with age. I doubt it has anything to do with age. My life choices have been complicated. I chose experimentation, risks, and creative freedom instead of a steady job early in my career. I decided to spend my savings on traveling and collecting experiences, rather than tangible luxuries and trinkets. I know what appeals to me and what doesn’t. And even if  one lucky day I’m able to strike a balance between what I love doing and earning enough, my choices would be in sync with who I am, and what excites me. And spending a fortune on stones definitely doesn’t.

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Looking back, I had so much more fun collecting these colourful pretty sea stones and sea glass on the sea shore in Italy. They felt more real and flawless, and I didn’t have to roam around with a microscope to check their worth. 

It’s about the vibe.


It is no lie

There is a tie

You own your team, I’ve got my tribe.

 

There ain’t no science

There ain’t no logic

The energy though, it’s about the vibe.

 

It is no lie

May be you rely

On silence, but is that a jibe?

 

No battles fought

There is no fight

The energy though, it’s about the vibe.

 

They ask me why

Why do you try

Say something, try to describe.

 

Oh my, oh my!

I’d rather die

It’s not the words, it’s about the vibe.

 

It is a lie

Coz I ain’t shy

Tell me the truth, shame on that bribe.

 

And in your eye

I see it, sigh!

It’s not the words, it’s about the vibe.

 

And may-be one day

When I’m too high

I’ll give you more than you subscribe.

 

And tell you why

I refuse to buy,

Face-value, coz it’s about the vibe.

To want to know it all.


The choice between the two uncompromising finalities. One, of the known and the other, of the unknown. The desire to be in the know, and the pitiable lack thereof; a predisposition to knowledge, and a predisposition to its illusion.

Living in dark oblivion; choosing a reality bereft of meaning; a life brimming with futility, folly; a hollowness perched on the periphery of consciousness, unattended; a wholesome ignorance, embraced. A fulfilled, quasi-consummate existence miles away from disenchantment. Vacuum, void, complacency, shaping the most impotent, ineffectual life ever.

Knowledge- deep, dark, arousing, and enlightening, rendering you naked, vulnerable, and a step closer to the divinity of truth. Every speck of new information overwhelming you with novelty, and dramatically altering your affirmed perspectives; making you re- contextualize every idea you revered; making your neurons go shooting in frenzy. For the pursuit of knowledge is diabolic, treacherous, and yet supremely transcendental and transformational; turning you obsessive, neurotic; arousing fanatic suspicion in everything. Making you a wicked cynic; an arrogant optimist; a wretched being.

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The pursuit to know it all is all consuming; a beauty seeking to be unveiled; a treasure waiting to be sought; a tragedy we all must meet and fall in love with.

 

My favourite ghazals, the rain, some alcohol, a good book, the moon, and hot coffee.


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The choice to customize is always tricky, especially when it involves being able to tweak your own life. You have freedom, and you have choices, and you can do whatever you want. I would compare my customized life to an ice cream tub. You know when you have too many choices while buying ice cream and you end up with a weird flavour because you tried mixing all the colourful attractive scoops together? Something like that. I’m living a weird colourful life in an ice cream tub it seems.

I’m underpaid, I’m independent, I’m paying my own bills, I’m doing what I love, And I’m happy. I wanted this life, and I have it now. (Yeah, I would love to earn more money, but hey, don’t they say something like you should do what you love and success and money would follow? I’m waiting for that ideal situation) Despite the problems, this wait is way more tolerable than what my life was till a year ago. I was overpaid (Yes, I truly believed so, and that depressed me), I was dependent, everything was taken care of, I hated my job, and I was terribly stressed about everything. There was a lurking sadness, always. And though it was somewhere inside me, in a little corner, hiding all the time, I felt it surfacing sometimes at odd moments- like when I was two drinks down, and listening to Mehdi Hassan; It surfaced in the form of a tear, in the form of a half-smile, in the form of a sway of my head. It did. And I enjoyed it. Funnily, I grew fond of it. I grew fond of how I enjoyed my grief, and explored and discussed philosophical questions with myself. Like I would have these complex discussions going on in my head, and I would just smile like a retard. It’s such a triumphant feeling you know, like you’ve found a life hack or something.

As days passed by, and things remained the same, I discovered it surfaced at other times too- when I looked out of the window at the downpour, when my own grief touched me through the sound of the rain. And I loved it. It surfaced when I saw the moon, pale, a little more than half, reminding me of the incomplete things in my never ending, rolling-all-over-the-floor to-do list. Sipping hot coffee and looking at the clouds through the huge glass window of my office tower, sometimes watching flocks of birds forming patters in the sky and admiring feeling jealous at their beautiful execution of creativity; secretly writing poetry sitting in the office washroom, and feeling ecstatic; being deeply and inextricably buried in a good book for days. All this, and more helped me survive the constant unrest, the constant sadness of not being able to find where I belong. And I feel stupid saying it, but I had fallen in love with my grief. When you feel you are sinking and you just embrace life for what it is; not resisting, not fighting. May be I had just befriended the little things that reminded me of it- my favourite ghazals, the rain, a good book, some alcohol, the moon, hot coffee. May be.

Last month, for the first time, something unusual happened- My favourite ghazal- Ranjish hi sahi by Mehdi Hasan didn’t stir the same emotions in me as it always did. I didn’t feel happy to be sad. May be because funnily, I didn’t have a reason to be sad. I somehow felt at peace with myself. For that ephemeral moment, I felt I was doing fine, and I don’t know why, but I didn’t like it. I had liked the sweet confusion, the seeking, my pursuits, I had liked all of that. I wanted the same old familiar feeling, even if it meant feeling a little low. Sometimes when I feel things like these, I seriously doubt my sanity. Like seriously, what’s wrong with me? (They say humans can never be happy, I now know what they mean.)

The following week of course, I was busy again. I was anxious and excited about doing well at work and there was commotion. But I just couldn’t stop thinking about what I had felt that night. It was something I had never experienced before, but it was also short-lived. And yesterday, I found myself looking at the moon and brooding again. Once again, I had a reason to ponder over the mysteries of life. Once again I was feeling low about something, and then feeling happy about the discussion in my head. Like life was making sense to me in weird ways. Call me mad, but that’s a major survival trick.

Of course, I need to work on and figure how to be happy when I am really feeling happy though.

Lol. kidding. 

 

Learning to tell jokes. Phew!


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I like my desk better now- with lesson plans, colourful worksheets, fun videos and audios on my desktop, and a daily task of creating something new.
It’s scary too, of course. Imagine standing in front of a batch of Japanese, Spanish, Indian, South Korean, and French speaking students, and trying to crack a joke in English. You are subject to instant validation and frankly, in the internet age, I’m not used to it. But sometimes, you have no escape, you just have to crack a joke, and it has to be funny.

Like last week, a student asked me what humour meant. Now how would you begin to explain humour to a beginner level class without cracking a joke? So you take a deep breath, muster some courage to build a joke around the first thing that comes to your mind, and shoot! If your students laugh, it means they all understand it. And you are like woah! they all get a joke in English! If they don’t, you feel shaky in your knees, and struggle to cover it up with a better one. It’s so tricky you know, they won’t get the jokes you have grown up with, and you have no idea about what they would find funny. And if they don’t find it funny, how would you get the meaning across? Sometimes you find a student strangely staring at you, with big eyes and raised eyebrows just when you think you’ve told the best joke of your life. Trust me, your world comes crashing down in that moment.

Sometimes my jokes aren’t funny, what’s funny is how all the students suddenly start looking at me when a question is asked, expecting an instant answer. You need to be quick, spontaneous. I have never been spontaneous. I’ve always been in awe of people who were, thinking it’s something you were born with. You know those people who don’t plan at all? I thought I could never be that person. Well, I was wrong. Eventually, you become that person, quickly learning to construct meanings with words and contexts your students would understand, and sometimes failing terribly. But I guess it’s okay; being tested every day, watching myself fail and then laughing at the fiascos every day. It makes you realise how fallible you are, and it’s important because every failure puts a tiny crack on your perfect self-image.  And when that happens, when you see a less perfect version of you, it bothers you like nothing does, making you want to mend it right there.

I’d read somewhere that we should try and fail at something every day. They say it helps in getting over the fear of failure and trying new things. I think it’s working for me. Well, it applies to telling jokes for now, but that’s progress no?

 

On being a teacher of the ‘funny language’


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A learned man said to me once, “Why do you want to become an English language teacher? It’s a fucked up and funny language.” It was a cloudy day, perfect for epiphanies, and so I let one mess with my brain again.

The two adjectives he used caused enough stirring in me to stick to my resolve to become one (effects of prolonged exposure to banality and monotony in life, I believe). And so I began on this journey, to a destination I thought I knew and understood. It’s been less than a year since I started teaching English professionally, and all I can say, is that I was wrong.

One of my students is a bright young boy who works as a waiter at a popular pub in Gurgaon. He always keeps me on my toes by asking me curious questions about the English language.Mam, on recharging my phone, why do I get a message saying ‘Your balance has been credited’? Don’t we use the ‘ing’ form of verb with ‘has +been’?” He asked me one day- with I don’t know why- a naughty smile.

While I know the English grammar rules, and also the fact that the mere possession of knowledge doesn’t suffice, I realized you have to be a teacher to really understand your own understanding of certain things. You have to pass on the concept in the best, the most creative way possible.

I asked him at the beginning of the session, as I do with all my new students- “Why do you want to learn English?” That day, I couldn’t help but notice a deep sadness and dejection in his eyes

I want to be able to speak English fluently so I can become a manager at a pub one day. And so that people would respect me. Nobody really respects the waiting staff. Whenever something goes wrong, even if the customer is at fault, we are reprimanded, and expected to apologize”, he explained, with his lips curved in a strangely gentle smile of despair.

I have seen these people at restaurants, the ones who for some twisted reason have grown up to believe that they are the most superior beings on this mortal planet. Being sarcastic at best and, rude and disrespectful at worst, these people think they own the place. The ritual of whistling, shouting out ‘Aey hello!’ to address the waiters is common. But, when I heard about it from this young boy, his eyes full of dreams and aspirations getting misty, his predicament pierced me like a sword. It angered me. I felt for this boy who was smart, humble, worked 16 hours a day, earned a livelihood for his family, and spent a considerable part of his monthly salary on learning English, with the belief that this language would earn him respect. I don’t know what’s disheartening if this isn’t.

His response that day changed the way I viewed my profession. Hell, it made me rethink the meaning of my choice to become an English language teacher. I realized that my perceived sense of responsibility towards my profession was all wrong. Since that day, I have taught many such students, who spoke in their native language with great confidence, but transformed into meek, underconfident strugglers the minute they switched to English. Some of them were so conscious of their pronunciation, that they wouldn’t speak the word but would spell it out to ask me the correct way of pronouncing it. Trust me, this really scared me as a teacher. 

You know English in India is not just a language- it’s like a degree that gives you confidence, promises you better prospects, better opportunities, better jobs, better livelihood, and it hurts me to say, but respect. May be I was aware of all this before, but now I am a part of this process for people. I am no more doing a job for myself alone, but for people who invest their trust in me. Teaching has changed me so much as a person; I have grown more perceptive, humbler, and yes I’m no more the judgmental grammar Nazi I used to be.

Ten years ago, my uncle had asked me what I wanted to become when I grew up, and I had said anything but a teacher. Surprised, he asked why, and I said, because nobody respects teachers. I don’t know what was responsible for this idea. May be the teasing and making fun of teachers at school which I hope, we all are guilty of indulging in. When I look back now, I just feel sad about our childhood sensibilities and morals.

But today I am glad I’m a teacher; I feel happy to see my students learning and becoming confident; their dejection dissipating as classes progress, and something meaningful is learnt. It’s amazing how these classes don’t just improve their communication, but also transform their personalities.

Lack of self worth, be it for any reason, can be the most dangerous thing for a young mind. I have been through this phase as a teenager, and I know how fucked up it feels. I don’t want people to go through it because of a language, and that too this funny language.

It would just be sad.