I’m sick of you getting Leh’d

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I know that’s an easy pun that obviously emerged after everyone had started visiting Leh after ‘3 Idiots’ made it all hep and famous. Pop culture has an incredible ability to boost tourism – Goa became a ritual for all college kids after Dil Chahta Hai, India became interested in Skydiving after ZNMD, and Leh became the new right to passage for calling yourself a ‘traveller’ after 3 Idiots.
But there’s something that irks me about all of this, this new hipster life, which seems so pseudo and superficial just because of the scale at which it is practised. In the process of being a ‘traveller’ and ‘wanderlust seeker’, most of us forget the most essential thing – to travel responsibly.
We are doing a guide on Responsible Tourism at work, in which we are covering places that practise better ways of tourism. But I’ve realised that before institutions and hotels try and imbibe better tourism practices amongst us, we as individuals need to be a little more sensitive toward the places we visit. And here are some of the things I’ve observed during my travels that need to STOP RIGHT NOW (the points are very savage, to say the least).
1. Let’s start with Leh.
Majority of the people who visit Leh want to go there for experiencing some sort of hipster way of life; apparently those parties are amazing et all, and of course the place is pretty damn picturesque. But if your core purpose (which you won’t admit) to go there is to upload pictures on Facebook and use hashtags such as #wanderlust #adventure #gotlehd #traveller , etc., then please don’t go there. You’re only increasing the carbon footprint in such an ecologically sensitive area and that is not okay. There has been an increase in the reports regarding the garbage piling up there, and that needs to stop. Let’s pledge to not make Leh another Everst basecamp. Travel more responsibly if you’re going there – visit Alchi, Thikse Monastery, Leh Palace, whatever, and make sure you’re not degrading the environment there. Learn about the place. It’s really not cool if you visit a place and upload some selfies and come back with nothing but those. If you’ve visited Leh and not learnt a thing about the place, then you might as well party in Hauz Khas Village and photoshop your face in the cold desert of Leh, just saying.
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2. When you visit high altitude passes and mountains
Don’t throw your plastic garbage and cigarette butts around. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi is not going to send its kooda wala van all the way up some 14,000ft to pick up your garbage. Just don’t do it. And don’t scare those yaks, please no.
3. When you’re in national parks and sanctuaries
Tigers are majestic, I know. But don’t give your hotel a bad rating on TripAdvisor if you don’t spot a tiger on your safari. There are other interesting animals that constitute the excellent biodiversity of this country, enjoy those sightings. And if you’re still cribbing about the tiger, well I’m glad the tiger didn’t present itself in front of you. I have never seen a tiger, but I keep trying my luck over and over again.
4. Discipline in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries
Don’t wear red, don’t scare the damn animals in their own habitat. And if you do end up spotting a tiger, don’t unanimously shout ‘tiger tiger tiger’ at the top of your lungs. Let the tiger be, and enjoy its sightings quietly.
5. Monuments
Don’t scribble on them. Please, no. And what are you really going for if you go to a historical site and come back with no knowledge whatsoever of the architecture and history of the place. Next time you visit Khajuraho Group of Monuments, stop ogling at whatever you’re ogling at (erotic sculptures constitute for only 10 per cent of the carvings anyway). Learn about the nagara style of architecture or the Chandela dynasty. Go to Brihadeeshwaralayam not for the selfies but to learn about the superlatives in stone that the place is.
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6. Water bodies
Don’t go river rafting in the Ganges and be a wuss. Don’t go to Rishikesh and pollute the Ganges. And I have seen people cruise over the Godavari and the Brahmaputra while eating a packet of Kurkure, and then ignorantly throwing the empty plastic into the water. So much for respecting the river like its your mother. Your koodawala is not going to swim there to pick it up tomorrow morning. Tossing stuff into the sea while you’re chilling on the beach – not cool. However drunk you are, not cool.
Go to places and learn about them. Talk to people. Eat local food. Walk around. Understand. Spend time unwinding. Everyone travels for different reasons, some want to know about the culture, some want to know about the food, some want to know about people, some want to know about history and some go for the spellbinding sights. But if your sole purpose of going is garnering likes on social media, then don’t. Please don’t go. Also, you’re no #explorer if all you’ve seen at a place is the four walls of your five star hotel. The most important thing to remember when you travel is to respect the place you’re at. And once you learn to do that, you’ve got it good. Let’s all pledge to travel more responsibly this year and bring back some real stories with us 🙂
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Account On Healing.

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Healing is one of the most beautiful processes you’ll ever go through. That smile that you catch yourself emanating the moment you realise you’ve moved on and learned so much in the process and emerged out of it a stronger and more graceful person, is honestly worth all the pain that you go through.

I read this article by Filter Copy ( http://www.filtercopy.com/posts/14-beautiful-things-to-remember-while-you-heal-and-pick-up-the-broken-bits ) this morning and it turned out to be the most relatable, true, sensitive and sensible thing I’ve read lately. For someone who fought depression and anxiety recently (and refused to let it consume me), I could relate to each word written in this story. And since I’m a huge promoter of mental health awareness, here are a few things I would like to tell you about healing that I’ve learned along the way.

1. I recently heard that not seeking help is the stupidest thing one can do. And I couldn’t agree more. You may have friends or family around, but they may not always understand, also because sometimes they are directly involved in the story and it is going to be hard for them to digest realities too. Moreover, if they figure they have been partly the reason you are where you are today, they might feel guilty when they don’t want to.
Further, seeking professional help and sticking to it is essential because you’re getting an outsider’s perspective and this outsider knows how life and relationships work, and this outsider is not going to tire of helping you; the only need here is for you to stick to it and tell yourself that you need help and you need to change your life and thinking and continue going for therapy without giving up. People discontinue therapy/ medication because half the problem with depression is that you’re denying yourself your own feelings, and getting out of the comfort zone of feeling pathetic is one of the strongest and hence the most difficult things you will be required to do. So just accept your feelings, DO NOT DENY to yourself and everyone else around you what you’re feeling. If you love someone that you’re not supposed to, for longer than required, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. But just don’t deny that feeling to yourself. Don’t. Because if you’re scared of losing the person and deny your basic feelings in the process, you will first lose yourself.
2. Don’t let anyone trivialise what you’re feeling. No one knows your story completely but yourself. So many people who don’t know my entire story thought I was being really stupid for being blind to the realities in front of me, and not being able to let go, and that I was crying over some random guy who can’t love me back the same way or feeling painful about everything in life despite having a great job.
The truth is, different people go through different things in life that make them what they are. Maybe someone else had been in the same situation that I was in, but I took it way harder because I find it difficult to let go due to the things I faced in my life earlier. After I went to therapy, I realised that my problem wasn’t the current one. My problem was my entire life. And that’s when I was glad that the trigger problem happened to me, otherwise I would have never figured out. So when I started healing, I started healing for the last 24 years of my life. Not just the last 7 months or one year.
3. Don’t put timelines to your healing. It’s just wrong and it doesn’t work like that and I’ve come to learn it the hard way. My therapist used to keep saying ‘but you felt Soooooo much pain, don’t you think you need your time to heal?’. Another important person told me ‘I think you’re making a hasty decision’, when I just declared that my healing process is done just a week after I decided to actively take a step towards it. Now that I think about that, I laugh at how stupid I was. The truth is, healing takes time. And if you’re putting deadlines to wrap it up, you’re not working on it completely. So take your time. It’s okay. You may have to let go people and things that are very dear to your heart, let go for real, not on the surface, but you’ll eventually learn to fill that void and like a friend of mine said ‘face your loneliness and that’s when you can get out of it’. So face it. And you’ll realise that life is not so bad after all.
4. You might find yourself to be negative and cynical initially. But that’s okay. It’s going to be over soon, your anger will reduce and you’ll see the other side of things, become more compassionate and understanding. I did hate. And I told my best friends one morning as we watched the sunrise together ‘you know I don’t hold anything against this person. I just don’t want to wake up every morning and cry about why this happened and hate this person for leaving’. And I told them that I think I will be completely fine the day I stop feeling negative about this person. And certain things happened that made me see the situation from the other side of the fence, soon after, and I stopped hating. I started feeling pleasant about the whole situation; that I gave it my all and I have no regrets left. Sorted is the word i’d like to use for that thought.
Also, a lot of people might tell you that you have become bitter and selfish and you don’t care anymore, through this process. Someone who knew my entire journey very well messaged me one day saying ‘ive started to notice that you’ve become selfish and you don’t care, I’ve been testing that for a couple of days’. I care when I really need to be there for someone and that itself takes a heavy toll on me and so when I know that the other person is fine, I retrieve into my own cocoon. So anything small and not so important, I decide to stay away from. And it’s always good to stay away from drama. The kind that makes mountains out of molehills. Everyone blamed me for being bitter at some point. I actually even felt guilty. And I couldn’t handle things happening around me anymore because I am just healing from within, and I cried like a baby the other night and then someone told me that I shouldn’t feel guilty for staying away from drama or refusing to deal with or empathise with everyone’s problems, ‘you are protecting yourself, and that’s never a bad thing’. So yes, protect yourself at any cost. Don’t feel like opening opening that message that someone sent you with an inconsequential problem, then don’t open it. My favourite person always keeps saying ‘i don’t like drama of any kind, so I run far away from it and from people who create it in general. But when it comes to people who you really care about, you can’t help it. I realise you have to be there.’ So yes, be there for people who really matter to you if they’re going through something terrible but don’t let that make you fall in the process, remember you just came out of something and you’re still soft and sensitive somewhere inside. Hold on hard to that and build walls around it until you know that side of you has become stronger.
5. And finally, don’t feel like it’s not cool to talk about this. It needs voice, honestly. Just give it that. Like I hate how it is considered ‘uncool’ to talk about your feelings these days. And in the process, so many people bottle it up and go through terrible things. So talk about it, just like I do. And one day, when I have the time, I am thinking of writing elaborate posts to help everyone deal with the process, on my blog.

Also, like this article says, “Find people who will sit with you in silence. Who let you be. And most of all, who stand there, rock solid, when you need them most.” . Also, puppies, puppies help a lot. 🙂

My Fight with Depression and Anxiety

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It was unusually hot for a December afternoon in Pune and my friend Tanveer and I found an isolated table in the famous 11 East Street Cafe to sit and talk about, well, my childhood. The agenda was clear – my therapist, back in Delhi, had asked me to sit down with a person I was not vulnerable in front of and someone I completely trusted with the most sensitive side of me, and discuss the most vivid memories of my childhood. I basically had to list down every incident I remember and figure out what my reaction to that should have ideally been and instead what it had been, and figure out its consequences that have now become my ingrained personality issues. Tanveer is someone I had earlier trusted my most personal secrets and problems with and we have been friends for about half a decade now. But I was at loss of words when I sat there in front of him to talk about the most crucial things. It took a couple of drinks, a pizza and long, meaningful silences for me to start talking. When I finished saying whatever I had to, Tanveer was surprised that I had been through whatever I had been through and wondered why we never discussed this before. He finally ended it by saying “I don’t know what to say man, you just need some love, pure love.” mental health 2

Now, as desperate as that sounds, I have to admit that he was right. But I’m not here to tell you the stories of my childhood. I am here to talk about my fight with depression and anxiety. I can point out when exactly the physical symptoms had started to show. It was the beginning of November and I have to admit, I was knowingly bringing an emotional disaster upon myself just because of the way my brain has always functioned – choosing pain over peace of mind. But not until the beginning of November had any physical symptoms started to show. I remember the trigger was really just a small little tiff with the person I felt the closest to in Delhi. And that’s it, that was followed by me not going to work for a couple of days, and locking myself inside my room for hours together, crying incessantly and uncontrollably at the drop of a hat several times during the day, not being able to sleep, staying up all night and crying, not being able to eat anything, contemplating committing suicide several times over (and thankfully never going ahead and implementing my plans) and when I went to work two days later, I couldn’t put my mind to a thing. My mind was blank, really – it couldn’t recollect and remember a single problem or difficult situation in my real life, all it was doing was suffering to no end; and for the first time ever, I could tell that my mind was ill. Simple.

I used to be hit by constant anxiety attacks when at work. I used to put my head down when I felt the sense of falling, and shivering and panting and losing breath; I used to tap my feet till that feeling went away and obviously I couldn’t tell anyone about it because I can’t cite reasons and who is going to understand, anyway, right? This continued on for a week. Luckily, Priyam, a dear friend and colleague, realised that I needed professional help. She sat me down and told me that I needed to go through therapy but I told her that maybe it’s just a phase (I am not exaggerating anything here but I have NEVER had a smooth, simple life, even for a brief period of time. When I was younger, terrible situations were thrown at me for no fault of mine and dealing with them by hiding them all within me resulted in them affecting me in a psychosomatic way and then I had a series of physical problems to deal with as I grew up but in the process, the mental problems never left my side – they were inside, waiting to eat me up at the right time). I thought I was strong enough to get past this and I had a family wedding to attend that month so I was hoping that it would lift my spirits. But once I was back from the wedding, my depression started working the other way. I over ate and over slept. The rest of the symptoms remained the same. So Priyam picked up the phone and booked me an appointment with my therapist. After I told my therapist about whatever had been bothering me, she looked at me and said, “your body language shows clear signs of anxiety and you need medical assistance.” She basically meant go visit the psychiatrist so that it is easier for the therapy to work. Now going to the psychiatrist means having to take pills that he will prescribe and I was apprehensive because I had seen a few of my acquaintances use the pills for all wrong reasons and some who completely depend on them and live in the victim zone and refuse to deal with their root problems. But my therapist convinced me and I went to the psychiatrist who diagnosed me with moderate depression and anxiety and put me on anti-depression and anti-anxiety medication. I made sure I took it on time and never abused them. I started to feel better very soon and to be honest, I didn’t feel like myself during the initial few days. The medication made me concentrate too much on the here and now and I was always the person that stressed about the tomorrow. And yes, there are times when you are suddenly hyper or when you feel nauseated. You just need to make sure you continue going for your therapy sessions and dig deep to figure out what the root cause of all this is. It is essential to remember that the problem at hand is not the real problem in most cases; the problem at hand is just the trigger. And you should not give up and slide back into the slump mode until you figure your real problem. My conversation with Tanveer helped me a great deal in figuring out the root cause of all the emotional issues that have been bothering me all my life – while he gave me a vague idea, I had to think, analyse, construct and arrive at a conjecture.

Once you identify, you need to go face each of your problems, or if need be, completely get rid of the memories associated to them from your life, one after the other. But at this stage, you need to decide what works best for you. In my case, I decided to face and come out clean with the problem at my hand and deal with it, and on the other hand completely disassociate myself with elements that have triggered my core problems since childhood. This is one of the most difficult yet necessary steps that you need to muster the courage to take, if you ever wish to recover. This is probably also the right time for me to point out that I have met several people who go ahead and make up problems, consciously, to seek attention and visit doctors to legitimise their ‘problems’. The lack of proper awareness and the stigma associated with mental issues such as depression can have two negative outcomes to it – you either never recognise your problems and acknowledge them the way you’re supposed to and seek help at the right time or you’ll see that people will use the lack of awareness as a tool to their advantage when they decide to stay lazy and not fight the world with the bare  minimum strength that you’re required to exhibit in everyday problems. Mental illnesses is one sort of taboo in our society, it won’t take even two minutes for someone to point fingers at you and say ‘pagal hai saali/ she is too needy and moody all the time/ it’s so annoying, she is crying and sulking all the time’.

Support and Recovery

It can get extremely difficult to be around or deal with someone who is going through depression and anxiety. All I would like to say is, if you truly care about them just be patient and wait for them to get over their problems even if they give you a hard time. I agree it is not fair for you to stay and take someone else’s emotional fluctuations when they’re subjected on to you. But they only do it because somewhere, they have the confidence that you’d understand and stay. So don’t play any blame games, never forget that they’re going through depression and anxiety, and support them; and think about their mental state of mind before you react extremely to their behaviour. More importantly, don’t break their trust in times like that. I am sure they have nothing in their control (including their own words and actions) and regret putting you through hell way more than you’d ever find out.

I for one got insanely moody, needy and clingy towards the one person who I thought would understand my state of mind. And when there wasn’t enough understanding and instead I got complaints about how the relationship was getting difficult, and on how any relationship is meant to be easy and not this difficult, I broke down further and saw myself at my nastiest ever.

Discussing depression and any similar mental illness is like talking about one of those sensitive topics in this society – HIV/ AIDS or the rights of LGBT community, for example (It took me about 3 months to go up to my mom and tell her what I was going through, luckily for me, she was very supportive). A lot of people out there claim to be liberals who do not have an issue with HIV/ AIDS patients or the LGBT community. But in a situation where they have to come face to face with it, with someone from their close friends or family, they simply cannot accept it. Depression is almost the same, it needs as much acceptance as it needs awareness. And if someone close to you is going through it, just remember what they are going through before you give more importance to your own frustrations with them. Relationships get difficult sometimes and that’s when their real mettle is tested; so if you truly care about your depressed friend or family member, just stay and provide support unconditionally.

That brings me to recovery. From the above paragraph, you must know that recovering from depression after identifying it, is not a bull run at the stock market. There can be several times you fall down and feel low even after your initial identification and even after you’re taking medication. In my case, I specifically lost my control during my PMS phases (the psychiatrist said it can further adversely affect your mood swings while the medication is on) and undid all the months of good I did for myself in the span of those 2-3 days. After doing that for a couple of times, I realised that it was time for me to act upon my problems and I mustered all the courage in the world, to do so. I must admit, they didn’t quite go the way I expected them to. Situations once again slipped out of my hands and I was on a downward spiral again. But you know what, I picked myself up, and jumped out of a plane. Literally. I went skydiving. Something so extreme was required for me to realise that I needed to do things for myself. It helped me feel invincible – if I could jump to my death and come back alive, things like people abandoning me or drifting away, shouldn’t be so big a problem. I went ahead and did all the things I had to do, for myself. From making new friends to taking exercise more seriously to applying to higher education and finally, finding pure love, like Tanveer mentioned.

mental health

I rescued a 5-month old wounded, abandoned puppy off the streets about a month ago and she is sitting here, right next to me as I type this out. And when I cry, she licks my tears away, when I come home, she jumps with joy, and when I’m falling a sleep she comes to cuddle with me; and whenever I feel low these days, I go give her a tight hug. I really did find pure love. So this Friday morning when I walked into my psychiatrist Mr. Avdesh Sharma’s office, he assessed my state of mind and took me off my pills. He also asked me if I could write a story and share it with him and everyone around since May is Mental Health Awareness month, and I readily said yes because I’ve never been one to shy away from talking about anything that needs a voice. So here I am, telling you my story, hoping that it will help you and several others to fight your battles and WIN 🙂

How pop-culture failed us 90s’ kids

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“Pyaar toh mein ne kar liya hai maa,” says a morose Anjali when her mother questions her about her feelings. Anjali Sharma, the quintessential tomboy, spent a decade loving her best friend Rahul Khanna from college. The best part is, she didn’t even see him in the last decade. We all loved watching these movies. I mean, BuzzFeed even has quizzes on Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhie Kushi Kabhie Gham and we have all scored a good 90% in those. Because obviously, no one gives a damn about your ICSE Board Results in this day and age anyway. Rahul Khanna, on the other hand, is one of those guys with zero self-awareness – he does not know what he needs ever, he gets attracted to the hottest girl in college because she can sing ‘Om Jai Jagdeesh’ and delivers cheesy lines about ‘Mard ka sir sirf 3 auraton ke saamne jhukta hai,’ and all that BS. I mean, how about your boss, how about your teachers, how about a respectable woman? NO. He doesn’t care because he doesn’t know better.

Yes, Rahul Khanna’s character did receive a lot of flak in the recent years with feminism taking centre stage. But the female lead in the movie is of no good either, did anyone realise that? I mean, get over him, that boy is a shallow boy who loses to you in basketball every single day and wears a chain that says ‘C.O.O.L’ for crying out loud. And in 10 years, you haven’t seen his face. I mean in those days, there was no Facebook, how did you even remember his face? But no, Anjali Sharma’s character decided to stay in love with him and hence Karan Johar successfully taught an entire generation that love is painful and the beauty of it is in the suffering. Aman Mehra (Salman Khan’s character; had to mention since the dude only appears for an extended cameo and surprisingly, in a movie with Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol and Rani Mukherjee, he is the only one you can really stand), people say, is far more mature and actually deserves Anjali. But I don’t agree. The truth is, Anjali doesn’t deserve Aman. He is sorted and he is a peaceful soul. She would have drained his energies had they married. Anjali and Rahul actually deserved each other because if Rahul is shallow, Anjali is a loser. A sore loser who loved another loser for years on end and actually did nothing with her life expect learning how to tie a saree and grow her hair. *Potential bahu in the neighbourhood alert*

Not just this. There are a plethora of these films that us, as 90s kids, grew up watching. And for whatever reason, these stood out the most and the lessons they tried to teach got drilled in our head so deep that it is alarming how some of us might be living in beliefs that this is how love and life should be. Do we remember Kal Ho Na Ho? Oh yes, that movie with that song with the heart beat music that everyone uses as background score in farewell videos. Naina loves Aman, Aman loves Naina, but we are not proud of you. GUJJU. Okay, that Aman dude literally forces Naina to marry someone else because he is dying. I mean, that woman is walking into the mandap of her own wedding, in tears. But Rohit (Saif’s character) has no self respect, so he will marry her anyway. Because love is supposed to hurt, right? And some 20 years later, Naina recounts this story to her kids and Rohit walks in and says ‘I love you’ to her and she doesn’t even say it back. I mean, still? Aman died. Rohit is nice. Love your husband. Stop showing us that love is painful and love is all about the suffering.

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Death brings me to the rise of Hrithik Roshan. Remember those days when most of us actually liked Hrithik Roshan and him making a debut on silver screen was actually the best thing that happened in the year 2000? Everyone knew how to groove to Ek Pal Ka Jeena. The dude dies in the movie. And his girlfriend finds his doppelganger and falls in love with him. I mean, what’s the guarantee that she won’t scream the previous dude’s name instead of the new dude’s when they are doing it, man? And this new guy is rich, suave and dances well and can score anyone. But why not be the shining knight in armour to that damsel in distress, although you can clearly see that she has issues and that’s why she is stalking you. But he will fall in love with her although he knows she may never really love him back because well, love is supposed to hurt, right?

And that magnum opus Mohabbatein that most of us were prohibited to watch (but still somehow sneek in rented DVDs and saw it) because Shamita Shetty’s character wore hairbands for blouses? Raj Aryan Malhotra returns to his college after years to seek vengeance on his deceased girlfriend’s father, in the form of love. So he propagates lessons in love to some dudes that can’t even manage to act and sings songs while he imagines his dead girlfriend running around pillars and meadows of England. He has psychological issues. He believed that love can change the world while he hurt himself and we all believed that he is the ultimate preacher of the lessons in love.

Has anyone noticed that all these characters that believed in this and waited till the end of time for their college lovers to return to them, actually lead pretty darn mediocre lives? Anjali Sharma was chilling in summer camps, Naina was storytelling to her kids, Raj Aryan Malhotra was teaching the violin and beating the drums on the roads during Karvachauth. The truth is, love is not about the suffering. And you’ve gotten your entire life wrong if you believed so. I don’t have an issue with the way Imtiaz Ali deals with love (well, mostly). Shahid Kapoor’s character returns happy and rejuvenated when he returns back to his normal life after falling in love and letting that person go, in Jab We Met. And when he returns and lets it go, he achieves a truck load of things. Love is the wisdom to realise that it is more important to love yourself the way you’d want to be loved. It is realising that you should validate yourself before some Raj or Rahul comes into your life to complete that fairy tale.

Indian pop culture failed us. There is a reason we don’t have our Devil Wears Pradas, there is a reason we don’t have our Batmans. There is a reason why most things that taught us sense back in the day (and even till date), is considered parallel cinema (or simply failed at the box office) or just remained on comic books and was restricted to TV (until crap Saas Bahu serials took over, of course). The reason is really simple. We don’t give ourselves enough credit and respect. And we as a growing economy, were so engrossed in the pretty locations and awesome new clothes on silver screen post liberalisation that we did not realise that the values and lessons that these movies were teaching us about ourselves were utter rubbish.

It is really up to us to cleanse ourselves of these disrespectful, self-deprecating ideologies ingrained so deep in our heads. And the first step to that is realisation. I mean watch Kuch Kuch Hota Hai the next time it’s on TV. But don’t you fucking feel bad for Anjali while watching it. Laugh at it. I know you’ve already done that. Laugh at it some more and go love yourself. And for all those people who somehow escaped the storm of the 90s Bollywood cinema, I am extremely happy for you. And I am coming for you. Let’s be friends.

February to February

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I believe writing can break you;
yet we write the best when we are the most broken.

I believe writing can shake you;
yet we write the best when we are the most shaken.

I believe words can mend broken hearts.
I believe words have the ability to drag you
from that pit of darkness
and into the beginning of new dawns.
Some like them in songs;
some like them in psalms.

A close friend of mine once said to me, “you know, I don’t really have to worry about you, wherever you are. I know that you have the strength and courage to come out of whatever you face and promise me that you’ll keep writing because that’s how you heal.” But I broke that promise; somewhere between fighting for lost causes and holding onto beautiful relationships, I broke that promise, and eventually, I broke myself. But I don’t think it’s ever too late because breaking is just the beginning of another process of healing. It’s just another cycle from which you need to come out stronger than ever.

You need to find that light at the end of the tunnel and work your way to it. But just this one time, I decided to change my healing process. I realised that I don’t always have to lose something to find myself. Sometimes, the thing that gives you the most amount of pain is also the thing that gives you the most amount of happiness. It’s really your choice if you want to let both go or heal in such a way that you can keep the happiness. I had almost always inadvertently chosen to heal by letting both go; but not this time. This time, I opted to heal in such a way that I can retain the happiness. At the end of the day, pain and pleasure are but two sides of the same coin and healing is nothing but realising that this coin is not for you to be flip and await the probability of getting pleasure. It is realising that pain or pleasure actually come to you when the coin goes up in the air and takes one full circle before it comes back to you. Healing is about that, healing is about those full circles and realising that at the end of it, you can begin all over again.

And this one time, since I’m healing differently, I also thought of documenting it differently. I’m done writing those stories of crash and burn. This time, I got the idea to start a page called ‘February to February’ (naming the page so because of very personal reasons), wherein I, with the help of a few of my ever supportive friends, will curate a set of poems, stories, songs and basically just words that come full circle  – just the kind of one the coin takes before it comes back to you; just the kind of one the earth takes from one February to another. These are words of wisdom, words of love, words of loss, words hurt, words of heart break and most of all, we will make sure these are always about words that make you heal and realise that you can begin again. These are words by you, words by me, words by your mother, words by Rumi or words by Floyd; these could be words by anybody and we will publish them on February to February if they can even create an iota of hope in you and empower your being.

 

 

Of Love and Other Demons

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I’m not very certain what love is. I won’t deny that I went looking for its meaning numerous times. I definitely rule out Romeo and Juliet here, for they were stupid, frivolous and if you ask me, they deserved to die. After having read Wuthering Heights countless number of times, I  am now convinced that neither Heathcliff nor Catherine ever loved each other. They were both just ambitious, spiteful and vindictive. Growing up, they were forced to cultivate these traits in themselves as defence mechanisms. Invariably, their ‘love’ was built on the same foundation; it was not something hidden in the ‘eternal rocks beneath’, as Catherine says on one occasion. I don’t think Gatsby ever loved Daisy, either. That’s just another tale of yet another 1920s’ ambitious American man aiming at the faraway green light.

What then is this enigmatic feeling owing to which battles have been fought, epics have been written and films are scripted. Is it the way Rick Blaine reacts when Ilsa asks Sam to play ‘As Time Goes By’ in Casablanca? Is it the way Jesse looks at Celine when he spots her at the Shakespeare and Company book store nine whole years after they had first met, in Before Sunset? Or is it the blind, unrequited, undying and unwavering passion that Florentino Ariza contains for Fermina Daza for 50-odd years in Love in the Time of Cholera? I don’t know, these come close, don’t they? At least, they definitely make more sense than the rubbish Nicholas Sparks, Stephenie Meyer and the likes try to sell to you. Love is patient, love is kind. Love means slowly losing your mind (slightly ironic that I had to quote 27 Dresses here).

I’m serious, when I was younger and stupider,  I watched that mush-fest of a movie called The Notebook (yeah, Ryan Gosling is jaw-dropping hot, I don’t deny that but I would rather watch Crazy Stupid Love to ogle at his well sculpted body), which set my hormones to some sort of tango. So I logged into my Yahoo chat and PINGed the guy I had a crush on and typed ‘I love you!’. Comic sans was the font and purple was the colour of the text, I still remember. I don’t remember what exactly he said, but I do remember that it didn’t go well. That’s where my aversion towards the word ‘love’ started. Proposed in comic sans, rejected without a glance. Nicholas Sparks was feeding bullshit to an entire generation and thanks to books, films and teenage hormones, he is going to continue to do so. My friends around were doing worse. I don’t know what they were high on. I stopped at ‘love’, while some of them (guys included) had marriage on their mind, from the age of 15!

The next guy I would like to talk about entered the scene a couple of years later. Actually, it is more apt to say that this particular guy came back into my life. This is my very own version of Wuthering Heights, except more stupid and child-like or should I say less dark and gruesome? Anyway, the Heathcliff in this story didn’t come back to seek vengeance. He came back because of the existence of Facebook. Rewinding 10 years from this period – Heathcliff and I were neighbours, went to the same school, sat in the same auto, shared our lunch boxes, played together all evening, did homework together, etc. How cute, right? So this time when Heathcliff had come back, I was more careful with my words. When he asked me how I felt about him I said “Well, you are special”. Days passed by and this didn’t go anywhere either. *plays George Ezra’s Breakaway in the background* I can’t elaborate any further because Heathcliff and I are good friends now. But my Heathcliff never affected me in any major way. Yes, I did believe, at one point, that this was like the ‘eternal rocks beneath’. But let’s be honest, this sounds like an impractical, highly-dramatised Anuja Chauhan book right now. So I laughed it off, set sail into the sea again, constantly looking to lay anchor somewhere (Yes, I’ve got daddy issues and I cannot lie. Deal with it!).

The thing with ambitiously setting off into the sea has two major flaws. One is, although you’re trying to anchor yourself somewhere, in reality you are running far away from your ground (unintentionally so). You don’t let people in; you unknowingly close down to the people you want to open up to (did you read some innuendo? yeah, I like you already) in the first place. Secondly, if you meet anyone, on your way, who is asking you to stop and stay, you don’t even consider the proposition because you’re too ambitious and picky to settle. So you go ahead to kiss yet another prince who will eventually turn into a frog. A couple of assholes and zero tears later, it was time to face my first major blow in this aspect of life. I had never guessed that the way I looked at guys, selfishness, love, and even my own self, would change in the course of the next three years. This guy intimidated me (with his smartness) the first time I met him. Plus points, right there. For something that started off as so casual, this took a pretty nasty and serious turn in my head (yes, most drama in my life happens in my head alone).

When it was time to jump out of my introverted existence and face the reality, I was still unaware of the intensity of this in my own head. Because I had gauged my very own ground wrong, I messed it up. I messed it all up beyond the point of repair. I messed it up over and over again, honestly. I cried my eyes out and drank myself to sleep every night. That sense of regret overpowered me. I couldn’t think straight about anything else for anything longer than a minute. I named that regret ‘love’ after carefully calculating and assessing my emotions. I gathered the courage to finally use that word more seriously this time.

Wait, did I just blame myself for everything? Let’s strike that out, because the biggest gift that came out of this three-year-long painful phase is self-love. I never respected myself or loved myself enough before this. Just looking at the intensity of the emotions I felt (without any reciprocation) made me realise what a strong yet sensitive person I was and that was enough to make me start loving myself. I watched Before Sunset and had my hopes up for 9 years from then. I read Love in the Time of Cholera and had my hopes up for 50 years from then. I started writing better (oh, the angst of unrequited love is exactly what a creative mind requires!), I started valuing people better, I got more serious about men and I streamlined my choices in them (eventually), I made the best set of friends anyone could ever ask for, because for once I was convinced that I was good enough to deserve all of this.

A couple of cities, one whole year and no new distractions later, I met someone else who made me realise that I never really let anyone into my life ever before. My world was for myself, my defences were as high up as The Wall. A close friend of mine had sent me a hand-written letter from Dubai (when I was still trying to get over the previous guy) in which she wrote ‘maybe it was never meant to be, man. Some people are meant for themselves’. But this time, I did start to break down the wall, little by little. Because it is ‘worth it to let some people in’, this boy said. I slowly realised that I never really loved the previous guy and that it was all in my head. But as the universe conspires against everything I want, it didn’t work out this time either. But what did come out of it, in the very little time I gave it, was prioritization. I let everything that made me emotionally vulnerable fly out of the window, set myself, my health and my career way above everything else. I started giving more importance to myself than I give to other people (I did give more importance to others, all along). And I know I’ve never been so serious in my life before this. So did what I feel for this guy spell love to me? Of course not.

But I can’t deny that I didn’t find love after these numerous attempts. Love is that light at the end of the tunnel that I see every single time I go through an unpleasant phase. Love is that hope that is waiting for you after bad days; love is that determination you have to push yourself harder at everything you do; but love is definitely not that bitter and vicious feeling you foster after you face rejection or something doesn’t go as expected. Love, for me, is that insurmountable strength and positive energy that resides within me. Anyway, some people are meant for themselves, right? So I’m going to rest the idea of seeking love outside for now. Nicholas Sparks can chill with the ‘love is like the wind’ crap he’s feeding the world.

 

Dear Bono, here are some things I haven’t told you

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IMG_20160413_165248-COLLAGEDear Bono,

I felt like puking out the little food I managed to eat over the last three days. I didn’t catch a proper wink since I heard about you. I suddenly realised that that’s exactly how you became every single time Aaama, Anna and Pednanna went on a vacation and left you at my place. You used to break your hunger strike after a day, when I sat next to you, lovingly held you and fed you by hand; and things would be mirthful again, paradise lost and paradise found, all it took was a rasgulla or an ice cream and sometimes even a chapati. Now that you’re not around, the box of Haldiram’s rasgulla kept on my table or a Belgian choco chip ice cream or even basic food, are not helping me break my strike. I think I lost my paradise, and this time, you’re not around to help me find it again.

Rasgulla reminds me, I’m sorry about all the times we stole your rasgullas. I know you were cursing us in your small little head. But you’re our brother, right?  Sharing and even stealing are a part of our relationship. I hope you understood that. We were selfish when it came to food, maybe we were the wicked ones, and you the truly innocent and silent victim. Hence, I would like to thank you for all the times you quickly gobbled down the yolks of the boiled eggs that Himavanth and I discarded at you, before Ammamma could catch us.

Catching reminds me, you were one ambitious dog, Bono. You wanted to catch hold of the rats, the cats, the frogs; you wanted to chase cars, and basically race ahead of whoever was walking you. There were so many times you cleverly made me trip and fall and ran away with your leash; and those were the very same times you made me realise the amount of love I had for you; I had to run behind you, it was a matter of life and death, you couldn’t be lost, or we would all be lost. Like we are now.

You had been around for sixteen and a half years, Bodi Bono; that’s more than half of our lives. The kind of love, care and affection that Aamma, Anna and Pednanna gave you is commendable. But more than anything else, what you gave them back is probably something words can’t do justice to. Like I’ve been saying, you were, are and will always be the love of our lives, the most special person (yeah, you mean more than most people) that happened to us. I know not too many people understood you, you barked at everybody and hardly let anyone even come close to you. In retrospect, that was the best thing about you, you never tried to impress anybody, you just gave all your love and your hate to the few people you thought were deserved of your affection. And this is where I can’t thank you enough. Thank you for letting me into your small but beautiful world, thank you for giving me your love, your hate, thank you for snapping at me every time I annoyed you, and more than anything else, thank you for being such a major part of my life. You taught me to endure hatred that comes out of love, you taught me about unselfish but self-ascertaining love, you taught me lessons on getting over fear and chasing what you love; because you were always there, loving me back, in your own ways. Growing up without you is simply something I can’t imagine.

It kills me that we had to send you away, you didn’t want to leave us even at that age, your resolve to be with your people was so strong. But it’s for the good, I guess; because the least one could do for everything you’ve done for each one of us over all these years, is to not let you suffer any longer. I hope at least you’ve found your paradise, wherever you are.

All my love,

Lasya/ the person who would give anything to pull your furry little tail at least one more time