Main _________ banoongi

Fine, I’ll write. What with all the coaxing and the encouraging I am constantly getting from you people. In real life, I am a wuss. When I write, I employ the online world’s most attractive attribute: facelessness. I am not anonymous to my good readers. But I am not saying all of this to your face. This has a dual benefit. One: I can say what I really think and feel without getting any immediate reading from you. Two: Due of this lack of feedback, I can continue on my original thought, instead of wussing out, noticing your body language is getting rigid and ending up agreeing with you, condoning what you do or just trying to make you accept me. Here I can be my true self. I don’t say my thoughts out loud before I write…so in a way you are getting the original thought, untouched by any kind of middlemen that may enforce filters on it.

Now enough about me….ha ha, who am I kidding? There’s no enough about me. That’s why I love this unidirectional transmission of ideas. I write you read. I write about myself, you comment on me. Its all about me and it stays that way. There is nothing more narcissistic than a blog post on my blog. The fact that you guys can actually read about me every month without wanting to punch me is something I will always love you for.

I am also a long winded writer. I don’t get to the point, take up too many sentences and buzz around a theme for quite a while. But that is not for the lack of trying. I just don’t seem to have a point. The things I feel strongly about fly in the face of…well, you. And I don’t want to antagonize you, my sweet reader. So I tread lightly, tip toeing around real issues, cloaking them in humor and presenting them in a frothy sauce of whipped mirth. Maybe I am a wuss here too.

The fact is that I am not too keen on you seeing the real me. That woman scares me a little. So I wouldn’t want to thrust her on you, gentle folk. I mean I have separate blogs for that me to opine on. I often wonder what life would be like if I could be less of a doormat and just stand up straight. That would defeat my goal in life and I feel I have undergone way too man goal setting exercises to change it now. ( I learned goal setting when I was 23 and ever since have been doing it every six months). The result is always the same: I want to be a nice person.

Now the concept of nice is not in a vacuum. One cannot think and act nicely, only according to themselves. It is one with many shades of relativity. I might think I am being nice, but unless others think so, I am not. So I guess that would make my goal ‘To be perceived as nice’. And who does not like nice people. So in the end it just becomes the most universal of all goals, ‘To be liked by all.’

In this pursuit of being likable, I grow more and more distant from the real me. This promotes false impressions, self loathing, shallowness and lack of strength of character – all the things I do not stand for.

The more unlike myself I become, the more unlikable I become.

When you get older and realize that the goal you have been setting for half your life is just a lofty dream with no returns, it stings. You feel helpless, like an employee who hit the glass ceiling just after taking out a third mortgage on his house. You have two ways out here. Continue on the same path, stick to the notion that all your sunk cost like efforts will pay off eventually. The definition of insanity is doing the same things again and again and expecting a different result.

And then there is the other way out. The way that looks you boldly in the eye and asks in a female African American accent, ‘How’s that been workin for you, sister?’ So I wonder if it is worth it after all this time and effort. Is it worth reinventing yourself because you feel you deserve better? Is it ok to put on hold all your beliefs of being genuine just so that you can enjoy a better group of acquaintances? Is it alright to dream up a more efficient version of yourself and reenter your world like some company launching a previously malfunctioning product as ‘Under new management?’ Will it be ok for me to antagonize someone knowingly? And then when i get comfortable, will i take pleasure in putting someone down. Will I become that person?

The secret lies in knowing your limits. In a purely black and white world like mine, there are no such limits. You are either good or you are bad. If you even choose one degree of bad (to protect yourself even), you are crossing over to the other side! Yeah, it’s a “fun” place to be in, my mind. Do I start seeing these shades of grey that everyone else can see? Or should I find my kind of people and try to build on my strengths? It’s a classic strategy problem almost every organization has in marketing. How to play down the negative and play up the positive. But which one would you do if you had to pick one?

Now, unless you are in the firefighting mode, you will pick the positives. So then in personal life, why would I try to hide my qualities just to blend in, when I can play up my ‘weird-in-a-nice-way’ quirks and maybe in the long run, get rewarded for it?

PS- That was not a rhetorical question. I would really like to know. It might be a little uncomfortable for you to comment on such a personal matter, but don’t worry, I won’t bite. I am too far away and remember, I am nice. I’ll find a way to spin even the most negative comments about me into nice observations. Also since I am narcissistic, I depend on your feedback like I depend on oxygen. Sure, I can do without it for a few seconds, but then I am only gonna need more.

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Nonrefundable

Everybody who knows me knows I am different. Yes, I am one of the few who acknowledge this about themselves, which in itself solidifies the premise of being weird to begin with. But let us all be on the same page as to how nothing in my world works out like it does for the rest of the world. For the longest time, I assumed I was just a small degree different than most others. Secure family ties, loving friends and social skills saw to that.

Then high school happened and the emotional poetry phase…ah, the poetry phase! Everybody was a cheating, scheming, lying sob, which makes sense considering I didn’t have any guy friends in my life then. And all women are all of the above, so my sample was skewed. I continued the poetry phase in college too, where the difference between my earlier sample of women and the new sample of honest, trustworthy, conscientious guys, made it effortlessly in to every rhyme of mine. This was the real world. It was a melting pot of emotion, drama and introspection.

But somewhere during that ’emo’ phase, I must have made a decision to never really learn from my observations. I sat there on my high throne (in the reading room of the library, if you must paint a little picture for yourself) and just drank in all the social data they was oozing out of every pore of their equally emotionally charged bodies. I learnt how world class liars are made, how goals can compromise ethics and most of all, how principles can be prioritized. Obviously i was the angry young man in all this and I righteously rebelled. But I never learnt to see patterns and predict the behavior of what would become my universe.

People young and old decided to step in and talk sense into me. Some in response to a teary eyed refusal to compromise and some others to a bullheaded dedication to the sublime art of the stubborn. There was always a strong voice in my head that told me I’ll be alright. And it was at it’s strongest when the others were screaming the loudest.

See, people like me, i.e. Unconditional rebels need unrest to survive. We will find unrest anywhere. When I say we, I mean I share a few tiny twitches of DNA with other people who are like me in this aspect alone. I have yet to find someone who is even 0.00000000142857143% like me. [Note: How to arrive at that number while completely straying away from the point so that your readers won’t realize you are building a case in which you systematically go on to prove you are the next incarnation of God – Calculation as shown below: One person / 7 billion people is 0.0000000142857143%. Now, the persnickety reader will notice one zero less in the decimal. So by saying that I have not found someone with this percentage of sameness to me is not enough. I need to emphasize that I haven’t even found a tenth of that. which could also mean I have non human DNA, but we’ll get to that in another century…cos that’s how long it’s taken you to read a freaking NOTE].

Anyhoos, getting back to the topic of unrest. When you were a teenager, like all teenagers, you had music, poetry, bad behavior, adults to yell at and a world wide definition of teenage angst to fall back on. Then you grew up. Well, almost all of you truly did. And you could not use your familiar ammo anymore. But the problems still existed in the ‘real’ world. People were still hurting you, you were still judging yourself and emotions still played a good solid part in your inner life and the texture of your skin and hair. So you acquired new ammunition. You developed a shield, you got smart, you listened and learnt how to hurt back and for the times that you could not protect yourself, you drank and smoked your constraints away. I say all this about you because I am not like that. And while I would give anything in the world to be like you…like any person with even the slightest bit of instinct, I don’t see it happening. My shields of armor can’t even be compared to a one day old human, that knows the sounds to make so it can manipulate some food out of the other human that hosted it for nine months.

We live in a world of super acceptance. Everyone is all about embracing yourself, being yourself because you were born this way. I like that thought, especially since the change is just not coming. But accepting that is like getting a defective product and never really knowing for sure if the store has a returns policy. And then there’s always the fear that I have run out of the credit period. I may be just too late. Those spare parts are being made no more. And I have seen these signs posted all over the supermarket of my recent forays. I tried coffee to calm my nerves like all the cool people (read anyone above the age of ten) do, but it only made me worse. I tried alcohol (mostly because the night life here is too cold to survive without some form of alteration of state of mind), it didn’t agree with me. All I shall say is that in all the documented side effects of alcohol, not once has anyone mentioned flatulence. Just saying. Apparently there’s an age limit for trying new crutches and I just crossed it oh say about a month ago. And so I remain, unsupported, unable to indulge my rebel/hippie quotient, unreturnable, non refundable.

Conversations

At a recent talk, someone made this point, Quality of life = Quality of conversations.

At the risk of sounding very Bengali, I agree. How many things do you remember about your life? That office building, that playground, that chat corner, the midnight canteen, a popular band and their music, habits, amazing people, etc. While these may all be close to my heart, I always remember those scintillating conversations I had with random people at even more random places.

Wondering about the kind of person I will be sitting on the school wall
Being told I am very bold and smart on the school grounds
Tearfully questioning justice huddled on the library steps
Ruminating over the purpose of life on the terrace of the hostel till 5 am or sunrise, whichever happens later
Discussing books and lines from those books when there is a project to be done
Talking about hookups lying upside down and trying to fake a high
Reciting dialogues from FRIENDS late in to the night to see who knows it better

These did not need any kind of intoxication, drugs or hallucinogenics to stimulate the central lobe. These were just topics recycled again and again for as far as I can remember. Just statements and phrases that could fuel days of discussion. I would discuss it with the same people at times and the well of arguments and counter arguments would never run dry, because we all came with our own perspectives. Unless I talk to my parents where it is like three people singing the same tune. Not much diversity there what with every sentence ending in an all too familiar, ‘I know.’

While politics, nation building and governmental influence are topics I consider too broad for my meager perspective, philosophy is fair game. I can not tell you how many hours I have spent on long distance calls, where the only topic of discussion is pure philosophy with small doses of psychology thrown in.

The rush that comes after an hour long session of just thinking is akin to being in Disneyland for me. Which is probably why my conversations are never below 60 minutes. It is barely enough time to do small talk, ask about the weather and work and then launch seamlessly in to a discussion of life, the universe and everything. And what is even more crazy : the answer is always 42.

Weight weight, don’t tell me

The obsession with being thin is not lost on me. After 27 years of being borderline anorexic (not through any fault of mine), I enjoyed 2 glorious years of plumpness. Everyone commented on my weight gain because it was just odd. I have never been fat and here I was quite well rounded and looking like I was wearing a fat suit.

Then a few things happenned and I am back to 115 pounds now. And even though I don’t mind the compliments I get from my female friends, I find the attention to weight disturbing. Yet, the are a few things that I thought are well worth sharing. This will convince you that losing weight is real simple…or really impossible. So go on, read and snort:

1. I was never fat. A lot of weight loss on later life is made simple if your metabolism is used to keeping a lower weight. Your constitution mught change dramatically if you are a woman of a certain age. So, don’t yearn for a Paris Hilton body and starve yourself.

2. I hated food till I lived in a hostel. This is a very important point. I never involved myself in the kitchen, did not know what raw food looked like and generally mistrusted anything green, orange or not sweet. If you do not enjoy food, it is difficult to really overeat.

3. Ok, apart from things that make me weird, here are the other things I do to remain thin:
– Resting after food is a bad idea. Walk around and don’t sit down immediately.
– Try skimmed milk. It is difficult to get used to, but it will go a long way in reducing your weight.
– Nonfat yogurt, milk, feta cheese and cheese spread will keep you from the saturated fat cheeses for a while.
– Have a heavy breakfast, a good lunch and a very light dinner. It is difficult when you are working, but making dinner your main meal will only make you lethargic. An alternative is having small sizes of meals spread out through the day. But since we don’t live with mommy anymore, no one’s gonna make them for you.
– Have dinner early. Even if you are still at work, finish the eating part of your day a least four hours before bed. When you wake up, you will be really hungry to have that huge breakfast.
– There has to be an element of exercise in your day. If you played as a child, you should continue. I never saw a playground, so I haven’t really exercised much as an adut either. I know I know, I’ll start tomorrow….

Just like you will!

Vaudeville may be dead, but the show must go on

I blame my father for infusing our young lives with timeless musicals. As kids, we knew all the Roger and Hammerstein songs and their corresponding dances. So don’t be surprised when I get nostalgic about theatre. Because even though I had never been to one till I was 25, it had always been just around the river bend.

Today I watched Babes in Arms, a classic frothy story set in the great depression era. I took a front row seat and drank in the performances. Many times I felt the actors would fall on me and some times I could feel the wind from their movements on stage. But they played to my wide eyed admiration perfectly. So much talent and yet….there will never be a golden age for theatre.

Cut to five hundred years ago. There was the freak show…I am not saying it was one, they called it a freak show. There were animals, mutilated people, dwarves, bearded women…it was strange and freaky. Deviants and vagrants that trickled down from professional circuses and magic shows formed a motley crowd that would do show and tell.

Let us fast forward to three hundred years ago. Swarthy men dressed as women acting like women, closeted sexuality, garish makeup and elaborate story lines. And yet, these talented actors were outcasts of the society. They were a little weird, always traveling, never stuck with family when the road came calling. Theatre companies became these concentration camps of talent, hard work and thankless pay.

Cut to the present. Men play men. Women play women. They are given decent residences, some of them have day time jobs and they don’t come off as freaks or stand out in the general population. They are almost resected for their art. But does that mean, they can finally rest on their laurels. Nope. Still a struggle. “No one comes to the theatre anymore….it’s a dying art form, we need more young people”. These words are heard throughout the board rooms of theater revival committees across the world. So why hasn’t it ever had a golden era?

What could be that strange about a bunch of real people giving their sweat and blood to a two hour performance that you’d rather watch Hollywood massacring by making it a musical? I think the answer lies in man’s fascination with movies. Long before movies existed, man was obsessed with them. He just did not know it.

Humans beings have always been fond of pictures. A visual representation of facts and imaginations have adorned ancient caves across continent 😉 Kings and queens had their faces immortalized by capturing them on canvas so everyone could see them even when they weren’t around. This concept of capturing an idea for later use is the key to what drives the human race forward.

The theatre had been up and running for thousands of years before photography came around. And photography was only a small improvement over drawing, sketching and painting. But moving photography! Now there was a latent need filler if there ever was one. This could change everything. And it did.

Moving pictures were so amazing and instantly liked as a concept that people would pay good money to drive far away to an enclosed space with a screen to watch it on MUTE! It didn’t matter if they couldn’t really hear what the pictures were saying as long as they moved. And move, they did. Physical comedy was never explored better than in the silent movie era. Forget overtures and opera singers, this was better. People could watch it everywhere, all you needed were prints of the film and a pianist. Of course, theatre wasn’t dead, it just sulked in the background like it does now.

And when these moving pictures started playing sound, the possibilities were endless. The general population now had an inexpensive way to experience their theatre classics. The best actors could play the roles and the best performance of these best actors could be cut out and strung together and shown everywhere.

But, somethings never changed. For instance, scripts still say ‘fade in’ and ‘fade out’. Most filmed scripts are set on an immovable scene for its majority like it were a stage. Theaters still charge four times a movie ticket and the common man will never fully embrace it. And as I look around at the sea of septuagenarians in the audience, I know that I was wrong in thinking I was born too late. Theatre will always be a cultivated taste.

I’ve been here before

Gone are the weekends of manic sightseeing. US feels no longer like a vast land to explore, but a finite space to own to make my own.

San Francisco is home…like Bombay. Yeesh! And home might be great when you are 70, but right now, its not an exciting place to be. Home, unlike a touristy LA comes with responsibilities.

Once you know you are going to be some place for a long time, you don’t exactly have a deadline to finish seeing all that is worth noticing. Now, I hear myself think, ‘Ah, adventure rides, I’ll wait for me to have kids’. I figure they’d wanna go anyways.

To add to this inertia, San Fran is a lot like Bombay. If you took Bombay and inverted it, it’ll look like SF. And by thar logic, I’ll be living in Colaba. Well, a girl can dream, no?

To make matters worse, it’s been raining. And not the .5 cm annual rain like LA, these are seasonal. The roads are awash, people have umbrellas and yet everybody is waiting for the bus!

Ok…not convinced? Beat this! People get in one stop before the train terminus so they are assured a seat on its way back. Virar local anyone?

Hello, is anyone listening?

Everyone is talking about it…everyone sees what’s going on. But no one other than the earth really has the time from their busy schedule. It is like a dull banging at the back of the head – like a reminder to go to the dentist or the gym. You know it is there, but you’d rather ignore it….for now.
FOR NOW? Not to sound like a lunatic and an alarmist, but maybe we need to plug the leak when the hole is still a small one. I do not have that much faith in humanity to think that we’ll think of something eventually. Maybe life on the moon.
Ok, let me recap a little. There are floods, earthquakes, landslides, hurricanes happening all over the world. The world is a huge place and thus, no one person can feel the impact of even two or more of these things. And put together only around 5% of the world’s population faces  these natural disasters…which makes it even harder to form into metrics and statistics. But you do not need me to give you the numbers to realize that over the past 2 years, you have been reading about a lot of literally ground-breaking events. This has to mean something. Maybe our FOR NOW isn’t going to be too long lived.
Unfortunately, the only people interested in talking about this are unbathed people with boards outside churches, cult leaders, moon-space sellers and conspiracy theorists. I am sure the scientists are busy finding a cure for this immunity problem the earth has going on before it sneezes that big sneeze. But I am scared more than any of you because of a teeny tiny birth defect: malformation of survival instincts. So when there is fire and floods everywhere, my natural human qualities wont kick in by themselves. The information will be sent to my brain and we all know how that ends. I am the one in a sorority horror flick who walks into the trap the killer has set because the other rooms looked empty. And I figure, I may as well have company.
I am sure it is your instincts that tell you not to worry about these things. You’ll probably handle it when it comes to that…cross the bridge and all. But what about the instinctively disabled (Yes, I am calling it that)? Who will prepare us for DEFCON 1? Anybody there? Or am I stuck with a megaphone tuned in to a frequency only I know?