The social animal

No man is an island, they said. Man is a social animal, they said.

They were right.

All this while, I thought, I like my alone time. I enjoy time with myself. I can’t stand people and their drama.

I was right too, but also so wrong. I do enjoy being by myself. I recently realised that I need my people too.

What changed, you ask?
I started my internship. I’m officially no more a medical student. I’m a doctor in training. I’m a few months in, and I’ve learned to be an adult, more than anything else. Handling people, situations, stress, getting the job done. These are the skills my internship has taught me, these skills that may be as important as how to deliver a baby or how to suture. These skills I didn’t even realise were that important.

But the most important lesson of all, is that I need my people. My support system. My friends, my family.

I would have gone crazy without them. My days are extremely volatile. Some good, some bad, some exhilarating, torturous, or plain boring. Through all this emotional yo-yo ing, I’ve felt like I’ve become a teenager again. I hated it. But my people have kept me together.

A patient ear, or a much needed hug, or a trip out to lunch, or party time. A trip home, a home cooked meal, a pat on the head, the voice of my sister. Sympathetic nods, furious expressions of affront, a compliment, a word of appreciation. A haircut, a new trinket, a new flavour of yogurt. Or just a familiar face, a kind voice, a smile in the middle of the day, a midnight message. These are the things that have kept me going.

I’ve realised I can’t go a single day without my people. I’d go mad. A little bit. Be it calling my mom everyday ( you may make fun of me. I don’t care. She’s supermom), or my best friend, a hostel mate I haven’t talked to in a while, a friend who’s a blast from the past, or my sisters or my dad, this is what has been my rock. That at the end of the day, I have a rock solid core of people behind me. Who will catch me if I need it, who will help me fly when I’m ready.

That is what we call family. Not just blood. A bond. Trust. Love. Help. Even if you don’t ask.

To my people, you know who you are. Thank you. I couldn’t have made it anywhere without you.

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Writing and romantics.

For a time, I thought I wanted to be a writer. I don’t know what I was thinking. My introduction to writing itself was an accident of circumstance. There was a competition and they had no one to go participate. I was picked because my English was good from a lifetime of carefully monitored reading. And by a lifetime, I mean about five, six years. And still, at one point, I thought I wanted to be a writer.

When you think of somebody being a writer, you automatically pull up the image of a middle aged man, probably bearded, wearing a shawl or a sweater, sitting at an old fashioned no nonsense wooden desk. An ink pen in his hand and sheets of yellowing paper on said desk. The crackle of a fire somewhere nearby and the chill of hillside air. But the reality is more like a girl lounging in her nightpants tapping away at a laptop or her phone trying in vain to be a writer. Maybe I was enamored of the image.

I’ll never know. Sometimes writing is a beautiful experience, all that it’s supposed to be. Words flow onto paper even before you think them. The story demands to be told and you’re just a muse holding pen to paper, or fingers to a keyboard. You form sentences, create images, imagine characters and tell a story that’s already real in your head. It’s magical. There’s no dissecting or duplicating the process.

But sometimes writing is overrated. It has to do with days, even months of frustration. Of banging your head against the figurative desk. Words get stuck, there are no stories, the voice feels stilted, and you feel hopeless. You try to write something beautiful, but it reeks of the trying. There’s no effortless beauty or flowing sentences. It’s all a giant blocked up mess, until you’re reduced to writing about the block itself. I used to think writer’s block wasn’t a thing. Joke’s on me.

I can write, but I wasn’t meant to be a writer. I read works of the greats. The writers who were meant to be. They fit my image of the perfect writer. Their work flows, it speaks, it tells a story. Ruskin bond, J.K. Rowling, Stephen king. Effortless, prolific, beautiful. I feel jealous. And resigned to being an admirer. Maybe I wasn’t meant to create. But that’s the thing about writing. You never know. You don’t need a gift for writing, a flair for language or a mastery of technique. You just need a story waiting to be told. And there’s a story to be found anywhere, as long as you’re open to listen. So maybe there’s hope yet.

The first time

The first time I realised I grew up.

Was it when you got married?

And I was remembering the times we played farmandia and you were jealous of my pickle factory?

Was it when I got my first salary?
When I worked my first Sunday?
When I gave advice instead of take it?
When we began to see each other once a year if that?
Was it when we stopped waiting by the landline for hours?

Was it when we used code names because we had stories we didn’t want our adults to know?

When we fought and nobody tried to patch us back together?

Or was it when it became acceptable to text on birthdays and festivals and for wedding invitations, and that was it?

Was it when our best friend moved half way across the world and our world kept going?
Was it when we saw death for the first time?

Was it when we saw birth for the first time?

Was it when we got degrees tacked to our names?

Or when we learned to wear sarees?
Was it when we learned to cook our own meals?
Was it when we thought of others before ourselves?
When did we first become adults?
Or is that moment yet to come?
Or are we just in denial?
Life has been happening and we’re still waiting on landmarks to show us the way.
The first time. Does it matter, really? We did all those things. And hey, look at us, here we are. You there and me here.

Chapter 2: The wrong questions.

Eva:

Eva did not know what she was doing here, or where ‘here’ was for that matter. They didn’t ask her that. Maybe if they did, she would know. They weren’t asking the right questions. She had come so close a few times. Close enough to know. Close enough to remember and then it would go away. And a man would come and he would ask the same useless questions that made him sweat. Questions she didn’t have answers for. They weren’t asking the questions that had answers. She felt like if she could just push past it, just once, push past this wall of haziness, she could almost see, but then her brain would take up the chant of push, push, push, and the wall would slam back down again. If only they would take her near enough to the wall.

Just as she musters up enough courage to push again, the door opens, and a man steps inside. Has she seen this man before? She doesn’t know. He walks slowly and sits down on the chair before her. The chair creaks, and the lights above flicker once. He keeps the silence.

She can feel him looking at her. His mouth curves up and his eyes crinkle and he begins to talk.

“Eva are you cold, dear?”

Well, what sort of useless question was this. Though she did know the answer to this one.

“Yes.” She says.

“Do you want to leave, go see your parents?” He asks.

“No. ”

He seems taken aback at that and starts sweating. Like all the others. Eva sighs. She had hoped this one might help her.

“Do you remember how you got here?
Where are your parents?
Did someone drive you here and leave you? Who?”

“No.
I don’t know.
No. ”

How they could come up with so many useless questions she didn’t know.

“Talk to me Eva. I can help you. I can be your friend. But you have to talk to me. ”

She opened her mouth, and it seemed as if she would finally say something, but her brain went off on a tangent again. Talk to him. Help. She didn’t need help. But she had to talk to him. Talk. What about?

He only looked at her while her brain clamoured behind its walls.
Talk. Talk. Talk to him.
But he wouldn’t say what about.

Officer Sanders:

The days were becoming more and more bizarre. They find a girl, and instead of helping her get home, they were interrogating her in what was pretty much a dungeon. The girl appeared out of nowhere, there was a box she had with her that nobody could get open, and the weirdest thing of all was the girl.

Eva.

She wasn’t normal. She didn’t ask where she was, or when she could leave. She didn’t know anything about herself other than that her name was Eva, she was 18, her parents are doctors, and she didn’t know anything else.

Except, when asked the year, she gave them a number. Nobody counted years in numbers.

Besides, she made them sweat. He didn’t know if it was the girl, but the whole thing gave him the chills. What kind of 18 year old, had eyes like that, didn’t know who she was and had orders to be watched 24/7?

As if this wasn’t unusual enough, this guy had shown up at the crack of dawn with orders from ‘high up’ and had gone in. After switching off the cameras. Sanders couldn’t help it, but he sort of felt sorry for the strange girl. It was always bad when high up sent a faceless man.

A new year, a new beginning

With this year tidily wrapping up, a year of surprisingly chill studying, some hectic TV show watching, I look back, with what seems like everybody else.
The Hindu published an 8 page tribute to women this year. Women who are pushing boundaries, breaking ceilings everyday, got 8 inches of tribute each in the newspaper. It doesn’t seem like a big thing, but to young girls, who read the paper and see these names, these stories, it gives them hope. That they too can be the kind of woman that other women want to be.

I have noticed, more and more frequently this past year, that I tend to censor my own writing. Not to cut out the bad words, or the excesses of thought, but to seem not too radical for my conservative family and friends. After a while I grow tired of this, and write exactly what I want to write, but then I leave it in my drafts and give you a whitewashed version. Because I remember that even this whitewashed version is considered radical.
So this year, here’s to saying what I want to say. Because no one will censor me, not even myself. Because I have things to say I want this world to sit up and hear. Because we have a voice, no matter who we are, and we deserve to be heard.

All this entitlement then strikes me as too much. We don’t deserve anything. The world does not owe us anything we don’t make for ourselves. I read Sapiens- a history of humankind, and this brilliant book told me that the human superpower is storytelling. That the ability to tell and believe stories is what put us on top of the food chain. But that that also means that all these concepts, countries, patriotism, equality, justice, fairness, feminism, kindness, virtue. All these are stories we have made up and believed in to make our soceity run smoothly. None of this actually exists. We are not equal. We are decidedly different. The real world has no justice or karma, no kindness or equality. There is only the unforgiving rule of survival of the fittest.

And in this world we live in a dual reality, and fight for imagined rights, and teach imagined virtues, and we stay on top of the food chain.
And in that world of dual reality, we talk about female achievement, and this year, and what we have done in it.

I have watched movies and read books that inspired me. Perhaps inflamed the ‘radical’ unattractive aspects of myself. And I promised to talk about the things that I really want to talk about.

I want female equality, and equal rights and opportunities, and gear up for a fight against the patriarchy and find that most often, it stops with that. The major opposition to the realisation of this ideal is not the male part of the patriarchy. It’s the females – Of course, the male part of it threatens to rape or kill any female who dares to raise her voice against a man, and this is, sadly condoned, endorsed and followed by our leaders-  but the females, they want us to listen to the male leader of the family, to take care of his needs because he is the working member. They want us to stay in our houses because it’s not safe, they want us to not wander out in the dark or even the dusk because it is not safe. They want us to dress conservatively, and cover everything up because it’s not safe. They want to give dowry, because that’s the societal norm, even if neither party wants it. They want us to be realistic and not talk theory that won’t help in the real world.

But I do live in the real world, and it doesn’t stop at dusk, because that’s when it’s unsafe for women. It doesn’t have men who are all monsters who prey on innocents. It has good decent men, who are treated with suspicion, because our mothers have taught us to be careful and ever vigilant. It also has monsters who prey on the innocent and we have worse monsters who say, look what she was wearing. Look what time it was. Look where she was going. Monsters who say she deserved it. And these being men, and women who raised me, who lead this country, who show the next generation how to live. This is the practical world I am supposed to fit into.

I don’t like it. I won’t fit into it. So if I have to be radical, I will be. If I have to be too theoretical and idealistic, I will be. Because these same people who taught me all these things, taught me to think for myself, to stand for the things I believe in, to not give into peer pressure. These same people taught me to be the change I want to see in this world.

So this year, I resolve to be a little more vocal. A little more firm, to believe a little more in myself. And be the change I want to see. Because this world needs me. Or atleast, that is the story I will tell myself, and that will be my superpower.

Minute to midnight

With the release of the Avengers Infinity War trailer, I was engrossed like the rest of the Marvel loving universe. Everybody except my mother seems to like/love these movies. I do too. 

But two days later.

They’re so popular because there’s a tangible villain who’s an alien with superpowers. A hero is born/created with superpowers who fights and destroys the supervillain to save the world. Same old. Same old. 

They’re popular because this is comforting. That the world and us, if we are destroyed, will be by an alien, and that a fight can save us. That’s just wishful thinking now. 

What’s killing the world is us. Overpopulation and pollution and global warming. It might not be the end of the Earth. But might be the end of us. Surely we are headed into an ice age or a world class drowning. This time there won’t be a Noah’s ark. 

We are what is wrong with this earth, no matter how you look at it. Kali Yuga, climate change. Corruption, pollution. Greed, evil, ambition. We might starve or drown or burn or get buried. By our own hands. 

We are a minute to midnight. 

And there is no hero that can fight this villain for us. They’re both us. The hero and the villain. This earth that we were born into, might not be here for our children to be born into. We’re changing it too fast for us to evolve with it. The fight is not as simple as a fight. No matter the amount of special effects. 

So these movies remain ever popular. Because they sell a dream. That it won’t be our fault. And that we’re the good ones. And that we will be saved. Wake up. This isn’t a good dream.