1. My black cardigan (its suddenly nippy in Hong Kong)
2. My iPhone charger and cord
Things I thought I had lost but ended up finding at home
1. My students test papers
2. My usb stick
I’m blaming it on my period period and my cold. Not myself.
1. My black cardigan (its suddenly nippy in Hong Kong)
2. My iPhone charger and cord
Things I thought I had lost but ended up finding at home
1. My students test papers
2. My usb stick
I’m blaming it on my period period and my cold. Not myself.
At a conference I once attended, a woman with pink hair presented a paper on the ethics of bingeing on TV shows. She argued (and I paraphrase what I understood) that given that several TV shows are engaging with topical ethical issues, bingeing could be seen as an immersion in ethical dilemmas and not a retreat. While this is an attractive proposition, someone in the audience pointed out that bingeing today may involve engaging with complex ethical issues, but it doesn’t really go beyond that into actual political action. It remains a solitary, self satisfying act.
I’ve been off TV for a while. For one, I prefer reading and V hogs the TV (we have only one in the house, shocker!) and because I have alternative entertainment in the form of books I’ve never really fought it (except when he started watching Trump’s antics through the prism of Fox News that is). Then we discovered streaming software and I slowly got back into TV, partly fueled by the fact that there is really a lot of excellent TV being produced.
My current mental state also means that I need an escape route. So yeah, I’m not one of those claiming any ethical dimension to my TV indulgence. It is escapism pure and simple. TV helps me ignore the claims and worries of real life by projecting me into other worlds and giving me other things to think about.
If I’m honest, books do the same for me and probably always have. V was the first person to suggest to me that there was nothing intrinsically noble about reading and it was just escape. I don’t entirely agree. Books stretch the imaginative faculties in a way that TV doesn’t – which probably accounts for why TV has been my escapism of choice lately, it’s just easier. Ironically, I can finish a good book faster than I can watch an entire TV series (I can’t/don’t watch on the MTR or at uni, instead I read recaps and analyses of the episodes). Also finding the right book is also challenging. I do have some ideas in mind, but it involves a trek to the library. Yeah boo effing hoo I have a library system at my fingertips but don’t seem to have the time for a ten minute walk. I also still have vestigial guilt about reading anything not PhD related or more recently unrelated to the courses I’m prepping for. Reading is not free from worry and need to work.
So yeah for probably the first time in my history, TV is taking precedence as a form of relaxation and all I can say is:
A) who would’ve thunk?
b) I’m grateful. Grateful that a medium of such entertainment exists. Grateful for streaming services that are like a cave of treasures for the taking.
Not grateful for the problems I’m trying to escape but they are admittedly not life and death.
This too is another change. I used to want to tackle things head on, wrestle with them mentally and figure out What To Do. Now as more things seek beyond my control, I’m leaning towards Let It Be. However, I’m not evolved enough to just LIB without some kind assistance. Enter the Idiot Box – the 20th C’s own form of therapy lite.
This Next year I’m keeping it simple. Just one thing to do:
I seem to have attained a sense of detachment. (Or I’m turning into my husband.)
My desire to get out there and meet new people lasted all of 15 minutes. No sooner had I made a plan than I realised I didn’t care much whether it materialized or not.
Which was a good thing because I have fallen sick every other week, and had to cancel plans on people three times (twice the same people).
I felt bad for cancelling, but not particularly FOMOish.
Maybe because my expectations of people have dropped to 1.5-2 on a 10-point scale. Not yet in negative territory but low enough for me to coast along without feeling like my skin has turned inside out. Low expectations FTW.
No really, it’s a good thing. A lot less angst.
I don’t even feel anxious about the fact that I might be friendless in my 50s. That horizon is too far away.
I don’t know how I achieved this, or even if it’s permanent (though I kind of hope it is). Perhaps it’s a hormonal imbalance (or balance!) or just the germs floating around in my body that apparently have not departed since a month ago.
I have decided to treat the husband as a co-parent rather than a lover. He is not amused. This might take some fine-tuning.
While most of this seems to have happened as a result of some unconscious switch, one thing I have been consciously doing is repressing. Having practiced repression for about 20 odd years of my life, and been a much less volatile person as a result (albeit the odd instance where I flirted with alopecia aged 5), I am belatedly seeing the virtues of it, Mr Freud notwithstanding. So now instead of dealing with my negative feelings, I greet them, make five minutes of polite conversation and then squash them. Sometimes they pop back up, but I hush them fiercely. It works. I mean, I still dislike the people who annoyed me, but I don’t spend too much time and energy on them.
For the first time in ages, I’m actually able to roll my eyes at rude/passively aggressive/overly fussy people on the MTR and move on. Huzzah.
Now if only I could my physical health sorted.
You know the story of how as a girl you watched your mum drape a sari and one day, you grew up, and it was your turn, and the whole thing came almost instinctively because you’ve seen it done so many times? Yeah, that’s not my story.
It wasn’t my story with cooking, it wasn’t my story with caring for babies and it wasn’t my story with saris. I did watch my mum cooking growing up and lost interest at about the time I might have actually been useful in the kitchen, I had only one baby cousin in my city and but I was too young to really pay attention, and my mum didn’t wear a sari that often. I think she stopped around the time we came along actually. So while my mum can drape a sari competently, the sari as a measure of womanhood wasn’t an image I carried with me into adulthood.
Maybe for that reason, the sari held a fascination for me. Well, first of all it’s a naturally graceful and gorgeous garment. I would stop short of saying it’s the most comfortable garment, though some people might find it so. Wearing nine yards of cloth is going to impede you from really sprinting for a bus, for example, and it’s definitely hotter than a salwar-kurta in summer. And if you’re as clumsy as I am, it’s another story… So yeah, while for other people the sari might have been a tradition they rebelled against, for me it was one I grew into.
I’m in my 30s now and I’ve probably donned a sari five times in my life. The first time was at a cousin’s wedding a week before mine, and the second time was at my own wedding. The common thread here is … weddings. I only ever wear saris to weddings, and so far I’ve had someone on hand to drape them for me. Each time I swore I would learn to do it myself, and then promptly forgot because typically, there was a couple of years’ interval between the next outing.
As usual, I was invited to talk about India at the kids’ kindergarten for International Day, and this time, I felt I really should wear a sari. It is so much more exciting than seeing me in a salwar, not to mention that kurtas I own here are extremely simple, and hardly representative of the richness of Indian textile. On the other hand, the only sari I have in Hong Kong is extremely grand; it is the one I wore way back when for my cousin’s wedding, the first one I’ve ever worn. The blouse is extremely skimpy featuring spaghetti straps. The embroidery is heavy and trickily placed so that the two people who draped it on me in the past struggled.
And this was the sari I had to teach myself to drape.
First, I checked out a couple of YouTube videos. Now, these videos (or at least the two I checked out before giving up) take the same approach that people who wrote the Hindi textbooks in school did – they are supposed to be teaching you something but they kinda assume you already know. The technique is so instinctive to them that they forget that a newcomer needs to be told every single step. So yeah, that didn’t work.
I almost gave up in frustration but something but egging me on – and I think it was the belief that now was the time to tick this thing of my bucket list.
Reluctantly, I reached out to two Indian women to see if they could teach me. Turns out they didn’t know either.
So I did what I should have done in the first place. I tapped MinCat, prolific wearer of saris and draper extraordinaire. And we had a Skype sessions where she took me through the steps as excellently as only she could do, with just the right amount of information. Turns out that the videos were skipping a crucial step between the first time the sari goes round one and when one drapes the pallu. This might seem like common sense to some people but I’m directionally challenged. In about 15 minutes, I felt confident that I could do it myself at school.
So I did. The school was kind enough to give me a slightly big room, so I had ample space if not a mirror (though turns out I don’t need a mirror except for a final check). I did end up somehow getting confused but kept calm and carried on. In the end it was fine. I’m sure my pleats weren’t as nicely aligned as they should have been but with an audience of three to six year olds, who cares? I even managed to teach them some Bollywood steps in the thing without it falling off, so I consider this mission achieved.
Mainly though, I feel confident (and maybe this is misplaced confidence – I haven’t yet tacked a Kanjivaram yet) that I get do this myself again and again. No need to sheepishly request anyone to help, except maybe in adjusting the pleats.
The only question is – when will the opportunity arise next?
So I’ve decided I have problems with my emotions. This is weird, because I used to be the most emotionally controlled person for the better part of my life – till I was about 21. It’s been downhill from there. From what I recall, I had a pretty calm adolescence, so either I’m going through a late teenage phase or early menopause (personally, I’d prefer the latter because I really want to stop getting my period).
I’m thinking this is not normal. Or is it just that everyone goes through this but I’m just unduly concerned. I feel that I need to regress into my childhood botness though and attain some emotional detachment. How to do this I’m not sure. The irony is that I realise that I’ve turned into Mimi, or she’s turned into me. While I’m not as dramatic as her, and most of the time, strangers don’t get to see my inner turmoil (then again, Mimi is fairly well behaved among strangers), I’m an adult and (probably?) should be doing better.
I actually cooked a meal.* It was stuffed mushrooms, a recipe V once attempted with success and that was replicated by MinCat when she was here. It looked easy enough and I ventured to say that I could do make it, and immediately V said, so do it.
So finally I did.
It did involved a fair amount of calling out to V from the kitchen about when to add what. As an added complication, the kids came home early and brought stools in the kitchen to watch the historic event. Actually, they were less bemused about my presence in the kitchen than our help. E has been witness to my disastrous attempt at making banana fritters many many years ago when every single vessel in the kitchen was utilized in service of making a dish that in the end had to be discarded as unedible.
I let the kids grate the cheese for me. I don’t know why people don’t let kids help more. Okay, I know why. Because it’s a pain, they’re more hindrance than help, yadda yadda, but isn’t that what you’re supposed to do if you want your kids not to end up like me? On the other hand, I used to help my mom when I was little and it was fun until I figured I had better things to do and my mother actually agreed.
The mushrooms turned out fairly good. Not perfect, but up to my standard, which is picky enough to have put me off cooking for several years (because I did not deem my own food good enough for me to eat). Part of the secret is dabaoing oil, something I was hitherto reluctant to do. Now, I decided I will be liberal with oil till I am a virtuoso. Or rather, if and until.
I’m wondering if this will become a weekly thing. Hmmm. Let’s not get carried away.
V later asked me why I hadn’t taken a photo. Why indeed. I guess I was too greedy. So you’ll just have to take my word for it that it was delicious.
*For those of you who are knew to this blog, I don’t cook. I completely stopped cooking about five years ago when the kids were born and we got full-time help. Before that, I would cook very occasionally when V was away – I had like three standard things I could do – dal, mince and I forget the other, besides instant noodles, scrambled eggs and tea.
I write on the first day of my period.
I spent the last one day wondering whether I was pregnant. Again. Even though the chances were very slim given the facts at hand, I couldn’t be 100% sure. And my period tracker app said I was late (more on that later).
When I mulled over the possibility of being pregnant, I realised that if I was, there was no way in hell I could continue with the pregnancy. The simple fact was that I am not mentally or physically capable of bearing another child and caring for an infant. If it were a choice between that and death, I would rather be dead. It’s that simple.
This morning I realised that the most traumatic part of infant care for me was breastfeeding. If I did not have to breastfeed – and frankly with the availability of formula there is no reason I could not simple put any future baby on formula straight away* – my antipathy towards the whole deal of infant care would be halved by 50%.
Even so I really really really did not want to be pregnant. And if I was, I would have opted for an abortion, as quickly as possible.
One of my straight-up problems with the Republican Party in the US (and with the Catholic Church) is its anti-abortion stance. V asked me why I felt so strongly about this, I said because I know from my own experience what it means to be parent. And I can empathise wholeheartedly with women for whom becoming a parent would be the end of their own life literally or in practice. The weird thing is that carrying two children to term and caring for them in early childhood, with all the financial and material help I had, made me even more sure of my stance that women must have the right to abortion backed up by the availability of safe abortion services, in addition to other forms of contraception. Because I know what it takes. And I can imagine what it would be like for women who have less control over their lives and for whom an unwanted pregnancy can be disaster. And I know that contraception doesn’t always work, and that many women don’t have the choice of using contraception and/or abstaining from sex altogether. And that those women deserve to have that final recourse of abortion if it comes to that.
Moreover, states that restrict access to abortion almost never make exceptions. So there have been cases like that of Savita in Ireland who was allowed to die rather than abort the feotus inside her, a rape survivor in Ireland who was denied an abortion, a woman who was kept alive although she was for all purposes dead so that the foetus inside her could live (even though this was against her own expressed wishes and those of her family), a woman who was accused of “aborting” her baby when she had a miscarriage. In all these examples, women are deprived of control over their own lives, sometimes literally, in order to save a foetus.
The most blinding irony is the case of countries where the Zika virus is rampant, where women who have little or no access to contraception and wehre abortion is banned are being asked to “not get pregnant.” Well good luck with that.
On the subject of the period tracker app, I was relying on the app’s calculation of when I should get my period. It has been fairly on point so far, so when I was a couple of days late I panicked. Prior to using the app, I honestly could never anticipate my period. When I was pregnant and the doctor’s asked me how many days my cycle was , I would say 30 days although really I had no idea. I’m bad at counting. Then I tried this app and it was like magic. I could with some accuracy predict my period date even a couple of months ahead.
However, last night I took a closer look at the days between two periods, and I realised that there were only 20 days between them! WTF! Though now I’m back to 27 days which I still think is a bummer because shorter cycle more periods across my lifetime. I can’t wait for menopause.
*Except for the environmental and ethical issues. I am no longer convinced of the glorious health benefits of breastfeeding. Except in cases where babies have allergy to formula (but then they tend to have allergies to cow’s milk in breastmilk too, and then the whole saga of diet control, which I know only too well).
I DID THINK, LET’S GO ABOUT THIS SLOWLY
(By Mary Oliver)
I did think, let’s go about this slowly.
This is important. This should take
some really deep thought. We should take
small thoughtful steps.
But, bless us, we didn’t.
That’s the poem I posted on Facebook for V yesterday (which was Valentine’s Day if you’ve been living under a rock). I’m not usually gung ho about this day which I think is overhyped, but I’m not all RSS about it either. I had intended to present this poem to V, and since I hadn’t been able to do it on our actual 10th wedding anniversary, owing to the fact that it turned out more than a little hard to dig up and being in India at the time, I wasn’t in a position to put in the requisite effort, I decided to aim for the upcoming V-Day instead.
Now, as you all know, V and I have been having some tumultuous times, which happily seem to be on the wane. But even through them, if asked if I would have changed our beginning, I would have said no. The story of our early romance is like two people who started out on what seems like a walk in the garden, but after a few steps, ended up rolling down a hill (in a good way). Let’s just say it got intense pretty quick, despite our good intentions. And we decided to get married. You can read about it here.
MinCat, who knows our whole history, opined that people should have a mandatory period of dating and then living together before marriage. I know this makes logical sense, and yet, I don’t think it’s the key to a happy marriage. For one, yeah V and I decided to get married pretty quick, and then we were in a prolonged honeymoon period being long distance, but we technically dated over a year and when we lived together we didn’t really face problems in our first year. So then MinCat said, people should be at least 27. And again, yeah, I agree older is wiser, or is it? Honestly, I’ve become more messed up as I age. I was very mature as a 17 year old. I’m not recommending people marry young or rush into marriage, in fact I think the contrary is preferable, but that ultimately, there is no foolproof plan.
The thing is, if I had to do it over, I would still choose V and I don’t think time would have made a difference (unless we waited five years or something). Because he’s my type – the kind of person I’m physically attracted to, and who rationally I think has the qualities that I think make for a stable partnership. There are other qualities which are not so positive, and which in retrospect, there were signs of early on, but would those have been dealbreakers in the early days? I don’t think so. Sometimes (often?) traits that are muted early in a relationship become more pronounced under stress, and when that happens and the form it takes are not going to be clear early on. When you begin to piss each other off, how you react is based on the person you are and situation at the time. Could I have predicted we would have turned into the people we have and this particular combination? I don’t think so.
I don’t have a problem with my choice of spouse, despite our differences. I have problems with the institution of marriage that straitjackets people into a certain format of relationship with the ghost of patriarchy hovering if not being actually present. I wonder why people get married a second time around. Most people seem to be optimists and think they picked wrong. Sometimes – maybe often – that’s true. But I think it’s not necessarily the person or even combination of persons but marriage as a concept itself that might be problematic.Then again right now marriage as a concept is working for me fairly well. Though I’ve seen enough of its shortcomings to not push my children towards it.
I like to think that had I not been conditioned to marry, I would have stayed single. But thing thing is, I would never have been able to live alone. I’m just not cut out for it. Instead, I reckon I would have clung to my parents. In a way, getting married forced me to grow up, even though V was a shield. I had to at least pretend to be an adult.
On a popular blog, there were often calls for ideas on how best to screen prospective partners. Honestly, I found these lists pointless. I think in these matters you try to think as clearly as is possible under the influence of Cupid, but in the end, there is no foolproof checklist for wisely selecting a spouse. Hopefully, the instincts you have honed through your life thus far serve you well, but it’s always going to be a gamble.
We were at dinner with a big group, including a new girl who it turned out worked for V’s bank. A couple of days later, V teased me about making “that face” when he was talking to the girl. “I thought, after all this, she’s still jealous,” he said.
I immediately looked sheepish but not simply for the reason that he had caught me out in a jealous moment. I won’t deny that three minutes into meeting that girl, I pegged her as one of those who would be quietly flirty. When I unraveled my thoughts that evening, I remember the girl asking V about work, and V replying. And that’s when I may have got a look on my face. Because normally people talking about work get frozen out by V who has zero interest in the usual round of “what do you do?” chatter. But this time, he indulged her a little bit. And my faces must have said, “Aha.”
But yes, I’m not immune to jealousy. Or at least smirking when I see a hint of something.
Okay so this is somewhat facetious. So take it with a pinch of salt and hear me out.
I just read this book Hitched, about women in India and arranged marriages. It’s a topic I’ve been intrigued by, because till quite recently no one in my immediate family or friends circle had had one to my knowledge.* The whole idea of meeting someone briefly and getting married based on barebone facts made me very curious, and okay, uneasy. I wondered how it worked, and why educated, modern women continue to (sometimes) choose this route. As my friends and I hit our mid-20s, I saw more people in my immediate circle flirt with the arranged system but no one I knew went the whole hog, so I only got the most superficial glimpse.
The book is a series of interviews with women about their arranged marriage, mostly the whys and wherefores. I enjoyed it because I enjoy listening to jab we met stories. As expected, even though all were arranged marriages, each one was different. And yet, there were some commonalities:
When I was telling V about the book, and mentioned point 1, he said, “oh that’s like you.” And that got me thinking.
I met V when I was 23 and was married when I was 25. That’s a longer courtship than the typical arranged marriage, but a major part of it was spent separated because V had to move for his job. So we essentially spent one intense month in the same place. Then, like arranged marriage couples, we did a lot of telephone calls.
Okay admittedly, we visited each other once a month, and then I moved to Hyderabad so we could be nearer and we’d see each other every week, but then he moved to Hong Kong so it was long distance for a good 10 months again.
The point is, we knew each other for a couple of months before we decided to get married. And when we decided to get married, I was happy to get married the next week or the next month or whatever. And I decided to get married based on very little information and not a long association.
When V asked me to marry him, I said yes immediately based on a gut feeling that I had never had about anyone else. The same feeling a number of arranged marriage couples spoke about, about feeling right about the person. This is not a love at first sight feeling. I did not love V or even think he was perfect at first sight. But on third sight, I figured he was a solid bet. And he came closest to my ideal type.**
However, like some arranged marriage couples, I still felt the need to ask V if he could afford a house. Because at 23, working as a journalist, I sure as hell couldn’t. When I told a friend that I had agreed to marry V, she said, “What? What do you know about him? What does he do exactly? How much does he earn?” Urged by her, I asked V his salary. It was embarrassing, but although I was 23, I knew I couldn’t marry on love and fresh air. If I had dated someone from our neck of the woods, we’d be able to peg him somewhere. But V was from a different social milieu, my friends had barely met him, and so it became necessary to ask things one might not have someone from our neck of the woods.
It was understood that I’d move to Bangalore after we got married, mainly because V loathed Bombay, and I agreed partly because I realised I could not afford the lifestyle I’d like in Bombay. After we were married, I lived in my in-law’s place. Only for four or five days, after which V went back to Hong Kong and went to Hyderabad, but I’m trying to stretch an analogy here okay?
Now, obviously V and I did not have an arranged marriage. We met in a nightclub, our families did not know jack about each other until we presented them with a done deal and even then they didn’t know much because we are from different communities, we spent only over a month together in the same place, but we spent practically every moment we were not at work with each other even though I worked a night shift.
But the fact that V was a complete and total stranger when I met him, and I agreed to marry him at the age of 23 after knowing him for little over a month made me think that what we did had some similarities to an arranged arrangement, even if we did arrange it ourselves.
*Possibly the odd aunt or uncle, but even they were introduced and then sort of dated which is more liberal than some arranged marriages today sound like, even though they got hitched more than 50 years ago.
** An interesting thing someone in the book said: In your 20s, you seek out someone who is a replica of you – who shares your taste, your interests, etc. And when you’re older, you look for someone who is different from you but complements you. I’d like to think I was unusually mature in this respect, because even in my 20s, I never dated anyone who was similar to me which is where there is a dire absence of men who read in my life. V was different from me in positive ways, he was organised, sorted, calm under stress, good with numbers.