Love.

Love.

It’s such a heavy word. It is good and it is bad. It holds so much power over who we are, how we live and everything we become.

Love.

Sometimes I think it’s a cliché in a word. Overrated just a tad bit. Adds an unnecessary twist to basic everyday things.

Love.

Versions of it can be found in every corner. You can feel it, you can share it, you can buy it. It is a new perspective for every person – rarely the same in two. This one’s mine.

Love.

I found it in a broken home. In food we ate, movies we watched, late night beach drives with her friends and family. In how the world felt when I would lie on her lap, her hands on my hair. She felt it too. She always knew and she always will. Simple but consistent. Through arguments and rebellious teens. Through crazy good and insanely bad. We knew.

In the way he stocked up my favourite food when I visited Singapore. Washed the curtains, changed the bedspreads, carefully keeping my dust allergies at bay. The way he woke me up at 9am with a gentle knock and soothing words. I never startled, never panicked out of slumber. The way he taught me how to really drive two hours before my license test. His pride knowing I’m doing everything we planned for my future. His smile when I said I won’t change my last name. A daddy’s daughter can remain one with a partner, with a husband, with a life for myself. He doesn’t feel it from me. He doesn’t know by instinct the way he guides me, in my head, every step of the way. He can’t process the impact he has. His affection, guidance and protection have every minute of my life.

How she knows me better than I know myself. Her hatred to physical affection but eye-rolled hugs. Three years younger and a decade wiser. Her smart quips that she thinks tease but make me happy. It means things are okay. It means she’s not mad for the third thing I did or said wrong that day. It is the lunch she packed when I woke up late for work. The way she listened when I complained about the same thing yet again. The small words of appreciation that make me feel recognized. Her presence around me, giving me a piece of home.

Love.

It’s abundant for her. It’s complicated for him. It’s streamlined for her. It’s them for me.

Love.

I found it in a sister unrelated by blood. Harsh words when the dating was too much. Hugs when the world was tough. She was my guardian angel, my best friend and my family in one person. An inspiration in many moments. Her calm, her sanity and her patience. Nothing quite like it. I felt it in the times she trusted me with her life. I knew it when I could cry about mine to her. I don’t cry to friends. But she was always more.

Love.

Not very traditional. A myth not to be prioritized. Life requires more things than just that. Responsibility, towards duty, towards family, towards society. A career, a plan. More things mattered in the long run. A sustainable future is so much bigger.

Love.

It had a type. A mould that you needed to fit into. A person that you absolutely must be. Kind, calm, patient. Skinny, fair, attractive. Not too much make up but made up. Kitchen skills don’t hurt. A shyness around the bedroom and topics of sex. Don’t know what you want but don’t be an idiot. A job is great but family first. Duty to the future and wellbeing of the partner and the babies yet to be conceived.

Love.

Synonymous with change. Obsessed with being found. In a person. Preferably of the opposite sex. Ideally with a job. Perhaps a bit of faith and religion. We can include a few things from my list too – Taller than me, smart, well-spoken, career-obsessed, an equal partner, well-travelled, independent of me, a partner I share a life with, no decision-making authority about my life. An unreal list for an unsuitable person. It’s not about what I wanted. Not about what he wanted. It was a parent’s list. Mine. His. Maybe theirs?

Love.

Adapting, adjusting, understanding. Silent, submissive, sweet. Smiles at everyone, never has an opinion, never argues. Does not dare raise her voice, takes care of their son and creates a home that’s acceptable. To them. To theirs. To everyone else.

Beliefs that adapt to theirs, lifestyle that modifies to their plans and parents that become them.
Child over career. Bounce back culture. Partner Husband over everything else. The perfect wife for their perfect son.

A list from the parents. That’s all that matters.

Love.

It hit me like a train without a break. For the first time, I could be anyone I wanted to be. I could be fat, I could be rebellious, I could be anxious. It didn’t matter. The things about me I was criticized for became things he admired. My smarts, my passions, my job.

He supports, encourages, motivates. The person of my list and then some. A perfect partner for a ‘perfect’ me.

Love.

He gets me. My quirks and my rambles. Every word I speak, every emotion I feel. He gets me. Who I am, where I come from and everywhere I want to be.

I am a better me and I can’t remember how I got here. But this is how it should be. Empowering, enabling and enticing. Pulling you through life, only stopping when you need to. Letting you catch your breath while taking it away.

Love.

Happy, glowing and content. Accepted, appreciated and adored. Away from the lies they told about problems he doesn’t see.

A magical place. A life of the past irrelevant amidst the laughter and all-knowing glances.
A moment, maybe moving, maybe here forever. But you feel it. In cups of coffee and lingering goodbyes. Excited travel and lazy evenings. You will be everything you were meant to be. But better.

Love.

The way they curl up right next to me, eyes staring, mind relaxed. I never feel alone. They think we rescued them, but really they rescued me.

Love.

The way I feel when I write. In the strokes of paint across a canvas. For me, for my emotions, for my satisfaction. The moments between work and home. The perfect book that makes me cry. The perfect song to the tune of my world. In silence and loudness. Excitement and disappointment. The overplanning, long lists and never ending piles of colours.

Love.

In the middle of a work day when inspiration strikes. I type as I listen to songs from the 90s. The dogs right next to me. My mother texting me. I see him through the corner of my eyes.

Love.

Chennai: Never just a city

I’m that girl that crossed oceans to sustain myself. I live a few hours away but it’s been a while since I’ve been home.

I hear about a possible third wave. I read about carelessness. A city unmasked and unafraid. It scares me all the time – I have parents and in-laws that are old enough for me to be worried. Two dogs I haven’t cuddled my weekend away with in a really long time. A flight to Chennai is almost impossible. And that small chance of maybe? I can’t take it because it all sounds so scary from where I see.

But in the chaos of the news that feels like my worst nightmare, I miss a lot more than just loved ones.

I miss home.

I’ve been talking to my sister about it – What makes us so special? Us adults from Chennai. It’s this tie that we can’t break. In a foreign country, when everything seems different, “Chennai-ah?” is all the connection you need to be best friends.

I miss that home.

That feeling of stepping out of the flight and getting into my mom’s car. The ever-familiar road that leads you away from the airport, “Wow. So much has changed. Traffic alone doesn – epdi poraan paaru.”

You know you’re home when travel is a musical experience – radio or roadside dialogue, to each their own.

The incredible food. Gangotree pani puri, Saravana Bhavan ghee dosa, Ratna Cafe sambar idli, New Woodlands full meals. I’ve never visited without a list. I’ve never left unsatisfied. Street corner akka or Shree Mithai aunty, I miss the friendly banter with total strangers. The extra mile they always go to ensure you enjoy your meal. I often wonder how the aunty and uncle with the delicious channa samosa stall opposite SIET are doing. I wonder if they had enough saved for a rainy day – or year. The bajji akka outside Giri Traders in Mylapore. The chikoo seller outside Ratna Stores in Pondy Bazaar. So many more like them.

The helpers who walk to multiple houses. The tiny arguments our moms always have with them. “Paavam-di ava,” is how the day ends. Have they remained employed? Do you still pay them through the lockdown? There’s so much uncertainty from where I see things.

But one thing remains.

This feeling. If you’re from Chennai, you know what I mean. This particular emotion that makes you play cheesy Madras songs on a cozy Sunday evening. You’re not sad, no. You’re wishful. Longing to be back in those streets. Amongst the colours, the energy, the people.

Unmasked, maybe, but unafraid we are. The news terrifies me, I won’t lie. But I’m hopeful. I’ve seen the Chennai I can’t stop thinking of. The one that saw trouble and didn’t wait for help. The Chennai that wasn’t afraid of flooding water, rising waves or an Earth that shook. The Chennai that rose to the challenge, together. The Chennai that risked themselves to save their neighbours. The Chennai that is proud, brave and resilient.

The Chennai my husband is tired of hearing stories about.

A Chennai we won’t get to be in until – for a change – we distance ourselves and stay indoors.

A Chennai I miss, every day of my life.

I’m that girl that crossed oceans to sustain myself. Years may pass, lives may change and roots may form, but Chennai will always be home.

And the music, the movies and the million keepsakes I can’t throw away will keep me wrapped in warm memories, until I return…

When you know…

“When you know, you know.”

How many times have we heard this phrase? I’ve never believed it. I thought people were lying.
“You can’t know. You can’t just feel content about someone without knowing anything. You cannot just know.
Relationships that last a lifetime have to be formed, created, built. From sharing stories, aspirations, dreams – love that lasts a lifetime takes a lifetime to develop. Nobody just knows.”

And then I knew. Deep within my soul. He smiled and I saw us – greyed and old, kids moved away, with a cup of coffee in our hands – content.

If you’ve been here a while, you know how I struggle with anxiety. How making a decision that affects me for any period of time crumbles my soul. But I didn’t blink before I said yes. Truth is, I didn’t even say yes. Nobody asked. We just knew. We looked at each other and we felt it. We talked about ‘when’, not ‘if’. We told our families, didn’t ask for permission.

It was like watching the perfect set of dominoes, except it wasn’t falling apart.

Our story still surprises me because… I believed in fairytales for a really long time. Girl meets boy, she knows, he knows, they’re married. It all sounded so romantic. But the real world tends to attack that part of you as you grow up. I think the saying goes, “Wake up. Shit like that doesn’t happen.”

So I believed those voices. I told myself my parents will find me a wonderful man that I will spend the rest of my life growing fond of, never knowing the love that the movies and books I’d spent so much time obsessing over had told me was possible. I made myself 5 plans for life – none of them included a partner.

Two weeks into 2020, on a lazy Monday night, I began texting him. It wasn’t supposed to go anywhere. We spent the next 4 days trying to find something we didn’t agree on. I remember our first phone call. My dinner sat on its plate for three hours as we talked about family, friends, school, university, culture, movies… It was like a teenage dream – the adult version.

I kept it a secret. I wasn’t ashamed, I was afraid. It was so perfect, I wouldn’t dare ruin it. Wouldn’t let anyone jinx it. That Friday, I told my best friend and there were tears in my eyes – my anxiety was real. “I’m waiting for the shoe to drop. Nobody is this perfect.”

I met him at 6pm on a Tuesday. I’d dressed to impress but I had never felt more like myself. Seven hours later, on my way home, I knew I’d experienced magic like I’d never known before. I knew.

It took us 21 days to go from strangers to engaged. People thought we were crazy. I was so happy.

The last year has been ridiculous. You’ve been around, you know how it goes. We’ve been through so much – we’ve lost grandparents, gone on lockdown, experienced a pandemic with aging parents in another country, been sick and frustrated – but I’ve never been more in love than I am right now.

We’ve found differences, we’ve found things that annoy the other person, we’ve found common dreams and goals – but beyond everything else, we’ve found each other.

So here I am, one more in the long list of people who’ll tell you words you won’t believe – Someday, you’ll meet someone. They’ll smile at you and your heart won’t melt. It’ll expand. You’ll feel happy and calm and chaotic. You’ll feel in love. You’ll know. And when you know, you know.

My Lighthouse

 

I’ve been kind of lost for the last six months.

My life went through a drastic change and as I tried to find where I belonged in this new phase, I feel like I lost who I have always been.

When things end, they say it gives way to new beginnings. I thought my new beginning would feel free. Like I could do anything without ever having to worry about how it affects another person. But the thing was, there wasn’t much left to be done with that freedom because the things that controlled me remained. Money, exhaustion and just life, in general.

So I began to cling on to anything that felt new. Maybe a new person, maybe a new role, maybe a new dress or a new passion. Maybe I should focus on myself finally. Or my job. Or maybe I should look for a partner. Maybe not. Maybe I look for the old me. The teenage-me. The care-about-nothing and just-have-fun me. Something had to give because my life had to change drastically. It had to.

But it didn’t. And I couldn’t accept that. I turned frantic in my search for something that replaced what I had lost, not realizing that as I tried to walk towards something else, I was walking away from myself.

So I started to add pressure – to me and to the people around me. I watched others’ lives change and began envying them because mine wasn’t. But it had. It didn’t feel that way because my routine hadn’t necessarily changed. Nothing I did every day changed. It was only an emotional disruption and I didn’t know how to process that. I didn’t know how to point and say, “This is why it’s different. Even if nothing changed around me, my emotions are in disarray. So that’s what I need to focus on.”

I searched for a solution to my emotions in the physical world and failed, consistently. I tried to throw myself into work, but it didn’t feel enough. I tried to balance work with life so I could focus on myself but when the day drew to an end, I was left feeling unsettled again.

Maybe this was my way of grieving. This frantic search for something, anything, that made me feel like my life had gotten better. Maybe this was my way of going through the emotions that come with separating yourself and your life from someone. Maybe this is how we all feel at 27 and it’s nothing but a mid-life crisis. 

The problem was, until three days ago, I didn’t understand any of this. In my frustrations with the world around me, I never realized that perhaps the reason I couldn’t find what I was looking for was because it wasn’t in the real world. 

I haven’t painted for over a year. I’ve given myself a lot of excuses as to why I don’t have the time – to be creative, to draw, to imagine, to clean up after. And on a very busy Sunday, I was just done with the excuses. I always imagined painting a lighthouse, Van Gogh style. There was something about it, standing next to the ocean, alone but surrounded by the beauty of the world that made lighthouses seem so fascinating. They reminded me of the wind against my face, sand between my toes and the sound of the ocean. Far above the land, almost touching the sky, just a little bit shy. Lighthouses reminded me of home.

It’s amazing how art cures the most complex of your problems. As I slowly began painting something I’ve been wanting to for so long, I found what I had been missing. Why I had felt so out of place. What I had been searching for since July.

Myself.

I smiled for the first time in a while. From my heart. It was like standing in the rain, every drop taking you closer to yourself. I painted my happy place, finding it within myself along the way.

Maybe this blog isn’t the right thing to post at this point in my life. Someone recently told me that if I were to get married, blogs with so much honesty cannot exist when they google me. Maybe they’re right.

Maybe you’re not supposed to know how I’m trying to find my place in this world. Maybe we’re all just supposed to pretend we’re put-together and perfectly fine with lives that go through nothing at all. But I’m not going to take this away.

We all go through changes. Some are obvious. Some aren’t. You know they happened, you experience the difference even when you can’t see it. Those may be the most difficult ones to process. 

In the process of readjusting my life to a new reality, I lost myself.

It took me six months of searching and one painting to find. And I know this could happen again. Another change I don’t know how to handle could make me lose sense of who I am.

But when it does, I’ll know better. I’ll know the patterns and the emotions.

I’ll know to breathe deep and close my eyes for just a few seconds.

I’ll know to look for my lighthouse.

If you’re out there reading this and you’re not sure where you’re headed, what you’re doing or why you’re acting a certain way – this is your reminder.

Breathe. Imagine your lighthouse. What does it feel like?

Lighthouse painting

I’m Depressed

There. I’ve said it. It’s not the first time. But I don’t want to say it again.

I’m depressed.

Not your milennial kind. Sitting at a cafe, rolling my eyes at the girl I don’t like and complaining about singledom, “Ohmygod! I’m so depressed!” No. Not that kind.

The real one. The emotional kind that people tend to treat lightly because they don’t understand how serious it can possibly be. So, welcome to my world.

I’m not an actress. My life isn’t a Bollywood movie. I’m not sitting by the window, staring into space and nothingness. I don’t have a single tear running down my face as I lose sight of what’s happening around me. I’m not snapped back to reality. A hug isn’t going to heal me. A boyfriend cannot fix me.

This is real.

I’m right beside you. I’m not in hiding. I’m everywhere I need to be. I’m talking to you when you’re talking to me. I sound like I do everyday but I care a lot less. You just can’t tell. I show up to the event, dressed like a dream. You can’t tell it took me effort to put it all on. Not physical. Emotional. To get out of bed and prepare myself to smile with a world I can’t connect to anymore.

I can’t tell you I’d rather be at home. Not listening to you talk about problems that don’t affect me and having to give you comforting advice when I can’t even think. I can’t tell you I’m two seconds away from breaking apart even when I seem to be laughing.

You help me. Sitting across the table, as a best friend. You help me. Knocking on my door for a small conversation. You help me. A distraction for a few seconds. But you can’t take it away.

I want to confide. To tell you how I spiral. To tell you how this is all too much. I think I’ve taken on more than I can chew. My overthinking has taken me by my hand and led me back to my dark place. I was depressed a few years ago. I think it’s back for me. Or maybe it never stopped at all.

I wake up every morning. I walk out the door, that takes a lot of effort. I look through my checklist, ticking off things that pay my bills. I eat my lunch to Netflix. I come back home, turn the lights on, find my corner of the bed and suddenly I’m lost. I switch between streaming platforms. I grab my phone and get on Instagram. There’s nothing to watch. Nobody to see. I don’t care about any of it. But I have to. Because if I’m not watching Mike Ross fight with Harvey Specter or Lorelai and Rory Gilmore fast talk their way through Luke’s coffee, I’d want to slam my head against the wall, crying.

I ask myself everyday. Is it the end of my relationship? Is it the amount of work? Is it the personal woes? The inability to give back to the people who gave me everything? Is it the drowning debt? My answer is the same every time. No.

Someone once asked me what depression feels like. “Is it a state of mind? Can’t you change your state of mind?” I tried to tell her.

It’s like an empty room that hasn’t been lived in for decades. It’s hollow, your voice echoes multifold. So your worries echo multifold. It’s dirty, not the sexy kind. It’s broken windows and rusty doors. It’s haunting without the ghosts. It’s a feeling of sinking. Like something bad is always going to happen. But it’s not. You know it’s not. Yet you feel like it just did. You feel like you’ve lost. Maybe it’s the loss of life in that room. Or the loss of happiness. The loss of light. It’s a dark room. Maybe there’s light. All it takes is the flick of a switch. But you’re stuck. You can’t get up and turn it on.

She asked me why. I didn’t have an answer.

My depression doesn’t need a reason to cling on to. My emotions don’t have to explain themselves for sinking again. I can’t write down why I’m not okay. But it’s the truth. I’m not okay.

How do you ask for help when you don’t know what you need help with? What do I say?

“Hey, I’m depressed. I don’t know why. I don’t know the fix. But help me?”

What do they go on with? What solution do they give to a problem I can’t describe?

So I try what I always have. To smile. Maybe if I smile enough, the happiness will become real. I try to giggle. Perhaps the silliness will help lighten up my heart. I try to create. Art helped me once, so it should again? I try to live. But as I sat there at that boardwalk, staring at fireworks, my sister turned to me, “Are you crying?”

I had to say no because I didn’t want to explain myself. But the truth was… Yes. The fireworks made me cry. I don’t know why. They always make me happy. And I was happy. But something within me made me cry. Because I wasn’t really happy.

How do you explain that?

Things that bring me an abundance of joy cannot lift me out of this dark hole I find myself stuck in over and over again. Maybe we’re all depressed and we just don’t admit it to each other. Maybe as you’re reading this, you’re relating. But you can’t tell anyone either because when they ask, “Your life is amazing. What do you have to be depressed about?” what do you say?

What do I say?

So I shrug my shoulders, look down in guilt and swallow my tears. I look at them, a lump in my throat and softly say,

“I’m not okay.”

 

Dear Chennai Super Kings

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We have a problem. A real one. People think the ones sitting at home, wanting to watch the match and hoping the match goes on don’t get it. But we do.

There are people in my state who spent their year’s earning on new crops. The money will go to waste if they can’t harvest it and while the banks may give hundreds of crores to someone who can leave the country, our farmers can’t get bank loans as easily. So they need the water. And they need it NOW.

But problems like these are the reason why we elect our government. You have to understand that the government now ruling my state wasn’t elected by us. The woman we elected has passed away and the current party is incapable of handling a situation even though the warning signs showed up three days ahead.

What so many have forgotten is, those elected or unelected officials sitting in ruling positions aren’t named Dhoni, Bravo, Billings or Jadeja. You are cricket players. You play for our country. You stay away from your family, or even worse, have them travel the world with you while you represent us. And during the IPL season, you come closer to home because you represent US. My city. My home. We have waited two years to see you back in the yellow jerseys. You did not deserve to be treated that way.

I can tell you a hundred other ways they could’ve handled this. They could’ve even showed up at the stadium with banners that held their protests while still cheering you on. They could’ve peacefully protested while letting you get on the bus and go to Chepauk with pride that CSK is back! As a marketer, I can think of a lot of things that they could’ve done instead.

But as a human being, I’m sorry.

I say ‘they’ because I hope you know, the man who threw a shoe at Jadeja doesn’t represent who this city is.

The people who tried to run behind your bus aren’t who we Chennai-ites are.

We’re warm. We welcome everyone from anywhere with open arms to create their homes here. We’re the city that rolls up their pants and says, “Let’s make our home liveable again,” when disaster strikes. We’re loving to a fault.

And I’m sure you know this, but I hope the 10th of April hasn’t taken away the memories we, you and my city, have created together for years. Thank you for still winning that match and not letting the hooligans get to you.

The people who rallied against you don’t represent us. I can tell you who they represent but what’s the point?!

I don’t know how you feel about the matches being moved to Pune. I feel bittersweet. You deserved a better homecoming. I’m sorry we couldn’t give it to you. I’m happy they can’t use you for their political gains anymore.

I hope you still want to come back next year. I hope when you think of us, you think of the ones who got so excited for you to be back. The ones with IPL schedules written in yellow stuck to the back of their closet doors. The ones who showed up to that stadium, knowing they could be hit at any given moment because they wanted to show you their support.

I hope, when you think of us, you remember the Chennai that loves you.

Because we do.

<3

Let’s Talk Marriage

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Yep. It’s that time of my life. Not the time when I’m getting married. But the time when everyone around me starts piling on the pressure about it.

I’ll start our conversation with this – I’m ready. I’m ready to go learn to live with someone. I’m ready to share my life with someone. I’m ready to have good and bad days and work our way through this insane universe while standing by each other even on the days we don’t want to.  I’m ready to start planning a wedding that will happen at least one year away. I’m ready for it all.

But I’m not ready to choose the person that I will get married to.

I know, I know. That’s the most important part of it. It’s all about the person. But here’s my problem – If I make this choice, I can’t change it. Ever. And the truth about life is, every choice we’ve made is somehow permanent, in reality or in our memory. But my choices in the past have never tied me to a person for eternity.

If I choose one person, even someone I love, I can’t take it back. And everyone rushing with their advice about how it doesn’t matter in life how carefully you pick because you can’t predict the future and how human beings change with every tide – Yeah,I’ve heard it. I understand it. And I’d totally take that gamble if I’m only looking for a husband.

But I’m not.

Because this person I marry is not just a husband. He’s not just going to be “the man I’m married to.” He’s more. SO much more. He’s my family. He’s my hug on a bad day. He’s my best friend when I’m fighting with my real one. He’s my coffee buddy every morning. He’s my companion when I’m sick and old and fragile. He’s the father to my children. He’s their “good cop” because I’m a control freak with a combination of anxiety and OCD. He’s the calm to my never-ending storm. He’s their shoulder and mine when our hearts break. He’s my person.

And I get one shot to choose him. One shot. To choose the person that will influence every decision there is to make about my future.  And I’m not ready for it.

“But you’re 25! You’re an adult!” Says who?!

If my maturity is defined by a number, we don’t need life experiences and life lessons, do we now?! “Just wait till you get older! It’ll come to you.” Seriously? I feel like the adult in this conversation right now.

But honestly, how do you choose?

“Oh, you just know,” is not an acceptable answer. I don’t know. I’ve never known. I’m terrified. I have anxiety. Even if I know, I’m afraid I don’t know well enough. I’m afraid it’s wrong. I’ve known things before, gone with my instincts and messed up terribly. How can I be sure this isn’t one of those times again?

So I did what I do best. I asked someone, “What did you ask her? What made you think she’s the one?”

He gave me a list:

  • Career
  • Expectations in her marriage
  • Likes
  • Dislikes

And.. I just sat there, staring at that answer for a while. I didn’t know what to  say because it seemed so… less.

Here’s what I thought I should start with – What do you do from the moment you wake up until you fall asleep – On a working day? On a weekend? On vacation? What’s your lifestyle like? What do you want our lifestyle to be? Do we watch movies every weekend? Do we stay in on Sundays? What are your questions for me? If I need you, would you drop what you’re doing and come to my rescue? If I need a day off, will you take care of the children and work from home? Can we split the house expenses? Can you deal with my need to plan every last detail about everything? Will you fuel my wildest ideas and craziest dreams? Will you understand my love for surprises but my inability to deal with them? Will you put up with my need to know the ending before watching thriller movies? Can you promise me “us” time everyday? Will you cook on alternative days? Will you go grocery shopping with me? Can we have a snack drawer? Will you take me out for midnight food cravings? On a weekday night? Can our children be vegetarians even if you’re not? Can I take over the closet in our room because I have too many clothes and nothing to wear?  Can I choose our home decor if I promise not to let our room turn pink? Can I cry my mascara into your new white shirt? Will you hug me even when we’re fighting? Will you find me beautiful even when I’m sitting with messy hair in the middle of chaos after yelling at you for no reason other than the fact that I’m PMSing? Oh! And we’re going to adopt pets. LOTS OF THEM! That’s cool, right?!

And after he answers all this, I still have that burning question running in my head – “What if he changes his mind about it?”

Because arranged marriages or love, they’re still human beings. And there’s almost 7 billion of them on this planet. You need to choose one. This person, his past, his present and his future will help determine whether your kids are going to Harvard Law or sitting behind bars. How do you choose him?

What do you look for? What lifestyle is acceptable? And what if mine changes? What if I grow up and become a different person who wants different things? I used to love H&M and Forever21. I’ve wasted so much money there. But I don’t shop there anymore. Three hours, a documentary and some Google research later, I couldn’t bring myself to buy fast fashion anymore. Three hours to change something I’d done for a lifetime.

What if everything I love changes someday? Will he still be the right person or me?

“That’s the main question to be answered. That’s when the soul searches as to whether this is an age phenomenon or is this my phenomenon. Answer that.”

– Sai Krishna

But how do I know? And the unknown is the scariest of them all.

It’s funny when everyone around you wants to talk about getting you married. They talk about how you’re old enough to find a groom. If you can’t find one, they’ll find one for you. But the thing about all that is – they’re not really talking bout marriage. They’re talking about a wedding. They’re talking about finding a man and tying the knot. And they’re right. I am ready to have a wedding.

But the problem is what comes after. And in their need to see me as a bride, they forget –  After that one day of dressing up and celebrating, there is still the rest of my life.

And I’m not ready for that. I’m not ready for a marriage.

Why isn’t that okay?

(6/6) The Parents

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It’s a bright and sunny day. A car comes to a screeching halt outside their apartment. They look out to see what the fuss is about. They watch me get out. Head to toe in brands I once only dreamed of owning. But now I have the money. I am the Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi after all. I can afford the little things that bring me joy. Their anger fades knowing I’m okay. My father is still a little upset but he’ll come around. That’s how parents are, aren’t they?! They’re happy I got what I wanted because they know if I’d waited for them to give it to me, the timing wouldn’t have worked out the way it did. It was right to run away from them when I did…

I can’t tell you the number of times I laid on that bed I shared with my mom and my sister, dreaming about this over and over again. You see, I lack what my mother has in abundance – Patience – and what my father always tells me to keep within – Hope. So my solution was a world where I ran away. I’m old enough. I can do this. They’ll know it was the right thing to do. We children can be really stupid sometimes, you know?

My parents had an arranged marriage. They did what they were expected to do as human beings that live in my society. They created a home. Dad earned. Mom cooked. They had two daughters. Their life was pretty much every other life there ever was. Except, my dad didn’t work 9 to 5. He owned his dream company. “I was fascinated that I could talk to a machine and it would respond.” So he made it respond in different manners to keep users like you and me safe from the evils on the internet. Mom created a home for us to live in. She got us ready for school. Made us our favourite lunch on Sunday. Ensured we stayed away from junk food (I didn’t).

A lot happened in their lives before they got married and a lot happened after. Their personal problems turned my family dysfunctional and I grew up with an inability to trust and anxiety that hurt. I blamed them, of course. When I rebelled, when I made bad choices, when my life took a turn for the worst – I waited with the words, “This is all your fault.”

We don’t really yell at our Dad in this house like we yell at our Mom. There’s the fear of hurting him. So it was my relationship with my mother that became too complicated as I grew up. I wasn’t surprised.

I’ve always been the closest to him. Daddy’s little girl. He fed into my fantasies of expensive things like an American education, branded things, big houses. They owed me that much. They ruined my life by making me so complicated. It’s the least they can do. I mentioned how kids are stupid, right?!

So I got the American education. For six months. Six months in a world where I had to do for myself what my mother does for us everyday of her life and I came running back into her arms. The distance I’d created at 15 vanished the moment I knew I was home and she would be with me. But I was still angry.

Parents often forget the effect a fight or an argument between themselves can have on their children. You think we don’t hear you screaming shit in the middle of the night? We do. And then you go pretend everything’s fine in the morning and maybe it is, but we can’t tell the difference. And so we begin wondering and fearing. Your ten day split may be a speed bump in your marriage. To us, it’s ten days where a parent chose to live away from us. I wasn’t enough to make him stay. I wasn’t important enough to stop and second guess his decision to leave. He left.

You may forget the drama. But we don’t. I’ll never stop wondering if I’m going to wake up and be dumped. Because when a parent can leave, so can a stranger you met at work. I never stop second guessing my decisions. My insecurity began when I was 8-years-old. Today, it’s something I’ve accepted because I’ve lost the war against it.

I saw friends with functional families have so much hope and I didn’t. I didn’t know how to care. I don’t know how to turn on emotions. I also don’t know how to turn them off.

And it has created so much chaos. When I thought I’d lost everything I loved, I yelled at my father. I screamed. I spewed hateful words. It didn’t hit me that – I wasn’t the only one who lost something. So had he. And if he could fix it, if he thought there was a way he could give my dream back to me, he would have.

Today, when I’m writing this, I remember my father mention how he woke up one morning with tears because he’d dreamt a Tsunami where he couldn’t save me. The tears my mother cried when she thought she hadn’t given us enough time. But that depressed girl didn’t remember this version of them. She didn’t remember two parents who had given up so much to keep their two girls safe. I didn’t pause to think. I didn’t know how to. And I repeated to myself, It’s all your fault.

I’ve graduated now. I’m going after everything I’ve ever dreamt about, for the second time. He’s given me my dream again. But I can never take back the words I said. I can apologize but I can’t change the hurt it caused. Someone told me recently, “You have to let go off of the guilt. Children act without thought sometimes. Your parents know.” But I can’t.

Because, back in an apartment with a view I’d missed so much, I remembered a conversation from 6 years ago. With a man I’d loved. He wanted to know why I kept repeating, “Promise you won’t leave me?” And so I explained. He did, too.

“So your parents made a mistake. They had a fight. Adults fight. They were trying to figure out life like you will, too. Parents don’t have to know everything. They’re not superhuman. You have to forgive them for whatever you think their fault was. You can’t blame your entire life on them. Your choices were, as you always say, a choice. You made them. You can stop making them. Look at them, Poornima, and see them for what they are – human beings”

And I cried. Like a baby. Because after 23 years of life, I’d understood what an asshole I’d been. Why do we always look at our parents as some sort of hero? Why do we never truly see how they’re just like you and me?

I’ll say it today – My parents aren’t the greatest of parents. They don’t always know how to express their love. They’ve made plenty of mistakes. But they’re some of the nicest human beings I’ve ever known. They gave up so much to ensure we had food on our plates and a comfortable lifestyle. When they struggled, we still lived like princesses. When they were out there fighting one battle after another, we complained like spoilt children.

No. They’re not the greatest. But I wouldn’t wish for anyone else. Because for everything I’ve done, no two people will continue to love me with as much intensity as they do. No parent will still sit me down and ask me what I want so they can ensure I have it the way they do.

And someday, I’ll muster the courage to go stand in front of them and truly apologize for all that I’ve put them through since I was a teenager. But today, I’ll stick to my Thank You.

Thank You for never giving up on me. Thank You for allowing me to choose, even if you didn’t always approve. Thank You for working so hard to give me everything I ever wanted. I know these two words will never be enough, but…

THANK YOU.

Never running away from you,

Me.

(5/6) The Boy That’s Mine

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I walked into my house and there he was. Curled up on the couch. So fragile, I thought I’d break him if I picked him up. We’d told our dad one week. “We’re just fostering him. He’ll go when he finds a good home. We promise.” We knew it was a lie before we’d even said it. My sister sent me a picture while I was wrapping up school work in Singapore and I knew I’d never let him go.

He was almost two months old. He weighed less than 2kgs. The first night he was home, mom complained the morning after – “He walks all over me. He wouldn’t sleep. He jumped on my chest and I thought I couldn’t breathe. Are we sure?”

It’s been four and half years. He weighs a little over 11kgs. He still doesn’t sleep full nights. He climbed on her chest last night. She screamed with pain but then pulled him closer and kissed him on the forehead. We all know the words she wouldn’t say. “I hope these moments never stop happening.”

Because the saddest thing about having a furry family member? Their lifespan is almost always shorter than yours and my furry child has hit his half-way point. But if someone asked me if I’d have it any other way, I’d tell them – I CAN’T EVEN IMAGINE IT.

Dala.

My mom named him before I got home. I always find myself explaining, “His name’s Dala. He’s a boy. I know his name’s girly. My mom named him.” If you thought you know what unconditional love feels like before a dog, you have no idea what’s in store for you after.

My dance partner, my shoulder, my supporter – I scream-sing with a ridiculously fake Italian accent and he still loves me, still sits by my side, still sticks himself to my back as I sleep. I’ve always been that girl who couldn’t sleep with someone else on the bed. It’s a struggle to sleep if he’s not next to me. It’s a struggle to live if he’s not next to me.

Dala came into my life a few months before my life crashed and burned. I’ve always said it – If he didn’t exist, I doubt I would have. When nobody understood my pain, when words weren’t enough to talk about it, when death seemed like the ideal solution, when tears would flow with no end – Dala would be there, not once leaving my side. If I’m crying, he’d jump up to sit on my lap. There would be no words of encouragement, no hands to wipe tears, no hugs or kisses but there would be calm. Someone was there. With the kind of love I never realised was possible. A loyalty that I’d never known.

I feel the back of my eyes sting as I write these words. Because I know I can’t keep him with me forever. Nothing good ever lasts. When I started university again, my biggest struggle was not feeling his warmth at my back.  Missing his tiny hands on my neck as if he’s holding me while asleep. I can’t imagine going back to a life where I might never feel it again and the fear is so real every time he falls ill, every time his girlfriend fights him, every time someone tells me their furry baby passed on.

I was the girl who ran scared of dogs. I still understand that fear. But I don’t understand the ones who hate them. When someone comes up to me and says, “Tie your dogs up so I can come home,” my first thought is Don’t come. It’s rude but.. It feels like asking to tie up a family member. It’s absurd.

We got another furry baby after the Chennai floods. Mika – Dala’s girlfriend. They couldn’t be more different if they tried. We constantly remind him how he’s so badass he’s living together with his girlfriend without marrying her. He probably has no idea what any of those words mean. But we still tell him things. We tell him how funny a video is. Ask him his opinion on what we’re wearing. Complain about boyfriends not texting back.

He only ever reacts to three words – Food. Walking. Sleep.

Priorities, I tell you.

But in some part of me, I believe he knows what I’m saying. Maybe not word for word. But the emotions behind it. He knows and he understands. In that odd intuitively loving manner that only my furry, four-legged, wide-eyed boy can. It’s why when I say something sad, he sits next to me.

Someday, I’ll sit in a corner and I’ll cry. The tiny things he does like walk on my earrings, eat Mika’s food or steal food from my plate won’t be the things I’ll miss the most. It won’t be his face, that hint of sadness as I wave bye while walking out the door, a feeling of guilt like I’m betraying him by not taking him with me – the face I remember the entire trip until I come back home.

The thing that will make me cry is the moment I open the door and he doesn’t come running to me. Filled with love. Like the ten minutes I was gone was actually ten years. His face in that moment.

My best friend. My baby.

My Dala.

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Dear Beautiful

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Dear beautiful,

How you doing today? If the answer is great, I’m happy for you. If the answer is bad, let’s fix it. Because I’ve had those days too. And I’d have loved the help too.

I didn’t know how to say these words to you. I’m not the best at giving a speech. So I thought I’d write them down and let you read.

I get it. We may look different but we suffer the same. Whether we’re openly emotional or we dump it within ourselves, we feel the same. Whether we fit into that dress or have to have it custom ordered to our size, we love ourselves the same. With a little doubt. A little insecurity. A lot of wishful thinking.

You may not feel like you’re doing the best you can – at work, at home, in a relationship. You feel unsure. You have those moments when you wonder if anyone cares. And when they do, the acceptance is a task, not easy.

You do all these wonderful things that people compliment you for but you don’t see it. It’s not significant. It’s not changing lives or the world. So you sigh in silence as you hope to be someone else. The TV version of a woman who spends her silent nights, wishing the way you do, to be someone else she sees too. But you don’t know that.

Because how can she be that and this? How can you?

There’s a room filled with paper boxes. Each with a label – Strong, career woman. Submissive, housewife. Opinionated, judgemental. Open-minded, troublesome. Rebel, anti-establishment. Goody two shoes, daddy’s daughter. Abusive, vicious. Abused, liar.

You can only fit into one of these. You can’t be stunning and insecure. You can’t be successful and homely. You can’t have a career and a family. You can’t. You Can’t. YOU CAN’T.

Stop. Stop listening to those voices. Stop letting yourself believe them. Stop underestimating who you can be.

And never stop.

In a world that focuses so much on labelling who you are and what you do, never stop being your authentic self.

Around people who tell you your choice is a mistake, never stop taking chances.

When the ones you love try to hold you back in the name of care, never stop breaking free.

And that dream? The one that you shrug about as nothing but an unrealistic wish when deep within you want it more than anything you could imagine? Never stop chasing it.

This world isn’t a kind place to us. Yes, it’s harsher to some more than others. But that doesn’t make it better. For you to get where he has, you’ll work twice as hard and be overlooked twice as much. Don’t let that keep you down.

Don’t compare who you are to who she is.

She might get ahead of you faster than you got to where you are. Don’t hate her. There are enough people in this world to tear us down. Let it not be ourselves. We need each other today more than ever before. We need each other to fight for ourselves and the ones beside us. The ones who can scream and the ones who succumb. The ones who laugh and the ones who cry.

You may count yourself insignificant in a fight to prove ourselves important. But are you sure? Imagine if we all thought that. Who’d be left? Your voice and your fight matters. You matter. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

So go be that woman.

The one who chooses based on emotion.

The one who dreams beyond reason.

The one who hiccups when she laughs.

The one whose hair tangles with the wind.

The one who can seldom get a candid picture right.

We all have insecurities. We’re all unsure where life leads. We all date that stupid guy. We all fall in love and break our hearts.

Never let someone else’s perspective of who you are affect what you know about yourself. There’s no winning with the ones who are waiting with words that poke and hurt. So take yourself out of their game.

Be outspoken and shy. Be loud and socially awkward. Have an amazing career and a loving family.

It’s not impossible. You’ve seen it. You know it. You just have to believe it.

So go on. Spread those invisible wings and do what you’ve always wanted to do.

If you fly too close to the sun, we’re right here with a lot of cold wind.

With silent wishes and loud compliments,

Me.