Hamster On A Wheel

In conversation with one of my closest friends, I told her about my life. The routine and the things I hated that have become part of the new-normal. She interrupted, “Like a hamster on a wheel?”

Nothing had ever made more sense to me. 

I was that teenage rebel who swore she would never live a life where two days felt the same. It’s been two years of the same day every day. A few breaks every now and then, but I miss so much about life before all this. Surprising even to me, it’s not the fancy vacations, the trips to Paris for “work” or the drunk stumble home. 

I miss the little things I don’t get to see anymore. The different people on the train every morning. The ones with earphones, wet hair and a lost stare. The ones in a suit, hoping to be more productive today than the day before. The familiar face that worked in the same building, a small smile of “I see you even if I don’t know you.” I miss elevator rides. You never know if you’ll be in time for your best friend or your boss. The walk to get a morning coffee, not always because you need it. It’s more for the conversation, the steps, a loud sigh about the people we had to deal with as we waited for a latte we all knew wasn’t worth the money.

I miss walking into the office, turning on my computer and knowing my day has begun. The random knocks on my door for “Lunch?” “Second coffee?” “Walk?” or “Yay you’re here. I need help!”

The moment I walked into my house at the end of the day. I knew the day I’d had the moment I dropped my bag – productive or procrastinated. Did I spend too much on Starbucks? Do I continue to feel energy to pre-make lunch for tomorrow? Am I cooking? Netflix and instant noodles it is.

There was a joy in knowing I would wake up and see a whole new world of people the next day. A different train, different passengers, different barista and a different routine.

I miss familiar moments with strangers. Getting ice cream at McDonald’s as I headed to my apartment. A little treat to myself. Her stories of a boyfriend that refused to respond as she swirls the ice cream cone perfectly. I’ll never know her name but I’ll always know she’s annoyed at him. 

I miss long nights at my parents’ house. It was in the dark that our laughter was at its loudest. Past bedtime, dogs curled up at our feet, talking about our day, our lives, the people in it and the many memories. A sarcastic comment from my sister that sends us into fits of uncontrollable laughter. A remark from my dad we tell each other we’ll remember forever. Unafraid, unbound. 

I miss the feeling of there being no end to my physical world. If I took a plane, I could go anywhere. I could get in my parents’ car and we would drive for hours. We’d pass fields and towns, windows down, music loud. We had a destination but if I chose to, I could drive on for days. I could see nature at its purest. That stretch of sunflowers I notice every time. The group of old men sitting together smoking and talking as cars fled past them. I look out the window, observing. Knowing I’ll never see them again. I’ll never remember their face or that exact place. But in that moment, they were there, and they were part of my journey to a destination my parents were taking me to.

That’s the hardest thing about the last two years. The feeling of being walled in. There’s no endlessness to my physical world. I can try all I want, there’s only so far I can go. It wouldn’t matter if I couldn’t travel for my ‘gram. But it matters that a plan I’ve been making to go visit my parents at the end of this month is yet again in jeopardy. I feel like I have yet again been caged in.

Repeating the same day over and over again. The same emotions, the same processes, the same people. Wondering when the groups of 5 will turn into groups of 2 again. Wondering when the imaginary walls of the country I live in will open to let me be free again. Wondering when travel to see my parents filled with fear and agony of infecting myself or worse, them, will change again.

I miss knowing my parents are healthy still. I miss not being afraid to lose people before I could spend enough time with them. I miss existing in a world where I don’t feel terror when hanging out with my best friends. Not having to wonder every minute of every day where every person I see on the street has been to over the last 14 days. 

I miss breathing. Not the “say no to masks” kind. The emotional kind. The calm as I took on the world kind.

Every morning, I wake up and for a brief minute, I imagine being somewhere else. Head out the window, driving for hours past fields, towns and cities I’ll never remember. Wind in my hair, nothing to think of but the stillness of my emotions. Calm and happy as I breathe in a world without walls.

I get out of bed and go repeat my day. A hamster on a wheel again.

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…

To Find Meaning

I’ve been reading this book called Ikigai by Albert Liebermann and Hector Garcia. If you haven’t read it and belong to the generation that does not understand stress-free life, I would strongly suggest giving it a go. It has made me admit to myself something people have said to me before (while I constantly denied it and called them insane).

I am a workaholic (that wasn’t the admission but we’ll get to that in a minute). I love working. I can complain about my job, my pay and even toxic environments but when you ask me to stop working, I’ll only come up with reasons why I can’t. I can’t stop. I was in a meeting until 7pm today. I was dragging my feet to the train but my ego was flying. I was so busy, I had to be in a meeting until 7pm. Like that makes me feel really good.

And there’s nothing wrong with it. We all like different things and I like to be busy working. It makes me feel important and productive and like I’m doing something with my life.

Now let’s get to the thing people complain about that I don’t like admitting – my work defines everything I do outside of it. I was on the train at 7.30pm and told myself, “Don’t check your emails. Shut it off and focus on the music and the words on your Kindle.” You know what I felt? Not anxious, not peaceful and definitely, not focused. I felt guilty.

I feel guilty when I don’t respond to emails beyond work hours. I feel guilty when I turn off at the end of the day. I feel guilty when I take a day off because the doctors thought I might have cancer. I feel guilty when I am not working for not working because my work defines every other aspect of my life.

Before I read Ikigai, I had read Man’s Search for Meaning – thank you Abhishek, if you ever read this. Viktor Franckl talks about logotherapy which is mentioned a lot in Ikigai. The core concept of both these books are the same. (Can I please mention I didn’t go looking for these books? It came to me through suggestions and surprisingly they had the same messaging.) That when you have a why to live, you’ll do so no matter how. So I spent time thinking about my why.

I often tell people I want to be really rich. That’s the purpose to my existence. Money. I want the kind of money that people I grew up with can’t even imagine. To be so rich and yet so humble. To buy the things I see and I see a lot. To own my own place – massive with floor to ceiling windows and a view you would kill for. I don’t want to inherit it. I don’t want to be married into it. I want to earn it. My work will bring that money that will be mine.

Except, I’m beginning to wonder if that isn’t really true.

I work at an amazing place in Singapore. It’s great. I get to go to these incredible events with speeches by amazing human beings. One such event in October addressed purpose and stress. She asked us to look at the person next to us and talk about our purpose. My answer was easy. “Money.”

Then the person next to me mentioned, “I want to do good through my job.” I stopped and realised that it’s what I really wanted but didn’t like admitting because it doesn’t offend my parents as easily. I wanted to do good for the beings on four legs that can’t speak for themselves. I couldn’t admit it to myself, I wasn’t going to tell her that. So I said, “Cool.” But I kept thinking. I always told people I wanted to start a rehabilitation zoo. For abused animals. To recreate a forest in a closed environment so they were home without being subjected to hunters or abusers.

That carried into Viktor Franckl’s explanation of logotherapy. I continued to think about the things that really make me wake up to that insane alarm at 6am. And now as I read Ikigai and they repeatedly talk about the thing that keeps you going, the meaning, the reason and the purpose behind my need to keep existing in this seriously not-so-great planet, I am realising the truth and I don’t know if it’s the wine typing or really me but…

Remember how I mentioned that I got very used to answering “Money” because it offended my parents? Imagine my surprise when I realised the purpose to my existence was really them.

It didn’t matter how much money. It mattered what I could buy with it for them. It didn’t matter how big an apartment. It mattered how successful it made me appear and how much prouder it made them by default because…

I wasn’t an easy kid. I was smart that wasted the smarts and emotional that made stupid decisions based on those emotions. And my life, this incredibly weird thing I didn’t ask for that they gave to me, I spend working like a mad person because it gets me closer to making them look like they birthed a fricking genius – a result of which makes them stand taller than the others in any room – something they deserve.

Yeah, I wasn’t expecting this post to get so real as well but I just wanted to put this out there.

Sometimes, it’s good to find the meaning behind the things you do. It may make them that much more worthwhile.

So, yeah, I’ll say it. I’m a workaholic. I chase after success and I will slave my soul away until I reach it. My purpose is money. But there’s a meaning behind it.

Find yours.

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.”

 

Figure It Out

travelnow-or-crylater-721285-unsplash.jpgNobody has it figured out.

I know how they make it look and I’m sorry we all do that one another. I look like I’ve got it figured out, too. I’d even tell you I do. But the truth is, none of us know where we’re headed.

And the ones who tell you they do, they’re telling you their imaginary version of their future. Because there are too many variables. In the things we know. In the things we don’t know. In the things we couldn’t possibly know. And they all matter in my ability to eat McDonald’s for lunch today. Let alone my ability to become a successful author 10 years from today.

But I’ll pretend. I’ll pick out my lazily ironed clothes, wear my ID around my neck and walk out of my apartment, computer in hand, looking like no-one can take away how good I feel about myself. Truth is, I feel like a mess most mornings. I’m rushing. I’m trying to be calm but I know my boss is probably already at work. I know I didn’t make lunch and will spend more money on food again. I know my hair and my life are a flipping mess. But I look like it all couldn’t be more under control and… I’ve got it all figured out.

That’s most of us, isn’t it?

I could look at your fancy new haircut, brand new clothes and that great job you have and not know that behind the screens, you went to a cheaper salon than you used to, looked for the cheapest new thing to buy because even the greatest job ever isn’t paying you enough to have sustainability and you’re struggling to make ends meet. Your responsibilities are sky high and your finances are at rock bottom. I wouldn’t know.

Your bright red lipstick and your pointy stilettos – you look like the world will bend its knee to you. But maybe, you’re depressed. Behind that smile you throw to a stranger on the train, there’s a sadness they’ll never know. That lipstick isn’t confidence. It’s the thing that holds you together. It makes you feel like you can survive the day.  Yet, I’d smile back at you as I think to myself, “I bet she knows where her life’s headed. I bet she has it all figured out.”

And so you fool me as I fool another and the cycle goes on as each of us live our lives believing that the other has it all together, has it all planned out. That the other has it better and figured out. But I… I’m just here.

I’m just in this life with no idea where I’m headed. Every plan I make, I’m terrified because something goes wrong. Something… always goes wrong. Because you wouldn’t know, looking from the outside, I struggle to make ends meet too. You wouldn’t know that I hang my head as I ask my Dad for more money. You wouldn’t know that I work so hard because I’m so afraid of being replaced. Because in this horrible, horrible world, in our terrible economy, in this shitty, shitty, shitty period of time, if you don’t have a job that pays you money, any amount of  money, you can’t really figure it out. But when you have that job, you spend all week looking forward to the weekend and you spend all weekend preparing for the week and the farthest future you end up planning are the Fridays that almost never work out the way you want it to because… You still don’t get it, do you?

Welcome to life.

I know I sound like a ball of negativity but that’s not what this is about.

It sucks. Your teenage plans don’t work out all the time. That one classmate may have made it. But he or she’s the exception, not the rule. And the thing is, it’s okay.

I like going home tired at the end of the day. I like sitting in my room with my sister and watching the most ridiculous TV show ever. I like spending my weekend preparing for Monday and I like walking into work feeling like it was all utterly useless. Because I know I’m not alone. Because I know the ones sitting next to me are just as clueless as I am.

Just as clueless as our parents are.

Just as clueless as the rest of the world is.

Because nobody has life figured out. I don’t think anybody ever did.

That’s exactly what makes it all the more interesting.

And scary. But mostly, interesting. Right?

Anxiety

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I try to explain to her,

“Nothing scares me, nothing at all.

But from the moment I’m awake till the moment my eyes close,

I’m afraid of everything around me.

The things that could go so right and those that will go wrong.”

She laughs. She doesn’t understand. “How could you be so afraid?”

I want to tell her how this works.

I want to show her all my thoughts.

Instead I explain with a lot of words.

“I fly a lot, don’t I? I’ll tell you how this goes.

I’m packing at home. I’m terrified of leaving Mom.

I worry my dogs will die again. This time I won’t be around.

I worry I’ll leave a medicine. I worry I’ll leave my passport.

I worry I’ll miss my flight. I worry of getting caught.”

“Caught for what?” Her cluelessness makes me smile.

“If I knew, I’d be careful. But I don’t.

And that’s just where this all begins.”

She shakes her head with a smirk.

I don’t blame her.

I sound insane, even to myself.

But how else can I explain?

“I’m afraid of sitting next to a stranger.

I’m afraid he’ll be drunk.

I’m afraid the flight will face turbulence.

I’m afraid we won’t reach at all.

I’m afraid our parents will find out.

I’m afraid I might land safe.

I’m afraid that I won’t have a place to stay.

I know I booked that great space,

But what if it’s a scam? What if they had issues?

What if I’ve lost our money on something that doesn’t exist?

What if my trip sucks?

What if I get mugged?

What if you find me dead?

My life revolves around a series of what-ifs

And I’m at a point where I don’t know how to tell

If what I’m feeling is an instinct or just plain ol’ anxious.”

 

“You sound stupid. You should be like me.

Not a care in the world. Things will happen as they should.”

 

I want to tell her that’s my biggest fear.

“What if it all goes wrong and I can’t stop it?

It’s out of control and my life goes to shit?

How will I survive in the middle of chaos?”

I hear his words from a recent memory,

You can do this, darling. I believe in you.”

I smile a little.

His words calm my racing heart, if only for a minute.

 

But then it starts all over again.

And I sit on a train, clenching my fists, holding my tears,

“Oh God, please. Not again.”

She’s lost, yet right next to me.

She has no idea how fast my mind was running

We were headed to sign a contract,

Another thing that makes me cry.

 

Not just tears rolling down my face

Like a yesteryear actor and a bottle of glycerin.

I cry like a baby does in the middle of the night

Loud, breathless, arms at my side.

Unable to speak,

Unable to move,

Unable to breathe.

I cry hysteria but I sit where I am.

“Because I can’t move.”

“Why not?”

“Because it will be the death of me.”

“Says who?”

“Me. A dark version of me.

A deep voice inside of me.

I can’t move.”

One hand on my chest, I remain as I am.

Waiting for it to end.

Waiting to breathe again.

“Until the next time

I go through it all over again.”

 

She tells me she doesn’t understand.

I’m now afraid to explain.

(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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Eff Your Beauty Standards

That was the name of the instagram account I followed a few weeks ago – Eff Your Beauty Standards. I unfollowed them a few days later.

I’m fat. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There’s no shame or guilt. Yes, people like me aren’t on magazine covers. We don’t get to wear angel wings and strut ourselves in sexy underwear. We aren’t searched and cast in famous movies by every Hollywood director there ever was. We definitely do not match any industry standards in any way. Not even heavy lifting because overweight does not mean strong. A lot of us are quite weak and fragile. We’re often made to feel like we don’t belong. We often catch ourselves wondering if women like us will ever be loved. We tend to fish for compliments anywhere we can get them. Not to boost our egos, but to feel normal. Just once.

The instagram account showed plus sized women with captions that told them they’re stunning and beautiful. It gave them the kind of compliments we all wish for. But here’s the thing – I found it offensive, demeaning and rather disturbing. Not the compliments but the idea in itself.

It was as ridiculous as calling someone a “Skinny Bitch” just because she is a size zero. I have always had a problem understanding why we blame the individual when in reality, she isn’t the one that created the idea in your mind that she matters more than you and I do. It was an industry filled with rude, arrogant pompous asses that believed that their idea of beauty should be everyone else’s idea of beauty and used their power to establish the same across the world, making every one of us feel inadequate, insufficient and to put it quite frankly, like a blob.

Let me help create a better idea of this. I am a size 12. My sister is a size 2. Do I wish for her clothes? Yes. Do I wish the fashion industry would put people like me on the magazines rather than people like her? Absolutely! Does that make her a bad person or a “skinny bitch”? You must be insane.

But surely not as insane as that Instagram account, several overweight artists, and so many others quite like them and here’s why – I don’t want a separate Instagram account that proves to me what I’ve believed all along. That I’m different. That I need to be treated specially. And not in a good way.

Tell me it’s not just me when I say – Fat people don’t want to be handled with care. Fat people don’t want you to “aww” at us and pretend like we’re more delicate than the rest. Fat people don’t want to be differentiated from women in general.

We don’t want the skinny girl to lose her fashion sense. We want the fashion industry to bring us the same kind of clothes the skinny girl wears. We don’t want the hot guy to date us with pity. We want him to know we’re just as interested in sex as the girl in that tight pair of jeans and a perfect butt is. When you see us at a store trying to find that perfect dress in our size, we want you to tell us the way you’d tell anyone else that it’s not available in our size. Don’t hesitate. Don’t make me feel bad about who I am by being too careful. Being too nice. Being too out of the ordinary.

If you want to make me feel better about who I am, stop treating me like I’m different. Treat me like I’m human. Treat me the way you treat the size zero. Don’t give me a special Instagram account. Don’t call her a skinny bitch believing that I’ll feel better if you do. I won’t. I’ll hate myself for singing that song because I know that being fat is who I am the way being skinny is who she is. She’s not a bitch and I don’t want you to convince me that she is. I’m not a bully. Don’t make me one.

If you really, honestly and truthfully want to make a fat person feel good about themselves,

Eff your beauty standards and treat me like I’m just another human.

Life goes on..

Today, May 4, is the birthday of someone very very close to me. “Happy Birthday bro..” It’s been a while since I met him and when he saw me he said, “You look bright. Full of hope. It’s nice to see you like this again.”

Last year I had to give up almost everything I had. My plans changed, my life changed. I spent the entire year in depression. Everything made me cry. There was a point when I believed things will never change. That my life was over and all I have to do is sit and just let the end come when it may. Now when I say it, I realize how over-dramatic that sounds. But at that point in my life it seemed like the most logical thought process one can ever have at a time like that.

It’s funny how when something bad happens, we believe that it’s the end. I’m not talking about a fatal sickness or an accident but rather just incidents. When you quit / get expelled from university, when you get fired, when you break up with your loved one, when someone close to you passes away or even when you fail an exam or miss your dream university by 2 points. It seems like a life or death situation. I mean, I get that it possibly is very life altering but it’s never the end.

It took me one and half years of moping around before I decided that I have to change things. ONE AND HALF YEARS ! You know how much I could’ve done in one day? Let alone 500 days ! 500 days before I realized it’s not the end because it’s not happy. That in fact, all I had to do was accept that things have changed. Because the only thing constant in our lives is change and the best I can do is to make use of all that I’ve got. I mean, I’m sure I could’ve sat around another year and half dreaming of what could’ve been but that’s just another 500 days that I won’t get back.

In my life, I’ve learnt that there’s nothing better than dreaming big. Dream what nobody dares to dream of. Dream to fly. Like Peter Pan. To just take off to Neverland. But that’s impossible if you never put your feet on the ground. Even a flight has to hit the runway, move forward and only then can it fly. Sitting idle and wondering about would-be’s and could-have-been’s will never get you anywhere. You have to put one foot in front of the other and walk forward.

I’m not a settler. I’ve missed what many would call “incredible opportunities.” When my previous dream crashed, I had to get a new one. I wasn’t, and I’m still not, mentally prepared to create a big dream again. I’m afraid that it’ll crash too. So I set my goals a little lower. Instead of a big future plan, I set my eyes on simpler things. Things that are more NOW than five to ten years from now – A company that’s not really easy to get into. A publisher that probably won’t even take a second look at my manuscript. I told myself that I won’t take anything besides this. I will get into that company if it’s the last thing I did. I will send the publisher every story I will ever write and at some point, I’m going to write something they will publish.

Think back the years you’ve lived through. How many moments have you had where you thought it’s the end of the world and it wasn’t? No, I’m not talking about December 22, 2012. I mean, you’ve lived through tough times. You’ve moved forward when you thought you wouldn’t. You’re alive and present. When you think about it you’ll realize that all those bad experiences have only made you stronger. Brave. Never weak.

Two years ago, I had it all. I didn’t work as hard as I could have. I didn’t make use of the opportunities. Now I can’t go back. I have to look ahead and I feel stronger than I ever did. Positive that if I could live through that, then I’m sure I can live through the next disaster and the next and the next. Because.. Have you ever sat in front of the ocean and stared at it? You know how beautiful and mentally soothing a view like that is? The way the waves move and hit the shore. The salty smell that comes from it.. Now, imagine sitting in front of the same ocean but this time, it’s still. No waves, no sea salt smell. Just still water. It’s not as beautiful, is it?! That’s life too. It has to have its ups and downs. I promise every wave has something incredible to give to you. A life lesson, a person, a memory.. And when you look at it as a whole, it’s beautiful.

No matter sunny or rainy, draught or storms, the waves in the ocean never stops.. The way, no matter how hard it gets, no matter how many times you tell yourself it’s over, life goes on..

Beauty…

We all have those unanswered questions we wouldn’t dare ask in fear that someone might call us stupid. Here’s mine : What is beauty? A perfect winged eyeliner? A Picasso painting? A genuine person? A generous heart? Why? Can anybody really explain beauty?

Wikipedia tried : Beauty is a characteristic of a person, animal, place, object, or idea that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure or satisfaction.

Pleasure. Have you read The Fault in our Stars by John Green? That book just about killed me. It was in no way a pleasurable experience. But I thought that book was absolutely beautiful. I cannot explain why.

I decided that the best time to get my question out there without being labelled stupid was now. Hence I started with the closest of friends and family – “I’m doing research for my blog. What, according to you, is beauty?”

I got the typical answers – Beauty is my girlfriend. Beauty is the love of my life. Beauty is a genuine person. Beauty is a loving heart. Beauty is confidence. Beauty is perfection. Beauty is anything that makes you feel good.

Then I asked them “How do you say that? What exactly makes you use the word ‘beauty’ towards those things?”

I got one answer : “I don’t know. I can’t explain.”

That’s the thing. Nobody knows. I was almost on the verge of giving up when someone I know gave me her definition of beauty :

“By the magic of sight , anything which on looking makes me feel fresh.
By the magic of my palette, anything that tastes and gives me the yummy yum yum
By the magic of my nostrils, anything that gives the fragrence which I want to capture”
I didn’t ask her how she came to that conclusion because to me, that answer was beautiful.

She might not have nailed it, but her explanation was something I couldn’t question. Beauty was her accepting the simplicity of the complex things in and around us. Beauty was that she noticed something no other person I know did. Beauty was that she found it magical.

I wish I was someone that could figure it out and give you scientific facts. But I can only talk about what I’ve observed.

When I look at Miranda Kerr, I think she is so cute. When I look at Meryl Streep, I think she is dynamic and utterly gorgeous. But when I look at Angelina Jolie, I think she is beautiful. There was a time when I hated her. But as I realized just how much she gives to the world, I began to love her.

There was an Indian celebrity that I used to love. I thought his talent was unbelievably amazing. His grace so utterly beautiful. A few years ago, his personal life took a hike. His behavior during that period was everything I stand against. From that day, every time I see him do what he does best, I see an asshole. I think to myself “Look at him, trying to cover up his act with grace. He can’t fix what he’s broken.”

I’ve noticed that our perception of a person or a thing changes when the story about them changes. I used to love Romeo and Juliet. It was the most beautiful love story on the planet and an incredible one too. Then I saw the movie Shakespeare in Love. The idea (which I highly doubt is true but is the story of the movie) that Romeo and Juliet was based on an affair that Shakespeare had, ruined the book for me. Ruined the love they shared. Whenever I pick up the book, I no longer feel like I’m reading a beautiful love story. I feel like I’m reading a scandal report of how a man cheated on his wife.

Our emotions define the beauty we see. When the girl we hate looks absolutely perfect, we don’t see beauty. We say “I cannot stand her and her perfection! It’s so fake.” But when the person we love looks like crap, we see a beauty we can’t define.

Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. It is in his heart. It is in his emotions. It is in his love.

Beauty is the book that makes his heart yearn. Beauty is the song that reminds him of happiness. Beauty is his family and a place he calls ‘home.’ Beauty is the girl he fell head over heels for. Beauty is his first pet. Beauty is the way his mother takes care of him. Beauty is the doll he’s had on his bed since he was two. Beauty is the unforgettable connection he had with the girl he met at a party weeks ago.

It might be painful. It might hurt you. But if you love it, you’ll find beauty in it. We can’t all love the same person, the same book or the same movie. There arises the difference in our ideas of beauty.

John Green had me falling in love with Augustus Waters and Hazel Grace. He had me falling in love with their stories. With their personalities. And no matter how much that book kills me, I will always love it and I will always think it was beautiful.

Because love doesn’t always come from a place of joy or pleasure. Sometimes love comes from pain and hurt.

And hence we call it Beautiful…