Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Coping up with the nightmares

So since last few months, I've been having terrifying nightmares.  Thankfully, just like my dreams, even my nightmares haven't come true.

But it has not been a pleasant experience.  All these night terrors are beyond my conscious control. I wake up with a jolt, mostly glad that I am not really trapped in enclosed places or stranded in ocean in a boat.  Being stranded in ocean in a boat is one of the most recurring nightmares and it is terrifying because I have unusual fear of huge water bodies and these nightmares are not helping.

Last few months, I woke up with annoying pain in my teeth which was followed by uncomfortable headache and neck and shoulder pains.

Considering my love for WebMD, I have gone through most of the diseases there and have died and resurrected multiple times.  So Nirwa Mehta, WebMD, self diagnosed the pains as sinus.  Because #forevercold has been one of the annoying things growing up.  I just assumed the pains in the usual sinus zones is because of cold/upcoming symptom of cold, but when the pain vanished a few days later and I didn't have a runny nose, I dismissed it on the ginger, mint, pepper water I have in the mornings to have boosted my immunity that I'm fighting the flu.

Yeah, I know, I need to see a doctor for more reasons than one.

But then last week, the teethache went too far.  It was so uncomfortable and I thought I am losing all my teeth.

Asked my dentist friend if I should see my dentist.

My dentist is this really nice man who has extracted all four of my wisdom teeth because of the overflowing wisdom in me.  Willing to bet the new Volkswagen he drives is paid for by our family.  Yeah, we have a family dentist because having a family physician is too mainstream.

Anyway, he has a good look at my teeth, announces my teeth are in good condition, and I need to meditate to relax.

Heh.

Meditation.

Heh.

You see, I went to a school where I learnt Yogasan for 9 years.  (yes, I have certificate to prove the same, also Bharatnatyam. Heh. Heh. Heh.)

While learning Yogasan, the most difficult part was meditating.

You are just sitting there, trying to concentrate on your breathing and trying to get into a state of thoughtlessness.

See, that's not going to happen.  My mind is so full of webs (other than inter-webz :P) that a part of me is terrified of looking into it.  I'd rather let the webs in my mind lie as they are than clean them up because I am not sure how I will deal with repressed memories.

At times I am not even sure if they are repressed memories or situations I created in my head and were so real that they now seem like repressed memories.

Brain, my dear friends, is a wonderful and scary organ. It is very easy to lose hold of reality and assume completely imaginary scenarios as real.

So, meditation is not going to work.

Today morning I woke up, brushed my teeth and went back to sleep.  I didn't sleep-sleep, more like lied in bed till I got bored of lying in bed, and in those moments I felt like I felt an earthquake.  I was in the sleep-awake zone.

I experienced the 2001 earthquake and ever since if I've been stressed, my mind plays tricks and makes me feel like there are tremors.  It is terrifying.  Because it feels so real and there are no tremors and you cannot explain anyone you just felt an earthquake that never was.

So coming back - how do I cope with these nightmares. There has got to be a way where you do not have to look into your mind to ease your mind, right?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A lot can happen over coffee

I love solitude.  After spending a week socialising with people, I need the weekend by myself to recuperate and rejuvenate myself to face a different set of people the next week.  The cafe near my house offers me the solitude I need.  I spend my Saturday evenings here, order a coffee, and spend a couple of hours reading.  It is the Valentine’s Day week, and maybe it is the pinks and the reds everywhere, I decided to re-read the first book I wished was my life story.  Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  


“One cafe latte, please”, I place my order and find my usual empty corner to sit.  A few minutes later, the waiter comes with the milky goodness of caffeine with a heart made on the froth.  Usually it is a leaf. Valentine’s Day effect, I guess.  Wait, is there something written on the tissue paper? 


There is something scribbled across it. What the fuck. It reads like “Hi! :)”  I called back the waiter and he said, “Madam, the gentleman here gave it to me to send you.” 


“Who?” I asked.


He pointed to the guy in another corner, reading a book by himself.  


Oh, I’ve seen him here often.  Usually by himself too, occasionally accompanied by a guy, but mostly alone.  He looked up and smiled.  


This is the first time I gave him a proper look.  He has a two-day old stubble, is wearing black rimmed hipster glasses, a grey pullover and one of the warmest smiles I’ve ever seen.  He is attractive.


And that makes me awkward and conscious.  What am I supposed to do? Should I call him? Am I supposed to sent another tissue with ‘hi’ written on it? Or should I just send back a smiley? Should I smile back?


Oh, god, no, let me just be invisible.  Look away and pretend I’m not here. 


Please, please please. 


Oh god, he’s getting up. 


No, don’t come up to me. Oh god, he’s coming up to me. 


“May I?” he asks, pointing to the empty chair in front of me. Damn, should’ve put my bag there to show I am accompanied by a bag.


“Sure,” I squeaked. 


“Hi, I’m Arjun,” he said.


“Naina. I’m Naina.” I said meekly. 


“I hope I’m not disturbing you,” he said.


I come here to escape from people. And try as hard as I could to remain invisible and here is someone, a complete stranger, trying to talk with me.  Calm the fuck down, Naina.
“No, not really,” I said.  There is a strange feeling in my stomach. Oh, this is the proverbial butterflies in the stomach.


“Do you come here often?” he asked.


“Yes, I usually spend my Saturday evenings here.” I said.


There is silence between us, as he looks at me smilingly and I try to avoid gaze while fidgeting with my fingers.  Oh man, what do I do with my hands under normal circumstances.  Today I cannot seem to make up my mind whether to put them on the table, or under it, or cross them or just cut them off.


We sat there in almost silence as I fidgeted my fingers to the point I feared they would fall off while slowly sipping my coffee. Heh. Who am I kidding. I almost gulped it down.


“May I have the pleasure of taking you out for dinner tonight? I know of this really nice pizza place.” he asked warmly.  Do I hear an accent?


I’m sure he sensed my awkwardness and is trying to make me feel comfortable.  But I’m like the deer caught in the headlights.


Did a complete stranger, who doesn’t look like a psychotic stalker-cum-killer, has a cute stubble and clean set of teeth just asked me out? Really?


What should I do? What should I do. 


“Um, okay.” I said.


I asked for the check, and the waiter told me it was already taken care of by, well. Arjun.


Okay, flattering.  Almost creepy, but flattering.


Apparently, the pizza place he has heard of is nearby.  We chose to walk.  That means more awkward moments where I struggle to keep up the conversation.  


Arjun is an entrepreneur and has a e-commerce platform.  He recently moved to Ahmedabad and spends most of his evenings in the cafe we just met.  He had been gathering courage to come up to me since past 3 weeks now and was disappointed when I did not come here last weekend. 


What. This is too much for me to digest.  How can anyone find me attractive! I am a fashion disaster, I don’t wear any make up, I am far from being skinny, when women trot around in clothes which look like handkerchief wrapped around them.  


We talked about his experiences in the city, and how he has been liking it, and when I told him I’m a journalist, he could not stop grinning.  Oh god, now even complete strangers don’t think I could be a journalist.


“You are Naina Shankar?” he asked. I did not tell him my last name.


“Yes, that would be me. How do you know?” I asked.


“I read your analysis on the upcoming election and why the populist policies will not work in the long run. Nicely written.” 


Hot guy has read my article. He knows me. Must act calm. 


“Thank you.” I managed to say.


Now would you just stop staring. I don’t eat pizza with fork and knife. I am going to eat it like a normal person, and no one looks good while biting into a pizza. Stop staring.


After an hour long ordeal where we talk more politics and then some more politics, he calls for the check. Should I offer to pay? Should we split? Should I just sit around twiddling my thumbs?


“I’d like to pay for the dinner.” I say.


“Dinner is on me. But you could treat me to the dessert.” he cocked his head and smiled. 


Okay, fair enough. 


Just as we left, it started raining.  Damn these unseasonal rains.  We had to walk back to where I had parked my car and we were drenched. I started sneezing.  Obviously, the dessert is postponed to a future date.  Not happening today.


I sneeze again.


“I live nearby, why don’t you come up and put on some dry clothes and wait for a while till rain stops.  You’ll fall ill.  Plus, its unseasonal rain, won’t last long.” he said.


Considering I just got up from a two month long viral infection, the idea of warm, dry clothes is tempting.


“Okay,” I agreed and we walked over to his apartment. 


He gave me his shirt and trackpants to change into while he made a mint and ginger tea for both of us.  Okay, he’s a nice guy and hard for me to not like him.  He’s fun too.  I don’t remember laughing so hard on political jokes in the longest time.  It’s like, he just gets me.


We sit on the couch looking at the rain while sipping our tea.


“Well, we shall keep the dessert for next time,” I say.


“Of course.”, he said.


The air between us suddenly becomes heavy.  I’m feeling thirsty.  I get up to fetch a glass of water while he suddenly holds my hand and pulls me down.  I look down as he takes my hair off my face and tucks them behind my ears. I feel like electricity has passed through me. My breathing becomes heavy as he brings his mouth nearer to me.  And in that one moment of passion, we kiss.

Monday, February 23, 2015

One life

"You have just one life, live it up" is one of the most abused clich├ęs ever.

It is the classic version of #YOLO because you live only once.

(Actually, it should not really apply to Hindus because we are the patron saints of reincarnation so technically, Hindus shouldn't really give the lame #YOLO excuse for doing stupid things.)

Coming back to the topic at hand before I digress too much, mostly people go #YOLO for doing stupid things like drinking themselves silly and driving or smoking/snorting up stuff which gets you higher than Superman's balls just because you can.

But then not many of us take the #YOLO path when it comes to things that really matter.

How many of you regret not having said or done things you should have?

Yes, we all have regrets of having done/said things, but that makes perfect sense because you actually did it without knowing the outcome (which is not in your hands) and it just didn't turn out the way you expected it to.

But not doing/saying things because of hypothetical adverse outcomes and regretting it for the rest of your life?

Do you really want to be on your death bed, wondering what next avatar are you going to take, a lizard or an ant or a pig, regretting what could have happened if you had told her you love her? Do you really want to live the rest of your life knowing that she/he was the one who got away because you didn't try?

Or you wish you had taken the toxic people out of lives? You'd be surprised to know how many of these are there in your lives. They are the ones who have nothing good to say about/to you, have super narcissistic tendencies and are overall assholes but you have been a pushover all your life because well, it takes time to realise you are being emotionally abused.

All it takes is courage. The courage to say no. The courage to say yes.

It is so liberating.

You really have nothing to lose to take that one step.

If you feel so strongly about something, go for it - the gut feeling, the instinct - act upon it.

Many a (love) stories never happened because of lack of courage. Let your story not be one of them.

After all, you have one life.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Overrated

Freedom of Speech and Expression is overrated.

No, I'm not against it - yes, we have fought very, very hard for this freedom and I am extremely grateful to be living in this country which allows me unrestricted freedom of doing and saying anything and getting away with it.  

There are few things most people on internet have taken for granted.  The fact that you were able to attend school without getting shot at is a good thing.

That you could be a woman and drive on your own at 3 am, with probably a threat of a stray dog running after you, is also a good thing.

You know what else is a good thing? You can make fun of your prime minister *and* get away with it.  

You, as a common man (heh), have the right to form the government.  You have the right to BE the government.  Democracy is a wonderful thing.  Scary and terrifying at times, but wonderful nonetheless.

There have been self styled crusaders of free speech over the internet, who have taken upon themselves to take up the freedom of speech and expression battle.  

Humour is subjective.  Stupidity, however, is not.  It is universal.  You'd expect these crusaders of free speech to be rational too, but that assumption would be one of the gravest mistake.  You see, these are the people who are the newest breed of activists.  Hashtag Activists.  They are full time outragers.

You try reasoning with them, you'd be named a troll.  Or a Sanghi (which I assume has something to do with the RSS, not the feed-wala RSS, the other one) or a right wing nut.  Because questioning their stupidity and countering their lack of logic makes you a right wing troll. 

So, the crusaders one day decide that they have the right to organise shows which have "offensive" jokes.  Now, mind well, the organisers had put up disclaimers that the jokes will be offensive.  Again, as I said, humour is subjective.  

Now a lot of things go here.

Since it was put up on YouTube, you had a choice to not see it.  You exercised your freedom of choice.

The show organisers exercised their freedom of expression, however offensive.

While it could have ended there, it didn't.

Certain section of the demography chose to take an offence to that.

Why take offence when you saw it out of choice? You had a choice to close any time you wanted.  But you saw it and took an offence, your protests are wrong.

See. That's where I get annoyed.

No, their protests are as much legally allowed as your jokes.

See, the same democracy that gives you freedom of speech also gives him freedom of expression, in this case, protest.  (not justifying violence here) but if an individual, decides to be offended, and files a police complaint - why is it wrong? Just because you put across a disclaimer, does not mean no one could take an offence.

So if someone files an FIR and police/court takes its legal course of action, and points it out to you, it doesn't make them a "right wing nut" - in most cases, it makes them rational, logical human being.

If an obscure "religious" organisation decides it will get you married if you're out on Valentine's Day, you do not blame the government.  Best would be to ignore these fools for their stupidity, but if you can't, because you're a self-styled crusader of freedom of speech and you have taken upon yourself to save the humanity from going "right wing crazy", file and FIR, try having faith in the judiciary.  Yes, it sound funny especially with thousands of legal cases stuck for years, but well, I am not sure how writing a fucking listicle will help?

Or going outside their office asking them to get you married because they threatened they will.  No, not funny, but stupid.  You are encouraging more loonies to come out and threaten.

I am all for freedom of speech and expression.

But I thank my stars every single day that I am born in a country like India, where despite all things that are wrong with this country, I am allowed to write this piece and you are allowed to read this.  

The fundamental right which makes it possible for us to sit in the comfort of our home and laugh at the pinstriped suit of the head of the nation or his speaking Star Wars while standing next to Wolverine - it shows that the country is way tolerant than we give it the credit for.  (obviously, HUGE scope of improvement there, but at least we're not Saudi Barbaria, or under the watchful eyes of the beloved Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, right?)

This freedom, is hard earned.  People have died in the past so you can live today to enjoy this freedom.  But using it wisely may not be a bad idea, right?

I know, it is hard, as a professional outrager, to think rationally, but try, maybe?

You are a journalist - despite all the cynicism the media gathers, pen is still powerful than the sword.  Media has the power to make or break governments.  You are the fourth estate.  Pick your battles wisely.

And to end it, to take words from the show you so religiously defended, every time you call yourself a journalist, ISIS beheads a real one.  Make it stop.

PS: No, if I don't like your jokes, find you unfunny, I am not a Modi bhakt, I just have a sense of humour which does not agree with yours. Deal with it.