I played pool with the men

Flashback to many moons ago – grade school. Like I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I would have a hard time participating in sports mostly due to confidence and body issues. I couldn’t run fast, nor did I have a decent hand eye coordination. I used to be scared of catching a ball because I was convinced I was incapable of catching it. School life can be tough. It’s an age range where I didn’t understand I was going through something bigger and my friends didn’t understand that either. Most of them were good at least in one sport. We used to be a group of six girls – two played state level throwball, one was a good runner, one played basketball and one played football. Meanwhile, I used to tell myself, sports isn’t my thing. But I was never able to tell myself it was okay for sports to not be my thing. Probably because somewhere I think I liked playing, I liked the competition. I was so convinced at sucking at a sport that even if given a chance to play a sport, I’d blow it.

Fast forward many years later – I played badminton with my boyfriend. He’s very athletic – loves biking, tennis and golf. He’s forever up for a game of any kind. He tries his best to understand these feelings of mine and is always encouraging me to try. That’s when I decided to play badminton with him. To my surprise, I wasn’t half as bad as I’d been telling myself all these years. I could tell what areas I needed to work on but for the most part, it wasn’t one sided. He wasn’t getting easy points. It’s so refreshing to play a sport with your partner. There’s a this decent level of competition but for the most part, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose.

I probably went on at a tangent and if you read the title of this post, you must really be wondering what the point of this post is. Okay, so there are two:

  1. To explain to you how I’ve worked hard at drowning the body shaming voice in my head and celebrate my tiny victories every time I do so
  2. Is what I’m going to talk about below. (Trust me, I will tie it back together and it will make sense)

My manager gifted me this book by Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) called Lean In. It’s a pretty famous book but don’t sweat if you don’t know about it. I also don’t know about many famous things in this world. In this book, Sheryl talks about her experiences of gender inequalities she’s faced at the workplace and during her career. A lot of it resonated with me even though I’m just about a year into my career. There was a particular chapter called ‘sit at the table’ where she describes a day in which she had a big meeting and during the lunch break, she saw these few women sit at a corner table. She brought them to sit at the main table because they were as much a part of this meeting as anybody else was. This story stuck with me. So today, at work, we had a fun team event. This event was held at a game room where there’s a pool table. Two of my male colleagues who are much senior to me started to play. Even four months ago, when I first joined this company, I couldn’t have imagined myself accepting an invitation to play let alone volunteering to play. Today, I decided to go say, “hey, I’m going play too” instead of “can I play?” or waiting to be asked to play (which wouldn’t happen and that’s fair. These things aren’t asked). I have played pool probably five to six times in my life. I’ve almost always sucked at it because I was convinced I couldn’t play. I told myself how it didn’t matter if I didn’t play well or didn’t win. I should be able to treat it as casually as anyone else in the room. That’s easy, you might think. You might even be right. But it is subjective. If that comes easily to you, I envy you. So, I play pool with the men at work today. I lost both the games. But – I hit two shots and I had a butt load of fun. It was a winning moment for me when I didn’t hesitate to join the game.

As promised, I am tying together the two points I made – only if you feel confident can you fight these feelings of inadequacy and have more experiences in life. If you never try, you will never know. And in this world of gender inequality, it’s harder to fight these feelings. It’s only harder, not impossible. I have a long way to go and by no means am I saying I’m free of these thoughts that bring me down. Fighting it is exhausting but it is twice as rewarding. You will discover immense power, talent and unbound joy or you would have at least dared to challenge your “Can I do this?” thought.

You never fail if you try. If I can, you definitely can. Always celebrate your little victories. You don’t need anyone’s permission to do so. Walk into a room full of people and choose to play. The ball is always in your court 🙂

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Ex-bike virgin

Growing up, there are a few things all kids learn or at least try to and most people assume you have learned these things by the time you hit your teens. Commonly, it is swimming and biking and on a few occasions, biking was considered to be more important. My mother tried really (and I mean mighty hard because I was far from being a feather light child) to get my sister and I to learn how to ride a bike. I vaguely remember a few attempts in my building compound back home in Mumbai, India. I also remember her struggling to hold on to the bike with me on it. It’s hard teaching someone how to bike – requires a lot of patience and one has to come up with different tricks and techniques which work only on a trial and error basis. 

The other very common thing I have faced over all these years is this –

Person A – we should bike to that place!

Person B, C, D, E – yes, that sounds like a lot of fun!

Me – I don’t know how to ride a bike.

When I have said this, it almost feels like they saw a ghost or the dementors sucked all life out of them (for the Potterheads out there 😉 ). Responses sound more or less like this:

“You don’t know know how to ride a bike? Seriously?” or “How can anyone not know how to ride a bike?” Same way how many people don’t learn basic manners and swing through life without ever finding the need to do so.

This makes it harder to even approach someone and ask them to help me learn. Add to it, I was conscious about not being remotely athletic and being on the heavier side which made it worse. I took a long time to learn not to use my weight as an excuse to not try to do something. Anything. I don’t entirely blame people. It’s how everyone collectively thinks but now I do have the option of requesting people to be a little sensitive and lend a helping hand. You will be amazed by the responses.

So biking wasn’t a hobby. Usually, when someone asks what your hobbies are (I don’t know why anyone would frame the question that way but I’ve been asked that straight up and I’m sure you have too.) singing, dancing, playing a sport, learning an instrument etc are some common ones. When I first started talking to my boyfriend and we were getting to know each other, I learned that he is into “night biking”. How do I even…? Where do I..? Never mind. So I discovered that this genius person of mine can bike upto 30-40 miles at a stretch and my mouth fell open. He too, unfortunately, made a similar comment mentioned above when I told him I never learned how to bike. In fact, I even remember texting him saying hey you know, I have a confession, and it’s totally okay if it’s a deal breaker but I don’t know how to bike. Yes, I’m not perfect and I have my ridiculous moments just like you do. He confessed he was flabbergasted but it wasn’t the end of the world. Phew! I forgave him for reacting like that eventually since he’s learned to make the world’s best filter coffee. Okay, I’m straying (filter coffee is just the most amazing thing from back home, try it if you haven’t already). Once he figured out that I have always wanted to but not tried and why, he became more empathetic and encouraging. My cousin learned to bike much later in life and I don’t know why I didn’t have her teach me. Another close friend of mine bikes to work and for leisure and she also has the most lovely things about her biking adventures.

The irony of this all is – I was called out on for not having learned to bike but I barely know of people who do bike on a regular basis. It’s more of a vacation thing or a rare instance. So essentially you learned it because you had to and then to mock other people who didn’t? Nice.

Pooping over all this negative energy, I managed to find an organization called BikeDFW down here in Dallas, Texas and I cannot tell you how out of this world this little organization is. They volunteer their time a few times a month to host these classes for a super nominal fee which is nothing compared to the enthusiasm they bring to this event. I was almost certain that I might be a minority based on my age but in the entire batch of newbies today, there was only one little boy while the rest of us were adults trying to take a step forward and learn to do something I’m sure all of us have been wanting to do for a really long time.

It’s an incomparable feeling. Did I suck? Hell yes! Did I fall? Well, I was so scared of falling that I just jumped off the bike more often than not, hurting myself in the process anyway. But was it worth it? HELL YES! It takes a cheer-leading squad to get you through this insurmountable task because it is really difficult but you can applaud yourself for trying every single time you sit and ride a bike. I have this organization cheering for me and I have my boyfriend cheering louder than ever. I really don’t want to stop this time. I have dreamed of doing this for a long time and I don’t want to give up when it gets tough. And boy, I know it’s uphill for a while from here but I would have learned to use the brakes well when I have to come downhill with a vigorous speed and a lot of adrenaline rush. I look forward to it! It will change your life. 🙂

I should’ve texted

Today, 14,000 kms seems farther than infinity. Today, Bombay feels like it’s in another universe. Today, I mourn the death of a friend I have grown up with. People express sadness in different forms. My writing is cathartic and on one of the darkest nights, I’d like to find some light reliving some of our brightest memories that will remain with me for a lifetime.

5pm sharm every evening she would come to my house directly from school in her grey uniform. I can’t think of a time she wasn’t around. I am about 5 years younger than her but that hardly ever made a difference. Sunday breakfast or lunch were at her house. Breakfast in her house was this unusual combination of paratha, butter and chai, that eventually grew on me and I started to enjoy it. Her mom would also make mutton biryani which used to be finger licking good. The first time she got a telephone in her house, I ended up calling her from mine (she lived in the apartment opposite mine, so literally 2 seconds away!). My mom yelled – for obvious reasons. During Diwali, we’d all go up to the terrace and burst a few rockets using old coco-cola glass bottles, make a rangoli outside our houses, light those weird black tablets that would grow into thin snake like things and we’d stamp on them. When I turned 12, we moved into a new house and my friend and I didn’t end up seeing each other much. We used to talk over the phone sometimes and wish each other on birthdays, without fail. Slowly, as time passed, we lost touch. Given that my family knew everyone in the building my friend still lived in, we used to get updates once in a while.

Fast forward to August 2015 – I was all set to move to the US and I really wanted to see her before I left but somehow it didn’t work out. We kept in touch via social media and we had some idea of what was going on in each others’ life (or so I thought). Recently, in January earlier this year, I insisted that we meet. She made it home and what she was about to tell me was something I’d never imagined, never wanted to hear from anyone and was completely unprepared for. She was diagnosed with cancer roughly 2 years ago. It had relapsed but she was undergoing treatment. She was waiting to get an update on her condition end of March. The next thing I know is she didn’t make it.

I’ve been thinking about texting her over the last couple of weeks because I remembered about her test results. However, I didn’t know how to approach it and I postponed getting in touch. It’s late. I didn’t make it either. I missed saying good-bye. I missed sharing some updates. I missed checking in. I missed saying thank you. I missed being a friend. And knowing her, from somewhere up above, shining brighter than all the stars of the universe combined, she’d still say it’s okay.

She’s one of the nicest people I know with a heart of gold. Kindness flowed in her blood and she was beautiful inside out. She didn’t deserve this nor did her family. I vividly remember her narrating the whole story without getting the slightest bit emotional. She was dying a little everyday but she was living more than ever, everyday. A part of my heart broke that day and today the pieces have fallen too far apart. A fighter in the true sense and one hell of a friend – thank you for an amazing childhood and hats off to your resiliency. It’s an honour to share memories with you. This world didn’t deserve you. Hope you’ve found your happy place now.

Making my bed

It dawned on me that I haven’t written something in a really long time. The quotes tattoo on my left wrist has been an everyday reminder of how I should be updating my blog often.

This morning I was crying to my boyfriend about how I haven’t been able to do my laundry. It’s been piling up and I decided to do it over the weekend but the second I woke up I had to work and it seemed like a major crisis that laundry had taken a backseat this Saturday morning. Yes, I definitely sound like a crazy person. I agree.

It has been six successful months of me living alone in this beautiful apartment in Orlando, Florida. I believe it has been one of my best and most liberating life choices and I cannot stress enough on how it can change your life. I was making my bed this morning and not taking any shortcuts. If I saw creases, I did not let it go. That took me back to the time I used to live with my parents back in Mumbai and I couldn’t recall a single day when I ever did my own bed apart from folding the comforter. Obviously, it’s next to impossible to recall an event or a time in history that actually never took place. I barely did any work in my home then and today I have to make sure everything is in place in my own home. Right from cleaning out the refrigerator (my least favourite chore) to cooking to hosting people and setting the mood for the same. These are the little things that add up and make up the big things in life.

A friend who currently lives and studies in Chicago asked me two days ago about how it’s been living alone because she’s thinking about it once she’s done with school. We’re similar in a lot of ways and I know how much she will thoroughly enjoy being in her own space. I was so excited to share my experience and encourage her to just go for it. If not now, when?

As much as I understand that spending on rent is a waste in the long run, saving is tough when you live alone, it’s more of a luxury and less of a necessity, the life lessons learnt are unimaginable. I remember my sister encouragingly saying, “Not everything is about the money.” This hasn’t been easy in terms of managing financially. I’ve given up on a few things to make this more sustainable but that’s the choice I made for myself. As it is often said – you can’t have everything and I cannot think of a more apt situation to use this adage. I love being home. I love being in this space of mine with no interference from anyone and making very tiny decisions for myself.

At the end of the day, you know and understand your priorities better than anyone else does. I am sharing this piece today because I know a lot of us out there have thought about living alone and more often than not the thought can get daunting. What happens when you’re unwell? What happens when you get lonely? What happens when the spend exceeds the income? But dealing with these things is what makes you stronger. I know it has made me stronger. It’s not for everyone and I don’t say this in a condescending way. I know how I am not cut out for camping beyond 2 days. It’s just about being cognizant of the reality that you might not enjoy it as much but if you never try you will never know.

Quoting Eric Hanson:

“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”

The scariest decisions are the decisions that uplift you, boost your confidence, make you ferociously independent and prepare you for this uncertain journey called life. After everything, if nothing works out, you would have learned more about yourself and that’s an investment worth every penny.

 

 

My Ma, My Lorelei

For those who don’t know who Lorelei is, she’s one of the protagonists on the show ‘Gilmore Girls’ (the other being her daughter) that aired from 2000 – 2007. We, the awesome trio, my mom, my sister and I of course, were quite late to this party, almost 10 years late. But the beauty of the show is, it’s timeless. One will always face such situations in a household that has a mother and a daughter. In our mad household, we have two daughters! Dad is always outnumbered and with grandma too on our side, he hardly stands a chance. Secretly, I think he loves it.

Growing up, I was definitely scared of my mom. “Stand in the corner”, “no tears”, the look that said, “let the guests go and you’ve had it for saying something ridiculous”. Particularly the last point, I used to say very silly things. We fondly recollect one such memory often. We had visitors and my mother’s age came up. This is a very old story and all I remember doing was correcting her, in front of people, and oh boy, that was a bad decision. What I also remember is her waking up at 4.30am during my board exams because she wouldn’t want me to stay up alone. She’d make the best coffee and actually agree to read out a boring chapter from the Environmental Education or History text book. It’s a different thing she would get bored and give up in an hour but without fail, 4.30, every morning. I’m pretty sure this isn’t something unique to my mom. Many moms would have done this. Thankfully my mom knew when to stop! 😉

There were these dangling red colour earrings with a star droplet that was calling out to me in this jewellery store back in Bombay, India (my first home) but up until then I wasn’t allowed to wear long earrings. That day, my mom bought me my first pair. We haven’t looked back ever since. Our collection has just increased as the years have gone by and we end up buying even bigger, chunkier stuff now. These little things were the big things – buying earrings, getting waxed for the first time, buying your first gloss (I didn’t know a thing about gloss but I have a sister and that pretty much made up for my lack of fashion sense). Then the teenage years began where we started to go out, with ‘boys’ (biggest cause for concern), we were angry most of the time, at least I was and my family will instantaneously vouch for that, the phone calls, junior college phase. A lot changed, naturally. But my most favourite change has been the transition of my relationship with my mom. In the show, Lorelei has a daughter when she’s 16 years old and it’s a heartwarming story about their journey and how they’re essentially best friends. When Rory, her daughter, goes out with a boy for the first time, Lorelei pretends to be super cool because she’s been Rory’s friend all along and at that point she couldn’t flip out knowing well that that would amount to Rory not discussing anything about this boy with her. That would suck. Boys aren’t the only thing but at that age, they do attract your attention in a way that you may not always be able to control. Today, it’s a different story and oh my god, I’m so glad it’s a different story. But watching the show on repeat mode keeps me so close to my mom. Ma has had so much faith in the kind of human beings she has raised and because she’s the mother, we (my sister and I) can say we’re pretty kick-ass.

I can’t imagine not calling Ma and giving her gossip from all parts of the world (I have friends who are spread across the globe and are killing it in their respective cities) or telling her about how people can be so hard to deal with or how I made dal (lentils) and it tasted exactly like hers and it made me the happiest, or how terrible my date was and I was so glad it didn’t work out. She listens, she laughs, she cries, she makes so much fun of me, gives me some motherly advice but at the end of it she will always say, “Please go have fun.”

I recently moved to a new city and decided to fulfill my year long dream of living alone. When I moved, Ma was the most excited and said, “You’re doing things I couldn’t do but it doesn’t matter, I’m so proud of you.” This is it, this is what matters most in the world. Just like how at the end of every episode, Lorelei and Rory meet at Luke’s diner to have coffee and comfort food late at night.

– dedicated to my Ma, my Lorelei. I love you forever and for always and in ways that even words find incapable of describing. You give me the strength to take on the world and that wouldn’t have been possible had you not experienced taking on the universe already, time and again. More power to you, today and everyday. On a side note, here’s a humongous shout-out to all mothers and care takers. The reason I can be so fearless is because I have that kick-ass family backing me. Indebted, today, tomorrow and for the rest of my life. Thank you, so much!

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But I loved, you lusted

No forehead kiss,
No compliments to fish,
No corner of the eye looks to miss,

All he looked for was a moment alone
To kiss me, full blown
No affection shown

Holding my breasts, he’d say he wants more
No, no more, I’m sore
But we closed the door

He finishes and gets out of bed
I lie there, some tears I shed
Blame me, his hunger I fed

I wait there, wait to be hugged
Not just fucked
Some beer he chugged

So gorgeous, he couldn’t keep his eyes off of me
I watched him see
See me for what he wanted me to be

Blame me, for I didn’t say no
Didn’t say take it slow
I went with the flow

Are we in, are we out?
Are we a thing, are we not?
He said he needed to think, a lot

Days went by, we didn’t talk
The ship was never tied to the dock
Silly me, I could hear the universe mock

It’s done and dusted
My fault I trusted
I loved, you lusted

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I sold the Tutu

I’m like most of you when it comes to thinking about how certain things won’t ever happen me. I feel like I take precautions, I am able to read people well enough, I will figure it out if something isn’t right. Well, I did figure out something wasn’t right. But months later.

From where I come, (Mumbai, India), there’s this generic attitude of ”chalta hai’ which means ‘it’s okay, it’s not a big deal’. And I’ve grown up listening to that and seeing that more often than I’d like. I remember when I was much younger, I was on holiday with my parents and their friends. I was in a swimming pool with them and I felt an older gentleman feel me up. I was young but when someone touches you in a different manner, you can tell. I could too but I knew that if I made a noise about it, it would become a huge deal. I was a little worried about not being a 100% sure. So, just to confirm, I waited for him to do it again. And he did. And I burst out crying. And his wife/partner/sister did not defend him.

I used to travel to work in the local trains. I had to switch at a particular station which was allegedly known to have an indecent crowd. It was always a struggle – should I save my breasts or save my butt? One fine day, someone in the crowd pinched my butt. Reaction time was slow and if I were to point out to the wrong person in the crowd, that would be terrible. My boyfriend happened to be waiting at the station. I cried and made my way to him. He tried to console me and said, “It’s okay.” It wasn’t. But it happens to everyone and there was nothing either of us could do. I’m not even sure what I wanted him to say.

I travelled by public transport buses to college. One day, in a crowded bus, someone offered me their seat. Oh, that’s nice, I thought to myself. I could feel the stare. He had a great top view of my breasts. I avoided it. Tried to focus on something else. The first instinct is to avoid confrontation, if possible. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I screamed in Hindi asking him what he was looking at. The predictable answer – oh, nothing, nothing at all. I got up and walked over to the front of the bus. I cried. I had created a scene, I had defended my honour but I was scared and I cried. It’s okay though, happens to everyone.

A year ago, I went out a couple of times with somebody. Only recently, on reevaluating a few incidents, I figured that it was borderline abusive. I think that the time lapse helped me deal with it better and the thought did cross my mind that why did I ever discover it. He once called me over on the pretext of watching a movie. This was at 10pm. He had a car and lived close by but he asked me to take an Uber. I agreed but on discussing it with my roommate I realized that he could have come to pick me up. This was in the initial months of me having moved to the US and just out of courtesy, if he really cared about me at all, he would offer. I have friends who do that all the time. If I drove and owned a car, I’d do it too. When I called him back and said no, I’m not taking an Uber, he immediately said okay be ready I’ll be there in 5 minutes. I really did want to watch the movie. Me saying, “Let’s watch the movie, I want to watch the movie” was completely ignored. I used more words instead of a loud and clear “No.” So, I guess it was my fault for being naive and wanting to watch a movie. No? NO. I just see the nicest things a person has to offer first. I give every person several chances and yes, probably dating him wasn’t the smartest brightest idea but what I got in return was not commensurate with my investment. He made me wash my hands because I touched a dog at the university campus. He would tell me how my perfume was awful and I should consider getting something else (more than once). We went to a store to pick up a Halloween costume and he made me buy a tutu. Funny thing, he said he’d pay for it but he didn’t. I did. And I went with it. I wore it. And I don’t need to tell you the rest. I cried. I had a friend from back home who stepped in at the right time and started talking to me. I can’t thank him enough for his impeccable timing.

When I discussed the whole movie scenario with some people, I vaguely remember a comment on the lines of oh, you really thought he wanted to watch a movie? This is what guys do. It’s normal.

I’m sorry but if disrespecting a woman’s wishes and not letting her do what she wants to do is ‘normal’ then I’ll gladly choose to befriend the most abnormal people on the planet. My point is, it is NOT okay. Just because you or I can’t do something about situations doesn’t make it an acceptable one. Next time, don’t tell any victim of any kind of abuse, however marginal it might be, that it’s okay. Express empathy and let them express their anger, frustration and any other emotions they might be going through. The subtlety of things does not make it okay. The issue is, he probably doesn’t even know that he was being borderline abusive. Why? Because ‘it’s okay.’

My heart and support goes out to anyone, irrespective of your sex, who has ever been in any situation where they didn’t feel like they had a voice or they felt ‘guilty’ for saying anything in the first place. Believe me, I know of friends who’ve had it worse and they are the most beautiful people in the entire universe. They fought and they grow stronger every single day. People do have it worse, but that doesn’t mean what happens to you ‘is okay’. It is not. And if you ever need someone to reach out to, I’ll be right here and I’ll provide you with all the ammunition you need to fight.

In the meanwhile, I think I’ve learned to say no, I sold the tutu and got my hard earned money back and I’m very close to becoming Ironwoman! 😀