Customary New Year Post: 2018-19 ed.

Hello, peeps! I hope you’re all doing well. 

I didn’t write or read nearly enough in 2018.

But then again, 2018 was no ordinary year. (Also customary year end posts are convenient ideas, easy to write and a good way to wrap things up)

I graduated as a lawyer. Spent some months working for an Advocate I have looked up to as a role model since my earliest days as a student of law. I got a job. I lost a great deal of weight. (This is not an achievement, but the successful exercise of self-restraint is) I made some amazing friends and managed to stay in touch with the old ones. I did my best to be there for friends who were going through a hard time.

I also received heaps of rejections – from employers, and from people I thought were friends. I struggled with a toxic relationship, and then a painful and  taxing end to the same. I saw my mother battle with unimaginable physical pain, undergo surgery and a strenuous recovery. I got chicken pox in June and serious GI issues is October.

This has been an eventful year, to say the least. But as it comes to an end, I feel grateful for what it taught me.

I spent months looking for employment, and read countless emails of rejection. But my confidence did not waver. Not because I have great self-confidence – I have only trace amounts, I assure you.  I managed to plough through only because of the incredible support I had from friends and family – who checked-up on me, encouraged me, made me laugh, listened patiently if I whined, and most importantly, were never patronising.  I will always, always be grateful to these people, for holding my hand and patting my back and lending an ear (and a shoulder!) as I waded through those trying months.

The many months of struggle also forced me to think about my own ideas of achievement and success. Did I define them for myself, or did I allow myself to be influenced by all the noise around me? Are my parameters of success the same as ones for the boy sitting next to me? Can I measure out my individual milestones in monetary terms? What compromises am I okay with and what are the things for which I am unwilling to bend? These are questions I never asked myself, because I was so busy running.

But then there was a (seemingly) long period when everything seemed to be in limbo – suspended mid air where there was little action left for me to initiate. In that void I could no longer deflect these questions. This, too, I am grateful for. I’d rather know my stance today than discover it at a time when I cannot turn back. Or when the damage is already done. In fact, it worries me now that we are not encouraged to have these conversations with ourselves before making our choices. All the emphasis is on milestones that can be measured in empirical terms – marks, money, balance, promotions. No wonder we have one of the highest suicide rates in the world. I don’t have to lean left to recognise the problem here.

But this post is where I count my blessings. So here’s another one. I have immediate access to wise (and impartial) counsel on my phone. Not an app, no. I find encouragement and counsel (and a lot of laughs. and book recommendations) from some wonderfully wise and phenomenally mad ladies on a Whatsapp Group. We like to think of ourselves as four misfits who belong here, complete with all of our idiosyncrasies and flaws. One of them is my favorite-est storyteller of all time. Another is a wonder woman who can save the world by simply writing code. The third is one gifted with the ability to dissect a situation that seems chaotic, identify a pattern and offer a solution. The fourth, of course, is yours truly. We are the antithesis to Fight Club. We all like to read, we hate wearing pants, love to eat but have shitty metabolism rates. We want to have a social life but wish that was possible to accomplish in our PJs, inside our homes. You may find these women lurking around on this blog every once in a while.

Then there was the MeToo movement, which, for all its strengths and flaws, finally gave me the push to talk about my experience with sexual assault. Social Media allowed me to share my story anonymously with thousands of people. Despite some toxicity here and there, I found a sisterhood of women all of whom share a similar history. And there I found the courage to speak more openly, without the veil of anonymity. And that was cathartic.

MeToo also made me realise that I’m surrounded by extraordinary women in my life. Women who’ve shown courage, compassion and wisdom in the face of adversity and heartache. Women who embody the true spirit of feminism, which at its core, is about empathy more than it is about empowerment.

I also coloured my hair pink, which didn’t work out well and the colour bled too fast and I was left with weird blond hair with the texture of a much abused broom. I chopped it off and swore I’d never color my hair again. But I did. A burgandy+mahogany thing. And I love it. Good thing I was a putty in the hands of the rather charismatic hairstylist who was simply supposed to trim my split-ends.

I also did not purchase any perfumes this year. Not myself, anyway. I did convince the mother to buy one. But that was on duty free, okay? It’s criminal to walk away from a good deal on Chanel.

Ultimately, 2018 has left me with a thicker skin and a more hopeful heart. I wish you all a joyous new year. I wish you emotional and financial independence above all else. And good health to you and your families.

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My Parents On Tinder (For Parents)

Yes, you read that right. My parents went through profiles, swiped left, swiped right. They chatted, got excited, got ghosted and ghosted some others. The whole production.

But Tinder is too immature for them. Plus they’re both already married so their life is sorted. The project is to get me married. So they’ve been busy checking out Tinder for Parents, aka shaadi.com (and the likes, especially ones dedicated to the peculiar species of TamBrahms).

I resisted the idea for the longest time, because I didn’t and still don’t find anything very exciting about the prospect of sharing a bathroom with someone for the rest of my life while being forced to tolerate (even if I choose not to give into them) several patriarchal expectations within the household. Like the rest of the world wasn’t enough. But there was a little arm twisting, some cajoling and just general exhaustion with the frequent arguments. And I acceded. What’s the worst that could happen any way, especially considering my parents are the last people in the world to force me into marriage?

So, with the blessings of some greying relatives, my parents began the search. Their filters for choosing boys included age, education, job prospects and the absence of too many sisters because my mother’s experience with sister-in-laws has not been very pleasant, to say the least. That’s the starting point. Then the men are rated on a scale of “patriarchal bastard” to “decent human being”. To my parents’ credit, they’ve rejected more men on Tamil Matrimony in one month than I rejected on Tinder in six.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, because on matrimonial websites people are more honest about their expectations from women, and you rarely find horny self proclaimed “sapiosexuals” on it. The simple demands from an ideal Indian bride may be summarised as follows (In points because I attended a CBSE school):

  1. Modern yet traditional (Meaning jeans might be allowed but no drinking or late nights)
  2. Good looking (euphemism for fair and thin)
  3. Should have excellent career prospects but with “family values” so strong that she always chooses the home over the office
  4. Must partner with the man to take care of his family (Also take over household duties when the maid vanishes). The bride’s family doesn’t matter, of course

In return for all this, some men are gracious enough to add a line about how they’re quite okay should the woman decide to continue work after marriage.

And while the expectations from the bride are almost always explained in great detail, there is rarely anything mentioned about what they’re willing to offer in a marriage. That is left for the prospective brides to deduce from the annual salaries mentioned on the profile.

I had smartly requested my parents (for entirely selfish reasons) to give preference to men who own pets (because doggos are the best) and those living in Mumbai (because I want the “main maike chali jaaungi” threat to sound real)

My parents thought the whole exercise would be fun, because they aren’t in any particular hurry for this marriage business. However, they found themselves perilously close to losing their faith in mankind. “Man”kind.  There were hardly any who met the simple benchmarks of “don’t be an ass” or “be half the man my Dad is.”

But, because my intention here (unlike what it seems) is not male bashing, let me admit that everyone was not an asshole (at least on paper). There were some who were, you know, nice.

Well, sort of.

I had the (mis)fortune of talking to two of them. Let me tell you about them.

Prospective Groom #1

Let’s call him MM.

I spoke to him for about 20 minutes one evening. He owns some business which makes these super cool semiconductors. They must be really cool because he didn’t utter one sentence in those 20 minutes which didn’t mention the word semiconductor. Reminded me of this old colleague of mine who’d graduated from Princeton and could never have a conversation without mentioning Princeton at least once.

At the end of the 20 minutes, he asked if we could “proceed with the alliance.” When I suggested there was no way I could answer that after just once phone call, he assumed I had an issue with his “background.” I assured him that wasn’t the case.

From the next day, I promptly received a “Good Morning” and “Good Night” forward on WhatsApp every single day. I had to say Good Bye the next week. I have no doubt he was a nice person, just not someone I could imagine holding a conversation with without freuquent and inordinate awkward silences.

Prospective Groom #2

Let’s call him PS.

PS seemed harmless at first. He was rather funny and polite enough and understood these decisions regarding matrimony took time. Eventually I discovered hidden land mines and then he dropped grenades and he even owned a Glock.

  1. He insinuated I was considering him as a groom because I wanted a green card to move to the US (Did I mention the fellow lives in the States?)
  2. Couldn’t stop talking about what an amazing cook his mother is. Which is great but kinda weird if mentioned 10874859 times in every conversation.
  3. He seemed unable to wrap his mind around why I’d want to do an LLM and then look for a job if I did end up moving to the States. I mean, he earns well so it makes no sense that I’d like to have a career too, right?
  4. He made fun of HIV patients.
  5. He kept munching on chips the whole fucking time we spoke. Every time. I have no issues with people eating, and call me old school but it’s basic decency to at least pretend that you take this call seriously. I’d hear the crunch of the chips more often than his voice.

5 is a nice number so I’ll stop here.

This process has made me want to actively start looking for men to date. The other day I found myself ogling at the men at the bar, wondering if the looks thrown my way were arrogant or charming. And if they smelled nice. And if they’d listen to 90s Bollywood songs with me. (And other things but the parents also read this blog sometimes). Meanwhile my parents are exhausted at the end of this experience and for the time being, they’ve just given up. I shimmied a little in joy.

The search is on, and I am sure this is hardly the end of my trysts with the arranged marriage conundrum. I shall fasten my seatbelt and hopefully learn to laugh at myself (and others, of course) along the way.

 PS – Sorry for the long absence from this delightful space. In my defence I am just an exam away from being a lawyer! LLB Twiggy ❤