Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Writing My First Will and Testament

Image courtesy The British Library 

Children do not ordinarily think of death. It could reside in the way we wish to shield them from an inevitability that usually causes pain and grief. It could be because of the average man's own fear of death. It could also be because of the sheer newness of life the dwells in each child's body that almost separates them from this reality. One would of course have to be quite heartless to think of a child leaving the world so soon. King Theoden in a moving scene from the Lord of the Rings (the movie) is overcome with emotion at the grave of his son Theodred, where he laments, "No parent should have to bury their child".

For children of my generation however, death for once came really close when several of their beloved characters died in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. The books frequently reference the departed Potters who die a sudden but miserable death, leaving behind their only child Harry who continues to experience its wrath all through his years at Hogwarts. The end of Cedric, Sirius, Dumbledore, Dobby, Fred (perhaps most heartbreaking in my opinion, though each death was sorrowful for its own reasons), Tonks, Lupin, and many more solidify Rowling's claim that there is more to life than mortality. Indeed, there is more to mortality than death. Sure, by the time the series became popular, we had already seen Mufasa's horrific plunge in The Lion King, feeling just as helpless as little Simba. We had also cried silently for Bambi's separation from his hunted mother. Death was in those moments a painful knot that rose in our hearts, marking the sudden absence of love that had fed us for so long. The knot loosened significantly with each happy turn (and there were always happy turns). But Rowling perhaps for the first time showed us the intricacies of loss. She never consoled Harry, that is, she never consoled us. As children we processed the build up, shock, denial, anger, guilt, and acceptance of various separations in a way that mirrored Harry's own struggle through them.

It is in one of those moments of finality when the Minister of Magic reads The Last Will and Testament of Albus Dumbledore to Harry, Ron, and Hermione, that I realized how death can be simple yet be surrounded by affairs as mundane as leaving behind possessions to the world. For the first time in my life, I really thought of death. And so, I thought of life. I thought of all those tangibles that I would leave and whether their distribution would provide some relief, some solace to those who loved me. Could this distribution be an exercise in coping? More importantly, why hoard assets in the deceased's home when they will certainly be of use (or at least be of sentimental value) to some close friend or family? And then I realized how one can also be selfish in death! Does one truly think of the other in such fanciful flights? Undoubtedly there will be a part of us that would always fear, always care for the well-being of those who mourn us, but we also momentarily revel in the loss that our demise would create. A thought as natural as who would attend my funeral? Am I really cared and loved for?

What if you were to drop dead this very instant? The fall would be tremendous. If in the measure of years you are a novice, you will be mourned for all that did not come to pass. A recent health scare pushed me to re-evaluate the 25 or so odd years of my existence, and I struggled with this very question. And so I planned to write my First Will and Testament, that may also be considered my last, should lightning strike. The document would be neither complete nor legal (and before you get your hopes up, it will not be published here for the world to see!). Now that I think about it, I wonder whether all my worldly possessions are even mine to give away? All those books neatly arranged and worshipped, each piece of jewellery added over the years, every cloth that graced my back... Not to mention folders overflowing with cards and letters, research notes, virtual intellectual property...! The list is endless, and painfully materialistic. But in humouring the thought of leaving for my heavenly abode, whether there exists such a place (or am I eternally damned?), I encourage others to embrace death "as an old friend" (cue The Tale of the Three Brothers). Making a Will, irrespective of your age, would be a good start. And while my Will would be nowhere near a "preparation" for death, there is a conscious realization that it will be an eventuality. I will die. Others will die. Close friends and family will die. They would all be different deaths, but they would be - deaths!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why the Indian Beauty Blogging world kinda sucks!

Image courtesy Wedding Bee

Without sounding (too) whiny, I would like to talk about an issue that has concerned many of us bloggers in the past. I would specifically like to address the beauty blogging world in India. Recent forums like "Beauty Bloggers' Confessions" on Facebook have become yet another place for nasty comments to fester. What was discussed in bitchy detail within the confines of private messaging is now out in the open, so I hope that what I write in the following paragraphs is an acid-free, honest, and heartfelt expression of what I have felt for a long, long time.

What I am saying is through my own personal experience, and this does not necessarily mean that you must agree with me. It is perfectly alright for you to have a completely opposite take on the entire issue at hand.

I began blogging many years ago because of two reasons. The first was my intent of writing things that might be of interest to the world. When I say "the world", I do not mean millions of readers who would make me an online celebrity. Even if my thoughts resonated with one solitary person, I would consider myself to be of some consequence as a writer. As I'm beginning to sound like a rather sad school teacher now, I would like to move on to the next reason.

The second reason is perhaps more important because it does not involve being a narcissistic snob. I blogged to read more. There was a time when I was an avid reader of books, and there were people who told me how useless that was. My interest in books waned over time, and I panicked at my lack of reading. One fine day however I chanced upon the blogging world. I was slightly taken aback. It seemed like an intrusion, almost like you're reading someone's personal diary or journal. The frequent updates were exciting and thrilling, and it gave a strange, voyeuristic pleasure to trace and follow what someone else was doing. So, I began to read.

The earliest blogs I read were by teenager girls not unlike myself. Half of them wrote about their friends, where they vacationed in summer, their crushes, their long list of problems that certainly meant the world was ending... Then there were the serious ones who blogged about more real problems that really did mean the world was ending. But both got old and depressing after a while, and I began looking for a sunnier place. There were food blogs, mommy blogs, blogs about travel and photography, and... and... and then I saw heaven! Right there, in its infancy, was the tiny world of beauty blogging! The photos were blurry, posts erratic, and reviews uninformed. But there they were, these handful of people who were talking about makeup and skincare, posting about products available locally, posting for the definitive "Indian woman". I began to spend a lot of time online reading these posts and leaving comments, and the small circle of bloggers and readers soon began to grow.

As the numbers increased, the content on the blogs became infinitely richer. People began meeting up, contests and giveaways were organised, and lengthy, friendly discussions began occupying the comments section. It became every bit of the cliched "happy family", just that we never realized how some things really are too good to be true.

I sensed some discomfort within myself when there emerged apparent groups within the beauty blogging world. Some of the readers were loyal, fiercely so, and any slight on the part of any rival blogger began to be taken very seriously. Snide comments and personal jokes became a regular feature, and even readers with whom I spoke expressed how weary it was all getting. Bloggers began competing for high-end products and often I wondered whether this left any space for the ubiquitous "Indian woman". Competition was rife, and while some blogs became brands in themselves, some of the smaller ones who were in it for some fun began to suffer from undue pressure.

Several other problems emerged as things took a sour turn. I can only speak for myself, what I saw. I began to notice how the quality of posts on some blogs deteriorated significantly. There seemed to be a complete dearth of novel ideas. Writing became shoddier, and I wondered whether there was any editing involved at all. The posts began to look like they were uploaded straight from the drafting stage. I also noticed how uncritical the comments were, praising every damn thing that the beauty blogger would say. And that is when I saw past the smokescreen. There were no genuine friendships there! In fact, it would be completely naive to believe so in the first place. What was happening was nothing short of a full-fledged business, I scratch your back and you scratch mine. All this and more, until the seemingly cold-war among beauty bloggers burst forth in the most grotesque manner possible. I began to lose heart, and soon stopped commenting. My doubts were reconfirmed when beauty bloggers stopped commenting on my blog as soon as I stopped commenting on theirs! So very sad! All in all, I could not commit myself to one clique, and felt sorry for the beautiful beauty blogging scene as it once was.

This left a bad taste in my mouth. The bad taste turned awful when I approached a trusted blogger friend. I requested her to publish a few articles written by a close friend of mine who was in need of some money. The blogger in question asked me to email the content, which my friend did. There was no response from said blogger. I called her repeatedly, but she stopped answering my calls altogether and has till date never got back in touch. All this after we spoke so often over the phone and even met each other on several occasions! Very disappointing indeed!

At least for me, beauty blogging was now officially a massive bitch-fest, and I hated it with a vengeance. I withdrew into a shell, not wanting to have anything to do with anyone from that glittery world. I deleted all bloggers and readers from my Facebook page, and stopped interacting with them everywhere. The disgust I had was so intense that I could not bring myself about to even log in to my own account and write! You can see how sporadic I have been!

Much time has passed since all this happened. I don't religiously follow any blog. If there is something I wish to look up, I use trusty Google. I don't really care what blog it leads me to. Perhaps the beauty blogging world is too big for me now. I do not associate with it at all. There are a few people whom I still think about, and I wonder what they are up to now. There are some who continue to write well, who do it for the pure joy it gives them. They have an established and steady fan following. I sneak up on them sometime, like a ghost, not leaving any mark. But it is a long lost love!

I'll remember beauty blogging for the happier times, when it was more real. When I could write for whomever I wanted, and post my pictures without breaking into a sweat.

With this I end my eulogy. A mourning for what once was, and what it sadly became!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Sad Tears, Happy Tears

Yesterday, I could have given some serious competition to Cheshire Cat. My incessant grinning caused a lot of amusement to all, and every person I ran into could not help but exclaim how happy I looked. Yes, I was so uncontrollably happy! It felt like I had downed an entire vial of Felix Felicis!

However, yesterday was also the day I experienced a singular profound moment that left me with intense and perhaps irreparable grief.

A close friend and I were meeting after a few days. Not a long time, but long enough for several things to have happened (if that is the kind of chaotic life you have!). I hugged her tight. "I'm so happy! I'm so very happy!". Then with a blink, my lashes turned wet and I swooned like a drunk. I was so happy!

Over time, the two of us had led ourselves to believe that our lives ran parallel. The similarity was uncanny and on some occasions, also very eerie. She smiled at my giddy state. Being surrounded by people, we found no opportunity to have a heart to heart. When it was time to leave, I gave her another tight hug and grinned all the way home.

Later that night, we spoke for a while. "I broke down many times today. That's why I kept going out of the room", she said. And then with the passing of each second, the twisted cruelty of it all stabbed me repeatedly.

I no longer believe that being similar is important. Or that finding these similarities is of any consequence.

Monday, February 13, 2012

What To Choose?

It was a small school with not many children. They were all bound by something primitive, but no one could explain what it was. The lonely topper met a companion. The misunderstood prefect found an agreeable friend. Even the ruthless sports captain glimpsed into the long repressed tenderness within.

Then, on the first day of the new session, she enrolled. Curiously though, there wasn't a tremor of excitement in the air. Her addition was as inconspicuous as a drop of water falling into sand. The week passed by rather dully.

It was only after she had memorized the labyrinthine corridors and location of classes that she became more aware of her living surroundings- her classmates. Why were they all in pairs? Not alone, not in groups of three or more, but in pairs. She looked to her left and saw two girls digging into a small bowl of fruit. A few swift steps would have led her to them but barely had she taken the first one when the bell rang.

Her next attempt was later that day. The class was standing beside the basketball court, waiting to be sorted into teams by the coach. He called out a boy's name, who stepped out with a girl by his side. They both walked to the right of the court. A pair of boys walked to the left. With the calling of every name came forward not one child, but two. And so the teams were made. She went unnoticed.

Her back was wet with cold sweat and something fell very rapidly within her. It felt like she was thrown off a cliff into a deep abyss. She mustered the strength to lightly touch her coach's shoulder. As he turned and she opened her mouth to speak, something large hit her left ear, and everything merged together in a deafening silence.

There was darkness everywhere when she opened her eyes. Someone has turned off the lights. She heard nothing either. Was she safe at home now, resting till she felt better? Her lips moved to call out to her mother, but not a sound came out. Her back responded to her desire of getting up, but she still felt like she was lying down. Her arms flailed aimlessly on the side. Every step she took planted her right back where she was. Hot tears brimmed over until her head ached, and as she closed her eyes to soothe the pain, she saw a vivid flash of green. Her eyes flung open and she was surrounded by darkness once more. She let her lids drop again, and this time she heard the sound of a fresh chalk writing across a board.

Every moment awake was inky black. Every moment shut away was unnaturally vivid, and yet she chose to lie there in that nucleus of nothingness, eyelids forced open, except when they fell shut on their own accord, too tired to bear the weight.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Oral Pleasures

Freud said that the mouth is an errogenous zone; and being "obsessed" with lip biting, lipsticks and kissing, who am I to disagree? (I'm leaving out certain things here!)

A couple of months back, I had this strong urge to light up a ciggie. There were some issues in my life that just wouldn't resolve and I was pretty much on tenterhooks. As much as I despised the horrible smelling grey smoke, I was drawn to it more and more. I would swoon whenever a friend lit up around me. Remember those old Disney cartoons where delicious smells wafted out of the oven and hypnotised the hungry? That's exactly what was happening to me! I had a sutta or two and allowed my throat to scratch up..

Thanks to the horrible fear I have of wrecking my skin, I gave up smoking without really giving it much of a shot.
And what would I do without certain people who threatened to kill me if I became addicted?

Image via Flickr

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sitting Alone, Thinking About Companionship!

My friends have always complained that I think too much. It can't be helped, thoughts consume me! When I'm not introspecting, I'm wondering about other people, their behaviour, what motivates them to act the way they do...

Is that why I've always been comfortable being alone? I have never felt lonely. To me, solitude equals solace.

In the past few weeks, however, my thoughts have largely hovered around companionship. I'll squarely blame my friends for this! All of a sudden, they seem to be marrying or at least getting engaged. Now how is that supposed to make a single girl feel?

Like a pendulum, I fluctuate.

While I feel relieved for still having many years ahead of me that are mine, I also crave someone who I can chew off in times of need. (Statement open to all forms of interpretation!).

But, it's only natural. Remember how as kids we were taught that human beings are "social animals"? We just aren't meant to live alone. Unlike tigers, who only mingle with their kind in the mating season, humans find it absolutely comforting to be surrounded by loving, caring friends and family. Now, I do have all of that, but the I need more; and I'm pretty sure when I do have more, I'll wish for something else!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I sort people into categories. Over the past seven months, new ones have been created all thanks to my work-out sessions at the gym.

Gimme my medicine! *snort* *snort*

The Gorillas 
You know you've spotted a gorilla when you see someone with short legs and huge, muscular arms that stick out on the sides. Said arms remain stationary and move only to make that bottle of protein shake after the usual two hour work out. They have the ability to flex muscles in front of the mirror all day. Will go to any lengths to make others feel their biceps. Also known as The Frogs.

More! More!

The Screamers
The Screamers lift weights that are a hundred kilos too heavy for them. As a result, the gym resonates with their raucous grunts and snorts at regular intervals. You'll always find them bossing around the little helpers at the gym. They are never seen on treadmills, cycles or elliptical trainers but always found in the heavy weights section where regular mortals don't usually dare to venture.

Can you tell that I just worked out?!

The Sweaters
No, these aren't your regular woollen sweaters. These sweaters leave gigantic watery puddles all over the place. Equipment used by them is forever submerged in litres of salty sweat. Their clothes are wet, translucent and capable of putting at least one fully grown skunk to shame. Ironically, they never carry a towel.

Aah! Yeah!

The Moaners
This category is exclusively for the most out-of-shape members of the female species. They stick around the gym instructors like flies to a honey pot. When made to do the simplest of exercises, they bite their lips and contort their faces. Orgasmic moans follow. Innocent people outside the gym usually wonder what shady work goes on inside.

Middle Aged Men Pretending To Work Out.. They're usually retired and balding. They walk at 4 kmph but their real interest lies elsewhere. With eyes wandering all over the place, they glance frequently at the mirrors to check out that cute chick with the tight ass in the other corner of the gym. Relatively harmless.

What you starin' at?

The Starer
There is usually only one such person per gym. He goggles at others (usually with a startled expression) as if it's going out of fashion. Leaves no stone unturned in making you feel like you've got a giant worm coming out of your nose.
Then there is the other starer. He's usually the horniest guy in the gym and wants to ask you out before you can say "rape". He follows you around and wants to use the cycle just as you begin pedalling. Also known as the Gym Stalker.

Land Grabbers
You know squatters? They build homes on government property and refuse to relocate. Same is the case with Land Grabbers. They sprawl themselves over yoga mats in any free corner of the gym and spread their paraphernalia around them. Then you know they aren't gonna move for at least a couple of weeks.

The Slackers
Slackers roam around aimlessly in the gym with a distant expression on their face. Their clothes are crisp and devoid of sweat and their towels still reek of fabric softener. They sigh excessively and work out for not more than three minutes per machine. Any motivation to linger on is met with self-doubt and then some more sighing.

Blue Moons
Every gym has not one, but multiple Blue Moons. They usually show up only to renew their horribly expensive yearly membership. No instructor knows their names and even the receptionist greets them with, "So would you like to enroll in our gym?".

Mama says I'm pretty

Desperate Strugglers
The Desperate Struggler is either an obese woman trying to lose weight or a spindly man trying to gain muscle. Both religiously follow their routine, in vain. Eventually, they join the category of Blue Moons.

I just lost five kgs!

The Attention Seekers
Their necklines are a little too low and shorts a little too high. With clothes so tight, it's possible to make out the contours of organs. The slightest stretching means free porn for everybody.

Which category do you belong to?

Images via Wikipedia