The digitization of life is getting very real. From the next mobile phone to buy to movies to catch on date night, recommendations and ratings have become the de facto way of decision making. I am all for it. Even if it means sifting through reams of nonsense written by frustrated souls who were meted out ‘unsatisfactory’ service. After all, it is the triumph of democracy for everyone’s voices to be heard, no matter how insipid or colourful. I never imagined there would be a day when I would complain.
But I am now. After embarrassing and sometimes just plain infuriating experiences and exchanging shared moments of despair with fellow 26 year old girls of ‘marriegeable’ age.
What HAS gotten into the boys and girls (or more appropriately, men and women) of my generation? We keep looking for a better deal/package/any other half offensive term for a potential partner. Without disparaging the entire institution of arranged marriage, a year into the search, I can’t help feeling that the entire exercise is just an accepted display of pomposity, narcissim and blatant insensitivity.
For those fortunate enough to not have gone through this experience, let me break it down for you. Single (and sometimes non-single) ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ parents register their children (or occasionally, the prospective bride or groom register themselves ) on matrimonial websites – monstrously larger versions of the good old newspaper that our grandparents relied on to get their children married. Filling out the profile listing physical attributes , hobbies, family background and the all important professional (read: ‘pay’) information follow.I must credit the search box here: the all important tool to find the dream partner, trumping even Google’s advanced search features. High potential prospective spouse identified, a few months of approved dating follows, which eventually might lead to marriage.
The result of such a high tech approach to an age old tradition? A never ending search..the next rishta will be the perfect one after all- a guy with a higher salary or a better looking girl from a more respectable family. And thus the long tail phenomenon from business school theory entered my life.
While I was just steadying myself to a good long search, my friend broke the news of her impending divorce to me yesterday. No prizes for guessing whether it was an arranged match. And so it happens that on Valentine’s Day, I am left to ponder the role and nature of love/romance in my life. Am I doomed forever to a life of selfish love? Is it because of what I let myself be privy to? Or am I going to be as lucky as my parents, grandparents and the previous ten generations of my family and defy the Amazonification of my life and find true love?
As an Indian professional working in Singapore and having a largely Indian friends’ circle, I often hear rants about the sterile life in Singapore. The ‘kiasu’ attitude of people and the stark contrast between life here and back in India. I usually jump to the defense of the city-state that in most ways has become home to me.
Undoubtedly Singapore has its fallacies. Most people you come across at a bus stop/MRT are immersed in their smartphones, rarely glancing up at you. Another popular complaint is the lack of empathy projected by the citizens. Accidents don’t cause mass panic, a crowd doesn’t congregate around the mishap site and after a moment of shock, people go on with their lives. As a young state (just 50 years old), the culture is an assimilation rather than indigeneous.
Yet none of this bothers me. As a place where I can get out of the airport well after midnight and hop into a cab, I never worry about reaching home safely. The apparently emotionless young mother melts as soon as she sees you smiling at her 2 year old daughter. The old aunty on the bus flashes a big smile at you when you offer her your seat (never mind that sitting on a reserved seat, you were obliged to do so anyway). The cabbie excitedly suggests great cafes you should visit when you ask for advice.
My first hostel experience, my first experience alone was in this city. I lived in the most scenic of campuses for a year, experiencing ‘uni’ life for the first time. I grew up, made mistakes and learnt to feel gratitude. I set up my own home here.
Don’t get me wrong, being Indian matters to me hugely. Culturally I’m still very Indian. I feel most comfortable talking in Hindi or Indian English to someone from Mumbai. Yet, it is here that I learnt to talk to people from backgrounds different from my own. It was in this neutral environment that my Chinese best friend told me what life is like in her hometown. Singapore offered me the comfort of my own background, yet gave me a plethora of opportunities to discover new cultures. The beauty lies in the fact that so many different cultures flourish so beautifully and independently of one another.
The next time another one of my friends complains about life here, I will refuse to get drawn into an argument and stay content with shaking my head in disbelief.
Unexpected moments of calm take me by surprise. Especially when I return from work early to catch a wink of sleep after a couple of intense days. Being the perennially uptight type, I surmise that sleep, however necessary, will elude me. Yet, I decide to take a walk in the large swathe of greenery that I am fortunate to be surrounded by. The park where I want to spend entire days in, reading and cycling , and that I look toward, with wistful eyes from my kitchen window as I set about my routine.
I sense that everyone in the park is looking at me, eyes filled with wonder. On a weekday, here ?- glances from strangers question me. My inertia overcome at long last, I feel like a bird set free from a cage. I explore hitherto untrodden paths. I see families loading their bicycles onto their cars, smiles lighting up their faces.
A wooden bridge leads me to I know not where. The canopy walk, as its called, indeed lives upto its name. Initially, I tread carefully as I maneuver the uneven blocks that line the hanging walkway. I see a couple of joggers and then a group of cyclists. I feel gay and throw my unnecessary restraint to the winds. I run till I pant. I stand still and soak in the atmosphere.
I come away rejuvenated, all my exhaustion forgotten.
Life..the one word that encapsulates every emotion, every event, every success and failure we experience. Life is too short to give up on. I don’t refer to the number of days we have on earth. I refer instead to the days our mental and physical faculties are in our control. I have experienced five years of life, of struggling to cope, achieving success and then almost losing it all. Through a period I considered an ordeal, I learned to appreciate them all – every moment that felt normal. For every day that I did not have to take medication( that was potent enough to make me shiver for a whole two days), I learned to appreciate the wonder of being strong. I literally had wings that enabled me to soar above the mundane, imagine what was not. By some miracle, I was given the chance to experience all that I dreamed of, long after I gave up. Providence I call it. Some call it mental strength. Yet others proclaim it to be the gift that others gifted to me.
Getting a second chance at a regular life should seem like a good enough reason to never falter again, to never doubt God, to never tempt fate. But I am human. I have stumbled, again and again. In this, my new life, it hasn’t been destiny as much as me,myself that made mistakes. I am not proud of my errors in judgement. I would never repeat them. But over my tribulations and the good times, I know I am human. And its acceptable to vacillate between the black, the white and the grey. Its just not okay to give up on myself.
Life to me is best led as a phoenix. Life is too short to not arise from the ashes and take flight again.
A 3 day weekend just ended. It alternated between periods of utter desperation to have a fantastically fun-filled weekend and actually having fun. As always, the fun came from unexpected quarters and unforeseen activities. I rediscovered the joys of sitting down with a fat bound book in a library. Ah, the comfort of knowing how many pages remain to be devoured. That transitioned to an evening catching up with friends I hadn’t met for months and sitting by the quay side. I expected peace; instead, frustration was the predominant feeling I experienced. Morning brought more hopes; a day of utter bliss with baking and singing followed. I felt at peace with myself. A wonderful week to look forward to..
My chirpy and cheery mood persisted till the next morning. Got some serious work done, lay the foundation to undertake a few more tasks that I had put off until now. Lunch cemented my feeling of completeness; a great set of friends at work, an awesome boss and challenging work that I nevertheless managed to get the hang of.
A mail followed, bringing the tides of that inevitable goof up I had committed. To top it, I had dragged someone into my mess.Now? Would my work be relegated to the trash can? Would anyone ever trust me with anything important EVER again? My boss would be so disappointed in me. A couple of hours of intense ‘how do I fix this’ introspection followed. And then I bounced back.
The mantra that never fails to cheer me after a bad day: a newspaper (I mean the online news, I’m not quite as technologically illiterate as I sound), some chocolate, lilting music, a ‘this is going nowhere’ conversation with my ex, and simply letting my stress spill onto paper. I’m feeling better already. And certainly ready to meet the consequences of my goof up.
Is this torrent of roller coaster emotions ‘NORMAL’? Crossing over from stressed out to sorted out in mere seconds?
So the settling in period is over. I have moved into my apartment – a place I can call my own for the first time in my life. I have started working at what promises to be a great company. And this is with a complete Devil wears Prada’s ‘Miranda Priestly’ type boss. Doesn’t life seem exciting?
But all the novelty in my life notwithstanding, I have also been thinking. (Anyone rolling their eyes here?) I am remembering the emotional excesses I go through each time I shift base. Whether it is moving from school to school, or changing sections or a new job or city, I dread the move more than almost anything in my life. I abhor straying out of my comfort zone. Meeting new people and experiencing new cultures may have been romanticized to the utmost in literature and cinema, but I never enjoy the insecurity of it all. More than the excitement associated with the newness, I am reluctant to let go of what I’m leaving behind.
This time around, my Mumbai phase was especially eventful. A tad bit late to the adventure phase- wasn’t it supposed to be the teenage years or for the more conservative, the early 20’s- I goofed up sufficient times to be called ‘cool’. I thought I had fallen in love- with absolutely the worst type of guy I could have found myself. I suffered through one wild party after another and almost started enjoying it, till I returned to my senses and ‘found myself’. I cringed at the thought of leaving my ‘adda’ to start work in an industry that was alien to me.
Until the present that is. After all the usual drama at the Mumbai airport while saying my goodbyes, as soon as I got on the plane, my tears dried up. I haven’t spent a single moment these few weeks reminiscing about the past months in India. Instead, a sense of anticipation is building up. After all, I am alone for the first time in a city with no grownups to bark instructions at me -technically, hostel life doesn’t count as independence! Of course, I am nervous with all the new responsibility. Of course, I am worried about screwing up. But for the first time ever, I want to embrace LIFE.
I am at an interesting juncture in my life – about to move to a foreign country, albeit one where I have lived for a year as a student, set to start life afresh as a working professional. I have reached an inflection point – should I focus on my personal or professional life? Soon to turn 27, as an Indian woman (does the modifier ‘contemporary’ fit me?) and as just myself really, I am aware that doors are closing just as they are opening. I have been through a lot in my quarter century in the world. Yet, I know there is a lot more to look forward to or be apprehensive of, depending on the lens I put on on a given day. It seems this is an appropriate time to record my life. Certainly, life promises to be an adventure. The actions I choose to take, especially over the next year, hold the promise of perhaps changing the entire course of my life. So I have promised myself to chronicle each day, articulating atleast one event- positive or negative- that has taken place on that day. Me being me, I will undoubtedly intersperse that with my ‘pseudo’ spiritual funda. An exciting journey begins. Bon voyage!