Category Archives: Confessional

The Gifts of February: Surviving Triggers

February brought a lot of gifts and a lot of lessons. Hear that, 2017? Lessons don’t all have to be hard and suffering-riddled. Well, perhaps not true. The #MeToo movement has been gaining voices and echoes all around the world. And last month it hit really, really close to home. This time the pain was not mine but like an old fracture that aches in certain weather, my experiences echoed in the voices of the women who came out with their stories of being coerced, bullied and harassed.

I found myself standing at a crossroads. I could drown in the pain of remembered trauma and let 2017’s horrors (and 2012 and 2002–03) stay alive. I did what I do after every bad decision I make. I decided not to let it define me. These were things that happened to me; not things that are me. And every experience I have had, I have been able to turn into a lesson. So why not these?

I think that is why I was able to live through February without the rage that destroys every woman who has experienced violence of some sort by a man, and finds herself triggered over and over again as it continues in other women’s stories. No, it has not been easy.

I found myself wanting to throw a chair across a room, when I found myself sitting next to stories of violation, inside a room where some of those violations were probably perpetrated. I felt my breath catch as I watched a young girl clutch an inhaler as she spoke, back ramrod straight. Yes, I know what that feels like. I live in that pose most of the time. Determined and petrified, both at once.

In the weeks to come, I found myself seeing fear under people’s skin, prickling up as noticeably as goosebumps. Every man I know — in their wary glances that they probably don’t realise makes them look shifty. The damning silences in forums where hard truths are finally emerging from women’s insides. The brittle bluster that left me as disturbed as usual but seemed to leave them spent and a little scareder of me. I had one exhausting discussion where Papon’s actions were defended and where I screamed down the mansplaining and silencing being done to me. Whew.

And yet, February had gifts. I have survived it without falling prey to the mental darkness that plagued me in late 2017, without succumbing to toxic conversations and associations and habits. And that tells me something about that the old fears that surfaced in December when SXonomics addressed the issue of domestic violence. I have lived for a long time with the effects of gaslighting, not the least of all being the damning guilt that it was all my fault. December prised loose what I hope was the last of residual trauma and I spent weeks after that falling sick. But when I began February, I found myself on the other side, washed clean of the lingering effects of a poisonous person. I was never one. Could I be blamed if my skin burnt when it came into contact with toxic substances? I am not a violent person. I never was. I’ve borne too many things in my past, with grace to know this. Gaslighting made me forget. No more. So thank you February, for reminding me about who I am.

Traumas have a way of lingering on and triggers are sneaky things. But the healing can keep going on too. It’s a lot like addiction, really. Every day is a fresh battle with darkness. The world does not understand, cannot understand and possibly does not want to understand. But when the voices die down, it’s possible to find a minute of silence inside yourself. Mourn the death of all that you lost. And then, in that death, find peace. It is not entirely ugly.

February felt full of love though it wouldn’t look like that to someone from the outside. All I did was work. But if you’ve known me long enough, you know I live well when I have the opportunity to work well and vice versa. It’s good to be the person I love — Me.

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I Could Love But Wait, Who Am I?

The month of love is almost at end and I’ve managed to not even look at this blog. That characterises how I’ve been. I have been very busy doing things I’m generally known for (writing, performing, organising, scheduling, worrying) and spending nothing at all on things that I am. I never stop being a woman but some days it’s easy to coast along at the job. Yes, this is a job, or even a performance. And this month I’ve not even looked at the stage.

Things like putting on a bra the right way, managing my period and other such habits continue – to change or stop them would feel like some sort of acknowledgement of womanhood even.

I’ve thought in an abstract, intellectual way about the experience of being woman, fodder as it is for SXonomics. And it has felt the same way thinking about MBA does now. These thoughts are supposed to be memories with that sepia touch of the intimate, the frayed imperfection of real life. But they sit more like ideas and thoughts, with the neat precision of words I have used often and which don’t really move me either way.

It’s impossible to forget about love in the month of February. It’s a relief that the blatant commercialism and rabid politics around Valentine’s Day have faded. But the last vestiges remain and nowhere as rampantly as in the poetry circles I frequent. I tried to dredge up memories in lieu of actual sentiment (so as not to poison everyone’s mood with my nasty past). I found myself able to write again, which is nice. But there isn’t anything to write about.

Living feels like a new machine feverishly churning out its output till it overheats and shuts off, only to start again when cooler. I’m efficienting. I’m not really feeling or being. But one cannot suddenly be or feel something one does not. It just happens; it just is. And until such time that I am or womanhood happens, love must probably be a distant goal.

Still, noticing where I am and being okay about it, is a form of self-love too, I guess. Happy Valentine’s Month to me and to all of you waiting to become you.

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From #PillowTalk To #ItHurts

Every piece of art or performance that I work on, is an emotion-mining experience. December has been an intense one, with SXonomics (my feminist collaboration with Dr.Ishmeet Nagpal).

We started with a visit to Delhi, a place with which I’ve always had a complex relationship. I was born there. All my life I’ve associated it with stifling familial pressures and oppression. My early 20s brought me a horribly abusive boyfriend from this city and taught me that men would use my skin colour and my body to violate my being. What happened to Jyoti Singh wrecked the mind of every woman in the country. Delhi, for me the woman, for me the feminist, for me who breathed my first there, has worn the face of a monster.

But we were invited by the Love Matters India team to participate in a Durex event themed ‘Pleasure is a human right‘. For a band with ‘sex’ in its name, we sure took our time getting to it, in our work. But we scripted and performed a set called #PillowTalk addressing libido, attraction, orgasm, sex positions and the questions we carry into bed with us. It got a fantastic reaction from the audience and we had a blast doing this.

We had barely touched down in Mumbai before our next event had already grabbed us. From sex talk to exploring mating rituals, partner searches, relationship milestones and landmines, SXonomics was onto its next chapter. #RelationshipsRedefined was a 2 hour interactive workshop/performance with BeHiver that addressed the universal quest for love and its speedbreakers. Ten people allowed us to guide their journeys through performance, exercises, improv and discussion. After all, our name comes from ‘The economics of sex’ and we transact in hope, expectations and actions, don’t we?

And now here we are, nearly at the end of December and we find ourselves in a dark place (because love and relating take you there too). Every relationship in the world starts with love or at least, with hope. But what comes after that? What does ‘happily ever after’ look like? I’ll tell you. It looks like a naive hope that often gets dismissed as an unrealistic dream in the rigors of the ordinary here-and-now. In our transacting hope and expectations, we also find ourselves unearthing things like disappointment, inconsideration, negligence, fatigue and selfishness. Somewhere before we know it, from making love, we’ve gone to making war. We war with looks, with sighs, with silences, with words and finally with actions.

Ishmeet and I have spent days thinking about this, reading, writing, talking, watching, listening. I’ve dug deep into my writings across diaries, poetry and blogposts. I discovered how much I’ve buried in my hurry to be okay again. The depth of the lies we tell ourselves is astounding. I imagined the violence I experienced to be a two time occurrence. But in my digging, I found the abuse, the gaslighting, the lies, the control games that I’d been living in and with for nearly the entirety of that relationship. It made me bleed all over again to remember how many of those had felt off or wrong and how much pressure I had been under from supposed friends and family to shut up and play the happy girlfriend/wife. I had been lied to so actively and relentlessly, the lies hitting me like attacks from all corners that I don’t even know when I surrendered and started lying to myself. Love (or whatever it is supposed to be) can do that. That, and fear. Maybe there isn’t a difference. But it is the price to be paid to understand the hard lesson of love. What else are we here for, as artists, as writers and as people?

Today SXonomics brings you a 1 hour session titled #ItHurts. We use performance, poetry readings, music, audience exercises and interaction to trace this journey from love to blood. Our session is part of a larger event #YforViolence, aimed at building awareness around domestic violence. Following our session, there will be a panel discussion on domestic violence. Hari Kotian (Landmark seminar leader), Vandana Patil, Ishmeet and I are on the panel, which will be moderated by Chhavi Sachdev.

In the past few days, @ishmeetnagpal and I have read, listened to stories of, written about and thought through the dark, dark area of domestic violence for the #YforViolence evening. Because this is part of the truth of love and sex too. It has been a difficult journey and we've both been sickened, as we've beholden the ways human beings hurt each other. But we've tried to distill this experience into something that furthers us and the world. Today, we bring you #ItHurts, a one hour @sexonomicsband session involving performance, readings, poetry, audience interactive activity and music. The talented Karthik Rao joins us today with his guitar. And following our session, Ishmeet and I will also be part of a panel with Landmark leader Hari Kotian and Vandana Patil, moderated by @goldenbrownchhavidazzle. This event is free and open to all. Please consider taking a couple of hours to think about this dark issue and the way it impacts us all. #ItHurts #YforViolence #domesticviolence #abuse #IPV #GBV #sexonomics #sexonomicsband #sexonomicstheband #sex #sexuality #lgbtqia #feminism #feminist #feminists #feministperformance #poetry #spokenword #music #improv #workshop #gender #patriarchy #love #relationship #relationships

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#YforViolence – #ItHurts: SXonomics session
This event is free and open to all.
At: 5:30PM-8:30PM,
On: Sat, 23 Dec 2017
In: Bombay Connect, BKC, Mumbai.

I hope I will see you there. I really do.

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram. SEXONOMICS is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Storm Warning 

Storm Warning

Every warning is also a plea
But some of us hear an invitation
I know walking into you is dangerous
But in my failing, will be your healing
And that’s dangerous for you, isn’t it?
I did warn you. Don’t warn me off.

Follow my writings on https://www.yourquote.in/ideasmith

Spring-Cleaning For The Soul

I’m surrounded by question marks, in the shape of expensive gifts from you. I’ve discarded the funny, the cheesy, the lighthearted lines like you’ve done our laughs. But what about the Parisian box of songs? La vie en rose may as well be a life of thorns. I don’t like looking at the gold memento anymore. It makes me wonder if all you were out for, was another gold rush of emotions.

I’m sitting in a gigantic suitcase full of question marks that you’ve left behind. What shall I pack? Can I just put them all in there or should I send them back? My house isn’t big enough for all the feelings I have about these things.

Follow my writings on https://www.yourquote.in/ideasmithy

3AM Maneuvers

3AM maneuvers

Our waking moments in bed were fraught with clumsy moves and clunky negotiation. But at night, long after you’d fallen asleep, I would listen to you breathe.

Do you know how many trips I took around the bed, to judge AC draft & sound? I would fine tune air and sound and light to give you perfection in sleep that I never seem to be able to bring to your waking hours.

The nights after we’d fought the worst, you’d snore the hardest, while I lay awake, failing, even in your sleep.

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Okay 2017, I Concede. Let’s Wait It Out.

I want to write something simply because the topmost post on this blog for too long now, has been a painful memory that victimised me. I am not actually dwelling in the past. The present has had me too caught up to even think about the future, let alone the past. One major thing about the present is the books I’m reading and ‘When I Hit You’ was a part of that. Sometimes we can look back at our lives and see them in other ways, like examining old information in fresh light. Even the insights we gain may not be exactly new but the relooking allows us to establish it again, more strongly. And how can we hope to live in peace, unless our beliefs are strong?

I don’t really have much news to report. Or perhaps there is too much to say. As always, I’m a bit rusty when I start writing/sharing again after a long time. Half this year has gone and I’m coming to accept that 2017 is as difficult and brutal as 2012 was. I lost my idea of a great person. I lost a performing space and community that felt like home. In the past month I’ve lost two of my top five people. Yes, I have those or rather, had those. And perhaps, finally goaded on by what I think life was trying to tell me, I have let go of someone else I really wanted to be close to.

I do not believe men will treat me with respect and consideration for very long. I do not believe friends will want to stay true permanently, especially when they have easier or more benefit-giving relationships in their lives. I’m just not a great investment for people’s emotions and I can see that with some kind of detached clarity.

I do not want to be treated with adulation but with warmth. Yet, that is a role that falls on me. What people call ‘respect’ is putting me up on a pedestal but I cannot make them see that. And thus we come to a stalemate unless I accept that this is the way other human beings always will be.

This lesson keeps coming right back at me. You cannot make someone love you, no matter how loveable you make yourself. You cannot make a person treat you well, no matter how well you treat them. You cannot teach a person to treat themselves well, no matter how hard you wish it. And finally, you have no control over a single thing that life has or does or is. All one can do is, is try and stay grateful for the chance encounters that have brought some joy.

I’ve been tempted now and then to fall into bitter, pitch-black resentful rage. But it feels like such a dark, unwelcome place to go to, especially after the year-and-half I spent wondering if I was going mad. This also reminds me of how I got through that time – with some of these very same people who are tempting me to fall back into that place. Never mind justice, never mind what’s logical. I must not go back there for myself alone.

I’m not exactly sad because I think I’m still in some kind of numb shock. Or perhaps it’s resignation. Everything is slipping away. Everyone is hurting. Everybody is a monster, without being able to help themselves. All I can do is take one breath at a time. And wait for 2017 to be over. You be well too.

Starry nights and smoky music

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

An Unequal Music

After he broke my iPod (and it was almost comical since he had to smash it several times and jump on it to break), and his own, he bought me a new one. This despite my never wanting to see one again. Why would I? His music taunted my lack of intelligence and I was too terrified to listen to music I used to like. He waited six months, not allowing me to buy him an iPod, not buying himself one, carrying the badge of the denied genius. Sharp at month 6, he bought one and paraded it around defiantly as if I had kept him from it. Six months, he told me proudly, six months I had decided I would go without an iPod. Six months where he taunted my lack of taste in music and when he didn’t, the empty iPod he bought me sneered. So precise and calculated.

I come from a tradition of music, of training and performing. But I have never owned a music player after that.  I have since, won back my right to listen to music I like, even as I indulge this only sparingly. There are too many echoes of hatred and violence in anything I listen to.

His music was music, his self-flagellation was greatness. Mine was just shallow, stupid, worthless. And yet, he’s barely my worst offender when it comes to music. My sexual predator guitar teacher from age 11 and violent, abusive fan-boyfriend (from “Your singing drew me out of my quiz and I just had to come talk to the girl on stage.” to “You are so black and ugly, a guy would only be with you because you look easy.”) from age 22 lead this gaslighting, dangerous ex-fiance of mine.

But I will never forgive the wounds he scratched on my faith in idealistic people, my empathy for abuse/violence sufferers. I will never forgive him for turning me into the demons in his head and me into a monster. And in this, there is its own kind of music. You thought your music was angry?

~O~O~O~

This was triggered by the book ‘When I Hit You’ by Meena Kandasamy. Notably by a section where her violent abuser shuts down her poetry writing as vindiction but justifies his own poetry as self-flagellation. Just like my ex and the iPods.

AN UNEQUAL MUSIC – a true story After he broke my iPod (and it was almost comical since he had to smash it several times and jump on it to break), and his own, he bought me a new one. This despite my never wanting to see one again. Why would I? His music taunted my lack of intelligence and I was too terrified to listen to music I used to like. He waited six months to buy one for himself. Would not let me buy one. Sharp at month 6, he bought one and paraded it around defiantly as if I had stopped him. His music was music, his self-flagellation was greatness. Mine was just shallow, stupid, worthless. And yet, he's barely my worst offender when it comes to music. My sexual predator guitar teacher from age 11 and violent, abusive fan-boyfriend (from "your singing drew me out of my quiz and I just had to come talk to the girl on stage" to "you are so black and ugly, a guy would only be with you because you look easy") from 22 lead this gaslighting, dangerous ex-fiance of mine. But I will never forgive the wounds he scratched on my faith in idealistic people, my empathy for abuse/violence sufferers. I will never forgive him for turning me into the demons in his head and me into a monster. And in this, there is its own kind of music. #WhenIHitYou #domesticviolence #gaslighting #abuse #survivor #violenceagainstwomen #VAW #meenakandasamy #book #trigger #books #nonfiction #truestory #feminism #feminist

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

The April Of My (Re)Alignment

This has been a lonely month. Housekeeping always is. I also didn’t get to speak to the people who keep me sane, often. Yes, I said that, the people who keep me sane. I can cope on my own but that doesn’t mean I want to or have to. Surviving alone is glorious when you’re 17; it’s just tedious at 37. I haven’t been able to speak to them because of summer. Summer seems to go hard on everyone around. It never did for me and I can’t explain it very well. I sweat and get headaches and heat strokes just like everyone else around. But I think, summer feels like the insides of me feel the rest of the time. A little too tight inside my skin, a few too many things inside my body, just one layer of rules too thick on my natural self. Summer feels like the universe and I am in alignment finally. But no one else seems to like it. I’m…well, I’m kind of used to it. It’s all I’ve ever been, after all.

~O~O~O~O~O~

I have been slower in my responses, though I did have a few flinch reactions. I’m learning flinches are necessary too. All in good measure, I guess. Not flinching allowed me to see that the guy I labelled ‘diltoot‘ was the epitome of a fuckboi. And once you’re spotted a fuckboi, the only thing to do is run, flinches be damned.

~O~O~O~O~O~

I like someone. Or I did. Well, I still do. Or maybe I do again. It goes in waves, which is probably not that odd for a Cancerian. When I’m feeling good, it’s wonderful. Through most of April, I have not. I’ve been starving. A lot of the times, I was able to ‘understand’ why that was happening. And at other times I didn’t and I tortured myself with the kind of thoughts that some of us get used to. At the moment, I’m in a nice-ish place.

I am learning that I can be me, independently, regardless of the love I feel for another person. This is a very big realisation. He told me once, very gently about the kind of dressing that he finds attractive on a woman. I had to discipline myself to not reach for that outfit in my wardrobe the very next time I met him. My style is such rich personal expression, carefully crafted and it is navigated through choppy seas of social disapproval. I am programmed to please men, especially a man I like. I squelched that urge several times. I relented only once and after much soul-searching, I decided to add my own personal dash to it with green lipstick (unconventional choice even on the edgiest of outfits and this wasn’t one). His reaction was wonderful. He was appreciative and respectfully. Which is not to say he worships me but his eyes seemed to be saying “Thank you for considering pleasing me.” Vulnerability invites more vulnerability. I’m learning that as well.

~O~O~O~O~O~

May seems a little gentler. Enough to let me catch my breath and acknowledge that this has been a tumultuous year to say the least. 2017, I don’t abhor you (that was 2012, what a wasteful, depraved year) but I am uneasily fearful of how powerfully you’ve uprooted my beliefs and kept me on my toes. Be kind, if you can.

As with any other time, I don’t know where this or I am heading. The future is a blind mystery. But I’m not playing Sherlock. All will be revealed in good time. And for now, I’m just glad for affection and love as I find it, even if doesn’t always look familiar.

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Scarlet Woman

I am in heartbreak.

It’s a crack down an old wound and it hasn’t festered so that’s good. But it still hurts.

It’s a lesson, I tell myself. I’m struggling to learn it, though. I started this year resolving to learn gentleness, be gentleness and already I have broken that twice. I have lashed out, I have let my words, my worst, most potent allies run ahead of me. And then I smashed it.

But I’m realising I’m Scarlett O’Hara pining for the virtues of Melanie Wilkes. Well, I’m not a character in a book set in whatever script has been laid out for me (please don’t talk to me about the frightful sequel). But for now, the way to gentleness seems to lead me further into my own raw, animalistic, volatile nature. I must embrace it, I must accept it. I must stop suppressing it or it will burst out again as it has these two times. And I cannot have that. Fire must be tempered.

There was goodness. I got to do things that I have been too cautious, too fearful to do for years. One notable thing was writing for him. The first time I ever wrote for another person was over a decade and a half ago, for the person who first told me my writing was special. He hurt me and then he turned my writing into a trophy Both hurt me in ways I could not articulate then, the second must worse. I never wrote for another person after that (or at least I’ve never let them know). But that’s limiting, isn’t it? Love, affection, pain, anger, rage, jealousy – each of these are colours to be expressed and my palette is screaming oil paint. I wrote something I really like. And I think the person it was written for, liked it too. Pretty sure he did. 🙂

Now, I realised most men cannot handle this. I think I burn most men out emotionally. At least the kind of men I’m drawn to, the brooding introverts, the shy thinkers, I imagine they have depth but even they don’t seem to have enough. Well, they are mostly paper and straw; they go so easily. Still, there is hope. Maybe this man was not meant to be the one hearing my words. If there are words created and a mind to build them then there must be the ears and heart to receive them too, somewhere in the world. Someday, I’ll meet someone who is warmed by my fire instead of being burnt by it.

Till then, bright red words will drop from my fingers and my lips for everyone and everything in this world. Because that is how I am.

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

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