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I Take A Day Off Each Month From Being Me

This tweet by ChhotaHulk got me thinking.

I didn’t rally with a Yeah women! cry. I didn’t have to. Rather proudly, I replied that,

It’s true. This is something I first started doing because I didn’t have a choice. At least once a month, when my period hit, I’d keel over with cramps, nausea, headaches and low blood pressure (which makes me faint and when conscious, depressed). Once I fainted in a crowded Mumbai local train. After being lectured on eating better, exercising and what not by family, doctor and employers, I began doing that. But over the years, even in my fittest months, I struggle to cope with a regular day when I’m bleeding. I mean struggle, a physical, emotional, mental effort that leaves me wishing I had just been killed off as a fetus.

For the past few months, I’ve tried to give myself one day where I go easy on myself. I’ve slept in, eaten crazy things and shut down work. I’ve discovered that it actually makes me more productive, taking that day off instead of struggling through it and having to redo or strain through working harder on the same thing.

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Image via Unsplash/Christopher Sardegna

Over time, I’ve started learning to be even kinder on myself. My usual OCD self takes a break on that day too. I don’t make my bed. Sometimes I don’t even get out of it all day, except to get something to eat (in bed) or visit the toilet. I’ve taken to not opening my computer. Sometimes I even leave my phone in the other room and pretend I’m dead to the world. The months I’ve done this, I’ve found by early evening itself I’m feeling cheerier, hungrier, more enthusiastic and wanting to get back to my life.

And finally in the most recent past, I’ve also began giving myself the permission to drop the Social Me. That’s not bothering to be polite, not worrying about diplomacy (as little as I do anyway), not caring about who thinks what or the consequences. Each time is a revelation on just HOW MUCH I tolerate from the world. There’s the daily stupidities of people that you take just because it’s too tiresome to not do so. There’s the small cruelties and petty nastiness that people inflict on you, especially on the internet, unthinking or perhaps just because they can do so. And there is all the entitlement of men. This is rarely from men who are very close to me but comes my way by the bushel from slight acquaintances, distant friends and strangers.

“I THOUGHT YOU WOULD BE NICE! WHY ARE YOU NOT BEING KIND TO ME?? I WANT YOU TO LISTEN TO ME. I WANT YOU TO TAKE CARE OF ME. I WANT YOU TO PAMPER ME. I WANT I WANT I WANT.”

….come the messages steamrolling me every single day. Well, that’s the one day in the month when I shut the door on them and throw cold water on their heads from the window.

The thing is, I’ve been doing this somewhat defensively and perhaps even a bit guiltily. But ChhotaHulk’s tweet made me realise it’s very, very, very tiring to be a woman every day. There is so much demanded of you, so much riding on your perfect delivery of these things, so many consequences of each tiny thought or action. It’s enough to make anyone crack up.

As I’m writing this, ChhotaHulk and I are still talking about it. He suggests that I not care about anyone and damn well do as I please. I truly appreciate his thinking about what women deserve but I know he doesn’t really understand.

Maids and landlords can make your life very difficult if they don’t approve of you. If you’re a woman, this doesn’t just mean your credit-worthiness and whether you stay quiet and clean. It also means whether you live up to their standards of what a woman should be like (read – shop for vegetables, cook from scratch, get up early in the morning, don’t drink or smoke, wear Indian clothes). Don’t believe me? I’ve had a landlady who got peeved with me because I was going to a work meeting instead of shopping for vegetables and decided to tell the dhobi, kachchrawala and the bai not to knock on my door. I’ve also had bais who would show up at any random hour because after all, “aap to kaam nahin karte ho ghar ka“. There were the watchmen from hell who would lech at me as I walked past in jeans and conveniently ‘forget’ to keep salesguys from knocking on my door. Plumbers, electricians, dabbawallas, shop delivery boys – all of these decide how well they want to do their job or if they’ll even do it at all, based on what I’m wearing and whether I smile at them. None of these have ever applied to the men.

I won’t detail again how strangers feel entitled to your empathy and politeness if you are female. I’ve already talked about that and interestingly, among the responses was a suggestion that I ‘reply politely and respectfully that I appreciated the man’s interest in me but I was a bit busy and would he mind if we didn’t talk now?’ I give up trying to explain that to anybody now.

And finally, here’s something else. As a woman, I’m rarely if not NEVER alone. It’s just not safe for me to be alone anywhere. Even in a city like Mumbai, going solo is subject to all kinds of conditions of place, time, dressing, occasion, day of the week, my age etc. Do you know just how big a luxury it is for me to disconnect from everyone? My bed is the only place I can do that in, that is all I am afforded and I’m still one of the lucky ones that has a room of my own.

For my own sanity, I’ve decided I am taking one day off each month from the responsibility of being ME, a big part of which is being a woman. The world can bloody well learn to deal with it and welcome me back with open arms when I return.

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Reverb11.2 – Home Is A Wonderland

Reverb 11.2: Whimsy

Recall a fairy tale-esque moment from 2011. An epic kiss? A triumphant victory? A Wonderland-esque adventure? How did this momentous or fanciful happening affect your outlook?

Years ago, a close friend told me about the early days of her relationship. She’d married to a man who’d lived in the US for years and moved overseas for the first time in her life. Before that, she’d lived with her parents, under her grandmother’s guardianship and later, shared a room with another girl.

She said the first year of her marriage was all conflict, fighting all the time. Being fiercely independent, she hated the fact that she had no life outside of him. Her only friends were his friends. All of that changed in their second year, when they moved houses. It turned out, that he had shifted to a bigger place just before getting married and furnished it as he thought a couple would like. But they were all his ideas and how well did he know her then, after all? Their second house was one that they found, furnished & decorated together. She said a lot of their problems settled after that. It sounded incredulous to me.

The boy moved within a couple of months of our dating, to a bigger house that was closer to where I was. It was already furnished and his sparse bachelor possessions (gaming console, microwave & single bed) fit in somehow. I didn’t like the house. The wall-sized poster of a garden, right out of a bad 80s Bollywood movie was just the start. Then there was the clunky furniture chosen by the elderly couple that owned the flat, which they didn’t have space for anymore but couldn’t bear to get rid of, either. There was the construction site right next door, which made it impossible to open the curtains. There was the musty smell hanging about the entire house, the cheesy stuffed toys displayed everywhere and the garish chandelier right in the center of the hall.

I didn’t think that much of it back then, since I thought it wasn’t my house. But we did spend a lot of time in that house. I’d be over on most weekends, holidays and even some weekdays. I soon had a key of my own. I’ve spent time there alone a few times, when I was in the area and had to wait for my next appointment. It was an odd place that I spent a lot of time in, but had nothing of me and never felt like home to me.

Earlier this year, following all the problems of the house, including skyrocketing rents, water supply issues, horrible neighbors, tyrannical landlords and infrastructural problems, we moved. I say we, because it is a shared space. It took us a year to realize it but home is a space you share with the people who spend a lot of time in it.

Our new place is in a different area, a far less posh & upmarket one. It is smaller. But you know something? I love it. Few places have felt like home, like this one does. I remember the exact moment when I pulled out a set of colourful prayer flags, a memento from a friend’s visit to Ladakh. These used to hang outside my bedroom window and cheer me up with their sight, the first thing after I opened my eyes. They are now strung across the large window in the hall. The belief is that when they wave in the breeze, all the good wishes and prayers printed on them, come true. They’ve certainly brought more than just colour into this new house. They’ve brought joy, peace and a sense of peace that the earlier houses didn’t have.

Other little touches have been added. A Wolverine poster on the door, that was a gift from his friend. A seed in a pot, that I grew into a happy, green leafy plant. A stack of books on the window sill, his and mine. My movie DVDs mixed in with his XBox collection. The beanbag that used to sit in my room, next to his computer table, that now holds the TV.

This is our Wonderland, one that we made together.

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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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