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The answer to “What happened?” and other such unanswerable questions

It struck me last night, when I was sitting on the floor of a slight friend’s house, talking to another friend when she asked me,

So how are you doing?

Then she looked at me straight in the eye and pointed to her own heart. I stared back, a fraction longer than my pat-reply habit usually lets me and I knew it was true as soon as I said it.

“I’m okay that it happened. I’m not yet okay with how but I’m actually glad it happened. I haven’t forgiven him but I’ve moved on.”

She nodded, understanding. And we both looked out of the window and began talking to other people, and of other things. But she stayed seated next to me till I was ready to go.

Healing happens when you’re not trying horribly hard, eyes scrunched up and begging it to stop hurting. It starts at that moment when you give up. When you realize you no longer have it in you to pretend that you’re not a mess inside and you don’t care who knows it. That’s when it starts – in that moment that looks like defeat until you’re right at it and then it feels like something quite else. Healing.

I’ve read the phrase ‘Honour your pain’ many times and never understood it. How do you honour something you don’t like, something you fear, something that you do your best to avoid? It hit me with that earlier realization. Just letting yourself think about it, not running away, not covering it up with pretense but allowing it to collapse messily all around you and rain holy hellfire on your world…that’s honouring your pain.

I whined like crazy – to almost-friends and casual acquaintances, some of whom were mercifully unkind enough to tell me to get over it. I fumed and took it out on closer people whose kindness annoyed me with its overt sense of ‘I’m doing you a favour’. And finally I just got bored and decided to look for something else-a new life.

This week has been a telling one. A complete stranger asked me

Are you single?

I hadn’t yet figured out how I wanted to answer that one so I just told him I’d ended a relationship awhile ago, an engagement that broke. Pat came his response,

“That’s okay. Be happy it happened now and not later, after marriage.”

And then we moved on to speaking about other more comfortable things.

A couple of days later, I met an old acquaintance I hadn’t seen since I began the relationship. He asked me,

What’s been happening with you?

I told him about four years in a single line.

“Moved out. Wrote a book. Got engaged. Broke up. Started a new job.”

Bewildered, he followed me asking for detail, wanting to know how, why, when it happened. But mostly, I guessed he was just befuddled and mildly concerned at how okay I seemed with all of it.

I realized then, what the Landmark Forum calls a story. It’s not about stopping the creation of them. We all do it. There’s that which happens; it just does. And there’s all the meanings, all the interpretations and mind-routes we assign to it. We build stories around it and we tell it to each other and to ourselves.

I am a storyteller, a good one. Just as with the other stories I tell, I just need to start spinning my tale, watch carefully for how my audience receives it and either tie it off or weave a saga of it. It’s who I am. It heals me; it nourishes me; it makes me and curiously, it is what brings me my dignity. Not the stories but the telling of them. I get to pick which stories I tell and usually I do a good job. Where I don’t, there’s always room for rewrites.

Does that make any sense? Tell me, I’m dying to tell you more stories.


Where I take the power back

I’m reclaiming my right to write.

There’s much I’ve felt and been and heard and wanted to say but didn’t. A relationship, an engagement, a bitter breakup…aren’t all of these fodder for a feeling writer? And yet I’ve been quiet.

I’ve been under a self-imposed gag order that no one speaks of. That’s beautiful and ironic and perfect and ugly all at once.

A friend told me that I get lost in words, the beauty of my own words, that I hide behind them and now I can’t find my way back. Yes, maybe true. But I’m refusing to see my words as my jailors. They’ve been after all, firm and steady friends in a life of already wonderful friendships (even if love hasn’t been quite as, shall we say, gracious?). So I’m bringing them back.

Ever notice how everyone agrees and Facebook Likes generic statements on dowry? How half the nation sits glued to the screen, silently identifying with evil in-law stories? But not a single one of them ever comes out and says, “This is happening to me and dammit I don’t like it!”. Nobody ever admits to hating their partner’s families. No progressive woman ever goes beyond declaiming the horrid turdiness of Indian men in general. Not one of them ever says that the man she’s married to or in love with is one of those shitheels in question too. Why should I be the first to break that omerta?

Why do even the smartest, most accomplished and confident of us willingly put our personal power into the hands of men? Because falling in love at some level, is giving the person power over you. Trust, that foundation of a relationship, is about letting a person see that they can hurt you. And no matter how shackled our pasts have been, how cruel our social captors were, the only real living and the progress there is to be had is by going back and hoping. Hoping this boy will grow up to be a man, hoping ‘responsibility’ and ‘comittment’ aren’t banned words in this one’s dictionary and hoping that a relationship can be more than a stone around the neck, could be as much fun and comfort for a woman as it is for a man. Hope is hard but hard experiences are what brought me to a place of being able to stay I’m hurting but I’m standing. And I am.

But these are missions for a different time. For now, I’m just taking back my power to say what I will and what I feel in this space that’s truly mine. I’m reclaiming my voice and by God, it’s got a lot to say. I’m not even sure how to end this post since I’m only just beginning and the end is nowhere in sight.

Welcome back, old friends and beloved strangers. It’s unimaginably wonderful to meet me again.

Endings Are New Beginnings

Tarot card from the Rider-Waite tarot deck, al...

This is over. I am single again. I don’t wish to say anymore about this right now.

I believe I’ve spent as much of my life on this as is humanly possible and fair. I want to get on with the business of the rest of my life. So don’t hold me back with conversations about my past, please.

If you want to be polite, don’t contact me. If you want to be sensitive, contact me if you like but don’t talk about this. I’m witholding comments on this post because I don’t want to hear any condolences, pep talks or ex-bashing. XX Factor will resume its usual democratic policy with the next post.

Love Is An Intergalactic Negotiation

Being in a relationship, it’s not easy at all. No one said it would be easy. Umm, actually it was implied. Love as the grand jackpot waiting for you if you played your cards right. That was a big hoax.

It’s more like having intergalactic negotiations suspended in the far reaches of outer space. You speak a different language from the entity seated at the other end of the table (or whatever it is they use in intergalactic negotiations). You have a few handy tools, sights reported by those who’ve been there. But it’s not until you shoot in through that door you realize something fundamental. None of those sightings have been of this particular alien. They’re all of the hundreds and thousands of other life forms that are alien to you and each one, like this one is different. You’re all on your own now.

No way to tell if they’re hostile or friendly. No way to interpret what a gesture is intended to convey and what your response will trigger. How then, is trust, a hidden but integral part of any negotiation, learned? You take a chance and dive the heck in.

Gridlocks happen, just as in every kind of negotiation. Confusion and mayhem may reign. Each side may leave much worse for the wear and just a bit poorer. And yet we continue to strive for exploration, for communication, for connection, for peace and harmony. It is the very stuff of life after all.

Besides, did you catch a glimpse of the stars when you were out there? You’re so small, such an insignificant speck in the galaxy. But it was you out there on that dangerous, volatile, gut-clenching adventure called LOVE. You earned your place in the cosmos.

(If you like the Idea-toons, visit the gallery or the Facebook album for more)

A Mad Woman

Watching ‘Mad Men’ brings up a thought that’s often just lying below the surface:

Why DO we put up with men?

The Rejected (Mad Men)

The Rejected (Mad Men) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They’re horrible.

Weird Conversations

I guess there are some decent things about being a woman. 🙂

*If you enjoyed this comic-post, check out the rest of the Idea-toons. I used Stripcreator to create this comic.

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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

Stupid Women

What do you call someone who keeps falling for the same trick? Stupid. What do you call someone who does it so often they don’t have a choice? A stupid woman.

Painting oneself into a corner – that’s an art perfected by my gender.

Now That You’ve Put A Ring On It, What Next?

So the engagement finally did happen and it was as fairytale, as individualistic and as special as I never dared hope it would be. It’s been a couple of months since then and I’ve had time to let it sink in.

For starters, the ring was too loose so back we went to the jeweller’s the very next day to tighten it up. Did you know how rings are measured? There’s a curious cone-shaped device with scale markings on it, for circumference. Quite innovative. The science student in me was tickled. Several tries later I walked out. It still is slightly loose but that’s not really the fault of the jeweller. The design is an unusual one where the circle sort of rises up near the diamonds, so it makes for a twisted circle. A shape like that would never fit snugly on a finger. Add to that my knobbly fingers that are knotty at the joints and then bone-thin everywhere else. So immediately, I developed the bad habit of turning the ring round and round my finger while fidgeting (which is often).

I can’t say I’ve still gotten used to how it looks and feels. It’s pretty,  but…it’s different from what I always wear. It’s not silver, it’s not an inexpensive no-frills piece of junk jewellery. When I’m wearing it in public, I’m always looking at it, checking to see that it’s in place, moving the diamond to the inside so it doesn’t get caught on door hinges and other things. Not exactly a picture of the content fairytale bride.

Then there’s how it is an indication of things deeper. Of course, I’m having cold feet. What, you think I need a Y chromosome to get that? I’ve never been comittmentphobic, I’ve never been anti-marriage and this isn’t some guy I met at the party last weekend. I’ve been in a committed relationship for nearly two years with him and there was never any question that this was a serious relationship heading this way eventually. It is the right time too. Still, I catch my breath on occasion when the reality hits me.

Every time we fight, for instance. Like that would surprise to anyone. Who gets second thoughts when all is peaceful and well? We’re the worst of all the ‘opposites attract’ stories right from Beauty & the Beast to The Lady & The Tramp. Worlds collide, opinions clash, words are exchanged and it all seems like such hard work. At those time, that ring that looks so beautiful and delightful in a ‘I’ve been waiting for so long for this!’ way, scares me. It scares the shit out of me when it metamorphoses in my head from a slender gold-and-diamond band to a heavy manacle chained to an iron ball. GULLLLLLPPPP.

I woke up one morning with a red scratch on the side of my nose. Even if I do have a nose that could probably bridge a dam, it’s unlikely I got it anywhere else. That sparkly ring was to blame, yet again. (And oh, apparently I rub my own face when I sleep). So I decided to take it off when I slept.

There was at least once through a bitter fight, when I decided to take it off and put it back into its box till it felt ‘right’ to wear it. One day stretched into another and I realized I hadn’t worn my ring for almost 10 days, well past our argument and its resolution. And immediately after I noticed it, I realized that I missed it. So that evening, when I went out, I slipped on my lovely engagement ring as well. It felt nice, not awkward at all. And that night, before going to sleep, I took it off and put it away.

I realized something that night. Having to wear the ring all the time, made it bondage. Taking it off before sleep brought it back to being a beautiful piece of jewellery. Being able to choose when to wear it or not gave me back my power. I am a powerful woman in this relationship, after all. I’m not engaged to a man who needs to keep me submissive or show his ownership of me with a piece of metal. I am with a person who respects and supports me for the person I am. Having this choice is my daily, personal reminder.

The arguments haven’t stopped. But the cold panic in the middle of the night has. And the second thoughts stay just what they are – secondary thoughts.

A Bit Of Boring

So the boy and I took our first trip together. This weekend (and a bit before that) was a fest of beaches & booze at Goa. Yes, cliched, I know. But we’re a Mumbai couple and what’s more, he’d never been to Goa before that. It was sunny, sandy, touristy and very, very relaxing. What else is there to say about Goa?

I had regaled him with stories of my past trips, both the memories as well as the unshakeable notions of it being a touristy, firang-pandering boozehole. After all, this was my fourth visit and what’s more, I have to say something intelligent (or what sounds like it). Maybe because I was playing tour guide or perhaps because I am an unabashed ogler, I attempted to point out the visual delights of Goa to him. Day one opened on the beach and I gleefully pointed out a couple of women with a confident,

“She’s going to take off her top.”

He looked around disinterestedly then waved to the shack boy for a cold beer. As we walked back to the road later, I pointed out others walking past. My, what fine legs (and butts and stomachs) some women have! His reactions were no different but I didn’t really bother. Mr.Everyday thinks indifference is an emotion and condescension is a virtue. It’s maddening, especially to a high strung person like me but that’s that.

After all that lazing on the beach, we lazed a bit more by the pool. We talked about trying out the water sports and of climbing the fort. But of course, we did none of it. Much beer was consumed. Plenty of waves were splashed. Some pool water was beaten into a flurry. And some television was watched too. The most of our exertions were the half an hour walk along a shaded road to the restaurants (and that too because we dawdled).

On day two (or was it the same day), he looked up over his beer and said,

“You know, I’ve realized that I don’t really enjoy looking at women that much, any more.”

Way to go, lover boy. That’s hell of a thing to tell a woman who has just accepted your proposal. Oblivious to the Concorde express of thoughts in my mind, he continued,

“Like, you know those girls you were talking about at the market. Or that woman on the beach. It’s like, haan, okay, whatever. I mean, I don’t know anything about her. She’s nobody to me. Why should I bother thinking about her?”

And with that mysterious (if not characteristically condescending) note, he settled back to finish his beer, apparently satisfied at having completed his quota of intelligent conversation. But my face must have prompted more because he added,

“I’m a bit boring, no?”

Of course, I gushed and grinned and said,

“I could do with a bit of this boring!”

I really have had had my fill of pretty promises by Princes Charming who turn out to be nothing more than wine & tequila (see this post for explanation). I’ve moved on to rum, in my glass and in my man.

But he had to go and ruin it by reminding me that,

“Yeah but with this bit of boring, you also gotta take my other bits of boring. Like when I don’t like going out. Or when I hate partying. Or when I don’t talk to your friends.”

Sigh. Bit of boring he did say.

Last week, Rehab sent me this write-up titled ‘Marry Him‘, wanting to know what I thought. I surprised myself by agreeing with a few of the things mentioned in the article. There’s tremendous truth in what the writer says about marriage being a team partnership and not a ‘cosmic connection’ thing.

The boy and I have polar opposite personalities, virtually no shared interests, and practically no common ground. Most of our time is spent talking (arguing) about food, work, money & other such mundane stuff. When I think back to my single days, those times always seem more fun, more inspiring, intelligent & generally more attractive than our current lives. But you know something? We are still together. Yes, there is love. But more than that, there is stability, there is someone to talk to, someone to whine to, someone to tell each of us things will be okay, someone to acknowledge our efforts when stuff we do goes unnoticed. The opposite of all of that is loneliness. I don’t know that these are necessarily frivolous or unimportant things to base a relationship on.

I’ve always had a thing for drama and wild, flourishing gestures. I imagined that my life would be incomplete without these. It’s not that I don’t miss these occasionally. But most of the time, I just feel relieved that I don’t have to live through that. Everyday life is not and shouldn’t be a blockbuster film. It’s exhausting going through that even for a few hours and I sure as well don’t see myself spending the rest of my years that way.

I guess a bit of boring is okay.

* Image via nuttakit on FreeDigitalPhotos.

The Complicated Matter Of A Simple Question

So I did the predictable thing. Waited till he got to visit the men’s room, switched on my phone and tweeted about it. Then, I spotted him returning so I switched off my phone.

Then, this morning, I updated my Facebook status.

Ideasmith is engaged.

Did you know, that comments on Facebook relationship statuses show up in two different lots? The same update of ‘X is with Y’ shows up on X’s friends timeline and on Y’s friends timeline. Facebook sees them as two different things so the comments & likes on each are displayed seperately. Of course, what’s really funny is that both X and Y are tagged in the relationship update and so each of them gets two sets of notifications. Like seperate congratulatory messages from X’s friends and Y’s friends. Bizarre feeling.

I’m blabbering. There’s little else I’ve been able to do since he popped the question. Oh, yes, did I mention that? There was candlelight, under the stars, facing the sea. There were flowers, roses & lilies, plenty of them. There was champagne. There was chocolate. There was sushi. There was a ring and the question.

My reaction?

“I can’t breathe. I..err…I need to eat something.”

Frantic gulp of the champagne. Vague thought that the knees must hurt in that position. Shiver because of the sea breeze. Wondering if my carefully applied make-up was running, then remembering it was smudge-proof. Then, belatedly realizing he was still on bended knee. And saying..

“Err, am I supposed to stand up? Oh, uh, yes, of course.”

like I was answering, “Will you have a starter too?”. To his utter credit, he didn’t miss a beat or even waver in that admittedly uncomfortable position.

This morning, he said, “You’re my fancy…” I waited, thinking he’d end it with “…girl”. Then, I realized he meant, “You’re my fiance!”.

That’s probably what they mean when they say ‘made for each other’. And before you roll your eyes, he says and I agree that – it’s only corny when it’s happening to someone else. 😉

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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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