Fixit

Someone I know through work has developed an annoying habit of writing “Fixit” as a single word in emails. There are things beyond fixit, which is a sad truth that he cannot comprehend, in his haste to arrive at immediate and shiny demonstrables that don’t necessarily carry over from one to the next. I suppose it is nice that he has claimed a word for his malaise. It does make referring to him easier.

I had not thought I’d be a part of the engineering tragedy, where constant wars need to be fought with managers who can’t quite understand why impossible doesn’t come with a covariance on it. On one side, there is the incredible need to please, the need to say ‘yes, yes, yes’ from a company culture where hardwork and pleasing your superiors are necessary to climb the social ladder. On the other side, there is a reawakening sense of self, slowly returning after long and unhappy years of being stifled by warped notions of obligations. I had forgotten to take into account how much self there had been, at one point.

Fixit doesn’t quite know what to do with me. He tries incentives that don’t really work, grasps at straws that don’t have relevance to either of us, and asks/demands/orders/pleads with varying levels of exhortation to fixit. He thinks I have gone all flower-child on him. It is not quite accurate, since I am neither drug-assisted nor as easy of spirit as the flower-children were. My spirit is probably an onion, and has little similarity in nature to flowers.

Most people, most Indians  – he digs that hole deeper and deeper each time we have a discussion. If I were in that noble cluster, he would have had less to fret about. Unfortunately for us both, Fixit has had the misfortune of dealing with me in one of my more non-most moments.

 

“Northeast?”

“Northwest.”

At least, we can still wince together on the naming genius of the Kardashian-West family.  He goes to fixit. I go to eat oysters.

Otsukaresama deshita.

 

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Finding God, finding you, finding my soul

In trying to find the answers to what I desperately want to know, I often come across the strange and the extreme, the mystical and the moon-touched, the free and the wild, the paranoid and the broken.

At the very beginning, there was the Carmelite way, mystical and rich in tradition. Suffering was only a way for God to highlight that you were chosen, that you were dear. The great Carmelite saints had all suffered, deeply and long. Loneliness and misery, sickness and worry, despair and failure: all meant that you were chosen. What purpose is there to fret about being understood by your peers when it is part of a higher being’s plan for you?

“Sit still and you will see,” I was often told. So I clutched the rosary beads, focused and contemplated. No higher being called to me. No life-purpose was unveiled. In my heart, I found only sorrow. And unlike the great saints and unlike my benevolent instructors, I found no joy in sorrow.

When I grew disillusioned, I made sure that the stained glass windows and the tall candles stood witness to my fall from an Eden that never had been. I hoped, back then, furiously, that they carried the tales back to Leviticus.

I veered to the other extreme after organized religion. Emerson would have been proud of me, had he seen my self-reliance and determination to work things out on my own. I wrote and analyzed. I made lists and noted down patterns. I went out of my way to get other people’s opinions on what I was. I found pieces of myself I hadn’t known about. I found an inkling of a purpose, scattered here and there in my head, needing to be put together. I pushed and pushed, and when it didn’t give more, I wound up exhausted and unwilling to push more.

There was love. It was a cure-all. It truly was, to a great extent. I took to it as much as I took to anything else in my quest for answers, fiercely and willingly. I believed. It touched my heart in a way that the Carmelite tradition of rejoicing in suffering never did. My confidence blossomed. I was at my strongest, my brightest.

I do believe that it is through love that most of us find our meaning and purpose in life. It takes another person to open the right door, often.

It was very rare and I had been very fortunate. I understand that now. We are more likely to meet the wrong people, or the right people at the wrong times, than someone who will help us along on our journey.

It wasn’t the full picture though. Tantalising glimpses of what could be, of what I could be, came through. I didn’t yet understand. I didn’t yet know. I didn’t yet have the right questions. I didn’t yet have the wisdom to put together what I had learned about myself through writing, and what I had learned from loving.

—-

Then there were the Dark Ages. I lingered, tired of heart and will, enduring a long starvation in my quest to find answers. Perhaps the people I met then were lessons. Perhaps it was only happenstance. Perhaps my incomplete understanding of the answers brought me misfortune. Didn’t they say that a little knowledge was a dangerous thing?

I was a sailor with a broken compass, and mine took me to rough seas and inhospitable lands. I found only wretched loneliness in my attempts to connect. As I drew further from land, I began to forget what my search had been for, the progress I had made, the confidence I had had, and what it had meant to be understood or loved for myself.

I understood very little. I regretted a great deal. I fought change, I fought a lack of change. I fought apathy and sympathy both. In the midst of it all, yearning ate me inside out, as I sought and sought something I could not even begin to understand. Ask for what you need, I was often told. I did not know what I needed, only that I needed.

Life can be wretched, and can be wretched for years, and can continue like that for years onward, and you could die with no resolution or closure. Perhaps, in such a case, it made sense to believe in a higher being, in God’s plan, in a life after death, and in the inevitability of fate.

I was young and tired. My heart was sick of the longing it had carried for ages. My brain was exhausted from trying to see a way out. My peers were finding *it*, whatever it meant, and I could not begin to see where my *it* lay.

I climbed mountains, walked through the woods, wept by rocky shores where only the tides could see me. I distracted myself with books and people, with habits harmful and harmless, with mundanities and trivia. In nothing, in nobody, in no place, did I find solace. I had run out of life-improvement plans, I had run out of once seemingly inexhaustible stores of willpower, I had run out of ways to trick myself that everything was falling into place somehow.

—-

Then I said no. It was accidental, unplanned, and impulsive. I found my life shifting, again, and had it not always been on quicksand? Yet, this time, it was a shift I did not fear, for the first time in a decade or so.

I begin to see, now, how I had warped a desire to be understood to biddability, how needing to be emotionally intimate had turned to meekness, how wanting recognition for my skills had changed to a desire to please.

It was not loneliness I feared, but emptiness. What if I looked and found nothing inside? Yet, it took me years of emptiness, in company, before I realized where meaning had vanished.

I am not closer to my soul. I am still searching. I am frightened and exhausted, I know I have to get through wretchedness many times over before I sail on an even keel again, but I am beginning to see, somewhere, someday, I will find the answers I have labored a life to find. Even if I am not made of stardust, even if I am not a dream come to life, I think I will find that I can accept what lies at the end of my search: myself, my self, my soul.

—-

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There is a starman in our skies

I didn’t like anything other than classical music until I discovered Bowie. In the confines of my childhood room, I went along with him on the genre-defying ride that was his music, from the high gnome song to the space oddities of Major Tom, to the Berlin trilogy that grew on me over the years, and to even the industrial days of a heart’s filthy lesson, and the later, heathen days. My favorites are still rooted in the Aladdin Sane and my guilty pleasure is still Ziggy. I remember being exuberantly happy when he sang of the next day, and then eagerly looking forward to Lazarus.

As often is the case in our times, the music and the musician becomes a single entity. I wondered at his songwriting talent, I adored his crooked teeth on the covers of Ziggy Stardust. I liberally borrowed from so many of his songs when courting the hyacinth.

I knew less positive things too, having come across them here and there over the years. I have vague knowledge about the fact that he was addicted to drugs and that he lived on peppers and milk and cocaine during a period of his life. I know he has a daughter. I knew of his collaborations with other artists. I wouldn’t have discovered Queen if not for Under Pressure. I watched Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, and The Prestige, and Bastiat, and A Man who fell to earth etc because of his involvement.

There is the mystery that media outlets like to talk about. In a world where there is a choice to embrace a lack of privacy, his decision to go the other way has fascinated journalists. I was reading obituary articles and one of the major questions without closure that many cared about was if he had slept with Mick Jagger.

It is hard to pick a favourite from the collection. I think it might be the Sweet Thing/Candidate pair, overall. A favourite memory, though, would be the hyacinth singing Rebel, Rebel to me, despite dire threats.

I didn’t know the man, but I am grieving nonetheless. This week has been difficult to get through. Sunday night, I was listening to the new album released on his birthday, and singing along with him in a weird mix of Nadsat and Polari about where the fuck did Monday go? He did not see that Monday.

It is hard to write in the past-tense.

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Year-closer : lingerie | nothing-else-matters | weather

[Renewed the blog for the sixth year just now – I have been here five years. I don’t think I have lived for five years at any single place. I have kept other blogs, some older than this, but this is close to my life, because of how openly I have written at times of myself. I find it uncomfortable to write about works in progress, and I am one, but I still manage to write about it in a half-way coherent manner and it surprises me.]

“French women spend 20% of their income on lingerie,” my friend says as we sit huddled against the cold.

“Wow, it might be better to invest that money,” I reply.

“Ah, but this is the best investment of all. This is investing in their future, in the men.”

I have half a mind to call him out on reading too much Cosmo or whatever buzzfeed post he has been trawling through when at work and bored. Mating games are not really my area of expertise. I let it be. His latest love-interest does seem to be very dedicated to pushing up her assets. Maybe this is a fallout of that association.

I am curious though. I ask a few female friends and they mention answers I have heard in connection with high-heels and make-up. It makes them feel more confident. It makes them feel more beautiful.

It takes all kinds, and Alexander’s Mum liked to keep snakes around for feeling confident and beautiful. There are many different ways to buy validation (from self or from others or from both quarters) or feel-good, and I guess lace and back-pain are harmless in the grand scheme of things.

There was a Christmas party where I might had a bit too much liquid encouragement. I am told by reliable sources that I was very attentive to a long-suffering woman and that she indulged some of my peculiar whims. Senpai!

The Bowie CD is coming in January. It sounds very Outer Space, and there is so much Major Tom.

I have received my tickets for Metallica in February.

It has been quite cold here, unusually so. I hear from Sibelius that he is in short-sleeves gambolling around and enjoying the July Christmas on the East Coast. Well, good for them. I have had to break out my winter-coat for the first time in California. I usually can get by with sweaters and am quite surprised by the turn of the weather.

My air-conditioning system chose to give up just as we went below zero. Luckily, I am supposedly a rambling wreck from an illustrious institution, well-equipped to deal with wrecked appliances. I also caulked my windows and repaired the dish-washer all in the same week. Wrapping around, this is how I seek validation. Also, my incredible mapping and localization skills when lost.

My mother does not think these are valuable skills to mention when she is sipping tea with societal matrons who are bragging about their sons. My handiness, around the house and outside, shall go unmentioned in the annals of our gossipy social circles.

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Well, look at what you have done

Sent out the last batch of Christmas cards.

I have decided to skip my usual Christmas post on social networks.

I find that social networking doesn’t work for me, because I find that I like depth when reading about matters I am interested in, and matters I am interested in are rarely delved into by people I am acquainted with through social networks. Links to half-baked Huffington post or medium.com articles, or even half-way decent news sites, rarely go into detail or offer relevant citations. I don’t have the patience for videos. I don’t see the point in supporting various folks’s endeavours (culinary, photography, music, blogs) through clicking likes or sharing, if I don’t consider it good enough by my subjective standards – liking people and liking what they do don’t overlap for me.

A deeper issue is that the graphic and disturbing pictures that float around isn’t something that I want to see. I use social networks to keep up with the happenings in friends’s lives. What films did they watch recently and enjoy? Do they recommend something? Have they married? Do they have kids? Is there anything they mention which could be something I can help with? It is good to know that they support this or that grand cause, but I don’t need that thrust into my head with horrifying visuals.

I browsed Facebook after a few weeks, and saw that it was full of friends sharing posts about Nirbhaya and what they consider appropriate punishment. Posting triggering visuals and flashy headlines doesn’t really help, no matter however righteous or good the intentions might be.

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Mutton biriyani

Sending Sibelius off today.

Managed to scrounge up a day off from work, with great difficulty, and spent half of it in gloves dealing with slippery meat, hoping to pull off the Mutton biriyani which I made once somehow. It smells all right and looks all right, so I hope it is close enough to the original.

Made custard with fresh cream and that might save the failure of everything else.

Have succeeded in finding a mutually acceptable wine from my favourite, local alcohol outlet. It is worrying that I have a favourite, local alcohol outlet.

Attended his presentation at Stanford, and was reminded of the last one in 2013. It was very well done. I took photos to send to his parents. God, he has grown so.

It is sad to see all the suitcases and packed bags in his flat. I dislike it when I have to watch people leave. I dislike it even more when I have to ferry them to the airport and then wave goodbye. It is the second time I am doing that (Yoda, leaving Atlanta for Mountain View was the first) and it is still quite unpleasant despite knowing what to expect.

I think I have enough time to try and cobble up a quiche. I ought to get to it. It will at least prevent him subsisting on Doritos and pizza over the weekend once he gets back to Boston. I like to think that my eating habits were never as frightful as that, back in grad-school. It was true, if only because I didn’t have eating habits. I had drinking habits (caffeine and milk).

Time to go.

It is the first weekend after a long time that I haven’t been handed a plan for. Could be interesting.

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A 1960 wife (thank-you, convent-school)

I was sitting down with my little desktop sewing machine, hemming the legs of a new pair of trousers, and my Japanese friend thought it was a great opportunity to tease me about being an ideal candidate to be among 1960’s housewives.

“What half?” I asked her. “The first or the second?”

She was of the opinion that anyone who can make jam, and bake cakes, and sew, falls soundly in the first half.

Well, most of my life, I have been usually categorised into the other half, the half that fought for equal rights. It doesn’t matter, since I don’t think their dot product is zero.

I set aside my alarm and decided to go on with my sewing. One of the most useful lessons that convent-school taught me was  that of adaptability. If you know to sew, why not sew when you have a problem that can be fixed with a few stitches? Yes, my cross-stitch doesn’t bear looking too closely at, but it does the job. Ha, take that, American clothing manufacturers: even your extra-smalls might not fit me, but I will still make them fit with my dubious sewing skills.

It is sad that feminists today are viewed as people who’d rather shirk away from work, as people who’d avoid responsibility for failed relationships, as people who would rather exploit affirmative action instead of getting what they want through merit. It is sadder that some who claim to be feminists even believe that is their cause. That isn’t what feminism is about, and I feel terrible that an entire generation of men and women have grown up thinking that feminism is the root cause of their societal collapse.

Many of my early lessons in practical feminism came from convent-school. I find it interesting that what convent-school taught me (self-reliance) was very different from what Sunday-school tried to teach me (submission in marriage to the spouse). One was all about learning to do things for yourself, by yourself, without bothering other people about it, without expecting special concessions of any sort. The other was about…well, I don’t have a clue what it was about, since I auto-rejected whatever it was long ago.

The negative of convent-school, for me, is the auto-guilt mechanism, where I assume I am at fault before pausing to think about the situation. This has roots in Catholicism, where the first port of blame, and often the only port of blame, is yourself.  I think how much you buy into that is dependent on life circumstances, family and society. It is a dangerous tendency, even if you have self-control enough not to pipe up and tell other parties involved that you think (absolutely) you are to blame for whatever went wrong, because any accusation is automatically believed and that corrodes the ability to evaluate. Also, guilt makes you feel indebted to others, because you are aware that they are carrying on with you in whatever venture despite everything you are at fault for, and isn’t that immensely kind of them?

Traditionally, you feel guilty, you confess, and you feel absolved once you do the penance prescribed. For someone who does not believe, there is no absolution, and there is still the guilt hanging heavy on their minds day after day. It accumulates. Buying fully into the religion is better, ironically. A little conditioning is a dangerous thing. Being aware of it helps, greatly, but it doesn’t change the fact that it would be nicer not to have to deal with this in the first place.

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