I should have known better.

One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I had been persuaded into doing administrative work. So I will spend my weekend dealing with horrible html, trying to remember login details, and cleaning up Sunset to post it on the archive we call our own.

At least, it took them five years to convince me. Ha!

Goes back to dreary html-land.

Someone asked me today to rec some queerish films. Roughly, as I remember:

Maurice (my favourite)

Aimee et Jaguar

Of Monsters and Men

Capote

Brokeback Mountain

My beautiful laundrette

Philadelphia

Priscilla, queen of the desert

Rocky Horror (it’s…it’s fishnets)

milk (though it is more politics than relationships)

Wild things, Basic Instinct (guilty pleasures and all that)

Thelma & Louise (what do they call it these days? bromances? sismances? )

Gia ( intense)

Notes on a scandal

Orlando

Birdcage (Hollywood’s Priscilla? No, it’s actually a remake of La Cage aux Folles, an old one)

CRAZY

Velvet goldmine (because, Bowie)

Bent (this mixes everything – Nazis and war and Jews and homosexuality – not an easy watch)

Heavenly Creatures (this is what Peter Jackson was doing before New Zealand tourism commercials)

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (because…Bowie. It is a clash of Japanese and British film-making and takes getting used to)

interns

At my first ‘real’ job, while still figuring out how to write Python bindings for my C++ machine learning code,  three weeks after I had started, my boss came by and said, “An intern is coming. He is assigned to you. Kthnxbye!” I panicked. I read long and useless articles on the web on the what to do and what not to do with interns. It hadn’t yet been one year since I had been an intern myself, at research places, and there had been no mentoring there. This was a start-up. What did they expect of interns? I had no idea and was convinced I’d mess it up scarring the intern for life. Yoda teased me. I dreaded that May Monday morning. I arrived late. My regular parking-spot had been already claimed. The daft geese that thrive in the pond before my workplace had decided to block the entrance-way.

The intern was thin, bespectacled and unsure, wearing a hoodie and an ugly pair of sneakers. I arrived to find him hovering around my cubicle, carrying a laptop and a notepad. He was taller than me. I asked him to sit down. We set up his machine together. I survived the day. And the day after, when I walked him through basic Git stuff. And the day after, when we discussed support vector machines and logistic regression. It turned out to be among the best weeks of my stint at that workplace. When they came by again, carrying news of more interns, I looked forward to that. I liked the interns, their camaraderie with each other over the short period they worked there, their bravado in tackling unwieldy codebases and technologies they hadn’t heard about until then. I liked how they soaked up arcane how-tos from Stackoverflow and tried to outdo each other at lunch showing off what they knew. Everyone was busy and had little time to spare for them. I was busy, but I still made sure to pester them for the first two weeks, making sure they were set up with their machines, making sure they knew whom to ask what when they got stuck on something or the other. They taught me ping-pong. I sat up late and reviewed their pull-requests, learning more in the process than I have picked up from classes or teachers or colleagues. I wrote them recommendations at the end of their stint, waved them off back to school, got a new job and moved on.

Now it is intern season again. I suggest that we do something to ease them in. Everybody, I find out, has summer travel plans. I do too, but I have postponed mine so that I’ll be there to pester them for the first two weeks they are here. I am useful at work, at most workplaces I have been at, but I’ve never felt as useful and productive as I do when I am dealing with interns.

At least, this time, the daft geese won’t battle me when I go to meet the interns.

I remember being 18 or so and at Joby’s Mall. It was the first time I had been at a mall, I think. I remember being heady on adolescence and looking at a young boy just so. He was a strapping lad, younger than I was, hanging about the mall with his friends, cheerful of face and handsome of body. My mother chided me as soon as we left the place. I was smug, still, remembering how he had looked at me. The next day, he turned up at our home, ringing the door-bell with confidence, a smile pasted on his face. I was rather shaken, having not expected that to happen, and quickly vacated the premises. Vacating the premises would eventually turn into a recurring theme of my life. However, back then, all I remember is my mother going to him, and ever-so-gently turning him away. Later, she had strong words for me. “Don’t look at what you don’t want!” she told me. I can’t say I took her advice immediately. It led me to many scrapes over the next few years, but I learnt eventually. The lesson is important, but what struck me the most back then was how gentle she had been to that hopeful boy who had come knocking at her door, lured by her daughter’s mischief.

She was kinder to my friends than I had been, most of the time. She was definitely kinder to strangers than I had been, all of the time. There is only one exception, but I prefer to discount it given the horrible time it had been for her. The hyacinth was as protective of me as my mother was, and it often led to interesting perpendicular views of opinions and actions.

My mother serves as the translator between the world she lives in and her daughter. It is a difficult, unpaid, thankless job.

Things have changed. I matured rather unexpectedly, over the years, learning to be grounded in myself, learning to be better than I had thought I could be, growing into a level-headed woman capable of acts of compassion and generosity – nobody thought that would happen, except for two women – my mother and the hyacinth. I am grateful to them both, for their conviction. They made me want to be a better person though it would be a creative stretch to say that they made me a better person.

“You need to stop thinking of others. You need to only make yourself happy,” my mother had told me once.

She was right, not that I had been convinced of it then. I learnt my lessons the hard way, on my own, through trial and error. I chafed, still chafe, at the thought of accepting another person’s words on faith. I had to do it for myself, I had to see it for myself, I had to prove it to myself – such a worthy descendant of doubting Thomas I make.

We still disagree. She wishes I’d comb my hair, that I’d be plumper, that I’d dress better, that I’d bring home a respectable son-in-law for her, and a hundred other things. She lets it all be, however, most of the time. I wish she’d get out more, that she’d take care of her health, that she’d be less stubborn, and a hundred other things. I let it all be, however, most of the time.

This business of marriage has been stressful on both of us recently. She is plagued by the question wherever she goes these days, celebration or cremation, church or colony meeting. Often, it gets bad enough, and she comes home to plague me for a while on the subject. I can’t say that speaking about it with me eases her mind any, given my stand on the subject. She copes, I think.

Leaving was good for me. I don’t miss the partly malicious teasing (“Oh, you can write? Haha, is it any good?”, “Oh, you can play? What a family of musicians!”, “Oh, you can do well in entrance exams!”). I don’t miss the chauvinism that creeps into most interactions, the slight disbelief when you do better than the current best male specimen. I don’t miss the female jealousy or the snide comments that come my way when I get male attention though I don’t spend time before a mirror.  I don’t miss the conversations that ranted on about arrogance (headweight in the local parlance) and how I would come to a bitter end because of that, despite my temporary achievements (‘She’ll do badly in her SSLC, she’ll elope, she’ll never make through the entrance exams, she’ll grow fat and ugly sitting on her arse all day and studying, she’ll never get a job, she’ll never stay at the job, she’ll never get a guy, she’ll never keep a guy’). Leaving solved much of that. Leaving was difficult on my mother, but I think, over the years, she has come to understand that it was good for me. I think it was perhaps fortunate that I was willful, and it carried me through so far, though not without consequences I didn’t care for.

People hate what is different, what they can’t understand, and I think I fell prey to that hate often when younger. I still don’t do a good job of adapting, of blending in. Perhaps I never will be able to. My mother can fit in wonderfully. She wished that I could do the same. I think she has grown to wish it less frequently over the years, however.

I don’t think I harbour maternal aspirations on most days. Yesterday, I was at a colleague’s home, and was playing with his kids. He remarked that the look on my face when I saw his kids was proof that I am cut out to be a good mother. Like most things in my life, I suspect I’ll adapt to the situation when it arises, if it arises, and do a good job at it, but I also know with certainty that I am not cut out to seek joy in pain, suffering or discomfort. My mother loves children, loves all the good and the bad that comes of pregnancy and child-rearing, and feels that it is a life-purpose as a woman. That is yet another thing that I think we will never be aligned on.

The art of balance is something that I am striving to learn. I hurt myself recently giving too much, trusting too much, changing myself too much for someone else.  My mother was rather aghast when I detailed the circumstances and the consequences. She hadn’t thought me capable of such folly, I think. Yet, it is strange that it is not the first time I have done so. I have found myself, more than once in my life, capable of great love (though so many who think they know me would claim that impossible), overwhelming me enough to change for the loved one and ending up damaging myself. The problem with loving so few and loving so rarely is that you end up loving more intensely and impractically beyond what most think possible. My natural resilience helps often to bounce back, but it may not continue indefinitely and it is important that I change the pattern myself. The fine line between compassion towards others and compassion towards self is important to learn and a lesson I haven’t learned yet. Perhaps this year.

I was at Stanford this week, submitting paperwork for a friend who will come down this summer.  It was old and new. In 2012, I’d walked there alone and had become familiar with the Dumbarton from Newark. The next year, I had ever so often been accosted by a cheery fellow who claimed he was interning seriously. In 2014, I didn’t venture that way. It is 2015 now, and I am doing paperwork for the cheery fellow who will return to intern seriously (such is the claim).

Adam Lambert is 33. I remember supporting him an age ago, with little knowledge of contemporary music, impressed by his talent on some show or the other.

I am surprised by time’s flow.

Men from my school cohort are getting married. My family grows wary. They attempt, with little success, to interest me in matrimonial profiles of men who seem to have done well for themselves on average.

Sometimes, the law of average doesn’t work. There are scars and there are scars, there are battles fought alone, there are stories wrapped in folds of old diaries and fading photographs, and put together, they set you across a divide from the average, on the lower end or the higher end, for better or worse. You find yourself set apart from your beloved old friends by experiences, finding it difficult to ‘connect’, to speak of newer matters in your life. Perhaps this is why confidences coalesce down to intimates, brought on by the common ground gained through touch. Yet even then, there are things that must die, to keep things level – you give up something precious for someone precious and that is never spoken of again, left to fester in your thoughts on darker days.

Many things change when you say ‘no’. I have said ‘no’ to many things. Why do I still find myself capable of expressing surprise at all that has changed?

It is difficult. I have changed my name so often. I have left behind so many places I’d have loved to call home. I miss old friends as our life-paths diverge and we have less in common. I have met kind men and women sometimes. Now I am so far from where I had been that no one asks me who I am or where I am going.

“Mais tu n’es pas peur.”

“Mais je n’ai pas peur.”

The trick, I have found, is to fake it until it is true.

~~~

I had written to myself, in the beginning of 2015: “”Think about it this way – you’ve been through worse than love. And all that turned out fine.”

~~~

I have a new living arrangement and the person who came seems rather taken with what she says are twinkly eyes. My eyes don’t twinkle.

I have to suppress a snort as I think of my first room-mate in Atlanta asking us all if we were fascinated by her eyes (it had been one of the weirdest first bread-breaking experiences I have undergone). She had the oddest fascination with her eyes, I remember. Then again, perhaps we are only as odd as our times, and in some other time, men’s fascination with the shapes of their cocks and women’s fascination with the shapes of their breasts would be considered odd.

The people you end up living with, by necessity than choice, often bring into your life stories you are glad to be spared living through. My life sucked, for the greater portion of its timeline, thanks to fate and family both, and I still think I am better off (emotionally) than most people I have ended up living with through rooming arrangements made for financial reasons.

Perhaps it doesn’t all boil down to just privilege or money, in the end. Perhaps my mother was right, and will is as powerful as anything else. She tells me sometimes of her ancestral house, and of privilege and money, and how it was all broken into smithereens on the precipice of the world they refused to change for.

In 2012, I ended up with a family in San Diego for a weekend. The three kids had taken a fancy to a song and played it repeatedly while we were driving from the airport to their home. Three years later, the song continues to be an ear worm. I suspect that the kids have moved on. I am stuck still, remembering the lyrics with painful precision.

~~~

We have been doing an Agile workshop. I suspect that the only way to sell Agile to our benefactors across the ocean is to wrap it well in the lean manufacturing principles they so adore.

~~~

I work in a field where there is nary a woman to be seen, on most days. It has its ups and downs.

Dealing with a highly sexually charged environment is one of those skills you pick up, in addition to learning how to tune your estimators right.

“Is it difficult?” I am often asked.

I am not sure what to say. Is it difficult for me? It used to be. I learned some lessons the hard way, I learned some the easy way, and I still find myself learning how to walk through this valley, taking the good with the bad, taking the innuendos hand-in-hand with the extreme brilliance that I find in my colleagues.

“We don’t want you to turn into us!” I am often warned, teasingly.

It would be very difficult not to. All that I see, five days a week, cannot go without influencing me in some manner or the other.

I remember grad-school. The atmosphere had been the same, but made toxic by bitterness and the hundred personal disappointments that men had brought over. Some of them had taken it out on a young, naive, idealistic fool who didn’t know any better. It disillusioned me, greatly. I persisted, with grit more than motivation, in trying to convince myself that it would be all worth it. Perhaps it is. Perhaps it shall be, in the future. I know, with certainty, that I fit in better now, that I like my work, that I like the debates amongst my colleagues, that I cannot conceive myself happier in one of those work-places struggling with Javascript or Ruby on Rails. Yes, I might get a hundred benefits I don’t have today, but I’d also be a zombie bored out of my mind and that has never led to good consequences before. I do badly when in situations I have to make the best of something I am not inclined towards.

The valley is full of cliches. Impact is a word thrown around by many. We want to create impact. We want to deliver great value to our users. Perhaps they believe it. What I do for my living has the potential to be impactful, but not today, and not tomorrow. Does that matter to me? It would be good to see the results live, immediately, but I have fallen into the trap of waiting for the greater reward, and I continue to convince myself that when it comes, the impact will be worth it all. My mother might get to go around without waiting on son or husband. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

I am charged with speaking to women, to convince them of our nondiscriminatory, happy, thriving, exciting workplace. I don’t think there is discrimination, except when there is, and that often comes with prejudice born of earlier experiences, and gradually whittles down to nothing when time enough has passed. At least, I think so. Then again, having wanted it all so badly, it is possible I have convinced myself to think so.

“Your life is a Bohemian fantasy,” I remark to a colleague. He sings the song rather well and I try my best to forget that I might have hash-defined true as false somewhere in my life to make it palatable.

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