Mundane

My beloved Airavat, my Marcella, my car, has been rather uncared for of late. There are various dents and scratches thanks to the enterprising fellow road-users I have in my corner of the world. I had been transporting my bike in the back seats, and there are scuffs on the fabric.

“She needs a good going over,” I tell this man who claims to work wonders on all cars that were ever made. His only other client is an ancient Subaru. I doubt his claims, but I’ve never backed down from a bad thing. “Please take care of her. I haven’t been.”

“Not even a convertible,” he mutters, and this is a sore point already. She can’t help that she isn’t a convertible. I had wanted one for the longest time, but I had been sensible back then, when I brought her home. We make do. Occasionally I try to talk myself into trading her in for a convertible, but that’s not how I was raised to be. So I named her for a friend I had once, and I fell in love with her when I had no home, when the only place I belonged was with her on wide, open roads.

“The wheels are out of balance.”

Yes, every relationship has its kinks. And ours is that she gets a puncture once in a month. I’d blame it all on her, but it is a two-way street, and littered with needles and nails and broken bottles.

He brings out the all-season tires.

She doesn’t like those. She corners better on the summer tires. She is slow on turns, so extra help doesn’t go amiss. We must make allowances for each other. No matter the number of flats we’ve had over our years together, I indulge her, and she gets her summer tires again. Raised to please was I.

Her license plate is still crooked. This is thanks to the one time I let someone else park her, straight into a lamp-post. Oh darling, this is what happens when you go into the dark night with a stranger: you get bent out of shape.

His hands are clumsy and callous, with little appreciation for her curves and convexities. I wince when he rolls out from beneath her frame and hits his head on her bumper. His yelp reviews are wildly exaggerated. Has he met a car like her before? I try to keep my thoughts to myself. I don’t think I succeeded. I’ve once or twice been accused of an expressive face. So I can’t blame him for his terse farewell.

Perhaps I should learn how to take care of her. She’d like that, engine purring as I treat her to oil and grease. Perhaps all those flat tires are a grand, tragic cry for attention.

We go home, Marcella and I, and she turns wide onto the ramp, and I don’t have the heart to tell her that I occasionally fantasize about convertibles. Bowie sings about a small-town girl and wings of steel.

We’ll make do.
——–

A laywoman’s response to crisis | Peru

(very, very minor: I rarely log into social media. Please expect considerable latencies if you message me on those platforms. Just email/text. My blog auto-posts over.)

——-

I have a tradition of sorts, where I decamp and go far, far away after I am burnt out from a job.

I was in Peru this time, climbing some mountains, kissing some glaciers, accidentally eating an alpaca or two. I had had my fill of the bitter, grim high-school politics between our two warring sites.

The time before had been Tasmania (right after I had spent a few months getting harassed and not given even a chance to report it anywhere, thanks much – (rant) still don’t think too well of my ex-colleagues, armchair activists that they were, caring more about things they couldn’t change than about what they could (/end-rant)).

And yet before, I had run away to the Appalachian trails (right after I got tired of my stupid research director never figuring out that throwing more people at a problem in the eve of a demo wouldn’t get him what he wanted).

I’ve never been burnt out because of a job, now that I think of it. It has always been the people. I’ve dealt with some awful people, and then there’s usually the rest who ignore and silently tolerate/encourage that the first sort exist.

I love my field of work – once upon a time, I entered my field even when it paid nothing, the little idealist that I had been (and am still, I admit). I did not come from some other background, lured by the appeal of self-driving being the current, shiny thing. I chose this before it was ever a thing like it is now, and I am quite happy on most days.

—-

In Peru, where I went because the flights were the cheapest, they like their cash. I was there without my debit card, with eighty dollars, and I managed fine. There were moments of concern, but I had a lovely week of it regardless.

I trekked up the Inca trail, went about Ausangate and saw a rainbow or two, and touched the sacred waters of Salkantay and Humantay. Low-life that I am, dwelling at sea-level, I suffered greatly from altitude sickness. It was still the most incredible trip I have been fortunate to go on.

As a few folks can attest, I like my baths (many, and long, and with hot water). This trekking business did not quite let me indulge to my heart’s content. I got back today and I shan’t leave the bathtub for any reason other than Pokemon.

A great deal of ceviche was consumed. It is one of my favorite comfort foods. I have some dishes I associate as comfort foods. There is curd rice, which is for when I have very strong headaches that render me nonfunctional. There is coconut-milk prawn curry, for when I miss my family. There is tiramisu, for when I am stressed out about finances. There is chocolate milk, for when I am lonely and see no light in the catacombs of life. There is ceviche, for when I miss home, red-earth and rain-clouds and love, and want something that smells strongly of fish. There is fried green tomatoes, for when I want to get over an occasional surge of writer’s block.

—-

I have become rather unflappable when singing for my supper. So when things crashed at work, after my unicorn of a boss left, I walked over to the research labs across – it worked out, and I have a new team now without half a tear shed. I guess this is an improvement over my general, continual angst that has been a running theme in my job transitions before.

One eventually runs out of fucks to give, perhaps. No, that is not true. One lucked out and got an unicorn who showed one a glimpse of possibility. The inspiration is still going strong. We will see how long that lasts, before switching back to the normal mode of misery induced by the Karnaugh’s don’t care of Silicon Valley engineering teams.

And when that happens, perhaps there will be Peru and ceviche to console.

—–

Floods

The recent floods in my home state of Kerala have been disastrous on an unprecedented scale. I am not usually one to link to anything half-useful or practical, but here is the link to the Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund: https://donation.cmdrf.kerala.gov.in/

As is often the case in any country with a populist government, the floods have led to political strife. The central government is currently predominantly comprised of a religious party that parades about as a well-constructed democracy. The state government is one of the last relics of the socialist parties in the country. They call themselves communist, but they are mostly liberals with a democratic socialism flavor. Despite my inclination to stay clear of politics in my writing, I have to note that populist narratives pandering to a mainstream agenda, suppressing all other voices, is a recipe for lapsing into the dark ages again, if ever we had left that era. Populism isn’t about the will of the people, it’s about manipulating the will of the people.

My family is well. Thank you to everyone who reached out. It has been a very difficult situation to watch unfold, and I was stressed every moment last fortnight.

——

Work has been busy, though not necessarily productive. I have been mostly confined to home and work, commute my only window into the world outside. I’ve felt less cooped up than I usually tend to. I thought I might have a horrible time of it after my boss’s departure, and no doubt things have taken a grim and dismal turn, but I’ve been fine, holding up much better than I dared expect, and nothing’s gotten to me. I think it is helpful that the issues are impersonal, and that I am not the only one affected. It has been unlike previous places where I had been targeted because of my gender, because I am unmarried and female and clearly gagging for it in their condescending interpretations of situations. This time, it is just general issues, and I am not alone; I have been very well.

I think I’ve never done better emotionally in my life before than in the last few months, and this is a strange, soft place of contentment, leaving me poised and steady. It has been hard-fought for, since I have had to make crucial decisions in cutting people and places out, in confining myself to what gives me strength and joy. Guilt, ever-present all my life, by conditioning and by early exposures to socio-political ideologies that term guilt a driving force of life, is farther away than it had been before.

I’ve been content. It is unusual, but ardently welcomed. Perhaps I have only learned to recognize it recently, as the still, quiet sound that it is.

——-

I guess we’ll just have to adjust

Ronan Farrow had another investigative piece, about yet another CEO, and yet another awful tale of decades-long sexual harassment at the workplace.

I stepped into my workplace, still queasy after reading the article, thinking about the fact that there are no workplace remedies without terrible consequences for the victim still today (thanks to inherent power disparities and team judgement often in these situations – true in my industry but truer still in the entertainment industry https://youtu.be/dHiAls8loz4). I thanked my stars for being shielded by a boss who is frightfully decent, and went to pick up coffee. And saw him resign. So much for that respite. [Time’s Up?]

I have the option of leaving, and no doubt that’s the best outcome for me, but I’ve never really liked following anyone around, preferring new people and experiences to the old. I enjoyed the workplace in the past few months, despite the chaos of the industry. Peculiar and perverse as it may be, I am looking forward to fighting my battles again, when I need to (I imagine it will be soon). This has been a lifelong curious trait – a lack of patience with being sheltered combined contradictorily with a need to have a shelter to return to. This battle of needing novelty as well the reassurance of the given, has made me restless on some days and battle-sick on the others, it has led me to places that were safe but constrictive, it has taken me away to wild, new unknowns. Every pursuit I have, perhaps, boils down to that innate need to find certainty in uncertainty.

—–

I finally get around to laundry after a month of living out of a suitcase, since I came back from Stockholm only to trudge across to that steel town I have little fondness for.

I am behind on everything. I haven’t cooked anything in a long age. I have sleep to catch up on.

—–

Din son, din himmel

It was day when I slept and it was day when I woke. You shone in the sunlight; you were waters, you were wilds, and you were old, broken cobblestones. You gave me no place to hide from your summer, and even your midnight pried me open in bright delight.

My clothes smell like fish and my hair too. I ate your fish and sour pickles, your beets and berries.

I leapt into the Baltic and heard tales of Ostsiedlung. I touched salt and stone and broken boat, and wondered how you could be bounteous still.

I asked you if you were happy, and you said you are no Norway gluttonous on oil. You were more rundown than I thought, and you still liked your immigrants so.

I’d never felt more welcomed than when you opened to me your streets and canals. I am sad that I’ve to leave you now. I did never learn what to do with welcome. I’ll return to a place that doesn’t like me much, but it was my escape from a place I didn’t like much.

I’ll remember you well, your warmth and your smell. Have me back, someday, when I’m wiser, when I’ve given up my follies. I’ll come back to you, I promise I will, and I’ll write to you better odes. Until then, have this, this meagre song to the north.

—–

maybe | maybe not

I am told it helps to know your desires to set the right goals. Today, my desires are mostly wavering and vague, and utterly materialistic.

——

I have been considering buying one of those aluminum fold-up bikes. I don’t know that I necessarily like the idea. The convenience sounds appealing though. I am an awful lifter of heavy objects and that is a surefire path to causing myself damage. There, I have justified the fold-up contraption to myself. Now if only it came in lovelier colors.

——–

Marilyn Manson’s coming to Concord. I’d really like to go, but his live performances are either extremely good or awful, and there is no predictability about his form. On the other hand, it won’t be a summer proper unless I go to at least one awful concert where I am in love with a lead singer’s voice and stockings. And he does wear stockings well, carrying them with more flair than many women half his age.

——–

With summer here, I have been looking for excuses to buy a new wetsuit. I don’t have any good reason to. My current one, even if positively ancient, is sturdy. It’s just that I really want a new one in neon pink.

——–

I have been coveting a convertible for a few years. When I worked for an automobile manufacturer, one of the few perks of the job was a lease from their vehicle inventory. I enjoyed the convertibles the best. So now I am wondering if I should. I imagine I won’t, because I have named my car Marcella, and I am quite attached to her. She’s given me solace and a place to sleep in or hide in, in various circumstances long ago – now my life isn’t that happening thankfully. Still, it would be nice to drive around a convertible. It’s about the only redeeming qualities of this coast, apart from the surf.

——–

And chia-seed yogurt. I hate avocado toast, acai bowls, and turmeric lattes, but chia-seed yogurt is a hip trend I wholeheartedly endorse (today). My appetite, ever a fussy thing, is now set on only eating yogurt and marinara sauce, and peanut-butter with tea.

And goat milk. I like goat milk.

——-

beyond the north wind | the flute plays

Pliny, Plutarch and Ptolemy all talked about these stones I am walking amidst. There were holy men and strange rituals here in these desolate lands, cold and gloomy, beyond the northern most winds the Greeks knew of then.

The Hebrides is close, even today, to the stories I had read as a child. I came back younger, fat on milk and cheese, head full of a young girl’s dreams once more.

They are an open, hospitable, warm sort out there, sparsely populated as the tiny villages are. The women mothered me, and the men fathered me. At this point in my life, I must wonder if I come across a perpetually lost lamb that even hardy men in kilts and no-nonsense women who flinch at nothing have begun to pat my head and ask me to eat more. I sang Omnia sol temperat for them, badly, and they humored me nevertheless. All things were warmed by the sun that day, for their weather was playing coy for once, retreating with clouds and rain to make way for a taste of spring or two before it returned with vengeance to drench everything once again.

I felt safe as I wandered. There were no irksome flirtations, no expressions of interest that when turned down became nasty and troublesome. There was just plainness and honesty, even when I was invited for more, and that was a remarkable change from everything I fear in my daily life.

Bluebells bloomed everywhere, on the barrows and in the crags crawling to their coastlines. There, among the bluebells and the heather, as the gorse bloomed yellow on hedge and rock, under cloudy skies through which sunlight streaked through in patches, I could only stand in my muddy clothes and ruined shoes, armed with my trusty umbrella that has accompanied me for many years now, watching the fishing boats return, watching the crofters head home after a day’s work, watching how life thrived even here, even beyond the northernmost winds that the Greeks knew of. I thrive too, relaxed and young once again, enjoying more whisky than I ought to, enjoying pies, black puddings, and cheese and haggis. Each time I deviate from my general regard for my health, I promise myself I will give it all up, and return to water and tea starting the next day. Unfortunately, my promises to myself are very rarely kept.

The prospect of returning to San Francisco is unappealing. I don’t live there. I merely exist. I’ve never really known how to give up on a lost cause gracefully, though. So I’ll return to suffer and whine, I suppose.

At least, I have matters to look forward to. I need to buy new shoes. And I need to find a way out of the tedium that is the self-driving industry running on hype and stupidity of people who have never done anything real before in their lives.

Even if the hype doesn’t drive me out, then the men will.

[All those little boys who were the apples of their parents eyes, raised to believe they can do no wrong, successfully transitioned into poorly socialized men who believe everything they do is for some greater good (even if all they do is optimize clicks by getting the naive public addicted to things), and therefore they deserve whatever they set their eyes on, damn the consequences.

I give it a week before the next one tries to hit on me and then promptly goes weird after I decline. No, I don’t know who the next one will be. It doesn’t even matter. After a while, it’s become a blur.]

To think that I was once so set on robotics back in my naive and foolish youth, keen enough to do unpaid or poorly paid work because of how much I loved it.

——-

I was wandering about on the continent when I heard the loveliest folk song performed by some buskers. I had to write it down and then look it up later. It is a haunting song about a flute-player in the spring. The girl promises to love him from dawn till dusk if it is someone she knows already. If it is a stranger, then she agrees to love him all her life. I laughed at the translation, if only because of how ironically it reflected my general sentiments about life these days. I’ve always liked new people and new places as opposed to anyone or anything I know already. I ought to plot a chart seeing how my whining about life increases as the novelty of the place where I live in or the people I know goes down. The bay area, though, and the people, utterly drive me nuts with how painfully stereotypical they are, and how much unintended harm and deliberate cruelty I have faced over the years I have worked here.

——-

emoticons

I was clearing up messages on my phone, and I noticed that most of it was just me throwing emoticons over the fence at other people. Sometimes, I can’t be arsed to bring myself to write words, to think of words, and emojis are an excellent defense. I can be wildly cheerful, optimistic, and generally awesomely American by blandly thrusting emojis into your face. Take that, you intrepid communicator!

(Take that, and suck sweetly and long on it…no, wrong blog).

Not everyone is receptive to my emoticon tactics. My previous landlord outright told me that English was the only acceptable language.

Even she thawed, though, in the end, when I was moving out, and offered me a rent cut and two sad-face emoticons. We had brunch together at my new place, and I’d made a mushroom-gruyere tartine that I’d first learned to make in Atlanta. She deplored the lack of a garden here and wondered how her little villager tenant was faring. We’d managed to move some of my flowering plants over to her garden last week. I’d been writing when she arrived. Taken by a sudden whim, I monologued the first few pages to my captive audience. She did not run away frightened. Perhaps there is hope for my legacy, after all. I’ll write for the goth teenagers and the lonely housewives eating up Valium like candy. I’ll write for the depressed, anxiety-ridden tech workers living cooped up in their tiny studios, and we can spend our old age battling carpal tunnel together.

I picked up emoticons from my Japanese friends. There is enough to mine an anthropological thesis or two in their obsession with emoticons. Let the Kawai flow, they taught me. So now I am all about that Kawai.

Sometimes, I wonder if I find them easier because I find words precious. Giving words feels at times like giving myself. When I write of someone, or write to someone, I feel it is an attempt at gifting just like giving darned socks for Christmas. Giving emoticons, on the other hand, is cheap and effortless, perhaps as many other find words to be.

Most emoticons look like my facial expressions anyway, round-faced and toothy and very expressive despite the audience. It is faithful communication, then.A few friends from Japan had visited me over the weekend. They gave me a nekomata scarf, because it tied in with my excessive emoticon use, because it reminded them of my endless fascination with myths of the old worlds, because my intern and I had once searched for nekomata on nico-nico and ended up flagging the IT folks when the search results took us to role-play site where the men were old and the women were high school girls dressed up as feline yokai. I am not particularly a cat aficionado. I don’t use cat emojis. And now I have a nekomata scarf.

“It was either this or going to vista print to make you a shit-she-says scarf,” one of them told me.

Ah, yes, I’d forgotten that they used to snippet my rambling and tweet those out. We had very little entertainment in the garage, now that I think of the lows they had fallen to.

“It wasn’t me, it was Spinoza,” I’d tried telling them, to little avail. What did it matter? Spinoza was a grumpy sort who stated the obvious and the random, who managed to inspire Rawls and Wittgenstein and the rest who actually could put blocks to build a house. If philosophers were emoticons, he’d be 🙄.

My Japanese friends noticed my haircut. And they were the first, other than my mum. Figures, she has an eye for meticulous detail, and wouldn’t be out of place in their company.

I’ve been getting to the beach after work since the weather turned. It has been a wonderful way to end the day. It is that coastal blood in me, needing sand and coconuts and the ocean breeze to feel alright. My beach is rather desolate during the weekdays, except for those layabouts knocked out on weed (they are in the same location each day – hope somebody checked they are breathing still) and the intrepid yoga practitioners (sunscreen, Gaiam mats, and Athleta). The weekends are a different story, once the tech armies converge. Ah, no wonder the poor locals complain so. It is a rather beautiful land, when we aren’t around to flatten it down to the Bay Area’s general lack of personality.

I’ve some delicious treats from Japan thanks to the visitors, and my family sent savories for Vishu. Since I have a mostly empty wine rack, I’ve been encouraging guests to bring me gifts of libation. So the evening is set for tea and kuzhallapam, and then wine and wagashi.

—–

–begin existential angst–

My current workplace consists of people I get along with, generally pleasant and nice humans (except when loose-tongued by alcohol, when they notice I am female). There are a few who seem to be interested in me, pursuing that with the stereotypical push-pull courting rituals that engineering workplaces seem to bring in the Valley. I’ve been avoiding them like the plague, with skills honed from years of practice (It isn’t that I am too good for you, it’s that you are too good for me.) Plotting my exits so that they can’t catch me outside work, not even in the parking lot, while still ensuring that it doesn’t impact my ability to collaborate with them professionally. Despite that usual issue, though, they are some of nicest people I’ve worked with. They are about IPOs and ROIs. I admit I am bored out of my mind when they start going on about that. Financial security is important. God knows I learned that the hard way (and God forbid I should forget that lesson). Still, it is drudgery to hear people talking about money all the time. It’s easy to float along on repeat-mode, as almost every conversation is simply an echo of a previous one. Grin and bear it with grace, they used to tell the child I had been growing up. I’m doing that now, though sulkily and not with an iota of grace. And then I wonder how many of us are doing the same, doing and talking ‘geek’ things just so that we are networked in and considered ‘one of us’?

Now that everyone can’t stop raving about AI and robotics, I guess I’m resigned to being a killjoy with my weak smiles when they gush on about how cool it all is. Quite so, my darling. Quite so.

I’ve a dinner invite tomorrow. Must remember to retrieve my agreeability and manners before then.

I don’t shirk effort, but I’ve never sought it either. So I planned to stick to the norm, to just do whatever seems to work for most of us, to follow that well-paved road with plenty of trail markers and handholds, avoiding risk and uncertainty wherever possible. There seems to be vague contentment in following that path. What more can one ask for? I’ve been thinking how perfect it would be if I can stick to that standard valley recipe. Date that boyfriend who works for the competitor, spreading the risks nicely, and get married, and get a mortgage and two kids, and then spend the rest of my life in a bubble with a bunch who’ve followed the same recipe. It’s proven difficult though. Mind over heart, or heart over mind, they say. I wanted both, and I’ve no idea whether that is even achievable in this place. At least there is inspiration in the insipid, and a morbid fascination with my reluctance to leave behind a place that’s not working for me, and in this pit of existential angst I can get some writing done. I notice more when I am unhappy than when I’m happy, and observation is key to writing.

Meanwhile, I use emoticons.

— end existential angst–

—-

I’ve a new Mathematica subscription, as a Vishu gift to myself. It is one of my favorite tools. My friends were all about Matlab, back when we were young. I liked Mathematica for the power and flexibility of its representational primitives. What are we, but nodes and edges?

Abraham’s Daughter

The Story of Issac and Abraham is one of my favorites from the Bible, because it is so telling of what parents do to their children, are willing to do to their children, in order to bring about their desires and expectations. Abraham, wishing badly to be validated by his God, thinks his son is an okay enough price to pay. I’ve written before about someone in my life who was badly affected by parental expectations. Most of us don’t quite get to Abraham, but we still cling subconsciously to the idea our children are only tools to serve our purposes, to fulfill our needs. I’m back to write today, again, after a while, because I have been watching from the sidelines of a brutal, cold war.

She is one of my oldest friends, and one of the closest. I’ve watched her grow from a precocious child who was stubborn and often temperamental, to a woman beautiful and accomplished who fights the arsed-up society back home everyday silently and with grace. It isn’t the battles outside that gets to her, though. It is the one at home that chips away at her. The scars that are hidden are often deeper than ones that we see.

I remember her long hair, her glasses, her expressive soulful eyes, and her fierce temper. We were close, and she is one of the few who’s known me so well for so long, as we grew up together before I knew to construct a simplified facade over myself closer to what the world wanted to see, an artifice that was hurt less by the callous and the thoughtless than the flawed flesh and blood creature within. It took me quite some effort, after I reached the age of twelve or thirteen, to give the whole of myself to friends I made, to let them know me without distillation, without refinements and tweaks. I am not writing of myself today; I am writing of her, because she loved me for a long time for what I was (and I’d like to think she loves me still, across oceans and circumstances changed), and I’ve always wished her well and hoped for many good things come to her.

Living in that country I left was something that scared me; and the thought of returning is something that scares me still. I was very unhappy there, unhappy to the core of my bones. She is worn down by the society. I was broken down by it. So I admired her for her resilience, for how she managed to make things work for her, for how she carried on doggedly with her dreams even when all of the odds were amassed against her, even when she had to deal with indignities and financial constraints, even when she had to watch the rest of her friends go ‘forward’ with their lives in ways that the society deemed necessary, even when she has to constantly engage with well-meaning elders who think all of this has gone for too long and that they’d rather put a drastic end with a true and tested method (marriage). I am insulated by distance from them (and even then I shudder at the thought of returning for Christmas often). She is not. She bears the expectations gracefully, and when she is called a failure, she still finds it in her to brush off the harsh words, the psychological manipulations, and outright witch-hunt to focus on her plans and goals. I was never like her. My flight instinct has always been stronger than my fight instinct. So I watch her fight and I wonder how she does it.

[It is a cycle. You marry early because you are asked to, and then you are pushed to, and then you might be manipulated into. And you do all of it in another twenty odd years to your child. You break them enough until they are tied to your apron strings, emotionally dysfunctional, careening towards anxiety as they clamor for promotion, for new cars, for new houses, for a pretty bride or a rich husband, and two kids, and then having those kids ace every entrance examination of their lives, and then making sure that they marry right and early, and all over again. I am not here to write about that cycle. Many others have, at length, and with eloquence and passion.]

We went to see Jumanji. I heard her laughing carefree throughout the silly film at the actors’ antics, and I wondered how she lightened her burdens. I came away inspired, trying to lighten the burdens in my life as she did in hers. Over here, people try to find God, or at least a cult, or chemical aids (prescriptive or otherwise), or crossfit, or meditation, or a hundred other external sources. And there she was, strong in herself, resilient in ways I never was, fiercely focused and light of heart despite her burdens, despite the fact that even at home she had no respite. She isn’t just carrying on, which is the most that most of us can do in her place. She seeks out joys actively and doesn’t stay down. I don’t know how she manages to do so. And I don’t know how to do that. Many years ago, when we first met as children, I had fancied myself the stronger one. Time has proven me wrong and I don’t grudge her this victory at all.

And yet, at what cost? So many of us internalize the expectations placed on us until they frame our psyche even if we’ve resisted, until they determine our reactions, our anxieties, until they dictate what we stress out over, what we strive to like even if we fundamentally don’t.

Someone once tried to teach me that sons doing things right bring honor to the family, and daughters doing things right meant not bringing dishonor to the family. They don’t speak to me anymore, resigned as they are to the fact that my life has veered off sharply in directions they don’t approve of and have no control over. What they said though, registered in the child’s brain, and I still think about it often, and I see imprints of it all over in how most women pursue their dreams, and I have walked amongst women who say they lean in and help other women though they fight like dogs for a male supervisor’s approval, and the Raj isn’t dead yet in the country where I was raised.


He was known as the son of Joseph,
the son of Heli,
the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi,
the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,
the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum,
the son of Esli, the son of Naggai,
the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein,
the son of Josech, the son of Joda,
the son of Joannen, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel,
the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri,
the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam,
the son of Elmadam, the son o
f Er,
the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim,
the son of Matthat, the son of Levi,
the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph,
the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,
the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha,
the son of Nathan, the son of David,
the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz,
the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon,
the son of Amminadab, the son of Aram, the son of Arni,
the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah,
the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham,
the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,
the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg,
the son of Eber, the son of Shelah,
the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,
the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,
the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared,
the son of Mahalalel, the son of Cainan,
the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam,
the son of God.

Not a woman in there. Where did the mothers go? I remember asking my catechism teacher about that, as a child not yet ten, and getting scolded furiously. I ran away. It was only the beginning of what turned to be very many years of running away from many matters, primarily rooted in faith. Faith, as I had realized then, was a powerful tool to psychologically manipulate us not just into arcane rituals and superstitions, to take our work and bread, but also to keep some of us down and lift others up, and even when we break away, the scars are still deep in us. So most of us end up sacrificing ourselves on those altars down the line, voluntarily, psychologically impacted by society and family as we are, even if we managed to rebel and resist when we were dragged there. And since it is our own doing now, everyday, in our daily lives and choices, it doesn’t even register.

I know what it’s done to me, as I stand here free and in exile. I wonder what it’s done to her and how she keeps her flame going.

————–

Here, I cooked for Vishu and invited friends over. My new apartment rang with laughter and smelled of traditional food. It was delicious. We inaugurated a new tea service and had an impromptu violin recital. Later, there was tawny port and the plum cake my family had sent over. Now I am well-fed, quite drunk, and sleepy; the combination has left me content and in the mood to torment my neighbors with another impromptu recital. Fortunately, they have been quite tolerant of my quirks so far.

I was a shoddy driver last week and smashed the front of my car against a pillar at the office parking lot. The dent and the scratches look woebegone. I will get it fixed in a couple of months, I’ve decided.

I sneaked into the opening night of the Death of Stalin here at the local theatre. The crowd was an eclectic bunch of professors from Stanford and conspiracy theorists. I stood out rather.

There is a float spa nearby which is all the rage these days around here. You get in a water pod and they shut out the lights. Then you float in the dark for a hour or two, and it is supposed to help you bring self-awareness and peace within. The parking lot is full of cars and taxis, and so are the side-streets, and I have to park a few blocks away to get to my dry-cleaners which is alongside the spa. Seekers all, and I wish them luck.

————–

easter passover | spring break

Headed out to New Mexico for a spring break. It turned out to be cold and windy, and I spent most of it sighing to myself, sniffling a great deal, and feverish, popping aspirins and swigging caffeine to stay on my feet.

Came back to find my car battery done with. So now I have that to sort out. My dryer is also on hartaal. You shall be dealt with too, in due time. I returned in a bouncy mood, so I am not yet cranky about all of this.

Why a bouncy mood, you might ask? New Mexico is a wild and wonderful place, the arid, western frontier of reds and ochres that the Hollywood films exaggerate to paint loyalty born of dreams in faraway kids. The vast expanse of land, dotted only by tumbleweed and the occasional shack, is a sight to drink in after spending the last three months in the Bay Area sprawl, after working in San Francisco.

New Mexico is a land of stark contrasts: California retirees go there to buy homes to die in, because it is affordable, and they go about in their mini-coopers right past the heroin addicts (it is heroin country here), the homeless, and the teeming masses of unemployed young men of local descent. There is tourism catering to the coastal vacationeers, nice tours that take you to pueblos, not unlike how wildlife sanctuaries in some countries organize tours to see endangered wildlife (Pointing is rude, unless they aren’t one of us).

While I managed to get my usual quota of socio-political observations, I didn’t go there for venturing into amateur anthropological absurdities.

I went to R&R (rest and rejuvenate, in New Mexican tourist parlance). I wound up at a hot springs pond in the mountains underneath the full moon.

Passover was marked at the Jewish association, and the food and the company left me replete. We wound up discussing how altars and sacrifices emerged from psychological needs to surrender and to give up self and agency to another authority. It had been a long time since I’ve had a conversation that touched on interests in that domain, in exploring how the human psyche births into being the same needs and fantasies with common themes across geography and society. The last person who I had a conversation with on similar topics had been a diehard Foucault disciple. That had been a long conversation. Foucault isn’t really a philosopher in my book, as much as he is a hacker/interpreter/assembler putting things together succinctly and accessibly for the benefit of a broader audience. Going by the standards of today, where subjectivity and objectivity have become blurred, it is perhaps not unreasonable to call him a philosopher for our times.

I attended Easter Mass at an old and beautiful chapel, captured in faith by the beautiful choir ensemble they put together. I went to see an opera in a theatre by the desert, that opened out to the arid landscapes. I had my fill of art and food, of economically exiled California hippies and weed.

[I missed my family. Perhaps it is because I am not yet settled into my new apartment, and was traveling during a holiday I usually spend at home. Some tidings from there too, made me think of life and mortality and the importance of making things work for me as best as I can, cutting out stuff that isn’t working (all those todos that were never going to get done), without waiting for another day, for another time.]