knew you once

Even the weariest river must make its way to the sea, and I ended up in Kerala, to close this year. My brother made his way here too. So here we are now, scarcely recognizable to each other, and to our family. We go through the motions of family and home, and wonder in our own ways about where we find meaning and belonging. Even writing does not bring forth words now, as I strive to put it all together, as I try to track through the past to see where that moment of sundering was, or when it had been. Perhaps it had been long ago, on a day I can’t even remember now. Perhaps it had been gradual. I don’t know now. I am not in a mood to reflect, so I take a deep breath and mingle now, trying to find new ways of relating to all of this. It comes easier than in previous times, and I am no longer nursing old hurts and fears, and that realization in itself is an epiphany of magnitude that I am unwilling to process. Neither of us have grown up to be what my family wanted of us, and that is only too evident now. There is resistance to that conclusion here, and there is still casting us in moulds we don’t fit in any longer and perhaps never did. Perfection is still expected, along different dimensions, and we find ourselves imperfect, asymmetric, content human beings that failed. It doesn’t matter, we realize, as long as the contentment is present. It isn’t a moment’s lesson and a happily ever after. There is ever a struggle, but it is at least a struggle of which we know the ending now.

Kerala has changed too. Global warming has affected the land adversely. The mountains that I remember as huge guardians of green, cut across on the sides by the monsoon rivulets, are now standing near barren and brown. The sight is frightening. The water in the wells is lower than I’ve ever seen it before. The westerly winds bear little moisture. In a moment of childish imagination, I wonder if everything stopped growing when we left as little children running away from all that they knew. I think of the tale of the selfish giant, and I have to chide myself to rein in my musings.

Here, on red soil, underneath banyan trees, stepped in the superstitions of old gods of tribal lore, before the whitewashed crosses of my grandparents’ faith, imagination was only ever half a step from reality itself. I had shed all that, I thought, when I’d left. I’d scrubbed myself presentable, without quirks and curves and shadows, and fit in with the world of cubicles and cities, rectangular flats and English as the common tongue. What are you, they’d asked? Only a worker bee, plainly heterosexual, with standard, middle class aspirations, desiring to work a 9-to-5, dreaming little and wanting nothing more than a mortgage and a family of four to fit in a square frame, wanting to stay clear of any ambition outside career growth, wanting to put up with silly bosses and men who like a side of harassment with their tea. And I realize that too is a reason why coming here is complicated. I am forced to confront what I’d managed to cloak and carve up out of myself to be where I am now. I’d surrendered dreams and will and a great deal of myself when I crossed the ocean. It hasn’t been without its benefits, and knowing all this now I’d make the same choices still. I’d thought I’d be able to unlock and gather all of myself once I reached a place, once I found stability, once I reached an age. I am more dubious about all that now, though still clinging to hope as tightly as I used to cling to my family’s hands when crossing roads.

Aging is a harsh process. As I see family only once every year, I am frightened by the changes I see on each visit. I try to prepare myself mentally each time I come over, but I am still stricken. It is uncomfortable, harsh and difficult to process. Life goes on, they say. So much for my childish fancy where I imagined everything from the land to the trees to the skies to the people frozen and stagnant as they had been when I had first stepped out.

2017 wasn’t bad. It wasn’t good. It was just another year. I hope 2018 will have better events and people for me. I am looking forward to a new city and new colleagues.

I haven’t done New Year here in ages. Usually, it was Christmas and back. This time, I’d spent Christmas elsewhere. We are going to do a quiet New Year’s here, I think.

Hope you have a wonderful 2018 ahead of you!

far away and farther still | Tasmania

I liked Melbourne. And then I was on a train, and a lunatic driven by faith drove a car into a throng of people at Flinders Street. I was shaken, but managed to put it out of my mind, at least until I received a panicked call from across the Pacific after seeing the news. It is that time of the year, isn’t it? Maybe there are bonus multipliers on the number of virgins awarded during this season for defending faith in murderous ways.

Tasmania, on the next day, is a soothing faraway from all of that. The land rises from the ocean, hugging shores of white quartzite, cleaved apart by rivers many, and towering peaks and forests sprawling greet us on arrival. I am already in love, before having even stepped foot on that soil.

I have heard people speaking of Kashmir in reverent tones. I have heard them speak of the Himalayas, and even of the verdant land I come from. For me, though, this is it. This is the first time that I am so moved by soil and tree. My knowledge of geography and geology is nonexistent. For the first time in my life, I am curious to learn more about what made this land as it is. So I learn about Gondawana, about the plates, about the continental shelf deep, and I am in awe of time’s magic.

It is an up and down land, of rolling meadows and sharp cliffs falling sheer to the ocean, of placid harbors and wild winds buffeting gnarled old trees, of English countryside planted amidst native foliage. The devil is cute, and looks nothing like how I imagined it to be. Kangaroos and wallabies are curious and shy on the trails in Freycinet. I see pademelons too. The marsupials remind me of stray dogs back in my home town. I am confused when I see them all later, on a glossy menu, in a posh restaurant. Gorging myself on abalone and scallops, I look away from the kangaroo steak that the neighboring table is trying out.

There are flowers everywhere. The summer breeze is cloying and heavy, bearing the scent of roses and lavender. There is ivy crawling on the old houses. Hydrangea and daffodils peek over the white fences beside winding country roads. Weather turns at its whim, I go in search of surf, and get myself doused cold and wet for my troubles. Christmas fairs at night bring crowds and laughter. I walk around, and feel cosy and happy, removed from the world by water and rocks, far away and farther still.

Strangers are talkative. There is a sense of goodwill and camaraderie in the air, so typical of Christmas, and it makes me very happy. I sneak in and out of cafes, during the recurrent storms, and eat bites of Christmas pudding with black tea. I have resigned myself to many extra pounds from these indulgences.

A street photographer takes a photo of me at a bus-stand, at a Christmas fair, and lets me know afterwards. I am not okay with the invasiveness, but what is done is done, he apologizes prettily, and explains in earnest why he finds it important to capture unwitting subjects on the streets. His photograph has come out in an interesting way, in how it has managed to contrast skin and graffiti, broken concrete and bright Christmas colors of my cardigan, cigarette stubs and collarbones, capturing patience and alertness both. I accept his offer of coffee, chat with him, and he tells me about his voyeuristic hobby. I am not surprised when he admits that the mother of a little child he had taken a photo of had been less forgiving. It is an intrusive hobby, even if it isn’t illegal. The church bells chime out the hour, and I am running late for the bus. So I wish him a Merry Christmas and get away. It isn’t my first run with one of his ilk, trophy hunters looking for urban wildlife. I do prefer it when they ask beforehand.

I wonder, later, what it means when I write of others. It is an old discomfort, and a perpetual one. I try my best not to identify whom I write of, try to cloak the known with the unknown. It doesn’t come naturally, since I am an emotional, expressive creature. It isn’t easy, but it is necessary when others are involved; I have seen enough cases of bullying, harassment, borderline doxing, ranging from the light to the severe, to be wary of how I write of my life and those in it. I try to keep the core of my writing and music fairly separate from everything else in my life; they have been my bedrock when the rest was shaky, and it is simpler to keep that private now.

Separation, despite the best of my efforts, isn’t always practical. Donne wasn’t wrong, about islands and men. People wonder, and are curious. At times, you want people in your life to know you enough, but to still keep parts of you to yourself. Blogging streaks the border between the private and the shared, and I have found it a comfort when I feel the need to be known a bit, to those who venture over of their own volition. I care intensely when I care at all, and my words often bear that intensity and expressiveness. If I’d been given a dollar each time someone asked me to keep it light, I’d be richer thrice over. It is unpleasant to subject others to unasked for intensity in random conversations over beer or coffee and understandably most everyone barring a few find it tedious to deal with that, but it is less fraught when expressed in words on a webpage here.

Honey is my new-old craving. Tasmanian honey is delicious in its many forms. I have been eating hive crusts with bread and Kakadu preserves. It reminds me of a time long ago, of when I had been on the cusp of adolescence, when a woman had given us fresh crust from a smoked beehive. I had been wary to eat it, and I had been kissed then, and I cannot be blamed for developing a taste for the crust after that.

My neighbors at the accommodation are an elderly couple, traveling in Australia for three months. I have been shamelessly stealing their well-planned itinerary, having planned nothing myself, here as I am without an iota of deliberation and driven by pure impulse. They are here now, sweet and apologetic, asking me to please set up their wifi connection again for the umpteenth time. So I’ve got to go now. Maybe later, they’ll drag me out to the terrace for tea and pies and conversations as they did yesterday, after the rains retreat for the evening, once the bright summer sun warms the lawns outside once again, and the air turns heavy with the smell of rain-drenched soil and flowers abloom on the hills. I remind them of their grandkids, and they remind me of my grandparents. They have been well-meaning in their attempts to get me to wake up early. I have been trying my best to sort the ancient heating system of this house for them. It isn’t a Christmas with family, but it isn’t a Christmas without family either, far away on the edge of a world.

Stay safe, and be well. Happy Christmas!

Australia | this impulse of mine

I almost didn’t make it here. Tickets were a last minute scramble. The decision to come was also an impulsive one. The Friday I set out, I had gone through the wringer at work, ending many months of a murky situation, and was quite sure I’d miss the flight. Fifteen hours later, I found myself ridiculously overdressed as I stepped out of Sydney airport, into the hot, humid, cloudcast city.

I found Sydney an aspirational cousin of San Francisco, and I’d found San Francisco an aspirational cousin of New York. In Sydney there was dog yoga and suburbs sprawling, Google Pixel ads and a tech industry in difficult making, overseas money building up skyscrapers tall and public infrastructure crumbling. I made the tourist stops, to the harbor, to the beaches, to the opera house. The food didn’t quite stand out to me. Whatever I experienced there, I had experienced somewhere else. I loved the warm beaches and surfed, though I have to admit I was scared of sharks. I had to rent gear, and when I did that, the lady, noticing that I had a scarf, asked me if I needed a surf hijab. I said no, and explained that it was only to shield me from the sun. It was thoughtful of her. I was reminded of all the times in Dubai airport where they take it upon themselves to show me the prayer room. And of more than one nosy man in Mexico City who had asked me if I was from the Middle East. Maybe I should learn some Hindi.

The public transport system is easy to navigate. It brings back old sense memories. My left side has bruises once more, because of how I stand at an angle, my hip bone striking those metal bars on buses and trams.

People in Sydney are beautiful; reminds me of LA, of perfect tan and silicone to help along.

Melbourne was different. The river flows through the city. It reminds me of Sibelius rowing us down the Charles, and back to the Harvard pier. I am tempted to go down to the pier and row, but it is too hot, and I much prefer it when someone else does the hard work. So I settle for walking alongside. The arts scene is thriving. The city is well laid out and easy to get around. It is as green as Atlanta. Going up north, the high country reminds me of Thornbirds, of Drogheda.

People are warm and helpful. My neighbor on the train is a great mimic, as he walks me through the different Aussie accents. He tells me about the oddities of the Northern Territory. He loves Barangaroo. He has a guitar. I think this is the first country where I have seen so many people on buses and trains in swim wear holding guitars. It is a beach-beer-guitar country. When we disembark, I humor him and play a few chords of Black Dog. He declares it very good, but it is not America, and there are no spontaneous hugs. I hand the guitar back to him, decline his offer of showing me around the valley, decline his offer of taking me to lunch, and thank him quickly before taking off to explore. It is still early, and I can be horrible company at that time without a great deal of coffee and sunlight.

There are parks everywhere. Tea and scones, cricket and clotted cream. The colonial legacy holds strong, I suppose. The wine country, outside the city, in Yarra valley is beautiful. The coastline reminds me of the splendor of the California Highway 1. There are little concerts here and there.

There is a cafe, a Turkish one, with a single communal table. It faces the river. It is sunny and quiet. I spent hours there, watching people, writing, and let myself be pampered by the barista. It is a quiet day there, so she has time. She refills my coffee without charging, and engages me in conversation kind and witty, and I fall in love. I have very few charms, but baristas are susceptible to them. She tells me about her dreams. Then she laughs wryly and says they’ll be just dreams. She asks me what brings me to her corner of the world. I’ll never see her again, I think, and so I tell her many things. It is rather freeing. Her accent is twangy and reminds me of a cello. I tell her about music. I tell her about how I used to write, about how I write still. She tells me about how she’ll have to stay in the city for Christmas, about how she wishes she could go home to her family for the holiday. At five, her trading hours are done, and she cleans up and closes shop, and then she comes out to sit with me on the grass by the lake. She is religious. Outside there are evangelists yelling at the commuters running to and from the city business district about how we are all eligible to be saved by Jesus Christ on the last day of reckoning. I smile at that before I catch the faith in her eyes. I carefully refrain from commenting and change the subject to more mundane things. I show her the pirate scar from my eye surgery earlier this year. I try to sate her curiosity about Catholics in India. I tease her about her obsession with the British royal family and cricket. It must have been all the wine tasting I did earlier, but I was happy sitting there with her for hours, and felt young and hopeful again. She has not seen Priscilla, Queen of the desert before. So I tell her all about it, about cocks in frocks on rocks. I don’t think I have tried this much to impress and entertain anyone in a very long time. The last time was years ago, when I tried to impress Sibelius’s mother, and she had not been impressed and had just asked me to have some more iced tea. This time, when I leave my barista at the train station, she hugs me, and I am mellow and full of goodwill towards all mankind. It lasts until my itchy, achy sunburned ear-tips complain.

Sinnerman

My friend took me to a beautiful Cirque de Soleil show as a birthday present. I was very moved by the experience. Now I am all high strung on hope and optimism, and I can feel alarm bells ringing in my head at this unusual state of affairs. I am even planning a wedding ceremony in September next year, for that friend who seems all prepped up to enact a runaway bride.

I met old friends in a cute, Indian restaurant before they left for their winter vacation. It was so lovely to see them, especially since I had been avoiding them for a long while, for no other reason than my own hesitance to bother anyone with my more difficult moods. I really dislike meeting people I like when something in my life is imbalanced. I think I fret too much about worrying them unnecessarily. It is an ingrained habit that I am trying to get rid of. They called me out on it, rightfully so, and I resolved not to do that again. We’ll see. It is all a work in progress, but I felt fortified after seeing them both, after seeing how they love each other and the family they have created together, and I have such beautiful memories of them letting me into their home and keeping me for a few months. I’m always grateful, for what they were to me then, for what they are now, just not very good at saying so, or keeping in touch. I’ve decided to be more conscious about all this. We’ll see how long my resolve lasts.

——————-

Where are you going to run to?

Various people have asked me that over the years. I ran away from a society I didn’t like, from family pressures I couldn’t deal with, from a love old that cut too deep.

My latest escape is down under, away from the detritus of two years of a job that was uncomfortable and difficult, for all that it paid well, as I coped near daily with the many paper cuts dealt by a man who knew he had power and didn’t hesitate to remind me of that. I did try fixing that, over and over again, until I gave up and looked to greener pastures. There is only so much Nina Simone and Mississippi Goddamn I can listen to before throwing my hands up in exasperation and moving on to a different lab. I managed to wait until a colleague I respected left on his vacation, having known that I’d find it hard to deal with the drama, and not wanting him to see how it would affect me. Also, he had been the one who had such conviction in reporting things that I had temporarily been swayed to consider that option, and I felt conflicted at how it only led to the usual set of consequences. It was a bit too dramatic for my tastes as it panned out. My old boss asked me to let go of any bitterness and to forgive the people involved. Coming from him of all people, I thought it was a bit weird, but what do I know? He has always been a rather unpredictable sort, and perhaps he was in a Christian mood that day. It’s hardly the worst well-meaning advice I have been plied with. I am not one for lofty concepts such as forgiveness; my way is that of Hobbit-like practicality, of making myself comfortable and safe, and I know I’ll be fine, after a few days, and I know I’ll like the changes – new faces and new challenges. Luckily for me, I love the field and love the technical problems I find here, and it makes up on most days for the random jerk encounters.

This looking forward business is alarming, but welcome. I’ve changed so over the few years past. I have to thank the friends I have for my support system now. It has been utterly unlike any other time in my life, in that I don’t feel I am fighting anything alone, and I feel ensconced in confidence thanks to their faith in me. It is hard in many ways. I am not used to relying on anyone else, having had to keep my own counsel for too long. Generally, I have tended to attract people who want me to need them, people who want to save me from whatever they think I am hiding from, and that dynamic never really ends well. The latest problem that caused me to quit this job was a similar case of that, of wanting me to be compliant and lashing out in many different ways when things didn’t go as he wished. Luckily I have good friends now, and a much better compass for where I want to be. I try more than I used to before, to ask actively for their opinions, to incorporate their feedback into how I make decisions, and it has been working out well for me. I cannot say that I am still the most forthcoming of people when it comes to my problems, since I consider most of them too mundane to trouble anyone with, but I am getting better at voicing my concerns in company I trust.

Just this week, as I made up my mind about resignation, I was discussing it with a friend. And I was talking about Australia, of how I wished I could go there. Her impulsiveness and constant spiel about following my gut stirred recklessness in me; so there I was, sweet-talking that poor airline rep to find me tickets at the last minute, and I was off two hours after I quit that job. It was altogether alarming and crazy, and I wouldn’t have managed it if my wiser, more practical friend hadn’t come by and made sure everything was sorted out and ready to go. I had been a nervous wreck. The job had taken its toll on me: skipped meals, lost sleep, a general state of nervousness and uncertainty that plagued me through my days and nights. On Friday, after I got back home, I was dizzy and fainted, exhausted by the ordeal. I was determined to get away from all of it for a while, so I plucked myself up with caffeine and set off down under. Kautilya, if he had heard of that story, would have called me sensitive, but then I’ve never really had that strength to carry on relentlessly, as some do. Perhaps it comes of not having faith. I didn’t take to religion, I didn’t take to country, and I didn’t take to family or love. I’ve too many whys to be faithful and relentless. So I’ve only been able usually to start over somewhere else, and refuse to ponder the past.

Sibelius called for Hanukkah. He is still plotting and scheming for that Bernie revival. I haven’t the heart to dash his hopes. His mum, though, will take a torch to them once she hears of this. She’s never been much anything than a grim realist.

I wrote Christmas cards. I haven’t yet posted them. I will, when I get back home.

Life isn’t a mainstream movie. There is no closure after three hours. The next chapter isn’t going to be happily ever after. There is a break in between, though, and I am quite grateful for that now.

I met an old colleague whom I respect a great deal, who was one of the best mentors I’ve had in work. There were others, at that same job. We have all drifted apart since, busy with our own lives and careers, but we keep tabs on each other, and it is good to know that they are there if something doesn’t work out, even if I have been so far masochistically resolute that I’ll never use a referral to land a job. He knows my ways, and I felt fortified after he told me bluntly that he’d hire me on the spot if I tired of doing things on my own. I am unlikely to take him up on that offer. I enjoy that thrill of finding new people and places, and proving myself all over again.

I have to head to family for New Year this time. That brings its own bundle of uncertainties and concerns. I am feeling at ease though, more than I have in the years past. I don’t feel that familiar sense of sadness and regret when I think about the hyacinth. The intensity of that past has faded into sepia soft, perhaps now eclipsed by all that has since taken place, and it feels like another person’s life now, familiar but not personal. It makes traveling there easier, much easier.

I did my existentialist month in November this time. So my December seems rather light now. I am more concerned with sleeping and eating well than indulging in my annual mulling over the mysteries of my existence. I imagine I’ll never fully sail with an even keel; I think I have written of that before. A month of evenness, of tempered calm, is really nice though.

Still awfully jetlagged and catching up on what seems to be months of lost sleep. My thoughts are too disjointed to lend themselves to coherency right now, but I have decided not to fuss over that. Writing is a pleasure when there is focus, but it is equally a pleasure when words just flow from streams of thought undirected. It is rather freeing, and I am not going to fret over the lack of conciseness or purpose. I’ve got koalas to pet and stuff.

————————

This been the damn world

I was watching a snippet of Colbert’s late show, where the host is interviewing Billy Bush, of the Access Hollywood tape notoriety.

It seemed just yesterday that the tape was leaked, but it has been quite some time since then. We had Ellen Pao and Susan Fowler here. There were many celebrities and professionals in the entertainment industry coming forward after that.

And all I could think of, watching the interview today, was that Billy Bush still is bitter that he lost his job and Trump kept his, that he thinks he didn’t do anything that wrong even if he speaks the politically correct words expected of him, that he said it was back in 2005 and that he laughed along with the other men just because it was the norm of the time, and somehow that vibe of ‘I did the right thing for that time, and why I am being blamed for it now that the times have changed?’ got through to the host and the audience as well. It made for uncomfortable watching, certainly.


I hear the same in discussions informal and formal, online and offline. [Why are we looking at tech? Other industries have the same problems! Women don’t come in because they don’t want to do the hard work. It is not a discrimination problem, it is a supply problem.]

The problem is multivariate. Solutions are not easy. However, the first step is acceptance. The first step should not be about ”understanding what a woman faces’, or doing exercises to ‘put yourself in her shoes’, or going through endless sensitivity training videos on the corporate website. It is accepting that the problem of harassment and discrimination exists.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to even get to that point with most of my male colleagues. I have only male colleagues, and have had only male colleagues for the entirety of my career. So how they react to this hits home for me.

Any mention of harassment brings up defensive reactions, disclaimers that they knew nothing of it, that they saw nothing of it, that nobody meant anything ‘really serious’. Variations exist on those themes.

  • It is not the companies I’ve worked at. I am sorry you faced this here. I want to assure you that it’s not the norm!
  • It’s not the people I know. You are dealing with an odd man out.
  • It’s never been the industry’s way. You are dealing with an odd company.
  • It’s only because they are boys entering the field without professional coaching. They get better with time. Don’t take it personally.

When you are the only woman in a setting, when sexually inappropriate comments are made inside the workplace with knowing, coy looks, it’s hard not to take it personally.

It is not unusual that we don’t often hear these stories. There are very few women in the field. There are very few women as you move up the ranks, and they keep changing companies until they switch career tracks or find a nice, dead-end, cosy position. Many of them are on a visa, or in various stages of establishing permanent residency, tied to their employer for that duration. They risk their job, their ability to stay in the country, when they complain. It is easy to find a new job, of course, in today’s market, but you risk being labelled as the poisoner of the well, and if you have a visa at stake, you risk a lot more.

Why didn’t you say anything about it? Why didn’t you take it to the right channels? Why didn’t you persist in reporting higher and higher up when your management chain concealed the reports? If you don’t do something, what if this happens to someone else here? The questions are not without value. Yet, I wonder, in this field of incredibly intelligent men that I work in, why would they need it explained to them many times over? Maybe one day, they too, like Billy Bush, will say it was only the norm at that time, that they introspected and reflected and found out that their behavior wasn’t okay, and that they are changed now. Maybe, though, there will be a false accusation soon, and everybody will go back to their lives, convenient as it is to think every woman who came forward was just an embittered, unsuccessful-in-life snowflake who made it up in her head, that no such thing would ever happen in real life, in your life or my life.

Then there’s the perception effect. You are a woman working in a group of men. You smiled and had coffee or took a walk about the campus with this man. So that must mean that in some way you provoked someone else to act inappropriately towards you. Unless you are the perfect victim, the archetype of Virgin Mary, Mother of God, why would I believe anything you say? Why would I believe that you didn’t have it coming?

So complaining about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace only becomes feasible if you have an incredible support system, a perfect victim profile, a financial safety net, a new job or set of jobs waiting, and acceptance that you will lose friendships with male colleagues in the field as well as get blacklisted in the network effects that happen in a closed and small world as this, and a tremendous amount of courage to deal with the aftershocks, everyday, for a long time to come. So we pretend that leaving was our choice, and move on to the next place quietly.


When any attempt to raise the issue up the chain of command ends up with you getting basically demoted, shifted around to work in dead-end projects, out of sight and out of mind, it is incredibly hard to believe that you are dealing with an odd  man out, that it is just boys entering the field a tad rough about the edges, that the industry is as pure as they claim it is.

I stumbled into a few colleagues at lunch today.

“Oh, how is your new role going on?”

I made my polite replies. Then they said, “You look happy! You must be so happy to be now working in foo_bar.”

I wondered what the appropriate response would be. At least one of them knew the exact reasons as to why I had been ‘voluntarily’ reassigned. Many of the others knew that something had gone wrong, but had made no effort over the weeks to understand what exactly transpired (not that I consider that an egregious sin). And the person who knew stood there, with the others, smiling politely at me as if he had no idea about any of it.

It didn’t matter then. So I just carried on with my day.


“Think about how lucky you are! At least you get paid a lot.”

I entered this field because I was interested, many years ago. I stayed all these years because I was interested. The money came later, once that robotics hype exploded recently. And even if I came and stayed for the money, I signed up to be paid for SLAM, not to service the unfettered needs of male colleagues that they’ll get away with for the foreseeable future.


“What will you do?”

I have come around to thinking that we have all our places to stand. Mine, for now, is a place of observation. Action, if there must be action, can only come later in my life, when I have built enough courage, when I have built enough of a support system outside this industry, when I have options and opportunities outside this industry to retreat to without worrying about livelihoods and immigration.

Action, if it one day comes, cannot be mine alone. When the ratios I work in, have worked in (~40:1, usually give or take), are what they are, it means my male colleagues need to be aware of how they talk, of how they touch, of how they take my compliance in overlooking their violations of professional boundaries for granted, it means that my male colleagues need to accept that regardless of how serious they think they were (‘just kidding around!’), there are serious consequences for me (potential loss of work, a change of job).  It is hard, I understand; I found it hard to accept that I am usually spoken over at meetings, that I am taken less seriously at technical discussions etc. I have found my way to address these issues, but it is a trial-and-error, what-works-for-me solution. The hardest part, though, was not finding the solution. It was accepting that this was my reality and that it was entirely up to me to solve it if I wanted to stay in the industry.


I was uncertain about posting this. I generally prefer to keep matters more abstract when writing here, especially if they are close to my heart. Today, though, I was thinking that my exit from this industry was more likely to happen in an ugly manner from these thousands of paper-cuts than by a clean, single-stroke of irresistible force. So it felt right to write here, of this, today.


I am not normally one for SNL, but I saw they did this piece earlier this month: