Topical Testing

I have this recurring problem with Internet lotharios, although in recent times the numbers have thankfully declined. They see my profile picture and start bombarding me with messages.

My first problem with this is that, deep down, it feeds into my insecurity about my appearance. Granted, I have been told all my life that I am beautiful, but it isn’t something I have internalised AT ALL. I don’t feel beautiful. This is in a large part to being overweight, and frankly being told that I am “too beautiful” for such-and-such thing is equally demoralising. However, all things being said, I want to break the subconscious validation I get from weirdos. It is detrimental, and I need to develop mental strength about my looks from within, rather than get it from such a negative source.

The second problem is that I don’t particularly enjoy the attention either. It is, as I noted before, extremely negative. However, I realise that there is person on the other side, and invariably that makes me reluctant to be rude outright.

Then a theory for how to deal with this annoyance hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday. [I should say epiphany, because that’s more positive, but my current favourite turn of phrase is ton of bricks.]

It should come as no surprise that a writer likes to read. [It has surprised people on occasion, and their surprise surprises me. What a convoluted sentence.] Therefore I spend a considerable amount of time trawling through the Internet. Now, I don’t claim to have particularly high-brow or intellectual interests, but I do occasionally read an article that is LONG. Again, I love books, so long articles are very much within my sphere of interest. Quelle surprise.

I devoured two such articles yesterday, and was sliding into a black hole on the subject. [Here are the articles, in case anyone is interested: The Ideological Turing test: How to be less wrong; and How could they?] I posted the first one on Facebook, knowing full well that potentially a fragment of my friends would react. Sure enough, one reaction. But that’s not why I posted it. I wanted someone particular [a close family member] to see it, and I imagine they did. So mission accomplished.

But then it struck me; I post such vapid nonsense on my feed that many of my friends have no idea what I do, no idea what my leanings or beliefs are, and finally no idea where I actually have two thoughts to rub together in my head. They are fairly justified in their surprise when someone who posts about the silliness in their life suddenly displays depth. Unsuspected, hitherto unforeseen depth.

Now, I honestly don’t mind being thought of as intellectually deficient, because social media is so much fluff anyway. But this got me thinking: suppose I start talking about what truly interests me to these random people who approach me?

Bear with me here. I am positing a theory with two potential outcomes.

If I start discussing, and really discussing a subject that I find interesting [I find A LOT of stuff interesting, by the way] in the depth to which I am thinking about it, I reckon I will have solved my problem entirely.

Potential outcome 1 [because I am an uncharitable, judgemental sort, I think this is the most likely outcome]: The person will get bored with the discussion, because in my experience they want something frothy and frivolous, and would prefer to stick to subjects like movies or celebrities. Their boredom, in the face of my relentless “intellectual” barrage about things like psychology, philosophy, food science, history, language, etc., will propel them to leave this miserable blue stocking alone. The face is not worth the incomprehensible babbling.

Potential outcome 2: The person will pick up the gauntlet of debate, and I would have found someone interesting to talk to. A caveat in this situation is that he could be the argumentative sort, with strongly held opinions formed in a narrow world view. That would be frustrating to encounter, as I have experienced before. Hopefully I will deal with it better now though.

[Side note: I once had someone on Twitter tell me: “All females think about it is dress!” After I got over my indignation over the sexism and the appalling grammar, I replied sarcastically: “Well, I can’t speak for every female, but I certainly don’t think about ‘dress’ all the time.” And when he took the bait and congratulated me, I continued: “No, I occasionally spare a thought for ‘shoe’ also.” Of course, he totally missed the sarcasm, and launched into an anecdote about how true it was that women spent too much time thinking about shoes too. Sigh.]

So there it is. My theory on dealing with randoms. I tried this today, and so far potential outcome 1 is holding true. Let’s see how far I can push it.


I Finally Watched Nanette

Twitter was abuzz after the release of Nanette, and [curiously] so was Instagram. My Facebook wasn’t, which speaks to the kind of people on there I suppose. So, in the back of my mind somewhere, I had made a mental note: watch Nanette.

And I finally did. Two evenings ago.

I love stand-up comedy, even the bad kind. The only kinds I cannot stomach is the cringey type or the kind where the comedian/comedienne singles out a target from the audience. So, going in, I knew I was going to love Nanette.

To be clear, I don’t care whether the comic is male or female, straight or gay, black or white, Indian or not, and so on. There are several popular comics on the Indian circuit who I think are terrible. There are those that I thought were brilliant before, and suck big time now. There are those who are, in my opinion, chronically unfunny and just appear to be horrible people. So the fact that Hannah Gadsby, the creator of Nanette, was a woman? Didn’t matter. That she was gay? I didn’t know. Or care. I had never seen any of her work, so I had ZERO frame of reference for the show.

Except the rave Twitter reviews from people I know to be feminists. Gotta love the feminists.

I did love Nanette. It was poignant and funny and topical and touching and wonderful on some many levels. But it wasn’t really comedy. And that was fine, except it was touted as comedy. In fact, saying that it is comedy does this magnificent oeuvre a deep injustice. It is more like a TED Talk about humanity and compassion, rather than comedy. Nanette was powerful and beautiful, but it left me in tears.

It was undoubtedly the best thing I have watched in months.

Weight Loss Extras

I always knew that sweating improves skin quality, since it flushes out debris from the pores, but there were a couple of unexpected surprises with the whole exercise thing.

First, my skin is SO much smoother. And not the facial skin [which has contradictorily become rougher] but the skin on my body. I wear boxer shorts and tshirts at home, so there is a lot of exposed skin, and when my hand brushes again one of my limbs now? SO SMOOTH! Buttery smooth, in fact. This is crazy for me, because I have suffered with dry skin all my life. In winters, I empty out a bottle of moisturiser every two weeks, because my skin feels parched.

Conversely, the skin on my face is a little rougher. I have a minimal skin care routine, which involves a spritz with rose water and a little face cream to combat dryness. [Otherwise it is a dried river bed situation with white cracks and flakes of skin. Not comfortable, and darn ugly.] I can’t remember the last time I had a facial, because with all the fat under my skin, my skin was glowing and pink. I still don’t have wrinkles, but I anticipate they will arrive shortly. C’est la vie.

Second, the hardened slabs of fat on my hips have become so much softer. Ok, so I expected that the fat would slowly dissipate – after all that’s the whole point of exercising – but I didn’t expect it to become softer. At first, I panicked because I thought the skin would become floppy, which I’ve seen happening with rapid weight loss. But thankfully, my weight loss is more gradual, and perhaps this is giving the skin time to tauten appropriately. There is no way I can have skin surgery to cut off the excess.

On both the points above, I thought I was imagining things. So I found these interesting articles that corroborate my experience:

Skin benefits from exercise
“Softening” fat

Kool Kharacter Kafe

[Channelling Karan Johar for that title, clearly.]

There is this Irani cafe in King’s Circle, which is about hop skip and jump away from home. It is a famous one, called Koolar Cafe, and has featured in several Bollywood movies. [It was even in Sense8, the Netflix series I LOVED, as Kala’s father’s “restaurant”.] It is famous, is what I am saying.

The place has, um, character. It is the very definition of eclectic, with tacky movie posters, hung alongside motivational posters, and the odd plasticky chandelier, hanging above gorgeous vintage wooden cafe furniture. It is a sight to behold, no doubt, but for us it was just our neighbouring Irani cafe. And because we are in the heart of Matunga East, the only place that used to serve non-vegetarian food for the longest time.

Koolar Cafe is a great place to meet up for an omelette, pav, and coffee. [The coffee is all kinds of disgusting, but it sort of goes with the experience.] And since the place is clearly a rejected Alice in Wonderland set, it stands to reason that the owner is missing several screws himself.

I had a run in with this guy when my aunt wanted to meet up with a self-publisher. We suggested the cafe, and since it was the middle of the day, it was quiet but most of the tables were full. There was one table in the prow of the restaurant – it sort of narrows to a point at one end – which has a view of King’s Circle, and the generous pavement. It is a nice spot. The owner happened to be at the cash counter that afternoon. Hooooooboy.

First of all, dude is LOUD. Like really really REALLY loud. He shouts all his words all the time. Forget the concept of an indoor voice, this man would give Foghorn Leghorn a run for his money.

Then, you remember this is a cafe right? Cafes don’t usually [usually!] have their servers seat guests. Right? Wrong! That table, the one in the prow, requires ushering to. Not the other tables mind you; nope, just the big one. The other tables? Pshaw.

So then this human klaxon booms at us from behind the counter: “That’s my SPECIAL table! Indira Gandhi sat at that table! I expect a bill of Rs. 10,000 from you today!”

There were 5 of us. We had gone to have tea or coffee and biscuits, and to discuss a publishing contract. And this is entirely disregarding the fact that his phrasing means that he is expecting us to present him with a bill for 10k. The man is looney tunes.

Finally, we get through the meeting, and are preparing to leave. Since the single waiter hasn’t deigned to glance in our direction the whole time, let alone actually approach us, I have been placing our orders at the counter. This is how to make Rs. 10,000 off your customers, guys! Customer service at its very finest!

I try and talk to this crazy lunatic while I am there, making small talk. He used to raise German shepherds, but has since stopped. I asked him about the dogs, and he then told me he now raises birds instead. Parrots, macaws, etc. I can hear them upstairs, I say. [The man owns the whole building, and lives upstairs.] Oh those are the sick ones. The other ones are on our farm outside Mumbai. Oh ok, I say, and prepare to leave.

He then actually looks up, and sees me. Yes, all this time he wasn’t looking at me at all. I was speaking to the top of his head. And then he does a double take. And then says this:

“Oh! You have light eyes! And you’re fair! Are you Irani?”
*I shake my head, because he doesn’t give me time to respond.*
“You LOOK Irani! Not Parsi also? Very beautiful you are.”
*I try to say thank you and stem this tide, but no.*
“Are you married?”
Finally: “No, but I am engaged to be.” [I was with the ex that time.]
Arrrrrrrrreeyyyy! Such a shame! Shouldn’t get married!” *My mother comes up to me, to see what the heck is going on, and..*
Arrey mummy, don’t marry her off men.

My mother says something, which I don’t actually recall in response, but I was hell bent in getting out of there, so I tugged her away as politely as possible.

Go to Koolar Cafe for the kheema, omelette-pav, decor, old-world charm, and the absolute lunacy of the proprietor. Good luck.

Rotarian of Shanghai City

No, I’m not moving to China, but I wish I was to be able to escape the constant demands my parents’ friends make of me. But that is another rant.

So, a few days ago I set up the story of KT. He is by far the most annoying man I have ever met, because hints bounce of his thick rhino hide without making so much as a dent. I can’t tell him to stick his advice where the sun doesn’t shine, simply because he was my dad’s school friend, and there is protocol to be observed. Plus there is a longstanding relationship between the families that cannot be ignored. Baggage, in short. I can’t tell him to shove off. End of story.

My mother was very annoyed with the last remark he made: “Oh I thought you would like to do it!” It, not very subtly, puts me in my place. It implies that I have very little to do in terms of work, and that I basically mostly spend my day twiddling my thumbs at home.

Of course that is very far from true, because while I may not currently be drowning in paid commissions, I was a few months ago. Also, there is the fact that a house requires work to run. My mother does the majority of the weight-lifting in that department, but there are things she can’t do. So I do them. I also have books to read, podcasts to listen to, and I can find a million things that are enriching and fulfilling to do.

His comment didn’t bother me, to be honest. It bounced off my thick rhino hide without a dent. But my mum was bugged. Very, very bugged.

She made a decision that she would tell him my hourly rate then next time they spoke. Slip it casually into the conversation, if she saw an opportunity. Which she did, a couple of weeks ago. And I’m still dealing with the repercussions.

Now, my hourly rate is based off my last drawn salary, and it is a metric I use to calculate how much to charge a client for the work I put in. The client isn’t privy to my calculations, obviously, because they would baulk at the rate. It is high. Not top-notch-defence-attorney-charge-by-the-millisecond high, but high. It made KT’s eyes roll backwards in his head. [Or so I assume.] Because a rapid reassessment of my value has officially taken place.

First, he calls me up to invite me over for a financial thing they have signed up for with Edelweiss. Mutual funds and the like. I’m not interested. I don’t have spare cash to fling around at the moment, and even if I did, I would prefer to listen to financial advisors who actually have some knowledge in the subject. Not these orangutans.

Next, he calls me up to pester me to join the Rotary Club, of which his wife is soon to become the president. There was some sort of event organised, a talk I think, and I “should really come” because he thinks “it is very important for me to network” and he really advises me “to join this wonderful organisation for my own good”.

I said I would think about it. And I have. I’m not interested. I don’t have time to participate in what is essentially a social club. I am terrible at networking, and here I would be paying a membership fee to see myself flailing about socially, or hugging the walls of the room. Thanks but no thanks. It isn’t that I think that the Rotary Club has no value; I think it does. However, I am against being bulldozed into making any decisions, and again I don’t have the spare cash to fling at this organisation at the moment. No.

Then his wife calls. A day before the event. And since she is far sight more intelligent that the addle-pated chimp, she doesn’t bulldoze me or “advise” me. She launches into a spiel about the club, and all that it does. If I shut her down, I would have been very rude, because it was a study in being reasonable and patient. Of course, it didn’t make any difference; I’m still not joining. But she got me to commit to coming for her investiture later this month, and “partaking of the atmosphere”, so that I “can see how wonderful and useful” it all is.

Shoot me now.


Poster Child

My mother and I partake of a ritual every morning: over steaming mugs of jeera-infused water, we dissect the world. These sessions are therapeutic, but can be funny, speculative, serious, intense, sad, and many things besides. They have served to iron out a lot of my mental flaws, and helped me come to terms with many a heartbreak. Today though. Holy shit.

A family friend is in town. Although she resides in Dubai – which is where the families met and became friends – she comes to Mumbai almost twice a year. This time though, her daughters are in tow. We were friends back in Dubai, but as years have worn on, the friendship has lapsed into an acquaintance. There are many reasons for this, I suppose, and I do not regret it as such.

Her elder daughter was closer, being about a year younger than me. But she has drawn away from me the most. And this is in spite of quite a cordial relationship on social media. So, while I soon stopped expecting her to even call when she was in my city, I was a little surprised that she is here with her mother – who constantly asks me to do stuff for her – and still hasn’t picked up the phone to call.

Again, I put this down to many things, as estrangement [even this weird, social media OK, real relationship NOT OK version] can take many forms and be caused by multiple factors. But my mother’s theory on the matter today blew my mind.

Now, this family has a dad. Obviously. The dad was very fond of us, as a family. Back in Dubai, he was great friends with my father; he often turned to my mother for counsel and spiritual camaraderie; and he actively encouraged his daughter to spend time with me, believing I would be a good influence on her.

This girl was a genuinely nice person, but she wasn’t the dutiful daughter type. She wasn’t interested in religion or her Malayali roots. She didn’t identify with Indian culture, and her father was despairing of her direction. She wants the luxury lifestyle with parties and shopping and friends and shows and hotels and food. There is nothing wrong with either the father’s track nor his daughter’s; but hooboy, the twain were never going to meet.

I exerted no influence on her whatsoever. It was not my place, and she confided in me from time to time. I couldn’t betray that trust by feeding her nuggets that her father thought would bring about a change. Besides, who am I kidding? I was a teenager. There was no way I was a positive influence on anyone.

Anyway, back to the present, and mum and I were talking about these girls being in Mumbai. Then we spoke about another of her friends, whose elder son seems to hate my guts with a vengeance I cannot fathom. I have barely spoken to him on 3 occasions, and that too it was purely transactional. I had to send him something for his father; and the second time we were at his father’s house for lunch. That’s it. But, the guy visibly grits his teeth every time he speaks to me. I just don’t understand why. Geez. Also, I don’t really care.

And then my mother has an epiphany: both these people dislike me because their respective fathers have probably waxed eloquent about my many attributes.

Now this salvo made me sit up. It also made my jaw drop. My eyes may have bugged out as well. Suffice it to say, I was taken back.

“I am a poster child?!” is what I believe I managed to croak out in my infinite shock. “ME?! HOW?!”

My mother ignored me, of course, and continued pondering her train of thought. “Well, they’ve both seen you, and I’m sure they would love their children to be more like you,” she said.

I collapsed into my seat, feeling quite deflated. My mother and I have rows on the regular, where I am always at fault for being: uncaring, selfish, self-absorbed, irritable, having mindsets, being stubborn, and a myriad other things. I have no great opinion of myself as a result, especially since we had had a row just two days before. Let’s just say self-confidence is at a low ebb.

“They should have a little chat with you to see that I am not really worth emulating,” I said, still digesting these revelations.

My mum scowled at me, and the discussion continued.

And so has my amazement.

I cannot believe anyone thinks I am the poster child for a good son/daughter. It is patently absurd. My mother finds a million faults with me every time she gets upset, even sometimes going as far as to say that I treat her very badly and do not care for her at all. This is bad enough. However, I have also had boyfriends’ families feel that I am not good enough for their sons: not traditional enough, etc.

So this poster child theory? Can I just laugh my head off because of my incredulity? Thanks.

Conquering the Lapse

I am nothing if not rabidly completionist. I tend also to procrastinate a lot, and to allow myself to get into spirals. To counter these absurd tendencies, I overcompensate in the other extreme direction. Sigh. I am a basket case; it’s a fact. I suppose I am trying to get better at conquering my flaws, and it is really a journey.

So, this month started on an excellent note, in terms of exercise. [And otherwise too, and by now this should make me suspicious. Of course a few days in, I heard some interesting news and it threatened to send me into a spiral. However, that is something I will explore in a private post, as I am not really sure what I am thinking or feeling at present.] The first 9 days of the month, I managed to work out every day.

The 10th day however, three things happened to sever my rhythm and apply brakes:

1. My muscles were screaming in protest. There was a terrifying moment where I thought I had pulled muscles in my left thigh and my right shoulder blade.

2. I developed a horrendous sore throat, which I was praying would be the precursor to the flu, rather that septic tonsillitis yet again. [So far, it has matured into neither, and goes off during the day, only to return when I am sleeping. I am thoroughly mystified.]

3. My workout gear hadn’t dried on the clothes stand, courtesy the monsoons. 3 days, and the clothes were still sopping wet. I need exercise gear, because my body requires support. So that was a no-go totally.

After coming to the conclusion that exercise was out of the question, I settled in to a day of doing nothing. [Also known as catching up with emails, messages, etc.]

And then the next day, my throat was worse. My muscles weren’t better. And my clothes STILL weren’t dry. And the next day too.

I had skipped 3 days of exercise in a row. This was bad. This was breaking a habit. This was the END OF MY WORKOUTS FOREVER.

[Yes, I really am that dramatic.]

On a more serious note, it is my tendency to be completionist [I missed 3 days out of the month!] and perfectionist [I won’t have my full 31 days filled out!] that holds me back. I console myself with the thought that I get my perfect score the next week, month, or year. Thus far though? Of course that doesn’t work.

What I needed to do was to restart. I have not really had issues with starting, but with restarting after a lapse. And it is symptomatic about how much negativity I have about the break in my routine that I call it a ‘lapse’ instead of a necessary break.

But. Yesterday? I started again. Today, I continued. Tomorrow, I will continue some more.

I have conquered the lapse. It no longer derails me.