Chill. Relax. Take it lightly.

The other day, I went out with mom to buy groceries. We didn’t have too many items to check out, so, thinking it was the express counter, we stood in the queue of what turned out to be the cash-only register.

While we were quietly awaiting our turn, a bloke sidled up next to us. He was an old, grizzled chap, clearly middle class. Age usually makes me kinder, having older parents makes you acutely aware of people’s increasing frailties.

But, in contrast, a lifetime of being sidled up to inappropriately by men, and facing a nation full of queue-jumping selfish morons, has also honed a sixth sense which throws kindness to the wind. So when this particular piece of trash sidled up to us, I stuck out an elbow, and thrust my shopping cart aggressively in between.

Not that he got the message, because he continued to be uncomfortably close. Till I realised that he was just a patriarchal relic, and was pushing to be done with the process faster – which made me madder than otherwise.

My mom was in front of me, and she waited while the person before us had cleared their stuff into bags. She had her hand draped on the conveyor belt. And the man chose this moment to pipe up: “Oh! You can move your hand and start putting your stuff there.”

Now, I am aware that English is not the average Indian’s first language. I am aware that because of this, they sometimes choose the wrong words. However, nobody gets their tone wrong inadvertently. This guy was instructing us. And I was: Fuck that!

So I turned around and said: “We can see that. It would be nice if you could have some patience.” Make no mistake about it, I was fuming. And worse, I couldn’t even get the sentence out fully, because he interrupted me!

“Ok! Ok! Ok!” he said. I was even more furious. I couldn’t even put him in his place, because he was cutting me off in a louder tone! I seethed.

Finally, I started loading our stuff. I pulled out my card to pay, when the cashier said that it was a cash-only register. My mother and I were surprised, but didn’t argue. We said we were sorry, apologising for missing the tiny sign pointing in a different direction, packed up our things, and went to stand in another queue.

But not before: “Oh! This is cash-only. There is a sign. They don’t accept credit cards in this line.”

My mother had already walked on by, but I couldn’t take it.

“Please mind your own business. The cashier has already informed us of the mistake. It really doesn’t concern you.” Except, I got to ‘business’, and I got cut off again. But this time, I said: “Don’t interrupt me. So rude!”

Again, got interrupted. And the worst part was that he kept telling me to “Relax!” and how he was not doing anything, making me look like a demented lunatic for getting so hyper in the first place.

And that riled me even more. The cheek of someone telling me to calm down, because I objected to his patronising behaviour and intrusion into my personal space is just beyond my comprehension.

I need a way to figure this one out.

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Incremental Idiocy

I was ranting a few posts back, about being hounded on Whatsapp by a moronic bloke with no sense of when to back off. I still cannot fathom why he wants to talk to me, when I have given him next to no indication that I am a even a nice person!

Which brings me neatly to my point, or what I now like to call: incremental idiocy.

This is perhaps best explained with a flowchart, but then I don’t have the patience to draw one out. So I will do a list instead.

  1. You have an interesting(-ish) conversation with someone once.
  2. You develop a sort of rapport, and continue to chat.
  3. The other person is enthusiastic and lively. You, out of kindness and niceness, reply appropriately.
  4. That person amps up their conversation, albeit in teeny tiny increments. You start feeling a bit pressured, but since the changes are so miniscule, you feel like an asshat for feeling pressured in the first place.
  5. Step 4 x 1000.
  6. You start getting really fed up, but if that person calls you out on why something was ok yesterday (or for the last so many months) why is it suddenly not ok now, what do you say? This question stops you from saying anything.

And this is what I mean by incremental idiocy. The problem is that worrying behaviour doesn’t start with an announcement. It begins with a little frown, grows to a faint unease, and finally blossoms into a fully-fledged mess. The other person is, maybe, oblivious. I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they are perpetrating this deliberately. But, I could be wrong.

The worst part is that I cannot figure out how to turn around and say that it has become too much, because the feeling is ephemeral, rather than concrete. I don’t have a substantial argument to fall back on, and I end up falling back into the same rut as before, but more disgruntled and less sure of myself.

And so, I have let this ridiculousness continue. For the time being. But I am fairly certain, I am going to explode at some point, because I don’t like being uneasy and my reaction will be uncontrolled and catastrophic.

Simmering Boil

I like to think of myself as a nice person. [Who doesn’t?] In fact, I have often been told that I tend to be a doormat sometimes, and I put up with a lot of crap from people. All of which is true. There are many reasons for my approach, but I won’t go into too much detail.

The first reason is that my inherent nature is timid and anti-confrontation. The second reason is that, to overcome my timidity in the past, I tended to overcompensate and be overtly aggressive. I overstepped too many boundaries, and lost relationships like that. [How many times did I use the prefix ‘over’ in those sentences?!] And finally, I hate jumping to conclusions too fast. I tend to be wrong, and while I I have no objection apologising, I feel like I could die of the resultant embarrassment.

Which is why, in a nutshell, I put up with crap. Ah, the fourth reason: ‘crap’ is a relative term. The definition varies from person to person, and honestly is difficult to pin down sometimes.

All of which has put me in a difficult spot. And because I have put up with this crap, as I define it, for so long, my reaction is likely to be explosive one of these days. Because I’ve really had enough.

There is this guy I met on Twitter, and we exchanged tweets back and forth, and he became an Internet friend. And then I made the cardinal mistake, something I should have learned not to do by now, of giving him my Whatsapp number.

Argh.

Of course, this has given him carte blanche to bombard me with messages EVERY SINGLE DAY. I mean, the occasional ‘Hi’ is fine, but honestly who has time to chat with someone every day? More importantly, why would you want to chat with an acquaintance every day?

Anyway, the deed is done, and I am bearing the brunt of it. He lives in another city, and he has come to mine a few times. Each time, it is because of work, so he is on a tight schedule and limited budget, and that means I have to drop everything and adjust to his schedule. Except. I haven’t done it. Not even once. I haven’t cancelled plans, have dug my heels in, and refused to adjust.

I was under the mistaken impression that this would rebuff him, and he would get the hint. But no. He continues to send me messages like these:

The last set is from his most recent trip. I mean, take a hint? Because I’ve finally had it. I spent the two days of his trip stressed out because I was afraid he would call, and I would have to make some lame excuse or actually go. This pressure to meet up and continuously chat has built up far too much, and I am just about ready to explode.

I really wish people would take hints and back off before I reach peak juggernaut. Because then I go full atomic bomb on their asses, and the fallout is awful. For everyone. [Except me, because I then feel profound relief.]

To Be Or Not To Be Intimate

I keep thinking that every I feel overwhelmed, things will even out, and I won’t feel like that. But the fact is that it becomes my new baseline for normal, and work and other commitments blow up some more in my face. Which is why I have the tiniest shred of sanity left, the most tenuous grip on that shred, and finally powder keg of temper underneath the surface, which is instantly triggered by bullshit. Or any horrible behaviour really.

All the above is the reason behind why I let someone get under my skin today, and why there was suddenly a red mist where the atmosphere used to be. And when I opened my mouth, red hot lava poured out. I wasn’t shouting, but I had no idea I could decimate anyone that easily with just words.

It started off innocently enough, where we were talking about our families. From there, we got into a mild discussion about siblings, where this someone [let’s call her Maria, for reasons I will forget shortly] said – I partially agreed – that it was easier for a girl to have an elder sister, as opposed to a brother. The third member of this lunchtime discussion of course disagreed. He is just one of those chronic firestarters, pedantic and inquisitive. [As an aside, also the star of this post.]

Maria argued with him, and then made the following astounding statement:  sisters and brothers always kept each other at arm’s length. Mentally and emotionally, they may love each other, but physically it would be weird for them to be close. In fact, those siblings would were prone to hugs and embraces were not normal, and just plain weird.

I was naturally flabbergasted with this point of view, but I wasn’t mad just then. I merely said that it was perfectly normal, and it really depended on the individuals in question. And if one was to look at it in that light, then mothers and sons, or fathers and daughters, shouldn’t exchange hugs and kisses, or embrace each other unless there was an occasion [her sole exception to this diktat]. Because I said this nonchalantly, expecting sense to prevail, I was stunned by her response: Yes, they shouldn’t. It isn’t normal.

Which is when I lost it.

I didn’t lose my temper visibly, but I did point out that that was a highly judgmental point of view. And that just because she found it uncomfortable personally, didn’t make it abnormal. In fact, human relationships have a degree of intimacy with actually cements the relationship further.

She argued that everyone was judgmental on some level, and while I agree that everyone is, it is based on an internal moral compass that assesses the harm in a situation. When it is about affection between two consenting adults, who is anyone else to judge? Basically, she reduced loving relationships between people and their near and dear ones to something ugly. Just because she is uncomfortable with intimacy?

She continued to say that what was normal for her forms her opinion. I agree, however what she considers normal cannot be the baseline on which she judges other people. She countered with why couldn’t it be, and I said that it is the very crux of xenophobia and discrimination to separate people into normal and abnormal.

Finally, I looked at her in abject incredulity, because I couldn’t believe I was associating with such a bigot, and said that intimacy was a integral aspect of human relationships. In fact, it is one of the things that makes the effort of working through these things worth it.

I considered sexual abuse playing a part in her mental makeup, but then I’ve been through that too. I have been through a phase where “all men suck!”, but I grew out of it. Individuals suck, and within their minds, it is their complex personalities, characters, experiences, limitations, and much more that makes their behaviour good or bad.

I hug my friends, regardless of whether they are male or female. Not all of them, because everyone gives off different vibes. But quite a few. I don’t flinch when one of them touches me inadvertently, because they aren’t contagious or impure. They are human beings. There is no malice or lust in their touch, but simple companionship. They are human beings too.

Midnight Awkwardness

During the first few months of us being together, I confided in my ex about being plagued by importunate men, who refused to back with just hints. I had to choose between bombarded with constant messages and hints, or choose to be brutally honest and block the guy. There was no middle ground, and for me, it was hard to shut down someone who wasn’t really doing anything heinous. [Just sexist and uncomfortable, but since that is a gradual scale, it is hard to find a concrete point to say STOP.]

I loved (still love?) my boyfriend at the time very much, and well he knew it. He didn’t try and interfere with any of these ridiculous situations, until I asked him to. I wanted my word to be respected, regardless if there was a man in the background. But he did offer me a tip: Don’t entertain calls or messages from these guys post-9 pm. Friends and like, family: all fine. Just not these guys.

Hm.

I did that, and lo and behold, it worked wonders. No lonely boys after work, who pleaded for a little time to chat. No midnight messages. Nothing. Just zip. And for 5 years [4 in the relationship + 1 getting over the relationship], I lived in this blissful realm of no encroachment.

Until yesterday.

Of course, being me, I had forgotten how it felt to be on this receiving end again. So I reply to messages when I receive them, unless I am otherwise occupied. I also signed up with Tinder, and well that requires a certain flexibility. And last but not least, I had lived in the comforting embrace of a relationship for so long, I forgot how little my refusal counted for anything with these romeos, with the lack of a supporting boyfriend/husband.

That’s the background. The second bit of background is: remember this guy? He messages me at 1 am; after two years of radio silence and removing me off all his social accounts, here is the highlight reel of the cringe-fest he sent me on Whatsapp:

KD: Looking out for someone
KD: Was scrolling through my contact today when I got to see u
KD: Feeling awesome to get in touch with u again
KD: Let’s be in chats until then
KD: Would love to know u more
KD: I mean things u like and all
KD: Shall wait for ur ping then
KD: And well please let me know if you have a nick name
KD: Really sleepy or can spend some time with me here
KD: I was feeling alone
KD: Let’s date if u r ok with it
KD: Let’s give it a try
KD: I find u romantic
KD: Especially love ur nose ring
KD: I use to observe u a lot

NO. OMG. I said no 4 times. And yet, I get a ‘I find you so romantic’. *shudder*

Hello from the Hinterland

Thanks to an ongoing project, my circadian rhythms have changed quite a bit. I can no longer get up before 8 am, without feeling like a truck has rammed into me. I do, on occasion, clamber out of bed around 7:30 am, but only if I’ve made a concerted effort to sleep before 2 am the previous night.

All of this boils down to me being rather unpleasant when I am unexpectedly woken up at oh-no-o’clock. Which happened this morning.

In India, I have learned to deal with three things I absolutely hate: the lack of personal space, the disregard for anyone else’s time, and complete absence of any sort of etiquette. Usually, I am able to handle behaviour symptomatic of this with mild irritation, and brush it off. Today, I nearly exploded.

My phone started vibrating in the morning, indicating that there was a call. I was fast asleep, so was surprised to hear it at all. I answered the phone, only to hear a voice peremptorily demanding: “Who is this?”

Another one of my triggers. If I had been awake, I would have calmly told the rude asshat that he had dialled the wrong number. But I just disconnected, thinking he would get the message. Spoiler alert: he didn’t.

He called twice, and I turned off the ringer. Again he called twice, and I was so cheesed off, I answered the call both times, and presumably he shouted into thin air. The fifth time, I disconnected and turned off my phone.

When I finally woke up, I turned the phone back on again. It was a good hour after the calls had initially come in, so I assumed that anyone with a modicum of a life would have gotten on with it by now. But I was wrong.

I got another call. This time, I was so furious I gave the phone to my mother to answer. [I would have yelled if I had answered.] She answered and told the idiot on the other side off. Finally the calls stopped.

Unfortunately for me though, I was so annoyed with the casual crassness of this individual, who thinks it is absolutely fine to call early in the morning, constantly pester someone with calls even though they clearly are not interested in speaking to you, and have the temerity to demand who they are calling.

I know I cannot change the world to suit my preferences, but today I would happily beaten down on this specimen of Indian village mentality till he got my point.

Relative Relationship

One of my favourite pastimes is to look at old pictures, and allow myself to be transported back in time. Especially after losing my dad, I find a bittersweet solace in looking at photos of him, and imagining his voice and expressions.

It was on one of this expeditions down the path of nostalgia that I came across a folder of wedding photos. It was a second cousin’s wedding, on my mother’s side, and my parents and my mum’s sister had attended. I had forgotten the folder altogether, as it was hidden away in another folder called “to be sorted”.

When I did discover it, it was like finding treasure. There were many pictures of my dad, all dressed up and looking exactly as I remember him. I felt I could reach through and reclaim some of the micro interactions we had: him smoothing out my hair, twitching a shirt into place, me hooking an arm through his elbow, him putting an arm around my shoulders, us sharing one of our innumerable conspiratorial grins, and just generally finding comfort in each other’s presence. Of course, I shed a few tears, but overall I was ecstatic.

I zeroed in on a photo of my parents; a beautiful one taken by my aunt, with them seated side by side with the utmost ease that comes with 40 years of togetherness. My mum was looking into the camera, posing with her jewellery and smiling slightly. My father was placidly awaiting someone’s arrival, and was thus looking off in another direction. The photo reminded me of the sparkle that lilted in our hearts, as we loved and lived with each other.

I posted the photo to Facebook. I tagged my mother in the picture because Facebook suggested it, and I was far too lazy to do much else. Thus, all her friends could see the picture too.

The picture was inundated with likes, and garnered a few comments too. I got the usual condescending ones from people of my parents’ generation, advising me to “look after my mother” or exhorting me to “keep God in my heart”. I ignored these comments, because I don’t need to be reminded of what is essentially my life. I am used to this brand of bad manners, and laughed it off without a thought.

But then one comment took my breath away.

One of my mother’s cousins, someone we aren’t close to mind you, commented on the picture. She must have spoken to my mother about a handful of times in her life, and I would hazard that she never spoke to my dad at all. I would be hard pressed to remember if she ever met my dad, as a matter of fact. This lady comments: “Miss you .”

I am a kind soul, and I make a LOT of allowances for people’s inability to communicate, their difficulties in finding the right words of expression, and much else besides. What I cannot stomach is blatant hypocrisy. This lady was well aware that she had never spoken to my father, and yet chose to declaim on a public forum that she misses him? Misses him how exactly? Misses the concept of his existence? I cannot fathom it.

After my eyes bugged out, I laughed for a full minute. I called up my mum’s sister, because my mother was apathetic to her cousin’s behaviour, and waved it off like one would a mosquito. My aunt however shared my meltdown. She laughed at first, only to stop abruptly and say: “She didn’t even call to condole when we lost him! WTF is her deal?!”

My sentiments exactly.