Missed Connection?

I have asked myself why I am a magnet for married/otherwise committed men on a number of occasions. Do I look like the kind of person that condones cheating? Because I really do not. There is a strong streak of family bonding that runs deep in my psyche, as I come from a closely knit household. There is conviction in the sanctity of relationships, and trust that builds between people.

However, don’t we all know that nothing remains static? So yes, in the past I have been accommodating of dating a man who was in the middle of a divorce. [I was not the cause of this divorce; I came into his life much later.] But ultimately, it creeps me out when someone flirts with me, or worse propositions me, when they are in a relationship. It feels degrading and cheapening. I hate it.

Which is why the following incident had me in a tizzy for a while. But let’s start at the beginning.

One fine day, many years ago, a guy pinged me on Facebook. He had read some tech articles on a website I wrote for back then, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that the author was an Indian chick. We ended up chatting a bit, and we followed each other on Twitter. Twitter, being Twitter, is a great place to get to know strangers. In a sense, there is less of a privacy concern than on Facebook, so it is more relaxed overall.

He and I became friends, and we exchanged phone numbers. We messaged occasionally on Whatsapp, and met a couple of times in Bangalore [where he stays] and in Goa [where I stayed]. We were not romantically involved at all, although we were both single when we met.

As time progressed, he told me about being forced into an arranged marriage with a girl his family. Clearly he was very unhappy with this situation, but he was afraid of hurting/breaking ties with his family, so he expostulated only to a certain extent. The rest of the time, he moaned to his friends, got drunk with them, and then moaned to me. [He also tried to get the girl to dump him, but she refused.]

Messaging me when he was drunk should have been a red flag for me, but I disregarded it most of the time. The second red flag should’ve been the fact that he admitted talking about me to his friends. I disregarded that too. Frankly, he never made any overtures to me whatsoever. So these were minor behavioural outliers for me.

And then he fell headlong in love with a girl in Bangalore, who was – wait for it – also engaged to someone else. They continued on a torrid affair, and were really in love with each other. But family pressures being what they are, they split up, and she married her fiance. His fiancee finally did dump him, much to his joy, and he was “saved from the scaffold”.

I heard most of this saga in real time. And then somehow life carried us away from each other, me with a relationship that took much of my time, familial responsibilities, a move to Mumbai, and a new job. Him, I don’t know much, except he did eventually get married. Perhaps my life events kept him from messaging me too much.

That is until last week. When, completely out of the blue, I get this message. [The screenshot also has my responses.]

I suppose it goes without saying that I was scrambling for a response. So I went with: 1) A deflecting joke. 2) Micro-admission. 3) Change of subject.

It didn’t work.

It took me a good 10 hours to figure out what to say to his second and third message. I could have shut him down, saying he was being inappropriate, but did I want to be so harsh? I wasn’t sure.

If I was in a relationship, would this have happened? It could go either way. Having been with jealous boyfriends, they would not understand that I didn’t want to write off a friendship based on this level of inappropriateness. It isn’t a lot. But then it could have escalated, and I would have been in a soup. I’m not the type of person who hides these sorts of messages from my significant other, because transparency is important.

Basically, my mind was going around in circles because of all the variables, and I finally decided to laugh it off. It was a dismissal, but not a relationship-ending dismissal. Sigh. What treacherous waters we are forced to tread in human interaction.

This was the extent of the interaction, by the way. He has historically thought of me when he is drunk, and I cannot fathom why. And in the middle of the night. Again, red flag. He has never ever flirted with me, or hit on me, so I do not understand the workings of his mind. But I wish that these people, who I enjoy interacting with and whom I do not want to have to jettison from my life, would realise what a sticky position they put me in.

Imagine his wife saw this message. What would that poor soul think? He might mean nothing by it, but why put someone through that? Why put me through this?

If someone who is in a relationship already wants something more from me, they cannot rest in the security of their existing relationship to see if things work out here. That’s unfair. I’m not hedging my bets. They don’t get to hedge theirs.

It is all so very tiring. Sigh.

PS: I don’t even know what he means by “flow”.

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Complimenting Grace

Ok, this is going to be a bit of a rant because this annoys me no end. You’ve been warned.

I don’t know whether it is the Indian cultural mindset, an Asian cultural mindset, or a global mindset that really needs a kick up the ass. But I do not understand why giving compliments – nice, thoughtful compliments, which gives credit to the person on the receiving end – are so difficult for some people.

Case in point: when I was in school in Dubai, I hated it, especially the later years. They were extremely negative people who took all the joy out of learning. It has taken me years to unlearn all the bad behaviour I had accumulated at a result of this. [By the way, I am totally over it. I view the whole experience as a learning moment that I needed to grow.]

After I left school, I went to UK for a couple of years. On my first break back home, I went to my school to meet some old teachers and friends who were there. [I don’t really know why either. I’ve never done this again.] I encountered the girls’ supervisor, a particularly vicious toad who took immense pleasure in decimating me. My father and I spoke to her, and my father said to her that I was doing exceptionally well at the sixth form college I was attending. To which she says: “Oh! Our shouting has finally had some effect! Good.”

Right. That was the obvious conclusion to draw. Not that I flourished as soon as I got AWAY from that toxic environment, no, I was doing well BECAUSE of the toxic environment. At the time I was 15 years old, and completely unequal to the task of taking the fiend down a few well-deserved notches.

But the anecdote serves to illustrate my point: none of the credit of success was laid at my door. It was all appropriated by them. I know that no one succeeds on their own, but hell my success was not attributable to them at all! The people who do deserve credit are as follows, in descending order: my parents [incredible support and visionaries], my teachers at the new college [dedicated to their work and exemplary in every way], and lastly me [for doing the actual work].

Indians, when speaking to younger people, are chronically incapable of being appreciative of a younger person’s accomplishments. In a day and age where positive reinforcement is so much a thing, Indians still do the exact opposite.

Another case in point: Scoring 95% on a particularly hard exam won’t merit a “Well done!” but a “Where did you lose the remaining 5%?”

If someone can’t take even obliquely credit for something, because they are entirely uninvolved with the process, they will be supremely condescending. I see this phenomenon play out on my aunt’s Facebook time and again. She is a prolific crafter, and crochets, tats, and beads very pretty things into being. And while her overseas [read: foreign] friends will say things along the lines of: “Wow, that’s amazing! Must have take you so long. Beautiful.”, her Indian [mostly male] friends will say: “Good. Keep it up.”

This is not an acceptable compliment. This is not an acceptable remark. In fact, if this is all one can say, best to shut up.

There is no trick to being gracious when complimenting someone. It is simply a question of appreciating someone for who they are or what they have done, laying all the credit at their own feet.

It is not difficult to be kind. It is not difficult to be nice. It is definitely not difficult to say something to someone which one would like to hear if places were exchanged.

It certainly doesn’t make one a lesser person.

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.

 

KT and the Cupcakes

Sounds like a Perry Mason title.

A few weeks ago, I got a call from one of my father’s school friends. The family stays in Mumbai, and we have known them for years. However, while there used to be considerable social interaction between the families once upon a time, differing personalities and the lack of an ethical meeting ground has eroded the relationship considerably.

In addition, our financial circumstances have yo-yoed a lot over the years, and our current home [my grandparents’ old and crumbling flat] is hardly conducive to keeping up with the Joneses. It doesn’t bother us that people are shallow enough to decide to maintain a relationship on the basis of such circumstances, but there you go.

Last important factor to know: they are super-miserly. I mean, on a truly, unprecedented, epic level. The man asks for discounts for EVERYTHING. In restaurants, for clothes; you name it, he has asked. To be around in those situations, like I have in the past, causes quite the cringiest experiences of my life.

That’s just the background, and it serves to set up the family for the story I am about to share.

So, the dad [KT] calls me up one fine day, asking whether I would be interested in baking cupcakes for his granddaughter’s birthday. The cupcakes are meant for her class at school, and therefore there needs to be 70 of them.

Now, I have a reputation as a amateur baker. I make the odd cake and pie, and they are very well-received by whoever eats them. KT has “advised” me on many occasions [unsolicited and browbeating advice] that I should get into baked goods supply for smallish functions, etc. Since I bake purely for fun, and I have a home setup that is less than conducive to commercial cooking, and finally I am not trained AT ALL in food production? I have ignored this “advice” for many years.

But then again, I figured it might be a fun, one-off project to bake kiddie cupcakes, and try my hand at decoration. The directive was, at the time, fairly simple: 70 chocolate cupcakes, medium-sized, decorated for kids. I had to cost out the total, and let me know.

Then, he calls back again. He wants 5-6 samples of different flavours, so they can decide on which one they want. And I’m meant to have the samples ready by the next day.

This sent me into a tailspin. Because I had already agreed to the project, I lost my tongue entirely when it came to turning down the sample request. My mind was whirling, as I contemplated flavour combinations and ingredients and logistics and packaging for 6 differently-flavoured cupcakes.

I turned to my mother is abject horror, and she promptly blew up.

She told me to calm down, and to perish any thought of doing the project. Samples be damned, she said. Find a list of bakeries in their area, and send me their numbers. And then, she sent them off to him via Whatsapp. End of story.

There were several considerations that needed to be considered. I can only bake 12 cupcakes at a time. I cannot premake batter, because it gets flat. I can streamline the process, but only if I have a fixed recipe. Making 6 different flavours would entail a lot of tweaking and changing of recipes to suit younger children. Plus, they wouldn’t pick up the cakes; I would have to deliver them. And finally, were they going to pay for the samples? A chest-thumping hell no.

All this went down on a Saturday, midday if I am not mistaken. Sunday was sample delivery day. My mother’s messages had been read, but not acknowledged. So when the phone rang on Monday morning, I knew what was coming.

“You were supposed to get back to me by yesterday!” was the plaintive cry I heard, as I answered the call. “I did,” I replied, very calmly. “I asked mom to Whatsapp you, because I didn’t have that number.” “Oh. Um. We were very busy,” he harrumphed.

Anyway, I proceeded to tell him that he would get a better rate from a professional bakery, since they would be able to pass on economy of scale to him. Additionally, I would be buying ingredients at retail prices, and those would amp up the cost considerably. I deliberately picked these reasons to give him, knowing that the cost factor is dearest to his miserly little soul. And they were.

He couldn’t quite let go of the opportunity to put me in my place quite that easily though. He did agree with my logic, but admitting to it cost him a pang. So he said: “Oh. Ok. I thought you might like to do it.”

Right. Slog for hours over 70 cupcakes that you would expect to be exceptional AND cheap. If I had charged for the samples, would he have ponyed up? Hell no. I would have had to build that into my price of the cupcakes. All in all, it was a reprieve, and I will take the passive aggressive attitude if that is the least I have to endure to escape the work.

But. This situation had ramifications. More on that shortly.

The Practicality of Wedlock

It is a transaction, really, isn’t it? It is a transaction between two families in this crazy country that is supposed to happen at a certain point in one’s life, and meant to fulfil certain criteria, and yield specific results. The most bonkers part of this epiphany I had today is that I was blissfully unaware that this transactional model affected me in any way. But holy crap it has. It always has; I just never realised it. Till today.

I grew up with the vague idea that I wanted to marry another Indian. Same culture, similar background, a sense of belonging to the same homeland. [This, by the way, in spite of being born in another country, and being called a firangi most of the time.] I rail and rant against the “Indian male” syndrome of being patriarchal and narrow-minded and being unable to see that a woman is a being in her own right. She has dreams and desires and wishes of her own. And yet, I want to be with one of these very specimens. Strange.

In my previous relationships, I modified myself, my very identity, to conform to the transactional nature of marriage. Thankfully for my continued existence and mental stability, it never got as far as marriage. I fell blithely in love over and over again, not realising that the cookie cutter mould of a wife is what my dear exes would have dearly loved. Oh no. I thought it was ME they loved. Goodness what a bloody fool I am. [Note: present tense.]

I WANT to get married and have a family. I’ve admitted this so many times recently, because it was a revelation for me after my last breakup. I’ve said some of the things I am about say before, but there is stress pent up in my chest and I need to let it out. [A difficult conversation with mum in the morning is the root cause of this outburst.] Here is what *I* in my infinite stupidity thought marriage was all about:

Two people meet. They become friends and/or fall in love. One of those things comes first; and the other follows. The order doesn’t matter. What matters is that both things happen. You are one of those people. You are now in love with your best friend. With me so far?

You fall in love with that person. With their unique beauty of mind and soul, their heart, their thoughts, their dreams, perceptions, their flaws, their problems, and a million billion tiny and huge things that makes them who they are. You decide that life without this person by your side is not worth a second’s consideration.

Next, families come in. There are people who have perfect, loving families. There are those who aren’t speaking to their families. Families are complete, incomplete, difficult, trying, loving, accepting, welcoming, and much more. Configurations vary, but the goal is the same: be a support to your partner. They are close to their family? You become close to their family. They have trouble with dealing with their family? Stick by their side and deal with them. Support. Amalgamate. Absorb and be absorbed. Their family becomes your family.

It would be nice to have assets going into any relationship, but hey life isn’t a balance sheet is it? You cannot consider assets and liabilities when in love. Because that doesn’t make that person; it is just a thing they have to grapple with. Again, support. Be there. Just, be there.

Finally, and this is my biggest issue with marriage in India, forget what you are supposed to do. Life has no guarantees. You marry someone picture-perfect, with credentials down pat, and he turns out to be an abusive head case. She has affairs left, right, and centre. He gets mowed down in his car by a rogue truck. She goes blind. Your beautifully planned little life goes fucking kaput. What will you do then?

Yeah, so I was prepared to make compromises in myself and give off myself, because I loved that person on the other side. My partner was always my best friend. The person I looked to for unstinting support. The person, who if the roles were reversed, I would be there for with every fibre of my being.

I want to find love like that. I thought I had, the last time around, but it turned out to be an intricate web of manipulation and lies. But I loved like that. It took a long time to unlearn that love. That friendship. The desire to shoot off a text to say: “Hey. I’m sad. Just thinking of you makes me happy. Thanks for being in my life.”

Marriage is not about the wedding and the setting up of house and having children. It is all those things but so much more. Setting up your first home in a ramshackle building, with one bedroom and a tiny bathroom, but being happy. About coming home tired, and finding peace in each other’s company. About waking up in the middle of the night because someone’s parent has fallen ill, and rushing off together to the hospital with mussed hair and stale breath.

It is about cleaning your partner’s teeth when they’re too sick to do it themselves. About staying up all night when they have a report to file, just for company. It is about them paying the bills and you handling the groceries for the house, and taking over everything when one or the other is away. And being grumpy about it, but it’s ok because you are helping out your best friend.

It is about having fights about that expensive thing you bought without checking in first. And then you admitting it was wrong, and agreeing not to do it again. It is about laughing when you see someone else checking him out, and feeling pride at being his chosen one. It is about panicking about receiving a suggestive message, and him being the first and only person who you can talk to about it. It is about plugging in your ears with music, while he watches the game all through your carefully cooked meal. It is about kicking his ass, after the game is over, because insensitive much dude?

It is about all these crazy things that make you grow and him grow and you both grow together. It is about being complete with each other, and then building a family with that wonderful completeness. The joy of conceiving a baby, and the pain of bringing that baby into the world. Arguments about names, to arguments about why he should also get up in the night to feed his own spawn once in a while.

Ultimately, it is about growing old, knowing that someone has your back. My ex used to say: “I love you because I know when I grow old, and I forget to put my pants on one day, you’ll stop me from leaving the house and help me into those pants.” I would have. But I learned fast that he wouldn’t have. One sign of putting himself out, and out he would have bolted. Sigh.

My parents had a marriage like that, and I am starting to see why all their friends told my mother that they couldn’t imagine her pain, because she had a marriage in a billion.

Is it so crazy that this was my idea of marriage? Was is so insane that I never considered my single mother a “liability” like she said she was today, because I figured love conquers all? Granted with some difficulty, but yeah love still conquers.

Looks like I am destined to be unmarried and single. At least in this lifetime.

Trigger Responsibility

Ha. Another rant. A potentially incoherent one, without a definitive outcome or conclusion.

Although the incidents described in my previous posts are recent, the sentiments they generate are not. The attention makes me feel sick, cheap, and dirty. I want it to stop because I hate it. I do not find it complimentary. I do not secretly revel in the attention. Nothing of the sort. I just abhor being the “other woman”.

It isn’t an indictment on other “other women”, by the way. Everyone’s situation is different, and apportioning blame is not something I can generalise easily. If I had to though? I would blame the cheating party. Because that’s the person doing the deceptive deed.

Anyway, when untoward incidents have befallen me, and thankfully the regularity with which they do so has decreased dramatically recently, I tend to introspect a lot. There is a lot of: “Why does this happen to me?” and “What can I have done to attract this attention?” and “Do I send the wrong signals?” and “Should I have done this differently?” and so on. There is much dissecting of my own behaviour that goes on and, even though on a cognitive level I know this is ridiculous, I look for where the blame is mine.

It isn’t that I don’t feel revulsion for the perpetrator and the incident; because I most certainly do. But a corner of my brain also feels revulsion for myself. In my more coherent moments, I know that it is terrible and wrong to feel like that, but in the moments of upset, it is inevitable.

I play the incidents several times in my mind, minutely examining decisions I made:

  • I shouldn’t have put up a status message on WhatsApp. -> He was emboldened to make a comment.
  • I shouldn’t have agreed to meet up with him. -> He took that as interest from me, whereas I was being polite.
  • I shouldn’t have worn that outfit. -> He thought I was dressing up for him.
  • I shouldn’t have responded to his midnight messages. -> He understood that as a signal that I was open to his advances.

And many more such thoughts. If any other girl said these things to me, I would have talked her out of this destructive thought process. I would have explained that this is a combination of rape culture and patriarchy, and that men need to be able to control themselves around women. I would have said that women need to stop berating themselves for making insignificant actions into major excuses for other people’s poor behaviour. We are allowed to dress up for ourselves, wearing what we want. Our appearance is not a signal to anyone, but how we choose to look for that moment.

And yet, I still think these things. I went through my PRIVATE Instagram account, and deleted all followers who were not personal friends. I have vowed not to put up status messages on WhatsApp. I stopped tweeting a long time ago. I didn’t do any of these things for attention, incidentally, but for the joy of reaching out to my friends and family with a random smile or thought.

I guess this blog is my final frontier of sharing, and that too because I have guarded the URL like national treasure. Ain’t no one getting a piece o’ me from here.

Kanchan Strikes Again

A few days ago, I met up with some bros from my old workplace. We were a tight crew, as we spent months sitting at the same table. This meet up was ostensibly because of my birthday, and it happens every year. It is great.

During the lunch, one of them asks me about this incident. [If you decide to check out that link, do make note of the date too.] I repeated most of it, reliving in excruciating discomfort the gushing comments about my face and nosering. Of course my friends were highly amused and grossed out at the same time. There was quite a lot of goodnatured ribbing, and I managed to laugh about it all too.

About an hour ago though, one of them send me this screenshot:

There are 2 things I realised from this screenshot:
1. He was married when he messaged me.
2. He is still married to the same girl today.

This sort of nonsense really has to stop. It wasn’t ever funny for me to deal with, but now I am actively sickened.