11 Days Later: Resolutions

Verdict: Not too bad!

I bought this pretty-ish journal to fill in with the shenanigans of this year, and so far I have been fairly regular about sticking to forming good habits. I still have a few more I’d like to add to the overall mix, but thus far the progress has been satisfactory.

On the weight-loss front: Sadly, I had to drop my MMA classes. Budgetary constraints being the sole reason. I loved these classes, even though I was not progressing at the speed of the entire class, and I still had to get my boxing gloves and wraps. But the class itself awoke a desire and verve to be fitter and healthier, and shed some serious fat while enjoying myself. I also managed to reset my body clock, and have started waking naturally much earlier than before. I have now opted to go for a walk in the building area every morning, and follow up with some basic cardio from Sworkit at home. Two days in, and loving it.

On the bookworm habit: Didn’t read a book last week, so already 1 behind on my reading challenge of the year. However, I have drilled through another book already, and am more than three-quarters done with it. I do have some books I started last year to finish as well, and will increase my challenge count accordingly when I finish them. No cheating!

365 blogs this year: Mostly on track with this one too, considering I am currently writing my 10th post of the year. I am slightly behind, but that’s because I don’t sometimes have time to get to it. I anticipate travelling will also eat into time I set aside for blogging, but will give me plenty of fodder! So overall, win.

Things I still have to find time for:
– Practising French
– Keeping up with the sketching tutorials I started last year
– Filling my comic diary with some stories
– Baking/cooking more – I currently stick to easy stuff like noodles and eggs and rotis
Learning the fundamentals of photography – very necessary for upcoming work
– Picking up some key related skills to content strategy – UX, elements of web design, colour theory, and so on.

Well, that’s it really. I’m not displeased overall, and by the looks of things, I am unlikely to lapse from the set course. I’ve reached the point where exercise is less about goals, and more about needing to do it for my body to feel good. So I’m pleased about that. I only hope I don’t lose complete touch with boxing and Muay Thai, because I did love that so.

Here’s to more improvement in the days to come!

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Nakedness and Profanity

I saw an art experiment video a few weeks ago [I think on Bored Panda. Yes!], where two women body-paint a model, and take her through the local mall. The woman isn’t completely naked, as she has a thong on, a couple of nipple pasties, a hat, pair of boots, and a scarf. The painted outfit comprised a long-sleeved, patterned black t-shirt and a pair of distressed jeans. It was all very realistic, even though it appeared to be extremely “tight” clothing.

The reactions were mostly amazement, but a few people didn’t even realise that she was unclothed. Those who did – at least some of the men – started surreptitiously filming her too.

At the time, I read the article, watched the video, and shook my head in amazement at people’s ability to come up with radical ideas for art, and then have the gumption to carry it out. But it wasn’t till I was describing the video to someone else that the “cover up” angle struck me.

The clothes painted on the model are actually fairly conservative, skin exposure-wise. They are “figure-hugging” obviously, but overall it isn’t a skimpy outfit. Thus, in the true sense of the word, she is all covered up. That is, her SKIN is covered up. So does that make the colour of skin objectionable in some way? Or since no one reacted poorly (or at least on the video) to the skin-tight “clothes”, wouldn’t the SHAPE of the body be more inappropriate, so to speak?

All right, so I have no answers to those questions, because I have this vague sense of appropriate and inappropriate that is culturally dinned into my head. If I examine it too carefully, the premise falls apart. At least, it is devoid of logic in my mind that the human body (generally the female one) should be covered up to suit the propriety of other people. The word ‘respect’ is bandied about frequently in conjunction with religious places, where “proper” attire is expected. In that case, this girl’s “outfit” is conservative, yet she is wearing next to nothing – a fact one would only realise on very careful observation, to be honest.

In a less extreme scenario, this has happened with me. I tend to spend much of my life outside home clad in jeans and a t-shirt. Granted, the t-shirts vary in style, cut, colour, transparency, and other factors, but they serve to mostly cover my torso.

During my trip to an ashram in Kerala, the same one where my father passed away, I was prevailed upon to drape a shawl on my person in public. [I wouldn’t say I was forced, because I opted to yield in an effort to avoid confrontation. But I wouldn’t have done it unless I was exhorted to do it. It was unwillingly done, is what I am trying to say.]

In those environs, my dress code – for the lack of a better description – was inappropriate. Most of the women wore sarees with sleeved blouses, both long and short. It was unusual to see a woman wearing a salwar kameez, the other ubiquitous Indian outfit, so me in my jeans [and my mother in her capris] caused quite the sensation.

One of the resident ladies there, Dr. B, who assisted with the setup of a primary health care centre as she was a doctor, was an unpleasant, abrasive woman with strong opinions, which she repeatedly forced down people’s throats. There are several stories about her antics, but I choose not to corrupt my blog with reiterating that negativity apart from this small sample.

Dr. B came up to us one afternoon, to tell us about a prayer meeting that was scheduled later in the day. She looked me over, and exclaimed, rather impertinently: “Don’t you wear salwar kameezes at all?!” implying that this was some major character flaw with her tone and incredulity. Not that I needed to justify it to her, but I do actually don an ethnic outfit occasionally; the important factor in these sartorial decisions being my own desire to wear them at all.

In the time that has since passed, I have thought of innumerable ways I’d rather have responded to that insolent remark. Of course, the moment is lost and shall forevermore remain so, but it does sometimes give me a certain amount of vicious pleasure to think of taking that odious woman down a couple of notches. How uncharitable of me. I’m working on it. 😦

All these thoughts jostled in my mind and became almost connected to each other. And then I had an epiphany which resounded in my mind with almost bell-like clarity: the profanity of someone’s attire doesn’t lie with the person, but in the eyes and mind of the beholder.

[I know other people say this too, but to have the connections snap together in one fluid motion is quite the experience.]

Therefore, if I have a problem with someone’s outfit, the problem lies solely with me. Vice versa too. I am actually rather comfortable with that thought.

Overwhelmed

I am constantly astounded by my ability to experience vastly different emotions from morning to evening. Till early afternoon, I was feeling rather buoyant overall. I put that squarely at the door of finding someone attractive, and dare I say them finding you attractive in return. Early stages yet, obviously, but this interaction definitely holds a lot of promise.

Heading off for a nap, to reflect on the ridiculous butterflies that had erupted in my midsection, I was fine. And then I woke up.

In all my castle-building, I had temporarily shelved the problem of work. More specifically, where are the next lot of projects going to come from? Basically the ogre of finances reared its ugly head. Being an entrepreneur requires a marketing mindset, and I appear to lack that vital aspect.

My parents, both exceptionally talented in their respective domains, always said that I had to knock on doors. Yes, but how exactly does one knock on virtual doors in this country? To get the simplest acknowledgement is such a monumental ask in the first place that I suspect cold callers get the cold shoulder with depressing regularity.

Last night, and a portion of this morning, was fairly bleak, as I considered options. I am glad that one of my projects is coming to close, to be honest, because while they’ve been decent, they’ve also expected me to jump through a lot of hoops. The second big project has been born off this one, where one of the directors asked me to consult for his wife’s company too. That is going great now, albeit it had its fits and starts in the beginning.

I got an earful from the mother about not giving the accessories enough attention, and it forced me to confront my fears about them: the marketing thing again; the funds that I need to pump into the enterprise; and much more besides.

After a bit of girding of the loins and general cleaning of mental cobwebs, the mental funk has passed. None of the situational circumstances have changed, but at the will to continue is back.

That’s something.

Being The Other Woman: The Scumbag Edition

JP. [Aside: I have lots of stories about the maniac that is JP, but in the archives of the old blog. I have to extract and post them here at some point. Too salacious to miss.] JP. The very pinnacle of scumminess all bundled up into one human being. Liar, cheater, addict, dealer, and so much more. None of which I knew when he walked into my office building one evening.

I was a new, wet-behind-the-ears editor at a local newspaper, and I was working late one evening. I didn’t know all the staff writers, nor did I know the freelance writers who regularly dropped into the office. So when JP walked past my office that fateful evening, did a double take, and walked IN to my office, I was under the highly mistaken impression that he was a writer.

I asked him as much, and he outright lied and said he was. I took it at face value, and spoke to him for a while. I was very friendly, because new job and wanted to make a good impression on fellow colleagues. A week or so later, I get a message on Facebook. He had found me, and proceeded to chat with me there. He was witty [and stole his lines from the Internet to maintain that facade] and quite confident. But something was off.

I met him for coffee one afternoon, and we sort of clicked. He made me laugh, but he frightened me a little with his crazy eyes. He also told a lot of stories about being part of the underworld, and rubbish like that. I was properly off put. However, I went home and told my mum about this, and she said I should give him a chance. So I did.

Big mistake. He wanted only one thing from me, but he wanted to possess me otherwise too. I became the repository of all his needs, wants, desires, frustrations, and much more. I held out for a long time, because I wasn’t comfortable with him yet.

One fine day, he tells me about his ward cum sister cum daughter from Pune. Originally from Fiji, this waif apparently needed rescuing, and she was living with him in Goa. Mmhmm.

Long story short, it was his wife. He tried to pass off his WIFE as his ward. There are so many facets to this story that are contained in the other posts, which I will post later on.

Before I found out about this though, I did end up spending time with him. I don’t know what it was about damaged people that I wanted to heal with kindness and love. Ridiculous, in retrospect, because I was brainless twerp and these people needed counselling. In JP’s case, he needed incarceration.

Performance Issues

I am a chronic worrier. I let anxiety bog me down every step of the way. Questions like: “Should I do this?”; “What will happen if I do that?”; and “Oh my god, what will happen if I don’t?!” dog every move I make. It HAS become easier as I’ve grown older, but not because the self-doubts have gone away, but more because I’ve found the mute button.

It happens with every new project. When I’m speaking to a client for the first time, the ideas flow uninhibited. I find creative solutions without thinking too much, and the conversation is sparkling. At this point, it is a purely academic discussion. Contracts haven’t been exchanged, work hasn’t begun, and everyone is still feeling everyone else out.

It is my perfect place. Because, anxiety doesn’t assail me when I have nothing to do, and I have made no commitments. Once the contract starts though, it is a whole other ballgame. I freeze.

It is the classic blank page freeze. I don’t know where to start, so I put it off. When I do make a start, the research I do points me in an unknown direction. I have to learn new stuff. Timelines start to draw closer, and I panic. The panic exhausts me, and I start feeling ill. The illness makes my head fuzzy, and I can’t work. More panic sets in, and I am left weeping quietly in the corner, feeling utterly overwhelmed and out of my depth. And everything spirals out of control.

Finally, because I have no other choice, I screw up my eyes and just start working. No research, no learning, just work. When I have finished a first draft, the panic subsides slightly. When I start refining it, and come up with a better second draft, the panic subsides some more. And finally, when I do the research, and fill in all the gaps, the panic goes away entirely.

I seem to have found a way to cope, but I wish it wasn’t when I am pushed up implacably against a deadline, and sinking or swimming are the only two options in front of me.

You’re Not Supposed To Be Invincible

As a writer and editor, my vocabulary skills are fairly well-developed. However, I wouldn’t say they were absolutely at the pinnacle of achievement. I haven’t got the best vocabulary in the world, and I doubt anyone will till such time as Stephen Fry is still alive and kicking. The man’s repertoire and eloquence is staggering.

I would say that my vocabulary was moderately good from rather a young age, say from my burgeoning teenage years. I read quite a bit back then, although it was mostly novels. Nowadays, I have more of an eclectic reading palette: history, biographies, philosophy, and more. Each book adds another voice to my head, or polishes off a dusty facet from an existing one. Ultimately, reading is what made me a writer.

Now that I have done trumpeting my abilities, [and strongly resisting the urge to add disclaimers everywhere] I recall a conversation I had with a colleague recently. He was asking how one was supposed to know how to correctly pronounce words, if they were new to him. He then went into a tirade about how complicated English was. Before I could reply, another colleague joined us, and she caught the tail end of the tirade. She mostly agreed, because as an aspiring writer herself, she felt double the pressure to be word perfect each time.

She narrated an instance where her ex-boyfriend mocked her for mispronouncing a word. She learned speedily enough that pronunciation was everything. Much like I had thought, many years previously.

When I was at school, I had a friend who was incredibly smart. When I say ‘smart’, I mean genius-level. She topped at everything she did: school work, ballet, and art are a few of the fields I can actually recall. I was a shy kid, with positive vibes and confused at best. I was intelligent, and I occasionally still show sparks of this mystical ability, but overall I spent more time confused than otherwise. I didn’t have her staggering vocabulary, but she made me feel awful if I ventured to ask for explanations of the big words she used. I learned to sew my mouth shut, because mockery was hardly a desirable outcome for a preteen.

It took me years to grow out of that insecurity, although she wasn’t the first or the last person to make me feel inadequate for simply not knowing something. Today, I stand a very different person altogether, and I have learned to be proud of being able to ask if I don’t know something. Because it means I have grown, and I am human.

I didn’t say all of this to my colleagues though, even as the thoughts flashed in my mind. I did however say that it was ok not to know all the words; or to mispronounce them. Language is a vehicle for communication, and providing the person in front understands what you mean, your words are successful. That’s the most important point.

Secondly, mispronouncing a word, but using it correctly, means you understands its import. Also, it means that you learned it while reading. A habit usually adopted by intelligent people.

Thirdly, most linguists and passionate lovers of language will say that language continuously evolves. It is only idiotic prescriptivists that nitpick flaws.

Finally, and on a more philosophical train of thought, no one is meant to be invincible or perfect. If we didn’t make mistakes, we would hardly be human would we?

Being The Other Woman: Introducing the Characters

If you haven’t read part 1 of this post, it is OK. You haven’t missed anything. This is the post I actually set out to write, and got bogged down in the details.

There are several characters in forthcoming incidents. I deliberately obscured the ones in the previous post, because otherwise they might be recognizable to people who know us. [I am relying on the anonymity of the Internet to prevent that from happening, but the truth is I still am scared of it occurring.]

So, without further ado, the cast of characters in the following short stories:

  1. JA: The inveterate scumbag, drug dealer, shiftless work-shirker, and general malcontent, with an appetite for the good life but not for the work that goes into realising that life.
  2. Chunky Hunky: The rich kid with starry eyes, and the determination to carve his niche, albeit with a little help from mummy and daddy. Absolute charmer, with movie star good looks, and the pedigree to leaving swooning girls in his wake. [Boys too maybe, I am not judging.]
  3. The French Student: Not conventionally handsome, but still arresting enough to draw plenty of attention. Tall naval officer, with a authoritative presence, and boyishness that first melted my stony heart and then broke it into a million pieces.
  4. CC: The British heartthrob. Star of his own series on my blog. The one I thought was different, but turned out to be a philandering playboy.

And then there is me.