Tag Archive | love

Godspeed, David Bowie

Today, a normal Monday. Many of us woke up, went to work, listening to the man on our commute.

Two days ago, Blackstar. A seminal album for the ages, just as every single one of his others had been. Like many others, I enjoyed it, replayed it, enjoyed it again.

Two days ago, I was in a tattooist’s chair, having Aladdin Sane permanently etched into my clavicle in ink.


Sat down at work and got onto my laptop, got through some work, and logged on to Facebook.

Like all of us who are now utterly shattered, I read that David Bowie was no more.

I immediately called up a close friend who loves the man as much as I do. I spoke to him. “It’s not true.”

Both voices shaking. Neither wanting to believe.

Later, confirmation. From his son. That the great man was gone. No more. Just like that, snuffed out in an instant.

It wasn’t in an instant for him, or for Duncan, or Iman, or his daughter.

18 months is a long, hard fight, and in a sense it’s better that it was not longer.

But this was a loss the world was not, has not been, would never have been ready for. How can the immortal Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke, just leave?

My brush with Bowie began in my teens, when I first heard Life on Mars. It blew my mind in ways that I still remember today. Every bit revelatory, every bar of music, every single word of the lyrics touched my soul in a way that is truly indescribable and still, even using every word in existence, every emotion we know of, is somehow not enough.

It was the freakiest show.

Like a starved man who had tasted his first morsel of food, I, in my Teenage Wildlife, devoured his music. Lapped it up. Every single piece of it.

Each album brought out nuances, subtleties in music that one may have never believed existed. Themes and motifs all the writers of the world may not have been able to come up with even put together.

Every album behind a mask, behind a character  – or perhaps, written by it. The young, hollowed out Aladdin Sane wrote of himself, of Ladies Grinning Soul, with pianos that sounded like flamenco guitar.

The lyrics inspired even the least creative of minds to conjure up images they may never have seen. Lady Grinning Soul. A tall woman by a piano in a bar, perhaps, her body shrouded in mystery and feathers, her eyes afire as she held a microphone.

Who knows if that is the image he intended. But it was always the one it brought to my mind. It’s one that is vivid, as if it were in front of my eyes just now.

Drive In Saturday made me want to fall in love. Hard. And hold someone close, and kiss them harder. And not let go.

And know what it was like to hold them as we both fell away, tired, sated and still at peace.

It’s absolutely one of my favourite songs to this day, and I’m playing it as I write this just now.

A song, an album that opens parts of you you didn’t know existed.

To anyone who is reading this, please, just go, turn out the lights, and play Aladdin Sane. An album for the ages if there ever was one.

He covered Pink Floyd, The Beatles, his own friends – the Stones. He did the Kinks and did them beautifully.

But his sheer capacity for songwriting – across genre, subject, lyric, music, instrument, absolutely anything – cannot even be described as monumental. Bigger than the ever-expanding universe, even. For a slow, flamenco-meets-piano Lady Grinning Soul, there was a Starman.

For a Starman, there was an Ashes to Ashes.

For every poignant song that could evoke tears at a moment’s notice, there was a Kooks, written for his son, about going to school and being a normal father. No, scratch that, not a normal father, a wonderful one.

It made me want to be able to come home to my own dad and laugh with him as I ran home from school, and in a sense, as I grew older, I did sometimes have my mother to be able to sit after school with as we watched TV together, and I’ll cherish those memories forever.

Before Aladdin Sane came The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Written from the point of view of an earth-visiting Alien. AKA David Bowie himself. A truly otherworldly being. Not human, not religiously divine.

Just a mortal with the potential of a superman.

In my darkest, most suicidal days, I overplayed Quicksand over and over again. And the Bewlay Brothers, as I imagined my life gladly slipping away from me, wanting to end whatever pain I was going through. And even then, in that darkness, those songs were things of sheer and utter beauty and nothing else.

The album was also special to me in that the first song I ever performed in public, for an actual audience, was a little ditty named Moonage Daydream. I’ll be a rock and rollin’ bitch for you, David.

The memory of walking into that dim light as my friend Laura set up a stool and microphone for me, announced me in and allayed my jittery nerves, that memory is so vivid.Adjusting a microphone for me, and a microphone for my guitar as the low screeech of the feedback echoed.

The smell of beer, good and bad, the low hum of what was perhaps a semi-interested audience that cheered me on  as I sang and played on, and then it never stopped.

Memories of some of the best times of my life have become inextricably tied to David Bowie, to his music, to his legacy. The first time I ever tried to smoke a cigarette, I was listening to Life on Mars, and to this day it is reminiscent of that breeze, that smell, that burning ash.

I then introduced one of my young, closest friends to it, and she fell in love with it too.

Letter to Hermione, a wonderful gem off Space Oddity, holds a special place in my heart. On a date with a man I had fallen deeply for as a young woman years ago, he held my hand and sang it to me on a beach in the heat of mid-day and my young, impressionable mind that had never known love, opened up and soared, and melted into his arms.

I spoke to that man this morning as I cried, and he did not want to believe it either.

Even teenage me, wanting to die, holding a swiss knife to my wrist, listened to Quicksand over and over again, with no belief in or love for myself, and still somehow was able to enjoy the music with every fibre of my being, sink into the lyrics that spoke so deeply to my soul I felt like the man, the musician knew me, knew my fight, as I struggled to deal with being unloved, alone, bullied and hurt.

As I finally took to fiction, each story a cathartic experience, those were inspired by Bowie too. A homeless young girl (with the mousy hair). A Major Tom, who lost his mind.

Wanting truly to know the happiness that came from love, I listened to Kooks. Of a father who just wanted to put his son in the car and drive him around when homework got too much. A simple melody was Kooks, and still inspired so much happiness.

Lady Stardust. A transvestite. Playing into Bowie’s beautifully fluid gender idols. Androgyny. The male. The female. All one, and one with each other. And it didn’t matter if you were gay, straight, male or female. You were attracted to him, in love completely with a man, a being, walking music himself.

And he reinvented himself, year after year after year. After year.The Thin White Duke. Throwing darts in lovers’ eyes.

The Next Day was a new Bowie. The talent of and genius of old. The music of now. And his old personae came out to play.

Ever the consummate actor, Bowie was not just prolific in film as the iconic Nikola Tesla, whom he portrayed in The Prestige – perhaps his most well-known film role to date, but as the Man Who Fell to Earth (a must watch, if you have not already). Of Jareth the Goblin King, with a beautiful voice and a just-as-beautiful bulge.

An innovator in music, in writing in film, in truly every sense of the word was David Bowie.

And if you’ve ever watched his interviews, he was devastatingly funny (and handsome), disarmingly charming, honest, baldly open, just himself. And you couldn’t help but fall completely in love.

Only three days ago, Blackstar came out. His video, his song. Lazarus. The biblical character whom Jesus resurrected.

The musical character, the man, the  enigma, the riddle, the genius. Not a mortal at all, but resurrected in death to live for all eternity, just as that final video.

In a way, it is just as well that 18 months of hard-fought suffering have come to an end, but it is the sheer loss that we, as fans, as lovers in our heads, find it hard to come to terms with.

I guess we all just thought he was immortal. And in so many ways, he is, and he will be.

Now one with space and time and the energy of the universe, there really is a Starman out there somewhere.

Ashes to Ashes, funk to funky.


Dr. Anorexia: Or how I learned to stop worrying and love my body

One of those things is still integral to my life. The other has not been for nearly two years now, which is an extremely positive change.

Writing about my experience is an extremely difficult thing, and reconciling my own beliefs with the way I behaved was even more difficult. How does someone who strongly believes nobody should be defined by others by any metrics, and especially the metrics society chooses to define us by – which are often external – judge themselves by them?

I grew up being called ‘ugly’, ‘hideous’, ‘unattractive’, especially to boys at an age when that was somehow all-important, an essential part of being a true girl, woman, whatever it was. It taught me several things. First, as I was becoming a teenager, and then a young woman, I believed strongly that I was ugly, and at the time, it mattered.

It mattered that nobody looked at me a certain way, or at least I thought it did. At 13, it began to consume my life, and I was told I was also too ‘nerdy’, and with that came the F-word that would go on to haunt me a good decade afterwards.


Looking back, I don’t think I was ever fat, just a regular kid with an inherited chubby face that I hated. It was a face I would grow to hate more and more in coming years, to the point that I would put an extra towel over my bathroom mirror.

Even if I were ‘fat’, according to whatever definition of that word suited people to use, that should not have been reason for me to hate myself. But I did.

Words have a far stronger effect than the people who say them ever seem to realise, and that effect is seriously amplified with time. The nickname my bullies gave me, although neither insulting nor complimentary in and of itself (it was in fact from a chunk of my name), came from them with the connotation of being fat. Unlike its namesake, however, I felt anything but jolly and cheerful.

“Oh, he wouldn’t like you,” said one person. “Oh, that weirdo,” said a boy my 13-year-old self, who had just discovered feelings for the other sex beyond Shah Rukh Khan and Chandler Bing on the TV, had a crush on. It devastated me, and it should not have.

In looking for that body type, I, and several others, begin in search of a quest. A quest for some form of belonging to something we crave. It is the beginning of a search of acceptance, a desire to not be the outcast.

For whatever other combination of metrics, I was always the ‘weird’ one. I was what I believed, to paraphrase Steve Jobs, to be a very round peg in a too-small hole.

The lessons begin quite early, and in this case they did for me. It starts with one person telling you why you’re not ‘good enough’, and another, and another. Even if it has ‘stopped’ by then, you have begun skiing down the slippery slope of self-loathing and are headed dangerously off-piste.

I missed out, as so many others who have grown up this way do, on formative years of discovering myself, which were accelerated later and learned eventually, but missed nevertheless. Instead of being outside playing, I spent my time away from books crying. The time that was not spent drowned in mystery novels and science fiction was spent wondering why I was not ‘like the others’, why ‘he’ thought I was ‘yucky’, and other things teenagers will do.

At the halfway mark: What I looked like, and what I felt like.

At the halfway mark: What I looked like, and what I felt like.

Food began being watched, and not for anything related to my health. Lunches would be brought back home, given to the poor kid and his mother round the lane, fed to the dog, flushed down the toilet, any way to not have as much food pass my lips.

The behaviour began with not being ‘good enough’; this ‘not good enough’ applied within the home and at school. It reflected in all of those young teens in the throes of puerile adolescent romance that I seemed to want and could never have, that unattainable, unachievable ideal that eluded my grasp because of the way I ‘was’, the way I ‘looked’, who I am.

This entire attitude was then predicated on the ideal that who I was, or how much I was ‘worth’ in the world, was either defined or circumscribed by whether somebody cared for me, and how much. That that meaning, that value, lay in somebody’s desire to hold my hand, to laugh with and kiss me, and as I grew older, to have sex with.

In light of my avowed feminism, which I continue to feel strongly about to this day, how was I allowing myself to define my value, or in this case, the lack thereof, by the men I had loved not feeling anything in return?

And it may not have been all of the answer, but a big part of it lay in the desire to control, a key word for anybody who has struggled with any form of addiction, which eating disorders are. In controlling what went into my mouth, I could control the way I looked, I could control what others thought of me, how they perceived me, and be found ‘attractive’, which I had never been.

Fitness had never been a problem – long walks and jogs with the parents and being a trained swimmer had helped with that, and helped immensely. But it wasn’t enough to be fit, because looking fit mattered far, far more. The thighs and calves I had earned running were too manly, too masculine, the strong arms from benching and lifting too big and broad, the muscled shoulders too thick.

But in the end, it is control that takes over. In this case, it was control over what I looked like. If I could control what went into my mouth, I could control what I looked like. If I could control what I looked like, I would not be thought of as ‘ugly’, and this would somehow enrich my life. Hindsight is always 20/20, but when you’re in the midst of a situation like that, everything seems right.

Far too many hours were spent in front of a mirror, plucking and pinching and slapping things that were ‘too big’. Far too much time was spent hurting myself over something ‘too round’, ‘not flat enough’, ‘too big’. In the quest for an unattainable, unfair, self-imagined ideal of ‘perfection’, you whittle yourself down to something you believe can be ‘loved’, or is in fact worthy of being so. In the end of the entire exercise, this quest of wanting ‘love’, ‘acceptance’, from oneself or outside, ironically makes you realise you hate yourself, and magnifies that hatred a hundredfold.

A teenage brain thought it was a good idea to eat that ‘one less paratha’ and smoke 3 cigarettes instead, because putting a nicotine stick in my mouth to suppress my appetite made more sense than cabbage and flour.

As I’ve grown older, stronger and become a more vocal feminist, I’ve come to realise how flawed it was, the very premise that the attention I may or may not have got from controlling obsessively what I ate, exercising 4 hours a day to the point where I felt lightheaded if I even stood up, was positive, was an indicator I was doing something right somehow.

That the clothes my teenage self wanted to wear but couldn’t because her breasts were ‘too big’ looked great now. That the male attention my younger self thought she wanted came with my younger self looking like she was about to snap in half as she ate two carrots and a cube of cheese for lunch because she was too afraid to eat any more.

I saw my bullies’ faces, heard their voices in the back of my head as I reached for food, laughing at me for even considering to be around them, because how dare my nerdy, lumpen self do that? How dare I think I was worthy of their male friends, or any male, really, giving me the time of day? And it mattered then, when it should not have.

Thankfully, I had a wonderful discussion with a friend last night, where he (correctly) argued that even insinuating male attention should be construed by women as flattering was ridiculous – the woman in question being a professional tennis player who was sledged on court in absentia.


Still not as thin as I wanted to be

In the years after I had spent most of my days forcefully tickling my throat and tasting bile as I downed Listerine to get rid of the repulsive aftertaste, I had begun to restrict. In the days after that, I saw change, and quickly. Lying down, I could feel my tailbone poking into me. I could feel and see my pelvis in the mirror and terrifyingly, I felt immensely proud. I could run my fingers over my ribs in the mirror, and those awful breasts had finally shrunk.

51kg. 47kg. 42kg. And finally I got down to 37, and then I thought I was happy.

It had felt then like a triumph, a victory over all the ‘ugly’ jibes, a victory over all of the rejection over the years, a victory over my own demons, when in reality it was only the beginning of a long and arduous battle, one helped only by the presence of my closest friends who had nothing but patience for me as I grated on them, breaking myself apart in the process.

Free of eating disorders or disordered behaviour for the most part, I am now nearly two years ‘clean’. Do thoughts still creep into my head, the guilt of that ‘one extra chocolate bar’? Of course they do. There are hours years later where you will look into the mirror and still see a ‘tubby’ stomach, too-big boobs, ‘man-thighs’, stretch marks and scars, and think of being that person again. Let those feelings pass.

They’re all part of your journey, a journey you need to let happen on its own.

Through nearly 5 years of disordered behaviour, the biggest lessons you take away are that the acceptance and love you need to give yourself are the most important things you will ever have in your life. Do not let anyone change who you are, and who you want to be. You don’t need to be ‘beautiful on the outside’, because that is not a way you should define either yourself or anyone else.

The next time that chocolate bar presents itself, it’s okay to eat it and not cry about it the rest of the day, or worry how much you’ve eaten. For those in recovery, your appetite will definitely shrink in the days after your recovery, and I find that a couple of years on I still cannot eat as much as I used to. But you’ll get there.

A human being is not a share on the stock market – you are not suddenly worth more if more people want you, or less if nobody does. What is most important is mattering to yourself. You can make little changes in your life that are good for it, but controlling it is impossible to do because that is just how life is. You are worth far more than the bits of your body you see.

Meanwhile, if loving yourself seems like an impossibility for now, begin with a deep, slow, gradual acceptance. Of how your body looks, how it feels, of the world around you. The most important relationship of any you will ever have in your lifetime is the one with yourself, and in the words of James Hetfield, nothing else matters.

Kiss-ko Pyaar Karoon?

Recently, Free Thinkers, a group of Facebook users, organised the ‘Kiss of Love’ movement. The kiss of love was floated in social media by a group of youngsters known as free thinkers, in protest against Bharathiya Yuva Morcha attack on a hotel in Kozhikode last week, alleging immoral activities. 

The movement, in which people who signed up decided to have a kiss-a-thon in Kochi, a major city in the southern Indian state of Kerala, was intended as a symbolic message to the police…the moral kind. The kind who persist in bandying about that oft-repeated turkey, “Indian Culture”. The self-appointed upholders of what is truly Indian. Morally. Sex sadly is not one of these ‘moral’ things to them. However, it is deemed perfectly acceptable to urinate, defecate and masturbate in the street. I have personally seen a street masturbator and multiple street urinators and defecators in the past week.

These Indian religious nuts are probably all living in Biblical times, then. The times of immaculate conception, over and over and over again. The sort of immaculate conception that is repeated in every corner of the country. The kind that has got us to a 1.252 billion strong population as of last year’s census. [Probably higher this year.]

But no, let’s get back to how sex is bad and immoral and corrupting people, shall we? Nobody’s having it, how dare they? It is against the culture of the country with the world’s second-highest population.

Kissing is a beautiful thing. So is sex, but it is possibly too ‘scandalous’ for our upholders of tradition and culture to discuss (the stork dropped them all from the sky, of course), so let’s start small. Kissing. Affection. Love. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in a sexual context, but is a thing of beauty even then. Sexual =/= bad, dear desi culture upholders.

This movement was meant to show two fingers to the moral police, comprised of individuals, groups, families, and scariest of all, political parties. [I say the scariest because of the sheer monetary and physical power they hold and wield as dangerously as an unsheathed sword.]

Trolls to the Facebook page for supporters of the Kiss of Love movement have variously posted things such as these

“will you marry the ‘thing’ you brought to kiss”

“I don’t have a problem. But everyone should take those ‘things’ you kissed back home with you”.

But dear man, you do in fact have a problem. The same problem far too many people in India face. That rape, sex and ownership are all somehow interconnected. And the topic that interconnects them in your mind is that timeless Indian favourite, virginity. Specifically, female virginity.

Countless films, instances in real life and suggestions by ‘well-meaning’ MORONS suggest to survivors of rape that they marry their rapists. Marry the people who chose to violate them and their space to exert power.

Their ‘logic’? That the rapist has already ‘taken’ this girl’s virginity, which of course is the entire deciding factor in her value as a woman and human being, so he might as well keep it.  This patriarchal, backwards mindset is sadly echoed by women nationwide, women who write into advice columns asking about ‘how to hide from my partner that I have had sex with my previous boyfriend’.

Nobody should need to ‘hide’ anything. And by nobody, I mean  no woman, because this ‘sexual shame’, this stigma women are made to feel if they are even the least bit free with their sexuality, is suffered by them and them alone. Men wear their sexual prowess like badges of honour. Women are slut-shamed instead.

Religion divides our nation, and has done so for years and years. However, causes like these seem to unite every regressive, extremist religious wingnut against one massive cause, in their quest to both decide and enforce what is ‘moral’. Freedom. Self-expression. Feminism. Nationwide equanimity.

India does not talk about sex nearly as much as it should, and this is very likely one of the causes for our uncontrollably high population. Nobody TALKS about sex or the issues that come with it. STDs and Venereal Disease. Pregnancy. Family Planning. Safe sex. EQUAL PARTNERS in sex and the fact that it is not just for ‘male pleasure’. The whole she-bang.

The prudish and religious both like to pretend sex doesn’t happen, exist, is ‘western’, the result of a foreign invasion. Ironically, it is possibly due to repeated foreign invasions that a liberated, mentally, physically and sexually free country became the nation of prudes that it now is. Victorian ideals have been left behind while conquerors left for their own lands, their own countries now societally liberal and their people liberated.

Unfortunately, this specific colony has decided to keep these classically ‘Western’, colonial ideas of propriety and prudishness, adopting them as their own, and becoming resistant to freedom of thought or expression, or the expression of sexuality, which to them is inherently baaaad. Here, however, is an excerpt from a book by a very non-Western man. A certain Vatsyayana. The writer of our lovely sex manual written nearly two millennia ago.

In the style of one of my favourite comic-book villains:

  Riddle me this, prudes who’ve appeared, who’s afraid of the big S-word?

I had the opportunity to speak to organisers as well as representatives of the movement. Several organisers and participants in Kochi were taken into custody by local police in what they described as ‘preemptive action’. To ‘prevent disruption’. Disruption of what, exactly, they did not mention. Several religious extremists attempted to attack them as well. The movement, however, has gone from strength to strength. The Facebook page for Kiss of Love was reported by the cultural torchbearers I have expounded upon, and was subsequently shut down. Support has multiplied since, however, with a burgeoning number of subscribers to a new page that has since appeared.

Reflective movements are now happening across the country – one of the country’s leading educational institutions, IIT Bombay, held its own kiss of love movement, which was a roaring success, and supported by the faculty at the institution too. Under conditions of anonymity, one of the organisers of a specific city-based movement shared with me the sort of language that has been used against him: he and his fellow protesters have been described by “the majority of people [who] called this movement as “drunkards and drug-addict” movement”.

Not one of these people has been able to articulate why exactly this movement is so offensive to them, what they think will happen as a result. Meanwhile they have no public outcry against rapists who roam free and assault women and children with absolute abandon, and question women on what they are wearing, if they ‘dare’ to report sexual assault.

Support, however, is growing among the rational, by leaps and bounds. We are now in exciting times. Free Love movements may have happened half a century ago in the rest of the world, and we are behind by all means, but it is incredibly exciting that it is now actually, actively happening here.

This support has, contrary to cultural torchbearer belief, not been restricted to ‘educated’ ‘westernised’ English-speaking intelligentsia. Translated below, a post off the site, originally in Malayalam:

If we have mentioned we will kiss then we will and we have
We will do it

 In public, in police station and even in front of police station

Inside ,outside 
What else do you seek

We have unity

Unity that can never be broken


You are the ones who have lost and not us.

We have created history.

* Many thanks to the wonderful NM, a lovely friend and person, for patient and beautiful translation.

Modern Love [Valentine’s Day]

My title’s short and simple. Possibly because I attempted to think of pithy puns I could use for one, and failed, miserably, so I decided to use a Bowie song title instead.

I, as countless others before me, shall attempt to decode the abundant asinine accoutrements that come with every 14th February.

Here’s a short history of Valentine’s Day.  In spite of widely-spread popular myth, or what the myriad wearers of rose-tinted glasses would like to believe, there was no random man who decided to help lovers all over the world and was martyred in the process.

The only historical speculation about St. Valentine the martyr was that he might have been a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius II, beheaded for helping Christians in general. No romantic notion there, just the ancient version of a fatwa, perhaps.  Obsessively religious nuts shall be part of society until society exists (a fact that I, as an atheist, have come to accept, no matter how sad, angry or annoyed religious zealots make me feel.)

Ancient Rome was largely Pagan – Pagans were polytheistic and worshipped the different elements of nature in different forms, regularly performing rituals to appease their many gods.

Like Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome had a pantheon, led by Jupiter (his Greek equivalent, of course, is Zeus).  They believed that everything had a patron god, so to speak – Mars was the god of war, Juno, the goddess of women and childbirth (which is why they named the film that, yes), and Minerva, the goddess of poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, and a favourite with the editors of the crossword puzzles I solve every day.

One of the festivals the ancient Romans observed to appease their gods was a certain little celebration they called Lupercalia.  Some of you might remember Julius Caesar, Act One, Scene Two :

Forget not, in your speed, Antonius,
To touch Calpurnia; for our elders say,
The barren, touched in this holy chase,
Shake off their sterile curse.

So even the festival that was considered the precursor to the modern Valentine’s Day had nothing at all to do with ‘romance’ as we know it – it was about the Romans appeasing the gods so they could help them make babies, back in the days when they had no IVF.

I’m sure there will be a lot of people who think having a family and a baby is the most romantic thing EVER.  (Obviously, I am not one of these people.)  Still, not sure how romantic family planning is, considering how much less money and time and sanity you’re consequently going to have.

Either way, all the precursors to Valentine’s Day as we know it today have absolutely nothing to do with ‘love’ (again, something that is an alien concept to me, and a very ambiguous one at that).   Definitions of love as an emotion are nebulous at best, but they now have a definition thanks to the corporate world – one that includes millions of tons of flowers, stuffed animals that ‘love you BEARY much!’, chocolates, and in many, many, many cases, diamond rings and a poor sap down on one knee.

I tried to figure out whether Valentine’s Day was important to any specific demographic, and found nothing constant. I do find, however, preteens and just-teens in some sort of crazy rat-race to be dating and sexually active, which I not understand. (At 12 and 13, all I wanted to do was stay indoors and read, listen to music and play video games all the livelong day, which is probably what I would have done even more had it not been for school.)

In the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, I’ve seen all sorts of idiotic stuff on Facebook and Twitter, but possibly the most ridiculous rubbish I’ve seen in a while is ‘Teddy Day’ – is it for the bears, the president, or the lingerie?

Then they had ‘Promise Day’, ‘Chocolate Day’, and a special day to ask out somebody you are or have been interested in. Do you honestly need a special day to do something you should pretty much be able to do at any given point in your life? (Or if you’re socially awkward like I am, let fester in your mind and do nothing about, ever.)

While all that rubbish up there stinks very obviously of corporate propaganda (yes, I have very leftist leanings), the entire concept of VD *nudge nudge, wink wink* (as it shall subsequently be referred to ) has been foisted on us a bit more subtly.

TV commercials won’t just tell you that you need to get your significant other something for VD – they will sell to you not just their product, but the entire idea of a romantic relationship, and define how important it should be – VERY – to everybody, all the while telling them how earth-shattering a relationship is and how incomplete their lives shall be without one. (Because, you know, how DARE you enjoy the company of your friends or yourself, you damn weirdo, you misanthropic love-hating Grinch?)

The minute I tell anybody I know that I think the entire notion of romantic love is, to put it mildly, a gigantic unflushable turd, though, I seem to turn into THIS guy:

Thank you, Bansari Shroff.

I, the eternal cynic, shall let the numbers speak for a moment here.  Here in India, a dozen red roses cost about INR 400. If you want an entire floral arrangement, though, you’d end up shelling out about INR 900 or so, and prices go up by at least 200% during this season, simply because that is how the economic model of supply and demand works. Then you have all the add-ons that MUST go with flowers.

There are people all over the world that expect to propose/ be proposed to on this day, will be giving and receiving roses, stuffed toys and the cheesiest cards in human existence, probably products of the mind of a syphilitic, raving lunatic. Or several.

Not all of the buyers of every one of these products are even couples.

Many, (and by many, I mean most) of them are just people looking to get laid ( I told you I was a cynic, but at least I’m honest, and really, what’s wrong with just wanting to have some sex?), short-term, long-term, mid-term, whatever. So while people may have found Frank Bernard Dicksee‘s depiction of Romeo and Juliet (a right lot of idiots, if you ask me, the characters in the play) was the most romantic painting ever, THIS is probably what Romeo was really thinking:

While there may be no ‘holiday police’ out to get the people who don’t, there really are. Girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, wives and friends – all of them expecting to give or receive something or the other.

 And that brings me to a very important point – while it may be none of anybody else’s business, it seems that people (I’ve seen this happen more with teenagers, but I suppose it’s relevant to any age group,really) are in relationships purely as a sort of statement to society, like some weird form of a status symbol, perhaps, and this is exacerbated by the advent of the world’s collective social media obsession; this is also why you see a fair lot of people spamming your Facebook minifeed with gooey, mushy, sickeningly cheesy crap.

I appreciate that he’s your ‘Spongebob’ and you are his ‘baby panda’, but do I (or any of the 500 other people on your list) need to know this? Your idiotic status messages make me wish I really COULD banish you to a pineapple under the sea.

  Relationships (and religion) are like penises. It’s fine to have one, and it’s fine to be proud of it, but please don’t whip it out in public and start waving it around.

In very related matters, matters that prove the point I just made, I heard the most idiotic lyrics I’ve heard since Kesha playing on the gym’s sound system today. It was the usual autotuned rap-rubbish that makes up 90% of the music you hear today ( I may be biased, I hate rap for many, many reasons), and the only lyrics I remember went a little something like this:  “She’s the type of girl that makes you wanna put it up on ya twitter that I found her” (Really?!)

Let’s ignore the glaring lack of grammar skills that this man so beautifully puts on display, and look at the real issue here – why on Earth would you want to put it up on your Twitter? That, to me, is the internet equivalent of a dog peeing on a bush/tree/car – marking one’s territory, if you will, with a free ego boost thrown in, because the media and people around you have convinced you you’re a better person for being in a relationship. Because, oh my god, what would you have done if you weren’t in a relationship? That would mean that you aren’t attractive enough for someone to want to hump, and THAT would mean the apocalypse is nigh!

Your gold standard for measuring self-worth, your chef d’oeuvre, shall thus become not yourself, and your own abilities, or even any real person you know that you could aspire to, but a standard Rachel McAdams character who goes through physical and mental issues, has serious dementia (but hey, it’s all good, because she’s got some guy who loves her and wants to build her a house! Isn’t that what we all want?)

I do not believe in any of these ideals of love that are sold to me, not even by mankind and ‘well-meaning’ people. That does not imply I am a bitter, angry old spinster. If you really care for that ‘special someone’, go tell them whenever you feel like.   If you enjoy reading and having a nice drink, or enjoying a movie, go do that.

There should be no pressure to buy one of those idiotic cards for someone with a shitty poem in it, or feel terrible about yourself because nobody gave you one and sit on a couch with a tub of ice cream or a 6 pack of beer to mope. (If you just like beer or ice cream, go right ahead).

That just means you’re one of the golden ones.

The one thing that will continue to rankle me is society attempting to convince people that relationships are somehow necessitous to their very existence, and damaging their self-esteem completely in the process. (Been there, and gotten out of it. So can you.)

Valentine’s Day is for the birds. [And NOT in the way John Donne wrote for a man whose name sounds suspiciously like Emperor Palpatine.]

I know you agree with me. Search your feelings. You know it to be true.

Spend some time with the person or people you love today. They don’t have to be real.

Someone I genuinely hope makes good sales this February 14th?  Condom companies.

This VD, practise safe sex. Prevent the other VD.

Happy Humping!

And because the amazing Messrs. McCartney and Lennon say it better than I ever could, enjoy:


At the time I’ve begun writing this post, I am exactly ten days away from what is supposed to be a milestone in one’s life.  My ‘coming-of-age’, my so-called transition into adulthood. Except I don’t think it’s birthday-related, it’s a very gradual thing. In some ways, I’ve been an adult (although who really knows what connotations the word ‘adult’ even holds anymore?) for a while, and in others, I shall remain a child till I die. Arguing semantics is pointless, so I shall move on.

Before I turned 18, I had all sorts of things in mind for myself, my life, and, generally speaking, where I saw myself, ‘x’ years from now.

At the risk of sounding like a prematurely middle-aged, disgruntled old man, I was a young girl then, full of hopes and dreams and all sorts of wishes that I wanted to fulfil, unfettered by anything that came my way. There’s a kind of mental freedom and peace that comes only with childhood and youth, the kind you can see in children’s shining eyes as they run out to play, or even just smile.

It’s a kind that,unfortunately, is extremely fragile.

Personally, I singularly admire people who have been able to keep their childlike innocence intact as they’ve grown older – it’s one way to keep yourself sane. ( A great-aunt of mine still enjoys playing on swing sets and eating ice-cream as sloppily as she feels like, or just laughing at anything even remotely funny, and she’s one of the happiest people I know.)

18-year-old me wrote to herself, three years ago, about how she hated being the fat cow everybody made fun of, about being a doormat and generally being laughed at, and I’m proud of the fact that two out of those three are problems I no longer face, because I chose to do something about them, however slowly I may have done it notwithstanding.

19-year old me wrote something, too.  Except it wasn’t remotely sad, perhaps a little pensive, and ridden with regular old teenage-angst, but in a great way. As I reread what I wrote back then, I’m pretty jealous of Anu at 19, sipping her wine and enjoying her music in complete peace and quiet. I still like to spend my weekends that way, but while the ‘quiet’ is there, I’m not so sure about the peace. Perhaps the lunatic is in my head.

There were all sorts of ‘things’ I hadn’t done, stuff I generally treated like a to-do list.  Now that I’m ‘done’, so to speak, with most of them, I wish there had been some way to let my 19-year-old self know that it was nice, sure, but not as earth-shattering as she thought it would be, that all those things come and go, and aren’t really a big deal. Or even a small one.

Something that makes me rather sad is how, through the years, I’ve been searching, blindly, for some form of mooring, something to hold on to, emotional security, perhaps. I’ve struggled with my self-esteem for years, my living circumstances don’t exactly help matters, and as it happens, I seem to have been searching for it in all the wrong places. Somewhere in my cynical, crabby old-maid mind, there’s still a little girl who wants to be happy and giggly sometimes, I think, but she can’t, because she’s forgotten how.

Moving back to me at 19, I remember that as being one of the best years of my (not exactly very long) life to date. I discovered more about myself than I had ever discovered in all those 18 years before it. (Not all of it was good stuff, but I enjoyed it.)   That year, I got into fights, got out of them, made new friends and lost some, and learned a whole spectrum of lessons along the way.

That year, I devoted to me, and my own happiness; I ended up meeting some of the nicest, warmest, most genuine people I’ve ever met in my entire life, I experienced silly, teenage puppy love for the first time ever (and of course, as teenagers are wont to do, took it far too seriously at the time) , and felt something I hardly ever feel, even today – emotionally secure, and cared for.

There’s this incident I recall from back then, one that gets me sort of choked up, when I allow myself to feel sappy – I’d been down with the flu for a couple of days, and hadn’t been answering my cellphone, a few days before my birthday. My folks back home panicked because they’d been trying to call me, so they called this friend of mine, who also decided to panic, and ended up taking the next train to my apartment, waking me up, and taking me to lunch.

I nagged him to go see a chocolate store I’d wanted to visit for a long, long time – neither of us knew how to get there, but we ran into the pouring rain and caught a bus nevertheless – a bus that ended up being something out of a sketch on SNL – two grown adults retching at the back of the bus, a grown woman wailing at the top of her lungs, and a screaming man, in a bus that seemed to have been scented with Eau de Urinal.

A hop off the crazy bus and about 20 train stops later, we finally got there, only to find it was closed. We ended up laughing at our own predicament. ForEVER. (We still do.)

(That was also a great day in many other ways – I bought my 6-foot-tall, Official, Return of the Jedi poster that day, my first Abbey Road poster, and a huge one of Queen, all of which are still in my room. It was NOT easy bringing them back home.)

He’s the same friend whom I spent my 19th birthday  with, at a Pizza Hut in the middle of town, and the same guy who made me dinner and whose shirts I slept in when I was moving house, and someone I knew for two years before we both moved abroad, to the same country – within 5 minutes of each other, in fact.

I’d been dreading my birthday that year, because it was going to be my first one away from home, away from town, my friends, everybody I knew- I wasn’t really sure how to deal with that, because while I’m used to being alone, and quite enjoy my peaceful solitude, I get lonely sometimes.  Except, the morning of my birthday (which sadly is not a holiday anywhere but India and Australia), I walked into an Economics lecture to a box of fresh chocolate chip cookies, and a bottle of my favourite lotion (I still have the bottle, with a tiny little gob of lotion at the bottom still in it, because I’m a creepy, sentimental hoarder) from one of my favourite people there, one of the people that helped me get through all sorts of things, somebody who’s been through so very much herself. That was pretty much the only tangible ‘present’ I got that year, but the cliché is true – it’s the thought that counts, and that in itself was the real present. In my past. (tee hee.)

That was also the year I began getting fit again, after allowing myself to grow up a cow (now the workers have struck for fame?), and generally having had 8 pretty shitty years. I finally began being able to like myself (at least it was a start.), and met others who had been through or were going through similar stuff, searching for their own little bubble to stagnate in, their own port-of-call, as it were. I’ve watched a friend, somebody I love, find all the happiness she’d ever wanted, in the span of a year. When I met her, two years later, she was just as happy, if not happier, and I realised that even if I hadn’t found that elusive ‘happiness’ for myself, it made me feel good that somebody I cared for was happy.  I have since gone on to feel a little bit happier every time somebody I care about finds whatever they’re looking for, wherever they’re looking for it.

One thing that’s remained constant, though, is the fact that everywhere I go (barring school, possibly the worst 14 years of my life with respect to social interaction), I’ve had people look out for me, just like that. That’s one of the things I want to celebrate this year. Even though I don’t get to talk to them as often as I’d like (for various reasons), they know I care about them, and I know they care about me.     [ This, however, is something I need to perfect, because I still get skittish sometimes, something that I choose to blame on my Bipolar.]  I just need to keep reminding myself that they’re there for me in spirit.

(Ground control to Major Tom!)

19-year-old-me was one smart cookie – she knew she had amazing people in her life, ones who were going to stay there, and was going to meet more awesome people anyway, which she has.

I just wish I had her self-esteem, because I shall grudgingly admit I haven’t much at this point in time, for various reasons, and I’m not as good at coping with stress (but maybe that came with growing older, even though it seems, logically, that it should be the other way around).

This birthday, I still find myself wishing for some of the things piny 18-year-old me wished for, perhaps, but more than anything else, I find myself wishing for the self-esteem and confidence I had two years ago, possibly because I was just, quite simply, happy. I hope to find some semblance of peace of mind this year, some mental stability, because I know that barring all that fluff and all those issues, I’m still that intellectual epicurean Beatlemaniac, that ‘creative, kooky, curly-haired weirdo’ I was yakking about in ’09- a person I’m very proud of being.

I’ve just got to find her again, buried under miles of cynical crabby woman.

It isn’t easy, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to try – that’s my birthday present to myself. My birthday resolution, if you will. To begin caring for myself, stop waiting for my family to love me, and be my own damn family.

And while another year of discovering myself comes to an end, another one is just beginning, so I’m going to turn and face the strain, and get some real good living done in the process.

Yet again, thank you to everybody who’s in my life and reading this. Like every year, I’ve met amazing people, which is a relief.  I love you guys.

Oh, and a Happy Birthday to a certain Mr. Van Halen out there.

I shall end this extensive rant with the words of someone far older, wiser, and sexier than I shall ever be –

Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.

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