Of Existential Questions and Mortal Pursuits

Marriage market. That farce of meeting prospective future brides and grooms. And their families and relatives and friends and foes. That pretentious role-playing of being the demure lass, or the successful lad. The expected hospitality. The search, the extensive never ending ego-shattering search. The despair when time passes and no one clicks and a plus one gets added to one’s age year after year. The nagging words from relatives, the society at large, the cultural pressure. The peer pressure from friends getting engaged. Pangs of guilt ridden envy seeing friends plan their wedding trousseau. And career growth underappreciated by near and dear folks. It’s a lonesome time, solitary existence.

 

Thankfully, I haven’t experienced any of the above. But I have lived through most, through my friends’ experiences - sad frustrated narratives shared intimately. Looking back, I consider myself lucky and privileged that my parents didn’t focus on marriage until I had a postgraduate degree and a job experience to rely on. Any pressure I endured was aimed at education, academic prowess, and career growth. My parents never said, “What would you do when you go to your in-laws house, if you don’t learn to cook?” Rather they commented, “What would you do when you go to a different city for a job, and live alone and have to fend for yourself, if you don’t learn to cook?” Though I heard the prior while growing up, through a few of the relatives, mentioned off-handedly, it was never a part of my daily existence. I did feel stifled and frustrated growing up for so many things but this. Anger I think is a part of acceptance and getting mentally mature enough to recognise the grey areas between right and wrong. Some of it was justified in my opinion and some was not. 


I have lived most of my teenage and young adult years with my parents- through school, undergraduate college and initial job years. I had never been to a hostel till my postgraduate years. And all I can remember is the hours of study, preparation for competitive exams, preparation for work the next day, novels, and hanging out occasionally with my close knit group of girlfriends. Now I am filled with so much gratitude for those years. I have learnt from my father to aim big, keep my ambitions high and work hard to achieve them. And I try to do that. I have aimed big now as well, I keep writing my goals in my journal to remind myself time and again. I put myself to the test whenever I can and try to lead the life of a humble beginner, owning up to my lack of knowledge and using it to keep learning. To learn better. I realise this has to be life long. A way of life. Otherwise what force would urge me to wake up everyday and continue? There has to be a pursuit of interest to keep me crazy for life. 


Life’s events would come and go. Girlhood, marriage, adulthood, daughter-in-law-hood, managing finances, childbirth, motherhood, and death. But what are we on this earth? What is the worth of this life we have as mortals, these years we spend finding our purpose, the value of our existence? I want to be more. Ever more. I want to cause a ripple in time. Do more. Give only as much as I have. Not more. Nourish my soul and spirit and add on to my core life energy. Create impact. Work for a cause I believe in. And refuse to be diminished. 


I considered myself more open minded and considerate than my mother during those years. But one thing I particularly admire my mother for, now looking back, was that she refused to take up work that wore her down. She neither considered toil, extra hard work, excess physical labour, and sacrifice praise worthy, nor pursued it. She never gave wind to glamorising overwork. Body is our temple. The abode of our spirit. Physical wellness came first. Work be damned. Rituals can wait. Rest when needed. Cleaning and cooking can wait. The husband can cook for the family if required, or order out, or depend on ready-made options for a day or two. Proper lunch or dinner is not the be-all and end-all of the world. Maggi would suffice on sick days. There’s no need to exert yourself when you are not feeling well. I haven’t seen her terribly burnt out of her energy. It was because she chose not to give more than she can. She reserved some of it for herself, always. It might seem selfish for some women out there - but I totally admire and adore this attitude today. So I don’t challenge myself to do it all. I share the load, the burden of household chores, and hire help when I can’t. 


Coming back to Anger - I had a tumultuous relationship with it - that continues to this day. And sometimes in the past years I have channelled that wrath and fury and rage into my writing. Into art of different forms. As long as it was channelled out and into creating something I was good. Some unfortunate times it was directed at people around me. Articulating things verbally with clarity was never my forte, I always wrote. Wrote truly. And unflinchingly. So I tried to continue to write, pen down emotions, if not in my blog, then in my personal journal. I was empathetic more in my earlier years, than I am now, I think. Maybe because I had reduced, almost stopped my hours of reflection and contemplation of happenings around me. I look outward more, instead of inward. Emotions ebb and flow in me. Sometimes positive, sometimes not so. But acceptance is the key - so I continue to work on it.


Also sometimes when the anger is validated through books and fictionalised novels - fiction is truer than fact or fact that wants to remain anonymous - I understand that women around the world feel similarly. These don’t give wind to my anger, but stop me from feeling guilty about having them in the first place. One of them is the book Kim JiYoung, Born 1982. I want to read Manju Kapur, Meena Kandasamy, Shashi Despande, Namita Gokhale, and women writers around the world. 


I will look at the positive side. The incredible gift that life is. I cannot express my gratitude enough to the universe for the amazing souls I have around me today. Ups and downs would continue, and I would look out for opportunities to do better. 


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Queeristan by Parmesh Sahani

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  Queeristan (Amazon Link) Thanks to Audible Free Trial I listened to this amazing non-fiction on LGBTQ inclusion in Indian workplaces. Author Parmesh Sahani identifies as gay Indian, working closely with Godrej higher management and employees for years to create an inclusive workplace, both legally and in spirit. This book is a result of those years of experience, research, collaboration with individuals from difference spectrum of the society and organizations who has successfully transitioned into a queer friendly one.   Indian history is inclusive. From the Khajuraho temple architectures, to Konark to the Rig Veda, there is existing proofs even 2000 years ago of Indian inclusiveness of queer. It’s the draconian British law that criminalised it, which was scraped in 2009, came into effect once again following a sad judgement in 2013 and eventually was scraped off for good in 2018. I am in awe of the lawyers who fought this legal battle- colleagues and partners – Arundhati Katju

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