Two things

Zo and I decided to watch the Jurassic Park movies together because of her well documented love for dinosaurs. In the first movie, when the paleontologists ask  John Hammond how he was sure that they could control the dinosaur population, he answers them saying that they’re sure because all the dinosaurs they breed are females. To which, Ian Malcolm says ‘Life always finds a way’. Much later, the group comes across a batch of dinosaur eggs, proving Ian right. At this point, they explain how this could be because they used frog DNA to fill in the blanks in the dinosaur DNA strings and some frogs from Africa are known to possess both male and female reproductive capabilities.

‘Or’, Zo turned to me and said, ‘ maybe these are American dinosaurs? Because didn’t you tell me that girls can marry girls, and boys can marry boys in America?’ She was referring to a conversation we had back in 2015, when gay marriage was legalized in the US. She was about to turn 4 then.

Zo is reading her first Famous Five and ofcourse, she loves it. Somewhere more than halfway through it, she turns to me and says ‘ George is a transgender boy’. While I am amazed by her statement, I ask her what makes her say so. ‘It’s simple’, she says. ‘George is born a girl, but she doesn’t feel like one, and she doesn’t want to be one. That’s what being a transgender boy is’.

I dig in further. And you know this how? ‘ Because of the story of Coy Mathis in the Rebel Girls book. Coy was born a boy, but he felt he was a girl. And they didn’t allow him in the girls restroom. They said she had to use the boys or the disabled restroom.So she brought it up to the school authorities. And the principal said she could use any restroom she likes. She was a transgender girl. That’s how I know’. And she goes back to her book.

And I  decide that even if I have seemingly given up on blogging, I just have to give in and note this down immediately.  Because I do not want to forget it, ever.

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Oh, the places I’ve been

Newzealand was beautiful. We knew it, we had heard about it, we had watched videos, seen photographs, but it was almost surreal, just how perfect it was. It was that moment, while we were driving from Mt.Cook towards Christchurch, and it felt like someone had spent time photo-shopping the place, pruning the trees to look the same, scattering the clouds in a particular order, hell, even mixing the right shade of blue in every lake; and then ordering the winds to be still – so that you could see an upside down world reflected in them, perfectly.

It was always available for us. You know that feeling when you think you might be the only people in the world and because there is just no one around? I didn’t. But now I do. Newzealand was empty roads to cruise through. It was long trails in between mountains you could see for miles, brown, green, white – with three pops of color that we added through our jackets. Waterfalls, which we reached after trekking for two hours, and then we sat and had our sandwiches – the only sound being of the waterfalls, and Zo. Icebergs in a lake, which had a canoe parked on it’s banks, and us.

It was tiny little cafes scattered in an even tinier town that you could zoom through in less than 3 minutes. It was mugs of hot coffee, and mince pies and apple turnover. It was the best hot chocolate I have ever had in my life. It was huge plates of french toast with vanilla mascarpone, tiny pancakes decorated with marshmallows and sprinkles and waffles that I and Zo chose, while the Dude dug into his ‘big breakfast’ during lunch. It was the bottles of cider that I chugged and loved while we consumed atrociously large portions of whatever meaty meal we had chosen for the day.

Newzealand was motels and lodges, as against the hotels we are used to. Tiny houses with gracious hosts who would discuss Cricket and the world cup. The rooms with a view of the lake, or the mountains, depending on where we were. Kitchenettes that we used to whip up quick meals when we were too tired to step out for dinner. Those trips to Countdown to pick up the ingredients (usually ready to eat meals) and bottles of wine to go with them.

For Zo, it was the sheep, and the alpacas. The goat kids who wouldn’t let go of her at the farm visit. The Alpaca babies that looked like they were smiling at her. The lambs she got to feed with the milk bottles. It was that huge set (?!) of dolphins that followed our cruise boat through our trip to Milford Sounds, though our tour guide had clearly said we would be lucky if we could spot ‘one’. The seal we spotted, the gorgeous waterfalls, one of which soaked us through when the boat went under it. The penguins that we couldn’t see in the wild, but had to go to Sea world for. It was the Sealy Tarns hike we did, which wasn’t recommended for kids below 10,  but we did it anyway, and she felt like a big hiker, especially when the locals praised her.

Newzealand was me sticking to something I had said I would do, on a whim, years ago – Bungy jump in Newzealand. I did it, off the Auckland bridge and I live to tell the tale. It was us logging 15000-20000 steps each day, not even leaving the one day with crazy rains, and walking all the way for a view of the skyline, and taking the longer route by mistake, while the gale threatened to blow away our umbrellas.

It was us trying to absorb as much of sights and sounds as we could before we left, knowing very well, that it would still not be enough.

NZ

Jab tak hai jaan (or, time)

I am supposed to choose between

  1. Writing a post with J – writing a post at all in fact because at this point in April, the letters are ceasing to matter. Or are they?
  2. Continue reading my current book – The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak, an author I have come to adore after the last book I read by her. This seems just as promising, if not more.
  3. Listening to the soundtrack of Student of the year 2, that’s released today. Of late, I have been out of touch with all Bollywood music because the car was the one place I got all my updates, and now with these audiobooks taking over my life, 2019 has been relatively music less. Not cool.

Yeah, so I have decided to do it all. Ofcourse.

The music is playing in the background and I am not really impressed yet. Quite meh. When Student of the Year released, despite all the overtly dramatic sets and all, I liked a number of songs. And despite the cringe-worthy title of the song Ishq-wala love, I still think the music was beautiful and I have used that song to test the quality of our music system multiple times. This, however, like I said – meh (so far).

And before I return to my book, I am writing this post right now because – guess what? The blog’s turned 15. I am not writing this in bold, or CAPS or with exclamation marks because, I am no longer surprised. I am not all that regular, I am not all that coherent, but this page has stayed. And yes, while there have been absences, they haven’t been so long as to negate the continuity of this blog.

So yes, blogging might be dead, surfing blogs might not be a thing anymore, but if I have stayed on with something that started as merely a ‘fun thing to do’, I have to give it some credit. It’s been great.

For now, I am happy. I hope I continue. I might, for longer than I think. I might stop today. But then, I have 15 years of my life out here, so even if I do stop today, I think I have enough.

If I were to tell you

We are on top of the Koules Fortress ( or  Castello a Mare, “Fort on the Sea” in Italian, says Wikipedia) in Crete. The place is surrounded by a high wall with large window like structures, the kind you see on castles? Some of these face the Aegean sea. The breeze from the sea is unbelievable, extremely strong, so strong it is not a breeze, it is wind. You don’t feel it because of the wall. But when you go to these windows, it pushes you so hard, so hard, you have to make an attempt to stand straight. Or even breathe. It is not easy. So I put my hands out and stand there. Zo stands next to me, her tiny body finding it even tougher to fight against the wind. We don’t fight. We stand. The Dude takes a picture from behind us. If I were to tell you about happiness, I would talk of this moment.

We are in this very shady room in a very shady hotel in this tiny place called Ramtek.  The room has bright pink walls. The tubelight is dim, almost flickering and is reminiscent of the old days where we had ‘power fluctuations’. The flush in the bathroom doesn’t function, and the bathroom doesn’t lock either. It is not nice. So we take out the Bacardi we have brought along (or Vodka? I think Bacardi). We order a couple of cokes (which come in the old glass bottles of yore), and something called ‘Lasun fry’ (fried garlic, we were curious), which turned out to be exactly that – garlic cloves fried and sprinkled with salt and chili. We eat, we drink, and we forget about the dingy hotel room and sleep comfortably till the next morning, when we continue our drive to Pench. Turns out I didn’t seem to think this was anything fascinating back then, but now, if I were to talk of all the fun times I have had, I wouldn’t forget to mention this.

We drive down to Goa, starting early and make it there post noon. We check-in, dump our stuff, change into shorts, and head to the shack on the beach. Zo has just turned 2 a month ago. I am here for my 31st. We settle down, order a couple of beers, a plate of prawns. Zo sits next to my chair and gets busy with the sand, thrilled beyond belief, because now that I think of it, it is her first visit to a sandy beach where she is allowed to play in sand. The afternoon is bright, but doesn’t hurt. The sea breeze is brilliant. There is no where to rush to, nothing to do, everything seems just right. If I were to talk of content, what I felt at that moment would describe it best.

It is pouring heavily, the roads are flooded, but we have been made to go to school. My sister and I, in raincoats, hers pink, mine blue, are in a near empty school bus. We reach school, and it is closed. ‘School closed due to heavy rain’, a board outside says. The bus turns back, only it takes a relatively longer route. To escape water-logging, maybe? But I am not sure. The few of us in the bus are thrilled. It’s like a picnic! A couple of more daring boys stand near the door. We remain seated. The bus goes over puddles splashing water everywhere, water’s spraying us through the windows, and it is amazing. Sometime on ride back, we open our tiffin boxes and eat, expecting to take much longer to reach home. We are home in another 10 minutes. But if I were to tell you of the adventures I have had, I would tell you this story too.

There is this movie we want to see, and it is playing at Apsara theatre, which we checked in the Dainik Jagaran borrowed from our neighbours. The four of us reach there early, so that we can get tickets. We do, quite fast, and there is still an hour to the movie. ‘Let’s go eat Kulfi Falooda‘, my dad says. I don’t know what it is, but I am quite thrilled. We walk to this famous place near Ghanta Ghar, and my dad orders four plates. They are massive chunks of kulfi, covered with dollops of falooda. We dig in greedily. It is delicious. Halfway through, I realise that this is going to take long. And I wonder if there is enough time to finish, and then walk back to theatre before the movie starts. My parents tell me not to worry, they would take care of everything. I feel better, and concentrate on my eating.  If I were to tell you about how amazingly simple childhood is, this is a tale I would recount.

I sit for more than a week, wondering why there seems to be nothing I can talk about. I try my hand at funny, I try my hand at venting, even general rambling, but nothing works. I give up. I stop stressing. I stop thinking about writing anything at all. And then, as I am reading through my feed, I come across this blog post. It is talking about seagulls. I remember this one day, when I saw this one seagull and I comment about it on her post. And a flood of memories from that day come rushing to me. And I start writing this post.  If I were to tell you, that all it takes is one memory, one thought, to counter your writer’s block, I would be darn well telling you the truth.

Happiness theories

With Amazon’s 3 month trial on Audible, I decided to take a risk and try out something beyond my usual genres. I am heavily into fiction, but with the highly recommended Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari – I took a leap of faith into an unknown world. My justification? Well, someone is reading it out to me, while I am driving. I just couldn’t fall asleep. Needless to say, the experiment was a huge success. Not only did I love it, I recommended it to others and made them fall in love with it too.

This post however is about my favourite part of the book. And this came around hour 13 of this 15 hour long book.  Yes, that late. I mean, I liked everything in it, but this was what stayed with me in utmost clarity. The second last chapter- as The Dude corrected me, because I thought it was the last. The chapter was about the human perception of happiness.

What it says is – and it isn’t something you haven’t heard before – happiness has 3 theories. One has to do with expectations, and since expectations are variable, you cannot really meet them and by that equation, can never be truly happy. The third talks about it being an abstract concept which humans themselves are unaware of. So technically, we are ourselves absolutely unaware of what happiness is for us, and so we keep trying to pursue it, ending up exhausted and frustrated, but never truly happy.

But my favorite theory was the second. It says, that happiness is determined by our internal biochemical constitution. And that, we have absolutely no control over it. Yes, we might identify things we believe will give us happiness, and work towards them. And yes, achieving what we want might give us momentary exhilaration – but over a period of time, we fall back into the happiness range that our bodies have predetermined for us.

So basically, the pursuit of happiness, is pretty much a waste of time. Because, as this theory explains, and so does experience, there is no point to it. It won’t make a difference really. Why else do we feel unhappy for no particular reason so many times? Why, most of us, if asked what would make us truly, genuinely happy, don’t have a concrete answer? Yes, for someone undergoing extreme misfortune, an end to such ill-fate might make him happy. But for how long? How long, till the person returns to neutral state? In fact, it is this neutral state, which is different for different individuals, that seems to explain why some people are perennially unhappy, despite all that they might seem to have. And others seem extremely content and happy with the little they do.

I can’t think of an answer, except for this theory. Whatever you do, how much ever you try, whatever you gain, your happiness levels will fluctuate in your pre-determined ranges, and any sudden up or down, will eventually subside.

Does this mean we stop doing things that make us happy, however superficial? Does it mean we give up all things material – since they are supposed to have little or no impact on happiness anyway? Nope. This is where I am pretty clear. These things, especially the little experiences, the things we buy, the things we own, agreed they might be doing little or nothing to alter our happiness quotient. But they do spark a bit of joy, even if for a day, or an hour. And for a life which seems to have pre-defined highs and lows, these bits of joy seem good enough as something to look forward to.

So yes, I have made peace with this explanation for myself. I realise that this might seem like quite a quitter thing to do – you know – give up, because you have convinced yourself that you have no control over it? But surprisingly, it doesn’t seem to matter. It has also given me a lot more tolerance and patience to deal with people, who for no reason, believe with all their heart and soul that they are just not meant to be happy. Because turns out, they are not wrong after all. Only it is not their destiny, or fate, or karma that is causing this.

Just their low levels of serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin.

Guilt-tripping

Yes. I am guilty.

Guilty of not having picked up a book after the one I finished one on the last Thursday. I need a break and I am taking it. Plus, the weekend was so crazy busy that I had the soundest of sleeps on Sunday night, with me waking up only once or twice to switch the AC off and then on. It’s a bloody miracle!

Guilty of hogging on a multitude of sweets yesterday. Admitted, I did the same on Sunday too, but Sunday was 1) the weekend, which means I am allowed to cheat as much as I want 2) Vishu, which means I was visiting mum, who decided to make the world’s most delicious malpuas so you cannot blame me. But yesterday was Monday – so I shouldn’t have stuffed myself with all the homemade Mishtidoi (Mom’s fault). And Shrikhand (mom-in-law’s fault). And random cream biscuits (Deux. You know them? You should try them. Oh, also, totally my fault).

Guilty of spending way, way, way too much time on Netflix and then following it up with a lot of Instagram. I mean, I always do, but I thought I had it under control of sorts, what with all the books that were taking my time. So this is in a way an extension of guilt no 1. By the way, I have just started on Queer Eye on Netflix and I am hoping it will re-ignite my once prevalent love for reality TV (Project Runway, America’s next Top model, even Roadies!), which has been restricted to MasterChef Australia for a while.

Guilty of not spending enough time with Zo. Now this is a guilt-trip I have been on for the last 7 years, 6 months and 2 days, so I am not sure if I should be mentioning it at all. You see, for all the independence you claim, for all the self-love you believe in, the moment this one human enters your life, and gives you so much importance, that you are forever left feeling that you are not doing enough, and what did you do to deserve all this unconditional love and adoration? Damn you motherhood.

Guilty of still giving in to excuses – once in a while – but more often than you’d want. But I guess that’s the way it works. Again, what is it that makes you feel that whatever you are doing, how much ever you are doing, it is never enough?

Guilty of writing this post solely because I needed to title it with G. Am I excused?

Forever in blue jeans

When I started this blog – actually no – when I revamped this blog, moved it over from Livejournal to WordPress, I couldn’t wait to get started. It had been a while since I had wanted to make the move – One, because WordPress seemed to have so many nice templates, and Livejournal had started looking relatively childish. Two, this was around 2009 I think, when all the bloggers I knew and read were anonymous – until someone stalked you enough (guilty) and found you and added you on Facebook, after which the entire blogging community was on your Facebook list and you were the extreme opposite of anonymous – I mean, something more than ‘known’. So I wanted a url which wasn’t my name. Third, it took my technologically challenged self a while to figure out how I could move all my old posts along with the comments, so when I finally did, I wanted to move immediately. Which is when I realised, I did not have a URL thought of as yet.

It was one of those Saturday nights we were having, and the music in the background provided a good set-up for what I believed was a thoroughly creative introspection I was undertaking. And then, Neil Diamond started crooning. The Dude is a huge Neil Diamond fan, and I had spent the last 2 years with him getting updated on English music other than the Pop songs I was aware of. So while Neil Diamond belted out his best numbers (I presume, because the collection was in fact called the Best of Neil Diamond) – he reached my definite favorite – Forever in blue jeans. And the blog name was born!

And so was my convenient answer to the question – what should my display name/handle/profile be? Across the multitude of Social media that I am part of – I am, and have always been some variation of ‘The Girl in Blue Jeans’. It felt apt – mainly because it was an offshoot of my blog name, and also because like every other girl in her 20s, I was in fact – forever in blue jeans.

But not so much now. I think it’s an age thing? Or maybe the summers have gotten worse? Or maybe there are just so many options? But I just cannot get myself to pick up a pair of jeans as my to-go outfit anymore. It’s almost my last choice, maybe one before sarees (which unfortunately, though lovely, are more costume, less outfit in my case. Plus the effort Oh My God, kill me).  Back to the jeans, the very thought of wearing fabric which is so thick you can make sacks out of it, and so clingy (these days) that your skin cannot move (?!), makes me feel claustrophobic. Add to it 40 degrees of Hyderabad heat and you are all set to roast yourself.

Plus, this trend of skinny jeans. It has killed that last bit of love I had for denim. And jeggings? Man, for someone who is unable to bear cotton leggings because of the proximity of fabric to skin, these jeggings are close to murder. About skinny jeans, ok atleast these look gorgeous – BUT ON PEOPLE WITH DEEPIKA PADUKONE LEGS ONLY FOLKS. I am sorry, this is a non-negotiable requirement, and I don’t know why anyone else would even try. Oh, in my case, they won’t go up – literally, they get stuck at calves, and even if I break my nails pulling them up, the knees are as far as they go. And then I chuck them and get into my ‘not so cool’ straight jeans, which by the way, not available anywhere anymore. What a pain.

So yep, I am contemplating changing my social media name. The blog, eh, too much of a hassle. But it is just not fair that I am called ‘The girl in blue jeans’ anymore. I am just not in jeans anymore.

And if anyone calls out the fact that at 36, maybe I am not so much of a ‘girl’ anymore either, you will be killed.