Friday, August 10, 2018

Fuck feminism, eh?


If you know me, you will know that I hate weddings and don’t understand why people get married in this day and age. I could go on for hours about marriage, but yesterday, I forgot about all that and attended a wedding of a classmate. I hate admitting this sort of this but I am glad I went. The wedding was wonderful and I got to spend time with classmates I hadn’t seen since we left school in 2012.

Excuse any incorrect words used in this paragraph but I’m not familiar with what’s what in a church. The service was held in a beautiful church and the sermon was quite good and pretty funny. But then he said something like, “*bride’s name* you have to now be a mother to your husband.” And I thought, “no, fuck that shit.”

If you are a woman, you will be all too familiar with your lifelong role as a caretaker of men. From your father to brothers to husband to sons to grandsons, a woman is expected to take care of the men in her life.

Women aren’t taught (mostly by their own mothers) to cook for self-survival. Oh no, women who cook the most delicious meals go to bed hungry because of stupid cultural norms where the men of the family eat first or get the lion’s share. Women are taught to cook, wash clothes, and keep a house clean and whatnot just so they can do a good job as housekeeper when they get married.

Whenever people ask me why I am so against getting married, I go with one of two answers. The first is a lack of faith in people and commitment and the other is the fact that I don’t want to fit into society’s mould of The Good Wife.

I come from a family of independent women. This is not exactly by choice. Well, in a way, it was by choice. The choice of men to be complete shitshows. Except for my great grandmother who lost her husband when she was still quite young, my grandmother and mother took over things without letting men ruin their lives or force them to a standstill.

So I grew up seeing how my mother could still stand tall despite everything crashing to the ground in her life because she had a house of her own. She didn’t have to bother about rent or finding a roof for her kids. She wasn’t homeless when her marriage didn’t work out.

When people talk about men not letting their women work, my mother continues to work. My grandmother worked. My grandmother’s best friend is one of the most independent women I know. My grandmother’s sister lives by herself and worked until very recently.

The women in my life are strong and independent. They taught me that life isn’t easy but that you need to be strong enough to not let anyone or anything crush you. They taught me that you can only really truly trust and depend on yourself. They taught me that anyone else, family, friends, can and will betray or take advantage of you.

Growing up with such women, I never saw a need for a husband. And society has changed. Relationships have changed. Commitment has been challenged.

And the place of women in society has changed. Yesterday, at my classmate’s wedding, all the friends I met had jobs. Women earn their own money now. We are financially independent.

I take cabs by myself at night. I can walk into a bar and order a drink if I want to. If I feel like I need a smoke, I can light one up. I can sleep with a man I’m not married to if I want to.

And this is thanks to feminism. There are women in politics. Women climbing up the corporate ladder. Women living a life independent of men. Women bringing up kids by themselves. People have fought so hard just so we don’t have to stay locked up in our houses, living off whatever our men hand us. We don’t have to think our lives revolve around men, have babies we don’t want or get into marriages we don’t want to be in.

And I’m sure you are already thinking, “What kinds of a bubble does this nutcase live in?”

Let’s get to the dirty deets now.

I am 24 years old. When I travel by bus or train, my entire body freezes when a man sits or stands near me. When a man offers to take my bag (if I’m standing) or does anything nice, I worry that he has ulterior motives. When I take cabs back home, whether it’s at 11am, 4pm or 10pm, I am worried sick that something terrible will happen.

At work, I keep getting emails addressed as ‘dear sir’. Once I got a call regarding an article and the caller kept asking for ‘Mr Wickrama Adittiya’.

When I walk on the road, I have my resting bitch face on. I am always aware of my surroundings and the people close to me.

I live in constant fear. Why? Because I was born a woman in a world that thinks of women as plastic blow up dolls that are there solely for the pleasure of men. We go from taking care of the men in our lives to being ogled and catcalled on the road to be harassed in public transport or in our workplace. We are treated like shit and are then blamed for existing.

It’s always the woman’s fault. Society functions like a bullock cart. The man whips the ox until it can’t carry the weight anymore. It stops moving or it crashes to the ground. The man gets off the cart, curses the exhausted animal and blames it for being weak, being born to this fate, or asking for it by choosing this path in life.

And I’m sick of this. I’ve been sick of this for a long time. I’ve been sick of this even before I understood what sex was. Since I was a kid, society made sure I knew I was not just different to men but inferior to them.

So whenever I hear people say “fuck feminism” or “god, these feminist”, I fear for the future. I fear for my future. Because we always have hope that things will get better and the thought that it could get worse is terrifying. I want to live in a world where my gender isn’t a reason for people to treat me like shit, and if this means that you can’t make sexist jokes because “all these snowflakes get so offended” so be it.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Working from home


Whenever people ask me about work and I tell them I work from home, their response is some variation of, ‘omg you are so lucky!’ And when I first started working from home, in September 2016, I was over the moon about it. I was discovering the joys of working in my PJs, from bed, while stuffing my face with unhealthy snacks.


I haven’t asked people who have never worked from home what they think it’s like, but I’m assuming these are included in the package

  • Not having to wake up at some ungodly hour to go to work
  • Not having to sit in traffic for hours
  • Not having to deal with annoying coworkers
  • Not getting tangled in office politics
  • Working in the nude and not having anyone know



At first, it worked a bit like this. The magazine we were working on was new so we were still figuring out deadlines and how to get things done. We were used to working at an office. We couldn’t wrap our heads around how to get the same work done without ever meeting the people we work with.


So, for those first few weeks, I was in this place of bliss. When people said, ‘you are so lucky!’ I could and would respond with, ‘I know!’


Of course, this was short-lived since I soon realized that working from home isn’t as con-free as I thought it was. So now, whenever people tell me I’m lucky to be working from home, I want to scream at them and tell them that it isn’t all fun and games.


So let’s look at why working from home can drive you insane and what you can do to not go insane. Before that, here’s a much needed warning in this day and age. I can’t generalize my experience. The experience of working from home depends largely on the home you work from and the kind of work you do. But this is how I maintained what little sanity I have during these two years.




It’s not as fun


Before you label this a first world problem smh, please understand this. Working from home isn’t all fun and games. It’s exhausting. It makes you feel less human. It makes you feel like you’ve been shipped off to Pluto. At one point, I was actually craving the unnecessary drama of working at an office among other people.

Now I know that you always have the option of taking your work to a café or shared office/work space but with the paycheque I get, those were never options. So I had to be at home, and it could get really bad.

Working from home sometimes felt like being shut in a box. You kept moving around in this limited space. There was no one to talk to, share your thoughts with. Through a small hole in the box, you would see people going out with their colleagues, having fun. Discussing where to buy lunch from, going for a drink after work. And you sat in your box, alone.

You would hear a noise and you can never be sure if you’d made the noise, someone from the outside had or if your brain was playing tricks on you.

Days just merge together. The laws and systems within which the world operates no longer applies to you.

It’s like jumping into a pool expecting clean and clear water but finding the pool is filled with nothing but sludge. So I needed to make a few changes to my life. And these are what I found to be helpful to me, so please don’t throw potatoes at me because these didn’t work for you.



Company


My first job was at the school library. It would get really quiet at times but when a class had their library period, I’d suddenly be in a room full of kids. My second job was at a busy and loud office. Mondays were slow and quiet days when most people had a day off since Saturday was a work day for some. I used to look forward to Mondays simply because I didn’t have to be around a lot of people. My third job was at a company that had maybe 10 employees. This number would have been perfect if only the office space was bigger. It felt cramped.

After all this, getting to work from home felt amazing. With just one other human at home during weekday mornings and afternoons, I basically had the house to myself. But the silence that filled every corner of the house started to drive me crazy. I was never one to listen to music but now I usually have something or the other playing just to drive away the eerie silence.

The solution is having company. In my case, it has been cats. Cats make great friends because they will sleep all day and not bother you that much, but they’ll also stay extremely close to you so that you don’t feel too lonely.

While working, I would talk to the cats, rant to them. When I was feeling bored or lazy, I would procrastinate by watching the cats play or be cute. The only con to cats is this: They can be a huge distraction because you want to spend all day hugging them and showering them with love and attention.



Deadlines


Because I didn’t work alone and had to send work to someone or the other by a certain time, I had to stick to my deadlines. But it wasn’t easy. Pushing yourself to sit down and get work done is a real challenge. I’ve wasted countless days in bed, unable to push myself to get work done.

My solution to this was to set fake deadlines and freak out about them. Convince your brain that the fake deadlines are the real ones. Have to send content to X by Saturday? Well, it’s actually Friday afternoon so hurry up. You will most likely miss your fake deadline but you can still meet your actual deadline.



Avoid the bed


At one point, I used to work from bed. This was mostly because I didn’t have a proper place in the house to work from. My mother then got me a desk and chair and set up an ‘office’ for me. This meant that I no longer lay in bed, pretending to work.

Always avoids beds when working or even studying. It’s so tempting to take a break and just sleep. Have a set place to work. Keep your laptop and notebooks there. Keep it as distraction free.



Make plans


I was never a social creature. I dreaded it when friends made plans. But working from home changed that. I’ve made a handful of friends during these two years and they have managed to get me to leave the house every now and then. If you can afford it, do make it a point to go out once a week. You don’t need to spend 6,000 rupees on each outing. There are so many inexpensive options.

Sometimes even taking the bus helps. You get to be around people, not feel as detached from the world. When you are at home day after day, you slowly turn your house into a prison. You can leave but you don’t want to. Your daily routine becomes bed to work to bed to work.

I started going for yoga classes around the same time as I started working from home. The classes helped me keep track of what day of the week it was. They made me stretch my legs, leave the house.

Having an activity like this really helps. I have trouble leaving the house. I will make plans, even get dressed and then have my brain give me a thousand and one reasons why I should stay at home. When it comes to plans with a friend or an event or something you were going to do by yourself, it’s easy to cancel plans*

But when you have an activity that has set dates and times, you just have to go. You can push yourself to leave the house.



Exercise


I won’t deny it, I’ve gained a lot of weight since working from home. Yoga helps with stretching and meditating but not losing weight. This is mostly because I don’t practice as often as I should and also because I spend more time eating, sitting in one place and not exercising. Weight is a personal thing. For me, gaining weight isn’t the problem but the fact that said weight gain is limited to my tummy area.

I need to work on having a flatter tummy or I’ll need to look into wearing maternity clothes –you know those pants with the elastic waist? Ya, those.



Hobbies


These past two years, I’ve failed at maintaining my blogs or completing any challenges I set for myself. I wanted to post a doodle a day this year but never got around to it. I’ve wanted to write a story, but never got around to it. But I know that if I can stick to some sort of daily challenge that isn’t as tough as work, I can get my life back on track. I can keep track of what day it is and the work I’ve been doing.




When it feels like you are falling deeper and deeper into an abyss, you can’t wish for a miracle. There isn’t a rope suddenly tied around your waist that connects you to the edge of the cliff. There is no parachute to slow down your fall. All you want are small branches and edges to hold on to. Make your way up again, even if it takes you a very long time. Finding these branches can be tough and scary, but you need to listen to your body and mind. What is best for you? What works for you?

When you figure it out to some extent at least, things start to settle down a bit. You can then take time to see how you can stay sane while working from home.




*Cancelling plans is a messy thing. You shouldn’t cancel plans but sometimes you need to. Try to make your friends understand that cancelling plans isn’t about your relationship with them. I’ve had to cancel plans because of sick pets, general tiredness, illness, and my friends have understood. Be honest with them. Say that you aren’t going through the best of times and simply can’t leave the house or be around other people.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Lipstick Under My Burkha


Lipstick Under My Burkha is a film I wanted to watch but found no immediate need to. So despite having liked the trailer and read a few articles about the film, I never got around to watching it until today. And I’m glad I waited until now to watch it because it’s one of those films you need to focus all your attention on (also because I needed subtitles to understand what was being said).


If you haven’t watched the film or even heard about it, this isn’t the best place to be if you want the storyline. I’m not very good at remembering names or timelines. And this isn’t exactly a review of the film. But of course, major spoilers ahead.

SPOILERS AHEAD


As the movie came to an end, I realized that what made Lipstick Under My Burkha different was both its theme and how that theme was set in motion/portrayed. I haven’t watched a lot of films but this is one of those films that sheds light on women as they are without any of the subtlety. The film talks about female sexuality (yes, we aren’t objects that have no sexual needs, desires or urges). The film talks about the lengths women go to keep their families from starving. The film talks about girls who want to have fun and enjoy themselves but also have to live by the rules of their families.


And you’d think, ‘but this isn’t the first movie to talk about the ‘struggles of being a woman’?’ And true, it isn’t. There are so many films that talk about female sexuality, oppression, discrimination, domestic violence, etc. Lipstick Under My Burkha doesn’t bring us new shocking and so-far hidden stories about women.


But what it does is this: It portrays the woman not in the shadow of a man but as the protagonist. She’s in the spotlight. She has been given the mic and she doesn’t stay silent.


The characters live in a sort of apartment complex that is over a hundred years old and has definitely seen better days. The head or landlady, Usha, lives with her family and is loved and respected by her tenants. The erotica that she reads aloud carries the story forward. The fifty-something widow starts engaging in phone sex with her swimming coach (a young guy who thinks he’s talking to one of the young women at the pool).


Leela is engaged to a man she doesn’t love, an arrangement made by Usha. Leela and Arshad, a photographer, have big dreams about starting a business. The two are sleeping with each other and it’s not the nonsensical ‘making love’ we see in most films. On her engagement day, during a power cut, Usha finds Leela having sex with Arshad. Usha scolds Leela but then applies lipstick on her and sends her off to the engagement party.


Later on in the film, Leela and her soon-to-be husband are making out in his car. She starts unbuttoning his shirt when he says that their first time having sex should be special and should happen on their wedding night. This scene is important, I feel, because we see how Leela, the woman, wants sex but the man wants to make it some special union between a husband and wife. This is in contrast to the usual man forcing himself on the woman scenario.


Not that Lipstick Under My Burkha doesn’t have that kind of man. Shirin is married to a no-fun man who is back from Saudi Arabia. He is bringing no money to the table so Shirin starts working as a saleswoman. Her husband doesn’t know about this, and treats her like nothing but an object he has the right to fuck whenever he wants to. There is no affection between them. Shirin’s husband refuses to use a condom and so we learn that Shirin has had multiple abortions. She already has three sons.


Rehana is a college student who wears a burkha when leaving home and changes into jeans and tshirts when she gets to college. She loves Miley Cyrus, loves to dance and sing. She helps at her father’s tailoring shop. She lives two lives and in order to do so, ends up shoplifting quite a few things. She takes part in protests against a ban of jeans for female students.


There are obviously a few more characters in the film, the jealous ex-girlfriend who is also pregnant, the mistress, the mother who works as a nude model for artists to earn money for her family. But the film revolves around these four and ends with these four women.


And it’s amazing how, while the women’s lives and stories are shaped by men, those men are never the focus of the film. This, I feel, is what’s often lacking in ‘feminist’ films (which is apparently what people call films that talk about women in a positive or empowering sense). With this thought in mind, I went to the IMDB page of the film and scrolled down to the reviews. And the first user review made me roll my eyes.


The title of the review is ‘A feminist film where all (or most) men characters are rotten by default, but one that raises valid points! [+62%]’


The reviewer goes on to say, ‘While the film raises valid points on freedom of expression (in terms of occupational aspirations, dressing styles, sexual interests or taste in music even) when it comes to womenfolk, it does so at by portraying most of the men characters as vile/rotten/insecure. Is it so hard to make a feminist film without depicting the men as scoundrels (cheating husbands, jealous and instantly-dumping boyfriends, daddies who believe their daughters should be hidden away in boxes)? I think a feminist masterpiece would take shape only when women are portrayed (holistically) on/above par with their strong-willed (and well- written) better halves. That's when you feel a sense of genuine gratification.’


Of course, everyone is free to have their own opinions and sure, the men in the film are sort of props. They lack any depth and that is sort of needed in this case. In Lipstick Under My Burkha, the men don’t really matter. And while there are good men out there, there are also some pretty vile ones that we need to talk about. You see, men cheat on their wives but still manage to put the blame on the wife. Men don’t want their wives to earn money and take on what they think is their role in the family even if they don’t have a job anymore.


But it’s not only men who think sexuality, income, freedom, etc. are men’s territory. Women also think so. And Lipstick Under My Burkha doesn’t ignore these women. When Usha’s family finds out about her calls and the erotica she reads, it’s not only the men who kick her out of her house and shame her for having sexual needs ‘at that age’. It’s not only Rehana’s father who forces her into a life of the burkha, work at the tailor shop and no dancing, music, etc. It’ her mother too, who talks about shame to the family and whatnot.


And so the film is much needed to make us understand what a lot women go through in their day-to-day lives. Dealing with abusive and cheating husbands, social expectations of how you should behave at a certain age, cultural and religious limitations placed on your freedom, and the confusing and messy pool of love, sex, marriage, etc.


This is why Lipstick Under My Burkha is a film that you can watch despite its imperfections. This is why Lipstick Under My Burkha is a film that is needed, especially in South Asia where people can accept god into their lives but struggle to accept that women have sexual desires too.


As I said, this isn’t a review, so I won’t rate Lipstick Under My Burkha. And I won’t recommend it or suggest that anyone watch it. But I’ll say this. It’s nice to watch a film that talks about women without it being through men. It’s nice to watch a film that portrays women as they are instead of through the eyes of a man. And it’s nice to watch a film that doesn’t whisper or say but shouts, ‘women are sexual beings and they have the right enjoy what or who brings them pleasure.’

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The signs we ignore

(Warning to family if they are reading this: This post is about Athamma and Jon, so you may want to skip this one)


Sleep, for me, used to be easy. There was no tossing and turning. By 9.30pm, I was ready for bed. And even if I didn't fall asleep immediately, I'd just act out some scenario in my head (usually related to a story I'm working on. Nothing of the sexual fantasy kind. I promise), and before I can even work out most of the details, I'd be asleep.

Now I stay up till late, waiting to feel really sleepy so that I don't need to be alone with my thoughts anymore. I used to treasure that silence. That peace. I used to look forward to it. It helped me work on my stories and even poems. I'd piece together scenes and come up with stories I wanted to write someday. I thought of characters. I put together words and hoped I remembered them the next day.

These minutes of peace and quiet also allowed me to think about life. The people I love. The things I'd done. Just everyday, ordinary things. But it helped me wake up the next day having 'thought things through'.

Now, all I can think about are the bad things. The sad things. And so I opt to watch shitty TV shows (Comedy Central, get your act together) until I can't keep my eyes open anymore. Then I go to bed, knowing I'll feel terrible the next day because I'm used to getting a lot of sleep.

Continuing on this really interesting discussion on sleep, I've always looked at sleep as an 'all at once' kind of thing. Once minute I'll be acting out the argument between character A and character B, and the next I'll be asleep- or rather, I'll suddenly wake up and realize that I'd fallen asleep.

And this is how I thought death was too. One minute you are going about your life, and the next you are dead. I believed this even though people kept telling me how 'lucky' my grandmother was to have died without 'suffering' or having to spend days and days in some hospital bed.

And I knew what they meant. She woke me up at 11.40 complaining about feeling sick. I woke up my mother. Called my uncle. An ambulance was called. Within the hour, they carried her out of the house. Within the hour, my mother, uncle and brother came back from the hospital bearing bad news. Wait, did I say bad news? I meant, terrible, godawful, I-never-want-to-hear-such-news-again news.

But she seemed to have died all at once. Relatives, friends, people didn't believe she was gone so suddenly. She was 'perfectly alright' the day before. How could this happen?

Let's go back to the topic of sleep, now shall we? As much as it feels that way, I don't think we fall asleep all at once. Sleep is gradual, I think. I could be terribly wrong. I most probably am. But those hypnic jerks. Suddenly waking up. Feeling like you are floating. The slight confusion. That's all part of falling asleep, right? So you aren't awake one minute, asleep the next. There is this whole part in between where you fall asleep, but we never really remember that.

Death is like that, I now realize. It seems like something I should have realized a long ago. General knowledge, isn't it? Unless the death is caused by an accident, it's never sudden or unexpected. There's always this time in between being of good health and death that we so easily ignore.

When someone commits suicide, we wonder how their loved ones missed all the signs. I've seen posts about how Linkin Park's last album, One More Light, almost warned us that Chester wasn't okay. The last interview he gave was basically the biggest sign ever. How could we have missed it all? Why didn't anyone help him?

Well, it's easier to notice those signs and warnings after the person dies. It's then that you realize that death isn't a sudden occurrence. The universe sends us little warnings but we choose to ignore them.

With my grandmother, we are all thankful that she didn't 'suffer' or have tests done on her or take lots of pills. She hated all of that. She was so scared of doctors. Until her very last day, she never controlled her diet. She ate all the sweets she wanted. There used to always be chocolate in the house because she just couldn't resist it.

Until that very last day, she seemed to be in good health. Or so we like to believe.

But what about the fact that she felt weak and faint when walking? What about the fact that she didn't have as much energy as before? What about everything she hid from us? What about everything else we never noticed?

How did we not see how sick she was? How did we not see what was coming?

Fast-forward to last month.

Johnny Meowing Wickrama Adittiya is someone who filled my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If, somehow, you missed all those posts, he was the cat who decided a few years ago to adopt us. After Athamma's death in 2015 and my working-from-home status since September 2016, I got very attached to Jon.

If you know me, you'll know that I'm terrified of animals. I once nearly peed myself because there was a cat sitting in front of the bathroom door and I couldn't get to it. And I never liked animals either. I wasn't an animal person. Then this cat, who Amma claims has lived in various houses in the neighborhood, thought of entering our lives.

He wasn't just another cat. Oh man, he wasn't.

You see, I have an aversion to affection. I can't be loving or affectionate with people. Ask my mother. But with Jon, all that changed. Here was someone I could love with all my heart and be loved back. I started my day with Jon's meows and a little kiss on my hand or foot. If I was relaxing on a sofa, he'd jump on and find room to nap. He would sleep on my bed, wait for me outside closed doors and remind me that it's okay to love someone with all your heart.

A friend once told me that she has never seen me so attached to anyone. And I hadn't. I usually keep most things personal away from Facebook. With Jon, I just couldn't. He was my everything.

And then, last month, he fell sick. And we were given bad news. Not terrible, godawful, I-never-want-to-hear-such-news-again news. That would take three more weeks.

Jon's kidneys were causing him a lot of trouble. And he wasn't as young a cat as I liked to believe. He needed his kidneys flushed every single day. He was weak. He didn't eat. For four days Best Care visited us and treated him. From then on, we took him to the vet every evening.

He went missing one evening, and I was so heartbroken, a dentist thought my toothache was that bad. But no, it was Jon. He came back later, having gone gallivanting. He started eating more. He was back to meowing in the morning. He gave his little 'good morning' kisses.

Two weeks ago, things took a turn for the worse. He stopped eating. He could barely walk. We admitted him to a hospital, so he'd get better care. A day later, I got the terrible, godawful, I-never-want-to-hear-such-news-again news.

“I have some bad news,” the doctor said. “We tried our best,” he said. But all I could think of was, “my baby is gone.” And he was. Just like that.

Last night, my mother and I were going through all the pictures we have of him. And there are a lot. And he was so chubby in them. In those last few weeks, he was much thinner. In fact, a friend told me too, that he looked thinner. But I didn't think much of it. Jon had always had his moods.

While I console myself by saying that we did our best and that there was nothing else we could do, we should have known. I was with him all day. How could I have not known?

But anyway, it was his death that made me realize that how I thought of death was so wrong. Death, as sudden as it seems, isn't always so sudden. There are always signs. Always warnings. It's just that they turn into signs and warnings only when it's too late.

And it's difficult to not blame yourself. With Athamma, we were with her whenever we could. She lived with us. I slept in the same room as her. We spent so much time together. What were we not seeing? How did we miss all those signs?

But here's the thing.

I've spent the last two years, somewhat avoiding the truth that she's gone. I avoided it by focusing on Jon. Now that Jon too, is gone, I can't avoid this godawful truth anymore. I love very few people. And two of them, I've already lost. This leaves me with very few I want in my life. Immediate family. Friend who has always been with me. Few friends from work. And that's it. For now, there's no one else I love or want in my life and it terrifies me.

But there's something my cousin told me a few days ago. And at first I refused to accept it. But maybe it's time to look at the good things, instead of the bad. Sure, my life has been in crumbles since Athamma passed away. But this isn't what she left for me.

She left with me amazing memories. She taught me so much in life. She helped me be who I am. She showed me how unconditional love can be. And I don't want to remember her with all the pain and loneliness her death left me with.

Today is her birthday. She's not here to celebrate it. If she was here, we'd wait until evening to surprise her with a cake. We'd sing 'Happy Birthday' and she'd blow out the candles. She'll feed a piece to her two children, one in-law, her six grandchildren. She'll laugh and smile and be happy. We all will be. And that's what I want to remember.

It's hard. But it's necessary, maybe. Athamma deserves so much more than tears and pain and loneliness. She deserves to be remembered by all the good times we had together. And we had a lot of those.

As for Jon, I miss him everyday too. I miss how he'd nuzzle against me. How soft his fur felt. How he'd come looking for me inside the house.

And life feels so empty without them. Without Athamma. But even if we can never move on from the people we love, life goes on. It must. And we must let it drag us along even if we don't want to.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

About the fish in the sea

A lot of people have told me there are plenty of fish in the sea. Not always using those exact words, but it was the same old 'there are plenty of people out there. Date someone. Anyone.' It gets worse as you get older and seem to care less about the fact that you're single. I thought being 20 and single was bad but oh boy, try being 23 and single. And I know that 25 and single will be a frikking party.

Anyway, quite a few well-meaning people have told me that maybe it's time I found someone. Get that fishing rod, hook and can of worms and go catch something. But here's the thing about fishing. Since I was a kid, I've been grossed out by it. I grew up eating meat. I know where meat comes from. But the thought of doing the catching and killing yourself grossed me out. Also... Fishing seems like such a bored, jobless uncles who want an excuse to drink activity. So fishing never really appealed to me.

But most of all, I'd rather not go fishing -cast my line and let the sun cook me before I can catch anything worth killing, cooking and eating- because I have better things to do with my life.

You know what I'd rather do?

Well, I'd rather climb mountains (okay, kidding, I'm not fit enough for this). I'd rather cross oceans via ship or plane or whatever else way they come up with. I'd rather travel and see what the world has to offer me. I want to meet people and learn things. I want to focus on my job. I want to graduate. And I want to do these things without having to divide my attention between them and some human being.

And if I manage to randomly catch a fish while on my adventures, that'll be fine. I'll pop open a bottle of champagne and celebrate. And if not, I'll most probably still pop open a bottle and celebrate.

But then, once my adventures come to an end, then I'll get myself a comfortable lawn/pool chair. I'll buy that darned fishing rod. I'll get a book or two. A bottle of something strong, something nice. Snacks. A can of worms. And I'll find myself a nice spot under a tree. I'll cast that bloody line, have a snack, have a nap, hit the books, hit the booze.

And if some stupid sucker of a fish ends up taking the bait, I'd have found my fish. And if the fish are too smart to get a hook stuck to the roof of their mouth, there are fish elsewhere. There are aquariums where I can enjoy from a distance. There are pet stores that sell fish. I'm an adult. I can take care of myself. As for companionship, I have an amazing family. I have amazing friends. And most importantly, I have myself.


But here's the point of this post: I know that people mean well when they say it's time to settle down, or that it'll be good for me to find someone. I know that romantic love and relationships are important in life. Hell, I wouldn't say no to a life of growing old with someone I can spend evenings bitching about the neighbors with. While I currently have zero plans to ever have a family of my own, I do know that family is important.

But more than any of this, I know myself. I know what I can manage in life and what I can't. I know what I need and what I don't need. And right now, at this point of my life, I have other priorities. There's a degree that is determined to kill me. I have a job that takes up most of my time. I have plans to travel. I want a house of my own and that crap is expensive. I still haven't found the time to even learn how to drive.

And what's not on my list of things to get done? Catching one of those fish in the sea. For now, the fish can wait. Marinate in the salt water a bit longer.

Friday, July 14, 2017

7 easy ways to lose friends

Have you ever thought, "hmm I have way too many friends. The situation needs fixing"? If so, you've come to the right place.

If we've ever tried to have a conversation, you'll already know that
1) I'm not very good at talking to people.
2) I take weeks to reply to anything
So I'm not the easiest person to have a conversation with. And this has helped keep the friend count at a minimum. Since knowledge should be shared, I thought of blogging about how to lose your friends.

(Also please note that this post is an attempt at humor. I didn't do these things to cut ties with people. I did most of the following without such intentions but ended up not having many people to talk to, and so decided to turn this thing into a post.)


1. Be an asshole

This is something that people did to make it easier for me to delete them on Facebook or unfollow them on Twitter. And I'm sure I've done it too, even though I mayn't have even realized it. If you are an asshole, and say homophobic, racist, sexist things, people will at first throw a shit ton of mud at you. Then they'll throw poop at you. Then they'll give up and delete/unfollow your ass.

If you don't think this will work, here's a story. I don't care much for Facebook posts. I scroll up and down a lot but mostly to see what I can laugh about on Twitter. But when Mangala Samaraweera was made the Finance Minister, people shared this post where gay porno pics were photoshopped into our currency. Thankfully, only one of my 'friends' shared this, and what did I do? Deleted his sick ass.





2. Slow coach

When I used to work in Maradana and had to take the train back home, or even go to work by train, I'd always take the slow train that ends/starts in Panadura. This was because I could sit from beginning to end and not get suffocated by humans packed close together like sardines in a can, and the smell of sweat, bad breath, human-juices and hot lunch. The express train is what most people wanted though.

So no one likes a slow coach. They take way too much time and make you even more frustrated about life.

And what better way than that to lose friends? I take ages to reply to messages. Admittedly, this isn't always because I'm lazy or not in a mood to talk with someone. Sometimes, I just can't put together a message. But this has led to a situation where no one wants to talk to me. And if you don't talk with someone... you aren't friends. Mission accomplished.



3. Whatapp

Back when I was growing up, we were all texting. That's how we communicated with people. Then Facebook happened and we started chatting with people. Then Whatapp happened and everything went to shit.


Suddenly, it was okay to drag people into massive group conversations. Work-related stuff was done via WhatsApp. Contacts you made for work stuff could talk with you on Whatapp. And so you had to have your mobile data on at all times. This used up your phone's battery juices but also made your bill amounts high enough to give you a mini heart attack.


So getting rid of WhatsApp gets you a few things:
(1) People no longer have a way of contacting you. You can avoid making a ton of friendships because:

Person: So you on WhatsApp?
You: No
Person: *walks away*
(2) You save money because you won't be using much mobile data anymore
(3) You don't always have to be on your phone

(Please note that I'm talking about Whatsapp from three years ago. I don't know if it has changed since)

4. Smart to dumb

Now I don't like calling feature phones dumb phones because they are plenty smart but I'm not the one calling the opposite of a feature phone a smartphone. So when you have the above WhatsApp convo, the person can ask you why you don't just install the app.

I personally don't like having to lie, mostly because I'm bad at it, so I like to have a valid excuse.

Imagine this happening:
Person: So you on WhatsApp?
You: No
Person: Why not install it?
You: My.. urmm... so my phone doesn't like support it?
Person: Oh what kind of phone do you have?
You: *tries to hide your brand new smartphone*

So... avoid this awkwardness by getting a feature phone. I used one for three years and that was more than enough to fix the friend situation. I used a tab too, because I needed to use taxi-hailing apps, Twitter, Instagram, etc. and also check my mail all the time.

My feature phone
(1) Gave me an excuse to be a difficult-to-reach/disturb person
(2) Saved me a lot of money. I go months without a reload
(3) Helped with the accidental calls and typing issues I had/have

Why I changed back to a smartphone is a different story. I needed a new phone and had to accept that I didn't have many choices that didn't look hipster-ish or stupid.

5. Excuses

'My phone can't handle WhatsApp/Messenger' is just one excuse and there're so many more you need to work on. Crappy internet, unpaid bill/disconnected connections and the lot are okay at first but soon make you look like some stingy bugger.


So work on some good excuses. Phone was on silent. I left my phone in my bedroom and spent all day in the living room. My mother's phone broke and she was using mine. My phone's being a shithead and messages aren't getting to me.


Make sure they are convincing, and don't get caught up in your lies.





6. Lay low (online)


I managed to sort of lay low since I wasn't on WhatsApp and I had a feature phone. I wasn't appearing online on Facebook either. So all this meant that not many knew if I was alive or not anymore.

Three years of this has led to safe times when I can get back to the old way of life without having to swat at people trying to contact me for friendship purposes (not in the creepy online dude way. I mean, they are still disgusting, slimy flies but none of this will help you get rid of them completely).



7. Lay low (irl)

Guess how many mini batch reunions I've gone to since leaving school? Zero. And since around the end of 2015, I haven't been to any social media stuff either (see, I went for those once upon a time too) besides TweetupSL last year.


This isn't because I don't like the people that I'll meet at any of these events but because I don't like meeting people, especially in crowded places. So I don't go for anything that's happening, and again, you'll need some good excuses.

Amma wants me at home. Family thing.
I have work stuff to do.
Uni assignments. Deadline is coming up.
No one's at home so I have to stay here.
Relatives may visit.
Not feeling well. Might be the flu.


You see? So many excuses that are basically better ways of saying, 'I don't want to hangout with you.'


And that's about it for the time being. Now that my wisdom has been shared, I hope you make good use of it. Good luck!


(If the post looks ugly and the pics are here there everywhere, just know that a lot of effort went into drawing those and I really wanted to showoff my artistic talents).

Monday, May 29, 2017

To pray or not to pray

I don't believe in the power of prayer, mostly because I don't believe in any prayer-answering entities and so constantly wonder who exactly one prays to. It's also a bad habit I have, asking this question when people talk about praying. I apologize if I've asked you this question or if I've given you a look when you spoke about praying.

What got me thinking about prayers is the current situation in Sri Lanka. A few people asked that we #PrayForSriLanka, like we prayed for Paris or wherever else a bomb went off killing a few dozen people who were usually white non-Muslims.

But then praying is easy. Sharing a post about praying for Sri Lanka is easy. Even I, an atheist, can share such a post. Even I can pretend there's someone up in the skies (which is where, by the way, these cursed rains came/come from) who will listen to me and magically make the rain stop, the collected water disappear and undo the landslides.

And I accept the argument that praying is personal in the sense that it offers the person who is doing the praying comfort and solace and whatnot. And sure, when you are helpless even words that will have no effect on your circumstances seem better than nothing. Hell, I still mutter 'namo Buddhaaya, namo Dhammaya, namo Sangaaya' even when I switch off all the lights and have to make that walk to the bed in complete darkness.

So I'm not here to say that praying doesn't help in this way. It has that effect and if you believe in a prayer-granting entity, whether it's some god or a tree or the sky or whatever, then good for you. Keep praying.

However, do you know what would have happened if everyone just sat on their asses or prayer rugs or whatever and prayed?

This may seem slightly off topic, but I have a love-hate relationship with Twitter. I love that I get to talk about whatever, whenever. But I hate the cliques and negativity and drama. And yet, there's one thing that Twitter, or rather the Sri Lankan Twitter community, is good at, and that's being there for people when their help is needed.

I don't think I saw more than two or three #PrayForSriLanka tweets. Everything I saw were updates about what's happening where, donations being made, people volunteering to help, whether by donating Rs. 100, buying dry rations, working with organizations or offering people transport or a place to stay until things clear up.

And this is what happens when people actually do something instead of praying for our country, changing profile pictures or sharing #PrayForSriLanka posts. And maybe this is why we don't need anyone to pray for Sri Lanka.

Because if there's one thing this year's and last year's floods taught us, it is this: We are not a people that waits for the government to do anything. We don't wait for the president or prime minister to do anything (because, quite honestly, they won't. All they can do is tax the shit out of us and use that money to make sure our asshole politicians travel in vehicles most us will never be able to afford even if we sell everything we own, including all our organs).

We are a people that do. I can't plead not guilty to having made jokes about how lazy Sri Lankans are. But during such disasters, we get off our asses and actually do whatever we can to help people. And this, I think, is much more effective than praying.

But this is just my opinion. And I have a lot of not-very-good opinions. So you can tell me to shut up. You can tell me to stop talking about things I don't understand. You can tell me about all the stories you've heard about how praying actually does work.

Because religion is a sensitive topic, isn't it? I try to stay away from such discussions but even a joke about god or a question about religious people vs. human rights can spark arguments. So if you want to pray for me, okay, sure, go for it. It may do me some good actually.

But before you do any of that, please make use of that time and effort to make a donation or to help out. And then...

Then we'll talk*





*I'm kidding about this. We will never talk. I won't reply to your messages/comments or answer your calls, so don't bother. It's not because you pray and I don't or because I know you are going to preach to me. It's because I suck at communicating.