In Defence of Romantic Love

Yes, there’s a reason this essay isn’t titled “In Defence of Not Wanting to Die Alone,” when it could very well mean the same thing. I’ve grappled with the fear of being lonely all my life and this drive to be infatuated with someone else has lead to one crushing rejection after the other. As a teenager, it never struck me that loneliness could possibly be a universal sentiment. Before evolutionary psychology and history books told me that humans are social animals,  my inclination to depend on someone (preferably a wittier specimen of the opposite sex) always left me feeling unhinged.

Growing up, I understood that it was alright to be infatuated, to hold hands, to surpass the daily limit on SMSs while texting that dimpled boy, who rode on the same school bus as me. But there was also this emphasis on being an ambitious, career-minded woman. In fact, this was the only garb that I could flaunt comfortably around my parents, because despite their liberal facade, deep down, it made them terribly uncomfortable to think I might have human impulses.  

Having spent some bitter, unwelcome time in my own company, furthered my understanding of why people fall and chose to stay in love. This doesn’t mean that I don’t trust my friends or family; with family the requirements of loving me were set at birth, but with certain friends, I couldn’t wholeheartedly discard the notion that there might be a sense of conditionality lurking behind every invitation and kind gesture. When a friend extended the invitation to attend a party as a second thought or when another snapped, “you’re not the only with problems,” I couldn’t help but feel as though I were an imposition.

While with others, it was awkward to share my inner monologue. My thoughts about politics, family induced trauma or the weather were often met with blank stares and incomprehensible looks. But all of this changed when I met A in my final year of college.

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Illustrations by Tina Marina Elena

Though I dated a couple of men in college, I knew that none of them were interested in a serious relationship. These relationships were boxed up in neat labels, according to how much headspace they took up (always too much headspace than I’d initially asked for). With A, all the heart wrenching aspects of the single life were corrected.

Around him, it is okay to be vulnerable and needy. It is okay to throw tantrums, to cook badly and to forget anniversaries. It would be tolerated if I passed an obnoxious, judgmental remark about a sensitive issue. It is okay to subtly attack his actions in my verse. It is okay to sing badly (most times) and to let him down, periodically. It is okay to call him up in the strangest hours and share a seemingly inconsequential anecdote. It was okay to move on from being magnetically attracted to his mysterious past, to advising him on how to “optimize” his daily routine. He unravelled the story of my life with patience and warmth, which made his judgments so much more conscientious. It is okay to hesitate and stutter while telling a thrilling story, since I would be egged on by a sympathetic audience. He has the ability to suffer quietly with tedious administrative details while I rebel openly against the whistle of authority.

When the indifference of the world or the insignificance of human life gets to me, I know that my identity is safe. He doesn’t just make me complete or possess a disposition that complements mine. He also performs the most essential task of a lover without any prudence; to reassure me that it’s okay to be myself.

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An Ambivalent Evocation

What I’ll (try to) forgive —

The way you muse over my arrogance, contemplate

my contemptuousness and trivialize my anger.

The way you infuriate me with your naivety.

The way you switched from verse to excuses.

 

What I’ll (try to) forget —

The Green Monster, which wedged itself between

our slipping mattresses.

The Other Woman, who tainted your

imagination with her vicariousness

My Mulish Insecurities, which leave a trail of

meaningless apologies after every exclamation.

 

What I’ll  remember —

The way you convinced a suicidal man of second chances,

The way you dance in a drunk daze,

The way you sob into my limp arms,

The way it was in the middle of things.

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On Fixation

I worry about my attachment style; how often I reach out to people, how consequential their replies seem. I worry that my parents think I’m a disappointment. I worry about the aftermath of my departure from Bangalore. I worry that everyone I love is selfish, and then I worry that I’m selfish for not being able to love without expecting something in return. I worry that my gratitude is crumbling with every moment that my ego feels slighted. I worry that my egalitarian perspective of the world is a complete sham, especially when I exhibit typical ‘special snowflake’ behaviour.

I worry that I’m high maintenance/ demanding/ clingy and every other macho adjective that is used to fit the caricature of an “over-sensitive” woman. I worry that my writing is trite, unimaginative and horrifyingly mediocre. I worry about biscuits disintegrating in a piping hot cup of coffee. I worry that my mother thinks I’m starving myself when I drink soup with four handfuls of pepper, instead of a full meal. I worry that I claim to love animals almost as much I claim to love a double-meat burger. I worry about upholding progressive values in a country that is entrenched in conservatism. I worry about wearing skirts on a public bus, which allows men to ogle at my furry calves. I worry about being typecast as a privileged young adult who could afford to blow her daddy’s cash on an arts degree. I worry that most of what I win is not deserved and most of what I suffer isn’t either. I worry about the ineptitude of my country’s majoritarian government. I worry that my boyfriend doesn’t enjoy sex with me, anymore.

I worry about the primordial greed attached with the economic and political system of capitalism. I worry when I’m so positively captivated by all the privileges capitalism bestows upon me. I worry about calling someone a hypocrite, lest the pot calls the kettle black. I worry that my activism is limited to social justice warrior behaviour. I worry that my vulnerability makes me an enticing target. I worry about cheered along and chided when I worry “too much.”

“The Best Way up for the Hillbilly Was out”

Title of the book: Hillbilly Elegy

Author: J.D Vance

Date of Publication: June, 2016.

When you put away Hillbilly Elegy after the first read, it might appear like a brave, thoughtful and sentimental memoir about growing up in a dysfunctional Scottish-Irish immigrant family. Vance was born in Kentucky, he spent most of his formative years living in a small town called Middletown, Ohio with an “unhinged mother”, a parade of problematic father figures and his gun-brandishing Mamaw (grandmother), who loves death threats almost as much as she loves looking after neglected children.

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Subsequently, if you revisit the book with the knowledge that the Hillbilly subculture was an essential demographic in Trump’s victory, it appears like a nuanced and heartbreaking representation of the numerous disgruntled lives of the white American working class, living in the Midwest.
The author’s life is a literal personification of the ‘American Dream,’ come true, some would say; from living in a town where poverty is the family tradition, to graduating from Yale Law School.

The broad arc of the survivor narrative traces Vance’s initial years of growing up in the Midwest, surrounded by the shutting down (and imminent collapse) of scores of manufacturing industries. To Vance’s family, this means a loss of economic security and the stability of domestic life that comes with it.

The tone of the narrative is sincere and personal, and the additional research is meant to be interpreted within the context; it isn’t exhaustive, but insightful enough to bridge the ever-widening gulf between various economic classes, in a “meritocratic society.” 

He makes the worrying yet plausible claim that poverty in America, doesn’t just plague those who live in ghetto cities.  He writes, ““The statistics tell you that kids like me face a grim future — that if they’re lucky, they’ll manage to avoid welfare; and if they’re unlucky, they’ll die of a heroin overdose.”

Fortunately for him (and for us), he manages to escape this fate by imbibing hillbilly values that Mamaw drilled into his head; loyalty towards family and self-reliance. After graduating from high school, Vance enlists in the Marines, serves in Iraq, finishes his undergraduate course at Ohio University and goes on to graduate from one of the top Ivy League schools in America, where he meets his future wife.

His transition from seeking shelter to providing it, is underlined by the pressing question of why a stagnant air of pessimism hangs around those families he left behind in Middletown. The young Silicon Valley investment manager talks about a psychological phenomenon called ‘learned helplessness,’ which manifests in the indifference towards work and dependence on welfare, among the residents of Middletown. “People talk about hard work all the time in places like Middletown [Ohio],” Vance writes. “You can walk through a town where 30 percent of the young men work fewer than 20 hours a week and find not a single person aware of his own laziness.”

It’s essential to keep in mind that Vance’s observations about the white working class in the Rust Belt isn’t an indictment or disloyalty in the form of class betrayal. It is a sympathetic effort to nudge the hillbilly subculture out of the path of self-sabotage through its own agency and enterprise.

Rock Bottom Blues

“There can be no true despair without romantic love”
My lover (whose verse could make a
troubadour out of a toadstool)
tells me in the same matter-of-fact tone
he’d use to say that –
banality is bothersome
and sincerity is overrated.
He adds
(in words thickly tainted with pragmatism) –
affection waxes and wanes,
and that unconcerned adoration
births indifference.
Rock Bottom blues –
It’s a disruptive (yet) familiar rhythm
Of excesses and immeasurable silences,
Emerging from resentments
that murmur in the fringes

of every withheld statement.

An Open Listicle to Buzzfeed

Dear Buzzfeed,

Last night, while scrolling through my phone, I saw an article that you published about a ‘comedian,’ going on a very “epic” rant about the fact that Cadbury’s gems packets are deceptively empty. I would explain the article further to readers who are not aware of this gross injustice meted out to Gems lovers, but here’s the thing – I think it’s completely fucking irrelevant.

In India, Generation X was the first among the few to start whining about food companies that dupe us by filling nitrogen in Lays packets, but my grandmother always told me to go eat a pazhampori or an unniappam instead of droning on about the lack of potato chips.

Before you dismiss me as a “hater” and go all “WTF”, “OMG” on me. Here is why I think your website is singlehandedly dumbing down all its readers in India by churning out articles that have less than 100 words and more than 50 gifs, in the format that you understand best: AN EPIC LISTICLE.

  1. Where is the original content at, bro?

Apart from the fact that bro is a terrible word to include in your title unless you’re writing for GQ, most of the content that features on Buzzfeed is aggregated from other social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.

No, you are not a boon for unmotivated Internet users by benevolently telling us what you find funny. Anyone in India who is Internet literate and has a data plan/Wi-Fi connection can access these websites.

It is a widely accepted fact that you stand to gain revenue by providing traction to the content that you feature. But the lazy rip-offs will always be shoddy, no matter how many Pokemon gifs you bombard me with.

  1. EPIC FAIL: Usage of out-dated terms

We know you like words like YAASS, FAIL and WTF but they became obsolete the moment they entered the Internet lexicon. You alone have managed to condense the vocabulary of an entire generation, into a bunch words that are best used by the likes of fictional high school bullies such as Eric Cartman, who tremble at the sight of a dictionary.

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3. A master class on how to extract traffic from a privileged demographic of the country

Recently, you published an article about the perils that a dark skinned woman faces while growing up in a country where Fair & Lovely seems to be the only known anti-dote to a hefty dowry. The women featured in the article are startling sophisticated and come from families that are fairly liberal about the skin-colour of the daughters in the house.

When you highlight the experiences of an urban, upper-middle class woman, you also silently suppress the general oppression faced by women from a more economically vulnerable and unstable background.

When you write about casteism so poignantly and then do not follow up with a single report of the atrocities being faced by Dalits in the country, you are contributing to the narrative that Salman Khan’s crass sexism is more appalling than deaths over a cow-slaughter.

  1. Hiring designers who aren’t punny

No, I don’t watch Game of Thrones. No, I don’t have Pokemon Go on my phone. Maybe, I don’t want to be tugged into time-sucking vortex of cyber reality and your designers should accept that?

Apart from seriously needing to update their Photoshop skills, your designers seem to be hell bent on using puns with cross references to American pop-culture that alienate most people who are yet to accept that liberalisation isn’t the best thing to happen to the country since Savitri Bai Phule.

  1. GIFs aren’t an authentic form of expression

GIFs are a perfectly acceptable response, only when I’m late to work and don’t have the time the type out an elaborate good-morning text to my lover. The fact that most of your lists and reviews of films are choked up with gifs is a tribute to the shallow understanding of the subjects that your website promotes. Should I be complaining about the fact that your website features articles that are short, viral and moderately funny?

Yes, because most times these gifs are easily digestible snippets that are made by talented performers, that you take credit for only because you recognised that someone else’s work was funny.

  1. Your click-bait articles are killing creativity

Buzzfeed has seemingly spawned off a couple of other websites that are hinged on the viral-ity of the content it produces; from endless lists, to personality quizzes and photo essays about mischievous dogs playing with indifferent cats.

Now if you’re wondering why Buzzfeed has managed to have so many copycats, it’s merely because it drills profits out of fillers that are meant to distract the viewer (from an existential dread or) from issues that are of national importance such as the Kashmir conflict. And we should keep in mind that listicles are immensely easy to replicate and produce.

When these websites manage to rake up more than a million views, writers around the world lose incentive to produce content that is thoughtful, provoking and articulate.

In conclusion, here’s a new tag that might help users to better articulate their feelings about a Buzzfeed article: GENERIC.

 

 

BONUS: Check out this website which is a parody of Buzzfeed, making it glaringly obvious that we’re all investing too much time in journalism that mimics a trashy tabloid.

 

 

Place: In a feedback circle

The women here are

unbelievably vibrant and profusely silent.

 

They tell tales of a unique moral geography;

where gods and ghosts

birds and animals

death and love

live together in a strange amity.

 

They trample on notions of

‘dignified suffering’ and ‘respectability.’

Their muses are queens who lust after their gods

(first a Lover then a god)

shamelessly.

 

Their anecdotes are dotted with

characters who are by now

permanent citizens of my imagination;

the spineless father, the clueless boyfriend, (the secret girlfriend)

and the overbearing mother.

 

They stress and fret and giggle until

they create their elliptical language

for defining meaning without confining it,

for expressing what is possible before realising it.

 

They speak in tongues thick

with their language

and cut with the questions.