Of Overwhelming compatibilities & Misplaced identities

20171016_144527_copy

I believe one of the most confronting circumstances we can find ourselves in is the combination of luck, time and placement alongside the realisation of if we even belong there. It is like one of those fluky cases when you’re selected among the top submissions and called to pitch your idea, and yet you feel surrounded by an aura of sophisticated ridicule. You second-guess the validity of your belonging there. Your potential peer, a jury member in the present, gazes at you bestowing an encouraging smile. They look grounded for as long as they’re seated, and you look at them from up the stage. However, they seem to walk on air soon after their rear leaves the plush chair. At times as such, it is difficult to believe they tread their footsteps on the same grass as we do. It is difficult to gather that they cover their bodies with layers identical to ours. It is difficult to maintain they seek similar basic needs as us. And at times as such, even the chilly October breeze with a biting afternoon sun does little to lift up our spirits. For the mundane nature play vanishes to a rustic corner during the next few self-obsessed moments of cloudiness.

I attended the sixth edition of the Bangalore Literature Festival at The Lalit Ashok over the weekend. A session paying tribute to the recently martyred Indian journalist-turned-activist was under progress. At this opening talk on the first of the two-day event, I estimated the turnout to be in early, few hundreds. Parallel sessions in three segments were spaced across the sprawling lawns of the magnificent and illustrious property, although these didn’t begin until an hour later. I was looking forward to attending these coexisting discussions; nonetheless, for the time being, I dawdled at the keynote underway and let my attention waver to knit stitches of my extant milieu.

IMG-20171015-WA0000
Source: A WhatsApp Forward

A luxurious atmosphere of savoir-faire rented the air, as who’s who in the literary and media coteries emerged one after the other. The attendees’ inner circles and the festival organisers shook hands like old friends. They embraced each other as if catching-up at a reunion from years long and guffawed like the throatiness was coerced out of their maws. Somehow, the ambience left me with a skin-deep sentiment. The community’s coexistence seemed obligatory and prescribed, to the point of being palpable. It appeared that they were codependent but parallel as if barred of choice. Verbal exchanges amidst the fragmented groups tingled the earbuds with an empty pleasantness, sounding flashy. As suavers entangled the airspace discussing a word or two of their peers and acquaintances in elegant accents from the borrowed language of colonial times, my eyes darted 360 degrees around the first-time experience of such a kind. I tried to grasp the establishment of a literary event this scale. Be that as it might, I couldn’t shirk off the sensation of feeling misplaced. I was lost from the air, unhooked from the venue, isolated from the crowd and disconnected as a writer. I sought ways to cope up with the pretentious aura the literature festival was abandoning me with. Here I was, waitlisted amongst several other prospects to pitch my idea for a book, and I was second-guessing the validity of my belonging. At that moment, I felt like I was Pegman. Dragged and dropped into an area by someone for their exploration of the street view.

Media-popular ninjas paraded the literature festival’s arena to deliver mainstream sessions. Endorsements of their corresponding book releases underlined their talks with a namesake allurement of a signed copy to the oh-so-privileged. After all, the absence of enthusiastic figurines from a festival at such may have meant more harm than good to their brand value in the aftermath; lest the bunking by a prominent publishing and journalism house or an agency made rounds to instil a secondary image in the mindsets of the literary honchos. To cap this draft of flaunty sophistication and high profile majority, selfies knitted a storyline of their own. A generation, that as-is struggles to get enough of themselves in front of different lighting and background settings, inundated the length and breadth of the lawn, the eating space, all rooms public and the restrooms even. They swooned over the societal celebrities to imprison themselves within a five-inch frame of hard glass. It didn’t seem to matter if they followed their shows. If they believed in their ideologies. If they even liked them. As I tried to discover my ground amidst the first of such bizarre vividness, I could only infer – to the point of being a little narcissistic – their thickset make-up correlating to the denseness of their masked disguise.

BLRLitFest_2017

Despite being shadowed by an eerie vibe at the two-day event, I acquired rich insights and takeaways from individual sessions. The selection of themes and subject matter experts couldn’t have been more tasteful and diverse. All said, the reasons for my feeling mislaid could have been multifold. The opulent property being one, and the urbanely chic city of Bangalore the other; the justifying tales of which are frozen to serve as another day’s dessert.

BLRLitFest

Sometimes, no element of reasoning or psyche matters, because none of it seems enough. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. The emotional and cognitive wavelengths vary, and the mental connect misses out. You figure that you can soak in the atmosphere only so much because there is that challenge to fit in. Picture an Earthian breathing the air of Mars. You are on the watch, judged by a different atmosphere. What you do, how you are, and why you be, don’t seem enough. It isn’t. Because, for one, getting into a social circle as such feels diasporic and two, the effort seems elitist.

Have you ever come across a time when you are by a stroke of luck shortlisted amongst the crème de la crème of submissions to sell your idea in the final round? Have you ever, by a combination of chance and fortune, got to appear on stage only to feel aloof and distant from your supposed capability? Have you ever prided yourself on your talent, but worried more of the inabilities you feel clumsy about? Have you ever come across a time when you have gathered the guts and stepped up to confess to the jury, ‘but then, everybody in my family told me I write well? Have you ever imagined them respond to your self-assumed boldness with a, ‘well, my darling, that is why they are family’ and chuckle at your gullibility and ineptness?

I may sound like an antagonised naïveté and a vain-glory spoilsport here. But the vibes at the Bangalore Literature Festival did precisely this to me.

Source: Pixabay
Source: Pixabay

Advertisements

It’s about Choices: Like, a ‘No’ could be a Complete Sentence

I come from a society where we need no reasons to revere our lifestyles against the cushion of culture. It’s how this side of the world has always panned; at least since I became self-aware. Moral fibres are ordained as a part of our nurturing in such a way that we find our minds and bodies ingrained in them. As we grow up, we discern that in a span of a skip generation, the scientific backing is subtracted from most of such fibres. And often, omitted. There exists no logical interpretation from our elders for why certain things are the way they are. We see them suiting up into a defence mechanism of being all elderly with a feeble this-is-how-it-is-so-do-not-argue-with-me.

Are we meant to buy our way into this?

20170304_172721_copy
Courtesy: Students’ Biennale, Kochi Muziris Biennale 2016

Hypocrisy seeps its way into our systems – living or structural – through loops and holes that we as a race, have left gaping. While we grow up, along with the absence of rational reasoning, we also discover the power of questioning and use it despite being given sketchy responses in return. As a consequence, boundaries are getting erased to the point that any Tom, Dick and Harry is privy to hold an individualistic thought-process. A question is countered with another. To which there is no one solution. There is an indefinite foundation to differentiate the rights from the wrongs. It’s all relative. Like, a sexual tension brewing between two friends, being friends with benefits, and aesthetic attractions despite being legally committed for life are permissible under-the-counter.

Are they, though?

So much for our cushioning cultures, kerchiefed values and the ingrained pit of moral fibre.

20170305_125752_copy
Artist: Praneet Soi

Friendship comes in limitless packages. It’s all right if one is living with a friend in an elsewhere city for studies. It’s okay if one is hanging out with a friend at midnight for an ice-cream. It’s okay if two friends are talking into the wee hours of the morning about savoury somethings and sweet nothings. It’s all right if live-in friends from the opposite sex sleep on the same bed. It’s okay if a friend develops a physical attraction towards the other, and gets asked for a sexual favour in return. The lust is after all, mutual.

Albeit, what coerces someone to ask for a sexual favour in a friendship? I want to believe it is the comfort zone that gets established between the two. I want to believe it is human, and therefore a natural inclination. I want to believe that sex is an essential need like air, food and shelter. And because it is an ask, I want to believe that it is okay if the response to it is positive or otherwise.

However, what coaxes someone to ask for a sexualised favour with a single-faced probability of not turning it down? Why must it be an invite in the first instance when there must be no scope to leave anything to chance? Of turning it down?

It will be five years this October since I am married to Pachai. Apart from a shared social circle, we see friends outside. Setting aside the legal quotient of our enduring partnership and the societal belief of a marriage’s sanctity, I am sometimes apprehensive of the air I leave on my friends. As an individual. Especially on those with whom I get newly acquainted. For sooner than later, there gets introduced a tension in the air that paves the way to leaving sedimented footprints in the trail of our murky sentience.

How do I deal with such instances? By siding with a culture that’s imbibed into me by default at birth, when I could have been born anywhere in any family? Or by internalising a moral belief that ideally could no longer be held good in the light of our practically altered lifestyles?

The exhaust fan whirs unnoticed, in a world of its own
Courtesy: Students’ Biennale, Kochi Muziris Biennale 2016

Within these four-odd years with Pachai, I have been asked for sexual favours. Twice. The first time it was from a friend whom I got along with for our crazy vibes. The second time it came from a friend with whom I had a shared interest in fine arts. Their liberal approach, however different and despite them knowing I have a partner, induces me to retrospect about the kind of person I am. Of the impression that I leave behind. For it spurs self-doubts about my character and behaviour. Is it a mistake that I do not propagate about Pachai? Am I creating a general confusion by not publicising our tidbits on social media? Am I leaving a sign for trespassing by not reinforcing his significance?

They say marriage is a holy communion of two individuals. Ironically, it is challenging to come across an epic or a commandment that explains why is it essential to be unfaithful once married. There are bare resources that tell you why choosing another sexual partner when you’re legally bonded is deceitful. Maybe, it has a grounded reasoning to it. Choices. Of the ones that we make and take as an individual. Of a choice to stick with someone irrespective of the circumstances. To walk by their side regardless of the falls, the downs, the lows, the thins and thicks. Of the one to grow old together and stay that way until time permits.

Source: The Internet

I do not know what it is like to continue a friendship after being asked for intimacy. I would not have an answer if someone were to ask me why did I not take the incident as one in passing and continue with my friendships. Because I am not in touch with either of the two after I turned down their asks.

What gives people the idea to ask for sexual favours in a friendship that must end in a defaulting ‘yes’? Why does a ‘no’ injure their ego?