Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Musings on a Gray Wednesday Morning

It's been raining incessantly for the last 15 hours. I can see muddy pools forming through the white haze outside my window. It's kind of bleak, but I think it's pretty. I love how wet  and green the leaves look, I love the sound of the rain, and I love the smell of the wet earth. It makes me want to curl up with a book and an ample supply of coffee and cookies. It is also the only thing in a long time that woke up the dormant writer inside me. (Even I started to think she was dead!) If anyone still reads my pushed-into-oblivion blog, I have some musings I'd like to share.

With all the hustle and bustle of the upcoming placements, I find myself freshly confused about what I want to do in life. What I want most right now, is to have a clear idea about what I would like to spend the rest of my life doing. I want to travel, and read, and have lots of money and pretty dresses, but what do I do for a living? As of now, I want to do everything and nothing. (I know- That's very precise and helpful when it comes to choosing my future.) The moment I know, or realize, or decide, my life will be less of the intangible, obscure mess it is right now.

In "The Hungry Tide", Amitava Ghosh describes this moment of truth very beautifully. When Piya realizes she want to spend her life studying the dolphins, she says 

"It would be enough; as an alibi for a life, it would do; she would not need to apologize for how she had spent her time on this earth."

I loved the phrase, "an alibi for a life". It's so very apt, but I've never heard it put like that. How I wish I had something to make me feel like that!

On an entirely unrelated note, I somehow landed on an article titled, "Can we really have it all?" The author mentions that when the modern-day-working-woman wants to have it all, we assume she wants to have a successful career, a happy family, a great husband and two wonderful kids. The point she raised was interesting. If we call ourselves modern, why do we assume that this is what will make someone happy? She might want to be a stay-at-home-mom, or she might never want to get married at all. Who are we to decide what the ultimate aim of someone's life should be? And rightly so! 
It reminded me of a line in another book, "Eleven Minutes". The protagonist, who happened to be a prostitute writes in her diary:
"I walk about streets and look at all the people and I wonder if they chose their lives? Or were they like me, ‘chosen’ by fate?  The house wife who dreamed of becoming a model, the banker who wanted to be a musician, the dentist who felt he should write a book and devote himself to literature, the girl who would have loved to be a TV star, but who found herself instead, working at the checkout in a supermarket. 
I am not the only one, even though my fate may put me outside the law and outside society. In the search for happiness, however we are all equal... "
The last line changed my way of thinking for the better. I used to judge people, wonder why they did certain things they did. I would wonder why someone would want to get married at 21 and be done with their lives. 
But this line made me realize that they did it probably because they thought it'd make them happy. I could probably still not understand it very well, but I could at least acknowledge that we wanted different things from life, and what would make me happy would probably not  work for her. And thus, I stopped judging. 
Now, I'd better get myself some coffee and chocolate chip cookies.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Perils and Perks of Being a Single Girl in IIT

All the movies will tell you that being single at 21 is probably the saddest thing that can happen, except, perhaps, being single at 30. Bottom line is, being single is always connected with being sad and lonely. More often than not, the girl in question would herself get all mopey when drunk because she does not have a recent ex, or imminent future boyfriend to call. And if you are single in a place like IIT, it might get to be a little more than what you signed up for.

Having being single for three out of my four years in Kharagpur, (which is significantly more than most girls here) I think I am sufficiently qualified to comment on the good, the bad and the ugly of single life in Kharagpur. Let’s start with the good first, since the boys always keep going on about how easy it must be for girls in an IIT.

It’s usually a great ego boost to have some admirers. But in IIT’s it’s never just “some”. It gets a little tiresome when your acquaintance of guys who haven’t asked you out gets so diminished that you run out of coffee buddies outside your hostel. Nevertheless, you do get to have a very eventful time.

You can pick and choose whom to date. If you are a little frivolous, and have no qualms about playing with people’s feelings, you might get a lot of free meals without getting into anything serious. You will get a lot of chocolates on Valentine’s Day or after FTs, and you always have a list of people you can call anytime if you are bored. If you are feeling a little fling-y, you might date multiple people simultaneously and get away with, “I said nothing serious”, if confronted by them, or your own conscience. And if you like being bossy, you might enjoy the thrill of having a cute puppy following you around and running your errands. Once you become committed, you might not be able to get away with the latter all the time, but again, it’s Kharagpur, so you probably will.

Another big bonus is the ceaseless stream of entertainment it provides your friends who have settled down by now. My friends, for example, have a blast whether or not I do something crazy in this respect. They are the ones who get the most out of the slight deviations from your prolonged single-dom that you venture into every now and then. They like to eavesdrop on your conversations when someone is trying to ask you out. They like speculating that you are a closet lesbian. They have a great laugh when they point out that “I’m not looking for anything serious” is NOT a synonym for “let’s just be friends”, and you said yes to a guy without realizing it. Then they just decide to sit back and see the fun waiting for it to crash and burn to an unholy ball of flames. And imagine their hilarity when zero dates later, the same guy suggests that “we should be just Facebook friends”, which by the way, is a true story.

But like I said, sometimes it gets a little too much. You just want to be able to hang out with guys without feeling weird. Having studied in an all-girls school for 14 years and coming from a family where everyone your age is female, it took me a while to get there. And then, the world realizes you are single, and you lose all that faster than you can imagine. I can safely say that updating my FB relationship status to single was my biggest FB faux-pas till date.

Sometimes, you are not just looking for your next boyfriend. But people here don’t seem to get that. All the boys think they are perfectly fine and desirable, and all the girls think you need someone special in your life. The part that makes the oncoming barrage of ask-outs difficult is when you have to explain to a friend why you think you should be just friends. It gets worse when they behave as if they cannot comprehend why anyone would not want to date them. Sometimes, I think, the guys mistake having a good time with someone as those proverbial “sparks” and they cannot fathom that you just didn’t feel it too. I realized the importance of the sparks when I gave it a try once, but that was a mistake I’d rather not repeat.

To make things worse, your girl friends think of every nice guy they meet as a prospective boyfriend for you. Sometimes they get more interested in the match than the two parties themselves, and after a very awkward date, they are the ones with the biggest disappointment. Granted that they have a good screening process for who they recommend, and they do ward off unwanted proposals, sometimes you wish they could understand how having a boyfriend is not one of the things you “need” to be happy.

I think I am one of the few girls who really like being single. Relationships are a big exhaustion for me. To make an effort to open up emotionally and then having it come crumbling down is an experience I would not want to risk unless I really, really like someone and I get those butterflies in my stomach. Meanwhile, I’d just like to have some friends.

To the few single girls in Kgp, I’d like to say, “If you hate being single, don’t worry, your next proposal is just around the corner. In the meanwhile, bask in the glory of your admirers”. To those single girls who like basking in the glory of their many admirers, I’d say, “Don’t get a swollen head. It’s just Kgp, and you’re no Scarlett Johansson”. To the single guys, “Do not ask out every girl you remotely know, and do not be so surprised when they say “no”.” To the committed girls, “Laugh all you want at/with your single friends, but do not try to set them up, unless they expressly want it”. And to those people who have asked me out and think I’m referring to them here, “Only my two best friends in Kgp know I’m talking about you.”