Happy New Year!

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There’s something beautiful about how summer quietly washes away the blues of the sky and greens of the leaves, giving birth to a new, even more vibrant season. And then comes winter, the advent of new year. The change happens slowly, then all at once. The temperature drops, leaving the air crisper, cooler. Few things are more magical than waking up to a world that seems to explode into an array of colors overnight. There’s something so motivating about the way the world around us seems to change so drastically, suddenly, and beautifully. The subtle transition between piercing heat and long nights spent outside with friends, to crisp air, warm cozy sweaters, and a change in coffee orders from frappucinos to warm maple latte’s….magical!!   During a time when we are often so busy finding the perfect present, or begrudgingly spending time with extended family and the dreaded in-laws, it’s important to look back and reflect on the year gone by. And just like the trees shedding their leaves i am ready to shed my skin and begin my transition with a better version of myself. I am ending 2014 as one of the most challenging years of my life thus far happy, full, and whole. Here’s what i carry forward.

2014, the year of giving myself permission to be me.

 

I learned that being confident doesn’t mean they’ll like me. Being confident means if they don’t like me, I’ll be okay. It was a year I learned to let my hair down, to knock down my walls, and to be completely myself and be unapologetic about it. It was the year I stopped saying sorry for who I am. Someone I look up to recently told me that it’s endearing how I don’t shy from who I am; that it’s admirable seeing me be myself. That I’m okay with letting others see me for who I am. I learned to stop being timid. I learned to stand up and say so what? So what if I snort when I laugh a little too hard? So what if my attention span is short-lived, my stories are fragmented, and I jump from one thought to the next without so much as a transition or warning? So what if I am quirky and weird? I learned that people only know who you let them know. And how the hell can anyone ever know me if I don’t show the world who I really am?

2014 has been one hell of a fight.

It was the year of digging out and dusting off an old pair of red boxing gloves, only to realize they were there all along. They fit all along. I came in swinging this year. Always swinging. It was the year of fighting for balance, fighting for structure, fighting for peace of mind. It was the year of fighting the isolation, It got lonely as hellAnd it happened in a heartbeat. Somehow we became real adults, with real jobs, with fiances and husbands and children. And somewhere in the midst of all the real adult stuff, there you are. Lost in the middle, immersed in the isolation, and learning to fight through it. To be comfortable in it. To embrace it. But the fight was over when I realized that despite the isolation, despite the loneliness, I was, never have been, and never will be, alone. And I am so thankful for that.

2014, the year of friendships.

I realized this year that not all friendships are meant to be saved. That some people are only meant to be a part of your life for a certain period of time, and that it’s okay to let them go when their presence no longer serves you. It was the year of cutting out the extra fat in my life and really focusing on what was important. Who was important. I took a step back and looked at my life and at the people I call my friends. I realized this year how much time has changed us. How much life has changed us. We’ve all grown up, grown wiser, grown stronger. We’ve all evolved into better versions of who we used to be. Somewhere along the way, we said goodbye to late nights spent gossiping under the stars about our latest guy conquests, to crying on each others’ shoulders about our parents who just didn’t get us, to lying on each others’ floors trying to make sense of our lives. We traded all those memories in for girls nights filled with too much wine, and laughter. To sharing in each others’ successes and learning how to be friends as adults – learning what being a friend really means. It means showing up. The most important part of friendship as an adult is simply showing up. We show up for the big things. But we also show up for the not-so-big things. We show up when it matters. 

2014 made me value health.

 

Past few years have been exceptionally intense in terms of health in people I care deeply about. I saw sudden illness. I saw terminal illness. I saw doctors, and nurses, and IV’s, and more hospital rooms than I’ve ever dreamed of seeing. I saw a family member shrink to half their size and grow weak and tired and aged. I saw my mother, one of the healthiest people I know, slip away and lose her fight with terminal illness. I am thankful for my own health that I too often take advantage of, for the ability to be proactive with my health, and for the health of my loved ones that are with me today.

2014, the year of embracing change.

It was a year of learning not to tip-toe around life and be paralyzed by insidious fear that inevitably comes from sudden change. Familiarity brings a sense of contentment and peace. Walking away from what we know produces fear. And sometimes, it’s gut-wrenching. I walked away from a job that I never knew meant so much to me this year. I watched as all of the people I grew to love as family bravely and gracefully transitioned into new careers and a new life outside of our old job, while I floundered and succumbed, only briefly, to a darkness that nearly swallowed me whole. I never knew how agonizing change can be. Slowly, I learned to embrace it all. I dug myself out, dusted off the dirt, and took a leap head-first into that transition. I learned to let go of the picture-perfect image I had of my life and to be accepting of change. To be open to the idea that change is beautiful. That change is magical. That change is the only constant we will ever have. Things change, people change, circumstances change, life changes. I learned to be okay with that. I learned that in order to ultimately get what you want, you have to change. You have to step out of your comfort zone. You have to do what you’ve never done before. And that’s exactly what I did.

The next year will be one to relish in the strength that 2014 gifted me – to live with the lessons that this year taught me. I am grateful for the abundance of literature that I have at my disposal. I am grateful for the ability to convey my feelings in writing and to find myself in others’ words. I am grateful for writers like Colleen Hoover and Kathryn Perez, and bloggers like Hannah Brencher who all turn my heart into mush when I read their words. I’m thankful for the ability to connect people — strangers, friends, and acquaintances alike, through words and stories.  Each year brings with it endless possibilities. Maybe 2015 is the year I witness a miracle. All I know is I’ve lived a lot of life in the last year, but I’ve got plenty more in front of me. So here’s to me walking away from 2014 and embracing all that the next year has to offer. I intend on making 2015 one hell of a year. Just you wait.

CHEERS!!

Preach me Not!

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December 5th, Mumbai 2014. The city looks the same. The sea from my hotel room at Taj Lands End looked calm. It’s been more than two years and i was looking forward to meet my besties. Three of us friends were going to meet over drinks at a popular bandra bar. We decided to drive ourselves to the said destination and cap our evening by 9 pm. I took stock of the city’s situation post the recent numerous assaults, and considered activating the rape safety valve. There were new rules this time that i needed to be aware of. ”Don’t take a cab, drink less, do not doze off, and drive home at an hour that is positively ‘rape-free’.”  Words of wisdom from a friends mom. Noted.

”Rape free” hour!! That was new to ears. I asked my friends out of curiosity how to calculate a ”rape free” hour and here is what the messiahs of women had to say, pay very close attention.

You don’t get stuck in dingy alleyways, you minus all the time you desire to loiter in the city post sunset, you don’t order an LIT (Long-Island Ice Tea), you keep a father, brother, boyfriend, any reliable, preferably familial, male entity at close proximity, you negotiate with your boss to let you off early everyday of your work week, you set a curfew hour that is acceptable by your parents, your landlord or your husband, you always address the ‘other male’ as bhaiyya (brother) — even if it is your assailant. In short you just keep a very low profile, invisible to be precise. Finally my friends tells me to always ”always” wear anti rape undergarments.

Yes, that’s how you escape rape. Utter bollocks. I have been a vocal contributor at Worlpulse that aims to help women protect themselves against violence with the help of personal safety products, information & awareness. I am always looking for innovative ways related to women’s safety but I won’t put my vagina under a lock or follow some obnoxious ”rape free” hour.  While I am all for women’s protections and preventive measures, wearing a panty that looks like a chastity belt is not my idea of protecting myself.

Today it is underwear. Tomorrow are we going to start promoting anti-rape clothes that no one can tear, rip, or pull out? I don’t want to be walking around town feeling like I am carrying a safe deposit box full of prized possessions and only I have the key to unlock the treasure. My personal views aside, here are some practical questions that popped up when I first read about
the anti-rape underwear.
1. If a rapist can’t easily take off the anti-rape underwear, how long will it personally take me to undo all the secret locks every time I want to use the bathroom or even have sex? #Inconvenient
2. How comfortable will I feel wearing that anti-rape garment constantly worrying about whether or not it will protect me from sexual assaults when needed? #Stress
3. If the rapist is unsuccessful in removing the victim’s underwear, will it lead to greater anger and frustration to the point of hurting the victim in other ways? #Aggression
What we really need to address is the cause of rape. Do rapes happen because of what a woman is wearing (or not wearing)? Are panties with thigh locks really going to make women safer? For most part, these handy tips have been tried and tested by some of the most emancipated women I know, my friends included. But we have never been able to arrive at the so-called rape-free hour or garments to escape rape. Women still get assaulted. They still get preached to. And it is usually regarded as the women’ problem. All these questions and more make me think this is yet another way to make money off a grave social problem. With women being raped every 20 minutes in India what we really need is not for us to lock our vaginas and hope that the rapist gets tired of trying to rip our underwear. Instead, we need campaigns that can change the society’s attitude towards women. And guess what! There is no excuse for the city drawing its shutters on us. The city cannot be off limits for women. It is yours. And mine. And will always be so.

On that note, the three of us met again, another evening, and we stood put till the time we wanted to. Misogyny and stupidity be damned.