Isolation

1118full-into-the-wild-screenshot

They all see me stumbling blindfolded, scraping knees and elbows, dashing right into trees and rocks… And they think, for sure I am falling, falling into the valley below with no hope for survival. They look at me and wonder: I have my hands free, why don’t I take off my blindfold and open my eyes? Why don’t I look at the bodies below, the very people who had veered off the road and fallen to their destinies?

I have two options. I can meekly accept ‘my destiny’, this road that they have chosen for me. Or, I can suck in my gut and tell them that my chosen road is down that valley, to cross into new horizons. That I am not falling, but if I do fall, at least I tried.

What then, becomes of me who stands against this so-united world in their attempt to tame me, to rein the wildness within? Isolation.

Advertisements

Extrapolate

Under society’s stern stare, I am the same person I have been for years. I live in the same house with the same disgruntled parents, I drive the same bike, pursue the same profession, and my look hasn’t changed much over the years.

into-the-wild-into-the-wild-09-01-2008-21-09-2007-3-g

Society really isn’t complicated at all. It is set in its simple ways. Fashion trends may come and go, but it takes generations to have an impact on the thinking of the collective, especially the Indian minds.

If you ace a professional qualification, you’re right on the track. You’re in a relationship with someone from a good family, of your own caste, religion, profession, etc and they let you act as you please. You have a cultural hobby, such as singing or classical dance (in addition to the well-accepted profession that earns you good money), it means you’ll easily find favor with the prospective in-laws.

If there’s one thing society has perfected over the years, it is extrapolation.

extrapolate

ɪkˈstrapəleɪt,ɛk-/

Verb

  1. Extend the application of (a method or conclusion) to an unknown situation by assuming that existing trends will continue or similar methods will be applicable. “The results cannot be extrapolated to other patient groups”
  2. Estimate or conclude (something) by extrapolating. “The figures were extrapolated from past trends”
  3. Extend (a graph, curve, or range of values) by inferring unknown values from trends in the known data. “The low-temperature results can be extrapolated to room temperature”

Society’s definition has a somewhat different application. They measure up the past behavior of the kid, and extrapolate it to decide his / her future.

“The future happiness of one person can be extrapolated from past 10,000 years of Indian civilization.”

First thing they ensure, of course is that the kid hasn’t run away from home in his teenage years. Then they make sure he hasn’t dropped out of school / college to start off some business. Disinterest in academics and entrepreneurial spirit are big crosses on their list. Society does not bother with these types; they are outcasts. And in case the outcast makes it big on bright business ideas, then one by one, they come crawling back, eating up their words, and licking clean the crumbs off their plate. But that’s another story.

The next thing you need to do is ensure you’re not (publicly) a drunkard / smoker / stoner, and also do not possess any knowledge / special interest in sexual matters other than what is taught in school sex education. Of course, there are ways and means to lead such lives in secret, and as long as one knows what you do, you have a place in society.

If you haven’t fallen off the grid by now, then this is what will, or must have happened to you. This is your future, as the graph must, and will, extend to:

  • An accepted level of education

They really prefer it if you are an engineer, doctor, CA, lawyer. Such degrees ensure step 2. If not, a graduation level education is a bare minimum. That ensures a paying job at the least.

  • A stable earning job

Here it’s better if the company you work for is known among social circles. Better yet if the company is located in some IT park and you have a company cab / bus picking you up right near your doorstop. Bonus points if your company gives you a laptop / car for your personal use!

An MS degree from the US is the new rage. Studying in the US, and then staying back to pay off the loan means stability, independence, respect, and a good match for marriage.

Once things are well established on the career front, the focus turns more personal. Skip the next step if you are in a relationship that’s accepted by the folks (Instead of accepted, read: date fixed for marriage)

  • Searching for a prospective bride / groom

This is probably the most complicated aspect of Indian society. They start the process early, so as to give a couple of years’ margin to find just the right person you can spend your entire life with. It usually means you register yourself on some matrimonial service, and even fill out a form specifying the kind of partner you are looking for.

Believe me; they have specifications for height, weight, and color. I’m not lying, I’ve seen it. The whole process is comparable to a commercial market … imagine a showroom for cars. You specify speed, color, model, make, price, average, fuel, dealers, discounts… Get it?

I can go on and on… but I’ll reserve this topic for another day.

  • Engagement

A formal engagement is really an invitation for people to comment on how good the young couple looks together. It’s also an announcement to the world that the two previously-eligible bachelors are no longer in the market.

  • Marriage

The excitement, the extravagance, the costs, the reception, the drama, the tears…

And thus begins the married life, which, for the girl is a new life in a different set of closed walls, with a different narrow society of in-laws.

If you’ve done it right until now, a big whoops. It’s not easy till here, and it’s not getting any easier.

  • Kids!

That’s right, what’s coming up, are kids. Right after you manage to fulfill basic expectations like own house, own car.

And then, your life is an upside down tangle of adhering to society’s expectations, and once you do that, soon you’re on the other side. In a few short years of watching your kids grow up, you begin to heap your own understanding of society’s expectations on them, and the cycle continues…

Simple, isn’t it?

Talk to me. If you have managed to break out of society’s barriers, or wish to, let me know. I’m sure it can be done.

Those growing up years

people-party

When I was a little younger, I used to crave freedom. I used to crave going out with friends and staying out late, going for parties and dancing and drinking, without any restrictions and while still living under the parents’ roof. The coming home curfew and endless worried phone calls by the time I reached home irked me. It got much worse when they knew about the boyfriend. Typical middle-class Indian parents. They wouldn’t allow me on stayovers unless it was an all-girls no-drinking strictly pajama party. Drinks and alcohol were an unspoken taboo and the idea that their daughter might wish to familiarize with an occasional glass of wine or a dip into the stronger stuff would have come as a shock to them.

imageSure I rebelled and begged and wheedled and lied, but somehow I got through the teens without giving my parents much cause for worry. Which simply means that I made sure my parents never found out the truth about all those times I said I was helping a friend study for his paper, taking a baking class, volunteering at an NGO, attending study circle lectures, learning graphology or face reading, or the most-used cover-up: sleeping over at a girlfriend’s. Because those occasions became important memories etched forever into a teenager’s mind. A lot of firsts. First sleepover with the boyfriend. Getting dressed up and attending a party. Four friends sneaking the car out in the middle of the night for a long drive. Making out in a car parked on a service-road off the highway and getting caught by the police. Getting started on that glass of wine, slowly graduating to the good stuff, the vodka, rum and all those cheap pitchers of beer. Finally understanding what the fuss is all about after going through those wonderful phases of high, tipsy and then straight, plain drunk.

I’ve done my share of crazy, but it was simply easier that my parents didn’t have to know any of that, so they wouldn’t lose their precious winks staying up worrying about a wayward daughter. But things change as we grow older, and I can’t tell the exact moment my parents began to think I’m not a kid any more, but it began sometime during their understanding of my academic failure and the end of my first very serious relationship. Their way of looking at me changed, especially when they realised others took me more seriously than they did.

Nowadays (most days of the week) I behave like a ‘professional’ and go to work (most days of the week). And every other weekend I’m out trying to make up for the fact that I have to work as per someone else’s instructions, with the justification that at least for 2 days a week, I’m living my life. And at least I tell my parents half-truths such as the people I’m with, where I’m going, whose place I’m spending the night. The parents do still yell and throw an occasional fit for all the hours spent out of the house, and friends being more important than family shit. I figure that is a given when I’m living in my parents’ house post turning 20, and I’m just going to have to deal with it.

Maybe someday I’ll admit how little they really know about my teenage and growing up years. In my defense, I was simply sparing them the mortification. If I tell them after some 10-odd years, I don’t think they will ground a 30-year old right? But for now, if I’m drunk and partying, at least my parents can begin to look for me. And preferably they won’t find me lying in a ditch somewhere; I’m sure I have better friends than that. At least it’s a start, makes me feel a little more responsible this way.

Rebel, just a little

There is a cult of rebels born in every generation. These are the ones whose very basic instincts make them defy authority, especially that of the previous generation.

It manifests at a very basic, domestic level. The parents object to a particular set of friends and you make it your agenda to hang out with only those friends, till your parents give up and accept there’s no harm in it, which was your point all along. You grow up a little bit and suddenly get all serious and committed at an age when others are still frolicking in frocks and going on mock dates. After years of quarrels and ‘This is just what I want in life’ and ‘Can’t you just be happy for me’ showdowns, finally everyone around begins to accept that this is how you want your life to be. And then, just like that, you decide you like it better when you are unpredictable.

On the outside you appear soft-hearted, composed and relaxed. Who could guess that you’ve played your part in breaking the heart of someone pure and innocent? Who could possible understand the turmoil underneath that calm, composed exterior? You prefer that the rebel in you is known to as few as possible, making sure that every time you rebel, you have the element of surprise working in your favor.

You struggle with the very definition of settling down. You hate it when the water is still for far too long, and after a while of quiet contemplation of silence and peace, you can’t resist the temptation of throwing in a few pebbles so as to see the ripples break that surface of unrelenting calm. You are always craving the thrill, the excitement, the rush of adrenaline coursing through your veins.

And then there are those who have that instinct to rebel but whose struggles never go beyond the caged structure of their own mind. These are the ones with higher potential and stronger instincts. But they are not free. The more they try to throw off the load on their shoulders, they themselves add a little bit more. It’s a structure within which they are bound, and all the rebelling falls just short of the boundary. They accept that their rebel power is limited only to the walls of their mind.

I don’t know if I’m free, but I know I belong to the rebel cult, and I don’t understand this half-rebel-half-contrite, structured existence. I don’t know if they’ll ever be free from this structure and I don’t know if you even need to get rid of this cage in order to lead a completely honest, happy life. Maybe freedom has nothing to do with structure and maybe it all does really come down to your choices. And in that case, what happens to the ones implicated by your choice?

Tell me what you think. Are you a rebel? Or do you believe that structure lets you live a stable, happy life?

The rebel

She was a rebel,

A free thinker,

amidst a restrained society

 

So they heaped blame

To feed their own egos

 

Predicted her future-

filled with regret

Looked forward to saying,

“Told you so”.

 

She had to keep fighting

to prove them wrong.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is my 42-word response for this week’s Gargleblaster challenge.

This week we’re paying tribute to Gabriel García Márquez, who was one of the greatest writers of the last century. This week’s ultimate question comes to us from One Hundred Years of Solitude:

“Tell me something, old friend: why are you fighting?”