Singlehood Vs. The lifestyle break-up | Should you try to work on your relationship?  

It’s a weekend morning and I am watching TV with breakfast. 220px-Sonu_Ke_Titu_Ki_Sweety_-_Movie_Poster

Actually, I am watching a lot of  it these days, I can hear my mum mumbling in the background. I am sipping my tea. The movie that’s playing is ‘Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety’; a film that I am guilty of watching twice on the big screen, enjoying it thoroughly with friends and then taking my family to watch it too, because … Well! It’ was humorous.

Boy meets girl. Best friend doesn’t like girl. Boy and girl break up, in a string of comic sequences.

As destiny would have it, a month after the release of this film in 2018, I would go on to be introduced to one of my client’s best friends, “a match destined to be” as most would predict, I would go on to experience the deepest relationship of my life and then, just like the protagonist, I would fall short of getting hitched.

The film was a super hit with fun songs, cute boys and hawt girls. But reality is a little different. I wonder, are we all turning towards a more fickle existence or co-existence?

It’s sad.  If the reason for us to end a relationship  is based on comments, prejudice, status, or mere differences, it is sad.

I survived the crumbling of my relationship but I now become deeply moved when someone tells me they broke up or their marriage isn’t working out. It breaks my heart to see people give up and a silent prayer creeps up that says, “Please don’t.”

Why do we want to give up?

And then again, why do we want relationships?

I am walking into a meeting when I am greeted by this vibrant and confident girl, “Hello Apsara” she says, “How are you? Remember we met a few years back”.

I acknowledge with an equally big smile and greet her. Even though I remember her as another’s friend’s girlfriend from a few years ago; his work and social circle defining both of them, on most days, today, I can see her.

No reflection of him or his presence and I think to myself, that’s the kind of women we ought to be! Having our own identities even if our better-half has a grander one. It’s not about the ego or the money, it’s about having a little something that’s your own.  It’s about our contribution. Like I have always believed that not each one of us might have a need to earn the bread-and-butter; but let that not be a reason for us to reduce our contribution and underestimate our potential. This girl, was more than someone’s girlfriend today, and totally seemed to be living that.

DSM_BreakingUp_episodeUntil a couple meetings later, in a casual interaction she mentions, “Well, it’s a year since we went apart.” And I in-turn become overtly apologetic.

She, on the contrary, consoles me saying “It’s okay Apsara. His life and work really took over and he wasn’t in a frame of mind to commit to marriage. We mutually went apart.”

We exchange pleasantries and I leave. But in my heart, I am deeply moved.

Why does a man or a woman have to let go on the basis of work or pressure? Aren’t those the times that we ought to stand up to eachother or make space to accommodate the other? What fantasy do we all live in! Myself included. They always said that love isn’t a bed of roses. But now, when we see the thorns, we leave. In an article, actor Ayushman Khurrana’s wife Tahira mentions how she wanted to leave when Aayushman shot to fame, because they were in different spaces; and how he held on, and how they ultimately did.  (The anchor of a moving philosophy of humanistic values and  Nicherim Buddhism does indeed reflect in their lives, I have always felt it. In recent interviews they have confirmed the same)

In other words, one of us, has to be adamant. One of us, has to make sure we don’t give up.

At my office,the very same day, I am speaking to one of my associates on the phone regarding some financial decisions, when I casually ask him, towards the end of the call, how he and his new bride are doing.

He replies in the negative, saying, “Well, Apsara, I am on the verge of a divorce.”

I swallow a lump in my throat and without even realizing what I am saying I ask sincerely, “Can I speak to her? Can I do anything to help?” and he replies baffled, “Of course not Apsara, you don’t even know. her”

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Aah, I check myself, true. I don’t even know him for that matter! Nevertheless, I invite him to tea and we talk at length. “I don’t know why she married me” he says, “because she never even spoke to me. She judged me for who I am, the money I earn, the life I live, the person I am and left.” “I din’t stop her.” he continued, “After a point, I din’t want to either.”

A melancholic tea party ends with a warm good bye and text message from him saying that he appreciates my listening, while I stare back into silence wondering why this affects me.

Perhaps because it’s the same story over and over again. Our sense of validation from the prism of comparison, our sense of external acceptance without our own, our attempt to build a relationship with communication taking the backseat… In a way we are all in search for a ‘right partner’, even though it’s different from the 90’s bollywood myth of finding the ‘soulmate’. Today,  in stark contrast, it is about self’ at the Centre and ‘choice’ as the mantra.

I am drawn back to the boys in the film. The best friend says “Hazaron mil jayengi”, (you will find 1000 girls) who don’t want commitment but only physical intimacy.  And  I wonder does physical intimacy motivate marriage or commitment? 661127-sonu-ke-titu-ki-sweety

Even as I ask the question I laugh in my head at how futile it is. It does and it doesn’t! In our times, I am not sure sex can be a primary motive because we are liberated.

No matter how orthodox our culture, the youth are far more progressive, liberal and self-aware. In this space, a physical relationship can be established even while dismissing the need for an emotional commitment. I personally know many promiscuous couples, that have great understanding.

In short, in this space, when sex doesn’t become the reason for a relationship to hold, what does? To each the answer will vary. And for that answer, for that reason, we need to work on our relationships.

For the best years of my life I enjoyed singlehood, precisely because I believed I would decide marriage when I meet someone I want to discuss the prospects with!  That worked for me but I must admit that Singlehood is different, and being single after a break-up from a long term or serious commitment is different. It’s never the same. So then, why do so many of us go through this?

And THIS is the pressing concern that we need to address when we get into a relationship or think about commitment. 772d9e9c9113ad72476c4885d681ae58

Sex is easy to find, companionship…. Not as much. So, will you get a “better option?” Sure you will! A hotter girl or a more handsome guy, a smarter woman or better qualified man, a richer woman or a more affluent businessman – sure, you will find a better option but a better partner? A better companion? Well, that takes effort.

It does.

And whoever that companion is, he or she has tough competition! Oh yes! Because we live in an age that is ruled by amazon prime and netflix. They give us good company, easily transforming days into months and months into years.  Adding to this our travel goals and shopping targets? Well, certainly our professional lives will take the forefront!

For the EMIs I pay on that expensive car I drive  or the exotic vacation I want to go on, the lifestyle I keep or the social memberships I maintain – for everything I will push myself to work longer hours and make more money.

But will I compromise my relationship? Maybe.

Should I? May be not.

And that breaks my heart. And so, I will give free advise:

Don’t give up. Speak, listen, discuss, share, let go, build, celebrate. Just don’t give up that easy.

Giving up on a relationship is the easiest thing to do in 2019 and hence forth. And probably the cooler thing to do too. But, it’s harder to work on it and keep it going.

I am not asking you to stick in an abusive relationship (physical, financial or mental) but  I am asking you to work on the busy relationship, the one with differences, or the one with no communication; even the one with less spark.

If you fight because you can’t make time, make time.

If you fight because she doesn’t cook well, well then, teach her.
If you don’t respect him because he doesn’t earn as much as you, then, pay the bills yourself.

It’s not about man versus woman, it’s about man and woman. We all need to walk that mile, that distance and that effort. We all need to appreciate the person on the other side just as much as we need to – the person on the inside.

For the longest time I remember, I shied away from the idea of relationship or marriage and perhaps, that’s why I consistently met men who were ‘interested’ but not ‘willing’ to commit. A large part of that phaze went in denying my own truth and pretending it never existed. But it did. A void did. The deep desire for a real and meaningful relationship did.

And then it happened. (After I had pledged to not indulge in any romances for more than a year, phew.)

The deepest and the most relevant relationship of my life. One that taught me the value of family, that brought me closer to understanding my own insecurities, and one that taught me the importance of conversation. One that healed me. I have no memory of the emptiness that I felt before meeting him and I don’t feel the void after him.

Perhaps, that’s why what Emma Whatson means when she says, “I am self-partnered” makes absolute sense to me.

Perhaps relationships are meant to change something within and in-turn, change destiny for the better? Perhaps.

I sought and received the committed relationship that I needed; it may look incomplete to the world because it dint end in marriage, but for me? It was complete.

By now my tea is over and so is the movie. I smile. Didn’t I begin by wondering why my friend and his girlfriend had to part ways? Or why my associate should suffer a broken marriage? Perhaps their story is similar. And like mine, perhaps their journey was complete.

The empowered singlehood with no void, equips me to continue my pursuit in work and passion but having known the void  and the process of the void being filled up,  makes me revere the brilliance of relationship and what it can do to a person.

I recollect sharing with a close friend, how wonderful I felt at completing 50 theatre projects successfully and she replied, “great, it’s good you are distracted”.

And that pricked.

I wasn’t working to be distracted from my break-up. I was working out of the love for my work. I was working out of genuine happiness.  the self-aware people that we are becoming, the more of us are choosing careers that we love and doing work that gives us sense of fulfilment. In cases where it doesn’t, we have dual careers (like myself and many others). And that’s why work,  can never define our sentiment towards relationship.

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In mine I learnt putting the other before myself while being cared for, I learnt how time can fly and freeze at the same time, I learnt what breeze, waves, silence, laughter, and memories can mean and how deep and meaningful conversations can cure everything; and for that, I will urge everyone who is reading this to give your relationship another chance.

I know it’s tough, I know the rocks have waves crashing down on them, I know that you dint sign up for half the things you experience, but still, I will urge you both to not give up …. Not on the relationship and neither on yourself.

In my head you see, there is an epilogue to the film, where the fairytale continues. In reality you see, it should…. We should make it happen & it ultimately, absolutely should!

I HAVE Lipstick Under my Burkha.

I HAVE #Lipstick Under my Burkha.

Yes I do.

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I am not fake, I am not cold, I am just me, under many layers that exist because I care. Yes, I care about what people think about me, I care about being judged, I care about the choices I make, I care about being cool enough, I care about being liked enough.

 

But the whole point is…

Why can’t I just live with the fact that people don’t like me? Why do I have to be likable? Why do I need to fit into a definition of “successful”, why do “I” need to be defined?’Why do I need to bother about what answer I will give to someone somewhere 20 years later about my relationship status – it’s existence or lack of it? Why do I need to explain what I do, what I feel and why I feel it? Why do I need to justify my emotions, for that matter, my existence?

And #Lipstick Under My Burkha is that mirror.

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Through 4 women – different ages, different situations, and different personalities – we see a reality that we would casually chose to look away from, always.

Be it Rihana entering her room and dancing to beats of her anger, or Shrin’s expectant eyes when she is seeking appreciation for her work, or Leela’s desperate attempt with pout filled selfies to chose a lesser life with more ‘chance’ or Buaji’s simultaneous acceptance and rejection of social judgements on choice of her interest in ‘literature’ …they are all small details that will linger with you after the movie, and make you wonder what’s right and what’s not … and even as you answer the questions in your head, you will be surprised at how entwined in patriarchy we are and how dominant the male perspective has been, before, now and forever known.

The very fact that the movie makes NO STATEMENT whatsoever is its greatest strength!

It doesn’t say women should wear lipstick or dress bold, or work or stay hlipstick-under-my-burkha-plays-iome, it doesn’t fight for right to education, it doesn’t fight for ANYTHING and in doing just that, it wins.

I am amazed at Alankrita Srivastav’s craft in simplicity and detail, a narrative with such depth – that speaks less but says more; it manipulates you too. Yes it does! It leads you to think, question and figure out things that you would never bother about, and while you figure it out, you slowly unveil ‘feminism’ in your head, which is nothing but, a quest for equality.

What a genius! What a gift.

Majority of us, do have a burkha. And the realization in itself is empowering, it has hope in the knowledge that it’s still in your hand to lift up the veil.

Will the women in the story, do that? Will they survive it? One can’t be sure. But #LipstickUnderMyBurkha is a reality check which draws our attention to the subtle inequalities, that we could all work towards bridging.

P.s. with all the talk about the movie being too feminist, I became the censor board myself, wondering whether men  can watch it at all. But watching the film made me realize what an elegant piece it is. Yes its sexual. Yes, a little explicit too. But haven’t we seen tonnes of that already? Only the tone of the storytelling is from a female point of view this time. And when we haven’t been offended for so long, why be now?

p.p.s. I think I will take my male friends to watch this one 😉 will be an interesting experience. #WhyNot #LipstickSide #MustWatch

Her conversations with the Ocean

I am sipping tea, and we’re standing between Mumbai and Vadodara, somewhere on the highway. Everyone’s sleeping in the bus, after all, it’s 3 AM and we’re tired after a long day, an exhaustive performance, so much travel, and a workshop on ‘voice and speech’. We travelled by bus, a team of 10 people, to a festival which was competitive in nature. We came back with a merit and few words of appreciation. An experience to remember.

With 2 nights of constant travel, the driver needed rest. We halted. I stepped out. Behind me came one of my youngest team mates, ‘you know, paranormal activity happens between 3:00 AM and 4:00 AM’ he said. “Is it?” I inquired curfc423c07-032b-4240-bf74-bdedc28957a3iously, with a smile. Another colleague got down and joined me for tea, “It’s 3:30 AM” I smiled, “eerie time to be awake huh?”;  “Perhaps!” said the 15 year old.  “But we have the moon with us! The light will help.” said my colleague, and we looked up to the sky. Interestingly mesmerizing, was the view of the moon. We stood in silence, sipping tea and drawing inferences. I could hear the ocean, distant. I could also hear the winds, in conversation.

Theatre is like an ocean” my colleague had said in the workshop, where the mentor asked us why we do theatre. Theatre is like a ocean. “Why would you say that?” I ask him now, in an afterthought. He says, “It’s beyond the purview of our common sight.”  “You may read a dailogue and simply speak it out, but the depths that lie in each word, need a lot more of reading between the lines, flowing between the lines to really comprehend.” He says, in a matter of fact manner.

I knew, I always knew it is beyond.

In fact, in one of my childhood poems I had a line about my dreams (theatre), it ended on the sentence, ‘I know it calls me far beyond, than where I walk to it.”

In this journey, it called me beyond my limits, my language, my identity, my perspectives, my belief systems, and my spirituality too.

Something like Love.

We begin our journeys in love with a certain belief system. With a certain expectation. With a certain idea. For some it’s traditional, for some it’s free spirit – but ultimately, it is a belief system. And when that doesn’t work, we either feel rejected or we feel dejected. Isn’t it?

For one thing, I have always been liberal, generous, and spontaneous. I have been loving, and caring too. I have centred my life, around love. I have made it a priority too. And still I find myself, disappointed in some ways. Though, happy in some too.

Happy because I centred my life around love, but it wasn’t one love.

Yes! As disturbing, ironical, disgraceful as that may sound – it wasn’t one love. I centred my life around love for my people and love for my work. I centred my life around my romance with a person and with an idea.

In most cases, the ideas survived, the person taught me something more about life and left. The disappointment isn’t so much in leaving, as much as how the goodbyes happen.  This song perfectly defines it, ‘Mana ke hum yaar nahi”, where she says “raaste mein jab milo toh, hath milane ruk jana.” Effectively, yes, we aren’t friends anymore but can we still greet eachother on the crossroads of life? In respect of our past. Let’s begin with believing that we were right people, just different in opinion and expectations; is it possible to achieve this each time we are disappointed in people?

And perhaps that’s where my disappointment lies. In the love that despises, rejects, turns away and disowns. Like you never existed. Like life, goes on, like it never mattered and it never counted. Do we really need to be heartless to be strong? Do we have to be free from emotions to be brave?alia-bhatt_640x480_71478076956

But then, even as these questions persists, the answers lie in the second love. More often than not, I found that these encounters smooth out, that people do come back in one way or the other. It’s rare that someone who mattered too much to you, walked out and you never saw or heard of them again. Even in death, one will certainly walk to the funeral of the other. I especially like that scene in the movie, Dear Zindagi, the last scene, when Kyra makes her film and at the premiere, are each of her past flames. Putting their past behind them and respecting that journey, you seem them cheer her on.alia-bhatt-4

And you can see, what has set her free! It wasn’t another ‘shoulder’; it wasn’t another person, but her romance with life, her love for her work.

Yes, there was a Shahrukh Khan in Dear Zindagi too.

A special friend, a special bond that helped her find her calling, her ‘second love’ (her work), but it didn’t take away anything from her own journey. The interaction helped her define her own ways and routes, and in the end, that’s what we need to strive for.

“It’s 4 AM” says my 15 year old friend, “What are you thinking so much?”

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Applause Vadodara at BHAVAI 2017, Mumbai

“Nothing” I reply, “just about our Play!”  The play, Kundalu by Makarand Musale, was about 3 characters: “A” who is stuck in his circle and strongly believes that life is meant to be lived in limits, “B” who is trying to understand the limits while being curious about the horizons beyond and “C” who has lived a life of explorations, beyond the questions, followed the heart, respected the struggles and cherished the journey.

“Ah! You were thinking about the end right? Which path did B chose? The life of security or the life of discovery!” he asks excitedly.

Our play din’t have an end, and left it to the imagination of the audience, which path to take.

“Whichever way you go, just don’t get stuck in the same circle” adds my colleague, as the three of us walk back to the bus.06068cfb-e9ff-421e-b53c-b597dd75f5e1

I smile on the inference, it’s ultimately about growing, becoming better, stronger, wiser and closer to the  self, and not make the same mistakes.  It’s about breaking the limits – the circles, the loops that twine our thoughts, confuse our actions and end up limiting our journey. Like the performing the play, Kundalu, taught us.

Taking it a little further…

Don’t get into the loops that chain you. Set yourself free.

Continue to love, though you can love differently.

Let there be romances,

Just make sure there are two 😉

One with the person

And one with you!

 

As I get back into the bus, I can hear the ocean call me. They are both my love and my friendship. My passion, my theatre, my romance as well as my companion, my listener and my lyric.

She as1ked the ocean,

“What do you see?”

He said “I see footsteps,

And a long journey”.2

She asked the ocean,

what is sunset?

He smiled, it’s the beginning,

for a new day you must rest.

She asked the ocean, “where do you head?3

Will I see you again or is this an end?”

He returned in response, as a gentle touch, as a wave,

“You can see me when you want, I am right where you left.”

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She asked the ocean,

“What language do you speak?”

He answered in a riddle,

“Ask your heart what it seeks.”

‘S5he asked the ocean,

“what is love and what is friendship?”

He answered with comfort,

“that my waves merge in deepness is love,

and that is return is friendship”

~ Apsra

And let me leave you with the song that I mentioned earlier, and while you hear it, please pen down your thoughts in the comments or write to me at apsara.iyengar@gmail.com.

Lots of love, always!

Apsara

 

The Relationship and the Claw

You don’t want to go there but it’s like an imaginary claw is stuck in your chest, it pulls you forward. You don’t want to go there. But there is no other way out. You are pulled, and pulled. But wait! This can’t happen. After all, wasn’t this so beautiful? Okay. It wasn’t all that beautiful, but like they say – a known devil is better than an unknown one! You knew this one. You knew this world.

You know these roads, these sands, these places, these trees, this music, this weather. You know it all. You identify. You may not relate to but you understand. Wait. Hold on. That’s not enough, right? Understanding isn’t enough. You have to accept, you have to stay. You have to give up. And then you see in this world of yours, there are hardly the things you unpacked. So the things you brought aren’t there anymore.

You don’t have your favorite diary or you favorite dress. You don’t have that picture frame someone gifted you, years back, and that you loved. You don’t have that old guitar you used to play. You don’t have even your Cinderella shoes! You look around and you know everything about this place, you love it, you value it, you adore it but then, it doesn’t have your flavor in there. It doesn’t have your stories, your memories, your views, your thoughts, your identity. It’s just not there.

And suddenly, everyone thinks you are going to continue waiting, just like you waited before. What you did voluntarily, they expect unconditionally. They expect you to wait, and love and understand. You hardly spoke because you were in the ‘i-support-you/you all’ mode, but somehow that became a habit. Now, you can’t speak unless it’s your turn and you know what? It’s never your turn. You don’t want to leave because love is not a matter of whims; it is a choice but not a whim. To act on our emotion is upon us, but to feel that emotion, not always. And so, you don’t want to leave because your heart is there. But then, your heart is indeed your heart!  What is life if your heart has no love or space for yourself? What is life if you heart only gives and doesn’t consider receiving? It’s not like people don’t love you or you don’t receive any warmth. You do. But what is life if your own need for warmth is only secondary? Probably, not even secondary. Probably your own need isn’t even visible to you.

Until that one point, when the invisible claw climbs into your chest and attempts to pulls out your heart. What is the need for your own heart in your own body when you have no value for it? Why must it stay with you? Donate it. Give it away. Throw it away.

You consider the option of donation. Why not? If you heart, has no value for you, then why not give it away to someone else who can live with it. But then again, what is the sense of a heart that doesn’t beat? What good will it do to give a dead heart to living soul that needs a real thriving beautiful heart to help it heal?

This is too much philosophy for you and so you decide not to listen to the claw. You ignore it, but then it pulls you forward. Slowly, slowly, and slowly a little more. Ouch! You squeal. Wait. I didn’t see that coming. And suddenly, it hurts, and it hurts beyond more. And you don’t how what’s happening. You don’t want to leave, but you don’t want your heart to be pulled out by that evil claw. You fight it, your struggle, a tear rolls down your eyes. You are weeping but you won’t give up the fight. Either you fight the claw and stay where you are, put your heart back and pump it up with life, or you let the heart go, away, distant, someplace you don’t know. You don’t know what that claw will do with your heart.

But wait a second, you have tears and you squeal isn’t too subtle; they can indeed hear you. Then why aren’t they coming forward? Surely they can do this much, can’t they? Can’t they just walk up and hold your hand, or help you claw out the claw. But they are just there, watching. Wait, they aren’t even watching. They aren’t even interested. What exactly is happening? Do you not exist. Do you? Did you just cease to exist for them? But you are a live person and you are right there. But they can’t see you or they chose to look away? The only energy you know is the claw that is pulling your heart away from you and you don’t want that to happen. Or maybe you do. You don’t know but the pain is getting too much. If you let the heart go, you will be numb and things will be fine. You want have a beating heart to worry about or warm emotion waiting to heal, you will not feel and you will be fine. But you still don’t want to give up the fight. You don’t want to resign. You don’t want to be defeated. And so, you walk. You walk in the direction that the claw is pulling you in. After all, how bad can it get? The world that was so meaningful to you doesn’t see you anymore, you don’t even exist. What is the point of being there? You walk. You heart aches, you can see it torn out a little with the claw but you continue to walk. You walk. You walk. You continue to walk. It hurts, it pains, but you continue to walk. And then you see, you are right before a cliff. A cliff? A cliff, really? But what sense does this make? Why a cliff? Why all this walk and all this claw and all this pain and then a cliff? Why? What meaning does this have? But I don’t know how to fly. How will I save my life? Or is my life anything at all? Do I serve any purpose or have a mission to draw? You see the cliff and pull back a little but as you go closer, you know you want to be there. You want to jump. But you don’t know how to fly. And you still want to. You want to jump. You take some small steps forward. Suddenly you hear your old world calling you back. Your eyes light up with hope and a small smile comes up in a glint of the eye, but when you hear them closely, you notice they only have reprimanding words to share, they expect you to wait and stare a little longer and of course, take the blame. May be it is your fault. May be you were always wrong. Maybe you just made the big mistake of calling your world your world.

But if your wor4142942-happy-girl-alone[1]ld is calling you and all it has to say, is that you aren’t good enough, then, it’s time to go off to the cliff. You turn to the cliff. Your tears wiped back. The claw doesn’t hurt and then at the count of three, you jump. You actually jump. You actually jump down from the cliff. You feel free. Absolutely free. There are tears of joy now, and your heart is free. It’s absolutely set free, even  more than you could have ever imagined. And your heart has wings! You never knew. You thought you couldn’t fly but then, your heart has wings! It can set you free, it can make you fly! If it wasn’t for the claw and it wasn’t for the cliff, how would you ever know that an end could be a new beginning? That an end could be your beginning? That your heart can have a way to take you away, and heal you to happiness? How would you have ever known.  For some people, they jump down their own cliff only to find each other again, with parachutes. The parachutes save them from falling, save them from drowning in the sea or  being lost in the sky. Sometimes they land on the same ground, sometimes they walk a short distance before the claw and the cliff, another one ofcourse, waits for them. And then they jump. And the story goes on. For others, like yourself, there is just the claw. The claw is like a clutch. It will open the parachute when it is time for you to land. Until, enjoy the flight. It’s morning again, it’s dawn, it’s a beautiful day and you are absolutely free. You have no memory of any baggage you have no pain to carry. The old world is another world now, you live in another destiny. There is a new life to your heart, you rejoice it. You see it thrive and you enjoy it. You donate a little of your heart too, after all what’s the harm? This is good stuff. Your thriving heart can make a difference. You smile. Because you are free.  You have found meaning in loving yourself. Abundant love. Abundant compassion. Abundant happiness. You have learnt to fly. you have learnt to land. You have learnt to love. You have learnt to lose. And you have learnt to survive. You smile as you fly, the cliff after all, was the greatest lesson you learnt and the most beautiful experience of your life.

Thank you.

 

The Relationship and the claw is more of a rant and I hope that I will record and perform it someday! Contrary to the first read you will notice that it’s neither negative, nor so much about romantic relationships, as much as it is about our own emotions and feelings of being ‘trapped’. This could be a situation in love, marriage, work, friendships, siblings, comrades or anyone for that matter.  The key learning is that the heart has wings! 🙂 Everyone’s heart has wings! We have to let ourselves go, we have to let ourselves fly, we have to allow ourselves to enjoy the flight, because victory lies on the other end of our challenges! And joy lies in making it to the other side and knowing that you are still okay. Happiness lies is knowing that we all will make it and we all simply need to trust that we will!

This post is more of a monologue, performance material and if you wish to use it, please reach out to me and keep me informed! I wrote this a few days ago, and my friends encouraged me to publish it as a special on my birthday! So, there you go. Just in time! Hope that this year we write more, talk more and have more stories and learning to share. Have an amazing day!

p.s. Thanks Shubh! See, now you’re mentioned on my blog 😀 it’s your lucky day too, just like mine! 😉

Why Aarfa is a Winner in Sultan

There’s a thin line between ‘woman empowerment’ and blindly writing off a woman for making a choice that’s not ‘ambitious’ enough. I think that’s where the Firstpost blog on
Sultan gets it wrong, in context of Aarfa.

Sultan-Salman-Khan-Anushka-Sharma-Trailer-Poster-Images3
While Anushka’s character, Aarfa, steps down from a competition to be a mother – it’s a choice she makes. It’s a sacrifice she makes not just for her husband but also weighing what she wants in life.
She has achieved, she has won and now she wants to be a mother. What’s wrong in that?
Writing off a character like that to be sexist is a hugely disparaging statement to thousands of women across India who would do that any day! But what’s empowering about Aarfa is that she doesn’t give up being a “sportsperson”, continues to train and continues to teach.
Being a feminist myself (and feminism is equal rights) I would have reacted to something sexist very strongly, but for me, Aarfa is a winner. She knows exactly what she is doing and where she is life. She is not docile or coy or dominated. She tells her husband on the face that she made a sacrifice and demands him to make one for their sake. She’s outspoken, not defeated and woman who lives by her terms and has the courage to hold her ground and dismiss the man she loves when he’s wrong. And that does take courage.
Sultan by himself maybe sexist. The way he takes her sacrifice for granted, the way he becomes arrogant, the way he forgets his people. But the film in no way endorses it. On the contrary, the film answers to the sexism with Aarfa’s perspective and actions. 
Let’s face it … that’s how we are in love.
All those who have been in love, sometime or the other know. All those in marriages or relationships know it. Sometimes, you want to put the wishes of the one you love ahead of yourself. And so the best relationships are those where both the partners make that ‘equal’ contribution.
And so, if at a point a woman wants to be mom, what’s wrong? How can we look down upon something like that? that’s like going anti-family, anti-men and making another set of rules for women – where she doesn’t even have the right to make her own personal choices! That’s the problem of our society… we judge the woman. Always! No matter what she does.
Some times when we move on in life, our dreams change. Yes, it’s difficult sometimes to accept that what you wanted yesterday… you don’t want today… even after chasing it with all your might! It’s coming of age that’s important and so it can be hard sometimes to accept the truth. For me, Aarfa is wise enough to know.Ranbir-Kapoor-in-Yeh-Jawaani-Hai-Deewani-480x640
When Ranbir’s character in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani decides to give up his dream job to be with the girl he loves, we applaud his journey. But when a woman decides to step down to be a mother, we write her off as “weak” or “dominated” or “Stereotypes”. How unfair we are!
I won’t say Sultan is a brilliant film and I won’t say I endorse Salman’s idiocy. But, I won’t take away from the film what it has right.
I love how Anushka isn’t a broken person, I love how the intent of the film is to show the transformation of the protagonist’s heart, I love how they fight the battle “within”, I love how she says:
“We are sportsperson. We don’t give up.” I love how both of them come back to action after their journey as individuals.
For me Sultan is a feel good film, an Aarfa is certainly beautiful!

Anushka does 100% justice to character. (And she’s just as old as me :/ Damn 😀 🙂 ) Rooting for her, watch it for her!aarfa

Into The Silence

girl,lost,photography,shadow,dancing,female-0df26441e9bfdf935680b31ab2abaded_h

Sometimes I turn to my left and silently stare out of the window. Amongst the wind, amongst the sound of moving traffic, amongst the chirping birds, sometimes I hear you. A little bit of our conversations. A little bit of your smile. A little of your cheer. How clear your heart was! How easily you smiled. How much of your chatter had no baggage. How easy it was for you to dream. How every day, you had something new to look forward to. How every now and then, you had something for me to look forward to. I could though, always look up to you. How there was so much for you to admire around; how much of you for me to admire around. Sometimes, I look at silent spaces and I can feel your shadow. Like you exist, still. In my thoughts, in my letters, may be. Perhaps in my ideas and my actions too. Sometimes I listen to the sound of the wind, because it can’t be that harsh. It can’t be that untrue. Could this really be true. Could it be true that I exist and you don’t? Could love end then. Would you never know where I stand, what I feel? Would I never know how your day is, has been or will be? Will you have another day, somewhere? Will you exist, again? In some other universe? Or will you not? Will you cease forever? Will the door never open? Sometimes I look at the path not taken and wonder where you would be. Sometimes, I wonder, if you still exist. If you do, I wonder if you still smile. That radiant smile. The vibrant chatter. That heart full of love and dreams and that bucket full of wish list. Sometimes I wonder, if you were true, if I were true at all. Sometimes I turn to the left and silently stare, out of the window, into the silence and talk to the shadow.

 

 

Do Not Fall in Love with Such a Man

Don’t fall in love with a guy who kisses you on the forehead. Do not fall in love with a guy who inspires you to be more than who you are.

Who tells you on your face that you are wrong but still continues to love you. Don’t fall in love with a guy who will answer your call even at 12 in the night and make sure that you are okay.

Do not fall in love with a guy who simply accepts your life, friends and friendships and never questions you on them. Do not fall in love with a guy who can be Romeo and come down just to see you and nothing else. Do not fall in love with a guy with whom you CAN have long conversations – that are non romantic. Do not fall in love with a guy who listens and who shares his dreams with you and seeks your opinion on matters that concern him. Do not fall in love with a guy who is transparent.

Don’t even think of falling in love with a guy who lets you hold his hand and also holds yours and walks forward, as he realizes his and you realize your dreams…. because when you fall in love with a man of such character, irrespective of whether he stays in love with you or not, irrespective of whether life takes you apart or not, you will never come back and be the same. You will struggle to be completely and entirely independent because his love will have changed you.  Either you keep him forever, or do not fall in love with such a man at all.

~ Apsara Iyengar

Inspired from Martha Rivera-Garrido – http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/3246253-don-t-fall-in-love-with-a-woman-who-reads-a – Do not fall in love with a woman

 

Do Not Fall in Love with a Man - Apsara Iyengar

 

Let’s Play: Us Against Us

As I stepped out of office and looked at my watch, I realized it was just 6 p.m. Yes, when you run your own work space as well as struggle to keep up with stage, rehearsals and socializing, you realize that 6 p.m. is relatively early.

But as I walked down from my first floor office, I realized that the greatest problem is not that there is “no time” but that I barely – care to – take out that time that I so dearly and desperately desire.

For instance, when was the last time I blogged? I wondered as I got into my car and began to drive.  For months now, it had nagged me. While I wrote for my clients, plays for my theatre group and letters to my associates, I hadn’t written a word on Half a Cup of Tea. It especially hit me when I walked out of a recent meeting where this client needed voice-overs and scripts. As I discussed various samples of my writing and walked out, I realized that I hadn’t even mentioned my blog.

I remembered a conversation with my mother as a child, when I used to write my personal Diary very regularly. She had said, “You write so much now, because you have time. As you grow up, you can’t expect to write down your entire life. You’ll lose touch with this exercise for sure.”

I don’t know in what context that came, but I remember it hit me then and I sort of made a secret resolve that no matter what di, I’ll keep in touch with you! (Di being my Diary) And fast – forward now, 15 years ahead, and my mom’s prediction was coming true.

My first resort in a situation like this, when I am almost low is to call my friends. And after a series of them not being free or answering the phone (like it always happens), I end up calling my best one again. “I am coming to pick you up”, I say. “What? But I am just getting out from office. On the way home!”

“Stay where you ARE!” I order, even as I wonder where that authority comes from.

“Alright, alright!” he says, puzzled at my urgency.

There was urgency. There are sometimes those moments of realization that are best not ignored. Sometimes your heart is trying to tell you something and the clutter of ‘everything else’ hides it away. An honest confession would be that I have been ignoring that voice for very long; seeking that inspiration that is so hard to find. In the search to be inspired ‘that much’ again, I was starting to quieten the voice inside. And hence, the lesser number of blogs, the lesser connection with self.

By the time I reached my friend, I had almost screamed at a guy driving on the wrong side while almost knocking down a woman who was trying to go straight on a U-Turn. I could hear her sreaming on the outside of the window before driving away. The signal turned green.

“What’s the matter he said”, as he got into the car, placing his luggage in the back seat. This friend carries a guitar to office, so he can strum it when he has a moment and steal a second from life.

“I haven’t written for ages,” I begin to grumble. “I am feeling sad that I haven’t spent as much time doing things I love. I mean, I love my business and I love theatre, but still. I feel like there is that extra spark I am lacking. Some vibe. Some inspiration. Something.”

“Hmm.” He said.

“And it’s making me sad. I don’t see inspiration anymore. The way I looked at the world has changed. I feel like I am living a mundane life of a non – working, married woman form the 80s, who spends all her time in family duties. The only difference is, I don’t spend all my time in family duties and I am not married either.”

“Who stops you from what you are doing?” he asks.

“My self.” I reply. “I stop myself.”

And that’s another box in my face. It is Us against Us.

Sometimes I wish I could just go back to school and re-live the youthful aspirations. Where do those aspirations disappear after a time? Or is it just me?

“Can you stop beating yourself so much?” he asked. Men, do have a very short span of attention when it comes to grumbling women after all. I check myself.

“Apsara, everyone grows up.” He says. “We have no responsibilities as children. So, we are bound to have uninhibited aspirations. But as we grow up, we’re bound to have more to do, more to work on, more responsibilities. SO, it’s just fine. Don’t stress so much!”

I am driving silently when I recollect a recent session at the TED talks, that I had had the opportunity to host. Vikram Sridhar, a professional storyteller had said, “ Once upon a time, someone told us stories they want to hear. Everything that you know today Is a story someone told you.” The story about the rabbit and the tortoise, the story of the cunning jackal, the story of the crow and the pot of water….. to story of Prince – and – princess, India and Pakistan, Diwali and Holi, Marriage and Relationships. Everything that we have been told is a story someone wanted to pass on.

And as he closed the session he said, “So please, tell the stories that the future will carry and the stories that will make the world a better place.”

We write the stories that we want to tell the future.

While there are many things that aren’t immediately in our control – like falling in love, perpetual success, immediate fortunes and untroubled relationships; there are some things that are in our control – observing beauty around us, perpetual attempts to rise, perseverance to build and sincerity towards the people in our lives. And most importantly, a little bit of self love.

May be, a little more of self love than we think is required.

And just as the thought crossed my mind, I noticed the winds blowing fast and smooth. The trees were waving and the farms were swaying. I rolled down the glasses and the wind touched us in the car. And just as I turned I noticed a tree on the right a rock – seat right below it, just as though it were out of a children’s story book.

“Sach!” I said. “Check that out! Let’s go.”

I stopped the car and both of us hopped out like little teenagers. The wind was blowing. The evening was just setting in. The air had a fragrance which you just couldn’t miss. The magnificence engulfed.

“Wait” he said, “I have something that will make this moment awesome.” He pulled out the guitar.

And there in the middle of nowhere, an aimless drive on a rare early day from work, had led us to this “Story Tree”. We rushed over to the stones under the tree to see who could get there first.

He won of course, the athlete in him.

And within seconds, he was playing music and it was like nature was singing the chorus. I can’t say definitely what song he played or what lyrics he sang. For me… The tree, the winds, the music … just became a chance romance with the universe. I walked straight past the tree, straight into the fields.  The grass touched my feet. I walked bare foot. And as I turned around, I saw one of the most beautiful instances ever.

Let's write the stories we want to Live.
Let’s write the stories we want to Live.

The moon was up, the sun was setting. A group of young boys were making their ‘play list’ request.

Let's write the stories we want to Live.
Silent moments, when Life brings inspiration.

They watched in awe as my friend played the guitar. They talked cheerfully about their village, their school and the games they played.

And I told myself then, if this could not inspire me to write, what could?

As the kids carried on with their plan to go ‘cycling’, my friend put down the guitar, content that something so beautiful and meaningful had been experienced.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! For kidnapping me and bringing me here Aps.” He said. “Let me get you Tea. That’s the only thing left to make this evening perfect.” As he moved ahead to bring us the cutting – chai, I pulled out my diary and began to write. I began to write, once again.

And in the end, Amen to Us winning against Us, always.

p.s. Please go out and do something you have been longing to do for ages. I am telling you, today is the best day to do it 😉

Love, Apsara

The Story Tree Moment. Living a small story....
The Story Tree Moment. Living a small story….

Make up Your Mind!

So, here goes.  – My experience with booking tickets on IRCTC and what I learnt from it.

Without doubt, this has been THE craziest experience and I have no choice but to share. For the simple reason, that I sit here, with 5 confirmed tickets on the railways from Baroda to Bombay, with two people to travel.

There’s a famous saying, “Pehle aap, pehle aap mein nawab sahab ki gadi nikal gayi” (Nawab sab kept delaying his decision (our of chivalry) and missed the train.) But in my case, waiting … delaying my decision… has landed me with 5 CONFIRMED tickets to my name.

Here’s how it all started:

I So want to catch that train!

Situation:  Wednesday night, 11 Feb, 2015 I decide I have to go to bombay.

But when must I go?

  1. Thursday Night, 12, Feb 2015
  2. Friday Morning, 13 Feb, 2015
  3. Friday Night, 13 Feb, 2015 – where I reach bombay on Saturday night.

It’s important for me to be there on the weekend. And looking at the workload, I decide maybe Friday Morning or Friday Night.

After breaking my head A LOT, and I mean A LOT, i decide to go on Friday morning. So that means, I now have to book TATKAL tickets.

Case 1:  Thursday morning, 10:00 A.M. , 12 Feb 2015

I try to book on IRCTC tatkal, and the tickets don’t get booked because site is down.

Case 2: Thursday morning, 11:00 A.M.

I go to the railway station and after a 1 hour waiting, book tickets on the morning train with a Waitlist 77.

One of my friends advises me to just buy a physical ticket and get onto the train and talk to TC later. I decide this is the only option.

However, life suddenly changes!

Case 3: Thurday Morning, 1:00 PM the IRCTC site is working

Site not working, as usual. IRCTC Just..........
Site not working, as usual. IRCTC Just……….

A friend calls up to inform me that the site is working and I decide to check if I can get my tickets done too.

Voila! There are 182 tickets on the morning train and 44 tickets on the night train!

Isn’t that fantastic?

But by now, Ms. Apsara Iyengar has changed her mind. Now Ms. Apsara Iyengar suddenly feels she has TOO much work and would prefer to go in the night train rather than the morning train.

And you know what else she suddenly remembers? This OTHER friend who also wanted to travel to the same destination. She calls him up and asks,

Her: Do you wnat to join?

Him: Hey! Sure. Book me on the night train, 13 Feb, 2015.

Her: Cool.

I go on to book the tickets and VOILA! All tickets SOLD OUT. Now, we’re on waitlist 2 and 3.

She calls friend.

Her: On waitlist. Shall I book? We’ll just get on the train!

Him: OK done.

She books waitlist.

He calls

Him: Did you book waitlist?

Her: Yes! Why?

Him: Why don’t you try another train… that would be better right?

Her: Hmm. Ok.

And there arises Case 4!

Case 4:  Booking ANOTHER tatkal ticket, on 12th Feb, 2015 for 13th night.

There were just 2 tickets left on the other train and I go ahead and book it.

The catch is: The tickets are booked for 14 FEB 2015, night.

Her: F****

Him: What happned?

Her: How can tatkal book 2 days in advance?

Him: Haha. Happens when trains are from outstation. I am cool going 14th Night. No issues!

Her: But I desperately want to go tomorrow 😐

Him: Ok! Let’s try the waitlist.

 

Meanwhile, Case 5 happens, because I am desperate.

Bura Khayal... jaise koi train choot rahi ho...
Bura Khayal… jaise koi train choot rahi ho…

Case 5:  The final  decision. To board a train of which I dint have ANY ticket of. Neither waitlist, neither tatkal, neither confirmed.

So I speak to my friend in Bombay and she says, “You have a waitlist ticket for morning? Just board the train and once you’re here, you’re sorted na.”

 

And so overnight, I decide I want to go in the morning!

I message my friend that Iam taking the morning train and that he should take the next day’s confirmed ticket. He agrees.

 

Him: Hey… Are ticlkkets for Saturday Night, 14 Feb, 2015 still valid?

Her: Yes. You take that train. I am going in the morning.

Him: 14th Morning you’re going? How did you get the ticket!

Her: I din’t! I am going on 13th Morning, with a waitlist 77 ticket.

Him: Alright. I’ll take the night train.

 

I call my other friend the same night and tell her I am coming to her place on an unreserved ticket. She freaks out.

She: I think you should take a Karnavati, which has general tickets rather than Double Decker with a waitlist ticket.

Her: Hmm. That means waking up at 6 am and boarding a train I have no ticket with?

She: yep!

Her: Okay!


The Final Decision which is Finally changed.

Last night status: Because it’s so late and I am so mismanaged, I sleep without checking tickets.

Morning: I am ready by 6 am and I go on to cancel my waitlist ticket of tatkal.

updated 1: My tatkal waitlist tickets of vadodara express are confirmed for 13th Night, Feb 2015.

Now I have vadodara express tickets for my friend and me! wah.

update 2: My waitlist 77 ticket of the morning train is confirmed overninght.

Just as I am leaving to get a refund on my morning train ticket, I see a confirmed status. wah.

update 3: More of a realization of the tatkal tickets for 14th night, Feb 2015 which were accidentally booked on Golden temple.

And this was a saturday night ticket that I never wanted to go on!

Him: You know what? You do what you want. I’ll go 14th night.

Her: Ok.

And so, here I am. I cancelled my morning tickets to get only a 50% refund.

I am going by the night train, which means I’ll reach tomorrow morning.

My friend’s going on the night train, day after.

 

I learnt many things in the bargain of this experience:

Here are some pointers.

  1. Delay of decisions can make you repent. Because, you might just lose opportunities.
  • Based on the tickets that ran out in the first place! Had I taken a quick decision, I’d have just bought two (or just my) night ticket!
  1. Delay of decisions might land you with MORE than what you expected!
  • Like my 5 bookings!! ALl tickets that got booked overnight!
  1. Too many cooks spoil the broth.

    The "Why" part.
    The “Why” part.
  • Why did I speak to my friend who told me that tatkal tickets are getting booked online after an hours break?
  • Why did I suddenly remember the friend who wanted to come along?
  • Why did I ask TWO friends in Bombay?
  • Why did I take advise from my baroda friend and not pay heed?

In short, it’s a classic case of having too many people involed in ONE small matter.

  1. IRCTC has a connection with KARMA.
  • one of my reasons to go a day early, was to avoid a situation that was disturbing me emotionally. I realize that I have NO control on that 😀 I feel like IRCTC was taking the revenge by telling me: Ms. Apsara you can’t travel with that instability.
  1. ANYTHING is Possible with DESTINY.
  • like the sharukh khan dialogue from Om shanti om and Paulo Coehlo’s Alchemist:

“When you really want something, the whole universe conspires to make it happen.

Well, I really, really wanted to be on a train on friday. When I booked the tatkal ticket for friday night, I really, really wanted it. By the time I decided to go in the morning, I really, really wanted the morning train.

I wanted both the things. And I din’t make up my mind.

Eventually, I decided to go this night…. eventually the decision was taken and I have no regrets about the delay in travel. But the only thing to learn here is, I had to pay a price! 😉 an extra price… for getting what I wanted, just because I wasn’t clear!

WIth all my tickets tatkal, I am paying 5 times the price to get to bombay, and no refunds.

But this definitely makes me realize, things really can change unexpected.

Can you imagine a waitlist tatkal ticket getting confirmed?

Can you imagine 24 hours in, waitlist 77 gets confirmed?

Can you imagine you book a wrong date for tatkal tickets and it’s confirmed? Wait. That’s the stupid part, i’d really not want to think about.

 

In short, IRCTC can teach you a lot.

There’s not much difference between the Indian railaways and life.

The site can go down any time, it can come up any time, waitlists can be confirmed anytime, tatkal tickets can change dates and open 2 days in advance any time… it’s just like life, endless.

 

While I write this extremely long post, not so much frustration is felt now… because I am having my cup of tea, seeing it “Half” full and “Half empty” at the same time.

 

Along with all the learnings that have come in, there’s one more point:

One, I am not working today.

A conscious decision to take out time and do what i’d really wnat to do with a break.

And two, next time, I’m not going to plan a trip with a vested interest. KARMA acts right.

May be, I’ll call up this friend and apologise for emotional instability?

Generally... I am just feeling like Geet. So!
Generally… I am just feeling like Geet. So!

Or may be, I’ll just right down a love letter with valentine’s round the corner?

Or maybe i’ll just let all this chaos phaze out.

 

Well, I have a whole train journey to figure out the many things in mind.

For now, holiday it is.

 

Write back with your insight. And a big congratualtions for surviving this post!

Adios,

Love,
Apsara

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