27 and Single – Coping with ‘Bidai’ of your Male friends.

It’s 10.30 p.m. and my friends call me, “Hey! We’re coming to pick you. Tea treat!”

“Sure! What’s the occasion?” I ask.

And my question is answered as I get into the car and we start talking.

“That’s like an arranged marriage turning into a love story?” I conclude, after hearing a detailed version of how a friend fell in love with the girl he went to see for an arranged marriage. We all rejoice but only before one strange interaction.

Someone comments, “But you know what! We just can’t meet like this once we’re married.” The girls look at each other. “Sure” we say, marriage does shift priorities. It’s obvious to be busy and occupied once married.

But strangely the conversation shifts gears and all of a sudden the guys are talking about all the permissible limits of our friendships as though friendship with women is more like a drug – not allowed post marriage. I start to feel a little uncomfortable.

After all, weren’t these the same guys we grew up with? Can we so easily over look the many years of school or college or work – the various walks from where we women, know the men in our lives – and simply accept an instruction to tone down our warmth and affections?

The weather is suddenly more chilly. Someone brings us all Tea and we hold the cups in hand to re-construct warmth on a chilly December, winter evening.

One of the guys, once again starts to speak of an “All guys trip”

The girls look at eachother as they animatedly make plans.

“Hello!” we say, “aren’t we a part of the plans?”

“But once we (the guys) are married, we won’t get a chance to travel together and have fun. You girls should understand.”

And instantly I feel two things.

  1. With the men getting married, they want us to know that they can’t really be ‘friends’ with the girls, the way they were before.
  2. With the men getting married, they don’t want the girls to be a part of the plans, trips, get-togethers they’re planning, somewhat in preparation for a married life ahead.

And the ‘dost-dost-na-raha’ feeling stares in the face.

I am reminded of the feeling I had in 2010, which led to the inception of Half A Cup of Tea with the blogpost, “All About Being a Girl“. Yes, I felt that same strong urge to write.

I am close to 27 now and my standards of finding a partner, are high. I must first fall in love and be convinced enough to marry. But that’s my personal life and my choice.

Being a single woman or a woman not married yet, does not mean  that we’re likely of pinning intangible expectations on people we know!

My friendship with the men in my life is irrespective of their commitment or marital status. And that’s simply because – friendship is different and romantic love, different.

This film is a classic example of friendship, I tell you!
This film is a classic example of friendship, I tell you!

And then again, we do love the people in our lives, don’t we? And how do you express the love and affection you feel for people, when they aren’t birth – siblings? Like I love my sister. I give her a hug. I love my friend, I give him or her a hug. Aren’t friends, to some extent, close to siblings?

Friends are the people we grow old with. Sure, we have spouses and partners and cousins – but friends are peers. And so, should a change in relationship status reflect upon your associations with others?

Being a feminist, and someone who has forever lived in a male-world, I somehow always surpass gender in my associations. Sure I have learnt of “ways of men” and I know of a language that I may never speak, but I accept them the way they are and see no difference in my friendship extended to men.

The discussions on a guys-only-vacation start to ensue once again: On chats, groups, meet-ups and once again I find myself revolting to the very idea.

I think we as women, understand. We understand other women. We understand that women would like their men to be committed and ask me on any day, and that is exactly what I will advocate to any guy friend in my life.

But, when your friendship dates back in years and months, knowing eachother as individuals, growing professionally, personally and emotionally – then must gender come in the way at all?

One of the girls chirps in, “Apsara, you know what! We’re all going to be the same before and after marriage, it’s the guys who are going to change. Bidai ladkon ki ho rahi hai.” (We’re giving away the guys in marriage. )

I do totally respect and understand that friendship always has to be two ways – if the guys don’t want to keep it, it’s not going to exist.

And that again raises two points:

  1. What are the ethics of friendship if it is “okay” now and “not okay” after being committed?Ally Committed to Future Concept

If that’s the case, then one must not encourage anything that cannot be explained to our future partners.

There is this strange scene I remember from one of my favorite TV series: Ally Mc Beal, Where she talks to her roommate saying “I feel a sense of commitment to my future partner, even before I have met him”.  All though the statement is weird, it does ring a sense of truth.

  1. Does the guy have a say or not?

I remember having this discussion with a girl-friend once and she said “I think he would need to put his foot down and tell both the women that they matter and they better cope with the fact that they hold different but significant value in his life. I think…. That’s a step the guy needs to take, make and walk.”

And that brings me back to my disappointment with society! Yes…. now the matter has escalated and I ask a greater question: despite so many years that we have come as a society, we still face these challenges of perception.

I remember my early twenties, where an over intrusive admirer had a problem with every male individual in my life. He was almost a stalker and he called me once, while I was meeting a friend.

Stalker: Where are you?Hypothesis: The Thinking Girl.

Girl: Umm xyz place.

Stalker: What are you doing there?

Girl: Umm discussing work with abc.

Stalker: How can you be at xyz with a guy?

Girl: <blank>

Stalker: I am coming there.

Girl: <blank>

Stalker arrives.

Stalker: Why are you here?

Girl: <No answer because the stalker deserves no explanation>

Girl <in the head> : Because my friends are the ones who have stood by me through years of test and times of struggle, they have shared my joys and offered a hand – in love and friendship. And HENCE – I am here.

And perhaps I am too ambitious to expect the same answer from all the men in my life.

To expect that they place our friendship at the same degree, level and stature as I do – as women do in general – without the gender coming in the way

Of course we have our own little things – the girls night outs, conversations and to-do lists. And the guys certainly have a lot more of that – the guys parties, the bike rides at 2 am and other things – which the girls are not a part of. And that is fine.

The Guy Things!            The Girl Things!

But what stings a bit, slightly, is the idea … of letting go, in advance…. For reasons that are best unsaid. That’s what pricks!

And that takes me back to the ideas of Love that I have frequently discussed in the past years – love must happen, we must grow and evolve. We should be open to idea of Love and in a similar way, in friendship with gender differences, we should be open to idea of letting go.

Yes, I am open to the idea of letting go – just as I am open to the idea of falling in love or living single based on circumstances. If the men in our lives have women who are not comfortable with us, then the possibilities of friendship taking a backseat arises. (I am talking about people not having time. That’s fine. My best friends I haven’t spoken to in ages but I know the friendship stands) But if the women respect eachother and role of friendship in the lives of their men – would a healthy, beautiful relationship, friendship and extended family not be possible?

It strangely gives me a feeling of women being typecast – I am telling, that’s not true. The woman you love will never be insecure if you love her enough.

It all depends on the way WE conduct our relationships.

I am taking the liberty of quoting another friend’s girlfriend here. (A story very close to my heart and couple whose kids I am going to spoil :p)

My friend had stopped talking to me over certain misconceptions. And my repeated requests to understand the problem had failed. Eventually, after months of void, I received a letter from him reviving our friendship. It was his partner who has encouraged him to do so.

In a private conversation with her one day, when I thanked her for being understanding and considerate in encouraging my friendship with her partner, despite barely knowing me as a person, she said – I could see what an inspiring companionship you both shared. And I must respect that. Had I had friends who were male and had I shared similar rapport with them, would I not expect my boyfriend to understand and accept the friendships?

She moved me with her beautiful words because I know how much that friendship mattered to me.

On another day, I was to make a movie with a very dear friend. We’d once been founding members of a youth group, today we were meeting once again over a common goal. I desperately wanted to make the film and once he read the script, he loved it. We began work but repeatedly faced hurdles.

On one anxious day, I came across content that had striking resemblance to my piece of writing. I panicked and frantically tried to reach my friend over facebook chat. When I couldn’t get his response, I created a group chat adding his girlfriend and whining about the unexpected situation.

Within seconds she replied – Dear Apsara, relax and have faith in your work. I am sure the two of you are very talented and are going to do a remarkable job with the film. You must remain composed, irrespective of the fact that certain situations aren’t in our hands. I am sure when you make the film, it will be unbeatable. Trust me, it’s a very strong act.

The film is yet to be made, but what filled my heart with even more optimism was the fact that my friend’s girlfriend turned out to be the most mature 😀 handling both of us and encouraging a positive perspective and action plan.

These women, individuals in themselves, understand.

These women, us women, we understand: and that’s where women are beautiful.

On the threshold of 27, I see so many of my girlfriends married and many turned mothers – they are busy – raising their husbands and children (:p) BUT, I still haven’t lost them. Yes, we cried on the wedding day…. And we did all that drama for the women…. But strangely, and painfully, seems like it’s the MEN we’re bidding goodbyes to.

As we finish off with tea and head back home, I remain silent.

While the men prepare for marriage, it’s not that the single-women-friends are waiting to cling on and ‘be the same’. For the single, individual, even moderately ambitious woman,  we are NOT dependant on men and we will certainly NOT intrude on married life spaces. That I must receive the disclaimers, saddens! A little bit of my heart breaks there…. And the tea is JUST not enough.

I make myself a cup of tea and call a friend – I tell him I am disappointed.

He laughs. He asks me:

If you were committed, would you really want to hang out with your group as much, plan trips of travel with your friends and do things without your spouse or partner?

And I answer with puzzlement, “Why wouldn’t I?”

Perhaps my expectations from life are far too ambitious – but yes, if and when I am committed, I would

In memory of the first post "All about being a Girl" where I used a pic like this!
In memory of the first post “All about being a Girl” where I used a pic like this!

expect my partner to understand the associations in my life – the ones that have molded me and made me, Me. I will expect him to have his friendships and let me have mine. I would love for the circles to mix and blend and make one huge, harmonious family – but even if that does not happen, I doubt I’ll trade one set of relationships for another. I think the beauty and the challenge lies in balance and understanding.

Perhaps it’s a long shot for me, but for my married and committed friends, I pray that you keep your Friends and give each other space and freedom in relationship.

I pray that it be only responsibilities, physical distance, and life passions that possibly distance us – and not social limits of bias and sad presumptions that already fragment our society!

Write to me and let me know what you think:)

With Love,
Apsara

apsara.iyengar@gmail.com

4 Things About Girls and Guys and a Little Realization

Really wanted to type this out yesterday afternoon; doing it before the moment completely disappears. #GirlsAndGuys

I was working with a few teenagers yesterday, the mid teens. Confident, expressive; the girl has the same naive, optimistic enthusiasm as I did as a young girl. The guys are silent, they have the smirk; typically boyish. They all speak when asked, they communicate, they all come forward and express.

conversations with the 'younger' mind
conversations with the ‘younger’ mind

On one question, the girl answers. I can almost hear myself speaking.
I resist getting carried away and ask the boys, “That’s how a girl would think. I have been working for so long, but I still hear the guys comment on my thoughts and drive it home that – ladkiyan aise he hoti hai (girls are just like that) I want to know your thoughts.” The guys dint seem to take my word too seriously, the girl related and said “yes! I so agree! :D”
The guy spoke, sharing his thoughts. And then the other added.

I realized a few things yesterday..

One:
Girls believe. I guess it’s just there in our basic set up! We’re naive, we’re optimistic, we’re hopeful. And we aspire and we make our aspirations true. That’s how we achieve whatever we achieve. That’s the way we succeed.

We might never really know the world in its harsh terms; because we don’t look at it like that. We look at it believing that it’s beautiful, and, what is not right, can be fixed; and we attempt and make our journey.

Two:
Boys have a more practical approach. They don’t show too much emotion. They want to make a difference too, but they’d try to understand what people would respond to. They will try to understand ‘what’ the path ahead could be like and based on their own understanding, they will take their steps. They look beyond; they predict the hurdles and then walk. They aspire and they succeed; on the way they look at life.

Three:
To a large extent, we are who we were in our teenage. The core remains.
I didn’t feel much different from the people they were. I am a good number of years older, but I could relate. I could recollect my days and see that I was indeed, one of them. I was just like the girl. I had just the same equation with the people around me.

Four:
I perhaps, should NOT have made the comment on ‘Girls and Guys’; because what I saw there was something very obvious and precious too.

There was no discrimination.
Yes, I did make that comment. But I looked at them and realized I was wrong.

Men and women are different but they do share an honest relationship and a harmonious co-existence. It is there. I just loved the vibes I got from the teenagers. They accept each other.

More importantly, they respect each other.

It’s there in the upbringing; it’s there in the schooling, it’s there in the culture.

The elders in the room hand me my cup of tea.
I am sipping it as I hear them speak some more.

I am thinking how thankful I feel to them, for bringing me back to myself; in some ways.

One day, many years back, I graduated from school and stepped into the ‘world’ being an individual like them. One day, many years back, I was a person of these realities. One day, many years ago, I accepted myself the way I am and only strived to be better.

I had never faced discrimination.
But as an adult, I feel differently. I work in various circles owing to the ‘multiple areas of work’ that I indulge in.

I find myself, many a times, amongst men, who look at women ‘just as women’.

I used to cringe, I used to argue, but I was quickly labeled as “woman empowerment leader”.

Then I began to accept them, THIS discrimination as it is.

In accepting discrimination, I have accepted ‘them’, but become distant from myself.

Because there are two schools of thought:
One that looks at individuals and the other that looks at ‘men and women’.

If I accept the ‘men and women’ ideology, any woman will always be a misfit.
What is needed is not a focus on ‘women’, but a focus on individuality.

For the past few months, I have felt suffocated; and only my work has kept me going.
For weeks I think this thought has nagged me. But I wasn’t able to figure out, until I met the young adults yesterday.

If it wasn’t for close friends, my business partner and the theatre that I love, I think I wouldn’t have remained sane. And please note; I never discussed this with them. They kept me sane through conversations and connections that were beyond these thoughts, beyond this discrimination.

It never happened to me before, but then, ‘never’ always has a beginning.
For weeks I have heard women being humored, I have myself been termed ‘dumb’ for speaking up on things that matter to me or for sharing my interests, I have been labeled ‘blocked’ when I have had a different set of opinions than those proposed to me.

And I have constantly felt suffocated – for the very fact that I was NOT blocked to these ‘suggestions’. I was open to them. And being so ‘reachable’ has only made me more vulnerable to hurt and abuse.

As I sip the cup of tea, I say, “Criticism is fine. But only as long as it is constructive.”
And everyone in the room looks at me, wondering what I’d just said.
I just smile and add a few sentences to make my statement seem coherent. I get up to leave and profusely let the kids know that I enjoyed interacting with them.

As I reach my car, I see a text on my phone.
The previous night I had opened up to a friend about the way I was feeling; a series of mixed experiences and emotions. This morning, she added an after – thought to our conversation. She said:
You can NOT allow this. Because the more you let it happen to you, the more you will de-value yourself.  Disrespect cannot have consent.

I reverse the car and start driving back home. Disrespect cannot have consent.

I wonder when I began to need such words to heal disillusionment. Something tugs at the cords of my heart; sometimes we silence ourselves for the relationships we value. But are they worth it at the cost of our self-esteem? But I take a breath of relief in realizing I still have the sixteen year old alive in me. And a sign of relief, that I can still write. So what if this is the first ‘real’ post since December :p So what if it’s taken me 7 months to be able to write? So what if some time has passed?  I still hope to make it. And I will revive that naïve, and innocent enthusiasm to do so.

..when gender doesn't come in the way of smiles
..when gender doesn’t come in the way of smiles

Sharing here, a picture with my friends from a group trip we did a while ago. They would perhaps kill me for sharing such a picture where we all look crazy 😀 but… I think the emotion is significant. 

So… if you’re reading this post, and if you liked what you’ve read here, please get in touch 🙂

Drop a comment or send me a mail or connect with me on twitter or facebook. I will feel encouraged and much more alive.

Thank you for reading,
With love and wishes for healing anything that plunges at the cords of your heart,
Tumhari
Apsara

YOU Are Your Own Person

YOU are your own person.

We are who we are, and always shall be.

This is something that has always been true, but somehow, we forget and keep wondering and wandering. I thought about this, this morning as I sipped my cup of tea, and observed the young kids in my garden.

My maid has two kids. The boy is 5 the girl in 2 and a half. The boy doesn’t share, throws tantrums; while the little girl is warm and affectionate (though both are adorable!). The other day, his mother had bought him a packet of wafers which he was enjoying completely, by himself. I went down to meet them and began to play with the kids. The little girl suddenly ran in, and looked at her mother and said, “Maaarruuuu?” (timidly asking, “mine?”) with the politest, sweetest, most innocent tone. Her mother replied, after a pause, “nathi. Bhai badhu khai gayo”.(“Nothing. Your brother ate it up)

She just looked down and sulked without saying anything else.

I just can’t get over that “Maaarruu” in the little child tone. I went home and got her a bowl of chips, which she gladly shared with her brother, who had already started throwing tantrums because I dint give him a bowl.

And then I wonder; who teaches these little kids what’s right and what’s not?

Who makes them who they are?

Sometimes I remember learning things like we must always speak the truth. I don’t remember whether it was only my mother who taught me that, but I do remember her telling me never to lie. I remember being hurt when my friends would borrow a pencil, and then lie that they returned it. I remember feeling hurt, not at the loss of the pencil, but the fact that people could lie. As a child, it was hard to believe that something like that can happen. Somehow, I never experienced the fast benefits of lying, and consequently, have never developed the courage to do so. But that apart, I wonder, what makes me this person?

I think sometimes, if had a daughter, would she be like me? Would she become the person of the virtues I teach? Or would she just be someone she is born as?

And then I understand that saying, “Accept people the way they are and that is what love and relationships are about.”

We are, forever, the people who we are.

We develop, we change, we grow …… all within the purview of the person that we already are. We can be trained about right and wrong… Perhaps, a character can be developed. The child can be taught to share. But his basic instinct, I guess, shall remain. The little girl on the other hand, may learn to not share with those who aren’t ready to reciprocate. But by instinct, she might remain compassionate.

And when I understand this…

I suddenly accept all the people in my life the way they are…

I suddenly realise, that I understand them far better than I did. I also realise that some of them may not like it; the feeling of being read….. sometimes when you understand people too much, it can prompt them to move away…. For their “space”. The easier thing is to understand, and accept; and not question.

Yes… I do understand YOU very well… I understand what you think and why you act in a specific manner. I understand you need to be who you are; so that you can be; so that you can find your answers yourself.

I understand who you are.

I understand what friendships are.

I understand your shortcomings.

I understand your personality.

I understand that people are –

They may grow, they may become;

I understand that I must take you as you are.

And I understand…. Because it’s a part and parcel of this hyperactive, super analytical brain 😉

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