The Social Awkwardness of ‘Singlehood’

You learn things as you live by it. Till it occurs to you, everything is distant, non- relatable and vague but the moment you experience it, well, it hits you and you realize, ‘ oh, so this is it’, ‘this is how it feels’, ‘this is why it is called so’ and so on. 

Funny, that I thought of myself as some one eager to make friends and have a good time but discovered to my horror that I am a social recluse,someone who loves being on the stage but is lost in small conversation, the hi, hellos and how do you dos.

When I get invited by my friends, former colleagues for a get together, and I fight tooth and nail not to go. I am wary of close encounters  even with friends!

Though I am not kind of bundled with too many invitations an occasional free ticket to a wedding or a family function from colleagues or a friend from another time puts me into a fix again. 

Apart from good food, there is nothing that entices me to reach the venue decked up and smiling. 

Now, family events are essentially a show off time. It is like ‘ look, we are together despite the storm’. ‘See, that tall boy is my son’. ‘Hey, that woman out there, she is my mil. We hate each other but hang out together.’ or ‘I just got a promotion’, ‘We only drive Benz or we only have boys in our family’. ‘Do you know how much my son earns?’ ‘Oh, poor thing,how sad your life is !’ 

Or such sort of  things.  Looking back, I realize I have always been rather wary of events and functions. Maybe I was not ready to answer the litany of questions by curious relatives eager to poke a finger or that I was plain afraid of being asked to repeat the multiplication table or recite some thing from Shakespeare.

And some of us who may not be able to boast of a ‘perfect family’ find it difficult to face the umbrage of queries and knowing smiles and tend to withdraw even more into our shells.

It is like you have failed somehow, even though ‘ you know in your heart that you have been living in the right honorable manner’, you are somehow found lacking and that is not a comfortable position to be in.

Hmm, why allow anyone to prick your bubble of self- contentment and expose yourself to unwanted interrogation rather than stay comfortable in your own cocoon.

Well, it does not really make a difference, events happen despite your presence or absence, so just chill with some coffee and order some good food.

That said, I go back to reading! 

So, have you felt the absence of good company? 

Have you also been plagued with social phobia of some kind?

What have you done about it? Did you also bury yourself in books?

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Why I wouldn’t trade teaching for another profession?

Here are my reasons for choosing to continue in the teaching profession.

  • The power of classrooms. I sincerely believe in the spiritual and life-changing experiences a classroom can provide. I have been lucky enough to be part of some and time and again as I enter another day into my teaching career, my belief in wholesomeness of a good classroom atmosphere in building amazing individuals is deepened beyond doubt.
  • Intangible yet life-altering rewards: Rewards of being a teacher cannot be merely restricted to a few thousand rupees which you definitely need to run the home. There is much more to teaching as a career than the measly salary! 
  • Individual experiences will vary but overall these are the definite takeaways:
  • The joy of seeing positive transformation in those you interact with.
  •  When a student tells you that ‘ it’s my first inter-school trophy, mam’, ‘thank you so much’, tears rush to fill the eyes.
  • When someone comes out of the comfort zone and sheds his inhibitions and stands up to say, ‘I have never shared this before, but I would like to share it today with all of you’, two things happen, an atmosphere of trust and respect for the person is built,secondly the person has stepped out of his self-created wall and declared himself to be a free spirit.
  • When students express their commitment to social change through speeches, projects, actions, interactions, you feel humbled to be a small part of their journey to self-excellence.
  • When someone so different from whom you knew turns up at your door and says, ‘you remember me’, you are stunned into silence and a momentary incoherence. Kabir Gawlani, if I didn’t know how to respond to you, and offended you in some manner,my apologies. I was just too stunned!
  • Age does not matter, in a classroom, students of any age, behave just like students. If you don’t believe that, just walk into our PhD classes where the faculty behaves well, just like most students do!
  • A sense of life-purpose: Is it the Sanskrit shlokas that pontificate on the importance of the ‘guru’ or the culture or the self-assumed mythology, I am convinced that , teaching like spirituality is a calling. You can continue to be a teacher only because you want to!

Some times classrooms can be toxic, painful, burdensome to both teachers and students. It is best to understand and try different approaches when that happens or may be just withdraw if it is too much for you to handle.

Just like every other relationship, the teacher-taught relationship will also have its highs and lows. On the teacher’s part, it is even more incumbent to remain graceful even in defeat or inability to cope. Malice, never helped anyone.

I have had some very bitter experiences in my early years but I have also had some great times, so when I decided to continue as a teacher, it was definitely because I decided to embrace the positivism and learn to work on whatever was lacking, which was a lot, actually!

Today, though with almost a score into teaching I  have come to accept that it is not necessary to be able to bring any dramatic change in anyone. Small self-realizations and experiences to know the self -strengths and limitations are more powerful than a teacher led movement sort of a thing!

In my early years, I did sometimes,think of myself as a savior whose job it was to uplift and ennoble, ha! ignorance! or at least, a feeling that ‘I am so concerned about your future, what a tragedy that you are not!’ but time has taught me not to take so much burden on my not -so-capable shoulders, and not to assume too much of self- importance and that has helped, really!

With daily presentations and speeches and lots of sharing, I am looking forward to my classes everyday, I am constantly impressed by the amazing range of abilities and talents the youth display and profess to own, there is much gratitude to you, dear universe, dear mom, for the 5 rupee application form to the Government Teacher Training College, Calicut and my family for letting me be a teacher, thank you!

Broken hopes

a yawning gap

of misery sucks in

life and cheerfulness 

like a black hole

a hand to hold 

a shoulder to rest 

a few kind words 

is all that the soul seeks 

yet in giving 

in losing oneself 

there are hidden swamps 

pain, agony and sorrow 

claim life’s efforts to flourish

nay, just stay afloat!

what karmic paths lead where 

what joys will someday compensate

what the morrows hold 

just a plain gleaming vacuum 

of broken tinsel dreams 

searing torn hopes 

a knowledge of nothingness 

thunder, fire and lightening

an empty empty living. 

Not again

Not again

not another man

who tills the land

tends it with care

dresses tables across the globe

with abundance of food

shall die in ignominy

not another farmer

not another son of the soil

shall be threatened to kill himself

for a few hundred thousand rupees

when loots prosper in exile

when the rich shame in showoff

not another pyre for self immolation

of a poor destitute farmer

shall burn in this country

where spirituality thrives

believers compete for their separate gods

march for icons of the past

fathers, mothers, sisters, gurus and fakirs

advice masses,herd them to ignorance

chain them to inaction

submit them  to mis-truths

tie them to a life of slavish obedience

pit one against another in hordes

and none so brave to stand up

for the man with callused feet

broken soul

tattered clothes

forced to incense himself

for a thousand rupees

in a pyre lit for himself

is there no readdress for the needy

is there no way to reach to those who matter

guardian angels of the soil

soldiers of the forest

keepers of the waters

men and women

who breathe and live earth

curse this progress

break these barriers

rise! reach out ! redeem

PS: Another farmer kills himself. Do we have the time?

 

Kitty is back

Back from the boarding house and clearly proving our fears of being forgotten our dear cat, Messi is a bundle of nervous energy.

Running up and down the chairs and climbing the wall,to inspect the tube light which she had triumphantly brought down with a thud, and peering over the glass window, she presents herself to a ready audience as a woman of the house.

She runs to her table and sniffs for her food.

She checks on her toys and is overjoyed to find them intact.

She purrs at my daughter and allows to be pampered.

While we attack her with our anxiety to ‘see, it’s us’, ‘remember’, she prances around the place and reclaims her space with the eagerness of a squirrel+ a monkey + a puppy.

Messi, is clearly not a common cat, she is neither lazy nor lethargic.

She is a girl who loves to play and demands attention, well, wouldn’t she take after her humans? Purred I!

Not for her the lazing around

or gentle swishing of her tail.

Her ways are of the wind

Her meows angry demanding and questioning

Her tail a tool to test her own ability to solve a riddle

Her food is well, just food

Her interest in all things caffeine undeniable

In her kingdom she alone is the ruler

All others are her servile followers

Waiting for her with feverish passion and attention

Her humans are to her the ‘chief servants in residence’

As she quenches her thirst at the basins of wisdom

She allows others to applaud and cheer her living

If it is self-esteem, self confidence or self anointment

Learn it from Messi, who teaches it best by practice!

 

Of getting together

Thanks to social media, it is indeed easier to stay connected to your friends from school and college. So many of us are connecting to those who we would never have remembered or run into only because of technology and our addiction to social media sites like facebook.

The other day while at Calicut, when we went out with my parents, we as in me and my daughter kept running into gentlemen my father introduced to us as his classmates.

At a jewelry shop the shopkeeper told an onlooker, ‘we are classmates’ and looked at my father with a gargantuan smile, lighting up his whole face and the shop!

My daughter exclaimed, ‘how cute is that mom!’

It indeed is.

Today, after many many days of perhaps not connecting to each other suddenly my college whats app group was very active.

We discussed over a long Sunday, the lives and living of our teachers, pulled each others legs, had some good banter. It looked as if distances had shrunk visibly and we were just around a coffee table sitting down on a Sunday afternoon sharing our thoughts.

This year, I missed attending one of the alumni meet of my classmates at SDA, Ottapalam.

My batch at LSN ottapalam are planning a get together, I hear.

(Ok, so I did study in quite a few schools and more than 2 colleges, thanks to my father’s constant transfer and relocation.)

But what makes these get together-s so special?

Is it our harping back to the past and refusing to accept the change of times?

Is it merely wallowing in meaningless nostalgia?

Is it our yearning for what cannot be?

Or is it the disillusion with the present, a desire to escape what can’t be escaped?

Well, I can’t speak for others.

But to me, getting back or staying connected to one’s school mates and college mates is special.

These are the people who knew us before you and I put on the many masks of adulthood.

These are the people who have watched us at our vulnerable best.

So if some of your classmates reach out to connect to you, do so happily. There might be a reason for that!

Similarly if you want to reach out to your friends of the past and renew those friendships, do so without shame.

True, some of your ‘friends’ may not have time, or some may have their own cob webs weighing them down.

Still there might be someone who cherishes your company.

That said, I really adore my uncle who has managed to stay very closely connected to his school friends till this date.And he is in his 60’s. This particular group is the envy of many and have managed to bring their extend-ing families to get to know each other, and spend some great time together.

One book that celebrated class unions and camaraderie is ‘Born to Fly’ by Nitin Sathe. I believe Nitin’s chronicling the life and times of fighter pilot, Anil Kumar is an ode to the spirit of ‘classmate-ship’- if there be such a thing.

As a teacher I get to emphasize this belief of mine to my students, ‘get together, get to know each other, make friends for life and hang on, like forever, don’t ever give up on each other.’

I am so reminded of Piyush Pandey’s take on the benefits of staying connected to friends and family, the more disparate the better in his book titled’Pandemonium’.

As they say, life is better in good company!

So, which old friend are you going to get in touch with?

 

 

Sinking under the weight of expectations

With loads of work to complete, bundles of assignments to evaluate, conferences to attend, an exam that is coming up and various other assorted challenges of existence, I am totally weighed down and feel the fatigue even when it is holidays and free time, apparently!

Last time I felt so clamped and cloistered in the space of my head was when I was called upon to write an article by a senior official.

Now, it was indeed an honor that I was thought to be fit to write for the prestigious journal but I was unable to put down a single word.

I was confused and worried and very much out of myself, almost incapable of producing any kind of work so much so that I submitted something which was inferior in quality several days after the dead line. And that left a very bad taste….

That’s  how ‘tension’ can get to me….and it did as it is now, eating into the calm composed corners of my mind and creating tsunamis of ‘ I have so much to do’ followed by the deathly silence of  nothing, nothing at all.

I decided to emerge out of this state of ennui by penning down my challenge.

Yesterday, I sat down to tick off a few of the to-do’s from my list by actually doing it, there is no other way is it?

I have also in the meanwhile, enlisted my daughter’s moral and physical support to read through some material and prepare for a presentation.

To my parents, whom I am visiting, I have shared my agony and they have most understandingly given me the first half of the day to deal with my own monsters before setting their demands over my time in the evening.

My daughter has been kind enough to pour the very same ‘encouragements’ and ‘morale boosters’ to me to get me some calm and inner strength.

I do wish for a dear friend to pester and prod and needle but …hmm… no one can be a better friend or foe than my own self!, so I leave it at that.

As always, writing helps me, heals me and pushes me forward.

Right now, I am feeling re-energized to meet the challenges, and kind of feel that I will manage it all, somehow!

Cheers to writing, just putting down words, letting go of worries, thoughts and getting back to the action-mode!