A Comedy of (Slight) Errors

November 4, 2017

I’m late with my posts but hey, as long as it’s in chronological order who cares right?! right.

I have a funny story to recount from my day! This anecdote stars my SuperMom and me in a random, comical confusion of sorts.

MORAL OF THE DAY: Misunderstandings can never be blamed on one person. A communication gap is a lot like clapping. Both sides need to put in equal and opposite effort for the desired result. In fact, the person who talks needs to be very clear, making sure their thoughts are being formed into words, while the person listening also needs to consciously hear without putting their own interpretation into it. A gap grows when a speaker cannot put his or her ideas into words, and a listener cannot understand what he or she hears.

Since I started this Maun, I’ve been relying on hand signals and my version of sign language to communicate with my family. [Actually, only SuperMom can understand what I’m trying to get across, and she has to translate for my dad and everyone else, who just frown and give me blank stares. Let’s hope they get better at playing Dumb Charades or decipher my coded signs before the month ends!]

Anyway, this morning marked my mom and my first epic fail….. Thankfully, the misunderstanding was nothing serious, just funny from my point of view. As I was leaving the house to soak up my daily dose of Vitamin D this morning, I signalled SuperMom the following:

What I mimed:

SAY — HIM — I (my) — BATHROOM — NO — I — SHOWER — LATER

She nodded her understanding, and I left. (Normally SuperMom verbally repeats what I’ve mimed to her so that I can confirm she understood correctly, but this time we somehow forgot that step.) So, what did my hand signals mean? Well, isn’t it obvious – I said “tell him (the cleaning guy) to not do my bathroom because I’m going to shower when I get back.”

I soon returned, covered in beads of sweat and wanting to jump straight into a cold shower. Only… it was being cleaned. Did SuperMom forget to give the cleaner my message? I went in search of SuperMom to find out what happened. That’s when I realized my sign language got lost somewhere in translation.

Bottom line, SuperMom interpreted my signals to mean:

What she (mis)understood:

‘tell him to clean my bathroom because I’m not going to shower today.’

Ummm…. oops? Honest misinterpretation right?? Funnily enough, the slight difference between what I said, and what she (mis)heard, is a completely understandable situation.

Had I originally mimed what she thought I mimed, then my hand movements would have looked more like this: “SAY — HIM — CLEAN — I (my) — BATHROOM — (pause) — I — NO — SHOWER — NOW.”

Not much difference right?! The difference in meaning is so minuscule, that it could easily have happened between two speaking voices anywhere. Thus, Day 2 of my vow of silence began with this comedic exchange.

Until next time,

Ciao!

Advertisements

Hello there!

Exciting news! I’ve decided (on a bit of a whim) to take a vow of silence (also called Maun Vrat) for the month of November. Depending on how I get on after 30 days, I might extend my vow! I’m hoping to document some of my insights from my journey here on the blog too, so keep checking back for more!

Since my mind is exhausted and now blank after a full day of introspection, relaxation, and settling into a new routine, I’ll just get down to some basic Q&A for today.

Enjoy!~

What’s a vow of silence?

A vow of silence is when you commit to not using your voice for a set period of time. Whether it’s an hour or a lifetime of silence, you can make up your rules. Vows of silence can be private (silent vacations, silent retreats) or public (while going about your daily routine). A vow of silence can be undertaken for religious, spiritual, and even political reasons. It is also known as Maun Vrat (Mauna Vrata in Sanskrit) or simply Maun (meaning silence) in many Indian religious traditions.

My explanation is rather elementary, simply because there are so many ways to undertake a vow of silence. In terms of complexity and variety, there is a lot left unsaid still, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

So what kind of Maun are you doing?

Glad you asked. I have previous experience with religious (Jain) Maun Vrats, but decided to take a public, non-religious, and more spiritual vow that does not focus on not speaking or talking at all, but rather targets increased awareness and presence of mind. Therefore, I’ve given myself the freedom to communicate in any way I see fit as long as it doesn’t use my vocal cords.

In the past, my religious Maun Vrats have meant I abstain from any form of communication with others. No making noises, sign language, hand gestures, facial expressions, and no writing/reading/singing/talking. This means practitioners cannot use cell phones, and technically, cannot write, read, or type. This cuts a person off from the rest of the world because sending emails, writing journals, making blog posts, sending texts, and attending to social media are all distractions from looking inwards to hear your inner voice and meditate upon your thoughts and consciousness.

While I enjoy these religious experiences a lot, what I want for myself right now, in 2017, cannot be fulfilled under the Jain guidelines for vows of silence. Instead, I’m interested in noting down the thoughts I have while I’m having them, and making this experience about learning to listen, increase one’s spiritual awareness, and be more in-tune with myself and who I am and who I want to be.

When do you start?

Actually, I started at the stroke of midnight on November 1st (Indian standard time). So today was my first day on my vow!

How did Day 1 go?

Surprisingly well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to prepare for this month on Halloween – that would be yesterday. I notified friends, family, co-workers, and people I communicate with on a daily basis. I also sat down and tried to hash out the terms and conditions I’ll be following while I’m on my Maun Vrat. Made good headway today, but definitely hoped not talking would save me energy, and that I could use that surplus elsewhere.

Any new insights you’d like to share?

I’ve been thinking and note-taking a bunch of points in my little notebook today. But I have made one important, and insightful decision today.

THIS VOW IS ALREADY A SUCCESS, WITH NO CHANCE OF FAILURE. WHATEVER HAPPENS, I WILL NOT FEEL GUILTY OR BLAME MYSELF FOR ‘NOT DOING ENOUGH.’

Taking this decision automatically made me feel happier, more relaxed, and put my mind at ease. I’m a master of self-deprecating humour, and more often than not, find myself the butt of most of my own jokes (where others will laugh at my expense). Alongside this, I also have unrealistic expectations of myself, which I can rarely ever live up to.

I’m a recovering perfectionist with the tendency to be overly critical of my own merits or successes. By choosing to not feel guilty, or be too hard on myself, during my whole Maun Vrat was both liberating and enlightening. May it propel me forward to strengthen my skills and convince me of my talents.

So how long is your vow of silence?

Because my decision to do the vow of silence was only decided one day in advance, I haven’t fixed on a length or duration for my vow. It will be anywhere in the vicinity of one month, going up to 12 months. But to play it safe right now, let’s say my vow of silence will be for the month of November 🙂

Why 30 days? and why now?

Well, as soon as we enter October and approach November, I always get a bit anxious. Somehow, this NaNoWriMo phenomenon makes me think of the month of November as a sort of free-for-all Lent (where I need to make a resolution and stick to it). With such strong feelings associated with the eleventh month of the year, I decided November first as initial day.

I could have waited to start on new year’s day or any other important day I wanted, but the only thing going through my head was…. why wait? If you know you’re going to do it anyway, then why waste time. Just jump right in. And so I have!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

(Some Afterthoughts)

Wow, it’s been ages since I wrote my last blog post! But here I am, and I did it. I’m not going to make any excuses or apologize for my absence.  I’m relieved to say my health and mood are much better now. But what does my mood have to do with blogging, you may wonder? Well, I’ve noticed that I tend to write and blog under three conditions:

[1.] when I’m under loads of stress,
[2] when I commit myself to doing a challenge, or
[3.] when I’m feeling particularly depressed/angry and need to get it off my chest.

So what does this mean? It means that when I’m happy, content, and feeling calm, it never crosses my mind to write anything. This is why I’m gonna keep this journey guilt-free and not challenge myself to post x times a week during this personal time.

Peace out everyone!

There are times you’ll meet a stranger with whom you’ll click, and in the shortest time period, divulge all your inner thoughts and beliefs to that person. It’s a feeling of a delirious high when we get our feelings across to a sympathetic ear, regardless of whether the chance encounter between you two will ever come to pass again or not.

I look back at all the times I’ve put my faith into somebody and revealed my secrets and innermost feeling and insecurities to them. Whether a stranger, an acquaintance, a lover, or a friend, that bond has only been forged when I believe that there will be a nonjudgmental (or maybe just noncritical) ear to listen, and I presume the other person’s faith and knowledge that I will deliver pure, unadulterated words of truth that need not be unmasked. What trust such a momentous conversation and dialogue can have… I am grateful for these incredible experiences.

I’ve learned other the years that these chance occasions are always unexpected and shocking. Bonds forged once are not automatically renewed, nor are somewhat distant relationships automatically excluded from a plausible connection in the future. It’s the combined forces of time, place, moment, and present emotional and mental state that determine if the ‘click’ between two familiars or two strangers is there or not.

I’ve come to take these chance encounters, and moments of ‘truth speak,’ as priceless gem-like milestones in my life. Not quite epiphanies, as I tend to relegate those to only my academic endeavors, but more a meeting of serendipity. These are the bonds of faith.

For those individuals who forge that bond with me, I am eternally grateful for your compassionate ears.

Writing Piece: Simplicity

November 22, 2015

**I found this little gem I wrote as a sophomore in high school and it resonates with who I am and want to be. Although my life is nowhere as carefree as it was back then, I think the true goal of “voluntary simplicity” is a high and virtuous art of living!**


Simplicity

My life is simpler than most people would prefer.  People would say I am very lazy, but it just turns out that I like to sit around at home doing what I call “nothing” all day.  My hobbies and routine fit perfectly with my way of life as well.  I am not in the least fond of shopping, computers, using cell phones, etc… and would rather spend that time watching television, reading books, eating, and sleeping.  I prefer to have as much free time as possible, instead of cluttering my schedule with classes one after the other.  As I become stressed very easily, I find no need to strain myself with things that don’t interest me.

I strongly believe that one’s lifestyle is heavily dependent on how he is raised in his childhood.  Coincidentally for me, my life has never consisted of too much busyness. As a child, my parents encouraged me to take a few classes in Japan and New York but they never interfered with my daily life.  Now, I don’t take any classes, other than joining a few after-school clubs.

I have stayed at relatives’ houses over a period of time on numerous occasions and I find their lives too fast for me.  My cousins have to run from one place to another, and literally fall asleep before their head even touch the pillow because they are so exhausted from the day.  I quickly become worried for most of the day for no apparent reason and am aggravated when put into this atmosphere.  Being a perfectionist, I find myself troubled about everything as it feels like I have no time to breathe once in-between activities.

If someone were to ask if my life could be any simpler, my answer would be absolutely not.  However, if asked what I could do to less simplify my life, I wouldn’t mind taking a few classed, the way I did several years ago, but nothing more.  I like the way my like has shaped up and find no reason to burden myself with clutter so early in life, as I will have to go through more hardships in college and later on in life.  Some people choose to adopt the lifestyle of “voluntary simplicity” and I am one of them.

elevator-up-button-1024x440Using the elevator isn’t as easy as it sounds. Elevator logic and etiquette are actually rather complex and forever changing, and you suddenly realize (if you’re anything like me) that a day doesn’t go by when you’re not annoyed at somebody’s behavior or mannerisms while riding the elevator that day. It’s not like lifts have directions or a how to manual that everyone is required to read. Neither does it have visual diagrams that illiterate people can use to understand how to use this machinery. On top of that, using an elevator is not taught at primary school as an essential life skill, unfortunately.

I’ve really gotten used to the non-uniformity in elevator practices among riders, but it hasn’t escaped my critical eye. I feel like today’s blog post has been waiting to be written for about 10 years now. Well, at least I finally got around to it!

I feel like its commonplace for myself and other people to make occasional mistakes while riding an elevator and getting embarrassed over our actions. However, I believed these mistakes were a rare occurrence while I was growing up. But when I moved to India, the ratio of clueless elevator riders seems to exponentially increase. (Is this why buildings still have a liftwala to guide you?) Unfortunately, since I’ve been living in India, the error in people’s thinking and ways is all-too-evident to see.  Whether it is getting on the lift without paying attention to the direction it is going in, forgetting to press the button for which floor you’re intending to get to, or not pressing the appropriate ‘up’ or ‘down’ key when calling the elevator to you, elevators are contraptions used to serve knowledgeable and ignorant folks alike.

img_0314-1

So let me just cut to the chase –  it doesn’t matter where the lift is at that point in time, whether you press the ‘up’ or ‘down’ button is very straightforward. If you would like the elevator to take you up to a higher floor – press the ‘up’ arrow. Even if the elevator is already on a higher floor and needs to come down to get you, you simply need to press the direction button for where you want to go. The elevator doesn’t need to be told how to act, you need to feed it information on where you want to go and it’s up to the machine to figure out how to do it. And if you want the elevator to take you down to a lower floor – press the ‘down’ arrow. Regardless of whether it is already on a lower floor and needs to come up to pick you up and take you back down, you simply inform the lift through the ‘down’ button that you’re destination is below you’re current location.

Related Sites:

How to Operate an Elevator and Make the World a Better Place (disorganisationguru.com)
How to Use an Elevator (katyjane.wordpress.com)
Nudging to choose elevator arrows correctly (mostlyeconomics.wordpress.com)
Going up in the world? Why where you stand in the lift reflects your social status (www.dailymail.co.uk)
How to use an elevator… this is silly but plz help? (in.answers.yahoo.com)
How to Ride an Elevator (www.wikihow.com)

To celebrate my birthday and the start of a new year for me, I decided to get my hair chopped off into a small buzz on June 1st, 2015. Because my birthday is roundabout halfway through the year, I thought it would be a good time for new beginnings. Hair is a huge part of my identity, and I felt incomplete the way I was.

I’ve wanted to shave my head once (and be bald) to see how it feels at least once in my life. The thought has been with me for over a decade. I never had the strength to take the plunge because my parents and brother were dead set against it…until now.

created with 'Snap Collage'

created using the Snap Collage App

Growing up as I did, having dark, thick, lush hair is a sign of health and beauty among Indians (the anthropology of hair – I’ve even written a thesis on it!). Cutting off one’s hair deliberately is done when grieving the loss of a parent, child, or spouse. This why some Hindu widows are seen with shaved heads, mourning for the rest of their lives. And individuals who join the ascetic order shave or pluck (in Jainism) their hair as well to show their renunciation of the worldly life and its associated attachments. It was also mentioned that it would be insensitive for me to be walking around in the UK looking like a Skinhead – believed to be the South Asian-hating British equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan (this is not a fair and whole picture of Skinhead members, but the stereotype). And in a more mainstream point of view, having no hair is obviously also linked to cancer patients and the side effects of chemotherapy. For all these reasons, I couldn’t go against my family and get the haircut I always wanted.

So, understandably, the fact that I nearly shaved it all off was not taken all too well by the family when they saw me after my transformation, but they have thankfully come to terms with it. When I had made up my mind to carry through with my plan a few days in advance, I had tried to prepare my grandparents and family members as best I could to minimize the shock factor. But my reasons for taking the plunge are unrelated to the reasons given by my family…and no less important.

I got my first professional haircut when I was in high school I think. Until then, my dad – who liked me with long hair – had always been in charge of trimming my hair. Going with my friends for my first haircut was a thrill and gave me a strong sense of liberation. My hair was still long, but it was nice to have it styled. It wasn’t long after that I convinced my mom to take me to get brownish highlights. I don’t think she realized what I had done until she saw my locks bleached and had a mini-shock. I don’t think my dad was best pleased either.

Anyway, not too many years later, I started cutting my hair shorter and shorter. From below my shoulders to shoulder to a long bob etc… Every time I’d cut it, I’d wait for it to grow out for about a year before cutting it short again. The same goes for my highlighting experiments every year or so.

Getting a haircut is something of a stress buster for me though. If I’ve been particularly sad and stressed, I’m known to get up one morning, get dressed up, and head to any local hairdressers willing to give me highlights or a cut. Doesn’t matter if it’s a holiday, snowing outside, or a day when I knew I’d have to be in the library studying all night. I guess that’s the power of hair and a makeover. It’s an instant pick-me-up. So my family is used to seeing my medium length pixie cuts since I was in Chicago.


The decision to buzz my hair had multiple reasons. But first, these are the reasons I opted for the short buzz instead of my much-wanted shaved look:

  • I thought my scalp would be too itchy and hard to manage if I shaved my head
  • I didn’t know if the shape of my skull was pretty enough for me to feel confident (as opposed to embarrassed) about shaving it
  • My grandfather was ill at the time and I didn’t want everyone to misunderstand my shaved head as a sign of impending grief.
  • I didn’t want my hair growth to be in the ‘awkward and spiky’ phase when I attending my cousin’s wedding in 6 months.

Why I finally decided to get buzzed!:

1. I find this celebrity hairstyle to be bold, beautiful, attractive, and sexy.

2. I think going against the cultural norm is empowering for women and a major confidence boost.

3. It shows I don’t care what others think about me and that I’m comfortable in my own skin…being me.

4. I don’t have extra pressure (spouse or in-laws) stopping me from doing something I’ve really wanted to do for as long as I can remember.

5. I have never seen a picture of a female buzz I haven’t instantly loved.

6. I was always jealous of all my male friends who had short spiky fuzzball scalps and I wanted one myself!

7. I love having short hair but hate the feeling of hair falling into my eyes and face, and tickling the back of my neck, so this would be perfect!

8. If I can go through with this, I can do anything!

And the last 2 points are more philosophical and probably the most important:

9. I wanted 2015 to be a milestone year for me which would shed the negativity, hardships, and depression I had endured for the preceding 10 years with hopes of happiness, fearlessness, and contentment for the next decade. I wanted to replace my old skin with the brand new me!

10. Because Indian hair grows an average of 1cm per month, I wanted only the newest memories created in 2015 to grace my head, so to speak. So buzzing my hair to 2 to 4cms meant I could do that to some extent. I wanted to detach myself from the old pains and not have them burden me in my new quest.

Kudos to my dad for showing me this brilliant YouTube video of Pritam’s Mashup Performance from this year’s GiMA (Global Indian Music Academy) Awards. Not only are the 3 performances brilliant, the video also inspired the idea for this blogs post!

I love Bollywood music and always have. However, I can’t remember lyrics if my life depended on it! Do I sound like anyone you know? Yeah…there is a whole community of us hidden across the world. The only words I can remember (and only after hearing it) are the catchy and overly repetitive song choruses used today. So a mashup is an ideal way for me to enjoy music.

Back in the day, I always felt a bit out of my element in America because other young people would start cheering before even two seconds of the intro of any popular song came on at a dance party, for example, while my own recognition response would have to wait until I’d hear the chorus. May not matter much if you’re just there to dance, but unfortunately, I don’t enjoy dancing and only get on the dance floor and dance if I know the song playing and can sing along to parts of it. I know, bummer for me.

Anyway, getting back to the point, this delayed recognition meant that being in singing or music environments was (and still is) a rather difficult and arduous ordeal for me growing up. Having to participate in a game of Antakshari with family in India by far tops the bill for most uncomfortable situations ever. India Opines disagrees with me and uses cute GIFs to give reasons why it’s the ‘Best Indian Game Ever’ (which apparently requires little skill to play), but I stand by my statement of traumatic (despite the excitement I felt just spending time with family in an entertaining way).

Words Spoken when Starting a Game of Antakshari

For those who don’t know, Antakshari began as a family pastime and singing game played between 2 opposing teams where the first verse of Indian songs are alternatively sung by each group, but the first consonant of the song must match the last consonant sung by the last team (confused yet???). It has featured a lot in romantic films with Bollywood dancing accompaniment (such as the video below from the movie Maine Pyar Kiya) and has even been popularized as a popular Zee TV singing show / musical competition game show since 1993 (hosted until 2006 by Annu Kapoor). The parlor game is also most often played while on a road trip and preferred over collectively watching a movie  in silence, for instance, because it facilitates participation and entertainment for all ages instead of a bus full of snoring and lethargy.

Thankfully the cute little me didn’t know Hindi that well – and knew only one song that started with the letter ma – and would sometimes be unlucky enough to start off the game with my rendition of Hum Aapke Hain Kaun‘s song ‘Maye Ni Maye‘ – jumbling up the lyrics soo bad that I’d become the hilarious opening act for the group. (To be fair, that is a fond memory I retain of the sport…)

Point: Don’t get me wrong, I love watching and listening to Antakshari when there are energetic players on both sides, but being roped in time after time was difficult because I never felt like I could walk away or control the situation. It took me listening to Pritam’s fantastic mashup performance from last month (and the fact I could sing along to all 10 minutes of the clip!) to realize just how uncomfortable I used to get from being dragged into a game of Antakshari in my younger days because I was hopeless at memorizing song lyrics from the beginning verse!