As you return home, from a place that now seems familiar but was once foreign, where you were nothing more than an outsider, there is an idea awaiting (of you, of what you might have become) and spectators tip-toeing around it. But, for the sake of fairness, they keep up the act of fair judgment. The utterance ‘I have changed’ makes you only complicit in that judgment. It’s too late. You watch as that fake identity slowly gets plastered on to you.
You were an outgrowth from the onset but now you have outgrown that too (yes I am a 30 year old who wants to sleep on time and have my coffee first thing in the morning). No one really cares about ‘who’ you are or were — people almost never care about your idiosyncrasies. I sympathise with them. Only very few can walk with you who then become your friends and partners. The rest? Spectators in passing. You might meet them and share time with them in ways that might seem authentic but, in reality, it would only be provisional. Circumstantial.
It’s curious how we can unite over a common cause with an intensity that encompasses everything. You could talk endlessly; sharing, listening, and laughing — in a hopelessly urgent fashion. And, in the moment you’d think what could be more real than this. The whole point of such a ranty interaction is the rant. But if there is a gap in outlook due to separation in time and space and no real shared experience it’s not the same anymore. It’s an attempt to recreate a past experience: of feeling liberated, enthused and energised. However, with no actual connection and curiosity for each other, relationships are superfluous at best.
…are the nature of our relationships completely determined by the circumstances over which they are formed? Can we reshape them in ways that makes them sustainable? Tolerable? Or will some of them always meet a sudden if not an inevitable end?
Certain events can prompt you to withdraw as the lack of self-awareness among people can be to the point that any unknown thing could be viewed as a threat or a challenge which might ensue a strange kind of competition; while you are passively aware of it, you are not sure why you have been placed at the centre of it. It becomes frustrating to watch: the facade and an insistence on maintaining it. Why do humans do this? First insist that there is value in doing something meaningful such as a *insert some keywords — nuanced analysis?* and then slowly move towards a superflous but self-satisfying and re-affirming drawing room conversation. Yeah like its all fun and games you know. Don’t worry too much. Have you tried yoga? You should choose your battles. The West has gotten atleast something right?
I recently discovered a concept called virtue signalling on twitter: an attempt to show other people that you are a good person, for example by expressing opinions that will be acceptable to them. ‘Tis what the liberals (neo-liberals?) do — but of course for them it’s an “intellectual” activity. This is not to mock such acts per se but to question the need to exhibit such behaviour. Is it just a simple and pure desire to be relevant even though you don’t actually care about that particular issue so much? Why yes, what’s left in this country? I want a nice comfy-fancy-looking life abroad lazily passing comments and opinions about whether what she said and he did was right or wrong. Yes, that’s the real dream. A comfortable life. But that’s not a bad thing to want for oneself. So why the fucking lie? And what is terrible is the lying is unto oneself.
And you think you should try. You might be surprised as people grow and change. Yes, change is a good thing, generally.
Can detachment be a good thing? Maybe I do need to choose my battles?!
That was my last day. I was not very focussed so didn’t do much. I got the finished vase; it was trimmed, glazed and fired by Nishi-san or Ginto-san? Don’t know. I miss their calm demeanour.
I want to continue with pottery. It feels therapeutic. You can only work with the clay when you are totally present and not strained — it shows very quickly in the clay reacting to the tension in your hands and refusing to comply!
Nishi-san runs the place and is the head potter here. He has an apprentice too—Ginto-san. Or at least it seemed so. Today was the first day of an hour long session. I arrived on time and was greeted by Nishi-san. I made the payment for the course (4 sessions for now). I was given a basket to keep my belongings and an apron but of course I had taken my own apron. I wore it and asked if it was okay and was given a nod. Then Nishi-san directed me to the wheel and had clay mounds ready. He sat down and instructed me on how to make a bowl! In a very matter-of-factly way he described the steps as he moved his hands working with the clay. I was nervous as always. I had to get it right. I told myself to calm the f*** down and remember why I was there.
And so began my attempts at “throwing”. (When you take the clay and put it on the wheel and gather and shape it it’s called throwing.) Anyway, the task was to first achieve a strong bond between the wheel and the clay mound and then to gently apply pressure using the palms of your hands pulling it upwards while maintaining a constant pressure and then pushing is down using your two thumbs and gathering again and repeating the process until you finesse the task. The bit about achieving mastery is of course self-imposed. The physics is simple—prevent wobbling and keep the mass uniformly distributed so that it all rotates together along the vertical and there are no torques generated. Of course to achieve this feat is something that takes people months, as Nishi-san noted. But I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.
While I was struggling Ginto-san was observing and he soon appeared to help me. He simply held my hands and showed me. I haven’t experienced this kind of camaraderie in a very long time. After all, in academia cliques are a norm and all identity is derived from belonging to one or many of those. To be different and yet have a sense of belonging seem mutually exclusive when they are actually complementary to each other. To quote from the Ubuntu philosophy of the Bantu people of Africa:
Umuntu, Ngumuntu, Ngabantu.
It means “I am because we are”. The whole nurtures the individual who then becomes part of the whole.
The latest development where the global north has quite blatantly come out with its classic moralism and blocked a plea led by India and South Africa to waive off patent rights for COVID vaccine production. And, India is one of the largest exporters of vaccines and generic drugs in the world — it has the “infrastructure” to manufacture the vaccines.
Well? I’m not surprised. That’s exactly what the IMF and WTO are there for. What does that mean? Read “The Divide” (linked on the archive page) to find out.
Today I made kahwa, i.e. kashmiri chai. It’s a decoction made by simmering fresh green tea leaves along with a pinch of baking soda, some spices such as star anise, cardamoms, and cinnamon along with chopped almonds and pistachios if you are feeling too precious 😉
Now, the fun thing about it is that a chemical reaction between chlorophyll and baking soda gives it a distinct pink color which is observed when the decoction is mixed with milk as seen in the picture on the left below. Picture courtesy: Flour & Spice food blog (where I found the recipe).
But, what I obtained wasn’t really pink. It was beige instead, image on the right above. Now, this was really frustrating given how long I had to wait to devour it — have to say it was delicious. Rich and warm with mellow notes of spices; would make an excellent winter drink.
Why didn’t I get a pink tea? Because I used a Japanese roasted green tea which was quite old and the chlorophyll content wasn’t enough for the nice pink to develop. Here’s where I found this explanation.
Anyway, I have this batch of Kahwa to finish until next time. I hope to enjoy a pink Kashmiri chai some day.
Hard times. A call for introspection. To face oneself and ask: how did I come so far? How did I cope?
But, before I console myself, how long before this can end? Why should this miserable struggle continue? And, to what end. It’s kind of tiring. This world and its people and their apathy.
Give up and become one of them. Listen to what is being told and follow your patriarchal overlords’ whims and fancies. Pretend, yes, pretend that the extreme power imbalance has no consequences for their personal judgments. That power does not corrupt. That it is the way of the world. Run, run for life, for yourself, and for all that you ever stood for or they will out do you.
Or stand up, as always. For what is right not only in your judgement but in the large scheme of things. There is no race, and you know this. It is you and your choices in this world that matter. What you do with your life and how you do it. Remember abbu and what he used to say. Summon your inner self, reprimand it even. Have faith in people, they will lend to you what you need. They will. It might take time. Not all hope should be lost. Do what you think makes sense and you will eventually find yourself among those you wish to be with. And even if that does not happen, it should be enough — the deed. It should be enough to keep you going. Stop chasing undeserving people and things. It is pointless to seek from those who simply cannot give.