Being an Introvert: Happy in my Shell

The other day I went to my daughter’s school for some session. I was amidst a huge crowd and the discussion was around raising a confident interactive child. As the session proceeded, volley of questions were thrown towards the audience for opinions and suggestions. My mind at that time was an explosion of ideas and answers, and yet I failed to respond. I could hear myself explicitly forming sentences in my head, I nodded vehemently when I listened someone else voice my opinions and thought to myself ‘Wow, I was thinking just that’ and yet ended up feeling guilty that I could not speak up.

And the person that I am, this guilt of not being able to put forward my thoughts in front of the audience stayed with me the whole day. My biggest dilemma was that I was not feeling outwardly remorseful for not being able to interact. I went to the internet for help, to see if this aspect of my personality was as we say “Normal” according to societal norms. I was trying to find the answers but what I found amused me. I had entered a maze of self-help where anyone and everyone was trying to tell how I could overcome this fear of mine (which I thought was not fear but just part of my personality), how this was hindering my growth, how I could become more confident, how not to be an Introvert. Again I went into the guilt dungeon and this time it was serious business, it was like my personality needed introspection, needed change and demanded recognition.

And I did, I tried to imagine how I would have felt if I did speak up, would I have been happy, would I have been liberated, and strangely so, I realised that nevertheless I would have been unperturbed. I consider myself fairly confident, strongly opinionated and inherently introvert. I want to believe that being an introvert does not undermine me, and I refuse to think otherwise. I feel much more at peace writing, writing for me is an excellent source of expression since it allows me to pour all my thoughts without being judged. Am I scared being judged, NO, that I think is being shy. I just realised that to answer any question, I form an answer, an answer which mimics my thoughts in the most appropriate and intelligent manner, meanwhile the extrovert has already replied, they form their answers while talking and during their talking my mind has gone blank.

I am not the centre of universe at any party, I am not a head turner but I know that people close to me cherish my conversations. What I yearn for are conversations which are meaningful and stimulating. I talk passionately about subjects close to me, but somehow go numb at times at public events, there is always this urge to voice my thoughts but the urge is never strong enough to propel me to take the plunge. And is this attitude wrong? Not for me, but as a society we have been groomed to be social, gregarious, bold and outgoing. Staying in our own shell is often looked down upon, being indifferent or different is mostly not appreciated. All our institutions promote outspoken behaviour and the ones who remain in spotlight steals the show. We as a society always favour the hare in place of the tortoise.

Does that mean I am anti-social, that I want to be marooned on an island, no, I love being around people. It is just that I every once in a while I need to and want to go in a shell of solitude. Too much interaction drains my energy. Mostly the people around me perceive that I am obnoxious, judgemental which I am not, I just need time to think and register information for myself. Simply put I just want to acknowledge and celebrate the person that I am and feel no shame in not responding appropriately in social situations because the appropriateness of the situation has been determined by a society which is dominated by extroverts.


What Marriage and Motherhood Taught Me!!

I married pretty young, it was a choice I made and I was and I am very comfortable with it. For a long time my whole life revolved around my husband and my family. I was always a very independent girl both in my thoughts and my actions and getting married did not change that and I did not want this aspect to change. You know how the initial years of marriage are, the merriment, the joy, the wandering, the carefree attitude. I was having a ball, all through this, I was so busy that my personal life ceased to exist or my personal life only existed around my husband and his friends as they became my new world. As fate would have it, we had a baby after a few years and life only became more busier (Let’s say “more” is an understatement). I was being drawn to this vicious cycle of nappy changing, feeding, managing home and work.

And one day, Boom, I got exhausted, I got tired of the mundane routine, of knowing that I had lost a part of myself in the whole process. My husband got busy with work, of course I did not expect him to be the same boy I had fallen for, he was a man now, but life suddenly was moving at an unfathomable speed which somehow I was unable to pace up with. And the moment I sat down to ponder I realized what was amiss. Marriage and motherhood was never meant to snatch my aspirations, steal my identity and frankly they did not. It was me who got drifted so swiftly that I forgot to anchor myself. I kept myself very low in the family pyramid and now I was pushing myself much farther down. I saw that my husband had maintained his friendships while I over the years had lost touch with many as I had not made the effort, because work and home became my priority. Is it wrong? No it is not, but what forgetting yourself is wrong.

There would be many who would differ from me, probably my temperament is different. But I see a lot of women around me doing this, somehow it is taken for granted that it is our responsibility to manage all. And the strange part is not many speak about it too, because we feel the same way. We panic when food is not on table on time, when the child is late for school, or we miss some assignments. In the pursuit of being the perfect wife and mother, somehow we stop living our lives and start living for others and trust me I have learnt that we raise their expectations much higher than our capabilities. We need to learn to speak up, to be able to set a threshold for ourselves.

And so I decided to revisit my earlier self, to start enjoying things I used to cherish earlier. I decided to make new friends, go out alone or with my friends, just start life afresh. This is no way means that I ignore my family but only means that I take out time for myself. It is difficult in the beginning and probably even the family gets a shock, but it would be alright eventually. It is important to value the ‘I’ that we are, loving yourself first is not being selfish it is just being fair to yourself. Let us make this non-negotiable, both marriage and motherhood should be an evolvement to be a better happy person and not a heap of responsibilities that weighs us down. In loving yourself, trust me you are helping those around you, because you will be happier and in turn they would too. Reclaim your lost identity, be brave to nurture yourself, it is alright to put yourself first, OK to say no, OK to set limits, simply OK to be just you.

And trust me your family would be supportive, they are what they are because you set your standards, after an initial jolt everything would fall into place. Be kind to yourself, it is important.

I am not a Small Talk Person

“I cannot entertain them anymore”, I said to my husband. “But they are your relatives”, he replied. I looked at him in utter confusion, how could I have missed it? “But still”, I said, “I am tired of the small talk now”. Nevertheless I went outside to attend my guests, only praying fervently that they leave as soon as they can.

This is me, the part of me which I don’t know whether I hate or love the most. If I am portraying a picture that I am anti-social, let me be clear I am not. I just like my kind of people, I am OK to keep my circle limited. Those close to me can vouch that I am big-big talker, but with the ones where my wavelength does not match I come out to be the most snobbish person around. I find it very difficult to continue having conversations just for the sake of it, I can do it for some time but after a while my thread of patience snaps.

This aspect of my personality is very difficult to maintain and live with especially if you live in Punjabi family, and as my good luck would have it, I am a part of a big fat Punjabi family. It is a task to make them understand that I am not rude but just this is a way I am. Entertaining guests and relatives is a huge part of Punjabi household, and when I say entertaining it means that they are not left alone or bored when they have for all three meals, probably even for days. It is considered outrageously rude in a Punjabi family if you are not capable of making and fabricating conversations. I mean I am not talking about just finishing the conversations after the pleasantries, or making sure they are fed and are comfortable. It goes way beyond it, it involves count of breaths you have taken, liters of petrol filled in your car, number of times you visited washroom, to topics which are way beyond your comprehension. And if you are like me, after sometime the whole aura becomes claustrophobic as all you hear are conversations which are loud, cross conversations where no one is understanding what the other is saying, but still continuing with the conversation, or just nonstop talking with no end. The constant pressure of proving yourself in the Punjabi household is enormous. The word “Introvert” is non-existent in a Punjabi dictionary.

And when the family is not enough, you have your office. I always believed that your work should be able to speak for itself, but I could not have been more wrong. In today’s cosmetic corporate world everything hangs on whether you are a glib sycophant or not. I am an opinionated and informed person I love talking about a subject if I know about it, but to talk just to climb the ladder of success or be in good books is just not me. I mean complimenting for genuine things is one thing, but to keep having conversations just for no rhyme or reason when everyone knows you are not best of friends is absurd to me. I am bad at this, and trust me I regret it, it affects me both emotionally and financially and comes with a baggage of insecurities, but there is nothing I can do about it. I cannot fake conversations.

I understand the importance of small talk, I realize that I come out as a very self-centered person to many which I am not and I am very sure of that. I know small talk is so essential in today’s time and time and again people have tried to make me understand this but somehow I fail to. I love the cocoon shell I create for myself, of thoughts, of ideas, and perspectives. Conversations are personal and sacred to me, I have my reservations for them. Being genuine is a very important facet for me in anyone hence small talk is not for me. But yes I need to improve on my social skills to be able to survive in a Punjabi family, but that’s a separate story all together which I will take up some other day.

To Start Living, Rather than Merely Existing

I can’t see the bigger picture, I just can’t. I live in the small things, I am always scared to take the leap, personally, professionally, financially, anything, change terrifies me. My husband always teases me that I am not a risk-taker, I calculate my steps, I am a planner,  I save, I fret about finances, I fret about expenses, I ponder a lot before making any investments. Ahhh, this is me, and trust me I so want to change somethings about myself, I want to feel free, slacken, enjoy life, but it does not come easily to me. And also over time I realized that nothing is enough for me, I always kept praying, “God, just a little more and then I would be content”. But it so never happens.

So I decided after a lot and lot and lot of pondering that there are certain things that I really need to change. I mean I see people around who have much less than what I have and they manage just fine, and I keep wondering how? The trick is to find solace in what I have right now. So here are my set of rules that trust you me I would imbibe them soon into my life (Fingers crossed!!!).

First and foremost, STOP, STOP and I mean like RED LIGHT STOP moaning about things I don’t have and appreciate the things I have, I know it sounds trite and stale but that’s the truth, looking at the world around and envying what they have achieved, does not help in any way, so I think it would be better that I start appreciating and improving what I have right here with me.

The next up on my list is something I absolutely loved doing when I was much younger, I really don’t know why I stopped, and it is to DAYDREAM. OMG don’t we all just daydream, I used to daydream about almost everything when I was much younger and those little precocious dreams of mine eventually used to turn to reality. But then I stopped, I thought it just did not make sense, I came to believe in doing rather than dreaming. Though no doubt the latter is important but so is dreaming, it opens so many doors to go out and achieve. And so I have decided to spend some time in dreaming every day. Oh it will be so much fun!!! J

Alright so up next, you see I am very bold, I argue and challenge things a lot, but I am scared of making fun of myself in public and hence more than often I don’t take risks or don’t try something new. It scares me to bits to think that I would not turn out good at it and this stops me from even giving it a shot. Perfection is very important to me. I really need to stop doing that and start taking risks as there is so much to explore and achieve. I so need to get out of my dreadful zone of doubt and just go out there and do whatever it is.

And yet again, I have to absolutely stop being the control freak that I am, let go and accept certain things, my house can never be clean all day along, especially when I have a toddler. I cannot keep wiping the bathroom floors after every single drop of water that is spilled. I cannot keep arranging my cushions every time I feel that somebody sat on the sofa and pressed my cushions too hard.

I don’t want to be miserable anymore. Stress from job, marriage, home, kid, gets on me most of the time. The pressure to be the best hovers on my head all the time, and in the process I am losing my sanity. Letting go, delegating, taking a break now and then, making time for myself, not being affected by what others a have achieved or what others are doing, especially the social media crap, I mean watching my friend’s post of the latest place she visited swirls my mind, as if I am missing out on so many things, where in reality I am happy where I am. I think I push myself too hard, sometimes so hard that I fear that the thread of my patience would snap. So from here on, I have decided to take a break, give a pat on my back now and then, because I know I am awesome. I still have many years to live (I hope!!), so it is better that I start living it as well.

Behind the Forbidden Doors

She sat at the window and glared down the road. The sweeper was cleaning the ruins from the last night, she watched as he swept and let many things remain where they were. There was no point telling him that he was being lazy as he would not pay any heed to her, like many did not. She continued watching the day unfold. People walked down the road, shops were starting to open for the day. There were not many who looked up to see her, some young men did now and then, glaring was often followed by whistles. Nothing made her uncomfortable now, she was well adjusted to her surroundings, this the life she had chosen, this is the life she needed to survive.

She got up from the balcony and sighed, and went to the kitchen to make her breakfast, last night was horrible. She realized she did not have the same energy anymore and she was not interested in fulfilling every customer’s whims any longer. Money was all she needed to survive and it was hard getting any these days. People were always interested in the younger girls, and she was aging. She lacked the patience now and had almost forgotten the art of seduction. Survival was her sole motive to stay here. There was nothing much to look forward to for her, already in her late thirties, she had never had kids, neither did she want any. Her own family had disowned her years ago, she herself was left with no urge to meet them.

After a long breakfast, she cleaned up her room, she had always been tidy, even though the world called her a ‘dirty woman’, she liked her surroundings clean. She had cried after her first customer inconsolably, she could hardly remember how she had reached here, years of work had made her memory bleak. The business was good when she was young, she had entertained all sorts of men in her prime years. Some were sweet, some cruel, yet some abusive and some were lover boys. She remembers falling for one and almost running away with him far away from this world before the lover boy got cold feet. After this she understood the world like she never had before, she never trust anyone, just did her business and went on.

As years passed by, she had several ups aand downs but she was always happy that no matter how, she was able to take care of her needs on her own. This little world of hers had made her strong and she knew come what may she could very well take care of herself. Sure if a chance came she decided many times to leave everything and lead a normal life, but over the years she also understood that once here you could never be anywhere else. Even if she tried and forget, the world always remembered.

As the day drew close to an end, her day was just beginning, as the shops closed downstairs, quirky lights lit up her area. She readied herself for the night ahead, a deep plunging neckline, with a bright lipstick, topped with a flashy face and clinking bangles, and a lot of talcum powder, she was ready for the night. She stood near a pole and started gesturing at men passing by, calling out men to come and take her with them. Some came near but she was not happy with the money they were offering, many preferred going to the much younger girls around. The night ended with no customers for her. It was worrying as she still had to pay the rent. She climbed up the stairs to reach her room and took a blanket over her, it was a cold night. As she slept she dreamt of her village when she was a little girl, she was running to the river with her friends to take a bath, the wind was cool and she was happy playing with her friends, she could not wait to go back home to her mother who she knew had prepared her favorite rice and dal. After a heavy meal, she remembered falling asleep in her mother’s lap as her mother told her stories of a prince charming who would come soon to take her along. She could only smile as she went into the dreamland.

Time for Yourself: Its Essential

I recently read an article which emphasized on the fact that Indian women are not trained or prepared to live alone. Solitude is something that they cannot imagine to exist, it’s a word that ceases to exist in their day to day dictionary. And come to think of it it’s true. And here I am not talking about women who decide to stay alone, the ones who decide not to marry or are divorced or simply because they want to. Our society in general does not think too high of these women, there has to be a reason for a woman to decide to live alone and trust me no reason is good enough ever. Hence, mostly under no circumstances can a woman who decides to live alone, can do so peacefully.

But I am focusing on women who have families and they decide to sneak a few days, hours or even minutes in solitude. This concept is alien to many. They are raised to believe that their time is not theirs, it is for the family, it is to make sure the family lives comfortably, it is to make sure that food is on the table, clothes are kept ironed in the cupboard, the domestic help gets paid on time, and yes amidst all this to make sure that everyone is happy. They become so accustomed to all the chaos around them all the time that snatching time alone for themselves in between all this feels absurd, they feel lost and deceived in the absence of others.

And why does it sound bizarre to me while I have seen the women in my family and even my MIL to a certain extent lead the same life I mentioned above. But nonetheless it is bizarre not outrageously but enough for me to take a stand against it (Come to think of it I am in a habit to take a stand against many things). Few years into my marriage I concluded that I needed this ‘Me’ time to remain sane and keep everyone around me sane. I could not mold myself to the thought that my life could not be mine anymore it was for others, I was OK to share it but to give it up completely was something I was not comfortable with. And I followed my heart, I decided that no matter what, I would take out some ‘Alone time’ as and when I could.

A male colleague of mine was recently complaining that his wife keeps grumbling about the amount of time he spends at home, she feels that he is out most of the time with his friends rather than being at home with her and their 2 year old son. I asked him if she does take time alone for herself, and my colleague gave me a revolted look and asked me what that was supposed to mean, she was alone with the kid all day. So you see what I mean. I am not sure if she wants to spend time alone but I also know that she has not tried it ever. I had read a short story once where the husband of a middle aged woman had to be away for 5 years for work. When he went away the family was worried of how she would manage alone, she had the same apprehension. But at night when she was all alone it was the first time that it struck her that she was alone and it was feeling good. She could finally do things that she wanted to do without fretting about home. And lest to say she fared well.

I am not saying that all women should decide to live alone, we need families, and friends they all are good people. I am just saying that in between all this hustle bustle once in a while it is OK to breathe in the elixir of solitude. I have days when I sit alone in cafes, or go to movies alone, or sometimes even go on my historical expeditions that I absolutely love on my own (The mere thought of this can give sleepless disgruntled nights in my family, I know). And when I come back not only do I realize what my family means to me but also feel rebooted. Taking time alone for me is a necessity it might not be the same case with everyone but we should not be anxious of it. It takes a lot of effort and lot of sacrifices to give yourself up for others and women are the only creatures capable of it but the balance I think would help many get out of the dilemma that they don’t even know exists.

The Box Life: In Delhi Metro

I love travelling by the metro, I regret that these instances have become scarce now but nonetheless whenever I do I always come out rejuvenated. I know this sounds crazy to many, taking into account the craziness of over filled metros or the mixture of smells that fill the air from expensive, even ultra-expensive perfumes to the stench of sweat. This is not one of the travels that everyone looks forward to with people stomping your foot, or comfortably leaning on your back while you are leaning on a pole. Reading a book, turning your head, grabbing a bottle of water, getting your phone out of your pocket, keeping a check on all your belongings, making way to the exit when your destination arrives, yes it can be nightmare travelling by metro.

But then why do I get so fascinated by it, is it simply because I am always fascinated by absurd things or because you see so much life happening in the course of your travel, I cannot be sure. Women in the metro intrigue me, because I see so many facets of everyday life. One can find women of all ages of course, but what is also interesting are the various backgrounds they belong to. From burqa-clad women to girls in shorts, you find everyone there. Unmarried women, some engaged, others probably in a relationship with their phones held tightly to their ears, their conversations with their men are endless. Many newly married girls with big bright bangles or large bindis on their forehead who look at the unmarried ones with envy as their time has passed, they do get occasional calls from their husbands but those end after the location of the metro is identified. And then obviously there are the long married women or women with kids who have by now realized that most of this will fade away sooner or later when reality strikes in, all they want to do is to sit and catch up with their sleep.

The conversations are as interesting as the people, from young college or school girls exuberant and loud who discuss the latest trends in fashion, movies and food, there is an unstoppable surge of selfies that are being clicked, the giggling and gossips are endless. Yet another set of women are busy gossiping about their life at home, the obvious target are mostly their mother-in-laws who suffer the maximum brunt, stories are shared, solutions discussed, these conversation mostly end with a sigh and a decision to surrender to the situations because they conclude that there is nothing much they can change about it. Some of the conversations are office gossips where the bosses and their favorites become the target these are mostly accompanied with a lot of hand movement and shaking of heads.

And then there are the old ladies who see and observe all they nod their heads in disapproval at the short clothes or conversations, they are the ones who can give you long stares throughout your journey if they don’t like you. They are also the ones who start abrupt conversations and start telling you their experiences. They are glad they are able to see a day when they could travel in a metro. For them INDIA has developed.

So I see, hear, connect, observe these people. Something about it makes me smile when I reach my destination, I do open my book to read, almost always or plug in my ear phones for music but eventually I give up and decide to soak up everything that is happening around me and that in itself feels like an experience.