My Opinion On Opinions

I was probably around the impressionable age of six that day. Not unlike your everyday six year old girl in the 90s, I lived for two things – Barbie dolls and delicious food. And sometimes I’d walk around on my toes, wrapped in mom’s sheer dupatta and pretend to be Miss India. But it was mostly the food.

On the aforementioned day, I had accompanied my parents for dinner to someone’s place. I can’t recall whose house it was, but I do remember it was a newly married couple, because along with the memory of the incident comes a memory of a dozen red and white bangles jingling on a delicate wrist every time I was served food.

We were eating homemade Chinese. Terrible homemade Chinese. There was too much soya sauce in the Manchurian, the noodles were too thick and greasy and the whole point of the chewy chicken dish was destroyed with the amount of vegetables it had in it. After dinner, the host affectionately asked if I enjoyed my meal and I, full from the meal, decided it was my duty to now dish out ­­constructive criticism.
I let her know I was not pleased. My palette was not designed to enjoy the marriage of starch and soya she’d placed before me, nor was it created to have to bear with that rubber she called chicken (or whatever there was of it). I was like Gordon Ramsay on crack. Of course everyone laughed it off, but I felt the warmth disappear from the young lady’s hug as she thanked me for coming over.

There was an unbearable silence in the car as we drove back home. I kept trying to break it with a joke or a song, but the weight of it made me feel like I’d done something wrong. I asked. I always ask – it’s better than living off assumptions. So I asked my mother if I’d done something wrong.

“No,” she said, almost immediately, her voice tinted with disappointment. “You did something that wasn’t nice. If you don’t have something nice to say to someone with good intentions, don’t say it.”

I didn’t understand the difference between ‘wrong’ and ‘not nice’ then. I do now. You might disagree with what my mother said to me that day. On some level, I do too. We’re living in an era of unprecedented freedom of speech and everyone has an opinion on everything, laced with emoticons and hashtags, ready with links and videos, efficiently packaged with technology to shove itself down the throats of unsuspecting consumers.

I recently watched a video called ‘My Choice’ by Deepika Padukone for the Vogue Empower campaign. It was mostly because of the barrage of negative comments that I decided to watch it. Words like ‘hypocritical’ and ‘urban garbage’ have been used against this video. It amazes me how people have so much time, to sit through something they don’t enjoy watching from start to finish, analyze it, form opinions on it, discuss it online, bash, shame, protest. Does this community not get exhausted complaining over and over again, making a fuss about things that were merely designed to make people who enjoy it smile and those who don’t, ignore it and move on with their lives?

There was recently a big brouhaha about a photograph that Canada based poet Rupi Kaur posted on Instagram showing a lady in bed with a blood stain on her behind as well as on the bedsheet, accompanied with words on the taboo in India around the topic of menstruation. Personally, I could not appreciate it. In fact, for the first time, I was unable to move on with my life after seeing something online that I didn’t agree with. What did I do about it? I could have written a 1000-word long post about how the reason I don’t discuss my periods in public is not because it’s a social taboo, but the same as why I don’t discuss my toilet habits. But before we begin to so vehemently oppose what’s on the internet, we need to consider that we chose to watch the video. Read the blog post. Listen to the podcast. Was the intent of the artist to piss you off? Because if it wasn’t, you really need to relax.

Life is too short to watch movies you don’t rejoice in, to read books you don’t find an absolute delight. Life’s too short to spend getting offended and complaining about art. Do what makes you happy, savor what you enjoy. Spread good energy.

You have the right to an opinion. You have the right to share this opinion. You also have a right to publicly complain about what you can’t appreciate, and shame those who do for their point of view. These can’t be classified as right or wrong. I just feel what we say online should be driven by the same set of rules that govern our offline interactions.

If you don’t like something, raise your voice.

If you don’t like something and the act of raising your voice doesn’t help anyone or leave anybody happier apart from yourself, ignore it.

If you don’t have something nice to say to someone with good intentions, don’t say it.

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Love and Other Verbs

Love at first sight is rather easy to understand, don’t you think? What really grinds your gears? Grey eyes? Intelligent conversation? The way a person handles their fourth whiskey and the words they utter once it’s vanished?

Either way, love at first sight is ridiculously simple. People get it. They make movies about it. They write novels about it. It’s the ‘cool’ kind of love, I guess. The concept is easy to grasp because most people have an idea about what they want and when they see something similar to their idea of what they want, they usually decide they love it. And believe it or not, love is a decision. It all sounds very romantic and poetic to say you had no choice in the matter and that you weren’t accountable for your feelings; but while you’re out there being poignant about your life, you’re also being ignorant. Love takes time and effort, love takes dedication and decision, it takes work and it takes patience and sooner or later you realize that love in itself is a verb.

Sometimes in life we find love we aren’t looking for. What does one do with love they weren’t looking for? Some people discard it. ‘We’re not ready,’ they say. And it’s true, they aren’t, they’re simply just not ready. The trouble with even the most brilliant meal when one isn’t hungry is just that – they’re not hungry. And hunger and readiness for love are just among the long list of things one can’t force in life.

Some people, however, take it in their stride. They take the love they’re given and use it to warm themselves. They take the love and use it to smile. They take the love and use it to feel, because in this era of fashionably silent heart and constant distractions, feeling feelings requires the aid of something.

I was lost. I was happy, ridiculously so, but lost nonetheless. I had an agenda, a definite plan, and you came unannounced and charmed me into this life without an exit strategy. And the problem with your love is that it makes me content. I had plans, sweetheart, I had a blueprint and a paintbrush and a quill and a pot of ink and I thought I had the gourmet recipe for happiness. And suddenly, there I was, standing with my artillery and all your love, with no war to fight. Lost in the right direction, but lost all the same. Smiling, but lost. Warm, but lost. Using your love, but not to find directions.

Did I scare you while I was lost? I think all the weightlessness scared me.  I had lost touch with the girl I used to be and you kept bringing me so close to the brink of recollection, it was terrifying. It still is, it’s bloody petrifying, and it makes my toes numb from time to time. How could you take me, with all my madness? We’re the same on the surface, but within, we’re worlds apart. I want to breathe the air of new places and to feel every emotion there is to be felt in this mortal human life. I want to fall in love with the insides of things.  I want to taste colors and savor sunsets and listen to the sound of birds chirping make-belief conversations, because really understanding things is only so much fun.

And the reason its bloody petrifying is because I want to do it all with you. And I’m scared you’ll ask why, because I have no answer. I will find beauty in sadness and I will draw worlds from a single expression of yours and I can’t promise anything but constant emotion. But if you’ll have that and me with it, you’ll see there’s a beauty in that too.

I haven’t done a love before that wasn’t at first sight, so I don’t have a master plan here. I haven’t the faintest idea what grinds my gears here. I just know that your hands feel like home and your smiles feel as familiar as your sighs, so really how hard could it be?

There’s something beautiful about booking a one way ticket, isn’t there?