I guess, this post should have been my first or second post, but I was unsure then of what I was doing.
Here is a little backstory- I started this blog on my birthday and just to give you a little more insight- I had the suckiest birthday this year, or perhaps in the hindsight, I didn’t have the suckiest birthday. It was low-key, I did nothing. I was knitting, and that’s about it. My mom felt bad and tried to overcompensate which annoyed me further, but it wasn’t really my mom’s fault. I had the suckiest birthday because I was in the suckiest place in my life- I had recently lost a job, a job I was good at, lost my first adopted cat, my first healthy relationship and on the top of all of this, everyone around me seemed happy living their lives. I kept on wondering what is it that these people in my Instagram and Facebook feed knew, that I didn’t? It seemed like they had won the lottery, that they had done it, people were getting married, getting accepted in universities outside, having babies, getting a promotion, somehow they had cracked the secret to life, and I was stuck here- jobless, petless, boyfriend-less. I still didn’t know what I wanted in my life (for the record I still don’t) and I wasn’t anywhere close to figuring it out. On the top of it, wherever I applied I received rejections. I received close to 10 rejections in the past 1 and half months.
So I did, what I always do when I have no idea where my life is going, I am no longer steering the wheel and it’s on auto-pilot, I dove in my mind- a whirlpool of genius crazy ideas, anxiety, sadness, and self-pity. Every morning I had a new idea, which I pursued with fervent enthusiasm for probably 20 minutes, which was soon replaced by thoughts around practical concerns, then anxiety, then sadness, then indifference and back to another great idea. This blog was a result of a great idea-see the thing is I have always wanted to write, to become a writer, to be a published author/poet, for people to read my words, and somehow I didn’t just do enough to get better at it- I have been writing in journals and scribbling poems since I was about 9 or 10, but I had never shown it to people around me, I thought and believed that it sucked, and it wasn’t worthy of being read, over the years, this fear of not being good enough just went deeper and deeper until one day, it settled itself comfortably in my veins, now everytime I wrote, my veins throbbed with the burning fear. To get over this, I thought let me start a blog, and I know it’s not an original idea, I have tried my hand at blogging at least thrice before, but never really stuck to it- lack of discipline and fear of being read and ridiculed or not being read at all. So this time, I upped the ante and I bought a domain name. I figured if I paid for it, I would stick to it. Rational thinking, you invest a little and you want to make sure your investment doesn’t go to waste. And for the month of January, I posted regularly. I made 12 blog posts which are three posts per week- a goal I had set for myself. Come February, the scenario had changed, barring today, I had made only one blog post. So like any reasonable person, I sat down and tried to strategize- I was way behind schedule and this just wasn’t done, I had made a goal and I was nowhere near it. I tried making a structure for myself, but then thought about the purpose of this blog first- why did I start it? I wrote down my answer in a simple line:
“I started my blog so I could become disciplined about writing.”
The purpose is clear and simple, but then the question that arose was what am I going to be writing about? Because a part of the reason why I hadn’t been posting was also that I didn’t know what I want to post So it was essential that I find an answer to this. Here is what I want to write about- my views and opinions- DUH, post my poetry and short stories, write about my personal projects that I keep undertaking and forsaking and write about things that matter to me- animals, environment, education, feminism, culture and much more. I don’t have an exhaustive list, but I guess this is a starting point. So a month and a half and 14 (including this one) blog posts later, I have a little more clarity about my blog and what I want to put in it. A late bloomer in the blogging world, I guess.
Now you may be wondering, I started with talking about my suckiest birthday and then claiming it wasn’t the suckiest after all. Here is why- because of my anxiety, sadness, indifference, anger, and bolts of genius ideas- I started a blog on my birthday, I started decluttering, I started a bullet journal, I started an initiative called- A bag of kindness, I started knitting and finished my first ever self-knitted cowl, I adopted another pet- Zoro, the puppy I found on streets, I tried getting him adopted but I guess he is going to stay with me, he is a bundle of love and chews everything in sight and well I reached a place in my life where I am not swimming in a pool of anxiety but resting on a beach nearby, I know sooner or later, this anxiety would return, I would again feel I don’t know what I am doing with my life, I would again go to a dark place in my head where I have often traveled, but I know I will make it out and again start something small.
I started my journey into minimalism and decluttering almost a week back after watching a documentary on Netflix. I had titled it Project STUFF. While I went on decluttering shelves, shoe racks, and bags and taking out things I didn’t need in my life and packing it in bags, the pile started growing.
Here are the pictures of Day 2,3 and 4 of Project STUFF.
Now, I knew I wanted to donate most of the things like I had said it in my previous post, but I didn’t know if it would really reach someone who needed it. The answer to this dilemma presented itself when I went to watch a play- A lunch in Paris presented by Cineaste theatre, at Akshara theatre, near Connaught Place,
Two things happened. One I met two adorable dogs, Moti, and a nameless pup.
Two, I met a woman named Sunita. I also met her husband and her daughter Anjali. They are homeless and they had migrated from a village in Maharashtra to Delhi to find work. It had been a month and they were sleeping just outside the theatre. Moti was their adopted pet and they didn’t know where the other nameless pup had come from. There was no mother around. I struck a conversation with Sunita and she asked me to help her out. I am wary of helping out anyone financially, not because I don’t believe in the goodness of people, but I know that money can be misused. I went to watch the play, had a few laughs, and went back home still thinking about Sunita’s family, unemployment, poverty and the motherless nameless pup and wondering about how I could help them. Still thinking about it at night, I was reminded of a video I once watched of a little kid helping out the needy and homeless by packing them a bag of things they would need. I glanced at my pile of things I didn’t need and I knew what I had to do. I simply had to pack a bag of kindness for them. And so I did. Here is what all I packed for the family.
Most of it I had at home- a warm shawl, a sweater, a notebook, pencil, eraser, a pair of fats,washing soap, hand soap, hair oil, hair ties, razor, safety pins, a comb, a small toothpaste and then there were some things I bought to add to the bag: A leaf of crocin medicine, hand lotion, Vicks vaporub and a packet of color for the daughter and a chocolate. I traveled back to give it to them. They were ecstatic. The girl kept on asking for shoes and another kid came and asked me to get him a notebook and some colors too. I plan to pack a bag of kindness for him as well. They also brought the motherless pup to me, he looked tiny and weak so I got him home.
He is currently living with me but I can’t keep him so I am fostering him and hoping someone would adopt him and give him a safe, loving home.
I am cute, ain’t I?
And more cuddles
Inspired by the events of the day, I started a page for Project Stuff and a bag of kindness. I am also thinking of coming up with a list of all the things a homeless person would need and to put all of that in one bag and asking others to contribute.
Just undertaking the exercise of decluttering has given me a perspective, a cute little pup and a way I can help people. Small steps, big change.
Last night, I watched a documentary titled- Minimalism- A documentary about the important things on Netflix. I knew of minimalism, I had heard about it, knew what it meant, the word itself gives away a lot. But at the end of the documentary, I was convinced that I need to try this out. For people out there, who do not know what minimalism stands for, or don’t have the patience to sit through an entire documentary, or read literature, here is what it means:
This minimalism isn’t about art or literature, it’s a philosophy of life. You choose to surround yourself only with things you need in your life or that add value to your life and discard the things that don’t. It could very well be an antonym for consumerism, an ideology, that propagate greed and encourage increased consumption of goods.
Whereas consumerism tells you that you need that, you also need that and you definitely need that, minimalism asks you, what do you need?
I am going to give you a little more context of who I am, and why I want to embark on this journey especially since I have always been a self-proclaimed shopaholic.
I was born in a middle-class family, well provided for, we always had enough and even indulged sometimes, but I was surrounded by relatives, cousins who somehow always had more than what I did. As a child, it was difficult to understand that they had more because they could afford more, I had less because my parents could afford less. Please note, I was in no way, not provided for. All my basic needs were taken care of. I had shelter, I had security, I ate three meals a day, I went to a good school, I had many clothes, a lot of Barbie dolls, books, shoes, bags, pencils, colors, puzzles, a walkman, and many other things that I don’t even remember now. I had enough. I had more than enough. But I still wanted more, probably because I was surrounded by a lot of people who had more, or the same things but better, a better house, a better barbie doll, better hair clips. So I grew up with things that I needed and things that I wanted, and slowly the pile of things I wanted, started increasing.
I moved out of my home at 17 and that is when this habit of always looking out for more stuff, wanting more stuff, worsened. I was in control of money now. My father sent me a generous amount every month to cover all expenses and though it was a limited amount, it was more than enough, so I indulged, without being under the watchful eye of my parents, I bought more than I needed. I bought clothes, a lot of them, I bought books, I bought earrings, I bought shoes, I bought home decor items, I even bought bookmarks, I mean who buys bookmarks, but I did. And by the end of the month, I was broke, and I had to ask my parents for more money, which they never refused. I tried controlling my spending, I tried limiting what I spent, I tried saving, I failed. I always carried a guilt that I was wasting my parent’s money and that somehow slowed down my spending but never curbed it.
Three years of college went like that and I got a job. I was employed. Now, not only did I have control over money, but it was the money that I was earning. The guilt vanished. I bought more stuff, that I really didn’t need. Another three years working, earning and spending. I was still broke by the end of every month. I hardly saved or had money for an impromptu trip.
Cut to present, I am unemployed, and not having a regular stream of income discomforts me. I was having a conversation with my mother, when she asked me, ‘Why does it make me uncomfortable taking money from them?’ I always thought it was about my financial independence which I value deeply in my life, but I also realized, a major part of it was my ability to spend without guilt. I didn’t want to lose that. I wanted to spend however I wanted on whatever I wanted, without being questioned. The other day, I went to Decathlon, and I ended up buying three pieces of clothing I had no need of- a pair of shorts, a skirt, and a sweatshirt. I spent a thousand bucks on it and it made me kinda happy. Momentarily. I had been feeling down and low for quite a while now, and it just cheered me up, I also bought a magazine that I am sure I am not going to read. Why do we do that? I have acquired so much stuff in my life, what for? I even give away stuff easily, things I am bored of, old things, old clothes, but then I acquire more. Why? This hedonistic lifestyle that we are all living, what is the purpose of that? What does it lead to? Happiness. Yes. For an hour perhaps, or a week, and soon its back to the same thing. Our lives have become more about consumption than experiencing. We consume and consume and consume and we are told to consume more. I was an economics student and there is a concept, ‘Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility’. It states, that keeping other factors constant, the marginal utility or simply put the satisfaction of consuming a product, would decrease with every subsequent unit. So let’s say you have an ice-cream, and you perceive the utility of the first ice-cream cone as 10, the next ice-cream you eat, the utility decreases to 8 and then with each subsequent unit, it keeps on decreasing. And yet we keep on consuming. One after the other. Perhaps, we are trying to recreate that feeling of happiness or satisfaction that we felt when we consumed the first unit. Everyone knows how it feels to walk in a showroom, look at beautiful clothes, browse around, pick some, go into the trial room, try new outfits, and you know you look great and then you head towards the payment counter, swipe your card and it’s yours. Just like that. So you go back home, hang it in the cupboard and you feel happy, like this was a good buy, you look great in it and a few days later, you are back to feeling miserable, you hate your job, or your boss yelled at you, so you go out again, this time to a make-up shop perhaps, you buy a new red lipstick, because red’s your shade, and you come back and you put it in your make-up box and then a few days later its a new pair of sunglasses, or a sling bag that would go with the dress you bought, and oh you definitely have to buy a new pair of shoes, or another gadget or something that is just needed to do something to complete something, to make you feel whole. Doesn’t it sound depressing? It does to me, yet I do the exact same thing, with clothes, with bags, with stationary.
How do you break out of this? Do you go become a hermit? A recluse? Give up earthly pleasures? Give up going to ZARA, Forever 21, H and M, buying new phones, new shoes, new bags, new gadgets, new car? Yes and No. You give up what you don’t need, you build a life which is not consumed by stuff. You clear up. You become an active participant in your own life. You choose.
How do I break out of this? With a project that I have decided to call Project STUFF. I want to regain control over my life, I want to enforce my will on myself, cut down my consumption and my spending, and live a life which is more than just STUFF.
How will Project STUFF work? Every week I am going to pick three spaces in my house that I am going to declutter. The stuff in those spaces will be segregated into three categories,
Things I need
Things I don’t want to let go of
Things I don’t need
For all the stuff that I will put in category 3- I am going to donate some and sell some. (I know selling seems a little skeptical after my rant about consumption and consumerism, but I hope, people would only buy it if they really need it.) All this while, I am not going to buy anything new, anything (except replenishable goods and groceries) for the duration of the entire month of February. Baby steps.
Today was Day.1 of my project STUFF. I started with my desk. That was the most messed up, cluttered thing in my house, and possibly the easiest to start with. To document my progress, I am going to be taking pictures and posting it here, and on my Instagram account. I am going to measure my progress and sum it up on February 28, I have something in my mind to showcase it but I won’t reveal it as of now.
So go on, scroll down and see how DAY.1 of Project STUFF went:
So I started with decluttering the above three spaces- my desk, the table and the basket. I didn’t touch the books on my desk or inside the desk drawers or my files in the basket. Other than that yeah, I got everything out on the floor.
Here is how much stuff I had:
Then came the hard part, I had to segregate my stuff into things I need and things I don’t need. I took the liberty of putting things I don’t want to let go of in things I need and here is how the stuff looked after the segregation activity,
After an hour and half of decluttering and segregating, I neatly packed all the things I didn’t need in a cloth bag, soon to be donated or sold and I arranged the rest of my stuff.
Here is how my table looked at the end,
Do check out T-rex’s head.
Phew. That was long and tiring and frankly, it felt really good. I could have let go of more things, but this is how far I could push myself.
Tomorrow, I am going to choose another nook or corner of my small house and declutter that. And now I am tired of typing.
I am not an apple, a pear or a device measuring the passage of time. I am a woman, a living, breathing beautiful being.
STOP. Trying to fit me in a shape, I am boundless.
You can’t constrict me into geometrical entities. Numbers can’t determine my worth. Or so I tell myself.
I have spent countless days looking at my reflection in the mirror. Naked, mapping the silhouette of my body, bending down, just to count the number of rolls my stomach would make, jumping to see the flesh wiggle, pressing to see the bumps.
STOP. Trying to perverse my gaze to my own self.
I have spent hours pouring over articles about small meals, protein smoothies, flat abs, no cellulite, yoga body, bikini body, summer trends.
STOP. Trying to update my dictionary of my own self.
I have walked on a weighing scale and walked off, adjusted a bit, took off the extra piece of clothing hoping the needles would only turn a little more to left and the numbers would go down. One day, my dad joked why don’t you go to the moon, you’d weigh 1/6th of yourself and you could finally give up this morning battle. I hadn’t realized that the four walls of the bathroom had become my battleground.
STOP. Trying to make me into a martyr of a worthless cause.
I laughed and walked outside to see the stars and bask in the moonlight. I whispered to myself, I am a woman. The voices of tabloids and young teen boys were so loud, that my own voice, only whispered now. It was hard, at first, to stop the voices entering my head, to change the way I looked at myself, to not gage my worth with few saucy headlines, it was difficult to start treating myself, more than just a shape, a number, a figure, to let go of the old habit of picking up the measuring tape, and writing the number down, looking at other women, and be envious of their physical form.
It took a while to treat myself, like someone with intellect and ideas and views, it took a while, to not be offended by the rolls in my tummy and the thick thighs I was gifted with. It took a while to embrace my body, so I could then look deep into my soul. It took a while.
And I still haven’t won, but I have managed to push the enemies a little further, and one day I would regain my kingdom, somedays it feels I already have, and then there are days when I still suck in the air when I look at myself, I still bend, halfway and come up. I pick up the measuring tape, I walk on the weighing scale. It’s on those days, when I tell myself, don’t do it, it’s not worth it, breathe out, walk off, let go.
My first read of the year – Homo Deus, A brief history of tomorrow, took a total of 20 days or approx 3 weeks to finish. Not because, its a difficult read, thought-provoking yes, but not difficult, and we can thank Dr.Yuval Noah Harari for that. I have read Sapiens and was spell-bound by that book especially with the soothing, inquisitive voice of Dr.Harari guiding me through each page. Homo Deus had the same communicative voice and a rich narrative laced with some dry humor but somehow couldn’t captivate me as much as Sapiens did. One major put off was that Dr.Harari kept reiterating many of the statements and points he had already made in his first book. Homo Deus begins with an introductory chapter that sets the tone for the entire book, which is further divided into three parts. The introductory chapter is titled ‘The new human agenda’ and Dr.Harari states, that the future of humanity could be summed in attainment or pursuit of three categorically important virtues- Immortality, Bliss, and Divinity. Harari argues that by seeking immortality and perpetual bliss, humans or homo sapiens are trying to upgrade themselves in homo Deus, superhumans, gods or achieve divinity. It’s a huge claim to make and Harari goes on to chart the part of history once again and talks about how homo sapiens were able to climb the ladder of natural selection and conquered the world, slowly Harari moves on to the present and underlines the progress in different realms of the academic world- microbiology, history, computer science. He talks about the advances in the fields of nanotechnology, gene methodology, microbiology and artificial intelligence. Harari even argues that in this so-called post-liberal world, individuality or individuals won’t matter anymore, and the collective would regain its power. During his erudition of the present, Harari asks many questions and make some bold statements, some of which struck a chord with me such as,
“In the twenty-first century our personal data is probably the most valuable resource most humans still have to offer, and we are giving it to the tech giants in exchange for email services and funny cat videos.”
Slowly he builds up a future of humanity that is bleak, data-driven and looks a lot like the world of the matrix, without, a cute Keanu Reevs possibly saving the world. Harari also warns and states multiple times that these claims are not prophecies but possibilities of how the world might look like. Many a time, I was taken by Harari’s argument and was forced to acknowledge the reality I could see around myself, but I wasn’t entirely convinced either. At the end of the book, Harari leaves the reader with three questions:
Are organisms really just algorithms and is life really just data processing?
What’s more valuable- intelligence or consciousness?
What will happen to society, politics daily life when non-conscious (aka artificial intelligence) but highly intelligent algorithm know us better than we know ourselves?
Should you read this book? Yes, I would recommend it, but read it to understand one person’s perception of how the world might look like based on some facts and the current reality, read it so you are intellectually stimulated, and start asking more questions about the world and reality which we live in today, and your current choices are better informed, read it but do not make it a bible, do not start arguing with the world that artificial intelligence will take over the world.
The dawn breaks
With your sound.
Ruffling of feathers.
You have made a home
Invisible. I only hear
My house rings with
Your coos. A background score.
Outside, I witness your dance.
On the railing.
You read me. We are not friends.
You stay in your territory.
I stay in mine.
Your eyes follow my move.
I type away, hum in silence.
You pick up the twigs and gather bits.
I hear a call, sometimes,
I know it’s not meant for me
But I talk to you now.
My house has become your refuge.
Your coos have become mine.
– Avni Vij