Why did I start blogging?

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.

Project STUFF: My journey into the world of minimalism, decluttering and all that.

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,

  1. Things I need
  2. Things I don’t want to let go of
  3. 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:

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This is how my table looked.
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Another table with some odd things.

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:

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That’s quite a lot of stuff.
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This was just some crap lying in and around my desk and I threw this away on the first go. Didn’t flinch.

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,

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The left side is all things I don’t need and the right side is all things I need (and some I am not ready to let go yet)

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,

TA-DA!

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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.

Au revoir.

 

 

 

A packet of chips.

When I had started writing this post, I had named it- ‘Shit, jobless people do.’ But it soon transformed into something else and I had to rename it. What led me to rename a blog titled ‘Shit jobless people do’ to ‘A packet of chips’? Read on.

If the title didn’t give away, I would spell it out for all of you, a total of 4 followers and my stalkers on Facebook, I am currently jobless. Since I graduated long back in 2014, I have been working, with the exception of few months here and there, where I was pushed in an existential crisis and searching for the meaning of life. My first stint was in the glitzy world of corporate, doing the most boring god-forsaken work ever, though I learned a lot  (read exceptional MS-excel formatting skills), my soul had died, and I realized, doesn’t matter if I didn’t finish a year, an accepted minimum for a good CV, I am going to leave and so I did. I believe my second job was till now my most treasured two years ever spent, I worked with a reputed NGO as a fellow and taught for 2 years in a low-income community in Ahmedabad. Spending all my time either with kids or thinking about them or working for them, I enjoyed every single minute of it. I also hadn’t received so much of love until this, but alas, that came to an end, but it reaffirmed my belief in innocence, kindness, love and the world could be a better place, with stronger, beautiful, kind-hearted, smart children, and that income, skin color, religion has nothing to do with it. I soon transitioned to my latest job, where I wrote stories for kids- dream come true- but dreams don’t last forever, and neither did my job, but I did manage to travel a lot of Bihar, eat the best litti chokha in the world and meet some really beautiful people. Last 3 years have taught me a lot about myself. Reflection entered my dictionary, though I had always maintained a journal since I was 8, I was now consciously thinking about what I am doing, what I want to do, where am I going, what is right, what is not, the kind of life I want to live. Needless to say, I don’t know yet. I only know of things I don’t want to do. Probably elimination is my way of getting the right answer. The day before yesterday I was talking to a cousin, who said,

“Choosing a career or what do you want to do after 12th grade is a lot like choosing a packet of chips, without knowing how it would taste like.”

I couldn’t have agreed more. I have until now, eaten quite a lot of packet of chips, and I still haven’t found my flavor, some flavors have come quite near to being ‘the flavor’ but none have won. Yet. I also believe doing things that you would not rather do will take you closer to things that you’d rather. I have met people, intelligent, funny, working their ass off in a job they hate, I have met people intelligent, funny, working their ass off in their dream job, I have met people, talented, creative individuals, and seen talent paying off. I have also met people, talented, creative individuals, who are trying their hardest to make a name for themselves, to get recognized, to be known for their work, I have seen people with no talent living a life with all one could dream of.

I have met, seen, heard of all sorts of people and I have been a kind of person who’s lost, always on a threshold wondering if to step forward, to turn right or go back, a pendulum of sorts, moving from one puzzle piece to another, solving neither. To people like me, I’d say, take a deep breath, do all that you want to do, don’t let the world stop you-you were not born to sit comfortably in a plush chair in an air-conditioned room, or to travel the world, barefoot. You were born somewhere in between, wanting all- you are that thin visible line that separates the oil from the water.

You are neither oil nor water, you are somewhere in between, and be okay with that because you are the reason the oil and water don’t become one.

-Avni Vij

New Delhi World Book Fair

Like any loyal reader, even in the times of Amazon and Flipkart and convenience of getting a book delivered at your doorstep, I took a metro accompanied by a friend and reached Pragati Maidan, to attend the first day of the New Delhi World Book Fair (6-14.January.2018). I could only cover one entire hall, by the end of which I was hungry, my feet were hurting, and my back was aching, and I had 3 bags of books. The Penguin Random House stall received more footfall than any other major publishing houses. I ended up with 6 new books, not much if you don’t consider another 15 books lying unread at my place. Check the list out here.

All was well, till I exited the halls, and bought a cup of coffee from a stall and noticed the littering, and as I began ranting to my friend how irresponsible we are as citizens and how even if we have a dustbin nearby, literally five steps away, we would still throw it on the ground. I have always held the view, that people who read, are just the better lot of people. More humble, more empathetic, more aware. But, guess not. We resumed our long walk to the metro station, and at every step you could see plates, wrappers, tetra packs, just lying around. What would it take for a country of a billion to understand, that littering is not only an eyesore, but harmful to the environment, to the animals who munch up the polybag that you so effortlessly threw on the ground, to the person who would be responsible to clean all that shit up, and to frankly, you. It completely baffles me. All you have to do is to finish eating whatever the fuck you are eating and throw the wrapper in the dustbin. How difficult can that be? We would rather step on the trash than dispose it off. What does it say about us?

Another view greeted us, as we exited the gate. Hawkers, street carts, sellers with everything you could possibly imagine- cheela, shakarkandi, chana chaat, footwear and pirated books (the irony of it is not missed on me). I stopped to eat a plate of sweet potatoes, served on a leaf bowl, and soon threw it in the dustbin- a reused basket underneath the thela. I could see many other disposed leaf bowls there. Maybe all isn’t lost. The other thing that stood out to me was how there was a live, bubbling economy around me. How quickly these small entrepreneurs had capitalized on the opportunity. There were even some women selling bags. I took all of it in and then walked past them. Still noticing the trash.

The day had ended. The trash was still there. I went back home. Giddy with the happiness of buying new books, disappointed in Indians, as citizens and warmed by the zeal of the local entrepreneurs.

So if you are planning to check the Book Fair out, please do, and remember:

  1. You are going to buy more books you can read.
  2. Please throw the trash in the dustbin.
  3. Grab a chaat outside.
  4. Enjoy the bitter cold, once you leave the halls.

 

Parents- Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

In my view, homo sapiens, as a species, just doesn’t cover being a parent. One needs to upgrade and formulate a new species altogether with a sub-species of Indian parents. As soon as you make another human being- booyah, you are upgraded! The new species come with a packet of almonds and a handbook to parenting and how to fuck up your kid, and admission forms of the best primary schools in India, because who are we kidding, one needs to get a head start on that. But as an adult, who still gets 3 calls a day from her parents, there are few things I would like to say to them, provided they listen and don’t talk over or dismiss me with an odd task that really needs to be done right at the moment when I am sharing my views. But if, the world is one day taken over by technology and my parents’ figure out how internet works, get online, search my blog, the name of which they remember and get on it, here is what I would say to them,

  1. Not everything on Whatsapp is true. No, the XYZ cold-drink is not laced with a deadly virus.
  2. There is a thing called Fake News.
  3. When I say I have eaten, it means I had a packet of chips, a bowl of Maggie, and spoonful of peanut butter.
  4. I don’t do laundry every week.
  5. Delhi Belly wasn’t a bad film.
  6. The political party you support are a group of sexist, racist goons.
  7. Not everyone goes to Goa to smoke, drink and take drugs.
  8. Religion is not my priority. Being a good person is.
  9. Yes, I stay up late. I don’t know how I go to work in the morning.
  10. Marriage is not for everyone. And that’s okay.
  11. I know about sex. I have had sex. Sex is natural. Pre-marital sex is not a sin.
  12. I will not marry every guy I date. Yes, I will have multiple relationships.
  13. Homosexuality is okay. Just because it makes you uncomfortable doesn’t make it wrong.
  14. No, I don’t want to take this back home. I will never eat it and throw it out, the day before your visit.
  15. The full form of GPS is global positioning system.
  16. Yes, I switched off the geyser.
  17. Go get a hobby. I worry about you. Do something more.
  18. I am an independent person. I like my space. I am not lonely. My priorities are different than yours, I want a different life.
  19. I do miss you. I love you. But my love doesn’t guarantee obedience. And my disagreement is not a sign of disrespect.
  20. Thank you for everything you have done for me.
  21. Yes! I really want gajar ka halwa. 

 

Happy name day to me.

Dear me,

If you are reading this, you have successfully completed another year of your life, another revolution around the sun, another 12 months, and you are finally 25-you could legally drink now in the capital region. I am writing this letter on my 24th birthday, its 2 minutes to 10, and in another 1 hour 58 minutes, my birthday will be over- the day when I first entered this world, it would officially come to an end. Turning 24 somehow doesn’t feel any different from being 23. I hope, turning 25 does. A good thing about your birthday is that it comes with the new year and somehow the new year is synonymous with new beginnings, a better life, a better you- though I doubt if this really works. 6 years of my adult life, I have never been able to uphold any new year resolution- endless lists and diary entries are witness to this. But I hope by the time you, the future me, turns 25, I am a better person, in a better place. So here is my wish for the coming year, I wish to build and sustain, sustain being the key word here, authentic relationships with authentic people. I wish to read more than I currently do, I hope by the time you are reading this, I have finished reading a minimum of 50 books. I wish to be more daring of my own work,  my writing. I wish I am able to learn and absorb more than I did the previous year. I wish I am listening to great music. I also wish that I finish things I start, that I close the loop, that when I go in, I don’t give up, I persevere. I wish to continue my relationship with yoga and continue to stay fit, not obsessive about how I look but always taking care of how I treat my body. I also wish I am courageous enough to start submitting my writing, start showing it around, be open to criticism, share. I wish to be less egoistic and more open, I wish to remember that the world doesn’t revolve around me and I am not the center of the universe. I also wish to have more intelligent conversations and some fun drinking nights. I also wish and hope for your sake that you are saving, because like it or not, money runs the world and money also gives you choices, and there is nothing more liberating than to be able to choose for oneself. I wish you are closer to finding yourself and making yourself. I wish you are better at loving and being loved. I wish the rest of the year will be a year of learning, laughing, loving and because I no longer believe in fairy tales, I know I, you, we will fall right on our asses, life will put us down, I wish, we would take it better than we did this year, be strong in the face of adversity, be courageous, be kind. I wish, on this day, that you count your blessings because you know, you have so much to be thankful for.

Happy 25th birthday.

From,

24-year-old me