She rolled her eyes and left the room banging the door shut.
I continued to type quietly on my lap top. Leaning back against the chair, I stretched my arms in front of me and cracked my knuckles. I stared at the screen and yawned. I felt drained and uninspired.
Three books lay scattered on the table; the contents of each book as different as the front covers. The sequence in which they had been arranged amused me. What are your goals by Gary Ryan Blair followed by Diet and Diet Reform by Mahatma Gandhi and finally Veronika Decides To Die by Paulo Coelho.
The past few months have been as random as the books on the table.Diwali saw a small celebration at my mother’s house. A motley crowd. I beamed as best a smile as I could and kept up the facade for about an hour. That’s the best I could do on an occasion I was forced to attend against my will. I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy myself at all. I did but stretching it in a way that most people do is beyond me so I retired in the bedroom.
One of my sister’s friends was lying on the bed already. I settled down beside her. We could hear my sister engaging with everybody like the perfect hostess. “How does she do it?” asked my sister’s friend, with the exasperation of an introvert. “That’s how she’s always been,” I replied, one introvert to the other. We exchanged a glance and smiled. “Do you want to see my new designs?” she asked excitedly. A fashion designer by profession, she carries her art with her wherever she goes. I jumped at the invitation! She eagerly pulled out a huge file and we spent the next few hours poring over her designs. We engaged in casual banter for a while. She told me about the time she was fat and how life had come to a standstill because of it. One day she decided to change it by losing weight. “For six months I didn’t do anything except pamper myself,’ she said. “Best decision of my life. Nothing anybody said made sense. I did what made me happy.”
I nodded, half empathising, half thankful for assuring me that I was not cranky. Being a part time animal activist is a full time job. Being an entrepreneur is like chasing a mirage. You are almost there but not quite, ever. There’s home too. I shuttle between two homes; my mother’s and mine. Each day demands a rigid discipline on the home front and a little flexibility on the work front. There’s the burning desire to someday travel and write and do only that. Take that away from me and you have a resentful daughter and friend.
“I’ll park myself in my room all year if I want but if you demand it of me; I’ll pack my bags and leave!” I warned my friend who has recently moved in with me. She also has a ten year old who’s become my good friend. The child was the reason we merged homes. No matter how good the intentions, the initial days of adjusting to each others’ quirks can be tiring .Privacy is a concept lost on them and having to lay out boundaries was not easy. I am finicky about hygiene and that is another bone of contention between us. They are trying to be more co operative. I am trying to be kinder and a little less rigid.
Friends and family have often accused me of being cranky and in this write up I am going to tell you that they are wrong. What happens when my sister comes down to visit us? She opens her laptop and pores over each mail. Between doing that and doing something else, she’s on her cell phone, sometimes working, and otherwise chit chatting. In those few stray moments that we engage with each other, she gleefully shows me some video clipping on her cell phone. I acknowledge with a weak smile. She looks at me with a weird expression and goes... “Why can’t you enjoy?” That one line can undo my politeness and I snap back rudely ... “Try and get away from the laptop and cell phone! It gets on my nerves!” I march out of the room angrily.
I have never understood the need for a cell phone round the clock. Mine serves a functional purpose which is one of the reasons I still have a basic Nokia hand set. When I go for walks I don’t carry it with me. A camera? Maybe. A cell phone? Never! It takes away from an otherwise pleasurable activity. During my daily walks, I see people glued to their handsets and I wonder why they came outside in the first place? What is this need to be connected all the time? “Do you have WhatsApp?” a friend asked. “What for?” I replied. I get many justifications for owning a smart phone but I have never felt justified to own one. It’s a threat to my sanity. I work without a smart phone and it’s the smartest thing I’ve done. During meetings at work, I see several distracted faces owing to their obsession with their cell phones. “Switch off your cell phones!” I command feeling disturbed. “Pay attention!” Dining out has become so lack lustre with the constant buzzing of cell phones from all directions. People sitting at the table, dinner half eaten, with cell phones stuck to their faces telling a friend what they are eating. “I am having pasta in arabiata sauce. Want some?” This compulsive urge to tell all, to all, all the time is the biggest disease in the 21st century.
Face book takes the cake as the unhealthiest innovation. Without getting into the details, I saw a series of posts by a friend who was making biryani and it was disturbing to see such a private affair shared so publicly unless he was a cook teaching others how to make biryani.I myself have been guilty of telling all on facebook until one day I decided to end it. Even as a writer, there are some things that need to go into a diary. As a disgruntled animal activist I created my own newspaper that is an outlet for all my rantings.Over time, these rantings may be tweaked to reach out to people on a lighter note, just for laughs. Ranting has never been as enjoyable as it is now. The act of writing with a pen is a far more powerful feeling because you learn to rely more on your heart and less on the dictionary. Two weeks later, I am a better writer for having cut loose from the dictionary. My mind is sharper too. I told myself: Think before you post and it’s the best advice I have given myself in a long time. “Why don’t you share your picture on facebook?” an FB acquaintance asked. “Because I don’t want to,” I replied. My reply was lost on him as it is with most.
Cooking! A thing of joy made messy by the ravenously hungry .Stained kitchen walls, potato peels and onion skins scattered on the floor, spices and flour spilled all over the kitchen platform, a blocked sink and that stray strand of hair in your roti is the last straw for an obsessive compulsive hygiene freak such as myself. There’s nothing I like better than cooking. My time spent in the kitchen equals meditation. Every act of cooking is a delight, right from cleaning the raw materials to presenting a meal without dirtying or disorganizing the kitchen. Call me cranky but I prefer to be cranky than crummy. Do I dare write about the toilet?
Daily living and togetherness can be so much more fulfilling if only we could be more curious and concerned. Friends and family say I am finicky and I think they are fickle. They are living what they think is the good life. Mine is better. I spend hours digging the dirt in my trash cans and watching tadpoles in the gutter. Cleaning and cooking, normally considered as chores are meditative activities for me. My work entails extroversion and I handle it with the ease of a naturale but home is my personal space which I guard furiously. The kitchen is my temple, the bathroom, my retreat. I am as unfussy a traveller as I am a fussy homemaker. There’s a time and place for everything. Whether I choose to be with someone or not is not a matter of personality but simply a matter of drudgery or delight. If only I could get this across.
-Manisha Hariharan Manisha Hariharan is a businesswoman, trainer, image consultant and animal activist..most importantly vegan