Wednesday, December 9, 2015

On woman and authority

It's heartbreaking to know that there are at least three people/places/groups in the world who, if approached by me right now, will launch a barrage of hate speech. Not like the serious legal hate speech with rape and murder threats but the kind that can definitely ruin a whole day. I had a panic attack again today, after months of not having one. I couldn't breathe, things inside me were sinking fast. I tend to feel pressure more than other people do. Sometimes it is even a strength, it keeps me going twenty four hours a day. Stress is my coffee. Sometimes stressful circumstances overlap with PMS. But, even despite being aware of my relatively fragile mental health (I actually do think I fare better than others in terms of absorbing negative stuff and hitting back even), this time I just can't take it. Warm tears are rolling down as I write.
I can't deal or understand or change people who irresponsibly say mean things, abusive things, flippant and callous things in general or to me specifically. When I signed up to lead a student organization on campus, the worst I anticipated was fundraising ( I am terrified of raising funds) and maybe people not turning up for our events. I also knew it would mean a lot of visibility among the desi crowd on campus. I guess I just wasn't prepared for a random batch mate commenting on my dress and appearance to a group of fellow drunk engineering students (probably this is my price for leaving Humanities?). I wasn't going to let it go. I gave it back, good. He seemed to realize he had fucked up. He kept quiet, basically he knew this could be more trouble. The good or bad thing about dealing with non-American passport holding assholes (especially engineers aspiring to go to Silicon Valley) is that the threat of deportation keeps them polite, civil, tame. It just does. All our interactions are marked by the passport we constantly carry in our pockets. Fast forward to another drunk guy batch mate requesting to use my bathroom and locking himself in. I actually dialled 911 for the first time and it wasn't scary. I couldn't sleep that night obviously. Not just these, other micro-aggressions are daily business. Some guy likes you but if you don't reciprocate, all his friends won't stop speculating. He won't even talk to you anymore. Some other colleague whom I have seen being careless and irresponsible for a long time, has a very different response to me and some others.
I guess I reached my breaking point today (at least serious enough to write this) because of some guy screaming "I am not your servant" through a facebook window. I don't care if he reads this. I've blocked him everywhere. I am physically and mentally scared of him only because his stance in every conversation is "I am not about to be walked all over by a girl". He once actually said "Don't anger me". Imagine me saying that to someone :)
A few days ago (a friend and) I got amply abused and chastised on a group we run. We contemplated shutting the group down except one would manually have to remove 90,000 people to shut it. People called me an NRI (as if it should be an insult), told me I had no clue what this group (that I thought of and built 4 years ago) meant and stood for. I could have totally donned the researcher hat and been like, oh how interesting, users don't even know who started this but look at their ownership. I am rambling. Look at the last blog post I wrote and the comments on it. I didn't aspire to be publicly visible through what I do. I do what I do because I like it. Another friend (who I thought was an ally) sobered me last week. He said "all men actually do talk shit about women, some just disguise it well". He seemed to imply it's a biological or systemic thing. "It's just the way we are" I was so shocked someone could hold that as a worldview I didn't know what to say because I know men who categorically walk away from such stuff.
The point is, every time I tell myself that being a leader, initiating something and being the face of it is going to invite negative attention, hate, criticism but also immense satisfaction of having done things; I feel more drained than happy. And, I am not even doing this on a scale that many other women and men do. What of course hurts is that as a woman, a lot of that stuff also becomes about how I look, where I live, my public photos, emails etc. I hope this post doesn't get read by many people because the comment section is open to all.
Probably I just meet a lot of shitty people. How do you cope with them? All suggestions are welcome.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

India 2015 Summer: Swalpa adjust maadi

** Warning: This is a rant. It does not contextualize or essentialize India as one entity. It also does not seek to improve anyone. Also, this is the sixth draft that might see the light of the day.

So, I've returned to India after almost a year of being in the United States. Turns out living by yourself, making your own food, washing your clothes and doing research are good ways to keep away from blogging. I am back to where it all began in that sense. Even this blog. Bangalore. Interning at a corporate research lab with bright people, most of them about three years younger. Before we go further, apologies to my brother whose every act of growing up I have so critically called out. Turns out people older than him and younger than me can both be immensely stupid and exceptionally mature. Whowouldathunk I'd have to make business conversations with people born in 1993? Well, the year 25 is two months away. Who could have imagined what the 25 year old me would resemble? Not me for sure.
So yeah, turns out I've finally reached Marathahalli, the proverbial tech park district where tiny little worker ants scurry in and out of with heavy black laptop bags and access cards strung around their necks. Most of them have unshapely behinds (not making this up) because of sedentary debugging jobs. I can already feel mine grow bigger as I type. There are no roads. Most roads turn to dust on a daily basis as cars and trucks ply on them. It's an odd place to say the least. On which our little tempo traveller runs morning and evening.
It's also my first close encounter to people on the other side of JNU (IIT Delhi is actually light years away if you get the political, cultural and philosophical differences). But, yes, engineers. Also, most North Indians. And, local people in the area. Mostly South Indians. What puzzled me is that Bangalore has become so much more North Indianized than I had seen in 2010. Now you don't even have to try to make Hindi sound like KannaD (as many Amit friends call it). To some Amit friends, rather seriously, all of South India is one region and has one language. The one that Shahrukh invented in Chennai Express. Again, very different from my Bangalore of yonder that made me learn a little bit of all the four big languages and even some dialect words. As I spoke functional Kannada, one Amit squealed. "Aap toh genius ho." I asked if he wanted to learn some. But kyun? Bakwaas hoti hai. He said.
He is not a bad person and I know nothing of NLP (natural language processing or a cooler thing than big data analysis). But I'd imagine that knowing a little bit of Kannada would go farther than going abroad and defending India's cultural diversity in terms of keeping us together and making our collective lives as Indians better. Again now, as an aspirant to NRI category I can justifiably be accused of Solutionism. So, with due apologies to Morozov, I shrugged and started walking towards the hotel wondering what all these bright Amits would do in their lives. It's hard to justify two degrees in cinema studies, I thought to myself. Which is true, sort of. At least the social science and humanities circles (read JNU self indulgence) I indulged in, people barely explained or asked "so what". But on the whole, I realized, the cultural studies education and a journey through comparative literature and grappling with issues of translation made me (no claims for my classmates) a less classist, less casteist and a less intolerable person. You would be amazed, or at least I am, as to how in India being a blue collar worker really casts you into some feudal relationship with the people you serve. Why aren't we nicer to those who serve us? Or, just a smile? Or try and speak the other's language?
This isn't versus America. As someone rightly said, the exhilarating thrill and frustration of life's pace and movement brought her back home. I came this summer for that same pulsating, elbowing through the crowd feeling. Of course I've gotten a lot rustier at hustling. But, especially for those of us who have resources and the privilege to be nicer, you'd wonder why we can't "swalpa adjust"?