Soaking up the City | Madras Week 2018

You don’t expect magic from a cosmopolitan. But when you do encounter it, it’s the pleasantest surprise.

Ask a city Indian about home and he’ll tell you the name of his native village. It’s true. For most, home is in that place. Where the fields are. Where you wake up to the chirping of birds and breathe the freshness in the air. And it’s most certainly not a polluted metropolis with more IT offices than cattle.

But with me, it’s always been Chennai. This is home, the place I was born, the place I embraced after many muddled years in a foreign country.

I grew up despising that my family didn’t travel and that we couldn’t afford beautiful vacations outside the city. And then in the last two years, something completely changed me. I found opportunities to visit the inner parts of Madras more often and I got to see what my city really felt like in places that bustled with people and culture. They call it the ‘real’ Madras and if you’re a Madrasi yourself, you’d know exactly what I’m talking about.

I’m glad that it hit me this early in the game- it’s not really the same old spaces and the same old routines I’ve been trapped into. I used to be desperate for newness and the excitement of travel. Now I’m more desperate than I ever was, but this time, for the Madras that I still haven’t laid my feet on.

For it’s Madras that’s has made me realize that there’s so much- at home- I can’t get enough of.

You may have noticed my blog’s tagline and now you know where that need to mention my identity comes from. It comes from the realization that a huge part of who I am, was and is being influenced by my city. I cannot imagine living anywhere else, and as long it’s a personal choice, I’d like for it to stay the way it is.

I cannot imagine a life without my filter kaapi and chai and Pondy Bazaar and the vegetable market in Mylapore. I cannot imagine not walking past a kadaiveethi with its sarees elaborately decorating the entrances.

And then there are things I haven’t been doing as often as I would like. The beach, for instance. I would like to stroll through the Marina every single weekend, while I don’t even remember the last time I’d been there. I would like to do so much more kacheri-hopping this December. I don’t know why that wasn’t my thing. I would like to randomly walk down the streets and spot a rack of books on sale and be like “Hey, I could do with a little more reading!”. I would like to visit Dakshin Chitra whenever I please, and feel like a connoisseur of the artistic.

Madras may not hold the allure of a little Indian village. Or the glamour of New York City.

It thrives on in-betweens and the utterly confused culture of a mixed population. But this imperfection only adds to its charm.

But most of all, I’d like to soak in all that the city has to give. I’d like to dress like a Madrasi. Eat like a Madrasi. Live like a Madrasi.

It’s a humid Thursday evening and I’m at the local Chai shop, winding up a phone-call session, when a girl wearing an ID card from work turns around to face me.

“So,” she says, “why do you still call it that?”.

“Call it what?” I respond, confused.

“Madras. Why do you still call it Madras?”

I think to myself for a logical explanation but nothing clicks.

“It’s a secret.” I end up saying. I couldn’t understand why she cared about what I called my city. I thought I’d add that Chennai wasn’t classy enough for my standards, but I thought the better of it.

“You know,” she smiles only slightly, “I still call it that too.” Her eyes gleam as she tells me so, and I find myself giggling.

Just another one of those little connections people make over a cup of chai.

But here’s the deal- there’s something about the word ‘Madras’ that truly is a secret. To us all. And I don’t think there’s a way we’d ever be able to explain it. This secret.

This little Madrasi secret.

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The Blogger Recognition Award! | Why I Blog | My Advice to Newbies

Goodness, you guys!

This is so exciting. Thank you, Nameera and Cadie, for nominating me for The Blogger Recognition award! I’m truly humbled ❤ Nameera has a beautiful blog (https://nameeraeverafter.wordpress.com/) and I’m so glad to have met her this early in the game. Cadie blogs at https://cadiescorner.blog/, and you should totally check her out.

It’s been a little over a month of blogging here. I started this blog as a way of connecting with other writers and I wanted it to be a place that showcased the person I am even in real life.

There is no online me and offline me. I am the same person wherever we meet. I’ve not been spinning stories about the way I dress, the way I talk, what my family is like, my city and my needs. My blog is only a virtual form of who I am. And if you know me in real life already, here you’d know me better.

Writing, to me, is a way of exaggerating and romanticizing reality. Writing has helped me appreciate the family I was born into, that I may have otherwise been embarrassed by. It’s helped me realize that my sense of fashion may not be in vogue, but that’s alright. Writing has given me what I’ve always needed the most- confidence and faith in the person I am and the country I belong to.

But the best part is knowing that I’m not alone, and that there are so many of you just like me who seek colour and excitement in the smaller things. So, thank you for that ❤

And for those of you who feel like you’re struggling on WordPress, these are two things that really helped me…

  • Building strong connections– I cannot emphasize on this enough. Connecting with other bloggers is important not only because introduces you to fresh writing, but it also builds you a community of your own. Like a squad. Where there’s this unwritten agreement that you comment on each other’s posts, every time. This gives you great, dependable traffic and would always stay a motivation for your next blog post. So, head out there. Find. Your. Squad.
  • Writing what you know– I finally know what happened to me somewhere in the middle when my writer’s block refused to clear. I didn’t make that move to write what I knew. Instead, I started to focus on what people would want to read. And that is a huge, huge mistake. Remember that no matter what you write about, there is going to be at least one person who can relate to you. Even if you think not.

For The Blogger Recognition Award, I nominate:

If you’ve been nominated, here’s what to do:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Write a post about your award.
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  5. Nominate 8 other bloggers for this award.
  6. Comment on each blog to let them know you’ve nominated them.

And if your blog is award-free, I hope you’d consider my nomination a huge compliment!

Once again, thank you to those of you who’ve been interacting with me on WP over the past month. Ya’ll are FREAKING AWESOME. Much love ❤

Give me all the colour

My taste in clothes and home decor have always been thought too bizarre for 2018. You’ll see me walking down the streets of Mylapore in a chilli red palazzo, a colourful kalamkari blouse, maybe some chunky jewellery, a bindi, my black nerdy glasses. You’ll think to yourself- oh, there goes a misfit. Perhaps I am a misfit. And quite an offbeat one at that.

My wardrobe is severely malfunctioned, of course, for I don’t own the staples- black jeans, pastel tank top. You would wonder where I get all my gaudy dupattas. Come shop with me sometime. Let’s watch together how flamboyance has a beauty of its own.

You should come visit my home one day. We’re not an incredibly organized household. Clean, but not organized. Our cupboards cannot possibly hold in the number of things we own. Yes, we’ve quite always been the opposite of minimalists. We clearly have too many things at home, not that our middle-class selves could afford so much, but that we rarely give away things we’ve been given.

And the colours- they could blind you if you’re into the grey-and-pastel aesthetic. Our bed sheets are often Rajastani printed, and our curtains don’t match the furniture in the rooms. The walls are covered in sloppy, amateur Kerala murals of peacocks and Krishnas attempted by yours truly. Vethala paaku to anyone who visits is an absolute necessity, so we have tons of that too. And you guys, our pillow covers look like vegetable salad.

But our home glows. We’re a loud, vibrant bunch and there’s so much emotion between us. There’s happiness and sorrow and panic and peace all within those walls. Remember the family you were so very amused by in My Big Fat Greek Wedding? We are that family.

Having grown up this way, I find myself attached to the abundance of things. I’ve been given gifts I can no longer use- but I’d keep them all.

Besides, I could never get rid of colours and mismatches and everything in between.

Give me all the colour there is in the world. I want to see so much more of it.

Not just in me, but in you, and in you, and in you. In everything that is beautiful. In the temples. In play schools. In the flowers sold on the street. In the sarees that we need more of in this country. In bindis and sindoor and baskets and jewellery. In homes- yours and mine and hers and his.

Give me all the colour there is.

The Liebster Award! + more of who I am

Holy shmoly, you guys!

I was nominated for The Liebster Award by Robert M Goldstein from https://robertmgoldstein.com/, Megha from https://inksoakedsoul.wordpress.com/ and Andrea from https://benkofficial.com/.  Thank you so much for your constant support! I’m truly humbled ❤

Here are 11 things you probably didn’t know about me…

  1. So, turns out I am more of an extrovert (yes, I know I know, I mentioned I was an INFJ in my last post but I tried the test again- this time being 100% honest with myself- and apparently, I’m an ESFJ) so there’s that.
  2. I can’t go a day without two cups of coffee, hence the name of my blog.
  3. Panic! At The Disco, Halsey and Maroon 5 are my all-time obsessions.
  4. I am a Hindu by birth and by choice. I love Hinduism as a religion itself but more importantly, I love the colourful culture that it comes with it.
  5. My Bindi is a style statement and I love Indian clothes as much as I love Indian food.
  6. I need so much colour around me and the grey-and-pastel aesthetic is honestly really confusing.
  7. I am an absolute sucker for mythology. I grew up reading Percy Jackson and literally all the other Greek/Roman-mythology based series that came out around that time (Kane Chronicles, Artemis Foul, Heroes of Olympus, etc). And if you’re into The Mahabharat, we’re already best friends.
  8. I have really strong (and almost always unpopular) opinions about things but I usually don’t say them out loud unless they have to be said.
  9. Most people would call me a push-over but I like to say that I choose my battles.
  10. My dream life includes a ton of street shopping and street food- which is why Chennai is my dream city. Is it strange that I live in the only city I want to live in?
  11. If you’re the most unfunny person on planet, you can always count on me for boosting your ego. I find anything funny (and I’m a great laugher).

For the Liebster award, I nominate:

I promise you these blogs won’t disappoint. Go check them out!

If you were nominated, here’s what to do:

(and if your blog is award-free, please accept my nomination as a compliment!)

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Share 11 facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the blogger gave you.
  4. Nominate 11 bloggers who deserve the award.
  5. Create 11 original questions for the nominees to answer.

My 11 questions for you (apologies for skipping this step) are the same as the questions on Rob’s page https://robertmgoldstein.com/2018/07/08/the-liebster-award-2018/.

Thank you to everyone who’s ever interacted with me here on WordPress! It’s been a great almost-month of writing and discovering new writing. I’m so glad to be a part of a community that has so much love and inspiration to offer ❤

 

The Mystery Blogger Award!- and a bit of who I am outside WP

YOU GUYS!

It’s been less than a month since I started this blog and I feel so honoured and humbled on being nominated for The Mystery Blogger award by Krishnapriya at https://krishnapriyagopi.wordpress.com/. Thank you!

Sometimes when the world (and ahem, the internet) feels like a hollow of negativity, she’s a ray of sunshine. She’s been a wonderful friend here at WordPress and makes the blogging experience a million times better.

For those of you who don’t know already, the Mystery Blogger Award is an award created by Okoto Enigma at https://www.okotoenigmasblog.com/my-greatest-creation-yet/ “for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging; and they do it with so much love and passion.”

So, here are three things about me that you may not already know:

  1. I am a student and calling myself that (out of all the things in the world) says a lot about what I do through the day. I’m almost always studying and the kind of career path I’ve chosen most certainly requires me to do so.
  2. I’m a Bharatnatyam dancer and that again forms a huge part of my identity. You could almost tell by the way I dress and speak that I dance.
  3. According to the 16personalities test, I’m an INFJ-T but I have no idea how that happened. I may be introvert (sort of) but I’m also a huge people-person. People are more important to me than anything else in the world, and I’ve never felt the need for ‘alone’ time. I need my family chattering their heads off even while I study. Is that INFJ enough? Oh well…

Krishnapriya’s questions for me:

What is your idea of perfect happiness or peace?

I may sound naive but my idea of peace is when I have enough money to spend. Money isn’t everything, yes, but it’s pretty damn important. I feel like financial constraint is a huge psychological barrier to anyone. Coming from a middle class Indian family, I know what it’s like to have to restrict yourself to bare necessities.

If there’s one issue or problem you’d like to help with in our society, what would it be?

It destroys me that we all live on the sweat and tears of farmers, and yet they’re only left with an empty purse and a constant desire to end their lives. I would want to contribute to agriculture and farmers in some way. It’s on my bucket list for when I start earning.

In times of trouble or challenge, who or what picks you up?

I have to say my family. I’m nothing without my parents and my brother (a.k.a laughing buddha). They’ve gotten me through really difficult times. I also find inspiration on Youtube- particularly channels like MuchelleB and Lavendaire.

If you had to pick an animal to be born as, what would it be and why?

A monkey in Madurai, no doubt. We visit the Azhagar temple once a year and oh my goodness, you guys! Those monkeys are living THE life. My banana-loving, people-craving self couldn’t possibly ask for more : D

What do you look for in other blogs?

Oh, nothing really. I read anything I can get my hands on and I visit other blogs with no expectations.

For The Mystery Blogger Award, I nominate:

Do check these bloggers out…I promise their work will not leave you disappointed!

If you’ve been nominated, here’s what you should do:

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog.
  • List the rules.
  • Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  • You have to nominate 10 – 20 people.
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog.
  • Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question.
  • Share a link to your best post(s)

(If your blog is award-free, please consider this nomination a compliment)

And my questions to you are…

  1. What do you like most about yourself?
  2. If you could change your name to anything else for day, what would it be?
  3. What is your guilty pleasure?
  4. What is the first thing you’d buy if you won a million dollars?
  5. What is one thing you want the world to know?

A HUGE HUGE thank you to everyone who’s interacted with my here in this last month! Do you know how I feel right now? I have no chill, you guys, I have no chill. This community means so much to me. Ya’ll are incredible ❤ ❤ ❤

 

 

We who ask the ‘uncool’ questions

Like any other child of the 2000s, I too have always felt the natural impulse to ask questions. No, I don’t mean the typical “Why should I believe in God when I don’t see Him?” kind. I’m talking about questions that are conveniently dismissed on the grounds of being too frivolous and orthodox to fit into context today.

For instance, I’m one of those annoyingly inquisitive people who would actually wonder if some saints could walk on water like they claim to, if the mythical River Saraswati would really break through the ground one day, and if perhaps parallel universes were really a thing.

But what if everything that we’ve been believing because well, there’s scientific proof, are in fact, debatable? And what if those theories that are rejected owing to their religious nature aren’t ‘blind’ belief, but rather perfectly accurate conclusions?

What if I’m wrong? What if I’m right? We live in a world of endless possibility- and the fact that we put forth problems and strive to solve them is what makes us human.

Let’s face it- we’ve heard ‘anything is possible’ too many times now. And yet, why do we sneer at those who believe in something that seems mythical, and in no way could be solved scientifically? Why do we dismiss a question just because it’s already been answered, once, and comes with an apparent scientific evidence?

Does the very idea of scientific proof backing our beliefs comfort us so much that we refuse to face anything else? Or are we intimidated by the fact that there’s so much out there we might not know- not now, not ever?

Remember that we all once believed that the Earth was flat, before it was claimed to be a sphere. And we all believed that the Earth was a sphere, before it was confirmed an oblate spheroid. How many times did they remake the periodic table to finally arrive at the one we use today? A century ago, people would have never believed that one day we wouldn’t have to meet face-to-face to establish communication. The newspapers will always have something new to tell us.

But the problem is not about which possibility is right and which is wrong. It’s about the people who silence the youth of today from asking the question. It’s about those who hide behind science and lead the world in a single direction, encouraging the social boycott of anyone looking the other way.

You, who has tried to influence us into feeling naive when we question science and believe religion- you, who promotes only a single, biased school of thought- and you, who has tried to kill our curiosity by calling it ‘absurd’ to imagine the seemingly impossible- this is our response to all of you.

We are the children of today, and we’re here to change that. If you think you’ve succeeded in your attempt to brainwash us with your weakly-crafted ‘Science tells all’ theory, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you haven’t.

We are here to prove to the world that there isn’t just more than one answer to every question, there are also endless possibilities behind every answer.

What must be encouraged among the youth today is not just to question the things that have no scientific evidence, but also the things that do.

Because that’s the beauty of science. It will keep changing, it will keep evolving, it will keep telling us newer things every day. Science grows with us. Science is everything that is human- it is a dynamic, fast-paced and complex institution. And it’s definitely not the absolute answer to every question.

But that’s exactly the point I want to make– nothing is the absolute answer to every question- not science, not religion, not history. And when we accept that, there’s so much that we can do. We most certainly do not have all the answers. But you are doing the world more good than harm in allowing us to ask the question.

There is still sunshine

How many times have you been told to trust no one and that the world is full of evil? In my case, that’s precisely the number of times I’ve tied my shoelaces and walked out the door. I hear it constantly through the day, except that it’s told in so many different ways, my ears are numb with disgust.

I refuse to hear it any longer.

There was a time when I really believed that every stranger I see on the street is a potential kidnapper. I still carry that thought with me wherever I go, because old habits die hard. But it comes along with this relieving hope that every stranger is also a potential saviour. And that every person I’ve not spoken to, fearing hurt, is a potential best friend.

I refuse to keep anticipating the worst.

I’m not telling you that it was always like this. I’m someone who’s seen the extremes of situations and felt the extremes of feelings, and I’m at a point where I can say with so much faith that I refuse to keep believing the world is full of bad, bad people.

It’s so simple. I’ve just seen too much good to believe it any longer. I’ve met too many strangers with hearts of gold. And as easy as it is to tell myself that we live in the worst of times, and that people are nothing but greedy, it never did me any good.

The trust I have in humanity is too strong now.

And yet, I might be totally mistaken. The world might be just everything that I’ve been told. It could possibly be a hell that I just don’t see yet. But at the same time, I’m happy I haven’t experienced that side to it.

And when I do, I’ll remember all the advice that people have given me. I’d know enough by then to embrace change and to accept the way things are. Heck, I’d be happy to do so.

But till then, I would like to believe in goodness.

I would like to believe that every child born today would grow up with so much to look forward to, so much love and joy that the world has to offer.

I would like to believe that I was born in a time and place that has so much to give me and that I have so much to give back to.

I would like to believe that there is still hope for humanity and that there is still sunshine left to see.