Wednesday, 31 December 2014

where do we go now?

I’ve realised that I end up taking stock only at the end of the year when it hits me that I need to change the dates on letters and posts yet again. Just when one gets used to writing 2014, it changes to 15. And so on.

2014 was maddening for me. In good ways and in some very, very bad ways. The beginning of the year was not too great and it went on to become horrific for my family and I when we lost my cousin and his wife on Malaysia Airlines jet MH370. I worked on auto-pilot that month till I was packed off by my mother to Beijing to help with my cousin’s two little boys.

Last night a missing aircraft was found in the Java Sea, which brought back memories of MH370 all over again. I’ve had to accept now that we will never know what happened to my two family members on the flight, along with 237 others. It wasn’t so much the incident itself that pushed me over the edge. It was humanity itself. People, their reactions, their inability to leave it alone instead of pondering the million things which could have happened, it all got to me. And while many people (including ones who barely knew me) were surprisingly thoughtful, many were also surprisingly callous.

The world seems to have moved on, but I don’t think my family ever will. Each time we look at my nephews or hear about their nightmares, their fears or them missing their parents, we will be reminded about what happened, or in this case what could have happened.

While the first half of the year seems to have been dominated by this, the second half brought more changes. The shift to a new city, a new part of the country, was something inevitable that I’d been putting off for a couple of years. The capital always seemed a daunting place, especially to someone from a relatively placid south Indian city.

Delhi has so far been everything that people warned me about, but other things as well. Yes, it’s aggressive and loud, it’s callous, ruthless, does everything it can to make you stronger. But it also has options like no other city. It’s hard to be lazy in Delhi. I’d planned a long break, but somehow, even without really pushing myself to find work, I’d got three job offers within three weeks of moving. And all in a new field (after I’d decided the media didn’t do it for me anymore).

The city always has something going on, and for everyone. For someone who doesn’t like noise and big crowds, even Chennai didn’t have too many options sometimes. But the capital is full of old buildings, beautiful monuments, large green parks, and I’ve found book stores to roam in when I’m bored. Dance performances, rock shows, talks and lectures, you name it and Delhi has it. If I feel like going out, I know I can. And yes, you have the large groups of teenagers and couples everywhere, but it’s not unusual to see some lone rangers doing things on their own. For every action here, there *is* an equal and opposite reaction.

It may not be home yet, it may not have a beach or endless options for a cup of good filter coffee, but I’ve noticed a few things not relating to just the aggressive gun-toting Haryanvis and Punjabis here. While Chennai was placid and laid-back, I’ve realised people there are too inert sometimes. If a boy had arbitrarily reached out for a girl from behind and grabbed her at a party in Delhi, it would not go easily dismissed. Whereas I’ve seen the very same thing happen in Chennai in front of a large group (everyone pretended it didn’t happen, including her male best friend and even me). Peoples’ sense of their own rights is very acute here in Delhi. Women’s safety is a big issue, and hence made a hue and cry about. I find changes in my own behaviour in less than two months here. Even jokes made about women are not as easy to forget as before. In a country full of culture, rich in history, people seem to have forgotten about equality and respect. Not just for the opposite gender, but for humans in general. In that sense Delhi is a lot more accepting of different types of people than Chennai.

If I am likely to stand up for myself or another woman in my hometown, no doubt I will now be classified as a pushy Delhi-ite. But in the capital, I would just be normal. And while I was part of a small group in the ‘unmarried girl in late 20s’ section in my hometown, here I’m just a girl, or a woman, depending on who’s looking. The tendency to colour outside of the lines is much more common in this city, which is something I can definitely get used to.

The year has also taught me a little more about myself. Like all other years, I suppose. It has brought me some surprising friendships and bonds, and has allowed me to let go of some surprisingly unhappy friendships too.

I can’t say I have any regrets. Maybe I could have been more patient with a few people, but I’ve become more attentive to time – whom I give it to, and why.

For the first time perhaps, I have no idea where the next year will take me. Physically, I will be in the same city. But emotionally and mentally, I’m completely unprepared for what’s coming. I’ve seen many people come and go, but only this year did I realise just how everything can change in an instant. With a single phone call or text, lives and paths can be altered forever.

I know I’m tough enough to handle whatever is coming. I just hope I’m accepting enough to manage the joys as well, without asking too many questions or wondering how it could turn to ashes in the future.

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