What losing my phone taught me about myself

No, it’s not about my pointless Insta stories.

What losing my smartphone taught me about myself | Chai High is an Indian blog started by Shivani KrishanLess than 24 hours after I prided myself on my independence, my cell phone crashed. Ordinarily, this would seem like two separate instances—a woman’s independence and a rectangular handheld gadget—but it wasn’t quite so simple. The fleeting sense of achievement I’d experienced was entirely dependent on Uber, a car booking app, and Google Maps. I was alone in Chandigarh for the very first time, and I was relying on the good sense and navigation expertise of my Uber driver, and my ability to read Google Maps, to deliver me in one piece to my ailing grandmother. And I was mighty proud of myself at that. So, a day later, when my phone died, it took away my independence, sense of empowerment and feeling of being in control. The ground beneath my feet had shifted. And this raised a few questions in my mind about the extent to which we rely on technology today.

It’s interesting how the smart phone has enabled the independence of women. In a new city? Find your way with Google Maps. Don’t have a car? Book an Uber. Hungry? Order on Swiggy. Don’t know where to stay? Book an Airbnb. Want to pay a bill? Choose Netbanking. Unlike paper maps, regular taxis, restaurant home delivery and hotels, these “apps” are accountable if your driver misbehaves, food is contaminated, or room is dirty. And with users giving ratings and writing firsthand reviews, it only adds to the feeling of empowerment, when you make a choice based on your deduction of the average opinion of 14910 others. It’s hard to explain the feeling of elation you get on landing the ideal balance of an above average rating that also fits in your budget. Therefore, it was only natural, that when my source of empowerment and entertainment stopped functioning, I felt like a lost child.

But is this healthy? The fact that we no longer remember phone numbers, that addresses have lost their meaning, that our sense of direction is dependent on an electronic voice, that we constantly need to check our phones for WhatsApp messages and memes from friends, to validate our existence? Many would hands down say no. After all, isn’t it a sign of severe deterioration of cognitive ability to no longer be able to memorize phone numbers or recall directions? Whatever happened to the feeling of joy on locating an address based on a “landmark” from which you were to take the second left, cross the fifth vegetable seller and then look for a black gate–“no not the large one, but the smaller bling-and-miss one”—and then take a U turn to arrive at your destination? Whatever happened to good ol’ talking to people over the phone rather than half-hearted WhatsApp texts and Instagram DMs that are often “read” and not replied to?

It’s hard to argue with the logic.

Nevertheless, all the cognition required in earlier days to traverse new grounds only kept us from venturing beyond our comfort zones. For, if we were lost and didn’t have a cell phone, how were we to call for help, WhatsApp our live location to a friend or google map our way to the nearest familiar space? Unsurprisingly, rarely did women venture beyond the familiar when travelling alone, and even when they did, they’d dare not travel after sunset. Today, we travel at all hours of the day and night, within the country and abroad, and often take off into open roads and unknown streets, by Google mapping our way.

Which brings me to the “godsent” smartphone, a device I openly dissed and loved to mock, until I was left without it, in an unfamiliar city. The thing is, I had always associated phones with phone calls, social media narcissism–#ootds and #wanderlusts, and text messages, things I was happy to forgo as an experiment, for a limited amount of time. What I was unprepared for, was losing out on Uber, Google Maps, Netbanking, Airplane ticket download, E-Aadhar card and the fact that, increasingly, almost every transaction required an OTP. What I was also not expecting, was losing out on my independence.

The sense of invincibility, I’d felt as I made my way in a relatively unknown city to my grand mum’s quarters in an Uber, Google-mapping the directions, was replaced with a feeling of complete disorientation and dread when my phone blanked out. Which made it clear that I am only as independent and empowered as my smartphone. Take it away, and I am a nothing person. Does this mean, I have a false sense of self? That I am not really as independent as I think I am? That I am only as smart, independent and empowered as my smartphone allows me to be? That, by being dependent on my phone, I am simply entrusting a gadget the place previous generations granted their husbands and fathers? That it’s time to end this toxic relationship disguised as a happily-ever-after? That it’s finally time to break up?

Since I respect my phone too much to ghost it, I should probably just start getting really “busy”.

 

 

 

How having the right conversation can change our lives.

Ever been to a reunion? What do you think people say about themselves when they meet after a decade? Chances are, more people than not, talk about their achievements. “I did this and this, went to so and so university, work at so and so, won X number of awards, and here is my website and contact details if you want a customized outfit.”

And there’s nothing wrong with this. Firstly, it’s “networking”, and secondly, as friends and batchmates, we are all interested to hear about each other’s journey to the present.

So, yes, this is an essential conversation to have. Though not necessarily, the only one.

Last weekend, I went back to school for our 10-year-reunion. Some of us met each other after 10 years, others I’d bumped into a few times in between, and a handful had been in constant touch with me over the years.

Between catching up and listening to each other’s fascinating, and sometimes transformative journeys – the quiet girl – a tough lawyer, the science geek – a costume stylist, the backbencher – a successful entrepreneur, I had a conversation with someone about battling depression. It was a short conversation, which in itself was pretty regular, but it sparked in me a crazy idea – what if we were all to sit in a circle and talk about the 3 most challenging periods in our lives?

What if instead of rattling off our awards, we spoke about our fears, our troubles, our battles, and our failures? What if we spoke about the things that keep us up at night, the monotonous job we struggle to maintain, the abusive partner we managed to shrug away, and the ongoing battle to get paid the amount we deserve?

Crazy, right?

But think of it this way. We have all heard that “hard work”, and “believing in yourself” and “fighting for what you believe in”  and “following your passion” are the “secret” ingredients to success. But have we ever spoken about the challenges that come in the middle of an all-nighter at work, the doubts that come in the way of self-belief, and the various everyday circumstances that distract you in your fight towards your dream?

Imagine, you’re sitting in a circle with your classmates. A girl who looks “happily married”, speaks about how she maintains a “happy” marriage, even when 5 out of 10 days she has doubts about her partner. She speaks about how, no relationship is as “perfect” as it seems, by giving real life examples from her life – of good and bad moments, of things that reiterate her belief in her marriage, and things that make her doubt it. And then she talks about how she deals with it.

Next, imagine a girl who has recently started her own company. It seems glossy with all the features in newspapers and blogs. What if in addition to listing all her achievements, she talks in detail of the challenges she faced while starting up, and the challenges she still faces. She talks about the emotional impact, the physical impact as well as the financial impact of starting up.

Or, imagine a person who is employed in a regular job with regular hours. And she talks about the feeling of monotony that often haunts her daily life, and the occasional desire to pack up and leave. She then talks about the techniques or methods she employs to keep herself motivated on the drabbest of days.

Think about it.

Won’t these conversations actually help us in learning from each other, and possibly change our lives? Won’t it equip and inspire in us the skills to deal with real issues? And, fill us to the brim with the fuzzy feeling that says – “you are not alone”?

It’s radical, yes. And most people will be reluctant to “air their dirty linen” in public – yes. Some may argue that we should inspire each other with positive stories, rather than dissuade with the negative. And, there may be some who are extremely uncomfortable with the idea.

But, I believe these conversations are important and the learnings indispensable.

Don’t we, as a community of women, deserve to know about each other’s struggles as much as about each other’s achievements? Won’t it help us all grow if we pool in our individual learnings and use it to help one other? And, isn’t awareness and preparation far better than rosy-eyed ignorance?

Most of us fail in various aspects of life because we go into it expecting it to be perfect.

Because nobody ever specified the challenges in a happy marriage, a successful business, or a white-collar job. We’ve all heard “marriages” are tough. Or start-ups have challenges. Or jobs are boring. But, nobody ever added body to the words “tough”, “challenging” and “boring”.

Words without description sometimes lose the power of meaning.

Especially when the voice that says these words, in the next breath, follows it up with – but “nothing is impossible”, and “be passionate”, and “it’s on how you make it”. And this is problematic because the slightest hiccup in a marriage, job or business causes us to blame ourselves.

Because didn’t they say ,”It’s possible and if not – you’re not doing it right?”  

We are so scared of scaring our children that we tell them fairytales.

Sure, we should inspire each other by saying “everything is possible”. But we should ground the fairytale by adding a “when”.

We should say “everything is possible when you...”, and then list all potential challenges and potential solutions to braving those moments of despair.

I have worked in 5 jobs and lived in 5 cities. If there are a few things I have learned, it’s this.

Any thing is possible when:

  1. You know what you have to give up to achieve your goal, and you’re willing to part with it. [for example: parties, friends, family, popularity, sleep]
  2. You can deal with a 100 rejections, and yet come back the next day bright-eyed and enthusiastic.
  3. You can say NO to the things you like
  4. You can be positive even when things are going down
  5. You are willing to go the extra mile to read up and educate yourself while everybody is drinking beer and chilling
  6. You become OK with feeling alone sometimes
  7. You can push yourself out of your comfort zone and do things you may hate
  8. You are willing to change yourself to fit the image you want to portray
  9. You can accept that success at work doesn’t always mean happiness in life
  10. You are able to decide whether your sacrifice is worth the gain

For me, personally, I believe in being true to myself. So, I made my choice – I am willing to accept points 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and to an extent 7. But not point 8. So, for me, my dreams are stuck at that – and I am OK with it, as for me, happiness lies in being true and honest to who I am.

For you, different principles may apply.

If we all share our learnings, like I shared mine, I believe our conversations would be far more empowering.

What do you think?

 

 

 

How asking the right questions can change your life.

Don’t ask: “What should I do that people will be proud of me?”

Ask: “What should I do that I will be proud of me?”

Disclaimer: This may not be relevant to a lot of already self-aware people, but I’d like to share it with those who are still looking for answers.

 

We often, unknowingly, choose our goals and careers based on the perceptions of people around us: they could be friends, family, or simply the strangers on our social media feeds. We often view ourselves from the perspective of the world, rather than the perspective of ourselves, and this is one of the primary mistakes that lead us into making the wrong choices.

The better part of our life is often spent in trying to gain the approval of others.

We do this by enrolling ourselves in fancy-sounding colleges, travelling to fancy-sounding places, getting married in a fancy-sounding destination, and doing fancy-sounding things. We think, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I did a scuba diving course off the Havelock islands?”, and so we do it, and then we wonder why it didn’t make us happy. Or we think, “Wouldn’t it be so cool if I worked at VOGUE?” and we do it, and then we wonder why it didn’t make us happy?  Or we think, “Wouldn’t it make me so happy if I won all these awards?” and then we win it, and after the momentary elation we wonder why it didn’t make us happy? And similarly there are a hundred things we do that sound amazing, and as a result make us, momentarily, feel super-proud of ourselves. However, after the initial phase of excitement, when we are back at home at the end of a long day or on a weekend, we feel a void – and we can’t understand what’s missing. We try and talk to others, but they often don’t understand – they either tell us that we are “overthinking”, or that we are “cribbing”, that we need “therapy”, we need to “meditate”, “workout”, “go out”, “get married”, “calm down”, “accept ourselves”, and a myriad other suggestions, that while sensible, may not be an accurate response to our predicament.

 So, how do we fight the nagging voice in our head?

It’s definitely not easy as most of us blame ourselves and over-critique ourselves by assuming we are in the wrong. That if people around us are going ooh and aah at our seemingly “cool” achievements, then we ought to be happy. That the dissent is in our heads.

While, we are in the wrong, the reason for it is often different from the ones above, and difficult to place, and stems from the inherent need in some of us to “appear” a certain way, rather than “be” a certain way.

Start by asking:

“What should I do, that will give my life purpose?”

“How should I be, that will make me happy?”

 

There is no easy way of arriving at the answers. We may take days, weeks or even months to come up with an answer. And even then, we may not be sure.

From starting a family, to teaching children, from social work, to lawyering, from travelling the world, to starting up, from aiming for CEO, to making art, every person has a different life problem to solve – and none of them should be looked down upon. If a person believes shattering the glass ceiling is what will give her a sense of achievement – she should do it. Or, if another person believes shattering the glass ceiling, while “cool”, is not for her: she’d prefer having a simple job while concentrating on her family – that’s great too.

The toughest part is eliminating all the noise, until our true purpose stares back at us.

And even after we’ve figured that out, it’s going to be tough. Easier than before, but still an uphill walk. Our families may want us to get married, our husbands may want us to devote more time to them, our friends may think we’re being childish, our boyfriends may think the path we’ve chosen is not how things should be, and even the random colleague at work may have an opinion.

And we may, at our weaker moments, succumb to the pressure: After all if everybody feels something is wrong with our paths, there must be, right? Wrong. This feeling is dangerous because it leads us to over-critiquing ourselves to the point where we can’t decipher which way is up. Where life seems to be a constant rumble, and we seem to be drowning unaware of the surface.

In these moments, what we need to understand is not everybody is built like us, and so, not everybody can understand the pulse of what we feel. What is just a “job” for the next person, is a “life purpose” for us. Sure, it may seem like a first world problem, and it probably is. For somebody fighting for her survival, her life purpose is obviously different. But for us, who have luckily gotten the basics sorted, we need to do what we can to contribute to the world in a way that makes us sleep better at night. And the definition of this “contribution” is different for all.

A 10-year-reunion at my school where everybody from my batch shared their stories, helped me clarify and arrange a lot of thoughts in my head. It helped me understand the meaning of doing something one genuinely loves, and it’s often not what you think you love – which is often the idea of a certain profession rather than the profession itself – but what you actually do – the difference is massive and often requires a lot of work to decipher.

I am just starting to ask myself the right questions. And little by little, beginning to answer them. However, what I am learning in this process is that I will have to muster all of my strength and go against the wills of a lot of people: to be honest, it’s scary. But I do pray, I don’t give up, and that I continue fighting for what I believe in.

I hope you can too.

 

 

 

Why we stay and lose in touch with friends from the past.

Note: While I was writing my first story about laughter and forgetting in my previous blog post, I felt this strange sense of liberation. Like this is what I was meant to write all this while. Like this was the topic I was sifting for, through the folds of my brain during languid train journeys and zoned-out moments at work. And that’s when I realised, I would convert all these snippets into blog posts – move them from memory to blog, where they would serve as reminders of a time long past, a time when happiness was real.

I don’t know what book it was (Milan Kundera’s Identity?), but the book basically says our friends are our tangible connections to our past –  If we lose our friends from the past, we lose our link to the past. And we risk losing a part of ourselves.

So we stay in touch with old friends for the mirror this friend holds out to us. And our friends stay in touch with us for the mirror we hold out to them. The mirror to our shared pasts that shelters shared memories –  a proof of having existed in a certain way in a certain period of time. A window to ourselves. A tangible proof of our existence. A key to our identity.

Which simply means, we need our friends to stay connected to the world and to ourselves.

And so even when we grow up into different people, we still look for those who transport us to our foundation. Who give credibility to our existence.

One of the most painful things is meeting a cherished person from the past and realising you have nothing in common with their present self.

At that point, you feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself with the other person. You feel confused, lost and start scrambling around – looking for your misplaced identity – the part of you that went missing with the other person. And in that confusion, you struggle to rediscover your new self. You are subconsciously thinking, “Okay, so s/he is this. So where does that leave me?” And little by little, the more “changed” old friends you meet, the more discomfort you feel. And after this long and tedious phase (that evolves not ends), you become closer and closer to finding out who you really are.

After the initial enthusiasm in the first few years after graduation – life, career and love swoop right in, tearing us all apart bit by bit. At that time, it gets really tough. For instance, in my case, I would lie awake, missing, hoping with all my heart to go back in time. Back to school when there was so much to look forward to. A time, when there was love in our hearts and fire in our souls. A time, when we were invincible.

And so to connect with the invincible part of ourselves, we call our friends from back in time and make plans. We fix a time and place and arrive there, looking sharp. However, take the setting of the past away, and we’re left incomplete. Two incomplete people staring at each other across the table, wondering what’s missing. Like two halves of different apples wondering how to fit together.

Has the mirror shattered? Are shattered pieces of yourself all you can see?

Sometimes, meeting people from the past is a reminder of all that’s missing. 

Meeting an old friend only to realise they’re nothing like what you remember of them, makes you want to do one of two things:

  1. Shut the door to the past with a firm thud
  2. Wish to time-travel back to the past

However, sooner or later, we all realise that we can’t live with one foot down the back door. We can’t keep hoping for some spell to transport us back in time. And we move on. 

Sometimes, when I meet a friend from the past, it seems as though I am meeting a stranger. A new person with new habits and new tastes, a striking resemblance to somebody I knew a decade ago.

We sit across, exchanging pleasantries, awkward silences dissipating only after a few drinks, when conversation drifts to talks of the past. The past is all we have in common. Our memories the only reason we meet. That’s when the pain gets unbearable. So intense that sometimes I choose to distance myself from this stranger I can’t connect to.

I don’t want my enthusiasm in rekindling the past to end up destroying the past.

I don’t want my memories to be tainted by any awkwardness and disagreements we might face in the present. I want my memories from back in the day to stay sheltered like pink and blue bubbles glowing in the sun. Bubbles I can gaze at as they drift away into nothingness. I don’t want to bring the bubble closer. I don’t want to risk bursting the happiest memories I’ve ever had.

Sometimes, losing touch is all I can do to protect the sanctity of the past.

And so I often find myself losing touch with old friends.

But at the cost of protecting the sanctity of my past, am I losing my identity?

Memories sometimes make life worth living. And stories worth telling.

Maybe, once when I have told all these stories and have shared every pleasant memory from my past,  I can safely attempt to rekindle those ties. To mend the tangible strings tying me to the warm, fuzzy feeling of the past. To repair the bridges now lying damaged by the passage of youth and self-discovery. To gaze at the mirror and hold a mirror out, without fear of it being shattered.

Till then, I am going to write. Write till my fingers hurt, and brain drains itself of every shred of hurt and loss. Write till I am empty of past dues. And filled with knowledge of myself.

Will it be too late then? Well, at least I’ll still have my blog posts.


If you like this post, please scroll up and click ‘Follow’ on the top right hand corner.

The blogpost of laughter and forgetting

I don’t know how many of you have read this Milan Kundera classic, but you don’t have to worry about it, as this post (as suspected) has nothing to do with this intriguing-insightful (yet slightly disturbing) novel.

Today, when I heard a colleague laugh it took me back in time to a memory I was on the verge of forgetting. This colleague has a very distinct laugh – one that consists of essentially two syllables or a repetition of one. Imagine a male voice with a slightly nasal twang, go – “Hain, Hain”. Well, that’s his laugh.

Speaking of disturbing laughs, I remember in school, my entire dormitory in 9th standard went on one of those laughter-therapy like sessions without knowing it was a thing. Basically, there was a girl in our class – a skinny little girl with braces and long frizzy hair who had this screechy laugh that would make anybody who heard her laugh, laugh. Her laugh was so funny, and so catchy that once we recognised it, we just wouldn’t stop asking her to voluntarily laugh. Often a couple of us would accompany her on her first “Ha Ha” to ease her into this game, so she didn’t feel awkward starting. And once we heard her, the rest of us would naturally burst into splits, our funny unique laughs causing this gorgeous girl to laugh even louder (and funnier), which caused us to laugh, and then her to laugh, and then us – resulting in a laughing marathon occupying a good party of our 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. rest hours, and disturbing our neighbouring dormitories too.

We’d just laugh and laugh for no reason. Just because it was so much fun. It felt so good, and we didn’t have anybody shoving “laughter therapy” down our throats either. It was something invented in the corner 9th std dorm by us 14-year-olds – one of the many creative games devised to amuse ourselves.

Her laugh started with a loud screech like  – “Haaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin” and would then break into little splutters of “hehehehheheeh” and then again she would take a deep breath and there would be a few continuous screeches like – “Haaaarghhhhhhh- Haaaarghhhhhhh – Haaaarghhhhhhh” – followed by a few more “hehehehheh” splutters –  and at this moment, I would be laughing so hard, holding my tummy with one hand, wiping the tears with the other – that pain itself was forgotten for a moment.

I had forgotten this long lost memory or rather it was buried between the folds of “adulting”stress and brokedom only to emerge at the behest of a colleague guffawing his “Hain Hein”.

Well, let me just say this – the corporate world sure has its moments.

P:S: I know I am digressing from the “Fashion” theme again, but please understand – I am absolutely obsessed with my schooltime shenanigans.

P.P.S: Stay tuned for more “forgotten” stories of laughter and other happy moments from boarding school.

10 incredibly weird things about me that (debatably) make me an unlikeable person.

  1. Me to myself – “Thank God It’s a No-Plan Friday. What? There’s a plan? Oh no, why is life so tough?”
  2. I wish she cancels I wish she cancels I wish she cancels – Oh THANK GOD she cancelled! Now, I can happily be boring at home.
  3. I am ignoring your call not because I dislike you, disrespect you or mean to be rude. It’s just that I am going through something at the moment and I need all the time I can get to heal myself. At other times (that is the times that I haven’t “ignored” your call), I am genuinely busy and may have missed your call, made a mental note to call back, and then forgotten. Again, (debatably) unforgivable.
  4. How can people not like sleeping early? *genuine wonder* I sleep at 10:30 p.m.
  5. As long as I get the luxury of sleeping on time and waking on time and getting a mug of tea first thing in the morning, I will be sane.
  6. The only alcohol I drink is beer, and not because it’s alcohol, but because it’s beer. And I genuinely like the taste. I wouldn’t even mind  if beer didn’t make me high. In fact, it would be better as I could drink a lot more.
  7.  The reason I choose one plan over the other is not because I like one person over the other, but because I choose the plan where I know nobody including me is going to “overstay their welcome” or drag the party till the point where it’s-so-boring-that-we-can’t-stand-it-so-we-end-it. Instead, end it while it’s still fun; like you know how they say, “Quit while you’ve still got a reputation?” Well… something like that.
  8. A lot of my free time goes in devising ways I can: a) fire my maid b) ask for a raise c) think about what business I could start d) design a few perfect outfits e)Not actually doing any of the above (maybe just ‘d’)
  9. I wake up really early so that I can freshen up and have my first mug of tea while watching a random episode on Netflix – I don’t have to complete the episode – I just have to complete my tea. While watching something.
  10. I crib and I crib and I crib not because my life sucks, but because I am cleansing every shred of negativity within me (and dumping it on you) so that I can be happy. Again (debatably) selfish. You care for me after all? Don’t you? 😉

 

P.S: If you like this article, please click ‘Follow’ and do remember to ‘Like’ Chai High on Facebook. 🙂

P.P.S: This is supposed to be a style blog, but I like to digress once in a while. It’s a blog NOT a brand, for God’s sake.

P.P.S: I also spend a lot of time staying disillusioned with capitalism, advertising and selling people things they don’t want (despite or especially due to the fact that I have spent all of my career doing exactly that).

 

 

Humans stress me. Clothes de-stress me. 

 

 

Unless ‘clothes’ refers to a short sequinned (read ugly) number. Or worse, a my pure-white shirt has a spot of mustard. That’s when humans become a breeze.

I remember when I bought my first pair of boots. I was 21, in London for the first time. And my father bought me these really chic knee-high black boots. From Aldo. And oh, I was in love.

And, like all kinds of love, with it came a new set of anxieties.

What if, I leave my shopping bag somewhere. What if my baggage gets lost in transit? And with it go my boots? What if somebody steps on it – when I am wearing it? What if, it gets fungus? What if it breaks? What if a pigeon shits on it? 

And I realised, I share a weird relationship with fashion.

Inanimate, material fashion.

A ‘spontaneous anti-depressant’ in the words of Eugene Hutz, an instant excitement kick or a happiness machine – call it what you may, just the act of putting together fresh combinations from my closet is enough to bring on that sense of achievement. “Oh, why I didn’t I ever put those two together?”

 

And, the sheer joy on seeing a movie where the star dresses just like you do!  Keira Knightley in Begin Again, anyone? Or Emilia Clarke in Me Before you?

Clothes.

 

So, I wrote a silly poem about clothes.

Here it goes.

 

Clothes.

They won’t throw a fit if you don’t call them.

They won’t taunt you when you crib.

They won’t leave you for another country.

And they won’t make you feel like you’re shit.

They’ll be there for you when you’re happy.

And they’ll be there for you when you’re low.

They’ll make you feel fabulous,

even when you shed half a kilo.

They’ll bring out your best features

And they’ll notice your new haircut.

They’ll cover-up the extra inches – oh you dark-dark chocolate sundae!

And they’ll show-off all those curves!

 

Well, folks, that’s all for today. Drink lots of tea, wear lots of dresses, and laugh a lot.

Cheers.

Shivani