My first Toastmasters speech: My Spirit Animal (with doodles!)

How do I tell you about myself? Perhaps, I should associate myself with a spirit animal, and draw parallels in terms of our traits!

Let’s start with my Zodiac sun sign – I am a Sagittarian. Sagittarians are known to be optimistic, energetic, spontaneous, travel-lovers, and people who love change. That sounds like me – I love change. I embrace it even as others are averse or skeptical. I jump head-first into it, and prefer to live by taking the bull by its horns.

Travel is yet another great love of mine, and I’m doing it alone, often enough. This is because spontaneity is my middle name, and I don’t like to wait around to accommodate others when my heart speaks its demands, loud and clear. I trace it back to my mother’s upbringing. She has lived in Chennai, Secunderabad, Hyderabad, Pune, Kolkata, Shillong, Patna, and Bombay. In fact, she even gave birth to me while she was traveling – between Trivandrum and Coimbatore, I believe. She had to make a pitstop at a village called Perundurai so I could be born!

I have also lived in many cities – Coimbatore, Kolkata, back to Coimbatore again. Chennai for college, and once I graduated, I moved to Mumbai. Then to Ladakh, where I worked for about a month – not longer, for a reason that I will return to in about a minute. Then Bihar, in a village called Bettiah, mostly. Then Delhi, and then Bengaluru. When I came to Bengaluru, my friend said to me, “Tej, drop your anchor here for a while. Throw a new year’s party, buy some furniture, make some friends, cry by yourself, dance by yourself, get into a relationship, breakup and breakdown.” I did throw a new year’s party earlier this year. I haven’t managed to have a relationship though, that’s why I’m still here. (Jk)

I’m sure my wanderlust will rear its lovely head again sometime and drive me towards taking yet another adventurous leap (what sort of adventure – I cannot tell yet), but for now, I’m here and I’m home. Home! Home happens to be yet another priority in my life. In fact, I returned from Ladakh only so I can be with my ailing grandmother, who is now no more. I have certain routines that involve home. I am very close to my grandfather, and make sure that I visit him and my cousins every Diwali. In fact, last year, I took off for a trip to New Zealand and returned to India to visit them just in time for Diwali! I attribute this side squarely on my Cancer moon. Cancer is the sign of home and nourishment. That certainly sounds like me. But, then again, I’m not moody crab like a Cancerian. I don’t withdraw into a shell and become unresponsive. In fact, I’m often spirited and cheerful. When I’m not, I’m pensive and dreaming. Like the centaur, with his telescope (pssst, the Sagittarius sign is depicted as a centaur).

Looks like I have to come up with a new spirit animal to associate with. Quite recently, I stumbled upon a quote – “the strength of the wolf is in its pack, and the strength of the pack is in the wolf.” Aha! Yes, the wolf is definitely my spirit animal. While the wolf lives in packs and is a fiercely loyal animal – not unlike moi – this animal also holds its solitude sacred. The wolf explores the recesses of the jungle, and is not afraid of exploring uncharted territories.

So, if you want to know more about me, perhaps you ought to study the wolf better. 🙂


The seduction staged by Ariana Grande

I have been studying Robert Greene’s Art of Seduction over the past few months. And like many of the book’s readers, I find his theories captivating. There seems to be some truth to them – dole out your unconditional love with no front or charisma, and there are no takers. You are soon going to be a doormat filled with resentment.

Position it as something that people need – now that does the trick. Except to do that, it’s important that you suss out people’s subconscious needs. You have to read past their daily masks, and peer into their souls; that which trickles down their chin while they are unaware, that which splashes out when they are bursting at their seams. They might make their excuses and apologize for it, but really, it doesn’t change who they truly are.

Ariana Grande’s music has been under the spotlight as a result of the attacks on her concert in Manchester (I wholeheartedly condemn it; I fail to imagine a thoroughly logical sentiment to carry out such a violent plan). Her music was already reaching her target audience, even otherwise.

If you watch videos of her, you probably notice her girlish giggle and her doe-eyed appearance. Except if you stick around longer, you’ll also notice the bondage-inspired outfits hugging her petite body. Her image is that of your regular, probably church-going, high school sweetheart, except she’s singing about sex and getting ‘into trouble’ for wanting it (will I get stoned if I suggest that these seem like ‘classic wet dreams’?). Her expressions aren’t really, well, expressive, but that helps her cause: like a blank slate, you can project whatever you want onto her angelic features, emphasized, obviously, by makeup.

She seduces the young boy out of your macho façade, and God, I have to admit – it is intriguing, and I find myself smitten. Even as a hetero-oriented young woman, I find myself smiling at her silly antics and over-the-top, cherubic gestures. She makes you feel macho even when you aren’t particularly feeling so – for instance, the lyrics of Dangerous Woman are targeted at the listener, making them feel like their being themselves makes her weak in her knees, makes her want to break rules and claim taboos as her own. If that isn’t sexually flattering, I don’t know what is. She’s blaming you, but it’s a sweet blame to undertake.

I’d say that Selena Gomez has a similar style: she has a relatively squeaky clean image. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and laughs easily. She plays the role of the quintessential damsel in distress, if you ask me.

I suppose these styles appeal to some men’s need to play heroes. For their deep-seeded virility, sexual power and prowess to be acknowledged and drawn out with flattery. To be told that they are unique in some way, but in a rather bashful manner – where you are just hinting at it.

On travel and relationships.


Travel has been my one true experience of reality in the past. It was probably because that is something I felt affinity with, a glimmer of familiarity if you will. As a child, I moved around a lot. I moved schools, homes, cities, even colleges! Change was the most frequent thing, and seemed like the most sincere remedy to any sort of situation – going through puberty, friends acting strange, feeling like an outcast? Bam! New school, new people, new hobbies, new home, new dimensions to living.
Sometimes as it happened with pre-internet kids, one had little control over resources of communication, and it was hard to make sense of reality, so you drift apart thinking c’est la vie, nobody knows anybody forever, nobody knows each other’s deepest truths or darkest secrets, that’s just how it is supposed to be. Fights meant you cut people off because new people could be met, and new friends can be made, as if they were paraphernalia of convenience, the result of happenstance, product of circumstance, nothing was a choice right?
What a painful way of living. To start from scratch at the drop of hat, taking flight at the hint of trouble, never immersing oneself in a hard, cold fact because you see it as just that – a fact. Nothing more to it, no knowledge could change that. Right? But I am admitting to having been wrong. A fact may be, but the adjectives used to describe it are a figment of your mindset. A friend is rude – that is a surface-level fact. Stay with it long enough, and you will hear that she had been having a bad day. Dig your heels and show your trustworthiness, and she will share how talking about grades in front of boys make s her feel like she is under inspection and is being judged…because her mother mocks her for being boy-crazy instead of wanting to do homework all the time.
Life has a mysterious way of unravelling itself to us. It does not unfold to us in the span reality as we have it happen to us. It reveals itself in layers, through perspective and across the time-space continuum. That is both the strangest and real part of living.
Stick around and you’ll spin a new tale around it. You’ll find a new meaning. You’ll see new purpose. Just…stick around.
So what’s my most current experience of reality? Relationships. With people, in general. You – you’re in my life because I fully mean to have you around, to love and cherish you, to share, to show kindness to, to break down in front of, to make demands of, to be of help, to return favours, to argue and disagree with, to be annoyed with, to hold you as the cause of frustration, to apologise to. Let’s not romanticize love or human relationships as meeting our expectations from reality. They are rather our bridges to accepting reality, familiarising ourselves with it, and making peace with it while we continue to live out our interpretation of it. Relationships are paradoxes. They set you free from the fear of the suddenness of the new, but sometimes you might have to claw your way into one and hold onto it.
Now I don’t just want to learn about places through its people. I want to learn people through their stories, their people, their places, their view of the world. A brand new pair of eyes and sensory experience, as I am allowed to peer into the soul of another – could magic get any more real? Could reality get any more magical?

Goals for my 20s: Suaveness and Expertise.

Interpretation: The oversized teddy bear, symbolizes the psyche of a child, slowly approaching adolescence, which is marked by rebellion due to the sudden imposition of harsh, but distilled realities, with little understanding of the world, and therefore feeling radically misunderstood.

Reading opinionated commentary is my favourite past time. I couple it with an inner soliloquy that constantly challenges the assumptions made by the author. The latter has reared its head only of late- say over the past 2 years, when I realized and was told by a mentor that my worldview was not aligned with several precepts of reality. Not that I was not aware of it; I had been called eccentric, different, not-run-off-the-mill and several other adjectives, which did not quite help me understand why I stood apart, instead lending a shade of alienation to such remarks. If others were thinking that my being ‘distinguished’ from them in this seemingly-arcane manner was pleasing my ego, far from it. I was constantly racking my brains as to what made me different, so as to be able to take charge of this energy instead of letting it run amok in my subconscious and force others to project themselves onto my personality.

So lately, while I read sensationalized feminist opinions, such as 12yo Madison Kimrey’s scathing letter-cum-sermon to Phyllis Schlafly on feminism (whose ideology I’m simply going to assume to belong to the same school as Ann Coulter’s, because I have only so much time in the world) or an acquaintance opining about the dogma of patriarchal wedding tradition, I simply remind myself that these people are young, much like I am right now, and perhaps even like how I was before these two years during which I put every idea and notion under the radar of enquiry, and questioned every assumption based on which I conducted my life.

The youth’s voice draws its power in its ability to enchant. It reminds you of the thoughts and ideas that occurred to you when you were unbound by the very real limitations that run the world. Dogma, capital (or the lack thereof), favoritism, cliques, the triple threat of duty-responsibility-priority, etc seem like structures and systems that are waiting to be rebelled against, seeming, as they do, to be perpetuating slavery of some kind. However, much of dissent comes from limited understanding of the complexity of circumstances which gave birth to the system, and the variables that fed its tentacles leading to its monstrosity.Quite a bit like haters, don’t you think?

But, it is fairly evident in the world of debate and logic that when we try to counter dogma with dogma, we simply end up in a world held together by the reins of fear and shame. Lest you misinterpret, I am not writing in favour of being well-adjusted. I don’t care for being well-adjusted. I don’t care to fall in line just because I was told to do so. However, I have learnt (and hope to habituate) that if I were to ask a question, I had best phrase it without undermining another’s authority (else, it becomes rhetorical, and therefore narcissistic). This helped me put a stop to my self-sabotaging ways, a.k.a. rebelling without a cause. Instead, here’s a new way of expression that I propagate- that of hacking the system, which comes from expertise and suaveness, and I wonder if anybody would disagree with me when I say that there is all kinds of dearth of suave people.

The fun of reality.

I love new things. This makes me curious and an interesting person to get to know. However, it also makes me someone who is almost constantly looking for stimulation- it might be a sudden, uncharted getaway, new people, new cuisine, and new hobbies, new skills. Of late, I have been aware of this tendency, and I have sat myself down in quietness to understand my possible ‘abhorrence’ for the mundane. Only to discover that mundane isn’t all that flavourless at all! 

What is mundane?

Is it that which we have in common?

Why is it so uncelebrated?

Why is the response to it so often dejection and aloofness?

I love finding mundane details that I might have in common with others. Is a quick hug a mundane detail? What if you liked it? What if the memory of how it feels lingers on? A courtesy greeting, a rote expression, but isn’t as it seems.

In fact, I find the mundane, only, pliable. Nothing else seems to matter as much as the description of the mundane details of my life. When they fit, they form a fantastic larger-than-life picture of my story thus far. Constantly evolving, never static, when I fail to put these mundane puzzle pieces together, within the given time, everything descends into beautiful chaos, driving me to magical thinking, playing a tug of war with the cosmos, and so suddenly shocked by the other and the self. So delicately puzzling, I am pulled in and shoved out of this world of despondence, haze, and seeming-sorcery. Sometimes I will thrash my hands, causing the chaotic fabric to churn and get further entangled. Sometimes I will reach my hand out above my head, and grope calmly for that which I may call my anchor and stay. Most times I am entranced by it, caught in a landslide of the subconscious, stuck in reality.

Such irony. Only the nature of time is in common.

The Experience of Split Brain

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is a brain scientist who remembers every moment of her life-altering stroke. I first listened to this podcast before falling asleep. Knowing I hadn’t done it justice, and realizing its significance, I listened to it at least three times after that. The third time, I documented my reaction to it, contrasting it with my personal experiences. This post is that account.

Why is it that we seem to, deliberately or otherwise, decide to not go back to investigate pain? I feel that I have personally lived with myself as a mystery for a long time. During this, there was always a consciousness of experience in the present, however, akin to the sensitivity of an open wound, so to speak. I was conscious of my reaction, but little consciousness of the procedure of perception, and the mechanism of its processing existed. Once I had acquainted myself with me, there was a flood of pain. Fusing always requires tremendous energy and causes a temporary rupture that mends through the union.

During the first three months of 2014, I mostly remained locked up in my room in my parents’ house, listening to audio books, paying attention to the influence music had on me, writing blog posts, lifting weights, doing yoga, and crying. There was plenty of crying- entirely therapeutic, as opposed to painful. I haunted my own room, sometimes talking to my best friends during the late hours, but mostly recognizing my inner demons. There was no battle.

Then, there were a few months out there- studying theories, working in far-flung pockets of the country, and living with the locals- an exposure to kindness and hospitality, that seemed so alien to a city-bred like me. These experiences acquainted me with my demons. I empathized with them. Delved deep into the experiences that birthed them. They were the unexamined memories that I acted from and, in a sense, re-lived, when my reactions centered wholly around my own sensitivity and the needs which were its byproduct. During this time, I feel that my study of astrology and the strength of my relationships with family and friends, helped me on a meaningful level.

Today, I have a stronger sense of identity that manifests as courage, which allows me to experience myself more wholly. I suppose that experiences don’t necessarily lie outside of yourself- it is not merely the world, but the self, the sensations, the emotional quagmire that sometimes leads to apathy… that’s a different sort of experience. It felt like I had unlocked a new level of existence. That seems to be exactly what Dr. Taylor is saying: that she lost the capacity to retain a sense of identity with the stroke that impacted her left side of the brain. She also comments on how she does not want to explore certain memories from her past. One part of me understands; a detachment from the past, we tell ourselves, will let us deal with the present, and build the future. But I finally understand what it means to have history repeat itself in a personal context when we are ignorant to it. It is like how it is in Wuthering Heights: Cathy Linton’s and Hareton’s relationship immediately after Linton Heathcliff’s death seems to mirror the wretchedness and destructive nature of Catherine Earnshaw’s and Heathcliff’s relationship. Had there not been an intervention in the form of Linton Heathcliff’s death and Nelly Dean’s transfer to the household, the struggle could have played out over and over, with simply the agents and periods changing.

There is another part of me that is surprised by her decision and is capable of snide. Without the full experience of the self, it is a life partially-lived! Especially with her enhanced faculty that allows her to view her past as as a researcher would for a posthumous biographical portrait! But undeniably, what an uncommon, complex life path Jill has, mapped out for her.

I raise questions, slightly more academic in nature, here.

I suppose, I watch TV now.

You know, I could make one of those memes, cause I don’t usually watch TV, but when I do, I watch… ‘Girls’. How cliched is that name right? Sometimes, when I tell another person that the only TV show that I watch is Lena Dunham’s ‘Girls’, I can literally see judgment in their eyes as it is being formed. That really cracks me up, but I’m glad that the writers of the show (which is primarily Dunham, I believe) did not care to come up with an uptight, existential-sounding name that sells a show to great expectations, only to jump plenty of shark and mislead the audience into a sort of primetime limbo-like funk, all while treating their brains like monkeymeat. 😀

The reason I watch ‘Girls’ is because it makes sense to me,  and makes me laugh like a maniac, all at the same time. I have only come as far as the second episode of the latest season, and I already felt the need to come on here and blog. This has got to be my most favourite episode, thus far. Here’s why-

When Soshanna and Adam are the diner-

Sosh: What’s your favourite utensill?

Adam <after some banter and explanation>: A fork.

Sosh: That is crazy. Why would you want a cold, metal prong stabbing you in the tongue, when instead you could have food delivered into your mouth on, like, a cool, soft pillowy cloud.

Adam (after a pause, to obviously digest and express his bewilderment): What did you just say…?

[Take note of the holes on Adam’s tee. He’s broke and living off an allowance from his grandmother.]

Can I be honest with you? I can relate to Sosh on every level. People just look at you like you’re crazy simply because they don’t follow the thought-process behind some of the things that you vocally express. That’s them being naive. And why wouldn’t anyone not have given any thought to what their favourite utensil is? Isn’t that more important than giving thought to frivolous things like what their favourite colour or TV show is?! (FYI: 😛 )

And then there’s that older guy at the rehab that Jessa’s bonding with (and from the previous two seasons, possibly trying to hit on, because of her ‘daddy’ issues), who says- “Poor thing. You’re too young to understand which thoughts are useless to you. When you’re older your mind learns to let go of things that don’t suit you. You start to live with the same ignorance as the very young. Of course being young is terrifying as well. You have all the knowledge, but none of the language (!!) to dissuade yourself from the horrible truths of the world. I have the utmost sympathy for my daughter. I did everything I could to make the world a less gargantuan place for her.” To which Jessa pipes in with a remark about he doesn’t even talk to her, and he says, “That’s just one of the ways that I protect her.” I won’t dwell on it too much, but that was profound.

How is everybody else even making do with any other show? Maybe when I am older, I would rubbish my taste for ever having indulged in this show to the point of excluding every other, but right now, its portrayal of dysfunctionality helps me make so much sense of how the world and its people are.  o.O