Mother vs Science

I was in 5th standard and I wanted to know how babies were born? I liked to find scientific explanations to things I see around me. But no one was willing to give me the answer to this question. I vividly remember discussing this with a friend. We had a theory. The moment a mangalsutra is tied, a chemical reaction happens inside the body which leads to a baby. But my friend asked what about other religions. We modified our theory. God might trigger the process manually after the marriage ceremony. We were excited thinking this might be the only proof to show God exists. The theory held good for many days. But then we came to know that babies were born without marriage too. This new information changed everything. Much later, a senior in school told us how it actually happens. I was scandalized. I could not believe people around me are doing it. My parents, teachers, uncles, aunts, bus conductors, drivers, the man at the stationary, the guy in the canteen, the nice lady who talks to me on my way to school. Everyone. Doing it. Despite all this, I was jubilant. I had found my answer.

While making breakfast, my mother listens to a guruji on TV. She pauses for a moment if they are telling about my raashi (zodiac sign), listens intently and then continues to work on. When the ads come, she changes the channel to listen to another guruji. This goes on for two hours every morning. And that’s the only time she watches TV (unless there is an award show with celebrities looking gorgeous). I am not a big fan of astrology because I haven’t found a scientific explanation for it. Yet she asks me to wear a ring with ruby. Fast on some days. She prohibits me from wearing dark coloured clothes. I have a cupboard full of black T-shirts.

She urges me not to eat non-veg on Saturdays. Apparently, chickens I kill on a Saturday have enough divine energy to disrupt my life. To counter my Shani’s Sade Saath (Saturn’s seven and half year cycle) I have to read Hanuman Chalisa every Saturday. After taking an oil bath. Cutting hair on a Saturday is a big no.

An old couple lived next to our house. When they returned from Kashi, they got me a black thread. Most people wear it to ward off ‘the evil eye’. When I was a kid my mother made me stand in front of the fireplace after the bath. With my towel wrapped around my waist, I see her take a handful of salt and move it in circles around my head. Thrice clockwise. I spit on it. One more turn anti-clockwise. She then throws it into the fire. I watch with delight as it makes crackling sounds. Supposedly more the sound more the evil eye. I still wear the black thread around my neck. I don’t know since when I started to find value in inanimate objects. Maybe I like it when I am 350 km away from home working on a deadline and I notice the thread around my neck. I think of home. I think of the people who gave it to me.

Mother says evening is the time when Gods enter the house. They will bless you in whatever state you are. So if I am sleeping I will be sleeping all my life. So she asks me to work or study or go out. Do anything other than sleeping. This kinda makes sense. If I sleep in the evening, then I will be up late at night. I will wake up late in the morning. And then I stumble to work. The cycle repeats. So every day after shouting and breaking off fights at school when I am lying on my bed, I have this image of Lord Vishnu with four arms and a golden crown, watching me sleep. I wake up.

My mother hates the number 3. Anything she does, she makes sure that she doesn’t do it thrice. For example, when serving food she does not put any item three times on the plate. While serving rice if I say enough after three times, she takes at least one grain of rice and serves it to make the total count four. I ask why. She doesn’t say anything. Maybe she got the idea from the rituals during a funeral where everything is done thrice. I have been seeing this for so many years. Now when I am serving on my own there is a voice inside my head that says don’t do it thrice. I can’t seem to shake it off. But to be honest, it has made me more mindful of the quantity of food I am taking.

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Pretty sure each item has not been served thrice

Sometimes I wonder where is that kid who looked at things scientifically. Maybe mothers trump science. The other day I was feeling adventurous. So I wore a black T-shirt, cut my hair on a Saturday after eating chicken. Which I served thrice. I counted. I lived to tell the tale. I should stop now.

Eating with my mouth closed

The other day I helped my brother move to a new place. When we were done we sat there in the new house with all the unopened boxes around us. Hungry and exhausted, we ordered biryani and coke. The moment I started eating, my brother tells me, “Why are you eating like a pig? Stop making so much noise!” I stopped midway, my mouth half open, gaping at my brother. I felt like a student caught red handed cheating in his exams. It is not the first time I was hearing it. My chomp-fest has been discussed multiple times at home too. I am not a big fan of eating with my mouth closed.

I don’t have a research paper to prove it, but I always felt eating with my mouth open enhanced the taste. I imagine the flavours travelling to my nose. The smell and taste working together in harmony so that I can savour the food in all its glory.

My speed gets compromised when I eat with my mouth closed. When I go out to eat with my other broke friends, we order one bowl of french fries. My closed mouth stunt can leave me starving. I got to finish the fries before anyone else does. From the evolutionary perspective, it is a serious matter of life and death.

When I hear anyone eating loudly, it doesn’t disgust me. I admire them. Because I know for sure, that one person in the table is having a time of his life.

When I was a kid I would go to our cowshed and feed the cows hay. I would sit cross-legged facing it while it leisurely chewed its food. The sound of it gnawing the hay was soothing and therapeutic. I would lose the sense of time. I would soak in every noise the cow made. Try to figure out how it felt eating it. There is a strange beauty in it. Cows are classy. Humans don’t have the same elegance.

My work table might be a mess, but my plate – never. Thanks to my grandma and my mother I have excellent skills of keeping my plate neat at any point of the meal. I shift all the biryani rice to the left. This is the untouched part of the food. I take only small amounts to the right. Mix it with salad or gravy. Eat. Bones make up a neat pile on one corner. I try to eat one item at a time so as to enjoy its flavour in all its glory and not mix it with others. If there is an option to take fresh hot puris or dosas directly from kitchen, I don’t mind making multiple trips to get it. I hate wasting food. When I was in college, a guy from a country I don’t remember, showed us pictures of starving children in Ethiopia. Sitting there in that room, seeing those pictures I took a silent vow – never to waste food in my life. If I don’t like jalebi, I don’t take jalebi.

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Gets my heart racing

Millions in this world enjoy a happy life eating with their mouth shut. I can be one of them too. After a lot of thought I decided to break this habit. So here I am eating bhujiya with my mouth closed. It tastes different. It doesn’t feel right. My brain is not able to comprehend what is happening. My neural pathways are up in arms. I tell myself this is for the greater good. I hate you societal norms. I have to taste everything I loved again with my mouth closed. Visit all my favourite restaurants. Relive all my food memories. This is probably the biggest life changing decision I ever made.

Evolution of my reactions to Facebook

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Social media has become an important part of our lifestyle. And I am not here to say it is bad. Facebook has been here for a while and we all have grown with it. The way we see it has changed over time. Below are some of the phases which most of them go through, including me.

1. The first contact

Facebook is just blue and white, I thought. I can change themes in Orkut. I could relate to Orkut more because, like me, it was juvenile. You had to think twice before visiting someone’s profile in Orkut. Then a friend of mine told me that in Facebook it doesn’t matter. You had my curiosity, now you have my attention. There were much refined privacy settings. Most of my friends switched to Facebook. I too followed the suit. And I was not disappointed. Uploaded a celebrity’s photo as my profile picture because, you know, flowers, landscapes and babies were not my thing. I then found myself in a world of mangled and dissected names. And the baby faces too didn’t help me in finding who sent me that friend request. But nevertheless, Facebook had arrived.

2. If it’s not on Facebook, it never happened!

There was a time when I would come back from college, open two tabs in my browser – one for Google, another for Facebook. You scroll through your news feed till the point you reach the last seen post. Existence of any unread post creates anxiety. You pounce upon every notification/friend request with wide eyes and gleeful smile. Every conversation in real life for sure consists of the phrase- “Oh yes, I saw it on Facebook”

You go out with friends because you haven’t posted in Facebook for a long time. You are always in search of that perfect profile picture. The one with out of focus background will give you hundred likes for sure. A pic with your dog or baby is preferable because you want the world to know you are sensitive. And that trek you went- you didn’t ask if anybody had a compass or pocket knife, but you made sure somebody had a camera. Your college suddenly becomes interesting because somebody created a confession page. And of course there is that time when your feed is filled with white and black colours; thanks to graduation pics.

Then out of the blue somebody gets engaged. Or directly posts a picture of their marriage. You are happy for them but somehow the feeling is not as strong as expected. Maybe that’s what you call ‘growing up’. And then there are honeymoon pics in Thailand or Malaysia. Yes, I know you were on a budget.  After that it’s usually silence, no posts for a long time.

A guy/girl who was virtually non-existent suddenly becomes interesting. Then there are few who were popular, but now they are just creeps who post pictures from shady bars. Normally you don’t watch critically acclaimed movies, but when you do, you make sure you post it on Facebook. The guy/girl who had never changed his/her profile pic for years, suddenly uploads a stunning photo and everyone goes crazy. And how can I forget those newsreaders who give updates on every wicket or goal. Thank you, great work. Maybe I’ll do a thank you video for you guys.

And one fine day, you are just browsing through your feed and you notice your crush is online. The rush of adrenaline when you type something and press enter is priceless. On the other side, she is thinking – “Oh God, this guy! I should not make myself visible to him ever again.”

3. The Withdrawal

By this time you have read way too many articles about how Facebook affects you. You start to see it now. You have always complained that you don’t get time and now you know why. You start to feel an aversion to all the news feed posts. Every post about feeling low or happy irks you. Every notification from candy crush infuriates you. Your friends are going on vacations, taking selfies in front of Eiffel tower. People are posting 25 places to visit before you die. If they will please fund me I would definitely go. Then there nerdy status updates which you can’t understand. You are fed up. It’s time to move on.

You have not logged in for weeks now. And you brag to all your friends how you are so over Facebook. How you have plenty of free time. You are at your productive best. Your life is uncluttered. You give importance to real life interactions. You are living the life you have always dreamt of.

But soon you will realize that if not Facebook, you will find something else to waste your time. Youtube suddenly becomes interesting. You involve in Whatsapp group conversations which you had always avoided before. You binge watch already watched TV series. Forgetting birthdays becomes a habit.

4. Acceptance

I read this article sometime back: Back online after a year without internet. It is about a guy who decided to go offline for a year. I mean not just from Facebook, but from the whole internet. He describes how great the first few months were. But later on he missed the internet. It is a good read, go check it out.

Bottomline is – It is wrong to put the blame on Facebook or internet for anything. It’s not Facebook, it’s you. Your online world, just like the physical universe, can and will get boring, depressing and have ‘cringe-worthy’ moments. It’s all part of the package. But we got to hold on to those good moments.

I understand that you had a good laugh seeing that cat video and you just wanted your friends to see it. It’s okay. And the skydiving pic you posted…Awesome! I won’t take away your freedom of self-expression by objecting your duck faced selfie. I accept the true you. Celebrating your uniqueness is important. So do your thing. But it is left for me to decide how that will affect me.