Closing Argument

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I do not have a closing argument. I saw Mulk two weeks ago and I enjoyed it a lot. It was a nuanced and subtle depiction/analysis of the relationship between religion and terrorism and our perception of the same. What I liked most was that it comes across as a soft handed approach to deliver a message. There are no explosive or aggressive tactics to bring forth a powerful message. One of my favorite scenes is the closing argument delivered by Tapsee Pannu in the end. With that argument she ties the entire story together; she talks about the philosophy of ‘them and us’- that is, when we come to identify with a certain faith/ideology/group of people, we create a mental divide between us and rest of the world (them). No matter how fragile she seems at times during the proceedings, it is impressive how beautifully that argument culminates the series of arguments that we see in the second half and how strongly her argument hits home, you know that you’ve seen this ‘them and us’ unfold before, you know that you’ve done this at some point.

I was reminded of ‘The Good Wife‘. I was reminded of all the episodes where the lawyers prepare an approach to defend their client. The proceedings last for days, the approach sees multiple shifts and ultimately it all comes down to that closing argument where the lawyers highlight the strength of their case, challenge the opposing counsel and milk the sympathy of the jury in their favor. You don’t win with a feeble closing argument.

If you look closely, your family arguments have a closing argument too, that final set of words meant to deliver a turbulent blow and suspend the dialogue. However unlike legal dramas, these closing statements may not be coherent, they just have to bear a strong impact to intimidate the other person. In my opinion, there are a set of classic closing arguments, that I always hear in family arguments. No matter what the subject of the argument be, it always ends in:

  • I am going to stop talking to you completely.
  • If you pursue this any further, our relationship will cease to exist for me.
  • I am going to leave this house.
  • I swear I am not going to do xyz – insert subject of the matter- irrespective of how much you coax me.
  • How many years do I have left now.

Like I said earlier they may not be coherent at all but they have a emotional impact and they all emphasize how vehemently one feels for their side of the argument that they did not shy away from articulating these statements (read, threats). It is like check mate because how do you argue against these statements. You might be tempted to repeat the statement thrown at you but you will only lose ground on doing so because there will be no authenticity to what you say and that will only translate to a lack of conviction.

I am not much of an arguer when I am home. It is not that I am not prone to anger but I do not vocalize it rather I bottle it. I find arguments unsettling and investing energy in fighting that is going to unsettle you rather than the opponent is a futile act. Also, I never win. In the few arguments that I have participated in, nobody takes me seriously because (a) I do not relentlessly pursue my case, I give in mid way and (b) I do not have a closing argument to gain an upper hand.

If I consider arguments 1 to 3 listed above, I can never use them. I am too timid to issue such threats because firstly I do not say such things casually out of spite, anger or irritation. People who argue often tend to say such things because they believe their words will have no value as soon as their anger fizzes out. Secondly no one will believe me if I say any of this because they know I am too much of an emotional fool to act on them. They know that I am too weak for detachment and hence they will not be intimidated. Of course I can bluff, I can try feigning sternness when I say these things. But I am not a good at bluffing either, I do not even bluff in a game of bluff. That is how hopeless I am.

I will be a complete failure at argument number 4 also because it is extremely easy to make me do something- send me on a guilt trip. In fact you do not even have to intervene, I will volunteer myself into guilt. Chances are that in the middle of the argument, I might already be feeling guilty for saying something harsh. After that I will start my mental pep talk to arrive at a compromise. It is in fact comical when I say that I am not doing that particular thing while I have already begun working at that thing even before the last word is out of my mouth.

Using argument number 5 is completely out of question because I believe it is manipulative to use aging in your favor. I can never be comfortable using that one. And then I am 25, average life expectancy rate does not make it an effective argument against my parents.

Since I am not a good arguer, I am the spectator and the mediator in my home – the Hermoine to the arguing Harry and Ron. You have to choose a role in the house and I opted (or imagined in my head) to be the mediator. However like I told you before, I find arguments unsettling and the distaste just keeps growing with time. Over the years I have been asked that if I find the mediation to be so exhausting then why do I engage at all, why not give up on it. Even I have been┬ácontemplating on the same lines lately, however the answer hit me last night. At the end of an argument, everyone knows where they stand, which door they are headed towards and what are they going to do then. But I know nothing. In the end they will all head in different directions and I will remain sitting where I am. I am scared that if I do not try, will I have anyone or anything left in the name of family at all.


The image has been sourced from Flickr and licensed here.

 

Bangalore: Trail and Beyond II

The first post that I decided to write on Bangalore was going to be titled ‘4 Weeks and 4 Houses’. Because my first four weeks in Bangalore were in four different houses. The first house was the service apartment that the company offered me. It was a 2 BHK furnished apartment and made for a gloomy welcome to Bangalore. Why, you may wonder. Because I have realized that vacant spaces accentuate the feeling of loneliness. I was just coming out of my home to this colossal space entirely at my disposal. Everything felt strange and confusing. I even deliberated on the room I should sleep in because choice my friend. In retrospect, that room was a good decision because as I realized much to my horror later that week, the other room had a balcony, the door to which had no bolt. Now imagine how peacefully I must have slept, constantly imagining all possible ways for an uninvited person to enter the apartment. Add to that, the experience of going to breakfast buffet the next morning and realizing that you are the only woman without a hijab in the room. By the time the waiter brought the coffee to my table, I noticed that everyone’s staring at me, so I rolled the pancake and sipped my coffee on the way out.

The second house was my cousin’s who opened the doors for me with home cooked food, good coffee, television and affection in aplenty- all things that I hold dear. It was a Friday night when I moved to her place. I remember how my manager had advised me to not travel late evening and wait till the next morning to move. But I had gone back to the apartment with open curtains in the living room and a switched on geyser- two things I would never do before leaving for work. Before my paranoia over the safety of the apartment could resurface in full, I booked an Uber, packed everything and left. Even Uber endorsed my decision because of all the cabs that I had taken in that week, this one was unbelievably on time and devoid of any arguments with the driver. Maybe I yearned to be rid of the apartment, maybe I yearned to see a familiar face, maybe I yearned to talk to someone in Hindi, or maybe it was what the driver who drove me from the airport told me, you should visit family the first time you are in a city, it is comforting and I cannot agree more to that.

The third house was my school friend’s. I had to look for a house. Before I moved to Bangalore, on a friend’s friend’s recommendation, I had a look at this website called ‘Colive 247‘. If you have heard of Nestaway, Colive parallels their model but seems more reasonable and has single accommodation options. So, I shortlisted two flats which according to their website were fully furnished flats in a gated society. Now when I actually visited one of them what I saw was a big room divided into spaces  to make it look like a flat, in a society which had a gate, a deserted foosball table in the middle of nowhere, a guy in the elevator telling me that the WiFi just doesn’t work and a worked up prospective flatmate (worked up because I walked in on her when she was spending some quality time with her boyfriend). The flat had a bed and a mattress in the name of furniture and felt like an over stuffed carton with no room for ventilation. From there I began the quest for a house in Bangalore again. In order to visit the flats during the week, I moved to my friend’s house. Of our six nights together, I think we slept on two. Because we talked, mostly involuntarily, as if talking was something as natural and inevitable as blinking. I discovered Truffles because of her, I discovered the ubiquitous ‘V-335E‘ route because of her, I discovered samosa kachori breakfast in Whitefield because of her, I discovered shared cabs because of her, I discovered that the touted ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S.’ life can exist in real life too but importantly I discovered her again and that people can bestow warmth on you even if you have done very little for them.

The fourth house was my permanent address in Bangalore- if 9 months qualify as permanent. I remember a sentence from my English textbook, ‘Television sets are selling like hot cakes these days’. If I were to use that idiom in Bangalore’s context, I would say, ‘rented flats in Bangalore sell like hot cakes’. I lost two flats because I needed sometime for consideration. Almost every flat that goes on sale during the week is sold out on the weekend. So in a desperate bid, I paid the token amount of 5000 rupees on a flat. Because the house hunting began looking like a race to me and I had to come first at the end of this week. But somehow I didn’t like the flat much, something about it didn’t fall right with my gut. Partly out of instinct and partly out of newly acquired habit I kept scrounging through ‘Flats and Flatmates Bangalore‘ in a bid to stumble upon something that I was missing all along. Magically, I found this old ad saved in my bookmarks. It was a completely new flat and magically, it was still vacant. I visited the flat on Friday and it looked perfect to me.  It was a completely new property, the balcony overlooked a pool, the block overlooked a lake, it was accessible from my office, there was a departmental store opposite the apartment, the deposit was 15,000 less than the earlier flat, it felt breezy and calm and it just seemed perfect. Endangering the token (which I recovered a couple of days and Whatsapp conversations later) that I had paid on the previous flat, I moved in to the latter on Monday and strangely, the house still seems perfect to me.

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I have a lot of memories of ‘breaking in’ in the house and Bangalore. One of the first decisions that I made after moving here were to make a choice between a bed and a bonded mattress because I had the money for only one. I went to a furniture store right next to my apartment and booked a mattress which was going to be delivered the next evening. However, my parents made me revisit the decision citing my OCD for cleanliness and by next morning I found a second hand bed with mattress. I visited the mattress store in the evening to cancel the order and the sermons that shopkeeper made me hear on negligence sent me on a guilt trip for days until a baniya friend explained to me that his sermon was only a sales tactic employed to make me sway from the cancellation. I remember convincing someone- passionate about the craftsmanship of making a mirror- to make me a wall mirror for 800. I remember going to the departmental store to stock up on essentials and coming home with new found respect for my parents because maintaining supplies is such a tedious task. I remember going out for food with a friend, always overeating, always laughing at our quirky college stories and quirky flat stories and always finding new scoop on our best friend.

In January, another cousin of mine moved to Bangalore for six months. Most of the ‘breaking in’ in Bangalore happened after she moved in with me. I am one of those fortunate kids to have experienced those fascinating old school summer vacations at nana-nani ke ghar (house of my maternal grandparents). She has been an essential part of those vacations and when she moved in here, she brought that charm of garmi ki chhuttiyan to this house and my life. We finished our dinners with mangoes, we took detours for ice cream and chips, we teased each other by eating our Maggi Chings slow so that the other person finishes first, we played Antakshari on nights and realized that even after a decade we still recall songs from 1990s and early 2000s only during Antakshari, we watched old cheesy Hindi movies on Friday nights, we spent Sundays sleeping till afternoons, we went to a Baadshah concert and bragged our Punjabi by singing along every word to ‘Wakhra Swag‘, we queued for 90 minutes to take a roller coaster ride at an amusement park, we went on a scavenger hunt 18 kilometres away at 7 a.m., we did ‘I don’t know how many’ pizza nights, we made bad restaurant choices and good chaat choices together, we walked to the bus stop from our offices with chips and muffins in hand, chattering all along without any care in the world as if we are still little kids and as if this is nothing but that coveted summer vacation. We even tried doing the ‘sagan ka lifafa’ act (exchange of envelopes of money between relatives typically seen at the end of a visit to a relative’s house or auspicious gathering) and we cried the day she flew from Bangalore, just like old times. I remember how we used to text each other in October last year hoping that we’d up end up in Bangalore together. However I never believed it would happen because when do you get this lucky that you get what you wish for. But I got lucky, in fact luckier than I ever imagined.

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I have never felt comfortable at any place other than my home in Gwalior. I have never warmed up to the idea of having an address away from my actual permanent address. I have been in Delhi for three years and ended up disliking a city that I was always fascinated with as a kid. I have always cringed at the idea of change, in fact I recall shuddering at the idea of Bangalore as I packed my belongings. However, as I was telling my best friend last week, I like Bangalore. Bangalore has been the home to the many ‘firsts’ in my life, including the first of warming up to a new city. At the end of sixty days, I might not be here and it will feel odd to not go through the Herculean task of finding a cab for office and flinching over the surge pricing, it will feel odd to not wander aimlessly in departmental stores, it will feel odd to not mentally evaluate distance in terms of kilometers but in terms of time and traffic, it will feel odd to not cook dinner and sending pictures of it to my mother because both of us believed that I cannot amount to much in the kitchen, it will feel odd to go back to weather that demands fans on full speed and air conditioning and to a June that doesn’t have blankets, it will seem odd to not have your North Indian perceptions of South Indian food being challenged as you are presented with idlis that melt in your mouth, vada that produces a crunch sound as you bite into it, sambhar that is sweet, coconut chutney that has mint in it and dosa that’s fluffy and thick on the inside but ghee roasted from the outside. I think I cannot explain it well, but overall, it will be odd to not be in Bangalore anymore.


This is the second part of the post that I started writing on Bangalore two days ago. You can find the first part here.