I do not know what kind of a track I am going on run on, and what kinds of words will choose to flow through here. There is lots that has been brewing in my mind, like that elusive perfectly done coffee. There is lots that I have lost because I have not been able to or simply been disabled from writing it all up here. On many occasions, the words have flowed through me as I traversed the experience but when I sat to put them down on the blog, I was either too tired or was just not able to recount and realize all those words here. There have been experiences and inexperience(s), some exhilarating, some very very disturbing, some thought provoking, and some connecting me with the romance of life and the romance of being the girl of who I have become, and sometimes un-become, a woman! I am not sure how I am going to say it all here and make meaning of all the different tracks and courses as I write. Let us see how I get off and where I land …
On Courage and Companionship: These two words and ideas never go together for me. They really don’t because they seem so incompatible given my strivings to be individualistic and independent! Partly also, my own struggles to accept and receive apart from only giving make it difficult for me to conceive of companionship being about togetherness and swimming it all together. Usually, I am always on top of things in a relationship. During my research jaunts and field trips however, I end up receiving more graciously from strangers and from people who became friends from strangers. The experience of being invited into a house to share a meal, of being invited suddenly to a lunch, of being given teas and biscuits and above all, acceptance, affection and confidence, have made me experience the untold joys of abundance. But in close relationships, the ones that I live inside and out of, the thought of asking for something, the graciousness in receiving, of swimming the tides really together even when I am the one roughing it up and all that the other person is doing is tugging me along, all seem alien and uneasy to me. I am THE Individual here, whether mistakably or unmistakably!
In recent times, I have swam many a rough tides. Whether I really swam them all or whether the currents simply pushed me, I am not sure. I continue to struggle on many occasions, swimming different kinds of waves and tides including those tides of anxiety that come with writing an intense piece of research such as a Ph.D. thesis! When things go wrong, I withdraw into my own world and try to work up the courage and the solution from within. On many such occasions, running has helped because running either helps to create the space in the mind and the spirit which then helps to put things into perspective or running helps to develop the courage to face tougher situations in life. I am a lone runner, usually, because my pace tends to be sloppy, all over the place, and I usually slow down more than ever on many occasions at the fag end, reaching the finish slower than I had expected to. So I usually do not run with anyone else, lest I slow them down. Sometimes I just try and run with another group or person when I feel I need some help. Then I wonder whether I have not sought out at all, or whether the fear of asking someone to pace me is what chickens me out! I don’t know!
Running alone on a race track maybe somewhat much different from running a course together with a companion. Here, two paths are tied together and diverge at various points in time, all at the same time. Sometimes you have to change courses, even when the going was good on the course you were already on. Changes are discomforting more than welcome. Of course, only after the change has happened that we look back in retrospect and proclaim ‘aha!’ or ‘sigh!’ or something else altogether.
So then, what exactly is courage? I guess this is the fundamental question that has gnawed at me during all my experiences in recent times, whether it has been sailing through a marriage, cycling on a trafficky road, running a tough 12.5k or traveling through the belly of Delhi!
Many years ago, when I started out accidentally as an ethnographer, my daily diaries and notes would speak of the fears and anxieties I felt as I went through experiences, interacted with strangers and made requests for interviews. In all my diary notes, my vulnerabilities were transparent, partly because, unconsciously, these vulnerabilities led me on to various paths. Someone had once remarked then that in the vulnerabilities that I wrote out lay the most thoughtful insights about human interactions, space and society. Couple of weeks ago, when discussing about guts and courage, I proclaimed to my husband that I was not a gutsy person and that I feared dependence most! At that time, he exclaimed that courage lies in accepting vulnerability and dependence. I cannot fully grasp the meaning of his words, but their value has prevailed on me immensely!
Couple of weeks ago, I decided to go cycling in the morning from Bannerghatta to Bellandur and back. The route in the morning would be easy since we would start out early. The tougher part would be returning back, when the traffic would increase. I had to do this ride because I had to get the negativity about cycling and the fear of traffic out of my heart. When fear resides in the heart, it is perhaps easier to get it out than when it sits in the head and becomes firmly planted in the worldview! We got out that morning, cycling away. On the return trip, at one point, I was offered to ride back in a car instead of going through the traffic. Thank goodness I resisted it! The ride back was an incredible experience. I believe the traffic was not that much more on that Saturday morning because of a long holiday weekend when most cars had disappeared off Bangalore roads. Whatever traffic there was, I learnt to work my way through. One lesson got reinforced in my head: when on the roads, you learn to read the signs! And as I read the signs of the drivers and their vehicles, I learnt also how to slip in between two vehicles and dodge my way with speeding two wheelers coming from all sides. Each time I crossed a situation that I was not familiar with, I said to myself “negotiated”! With every negotiation, the confidence increased. “Negotiated” remained a mantra because it meant that I can work my way around rough situations instead of trying to fight them through. The feeling of satisfaction that comes after every rough negotiation is a wondrous feeling, one that replaces the fears in the heart!
A few days ago, I was in Delhi, a city which has given me the best and the worst of experiences and memories. When I am in Delhi, I seek familiarity to regain my courage and confidence. This time around, all the familiar places and people were no longer there and I was left to deal and define a new world in Delhi. The few familiar people I knew, I sought them out early on to regain my feet in the city. But perhaps, apart from the familiar places and people, I seek out auto rickshaw drivers to feel grounded into Delhi. I experience the city, its ugliness and its mundaneness, through the experiences of auto drivers. I reveal to them my own vulnerabilities and my unusual likings for Dilli and they, on their part, speak of that unbreakable bond with the city which they cannot afford to severe despite all their romance with their home towns and villages. With auto drivers, I have experienced the untold thrills, the unknown magics and the unnamed highs of Delhi, all due to the sharing of vulnerabilities during those mundane rides from Khan Market to CP or from Hauz Khas to JNU! Sometimes, auto drivers don’t speak. Sometimes, they are rough and respond in nods and roughshods! Sometimes, they bare their lives and struggles open. In all these inner and outward journeys, I have felt connected to that bare humanness that makes me more or less human.
I still don’t know what track I have run on today with all these unconnected paths and journeys. All I know is that I have tried to say something of the questions and thoughts I have had about courage. Have I said them in the best of words and intentions? I don’t know. Recently, I have worried about fancifulness of appearances and the seduction of words and whether impressing with honesty is after all manipulation of another order, and if so, is this not cowardice or the lack of courage? I have questions and only questions for today – the answers, not so easy to come, and when and if any answers come, they will stay only momentarily ….