Some days ago, I lost a wristwatch which was gifted to me many years ago. Needless to say, it had several memories attached to it. When I realized that I had misplaced the watch, these words came to my mind: “I lost your watch, but I kept track of our time.” Again, needless to say, I am not terribly happy to retain time and the memories associated with things, places, people. Memories can be very painful, especially when they build into layers of resentment and attachment.
I lost your watch, but I kept track of our time.
About one and half years ago, I decided to participate in running HasGeek. I started the company with Kiran in 2010 because I wanted my own independent research outfit. I was not actively involved with operations and planning at HasGeek until October 2011. I knew how to organize conferences (minus all the technology that we now have at HasGeek events) and work with people. I was interested in understanding communities. Community building was always at the heart of many activities and projects I had initiated and been part of: starting Phase Five with Les, Vinod and Ayesha; working with Gowhar, Idhries, Sarwar, Aabid, Altaf and others in Srinagar; ethnography of space in Mumbai; my PhD on property relations, share-holding and entitlements in squatter settlements and rehabilitation and resettlement sites. This attracted me towards the HasGeek model of learning and living.
What started out as ‘supporting the running of the company’ in late 2011 soon became full-fledged involvement by mid-2012. There was one other crucial factor involved here. About five months after working at HasGeek, I had a bad PhD review in March 2012. Here, not only did I get criticised publicly for (presumably) not moving forward in my thinking and central research question; my advisor also said things which implied to me that he no longer had confidence in my project. This, and the subsequent reactions, started the downward spiral leading to a state of morass that I now find myself in.
In the last one and a half years, I stayed away from academic life, thinking that this life is not for me. Add to that I got into a field whose language and concepts are completely alien to me. I kept nursing the hurt and anger since March 2012 and got into a self-deprecating cycle. I lost confidence in my own abilities and kept doubting my place and purpose in life. None of my achievements in HasGeek gave me satisfaction. Each time, I felt that something was sorely missing in every activity, in each accomplishment. Yet, I kept drowning myself into activity in the hope of finding a new purpose and losing my cherished dreams of writing and completing my thesis.
I also lost touch with the running group that I was part of from 2010 to mid-2011. This group had nourished me in the most difficult times in life and had helped me to move closer to writing up my thesis. I could not keep pace with the running schedules because of the hectic life of running a startup. I missed running and kept yearning that I will get back to it someday or the other. NOW was always the moment for responding to some email, for attending to some emergency, for dealing with some operational issue. But, fundamentally, NOW was the scary moment of confronting what lay beneath the compulsive frenetic pace of activity. Hence, NOW always became the moment of dealing with something else, and LATER was meant for cherished dreams. I became promiscuous towards myself.
I realize that the time has come to shed the layers of anger, resentment, stress and worry and to move towards something larger that my life is meant for. Two days ago, my PhD advisor and I got in touch. We spoke to each other after one year. I realized that both of us were each confronted with life situations that made us respond to each other the way we did at that time. This evening, when we chatted like good old days, I realized how vulnerable we are as human beings and that accepting vulnerability is strength.
For the last one and a half years, I have been fighting this vulnerability. I have masked my fears as hurt. Consequently, I have remained stuck and depressed. When I lost the watch that ‘I’ had gifted so lovingly, I felt a sense of relief because while our relationship was over, the residual hurt, anger and resentment had stayed inside me all these years. This evening, when I spoke to SV – my supervisor – I felt that I had loosened up and that we could still be the backslapping buddies that we were, and that we were companionate in our respective uncertainties, vulnerabilities and life situations.
I lost your watch, but I kept track of our time.
It is this time that I want to lose and live my life not as if time were a dictator, but as if time were flow. If I can go with this flow, my life will be worthwhile.
In the meantime, I remain bundled up in layers of hurt, vulnerability, beauty, resentment, desire and hope … … …
– dedicated to Anja, Muthu, Santhosh, @rakesh314, and the one and only @threepointone