Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It's Been Three Years

...since I started this blog. (Which is why the Guy gifted the blog the new header.)

It started as a way to keep in touch with friends, in place of the emails I used to write to a bunch of them most mornings, as a way to start the day. Hardly any of those friends come here now, but I've gained a whole bunch of new ones!

I used to write mostly of personal things, of moments and experiences with the Guy. Then I started getting more personal, writing about my beliefs and what makes me tick. Then I started getting political. I started writing about movies. I put up my attempts at flash fiction. 

The last year has been exceptional. I got listed here for India's top blogs. I hosted the 60th Carnival of Feminists. 

Back when I started, I had a job that left me with some free time, and I was trying to build up a habit of writing. (For the record, I still am.) The last few months have found me very busy in my (now not so new) job. I have hardly had time to read other blogs, let alone comment. Time and again I have thought of giving up this blog.

But I couldn't. I don't know when I will, but certainly not right now. Forgive me if I don't come around and comment. I hope - selfishly - that you will still come around and read. 

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My Books Find a Home

I usually buy 3-4 books a month, plus I had some books that I had brought over from my earlier home in Guwahati. We had got a cane rack to place them in, but they soon outgrew it, and kept filling up boxes in our home. 

Now finally, after we have found ourselves a resting place, so have our books:

There are two layers of books on each shelf, one layer stacked up behind the one that you see. And we chose a few to donate/throw away. I am wondering what I will do when I buy any more! (The Guy just reminded me we have a few more books lying with friends.) I suppose we'll have to make the hard decision to let a few more go... We just don't want them lying in boxes any more.

They look so happy in their new home!

On another note, we have already got 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 9 of this list. Not too bad even if I say so myself!

Dipali, will this pass for your photo tag?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My Relationship with Money - IV

I always liked this quote that I remember reading in the Reader’s Digest – I don’t remember who it’s by: “Money is like sex. You think of nothing else if you don’t have it and think nothing of it when you do”, or something like that.

When the Guy and I suddenly found ourselves with two incomes to depend on instead of one, we felt much more rich and spent much more freely, though fundamentally not much had changed. We didn’t go overboard and collect a lot of debt (our frugal upbringing told there) but we didn’t bother saving much. After all, we would both be earning for a long time. Our incomes would only rise, or at worst remain the same.

But now things are looking bleak again, with the economy not at its best and with both of us working in the same industry. And we are digging to uncover all our frugal values, and have decided to live with them for a while.

We have gone through a period of spending. It feels great to be able to walk into a store and look at things, try on things knowing I can afford them – only may not want to buy if they are not good enough for me.

For now money means something other than good food and great clothes and going out: it means peace of mind, and that is what we are setting out to achieve. 

Here are parts I, II, and III.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My Relationship with Money - III

Money also assumes importance because of how it affects relationships. I used to have a boyfriend who was so cheap that not only did I pay more often than not when we went out, but he even often asked me to pay for fuel for his bike. Now that in itself should have been enough for a smart, rational girl to dump him, but in some way I enjoyed the power. I know now that I was taken for a ride, but even now, I think I would prefer to be the one who pays more often than the one who pays less.

I suppose it boils down to trust rather than to money. I had always considered myself insecure about money. Once I started earning I hadn’t felt comfortable about thinking of taking a break from work, even for a while, and letting my boyfriend or husband support me.

But when the Guy and I got together, I had no such issues. The Guy, like me, had grown up in a frugal household. He got that money was important to me, and he even got my wish to be able to spend wildly, sometimes, just to tell myself that I had enough now. He was frugal yet so generous and sharing that we soon fell into the habit of talking about ‘our money’ and ‘our income’ and making plans based on what was coming in that month, combined.

At the beginning, we earned about the same. Then I got the new job and started earning a little more. It felt good, then, but again I guess money was more a signal that I hadn’t given up anything to be with the Guy, that it was a smart move for my career as well.

Since then, we have had changes more than once. Sometimes he earns more, sometimes I do. It doesn’t matter much any more, but I think I like it best when it’s equal.

We opened a joint bank account after we got married, but our accounts had been joint for a while, in our heads and our Excel sheets. 

Here are parts I and II. Part IV follows here.

Monday, February 09, 2009

For Valentine's Day

Why does the world celebrate a day of love?
Does not every couple have their own milestones to celebrate?
The day they met, the day they decided to be together…
Why sweep that shared history aside
for a bit part in a mass celebration?

This year, we are having friends over.
Celebrating friendships,
Celebrating our new home,
And – as always – celebrating our togetherness.
But that doesn’t need a day, or a name.

Yet I want to celebrate this day
to defy those goons who say
That love is filthy, that intimacy is a sin.
Who think they have the right to dictate
What I should wear, where I should be.

So go out, fill the pubs:
Wear pink, wear less, kiss, hug
Rant, speak, march, blog.
For our right to be in love - and in lust.
This day, and any other day.

Do look up: A Valentine for India, the Pink Chaddi Campaign and Mad Momma's post.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

My Relationship with Money - II

On one hand I have classified myself as mercenary. On the other hand I always knew that I didn’t want money for itself. Money was important for the freedom it meant. If you don’t have to worry about your basic needs, you can follow your heart. You can’t leave home even if you hate it there, if you don’t have money of your own – whether you are living with your parents or with a partner. I realised I was nothing without it. It was a difficult realisation for a teenage girl to make, but I think I grew up faster because of it.

I went to Delhi to attend bschool and had to give up part-time work. Then came summer internship, and I got into Outlook. We got a sales project, one that involved going into markets in Delhi and talking to storekeepers. It was the height of summer, of course, and we travelled in buses and autos and walked to save money. I survived on chole bhature and namkeen lassi – lots of it to keep dehydration away. We got travel expenses paid, and at the end of it each of us got a cheque for nine thousand rupees. 

That money seemed less important. The experience was worth much more, and I would have done it for free. After that summer in Delhi, I felt I could do anything. 

 When I got my first full-time job, money meant the freedom to live alone. That, and not much more. What with my not-too-ample salary and living alone and my education loan and very high phone bills (due to long-distance relationships, I spent more on phone bills than on rent), there wasn’t much left over for anything else. But living alone gave me a heady ecstatic feeling I wouldn’t have exchanged for designer clothes.

Part III here.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

My Relationship with Money - I

I have always been a mercenary girl. Even when I was a child – maybe five – I used to come out with moneymaking schemes like sewing handkerchiefs and selling them. (Yes, I could sew then, probably better than I can now. My experiences with sewing in a later post.) I had an old plastic bottle of talcum powder in which I stored coins. I used to delight not only in adding to it, but in opening the can and pouring the coins out and counting them. More than planning what to do with the money, I remember laying them out in stacks, even feeling them. (Yeah, I think that was weird too. Maybe I was just bored?)

I used to read Enid Blyton books in which the little heroes and heroines would get pocket money from their parents and money on birthdays from other relatives. I wished for the same. A tentative suggestion to my mother got laughed away. My parents did not think children should handle money.

Maybe that was a good thing – I realised I would have to do something to earn money. Of course, it helped that my parents never implied that a girl could get by without a job. They made it clear that we were to study well and grow up and find ourselves jobs.

But I was eager to start earning right away. When I had enrolled for my BA, I decided to take up tuitions. I was surprised when my father became livid at the idea. He took the old-fashioned and absurd stance that a daughter working for pocket money would imply that the father was unable to provide for her. I was stunned at his unreasonableness, and sorely disappointed. After seeing me moping for two days, hardly coming out of my room except when I was called and when I had to go to college, he gave in.

I went to my pupil’s thrice a week (as far as I can remember), on my way back home from college. I had to walk nearly a kilometer to their home from the bus stop. There were often unsavoury characters on the way, who leered and sometimes called out. I glared back, but kept quiet. I valued my limited freedom too much to risk it.

 I got four hundred rupees a month. It wasn’t a fortune, even then. But it was something, on top of the pocket money I still asked for (after all, you would have continued to pay me if I hadn’t started working, I argued to my mother, so why punish me for it?). Then I took up another pupil, for three hundred a month. She lived on the floor above us, so my effort was minimal. I also remember teaching a small kid in the same building, but that must have been after my first pupil started her board exams and outgrew me.

I also took up a couple of short-term part time jobs. One was a nearly month-long gig as an announcer at a trade fair that my cousin got me (he was the announcer in Assamese while I did the English). It took up a lot of time and didn’t pay as much as it should have but hey, I got about two thousand rupees! That was a small fortune. I promptly bought myself a music player. Another similar gig got me enough money for a camera. 

Part II here 

Sunday, February 01, 2009

It has been three years

... since I moved to the city. It seems especially apt to note it here, as I had recorded it here when I had been here for three months.

I moved to a job I really wanted and was very excited about. But the reason I had considered looking for a job in this city I had never even visited was my budding relationship with the Guy.

The Guy and I had been friends for a couple of years, and the transition to a romantic relationship seemed weird to me. I had always believed that your significant other should be your best friend, but having a friend you are comfortable with and had never thought of in sexual or maybe even romantic terms (it would probably have seemed absurd) suddenly changed to the role of boyfriend was slightly unsettling. We knew each other well by then and were sure we wanted to be together, yet we were both circumspect enough to want to live near each other for a while instead of just continuing with the long-distance relationship.

The job just fell into place. I had wanted to move from my research job into marketing. I looked up the Guy's company website without much hope, and to my surprise found a marketing/content writing position. Getting that job and being near the Guy pretty much made up my definition of heaven, at the time.

Three years seems like a long time to live together. After all, we had only known each other for about two years when we got together, only three years when we got married. Yet when I look back, I can see that our relationship has grown - slowly, almost imperceptibly - in this time. We are more comfortable, probably happier, yes. We have also changed in subtle little ways. The Guy has grown more expressive, more openly romantic and affectionate. I am less edgy, more at peace, and - hopefully - more patient.

We struggle to find our perfect balance. We love spending time together, yet we do want to do different things as well. There just doesn't seem to be enough time in the week. We love going out, eating out, yet we also love sitting comfortably in our new home and talking or watching a movie toether. Each of us need some time alone, some time to think about the work that is so important a part of each of our lives, some time to think about the few other people in our lives.

But when the struggle ends, will we not stop growing?