March 22nd, 2018

I’m typing this from the Chennai airport where I’m mooching off free electricity to recharge all of my electronic devices.

Travelling is the greatest refreshment for the mind, honestly. I think this semester I’ve been on and off campus for equal durations of time – and I’ve enjoyed the rapid change in scenery more than anything else. Not bogged down by the monotony of routine, life has begun to be a day to day activity – where I look forward to new things each new day will bring.

More importantly, every day is different, which is something I’m liking the most.

The only thing I would change is the number of early morning flights I’ve taken.

 

 

Modern Romance: An Investigation | Aziz Ansari and Dr. Eric Klinenberg

Modern Romance: An Investigation, 
by Aziz Ansari, Dr. Eric Klinenberg,
Published by Penguin Group (2015)
Rating: ***

Ansari has a way with words. He communicates thoughts in the simplest manner possible, without much regard for form – the substance of the idea is superior. It’s something that is noticeable on his stand-up specials, and even his hit show, Master of None. It’s what makes Ansari’s work so polarizing – with people on both sides of the like/hate spectrum. 

This book is no different.

Technology controls the way we lead our lives. From the news, to the weather, to human interaction – we spend more time on screens and electronic devices than we spend with people. This, naturally has an effect on the way relationships develop. That is the premise of Ansari’s quest in Modern Romance. 

A few caveats before we delve into observations. The book is not gut-wrenchingly humorous, as Ansari’s clips may well be. It does not, in any manner, make you laugh out loud at every second page. It is merely written by an individual with an incredible sense of humour – and therefore even mundane observations will get you to laugh because of recurring gags in the book itself. The book is also research-driven. It is something Ansari lays out categorically at the Preface, and therefore, the work does contain large references to previous papers, and transcripts from conversations with sociologists and leading relationship experts. If you aren’t interested in that kind of thing, this is not a book for you.

I was intrigued by the premise, which is the only reason I read this. 

The book both fulfilled my curiosity and disappointed me. 

My disappointment comes from the fact that I was not startled by anything the book presented. In fact, it felt very normal to read observations about how “iPhone users are twice as likely to sext than Android users are”, and how previous generations married and dated within a smaller cultural and geographical field. While the former is something I’ve observed as a result of my conversations with friends, the latter is something I have discussed with my parents. It is something that newspaper tabloids and sociologists have been writing about for a while now.

That theme runs true throughout the book. We discover that people find dating today exhausting, and that there are individuals who have different personalities over the phone and in person – all of which has been documented before. While there is no harm in presenting material available elsewhere, my grouse was the manner in which it was presented. It seemed mechanical and forced – lots of screenshots (which could be real, but also, could be doctored) to prove a point.

But, Ansari does do some things uniquely. And therefore, if you’re trying to understand relationship culture a little better, this book would be a great place to start.

First, of course, is the level of research. It is commendable that they relied on Reddit as a focus group. But it is also most representative because people have admitted that Reddit is perhaps the best place to be honest and anonymous on the internet.

Second, is the fact that Ansari chronicles his own relationship history through the book. There is a connecting, identifying element to the entire narrative – one that you miss out on while reading non-fiction. It makes you invested, to say the least.

Finally, the book provides really good perspective on dating in other countries. In India, we’re a real mixed blend of liberal people and conservative individuals – tilted toward the conservatism. Reading about practices in Qatar, Japan, France and Argentina, just opens up your mind to possibilities – and how much society influences the way you think about your own relationships. 

It is intriguing and all in all, was a quick read.

 

 

March 9th, 2018

Fun times, as always, where I commit to writing every day and then forget to write for a bit because of other pressing commitments – like exams.

Our exams start at 2pm, and we need to be seated in our hall any time between 1.50 and 2, and I usually head in around a cool 1.56pm. It gives me just enough time to set up the way I want, say a small prayer, drink a sip of water, and then begin my palms for the terrifying 2 hours that lay ahead. But, I’ve been going early to my exam hall these days.

Why, you ask? (or you’re forced to read about?)

Well, mostly because I’m giving up on my studying quicker. I’ve learned that my brain has capacity and at some point, I’ve done all the studying I could do. That extra minute of revision isn’t going to help unless it’s crucial. I usually shut my books by 1.40pm and joke with my roommate for 10 minutes. That really gets us going. Especially on days like today, where we laughed about how tragic it would be if we were faced with a paper that made us feel like Mr. Bean taking an exam. (and, it was. A comforting thought in times of trouble.) We then said some Aal Izz Well thing, motivated each other, and breathed huge sighs of relief. In 2 hours, we said, we’d be looking forward to the weekend.

The other reasons are largely social. I have a couple of exam buddies. These aren’t people I usually hang out with, but we end up entering the exam hall at the same time. Every single exam. And then there’s a bit of chatter about what the date is and other mundane details. But that really calms me down before an exam, which is super fun.

Also, going early means more time to go pee before writing an exam. Without the stress of “Oh no what I have a really long leak will I make it to the exam hall from my hostel room without running.” That peace of mind is necessary. Plus, I drink too much water during exams. I go through about 1 litre in those 2 hours, and maybe 3/4 litres a day, at minimum. (Maybe more.) So peeing is essential.

The last bit, is my favourite.

Getting to an exam early means more time to observe things. There’s this wonder about finding out who your invigilator is. Will it be easy for students around you to cheat? Is this a new faculty whose name you do not know? Are they aware that you can only go to the washroom once in the next 120 minutes, or will you be able to sneak out twice (more to give your hands a break than to pee, but still)? Is this a professor who has taught you before, or is it someone who is going to scrutinize your ID card as if your name cannot possibly be Tejas Rao?

The possibilities are endless.

Then there’s the opportunity to observe people’s pre-exam rituals and facial expressions: that familiar feeling of dread and fear which materializes in laughter, the comfort of watching someone enter, catch your glance, and realize you’re both in the same boat of panic-relief. To see someone ask for a pen before an exam, because they’ve forgotten stationery, or hand in their mobiles – which they’ve carried in accidentally.

It puts my mind to ease.

There’s something else apart from the Law to concentrate on for a bit, and that’s nice. Especially before the two hours in which all my brain thinks about are “How badly do you need to pee right now?” and “How many pages does this booklet have left?”

 

 

6th March, 2018

The biggest thing I’ve noticed since I stopped writing is that I’m no longer as in control of my thoughts and emotions as I was when I used to write daily. I was very reliant on this blog last year as a medium of expression, in terms of how I communicated what went on in my brain out to someone, or to something, rather. It provided a very big source of comfort for me, and provided a platform for me to talk about things and type them into this big void, free for whomever to see – without fear of judgment or criticism.

I need that control back, so I think I’m going to be writing every day again.

Your move, world.