Aug 4, 2018

An interesting suggestion

The other day, someone contacted me on a dating app.

Before we get any further -- Yes, I am partnered and I'm still active on these dating apps. To hell with idealized, restrictive, socially reinforced "monogamy". I'm still monogamous sexually/emotionally, but that is a choice because the relationship that I'm in would benefit from it. I still enjoy chatting and flirting with people from around the world. And yes, some of the material on these dating sites is very good fodder for masturbation.

So among the several who contact me on these dating apps, one stood out. This younger man seemed to find my profile interested and found me "sane and sorted". He then went on to check my blog(s) (I guess both Engayging Life and Neverlast). In the chat conversation that followed, where we discussed how this blog was way more mainstream than it is now, he suggested that I took some time out from my otherwise busy life, contribute to the community.

In other words, he proposed that my writings could still be relevant in the current day and age to help LGBTQI folk. Interviews and op-eds, maybe.

I discuss such things with my partner and a close friend. My partner, admittedly jealous (yes, I am ashamed that jealousy is still a thing in our relationship) suggested that the nice words was pure flattery. The friend thought that this was not such a bad idea.


Jun 13, 2018

An update about Neverlast

Blogging seems so late 2000s these days, at least for me.

Until about 6 years ago, around the time I met J, this blog used to be where I opened my heart out, and let loose all the shit that my brain came up with. I'm not suggesting that the outlet that I had on this blog has somehow been replaced by a man. No, not at all. Yet, I admit that we do have strange conversations. But that's not why I stopped writing here.

Life became packed. Dating someone within the same geographical boundaries means that your social life kinda doubles. Plus music. Gigs, rehearsals, gigs, and more. Plus, ever heard of social media and podcasts?

Yet, a few years ago, when I was visiting my parents in Thiruvananthapuram, I scratched that itch to write again. Write blogs, that is. I had just started exploring Tumblr and I thought, Why not? Tumblr had a nice app which you could easily draft posts in. It was more intuitive for sharing images/gifs. Why not, indeed? That's how Neverlast was born.

Strangely enough [with three heaped scoops of irony], Tumblr became my desirable source of erotica. Anyway, Tumblr, for some fucking reason, does not let you have multiple user accounts on the app. That was a huge dampner to my blogging efforts. Since then, I have linked  my Instagram to Tumblr, and Neverlast gets all my instas, yo.

Coming to the point -- I'm back with my parents. Some slight changes, though. They are in Chennai. My father is in his deathbed. My mother has become even more complaining and talkative than she was before. I'm here helping my sister out to manage my parents. I'm somehow able to meaningfully communicate and spend time with a child (my niece)! But I have become even more averse to talking on the phone to other people (like J) and share what craziness I'm going through.

This means that all day I go through an exquisitely frustrating ordeal of managing chaos, noise, interruptions, while attempting to work from home. This is indeed no fun. I get my shit together once my Mom goes to bed around 10 pm. And today, I have work to finish. So I took a shower to rinse myself off all the frustration. And in the shower, I thought - Why not, indeed?

So I am going to try and microblog on Neverlast once more. You are welcome to check it out.

May 10, 2018

The Mowgli in me

Those who have known me for a while would be aware of my ability to make friends just about any cat/dog (a cat/dog whisperer?). Yes, over the years, I have developed to knack of reading the psyche our furry brethren and modulating my behavior/posture to make them feel comfortable and not intimidated.

How did this all start? When I was 6 years old, I started the daily ritual of going over to my neighborhood friend’s house with my elder sister. I was too young to play with my considerably elder peers. Fortunately, I found some other playmates, thanks to my neighbor’s grandmother. Her passion was rearing cats, and she had about 20 of them[1] (with ~2 or 3 litters of kittens) at any point in time. I was initially afraid of these adorable but hazardous monsters, but I slowly got used to being with them and handling them. I started paying closer attention to how kittens/cats behaved, and eventually learned how to mimic their cries and sounds. [2] In fact, I became so effective in managing them that my neighbor’s family called me for help regarding any feline emergencies!

At 12 years of age, I adopted one my of my neighbor’s cats (Thalla Poocha – meaning Mother Cat in Malayalam) who brought dozens of litters of joy to my house over the next decade. I eventually adopted (from PETA/SPCA) a cat-friendly dog to help me manage my feline population. During this period, the kittens I raised earned the reputation of being well behaved and human friendly, and eventually were in demand for being adopted. [3] [4] Many of these felines are now spread across Kerala. Eventually, I moved to Bombay for my post-graduation, and adopted a kitten (aptly named Manohar Kadam) at the hostel. He eventually became the darling of the hostel/mess. After moving out of the hostel, I didn't have the means to have pets in my life. But I made friends with cats and dogs whenever I had a chance. One of them is the infamous Motu Patchy, who was a big street dog at the building where my company's offices were in the late 2000s. He started taking seriously the role of “protecting” us to the extent that he would snarl at and chase delivery boys!

Over the last few years, with the help of my partner, I have been able to adopt/rescue a dog in Alibag (KiKi), two kittens in Alibag (Spock[5]/Billyji), and two kittens in Mumbai (Miggins[6]/Blu). Here’s to more paws in mine and our lives!

Blu and I, a week after she was rescued from the mean streets of Colaba.

[1] My grandmother used to tell me these fantastic stories our neighbor’s ~120 cats lining up on a low parapet wall to be fed fish!
[2] I was so nerdy even back then that one my first summer school project was to study cat behavior and psychology!
[3] I eventually adopted another female cat, who could not get along with Thalla Poocha. Coincidentally, these cats two gave birth to two litters of 4 and 5 kittens, separated by just 3 days. I mixed these litters up in their infancy, and the two mom cats shared maternal responsibilities for all 9 kittens.
[4] My Instagram name chachoch is a derivative of the names of my favorite batch of kittens. Chakku, Chokki, Chakki.
[5] Spock has been missing for over a year. Male cats tend migrate and find new territories. We hope that he’s safe and thriving somewhere in the nearby villages.
[6] We lost Miggins to feline leukemia at the tender age of 4 months.

Jul 21, 2017

Mental illness awareness

I have been fighting depression for well over a decade and I have had personal and professional setbacks because of it. There have been many a times when I have felt like giving up. But I'm still here fighting, not just for myself but for others in my life who have stood by me.

I have been fortunate to have had the right people and the right intervention at the right stages. These include complex pharmacological interventions, lifestyle modifications, cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, and self-education. It took a lot of time building courage to accept myself, to share my burden with others, and to eventually sensitize others about mental illnesses. My battles have also given me strength to support others waging theirs, and it is this that now motivates me to carry on fighting my own.

At times such as this when the whole world is in shock and mourning after losing their idols, the best way to grieve is perhaps to simply look around you and accept, acknowledge, and support those fighting mental illnesses without ostracizing them.

May 8, 2017

Writing fiction - after a long time!

Despite my exposure to the various forms of science fiction, I remain on the side of not believing in fate or destiny, but there are times when things just seem to fall in place and even seem to happen for a reason. These are the same times when I have urges to simply stop anything I was doing and dwell in awe of the incredible ability of the human brain to assimilate all the streams of information flowing in, find seemingly relevant data, match them with patterns it is used to, associate them with emotions, etc., all in an effort to make the human feel rather special and consequential.

I did just this a few moments back. I reflected on the sequence of events that have unfolded, starting on Tuesday the second of May. I logged on my work PC as usual and was going about minding by business as usual when I got a message from my rather enthusiastic colleague.

“Hi, I hope you read in invitation for entries for Terribly Tiny Tales (TTTs) – for the editorial newsletter.”

“Yes, sort of.”

“Ummm, I hope you send in some.”

“I’ll try but I’m not sure if I’ll find time at work.”

“I have seen some of your captions on Instagram. I'm sure you can send in a dozen.”

“Thanks. I’ll try my best.”

I honestly did not have much confidence in writing fiction. My only previous attempt, almost a decade back, was when I was more active on this blog and participated in a challenge to write a short story. Then I thought I could pull it off. I tried and I failed - quite miserably. Unfortunately, or thankfully, I can’t find any traces for it on the blog.

Yet, I tried once more. I wrote The Visits within a few minutes. It’s not quite a TTT (50 to 100 words). I tried to write another one later in the day (Number Too), once again failing to quite meet the requirements for a TTT.

Since then I have written a few others, with only one qualifying as a TTT (Hi, Yes, No), with the others being either relatively longer yet short (Proof, Broken, Inspiration, Faith, Light, and Sparkle) or long enough as standalone short stories (June 16, 2100) or tentative first chapters in a book (Maybe I’ll See You Then and Cosmo).

I don’t quite know what changed to make me not suck at what I used to terrible at. Maybe it’s the books that I have read since then or maybe it is a pleasant by-product of all the discussions that I have had on the books as part of the book club that I’m a part of. Maybe it is the conversations that I have had with my writer friends (yes, I have a few of them). Or maybe it’s just that I have matured enough to string together something other than my experiences or opinion in a cohesive, interesting way. Whatever it is, it is fun!

To be honest, I’m quite surprised at what I was able to do in the six days or so since I restarted writing fiction. And I’m quite proud at what I have achieved. I have shared these with a few close friends, with most of them giving me positive feedback on most of my work.

I hope to continue writing. I will continue to share the shorter ones on Neverlast (my Tumblr). For the longer ones, I don’t know just yet. Maybe I’ll write sufficient stuff for a novel. :) Knock on wood.

Feb 25, 2017

Thank you - for all the inspiration

Considering I haven't updated the blog recently, I thought of cross-posting the following from a Facebook status update.
Almost three decades ago, my dad, who's a semi-professional mridangam player, gave me some lessons in mridangam, hoping that I would take it up as an instrument. I wasn't particularly interested in mridangam or Carnatic classical then and did not persist with it. Instead, I started tinkering with the Indian flute (inspired partly by my uncle, who wasa professional flautist) because I was more interested in popular music

Two decades ago, I picked up the guitar after being coaxed into it by my sister Vidhya Venkitachalam. Around then, I started jamming with my friend Sumit Pillai on drums, also picking up basic drumming concepts. After a couple of years with the guitar, I bought myself my first bass, starting my journey as a bass player. I have weilded the bass in most gigs since then, but I also have had some opportunities to perform at gigs on the guitar, shakers, and drums.

In the last few months, however, I have had the opportunity of re-exploring my "percussive" side, with several full-length gigs as a cajon/percussion player. I can't believe the kind of fun I have had doing that. Ironically enough, my cajon technique is rather similar to what my dad taught me for my mridangam (especially right hand), and I'm able to generate a rather unique snare sound with this technique. Talk about completing a circle!

At this time, I would like to thank the following people for inspiring/encouraging/helping/supporting me in various stages of my journey as a musician, especially in the context of cajon/percussion playing.

Thank you! <3
  • Aarifah Eve Rebello (for letting me "shake" at random gigs)
  • Abhishek Dasgupta (for pushing me at improving myself as a musician)
  • Anurag Mishra (for encouraging me at gigs)
  • Jairaj Joshi (for introducing me to the cajon)
  • Pritesh Prabhune (for inspiring me and helping me with concepts and tech)
  • Reinhardt Dias (for inspiring me)
  • Rohit Chabria (for gig opportunities and letting me use your cajon)
  • Roma Kunde (for constantly supporting and encouraging me)
  • Shaival Chatwani (for encouraging me)
  • Sharanya Natrajan (for gig opportunities and supporting and encouraging me)
  • Sumit Pillai (for all the years of jamming)
  • Teemeer Chimulkar (for gig opportunities, trusting in me, and supporting/encouraging me)
  • Varun Sood (for inspiring me, teaching me, and helping me bounce off ideas)
  • Vidhya Venkitachalam (for pushing me to take up guitar)
  • Vigneshkumar Venkatraman (for such an incredibly positive attitude and inspiring me)
  • Vijayalakshmy Venkitachalam (for marrying my Dad?)
  • Vishal Mallu (for inspiring me and lending the cajon)

Sep 22, 2016

The story of Ugly and my response

*For some weird reason, My friend and fellow book club member forwarded me a story of a cat called Ugly (see attached image). Although the story is graphic (in a negative way about Ugly being treated badly), it ends with the author(s) being positively influenced by the valiant cat.

(*Edit: Since I published the post, my friend and I had a conversation. She thought that despite the sad story, this was a a good example of unconditional love by an animal, which I would related to because I'm a cat lover; of course, her intent was not to make me feel bad or to trigger traumatic memories. This conversation happened on the book club group chat, and one other member pointed out the perils of feel-good stories: "Always missing the point that not everybody reacts to the same to a scenario."  A very valid point, I think.)

I have had a storied life of being traumatized by experiences of cats in peril. Ugly's story thus forced me to respond in the following manner:
Sorry for the essay response, but I had to.

I don't know if you know this, but I have been at the wrong end of cats being mauled. In Kerala, I have always had cats/kittens with me. Some of my dearest cats have died grueling deaths thanks to packs of dogs mauling them. I would be woken up in the middle of a rainy night just to hear the last part of the fight, and I would be so bitter and upset with myself of not having been there to help them. The next day morning, I would have to find their bodies and bury them. Happened to me at least thrice, and I have always had a problem trying to get over this.

In fact last year, there were a couple of nights when I couldn't sleep because I thought Spock (image below; Spock with KiKi), who was a kitten then, was getting mauled by dogs (or other cats) and I have been out searching for him late in the night, after apparently hearing sounds of a cat in distress (which others didn't hear). I eventually found only his mom and his litter mates and would come home and be on the verge of a panic attack and would have had trouble falling asleep. None of the others would "get" my feelings/panic. J would realize that there was something that had triggered me like very few other things do, but was unable to exactly understand the gravity of the situation.

Both of these Spock nights had a happy ending (so to speak) because I would leap out of my bed at dawn and go out to search for him, and I would find him safe and happy somewhere. However, these did trigger a few of my older (PTSD-triggering memories) and have been the focus of a couple of my therapy sessions.

About cats dying in my arms -- yes, I have had a couple of such experiences as well. They were not directly due to mauling, but because of infections because of mauling or abuse. Those are such strong memories, and I think, just like how this story describes it, are life changing.

Unlike the author in the story, I have never really gotten over these in a positive way. What this has made me is to be fiercely protective of the people/animals that I love, which sort of manifests in me being extremely aggressive toward people to mistreat animals. At least people who were at the table at the last Annual Meeting party would remember how I was about to pick a fight with a waiter because he was trying to shoo away a cat that was rubbing up against us under our tables.

In conclusion, I don't know why you specifically tagged me, but it made me revisit a strong/painful series of memories. But it hasn't evoked a panic response yet. So I guess it's all right. :)