All posts by bavitha

Raw & Real

I tried to think of what picture to use for this post. And I couldn’t pick. I finally picked the pic of the old Tavera.

Day 2 of landing in India, back in December, I told Joby I was in India for 3 months. Joby said “Bavitha, I give you 3 weeks”. I ended up extending my trip to 4 months.

Day 4 in India when the cab we hired got ceased by the loan sharks and we got stranded on the side of the highway on the way to Shimoga

So going back to this pic. This is a pic I took last week of the old Tavera that I drive every time I visit Kannur. There is something about going from an EV (electric vehicle) to driving a 15 year old stick shift. You feel like you’re part of the machine. You coax and you nudge the beast so that it feels comfortable with the speed you’re going at.

That is how India felt to me. India felt raw and real. You have to reason with it, coax it, and over time you find its rhythm and you settle into the pace that’s comfortable for the both of you.

India taught me how to be vulnerable again. It taught me that it was ok to let my guard down. It taught me that I don’t have to have my shit together all the time. I’m thankful for Alex, one of my few good friends, for being my sounding board, even though at the beginning of the trip I told her not to check in on me everyday because “I needed some space”.

Even though being in new cities by myself is not new to me, being in a different city each week has tested me at various points. I’ve felt emotional highs and lows that I haven’t experienced in a really long while. Managing a full time job while doing this wasn’t something I talked much about on insta, but yes, I have a job. It’s been challenging balancing it, but so well worth it.

I’m thankful for all the people that came into my life these past few months. 4 months ago I didn’t really have good friends that still lived in India. Now I’m leaving with some lasting friendships, and even some rekindled friendships from my childhood. 

And how can I forget to thank all my insta friends? The reason I was posting so many stories was because my entire trip was driven by my small, but lovely group of insta friends who helped orchestrate all my last minute flight bookings and expeditions. From giving me places to check out in each of the cities I was in, to even telling me what cities to go to next. You trolled me, humored me, laughed at my jokes that normally only I laugh at, and some of you ended up becoming really good friends ❤. Thank you.

No I’m not crying. These are not tears. I’m just cutting some onions over here.

Ok, Oscar speech over.

But wait. I forgot to thank my mom and dad. Yes. Thank u, Amma and Acha. Every time someone asked me “does your parents know you’re travelling alone?”, and trust me, I’ve been asked this way more times than I care to count, it made me realize that the life I’d been living since I was 18, where I was given the right to make decisions about my life, and make my own mistakes, is not the norm for majority of the women (and perhaps men too) in India.

The initial outrage that I’d felt when asked this question, has over time turned to understanding of where the question came from. Empathy. I have more of that now. It was hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that the way I carried myself perhaps wasn’t the norm, and that perhaps I didn’t match up to the expectations that society might have for someone that fits my apparent stereotype.

So thank you mom and dad for being progressive AF 20 years ago. You both are way ahead of your time.

Those selfish waves

4/15/21

Where there was a beach last week, there is none today. The waves are almost up to the rocky embankment that was likely built to keep the lapping suds at bay.

Isn’t the ocean so fascinating? Of how the waves are so relentless in its pursuit of chasing each other to the sands. At times its haste is so much that it climbs over the one in front of it, not worrying about hurting its friend. For they are all waves. They merge into each other. Becoming one. Rushing to the shores.

That is the only goal. Meet the sands.

The journey or the destination.

They’ve clearly made the choice.

And in their rushed journey, they’ve found one another.

The journey or the destination?

There is no clear answer.

Sometimes, on days like today, when the sea is overflowing upon itself, they reach for the rocks.

Teasing us with a threat… a threat that maybe one day, it will clamber over the rocks. And consume us.

The journey or the destination.

Those selfish waves.

The constant threat.

Thamara Noolinal

Movie: Mullavalliyum tenmavum 
Song : Tamara noolinal 
Music: Ouseppachan 
Beat: 3/4
Dm              C 
tamara noolinal melleyem meniyil 
Dm Am 
thottu viliku… 
Dm C 
thazhittu poottumen nenjile vaathilili 
Am.   Dm 
mutti viliyku….      

Am                 Dm 
ente maarodu chernnoru pattu moolu    
Am             F 
mani viralinai talamidu       
G F   Am Dm 
melle melleyenne neeyuraku  (tamara..)  

Dm 
veyilettu vaadunna poovu pole 
Am 
aa kattiladum  kadambu pole 
Dm 
oru kadal pole nin kaladiyil 
C(1)      Am        Dm           
tira nura kai kalum neetti nilkum 
A(2)              D 
ennittum ennittum ente nee ente 
G(1)         A        Dm 
nerukayiloru mutham tannilla?     
Dm Am C F 
Aaa aaa aaa aa  
Dm            Dm 
aarira rarira ro araro  aarira rarira ro 
(tamara..)  tara tarara….. 
Dm 
tirameleyadunna tingal pole 
Am 
teerathulavum nilavu pole 
Dm 
naru mazha pole nin poonchimizhil 
C         Am        Dm 
oru cheru muthamai kathu nilpu 
A                 D 
ennittum ennittum enthe neeyinnente 
G              A           Dm 
pular veyilinu pookal tanilla?  
 
 (tamara..) 

I am an Engineer, Dammit

It wasn’t at least 3 or 4 years until after I started running that I felt comfortable calling myself a runner. “I’m not running, I’m just jogging”. “I’m too fat to be a runner”. So many insecurities kept me from embracing the identity of a runner. I was also afraid that if I called myself a runner, people might judge me “oh look at her – she calls herself a runner and she’s still doesn’t look fit”.

It wasn’t until I read a blog post that said “if you think you’re running, and you do it consistently, you’re a runner, dammit” that I decided to embrace the identity of a runner. This statement had a profound impact on me in my early 20s. I’m a runner, dammit.

I recently started reading James Clear’s “Atomic Habits”. A point it drives across is embracing your identity based on your goals. If your goal is to become someone who reads books, as a first step, start reading. But more importantly, start calling yourself a book reader. You will find yourself naturally embracing the identity of a book reader, and reading more books. On the contrary, if you keep referring to yourself as someone who would love to be a book reader, you’ll always find yourself trying to be someone else, which in turn makes your goal harder to attain.

It’s amazing how the idea of calling myself a runner and embracing that identity has translated into so many avenues in my life. As a woman in tech, who has been in the industry for 12 years, I will tell you this – you will always run into folks that might have some pre-conceived notions of what it means to be a woman in tech and how you got there. I was involved in some “water cooler talk” with a senior male Engineer (and a good friend!) recently, during which he said “you just have to be a female straight out of bootcamp and you don’t even have to be good – startups are just waiting to hire you”. I instantly felt defensive and felt the need to defend women in tech. I know he didn’t mean any malice intentionally, and that makes it all the more difficult a problem to solve!

When you run into conversations like these (which I would call a microaggression), it’s not a surprise that women might feel inferior and questioning themselves for their accomplishments. With each promotion/raise there is that nagging question “am I really here because I’m good, or… am I here because they needed a diversity hire”.

Let me tell you, ladies – you’re there because you damn well deserve it. Please embrace your identity and start calling yourself an Engineer (or Product Manager or UX designer or whatever you’re a rockstar at). If a company is paying you good money for your git commits and your expertise, you’re an Engineer, dammit.

Once I started calling myself an Engineer, once again, that translated into so many avenues in my life. I mounted a set of curtain rods using a drill – the mantra that kept me through the whole process was “Bavitha, you’re an Engineer, dammit. You can do this”. I mounted a 65 inch TV all by myself. Again, I told myself “Bavitha, you’re an Engineer. You can do this, dammit”.

Start embracing the identity of the person you want to be and you’ll see how it affects all aspects of your life.

I am an Engineer, a Musician, a Writer, a Runner, an Atheist, and a People Lover. What is your identity?

My Uncomplicated Story

Every story is simple if you break it down to bare metal. As i pick up this book, which by the way feels damp and sticky because of all the moisture in the air, I wonder if my story was as simple. Living through it was messy and complicated. It is my hope that in writing this manuscript, I’d be able to see things as a third person might see it.

It all started the day I dropped my phone as I was waiting for the ACE going downtown. The platform was packed, as you would expect. The Times Square stop is always packed. You have the locals like me, and then you have a good chunk fo tourists.

As I bend down to pick up my phone, I couldn’t help but notice a woman looking at me from over her phone. She was dressed in a black knee length pea coat wrapped tightly around her, and black dress pants. Her black leather ankle boots peaked out from under her pants. She had blonde hair that was sleeked back into a tight ponytail.

I held her gaze long enough to make it uncomfortable, and she averted her eyes. I win. I thought to myself. I retrieved my phone, checked to make sure the glass wasn’t broken, and resumed checking my phone to appear busy.

I am not sure why I felt that trivial exchange marked the beginning of my story, because in retrospect, that incident had nothing to do with how my story started. Yet, I had compartmentalized that as being something very important. Perhaps now would be a good time to scratch that bit out of my story. Perhaps this would be the first step towards uncomplicating my story.

The Music Room

I quickened my pace, adjusting the straps of the tote on my shoulder, the snow underfoot making a quiet shushing sound with each step that didn’t do much to reduce the deafening quietness of the snowday. If I maintained this pace, I will reach the bottom of the stairs just as the train pulled into the platform above. By the time I make it up the 2 flights of stairs, the last of the passengers will be shuffling into the car and I will be able to join them. I can see the platform up ahead in the distance, people huddled in groups in front of imaginary doors, ready to rush in as soon as the train pulled in.

The snow weighing down the branches of the evergreens around me would have been beautiful if I cared. I bend my head down wanting to block out the snow that was blowing into my face.

I was nearing the house, but I didn’t hear any music coming from the house. I looked up at the window, but the window was closed shut. A part of me felt betrayed. I wondered what had happened to the old lady that I imagined lived there.

I first noticed the house 5 months ago when I first moved into town and started walking down this path for my daily commute into the city. I was about 20 feet from the house when I started hearing bits of രവീന്ദ്രൻ മാഷ്’s (Ravindran Master’s) melody drifting to my ears. I closed my eyes for a second as a chill ran through my body. My eyes traveled involuntarily to the top right room of the house and I noticed that the only window in the room was cracked open an inch.

This became a daily routine for me, and I started looking forward to the 30 seconds where I got to imagine a glimpse into the life a fellow മലയാളി (Malayalee). On certain days, if the music coming from the house was unfamiliar, I would make a note of whatever words I could distinguish, and try and identify the song online once I got to work. It was a game that I played with myself to take away from the monotony that was my life.

As the days wore on, and as Summer turned to Fall, crisping up the outside air, the walls of the music room began to get invisible in my head. I could see an older woman laying in bed next to the window, wanting to get a breath of the fresh air outside. There must be a lot of dry heat in her room. I pictured myself walking up to the door and knocking on the door and introducing myself. She would invite me in for a cup of tea and we would talk about life in Kerala, sipping on the milky sugary tea, and agree on how the newgen movies that the youngsters were making these days could never compare to the classic 90s.

Today was the first day that there was no music coming from the house. I chided myself for not having found a weekend to knock on the door and say hi. On an impulse, I started walking at an angle away from the station platform and towards the house with the music room. I hesitated at the door, trying to come up with a good reason for why I was ringing their doorbell at 7:18 in the morning. I rang the bell. No response. I waited 30 seconds and knocked on the door again. I heard a patter of soft footsteps running towards the door, and saw a wet nose pressed against the sidelight of the door. It was a corgi, his tail wagging 5mph. I heard a different set of footsteps, and the door was opened by a man of about 33 with a 2 day scruff on his face. His hair looked like he had been running his fingers through it, and there was a cowlick on the right side of his head.

“Hello” he said.

“Hi… ” I replied

He waited patiently, waiting for me to say more. His eyes looked red.

“I uh… this might sound weird, but I pass by your house everyday on my way to work each morning… and I hear music coming from the upstairs window”

I saw his face cloud over, and I backed up a couple of steps not wanting to be the latest victim of kidnapping.

“I meant to come by and introduce myself several times, but somehow that never happened. I noticed there was no music today… and I guess curiosity got the best of me” I said convinced that he must think I’m a wacko. I saw his red eyes watering a bit. Were there allergies triggered by snow?

“That was my grandmother… she passed away last Friday night”

I smacked myself for my lack of finesse.

“I’m terribly sorry. It wasn’t my intention to barge in like this. Especially when you are grieving. I’m sorry for your loss” I turned around to leave, hearing the chugchugging of the train in the distance, and knowing full well that I will not be catching my usual train that day.

“Wait. Do you want to come in for a cup of tea? It’s been terribly quiet in the house and I would love some company” he said weakly.

“I would love that” I replied pulling the phone out of my coat pocket to email my manager that I will be taking a PTO that day.