San Francisco – after 3 months

26 Sep

Close your eyes. Take a deep breath and imagine your wardrobe and your personal belongings clustering themselves into 2 suitcases and a few boxes. At the same time, your friends and family, your favorite inanimate things like your car, your favorite corner or café in your city, your favorite seasons and weather – all moving away from you without the promise of a reunion. Now imagine yourself and your suitcases and boxes traveling through a void or vacuum suddenly gets transported into an alien world – smells different, feels colder and windier, new people, new way of speaking and communicating, new cafes and shops.

I don’t know about you but I felt very humble and very small. On one hand I had the satisfaction of taking this arduous task head-on and on the other hand, I felt like this puny person starting off from the Maslow’s hierarchy again in a very new context. I was indomitable, my life was stable, I knew exactly everything around me in my habitat.

The safest place for an animal is its natural habitat – nota zoo.  So for me, moving to SF is like a red (ahem purple) carpet into a zoo – with new things to learn starting from eating, sleeping and even pooping.

I was talking to a friend this weekend about hitting a wall after coming to SF – these experiences probably will be very close to hitting a wall for a 32 year old or perhaps not. For me, I didn’t even have time or energy to analyze if or how far I have hit a wall.  Oh! Did I forget to mention that I stopped smoking? And also the fact that I stopped listening to my favorite NWOBHM (NewWave of British heavy Metal), Electronic Dance Music and Dubstep – will soon continue. Did I tell you that I haven’t driven a car in last 3 months? Did I also tell you that I didn’t have a single personal philosophical conversation with anyone in the last 3 months? – Most of my conversations have been – how to do this or that? Back in my hometown ….., did you see the movie …., do you know that this club has ….., OMG .. it’s so beautiful/pretty/different!! ..

Seems like a difficult world? Not so :) We often forget that disruption or change is painful but it always brings in something positive in one’s life. There are changes, which are for bad – for e.g. losing a limb or a dear one. But mine isn’t. I have come here for a reason and on my own volition. Every change – good or bad – makes you more adaptable to new conditions, stimulates you and makes you realize that the universe wants to interact with your being rather than ignoring you to oblivion.

I am doing really good in my job, I have built up tremendous patience in understanding people and learning to say or pronounce things to make myself understood, I have been meeting a lot of people (meeting people per unit time is on an absolute high), I have come to understand a lot of things about the food we consume, I now know a couple of new cocktails :) and cuisines, I have seen Tahoe – thanks to my friend :),I have seen long winding and fantastic US roads, I helped my friend cook fresh Salmon from the beach, I made a special yogurt chicken dish for a friend and many more new and different experiences.

I would love to highlight the quitting smoking process. I meant to quit it soon but never had a real reason staring at me. Though I did keep a target of quitting by the end of the year when I moved. Looks like I achieved the same ahead of my target. I am on my 13th day of smoke free life. It was no doubt tough – not just the physical cravings that was painful but the process of trying to fill in the void of the time I spent with my cigarette was a new thing I had to deal with. That zone that my cigarette and I entered into now had to be recreated or replaced with a walk or watching a funny video clip on Youtube or reading a buzzfeed. I do like to text with a special someone but then the special someone is a person and it’s not fair to do that all the time.

Anyway, life gets tough at times but there is always a silver lining – you never have a playbook for that but like Bradley Cooper – if you try and seek for silver linings they do peak out from those dark clouds and say hi to you :)

Thanks to everyone around me for helping me in whatever possible way you could to make it a bit easier and less horrendous than the way it sounds in this post.

Read Previous Posts on San Francisco:

San Francisco – A New Beginning: http://ashokbania.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/brave-new-world/

Brave New World

10 Aug

kafka_amerika-11I have been longing to write this note – one month of moving to San Francisco.

The move was pre-meditated and I had this on my mind since the day I came out to my family and friends that I am gay. But is that the only reason – matter of fact – gay or straight, I would definitely have loved to move out of India for sure – at least for a couple of years.

What made this move a bit painful (atleast a month before June 23) was the fact that I didn’t gauge what my benefits would be vs. what I am missing out. For me the most immediate focus was ‘what am I missing’? Here are a couple of things (not in any priority order) that made this process excruciatingly

  • People – I have a small coterie of trusting friends and an wonderful family. I also have a long list of friends who I like even though they aren’t close. Leaving them for who-know-how-many-years-or-forever was the most difficult thing I had to face in my life ever – some of it was captured in a paragraph here - http://ashokbania.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/on-long-distance-friendships-and-relationships/
  • Habits – Habits formed from childhood are very difficult to change. The very thought of changing them sent shivers … mundane things that makes one work in auto-pilot – going to gym, driving around, picking up groceries, fav hair salon, brands that I use etc. to very ingrained second nature – way I talk and comprehend others, rituals .. you get the drift
  • Fear of Unknown – whether I will adjust to the culture, whether I would get what I want etc.

At one point, the pain was so much that I just wanted to relax – have a good night’s sleep and think of this as an experiment – if gone foul – will trace back my steps and find my way back.

I met a couple of friends via Yahoo!’s Pride email list. One of them was one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met. He and his friends made sure that my transition was smooth and I get whatever I need to start off. Not only I could get his place to stay for two weeks but also I was offered a walk to the shuttle stop to where Yahoo!’s bus arrives every morning by one of his friends. I got to know about this plan a couple of days before departing India and that made my last 4 – 5 days in India concentrate on only one misery – missing People :)

I arrived on June 23 and since then there was no looking back .. for sometime at least. One day at a time, I started to plan out my life. Things that I took for granted – driving and getting around the city, ordering food, garbage disposal, arranging a meet up with friends – things that are done in an auto pilot way (usually) became tasks if not arduous ones. Brave new world!! as most of you guys will put it. Easier said but it’s difficult because my brain has been on since that day and it is tiring (part of it is because of my new job as well).

Having said that, I have been enjoying this city and this new life in a way which was inconceivable to me. Thrills that I thought never existed have been introduced to this 32 year old man.

  1. Catching a bus at the last second (albeit guided by smartphone apps)
  2. Getting drunk beyond limits and still get ‘out-drunk’ by the next person
  3. Waking up at 6 am and sleeping at 10:30 – 11 pm (hello!! that was never me)
  4. Chatting up with the land lady and get $400 off on rent
  5. Getting my bank account (trust me you can’t just open one easily), Social Security Number, House (getting a house to your liking in a short time in SF is like getting a PhD in 2 months), credit card in record 2 weeks
  6. Going to a gig by an obscure but favorite band and finding out people to go with and later become awesome giggly friends
  7. Using public transport as if I were a SF veteran
  8. Having the sense of being responsible for myself all the time
  9. Visiting a doctor and using my insurance card
  10. Random banter with strangers on weather, how cold SF is, food, music, gay culture etc.
  11. Seeing naked old men on streets
  12. Making Jalapeno the best friend for my Indian spicy palate
  13. Discovering that Indian food is viewed as one cuisine – lill do folks here know that there are like 1000 different cuisines within India
  14. Discovering bad Indian food everyday w/ the exception of my office cafe
  15. Seeing men holding hands and wishing one day I would too
  16. Noticing sex conquering over intimacy and love
  17. Being fairly surprised at seeing the pervasiveness of male body image issues
  18. Figuring out finer nuances and differences between Brit English (which I am used to) and American English – for e.g. ‘homely’ in America has a negative connotation (boring, dull) for people as well as places/surroundings
  19. Acronyms in dating world – NSA (no strings attached), LTR (long term relationships) – arrrghh!
  20. Getting weird one-liners and shocking photos on dating apps from guys ….

Honestly, all this wouldn’t have been possible because of people. People have been great to me and I am lucky. I have two friends – a couple who was introduced to me long back by a friend in Bangalore – they have been a great support and the fact that I knew they were there in SF even before I moved eased a lot of pain. Another very close friend introduced me to his cousin and his girl friend and in no time I felt that warm fuzzy feeling of being close to people and just be myself in front of them. In fact his cousin helped me a lot – in ways most people in my life haven’t. Then my long term association with another friend who drove me to the bed-bath-and-beyonds (lol it’s taxing to go to those places) and who also got me a tiramisu to celebrate my birthday – that’s pretty sweet. Small little happiness in the form of a welcome note and flowers came in from neighbors. A random guy next to my house, helped me carry stuff from the neighborhood grocery store to my place without any reason. How can I be skeptical about this world!!

Despite all these fortunate encounters and people in my life in SF, there are many moments when I still long to go back to my wretched (only because I didn’t have a lover/partner else everything was perfect – not that I have a lover/partner now!!) life with my friends. When I was leaving Bangalore, I told my friends that I would only meet lovers/partners in SF and not friends. If I have to be friendly with someone, I would pick and choose mediocre people so that they can’t contest the love or the strength of our friendship – it’s still a private joke within my group of friends. But I guess that was just an emotional me. I still do close my eyes, put on my headphones with songs that associates me to my past and take a hike down the memory lane and I enjoy it.

Regarding present and future, I still wonder if I will be able to accomplish what I came for – to have someone love me for eternity. Many of my friends dub me as a Disney princess for my wishful thinking – but then that’s me. Sex is essential but then it was a phase – when I was a teenager – I could perhaps dissociate Sex from feelings all so easily. There were times I was attracted to men who were possibly so not attractive to me right now. People may say I am too young to harbor these notions of nesting or say breeding (which I can’t coz no two men can get together and give birth to a child lol!) – but I think that’s me. I always wanted a stable family – a bit of predictability of seeing someone everyday – going back to a house full of people – where I hear people calling my name. I love family rituals and all the drama that comes along with it. A lot of people advise me to go with the flow – I don’t seem to understand it though. I always experience the flow and with experiences comes introspection – and then comes all sorts of thoughts. I do let things happen to me and don’t premeditate on things I have no control over. Some say that my thinking process stems from my up-bringing in India and some people have way outrageous reactions to my thoughts. I scoff at myself most of the time for what I think and what I do. Sometimes I feel I judge and then again I feel I don’t. This excerpt from Steppenwolf by Hesse clearly explains my continued state of thinking and all blah-spection “I came to realize that Haller (a character) has a peculiar genius for suffering, that he had, in the sense that Neitzsche intends in many of his aphorisms, trained himself to the point where his capacity for suffering was masterly, limitless, awesome” :D More on this topic later!! Phew!!

Things change – including my world view or beliefs. Knowing what has changed and why will help me be grounded to this world – the world that has offered me so much. For now, I have to just concentrate on a few things more – Job (very demanding), Getting a driver’s license and drive in California, Travel a bit within US, Health, Cook (haven’t been doing that regularly), Getting used to new things and just Be. Most importantly enjoying this disruption at this juncture of my life – I am lucky to have this stimulus which many people dread.

Will write back on this topic again – probably after a year.

On long distance friendships and relationships

10 Aug

This note is for those who are insecure that relationships (whether amorous or not) die with distance and time. 

We are humans and our bonds are always like a facebook edge graph (friendship strength) – no matter how much we deny it that real life isn’t like FB, it is in reality. We hide from friends, we have contrived public appearance and then we have meltdowns privately and next moment we are like ‘my life is great’. We be-friend people, stalk some and want to know more about some for which we constantly keep meeting them, pinging them and mostly agree to what they say till we figure out that we are close enough to have a disagreement. 

My friend always tells me that no matter what happens we will always be friends even though I am going away to another country or city .. yes we will be but the friendship will freeze here at this moment and in this place.  

If there were any chances of waxing and waning of the relationship, that wouldnt happen now. 

 

There will be waxing and waning with new or other people we meet in person and may be those waxing will be stronger than the bond we’ll ever have. 

Presence is required and that’s what lays a context and relevance of a relationship. 

Some relationships are unconditional – like the one with my mom, my sisters and my dad – may be my dog – who will still wag his tail when I meet him – even though he will grow old and blind soon.  

Not all relationships are like that … or will never be.

Of desires and despair

6 Nov

 

 

 

 

 

Desires give birth to despair

From a mother’s womb
to the primal scream
a desire to live and
the despair of living

From knowing the world
to experiencing it
a desire to know and
the despair of understanding it

From the fervent touch
to the wanton expression of dominance
a desire to be felt and
the despair of feelings

From ideologies and a free world
to dictating how it should be free
a desire to achieve and
the despair of losing it

From quest of existence
to the angst of existence
a desire for the ultimate truth and
the despair of being confounded with

From love
to hate
a desire to unite and
the despair of severing it

I had the powers of mystical creatures
I cast a spell
to obfuscate all my own desires
and wrote a note to myself
“Can we exist without desire and despair?”

I was numb
I grew old
My eyes were open
My lips were cold

There were no desires nor any despair
The note I wrote, the sights I stared at, the instincts I was born with,
said nothing
but showed only the void….

We give birth to desires
And desires give birth to us …
On the cold thorny bed of
despair …

~ Ashok Bania 21:40 hrs, Nov 6, 2012 (India) inspired by Paul Eluard

Words have no meanings…

29 Oct

Image

Words have no meanings …

when they don’t tease our heart to flutter

They have no meanings

when they don’t lace our eyes with tears …

Weren’t they suppose to make our lips quiver

with smiles?

Weren’t they the reason behind wars

and love affairs?

Words have no meanings

as far as what meanings mean to us …

Words have no meanings

as long as they are just sounds …

Words are just thoughts lost in translation …

If they don’t inspire action

If words would have meanings,

Promises, Love, Devotion

won’t be words ..

but feelings…

~ Ashok Bania, Oct 29, 2012 19:39 (India), inspired by Ryuichi Tamura (post WW II Japanese poet)

Top 11 reasons why I stopped talking to you! [Original piece by you??]

27 Jun

Today someone posted a link on how difficult communication is despite these plethora of communication channels. Don’t blame the Sargasso sea of communication medium. It’s the lack of conviction in all of us to tell the truth. Here’s my top 10 oft heard reasons for ‘why i stopped talking to you’. Ok let me start with being honest, I wrote top 11 and not 10 coz I always want to be unconventional – that’s like ‘cool’ for me … so here’s the format: My reason [your smart alecy answer :D]

  1. We both are so busy you know [sure, right now I am trying to find alternate energy sources in Mars whilst I am counting moments to my sensational mid-life]
  2. We both are in different places [i figured .. every time I wanted to foursquare you into rationality, it gives me a 500 internal error .. ok let me translate .. yes we are in different places]
  3. I thought we can be just friends [yay! I am addicted to consolation prizes :D]
  4. It’s not you, it’s me [that i figured but what's ailing you?]
  5. i think we both need space [thanks .. can you now plan out my life .. i am so incapable of deciding myself]
  6. __________________ [__________________]
  7. it was not meant to be [of course .. let the drama kick in .. can you quote John Keats now? oh while you are at it, can you also rewrite the testament of fate]
  8. my mom/dad didn’t approve of you [sigh! she/he missed a threesome]
  9. i thought you were in love with me for no apparent reason and it was creepy [you are right ... it was way too creepy to think you were cool ...]
  10. I was in a dark place those days [oh for a second i thought you got sucked into a black hole ... not only did it suck out your light those days, it sucked mine too]
  11. i met someone else in the meantime .. thanks for igniting the faith in me that love exists/I think you are ugly and I don’t want people to judge by thinking either i am a gold digger or i am too dumb to even know i exist/I think I don’t like your personality/you are boring for my all-so-flamboyancy :D /you are cramping my style/you have bad breath/OMG you are a virgin!! and i don’t like it/you were stalking me [respect!! :)]

 

Having written this, on a serious note, please use this only as an instrument of humor. People have multiple reasons: set- mind set and setting- environment… these are simple breakdowns to start with but then this cosmos is so vast and ever changing that gauging anything which is in the realm of human mind will be tantamount to finding a needle in hay stacks in the Chrysler Building!! Even science haven’t been able to come up with a concrete ‘Unified law of force’ … Don’t delve too much on why I didn’t speak to you … it’s not you or I … It’s just a random chain of events leading upto it :) Godspeed for your future dates [a$$hole] :D

Prawn Malai (Cream) Curry – East Indian Recipe

25 Mar

For four people (who always like second helping)

Prawns – de-shelled & de-veined – 500 gms

Onions – 2 (medium sized) – make a paste of them using a blender

Garlic – 3 cloves (finely chopped)

Ginger – 1 medium sized – make a paste

Chillies – 2

Cardamom – 4 (slit them but don’t removed the seeds)

Cinnamon – 2 stick (small)

Bay leaf – 2 medium sized

Turmeric powder – 1 tea spoon

Chili powder – half a tea spoon (don’t use substitutes like Cayenne Pepper – use Indian Red Chili powder)

Sugar – half a tea spoon

Cococut Milk – One can (around 200 ml)

Garam Masala – Optional (http://indianfood.about.com/od/masalarecipes/r/garammasala.htm) – it’s a blend of coriander seeds, cumin, pepper corns, cardamom, cloves & cinamon

Oil – 1 and half table spoon Olive Oil (best results – use mustard oil – not very healthy though)

Marinade the prawns with half a teaspoon of turmeric powder, half a tea spoon of Garam Masala (optional) and salt (use your own estimate). Keep it in the fridge for 30 mins. After 30 mins, sautee the prawns slightly in half a tea spoon of oil till the prawns looks half cooked and releases ample water. Keep the prawns aside.

Heat 1 table spoon oil in a pan. Throw in the garlic. When the garlic starts becoming brown – removed the garlic from the oil and you will have garlic flavored oil. Throw in the cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaf and 2 cloves. Fry for a min. Gently pour in the onion paste. Please remember to cook the onion paste such that the paste turns golden brown in color and you can see mini geyser formations on the paste (like small volcanoes) :D Frying the onion is very essetial because you may not want the curry to be overpowered with onion fragrance. We just need sweet tasting onion for the curry.

Add in half a tea spoon of sugar to the paste and fry for 30 secs. Then add the ginger paste. Fry for another 2/3 mins. Your kitchen by now will smell like an Indian curry heaven. Add in the 2 green chilies. Split them before you add them. Add in half a tea spoon of turmeric powder and chili powder. Fry for another 1 min.

Add in the coconut milk while stirring. Add in 100 ml of water and let it boil. After 3 mins, the curry will start boiling. Add in the semi-cooked prawns. Cook in high heat for another 3 mins. Bring down the heat to medium/low and simmer in for 10-15 mins.  Add salt to taste.

Best served with white rice, sticky rice, jasmine rice, pulao or pilaf rice.

March 24, 2012 - Prawn Malai Curry for 4 (my kitchen)

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