A grey wintry morning and voluntary unemployment

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It’s nearly 10 am and there isn’t even a hint of sunshine. I look out the glass wall of my living room and all I see is grey – a cover of mist on the trees on the ground right outside my building, trees in mourning without a speck of brightness about them and brown earth that hardly seems brown. The scene looks like a picture that someone was editing; halfway across changing a beautiful colour picture to black and white, they gave up and left the greens, browns and blues looking almost like grey but didn’t quite get there.

I loathe winters. There are no two ways about it. I don’t like the cold, the multiple layers of clothing required, the decision on what to wear, the idea that at 8 in the morning my bedroom could look like it’s 4am, completely eliminating my desire to be up and about.

I don’t care that vegetables taste better and are cheaper in winter, that you don’t sweat or feel all icky, and I couldn’t bother about the pleasure of sitting in bleak sunshine. I don’t know how to wear a woolly hat properly, when to take a scarf or what to do when I alternatively feel warm and cold in that thick jacket. I hate that simple tasks such as brushing your teeth or sitting on a toilet pot become tests of willpower. It’s annoying that the quilt I get under first makes me go stiff with cold, then the gets cosy warm with my body heat and then ends up making me sweat in the night, so much so that I wake up with a jolt, gasping and throw the quilt off my body.

As a chai person, the only pleasure I allow myself during winters is that of holding a hot cup of tea to my freezing winters. Ironically, even then, I can’t handle the scalding hot tea; I wait a minute or two for the tea to cool down.

Add to this despondency my confused feelings about my voluntary unemployment. I swing between feelings of joy at a whole day of possibilities to use my pent-up words and feelings of utter uselessness and pure terror when thinking about my career and the future. Given my ideas to work full time in the gender activism space, I wonder what I know and what I can do with that limited knowledge. It’s a phase that questions your self-confidence, your daring ideas and idealism. When you see the bank balance that’s rapidly going down without any inflow, you wonder if you made the right decision.  

Thanks to a supportive partner gently guiding me through my mood swings, I come to terms with what it means to take a break to figure out the what-next in life. That involves accepting the dark days, making to-do lists, reading more and pushing hard to create a routine, for full-time work instills ideas of productivity purely because there’s something to do everyday: calls to take, emails to check, meetings to attend. The break also involves making those tough decisions about spending your money – knowing that with those limited funds (and for now, no inflow) lifestyle changes of taxi vs. metro, eating out, alcohol, etc. are to be made. It’s about full cognizance of the fact that most of my basic needs, urgent expenses and even my lifestyle expenses can be met, thanks to supportive and non-judgmental family.

Winter and unemployment tell you loads about the privileges that you were born with and continue to have. I chide myself for cribbing about the cold when I sit within the confines of home, with a room heater and instant hot water, and a range of thick jackets. I scribble furiously in my diary about the need to quickly get over the panic that washes over me oh-so-frequently. I try to use the time to wander about the city, to incorporate new habits like journaling everyday, and learn to take disappointment, frustration and unhappiness in my stride. Thanks to yoga lessons, I try to breathe deeply and dismiss stress and tension over things I don’t control.

It’s 10.30 and the morning continues to be bleak. A crow swings on a cable outside the room, making me laugh. An eagle swoops by too close for comfort, until I realize there’s a strong glass wall keeping me safe.


Another winter day begins, another day full of possibilities for me to feel happy through words, music and aimless walks. I wonder how I'll fare today! 

1 comments:

Anupama Viswanathan said...

You will fare well, don't worry! :). Sometimes a varied set of experiences is what we need to gain an understanding of how life works. And this phase is one of those lessons. So keep calm and hang on!

PS: It's nice to read stuff on a blog and comment. What a refreshing change. The writing too is unhurried, enjoyable and laid-back. :)