A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

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Inhale. Exhale.

Posted by Pepper on February 17, 2021

I have been dealing with massive anxiety. So I’ve been a little quiet around here. I expect this gigantic wave of stress to pass in the next few days. Oh God, I really hope it does, I can’t function like this. This blog used to be a good place for a mental dump at one time. I really wanted to write more about my feelings and the causes. But over the years, I have come to the realization that the best of the best people get sick of hearing you, patting your back and telling you it will be okay.

So for the sake of not annoying the random (and mostly silent) people who seemingly read my blog, I will not unload here this time. I will probably write a password protected post IF I continue feeling the way I am. The content isn’t too private, I just don’t want to forcefully dump on people who haven’t signed up for it. For now, I will pray that things turn around and I am able to move past this.

Until then, I am going to try to focus on some breathing exercises. Inhale. Exhale.

Posted in Uncategorized | 27 Comments »

It’s still hard

Posted by Pepper on January 30, 2021

I would expect my heart to be immune to the longing it feels. When will I be granted immunity? I miss my family like crazy. Every evening when I am on video calls with my mom and dad, I am overcome by this desire to hug them. Hearing from them how madly they miss us doesn’t make it any easier. Especially when I see them aching for Cotton and Candy.

Living in USA was not a part of my life plan. And definitely not after I had kids. I was supposed to raise my kids close to my mom and dad. I grew up with not just one, but both sets of grandparents in close quarters. I was the center of that love and pampering that only comes from grandparents. I expected the same for my kids. Neither did I ever imagine making my parents go through such depths of deprivation.

But yet, here we are. If you have read this blog for long, you will know that we consciously chose to move back to India from the US at one point. And yet, we couldn’t fight the forces that brought us back here. It has been many years of living here, and I still don’t learn to accept what is my fate.

I don’t talk about this often, but my mental health isn’t very sound. The dissonance I feel because of living so far away isn’t easy to deal with. Other than that, I have severe anxiety. My parents’ precarious health worries me. To add to it, the fear of covid makes everything infinitely worse.

Some days are good. I actually breathe easy and appreciate all that this country has to offer. I appreciate the life I have here. Some days are terrible when all I am wondering about is why I live where I live. I have prayed hard for grace and acceptance. True acceptance of my situation, so that I can learn to be at peace.

It’s a long journey though and I have many miles to go before I can say I have fully accepted my own life’s choices.

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Stories for my children

Posted by Pepper on January 27, 2021

We had a very rainy day yesterday and the forecast for the rest of the week shows even more rain. Rains have meant so much to me. I am an out an out Mumbai girl at heart. The rains in that city are legendary. My childhood is full of rain drenched memories.

So yesterday when Cotton and Candy were watching the rain from the comforts of their heated home, I decided to tell them stories from my childhood. I told them how as a little girl, I would love to splash in puddles, just like them. I told them how we used to live on the the last floor of a relatively old building and how we had a permanently leaking roof during the rains. This was because the building’s terrace needed repairs and it was an ongoing issue with the society’s committee and the residents of all the top floors.

As a result, I have grown up watching the ceiling drip every monsoon. Placing a bucket on the floor was common and nobody batted an eyelid. One particular year I remember even placing an open umbrella on top of our radio station, just to make sure it remained unaffected by the dripping ceiling.

I remember my papa leaving office early and driving to my school to pick me up so that I didn’t have to take the school bus in the heavy rain. My mom hugging my fully soaked body as I reached home and laying out hot food for me. Cotton and Candy listened intently as I shared these bits with them.

I love sharing parts of my earlier life with my kids. It is so important for them to know where I came from. That I am still somebody’s child, that I have been loved and celebrated. I am not just a caregiver, but I have been the recipient of so much love and care for most of my life.

I also tell them about the various people in my life who they will never get to meet. Stories of my grandparents, my dad’s brother who I always called daddy. Our lives are a jigsaw puzzle and each story I share fits a little piece back in the puzzle. And there are so many million pieces of the puzzle, I don’t know if my kids or anybody for that matter can ever see the whole picture of my life.

But I do aim to sew as many pieces back together so that my children can see the larger part of my life through my stories and my history. It’s one way I can forge a strong and deep connection with them. By the time they are older, I hope they know a lot more about who I am, where I came from and what got me here.

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How not to fold laundry

Posted by Pepper on January 25, 2021

Let your clothes stay in the dryer, until it is time to put in your next load.

At that point, bring the first load of laundry and dump all your clothes on the bed in your guest bedroom.

Spend a few days thinking about the pending task and continue feeling bothered by the sight of the unfolded laundry.

When you feel too stressed, shut your bedroom door to make sure the pile of clothes is out of your sight.

Pick a time the next day to get to work. When you do, stare at a piece of clothing for long enough to get the answers to all of life’s questions.

Try folding a shirt and then notice that the sleeves are not as perfectly aligned as you’d like. Feel frustrated and redo the whole thing. Stop folding clothes after you fold that one shirt, because you aren’t enjoying the process.

Allow your thoughts to wander. Suddenly dream of eating something specific. Decide to go and cook the specific thing you are dreaming of, because the end result of that is more rewarding than folded laundry.

Go back to the laundry the next day. Hear two excited voices and shudder when you realise that two little people want to ‘help’ you fold clothes.

Try letting them help you and keep redoing all the clothes that they insist on doing and feel the chaos getting out of hand.

Stop the process and decide to continue when the kids are in bed and you won’t have to deal with any ‘help’.

Consider what your spouse has been telling you about never folding kids’ clothes ever and just throwing them in different bins in their closet.

Go back to dreaming of a time when your kids will be old enough to fold laundry and you can curl up your tee in a ball and toss it towards them.

Repeat on loop.

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments »

Taking sides

Posted by Pepper on January 21, 2021

Last weekend, we kept our promise and took CottonCandy to the duck pond. It really was a fabulous day. We fed the ducks, ate our own lunch by the pond, strolled around the area and had a jolly time. After spending a good number of hours there, we decided to head back home. We were all tired.

We walked back to the car and before we even got there, we were stopped by two women who asked us if the minivan standing there was ours. We nodded. Then one of the women said she saw the other car that hit our car. What? We were confused. She then went on to explain what had happened.

Apparently, a guy was trying to park in the spot next to ours and while doing that, he hit the rear of our car. The dent and damage seemed very apparent. He seemed to remain unperturbed and parked in the spot next to ours and just walked away. The women who saw this incident were furious and were waiting for us to return so they could tell us about it.

I groaned mentally. It had been such a nice day and I didn’t want it ruined. I kept thinking of the possible expenses we would have to incur to get this fixed. The women there stayed on. We took pictures of the dents on our rear and also pictures of the front of the car that had hit us.The identical, or rather congruent dents and angles of that car’s front and our car’s rear would definitely help us in collaborating our claim with insurance.

The women there went on to assure us that they were willing to testify as the witnesses and would support us in every way they could while we dealt with insurance. Before they left, they shared their contact details with us. I think they looked more angry than us and kept saying that the guy who did that was a jerk and how obnoxious it was that he just walked away without leaving us a note.

The pictures we took and the statements of the witnesses helped us immensely in settling things with our insurance company. Today we dropped off our car for repair and picked up another rental for the interim period while we get ours fixed.

Since the weekend, I haven’t been able to stop thinking of the two women who stood up for us. They had nothing at stake. But they chose to speak up for what was right. I am so grateful to them. We thanked them (a lot) and let them know how much we appreciated their help. Without them, all of this may have had a very different outcome.

It reinstates my very strong belief in always speaking up for what you believe in. Even if you don’t stand to benefit. A lot of people only speak up when the fight is theirs and when they see personal gains tied to it. But for those who speak on behalf of the rest when they have nothing at stake, I really admire them.

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First day

Posted by Pepper on January 20, 2021

Today was the first day of school for Cotton and Candy after a really *long* break. I wanted the morning to be unruffled, so I tried my best to keep things ready last night. New bag packs, extra set of clothes to be sent, water bottles washed and ready, lunch boxes ready at the counter, waiting to be packed. All items marked and labeled with their names on them. Other than that, I vowed to wake up by 6.30 am.

As luck would have it, the morning was cold, grey and windy. Very windy. I am not kidding, we could hear the howling and roaring of the wind all night. It was effing cold and I just couldn’t open my eyes in the morning. I had to use all my will power to drag myself out at one point and by the time I was downstairs, it was 7.15! We were already running late.

I woke Mint at first and then we tried waking Cotton and Candy. They have both completely forgotten the concept of waking up early in the morning to go to school. Getting them out of bed was another task. And since we were running late, we had to deal with the morning chaos descending upon us.

Mint and I had an argument. Candy refused to finish her milk. I was struggling to smear just the right amount of ghee and podi on the idlis that I had to pack for them. Because I know how precisely that needs to be done. Mint was expressing sudden doubt in my choice of outfits that I had picked out for them. Both Cotton and Candy were choosing to be sluggish and testing our collective patience. This is exactly the chaos I had hoped to avoid.

Finally, we were done and ready to get out of the door. Since it was the first day, both Mint and I planned to go to drop them. They were both very excited, while I still feel extremely nervous. I had a hundred things to say to the teacher today.

I am waiting to go pick them up. I know they’re having a great day since we already called in to check on them. This transition is going to be harder for me than them.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

Little joys

Posted by Pepper on January 14, 2021

I was looking at the weather forecast for the next few days and noticed we have 2 days of good weather coming up. To add to the joy, the good weather spell is colliding with the weekend. That means so much to me. I will finally feel inspired to get out and do things.

Otherwise, the wretched cold in these winter months makes me feel too uninspired to get out of the house. I’ve told myself I will bundle up and that it will be okay, that getting out and getting some fresh air is important, but add the covid stress and the frigid weather and it leaves me with no motivation to go anywhere.

So I am really looking forward to this sunny weekend. It’s also a long weekend. Double yay! I told Cotton and Candy about it and the first thing Cotton asked me was if we could go and meet the ducks. My poor baby has been missing them. We used to take the kids to this outdoor strip mall that had a pretty pond with ducks in it. We could buy a pack of duck food from one of the departmental stores there, which was basically cracked corn, barley and a mix of some other grains. And Cotton and Candy would go crazy feeding the ducks. Sometimes the ducks came and ate right out of your hand! It was one of their favourite things to do. I say was because we haven’t taken them there in 2 whole months now.

Here are some pictures from our last visit there.

Feeding the duckies. We keep alternating between the ducks that stay in the pond and the ones that come out to take a stroll.

When Cotton and Candy want to continue walking around the edge of the pond forever. They are just so happy

Just one with my overexcited babies. I barely have any pictures with them on this blog. I should try to change that.

These happy little outings with them remind me of my own childhood. Where mom and dad would take the sister and me to a select few places. Worli seaface has always been special to me because of how joyous it made my childhood. We would go and watch the waves and walk along the edge of the water, eat freshly roasted peanuts sold to us in newspaper cones. I remember feeling just so happy. Childhood is precious.

And now I get to relive parts of it through Cotton and Candy. I really hope their childhood is as happy as mine has been. For now, we have promised them we will take them to meet the duckies soon.

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Imagination 101

Posted by Pepper on January 13, 2021

Cotton and Candy are writing the alphabets on their magnetic board. Mint is sitting next to them and working on his laptop. Candy scrawls a big B, then looks at it and tells Mint, “Appa, B toh bra jaisa dikhta hai” The letter B looks like a bra.

I stop wiping the kitchen counter and burst out laughing. My daughter has an interesting imagination.

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments »

No means no

Posted by Pepper on January 12, 2021

On average, Mint and I find ourselves repeating that statement at least 20 times a day. Explaining boundaries, especially physical boundaries is hard when it comes to toddlers. Now put toddler twins and that task becomes a lot harder. Because we are talking about two little people who are exactly the same age and have the same level of understanding and maturity. No one is better than the other.

We live in such an awfully sexist world, we feel a higher sense of responsibility to raise our son to be respectful, sensitive and well, just somebody who doesn’t cave in to gender stereotypes. If you know Cotton in person, you will know about his reputation of being one of the sweetest kids on the block. Honestly, he’s a darling. But I still worry, because the default setting of the world turns men into entitled and sexist jerks. You have to work really hard to tune out of the default setting designed for your gender.

Candy, on the other hand, is a brat. She is fierce, loud and defiant. She is also not as sensitive as Cotton. In fact, she is my rowdy kid. But again, I wonder. How long will she continue to be such a dynamite little girl? The default setting of the world turns women into fearful, subservient beings. And it takes a little extra work to raise a bold, fearless girl.

Anyway, I digress as usual. I was talking about setting physical boundaries. Cotton came crying to me with tears in his eyes. He said Candy wasn’t letting him hug her. He had accidentally hurt her foot and was feeling guilty. He told me he said sorry to her but he also wanted to hug her. I told you, he is a darling child.

But Candy made it very clear that she did not want to be hugged. I told Cotton to respect that. If she doesn’t want to be hugged, he can’t keep asking her for one or forcefully give her one. No means no, remember? I went over this concept for the nth time. If someone does not want to be touched, you can’t touch them. Not even your sister. Not even if you have the best intentions. There are no two ways about this. No means no. Period.

He, as usual, was struggling to grasp this. He told me he lets Candy sit on his back whenever she pleases. That is true. She practically rides him. And he lets her. Fair point. I told him he could tell her he doesn’t want to indulge her. He can say no too. And she has to respect that.

A common scene around here. Please ignore Candy’s very stained sleeves.

But he said he has no problem when she does that. Then why should she have a problem when he takes similar liberties. Okay, I told him that sometimes he may be okay being touched by someone. That does not translate to that person being okay with being touched by him. Always ask first. Consent is very important. Of course, I do try to balance our view points by asking Candy why she thinks it is reasonable to expect certain privileges when she isn’t willing to return them. This is all about such a fine balance.

Consent is something Mint and I try to model to them. We ask them first if we can kiss them. Even if we don’t, we stop the moment we see the slightest sign of protest or discomfort.┬áNo means no is a statement we explain and repeat so many times. The rules apply to us too.

Of course, they still don’t get it. We once heard Candy telling Cotton, “No, I don’t want to share this with you. No means no”. We told her that is not how this works. And we explained again the concept of consent. From our part, we make sure there is a lot of dialogue and conversation about this subject. And even though they don’t get it in its entirety now, someday I hope they will.

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Today

Posted by Pepper on January 11, 2021

I cooked raddish sambar and rice for lunch. I think that one is our favourite sambar. Though Cotton and Candy will pick drumstick sambar as their top favourite.

We introduced the song “My name is Lakhan” to the kids. Yes, those are the after effects of watching AK vs AK. It was amusing to watch them dance to it. My brats know a host of Hindi songs, some that belong to a very different era. I once heard Cotton singing, ‘Tum aa gaye ho, noor aa gaya hai” as he was completing his Peppa pig puzzle. If my 3 year old son is singing that song, I must be doing something right.

I folded an entire load of laundry. Laundry folding is probably on the top of my list of ‘Tasks I despise’. I’ve always hated it and now I find it even more annoying to fold clothes that belong to such tiny humans. It’s just harder to fold a tee that small. And there are millions of them.

I watched on my Instagram stories, the whole of Austin swoon over the snowfall they had today. It made me very jealous. Bay Area is so cold and temperatures get much lower than that here, but we never see snow. I guess it has more to do with the altitude than the temperature. I hate cold but love the idea of experiencing that occasional snowfall.

I allowed myself to nap in the afternoon. Winter makes me feel so sleepy and groggy, it isn’t even funny. I woke up and treated myself to some ginger tea. And then I went for a long shower and used the body scrub I received as a gift from Secret Santa this Christmas. My skin feels so new.

We did our Indian store grocery run and went to the FedEx office to mail out some return orders. I feel so accomplished.

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Cat in the back(yard)

Posted by Pepper on January 8, 2021

Cotton and Candy spent a lot of their lock down afternoons last year running amok with their chalks and drawing in the backyard. Many times, I’d hear them call out to me and I knew what was coming. They would demand that I draw whatever it was that they were fancying at that point. The incessant ‘pleassseee’ would make me give in. Never mind that I had no freaking clue how to draw a unicorn. Or a fire truck. I have used all my imaginary and artistic skills and created some masterpieces.

One afternoon, they requested I draw a cat. That one was not too hard. So I drew one and left them to it.

That evening, I was just passing by and I stopped in my tracks when I saw a real cat sitting right on top of my drawing. To say it was freaky would be an understatement. I called Cotton and Candy and they echoed my feeling of amazement. I knew I had to click that sight so I ran to grab my phone. Unfortunately, in the 5 seconds that I took to get my phone, the cat had decided to move to another spot.

I had to tell Mint, and the entire world at that point. I had to tell them what happened. Mint just laughed and called it a ‘funny coincidence’. Whereas me, I kept insisting that my drawing was so real, the cat appreciated the familiarity. Why else would it go and sit right on it? Mint laughed some more at my ideas. That guy doesn’t recognize my talent.

This was in the earlier home we lived in. We used to have stray cats that climbed into our backyard every now and then and they were a source of delight for Cotton and Candy. Mint believes the positioning of that particular cat was purely coincidental. I insist it wasn’t.

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Decisions galore!

Posted by Pepper on January 7, 2021

After going back and forth on this decision a million times, we have finally decided to resume preschool for Cotton and Candy. Since we moved homes, we can no longer send them to their previous school. It makes us a little sad because we absolutely loved their school to bits.

Anyway, so we have been touring different daycares and preschools and that’s been taking up all our time. Because we typically spend over 2 hours in each school. Going by the number of questions we ask the owners and teachers, Mint and I are probably considered nightmare parents to deal with.

What is their teacher student ratio? How much do they focus on art? How does an average day get divided? What is their academic curriculum like? Do they have mixed age class rooms or do they separate kids based on age? Do they provide meals? Do they assist during meal times? Do they help kids wipe their bums? What does good education mean to them? What extra curricular activities do they engage in? Do they have field trips? How do they imbibe and hone social skills? How do they stimulate kids who are academically advanced? I can go on..

And if those questions aren’t enough, we are living in the times of covid. So we have further questions about their safety and sanitation protocols. Phew.. This is such a long process. We have finally short listed 2 schools for them. We are now tearing our hair apart trying to pick between school A and school B. School A is significantly cheaper than school B. They seem to have a good focus on academic learning. School B seems to be great for over all social and emotional development but is a lot more expensive than school A. They also aren’t as academically inclined as school A. Left to me, I think I would pick school B, but financially, we feel pretty constrained. Especially after putting in so much money in this home. I can’t wait for these brats to enter public school so we can avail the free education this country offers.

We still haven’t made a final decision and have given ourselves time until this weekend. The mere idea of sending them has gotten me nervous and we had to tap into our reserves of bravery. But I am hopeful that everything will work out in the end. * Fingers crossed *

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Never have I ever

Posted by Pepper on January 5, 2021

This isn’t about the show. This is about my own list of firsts. I asked Visha if I could steal this idea of her post and she was nice enough to agree.

2020 was a year of firsts. Prior to the past year, never had I:

  • Left dishes in the sink for 3 days straight. Both Mint and I were bone tired.
  • Eaten cereal for lunch and dinner.
  • Allowed myself to make bulk purchases of lentils and rice from Costco. The pandemic actually made me more comfortable with buying 20 lb bags of rice.
  • Been so effing furious with Candy as she tore half a roll of toilet paper for the sake of entertainment. I mean, how much more precious can that commodity get?
  • Felt victorious on scoring a delivery slot for grocery!
  • Baked such amazing Banana bread. With whole wheat and honey.
  • Used lipstick and dressed up to go from my bedroom to my living room.
  • Used castor oil in my hair. This has become a weekly ritual and I love the difference it is making.
  • Used my dishwasher to rinse tomatoes and cucumbers and in fact, all kinds of fresh produce. Yeah, we used to do this in the beginning of the pandemic.
  • Convinced myself to grow house plants. I only started with 2, but hey, they are still alive!
  • Thought I would need a glass of wine every evening. Almost.
  • Thought I would see the day where Mint insists on shaving his head fully and going bald. Just because it was convenient. So glad the hair is now back.
  • Spent so much quality time with Cotton and Candy. Just breathing into my babies has been so refreshing.
  • Been used as a trampoline for several hours a day. Cotton and Candy think it is reasonable to jump on me when they please. And I am crazy enough to let them. Because they are adorable. But I don’t tell them that.
  • Thought a parking lot would be the top choice for a meeting place for friends. I can’t keep count of the number of times we parked our cars several feet away and chatted across our cars with windows rolled down.
  • Felt this level of agitation and gratitude at the same time

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Spice spice baby

Posted by Pepper on January 4, 2021

Today, we drove around a bit to get our fix of Ethiopian food. One of the things we had ordered was Shiro Wot, along with Foule. We asked them to make it spicy, because well, we love spice. I couldn’t wait to get back home so that I could dive into my food.

We got home and went over the annoying drill of trashing the containers and sanitizing and disinfecting all that we had to. I finally sat down to eat and before I could stop myself, I stuffed a humongous spoon of the wot in my mouth. Before I knew it, my ears were ringing, my vision was cloudy and I let out a meek cry. Those guys took our instructions of ‘make it spicy’ a little too seriously, and I almost pictured an over enthusiastic chef throwing in an entire box of the spice mix into our food.

I walked to the kitchen to fetch myself some iced water, hoping it would help. It didn’t. I then ate a spoonful of sugar. And to top that, I also brought out a bowl of cold yogurt. When I got back to the dining table, I saw a similar fire blazing in Mint’s eyes. He seemed more in control though. “Why didn’t you warn me?”, he asked. I giggled and said I had to first think of ways of surviving and was busy trying to rescue myself. He said he was relatively okay because he had only eaten a tiny spoonful, unlike me who had tried to take in as much as I could at one go.

And because we are evil, evil parents, we decided to experiment on Candy. She has a high tolerance for spice and we wanted to see just how high it is. We told her to have a tiny lick of the spoon we were giving her. And then we waited in anticipation. She seemed to be thinking and looked at us nonchalantly and said ‘Ya, it’s nice’. Say what?! Hmm, maybe we give her just too little then.

Because we didn’t get any dose of drama and entertainment from Candy, we decided to expand our experiment to include Cotton. Now his spice tolerance isn’t even close to Candy’s, so we were waiting with bated breath as he tasted the food. He seemed to take a while to process it and didn’t have much of a reaction at first. And then he did a wild little dance before he started screaming on top of his lungs. We tried to suppress our laughter and pretended to have no clue of what we had subjected his taste buds to. Only when we had turned away did we allow ourselves to laugh. I know, we’re evil like that.

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Trashy choices

Posted by Pepper on January 3, 2021

During the Thanksgiving sales this year, we bought a new TV for our bedroom. I’ve always told Mint that I don’t watch much TV because I don’t feel like staying on our couch for too long and if we had a TV in our bedroom, I would be happy to watch while staying in bed, snuggled in my comforter.

Now we do have a TV in our bedroom and I still don’t find myself turning it on too often, even though I have the pleasure of watching while being snug and cozy. It made me think and I concluded that it is the lack of a cable connection that makes me a little averse to the idea.

I mean, we have NetFlix and Prime and the works and a lot of good content at my disposal. But all of that comes with the burden of making a choice. I don’t want the onus of making a good choice to rest on me. I end up putting a lot of pressure on myself to pick the right show or the right movie to watch. I miss having various channels on cable that I can flip through and being able to casually stop if I find something interesting. Or even indulge in mindless guilty pleasures.

I don’t mind watching trash that is being aired on cable, as long as I am not the one who is choosing it. In fact, let me be honest. I miss the cable connection in India because I watched so many trashy Hindi movies that were being played. I enjoyed that trash without feeling guilty. Because there weren’t too many good choices available anyway. So might as well enjoy this trash that the cable operators have chosen to play. It wasn’t me. THEY chose to play it.

It is only now that I realise I really did have an appetite for trashy Hindi movies. I miss them. And while most of those movies are available to me now, I really can’t be the one choosing to play this sexist, misogynistic and illogical nonsense over all the good content available. Can I get myself to make the choice of playing Hum Saath Saath Hai? Cringe. Double cringe. I judge myself for enjoying it. No I can’t choose it. But I wish it was available to me without having to choose it.

Also, I think it is more gratifying to watch, or rather catch some good content that is being aired without you deciding when it will be played. There is some pleasure in being at the right place, at the right time. It is the same for music too. The kind of thrill I feel while catching a good song being played on radio when I am driving is not comparable to what I feel when I choose to play the same song myself on YouTube. The human mind is strange.

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