Sydney scenes

When I exited the aircraft, I was so excited to be visiting Sydney for the first time. After a month there, my brother mentioned it was starting to grow on him.

We both hated the idea of living in Sydney. Even before we’d even seen the city. Now, though, he seemed to have second thoughts, and I was eager to find out how I felt.

Long story short—I still don’t like the idea of living in Sydney.

I did like Sydney, however. Contradictory, I know. But as soon as I reached my hotel on Harbour Street, in the heart of the city (CBD), I texted my colleague to see if we could catch up. After all, I wasn’t touring Sydney—I was there to attend a conference, to stay locked up inside the infamous International Convention Centre from 8 am to 5 pm on a Thursday and Friday. I met my team mates at around 5 pm, and after a not-so-great coffee, I left to explore.

Vivid Sydney display
Vivid Sydney display

Not one to linger these wintry days, the sun had set off at around 5. But Sydney city is the Down Under version of the city that never sleeps. Lights glared from every corner, and instead of listening to my colleagues ranting (reasonably, albeit boringly) about office politics, I preferred to wander the streets.

Sydney Harbour during Vivid Sydney
Sydney Harbour during Vivid Sydney

That’s when I realised the sheer volume of people who called Sydney home. I wasn’t far from Chinatown and Koreatown so I ran into thousands of all flavours of Asians. And I don’t mean ran into in a figurative sense either. So many people wandered just as I did, except they were looking at their phones letting their well-practised feet and conditioned subconsciousness guide them through navigating the street signs.

Almost everyone followed street signs. And that made me so happy. But it was also frustrating when a lot of couples clung to each other while walking down the footpath. Dawdling behind them, I had a hard time overtaking them without bumping into another arm-locked couple.

And I won’t even start about the low-burning cigarette butts every other person clung to. It wasn’t that cold. At least not for me—not after Canberra anyway.

But it was all great fun. I stopped by for a hot chocolate and walked over to the Opera House. May-June is a great time to visit this studded bay area because Vivid Sydney is on show. The whole locality lights up, laser shows beam about, special over-priced cruise tours dig gold, and along with the many significant buildings in the neighbourhood, the Opera House takes on a stunning veil of animated display.

The closer I got to the building, the faster I seemed to walk. It happens to me all the time. Excitement and eagerness make me trot without a regard for my knees or my not-good-for-walking Converse. But what the hell, I thought to myself. You don’t always get to see the Opera House for the first time. There’ll always be reasons no to do something—rain, cold, wind, stiff shoes, bad hair days, tired feet, or work night. But nothing beats the sense of accomplishment that comes with pushing through nevertheless. That keeps the spark alive for a traveller.

Nestling in that spark, I returned to my room, ready for work the following day.

Next day—

Work was average, and I wasn’t happy with my contribution. But the spark still triggered me to take a ferry unto Manly. And I saw the Opera House again from a whole different perspective. After all, what’s the point of life if you let work interfere with it?

You’re invited!

“Is that what you’re wearing for your friend’s wedding reception?”

All the world asked me when I emerged in a long turquoise top and brown leggings. My blouse had a mild embroidery with buttons and a princess line that extended from my shoulder to my knees. It’s my go-to attire for any social interaction my parents deem significant, and I have a duty not to embarrass them. I had no makeup on and had tried to flatten my short flyaway hair.

“Is that how you go to a wedding?”

I can understand their shock and disapproval. After all, everyone who asked me that question has preconceived notions of how you should appear in wedding photographs: While the bride and groom should be the centre of attraction, those standing on either side of the couple should be just as glowing and glamorous. Acceptable clothing for women includes a long skirt with a gold stone studded blouse or a traditional South Indian silk or silk-lookalike saree embroidered in gold strings, both paired with a generous amount of golden jewellery—necklaces, earpieces, rings, bangles, and anklets. Men often stick to full suits, or long silk or silk-lookalike dhoti also called veshti (that resembles a women’s straight skirt), and a crisp shirt to go with it. Golden chains, rings, and bracelet are a given of course. Over the years, people adhere less to the clothing conventions, but synthetic jewellery still has a significant presence.

We’re all raised with cultural beliefs we follow because it’s a tradition. Sometimes we follow it blindfolded that we don’t even realise or consider the point of such habits. My classmate had invited me to her engagement party. We hadn’t seen or spoken to each other in over four years, and yet she remembered our friendship and I wanted to react in kind. That’s how I justify going for the wedding, despite detesting anything to do with lavish ceremonies. Not only was I placing myself in an uncomfortable scenario but I also had to travel four hours on a bus to get there. Wearing heavy jewellery and silk clothes on a stifling journey during the peak of summer was the least of my concerns. Most people would arrive early, check in to a hotel or a friend’s place and then “get ready” for the function. I, on the other hand, chose to arrive in casual comfortable, yet decent, clothing.

In my book, practicality always takes precedence over traditions. Why should we go to such lengths to be uncomfortable?

Discovery

I hate mobs. They make me nervous. Even as I think about it, my heart bangs in its cage and my legs start to tremble threatening to give way at any moment. And speaking in front of a gathering is awful. Give me a mike and put me under the spotlight, and I’ll be reduced to a slump.

Or, at least, that’s what I thought it would be like.

In school and at work, I’ve had to explain something to a bunch of people. But every time that happens, I freak out so much that my speech loses all sense. And that’s why I was beyond “just nerves” when I heard I’d have to conduct a session in a workshop at my job.
To complicate things, I already knew a bit about my audience: they were all stay-at-home married women. Some had kids, some had more time. Most of them were single- or double-degree holders on a break after marriage. And all of them were at least 10 years older than I. Talk about intimidation.

I needed several deep breaths. And a few gulps — of air.

How would I explain something to them without coming off as a young and insufferable know-it-all? I had so many doubts; people hated contradictions, and a school kid telling older women what to do, isn’t most people’s idea of an ideal workshop. They would’ve expected somone much older-looking, taller, and experienced to conduct an educational workshop.

And yet, when I stood in front of the audience, the glare from the projector almost blinding me, the uncertainty disappeared from my mind. All of a sudden, I was looking at a bunch of people eager to learn; they didn’t care that my head, while I stood, was at their eye while they sat.

Clutching the mike, I, for the first time, felt confident facing a crowd. I was calm. My legs were steady, my heartbeat didn’t sound like a siren, and my pulse wasn’t racing. I began, and I felt myself smiling. I realised how easy it felt. It felt natural talking to these women who wanted to learn and to listen. And then, out of nowhere, I discovered I had matured so much from the shy and cowering schoolgirl I was until a few years ago.

I had grown up at last. And for once, all was well.

Opinions matter… Or do they?

We humans are oh so opinionated. Where ever we go, what ever we do, we always seem to have an opinion about everything.

Take me, for instance. I wouldn’t be writing anything here unless I have an opinion about — well, opinions.

Where ever there’s a group, there’s sure to be opinions. Mixed, certain, unsure, for, against — they come in different labels. But the end thing is same — variety.

Not many people have the same opinions. Yes, we agree with others, but we always seem to have something more to add. Something more valuable, we presume.

Businesses, corporates thrive on varying opinions. Everyone sit together and discuss their opinions — they call it brainstorming. This happens for hours, before they all, almost always, agree with what the boss says.

Now, that’s not the matter. That shit happens every where.

What happens when you don’t have an opinion of something?

That’s me. Yes, it is.

I participate in a meeting, but I seldom contribute. People perceive me as shy and backward. But really, I shut up when I don’t have anything to say.

And that’s not wrong, it’s just a choice.

But no,” they say,how can you not have an opinion?

Honestly, what would a common man know of NASA’s latest research methods? How can one blindly agree (or disagree) that NASA’s funding is too much? (I’m saying that only because I recently read Dan Brown’s ‘Deception Point’)

I can’t criticize the way they make rocket ships or sea ships. I simply don’t know.

How can I possibly justify saying for or against something I don’t understand? I can’t. So, I don’t.

But no, people do want opinions. If I don’t have an opinion, then I’m a fool. (Mind you, there are also loads of highly opinionated fools out there.)

But I think accepting my ignorance of a particular concept is also an opinion. My opinion is that I don’t know enough of the matter, or that person, or that incident to discuss further.

There! I said it. It’s ok to not know. It’s ok to not be curious. It’s ok to be unaware. It’s ok to not have an opinion.

Not having an opinion is stating boldly that I don’t know and that I don’t care.

In case you’ve missed my point: we don’t have to be opinionated about every other thing.

It’s all just my opinion anyway, feel free to disagree.