Conforming to Stereotypes

With every passing year I find stereotypes increasing rather than decreasing, this in the time of globalisation and homogenisation seems ridiculous. A funny post that went viral since it appeared on Buzzfeed brought this thought to fore and what tickled my funny bone is this ‘

26 Questions People From India Are Sick Of Answering.’

Seriously, coming from a nation that thrives on conforming to stereotypes (I’m sure quite a few brickbats are already aimed my way) this was funny to say the least.

Attend any social event in India, and here is a list of personal favs that get thrown your way:

1. Where do you work?

2. You married? (if you forgot to tie your hair up or are wearing a harried smile)

3. Why not? (the inevitable follow up)

4. How many kids ? (If the answer to  question #2 was yes)

5. Why not? (If the answer to question #4 was No)

6. Do you know….(this will be followed by names of X,Y,Z depending on whether your gender is XX or XY and ‘I can introduce you..’ or “Do you know Dr. X, Y,Z  (obviously infertility experts) and both these responses depend on what your answers were to questions #2 and #4).

7. OMG and your parent are ok with it (this if you are married out of caste or to the same gender or have just accepted a job overseas and you are single, female that is or anything else that is out of the normal social norm )

Now if you think this is complicated, read on..

Your barrage of well meaning relatives (definitely not friends) will ensure you never forget to (try and) confirm to the stereotypes set for you.

If you are 35 and above: should be married with children

If you are 30 and above: should be done with education and have a steady, well paying job and not be a stay-at-home dad (let me know if there are others)  or if you are still pursuing education and have no clear career goals ahead of you

If you are nearing 30: should show maturity (meaning no bushman look or romping up hills on enfields or legging it out at all nighter rock concerts with just your pals and beer for company)

If you are self-employed: until you can preen that you may very soon be related to the Ambanis or the Birlas better to keep it under the carpet unless you are ready for ‘You know, during my days….(followed by stories of triumph/how-to-do-it-better/how to avoid failures/etc…etc..)’

If you are a woman: should be married but if you are single (shouldn’t be divorced or have live-in boyfriends in either case pretend to live in their version of reality and not yours)

If you are a man or woman with relationship with the same sex or intercaste marraige or inter-religious marraige: well, nothing more to be said about it…

I SNUB YOU, you just broke all the sterotypes

and darlings, more power to you!!!!

P.S: Do share your list of fav’s too

.

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At the end of it all…we are, but, human

An open letter from a mother to her daughter advising her to consider motherhood at the right time published by a leading Indian paper has been thrashed as regressive by my peers. When I read this article aloud to my mother, she nodded her head sagely and said, “My regards to that lady for writing this. You, younger generation, seem to forget what family is about and the importance of having a child to make that unit complete.”

I argued and tried to get her to understand…why bring another life on an increasingly violent and vile planet? ….cost of living….security….will I know this new being will take care of me when I’m infirm and invalid (her favourite reasoning being: look at you and the amount of care you give. who will take care of you)……why not adoption instead of giving birth…and so on which covered the entire gamut of arguments that my peers use.

Some time later, my grandfather, 92 and going strong, chimes in. What does it matter? In the end, she needs to be happy.

He goes on: “I was raised by my grandmother as my own mother neglected me. I was seven when I realised the immense love she gave me and how much she sacrificed for my well being.

I grew up to become a farmer and tried to help all those around me.

As I grew older I realised there is not much that we need to be happy. Money buys me goods but love buys me life.

I have lived so long because I’m surrounded by people who love me and hold me in great esteem.

I realised that my wants were minimal: 2 meals a day, my health and clothes to cover myself.

I get this from my friends, I get this from my family. And I cannot be more fortunate.

What more do I need.

I’m no longer greedy to eat more, be more or see more.

I do not have to justify my existence. I do not have to live up to expectations. I’m constantly happy with the little things that are given me.

This is what life is.

I’m happy to be able to hear, see and understand. I’m happy I’m still healthy. I’m happy I recognise those around to appreciate what they give.

After all my child, we are, but, human.”

 

 

 

What a woman needs

I hate commemorating any kind of day.

Mother’s Day

Valentine’s Day

Father’s Day

World Peace Day

blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

I firmly believe each day should be a celebration of what life is about…love, your parents who got you here (even if it were accidental), peace, and what-have-you-out- there, which all those greeting card companies popularised long before e-cards existed.

That said, this post isn’t meant to commemorate my mum or women.

I see my mum do the same thing she has done every single day as long as i remember remembering.

…….

wake up before every body else does

get breakfast ready

clean up the house

wash the dishes (if the maid doesn’t come or make coffee and breakfast for the maid if she does)

pack breakfast or lunch as the case may be

get lunch ready

clean the house or the kitchen or any other place where we messed it up

talk to the neighbours and make them feel good

talk to the security or the dhobhi or the old lady who lives alone coz her family stays overseas or anybody else who needs a patient hearing

get tea ready

and take care of the pet/pets (when we had a dog and when we have fishes) all day long

and tend to the garden (weeds, vegetables, flowers, fruits, grass, butterflies, and i lose count ….)

get dinner ready

…….

so basically be the selfless woman, that only a mum can be, while the rest of us go on with our meaningless(ful) existence, chasing dreams, chasing money, chasing popularity, chasing and chasing.

……

now how can one day suffice to commemorate, celebrate, raise a toast and everything good that there is to a lady who has no self, so self less, so much of an individual and not, whose life revolves around her family or the people/things she loves

Photo0473

……

that would be such a meaningless gesture, n’e st pas?!

……

so every day as i grow older i try to be a bit more conscious …to be there for her…. to just listen….to hold and hug….to caress….to take care of my mess…. to just be -for her and for myself….to just let her be..to encourage her to discover all the glories of the world, which perhaps she was too busy to not discover while she was caring for her selfish brood….to have her love herself a lil’ more than she loves the lot of us (losing battle so far!!!)…..to embrace technology….to not shy away from exploring her strengths and her beauty…..

…….

and as i see her wrap up another busy day i think, what a woman needs is

a lover, at least once in a lifetime, whose memories are tucked away in her secret corner to rekindle and remind her that is a woman

a sister, a brother, a friend……who protect her from all that is harsh and stand up for her

a father……who believes in her

a hobby ….that takes her out of whatever mold she has set herself in to remind her she is more than a giver

a mother……who is there (and nay, i don’t need to say anything else)

………..

and if you are lucky you are probably a son or a daughter to that glorious mother and remember to cherish her all your life for what she has given up and given you

………..

God bless, and have a great week ahead!

To Sit or Lie

PART I TO LIE

Ok, so a while back a close relative commented: “Why do you share your private life out there? You facebook, you blog, you twitter, you comment, why you twit? Why do you randomly seek attention instead of just living your life?”

Ok, so admittedly I was perhaps going overboard. Not that I was tweeting or facebooking about every single loo stop or vocalising the existential angst that hits you living in a city that corners you with its filth, aggression, numbness, insensitivity and so on and so forth..

But yes, I was quick to share my thoughts, and happiness and the angst that came at times as I see a (sane) society I once knew crumble and erode.

No longer was I safe to take my nightly strolls alone or even accompanied by my mum or go out for a drink with a male friend or catch up on a movie in a dark cinema hall or visit the coffee bar down the road or go jogging in the neighbourhood park.

2 eyes weren’t sufficient any more.

I needed compound eyes.

I was equipped with a pepper spray, a taser gun (i wish), a marriage certificate, a mangalsutra, toe rings, a ferocious dog on a long leash, headphones to plug into my ear, coolers, a bottle of bisleri, a heavy handbag…..

And no items listed above were not for seeing/quenching thirst/pleasure/answering curious looks/questions/exercise.

Oh no, these survival articles were to maim and mutilate; to deaden the senses; to ward off any male that leered or pounced in the dark or otherwise.

And I did go off facebook and twitter and didn’t blog as much. After all I’m a girl, ok, a woman – the weaker sex….and I didn’t want nor crave unwanted attention.

5-year old girl raped; 23-year old brutalised, raped and succumbs; 25-year old raped; 3-year old molested; and I lost count after a spell. Age didn’t matter and neither did the fact that they were ‘accompanied by male companions’ or were ‘decently dressed.’

Skewed sex ratio across the country; increasing rich-poor divide; mass migration to urban centers and exposure to urban culture resulting in culture shocks; shift in male-female roles; lack of education; north vs south; societal change; changing moralities; regressive society; confused rural male/uneducated male/unemployed male; changing female mindset; independent women waving a red flag to CRM/UM……and so on and so forth went analysis after analysis on the sudden explosion in violent sexual crimes against women.

Part II – To Sit

Do I join the protests?

Do I vent my anger?

Do I sign up and share links?

Do I pray to God that when I get pregnant it shouldn’t be a daughter in my womb so I don’t unleash this insane world on her?

Or do I harness my strength as a woman and unleash the generations of collective wisdom and empower my child irrespective of whether it has a XX or a XY chromosome?

Teach them the to Do the Right Thing, Stand Tall, Believe, Be Good, BE A MAN (in Kipling’s words) and Be the Best of whatever they chose to be or do

Sensitise them to a new world order where gender equality can be real and not dictated by khap panchayats and politicians seeking to bank roll their votes playing (preying) on increased crimes.

That it is ok to iron blouses and buy sanitary pads if she is unable to without being hush hush

That it is ok to do the 3 am call when the cries wail out in the night and not roll over and play dead while nudging the better half out of her sleep to play care taker.

That it is ok to wash plates and keep the house clean and take the garbage out and shop for vegetables and plan the evening dinner so the lady can get some precious me-time too.

That it is ok to not get married, travel the world instead and opt for a high powered job, buy a house, and pursue dreams

That it is ok to bring home someone from the opposite sex or the same sex as a life partner if they mutually respect each other and Trust each other and can live a life in harmony

THAT IN THE END ALL THAT MATTERS….is what you made of life for yourself and for others in the short time you had
….that someone somewhere sheds a tear or sports a smile or passes a sigh when you are no more in fond remembrance of all the nice things you did
….and that is all there is to it

The Portrait

This is a tribute to one of my life’s endearing fixtures, my bong babu and his adorable wife. This short story was a long time coming. that misty morning when i stepped into their abode and saw this painting,well.. i was smitten. and between the endless cups of tea, that never ending laffter, their LPs and Anju….this tale has been cooking since then, i hope you like it.

1

It hung on cream colored walls surrounded by elegant drapes and long bay windows. A three-focal light hung above it. It seemed to look on with interest at all the comings and goings in the house, yet stay far removed from it.

People came in and went. The same faces but always their expressions varied.

Sometimes a face would stop in front of the portrait as if looking to see itself better. The glass framing the portrait reflected back images, happy, sad, thoughtful, lost and sometimes blank.

But this was only sometimes.

 

 

Most often people walked by without seeming to notice it.

Only the evening hours seem to give life to the still image looking in, looking out.

In the afterglow of the sun you could actually see the eyes look back at you, waiting.

2

The house was filled with laughter. A dog barked in the distant. Sunlight streamed into the normally shuttered room. A chest of drawers was placed beneath the portrait.

A vase filled with wildflowers, a candle holder and a small lithograph were placed on top of the chest.

The elegant hand making this arrangement removed the lithograph and looked up at the portrait.

A soft smile curved the lips.

Did it just look back and smile?

A nod of the head and the sound of a sitar strumming softly in the hallway had her hurrying out.

Was there more?

A single wooden bookcase was placed in the alcove. The sitar played on softly.

A bronze warrior and a gramophone that looked like something from a 1960s movie took center stage and below racks of LPs were lovingly stacked.

Screeching sounds of wooden chests being drawn across the marble floor, books tumbling down and more laughter, the house had come alive.

3

Slowly, the routine settled in.

A candle glowed gently reflecting the haunting expressive eyes.

The pleasant fragrance of lavender wafted the air. Those gentle hands wiped the portrait clean, always taking time to stand and watch.

Waiting.

A smile reflected on the portrait.

Sometimes, images of a huddled couple with mugs reflected. Standing thus, for minutes on end, just watching in contentment.

It seemed to take on the aura of a shrine.

Sniffs and whispered hurried words, always the hands around each other, warmth pervasive.

Months passed by.

Those hands would lovingly wipe the grime of the portrait and look with a smile, a knowing smile.

Spring had arrived.

4

Silence.

The rooms were bereft of the familiar book case, the chest of drawers, the strains of the sitar, the fragrance of lavender…..Silence.

The melancholy had returned. There were no images now.

Cobwebs gathered around and damp, musty smell. It hung there gathering dust.

Watching. Waiting.

5

The sound of footsteps and that old familiar scent of lavender.

Windows were opened and the sound of spluttered coughs.

It lay amidst rolls of paper.

 

6

The chest of drawers with the vase of wildflowers the candle holder stood where it always did.

Loving hands dusted the grime and hung it on red walls.

 

He was home.

 

Second hand living

The past couple of weeks I have started living second hand.

Books and LPs i have always purchased second hand, there is a romantic streak in me that gets unleashed. I found this Larouse English-French-English dictionary (1948 print) which had a note inscribed in the 2nd sheet. This is what I remember of it… “We met at the class, and I never knew when I would teach you je ne sais quoi and j’etre conjugation we would become amis for life..” and the note went on to describe shared coffees and verb conjugations. I was hooked.

Unfortunately, I lost this copy when we moved house and than I lost several more precious copies as I moved on through life but my penchant for living second hand never wavered.

LPs I got hooked on to after jiving to a funkily weird beat and singing ‘Heh heh Bombay, I know you never goin away. I know you will stay alive till judgement day. ” I’m sure most of you haven’t heard of this kookey number but if ever you get a chance, DO. It’s Remo Fernandes at his raw best.

I haunted the streets of Avenue Road and than Fort when I stayed in Mumbai for a spell to collect LPs of Funky Town, Jagjit & Chitra Singh at Wembley and oh-so-many-more and this was even before I had me a turntable.

Movies are the latest additions to my list of living life second hand, and blissfully so.

So, all the Hindu Jagran Vedike, moral policing, rape & pillage, atrocities against women, senior citizens and humanity, ludicrous statements from NCW, politicos, so-called pillars of society had me boiling in fury. And I turned to The Accused, V for Vendetta, Irreversible, 12 Angry Men, Memento & Clockwork Orange. Enough gore there to make you puke but more importantly, enough spunk & ballsiness that we, civilised folks, lack to tackle wrong doing the way it should. Idyllic in a gorey sense, but heh!!

I don’t intend to review these flicks for you but here’s a short line on The Accused. Jodie Foster & true life story make a heady combination of ballsiness to stick it in to people who deserved to be maimed to a slow death; and another on 12 Angry Men for Henry Fonda’s courage of conviction & standing up for what is right. Only wish I could do that more often.

Jack and Sarah, The Holiday, The Thirteen Chairs, Fast Forward, Step up 3, Breakin, Flashdance, AS good as IT gets, The Terminal and It happened one night carried me unscathed through bleak weeks and dark days.  It hammered the fact that Life is always about giving yourself a second chance, even if nobody else does.

And that good ole cliches like…

–For every cloud there is a silver lining

–the hour is darkest before the dawn

–every night is followed by day

–into each life must rain fall

and so on and so forth

aren’t so much cliches at all…

Like the wise lady said everything happens for a reason in this best of all possible world my friend, so make the most of what comes your way ‘coz life is too short and ’tis so easy to forget.

Cheers, and God Bless!!

‘Tis so easy

to forget all the things you set out to do

to meet all the people you wished you could

to be the person you want to be

to love like there is no tomorrow

to live like today is your last

…….

I’m living my lives through movies learning and unlearning habits and attitudes; shedding a tear, sporting a smile; looking around with eyes anew; reaching inside to bring back the me i used to know before ugly things gave me crow’s feet and all-knowing eyes – before frown lines appeared above my brows – before i learnt to say why instead of how; when giving a hug did not mean i want something from you; early mornings did not mean work; late nights did not mean fights.

…..

Vibrant colors are no longer repulsive; greys no longer dull. Far away is no longer out of mind; sleeping next to the same being is not monotony. Silence is not killing; chatter does not maim. Happiness is not on a wishing tree but in the smiles of beings around. Happiness is knowing there are some things you can take for granted in an ever transient world…..

the greying hairs on your folks’ head belies the oceanic love and trust they have in you

the image looking back at you from the mirror trusts in you to be loved, to be good, to be happy

night is followed by day yes, but for every day there is, we need a night too

it is easy to forget, but just as easy to remember…..

……

there is a higher force

guiding

watching

loving

caring

….

God bless!!

 

Lessons from the trenches

“High time. What is the purpose of living? Who is going to continue your family line? You aren’t getting any younger,” and so on and so forth.

Just another conversation with a overtly concerned parent, an extended family member, a well meaning friend…

Now you know what I’m talking about.

How do I explain something that I’m just figuring out?

How do I explain the complexities of the new age relationship or the psyche?

How do I explain the fear and the anxiety?

……

I’m not ready yet.

I don’t want the responsibility.

Yes, I do but do I want to bring a child into this crazy world where I would probably smother it with my over-protective urge.

Will I be a good parent?

Will I have the dough to afford a 2 lakh per annum pre-school?

Will I end up working till I’m toothless to sponsor trips to snow-clad lands as the fridge is no longer authentic enough to show snow?

Will I hock life to sponsor another life?

Does the world need another narcissistic human?

All of these logical arguments meet frozen stares, angry looks and fury that even Lord Kama would burn out.

How do I explain that work leaves me with no energy to procreate for progeny? And money worries kills whatever energy I manage to muster over the weekend!!

Credit card bills

Housing loans

Personal loans

Sundry expenses

Taxes

Medical emergencies

Crisis situations

Huh….did I miss anything here?

Travel, huh, what’s that?!

Entertainment, huh, come again.

——

Hark and behold

—-

I can do all the crazy things I couldn’t when I was a hormone-charged teenage delinquent or a raging 20-something.

I can trod a path that is laced with wide open, spaces and the sweet scent of nothingness

It’s all about me

—-

Lessons from the trenches….

Find what works for you and be true to thine own

Remember, what you give is what you get, and what goes around comes around

Question yourself and be convinced before you get out to influence others

It is one life, but find what that life means to you

It is alright to be confused and stay confused because out of that clutter comes clarity….clarity of thought and action

STAY TRUE….

cheers!

 

 

Dog days

Was randomly browsing through FB pages of friends and strangers (read friend of friend in FB parlance) and what struck me was the feeds/posts on finding Happiness, what Happiness means, How to be Happy, etc, etc..

And as I looked around I saw my mad mutley run from end of the balcony to the other. He was aping the kids on the road who were chasing each other.

[Now you must know me by now, I think dogs are better than man (read human, not being sexist here).]

And both dog and kid(s) looked happy, beyond what I have been and seen in a long while.

So what was it that made them gleefully happy, I wondered?

First thing that I noticed.

Unfettered, unrestrained, unabandoned involvement in what they were doing…. No thought of what anyone thought, felt, did or said.

Simple, n’est pas?

What more I thought?

Mutley had by now stopped scampering like a mad dog when he noticed me and came wagging his tail, his blue rubber bone dangling from his mouth. He came and nudged my leg. Shook himself and dropped the bone in front of me. It was play time for him, and I was his privileged companion.

I just stood.

He picked up the bone, ran a sprint and came back. Again, dropping the bone in front me of and nudging me. This time accompanied by a growl.

I stood still.

He picked up the bone and did a turn around me. Back he was with the bone. This time he didn’t drop it but sat on his butt and watched me.

Finally, he dropped the bone and went sniffing around the pots and plants completely ignoring me for the next 15 minutes.

Well, you say. Why am I dogglyzing so?

Don’t we humans do the same thing, is my repartee.

We do not give ourselves completely, always holding back for fear of getting hurt, for fear of rejection, for fear of betrayal and all the other fears we constantly surround ourselves with.

We make an overture once, twice and when it isn’t returned we move along never to return. How many of us are brave enough to stick around and give relationships a chance?

So back to the doggylyzing.

15 minutes later, he was back. This time with a different toy. And I played along, taking his toy and tossing. He fetched and I threw, he fetched and I threw till both of us sat down exhausted.

Ever give yourself up to enjoying the moment, just living in the present. Not thinking about the past and too far into the future.

Unfortunately, we don’t (and I probably top the list).

We get good jobs, great spouses, understanding partners, rock-steady siblings, Friends who are just that, families that would make the Godfather proud and benign strangers. Perhaps, not all of them together but most of us have one or several of these things going for us.

Yet, what do we do? We wallow. We torture ourselves for not being good enough as we want us to be or what someone wants us to be.

Expectations.

Get away from the vicious circle that expectations weaves around you.

Do. Be.

Just Be.

Yourself.

Free.

Happy.

True.

Have a great week ahead.

 

Sunny Side Up

Watching Under The Tuscan Sun for the nth time, and I come away feeling good about life and people.

“Never lose your childish innocence. That is the most important thing.”

This echoes in my head as the credits roll down.

This picture of Malty and me walking towards the beach in Goa stirs that afresh.

These past few months have been a roller coaster ride. I have everything and yet nothing. Been through serious introspection and then some.

Every New Year’s eve it’s been a stay-at-home with family and quietly usher the new year with a lamp lit and prayers. This time I wanted change, unfamiliar surroundings, out of my safety zone and yes, not be alone.

As luck would have it things worked out and thanks to a dear friend, Goa beckoned. Seems madness in retrospect but a great idea at the time. And of course, how could I dare leave Malty alone. So there we were, mom, nanu, malty and I ready for an adventure.

Will add a post script to this post on traveling with pets, nerve wracking but rewarding. Just coz you know they are safe and in good health.

I couldn’t have chosen a better place than Goa to usher the New Year, conquer my inner qualms I did but it also set me free and set me on the path to rediscover myself. I think I’m lost somewhere, amidst all the chaos around me.

Not surprising that New Year’s eve and New Year itself it looked like the entire Indian population and a half was on the beaches of Goa. The party started and never stopped. Fireworks, camaraderie, a bonhomie unmatched and Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.

The unease within dissipated, at least for those few days.

Life isn’t bad as it looks at its darkest moments. The sun is waiting to shine, and yes, life is a box of chocolates and not a ticking time bomb 😉

Sometimes we step warily into the unknown, forget the child within us and look askance with trepidation and cynicism.

 

BREATHE………..PAUSE…………. WALK AHEAD, Remember Life is good.

Stay Blessed!!