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.”

 

 

 

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Work Ethics

The earliest memories of my demure, 5’4″ mosima (grandmother) are always associated with sunrises, woody smoke, cotton sarees and the fragrance of Charmis cream. 

I’m nearly five I think, my summer holidays have just started and I burrow myself deeper into the thick blanket mosima has wrapped around me.

No books to be bundled inside my canvas bag, no homework to be checked by a hawkish uncle, no poems to be learnt by rote and no tests around the corner.  I will away the chirping of the sparrows, the woody smoke from the kitchen and the  morning light I knew awaited me. The chill of the morning along with the rhythmic snoring of my grandpa was enough to make me glide back to sleep where I knew I would dream of books piled high along with hot samosas and Boost.

But rain or shine, holidays or school my dearest would be up before the cock crowed. Yes, we had roosters at every corner in Bangalore then along with cowsheds. My city was truly a garden city. My road was lined with yellow and orange champa trees, their fragrance intoxicating and heady in summers; gulmohars in resplendent red during the monsoons and always, mosima pottering around the house like a goddess. She was omnipresent.

In the kitchen, making breakfast and packing lunch for a family of 8 that sometimes expanded to 15 and more. In the garden, watering her beloved papayas, pomegranates, banana, jasmine, hibiscus and all the other myriad bushes and trees that dotted our small plot. In the veranda giving a bowl of egg and milk to a stray dog we had adopted. She wasn’t a dog lover but there was just no way she could refuse to care for yet another creature. To her all of God’s creatures were to be loved and nurtured. She would be in the backyard serving coffee to the old lady who helped with cleaning vessels and washing clothes. To the market she would go with her cloth bag and me in tow. At times, I would accompany her on a 6 km hike to our ration shop to buy the monthly groceries of rice, dal, oil, sugar and wheat.

Till the day she was admitted to the hospital where she breathed her last my dearest never wearied of fulfilling her duties to her family, her neighbors and the ones she cared for. 

Always the first one to wake up and the last to sleep. Non-complaining, ever-smiling, quick with a hug and a patient ear. Non-judgmental and driven, to be the best she could for us, her thankless brood. 

Now as I pour over management books and read articles galore I realise my dearest had the traits of a successful entrepreneur and an inspiring leader.

  1. She worked harder than the rest of us, whom she united as family
  2. She never asked but gave willing of herself and commanded us with a gentle smile, never a tear or a threat
  3. She was always willing to give a second chance and yet another chance till proven wrong
  4. She was driven by an inner moral compass and higher principles
  5. She never advised without being sought
  6. She never sat on judgement but stood by your side to pull you up and get you going

As I look around me at  papers piled high, clothes strewn around, empty bottles of water and the clock ticking by I see a sweet lady pick up and arrange with nay, a murmur nor a rebuke.I hear her sing, cook and clean with never a care for her aching body or thankless brood (smaller though it be) and I think to myself, I can’t go wrong. For my mother carries on where mosima left off.

I have a long way to go but I know the work ethics I have imbibed from the women in my family run deep within me.

As I trace my career,  adventures in living, challenges and triumphs I realise it is my mosima I look to for inner strength and retaining my authencity of who I am and being the best I can be; of staying true to myself and bouncing back every time I fall.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be gorgeous, brilliant, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. …As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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!!

Hope

December always makes me maudlin. Tis the season to be jolly and forget all your follies, or so my wise friends say.

A good one to follow actually as the year comes to a close and a new one awaits at the threshold. Are you ready to usher it in with hope and gratitude and belief that you are looked after by a force greater than you can fathom?

Why?

Where were you when I was burned and broken
While the days slipped by from my window watching
Where were you when I was hurt and I was helpless
Because the things you say and the things you do surround me
While you were hanging yourself on someone else’s words
Dying to believe in what you heard
I was staring straight into the shining sun

Lost in thought and lost in time
While the seeds of life and the seeds of change were planted
Outside the rain fell dark and slow
While I pondered on this dangerous but irresistible pastime
I took a heavenly ride through our silence
I knew the moment had arrived
For killing the past and coming back to life

These lines from Pink Floyd’s Coming Back To Life  resonates poetry, angst and hope. And it has stayed on with me through all the times I nearly got burnt and broken. When I mentioned this to a friend, his response: Shit Happens.

True, shit happens so have toilet paper handy 🙂

Whether it is your inner resilience, your belief in a higher self or a greater force, remember if something is dumped on you it will be eased as well.

So hold on and hang on. Remember, this too shall pass……

Have a good weekend, and stay blessed.

Gloaming

Setting sun painting the sky red with birds in formation flying back towards their nest. Walking towards the sunset is an illusion that you never achieve, but the feeling is incomparable.

Except when this sunset is for real and you know you will never see another sun rise again.

Old age.

An illusion that catches up with most of us at time or another. Why the disdain? Why the indifference? Why the hurt?

My grandpa turns 94 the next year and I pray that he stay healthy to celebrate his centennial but as days pass I see him look around in wonder. Wondering whether this is the same family he has lived with the past 93 and odd years. All his peers have moved on to the other side. The world around him has changed.

No longer is he master of all that he surveys. No longer is he master of his destiny. No longer is he master of himself.

Though he doesn’t suffer from alzheimer’s his memory is not what he would like it to be. It is easier for him to recollect his youth, when he took part in the freedom struggle and when he was thrown into jail; when he lost all his land to the Land Ceiling Act and the reminder he gave away to the people who served him; when he married my grandma spurning a much richer woman for love; when breakfast cost him half an anna and a movie on Mount Road meant the latest English western……But ask him, what he did the whole day and he would be hard pressed to recount it activity for activity.

This man, who has been my protector, now has me protecting him and guarding him fiercely against the ridicule of youth and the disdain of familitude.

Why are we afraid of old age? Why do we resist growing old? Why is a natural progression fiercely resisted?

 

 

 

 

Tiger’s Nest

After Mumbai, that helluva trip which wiped my fears clean looking forward to another one.

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The Mountain Kingdom with the handsome King and beautiful Queen. For me it is not so much their Royal Highness as much as this elusive will-o-the-wisp that has caught my whimsical fancy.

Though it is going to be a six-day trip I’m not sure if my luck will hold for me to see this enchanted shrine, something I have wanted to do for as long as I remember.

I have build my fantasies and fancies around this place and the more I read the more fascinated I’m. I don’t know if people out there remember this serial on DD an eon back. It was called Himalay Ki Godh Mein. It was based on stories around the mystical Himalayas and Mt Everest, and all about reincarnations and rebirths.

The flight in and out is supposed to be fraught with danger though tourists visit every year without any major catastrophes.

I’m still writing my last will and testament in case I do not get to visit this earthly abode.

Being of sane mind (sane as any sane person can get I suppose) I bequeath my blog to you, my dear friends, who have visited this blog and shared your thoughts just like I shared mine.

My Vaikunt goes to my mother, my darling heart.

My PF money, if ever I get it, goes to my other half for all the trouble I put him through in the short time frame I know him, poor him. Ye, I love you despite and in spite your dopiness.

My Archies and all my DVDs to my brother, my comrade-in-arms. I’m sure he will also appreciate Word-Viz, not there is much of it but whatever there is is yours my soulmate.

My chocoball to my sweet angel sis, Cass. Sure you will love him. But giving part ownership to mom as well since she needs someone to hold on to and cuddle when I’m no more.

To my grandpa, my anchor – all my books, irrespective of what genre they are. I’m sure you will share some of the books with the other half as well, in case he wants them.

Phew, finally I can say I leave no debts (I hope)….but if I do, well, c’est la vie. There is always another life to repay my debts.

And to my pommie unciezz I leave my strength and my memories and a heartful of love. Thank you cher ami for being my bedrock of strength and eternal hope. Mon dieu vous blessez!!

To all my friends…..thanks for sharing this short life with all its love, laughter, hope and glory. Bless You…

And in case I survive….

aha…..

Monsoons

We haven’t been fortunate to feel the full blast of the monsoons but dark clouds and rumbling thunder with moody showers are all here.

A friend who stays in green Trissur posted some amazing pics of the monsoon pouring in God’s own country. It made me stifled seeing the greenery and comparing it with the environs I stay and commute to every day.

Trees get lopped off because the cables need to be laid or the branches touch the electrical cables or the roads need to be broadened, yet again. Any reason will do to lop off trees that have probably been here before the first SEZ was constructed.

Pooh to you , and your development.

At times when the service road is closed for ever more work I’m fortunate to take an alternate route that passes by villages still untouched by development. Yes, I do not see the tough times the villagers endure farming, living on marginal economic progress with their kids having to attend government school or where they do not have access to education. While I travel in an AC cab back and forth and wax poetic about the environment and the erosion of it that development has caused. So sue me.

I long for the simple life when the mobile or the Internet did not rule my existence or became the reason for living.

I long for the simple life when I looked out of the balcony and saw the red blossoms from the gulmohar gently swaying in the breeze as rains lashed on making the squirrels scamper for cover and all the neighbourhood kids hopped on the puddles dotting the road.

I long for the simple life when I did not have to explain whimsicalities and spontaneous hugs and saying i love you without having to explain, when I could call friends to talk without apologizing for intruding into their ever busy life, when a walk on tree-lined roads was all that was required to get rid of the stress and not a 3-day all day course on the art of living and life.

I long for the simple life……

 

Cool Dude

When I started this blog in April last year it was an outlet to get rid of the angst as life passed by and I saw myself drifting along aimlessly getting thwacked from shore to shore. I wrote about tips and tricks of not getting caught in the quagmire of corporategiri. I made a few friends along the way and happily as I amble along today I have the opportunity of celebrating the birthday of the coolest dude of them all. He’s been my trainer, my guide, my brick and bat, my sunshine and rain……he’s the coolest dude I know and ever likely to know.

My grandpa.

Nanu

He is what I aim to be in life if I ever get to live so long.

Disciplined

Open minded

Tolerant

Non-interfering

Unconditionally loving

Suave and Polished

Calm

Stoic

He taught me to walk with my head held high

..to bear life’s storms with equanamity

…to believe that all that is will pass, and all that happens is to be..to do my karma to the best I can and leave the fruits to the powers there are

….to love unconditionally

…..to practice the divinity of forgiveness and its healing powers

……..to be true to self

…………to BE

His sayings:

Silence is Golden ( yea helped me walk away from many a scruffs with mum and many a thulpings outside)

A stitch in time saves nine ( I still carry a needle and thread)

A million beatings is an idol made (Explains my goofiness despite all that life tosses my way)

Give all you got and receive what you get, no more no less (explains my huge credit card bill i guess)

Stay healthy – Eat to live – walk and water (reason for my sturdy build methinks)

My Nanu.. Ever-smiling and ever-loving. He has seen two wars, Gandhi and Nehru, participated in the Independence Struggle, was thrown into Bellary Jail, ran away from home when 9 to study in Chennai, ate idlis for 2 annas and watched movies with his friend at Mount Theatre in Chennai for 4 annas.

My Nanu..Always ready to lend an ear but never give a mouthful. He owned more land than we can imagine accumulating over a span of 3 generations; he saw it all acquired by Vallabhai Patel’s Land Ceiling Act; he fended for his family of 5 giving up the little land he owned doling it out to the people who worked for him; stayed a vegetarian all his life though none of us are.

My Nanu…Happy for being loved and loving as if there is no tomorrow. He ends every call no matter who is on the other end of the line with a “God Bless You My Dear”, and a ” I Love You my dear”. Who has learned to use the mobile phone at the ripe young age of 86, god bless him. Who cheerfully bids farewell to his youngest and darlingest grandson as the young man sets out to find his own path on distant shores. Who bids adieu time and again without a complaint or a tear with only a “We are Here for you my boy.”

As I stood waiting for him near the threshold of the temple at 5.30 in the morning (yes, he is the only one for whom I would quit being sleeping beauty for a day) I remembered all the morning walks he would take me on over the years in his efforts to instill discipline in me (sadly unworkable). I remembered all the early morning knocks on my window to wake me up so I could study for my exams, or head to the gym or prep for an important interview. I remembered all the times I would head straight to his room to pour out my frustration at a sad workplace or a bad personal situation. I remembered all the times he took hold of my hand and helped me cross.. a road, yet another challenge, an unexpected hurdle, a broken heart and many a tragedies.

Yet during all these times I have never seen him lose his calm, raise his voice in anger (though my mum tells us otherwise about this saint of a man who was a tyrant once), lose his nerve or his smile.

For my grandpa is a Dude who will find a corner even in a circle (yes mathematically impossible i’m told but with my Dude this is a probability coz anytime he enters a room he finds a corner and promptly plonks himself on it with the nearest reading material available), who will listen to all that you say but pick up the most relevant thread and prod you to open up till you think anew and feel afresh, who helps me look at life’s inanities and its series of comic sketches being played out around me and with me in it.

My nanu.

My umbrella.

My rock.

May he ever shine and never grow old. Amen and hallelujah!!!!!