The Twilight Years

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.”
Ellen DeGeneres

 

The first time I read this quote I couldn’t stop laughing thinking what a wit Ellen was and cursing myself for never coming up with anything wittier than ‘mud in your eye’ or a tongue sticking out.

More than a fortnight back this same quote was no longer as funny but just a trigger to get me crying buckets.

You see my 95-year old grandfather, my Nanu, had gone for a walk and we really didn’t know where the heck he was.

What followed was a week of pure torture, much worse than anything the Chinese or Torquemador could have conceived (and from here say they seem to have conjured everything (in)humanly possible).

THE WAIT

Well I bet they never imagined what a fevered mind could conjure up.

Those seven days were agonizingly slow in passing. Every passing second seemed to stretch into eternity, every ring on the phone brought us new hope only to be dashed and every passing old man seemed to have more than a smidgen of resemblance to my missing grandpa.

We cursed ourselves for not being mindful enough (when in fact stopping short of strapping him to the bed we kept an eye out for his every movement from the time he woke up to giving him his meals like clockwork to not letting him step out of the house to not letting him have his bath by himself – my mother was the primary and only care giver – to bundling him up like he was headed for the North Pole to regimenting his lifestyle so he hit the sack by 10 every night) , for not getting a leash, for not getting a GPS tracker, for not installing a CCTV camera, for not telling the neighbours about the slow onset of dementia, for not putting him in an assisted care facility that would have had care takers 24/7 and so on and so forth.

THE SEARCH

And while the self guilt and mental blame game went unhindered we also filed a police complaint.

Surprisingly, the police were very co-operative. They filed a complaint after the stipulated 24 hour waiting period. They issued an all city alert.

We called everyone in our contacts across the country to help us search or aid in the search.

We went on Social media to launch a campaign called Find Nanu on Facebook.

We tweeted.

We instagramed.

We Whatsapped.

We scoured hospitals and police stations.

We went to NGOs (Nightingale Dignity Foundation comes to mind, they are doing a phenomenal job of taking care of people with dementia and alzheimers as also Auto Raja Foundation).

We discovered that there is an elderly helpline  1090 / 22943226.

We discovered that there is RVM Foundation which picks up destitutes on the streets and houses them till they find their real homes or takes care of them until alternate arrangements are made.

We made posters and plastered it all over the city, wherever we thought in our fevered imagination Nanu might have walked. You see we truly didn’t know where the heck Nanu walked to.

We hounded ex-journalist friends to write stories.

We contemplated issuing a missing persons alert on the telly and in the papers.

We planned on inserting flyers and have it distributed through local paper vendors.

 

THE LEADS (false but keeping hopes up)

And we waited.

That first call came from a girl who called at 1 am to inform us she saw someone looking like Nanu at a spot 8 kms away from our residence. SO rush, rush. Only to find it was a drunk who looked a lot like him.

Next came a call from the railway station and the hunt was on. Not him.

Then was the call we dreaded (or thought we did) from the morgue to identify an unidentified corpse. The good samaritan cop volunteered to check the body and thank God, it wasn’t Nanu.

We realised what was worse was the Not Knowing, the tormented imagination of a overtly stressed mind and emotional heart, the fact that we were snug in our beds while some one we loved and cherised was all alone battling a strange world, loneliness, hunger and thirst.

 

FINALLY

We got a message on Facebook from a stranger who urged us to go to a spot 22 kms away from our residence along with the stranger’s number and contact details.

A call ensued.

Hope had slowly receded but not quite.

We put out a message asking for volunteers so we could have more legs to cover a vast area that was park land, wooded and dark. Friends came, family rushed, acquaintances called, good samaritans volunteered.

And…

seven days after he had disappeared, my 95-year old Nanu was finally found.

Here is how….

Bangalore Mirror covered the story, the before and the after.

LESSONS LEARNT

Always treat the Elderly like you would a teenager: Tell them the Do’s and Don’ts but equip them to cope (in our case we mollycoddled Nanu so much that we never bothered telling him the location of where we stayed or the address in the belief we would always be there to take care).

Quit with martyrdom and guilt, if assisted care or old age homes will keep your elders in safe environs, so be it.

Invest a little time and effort in making sure they always have an ID card on them (a friend told me how her mother had stitched an ID tag on all the clothes that mentioned the name of her dad, who had dementia, with address and emergency contact numbers).

Invest some time in getting to know your neighbours, the local cops and the hospital. Had we told our neighbours about my Nanu’s condition of partial memory loss perhaps some one would have brought him home the minute they saw him sauntering out alone on a walk.

Invest some money in getting a GPS tracker or a CCTV camera.

And yes, social media is great to get the message viral but what clicks is Good old Print……

And the most important lesson, BELIEVE IN THE GOODNESS OF PEOPLE.

What we received throughout this terrible ordeal has been overwhelming support from friends, acquaintances and strangers. People who called and messaged each day to enquire about the progress of the HUNT, about help they could provide, who gave us tips and leads and always, always kept out hopes alive.

THIS IS MY THANK YOU to all those out there who prayed, supported us and helped us sail the tide of bad karma.

THANK YOU

 

 

Quick fixes

It is easy to get rattled when your beliefs are constantly ridiculed by your ‘supposed’ support system. It is also easy to let your ego get in the way of your goodness and good sense. Easy way out, step back before stepping in. Take a deep breath and take it easy. Here are my quick fixes, banal though some may be but they always perk me up.

A Hug, a kiss, a snuggle: 

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Am blessed to have a grandfather who still cares and understands. His wisdom and grace humble me and make me look beyond my small universe to the vastness of endless possibilities.

Walk in the Park or Jog around the neighbourhood: 

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There is nothing like the breeze gently blowing your face, the earthy smell of leaves on wet  ground and the sight of tall, majestic trees that have probably been around much before I did. Nature clears the mind, cleans the heart and soothes the soul. Breathe in.LIVE.

And you would surprised by the hidden treasures your by now familiar neighbourhood still has. I was for sure. I found quaint temples, a tea shop that sells cheaper eggs and a couple of adorable beagles 😉

Watch a movie

Now I don’t know about you but when I’m lost I don’t want to watch a maudlin tear jerker or a preachy ‘all will be well’ sorta movie. What I would like is a movie that takes me away to Smiley land and give me a fresh perspective to boot. Here are a few of my all time favorites

Arsenic and Old Lace: One of Cary Grant’s hidden gems where a gaggle of cooky aunts, a wicked step brother and his own eccentricities keep you in splits all through the movie.

Golmaal : Stellar casting of Amol Palekar, Utpal Dutt, Bindiya Goswami and Deena Pathak transport you to age of innocence where a moustache can determine your identity as opposed to the biometrics these days 😉

Chupke Chupke: Again this was a casting coup if ever there was one. Imagine having Amitabh Bachan, Dharmendra, Asrani, Jaya Bahaduri, Sharmila Tagore, Kestu Mukerjee and the sweetest Om Prakash together in a frame. This divine comedy is sure to tickle your laugh tracks and make you look around for doppelgangers ‘coz all of us have that annoying know-it-all brother-in-law or that sweet Bhabhi or that handsome prof.

Khatta Meeta: Ashok Kumar and Pearl Padamsee rock this movie and the rest of the crew provide a good canvass for these two central figures to shine as they unite to bring together warring sons and daughters together. While Rohit Shetty’s Golmaal 3 tried bringing this theme back, it is no patch on the original.

Padosan: Ek Chatur Naar badiya hoshiyaar sings a bucktooth, pony tailed Sunil Dutt while Kishore Kumar goes Ae gaare, arre jaare to poor Mehmood. If there is that one defining moment in Hindi comedy this is it.

Chasme Baddooor: Ms. Chamko. Yes, indeedy nobody can rival this classic Sai Paranjpe comedy with my all time favorites Farooque Sheikh and Deepti Naval with the rest of the gang (Rakesh Bedi, Ravi Baswani, Saed Jaffrey). Now if only life were this simple!

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: Give me some feel good moments from the Middle East says the consummate PR played by Kirsten Scott Thomas and what her team gives her are images of bombings and more bombings. This is Brit Humor at its best.

The World’s Fastest Indian: Watch Sir Anthony Hopkins in one of his best performances as he shows humor, determination and indomitable courage to make you smile and get inspired to be better

The Sting: A stellar cast has you applauding as they try to outwit the mob.

Marley and Me: Marley, Marley, Marley

To Be or Not to Be: Mel Brooks has given a plethora of outstanding comedies including The Thirteen Chairs, Blazing Saddles, The Silent Movie, History of the World and so many others but for me To be or Not To Be captures his brilliant satire, quirkiness, slapstick comedy and wit! This is the quintessential Mel Brooks.

Seems Like Old Times: Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn and Charles Grodin take you to a place where everything falls apart but gets better all at once. Good old fashioned romance meets goofball comedy. 

See No Evil, Hear No Evil: Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor have you in splits from the opening credits itself. This is a movie that will take you out of the most downcasting moody blues you may have. Just be sure to have a wad of tissue since this epic comedy will have you clutching the sides of your stomach and crying out in howls of laughter.

The Carry On series: If you want the best of British Humor, this one’s for you. The Carry on franchisee with Sidney James, Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims, Charles Hawtrey and the rest of the gang will have you rolling up your eyes and slapping your thighs as you laugh along with the parodies, and digest their satirical wit and bawdy humor. My personal favorites: Carry on Up the Khyber, Carry on Doctor, Carry on Cruising and Carry on Nurse.

Doctor in the House: This was my introduction to Dirk Bogarde as Dr. Simon Sparrow and the irrepressible James Robertson Justice as Dr. Lancelot Spratt. Perhaps I would have been more serious as a student scholar had I seen the Doctor series much earlier, just so I could work at St. Swithin’s 😉

Coping with Back Pain

Well like almost everybody I know I’m paying the price for leading an unhealthy lifestyle=long working hours, junk food, minimal to no exercise, no fresh air or sunlight and stress.

Here’s how:

Getting jiggy with it

Getting jiggy with it

The red circle indicates the full-blown disc prolapse on the lower spine, lumbar spine to be exact, and the green circle represents a fledgling one at the crick of the neck.

And that beautiful black and white visual you see is mine own beautiful spine.

The beginning:

Oh wow, my back really hurts doc. I can hardly walk. A fortnight of bed rest along with some pain killers were given. The customary x-ray had shown a small ligament tear. Nothing to worry about said the good doc. I was happy since this gave me a break from chasing headlines and corporate head honchos for afore-mentioned headlines. A cotton mattress was made to order along with matching pillows by a very worried mum. I loved the pampering and all the books I got to catch up on.

A fortnight later I was started off on physio, which at that time (mark you this was a decade back) was stretching exercises.  A week later I was back at my desk complete with desktop, the Collins Advanced Dictionary, Rogets Thesaurus, the Brittanica Encyclopedia, some editions of Time and Newsweek (filched from a colleague) and our inhouse brands (Frontline, Sports Star). Ahem, I did mention this was a decade back, didn’t I?! Back to chasing deadlines, long walks to and from conferences, food at sundry hours but an enjoyable time (had by all including yours truly)

The Middle:

Switching jobs and cities meant catching the very precise trains at Wadala, Church Street, Bandra, Vashi, Church Street…you get the drift. This was Mumbai in the early part of the decade past. Food was at even more sundrier hours, when I could afford it that is unless it was the Vada Pav with its mircha that gave prime time sustenance. Chasing deadlines meant traversing lines across the city and beyond. But note, very active life it was. Stress aplenty but the sprightly version of me managed all of this with a smile and a snarl. Eve teasing was prevalent but not as much as Bangalore. The office was a place you went to park your weary butt and key in a story that had nearly formed in the recesses of your head. The outside beckoned. Endless Cutting chai, walks around Marine Drive admiring the Queen’s Necklace and rounds of shared puffs ended most days.

The Beginning of the End or the Middling-End:

Job switches to take up the role of plumber and carpenter. Like one of my brilliant colleagues said by way of introduction to the new way of journalism. “Forget about writing stories, what we do here is make Tables.”

So there it was. “Table in File” yelled a hundred times and more by fifty vociferous voices and chorused by another fifty. I no longer chased CHs for headlines, which came to me on an engine powered by the Internet. It wasn’t about thinking hard to get that great story peg but acting fast to grab the header and make it the headline. Running across town for stories got replaced by running to the File Head, who usually sat a strike away from you, and food was no longer an issue. Well stocked canteen meant you ate during dinner and had breakfast the next day if on the night shift and ate breakfast at home and lunch as well if you were in one of the odd hour shifts. It was no longer so easy to be sprightly but a gym strategically placed in the office and plenty of nubile nymphets made you conscious if ever the sprightliness was lost.

Brain fatigue at a brain dead job set in since being a first-rate carpenter had never been my lasting ambition so a call to set up a start-up wanting to make it big in a cluttered finance market beckoned. Of course, it’s another matter that a year down the line the start up remained just that but I got out of warming seats for 9 hours as I went back to chasing exclusives and reporters who gave aforementioned exclusives.

A new line beckoned yet again but little did I know that this would be the beginning of the very-near end. Instead of writing I started monitoring what others wrote. 9 hours beholden to the desk, 2.5 hours of travelling across the city on pot-holed roads, 1.5 hours of after-office duties trying to monitor what competitors were up to and of course all this while carrying an extra appendage on the back – the shiny, sparkly laptop. All exciting at first till I started to feel slight cramps in my back. Motion became a problem and I started piling on the pounds.

Nearly 2 years later heavier by a few pounds I switched over to what I thought would be an exciting new line of work. Chasing executives to write their biopics, chasing marketing heads to write their dreams helping them sell more products and make ‘valuable’ contribution to the company’s top and bottom line. I was hooked on to the great career jumboree for in my head I was near the summit of excellence as  I got rewarded for hard work=being on the speed dial of my boss(s), attending all the important meetings, my laptop was my best friend followed by the exec admins of my boss(s), trips overseas and yes more pounds.

The cramped back became a bad back pain. A few day’s of rest alleviated the pain. Visiting an orthopedic never occured, after all there were plenty of people in my team and outside of it who had back pain but still did 72-hour days and beyond with never a complaint. Why couldn’t I?

The pain became chronic. It would start with a dull ache in the center of my back and slowly spread to a 3 inch band. I would lie forward on my desk waiting for it to subside while surreptitiously placing the laptop, where else but on my lap. A visit to the GP after an acute case of back pain meant more anti-inflammatory and pain killers.

One fine morning of an all important trip I could not get out of bed. Sleeping on a cotton mattress had not helped and neither had a hot water bag. A SOS call and stronger pain killers prescribed. I pulled out my lumbo-sacral belt that had gathered dust (remember the beginning and the ligament tear) and wore it around  my waist. Aren’t I a trooper after all?

I finished my meeting but the day after I returned I called up a friend, who was going through something similar and I got my ears chewed out from the long distance belting.

WTF hadn’t I consulted an orthopedic?

WTF had I waited this long to cry out for medical attention?

……and so on and so forth.

New sets of x-ray and prolonged rest recommended. I was back on my feet, and very  strictly advised not to put any pressure on the lower back. ANY PRESSURE.

So I get better, and I’m back to carrying the laptop to work; slouching over the laptop for endless hours; giving the Indian yogi and the India rubberman a run for their money with my unearthly poses; no sunlight; no exercise; unhealthy diet….you get the drift.

Arghhhhhh, aaaaah, ouch, nnnnnnnnnnnghhhhhhhhhhh….one fine morning.

I message my boss : In pain, unable to get out of bed due to severe back pain.

My sympathetic boss messaged the number of his orthopedic. I was ferried to this clinic which was a 40-minute drive and I realised what hell is. Bangalore roads suck!!!

Every single crevice, pothole, speed breaker, cow on the road, kids crossing, bikers trying to cut in…I could feel all of them from my lower back down.

I gritted my teeth, cursed the Gods, cursed the poor ferrier, cursed myself and remembered all the Mumbaiya slang I had forgotten from a life past.

I hobbled to the clinic holding on to my kind ferrier BB, my nails have left marks that are visible to this day and slipped into a chair just as a eel slips into the crevice. Tears streaming down my eyes I limped into his cabin. Lie down, he says and lifts my right leg. Surprisingly I can lift it like a gymnast, supple and firm. His hand reaches out to the left leg and I wince, and an inch more and I cry out loud only stopping myself in the nick of time from cursing him to kingdom come (Good upbringing tells, or didn’t you know).

Bed rest prescribed and this time it meant the only time I could get out was to have a wash and attend to the daily ablutions. Nothing else. A week later when the pain subsided, the MRI was taken. (Another post on this…).

What you have is a surgical disc, he says. Huh, what?!

So essentially, years of bad posture and heavy weight lifting and being indifferent to my poor spine has resulted in the discs between L3,L4,L5 bulging out and putting pressure on the sciatic nerve endings that go to my left leg. I could either opt for surgery or opt for prolonged bed rest and physio. It usually takes between 6 weeks-3 months for normalcy of any sort to return.

As of now my dear readers, for those who care I have opted for the latter. You see, my threshold of pain is rather high and though my left leg is numb with pain caused by the sciatic nerve I still have 2.5 weeks to go before the pain frame runs its course.

Here’s how I’m coping:

  1. PATIENCE (more than enough to cope with churlish remarks about laziness or boorish remarks about being a cripple)
  2. Lying down on my side with my knees slightly curled
  3. Omron Heating Pad, Moov Heating Pad
  4. LS Belt when I walk
  5. Cushioned flipflops/chappals
  6. Quick Meals
  7. Anti-inflammatory
  8. FAITH

No getting up unless it is to the loo

Tried the cotton mattress on a hard floor but getting up put pressure on my leg, so struck it out

On good days: bathe

I have good days now when I can move about and walk around for a bit and even sit for ten minutes or so before I ease into the bed. But at nights, when I lay awake feeling this ceaseless throbbing pain travel down my left glute, hamstring, the knee, calf and finally forming a thorny band around my ankles. Nights when I would like to take an axe to my calf and just lop the leg down because my feet burns and the pain increases to new intensities I never imagined it could touch. At times like these I’m almost tempted to give in and opt for surgery.

But hey, I’m a trooper remember, and so I’m waiting it out!!

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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Blazing a Different Path

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Ah, Robert Frost and his Road not Taken, standard English textbook fare for most of us who studied in the 80’s.

I gush and I gape whenever I meet someone who I feel/believe has taken the road less traveled by. It has been an aspiration for therein lies the secret to living a fulfilling life, a contended one.

And today, I met 2 incredible human beings who are living my dream, of blazing a new trail ……

I stumbled upon both by chance. The first through a friend who liked the FB page and the second coz of the first.

The Puzzle

When I browsed the FB page, I did a double take. How can some one be so foolhardy I thought? This is escapism taken to its extreme ran another train of thought. Perhaps this person has really been hurt or is running away from deep emotional trauma cried a voice from the inner recesses of my head. What motivates this man to travel the length and breadth of the country on his cycle stopping at remote communities and then staging a theatre act (street theatre style)? Doesn’t he read the papers? How can he survive without a toilet, without money, without his family, without comfort, without all the bare necessities like a roof over the head, 3 meals and more, friends to hang around with and so on and so forth?

The more I followed his travel and read his updates, the more intrigued I was….to analyse, arrive at a conclusion, understand, fathom what made this man undertake the journey he did.

The Solution

So when I found out he was dropping by where I stay I literally hounded him to meet up. The first was a washout thanks to an unexpected attack of the migraine but I got second time lucky. And how!! Not only did I get to meet The Cycle Natak, I met another intrepid explorer Andre Unger as well….

And so came 2 inspirational hours of freewheeling conversation with Andre and The Cycle Natak, who shared his journey with candor  humor, humility and a seeming sense of the unself-conscious self!!

Of course, I have to take you along this journey my dear reader and share the fascinating  nuggets I stashed away as I walked back to reality……..

The Cycle Natak

Over pepper sausages, a ham sandwich and chai, cold coffee and mosambi juice The Cycle Natak unraveled his secret to a happy life and his unquenchable urge to explore and travel. I will not dwell upon what motivated my friend ( I consider him that for he let me share his journey, if only for a while) since you would perhaps want to meet him and hear his story in his own voice. 

His 2 and a half year journey has obviously been adventurous, but what entices as this 24-year old speaks is his maturity and wisdom, something you would expect from a 70+ wizened sire who has seen, experienced, cherished and lived.

“It is not the destination but the journey that makes my travel interesting and gets me going again and again.”

“People are good. It is when you project goodness that you get goodness in return.”

“It is the truckwallas who have time and again let me hitch a ride with them that makes me feel good about getting back on the road again. They are honest, and would share their last piece of bread never expecting anything in return…..It is the laborer who takes me to his home and heart after just speaking with me for a few moments, happily sharing his frugal meal, which is not even enough for one….And then, I have had rich folks give me a 500 rupee note and ask me to take up lodging at a motel … And then, there is a villager who takes me to his home and gives his bed..”

“You learn to take the moment and live in the emotion of that moment but after it’s over, it’s over. You move on to a new one, a new moment, a new emotion.”

“At times, you have to just let go and let the dam burst because the more you carry with you the more dangerous the outburst. I remember sitting on the road in a particular phase of my journey just crying, venting out my frustration but then I had to shake myself off and move on..hoping there was something better ahead” (This when I asked him if he felt frustration and negativity at seeing how society was, how little progress we have made in spite of the India Shining chimes that play on)

“The condition of women is pathetic but it is far better that what it was so you can imagine how miserable it must have been…….women still think they do not have a right to conjugal happiness, that they owe it to their husbands to sleep because that is their duty.”

“Being a Muslim is not as issue when you get people to see you are a traveler, a human and not a caste.” (When I asked him if he found it difficult to get access to shelter or food because he was a Muslim)

“You have to feel empowered to be empowered. I was in some tricky situations but the fact that I spoke LOUD, spoke with Empowerment got me out.”

“You are answerable only to your (inner) self not anyone’s sense of what you are or who you should be….”

Andre Unger

Thanks to The Cycle Natak I also connected with Andre, an intrepid explorer, a risk taker by conventional measures. Giving up a well paid job Andre just took off on his bike traveling from Kanyakumari to Ladakh.

He hasn’t gone back to corporate sludgery by choice and instead opted to become an entrepreneur to “take off when I want to and not have to work 12 months to earn that week of well-deserved break.”

“We set off on a journey wanting to discover ourselves but what we don’t realise is we are who we are, no different from what we were..just more conscious of the self.”

“We are conditioned to eat 3 meals a day when we should actually eat when we want and not live by convention.”

“Being content with what we have and leaving a little for the rest will take you a long way.”

“Do what you want to do before you say it’s too late.”

“You don’t need to have an answer or an explanation or a reason for everything that you do, sometimes it is the doing that matters.”

………

Wow, I could go on but I won’t. I hope it has tweaked some part of you that wants to do something but is waiting for the right time, the right moment, the right sign to pursue your dreams..to pursue that elusive Will-o-the-wisp….

And even as I write this, I realize blazing a trail doesn’t have to be something dramatic or unconventional it could just be that one small step you have dreaded to take for an unknown fear, an unspoken taunt, or perhaps an unconscious inner barrier…

Stop….

For now is that time, and that time will never return.

And to all those who have taken that small step every day in a small way….Cheers and More Power To you…..

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

Too late to learn?!

That was the chorus playing in my head after a luncheon session.

Context – I was complimenting a colleague on her ability to handle people and stay unruffled despite frayed tempers while getting her point across. You could have been a professor the way you explain with such patience and wit, I said. No, you need to have a higher degree, she said. Why don’t you study now and get that degree, I said in a ra-ra mood. And before I could continue with the ra-ra-ing I heard another voice chip in and say, “No, it’s too late now.”

I turned around to see my colleague nod vigorously in agreement to the statement that had chimed in (from another female colleague).

Now, all of us were middle aged, middle class women with responsibilities; some with kids and some otherwise.

I turned around to address the larger group (women mostly) on whether they would pursue studies, given a chance. And the resounding chorus.

Yes, you guessed right.

“It’s too late now.”

Got me thinking, is it really?!

Without getting into gender stereotypes male colleagues pursue studies (most often an MBA) while their family and work life continue in joyous abandon. Got me thinking again, huh, why?

Yes, yes we know. Women take the brunt of marital/familial responsibilities and often have to play an award-worthy role of balancing priorities of husbands, kids, parents, in-laws, families at large, pets, friends, etc, etc… so their ambition & aspirations gets buried somewhere or lost in the long journey of playing life.

But there are women out there who actually manage to win that award and pursue studies as well. It may not be an extended MBA, it might be something simple as a foreign language course or a baking program or a web designing course or what-have-you. What gives?

US

We forget to ‘listen’ to what we want and need.

We forget that we are individuals (too).

We forget we are ‘gifted’ individuals and not mere responsibility-driven women.

We have bought the dumbing down, stereotyped cliches that society (for the most part) feeds us.

We have bought into ‘pre-defined’ roles assigned to us.

Good for everyone, but what about you? Where do you go once all those entities exist from your zone and you are alone?

Continuing Adult Education is important. For women, perhaps, more than men. Equip yourself with skills that will support you and keep you agile.

 

 

 

Awake Asleep Awake……..

It’s been 10 days since I logged out of Facebook.

Quitting the stub was easier I think.

Tempted to go back and re-log, not to stay connected but to be a voyeur.

All the people I’m truly connected to stay on. I’m back to calls and starting to meet folks I haven’t met in ages. I was too busy trawling  to comment on a feed or a photo they were tagged in.

How long will I stay off? Your guess is as good as mine.

I have never been the truly fortunate who multitask and accomplish much. I do one thing at one time and try to do it well. I would describe myself as mediocre at best. I thrive on my mediocrity.

I know if I die tomorrow and an obit is sent I will have 2 handfuls of friends who may shed a tear and sport a smile. High hopes?!

Am I rambling on?

Mayhap yes. But here is my list of accomplishments during the FB-off phase.

  • Unpacked my books, indexed them and stacked them in the library
  • Opened P Sainath’s Everybody Loves a Good Drought and Roald Dahl’s Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Half way through the first and almost done with the second)
  • Started my driving classes
  • Seldom log on to the laptop once I’m home
  • Miss my dog constantly, make up by picking fights with my mom (at least I’m starting to communicate)
  • I call up random friends, who send me snide, sarcy messages for remembering them finally, and oh yea, did I want something? (I deserve that I guess)
  • I have learnt to say no (lying actually but starting to say No when I mean No)
  • Taking care of myself (You detect the I-me-my pattern right?!)
  • I call up folks I care about more often (Sure I don’t get browny points for this but heh, you love me so better put up with this)
  • I’m sporting a smile and humming a song (I actually mouth lyrics these days, a huge WOW for me)
  • I hope to catch that interactive theatre my friend has been telling me about
  • Organised my wardrobe and my bills and my closet and gave away gunny-bag full of clothes and books (Oh yes, I’m wasteful but trying not to be)
  • I text friends (again, greeted by snide remarks, sarcy messages, etc etc..)
  • Dusted my dictionaries and my french notes (no, not the ones which says 1001 ways to french kiss but the legit stuff)
  • Cleaning up the workspace
  • I have 2 guppies that have survived in a fish bowl placed on the table at the work bay and a money plant that gave its first lil’ leaf (Thank you God, I love you)

Well, I think that’s enuf. I didn’t realise I actually managed to do so much till I started writing down this post. So Awake I’m. Trying to make the most of the 14-hour day. Yes, yes I still haven’t given up on sleep.

P.S: Rocksta I came back to Greyzed. Finally decided this suits me the most. And yes, we must meet. Let me know if next weekend works for you.

Here is where all things anew, something borrowed but not as blue….

This begins my new affair cutting out the old and pruning the not-so-old…… no more credit (cards or otherwise)… living in the now with what I have and nothing more.

 

 

With love comes responsibility and chocoball has thought me this. I promise to take him on daily walks, not molly coddle him and smooch him, not feed him all the gook I feed myself and promise to play with him even when the bed beckons me……

I’m growing up……………and thusly I got these two out of the carton box. To remind me I’m growing up….

Camaraderie

I know several people who love to say “We are not here to make friends” when they are in the workplace facing an antagonistic colleague or someone they probably upset by being hyper-assertive.

Somewhere during the span of my over decade-long career I have bought that logic. “We are not here to make friends”

I have seen peers and friends use this stance at work to intimidate an under-performing subordinate or coerce co-operation from colleagues who refuse to tow the line of a corporate agenda or a personal mandate. And do this quite successfully too.

But what about those underlings frustrated at being treated like Man Fridays and Girl Fridays with never a thought about their career aspirations. I have seen many a closed door fights with resignations thrown and water poured over heads; HR playing referee or peacemaker and temporary peace reigning till the next time this stance rises its head again.

So how can camaraderie and work go along hand in hand, would love to hear your thoughts on this……….