Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Goodbye, My Dear

Dear '13, 

In just a few days, you will be history. For the first few days of the new year, people will be reminded of you every time they write a cheque or sign a document, but they will soon get used to your nemesis.

I however, will never forget you. No, not because you are the namesake for my birthday -- though I will not live to see another '13 in any of my birthdays, but because you have brought into my life what no one else could -- Peace. When I say peace, I certainly do not mean peace and quiet, for that is one thing I am not going to get, as much as I long for it, but peace of being at peace with myself -- unconditionally. 

I am sure you know that inherently I have been a dissatisfied soul, at least for as long as I remember. I have always been unhappy with myself -- about the way I looked and the way I felt. Not only was I ugly, I was a rebel too -- or maybe I was a rebel since I was not good looking. Even during the best phase of my life, when I had a super work life and a beautiful family, I found reasons to be sad. 

With you somehow, something seems to have changed. It's with you I realised that I am an important part of many lives, pivotal in many others'. I no longer feel the urge to do something to prove my credibility or worth. Those who matter to me know what I am worth and those who don't, don't need to. 

For years I had shut the real me in the deepest dungeons of my heart for the fear of being rejected, of being mocked and of losing the people closest to me. You however, gave me the courage to let go and let the real me out. Never mind who thinks what.

After many years, I see myself smiling and I hear myself laughing. After many years, I feel happy, I feel content and I feel complete. Although I am tempted to, but I will refrain from analysing the reason for this change, for analysis kills the moment and no one knows it better than me. I am also tempted to thank you, to be grateful to you for inducing this change, but I no longer want to hold anyone else responsible for how I feel -- good or bad.

Although I would have loved you to stay a little longer, I know you have to go, but you have my word that I will not undo what you did to me. Not intentionally for sure.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Death Of A Greeting

Writing can be quite taxing. It needs you to not only use your fingers -- to write or type, but also your eyes, ears and your mind. Unless you observe, listen and internalise an incident, a thought or a story, you can seldom write. One can be a great thinker and a great orator but for him to be a good writer and to convert his thoughts into written words, he has to learn the art of patience, the skill of letting the thoughts take a definite shape and form something worth displaying in the show window of his wall. 

One reason for my being away for a while now is that I have been busy trying to brew my thoughts, to make stories. I am a bad story teller and even worse at imagining them, so putting together something as small as a thousand word story is quite a task for me. The other reason is that  I have been busy writing new year greetings to the people closest to me.

I am sure by now everyone who reads this blog knows how old fashioned I am. Let me tell you another secret -- I hate change -- of any sort, but more so if that change takes me away from my roots -- the old fashioned ways of life. Therefore, at a time when everyone has moved on from Orkut to Facebook, from SMS to BBM and from emails to Watsapp (is that how its spelt?), I still latch on to my redundant mobile phone. And at a time when people post impersonal status message that wishes all sixteen hundred friends of theirs a Happy New Year (can one have those many friends?), I carefully select a card each for my family and friends, write a personalised message on it and post it -- the old fashioned way. 
Now, writing a greeting is an event in itself, an activity that takes its own sweet time and course. Unlike a status message or an SMS, it does not take a few seconds or minutes but a few days or more, depending entirely on the number of cards one sends and the amount of love one puts in each one of them.

My earliest memory of writing a new year card is almost twenty-five years old. We were in Allahabad at that time and my father had a big network of people. I vividly remember him bringing home a huge pile of about a hundred new year cards home, he had got them printed with his name. We -- my brother and I were very excited to see the cards, especially because they had father's name in print. My sister was too young and too oblivious to make any sense of it. 

After that it became a ritual, a part of our new year and Christmas celebration: to make a long list of people who we wanted to send the cards to -- family, relatives, friends and our friends too, to look up the addresses in the dairy, write the cards, put the stamp, mark them as book post and finally post them. The entire process took almost a week, if not more. 

I think, that is where I learnt to write -- to people, a habit I am still to let go of. My first letters was written shortly after moving out of Allahabad, a place where I made friends for the first time and a place I hated moving out of. I had written to two of my closest friends --- Shweta Yadav and Ajai Iyer. I remember baring my souls out to them, telling them how I hated to be alone and lonely and how backward the new town was and of course how much I missed them. Hence started my tryst with writing. Every city we moved from added a few names to my list of friends who I would write to regularly, some replied some did not.

But writing a letter or a card was only half the fun. The other half, the better half, being receiving one. The anticipation of awaiting a reply, the excitement of getting many cards, the joy of recognising the handwriting and mentally preparing yourself for the contents of the letter while undoing the envelope and the many staples that a friend might have added to ensure the elders never read the juicy gossip, the glancing through the entire thing first and then reading it again to get the details, hiding it at a designated place to prevent others from reading it, the happiness that it brought for days after -- completed the picture.

Unfortunately, those days are long gone. People don't write, people don't read, they just tweet. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

As Always

The train had barely left the station when she spotted him walking towards her. He wore a grey shirt and light blue jeans, his hair was cropped as always and his face as grim as ever. She hated his grey shirts, they made him look paler and colder, she had told him that several times, but he was not the one to listen, not to her.

He smiled as he effortlessly pulled his six feet frame on the side upper berth and sat next to her, his left arm touched hers and was cold as always. It seemed as if the frigidness of his heart was manifested in his body. His hands had been cold for as long as she could remember. They had been cold that night too -- even inside her shirt. It was one night that she would cherish all her life. But she very well knew that he was more guilty than glad about it -- about letting go of his guard. Perhaps that is why, the first thing he did the following morning was to clarify that they were just friends. She had nodded in agreement, as always.  

The train had now picked up speed and there was a rhythm in its movement, a rhythm to which their bodies swayed -- together. The long, awkward silence was broken only by the chugging of the train and the occasional whistle. Although she had much to say to him, she did not know how to. In the last few months he had been aloof, indifferent and withdrawn, leaving her alone to wonder what went wrong. She wanted to confront him, to tell him how much he hurt her, how much she missed him, how stupid she felt waiting for a guy who did not even bother to leave a message when he left. But knew it would not help, the argument will go nowhere and she will end up taking the blame and feeling foolish, like always. 

Her trance was broken when he kissed her -- a quick awkward peck on her right cheek -- to wish her birthday. His mouth cold against her flushed cheeks. She had not expected this, not from him, not now. He seemed to have sensed her confusion, for he smiled at her and began to talk. He talked as if there was nothing abnormal about this – about them being together on a train, about him remembering her birthday, about kissing her. He talked about life, philosophy, science, sports -- his favourite topics, but she wasn't listening. All she could do was to look at him -- his sparkling eyes, his broad forehead, his sharp nose, his mouth. And all she could think was how much she loved him.

She was so distracted that she did not even realise when he put his arm around her and pulled himself closer. Only when he held her hand did she notice it. She also noticed the contrast – his sculpted hands against her peasant hands, his pale complexion against her dusky skin, the coldness of his palms against her warmth. The contrast was not limited to their hands, she thought.

He looked into her eyes and started to talk again.‘Life is not a bed of roses, Blacky. It is thorny and difficult; I have much to prove to my parents and to myself. I have no time for anything else.’

All her life she had visualised this conversation, she had thought of a million possibilities, of a thousand ways in which she could tell him how much she loved him -- some day. But this is not something that she was prepared for. Her mouth parched, her heart raced, she broke into cold sweat. She wanted to talk but words failed her. She just listened -- as always.

He continued to talk, to reason, to justify, to prove that he will always be there for her – as a friend, but none of it made sense anymore – all that mattered was that it was over, before it even began. 

Even before she could react, he left. As if running away from something -- from giving in, from her, from them. As always.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Two Books That Changed My Life -- Or So It Seems

Come December, everyone and everything reminds you what you don't want to be reminded of: that you have lost another year. As if the calender is not enough, now you have facebook too. Just as I logged in to my account this evening, there was a prompt telling me to review the year gone by. Pessimist to the core, I would have cringed otherwise but this year has been kind, so I smiled -- for a change.

I have never been the new year resolution type but I do look back each year to see if I have done anything worthwhile with my life, and looking at this year makes me quite happy with myself. If I was a celebrity, I could have declared 2013 as the watershed year of my life. I have done things that I would never have done otherwise and though I run the risk of sounding stupid but I would like to disclose that one such thing is reading. No, I have not been illiterate until now and I have read some in the last thirty four years of my life but its only now that I discovered the joy of reading -- thanks to two books that I read this year. 

I grew up surrounded by books and everyone around me read -- my parents, uncles, brother, friends, husband and now even daughter. Growing up, my father used to buy us books all the time and on every occasion. We had books coming in through post, we had annual subscriptions of children's magazines, we had books in English and in Hindi, there were books everywhere. But there was a problem: I never read. I never had the patience to go beyond a few pages. I still remember father subscribing to a magazine called Target for me, I would have been ten at that time. All I read in that were jokes and cartoon strips, and maybe a few very short stories, while my brother, all of five then would read it cover to cover.

Things improved only slightly when I went to college, since there was nothing much to do and all my friends were avid readers too, I also picked up random books and flipped through them. While they would read the books cover to cover, I read only sections of them, eager to finish. Thank God for Archie and the gang, I had something to say when people discussed reading.

Once I started to work there was no time. There were many more interesting things to do in the little time I got to myself. Reading, therefore was never my thing. Not until now. 

Although I am not a bookworm, I do tend to pick up books and read parts of it, especially the ones that my husband might be reading at that point. And this is how I discovered Jaya -- the one book that changed my life. (Yeah, I know I sound vain, but that is the intent. This year, I want to try being vain too, for a change.) 

Anyway, I was talking about Jaya. Now, if you happen to be a friend who is reading this post, you would probably have a copy of the book, which either husband and I would have gifted or would have persuaded you to buy for yourself. In any case, you would have read it. And, if you are not a friend and still reading this post (thank you very much, not many people do) you might want to but the book or at least borrow it.

Jaya, simply put, is a layman's version of the Mahabharata. Anyone who is twenty five years and above, would not only know the story but would also faintly remember the famous series that ran on Doordarshan in the eighties. The beauty of the book lies not only in the story in its simplicity of the narrative and language, something so rare to find among Indian authors. The author strings together small, straight forward sentences in short, crisp chapters to narrate the complicated story. It is like a jigsaw puzzle, the parts of which were until now scattered all around your child's room, that you patiently and lovingly put together for her -- to form a complete picture.

As a reader what I love about the book is the ease with which an ordinary man can follow it. It unfolds the most complicated plots with such simplicity that just about anyone can read it and like it. As a writer -- if I can dare call myself that, what I find most appealing is the brevity and the conciseness of the text. It is not easy to have every detail covered in an engaging prose yet be brief. Jaya is only the second book that I have read cover to cover -- almost thrice. The first being Chai, Chai.

Chai, Chai has a story behind it, a story that makes you believe in chance: My husband had bought it soon after its release four years ago and loved it. For months, while I whined about being bored and having nothing to do, he suggested that I read the book. Never the one to pay heed to his suggestions, I ignored. Eventually, he gave it to my father to read; father loved it and so did mother and then it somehow got lost in their house. Not the kind to let go of  his books, the man bought another copy. That copy too, sat pretty in the book rack for months, until one day, after reading and liking the author's second book -- Tamarind City, I picked it up.

Unlike Jaya, Chai, Chai is not a story book. It is an unusual book that way, although it is categorized as a travel book, I am not sure it is that in the true sense of the word. But it is an account of a travel nonetheless -- a travel that I fell in love with. The book talks about the most mundane yet the most unusual subject -- railway junctions, places that you cross all your life yet never pay attention to.

The beauty of this book lies in the ordinary subject that is uplifted to another level by the authors eye for detail and lucidity of his prose. He picks up the most inane things and breathes life into them -- walking though the lanes of small towns,  waiting at the station, travelling second class, spotting an old railway quarter.

Like Jaya, Chai, Chai too thrives on simple language, crisp narrative and immaculate articulation. I have a sentimental reason too for which I love this book : I grew up in such small towns and traveled through some of these junctions, may be that is why I connect to the book much more than a person born and brought up in a metro would. Whatever the reason be, it remains one of the most enjoyable books I have ever come across and the first that I read twice over -- cover to cover.

None of these are the greatest books ever written but good enough for me to get me hooked to reading for the last six months, so much so that I have read around ten books and millions of blogs. Today, having nothing to read gives me jitters, as having a book to finish would have given me some months ago.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

New Beginning

She was busy setting the tea up. There was much to be done: the cake was in the oven and the tea on the stove, the mac and cheese was already on the table for the girls to feast on. It was the weekend, the only time they got together. Anay usually worked late and therefore he preferred to spend the evenings at home on his off days. While she was pouring her coffee out, her phone buzzed. It must be some promotional message she thought. Not many people message her anyway.

The tea was soon ready, so was the cake. The kids were done with their snack and were now happily parked in front of the TV.  Anay had joined her on the table and was slicing the warm cake into neat pieces -- he was the one who sliced and diced everything if he was at home, this was his way of being with her while she cooked. 

The phone buzzed again, she had forgotten to check it, but she resisted the urge to get it, she knew it annoyed her husband when someone disregarded people for the phone. Almost an hour after the phone first rang, she finally got the time to check her phone. 

'Hello, are you anywhere close to Radisson?' The message was from an unknown number. 

Anyone who would want to see me, should ideally know where I stay and I should also have his number, she thought. To find out who it was, she dialled the number and was greeted by a familiar voice.

'Who's this?' she still asked, to be sure.

'You don't have my number?'

'Oh! I lost it when I changed the phone.' she lied. 'Why are you coming to Delhi and for how long?'

'Answer my question, first.'

'Yes, I am close to the hotel.'

'Well then, I am there tomorrow for a training and will see you post that.'

It had been eight years since they last met and months since they spoke on the phone -- the phone calls in any case were limited to her birthday. He made it a point to call her every year, despite her never calling him on his.

'Hello! are you there?'

'Yes, I am.'

'Is it OK if I drop in?'

'Sure' she said, though she was not sure.

Much had changed in the last eight years, she was a different person now. What would she even talk about? she thought.

Anay's voice broke her chain of thoughts. She left the phone in the kitchen and went inside. The girls had gone to bed and he was watching his favorite series. She settled next to him, facing the TV and went back in time.

They were never friends to begin with, in fact, she did not even remember much of him from school. What she did remember clearly was the time she had a crush on him -- the biggest ever. Although she had never told him, she knew that he knew. But they never talked. 

School ended and everyone went their own way. They did too, until the day he called her. There was a function he was organising and wanted her to be a part of it -- to sing with him. What followed was a dream come true: for weeks, they spent hours together practicing the most beautiful songs -- their voices were made for each other.

The event went on to be a great success and they went on to become greater friends. Amazingly, although she had always been infatuated with him she never felt that way anymore. He became one of her best friends much to the annoyance of her girlfriends.

'Where are you lost?' it was Anay, standing with a bottle of water. She had not noticed when he went out of the room and got the bottle.

'Nothing', she lied and went back in time.

In a couple of years, she moved to Delhi -- to find her place under the sun and he stayed back in Lucknow. They talked regularly and met each time she went back. In fact, he was the one to pick her and drop her from the station and even drive her around the town -- each time. 

Years passed, she was now married and he worked in Bombay, they hardly went to Lucknow and had not met in years. Their conversations were now limited to exchanging birthday wishes.

'Adi messaged' she finally told Anay. 'He's here tomorrow for a training and wants to see me post that.'

'Sure, call him home' he said.

'No, not home, I'd rather see him at the hotel, he will be at the Radisson' she muttered.

'Ok, suit yourself' he said.

He was not the kind to object to her going out or meeting people. She however, always ended up feeling guilty about going out on her own. Tonight again, she could feel the fangs of guilt slowly digging into her conscience. She felt selfish and inconsiderate to leave the girls and Anay behind just to see a friend. 

Lukewarm rays of the winter sun had already filled the room when she woke up next morning. The girls were in the study with their father: he had taken them away so that she could sleep peacefully. He is the best husband ever, she thought.

All day, she looked for excuses -- to avoid the meeting. Was it the anxiety of seeing an old friend and discover that they had nothing in common or was it the guilt of leaving the girls and husband and going out? She could not tell. She picked her phone up several times to tell him that she cannot make it, that something had come up and she had to go, but each time she resisted.

Not very long ago, she was known for being independent, rebellious, carefree and non conformist, she did what she wanted and always listened to her heart. Now, she was the exact opposite. Sometimes she felt there were two people inside her, each constantly wanting to dominate the other, it left her confused and tired. Today was one such day, she was not sure who would win -- the old or the new, the rebel or the compliant, the practical or the emotional -- until she took over both. 

'I will see you in an hour, Anay.' she said, as she left for the hotel, smiling.

As Published in Femina Fast Fiction:

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ram Re-discovered

I grew up in a culture that loved, respected and believed in Ram. My dadi would often quote incidents and chaupais from the Ramanaya to drive home a point, we grew up surrounded by the stories of the bal kaand and the yudh kaand, of Lakshman's rage, Ram's patience and Hanuman's strength. We grew up being taught to be dutiful sons and daughters like Ram and his brothers, to be virtuous in thought and in action like Sita and her sisters, not to give in to desires and temptations like Kaykai. We knew The Ramayana by heart.

Although, I believed in most of what Ramayana stood for -- virtue, devotion, obedience, goodness, karma, I never could fathom Ram -- he was too good to be true. The non conformist in me could never subscribe to his goodness, it always felt unnatural and in any case what good is the goodness of a man who banishes his pregnant wife -- the woman who stood by him in the hardest of times, who served him, loved him and was totally devoted to him? I always empathised with Sita, never with Ram. And I never read the Ramayana because I did not agree with Ram's ideology.

When one is young he often sees only his point of view, eager to establish his identity and form his own opinions, he often fails to acknowledge others' perspective. Maturity and experience however, teaches one to look beyond his own, to respect and understand others' outlook and ideologies, to accept if not embrace diversity. Going by this definition, I can perhaps consider myself mature, for I finally picked up the book some weeks ago -- to see his perspective.

Although many great scholars have written about and brought forth Ram as a hero -- an ideal son, an ideal king and an ideal man, not many talk about him as an ideal husband or a lover. How could they? For he was a man who denounced his wife for no fault of hers and that, as I mentioned earlier, was my grouse with him too -- until I read the book.

Reading and rereading the Ramayana, I for the first time could see things objectively. I saw the man behind the God. I saw a dutiful son, a perfect king and  I found in him a tender lover and a caring husband too, much to my surprise.

Ram is usually a stoic, pensive and silent husband, never a passionate lover. His aloofness can easily be mistaken for indifference. Neither does he profess his love for Sita nor sing verses in her praise, he hardly talks to her about love. The only time he openly expresses his love for her is in his grief -- of having lost her, so much so that his brother has to remind him that he is not just a forlorn lover, but a king too and therefore he needs to regain his calm. 

Yet throughout the story we find instances which reflect his deep affection and love for his wife. He is always mindful of her likes and dislikes, always considerate about her comfort, always kind in words and action, always respectful of her opinion and the only man to be called ekam patni vrat -- the only man devoted to a single wife. Ram is an ideal husband too. 

So deep is his love for Sita, that after banishing her he keeps with him a gold replica of hers -- it never leaves his side -- it is his Sita, his wife, the only woman he ever loved. But why then did he banish her? My question remained, until he answered it for me, in the following passage.

One day Sita hesitatingly asks Ram 'Your father has three queens, one that he respects, the one that he loves or the one that serves him, which one will I be to you?' Ram replied without a moment's hesitation 'He may have three but I will have only one. I shall be satisfied with whatever this wife of mine has to offer me and hope she is satisfied with whatever I offer her.'

Sita said softly with a smile 'I asked you about the queens, not wives.' 

'I am a husband now, who has a wife. Should I be the king, then my wife will also become the queen. The two are not the same, Sita. My wife sits in my heart, I exist for her satisfaction. The queen sits on the throne, she exists for the kingdom's satisfaction,' he said.

Thus, in one sentence he explained what no one ever could: that he banished the queen, the one who exists for the kingdom's satisfaction and not his wife who he so dearly loved and missed that he never married again. That, once he is the king and she the queen, the wish of the kingdom is supreme, they must do what is expected of them and not what their hearts desire.

No wonder the world loves him and for once I seem to agree with the world.

* The sentences in italics are quoted from SITA, a retelling of Ramayana, by Devdutt Patnaik.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Day I Spotted Red

Something I wrote for an organisation that they published on thier blog and facebook page.

The Day I Spotted RED

My earliest memories of anything remotely related to menstruation are the vague TV commercials that talked frequently about absorbing and leaking and protecting. All of seven or eight then, I assumed it as some sort of a diaper for women, who due to the lack of public washrooms needed to wear them. Men, after all, could always do it on the wall.

The moment of truth came soon after. Having been a girl of above-average growth, I started menstruating at the age of ten or eleven. I had no idea what happened to me. I can never forget the day I spotted blood. We were at my granny’s place during the summer vacations and one day while bathing, I realised that something was wrong. I distinctly remember checking myself several times to see if I had hurt myself; I could not see anything but believed nonetheless that it must be some sort of an injury that caused the bleeding.

Confused but not sure if I should share it with anyone, I kept it to myself. Much to my relief, the bleeding didn’t last long, but came back soon after. In due course, I could see a pattern to it, still too hesitant and shy to share it – even with my mother, I suffered all alone. Thankfully, during the first few months, there was hardly any bleeding. Whatever little there was, I managed with some cotton that I had taken out from the first-aid box and stashed in my shelf. I sometimes wonder how I spent almost a year without telling anyone, without so much as a sanitary pad, but I somehow did, like so many others do.

In the meantime, I gathered some information in school and through magazines and concluded that all girls go through this and that it is something called menstruation – one that shall not be named other than in hushed tones and often in slang. Suddenly all the blood stained pads in the school washrooms made sense. They were not the doings of some evil spirits after all. The evil spirit if any, lived within us.

Thankfully, in a few months (or was it a year later?) my mother figured that I should be told about it and I was handed over to a cousin who gave me the information I already had – the real facts. I still was clueless about why this was happening to me. When I could take no more, I gathered all my courage and walked up to my mother one evening, my heart beating faster than it ever had; I asked for the pads, as casually as I could and I got just that. No word, no advise, no information. I continued to struggle with the immense discomfort and excruciating pain I suffered from during my periods. Every time I was in pain, my father and brother were told that I had acidity and sometimes I can’t help but wonder why.

Today, almost twenty-five years later, nothing seems to have changed. Girls still hesitate to buy a packet of sanitary pads and they still have to hide it while carrying it to the washroom. It is considered uncouth to talk about it, especially to men or when men are around. If they have to take a day off from work or college due to pain and discomfort, they are supposed to be sick and not menstruating. So much for a natural, biological process that every woman goes through and which every man knows about. I honestly wonder what all the fuss is about. The fuss, I gather, is in the mind – quite typical of the hypocritical society that we live in.

I might not be able to change the mindset of the society and in any case changing mindsets can take years. I will, however ensure that my girls never have to go through what I did. I don’t love my mother any less for what happened with me because partially it was my doing too, but I might have loved her much more had she spoken to me about it – just once; and that, I will ensure, is one grouse that my girls will never have.


Author: Anubhuti
I am a thirty-four year old stay – at – home mother of two beautiful girls. I have worked as a training manager and a freelance training consultant in the past. When on a break from my children, I love to cook, read, travel and write. Writing is my latest passion and I blog here.  I am also a volunteer with Pratham books and conduct story-telling sessions for  underprivileged and street children.

Friday, November 29, 2013


The more I read about it, the more I admire and respect the young girl's courage and grit. It takes a lot to stand up to someone powerful, someone you have known, someone you trust. As an aftermath of this incident, many more cases are coming out, most of them talk about harassment at work and at home, by men who are known and trusted by the victim.

While I do think its unfortunate that the misdoings of some men end up maligning all of them, I would have to admit that women no longer have an option, they don't know who to trust, especially when the trusted ends up being the perpetrator.

As a young girl, I was always told to watch out as was every other girl around me. We had to be careful while travelling, while at school and college, while going out, while staying over at a friend's but rarely were we advised to watch out for people we knew -- family, extended family, family friends, teachers, doctors.

Until some years ago, I would never talked about being harassed or violated, for some reason I always saw it as my own shortcoming. Today however, I am not ashamed to admit that I too have, on numerous occasions, been subjected to some or the other kind of sexual advance -- a touch, a brush, remarks and gestures, occasional groping -- the list is endless. And almost always it has been someone I knew, in places I was supposed to be safest. Fortunately, I never had to face it at work, strange, since for ten years I worked in one of the most infamous industries, travelled alone late at night and spent time with unknown people.

I have known of women from so called respectable families going through sexual assaults all their lives by someone as close as their father. I have known of girls being frightened of their uncles and cousins, I have known of women being touched and felt up by their teachers and doctors. But, I have not known women who have come out and talked about it -- I have not known any women who has confronted the man, I have known no woman who confided in her parents or teachers.  

As a young girl neither did I nor those around me reported any such violation, for a long time we did not even know if it was a violation, all we knew is: it felt wrong. We would talk among ourselves and find solace in the fact that everyone went through it, slowly it became a part of our system as did pretending to be normal after any such incident. Confronting was always more difficult.

But things have changed since. While earlier such incidents were not as grave and frequent, today, the danger to our children and our women is much greater. Sexual advances are no longer limited to a touch or a brush, they have transformed into full fledged assaults and rapes. The society is degenerating at every level and even toddlers are not spared.

In such a scenario it is only fair that we trust no one, for we never know how soon it will be breached.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Devil's Advocate

The country stands avenged today. After five years, we finally know who killed her. Some of us are rejoicing at the victory, yet others are applauding the expertise of the involved lawyers, judges and investigators. Newspapers and TV channels are going crazy breaking the news to the public who is hungry to grab every juicy detail.

If until some years ago it was the media that went berserk trying all such sensational, high visibility cases for the victim, now it is the social media. Twitter and facebook are abuzz with activity -- opinions, debates, criticism, judgement -- the works. It went into frenzy a week ago and it is at its frenzied best tonight. As a country, we love passing judgements -- at every level and what better opportunity than to excoriate the accused of a rape or a murder?

I do not follow Twitter and on facebook too I have a very small circle, even then all I see on my page is people's reaction to the verdict and the sentence handed out to the Talwars, some want them hanged others are not done expressing shock and horror over the incident. I am no one to speak against the judgement or the sentence, I have not followed every little detail of the case neither do I have any sympathy with the convicts. But, I do have an opinion which is slightly different from most. 

All said and done, the truth is that no one, other than the convicts themselves, know what happened in the house that night. What we have is a reconstruction of the event as seen by the eyes of the investigating body. For a moment, lets assume if the parents have not killed the girl and the man, that they are speaking the truth. 

Imagine the plight of a dead child's parents who are also being held guilty for her murder. They have not only lost their child but also their career, their reputation and their life -- as they had known it. For the rest of their lives they will not only live without their daughter but also without all that they had earned with their sweat and blood. 

I maybe too naive to go by the face value of the event but I find it very hard to believe that any parent can kill their child only because she was in a compromising position with a man. Come on, what world do we live in? What is new or unusual about a teenaged kid exploring her sexuality? And we all know that kids do it, mostly with someone elder to them. Does that warrant death?

The theory says that the girl was accidentally hit but instead of taking her to a hospital or even providing her first aid the parents got busy in killing the servant, left the daughter to die, slashed her throat and calmly dressed the scene and waited for the morning. Believable?

In my opinion, the only people who can be so unperturbed by death are usually hardened criminals or doctors, any normal human being can not go through so much in a matter of a few hours yet be so calm. And the Talwars were neither criminals nor doctors. But then, dentists consider themselves to be doctors.

Then again, is it possible that all of the above is true. After all, rage can make the most sensible of people lose their sense. And if the girl was dead anyway, what was the point in going and telling the world about it? They might have taken a chance. 

In any case the parents will suffer forever,  with or without the conviction, they are on a lifelong sentence.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Few Good Men

Another man has lost his sense of judgement, another man has misread the situation, another man has done what many, many other men do everyday. That this man is a well known is just a coincidence. It could have been any other man in his place and chances are if he was not as well known, such a case would not even have surfaced. It happens all the time -- in schools, colleges, at work, in social events and even at home. Men invariably lose their sense of judgement and cross the boundaries and their drunken state often bails them out. 

So, this gentleman too lost his sense of judgement, or did he? Chances are that his judgement of the situation was not wrong but that of the woman was. Usually, in such scenarios, often the victim, if I can use that term, gives in. The man is senior, often her boss or boss's boss, he is also well connected. Giving in is the easy way out, aren't women taught that all the time? 

Then there are those who do not. Being a woman, I can imagine how tough it is to stand up to something like a sexual assault and to come out and report it.  In a social set up like ours everything eventually is the woman's fault -- she might have been dressed inappropriately, she herself might have been drunk, she might have asked for it for all we know.

I will not be surprised if soon there is another version of the story that reports it as a consensual relationship gone bad and therefore the woman chose to report it as an assault. After all, it took her more than ten days to report the incident.

The way we bring up men in our country, they can never see a woman as their equal, a woman to them is a public property up for exploitation. And women, they leave no stone unturned to prove the man's innocence, the reasons for his mistake could be varied but will always be justifiable. And this man, look how gracious he is! He apologised and even stepped down for the honour of his company, wait till he offers to marry the girl to protect her honour.

Thanks to such incidents, we seem to have lost trust in the men all together. A woman can trust nobody, not even her family and friends. No longer can she step out without the fear of being  mistreated and no longer can she be at home, at work or even in school or college without constantly being on the watch. What a pity!

But for all such men, there are more men who love their women --  who care for their friends, who stand behind their wives, who walk beside their lovers, who look up to their sisters and who value their mothers -- who respect women. And as long as we have even a few good men, the bad ones can be taken care of.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Interpreting Dreams

As a child I often dreamt of a family which I was part of. The people and the place were so familiar that I could have recognised them anywhere in the world.  It happened regularly for many years but by the time I was old enough to make anything out of those dreams, they stopped. I have, many times since, tried to recall, replay and remember the details, but have never succeeded.

Then there have been the usual recurring ones -- failing to make it for the board exam or not being able to complete the physics paper or missing the train or the bus. There also have been some very strange and bizarre ones too (each of them etched clearly in my mind). And then there have been people who I dream of quite often.

Dreams intrigue many, I am no exception. I have tried to look for what they could mean and how, if at all, they reflect the subconscious. I have not yet found the answer, although I have observed a pattern. Sometimes they reflect our state of mind and at other times they reveal the deepest darkest fears, desires or feelings that we often do not acknowledge while we are awake.

One such fact that I have never acknowledged is that I have let two of my very dear friends down. Though in my conscience state, I don't even think about them, somewhere deep down within me, I live with the guilt. They are the only people who I ever walked away from, for no valid reason whatsoever other than my fear -- fear of having to lose them anyway.

At different points in my life, these men were amongst my closest friends, but eventually things changed and we grew apart. Was the growing apart natural or intentional? Don't we stay with those who we want to despite the emotional, ideological and even geographical differences? Did I create all the differences only because I no longer wanted them to be around? Or was it because both of them were men? These are questions that I have ignored and brushed aside for years now but they keep coming back to me and bring with them these uncomfortable dreams.

When two people meet and realise that they have a lot in common -- interests, work, ideology, even roots, and if they share common space -- work or otherwise, they usually end up spending a lot of time together. In this time, they might not only discuss professional but also personal matters and might also become close friends, that they belong to different sexes notwithstanding. Nothing wrong with that, after all, haven't we as a society moved to a stage where being a man or a woman does not matter? Not quite, especially if even one of these two happens to have a partner.

Very rarely will you find partners who are comfortable with their spouse hanging out with another man or women, unless they are a part of a larger group, often comprising of common friends. Ironically, if two men or two women are in similar circumstances, no eyebrows are raised. They could go out pubbing, drinking and even stay over at each other's, the partners would not care. In fact they might just be happy for their respective partners. 

But if it is another man or a woman -- as the case might be, insecurities creep in, emotions come into play and hell breaks loose. Going out with him or her, talking at odd hours or even texts on off days can trigger any or all of the above.

I could see it all around me -- women getting possessive about their man hanging out with a woman friend, men getting obsessive about their woman going out with another man -- insecurity and paranoia killing marriages. Mistrust and doubt replacing love and commitment.

It could have happened to me too. Having to chose between a friend and a husband or having to clarify about the nature of relationship I shared with anyone was something I was not comfortable with. So, I let go of two wonderful people from my life. They called, I did not call back. They offered to take me out, I made excuses. They mailed, I did not reply. They left messages, I ignored. While they might have forgiven me and moved on, I have not.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Never Too Late

However much I proclaim that I write for myself, the truth is that it feels great when people read and acknowledge what I write. There are a few who call regularly to discuss my latest post and some who do it occasionally. Some say good things about my writing, some give me ideas and then there are those who admonish me for my content. A few of them also insist that I should seriously consider writing a book. It is really kind of them to think so, I however, do not see it happening. I do not have the knowledge, skill or attitude that is needed to write a book. 

Forget about books, as of now, I struggle to keep this blog running. It takes hours for me to put a post together and by the time its done, I am so exhausted that I often end up deleting it -- obviously in error. The other day I accidentally deleted something which I had laboriously written over two days. I wanted to kill myself and I did -- by redoing the entire thing the same night. 

Anyway, one such call came last evening from my newly married and very lovely sister in law. She sounded upset and apologetic. On asking her why she sounded that way, she confided that she felt miserable for not being able to help me in anyway. 'But what help do I need?' I asked. Turned out that she had just finished reading my last post, A Dream and A Reality and felt sorry for me. It took fifteen minutes for her to be convinced that I was fine and although what I had written was true, it did not mean that I was unhappy or in need of any help. 

In fact, just before her call, an old friend had called and had commented on how she has been noticing a stark difference in me, and that she's not seen me so happy, carefree and liberated in years, may be since College. I tend to disagree with her usually, but I think she was right about this. After many years even I see myself really happy and I owe my current state of mind to two things -- love and writing.

Love, because I have a lot of it around me. There are quite a few people who can not function without me, who need me -- all the time. That of course makes me feel important and happy. Then there is writing. I write when I am lonely, I write when I am pensive, and I write to express what I otherwise cannot. I do not write for anyone but myself. It helps me let go, if people like it -- great, if they do not -- well, I still would.

At times I do feel like life's come a full circle. I seem to be back to where I started from, twelve years ago. Back then, I lived with parents whose permission had to be sought for almost everything, now I have children whose permission I have to seek. Then, I had the time and the energy but no money to do new things, now also, I have the time and inclination to do many things but hardly any money. Then, I had a handful of friends who were my emotional anchors, I still have a handful of them -- most of whom are the same. Back then I had the fire in me to do something with my life, to be independent, to have my own identity and now, once again, that fire seems to have been rekindled -- after a long hiatus.

There is one huge difference though, I could do a lot with my life then while I am not sure if I can do anything with it anymore. After all, I am already thirty four, the best years of my career are behind me and it is too late to begin afresh. Then again, if I look at it differently I still have at least fifteen years of productivity left in me. I have only just begun to get comfortable with myself and be proud of who I am. So it might not be a bad idea to consider starting afresh and may be write a book even. I know someone who will say, "Never too late."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Dream and A Reality

There are people who seem to have everything: a great career, a super family life, a rocking social life, ample money, and happiness too. Then there are those who can barely manage the basics. At one point, I belonged to the first category. Now, I am a happy contributor to the second.

Not so long ago, I had great work life, wonderful family life and a fairly decent social life. One fine day, everything changed. There was no work and no work life. No friends and no social life, my phone that had not stopped ringing in five years had no calls or messages. I had no inbox to clear and no deadlines to meet. It felt great in the beginning, I was tired of running non stop for eight years and this was a much needed break, a long overdue holiday.

But reality soon struck. The never ending holiday irked me, it was upsetting to be confined, to be financially dependent, to not have people around. But I managed because my family needed me, and that was more important than my work, my friends and my money. So I stayed home to ensure that my mother was nursed back to life and my daughters were taken care of. I cooked, cleaned, washed, dusted and did everything possible to ensure those around me were happy. All but me.

Initially, I was too overwhelmed and engrossed to even realise the effect it had on me. I was happy being around people who mattered most to me, being totally occupied by the daily drudgery of life, to lead a normal life. But, how long can you tame the fire within?

My independence has always been vital to my existence and I had it in abundance at work, along with that I also had love, respect, satisfaction and recognition. I worked non stop for hours at end, helped people build their careers and in the process, built mine. Life could not be better. In the quest to achieve everything however, I soon started to miss out on simple pleasure of life. I became more mechanical and less human everyday and started to burn out. So, one fine day, I quit.

Giving up my work sometimes seems like the most sensible decision and sometimes the stupidest. I know that whatever I could manage in the last three years would not have been possible had I been tied to a job. A transplant, a birth, two weddings, a relocation and many, many more things that I could facilitate would not have been easy otherwise. I however, also know that I will never get those lost years back, I was at the peak of a career that I had worked very hard for and had I stayed on, I would have had two promotions, a good salary hike and so much more. So, I sulk and sulk some more.

But wallowing in self pity has never helped anyone, it is not going to help me either. I can choose to sit and sulk and cry and whine or I can do something that adds fuel to my fire -- a fire that is almost doused.

But what can I do? I cannot and will not go back to a job that requires me to be at work twelve hours a day and be connected to my Blackberry for the other twelve. I cannot start a business because I neither have the money nor the sense. I cannot paint, draw, sing or dance -- too late in the day to acquire these skills anyway. Thankfully though, there are certain things things that I can do and love doing. I can talk, I can write, I can cook, and sometimes even dream.

One such dream is to travel, all by myself, to places far and wide. From the Himalayas to the oceans of India, from the churches and ruins of Europe to the sky scrapers of America. In our culture, it is rare for a woman to travel alone for pleasure and that is something I want to defy. I absolutely love the power and the confidence travelling alone gives me -- to be on my own, in a world unknown.

So maybe I can travel to beautiful places, explore the art and culture there and write about it. Who knows, someday I might be able to write a feature in a fancy magazine and some pictures taken by me could also accompany the write ups. In my spare time, I could also pen down a few short stories here and there, without the fear of being judged for their subject or content, I could also make some money in the process. Now that is a dream worth living for!

But wait a minute, like every dream, this too has a practical problem -- where will I get the money from? Since I am on a dreaming spree, why not dream of a man, who, allured by my charm, would happily pay for my travel? But such a man is hard to find, even in dreams. As of now, its just the mother-dairy guy, who is charmed enough to offer me a two rupee discount on a packet of buns, in case I have no change! 

Sunday, November 10, 2013


I had not expected anyone to notice that I had not been writing lately. After all, there are hardly a handful of people who read my blog, most of them friends, who have the blog thrust upon them. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to see a message in my inbox from a reader asking why had I not been writing, she also suggested something to write about. That something, coincidentally is the only thought that has been haunting me for weeks and I have been ignoring it. Not anymore.

Three months ago, when I wrote my first post, after a gap of four years, I wrote it only for myself (OK, for one other person too), but the primary reason was to express the thoughts which were getting bottled up and had started to choke me. So, I wrote, and I wrote some more and in three months I ended up putting together close to forty posts. That, is a good number, given that I hardly get any time to myself -- to think or to write. Number, however should not be the driving force behind writing, content and skill should be. And it was the content that I was getting a little worried about.

Reading some of my posts, I realised that though my writing style is evolving, the content has more or less remained concentrated around similar subjects. I decided to pause. I also decided to try my hand at subjects that I had not yet written about.

As a result, there are more than half a dozen incomplete posts sitting in my drafts. Some are ideas, some are thoughts, yet others are just vague emotions. Together they would easily be more than a few thousand words, yet in their current form, they are just that -- words. I am trying my best to convert these words into comprehensible pieces of prose, but tonight, I need to go back to my comfort zone.

Going by the general feel of the subjects in this blog, if a reader tries to draw a mental picture of me, they might see me as a sad, forlorn woman, disappointed in love and dejected in life, who has nothing better to do than whine. Those who know me might think of me as a good actor who pretends to be happy on the outside but carries all the pain of the world within her.

This however is far from being true. Neither am I dejected, nor disappointed and I certainly do not carry anymore pain in my heart than anyone else around me does. In fact, I am quite capable of being a pain myself. I just happen to be fascinated by the grey areas of life in general and relationships in particular. And since I can not go and talk to just anyone about it, I chose to talk to myself and to a few others too by the means of my writing.

In my last post, I had shared a poem by Kipling -- a poem of friendship, companionship and in a way of love too. It was sent to me by someone, who believed that we -- that person and I, were in such a state at that time.

Last night, I shared the poem not because I was missing that person or because it was a relationship gone bad that I regretted. I shared it because it cemented my belief in the process of drifting apart. It was a reminder that every relationship, at the end is transitional. Everything that begins must -- and does -- end, eventually.

Observing the many relationships around me, I have realised that drifting apart is almost inevitable. Best friends, siblings, lovers, spouses -- all drift apart sooner or later, totally or partially. And there is nothing much one can do about it, in fact the harder one tries to hang on to a relationship, the sooner it gets over. Strange but true.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

One Man In A Thousand

Rummaging through my folder for something, I find a piece of paper. Fraying at ends, just short of yellowing, but still firm enough to be held and clear enough to be read. On it, with a beautiful font, is printed a poem, which, at one time, was meant for me. The person who sent it, is long gone and I guess its time for the yellowing sheet of paper to go too, but not before I share the poem with you.

One man in a thousand, Solomon says,
Will stick more close than a brother.
And it's worth while seeking him half your days
If you find him before the other.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine depend
On what the world sees in you,
But the Thousandth man will stand your friend
With the whole round world against you.

'Tis neither promise nor prayer nor show
Will settle the finding for 'ee.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em go
By your looks, or your acts, or your glory.
But if he finds you and you find him.
The rest of the world don't matter;
For the Thousandth Man will sink or swim
With you in any water.

You can use his purse with no more talk
Than he uses yours for his spendings,
And laugh and meet in your daily walk
As though there had been no lendings.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em call
For silver and gold in their dealings;
But the Thousandth Man h's worth 'em all,
Because you can show him your feelings.

His wrong's your wrong, and his right's your right,
In season or out of season.
Stand up and back it in all men's sight --
With that for your only reason!
Nine hundred and ninety-nine can't bide
The shame or mocking or laughter,
But the Thousandth Man will stand by your side
To the gallows-foot -- and after!

Every now and then, we meet people who we think fit this discription. Alas! its just a matter of time that they go away, move on or drift apart. What a pity that such beautiful words lose their meaning in the whole bargain.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Growing up -- in Pattaya.

If there is one person in this world, who according to me has the best job, it is Mr. Sanghvi. I have been reading him since forever and after reading every piece of his, I long a little more to be in his shoes. He travels the world, lives in the best hotels, eats the best food and writes well too.

I distinctly remember some of his early write ups in the Brunch -- the supplement to the Sunday edition of The HT. Post reading them, I really wanted to write to him and tell him how much I envied him. Some procrastination and a lot of hesitation ensured it never got done. Then Bangalore happened, there was no HT and hence no Brunch. Mr Sanghvi soon became history and my Sundays boring. Magically, life got us back to Delhi and he came back into my life -- by the way of his writings.

Tonight, I happened to watch half an episode of his latest show -- Vir Sanghvi's Thailand. I must admit that I am not a fan of his presentation skills -- he sounds mechanical and seems vain at times, but I can not help watching him either. In tonight's episode, as always, he visited the best places, stayed in the best hotels, ate the best food and met the most successful people. And he also took me down the memory lane -- eight and a half years to be precise.

Thailand was the first foreign land that I visited, if you exclude Nepal that is. It was an impromptu trip made possible by the help of my then boss. He helped us plan the trip, granted me a long leave and even lent his digital camera.

I clearly remember driving twenty kilometers to meet our travel agent. While waiting for him, we ate at Domino's, in the sweltering heat of June, standing outside the store -- those days Domino's did not have seating. In less than a week, the tickets were bought, visa was arranged and reservations were made.

We had a late night, Thai Airways flight from Delhi to Bangkok, the details of which I can not recall anymore. What I do remember is that I was super excited to be going on my first ever international holiday and it was on this flight that I tried alcohol for the first time. While I could manage white wine, I could barely gulp the red down, since it was far too embarrassing to send the drink back, I eventually added seven-up to it and finished it. D almost disowned me that day.

Arriving in Bangkok early morning was an experience in itself, while my nature loving husband went on about the beauty of the place and the sunrise etc, I was more interested in the airport. The Delhi airport was not renovated until then and was just a cleaner version of the railway station, the Bangkok airport, on the other hand, was swank -- to say the least, loaded with the brands that I had just heard about until then and food chains I had only dreamt of eating in.

I could have spent the entire day there but with D by my side, I had to stick to the schedule. I reluctantly stepped out, only to step into a Volvo coach, waiting exclusively for the two of us. Volvo was was yet to make its Indian debut and though it was just another car for them, it was nothing less than a limousine for the humble Maruti Zen drivers. The next two hours were spent cruising through the highway, overlooking the farms and vast green lands and occasionally, overtaking open Jeeps full of young boys and girls. In less than two hours we were entering our home for the next two days -- the infamous Pattaya.

When you have not been to a place, you have a certain picture of it in your head; then you see it and realise how different it is from what you had imagined. After seeing the real thing, you can hardly recall the original picture in your head. I too had a picture of Pattaya in my mind -- which I no longer can recall, but I had never imagined it to be what it was. Honestly, had I known, I would have made sure we never went there. 

To me, it seemed like some European town with a few South Asians thrown in to service the locals. The number of Europeans -- mostly men, seemed to have outnumbered the Thais. They were everywhere -- along the boulevard, in the cafes, on the road, in rented cars and on noisy bikes. This was surely not my idea of a holiday. Thankfully, our resort was at the quiet end of the promenade and I was spared the sight of half - naked, gigantic white men. 

Like good Indian tourists, we had most of the two days planned -- a customary visit to one of the museums, a trip to a nearby island, a concert in the evening -- the works, but there were still pockets of free time or as they call leisure time. 

So, in the leisure time, we walked -- along the promenade, to discover an unknown world -- a world we might never step into again. 

I am not sure if D was prepared for what he saw, for, he did seem a little stifled in the beginning but he was soon was cool with it. I on the other hand could barely handle most of what I saw.

We walked the streets where young men sold graphic trinkets - the details of which I shall spare you. We walked the lanes dotted with open air bars and pubs, bathed in red light -- literally, where women -- rather young girls, danced in tiny skirts. We were coerced by agents to get into adult shows at a measly price and we encountered blatant and open display of affection in public. My prudent husband was propositioned several times while I became non existent.

As if this was not enough to jolt me, there was the world famous Alcazar show -- a beautiful concert of sorts put together by transsexuals. The show in itself was amazing and I am yet to come across something as grand but what I saw after the show left me red faced -- as red as brown can get. The artists had stepped out of the theatre, some mingling with the guests, some getting pictures taken -- obviously for a price, and some just hanging around. They were dressed in costumes so elaborate that could put Brazilian carnivals to shame but these elaborate costumes hardly covered the bare minimum.

Now, I am not a voyeur and nudity always makes me uncomfortable but I could not take my eyes off them. They had perfect bodies, flawless skin and curves that would put women to shame -- yet they were men. I was embarrassed and awed at the same time.

To my relief, Pattaya was not just about the noise and the sex, it was also about tranquility and beauty. The town looked splendid early morning -- when the wild parties were over and the tired tourists were still asleep. The noise of the night was replaced by peace and quiet. The silence was interrupted only by the chirping of birds and occasional banter of the locals heading for work. The sea glistened in the early morning sunlight and the gentle breeze played with my hair. It was beautiful, all right.

Since then, Pattaya became a classic case of juxtaposition for me. On one hand is the beauty of the nature -- the beach, the islands, the water and on the other is the blatant display of lust and desire -- the dark world of sex and sleaze.
I am yet to figure out why, while watching the programme tonight, I was reminded of Pattaya and not Bangkok, where the episode was shot and which was the other city we went to. It could be because I learnt some valuable lessons in life there, it could also be because it was there that I finally grew up, at the ripe age of twenty six.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Marriage and a Fast

I have talked about broken marriages, unfulfilled love, sex and even justified adultery. In a nutshell I have sinned. So even as my stomach growls and my wrists are ready to disintegrate any minute - thanks to the non stop typing, here I am talking about the sanctity of marriage on a day that celebrates Marriage. God might just forgive me.

I married when I was barely twenty three. In the beginning the entire thing was quite overwhelming to say the least - work, home, husband - I had to suddenly grow up. However the freedom, the companionship, the love and the happiness that it brought along was amazing. The entire process of setting up your life as you like it, with the person you like - was liberating. More so because I had not been on my own until then.

Like all relationships, a marriage also grows and changes, while in the first few years it is more about love, romance and getting used to each other, as we grow up marriage is more about togetherness, acceptance and space. 

After eleven years of being with my husband, I rest assured that he will not judge me for what I think or what I write. Maybe that is why I am able to write uninhibitedly today. Maybe that is why today, after eleven years of being married I also realise that one day of fasting will not bring good luck, good health and long life to him. 

For the last ten years, I have diligently fasted for him, today however, I see no point in the whole exercises. I mean, If you are a good wife all year long, why would you need to prove it by fasting on one random day? If you are not, fasting for a day will not make you one. Most of us however fall somewhere in between and know it too well that some fast, some ritual and some obsolete custom can not ensure a life long bond.

Having said that, I must admit that I am fasting today, hopefully for the last time. It has perhaps become a part of me for the last ten years and letting go of something all of a sudden is often as unrealistic as it is difficult. This reminds me that today, as I decide to let go of the dependency on the Moon or the Sun or the God to take care of my husband, a whole new generation is being inducted into it. My sister and sister in law, cousin and cousin in law observe their first fasts today, hopefully like mine, their husbands stayed hungry too.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Thank God for Avi!

Just finished reading a post where the writer talks about creating a legacy - something that will remind the world of you long after you are gone. In the real world though, not everyone can create a legacy - not everyone can write books, make movies or build business empires, but almost everyone leaves some part of themselves behind - in the form of their children.

One of the greatest joy of being a mother is being told that the child is a reflection of her - the face, the mannerism, the voice and even the quirks. I know, I am not among the most doting mothers but I do love my children and the fact that they are a reflection of me - somehow it makes me feel good about myself. There however is a flip side to this - isn't there one for everything? - that often your child will also have to go through some of the difficulties that you did, by the virtue of her being like you.

Mishti, my elder one, is a lot like me and therefore I feel responsible for the problems I see her facing - now and in the future. At thirty four, after working for ten years, being married for eleven and being a mother for almost six - I have learnt to make peace with some of my demons and learnt to live with the rest. At just five, she is yet to figure herself out. That, the world, the parents and the peers expect her to fall in line adds to her woes.

She is headstrong, dominating, emotional, independent and rebellious, and like me, she takes very long to make friends. However, once she does, she is totally devoted, often the other child does not reciprocate with the same intensity and then the drama unfolds - the tantrums, temper and sulking. At such times, I am reminded of myself and realise how much pain I must have caused to my mother.

In a way, therefore, it was normal for her to be indifferent to children in her new school. She would not talk to anyone, stayed aloof and complained that other children do not talk in or follow English - the only language she was comfortable in until then. I completely understood her situation and was worried about her loneliness.

It was a great relief, therefore, when she met her match in a boy called Harshveer. After many months, she started coming home happy and talked about him all day. That he could talk in English and had as much interest in cars, animals, maps, sports etc was an added benefit. They became inseparable.

As luck would have it, he had to go away. She was heartbroken - another long period of sulking, tantrums and loneliness followed. While I encouraged her to make new friends and she did talk to other kids in school, I knew how difficult it is going to be for her, I after all have faced this many times.

After months, one day, she came home talking about Mummies and Egypt, quite natural for her since she keeps reading and exploring. Soon the topics became varied and she seemed happy. Sensing her growing excitement, I finally asked who was talking to her about all these things. I came to know that there was a new boy in the class who tells her about the Planets and the Solar System and talks in English too. His name is Avi.

I thank God for Avi everyday and pray that he doesn't have to go away.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Right or Wrong

Ten celebrity home breakers - who dated or married committed men - screamed the headline. I could not help but open the news piece - if I can call it that. It had names of ten successful and famous women, who had been in a relationship with married men. Here, their success did not matter, that they allegedly broke homes did. I wondered if the men were really committed, for, if they were, there wouldn't have been even one broken home.

The woman is made differently from the man, she matures sooner - in body and in mind and usually a man her age does not match up to her emotional maturity; she also instinctively looks for a provider and a protector. She finds all this in an older man, who, by virtue of his age, could be attached or married. As for the men getting attracted to younger women - I'd let a man answer that.

In my experience, if a relationship is strong, no one can seep in. If, however, emotional differences have already damaged the foundation, no one can save it. In such a situation, the third person is either just a catalyst or - more often than not - comes into the picture after the damage has already been done.
But why get drawn to some other person when you already have a partner? Well, I do not have the answer - nobody does; but we all know that it happens. Maybe because despite having a partner one is lonely, maybe because the love is lost or maybe because they are genuinely in love.

Since we live in a civil society and propriety demands us to live by some rules, some such couples chose to move on, some stick around - in whatever way they can and the more daring ones get married or live in. Mostly these relationships are termed illegitimate and immoral but often these relationships are the purest - because the two individuals are in it for no selfish reason but for the fondness of each other, if not love.

In such circumstances, the woman becomes the home breaker - the home could be hers or his. The man, almost always gets away scot- free, he's a man after all - footloose and fancy free - it is the woman's duty to be cautious. The saddest part is that such allegations are almost always made by other women. Men, from what I know, could not care less.

Now, I am not a feminist, neither do I think that a woman needs any privilege only because she is a woman. I have always believed that both men and women are equal, though, they may have to, or chose to, play different roles. In fact, I think at times it is the man who has a disadvantage, he is the one who has to earn the bread and butter no matter what - the woman can still choose to take it easy.

But such a bias against women leaves me bitter and angry; being a woman myself, I know the insecurities a woman faces, the fears she lives with and the hardships she undergoes - all for love, and yet she is the one to be called names. 
While I am the biggest advocate of marriage, I also realise that some marriages don't work. And since its India we are talking about, walking out of it might not be easy. In such a scenario, if two people chose to stay together by means of friendship, love, sex or anything else, who are we to term it as wrong? Maybe they are right, after all.