Sunday, August 31, 2014

a letter to my Crush

In an attempt (a tad rebellious maybe) to be honest to the only thing that screams "THE REAL ME" - my blog, I continue to write truthful letters. This is the second one

Dear Complicated,

I know of no other name by which to call you, as you had always complicated my thoughts. I write this letter so that I may finally, honestly, claim that I told you how I feel - even if I am relieved by the fact that you may never read this letter, or the fact that you may read it, but never know that its you I am talking about. See? I told you it was complicated.

The first time I saw you, I wanted to see you closer - maybe look into those eyes that were so intriguing. Of course, the stuttering fool in me ensured I could not speak even a few decent lines in your presence. Yes, you were intimidating - and I don't say this only as someone who had my heart on my sleeve - you seemed to have that effect on many people!

We spoke - many times, as our paths crossed often. I guess I noticed every movement, every glance, every syllable from your mouth. I had played it over and over in my head  - in slow motion, wondering each time whether you meant something when you said random words, or passed amused glances my way.

You were tall - tall enough that I could spot you in an crowd. I could recognize the sound of your voice, your laughter - and your bike from a distance. I knew all your best friends, and even became friends with them. But you? You I could not befriend - maybe because I was such a klutz around you, or maybe because you already knew how I felt and didn't feel the same way.

I have moved on - life has that to its credit - I found my love, my happiness and where I belong. But you, my dear Complicated, will always make me dreamy-eyed and weak-kneed.


The one who chickened out.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A letter to my best friend

Before I begin this post, I want to report what happened to me for the last few months. I was abducted by aliens, who tried to test my IQ levels by attaching wires to my head. They then discovered that there was actually nothing they could find, so released me. I think they are a happy lot now, since they think all humans have the same level of intelligence that they found in me.

Well, that really didn't come out the way it should have, but what the hell! I have decided I am going to write a few posts without editing it in my head. So anyone who is still out there reading this, go ahead at your own risk!

I have been inspired to take on a challenge from a blog I have been reading in my sabbatical.... errr..... alien abduction. Shail's blog has been one of the blogs I have been hooked to for a long time. And maybe, this challenge might help me kick my butt to write a little more often.

So, about this challenge - its aptly called a 30 day letter challenge, where we write letters (Yes, those things we wrote - not typed - to people who stayed far away, or people who we couldn't talk to in person. Case in point - the smuggled in love letters). And the first of these letters are to a best friend - so here goes!

Dear B.F.F. (that's what they call you these days, I am told),

Till a time in my life, when asked to name a best friend, I would have rattled off a string of names still leaving me thinking that I'd left out a few. Those were good times - when the biggest worry one had was that a notebook had been misplaced, or that lunch time was still two classes away! But these times didn't last, and along came what they called the young adult ( the 'adult' bit being debatable) phase - where we made world shattering discoveries and mind numbing decisions. But the good thing was that this phase also brought you along with it.

We've all heard of love at first sight, haven't we? But is there something called friendship at first sight? Because only that could explain the phenomenon we had. First time we spoke, we knew this was way more than pleasantries, or even just hostel room-mates. We had what could be called chemistry - one that was explosive and soothing at the same time. Well okay... explosive for everyone around us and soothing for us when we got in trouble together.

There were fights, weren't there? Little ones that made us miserable and big ones that made us take irrational stands. But when it came to standing up for me, you had done it - whether  I was right or wrong. You walked with me, when it was against every shred of survival to do so. You fought with me to stop me from making decisions obviously clouded by love, hatred, foolishness or alcohol. And when I eventually did do what I wanted to, you stood there to pick me up and dust me off to face another day.

Life may have taken us on strikingly parallel paths today, with so similarity, yet so much geography between us. But the most wonderful thing about you and me is just that - it doesn't really matter how far away you are - you are always the first one I think of calling when I have a secret to share. I can only hope that I have been as giving as you are, in this crazy journey we call life.

P.S. You know we should have just run away together!! :-)

Your crazy friend

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Why the Success of Queen is so heartwarming.....

The world and their aunts are raving about Queen. I had tried to keep away from as much of the review as I could - for the simple reason that I didn't want to create hyped up expectations. But it was difficult to do, with everyone talking, writing and debating about the movie, and Kangana's depiction of a first-of-a-kind coming of age film of a woman.

Ofcourse the film delivered - passed through flying colors on every expectation. Let me attempt a list without giving away too much of the story...
  • Bang on depiction of the much talked about middle class, protective, loving, yet patriarchal family (asking the fiance whether she could work, the little brother tagging along everywhere she goes etc)
  • Kangana's face acting as a wonderful canvas of emotions - shock, frustration, fear, awe, resignation, anger, realization, and ofcourse, disillusionment, enlightenment and sheer joy.
  • The dream supporting cast - beautiful and bold women, sensitive and easy-on-the-eyes men. (yes indeed, there are guys that can make you swoon just by blinking their eyes)
  • Oodles and oodles of inner strength and courage - not to mention humor
But this post is not a review, it is an awed realization that we have, unanimously, as a nation, welcomed the movie with open arms. A movie which has shown 'culture' and patriarchy on a lighter vein. We have not taken to the streets protesting that the movie has 'corrupted' the minds of our 'behen-beti'; or that there are semi-nude sex workers sharing screen space with the protagonist. We have laughed at the chest-beating auntyjis and the overbearing mummyjis and the confused desi-turned-pseudo-videsi groom.
In the theater, it was a welcome sight to see women and men of all ages living through the ordeals and little triumphs of a lovable young woman, who is an unwilling, unaware champion of equality. Yes, she strikes a chord with many of us, but whats more is that, she made us think.
This is a post written with a smile that comes from realizing that all may not be lost, yet. For surely, a society that can look at the portrayal of a woman breaking free of years of patriarchal conditioning, can, someday, accept that this will happen in real life too. Right?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Why Feminism is everyone's job

Spicy Saturday pick for 8th March

 Debates and outrages have been expressed for and against the 'feminism' wave that has been doing the rounds. And yet, if you go around asking people the meaning of feminism, you get answers that make you cringe.

Some definitions by 'educated' men and women:

  • "Feminism is where women want to be men" - accompanied by a smirk
  • "When women do not want to do any housework, or take any responsibility, its called feminism"
  • "When they want to party all night like the boys" - this came from a so-called liberal lady in an urban household
  • "Feminism is anything that tells the women that our culture is bad."
The dictionary says that Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women - not more, not less.

A corollary here - is feminism only a woman's prerogative? Is patriarchy only a woman's problem? I am guessing most of us, even the feminists among us, think it is. Unknowingly, we slight this very important revolution by assuming it is a woman's issue. Truth is, our patriarchal views don't seem to be subsiding in any way because we seem to think that this societal movement is only relevant to about 50% of the world's population (even lower if you take only India into consideration).

Because if words like 'equality' and 'equal opportunity' and 'freedom' are meant to be war cries of only half the people (who are unaware, sometimes unwilling at that) crusading for this, it will never work.

Thousands of debates - big and small, friendly and ugly, thought evoking and absolute bullsh*t - come to my mind right now. All discussions speak of how men 'ought to' be some way or do something because they are 'considerate' to the womenfolk.

We all know what patriarchy has done to the women of our land:
  • the girl child is considered 'paraya dhan' and is raised thus
  • dowry and marriage is the prime worry the moment a girl is born
  • lets not even talk about dowry deaths, maternity deaths and child marriages
  • unequal distribution o wealth and opportunities
  • denied education or higher education
  • pressures to 'adjust' to marriage and married life
  • decisions on what to wear, where to live, who to live with are all taken by others
..... and the list goes on. I am not including here the macro issues like the rape psychology or domestic violence, which have their roots in patriarchy.

But does it affect the men? Let me rephrase that - does it really do no harm to the 'privileged' menfolk in our society? A few questions that perhaps the men may be able to answer
  • If the men were not raised with the pressure of being the 'provider' would they have pursued their passions more often?
  • If boys were not told that tears or emotions or vulnerability are a sign of being a 'wimp' or a 'sissy' would they have made better friends, spouses and parents; not to mention better citizens?
  • In the urban world today, wouldn't it be easier for men to find partners who they can connect with if there were no patriarchal rules to follow - for them and the women around them?
  • If traditional roles did not dictate who pursues ballet and who plays rugby, wouldn't many men benefit too?
  • Wouldn't there be fathers who want to spend more time with their children while their equal partners pitch in to be the bread-winner?
  • Wouldn't men themselves want to live in a society with added economic productivity and reduced violence? 
What we fail to realize as a society is that patriarchy did have a role to play in civilizations that were still evolving; perhaps in the nascent stages of these civilizations, physical strength was the only measure to decide who was superior; just like skin color was deemed to be the deciding factor in some societies. And didn't human race, as a unit, rebel against slavery, apartheid and caste systems? Why then, is the cause of feminism any different?

Today, defining roles, or confining certain roles or following different rules, based on people's genitals is just as silly as deciding to get treatment from a doctor depending on their hair color!!

And that, is the true meaning of feminism.

*let me tell you where this rant begins from - it has to do with the exasperating questions that 'educated' people have been asking me about refusing to differentiate between my son and my daughter. For them -
NO, I will not tell my daughter that dolls are more becoming of her than her brother's cricket bat.
NO, I will not expect my son to 'protect' his sister - because if the need arises, she will have access to her own brains, and be able to kick a** just as he would.
NO, I will not expect my daughter to rush in with a duster to wipe off spilt water - unless my son learns to do it too.
NO, I will not tell the kids that the Armed forces is a good career option for my son, and Teaching is the best option for my daughter.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Of Broken Hearts and Bonds

A young friend got his heart broken recently. Crushed to smithereens when a long time relationship did not work out. Of course, as friends, we all worry for him, and we all hope he comes out of this unscathed. This is not the only time I have seen a close friend go through a phase in life when all that matters is what they lost.

This young man is almost family for me and he is about a decade ahead of my son. My son and daughter hopefully have a long time before they ever go through something like this, but I can't help penning down my thoughts for them - whenever they are old enough to understand this! So here goes - for you, 'N' - and for my little Gs.

Dear little Gs (I know you aren't little any more),

Firstly, I know you keep thinking I am ancient and all that. Well, unfortunately, that's true - you and I, we are separated by a couple of decades. But maybe, just maybe, I may remember all that it felt to be your age.

You, my dear, are precious to me; and to many people who know you intimately. For us, you have a million wonderful qualities and a few flaws which somehow, make you more endearing to all of us.

Just thinking of you brings a smile to my face, and I find myself thanking providence for having conspired to bring you into my life. (ok..... I may have said otherwise at times, but you both KNOW how exasperating you two can get) Believe me when I say that I am proud of what you have turned out to be, of what you have achieved and of what you will achieve in your life.

What you feel today, is not something that I could take away, even if I tried. You might feel dejected, unsure and disinterested. You might also doubt the very existence of that elusive find called love. You may have a few bouts of I-just-want-to-sleep-out-this-nightmare phases, or a few days when you just don't want to see anyone smiling in this world.

But what if I told you that even if I could, I would not want to protect you from this hurt? What if I told you that this, my dear, is part of who will become in the future? Don't get me wrong - it pains me no end to think that you may be shedding angry tears, or may be working too much to fend off the pain.

But let me tell you what my heartbreak had taught me. It taught me that no incident is stronger than my own will to rise above it - as you too, will soon discover for yourself.

It taught me that trying to find my happiness in someone else is possible only if I am happy with myself.

It taught me that the strongest bonds in this world are the ones that you don't have to labor at. The bonds that seem to last a lifetime are not the ones that try to shape you into someone else - these are the relationships that accept you the way you are, but help you evolve into a secure, confident and truthful young man or woman.

But more than anything, it taught me that in the darkest, deepest hour, I have relationships that don't attach conditions to its existence - unconditional bonds that help me steer into actions or decisions that made me a better person.

Lastly, do not be scared to put your heart out there again, and yet again, my dears. For love, no matter how elusive, does find the heart that thrives on it. Oh, and while you are at it, do remember to laugh along through any opportunity that you may find - you wrinkle much slower that way :-) .

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Exams for Mommy - Condition Serious Hai!

Exams - the stuff that nightmares are made of, nights that you resented Dad yanking the cable connection off, or the cold winter mornings when Mom just pulled the snug blanket off to get you up before sunrise to do that dreaded thing called 'revision'.

Suddenly, the "seriousness" quotient of the whole world would climb up a few notches. Parents, grandparents, neighbors, the electricity board  (remember how the power cuts would happen right when you were ready to start peeling open the books?) and even the neighborhood stray dogs, would wear a glum, serious air about themselves.

Once past the mandated post graduation, I thought I had left behind those dreaded days. Well, think again. Exams have come back with a vengeance, and how!

No, I have NOT lost my mind, nor decided to shock my unassuming spouse and do my PHD. I am merely taking you through yet another agonizing phase of parenthood - one that no one warned me about! I am talking of karma coming to bite you in the derriere...... the kiddos' exams!

Even worse are the situations where you end up meeting other parents who are battling the same woes as you are. Some familiar situations during the exam season, where you wish people would take a heavy dose of anti-seriousness medications :

Scenario 1 :
Occasion : PTM meet (for those who still haven't been hit by the asteroid called parenthood, PTM means Parent - Teacher Meeting)
Teacher with a no-nonsense look and a dreadful looking pile of answer sheets in front of her. You know that one of those red-tinged white sheets is filled with your child's endearing but utterly stupid answers. Sweaty palms and silly smile, you approach her, looking and feeling every bit the guilty parent you are. After all, your child did score a few marks less than she did last year! You make an immediate pact with yourself to start spending more time on the child's studies from now on; if only the teacher let you off the hook this time. Instantly, you are transported two decades back in time, where you sat cringing in front of your teacher.

The cringing gives way to stammered responses when the teacher gives one disapproving glance at you. "Errr.... Ma'am, no I haven't actually made a time table for the kiddo at home, but I do ensure that he eats, sleeps, plays and studies regularly..... No Ma'am, I meant "play"... as in when the kid runs around with other kids and laughs hysterically when he falls and scrapes his knee? Not heard of it?"

Scenario 2 :
Occasion : Some much needed retail therapy
You are shopping with a vengeance, trying to get some of the exam depression out of your veins, when you spot a fellow parent, wrought with the same nightmares as you. The only difference - her child is the class topper. Needless to say,  you try to blend in with the surroundings, using the tiny mannequin to hide your enviable frame. But with the kind of luck you've been having these days, the super-mom decides to check out that very mannequin, bumping into you.

Ofcourse, the only think she wants to talk about is the exam syllabus and the woes of losing that one mark.You haven't heard half of what she is rambling about, and suddenly panic sets in as you remember your kid is in the same class! Panic converts into full fledged hyperventilation when you discover that said parent knows the exact page number of every question that has been asked since Man discovered fire!

Makes one wonder, doesn't it? We have managed to take the joy of learning and discovery, and convert it into a competitive sport that everyone dreads. Not just education, we do it with everything that crosses our path. Don't believe me? Lets see.....

Kiddo loves dancing?  Well, just enroll him into a dancing school, put him through  grueling schedules just so he can go participate in a competition. Kid good in sports? Well, lets just step in and take away the joy of playing and get her to worry about competing.

See the pattern here? This is the scary pattern of the very contagious disease called #ConditionSeriousHai
which can only be cured by regular doses of laughter, friends and tasty treats.

This is a post that has been written for the contest by indiblogger and Cadbury 5 star for the #ConditionSeriousHai contest.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Child's Play? Not so easy......

“Child’s play” – the  dictionary says that the idiom means ‘a task which is easily accomplished’. Really? Well, let’s take a look at a child’s life shall we?
'You thought it's easy?'

  • 6.00 am (or earlier, if it is close to exam time!!):  Wake-up call by a hassled mom or a screeching alarm clock (sometimes both)  
  • 6.15 am (while snoozing with the toothbrush / in the toilet / with the milk glass) Get screamed at by Mom / Dad / Grandparents / every other member of the house - for being late
  • 7.00 am: Pick up a 10 kg bag, and sprint into the school bus, jostle with other kids and find a seat. Then travel through a pollution laden city to reach school 
  • 8.00 am to 2.00 pm: Cram the little head with logarithms, chemical formulae and history dates. If really lucky, add a dash of peer pressure and sibling rivalry. Then back home through maddening city traffic and obnoxious levels of carbon monoxide in the air. 
  • 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm: Continue with the cramming, but with the tuition teacher, the dance teacher and the Kung-Fu instructor. (Oh! I forgot – if the parents are ambitious, add a few more classes like horse-riding, ballet, advanced trigonometry and not to forget the most important – entrance coaching!!) 
  • 6.00 pm:  Math homework, Science projects, and English assignments. Not to mention the discussion with Mom and Dad why Rahul scored more than Divya, or why Sakshi could get that sum right and David couldn’t. 
  • 10.00 pm:  Dinner, and set the 10 kg backpack for tomorrow’s battle.  (Sometimes, crash out on the couch before dinner out of sheer exhaustion.)

Sigh!!!! Now exactly which part of this punishing ritual seems easy

Needless to say, once a human being becomes a parent, their entire world starts to revolve around the little divine beings called children. Rightly so too, because children are, after all, the future of the world.As parents, things that did not seem to matter a few years ago suddenly seem to be the most important things : whether almonds help in memory, or whether the cartoon show has too much violence in it when the cat gets hit by the mouse, or the most common – whether the child is healthy.

Health of their children is on every parent’s worry list, and so it is in mine. From the moment I knew there was a little heart beating inside of my body, I had started worrying about my baby.  And once she was born, every little yawn, every little sneeze and every tearful cry brought out the worst thoughts in my head.

Gradually, I learnt, along with the equally astonished father, that immunity was the key to ensuring the little one lived a normal, healthy life. The first lesson we learnt was that health was NOT equal to just proportional height and weight.

Surprised? Well, yes, growth of the body was a definite indication, but that was not all. What also contributed, was the healthy growth of the body and mind.

The second lesson was that you can’t control everything in the life of the little one – such as allergies, or little bumps on the head from the trying-to-crawl days. So yes, there were external factors and internal factors that affected the immunity of my precious one. I could, for example, ensure that my little one wore her snug winter clothes, but she would still sneeze when we stepped out into the cold. The only solution to combat the external factors was to ensure that her little body was strong and her little mind was agile – by working on her integral immunity by ensuring a few basics

  1. Natural Nutrition : This is first in my list, because it is something that is strongly influenced by the parents. Conscientious parents work towards a balanced diet, ensuring all the necessary minerals and vitamins are available to the growing body. Natural foods, with minimal processing, is the best source. This, along with any supplements (such as this) for rare vitamins and minerals forms the best shield against ailments. We Indians, have a rich heritage of Ayurveda to aid in this front. 
  2. Activity : Play in an open green area is not only a healthy choice for exercising the muscles. It also helps increase metabolism, oxygen intake, and a holistic development of a child – the laughter that fills your life with joy is bonus. We had ensured that the children had access to gardens, swings and trees – TV, computer games and I pads were only when it was raining outside. And guess what – they never complained!
    The best form of Vitamin D - and laughter!!
3. Education : Let me reiterate – not literacy, but education. This meant we had to educate them of each and every practice that made them a better human being, and created a happier environment around them. Ofcourse, this was easier said than done. We had to change so many of our own habits to ensure that the children had the right example.

4.      4. Conviction and hope : This is perhaps, the toughest ingredient. In a time when the whole world is trying to outdo each other, staying true to oneself is something that determines one’s mental health. Similarly, optimism and hope adds to their well-being. 

The underlying prerequisite is that growing children need to be immune to the stress, the various illnesses and the exhaustion that they are constantly handling. Only once this is ensured, can proper development of their mental and their social skills occur. This in turn, ensures a stronger, healthier nation.

This post is an entry for the "Immune India" contest by Indiblogger and Dabur India.