Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A thought

Somebody once told me that every pregnancy was different. I am beginning to think every marriage is also so.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

In Front of the Taj Mahal

I guess absence makes the heart grow fonder and with me and hubby being in different ends of the country, everything reminds me of the times we spent together.

Perhaps it would not be an entire truth if I said we never thought of each other as more than friends during graduation at least not in the very end. Of course, our friendship was too precious to be spoilt by a passing fancy. Practicality and logic always took the first place as compared to any ideas of romance. Still, I remember an incident in the All India Tour when we went to see the Taj Mahal. Everyone was taking photographs in front of the Taj Mahal. I had left my camera behind in the bus and was too proud to ask anybody to take one of my photos. I was loitering around when he came to me after his session of photos.

“Are you sure you don’t want a photo in front of the Taj Mahal?” He asked. “Everyone is taking. I can take one of yours you know” he said.

I was still hesitant, still proud. So I said to him smiling “I will come here once again with my better half and at that time, I will take a photo with him”. I looked up at him and suddenly from depth of my heart came a voice. ‘How I wish that it would be you’. Of course, I did not say anything at that time.

Years later when I confessed to him of this conversation and the thought which came with it, he said he remembered it very well.  Because at that very moment, he had thought “I wish that your better half was me”.  Two wishes which arose like a gentle breeze, touched us briefly and finding no keeper, floated away for the time being…

I guess the souls of Mumtaz Mahal and Shahjahan still lingered in that mausoleum.

Maybe they took pity on these wishes and gave them a temporary refuge. 

Maybe they recognized the love that lay buried somewhere deep in our hearts. 

And maybe they appealed to the Almighty for us; 

for I did go back to the Taj Mahal.

I did take the photo in front of it with my better half.

And both our wishes had come true.

Touch Wood.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Story time - Birbal Ki Kichdi (Birbal’s Kichdi)

By now you must be knowing of my partiality to short stories. More than once have  I mentioned it in my blog. One such story is “Birbal Ki Kichdi”. Yesterday I was thinking about this post I always wanted to write and it had a small reference to this story. So I thought why not share the story with you first. This is one of the numerous anecdotes of Mughal Emperor Akbar and his witty Minister and friend Birbal. We had this story to study when I was 8 or so. So in case anybody knows the story well and finds a lot of deviations please bear with me as I rely on an almost 20 year old memory.

It was an extremely cold winter that year. River Yamuna was freezing and that gave Emperor Akbar an idea for a contest. Anybody who could spend a whole night standing in the waters of Yamuna up to their neck would win a hundred gold sovereigns.  Many tried and failed and at last there was one Brahmin who succeeded. Pleased Emperor Akbar invited him to the court to award him his gold coins.

In the court, Akbar asked the Brahmin how he managed to complete the feat when so many others failed. The Brahmin explained that every moment he was in the water; he was concentrating on a lamp on the top of the watch tower which was in the other end of river Yamuna. And while he did so he felt his body to warm up and thus he could stay in the water for the whole night.

“But that is cheating.” Someone in the court called out. “He survived on the warmth of the lamp”. The cry was taken up by others and Akbar fell for it too. He revoked the award, admonished the Brahmin and sent him away warning him never to cheat again. The dejected Brahmin went away. Birbal was there among the courtiers and he vowed that the Brahmin would get his rightfully earned reward. 

 The next day the Emperor and the Ministers got a special invitation from Birbal for lunch. In his invitation, Birbal said that he himself would prepare a delicious Kichdi for all. (A very tasty Porridge type dish- it’s a comfort food for many here in North India). So the Emperor and the Ministers reached Birbal’s home promptly. They were warmly invited in by Birbal and who proceeded to wash their hands and allot them their places. Then Birbal apologized for the delay as the Kichdi was still cooking and asked for all to wait. Everyone happily complied.

Every 10 minutes or so Birbal would go check on the Kichdi and then report that it might take some more time. When minutes turned to hours, and stomachs began growling, and tempers began to get soured, an enraged Akbar burst out. 

“Enough Birbal. The time has passed for the Kichdi to be cooked two or three times. How come your Kichdi is not yet cooked? Show me your Kichdi,” he commanded

Birbal took him to his kitchen. The courtiers followed the Emperor too. And Lo Behold! What did they see?

They saw that there was a pot of porridge alright but it was hung from a stick about one and a half times the height of a person and a small flame in the ground below it.

Emperor Akbar’s anger knew no bounds.

“What is this Birbal” he thundered. How do you expect the porridge to get even warm, forget getting cooked? How do you expect the heat to reach the pot?”

“Why your highness!” Birbal replied. “If the Brahmin can get heat from a small lamp on the top of the watch tower which is a hundred times the length of this stick, then definitely my Kichdi can also cook, can it not?” Birbal’s eyes twinkled.

The emperor was dumb folded at first but soon the twinkle in his eyes matched those of Birbal’s’. He quietly went back to the palace.

The next day, the Brahmin was invited, honored, apologized and awarded 200 gold sovereigns for his extreme will power.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Prisoners of Birth

When the climate turned pleasant, I took to drinking my morning protein X sitting on the stairs in the balcony gawking shamelessly around me. That fine day, I was greeted by a sight of my darling tulasi plant and a group of bulbuls on the tree in the left of the park. Then I noticed the old lady in the opposite line, in the house nearest to the park worshiping her Tulsi plant. I saw children go for their morning walks, girls with blue and pink t shirts. The always smiling uncle (brother is nearer age wise) was cleaning his car and the boy in the opposite  right lower house was wiping the courtyard clean.

Have I told you about this boy? Do you remember the post on compassion where I told about the MLA lady and her son? Well I don't know if they are MLAs but they are politically connected. Anyhow there is this boy in their house around 10- 12 maybe. I see him at various time doing chores. I do not support child labor but after coming here I have realized that it is quite the norm and nonchalant as it sounds, I cannot do anything about it. My maid was 17-18 when she joined me and I think that too is not much. I have always wondered about him and I look at him shamelessly too. He knows that I am interested in him and sometimes he smiles shyly but never looking at me.

Do you wonder why I don't report this to anyone? Because, I think he may be better off here. I do not know his history and he does not look abused. He looks confident and diligent. His clothes look as if they were bought for him though of course not of the quality their son wears. I wonder if his family benefits by him being here. I wonder if that's why they sent him here. Maybe they were destitute. Happens you know. It happens here.Sometimes; I do wonder whether he might be doing all the work in the house as I have not seen a maid ever enter the home. Or maybe she comes later on. He keeps the trash out, runs and opens the door whenever any family member comes, is the playmate for the son and seems always ready but I have never seen him being treated in a bad way at least from outside.

I see the way he is being groomed. In 15- 20 years I see him as being the right hand man of the son who might be around 3-4 years younger to him. The son might go to politics too. I wonder how this boy feels about his situation. I wondered aloud to my hubby whether this boy compared himself with the son after all both were almost the same age. Would he have asked god, 'Why was I born in my family and not his (son's)'.My hubby consoled me sighing, "We are all Prisoners of Birth" True. We are. Children, I guess, accept it faster than adults.

But one day the difference was too stark for me to forget. I had taken a half day leave and was waving hubby from the balcony. Suddenly a mini school van screeched in the place in front of my house. Before it registered in my mind, the boy had come running outside to the door of the van. The son was sitting in the front sea with the driver (clearly a seat of high importance. It was always empty for him). He jumped out with his bag. The boy took the bag from him the very next moment and the son strutted towards his home with the boy lugging his bag behind him. Never have I seen such differences in the same frame. This boy too should be going to school. This boy too should be getting an education. But unless I can take responsibility for him all I can do is sigh and thank god for our own fortune and hope someday I may be of better use.

Prisoners of Birth...I guess we all are.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Read an awesome article today

Someone told me, if I had a girl child, it is better to come back to south India instead of living near the rape capital of India and that if it is was boy , it was easier to bring him up, (seeing how many girls are being raped ). I replied that I am more scared of bringing up a boy child than a girl child. This lady so much explains why I say so in her post, How we teach Our sons to Rape.

Thanks IHM for giving us the link.

 It's an awesome awesome article.

Please do take the time to read it and for God sake don't dismiss it as something that happens only in America.

Stuck in the middle

Today I was reading this post and some of the comments below it about the Hijab (The practice of Muslim women covering themselves from top to bottom due to religious obligations). I normally refrain from commenting on this topic. Though some commentators have talked about the fact that some women do wear it by choice, some others think that these women think they have a choice and some others say that they are talking about people who don’t have a choice. I am not sure how to address the reactions and counter arguments which come to my mind. Maybe someday I will.

I personally am a confused person as far as adopting the practice of covering my hair goes. Personally I actually like covering my hair. I actually like it but I don’t do it because someone, someone who I have an extremely high regard for told me I was not a good girl if I did not wear the scarf. At that point of life, I did not lie, I never gossiped, I was never jealous or envious of others, I took the ‘right’ path even if was against my peer’s path, I always thought of the other person first whether that person was good to me or not. So naturally, I was irked. I was so irked that I refused to wear the head scarf after that. I did not think a mere scarf over my hair could define how “good” I was.

I actually like wearing the scarf but I am afraid to do so. I am afraid to do so because I don’t know how I will be perceived by the non-scarf wearers (and the scarf wearers) if I suddenly adopt wearing the scarf. I don’t want to be perceived as a religious douche and I don’t want to be thought as a good Muslim just because I wear the head scarf. I don’t think my faith is dependent on how I dress.  I am supposed to be liberated but in reality, am I??? Am I not coerced into something too? So where do people like me stand? I am yet to find the answer.

 On a continuing yet different topic, what actually does this word “Choice” means?
 Like in the case of new moms. I see many people take sabbaticals of two to three years for the upbringing of the baby until he/she becomes a kid. They regret that their life comes to a standstill, they lose opportunities because of this but they say it's ok because they say it’s their choice, for their family for their baby. But is it? Do they have an equal or at least nearly equal alternative?  Then how can that be a choice when there are no reasonable options?

I would be judged either ways. I can live with it, but why should I be judged at all?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Please ignore the previous Blog post....

For those who got the post "Painting on the wall" through mail. I have removed it from my webpage.

It was just the first draft, not even completed and extremely extremely...in a raw form. I published it without knowing. hmmmmm...... Sorry.

The Painting on The Wall

Keshav could take some more time, so Zareena thought she may do some cleaning. There were so many stuff lying around for no particular reason. She looked into a box kept on top of the cupboard. It had a dusty old candle and an equally dusty night lamp - the small one with a plug and a glass slide with an impression of a mosque and a moon on it. She took it in her hand, sat down on a chair, dusted it lovingly and looked up the wall where the painting of Ganapathi was hanging.

Zareena and Keshav had married defying conventions. Inter religious marriages especially Hindu - Muslim were bound to fail because of the great differences in lifestyles and beliefs-  they had been told. The very first difference did come when they began to hang the paintings they got as gifts for their marriage. But here was a dilemma. Zareena was not used to paintings of Gods or living things. For her, having them did not give her a homely feeling. She told that to Keshav.

 "Well, not having them does not feel like my house. I am as used to them in my house and you are not used to them not being there". He said. Well he had a point. After all it was "their" house.

So they made a deal. No more paintings other than the three they already had - and that too because they were beautiful and not because of  any religious connotations. The others would be of flowers. "Deal" Keshav said. Of course buying paintings was a costly business, so Zaree picked up around 6 small paintings for around Rs200/- from the nearby Sarojini market and hung them in different places. Both were happy.

But it was not over yet.

They soon decided to buy a vacuum cleaner. While Hubby Keshu was looking at the vacuum cleaners, Zaree's eyes fell on some very beautiful glass slide night lamps with impressions on them - Some of Christ, various Hindu gods,Mosques, Arabic inscriptions and moons. A person with weakness of pretty trinkets they caught her attention. She wanted it more than ever and searched for a religion neutral slide but none were there. At last a beautiful solitary crescent caught her eye. And she asked Keshu for his opinion. Imagine her surprise and hurt when the normally generous Keshu vetoed it.

"But why"

"It’s a waste of money"

"But it only costs 50 rupees. We spend 100 rupees just for a coffee in coffee day". She persisted.

He became more and more stubborn. "You didnot count the electricity bill." He replied. 

"Ok now you are just saying something for the sake of saying something. What is the real reason?" she insisted.

"I don't like how they commercialize religion and sell it. They know people buy them for that sake only."

"I was not buying it for that reason. There was no other slides and I really think it’s beautiful. Anyhow, what about the Ganapathi painting hanging in the wall? That's way more costly too. You have no problem with that."

"Well that's beautiful. This is just a moon, and not even a full moon."

"Well what's beautiful for you need not be for me and what is beautiful for me need not be for you. Ganapathi feels familiar to you so you think it is beautiful. This crescent feels familiar and beautiful to me. How would you feel if I refused to keep the painting anymore because I felt that it was not beautiful?"

"But You said it was beautiful".

"That's because I can see it as a painting only. Well, I don't think it's beautiful anymore. I am going to remove it. so there" Zaree replied exasperated.

They had started bickering like kids.

Suddenly both became aware that all this argument was taking place in a store and the store boy who was showing the vacuum cleaner was loitering uncomfortably a bit far off.

Keshu quickly finalized the cleaner while Zaree moved away looking at other things.

"You can buy it if you want" Keshu said in a reconcilitary tone coming to her. But she was too hurt and angry ."No thanks Keshu the moment is gone . Its beauty has been spoilt." Zaree  replied coldly. Keshu didnot say anything. Zaree knew Keshu was hurt now but she didnot care. 'How could he grudge me a small trinklet citing religion after all the adjustments I had made'. She thought self pityingly.

They had reconciled soon later and the incident was forgotten. Zaree of course didnot pack off the painting as she had threatened but it did irritate her sometimes.

She was making biryani for Eid and Keshu had just come from the market. While rummaging the bag Zaree saw a small rectangular box ."What's this Keshu?" she asked opening it. Out came a small night lamp with a glass slide with the impression of a mosque and a crescent.

It was more than  2 months. Poor Keshu, She smiled lovingly. It has been in his mind for this long.
Keshu came sheepishly."Oh I wanted to gift it to you. You found it?" Keshu confessed he had felt bad about it for the last 2 months and every time he went out he had searched for it. Zaree was torn between accepting the gift and explaining herself. On one hand she didnot want to belittle his gift and on the other hand she was afraid he would think it was a religious thing. "you know keshu," she began softly.

"I really thought that the crescent was beautiful. I would have never bought this one."
Keshu nodded regretfully."I know I didnot think it was beautiful either but I have been searching for 2 months and I never found the crescent. So ultimately I bought this."

At last it had come to the open. You know keshu , I was surprised when you refused to buy this for me that day. I thought you felt that i might try to impose my religious feelings on you. Did you buy any chance feel so. Zaree asked again. We have to trust each other that we will never do that. I thought you knew i would never do that. She said.

Keshu replied softly.... I know that now.

Zaree knew that he did.

After that the ganapathi on the wall became a kind of symbol to let the other person know when the line was being crossed.  When  Zaree would feel as if she was pushed into the other direction she would quip- I am going to keep photos of Mecca and Medina just opposite to the painting of the ganapathi and sometimes Keshu would declare - Fill the walls with paintings of Gods - always jokingly, but the hint would be taken.... the message would be understood.

Now they didnot even need such messages, They had both found the perfect understanding. The painting in the wall helped to remove the obstacles of ego and hurt due to insufficient communication between them.

Zaree smiled looking at the night lamp in hand. They had used it that night. Zaree had happily switched it on. Colours filled the room. It was red at first, then green , then yellow. Within 2 minutes, it had began to give Zaree a headache. She couldnot sleep. It was as if she was in a disco. But she was reluctant to off it too. ...... All this ruckus for nothing?!!!!

But in 5 minutes, better sense prevailed.

"I am going to off it. My head it paining. You are right. It IS a waste of money. Maybe when we have children , they will enjoy it." Zaree said laughing.

"hmmmmm"..... Keshu murmerred

Did he smile in the dark??? She would never know.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Reluctant Homemaker

Note: I found this in my drafts folder. I had written this when I was newly married , around 2.5 years ago and was quite overwhelmed with the sudden increase in responsibilities. This is one of my fav. pieces. Thought it was time to publish it.

This title has been there in my mind for some time now. It keeps coming and it says to me "write lady, write about me."

She was not always a reluctant homemaker you know. She loved to play house house. When she got married and moved to her first house(admittedly rented), she lovingly set up everything, had wonderful routines, cooked up meals every day - 2 times, made snacks in the evening when she came back from office. She had specific plans, the laundry was always done in its assigned day, and clothes were folded as soon as they were dried. Yup, her house was up to her mark. The utensils were arranged in their specific places.

Her husband was not the couch potato type. No sir he was not. But Organization irked him as much as disorganization irked her. Now here is something you need to know about her. Her family will tell you she was not very organized as a child. So it took an extra effort on her part to stay true to her routines. A husband who not only did not care, but was positively against it, made things a little difficult for them both. Disagreements led to discontent. Now her husband was not a male chauvinist. In fact he did not care. What if there are clothes in the chair. No big deal he would say. The clothes are not folded, so what we can take it from the laundry basket. "Why don't you just hire a cook and ask the maid to do everything????" he would ask and the loving homemaker would frown. "A cook????? In her house.????? Never. "This is a home not a hotel" she would say. "If things happen like clockwork, it's no longer a home" he would argue.

10 - 20 disagreements later, both decided to meet halfway. He became a bit more accepting of incorporating something in their lives as long as it did not feel like a chore (rolling eyes) and she became a bit more relaxed. Both were happy but here is where the problem starts.

The Husband was organized even in his disorganized state.  But now slowly the loving homemaker began to turn to the reluctant homemaker. You see, when she let go, she did not know how much to let go off. Slowly she left her routines; she left all her organizing helps or tools. The laundry began piling up. The clothes were rarely folded. Meals became less planned which resulted in wastage of food and money. Grocery shopping was more random than ever. The house was relatively clean because of the maid service they had but it was more like a random rubble masonry. Outside you think it has order but inside, it was just chaos.

The reluctant Homemaker began to feel more and more demotivated. It would have helped if her husband was one of those typical Indian Husbands who expect their wives to take care of their house come what may . But what do you know, he was a feminist. What he would not do he would not ask his wife to do too. He did not consider homemaking the wife's job. It's good, she thought. But there were times she wished her husband was a little of the demanding type at-least sometimes as at-least that would give her some motivation. Any motivation would do...Even negative motivation.

Inner Motivation being depleted, external motivation being extremely less due to lack of girl friends of the same state in this far off place where even relatives visit rarely. Guests almost being a Non entity except husband's friends all being bachelors and they didn't care as the dining area where they were confined to when they visited always looked OK.

The reluctant homemaker began to feel the difference in her life. She was more depressed, crankier even though apparently more 'relaxed', and more numbber than ever about where stuff was in her own house. She started browsing online for self-help. Now there were many people who wrote about this. Many had excellent tips. Fly lady was her favorite. But there was a problem with every single one of them. The motivation factor was internal. Nothing would work unless you were inherently motivated. These sites helped those who had no idea about organizing. Not those who were reluctant to do anything. Tough call huh! No one can do anything about it. True. But, you know what that is the condition of many of the reluctant homemakers.

There was another slight problem. Most of the motivational sites were for mothers or for people who wanted to be a good mother, or wife or who were fulfilling the purpose of their life as their Lord intended them to do. Unfortunately nothing of these sorts worked for her. She would be briefly motivated but then she would fall back. Lists, schedules, nightly reminders in her mobile phones would beep at times, but that's it. Nothing would remain for long. What she wanted was a self-help group. Some group with people just like her. Not those who think that having a good home was the most important thing in the world or who were inclined to keep routines every single day. People like her for whom this was not easy.

The reluctant homemaker sits alone...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Writing to me is....

...talking with my soul?  Ah that's too melodramatic na?

I remember the first time I spelled my name in nursery. I was excited , VERY and I repeated it again and again to my father. My father was not very impressed after the first two three times. I remember him saying that's not your naaaame but I was too excited and happy. Now I think I must not have written my  name after all but all the same that moment was special. The moment when alphabets made sense. And now when I see the illiteracy in my immediate world I am thankful that i have had the opportunity to learn to read and write.

My mom writes. She is very eloquent and passionate when she talks about something. Her Tamil orations are a pleasure to hear though i may not agree with many of her thoughts. Her poems are very very beautiful for us, her daughters. In fact together with our rhymes and other songs, we often sang her songs at home. I always wanted to publish her poems and songs. But she refused. She say they are for God (All her poems are spiritual) and she didnot believe in publishing them. Well loss for the world and the Tamil Community  of my religion if you ask me.My elder sister writes too. At least she used to write and I think her writings prompted me to take up writing too. Younger sibling have an extreme tendency to ape their elders. I have driven my second sister crazy with my aping her in every single thing she did.

I used to write letters. A lot. I could express better in written words. I started writing diary when I was in 12 or so. I rarely wrote more than 20-30 pages but I always had a diary from then on.

My excessive day dreaming resulted in me starting two novels. My cousin was intrigued with my spending so much time writing and asked if  he could read it. I had barely finished introducing my characters yet i gave it to him. He read it and commented. "it's nice but it's too long". I got upset. "Its supposed to be long -it's a novel " I retorted but then lost my interest in it completely  and thus my two poor novels were abandoned. Hmmm, I was easily influenced by negative criticism. Not  anymore :) Anyhow, I was never meant to write fiction anyway.

Till then writing was something unconscious. It didn't mean much to me. It changed when I started a blog. I discovered that writing publicly required courage. The thoughts in my mind found freedom in the words I typed. This gave way to more thoughts and opinions. I found that it takes courage to have an opinion, and more courage to share it with the world. I have felt people normally have a very low opinion of their own opinions. The shackles of the mind seemed stronger than the shackles of the body. The more my thoughts and questions were expressed the more I got the strength to push the frontiers. I was no longer afraid to have an opinion. And I cannot tell how much liberated I feel when I realize that.

Putting your thoughts- your deepest feelings in a public domain - in your own name - is not easy. You subject yourself to criticism. You are afraid to write about something - what would XYZ think about me if he/she read it???? But that too is slowly being overcome. When I write about inter religious marriages or about anything that moves me or even a situation i have faced or overcome, a fear... something...anything, I feel somehow, somewhere I might make a difference to someone the way so many others have unknowingly made to me. With each positive comment (well with each comment) my confidence increases. Sometimes I think my expressing myself itself was the starting of a journey which lead to my marriage to hubby. Who knows where the journey would lead me next!

My Parents opened up the world for me. My husband taught me to fly and explore. My writing served as my wings. You may shackle my body with invisible chains....but not my mind...... My words have set it free...

And this is what writing means to me.