This and that

Decidedly Undecided!!

Decidedly Undecided!!

Before marriage it was my dream to settle in Canada, (anywhere abroad, really!).  This fancy had taken such a feverish pitch that my father warned every prospective groom that if he (the groom) did not have plans of living abroad; at least travelling abroad was imperative; I would assuredly refuse to marry that boy! So, if the groom liked me and intended to woo me and succeed, the safest bet was to say, “I am going to settle abroad after marriage!”Today, after 20 years of married life and few stints abroad I have definitely come a long way.

The man I married is a travel freak and always on the move! Thus, though we did not go abroad the first 7 years we travelled a lot in India itself. He refused to settle down! He must have changed 6 jobs in the first 7 years. Every job was in a new state and thus we lived out of suitcases for the first 6-7years! We would just about start getting comfortable at home when some crazy new opportunity would present itself and we would be packing our bags again.  The good side about all this was that we covered Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in great detail! Every temple, landmark, and place worth visiting known or unknown; we have been there! With so much travelling the thought that I wanted to settle abroad did not come to me. His next job opportunity took us to Singapore.

Singapore is not exactly ‘abroad’ ‘abroad’ if you know what I mean. It is typically mini Tamil Nadu! The length and breadth of the country can be covered in probably 3hours! So, I was abroad but not abroad really. I learnt to speak Tamil in Singapore; (Definitely not abroad). Technically though, it was abroad and we would be NRI’s. We had all plans of continuing to live abroad permanently. That was the mind set with which we left for Singapore. Finally, my dream of becoming an NRI was going to come true.

Very soon though, some disconcerting truths about being an NRI and what it really entailed came to light. My thinking and perception changed and I really understood what it was to be an NRI and the verity hit me that I did not want to be one. I started to wonder why in the world I wanted to settle abroad in the first place (back to indecision)!!  In Singapore I was searching for Indians! (Luckily, Indians are many in number, and enjoy a global presence). I was not very comfortable making friends with the Singaporeans because I was clueless about their culture, language, customs everything! Why would they want to befriend me? Like they had nothing in common with me, I had nothing in common with them either.

A new facet about me came to the fore front. I wanted to live abroad but among Indians! (What was this? I don’t know!)  This was one part; the second part was Indians abroad are different from Indians back home! The second truth was very disconcerting to me and I was unable to adjust to this for a long time. (I just needed to blame my ‘indecision’ on someone-something!)  I had a very different opinion about families which lived abroad! I used to think that they would be starved for their ‘own kind’ and welcome with open arms people from their own country, somewhat like they way they show in the Bollywood movies (what a load of falsity! such movies should be fined – banned- sued-something-everything!!!!). The other truth is with our booming population every 5-6th person you pass by anywhere in the world will be; has to be an Indian! So being starved for ‘our own’ was a far cry! The residents of any and every country may soon be starved to see ‘their own’ faces in their own country, an inevitable fact! We have over stepped rather extravagantly over the last 50years!

Amidst all this deciding and re-deciding and changing decision yet again, so on and so forth for the nth time and last time; we checked out our options of settling in Australia too! Singapore was a definite ‘no’ (I had decided!) because it was very close to India and had too many Indians! (The reasons I have, honestly! Till date I continue to wonder about my own sanity and maturity!). It did not feel like ‘abroad’ ‘abroad’. In that 2-3 year stint my husband explored his opportunities in Sydney, Australia and tried to convince me that if I did not fancy Singapore we can also consider moving to Sydney, bag and baggage. My state of mind changed again and this time it took an absolute about turn! I did not want to settle any where abroad! I wanted to go back home, to India.

We spent almost 9months in this state of suspended animation. My husband gave me a few other options, Malaysia, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide were a few of them.  He intermittently rubbed in my ‘original ardent dream’ of settling in Canada and may have also hinted that from here, as in Singapore or where ever I finally agreed to stay on; fate might lead us to my dream destination! Who knows? It was foolish to come abroad and go back to India and restart! It was easier going to a different country when one is out of India. The life style is better. The money is more. People abroad have a great work culture and follow the life-work balance exemplarily well.  So, he would be able to spend more time at home! He must have given me all plausible temptations and brownie points in favor of foreign residency. But to no avail. I had decided, I wanted to go back. That was all. I no longer cherished a foreign dream.

My spouse has another way of describing my ‘decisive stance’. (I am like the ‘kingfisher’; I stand on one foot and relentlessly hound him till he succumbs and yields to my decision.) So, the ‘kingfisher’ got her way and we moved back home (India), to Delhi! Our longest stay so far has been Delhi. We did do a bit of house shifting from a rented house to own house. We rented a house in Delhi and later bought a flat in Delhi (NCR) which is actually Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh. In NCR we shifted again from a smaller own house to a bigger own house. We did stay put in Delhi – NCR for 9 years but did not stop our travelling. These nine years we covered the Northern states of Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh (the now Uttarakhand too), Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh.

The day we came to a point where our travel wheels came to a grinding halt (our son had entered his year of board exams and such short stints and getaways were no longer feasible) my better half got a work assignment abroad! Atlanta, in the much sought after US of A; and the time to decide came to the fore again!

The two years our son spent deciding his future; college and the stream he wanted to further his college education in, my husband and I kept weighing our options on whether we should move to Atlanta, bag and baggage! We were still undecided and seeing our perpetual indecision, fate decided on our behalf.  The Atlanta assignment got over and a new opportunity opened in London this time! I was continuously reluctant to move abroad (finally decided) . America, Europe made no difference, and I was happy in India.

This time the decision was not in my hands though, and we shifted to London. My short stint of 6 months in London I was still unwilling to settle down abroad. Finally, I could decide that I was too ’desi’ to settle down anywhere in ‘Videsh’. I needed my comfort level and the freedom of indiscipline (Western world is too disciplined; scares me totally!). It was no longer about Indians and others. Everyone behaved the way the place dictated their behavior; “when in Rome do as Romans do”.  It was about me, I wanted to remain ‘desi’ in ‘videsh’ and kept forming opinions about others!

Like I said, I had definitely come a long way. This long prologue is to prepare you all for my ‘Dublin Diaries’…my mind set (not so ‘desi-desi’  anymore)  has decidedly changed (once again) after coming to this extraordinary place…

Thank You Salesman!

Thank You Salesman!

I recently went shopping to pick some dresses for my daughter. She was not with me, so I looked at a dress and buzzed her to check with her, if she liked it or she preferred some other color. This was taking sometime and the salesman got a little vexed (I think) with the delay. He had to wait on one customer for long and that may be taxing his commission (my thinking yet again!) He watched this sequence between my daughter and me for 3-4 rounds and blurted, “Beti apki hai! Usse kya pooch ke khareedna! Jo marji pehnayiye!” (She is your daughter! Why need you ask her opinion? She should wear whatever you buy for her!) I was a little taken aback by his tone and the way he made that statement. I did not call my daughter again. Whatever I had already chosen, I hurriedly selected and made a rushed exit!

This small interlude took me back a few years. We were having a discussion on the role of parents or parenting and someone had given this description: “The boon given by God to play God!” I remember being very surprised and totally in disagreement with that description. How could parents be elevated to the status of God? Especially the present generation parents; most of the middle class income group has both the parents working and the time spent with the children is negligible and devoid of any influence on the progeny. So, do the parents really get to play God for their children in this day and generation too?

The statement this salesperson made brought back the whole episode back and my introspection commenced yet again.  Everything that happens with me leads me to this one activity, introspection! (One ‘chewing the cud’ kind of person I am)

What kind of a parent am I? The exasperated air with which the salesperson gave his dictate definitely made me conclude that he considered himself to be God for his children! But, where was I? With my repeated calls to my daughter I had managed to irk him and my daughter too. She was happily watching some favorite show and my calls were an irritating interference for her. She was polite the first two times and after that she barely looked at the dress. Honestly, the salesman lost his cool before her; another call and I am sure she would have said, “Ma! Stop disturbing me! All are beautiful! Buy anyone of them!”

So, where was I? Taking her opinion and picking a dress of her choice seemed ‘stupid’ to the salesman. I was asking my daughter so that she could have a dress of her choice or liking and I did not dump something on her head forcibly. Children these are very choosy and like to wear clothes of their choice. Bearing that in mind; like a ‘good’’ broad minded’ parent I was giving her the freedom of choice!  Both boomeranged badly, leaving me to wonder about my stance. I definitely disliked the God status, so I had consciously stayed away from ‘trappings’ of that esteemed post.

Asking for my daughter’s opinion for every dress; that too when she was not remotely interested and would have been happy with anything I chose for her; I felt like I was more of a ‘guilty’ ‘over-compensating’ kind of a parent. Was I seeking her opinion because I was not confident about my choice? No! Whatever I have purchased in the past she has never complained. So, what had changed? Introspection time again.

My time with my daughter had changed!  We had a very busy schedule in the past; yet we (my son-daughter and I) managed exclusive ‘together time’ always! Now, we have shifted to a new country and it is just the two of us here, no work and loads of free time. Yet, we barely seemed to spend any time together. We both have an independent time table which has no together time in it!

This being a new place, school, friends, language, culture and everything else was a fresh start for her. Similarly, the place was new for me too. She got busy with her new friends at school, at home and whatever free time she got she was busy chatting and ‘connecting’ with her friends from India. I got busy ‘connecting’ with my friends back home and …. nothing! I was perpetually on the ‘wats app’ ‘connecting’ and getting most disconnected with all else around me! We would have continued this disconnected – connection pattern for longer if I had not made this short shopping expedition I think!

I was asking my daughter for her choice because as I stood looking at those dresses it hit me that I did know what clothes she had! I was clueless about what she needed! Whether she needed or not also I was unsure! What was happening in her life? She always seemed busy. School was good, at home she was seemed more than happy to be on her own with her I pad or phone or laptop. These were her constant companions.

Where were I ‘together’ times? In that busy schedule, back home, I had managed to keep abreast of everything that was happening in her life. Here, we had so much free time, yet we never seemed to do anything together. Introspection done it was time to act now; make the corrections before I really feel guilty and over compensate to assuage my guilt!

We made a timetable, a together timetable. We go walking together, if that is not possible for any reasons then I meet her halfway on her way back home from school and we ‘talk’. We have lunch together and ‘catch-up’ (she used to eat lunch watching some show on her I pad, and I used to continue ‘connecting’L).Now, I consciously stay away from my phone second half of the day, once she is back from school.

I now know what she is happening in her life. She plays cricket! Has learnt to play foot –ball and is getting better at hand ball. She is a good runner and is teaching her friends some ‘Indian –games’. She gets hurt way too often to be bothered about such silly scrapes and wounds now! She teaches Hindi to her classmates and has learnt a few Irish-Gaelic and Spanish phrases. She writes ‘fantasy thrillers’ (that is her area of expertise she claims!). I suddenly realized I have an ‘all rounder’ extraordinary daughter! She can just about do anything she sets her mind to.

These 2 hours of together time has changed many things for us. She and I share many things and enjoy each other’s company. That salesman did me a big favor. I never wanted to play God, but I don’t want to feel guilty and over compensate either! I hope to be her best friend and if possible help her feel successful, accomplished and competent in anything she chooses to do.

So, thanks to the salesman, parenting tips for you allJ. Spend time with your children. Connecting with the world at the cost of disconnecting with your dearest and nearest is …. I don’t have the right epithets.

Shades of Grey…London Hues

Shades of Grey…London Hues

About London again, this is where I am presently residing, (I am posting this article from Dublin, Ireland; wrote it when I was in London!!!)  the discovery is ongoing and a daily affair.  I started my sojourn in London with a heavy baggage of misconceptions. Thus, my learning starts afresh every day. I am enjoying breaking my own misconceptions and I am also enjoying confirming a few home truths I received before I landed here. Even with so much preparation and warning some things about this place continue to strike me odd and still continue to surprise me.

The first is the rain in London, it surprises me still. God simply decided to pour in these parts of the world; for reasons best known to HIM alone, that is all I can say. Every day, very expectantly, my daughter and I check the weather status, praying for some sunshine and a respite from this pervasive wetness and gloom.  There is a silver lining on some days and we excitedly plan our day. It happened twice in the last three months. Nevertheless, the gloom failed to mar our indefatigable good spirits and my daughter and I toured London in the rain. Rain became our constant companion. We started enjoying the rain and the wetness. It came to a point where we stopped checking the weather report. It did not matter anymore.  In an auto mode both of us planned our day, packed our kits, raincoat, jackets, cap, hood , umbrella et all and headed out to paint the town red!

Paint the town RED! That brings me to the second aspect of this city which continues to amaze me. The color of the houses or buildings in this wet land, they are all grey, all of them! God decided to give this city a gloomy, dark, dull, wet weather round the clock. The residents decided to augment the gloom a bit more by coloring all the houses, office buildings and shopping complexes uniformly in one of the most drab, lifeless colors one can ever imagine, GREY! Being one of the oldest economies of the world, the History of this place is Ancient! Almost every alternate building is marked as ‘Historic’ ‘Pre-Historic’ ‘Ancient’ or ‘Heritage’!  They all are a part of the past and look aged too, so it is very acceptable that they are all colored in the typically stone grey color. Many have moss or fungus covering because of the incessant rains. Stonhenge, National Maritime Museum, London Bridge, London –eye these are all old –old sites and are in ‘grey’ which is very understandable to me. But the newer constructions like O2 (Theatre complex where the likes of AR Rehman perform!), Shard (The tallest building in London which a panoramic view of the whole city from its terrace) the metro stations; all of them are grey or tinted grey glass finish! How weird is that! Houses, we re-do our interiors every 3-5 years, right? How many of us repeatedly paint them the same color; that too of all the colors why choose ‘shades of grey’ every time? India has a ‘pink city’, a ‘golden city’, a ‘blue city’ and these three colors are from the same state, mind you!

It’s as if just because God gave them a grey climate to live in, and live with; they have acclimatized so beautifully that they need no second color at all! They abide by the God’s dictate! The most popular jackets in London are Black or white! In the initial days my daughter and I used to be jumping and eager to visit the shopping malls, Harrods, Zarah, Debenham’s. Two trips were all it took. We searched high and low, every section of these places, clothes – black or white or some mix and match shades in between like off white , cream, grey etc. very very rarely we spotted a pink or a –sea green ( we bought those!). That is all. Even their crockery cutlery is mostly white! No second color choice in that section! My daughter’s school dress is Black! My husband’s office attire is Black and blue (the company he works for has color Blue; nothing to do with London preferences hereJ). The umbrellas are mostly black in color and the raincoats too! Goodness!

Funnily, the sports shoes come in all colors you can think of! From fluorescent orange, to dark green, to light pink, to a deep magenta and you are spoilt for choice! That was the surprising part! Now, when we visit a restaurant the usual practice is to remove the coat and hang on the coat hanger. Then, settle down comfortably in the cozy ambience and have your meal. When you are about to leave you reclaim your coat. The first time we were five of us, all in black coats, and all hung in the corner. Imagine my plight when I went to collect our coats…  I took one look at the endless black, black and black coats; beat a hasty retreat and sent my better half! If he picked the wrong one he had only himself to blame! I was safe!

The best is yet to come! London is such a wonderful place that sightseeing is kind of mandatory! Staying indoors because of rain, distances etc is a shame and a total loss to the visitor. So we did do a lot of sightseeing, and sightseeing entailed the next natural event of ‘memory collection’; or photographs! The first day we went out, we clicked many pictures and put them on Face book, sent to ‘family’  ‘wats app’ group and received many compliments ‘wow’, ‘beautiful’, ‘amazing, etc . Next time we went sightseeing, we again took pictures and as we started to upload the pictures we realized that they looked the same as last time! The first set was near Thames River (near our house, in Greenwich area), it was raining that day, so the jackets were there, and it was my daughter and me! The second set was near London Bridge, so Thames River again, raining too (obviously) so jackets were the same and it was my daughter and me again! Both set of pictures looked exactly the same!! Same people, same clothes, same place too, uh! So much for seeing London and different places in London!

I told my great pati-dev (spouse) that I now no longer needed dresses! I needed jackets and more jackets in all shades, every possible shade of black-white – grey. Till then, no pictures for family and friends, only happy sightseeing of this history enriched wondrous place which never ceases to surprise me!

Ki – Ka vs Ka – ki

Ki – Ka vs Ka – ki

From Black and white times to the present day coloured; High Definition; multi dimensional times India cinema has maintained one common thread; they all are bizarre! Most of them are surreal, bearing zero connection to realism. Some seem to start a bit on fantasy and a bit on a realistic note, but somewhere along the line they lose the plot or forget where they started; and what they wanted to convey to the audience. Some are so hard hitting and a stark naked ‘real’ that they scare me to death! Thus, without fail ALL the movies have this ‘idiosyncratic’ link. Despite this ‘common quirk’ hits and flops; highs and lows and making and breaking of careers have happened in the past and will continue to happen in the future too. Indian Cinema is bizarre and probably successful globally because of this unique attribute! The more unrealistic and away from the truth the movie is the more successful and alluring to the audience it seems to be!

Even though I still remain an avid movie watcher I have steadfastly stayed away from commenting on our Indian cinema’s diapason for this singular reason; the common thread! But the recent past or maybe the last decade has seen change. A blend of more realism and less fantasy, some value and more thought provoking genre of movies have started to see the daylight. I used to remember the songs and the intense acting in the black white era;  then nothing in between , nothing at all really, and then in the recent past I used to return home with some ‘food for thought’ or some light hearted humour to share with my friends or nothing yet again!

I was kind of getting used to the ‘less bizarre’ ‘more natural’ segment and suddenly comes ‘KI & KA’ ! It was advertised as a very ‘present day relevant’ ‘novel’ ‘most intelligently made’ ‘must watch’ ‘4-1/2 stars’ and the list went on…needless to say we waited for its release with bated breath. I sat through the whole movie waiting for the moment where I could connect to the raving reviews it received! If could have nodded in the affirmative to even one review I would have yet again stayed away from commenting. But it was way too big a letdown to let this pass just like that!

Thus this article, for the first time, about a movieL!! To escape controversy and debate I put the disclaimer beforehand; this is strictly the way I perceive the movie. Read and feel free to say ‘Yes I relate with your views’ or ’No, I do not agree with you’; that is all. That closes the topicJ.

“It is not about ki-ka or ka –ki, It is about the self and ME!!”—If the Mother had ended her last line with this dialogue, even then I would have shut up! Not commented and you would have been spared of this long article! Uh! Let me begin from the beginning now!

Give me one Indian man who is IIM (B) or IIM from anywhere or with any such ‘glorified’ qualification and the same mind set as this lead guy in the movie! Okay, let’s take it that there is such a person, not one person but many such Indian men are out there! What a waste of talent, mental acumen and business skill! And I would have said that for any IIM qualified woman too! One studies hard, competes and clears the IIM level of exam and competition with a dream of ‘home –making’!!  That itself was stretching it a bit toooo far for me! ki-ka all forgotten! Sensible human being won’t do it, should not be allowed to do it! Give the seat to someone else, and you prove your mettle elsewhere!

Let us pass that, now from the women’s side, how many women really have such exemplary culinary skills!? 9 out 10 women I know can cook well, true, but to be able to be recognised at the national level kind of cooking?!! That is a totally different thing to reckon with. (I am keeping my lips sealed on the TED talk!) And from the lead lady’s side, I don’t know a single woman who can’t cook at all! Every woman can cook! Full stop! One dish at least and NO woman lives out of ‘ordered food’ this is again something highly unpalatable for me!

Now for another angle, when in need of funds, the home maker here resorts to becoming a trainer! Makes me wonder, ‘He is an IIM guy; can’t he start a consultancy? Train in some other areas where he can create women entrepreneurs’ or something!’ ‘Start a cooking class maybe, given his culinary skills!’ He had to become a physical trainer! What a mind numbing boring job! And he is a success in that too! Showing that ki-ka is irrelevant! He can work and also be an excellent home-maker with equal panache’. When he got busy, the house had no food! How likely is that now? I know most women world over who are working; come home from work and cook! Most urban-living, present day families have working partners and both chip in! If the husband is busy the wife cooks and vice –versa! The movie lost me in this aspect also! I am still trying to get a grip over the movie when the last straw comes.

He is famous and she is jealous! She dishes out the choicest of foul mouthed epithets, he swallows them politely, and very dejectedly packs his bags (2nd or 3rd year of marriage mind you) and leaves his house! I am stumped now! How many Indian women relate to this? Better question is: How many Indians relate to this? He left his house, (he is the wife; remember) because she is jealous! Realistically speaking, a man can leave the house (this was the ONLY true thing) a woman will leave her career, sit home and kill her life but may not be allowed to leave her home! (if it is still the traditional background that we are talking about) and if it is the modern set up then she would still have held her ground, filed for a divorce, really ‘robbed’ the ‘pati’ off his finances via alimony and then gone her way! So, on both counts the lead guy leaving the house was, I don’t know, don’t have the right word yet!

So what to make of this movie? I am not sure what they wanted to show or what message they wanted to give their audience. I am sure it is a big hit and even if it is not, it definitely made good money!

From where I see, none of it is ki-ka or ka –ki; it is and always has been about the self, ME! All of us want to feel ‘worthy’ of ‘some use’ and that is what drives us. Working women seek appreciation at their work place and if they do not get it there, they search for the same at home! Similarly, a non- working woman (or a home maker or house wife) wants to be appreciated for what she is doing to keep the home together! If the self –esteem of a person (man or woman) is continuously trampled upon that becomes the problem. Indian women are hungry to become working women only to prove their ‘worth’ because ‘housewife’ is not appreciated anymore! A man who is not appreciated at his work place will be as embittered as a housewife, maybe more and vent it at on the wife!

Irony of the movie is, he is invited by Mrs.Bacchan, and he goes to meet Mr.Bacchan! Mr.Bachhan is very grumpy about having him over and Mrs. Bacchan is writing a note praising Mrs. Lead lady! Talk about confusion !

Man managing the house willingly is perfect and a woman managing office willingly is also perfect as long as the roles they have adopted earn them the requisite sense of ‘value’ and ‘self –worth’. It is really not about who brings the money or who is who in the eyes of the world. It is all about how valuable I am to ‘me’ and what is my real self worth. I am self reliant and self aware, I am fine, that’s ‘me’ it has nothing to do with ka-ki.

 

London Journal

London Journal

My London days have just begun and so bear with me, readers, all my writings will now be the hues of London. To be candid, I came here with many prejudices and misgivings. England had ruled my country for 200 years, looted, plundered and left it with a begging bowl. Today we are a third world nation and London is the land of developed rich. Thus, England never featured in my good books and I have a very cynical view of anyone who settles here. Probably why God decided to send me here, to be able to wash away all this idiocy and be realistic, live in the present and enjoy what is, rather broods about what was.

I settled in with great enthusiasm and gusto, new country and living up to his reputation my husband chose a very beautiful locality to reside. We are very close to The Thames River and the Greenwich Meridian, the 0 longitude – Latitude line is a place we pass by everyday!  This is very historically rich and every road has a story to tell kind of a place. And, lucky for us, we could come in the summer months, where the weather is at its best behavior.  The first month flew by speedily. My daughter and I were at our adventurous best and managed to visit the important landmarks. We downloaded the app for bus routes and found our way.

This sightseeing month we did manage exemplarily well because we had the app on us. The timings of the bus, the directions, the next stop, route everything is marked and comes up immediately on this app ‘City Mapper’. All we used to do was type the place we had picked for the day and press ‘search’. In a flash, viola! All the options come up with  beginning with how long it takes to walk, then the bus- train routes available, then in case we wish to hire a cab what would that cost us.  A rain safe route also is given and that was our biggest thrill; discovering this ‘city mapper’.  This is the fun of a developed country.  Within a month though we had exhausted most of the routes and the city mapper has worn its charm. This is a vice of a developed country! Boredom sets in even before the enthusiasm can bid adieu properly.

We now knew which bus to board, where to alight and what time the next bus came and so on and so forth.  So, we had shifted to our next interesting task on hand, observing the other passengers.  A very interesting observation was: ‘people here rarely smile’. Most of the faces look hassled or brooding.  Everyone had their noses buried into a book or the damn phone. Everyone had earphones plugged in as if it was a part of the ear itself.  Phone and earphones are ubiquitous and people talking to each other are like the appearance of ‘Hailey’s comet’! Babies had the pacifier stuck into their mouth; so the most crowded bus also is usually eerily silent. So, apart for an occasional ‘sorry’ (when someone is asked to make way) and ‘thank you’ (when someone vacates a sit for an elderly person) our 50 minute bus ride was in absolute silence and stiff boredom.  “Nobody looks at anybody anymore, even if they do; they have suspicion written all over their faces.” (This was a co –passenger mumbling to himself; I was totally in agreement with his disgruntled mumbling)

 

In India, asking for directions and making friends on a journey is like second nature to everyone. By the time we left our house and reached the destination we would have made friends with the taxi driver, the security guard, and asked directions after every 5-7 minutes and made friends with all of them too. I am not that social a person to begin with and I definitely do not ask every second person for directions either. But this sharp contrast of totally relying on the phones and never ever asking anyone for help had me stumped. I spontaneously would look up and smile or try to strike a simple conversation and the response is very akin to London weather; cold and windy (not forthcoming to say the least). They have people from all over the world and maybe that makes them very hesitant too, the lack of awareness of culture and rules of the place is a handicap. And when the technology is so advanced and omniscient they may wonder why this harried looking silly – smiling woman is trying to chat up with them. What could they possibly know which the phone in my hand could not answer?  Funnily, the bus drivers also are strictly aware of their routes and their stops only, ask them about any other route or if this bus is close to some area, they look blank and clueless.

Now, my present test is, by the time head back to India, will this place rob me off my smile or will I succeed in making a few friends and pass the smile on. Will keep you all posted as it goes; latest is I am kind of blending with the place or adapting to London ways. My daughter has earphones glued to her ears and I have started to read on the bus. Let’s see when the weather changes and I can dazzle this place with my sunny smile. Wish me luck.

Disclaimer: The picture is a download! but I have many answers for that question:)

Memories

Memories

Last two years have been a sort of transit or ’preparing for the big shift’ kind of years for us. Our son was on the threshold of ‘flying out of the nest’ and enters hostel life; join a college. And our daughter and I were to shift to a new country. So the last two years most of our conversations, (son-daughter –I) revolved around ‘memories’. What we would like to take with us and what was best forgotten, left behind.

I have always been an avid souvenir and memory collector. Any new place we visit I would insist upon  family photos, just the siblings, all together starting from having breakfast in the resort and winding up with  going back to the room and retire for the night. Everything had to be captured; pictures taken and savored for a future date; fond reminiscences for our leisurely time, old age. I collected innumerable small inconsequential trinkets of sorts, just as a ’memory’ of that place. Going shopping for such nondescript things used to be an exciting event for me and harassment for all the rest. Even photographs became a joke amongst us. We used to then travel a lot and so pictures seemed a time waste for the children. They used to get irritated and hide their face, make jokes and run away whenever I pulled out the dreaded camera. According to them I was being silly, wasting time and none of this really mattered so much. This memory thing was more of an individual fad than a collective consensus.

With time I too lost interest, stopped taking pictures and our last few trips we went and returned, with zero pictures and no souvenirs either! Finally I had succeeded in changing my mindset to suit theirs and they were happy too. Moreover, our travelling also came to a standstill the last five years. Increased studies for my son and my husband being posted abroad the room to make these trips were nullified. My husband travelled crazily because of his work and all he wanted to do at home was stay in, rest, rejuvenate and not travel again. It came to a point where presently, when we were packing up none of us had any memories. We had no recent trips, no pictures, and no souvenirs to pack and take with us to our new homes.

I gradually disposed all the old memories and had never created any new good ones and the quintessential memory of my life was missing. My son had his farewell and he took those pictures, but when it came to the house, and his family he also did not have a single family picture. He was not very concerned then. He was excited about going to hostel, making new friends and new memories were just around the corner for him.

My daughter, though, created a huge (must be a girl thing) collection of’ memories’. She took a lot of pictures with her friends, made presentations and video recorded her time with her friends. She created and gifted an album for her brother too, pictures of his cousin’s and growing up years.

It so happened that the one person who longed and cherished memories, namely me, had none to take with me, neither of the house nor of the people in the house! I, half angrily and half in an attempt at ‘emptying’; the house and the mind; had done away with photos and souvenirs. Nothing cherish able came to mind and I was more a realistic, pragmatic person packing the house and making the shift. This was in stark contrast to the emotional and sentimental fool that I used to be in the past.

Last week my son revisited the old house and messaged this to me; ‘Ma, went to our house. It was so vacant and lonely; looked totally barren. I took pictures of the empty house; my memories. I felt very sad.”  This message set me thinking, what do we human beings hang on to in the name of memories? I so fondly used to collect trinkets over the years and yet today I rely more on my memory for memories! I have nothing tangible for all those good times and yet many spring to the mind the second I close my eyes. The bad ones and the good ones alike seem to have found a permanent spot in the brain’s hardware. Unfortunately the good ones seem to have found a connection to the tangible ‘memories’ I had created for myself, whereas the bad ones somehow seem to have embedded themselves into my subconscious self.  I needed photographs to look, recollect my good days and moments whereas try as I might the sad ones became permanent residents. They had followed me to my present house too. I could not leave them in this big shift that I made. I had ‘emptied’ myself of the good and ended up paying excess baggage for garbage.

On the other hand, my son seemed to be more mature, he was enjoying his present and simultaneously collecting memories of his past. He had photographed the empty house and was taking with him his good memories. My daughter too had settled herself well in the new house and is enjoying everything. She speaks to her old friends and tries to meet new people with the same enthusiasm and gusto. Her tangible and intangible memories were the same, happy and within reach.

I, unconsciously, had developed the habit of storing unwanted memories and the attitude towards cherished good memories seemed to be very slack. I lost the habit of appreciating the small good things that were happening in my daily life. I was hanging on to memories with a very wrong attitude. My memories seemed to depend on photographs or trinkets. The good ones were dependant on tangible things whereas others (which should have been forgotten) were leaving indelible marks on my present. Memories were good or bad depending on the attitude I had towards them. The lonely house was a memory for my son, he remembered more about all the trips we made in the past. And here I was; I could recall barely anything of any place or moment.

My dear son, in his own sweet unassuming mature way had again given me a profound insight into my attitude and thinking of ‘memories’. I surely needed to press the reset button and quickly build an arsenal of beautiful memories, independent of  photographs and souvenirs.

 

100% Character

100% Character

There is a channel called UNIVERSAL Channel, here in London (where I reside these days) and I watch a few shows on that channel. Apart for the shows, which are a very apt ‘time waste strategy’ for my bored soul; the most inspiring part of that channel’s telecast is the advertisement or their tagline, if it can be called that;  they telecast in between every show.

They have different starting lines and questions; and they feature a different person, trying to share their story and inspire the audience.  Some of the questions are –“What does it take to keep your head when your heart is broken?” or “what does it take to smile and help others when your own life is a miserable mess?” Or “what does it take to speak up for those who are afraid to?” or “what does it take to win, when the world has already declared you a loser?” or “What does it take to keep your cool when you have the hottest temper?” or “What does it take to bend the line but never break it?” or “What does it take to show compassion yet be firm?” or My favorite thus far; “What does it take to find the why behind the who?” Many more such introspective questions and the answer to all of them is 100% character! This representation of character, and advertising it the way they did, touched me. The shows are all mundane, uninspiring and typical thriller or domestic dramas, and every few minutes this advertisement comes like a breath of fresh air. For me, this advertisement became the pivotal point of interest. In no time the show was a mere time pass and I looked up from my work only when I heard the background score of that advertisement. I eagerly wait for the new question and the new person they feature every time.

Many revelations have revealed themselves through these simple 100% character advertisements and there many ambassadors. To cite a few that appealed most to me; I always found jogging stupid and an activity which only mindless and jobless people indulged in! What did jogging achieve? And when that person said the exact same lines I was thrilled to the core! But what followed was the inspiring bit, instead of mindless jogging he went ahead and started a jog for a cause foundation! How creative and how honorable the gesture was. This person started delivering newspaper, milk, medicines and the basic essentials to the people in his vicinity and free of cost, on a daily basis! He became the jogger deliverer. And very soon others came forward and now the group has about 1000 joggers doing the same service in their neighborhood. He made a difference and showed 100% character, right?

Another story which is gripping is about a gymnast, who missed winning her Gold medal in her youth and has returned to claim the title after 12 years. She is past her thirties, single mother with a daughter who is 9 years old, a very improbable age to be in gymnastics let alone aspire to win a medal. But stubbornness put to good use is how she says it; “I am a stubborn person and I like to prove people wrong”. She has already won the local and state level championships and is on her way to prove her mettle during the forthcoming 2016 Olympics. When everything goes wrong and baits you to quit, yet you continue to follow your heart, it does take 100% character.

How this connects to me or what has this taught me may be the question in the reader’s mindJ.  This move to London has shown me many chinks in my own so called ‘perfect character’. I had a busy life back in India and I kept complaining to my better half about our move to this Godforsaken cold country where I knew no one and had nothing to do. I spent my first month watching the idiot box and these advertisements caught my attention. All their ambassadors have lived a life far more challenging and adverse than mine. My cribs seemed like the whines of a spoilt, luxury indulged kid when pitted against their real life battles. I did have a busy life in India, but today I am here, in London. So, there must be a reason as to why I have come to this place. I assuredly have a role to fulfill and something to accomplish too. I just have been wallowing so much in my own self pity that I have not figured it out. I am now putting an end to this self -delusion and learn the qualities of 100%character… do things I always wanted to do or chase a dream which thus far seemed out of my reach. If jogging can become purposeful, I am sure I can do also do something worthwhile and meaningful. All looks bright and chirpy again in this dreary London weather, figuring out “What does it take to find the why behind the who?” 100%Character:)

More to health

More to health

Health is not a matter of doing; it is a matter of being- Abraham Maslow.

Most of the couples I come across have one common grouse. Either the husband or the wife or both keep fighting the battle of the bulge. They longingly look at their wedding pictures and compare their weight, beauty and radiant youth and bemoan its loss with the lapse of time. Most women have the excuse of motherhood as the big reason for looking flabby and unbecoming.  Whereas, men are inclined to blame the culinary skills of the wife ,  work stress , mounting responsibilities which  lead them to health adverse habits like drinking –smoking or binge eating.  My observation has been that these natural physical discrepancies or variances become an obsession and result in mental ill health and long run psychological problems.  Women tend to get depressed and insecure and men are more prone to irritability, aggression and anger.  The package deal solution is psychiatrists, counselors  and beauty parlors on one hand and the innumerable  diet schemes, gymnasiums, aerobic centers and yoga institutions are the best business ventures to start nowadays. They flourish utmost and are eternally in peak business.

Whenever I switch on the television within a span of 30 minutes I see minimum 5 advertisements showing weight loss programs, diet plans giving quick ways to burn calories, new kinds of yoga combined with aerobics, Pilates and I don’t know what else.  All the programs talk about losing weight, looking beautiful again and being happy. The key to being happy is looking thin. The source of happiness lies in being thin. The path to success, self esteem, and confidence, everything one can envisage seem to lead into a health food store, a gymnasium or both.  We have lost touch with reality. We are so rushed for time; we are in a rush to lose weight also in a hurry. The focus is so much on losing weight the short way and effortlessly. Best results with least effort; more expensive the program more is our faith in its being effective.  The spiraling number of these programs and the ever increasing gymnasiums are a testimony to this.

Many cars are parked in the driveway of our gymnasium and people packed inside, walking on the treadmill to burn calories, with earphones plugged in playing some loud music. As if they are afraid to be alone, listen to the heart. No one has the time to meditate, sit calmly and introspect, even though it is free of cost. We are so dependent on health for everything we have forgotten how to heal internally.  Where our true happiness lies we are unsure, who we really are, we don’t know and what our true worth is, we don’t have the time to figure out. In no time visiting a psychologist or having to go for regular counseling sessions may become the trend and also the need of the hour. None of us is fit mentally and we all are running to gain physical health hoping that will bring a balance to our mental state too.  A person can be as physically fit as he/she is mentally fit. This toxic success has resulted in languishing people who live in the illusion of a superficially happy life moaning every second within.  They spend money in hope of a better tomorrow and forget to live today. They want to change the world and remain oblivious to the truth of their own insipid life. Are looks really so important; and if yes, for who?  Why has this focus on the external self become an obsession, killing the inner self?

Choosing the middle path saves us the money and mental tension too. Yet we work ourselves to the extreme. Moderation needs to be advocated instead we go to extraordinary lengths and spend on gymnasiums, diet programs and pay exorbitant fees to counselors and psychologists.  Introspect and be aware, listen to the voice within.  We rely so much on someone else, some other person on the outside, our true self lies cocooned, suffocated with all the external therapies being pumped in time and again.  Meditation imparts discipline and brings in the potential to listen to the voice within. The voice within advocates moderation, eat everything, do everything in moderation. Conclusively, meditate and stay healthy free of cost; panacea for all ailments, mental and physical.

Live- Alive

Live- Alive

Most of my introspection begins with two questions; and this is one of them- ‘Am I living or am I alive?’ The answer comes differently and from different quarters. And this is a question that keeps popping up time and again. This time the answer came from the most unexpected person and in a very surprising way, subtly telling me a lot about my attitude and human perception. We recently visited my dad’s place for summer holidays. They have a handsome Labrador and the wonderful creature taught me a lot about life, living and being alive. I wondered why what was natural to that fellow turned out to be alien to me. And what always appeared to amaze or excite him, seemed common place and dull, mundane to me. My brother takes him for a walk everyday and he is the official dad to ‘Rex’, their bundle of joy. My sister – in – law dotes on the fellow and pampers him silly. He gets away with chocolates, cakes and even rosogulla! He has a fine sweet tooth and eats papaya with equal fervor and gusto. Between the two of them the dog is the prime and most important member of the family and one lucky dude, you might add.  I looked at his life closely for the first time this trip. Despite heavy rains my brother takes him on his walks and I would think a rainy day that fellow would protest, be dragged and very reluctant to step out. But on the contrary, the minute he heard my brother’s footstep on the stairs he would make a funny gurgling sound and wait for him at the foot of the steps. Instead, he becomes impatient if my brother is delayed and growls in a very endearing way, prodding my brother to make haste. It was all very new for me the first 3 days and I also accompanied them for the walks, and I noticed that all the three days it was the same path, the same time, the same distance and yet every day (much to my frustration) the dog maintained the same enthusiasm and zest. By the time it was the third day I did not want to go, I was already bored; it was raining and smelly outside and we would anyway take the same path. But Rexy was as excited as ever, as if it was the first day and he had never been out before!  What was so exciting for him in that mundane routine which held no charm for me on the third day itself? How come he was so alive and I was not even living? I was jealous of the damn dog. Where did he get the naïve enthusiasm from? Why he was not bored? He dragged my brother all the way and kind of waited for my brother to roll out the same comments, “Slow down Rexy!” “Not that way!” “No, no! No getting cosy with street dogs!!” This bit I could at least mentally explain to myself in a rational way; probably Rex could maintain the excitement in the anticipation that maybe my brother will take him on a new route, maybe a longer path, maybe he will encounter a new friend. This anticipation was my rational explanation as to why Rexy maintained the same excitement every day.  The worse and bigger revelation was the way Rex reacted every time my dad walked into the house. My dad would have just then patted him and gone down the road to get milk. The minute Rex heard my dad’s footsteps he would start wagging his tail vigorously and bark exultantly. He would jump over my dad, as if it had been ages since he had last seen my father. Barely 10 minutes would have lapsed, yet Rexy would be overjoyed and bouncing jubilantly and lick my father’s hand. My father also indulgently pats him every time. This happened almost five to seven times a day. This bit amazed me. I mean what it was with that dog! My dad had just left barely seven minutes and this fellow behaved as if a long lost friend had returned after a year’s voyage. How did he manage to maintain this; the loyalty for my brother, the love for my father and us? It was so unconditional, spontaneous and fresh always. My dad’s irritation did not bother him; my brother’s anger did not change his attitude to my brother. Apart, for walking him my brother had no time to devote all his attention on Rex and my dad also absent mindedly patted that fellow, going out or coming back home. None of us really gave him special time. None of us spent extra time with him, we did not go out of our way to keep him happy or be in his best books. My mum fed him, my sister in law bathed and looked after his hygiene, brother took him for walks and was the disciplinarian, and my dad absent mindedly patted him coming in and going out of the house. This was all. Rexy still managed to make each one feel special and unique. All of them thought they were special for Rexy. They probably gave 5% of their time and attention to Rexy and in return got 100% of Rexy’s love and more. My brother was unwell last week and Rexy would be glued to his side, day and night. He did not seem to mind being stuck at home, with no one to take him on his adventurous walks. Try as one might, none of us could drag him away from my brother’s side. Similarly, anyone amongst them was sad or worried the dog would be able to sense it before others could. He was more alive and living a very worthwhile life, savoring every moment. Enjoying every moment as it came; unconcerned about what happened in the past and equally oblivious of what the future had in store for him. And here I was, either simmering about a bad yesterday or carrying that baggage for a prolonged period. This spoiled most of my tomorrows and also kept me in a state of anticipation and tension perpetually. These bad yesterday’s did not allow me to live my good today’s nor did they allow me to anticipate and be excited about a good future. It was as if I was barely managing to live and was never alive. I was afraid to die and I did not know what it was to be alive either. Neither good events could excite me nor the mundane did .I had forgotten to enjoy the small regular pleasure in my stupid search for a grand big excitement in future. And this dog was doing a fabulous job spontaneously, living its life to the fullest. It was alive every moment and immortalizing himself in our lives. He showed me how to be alive, not just live.  

 

Who will I make peace with?

Who will I make peace with?

Peace is such an elusive term, attempting to attain peace I always feel I have gone piece – piece!  Personal experience has taught me the same lesson every time I ventured in search of peace; peace is what you feel from within and it comes only when the resistance from within stops and I am able to get into a state of accepting what is happening around me.

Peace is something I have been trying to make peace with since childhood. So, let me trace it back as far as my memory goes and see how at each stage I made peace with and who. Also how long this peace lasted before I was off searching peace againJ!

My first memory traces back to making peace with my siblings, either because I needed something from them or because we got into a squabble and it was time to make peace; else no one to play with! This making peace was in a day in day out affair, throughout my growing up years. Peace here seemed very easy to achieve because one moment we were all angry and at each other’s throats and the next we were either crying and hugging each other or apologizing and making amends or laughing away our foolish behaviour. Our childhood has a very simple definition and meaning for peace. The ability to be happy at that moment and have what we wish to have; then peace is there.

My next advent with peace was closer to my emotions and myself, than with making peace with others and buying peace from them, being at peace with them. My college days proved a big tug of war and a very learning experience at every step. The generation gap suddenly loomed very large in front of me and everything I did went against my parent’s wishes.  Try as I might I could not make peace with them, it lasted only so long before something else triggered their displeasure!  The career option I chose was not their choice, the clothes I started to wear were displeasing to them, the amount I ate raised their eyebrows sky high, the way I spoke seemed very outspoken, ill -mannered and brazen, the way I walked on the streets was rather provocative to their taste, they would have been happier with a more demure walk! The places I visited, the company I kept, everything was questionable or changeable. Name it, everything about my lifestyle and me had a red rage, or panic button written on it. Somehow, it was a mammoth task to please them and by the end of first year I was fast wearing out. The irony was that my sisters seemed to fare well! At least, their career path was graphed by my parents and they walked on it! I noticed that a lot of leeway was given to them, coming home after an appointed time was ok for them a taboo for me! They were going for coaching; I was going to waste my time doing something they did not want me to do in the first place. They rarely had to protest so the way spoke was exemplary, the way they walked was admirable and the way they conducted their life was what I was to emulate. Clothes and food became secondary and very minor negatives. The differences and challenges were gaping wide. And I was traversing down a whirlpool, caught up in my own dreams and ambitions and also trying to save my relationship with my parents, make peace with them.

If I made them happy, made peace at home doing what they wanted; I felt very obsolete and lonely at college! I was stuck between two very different worlds and I wondered why God landed me in this particular orthodox family! How all the other friends managed to look happy, be at ease (peace – I could not define or dare ask them then). I was unhappy at both places, home and outside of home. I was unhappy on my own, I was out of place with friends, and I was an outsider at home. And for the life of me, I could not figure out why! All I knew was making others happy was not buying me lasting happiness, and at times it made me sad. And many things I was doing were only a reaction or an act of defiance, I was not very comfortable or happy doing those deeds.

This set me thinking; and my last two years of degree were more of a self-study, than academic or career studies. The more I read, sought advice from my lecturers and the more I pondered; the answer that came to me was always a singular line – “Am I happy, comfortable, at peace doing whatever I was doing?” If yes, I was able to carry it through despite protests at home. I could convince them, reason and make peace too. But if the answer from within said – “No, I am not comfortable, at ease with myself.” Then I knew I needed to rethink.

To cut a long story short; I stepped into my post graduate studies as a person who was at peace with herself.  I had my challenges; my parents were still not very happy with my life’s progress report. I lost some good friends due to misunderstandings; I made some new ones along the way and in all this I managed to maintain my peace. I had made peace with myself, with who I am, who I need to be and how I need to live my life.

It made me strike a balance between achieving my needs and wishes, at the same time manage to keep my parents feathers unruffled and also maintain a good rapport with my friends and peers. I needed to weigh them, friends and family on either side of the weighing scale and I became the pivot or the tipping point. If I could hold myself steady the balance was maintained, else the scales tipped.  My lifestyle could not be dictated totally by anyone but me. The clothes I wore, the career I chose, the company I kept all were intrinsically tied to my comfort level and adaptability. If chose to be defiant and went against my family, I could not maintain the façade for long.  Something which stayed with me till now was the clothes I was brought up in and the clothes I out of the blue decided to wear when I entered college! Similarly, the food we were used to at home throughout my growing up years and the whole new palette that opened up because of college canteen, pocket money, outings with friends. I was comfortable only for a while and then became very ill at ease, both with the clothes and the food and the so called things I was doing with my friends. 

The situation now, as a mother and the challenges I face are more of a déjà vu. And much of what I did as a youth seems to flash in front of my eyes, actions and arguments with my teenage son. Fortunately for me, I learnt and implemented my learning and can be a smart, orthodox and a modern mom all rolled in one. Making peace with myself helped me translate the same to my children also. I coached them find their space, their comfort corner. I mentored them to identify their unique qualities, make peace with their faults or inabilities and focus on their strengths. The life they lead the choices they made; the kind of friends they moved with and finally the food they were inclined to, defined their inner nature and they had to find their balance in all this! Now peace for them is no longer friends and family balancing but balancing food, clothes, ambitions, and their own natural instincts.

Similarly, peace for me is an entirely new ball game, holds a different meaning and the war I wage is also distinctive to me. The understanding that came was making peace with family, relations and a friend is a life long journey.  This realisation dawned rather late to me, and how peace was pivotal to my leading a happy and a complete life. A life which left little to seek; a life which makes its mistakes, experiments, walks down unknown path and, yet is brave enough to acknowledge, accept and accomplish peace; an inner peace with the self.  A life which can inspire every other person I come contact with, and help that person also make peace, with whoever he or she is waging a war with; thus I too continue to make peace with myself.

Thank you.

P.S:

I wrote this article a year ago, published in another magazine titled: www.radiantstreets.com