Blame it all on that Spanish Nun

joe“I’m considered a difficult girl. I have a reputation for needing to be told a good reason to do something before I do it.” Tulsi’s words in Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat Pray Love’ had me burst out laughing. The words sounded exactly like an echo from long ago. Not that much has changed over the years, except the fact that now I try to find my own answers.

Ours is a very traditional Kerala Catholic family. Life stories of saints were the fairy tales that our grandmothers brought us up with. Sins, mortal and venial were fed into our brains right from childhood. The nuns in the Sunday school only aggravated the guilt. The picture of God that was projected was of an angel if we were good, who would transform to an ogre the moment we did something bad. Well, you know how most kids are. From the time we woke up in the morning till the young heads were dumped on to the pillows, we went on sinning, and how!

Girls had it worse than boys, after all we had to protect our chastity even at the cost of our lives. Each of us were expected to be a Maria Goretti, forgiving our Alessandros as we lay on our death beds. Talking about chastity, it does resemble the Malayalam equivalent ‘chaarithryam’, doesn’t it? Anyway, that’s besides the point. As a young girl, it was pretty easy to gobble up whatever was spoon fed to us. The trouble started as I reached the age where ‘hormones get into my brains.’ By then, Enid Blyton had given her way graciously to nymphs in Mills & Boon novels. On one side was the yearnings and longings that seemed natural and guilty at the same time and on the other, this picture of a God with a stick in his hands ready to push me into the eternal flames of a hell hole.

Being an obedient child (ahem, ahem) did not stop me from questioning. If it was God who made us, why didn’t He stop us from doing bad things, why couldn’t He stop all the evil, why all the suffering and pain? There was something in me that refused to believe in this horrible giant. My favorite picture of Jesus was of him surrounded by children. The loving smile on his face and the mischievous look in his eyes was proof enough. But then, what is etched with a sharp tool on to your brains when you were of an impressionable age is very hard to scrub off. That is when my father brought home this book. The author was a priest and the brother of a family friend who was incidentally my professor as well. Most of the priests that I had known till then were reflections of those nuns from Sunday schools. But the title, ‘You Surprised Me’ made me curious.

For a sixteen year old who had more questions than answers in her mind, the ‘Contents’ was like a gold mine. It was as if someone had plucked my thoughts straight from contentmy brain, mind and soul, churned it somewhere and came out with the exact answers that I was looking for. ‘The Mystery of My Body’ said,

“I want to talk to You about something

that I cannot ignore or entirely remake – my body.

My body has been a source of pleasure and pain,

of worry and pride,

a source of embarrassment and thrills.”

How could a priest know all this, I wondered. Till then , I was sure of being punished if the daily prayers were forgotten. And here  he was telling me,

“I remind myself

that Your first love

is not prayer, but our good.

We are the center of your concern,

the reason for religion and worship,

these weak human beings You have chosen to love.”

I had found my personal God, my best friend, with whom

” I can just be myself, without ceremony or pretense.

I can relax, I feel accepted,

and I know whatever I say interests you.”

The doors opened wide,  and faith was never the same again. I shared my darkest secrets with him, fought with him when angry, bawled my eyes out when hurt, cried when I was deliriously happy,  I could feel the calming presence every single time. Over the years, I have learned to share my thoughts, angst, dreams and hopes and then let go. I have been taught not to worry too much about anything, accept things as they are and take things as they come, one day at a time. There is no fixed time for these conversations, and it is always from the heart. Like a true friend, he gives me a nudge  now and then whenever I’ve been away for too long.

Call me irrational, impractical or whatever you may. I have found peace, solace and joy in a friend who is with me throughout, who resided not in a church, but in my heart or somewhere close by, who listens to me without judging and pats my shoulder each time I rave, rant and shout, telling me softly, “this too shall pass.”

Now, what about that Spanish nun, you ask? Ah! you will have to wait for my next post to know about her :)

She helped me lie ;)

treeEnid Blyton made me lie. At least that’s what I used to think. That was the age when, forget about knowing what it is, I didn’t even know how to spell technology. Even books were not freely available as it is today. We had to wait eagerly for that one day a month, when books would be issued from the school library. Enid Blyton was the only choice available to kids our age.

Growing up with four younger siblings, I was pretty sure that some royal family somewhere had lost their child who appeared mysteriously at my parents’ doorstep. And the sweet souls that they were, adopted me and were bringing me up as their first born. Waiting for my ‘real’ parents to come in search, one particular book fell into my hands. The name is long forgotten, it must have been one of theAdventurous  Four’ series where this young prince gets lost, the kids rescue him, the king flies down in a plane of gold or something of that sort, and lo and behold, my alternate identity was born.

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Parentous  is a meeting place for all who are interested in sharing their thoughts, experiences and opinions on anything and everything related to kids, parents and family. Whether you are a parent or not doesn’t matter. Articles on varied topics are posted every day, contributed by selected writers. You can find my posts there twice a month :)

Guardian Angel

alexisFriends are like books. Some are thrust on you, some come recommended, some you get to know through other books, sometimes you like what it looks like and take an effort to get to know what is inside. Then there are those rare ones, that seem to be just waiting for the right moment. It is as if you were destined to meet, you would not have heard about it ever, but the moment you lay your eyes on the jacket and read the blurb, you know your life is never going to be the same again. The connection is instant, and you treasure them for life. They inspire you, guide you and talk to you like no other can, the impact is beyond definition.

Solitude, when thrust upon you, transforms itself into loneliness. It was during one such period seven years ago that I turned to blogging. Confined to bed, lest my impatient daughter came out earlier than expected, the boredom was frustrating. Blogging was very new to me, and I could not understand why people would want to share their lives with total strangers. The first two posts were tentative, more like testing the water in an ice cold river with the tip of my toes. When you talk about something that you really love, words flow easily. If the person on the other side share that love, the connect is instant and the conversation turns into pure joy. The third post was straight from the heart, friends who know me well would know my obsession about ducks. Incidentally, wordpress statistics for the past two years say that most people who wandered in here was lured by ducks and ducklings. Anyway, let me not digress. So, imagine my pleasant surprise when someone whom I never knew before came in and started talking about my soul food and the nostalgia of my favorite haunts.

He went missing in the next couple of posts, but by then I was a die hard fan of his blog. The admiration for his writing turned into awe as I learned more about him as a person and a ‘survivor’ as he has named himself in his blog. Reading about people who have survived major accidents and setbacks in life always leave you with a pang in your heart. But as you  rush along with life’s strong and powerful currents, they are soon forgotten. This was someone different, he had to face a painful setback just when his dreams were coming true; and he refused to leave my mind.  A major factor could have been a selfish pride that someone as awesome as him considered what I wrote worth commenting on.

Books are one of the few obsessions I have sustained since childhood and for me the ultimate anyone can be is being an author and a successful one at that. The fact that my new friend was an accomplished author was an added thrill and there I was, dreaming about getting autographed copies of all his books that I was ready to go out and buy. It lasted till I read the list of his books – all Greek, Latin and even Arabic to the dummy that I was and still is. But then, it is not for nothing that Paulo Coelho said that the whole universe conspires when you really long for something. I jumped and grabbed at his offer to send me an autographed copy of his first non-technical book. The fact that it was about something and someone whom I knew about was the proverbial cherry on the topping.

The friendship grew as we hopped to and from our respective blogs. In true Kerala Nasraani style, we even found common relatives. His posts continued to inspire and awe me, and his sense of humor was inimitable. His comments on my posts were something that I looked forward to eagerly. Even after a couple of long breaks in between, the moment I came back, there he was, with his encouraging words. Common interests were varied, hilarious tales from college, kids and their wise words, reading, life, he even shared recipes, how could I not love him? His writings are thought provoking, the style is simple, down to earth and no nonsense  and he talks straight to your heart. You are never left wondering how he would be in real life, his words tell us what his soul is. My only gripe is, off late his posts are few and far in between.

Who is he and why am I writing about him, you ask? Well, I would let Reader’s Digest talk about the who part. As for the why, what I write about here is normally about people, incidents and places that have touched me to the core , changed me for the better, or has left a deep impression on me. When all these come together, how can I not share the joy with you all?

This is to send out a big thank you to someone who barely knew me and has turned out to be  a part of my life, who takes the time out to encourage and reach out , and most of all, believe in me and what I am capable of.

Dear Alexis, this is also a salute from my heart to the true survivor that you are , to the inspiration that you are to so many and to that never dying spirit that always strive to look at the bright side of things. If I can be even a quarter of the great human being that you are, I could say that I have lived a good life.

 

p.s. you can read more about him here

The Santa Magic

SantaDear Santa, how are you? Please send me a ring and three candy bars this year. Thank you.” The note is folded and kept near the window in all solemnity. Not for a moment does she doubt the existence of the benevolent grandpa in the red suit and cap.

The smirk on her brother’s face is evident as he chooses to ignore the warning signal in my eyes, “You think Santa will go to all houses across the world in one night?”  

My heart skips a beat and I pray, “Please, let her not be logical, for once.” I start ruing the loss of innocence as she replies, logical as always, “Yeah, I know.” A smile starts spreading across my face as she continues, “That’s why he sends these notes to the parents. If he is busy, they will get it for us.”

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Parentous  is a meeting place for all who are interested in sharing their thoughts, experiences and opinions on anything and everything related to kids, parents and family. Whether you are a parent or not doesn’t matter. Articles on varied topics are posted every day, contributed by selected writers. You can find my posts there twice a month :)

As if we are the Curies…

I am standing in the queue studiously analyzing son’s school report. After the summary for each subject, it is a long story on how intelligent or not he is, how his handwriting has scope for improvement, how he can be a little more outgoing in one class and temper it down in another.

More often than not, the only thing that stays in mind is the summary, unless there is something really bad, which thankfully hasn’t happened yet or something that he is extremely good at, which I get to hear only if I meet his football coach. As I see some ‘very good’, a few ‘good’ and an ‘excellent’ here and there, the temptation to peep into the sheets of paper in the hands of the next parent is is too hard to resist. My God! That kid doesn’t have a single good and only about one ‘very good’. She must be a prodigy! The next train of thought is totally predictable. What will come of our son, if he continues in this vein? Why can’t he be not just the best, but outstanding in whatever he does? The worry lines start furrowing my forehead and the heart beats sound more and more like Colonel Hathi’s march past.

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Parentous  is a meeting place for all who are interested in sharing their thoughts, experiences and opinions on anything and everything related to kids, parents and family. Whether you are a parent or not doesn’t matter. Articles on varied topics are posted every day, contributed by selected writers. You can find my posts there twice a month :)

Frightening Silence, Rays of Hope

London to Brighton Veteran Car RunThe  voices that shouted out from the roof tops have fallen eerily silent, the drums that were beaten to death gone into hiding. The tears that flowed relentlessly have dried up and life goes on. Like the perpetrators, the terms also seem to  change according to class , from brutal rape to sexual assault to molestation to error in judgement and finally simmering itself down to a consensual act.

Mr. Tajpal has been  beaten to death and risen to glory by his foes and friends and I do not want go into the details here. The girl’s letter had enough gore in there. Facts and counter facts take their turn, trying to get print and virtual space. My worry is a little more fundamental. Here you have a so called intellectual, a purported crusader against injustice, who will go to any lengths to bring out the real story, and he is caught with his tail or whatever else down, in a crime that is too shameless to even speak about. What makes him so brazen? And what does the incident and the subsequent hue and cry, or rather the lack of it, tell of us as a society?

A few months ago, we had ‘the other’ Murthy facing the firing squad for the second known time. These men are no novices and folly of youth is no umbrella under which they can take cover. Both are stalwarts in their respective areas of professional expertise, at the helm of affairs in their organizations. Spouses who are well educated and successful in their own right  and grown up kids to go back to end of their long days, in an ideal world theirs should be pictures of the classic perfect, happy families. But, the lure of the proverbial apples on the neighboring trees seem to be too strong to resist, in both cases.

Allegations and counter allegations are being volleyed up and down at breakneck speed and I would not want to mull over that here. One thought that refuses to let go and is nagging me day in and night out is, here are two head honchos, who have no qualms about cheating on their family, giving two hoots about their feelings. If they have no second thoughts in their personal life, what about the organizations and the lives of hundreds who work for these organizations? We have the answer unfolding right in front of our eyes, the obvious, arrogant manner in which ‘Tehelka’ is flouting all that they supposedly stood for.

The defensive silence in the first few days was telling. When the culprits are someone whom no one knows about and are those who cannot harm anyone, the furor is deafening. The social media zealots were uncharacteristically mute last week. What were they scared of? Or was it that such an incident was beneath them, after all in high and mighty places  this is the norm? What skeletons were they afraid would tumble out of their own or their friend’s cupboards? The comments, if at all there were any , were mild and meek compared to the vitriolic ones in the Delhi and Mumbai cases.  The slithering silence that shrouds the powerful ones in a protective sheath is more deafening than the loudest of voices. The icons of social causes have retreated to their holes, their true colors shining through irrespective. This telling silence scares me, much more than the act.

In his book ‘Hot, Flat and Crowded‘ Thomas Friedman talks about what caused  the ‘Great Recession

“…was caused in part by a broad-based breakdown in ethics by key players…… It was not the illicit behavior that caused the Great Recession. It was all the stuff going on in plain sight by people who should have known better but suspended their beliefs and values and norms and skepticism to get in on the party.”

Yes, that is exactly what is happening , stuff everyone knows is happening around. The suggestive phone calls that a young widow receives from her boss, the lewd messages that keeps on beeping on the phone of a girl whose only crime is she is good looking, the shoulders that brushes against your chest in an ‘absent minded’ manner, the made up late night meetings, the good natured ‘banter’ that are more overt than covert in their sexual flavor…. the norm in most of the ‘professional’ organizations. You want to grow? Better gel in. There is no male or female divide, as one Ms. Chaudhry has shown us. It is all about power and who is the most powerful. You dare not touch them, lest you are burnt and lacerated. Those on the periphery, watching silently, longing to get in and party along.

Yet, all is not lost. A young girl , at the beginning of her career, who refuses to let go of the principles that her organization taught her, but failed to stand up for…. three young men, who stood by her relentlessly…. a group of young girls who threw away their jobs in support…..an Arundhati Roy…..a Nandita Das …..who voice their opinion fearlessly in a world of incidental intellectuals …. spunky men of value who is not ashamed to call one of their own by the names that they deserve….

They are our hope, the rays that shine through..

Long live their clan and may we raise more of them!

picture courtesy – metstoday.com

Why Have Them?

A discussion that has been beaten to death, but still springs back to life each time a woman has a baby, “Should she stay at home or go back to work?” My thought here is a little more basic than that. “Why do you have kids?”

Honestly, this is something I had not given much time to earlier. Maybe because having the first kid was something that came along with the package of getting married and having a family. Daughter, who came five years later, was more meditated and decided upon. Why the question now, you ask?

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Parentous  is a meeting place for all who are interested in sharing their thoughts, experiences and opinions on anything and everything related to kids, parents and family. Whether you are a parent or not doesn’t matter. Articles on varied topics are posted every day, contributed by selected writers. You can find my posts there twice a month :)