Random musings of a wandering soul

Archive for the ‘life’ Category

My mother is coming out of me 😳

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You look up to her in your childhood, hate her in your teens, promise yourself never to bring up your kids like she did hers, slowly start understanding her in your youth, start loving her again after you get married, look at her with awe when you start bringing up your own kids and ultimately turn out to be her. Whether you like it or not 😉

Cutlets are a staple on Syrian Christian dining tables. And for a young mother who had to pack five lunch boxes every morning, it was a life saver. The accompanying concoction of sliced onions, tomatoes and green chilies mixed with vigor in the ‘naadan kallu’ vinegar was to die for. The very memory of that rice that had been blessed with the essence of this combo can still make my mouth filled with water that is enough to launch at least one of those proverbial ships. No wonder, Beef cutlets are a staple on all our tables too. And if that was not enough, she had made my son eat enough of her kickass combo of ‘kanji,’ ‘payar’ and cutlet to make him a slave to these for life. My mother, who must be chuckling away to glory in her heavenly abode. Blessed be her soul as were the cutlets that she fed us all her life long.

Believe it or not, for the first time in my life, I’ve started packing lunch boxes. May the soul of their old school be blessed, them that served nutritious lunch to scores of children over the years. And may the unearthly amount that we had to dish out as fees may lay forgotten. Anyway, coming back to the point of lunch, for the first two days I was all excited like a kid on the first day of her school enjoying the rains, grilling chicken and making steaks out of Beef. Then started the longing, for those maid-en days. When kitchen was a place I visited, maybe to get a glass of water, once in a long while. By the time it is Sunday noon, realization hits. No amount of sweet nostalgia is going stop me from being hit by bouts of reality. Better earlier than at five o’clock on a Monday morning.

So I turn into my mother. Churning out cutlet after cutlet on a Sunday afternoon. And I know this is the beginning of a weekly ritual.

p.s. Now, I am worried. What if my daughter turns out into me ? 🤔🤔🤔

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Life On The Other Side

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My left hand still searches for the gear lever and hits the car door instead of my son’s bony knees. I’ve learned bed is not a mere bed, but is made up of bits and pieces that you can chose to bring together or not. That a bathroom could very well be the biggest room in your house, or that the sheer variety of it could even make you stop drinking milk. I’ve also realized the vast difference between American Chinese, Indian Chinese and mere Chinese. And I’m thankful for the sheer beauty of this place that I now live in.

I’ve always seen brilliant women take it slow in their career as they reach middle age and their kids turn teens and start the exams of their lives. Even before that, in many cases. In the fresh or should I say naive and maybe foolish days of my youth, I would never have thought that one day that is what I would do as well. Not that I was so brilliant anyway, but that’s besides the point. When I got married, the only thing I wanted was for us to be together. A soaring career was not in my dreams anyway. To cut a long story short, I got back , not to be a rat in a race, I was missing having people around and thought my brain was rotting, not to mention the phase of being a pest to the husband as well.

Now, are you wondering what has the two got to do with each other – the move and being career woman? Well, I’d never lived the life of a man, if I may say so. Or at least as I see it. The change in routine and what you are familiar with is taken for granted when you move even from one house to another in the same city, not to mention across continents.

The biggest change I’ve been noticing is in my work. Or, the way I work. It’s total abandon. Priorities shifted. The wake up thoughts moved from how to wake the kids up to how to tackle that client meeting today. Not that it was not a focus earlier. It was the only focus now. Forget about cooking, no thoughts of what to eat today, not to mention what to make for the family or even what the maid has to cook. Kids’ illness, doctor’s appointments, school projects, milk man, electricity bills, booking gas, every domestic thing flew out of the window. Dust gathered, bed was not made, but who cared? Yes, I was informed. Daughter sprained her leg, son had to have a root canal done a few days prior to his board exams, maid didn’t turn up for a day, there was no milk in the fridge. I listened. And that was it. In the RACI of life, I had moved from the extreme left of being Responsible to the extreme right of being Informed of.

Isn’t this how it is for most men? Yes, they do take care, they care for their families. I am not denying that even for a moment. But how much of their mental space is occupied by the nitty gritties, the realities of day to day living? And what occupies that space instead? In most cases, the instant answer would be work, or even their passion.

I’ve had colleagues who have taken breaks during their kids’ board exams. And they were not the paranoid ones who breathes down their son’s neck for 24 hours. They are the no nonsense, head firmly on their shoulders ones who know their value very clearly as well as the value of what they were giving up. What prompted them to take that break, I’ve wondered. Was it guilt, a sense of possibly misplaces responsibility, or sheer frustration of handling it all together?

Yes, it is a choice as some of you might say. And yes, I did make that choice years ago, and there is not even an ounce of regret as I reminisce over all the years past. I’ve had plenty of time for going over many things in the last two months of solitude. Just that being away has made me realize the enormity of that space in our minds and what occupies it at each phase of our lives and according to the roles we play.

Space has a new meaning now, and I hope each of us women get the luxury of that space in our lives, at least now and then. A place for being away from everything, where our minds and bodies are able to wander freely, we walk or run or jump or somersault in the air, at our own pace, in our own rhythm.

Saying that every day is a woman’s day is a cliche now. Instead, can the men who really care, help their women find their special space, let them be on their own, for a few days? Now, that would be a real Woman’s Day gift.

Meanwhile stay blessed, all the special women in my life!

(p.s. no envy, please. Life will be back to normal in two weeks :D)

The Lone Cry

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Stories from BLF 2017 – 1 

The sessions sounded more political than literary this year. The topics had been discussed threadbare on TV, in print, on social media and of course, gatherings in the friends circles as well. But hearing it straight from the stallion’s mouths would be something else, I thought. The final session as usual, was the most sought after. R. Jagannathan, Makarand Paranjpe, Suketu Mehta, Manu Joseph, Sagarika Ghose and the Kanhaiah Kumar. Moderator Harish Bijoor set the tone and Prof. Paranjpe started in his erudite style.

There was only one tone to the whole festival until then, that of right bashing. The alternate voice had been missing, and I was eagerly waiting for the next person’s views, not because I endorsed his beliefs. I was sure an entirely different vie would definitely come from the Chief Editor of a right wing publication. He started in an even voice and took up the current hot topic, of whether to stand up or not. What he said was what many of us thought as well, isn’t this the same judge that endorsed this imposition last year? How can they change their opinion so fast and to an entirely opposite view?

Then came the punchline,
“Considering that it’s an all men bench, they don’t even have the excuse of the mood swings of PMS.”

The whole audience, well almost the whole audience, laughed. Including women. No one thought this was out of place. A so called thought leader, openly making fun of something so personally feminine.

Don’t you have mood swings on those days, one might ask. Don’t you get cranky, another might. Oh yes sir, I do. I feel tired, so much so that I don’t even have the energy to get up from my bed, cranky, ready to fight, snarling at everyone in sight, and maybe even pick up a fight or two. And I know it is getting worse as years go by.

But sir, it is never an excuse. No sir, never. It is a reality. For millions of women, some of whom you would know and many you would not. It is a stark reality, over which we have no control, none whatsoever. We can only wish we had. But. It is never an excuse, at least for the sensible ones I know. We drag ourselves up, maybe pop a pill or two and go about as if nothing is wrong, even when everything is. Literally. We might make some mistakes, make an error of judgement or two. But sir, we own it. It is never an excuse. No, sir.

I was immediately reminded of the previous day’s discussion on trolling. From personal experience, both Nidhi Razdan and Sindhu S (from Asianet who was mercilessly trolled for her so called remarks against Durga) had mentioned something in common – the blatant sexism and misogyny of the right wing trolls. Of the viciousness of it all, of the sheer crassness of their thoughts. Well, the apples do not fall far from the tree, I guess. I’ve always believed the culture of an individual is decided mostly by her parents and of an organization by its leaders. And I realized my belief hasn’t let me down.

What worries me most is the total acceptance of something so sexist. It is so ingrained in men and women in equal measure that no one sees anything amiss, not even those among us who go through it month after month, year after year.

The laughter died down. And something escaped my lips. Some might call it booing. It was spontaneous, a war cry that came right from depths. Of my heart and soul.

And I was alone. Frighteningly so.

(image courtesy – images.fineartamerica.com)

Unmyth

Unmyth
———–

Anointed, adjudged
From the time thoughts were born
Determined, Invincible
Protector, Nurturer
Strong

And so we did
Showed a face
With no tears
Nor a grimace
Pained?
Oh, but we’re used to it
Betrayed?
But that’s life
Tired?
There’s so much more to do
Attacked?
Ssshhh…lest more followed
Defeated?
Not us, never.

And we marched on
Screaming silently
Crying without tears
Holding everything in
Smiling in a straight line
Hearts wrenching inside
For we are the strong ones
The indomitables

Eyes moulded into steel
Souls into iron
Calluses fed our hands
Lead seeped into our feet
Before we knew
It was all a myth
Wrought to keep us chained
The strong woman
Who takes in all
Without even a whimper

But you know what?
Wars are not for us,
We don’t want to win
We just need to breathe
Unanoint, let us be
Real, Unmyth.

The Last Letter

Our family was never ‘photographic.’ Search high and low, far and wide, it is next to impossible to find pictures of us from childhood. Now that I think about it, we have seen more pictures of our mother as a kid than  those of the five of us put together. Did my parents have an aversion to studios, I wonder. Or maybe they just didn’t have the time, in between bringing up the brood.

There were letters galore, though. Staying in the small town of Alleppey, a grandmother in the nearby village of Kavalam and a set of grandparents in neighbouring village of Pulincunnu, the letters were mostly triangular. I do remember my father’s strong, slanted handwriting, those were official writings in blue black Chelpark ink, though. The blue inland letters were always feminine. The neat and tidy, tiny words from Kavalam and the large, rounded words, as perfect as her fluffy palappams, from Pulincunnu. Telephones were rare and letters were the only form of communication, unless someone visited. Yes, I was reared in pre historic times 🙂

We were forced into this habit as we grew up. As the eldest in both sides of the family, the onus of keeping this tripartite communication alive slowly fell on me. And it would be a lie if I told you I didn’t enjoy it. We were masters of space management, the two grandmothers and me. We would first take up all the space in the three ‘pages’ of the inland, then write on the margins , sometimes even in the space provided for the return address. Born story tellers, we were. My paternal grandmother would even add some sentences in English and would remind us from time to time with a twinkle in her eyes, “I was taught by European nuns, unlike the less fortunate you.”

Count of coconuts, accounts of activities in the yard, the state of mangoes that year, the feasts in the church, maids come and gone, family news of old retainers, births, weddings and deaths, visits from relatives – letters from the paternal side was more in the nature of a statement of account – what came in and what went out. The maternal ones were, well, more maternal in nature. Rounds of how each member of the family was faring, each of us kids asked for by name, news of cows giving birth along the women in the family who followed suit, chickens and ducklings hatched and snatched by eagles and crows, the letters were more about what grew and did not. As holidays neared, we would wait eagerly to know who would be coming when to take us home. For, home was never the house we stayed in ten months round the year. Home was always where the heart was – split between two villages.

When did we as siblings start writing to each other? The first ones would definitely have been from me, the first one to leave the pack to far away Ernakulam. Who did what in the hostel, which audit I was on, which clients provided the best food for free, there was nothing that the family did not know of. And in return, I continued to get news of what was happening back in the two villages, the parents had shifted back to Kavalam by then. The triangle turned into a square as another corner was added. One of the sisters got married off to the till then uncharetered territory of northern Kerala.

It was three years after her marriage that we lost one of us. There were hardly any pictures to remember her by, not that any of us needed it. Bonds of heart are far stronger than the most beautiful of pictures, we have realised since then, as we lost our mother a few years later. There are moments though, when we long for a touch, a word or two in their voices, something, anything, that was tangible. Not to remember them,   just to feel their presence, even if it was for a few ephemeral moments.

There are some books that are my favourites. They have a strange habit of disappearing at frequent and infrequent intervals. And they reappear months , sometimes years later, right in time when I need them. Only when I need them. It was a prayer book this time, an unusual one. The one that was my solace in my years of questioning God, those years of searching for the meaning of everything. Had it gone missing, or was it that I’d forgotten about it? I don’t remember. But it was definitely one of those days, when the yearning was too strong, the longing too difficult to get over, that it resurfaced. Surprising me. With a letter, the last one she’d written to me. Maybe the last one she’d written to anyone.

It’s 21 years today, since the then 21 year old wrote it.

What would we remember each other by, I wonder. Facebook posts, Instagram pictures, long forgotten Tweets? And I shudder.

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Random scribbles from a beautiful morning

“Let two persons go out for a walk; the one a good sketcher, the other having no taste of the kind. Let them go down a green lane. There will be a great difference in the scene as perceived by the two individuals. The one will see a lane and trees; he will perceive the trees to be green, though he will think nothing about it; he will see that the sun shines, and that it has a cheerful effect; and that’s all! But what will the sketcher see? His eye is accustomed to search into the cause of beauty, and penetrate the minutest parts of loveliness. He looks up, and observes how the showery and subdivided sunshine comes sprinkled down among the gleaming leaves overhead, till the air is filled with the emerald light. He will see here and there a bough emerging from the veil of leaves, he will see the jewel brightness of the emerald moss and the variegated and fantastic lichens, white and blue, purple and red, all mellowed and mingled into a single garment of beauty. Then come the cavernous trunks and the twisted roots that grasp with their snake-like coils at the steep bank, whose turfy slope is inlaid with flowers of a thousand dyes. Is not this worth seeing? Yet if you are not a sketcher you will pass along the green lane, and when you come home again, have nothing to say or to think about it, but that you went down such and such a lane.”

That was John Ruskin, quoted by Alain de Botton in his book, ‘The Art of Travel.’ I had just finished reading it before a solo trip to Himachal two years ago. Sitting beside the stream on the third day of the journey, these words came to mind as I struggled to bring my thoughts together in an attempt to write. The small note book was kept aside somewhere after my return and forgotten under corporate struggles and domestic travails. Until last week, the red cover splattered with doodles stared at me from under a few other dust laden ones and asked, “remember me?” As if it knew the time had come. My scribbles from  one of the seven mornings on an idyllic holiday…

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It is a single note at first. The gentle roar of the river. Separate notes emerge as you listen, slowly. The gentle lap of the small waves against the shore, as if a mother is carefully washing the soft skin of her first born. A stream that slides over a flat rock only to hit itself over another one and jump right back at the first. A playful gurgle, like kids splashing rain water from a puddle with an expert kick of their foot. There is a dip at the bottom of another rock, three streams seem to join as one. The first one comes straight over it, one part of it diverted in between and coming back in a gentle curve into the same meeting point and the third one going around it only to be guided back by another rock one the way. Three notes joined as one, gently flowing down into a small pool, just as a stream of holy water is poured on to the cupped palms of a pilgrim.

Rivers are a lot like us, humans. The first steps are tentative. As the meaningless gurgles turn into chatter, the steps turn sure. Wild laughter, playful banter with the shores, gushing joy, adolescence is pure madness. Youth matures, but the spirit is bright and beautiful. When does the light dim and the steps slow down? As it flows, what is around seem to have more impact than what comes from within. Have you noticed them in cities? The very essence of life seem to have been sucked out. The once vivacious young girl is now expected to take in all the filth and sins of everyone around her, without as much as a whimper. Just as the tears dry up even as the pain sharpens, the river starts drying up. Until the next rain. As the silt begins to shift, the season ends. And she is thrown back into her emptiness. Again.

Patience has its virtues. I finally catch sight of the owner of the mellifluous voice above my head. A tiny beauty that could fit into my daughter’s palm with enough space left for its parter. Yellow under and green on top, perfectly camouflaged among the green and yellow leaves of the trees around. The trees remind me of Ruskin Bond. Of his island of trees. I give up trying to capture the little one on my camera. Either the camera or my eyes need a fresh pair of lens. ” I am like the elusive words in your mind,” she seemed to say. Some you capture on paper, some just float away.

Butterflies, in abundance. Black with yellow dots, brown patches in black, pale yellow, milky white, a group of sky blue ones that looked as though someone tore apart a few clouds and pieces of sky came along with that. They looked liked school kids who had bunked classes en masse. I decided to keep the camera away and just sit there, watching their joyous dance. “Why do you not stay still?” I ask. They answer in an instant, “We are like your thoughts, how long did they stay in one place?”

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I continue to sit still. A sudden movement across the river catches my eye. There is an odd shape on the embankment. A grey gecko. The feel is ecstatic. A little more than half an hour, and I feel like Princess Jasmine on Aladdin’s magic carpet. A whole new world seem to open itself out for me.

p.s. even after two years, I can remember that day, almost minute by minute. Some days and places are like that, isn’t it? Your special place  to go back to, some days just to have that feeling of peace and pure joy, some other days to run off and hide. 

 

 

Zen and the Art of Pillion Riding

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Dreams come true, always. The best part is, sometimes it happens even if you are not longing  for it. In the small town that I grew up in, it was only a brother’s bike that a girl could hop on. Or a husband’s. In either case, the girl sat demurely, with both legs on one side, wearing a salwar or saree. Not much fun. We got to see the adventurous ones only on movie screens. Was it Priya Raman or Amala that ignited a spark, I don’t remember. Anyway, the dream was short lived and life went on to other dreams.

Many years later, I asked a colleague of mine for a lift. There is a smile on my face as I remember his answer, ” I’m on a bike, are you sure?” “The boring auditor on my bike?” he might have wondered. The crazy and often unpredictable twists and turns of life gave a poetic answer to that question, for I landed a permanent position on his bike and in his heart. The rides were short lived as we moved on to dignified seats in a red Maruti 800.

Ten years and eight four wheelers later, there was a sigh, ” I want to buy a super bike.” The answer was a surprise, he says, “What’s stopping you?”

Riding together is like living together. It takes time, to find the rhythm. First came the cult one, the Yamaha MT – 01. The macho, muscled one. A killer in looks and power, his first love and mine too. For a sedentary pack of lazybones that I was, the speedster Suzuki GSXR was beyond reach. That was for the boy that lived on inside the man’s heart. To race , on road and on tracks. Life then moved on to adventure and touring. We had ‘Triumph’-ed. The Tiger Explorer XC

Geared up, the test ride if one could say so was to home base. Bangalore to Kochi and back, in the heat of summer. We don’t take things halfway, you see.

That was more than two years ago. A few brief rides in between, it was as if life and its routine hassles had taken over. Some incidents and certain people shake you out of your reverie, reminds you that you may not have all the time in the world, for all the things you wanted to do in life. And thus started the best phase, and it goes on.

It’s the rhythm. Each bike, every rider, has one. Takes time , effort and an open mind for the pillion rider to find it. Especially for one like me, who doesn’t even ride a bicycle. Most of us girls when young, have this romantic notion of a fast paced bike, you hugging the rider tight, a beatific smile on your faces, and your long and silky hair waving along in the wind. Reality check. Life is harsh. The first shock, “Can you move a little away?” “How dare he? Where is all the love? The romance?” I was livid. It took a few hours of ride in the scorching sun for realisation to dawn. The heavy leather that covers your entire body, add the protective stuff over almost every joint, the balaclava and the helmet and then an equally heavy body on your back? Even the hulk would balk.

The first lesson – space. As in life, we need our own. Not to separate, but to enjoy the brief moments of connect. Over time you realize, as in a good marriage, an overdose of proximity can be suffocating on a ride as well. The brief touch on your knee that asks without words, “are you alright?” It says a lot, much more than a thousand and one meaningless utterings of love. Khalil Gibran must have been a rider, I’m sure. What he said of marriage , is exactly what a rider would say,

” But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.”

The seasons. They change, from mile to mile.

The Sun. He is gentle in the mornings, warming your face and waking you up. As the day goes on, it gets harsh, burns you down, scorches your throat, sucks the life giving water out of you. Short breaks, splashes of water on your face and down your throat, you are ready again. To face whatever comes along. Together.

The rains. You can either get wet or dance in it. Wasn’t it Bob Marley who said something to that effect?  Another wise one. It was on the ride back from Goa. Two and half hours of it. Glorious rain, in all forms. First, a drizzle. Then the tantalising one, on and off, a gentle downpour now, disappearing after a few minutes, only to come back then. The harsh one, from an impossible angle, like pin pricks on your body. The mighty one next. Along with the wind, threatening to topple you. Flooded roads, the gale forcing your whole body to a side, it’s a dangerous one. You can sense the rider struggling to keep his balance, slowing down to keep his rhythm, taking care his fellow rider is safe. Life. When it shakes you up, follow the lead. Move with him, this is not the time to go solo. As you ride out, you know that was one of the best phases. Wet to the core, yet lit with joy. The dance of a life time.

The wind. The life saver, the life giver. Can be a killer too, when it gets too hot to handle. Changing from moment to moment, it can soothe you, cajole you back into life or burn and scorch you. Doesn’t give you much choice, the only choice, go with it. Ride it out, without complaints. Because, the best is yet to be.

The curves. Season, you ask? Oh girl, you just have no clue, I say. Have you taken that bypass from Salem to Coimbatore? The one that goes over the highway? The sharp curve on that? That was my first one. Next best thing to being an eagle, its like soaring in the high skies. Wings steady and strong, floating in the wind. Some think they are dangerous, it’s all how you take it, is all I can say. Perfect moments of togetherness, two as one, just space and rhythm. It’s in you, to turn it into a graceful dance. Or not. The most dangerous moments, they can be the best of all. Be in sync and make it. Go alone and break it.

Many a ride and more curves later, I realize riding pillion is like Tao. Let go. Go with the flow. Follow the wind. Just be.

And, enjoy the curves. Better still, live for them!