Of fasting, fuming, fidelity & farmers…

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Hey guys, being a stay-at-home-mom I often get this craving for assessing my self worth. What is the sum total of my value right now? I wonder. For answers I look at little things like a “thumbs up” for something new I cooked or a genuine compliment for a “dot painting” I made while mandala meditating. When I was a student and later a journalist, these reassurances came about automatically with every report card, medal, letter of appreciation, bonus or promotion, and I took them completely for granted!

Today, I even get a kick out of acing Facebook quizzes: How good is your grammer? Can you identify these famous paintings? Is your eye-sight prefect? Hey Bhagwaan! That’s how I chanced upon some interesting “personality-type” quizzes and most, I have to admit, were quite spot on. So naturally I was game for the latest Gretchen Rubin quiz too.

Acclaimed author of The Happiness Project, Rubin broadly categorizes people into FOUR types: the Upholders, the Obligers, the Questioners and the Rebels. The answer, in my case, would be a fight off between the questioner and the rebel I knew that. Ultimately the questioner won! And the tick tock began…

The freshest debate on the block was obviously Karva Chauth. Gaining momentum with every new blog post, every opinion piece, every new Tweet, and my questioning mind also got into major action. For every Twinkle Khanna going Scientists studying longest living mammals, bowhead whales found for a long life what is needed is a slow metabolism & not wives who fast:); there was an Ayushmann Khurrana celebrating “equality” with the chant “join her if you can’t dissuade her from fasting.”

Another chirruped: Under influence of @Bdutt ;if yr wife doesn’t keep #KarwaChauth fast ; does it amount to criminal conspiracy with attempt to murder? (Frankly, I found it quite hilarious, purely from the sense of humour point of view, taken with a dollop of salt of course). To counter that sentiment there were the sanskari quips on fake feminists, cultural bigots, misogynists, regressive patriarchy @ #lovealbum#ladyboss!

Though I thought the “gadhe ki yoni mein janam etc” was quite over the top, one fasting husband’s “this is hard” was a rather sweet tweet, leading me on to the 5Ws and H of KC.

First up: What is fasting, any idea? (hunger/search/discipline/prayer)

Next: Why are YOU fasting? (pressure/pleasure; by choice/by order)

Where are the rules? (clearly delineated/blind faith)

Who decides the rituals? (self/other)

When does rationalism end and ritualism begin? (pure introspection)

How do you react to the stimuli? (opinions/starving/thirst/materialism/societal norms)

The Jain texts describe abstaining from the pleasures of the five senses (sight, taste, touch, smell, sound) and dwelling in the self in deep concentration as upavāsa. In Islam, fasting isn’t just refraining from eating and drinking, but from every kind of selfish desire and wrong-doing. The fast therefore is of the body and spirit as well, with the physical fast being a symbol of the real, inner fast.

In the Scripture, the purpose of fasting includes self-control, and even though it means going without food, one can fast from anything — food, drink, sleep or sex — “to focus on a period of spiritual growth.”Fasting is actually an intrinsic part of the science of Naturopathy and Ayurveda as an “expression of self discipline and gratitude.” Contemporary Hinduism apparently has no fixed rules for fasting as it is considered a “declaration of faith and resolve to build character, strength and purity in preparation for liberation. It also helps practice detachment and austerity.” Absolute nirvana in spirit to be precise. But how many, I wonder, can truly claim to tick all the above boxes? (rhetorical question!)

My search for more answers was full on, when news just came in from Rohini that a 40-year-old man stabbed his wife for “not fasting on karva chauth” and then committed suicide by jumping off the roof, enunciating that school of thought which dismisses tradition as “an explanation of acting without thinking.”

Millennial icon Malala Yousafzai takes that debate a step further by suggesting that “we should not be followers of traditions that go against human rights… we are human beings and WE make traditions.” That’s it. That is the crux from a little girl on the fundamentals of tradition anywhere in the world.

The Hindu View of Life also stresses that “religion is not the acceptance of academic abstractions or the celebration of ceremonies, but a kind of life or experience… and this experience is of a self-certifying character (svatasiddha). If a tradition does not grow, it only means its followers have become spiritually dead.” Operating term for me personally was the “self-certifying” bit. Indeed.

In layperson’s terms that would mean we do not owe anyone any explanation for our faith and the traditions we choose to follow, as long as we can justify them to our OWN selves by questioning the higher purpose and re-working equations according to changing circumstances! “Tradition,” according to the great philosopher S Radhakrishnan,  “is something that is forever being worked out anew and recreated by the free activity of its followers. We rise from life to thought and return from thought to life in a progressive enrichment which is the attainment of ever higher levels of reality.”

The sad reality of today though: 20 Farmers Die Of Pesticide Poisoning In Maharashtra, a day before Karva Chauth! News reports say they were “not wearing protective gear”and would have been paid Rs. 200 per day for the hazardous job. What price human life? Even as twitter simultaneously explodes with #love memes, mushy telly promos and in-your-face ads for salwar kameez, facials, carnivals, mehendi, foodgasms, festival specials and cool contests. Blogs and articles continue to dissect: Why You Shouldn’t Break Your nirjala Fast with Fried Foods and Caffeinated Drinks! along with the many interpretations of the legend of Veervati.

Meanwhile change once again proves it is the only constant. And how? Five-year-old Emily Dover, from New South Wales, Australia we are told 3 days ago, “got her period when she was only four years old. And now, at the age of five, she is already getting signs of menopause,” Dover was a healthy baby, “but her body started maturing rapidly with time. By the age of two, she began growing breasts and developing acne.” My eyes nearly popped out. The point all this makes yet again is that ‘progress is impossible without change’ suited to the ever transforming world around us for good or bad — in other words, ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got!’

As attitudes change along with the sanctity of marriage itself, a CNN report, talking of Esther Perel’s new book State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, highlights a recent survey stating that, “since 1990, the rate of married women who report they’ve been unfaithful has increased by 40%.”

“More women than ever” apparently are cheating and “willing to admit that they are cheating.” And even though they love their husbands, “they felt in some fundamental way that their needs (sexual, emotional, psychological) were not being met inside the marriage.” INTERESTING! Yet again that question of the traditional role and the set gender equation that often perpetrates an unequal division of labour rears its head. An equation, the women now complain, that “does not take into account  the disproportionate amount of invisible labor that went into maintaining their lifestyle… and constantly managing the emotional heart of the family.”

Every situation clearly crying out loud for an attitudinal shift. Something on the lines of Sadhguru’s Inner Engineering for overall well being.”The way out is IN!” for the people of today, who are the “most comfortable generation that has ever lived in this planet… (yet) definitely not the most joyful, or the most loving, or the most peaceful.”

The tendency to “take instructions from the outside rather than the inside,” says Sadhguru, “is the only thing that stands between you and your well being.”

Quoting an interesting story from page 29 of Inner Engineering to elaborate the point:

On a certain day, a lady went to sleep. In her sleep, she had a dream. She saw a hunk off a man, staring at her. Then he started coming closer — closer and closer.

He was so close that she could even feel his breath.

She trembled — not in fear.

Then she asked, “What will you do to me?” 

The man said, “Well, lady, it’s YOUR dream!”

Your dream! Your search! In the environment of intolerance, insanity and irrational behavior all around, this example is actually quite like the  The Fight of Two Wolves Within You! – a beautiful tale my mother told me this morning when I called her to discuss something bothering me about blind fanaticism in human relations and rituals.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Clarity at last! For it’s ultimately all about feeding the right wolf within you. The questioner in me has got her answer for now.  Life, however, is very complicated “because when you find the answers, life changes the question.” Am I up to the challenge?  I ask again!

(written in mycity4kids)

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Celebrating Gandhi with My Hypothetical Daughter…

gandhi quotes

Hey guys, Happy Gandhi Jayanti. It’s a lovely morning, no Monday blues. The “very real” son and dad are off to do justice to the day. Not as Gandhi fanatics, but your typically ‘sleep-deprived’ teen and ‘objective-driven corporate’ dad simply enjoying a round of golf on a rare Monday off!

I am plonked on my couch, reading leisurely. But with this cool breeze cross ventilating my house and only the sound of a crazy Indian Robin and an occasional Kingfisher piercing the silence around me, I am gently drifting into lazy day dreaming. This is the thing with me, I read and then my mind begins to spin its own yarn.

Today I am imagining a day with my “hypothetical” daughter! She’s fun, fearless and full of energy, basically a fine specimen of her species, with a proclivity to reading (totally mom’s genes). We’re happily browsing the net with a warm mug of Ceylonese George Stuart in hand. Besides the generally crime, apathy, raving and ranting, there are a wide variety of women-centric articles to choose from:

Talking at an IIM-A conclave a BJP MP decries that “like EVERY Indian woman” she was “sexually harassed too,” 20-yr-old Senegalese model Khoudia Diop reveals “how she grew up being pressured to lighten her skin by using bleaching products and how she was bullied and made to feel ashamed for the colour of her skin,” 11 women tell us “what it is like to have big boobs,” there’s a list of things girls “wish they knew before losing virginity” and a shopper shows us how dress sizes mislead, so we shouldn’t blame our “body type” because it’s actually “the label” to blame! Hah!

If all of this isn’t early morning gyan enough for women, we can also read about 3 different ways to “get fuller lips with make-up” and go on to, I don’t know, get inspired/awe-struck perhaps by how Kim Kardashian almost bares it all, singer Neha turns up the heat in Bali, Esha Gupta poses in barely there lingerie and a BB 11 contestant very proudly gets “too hot to handle.”

WOW. Someone certainly knows what women want! And I am talking of mainstream media not some sleazy rag. This, my IB-educated daughter reminds me, in a country where Mahatma Gandhi once said “To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man’s injustice to woman. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior.” Hmmm… Suddenly our ginger-lemon brew tastes vapid, quite like the stuff we are reading. So we switch.

Daughter suggests she has something “much better” for me and takes charge. I am introduced to Button poet Blythe Baird and her Pocket-Sized Feminism — “Once, my dad informed me sexism is dead and reminded me to always carry pepper spray in the same breath. We accept this state of constant fear as just another part of being a girl…”

I meet slammer Lily Myers and her Shrinking Women, where a daughter learns to read ‘the knots’ on her mother’s forehead, “while the guys went out for oysters'” and though she never means to replicate her metaphorically shrinking mother, she knows that if “you spend enough time sitting across from someone … you pick up their habits…”

Once upon a time, long, long ago, Doris Day sang:

When I was just a little girl,

I asked my mother,

What will I be

Will I be pretty

Will I be rich

Here’s what she said to me

Que sera, sera

Whatever will be, will be

The future’s not ours to see

Que sera, sera…

That was the 1960s. In her modern day take, veteran Katie Makkai slam dunks that one, with her own version of today’s sad truth:

“Will I be wanted? Worthy? Pretty? But puberty left me this funhouse mirror dry add: teeth set at science fiction angles, crooked nose, face donkey-long, and pox-marked where the hormones went finger-painting my poor mother.“How could this happen? You’ll have porcelain skin as soon as we can see a dermatologist.” “You sucked your thumb. That’s why your teeth look like that! ” “You were hit in the face with a Frisbee when you were six, otherwise your nose would have been fine! ” 

Suddenly all this day dreaming isn’t fun any more. I want to wake up, brush the remnants of cynicism aka feminism, and start my day afresh. Kind of like the Mahatma’s new I-phone toting monkeys propounding “Bura mat TYPE karo, Bura mat LIKE karo, Bura mat SHARE laro!”

I desperately want to be the “Point B” that American poet Sarah Kay talks about and tell my daughter too that “this life will hit you, hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.”

Oh yes!  once again, the Mahatma was bang on when he declared ages ago that “a (wo)man is but the product of her thoughts. What (s)he thinks (s)he becomes.”  

Taking heed, I begin to search for new answers to the same old questions. Will women continue to suffer in silence in a scenario where obscenity has gotten so blatant that “even a dying woman is molested on a collapsed bridge?” Would women still crave a lighter skin tone, bigger boobs, fuller lips to ride the temporary wave of a facile Insta trend? Would girls simply be the sum total of the ‘likes” for their pubescent pout? Or.. Will we be the change we want to see in the world?

The startled look on my hypothetical daughter’s face is enough. It’s got “dah” written all over it, and I smile a satisfied smile.

In my day dream, each woman is her own body image, beautiful, unique, stark & proud…

Embrasing her SELF, she wields power with panache,

No more shrinking in the shadows of pocket size feminism, 

she’s ‘pretty’ sure of that, 

she’s above selfies, pouts, judgment and label,

coz finally she believes she can, and is able,

what’s with the thigh gap and curvy hips,

the premium on virginity, silicon breasts and fuller lips?

she asks, chucking the Botox and the fairness cream…

along with words like silence, tolerate, compromise…

It’s a new world guys…

& bloody hell, I too have a dream…

(written in mycity4kids)

 

The Reason I Say No to 13 Reasons Why!

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Hey guys, interesting conversation happened the other day. I was at a friend’s place and we got to discussing things – the Mumbai stampede, crop burning in Punjab, Raghuram Rajan, the disastrous Presidents Cup and finally, 13 Reasons Why! The last one popped up point blank as my friend asked me: Would you let your son read the book, because my son (14) wants to? Some of his friends have already read the book and now he wants to read/watch it too, she rued.

My answer was a resounding NO. Sometimes questions catch you off guard and you dilly-dally, dither trying to wind your way to a reasonable answer. But not this time, I had already thought this one through a long time ago, when I was in a rough patch myself.

Now the thing is I love reading books, and while browsing the net for “different” authors, I often pick a few books for my son too. It so happened that a list of “top teen fiction” appeared on my screen one day and it had a book called 13 Reasons Why on it, this was before the Netflix series became a craze. Naturally I was curious and read the synopsis, “13 Reasons Why is a novel by Jay Asher that deals with fictional teenager Hannah Baker’s death by suicide. Before her death, she records a series of 13 tapes, blaming various people and enumerating the reasons for her death.”

WHAT THE F….?!!? Are you kidding me? That was my first instinct as a parent. And over the years I have come to rely heavily on my “first instinct.” The very premise was such a put off and I scrolled down immediately, finally settling on Scholastic’s Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman, an investigation into the lethal combo of teenage and technology that leads to cyber bullying. But one that, as the author hopes “starts thoughtful conversations about rethinking attitudes.”

What struck a chord with me was the “positive” approach of Backlash to teen angst as against the “romanticizing and simplifying” of suicide by the other book. How does that help teens I wonder. Then again there were these arguments about “13 Reasons portraying totally clueless adults in a scenario of distressed teens already struggling with clouded thinking.”  In fact, one teenager in an interview called the book a “how to” on suicide, triggering such hue and cry that Netflix was compelled to issue a warning for certain episodes.

Schools in India and abroad, have also issued advisories to parents hinting clearly that the book is NOT appropriate for middle-schoolers.  The depiction is too graphic and may lead to copycat suicide by susceptible teens is one of the arguments. A few teen psychologists strongly feel that the book is NOT meant for kids below 16.

If you want to read more, the internet is full of articles on how “teenagers experience mood swings due to hormonal fluctuations,” and often seek the screen for emotional refuge. Negativity, therefore impacts the very elastic teen brain severely. We are no psychologists, but almost all parents nowadays are familiar with the term – prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain involved in decision-making, planning and self-control, which in a teenager (we are told everyday by the school counsellor) is the last part to mature, hence the impulsive behavior. If as a parent you want to dig deeper, there’s the limbic system to read about.

Summing up teen dilemmas then, I’d suggest you watch Andrew De Leon on America’s Got Talent. Serendipity lead me to this one. Really hit me hard the first time I saw it. Here’s a fine example of how adults can be so wrong in their perspective of teens and their struggles. Strange, how we were all teens at one point in time, going through the very same rough patches and yet as adults with our so called developed  “prefrontal cortex,” all we gain is rigidity of thought. Where is the “chill pill” when we all need one?

Coming right back to the point then, a recent study said, “the teen mind is a strong force of nature” constantly craving stimulation, so why not, as a parent give it some positive reinforcement a la Skinner. However, thinking beyond the ‘Skinner Box,’ my favourite has always been TED Talks. Crisp, topical, relatable (for the teen at heart too) and very inspiring! I just sent the link – How a 13 year old changed ‘Impossible’ to ‘I’m Possible’ | Sparsh Shah | TEDxGateway – to my friend. Gives you goosebumps every time you watch it. That’s learning from a winner. A survivour against all odds.

And talking of odds, who better than the mighty charming Nick Vujicic. His Youtube videos : No Arms, No Legs, No Worries! and No arms and no legs – MOTIVATION – If you fail, try again — are a must watch for parents and teens alike. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by circumstances, I turn to Nick and a whole new perspective to life emerges, along with the tears.

Of course there are inspiring autobiographies and movies to look out for. Where then is the need for 13 Reasons, when you have hazar reasons to look up to “positive influences.” For anyone who says the book/series is about understanding the psychology of suicide, I’d say “why go graphic?” “Why go negative?” We don’t do any of that while talking about sex, rape, bullies etc with our teens, then why start now? Really?

Even the slightest positive influence, it is said, has the potential to change a child’s life. And according to motivational speaker Jim Rohn: You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with! Time then to surround our precious teens with the 5 best influences!!

(written in mycity4kids)

Today I will slay the Ravan Within! #WomenAgainstNegativity

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Hey guys, last week I took up one of those Facebook Challenges that I usually ignore. Because that day, I just felt a compelling need to show solidarity with this recurring theme: women and negativity. My re-pasted, but slightly edited post went something like this:

Challenge Accepted Anshu Bhatia … All too often.. we women, find it easier to criticize each other instead of building each other up. With all the negativity going around let’s do something positive!! 🌻💁 Upload 1 picture of yourself.. ONLY you. Then tag friends… Build yourself up instead of tearing yourself down: “When I accept myself I am free from the burden of needing you to accept me.”— tagging all my friends anyways… More power to you guys…. ALWAYS….

Can’t say that this little gesture will drastically change anything, but just like participating in the #NotInMyName Campaign, it gave me a good feeling to publicly endorse something I believe in, to take a solid stance and stand strong with the side I am on.

The rising negativity, especially on social media is the backdrop to all this. Take Whatsapp for instance, all of us are part of friends’ groups and family groups and school groups, office groups, condo groups and what have you. It all starts very well, with birthday wishes and happy this, happy that, but somewhere along the line the tone and tenor gradually changes, undercurrents of negativity creep in and things start getting ugly. Even if you aren’t among the protagonist of this negative power play, this subtle smear campaign – just being part of the group counts. The fact that you DO NOT take a stance that nips this negativity in the bud counts. Not reacting to negativity is not the same as studied diplomacy. Do not fool yourself. At best it’s silent support, and at worst sadistic voyeurism, almost on the spectrum of people who prefer to record a video for Youtube rather than help accident victims!

Sounds harsh. But isn’t it the same for the plain intolerance, insensitivity and underlying hatred that it perpetrates. What is more shocking than anything else is that we “grown up” women, as mothers and caregivers, have this mind-boggling responsibility to nurture the next generation in an environment that is already heavily polluted. Our kids are already struggling to deal with the millennial curse of cyber bullying, body shaming, performance pressure, joblessness, lifestyle maladies and a host of new age stresses! If we don’t make a conscious vow EVERYDAY to fight our own demons, how can there be any hope for the future?

Didactic? Maybe. Loud thinking? Definitely. But how else do I put it? This feeling that rears its ugly head every time someone fake-innocently tries to “dis” someone else on a very public social media platform, and I talk strictly of women here, to score a sisterhood brownie without even thinking twice of the emotional repercussions. I do not even want to delve into the possibility that maybe it is a “well thought out” strong arm tactic of one-up-womanship!

So I latch on to this beautiful message I got from a friend this morning on Whasapp, that sums up the mantra for change, starting TODAY: This Dushera why not slay the 10 inner demons:

kaam: uncontrolled longing

krodh: anger

lobh: greed

moh: attachment

ahankaar: pride

irshiya: jealousy

dwesh: hatred

aalasaya: laziness

chal: manoeuvring

hath: stubbornness

– and celebrate the true spirit of Vijaydashmi! I know I need to work on a few of those and so I have saved this one as my screen shot. A constant reminder to make an effort to rise above perfectly human flaws especially because if we – the educated, aware, liberated, strong, successful, more fortunate – women don’t do it there is NO hope for our children!

Please give me a counter argument – I am all ears. Anything that proves logically that NO – despite grown women pulling each other down, mothers behaving like troubled teens, prosperous ladies succumbing to petty machinations and sensible females cheering follies – all will be well with the world. The premise itself is so illogical, there can be absolutely no debate on this one.

On a whim I put up this poster that popped up on my wall a few days ago saying: Happiness is ignoring negative people and letting karma do its work. Negativity is a proven contagion and being in its mere presence afflicts you like it or not. There is no escape, silence is no panacea. You can’t spray it away with citronella oil. In the screwed world we live in today,  unfortunately, negativity will knock on you door, but that does not mean you let it in. As the famous saying goes: Stay away from negative people, they have a problem for every solution.

I am repeating that to myself today, and in the evening when I will participate wholeheartedly in the burning of the 10-faced Ravan that is right now being put up in the park of our condominium, I will, I promise myself, also make a deliberate effort to slay the demons within! Cheers then, to new beginnings girls… A very Happy Dushera guys, wishing everyone peace, happiness, success and the power to overcome negativity!

(Written in mycity4kids)

The groom in the bride’s shoes for a change…

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Hey guys, right now I am on page 126 of this collection of MIL stories by Veena Venugopal simply called: The Mother-in-Law: The Other Woman In Your Marriage, and as the season of shaadi shenanigans begins, I have already decided that it’s going in with every shagun lifafa for my loved ones as a ‘special’ gift. No more Tarla Dalal and Kamasutra kids!

There are a whole bunch of cousins in line for marriage and then there are my friends’ kids. If at all these gen-nexters decide to tie into knots, err… sorry, tie the knot, the “loved ones” will definitely get the treatise from Aunty Gunjan, the others I am sorry to say, will have to find “10 ways to survive the mother in law” the hard way. Hehahahaha….

But coming back to the book and pondering upon the unending master list of one-sided “adjustments” that the Indian brides have to make right from that dreaded moment they push the rice kalash and step across the border, it occurred to me WHAT IF, WHAT IF … the situation reverses. What if, from today onwards “opposite day” is declared and now the groom is supposed to make those very adjustments. Tab kya hoga?

Rubbing my palms in glee, I get to day dreaming: To begin with, the bride’s mom will now becomes the coy groom’s dress designer. “Betaji, tomorrow is mooh dikhaye, here you go….” she’ll trill, handing him the gaudy purple kurta and shimmery cream pajamas he’ll have to wear as he gets introduced to the inquisitive neighbourhood oldies. The educated, independent bride meanwhile will wave a cheery ta-ta after a scrumptious breakfast of hot paneer parathas and head office-wards, having none of this Ektaa Kapoorr (oh God was it aa or rr…) charade-parade.

Disclaimer: The goom, just to make it very clear is no ghar jamai mind you, we’re all for equality okay, but since the Pepper Fry tables have well and truly turned, he would duly apply for leave and if required, fast too for the ultimate good of the new khandaan he is now ensconced in! Like it or not!

That’s just the beginning, he’ll haath batao with all the housework; seek permission to visit his folks; get expensive “gifts” for every god forsaken tayaji and doddering mamiji from the gaon; change his surname, and for good measure the name too – from whatever it is to Raj because the bride’s mom has a huge crush on SRK! That doesn’t mean he can wear those crotch-hugging denims and comfy boxers. Na-aa. Pastel full sleeve shirts, properly tucked in and formal pants till it’s time to go to bed, and then – pure white night suit Mummyji got from the Lucknow chicken store.

For him, working late and travelling for office work will be a strict no-no. Already “we are liberal enough to let you work beta!” he’s reminded sweetly and gently herded back into his permanent sanctuary: the kitchen! Mummyji’s kitty kittens are expected and there are savouries to be deep fried and cocktails to be mixed.

OK… enough. I can’t go on any more because it is already sounding utterly RIDICULOUS!

Looking at it from the other angle, you can’t wish all of this nonsense upon anyone. The picture gets so clear now. If the relationship itself is lost in the game of oneupmanship, because frankly that is what it is and NOT Indian culture or tradition puhlease, EVERYONE loses.

If 1+1 make 2, how come “the long life” of only 1 is worth fasting for? Why does the tectonic shift of control only shake the ground beneath the bride’s feet? What is with this whole philosophy of “gau jaise bahu“? How come the direct blessing for a guy is aayushman bhava while saubhagawati bhava and doodho nahao, putoh phalo masquerade as blessings for the woman? Kind of reminds me of Vyasa’s “boon” to Draupadi in The Palace of Illusions – “each time she went to a new brother, she would be a virgin again. Fated to be “passed around like a communal drinking cup” she wonders about the nature of boons given to women – “handed to us like presents we hadn’t quite wanted” because if she had her way, Draupadi “would have requested the gift of forgetting, so that when I went to each brother I’d be free of the memory of the previous one.”

No offence, but the woman may also want to sort of “live long” and perhaps not have children, maybe not marry at all. Then is she doodho nahaoing to moisturize? She may desire a daughter, so she goes on putoh phaloing for the heck of it,  till she has one? Is that it?

Dude, WHO made these rules? Like seriously WHO? Where’s the rule book? And per chance if there is one, pray can we hear the rules for “party #2” as well milord?

I’ve just watched Newton and the only proven universal truth is “every action has an equal and opposite reaction!”  There is certainly ‘give’, but equally important is the ‘take’. Yin and Yang, to maintain the balance. It’s pure maths with one algorithm: A great relationship is about two things: first, find out the similarities, second, respect the differences! And we all live happily ever after!

(Written in mycity4kids)

The maid’s NOT coming today…so why am I HAPPY?

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Hey guys, like I said, the maid is not coming today (and she didn’t even call), still I am happy. Quite happy in fact. Why? I just don’t get myself sometimes.

Didn’t I specifically instruct her to come pucca today. In a week full of running around to school, book club meet, movies, writing class, lectures etc.. today – a Wednesday bang in the middle of the week – was a relatively free day and I had decided to make the most of it. We were to change the bed sheets, wipe pigeon poo off the balcony railing, iron a few clothes, fry up the onion-garlic-ginger masala for multiple use whenever and generally attempt a thorough clean up of neglected crevices – an absolute must what with continuous construction going on all around the so-called millennium city.

Then what’s with this smile on my face? Really! Gosh!

For starters, I am all by myself in my house with complete SILENCE filling the spaces around. And it’s rather soothing. Usually by noon, I am fluttering around like a walkie talkie instruction manual. Following up my follow ups. Sitting down with a book one minute, rushing to the kitchen the next to give Calmwali Bai the new haldi packet. Then again, just as I am trying to imagine the most perfect ending to my short story, I have to get up: “Phenyl khatam ho gaya didi!” FCUK!!! If I am on the phone enjoying a particularly bitchy gossip session with my gal pal, you can bet you ass: Gas khatam ho jayegi!!! You get the drift… straight out of Malice in Wonderland if you ask me!

In that way, today is different. I was able to seamlessly weave my story for the “Writing Workshop” assignment this morning. Then I just got into the groove and started writing some more. With no interruption, the words just flow. Soon I’ll get up for a tea break and make myself a soul-satisfying cup of ginger-kali mirch tea – just the way I like it.

Yes the beds have to be made, yes I can see some pigeon poo, yes the crevices need some working and yes, yes there’s a pile of clothes to be ironed. So what? I am strangely not bothered today. The sheer satisfaction of having all this peace and quite to myself, where I can do some carefree writing and uninterrupted reading surmounts the need to stress about the mundane. Irony or ironies: the book I am about to begin is Maidless in Mumbai a signed copy I won in a recent mommy competition. Lo kar lo baat! And my smile widens.

This is the thing with the mind, I guess it just adjusts to situations. What could have been a day of much fretting and fuming is panning out wonderfully as a day of fruitful engagement. When we do things we like, the chores that follow stop being chores. So I will thoroughly enjoy this “me time” and then get on with the basic duties. Specifically, preparing a hearty lunch for my son. Something on the lines of his favourite paneer pasta, a glass of pre-Navratra Pinot Noir in hand, imagining myself as the hot Bree Van de Kamp, even though I am still in my very ghati batik nightie. In fact that reminds me, I need to try out this organic whole wheat fettuccine I picked up from Fabindia. Perhaps a tomato-carrot soup to go with it, topped with lots of fried garlic, chopped coriander, a dollop of butter and a dash of Maggi masala! Drool!

The “smelling to high heavens onion paste” will just have to wait. That’s a bit much in this heat. No amount of lathering Fiama peach & avocado gel can truly get that frying smell out of your pores. So it’s strictly “maid territory” and will happen, when the maid happens.

Till then let me just revel in precious solitude. I am looking forward to lunching and laughing with my little boy as we slurp pasta watching Impractical Jokers. I am looking forward to having a siesta in the afternoon. I am also looking forward to applying a range of gooey concoction that I invent in the kitchen on my face, bindass without worrying about the maid giving me a creepy look! I am looking forward to a day I don’t have to plan each and every minute of.

Having said that, I am also looking forward to welcoming my maid with open arms tomorrow morning sharp at 6 am. One day without her is FUN, two days..not so much. For then reality hits you, and hard.

But that’s tomorrow, till then “I’ll not count the days, but make the day count!” Time to forget the whine, sip some wine and whip up some pasta frenzy…

(written in mycity4kids)

I will NOT read the newspaper anymore!

I just do not feel like starting this blog with the usual “hey guys.” The cheery tone doesn’t go with how I feel right now: unhappy, depressed, restless, angry, helpless and most of very, very SCARED!

This is not the way life is supposed to be on a daily basis for us – and more importantly for our children! But the past week has been particularly shocking: starting with what is now being called the “slap dare” that ended in a social media tsunami to the absolutely gruesome murder of beautiful little boy and the rape of  a 5-yr-old girl in a school toilet in East Delhi by a peon.

In between – a dance teacher in New Delhi “threatens to disrobe” a Class 5 student, a school bus crushes 6-yr-old Soumya while dropping her home at Mehrauli village, a 16-yr-old is sodomized in a South Delhi coaching centre, a Tantrik kidnaps and rapes a 15-yr-old and in Telengana, a 10-yr old schoolgirl is “humiliated” by her teacher and made to stand in front of the boys’ toilet for “not wearing the correct uniform!!!” On top of all of this gloom, hovers the dark cloud of mindless frenzy over the arrest of a religious conman and the blatant silencing of a prominent voice of “dissent.”

I feel a chill run down my spine, even as I write all this down. And it does not end here. Yesterday’s newspapers wrote about a woman “who was allegedly gang-raped in West Bengal’s Birbhum district on Monday and a bottle thrust into her private parts after she sought to end an extra-marital affair.” She is in a critical condition. But today, she is yesterday’s news. A single column in the newspaper.

Will she survive? Who will look after her 2 little kids? No idea! As far as the “hyper emotional TRP”is considered, her role has ended. Which is not the case with the “Pradhymn tragedy,” where the raw emotions of his distraught parents are relentlessly splashed across newspapers EVERYDAY even as TV anchors casually sit on the bed and interview his grieving mom, trying to find “new angles” to keep the story alive – “MLA, Minister attend last rites of killed schoolboy;” “Boy’s father doesn’t think cops got the right man;” “Rape accused fears for safety of his daughter;” “Two schools offer seats to Ryan boy’s sister;” “The letter he wrote to his mother” and “The mystery of the missing footprints in blood.”

Dastardly and extremely disturbing. As a result, schools are frantically placing orders for “more” CCTV cameras, parents are having non-stop meetings with school administration on safety guidelines, kids are shaken, adults are anxious and every bhai, didi, labourer, bus conductor, peon and help is in the circle of suspicion! The environment of distrust and fear is stifling. The day does not begin with a smile as it should but ugly lines of extreme worry. A permanently palpitating heart.

Reams have been written about how “bad news” affects us at the neurological level. BK Sister Shivani spoke eloquently at the Gurgaon Mom’s annual meet this year, about how we internalize all the negativity by reading/watching/listening to news about violence, tragedies and crime; and how it eventually moulds our personality and thinking. How images of death & destruction trigger sadness, impotent rage, frustration at not being able to do anything and even PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). But the scarier bit is the coping mechanism, where the brain then starts filtering images and we adjust to a state of “emotional disconnect” to carry on with our lives despite all that is going around. No rocket science there, it’s plain common sense – the survival of the species.

Do we have a choice then? Well, going back to BK Sister Shivani: “People and situations are not responsible for the way we feel. They are only the stimulus, our responses are the thoughts, feelings and behaviour which we choose and create.”

Sitting in Leisure Valley, listening to a whole range of outstanding artists – singers, story tellers, activists, poets and stand ups – perform at the peaceful #NotInMyName campaign, I wonder about my choices. How do I move from passive fretting to active participation? How do I wriggle free from mind-numbing despondency to a state of “can do-will do” optimism? How do I just break free and live each day with a purpose? The answer my friend is blowing in the wind along with the soul stirring lyrics of the Hamare Naam Par Nahin anthem. I get up… brush off yesterday’s dust and see the light at the end of the tunnel! Om Shanti!

(written in mycity4kids)