When lil’ bro cooks you a meal, it’s a very special bhai dooj deal!

bhai dooj

Hey everyone, I am at a space in life where I am a little confused, upset, vulnerable and full of questions. But there don’t seem to be any satisfactory answers. The “injustices” that many women live with all their lives, for their own personal reasons and limitations, have always affected me hugely, be it the daily battles of a simple housewife or this big deal about a host of “utterly misplaced” taboos on menstruating women. How is a woman having her period “impure”? By that logic every “constipated” man is impure because seriously if he hasn’t done his daily business in the loo — he IS full of shit! Literally. Every person who has any ailment is “impure” and if we stretch the logic a bit and start talking about the “impurities of the mind” most of the temples will stay near empty!

In all this gloom then, every little change that happens fills me up with positivity, hope and belief in the inherent resilience and goodness of humans. Weren’t we all touched by the star of the moment Ayushmann Khurrana’s adorable gesture this karva chauth for his cancer-stricken wife Tahira. Posting a picture of the first syllable of her name written in mehendi on the palm of his hand, he wrote, “She can’t fast this time. But I will. For her good health and life.” I am getting goosebumps even as I type, melts your heart doesn’t it?

Things are changing. Many husbands also “keep a fast for their wife’s long life” on karva chauth, brothers also tie rakhis to sisters in the spirit of “looking after and protecting each other always,” age-old restrictions that hinder the true growth and prosperity of humanity are gradually disintegrating – the toilet movement in India is one classic example, gender equality and acceptance of every sexuality are no longer in the closet along with detailed discourses on religious tolerance, cultural integration and of course the #MeToo wave sweeping across the world finally! So it’s not all bad, I tell myself as I get ready this bhai dooj to visit my little bro, who is all set to break an age-old tradition in his own way by cooking me and my son a festive lunch.

The best part about it is that it’s not a social media photo-op, it’s not laboured, but a very personal gesture that comes very naturally to him, that cooking is among his many passions is an added bonus. Reminds me of one of the latest ads about dish washing liquids I think, where the voice-over applauds a man for washing dishes and he turns around and sternly dismisses it with “if I enjoy the eating, washing up after is also my duty.” Guys that’s revolutionary in Indian circumstances and we all need to feel very good such changes are at least being talked about now not just in our country. Looks like the world has come a long way since 11-yr-old Meghan Markle lobbied against P&G for its sexist dishwasher soap TV commercial.

Coming right back to my special bhai dooj, it went something like this then — I reached baby bro’s bachelor pad by 11, my teenage son in tow. Delicious aromas of garlic fried in butter, freshly chopped basil, home-made barbeque sauce with smoked paprika, streaky bacon frying in its own delicious juices and subtle fragrance of Kashmiri spices in the Nihari wrapped us in a welcoming embrace as I rung the bell.

Once inside his neat apartment, I made myself comfortable on the sofa-cum-bed that was the one and only piece of furniture in his consciously de-cluttered hall area and for the next two hours as my son and bro slogged in the kitchen chopping, frying, tasting, baking, washing, basting, pressure-cookering and cleaning, I watched a movie on Netflix with my feet up for once, shouting out unsolicited advise every once in a while.

The movie: The Manchurian Candidate, suggested by my actor baby brother, was such a gripping political thriller, I had no idea how time flew. Finally, the lunch, eaten in all sorts of mismatched crockery was so delectable, I overate majorly. For me there was just the most melt-in-the-mouth creamy Nihari with plain white basmati rice cooked to perfection in all its long-grained glory, for my son: Chote Mamu’s signature home-made whole wheat BBQ chicken pizza with mounds of fresh mozarella and grated parmesan along with super crispy bacon. We washed it all down with huge glasses of the most divine sugarcane juice even as a whole chicken roasted to a moist rich shade of brown in the oven laden with the rich goodness of lots of butter, garlic, black pepper from Cochin and kuti lal mirch from Rajasthan which strangely has a uniquely mild heat just right for my palette.

Amid entertainment, food, laughter and a warm togetherness I suddenly felt very relaxed in body and soul. The air-con hummed a lullaby and soon we were all asleep on the cool floor like content cubs on Nat Geo taking their post-lunch siesta. In the evening, refreshed from the meal and the snooze that followed I blessed him loads and as I left I realized it just takes a very small heart-felt gesture to make one feel loved, respected, wanted and extra special. Can’t we all make just that one tiny effort? The joy that it brings us in return is a priceless byproduct worth striving for.

Sometimes “a simple gesture, the smallest compliment” the fact that you “think about someone” is enough to change their world, I felt it deeply this bhai dooj, and for once even amid the tugs and pulls of life I believe, I smile, I bow my head in prayer and count my blessings!

(For Momspresso)

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#MarriageMusts: 7 Commandments for the MIL

MIL

Hey friends, wishing all of you an awesome Diwali, may your life be full of light, love and laughter. For the majority of us though, all of that is dependent to quite an extent on the proverbial “dreaded” and sometimes true-to-form “dreadful” MIL! Yep, I’ve said it finally, phew!

Twenty years of marriage and countless heart-to-hearts with my gregarious girlie lot have given me enough ammo to arrive at that conclusion with a fair degree of certainty. I’ve got to mention here that I do read with a lot of fascination stray tales of “Mummyji’s” love (usually from newly-weds) and once again go looking out for the elusive unicorn in misplaced hope, but really girls, 98% of the times I come back disappointed. Human nature worldwide is sadly quite consistent specially when it comes to this particularly delicate equation. DIL-MIL gaye, is the classic marriage mirage!

In all of this, what scares me more than anything else is the fact that I have a 15-year-old son and the possibility of my wearing this very “dreadful” MIL-cape is very real. Maybe very deep into the future, but real nonetheless. So I have decided to write myself a list of #MarriageMusts in the form of the sacred 7 commandments for the MIL based on facts gleaned out of real-life stories. And what better time than Diwali to throw some light on a few age-old dark secret.

Here goes then, the 7 Commandments for MIL coming straight out of the DIL (is it a coincidence that it means heart too) and for safety sake might I suggest that the commandments be sealed at the time of the pheras itself “pavitra agni ko saakshi rakh kar” in full public view, with a back-up recording —

#1: Thou shalt NOT insist that your new bride change her name or surname. Hopefully it’s an adult relationship and the woman has a right to make her own decisions on that score. Today more than ever, it has innumerable implications on things like passport, aadhar card, bank account, voter ID, PAN card blah blah which can be a real avoidable headache. What is with this forced change of name anyways? Never understood that!

#2: Thou shalt NOT automatically assume charge of the bride’s suitcases, jewellery and other stuff. Seriously, how tacky. That’s her private stuff and it’s entirely her wish to share or not with the rest of the new family. I’ve also heard horror stories of the “groom’s” sisters (real and even sundry cousins) coolly dipping into the bride’s boudoir and picking up things they like — clothes, jewellery, purses, shoes — egged on by this “jo tera hai woh mera hai” nonsense.

#3: Thou shalt NOT from the moment the kids say “I do” assume the “marne se pehle pote ka moh” look! Really, give them some space. And for heaven’s sake do not pre-define your grandkid’s gender, in the age of Section 377, you have to make your peace with the third gender too my dear. So giddy up granny, this is the age of dadis like Rani Sharma opening their hearts and minds to alternative sexualities.

#4: Thou shalt NOT (as a corollary to the previous point) behave like a de facto birth control MIL, err, pill in case your bedroom happens to be in the vicinity of the newly and later not-s0-newly weds by reminding them first thing in the morning how many times the flush was pulled, who coughed, sneezed or made other indeterminate noises. I am not going to elaborate on this point, you know: samajhdaar ko isharaa and all that jazz.

#5: Thou shalt NOT focus pointedly on your  so-called “rights” only but give a good glance to your bidden “duties” as well. Topmost among which is to make the new bride feel at home, respected, loved, welcomed and free to speak her heart NOT  bound, controlled, enslaved, (in some cases of love or inter-caste marriages) despised and treated lightly. Here matters can take a nasty turn as has been proven time and again in many cases even in well-to-do-educated families that the “need to control”almost always spirals out of control into verbal, physical and mental abuse soon.

#6:Thou shalt NOT force your opinions and methods on the new “adult” member of the family with respect to fasting, wearing certain clothes, defining time out, drinking, smoking, travelling for work,  entertaining friends, reading, writing, cooking, talking, breathing! She, let me remind you gently, is as human, as free, as much an independent, thinking individual as you and your son.

#7: And finally, thou shalt NOT, seriously NOT, once your son gets “honorably hitched” harp on the many,many “good rishtas” that had come his way, that he cast aside despite the 3BHK bangla on offer and that silver Maruti Esteem ki chabi. Marriage does not equal manipulation, marriage does not equal money mongering, marriage does not mean material stuff — it’s a match, it’s a mission, it’s a mindful commitment… do not make a mockery of it! The day your son marries, the baton has been passed, let the bride take it from there with love and ALL your blessings. It’s a win-win situation don’t you get it?

Dear MILs,

One quote in pinerest sums up MIL as “the most criticizing, evil, fake, vindictive person who loves to cause family strife.” Go ahead, prove this definition wrong, so that every DIL “can thank you for raising the man of her dreams,” because “a DIL cannot be perfect by herself, a beautiful MIL helps her be one.”

(Written in Momspresso)

Are you a bread & Sambaar woman?

Greasy plate and fork after eating

Hey my gorgeous girls, right now sitting in my balcony enjoying the cool Mumbai breeze as I sip my first cup of tea, I want to ask each of you a question: Are you a bread and sambaar woman?

Now what’s a “bread & sambaar woman” you may ask, well that’s my definition of a woman who puts her “self” last, typically. This interesting observation came about one afternoon some years ago when I was getting ready for school pick-up. Must have been 12:30 or so, my lovely neighbor (let’s call her Nisha for convenience sake) also came out the door just then and as usual we began exchanging pleasantries.

Nisha’s daughter and my son were both five then and studied in the same school. After having enquired about the Annual Day costume (a mouse if you please) I automatically moved on to my favourite question “Aaj lunch mein kya banaya Nisha?” Something I have to ask even if to just ideate on my next meal combo, very crucial to my scheme of things as a mom and cooking enthusiast.

“Nothing much,” she dodged, “I just had bread with leftover sambaar, husband is travelling no and Ditya (her daughter) has basketball after school,” she smiled wearily.

Now, girls, I cover my head for my own reasons, but I swear, my hair stood on end. “Bread and leftover sambaar for lunch? Like not even a simple steaming white rice and sambaar? my thought bubble exploded in shock. To me, it was just the saddest thing. I may be overreacting a tad, but really tell me, how many of us have done the same and just “managed with leftovers” in such situations, often.

This “let it be, it’s only me” syndrome starts as a lazy thought and then gradually without our realization becomes such an inherent part of our lives that the “I come last” vibes start radiating off our very being. So much so that people around us – husband, kids, in-laws, pesky neighbours and ‘aur’gasmic aquaintances you know those forever chanting “Aur batao beta…” – think it’s only fair to take us completely for granted.

Truth be told, and the truth is always harsh, we are squarely to blame for the “bread and sambaar” BAS situation we put ourselves in.

To answer my own question, foodwise I can say with some deal of pride I am certainly NOT a “bread and sambaar” woman. Opportunities like husband traveling and kid busy in after-school activity are a chance for me to indulge myself. I use that long stretch of time to rustle up a butter chicken that the two men in my life love, but not being too big a butter chicken fan, I’ll then go ahead and make myself a bowlful of soul food– maybe a sabutdana khichdi rich with the flavours of roasted peanuts, fresh lime, and aromatic curry leaves or some fragrant poha with lots of aloos and peas or crispy palak pakoras with tangy mint chutney – yes for lunch! Why not? These I go ahead and thoroughly enjoy while watching re-runs of Friends or the absolutely yummylicious David Rocco in Dolce India.

However, not to be one of those fake braggarts, I have to admit on this solemn platform that I have metaphorically been a “bread and sambaar” woman on many other occasions. Take for instance my deep-seated desire to go on a girlie trip, someday. It’s no big deal you’d say, but even at 40 plus this simple wish continues to lie in the back-burner for some reason or the other. There’s always some urgent family matter that comes in the way and I push my simple wish to “ok koi baat nahin agle saal.” True to form I’ve done it yet again this year, promising myself the umpteenth time “that dream trip to the Jaipur Lit Fest 2019, pucca, with my jolly bunch of writer friends” with whom I very recently wrote an anthology of short stories titled Escape Velocity. Ya right, smirks my alter ego, let’s see.

This is just one example. As a wife, mother, daughter, I’ve put myself just a step behind always. I don’t call it “sacrifice” or “adjustment” but rather not stopping and thinking but kind of simply going with the flow in a daze. That airplane announcement about “putting YOUR oxygen mask first before helping others” is one of the biggest life lessons for me.

Ab it remains to be seen whether I’ll finally break free or continue to be a BAS in 2019 as well. Call it “me time” “owning your space” “finding your footing” or simply “taking charge of your life” by according your own self some fundamental respect. I mean don’t we all owe it to ourselves to shatter the BAS mould and reinvent the ‘me’ within.

Raising a toast then to all of us, may we “become a priority in our lives” and realize once and for all that “putting ourselves first doesn’t mean we don’t care about others. It means we are smart enough to know we can’t help others if we don’t help ourselves first”… cheers to that my lovelies!!! BAS bahut hua!

(Written in Momspresso)

#MoreToMe: Aham Brahmasmi — the Brahmin… the Brahma and the Brahmand…

phone pics 773

Hey guys, the title is a shocker I know. But so is the truth most of the times. In your face and stark. And that’s what #MoreToMe is all about. I feel there’s just so much more to me, that even I have no idea. That’s why Aham Brahmasmi: the Brahmin — a seeker of knowledge (I am the proverbial sponge); the Brahma — a creator (even if it is a new pasta recipe, why not?) and the Brahmand  — a vast universe of possibilities, oh yeah! Wait, something’s still missing. Let me see, hanh got it — “delightfully flawed” too. Yes, that’s it. That’s exactly how I choose to define ME. Someone even I am discovering little by little every day. It’s amazing.

At 40 plus, it’s like having this out-of-body experience, where you see yourself in a detached, un-bias light in great clarity. What is even more interesting is that you can actually see yourself in the future too, along the lines YOU choose to pursue as a woman of today — free and fearless. When I was a hosteller in DPS, R K Puram, my room-mate once gave me this innocuous-looking book mark that said: Whatever you think that you will be. If you think yourself weak, weak you will be; if you think yourself strong, strong you will be, with a picture of Swami Vivekananda on it. And I remember marvelling at the simplicity of the life-altering philosophy. Isn’t it so true guys? If YOU believe — You are not a drop in the ocean, but the entire ocean in a drop, as Rumi famously quipped. That is the power of ME — I’m a bitch, I’m a lover I’m a child, I’m a mother I’m a sinner, I’m a saint .. I do not feel ashamed. And as Meredith Brooks (bless her!) croons:

Yesterday I cried

Must have been relieved to see

The softer side

I can understand how

you’d be so confused

I don’t envy you

I’m a little bit of everything

All rolled into one…

Since we are at it, let me paint a picture for you: so I got 5 ear piercings as a 14-year-old, last year I added two tattoos too. I have NEVER lived in one place for more than 5 years at a stretch, which means I am an eternal nomad and I love it. Fiercely independent, an extrovert with a capital E, a pucca Leo and someone who “says it like it is” especially if you are my friend. Things that have got me into trouble a lot, but there you have the “delightfully flawed” bit. My friends and family have made their peace with it. Phew!

I can swear like a Jat on JD, especially while driving on Gurgaon roads, but I am also an incurable romantic. I love chunky jewellery. And loud music. And deep-fried pakoras with sugary jalebi.

What does all this tell you about me? What is the image that pops into you head?

Let me shine the spotlight on a Youtube video of Andrew-De-Leon at this stage. It’s my personal favourite ever since I chanced upon it a few years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=255qSgdEfqc&t=269s 

I must have seen it many, many, many times but each time, it gives me goosebumps. As does the Susan Boyle video. Two aspects that hit me each time — the condescending smirks of the judgemental audience and then the slap in the face, as these two go on to shine on stage, and how. While you are at it, also take a sneak peek at the indomitable Bhanvari Devi as she rocks the MTV Coke Studio with her powerful vocals in Kattey. This is not to say that I am anywhere near them, oh no, but just a re-affirmation that appearances can be so very deceptive. Hence #MoreToMe!

In this wonderful forum itself there may be grandmas in traditional saris who have been in the school hockey team once upon a time, so many mums who gave up lucrative jobs to embrace domesticity, deceptively docile women who are in fact black belters or bikers, petite teenagers who have climbed the highest mountains and generally some of the finest specimens of our species going about their task — whatever it may be, with a steely resolve, mindless to worldly appreciation or recognition. That’s the me I want to be. Unfuckwithable, as my tattoo proclaims. Someone truly at peace and in touch with herself, so nothing anyone says or does bothers you, and no negativity or drama can touch you. Amen!

For now though, I thoroughly enjoy my role as mum to my teenager. As also being a foodie with a twist as I experiment with recipes and ingredients and come up with my own protien-rich quick-fixes. A birder, reveling in the beauty around me and trying to capture with my amateur lens the elusive barbets, orioles, bush chats and an occasional Jacobin cuckoo. Right here at the bio-diversity park.

An artist, dabbling in folk paintings of typical Madhubani and Gond motifs, besides bringing the Enchanted Forest alive in my adult-colouring book. A lover of the forgotten craft of cross stitch and knitting, looks like our sisters at the convent made sure the SUPW lessons got truly ingrained.

A yoga enthusiast, a journalist, a traveller, someone who absolutely enjoys a good book, a blogger, an aspiring short story writer, a fledgling green soldier, an active citizen volunteer and so much more still. It’s like even I am confused aakhir kaun hoon mein? Who really is the true me?

Is it a Hindu trying to understand the deeper meaning of my chosen “ism” as much through S Radhakrishnan’s The Hindu View of Life as Khushwant Singh’s We Indians, even as I look forward to Tharoor’s Why I am a Hindu. Or a typical “housewife” going about her chores as a mum, wife, daughter… Or perhaps a woman at the cusp of a new awakening!

I think I’ll latch on to that last thought. A thought that holds so much promise, power, providence and positivity. Bahut bhari ho gaya na? So on a lighter note let me end by raising my glass to the poster on my door: Yes I am — temperamental, classy, bitchy, hungry, messy, stylish, unpredictable, cool, offensive, sarcastic, original: it’s called being a WOMAN. Cheers girls!!!

(Written in Momspresso)

Talking Period with My Teen & Prepping for Padman…

golf birds flowers Golden green 001

Hey guys, lovely to be back and wishing y’all goodness and peace in 2018! This is my very first blog in the super snazzy Momspresso and I thought I needed to do something worthwhile as a teenager’s mom. Something impactful that’ll set the tone for things to come. Enter Padman — New Age Hero, Sanitary Savant — perfect role model for a generation so cloistered in cold gadgetry that they unknowingly develop a phlegmatic apathy to the real world and its real issues. Consider this: 70% of 16-24 year olds, says the Economics Times are in such a “tech trance” that they actually prefer texting to talking! 40% of people, it seems have some kind of internet-based addiction. Tut-tut.

What now? How do we as moms, try and stop youngsters from becoming smartphone zombies. Of course assuming we ourselves aren’t one already. One of the ways I found out, besides the obvious tech monitoring, is giving our kids a dose of harsh reality. A very real lesson on things that matter, issues that rankle, people who make a difference. In our times it was Panchtantra ki Kahaniyan  and Jatak Kathas that did the job brilliantly, today, Ted Talks that way serve a valuable purpose. Going a step ahead, I’ve actively, in the past few years, started zeroing in on the lives and works of change-makers in society, be it my good friend diligently volunteering time at the Community Library in a Sikandarpur slum, my neighbour collecting used toys to distribute among the less privileged kids on Christmas, the local green brigade planting trees OR youth icons Malala Yousafzai and Virat Kohli!

In the same vein, we — my teenage son and me — have embarked on Project Padman. I remember reading somewhere about the indomitable Arunachalam Muruganantham aka Menstrual Man ages ago in awe. At that time I was struck by the fact that a man had come up with such a revolutionary idea even as women simply accepted the age-old sloppy sanitary regime of hand-washing their crude, home-made and more often than not unhygienic cloth pads every month for lack of an inexpensive alternative! The one thing that I distinctly remember from my growing years was my mom’s clear diktat on the use of clean, hygienic sanitary napkins even though it was an expensive addition to the monthly budget. No wonder I was one Carefree teenager in more ways than one!

Now my teenager is going to turn 15 soon and he has a fair idea about periods and such, but I remember not very long ago when he commented he’s very happy to be a boy as “girls have to pee blood every month!” Since I share a very open relationship with my sweetheart, I was mighty amused. Goes without saying that I went ahead and did all the explaining in detail to clarify once and for all that that wasn’t quite the case. Poor guy probably rued the moment he made that comment, but jokes apart, kids need to know what is what in clear terms. This is why I am eagerly looking forward to watching Padman with him.

In preparation, I dug out my copy of Twinkle Khanna’s The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, a book I thoroughly enjoyed reading. In fact I think I even wrote a Facebook post on the lines of making it part of the middle years programme in schools.  And last night my little guy read the story of the incredible Sanitary Man from a Sacred Land, his trials and tribulations before his obsession with sanitary napkins made him a world-wide success. Not surprisingly, kiddo was quite impressed. We went on to have a glance at a few articles on the life of Muruganantham, before I explained to him the sheer economics of the sanitary pad: the general cost per pad of a Whisper with wings, how many pads are, on an average, used by women when menstruating etc etc. It was on eye-opener even for me — the per pad cost analysis as compared to Muruganantham’s revolutionary innovation.

Some of the other things we ‘ll be doing as a precursor to going for  the movie next week are: watching together Muruganantham’s Ted Talk on the issue where he explains his vision of making India a 100% napkin-using country even as his award-winning project generates millions of jobs across the country for rural women. Maybe even a documentary on the menstrual nightmares of African women. As for the mood swings and general discomfort, I think my kiddo is very aware of that aspect of his mom’s life, something I outlined earlier in https://www.momspresso.com/parenting/50-shades-of-me/article/i-am-having-my-period-back-off — by the tone of it, I was probably PMSing then! : )

It’s just that I firmly believe today’s kids — boys and girls — kind of cocooned in the luxuries of metropolitan lives, need to know all of this. I mean even I am shocked to read that a whopping 91% of Indian women apparently do not use sanitary napkins! Last year, Toilet Ek Prem Katha, was a brilliant effort to bring home the crude reality of open air defecation, especially for women — the shame, the harassment and the helplessness over this very basic human right in the 21st century was explicitly depicted for all to see! The more you delved into it, the uglier it got from corruption logistics to blatant sexual harassment.  This year it’s another equally potent issue. And we are all set to open our eyes and minds to the harsh reality. To be aware of the very fundamental problems that the  majority of Indians face daily. And what better medium that watching movies — one of the best ways to bond with my teen: https://www.momspresso.com/parenting/50-shades-of-me/article/bonding-over-bollywood-with-my-boy

Hopefully, it will widen our perspective in life, make us more empathetic to other’s troubles and give us points to  ponder as we set future goals for ourselves — as moms, as teenagers, as responsible humans. In the immortal words of Muruganantham, “no human being ever died because of poverty. Everything happens because of ignorance.” Words that effectively apply as much to a woman struggling with menstrual sanitation in a village in Tamil Nadu as a yolo teenager in Gurgaon! Harking back to Herodotus, knowledge most definitely is the “only good” and ignorance the “only evil!” Think about it before you — the parent or the child — let yourself get sucked once again into the tech trance, oblivious of the REAL world you are so much an inherent part of!

#Padman #ArunachalamMuruganantham #TalkingPeriod

(Written for #Momspresso)

The Italian Wedding & The Whole Point Of Getting Married…

 

anushka-virat-759Hey guys, I have spent the last three days simply looking and re-looking at each and every delightful photo of THE wedding. And I am not one bit apologetic. From the shaky video of the jaimaal to the Insta post of Kholi singing Mere Mehboob Qayamat Hogi for his beautiful bride Anushka (sigh!!) to the final tweet officially announcing the new relationship status — Today we have promised each other to be bound in love for ever. We are truly blessed to share the news with you.This beautiful day will be made more special with the love and support of our family of fans & well wishers. Thank you for being such an important part of our journey.

OMG… where are the tissues when you need them. It’s all just too cute and I am kind of like family, fan and well wisher rolled in one. Family, coz bhai Phase 1 is my adda: Mother Dairy for sabji-bhaji, Sweets Corner for delicious jalebis, Qureshi – when I crave kababs, Midland for the latest Murakami , Kith & Kin – the place for cheap factory rejects, Sindhi Sweets when I want gajak, HDFC to pay for all of that, David for this season’s best betki and Gopala to round of with the most delicious rosogullas — so you see I practically live there as does our sona munda Virat Kohli, so I am a legit ladkewala. Also I had read somewhere that Anushka has a pahari angle, her large nath certainly confirmed that, so that’s a double connect there. Fan and well wisher? No need to explain that I guess because don’t we all just love Cheeku puttar’s chutzpah on and off the field (the guy certainly is ballsy, pun well and truly intended), and Anushka, without a doubt, is one of the finest actresses of new age cinema — unassuming, natural and spunky — just like her character in Band Baja Barat, PK, Ai Dil Hai Mushkil and When Harry Met Sejal.

No wonder the Vicks ad — yeh mujhe nahin dikhi, agli tujhe nahin dikhegi and the Nimbooos Masala Soda ad are quite an extension of their individual personalities, culminating finally in the Manyawar ad, where they quite clearly hint at things to come. I am telling you I knew it then! They just looked so right and ready every time I saw them together on the large PVR screen take their “new age” marriage vows, tum mujhe cutie, sona, baby nahin bulaoge... love that one in particular.

The reason I am going on and on about all of this is that I’ve been meaning to write a little something on marriage since a very long time. It started on a laid back Sunday morning when we were discussing the relevance of marriage today. Is it even necessary? Why marry when you can live in? Isn’t marriage another word for compromise? What’s the whole point of a good old-fashioned marriage actually?

Just day before, the Friends re-run added its own take on all of that when Monica, who is having pre-marriage jitters, goes: “now I can’t sleep with anyone else…. EVER!” Point to be noted in an era of proud polyamourists — ie: those who have more than one sexual loving relationship at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved — a definition used by California polyamorist Morning Glory Zell, who coined the term in the early 1980’s.

On top of all that, this friend quipped with a resigned sort of sigh, “ya, ya, I remember my heady days back when we were newly weds. All dewy eyes, stolen kisses, tender touches and non-stop romance! Wait for some time. It all just vanishes I tell you,” she wriggled her finger for added emphasis.

Got me thinking. Thinking hard about the whole deal with marriage. “A man is incomplete until he is married,” they say, “after that, he is finished!” Also, “Marriage is a relationship where one person is always right, and the other is the husband.” So is it all about such flippancy ultimately? Or, is it actually about “finding that one special person that you can annoy for the rest of your life,” because marriage most definitely “is not when the perfect couple comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.”

Wow! Isn’t that well said now and quite bang on, besides the fact that you do find a friend, confidant and soul mate to share your life with. The great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once famously quipped “It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” Absolutely. And the fact that the misplaced emphasis is on words like — the one, forever, total commitment, expectation trap and making the relationship divorce proof — rather than basic respect and care. That’s all you need come to think of it. To expect certainty in a world full of uncertainty is foolish.

On the plus side, we have a host of TIME articles directly linking marriage to good heart and brain health. A study by the University of Missouri confirms the positive effect of marital quality to personal well-being ie: happier marriages make happier people. That IS good news.

From the era of institutional marriage, we have come a long way to more self-expressive marriages today. You take your time, get comfortable, get to know each other and then arrive at a mutual decision to “be there for each other.” To say “I do want to be with THIS person. Yes!” There are no guarantees here. There isn’t all peace and quite always. But that is the whole basis of a healthy relationship. A study of married couples by Berkeley psychologist, Robert Levensen and John Gottman, founder of the Gottman Institute, revealed that couples who fought and thrashed things out managed to stay together in the end. (Psst: these guys need to come visit me sometime!)

As for this other thing: Why marry when we can do all of that by just living together? Two things, and I’ll not quote any great philosopher or professor here, just me thinking:

1.  Why not? when you are sure of yourself. Think of it as a celebration of a life choice that you made. A sharing of your joy with people who matter. An owning of a decision if you may. A stamp of confidence on your ability to take charge. Look, there are no guarantees I repeat, so why the hesitation.

2. This is only if you plan to go ahead and have children (your own or adopted), then it is also a promise to the little one! You owe it to the child to provide him/her a comforting family.

To me, this is the plain thought behind the whole marriage thing and you go ahead if you are aligned. It’s not to say married people have it easy, it is not to deride divorces or separation, it is not to point fingers at single parents and those who still choose to NOT marry for reasons best known to them. It is simply to say that if you stay true to the spirit and do find someone to share your life with, marriage per se is a wonderful journey. But like every journey, it comes with its own planning, baggage, security check, milestones, nomadism, rush & calm, maps and GPS, spurts and stumbles. It’s how you walk, fly, hike, swim or ride along that matters. “Never marry the one you can live with, marry the one you can’t live without,” quite neatly sums up all my rambling.

As I once more ogle at Sabyasachi’s out-of-this-world gorgeous ensemble on the happy couple (cannot for the life of me get around to calling them Virushka…eeeekks!) and admire their lush rose garlands (those babies are giving our own phool gobis a run for their money), I wish oodles of love and warm companionship to the new innings. Restores my faith in the relationship called marriage — a mosaic you build with your loved ones, millions of tiny moments creating your love story! Howzatt?

(Written in mycity4kids) (Pic courtsey social media)

Chai in one hand, confidence in the other…

mom 9

Hey guys, long time no see. God Lord, have I just revealed my age by saying that. I guess I meant Yo Man, or whatever hep acronym is going around these days. It’s just that the mood has finally struck and I have to write. Write about this thing that I simply call Learning to Say Yes That’s Me! And I am Loving it! Let me put in a disclaimer at the very beginning here that I hold no official “degree”, but the very fact that life itself is a learning process gives me some creative liberty to propound on my own experiences and life lessons.

So, as usual I was on FB, laughing away at the enormously funny Michael McIntyre stand up acts and also keeping a constant eye on the royal rom-com When Harry Met Meghan. Quite a delightful tale there isn’t it? I can literally visualize “…and they lived happily ever after!” in the puffy dream clouds. That’s the kind of hopeless romantic I am. But coming back to the main topic, I accidentally chanced upon this wonderful Bystander Revolution: Own your Mistakes talk by the very stunning Salma Hayek. I have to admit here that I have a huge soft spot for everything Latino — music, food, clothes, art and the people —  they are beautiful, vivacious, immensely talented and overall ooze a very friendly vibe. Plus that accent, ouff! In one of those overwhelming moments of camaraderie, I even went ahead and got meself a permanent 4.5 inch Despacito tattoo on my right arm. That’s a saga in itself.

The video I was talking about had Hayek speaking in her endearing manner about how “your mistake belongs to you!” Do not let anyone use it against you, own it! she said, going a step ahead and suggesting we throw it back on the face of people who mock us for erring. As I listened to the 1.06 minutes of powerful word flow, I was reminded of an incident that happened years ago when I was just a teen. It’s not about a mistake per se, but kind of taking charge of life’s slippery situations. We were at the Railway club playing in the evening as usual, when this bunch of boys accosted my little brother at the TT table. “Kyon be, do you have only one nikkar, kal bhi yahi pehni thi?” jeered one of them as the rest snickered in tandem.

Now I am this fiercely protective badass elder sis and having overheard the comments, I was swiftly off the carrom game and on my way to give the group of rascals a goodish piece of Gunjan didi’s mind, when something quite dramatic happened. My baby bro just looked up at the smirking big boys and quipped: “Haan bhaiyya, hum log bahut gareeb hain, mere pass ek hi nikkar hai!” 

I cannot describe the shocked look on the boys’ faces. It was like an ego balloon just deflated. The boys couldn’t believe a little kid could say such a thing. Plus where do you go from there? It was the most royal comeback I had ever seen and for a moment I just stood in admiration. I mean what Do you say after THAT? It’s not rude, so you can’t retaliate. It’s not typically smart alecky, so you can’t retort. It’s a junior simply owning his situation so completely, so matter-of-factly, so confidently! The delightful dis!

I was toh bhai maha impressed! And did a u-turn back to my carrom table with a smile on my smug face. The boys never ever did bother my brother again. The fact that even though the youngest, my brother grew to be the Pahari Jinder Mahal may also have a little to do with it. But the invaluable lesson I learnt there has stood me in good stead. Of course there are times when you are low, off guard, vulnerable and people do manage to poke fun and shake you a bit. However, there are equal, if not more, number of times when you get a kick out of  just owning the situation, mistake or YOURSELF!

Times when maybe you have put on  bit of weight and there is this one annoying person who just has to comment. Times when you look absolutely fine, in fact gorgeous, but one Komolika clone has to go “aaj bahu thaki hui lag rahi ho, sab theek hai?” Immediately puts you on the back foot, and typically you go to ridiculous lengths explaining how everything is fine, you are well blah blah blah… maybe even rush to the loo for  quick touch up. It’s all quite stressful and you realize you don’t even really like that person and owe her no explanation at all. What if you just quipped instead: “haan yaar dysentery ho gaye thi!” and coolly walk off flicking your curly locks for good measure!

What if, as soon as the neighbourhood Cruella de Vil goes: Moti ho gaye ho last time se…. yack..yack…

You go instead: “Haan Aunty!” That’s it! Agree completely, wholeheartedly and SMILE! Mean it, own yourself. No argument, no blabbering explanations and no cringing as you bite into the buttery paneer tikka and ask the waiter to come back with some malai kabab! (NB: fitness definitely comes first girl, but at your own pace, in your own time!)

Gradually you’ll arrive at your own awesome dises. There are times I feel like kicking myself, coz I think up the most quirky dises in hindsight. But I am training. And getting there slowly. Like this one time recently when right in the middle of a super fun session with the girls at one of my favourite cafes in the Gaon, Ms Lalita Pawar had to rear her ugly head with “hey your chehra is looking quite peela today!” Out of the blue! Complete silence followed. All the laughter just evaporated.

I dismissed it with “I am like this only”that day, but driving back home, Red FM on full blast, I thought why didn’t I just say: “haan darling, kal raat haldi doodh jyada pe liya na!” and clinked my glass of Chardonnay in her face! Would have done Shobhaa De proud.

In his bestseller The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck, Mark Manson argues that “Human beings are flawed and limited—not everybody can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of it is not fair or your fault,” so why not know your “limitations and accept them. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek.”

The point really is this: revel in YOU — imperfections, mistakes, shortcomings et al. YOU are unique, and no one, absolutely no one has the right to make you feel any less! Like Hayak said: Your mistake (imperfection) is a valuable tool for growth and for life,” learn to say “so what?” to the face of those making fun of you… “If you say yes! so what? they are powerless.” Remember, Tomorrow will be another day, next year is another year! What an empowering thought! Happiness after all, is being yourself, in a world that is trying to change you, I constantly remind myself, hell bent on “embracing the glorious mess that I am,” and also working on that wit in hindsight. Yo! Chai in one hand and ….

(Written in mycity4kids)