Friday, November 17, 2017

You know when you are home!

Recently I was in a place called Alpharetta for a while. But it did not feel very foreign thanks to so many Indians at my workplace and otherwise. Due to the large number of Indian diaspora, there were plenty of food joints servicing Indian delicacies, even vegetarian ones. But one thing did strike me - how much of your home food you get outside there is always a difference when you eat the same things at home. And this difference is not about the taste, ingredients, or style of cooking - it is about the convenience of eating.

My Telugu friend loves eating his upma mixed into a pool of running sambhar with a quarter of his fingers dipped into it. So, when we had some leftover upma and sambhar, from some other combination, at office lunch, he was more than curious to take it home. When I asked him why would he want to eat upma again, he categorically mentioned that he loves upma and sambhar together with a generous sprinkling of home made idli powder. "At home, we used to have it almost everyday", he added with, perhaps, his taste buds already recalling the taste. 

These are some of those inconsequential moments that instantly connect you to who you are, where you come from, your childhood conditioning, the aroma of freshly cooked food you experience as you return from school everyday, the real you - the one who you were before social finesse and educational grooming changed you into a more universal and sophisticated individual.

And all such moments are very personal and unique for each individual. For some it might be a specific kind of tea, for some it could be having a fireplace in living room.

One of my colleagues always places her desk against a window, since this is how it was all her childhood and merely sitting there and looking outside the window is immensely de-stressing for her. 

Me and my best friend make a point to prepare aloo-parathe at least once, every time we are having stay overs at each other's places. Not that it is our favourite dish or anything; the connect, in fact, goes back to a decade when we were in Bombay and got horrible stuffed parathas. So whenever we used to come home we would ensure we are having our share of stuffed parathas and then it became a kind of tradition. Now it is our way of reliving those wonderful moments without being dramatically nostalgic about them. The moment we say "aloo ka paratha khayegi?", it immediately takes us down that memory lane and remind us of the time which we both accept as one of the best years of our lives.

For one of my Bihari friends, Sattu has the same impact. He will get quite a lot of sattu every time he is back from Patna and finishes it off in no time. He will drink Sattu water, eat Sattu in paratha, Sattu-paste, and everything else Sattu. He is not very generous about it and often skips sharing it with us on the pretense that we have yet not 'acquired' the taste for Sattu.

One of my previous bosses, a Bengali, sweet-lover and a very polished gentleman, Malai-bread was the thing. Whenever his wife was not in the town, he would survive on Malai-bread day in and day out. He would not even whine or complain about the lack of variety in his food. He had a special way of making it, he would put malai on both slices of the bread and sprinkle sugar grains, not the powdered sugar, onto it. It has to be crunchy, he had explained once.

We all have had friends who would die for mundane and basic things like daal-chawal, baigan ka bharta, sooji ka halwa. The reason could not be 'just' taste because there are tastier things available - such longings have more to do with than taste - they connect us with our deeper memories of simpler times, when we used to feel safe and relaxed and more as ourselves - to the place, I prefer to call home.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Aur bhi gham hai zamane main...

Of all the things that I hear from people when they know I am a single mother, the top three, in no specific order, are:

- I admire your courage
- What have you told your child?
- Don't you want to settle again?

The third question is the most asked one. Any conversation will inevitably reach this point where the person will suggest me to think about re-marrying. That one day I will meet someone who will instantly bring back all the love, company, and respect that I deserve. I am told that a person as nice as me deserves second chance. When I tell them that it was the second chance, they kind of become speechless and then usually laugh it out.

Such conversations remind me of childhood novels, where the story would usually be about a dreamy, fragile, broken girl who gets rescued by some perfect guy; and then all goes well. The height of all banalities. 

While I can understand why people have flawed perception about a phenomenon as abstract as love at 20, it really bothers me when they continue to have it when they are 35.

"Why do you think I will fall in the same ditch again I have been trying so hard to come out", I asked my friend once, who would not stop telling me stories of successful second marriages.

"Becuase there are nice guys too", she responded so innocently that I felt like slapping her face and waking her up to the reality. The guys I have been with were nice too; and yet, they were not nice enough for me to continue staying with them. May be till a year back, I would have argued and tried hard to make her understand what a woman wants. But now I am kinda over, so I concluded the conversation saying that "nice is not enough for me".

I am slightly reserved when it comes to public wailing. And I am very optimistic by design. So more often than not, I am perceived as not being in as much pain as I really am, which is okay. More than 99.999999% people in the world do not know me, even fewer understand me and hardly a couple care about. I do not really give too much importance to the number of people thinking about me and the content of their thoughts. Science has taught me that there are much bigger and significant things happening in the Universe than a petty break-up.

Infact our replaceability quotient is so poor that even a dog or a fish can substitute us. I know a woman in my neighbourhood whose husband left many years ago. She is still waiting for him, but meanwhile she also got a few dogs. Now she has six of them and my Mom once said that she looks happier now. She stays busy in feeding, cleaning, or simply shouting at those dogs. In all these years, that woman never heard back from her husband, neither receieved a single dime; but she has survived and looks quite okay. Now this is what is the true replacement value of a spouse.

Another instance is from my own family. A close relative lost her husband in an accident two years after their marriage. At that time, she was pregnant and soon after gave birth to a girl at her in-laws' place. For myriad issues, the in-laws made her life miserable so she came back to her parent's home and stayed with them with little or no support from her husband's family. Now its been about 17 years. In her early years of widowhood, she did get some suitors who were widowers or divorcees themselves, but she refused to remarry. Partly becuase of the daughter and partly because of her own lack of interest. She had got a government job soon after her husband died, through which she has sustained herself very well.

Some more persistent well-wishers counter my argument in favour of singlehood by saying that it is the old age, when we have become physically weak, that we realise the true importance of a spouse. I am young right now so I don't really know about that. But I don't think I would ever be able to receive strength and support from a husband when I am weak and old and ugly when I could not get any of it when I am young and healthy and lovely. Which woman, in her right mind, would leave a husband who provides her strength and support.

Statistically speaking, women have higher life span than men. I am not posting any data here but you can google and confirm it. This means that most wives outlive their husbands and I am not talking about untimely deaths. I am talking about natural deaths that happen after the age of 70. This means that the wives who left behind are also in similar age-groups. How many women of that age group have you found committing suicide or falling in depression because their husbands died. Howsoever sad the life gets, they kind of accept the fact and get on with whatever they have - usually children and grand children. The same applies to old widowers.

There is nothing new in growing old without a spouse. But having young women leave their husbands to live out of marriage is indeed new for our society, especially in India.

When I drill down to why all the time women are coercing you to re-marry, even if their own  marriage is not going any great, I realise that the solution emerges more out of fear than love. And the fear is less about lonely old age; as much as it is about what if being single is the better way!

Yes! I know countless women whose marriages are not exactly happy. The adjectives that they use to define their state of marriage will be okay, fine, good-for-the-kids, used-to-it, nobody-is-perfect and similar animated emotions. If you look  around yourself, you will find handful of couples who are feeling it the right way, they are not fighting every now and then for petty issues, have growing careers, share similar views on important topics, and don't feel insecure or competitive. Everyone else is just fighting to somehow keep it together, which is okay.. I also tried to do the same as long as I was able to.

I think when such people, men or women, meet people like us, they see hope. They get attracted to this freedom from chaos and liberty to live your way out. At the same time they see the daunting cost of that hope. They want to see all aspects of our decision and the final outcomes of this experiment, as in their hearts they measure the price of this liberty with the weariness of maintaining a marriage. At the end, perhaps, they find latter to be more rewarding than the former... OR, they find former to be more demanding than the latter. In any case, they stick with the marriage.

And then in their goodwill, fear, or evil sense of superiority they suggest us to remarry; after all what is a house without a spouse ;)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Diamonds, not always the best friends

"You know, you owe me a diamond ring", she said in a tone mixed with twit and fun, in that ordinary morning, while looking at the front page ad of Sale at Tanishq.

"First make yourself worth it", he remarked, as a matter of fact, as he placed himself across the dining table, quickly pulling the newspaper from her hands. Can't say if the reaction was more casual, haste, or savage.

It did sting; but she got busy with the breakfast routine, ignoring and pretending it to be one of those many hurts that her husband's sharp, unrefined tongue bore without his heart really meaning it. Sending him on his mundane course of everyday events looked more important than confronting him for desecrating her dignity.

Many years later, she bought herself a solitaire in an unplanned purchase. Can't say what other ladies feel about a diamond adoring their fingers, but she felt more victory than vanity. The piece of jewellery was the hallmark of her self-worth.

But everytime she looked at it, that morning conversation inevitably came to her mind. And, everytime, somehow the stone lost its shine.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A sorry that never came

She pulled away the blanket and woke him up, "why are you doing this? It was our chance to have it all with you and me together. It would have been enough. Why are you letting it all go... can't you see its all breaking down?"

"What do you want? Tell me what is it in your mind. For God's sake, speak up", she asked him vehemently.

He said nothing sitting dumbfounded, on his roll-up mattress spreadout on the floor, as if never expecting this conversation to happen.

"Is there another woman?", she asked knowing that it couldn't be true. Men as emotionally empty as him are usually incapable of loving anyone. Still she repeated the question to give him the view of her mental state - the zone of anxiety and insecurity where she had wandered to ever since he blocked her out of his life.

A midnight that had started with the possibility of a bilateral outrage and conflict was now witnessing a morbid monologue, quickly losing its intensity. Banging a head on a wall might have created more noise than that man mutely watching his wife, and a young mother, losing her mind.

And his silence shrilled in her head. In every moment creating her own answers and imagining them in his voice. What else is madness?

She felt the center of her chest sinking. "Oh my! What am I gonna do?" - a deep cold breath came out. It's not the first time she has asked these questions and there are not going to be any answers, ever. 

She suddenly stopped wailing and felt something terrible, a feeling that she had known so well - the feeling of losing a battle. An instant itch in her head or may be in her stomach. She pulled her hair and then frantically started rubbing her arms. "Please help me... please hold me", she screamed inside, moving her head from here to there.

She looked back at him, the wood of a man. What is it that she was seeing in his eyes? Confusion? Indifference? Irritation? Helplessness? Or - Was he just waiting for this drama to end?

She tried hard, as hard as she could, searching all the corners of those eyes, where once upon a time, she had lost her heart; but no where could she find a "sorry" - not even a dull, dying, timid, scared sorry hiding in the crowd of all those other emotions that a human eye can behold. 

A sorry for the continuum of wrongs that ruined lives, a sorry for the stubbornness to never question oneself, a sorry from a foolish man for not accepting his foolishness.

"I am not the types that say sorry", he had declared once and she had then lovingly disapproved the tinge of pride in that statement brushing it aside as the case of men and their egos. She knew, he was not the types who say sorry but she had become weary of bearing sole responsibility of this failing partnership. She had to hear a sorry and the night was a futile attempt to get that. 

This continued for hours, or may be minutes, who cares.
As the senses came back, she became aware of her demented appearance. Consumed by her need to be loved, accepted, and understood, she had ended up discovering the new depths of her emptiness and loneliness. 

The night ended with her moving out to sleep on that unfortunate living room sofa- the lifeless object that had become her constant companion for past many nights. 

Of all the good and the bad things that happened between them, this night was special. It was in this night that she most clearly saw her place in that household and marriage. 

In the face of a screaming wife, that night, she saw herself as a helpless and frightened girl, a human puppy, fallen into a ditch of despair, crying and begging to be helped and pulled out; and he was a passer by; who heard the voice, looked into the puppy's eyes and walked away. It was not the lack of love but mercy that broke a little girl that night. 

On the other hand, that night, in her greatest fall, she rose and became a woman.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Faith in Kaliyug

When Pandvas left for Himalaya, King Parikshit was crowned as the King of Hastinapur. One fine day King Parikshit went for hunting and saw a strange sight: a Chandaal was killing a cow by breaking her bones, [cow was (is) considered a holy being so any attack on cow means death on the attacker] Parikshit gave a warning to the chandaal and raised his sword to behead him.
Chandaal said “ oh great King, please listen to my words first and then take the decision to kill me or not". 

Parikshit said "what do you want to tell me, your deeds are a call to death there is nothing which can save you now, but still I’ll give you a chance to speak",  Chandaal said “ great King I am Kali (not Kaali the goddess) the cause of Kaliyug and this cow is embodiment of Dharma, I am here to kill dharma. I have broken her three legs which represent truth, honesty, and mercy, I will also break the fourth leg that is faith. It is my sole purpose for which I was created, so let me do my duty and don't interfere in divine actions."

After listening these words Parikshit was enraged and said, "Kali, you forgot that it is the duty of King to save his subjects, and after all you are destroying dharma which multiplies your sin, I will not spare you.”

Kali requested him, "if you want to fight with me I am ready to fight with you but please listen my single virtue first then decide.“

Parikshit said, "if that is your last wish it's fine go ahead.”

Kali said, "oh great King you must have heard many bad things about me but my single largest virtue is that who so ever takes the name of God 120 times with pure heart and with complete dedication will get the punya equivalent to 12 years of penance during Kaliyug."

Now Parikshit softened a bit and said, "Indeed I have heard a lot of bad things about you but, this virtue of yours sounds too good. It must be true because in Tretayug several thousands of years of penance was needed to attain moksha, in Satyug several hundreds of years of penance was needed to attain moksha, in Dwaparyug we need many years of penance to attain moksha, so in your time only some days, this means you will prove to be useful for coming generation. I can spare your life but only on one condition that you will leave this cow/dharma and I will also grant you anything in return.”

Kali replied, "oh great and generous King I’ll leave this cow for once but as you promised me give me the boon to reside in gold.”

Parikshit granted the boon and Kali immediately entered into the golden crown of King and said, "oh generous King how can you think that people will attain moksha in Kaliyug within few days when I will not allow people to meditate on God for even an hour?”

 This is the power of Kaliyug he broke truth, honesty and mercy, now dharma stands only on faith.

(Taken from Quora)