Experiences

She Lives On…

Dadi, dadima, granny – we did not address her by any of the names reserved for grandmothers traditionally. We called her what her children called her – mummyji. My paternal grandmother – a woman who will always be young in the memory of her children & grandchildren, and all who knew her.

Mummyji was ahead of her times. Mind you, I speak of the 80s here. Long before ‘feminism’ was in vogue. She found her first name to be old-fashioned & unsuitable to her personality. Yes, it was the name of one of the major rivers in India. But, plain & simple, she did not like it – just the way you dislike ‘karela’ or ‘tinda’. In the age where women were not supposed to have preferences, she was a woman who defied all odds. She reasoned – Would her changing her name make her care less for her family? Will it make her a less loving person?

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If I could be 1/3rd as cool as she was, I’ll consider myself lucky!

But, of course, there were complications. If Mummyji changed her name, she would have to get her driving license changed too. It was bad enough the first time. The transport office men had looked at her strangely as though a small – city woman was forbidden to drive. One had had the cheek to suggest, “Sahib Se boliye, driver rakh denge” (Tell your husband to employ a driver for you). Why did she need a driver? Worse, why did she need to ask her husband to engage a driver? She could very well do it herself, but the point was – she wanted to drive her jeep. She did not want to be dependent on anyone every time she wished to venture out. Moreover, have you heard of a chauffeur – driven jeep? Preposterous, is it not?

And then there was Mummyji’s ‘bhajan’ gang – her group of devout women who conducted weekly ‘kirtans’ by rotation. They would find it difficult to believe she changed her name. They may snigger or not remember to use her new name. But they were sweet ladies. After the initial shock, they would accept and welcome the change.

The pros outweighed the cons. The colony children who came to watch the television in Mummyji’s house would find it easier to address her by the new name. Those were the times not every house had a TV. So, she took the onus of making TV-watching a community event. Not for her was the false sense of superiority that came to those few who owned televisions.

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I have been told I resemble her…

Moreover, the Americans would find Mummyji’s new name easy. She had a tough time when she flew to the USA with the non-Indians struggling to pronounce her name. She had smiled remembering it to be such an event when it was decided she would travel alone. Women barely stepped out of their houses without a male companion and here she was, crossing oceans to see a new world.

Mummyji wished her daughters and her daughter – in – law would understand it was okay to have likes and dislikes. She wanted her son and her sons – in – law to value the preferences of their wives, mothers and daughters. I silently thank her for being a mother to my mother, rather than a mother – in – law. What is seemingly normal today could not be taken for granted then.

Mummyji – we lost her to breast cancer when she was young, not even 55. Her life reminds me of the line in the movie Anand – “Babumushoi, zindagi badi honi chahiye… lambi nahi!”

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When in Kashmir…

I was barely five when Mummyji passed away, but she still lives in my heart. Every girl has that one strong woman who inspires her. I find my inspiration from her. I feel a connection to her. A connection that even death could not severe. Mummyji, you will forever live on…

 

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Emotions, Experiences, Thoughts

Complicated

One of my friends wrote in his blog ‘Coffee Complicates’ but I beg to differ. We complicate, i.e., the people who make up life complicate. Coffee, to say, just becomes a medium.

Why do we deliberately complicate our lives &, for that matter, of those around us? What do we gain out of it? & most importantly, how do we complicate? We complicate things when we speak before thinking, when we talk without considering the implications of our spoken words, when we have wrong priorities, when we attribute importance to those who deserve it the least, when we shed tears for reasons which are worthless – all this & much more complicates our lives.

Why do we do it? Simple, because we are unclear & unsure about ourselves. We believe we know best but fail to see the interpretation of this knowledge in the minds of others. What may seem harmless to you may actually appear a well – woven web of deceit for someone else. This may be unintentional.

But, at times, we do deliberately mess things up for ourselves. This happens when we do something that we know is wrong but we still do it. Why? Because we cannot control ourselves – we stop our minds from falling in the trap but cannot bind our hearts. This becomes the lethal step… towards our own annihilation.

Because we are bound to other people, our state affects them. Our problems burden them too. We end up complicating their lives. At times, this makes me feel it would have been better had we all been alone.

Lastly, what do we gain out of it? In uncharitable opinions, it is to gain sympathy. Maybe it is true. Who does not need sympathy? Even the strongest of people feel weak in the face of the harshest of adversaries. If not sympathy, they do need support however much they are strong within…

 

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Thoughts

Being Selfish

Is it so important to be selfish in this world? To some extent, yes; but to an extent where you do not care for anyone? Is that justified? I am told that it means to take good care of oneself; that it is necessary to be selfish to sustain oneself. But I beg to differ.

How can one even think about taking good care of oneself when you see living beings surviving in the most despicable of conditions? Doesn’t one’s well being transcend from the well being of others? At least for me, it does.

It is important for me that the living beings around me live in a conducive environment & lead a life devoid of sadness. Only then can I be happy. A small example – suppose you & your spouse meet with an accident. Who will you rescue first? As in, will you scoot to the hospital to get treatment for your injuries & then return (God knows when) to save your spouse? Sorry to say but by then, you may very well have lost her/ him. You would not behave the way you did if you realize the connection between you & her/ him. You would not, then, afford to be selfish.

I am told things like ‘Man is a social animal’, ‘Man lives in a society’ are GAS. Again, to an extent, yes; but, isn’t that the basic essence of life? We cannot live in isolation. We are made such that we have to be interdependent.

If every person starts being selfish, it will not be long before humanity is wiped out. It is one thing to be self – centered & totally different to be selfish. When you care about others even while caring about yourself, then, that is the way to live.

I request you to spare a thought for some poor soul on earth before being selfish. Your one act of selflessness may save one life in some way somewhere.

 

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Emotions, Poems

A thought here & A thought there… & you nowhere!

There’s a reason, there’s a rhyme,

There’s a season & there’s wine.

 

Love & death come without a sound,

Between the coming & going is many a pound.

 

Hanging lanterns, shining light,

& the stars piercing the black night.

 

A quest to find a sky walk,

An endeavor to learn the moonwalk.

 

Many a door I’ve knocked,

The ones that opened are still locked.

 

The sweet fragrance of the smoky orange & lime,

What I meant to you, not even worth a dime.

 

Waffling Belgians & cheesy Swiss,

Your puckered lips & the sweet kiss.

 

Mistletoe & wreath side by side,

Kisses & shocks, part of the ride.

 

Sugar on my tongue, venom in my heart,

A tepee in the mountain, a pack of cards.

 

The David & the Goliath within me,

The warrior & the toddler within thee.

 

The solids, the stripes & the spots,

The checks, the kilts & the Scots.

 

Life, a mad scramble, leading nowhere,

Love, a big gamble, a worthless fare.

 

I see the smoke rising from the grave,

A sight to behold, the resurrection of the knave.

 

A dot a dash is my love for you in Morse code,

A period, a rash, a prince turned into a toad,

I love you, no statistics can refute, no mean, median or mode…

 

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Emotions, Experiences, Thoughts

A Mother’s Anguish

I am a mother – to a son, a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law and a daughter. Am I a good mother? I like to think so, for my children have turned out well. I have always been soft-spoken and gentle; I found it difficult to scold my children when they did some wrong. The disciplining bit was left to my husband. I was always the indulgent mother hen. Now, I wish, I had a strict bone in my body.

She made me realize this – my daughter-in-law. Is this a classic ‘saas – bahu’ story? Perhaps but it is definitely a rarity for me. It was love at first sight for me. She was shy, smiling & soft-spoken. She reminded me of myself. I knew she would be the perfect addition to my family. At the wedding, I beamed. I felt my family becoming complete.

In the beginning, I empathized with her when she chose to communicate with her parents and family more. After all, I had once been a girl too who had left her parents and come to an unknown household. There is, of course, hardly any girl who becomes comfortable with her in-laws from day one. I gave her time.

One thing led to another, even before the earlier one would subside. Even though we met only twice a year, I could feel her aloofness. Petty acts on her part surprised me; sarcastic comments even more. She would not visit us, but would go to her parents’ place at least thrice a year. She would not let me speak to my son. She would blanch when she heard we would be visiting.

I asked myself if I was the reason she disliked us. I could not find an answer. I had not hurt a fly in my life; it was just not me to upset anyone. I admonished myself – it must be me; but, she treated my daughter equally contemptuously. I had heard her declare openly that she had not wanted to be married into a family where there would be a sister-in-law. I wondered if my daughter had said something to her. She was equally clueless and hurt.

My grandchildren want nothing to do with their paternal grandparents either. I wonder what they have been told about us. Mercifully, my extended family has rallied behind us. It is not easy to see your world falling apart.

It is even more difficult to watch your son retreat into a shell. He tries hard to be normal but fails; so do we. He has given up trying to build a bridge.

I have introspected. I have spoken to my confidantes. I have tried reaching out to her. All in vain. I do not even know the crime for which I have been punished. It is not easy to go through each day knowing you are disliked.

More importantly, I fear for my son. I hear his house is not a home. He goes through the same turmoil I do.

Do you know what a mother’s anguish is? Imagine your life where you have been fired from work, the love of your life has left you and you have been diagnosed with a life-long illness. Now multiply this with hundred. That’s a mother’s anguish…

The last I heard – she lamented that in-laws’ love was not her destiny. I wipe away my angry, helpless tears. Maybe her preferred version would unfold in the future. Perhaps mine too, unless it is too late…

 

Note: I dedicate this to all the mothers-in-law who have not had an easy time due to their daughters-in-law. We are too used to reading/ hearing about evil mothers-in-law. The situation the other way around can be as painful.

 

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Emotions, Thoughts

WHITE. AND RED.

Did I love him? Yes. Once I had. Now I was unsure. Something inside me was breaking into pieces. The pieces were too small to be put together again. I felt my stomach churning when I thought of him. The image that came to me was of his inebriated self. High and happy – we had joked. It seemed a cruel one now.

Once I had cherished his touch. It gave rise to countless emotions within me. Now, the emotions were still countless but of a different nature. I recoiled when I thought of him touching me. He had claimed me. I was his property. Or so he thought.

I could feel him on my skin and I fought a wave of nausea. The sun had once been bright and warm. The nights were full of poetry and mystery. Now it all seemed farce. The universe conspired, not to give what you wanted but to extract what little you had left in you.

But then again, why did I blame something external to me? Was it not my fault all along? I had let him on in the past. If, then, I had refused this one time, why would he take it seriously? I had once read somewhere, ‘when a girl says no, it means a no.’ I smiled sardonically. The saying meant nothing.

Would I call it rape? I could not, could I? I had loved him once. Something inside me was weeping. I could feel it on my face too. Why were tears salty? I could feel the warm flow on my fingers. I could see everything turn dark.

White. And red. The pristine white bed sheet. And the red blood on it. My blood.

 

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Emotions, Experiences, Thoughts

Why

Why does it all seem hollow? Why, even in the fullness of a dark night, there seems a void? Why is there a subtle pain in the heart, time & again? Why does a smile not even take a while to turn into a frown?

Why, despite knowing all flaws, do you long for someone? & why, in the lull of night, a memory turns to a smile & then into a tear? Why does loneliness claw at your heart, even when you know that this is the way it is meant to be?

Why do happy stories make you sad? & why do sad ones give you a sense of déjà vu? Why does anger envelope all other emotions when you are in front of the someone you have been longing for?

Why do you regret the past? Why do you wish you could make it better, if given a chance? Why does life sometime appear like a shell, with nothing inside? Why do tears sting your eyes without any rhyme or reason?

Why do you wish you were born in a different era? Or why born at all? Why do you crave for someone to love you when you loathe the very idea of love? Why do you wish you could start running and not have to look back? Why do you want to run into oblivion?

Why do you feel like starting life all over again? Why do you wish to do things and then not find the courage? Why does it all seem like a battle? Or a war? An immediate & terrible one? Why do you hate yourself & at the same time, hate the world?

Why do you have to cheer yourself up? When you look into the mirror, why do you feel it is someone else looking back at you? Why do nights seem so painfully lonely? Why do you not get what you want? & why do you never value what you get?

Why is adversity supposed to build your character when it wrecks you completely simultaneously? Why does it become easier to cry than it is to smile? Why, at times, you just want to give up? Why do you feel it will be so much easier to slip away?

Why do you turn to temporary highs, when all they bring are permanent lows? Why do you crave to be someone else, all the while treating that person with contempt? Why does irony and cynicism hit you first, before everything else?

Why does your life seem a terrible mistake? Why do you fear the future? Why do you constantly live in the past and future? But then again, why do you prevent your present from becoming reckless?

Why do you never feel satisfied with the way you are and the way things are and the way life is and the way the world is? Why, every moment, you strive to change yourself or the world? Why do you care, or love, so much it hurts?

Why are you unable to distance yourself from the very people, or things that touch you in inexplicably unpleasant ways? Why do you feel lonely in a crowd? & stifled in an empty room? Why does your life run past your eyes in flashes of images?

Why do you question the fairness of life? Why does a phone call, text, email create dread in you? Why do you constantly feel you have done something wrong though you have borne the pain all the while? Why do you feel the troughs are more than the crests?

Why do you feel unworthy despite knowing you are possibly in the top ten percent of the world population with respect to success and standard of living? Why does everything seem so meaningless?

Why do you immerse yourself in work to distract yourself from the painful memories? Why do you want the ‘good old days’ back? Why do you wait eagerly for tomorrow when you do not even feel your today is better than your yesterday?

Why do you wait, and hope, for life to begin, or sometimes end?

 

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Emotions, Experiences, Poems, Thoughts

A Life Well Lived… & Worthy of Death

She was called sunshine

For the sunny smile on her face

She was called puppy

For the spring in her pace

 

She was a fighter

She wasn’t known to be a quitter

The way she empathized

She was called a counselor

 

She had her naughtiness, she had her appeal

She was called the eternal temptress

She had a way with her eyes & her smile

& was rightfully the enchantress

 

She was as fresh as dew

She was as innocent as a bud

Her life an open book

Her face a window to her soul

 

She’d fallen & risen again

& fallen & risen yet again

She didn’t know why she was meant to fall

She didn’t know why she’d to endure pain

 

Her heart was torn to bits

Her soul bereft of any life

There wasn’t even the warm blood

If you cut her up with a knife

 

She grappled with questions

& she grabbed at answers, but all in vain

She didn’t see any reason

For all the misery & pain

 

Life, as she knew it, had ended

She looked back one last time

But it was too late; this is how it was supposed to be

She turned & she saw the greenery

She saw the mountains & the mist

& with his name on her lips

She stepped off the cliff…

 

 

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Emotions, Poems

I Avenge

You try & you try again

You feel you’re succeeding

You nearly get me there

You’re close to winning

 

I’m letting you win

With no strength left in me

It’s tough to fight back

I just want you to set me free

 

But deep down, I’m not ready

Ready for your victory

It’s an unfair battle

You strong & the lonely me

 

Thus, I struggle

& pose a challenge

You can’t steal my smile

It’s time for my revenge

 

I’m not called sunshine without reason

I’ve brought cheer to many

There’s no cause for me to die

A living death doesn’t become me

 

I’ve taken a vow

I’ll avenge every single tear

I’m not sad anymore

I don’t have any fear

 

I’m angry & I’m bitter

You, life, have abandoned me

But I’ve not known to quit ever

The strong you & the stronger me…

 

 

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Emotions, Experiences, Thoughts

Six & The City

Friendships are not cast in stone. Not every set of friends can be a Jai-Veeru story. Why am I suddenly musing about this? Well, August is the ‘friendship month’ or so the entire commercial world would want me to believe.

Seeing all the brouhaha around me, I could not help but think back to the time when I knew six friends who fell apart. Three moved away for reasons best known to them while the remainder did not know who was right & who was not.

Sounds like one of those drama series on Netflix, does it not? Wish it was just that – a story – but it was not.

The six came together in college. Initially, they were eight but two left the college due to one or the other reason. Remained six who had the best time of their life together. College was too perfect to be true; their friendship, exemplary. But as is true with every perfect story, this one had its twist too.

Misunderstandings surfaced. There had been misunderstandings in the past too; but now, it blew out of proportion.

One of them went away for higher studies after college. In the new place, she realized what the world was about, and the value of true friendship. There was none with whom she could share her small joys nor the pains that wrecked her soul.

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The days of laughter with her friends or of being comforted seemed like memories from another life. They had all been there for each other, be it a calm sea, a sunny day or a rough weather.

But now, her friends bickered. She was a neutral party. She intervened as it hurt to see her friends reducing to acquaintances. Soon, the same friends did not even want to see each other.

Life is too short to spend arguing. What someone means to you is fully appreciated when they are away from you. She realized then & the other five realized it too. But by then, it was too late. At times, she wishes she could travel back in time and set things right.

People crib, complain, squabble – at least they have someone to crib about & someone to squabble with. Imagine a life without friends & a support system. Nothing can be as difficult as that life.

Tears will roll down your cheeks but there will be none to wipe them. A smile will come to your lips & fade away; there will be none to notice it. Being the inexpressive person, I am, I may not articulate it often. But life is meaningless without friends.

Apologize when needed.

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Be thankful for the little gestures.

Do not take your friend for granted.

Try to understand a friend’s state of mind & talk to her/ him accordingly.

Do not give your opinion if a little voice inside you says ‘no’.

Stop your friend from being foolish.

Do not expect your friend to toe your line.

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My friendships have aged like wine, & the wheat has separated from the chaff, but whatever I have now, I will not let it go.

“True friendship is like sound health; the value of it is seldom known until it is lost.”
– Charles Caleb Colton

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