Thursday, October 29, 2009

Can We Hear The Sobs Of Tiny Voices?

October is the Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and pretty much every heart wrenching, and very touching post I have read so far, is about violence against adult women, by their husbands and in-laws. The posts by IHM, Smitha and Solilo are the ones I would recommend for reading. Abuse of women, is the most obvious kind of thing that comes to mind, when we talk of domestic violence today, a wife being beaten, harassed and even marital rape. Personally, I have very little experience with this kind of violence, strange but true, I have no friends, who are harassed, except the usual tug of war, all Indian women have with in-laws, none of my maids were abused at home, fortunately both had rather loving husbands. I have only heard incidents about people who are known to someone, who know someone I know, or through the media. I would want however to stress on a different kind of domestic violence which is very prevalent in India, but very very little attention is paid to it, and in more ways than one it is a lot worse than wife beating.

It is violence, and aggression against children in homes. It happens more commonly than we are ready to accept or even acknowledge, but the situation is scarier than most of us can fathom. Bad childhood, is a very simple and general term used to describe this situation, and push it under the carpet, in a land where parents are treated like Gods, no matter how they are. When its a woman being abused, there is a possibility of her receiving support from her parental home, but a child has no where to hide and nowhere to run, from his own parents. Nowhere at all. Imagine a five year old being beaten mercilessly by his own parents in the confines of his own home, which should be his sanctuary, the place where he should feel the most loved and safe. Where does this child go looking for help, how does he even know he should get out, and how will he survive if he does? When I saw this video on IHM's post, the first thought that came to my mind is, would the man have done the same thing had the abuser been abusing his child instead of his wife? How commonly do we see parents hitting, and verbally abusing children publicly, and how often are we shocked by it, the way we are with violence against women? Rarely ever, then who would even bother with what happens behind closed doors. A child is too shamed and scared, and knows too little to understand that what is being done to him is wrong, unjust. And a child who grows up in such an environment is unlikely to realise it either, because of conditioning.

Image Courtsey -

Its a myth that such abuse lies only in the lower strata of the society, it exists everywhere. I have bonded with many a blog friend, simply because we share a common history of childhood abuse, and somehow that has turned us into similar people in some ways. Two of my closest friends from the blog world, have faced abuse all through their childhood, and we can talk to each other openly, without feeling any guilt, like we can't with anyone else. The gory details are never put up on the blog, or discussed openly and people who have been fortunate enough to have nice parents, cannot really understand, what can possibly justify a person bad-mouthing her own parents. You have to live it, to know the pain, to understand what cannot be explained in words. These are people who are well educated themselves and belong to affluent, educated families. At five where could we have escaped? From our own parents? When I had finally had enough, and realised that I could be loved and appreciated, and left my parental home for good and married the DH, a relative I had newly acquired, questioned me about my actions, told me that people are abused much worse, even sexually by their parents, what then, have I to complain about? It is tough enough to take a stance, but then to be questioned, and to need to defend yourself for having escaped abuse is not easy either.

And even then we are never completely free of our parents, while a spouse can possibly be replaced, parents cannot. And we do tend to keep turning back, hoping for something that never really existed, longing for something we never really had. And I cannot help but wonder why, do we keep going back to the people who wronged us, and who will never accept that they have done so. And I finally found an answer to that in an article Solilo pointed out to me, which finally gave words to my vague beliefs. It says

Research on early attachment, both in humans and in nonhuman primates, shows that we are hard-wired for bonding — even to those who aren’t very nice to us.

No wonder then that even the abused children and spouses continue to be affectionate towards the abuser. An abused child is unable to completely cut ties off with the parents without either feeling guilty, or being made to feel as such by people, such is our social conditioning. A wronged child feels guilty to even say aloud, what he knows and feels is wrong.

There are people who feel that physically intimidating children is an important tool for disciplining them. The very line of thought is outrageous. How can violence, and physical aggression be used against a child? I know of girls being beaten black and blue by leather belts, for wearing clothes the parents considered inappropriate, boys who were not fed for days, because they failed an exam, children being beaten, till their tears dry up and they hiccup for hours, because they said something in the presence of outsiders that they should not have. Why is the Indian society NOT outraged by these acts of domestic violence, why do children have no rights in our country? Many developed countries, explain their rights to children, have strict rules against verbal or physical abuse of children, India is far away from even acknowledging the existence of this issue. No one raises a voice, or thinks its even slightly out of place, if parents are abusive. It is time we started nipping the problem in the bud, if we wish to eliminate domestic violence entirely.

While not even for a moment can I say domestic violence against women is any less atrocious, but its violence against children that I think causes much deeper harm, and leads to creating an unhappy, unstable, prone to violence, self-respect lacking or a human deficient in many other ways. Scars in the heart and mind which never heal, which never leave.

Stop Violence Against Children. They Are People In Their Own Right.
Image Courtsey -

An old post, very relevant to this topic, is what I dug up, and am linking here, for anyone who wishes to read.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Right Is Left

A few years back, as part of my office's annual celebrations, I had taken part in a group discussion, where the topic was, 'Right Is Left'. Since it was an on-the-spot thing, the simple meaning that came to my mind, was that there what is right according to me, maybe wrong according to another, and literally speaking that is the exact way it will be, when someone stands facing me. I interpreted it to mean, to each his own, there being no absolute right or wrong.

That is something I truly and deeply believe in. What is right to me, is unacceptable to someone else; something I think of as the norm, maybe exotic to another; my black maybe another's white. And that is exactly the way the world as we know it exists. It has been a while now, since I have come to the realisation that there is no absolute right or wrong. Everything is relative. What still remains with me though, is a feeling of disapproval that sweeps through me, when I see people who are drastically different from me.

As a very obvious and simple instance here, I can mention women who wear abayas. It is simply their life, their choice, and unlike the way I would like to believe that they suffer, they may infact be absolutely comfortable in their choice of clothing. And yet a part of me cannot but feel pity/sadness each time a woman dressed as such. It happens to many that we disapprove of things that we don't accept or agree with, when we see it in others. Often its instinctive, and makes me judgmental, because the other person does things differently or follows a different code of conduct. What is it in me that, inspite of my strong belief, of there being 'no one rule to fit all', I find certain things difficult to accept as normal, when it is different from the way I am? Is it human psychology, could I just use that as my excuse and shun it?

But then that conflicts with another one of my attitudes, which says, if I acknowledge a problem, it is within me to find a solution. Most people, I believe never change, because they never accept that any flaw exists within them. The toughest part of self improvement is possibly the acceptance of our flaws. Every human being inherently believes himself to be good, even a terrorist believe that his actions are for a reason, and he is doing the right thing. Believing we are flawed is a great step in self improvement of a person. But then comes another roadblock, that a lot of people land up in, which is an attitude says, 'Yes, that's the way I am.'. Which simply put means, the person has no intention of changing, and takes the flaws as a part of his being that do not require any actions. Only after both the issues are tackled can the true process of self improvement begin. A process which can actually become a part of one's lifestyle, and last forever.

If I know, there is a quality or attribute in my personality, which in my own view is negative, why would I not want to change it? Sometimes it is easy to just let go, settle into what comes to me naturally and easily and just go on. But that seems such a waste of the abilities and gifts that every human is born with. In our mundane existence, dealing with daily issues, these thoughts often become so distant from us, and begin to seem so far fetched. I have been that way, and have learnt that it is only, and simply a downward spiral from there on. Never again do I want to be there, I want to change and improve each day of my existence, in ways that I think are good. Which brings me back to the point, that my good maybe your bad. So what then? Even a simple thing like honesty can have many different interpretations under different circumstances. Would I tell a close friend that her crooning abilities, are bad enough to scare dogs, and hurt her emotions, or would I not? Would honesty indeed be the best policy there, or is it better to let her be happy, humming a tune now and then. Personally, honesty in such a situation is not my choice of action, because to me that would translate into being insensitive and rude. And yet again a person who would call a spade,a spade even in such situations is an upright and honest being, and is not wrong in his own way is it not? So who and how do we then decide what is right and what is wrong?

I am an instinctive person, who lives by what her heart believes in, who makes mistakes, and tries to learn from them. My rights are what instinctively come to me, but somehow I cannot apply them to everyone, except maybe not being cruel to others, animals included. What are your absolute rights and wrongs, and do you think they can be universally applied? And do you think you can judge others based on those?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When The Words Just Don't Flow

I want to write something, but cannot. I have a few post ideas in mind, but they are just not translating into posts. I am either too sleepy, or too diverted to post anything coherent and sensible these days. Hope its just a phase, that passes away very very soon. Till then this space is likely to remain as is. And honestly I am not enjoying this at all.

Today is a special day, because its the birthday of a very very dear friend, Roop, she has practically stopped blogging, but remains a great friend none the less. Cheers to you Roop, on this special day, and wish you a grand a wonderful year ahead. Go on and flood her almost dead blog with your lovely wishes. :)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Greens After The Desert

The thing that most tugged at my heartstrings in India, on my last trip was the greenery. My eyes lusting to see some natural greens, got its heart's fill, when I reached India right after the monsoons. Here are some sights that I loved. Aah! The lovely green.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Something Close To My Heart

The Diwali weekend, had my home teeming with guests. Unexpected, but very welcome. It was only the night before Diwali that I had invited some friends over for dinner, and managed to feed them some overly salted Daal-Makhni. Being the people they are, they had it without a word. Besides them though, we were a full house through the day on Friday and Saturday, and it was tons of fun, mostly because I had enough food to feed everyone who dropped in. I hate ordering from out for guests, and I equally hate missing out on conversations, because I need to cook. So this weekend turned out to be quite a win-win situation for me.

This weekend I also made a new friend, an ex-colleague of the DH. He is really tall, and I think that is what catches one's attention when you first see him, is his height, and the fact that at just a year short of being thirty, he can still pass for a school kid, so I'll call him Mr.Tall here. He is a no-nonsense, straight up guy, who takes his friendships seriously, and has no time to pretend that he likes people he does not. He stands out like a piece of carrot in an omelette, in the hypocritical world we inhabit today. To say he is not a popular guy, would be putting it mildly, the problems he faces because of his attitude, can put the Everest to shame. The one day he spent with us, made him feel comfortable enough to talk to us candidly, and I am humbled, that just that much time with us, was enough for him to trust us so. Its the story of his life, and not mine to tell, and so I will not go into details. But it was something the DH told me after he left that remains with me, and brings me back to a topic I have discussed before on this blog, the blind love expected of every Indian for his parents.

He has had a tough childhood, to say the least, and knowing what he went through, I don't think I would have survived it as well as he has. He has his bone to pick with his parents, and in my view rightly so. He does not deny the fact that he cares very little for his parents, and does not maintain an active relationship with them, but he does not go around explaining his stance to people either. The DH, being his nonchalant, completely non judgmental self, was the only one in his previous organisation who did not think of him in poor light. Every other person had a mean and bad image of Mr.Tall. The DH told me, that another one of our friend, who is also his ex-colleague, thinks very poorly of Mr.Tall, because he does not love his parents. And this really bothered me, because it brings me back to the point of unreasonable expectation in India that everyone needs to love their parents. And if they don't, they owe an explanation to everyone out on the streets on why they don't. I appreciate Mr.Tall for not bothering with that, and not giving into societal pressures, but I cannot help but feel the unfairness of it all. Having been through a traumatic childhood is bad enough in itself, but imagine being forever having to either keep up a facade of a decent relationship with the very people who created the bad childhood, or being prepared for criticism all your life, if you are not hypocritical enough to either lie to people, or to explain your decisions to just about everyone.

Life can indeed serve out a mean deal to some people, for no apparent fault of theirs. But I really liked the way Mr.Tall, deals with life, content with himself, and righteous to a fault. The DH was amazed at the way he opened up to us at our place, because he is known to be a guy who keeps his private life private, and remain logical at all times. Being the person he is, it possibly does not bother him, the way people react to him, or form their opinion, but I just cannot stop ruing at the unfairness of it all. I had been through a phase myself, where I thought it necessary to explain my actions to all and sundry, fortunately that is behind me now, and I live life for myself, and know that I owe an explanation to no one. People can form whatever opinions they want of me.
And hence I feel more for this man, who is strong and upright, but people will ignore all of that, to judge him so very unjustly.

Addendum - Solilo has left a link from the New York Times in the comments section, which I believe is very much worth a read, so I am putting it up here for anyone who reads this post to have a look at.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Whole Year Of Summer

... No Rains, No Winters! That is exactly what 2009 is for me. Having survived the Gulf Summer, as the winter approaches this place, I move away to very distant shores. I am moving to the other hemisphere, to a place known as the land of beer, Australia. Yes, that is where I am headed, hopefully for the long haul. But then again, knowing me and the way my life shapes up, one never knows.

When I was in college, my room-mate, N and I, were both keen to live in Bombay and Australia. How strange that I have lived some years in Bombay and am heading to Australia. Makes me wonder, if indeed we should be careful about what we wish for! The change is going to be huge definitely, and indeed it will take a while to settle in, get used to life there, but I am sure it will be a better life. Isn't that the way we should look at every change life, hoping for the very best.

The recent tales of racist attacks in the country-continent have shaken up Indians across the globe, and hearing about it, made me apprehensive too. But every friend and acquaintance living there, has a different tale to tell, so that satisfies my anxiety. A lot has to be worked out, right from the how to the exactly when and all else in between and after. With the BB in tow, I need to get there, into a place which is settled enough to provide us a bed to sleep on and regular food to be prepared in. Yes, having a child, and a small one at that does complicate things. The move would also entail me exploring and learning about a new place. Everything changes, from my brand of detergent to toothpaste, and it will take a while to settle into a comfort zone, after a lot of buy and try. However having recently shifted places once, I am better prepared in terms of what to expect and how to work around it. One of the cons though is, that Australia is far far away from everywhere else, and hence I cannot just jump on a flight and head to India if I feel really homesick!

This year is thus an entire year of summer for me. Works out great, because that means I can explore the place nice and fine after reaching, and would be better prepared to face the temperature dip in the winters. There is not much else to do now, except jump into the frenetic pace at which things need to be done and organised, before we leave here in less than a month. A month or so of transit in India and then off I will be to the land of the Late Steve Irwin, kangaroos, koalas, ostriches, gorgeous beaches and more.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Book I Loved and Yet Disagreed With

I had been hearing great things about 'The Palace Of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni' for the longest time. Everyone who read it was raving about it. And my curiosity about the book was quite piqued by all those recommendations. Truth be told, there was a time in my life, when no matter how tiered, I could not shut my eyes, till I read some. Life changed, as did my habits, my association with books, could at best be called dead till a few months back. Then a couple of bloggers started discussing about the books they were reading on Twitter, and I felt a twinge, which made me realise how much I miss reading books. So I bought a few, and started getting back on track. It was on my way back from India at the airport, when we had an hour at hand, and I was running around the BB, that I stopped at the bookstore. And that is where I spotted The Palace of Illusions. And I immediately bought it. Its not easy to find an Indian author's book here, I had to source 'Bringing Up Vasu' all the way from India, and strangely enough that landed up with me on the day I was leaving from India, and I read it there.

However, getting back to The Palace of Illusions, it is a very gripping and captivating tale or maybe I should say narration. Since I did not know even that much about the book, it surprised me to know that it is the tale of Mahabharata as the author felt was experienced by Draupadi. The original tale itself is supremely riveting and captivating, with its twists and turns, intricate side stories and the entire chain of events. So a re-narration is very unlikely to be bad. One has to be a really bad writer to mess up the original, and that Chitra Banerjee is not. Her style of narration is wonderful. I could not wait to grab the book each chance I got, and go on reading it. Simply put, it is the narration of the epic as experienced by Draupadi. Her emotions, her views, her life everything expressed as she felt. The book also speaks of a love she holds in her heart for Karna, a secret love she harbours all her life, as does Karna. I have not read the unabridged version of the epic, and hence I do not know whether this is supported in the original or a personal addition of the author. But this does touch a little something special to the book. A touch of the forbidden love, a relationship doomed by the stars, feelings that run deeper than the formality of relationships, and yet morals strong enough to hold both the people back. The book is a wonderful read.

And yet I am not convinced by the idea of the book. While the author claims to write from Draupadi's stance, I don't think it is fair. We with our modern, liberated mindset, cannot claim to know how a woman who lived eons ago felt or thought. I do not believe the wants, beliefs or morals of a woman in those times are the same as those of the women today. It was a different society, a very different mind set. It is unfair to look at that world with today's mindset. There can be arguments saying human nature has always been the same, but I strongly believe that the society we grow up in, does shape up the way we are. And hence a woman today will be very different from a woman who lived thousands of years ago. That is my belief and hence the flaw in the very premise of the narration. The book is worth a read though, either which way. And that is my simple opinion.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Festival Flowers

Flowers define festivals in India. Here are some from my trip during the all the festivities.

Eid : Outside a Dargah


Some more for the festivities.

From a Flower Garden. For the puja maybe.

And then, just about to bloom. For Festive Gajras??

My attempts at photography, is what I present here. What do you think of them?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Oh! How this would crush all the Indian wants of the chubbiest baby possible. A four month old baby in the US was denied Health Insurance because he was deemed too fat. It would be worth a good grand laugh, if it were not so completely absurd. And the only reason it possibly worked was because it was in the US. In India, imagine that happening?

Ever since the BB was born, I have constantly been bearing the brunt about his weight and eating habits. The initial months as a new mother was extremely tough for me, as I would doubt myself. A certain relative, always wanted me to feed him till he puked, and was constantly grumbling about how I eat good(read spicy) food and feed the BB, (a mere six months at that time,) bland things. The hilarity of it all puts a smile on my face now, when I can picture feeding some spicy mutton roast to my six month old, just-on-solids baby, but back then it used to just get on my nerves.

(Pic Courtesy:

Getting back to the news, it might have been just an excuse for the Insurance Company to make some money, but the excuse does not get any more strange. Little Alex seems like quite an average four month old from the photo, so I indeed wonder if the Company wants super-model like size sero figures right from birth. It would change the entire concept of pregnancy, a woman would need to starve instead of eat through it. Alex's father, Bernie's statement was just perfect for the situation.
“I could understand if we could control what he’s eating. But he’s 4 months old. We can’t put him on the Atkins diet or on a treadmill,” Bernie joked. “There is just something absurd about denying an infant.”
In a world that is actually going crazy, and where little seems to be done for any purpose besides making money, when there is little sense or logic to actions, this piece of news really makes me wonder, how absurd can absurd get?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Ongoings of My Life

We are moving out of the UAE. In less than a month we will bid goodbye to this place, and may never come here again in our lifetimes. Am I sad? No, not really, because my stay here has been too short for me to have an emotional connect, and I don't have too many friends or family here. I have built up a life here yes, but it has not been long enough for me to fall into a deep comfort zone. And hence I think the move is coming at just the right time. The trap of a comfort zone is much tougher to break out of than anything else in life. happens with jobs people hate, a home too small to live in, a city not good enough, but people stay right there, because that is their comfort zone, the place where they feel nice and safe. I am just a few steps away from making this place, my comfort zone.

But that is not what I am writing this post about. I will do a nice flowery post on that in relative leisure sometime. This post is to take a break and relax a little from what I am going through. We are moving, that is a hell lot of work. Loans need to be cleared, our possessions need to be sold/given/disposed. All kind of leaving formalities need to be cleared, and regular life continues in the meanwhile. Cooking, cleaning, eating and all else.

Our biggest challenge was selling the car, fortunately we have manged to finally find a buyer. Putting it straight up, I love my, soon to be ex car. That is the only possession I have collected here, that I am really sorry to give up. But what has to be done, has to be done. Unfortunately this is a really bad time to sell an almost new car.(It is not even a year old!!) Too many people have lost jobs, there are too many used cars available in the market, the rates have really fallen, due to the simple rule of supply and demand. There is plenty of supply and very little demand. Another issue being we possess an American car, while the demand here is mostly for Japanese cars. So, we were in quite a soup. The car needs to be sold, so that we can clear up our car loan, and so finally we let it go for less than half the price we bought it for. I will not harp about the losses, because we are fortunate that someone has purchased it. Though I feel really sad giving up my really amazing car, I am happy that the anxiety the DH was in about the sale of the car is finally over, and the car has found a new home. The process is on, and the car will leave us within the next 3-4 days.

And so now, I am working on selling of the smaller things around the house. A spare netbook, a couple of used mobiles, and such like. Spent the better part of last night putting up the advertisements on various classified sites, and am spending most of the time today, replying to queries on them today. Am a little flustered with it all, and hence decided to sit down and do a post on this to take a break. My desire to stay away from the laptop is definitely not working, as I am constantly checking my mail, replying, trying to fix up deals, maintaining my cool, while people bargain even at throw away prices. Lets hope I can get some money in. Wish me luck people.

PS - My previous post, was not a rant or a reaction to anything. It was just a random post. And I am not wanting to prove myself to anyone, or unhappy in any way about the way I am. But thanks everyone for the morale boosting comments. Am really neck deep in work, so have been unable to reply to the comments. Hope to do it soon.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Intellectualism, Just Not My Cup Of Tea

Or simply put, I am as shallow as a chopping board. Yes that is me. Anything remotely intellectual does not interest me, I love all things that are classically described as pursuits of the stupider kinds. I hate newspapers and news. I have barely any clue of what is going on in and around the world, and have absolutely no views on the world economic crisis, except the one that any average mind would have.

I prefer Sidney Sheldon and Jeffrey Archer to Milton and Shakespeare. I absolutely love Hindi Filmy music, and have gone into the recesses where I am not even aware of the recent English releases. I don't listen to Classical music. I have no knowledge of art, beyond knowing about 'Madonna' and 'The Last Supper'. The words, Rembrandt or Monet might actually be brands of chocolate according to me. I neither know, nor understand them. I do not pursue any art form, nor do I grasp astro-physics well. My only claim to fame is I can add up numbers decently enough to not need a calculator while doing my bhaaji shopping(buying vegetables). Once upon a time I was a great sports enthusiast. As a teenager, I waited each edition of Sports World with bated breath. Savoured every article and delicately preserved the poster of each edition under my mattress. My favourite stars went up on the walls of course. Over a period of time, I have lost that passion too. I cannot think of a single bit of me that would classify me as an intellectual. I even enjoy cheap Hindi comedy flicks. I do enjoy some serious movies too, but even there I hated the much applauded 'Black'.

So what do you make of me. I enjoy shopping, like dressing up, and enjoy nothing serious. Makes me a really shallow and non-intellectual being does it not? But somehow I am happy being this way. I cannot hold great discussions on world politics, but I can always lend my shoulder to a friend who needs to rest it, I love being there for people who just need to talk, or even just sitting in a crowded place and observe people. I love people, seeing them, observing them, reading them, and most of all, help in a very humane way, anyone I can. I am not observant or smart about anything else in life but people. So what does that say about me, I don't really really know yet.

I do feel like an idiot when I read the smart informed blogs, or hear people talking about things that are universally defined as intellectual. All my childhood, I have been living under the shadow of intellectualism, and a deep desire in my parents that I develop the trait. I never did. I hated it then, and I don't like it now either. I hated it because it never appealed to me, but there was constant pressure to adapt to it. I never could do it. I was never interested in picking up the newspaper, inspite of much coaxing by my parents. I did it for a few months during the preparations for my MBA entrances, and dropped it as soon as I could. I preferred a Reader's Digest or a piece of fiction over the news any day. I still admire people who have genuine interest in the news, state of affairs, astro-physics, art, classical music, serious cinema and all else. I admire them, because I just cannot develop the skill to interest myself in these things, and honestly I don't grasp it well either. That is what it is about interests isn't it, what we enjoy is what we pursue. And I am happy pursuing, my small shallow pursuits.

So does that make me a person without any views or opinions, a moron and someone not worth her salt. I would hope not, because what I think, I do with passion. My thoughts and interests have more to do humanely than objectively. To me art is anything that pleases my eye. Music is what makes me move to its beats, with lyrics I understand and appreciate. I love colours, and happiness, brightness and joy. I seek it instinctively, I have to train myself to watch, read or see things that have a feeling of moroseness attached to them. I am passionate, but not about the stock market details or geo-politics. I am passionate about kindness to animals, loving children, loving fellow human beings. And happy being what I am. I don't shy away from saying I don't know something when I don't. I never pretend to be knowledgeable about things I am not, and it would suffice to say I am comfortable in my own shoes.

If you need an ear to hear you out, or shoulder to lean on, I am always there, but if you are seeking intellectual stimulation, or a deep appreciation of art, mine will be the wrong door to knock on.

And in furthering the small joys in life which keep me happy, I am sharing a photo of the motorbike, with the BB standing alongside. The flowers were part of the Dussehra celebrations. The gorgeous thing turned eleven this year, and is yet up, running and rearing to go. (No jokes about it would be tolerated. This particular piece of machinery has a special place in my heart!)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Three Decades and A Day - Taking Stock

At thirty, it is time I took stock of where I am in life, and where I want to go. Yes, I turned thirty yesterday, stepped into a new decade of life, and am not too sure of how I feel about it right now. I will definitely miss not being in the twenties anymore, but besides that I don't think much has changed in life in the past two days. Atleast I feel the same.

The twenties were possibly the most happening decade of my life. The very significant and life altering happenings like graduation, first job, marriage, motherhood, it all happened in the past ten years. I don't foresee any other decade in life, which will be quite as happening. So in that way I am in a more settled and steady state of life. The twenties have been all about fun and growing up. Each step pulling me up a bit more, making me more mature. The woman standing here now, at her thirtieth birthday will probably not even recognise the naive girl who existed ten years back. Am I happy with the way I have changed? Yes, I think I will say I am more happy than sad about the way I am today. Except for being a little more cynical about the world around me, I have become a better person in every other way,calmer, smarter, less judgmental, more open minded, more understanding, more confident and most importantly content and peaceful.

The twenties have brought me up, passed me from the hands of my parents to my ownself, and I have proven to myself I have what it takes to be what I want to be. Though I don't necessarily, always take my steps in the right direction, I often give up and take the easy way out, I know I can do it, if I really want to. The last decade also introduced me to my spiritual thirst. I don't blog a lot about that part of me or my thoughts, because nothing gets more personal than that. I recognised the difference between religion and spiritualism, and I recognised my own spiritual needs. I know now, that I need my life to be more than just the superficial living, I need to be a lot more, do a lot more. In more ways than one, I have discovered myself in my twenties, atleast understood myself, my needs, my wants and found the direction my life needs. And now it is about treading the path my soul needs, and doing what my heart truly wants.

The twenties has also given me the two most important persons in my life. The GP and the BB, the two, without whom I cannot even fathom a life now. I love them, need them and want them more than anything else in the world. these two are the most precious things I have collected in the past decade.

The past year in itself has not been exceptionally eventful, atleast not in a good way. There have been a lot of not-so-happy happenings, and I remember the past year more for the frights, depressions, and scares I have had. Hopefully I have learnt my lessons from them, and moved on to better things. If there is one thing I will remember my last year for, especially in a positive way, it will be for my weight loss. Yes, I am twenty kilos lighter this birthday from the last. There are gory, comparative, before and after pics I can share, but that is not the point of this post. So well I am lighter, more importantly healthier, and need to keep up the motivation to go further, for the last few miles...errr... I mean kilos. The next big thing to happen was that our plan to shift out of this place got finalised. I am happy for two reasons about that, for one, our stay here was a temporary one, which meant I always felt like I am in a state of suspension, neither completely settled in, nor ready to move on, and secondly, personally I have been unable to gel into this place. So I am happy to be moving. Yes it is a big thing, shifting bag and baggage yet again, but hopefully this will be the last and final time, and I am finally moving into a place to settle in.

For the time ahead, I need to plan up a career path, yes I do want to get back out, and meet people, make some money too. But it will not be IT, I am just not meant for that job, it is so not my calling. I have some ideas, but that would mean I have to start studying, attend classes, appear for examinations, and the whole scenario kind of scares me for now. But I am not giving up, I know I need to do my bit to get what I want. It will be tough, studying and taking care of the BB and home, but I think as the BB is growing up now, it is doable. I am intimidated at the thought of having to start from scratch yet again, to be very honest. Especially when most people my age are well up the ladder in their career paths, but I know that I can never be happy, satisfied or even motivated in the field I worked in, a change is most severely required, if I want to enjoy my work life, and make it a happy part of my life. That is what I foresee most prominently in my recent future, besides of course the BB growing up, life changing a bit each day, the body getting older, the bones creaking some more, and maybe, just maybe, I will get courageous enough to learn driving and swimming some day.

So gone are the three younger decades of life, and here is toasting to the life ahead, which I hope ages like wine does.

Monday, October 5, 2009

My Glorious Days in Bombay

A vacation is that time, when life moves into a different gear, things happen in a different dimension. The glorious things are more so, and the terrible things don't feel quite so bad. And that is exactly how it was. Twelve days in another dimension. To be honest, though my location has changed physically, mentally I still am in Bombay. You know that feeling that lingers, where one feels they are still in the same place for a few days after having moved. Oh! Glorious Bombay, how I love thee. The twelve days were packed with activity, and I saw very little of the DH, and even spent a few days going solo, leaving the BB with his much adored GP, though he(BB to be specific) was all mine to cuddle in the night.

We had a late night flight this time, bookings at sky high prices, absolutely last minute, and loads of luggage, so much in fact that we had to take two separate cabs to the airport. And the airport, OMG!! I had never seen the Sharjah International Airport as packed, as it was on the weekend of Eid, the day we left. Paranoia of swine flu, and I had the BB in his carrier, up my back, all the way till we sat down for some dinner, and then back again till we got into the flight. Guess what? there were some illegal passengers too, being in the second last row, we saw it. A girl, a couple of men, who got into the flight, and walked straight into the crew's cabin, stay put, and emerged only after landing. We landed early morning, and reached home at the crack of dawn, and joyfully dosed off to sleep. I woke up, the DH and the BB fast asleep, got dressed, and went out for an urgent errand, telling the DH to be up, to open the door when I return. What do you think happened thereafter? Of course he never heard me banging on the door, and ring the bell a million times, happily asleep. I went out hunting for the MIL, managed to find her some place, far away from home, and got back with her. There was no point waiting in the mosquito infested stairwells. So that was the start to my holiday.

I traveled in the locals after ages in Bombay, full of love and nostalgia. Actually carried my DSLR to take photos, the people around were surprised and expected me to soon show them a press card. Not surprising to be honest. I would have felt the same way back in the days when it was my regular mode of transport. The locals in Bombay become such an essential part of the lifestyle, for those using it, that it is difficult to even imagine a different dimension to it. Hawkers came in and out selling things starting from bindis, hair clips and undergarments to jewelery, dress materials and sarees. A tip for buying from these hawkers: they are more agreeable to bargaining in the second half of the day, while they adamantly stick to the price demanded in the first half. Also the prices are very reasonable, so do not expect huge bargaining margins.I bought myself some multi-coloured wooden bangles. I so love colours, that everything in India looks gorgeous to me. The most amazing thing to happen was, that I bumped into an old train friend who is currently living in the US on one of my trips. She is married to an old classmate of the DH, and has been living in the US since she got married. By complete coincidence, we were taking the same train, and had a gala time catching up during the journey. What were the chances of two expats actually getting on the same local?

Sunset shot from the train, while crossing a creek.

The trains always have some interesting graffiti and advertisements to catch one's eye. Some are plain lewd, while others can promise everything from a bean bag to weight loss, career enhancing courses to solution to all of life's problems. Though I had stopped noticing them, during my daily travel days, they quite caught my eye, after this long gap in my traveling. And so here is just one of the many fun ones there were. Why worry, when everything can be solved by just calling a number?

This was the first time I traveled to South Bombay after the gruesome attacks in November. Life seemed just as usual, and I also dared to lunch at Leopold Cafe, one of the open firing spots on that fateful night. The popular eatery, still harbours all the gunshots it recieved, and they have become places of keen attention and curiosity for most. I on my part clicked a few photos too, but will not be putting them up here, for the sheer morbidity and sadness they bring in. Sitting there eating, I realised, indeed there is no place to so much as even hide in there. Also saw the much barricaded Taj. While clicking photos of the famous victorias, the many guard from across the road at the Taj entrance, with huge hand gestures, made it clear to me that I am not allowed to photograph the Taj. And even later while I was ambling around the Gateway, they kept requesting me not to click pictures, and I had to assure them quite forcefully that I was not photographing the hotel entrance from any angle. Fortunately though the entire exchange took place with smiles. But all these things just leave a bitter taste in the mouth, knowing that the once grand and open entrance to the grand hotel now has more guards and security than guests.

That was followed by a lot of cruising along Colaba Causeway and gaping lustily at the gorgeous wares. A riot of colours everywhere. The beautiful jewelery, the lovely casuals, bags, sandals, knick knacks for home. Oh! How much of my will power was needed to stop me from buying pretty much everything I could see. All I can say is, its a treat for shoppers, and lovers of accessories, and ethnic Indian home decor.

This trip was also about photography for me. Pretty much everywhere I went, the camera went with me, and there are loads of gorgeous photos, which definitely need a dedicated post.

And I finally got a glimpse of the elusive rain, my first this year. The water dripping down, pouring down, felt like nectar flowing in my veins. I actually got stranded for about half an hour due to the rains, stood under the roof of a shop, and simple devoured the falling rain with my eyes. I wanted to soak myself, but I had to go back home in public transport, and did not feel quite comfortable doing that, while being dripping wet. This means I also saw some lush greens after ages, and my eyes soaked them up hungrily. I can just close my eyes, and see the scintillating green all around.

Also went out for a lavish girlie lunch with one of my closest friends, and could not believe we spent over three hours eating lunch, there was just so much to catch up and chat about, it was loads of fun, and for once it was just the two of us, no spouses, no kids, quite a lot of fun.

The biggest joy on this trip for me though, was that I fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans. Yes, yes, yes I did. I even wore them on my way back here. I could not, simply could not believe that it would ever happen. In fact I had given away nearly all my clothes, and was sure this pair was gone too. It has to be a happy play of fate, that the pair was languishing, hidden under a jacket on one of the hangers in my cupboard. I could have done cartwheels at that moment, had I ever learnt to do them. A few of the old tops, which I had just not had the heart to give away, fit right on, and left me beaming like a hundred watt bulb. And of course people were all astonished to see me a lot lighter than when they had seen me six months back. On the flip side, too much of blogging and Net surfing, over the past year has hurt the eyes, and the power in my eye has doubled. So I am stuck with constant wear glasses now, and have promised myself much much lesser time on the laptop, just hope I can keep it up.

The rest of the vacation was full of yummy food, catching up with friends, riding around.
The BB enjoyed all the attention showered on him to the hilt, increased his vocabulary, and absolutely floored his grandmother by calling her gam'ma. He was happy on the couple of days I was out, but what was great, was the way he hugged me and clung to me when I got back, it is the warmest feeling a mother can feel I guess. And though I was out and enjoyed myself, a part of me missed him each moment that I was away. He had the most fun time running wild in the open spaces, like small kids' park, or the backyard of an old cathedral, and even in a natural flower garden, which we found hard to traverse due to all the undergrowth. We did a lot of bike rides this time with the BB. The same bike that the DH had in college, and was our primary means of transport in our dating days, and even our marriage, till we got our first car. Never in a lifetime had either the DH or I imagined, that one day our child would ride it along with us. It was such an amazing feeling. And on an evening when the BB decided to drop into a late evening nap, the DH and I went for a couple ride on the bike. For the life of me I cannot remember how it was the last time. I believe it was in the first couple of months of my pregnancy, and I had never occupied a seat on the bike ever since. The ride was punctuated with buying veggies, and other boring things, but it was great fun none the less. But the picture I have in my memory is of the DH riding the bike, with the BB in front of him, and me behind. That is the one I want preserved in my mind forever. The BB was initially hesitant about the bike, but took to it soon enough, and even managed to fall asleep while sitting in the front. Aah! those glorious college days of long bike rides and young love, that is what I thought I would always associate with our bike, but who knew things would change the way they have.

Now that the vacations are over, I hope to have many many more glorious vacations like this in the years to come.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Joi Maa Durga

(roughly translated as 'Hail The Divine Mother Durga' )

Durga Pujo, as experienced by a Bengali cannot quite be comprehended by anyone who has not experienced or observed it firsthand. It is romantic, it is an affair like none other.The thrill of festivities, the numerous new clothes, the mouth watering bhog, the late night outings, the pandal hopping, all these are just the superficial joys, but this festival means a lot more to a Bengali, the joy and anticipation of it runs in our very being. From the day a child is born into a Bengali family, he learns to anticipate those five special days of the year. It is the kind of anticipation that fills you with happiness and hope, joy and contentment. Five days of fun, enjoyment, new clothes, good food, entertainment programs, the mindblowing sound of dhaak (a kind of drum), the smell of dhoop, the mouth-watering bhog(food distributed to the devotees), hanging around with friends, late nights and a lot lot more. In all my years as a true-blue Bong, this is the festival that has always been awaited with bated breath all year long, and it was all about festivites, and very little of it was religious. Most of our friends and family went about these five days with full gusto and enthusiasm to celebrate. And so it was for me, five of the most awaited and enjoyable days of the year. New clothes saved up all year round to be worn on these days, enough stocked up, so that I can have a couple of change of outfits each of these days. It is not quite describable in words, the emotions, and love associated with this festival. The day the festival got over, the wait would begin for the next one.

Even during my hostel years, I would either manage to wriggle a few days of leave and get home, or make sure I dropped into the local pandals. Just being in the pandal, smelling of dhoop and bhog would make my heart beat harder with joy. Those were five the most important days of the year to me, besides my birthday and way to often they both the things would come together.

However, things don't remain constant. My association with Durga Puja has reduced considerably post my marriage. The first year was the toughest, because the reduced association had to be enforced, it was not one that came naturally. I shed many a copious tears, for the lack of being able to celebrate it the way I always had, that first year, but over the years the disassociation has worked its way into me. My first Pujo after marriage, was in Bombay. I had no idea where the celebrations took place, the DH had to bear the brunt of my frustration. Found out about just one place, a long way from our place, and visited that on just one day of the Pujo. And that one time made me realise, that it would never be the same for me again. Cannot really feel at home in a pujo pandal, if one does not speak full blown Bengali.This was not going to happen for me with the DH. He does not speak Bengali, and I don't expect him to either. We have two languages available to us for communication to us, and that works out just perfectly. It is difficult to visit a place where people see us with strange eyes, being obvious outsiders. This makes us even more conscious and the the whole cycle of events gets worse. So since then, Pujo for me is not longer about festivites, but just about going and paying my respects to the Goddess. Though Durga Pujo still remains special to me, but not in the way it had been to me as a child. In foreign shores, where people of the community are fewer, I am further discouraged to visit and be gawked at for being an outsider, joining in not that easy either, because I have no wish to explain my choice of husband, or why he does not speak Bengali and now more about the BB. So I have reconciled to letting that festival be a small window of happiness now, and hopefully with one sighting of the Goddess in her full glory.

And hence I was fortunate enough to participate in the Ashtami Anjali, as well as attend the Nabami's Aarti in the Pujo this year. With the BB dressed up in the most amazing clothes, these are memories that will remain with me forever. It was wonderful being in Bombay and attending the local Pujo this year. Photography was prohibited the first couple of days, and only allowed on the last day, so I took many mental pictures of the Pujo. Pandal hopping was not an option due to the swine flue scare and the overly protective GP, but attending the one I did, made me happy enough.

Here is wishing everyone a Shubho Bijoyaa (Happy Dussehra).