Sunday, 1 December 2013

I want to be ‘me’

My friend Vijula’s seven-year-old daughter Nyssa recently won the second prize at a national level painting competition held in her school. The topic was ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ Nyssa’s answer was ‘I want to be me’ and she drew a painting of a girl running around in a garden, all happy and free. Incidentally, when Nyssa had mentioned her theme to her teacher, the latter had given a surprising and callous response, ‘What is that?’ This is the state of affairs today where our children have to be ‘someone’ in life and only then they would be successful. Sad but true!

Every child is asked this question at one point or the other – What will you be when you grow up? Doctor, engineer or teacher? Mind you, the last option is for those who have outlived all other options. The option of being a painter, writer, artiste, sculptor or a kite maker is never there. The child then grows up with the thought that only those professions that bring in money are worth pursuing for these alone will get them respect in society. Thus, parents and teachers, though unknowingly, condition the children’s mind towards such a thinking that stays with them throughout their life.

With this thought ingrained in their minds at every step of their student life and after, the children lead a life with the sole hope of meeting that aim in life – to be rich and successful. They are sent to highly paid tuition classes and thus, come what may, they have to stand first in class. Even if they haven’t understood the basic concepts, it doesn’t matter for they can always learn by rote and reproduce in exams. This is not all. In the name of extra-curricular activities, they are sent again to some ‘classes’ that will again be of some social standing rather than the children’s interests or likings. Where do these activities leave children? The little ‘me time’ that they get are spend solitarily most of the time, either by watching crime thrillers on TV or playing violent video games. There are no social get-togethers, playing in the outdoor with friends or taking a walk in the wood. There are no activities which are just only for fun minus any competition.  Everything that they do is for the sole purpose of winning or to be ahead of others.  Where will this generation head to? How will our future society be? It is a scary thought, definitely.
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Yet, all is not that bad. It is heartening to note that there is growing awareness on the importance of letting the child pursue her dreams and that happiness is what is important. Movies like ‘3 Idiots’ have contributed to it. So, there is a change in the mindset of parents regarding career choices but it is still a long way to go even before we can say to our children that money is not as important as happiness and that it is adherence to values that will decide their success in life, not marks or multiple degrees.

When Nyssa said that she wanted to be herself, it meant that she was going to be the way she is. She does not want to be like her classmate who might be aspiring to be a doctor neither does she want to be a teacher like her mother. She just wants to be herself and when she will grow up, she will decide how to earn her livelihood. Let her be so and I am sure, one day, she will find success on her own terms. I will feel twice happy that day for she must have not only reached where she wanted to be but she must have walked upto that goal, not ran past anyone or pushed back someone to reach her goal. Then it is definitely her victory alone. Nyssa, you are a star, already. Be the way you are. Just be ‘you’. Thank you baby, for teaching us adults, too, a valuable lesson. 

Friday, 11 October 2013

Let go!

Sometimes I feel it is so easy to face tough circumstances. All it needs is an attitude.  An attitude of courage and detachment, that will stand the test of time. In brief, just ‘let go’. This is one phrase that has umpteen meanings deep within it and thus can be used in varied instances. Many a times, we are hurt by people, incidents or circumstances. Sometimes, the hurt gets so engrossed within us that it keeps recurring before our eyes and makes us sad, disappointed and depressed. We may curse the person who has caused the hurt or blame ourselves for the incident. Fighting with the person or the circumstances won’t help. In the long run, what is going to bring a relief is ‘letting go’. Let the person go, let the incident be forgotten but with a smile. Yes, it is about forgiving and forgetting and moving on with your life. And you should go ahead with the same phrase ‘Let go’. Letting it go also helps in mending bridges in relationships too. We often grumble about problems in relationships and complain about family and friends who are unable to give us time or thought. One thing that I have learned in life is from a quote, “Relationships - of all kinds - are like sand held in your hand. Held loosely, with an open hand, the sand remains where it is. The minute you close your hand and squeeze tightly to hold on, the sand trickles through your fingers. You may hold onto it, but most will be spilled. A relationship is like that. Held loosely, with respect and freedom for the other person, it is likely to remain intact. But hold too tightly, too possessively, and the relationship slips away and is lost.” By Kaleel Jamison from The Nibble Theory and the Kernel of Power: A Book about Leadership, Self-Empowerment, and Personal GrowthI have learned that no matter who or what, if we cling to people and make them suffocated with attention, demands or even love, they slip away from us and never to return. Yes, even love can be suffocating if it goes overboard. It is better that you do not wait till the other person screams at you to stay away. You should know to sense subtle hints and stay away and it is ironical that this staying apart will bring you only closer to the person. So see, “let go’ will only help strengthen relationships!
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‘Let go’ in a way has spiritual connotations too. Gautam Buddha and Mahavir spoke of detachment. In another words, what they also emphasised was the important of letting it go. Try this even if you might find it difficult in the first few days to actually let go but gradually, you will attain a sense of peace where you can relook at the past circumstance and smile to yourself about yourself.

I am no spiritualist and though the above are my realisations, it is not that I am successful every time that I practise it but I am trying every day. I might eventually be a pro at it. I know I can and I will. 

Saturday, 27 July 2013

An abode of indulgence

Saw the Malayalam movie ‘Trivandrum Lodge’ recently. Released in 2012, the movie is believed to have raked in more than 4 crores at the box office. It is directed by V K Prakash and written by Anoop Menon, who is the current favourite of the Malayalam movie industry.
The movie turned out to be a surprise in content and presentation as it defied (well…almost) the norms of a typical Malayalam movie. As the title suggests, the movie is about the inmates of an old, obscure lodge but located at Kochi. The lodge is owned by Ravi Shankar, a rich widower with a young son. Into this dishevelled corner, enters Dhwani, an educated and sophisticated writer-artist. She is young and divorced – enough reasons to make the men drool over her.

The movie cannot be termed a classic but can’t either be categorised as ordinary.  I liked the film for one main reason – it did not harp on a moral tale of rights and wrongs and instead chose to break away from clich├ęs. It allowed its characters to be the way they are and let them continue their life as they have till now. No reformation or change of heart here.

The ‘heroine’ of the film if you can call the leading lady thus, is not the usual demure, sari-clad and ‘lady like’ nayika. And yes, she also wears spectacles, yet seemed desirable to men. She also did not seem to be heart-broken or shattered at the thought of a divorce. Instead she longed to celebrate her divorce by ‘fornicating with abundance’. A new word for the average Malayali audience and a new step for Malayalam cinema!

The second female character is Kanyaka (irony at its best!), a sex worker. As the usual circumstance of most of such women, Kanyaka is from a poor family, with an ailing husband to fend for. Yet, she never once seems to be sorrowful or repenting but has a zest for life. She probably, knows, that the moral curtains that the society tends to put on her are all false and that the moralistic society is indulging in far bigger hatred crimes. She is after all, only spreading love and solace.

The third female character, Malavika, does not exist physically in the world but lives on in her husband Ravi Shankar’s memory. Ravi with his vast wealth and youth, has many options before him but he chooses to remain a celibate for he feels the high of being a ‘one woman-man’ is more than any other seduction or relationships.

The fourth female is Zarina, Dhwani’s friend. She is an educated woman and happily married to a fish trader, who is not much educated and speaks in the typical fishermen’s slang. She has no qualms in admitting that it was her decision to marry a man with less intellectual, for he won’t then be a big bother to her life. She declares that he is ‘good in bed’. Her husband too has no issues in sharing a drink with his wife.

The fifth character is a little girl, Amala, learning piano and with whom the young son of Ravi Shankar falls in love.

Male characters are many with varied traits. Abdu is an orphan and a dumb fellow, who looks at women sexually. He is addicted to the thought and is longing for a woman. Yet, he refuses to sleep with Kanyaka when he sees her bed-ridden husband at her home.

Then there is Shibu who writes for a small film publication. He lures wannabe female starlets by promising them roles in films. Then there is a senior citizen, who boasts of having slept with 999 women and is waiting for a very special woman to be the 1000th. Yet, when Dhwani asks him if she could be the 1000th, he is too shy to revert.

The film had many of its moments. Ravi Shankar’s father refuses to share the riches of his son because he believes his wife (Ravi’s mother) had earned it by her immoral activities. He calls her a prostitute but the son laughs it off saying that he would rather call her a female Casanova. Yet again, the film breaks a gender stereotype, where a mother is supposed to be goddess like. You see a son who is quite unaffected by the fact that his mother indeed had many lovers. He seems to accept that his mother too is human and has feelings and aspirations as any other. His father, who detests the wealth accumulated by his wife, does not show any inhibition to keep the original ownership papers of Trivandrum Lodge for he wants it as a last resort, if his son throws him out. That means he will hate his wife and will stick to his principles but only as per his convenience.

Overall, the film was a good watch and the characters do stay with you. You feel happy to see that the Malayalam Film industry is embracing new trends and outlook. You feel good for the characters who are not perfect – they lust, they seem to be useless at times, they tend to be selfish, they believe in love, and at the end of the day – they are all ordinary people, just like you and me. 

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Here is to you, my friend...

Rains – the integral part of writer’s imagination; that which has invoked romance in heart and words; that which has helped hide tears; that which has symbolised agony, joy, love, hope and more. Rains, you are an inspiration, a friend and an enigma.

It is amusing to observe how you have appeared to me in different stages of my life. When I was in school, rains meant beginning of a new academic year. I used to be so excited to go to school in my new uniform, new shoes and of course, a new bag, with new untouched books all wrapped in brown covers and name slips duly pasted on them. It was such a nice walk from home to school, holding my mother’s hand, wearing my new raincoat and splashing water. Now that she is ill and your onset causes her much trouble, those memories have become dearer.

As I grew up, you brought about a smile on my face. I started loving the rain songs in Hindi films and hoped one day, I too would dance and sing with my dream man, with you pouring love and dreams all over us. The poet in me sprang up every time I looked at you through my window panes. The sighting of greenery that you brought along filled my heart with glee. I noticed how the neighbouring tree that had looked so sad and lonely in summer suddenly looked fresh and happy now that you were pouring all over it. Haven’t you heard my ‘Thank you’ over and over then?

As adulthood and responsibilities ushered into my life, I admit I haven’t had that luxury of sitting and staring at you or even striking small conversations with you. And I should admit one more thing - I had even started disliking you at times and I still do. No, you were never at fault. Never! It is just that we, the people, have really made a mess of our surroundings and our poor planet. As soon as you come down, the poorly maintained roads crack up, the drains start overflowing and there is dirt everywhere, thus making walking a terrible experience. There is traffic jam during rains so riding or driving or travelling by bus becomes a nightmare. The local trains are delayed or even cancelled because you decided to pour heavily. Oh! Please don’t feel bad. I am not blaming you. It is not your fault. It is just that the authorities, who have to ensure that these things don’t happen when you come, do not bother to take any precautions thus resulting in myriad problems for lakhs of people like me during your onset time – the monsoons. How I wish the authorities could spend some time restoring beauty and cleanliness of my city so that I could enjoy you again, without complaining.

But let me tell you one thing though. Of late, I have stopped complaining and that has helped me connect with you again. I have started falling in love with your tickling drops once again! Though today, as I watch you falling onto the ground shouting with joy, somehow my heart is unable to catch up with you. Life has brought in many revelations before me, some too hard to digest. As realities and truth stand staring at me, I am not able to bring myself to enjoy being with you. Still, your presence does bring a solace to my heart. My tear drops find so many companions in yours. I now know why Charlie Chaplin said of you, “I always like walking in the rain, so no one can see me crying.”

Today, as my life is nearing its dusk, I want to look back at those days spent in playing with you, not opening the umbrella to get soaked in your embrace, screaming at the sight of earthworms and laughing all the way with friends in your company. I want to say a big ‘Thank you’ for being with me in joy and sorrow just as a true partner would. Can I ask you, my dear friend, if tomorrow I decide to break free from all earthly bonds and set out all alone into this cruel world, would you hold me and take me in your embrace to your home and make me the source of one of your drops so that I can accompany you wherever you go?

Here, my friend, I come...

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The olive lining through the cloudburst

Uttarakhand tragedy has hit the nation hard. The fury of nature did not spare anyone, locals, tourists or even animals. Such calamities can never be measured in terms of quantity; a life lost is a life lost. There can be no other terms to describe the loss. But what give us, humans, a hope is the hundreds of kind stories that evolve from such a devastating situation. Stories of people helping each other despite being helpless themselves are the ones that give you a hope about humanity. In the Uttarakhand calamity, what made all Indians smile and take pride in being Indian was the Indian Defence Personnel’s act of courage rescuing thousands stranded in different corners of Kedarnath.
These men in uniform were doing everything they could – being doctors, counsellors, teachers, sons, construction workers building roads and bridges and even a ‘bridge’ to help out.

We all crib about our jobs, our daily routine and even our life in general and here were these men who with a smile on their lips and determination written all over their face struggling day and night to see that the flood victims were evacuated to safety.  Were it not for the defence personnel, God alone would have known what would have happened to the rescue efforts. While the army, air force, IBTF men were leaving no stone unturned to rescue and evacuate victims, the politicians were as usual busy blaming each other and looking for publicity even in the face of such a catastrophe. It was rather annoying to see certain leaders taking an aerial survey of the situation seated inside a lavish aircraft. An irony that speaks of the two Indias that we often talk about! One that is covered in luxury, and the other seeking a miracle to survive yet another day.

The men in uniform, though, continued what best they could do – reach out – they were even in non accessible areas disregarding their own safety. Then tragedy struck them too in the form of a helicopter crash that took away precious lives of not just the victims but even the rescuers. Promising lives were lost forever. 

There were supporting voices for our men on social media, print and television. Then what? Their heroic and humane deeds will be forgotten and again life will turn to ‘normal’. These warriors will continue their ‘task’ somewhere else without any safety measures, without any additional perks or without anyone even noticing their valour. Shouldn’t we as a nation stand up to our defence forces? Shouldn’t these men and women get a far better life, both in the forces and outside? Shouldn’t they family be protected and looked after forever by the government? Corrupt politicians in India immersed in wealth and splendour hardly care about the welfare of anyone except themselves. What concern will they show to these men who are the real heroes? Though the defence forces do their best to take care of their personnel, we, as citizens, too should pitch in whatever way we can.  Respect these men and show the respect in constructive ways. Take a cue from their life and reach out to those who need help. Be good, responsible law abiding citizens and perhaps that will be our best tribute. Meanwhile, our boys will continue their task regardless of anyone being inspired by their act or not!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Everything and more!

Just read ‘A finger in every pie’, by Wendy Harmer in Hindustan Times (June 13, 2013). The article is reprinted from The Guardian. In the article, Harmer describes her experiences as an ‘everythingist’, who she defines as ‘the sort of person who is greedy for the benefit of all new experiences, but unwilling to put the work in to fully commit to any of them’. As I was reading the article, I suddenly realised that voila! I am also an ‘everythingist’. Till now, I considered myself to be a multi tasker who enjoyed doing hundred things at a time. Even as I am writing this, I have before me two newspapers open before me with the op-ed pages selected for reading. I also have my mail box open on the computer and am also checking my phone for new messages if any.  I don’t know if I would be able to read both pages today but try I will. Now! I agree with Harmer when she says, “Everythingism is a deadly combination of perfectionism plus narcissism plus utter laziness.” So true, I would say! First, a person who attempts to do hundred things at a time is one who brims with over confidence but he is non-committal because he does not assure that he would at least try to complete the works taken up by him, and third, he is so overwhelmed with so much of tasks around him that he feels tired just by looking at the heap he is surrounded by. It does not help saying that he himself chose the situation.
But I wouldn’t blame the ‘everythingist’ because his motive is honest.  He sincerely believed that he will be able to manage everything but that he fails to do so is another matter. I remember while studying for my exams (both school and college), how I would spread different subject textbooks beside me, anxious not to lose out on studying one subject because of the other.  But I ended up sleeping looking at the huge heap before me! But my intention was honest, you see!

Harmer concludes by apologising to all those who are not everythingist for she had once considered them boring. She says, “they are one of those people who gets stuff done and gets over it   - I realise now that you have the greatest freedom of all.” But I would not apologise for being an everythingist at all – but yes, I will try to finish at least one of the many activities that I list out. But hoarding things to do, will continue for sure! And that means I will continue to be an everythingist – after all, it is not everyone’s cup of tea to be an everythingist! You need talent for that, you see!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Bring it on... again

Bring it on... again

Being born in a middle class family to a doting mother, I should say I had a reasonably comfortable childhood. May be, not great in many terms but yes, I was a happy child. My parents did not have a great marriage and my equation with my father wasn’t good. I do not remember a single day sitting on his lap or even near him or him behaving affectionately with me or even my brother. I feared him, his temper, his presence but never hated him, at least till my college days. But my mother made up for everything that my father wasn’t. She loved both of us, my brother and me, to the hilt. An innocent homemaker, my mother put us before everything. In a way, she lived for us.  She was the main reason why I did not turn into an unhappy child and remained well distant from the negative atmosphere in the house. 
One of my pleasing memories of childhood is the company of books that I had. Since I could read Malayalam too, Balarama, a children’s weekly, became a constant companion in my days as a school girl. Balarama had a good collection of comics, informative pieces, jokes and contests. Even today, I remember many of the informative stories I read as a child. The magazine was more or less like Tinkle, which also I used to devour as soon as I could get my hands on it. Both the magazines had my favourite character in them – Shikari Shambu. I loved Shambu and I remember how relieved I felt when I reached the end of the story as in the end, he would have defeated all his nemesis and emerged victorious, even though by sheer luck.  
Another children’s magazine that I got was the Chandamama. It had such nice illustrations and stories! I looked forward to our weekly trip to the market as I could run to this store to get hold of my Chandamama copy. Adding to the list, were a number of other story books that gave me companionship. Today, when I look back, I can say that the happiest days of my girl life was the ones spent on reading.
And my school and my teachers! My school wasn’t big either in terms of infrastructure or facilities but I can say with confidence that thanks to the teachers who, though, were not highly knowledgeable, did a sincere job, I did not lack much in terms of school education. I was one of the top scorers of the class and thus the teachers’ pet and classmates’ envy. My main competitors class were two boys, Vijay and Suresh. Vijay and I would always be neck to neck in terms of academic results. Suresh mostly stood third. One of the best compliments that I have received in my entire life comes from these two – when I was in eighth standard, I was admitted to a hospital for Malaria and could not attend school for some days and could rejoin school only for my semester exams. My mother would get notes from my classmates which I studied at home. I appeared for my exams and not only stood first, but also received generous praise from my Hindi teacher for my excellent performance in the Hindi exam. Vijay and Suresh were disappointed and told me, “We are also going to fall ill before the next exams and when we return, we will also be able to get such nice marks as you did.” This was the competition at that time, not bitter but sweet!
I love writing and reading and it is all due to the books I got to acquaint with and my teachers who would not hesitate to praise me for my work. Once for a school test, I wrote an essay on ‘The accident I witnessed’. I remember writing it with adjectives, exclamation marks and interjections. My English teacher, an elderly man, who I loved and my other classmates detested, told the class, ‘She has written such a nice essay, it is as if she wrote it as a live commentary of the accident. Good one, dear.” This compliment is what motivated me to write more and gave me the confidence that I need not adhere to what is conventional and that I can play my words the way I want because those words belong to me. Perhaps, it is the confidence that I acquired as a student, that has encouraged me to enter this contest too!
If you ask me, whether I would like my days as a girl to return, I would say, ‘Yes, bring them on... let me live that life again – a life of simple pleasures, quiet fortitude and great surroundings with kind teachers, loving friends where I was not required to run or race but walk at my own speed.’ There was no fear about future and no anxieties about a career. Life was just about living well with values and confidence. How many girls can say that about their life today?

This post was entered in a contest on women’s web -

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Happy Women's Day

Happy Women's Day! It is March 8 again. We will witness once again stories of celebrating women, advertisements of stores offering discounts on women's products and TV shows depicting 'greatness of women'. But is this all we want, as women, as a society? Of course not! What we urgently need today, as women, is safety, security, dignity and respect. This is our right and we are only seeking what we deserve as human beings. Let us all resolve to make this happen and let us begin the campaign from our home! So here is an ode to the woman in our life who we should and need to value the most - Our mother!

She is the woman who loves you the most
She will be and is the only one who accepts you the way you are
She rejoices in your victory; she is dejected when you lose
She smiles when you are happy; her tears flow when she finds you sad
She trusts you even if the whole world doesn’t; she cherishes you more than her valuables
She dies a thousand death when you ignore her; her heart breaks every time you are rude to her
She may not be able to cook the best food for you now, but if you go hungry, she is ready to be awake all night to feed you
She celebrates the entry of another woman in your life; not jealous but content
She doesn't stop your journeys; only says a silent prayer for your well being
She looks through your eyes to see your heart; understands its pain
She loves when you are at home with her; though you may not even look at her
She cares for your future, though she is aware she won’t be a part of it
One day she will love someone more than you and that will be your child
Value your mother, there is (and there will be) nobody like her!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Women and respect should be synonymous

The Justice Verma Committee is out. It has many recommendations but sends a positive vibe. The recommendations put forth are noteworthy and seems to have a solid base and worth implementing. Now the big question is – when and how. Many must have been disappointed to see the Committee does not want death penalty or chemical castration for rapists. Yet, it does put forward relevant observations.
Assaults against women are on a rise and everyday, one gets to hear reports of molestations, gangrape, murder and other atrocities committed against females. I cannot write ‘women’ here because many victims are children, as young as two. What should be done to stop these heinous crimes? Scores of committees, thousands of law and their sub sections won’t prove a deterrent. They might if there is speedy justice and harsh punishment. When will that happen? No one knows.
If one has to probe the reasons behind increasing atrocities against women, then she won’t have to go that far. There is only reason – the show of power. The assaulter is well aware that his victim will not be able to defend herself. Will he dare attack someone who might be bigger and stronger than him? He won’t. He has been brought up with the thinking that women are the inferior gender and they have to be suppressed and not respected. That is why, most of the men, won’t give up any chance to violate a woman. Activists say that gender sensitisation should be inculcated in homes so that boys grow up to understand gender equality and therein respect women.  This, they suggest, will lead to more respect towards the opposite sex. If this has to be a reality, then we will have to wait for the next generation, that is, the children who are one or two year olds to grow up. But do we have that patience to wait that long? Or should we wait and let the crimes continue? Of course, not. In such a scenario, the Verma Committee does give a few hopes. The hope that government will look at the report empathetically and will implement it soon, at least some of them, so that grave crimes like rape are rooted out from our society. Till then, let parents, teachers and each member of the society take a pledge of protecting women and girl children. The girl you might see being molested or attacked may be a stranger to you but come forward and lend a helping hand. If you won't, then, a notice of caution – the next victim can be one from your family. WE AS CITIZENS NEED TO ACT.



Finally...yes! I have started to blog.
I had opened this post some months ago but could not bring myself to post anything on it. I do not know why. I kept postponing it wondering if I really had anything worthwhile to say. Then I kept asking why do I want to blog? Will anyone read it? What will I say or will I have anything to say at all? Then realisation dawned and I got my answers. I want to blog because I love to write and everyday hundreds of things turn in my mind seeking vent. It had to come out of me. These are my thoughts coming randomly to me and I have to share it with someone and what a better way than written words? And I won’t worry about anyone reading it or not as I am doing this exercise for myself and this is my route to preserve my thoughts for my future. And if anybody gets to read it, the more the merrier! Now for the last question – I will have many things to say but can’t guarantee whether all those will be worthy enough. I do not want to surround my thoughts with adjectives, positive or otherwise. I just want my random thoughts to flow and flow. If it has a destiny, it will have a destination. I do not want to worry about what course my thoughts will take or what should they entail? I just want to transform my thoughts roaming aimlessly within my mind to simple words on my screen. And let them be the way they are. So, here I end my random wanderings and I begin my jotting of my ‘Random Thoughts’.