Thursday, April 30, 2009

Re-arranging my prejudices

This one is inspired from a post made by a young blogger friend .. here goes

At school, my social studies teacher managed to bring in the entire world into the tiny class room, as kids of impressionable ages, we sat and almost watched her words. We loved the Freedom movement of India, felt the surge of national pride each time the freedom struggle was described. We visited the various states of India through her eyes and words, the beautiful seven sisters of the northeast, the majestic mystery of rajesthan, the lions of Gir, the temples of the south and the paradise called kashmir were as visible to us as the state we belonged to. Through her we learnt about the structure of society, of various types of government, we learnt of autocracy, dictatorship, democracy, socialism and capitalism.

That was our age of falling for ideals. Many of my friends, including me fell in love with the idea of socialism - an utopian state, a class less society, one for all and all for one. The vigour and the enthusiasm of our teacher made us believe in this ideal. we opposed capitalism, the industrial revolution was looked at only as a source of torture and endless hours of work for the labour class. We ignored all that was good about machines and factory systems, we ignored the massive inventions and the determined evolution of capitalism. For us it was simply a bane on society. The USSR was the place to be, Karl Marx and Lenin were the heroes. Belonging to Kolkata, this ideology was fully appreciated and promoted by my grandparents and various other elders of the family. I was thrilled to be RED and so were they.

We grew and ideologies changed, we started seeing the world through adult eyes and felt for the first time a contradiction. For the first time... I remember telling myself.. " Socialism looks a hell lot better on paper than in the queues I see waiting for a loaf of bread in the chilling winter nights of Russia." For the first time I looked again at Capitalism.. I sensed a freedom there, the freedom to choose my destiny, the freedom to work hard and reap the benefits. Yes I was in college now, almost ready to start a career, and Capitalism provided opportunities that I had failed to see in school, I had failed to see, the discrepeancy in socialism. Why I asked should I share the benefits of my hard work with a lazy bum, why should he get what I get, when he is not putting in even half my efforts?" And as if in validation to my thoughts Socialism was crumbling all over the Globe. "Yes!" I told myself, "My teacher didn't get it right!! Capitalism it is.."

Some more growing later.. a balanced view evolved. Nothing is probably right or wrong, there are shades that are grey in every sphere. In every structure, in every society, it is the flaws that probably make the structure unique. And so it is with these two economic philosophies . Socialism and Capitalism allure us based on our opportunistic nature or phase in life, similarly a lot of ideals lose their shine as we face the realities in life. Utopia becomes a state of mind and so do a lot of other things. None of us is beyond prejudice, because none of us is God. We deal with things the way it suits us best at a particular point in time. It is all fine to say, "I don't believe in casteism... " until its thrown on your face so close that you have no escape. That's when our reaction will prove the true mettle. I do not know how I will react, but I have no idealistic expectations from myself. But think about it.. prejudice is a two way thing... are not the victims prejudiced too?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


"I don't want to to leave, I want my friends, my school, I belong here.. I feel at home, please let me stay." Fear of the unknown is not an acquired fear. We are not taught to be apprehensive of change, quite on the contrary, in fact. And yet the above refrain is the most repeated line of my life. I have moved from shore to shore, first it was dad looking for a better life and then it was the husband doing the same. I was told I had a mole under my feet and hence the nomadic life. Destiny wrapped up in a tiny mole at the bottom of my feet. Moved within the country and now beyond it. Have liked some places and adapted to others. Have made friends and let them go, have ended up building walls around me that are porous only to socialise, no more friendships please!! Packed up an entire household and put all the memories onto a cargo. Pots and pets have been left behind along with favourite corners and dear friends.

'Global citizens' is the term today. Stay connected - The World Wide Web has made that possible, distances are insignificant now. I am in touch with friends from my childhood, I know their life almost inside out and so do they. Pictures are exchanged, birthdays are wished with virtual cakes and balloons, even a tiny squabble within the family is shared and made light. Yes, Internet has definitely helped a lot. But it has not given me roots, its just made the traveling tolerable.

Quite a biased post am afraid, but that's my mood today!! Tomorrow will be a different day, a different mood, a different makhtoub..

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Unsocial Socialising...

Why do we blog? We love to think, to write, to express in words or pictures our thoughts as well as aspirations. But is that all? What about the urgency we feel to make a post? or the high just after posting? There are anonymous bloggers who get a chance to say what they cannot in public, that bit I can understand, but why us? maybe the lack of funds for getting our thoughts published on paper, as a book. Perhaps the hunger for 'comments', for the number of hits, perhaps the addiction.. I cannot say it is just creativity.. somehow it rings false to me.

The internet has opened vistas of sometimes incomprehensible pleasures, the freedom to chat with long lost friends and make new ones on the way, is addictive beyond doubt. the social networking sites take gossip to extraordinary heights, information has never been so cheap neither so eager.

We learnt Pascal and C++ at school and thought nothing could be as offensive as that wierd TV like object. Kids today grow up downloading Hannah Montana songs and videos onto their orkut profiles. We preferred to run and play, or with adolesence, to walk down to the next block where our friends lived, to sit across, look in the eye and talk. Today my kids prefer to chill in an AC room with just the computer for company and probably a coke! spectacles are doing great business am sure but apart from them, who else is gaining?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Oh My God !!!

Have been reading a book called 'The life of Pi' loaned to me by a very dear friend and an avid reader. The book is by far one of the best books I have read in the recent years. Since reading it, I have been itching to write about religion. Have been warned that my blog post will be filled with hate comments.. hahhah, but as an itch cannot be tolerated beyond a limit.. so here goes. Thanks Joyeeta for lending me the book. This one's for you!!

Have grown up listening to tales about the Hindu Gods and Goddesses, the multitude of demons or rakshasas, The sheer power of the various avatars, and the beauty of the apsaras. have listened with rapt attention to my grandmother as she chewed on her betel leaf, made pickles, wove sweaters and narrated tale after tale of divine weapons, of curses and boons, of magical palaces and charmed forests. The glory of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu, the wrath of Kali, the magic of krishna. Krishna was my chosen God, a true blue He-man, who could play the flute, dance in the moonlight, charm the ladies with his wit and pranks, and could still manage to wreck havoc at the enemy camps. He could easily put James Bond out of business!! Krishna was the most human of the Hindu Gods.

Later being schooled at convents, I was introduced to a different God. A god who looked shy and sad, whose claim to miracle was walking on water, and of curing people of their illnesses. I was surprised as to why was he suffering so much? How can God suffer? bear his own cross? Be pale with a ring of thorns around his head. Where were his divine weapons? Why was he always so sad and so forgiving? Why didn't he punish like my Hindu Gods? My krishna had so many lovers..why not? He was God, whereas, Christ couldn't even acknowledge his love for Mary Magdalene.

The message I had always got from the stories of Krishna was that of 'Karma'. To do your work without expecting results, but to do it with all you got. The message of Christ was that of love, selfless love and sacrifice. To suffer for your believers. Have till date not found any similarities between the two, Krishna awes me with his power and charisma. Christ makes me humble.

Am sure every religion has its own stories, its myths and miracles... but I cant get over Krishna opening his mouth to show the entire Universe to Arjun!! Who could beat that??

I write this without prejudice, and with humility.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Smelly socks and braces...

raksha-bandhanSiblings are the training ground for later relationships. This is one relation where two opposites(more often than not) face each other every day. They are forced to share stuff starting from books to clothes, a room to a computer, from TV time to Mommy time and worst of all wardrobe space. Its an open battlefield, with different skills of warfare practiced with elan. From needlings to blows, from boxing to tears, manipulations, negotiations and various degrees of complaints. It is also a bond that helps you weather all the battles life throws at you later.

My best friend's younger sister is getting married and he is going through the usual tensions and logistical issues that an elder brother has to go through. The arrangements, the invitations, the caterers, the venue, the conveyance, you name it. In between all these masculine tasks, he also has made an appointment for his sister at the best parlour in town. Has ordered loads of her favourite flowers for the D-day and many such small and easily sidestepped tasks are being taken care of. On asking why are you doing it all? Isn't there anyone to share the load? A simple answer follows - "Who else, shes my sister."

This is a relationship that is full of contrasts. You want the best for each other at the same time you want to be better than each other. You don't agree on most things, you play cruel pranks, you are possessive and yet can't stand each other for more than a few minutes. It usually takes a third party to bring out the fondness in this relationship. An outsider always comes along to bring to surface the undercurrents of love. Like the 'to be husband' of my friend's sister, in this case.

As kids you may fight tooth and nail about petty things, but the scene changes the moment another kid hits or snubs your sibling. The neighbourhood at such times gets a glimpse of the underlying affection and the protective bonding of this relation. My kids fight all the time, about everything under the sun, and inspite of knowing that this phase shall pass, I can't help getting mad and upset over these endless squabbles. Then I see my friend and his sister and I know, just why the fights are important, this is probably the only place we have where we can be what we are without apologies. Each of us needs a place like that, we also need a person to shout at, to express without fear our anger, to be vocal, to speak our mind without fearing the death of the relationship. As a single child, I have never had this privilege, to this day, a fight terrorizes me, makes me shy away from confrontations.

This bond unlike a romantic alliance, never becomes a weakness, it is always the strength. Where else in the world can you press your smelly socks to a nose, get beaten black and blue and still remain confident that nothings ever gonna change...

This one is for my best friend and his sister!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Colour of Raindrops...

"Oh how I long for the pitter patter of the raindrops... the smell of the wet earth, the fresh green of the leaves.. the scrubbed clean look of the town.. oh! oh!" This is usually the way a conversation goes amongst the NRI ladies. The decked up ladies with each part of their body coloured and in competition with the next sit sipping the choicest of wine and painting in glamorous hues the raindrops of India.

In another corner wearing my regular casuals, devoid of colour and conversation, and usually nursing a drink, sits yours truly. Also thinking about India, the rains. But try as I might, my romantic mind fails to conjure up the images so beautifully drawn by these ladies. Maybe I need a stiffer drink. What I see is continuous downpour for straight three to four months, water logging on the most important of thoroughfares, drainage water getting mixed with the drinking water pipelines causing a deluge of epidemics, trains and traffic at a standstill indefinitely, the poor and the homeless, which make more than 60% of our country at their worst, if that is possible and fathomable(God knows how many drinks to make that horror sink!). The homeless without even the barest of shelter now, the power cuts, the electrocutions, the wait by the window for someone close to return home to safety, the dreaded phone call announcing an accident...these are the images that flood me.

I get up and double my drink. What the hell? Why can't I see colour in the raindrops of India. I am in the same condition as these socialites, sitting in the middle of a rain deprived country, where no season makes any impact, as like the supermarkets which sell all types of veggies the year round, the homes here also maintain the same season all year round.. that of an impersonal, comfortable 22 degrees. So when they can sit in this dry comfort and visualise this idealistic image, why cant I?

Finally, I do see colour, yes the second drink is definitely helping. I see colour of fortitude in the men and women of my country who brave it in the rains each day to reach their workplaces, I see the colour of discipline in the school kids who have at the most, the luxury of a single rainy day holiday through the entire span of the three to four months of rain. The colour of hunger in the multitudes of bais who come each day to clean and scrub in various houses while worrying about their homes in danger of flooding, the colour of bravery in the jawans who stand vigil at the LOC whatever degree of rain. Yes, there is colour of joy in the children jumping puddles, in the lovers sharing an ice cream, in a hot mug of tea by the window after a long rainy day. But to remain spotless and dry, with not a smudge on your makeup, and romanticize the rains... is definitely a talent, drink or no drink!!

As a post script I would like to mention that none of us, NRIs plan our holidays to witness the romance of rains in our hometown though..we usually make it to India during the winters!! think about it...

Monday, April 13, 2009

A handful of stars...

A handful of cousins, quite a bunch, all very different from each other and yet genuine similarities at certain levels. No aptitude for Maths and Swimming(not being humble or apologetic mind you!), wry and self mocking humour, a strong dislike towards colloquial bengali though very much 'bangalis' and proud of the heritage. Extremely fond of books, fish and rice, music and sleep. Lazy, dreamy, moronic at times, slow on reflexes, and slower in the kitchen, friendly, amiable, dealing with complaints, struggling with kids..again no complaints, balancing demanding careers, some doing further studies, some job hunting, keeping busy and just getting on with life. A handful of cousins.

Staying in different parts of the world, rooted to a single country by their parents who continue to call it home. Visiting once a year, trying their best to match times so that they get a period of togetherness, compare the horizontal growth(if any, God forbid!),as vertical growth has long stopped. rediscovering familiar features and traits in the young ones, laughing and joking together, having a couple of drinks, doing a bit of shopping and exchanging the latest family gossip. feeling happy that the kids are bonding, feeling relaxed, feeling chatty, feeling bitchy, feeling like tossing a ball, feeling like being a kid again. A handful of cousins.

A dream vacation is planned, a week just by themselves, no baggages that have accumulated over the years. A resort, preferably by the sea. A couple of rooms should be good enough. A whole week of relaxation without worrying about any schedules, without the antics of the kids or the husband, just the handful of cousins, alone together. seven days of bliss, of gossip and timely served hot tea, of sinful food, of intoxication and indulgence, of rejuvenation, of books, of late night sessions, of rolling on the floor, of prancing like bygone days, of being what you are without any pretense, of being soul cleansed.

Wow, sounds like a plan. Kids are dissatisfied, husbands smirk and mark it as another hallucination. Parents are not convinced about the logistics...but the handful of cousins are hellbent on making it happen, more so because they have another common trait...Passive aggression, silent rebellion, winning against odds, The more the disbelief in the family, the more the plans are spurred. A time period is fixed, the place identified, the resort being checked out, flights being called for good deals, kids being made to understand or convinced(depending on their ages),the need for such a vacation. The husbands still laughing it off as a pipe dream, parents getting paranoid, In laws getting mad, bosses finding it queer, friends cheering on the handful of cousins.

The time has come, the kids are being given last minute instructions, The husbands are cribbing about the horrific deals made with the airlines, The in-laws just sighing aloud, the parents going ballistic with their set of instructions, the resort booked, the cases packed, the smile full on, the heart skipping and the legs on the way. Yes!! Finally its happening. A handful of cousins, boarding different flights, crossing time zones, reaching out to each other, reaching out to childhood.

Hugs of welcome, high fives and cheers, the resort is just as it looked in the brochures. The welcome drink is soothing and telling of fun filled days to come. The rooms are beautiful and luxuriant, the sea clear and inviting, the check in is smooth and hassle free. The laughter is pure and unbridled. A quick change of clothes and they head towards the sea, a walk on the fringe, talking nineteen to a dozen, joking, whistling, mimicking..the fun has just about begun. Calls start to come, upset kids, concerned parents, curious husbands, all calling, all getting in the way of a handful of cousins.

Memories of childhood days, the hit bollywood numbers, the school and college romances, the late night parties, the first jobs, the mistakes, the victories, The loss of faith at times and the end of innocence, the marriage proposals, the "boy catching" pictures, all are relived. The plans for the future, the hopes and worries, the insecurities, the dilemnas, the nagging health worries, all are confronted. The days are soaked in the warmth of camrederie,the sea and the sand, while the nights are full of the rich past and the uncertain future. The seven days of a blissful vacation is at its end for the handful of cousins.

Farewells and so longs, a promise to do this again the next year, see each of them on their individual ways, back to their time zones, to the lives they have made... away from childhood, away from each other. To take on the world again with a smile that is full on and a soul that is cleansed.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mommy don't go

She can never match up to me, ever!! Thoughts behind the sweet, welcoming words of the Mother in Law as the new bride steps into the household. Blushing feet pushing the metal container of rice to the floor and stepping into a world she has dreamt of since childhood. Amidst chaos and revelry, amidst conch shells and auspicious rice, amidst mantras and jokes, amidst the young and the old, two pairs of eyes, watching each other, judging, guaging, smiling, nodding, obeying. The man blissful in his ignorance will always remain a spectator to the unfolding drama.

A few months later

The enamored husband returns from work after a long day to be greeted at the door by the loving mother. She takes away from his hands the bouquet of roses meant for the wife and pleasantly puts it in a vase. What? what are you staring for? c'mon, upset about what? She's just helping, taking the load off her weary son's arms. What does the blushing bride do? you may ask, does she overlook this move? Does she stand behind mom-in-law and gawk? or better still does she rearrange her pallu and count the mosaic patterns on the floor? Ohh you gotta be kidding me..this is no saas bahu serial epitomizing values and courtesys, this is bloody never let the mom-in-law win, ever!! Yah, now you get the picture, she takes the bouquet from the vase and leads the befuddled hubby to the bedroom, where she now places the flowers onto her dressing table and admires the blossoms with a victorious gaze. Yes Mam, she is a clear winner! its match point one love!!

Well into a few years of marriage.
The kitchen sees quite a few rounds of culinary delights each day.
Mommy makes traditional fare , a huge five course meal, no less.
Her son works hard and must eat well!
The food he has grown up on
His soul food, his comfort food, no one but mommy can make.
The bride blushes no longer,
She is equipped with recipes from the net.
Low cholesterol and Low fat is the mantra of the day.
Deep fry is passe and the ghee leaves the shelf,
olive oil is in and grilling is the modern way.
Soups and salads might make the elders wince
but a blushing look from the bride and the hubby is convinced.

Kids come into the picture and the boundaries are set.
If I could bring up this fantastic young man,
an epitome of virtue, a man I gifted to you,
how come you seem to fail in raising my grandchildren?
I lived in a joint family setup
adhered to the elder's wishes,
a tight financial condition and yet
managed to make my son what he is today.
You have it all, the money, the independence,
non-interfering in-laws, and yet you raise hell?
the young mother has her hands full,
two naughty kids and a MIL to boot!!
Parenting has changed and times also,
These are my kids and how to deal with them, I know.
Studies is only a part now, there are other things that make them whole,
Mental maths is not their only goal!!

You cant run the household, you make a mess of it.
There is so much of wastage,
does money come cheap?
My son toils each day to make ends meet,
Had I not been here, there would have been no savings,
be grateful that I am around to help with things
Your son toils no doubt
but so do I
There are chores outside the kitchen
that you wouldn't dream
I do the groceries and paying of bills
I teach the kids their A,B,Cs
There are accounts to be operated
And car pools to school
gone are your days
when just the kitchen ruled
you have lived your days
read books now
make a sweater if it pleases you
or join a club
let go of petty things
haven't you had enough??

Oh what do I do?
where do I go?
when my son doesn't want me anymore
the one that I have given birth to
is now a mere puppet
in the hands of this fool
When he has forgotten my blood and sweat
the nightlong vigils
the horlicks by the bed
how can I expect
anyone else
to give me due credit
for his success?

Is this why I chose you?
brought you into my household?
that one day you will
show me the door?
I am not doing any such thing
Am just reminding you
that times are changing
You had your chance
and you have spent it
Now I run the show
You are welcome to stay
but my hands are full
Your ravings and rantings
must have to go
You are not indispensible
You must know!!
And still if you must
You may go
for things are not changing here anymore
and be prepared
for your son won't hold your pallu
saying, "Mommy, Don't go!"