Category Archives: Deep

Sometimes when i’m in a dark mood, or at times when i think about life and the direction its taking, its purpose…

My hero this Woman’s Day

The dust has settled down on Woman’s Day tamasha. I’m not sure whether to be happy about this circus coming to town every year or not. What good does it serve really? Each year different NGOs and organizations pick women achievers and reward them. Elaborate awards functions are held. Everyone appears well dressed and happy. Pictures are taken. Happy moments are born. And so on. Well, clap clap, great show ladies. Now let’s move on.

I have nothing against awarding women achievers. Really. But on what basis are we picking these women? I see a pattern. The women who walk away with the awards are socially active, they are financially well off and they have supportive families. Not to belittle their achievements…but what and where are the odds they battled?

Each year, I like to pick my ‘woman of the year’. Last year it was a tie between my maid and my iron lady. This year, the lady I choose is truly special and inspirational. And here’s her story:

Until 2012, Shanti was like any ordinary Tamil Brahmin middle class woman. Her conservative tambram family was supportive within their limits. Her husband, very loving and caring. He was hardworking and preferred that she managed the home and their two lovely daughters. The future held hope and promise.

Then in October 2012, her little bubble crashed.

Her husband died in a really freakish train accident. With no work experience and virtually no savings, their future was a big question mark. On humanitarian grounds, her husband’s organization gave her a job. But with no prior work experience, she got in on a low salary and was expected to work late hours. The children handled it very well, but she was riddled with guilt as she had to stay away from home from 7 am to 7 pm or even later sometimes. And then to supplement the income she started taking Hindi tuition. This went on until 9 pm. By then it was almost bed time for the kids. Her in-laws took care of the children well, but threw veiled acidic remarks and barbs in her direction. Finally, one year after her husband passed away, she took up another apartment and her parents moved in with her. Her father, a retired 70 year old man, took up a part time job as a warehouse book keeper to support her. Her relentless running around continues to this day. In addition to work and Hindi tuition, she is now doing her MBA as she feels that her current qualifications will not help her much professionally. The organization she is working for is going through bad times and she recently revealed that she does not get paid for months together. She is looking for another job, hopefully one where her timings are not as erratic.

Yet despite it all, you will never see her without a smile on her face. She greets everyone with a big grin. Though her eyes tell you the story of her struggle and sleepless nights, I have not heard her complain about life even once. She takes it all in her stride. She does not compromise on her children’s happiness. She allows them to go on field trips, participate in programs (where one has to pay through the nose for costumes) etc. She is taking it one day at a time. And she believes that things can only get better. Her attitude and courage are an inspiration. She is an amazingly strong person and I salute her. In my eyes, she is a true achiever.

A different kind of journey

There is yoga. And then there is inner yoga. We all start off at the first level. When we decide to go ‘check it out’…(psssst…and hopefully in the process lose some weight). But once we go there we realize that we don’t really sweat very much and then they make us lie down and relax. A lot. A lot. A lot. So much so that you can hear at least two people snoring in class for sure. Duh.

Many of us give up on our yogic journey somewhere at this point.

For those of us who persist, the real benefits of yoga begin to unravel. Quietly. One breath at a time.

That’s the road I’m taking now. It’s a really long journey and if I need to continue and reach the end, I need to shed a lot of excess baggage. The first thing I’m trying to load off is my inhibitions. You know, that horrid thing in your mind which tells you this-looks-tough-I-don’t-think-I-can-do-this. Yeah. That. Drop it. And don’t look back. You can do every asana there is under the sun. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not for another two years. But eventually, you’ll get there. Believe. And you will. The good news is this percolates into everything you do in life. There is nothing you cannot do, if you set your mind to it. It’s an amazing feeling, this quiet self confidence you develop within you.

There is a flip side to this as well. Don’t punish yourself. Don’t look at what others are able to achieve and develop a complex. This is about you and your body. Push yourself. But know when to stop. Listen to your body and eventually the body will give in to your mind. Be patient.

It’s amazing how this can be applied in life too. Sometimes we punish ourselves for being too thin, or too fat, or too dark, or too pimply or for having perennial bad hair days…well, it does not matter. Really, it does not. Perish those thoughts. Come to terms with who you are. As long as you are healthy and feel happy from within, there is nothing to sulk about. Stop worrying and feel at peace with yourself.

Another baggage I need to shed is my ego. This one’s a little harder. (Pretty much like the elusive padmasana and chakrasana!). It’s taken permanent lodging in one corner of my mind. Like an annoying guest who refuses to go away. It pops up unnecessarily and poisons my mind. If a client rejects my work – I feel anger. How could they! My work! I put my heart and soul into it! And so on and so forth. But fact remains that it makes me dive deeper, explore other dimensions and come up with something better. Rejection is good. Failure is even better. This is what I tell my ego. It’s not listening yet. But I need to keep trying.

There’s much more to learn. Much more to let go. I’m realizing that every day. With every inhalation I’m learning something new about myself. With every exhalation I’m realizing that there are things I need to let go. It’s a long journey. But I’m happy to have taken the first steps. Who knows where this is going to take me. But honestly, who cares about the destination. It’s the journey that’s invigorating. The destination will become clear one day.

Hopefully.

meditation

An ode to special friendships

There are friends. And then there are friends. Some who are fun to be with, so you always like to call them over for a drink and have a good laugh. There are the long distance ones – friends with whom you can take off where you left the last time you spoke. Then there are friends who are selfless and genuinely loving. Who do things that touch your soul, without really expecting anything in return.

This here is my tribute to a few of these wonderful people. Some who are, sadly, no longer with us in this world. And some with whom we have lost touch, yet we remember them everyday and wish them well wherever they are.

 Sujatha Rao. A terrific human being. A great cook. Cheerful, caring, loving. They don’t make them like her any more. We met during a holiday to Masai Mara, Kenya. Sujatha’s warmth and big smile drew me to her. We spent 3 exciting days with Sujatha and her husband Kiran. They were such a great couple, full of life, love and laughter. Kiran had a witty repartee with everything we said and there really was not a dull moment with them around.

After the holiday we kept in touch. I still remember the happy dinner invitations to their house. In fact, I can still smell and taste the most amazing Bisi Bele Bhath made by Sujatha. Also, once I travelled alone, and had a wonderful overnight stay at their home.  They made me feel loved, wanted and so very safe. It was like going home to mom.

We lost touch thereafter. A baby came along and life got into a regular routine. On 1st May this year, we got a call from Kiran saying Sujatha is critically ill and may not live very long. She passed away peacefully in her sleep a few days later.

I hope you are happy wherever you are Sujatha. I know we did not keep in touch. But I can never forget your smile and the warmth you exuded. You are one of the few genuinely nice human beings I have met. I will miss you.

 Giri. When I think of you Giri, I remember your happy chuckle. The smile that lit up your face. Your roly poly walk. Your fascination for watches and fancy gizmos. Your love for simple food. Always rasam with raw banana curry – diced into small cubes and roasted to crispy perfection. Or your second favourite – ladies finger mildly spiced and roasted to perfection. I love the time you spent with us in Muscat. You helped me pack and shift my home. And pampered me with great food and attention. Those were happy days for you too when your health and your family were with you. Life was not kind to you thereafter. Your failing health, your bad luck with jobs and your agonizing personal life may have taken away that happy chuckle. I don’t know. And in a way I’m glad I did not see you so ill and unhappy. In my mind now you’re always happy, chuckling and smiling. I did not know how ill you were and it came as a shock when I got a call one morning saying you are no more. What really broke my heart was the sight of your mother smiling bravely and telling us that she was glad you will not suffer any more. Perhaps she is right. Life here was not kind to you. I like to believe that you are happy wherever you are. Surrounded with people who love you with the same selfless intensity as you are capable of.

 Izzy. I remember those days when you were young and penniless. When you came to live with us because you could not afford to pay your room rent, I was suspicious of you. Turns out I was so wrong about you. What an amazing human being you are! Extremely intelligent, caring and capable. You surprised us by marrying a French girl and then further surprised us when your marriage survived many years despite all odds. It was amazing to see you handle your two boys. You really are such a great father to them. I would be such a bitch if I forget how you took care of Ravi when he was convalescing in Gurgaon after an ankle fracture. You kept him on a diet of spicy gongura pickle, rice and beer. It did wonders to his spirit (yes, pun intended). He had such an amazing time with you and I’m eternally grateful to you for taking such great care of him when I could not be there. Now, sadly, we’re not in touch. I know your fragile marriage has finally broken down. I know that you are somewhere in Paris, hoping to release your first book. If I know you well, you will beat the odds, surprise everyone and rise up beyond expectations. I hope you are out there living your dream and I hope one day soon we will meet you again…

This one’s for you dear friends. Your love and friendship holds a special place in my heart. This one is a prayer that you are happy, living your dreams and spreading joy, wherever you are.

Our own Frankenstein Monster

Everyone is baying for his blood. Yes, me too. We want that 17 year old rapist to meet an end he deserves. Cut off his penis first and then hang him. What’s the point of giving him a life term and wasting tax payers money on him?  So yeah. Let’s just finish him off and get on with our lives – feeling safer than we were before – at least one man less to worry about in this world.

But ever wondered how a 17 year old could be so cold blooded and cruel?

Let’s look at the life of this child. He was born and raised in poverty. He left home at the age of 11 – which means by then he had already seen enough grief and problems in life to want to go in search of something better. I guess anything felt better than the life he was leading. Off he went with a bunch of village kids to the greener pastures of Delhi. There he lived doing odd jobs. Initially he even sent money home – which means he must have been a compassionate child at some point?

Then society took over. We are a cruel bunch of people. First we employ children as labourers – which is legally and morally unacceptable. Then, when we know that they have no one to protect them, we unleash cruelty on them! They don’t eat or sleep well and are forced to work long hours. How will such children learn to be compassionate towards others? I shudder to think what horrors that child might have experienced as a 11 year old. Was he beaten up, raped, sodomized? Was he bullied and beaten – until he learnt to be a bully himself? Were we cold and heartless towards him – so he became a reflection of what we are? Because I firmly believe that all children are innocent – it’s society and circumstances that corrupt them.

We are all collectively responsible for the act of this 17 year old and thousands of delinquents like him. Because we did not have it in us to show them a little love and compassion.

Now we are screaming ourselves hoarse asking for justice, when our own actions towards street children is questionable. Where does one begin the change?

But for now we must, sadly, eliminate this Frankenstein that we have created. For he has become unfit to live amongst us. We fear him and the cruelty he is capable of. Something, I fear, we have taught him ourselves.

Goodbye patty, child, woman…

Born in October 1913 was this lady with an incredibly sharp brain and an uncanny ability to get things done her way. She lived to be almost 100 and lived life to her fullest – entirely on her terms. Blessed with 5 loving sons and with equally caring daughters-in-law she was much loved and looked after right until the moment she chose to let go of life at close to 99.

Her greatest feature was her amazingly sharp memory. At 99 she could fluently recall names, where she had last met people, their entire family history and so on! Though she would mostly stay confined to her room, she was well aware of what was going on in the house. If someone was late for lunch she would fret over it. Or if someone in the family did not come back home until late night (well past her bedtime) she would somehow be aware of it and chide them the next morning. She had the guileless heart of a baby, the enthusiasm of a 10-year old and an incredible zest for everything in life! She insisted on being given chocolates on birthdays. She loved, demanded and enjoyed good food. Her priority in life was to have all meals on time. In retrospect, that perhaps was the secret of her good, healthy, long life. She did not suffer from any complicated emotions like anger or jealousy or envy. Amazingly content with life, all she expected was her meals on time, regular visits from all the people in her family…and that’s it. And I guess it is because she expected so incredibly little out of life, that she lived to the glorious age of 99.

True to her childlike self, she expected things to happen as fast as her sharp mind could think of them. If she was going somewhere in the evening, she’d be ready in the morning itself and wait impatiently for the evening to arrive! God forbid, if she was ready and for some reason we were unable to leave at the appointed time, she would pace up and down like an edgy child. She would never scold or make any rude remarks, but she would keep gazing at us like a tolerant puppy waiting to be let out, until we ran out of patience and shoved aside all other things and attended to her needs.

She always greeted any visitors with childlike enthusiasm and loved it if they got her gifts. What’s more, she was blessed with sons who pampered her with little gifts of sweets or fruits every other day.

This amazing child-woman, passed away peacefully on March 25th 2012. And just as she might have wanted, her death was cremation was quick and smooth. She was ready to leave her body and she had to do it NOW. As it was in life, in death too, she got her wish.

She is now our guiding star. We hope that she will give us the courage to live life her way – without any negative thoughts or emotions. We hope that she will inspire us to lead simple, guileless, contented lives with minimal, simple wants. We hope that she will continue to shower us with her blessings in her happy, hand-clapping, childlike way.

Dearest patty a thousand namaskarams to you. May your soul rest in peace.

 

I’ll try to believe you exist

My recent family vacation to Rajasthan was fantastic beyond words. We saw some spectacular places, met some truly amazing people, had some incredible experiences, ate some fabulous food, did some sensible shopping…

But of all these colourful experiences, one moment and one smile remains etched in my mind.

We were in Jodhpur, the lovely, royal, Blue city. The majestic Mehrangarh Fort towers above the city. Outside the old fort city, the new avatar of Jodhpur is a bustling, modern town where Mc Donalds jostles for space with Rajput Mishthan Bhandar. And Gucci shoe showroom exists alongside the traditional morjari store. So while Jodhpur sorts out its confused state, it remains a charming little place with reasonably friendly people – who are not yet totally commercialized.

One fine evening, we walked past the narrow gullies of the market where everything from homemade Vaseline to bales of bandhini saris were available. It was a fascinating walk and at the end of it we landed up nice and hungry at the doors of Jodhpur’s most famous Samosa wala’s kiosk.

While we waited for a fresh batch of samosas to get fried, we watched as scores of street children walked around pillaging dust bins, picking out the kind of garbage they needed and then shoving that into their sack. I felt that I could not eat after seeing these grubby little children with their sad, hungry eyes. But no one, seemed affected by the sight of these children, as they gleefully grabbed their hot samosas. Having lost my appetite I nibbled at mine. In the meanwhile, a set of people, finished eating, got into their car and were reversing out. Just behind their car, was this frail little girl, oblivious to the fact that the car was trying to move. I realized that the person behind the wheel may not be able to see the girl in his rear mirror as she was too tiny. So I rushed to the girl and gently pushed away and told her to move as the car my hit her. The little girl looked at me with doe-like startled eyes. For a few seconds she stared at me and then she gave me this most remarkable smile. A smile that simply lit up her whole being. A smile that said ‘thank you for acknowledging my existence’. And then she disappeared into the darkening dusk.

That smile stays with me as my most precious memory.

I realized in that one moment that this is all it takes. A kind word. A thoughtful gesture. An acknowledgement of existence. And you get rewarded with a smile that touches your soul. How difficult can that be? And yet it is.

That smile also made me realize why it is that I enjoy being with children. They are guileless, pure, innocent and trusting. Give them love. And they are so happy. That’s it.

But what do we do? We are so selfish and busy doing our own things, we buy our children things and fancy toys to keep them happy. In the bargain we systematically destroy all their endearing qualities. We transform them into selfish, callous beings who are capable of eating hot food in front of hungry street kids, and look through them like they don’t exist.

Sigh.

I’m so normal. How unfortunate!

I’m suddenly very ashamed. Of the voice inside me that complains. Of the brain that always wants more. Of my complete selfishness and my lack of gratitude for being created the way I am. I mean, look at me. I can walk. I can scratch my nose. Comb my hair. Wear my own clothes. Make my own meals. Talk. Run. Scream. Complain. Whine. And do a zillion other things each day that I take for granted.

I met Bhavana Botta and I felt humbled. Bhavana is a young girl who was born with Athetoid Cerebral Palsy. And what does that mean? It simply means that she cannot do those zillion things that you and I can do – without giving it a second thought. She cannot move her limbs. She cannot converse. Even her neck does not stay balanced. I mean, if she wants to scratch her nose for example, she cannot do it.

But, here’s the surprise. She’s done a lot more than that!

She has finished her schooling and then went on to finish her college – B.A. Corporate Secretaryship – in a regular college. And now she has established a business of her own. She has opened a boutique that specializes in organic & ahimsa silk. All the materials in her store have been sourced from tribals in the Jharkhand region.

I read about her in the paper and decided to pay her store a visit. I took my daughter along so that she could meet Bhavana and hopefully get inspired.  Bhavana, seated and strapped in her wheel chair, greeted us with a big grin as soon as we entered and her eyes followed us as we made our way around her little store. Then she turned to her mother and grunted a few words. Her mother then asked me if I wanted to buy skirts for my daughter and she pulled out a couple of them for us to inspect. Bhavana, it seems, wants to have a wider range for kids, but that’s yet to come. The skirt was absolute elegance, but a little too big for my little one. But she loved it and Bhavana’s eyes encouraged us to buy – so we did. Once again Bahavana grunted to her mother and the lady pulled out some tribal jewellery for our inspection. Being absolute suckers for such trinkets my daughter and I picked up a couple of pieces. Then a stole for me and a sari for mom. And we were done. Bhavana’s eyes looked satisfied. And we were happy to have helped.

But really, I think it was she who helped.

By making us feel more humble and grateful for being ‘normal’. Maybe we will stop taking ourselves and our abilities for granted. Maybe we will delve into our inner reserves and discover skills and strengths that we never knew we had. Maybe one day we’ll achieve something that will help so many others around us. Something that we will truly feel proud of.  Or else, what’s the point of being so ‘normal’?

Waiting for…

Last week my husband’s grandmother, all of 99 years, was about to sit on her bed, and somehow she misjudged the distance and landed on the floor.

The inevitable hip bone fracture happened.

We took her to hospital. The doctor who came by to treat her was alarmed. At 99, he was not sure she would survive surgery. But if surgery was not done she would live in excruciating pain. Since that was not an option at all, we all agreed that we’d go in for the surgery. The doctor kept warning us that anything could go wrong and she may not survive. If there was anyone more anxious than the surgeon it was the anesthetist. He took one look at her frail form and almost swooned. How was he to judge how much anesthesia she could take? Well, no one said, life is a walk in the park.

While doctors fretted, the family was pretty sure grandma will survive. Why? Well, we just knew.

So 3 hours after she was wheeled in, grandma came out after successful surgery. Dazed, but remarkably coherent. As soon as she saw her family, she complained “Where did you all leave me and go! These people were so mean to me, they did not give me anything to eat in there!” At this even the doctors burst out laughing saying “Granny, even we are not allowed to eat anything in there!”

Granny was taken to the recovery ward, where she harassed the nurses by constantly asking about her family members. “Why is no one coming? Call my son, he will come.” She ordered them. The doctors soon agreed that her biggest remedy would be the faces of her family members.

So within 2 hours of surgery she was wheeled into her room, her frail form deposited on a large bed, covered with quilts and the reassuring face of a family member thrust in front of her. Only then did she sleep.

Since then we have been waiting. For life to take its course. Like we have any other choice! The family is being bogged down by the thought of taking care of someone who is bedridden and all the associated problems that come with being bedridden. To make matters worse, our 99-year old is as fidgety as a 4-year old. She kept ripping off her drips tube and then blood would gush out of her tired veins and one panicky family member would yell for the nurses. This happened several times until the doctors ordered the drips to be removed (much to the relief of the nurses!). We shudder to think of the things we must handle at home without expert assistance.

We wonder at the irony called life. When sometimes a 4-year old dies of cancer and a 99-year old manages to unwillingly survive. It humbles you. Makes you feel powerless. If you think you’ve done something or achieved something – it’s because someone, some power above that wants you to do it. And not because you willed it. So then what are we really? Does it really matter what we think and what we want and what we achieve?

I guess its best to wait. And let life give you the answers.

It’s not another holday. It’s Republic Day!

I remember a time when all cinema halls used to play the National Anthem at the beginning of a movie. There is something about listening to the National Anthem in that atmosphere. It does something that’s hard to explain. You never get the same feeling when you listen to it blaring on the television at home. But when you listen to it in a hall filled with a hundred odd, chattering strangers, the effect is magical. For a moment the audience is collectively startled. Then everybody quickly dispenses with their boxes of popcorn or whatever and stands up. Eventually everyone in the hall is standing. And suddenly there is a certain vibration in that place. A sense of togetherness. We are really not strangers. We belong. We are an entity. We are Indians. That surge of pride sweeps through the hall as the National Anthem plays its inspiring notes. And then we all sit, somehow humbled by the experience. It really is an amazing feeling.

Tomorrow is Republic Day. Sadly, all it means for kids today is one day off school. Forget cinema halls, it appalls me that even schools no longer hoist the Indian flag on this day. This morning I was explaining to my daughter as to why this day is so important for India. It’s incredible how hard it is to explain this to a child who has grown up in complete freedom. So what is there, she asks, to feel proud about being the largest democratic country in the world? Hmmmmmmm…!

But, as I got her ready for school this morning, I told her that our hope lies in her generation of children. We hope we can create leaders that our country desperately needs. This video keeps my hopes alive. And for a dose of patriotism our country desperately needs, watch this too. Jai Hind.

Brazil…brazil…duh…

‘Brazil! Brazil!’ - happened in Chennai recently. The show promised to be a sizzler.

It is apparently an award winning show and assured you of 90 minutes of raw energy, music, dance, athleticism and football. The hall was packed when we went in with great expectations. The audience ranged from over-enthusiastic 6-year olds to grumpy 60-year olds. Just our luck, we got seats behind a row of cranky, arthritic 60+ ladies. Each time my kiddo jumped up in childish exuberance, the ladies in front turned to glare. If we clapped they rolled their eyes. If our foot tapping knees knocked against their seat they almost opened their third eye… you get the picture, right.

All around us young girls shrieked and little kids yodeled. Why did we have to get stuck behind this bunch?

Anyways, that’s almost topic for another post. Right now, in this space, we talk about Brazil! Brazil!

The show began with a brief introduction to the group. They are a bunch of people who have overcome a troubled childhood and gone on to make something out of their lives. They gave us a history of why football is the religion of Brazil. There was robust singing, fabulous athletic dancing by hot bodied – shirtless men, along came long legged damsels shaking their assets, then came a lanky lad who handled the football like poetry. There was energetic samba and also a very vigorous, musical demonstration of their martial art form – Capoeira.

And then.

There was robust singing, fabulous athletic dancing by hot bodied – shirtless men, along came long legged damsels shaking their assets, then came a lanky lad who handled the football like poetry. There was energetic samba and also a very vigorous, musical demonstration of their martial art form – Capoeira.

And then.

There was robust singing, fabulous athletic dancing by hot bodied – shirtless men, along came long legged damsels shaking their assets, then came a lanky lad who handled the football like poetry. There was energetic samba and also a very vigorous, musical demonstration of their martial art form – Capoeira.

Yeah. That was all there is to it. While it was lively and even enjoyable to an extent, it really did not have any substance.

It made me think of the cultural richness India has.

There’s culture gushing out from every nook and corner. Be it music, dance, pottery, painting, weaving, costumes, fabric, jewellery making, folk art, folk dance, folk music, yoga… We’d never have this problem of filling up a mere 90 minutes with variety. Didn’t we just overwhelm the world with a spectacular 3-hour show at the opening ceremony of CWG?

What a pity that we run behind other cultures when there is so much wealth – right at our doorstep. And to conclude, while I don’t particularly like Shashi Tharoor, what he says here makes immense sense.  India will be a super power in the future. Not a nuclear power, mind you. But rather a soft, gentle, cultural superpower. I’m inclined to agree.

I hope that one day  every Indian realizes this.

Jai ho!