Tag Archives: life

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.

I’ve finally got it. I think.

You know what, I think I have finally got it. Yeah. This whole jamboree about life and purpose of life and so on. It hit me one day suddenly. What I think is – there is really no higher purpose in life. The point of life is to just be. Savor. Enjoy. And exit. It’s like a vacation. You go, you chill out and you leave. Period.

Now, how did I arrive at this profound thought you may ask. Well, just look at every other creation. They just are. They come to earth. Do what they are meant to do to maintain the circle of life and then they go. So basically, you procreate, enjoy and go. That’s it. There really is no higher purpose to be here. However, if you can lead a life that is useful to others, you get brownie points. If you believe in the Hindu theory of Karma – the brownie points help. It means that you either absolve yourself from another birth and find permanent residence in heaven or you’ve earned enough good karma to be reborn into a ‘good’ life. A chilled out life. The brownie points are also an investment into posterity. Which means your progeny will benefit immensely from all the good karma you have performed.  So that’s why you just need to be. And be good.

Now having arrived at this profound thought, I wonder what’s the point of all this power, wealth, working overtime, getting upset over no increments etc. Or what’s the point of making your children sacrifice their childhood so that they can study and earn enviable degrees and get fantastic jobs that pay them obscene amounts of money. You puff up your chest while they build large houses and own more cars than they can use. And then… the same angst. What’s the point of it all? Nothing. Really.

So the point I’m trying to make here is what you have in this life is really not important. What’s critical is what you leave behind. The memories people have of you. The positive after effects of your good karma. That’s what matters.

Ok chuck the good karma bit. Or the bit about doing good to others. How about you just be good to yourself? You respect yourself a little more and be aware of yourself and your actions. Now stop here a minute and check if you’re breathing ok while you’re reading this post. It’s amazing how many us hold our breath, or stop breathing, or breathe so shallow that we don’t send enough oxygen into the body. Every so often we need to focus on the breathing. Ok. I digress. Where was I? Ah yes… I was talking about being good to yourself. It’s alright to do that you know. Ummm…so what do I mean now? I mean, stop hurrying and eternally rushing to do things. Stop to smell the proverbial roses. To breathe. To hear the waves. To examine your thoughts. To exercise and feel your heart pumping more oxygen into you. To take care of yourself and eat food that’s right for you. To eat on time. To sleep on time. In short, all those things which we don’t think are significant. Before you run around in circles and try to fit ‘helping others’ or ‘social service’ into your already busy schedule – stop, breathe and help yourself. Be nice to your body. It’s the only one you will have in this life. I reckon, if each one of us focuses on being nice to ourselves, we’d be less stressed and we’d be nice to others anyway. This way the world will be a better place. More people will smile at each other. More people will remember us as the nice person who smiled a lot. Yeah. I can live with that. Or die with that, if you know what I mean.

Let me sum up all my rambling then. I think we all need to sit down and redefine the word ‘success’. Right now success is that elusive thing we run after. It’s like the horizon…we think its oh-so-reachable, and then we get to that point, only to find that we need to run some more to reach. And so on.  Success. Achievement. Victory. All these are subjective words. I think we need to understand them in terms of what they mean to us. Not something which compares us to others. I think more important words are contentment, respect and calmness. It’s more like, hey today I wrote a blog post. I haven’t done that in ages. That’s success to me. At my level. It makes me happy. Now, as soon as I post this, I will have a happy grin. That’s what its about, happiness in small things. And to just be, with no complicated, bigger purpose.

Ok…now breathe deeply,,,(ha! bet you were shallow breathing right now)

 

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.

To be or not to be?

I have a good life. Great in fact. Nothing to complain about. Really. Except the usual minor grouches here and there. So then is this all I want out of life? Or is there a higher purpose to my existence. When I start thinking this way it bothers me terribly. For me higher existence is that Booker Prize winning novel that’s locked up in my subconscious and will one day gush out of my being for the world to go gaga over.

Until then, I shall just – Be. Or not?

Every now and then something jolts me. And I say – what am I really here for?  I’ve been given so many blessings – am I using them well? I watched this talk by Sheena Iyengar yesterday. A scholar. A scientist. Who despite her disability (or because of it?) seems to have achieved so much more in life. So am I under-utilizing the resources gifted to me?

Alter ego: You feel that way because it’s always about you. Your book. Your happiness.

Me: Well, it’s my life. It has to be about me.

Alter ego: That is where the problem is.

Me: What’s wrong with that? If I don’t think about my happiness, who will.

Alter ego: Happiness is in giving. To others I mean. Not to yourself. That’s like giving yourself a Christmas gift – and feeling happy about it.

Me: So what do you want me to do? Go to that beggar on the street and say…hey buddy I want to help you! Where shall I begin?

Alter ego: Don’t get all sarci on me. You know what I mean.

Me: No I don’t. You want me to give happiness to others. I don’t know how to do that.

Alter ego: You’ll figure out a way if you stop thinking of your clothes, your hair, your nails, your meals, your footwear…all the time.

Me: So you want me to be a saint? Give up all the lovely things I have…for what?

Alter ego: No. But everyday in some small way you can make someone’s life better. Just by smiling at a street kid. Or buying someone a meal.

Me: Easier said that done buddy. No can do.

Alter ego: Ok tell me why do you enjoy doing things for your daughter so much?

Me: She’s my baby! You fool…

Alter ego: Because the love you feel for her is pure and selfless. You simply want to give and expect nothing in return. Except of course that she love you back.

Me: Hmmmm…yeah maybe. So what are you saying?

Alter ego: If you can feel that kind of selfless love for others…you’ll get there.

Me: Where?

Alter ego: On the path to finding the higher purpose of your existence.

Me: Oh…ah….hmmm…hey look! There’s a sale on at Metro Shoes!! I need to go see that. We’ll think about this later.

Alter ego: Sigh!

(pooof)

So, have I grown up?

Every New Year’s eve I used to have this urge to do something. To make it special. To make it memorable. Have to. Have to. Have to. I’m not sure this is because everyone we know is doing something. And then later they ask – how was your New Year’s eve and we feel compelled to say how exciting ours was. I’m ashamed to say just for this I used to plan ‘something’ for every New Years’ eve.

The last four years I’ve done nothing special. This year I was with friends on the eve. We just chatted around, watched some television, wished each other at 12 am and then promptly went off to sleep. So is that going to make my year any less special? I don’t think so.

How does celebrating on New Year’s eve make the year more special? How does getting drunk on this day ensure that you’re on a high all through the year? How does getting together with friends and creating a whole lot of noise ensure that you have a peaceful year ahead?

While we boring people sat watching television at home, we heard the noise on the road around us. I peeped from the balcony to see a bunch of youngsters on their bikes, all high on something, all talking loudly, all unsteady and suddenly they all got on to the bike and sped away to some place. In that flush of youth you really have no idea where life is taking you. As you grow older you realize that you do not choose your destination. Life does. The sooner you realize that, the better for you. No harm in celebrating on New Year’s eve but why endanger your own life and the life of others around you? Why do we need strict police rules to force us to behave in a civilized fashion?

The next morning we woke up to newspapers filled with stories about youth in their 20’s who died celebrating on New Year’s eve. Bike accidents. Car accidents. Young people in their 20’s who wasted their lives for nothing. There were pictures of their mourning parents. It broke my heart. What were they trying to celebrate, really?

All I want for this new year is to be able to take each day as it comes. To have the maturity to accept and handle what life throws at me. To be able to make sensible decisions even during life’s tricky moments. To not be pressurized by what is expected of me and to do what I feel is right. I know now that life makes its own plans. It took me so many years to realize that! But I’m glad that I’ve finally given in to that higher power. It leaves me feeling calmer and more relieved. I like this feeling. I’m no longer the monkey with a herd instinct. I’m me. Finally I have found that ‘me’ somewhere.

I want to thank all my friends and all those who sweetly visit my blog. You have all certainly been part of my growing up. (A special thanks to OTEE and Jairaj here). You have helped me see the light. You have made me believe in myself. You have helped me find me. This year is going to be fun – because I’m going to be spending it with all you friends. And me. Happy New Year dearest friends :)

The choices that life throws open

I can’t remember the last time I was so moved by a movie that it made me cry.  Yes, I did for this one. And no. I’m not ashamed about it. At the end of the movie, while I discreetly wiped my tears and sniffed – I wondered what it was that had made me cry. Certainly not the tedious, melodramatic, oh-so Bollywood, climax! I mulled over it for a day. I think I now know why.

For the uninitiated – the movie is Paa – in which Amitabh Bachan plays a 12 year old boy named Auro. The boy suffers from a rare disease called Progeria which causes the body to age 5 times faster. So a 12 year old boy will have the body of a 60-70 year old person. The brain however is that of a little child.

I must pause to credit the director. At no point in the movie are you made to feel sorry for Auro. He is treated like any normal 12-year old. His mom (played by Vidhya Balan) treats him like a friend and does not overly fuss over him because he is a special child. No melodrama there. Thank the lord… ah…no the director.

Well, the story goes this way. Abhishek Bachan (AB) and Vidhya Balan (VB) meet each other as students in Cambridge. They fall in love and the inevitable happens…VB ends up getting pregnant. Now the classic debate for AB. Should he do the right thing and marry her. Or should he run after his dreams of being Politician. He prefers to chase his dreams.

VB deals with the same issue – she is studying to be a doctor and is keen to complete it. She also worries about being socially accepted as an unwed mother. What must she do?

The most astounding chemistry in the movie is that of VB and her mother – played by Arundhati Naag. The mother convinces VB that she must do what she really feels is right. So VB bids adieu to AB and tells him that it’s all taken care of. And they part ways.

VB goes ahead and has the child. Auro is born. (Not short for Aurobindo. Just Auro – he assures you towards the climax).

There are amazing moments in the movie…how the mother and daughter duo handle the boy’s disappointment…or when VB is with Auro in the park and someone asks her what is wrong with her son…

Ah yes the script is impeccable. The characters have been etched out wonderfully. I particularly loved VB, her mother and AB. Auro is shown as an intelligent and sensitive child. So you’ll want to ignore his moments of impertinence.

What touched me in this movie was the classic, heart rending debate between what you want to do and what is ‘expected’ of you. Do you chase a dream or do you abide by social norms? The practical or the emotional. How do you make that choice? How do you judge at that moment what is right – when that decision could alter your life? You have no clue at that point about what life will throw at you. So you need to decide and then you need to have the courage and strength of mind abide by it – come what may! Life is tough, huh This I guess is what made me cry.

Aside: M came for this movie with me. Before entering I told her the story and reassured her its just a movie and everyone is just acting – so no need to feel sad or cry. She happily sat through it. Then when she saw me sniffing she rolled her eyes and said “mom it’s just a movie!”

And they lived…

In the end life boils down to precisely that. This one is a reality check to all those who harbour romantic notions about life. There is no such thing as lived happily ever after. The sooner we learn this fact in life – the better we are. I’m not being a cynic here. Just realistic.

You think you love someone. In the moonlight you hold hands and get all romantic. As a girl you believe every little promise the man makes. But let me tell you while the man is holding your hand he is wishing that he were touching some other, more exciting parts of your anatomy. There is only one thing on his mind. He will do anything to make you as compliant as possible to achieve that end. This is not to blame men. It’s natural chemistry. That’s the way it is. While girls get all soppy, mushy and romantic. Men simply want sex.

So then you get married and then the initial year goes by in a blur while you get used to towels being crumpled and thrown around, toothbrushes in the living room, banana peels left on the dining table…sigh. But still you’re happy in the first year because it’s all very new, exciting and er…romantic!

Soon life settles into a pattern. Eventually you realize that the man is not living up to any of those things he promised you. He does not even care about anything else – like your headaches and your PMS – as long as you’re around to manage his home and his sexual needs whenever they arise. The reality hits you then. Women seek emotional satiation, while men simply seek physical satisfaction. A good meal. A well maintained home. Drinking buddies. A reasonably challenging job. Music. Sex. A little pampering and mollycoddling – all the time. That’s all the things the men care for. They just don’t seem to get what the women want! What’s life beyond all this – they wonder. It never strikes them that perhaps, the woman might want to be pampered too at times…??

Ah women, those incomprehensible and complex creatures that Nature has created – are looking for something deeper. They are looking for a Karmic connection. For a man who will understand their needs, wants, likes, dislikes, discomforts… without these being spelled out to him. For a man who is not uncomfortable with the silence while you watch the sunset together. For a man who can keep a hot meal ready when you get home. For a man who knows not to switch on the television when you have a headache. For a man who actually listens.

The most successful marriages I know today are those where the man is extra compassionate. The man who knows his wife did not sleep well the previous night and wakes up early to make her breakfast and tea. The man who will hold the door open for his wife because he realizes her hands are full holding their child and her things. The man who understands her little, yet important needs, like helping her find a clean toilet when they are traveling.

Sigh. Yeah I know such rare species of men do exist. And I envy the women who have found them. As for the rest of us – we simply amble along in life. We get used to our situation. We are at best compatible. We allow those many girly dreams to be trampled upon. We wait endlessly for a day when the man may perhaps understand what we really need. And yeah…we live…