Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The weeping silence

I vividly remember the fateful night. I was sleeping cuddled to my grandmother. My goat Sumi was tied near the door and I could hear the ghungroos tied around her neck. Suddenly my father lifted me up and carried away from my daadi I could see how she was crying and begging my father not to leave her alone. My father wiped his tears and assured he will call her soon. My tears were replaced with amazement when I saw my parents struggling their way through a large crowd similar to the annual village fair. We got into a very long bus that carried us all to somewhere called city. I fell asleep and woke up with a jerk. I was carried down from the rickshaw and taken to a big bungalow ’s dingy basement. It was hot, suffocating and stinky- very
different from my cool and airy mud hut. I was left there alone and my parents went upstairs to work. There was no garden where I could play, no friend to talk to, no goat to chase and no dream to talk about.

Days were long and difficult while nights were short and disturbed. There were many girls staying there in the building. They called the bungalow “hostel” and my parents asked me to call every girl didi. Every night the owner of the hostel came drunk and beat my father. My mother used to cry and my father felt ashamed to be hit before his son. We had to eat the left overs and the day when my parents cooked some delicious food, we had to manage with rice and daal only. The rooms in the bungalow were big, airy, well furnished and decorated with soft toys, paintings and wind chimes. I was not allowed to touch anything, not even allowed to watch television. One day, I saw an apple lying on a table. It looked so red and juicy that I could not resist biting it. Suddenly a didi came and complained to my parents. They hit me very badly that day. I wept
the whole day and did not even take my lunch.

There were many didis in the hostel, they tried to talk to me. I too wanted to talk to them but could hardly understand what they spoke. There was one didi who was very kind to me and wanted me to study. She brought a book for me and tried to convince my parents to enroll me in the nearest school. I heard my father telling my mother that they can ’t afford to send me to school. Didi started teaching me the alphabets but I could never memorize them. Nevertheless, she was kind. She scolded me but also gifted me chocolates. She
used to show me videos of alphabets dancing and speaking. How I loved those alphabets! Eventually, I started learning and memorizing the alphabets. I learnt to spell apple too. One morning when I woke up, my parents were busy packing bags. I asked them why they are not working. “We ’ll leave this place today. There’ s no future here.”, my father said. My mother carried me in her arms and we left the bungalow behind. This time I could hear the silence crying and the alphabets dancing behind. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Curious case of a fat girl

This might not be my best post but this is definitely one that comes straight from my heart. As the disclaimer goes, this post is based on true incidents but some examples are totally fictitious or exaggerated. 

So, who is fat?

Please don’t look at me, I know the answer lies in some index called BMI and there’s some cut off and limits but all these are medical terms. When do you realize you are fat?

Three symptoms:

a. When you are loitering around with a group of girls and suddenly you encounter a weighing machine and then while all other girls are sighing and complaining of their weight loss, your heart is too afraid to pump blood to your brain and wants to elope.

b. While you are in a statistics class and the teacher talks about a data set comprising of weight of the students and you stare at him in anticipation of being declared an outlier on higher side.

c. When you buy a lot of chocolates and snacks for your friends at the college canteen and the regular guy at the cash counter blinks at his colleague standing beside him in a gesture that says, “I told you so, she eats so much. Perhaps we can give her a bulk discount.”

What do I think of myself?

To be honest, I searched a lot on the Internet how I should structure the flow and from this collective consciousness of the Universe, I found this particular viral meme and who does not want a free ride.

People ask me, “What have you done to yourself?” and most of the time, I am like, “What have you done to your sensibility?” I know I am on heavier side but I am as normal as my classmates are. I eat normal food and not junk food, I am not even a couch potato. I like moving around and the answer to the most common question now- “Yes, the lean and beautiful girl in the old pictures is really me and I do not have a twin sister. If you ask me the only reason I would like to reduce would be to get good clothes in the shops which either do not stock clothes for girls like me or there are too many girls like me.

What do my friends think of me?

I wish I could enter into their mind but yeah… I think these are the three attributes that on an average must have been passing through their brain:

a. Unfortunately, the depiction of fat people as comedians in movies and TV series has posed a major threat to fat people’s freedom to be serious. You might not know when your friends would taunt you for your extra kilos and before you can even fill your mouth with air of displeasure, they would laugh it loud saying that they were just kidding. You often tend to feel depressed because of your weight and in order to make yourself feel better, you sometimes crack jokes on yourself. But the problem is your best friends take your lightness so seriously that they start considering you as the butt of all jokes.

b. In his book, “Predictably Irrational”, Dan Ariely talks of decoy effect. According to Wikipedia, The decoy effect is the phenomenon whereby consumers will tend to have a specific change in preference between two options when also presented with a third option that is asymmetrically dominated. For example, if given the following options for a honeymoon - Paris (with free breakfast), Rome (with free breakfast), and Rome (no breakfast included), most people would probably choose Rome with the free breakfast. Ask why? It’s because people will get two options to compare which makes it easier for them to explain why they like Rome with free breakfast offer. Bingo! now I know why my friends request my company in parties and take hours to get ready while I am always in casual T-shirts. 

c. Well, days are not the same always. Sometimes you feel so depressed that you want to jump out of the same window where you stand everyday and peep into your neighbor’s balcony. However, the moment you see a friend frantically trying to fit into jeans for one full hour, you take a deep sigh and tell your heart, “All is well.” That sadistic pleasure cannot be bought even by using American Express cards.

What do boys think of me?

Lolz… in 3 sweet little words: “Heroine ki saheli”- the sacrificial goat that toils a lot to get the heroine and hero together and is kicked out of the scene afterwards. (Disclaimer: No offence meant and no generalization, need to take these tequila shots with lemon and a pinch of salt). If ever boys include people like me in their dream sequence song, they give me a role similar to Kalki Koelchin in balam pichkari- that of a sidey. 

There would be some guys who would give me a special place in their life, would love to share every nitty gritty of their life including their heart breaks and tears but I would never be able to put up in their heart because of two gate keepers- “The best friend” and “Just another guy”. Either I am just a good friend or else I am just a bro and not a girl at all.

One fine day in the marketplace- “Jaanu, am I fatter than that fat ugly girl staring at the books?” Although I was pretending to read, it was obvious to me, she was talking about me. “No sweetu, why do you think so? That girl is nothing compared to you.” 

What do garment shop keepers think of me? 

Challenge accepted! And then suddenly, the TV series and movies loving bhaiyas of local garment shops become a doctor. Glancing and analyzing you from head to toe, they become a consultant and can perhaps give you a tip or two: “ Didi ji, ye aise kurte na Bunty aur Babli me Rani Mukherjee pahanti thi, bahut jachega aap pe, ye jo aapka kamar hai na, ye acche se cover ho jaega. Sabse accha waise ye Prerna aur Kumkum style kurta hai lekin aapko chota hoga. Ye madam jo aapke saath aayi hain, inpe bahut better lagega.” This is the point where he subtracts his customer set by one. But even tailors don’t help much. After having a heated discussion for about half an hour, the tailor gave up and said, “madam, three quarters sleeves kahan se laun? Aapke kurte ka gherai itna bada hai ki haath k liye jagah hi nhi hai.”

What does society think of me? (This includes elder female relatives)

a. An advice seeking despo: You know what are the most abundant elements found in India? Not CHON (Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen) elements but CHONA- CHON + advices

And then if you are fat, these advices come with complementary implementation plans too. Last time I visited my mom’s family, I found myself surrounded by a group of middle aged women who claimed they had tried everything under the Sun but the only method that works on the stubborn fat is the one that suits them and not that I am following.

b. A future Brahma Kumari maybe: On surveying 15 women present in the recent family gathering, I came to know that about 14 women said that the biggest concern that I should be having is that I would not be able to find a suitable match, would overwork, overeat and lose my mind and perhaps would leave all the worldly pleasures. By the way, the only one who had a different opinion is a doctor and felt the need to showcase her skills. 

c. Baba Ramdev Junior: In order not to join Brahma Kumaris, I should follow baba Ramdev, do pranayam daily to get the best of three worlds- weight loss, spiritual joy and our culture. 

And at last, the last nail in the coffin…

What does my mom think of me?

Why don’t you ask her? You know someone once said, “If you have a doubt that you are not good, talk to your mom, she would tell you that you are the best.” Perhaps, I am the only exception because I have the biggest problem on the earth, bigger than USA’s government shut down. 

a. An eternal patient: Ever since I started putting on extra kilos of weights, my mom started reading extra pages of the magazines that claimed they have the home remedy for every problem and since then I am her favorite guinea pig. From having only 1 teaspoon of sugar in tea to drinking bitter gourd juice, I think I have become a veteran in this field.

b. A crack mind with a circuit board with NOT gates only: Now here I would like to state Newton’s First Law- Every object persists in its state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed on it.” If our country provides freedom to expression, movement, religion, occupation etc then who knows may be right to eat also must be there but unless it’s not there I have every right to use a veto such irrational commands. And guess what, I have become a rebel suddenly and that’s what generation gap is. 

What does it mean to be me exactly?

This is perhaps the most important and most overlooked question. It’s not about being fat or ugly or shy. I think it’s about how you see yourself. Whenever we are served with a bowl of soup, we either put salt, vinegar, sauce or chilly according to our taste. The world too goes with the same rule. It tries and would always try to change you as per its liking. I think it’s not even bad to change for people but only if you understand what are the things worth changing. And also, it’s good to change for loved ones but not a good thing if you are changing in hope of being loved. That’s why I am still fat but a lot happier than I always have been. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The voice of silence

She saw her reflection on the window glass. Her Henna dyed hair was playing with the long line of vermillion sindoor. “Age is taking its toll on me”- she whispered to herself. She looked out of the window- with every passing vehicle, she could see her life rewinding, one year per car. Soon she reached her childhood- in the village, with her childhood friends, not in a closed room like this but beneath an old mango tree. She was well educated, a post graduate unlike her friends. Hers was a love marriage unlike her friends’. She was settled in a big city unlike her friends but still her heart belonged to them. “I will write to them today.”- She thought. Among all the dissimilarities, one thing was similar between them-they were housewives.

Shortly, her thoughts were marred by a series of alarms. It was time for her husband’s office and children’s school. She went to the kitchen and started applying cheese spread over the bread to prepare sandwiches. Milk was boiling over the gas stove and waiting for the tea leaves to settle down on it.

“Mom, what are you preparing?” , I went to the kitchen and asked.  
 “Bread sandwich! Mom why can’t you make parantha and sabzi like others? I don’t like to eat bread. Can’t you do some extra work? You always pack bread.”- I was furious. Mom was calm- “Beta, my right foot is aching for last two days. I am unable to stand and walk.”
“Mom, am I a doctor? Why don’t you visit a doctor instead of cribbing before us? We have been listening to this for the last two or three days. Why don’t you go and see a doctor.”- I was even angrier.
“I have asked your dad to come early from office so that we can go but he is quite busy nowadays.”- she tried to explain.
“Meera, how many days have passed since you stepped out of the home? The doctor is hardly a mile away. Simply ask the driver to take you to the doctor. It has been 20 years that we have been living in this city and you still fear going out. Even an illiterate woman would behave smarter than you.”-my father added.

For my mom, it was a routine. Not that we did not love her but her unconditional love, her tolerance, her meek nature and her silence encouraged us to encroach upon her personal space, her dignity, her happiness and peace of mind. She was loved but often ignored. Neither me nor my sister ever asked her permission for anything. She was a friend to us until she agreed with us. The moment she disagreed, we commented on her ignorance and moved on. She was ok with it, always smiling and thinking that mothers are always like that. Sometimes when she thought she’s being sidelined, she used to complain of things too obvious to be noticed but still overlooked.

You think we are devils but look around. You would find the same mother in your family. Silence do speak volumes but only if you have eyes to see it. We were too busy and too blind to perceive her silence. But sometimes, silence leaves such a void that one can’t help but feel it settling down upon oneself. Such silence is not solitude but a precursor of loneliness.

I was angry with my mother for not taking her life seriously. She was more educated than most of the other women I knew. Still, she chose to sit back at home and do nothing. As a generation Y kid, I dreamt of having the best education even at the cost of staying away from home and country. My parents were proud of my determination and smartness. They always encouraged me.

One day, my teacher asked me-“Who’s your role model?”.
 “My dad”-I replied.
“Ok and what have you learnt from your mom?”-she asked.
“Well, she sets an example before me- an example of how not to lead your life. Sometimes, I get nightmares that I have become a housewife like her.”

My teacher was both shocked and sad. She scolded me in front of the class. I was embarrassed. I ran back to home and did not talk to anyone. In the evening, my parents came to my room. My mother was very concerned. She cajoled me in every possible way to talk to her. At last I spilled the beans. Then there was a silence. My dad was taken aback and tried to convince me that I was wrong. He should have consoled my mom instead who was shocked, disappointed and inconsolable too. Regret alighted upon her all of a sudden. Here she is hundreds of miles away from her home, her village and her friends. She studied because she loved studying. She never thought her education would become a problem for her one day. She cried and for the first time let her emotions speak through words and not silence.

“You all are ashamed of me today but do you all realize that you all are responsible for what I am today. Ravi, I came with you without even giving a thought whether I would be happy or not. I did not mind working either but would you have been able to take out time out of your workaholism? You remember, when I asked you about taking up writing as a career, you said that I can write only for hobby and not for livelihood. You said you earn enough and I need not work. And you my dear daughter? You want to become like your father. Tell me one thing, what are the things that your father taught you? Did he teach you English, Science or even Mathematics? You are proud of your ambitions.  Who gave you the idea of chasing your dreams? You want to become a painter? Who enrolled you into the Art School? Ask your friends who are being forced to become either a doctor or an engineer or get married at an early age. Tomorrow, don’t you think your kids will ask you why did you choose the field of art when you could earn millions by becoming a doctor?

You know the most beautiful part of a building is the one above the ground. But every building needs a foundation which is beneath the ground. Higher the building, stronger the foundation should be. But sadly, the foundation lies in silence despite of its strong hold in the ground whereas the building which stands on the foundation speaks the loudest.”- saying this she threw a diary towards us and went to the study room. She was quiet once more but the quietest in all those years. It was as if she did not intend to talk to us anymore. She was peaceful now as if everything she ever wanted to speak of has been told. She sat by the writing table and started writing letters to her childhood friends.

It was an awkward silence on the other side of the house. She spoke a lot but it was the silence that followed that hurt the most. We flipped through the diary- it was full of untold stories and poems, those which she never spoke of but kept writing in her mind.

Thank God for that day. It was an eye opener. My mother still does not speak much but now we can read her silence. And if you really believe that all stories have a happy ending then you would be happier to know that today, I am a proud daughter of an award winning writer mother. 

And to all mothers, I would like to say:
When you say nothing at all, I may not see your underlying pain beneath your lonely smile but trust me always mom, in my heart I have you as an angel sent by God. I can run away from you but never let you go out of my heart.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A chance encounter with solitude

The mere feeling of being alive and nothing else is not a very positive sign. Life has become a marathon- you run, you become tired, you wait, you see others moving ahead, you gather strength and start again. People you meet do not stay for long, faces you begin to recognize just pass by in moments. You feel sad about it but you have no one to blame because you do the same with others. Ever thought why this alienation, this egotism, this pretension of being the only unmalicious person? First you separate your country then your religion, your state, your city, your colony, your house, your family and then yourself and complain of loneliness? Is it the life you ever wanted when you were a small child waving to every passer by? Didn't you share your tiffin with those who did not bring lunch to school? Did you ever ask your first crush what his/her father's income was? Everyone wished you knowledge and success but in the process of learning, you unlearned the qualities that accompanied you to the earth. 

When I look back, I find my past to be happier. I had no television to watch and would sit beside an old neighbour to talk nonsense. Today, the old lady lives alone with her servants- no one to care and talk to her. I did not have mobile phone to call my dad when he went to office and I would eagerly wait till he comes with some little surprise. Now I have a mobile phone to call him and place my new demands but no time to ask "Why are you so late today? What happened in office?" I never got to eat pizzas and burgers then but I waited for some special occasions to eat puri-sabzi. Now even expensive fine dining does not satisfy my taste buds. I travelled once a year to my native village to meet my grandparents and other relatives. Those used to be the best days of the year for me. I played with the goats, fed the cows, slept beneath the trees. Today, wherever I visit I only search for a suitable place to click for my display pic on facebook and twitter. Life is fun with myriads of ways to spend money and kill time but it is no longer a bliss which my heart yearns for sometimes. 

Today when I was walking along the trees planted on the roadside, something changed. Sun was warm but a cold wave of air came and shook the trees. It rained leaves.It made the birds fly in confusion and for a moment, I saw my past in my present. I had some dry leaves in my hand and an empty road ahead.