Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Letter to Her

Dear Maithili
Wondering why I chose that name for you? Because you are the quintessential Indian woman, a shadow of the one you derive your name from-Sita! Yes, the one who was the epitome of sacrifice, of the strength of a woman so misconstrued by society for years together now. Because you have been made to believe that sacrifice is the virtue that makes you a Goddess. Who are you then, if not Maithili( princess of Mithila) or Janaki( daughter of Janak) or
Ramā( wife of Rama), a woman whose name too is seeped in patriarchy. And so when you choose to look away when abused, I know not any other name by which to call you.
Don't be disheartened by my harsh words. I only wish to ignite the fire in you. I only wish to tell you that a man who torments you physically or emotionally or psychologically does not deserve your silence. There is no merit in saving the face of one who sends you into exile or demads an "agni pariksha" from you. Unmask the misogynistic abuser and set yourself free.
I have often spotted you late in the night, under the covers with swollen, red eyes. Sometimes it' s a phone call, sometimes a scar on your face...a deeper one somewhere inside. At other times its dowry or a loose remark, a slight push when your man is inebriated and intoxicated. That "not in his senses" excuse to forgive him another time; that preposterous comparison asking you to bring him back from the abode of another woman..." after all Savitri brought back her husband from the clutches of death"... and give him just another chance. I have often seen you battle it out on pitch dark nights when you know best that the world will be unable to trace your tears. And yet you have found reasons to hang on a little longer maybe. Suffering in silence is the quality of your Goddess afterall.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Look at Yourself!!

Hello everyone!

Well well well....it's such a day today! I'm practically done with my morning chores and I'm out of work....just figuratively, mind you. A steaming cup of coffee to kickstart the rest of the day and a drizzly, misty morning right out of my window to give me company here. Couple with that the burden of penning my thoughts on the 8th of March. Deadly combination you see!

I really want to write great stuff today. Like all those messages I received this morning. I quote one...Look at yourself...energetic, radiant, efficient, terrific...
 I wonder how they manage to make it all so glossy and furbish it all up. Makes me feel on cloud nine. So I literally turn to look at myself in the mirror. Still in my pyjamas and trying to fight early morning blues, I'm certainly the opposite of energetic. Never mind, I tell myself and turn over to my visage. I'm trying to see the wonders of the age reverting, exorbitant emollient that I'd applied just before slipping into bed last night. It seemed to have worked for my neighbor who happens to be a year older. In my case radiant???....nah...not really.  That's okay. I still have a few more adjectives to validate myself. So I rush into the kitchen to do those endlessly chaotic morning routine tasks, ones that I need not elaborate, for they are most common to almost all women. As I shuttle from one corner of the house to another, there's a pot of milk that spills over, a glass that almost breaks, a five year old whose piggy tail waits for a lost ribbon and a sock that hopelessly looks for her lost partner. There's little hope so I quietly strike off efficient. While I'm on the next adjective, there's a channel that is showing some of these phenomenal women. There's this sports person and an actor, a politician, an entrepreneur and a Nobel prize winner! I'm nowhere close. So I simply delete the message from my chats. I hurry in for a quick shower and then sit down to do what I do best...share my thoughts with you all.

If you ask me, whats that one thing that we women do to make life tougher for us, I will say that we continue to look down upon ourselves. Each time life gives us a reason to celebrate who we are, we let it drown in those countless expectations that we have from ourselves. There is always a nagging pain about not doing or being who someone else is. There is this constant tussle about choosing a way of life and then wondering if it is the best choice. There is this continuous proving of yourself to yourself that women suffer from. And so if I were to say why women must celebrate today, I would say that they must to remind themselves of the multifarious probabilities that they are, to remind themselves that they are much more than a pay hike or elastic skin or awards or motherhood or whatever. 

And so as I close this piece can any one of you resend that message to me. I want to keep it. I want you to keep it...
Look at yourself...Energetic, Radiant, Efficient, Terrific..... 

 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Yellow Stains


There were those yellow stains on his shirt
She couldn't get them away
The detergent didn't help much
She tried anyway.

They saw the yellow stains
Nothing could be worse
His honour was at stake
Couldn't she have rubbed enough.

Those yellow stains would stay
As long as she chose her ways
With life invested in office files
Blotches would forever stay.

Yellow stains are irresponsible
Exhibit promiscuous ways
Those appraisals hardly mean a thing
Until you get those stains away!

And so they hang the yellow stains
On the right most shelf with the appreciation card
So the next time you walk into her house
You don't miss
The Yellow Stains.

I do own a time machine.
And I often use it to travel back
to my other life…
I live two
One here, today
And the other, that I left round the corner
and  conveniently call it yesterday.

On rare occasions when I wish to holiday
and feel the need to breathe
I sit in my time machine
to go back
to tresses with shades of grey
and wonder how they became this colour
since I saw them a few months away.
I go back to grooves
and can make out those dimples gone astray.
I go back to puffy eyes
that hide behind horn rimmed glasses
only to find them a little weaker than they were
on my last holiday.
And then I sit in my time machine once again
to travel back into today.

That morning my phone buzzed unusually.
There was a call from that side of life called yesterday.
It had a new address
Ward fifteen at a place called Healthcare.
I paced for a while
and thought if it was urgent in any way…
I sat in the time machine
but it refused to budge
I tried hard
Checked for power failures,
battery woes
and other technical slows…
I summoned the engineer
only to know
 that I'll have to wait until the weekend
 before I can go.

Alas! The time machine
held me back
Wasn't really my fault you see.
I made a few phone calls though
Even tied up for somebody
to run errands all through.

Coming Saturday I travelled back
to see another strand of grey
troughs on cheeks deeper than ever
and puffy eyes tired like never.

Next morning, it was time to move.
I wished the time machine
to give up once again.
A snag, a lag
anything that would make me stay.
But it never breaks up when I travel into
this life called today.
So I sat down once again
Pragmatic
Apologetic
as I chose one life over the other
that day!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Lady with the most Unkempt Hair...


Hey! You...
The lady with the most unkempt hair
Did you just brush off layers
from those medallions up there?
I'm talking to you....
My lady...with the most unkempt hair.
Can you put aside
your ladle for a little while
and lend me an ear..
A stolen moment...
What?Don't tell me now
that the maid is already there!
I hope you read through
your citations too!
How long have they been up there?
I guess, a year or two...
Fifteen years!Is that what you said?
Oh, yes! I do hear the doorbell ring
But I need to know
how a dancer clipped her wings??
Let the boss's mail rest in the box a while
And put aside your chat box
It's only vile
You can let the curry be
Just sit down and answer me...
Oh! The grocery can do alright
But those honours up there
Hope they're within your sight
Even if you didn't do the laundry
I'd know you care...
O my beautiful one with the most unkempt hair. .
Believe me,
I know the bills must be paid
Home works finished
and dinners made.
I know the piles
of those office files
and phone bells and lullabies. ...
Those prizes will gather some dust again
But before you mop your laurels up there
Be sure you know
what's tougher dear
To win a dime
or wipe off the grime.
Don't turn off the lights
Lend me an ear
O lady with the most unkempt hair!!!

Monday, October 14, 2013

A View From Five Ft No Inches

A humble exaggeration, a harmless lie, a saving grace- call it as you please. For a little 'truth-less-ness' at the beginning of this scribble should not annoy you. Yes, I'm not five feet tall-that is if five feet is at all tall!

I was born with genes hard to pull and a lineage not very proud of having 'scaled heights.' Yet I had a determined mother who had decided to battle the the wrath of God and 'pull' me out of the injustice hurled by Him on our entire clan. And thus grew my story 'inch by inch.'

Just days after I set foot into this world, began elaborate sessions of oil massages- sesame and apricot, the right proportions of castor and almond; not to forget granny's practice of using 'ghee' from a lone cow's milk. It was all done, coupled with the right movements of fingers and hands for not less than three long years. But it was too early to predict and efforts could not stop at this. From bournvita to horlicks, skipping ropes to high jumps- nothing was spared, neither was I! The most tedious task was the tip-toed morning walk from one end of the room to the other with my hands out-stretched to the sky almost in pleading. Lengths of iron rods across the doors of the house, basket ball sessions and homeopathy wonder pills- you name it and I did it. But I grew faster in years than in inches. With her efforts seeming all in vain, what added to my mother's woes were the constantly rocketing heights of cousins and friends. She was never spared without a tip or two-"Try giving her bananas on an empty stomach" or "Why don't you help her with yoga...it works wonders!" To top it all was the perpetual concern of a maternal aunt who thought I would never find a groom....in all this the only person I pitied was my mother, for reasons so obvious.

Between all this my certain short stature never bothered me except on a few hilarious occasions. While in school I was once enthusiastically preparing to audition for the beautiful "Snowhite and the Seven Dwarfs." Needless to say I dreamt of being Snowhite, only to be dismayed by my selection as the seventh dwarf!

By the time I was out of my teens, my mother had invested too much in me and probably accepted her defeat at the hands of my genes. However, one can never underestimate the will power of a woman. She went on to try the very same formulas( along with a few others she had garnered with experience and time) on my younger sibling. And this time she did succeed. My sister happens to be an inch taller than me.

With time I had multiple experiences with my height- being pulled out of dance performances, being adjusted and re-adjusted in choirs to being given a children's ticket at a fun park....in fact, there were many an imbroglio that made my height....oops....my life a fabulous roller coaster.Of course my due apologies to those who really  fretted over my height but believe me all their concerns were well taken and God did listen to some of them. My aunt for one could heave a sigh of relief for I eventually did find a groom.

As for me, this matter bothered me only as much as it could have bothered both Napoleon and Tendulkar. If I ever stood troubled, it was only in the kitchen trying to get a pan from the top shelf. My mother does keep calling with tips to pull up my tiny tots....she has ample examples of genes gone wrong.

And at last for all those who stand as tall as me, a gentleman once asked me, "How does the world look from five ft no inches?"

I simply replied, "As beautiful as ever!"


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Every Woman in Me

               

       
I had a fun day today.
A movie, some shopping and all you please,
yet my mind is just not at peace.

My heart is heavy
trepidations many.
I was shot down today
for speaking my mind.
Threatened by me
some men failed to see
my love for humanity.

Some others tore me apart
for wine or lust
(hard to say in order what)
weighed heavy.
And I paid the price
for boarding a bus
late in the night.

Humiliated in death and life
I wonder
how to survive.
For my prowess on the tennis ground
wasn't enough
to make some proud.
They mocked at my physicality
huge and loud,
I pity him
who drops a jaw
at mortal beauty!

I'm not a Sushmita, a Nirbhaya or a Bartoli
and yet they are me
and I am thee.

A chapati maker(sigh)
trying to rise above shopping sprees,
there's ire and fire within me.
I am every woman
and every woman is me.








Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The First Goodbye

It was not the only time and certainly not the first one. Yet,as I bid goodbye to my younger one on her first day to kindergarten, my heart skipped many a beat. My son, now seven, raised quite an objection as he recalled how apathetically he had been pushed into formal schooling at a much tender age. Sibling jealousy is not new to me. I myself have witnessed, or so I feel, unfair treatment, being the elder one in the family. The perks, privileges and pampering are not for us. But here I was,with all my personal experiences way behind me, helpless yet determined to send a two and a half year old to school.

Infact it was quite a battle-deciding the grade of my little one. Playgroup or nursery-while the school recommended nursery for her age,the mother in me could only agree to playgroup. It would be unfair to burden those tiny shoulders with the insipid sleeping and standing lines. I'll not indulge into comparisons with my "genius" son (reason cited by me) who had finished nursery before he was three!

So, the unavoidable journey began. The little girl did all that was needed-she howled and screamed, clung on to me and refused to let me go until I firmly pushed back her hands and rushed out of the gate leaving her to the care of the school staff. But not to tread back home. I spend the next two hours on the road right outside, so that I could be available at the shortest notice, if need be. This became a routine of sorts putting all my other chores to hold until the principal finally told me to send her off in the school van and wait at home for her to be dropped back. It was a difficult decision, finally taken.

However, this did not reduce the complexity of the situation back home. When all the pleading and cajoling with me failed, my daughter turned to her father, who assured her that she wouldn't be sent to school. only to her dismay he was already off to work before she woke up the next morning. and her mother was relentless. While she failed to settle down with the idea, there was another heart rending experience added to my kitty. My cuckoo bird suddenly became "papa's doll"-from now on only her father could feed her,play with her and put her to sleep. Mommy was the quintessential enemy who sent her to school. Those few days that she chose to be thus, I felt a queer vacuum, a loneliness I don't remember having experienced ever before. I would fiddle with her little fingers after she slept wanting to pull her close to me but didn't do so from fear of disturbing her sleep. And so passed a few more days and I continued to send her to school.

Now its been a month since we started this journey called kindergarten. Yes, my daughter continues to go to school.She jumps around the house waiting eagerly for her van, joyfully recalls the events at school, sings rhymes for all of us and once again she tells me to feed her, to play with her and to put her to sleep! I still say 'goodbye' to her each morning, but it certainly does not have the pangs of the 'first goodbye'.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ammaji



                                                            Ammaji

My grandmother, for the second time today, is the subject of my writing. The first time I wrote a few lines on 'ammaji' (that is how I, and almost half of the world addressed her), was almost twenty years back. She was the subject of my poem in class eight and I vividly remember the pen portrait I had created. And twenty years down the line, I sit to recreate her memories once again. 

As an infant I probably spent hours in her lap, was lulled to sleep by her endless crooning-none of which I remember. But I do recall the aroma of those hand made sewaiyas that she dried in the sun and packed in little plastic bags for us to carry back at the end of our holidays.

I do remember how she filled ladles with oodles of 'ghee' to be served with hot paranthas and how my father loathed the very idea of adding so many calories to the already oil-drenched paranthas. Ammaji never got tired-of showering love and food on her sons and her grandchildren and of picking on her daughter-in-laws in her typical manner.
"Oh!What a ruthless mother she is!", she would scream every time we were given a handful for a little mischief here and there. But most of all I remember her for that one slap that she instinctively gave me when I put my finger in an open fuse to see how an electric shock felt!That was the first and the last time, I think, she hit me, for I remember no other incident. Was she repentant? I was too small to know, but wondered always. As years passed by, I remember my efforts at teaching her English, all of which only ended in a lot of no sense and zero results. But among all the episodes, I must mention the one in which,while in college, I was a die-hard fan of Sachin Tendulkar, and had a book mark of the master, which happened to be seen by ammaji. She was instantly on high alert and bombarded me with questions on this one 'photo' of a boy in my book! To add to the fun, I told her he was the one I had chosen to be her grand son-in-law. She turned around and adjusted her bun, " Is he a brahmin?" 

What ensued , need not be mentioned, for I'm sure, the hilarious turn of events is much predictable....So, in all these years ammaji never grew old. Or so I thought. She still had the energy to nurse me for a week when I was sent home from hostel on contracting viral. But she did grow old, on the day my grandfather passed away. She never remained the person she was. For seven years, hence, she battled to tell the world her tales. But listeners were few.

Even as her physical capabilities diminished, she managed to find her piece of joy in my marriage and in the birth of my son. She continued to grope for herself, as she fought with forgetfulness, a possible alzhiemers. In one of my visits just before her death, I had an argument with her, a sort of a fight-a fight with an old woman who couldn't remember much. On my next visit, she could hardly recognise me and before I could pay her another one, she was gone. She died even before she could witness the realization of one of her dearest dreams-the marriage of my uncle's daughter whom she loved so much.

Three years since she snapped all ties with our World,I move on. I remember a lot of her, but most of all I remember that one big fight I had with her towards the fag end of her life. I wonder if she forgave me for that-I only wish you have....ammaji. 


Thursday, February 16, 2012

To a Sleepy Town

My sojourn in Shimla was perhaps one of the most beautiful phases of my life.I call it "a sojourn" because no matter how many days or years I spent in this hometown of mine,they will never seem enough.Simply because Shimla is synonymous with beauty.And as I make this statement here,I have no qualms in admitting that I truly believe that it is the Queen of Hills.I rest aside  all arguments about the new cemented structures or of overcrowded lanes.Such ideas can never overpower the love of a true Shimla-ite for his town.For all those who have taken the drive up the Shivalik,will agree that you instantly become friends with the mountains and the effervescent terrain.Whether its the luscious green on the hill tops or the tinge of fresh air or the breath taking first view of the town-Shimla with her open arms is always ready to ambrace you.

The irony here is that you only see her beauty when she is long lost.Way back in 1997 ,I was one of the many who coined the term "sleepy town" and instantly the nomenclature was done.Thats how Shimla was referred to as by me and many others-some of who still feel that its snail speed can never match the supersonic pace of metro India.So with such feelings I ventured out more than a decade ago,only to be back for brief periods.However, my short but frequent visits,never made me crave for the place the way I do today.

With time and changes in life my random visits were turned to "few" and then to "hardly".Oh!the vagaries of my "packed food" life.Strange,but do I long to dream on in the lap of my sleepy town.Only for a walk up the hill,only for pacing up and down the incorrigible Town Hall,only for a sip of hot coffee at the haggard Coffee House,only for a glimpse of the grey and red school building,only for the icy cold winds and only for those clever apes on the Jakhoo road- I do long for only these.

Yes, this little round the hill town grows on you.And I'm not the only one.This nostalgia is infectious.It gets to all those who have detested being here at one point of time.Here,I cite the example of my younger sibling who I made, perforce ,to stay in Shimla for her graduation.How was I cursed for this decision of mine for four long years.Today,sitting in another corner of the country,trying to cope with difficult life styles,the same girl tells me how she feels that there can be not any better place.Such is the charisma of Shimla.

On a closing note,all I can say is ,its easy to say goodbye to the Queen of Hills,but its not easy to let go off her.Or,if I may say,she never lets you get her off your mind.For I'm sure when the hubbub of city life makes you wish for quiet and peace,you definitely don't mind this sleepy town.