Friday, September 8, 2017

A Warrior in Life and Death

Warrior tales always lure. They infuse a spirit that compels you to take up cudgels against all odds. I don’t know if they always motivate you to win but I’m sure they do propel you to fight. For that’s what every warrior is- a fighter. This warrior tale that I now pen has been long due. But there are certain fighters of life, who you feel, you might fail even if you pen from the depth of your heart. There are facets of their life that you are unaware of. Yet you wish to speak of them from your perspective and hope they can ignite courage in the hearts of many other people. Definitely  their fight deserves much more than a plain eulogy because in taking up arms against life they made sure to leave pertinent impressions on countless minds. Here is my tribute to the bravest warrior woman I’ve ever known.
It was the summer of 2013 when I moved to the Nilgiris for a year. Rekha was a neighbour. Fiery, loud, cheerful. My first meeting with her was at the parking lot. The usual pleasantries shared by new neighbours and we went about our businesses. Later that evening I learnt that Rekha had just won a battle against breast cancer. She didn’t leave my mind thereafter. You often get embroiled in such stories and the why’s and how’s trouble you long enough.
We were four of us in that building and I was the one who was most aloof. As each one of us settled down making the most of our new environment, one morning I heard this gale…peals of laughter from the apartment underneath. Curiously enough, I ran up and down the house trying to fathom the goings on. Undoubtedly, Rekha was leading from the front. But my titters were no match for her. Nor was I one of those who rushed into company soon.
What finally broke the ice between us is a rather long tale that would take away the purpose of this writing. But it will be enough to say that she held out her hand first and firm. Besides a common neighbourhood and daughters of about the same age, there was one thing that most prominently brought us together. Rekha was a dentist, a trained classical dancer and a zumba instructor. Her enthusiasm about zumba was infectious and I decided to go for her trial class. What I witnessed that morning was a combination of spirit, zest and exhilaration! She was a fire performer. She had turned the tables on chemo and was ready for a second session with life.
Thereafter, our meetings became more frequent. I was a student and a neighbour. We were also co learners at a cooking class. So naturally we crossed each other innumerable times in a day. I was doing a handful of courses and was mostly drained out. She was working double. As I would lie down for an afternoon nap, I would hear the onomatopoeic vroom of her black scorpio as she would leave for the rehearsal of an on stage performance. Her final sessions with the doctors at Bangalore were probably the only breaks she ever took. And it was just after one such session that she picketed against fate for the umpteenth time and emerged victorious in her own right. It was also during that time that she left everlasting impressions on the hearts and minds of countless people as she shunned longevity of life and embraced its worthiness in her own idiosyncratic way. And that is precisely where the story of this warrior woman takes shape.
Rekha was certain that it was going to be her last session with the doctors at Bangalore and this time when she returns she would come with a clean chit. She had an array of activities planned out. She was starting zumba for kids, had a session lined up in Chennai for breast cancer awareness and was preparing to join her husband Prashant in the talent hunt at the academy besides a trip to Goa in the one week break.
“This is going to be my last visit to the doctor. Thereafter no more breaks from zumba classes for you guys!”
I was keenly waiting for her to get back. She did with some heart rending news. It wasn’t a relapse. But they weren’t sure she was through with it. There were chances of cancer ripping other parts of her body and they needed to check before giving her a report. That she was distressed a,nd worried would be an understatement. She was hopeful, yes, but fear lurked somewhere in there. However we resumed zumba classes. And all other plans stayed very much in place. In between reports of a stubborn disease, life moved pretty fast for Rekha. Quick decisions and a different plan from last time was ensued.
This time round she adhered to old weapons of self defence. The aim was healing from within. Chemo was a loser. So in came yoga, meditation, vipasana, detoxification.
Its funny with time. When you have the most of it, you usually while it away and its paucity makes  you fill it up even more. Zumba never came to a standstill. And it was more vigorous than ever before. More stamina and more power. Sometimes I wondered if she was trying to prove a point to Him. After all she was fighting fate that He randomly allocates. Her depleting energy was probably observed and spoken of too. You see, people come in all shapes and sizes. And compassion is a rare size. Doesn’t fit all. And vibrations reached her soon enough. Yet, I saw this woman never say no. I did see Rekha lose oodles of weight. And I recalled how once she had given me a theory about putting on weight when you beat cancer at its own game and losing it when cancer has the upper hand. I’m sure she remembered this as well. But none of these stopped her from starting Zumba for children. The zumba breast awareness camp in Chennai was attended with zest and preparations for a dance performance in the academy Biannual affair started with full josh.
In between, one evening, she walked up to me with a pamphlet from Oriflame. She had just become a member and asked me if I wanted anything. I stared at her in disbelief but failed to utter anything. I ordered a few things- a lipstick among them that I still have. Most things were there on time but one, which she promised to get soon. An annual fair at the academy was lined up soon enough and Rekha, yes the eternal warrior, had a stall put up. She got these lovely skirts that I regret not buying. Not because it was a beautiful dress but because picking it up would have been my way of appreciating this woman’s fight against cancer. I did pick up a pair of earrings though. But my apathy left me restless. I wonder if it scarred Rekha in the process. Maybe not. She didn’t have time to carry grudges or scars.At the last zumba session before the close of the year, we were all gifted zumba wrist bands.
With time Rekha needed more care and treatment. So the performance never happened as she moved back to Bangalore and was made to stay put in the hospital. WhatsApp was never popular then. I frequently wrote to her on messenger and she responded whenever possible. Just a few days before we were to wind up from the Nilgiris, I received a message that read, “Dear Sonia, I have managed to get your product from Oriflame. Am sending it through Prashanth.”
Even as I had been assuming her to be lying helplessly in bed, Rekha had been busy living life. This is the greatest quality of a warrior. One who never gets defeated even in the face of a defeat. The product did reach me and I remember handing over a letter for her to Prashant. I still wonder if she ever got a chance to read it. I just wanted to tell her how she had taught me to brave out every single day and turned a cynic into a lover of life. Before we bid goodbyes both Prashant and Rekha received a well deserved commendation for their feat on stage. And that was the last I heard from her. On my way to Delhi from Coimbatore I received a message informing me that Rekha had now decided to take on God in the Heavens above. I am sure she must have given him a tough fight. She was a warrior in life and death.

This post is for a Blogathon titled Warrior Women @Women’s Web. I chose to write about Rekha because I truly believe that she is an example of exemplary courage, a fighter who left an impression on my mind and soul and I hope that through my story Rekha can continue to give courage to other women.

When a Greek pirate ship sails in to loot the wealth of the Cholas, it is brutally defeated by the navy and forced to pay a compensation. A payment that includes a twelve year old girl, Aremis. Check out this historical novel Empire ( with a warrior woman at the heart of the novel.

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'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.

Two Lives

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
as I chose one life over the other
that day!