March 8, 2017

A decade of togetherness!


It's our tenth this year
a magical number, for sure
Has it been that long 
since we intertwined our future?

Sometimes it feels like yesterday
and at times an eternity
So different we are
how did we find similarity?

I'm the idealist, prefer the order
you're pragmatic, find beauty in chaos
I like to plan, you're spontaneous
I crave for newness
You love the familiarity

How did we survive?
I ask in mock wonder
We had faith, you affirm
and the trust in each other

Where's the mush? but I whimper
You smile, wide with humour
remark that you'd rather 
warmth, share and care gather

It's true, I know the answer
Indeed I cannot remember
a time when I haven't 
enjoyed a status that's equal
full of respect that's mutual

From the time I stepped in
as your wedded bride
you've held my hand
as a friend, philosopher, guide

You've chosen to lace
the romance with grace
the love, never a blatant show
burning a constant, subtle glow

A supportive co-parent, 
a progressive thinker,
a caring companion, 
an encouraging mentor,
You're all this, perhaps more

 We are a match, probably
even as we bicker silly
about who's a bigger bully
That has to be you,
even you'd agree, surely

We may not hear the thunder
or mellow violins of yonder
no candles are perhaps lit
none ever to offer
a fragrant flower

But, listen we do with our heart
that beats for the other
in the mundane, in the banter
in the squabbles, in the laughter

For you, my breath sings
You're the wind
beneath my wings
Be mine, forever together

****

March 3, 2017

Why I cannot be the quintessential shopper


Strolling in a swanky mall, I check into a multi-brand chain. My eyes quickly scan through the array of sections, each of them screaming for attention with the popular brand names. I don't have a shopping plan with me and breeze into the clothes section. I flit from one rack to another stand, feeling the fabric at a counter or checking out the size at another. I linger a bit longer when something particular catches my eye. Invariably, my fingers reach for the price tag even as I look. It's almost a reflex, I realize.

With a special occasion coming up, the better half encourages me to simply take what I liked. I really like to call the man my better half at such times. While I love taking a dig at him for not surprising me with expensive gifts, the truth is that he has never stopped me or questioned my purchases ever. Perhaps, he's really confident that I won't go overboard.

Indeed, I cannot help feel that almost everything on board is ridiculously priced. Buyers are charged not only for the look of the garment but also for the brand value plus the fact that it is showcased in an upscale mall in an affluent city. Phew, that itself is many times over what the fabric and stitching alone would cost. I belong to the quintessentially salaried class that is habituated to ask, "how much?" while mentally calculating its real worth. I'm awed by people around me who look cool, sure of their choices, and do not bat an eyelid while swiping their plastic cards. Can I do that ever?

I'm struck by an epiphany just then, that this schism is no longer dictated by the depth of the pockets. The wallet might agree but the mental conditioning doesn't. I like to exit a shop knowing that I've got value for the amount paid. Any wonder, I love the end of season sale? Also, I'm too simplistic to find happiness in owning a Louis Vuitton because I'll be fixated on the hole it's burning in my purse. Yet, in perhaps smaller ways, I'm inching closer to the nonchalant buyer class.

I look thoughtfully at the ensemble I've selected before hitting the trial room. A few more trips back and forth and the husband is clearly bored but I think," haven't I only just begun?". I can't really blame him because he finished his shopping in 15 minutes flat and here I was asking him for the hundredth time if the dress looked good enough to buy.

I can't help it. A piece that looks great on the hanger ends up fitting snugly at weird places. Choose a size larger and it hangs awkwardly. If the cut is beautiful and compliments me, there's just a single colour available and it's not what I want. To top it all, there's a silly voice in my head telling me that I've made a mistake in choosing to shop from outlet A instead of the usual B. I quickly shut it up because it's close to an hour and a half and I'm nowhere close to finalizing the purchase.

And, you know where the time slips away like a sand dune in the midst of a tornado? In between trying out an apparel, finding it unsatisfactory, selecting another size or color, then hitting the trial room once again. Oh, before that waiting at the ever stretching queue in front of it. Ideally, I'd like to take two sizes of the same garment multiplied by at least three or four different sets with me to minimize the ordeal. But, that's wishful thinking because the attendant is waiting like Yama to take back the extra ones I try to sneak in. Only 3 garments at a time she says dismissively and I feel like the student who has been chastised by the teacher at the school.

I finally end up at the billing counter. I should feel happy but I'm too worn out by the shopping ordeal and also presently trying to snub that voice in my head which is annoyingly back. Now, it says that perhaps I should have gone for the blue floral top instead of the slightly flashy red one that is being currently billed. Close to getting a panic attack, I'm torn between telling the guy at the counter that there has been a mistake and pulling myself together. I choose the latter. I hold out the card confidently, watch it getting swiped, force a satisfied smile and dash out of the mad place.

****

Please tell me I'm not the only crazy person around?


February 7, 2017

Why I root for the underdog?


It's one of the rare times that I find myself plonked before the idiot box, eager to watch yet another episode of  The Indian Idol. Good music and movies have the power to keep me glued, though. As the episode progresses, I feel my cheeks moisten with salty droplets that have ambushed their way out. While soulful renditions more often than not get me teary-eyed, this time it was the personal stories of the contestants that triggered an emotional response; the show shenanigans of playing melancholic background scores and deliberate freezing of expressions notwithstanding.

It's touching to listen to stories about modest upbringing, financial struggles, and the courage to dream despite or perhaps due to adverse circumstances. The fact that talent can get its due even if one is not from a privileged background makes a perfect poster for inspiration, hope, and motivation. Such real stories serve as lessons for someone who is ready to give up on the brink of success just because the last mile is most arduous and one wishes for that godfather that can make the final journey easier.

There's something about the journey of underdogs that does not fail to touch a chord with me. When someone least expected to win makes unprecedented progress, challenges the crowd favourites, and sometimes even pulls off a stupendous upset to become numero uno, I cannot help but applaud and nod in awe. (The important caveat being that the win is purely based on merit). I'm sure it's not just me who feels so because this feel-good factor has been milked quite a bit by the film industry. Needless to add, films based on such a premise hold a special place in my heart.

As a person who has, at best, been an average achiever, it's easy to see why I identify with parts of an underdog's life. I like to imagine that I'm no different from that person on stage or that protagonist in the cinema who wins despite all odds. At such times I allow myself to dream big; dreams about experiencing the satisfaction of having reached my full potential, finding my true calling and being on the path I was always meant to be on.

A late bloomer in life, I've questioned my capabilities at every stage. I've looked at schoolmates and college mates glide past me with surety and confidence while I wondered about what I wanted to do in life. With every step forward, there were several taken backward. Yet, it's been a decent climb for me, as I realize today.

The struggle in my case has always been an internal one. I could never see myself win. Actually, I've been more afraid of success than of failure. I fear not being able to replicate a win. I prefer to remain an underdog because then I have no pressure of fulfilling expectations. If I win, it's a bonus but if I lose, it isn't really a surprise and I don't have to explain. And, so I root for underdogs in the outside world and for the self in my heart.

****


January 23, 2017

Awaiting colours of change

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It's the morning rush hour. In between flipping the dosa on the steaming pan, I scurry towards the bathroom door, impatiently asking R to hurry up and finish his bath. I scamper back to the kitchen to finish packing the lunch boxes, feeling the pressure of the husband's temporary absence which would have otherwise let me concentrate on just one part of the early-hour circus at home.

"Amma, I'm done. Please get the towel," screamed R into the empty room. Finally, I mutter and stride back to help him get dressed for school. My hands work quickly in tandem, patting him dry and squeezing the moisturizer into my palms when I notice R's. They have a flaky white colour to them, the one that comes with the skin being in contact with excessive foam and water. I apply a generous dose of the creamy lotion over them as I gently rebuke R for using so much soap.

"But, I want my skin to be light. I like light skin not dark" he quips, in almost a matter-of-fact tone.

My hands stop briefly, the mind numb over how to respond; myriad thoughts flogging the brain. How and when did the colour bias make way into a child's mind? I asked him where he heard about the advantages of having a light-coloured skin. He replied that his friend at school had divulged about how having a fairer skin tone makes someone stronger than the rest.

I looked up into R's earnest eyes. I wanted to hold him and soothe him yet I saw that he didn't seem to be wounded by the racist remark. At this tender age, he took his friend's words at face value and only wanted to rectify nature's ways in a manner he thought possible. Even though there was no apparent malice behind the other child's statement, that a skin tone had to be dragged into a child's world made me wonder how these ideas were implanted in the first place.

With all the honesty I could muster, I firmly stated that the skin colour had nothing to do with how a person turns out to be. Strength, poise, dignity, attitude, are all attributes one had to cultivate and nurture from within and the colour of the outer skin has no roleplay in this, whatsoever. R nodded his head solemnly. I wasn't sure he understood completely. There was so much more to add and share, but that would have to wait for the time being. I had to rush.The bus was here. We hugged, said our goodbyes and I lingered a bit longer as the bus rolled away into the street.

I mulled over the episode. I sighed. Not much had changed in the social conditioning yet I couldn't believe that such a discussion could creep in at such a young age. Who could be at fault here? The parents? Relatives? Media? Other kids? The society?

It's probably a mix of all of the above. Years of being slaves to the whites who are synonymous with wealth, culture, power, and for some reason beauty, we have unwittingly bent our knees to this rather foolish ideology of needing to discard the dark shades, albeit literally. If the common man and underdogs have a reason to fall prey, I wonder about the compulsions of the influential and the successful who endorse fairness products and have even undergone cosmetic overhauls to go from brown to white.

Images from my own past came back to me. As a young girl, I'd want to keep the back of my hands facing out because they were lighter in colour. I remember comparing my complexion with that of my mother and sister who are fairer than me and wishing I were not so dark. I recall clearly, from my early teens, that nasty remark from a playmate who called me a "coal". He thought he was being funny. The irony? His skin shade was several times darker than mine! I remember my mother telling me that I was beautiful and reminding me to focus on my talents. Still, those were impressionable years and there was an unmet desire to fit into the society's standards of acceptance.

As I grew up, I began to acknowledge my skills with the quiet realization that they had no relevance or relation to my skin pigmentation. I also learned to shove these demons at the far end of the mind whenever they threatened to corrode my confidence. Just as I thought I was fairly successful at accepting myself, I entered the matrimony arena where the colour of your skin took precedence over all your other accomplishments. The unabashed ask of an educated professional yet homely, good-looking and above all a fair-skinned girl for the 95% of the grooms listed was simply disturbing to put it very mildly.

For a condition inflicted largely by the society, it's rather unfair that the individual victims have to undertake the journey towards healing, rather alone. For, even though you might have the support of the immediate family and friends circle, it takes a good deal of effort to build your own resistance and inner strength. Today, I'm no longer impaired by my skin tone. The mirror no longer reflects just a dusky skinned person. I know that I'm worth far more than the outer layer. But, this hasn't come easily.

Moreover, today's incident made me realize that my journey hasn't ended. Even though R might potentially have it easier because all is still well with the dark and handsome theory, I believe the colours of change need to be ushered in. It's an opportunity for me and several others like me to re-set the agenda where the next generation is taught to reject such hand-me-downs thoughts and seek a better world for themselves.

****
This won the crowd favourite at the Yeah Write grid!!!

 


****
Have you had such experiences regarding the skin colour? 
Is your child a victim of colour bias? How did you deal with the subject?




January 20, 2017

When cousins count as siblings


It's rare to have cousins in the same age bracket as you are. Hence, when you do get lucky to have them so, cherish them with all your heart. This, I learned as I grew up with a stream of cousins. The sister and I gravitated, as a natural recourse, to the ones who were closer to our ages. Till date, my fond memories of my childhood are of those unlimited chatter sessions about sundry things that appealed to us at different ages and stages, of the to-and-fro camping in each other's houses during holidays, and of the excitement and anticipation of meetings after a period of lull. Indeed, cousins are truly a treasured species of human relationships.

Ever wondered why cousins fare better than your immediate sibling?

You get the best of both the worlds with cousins. When you're together, there's fun guaranteed. And, when you tire of each other, you can go back to your own houses! You're willing to share and quell the feelings of envy or anger because somewhere you know that these emotions are transient; lasting for only as long as the meet itself. The compromises and adjustments are not permanent; you can have your favourite toy or dress back the minute the cousin(s) leave. There's never the "you always favour him/her" thrown at your own parent. You can simply walk up to the other parent, the aunt or the uncle, and viola, the verdict will most certainly be drawn in your favour! You even get pampered by the cousins' parents. The sibling rivalry gets a breather till you meet next time, so you willingly extend the otherwise rare courtesy and don't mind donning the mantle of magnanimity.

When I see R and S together, it fills me with joy and satisfaction that they would know what it is to grow up with siblings even if they don't have each other's company every waking minute. Fights are rare and few between them. It's another thing that they complement each other very well and can almost read each other's minds when it comes to most things. S, for me, is like a daughter from another mother's womb. And, so is R for my sister. It feels great to have the kids grow up together even if we cannot always stay close by.

I guess it works for the parents too to have cousins as playmates for their kids. They're connected by blood yet not entirely your responsibility too. If a few caveats are met, then quite a win-win, I'd say.

January 6, 2017

Rays of light #BARWoWe




When long periods of night
descend on paths unknown
keep going anyway
It's just a matter of time

Clouds of darkness 
that seem like an eternity
are sent way scurrying
with the first rays of light

In stealth always
daybreaks arrive
Working their way 
slowly first, a simmering fire
to restore faith, they aspire

flushed with passionate rage
Dawn bursts into flames
slaying demonic vestiges
defeating despair

*****


January 3, 2017

Stepping into 2017: the mind seeks!


I sit gazing at the screen of my laptop waiting for words to spill forth. A hundred myriad thoughts are crowding together, none of them coherent. They seem like restless school kids waiting to rush out of the gates with the ring of the closing bell. Which among these will first succeed in bursting the pregnant cloud of emotions, feelings, and introspection, to pour down as steady, restrained rain?

I look around and see happy, hopeful, energetic, determined posts about welcoming 2017. I wonder if I have anything similar to show the world; about my goals, plans, or a new word or resolutions. I realize I have none. Perhaps, it's the hangover of the New Year celebrations that I partake in each year; one that descends on your soul without being inebriated.

Mere words will not suffice to describe how the first day of 2017 dawned for me; soaked in divinity, drenching the fortunate gathering with grace, humility, and hope. Even though the celebrations remain the same each year, there's a new layer added to the experience and the only resolution I make then is to arrive in time every year to receive this benevolent offering and pray to the Almighty to make it happen.

Walking down the familiar lanes of the place where I grew up and lived until I got married seemed like turning the pages of an old picture album. Sepia-tinted, the characters grow older with every turn of the page. As I waited in the park watching R and S prancing about without a care in the world, I was automatically thrown back to the times when I was in their place. The neighbourhood mamas and mamis were the quintessential middle-aged saree-clad/dhoti-clad folks for my tribe then. An age and time that seemed far away from us; one that we were not in a hurry to reach. Today, I was them. Maybe not saree-clad but surely middle-aged. I wondered how did that make me feel. It sounds utterly cliched and fake but time had stood still for me in more ways than one. I was in a relative bubble where I was still the young girl who was perhaps at her parents' after a brief period of separation.

The enormity of age and its vagaries struck me hard as I sat with Amma casually enquiring after our acquaintances. Someone's spouse had passed on while a few I knew were no more. A handful had relocated elsewhere while some others were celebrating the arrival of the grandchildren. Life was coming a full circle. Time and tide waits for none and finally, only the memories would remain.

Trips back home, especially during the year-end, leave me more wistful than ever. And, my family isn't the only reason. The familiarity beckons to me even as I fly back to my own home, the one I have familiarized, created and nourished over the recent years.

As young fledglings, I longed to travel far, assimilate newer and richer experience in love, relationships, and work. However, as I strike off year after year from the calendar, adding those to my age, I sense a longing, for an anchor, a reason, a homecoming moment when I can finally say I've arrived in a true sense. Is it disillusionment from not understanding what exactly I'm after and hence orient myself accordingly or is this what one would call growing mature? I do not know yet.

My word for the year should perhaps be 'seek'.

*****
How has 2017 begun for you all? 

I wish you all a wonderful year, one in which you realize what your dreams are and are also able to sow the seeds to achieve them!