Posted in close to heart, m@dness

A Place Called Home

“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.”
― Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I stand in front of a structure that used to be my home. It is also the only home I ever had and will have. A million memories come flooding in and I swallow hard so that the people with me do not ask me the reason for my muddled eyes. I do not want to let them into those memories, it is all mine. I walked into “Lotus” the first time, when I was 4 years old. It was summer of 1990 and I was the brat who was running around the house, climbing walls and trees like a monkey. The house was pink in colour back then, living up to it’s name quiet well. There were coconut trees, a mango tree and a rose apple tree and I remember trying to learn to climb the coconut tree and falling and failing hard. The porch used to have a hammock which would be the bedroom when playing “house-house”. The sit out was where amma and ammuma would wait for me to return from school. That’s a post for another day.

I stand in the middle of the room we used to call “drawing room” and trace my finger across the cracks and creases that adorn the walls now. Everything about the house is old now; the walls, the structure, he furniture, the paint, the people and the memories.  In all honesty, I have come to say goodbye to the house and wander amongst the multiple corridors and rooms one last time. The house, with its stark rooms, cleared of all furniture, like a widow who has been stripped off of her finery. I stop as though I heard the hushed conversations of tiny girls. Nah, it was my mind taking me back to the times that my girl gang and I played “dark room”, “house-house  and dressed up Barbie dolls.  From school to college, I don’t think I have a single friend who hasn’t been to my house and cozied up to its warmth like it was their own.

This aged house and its walls, doors and windows have seeped my laughter and tears,  dreams and sorrows; the very fabric of my being. As I tread around, I can almost hear snatches of conversation, peals of laughter. I can almost smell wafts of familiar scents and feel the non-existent furniture; the swing in the pooja room, the easy chair, the sofa set older than me, the hallway whose high beam were filled with books, as though my senses are conspiring, pleading, to will the house, to come alive again.

Nooks and corners of the house stick themselves on to the collage of my memory. The back verandah or “work area” that had 3 doors; “ammini’s bathroom” that had a major role in the conversations that the brother and I had; the stand at the corner of the dining room which held the blue colour tape-recorder on which we used to record songs that we all sung, the IBM washing machine that used to run around,  the double bedroom with the barely noticeable bathroom and the pooja room, which was bursting at the seams with cupboards, suitcases, the easy chair, inverter and all sorts of odds and ends; so that the beds looked like an afterthought. It would seem that each of us; Achan, my brother and I, had left a bit of ourselves there.

The walls of this house have soaked up my laughter and tears, my dreams and fears; held my secrets and the very essence of my childhood. You are special to me and will always be the only place I call home. for within your four walls I will always be a child. You will never know me as an adult. For you, I will always be the tomboy swinging on the gates without a care in the world.

A house is brick and mortar and everything else that goes into its making, but it is also something a lot more. A little like how we are not just our physical body and features, we are also the sum of our thoughts and dreams, our memories and scars. Now, as I walk in and out of the rooms, I imagine the spirit of the house leaving it. I step out to lock the door and hand the keys over. I take a sideward glance as though the cage that was once home to over 30 lovebirds is still there.

As I walk down the lane, barely being able to see a thing, I begin to accept that a moment can mean a thousand different things; indelible impressions can be left on people and places  and I suddenly understand the innate depth of a memory. I know I can’t stop time. I can’t capture light. But I know I would love to delve deeper into my treasure chest of memories.Maybe someday that which we lost to time, will come back to us and remind us of a forgotten past and gift us a smile or a tear maybe.

Home is where the heart is was..

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Posted in close to heart, The Chronicles of A

Gender Inequality Is In Our Head!

My elder one, Ami is turning 4 in a few months and she is one of those Curious George types.  She has to ask at least 50 questions a day and since she is learning to talk in English, it is mostly why, what and how questions. This morning I was teaching her about Gender- Well, Boys and Girls, Male and Female to be precise. Here is a gist of the conversation and then I’ll get to my point:

Me: Ami, Amma(Mother), Ammuma (Grandmother), Suma(Aunt) are all girls or females.

Ami: Okay.

Me: And Acha(Father), Appoopa(Grandfather) and Kochacha are boys, males.

Ami: Ok Amma. So all boys are males and girls are females.

Me: Yes. Yay! High Five!

Ami: But Amma who is a girl? And who is a boy?

Me: Huh. Hmmm Girls have long hair and all that and boys are rough and have short hair.

Ami: Oh! But I am rough and have short hair. SO I am a boy eh?

Me: <Gupling> No Ami. You are a girl and so is Cookie. Let me think and give you an answer to who is a girl and who is a boy ok?

Ami: Ok Amma

Phew!

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She turned back to playing and I was left thinking about the idea we have in our heads about males and females. Why did I say that girls have long hair when I am thinking of chopping away my mane? How can I say boys are rough and tough with short hair when our Babita Kumari and Kiran Bedi are proving us all wrong. That’s when I realised that gender differences and indifference are within us, in our head. It is on us parents to teach our future generation the actual difference instead of just passing on the adage of what has been drilled into our head. Pink for girls, blue for boys. Boys play with cars and trucks, girls play with dolls and brush!And all this blah blah about women representation and reservations need to be shut down!

I was bought up by my dad who donned the role of a mother, just like that. He learnt to cook, tie my hair, listen to girl talk, answer teen queries and every other thing that a mother is “supposed” to do. And me? I used to run around in shorts and tshirts and play with boys, climb trees, ride cycles and do everything except pee on the road! Then why did I reply in that manner to Ami?

It must be the stereotypes that are drilled into our brain from the time we are born. No matter what we do, or where we go or how we are raised, these stereotypes will tag along. And it is not just the information passed on from one generation the other, it’s not just one movie, it’s not just one TV show, it’s constant exposure to the same outdated concepts in the media over and over, starting before preschool and lasting a lifetime! Unfortunately,  gender stereotypes in movies and on TV shows are more than persistent; they’re incredibly effective at teaching kids what the culture expects of boys and girls. What makes these messages stick ,and harder for parents to counteract is that they’re timed for the precise moment in kids’ development when they’re most receptive to their influence. Think of preschoolers who are just beginning to identify as boys or girls. The characters they see on TV and in movies often have an obvious masculine or feminine appearance, such as a superhero’s big muscles(Little Singham, Johny Bravo) or a princess’ (Rapunzel, Anna, Elsa)long hair. These characteristics also are often associated with specific traits.For young audiences who absorb ideas from the media on how to behave and what to become, these characterizations can lead to false assumptions and harmful conclusions.

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Now, kids have this amazing, natural ability to see the world as limitless, but when adults signal that certain things or behaviors are off limits for kids based on their gender, their worlds get smaller and smaller—and that’s not just sad, it can be damaging as well. Obviously, every parent has the best intentions, but sometimes it’s possible to unknowingly promote stereotypes that can fence our children in. Its not just in India, but around the world as well. What is disheartening is to know that. although we have stepped into the 21st century and there are heated discussions about feminism and glass ceilings, there are still very consistent forms of patriarchy all around the world.

So what can I do or what can I say to my girls so that they don’t get caved in and caught up in this ever rolling ball?

Well, at least for the sake of my girls, I’m going to look at it as a window of opportunity to really address these attitudes and beliefs before they become cemented later on. How?

  • There is NO boy toy and girl toy. Girls want to play with a car, so be it!
  • Football and hockey isn’t just played by boys. Go, play!
  • Pink is not just for girls and blue isn’t just for boys.
  • Show my girls the people who have broken stereotypes and marched ahead.
  • Choose books wisely.
  • Chores of the house are divided equally. There is no such thing as a job that acha does or amma does.

We just seem to think of gender as a binary function when we are all non-binary. The age old saying of let boys be boys and girls be girls must really be questioned. And so, off I go to tell little Ami that if you pee on the road, then you are a boy!

Wink Wink.

Someday soon… Hopefully

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Posted in close to heart, The Chronicles of A

Going from One to Two

One of my closest friends is pregnant with her third and another one I know is pregnant with her first. The former can’t remember what month she is on and the latter knows the week and date to the t. And me? Well, I am going from one to two and boy the difference is night and day. I know many articles and blogs have been written about the difference between first and second pregnancies and I will not talk about whats there. This one is for what it has been for me.

Before I start, Ami, my girl, you will always be special. It is not just because you are my first born but because you were my teacher, the reason for me having so many of my “first” and “aha” moments. For teaching me that unconditional love is the purest form of love.

There is something about the first time that is just sort of magical. With us, it was just Ami and me. When Ami was born, I didn’t shed a tear because I was happy to see my friend of nine months finally in my hands! I was filled with an anticipation that will likely remain unmatched for the rest of my life. At every step of those nine months, I knew what week I was at, what fruit size the baby was in my tummy, what were those measurements on the scan report, what to eat, what to avoid, what made the baby uncomfortable, when was the baby most active etc. I would write down the changes each month, make a number of checklists, list of baby names from month 2, had a hospital bag ready by 7th month, thought about what dresses to buy, what to wear and my the list can go on! To cut the long story short, I was too occupied and happy and excited to think about anything else but my baby.

This time, its different. I wouldnt say it is a bad thing but things are very different. From announcing my pregnancy to getting that hospital ready, everything has changed. I have become paranoid! No, I’m certainly not worried about what fruit size my baby is or what week I am on or what my baby is feeling or doing. I am on 33 weeks and I haven’t done any shopping. I haven’t decided a name, I havent thought about anything at all! Checklist you ask? The only checklist I have are all work related! At this pointI’d like to say to you Baby 2, that its not because I dont love you already, it is because I am too worried about your well being! Now, because I know what its like and have been there done that, I know the risks, I know the signs, I know its not a cakewalk. Remember though, that I am like this because I love you to bits already.

Last evening, I spoke with my mommy-of-2 friend because I had to speak to someone who had the experience. I wanted to ensure that I was normal! I have been thinking about what would happen to my family if something was to happen to me? What if something went wrong with me? What is the husband going to do with a 3 year old and a new born and a dog! I mean, he cannot even take care of himself for a day without goofing up! I had never really thought of dying and have never been afraid except for now. The thought had began to affect my sleep, my work and my whole life. I would on some days look at AMi playing and silently shed a tear. My friend said its okay. It happens and its perfectly fine!

This morning, as I woke up and made tea, I realised that even if I didn’t consider myself of any value, those few human beings certainly needed me around. I suddenly felt very wanted. My fears seem to slowly fade away. Today, I live.

So, my advice to the moms going from one to two, take it slow. One day at a time. To feel scared is normal. It just shows you care too much for those human beings that need you. To the first time moms, enjoy while it lasts! Savor every moment, cherish every kick and nibble. This one is special.

See you after I go from one to two 🙂

To my Two,

I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my babies you’ll be.

Amma

 

Posted in close to heart

Love long. Live Longer.

When you are loved, it shows. It does.

It beams and shines bright with the delight of being wanted, of being admired and longed for.Image result for Love
It shows in that swing of your waist, when you are free. It manifests in the song that you hum around.It shows in the way you put your foot forward when you have nowhere in particular to go and everywhere to reach.
It shows in the spirit of your laughter, when you are happy from inside. The mirth that springs through mouth and twinkles through eyes.

It matters when you know you matter that you are loved by the one you love. The glow, the waist, the swing, the spirit, the laughter, the heart. It all becomes a part of one – the Universe, your Universe.

Oh and people who love long, live longer! After all, love is vast and elusive. Much like the Universe or the God. How else can you explain the greatness of human intellect and its incapacity to yet explain it.

Happy Valentines Day! My y’all love long and live longer!

 

Posted in close to heart, m@dness

Note in the mood- 31

 

imageI am the loneliness of the crowd

I am the silence of the talk

I am the dryness of the rain

I am the oneness of the many

I am the softness of the hard

I am the wetness of the dry

I am the happiness of the sad

I am the oneness of the many

I am the solitude of the open

I am the darkness of the light

I am the shallowness of the depth

I am the oneness of many

Coz’ I have been the one among many and many within the one

Posted in close to heart, m@dness

Girlfriends- The Real SoulMates

For oft when on my couch I lie,

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye,

Which is the bliss of solitude.

-William Wordsworth

Quite unlike a normal day, I have a few minutes to spare and I was in the mood for some introspection. Happened to overhear a conversation between 2 college going girls and it bought a rush of memories. The girls were discussing about what to wear to work and what hairdo to adorn to college the next day! I remembered making calls to my bestie asking her what I should wear to the parties, to a function or just to go out. Oh the hours those phone calls used to last! While in school, a minimum of 5 calls after school was a must. The joy and satisfaction was priceless. Conversations would range from normal Wassup to philosophy and life!

Unlike men who never let anything come in between their manfriends and man -time, we women tend to get tied down to a lot of things. Especially after marriage. My bestie and I have been friends for decades. Longevity doesn’t necessarily elicit a deeper friendship but it sure keeps you from having to explain yourself. She knows my story. The ups and downs, the good, bad, ugly. She is my “Remember when” girl.

It’s hard to nurture friendships when you’re busy raising kids. Some days, I don’t have the time or energy. I pick up the phone to call her but something comes up. Despite all this, in some strange way we are connected. There are times when I have received a call just when I needed to speak to her. In my weakest moments  I have noticed that while faith keeps you standing, more than family, friends hold your hand as you slowly move forward. They help you find a new normal, continue checking on you and show love in a million heartfelt ways. And now listening to those girls having fun, I realize the laughter is only part of the story, what comes after the complicated grown-up stuff. And while we certainly need the wonderful men in our lives, for they play a crucial role, too, men simply aren’t designed to understand us like one of our own. Sometimes it takes another woman to intuitively recognize what needs to be done — then do it. Or to sense what needs to be said — then say it. Or to take the thoughts and emotions we don’t voice — and know what to make of them.

Here are the unspoken rules. I want my girl to know..SO…

  1. True girlfriends will tell you the good and the bad stuff. They will also find a way to make you feel OK about both.
  2. Your best friend may have other friends too. Accept it.
  3. We are imperfect people. Your friends will disappoint you. Forgive them even before they as
  4. A lack of phone contact should not breed insecurity, just excitement when you finally do connect.
  5. Don’t be a high maintenance friend, life’s hard enough. Just love well and often
  6. Apologize when you screw up, because you will.
  7. Don’t just say you’re going to pray for her, actually pray, even when she doesn’t ask.
  8. There’s a fine line between sharing information and gossiping. Don’t cross it and ask your friends to do the same.
  9. And lastly, no matter what it takes, catch up once in awhile. It will be worth it!

I hope this acts as a friendly reminder of why girlfriends matter in good times and bad, laughter and tears, and through the highs and lows that reveal who’s with us for the long haul, and who’s willing to share in our suffering so that one day, when we’re laughing together again , there will be a history that makes the laughter sound richer and stirs the curiosity of anyone in earshot.

Call your girlfriend. Now.

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Posted in close to heart

Remembering an Iron Girl

” I was a failure in my personal life.My life is a open book. Everyone loves MGR ,even I did. But I was not accepted in a legal relationship. That made a fire in my mind to make an identity for myself. I would always feel that if my mother was alive in my crucial hours ,my personal life would have been more better than this. But I want to prove that Dr.MGR is my identity. So I entered the politics. An Indian tradition is that a girl is born as a daughter, then a wife and should die as a mother. I couldn’t achieve myself as a wife. But I will definitely die as a mother”.

A lady radiating poise and charm , making the men in general go weak at the knees passed away to the other side. At 11:30 PM on 5th December 2016, the nation or the world at large, lost an icon who had been a sensation in her early years, an encouragement to women all over during her prime and an absolute fighter towards the end. Jayalalitha Jayaram or “Amma” as she was known. The world lost a woman who was a rare concoction of vanity and valour.

Most of my girl pals are dumb and totally ignorant when it comes to politics and political figures. So it kind of surprised me that they were all quite emotionally posting stuff online as the news about Jayalalitha’s death gained momentum. As I read through the posts , i slowly realized that I shared the same sentiment. It wasn’t like I knew her personally or even followed her on any social platform (pun intended). On a serious note, till very recently I was confused between who was who in TN Politics. Of course I had heard about “Amma” from my dad who claims to be a distant relative of MGR who is her, well lets just say mentor. A few years back, i happen to see a video of hers and I started reading up on the person she was. A lot of my perceptions began to change within a few days.

Her first political campaign was called a ‘Cabaret Campaign’. Even for a woman as intelligent and charismatic as Amma with unmatched oratory skills, honour was still considered to reside between the legs.What differentiates her from you and me? Nothing. She was as much a girl as you and I am. I prefer to call her a girl, because when I look back and think of all the discussions and interviews I have seen of hers, she has constantly adorned a sense of innocence, stubbornness and recalcitrance that is more often seen in children than adults.  However, unlike most girls, she made the difficult choices and stuck through them despite almost always being in the wrong place or situation as fate would have it.Well behaved women rarely make history and it wasn’t very different in her case. Broken heart, glass ceilings, slut shamed and every other disgrace and depression that most of us are subjected to. What kept her going in spite of all this was her assertiveness, poise, sense of humor and grit.

The lady was corrupt in the sense that she did amass a lot of wealth but she was also extremely philanthropic. She made sure the people of her state had every item necessary to run a house. She empowered women. She made sure girls were given education. She built hospitals for the poor and she convinced the people of an entire state to elect her as Chief Minister 6 times! Down south, when everyone makes fun of the way we speak English, Amma made sure to give it back to any media person who ridiculed south indians. She spoke impeccable English and her control over 7 languages, stunning the world at large. She was bold, direct, fierce and powerful. What was most important was that none of this had come to her on a silver platter. She took pride in the fact that unlike a lot of people of her generation, she was self made. There are rumours that she was mentored by MGR but a little probe reveals that while it is true that MGR was her political guru, she took centre stage and revolutionized politics in TN with no support. She rose from the ground. It was her impudence and head strong attitude that paved the way for her, politically.

Everyone knows her as the person who silences opposition and who creates sycophants who fall at her feet and worship her. This was the only possible way she could command, consolidate and hold on to the otherwise elusive power. If she was any more cordial than this, she might have as well been an airhostess.

It will be several years, even decades, before another woman can even remotely achieve what she did in nation like India. In a few generations, I hope the tags attached to a woman changes. From “wife”, “mother”, “subtle” and “peaceful” to “brave”, “strong”, “powerful”.  To the woman who didn’t ask to be treated equal to a man, To the lady who was strong enough to stall even death several times. Last but not the least, to the girl who silently addressed millions of girls to not succumb to the ever dominant male society and to keep listening to your heart no  matter what the world says or thinks!. Ms. Jayalalithaa may your soul rest in peace. You will always be second to none. Thank you. God Speed.

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 This one if for the girl in you. Hope you listen from up above.