Posted in close to heart, m@dness

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.”
Shakespeare

When I hear this I often wonder if Shakespeare actually knew what he was talking about…. If you are wondering what am I exactly ranting about then you have to know this story, my story.

When I was born, my mother wanted my name to be unique. She also had other specifications regarding my name. My brother was named Manu, so she wanted my name to be similar to his. She wanted my name to have only 2 letters when written in Malayalam. They tried and tested multiple names and spellings on me. Tried calling me to see if I responded,not that I had a say in all this anyway but till this point in time I am ok with everything…. Now I wonder why exactly she gave this name to me…. I mean did I do something when I was in the cradle prompting her to give me this name????At some bizzare moment, probably I was hungry or irritated or whatever, when my mother called out the name “Madri”, Iwould have responded with an “huh”. So that’s how I was named.

Did it occur to her what her repercussions are. But before that my first question goes to parents all over. How do they decide on the name of their child??? I mean if the child smiled in the cradle, they will name him Santosh. Or if the child was born in the morning then he is Suraj? I am perplexed. Gods name are given to children. But what is the intention?? Is it that the names will help the child turn as virtuous as Gods???? But who am I to question laws of society and nature…. So coming back to my name…. as I said before…. I am not cribbing about this…. I was the only MADRI in my school, college and my workplace. Having a unique name has its perks in the world where there are hajar Priyas, arjuns, Sudhas. I mean if you find say a book with Madri written on it, u would know immediately it is mine. There won’t be a need to research and know which MADRI this book belongs to, coz it only me in the game. But this unique name (I refrain from calling it unusual) also had a flip side as well….

Now whenever I go and introduce myself, the people are amused. This is evident by the broad smile on their face when they hear my name. Some even go to the extent of saying “oh, like the capital of spain?”. now I am stumped. How am I supposed to react to this. “Yes Madrid minus the d” or just give that silly grin and let him/her decide. People have even asked me y my parents didn’t name me madhuri or madhavi, why MADRI?? LIke I had a choice of choosing my name!! Going to college was particularly dreadful for me coz I always thought I would be ragged courtesy my ‘UNIQUE’ name…. How many seniors would get a chance like this. I mean my name actually gives them ragging material on the platter….

But that’s not all…. I went to Barista the other day…. Now at this coffee joint I have to order, then tell my name, pay of course and finally wait for my turn till the guy calls off my name from the list…. So I go to the guy and say ill have a choco frappe and a grilled sandwich…. So he takes the order and asks my name…. I say, “Madri” he says, “excuse me madam…. Could u repeat that…. I heard the name as MADri….” I said, “yes, that’s correct… that’s my name….” you should ve seen the grin on his face when I confirmed my name…. worse comes next…. When my order was done he goes, “MAAAAAAADriiiiiiiiiiiiiiii”…. Now I would like to believe that was because he had to get through to me despite the din around…. There are many such instances…. All through these years I have seen people grin, smile, laugh when I tell my name…. the positive way of looking at it is that I have made people laugh and then I get content with it…. if you meet me and u would come to know that the MADri aspect of my character is not exactly just limited only to my name 🙂

Probably my name is unique, undoubtedly manipulated several times and hard to get the first time. I may even sound mad or act mad at times. People often ask me, if you don’t like your name why u don’t change it…. But then comes my immediate reply, “What’s in a name? That which we call Madri by any other word would mean the same sweet person” wont it????

For those of you who are wondering what exactly my name means, here goes.

In the Mahabharata epic, Madri (Sanskrit: माद्री Mādrī) was a princess of the Madra kingdom and the second wife of Pandu.

On his way to Hastinapur, King Pandu encountered the army of Shalya, King of Madra. Very soon, Pandu and Shalya became friends and Shalya gave his only sister, Madri to Pandu, as a gift of their friendship. Looking at her beauty, Pandu accepted the lady willingly and took her to Hastinapur.She, alongside Kunti, faithfully accompanied Pandu in his hermetical retreat following his abdication as the king of Hastinapura. One day while hunting in the forest, Pandu accidentally shot an arrow killing a hermit. He cursed Pandu saying that he would die alongside the person he lay with. Both Kunti and Madri were directly affected by the curse on Pandu because they were denied the opportunity to lay with Pandu and thus Pandu’s children. However, a boon was given to Kunti which enabled her to call upon any God to bear her a child. She had used this boon once before with the Sun God and thus gave birth to Karna, a child which no one was aware of. After Pandu learns of this boon he begs her to call upon Gods to bear her with children. She call upon Dharma, Vayu, and Indira and she bears YudishtiraBhima, and Arjuna respectively. Pandu asks Kunti to use this boon for Madri, who then bore twins from the twin Gods Ashvins named Nakula and Sahadeva.

One fateful day, Pandu desired Madri and the memory of the curse briefly eluded him. Death struck Pandu immediately. Madri, filled with remorse, self immolated on Pandu’s funeral pyre.

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Posted in close to heart

Having to believe- On beliefs.

All of us believe in something, atleast we believe in ourselves! Most of the times our beliefs are reasonable. We believe in things, ideas, objects etc, etc. For instance , you believe that this life is finite because you see people around die. So it is reasonable to believe that life is finite. You believe the trees are immobile because you see them standing in one place all your life. You believe water is fluid and not solid( when not turned in to ice) because you see it flowing . So beliefs are mostly formed by some experience , generally verified by some proof or other. And most of the times we as humans generate consensuses of these beliefs and we call them truths. Yes sometimes we also tend to see, over time that our beliefs may not always hold true and a new belief is generated.

However not all beliefs can be verified or generate consensus.When you cannot reason these experiences you call them ‘magical’ or ‘mythical’. Does that make this experience untrue? Do you discard these beliefs because you cannot explain to some one that your experience is real?
I call it “having to believe”. Having to believe is a choice you make to believe in something, in spite your reason tells you otherwise. You just ‘choose’ to believe because you want to it be true.

I’ll explain through this story. This is  a  story my mother told me when I was very young. I had no idea why she told me this tale , until recently I understood in its entirety,what she meant.

“One day two girls went to the river side to play.River was located outside the town and girls were generally not allowed to go there. But they were tempted to gather some smooth polished stones that were found in the shallow river bed. So they sneaked out without telling the elders where they were going. They got so carried in gathering stones,that they forgot the time. And it suddenly got dark. The river was located outskirts of village and there was no much habitation on the way. As they realized they were marooned in that place, they were very petrified. To trace the  steps back was impossible because it was not a paved road. 

They dropped all the stones they had collected carefully and stood frozen with fear. Speechless with thoughts crowding each of their minds. By now one of the girls had begun to cry .

Just then they heard a voice in pitch darkness… a thick raspy voice.

“What the hell you two are doing here at this hour” the voice asked in angry tone.

“We were playing and did not realize the time” -said one of the girls in barely audible tone.

“This is not the place to play games ” the voice retorted back in booming voice again.

They tried to orient themselves to the direction the voice was coming, but could see nothing. Nothing at all. They could hear sounds of his sandals, rough leather sandals worn by Shepards in the town. He must have carried a staff because he banged it hard on the ground as he spoke angrily. Staff had some bells that jingled sweetly as he moved the staff.

For a moment there was silence.

Then the voice emerged again.”I will drop you home” . Just keep following the sound of these bells. And if you want to remain alive, do not turn back and look.I mean what I say.Just walk” the Voice boomed in a ruthless command. They had no choice but to follow his command.

The girls hugged each other tight and walked. Walked in that pitch darkness. They kept walking at the sound of the bells and creaking leather shoes. One of the girl’s house came first. So he stopped and asked her to go home. They could see some people moving in far distance . He again warned the other girl not to turn back and look.

 Fear was paramount for the girl, as she walked. All  she could hear was her own  heavy breath. She could not see or hear a thing around. Even the sound of his staff bells had ceased. She kept walking, till she saw her house in the distance. She did not wait for the man to tell her to go home and ran towards the lights that were dimly lit. 

“Where had you been?” her mother admonished her as she saw her running into the house. She said nothing. In fact she spoke nothing to any one for few days. But she was very curious to solve this mystery. The two girls kept this as secret mission and tried to investigate on their own. They knew some man had helped them and wanted to know who he was. They checked out among the farmers in the village who lived outside the village if they had known anyone who had helped the village girls in the night. But no one knew it.

After some days they just gave up their quest.

After sometime they revealed this story to the elders of their house. When they heard story they brushed it as casual event by saying “oh! you just met the village god. he is know for helping people who loose their way!”. 

My mother stopped her tale abruptly. She never explained this tale to me.

She just narrated it and left it for me to accept or reject it. To make my own judgments. But I Know from that day onwards she chose to believe that someone will be always be there for her when she looses her way in  life and she was right. Either it was her mother or later my dad.And if no one was around to help her, she believed in god. SHe believed that god would always be around to protect her!

I believe this is her tale of “having to believe”.
This is her personal myth she lived by.

And now I do too…

Today I just shared it with you.

Posted in close to heart

CUSTODY

Child custody is a legal term  used in Divorce Proceedings to describe the legal and practical relationship between a parent and his or her child, such as the right of the parent to make decisions for the child, and the parent’s duty to care for the child.

“Children from divorced families don’t follow the same rules as regular children — they grow up much faster and have seen insecurity and strife too early in life. You can’t apply the same parameters to them as you can to your own children, who are safe and warm and cherished.”

This is something my divorced friend used to say. She used to say this with quiet sadness and a heavy hearted conviction.

No one knows this better than either a parent who, as an aftermath of separation or divorce, finally takes a look at her children and is shattered to see what the acrimony and dispute has done to them or than Manju Kapur. Divorce is a sad business but saddest for the children of the family who are rent by conflicting loyalties as they see all that is dear and familiar being snatched away and distorted for no fault of theirs.

Manju is a past master in dealing with the concerns of families. Custody is her fifth book after her bestselling books, Difficult Daughters, Home, The Immigrant and A Married Woman.

The tone of Custody is a serious, yet soft. Manju is not judgmental, though you see her getting grim at places, as if she’s biting back her comments behind pursed lips. Though she talks of grand passions, betrayals, heartbreak, extra marital affairs, she remains quiet and tries to be a chronicler rather than a participant in the story that she tells.


Custody is the story of the family of Raman and Shagun and their two children, eight year old Arjun and three year old Roohi. Raman works for a multi-national company, the Brand, that manufactures and distributes soft drinks. The rewards are huge as is the work that is expected. Raman, who belongs to a middle class family, is a bright guy but somewhat dull. He is married to Shagun, who is wondrously beautiful but bored and rather selfish. Still, all is well with the family, until Ashok Khanna, comes in as Raman’s boss at the Brand. Ashok is the human manifestation of the Brand. What he wants, he gets, and if there are obstacles on the way, he simply sweeps them aside or buy them out. This time he wants Shagun, and he gets her.

Shagun, not considering anything but her passion for Ashok, is ready to call off the marriage and asks Raman for a divorce, and that’s when the staid, loving Raman turns into a vengeful person who will do anything to avenge being left for another man.

On the other hand, is Ishita, a young divorcee, who has been heartlessly thrown out of her husband’s home because she is physically incapable of having children. Ishita tries to find some sense of identity in social work with poor children. She and the divorced Raman come together. Now occurs the re-formation of couples. Ishita and Raman; Shagun and Ashok. All settled but for the children, who are pulled apart in ways that are as insidious as they are aggressive.

The first half of the book is devoted to the grown ups and the re-configuration of the couples, the latter part focuses on the ugly custody battle for the children. The little ones have to deal with parents who have changed priorities, changed partners, changed characters even. From being the loved kids of a family, they are changed into pawns on the chessboard of the judicial system, the players of the game being none other than their parents.

Luckily, Manju does not take on a moralising tone, although she is a bit wry in the telling of her tale sometimes. Her forte is middle class Indians and though she is ruthlessly honest, she knows how to tell their story gently. You are left feeling bruised at the way courts treat divorces and custody matters — the man who will not grant a divorce because his ego has been hurt and the woman who is given preference in custody battles by virtue of her gender. You just end up hoping that if (God forbid) you or your loved ones ever have to go through it, it would be a much revamped system!

Manju brings forth the angst that the system engenders when lawyers step in and courts take over. The joy is over and bitterness prevails. The most battered are the children!


The reason that I got captivated was not because I wanted to know the divorce fats and figures inIndiabut because I as a girl could relate to the daughter(Roohi.) Its not long ago that I have faced similar situations (nope my parents are not divorced and it really need not be  like that always). I grew up in a motherless household along with my father, brother and for a while my grandmother (mother’s mother). Obviously it was unlike normal families but my dad made sure he was with me and never made me miss my mother.  So I was a schoolgoing girl and was hardly ever at home: tutions,practices,games etc.

My brother was and has always been closer to my mother’s side than me, dad or anyone else.I have heard that its very hard for children to choose sides,but my brother always choose mom over my dad.  People say my mom had to be blamed. Now, 20 years later I know she was wrong and that my mother had committed a mistake.My grandmom who was not so fond of my dad took advantage of the fact that my dad was working and no one was at home and convinced my super intelligent brother that dad was not a nice man. She gave examples of neighbours and relatives who always used to be around etc. She even told my brother things my mother used to say about dad. I now know how unrealistic my mother’s expectation used to be.  So well, my brother grew up convincong himself that my dad was not nice! I sometimes wonder if he ever used his own brains to understand my dad. Nope!! He never did and still does not.

In the story Arjun ( the son) tries to convince Roohi to go with their mother saying dad is a very bad man etc but she, who is jst 4 years old understands the truth and the reality and who is to blame. She is scared of Arjun but does not let it affect her relation with her dad. Thats what caught me. I have been through the same thing. My brother and my mother’s relatives tried to convince me to go with them just after my mother died. They said he would eventually get married to someone and that they wont look after me etc. I remember looking at my dad who sat silent through all these dialogues and going up and asking him whether any of what they were saying was true and him looking at me and saying I was free to decide whatever I wanted. I looked up at my relatives and said I was never going to leave my dad.

My brother and dad are still very aloof with each other. They come together for the sake of it etc. My dad took care of me for 20 years after my mother died. He still does. He never married again and made sure I was No 1 in his life. We are the best of friends and will always remain that way.

Its very very easy to change children. But sometimes children can see what adults fail to see and understand. I know its true. I just know it.