Happy Birthday Zen!

I’ll call her Zen.  That’s because she’s my place of peace. I could be in the middle of the biggest crisis of my life, and two minutes of chatting with her will have gotten me back to my normal self. I think I’ve mentioned her here once. I first met Zen on the day of my engagement. Me and TS were onstage greeting people who’d come, and she walked right up with her Husband N. She had the most gorgeous smile and was easily one of the tallest women of my acquaintance. TS introduced her as one of his best friends. I didn’t get to talk to her much then except for the usual pleasantries, but I made a mental note to ask TS about her.

TS had had a long list of girlfriends before me and I assumed she might have been one of them. I mean her and TS obviously got on like a house on fire and their heights made them perfect for each other. For those of you who don’t know, TS is almost six feet and well built while I’m pretty much five feet and maybe a couple of inches and reed thin. Anyway, I brought up the subject later on and TS laughed and said that she wasn’t one among his girlfriends and that she was just a good friend. I remember blurting out, “Why?”And TS’s shocked expression. I seriously felt they looked good together.

Fast forward to a couple of years after our wedding, Zen came visiting with her family to where me and TS were staying then. We caught up for like half an hour and that was it. I still remember a pic we clicked then. Me in the middle and TS and Zen on either side of me. Even in heels, I look like a midget. All this while, me and Zen were friends on Facebook but that was pretty much the extent of our interaction.

Then my first pregnancy and miscarriage happened and that one loss brought me and Zen closer than ever before. Zen had been through the same and more than anyone else I had in my life then, she knew exactly what I was going through. Not to discount my amazing support system of family and friends then, but no-one understood my guilt and fear then better than she did. We started chatting online and then soon graduated to WhatsApp.

And talking to Zen was a revelation. She was like a part of my soul I didn’t know existed out in the world. We were alike in more ways than I could count and where we didn’t agree, we found we could make our peace and move on. She was one of the most fun, most grounded, most amazing human beings I’d ever met in my life. People say its hard to make friends as adults, but Zen and me got along marvellously.  So much so that the husbands started complaining about the hours we spent bent over our phones. Zen was my rock when I got pregnant with Peanut. She was carrying her daughter Nash in her tummy then so I kind of followed her lead in everything baby related. Now at ages three and three and a half Peanut ad Nash have hardly met but they know each other well from the daily dose of pictures and videos that fly over WhatsApp.

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Zen has a baby boy now as well and her family is complete while I’m still undecided about the expansion plans I have for mine. Anyway, I digress. The point is today Zen turns a year older. As she ages, she’s only getting more graceful, more beautiful and younger at heart. She has  such an amazing spirit, an irrepressible zest for life, an attitude than I wish I could emulate and a soul that spreads happiness wherever she goes.

Today as she turns a year older, I wish for her more of everything in life – joy, happiness, peace, love and laughter. And I hope I will be blessed with her daily presence in my life over the years to come; irrespective of complaints from the husbands. Happy happy birthday Zen. This is the least I can do from miles away. Here’s to many more chats, comparing baby notes and food tips, planning holidays and shopping expeditions, plotting against the husband and plotting for being on the same side of the planet. My life is richer for having known you and I hope its been the same for you too. Happy Birthday my soul sister! Love you to bits!!

 

Universal Music

I am that primordial music- the song of the universe. I am immutable, infallible. I am that from which everything is born and I am that in which everything ultimately ends. I am creation and destruction. I am that which sustains. I am everything and nothing. I was here before time and I will be at the end of time. I am time and yet time cannot limit me. I have no form or shape. I am infinite. I am the ultimate truth. I am what you know and what you don’t. I am those you love and those you hate. I am what you wear and what you consume. I am what you think and speak. I am all the words in all the languages in all the worlds. I am all that you feel and yet I am beyond feelings. I am the male and female and everything beyond and in between. I am all life and yet, I transcend life.

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I am good and evil, light and darkness, yin and yang and yet I am beyond those too. I contain within me what has been, what is and what will be. I am what is manifest and I am what is masked. I define everything and yet I am undefinable. I am the conscious, the subconscious and the unconscious. I am the sound and all the sounds. I am fluid yet unchanging. I am the knowable and the unknowable. Knowing me is to know the universe and everything in it. I have many names, many meanings, many characteristics yet I am bound by none.

I am eternal. I am. Om.

Disclaimer: This is what happens when you read Carl Sagan. Astronomy leads to philosophy leads to musings on existence and life. 

(Image Courtesy: Google Images)

The Balloon Man

The sibling, for all her brusqueness and bravado, is actually a gentle soul whose heart weeps at the sight of the homeless, needy and those less fortunate than her. She is always striving in one way or the other to make their lives better. The fact that she lives in a metro in India that is called the “city of dreams”, and that the city has seen more dreams wither and die than flourish, doesn’t help. The other day, she was taking a break from her studies (the sibling is always studying something or the other), when she looked out the window of her room and spotted a man selling balloons in the pouring rain outside. The time was closing in on midnight, and he had with him two little boys who were getting drenched in the rain as well.

The sibling’s heart bled, and she resolved to buy balloons from the man on her way back from work the next evening. The next day, after an exhausting day at work she stopped by the balloon man and bought three balloons. Each one cost 50 rupees and so her total came up to 150 rupees. She paid him with two 100 rupee notes (or so she thought), and asked for her balance of 50. The man said she had paid him only 100, and he was due another 50 from her. Not to make excuses for the sibling, but a hard, long day at work had taken its toll on her, and she proceeded to argue vehemently with the man and accused him of trying to take advantage of her. He protested that he was telling the truth, and even swore on his children that he wasn’t taking her for a ride. The sibling tossed one scathing remark over her shoulder, paid the 50 he demanded and went home with her balloons.

After her dinner, she opened her wallet for something and realised that the man was right all along. She had indeed given him only 100. Today, as she was recounting the story to me, she was extremely guilty. She said she couldn’t sleep last night and tonight she couldn’t find the man on her way back home. I told her it was ok and that we all make mistakes, and she could apologise to the man when she saw him next. What she told me next, got me thinking. She said, “The worst part is not that I yelled at him or doubted him. The worst part is that, I know if it had been someone well dressed and in a better profession, who had told me I’d given him only 100 and not 200 like I thought, I wouldn’t have doubted him as much.”

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What she said, hit me hard. We are so quick to judge people by their appearance and the jobs they do. We are taught from a very young age, that street vendors usually take advantage of you. So someone like a balloon seller on the street couldn’t possibly be honest, could he? He had to have been lying. And the sibling is usually someone who never judges people by their appearance. She’s the last person to subscribe to stereotypes. She always gives the other person the benefit of the doubt. But that day, even she was quick to jump to conclusions.

We often forget that even the poorest of men can be honest and the richest of men, crooked. Honestly, that seems to be the norm in the world these days. Part of it has to be attributed to the way we have all grown up. We are taught to be wary of people on the street- the homeless, the beggars, the street vendors. We are told that they are dishonest, take advantage of us; that they are not to be trusted, we should help them but not too much. If they are vendors, we should bargain with them or they might cheat us, if they have kids, they might be using them as props to gain sympathy and hence more business.The list is endless, and it is hard to break those years of conditioning. But maybe it is time we did.

In a world where research has proven that better looking people are paid better, and get farther in their careers and what not, let us not forget that appearances aren’t everything. Remember, sometimes a disagreeable exterior can hide a good heart. Lets not be guilty of catering to stereotypes.

(Image courtesy: Colleen Bevacqua, www.betterphoto.com)

Little Things

Yesterday was not a good day for me. Peanut was not feeling good and was crying all day long. Towards evening, I was at a loss as to what to do and asked TS to come home so we could take him to a doctor. Being in a new country for only a few months and not being familiar with the medical system here didn’t help. We finally managed to find a doctor and  although we weren’t prescribed any medicines for Peanut, it was a relief to hear that he would be ok.

Exhausted, emotionally drained and without enough time to cook dinner, me and TS decided to pick something up on the way home. I also wanted to stop by the local supermarket to buy some juice and stuff for Peanut. We went in, Peanut perched on the car  shaped cart and happily “steering”. He still wasn’t back to normal and I was so tired I would have gladly curled up in some aisle and dozed off.

We located everything we wanted and got to the cash counter. I was walking ahead so that as soon the goods were billed and put in grocery bags, I could put everything in the cart and push Peanut out; TS was paying the bill. There was this young man packing my bags and I guess he didn’t notice TS was with me. As soon as he was done packing up everything, he asked me, “Ma’am, do you need any help?”

I swear I just wanted to throw my arms around him and hug him that minute. I almost teared up. I’d had such an awful day and I still wasn’t completely back to being myself and this man, who’d probably been standing there for hours packing grocery bags had almost made me cry with his simple offer t o help. I said no thanks and pointed to TS and said, “I have him, but thank you so much.”

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Maybe staff at the supermarket are trained to ask this to women with kids, maybe they aren’t. I don’t know and I don’t care. He just made me feel a hundred times better by just asking me that simple question. I’m sure he was probably more tired than I was. But the fact that he asked made all the difference.

And that made me realise something. Often in our busy lives, in our pursuit for bigger and better things, we forget the small courtesies like asking someone if they need help or if they’re ok, of holding the door open for someone, or letting someone go first. And its those small little things that make us happy and make us feel human. In a world thats increasingly becoming hostile and cruel, we need those little things to remind us why we are human.

Next time you someone having a hard time, just ask them if they need help. You never know how much better you’ll make them feel. Dear man at the checkout counter, thank you so much for making a poor, harried mom happy and for restoring my faith in humanity.

Little things peeps… Its always the little things…

Image Courtesy: Shuttershock

Calling Mom…

Today, I spoke to my mom properly after ages. My Grandmother passed away recently, and my Mother was busy with the millions of minute yet vital things that usually follow a death. And with visitors, and condolence calls from people, she hardly had time to talk two words to me each time I called. And by each time, I mean every day. Yeah, I’m in my thirties and I speak to my Mother every day. It might be a bit weird, but it is as much a part of my routine as brushing my teeth or my morning cuppa. I have my breakfast, give Peanut his and then I pick up the phone and call her, and proceed to tell her pretty much everything I did the day before, and all my plans for the day. Sometimes it’s a toddler crisis or something else; but I talk to her and instantly feel better and I can sail through the rest of my day.

But since my Grandmother’s death and in the weeks I couldn’t talk to my mom, I realised something- talking to her had become a huge part of my life. And it got me wondering what I would do when she was no longer around for me to talk to. And that honestly made my heart grow cold. I simply cannot imagine her not being around for me to talk her ear off about things as silly as cooking, to as serious as my future plans. I was also having a tough couple of weeks here- there were some issues in the apartment we are living in, and getting them fixed was taking too long. There were alarms going off at all times of the day and night, and it was freaking Peanut out so much that the sight of the maintenance man was enough to send him into a crying frenzy. And since it’s only been a couple of months since we moved to another country, the Peanut is still getting used to a different daily routine. It’s not as easy for us to get out and about where we stay now, and since I don’t yet have my driver’s license, the Peanut finds himself cooped up at home most weekdays and that drives him crazy. Which effectively drives me crazy trying to find ways to keep him occupied.  Stressful to say the least.

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Usually I crib to my mom and she sets me at ease. Just hearing her voice and bantering about nothing in general is enough to make me feel better. But the past few weeks with her out of the picture it was awful. TS was and is bogged down with work and I didn’t want to bother him. One of my best friends is going nuts at home with a toddler and a newborn. Another one just moved houses. Suffice to say, I didn’t have anyone on whom to dump my woes. But then, I don’t think anyone can calm you down like your mother.

Talking to my parents is something that has been a part of my day since I can remember. From nightly sessions around the dinner table where we talked about our days, to long phone calls while my time away at college, its been a ritual that me and the sister still maintain to this day. I remember times during mine and the sister’s college when we would trudge our weary way back to our hostel rooms at 2 am in the morning after classes and Mom would be waiting at the other end for our call. She couldn’t sleep without talking to us. Employment and marriage didn’t change this routine for us. And it stays to this day.

Sometimes I think maybe I depend on her a little too much. That maybe in an age when she should be relaxing and enjoying life, I’m burdening her with my innumerable issues and troubles. Then again, research suggests that nothing busts stress like talking to your mom. Nothing can be more calming than the voice you’ve been hearing since before you were born I guess. And in an age where children are being taught to be independent and on their own probably from the cradle, its nice to have such a connection with your parents. And being a mother myself now, I can only hope the Peanut will grow up to be like me. That he’ll want to talk to me everyday; and not treat calls to his mother like a chore he has to cross of his list every week. Fingers crossed. Till then, let me pick up the phone and talk to my mom about this. 🙂

Image Courtesy: Google Images 

Boredom

Today has not been a good day for me. For one, I woke up late. Which in turn, meant my plans to cook a nice spread for lunch went down the drain. I was still determined not to order in, and so proceeded to whip up some easy dishes for lunch, whereupon I managed to slice two of my fingers open. After mentally cursing myself and bandaging them up, I got back to cooking. TS was heading out and he asked me a couple of times if he needed to stay back, or order something for me and the Peanut. But I was determined to cook, and that was what I was going to do. Yeah, I can be extremely bull headed at times; and for the weirdest of reasons.

TS heaved a dramatic sigh and walked out, leaving me to my own devices and the Peanut. On weekdays, I manage to cook easy meals; and I usually reserve my cooking for the evenings when TS is also home, so I don’t have to handle Peanut all by myself. If at all I cook in the mornings, its something easy like a peas pulao or some vegetable fry that I can manage when the Peanut is splashing away in the tub or playing with his toys. Worst case scenario, I put him in front of the TV or the iPad. But since the past week, I’m on a mission to reduce our reliance on gadgets to keep Peanut occupied, so I was determined not to put him in front of the TV today. Suffice to say, the ensuing three hours were crazy. I was interrupted every ten minutes with some request or the other- Pick up my toy for me. I need water. I am hungry. I need to pee. I want to see what you’re doing. I want a bowl and a spoon to play. I need to pee. Watch me throw the toys all over the living room floor. And now the couch cushions as well. I’ve gotten garlic from the pantry. You can fish the garlic pods from under the couch tomorrow maybe. I need to pee. Watch me spill water on the couch. Oops, accident on the carpet. 

My head was reeling and I was this close to whacking him to keep him from bugging me. I finally had to give in, and plop him in front of the iPad. And through the red haze of my anger, I realised something. I realised I myself was extremely dependent on gadgets. I read on my iPad and the first thing I do in the morning is check my phone. Plus, most of my friends being in different time zones, I’m always on the phone checking and replying to messages. I have thought many a time that I would restrict gadget time to just a few hours a day, but I haven’t been able to manage that. And I realised Peanut was dependant on them too.

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(Image Courtesy: Google Images)

Having just moved to a new city and living in an apartment, Peanut gets to go out very little. And he’s bored at home. I have to depend on gadgets to keep him occupied. But that got me thinking. is being bored so bad? After all I grew up without any of these gadgets. Even my TV time was severely restricted. And if I complained I was bored, I was made to help out at home, or find means to entertain myself. The Peanut does help out at home. I’ve made sure of that from the time he was about two, but when he’s bored, I almost always resort to gadgets. Before Peanut was born I had made up my mind that he wouldn’t be one of those kids who always had their head in some gadget. And till a certain time, I managed that. While I was with my parents, Peanut was never interested in gadgets. But then, I was at home. We had space for him to run around outside. There was birds and bees and butterflies and flowers. We would go to the temple and temple festivals. We would take him to my mother’s and father’s ancestral homes where there was enough and more space for him to run around and play.

Once I was back with TS, the amount of time I got to spend with Peanut dwindled. I was taking care of everything at home and I had no help. We were stuck in a high rise apartment. Peanut got to go out everyday, but he got tired of the slide and the see saw at the play area pretty quickly. Meal times became crazy for me. While back home he would have his lunch watching the neighbourhood cats and dogs and the crows, there was nothing now to hold his attention except the traffic on the road and that got old pretty quickly. After bouts of screaming and tantrums and wheedling, I had to give in and put him in front of the iPad. And so the tradition of eating in front of the gadget started. From then on, it got worse. If he was out and we were eating at a restaurant, he wanted the iPad. If we were out shopping, and he threw a tantrum, only my phone or the iPad would calm him down. If we were out on a long drive, he got bored after a while and demanded a gadget. After a while, it got so bad and so routine, that I would just give it to him before the tantrum started. And unconsciously I was teaching him that being bored was not acceptable. Something had to fill the void all the time. Giving him a gadget was easier for me as well. I didn’t have to try hard to keep him occupied. I didn’t have to think up stories and games and ideas. I didn’t have to clean up messes. I didn’t have to endure glares from people when he threw a tantrum in public. And it also gave me time to do things that I wanted to do- like watch a movie, or read a book, or talk to my friends.

But these days, I’m making an effort to let that not be the case. I’m still dependant on gadgets for his mealtimes and such but I’m also making the effort to spend time with him. To tell him stories I made up, to show him stuff I cook or explain it to him, to do puzzles or read books together, to paint, to actually laugh and play with him when we are at the park and not check my phone then, to not capture everything we do on the phone, to play car games with him or sing along with him to nursery rhymes when we are out on long drives, to put on some music and dance with him, to just chase each other from room to room, to play hide and seek, to stop if I’m using a gadget to actually listen to him when part of my mind is irritated at the interruption. To think of something to do to fill the time when both of us are bored, and annoyed, and not to fall back on some gadget to keep us entertained. The Peanut is hardly three, so some days, things go my way and some days his tantrums and crying get so bad that I give in. But as he gets older, I hope to teach him that being bored is ok. That you needn’t be occupied with something or the other all the time. That sometimes, you can just watch the rain fall or the wind blow, or trace the path of a falling leaf, or watch the trees sway in the wind, or just lie down on the grass and stare at the blue sky, or talk about random things, or ask me a million why’s, to find shapes in the clouds, to count the stars, to try and see the girl in the moon. That sometimes its good for your mind to just be in the moment, and stay still, and take stock of things and maybe even be bored and not do anything at all. Someday…

On Being Invisible

There are days in my life that I feel invisible. I wake up in the morning with my brain swimming with tasks that I have to accomplish, simply because if I don’t, there’s no-one else to do it. And from the minute my feet hit the floor, I cease to be me.

I’m a mother, a wife, a homemaker. I have to wake my child up, make sure he brushes his teeth and has a healthy, well rounded breakfast. If he refuses, I have to find ways to coax him to eat. I have to think of things to make for lunch and dinner and not anything will do. I have to ensure it is healthy and packed full of nutrients a growing boy needs at the same time also considering the fact that TS is on a mission to lose weight so I have to make sure what I make satisfies his requirements as well. I have to dust and vacuum and pick up a million toys. I have to bathe my child and dress him and keep him clean. I have to read to him and teach him new things and sing “Wheels on the bus” for the millionth time.  I have to do endless loads of laundry. I have to call my parents and check on them. I have to keep in touch with my tight circle of friends. I have to make shopping lists. I have to plan out a lunch menu for TS for the coming week. I have to supervise what Peanut is watching on the TV or iPad. I have to take him on a million pee pee and potty trips.

In the midst of all these things that I simply “have” to do in a day; I feel myself dissembling. Like I cease to have an identity. Like I’m just a series of to do lists and nothing more. Like I forget who I am beyond my identities of a wife and a mother and daughter or accomplisher of tasks.

And those are the days I have to remind myself to stop, and take a deep breath, and ground myself. The days when I pick up a book when Peanut naps and really read; not just skim through the ones I know I don’t have to exercise my little grey cells for. Or the days I stop feeling guilty about Peanut spending more time than usual watching rhymes so I can finally pen down a story that has been eating me up from the inside. Or the days when I hand over Peanut to TS as soon as he walks in the door from work, without thinking if I’m burdening him with a little too much. Those days when I cook something that I love to eat as opposed to what will be best for the boys. Those days when I try and tether me a little tighter to myself. Like a reminder to myself that I am much more than those labels that have been pinned to myself willingly or unwillingly. That I am accomplishing things even when my education gathers dust and my brain cells turn geriatric. That I am not just fading into the background of my life, and the things I dreamed of accomplishing when I was a naive teenager are still possible.That maybe, my life is only in limbo now, and that’s not a bad thing. Limbo is just a stage before going on to better things.

So to all those women out there who are like me, who are living their days in a series of to do lists and trying to not lose their identities in the melee, theres still hope. This too shall pass and you’ll all be whatever you dreamed you would be and maybe much much more.

Of Rainbow Babies and Miscarriages

A couple of days back my bff, we’ll call her Zen, posted something about Rainbow babies. For those of you who’re unfamiliar with the term, a Rainbow Baby is a baby born after a miscarriage. My Peanut is a rainbow baby and so is Zen’s firstborn Nash. Actually, although me and Zen were good friends, (Zen is actually a friend of TS. He still complains I stole her form him but that’s material for another post) it was after our mutual losses that we became super close. One thing I noticed during my miscarriage was that, most of the people I talked to, didn’t want to talk about it. Some were dismissive, saying it happened to a lot of people. Some said it was good it happened so early (third month) and not later. Some said its not like I’d had the baby and then lost it. And even some who had experienced a similar loss, didn’t seem to take this as something that required talking about.

I just couldn’t talk about it to a lot of people. Of course a lot of my close friends were very supportive and understanding, and I’ll forever be grateful for that, but for the most part, people were acting like this was something to be avoided at all costs.

And to this day, I find the situation is similar. I had Zen to talk to thankfully, and she understood exactly what I was going through. When one in five pregnancies end in a miscarriage, why do we not talk about it? To be honest, up until I was pregnant and was told by the doctor that I might suffer a miscarriage, I had no idea what it was. I didn’t know of anyone who had been through this. I knew no-one in my immediate family had and even if they had, no-one talked about it. Why? Why do we not have a discussion about it? I only found out after my miscarriage how common this was. And it was only when I was blaming myself for the loss that I found out that it wasn’t my fault; it wasn’t anything that I did. This was just my body’s way of ensuring I only had a perfectly healthy baby. But instead of finding all this out via google, I’d have loved to have been able to talk to someone about it. And even if that didn’t happen, its always nice when your loved ones tell you its all going to be ok. Makes it a lot more easier to believe.

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Also, people just refuse to consider a miscarriage as something that required mourning. Why? Why this apathy to someone who’s been through it? Why so dismissive? Only a person who’s been through that loss understands the raw anguish that accompanies it. For me, my babies were a reality from the moment I found out I was pregnant. In spite of their level of development, they had ten fingers and ten toes and everything as far as I was concerned. And when I lost them, it was very very real to me. Every time I bled, there was a voice in my head reminding me those were my babies dying. My time in the hospital is something I don’t remember much about. I was in so much pain, mentally, that nothing registered. And then were the days after when I went over every minute I was pregnant and wondered what I had done wrong. The tendency to blame yourself and the resulting depression is even worse I tell you. And there’s also the fear if motherhood will ever happen to you. And all this is happening in your mind. It is a time when you need to talk to someone. You need to hear it’s ok. You need for people to listen to your grief. I might sound selfish here but I guess  when you’ve been through a loss its ok to be a little selfish.

I still don’t understand the taboo that comes with miscarriage. I mean when you’re pregnant people have no qualms asking you about your birthing plans or touching your stomach or asking if you’re having a vaginal birth and giving you unwanted advice on whether to breastfeed or not. But when it comes to miscarriage people suddenly go mum. They have nothing to say. They shift awkwardly and look away or mumble an, “I’m sorry”, and change the topic.

When I was going through the pain and loss, I desperately needed to talk to people. Of course, I had my family and TS but more than all that, it was talking to Zen that helped me. It was when she told me, more than a year later, that she was carrying Nash, that I also started believing that I would also be a mother someday. Nash and Peanut were born six months apart, and like we shared our pain and loss, me and Zen shared our joys as well. And now we share our motherhood woes as well.

The point I’m trying to make here is that we need to talk about miscarriage. It isn’t something that needs to be shoved under the carpet or ignored or considered bad luck. It is a real issue, one that needs to be addressed. So all those who’re reading this, if you know someone who’s been through this or if you have someone trying to talk to you about this, just listen to them. You’ll have no idea as to how much you’re helping them.

(image copyright: Google Images)

Starting Over

People say, “start over”, like it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But when you’ve been away from a space for over four years, and another space where you used to scribble for over two, and all you’ve been doing in the interim is jotting down random things on pieces of paper, and rambling about the most mundane things in your journal, starting over seems insurmountable. There are days of self-doubt when you wonder you’ve lost it. That maybe all your creative juices have dried up, or the muse has deserted you. And then there are some days when you believe you still have it and a few sentences float around in your head and you desperately try to pen them down somehow. But most often you are so tired from running around behind a twenty six pound monster who has endless reserves of energy and needs you with him come what may. Ah, the joys of motherhood.

Coming to the task at hand, it has been ages since I left this space but for the past few months I have been feeling the urge to come back here. I’ve effectively shut down the other place I used to write at but since well meaning friends have been pestering me for ages and have even been telling me things like they miss my writing, I’ve made up my mind to turn wordsmith again. I’m a little rusty and my vocabulary isn’t what it used to be since most of what I read these days is Peppa Pig and Little Critter, but I’ll get better hopefully.

So here’s to a comeback and hopefully one that’ll see me here for a long time to come. And here’s hoping to find great things to write about and entertaining the ones who happen to frequent this space with some good writing and to making some good friends. Cheers!

Women and Marriage

IHM’s blog is one that I read regularly. Although I rarely take the time to comment on the issues she writes about, when I read her post and the comments on it today, I simply had to share my views on the subject.  And I thought putting up a post about it would be far better than scribbling in the comments column.

I have been married for three years now. And to this date, I keep hearing about how women are expected to behave once they are married. In fact, I have heard tons about how women or the female species in general are expected to behave- period. Being brought up by a couple of people who taught me  and my sister to be our own person rather than confirm to the norm, I had not thought much about how it would be for me post marriage. I had always had friends telling me about how things would change once I got married. Many of them were brought up to believe that marriage was the be all and end all of their very existence. Not me. I always believed things would be different for me. I got married when I was 23. I had seen my friends getting married and turning into completely different people by then. But I still believed things would be different for me.

I come from Kerala- a state that has record levels of literacy and record levels of gold being given away as dowry every year. A place that in spite of all the progress it boasts about is still extremely conservative when it comes to tradition. When I got married, I had always wanted it to be a low-key affair. That did not happen. I had to give in to my Grandparents pleas and agree to a big fat wedding. But, I chose the guy I married. I had broken a golden rule there you see- good girls don’t find their own guys. You leave it to the parents. I had known TS since I was all of 8. We had been neighbours. We had grown up together. We had been friends. And then we had fallen in love. And I thought since we had known each other for so long, any transition would be smooth. Wrong.

The very day after I got married, I was told to wear a bindi since married women always did. I wanted to laugh but I complied. But then, I wasn’t so much worried. I was only going to be around the family for a week and then me and TS were flying to Singapore. Thankfully, TS is not one of those guys who insist on following tradition. I don’t wear my wedding ring or my mangalsutra. I haven’t worn sindoor except for the week after my wedding. In fact, if you look at me you would see absolutely nothing that would scream “married”  at you. It works for both of us. The first time we came home after our wedding people were shocked to find no sign of a married woman on me. Sure, I was criticised but I have learnt to take it in my stride.

I often get told I don’t look married. Then again, most people don’t believe it when I tell them I’m 26. I look younger than I am, thanks to some awesome genes from my parents. I am short, reed thin and with a little effort, can pass off as a school kid. People expected me to put on weight or change in some way after I got married. I haven’t. Not physically at least. But marriage changed me. I had to become more responsible, more so than TS. I had to quit my job and move to where TS was, something TS could not have done. And society expects no man to do that either. I have friends who have sacrificed their careers for their husbands, for family. I have friends who have put their lives on the back burner for the sake of their husbands or kids. For them, marriage has truly meant the end of freedom in almost every way conceivable. I have friends who have to ask their husbands or in laws permission to come home for functions and festivals. I have friends who have to ask their husbands’ permission before going out to meet with friends. I have friends who call up their husbands to ask permission before they buy something.

And when I look at them, I think how different my life is. I do not have to do any of that with TS. We are more like best friends than a married couple. We both believe that marriage is all about loving and respecting the other person and that is exactly what we do. TS lends me a hand in all household chores. When we both were working he only saw it fair that we both shared everything equally. But this is not set in stone. There are days when I shoulder more and days when he has to do the same. But most of my friends and a majority of my family dislike the fact that I let TS cook, clean, sweep and what not. It has been set in stone in their minds that it is exclusively my forte and TS is not to be dragged into it. They find fault with the fact that some days I tell TS I can’t be bothered to cook and we order in. They find fault with the fact that some days I’d rather sit and read or write than clean the house.

I have always been someone who has tried to do everything perfectly. When I was working I used to work, come back home, cook dinner, read, blog, spend time with TS and sleep. I would do the same and also include cooking, cleaning, washing and ironing to the mix, and manage to go out with TS or our friends. It exhausted me on some days, even with TS’s help but, I loved doing it. And I was proud of the fact that I managed to do all that. But there were people who still grumbled, still thought I wasn’t doing enough. Now, I’m back in India preparing for a couple of exams. TS is all alone in Singapore. When we told people of our decision to stay apart, there were some who vehemently opposed the idea. How would TS manage on his own? Never mind the fact that till we got married, he was managing fine all by himself. But now it was somehow blasphemy to even think of the fact that I would want to pursue my studies and career at the cost of TS getting a hot meal on the table three times a day. Yes I feel bad leaving him behind. That’s because I love him to death. But we both decided that what I am doing now is far more important for the two of us than anything else.

What started as a simple comment has somehow morphed into a full-fledged rant here. What I am trying to say is, people in India still have preconceived notions about how married women are expected to behave. Married women still have to juggle a lot of balls in the air and majority of the women I know try hard to do this. And a large number of women have to lead lives far different from what they expected simply because they got married. And this preconception is precisely why people say someone doesn’t look or act married when they encounter someone who does not fit into the married mold. And that is why most Indian women take that particular statement as a compliment when they hear it.