When You Lose Someone…..

It has been months since I have opened this page. The last time I was here, I was a totally different person. Now, I’m changed. If you ask me how, I might not be able to give you a coherent answer. You might wonder what could possibly have happened to change someone so soon and so much. I have only one word- loss. Isn’t that what always puts things in perspective for us? Not that it gives you answers that are black and white, but still somehow things seem more clearer- like the fog has thinned a bit and you can make out faint shapes somewhere. In the past few months, I thought about writing what I am writing here a million times but each time, I felt that the time was not right. Each time, something held me back. This is one place where I can say whatever I want to say under the cloak of anonymity and not worry about the consequences. I have always liked the idea of putting something out here and hoping someone somewhere reads it and finds a connection to what I have written- however tenuous it might be. I have another space where I write but people know me there and I couldn’t possibly write there what I am sharing here. I don’t know why, but it just doesn’t seem right. Anyway, I digress. I am here to explain my absence- not tell you why I write.

You see, I lost someone. Actually, I lost two people. One fine day I was pregnant with twins and on top of the world and the next I had to sit and listen as the doctor calmly explained to me that my babies had no heartbeat and that they were slowly dying inside me. I had been ecstatic when I got pregnant. I had been over the moon when the doctor told me I was carrying not one but two little ones inside of me. I had been so very careful- eating right, watching the way I walk, the way I sat, the way I slept. I had been careful to not get into crowded buses or trains. I had eaten stuff that I had previously found repugnant. I had taken my pre natal vitamins on time. TS had been extremely attentive and not let me do anything. I had done everything I could and yet after two and a half months of being pregnant, on the day of my ten week scan, my doctor told me that my babies weren’t growing as expected. One of them didn’t have a heartbeat and the other’s heartbeat was so faint it was almost impossible to detect. She said maybe my body wasn’t producing enough of the necessary hormones. She said we could wait for a few days and see. She asked me to stay off my feet for a few days. I didn’t care what I had to do. I only wanted my babies to be ok. She said there was almost no chance for one of them at least. I didn’t know what to say or think or even feel. Was I supposed to mourn for the baby I was sure to lose or pray for the one I might be lucky enough to hold in my arms?

As me and TS trudged home that day, we both were deathly quiet. A few days after that I went in for a detailed scan as per the doctor’s orders. And that was to be the worst day of my life. I was still holding on to the hope that one of them would make it. I had been positive, trying not to entertain the myriad of morbid thoughts that insisted on popping up in my mind. I stayed positive even as the technician prepped me for the scan. I stayed positive even when she started her exam. But the minute the words “I’m sorry” were out of her mouth, I knew it was all over. She told me my babies were both gone- no heartbeat, nothing. She said my body had already started preparing for a miscarriage. The signs were all there. She called it a hematoma. I could only think of it as death. I felt numb. I had to come out and look at TS’s hopeful face and tell him our babies were gone. I had to see him struggle with his emotions for a minute before he found his voice to console me. I could feel my blood run cold, feel my heart go numb. I had to sit and wait for one interminable hour for the reports. I had to sit in the cab on the ride to the doctor’s office, sit in her room and listen to her telling me it was all over, there was nothing more we could have done. I listened and nodded mutely as she told me we would wait for a couple of weeks and see if a natural miscarriage would happen. If it didn’t, we would have to schedule a procedure. I listened as she told me that it was not my fault, that there was nothing wrong with me or anything I did. She said it was my body’s way of ensuring that I had only a perfectly healthy baby. All I could do was sit and nod. I had to go home and break the news to my Mom who had come down to take care of her pregnant daughter. I had to see her masking her tears for my sake.

The next few days were absolute hell. I couldn’t cry. My Mom and TS both hoped I would, but I couldn’t. I had to stop going to work. I would wake up everyday morning expecting the bleeding to start and there would be nothing. I had to fight down the thought that I was carrying my dead babies inside of me. I had to fight the urge to blame my traitorous body everyday. I had to fight the urge to go over every day that I was pregnant and wonder what I had done wrong. I had to fight the urge to look at the ultrasound images I had and wonder what my babies would have looked like. I watched mindless soaps from morning to evening. I tried to smile and entertain my Mom. I tried to stay happy for TS. I knew it wasn’t easy for any of them. But most of all, I had to try and make sense of the pain that was with me all the time. When my miscarriage actually began, I thought the pain would be the worst part of it. I was wrong. It was the tought that what my body was expelling was tiny little pieces of what would have been my babies that tore at my heart. Not that the pain wasn’t excruciating. I don’t know if labour is this bad, but I would call it labour without a baby at the end.

And if that was to be the end of it, I was wrong. My body cheated me yet again. It didn’t do a good job of the miscarriage either. I had to get a procedure done. By then, I was soo numb that I didn’t care what was coming my way next. I went in, got it done, and came out. And all the while I was at the hospital, I was surrounded by happy pregnant women and ecstatic new parents. I tried not to feel jealous but if I say I didn’t, I would be lying. I did. I wondered why I had to go through so much pain and so many others did not. I wondered why God had chosen me to be the recipient of so much agony and not anyone else. But after I was home, sanity set in. I realized there were millions around me who were going through the same. I realized there were people who watched their kids grow up happy and healthy for years and then in one cursed instant they were gone. I realized maybe my predicament wasn’t that bad, that maybe my pain wasn’t as deep as some others’ were. I didn’t have to watch my kids growing up, I had only just started dreaming about how life with them would be like. I didn’t know how they looked like. I had only started wondering if they would be little boys or little girls. I had only started wondering about baby names. I had only started to wonder what they would become once they grew up. And yet I didn’t know how to explain or make sense of my grief. I could not even begin to imagine how someone who had been through all this would feel about losing their kid. I still cannot.

In spite of all the sense I tried to make myself believe in, it was still hard getting over it. I couldn’t cry for weeks. I couldn’t look at a baby and not feel a sense of loss. I was blessed to have my family and TS with me, to get me through those dark days. They helped me through the blame and the self loathing and anger. TS was my rock, to say the least. He did not shed a single tear- not even when I accused him of not loving the babies as much as I did. He held me the night I cried and rocked me to sleep. That was the only night I cried. After that, it has been a battle to put it past me and move on. I had a bunch of great friends who held my hand through the whole process. I had friends who had kids but understood my need not to hear about them and always kept the conversation on other topics. I had friends who had been through the same and told me they understood. I also had friends who were insensitive- who in spite of knowing what I had been through kept telling me about their kids. I don’t hate them for it. I just hope they had shown a bit more consideration. And in the past few months, somehow the pain has become easier to carry around. TS ย and my family tell me I have changed. I know I have. I still don’t know if its for the best or worst. I try to look at the bright side of things and move on. I know this happens to millions of people around the world. But that doesn’t make my pain any less does it?

I am moving on- slowly. Now, I don’t feel bad. I don’t blame myself. I can look at the ultrasound images without my eyes misting over. I can look at kids and not wonder why God took mine away. I still wonder what my kids would have looked like. I still wonder if the names I had in mind would have suited them. I still battle with the negativity that clouds my heart sometimes. But I am moving forward. I know someday I’ll be able to wake up and not think about what is missing from ย my life, and even if I do, I will be able to do so without the faintest tinge of sorrow or regret. Until then, all I have left are a handful of lovely memories. the sound of a faint heartbeat and a few ultrasound images…

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Encyclopedia Issues..

Its been a while since I devoted my time and energies to this space. It has a lot to do with a little something called “bloggers block”. Add to that my innate laziness and there you have it- no posts for quite some time. I have been thinking of millions of things to write about but somehow all my chains of thought ended in roadblocks. My mind seemed unable to process anything. And today as I was bugging TS, asking him for some topics to write about or some inspiration, he said, try googling for topics. And then that tiny little lightbulb in my head glowed brightly and I had a topic!!

This is an era when people say Google is God and I have to admit rightly so. I am a victim of this Google syndrome, if you can call it that. It’s where people say “when in doubt, Google”. And that is something I live by. I google anything and everything. When I hear or read about something that I’m not familiar with. Like a new work, or an ingredient in a recipe which I have never heard of before or when I’m watching “Are you smarter than a 5th grader?” and have to find the answer to something or need to confirm if the answer I have in mind is the right one. I google when TS watches some movie and I need to know the story or when he is in raptures about some pathbreaking technology and my curiosity is piqued enough for me to google it.

I google voraciously before I am off on a holiday. I try to find out everything there is and more about the places we are visiting. I also read through Wikitravel and the normal Wikipedia page and find everything from the climate and population of the area to cuisine and tourist spots. I even find out what insects are there at certain places and what precautions you need to cake. Am terrified of creepy crawlies in case you didn’t guess by now but that’s fodder for another post. So, to sum it up, I’m a compulsive googler. And today when he mentioned googling for topics, it triggered a memory in my head of a little something called an encyclopedia. No, not the CD/DVD version of it but the original encyclopedia. Remember the Encyclopedia Britannica and World Book series that used to be the staple in our school libraries? The ones you ran to every time you had a project coming up or some research work to be done.

I had an encyclopedia set at home. No, not the huge 12- 13 volume ones, but a smaller 4-6 volume version published by Reader’s Digest. It was not the most perfect or most complete version but, it was good enough for some quick reference. Now. this Reader’s Digest version was available only to people who had subscribed to the magazine and the version I had at home was a real old one, published sometime in the late 50’s or early 60’s. Its something that my Dad’s dad had bought when my Dad was in school. And when I inherited it, it was still in mint condition. The gilt edges had faded a little, the pages were yellowing but other than that, everything was fine. That set was a constant companion through my school days. Every time I was in doubt about a topic, or stuck with an unfamiliar word, it was that set that I turned to and it always saved me. It was from that set I learnt about Greek and Roman civilizations and culture. It was that set that taught me all about words and their origins. It was that set that helped me out when I had projects to complete.

But once I was in high school. the set I had proved inadequate. And since we didn’t have a computer at home back then, I had to depend on the Encyclopedia Britannica and World Book series at school and the set that had once served me faithfully was forgotten. Then came the era of the computer and everything was available online. It was Ask Jeeves and dogpile and all first and then I got hooked to google and wiki. And to this day, that is where I turn to when I’m in doubt. But today, when TS mentioned googling, I thought of my old Man Friday. And truth be told, sometimes I miss those days. Today, everything is available at your fingertips. All it takes is a few seconds to input what you like. Back then you had to know how to look up stuff in an encyclopedia. Flip through pages or go to the index and find out. The whole process would take a few minutes but the joy when you found what you wanted was amazing. And I think I took pleasure in the entire process rather than just finding the required information. The same was the case with my dictionary.

Today, all that is lost. Even my little cousins and nephews who are barely 4-5 years old mention google when they want to find something. It has become so ubiquitous with searching that kids almost don’t know what a dictionary is or an encyclopedia is except maybe a couple of words that are really hard to spell. I can still recall flipping through the yellowed pages of that set of books, trying to find some answers, opening it and smelling in the old smell, my Grandfather;s handwriting in the front, the faded royal blue ink that he almost always used, I can imagine him sitting at his desk and scratching his name on the brand new book with his favourite pen. I wonder if my kids will ever experience things like these.

TV Woes?

Every day evening, once I get back home from work, I get into my kitchen to cook up something to quieten my growling tummy. And since my apartment is on the tenth floor, and my kitchen has huge windows, I’m afforded a clear view of all the apartments across mine. And the one thing that I always notice without fail, is the presence of the TV (yes, I can see into their living rooms) in their homes, invariably turned on. Now, don’t mistake me for a voyeur. I am far from that but this one phenomenon is something that is rampant in every single home I can see. People do their cooking, eating, putting clothes out to dry and what not while always keeping an eye on the TV. I have never seen a family having dinner together around the dinner table with lots of laughter and talking surrounding them. If it is there, its from some TV show for sure.

I am no saint. I have a TV at home too and it is normal for me to have it on in the background while I am cooking or going about my daily chores. But it is more out of a necessity to have some noise around the house than to watch something on the TV. There was a time in my life when I used to be addicted to the television. When I was in school and college, I would come home and plonk myself in front of the TV and watch for hours on end till Mom came out and yelled at me to get my ass off the couch or I realized it was time for Dad to get home. It was like this insatiable craving back then. No amount of time in front of the TV was ever enough. And it was not like I would watch a few shows consistently. No siree. I would flip through channels and watch whatever caught my fancy for a bit before moving on. During college days, most of my TV watching was restricted to MTV and Channel V and sundry other local channels that catered to one’s appetite for anything and everything filmy.

Back then, I guess, it was the cool thing to do. To watch the latest movie songs and trailers and critique SRK’s looks or gossip about some new actress who had just acted in her debut movie. It was cool to discuss movie dialogues and locales and clothes and what not. The next best thing was English movies. So we watched Star Movies and HBO and sometimes Star World to educate oneself on everything Hollywood and hence translated to something that was even cooler. Then postgraduation happened and time spent in front of the box was significantly curtailed, rather, it became non- existent. One never had the time to indulge in such frivolous pastimes. There were other more important things to pay attention to- like classes and projects and business fests.

Even then, all this, in no way interfered with the amount of time devoted to the television once one was home. Then it was essential to pay homage to this marvel one had missed so much during one’s time at college. And to be honest, my postgraduate days was when I watched the maximum number of movies. Someone would get their hands on a stash of movies and it would be passed on from one portable hard disk to another at the speed of light. Plus, the city we were residing in back then had a thriving pirated CD business. So we were always up to date on all the latest movies. But TV was still missed.

Once I started working, TV became a habit again. I was living with a bunch of other girls. Most of them never watched anything remotely related to Hollywood. So, I had to sacrifice English movies and shows and fall in with the majority choice of everything Bollywood. There were a lot of Tamil and Malayalam and even Kannada stuff thrown into the mix. But then, TV was more like background noise. Someone would switch it on in the morning which meant that when I woke up the TV would already be on. And late night someone would switch it off when whatever they were watching was over. There were even some nights when people fell asleep in front of the TV and it would go on playing till the wee hours of the next day when someone spotted it and turned it off. And with the pressure of work and deadlines and travelling and the tiredness that completely took over me at the end of the day, I hardly had time for TV.

After I got married and moved cities, it was a totally different story. I was not working and TS would leave for work early. I would fill my days with my usual household chores and then some reading and other creative pursuits. But after a while the whole house would be eerily quiet and lonely and I would start to fidget. And to get over the quiet and the boredom that assailed me, I would switch on the TV. Those days I would do everything in front of it. Eat, sleep, read, draw, paint, cook- everything. And it would stay on till TS was home. And so, the TV was part of my daily routine once again. But then I had long stopped watching MTV and stuff and watched more of Star Movies and Star World and AXN and what not. I detested my dependence on the box, but my routine left me no other choice.

Then, I got a job and things changed. The box became something that was dispensable, sometimes even forgotten. We were both busy. We both had things to keep us busy. We had lesser time to spend with each other than before and so we started talking more and watching something we both liked together on our laptop. But even that was rare. Normally, we would just sit and talk. The TV would hardly be switched on, even on weekends. We went out for walks and to parks and other places. We talked. I read. TS went out taking pictures. I blogged. TS was busy editing pictures and slowly, the TV started fading into the background of our lives. And today, that’s the status. I do watch TV some days, when I find some show I want to watch like CSI or Criminal Minds. Some days I don’t switch it on at all. I turn to the TV only when I’m doing my chores and want some noise in the background. Else, I prefer to read or blog or blog hop or put my time to better use. And we both enjoy our time together much better now. The TV no longer dominates. It no longer interferes with conversation or a good meal or “cuddle time”. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It is there and I do watch it occasionally but, it does not dictate or take over my day as it used to.

What are your TV habits like?

I love big bags and I cannot lie.. ;)

I love big bags. You know, the kinds where you can stuff a person in there and still have place for some odds and ends? That kind. I cannot stand the teeny tiny barely there kinds. I need the space. And if you are wondering for what, you’ll be in for a loong list of things I simply must carry around with me wherever I go. I have always been someone who carries around a lot of stuff. I have everything from my water bottle to a book in my bag. And often times, I have to dive into the depths of my bag to find something urgently. Right from when I was in college, when I first divested myself of bulky schoolbags and rejoiced at the thought of carrying around proper ladylike bags, I have been a fan of the big ones.

Initially, it was because the big ones allowed me to carry my lunch, my bunch of books and my library books, my wallet, umbrella and everything else that I needed. Then, I guess I started getting used to carrying around the big ones. I did try a lot of times to buy the smaller ones that would let me carry enough stuff, or rather the stuff I needed but I just couldn’t kick the habit of the big bag. Every time I went bag shopping my eyes would be drawn to the bigger onesย  and I would end up buying one of them. I would have all kinds of stuff in my bag. You name it, I would have it. When I was in college it was- books, library books, umbrella, lunch, water bottle, wallet, hairbrush, deo, gum, pens, library cards, bus concession cards, safety pins, other girl stuff, mobile, loads of loose change, painkillers, my glasses, receipts, bus tickets and other odds and ends. It would amaze me, the amount of stuff that I could accumulate in the depths of that bag. I would clear it out once in a while and sometimes find the odd hundred rupee note or something I thought I had lost.

When I started my postgraduate studies, things were a little easier. I had lesser stuff to carry but my fetish for huge bags still reigned supreme. And I had oodles of stuff in my bag this time around too. Although I didn’t have to carry lunch or water or anything with me, I still had books and case studies, photocopies of notes, thumb drive, laptop, earphones, lip balm and on the occasionally chilly evenings, a sweatshirt too. It was almost criminal to have such a big bag and not have enough stuff to put into it. That was my philosophy back then I guess. Oh! and before I forget, I always had chocolate in my bag. Always. I still do.

Once I started working, I had to downgrade to a smaller bag. Not because I wanted to but because travelling in a local bus in a place like Chennai is like going to war.You end up fighting to get in and fighting to stand or sit and fighting to get out. A bigger bag meant more energy spent in getting in and out and really sore muscles in your neck. So out went in the big bag and in came the medium-sized bag. Even then, I had a lot of stuff in my bag- a book was a constant and so was an umbrella. Now I had sunscreen also to boot (else the Chennai sun would burn you to cinder). Some days I would have my lunch, I had my day planner, pens, loose change as always, phone and charger, earphones, everything from house keys to ATM cards and what not. But I still loved big bags and I missed them.

It was only after I got married and shifted base and started working here, that the TS was acquainted with my fetish for these huge contraptions. Poor TS had the misconception that I was a sane one till then. When he found out this disease of mine, he was flabbergasted. He couldn’t, for the life of him, understand why someone as tiny as me needed such a big bag. Now TS is someone who is as minimalistic as they come. If he could go to work carrying just his wallet and his cellphone he would. And he just refused to buy it when I told him everything in my bag was stuff I needed. TS decided to do something about this habit of mine and so one day, right after I got back home from work, he dumped all the contents of my bag on the couch and went through them. And then he passed his judgement. I carried around a whole load of crap he said. I carried around books I would never read (I cannot read while on the move). I carried around receipts for stuff I bought months ago. I carried around too much office stuff.

TS declared that I should promptly discard all my huge bags and get myself a couple of smallish ones. I refused. There was much sulking and many a tantrum at the end of which TS won. I had to give up my huge ones and switch to small ones where I now can stuff only my lunch and water, telephone charger, deo, hairbrush, ipod, a few meds and a lip balm. That’s it. All receipts I get are to be discarded within a week. I am not allowed to carry around heavy books that I will never read anyways. I am not to carry around the bulky umbrella I had. It has been replaced with a lighter version. I don’t carry too much loose change. Just enough for my daily snacks and stuff. The rest are in notes or I pay by card. My bag is considerably lighter these days although TS and my Mom still grumble I can make do without a few things. But I put my foot down and said no more downgrading. I am sticking to the bags I have now. Although I still miss my big ones. These days they come out of the closet only on my monthly visit to the library.

What kind of bags do you carry around?

Handwriting Woes…

The other day, as I was jotting something down for someone at work, I realized that my handwriting looked abominable. It was like someone had taken a mass of spaghetti and twirled it around in random patterns on a slip of paper. And I was shocked. For someone like me, who had won calligraphy contests at school and whose notebooks were considered prized possessions by teachers, to being reduced to a stage where even I couldn’t recognize my own writing was downright painful, to say the least. I remember my school days when I was so particular about my writing and would take special care to keep my books neat and tidy. I would write reams and reams of cursive in an attempt to improve my handwriting and sometimes I would even tear out pages from my notebook and write all over again if I had to cross out something or if my writing looks shoddy.

To be reduced to someone who can’t even figure out her own writing is a sad state to be in. And I have to say, I blame technology for this. Back then, you had to write everything down. You had computers and stuff but they weren’t as affordable as they are now and it definitely was not a priority for my family. So we wrote. In notebooks and margins of textbooks and “copy” books and record books. We scribbled in journals and planners. We wrote little notes on scraps of paper. We vied with each other to own the best quality pens available, because obviously, a better pen meant better and neater writing. We had calligraphy contests in school. We had teachers checking our books and giving us stars for good handwriting. And a good handwriting was a must especially when you were writing exams. Your writing had to be legible or the teacher would not even bother to read your answers.

We also wrote letters in those days. My Mom and Dad would make us write to our friends and relatives- both in English and our vernacular. We were taught to write in a straight line on unruled paper. We were taught to draw margins properly and we were taught good spelling too as a result. I still have a collection of letters and greeting cards from my friends and relatives. I still treasure those. They somehow hold more memories for me than e- cards and FB updates. I still remember the trouble we took to make cards for friends and family for their birthdays and other special occasions like friendship days. I remember the tons of diaries I have back home which show the evolution of a kiddish 10-year-old to a suave and smart 23-year-old. ๐Ÿ™‚ But I have to say my writing took a hit when I joined for my postgraduation That was when the era of Powerpoint presentations and word documents and pdf submissions and printed notes started. We had hardly any writing to do in class. But we did suffer during exams ‘cos then we had to reproduce what we had learnt on paper. It was hard to even hold a pen when you were so not used to it and I remember many an exam after which me and many of my friends would come out fingers all cramped up after 3 hours of non stop writing.

Employment only further destroyed what little bit of hold I had over my handwriting. All our work was done on the computer and not even once did a pen come in handy. We used it only when we were required to sign some random document and that was it. And so my writing pretty much disappeared completely. Friends were always a call or an sms away. There was no need to write letters any more, we had e- mail. Birthdays were wished on Facebook or if it was closer friend through a call. Sometimes we sent e- cards. We blogged and tweeted and slowly but surely lost whatever little connection we had with a pen and paper.

These days, I do try to scribble in journals when I get time. But blogging and FB updates and Twitter and the millions of other social networking platforms- some of them that grant you a virtual cloak of invisibility, have ensured that the tradition of journals are slowly dying out. And since my scribblings are few and far between and I spend most of my days and nights tapping away on a laptop, my handwriting has been grossly neglected. And I regret that. I hate losing something that is so much a part of me and my character. I hate being reduced to wondering how my writing looked like and looking at old notebooks and diaries and gushing over how good my writing used to be. I want to get back my writing- the good one, the one that was rightfully mine before technology came swooping down and made off with it. And so, I am going to start writing in my journal and my notebooks more often from now. I know it’s going to be hard to find the time to actually do that, considering I have a million other things that take up my time in a normal day. But I’m going to try. And I’m starting today. Care to take a pledge to write more? ๐Ÿ™‚

Missing Women?

I came across an article on Yahoo! India today, that said that women in some villages are forced to marry more than one person from the same family due to a shortage of women. Some of them end up being married to 4-5 brothers in the same family. I had come across a similar article a long while back in India Today. I think I was in school then. The presence of this article on the site today, shows that the situation has gone from bad to worse. This horrifying scenario can be pretty much attributed to one single factor- female foeticide. Girls are simply not being born to keep up with the number of men, and society has to resort to such measures to keep their families moving forward. I find this concept, horrifying, disgusting and more than that frightening.

These families justify their stance saying that a single wife in the family will ensure that their property will not be divided among many households and some such drivel. But just imagine the plight of the woman. Lets think about why a situation like this has emerged. Since the institution of dowry started, there has been a steady decline in the number of the female half of the population. Leave alone villages, even in metros, parents consider a son as a blessing- someone who can earn and take care of them in their old age. Whereas a daughter is always a burden- someone you bring up only to get her married off, with a sizeable dowry to ensure she stays alive, and if at all she happens to be employed, the minute she is married her in-laws will have more claim on her salary than her own parents. There is no guarantee that her parents will be taken care of. And among some staunch Hindu’s, there’s the belief that only a son performing the last rites will ensure moksha for them. To this day, I hear people repeating this. And if a couple is not blessed with a son, in spite of having daughters, it is always a nephew who gets to do the last rites.

I digress. Daughters are a burden- in addition to the hefty dowry and the money “wasted” in educating them, there is also the angle of safety. Who in their right mind would want a daughter in a society where abuse starts right from the hospital bed where the girl is born? Sometimes, in spite of all the safety you can provide a daughter, tragedy still strikes. And that kind of “disgrace” is the worst kind- it doesn’t matter if it was for no fault of the girl. She will still be blamed. Sometimes, even I feel scared when I think of having a little baby girl. What guarantee is there that I will be able to protect her in this society? There are none. She could be assaulted, raped, shot, killed, have acid thrown on her face- disgraced in every way possible from the minute she is born. A son, on the most part, needs no such taking care of, no such protection. So why not avoid the headache and have a son instead of a daughter. Sex selection and foetal sex determination are banned in India. Yet, it happens. The rich decide to get the pregnancy terminated, while the poor, who often have no access to such facilities usually wait until the kid has been born to take action. The number of cases (reported & unreported) of female foetuses being killed, girls being abandoned minutes after birth and even killing of the girl child has shot up drastically. And recently, I read about a motion to legalize sex determination in our country. That will be the end, I tell you. We might as well be heading towards an all male society. Women will become a scarce resource soon.

The article I read today also mentioned that for most poor villagers with daughters, this scenario was a boon. Their daughters are a scarce resource, and they have the power to bargain now. In olden days, the guy’s family had all the power when it came to a wedding and the dowry demanded was often hefty, something that a poor farmer could never be able to afford. Now the tables are turned. Women are in short supply and so, their parents have the power to bargain. They see this as a golden opportunity to get their daughters married off sans dowry. In some parts of India, the situation is so dire, grooms families are paying the brides parents to give them their daughters in marriage. And for these parents, the fact that their daughter could be married to 3-4 men does not matter. They are simply getting rid of a headache. Simple. And does this situation teach these people anything? No. Am sure once the woman is married off, to one or all the brothers in a family, she will still be under pressure to produce a son. And the vicious cycle continues.

For the rich, educated class of society, dowry is still one of the reasons most prefer to have a son rather than a daughter.After all they have to give their daughter enough depending on their social standing. For some it is a matter of passing on the family business etc onto the “responsible shoulders” of a son. For some it is all about having someone to carry the family name forward, since the daughter is always “paraya dhan”. For some it is about the security of having someone stay with them and take care of them in their old age. The reason and excuses abound but, the fact remains, that these excuses make no sense. All these are non- issues if you make up your mind about it. If you decide not to give dowry, then it ceases to become an issue. It is as simple as that. Somehow people fail to see that. Some are scared that without dowry their daughters will be ill-treated in their in-laws place. It is a legitimate fear, I agree. We hear and read about these issues on a daily basis. But a hefty dowry again, does not ensure a daughter’s happiness. She could be tortured in spite of it. There is never any guarantee.

And thus the male: female ratio keeps dwindling. In spite of the best efforts of the government and various other non- profit and non- governmental organizations, the situation has scarcely improved. The numbers have steadily fallen and one sees no signs of it improving anytime soon. Something needs to be done to change this mindset of people. The government has to crackdown hard on anti- female practices and policies. The time for surveys and studies and declarations are over. This is not the time for false promises or fake declarations to implement suggestions. This is the time for action. This is the time to come down hard on stupid rituals and policies that make a girl unwanted and unloved. This is the time to effect a massive change in society. Lets all pray before it’s too late. Else, am sure the day is not far off, when “women” will be a category on India’s list of imports.

Tea or Coffee??

Every person has his/ her personal brand of poison, something they simply cannot do without in the course of a normal day. For some, its nicotine, for some its their daily shot of whiskey or other drink of choice but, the majority of the world is addicted to one thing, and that is caffeine. And yours truly is a member of the dreaded caffeine cult. I love caffeine. So much, that I simply cannot function without my daily dose of it. I don’t remember when my addiction started. I think I must have been 13 or 14. Till then, tea or coffee was a luxury that was allowed only on the rare Sunday. On weekdays, it was Complan or Bournvita for me and the sister. I think when I hit the dreaded teens, I decided that I was too old to be drinking all the health drinks anymore and insisted on tea at least once a day. Although reluctant, Mom gradually gave in to my demands and so my evening tea habit started. Mornings were still ruled by the unavoidable Complan though.

I have a history of caffeine addicts in my family. My Dad is one of them. He has to have his two cups of tea everyday, and on weekends, the number would go up to four or five. Till the time he was diagnosed with diabetes, he would have his tea with lots of milk and sugar. These days, he has switched to a dark brew with the bare minimum of milk, and absolutely no sugar. Anyway, I digress. As I was saying, I have a horde of caffeine addicts in my family. Other than my Dad, my Grandpa was an addict too. He had to have his two cups everyday, without fail. And for Grandpa, quantity was a huge part of drinking tea. He had to have his morning cuppa in a humongous coffee mug that his brother had gotten for him. And he had to have it filled to the brim with tea. His habit has rubbed off on almost everyone on my Mom’s side of the family- including my Mom. I even remember our pet dog who followed my Grandpa’s routine to a tee. He had to have his morning tea too. I still remember them in the mornings, Grandpa reading the newspaper on the verandah and sipping his tea and Bruno by his side, lapping up tea from his bowl.

As I grew up, my caffeine intake also went up significantly. My once-a-day tea drinking habit gradually became twice-a-day. Then I started to have a cuppa whenever my Dad had one on the weekends. By the time I was in college, I was a hard-core tea addict. But once hostel life started, things changed. I realized I was actually addicted to the tea my Mom made. The tea we were served at the hostel was always flavoured- sometimes cardamom, sometimes elaichi and sometimes a concoction of possibly every herb and spice known to mankind. I missed the simple,normal cup of tea I was used to drinking at home. And that is when coffee, replaced tea, in my affections. The hostel coffee was way better than the tea and so in my routine, my usual poison became coffee. Initially it was the milk coffee we were served at the hostel. Then, I discovered the beauty of black coffee.

The years in the hostel saw me up at odd hours, devouring a book, or studying for exams, and a cup of black coffee was a constant companion. I even remember the coffee mug I got from Archies. It was white, with pictures of Disney characters on it. This was during the two years of my graduation, and I had loads of free time on my hands. I was studying a subject that I was madly in love with, and honestly, did not have to try too hard to get good grades. This was the time I started frequenting the libraries in my hometown, and it was also the time the baristas at the CCD next to the library knew my order by heart. I would be found there, on most weekend, with a book and a double shot of espresso by my side. I also found a soul mate around that time, lets call her Ratz. She was a bibliophile and a coffee addict like me, and the number of hours we spent at the libraries, and bookstores, and CCDs are too many to count.

Then came my MBA days. Life was more hectic. I was trying to fathom things that I had absolutely no clue about, but absolutely had to, if I had to justify the amount of money my poor Dad was shelling out for my studies. We had so much to study. Class hours were long. We had no weekends. And during exam times, we pretty much lost track of night and day as we tried to at least finish reading through the portions for the exam. And coffee was what kept us all awake- at least for most of the population, it was. I remember the insipid brew we used to pay 3 bucks for at the night canteen. It would rarely qualify as coffee, but that was all we got, and we had to make do with it. To say that my dependence on caffeine skyrocketed then, would be an understatement.

Then came my working days in Chennai, the land of the Madras filter kaapi. In addition to the few cups of coffee I would down in office, I started drinking coffee at every restaurant I could find, after working hours. I was still off tea then. By the time I was getting ready for my wedding, I was so addicted to coffee, that I knew something had to be done. Enter Mom. She put her foot down and issued a decree- no more coffee in the house. She wanted me to quit caffeine completely but, as it is with every other addict, I pleaded and begged to be allowed at least tea. And so, I fell back on my habit of tea. I also had visions of me and TS sharing a hot cup of tea in the morning or the evening once we were married, depending on our respective routines. But, I was in for major disappointment. TS had no such habits. He did not, and still does not (all my efforts to convert him have been in vain) need any morning fix to get his day started. It was unfair, to say the least. I felt God had cheated me, but, I managed. I just cut TS out of my vision. ๐Ÿ™‚

These days, I have my morning cuppa and evening cuppa at work. Weekends start as usual with tea and, following in my Grandpa’s footsteps, I need to have my coffee mug filled to the brim with my favourite concoction too. Although I have kept off coffee, and started drinking very mild tea, my addiction is still strong. And these days, Mom and TS have been forcing me to give that up too. I have been trying my best, but I keep slipping. There are days when my resolve wavers, and I’m drawn to a fresh hot cuppa, brewed with the best tea leaves- like today. I have been trying to replace my caffeine shots with fresh fruit juices and green tea and what not, but, nothing works as well as tea. But I need to keep my addiction in check, I know that. In that direction, I have resolved to restrict my caffeine intake to once a day and none at all on weekends. I will be grumpy and irritable and as friendly as a grizzly bear but, I think the TS will have to deal with that. And I start now… err… right after I finish my cup of tea. I promise, I will!! ๐Ÿ˜›

Social Conditioning??

Yesterday was a really hard day for me at work. I was tired, and in a foul mood, and I had a little thing called grocery shopping to finish in the evening. I missed my usual bus home in the evening, the next bus was impossibly crowded, and I ended up standing all the way home. And by the time I had gotten off the bus, I was ready to take offence at anything the world said or did. TS was on his way home and these days, due to a new train line opening, he gets home faster than me. And although I had asked him to carry on home, he chose to wait for me at the supermarket. Now, when I’m truly angry and depressed, I choose not to talk about anything. So me and TS finished our grocery shopping in pretty much complete silence and headed home. TS said nothing. I was not in the mood to cook but, if I didn’t there would be nothing for dinner or for the next day’s lunch and as I started to step into the kitchen, TS came up and said he would do the cooking. And he did. He made me an evening snack, cooked dinner and lunch, served dinner, washed the dishes and managed to chase away my foul mood in the middle of all this.

The one thing that I noticed was, all the time that TS spent in the kitchen, I had this tiny feeling of guilt at the back of my mind. I kept on thinking, I should be doing it. I should be the one cooking, not him. He’s had a hard day at work. I shouldn’t make him cook too. And then as soon as I started to think, I squashed the thought. I’d had a hard day too. Possibly one of the worst days at work I have ever faced. And I should not be feeling guilty about making TS cook for just a day. Usually, I manage the evening meal at home and TS is in charge of breakfast. But it is not the end of world if he does the dinner also one day. What bothered me the most was, in spite of being extremely vocal about women’s issues and gender equality and all, I was still feeling guilty about something like this. And I blame it all on social conditioning.

From the time we girls are old enough to understand, we are taught that we need to know how to cook. It is an essential skill that we need to be well versed in, in order to survive in this big bad world. We are taught that in future, the responsibility of an entire household will rest on our fragile shoulders and we will have to do everything from cooking and cleaning and washing and what not. And also manage a career if we insisted on it. This was something that I heard quite a lot and, thankfully, it came from everyone else other than my parents. My parents were considered not so lucky by many people we knew ‘cos they had the misfortune of having two kids- both girls. Oh! think of the sacrifices thee parents would have to make, think of the amount of dowry they would have to accumulate, the amount of money they would have to save for our weddings, the headaches that were sure to come during our adolescence. The list of issues would go on and on. But thank God for forward thinking parents, who bought me and my sister up to be independent, strong individuals who didn’t think their role was limited to the kitchen or that they were in any way inferior to the son(s) my parents could have had.

In spite of this, there were always eyebrows raised when Mom or Dad said that I didn’t know how to cook. I was doing my degree then and except for the tea, coffee and rice and some simple curry, I was clueless about anything else. I had people say to my Mom she was making a huge mistake by not training me in all these “womanly” stuff. They said I would become lazy and spoilt and that my sister would also learn from me. They said I would not make a “good wife” or daughter-in-law. They said, me and my sister should be taught everything from ironing to washing to cooking to cleaning to the art of identifying the freshest of veggies. There were even people who told my parents not to educate us too much, as our future husbands or in-laws might not appreciate us being very smart. Mom and Dad never forced us to do any of this. We learnt when we felt we wanted to. There was no pressure. I learnt to grocery shop when I realized how difficult it was for my Mom to go shopping on her own, when it was just a few items, and I could easily get it for her on my way back from college. I learnt to iron when Mom was not around or when she was too busy to do it for me. I learnt to cook when my Mom was busy taking care of my sister who was extremely sick, and both of my grandmothers who were recovering from different surgeries.

Once I started doing stuff on my own, Mom or Dad would correct us if we were doing something wrong. I have seen my Dad ironing his own clothes, polishing his own shoes, cleaning and dusting, washing the car, gardening and in dire straits even cooking his own food. He chooses not to cook ‘cos Mom’s cooking is way better than his. But there was never a sense of something being thrust on my Mom or on us. And so, I grew up thinking and believing there was nothing wrong with a man cooking or cleaning although society always told me otherwise. Sometimes those voices would dominate my head and make me wonder, but, I would always think of what my parents had taught me and shown me and feel better. So me and my sister grew up doing the things we wanted to do and in the process ended up learning how to do pretty much everything. We both can do everything that society deems is a woman’s forte and more. Although my sister hates cooking and I cannot sew a button to save my life, we have both done good. I have a few “cousin brothers” (as we Mallus say) in our family who have been so pampered by their families that they don’t wash their own plates or even know where their own clothes are. And they are teenagers. While me and my sister could be living by ourselves and we would manage just fine.

I say stop this conditioning of women. This is an age when women can more than compete with men in any forte you can think of. When we can go out and work 12- 14 hour days and run a household, men can also come back from work and not vegetate in front of the television. If women can do well academically and professionally and be a good homemaker, then men can learn how to do these household chores too. After all, if it’s all about gender equality, men wouldn’t want to feel unequal or worse still inferior to women, would they?

So now, when the TS cooks or cleans of washes clothes, I don’t think of it as an event of international importance or of myself as a very lucky wife. It is just a division of labour. We both do everything depending on what we feel like doing. If I don’t want to cook one day, TS does it. If he’s lazy about ironing, I do it, and so on. I don’t believe I am a bad wife for not wanting to do something that has traditionally been considered a woman’s job and I don’t think TS should feel belittled if he is in the kitchen cooking. Thank God for his wonderful mother who taught that women are not slaves and men slave drivers. And here’s to more men like him and more mothers like his. ๐Ÿ™‚

Being a Foodie.. :)

I am a foodie. I love food, always have. But in the past, I only loved to eat food. Cooking was not something I liked to do or wanted to do. I would help out my mother in the kitchen when I was asked to. I would complain about having to do all of it and the minute my help wasn’t needed, I would happily scoot out of the kitchen and go do my stuff. My Mom loved to cook. And she was good at it too. She would watch every single cookery show that aired on television (it would be accompanied by mine and my sister’s groans in the background) and try to replicate what she saw. She made the softest sponge cakes and the most amazing vegetable pulao. But none of it interested me back then. My Mom would try to tell me how she made it, and the little tips and tricks on making a curry more yummy, that only moms are privy to but I would never pay attention. But I was always attracted to the smells that wafted out of the kitchen.

Some of favourite childhood memories revolve around food. I remember waking up on Sunday mornings to the smell of soft fluffy idlis and Mom’s spicy sambar. Idlis were a favourite at home and coupled with spicy sambar, it was like the best breakfast we could have. Mom loved baking and on days she would take out her book of cake recipes, me and my sister would start drooling. Soon, the whole house would be doused in the aroma of chocolate and vanilla. It was the smell of happiness and comfort. Another memory is of Mom making her signature pulao, the smell of the ghee and the spices- cinnamon, clove, star anise, bay leaves, cardamom all doused in home-made ghee. That smell alone was enough to set our tummies rumbling. I also remember the days when Mom would make her chicken curry. We are a family that prefers vegetarian food and so, cooking non vegetarian was a rare occurrence for us. But on the day Mom decided to buy chicken, the house would be fragrant with the smell of garam masala and chicken masala and the smell of onion, garlic and ginger. And during cold monsoon evenings, my Mom would decide to make her signature spicy tomato soup. It was almost like rasam, but not quite. Mom would make it hot but with the right amount of spice. My favourite part of it was the smell of freshly ground pepper that she would use generously in her soup. Slurppp…

My Grandmom was also a good cook.She made the most amazing rasam and it is, till date my favourite comfort food. Rasam and rice, according to me, will chase away any troubles you may have. Grandmom was the rasam wizard. She made it just like Mom did, but somehow Grandmom’s would always taste better. And in the years I spent living with her, it was always something I asked for when I was upset. And even after I moved out, every time I told her I was visiting, my then extremely frail Grandmom would get into the kitchen to make it for me. It was a favourite with my sister also, so she was more than happy to make it, although towards the end just doing that would tire her out extremely. When I was a kid, Grandmom would feed me rice and ghee, in an attempt to fatten me up a bit. I was all skin and bones back then. Not that I have improved now. And every weekend, without fail, my lunch would start with piping hot rice doused in ghee sprinkled with some salt and she would also make my favourite fish fry.

My aunt is the only vegetarian I know who makes amazing non vegetarian food without even tasting it. She makes the most amazing food too. Every single dish she comes up with, is like a piece of art. So well put together- nothing in abundance, nothing out-of-place. Just perfect.

The men in my family were not bad when it came to cooking either. Grandpa’s awesome payasam has always been a favourite. As were his banana chips and jackfruit chips. My Dad was good at experimenting with food too. He’s one person I know who makes perfectly round dosas- each time, every time. His signature dish was palak and egg sautรฉed with grated coconut. It was almost like scrambled eggs, only better. Me and my sis loved it. He claims its his own recipe although I have my doubts. And it was a genius idea to make us eat our greens. ๐Ÿ™‚ My uncles, or at least most of them, are experts with non vegetarian food. Especially one of them who is like a seafood wizard. He is an expert at catching, cleaning and making his own seafood. Yumm.

Growing up this way meant I had a taste for good food but, I was never interested in cooking. In fact, it was only a month before my marriage that I managed to master the basics of cooking. But once I started living on my own, my interest in cooking started to grow. Being in a foreign land and having too many foreign ingredients around made me look up recipes and experiment with food. Being married to a guy who loved to cook also helped. And since I started, I haven’t looked back. I have baked and roasted and grilled and deep-fried and what not. I have tried my hand at Indian, Italian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Thai, Chinese and Spanish cuisine. I know what spices and what ingredients go well. I know what meat needs what seasoning. I know how to buy the best cuts of meat and the freshest of vegetables and, I’m often able to replicate the aromas I grew up with. It gives me great joy to do this. And when people tell me I’m a good cook and rave over my food, I feel happy. I feel happy to be able to show them a bit of my passion and to share with them a bit of my life. It fires up my creativity too and just like in a work of art, it gives me great satisfaction when I make something just right.

And so, in addition to being a foodie, now, I’m also a good cook. ๐Ÿ™‚ And my love with food continues…. ๐Ÿ™‚

My Take on Violence

In my previous post, I had recounted the story of one of my friends. Its really hard for me to see her wasting her life in this fashion, and the thought that nothing I say can make her change her mind is even more frustrating. I have been thinking about her and have also been reading other’s stories on the VAWA blog and there are a few things that I find disturbing.

I cannot, for the life of me, fathom why any woman would take any kind of abuse from her husband or his family or from anyone for that matter. I for one, would never do that. Maybe it is my upbringing, or my financial independence or whatever that makes me think in this fashion. I don’t know. I know that if TS even thought of raising his hand on me, I would walk out, without a second thought. I know my parents will back me up, I know I will be able to manage on my own. And I think nothing merits physical abuse. Ever. Period. Nothing that a woman does or says gives a man the right to rough her up. And no, I don’t buy stupid arguments like- it offends a man’s ego, or its common in marriages for the husband to slap the wife. I don’t buy that. I don’t mind arguing or even fighting. Me and TS do fight over things but, we never make it personal. He never says a word against my family or my upbringing or anything. We fight and we sort it out, as two individuals. And no, there are no swear words, no abuse. We both have very short tempers but, we always manage to handle these issues like adults. And I believe that is how it should be. I don’t think violence is the answer to anything and that is precisely why I will not condone this kind of abuse.

Coming to think of it, I can understand why some women put up with these things. When I was in college, most of my classmates were bought up to believe that marriage was the be all and end all of their lives. That her husband and his family should be her world. They were all small town girls, and I was appalled by their attitude. Most of them didn’t even have any interest in their studies. Their only aim was to finish college so they could get married. And they did get married the minute their studies were over too. Most were not even encouraged to study beyond their graduation. It was almost like their parents were washing their hands off them. Yes, they chose grooms for their daughters with a lot of care. Yes their daughters were the apple of their eyes. But, I didn’t understand why they didn’t encourage their daughters to stand on their own two feet.

I was even more surprised at the attitude of the girls.Most of them believed falling in love or having a boyfriend was absolute blasphemy, that a woman’s place was always one step behind her man, that if you were employed it was always good to have a job that paid less than their husband, that they had to know how to cook and clean and that too food, that their husband and his family preferred and it was good not to work once they had kids, even if their families were around to take care of the kid. And many of them are living their lives as stay at home mom’s. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being a stay at home mom. But I do have issues with their attitudes. Not wanting to work, treating their husband’s families as superior to theirs. I don’t get it. Not that I blame them, its the way they have been bought up.

From the time a girl is born, her parents start to worry about getting her married off. Not about her upbringing, not about her studies- they only worry about her wedding and the expenses associated. Even today educating a girl is not seen as a huge priority where I come from. I have people in my own family (very distant relatives, thankfully!) who thought my parents were making a huge mistake letting me and my sister go for professional courses. They said it would make it even more difficult to find grooms for us. They cautioned my parents against making us too independent. They said we were too opinionated. They said it was dangerous for girls to be so. They told my Mom it was a big mistake not to teach me cooking. And when I got a proposal while I was in the first year of my MBA, in spite of some of my family asking them to go ahead, my parents refused. They said they wanted me to finish my education and get a job before they decided something like that.

I was never bought up to believe I was inferior to someone. I was taught I was as good as any other guy, maybe better. I was never taught to suppress my likes and opinions for someone else. I was taught to express mine, and stick to what I thought was right. I was never taught to be submissive, I was taught to not take crap from anyone. And I was taught to not take any kind of abuse from anyone. I even fought with a teacher in school because she had this habit of belittling me in class all the time. I told her I would take her to court for emotional harassment if she carried on with what she was doing. She apologized to me. I apologized to her too for my outburst. Anyways, I don’t see why people should put up with this kind of treatment from anyone.

And I don’t think fear of society should be a factor. Society’s opinion doesn’t matter. You are the one living with the abuse. And its not like society is taking care of your needs. Society just stands by the sidelines and watches all the fun. Its your life and you have to make the choice. It will be hard, especially if you are financially dependent. I cannot begin to even fathom what a victim of abuse goes through. All I can say is, know when to say enough. Know when to walk out and don’t let anything beat you down. That’s the only way to go. You are as important as the man in the relationship. You are not a second grade citizen that your emotions can be trampled upon, that your likes and interests are of little consequence. And to parents who believe that daughters are mere lumps of flesh to be auctioned off in the marriage market concealed under mounds of gold and money, I say, stop thinking that way. Your daughters are as precious as your sons or someone else’s sons. Encourage them to blossom and do well instead of teaching them to be doormats. Maybe then we can look forward to a better society.

I know my thoughts are disjointed here. I was reading some of the stories on the blog and was so upset and that’s what prompted this. I will write more on this topic as and when I think of something more. As of now, my thoughts are scattered. So forgive me.