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!!

 

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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)

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

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.

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.

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  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  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…

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”. 😉 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?

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. 🙂 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? 🙂