Calling Mom…

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

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

keep-calm-and-call-your-mom-81

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

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

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

Image Courtesy: Google Images 

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.

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?

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 ones  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. 🙂 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? 🙂

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.

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 sautéed 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. 🙂 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. 🙂 And my love with food continues…. 🙂

Crazy Parents??

A recent news item I came across says that a French label has decided to manufacture sexy lingerie for girls who are under 10 years of age. Another news article talked about a mother who decided to get plastic surgery done for her 6 year old daughter because, according to the mother, the kid was not happy with the way she looked. There is another programme that airs on Discovery Home and Health I think, called “Toddlers and Tiaras”, thats follows the lives of some toddlers and their parents who participate in the kids pageant circuit in the US. These kids actually get their hair and makeup done, get manicures and pedicures on a regular basis, even have their food monitored and are taught how to walk and shake their booty and what not. To say the least, all these above instances shocked me to the core. But then, in an age when a 13 year old boy and 15 year old girl have a baby together and their parents are apparently “proud” of the fact that their kids decided to “keep the baby”, you can’t expect anything lesser.
What is happening to kids today? What kind of examples are being set for them? Its a scary world. I have been married for a couple of years and am seriously considering having a kid but, I’m petrified at the thought of bringing a kid into a world where she/ he will start demanding a nose job or something at age 3. What kind of role models do kids have these days? I remember my childhood when I was never insecure about myself. True, I was quiet and preferred not to talk much, but I was smart and happy. In spite of being pudgy and hardly being able to see above the dining table at home, I never thought I wasn’t pretty enough or that my nose was too weird or anything. In fact, I still think there’s something wrong with my nose but I wouldn’t dream of getting any “work” done on me.
True, when you are kids, you want a dress that one of your friends wore, or you want to look as pretty as a “Barbie” or something like that, but I don’t know what kind of a parent would dream of getting surgery done on a 6 year old to enhance her features. I have seen countless TV programmes of kids who are sixteen wanting bigger breasts and their vain mothers going along with them. I have seen guys who are in their teens wanting more defined cheekbones or a better looking nose and having their parents actually shell out the money to get these things fixed for them. I can understand parents wanting to do this for a child who was born disfigured or has been disfigured because of some accident. But doing this for a kid who otherwise looks perfectly fine, is beyond my comprehension.
More disturbing is the thought as to why kids want to do these things. Why do these kids get the idea that only something that looks like a Barbie doll is perfect? Or that only a size zero is perfect. Or that you need to have perfect hair and looks to be considered popular or important. Maybe it has to do with the kind of environment we live in these days. There’s this incessant exposure to what is considered to be perfect. Movies always portray the herione as beautiful, size zero, looking smoking hot in a bikini. The hero has chiselled features, six pack abs and what not. And the pictures that come in magazines these days screaming ” ‘insert hero/heroine’s name’ spills secrets on how to look fab- his/her diet and exercise regimen” and the article goes on to give you every minute detail of their day. But the pictures of said hero/heroine will invariable be heavily photoshopped. Even pictures of actresses in their teens come with a lot of photoshop work done on them. And I wonder, how many of those reading the magazines actually realize that. And even if they why do they not accept the fact that it’s not normal to look like that.
There’s this belief that has been fostered in us that only thin is beautiful. This is especially true for the female half of the population. Look at the models who walk the ramps, whose faces fill magazines- they are all reed thin. How many times do we read about models who lose their lives because of excessive dieting? There is some hue and cry for a few days and then all is forgotten. Just look at Disney movies- Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, Jasmine- are all stick thin and extremely pretty. I’m not saying that they should make these characters fat. I’m not endorsing obesity in any manner. But aren’t we sending the wrong message to the millions of kids who watch these movies? Kids idolize these characters and aspire to be like them. True, the obsession passes once they are out of their childhood but then, they have their tween idols and then teen idols and what not to look “up” to. And they are all invariably stick thin and pretty. Very rarely do we have stars like Jennifer Hudson or Amber Riley or Monique who are on the plus side. But even they, aspire to lose weight (case in point- Jennifer Hudson). It’s all in the way people are conditioned.
People say that kids should have the intelligence to know what is right and what is wrong for them after a certain age. They should know that aspiring to have an unrealistic figure or getting work done to achieve perfect beauty is not good. But at a time when peer pressure overrules all other judgement and in an age of super sophisticated cyber bullying when you have every chance of being bullied for being a little on the plump side, kids will want to confirm to the norm rather than have the courage to stand apart.
And today I came across an artice in HBR which said that better looking women have a higher chance of getting promoted and getting better pay packages in the corporate world. I was flabbergasted. I’m all for looking well put together in the workplace and being dressed professionally and not coming into work looking like you just rolled out of bed and all, but to think that that’s the most important critetion you are going to be judged on and not your ability to get a job done or your qualification is just plain humiliating. I’m all for dressing well and being confident about your looks but if you are going to tell me that’s the only thing that’s going to matter then what’s the point of being smart and intelligent? No wonder kids would rather be pretty than have anything else.
In this age when there’s lingerie for kids, having a kid at 13 is cool, teen moms are all the rage and plastic surgery is the way to go, I’m scared for all kids. I’m scared to bring a kid into this world. And when that happens, I can only hope that my kid (in fact, all kids) has the sensibility to understand all that is superficial and chose not to go that way.