Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Celebrating selfish mothers

Of late, I had been reading myriad of answers to the question, ‘What is it like to be raised by an Indian mother?’ on Quora. You browse through the answers and there you go- tales of selflessness, unconditional love and sacrifices galore. The stories were almost identical; each spoke about how their mothers’ selflessly cared about the children, gave up their careers for the cause of their children’s development, woke up at odd morning hours to make sure that the kids get their morning tea and how they are superwomen who are the epitome of support, affection, selflessness and greatness.

I read one story after another and I could relate to each of them because my mother was there in each of those stories. She has always been the one to wake up at the earliest hour. She would then make the morning tea, wake the rest of the family up, prepare breakfast, get my siblings and me dressed, send us to school, send dad to office and it will go on for the rest of the day. She would then be the last person to go to bed. My mother seldom complained, she always seemed happy. Hence, I never asked her if she had a problem with it all because it seemed to come naturally to her.

I would often wake up thirsty in the middle of the night with an urge to drink water. ‘Mom, Water!’, I would shout at the top of my voice. She would wake up, without resistance and get me water with a smile. Back then, it never occurred to me as to why I never called out for my dad instead. I remember her dressing me fondly for every fancy dress competition that I took part in and hear me rehearse my debate speeches over and over again. I don’t remember being thankful for it though. I always felt that she ought to be there for me. However, every hour that my dad spent in teaching me or hearing my elocution speeches seemed like a privilege. I was always grateful for his time. 

I remember mother telling me fondly about her college days and how she used to frequently visit the forests for her Botany research. She smiled broadly every time she spoke about her classes, her students and how she used to elaborately prepare for each class. ‘If you liked it so much, then why did you leave it all?’, I asked. ‘Darling, someone had to be there and take care of you all. I worked in a different city and your grandmother used to keep unwell. I had to take the call. And oh, I have no regrets’, she smiled.

This is not my mother’s story. This is almost every mother’s story, specifically the Indian mother’s story. The sacrifices may be different, the stories may have different characters and varied incidents but at the core of them lies a woman selflessly juggling many roles, putting everyone else in the family before herself and being the ultimate support system of everyone in the family. ‘What is the problem?’, you may ask. The problem is that this is often what one gets reduced to - a support system. A selfless goddess who cares for everyone else above herself and this is not what scares me; what scares me is the widely accepted notion that this comes naturally to them. The notion that this is how mothers are - selfless, giving and supportive.

I have come across a lot of mothers who have often failed to live up to the standards of ‘great’ and have dwelled in guilt on every such instance. I remember talking to a colleague who was working till late night, when she exclaimed to me about how terrible she feels about finding her son fast asleep when she reaches home. Another friend, started crying soon after my midnight birthday celebration. ‘I am so selfish. How could I leave my one-month kid at home with my mother and come here to enjoy a party?’, she exclaimed and drowned herself in guilt. Her husband, however, did not even distantly feel that there was anything wrong in his behavior. You might argue that it just comes more naturally for the mother. However, if we examine the behavior more closely, we find that both the parents wanted to come for the party. It is just the post party guilt which dawned on the mother and not the father; which stems out of the fact that the mother assumes that it is primarily her responsibility to take care of the child. The guilt of putting yourself, your enjoyment or your dreams first almost always hits the women rather than the men in a family setting.

I wonder how it would be for a mother to think about her dreams. I wonder what it would be like to not want to wake up at six one morning because she is too tired after a long workday. I wonder what it will be like if she happens to skip a parent-teacher meeting or a football match of her daughter because she was busy weaving her dreams. I wonder about the ‘selfless’ tiara with which we grace all mothers. What if all of us cannot bear the weight of that tiara and do not wish to wear it? What if we do not want to be ‘great’? What if we want to be mere mortals who have their own dreams and goals and want to chase it with the same vigor that the family wants to chase theirs with?

I am tired of hearing about the secret formulae which ensure how women can have it all. I would love to hear acceptance for women faltering and not being able to have it all. Acceptance for putting herself first sometimes, before her husband or her children. Acceptance so that she doesn’t drown in guilt if she has to leave her toddler with dad for baby-sitting when she goes out to enjoy a party with her friends. I yearn acceptance for a world in which a mother can be allowed to be 'selfish' and cater guiltlessly to her dreams. 

This can become possible if we can let the mothers drop the burden of ‘greatness’. Let the mothers also be flawed, imperfect, selfish, faltering and mere mortals, like the rest of us. Let the imperfection be celebrated and encouraged. You and I can do this together. Let’s take a step in that direction; by imbibing this in the women and men that we become, the children that we raise and the conversations that we may pick up with a random stranger. 

Saturday, 24 September 2016

The Penance

‘How do I look in this dress?’, Zaara threw a quick question at Rehaan while giving the finishing touch to her eyeliner.

‘You look ugly. Why would you even buy something that looks like a banana for a dress? What were you thinking?’, Rehaan smirked.

‘Why am I dating you? Why? Why can I not date a normal guy who compliments me like normal boyfriends do and makes me feel good about myself?’

‘Love is blind, darling. If only, you could choose.’

‘First of all, this is not love. We’re just having fun with each other. Secondly, you felt that I looked like some model from Victoria Secrets when you had to woo me. Suddenly, I look nothing better than potatoes and bananas to you.’

‘Darling, fifteen kilograms can do that to you. They are capable of transforming you from a Victoria Secrets model to a potato. Moreover, for God’s sake, I never felt that you look like a Victoria Secrets model. ‘Pretty’ is the best compliment that I have ever given you.’

Zaara flung her bag at Rehaan, picked up her car keys and cussed him all the way to the lift.  ‘All you men, all of you are the same. You will keep chasing a girl as long she doesn’t pay any heed to you. However, the moment she gets interested in you; suddenly she is a banana.’

‘You’re a pretty banana, darling. In fact, you always looked like a banana to me. I thought you might take offence to it if I tell you about it even when you didn’t pay any heed to me. So, I kept the feelings to myself and decided to reveal them once the attention is reciprocated’, Rehaan laughed as he rushed towards the parked car.

Zaara managed to mask her blushing cheeks with her long hair as she got into the car. She could never come to terms with the reason behind getting flattered at her boyfriend’s demeaning comments. Love has mysterious ways of turning us into people we can seldom fathom.

She sat at the driver’s seat, plugged in her pen-drive with the updated playlist and turned the key in the ignition. The engine roared transitorily and then stopped. The monsoon had taken its toll on the engine. After four to five unsuccessful attempts, Zaara finally managed to get the car started.

‘The heart wants what it wants’, was the first track that started playing.

‘Can you please change that stupid song? I don’t like it.’

‘I care a lot about your likes and dislikes Rehaan, just the way you care about mine. Can you tell me the exact songs you would like to hear? I will happily oblige.’

‘Zaara, will you stop being sarcastic? Just change the damn song.’

‘Will you stop throwing around your whims? I will play whichever song I feel like playing. Bananas do not like taking orders.’

‘Yeah, just because I don’t have a car, you’re going to look down upon me and dominate me. You preach feminism, but in reality you have the patriarchal mindset which will never let go of an opportunity to humiliate a man who makes lesser money than his lady.’

‘Rehaan, good trick to garner some sympathy; but it is not going to work. So, just shut up. However, now that you mentioned it; I wonder why I date you- you’re ugly, mean and poor. What is wrong with me!’

‘Honey, if only you had a choice. You know I am the best deal for you out there.’ They both laughed heartily as they waited at the traffic signal. The lights turned green and they moved ahead. Thick grey clouds started to fill the sky. It looked like it was going to rain. Another few minutes in the traffic and it started drizzling. There was something about light drizzles that Zaara loved. Tiny water droplets that settled on the windshield mesmerized her. She loved drizzles, not heavy rains, just the drizzles.

The traffic cleared as they moved ahead of the crossing and started driving on the Park Street. ‘That baby now, Take me into your loving arms, Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars, Place your head on my beating heart, Thinking out loud, Maybe we found love right where we are...’, was now playing in the background and both of them were smiling to themselves. Rehaan suddenly muted the song and looked at Zaara, ‘Zaara, please drive onto that driveway by the hills. I really want to go there. Please!’

‘Rehaan, are you out of your mind? We’re getting late for Rajiv’s wedding and going to that driveway will add some eight more kilometers to the route.’

‘There’s no traffic on that route. We will save time. Please, just do this for me. I haven’t said please three times in a row to you in the past three years.’

‘I can never understand you, Rehaan’, Zaara exclaimed as she unmuted the song and took a left turn to route to that driveway. The road was laid with yellowed leaves which added more beauty to the monsoon. Zaara’s annoyance of being forced to the change the route was immediately replaced by rapture and her frown transformed into a lovely smile.

‘Do you remember the day we came here for the first time, Zaara? You were wearing a yellow dress and I couldn’t understand why anyone would choose to wear a dress that would make them look four times fatter than they are. You still managed to look pretty; in a strange way but pretty, nonetheless.’

‘I don’t remember meeting you but I remember that dress. I love that dress. You have strange ways of complimenting Rehaan, but at least you managed to use the word pretty this time.’

‘Zaara, I love you! I mean…I don’t know how to say this in a better manner and make you feel special. I am bad at it. I don’t know how to compliment you. In fact, I never compliment you. I never even asked you out because I never felt that I have to ever do that. Whatever we share is just so natural and beautiful that I don’t feel like tarnishing it with the slightest bit of pretense. I wish I could do this in a better manner, at a better time and a better place. But, I really want to say this to you right now. Zaara, you are a part of me and I can never let this part go. I want you to be there in my life, forever, not to complete me but to ensure that I continue living. You’re my favorite part of myself, Zaara. I don’t have a ring right now and I am probably the worst boyfriend in this world but I have to say it right now,” Will you please marry me, Zaara?”’

Zaara’s eyes welled up and tears rolled down her cheeks before she could to terms with the fact that Rehaan proposed to her. She pulled out the pendrive and threw it at Rehaan. ‘Why on earth would you propose to me in the middle of road when we’re getting late for a friend’s wedding. I hate you for it. This had to be my special moment. This is the moment that I had to share with my children. I want the goddamn ring. Rehaan Malik, I hate you!’

‘I am sorry. I just had to say it right now. Yes, or no, Zaara.’

‘Of course, yes. You, asshole!’, she exclaimed and in that moment she felt ecstatic, surprised, elated, passionate, vulnerable and loved; all at the same time. She was crying and laughing; all at once. It felt like those beautiful romantic movies which she privately loves but hates to admit in public. This was her moment. It was raw, unplanned, impulsive, real and in the middle of a yellowed leaf strewn driveway on a rainy evening. She couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful proposal. This was her special moment and she made a mental note to tell her children about it. She was smiling one of her widest smiles as she was driving.

It had started to grow dark and the drive way narrowed as they drove ahead. Suddenly, she saw an old lady crossing the road. The car was at a reasonably high speed. She honked, applied brakes immediately and deflected the car to avoid hitting the lady. However, the road was too narrow for the lady to escape and the car hit her; throwing her onto the ground head first.

Zaara started hyperventilating and could not come to terms with the accident that took place. She was unable to move. Rehaan rushed out of the car and addressed the old lady. She had got a head injury and was bleeding profusely. He lifted her up and got her into an upright position. Then he tore Zaara’s saree and tied it across her head to control the bleeding.

He called the police and narrated the incident to them. He then, called the ambulance which reached the location within five minutes. Zaara accompanied the lady in the ambulance and was checking her pulse, throughout. Time refused to budge. With each passing second, she contemplated about how the accident could have been avoided. ‘If only, Rehaan had not proposed to her and she wouldn’t have been so excited’, ‘If only she was driving slowly’, ‘If only the road was better lit’, ‘If only they had not changed the route’, ’If only the lady moved to the side on hearing the incessant honking’. She kept thinking about these possibilities all along the way to the hospital.

They got down at the City Hospital and with trembling hands Zaara helped the lady out of the ambulance. She finished the formalities as the doctors rushed her to the emergency ward. She called up the last dialed numbers on the lady’s phone.

The first person who picked up was apparently the son. ‘Hi, I am speaking from City Hospital. This lady...may I know how you are related to her?’

‘She is my mother. What happened to her?’

‘She met with an accident. Please come to the hospital as soon as I can. I was driving the car which crashed into her. I have signed all the forms. She had to be operated immediately. Please come here as soon as you can.’

‘What? How did she meet with an accident? Who are you? Are you sure about it being my mother? What is she wearing?’

‘She is wearing a brown saree. The name on her Aadhar card says Uma Lakshmi.’

‘Yes, that’s my mother. Is she all right?’

‘No, she is not all right. Please come to the City Hospital.’

I will ruin you, woman. If anything happens to my mother, I will ruin you.’

Zaara disconnected the phone. She wanted to cry but could not bring herself to cry. She was numb. It seemed like a nightmare which will pass when she wakes up in the morning. It was too terrible to be true. She went down on her knees and for the first time since the crash, she wept uncontrollably. She wept and asked for forgiveness, for another chance and traded everything for the lady’s life.

Funny thing about being an atheist is that in the times of crisis, you don’t even know with whom you are having these conversations. You don’t even know who you are asking for another chance. However, you ask, nonetheless; converse, nonetheless and hope for a miracle, nonetheless.

Rehaan found Zaara weeping at the corner of the hospital. He hugged her as he fought back tears. ‘I don’t want her to die, Rehaan. Please do something. Please save her, Rehaan. Please! ‘. He kept hugging her and controlled his emotions. He was as broken as Zaara but he had to be strong for her. He had to comfort her and tell her that it will become all right.

I felt sorry for Rehaan. I pitied him for not being allowed to break down and tell Zaara that he is as scared and broken as she is. I pitied him for not being able cry and expose his vulnerabilities. I pitied him for having to crush his pain and put up a brave face for Zaara. I pitied him for being a man.

The doctor came out of the operation theatre. He looked content. The nurses made a casual joke as they walked out. The scene gave a ray of hope to Zaara and Rehaan. ‘She must be fine’, Zaara told herself as she breathed a sigh of relief. ‘How is the lady, doctor?’, Rehaan managed to utter.

‘I am sorry; we could not save her. There was way too much blood loss and her body was too weak to survive the operation. Please complete the formalities with the police before checking out.’

Sometimes time just seems frozen. You force yourself to stay in that moment as long as you can because any moment after that will only be worse. It was happening for real. ‘I am not a murderer, Rehaan. I am not a murderer’, Zaara kept repeating in a loop as she fell on the floor, weeping. She was broken, shattered into pieces which seemed too many to ever be put back together, again. 


Sitting at her rocking chair and braiding her granddaughter’s hair she exclaimed, ’Penance is important, my child. It is very important and so is forgiveness. We should all learn to forgive ourselves. Forgiveness after penance.’

That night, she wrote into her diary, ‘I forgive myself. It was a mistake.’ 

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

The quest for the ultimate purpose is killing me!

You have been thinking, over thinking about the purpose of your life since the time you could make out what the words ‘purpose of life’ mean. It is a fancy term and you love the idea that we’re all here to add some value to the world around us; that your existence, your presence has a larger purpose to solve. You believe or have been believing, for a very long time that each one of us has a unique gift to offer to this world. When you realize what gift you bring along with you, you can start adding more beauty, more value to that gift each day so that when you’re gone, your gifts have reached their utmost potential.

It becomes overwhelming and even frustrating sometimes to keep seeking for that one place where you belong. You feel empty inside and think that maybe you will stumble upon some place where it will suddenly start to make sense, when your existence will suddenly become life. You keep looking for that place which will probably have all the answers. You try with all your might and put together your skill-set, interest and pragmatism and look for the most probable places where you might seek solace. However, after a while you realize that the shoes just don’t fit right. They are either a little too big, a little too small or bite a little too much but you’re looking everywhere for that perfect pair.

You have read so many articles on how to be more productive and turn your twenty-four hours into forty-eight hours, how to be successful and achieve your dreams. Suddenly, it strikes you that you don’t know what your dream is and you have been existing here for twenty-three years not knowing where you have to go. You’re stuck at the platform, the trains are passing by and people are catching their trains. They are bidding goodbyes. Some are happy, some have moist eyes, but they know their destination. You, on the other hand are standing at the platform, not knowing which train to take; not knowing where to go. Before you can make a choice, you’re pushed onto a train because it’s a crowded platform, people have to keep moving on and the world cannot give you forever to make your choices.

Then, you get down at another station and it feels home for a while and you feel maybe destiny got you to the right place. After sometime, you realize that the language is foreign and the people don’t seem friendly anymore. You want to spend more time here to understand the language better. You want to spend time getting closer to the people but you’re torn between spending more time at this place or exploring another place, which you might identify more closely with.

This goes on for a long time and you’re left thinking if you’re a misfit completely. You wonder whether you will fit in anywhere at all. You wonder if you will ever be good enough for anything. This seeps into your soul and gives you shudders sometimes. You have list of things to accomplish each day. You have a list of tasks to track your growth. When you check on them, there is a green checklist but you still feel stagnant and wonder if you performed the right tasks at all.  

Every day, you go on with your life telling yourself that probably this is how it is supposed to be, this is how it is for everyone. You tell yourself that this is real life and that it’s only in a Utopian world where people love what they do and do what they love and are content with their lives. You make peace with it and seek refuge for a while in a book or in that dance during which you almost break a leg at the pub. You seek happiness in pieces and tell yourself that eventually you will be able to put them together and it will make sense, complete sense then.

You’re too drained after wandering for way too long, too drained looking for that purpose everywhere, searching every nook and corner of the world for it. Exhausted, dejected and failed; you return home and you cannot believe what you see there. There, amidst everything that you had and everything that you brought along with you when you left, lay your purpose. No, it was not always there. All along when you thought you were wandering aimlessly; you were creating it. Ironically, just when you thought everything was over, your purpose was born.

Friday, 20 May 2016

A broken foot and a cup of coffee!

I met with a road accident, again. I write ‘again’ because those of you who know me would know about my affinity towards accidents. I somehow attract them; the universe has bestowed me with unique powers. If you observe closely, there are more scars on my body than skin. Each of them have a unique story to tell and they are great conversation starters for any social gathering but I still feel that I would have been better off without them.

This time I ended up getting a fracture on my left foot. Funnily enough, I was initially even mildly excited at the knowledge of a fracture. Somehow, the x-ray reports which showed a crack in my foot gave me an adrenaline rush for some strange reason. In retrospective, I think it excited me because it made my story more interesting. I believe that we are all spinning the yarn of our stories and unless there is a tragedy and the protagonist picks herself up emerges out strong, the story is not powerful enough. However, the adrenaline rush staying true to its meaning did not last long enough. My face fell the moment the doctor said that the cast would stay for four to six weeks and advised minimal to no pressure on the left foot.

It is amazing how we become wiser and start understanding the nuances of life when an adversity hits us. My bike skidded and I fell down with it landing on my foot. I remember the people who stopped by fairly clearly. I could identify two circles of people. The outer circle was the larger one. It consisted of the curious ones, the ones who just wanted to know what happened. They observed me for a while, expressed dismay at the accident and moved on. The inner circle was the one that mattered, although it consisted of very few people. The people in this circle lifted me and my bike up, gave me first aid, offered water and asked me if I need a ride home. I believe the same thing is true about life, the inner circle is very small, consists of four to five people but it is the one that truly matters. These are the people who will lift you up when you’re down and become your support system, these are the people you can bank upon. We all need to identify this inner circle of ours, nourish and cherish it throughout.

It is ironic how my happiness got a boost after the accident. I suddenly became aware of all my blessings which I took for granted throughout my life. I am grateful for the fact that I was and will, in another month be able to walk myself to the washroom independently. I feel extremely blessed knowing that I will not need to call out to my mom for getting water or food. I feel blessed knowing that I will be able touch the ground with my bare feet, run, jump, swim, dive and perform a full split. The very feeling of having a certain capability which I lack today in future is extremely gratifying. I feel invincible and capable of doing just anything. It is funny how we take our blessings for granted until a few of them are taken away from us.

Now that I cannot walk around too much and have an excuse to stay away from office, I have taken time out to indulge in myself. I have decided to pamper myself with amazing coffee which I plan to make by perching on the kitchen sill, while my mother would shout at top of her lungs asking me to get down. I plan to read all the amazing books which I had stacked away in my shelf for ‘someday’. I want to write to my heart’s content and flood my blog with absolutely obnoxious to absolutely delightful content. I want to get myself a facial and a massage. I want to dress up and look beautiful for myself. I want to think deeply and madly about life and my purpose in it and everything bizarre that I cannot take enough time out for on usual days. I want to drink coffee, lots of it; read books, lots of them and tell my mother lots of times that I adore her more than I can ever express.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Broken Toys

It took Aanya eleven years and four months to understand thoroughly the meaning of abhorrence, disgust and grief. It is too young an age to be exposed to the gravity of these dark emotions but life doesn’t give us much of a choice sometimes. Even she wanted to live in the fairy tale world for a very long time, wanted to keep her knowledge of grief limited to scraped knees and scolding received for not finishing the homework, wanted to keep her innocence intact but if only it were in her hands. Sitting in her room and studying intently for her Biology test, she lost huge parts of her innocence and cheerfulness that day, parts which never found way back to her again.

‘Meiosis’ and ‘Mitosis’, she scribbled on the white board. Having spent the past five minutes recalling the differences between the two types of cell division, she got restless and flipped open the Biology book. ‘Mitosis is a process of cell duplication, or reproduction, during which one cell gives rise to two genetically identical daughter cells ‘, ‘Meiosis, on the other hand, is a division of a germ cell involving two fissions of the nucleus and giving rise to four gametes, or sex cells, each possessing half the number of chromosomes of the original cell.’ Then suddenly, that word struck her- ‘sex’. She had heard girls talk about it in hushed voices, she never participated in those conversations though. Somehow, a part of her disapproved those conversations; quite another, however, yearned to be a part of them and decipher the reasons behind the giggles and the smirks.
‘Sex must be having something to do with reproduction’, she wondered. Then, gradually all the thoughts about ‘meiosis’ and ‘mitosis’ and the biology test were driven off her mind and all that remained was this three letter word ‘sex’. Curiosity was killing her. She flipped open the Oxford dictionary and looked for the word ‘sex’, to find ‘sexual intercourse’ as one of meanings. She quickly scanned the pages and looked for ‘sexual intercourse’, and there it was- ‘insertion of the penis into the vagina’.

She stood still for some time trying with all her might to shrug the meaning off her mind. She couldn’t keep it off for long, though. The meaning took refuge in her head and stayed there, refusing to move out. The dictionary dropped down off her hands and she fell down on her knees trying desperately to fight back the tears. ‘No, it could not be this’, she tried to assure herself. However,they kept coming back to her-those scenes from childhood; the different places he played that ‘game’ started flashing in front of her eyes.

White pleated skirt. Washroom of her old house. He told her that he will teach her a new game that day. He asked her to lift up her skirt as he unbuttoned his pants.
‘I don’t like it.’
‘This is how the game is played darling. You will start liking it gradually.'
 'Promise me you will not tell anyone about it. The game is cursed. Another kid told her sister about this game, a week later her parents died.’
Aanya shuddered at the thought of it. She stayed quiet, never told anyone about this ‘game’. ‘Regret’, she had memorized this word only two weeks ago as a part of the class assignment. Little did she know then that life itself would teach her its true meaning and so soon at that.

Golden frock. Brown bed. Waking up feeling uneasy. Creases on the part of the bed where she wasn’t sleeping. Smelling of something unfamiliar, something dirty. Hurried footsteps right outside her room. The sudden urge to get up and check on those footsteps. A part of her suppressed that urge. It was probably afraid that she may come in terms with the cause of that uneasiness. She let that part win. She denied the confrontation. She chose to live in ignorance. She was scared, scared of the reality that she kept denying to herself. Regret!

Yellow pajamas. She was sitting at the study table. ‘Hey, Aanya. Mummy left you all alone. Let me take you around my new house. Come’, he said. She did not want to go. She was not bold enough to say a blatant no. She resisted the proposal.
‘I have a lot of pending homework. I will come some other time.’
‘No, it will just take ten minutes. You should take a break, you have been studying for too long, anyway.’
Then, he leaped forward, lifted her onto his shoulders and carried her to his house. ‘You’re my little princess, aren’t you?’, he said as he put her down and placed a kiss on her cheek.
‘You love strawberry shake, don’t you? I’ll make it for you. You can watch Tom and Jerry till then.’
‘No, I am full. Can I go home?’
‘I make the best strawberry shake in the world. You’ll never want to go home once you taste the shake.’
‘Now, be a good girl and watch television.’
‘Maybe, it will be fine this time. I think he has changed. Maybe, he will not play the ‘game’ with me. I do not like the game,' she thought to herself as he prepared the ‘best’ strawberry shake in the world. 
‘And here it is. Did anyone tell you that you’re the most beautiful girl in the world?’
She smiled awkwardly.  She took the glass and started having the shake. She sipped in as slowly as she could. Something told her that that was the longest she could push it. The shake finished off eventually.
‘Let’s play something.’
‘I don’t want to play; I have homework to do. Please.’
‘It’ll just take five minutes, I promise. Let me help you.’
‘I don’t like it. Let me go.’
‘Okay, okay princess.’
‘See, that was all.’
She let him do it again. She still didn’t tell anyone about it. Regret!

Magenta parallel suit. It was so much in vogue those days.
‘Honey, I’m going to the market. Bhaiya will help you out with the sums. Please take care of her, okay? The food is in the fridge, warm it for a minute in the microwave if she feels hungry,’ mom said.
‘Don’t you worry Aunty, she’s my little princess.’
‘You’re always such a help, darling. Aanya is one lucky girl.’

It ended with ‘Don’t tell anyone about it. That kid who told her sister, her parents died a week later’, again.  She let him do it, again. She didn’t tell anyone, again. Regret was pinching her like a thousand sharp needles being punched into her body. It pained immensely but she embraced it. she felt that she deserved the pain, each bit of it. Weakness meets pain and deservedly so.

Scenes after scenes flooded the room. She was in all of them; different coloured dresses, different rooms but they all ended similarly, creating the same suffocating feeling in her chest. She wanted to scream, cry and rebuke herself, all at the same time.

Tears kept falling down her cheeks for what seemed like a very long time. She stuffed her handkerchief in her mouth to dampen the sound of sobbing. She slapped herself repeatedly for being so weak that she could not put her foot down and tell him to get lost. She drowned in the pool of regret for not telling anyone about it. And, finally she pitied herself for the remainder of night. She felt sympathetic about the fact that she let her body be used by someone and guilty for letting it happen.

There are many Aanyas around us, stuffing the handkerchief in their mouth to dampen the sound of their cries. We need to hear more intently. There are many Aanyas who lose their innocence, their pink rosy childhood, a little too soon. Let us talk to the children in our family; educate them about the right and wrong touch, about sex, about physical intimacy.  Let the tears be there only for the broken toys and not broken souls. 

Monday, 11 January 2016


I often wonder what it is like to be absolutely free, to be able to just go ahead with what your heart yearns to do. I wonder what it is like to not be held back by relationships, societal norms, responsibilities or gender. I seldom do things that I want to do, more often than not they are influenced by those around me thereby incorporating their interests. There are several times when I have cancelled that solitary dinner that I yearned to have with myself to accommodate some plan with my friends. I could have said no but there is something that stopped me; I guess it’s the fear of losing them out. We humans are herd animals. We cannot survive completely on our own and out of the fear of not being able to survive in future, I have forgone living in the present a lot of times. There are several times when I have said a ‘yes’ when each bit of me yearned to say a ‘no’ just to keep someone’s heart.

I remember the afternoon I wanted to wear my favorite bright pink dress but couldn’t because we were going to a not-so-civilized locality and according to my mother it showed my thighs a little too much for the men there to handle. I wonder how liberating it could be to just pick out anything I find beautiful in my wardrobe and drape myself in it, without considering how everyone around me would feel about it.

I remember the evening when I was six vodka shots down and started doing the notorious ‘Nagin’ dance when I was supposed to just groove in a lady like manner. My friend had to pull me off the dance floor because I was being such an embarrassment for everyone. I think I like my drunk self a lot. She is more liberated than my sober self can ever be. I am certain that in that moment when I was recklessly dancing with every ounce of energy, I was the happiest I have ever been while dancing. I wonder who I truly am sometimes. I envy that my drunk self’s sense of freedom. I envy the way she could dance to her heart’s content without a care in the world. I envy the way she could walk up to the guy she has a crush on and tell him that he’s incredibly attractive. I envy the way she could let go off her inhibitions and live in the moment completely, wholly. I wonder if I really am that drunk girl after being bound by the shackles of decorous behavior, societal norms, responsibilities and the burden of being lady-like. My drunk self was happy, happier than it has ever been when sober. This is probably why I share a very amicable bond with alcohol. Life would probably be a lot easier if we just had to care about leading a happy life, not a dignified one.

I remember the time when I just wanted to go ahead and tell that guy how amazing he is but didn’t because it would probably sound inappropriate and it might make me sound too desperate or simply because women are not supposed to make the first move. It’s a pity how I have to hold myself back to just tell someone that I really like them.

I remember losing it at work one day, taking a deep breath and asking myself what I am doing with my life. The answers that I got sounded feeble and they mumbled something about money. They did not sound satisfactory enough to me. I went on with my work anyway because I received a mail of my credit card statement and that something which they mumbled about money suddenly seemed very important. A monthly salary can be an addiction, an addiction more dangerous than drugs, I believe. You think you own it but it ends up owning you, making you its bonded laborer for life.

I wonder if absolute freedom exists and whether it comes at its own price. Is it possible to throw away the filters that the society comes with and still be happy? Freedom brings along with it solitude and how much ever liberating it might be, solace eventually gets filled with loneliness. If you’re against the society, you’re most likely standing alone. Will it be a happy world if it is lonely? I wonder if it is possible to love and not be bound by it. I wonder if it is possible to seek for your space and not be engulfed by it entirely. I wonder if a freer life would actually be happier or just end up being more chaotic. I wonder if the ‘I’ and ‘we’ can coexist and respect each other’s boundaries. I wonder how emancipating it would be to not have to fit into any mold, to not have to belong to a category. Would it not be amazing if I could be the workaholic girl, the reckless party girl, the tomboy who would tie her hair in a bun and wear a XL T-shirt and walk around whistling to her heart’s content and the lady who would dress up in elegant fashion and speak in decibels too low for anyone not giving their complete attention to understand? How wonderful it would be to preserve each part of me and not let any bit die!