Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Phase

After what seems like eons, creativity seems to be dripping out of my pores every now and then. Thanks to Jishnu, whose presence virtually makes it impossible for me to write at length and to Twitter, that has forced me to distill vast ideas into couplet concentrates, the fount of miniature poetry has been let loose. All day on Twitter, big and small inspirations provoke me to retaliate with these specimens. I'm calling it the phase, that has come as unexpectedly as it might go. Before they're lost to a fickle timeline and fickle-r memories, I'm assigning them to this trusty, old, if often ignored blog. I will keep adding these little personal treasures to this post as long as they choose to manifest themselves to me.


1. Now there is a point / now there isn't./ You were born with a curse to have to choose your realities / Over and over.

2. As I stand outside / the forlorn reject / eavesdropping every vain word / I am almost glad / they did not let me in.


3. For I wonder / if in their company / I will find so much pride / that I will lose my loving.

4. So I turned / away and unto myself / and found / that I needed no other.

5. Take me love /while my love glows orange/ for tomorrow might be too late / with ashen indifference.

6. Rummage through all that baggage/ Tell me if you do./ Find some innocence tucked away/ In that quiet corner of a careworn satchel.

7. And what is that / rushes through your ardent arteries? / Cut yourself to see / if it be some worthy blood.

8. Pointless days and pointless nights / I live through endless, empty words / Scribbling with a pointed zeal / To finally find my swan song.

9. Lost, I wept before the mirror / Found my soul mate staring back / So I packed my bags and eloped with me / To a world where I found myself.

10. Careworn, he left./ Picked up his mind of a child / his heart of the wild / and blended into nothingness. 

11. O pride, when you lead the way/ to a land without friends/ all I have, to seek comfort in/ is a satchel full of imagined insults

12. Spilled secrets of a rotting old heart/ unaccepting of its fading youth/ wonder where the constraints are/ for this looks like perversion.

13. Uncaring words / like botched baubles / forever adorn the memories / of those hurt by them.


14. To my hesitant feet/ even a step was feat/ and then they hurled an unkind joke/ and crippled me forever.

15. Acid fumes of a carnage/ caused by the fallen children of God/ linger long after, in the throats of those/ who once trusted humanity (26/11)


16. Ignored so long, she was the colour of dust/ until one day, when born again/ she walked up and said "Hello. I am."

17. Hands held, bodies intertwined/ minds mating even/ but alone you will be at night/ in sleep as in death.


18. Fight against the fears they cause/ fight against the tears they cause/ but in the end the worthy fray/ is you against your choices.

19.  Love, O tainted love/ luscious is your promise/ for you stand, teasingly/ on the far side of right.

20. I scrounge my lessons/ for words that may sound deep/ hang them atop like stars on a tree/ just so I can earn my keep.

21. Warm drops of vulnerable love/ trickling down her cold spine/ like blood red petals strewn/ on a white sheet of indifference.

22. A glass doll behind a glass wall/ he loved ceaselessly/ said, "Since she does not know/ she will never hurt."

23. Deep love, stare me in the face/ yell me in the ear/ tell me you will win all odds / in the end, because you are.

24. Rave and rage, O angry child/ break a few things and hearts /purged, sleep will be your fairy soon /and render all truths, lies.

25. Helpless, wrapped in sheets/ she tumbled down endlessness/ woke up before she could fall, broken/ wiggled her toes and said 'Phew!'

26. If only you'd ignore the snarls / and oft times, the bites / If only you'd 'doggone it' the devil / If only rabid thoughts died.

27. Hush tonight 'O weary voices/ for tomorrow will find its provocations/ will make you make more noises/ and drown you all over again.

28. Who wants to do the climbing/ to reach the zenith or nadir/ leave me alone to stumble and stand/ for I am but a human.

29. Romeo by the roadside/ blue then numb then dark/ braving the cold and hurt and anger/ of nature and his lover's heart.

30. He looms like a pregnant raincloud /like stale breath in an empty room/ disturbing me with silences/ and his oppressive invisibility.

31. Viscous, dark, sticky, stringy/ folds me in over and over/ till hot and burning, my soul scalds/ the asphalt of your black love.
 
32. Vivid eyes, that see all/ hear all and smell all/ where do I hide from thee?/I can, oft times, even feel you taste my breath.

33. When untrod paths came a calling / when unheard loves beckoned / hope flashed - a lightening streak / in the heart of the lone deranger.

34. Lungfuls of guilty breath / memories tripping her step / she ran from fast-paced pain / picking the shrapnel of his broken heart.

35. Come, sit by my side/ Be black when I'm white / and white when I'm black / Show me the mirror or be my foil.

36. Cut me a sliver of your life/ just a day, but the darkest/ let me place it next to my mundane days/ and count my many blessings.

37. Rage away, dear heart/ but there will come a day/ when love will have rubbed off on you quietly/ and your jagged edges will have softened.

38. Who let you out, O pure one?/ to walk this cruel world, to learn their lies./ Who let you out, knife in hand/ and told you 'twas God's will?



39. Shush, my love, why do you scream?/ What are your pains, that you seek to drown/ in a noise so loud, it loses you/ loses me and all meaning.
40. Coil up now, cold you are/ a blue heart you have, and a closed mind/ let me take you back, my child/ when you were safe in my womb.



41. Battle scarred and blood stained/ valour badges on my breast/ I carry swords by the day/ but wear my love's arms in the night.

42. She rummaged through chests/ under sheets, in sheets/ between people and lessons/ to find another word for her savings box.



43. She could love at hat drop/ and fawn over sweet nothings/ but in fury, she turned ugly/ and let out gargoyles that kill.



44. Like an unabashed picture of inelegance/ he plodded along the unwarranted road/ foot firmly in his mouth, head high/ said 'this is who I am'



45. She landed there, with no warnings/ perhaps in a dream, all naked/ and hid to protect her modesty/ until she noticed all was shorn of shame.



46. Her white dress hitched a little/ goody two shoes kept aside/ she stepped into the slime/ and said, 'I wanna play too!'



47. It is cold out there/ why stymie your warm love/ share a lingering smile/ that might melt some frozen faiths.



48. Her happy feet danced in the air/ her spirit blinded darknesses/ a joy of living that teased them all/ said crush me if you can.



49. He thought they were aimed at him/ benign looks of harmless people/ he let these non-wounds fester/ and gave himself a malignant heart.



50. Here I am/ the literary philanderer/ seeking partners in crime/ who can talk back in eloquence.



51. Crazed in love of a man unknown/ a man who pained every bit of dream/ made her rave and rant and search/ sniffing for imagined pheromones.



52. Murders behind him, he woke one day/ took off and away from a life of sin/ lived then on as a hermit-saint/ with a hollow gun for his friend



53. Give in to the seductress, sleep/ Lie down with her, in her arms/ Let your dormant dreams awaken/ Let them teach you to dance.



54. He really was alone, inside and about / perched atop a lonely island/ surrounded by a crowd, a mirage/ talking to his thoughts and back.



55. O' ye poor heroes of the feeble fable, may greatness hunt ye down and find a trophy story.



56. He sought naked bodies/ and in naked wonder, drew / until a purist cried rape/ and crushed his art and soul.



57. Ingrown anger, coiled beneath his skin/ a few eager nails, picked at his heart/ said, the hurts have to end here/ the love's got to end now



58. She parted her lips in a smile/ that could mean anything/ a condescension, an apprehension, an affirmation or a negation/ and walked away.



59. Came back as nasty boomerangs/ his half-baked thoughts, half-thought words/ because he couldn't say what he meant/ forever held his silence.

60. She spoke like there was no tomorrow/ spent happy, sad, angry words/ never looked once at the vanishing trove/ till it ran dry and muted her

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Twibute!

(Image via http://colourful-cuppatea.blogspot.com/)



     What else can an addict talk about but his trips? With 3500+ tweets, 300+ followers and an insane need to continually check out the exquisite banalities of my timeline, I'm surely now a Twitter addict. Riding high on the thrills Twitterverse has to offer, I live my real life as if it were a chore.
     And why not? Where else can you be the unabashed voyeur, enjoying these rippling streams of consciousnesses of the most fantastic minds you've chosen to follow. For a person who trips on words, Twitter is a continuous source of pleasure, where the limit of 140-characters pushes you to distill language till it reaches yummy perfection. Add to it the need to impress, and what you have are the most awe-inspiring specimens of living, breathing literature on your timeline. Pauses come in the way of the funniest jokes, the weirdest facts, the sauciest news and the randomest status quos. 
     And before you have a chance at boredom, an unfollow has been made and another great mind followed. Impressed with the collaborations made by this new stranger's brain, keyboard and fingers, in say, the last 15 tweets, you're fired up to understand him, challenge him, and finally earn your follow back. With some, the chemistry happens with religious @replies, DMs and RTs; while others line themselves up in your mental 'too boring' or 'too schizophrenic' lists.
     The fun part is, you get to savour chunks of brilliance for days on end, without ever knowing, or needing to know, their real identities. It's like having mind-effing sex with a superawesome stranger without ever having to attach strings. The only thing that matters is exchanging pleasures; one tweet at a time.
     But Twitter is more than the word games I so love. It is a juggernaut of news, current affairs, trivia, art buzz and the works, that challenges you to consume it all. It is a never-ending broadcast of every thought that is worth its salt.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Noises

The strange thing about jarring, disturbing and even mind-numbing noises is that they eventually assume the pristine of white. Once noise becomes white noise, it becomes comfort, safety and then need. A classic case in point is made in the sweet exaggerations of the only silent Hindi movie - Pushpak. When Kamal Hasan, a poor, jobless young man from the chawls, lands on the cushiest of beds in a 5-star hotel, sleep evades him. His personal Hypnos has been left behind in the strays' howls and the drunkards' brawls and the open-theatre's excited crowds. You titter when you see a helpless, sleepless Kamal Hasan going back with a tape-recorder and bringing back a track of the crazy noises that will drown his tiredness.

The irony is funny; but only that. We are all bound to sounds. Whispers, conversations, arguments, rages, reconciliations. Barks, moos, mews, crows. Claps, slaps, gasps. Tings, tongs. Breaths. Beats.

I'm bound to my repertoire of noises too. The last year of my life has been marked by a marked sensitivity to sounds, or lack thereof. Before Jishnu was born, the dhuk-dhuk of his strong kicks was the only real bother of my life. After he presented himself to the world, his cries drowned everything else. All the happy sounds that a young girl’s free-spiritedness, joys and freedoms makes, were gagged. Only a drone of morbid seriousness and grave responsibility filled my days and nights. I was consumed by the spirit of an all-controlling parent who wouldn’t let me be anything else. Every slight whimper of the new, attention-hogging life snapped me out of any crime of a reverie I may have been committing. Thereafter, my life became a cycle that whirred with every round of feed-pee-poop-sleep. Repeat. Feed-pee-poop-sleep. Waah-waah-waah-waah. Repeat. So compulsive was my conditioned attendance to him, that even music had to be sacrificed. God forbid if I missed his wails. Since headphones were out, I could have killed for a 'legitimate' pair of ear plugs then. And escaped into luxurious silence.

And in the middle of all that racket, the move to Mumbai happened. The summer of 2010 was marked by sweat, tears, groans and moans. But time ticked-tocked, Jishnu grew a few months and inches, summer gave way to monsoon and Mumbai seeped quietly into my system, just like the water in these musty walls. The five-times-a-day azaans from the neighbouring mosque began to envelop me protectively. Jishnu’s pitter-patter, babbling and gurgling became comforting too. Music came back. Noises have become nice.

I now fit snugly into the wheezing lungs of this choked city, yet feel the better for it. Silences, when they catch me unawares, feel deafening, threatening. When I woke up last night to give Jishnu his bottle, I felt oddly thankful for the beeping and the honking that goes on in the city even in the dead of the night. This is now my horn OK please zone.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

How to create a perfect controversy

(Image courtesy:zazzle.com)

I present to you the world's shortest and most accurate instruction manual.

1. Get on Twitter
2. Hang around for a while.
3. Unleash a bold tweet. (Preferably involving a celeb)

*****
     Because Shashi Tharoor had one, Rajeev Masand had one, and even li'l Sonam Kapoor had one, I also wanted a controversy of my own.  So, on one fine Twitter day, I woke up and expressed my desire thus: "Wants to 'jackass' someone and create a Twitter outrage. Are you game? Are you a celebrity?" [For those who are completely at a loss for context, film journo Rajeev Masand called Akshay Kumar a 'jackass' and faced the film fraternity's wrath].
     But since I am no Angelina Jolie with people lining up to fulfill every desire of mine, no outrages occurred. 
     So I hung around and observed and revised those textbooks on 'No Publicity is Bad Publicity' and 'How to Copy-Paste Self to Page 3'. Every lesson in the science of eyeball grabbing ended with one axiom: If you want to be famous, create a controversy'. Thanks to Twitter, it is now as easy as 1-2-3 (read manual above).
     Unless you're the kind who wears a suit in his shower or protects his tweets, your thoughts are as naked on Twitter as any web baby. And thanks to the power of retweets, rallying and bullying come nice and easy.
    I took my third bold step on a Friday, which happened to be the birth anniversary of our freedom fighter Chandrashekhar Azad. I noticed a few tweets about how shameful it was that our media wasn't dedicating any airtime to him and how disgraceful it was that the media should be interested in Shah Rukh Khan's moves. Scold. Scold. Scold.
     Because it struck me as purist and childish, I ventured to boldly say what no one has said before. "Do only textbook heroes deserve worship? Why is Azad greater than, say SRK?"
     And then came the fireworks! Before I knew what was happening, my philo-logical question snowballed (shitballed is more like it) in to a miniature hate campaign. 
     "How can you compare the two? This is a shock!" said one.
     "Are you insane? How could you compare a great freedom fighter to a film star?", said another.
     "Shah Rukh Khan is a pornstar and dances at weddings for cash. How can you compare him to Azad?" said a particularly malicious one.
     "You are pathetic! You can't compare the two. Take back your words, now!" said yet another, seething with rage.
     From doubt to shock to malice to anger to condescension to patronising pity to insults to virtual blows, I saw it all in a matter of minutes. And because my genda-skin hasn't bloomed completely yet, I recoiled. I mumbled an apology of sorts and ran as far as my tweets could carry me. And I learned one thing. Twitter is no place for the profound. 140 characters are too little to make big philosophical propositions. The treatises are best kept for blogs. And so I will make mine here (and remember, this is MY blog. We play by MY rules). I will answer those bitter Twitter questions the way I meant to.
     The biggest objection of them purists was my comparison. I said, in essence, that Shah Rukh Khan is like Chandrashekhar Azad. Before you scream 'How???' in disbelief, I'll interject, 'How not?' 
      Let's dissect your shock to shreds with some pure reasoning. With all due respect to the martyr, let's keep emotions - patriotic and otherwise - aside. Let's discuss fundamentals. Let's throw your faux morality into the dustbin for a while.  
     Every era has a right to worship its heroes; and if more people in India care about SRK's toilet habits than what Azad did in the yellow pages of history, it makes perfect sense. We've all learnt that in our standard five textbooks anyway.    
     Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) is a movie superstar. We live in the age of TRPs. So, if you think the media should 'waste' its precious airtime on Azad, you're effing stupid. Just as nationalist newspapers back then wouldn't waste column space on a movie star. You may be a nationalist, idealist, purist and all that jazz, but wake up to the way the world whirls. It all boils down to the money, honey.
    OK, if money is too shallow for you, how about purpose? SRK works in the movies for fame and (pardon the redundancy) money. Azad worked to free his country. Both act/ed in ways that pleased their soul; that met the purpose of their life. We all live and die for what pleases us most. It could be fame or it could be freedom. To each his own, right?
    Now, for the question of contributions. Azad did a lot for his country. SRK is doing a lot for his country too - only the domains are different. We all play the parts we are destined for.
     What about means, you may ask. Azad died fighting for the freedom of his nation. SRK dances in weddings for money. Yes. True. Also, we all try to earn our keep. Only the denominations differ.
    They are both human beings, I say. The comparison is fair. "Hah! Tomorrow you may compare Azad to Kasab on that scale, then!" you smirk. "I totally will," I say. They are the same; if a government and the law of a land are made judges. Azad, pretty much, committed the same crimes against the British Indian government as Kasab did against the Indian government. They both committed murder. They both killed human beings. They both were motivated by passions justified to them. The end result is the same: a death sentence.       
     You can call Kasab a murderer, Azad a martyr and SRK a money mongering male whore, whatever. Your tags only depend on which side of the story you are on. Who are you and I to decide whether the use of this temporary shell of human flesh in this way or that, is good or bad? Nothing is absolute. Time and context changes all definitions. It makes a hero of a villain and a villain of a hero. 
     I rest my case.  
     
    



Thursday, July 15, 2010

A prayer for the ordinary

(Image source:www.clker.com)

     
     
     Empathy is not for real. There is no way you can really know where and how bad the wearer's shoe is pinching him. But if you've had your share of bites, you might just recognise the pain. And when another's pain drives you to tears, you can be sure, a bite has left a mark somewhere...

*****
     I've always been pro-adoption. Supporting 'nurture' over 'nature', I've always believed in the virtue of giving an orphan a home. But I would have to admit that a certain Angelina Jolie-like glamour was part of the fine print. Also, the idea of having a perfect, ready-made, toilet-trained child fit my definition of 'easy'.
     Then I hit upon this blog ( I can't believe I didn't save the link)... An impossibly chubby Chinese baby's picture caught my eye and as I read one post after another, I realised how she was the centre of the universe for one American couple. Living in an orphanage in far-off China, this baby already had her parents-to-be wrapped around her little finger. The earnestness of every waiting moment of the 'expectant' mother makes you want to push the clock forth too.   
     Joanna (the blog's author) is a simple, beautiful and strong woman, who is spending every waking moment of her life counting down to the day her adopted daughter Mackenzie will come home to her.
     Mackenzie is a Chinese orphan with a butterball face, a complicated medical condition of the heart and one missing ear. 
     So much for my perfect, ready-made baby's idea. Why would someone choose a child with problems? I suppose you learn to be magnanimous when you've been through your share of problems and more.
     Joanna has been through the agony of not being able to have a child of her own. I have too, albeit for six short (and unimaginably long) months. When my body refused to do its duties, my world and my identity came crumbling down. For all my fancy life and style, I could not overcome my biological purpose. My self-worth plunged at the thought of being 'barren'. What was the point of being a woman? The thought pushed me into the shadow of depression and threatened to swallow every joy I'd ever known. No consolations or distractions helped. Thankfully, medications did, and Jishnu happened.
     But Joanna wasn't blessed that way. Through days and months and years of trying to conceive and failing, she must have grappled with the worst kind of pain a woman can feel. A sense of betrayal by destiny, God and her own body may have darkened her days. But the desire to be a mother kept the love in her heart alive. She and her husband decided to adopt a baby who would finally complete their lives. 
      Joanna's blog paints a pretty picture of her hopes for a new beginning. She's now lovingly laying out each brick of her dream of motherhood. She will make a great mother because she knows what it is worth.
     Biological mothers, by that scale, may always fall behind. Yes, I rejoiced and I thanked God for the best gift ever when I conceived; but it became a thing for granted, as all things do. It is difficult to keep counting the blessings when you live in a country of teeming millions, have a huge belly and its discomforts and subsequently spend endless, sleepless nights marching along the feed-pee-poop parade.
     But each time you come across a story of someone's naught, you say a silent prayer for being ordinary. You thank God for a child of your own, who is in perfect health and whose place in your life is not subject to others' permissions. After all, it isn't your shoe that's a misfit and it isn't you who is getting bitten.

Friday, July 09, 2010

From a biased, paranoid Hindu's perspective

(Image courtesy: http://monado.files.wordpress.com)


    

      I see beard, I think terrorist. 
      That is the truth of the matter, and the crux of all that follows.
      Perhaps beginning with a disclaimer would have been wiser. But hey, better late than never. All ideas and opinions expressed in this blog are my own and represent no other - living or dead...or maybe they do. But just as a point, this is just a rant, no offence  meant. (And please remind me NOT to apply for any jobs for the post of disclaimer writer)
      Mumbai, my new home, has a lot of things I don't like. Monsoons and Muslims lead the race. Why monsoons? Because they suck. And why Muslims? Uh...they suck too. For starters, the mosque joined at the hip with the building I live in is the bane of my life. That mullah/maulvi/maulana, or whatever it is that they are called, screeching azaans five friggin times in a day beginning at 5 effing 'O clock! (Are you guys sure Mr Allah wakes up that early?)
     Secondly, a huge procession of them topiwalas, with their band-baajas, is passing from right under my house just when I'm trying to put baby to sleep. Aaaaaargh!
     'So what?', you may ask. 'Don't you know Ganeshotsav's right around the corner.'   Sigh. I know, I know. When I point a finger at them, the other three point right back at me. Yet, a biased Hindu that I am, I will leave no chance to find fault with them Greens - however flimsy the grounds. 
     Yes, I have an MA, I am liberal enough to smoke before my in-laws, I broke rules and married a Christian, but I cannot get myself to behave 'normally' with a Muslim colleague - just because he sports a beard. If I didn't look at him, or looked only neck down, he could be a buddy. He wears jeans, he talks cool, he even brings French toast for dabba! But he will never be my friend because he is an Ansari and not an Adhikari.
     Frankly, I don't know much about Muslims. My GK about that huge part of the world community is restricted to the Khans of Bollywood, Mughal history, Biryani, the Taj Mahal, and some stray words like Mecca, Haji, Talaaq and what have you. But sadly, the stronger repertoire consists of words like terrorist, Al-Qaeda, Osama, Sharia, stoning, bombing, killing, many wives, many-er kids, uneducated and dangerously provocative. 
     With any newspaper on any given day throwing up names like Javed and Farid and Aslam and Mohammad in almost all crime stories, my beliefs only get stronger. This, with years of hate conditioning, a separatist, collective consciousness and lack of exposure has left me with little choice of perspective. Funny, how I've learnt to not learn the lessons in secularism.
     But I've tried. I've tried to read and understand, in vain, about Islam, reveled in the exquisite arts that Muslims are masters of, gorged on the most delectable of Mughlai cuisines, but the prejudice refuses to budge. One white skull cap or one black burkha is all it takes for me to clench my jaw, cringe my nose and generally get all worked up. My personal walls go right up.
     I'll probably never be able to accept a Muslim as a normal, living, breathing human being. To me, they'll always remain 'they', 'the others', 'the minority'. (Heaven help me if I ever have to live out of India.) 
     It must be difficult to unbelong, thus. It must be one heck of a curse to live with preconceived and wrong notions about yourself. It must be extraordinarily tough to have to prove yourself at every step of the way, just because you are not what most others are. Viren (my Catholic husband) says I'll never understand what it feels like to be a 'minority'. Perhaps I won't. Perhaps I will. Jishnu is supposed to be raised as a Catholic. The thought scares me to no end. It terrifies me to think of all the unfair burdens he may have to live with...
     May the world have fewer people like me. :(


    


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Vitamin T and other needs

     
     OK, so I am officially part of the world of twitwits (my term), or the twitterers or the tweeples or the twitterati; call them what you will.
     Am I ashamed of it? Yes.
     Am I doing it anyway? Yes.
     From the last time I looked, I am 18 days, 55 tweets, 26 followers, 83 followings and 18 direct messages old on Twitter and the handle that is used to carry all this senselessness is Urmi_Chanda_Vaz. Not bad, I'd say. At the going rate of more than one new follower per day, my vanity is being fed by the mouthfuls and my ego looks nice and curvy (oh dear, I can already hear the borderline obesity warning go beep-beep-beep!). Celebs must think similarly when their follower numbers hitch up by a few thousands per day.
     Twitter has taken the vain world by storm and anyone who is someone (and even no ones like yours truly) has something significant to say to the world...or at least they think so.
     And why not, I ask? When you have hundreds lapping up highly important facts like Salman Khan craving for a pizza or Gordon Ramsay cooking bull balls or OMG, Amitabh Bachchan taking a bucket bath, why shouldn't they tweet? Sample this: "Oh, you're my hero, my God, Amit ji sir ji...use balderdash soap for your divine skin and RT please." Now is there anything even remotely insane about this tweet? No. Because if Mr. Bachchan can tell you he's gracing the bathroom, Mr. Fan can tell him to retweet this gorgeous piece of literature.
     The inanity of the Tweetosphere is scary, sometimes funny and sometimes plain maddening.  That is why I had kept off Twitter for so long. That's what allowed me to indulge in some glorious derision. Oh, what fun it is to look down upon something that's so large.
     But then Social Wavelength happened. I opened a Twitter account as part of my job description, stooped low to see what happens down there and got sucked into that inimitable vanity trap that is Twitter.
     It is easy to fall prey to flattery. Yeah, it's no rocket science. It's man in all his 'social animal' glory that seeks acknowledgement, approval, acceptance and adulation from his fellow animals. My greatest victories are won when I speak and you nod. I say, you listen. I lead, you follow. Imagine the rush one feels, then, when others find you worthy enough to 'follow' you. When even the likes of Sachin Tendulkar have succumbed to the need for affirmation, what chance do us mere mortals have? We hate to follow the herd, but do it all the same, 'coz that's where the grass is.
     The need to be better than Tom, Dick and even Harry never abates. It just keeps getting bigger and stronger every time there's a DM, or an RT or a reply to your tweet. We try harder, we tweet smarter and we wait longer for just one more nod. Our selves have become dependent on Vitamin T and we need larger doses everyday to keep our fragile egos from collapsing. In the end, we all end up virtual wayfarers dropping in cheesy 140 characters hoping someone...anyone will notice us and follow us; our insecurities hashtagged forever.  
    

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

An overweight Bong

(Image:zcache.com)

     Inspiration comes from the strangest places. Sometimes a small phrase leads to a big insight and out comes a blog...

*****

     Trudging through my first lonely weeks at the new company Social Wavelength, I happened to get into one of those inane conversations with one of my new colleagues (a Bengali, incidentally). After a work-related query was resolved on G-talk, he asked me if I had had lunch. It was just past lunchtime. How nice of him. Hoping I'd be offered some company, I answered, "Yes, thank you. Anyway, it's a one-chapati, eat alone affair...gets done in 5 minutes..." But a Bong that he was, the picked the food cue! "One chapati!? But you are a Bong..."
     "I am an overweight Bong!" I interjected.
     "LOL...but you must have Rui maacher jhol with bhaat and begoon bhaja..." he trailed off. He was clearly interested in food. But I was interested in my little joke. But wait, it isn't really a joke...

*****

     Or maybe it is. Sadly the joke is on us Bongs...as a race. The adjective 'overweight' pretty much sits 'unprettily' on most of us. Only those plagued by the showbiz or genetics are exceptions. Sure enough the likes of Bipasha Basu and Koena Mitra and Raima Sen make up the league of Bong bombshells. But the rest of us are more like bomb-swells. 
     The love of food is definitely part of a Bong's DNA. There can be no other explanation for this insane obsession we have for food. With five meals on a regular day and even more on jonmodins, beyays, annoprashons, pujos, and even shraddhos, an average Bengali lives to eat.
     Perhaps the probashis will beg to differ, but a typical meshomoshai will begin a typical day by going to a typical baajaar, wearing a typical shaart-paanjaabi, carrying a typical tholay in his hand. The shopping list, then the bag, then the kitchen and finally the meal will consist of two bhaajaas, one dal, one shukto, two torkaris, one maacher jhol (and definitely mangsho on a Sunday or an occasion), one chaatni, and then some doi or mishti. Phew! The subsequent between-meal meals may consist of shingara, kochuri, chop, porota, roll, muri-maakha or the many other delights roadside kiosks and sweet shops have to offer. And the day ends with a dinner that must compete with the lunch on all counts. Honest!
     The probashi that I am, I had forgotten that this is the norm and hence the expectation of a typical Bong when he is invited for a meal. So when I offered a 3-course lunch I had laboured over all day to a relative from Kolkata, I was met with some palpable disapproval about the lack of variety. I think I would have died of shame had I accepted my MIL's very well meaning advice of serving a one-dish meal!
     But I'm alive here and the relatives are back in the heartland of the feisty foodies who spend most of their time, money and energy on food. No wonder there's only one Subroto Roy (bet he doesn't fancy food very much). How can Bongs succeed in business if all they do is eat, eat (No, Bongs don't waste money on liquids) and make merry? But with precious little left after 'foodorgies', merry-making for most moddhobittos is restricted to an annual trip to Puri or Digha...

It's a pity their famous brains fall behind their famous-er appetites.



Sunday, June 06, 2010

2 States by Chetan Bhagat: Impressions


     I've been a self-confessed Chetan Bhagat loather all this while. Nothing against him or what he writes or how he writes it - I choose to not like him just because so many people like him. What to do? I am like that only. Ever since his 5 Point Someone days, his popularity pisses me off. I have a thing against everybody like everything and live happily ever after. So buying his books and reading them has been out of the question. But when my bhai-bhabhi thought my shelf needed a Chetan Bhagat (for a lack of my judgement or theirs) and gifted me his latest novel, I decided to give 2 States: A story of my marriage a chance. And anyways, since my marriage is stalemating, courtesy Jishnu and Mumbai, I thought I might as well read about other peoples' marriages and amuse myself.
      I'm not sure what his previous books are like, but 2 States is a fairly readable book. More than the story, what is to be savoured is his style of writing. It is refreshingly casual and may well have been snatches from our everyday conversations. His similes are rib-tickling, his insights fair and his characters real. His observations of prejudices are very good, perhaps because he has been subject to them. 
    Five days with Bhagat and I have to admit that I liked it while it lasted. You have to hand it to the guy for writing about life nice and easy with a good measure of humour thrown in. He really is someone who'd make for a good conversation starter with a random stranger or people you can't otherwise have meaningful conversations with. Bhagat's work is appealing in a way weather conversations are. They're safe and they're for everybody despite him being quite honest about the way the young operate. Anyway, uncles in their 40s and 50s are likely to not have read him.
     He may not make it to the annals of great literature, but Bhagat makes for a good companion of chai, coffee or cola.

First fright


     There's nothing more terrifying for a parent than to watch his child suffer. The pain is sheer and the helplessness penultimate. Before you can summon a doctor or even summon the idea of summoning one, panic grabs you by the throat and squeezes out every last ounce of reason from your head. The frantic heart takes over and reels with so many emotions, you don't know what to do with them. Your child cries, you cry. You child suffers, you die. You fear. You pray. Pray that there be one way that will let you take your child's pain away.
     ...All seemed hunky-dory on a regular day of our regular lives - stamped with that regularity which is taken for granted till one of the cogs of the wheel fall out. Jishnu was the model of a happy, healthy baby all eight months of his little life before that horrible retching began. There were no signs of discomfort and like any other day, Viren took Jishnu inside to put him to sleep at about 8.30 in the night. I was in the kitchen readying dinner when Vir started shouting and asked me to come in right away.
     I ran into the bedroom and to my horror saw Jishnu vomiting desperately and Viren looking desperate. I stood there transfixed at the door watching helplessly as my poor baby's body spasmed violently with the effort of throwing up. I stood there paralysed with fear facing something I'd never faced before. I stood there with all sorts of terrible thoughts crowding my mind even as Jishnu wailed in pain and discomfort. My reverie was broken only when Viren yelled, "What are you doing there? Help!"
     The next few minutes were pure hysteria and a frenzy of activity. Jishnu threw up, cried. We cleaned him up and the sheets and the floor and the bathroom and waited. Jishnu threw up again, we cleaned up all again; and Jishnu threw up for a third time. Somewhere in between I found my sense, my cell phone and my voice and called up Jishnu's pediatrician in Nagpur. A few assurances and a prescription later did I feel a wee bit 'regular' again. I cradled my baby in my arms, hushed him, soothed him and cried with him. In the next minute, I turned into a merciless model of practicality as I had Viren pinch his little nose while I forced the medicine down his throat. A few more tears and a phew!
     The medicine and exhaustion soon put Jishnu and our fears to sleep. We spent a partially sleepless night monitoring him, kissing him, caressing him even as he slept between us, blissfully unaware. Morning came and all was well again.
      So, what was the big deal one may ask. It was only a vomiting child for crying out loud (yep, right!). Yes, nothing was earth shattering in retrospect and storytelling. Yet, only a first-time parent may able to identify with this first experience of illness in the most precious part of you. Your world really can fall apart at even the thought of something 'bad' happening to your child. And like all things first, facing this fear as regards your baby is forever etched in your heart.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh: Impressions

     Ghosh ne mere hosh uda diye! Gosh!
     Good. My tribute couldn't possibly get cornier than this. Why? Because the book is so deliciously mind effing that trying to say anything intelligent might end up being corny.
     When I picked up the book from a roadside vendor, all I saw was the Elish maach and the word Calcutta on the cover. I thought it would lead me through the narrow golis of Kolkata in yellow taxis on a ride that would connect me to my roots. Thank God, my expectations weren't met. Thank God, The Calcutta Chromosome is another thing entirely!
     Why, Mr Ghosh, you are so cool, so crazy and so out of this world in TCC!! What a read! I'm so excited I cannot help but key in exclamation marks after every sentence! Bravo!
     Finally a book with no answers; a book with a plot so fantastic, so surreal it refuses to let its loose ends be tied; a book that sucks the reader into the dangerous alleys that could be its end. Few authors dare leave the labours of their love into the hands of readers that may not be half as appreciative as yours truly. Thank you, Mr G for letting it be.
     Thank you too for the indomitable L Murugan, the inquisitive Antar, the Rosses and the Farleys and the Urmilas and the Sonalis on missions - all trying to fit into a world where sciences and seances blend. Thank you for blurring the line between the real and the unreal, the mathematical and the magical, the truths and the lies. Thank you for reminding readers that no matter how far we get with our test tubes and gadgets, the only thing we are really looking for is immortality and that the only way about it is leaving behind a book like this. 


Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer: Impressions



Dear Lord Archer,

Sorry, but you're not quite making the mark anymore. Perhaps inspirations are drying up but because your fan following isn't, you are being held a prisoner to publisher demands. You seem to be losing your charisma from your Not a Penny More...days. That chart buster was as riveting as it was real; its plot - gripping; its characters unforgettable. But you may have milked the revenge-plan-that-works a little too much. And what a reader is left with is a been there-done that, mish-mash of a repackaged story in the form of A Prisoner of Birth.

Sure A Prisoner of Birth is a page turner although there are no prizes for guessing what happens in the end. Sure there are some brilliant microplots in the story, but it doesn't make up for the same old poor defeat rich saga and it's unforgivably Hindi cinema like in its courtroom masala. Even the characterisations seem so forced at times, one almost feels sad about the lack of imagination thereof. Which modern author, in his right mind writes, 'Think like Danny, act like Nick' over and over to remind readers with supposed intelligence of what is going through the protagonist's head? And for the formidable bulk of the book, not one character comes out strongly and threatens to stay with you for at least some time. 

And what about the title dear Lord? Sorry, but it's as pointless as the rest of these pages that you call a novel.



Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Another day, another grey


"Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Please tell me there's no grey at all..."

"pffffbht"

I remember my mom telling me to get regular facials done after 25. I was maybe 16 then. Twenty-five seemed centuries away and blessed with good skin as I am, facials seemed like the thing for 'aunties scared of growing old. as if...'.

Cut to a decade after. Today. That’s me at 26, tagged as an 'auntie' by colony ka bachchas who see me with a bachcha, scared of growing old. Suddenly mom’s advice rings scarily true.

Well, the good news is that the good skin is still holding up and I may have another couple of years before I start making a beeline for the beauty parlour asking for a Shahnaz Hussain ka Herbal facial (yes, salons are still an unjustified luxury as a result of my dad’s commie influences).  

But there’s bad news too. Actually it’s more sad than bad. Every morning as I stand close to the mirror brushing my hair, another strand of grey peeks out, mocking me in all its silver glory. I heave a big sigh, pick up a scissor or if I’m too pissed with it, a pair of tweezers to put in as great a distance between ‘it’ and me as I can. But before I can get happy about having gotten rid of one does another spring right up. "Na, na, na, na, na"....it says and I pick up the scissor again. I'm clearly losing this battle. What chances do I really have? Nature vs. Tweezers.

It wasn't so long ago when I'd noticed the first grey hair on my mother's youthful head and was very upset about it. "How can MY mommy have grey hair? How can SHE grow old?" I remember thinking. All of 8, the universal reality of decay hit me. It made me uncomfortable, but I was cushioned in the comfort of time - time that seemed would never end, would never come.

But time did come. Cut to age 16. A time when I began to think grey was sexy. You know them - that tall, grey and handsome kind - those with slight grey at the temples or a full head of grey and a s**tload of confidence. Sexy, yes, but still meant for the others.

And time did come again. A little too early for me I guess. Damn those genes. But before I let myself wallow in some premature middle age crisis-induced depression, I'll squeeze into some tight tees, some short shorts and dye another day.

Monday, May 03, 2010

End of Project J



I think it’s over at last – my Project Jishnu. But before detractors start crying foul, no, I’ve not disowned my son. What has happened is that I’ve finally owned him. Blame it on post-natal depression or a plainer, ruder habit of ego-centric living, Jishnu felt like an interruption in my scheme of things. He was always my Project J – something that had been thrust upon me, and that I had to grudgingly do. He wasn’t part of my life. All he seemed like was an irritating little distraction that needed to be fed, changed, bathed and occasionally loved. It bothered me to no end when; say a potty call would interfere with my Google chat or Facebook session. Having to get up from my beloved eight hour sleeps for night feeds really overwhelmed me; not so much with fatigue as with anger.

I counted days and then months hoping my suffering would disappear one day out of some divine benevolence, but much to my dismay, Project J just got bigger and noisier. I just wanted him to sleep and savour every second of peace and the much missed ‘me time. I gushed about it and gave vent to my feelings on this blog hoping some kindred spirits would empathise (sympathise really) with my pitiable state.

Then suddenly one day I found myself blogging about books, taps and hands and going about my life as if nothing had happened. Jishnu had ceased to ‘happen’. He had, in his characteristic calm, blended into my life without my knowing it. It is said of habits that an act repeated 21 times forms one. I may have taken some 201, but Jishnu’s presence became a habit after all. Feeding him, cleaning him, playing with him, and loving him didn’t seem Herculean any more. Living my life with him rather than around him has become a practiced art form.  In fact, today I can even claim to be able to walk a tightrope carrying him if I have to.

So, it really is the end of Project J. I know because I sometimes actually wait for him to wake up.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tap dance

     This day, I offer my unconditional apologies to all the makers of those B-grade horror flicks where they confer the shower with the power to kill with hot water. I ask for solemn forgiveness for having disbelieved them all this while. Only this morning when my shower tried to kill me did I realise that life imitates art. Yessir! My shower tried to scald me to death this morning. Actually, it has been consistently trying to bring me to a boil since I came to Mumbai.
     OK, I admit, I did go a little overboard with introductions here, but I cannot for the life of me understand these fancy taps. Like what’s their problem, man? Why can’t the blue tap just deliver cold water and the red one hot? Why do the knobs of the main tap, and the sub taps and the shower and the hand shower and such other of their fraternity have to be turned some forty times before you get what you want? Admit it guys, I’m sure there are scores of ‘untapped talents’ like me out there who just won’t get it. How many times have you meant to get an innocent mug of water from that big tap and been rewarded instead with a bin-badal-ki-barsaat, clothes and all? Or was it the anticipation of a warm stream of water meant to comfort you on a shivering-ly cold day and all you got was a rude cold shock? Or was it an urgent must-wash-my-hands-NOW moment when the taps conspired to mock you dry despite your having turned the tap to its turnable limits?
     Gawd, the pain, I tell you. What happened to our dear ol’ peetal ka nal? You know, the ones that needed their washers changed every other month because no quantities of M-Seal or nariyal rassi could rein in the drips? But, that’s okay. Really. I’d barter my Jaquars any day for the ease of those gold-gone-green taps. I would much rather hear their tip-tip at night than look desperately around for tips to operate a tap.
     I can almost picture Jishnu a few years hence, getting exasperated with me and saying, “What’s so difficult about these taps mamma? It’s not rocket science!”
To that I think I’ll say, “Give me rocket science any day, son. But for now, just tell me which damn way which one turns just so I can fill my bucket in peace.”
     And then perhaps I’ll know what my mother has against computers.



Monday, April 26, 2010

Kissed by Kesey



    Mindblowing - in all senses of the word. For what One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is, thesis upon thesis will have been written by awestruck readers and critics over the past five decades. And between the pages of this book, I’ve been so tempted to Google it and see if millions of Kesey fans have felt what I was feeling. But I refrained each time, afraid I would mistake others’ observations and admirations for mine. I wanted to savour each one of my ideas about this classic.
     I’m finally through with it and am simultaneously dumbstruck and overwhelmed with words that want to capture the novel’s worth. Yes, I’ve encountered other brilliant books before, but this gushing comes from the resolution of a very personal crisis.
     Since I majored in Clinical Psychology four years ago, I’ve made conscious efforts to stay away from the subject even if it meant wasting two years of sincere academic effort and a career as well. Towards the end of my course, what with visiting mental asylums for case studies, I’d found myself committing the cardinal sin of a shrink – getting involved and getting upset. I kept getting drawn to their part of the world where there was no happiness. Everything I saw was through sombre lenses and for the cynic that I basically am, the world became a darker place. This realisation hit me when on a nature trip, I found my ability to be inspired crippled. I shrunk back in fear of the person I was becoming. I was terrified at the thought that nothing beautiful would come off my pen again. I was scared I would end up knowing nothing but to dissect cases, find reasons and try in vain to be objective towards people’s pain – pain in the deepest, bleakest parts of their minds. I decided that day that the scientist in me was killing the artist in me with clinical precision. The sciences of the mind and the arts of the heart couldn’t co-exist for me – not till I read One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
     Kesey’s novel showed me that music could indeed emerge from madness if you wanted to make it happen. He shows that beautiful literature could be made by writing about the ugly. Through the larger-than-life McMurphy, he lay open the happinesses of even the most wretched and convinced me that not all was grey. What struck me most was the author’s ease of narrative in flitting between the real and the unreal; especially with his narrator Chief Bromden. How perfectly natural the transitions seemed when Kesey transported the Chief from the real world of the hospital ward to the equally real world of hallucinations. How unclinical and poetic he makes the bizarre seem, when my encounters with the clinically insane were disturbing at their best. How reassuring Kesey is in retaining the humane in these outcasts who are treated no better than animals by those on the outside.
     All these exceptions were made possible, of course, because of R P McMurphy’s exceptional presence. His incessant war with institutionalism personified in the Big Nurse Ratched tickled every last rebellious fibre in my body. Like with any wannabe rule-breaker, McMurphy’s card dealings, and TV demands and glass shatterings and merry making let me live out a great many fantasies. But the book, of course, also ends with a grim reminder of why us wannabes prefer staying wannabes and not try to fly too high above the cuckoo’s nest. 
    PS: The movie's great too, but to say the least, the book's better.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mum's hands



 I love hands. Nothing kinky – just ol’ fashioned love for hands for purely aesthetic reasons. As an occasional dabbler in the fine arts, the human body inspires me more than anything. But long, beautiful fingers sitting pretty on smooth palms attract me the most. Very often, I look at people’s hands first and their faces later. And God help them if they have handsome hands. I once told my boss that I was in love with his hands (really) and would love to sketch them some day. He blushed so much, it made me wonder…

So when my mum’s hands caught my attention today, I was surprised. Plain hands, non-manicured hands, cracked and even calloused hands. For someone so obsessed with the beauty of these limbs, noticing these ones was a little out of league. But then I realised that the person attached to these non-attractive hands was my mum. Hands that were absently caressing my leg as I lay down lazily on a summer afternoon. The same hands that have been doling out a million little messages of love, care and comfort from the day I was born.

Mum has always admired my hands. ‘You got your father’s limbs’, she has always said. Long, beautiful fingers; fingers that look real good with rings on them. Lovely, shapely nails too. ‘You must paint your nails,’ she’d say, ‘they look very attractive’. I’ve preened and preened for so long and took it that my hands were pretty, unlike her knobbly, stocky things. Her nails were also always chipped and so was that occasional coat of nail paint on them.

As I write this, I take the time to look at my own nails. Nope, no shape, no colour on them. Even a little rough on the tips with doing the dishes I suppose. So, these are a mother’s hands, I decide. Hands so full with things to do for her family that a manicure doesn’t even figure on the wish-list. The fingers are still long and pretty, but someone who notices people’s hands might easily overlook them, just as I have overlooked my mother’s for so long.

Now, in a mother’s shoes, I notice her hands – hands that still have those unfilled nails, hands still adorned with two gold bangles that clink ever so familiarly when she rolls out chapattis for dinner. She’s worn them for years now and been singed over and over when they heat up during her chapatti making sessions. She still manages to forget to pull them up before starting. I never thought much of the burns nor of the many other injuries these hands may have suffered in trying to protect me. Her hands have begun to wrinkle now, not just with age but with service - relentless, thankless service. And I see their beauty now. Not sketched on paper, but etched forever in the fondest part of my memories.

What a mother’s hands do second only her heart.

PS: Jishnu has my beautiful hands.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

First kiss (and other firsts)






Before you get any ideas from the title, my dear readers, bored as you are, this is about Jishnu too. All first-time parents think it a great deal each time their child does something for the first time, and I am no exception. And how could I not be overwhelmed when this first something is a kiss! Jishnu is six months old today and has declared himself a big boy with a celebratory kiss. All the obsessive kissing by all and sundry seems to have finally taught him to reciprocate, because when I kissed him yesterday and then held his mouth close to my cheek, he half opened it, poked out his li’l pink tongue and gave me a little licky-kissy!! I was overjoyed! But, wait a minute; was this behaviour just part of his put-everything-in-mouth repertoire? Viren and I decided to repeat the experiment and this time, the J-by-now dad took his turn. Vir kissed him and Jish kissed him right back! Yippee! But hey, Vir and I will stick to our solemn promise that when he learns to point to his body parts and say ABC, we will not bore our guests with demonstrations. For a third party, seeing a baby point to his toesies and belly and nosie and stuff is utterly boring, while the doting parents coo with pride.
But, the incentives are starting to roll by. Though I still may not be at the point where I can claim that it was all worth it, I sure am beginning to collect my reward points. Wonder when I’ll be able to accumulate enough and claim that big gift. Although it is already kind of rewarding to see others covet what I own. My bundle of cuteness seems to win most hearts and leaves them wanting for more, especially my parents. My father is reportedly losing his mind in pining for his grandson and is apparently often caught talking to himself reminiscing about the time Jishnu and I spent there. He, of course, is getting ‘impatienter’ by the minute as the day of our visit to Nagpur comes close. We’ll be there on March 24, 2010 for his annaprasan that will be held the next day. I hear the obsessive grandparents have managed to increase the guest list from 100 to 200 already. Phew!
Even as I get ready to pack my bags, it seems surreal that my baby is already 6-months-old - old enough to be offered rice and a dozen other goodies and have a huge function in his honour. When I was spending those difficult first days, it seemed like he’d never grow up. But he has, and so have I. I am a 6-month-old mom too and no one’s congratulating me. Not fair!

The last six months have been the most eventful months of my life. Even as I fit into most of my pre-pregnancy clothes again, I don’t seem to fit into my old skin anymore. My being in now full of Jishnuisms and has been emptied of all sense of false ego. It hurts to falsify my very own, my precious ego, but once a baby comes into your life, there’s very little space left for anything else. The first thing to go out of the window is ones luxury to ‘eww’. Dude, when you gotta clean smelly shit every day off the baby’s bum and then his nappy and then perhaps the bedsheet, there’s no ‘ewwing’ away. Another luxury that is taken away is procrastination. You cannot not sterilise his bottles, you cannot not feed him, massage him, bathe him and of course, you cannot not wash his nappies. When a baby is hungry, he is hungry. Boss, you just have to get off your arse and feed him, even if it is bloody 2.30 in the morning and perhaps again at 5.30!
  Also, time takes on such value that you can never imagine as a non-parent. You sleep when baby sleeps, and of course finish as many chores around the house as you can. There’s little or no time left to sit back, relax with that proverbial cup of coffee or curl up with your favourite novel. Heck, there’s no time to even fight with your spouse. I’ve surprised myself so much with a change in attitude that sometimes I find it difficult to believe it is I who buries the hatchet so fast and easy. I could nurse a grouse for weeks before Jishnu was born. Now, I just get on with an argument and pretend it’s all over in a jiffy just so I don’t lose out on Vir’s help with the babyworks. I mean, there’s no point anymore in carrying on with an argument if it means I have to do the ‘night duty’ everyday. I know now where and when all mothers acquire the skill of making peace. Lack of time, my dears, teaches it all.

Babies also teach you patience. They teach you that even life seems like it’s offering you no choices, it’s not so bad; because every now and then there is a first that you can fawn over. Ever so often you realise how priceless the exclusivity of those first moments is. Whether it’s your baby’s first chin up, first roll over, first sleep on his own, first intentional smile, first crawl, first sitting up, first snuggle, first tooth, first standing up, first solid meal, first chuckle and a myriad other firsts, each one of them is special. As you scramble to get your baby record book to pen in the date and time of seemingly irrelevant information to a stranger, they become your most prized possessions.

And then one day, there is your first realisation that life without your little one isn’t quite fun.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dearest Jishnu...

     

My dearest Jishnu,

the use of this superlative endearment has never sounded so apt before. Yes, I may have used it for certain persons I've loved before, but I know now that it'll fit only you for the rest of my life.
       It's 2 a.m. of  a hot night of my first month in Mumbai and having woken up for your midnight feed, I can't go back to sleep. I have a rather vicious pain in my neck (literally) that even your daddy's magic massage couldn't drive away. It's good in a way 'coz it has my head swarming with thoughts that I need written down. And these thoughts, my son, happen to constitute the first love cum apology cum confession letter of your life.
This letter also happens to be from the first woman of your life. (I'm smug at the thought that I shall forever be the mistress of this title, whether or not you, your girlfriend/s and your wife like it).
       Yes, my darling, I love being the first woman of your life, but it has come with a lot of pains...in my neck and otherwise.The list of my complaints up to this point about pregnancy and parenting have been endless, but you know what sweetheart, if it were between your life and mine, I'd give mine away without a moment's consideration (yes baby, I know mamma's being a li'l dramatic, but that's her). I love you a lot now, even when you've not shared six whole months of your life with me and by the time you read and truly understand these words of your 26-year-old mother, she will have loved you a hell lot more.
        Anyway, coming back to this pain in my neck that led my train of thoughts from bad to real bad. I wondered what would happen if this pain were the result of some brain tumour and I died before I could tell you how much I loved you. I wondered what i would do if someone told me that tonight was my last night with you. And believe me, my light, I couldn't bear the thoughts. We all take relationships for granted, and you tell me Jish, how can I think otherwise of you when I made you, when you're part of me? Yet sweetie, life is unpredictable. If there were indeed no tomorrow, mamma would like you to know how precious you are to her.
         Mamma loves you Jish; but she'd like to add that she loves herself too. Your Diva (maternal grandma) taught me this valuable lesson. If you're not happy, you cannot make anybody around you happy. And my happiness, my love, lies in my work. It defines, to a huge extent, who I am. It gives me an enormous amount of self-worth. So, sweetie, each time I go to work leaving you behind, don't curse me. I know, there may be times when you don't want me to go, and I'll have to break your little heart; but when I am back from a fulfilled day, I'll enjoy every second with you. I don't want motherhood to be trap for me, sweetheart. This might sound incredibly selfish to you before you are, say, 25; but I'm sure you'll understand me and forgive me for the times I wasn't around when you needed me.
         These are the extents of my presumptions darling. These are the things I take for granted. I'm presuming you'll need me, you'll be angry with me, you'll forgive  me and at the end of it all, you'll love me. I hope for all this and more than these pages can hold. Jishnu, firstborns are always burdened by the biggest of their parents' expectations. And because I know that you'll never have any siblings, you'll have to deal with being an only child all your life. I also know that it will put on me the expectation of being the 'only parent'. I'll try to fulfill them all. I promise. Trust me, every mommy wants to be a good mommy. But I want to be one on my terms. I don't want you to idolize me. No, that's too great a responsibility. I'll love you and protect you with all my might, but I want my inner being to be content too. I don't want to go on making those sacrifices for you that will hurt my spirit, those which will make me want to ask you to return the 'favour', those which will make me wonder what happened to my life at the end of it all.
          Jish, I'm scared of the day I feel I've forgotten myself in raising you and find you retorting "I didn't ask you to". But, I'll try my best to never let that day come...if there is a tomorrow. For here and now,

I love you lots!
Mamma
  

Mommy and me


8/3/10

“Hello. Is that Urmi…Chanda Vaz?”
“Yes. Who is this?”
“This is X from Y company.”
“Yes X, tell me.”
“This is about a job opportunity. Is this good time to speak to you?”
“Yea, sure.”
“You were working with Pune Mirror before this, right?”
“Right.”
“May I know why you left?”
“Yes, I’ve had a baby. Been on a maternity break for six months now.”

This is pretty much the crux of every conversation between me and potential recruiters nowadays.
Five months of giving those answers and I still feel like I’m talking about someone else sometimes.
I have a 5-month-old? Really?
For a reality this size, it seems to be taking awfully long to sink in. Or perhaps I’m clinging on too tightly to my old self. But for all the shorts and tees, motherhood has been insidiously creping into my personality. It’s like a peel of cling-wrap that you can’t technically see, but know is there.
Urmi Chanda-Vaz, who famously hates kids and continues to advice child-free couples to stay so, is changing. Slow, but firm and perhaps permanent changes seem to be taking place, sometimes even without my permission.
Motherhood’s made me hard. And motherhood’s made me soft. I’ve hardened to Jishnu’s tantrums and can let him wail alone in the bedroom while I do dishes in the kitchen. But a softy has been co-created too, who’ll run from any end of the planet to her son when he bitterly cries for his mamma.
Speaking of hard, my hands seem to have become pretty hard too. Pulling feeding bottles out of boiling water after they are sterilised doesn’t seem to hurt when my baby is hungry.
Jishnu still seems like a big, irritating interruption in my life more often than not, but I almost fired one of my maids the other day when she dared criticise him. (Okay, it wasn’t that bad. She just said, “Kitna rota hai yeh”.)
  Motherhood has become an incessant struggle about integrating who I was and who I am becoming. For the greater part, it is a job I don’t like, but want to do it perfectly, because any job worth doing is worth doing well.
  Motherhood has meant giving up a lot – a city, a job, a waist, a life and heck, even whatever was left of my intimate life what with Jishnu sleeping in our bed! Also, Jishnu has come between Viren and me in more ways than one. I hardly ever have the time, inclination or mental energy to invest in what used to be a very interesting partnership. It’s scary. I’m definitely not liking losing out on Vir because of Jishnu. But I don’t see myself doing anything about it, coz I’m so zonked all the time. Perhaps when I start working again and become an equal on all terms, including caring for our son and the household, will I be able to achieve that elusive work-life balance. Because, right now, the scale is more than skewed by seven and a half kilos of that incredibly cute pile of flesh that is my son, drawing me deeper into that inescapable mire called motherhood.