Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Of happy feet and heart

Today on Facebook, I saw a picture of a little tot with its little toes all pink and rounded gleefully pointed towards the camera. Peeking out next to it was its mother‘s not very pink and tad tired sole sticking out. Our feet, like our hearts, were soft and un-calloused when we were born. Our mothers gently counted our toes and often kissed them while lovingly cooing over us. They couldn’t have done the same with our hearts without being gruesome. However, they imbued our hearts with love. But as we learnt to walk and then to run and then to trot, our feet hardened and grew calloused. They perhaps even started to look very worn out. However, amongst us are many women and some men who care for their appearances and have kept their feet maintained. Clean and smooth. They kept their nails trimmed and their soles crack free. Some of us adorned our nails with sprightly colours or we left them blissfully bare but we know deep down that they have been pampered and loved. The well loved feet look cared for because they have been, well, cared for. Like everything in this world a thing of beauty is never by fluke. The concept of nature and nurture plays out in mysterious ways.
Such is the matter of the heart too. For it to look loved and cared for it must be given love. And not just along ones childhood but at every stage of our lives. True enough we grow up and our calling beckons. We take up jobs; we marry and have our own kids. We leave jobs, change places and at times even unfortunately get divorced (better that way than being stuck with a jerk). But we still move on and get about the business of living. These practical and at times clinical ways of life leave patinas of cynicism and distrust in our hearts. And soon our entire aura and persona get drenched in a vast cloud burst of negativity.
Often I wonder what helps me from slipping of the edge. My scant tryst with travails of life has shown me what can keep our hearts feeing loved so that we give back and God knows every little love counts.

1) Someone’s gotta give: Yes, that someone has to be us at times and not the other. Giving in to an argument with our spouse, parents, siblings and colleagues can be quite liberating. “I said so, I told you, I am always right” are giddily strong statements but “You may be right, Yeah I botched up” are so much more liberating. This stance manages to knock the ball to the other person’s court. If the person is graceful there is a truce and a feeling of mature bonhomie suffuses us and if the other person is blind with sass and narcissism, still a triumphant feeling of elevation creeps in. You figured a way out. Congratulations!!

2) Equal and fair transaction: How many of us take loans from a bank and are lucky to get a 100% waiver? Next to none. The world is a complex place of more takes than gives. Yet all’s not lost. If you are lucky and smart you will realise there are many who “give” us. Some give us time, some lend us a listening ear, some cook us a good meal, some offer a fun companionship, some a way to have fun, some just offer us peace by their simple way of life and what not. Don’t take all this as an entitlement. These are ways to soul cleansing. Receive such gifts magnanimously and have the good grace to return them in time. We all have received help from unexpected quarter. I honestly feel, without trying to get Biblical, that God works his way through people. So at times we also could be that unexpected quarter for someone.

3) Charity begins at home: So does the lesson of love. Remember all the time, money, effort and dreams your parents expended on you? It is payback time buddy. Your parents are your roots. How can the tree be strong and sturdy if the roots are not? I see around me huge gaps and chasms that get stretched over the years. I do believe it takes two to tango. Our parents need to be loved back, please give them all the love that you can. Most of us earn well. An expensive gift is a nice way to show appreciation. But is it enough? Definitely no! Give them your time. Your voice. Your smile. At times just obey. You lost out on nothing when you listened to them as a child. You for sure will not lose out on much even now. Of course everyone has to be cognizant of basic rationality and in this case both the parents and the said child in question must toe the line of mutual respect. When my parents smile back and sigh in peace because I spent a week with them doing all the crazy nothings, I am charged up and ready to take on any bloody one. As my mother once said “There is no point in crying at your parent’s grave-side. Celebrate them when they are still alive”.

4) Marry well: Take your time and cherry pick your mate. And once that you have picked your partner, celebrate him/her. You may fight. Scream. Cry. Huff off in temper flares. Like Coldplay croons “Nobody said it is easy”. There are bound to be ripples. Two thinking and sentient beings cannot resonate in the same frequency all the time. However, like all stirred up chaos, things will sort out. Just find a way to reconnect. For me food (for the belly and for the brain), books and travel and not always in that order keep me in love with my husband.

5) Treasure your friends: I simply love my best friend. She has helped me in my most trying times. She has laughed with me and cried with me. She may be a wife and a mother yet she has had time for me. And I am glad to say that I have been there for her too. I also happen to be very lucky to have some other god gifted friends, sane and rational. They have come to my rescue more than once and I know I can count on them as they can on me. As one very good friend who I met at my ex-work place said “Girl, if I meet one sane person worth being friends with after meeting a thousand buffoons, it is worth it”. When I lost my little baby,some of my friends flocked down to offer moral and physical support. I cannot thank them enough for being there for me but from them I have learnt to be just there. Just. Be. There.

6) Laugh and cry: Laughing is healthy. Positive. So is crying. I see many people take great pride in declaring “I don’t cry” “Strength lies in not crying”, etc. Bull. Shit. No one is going to give you an Oscar for stopping those tears. I am not telling you to be a tantrum throwing diva or a spoilt sport Steffi Graff who always cried when her game of tennis went kaput. No. But in the face of terrible tragedy or seemingly impossible times a private bout of tears or tears in front of people who love you and understand you shall remind them and you more importantly that you are not a robot after all. You are as infallible and as vulnerable as everyone is. And you too have tear glands and a heart that can bleed. Cry and let someone lovingly wipe those tears for you. It shall bring you close to that someone, be it your partner, friend, sibling, parent or offspring. You may feel goofy but then look at the brighter side… you and that special someone may even have a good laugh at your expense when times get better!!!

7) Learn to receive gracefully: Many of us are afraid of receiving. Advice, help, solace, compliments or gifts (from loved ones not the ones that shall land you in jail). Come-on surely you are not the most capable hence advice will come your way. You are also not omnipotent so you will need help every once in a while. As Buddha said sorrow spares no one so solace will one day knock at your door after you are left bitterly sad. Don’t be too arrogant to think that you shall get the “worst-person” award in your lifetime (have you forgotten about Hitler and Osama?) so compliments in some way will tap on your shoulders. Gifts are a tangible proof of intangibles. People you genuinely love will offer a genuine advice, help, solace, compliment or gift. Please accept all of it gracefully. Please don’t try to share it with the one dishing it out and please know that you get what you deserve. Nothing more or less. Smile and accept. You will learn to give as well.

8) Spend a little on yourself: Why are you earning? Surely not to prove that you are capable and worthy and smart and scored top marks in school. You earn so you can pay your bills. Sometimes those bills can also be the ones that need not be your monthly dues. Sometimes those bills can be something that you bloody well don’t need but you just want them nonetheless. Spend on yourself. You may not need it but if you want, buy it man!!! There are many who find me a spend thrift. I have heard a few say, on my face, hinting at me (can you imagine their temerity all this while sipping tea in MY house?) “Oh!!My wife is very particular on how she spends. She will always weigh out her options and generally shop during sales!! ”Good for you buddy, you may need a kidney transplant at 60 and she is saving it for you so you can live longer and she can get these lovely compliments…. Not suggesting here to be like the stupid grasshopper that never saved for the rainy days at all…but saving every damn dime that you earn, are you crazy? Life’s short. You will never be young again. You may not cruise in a Maserati but if you can upgrade your car and or even so mush as just add a kick-ass music console to your old car, and feel grand about it, do it!

9) Talk with the very old and with very young: The very old have lost their marbles or so we feel. Wrong. They have gone through what we are going through now. They have their idiosyncrasies but they are wise. They can be grouchy or friendly but they can sure open our eyes to things we are blind to. Similarly the very young have a fresh insight to the world. They have still not learnt the trick of the trade and that is why they are naturalists. They can be embarrassingly candid and spleen-damagingly hilarious. They have taught me humility, informality and have refreshed for me the ability to un-abashedly ask 20 questions at a go, much to the chagrin of others. I love talking to the very old and the very young. They are fun.

So there, these are my tried and tested ways of life that have helped me keep my heart feeling loved and pampered. Still at times I despair and frown and rave and rant. After all I am a human being. But I have a few ordinary people around me that dole out extraordinary lessons sans tarder whenever required.

Walk on mate, just remember to pamper your tootsy…. and your heart!!

Friday, August 19, 2011

History and present...all in a name

Recently I got to know that Monk's forefather...Bagh Hazarika...fought the Mughals in the battle of Saraighat for the Ahom king. Bless the soul who actually did all the research. He is related to Monk's Aunt through marriage.

My forefather from my paternal side, Azan Pir Sahab, who hailed from Baghdad, and who I rather romantically hope, had a connection with Bagh Hazarika in the larger canvas of societal intercourse alas only came to Assam in the 17th century.

An interesting thing to note is that the Ahoms came to Assam from Yunan province of China via the Patkai Ranges and first settled in Burma. Then an exodus to Assam's Brahmaputra Valley established their kingdom under King Sukaapha in the 12th Century. The Ahom dynasty established one of the most exemplary administrative services in addition to carrying out an envious task of merging cultures of the settlers and the indigenous people. People were given official titles based on their occupation/designation hence Hazarika or “Commander of 1000 foot soldiers" was once such title (generally hilarity ensues in our circle of friends when my husband defends his station with this quip and frankly speaking I am the most painful bully he has to reckon with). Similarly Saika, Chaliha, Borua, Bez-barua, and others were few other titles conferred to men holding administrative positions under the Ahom kingdom.

A few centuries later the 5 Pirs (one of them Azan Pir Sahab) from Baghdad who settled in Dibrugarh and other upper valley reaches of Assam, now called Upper Assam, married into the Ahom families. Incidentally Azan Pir Sahab was a Sufi Syed. That can perhaps explain why the current day Syed Diaspora is not exactly a hijab wearing, prayer beads flaunting fanatical lots. Literary and cultural discourse and dabble have long been the tradition of the Syed Community. And yes music somehow is embedded in the DNA of the entire community. Almost everyone sings like a canary, literally and figuratively.

Today Assam witnesses a harmonious co-existence of people of various ethnicities and religious beliefs. The beauty lies in the culture of Assam like the women wearing Mekhlas(Assam’s traditional drape and highly coveted at that) for a wedding as a guest or even as a bride and enjoying the distinct taste of Pithas (pan cakes and savouries) and Bora Bhaat (sticky rice).

And when one may ask what’s in a name after all (I being a “Syed” and Monk being a “Hazarika”), I could say well loads of history in our case where some 10-12 generations down monk and I happen to get married. I guess more research is necessary and I so hope I can get down to it.

Adding a little sattire...will I preen around like some displaced half breed princess?...darling I did that anyways with or without history!!! :D


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The grief that feels eternal....

The grief of losing a baby is crushing, breath stopping and confusing. I am also convinced that grief becomes more intense as the attachment grows. Sapling versus tree analogy. On days when I least expect sorrow slams down ruthlessly. So does guilt as to how can I even think of moving on.. smiling, even laughing, eating, cooking? I also now know extreme grief can manifest as physical symptoms, something so far I have never experienced. The chest closes up on you, at times it even pains and breathing gets shallow and till I don’t cry it out it feels like a hard piece of apple is stuck at my throat.

However, grief puts in perspective the importance of life. The pettiness of want. The superfluousness of declarations of love. The stupidity of feeling versus thinking. In coping with grief, talking it out is helping. I can’t kick away my loss as if it were an untouchable garbage can. I really can’t pretend it dint happen. Or that it was routine. I do not want to philosophise it or rationalise it. All I want is for it to be real. My loss and my coming to terms with it. Not doing so will be really trivialising the whole event of loss. What I lost is not a diamond brooch or a fast car. It was a life of a being much wanted and very loved. That was my son. Even if people around me tell me "there will be more" ..."you are so young", and I do know they tell me all this because they care, they do love me, but for me it is a loss with which I grapple with every day. Sorrow creeps up on me when I least expect. In solitude and in room full of people.

But life must go on. I have a spouse. Parents. Inlaws. Friends. Colleagues. Eternal mourning is unviable and impossible because we human beings have a rare gift. We forget. Slowly but steadily. It is the norm of nature. Weeds and grass grow over graves. Civilizations grow over civilizations. And so the cycle of life continues.

Never before have I been so acutely aware of life and its tribunals and triumphs. Do I still take it for granted? No. Am I too old? No. Is there a limit to what I can achieve, which so far I just thought of some kind of pipe dream? Yes there are always limits but then that is why I will try. I am not suddenly invincible, not miraculously infallible but I am definitely more trusting in my abilities, more in sync with my inner voice. I am still chicken shit of risks and the unknown but I do have a definitive comeback, something to the tune of "So what? What more or worse? ".

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My little winged magical being

You who grew wings just a little too soon...you who came and gave me hope and joy and so what if for very brief....you who touched me deep where no one else has ever....you who were to be my friend... you who I longed to cherish but for who providence had some other plans...you for who i grieve yet exult...you who cant be replaced but always remembered... you with no name yet my little universe of a few days..... you spanning a spectrum as wide as logic, reasoning and emotions....you who made me discover your father all over again...you who brought my friends to me.... you who made me realise that i can be brave yet i can hurt raw....you who has made me fearless...you my forever talisman...my angel ...my pixie....my son... I love you so

Friday, February 25, 2011

Goodbye is just another word

With the recent demise of my widowed Aunt, a septuagenarian, who never had children, a large wave of guilt and grief has been running through the family. What if siblings and nieces and nephews had asked her to move in with them, what if they were more patient with her idiosyncrasies, what if they contributed more to her rapidly depleting resources, what if they sponsored air tickets for trips here and there and so on and so forth. To this one forth-coming sibling quipped that we don’t live our daily lives and interact with people with the mind-frame that they will die in the future and it will be shameful to face the fact we were less kind, less accommodating and less understanding. When we go about the business of everyday living we do what our intellect and heart tells us to do. Our upbringing and sense of moral well-being has a bearing on our thoughts and posterity alone provides the comfort of judgement.

For the record, everyone in the family was helpful as they deemed “helpful” right. Some in the family kept her with them whenever she visited for medical check-ups, some helped her monetarily, some would call her regularly to keep in touch, some kept vigil in the hospital whenever she took ill and was admitted while some provided her, the vigilante and her litany of well meaning servants with food. But was it possible for anyone to stake claim and offer help like an off-spring? Was it possible for any sibling to show the exact affection to her as they show to their own children and for nieces and nephews to treat her at par with their own parents? Reality check is necessary for everyone, young and old, in order to lead a whole-some life.

What became the end of her, my Aunt, is not the loss of her husband or absence of children. It was the will to live. The will and need to fill her life with activities, hobbies and people that would circumvent the vacuum of having a full-fledged family in her sunset years. I agree that one's own children offers one with a deep sense of security and become a source of support in the face of crisis if not throughout one's old life. The lack of purpose and dependence on others to fill her life led her to become a recluse, and eventually led her to neglect her own health. Mental and physical inactivity led her to waste away. My own Granddad who lived till he was ninety one and my other Aunt, a few years older than the one who just expired, are a great example of people who lived their lives with a purpose. Authors like Dorris Lessing, Kushwant Singh, etc. are wonderful examples again of people with purpose in their lives. Providence has decided how long we shall live. But to fill that life with purpose and zest is our responsibility. Not only was her mind and time not occupied with social activities or hobbies but also any form of physical activity was grossly absent. To add to this woe was a gross negligence of property matters and retirement plans. She is perhaps as much to blame as her late husband. Having had no children, I wish both were a tad prudent to take care of these two very essential aspects while health and resources were in abundance, which in their case were. After all irrespective of having children or not, no one in the family can be expected to play the role of an old age ATM machine, practically and realistically speaking. One spouse is bound to outlive the other.

In the small town of Dhubri in Assam, my Uncle was a well respected attorney who ran a good practice and my Aunt always taught in a school till she retired 3 years ago. They made themselves a huge three level house and also had tenants thrown in. So money was never an issue. Far-sightedness was. A life spent with utter disregard of tomorrow is as dangerous as being neurotically cautious. As every wise man and every religion says “the balance” is necessary. When the going was good, a decadent lifestyle could have been moderated and a neat little sum could have been kept for the future. Well meaning advises from friends and family sometimes may turn out to be very beneficial if heeded to. Alas, no such advises of smart investments were heeded nor was the constant encouragement to stop wallowing in self pity was taken seriously by my Aunt.

Those of us grieving can but use all these rationales to feel less guilty, because almost everyone has the ability to make even a little difference. Perhaps we could have done more to make her feel less lonely. But the biggest difference we make in our lives are we ourselves. To me the biggest lesson her life taught is to be a little more rational, a little more cautious, to be independent, to be a support than to seek support and to profligate less.

That said my Aunt had some great traits. She was very warm, very affectionate, very stylish, very hospitable and very kind. All these traits did stand her in a good stead. She lived life king size till she lived. Her two trusted helps stayed with her till the end thus proving her kind and sweet ways. Her students, who left school eons ago still have great things to tell about her.

As they say none of us are perfect. Sadly her imperfections became a great source of insecurity for her. All I can say is that may she find peace and quiet in the new world that she has moved on to. I will miss her.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

and aint no use sit and wonder why babe, it would never do somehow....Bob Dylan

A friend sent me a link which is apparently causing quite an uproar in the blogging world.
Here is it:


I dont know why should this cause any uproar except in the minds of the bigoted and the rigid...every society has its fabric. The denizens of a society know what they want... If America is about freedom...free from stress, free economy, free from familial baggages and free of hassles.... India like China is about family, about struggling for fewer resources, about wanting the best, about battling subjugation to deficiencies and about trying hard to follow age old "traditions" even if they stand slightly half baked and bastardised. What is perhaps cruel for Americans is "normal" for Indians and Chinese.

Like everything else there are pros and cons of familial choices as well.

I think families make choices of parenting through their own experiences than through borrowed ones. Very driven families, where the Dads and Mums are achievers socially or financially or intellectually, will herd their kids towards achievement oriented life choices. Conversely, for parents with very little/no exposure to certain aspects like career choices or education or excellence due to ignorance or financial wherewithal , their way of bringing up children would be different.

One must know that no society is completely bereft of negatives. Let us face it, unlike the US, India does not entertain dignity of labour. Neither I nor any of my friends associate socially with a janitor or a security guard of an apartment complex just because we share a common interest in maths or aviation or painting. Such is our way of life that only the smart, only the well spoken and only the “actualised” will be in our circle of friends as per our personal benchmark of good and better.

We are of a society which generally looks up to their elders for advice or wants them to concur decisions. We are of a society which is risk averse and non-believers of fatalism and thank god for that. Look what kick-ass-Ivy league educated- air brushed-risk-takers like Lehman Brothers did. We are of a society where we want our elders to come around through gentle perseverance about our ways and decisions and not break ice 20 years later on an Oprah show. A society that pushes its kids to ace exams like in India, the IT bonanza ofcourse or sports like in modern day China, the Olympics effect ofcourse, at any cost and firmly believes in spoon feeding and no question asked philosphy can be called cruel. The pros are that this same facet, if modified constructively, serves us well in terms of having a social support: parents, siblings and even friends, something which is difficult to come by in the West, who have created a successful system wherein fatalism and even debt does not starve its citizens. If one reads about Andre Agassi, a phenomenal player who needs no introduction, one may realize that parental pressure is a singular force if channelized properly will take you to great heights. Because underlining all the pressure is love.

Unfortunately India or China is not yet there in terms of government sponsored social safety nets. If we don’t work hard, if we don’t ace exams, if we don’t clear interviews and if we don’t keep our jobs, matter of time we slip down Maslow’s pyramid of needs. What choices do such parents have in this part of the globe? Can we afford in India not being overtly competitive be it academics, music or cricket? Can we as a race survive not having a "good" education which is slightly better than literacy, a kind of education which is not a wholesome meal but a piss-poor capsule of necessary vitamins but which gets us jobs and helps paying the bills without any social safety net?

My very limited travel to China made me realise one thing. The Chinese may come across as robotic and un-smiling to general population but they battle a very difficult government and the choices made by their leaders since Mao Zedong’s time render them open to ridicule and ethnic side-lining. Succeeding remains the only mantra to survive whether in sports or education or medicine or music and hard work and discipline remains the only way forward. There is not much latitude for slacking. After all no one remembers Nobel nominees, we just remember the Nobel laureates. Look at the animal kingdom. A tigress relentlessly teaches her cubs to hunt and those lessons are repetitive, banal and at times harsh. Wonder what would happen if a tigress suddenly tells a small cub to 'follow his heart" and do its own bidding !!

But the one thing that I would say with a definite stance is that it is easier to let go... it is easier to shoo away difficult children and turn them out of the house at 16 to earn their own money, shut your eyes to teenage tantrums and let them be junkies and juvenile delinquents. It is more difficult to keep haranguing your precocious kids from making idiotic mistakes that may cost him or her/his life than to allow them “freedom” to do what they please so the parents can sleep more peacefully or continue their social butterflying. So just for the difficult 20 years or so that most Indian and Chinese parents spend putting their own life at hold to allow their kids “excel and do well” through means not appreciated but that yield result, my heart goes out to them. As Gandhi said "must we perpetrate all sins to realise the horror of it?".

Unfortunately just like our skin colour and genetic make-up we can’t choose our parents .... and ironically what you get is what you give...so for those of us who come from secure and well meaning families, we could pass those values on and we could “customise” the home rules to accommodate the new generation a bit, just as each generation before us did for the next, to be fair!! And well I cant recall having friends shooting kids up in my school because their Mommy made them do more Mathematics!!!

Gotta go. Have guests over for dinner. BTW all the cooking that I have learnt and all that food that people smack up was taught by my mother since I was nine :D and I dint need no shrink just because Mum made sure that the chicken bloody well come out tasty. We Indians dont throw or waste food. Too much poverty around you see!!!! GROWL