Thursday, November 05, 2015

In the spirit of the season..my first karva chauth

Since I got married late, my facebook "Karva Chauth" post was not riddled with pictures of friends posing in bridal wear with channis (sieves) and lotas. My KC was pretty low key as well on account of some meeting demands in the morning and evening. I kept the basic fast, but without the heavy saree and jewellery, which, in hindsight, would have taken me the better part of the day to wear and hence considerably shortened the conscious phase (sniff).
But just as an aside- I can’t understand the sudden concern of the vigilante about the logic of fasts increasing the husband's life. The way I see it, is every-time we pray, most of us at least, strike a bargain with God, saying, "If u do this, I will do such and such in return". Here the bargain is pre-decided, that's all. The same people don't question the logic of prayers. 
My husband also kept it to give me company but also as a mark of protest against the “Establishment”- the one which suppresses women. Establishment please take note.

So when I embarked on this hallowed matrimony phase, though considerably late in life, (as I wanted it to be perfect?), I had a starry eyed view of the first year of marriage. Hence almost 9 months into the process, I guess this is as good a time as any to take stock. And I clearly haven’t done a lot of stuff right it seems…

I wasn't the glowing- chuda clad married lady you see at airports- I'm sure we have all seen them, glowing, chic, complete with a new pair of shades and handbag and red/ fluorescent painted nails. The chudas are just the added touch, but the whole demeanour is that of the newly married, and which stays weeks or maybe months after the ceremony!
I assumed marriage or perhaps the make up artist would impart that ethereal, everlasting glow and I was excited for my post marriage glowy phase. And I looked nothing like that ! 3 days post the ceremony, well it was just me! So much so that when I happened to be in Delhi 2 weeks post, my mother looked at me and exclaimed “ You don’t look married at all !”. 
Now please explain to me, except for the customary ring, sindoor and mangalsutra (all of which I had dutifully donned), what else comprises “looking married?”And what’s with the “now that you are married” phrase? 
It seems as though the ceremonial fire is expected to melt and mould the older you into a new improved, elegant, married version, in the process automatically making you more concerned, less selfish, more giving. The lady of the house !! Lady Bountiful ! The “Now-that-you-are-married-Lady”..
Clearly I was much hardened.

The other thing I thought the first year of marriage would be all about is exotic weekend getaways and vacations. But here again, I seem to have drawn a blank.
Me to the Husband- “ So I was thinking for our vacation in Jan..”
Husband- “Can you please stop this holiday planning now and move on to better things. Higher things?”
Me (thinking) - “Higher? Well we could go to the Alps....”, but thankfully I stop myself and instead say “How do you mean- higher?”
The Husband looking up from his reddit thread-“Well, I don’t know. But something worthwhile not this hedonistic behaviour- give back to society, go save the world, ok like I was thinking, we really need to sit down and discuss our retirement fund....”
Me (thinking again but this time in horror)- “I know I married late..but is it this late??
Now the husband has done his share of vacation planning during his ten years in the US, so now, like the Buddha, he has migrated back in search of meaning and suffering souls to deliver. I on the other hand, postponed the holiday plannings to post my wedding... and... as luck would have it, I seem to have made some serious miscalculation here...

Oh well, while I search for something higher I am reminded that I have a lot to learn at very basic levels. 
Now the PHD process in the US, clearly did not make great demands on my husband’s time, because in between his work, socializing and holidays, he managed to read up extensively on every conceivable topic under the sun and have an opinion on it. Consider exhibit A:
We are on a trek and being chased by monkeys. One of them is holding a banana.
H- “So did you know that the Banana as a fruit has been domesticated very recently, and each new variety is different, as they are clones. So monkeys probably started eating it recently"
Me- :Umm..", eyeing a particularly agile one, "can’t say I do"
H- “Yeah I read a book about it. It's called (hold your breath)- Bananas”
Me- " You read a book on Bananas…." privately thinking to myself that it just about describes him…

So he saunters up one fine day, saying- You know I feel we don’t talk much anymore, you know discuss stuff”.
Me – looking up from the History of India by John Keay (you never know when these things might be useful), mumble that maybe I am not the debating type.
H- “No I mean, that day when all of us were discussing organic food safety standards, you barely said anything”.
Me (reminding myself that I did after all marry a professor)-“well I did say FSSAI..” but, quickly changing tack, ”Oh that’s cause I was thinking about China..”(I learn fast).
H (interested)- “Well what about China
Me (confidently)- “Well you know, whether there will a crash
H- “And?
Me (slightly less confident)- I don’t know, debt levels are unsustainable, the shadow banking debt especially, and..and.. the government is trying to fix it through monetary policy, ( I am rambling now) but this is a bubble waiting to burst..
H- “Ohk, continue
Me- faltering now…"well..you know ultimately infrastructure creation has to be supported by real demand…” Giving up….” No that’s all I thought"
H- "We were there for 4 hours…"

But these major missteps aside, there are a lot of positives as well. I do enjoy the fact that there is someone out there waiting for you for dinner and heating it up :p, someone who looks after you when you are unwell and otherwise too, who watches TV too loudly every night and youtube videos the first thing in the morning. And someone I can show this to, and we can both laugh at it. Clearly there is a lot of hope. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Since I am reading “The Everything Store”, or the pursuit of happiness

So the last we heard about Blinky was when she lost her coveted elf status for love (here). Please read this post after the one below  J
So after wondering the locales for a while, desperately unhappy, Blinky set out to find happiness. And since she was once an elf, she prayed very hard to the Elf Queen and Santa for one last inspiration and set off.
Being pragmatic and knowing that atmosphere does play a role in mental well being, she started her travels in the south of france, (Neha thats coz you couldn't leave these things entirely to chance, you had to do your bit in the happiness pursuit :p). She came upon a charming little cottage on the edge of a cliff surrounded by rolling green fields, with the sea just visible below, white and frothing and lashing against the rocks. It was a beautiful location and she thought maybe that was it.
But then she saw him, tall, youngish looking, setting up a curious assortment of things. Of course he was a wizard, she realized when she saw the staff.
He beckoned to her and asked her what brought her there. She answered that she was just looking around and asked what he was doing.
‘I am building a happiness store”, he said, “an everything store”. “Where you can find lasting happiness”.
Blinky thought wildly that Santa must really miss her (those strawberry cookies were pretty amazing). What she was just supposed to go to the store and buy the stuff? He had lost his finesse and imagination though. “Probably came from the sugar high’, she thought unkindly
And she was just about to ask how much, when she stopped and looked around. Yes the store had everything material you could possibly wish for. But Blinky had worked with Santa.
“These things can’t buy you lasting happiness ! “ she said.
He replied testily that he knew that but one had to start somewhere, this was the first day but it was a venture he was really excited about.
“Oh then you need to have feelings, experiences” she said. “Have that in your store”.
He approved and offered her an apprenticeship.
“Iv just finished one, I can’t risk being typecast” Blinky countered. ‘How about business partner?” she negotiated.
Well so that was done and The Happiness Store- beta came up. There were counters for every experience you could possibly imagine. Business was brisk, and learning even more so.
Evenings were times for intellectual debates on what constituted lasting happiness. They chose a different setting each day from their coffee and conversations experience counter.
“ Well altruism” she suggested,  and they added a counter for that, accomplishment- a ladder where you could accomplish whatever you wanted, right from flying to diving to the bed of the ocean !,  the experience of being beautiful, the experience of the first date, music, parties, intellectual conversations, the list grew more exhaustive every day.
And they noticed a pattern among their customers, the ones who came for momentary experiences of dizzying happiness, and they came most often, but over time , she saw that effect was wearing off, she saw regret post the experience and hopelessness. They debated setting up a counter for hope but realized that it did not work in isolation, the ones who tried to build more lasting happiness- through learning of a new skill, becoming kinder, nicer, helping others, making friends, meeting interesting people, they didn’t come that often, but even they ran out of that happiness from time to time.
And what about they themselves? After the initial dizzying euphoria, the effect was fast wearing off. Blinky couldn’t understand this and mentioned this that evening.
“I just realized what we keep reading, that happiness is a state of mind !! I can just choose to be happy”, she said excitedly and was really happy for a moment.
“Try” he said sarcastically, adding that they needed to add a counter for the good idea experience.
He was nothing if not meticulous and hardworking; she thought and shuddered when she remembered the counter he had designed for “work will set you free”. It was when they were watching a documentary on something called Nazism in another parallel universe that he was persuaded to change the name.
She tried very hard. “I don’t feel anything”, she said eventually.
“Yes that state of mind thing works when there is something to look forward to. Else all you feel is empty”, he said adopting a sanctimonious expression which always made her roll her eyes.
“But why is this happening to us, how can we tire of everything so fast”, she said?
“Uh I may have forgotten to mention that this is a wizard’s house, and we wizards experience in minutes what other people do in years, that’s part of the reason why we are so wise”, he added sheepishly.
“So normal people can go through life with a mix of these experiences, and not tire till it was too late but we have pretty much reached that stage. “
She was afraid to ask the next question. “So how old am I, technically”, she asked almost in a whisper.
“ Well about a hundred”, he said and noticing her expression added kindly,  “well, I am a hundred and fifty”.
Blinky thought of that dashing Elf she had once fancied and always hoped to return to. He did have a thing for older woman, but strictly within the same generation.
“How could you keep this from me ! “, she stormed.
“What are you fussing about, aren’t Elves immortal”, he said. Wizards on the other hand, live till about five hundred.
‘I gave up my immortality for love”, she screamed back.
“Sounds like the plot of a bad movie”, he grumbled.
“So is there no hope for us?”she questioned? ” I think I should leave this place now”.
“There is one thing the store doesn't provide, and thats love”, he said. " But you probably know all about that", he said wickedly.
She glared at him and thought back. Yes finding something/ someone you loved.... no but even that didn't last. She couldn't remember the last time she has thought about the guy.
He was watching her with an unusually somber expression, as if willing her to say it.
"So there is no such thing as lasting happiness?" she ventured
No there isn't he said, I realized that a while back (the smug expression was thankfully absent). But its very good for business as you get a high percentage of repeat customers !
He realized that the joke fell flat.
But Blinky as usual had to have the last word. "If there is no such thing as lasting happiness, then why are we aiming for it?"
"Well I am aiming for something better", he said irritatingly. 



Wednesday, February 12, 2014

No I am not dead yet

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Of greed and fear

Well, the greed part was more of an attention grabbing gimmick :D. What I really want to write about today is fear. In all the "about me", know me better posts there is one integral aspect of my life which hasn't come forth. And that is my deep , irrational cynophobia (or more commonly known as the fear of dogs)...

My earliest memory is of a chubby, tiny (well I was never tiny) me, waddling through rose bushes, and running for dear life while being chased by "Lucy", my aunt's mean Alsatian. And not to mince words here..Most dogs are equally mean, but some are more mean than others. (Disclaimer- I am not targeting any species, group or cult here, views are personal, for every one mean dog you have many cute, cuddly, loving etc dogs and so forth..So peace?). And Lucy anyway nurtured this deep hatred for me cause she always had to be tied up when I visited. So when she saw the 5 year old me pottering about in the garden she gave a yelp of delight and made a dash towards me. I gave a subsequent shriek of horror and tried an unsuccessful exit while screaming my aunt's name at the top of my lungs. And she finally rescued a much scratched and bloody me (that was the bushes not Lucy). So the fear which till then was more budding in nature was deeply ingrained from that day on.

My second encounter of the third degree kind was with "Silky", a name possibly on account of her coat? Silky was a childhood friend's Pomeranian (aww so cute??). No shudder. This one actually bit me.I felt that silky coat against my skin and felt as though a million insects were crawling on it. And was the cause of many painful injections.

I don't know if this is the case with everyone who fears something. But the moment I spy a dog, the rational part of my brain seems to sputter out and die, only to be replaced by a deep overpowering fear, skin crawling and nausea. Its something I am trying to fight against. I have tried to trace the root of this fear. It could be a subconscious reaction to my mom tightening her grip on my wrist every time she crossed a dog, when I was very young, she is pretty scared herself or what I always maintain, the fact that maybe I was a slave/ convict in my previous reincarnation and was chased down by a pack when I tried to escape. I am reformed now(Disclaimer again)....

But enough of the philosophical speculation.
Now living with this handicap in a place like India presents its own set of problems and planning.Where at almost every nook and cranny you are bound to chance upon a member of the species, (yes yes again I know usually they mind their own business and the likes) a dog free existence is a utopian concept. And please don't ask me "even puppies???". I hate that. Puppies more. Cause at least dogs know the ways of the world and propriety. Puppies are finding out.....

So existence in Pilani was a series of minor heart attacks. There dogs would prowl the hostel corridors with gay abandon and I would gingerly skirt the corrdidors with the wariness of an army novice negotiating hidden mines.

Back in those days when I went to engineering college, we had dinosaurs in our backyard and no cell phones. Getting a phone call from home meant, your name being shrieked out by a multitude of women, till you scrambled out of your room. The telephone enjoyed a place of honor in the corridor along with the full length mirror and was seated on a brown rickety table. That day I was perched on the table, talking to mom. I usually have a third eye for dog presence nearby, but that day I must have been really engrossed, cause when I looked around there were about 5 dogs surrounding my table, gamboling playfully and trying to put their paws up.
My mom tells me later that she thought I was dying of asphyxiation when she heard my strangled voice. A gladiator couldn't have felt worse than I did at that time. Well my convict self would have I guess.

My life flashed before my eyes and I thought how ironical it was that instead of being surrounded by loved ones when I was dying, well that place was taken....
I could hear my mom's hysterical voice over phone urging me to be calm and chanting various "mantras" - yep she is very religious and equally scared (its so funny when I think about it ). But now I whole heartedly support all her religious fasts cause when i unclosed my eyes which were screwed shut the dogs were miraculously leaving. I sprinted back to my room as fast as I could while mom I think took some nerve soothing medicines.
Another incident which comes to mind is when I agreed to go on a picnic with Giddy and her friends when I was visiting Bangalore. (Giddy please remind me to pay you back for this). We went in a TATA Sumo some 5 of us and one dog. Giddy had "forgotten" about the dog she claims. Anyway there was no turning back then. The dog was called Twincy or Pincy or some such terror inducing name. Its owner also professed being scared of it. And the worst part was that it didn't have a tail.

Now in the absence of any other insight into the species I usually relied on the tail (as we had been taught in primary school) to determine danger levels. Now in the absence of a tail, I had no forewarning. So I sat in front, with Pincy behind. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, a role reversal of sorts and I sat with my hackles raised ready to pounce out at the slightest sign of Pincy's movement towards my general direction...

I have made a complete fool of myself on many occasions given this irrational fear, clutched random strangers, missed classes (yes)and generally made a laughing stock of myself. I have also been branded a sinner...

Well the last incident happened in school. I was in class 1 or something, and we were having moral science (this was a convent) taken by our principal Sister. Now the Sisters had a pet called Susie and it was white and docile and generally very nun like in appearance and behavior. It was similarly respected in school.
While the class was going on Susie ambled in and made straight for my desk and promptly sat below it. Now my fear for Susie then was matched by an equally strong awe for the said Sister at that time. So I sat petrified, fighting back tears, afraid to make the slightest movement lest Susie should become aware of my presence. I am sure I stopped breathing.
So the Sister was asking some random question like "Who all would like to go to heaven?", which a sensible 7 year old would pass off as rhetorical. Well they wouldn't and the entire class promptly put up their hand. The entire class except me. I was sitting on a live bomb remember ?

And this brought Sister's wrath down on me. "You dont want to go to heaven?", she asked incredulously little realizing that heaven at that time seemed closer to me than she could have ever imagined. I sat as though turned to stone and she came towards me. At which Susie gave a yelp and disappeared and I could hear again.

The trick to conquer your fears they say is to laugh at it. Over time I have tried to do the same. Now I affect a nonchalant attitude whenever I see a dog nearby (like it cares)and it has helped a bit. I must learn to whistle....

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Christmas Story

This is a Christmas story. And if you tell me that Christmas was a long time back, I would tell you that writing a Christmas story at Christmas would be tacky to say the least. And when did I pretend that these stories had a point anyway?

He had many names- Father Christmas, Saint Niklaus or Santa Claus in its corrupted version. And he was essentially a collector, a collector of stories. There were millions of stories floating around and what he did was to cut and slice and transfer them around. In that way he was some sort of a creator.

And there was Blinky, the elf whose job it was to keep track of good stories and give Santa the heads up. Cause obviously Santa was the public figure, the relationship man, or so Blinky believed. The real work was done by her.

So Santa was strategizing with January over a strong cup of sweet tea and buns. "Good buns Blinky", said Santa while January sniffed. She was a cold hard woman with a permanent hangover post the festive season. “So anyway", she went on. There is war going on everywhere. The world is in a state of strife. Figure you could get your dose of raw emotions.”

Santa looked troubled. But it was his job. To absorb excessive emotion, to absorb stories of war and strife and heartbreak, so that at Christmas some part could be transferred to those who deserved, or were destined. Christmas… when he would try to restore some sense of balance to the world...

...Blinky brought little heart shaped cookies for February who took her assigned role so seriously that she was almost a cliche. There she sat pink and trinketed, with her tinkling laugh, this last was a new development Blinky privately observed. "Oh darling I have the sweetest love story ever !"…..

It was a dull sultry night and Blink was working late sifting through the bottles. And there he was. She saw the bottle marked April and it came back to her. April was almost as dry as the arrowroot biscuits he ate and had told the story of a deserving young guy and his love for this girl. But she had not shown any signs of reciprocating and on the contrary took pleasure in giving him pain.

Blink had rolled her eyes at that story and stifled a yawn. She thought the guy was a loser in his own right for letting himself be treated that way. But Santa, the incurable romantic had gone to take a look ostensibly claiming that his stock of longing and heartbreak had run out.

And as she sat looking at the story, a strange mix of emotions surged through her, heady almost euphoric. She had never felt anything like that before. At first she thought she had accidently split some essence and spent a while checking for leaks. But there was no denying. Blinky had irrationally, irrevocably fallen for him.

And there was nothing she could do about it. The ancient treaty and all that jazz. She was surprised at herself. For she was an elf who prided herself on being level headed and mature. She was not like the other female elves whose dearest ambition was to serve the Elf Queen and dance around toadstools with prospects. She went out and got an “education”. And here she was. Drawn towards a human of all things.

She tried to divert herself. May came and paid a visit. Blinky loved May. They sat by the sea on the rocks and just listened to the sound of the waves. Not a soul for miles. She had enough contentment to last for a life time. She stole the essence and drowned herself in it. But to no avail.

Wisdom came with July. Wisdom and erudition. Listening to great men speak. Bringing back essences of motivation and action and focus.
She knew it was of no use. She knew she had to do it. She would mix him a story for Christmas. But this time she would play a part.

She thought of the day she had first gone out with Santa. She loved seeing him in action. "How do you know what to give them?” she had asked wonder struck, the first time.
“I just give them the essence, the thought, the idea. It takes the shape of whatever they want. That's true of most things in life", he had said.
“The emotions are there to influence the thinking”, he said and winked. “But there are some who do not feel the power of emotions”, he said suddenly sober “and they really get what they want..but such men are very few ”.

She tried to get a grip on herself and sprinked a few drops of patience to help her. “I must be as immune as those few men”, she thought wryly.

October came with her knack of firsts. The first ten seconds when you realize you are in love, the strength of that emotion had taken everyone by surprise last year, this year, she made them experience the dawn of a new day, when reality hasn’t fully sunk in and the air was full of promise and hope.

And the hope was her undoing. She sprinkled the scent of a ballerina’s dance, a heady mix of seduction, exhilaration and ecstasy and went before him….

Santa was furious. “You know what you have breached”, he said, strangely quiet. “Well so you must go”.

She walked up to him that Christmas eve..and he was there waiting for her..with a smile on his face..but she was there too and the instant she looked at him looking at her, she knew that he would never love her. And she surprised herself by wishing for his happiness and giving him the essence, the essence which would take the shape of what he most loved and desired….

But the magic would not work however much she tried…and eventually she gave up and walked away..

December was watching the scene with Santa. “You should have let her have this last wish”, he said quietly. “ It was not in my power”, said Santa. “ What she felt there was love, and love made her human. Elf magic would not work for her”

“So love actually pushed her to a lower level of existence? Pity I liked her biscuits..”drawled December sarcastically.

And Santa looked at all the emotions he had collected over the years, willing himself to feel a part of what the men in the stories felt, willing himself to feel love..”

“Actually, it is higher”, he said softly..