Sunday, September 3, 2017

Little Boxes

Pete Seeger, the famous American folk singer and social activist, sang decades back about "little boxes".
"Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
       Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same..."

Box like houses, exactly alike in appearance, alike in expectations from life, alike in their middleclass conformity. The song always struck a chord and the boxes always intrigued me. No wonder they are making their way in to my blog!
 
Boxes. In other words, social conformity. The invisible boundaries that society imposes on us. Of course, without boundaries, we the notorious species called homo sapiens will run amock with chaos and mayhem everywhere. So, yes, boxes are a social necessity perhaps. But when we put our mind in that box too and refuse to see the blue of the sky lurking from some open corner, crippling ensues. When we love the boxes so much that we are threatened if we can't relate to another human being without the reference frame of the social conditioning, the boxes become cages.
 
The socially defined boxes in our mind keeps dictating us at every cross road of life. We are used to putting our feelings, our relationships, our whole life in to the boxes that undergo social scanning. We need relationships with tags of social approval to feel comfortable. One human being, reaching out to another is not of any value, unless you can put defined and acceptable tags to that relationship. It tells us that love is hardly even understandable unless you can put a label of social conformity!

Need to be acknowledged, need to be accepted is a basic human psychological need. But in a desperation to achieve that, so many times we our selves become a social commodity. Individuality is the price to pay when you need to conform at any cost! We need to marry at a certain age, make babies at a certain age, obey certain functional or dysfunctional commandments of society in order to have breathing space. Otherwise we are failures, we are outcasts.
 
How dark must be the despair when a successful intelligent young girl feels like an outcaste because she didn't fit in to a defined social box of "being married at the right time". How heart-breaking it must be when parents leave their kids hands when something could not be put in the boxes they believed to be right for their kids. Be it career, be it finding a partner or even sexuality. How painful, when your "friends" avoid you because you make them feel uncomfortable by standing by your unconventional beliefs.
 
I agree, boxes feel safe. The usual, the predictable has a sense of security around it. Its like getting a tick mark against your name from society. Tick marks; something that we are so fond of seeing, since the time we start going to school. They mean approval. They mean we are accepted as being part of the herd. They mean we are not alone. But do they mean happiness? Do they mean freedom? Do they mean being compatible with your own self? Does, not being alone, guarantee not being lonely?
  
Of course society changes with time. It is changing as I write too perhaps. But somewhere the roots of social conditioning are so deep, the dogmas are so stifling that its scary to stand apart. We are comfortably numb by a state of social hypnosis and no longer feel the pain of being exactly alike each other in our limitations.
 
So, today, if I could seek something for the generations to come, it would be their strength to stand apart, it would be their ability to choose fearless conviction over social conformity. After all, how wonderful is a world where your mind can take a fearless flight in an open sky. Where we don't cage ourselves in social dogmas. Where we can develop our individuality without being judged, learn to embrace emotions and value relationships.


Too much of a dream, eh?

 
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Not the best job in the world

People these days tell me that I am doing the "the greatest job" on earth right now. Facebook posts scream the glory of this greatest job, where there are no holidays, involves multi-tasking, many hardships and does not have remuneration. Some disillusioned souls even tell me that it’s a thankless job, after all!

Yes, am talking about the glorified job of motherhood.
And risking sounding like the most self-centered mother on this planet, I wholeheartedly disagree. It surely is not the best job on earth. Nor it is the most difficult or the most rewarding or the most glorified one! 


Simply because, it is not a "job".

The psychological ramifications of this so called greatest job or the noblest sacrifice are far and wide. For example, the "socially aware" post that keeps circulating on social media that proudly proclaims how mothers never retire from their job. While the father retires from the office job, the mother simply goes around the house, cooking and washing dirty utensils and stuff. Or the subtle social expectations that the mother will always have to toil the hardest to win a place in the hearts of her clan. Irrespective of the tag of a working mother or otherwise, unless they churn out the yummiest food on the plate, take the children to the best basketball camp, arrange for the most interesting birthday party; they have failed. Failed to themselves at least.

These posts and other social innuendo which tells me that now my life is about raising my children, sacrificing my life, my individual dreams and aspiration, leaves me a little sad, a little confused, slightly annoyed and guilty of feeling confused, sad and annoyed! And thus this post, to clarify my stand to myself (and if anyone else is interested to listen, err read).

I don't know about others, but I sure am not doing any "job" in raising my children. Greatest or toughest or otherwise. I am just honoring a relationship. The most beautiful relationship, with two most precious people of my life. I gave birth to them. I spoke to them, sang to them when they were taking shape inside me. Obviously the relationship is special. They are tiny now, they are dependent on me. Thus my responsibilities are little more for them. But every relationship has its responsibilities, every relationship has its commitment and every relationship needs some amount of sacrifice! There can't be anything bigger or smaller in relationships. They are all different. My relationship with my mother should be and is equally important to me as my relationship with my children. Yes, the tenets are different. 

My children are not my weakness. They are my strength. They show me how beautiful it is when the only abiding rule in a relationship is unconditional love. Yes, I have changed as a person when I chose to be a mother. Some of the changes might be qualified as a "sacrifice" too! My "me time" has reduced to almost being non-existent. But that's because it has been replaced with "we time". The never ending snuggles, the story times, the peekaboo, the crazy nameless and often meaningless games. That’s my life line right now. And the funny part, this frenzied time will blur in to being a beautiful memory very soon. My boys will grow up. They won't need me to play peekaboo too long. They will have their own world. They won’t depend on me to bathe, feed and put them to sleep. But I know that our relationship will evolve for better with each passing day. I will be their friend, their mentor, their support system and their emotional anchor at different stages of our lives. Motherhood is a choice. A much cherished choice. I am not losing myself in them, I am finding my self . More and more, with each passing day.

And do we take holidays in any other relationship? What amount of work we do, what responsibilities we take in our lives, depends on the equation we create with people around us and our circumstances. Sharing responsibilities, supporting each other should be the rule and not the exception. We never retire from being a sister or a daughter or a father for that matter. Why should we retire from being a mother! Motherhood is not sacrifice, motherhood is not a social expectation to be ticked off, motherhood is not servitude, motherhood is not a job. It is a choice, it is a journey, it is a relationship. 

And to the two precious little souls who made me embark on this journey, I wish to tell them one day:
"Because of you
I can feel myself

slowly buy surely becoming the me,
I have always dreamt to be" (Tyler Knottingley Gregson)


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Meeting you....again

I met you after 5 years. 5 long years.
Our association has been long. But I never could quite figure out whether I loved you, still love you or if I hate you. You were not really a choice I guess.

You saw me after 5 years. I could not get to ask you how much change do you see in me. For, I must have changed.

To start with, I am a mother of two now. Two handsome darlings, who mean the world to me. Yes, my world has changed for sure. I have also become little brave these days I guess. May be just a tiny little bit but still a change from the time you knew me. For I am no longer petrified of ghosts, darkness, thunders or even lizards. OK, I lied. Lizards, may be still a little bit. But you dont have the luxury to be afraid when two pairs of innocent eyes are looking up to you and seeking courage from you.

Some changes must have been obvious to you I guess. May be the inches added to my waistline and reduced from the heels that I used to totter around five years back? But other than the ostensible changes, there are some good deal of re-engineering that happened on my inside too in these years. Not sure, if those were apparent to you. 

Did you realize that I have finally made peace with my self? I have finally accepted my self as the flawed, lost and may be a tad volatile human being, forever in love with life. I have left the righteous brigade some time now. Stopped trying to change myself or others. Remember, I used to question the meaning of life often when I used to be with you? Well, I no longer do. I am just happy to be overwhelmed  by life now. Last five years, I have also known loss very closely. Loss of people whom I loved, loss of relationships too. I have felt the dark despair it brings. Been enveloped with tangible darkness. I have been broken and I have also picked up the pieces again. I have also known love. Love that knows no boundaries. Love that peeks like the promise of another day to come even while the sun sets. Love that is synonymous with life itself.
 
But even while walking through this maze of life, I never forgot you. The misty feeling of early mornings when I used to walk the road to the school bus, the sweat of sultry summers, the years of hazy dreams, the beautiful feeling of finding first love, the first breakdown; nothing ever left me.

And all those tender feelings came rushing back to me when I met you again, today. I realized I have always loved you unconditionally, my dear city of joy, my dear kolkata.

My city of joy, you too have changed quite a bit in these five years. Some of your frowzy by-lanes have changed to nice wide roads and flyovers to boast now. I know all is not well. All is never well anywhere or with anyone. But today I want to bask in the good in you. And I want you to know that through love and hate, through tears and joys, in this journey of life, I have never forgotten you, nor I ever will. My dear kolkata, you will remain a part of my soul, wherever life takes me.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Todo Pasa

So, I could not sleep today. Much coveted sleep. Much more coveted was the rare chance to sleep!

But still I could not.

"Sleep", has a different connotation for mothers! Especially if you are a mother of a toddler. Even more so, if you happen to have two in place of one, like yours truly! But, I actually got a chance today. Rare chance to nap, that too in the afternoon, all by myself. Family members taking care of both my toddlers, I could sneak in to my room just to sleep! No tiny hands strangling me in sleep, no small feet kicking me in holy abandon, no one trying to sleep on my pillow leaving the entire bed seem like an abandoned football ground.

And I could not sleep.
I missed those tiny hands, the tiny feet, the battle for the pillow. So much so that I came to my long forgotten best friend and started pouring my heart out. Yes, my blog. She has been waiting for me for two years to come back to her. And I didn’t come to her. I was busy ruffling the two unruly crops of hair, kissing them million times, wiping their tears when they fell while trying to walk, jump or run. Between cleaning poop, trying to feed, putting to sleep, I was busy discovering my own self. I was lost in the songs my two year old sings, holding my face and looking in to my eyes. I still am. I am maddeningly in love with a tiny voice which says “mamma, sho” ("lie down beside me", in Bengali), so that he can snuggle with me. I am busy savouring each moment of being a mom. Each tired, sleep deprived, blog forgotten, unsocial moment.

And I know this too shall pass. “Todo pasa y todo queda” (everything passes and everything stays). That’s the way life goes. Very soon, they will not need me the way they need me today. Their world will become so vast that "mamma" will be only a tiny part in it. The world of mittens and booties will be replaced by soccer shoes may be! The tiny hands that tug at my neck and my heart, will be holding books and pens and laptops and what not. My babies will become men one day, quite soon.

But till the day passes, I welcome one more sleepless night trying to fit in the bed with both of them. I look forward to the snuggles, the endless games of hide and seek, the endless feeding tantrums, the drawings on the walls, the scribblings on my notebook. Let me sing endless lullabies even when I am exhausted after a hard day at work. Let me love being a mommy of two naughty toddlers , just for some more time.

Precious moments, don’t go away so fast that I can’t blink my eyes, in fear that these fairy-tale moments will be all gone soon.

Time, wait for this silly mommy to grow up too!

Monday, May 19, 2014

To write or not to write

It has been a year since I touched my blog, quite literally. Reasons being manifold. Some were practical, like the never solvable issue of balancing time and priorities. But more than that, I realized off-late that it is actually a quasi-emotional, unanswered question in my mind that is bothering and stopping me to write. And perhaps to find an answer, I am back at the black buttons of my small system, listening carefully to the 'tut tut's of typing (yes, my obsolete system makes noise!) to find an answer. Writing has always been a way of thinking aloud for me.

The question that kept bothering me was why should I write at all! I am not a writer. I neither have a 'gift of writing', nor I have many people interested to read what I have to say! Then, (notwithstanding my dear brother's incessant motivation), why should I write! The more I pondered over the question, the more diverse questions unfolded in my mind. One of the most important among them: why do people write? These days, every other person seems to have a blog. Many, I guess, write to share or connect at a personal level. And when they have a gift of writing, its an absolute pleasure to read. Then there is a group of bloggers who blog about things they are good at. Makes for delightful readings again. I also know of many who have a blog because its fashionable or profitable to do so. Recently, I came across a salesman turned psychological counsellor who has a blog where he writes stuff profound! Don't get me wrong, I am not judgemental enough to find a conflict between a person's profession and 'passion' but it felt funny to read his advices on relationships when I happened to know that he isn't really great at interpersonal relationship himself! Big stuff written to attract clients eh! True, blogs are a good platform for marketing.

Now, why only blogs! These days everyone seems to turn a book writer and do great business too! And to my dismay, most of the authors are smart, fashionable, "could have been a model if not a writer" women! The jealous green eyed monster in me ogles in dismay as they pose happily in their ultra fashionable clothes and high-heels and ooze glamour! Add to that a gang of writers from IIMs and IITs! Successful in their professional world, earning big bucks and typing away and churning out novels from their Ipads and other gizmos. Oh my! whatever happened to my old world idea of writers who churn out stuff burning midnight oil, sitting in attics! Or whatever happened to Rainer Rilke's (the Austrian poet) advice to wannabe authors that one should write only when one wants nothing else in life. Or may be Hemingway's suggestion that to write one should sit down at the typewriter and bleed. Now, I could not identify myself in any of the categories. And looking at literary magazines these days which can give any fashion magazine a run for money any day, I guess my confidence took daily beatings and made the small clumsy writer in me hide in a corner!

But, as they say, old habits die hard. The magic of these black and white ramblings get to me at odd times! They find me when life greets me, they find me in my darkest hour and they also find me when I am lost in search of myself. So I closed all fancy literary magazines, stopped trying to analyse every blog that I stop by and also stopped taking Rilke or Hemingway's advice too seriously! And here I am, back at my silly small laptop, sitting beside my tiny baby, who might revolt anytime now for not getting enough attention for quite some time and typing away to Lord's glory. Because, I finally found my answer. I am writing because I love to write. Because writing finds me at odd times.
 So, whatever the reason whoever is writing,lets say cheers and lets carry on our love affair with writing. Writing, after all, is a way of talking without being interrupted (Jules Renard). So, lets keep the chatter on, with each other and with our own selves. Who knows, some day, some great stuff might come out from our pens (err keypads) too, which the world might want to listen to!





Sunday, April 14, 2013

Of relations and relating!

Few days back, I came across one of Osho's saying, where he said love is about relating and not about relationships. This got me thinking and finally the whispers in my head became so loud that I had to pen it down!

Much ado has been made about love and relationships, esp the romantic man-woman love and I am no different to not try and have my share of voice on this topic! :)

So yes, when Osho said love is about relating to someone and not about a relationship, I paused a bit and looked around and within! True, in our unwise mind, love is always equated with a relationship. From our childhood, we nurture the fantasy of falling in love and getting married (may not be always in that order). Somehow, love without a sense of permanency, leaves us feeling insecure. We desperately need a "relationship", a socially approved one if possible. So much so, that we forget the basic fact, that love is actually about relating unconditionally to some one. Relating to some ones joys, sorrows, pain, insecurities, weaknesses and many subtle shades of emotion!

As I look around me, I find relationships where people do not relate to each other at all! For e.g- what would you say when a wife cant share the salary hike she received at work place with her husband! They have stopped relating to each others success, joys perhaps long back! But still they are in a so called successful relationship....a marriage lasting for years! Or may be where the partner accuses the other half of flirting with every one of the opposite sex and still continues to be in that relationship! Are they relating to each other! Or what happens when a person who used to be the wind beneath the wings of another, turns only interested to clip the wings after they are in a "relationship"! Is it because they transitioned from relating to each other to a relationship! Well, I am no spiritual guru and forget answers, I do not even have the questions correct most of the times! But I am so tired of seeing relationships all around me where people actually do not relate to each other at all, ready to tear apart each other, not hesitating for a moment to insult and abuse! I wonder what is the point of intimacy, emotional or otherwise, where there is no respect, where you cant trust unconditionally, where you cant reach out even without being called! Are we only in love with the idea of love and rest is all a matter of convenience, including relationships!

May the Almighty give all of us enough love to never stop relating to our loved ones, beyond the tag of a relationship!

Amen! :)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

"There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven't yet met"


A mop of white hair neatly tied in a bun, shriveled skin, feeble voice and tentative steps; that is how I remember her! It was a flight from Bangalore to Kolkata and she was sitting next to me. She must have been over 70 and not quite "well dressed".

I generally prefer not to talk to strangers, esp on flights. The reasons are manifold. One of them is that though I am quite fond of instant coffee and other instant food items, I do not believe in "instant friendships" :). And the other very prominent reason being, my abhorrence to the typical Indian way of trying lurk in to your life, even given a chance of a frivolous conversation on weather and sports! So, I cling to the book in hand with all might and avoid all conversations, even at the cost of being judged "snooty"!

So, when I went and sat next to her, my only impression was that of an usual elderly lady, who will be willing to talk all the way till the plane lands and whom I must avoid. I was passing through one of the turbulent phases of my life that time and was in no mood to hear the usual story of  "successful IT professional son settled in Bangalore" or worse still "daughter married to successful IT professional settled in Bangalore" from a proud Bengali parent. Well, no offence meant to anyone, but that is what generally is the conversation thread if you do get bundled up in a Bangalore Kolkata flight, sitting next to an elderly lady!

So it was uncanny when she didn't make an attempt to talk even after almost an hour of take off and rather out came an Agatha Cristie novel from her purse! Yes, it was a surprise. I might have expected a Bengali daily or a weekly magazine but surely not an Agatha Cristie book. She intrigued me more because though she herself reminded me of the Bengali version of miss Marple, she wasn't reading any of her fictional works. It was "Come, tell me how you live", the autobiography of Agatha Cristie, that she was reading! And yes, Agatha Cristie broke the ice between us and we started talking.

It turned out that she was avid reader and spoke impeccable English, again not something that I would have expected. And, in next one and a half hours of flight time she broke quite a few of  my assumptions. For one, she never asked me beyond where I stayed in Bangalore. No, not even what I do for a living or whether I am married or not! And yes, she did have one daughter who stayed in Bangalore but again nothing beyond that. Never spoke about why she was travelling alone or where she lived. But we did talk about Agatha Cristie, P.G. Wodehouse and some famous Bengali authors like Ashapurna Devi and Shirshendu Mukhopadhaya. She turned out to be a retired school teacher. In no time our conversations turned towards philosophies of Life. Though we didn't discuss about our personal lives and nor she gave me any unsolicited advice, she said something that I will always remember. She said that with all the years that has gone on making all her hair white, she has only learnt one thing: no point in "trying" to be happy, no point in pursuing happiness. Life will unfold itself with all its color like a kaleidoscope if only you know how to turn the leaves, if only you know how to "be" in it!
Not soon after this, it was time for landing and since she was using special assistance from the airlines, she was wheeled out on the wheel chair first.

I didnt get a chance to ask her name or address. And for the first time I realized how much value an interaction with a stranger can also bring! I was humbled and was also embarrassed because I had judged her in the beginning.

In that particularly troubled phase of my life, some her words of wisdom struck a chord and helped me perhaps more than that of many a solicited advice. People say that God has strange ways of showing you the way only if you look out! I have often wondered if this interaction with a stranger was one such! I have often searched for her in all Kolkata bound flights since then, whenever I have traveled  but never found her again.

But one thing is for sure, I have opened up more to conversations with strangers since then. Though I agree, most of the times it is still the same proud moms of software engineers or bored housewives who are eager to talk, but hey, no harm in looking around! :) You never know what lessons of Life you might get to learn  from even a casual encounter!

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda