Saturday, November 28, 2009

Regret. Refresh. Rejoice. Reload.

Gosh, I have typed and erased an opening line so many times now, its ridiculous!

It's our wedding anniversary today. Five years. And I decided to begin it (well precede it) with a fight. Because I suffer from this 'occasion' trap syndrome. And I let my doubts over our differences swirl around my head with cigarette smoke. Thought of really cruel things to say, said some as well. From a smiling face, Nino's Dad when to a rather familiar place, silence. And as I sat twirling rogan josh on my plate while Nino chattered nineteen to a dozen, I realised how I'd come so close to not having a wedding anniversary today. How grateful I was that we were still together, still a family, disjointed and imperfect perhaps, but a tangible part of each other's lives.

Nino's Dad doesn't get ticked off too easily, and when he does, his forgiveness or peace takes a while to come. Just one of our many differences. When I hugged him and said sorry, I counted the 20 seconds it took his arm to come around and hug me as well. But it did. And it stayed there as I muttered my sheepish self-analysis. And my heartfelt gratitude that he'd walked those necessary steps towards me when we were faltering.

I wanted to share this with you - you know, because well, you've had a sorta ring-side view to the venting of my pain - and I realised I'm awkward, gauche when it comes to writing about the good stuff.

Maybe it is easier for me to share my pain. I know it well, and I've words and songs and silences that give it a familiar form. Joy? Ah, that. See, pain is one complete, all encompassing feeling. Joy is schizophrenic. There's happiness, glee, joy.... it's too dependent on someone else to be truly mine.

But that is where I'm wrong. I've read and known enough to know both pain and joy come from within us - someone else is just a convenient tangent.

As I sit here on my bed, still in pj's, a nicely scrubbed up Nino staring at the tv with an open mouth, and Nino's Dad sleeping through the noise, I'm happy. Not the delirious version. The content, calm one. Perhaps happiness has as many versions as me!

We plan to spend the evening with the one thing all three of us love: food. Nino and Nino's Dad will cook, mumma will play dj. In between I will groan about how long the food is taking, how the two chefs only want me to chop and clean but not stand with them. Then I'll sulk out of the kitchen and fight back that stinging happiness in my eyes as I hear them chuckling with laughter together.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Salaam Bombay

How does one fall in love with a city?

It's pretty similar to falling in love with someone actually. First there's the idea - the misty, subconscious conditioned tinted glow. Then there's the actual tangible meeting. There's like and dislike, strong like and strong dislike, and then the succumbing to the fact that despite and inspite all that you can put down on a two-page list, there's no escaping this person. Love it must be then, for the lack of a more evolved word.

That is how it is with me and Bombay. Or with any small-town kid and India's only true metro. It was Rushdie who stoked the first sparks of love - till I came to see it and got all run over by the dirt and the smells and the people who seemed so 'lost' within themselves and their city. I worked there for a bit - and learned to love the smell of sweat, the pushing and shoving on the local trains, the sweet Muslim cab-wallah-uncle who ran up three floors of the TOI to return my recently-acquired solitaire engagement ring. I remember the first time I was robbed, by a friendly faced girl on the local, how I sobbed all the way to Powai, and how the rickshawallah offered his silent looks and patient wait till I hounded down acquaintances for fare money. I remember walking out of a theater by myself at 2:00 in the night, feeling the same kind of security as I felt back home, the fact that this is perhaps the only other city where I'm safe despite my gender. Mistaken fact, but still, almost true.

I saw its glitz and glamour, its astounding riches and it's quiet alleys of pain. It was the pace that took my breath way - the purpose in the walks of the hordes who met me at CST. The talks of the women who left home at 5 every morning. The reason for all that jostling for space. The need for self-survival. I marvelled at its pride, and I understood my antagonism of how every Mumbaikar I'd met could not look beyond their city - and I understood why. I loved it and then I couldn't wait to get away from it. And it remains, like a dear ex-lover, with enough warm nostalgia to make it my own. They say if you can recognize and reconnect to someone through an insipid and stupid name-change, you're meant to be connected.

Mumbai, I mourn you still. The scabs over your wounds maybe falling off, but I feel your pain still. The pace was soon set, but I honour your pause still. The despair must make way for determination, because I remember your fear still.


OJ, whose twitter feed on 26/11, connected all of us who were away from Mumbai to its fears and hopes and tears, writes about picking up the pieces, here.

Prasoon Joshi and Amitabh Bachchan's plea to stop, to pause, to question, directed to a city that tends to pick itself up easily, here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mothers and Daughters

These days I'm in a 'gratitude binge' on Facebook. It's a tag started by T, who said to list what you're grateful for every single day till thanksgiving.

My first thanks went to my mum. Who remains my guru, teacher, friend and general rock. For her calm amidst my rage, for the lovely songs she sings to me over the phone to pep me up. Yesterday I came across a lovely poem written by a dear friend to her (future) daughter.

Henri has been a late entrant in my life - we studied together in school, but never really knew each other. This Diwali, we met and bonded, and I've discovered a dear friend, someone who Nino and I adore. Henri's mum had Alzheimer's: and her struggle with her illness and eventual demise when Henri was a teenager is a major contributor to the energy Henri finds within herself to work with those that society shuns. It has also given my friend a large appetite for life - and all of life, its ups and downs - and her letter to her as-yet-unborn daughter is testament to this joie de vivre. It reminds me so much of my mum - whose advice is generally a mix of emotional intelligence and large swathes of common sense.

A Poem For My Daughter

My mum was never around to give me advice on life’s problems. I learned things the hard way. I never want to be in a position where my wisdom doesn’t pass on to my children. Life is uncertain, so here is what I’d like to tell my daughter.

Dear Darling Baby Girl,

Pick a wild flower in my name,
Wear white and dance in the rain,

Eat ice cream on a winter night,
Kiss passionately after a fight.

Play word games to sharpen your mind,
Say sorry if you’ve been unkind.

Love deeply, but be your own girl,
Feed the crows and tame a squirrel!

But never have pets, they die and make you sad,
When in doubt, wear jeans, they’re never outta fad.

Marriages are made in heaven, but they break here on earth,
Don’t fight over petty things, value love’s worth.

Always eat breakfast, it keeps depression at bay,
Always keep chocolate just an arm’s length away.

Drive slowly, and enjoy the ride,
Visit beaches often, worship the sea-side.

Never waste water, or food or good wine,
Make your own mistakes, but also learn from mine.

Climb a mountain, swim in a river, row a coracle,
Read fiction, write poetry, language is a miracle.

Don’t just donate money, also volunteer time,
Leave your windows open, make your own wind chimes.

Friends are like crystal, tend to them with care,
Don’t just play to win, and always play fair!

Be the life of the party, but stay home when you like,
Enjoy good food, exercise, and you’ll be fit and fine.

Be proud of growing older, and you’ll remain in your prime,
Eat bananas to beat a hangover, for nausea use lime.

A person who breaks your heart, needs your prayers the most,
Believe in God almighty, but don’t believe in ghosts!

Love your parents, but know they can be wrong,
And never ever believe you’re gonna live long.

Remember life is transient, things never remain the same,
So when you miss me, my baby, pick a wild flower in my name!

Your Loving Mom, Henri

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A thing of beauty...

... is a joy forever.

It's true: I've willed it be wrong and false and foolishly romantic and therefore fated to an early death - but it will not escape me.

I remember reading sometime back this article about a woman whose husband is her better (looking, in this case) half, and all the funny and no-so-funny things about this situation. It was an article I instantly connected to - and I read it with relish, imagining all those mean aunties (most of them on the husband's side I bravely admit, and some silent ones on my side as well) who muttered 'wonder what he sees in her'.

I've come back to this situation often. I did not blossom into the proverbial butterfly, I just became more comfortable with what I looked like. I was a typical geek in school - all gangly limbs, braces and glasses, longer-than-long oiled hair with plaits. And I went to a typically trendy convent high-school. And I was put down directly and indirectly about how I looked. And now when I meet ex-classmates, it's the pretty ones who say - oh, you look nice! - like it's an unexpected shock. I'm dramatically different from before - but it's not the difference so much as the adjective they use.

Although I don't subscribe to the theory that things are easier for pretty looking people, why in some case beautiful women are taken to be dumb and it's pretty frustrating for them - but I do know sometimes it is easier for them. A traffic snarl that can be solved with a smile. A crabby fight that just needs a certain look. This feeling of coming home dead tired and feeling better by just seeing someone's perfection. I also know you get immune to beauty when you live with it for too long - but never really immune. Beauty is the best epitaph.

Why am I here, writing this? I just came across someone from my school who I don't really remember, but who used to play Mary in all our Nativity plays. Because she's got glorious skin and is angelic and cherubic. Every year. Who said Mary was beautiful? The subconscious treatment that equates beauty with being above ordinary starts in school. Why don't they have a random straw poll and pick a Mary in schools? Why not the short one or the dark one or the one with the pug nose? It takes no acting talent: she just needs to sit there and smile, so I don't believe talent had anything to do with it. We've conveniently equated beautiful with the divine. Hence anyone else is lesser, mere mortal. Little girls with pink frilly frocks and cherubic cheeks versus little girls with broken hearts wondering why they can't play princess.

Is this the same thing as picking the best speaker for the debate competition? No. Talent can be nurtured, developed, everyone has a shot at it. Beauty? Why that's the one damn thing that's not really in your hands. You can go as far as well-groomed or well-turned-out or well-dressed, but beautiful? Not even under the scalpel.

When I saw her today - Mary from school - and I looked through her photographs from school and I sat bewitched and saw her beauty - and felt very frumpy myself. And sorta felt cheated. And a little hurt that my 'blossoming' never came. And worried how I'd react if I saw my son being held back from something he wanted to do because of how he'd look. And grateful that perhaps he'll have to put up with it lesser because he's a boy. Maybe. Big maybe there.

Ofcourse I do believe that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. I just wish all the beholders were are short-sighted as Nino's Dad.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

An update and a bribe :)

You know the most amazing part about trying to fix something? It's your best chance to experience an out-of-body feeling, one where you're watching yourself first break and then try to mend stuff.

Nino's Dad and I are mending stuff these days - and I've consciously stayed off the blog because I won't be able to not write what I feel: and I know that he would hope that these revelations come to me, in a well, less public way. But we're getting better *fingers crossed*.

In between all this conundrum, we've grappled with several illnesses between all of us - including Nino, who went from a completely toilet trained individual to someone who would wet his bed more than a couple of times in the night. Docs thought it was juvenile diabetes, and that was quite a scare, but that's been ruled out now. Then it was a urinary track infection in the sense that his foreskin was way too tight for him, and now, as of last week, he has been listed as a possible suspect for ADHD.

I must admit I haven't been the most ideal mother. I haven't stood up for my son. I have panicked, got him poked and tested, convinced my upbringing was wrong and had harmed him for life. ADHD took the cake, literally. I was looking at my bright, boisterous, opinionated boy and wondering if he had internalised all our troubles, stuff that we tried so hard to shield him from. And then a few sane voices reared their heads, including a friend who has worked with ADHD kids. She listened to me, poked big gaping holes in my fear psychosis, and then told me point blank that she thought Nino could have HD, but not AD, given his absolute concentration when he's doing stuff. But there's no denying he needs more time from me - absolutely needs it.

So, I'm quitting my current job. It's a huge thing for us financially - considering we're the worst example of credit security you could ever give anyone - but there. Ofcourse I'm going to try and work part time. For the money and the sanity of it. As I took the decision to quit last week, I felt this incredible sense of relief wash over me - like I knew, really really knew, what I was doing. I've been working since Nino was 9 months old, and several of you are aware that I've grappled with guilt a lot. It's not a great job, not even creatively, but I did it for the money. And well, like that really helped :)

Some of the good things? Well, we've been partying like... like... when we were young! Diwali brought friends and family from abroad, then Halloween brought Nino's friends and ever since, we've promised to entertain atleast twice a month - and not let routine wear us out.

As a bribe, I'm leaving you with some pix from Nino's Halloween party. We had proper monster food, a sit-down 'three course dinner' (menu decided by Nino ofcourse), some games and a reading of our current favourite book, Where the Wild Things Are. It was soo-per fun!


on an aside, hope you've noticed my updated 'Top Clicks' section *sheepish* . I did that a few days (or was it weeks) back - and it's our (Mine and Nino's) ode to the Cauliflower. Yes. We've a chef in the making here, so what if mumma can't cook to save her life!