Time for Yourself: Its Essential

I recently read an article which emphasized on the fact that Indian women are not trained or prepared to live alone. Solitude is something that they cannot imagine to exist, it’s a word that ceases to exist in their day to day dictionary. And come to think of it it’s true. And here I am not talking about women who decide to stay alone, the ones who decide not to marry or are divorced or simply because they want to. Our society in general does not think too high of these women, there has to be a reason for a woman to decide to live alone and trust me no reason is good enough ever. Hence, mostly under no circumstances can a woman who decides to live alone, can do so peacefully.

But I am focusing on women who have families and they decide to sneak a few days, hours or even minutes in solitude. This concept is alien to many. They are raised to believe that their time is not theirs, it is for the family, it is to make sure the family lives comfortably, it is to make sure that food is on the table, clothes are kept ironed in the cupboard, the domestic help gets paid on time, and yes amidst all this to make sure that everyone is happy. They become so accustomed to all the chaos around them all the time that snatching time alone for themselves in between all this feels absurd, they feel lost and deceived in the absence of others.

And why does it sound bizarre to me while I have seen the women in my family and even my MIL to a certain extent lead the same life I mentioned above. But nonetheless it is bizarre not outrageously but enough for me to take a stand against it (Come to think of it I am in a habit to take a stand against many things). Few years into my marriage I concluded that I needed this ‘Me’ time to remain sane and keep everyone around me sane. I could not mold myself to the thought that my life could not be mine anymore it was for others, I was OK to share it but to give it up completely was something I was not comfortable with. And I followed my heart, I decided that no matter what, I would take out some ‘Alone time’ as and when I could.

A male colleague of mine was recently complaining that his wife keeps grumbling about the amount of time he spends at home, she feels that he is out most of the time with his friends rather than being at home with her and their 2 year old son. I asked him if she does take time alone for herself, and my colleague gave me a revolted look and asked me what that was supposed to mean, she was alone with the kid all day. So you see what I mean. I am not sure if she wants to spend time alone but I also know that she has not tried it ever. I had read a short story once where the husband of a middle aged woman had to be away for 5 years for work. When he went away the family was worried of how she would manage alone, she had the same apprehension. But at night when she was all alone it was the first time that it struck her that she was alone and it was feeling good. She could finally do things that she wanted to do without fretting about home. And lest to say she fared well.

I am not saying that all women should decide to live alone, we need families, and friends they all are good people. I am just saying that in between all this hustle bustle once in a while it is OK to breathe in the elixir of solitude. I have days when I sit alone in cafes, or go to movies alone, or sometimes even go on my historical expeditions that I absolutely love on my own (The mere thought of this can give sleepless disgruntled nights in my family, I know). And when I come back not only do I realize what my family means to me but also feel rebooted. Taking time alone for me is a necessity it might not be the same case with everyone but we should not be anxious of it. It takes a lot of effort and lot of sacrifices to give yourself up for others and women are the only creatures capable of it but the balance I think would help many get out of the dilemma that they don’t even know exists.

The Cow Story !!!!

In the wee hours of the morning, I was out for my morning stroll when I saw a group of men holding flags of all hues of red and marching in one direction and singing slogans that I was finding hard to understand, but they were musical and lyrical for all I know, and on continuous repetition seemed melodious. I had nothing interesting to do in the morning so I decided to follow these men. To my horror after a few minutes they got hold of a boy and started hitting him, like really hard, he was pleading and crying, shouting and wailing but these men did not stop. They were hitting him even when he fainted and eventually walked over him to continue with their march and shouting. All I could hear and understand was that they were hitting him apparently because he ate their mother. Cannibalism, I thought, these humans can be weird at times.

After this sad start to the day I decided to walk around the park where I could find some happy cheerful children and feel happy for the day. I was crossing the road when I saw four men forcing themselves on a girl, she was screeching and pulling herself away, but they were strong men I think. I wanted to shout and call for help, I started moving hysterically in distress but people around went about their business without noticing what was happening. Just then the same group of men with the flags and shouting crossed me, many saw and ignored what was happening and preferred to walk away. I looked at them in disbelief, I was unable to understand what was so important for them other than the lewd behavior happening to the girl that they decided to ignore it and go ahead with their business of shouting and marching. Humans, I tell you need to learn to respect your women.

The next day I woke up late and it was while I was strolling on the streets that I found that a newspaper that read the news, “Man brutally beaten up for suspicion of him having consumed beef”. It was then then I could put the picture together. I was appalled to realize that they almost killed a person for mere suspicion and even if the suspicion was correct they decided to take matters in their hands since cow is their mother and someone had tried to hurt her. I did not know how to feel at that moment, whether to feel secured or ashamed.

We met for our weekly meeting at the roundabout near the street that evening, obviously the topic for discussion was the prevalent beef ban. Cars were screeching horns all around us, we were discussing and trying to bring a rationale to the whole situation. Some of us were happy about this development, others were being pragmatic and thinking if this is reasonable, whether violence in the name of this is befitting. We were still discussing it when a car just banged against one of our babies who was standing a bit away from us. The baby fell, the car turned and took off in the opposite direction as fast as possible. The baby lay there in pain for a good half an hour, we were trying to get help, wailing and crying at the top of our lungs but many cars and people came and went without stopping.

It was a long day I decided to go back to my home, it was a long way and I spent most of it thinking, I met my friends on way, everyone was upset with us, hens, fish, pig, goat, everyone, they said we are being partial why only cows, why no objection is made to their killing, Don’t they have a life, aren’t they the creatures of god. I tried to reason with them that it is probably due to the Hindu mythology where cows are treated as mothers and the whole logic behind it.. But they were not ready to buy my logic, they were visibly upset. I decided to give them sometime till the matter cooled down and walked again towards my home.

Did I tell you that I stay just near the pavement, I mean I don’t live there since most of my time is spent traveling but in the night I go there to sleep. I have many of my family members there and we prefer sleeping together in a circle every night. I was hungry and asked one of us if we had something to eat, it mooed me towards a heap, I went there to look what was left in for me. I saw green leaves, peas, fruit leftovers, and chapattis wrapped in plastics sheets, I mean do these humans really think we cows are capable of opening the plastic and having the chapatti? It is insane, but at that moment I was too hungry to think of plastic and ate the chapattis with the plastic.

I could not sleep that night, I think the plastic did its wonders in my stomach, it was also cold outside. It is tough sleeping by the roadside in a cold weather with the cars passing by with loud horns every minute but this is how we live. If only before the ban, vandalism and violence they could think of providing better care for their cow mothers. I thought of the girl too who I had seen being violated, I just thought of what she might have felt, a cow was more important than her. This is a country where rape convicts might be convicted over years or many would even remain scot-free and people are killed for cows. I thought of my fellow animal friends, how they must feeling, obviously their anger is justified. Lastly I just want to say that lets respect LIFE as it is, all are important and all have their choices. Let’s respect that and live with that, don’t we have better or worse problems.

Learning from the United States of America

I have recently come back from my trip to the United States of America… Yes the United States of America. Why do I emphasise on it so much.. Because somehow around our part of the world it is considered a big deal. And trust you me, I am not kidding. I mean you tell any of your relatives or friends that you are travelling to the states and they would be like ”really, lucky you”. This is how we feel about the states. Not many would admit it but yes this is the truth.

Anyway I was there for vacation cum work and visited New York and Texas. It was fun and there are many things that I learnt. When you travel the world you get exposed to new cultures and lifestyles, some good some bad. And there is nothing wrong in imbibing the good part of their lifestyles. I find no shame in admitting that we might still be lacking in many things but there is always scope for improvement and learning and hence this post.

The most cliché learning from the states that I carried back home and which I am sure everyone knows is that this country is organised.. Much much ahead of us. Be it their roads, malls, public places, restaurants or even washrooms everything happens systematically. The system efficacy is tremendous and palpable..It’s good since you don’t have to fret about anything, being organised saves time and also relieves you of unnecessary tensions. I was a first time traveller but did not feel troubled as everything was on my platter if I planned it. However, there could be some glitches to it, I wanted to have French fries without the sprinkling of salt at a very popular chain of burgers but I could not because apparently cashier taking my order could not find the key for it. If you know what I mean ;).

Moving further the other thing that really caught my attention was the respect for time. Americans really believe in reaching and starting work on time. Even if their partying late at night you would find them at work dot on time. Something we can definitely learn. They believe in starting their day early so they can finish it early too. You need appointments for everything you cannot barge into anyone’s house or office without prior intimation. This is very unlike India where we can expect guests prior intimation at odd hours and this is considered normal. But, (yeah there always have to be a but) a colleague of mine told me that in the states privacy is such a big thing that sometimes even grandchild has to ask their grandparents the suitable time for his visit. I mean who could have thought of this in India.

They give you the time, can spend hours explaining you if you need help, but you have to await your turn. I mean back home we don’t follow the queue religiously, we are always in a hurry hence breaking queues comes naturally to us. Standing in the queues there I pondered, what made me stand in queues patiently here wherein I would have grown impatient back in my country in the same situation. It’s then that I realised this feeling of social responsibility comes from the environment around where you see everyone around appreciating their social responsibility.

Next on the list was the outlook of the elderly.. I mean you could feel that no one grows old there. The elderly were as active as the young generation. They were eager to learn, well adept with technology much better than even I am, like seriously. They travel alone, I saw old couples like really old couples going on vacations, just the two of them. They had the the latest technology in hand, were in constant touch with the world on the move and were cutely romantic. It was like no one grows old here, everyone has the urge to learn more, explore more, and love more.

 

I love my country a lot and I mean it when I say it, I have no plans whatsoever to shift base to any other country. It’s the most unfathomable thought in my head. My country is beautiful and I truly believe that we are a bunch of very intelligent and diverse people who can achieve anything we want. My recent trip proved to me that both the countries raised their kids with the same set of values but over growing up somewhere in my land we loose the hang of it. We as children are organised and systematic, remember how we formed queues for our school bus or morning assemblies but as we grow divergence occurs and indiscipline sets in.

Sure America must have its own personal problems, there are a lot of problems in that country but here I have no intentions to compare the two countries , there are perhaps many things that even America can learn from us, but currently I am only interested in making my country a better one. We don’t have to emulate them we can just be happy taking or learning from the things they are better than us at.

The Perfect FairyTale

Early morning I get a distressed call from my mother, there has been a family debacle which needs immediate attention, she says. I am like blurry eyed, half asleep it’s a Sunday for god’s sake. I ask her to calm down, tell her I will give her a call after an hour when I am in a condition to hear and understand. But alas, she digresses and starts complaining instead how I don’t have time, I am not concerned, we raised you, on and on.

I decide to give up and instead listen to the family drama which has unfolded. It seems my cousin wants to get married. Well that’s good news, right, she is well educated, single child, earning pretty well and the right age (25 years to be precise, which is like the marriageable age). So what is the problem I ask? “Problem, problem” she says, “it’s not a problem but the mothers of all problems, one the boy is not of the same caste as ours, secondly she has known him for hardly six months and lastly and most importantly the groom’s family wants her to quit her job post marriage”. I am aghast, I know my cousin, if I am ambitious multiply it but 10000, that’s what her ambition level is. So I ask, “is she ready for this?’, and the answer comes as a ‘Yes’. I conclude that YES this is a topic of utmost importance and decide to give my cousin a call.

I call her after sometime and she is smitten in love, the boy she says is wonderful, the chemistry is just hard to believe. She paints a mills and boons to me, but seven years into a marriage, trust me no mills and boons can wooooo me now. I try to reason with her if she wants quit working amid the lovey dovey story she is telling me. “Ahh who wants the job when you have all the love,” she quips. But she goes on, quitting was not her idea, but was one of the conditions from the groom’s family. The idea is that they are like really well off and don’t need to depend on the daughter in law’s income, ‘What will the world say”? I left a sigh, I did not know what to say, she was one of us who could never let anything come in between her career. I mean I am OK with the idea of leaving jobs for family, only if I want to and not out of compulsion or LOVE as she puts it. I realized that this was beyond reasoning with her and hence I gave up.

She would get married of course, I pray for the best for her. I am into the seventh year of my marriage, and I have realized we don’t remain the same person, the one we fell in love with changes, we ourselves change and so I think leaving or changing your identity for someone does not make sense. Independence, financial, emotional any kind I think in today’s time is very important. I know women who took a sabbatical or totally left their jobs to take care of their families which is perfectly fine if the couple decides it mutually. Relationships should be given paramount importance, but the relationships based on conditions, I don’t know how far they go. I believe a day comes when the loves fades a bit at least, things change and then you ponder on your decision which apparently gets late. So I am ok if my cousin has really thought this through completely, I hope she can see a picture beyond the love web that she has created around her.

The other day I was telling my daughter the snow white story at bedtime and I preferred ending it like this:

“As snow white is in deep sleep and all efforts by the seven dwarfs to wake her up fail, a prince crosses by on his horse. He stops to see what the fuss was all about and is smitten by the beauty of snow white, he bends down to kiss her (That’s like a bit inappropriate I think, right, anyway it is fairytale, I don’t have to use my brains here). She wakes up baffled. Their eyes lock and the prince proposes marriage to her, he tells he wants to make her the queen of the kingdom. She blushes and replies, “Not now my loving charming prince, let us know each other a bit more, let me take a job be independent and still if we think we should, we would.”

Ahhha that’s like a perfect fairy tale ending.

The Miracle Man

This is about an amazing man I have come cross lately. He is considerate, kind, hardworking, and reliable. I know too many qualities for a man to have right!! He is a dream come true man, a conversation with him for a while increases his respect manifold times for me. And you must be wondering where did I find such a good catch, Ahhh, he is my new autowallah (Auto= a mode of transport in India, Autowllah=A man who drives the auto). I use the public transport a lot and the kind of city I live in, at times it can be hassle to find a means of transport and then be able to trust that guy (I mean did you just hear a taxi driver was masturbating while escorting a female customer).

So coming back to this amazing guy, I am sure my husband would be super jealous, but lest I care you have to hear about him to appreciate him.

Let the story begin,

So this man drives an auto for a living, he has recently purchased the vehicle and pays 7500 INR per month as emi, he makes between 20 to 25k per month and his wife who is a cook makes around 15k per month, hence a monthly income of around 35 to 40k per month, (OMG I am good with math). Anyway he starts his day at 7 am ends around 11 pm, plans to get rid of the emi as soon as possible so he can buy a cab and then he says he would make better money. He haggles like a pro when we stop for grocery shopping, also keeps recommending better places to shop and keeps giving me tricks and tips. You feel safe when he drives you around the city, yeah you can never be too sure of anyone and I am always on the alert especially when its late but in the past two months I have not felt unsafe, I live in India we learn to be alert.  But we have nice men around too and I think he is a good example of it, atleast till now.

So you say what is so amazing about this man he seems like a regular hardworking man, and I tell you ahead, Patience.

The other day he met my daughter for the first time, and as usual he started talking, he told me that he has a daughter who would turn 4 soon and he is on a lookout for a school for her, he asked where my daughter goes, enquired about the fee structure and dismissively admitted that he can’t afford it. And then he began in his usual baritone lyrical voice that he dreams that his daughter goes to a nice school, studies as much as she wants. He told me he would also start a school cab for her as he does not want her daughter to travel in his auto every day, it would be an additional expense he told me. He went on to explain that he has categorically explained to his parents that he is not planning a second kid, he wants the best for this one, he wants to make sure that his daughter gets the best of everything in the world and he is ready to stretch his limits. He goes on to explain that expenses are too much these days and it’s only sane to have a single child and raise irrespective of gender the child properly.

So there are multiple reasons I love this man (I mean not literally) I mean I love his thought process

  • He is ready to work really hard for the wellbeing of his child that too a girl in India where many are killed in the womb. He is uneducated but he wants the best education for his little girl. The other day he found out that I might be travelling abroad soon and he told me to take money from him and buy nice dresses for his daughter.
  • He does not want a second child, where we live second child is not a choice but a necessity, you have one and you are constantly pressurized for the second. A family of three is never complete that’s what we all believe in, irrespective of the fact whether you can fend their needs or not. In another world one of my known who is well-educated just delivered a fourth child who luckily this time is a boy, she has three daughters earlier. And they wanted a boy, or else who would continue the family name.
  • His thought process is clear he knows where he wants to be in life and is paving the path, whether he reaches where he wants to go is besides the point but his zeal to do the same is charismatic. Come on my husband is 31 and he is still not sure what he wants from life.
  • He loves his wife, he explained that a couple together can achieve so much and that he does not believe in fighting. He said he always says sorry first in the fight. He says that she puts food on the plate for him when he is tired from work and has given him a beautiful daughter. “Madamji, she works too and still makes sure everybody is fed and all clothes ready for next day before she sleeps”, he says. In simple words he appreciates what his wife does for him, a quality very very rare in the Indian XY chromosome.
  • Importantly he is not a pervert, he does not look at you as if you are naked which many men do (not all, before my brother tells me that I being biased), until now I have not felt anything strange or inappropriate about him. He seems like a nice simple guy who wants to make a living and raise his family by providing to them all possible in his might.
  • And lastly he is a Bengali knows and quotes Tagore and sings beautifully, he always hums with the radio playing in his auto.

So lately I have been a fan of him, I hope that god listens to his prayers because he is really working hard to make it happen. I have however decided to help him financially if he needs it, this is the least I can do to help rather than donating money to temples where those pundits who are already full with everything take our money and fill their pockets further.

Men, Please Pitch In!!

I  was woken up with the most dreadful call any Indian woman can wake up to, my help called in to inform that she won’t be coming to work today. This is like the biggest night or rather biggest Day mare of any woman who is dependent on house help. As I wiped out tears from my eyes (yeah I am Amplifying!!, but nevertheless I was on the verge of crying, imaging the pile of work ahead of me), I got up. The first battle field I needed to conquer was the kitchen.

As I was paving my way through the umpteen tasks ahead of me, this thought just crossed my mind. My husband was snoring away to glory. And it irked me, I could not comprehend why he got to sleep while I was slogging here in the kitchen. And then thoughts kept pouring in, one after the other, perhaps he is tired from work, (Hello I work too in an office), perhaps he does not know how to do the household chores (Aahhha!!, I was born working in the kitchen, is it?), perhaps because he has much better things to do in life (Well this one I can scream loud about, I have much better things to do in life than he does), Ahhh now I realize it is not any of the reasons mentioned above, it is because he has a Chromosome ‘Y’ in him, that too in India. In simple words he is a MAN born in INDIA.

You must realize that this very thought had piqued my annoyance to uncontrollable levels, this could not be happening to me. You bring out this topic in public and trust you me, every elderly across India has the same opinion, ‘How can he do it, it’s a woman’s job’, Arghhhh. Like seriously, I was raised with the same amount of love and affection (probably even more). This is how we grow up in India, the other day a known had come over for a visit, she was looking for a suitable match for her daughter, she is a qualified doctor, and now her mother wants her to participate in household chores as this is what would make her an eligible bride. I could not help but gape at her in astonishment, why take so much pain to educate her then. Is it not unfair for the girl, she has to make a career for herself and learn to the household chores too. And the boy spends his life in merriment.

I mean I understand that there may be many things which men can do that we don’t (let me think, well na my brain has stopped functioning to enumerate anything, unless it is something like getting off your shirt in public, or perhaps pee in public) but a little help hurt no one, right! It’s easy coming back from work and couching on the sofa on the laptop or phone, but come back from work and fret about preparing dinner or tomorrow’s lunch, or getting the laundry done, or getting the clothes back into the cupboard, grocery shopping, blah blah blah blah….

It is so much the upbringing that we give our sons that is to blame for all this, they are always kept away from helping in the household chores. SO much so for being born a male in INDIA!!

My mother in law was really anti of my husband cleaning my daughter’s poop, I mean why not, she is his daughter too. I objected and made him do it.. There is no way he is getting away from it. When we say equality it should be at all levels right! I have fought my way to change my husband’s habits to make him participate, and I know what my MIL thinks then, ‘ Arre, you making my boy into a girl’. But lest do I care, he needs to and has to.

I don’t want to sound like those ultra feminist thingy (which I am sure I do sound like) but all I do care about is that men should learn how to do or at least help in household chores, mothers should be able inculcate this in their sons. I have a daughter and trust you me when she is getting married this would be one of the criteria for the groom to qualify! Someone would have to turn the tables, and I would be very happy to do so. I understand that it is unfair to paint everyone with the same brush but majority fall into the no home chores bucket!

There could be two reasons perhaps either they don’t see what needs to be done, they live in a different reality, mess does not bother them, they have not seen their forefathers doing any of this hence they cant imagine themselves doing it OR they don’t want to waste their time on what they think are petty issues. For example my husband thinks that if I give him a task, inadvertently I will complain about him not doing it properly then why should he waste time doing it in the first place (I really cant blame him for that, I can be very picky at times).

Well amid all this bragging and fretting I finished all the work and headed for office my husband was still snoring away to glory!!

Boys do have all the FUN!!

Marriages That Empty Your Bank Accounts

The other day I was having this very regular and mundane conversation with my mother. Ever since I got married, my mother and I have become exceptionally close. She is my solace. So the other day we were enjoying our alone time together when one thing led to another and the conversation turned to my brothers’ marriage, which apparently is not happening for another 5 years or so. But the Indian mothers you see, nothing is dearer to them than the marriage of their sons. Ahhh and dare anyone, burst the bubble of that perfect wedding.

Weddings in India are a lavish affair, and must I admit lavish is an understatement. We like to indulge in our weddings to the point of insanity if I may say so. The affair is pompous, grand, bombastic, ostentatious, showy, and at times over bearing. And here my mother and I were discussing of the future much much ahead of time. I was astounded by the details she had planned in her head, her plan was crystal clear of how she wanted that wedding. What I was overtly amused with was the guest list and gifts she was planning to invite and give. As she kept indulging in some gibberish I was unable to comprehend, I intervened; I asked if she intended to weigh the brides’ side with all the expenses she was calculating right now. Her answer was plain and simple, “Of course not, they can do as much as they can do comfortably, I won’t force them and all this is from our side”. She was counting all the long lost and far away relatives we had, many of them I had not heard of, plenty of them I have not met in more than decade.

And I listened to her meekly and patiently as the expenses list kept on increasing. Trust me the budget she was making, if I can call it a budget was enough to feed a whole state for a day at least, all three meals. Finally I budged in and said, “Mummy, perhaps brother would want a simpler wedding, perhaps we can give the newly wed some cash in hand, that would help them”. And as expected she was offended and exploded, she started the melodrama of how she has only one son, how everyone in family is looking forward to this marriage, why earn then if you can’t spend on the marriage, so on and so forth. I interrupted in between by mentioning a cousin she had forgotten on her list and she gladly got back to the topic.

And I thought to myself, there is no point in explaining to her, something at our end would never change. We are the happiest lot being the pompous lot that we are, nothing excites us more than lavish extravagant weddings. Don’t get me wrong, I would not say they are waste, after all it’s the time when the whole family gets together but I only feel that it can be done in a little simpler way, spending at least a bit less. A little introspection is required, we are a country where many go to sleep without food or blanket in winters. I know nothing much would change, it takes a lot to change a mindset, I can’t change my parents’ perspective on this one, let alone preaching others, but we as a generation can change a bit. Demand less and do more. Marriage is not a platform to project our exaggerated status, but a new and most important turn our life would ever take. And trust me ask the Indian groom if he even wants all these celebrations, after all I assume he is the saddest of the LOT 😛 .