My granpas

Today is not a death anniversary neither is it a special occasion but I remember you so strongly that I couldn’t contain the urge to write about you. This is not the first time that I have thought of you neither is this the strongest I have missed you but every other time whenever I had thought of writing about you it wasn’t easy and I couldn’t get through with it.. but today is different..

I lost both my grandfathers in 2010. They both passed away in a span of 6 months from each other. They both had lived long healthy and full lives with their share of trials and successes. This is not about how much I miss them cos I do and I do a lot but this is about what I remember of them as they were such an important part of my childhood. This is just my narrative about them.. they were so much more to so many people.. they were fathers, husbands, brothers, fathers in law, sons and grandfathers to other siblings of mine but this is how I remember them and I feel its important that i send this out into the universe so that it stays somewhere, someplace…
Dada… this is how I called my paternal grandfather. My paternal grandparents lived with us all our lives and they formed such an important part of my growing up. I remembered him today while eating an omlet.. now the joke is that he reffered to an omelet as “mamlet” claiming it to be a very bengali way of calling it and we always teased him about it.. Dada today while eating an mamlet I remembered you. He is mostly remembered for his temper my Dada for he had a mean one and he often flew into a fit…but over and above that he was a brilliant civil engineer who knew his job very well, a highly punctual man someone who ate, slept and even went to the loo by the clock. He loved his family and especially my dad and boy they had a lot of disagreements but they had something special too…. He was a great tennis player and had tutored many people in table tennis and lawn tennis. He loved reading the newspaper and absolutely loved watching movies.. Bollywood films were his favourite and he seemed to like literally all of them.. he loved music and was always listening to the radio… my fondest memory of him is him taking my sister and me to the swings.. he loved playing with us and despite his traditional thinking he never did differentiate a granddaughter from a grandson…. Dada I want to tell you that you are missed and I love you for all that you were.. I wish you had seen my wedding and met your grandson in law. But more than anything I wish you are at peace wherever you are and loved wherever you are.. and I want to say that we will never forget you!
Dadu.. my maternal grandfather.. when I think of him the image that comes to my mind is of him sitting at the front steps of his house in Behala in a white undershirt, pyjamas and slippers with a rusty noisy old table fan behind him just looking out into the streets. I remember your big ambassador car that you took us out in and the blue fan up on th dashboard we were not allowed to touch! My Dadu was not much of a talker.. intact I don’t remember him saying much at all.. it was my dida who was full of stories and tales.. Dadu was the quiet man behind the scenes bringing us the gifts and getting hot samosas and jalebis.. I remember Dadu that you made breakfast for us when we were small.. I can still see the bright orange bread knife that you used to cut the loaf with.. Over the years after moving away from Kolkata I couldn’t spend much time with you.. but I remember you duiring all the birthdays and pujos.. I remember your white kurta and the brown sweater you wore so often and I remember Dida complaining about how much you snored! Dadu I remember all the tram rides you took me on and I remember mom telling me about how you walked me up and down the hospital aisle trying to get me to sleep as soon as I was born.. Ofcourse I don’t remember that but its a nice picture to have.. Dadu I want to tell you That I love you and that I miss you.. I feel bad you left me on my birthday and that I dint get to say bye.. I also wish you peace and love wherever you are and I want to tell you that we will never forget you!

Mirror Mirror

There is this image that ve been coming across a lot lately.. in magazines, in a blog and also at a writers festival. Its not an unusual one or a rare one- intact Im quite sure that many of you would have come across this image somewhere sometime. This image is of a cat looking into the a mirror and what does he see? Yes his own reflection but the reflection is not that of a cat but of a lion.. big and strong and domineering peering right back at this fluffy little twitchy cat..

The message of this image is very simple.. it talks about self image and how we see ourselves.. someone who is confident and sure of themselves will see a confident and a out of proportion image whilst others who are unsure or low in self esteem either see themselves downgraded or merely many a times don’t see themselves at all… what they tend to see are their flaws and shortcomings. The message is very powerful and definitely one that sticks. It has been used time and again in motivational talks and seminars and workshops to build self confidence and self esteem. The challenge however lies in the journey of creating this self image because its not an easy one and definitely not one that is similar for people..

Moving a tad bit away from the image.. I started wondering about the mirror. The concept of a mirror and its many forms have been used in stories through generations… The classic one is the Mirror in the tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs where the Queen looks into the mirror and asks..”Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” and the mirror replies Snow white! and thats when all the drama begins.. The thought behind this is quite simply that a reflection is not always enough till its proclaimed and acknowledged here by the mirror and in life by others…

The other story that involved a mirror was in Harry Potter.. this was the Mirror of Erised which showed the person his or her deepest desire. If you remember the story you would remember that Ron saw that he was Head Boy and Quidditch Captain finally getting all the attention and respect he missed in reality and Harry saw his parents, the only thing he only ever wanted.. Dumbledore take this mirror away as he felt that “it does not do to dwell on dreams Harry!” Interesting “Erised” is “Desire” spelt backwards! I found this rather interesting and thought provoking because we have always been told to dream.. from the time we were children we are told to have dreams and wishes and through life some of them come true and others never do.. Also we are told that we must work for our dreams.. they don’t just happen! and I think thats the truth of it all.. when we look into the mirror of desire it tells us the destination  but not the journey.. its upto us to travel the path..

Another story which involved a mirror was in the tale of Beauty and the Beast.. here the Beast was given a magic mirror which was his window ti the outside world and showed him whatever and whomever he wanted to see.. this mirror was given to him by the enchantress who put a curse on him and his palace. This mirror although not as powerful was simply a mirror to reminisce with.. When we really like something or want something we love looking at it over and over again.. Sometimes we may not even want to possess it, its just about the pleasure of seeing it whenever possible.. In the story this mirror helped Beauty get back to the Beast and they lived happily ever after!

Finally the last mirror that I comes to my mind is the mirror we all have.. its basically not magical but yes it has bits of all the other magical mirrors there was.. It shows us our desires, it tells us what we love seeing again and again and finally it does answer”Who’s the fairest of them all” but the answer is not always what we like to hear.

For me personally, Ive had a love hate relationship with my mirror. There are days when I want to shatter it and days when I want to befriend it.. The puzzle is why the reflection keeps changing? The mirror in life shows us our sense of self and identity and esteem. Things that I feel are truly very very important to go through the journey. There is nothing worse than going through life and not liking yourself.. so whatever it takes and however long it takes its important that we find the magic in our mirrors to see ourselves the way we want to.

Lost or not!

Lost

There is no glamour or great philosophy in being lost..

There is no poetry or heart touching song in feeling lost..
Being lost is that state of mind when the eyes that stare back doesnt recongnize its owner
I knocked on all doors to find my way back..
People gave me directions that I couldn’t comprehend
The world seemed like an allien land where even the familiar dint seem so anymore
It was dark.. it was misleading and it hurt both physically and mentally
The fine line between sanity and its foe hadn’t seemed so thin before
Fear latched on to me like a leech in a muddy stream
I hadnt lost my path but my destination had vanished somehow..
i kept reaching out for a helping hand but I couldnt trust the ones extended
I dint know what to do, where to go or whom to believe.. trust had eluded me.. faith had left
The only thing to do was to sit by that one solid rock.. the rock of uncertainity and wait for the fog to lift
How strange is life.. so easy to find someone to share a laugh but noone around to share the tremblings..
That is when a voice whispered weak but yet strong..
hold on to yourself and hold on to your own.. god has given you things in twos to hold to each other.. this too shall pass..
and if it doesnt whispered my trembling heart?
Then wait some more… whispered the voice weak yet strong
If nothing or noone stays forever, why should fear or uncertainity?
If good things always end then thers no surety of the bad as well..
If every silver lining is on a dark cloud, then the dark cloud is wanted as well..
Just hold to yourself.. give yourself love and laughter and patience and kindness.. believe in what you have always believed… trust what you have always trusted and love who u have always loved…
I could feel the tremblings come down…
I looked over the fog and the gleaming castle wall and shiny golden piers seemed aglow..
it was just over the fog of my fear.. it was always there.. waiting for me to see it..
I, princess of the land who had waited for eternity to be saved had finally found my knight in shining armour.. my knight stared at me through the clear waters.. my knight extended that one hand of freedom and the other hand took it…
I walked free and brave.. walked towards the castle walls.. as I was a Princess and I was lost no more…

All it takes is one story

It had been a fun night so far. Firstly because it was a Saturday night and four friends from four different parts of the world had gotten together to enjoy another crisp Melbourne winter’s evening. We were all university students and had just spent the evening in the city centre watching a light display to celebrate the first day of winter. It was too cold to be outdoors for long so after about an hour we decided to go and have a hot dinner around the heaters. It was a pasta dinner and the conversations and the laughs didn’t stop. We debated about cuisine, science, research, made travel plans and discussed how unfair it was that anything good costed money! All in all a fun evening and four happy young adults walked upto the train station to begin the long haul home.

We had to wait for about 15 min to get our train and we got into a semi crowded compartment and chose a seat to ensure that we all got to sit together. The train was going to stop all stations and we couldnt help but groan about it because that was gonna make the journey a longer one. Anyway it wasnt a crowded train but there was a comfortable buzz of people talking which one mostly doesnt realise untill it has stopped. It was at one such station that the train stopped and a group of 5-6 youngsters got into the train. As soon as they got in, there was a change in the feel around the train. The buzz quientened down and was replaced by loud talking, the thump of a basket ball being bounced and a lot loud laughter. I looked up to see what has caused this stir and thats when I saw this group of people.

In the interest of this blog, I will describe the group that entered the train for I feel that if I reveal what they are commonly called the whole purpose of this writing will be lost. Like I had mentioned, this was a group of five or six young boys and one girl. They must have been between the ages of 15 and 20, not heavy built but tall. They had leather jackets on and boots. The girl has braided and coloured her hair pink and shaved one side of it. One of the guys had a basketball which he insisted on bouncing throughout the ride while the other had music blaring from his igadget. They had tiny curly dense hair. Throughout the journey they talked loudly about a certain video on YouTube made by a black. They used the word black several times in their conversation.

They got off the same stop as we did and walked across the road to the same busstop as we did to catch the bus. About six or seven more of what appeared to be their friends were waiting for them at the bus stop. This group was also dressed in the same fashion but had what I can guess native Australians as well. They got into the bus and made their way towards the back seat. Throughout the ride they were loud and shouting, often saying and doing things that made the passengers turn back.

When my friends and I got off the bus and started walking towards our accomodation, one of my friends said “I wish I could party like that”. I said that, that dint look like partying to me, just out of control behavior. She said they are kids, proabably celebrating that exams are done and that its saturday night!. The other two friends of ours lived in a different accomadation so they said good night and walked their separate direction.

Now that I was alone with my friend and since I new her for a while I felt comfortable discussing with her what I was thinking about. I asked her just one question, what stories have you heard about the people we saw on the train and the bus while you were growing up? She looked at me and said well Ive heard stories about their suffering during the wars and how Nelson Mandela fought for their rights and how they were treated unequally and as slaves. “What stories did you hear?”, she asked me. I said well I have heard the same stories like you but Ive also heard stories about how they can be violent and aggressive as well and that scares me a bit. She said oh! I’m sorry you’ve heard such stories because they make you fear them. Its really unfortunate that even in a multicultural society like ours we hear such stories that make us fear others. I said I agreed with her and it is indeed unfortunate that my story for them is one of fear.

As I walked to my room that night, I couldnt help but wonder why a story of one person who may have behaved a certain way sometime becomes the story of all of his kind and the story of a society. I wondered what stories people had heard of my heritage and whether everytime that they saw me on a train or a bus that was how they would look at me and percieved me? This one story from my friend changed my one story about the people I travelled with that night and if I hadnt heard my friends story, I may have joined the guilty by repeating my own story to many others!

The Single story

The other day, I came across a video called the danger of a single story. This was a talk given by a storyteller called Chimamamanda Adichie. She spoke about how most of the times we form an opinion or a view about a person, a culture or a place and that view translates into a single story about that person,culture or place. She said that these single stories that we form or gather is dangerous as it is by no means the only story about that person, culture or place but it restricts our views and opinions about them. She gave some personal examples to illustrate her point.

Her first example was the single story of children’s books. It is true that majority of the world grows up reading children’s books by American or British writers and the characters and situations described in these books becomes a single story about what children’s books are and what children in literature do. The reality is that although American and British books are widely read, books by other authors who are from Indian or African or Asian heritage are also present in literature but unfortunately they are not widely known.

Her next example was the single story of her houseboy. She said that since all that she heard about her houseboy was that he was poor, that became his single story and to a certain extent of who is was. Other factors like his interests, his brother’s weaving talents or his families stories were missed.

Adichie gives many more examples throughout her talk about the danger of a single story and as I was listening to this video, I began to think about all the single stories that I believed in or lived with. The single story that I was living with was the story I had started to believe about myself. And to put it generally, the single story about what life should be. It is dangerous to believe in life being a certain way because when reality deviates from that single story, it creates stress, worry, anxierty and in some cases depression and loss of hope. It is indeed unfortunate how I had stopped seeing all the other stories about life because I was fixed on that one single story.

How many of us are living in a world of single stories? The single story of what education must be, of how a marraige must be, of who a partner is, about roles we play in life and most importantly about success and happiness. It is dangerous to turn a blind eye to the other stories and to other possibilities for life is not a single story but a story in progress.

This talk opened my eyes to the other stories of my life and although sometimes I do deviate into my single story, I remind myself that its time to turn the page and write a new one!

What happened last night

One of the things about being a writer is that I see stories everywhere.. and the other thing about being a writer is that all these stories just have to be told. Last night was one of those nights… it was a friday evening and well my partner and I had had quite a hectic week with work and house hunting and a lot of decision making.. so we decided that we needed to blow off steam.. one of the greatest things about having a partner is that one has a friend all the time to go out with.. its packaged companionship! Another great thing about having a partner is the pure delight of discovering common tastes and interests.. not only does it make things easier but its one of those aha moments which reaffirm that you chose correctly for life! My partner and I love live music and thats something we go hunting for on evenings just like this.. so we got ready and our other friend and companion through all think and thin- Google told us where we should be going exactly.. It was a lovely, cosy and yet quirky underground pub themed after American pubs which promised the best live music in town.. so thats where we headed!
One step into the pub and we knew we had hit jackpot! It was all that Google had promised but so much nicer in reality.. The music was good.. most importantly it had rhythm and the crowd was an interesting pot pourie of people.. we ordered our first round and found a table.. and sat down to let the music heal our souls… One of the most interesting things about pubs is that there is so much happening at the same time.. and its so darn easy to miss the small goings on which truly represent life and us the human race. The cultural mixup is like a live study class with so much to learn and also so much to realise about ourselves..
There was a group of people sitting right across from us at a large table. There were around 6-8 people and very very diverse.. diverse in age and dressing and cultures.. It was really an odd group and definitely not homogenous except for their decision to be there that evening. It was predominantly a male group with two women.. surprisingly, one of the women, a young girl actually had taken up the role of a waitress for the group.. she was getting up every now and then and getting people drinks and water and stuff.. what was even more surprising was that none of the guys got up to help her and neither did they recognise this effort she was taking.. It was hard not to notice how unusual this was.. not that Im not for gender equality and I do believe that chivalry no longer exists but this was definitely taking things a little too far.. When I shared this thought with Sandy he laughed and said its only after marriage that I thought girls would bring in drinks for their partner… On a date this would be disaster… Although I genuinely found this funny I couldn’t help think about this.. Is it really true that one of things that made marriage difficult was that now two people no longer courted watch other? And is getting courted really that important to women? Is it anti-feministic to be wanted to be treated with chivalry or was it just plain romanticism that transforms into daily life and is no longer that special? Is to really true that often when things are available they no longer hold special value? As I was finding my way through my own thoughts I realised I had fixed my gaze at this young girl and was unknowingly staring! I couldn’t be more embarrassed so I just smiled at her as my apology…
This young woman was another attention drawer at the pub.. Why? Cos like my partner and I she belonged to a different race and culture.. She was very well dressed, make up done to the tee and attractive jewellery on.. An she could move! a natural dancer and very comfortable in her own skin one could conclude as she was turning around chatting up with people and smiling away like she was the hostess of the party.. I couldn’t help but notice her and was admiring her when her companion walked up with their drinks. Now he was a middle aged man..quite obviously her co-worker and was dressed in a business suit.. balding with glasses and a hint of a pot belly didnt make him her ideal pair.. He was definitely into her and they were both grooving to the music… their public display of affection was not going unnoticed but in this culture people were left alone which i think is a huge huge positive! So they were dancing and grooving and Im sure signals were being sent back and forth but what was running through my mind was the question were they in love? I knew it was none of my business and yes it was typical friday night unwinding for most but when one sees a couple so obviously different these thoughts do come up.. Well there was also the cliche that maybe this was for professional reasons and benefits or just a casual evening flirt but looking at them girl she seemed to aware to be into him.. Once the sonf got over he stepped out to take  a call and she busied herself talking to folks around her and it seemed like nothing was happening a few seconds ago..
Its amazing how we look at the world and try to figure it out only to figure out ourselves! As a girl I notice other girls to see the latest hair colors and fashion trends and also to compare whether I was missing out on new styles and designs.. but as a girl I also wanted to know where I stood in the whole feminine race.. was i the good girl who listened to her parents ever since she was born or the rebel who carved her own way out.. was I a cliche or did I conform to non-conform, was I friendly and non conscious or was I very aware of myself.. was I fun or too serious, was I career oriented or slipping in to the domestic way.. then I wondered do we have to be either or? Cant we be a little of it all and be everything we have always wanted to be? Couldn’t I be sexy and rebellious but at the same time obedient to my seniors? Well i guess we are all finding our way through life and also discovering our labels as we go..
But the one thing that happened last night was I relabelled a lot of things that I had mislabelled before!

Secret Fear

There is a story untold in me and in you. This is a story which you and I know is true but its so true that we are afraid of it. When others meet me and you they know not of this story which we are hiding from them and they don’t even suspect it to exist.. this is because we see only what our sees want to see. The reality of life is that there isn’t a single reality.. its my version and your version and surprisingly both are true most of the times..  This story untold which defines our vulnerable side, which brings out the darker shades of our life can be seen in our eyes.. if only one cares to look… A mother who has lost her unborn child may never speak of it but everytime someone talks about becoming a mother you can see the pain reflect in her eyes sometimes only for a second before she pushes that story aside.. A child who has lost her family may be energetic at school but overtime the home bell rings the shades in her eyeballs grow a tad bit darker… A man who has just lost his job may joke about it over a mug of beer but with every sip he is well aware of the pain and fear he is swallowing as well.
Recently I read a book where the story was about a man who was afraid of any kind of deformity and so when a physically handicapped sister is born to his mother he fears that there is deformity in his blood and thus makes up his mind to never marry or father any children in the fear of a similar fate. As the story progresses his life does to and he meets a wonderful and beautiful girl who steals his heart in a flash but because of his secret fear he refuses to marry her and even decides to let he go.. How many times have we let go of things in life because of our secret fears? Fears we cannot overcome or sometimes even share with others.. fears which have become that untold story which is hidden behind many smiles and laughs and sometime anger and dominance.
So what happens to these stories? when do we share them? Most of the times these stories come back to us and many a times we never bring them up.. But in all honesty they never ever go away at least not easily… the best way of letting them go is to firstly acknowledge them and then share them. This does not necessarily solve them but they cease to be this dark formidable part of us that we fight bitterly all the time. This also helps bring back some of the lost self confidence and self esteem for something that is as important and powerful as love is love for oneself and the belief that we deserve every bit of our dreams.. Its not that the dark stories will leave us but yes they will cease to define us…