Monday, 25 September 2017

Of memories and past experiences, recollecting the forgotten.....

Dear Reader, memories of sultry summer afternoons playing in the dark cool rooms of my grandparents' house are what I always revert to when I am troubled by torrid summers. It is that time of the year again, the time for remembrance and celebration, the festivals are beginning and I am missing my father so much that it is almost a physical pain.

This year summer was unbearable, so hot and sultry that only the very brave ventured out of doors and then came the monsoons which were ferocious and brought floods and woes, but curiously, the weather seems to be clinging to summer with a stubborn grip. What should have been a season of cool autumnal relief is now hot, muggy torture.

I spent the past couple of weeks in the town that I grew up in, a town so changed that I scarcely recognised it. Yet there were glimpses of the past, a past full of memories of my grandparents and my father.

My childhood now probably belongs in a pastoral novel. It does not even sound believable to me, and I actually lived that life growing up! What a nice, quiet, peaceful childhood it was. Summers were spent playing in the cool rooms and beautiful gardens of my grandparents house with my sister and cousin brother. We spent countless hours laying siege to our male ayah who was our nemesis. Oh the fun we had outfoxing him dear reader! Then evening always brought bowls of chilled mangoes and an array of sherbets, rose one day lemon another and green mango the next. It was a charmed life indeed full of laughter and fun and books.

I find it amazing that I, who have always hated summer, managed to have so much fun during summer as a child. Perhaps it has something to do with the shelter and protective warmth of my family, who are amazing. My mom and her brothers and sisters are a close knit lot and have always worked well as a unit. My father was absorbed into this vastness and was always there especially when we got too rambunctious to handle.

The combination of the summer-like, autumn heat and extended sojourn in my childhood hometown was a sucker punch of nostalgia and I found myself reliving and recollecting some remembered and some forgotten memories. Especially poignant since I got to celebrate my father's Birthday there. It was unexpectedly one of the most touching events of 2017 for me. Oh to be a child again and run barefoot through cool rooms onto flowering gardens!

Thursday, 31 August 2017

My dear reader, this year has been full of ups and downs....some moments were  triumphant and some were the absolute dregs, but through it all I have found that one elusive trait within myself....the ability to bear solitude and vexations, with equanimity.....the question that a good quality?

Perhaps not...on Monday evening all my pent up feelings manifested in an attack of 'Bells Palsy' which has led to a temporary paralysis of the entire left side of my face. I literarily 'froze' up due to stress!

Fortunately, I got immediate medical attention so, I'm now pumped full of medicines, some of which have caused my face to change really is an indescribable shock,dear reader,to actually look in the mirror and have a stranger stare back.

But, to be honest the reason behind my contemplative mood is not to fret about the change in my appearance, it is this ABSOLUTE sense that I am a different person now than I was, even a year ago. I find these drastic changes in my personality, I have lost so much......especially my ability to feel warm....I feel cold all the time.....I don't feel passion anymore....I have mellowed to an such an extant that nothing seems to move me anymore....What a disturbing thought is it not?

This attack of 'freezing up' has made me resolve to do something buoyant with my life. Something positive....something that will make people smile and give them peace......The ancient Greeks did not write obituaries....all they asked after a man's death was "Did he have passion".....I don't know where I heard that, but for some curious reason,it has always resonated with me. SO new with passion....

Monday, 24 July 2017

In defense of 'Millennials'- A generation trying to not be the new 'Lost Generation', but a positive force for Change.

The other day I read a fascinating article about Lena Denham and the rise of the " so called Millennial woman" who is alternate voice. But, is one really an 'alternative'  voice if so many of the mainstream read you? I must start by saying I admire women like Lena Dunham, I think they have provided a much needed voice to millennial women. But I certainly don't consider her the voice of my generation.

Bill Maher, the great comedian really dislikes Millennials, I can understand why, for him we are whiny and entitled, lazy and unwilling to listen and constantly need our hands held and demand 'safe spaces'. I see that he has a point, perhaps he has had the misfortune of meeting really monstrous versions of my generation. In the defense of the millennials, I think that we have been given a very bad reputation due to so many factors. The truth is that we have faced some of the worst situations as a generation. We came of age during the great recession, thus many of us suffer from unemployment and underemployment (the worst possible thing for a generation of worker qualifies/unqualified, skilled /unskilled according to the ILO). I think it is unfair to call us lazy when we haven't even being allowed the opportunity to enter the workforce with respectable jobs.

A lot of our critics have formed their opinions due to the images available during the various protests that we have led. The various I might add 'failed' protests; as each of these successive protests on valid issues get louder in decibels, they fall on deaf ears. We do suffer from foibles, and I readily admit that my fellow me Millennials in the west especially, come across as self absorbed and ver complaining, they lead their entire lives online and are alarmingly ignorant of the ideals of enlightenment, democracy, egalitarianism and fraternity that built the west and most new democracy in the east aspire to.

In defense of my generation, especially those like me who grew up in countries like India; we are neither whiny or entitled, we are also not lazy, we are however, unwilling to listen to archaic dictates of the 'traditional society that is forever looking for ways to shackle us. We do not need our hands held but we do need safe spaces to love freely, express ourselves freely without the intervention of society, family or the state. Especially as a young woman, I must add that safe spaces are a necessity right now in a country like India to provide protection from the violence against women that is perpetuated by the society as a form of suppression. I do not suggest that we will need these safe spaces forever, rather, we need these safe spaces to discuss new ideas and express ourselves freely without facing censure, in order to then go out in the harsh reality of society and try to bring about change in the mindset that causes violence and suppression.

 Mahatma Gandhi said "Be the change you wish to see in the world".Millennials as a generation are only trying to live by those words.

Friday, 16 June 2017

When fitness becomes a chore

Dear Reader, for some time now, I have been going through the motions, the daily grind so to speak. I confess I have been on the down low for a while and have been suffering from frequent bouts of inadequacy and anxiety. I thought that I had made my peace with my looks when I turned 25, but oh how wrong was I!

To counter these feelings I recently jumped on the fitness tracker bandwagon. I have to admit that I am noticing an immediate difference in my outlook as well as exercise output. But, I realize that there is a deeper cause to my feeling off kilter, it is just that I am a women. We are forever conditioned to be positive, beautiful, perfect, is honestly exhausting. Oh how I wish that it was ok to be waspish and irritable and completely and utterly negative and pessimistic. The aspects of our own life that keep such a tight leash on! It really is exhausting.

There are so many ways that we are told by people to love ourselves, whilst I do agree as a feminist...I really do, but how I wish that I could be negative once in a while and hate myself in the good old fashioned masochistic way. Is it really that bad to hate one's image? And why? For me the worst is when I complain and someone just pipes in cheerfully or worse admonishes me about my negative bent. The absolute worst are the well meaning scolds about "How beautiful and perfect I am" by near and dear ones.

I suppose all this anxiety stems from the fact that despite being an active person, I have never been the "ideal" body type. Whenever people see me workout, they either marvel at my 'ability', 'fitness levels' or 'dedication' or start offering unsolicited advice about improving my stature or lose weight. What troubles and occasionally upsets me is the absolute disregard for my privacy. The freewheeling and pointed comments on my body are rather disturbing and quite frankly intrusive. I feel like I am constantly underpinned by this imaginary gaze that will not let me relax! I wish it wasn't so, but it is the irony that I face. IU want to hide and be private in this age, where there is absolutely no privacy.

Oh, I pretend to be blind to the looks and deaf to the comments but it is painful! painful I say! I send this question out into the void. Do you too feel anxious and the need to hide after the constant microscopic attention

Friday, 5 May 2017

In which I muse about the vast elegance of the Banyan Tree

Dear reader, there are times when I feel closer to nature than my fellow humans. Is that odd? The other day I went to my aunt's house for a visit. She lives in a lovely old house which is fantastic, all hidden angles and nooks and crannies, but what I absolutely fell in love with was this gorgeous Banyan tree right in front of her house.

I love Banyan trees, they are so strong and omnipresent, their numerous roots give one the impression of vastness and strength. They can grow as tall and as wide as possible. Their rich brown colour are a striking contrast to their bright green leaves. I adore the sound of the banyan tree leaves rustling in the wind right before the first monsoon rain...heralding a prelude to the sonata that is the sound of thunder and pitter patter of fat raindrops dropping onto the parched earth.

There is something rather poetic about the roots of the tree. I have often imagined it sheltering lovers, meeting in the shade for a secret assignation, on a sultry summer evening. Legend has it that a great many ragas have been composed under it's shade. What a gift it is to all and sundry! Imagine all the things that an old banyan tree might have witnessed.

If I was a tree, I would want to be a Banyan tree, I know that it is self indulgent but there you are. I have always used nature as an inspiration in my writing. I honestly don't even consider myself a real writer. This blog for example is an exercise in self-indulgence, that probably nobody reads; but for me this is an outlet for all my thoughts, the mundane and the profound. Writing is a necessity and so is nature. For me they are intrinsically linked to the many faces I wear for the world as well as my inner self.

The roots of the banyan tree signify for me my many faces, it is me but a different version and yet I am always rooted, no matter how tall I grow. That is why I love the Banyan tree, rooted and tall rigid but flexible enough to sway with the wind and always there to provide shade and comfort to the weary.

Friday, 21 April 2017

In which I muse about fun things like societal pressures!

Sometimes I wonder at life, there has never been a moment in my life when I regretted being born a girl. I always had a curiously pragmatic outlook to being born a female, even when there were times when I was informed by my extended family about the 'huge disappointment'of my me being a girl when I should have been a boy. I suppose that is because my parents were amazing.

My gender never came in the way of my pursuits. My parents encouraged me to be my weird, dreamy self and never once complained about my oddness. They seemed proud, even, it is only now as an adult, that I understand how extraordinary they are. My dad passed away a couple of years ago, but there are still moments during which I realise that he was a man out of time. In the misogynistic Indian society that I grew up in, he was a rarity. He did not want me to be his son, he encouraged me to be his daughter, together with my mother, he taught me and my sister to revel in our femininity, he made us understand the importance of having our unique feminine perspective, and made sure we never gave way to boys during fights, even if were fighting him.

You might wonder Dear Reader, why I am indulging in this particular bout of nostalgia; well the answer is simple, I am now facing the immense societal pressure to get married, because in our society, an unmarried woman is a liability, it is the terrible truth that all of us face sometime or the other, the constant, leading questions and the insinuations about declining fertility are just a few cringe worthy moments that one has to endure.

It would be funny if it were not so frustrating. Really when did the whole world and its aunt assume that it was alright to shame and frustrate a girl into willingly step into the 'parson's mousetrap' (I love this old fashioned phrase meant for men, but I am making it my own!). My father would have rolled his eyes and told me to move on and get real. For a 'Johnnie head in air' dreamer such as me, my father was alarmingly earthbound. The curious thing was that, as an Indian man of his generation, he used to say this curious thing "A wife walks behind her husband in silent support but a partner walks and in hand through life, occasionally pulling and frequently egging her spouse on". I never really understood what he meant until now as I stand on the precipice.

I know that you'll nod sagely dear reader, and shrug and think that I am indeed the cliché, that for me my father was perfectly right and reasoned. But really is it that great? Was my father so unique? Surely there are some men out there who feel exactly the same about their partners. Oh how I wish it were true! If so there is hope for my generation.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Dear Reader, it's my Birthday! today I got the most wonderful surprise in the form of my aunt who flew in just to spend the weekend with me and help me bring in the year. I confess to being slightly low in spirits this last week. You see, I have long made my peace with my appearance and with every year that goes by, one does get used to aging....I am not too old....but my early twenties are behind me now; that 'golden' time of one's life when everything is charmed and supposed to be the most exciting time of one's life.

Is it really that special though? I don't really feel that my early twenties were great? I was so clueless and full of myself. case in point, I actually started this blog as part of a student journal at university. Back then, I had these grand delusions about being a great journalist/ writer/ moral crusader....... Never in a million years did I even think that I'll continue writing this blog. In that, I have pleasantly surprised myself. this blog has come to represent a vital outlet for me. It helped me through incredibly difficult times. I, honestly don't even know if there is anyone out there who actually reads my crazy ramblings, but I do care that my written word is out there.

I have used this blog as a way to express my views, and have been fortunate enough to not be trolled, which I dreaded, when I began writing in 2010. I do not even know if I am a better writer now or that I've worsened. I do know from reading some of my old posts, that my writing style has definitely changed. But, today on my birthday, I must admit that this blog has come to represent, for me my most honest self. I don't feel the need to dress up, I don't feel judged, the emptiness of the page represents the canvas on which I can paint whichever form of self expression, that I want and be any version of myself; even my best version.

So Happy Birthday to me and all my fabulous and terrible versions dear reader, may this my future posts be a continuation of my positive growth as a human being. Cheers! 

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Why I feel that there are no real poets anymore..

Once upon a time in my life I was madly in love with poetry......Does it mean that I don't love poetry anymore? The answer is somewhat neurotic...I love some poems more than others but I do realise that there is an abundance of terrible poems that people for some reason like, like for example poets of the Beat generation...I don't really get them...I mean I do on some level understand the gist behind their writing but not really connect to their verse like say the World War 1 poets like Wilfred Owen, or the Romantics or John Donne, Christopher Marlowe and Alexander Pope.

I guess I am no longer going through the thoroughly maudlin phase that I went through in my late teens...poetry at that time of my life was my way of telegraphing all my teenage angst through poems. Now that I am older I have learnt to really enjoy the beauty of certain poems just for the great works that they are and on an unselfish level really let it be about the brilliance of the person behind the poems.

A good poems can really change one's perceptions about life. I can say with a lot of certainty that there are a lot of people who would agree with me when I say that some powerful lines from great works of poetry really changed their lives.

Abelard and his pupil Heloise by Edmund Blair Leighton
In times of turmoil I always find myself remembering lines from poems and they really provide me with solace, strength, and a sense of belonging even. How wonderful is that? Novels are in my opinion powerful works of prose that can shape one's philosophy, and yet it takes you some time to read through one. Poems on the other hand have the magical quality of conveying so many impactful emotions in short bursts. Especially those times in our busy 21st century lives when we are compelled to stop and really take in the surroundings.

I feel that we have lost the ability to be eloquent like our ancestors, in this day an age we have this constant compulsion to be up-front; which is not necessarily a bad thing, and yet we have somehow forgotten to feel and convey those feelings. I wish that someone still had the ability to write about a simple flower like a daffodil that Wordsworth wrote about, or convey separation like Pope did in his Eloisa to Abelard, In our constant modern chatter, we have perhaps lost that unique ability to convey a lot in really few words and that in my opinion is one of the unspoken tragedies of the modern 21st century society.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Books that change our lives

Good Morning and Happy New Year! I want to begin 2017 by talking about something that gives me immense joy; reading. My uncle gifted me a copy of Pride and prejudice by Jane Austen on my eleventh birthday and that day and that book changed my life.

 In the movie You've got Mail, one of the characters talks about reading habits by saying that one of 20th century's most profound truths was "you are what you read"and then Meg Ryan's character summed it all up with this gem  “When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.” Truer words were never spoken. Pride and Prejudice and later, Jane Austen played a major part in shaping my identity, I can still recall the crisp paper and that unique smell that accompanies brand new paper. From the moment I opened the page and read the memorable opening lines I was pulled into a world of genteel late Georgian/ Regency society; where an independent and intelligent women had only selected avenues to lead her life. I confess now, that first reading didn't really open before my eyes the complex layers of the characterizations and situations in the novel, in fact it is only now that I am beginning to fully comprehend the subtext. But I do so cherish that first time reading. I was captivated and couldn't put the book down. I loved it and couldn't stop thinking about the story. 

For a long time I even slept with my battered and worn copy under my pillow. If you ask me the reason behind that odd quirk now, I really couldn't answer why. I just did!I was proud that I had read such a 'grown-up' book and made certain to boast about my accomplishment in front of everyone, needless to say I did not end up endearing many.

 Reading Pride and Prejudice gave me the confidence to read further and opened up a whole new world of classics, I devoured Jane Austen and then moved on to Charles Dickens whom I adored, Anthony Trollope, the Brontes, W.M Thackeray, Elizabeth Gaskell, Walter Scott and many others followed in quick succession. I loved them all. For me Pride and Prejudice opened up the world of reading and literature, and I am indebted to Jane Austen for playing a major role in forming my healthy reading habit.

So yes, to paraphrase Meg Ryan 'I certainly am what I read due to the fact that reading Pride and Prejudice at the tender age of eleven made a love for classics an eternal part of my identity as an adult'; it was most certainly a book that changed my life. 

Monday, 5 December 2016

The year of bleakness

Just switched off the television after watching the news about an increasingly alarming, bizarre and bleak world and now all I want to do is bury my head in the sand like an ostrich, or even better, curl up under my blanket and go to sleep hoping to wake up when all this is over.

Plato said "We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light", he also said "Wise men speak because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something".

Those are some very wise words by a man we now regard as one of the greatest ancient philosophers. Until a few decades ago, it was mandatory for students to have some knowledge about the ancient philosophers, sadly that is not the case now. The men in power are increasingly ignorant and seem to have a wealth of words but not wisdom. They also have a disturbing and annoying habit of talking at a person, instead of to a person which I honestly find exhausting.

I cannot tell you how tired I am after listening to the constant cacophony of words that seem to flow at us in this glorious age of information and instant communication. I have also read various tweets, memes, witticisms about how 2016 was a really bad year, however did anyone ever apologise for contributing to making it so. The year did not start as a bad one, we were all hopeful in the beginning yet by May, people seem to have given up and pronouncements were being made about the absolute shambles the year 2016 was.

I confess, I want this year to end too. I am in the middle of a deeply disappointing decade that began as I completed the quarter of a century mark. But I would not blame it on anyone but myself, I am the architect of my own misery and have disappointed myself the most. If I have learnt something over the past traumatic year from what has been happening around me; it is that I should stop complaining and start working to improve my future or in case of the worst to paraphrase a quote by Theoden King of Rohan from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Trilogy "If this is to be the end then I shall give them SUCH an end as to be worthy of remembrance"