Category: me

Friendship lessons

Friendship lessons

I spent over two decades of my life in a North Indian town with barely any exposure to the outside world other than the books I read. None of them told me what to really expect out there. However, when I left for a job in Delhi I had firm views on just about everything, hanging on to prejudices and preconceived notions that come with lack of exposure. 
That’s how I would have gone through life had the powers above not been on my side. Fate has, since then, worked overtime to systematically rid me of all my said ideas.
I used to dismiss Punjabis as loud and crass. And God gave me a friend born and brought up in the gullies of old Delhi. Her FB status once read ‘Punjabiayn di battery charge rehndi hai’. She was loud as the loudest yet she was also generous and thoughtful and always available when I needed her. Before I knew it I was borrowing from her memories of her grandmom and quoting in Punjabi, pathetically stilted Punjabi I might add, not everyone can get that endearing accent quite right.
I thought South Indians were closed and conservative. And God gave me a roomie straight from Chennai. Together we traipsed around the streets of Mumbai walking at Marine Drive or shopping at Fashion Street. She taught me that South Indian food went beyond idlis and dosas. She could talk books till the sun went down and came up again. She has since then, set up her own library. We could laugh at our respective accents and would compare how ‘love’ was pronounced in each of them – her luvv to my lau.
I thought Maharashtrians were stuck up and spoke weird Hindi. Along came a friend who was completely unstuck herself. I discovered that there existed a tumhi along with the tu and got a glimpse of the proud Maratha history, way beyond Bajirao. We argued about everything from books to religion over hot cups of chai at a different roadside joint each time. I found my Hindi turning into a taporier version – no longer chaste yet nice and colourful and way more interesting.
I thought army wives came with a chip on their shoulders and I got a friend who taught me to appreciate their discipline and the way they stood up for their own. I grudged them their ‘benefits’ but stories of hazardous postings, sad accidents and lost lives made their tribulations only too real. Another one would laugh with me at the Army Wives’ ‘parties’ yet go hunting for the right sari because it was ‘flower theme’ at the meet. ‘It’s crazy but it’s so much fun. I love it,’ she’d say.
I thought SAHMs were all about shopping and kitty parties and God turned me into one making me want to kill anyone who asked ‘How do you kill time?’ Oh and along the way I also questioned where’s the crime in a ladies’ day out or shopping (unless it’s excessive, and then the trouble is with the ‘excess’ not the shopping).
Finally there came the biggest, craziest most miraculous mind changer – I thought kids were a nuisance and God gave me twins. Nuisance they most certainly are, but they’re also the best thing that ever happened to me.
Dear people know that stereotypes may be true – after all they are stereotypes for a reason. However people are different in a million ways and are definitely more than just a bunch of generic qualities.
So make friends – all kinds – across ages, and sex, race and city and nationality if you can. Open up, meet, talk, debate, argue, empathise. That’s the very best way to remain non-judgemental and open minded.
God knows we could do with some tolerance.
Of travel plans and travel anxiety

Of travel plans and travel anxiety

Its the summer break and that means my presence here at the blog shall become sporadic. As we ready ourselves to set off on our travels I am consumed with a bad case of travel anxiety. 

What if the taxi gets a flat tyre?
What if I miss the flight?
Did I miss packing anything?
What if my baggage is overweight?
What if I misplace my baggage?
What if I forget the ticket, the id?
What if I am not at the correct terminal?
What happens when I get there?
What if I don’t find a cab?

It’s endless… this list of tiny worries.

Without even being aware of it consciously, they nag at me for days before I set off. That, when I’ve been travelling on my own for over two decades. It makes me irritable and more likely to snap at the kids, not that they aren’t doing enough to drive me up the wall anyway. It wasn’t half as bad when I travelled alone, having responsibility of the twins just makes it worse.

I’ve tried imagining the worse case scenario and that isn’t scary at all yet the anxiety refuses to go.

I’m hoping putting this down here would make me see how irrational it is. 

Do you worry when you travel?

A gratitude post

A gratitude post

About two weeks back I landed myself a sore throat. Nothing that couldn’t be cured by warm water gargles and mugs of ginger tea, I thought. However within a day my throat turned to sandpaper making swallowing difficult and I felt The Wheeze come on. 
If you’ve ever had it you’ll understand the capitals. Within the space of a day breathing becomes a chore, lying down impossible and sleep a mere dream.
This hadn’t happened to me in the last ten years. The twins seemed to have scared it away! However this time it was back.
I gave up oral medications and took on inhalers. Soon enough the breathing eased. Within a week I was feeling human again.
I remembered my childhood – those long painful nights with my mum sitting beside me rubbing warm mustard oil and garlic on my chest while I struggled for each breath and prayed for the night to be over. The days weren’t ever so bad for there were distractions. Nights, on the other hand, were dreaded monsters. Propped up by pillows I would struggle to pull out each breath from my clogged lungs. 
Those nights were truly dreadful.
It was this dread that made me reach out for shawls and sweaters at parties. This dread made sure I was always unfashionably bundled up at weddings and get-togethers when everyone else was flaunting their silks and georgettes. And it was this dread that made me completely immune to friendly jibes from friends and family. 
It would take sometimes, a month for the congestion to go.
This gratitude post today goes out to scientists, researchers and doctors who have made our lives so much easier that a mere ten days later I was back at my Zumba class with just a memory of the wheeze.
Thank you with all my heart. Oh and from my lungs too :-).

Linking up to Vidya’s Gratitude Circle Blog Hop. Do click on the link and head on over.
Proud, happy and grateful

Proud, happy and grateful

N’s Bharatnatyam annual day was round the corner
and her dance guru called a meeting
for parents. I found an inconspicuous corner and sat listening dutifully to the
instructions. And then the teacher said, “All women have to come in saris.” (That five meters of traditional Indian
garment which can be such a nightmare to drape).
I sat up in some alarm.
I had ended my relationship with the sari some 10 years ago when the twins
were born. I tried to renew it once rather tentatively and promptly tripped and fell flat while carrying a two-year-old N. That was when I swore off it. Forever.
I had no intention of going back now.
The announcement propelled me from my
corner and I heard myself ask, “Can we come in a suit?” For the first time, I found the full glare
of N’s dance guru’s eyes on me. I
have to confess here that she is rather intimidating. You know how these gurus are – unbending principles, strict
discipline and all of that. While I appreciate that an unflinching attitude is essential
to teach a serious dance form I have to admit it stresses me out because I am forever fumbling unsure what I might do to upset a rule. That is exactly why I try to make
myself invisible at these meetings. “Let’s keep it formal,” she said shortly, “Saris only”. I quailed and looked around
for support from the other mums but all
of them stared back at me with a don’t-waste-time-with-such-a-non-issue look.
For once I wished I were a man. The only instruction
they had was ‘don’t come in jeans’. Hey hello! How unfair was that! We are
sentenced to a struggle with five meters of cloth and all they have to do is change out of their jeans! Arrrrrgh!
I receded to my corner wondering what I’d
do. Should I send someone in stead of me, I thought desperately. But I wanted to see N on stage and I already had the saris but the blouses –
I wouldn’t fit into any of them any longer. Something
ready made perhaps would have to do. Pushing down the panic, I reasoned, once the blouse was sorted, it wouldn’t
be too bad. All I had to do was dress up, sit,
watch, collect N and come home. Yeah! I could do it. I’d manage.
And then I heard the guru’s assistant calling out “Where is N’s mother?” (Yeah she doesn’t even
know my name – told you I always hid away) “You’re the volunteer for the Ashtalakshmi performance.” With that she
gave the word ‘volunteer’ a whole new dimension and me a whole new world of
panic.
‘Volunteer’ meant no sitting down quietly, in fact no
sitting down at all. It meant tucking your pallu
at your waist and taking charge of a group of girls. Their entry on the stage
and their exit, their makeup and accessories, which are mind boggling by the
way. N is a junior and her costume alone had 5 pieces. Then there were some 10 bits of jewellery
to go with it.
Me.. a non dancer, a non ‘makeuper’, a non stage
person, a non sari wearer – me – had
to do all of that! And I have no clue why I was picked. I put it down to some
really bad deeds of my past birth. Karma.

But it all worked out … 

… just as most things in
my life have a way of working out. Have I said this before? That I am
exceptionally lucky? No, really, I am. It turned out the SIL had the perfect
sari and I managed to squeeze into her blouse too. How’s that for luck?
I got dressed in 10 minutes flat. It’s amazing how it all came back to me, just the way my mum
had taught me decades ago – what went where, how many pleats to go on the
shoulder, how to tuck in the sari firmly so I needed just a single pin. Oooh I felt
accomplished!
Besides, I had no time to fuss since N had to be
dressed and we had to report early and then there were those 8 girls waiting
for me at the venue.
Once there it was a blur of getting the giggly talkative
bunch ready, running around with hair clips and safety pins, someone had
forgotten her dupatta while another
one broke her jhumka. Oh it was such delightful
chaos.
Finally they were all ready and everything was
perfect, N looked beautiful as did every single girl on stage. Watching the delighted, proud, excited faces around me I felt a wave of happiness wash over me or was it gratitude? Gratitude, that everything had come together so wonderfully, gratitude for being a part of so much happiness. 
I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. And to think I considered not coming for the sake of a sari.

Linking up to Vidya’s Gratitude Circle Blog Hop. Do click on the link and head on over.

On standing up for yourself

On standing up for yourself

I am a non-confrontationist. I’ve been one all my life. During the decade or more of my working life there were a few times when I had a difference of opinion with a colleague, an argument maybe, but mostly I managed without much of a fight. When a co-wroker was specially infuriating I fretted and fumed endlessly but always in solitude or I would unburden myself before the hapless husband. Having done that I would always go back to work the next day with a smile on my face.
When people stepped onto my toes, I’d not just remove my toes I’d also have a smile for them. Nope I wasn’t a Buddha. I resented each unfairness. But I let it go because of my fear – an irrational dread – of creating a scene. I’d back off even if I was right, even more if the other person was rude, loud or overly aggressive. Some of it sprang from being a very self-conscious person. I wrote about it earlier here .
But I thought it was a good philosophy – I mean, why rankle someone when you can get by without?
Then the twins came along. 

It’s one thing to voluntarily subject yourself to unfairness, however small, and a whole different thing to watch the kids being subjected to it either by inclusion (because I wouldn’t stand up for them – ‘Let it go’, I’d say) or because they were picking up what I practiced.

I watched N agreeing with things she didn’t really like, letting people take her for granted, bending backwards for her playmates.

“There really is nothing worse than seeing your weaknesses reflected in your kids.

H was a different story. If I said ‘Let it go’ he’d say ‘But why? Isn’t it unfair.” It was. He was right. It was unfair and dishonest – dishonest to your own self. He bugged me till I had to face up to what I was doing:
“I was being nicest to the nastiest person.
That was the unpleasant truth about me : My best side was reserved for the person most likely to be nasty to me.
Once I knew the truth I could no longer talk myself out of answering some more uncomfortable questions. 
– Is that what I want the twins to be? 
– To give in to bullies (kids or adults) just because they were afraid of a scene? 
– To bear with untrue/unfair allegations because they didn’t want to put up a fight? 
– To give in to pressure because they didn’t know how to protest? 
– To always take the more peaceful, the easier way out of situations?

I knew the answer to that one. 

And I made myself start over. It isn’t easy to let go of a personality trait – one you’ve lived with for decades. However, I have started to ‘take the bull by it’s horns’ to use a cliche. I’m not good at it at all. Repartees don’t come easily to me. I still am dumbstruck by outright rudeness.
Yet I have begun to find my voice sometimes. I register a protest, even if it is a tiny one, even if it is much after the incident, even if it seems a tad out of context. I make myself go back to the offender and say what I have to – that I didn’t think their behaviour was appropriate, that I did not agree with the way they treated me or the kids.

It’s hard but I’m doing it. It’s not perfect either but it’s a start. Sometimes it’s necessary to tell the person stepping on your toes to take his feet elsewhere.

That’s a lesson I want the twins to remember.
***********

Linking up to Finish the Sentence Friday. Heartfelt thanks to Leah from Little Miss Wordy for this chance at introspection with her sentence prompt ‘Once I knew the truth I could no longer talk myself out of…’ Also thanks to Kristi from Finding Ninee  for hosting.