Thursday, 12 May 2016

To My Son's Grandmother

All I want to do right now is pick up the phone and give you a call. To hear your strangely nasal, halting voice. It is the voice that grated on my nerves while I was married. The voice I avoided and mocked. And yet in the last four years it became the voice I started to associate with comfort and understanding.
It is that need for comfort and understanding that makes me yearn to talk to you now. Not a day has gone by when you haven't entered my thoughts. My brain cannot wrap itself around the idea that you will never call me again. That I will not see your name flickering on my phone screen. I feel like an epic failure as a mother right now. You were the only one who would reassure me that I am not, without giving me any 'gyaan'.
That's what connected me to you - your authenticity. No one could ever doubt your intentions or say you were put on. When you disliked me or were pissed off, it was in my face. When you supported me, it was unconditional.
Every time I think of you, I wish things had been different. I wish so many years hadn't been wasted, shrouded in misunderstandings and unhappiness. I wish I'd had more time with you, that your grandson had more time with you. I know you loved him with all your heart, and I am so so sorry that he wasn't a bigger part of your life.
I see so much of you in me. I know you saw it too. You saw me make the decision you hadn't been able to. And you supported me through it, even though that meant you had to acknowledge your son's shortcomings. As a mother, I can only imagine how hard that must have been for you. But as a woman, I know you respected my choice, and it brought both of us closer.
We are so similar, you and I. Both scared, broken and lonely little children. Willing to give up so much of ourselves just to be loved, to be needed. I saw what it did to you, and I wish I could have helped you more. I'd like to think I did a little, just by listening to you and visiting you. But I wish I could have done more. I was trying so hard to save myself, I didn't think of you till much later.
I miss our long conversations, I miss how you always rooted for me. I wish I'd had more of them. I wish I'd visited more and stayed over a few days like you kept asking me to do. I kept thinking I would do it this summer vacation, but it's too late now.
I wish I'd spoken to you before you left the house. I hope you weren't still angry with me for not calling, when you left. I hope you know I came and met you and brought your grandson too. I hope that gave you some peace and happiness.
I can't bear to be in that house without you. It was your house. You were it's heart, it's life source. Even if you were alone there, it was never empty. But without you, no matter how many people are there, it's vacant. I feel like I'm betraying you, when I go there now. You were the link for me, the connect. Now that you're gone, I don't belong.
You always complained that I never wore the clothes you gave me, I hope you know I was wearing the salwar suit you gave when I came to meet you, the day you left.
I can't explain the connect between you and I. It's hard to explain. You weren't just my ex-mother-in-law (I was rarely able to call you that). You and I, our lives mirrored each other at so many levels. Was that it? Was that what connected us? What made us understand each other so deeply?
I don't know. All I know is that I feel your loss, at a visceral level. Life will go on. And sadly you were not a part of my world, in a daily way. So it's easy to think I've healed. But when I think of you, there is still an aching hole,
Am I glorifying you, our relationship, just because you're gone? No. You were a flawed person, by no means perfect, as am I. And you had in the past made my life hell, time and again. But that paled in comparison to what you gave me in the last few years. I never shared it before, because I didn't know how to. I didn't think anyone would understand. I don't know if they will now. But I had to write this, because I can't say it to you anymore.
Sorry for all the years we lost, the pain, the misunderstandings. And thank you, for being a part of our lives. You will always be with us.
I will always remember you. And I will talk of you often to my son. To let him know that his grandmother loved him immensely, unconditionally.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Still searching for me...

Every morning I wake up and struggle to define who I am. Am I the sad divorcee in a melee of perfect couples? Am I the girl on the verge of living her life on her own terms? Am I the person who chickened out and made the easier choices? Or am I the woman who's carving her own path, one little step at a time?

You'd think I'd know by now. I'm 33. You'd think I'd have it sorted out by now, but I don't. There are days when I can't even answer the basic question of whether I want to live at all or not.

And that's where I have been this last week. Wondering if I wanted to live at all. If it wouldn't just be easier to pack my bags and call it a day. To melt away slowly into the dark silences and not have to face another day. It's been a while since I was here. And it scared the hell out of me. After all, what kind of a mother is willing to leave her child behind in that most absolute, most scarring way?

A mother who isn't perfect. A woman who isn't always feeling strong. A girl who doesn't feel all that brave when the bright sun shines in her eyes every morning. I thrived on being told how strong I was. On how beautifully I had sailed through my divorce. What a brilliant job I was doing of raising my son. And as each compliment healed a wound, it also inflicted another one. I had to live up to that image of the strong, perfect mother. Whether I felt it or not. So much pressure built around it that I tried my best to brush aside all the little dark spots, all the lapses into sadness. I had to be little miss sunshine after all and ride away on my pink bicycle with my son sitting on the carrier and happy little puppies chasing us. I had to be the golden sample, the one who got it right.

That's a lot of pressure to put on anyone. To put it on yourself borders on madness.

Since one of the mandates I set for myself when I started this blog has been to be 100% honest, I'll say at the outset that I have considered packing my bags and taking the road out of life before. But it was different. In my younger days it was an inability to handle life. When I finally realized I would have to leave my marriage it was the feeling that I would not be able to face another day with my sense of self shattering into a thousand pieces.

This time it was a wake up call. Letting me know it's ok. It's ok to not be a perfect mom. It's ok to hate your kid for a while. It's ok to hate that your life is so different from what you'd wanted. It's ok that sometimes you're such a stark raving lunatic that your son looks scared shitless when he sees you. It's ok to cry as if every breath is draining out of your body. It's ok to curl up and feel a depth of sadness that you never knew existed. And it's ok to stay there for days, as many days as you need. It's ok to hear Everybody Hurts on loop. You don't have to be strong. You don't have to have your shit together. You don't have to be there for everyone. You just need to show up for you. And the rest is ok.

When all the drama was stripped away, all my body and mind were saying was TAKE A BREAK. Sit down. Breathe. Just leave everything else behind for a while. And a week later, slowly, I am crawling out from under the covers. Have I figured it all out? Do I have all the answers? No. But I know this, the search never ends. Every day I will redefine who I am. Each day I will be someone new, and that's also OK.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

My son's grandfather

It was barely a year after my sister's wedding that her father in-law called me aside at a family gathering and sat me down. 'Humne tumhari poems padhi', I read your poems he said. After a brief moment of confusion about what he was referring to I felt a hot, red blush spread over my face. I hadn't given him any poems. I'd given my sister a bunch of poems which I'd hoped to publish as a book. Words and phrases came back in flashes to my 21 year old brain. These poems weren't meant for him. Among other scribbling I remembered there was one about two lovers tangled together. Could the earth please just split and swallow me whole right now I thought? I was ready for him to deliver a scathing speech on the rubbish youngsters write.

'Tum bahut acha likhti ho', you write very well he said. You have a talent. It's your duty to keep writing. I was stunned. Definitely not what I had expected from a 77 year old white-haired man who swore by Swami Vivekanand!

Over the years as I came to know my son's Baba, he became one of my biggest cheerleaders where writing was concerned. Every single time we met, he asked me if I was writing. During the years of my divorce, when I met him less and had virtually stopped writing, he insisted that I must write every day. He told me to read as much as I can, and I in turn tried to introduce him to my favored genre of books. He may not have agreed with them but he always read what I gave him and then had lively debates with me, providing counterpoints to my views. Everyone would stand around saying 'tumhari class le li Pitaji ne', but those were the moments I enjoyed most in my brother in-laws house.

As my son started visiting there more often he became his grandfather, his Baba. He laughed when my son made a birthday card with a blob of paint calling it kauve ki potty. He saw his willfulness before I did. He empathized with what I was going through.

I couldn't meet him half as much as I wanted to. And now that he's gone, I keep seeing him sitting there telling me 'likha karo'. His laugh was infectious. It's what I miss most. It's what my son misses most too. My son used to say 'bhagwan ji mujhse baat karte hain'. Now he says that his Baba talks to him from the sky, tells him he's ok up there, flying and free.

Many people talk of how well-read my son's Baba was. How learned and evolved. I don't doubt it. Yet what I always saw was a man with an incredible spirit, a love for life, a refusal to let anything bring him down. Someone with an innate sense of right and wrong, of fairness. A person who could empathize with everyone. A man who didn't judge anyone. It was interesting that he was one of the few people with whom I could be myself and feel that he saw me, for who I really was.

I wanted to write to him when our chances to meet reduced. I wish I had started sooner. I only got one letter across to him before he left and there was no time for a reply. I know that with time his memory will fade, no matter how hard I try to hold on. I figure the best thing I can do to honour him, to honour what he meant to me and my son is to write. To write everyday, to live my life honestly, to be the best person I can be. If I can be 1/10th the person he was, that will be my tribute to him. I am grateful that I had the chance to know someone like him. I am blessed that he was my son's grandfather, his Baba. 

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Fat Girl In The Corner

Recently I've been coming across some interesting things around bodies and stereotypes. I have hardly spoken about such things because I have spent my life being the "fat" girl and always thought if I voiced my opinion people would think I'm being too sensitive. Yet I would find myself incensed by the fact that everyone in the universe thought it was okay for them to laugh at me, to crack a joke, to tell me for my "own good" how important it was for me to lose weight. Friends, colleagues, strangers, lovers.

When did I start thinking of myself as fat and ugly I wonder? I know I didn't think it as a kid. Was it in 8th grade when the guy I had a massive crush on rejected me saying I was too fat for him? Was it when my sister's well meaning friend told me while helping me dress up for my birthday that I was so pretty I could be a model if only I lost weight? Or when the ex said I wasn't good enough cos heads didn't turn when I entered a room? Was I fat because I ate too much or did I eat too much because people had told me I'm fat so many times that I had started to believe it at a deep gut level?

I know only that most of my social life was an agonizing debacle of trying to find outfits that hid my fat and made me look good. Of going from pillar to post putting every face pack and night cream I could on my face to get rid of the angry red blotches of acne. Smiling at every fat joke. Some times even cracking some before someone else could hoping that would be less humiliating. Telling every man in my life that I was ashamed of my body, trying to hide it. I remember feeling grateful if they chose to be accepting. Grateful if a man was interested in me. I spent a lifetime undermining everything I have to offer in a relationship and settling for any man who was willing to accept my ugliness.

Movies, television, advertisements, books, all of them only speak of the fat, the ugly, the acne ridden as bumbling idiots or tragic heroes. There are the geeks who turned into beauties or just fumbled upon a good looking partner. There is never a person with a different face/body type who is the main protagonist with no excuses. I saw a movie recently in which an actress tells the hero that she can torment him and take revenge now for what he did to her twelve years ago because "tab main moti aur bechaari thi, ab main sexy aur powerful hoon". Those are the messages sent out to us every second of every day. We don't even realize it. I've had friends talk about their ideal woman and size was always a consideration. When did we as a society get so obsessed with how a person looks? To the point that its become one of the highest causes of depression and eating disorders. Where we have multi-million dollar industries to help us change how we look in every conceivable way.

Every day I see an article helping me define my body shape, pear, apple etc etc. Or one telling me how to get a bikini body. Or what kind of pants I should wear to minimize the debilitating effects of my shortness and wide waistline. And then I saw a line that said How to get a bikini body - Take your body, put a bikini on it. A switch flicked in my head. I was done with the bullshit.

I went on a holiday and I tried my best to wear what I WANTED to wear. Not what I should or what looked better. It was terrifying and liberating. It is time that people get over who's fat, short, dark, ugly. Really. I'm sure you have something better to worry about.

Here's Saif Ali Khan telling us his fascinating take on "ugly" actors. Saif, I'm ready to see a film about real people, however fat or ugly they are!

So, your wife told you that looking beautiful in Bollywood is more important than acting.
That’s a joke. She can afford to say that because she is beautiful and a good actor. Actually, I do think that it is equally important if not more. Because everyone is so fit, It is a visual medium. And I don’t think anyone wants to see a film about an ugly guy who is giving a great performance. We are not so mature as an industry yet. We are still trying to make beautiful films about beautiful people, unless it’s a niche film.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The voters who couldn't vote

I wanted to vote today. I started out at 9:30 am, found my election booth and stood in line. For the next hour I was shunted from one person to the other who told me my name is not on the list. I'd gotten a new card made last year at my new residential address. Yet my name was not on the list. I was asked if I had gone online and checked if my name was on the list. I hadn't, and that I admit was my mistake. I had voted several times before and didn't think my name could have gone off the list. But it had.

"Jahan pehle rehte the wahan ke booth par naam hoga aapka, transfer nahin hua hoga". So off I went to the booth I had always voted at. Found my mum, dad and sister. But my name was nowhere to be found. I had filled up my form, submitted it, picked up my election card. My name had been removed from the previous address but not been put on the list for my current address. I was not on the voters list.

I came back to my current poll booth and asked what can be done. How can we address this issue so that I may be allowed to vote? It had been 3.5 hours of running around and I was really frustrated. I really wanted to vote. I was given numbers of the SDM, sector officer and a bunch of other people. I called them. None of them could help me. No one had the discretionary powers to issue a letter allowing me to vote. One person asked me to come to him after 15th December.

By now I was at my wits end. In the last few hours I had seen innumerable cases of peoples names not being on the voter's list. Someone people had valid election cards and were standing there but their records had mysteriously been deleted, without any intimation or action undertaken by them. One old man had been voting for the last 40 years but was told his name was not on the list this time. He had stayed in the same house and voted in the same place. There was no reason his name wasn't on the list.

The only explanation repeatedly given to me was that someone must have come to your house to confirm you address. I said they hadn't. I was told I must have been out of the house. Is that valid reason to strike my name off a voters list? Even Flipkart and courier delivery guys call and come or come back again. Shouldn't I have been given a call, or had someone return or even leave a note telling me how to take it forward? I should have gone online and checked, but what about the scores of people in our country who don't have access to the internet? Don't they deserve to be on a voters list?

I saw so many people being turned away today, rich, poor, old, young, all out to exercise their right to vote. All people with valid election cards in their hands. Shouldn't there be some authority that can consider these cases and allow them to vote?

How do names mysteriously go off the list or get deleted? I got my card a year ago, why doesn't that ensure my place on the list? There were reporters from a prominent daily newspaper at the polling station who came to ask me what happened. Apparently it's happening across the city they said. They'd seen the same situation at all the booths they had visited. If I saw over a hundred such cases happen in front of me over a few hours at two polling stations I can't imagine the total number across the city.

There are so many campaigns urging us to vote. Yet here were hundreds of voters being turned away due to errors in the functioning of the electoral offices. Is that then a fair election? Is it not possible to make this system easier?

I spent a total of 5 hours doing this. Not everyone would. I really wanted to vote.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Nighttime ruminations

I've been tossing and turning for the last three hours trying to sleep. The harder I try the more elusive it is. In the meantime I've indulged in a little pity party. Maybe it's the fact that I spent all of yesterday making love to my toilet ( if you can call a stomach infection that). Maybe it's the copious amounts of white bread and butter I've consumed as an aftermath of the toilet love affair, which my body is not at all used to anymore. Or maybe it's the fact that I'm severely pms-ing ( honestly I think women should be given a five day holiday from life every month! And for any one who doesn't 'get' it, please try a crazy-ass hormone injection and you'll know). Either ways I have in the last three hours dug up every single insecurity and convinced myself its true.

So yes I :
1. Suck in bed
2. Don't know how to write
3. Am a horrible, negligent mother
4. Will never find love
And of course
5. None of my friends actually "like" me. They just put up with me

I figured instead of wasting more time I should just write it all down and make a counter list of things that may keep me from going over the edge.

1. I hauled my ass out of a shitty marriage
2. Good, bad or ugly I am taking care of my son and he's a kick-ass kid so I must be doing something right
3. People are paying me to write so it can't be that bad
4. I travelled to NYC, Vietnam and Thailand. I did it on my own money. I didn't let my fears and evil thoughts hold me back. I had an awesome time doing it.
5. That's it. In this moment it's all I can think of.

Right now, just for tonight, life sucks. Tomorrow I will try to redefine it, to find a way around it. But tonight I will hope that this blog purges me enough to get some shut eye.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Infidelity is a bitch!

It's taken me a while to understand why my divorce was not easy or why it took me longer to 'get over' it than people expected it to. Well one, because they have no idea what I went through. And two because there is little that lacerates the mind, body and soul like the breaking of trust.

When two people come together with the express purpose of being committed exclusively to each other, infidelity strikes hard and deep. It makes the person cheated upon doubt everything about themselves. Their bodies, their personalities, their entire beings. The first thing that happens is you wonder what you did wrong. But you didn't. You did nothing wrong. You did not go out of your relationship willingly looking for another partner. No matter how fat you are, no matter if your sex life sucked, no matter if you're the smartest pea in the pod or the ugliest thing that walked. You did nothing wrong. You are responsible for your relationship, not your partner's choice to cheat on you.

Being cheated upon breaks you like little else can. It makes you doubt every moment of your relationship, not only with the person who did it but for other's that come in the future. It is not the death of my marriage that got me as much as my loss of faith and trust in men. To be hurt in that way takes a lot out of you. It doesn't help that people expect you to get over it or to be flippant about it. Or that they say it's not a big deal, or that it made it easier for you to leave the man. It is a big deal. And it doesn't make it any easier to walk out on your relationship. It makes you sit on the toilet floor and cry for hours. That's the truth and the sooner you accept it the better.

Yet I have met in the last year, men, who have helped my process of healing to begin. Men who have demonstrated extreme kindness and thoughtfulness. Men who have walked away from temptation. Men who have acknowledged the deep pain infidelity can inflict.

It's a long way off yet but I can see the beginnings of the scab on my wound. I'm still too scared to be in a relationship but I feel like I may be able to trust again. To give freely. To not look over my shoulder at every turn of a relationship. I have learned to raise my standard and have found men who meet the new standard. The scars years of infidelity left on me may never heal completely, yet I hope they won't overshadow my view on love and relationships either.