Chaddi solidarity

Thought long and hard before writing this one and finally said, what the heck, let’s overshare as usual.
I noticed over the last few days that the ten year old daughter had begun to wear shorts under a short-ish dress. She’s outgrown it, but it’s a thin, cool, comfortable cotton slip – perfect for these awful summers.
I wondered if it was an attack of modesty and asked her about it. It seems her 12 year old brother had been teasing her about the dress flying up and her undies being on show. I let it pass without interfering in the sibling relationship, until I realised she was wearing it everyday, and that it could no longer be dismissed as a joke or a sibling thing.
My son is being raised by a mother who thinks hijabs and veils, and the policing of women’s bodies and chastity culture are the devil’s own idea (smash the patriarchy, yo!), so this is just unacceptable.
A casual chat with him and I realised he didn’t actually have a real issue, and wasn’t playing protective, patriarchal elder brother. He’s actually more of a feminist than his sister. He was simply playing annoying sibling. Very pleased to have found something to annoy his sister about.
It wasn’t his attitude I was worried about, it was hers. I didn’t want her to lose the safe space of home, covering up even when there was just family around. Choosing modesty over comfort.
So I did the only thing I could. I took off my jeans, and sat down by her side. Just. Chaddi solidarity, sistah. The son gaped. The daughter began to giggle.
I swim with them, so they’re used to seeing me in swimwear, which is much less clothing than the tee shirt and undies I was in. It wasn’t the sight of undies that was supposed to horrify him. It was the reminder that mama is also a girl, and she feels hot too, and has every right to be comfortable in her own home without anyone commenting on it, even as a joke.
The maid who realised what was happening, was in splits. The daughter smiled widely, and took off her shorts. And the son conceded that it was unfair to tease someone and make them self conscious, specially in a world where women are constantly being told to cover up to make others feel comfortable. That it might be a joke in this case, but in the real world, society and men, force women to cover up.
In case you feel strongly about how traumatised he might be, I’ll send you my bank account number. You can donate some money towards his therapy at a later stage.

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Update blog: check

Each time I come back here to update, I feel like a fraud. When people ask me about my social media presence, I say I have none, other than FB. Because honestly, does this intermittent blogging count for anything?

What have I been up to that keeps me away from here? Well, I moved out of the country, hated it with every fibre of my being, sulked, sobbed, lost weight madly and finally moved back.

Yes, I’ve moved back to India with the kids. The OA shuttles between the there and the here. I had many reasons for doing so, but it’s been seven months since I moved back and none of them matter anymore except the biggest one – I wanted to move back.

This is home. This is where I can be who I want to be. This is where I want to raise my kids. Does it sound like its all about me? Well, it wasn’t. There were good reasons that the OA agreed upon too, and had I not waited to reach this place of calm and blogged while I was at my lowest, most devastated, you might have heard of each one of them in excruciating detail.

The Brat turned 11, the Bean turned 9, the OA and I have completed 13 years of wedded togetherness, some of it blissful, some not. Maybe I shouldn’t blog when I’m PMSing! But here we are. Right back where we started from. I look back on the last few years and wonder what I have to show for it. Nothing much, really. If anything, it is a reminder that I am not an ambitious sort of person. I was a go-getter and a topper and a winner until I realised I’d been conditioned to do so. It made me angry and aggressive and drained me. I still have days of wanting to go back to the rat race, but I am reminded of how it turns me into a person I don’t like, and I am happy to putter along at this pace, give the kids my time, my home some attention, and my dead-end career, what is left of my energy.

This is just a little note to tell you that I’m not dead yet, but at the rate I am going, the blog soon will be. Let it not be said that I didn’t give you any indication. ūüôā

Senti bhi hoon, aur mental bhi

Something utterly adorable about your parents sending you rather drunken watsapp messages from their college reunion.

And something akin to maternal pride when one of them receives an award for being a distinguished alumni.

I believe this is what they call the circle of life.

#ForeverYoung

Oh so bloody random

I’m sorry I haven’t answered your questions. I don’t feel ready for them yet – some of us just don’t deal well with our cheese being moved, eh? ūüėÄ

I thought I’d shut down this blog that I’ve neglected so long, but I just couldn’t. A moment’s hesitation, a little procrastination and it’s still here. I have nothing earth shaking to say other than that I am back in India for the kids’ summer break. I’ve been working from home but barring that I’ve had a lot of spare time to think. I shall share my earthshaking thoughts with you and you shall be deeply enriched by my wisdom.

1. Wear your own oxygen mask before you help others put theirs on.

I feel like a fool because I come back to this one time and time again. I put others first, I choose others’ enrichment over my own. And then there comes a day when I wonder what I’ve done for me. Very little indeed. So wear your own gas mask incase you haven’t done so yet.

2. The most interesting people have mediocre professional success.

Of course we can get into deep discussions about the definition of success etc, but I think we all know what I mean. The most interesting people I know, seem not to be at the top of the game. I don’t mean nice people, happy people, intelligent people or any of those. I only mean people who interest me. They might not interest you. But the reason, I notice, that they’re unsuccessful, is that they don’t have the single minded focus success calls for. They’re too engaged with too many things. Too many pies. Too many projects. Too many people. An ailing mother in law, a little nephew whose love won’t allow them to move beyond a 40 km radius, the dhobi’s daughter who was raped and left for dead and had no voice to fight for her. And so on. I sit here waiting for them to write books, set up big businesses and so on and I realise they can’t. They’re deeply engaged with a lot of things. And that is what draws me to them. Their ability to juggle two jobs, family, friends, community and so on. That’s what makes them real, interesting, observant, aware and multifaceted, and as a result, attractive to me. This also leads back to point 1. They’ve not worn their own oxygen mask to get to the top of the career ladder – the air up there is rarefied.

3. Be the missing piece.

Explain yourself. As often as you can. This goes against all conventional wisdom. There’s a famous saying that you should never have to explain yourself, because those who love you don’t need an explanation. And those who don’t, won’t care for your explanation. But this is not about what makes you comfortable. This is again one of those larger good arguments. If you’ve had a misunderstanding with someone, explain yourself, even if it is 10 years later. Our lives are not just our lives. I like to think of them as heaps of mixed up jigsaw puzzles. My pile might have a piece that belongs to you. A memory that you need to make sense of your life. To explain why he thought you were not good enough for him. Why she thought she’d been betrayed. All of us have a little something that fits into another’s life and helps them make sense of it. A missing piece. Your reason might be someone’s missing piece. Please help them find it. Even if it hurts for you to do so.

Exposed. Now what?

I’m here to rant. To rant about everyone, who when they heard we were moving out of the country, came up with the cliche – ‘It’s so much better¬†for the kids – they’ll get such exposure.’ [May I toss in a wee rant about that word exposure? It’s an over-exposed word. Used for cameras, starlets and kids being displaced.] There’s always been that little bit of attitude when desis and their kids come back on vacation. A little arrogance that they’re somehow better for having moved away from home. (The biggest challenge is to ensure that they don’t go home too big for their boots, picking fault with everything, praising clean roads but unable to appreciate the glorious, chaotic, warm mess that their home country is.)¬†They’ve been exposed. So? We’re exposed to malaria and measles back home. There’s something to be said for that too, you know!

I didn’t understand what this concept of exposure meant when I was back home and now, six months down, it still seems like a lot of gibberish. One of those incomprehensible lines that you pull out of storage and offer to anyone who is leaving home, wrenched from the bosom of all that is comfortable and familiar. Torn from the arms of motherland and thrown into unfamiliar food and driving on the wrong side of the road. Yes, of course I like drama. Why do you ask?

Don’t get me wrong – it’s always great to shake things up a little. Keeps one from getting too complacent. But to imagine that getting ‘exposed’ is a better way of life than being, well, ‘unexposed’, is to my mind, a little bit of bullshit.¬†And also, extremely patronising. Eventually it boils down to how open-minded you are. If you plan to carry your pressure cooker, your thepla or your dosa rice everywhere. If you seek out the local desi sanghs and committees. If you insist on speaking your own language at home instead of practicing the new ones around you. Then you’re really just struggling to keep your own culture alive. A few meals, a few concerts, a visit to the local library and three playdates do not give you more insight into a culture than regular travel would.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s your choice if you choose to close ranks against outside influence, and I don’t judge you for it. But eventually the amount of exposure you get is really limited. Limited to a wee bit more than the average tourist gets while sightseeing. Whether you are open minded or not depends on you. Not on whether you’ve moved six countries in the course of your career or died in the house you were born.

Hell, you want me to concede and say you’re getting huuuuge exposure to another culture, I’ll grant you that because I’m in a generous mood and don’t feel like quibbling. You might have learnt a language or an art – and that is great. But I draw the line at the implication that it is somehow preferable, or superior to the alternative (PS: many languages and arts to be learnt within India too!). It is, if anything, a different way of life. Like choosing not to have kids. Or to stay single. Do you know what it’s like to be a married woman and a mother of two at 27? Nope? Well, neither do I know what it’s like to be a single woman at 40. We’re even.

A few years ago, some friends moved back from South East Asia complaining that it was uncomfortable for them because they didn’t find enough Indian food, that there were too many strange animals being cooked, that it was too immoral a society, that it wasn’t as religious as India. They pointed out that the OA and I were good candidates for a move because we’ll try anything once, eat every type of food and not have to worry about kosher, don’t follow any religion and usually eschew religious gatherings, avoid get togethers that are based on community or caste, avoid speaking an Indian language if even one person around us doesn’t understand it, and so on. I didn’t know whether to be flattered or insulted by the picture they painted of us! But they were right of course. We’re fairly ideal candidates to be comfortable out of the country.

Except that unlike many, I really¬†like being in my country – and if I get to choose, then I prefer Delhi over other Indian cities. It bothers me that a person who has lived in four countries is somehow considered to be ‘more’ than a farmer in Vidarbha or a middle class housewife in Calcutta. Richer, maybe. Better traveled, maybe. But better life experiences? I think not.That a little old lady who has seen hunger, or famine, or buried three children, or suffered through riots is somehow seen to have experienced less than our privileged kids in their fancy SUVs, shopping at the closest Indian store. It’s rather patronising to believe that one experience is somehow better.

A few stamps on a passport, learning a new language, trying a new food, seeing a different fort, are all great experiences, no doubt. But so is growing up in a certain locality, building lifelong relationships, seeing a sapling grow into a tree and shade you and so on. There is much to be said for stability, familiarity, and being one of those pillars of society that people can depend on.

Having lived away for a while now I can claim to speak with a little experience. And eventually it all boils down to the same damn daily lives. How we manage our relationships, what the kids are taking to school for tiffin, the bills to be paid, discord in the family, that nagging pain in my knee that casts a shadow on all that I do through the day and so on. The pain of death, the pang of death and loss, the joy of holding your child in your arm – these are things we all experience regardless of geography and they shape our lives far more than anything else.

Here we have cleaner streets, shinier buildings and better traffic. The kids have settled in as best as they can. The OA is busy with work. Fortunately my job moved with me and I am busy during the day. But at night, when the lights go down and we shut the outside world out and gather around the dining table, nothing much has changed. There are still worries at work, still bullies in school. Still bills to be paid. Still new places to visit. The more things seem to change. The less they really do.

PS: Since I can’t answer all the mails I got in response to this post, I’m editing it to add my responses here – Yes, we’re more or less settled and as the Bean would say if you asked her – it’s comme ci comme ca.

There are some positives to being here, infrastructure and order wise, and availability of a variety of things as well as the opportunity to travel to neighbouring countries. And there are the negatives such as homesickness and lack of a social support system. Most of all though, we’re unhappy about the kids having to attend a mainstream international school. They’ve just had their first report card and while the Bean is doing fairly well – the Brat is soaring high. We’ve never known how well they’re doing in India since their school didn’t do comparative marking. So we know that their education was good in India and that their fundamentals are strong. But most of all, the system was good and we’re not very happy with the competitive attitude being instilled in them in a mainstream school. And no, before you ask, we already did a thorough check – there are no alternative schools here.

Been a long time since we rocked and rolled

….

I was listening to Jackson Browne the other night and like most people growing old faster than they appreciate, it took me back to my first year of work. For those who don’t know, it’s the song playing as the credits roll in the first episode of FRIENDS. I love the lyrics and it’s one of those songs I go back to every five years or so.

A friend did a Facebook poll asking which show we still missed. Some said Frasier, some HIMYM and others, Seinfeld. I never did enjoy Seinfeld’s sense of humour, and Frasier was always ‘older people’ with older people issues.

FRIENDS on the other hand, came just when we were at the very same stage, starting out, building careers, seeking soulmates… and it followed us. Marriages, divorces, problems with conceiving and so on.

At some point I’d merrily assumed they’d hand hold us through life. And we’d grow old together. But that didn’t happen. As yet another couple I love, splits up amicably, I am both sad for them as they lose what they had. And happy for them as they find a solution in a civil way. Okay, sorry, rambling.

Enjoy.

Jackson Browne’s Sky Blue and Black

Lyrics, for your reading pleasure.

In the calling out to one another
Of the lovers up and down the strand
In the sound of the waves and the cries
Of the seagulls circling the sand
In the fragments of the songs
Carried down the wind from some radio
In the murmuring of the city in the distance
Ominous and low

I hear the sound of the world where we played
And the far too simple beauty
Of the promises we made

If you ever need holding
Call my name, I’ll be there
If you ever need holding
And no holding back, I’ll see you through
Sky blue and black

Where the touch of the lover ends
And the soul of the friend begins
There’s a need to be separate and a need to be one
And a struggle neither wins
Where you gave me the world I was in
And a place I could make a stand
I could never see how you doubted me
When I’d let go of your hand

Yeah, and I was much younger then
And I must have thought that I would know
If things were going to end

And the heavens were rolling
Like a wheel on a track
And our sky was unfolding
And it’ll never fold back
Sky blue and black

And I’d have fought the world for you
If I thought that you wanted me to
Or put aside what was true or untrue
If I’d known that’s what you needed
What you needed me to do

But the moment has passed by me now
To have put away my pride
And just come through for you somehow

If you ever need holding
Call my name, I’ll be there
If you ever need holding
And no holding back, I’ll see you through

You’re the color of the sky
Reflected in each store-front window pane
You’re the whispering and the sighing
Of my tires in the rain
You’re the hidden cost and the thing that’s lost
In everything I do
Yeah and I’ll never stop looking for you
In the sunlight and the shadows
And the faces on the avenue
That’s the way love is
That’s the way love is
That’s the way love is
Sky blue and black

Some news

So I’ve been lying low for a while because we moved out of the country. Yes, years of fighting it, fighting to move back to Delhi, letting Delhi seep into my pores and run in my blood stream and all of a sudden.. nothing. I’ve left home. And I’m adrift and lost.

Lest you think I’m too busy to post – that isn’t the case. I could sit up after a surgery and type with one hand if I wanted to, while a drip rattled against the keyboard and half my body groaned in pain and …. I think you get the picture.

But it’s not that ¬†– I’m busy, but not just busy. Apart from setting up home, getting paperwork in order, sending kids to new school and hating it, doing my own bloody housework (gah!) and holding on to my fucking day job, I am also busy wallowing in self pity and self-inflicted misery and I am not ready to share anymore right now. I might be back tomorrow. I might not be back for six months. Until I have processed this change and dealt with it, I am not comfortable sharing it.

I know you will understand. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier considering it’s been going on for a while. But this – this is something I’m just.not.dealing.well.with.

Stay well, stay cool.

#ChhodAayeHumWohGaliyan