Sunday, 30 May 2010

Homeward bound

I don’t know if this one is going to be about hellos or goodbyes. From the age of 4 till 14 I bade my parents adieu at the end of every summer vacation. There was a break in tradition from age 14 to 21, and then the cycle began again, this time it was college and later, work.

I remember being 10, peering out of the train window, dad on the platform asking me if he should push the train to make it leave. I would nod a yes putting on a brave face, pushing those cowardly tears back, wishing fervently that he wouldn’t. I hated the end of those summer hols. I also hated A/c train compartments, because then I couldn’t see ma and dad as the train pulled away.

But never, never did the pain of parting feel this acute as it does now when it is time to say bye again, this time to fly away to another continent, another time zone, another life. I am married now, my place beside my husband, mistress of my own household, all the while longing to be the daughter of the one I am leaving behind, which is the first that comes to mind when I think of home. And then there are friends to say bye to. I always took it for granted that they were just a call away and meeting them was matter of a few minutes. And now, I try to glean all the joy I can from a single meet not knowing when the next one would be possible. Went to the old office, the desk is still empty, I wonder if it is waiting for me… friends at office are still the same yet different; I am now a guest there. This time the parting was indeed difficult, the finality has now sunk in.

And at the same time I can’t wait to be back with V. My watch is still set at GMT. To be back to the home we made, to live the lives we have. To friends who tell me I am needed, who truth be told I missed as well. And while I long for the days gone by, I also look forward to what lies ahead.

Life goes on… as do we.

Friday, 28 May 2010

If the shoe fits

The other day, the pater and I were embroiled in a discussion about marriage. The main argument that ensued was about expectations, of the two parties from their prospective partners, before the exchange of vows. I was of the opinion that the two important factors were kindness and respect, while he maintained there were no fixed parameters for during courtship with both parties putting their best foot forward, it was difficult to separate the real from the forced; one had to go with the gut feeling.

What we did agree on, however, was the basis of making a choice were individual and that a list of must-haves (in your choice of spouse) can lead to a no-show and acute disappointment of various kinds.

What prompted me to launch into this post was the tete-a-tete with dad vis-à-vis the anniversary of the day V and I said “I do”. (Last week was the first year anniversary of our wedding, again, which, ironically we spent apart. Not entirely out of choice but because of travel plans gone awry. However, the day was lovely, and the heart thankful for a year that tested our patience and love for each other, made us better friends.)

To sum up the second part of my inspiration, I have the following to list.

Love: with which it all started
Respect: sought
Humility:accepted
Laughter: very very important
Adventure: a part of our existence
Longing: of a time gone by
Frustration: expected
Differences: accepted
Acceptance: necessary
Change: essential
Respect: earned
Love: remains

That’s what the last one year of living together brought us. Which brings me to wonder what coming years hold for us?

As you can see from the list that the gone year was not all rosy, but then I would be a fool to expect that. Nonetheless, my expectations hovered in the vicinity of near bliss. You can’t blame a girl for dreaming.

But believe me, all the years apart when we envisaged marriage together, the picture we painted in our minds was nothing like the days we experienced in the last 365 days. He did not turn out to be the man I thought I had married, and maybe I wasn’t really what he had bargained for. The tussle to change the other was frustrating and well, we now realise, futile. It was the day one of us decided to give up this task, it became easier to smile and life together became more productive.

The one take away I cherish most is that no matter how hard you try, the only person who you can change is yourself. And let’s face it, I have resisted all attempts made by many to change me all my life. I did what I wanted on my terms and in my time. It was time I let another person decide for himself what he could or could not do.

And a precious gift the hubby brought in my life was to show me what unconditional love meant. To continue loving in spite of rabid rows, hurtful words, broken friendships, crisis of faith, sour pasta, tepid coffee, and much much more. To end every row with… “but you know I love you”. For a long time I envied those who seemed to live in a marital utopia, kept consoling myself that everyone had their skeletons to hide. It doesn’t matter anymore. What does is that every marriage has its own path to traverse. You accept the good and bad and make the best of it. For some this may sound like a resignation but believe me, I couldn’t have asked for a better lesson: one that brings us both a lot of happiness and makes us feel grateful for what we have.

Like I mentioned in the beginning of this post that I too came into this marriage with quite a few expectations, only to realise that there are no set rules in this game. You had to make a gamble, some are too naïve or wise enough to make it, others too cautious or wise enough not to make it.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Who's story is it anyway? Review: Hanuman's Ramayan

Ever since I began following Tulika and its works the one thought that kept propping itself up constantly was why did we as children not have access to such a variety of books to enjoy. I do admit that there were a few candidates that did a neat job of entertaining us at the time, but the variety was limited. Moreover, what ever we did read was very orthodox and subject to conformity. And it was the very absence of these two facets that impressed me most about Devdutt Pattanaik’s Hanuman’s Ramayan.

Out of the box- that’s what I thought of the narrative. That is because the book is a part of Tulika’s “Our Myth” series which claims to draw upon timeless stories from popular and marginal sources to gently question stereotypes and rigid notions. The series aims to carry forward the spirit of oral story telling and show how myths change and still endure, as the excerpt at the back of the book will tell you. A brilliant initiative, I say.

The story, the illustration – the entire presentation was not what I am used to seeing in a traditional children’s book. And that’s what sold Hanuman’s Ramayan to me, almost. I will explain the ambiguity in the previous statement a little later in the entry. What I would also like to add is that this review is purely from the point of an adult who has no access to perspective of the kids.

Nevertheless.

For starters I would like to mention the great work designer and illustrator Nancy Raj has executed with Hanuman’s Ramayan. The Madhubani art illustrations on the cover and within the book are quirky, interesting and colourful with the art work complimenting the text wonderfully. Kudos to the publishers for getting the entire package just right. Not too gray with text and the right amount of colour on the pages.

Now for the story. Unlike the impression that the title gives, the book is not about Hanuman’s version of the Ramayana. That concept serves only as a catalyst. The story is about what ensues when Valamiki is apprised of the fact that there lies another Ramayana that is superior to his newly finished epic.

The following pages follow Valmiki’s journey to puruse the work of a story teller who is in fact a mere character in his own literary genius. Once in Hanuman’s lair, Valmiki chances upon the monkey king’s narrative written the foliage of his natural habitat. As he reads the Ramayana, the ancient sage’s curiosity and jealousy are quickly doused as he sheds tears of pure joy. But there is another reason why he cries, as he admits to Hanuman. But I will not spoil the climax for you as therein lies the ultimate message of the story.

The narrative was interesting, humorous, colourful and easy to follow. The drama in the words and setting will keep the reader turning pages eagerly. I can imagine the young tykes pausing every once in a while to ask questions; the answers to which lie in the next page by the way.

I loved the fact that story went beyond the basics of right and wrong, good triumphing over evil, which was the wont of books I remember reading as a child. While those have their own place even in this time and age, the current book under review introduces to the young audiences to the value of doing something honourable without seeking a reward. And of course introduce them to the fact that there is not just one version of the beloved Ramayana or in my opinion of any narrative.

There is a complexity in the message that forces the reader to think. It chooses not to be pedantic, and talks of a higher meaning. As an adult, I can appreciate the message but would a young audience be able do so, I was not so sure. However, having read the sstoryteller's review here, I guess that point is moot. The one hiccup that the book had was the sign off. Personally I would have liked the story to end at the point where hanuman makes his explanation. The final commentary was not necessary and oversimplifies what would have been a perfect book.

This small anomaly apart, the book is one Tulika should be proud to have in its collection, as should the young readers and their parents.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

No net, Gain

For those who cared to notice, the blog was lying fallow for the past few days. The reason being that the homeland beckoned, the call which I heeded and once there, came the summons from God’s own country (which, upon reaching, I came to conclusion had been leased out to the devil this summer). However, as exaggeration is my wont, please ignore the rant. Because I did have a good time, in terms of catching up, sleeping, driving (which I got to do after a year of being driven around in public transport) around the merry country side and no access to the world (gone) wild web.

True to the nature of an addict I was shattered when I first was apprised of the fact that lightening had struck (literally) and the connection had gone poof… for two days I paced around like a wounded cheetah and on the third, realising it was futile to crib, I relaxed- literally and figuratively. Having done that, for the first time I realised how much of my life was stuck in the virtual world.

In the days of disconnect I reconnected else where. Got down to calling friends, meeting up with relatives, catching up on local news, enjoyed conversations face to face, ran around the courtyard with young cousins, sang songs driving down to the beach, a few of us gathered enough courage to go calf deep in the Arabian sea, jotted down recipes, spoilt the little niece rotten, got together with family and prayed; spent time introspecting sans distractions or disturbance of any kind. In all, I survived and how.

With no more job applications to access or Facebook rivals to envy, I sat down and counted my blessings. That of being a part of home and hearth where I was loved and cherished, of lives lived off the virtual world, where realities are so different from most of ours, of the complexity of this difference and the simplicity of acceptance that led to a sense of peace. Of understanding your role in the game higher powers play and appreciating someone’s ability to smile even when times are tough and most importantly to understand that one is lucky to have all that one has, and in the balance of things, your life is filled with positives.

Now those who think I have taken up sanyas and am bidding the world adieu; if only you were so lucky. All I am saying is that I finally understood the meaning of taking a break and loved every second of it. I am sure there many among you who know what I mean, but those who were stuck in the Ethernet like me, go ahead, let go… I promise the break would be worth it!