Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Letter to a 16 year old daughter

Dear Daughter,

Happy Birthday Baby. I love you now and always will. 

As the clock struck in the midnight, one sixteen year old was added to the world.. ....and more importantly, to our world. It sure changed things for us. How does it feel to you? Any different from what you felt yesterday or day before? None, is it? You are sixteen. That’s what turning up a certain age is all about. It’s like you have the license to do many things but don’t know what to fuss over or where to go. You are like an empty page on which many stories await to be written (could turn into a bestseller someday, watch out for it honey). Then there would be things beyond your care while others will be question of life and death. Each emotion will demand equal attention and the whole world will be out there to be conquered. Different people and issues will pull you in different directions. Guys around you will tell you things which you would willingly believe. Nothing wrong with these, sweetheart. Perfectly natural, I would say. However like all products (with or without “i”), age too has its instructions for handling and do’s and don’ts. Nothing wrong with this either. With each passing year, there would be so many other things you would want to try and accomplish. You will, I am sure.

We never realize when we grow that each passing day is adding to that one most important thing in life - experience. Each deed is added to this repertoire called "as per my experience". Always remember you are the person you are today because of all that you did yesterday and on all the days that you have lived so far. Good or bad, doesn’t matter. Those are labels depending on how you view it today and nothing else. Experiences are like one of those things – whether you like it or not, want it or not, appreciate it or not – they just, plain, happen. However you can always choose to script it the way you want. Celebrate your successes but be proud, sensitive and respectful to your “near misses in life” because achievements are applauded by all. Bloopers can be appreciated only by the one who makes it. Give equal importance to both if you want to have the wings to fly but would want a perfect landing on every return. Think from your mind but always listen to your heart. It might be on the wrong side but always shows you the right path. Some say that intelligent learn from others mistakes but then you get to grasp only the result. You miss out on the story that lead to it and all the other learning’s associated with it. So choose carefully where you would like to test waters first before you leap and where you would like to take the plunge at the word go. Most importantly, pray for the wisdom to know the difference!! It’s my firm belief that all lives are well lived. Results may or may not be as desired but the journey can never be in vain.

When we walk on the path called life, we mostly stop to take rest which is when we celebrate our birthdays each year. Good day to party. Then on passing certain places, we stop just to look around and take in whatever we can, to carry them in our hearts to inspire us. There are times when we also need to sit back and pause and look back on the life lived. Looking back on a lifetime of meaningful existence. That’s when these milestone years like 16, 18, 21, 30 etc. come to be truly understood. When they happen, we celebrate but don’t experience any immediate change. The change is not in us but in the way people treat us or view us when we turn a certain age. Remember, you are beautiful and incredible in all ages. When growing up, different ages will demand you to be courageous, mature, hold on, let go and make choices, sometimes difficult too. Being courageous doesn't mean that you have to be fearless all the time or let nobody see your emotions or take tough calls. It just means that there are important things in life which will have to take precedence over others. While you start doing something’s, you might have to stop doing others. Love for some things or people will be stronger than others. In the landscape of your life some objects will have brighter colors or hues than the others. That’s what aging is all about, my love.

So don’t let any pressure bog you down or any hurt keep you from giving your all. Don’t let the fear of losing keep you from playing the game of life. It takes courage to give all that you possess for that one passion you want to pursue. It takes lot of strength to give love when nobody cares. It takes nerve of steel to be true. It takes attitude to be who you are and not feel guilty about it. So be you. Just be you.

I guess I should stop now. I could go on forever, you know.

Once again, happy birthday girl.    


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Why now......

It’s for the first time that I am writing on a current issue on my blog. The reason being the barbarianism and the horrific act that the nation woke upto, is very much a product of the absence of values that I have been talking about. Why blame the police or the law makers or for that matter even judiciary. This is a systemic failure at one level but the root cause is somewhere else. When you point one finger at others, three are pointing back at you. Want to know where? Us. Our homes. Our up-bringing. Shocked? I am not.

For last 48 hrs everyone worth his or her salt, from civil citizens to media to journalists to opinion makers have been crying hoarse against the lapses in protection of the women in public places. Has anyone bothered looking inside homes? What about our safe and secured residence? I am not talking of sexual abuse at home. It’s a gory and a separate issue.

In this entire noise, what amazes me is the “blind spot” that people have regarding their own lives. It was rightly pointed out by one of the panelists in one of the shows that this act of assault has got nothing to do with sexuality. It’s about dominance. It’s about proving one’s superiority as the stronger sex. It’s about “teaching lesson” to women who do not toe the line. It’s about having fun at the cost of a girl. Are the Munni’s, Shiela’s of the world listening and watching?

Every time a mother gives an extra spoon of ghee to the son and not to a daughter, she is telling the son – “you are more important and need strength”
Every time there is an expectant mother or mother- in-law rejoicing at the birth of a son and not so happy on birth of a daughter, she is telling the society – “see now I also have a male heir and he will carry forward the family mantle.” 
Every time a mother advocates for a son to be admitted to school and daughter is made to stay at home and help her, she is telling the son – “you need to be educated because you will go out in the world and earn a living”
Every time a mother shields a son who is coming late (not for any legitimate reason) drunk, she is telling the son – “it’s ok. After all you are not creating a scene outside and everyone needs to chill out and how does it matter as long as he is home.” 
Every time a mother-in-law looks the other way when a daughter-in-law approaches her after being abused and not being shown the respect she deserves as a wife, she is telling the son – “you are not doing any wrong by neglecting and not supporting/respecting your wife, after all she is the one who picks up fights and wants to be treated respectfully and shown consideration to. What big dreams! What expectations! ” 
Every time when a married son (who could be alcoholic too, how does it matter anyways) with a family to feed, sits at home and is fed while a daughter who has passed the “acceptable” marriage age is made to feel miserable every day, the mother is telling the son – “don’t worry, you will get a job today or tomorrow but this girl is a huge burden on my head. Why doesn’t she go or better still die?” 
Every time a mother is very proud of the fact that she splurged and gave a huge “dowry” to her deserving and caring son-in-law in marriage, she is telling – “even if my daughter is educated and has spent equal number of hours (or may be lot more) in making a mark for herself, you my son-in-law are superior to her, so I need to show off the entire world how fortunate I am to land such an eligible groom for my daughter.”  
Every time a mother-in-law gives preference and shows more concern for a daughter-in-law who has come with more dowry or whose parents have splurged in the marriage, she is telling – “see how capable the parents are to have given away the daughter in such pomp and show. It’s not what the daughter-in-law will turn out to be but what she got with herself that matters. Content does not matter, the covering does.” 

It does not end here. Look within the family, you will find many more cases in point. Male dominance, who starts it all? Ask yourselves. Who reinforces it? Ask yourselves. These Frankenstein's are all in-house productions/creations (with lots of blind love and irresponsible caring) and not landed from Mars or Jupiter.    

Where does police come in this? Where does public administration come in this? Where does the strict law and penalty come to play in this? We are talking about corrections and preventive measures in the civil society, what about the culture at home? As women please observe your families, immediate as well as extended, and I am sure you will spot them everywhere, either budding or full-grown.

Do we raise voice when a brother abuses the sister-in-law? 
Do we raise voice when a relative or a father or a brother or a husband or a son indulges in corrupt practices? 
Do we report insults or violence perpetrated within the four walls of our “temple” called house? 
Do we raise voice and ask about the whereabouts, when a son comes home, sloshed and in an inebriated state, late in the night? 
Do we raise voice or stop our four year old kids from dancing and singing “laga le saiyyan fevicol se” or “tu cheez badi hai mast mast” kinda item songs. So cute is the reaction and it will be recorded. 
Do we raise our voice and educate our children in respecting women when they refer to them as “maal” or “kya item hai” on the streets? 
Do we raise voice when we see our husband, son or brother indulging in rash driving and having no regard for the law of the land? 

Again the instances are endless. However, the precautions and preventions are not.

Instead of looking around for legislation and laws, start from home, family, and building etc. Laws will prevent crimes perpetuated by adults but the beginnings or the roots lie in our very households which require no police or constitutional law. We are the law makers in our families. If we can’t control our own family with few members, why blame others my dear “civil and cultured” friends. Art and literature are mirrors of what is acceptable and not acceptable in a society. You cannot create more than you can see or think. In name of entertainment and creative freedom, when the lines of decency are crossed, why shout when same happening on roads? 

It may sound harsh but it’s the truth. Only when we start punishing and controlling deviant and dominating behaviors’ at home, can we start shouting slogans or holding demonstrations in the public. Gandhiji said “be the change you want to see in others”. After committing crime culprits rush home or take shelter with the known. Please act then. It’s someone else today. It could be me or you tomorrow. Stop now and report before it’s too late.

 Mother of a 12 year old daughter

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What happened to me?

It’s that time of the year when one starts preparing a report card of how did the year go by. Very few would grade themselves as A+ or A. Most of us would put B or C because we feel that things did not go as desired or expected. Something more could have been achieved or accomplished. This is because grading is always done with the mind. Listen carefully, the heart says, not to worry, New Year is coming, and then you will do better. “Next year toh, I will give my best and things will be great”. Pause and watch. This conversation does not happen with a stranger or a neighbor or your boss. This is what we tell ourselves.  After all New Year resolutions are legendary.

The enthusiasm is infectious and the hope assumes larger than life status. Nothing wrong with this feeling but somewhere in all this planning we lose focus on what we have already brought to fruition. What we are today is because of what we did yesterday and day before and so on. Even the heart misses this important truth at times.

For us, everything automatically shifts to a time that will come and with a whoosh of a magic wand make everything right. Everything has to work with precision. Clock-work precision is how I would put it. Every moment and act has to be accounted for. Breathing is happening but not living. Do we ever stop for a second and ask ourselves “what happened to me?” The most difficult search is the search for oneself. For all the rest searches you might find an address or a clue but if “me” is lost, it’s very difficult to find. Hold on to it.

If we are given an opportunity to appraise our lives (not work), I am sure most of us would always find an empty corner that requires filling. Sometimes I wonder why we are so hard on ourselves even when we know that we shouldn’t be. I have many a times experienced that the more I resist any emotion or person, the more it is in-face. It’s everywhere I go. The moment I am like “ok, tell me” or “fine, I am not happy and very angry”, it turns around and just goes away. Vanish. We are able to step away from a person, anxiety, fear (for that matter any emotion) only when we can accept it as it is. Literally “step-away”. Look at situations, feelings, people as if you are having an out of body experience and you are observing yourself. You may ask “Is this what I want” or “Is it all that I have” or “Will these things really make a difference to my life 5 years down the line” or “Is this the set of people with whom I would want to age or spend time with, for the rest of my life” etc. The day you find answers to questions like these, you will feel calmer. Believe me if we knew that today is the last day of our life, the entire perspective to living changes. Priorities change. Like and dislikes change. Even people with whom you would want to hang out will change. If we accept death as the only truth in life, we can start living.  

Acceptance of what is there with you and around you are what bring meaning to life. Things and people we can see and touch and feel. What is not there in your hand is not there at all. What is not in front of your eyes in not there. Money stashed away in far away lockers or apartments bought in distant lands or having big, wealthy friends will never give you the kind of happiness which will last. It’s only your family whose love and trust comes with a “no expiry date” stamp. They will stand by you when everyone else leaves.

So we can go easy and enjoy what we have accomplished so far in this year and keep the next year free from the burden of any expectations. Just bring it in. We should learn how not to get into a space in life where we will be forced to ask “what happened to me”.