Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Fear

Have you any memory of when this insidious emotion seeped into you? This dark, acidic, bile colored thing called fear. Do you even remember a time when you were young and fearless? Nothing bad could ever happen to you. Then you became a parent! That new little life sucked out all your bravado, turning you into a perpetually on edge, dithering duh. You have lain awake at night since. You have spent hours staring vacantly at the clock, numb at the disastrous thoughts swimming around your head while the kid is out on the city roads in the middle of the night. You have dialled then disconnected their number thirty two times, sick at the switched off tone. The once  potent and flourishing you has aquired an abiding faith in the worst case scenario. You latch your suitcase with a thick metal chain in the First AC now. You cover your jewellery with a scarf or a dupatta when out. You submit yourself to medical checks regularly. You track your children like a hound. You plan and string up several standby options. You subscribe to insurance plans. You suffer anxiety at the smallest plan going awry. Some fears are specific in these parts. Your cup of tea may run cold. The gulab jamun may not be served hot. Your weekend movie booking may come up against a houseful sign. Your maid may vanish for days without notice. Your child may be unmarried at 30 years. You just might bump into a relative when between jobs. God forbid, should India lose to Pakistan! What are we to do with ourselves? The air rings with, "Be careful. Don't get run over, mugged, hijacked, maltreated, swindled, rejected, used, abused!" So paralysed are we.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Generation

Have you met anyone socially and not asked them what their children do? Our
culture tells us that the kids are our most visible validation. Their success and failure is ours. Our primary duty is to them, until our last breath. Anything we do for ourselves has to come after their needs have been met. It is fairly common to base retirement plans on the needs of our children. We want to continue to be available to them long past a reasonable expectation and even desire, in some cases. There is an active myopia amongst parents today that will not permit them to see that their progeny may be crying for space and independence and liberty. Freedom to be average. To live life from a back pack. To roam the world. To not shoulder family baggage. To just be, for heavens sake. To shake off the suffocating stranglehold of religion. To run from the forced socialising with extended family. To be released of expectations. To not have to plan, project, invest, save. To not be knocked down by a mace called marriage. To not bring kids into this world and give them the uninformed parenting they were themselves subjected to. To earn just enough. To not repay house and car loans. To not lose steam in the rat race. To not have to worry about standing out. To shun brilliance for contentment. To reject competition for an inclusive mediocrity. To listen only to the music of their own hearts. To drop the mask and be themselves. To be able to scream, abuse, love and experiment. To take risks. What's wrong with that? You grew up in an age of meagre means. They have matured being waited upon by proud parents and grandparents. Don't cry now. You enabled the magnificent millenial. iGen and Gen Alpha to follow!

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Expert

Have you ever received dieting advice from an overweight well wisher? A cardiologist may have taken a smoking break in your periphery! How about a real estate broker who has never owned a house himself? There are therapists spouting diagnosis from their personally troubled perches. Even Freud, for all the ammunition he left the Psych community with, could not “cure” his own daughter of lesbianism! Who hasn’t survived religious fanatics at home with hearts as closed as a government office on the weekend? The digital literacy has made this phenomenon happier. Back then, only the Reader’s Digest used to be quoted for illustration and by the select who read it. Today, the experts are crawling out of frames and beadings. We have all “surfed, self-informed, read and converted” in the soft pool of our bedside lamps, hunched over our TABs and Laptops and Smartphones. The virtual world enjoys a greater credibility with us than our own eyes and gut. How many times have you reached a spot and shaken your head in disbelief because the GPS insists your destination is at least 80 meters away? Traditions seem comic, our immediate family is not with it enough, the experts are obviously not practicing what they preach…we place our faith in online wisdom put there by strangers looking for business. Of course, there is a lot of information and ease of transaction and empowering communication Google favors us with.  But the monster is not invested in any of us personally. On crucial life conflicts, it will tell us exactly what we want to hear. You can pretty much rationalize any and every one of your pet notions out there in the online court. You come away feeling in the right. This expert is not your grandma to say to you, “Don’t smoke, drink or have free sex!”

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Zone

Have you been in the zone ever? The world recedes, a cacoon of intense concentration envelops you, the sense of the moment is heightened and the light is sharper. You could be painting, composing, writing or simply cooking. It is just the two of you…you and the task consuming you. There is an alignment of desire and outcome, a silver amalgam of talent and opportunity. You don't hear someone calling, you chafe at interruptions, you want the world to still. You are creating! You dig deep into the innards of your being and draw out a complex stream of thoughts, emotions and impressions. Was this raw material lying in your head? Or did you pluck it from the air? What levers did you push to synchronise it all into that one melting melody, that life like portrait, that best selling book, that breath taking finish at the ribbon, that gutsy adventure, that defiant flight, that stubborn come back? How does science explain inspired actions? Or emotional drive? Where is man's  original stock of humanity? What are we constantly reflecting? Whose manifestation are we? 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Remedy

Have you ever blamed a compliment on your saree  for the blob of malai kofta curry you dropped on the pallu subsequently? The evil eye! Your admirer's  expansiveness turns to guilty dismay, "I should have gushed less!" You recover shakily to assure, "It is alright, I will have it drycleaned, " but the moment is marred. As a rule, Indians have a colicky equation with admiration. We are spasmodic, both at giving and receiving it. How often have you drooled over a friend's silver bracelet only to be hastily assured it is a cheap imitation? She fears your envy! Or doesn't want you to feel any lesser. "What a gorgeous bag!" you exclaim. The wearer splutters, "Oh, it is very old, a hand me down from an aunt." If sounding ungracious helps save mishaps, so be it. We must be the world's most comorbid race. We acknowledge envy exists and  guard ourselves with mantras, chillies, limes, prayers and charms. We spit, make frantic signs, rip white rags into seven strips,  swirl camphor smoke and emanate a range of audio effects to banish ill will. Families store and apply these formulas as traditional, customized arsenal. A runny tummy? Out springs a fistful of rock salt. Falling grades? Water and kumkum. Emotional rejection? Wait, we have the perfect poultice of mustard seeds. And the all time, all favourite Indian domestic deterrent to rival the Tsar Bomba? A black dab from the adoring eye.

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Donkey

Have you niggled yourself occasionally that you failed in life on
the projection front? That you remained a donkey at work rather than a peacock. All plodding, no show. You were not street smart enough to give your boss a peak into your late night home work and traffic lights notations. You were raised to believe that hard work paid! No one said anything about its qualifying visibility! You laboured over a near flawless report but there it was, your plain plastic cover tucked under your rival's ethnic themed folder on the Vice President's table. While you were racing back from a last minute administration tie up, he was rounding off the "With your blessings" routine. Your sincere interactive sessions with your juniors paled in comparison with  his resourceful hobnobbing at the executive table. While you flailed to keep up on a sputtering stream of organizational loyalty, he flew on the asics of unadulterated self-interest. You kicked yourself every September when report cards were being rolled out. Why didn't you update your boss more regularly? Why did you get boxed into a hole? Why did you get defensive when being criticised? Why didn't you raise your head from the grindstone once in a while? Then along came the man himself one day, asking you to stand in for him at a graduation speech while he went globe trotting to pitch business proposals. He tossed you his prepared text, "Here, should you want to use it. The topic is: Hard work does not speak for itself. You do!"

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Space (Micro fiction 2)

Sartaj did not commit. He liked to keep an exit route free. Was this fence sitting of his out of concern for any disappointment to the negotiating partner should the proposed plan fall through? Or was it just self-preservation, honed to a craft! Ira could never tell considering she was a study in contrast, with her arms held wide open to all that life could bring her. She said yes to plans, projects, ideas, trips, requests, tasks; quite a ‘bring it on’ woman. His mantra was, “Count me in, ninety nine percent”, while she was in the habit of declaring, “Let’s do this!”

“Darling, the Fernandez’s are inviting us over for Christmas cake, shall I say yes?” Ira would begin tentatively and pat would come the response, “Tell them, we will try our level best!” This shadow committing peppered the mundane of their lives together too. Ira had lost count of the days Sartaj would first give his word about an evening walk together or a movie over the weekend only to take it right back as the hour drew close. The reasons could be anything from, “I have work to catch up with” to “I have to wash my hair” or just plain “I feel like taking a nap.”

“Sartaj, we should forewarn the family we are reaching in a week’s
time so that they can make their plans”, Ira was uncomfortable with the surprises they routinely sprung on their kith and kin. “I don’t like disappointing them. What if our plans change at the last minute for some reason? You know what my work is like!” Sartaj would defend his maddening method. It could be frustrating at times. Ira came from a family that flirted with plans freely and had no trouble keeping schedules and coming clean with commitments. It bothered her that she could not confirm to her mother any vacation plans until they were actually on their way. “You know how it is Mum, we will let you know as the trip evolves. But you should go right ahead with your calendar, don’t miss out on anything just waiting for us to firm up,” she habitually kept her folks in a limbo.

Their couple dialogue followed a map of maybes and perhaps. Ira knew better than to get her hopes up or look forward to anything too much. Their friendship had taught her a certain equanimity of excitement. She had also started to break away from the socially prescribed couple theme to assume responsibility for her own fun and pleasure. They had begun to settle into a rhythm of an easy and unfettered individuality. It was not unusual for her to watch a movie alone when he perceived a threat to his pressures. She did not seek his approval for every action of hers, at times he learnt of her adventures after they had been had!

“When do you two meet at home guys? You always seem to be at two different places! I see you walking alone too,” their friends were fond of observing. They might even have suspected a fault line somewhere. The two would joke about it, “Sartaj, we should occasionally act lovey dovey in public, the next you know there will be talk of our divorce eligibility!” and “How about you seeing me off to work lovingly and being home when I return so the neighbors get the right message!” The pair had trimmed their togetherness to an optimum functionality. What had begun as varying energy levels for living had ended up giving each the permission to plug into their personal selves in a safe space.

Ira discovered a hidden talent for linguistics; Sartaj found he had
the notes for some stunning vocals. They used their time and energy away from each other to expand and grow. It added rich and authentic nuances to their hours together. “I have to wait for my husband. He hates going anywhere without me. I so love lazing in my bed first thing in the morning but he insists I come out and have bed tea with him in the lawn!” Ira had several awe struck friends, they marveled at the autonomy she had found in her marriage. “You are so lucky Ira to have such an understanding and accommodating husband,” they were fond of reminding her.

Ira would nod with the same vigor as she would use to reach behind and pat her own back, “Hats off to me! Rather than bemoan the perfect dancer, I did good to learn the dance!”