Is it all about self appraisal?

I know of an old woman, frail, stout, who walks with a slight limp. Her face, has fine and bold lines that endorse the hard life she’s had. Bringing up two girls, providing them with education, inculcating cultural values, values of compassion, regard, and respect. She was slightly fortunate, in that she had a husband to support her financially, while she took care of the household. They bought a house and rented a portion of it as a means of permanent income. A decent amount of assets in the form of gold and bank balance. But now, all she has is the thaali and the wedding ring that were given to her by her husband 40 years back. No, she has not lost all of that on gamble, nor has she spent all of that on her children. But one by one she has been selling her valuables to provide a few widows with their daily needs in a small village. Those widows who have lost in the gamble of life. I adore her, for her selflessness. Whenever I look at her, I feel so belittled and I pity myself for just showing pity on the widows living a stranded life in a remote village with no hope about tomorrow, I only adore the wonderful woman who is trying to make a difference in the lives of those widows, I am only being inspired momentarily and forgetting about the great deeds an ordinary woman has been doing. No one but I know about this humble woman because she approached me seeking help to sell the few furniture that was left in her house. She asked me if I could buy some. She never told me why she wanted to sell the furniture until I asked her. She was selling them as she felt they were really not required for a person to survive. She only wanted some money to provide for the basic needs of those women. Yet no one knows about her and her selflessness.

I also know of a conceited woman, who cares little about her home, cares more about her looks, her manicure, her pedicure, her hair cut from a particular and skilled hair stylist. Who cares little for the guests at home and orders in food, has two maids, one to feed her daughter and the other to feed her and her husband. And of course, a maid to sweep and mop the house. Who rolls up her window when a hungry child or an old woman stretches arms at a busy signal. Whose arguments revolve around emancipation of rights. Who flaunts a two month executive MBA from an IIM to be something like a four year course with her education status on Facebook being “Studied at IIM”. She also speaks about the change she has been trying to bring about in the society; in reality, something that has been only in her mind. A few of those dreams were piloted for the sake of publicity on a few scapegoats. Starting one venture today and moving on to another that gave her more visibility. Yet she is touching lives. Her circle of friends and a large number of the population knows her as the face of the 21st century woman, a woman who inspires and moves a hundred and more souls. Who’s sacrificed everything and more….. The newspapers have a picture of hers in four columns, the proud face of the 21st century woman, who has been posting the newspaper cuttings of her article that appeared in a regional magazines on different social media sites . Yes, she’s got more than 500 likes, and many an inspirational applause. You get goosebumps when you read about the woman she is, and yes you also get goosebumps if you happen to know her close, for the woman who she is not.

Isn’t it sad that the world has come to nothing but self appraisal and self marketing. Is there anything genuine at all about the hundreds of so-called achievers. Is it all about advertising yourself in social media, hogging the limelight, leading a glamorous life. Are we really giving something to the society. Would a person who is genuinely concerned about the society and wants to bring about change even bother about talking about it? How does it matter?

Never give all the heart

NEVER give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that’s lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.

WB Yeats

True as it is and nothing else is true than this, that love cannot be perennial. Love evolves and love fades and that’s the way of love. Fortunate are those that have left love incomplete for there is always a yearning for completeness thus leaving a small piece of the heart still with desire….. the circle of love does not complete… there is always some love left if left incomplete and unfulfilled. So, never give all the heart.

Can love be demanded

I grew up with the notion of one love and true love. As a child, I used to get this dream of my prince arriving on a white horse, the most handsome and divine looking creature on the earth. Robed in white, my prince charming had the most beguiling smile and the perfect features. The white horse gallops in pride and trots around me. The prince alights from the horse and approaches me. I stretch my hands out to feel his, I then slip off the rock I am seated on and lands face down on the earth, tasting the mud in my mouth and feeling the pain in my body, I look up to see around but there is no sight of anybody. So my dream was always about my pursuit of the prince who is as close to embracing me, but leaves before I could even feel his finger tips. The picture of my prince was as clear as the water of the purest of rivulets. This often deterred me from befriending anyone in college, as I knew in the most vulnerable teenage years I could have been drawn towards someone else and not the prince of my dreams.

I also believe that whatever happens in our life has a purpose. There is constant learning in every incident, in every breath. Its just a matter of time when you will realise, what to assimilate and what to discard. Fear and sorrow come from insecurity.

Memories Unlimited

Creativity is at its best when you are in the worst of emotional turmoil….its amazing how agony, solitude, resentment, and dejection help weave creative thoughts and ideas in the labyrinth of your mind. Its also amazing to see how your present day woes in one way or the other connect with your past memories. The transformation and transportation of the mind is out of bounds to what you can imagine.

Memories you never knew existed flash before your self. You had lived those moments but you never knew you had… at times like these, a pain in your leg reminds you of a similar pain you endured years ago when your grandfather took you on his bicycle to your nursery. You were seated on the thin rod on the front of his Atlas bicycle. Your legs intertwined from either sides of the bicycle rod inclined beside the peddle, at times the peddle rubbed against your legs and you lifted both the legs in the same crossed manner. Then when that position caused discomfort you got the legs back to where they originally were. Its not that he could not afford a tiny seat for you, but the thought just dint go on him.

Every morning you waited for your pink plastic basket bag to be packed. You did not bother to check your books and stationery, but made sure the biscuits and lunch box were neatly stacked. You loved to ring the  bicycle bell for no reason just to be hit by grandfather on your head, and then duck and feel victorious, as his aim would have been lost to the bicycle handle. Although the seating arrangement on the bicycle was not the best of comfort you wanted to have, you did not utter pain as you did not want him to be sad. You did not want to utter pain as the torture of wading through the waters in the tiny natural canal that was formed as a result of incessant rains and acres of paddy fields on either sides was not rewarding.  The canals that were home to the fish, toads, worms, pebbles, thorns, and occasionally those harmless snakes did not fascinate you much. The drops of water that refused to slip off the huge colocasia leaves, the tiny droplets that fell on those leaves collected in the natural groove formed in the palm of the huge outspread leaves and looked like mercury extracted from a thermometer always amused you. The reflection of the suns’s rays that refracted through those huge droplets taught you the first lessons of the behavior of light.

After an adventurous morning tread, you were always late to school. Grandfather increased the peddling speed, when he heard the bell ring from a distance. But you are completely at ease, still trying to comprehend why the colocasia leaves were so fond of the water droplets. Their love fascinated you; the hide’ n’ seek game they played was fun, you thought. The droplets never left a trace of their trail on the leaves. There was such mutual understanding and co-existence in nature. You are suddenly awakened by a push on your back. You struggle to unwind your legs and land on the ground. You free the basket handle off the bicycle handle, ring the bell once again and scoot.

Lyrics – In the living years by Mike+The Mechanics

Every generation
Blames the one before
And all of their frustrations
Come beating on your door

I know that I’m a prisoner
To all my Father held so dear
I know that I’m a hostage
To all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got

You say you just don’t see it
He says it’s perfect sense
You just can’t get agreement
In this present tense
We all talk a different language
Talking in defence

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye

So we open up a quarrel
Between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future
It’s the bitterness that lasts

So Don’t yield to the fortunes
You sometimes see as fate
It may have a new perspective
On a different day
And if you don’t give up, and don’t give in
You may just be OK.

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye

I wasn’t there that morning
When my Father passed away
I didn’t get to tell him
All the things I had to say

I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
I’m sure I heard his echo
In my baby’s new born tears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye

Favourite Poems ## Funeral Blues– W.H.Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

The weakness of not being able to say ‘no’

Scenario 1

You are the punctual types, and you are generally present at the meeting room three minutes before the meeting begins. People who have occupied the meeting room you are headed to dread your peeking head, when they still have three more minutes to go. But you like to make them conscious, so you trot up and down in front of the meeting room, occasionally raising your brows and looking through the door.

So one day you are headed for a similar ‘meeting’ act, and you stop by to call a fellow meeting goer. He asks you for two minutes telling he will follow. In the same cube is your friend who just came back after maternity leave. You, being your courteous self, say “Hi, welcome back, how’s the kid”. And then the saga begins.

“Hey, thanks for asking. You know what, I feel so guilty leaving my kid in the creche. So what my husband and I have decided is to leave the kid at my mother’s place, which is a few hours drive from here. I go there twice a week, so he is fine.” You start getting nervous, as its not more than 5 minutes for the meeting to begin, and you are still on your way. It will easily take two minutes to reach the next floor where the meeting room is. “So how did you manage dear? Did you have anyone to take care of your kid or you left her in a creche. “? You only hear half the things your good friend has utterred. And you say ” yeah yeah”, partially stealing a glance at your watch. Your friend is confused, she asks to clarify, ” You mean you had someone to take care of the kid or you had to leave the kid in a creche?” No, actually yes yes, but no”. She is not convinced, and shrinks her brows, and continues. “You know what happened the other day, the mothers leave sick kids in the creche and my child fell sick too. And in the evening when I got back to the creche, I saw him lying all by himself. That sight just did not go away from my mind and that’s when I decided I will not leave my kid at the creche. ”  You totally empathise with your friend, but above all you empathise on your self that you are not able to ask to be excused. You cannot be late to the meeting. Meanwhile, you message the meeting organiser telling that you are held up with some urgent work (a lie that you hate to tell) and that you will join in another 10 minutes. Because, considering the level of details to which your friend is taking you, you make a rough estimate of the time left of the conversation, which you forcedly and unfortunately got into.

Then goes the story, of the nanny stealilng your friend’s kid’s biscuits and napkin; and the story of the kid’s habit of shedding mucus being ridiculed. Your tolerance level has reached it zenith and now there is nothing that can hold you from erupting into a “can we have this conversation later” statement. Thankfully, your fellow meeting goer, who just slipped out of his seat to attend to nature’s call is back. “Yes, he will come to my rescue”, just when you thought he will, he becomes part of your conversation, where he shares his experience as a father and bringing up not one but three kids.

But duty comes in between courtesy and you do not want to rudely or abruptly cut the conversation. So you start receeding from the cube one step after another and find yourself in the aisle between the cubes. Given a chance, you would just disappear at a blink. Just as your friend turns back to look for her slippers beneath her chair you scoot. And you herald your victory. And lo, you are ten minutes late for the meeting. A lesson learnt the hard way. ” Never say hi to anyone while you are heading for a meeting” !!!!!

Man, Woman, Woman, Woman

The music faded and the RJ’s voice came out enthusiastic but with a hint of bravado as if he wanted to prove to his listeners that he really was an alpha male. Nitin put away the cake he was eating and wondered when Nidhi would wake up, it was 9 already, true it was a Saturday, but it would’ve been a good day for a walk in the park followed by a hearty breakfast at Koshy’s. His phone buzzed, a message, Nitin walked across to where the phone was lying by the tv, read the message, smiled and put the phone back. He walked to the kitchen with the remains of the cake and dumped the whole lot in the sink, as he was washing his hands there, he remembered that he had not deleted the message from Arpita, if Nidhi finds it, and she had been peeking at his phone more often now, she’d throw a fit. Nitin went back to the hall, wiping his hands on his tshirt, picked up the phone and deleted the message. There was nothing unusual or secretive about the messages, but better safe than sorry, thought Nitin. Ten years of marriage had made him wiser. Peace is all that matters at this stage when one has taken up spirituality in all respects, personal pleasure is sublime but only secondary.

Nitin tired recollecting what Arpita mentioned when they last met. A poem that struck his heart and went all the way down to his soul. Something about Ithaka something like “When you set out for Ithaka……The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops, angry Poseidon – do not fear them.” Nitin jumped up from where he was sitting and grabbed his smart phone. Typed ‘Ithaka’ in Google. And found the results. “Yes. Poem by Constantine”. ” I love my phone”, said he. It took him a while to transform from the conventional phone user to a smart phone user. Not bad. Its really worth the shift. You have everything you need at a finger touch distance. Think about a recipe, and there you go. Your friends argue about the protagonist in a play, and there you go you have all the proof on Wikipedia. Arguing has never been so much fun. Nitin loved the following lines “And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn’t deceived you. So wise you have become, of such experience,
that already you’ll have understood what these Ithakas mean.” So deep and so profound were these words that he wanted to memorise them. Or were they actually profound, or was it because Arpita shared and spoke about those verses he felt so? Not knowing what he was sure about Nitin closed his eyes and just smiled. For identical twins, Nidhi and Arpita were the rarest kind – they couldn’t stand each other. It seemed like they had not forgiven each other for something that had happened in their mother’s womb. In numerous photos that adorned the wall at their parent’s house, the twins sported identical clothes and identical scowls, smiles were found only if the other twin was at a sufficient distance. Their father always said that the pinnacle of sibling rivalry was the one between identical twins, Nitin agreed.

His state of trance was interrupted when Nidhi called out to him asking if he had not switched on the Geyser. “It’s freaking cold… the water. Have you not had a bath yet? Dont you know we are getting late for the event, I have to be there before the guests come in, and you dint even wake me up………” on and on went Nidhi. Nitin had learnt to become calm and the spiritual lessons he had been taking and the books he had been reading are actually doing magic!! Wow, I never knew I could be so composed, Nitin smiled.
The ringing  of the doorbell shattered the smile, Nitin opened the door and his sister walked in and threw her kitbag on the sofa. “I thought you were in your room” he said, “I went to the gym, am not a bag of lazy bones like you and your missus” she mocked.

“I heard that” came Nidhi’s voice from her bedroom

“Hey Akshu, don’t call her lazy, you know she hates it” Nitin whispered.

“Just don’t tell her I called her a lazy bitch, you lazy bastard” Akshita said smiling, in not quite a whisper.

Nitin threw a cushion at her, Akshita ducked the throw and went into her room, slamming the door behind her. Nitin sat on the sofa and glanced at the newspaper, skimming the headlines. Flipping the pages of the newspaper, his eyes encountered something on his favourite page–the spiritual column. “Hmmm, its about relationships, interesting” thought Nitin

The heading read “Only with unfulfilled love breathes romance”. “Thats actually very true, I do love Nidhi, and cannot see her in pain. But does my heart beat for her as it used to when we were not married? Not sure though. Why does it have to be like that. Why cant we be married and still be in love. Is it because we are designated to live the rest of our lives with an individual, that we take everything for granted. There’s an entire life ahead of us, and we sure can find some time for love and romance at leisure. But now, we really do not have the time for all that silly stuff, is that true”? Or is marriage the culmination of all those beautiful feelings?

“Sir”, “Sir”, “Sir”……Nitin was so deep  in thoughts that his ears did not pay heed to Nagarjuna who had come to water the plants. He was peeking through the window behind Nitin and calling out to him. At the fourth call, Nitin got startled and turned back. “Oh Nagarjuna, when did you come? why are you late today? All ok at home?”.

“Yes sir, everthing’s alright, just that I could not sleep much because of the little one, who was crying all night due to the pain around her abdomen, which was operated last week. I told Sarada to sleep as she has to take care of the kid the whole day”. Nitin wondered “Is this true love, or is this sacrifice. Nagarjuna, a daily labourer toils whole day doing magic with cement and lets his wife have a peaceful sleep in the night, while he takes care of the ailing baby, and again goes to work the next day”. “When have I last done such a noble act”, thought he.

“Sir, but there is a sad news, one of the fish we bought last week is dead”. “Oh Jeez, how did that happen? He was a happy and active fish. Did it overeat or did something external kill him”, exclaimed Nitin. While Nitin and Nagarjuna were examining and investigating into the death, Nitin’s phone rang.

The Past

Nitin  He’s 28 years old, works as a HR consultant for a MNC. Nidhi is his first love, married at 26.

Akshita

Nidhi

Arpita