The Pathbreakers – Remembering My Grandmothers


 

This is a  cross-generational and cross-cultural story of two immensely talented women born in late 1800s and early 1900s in two different states, communities, castes. I emphasize on these terms because in those times they hugely impacted the lives of people especially the women.  What makes these two women , my paternal and maternal grandmothers, special is their ‘non-conformist’  stance. They were ahead of their times and charted their paths irrespective of the brickbats from the highly patriarchal setup in which they were born and brought up. They inspired three generations of women in my family and many others whose lives they touched.

I wanted to write about my grandmothers for two reasons. As you read you will see the stark contrast between their lives  and the choices they made.  The one who got higher education and exposure settled into a homebound life and the other who was uneducated or less educated perhaps ( only home schooling if any) stepped out of her patriarchal home and lived an independent life on her terms.  Somewhere while listening about their lives the thought that emerged was that financial independence or education was secondary when it came to them taking a stand about their lives. It was an inner fire, a deep commitment to self and a strong will that led them to break the ‘codes of conduct and living’ that the society had imposed on them.

For one the family support  played a major role and for the other rebelling against the family worked.  As I look at their lives I see  a somewhat similar pattern in the next two generations of women. Here I mainly speak of my mother and me.

 

My maternal grandmother ( Aaji) Vardha Moghe

Aaji was born in early 1900s in a a middle class, educated chitrapur saraswat brahmin family. This community was known for its liberal vies in those times too. Her elder brother (20 yrs senior) was the principal of Pune Agricultural College.  He was the first Indian to hold that position after his British predecessor. Well known in the education system for being an excellent teacher he wrote a book – Aamchi sheti (Our Farming) – in Marathi for the indigenous  students.  Her younger brother was an excellent photographer and spent some years in the armed forces during world war 2.

Aaji lost her mother at a very tender age of nine and as sent to the only girls’ hostel, ‘Hazoor Paga’,  in Pune at the age of eleven. At that time her father was posted at Belgaon in the admin office of C.I.D and people used to come and consult him about English language as he had a very good command over English spelling , grammar and syntax.

After schooling my granny attended the prestigious Fergusson  College, Pune.  She did her M. Sc.( Botany)  from there at a time when very few girls opted for science as a subject (1926-27).  As a student she was often reprimanded  or punished for being too outspoken in her nationalist leanings. She was grounded once for  sneaking away from the hostel to listen to Mahatma Gandhi’s public lecture. She wore hand spun Khadi like many owmen of that time.

Her father was ostracised as he had employed a Muslim gentleman to teach Sitar to his only daughter Vardha, i.e. my granny. He did not care much about the unjust social dictats and continued to let the maestro teach the daughter.  In no time she mastered the art and began to play Sitar to perfection.

Following  the footsteps of her father Vardha joined the Young Theosophists and met her future husband there.

My Aaji Vardha Moghe on her wedding day, June 1929

Her marriage to R.V. Moghe brought much heartburn amongst her community as she had marrying a Maharashtriyan Brahmin. Now, those who are aware of caste and community system in India especially during those times will know how it enrages the petty mindsets of orthodox society.  I do not wish to digress in explaining that. The CS community looked down upon them as the CS  Brahmins were educated, forward looking and supposedly ‘liberal’. You can see the hollowness of their ‘progressiveness and liberal attitude’ through this example.  It was a love marriage arranged by the family. The first in our many generations perhaps.

My grandfather did his masters in both English and Marathi and was a good friend to Gajanand Jagirdar (actor/film maker), Achyut Patwardhan, socialist leader N.G. Gore and others involved in the Freedom Movement.

When Grandpa came to Varanasi in 1929 and joined  Dr. Annie Besant’s organisation as a teacher in the then Theosophical National Girl’s School and college ( later known as Vasanta College for Women, Krishnamurthy Foundation, Rajghat, Varanasi)  my grandmother came with him and that marked the beginning of yet another life changing phase for her.

She had a creative mind and was very keen to bring Science to the level of younger children’s understanding. When she came to Banaras she hardly knew Hindi but learned it in a very short time due to her determination and willingness. She then created worksheets for children of age 4-10 introducing the basic principles of science through everyday experiences.  Unfortunately due t othe burocratic ramifications these workbooks remained in MS form.

She taught in the children’s school for sometime but her failing health (early  rheumatism )  and frequent pregnancies practically tied her to home and then to bed.  Despite of her ill health and restrains she had this wonderful sunny disposition and joy de vivire that she instilled in all her children and grandchildren.  I have some very fond memories of our time together and in times of hardships in my life she was the one who came to inspire me through her spirit.

Banaras, in those days was an epitome of Indian art and culture. My grandmother ‘s home in Rajghat was a hub for many cultural gatherings and meetings.  Many stalwarts from performing arts, writers, political leaders, thinkers visited the home of my grandmother .  Some very fine artists like Nandalal Bose, Harindranath Chattopadhyaya, writers, musicians like Vinayakvrao Patwardhan, theosophists like George Arundel , his wife Rukmini Devi who established Kala Khshetra and gave a status to Baratnatyam, Leslie Holden, Mulk Raj Anand  etc. visited TS and often came to my grandfather’s home there.

She tried to encourage and instil in her six children all that she could not do due to her poor health.

There were musical gatherings in the house and she made sure, along with her husband, that her children find a wider horizon.

In mid sixties she and grandpa left Banaras for Pune and it is there my Aaji passed away leaving behind fond memories and a legacy that was carried forward by her children and their children.

The brightest thing about Aaji was her attitude towards life.  She had a strong personality and never complained or regretted about the events of her life.  It was always an onward looking, positive attitude.

She always found something good in everything and focused on that.

I remember my time with her in Pune and how I cherished every moment of those few weeks of summer vacation that I spent there. She still sometimes cooked and made fresh white butter for me even tough it was really painful for her due to her medical condition. There was an inherent quality in her that brought people of age groups and from all walks of lives closer to her.  I also remember the story telling  and music sessions that happened in her Pune home where everyone sang and created such a magnificent harmony among each other.

She lived life on her terms from an early age and that is what she imbibed in all of us.  I guess, being the eldest daughter, my mother got most of her positive qualities and now when I look at my boys I feel that  a latent energy that has run through the three generations on both my maternal and paternal side has shaped us to a large extent.

 

My Paternal Grandmother ( Amma/Dadi) Ram Dulari

My Dadi's only photograph.

Exactly opposite  to my Aaji’s life, here is a story of a woman born and brought up in strict ritualistic, orthodox land owning community of Uttar Pradesh in late 1800s and how she chose not to ‘confirm’ to the existing patriarchal norms and codes of conduct for women.

Born in a wealthy landowning Kayasth Srivastava family she was the daughter of a zamindaar who owned 12 villages, extensive farmland and mango orchards etc. My father always told me stories from that side of his family where there was no dearth of servants, coachmen, attendants, workers etc. Women were mostly home bound and stayed behind the pardah. They practically ruled from there but had no say in the ‘matters outside their periphery’.  The Boys were taught Urdu and Persian and the girls enough Nagri characters ( Hindi alphabets) to enable them to read Ramcharitmanas, write letters on postcards and read them if the occasion arose.  Cooking, stitching, embroidery of intricate designs, work with zari, salma sitara etc were learnt from elder women in the family.

All the girls were supposed to know how to present food artistically, for example, drawing floral/geometrical patterns on a plate of dahi vada or a bowl of kheer with the requisite spices , nuts etc.

Excellence in cooking and housework  was looked upon as a great asset in the kayastha families and was a matter of pride and honour.

Girls who were really keen to learn from the books would hide behind the doors of the verandah where boys were being taught and try to learn.

My  grandmother, Ram Dulari, was married off in her late teen which was supposed to be late for marrying a girl. Usually they were married off  much earlier than that.

My grandfather belonged to the same community of Allahabad Kayastha Srivastavas who were considered somewhat superior to  the other kayasthas. The kayastha community are supposed to be the descendants of Chitragupta  and are placed between Brahmins and Kshatriyas in the caste based hierarchy of Brahminical order. Because of their fluency in English and Persian this community was well places in higher positions during British times and was highly influenced by the Islamic culture too. It reflected in their cuisine and tehzeeb (way of life)..

My Grandfather was a graduate and a qualified Ustad of Persian and Urdu language. He had a good job in a British run Insurance company but he ran into an argument with his British Superior and slapped him hence lost his job. Those were the times of Freedom Movement and the atmosphere was always charged.

After losing his job grandpa earned sporadically from teaching the two languages as a tutor and held a few temporary jobs to feed the family . She was an excellent cook and women often gathered to learn from her. She was always consulted by women from the extended family and community during any social occasion like weddings or festivals.

Slowly in the later stages of his marriage he got addicted to drinking. My grandmother had several miscarriages and infant deaths before my father was born. He was the only child who survived. She somehow managed to run her home with utmost dignity but when the financial condition deteriorated the mother and son shifted to her elder brother in law’s newly built house. By then alcoholism had totally destroyed her husband, he could not support the family and stayed on his own.

Even though she was dependent on the brother in law she was never treated as poor relation. Grandma was respected by all and treated with dignity but she did not wish to remain a dependent  and that is when she turned to religion and took to fasts and rituals almost as a penance. Most women of her times in feudal set up had a strong bent towards religious activities like satsang  etc. It was nothing unusual.

Even in her fragile social condition she lived with a head held high. She refused to be led by the orthodox codes for women that her community and social position demanded and this would cause a daily rift in the house. The male members did not take this rebellious attitude nicely and always created a furore over these matters.

Every morning she would walk down to the Ganges along with other ‘ordinary’ women to bathe in the river and do her rounds of temples. The elders in the family highly objected to this but she remained firm on her decision and continued to follow her heart. No women from  upper middle class families were allowed to go about the town like this. Going to bathe in the river was not considered ‘proper’ for a woman of her stature. Even though the men raised objections none had the courage to go against her. It was her personality and approach to life that made her stand out among other women.

My father was in college during this time and everyday arguments made him quit advance studies and take up a teaching job so he could take his mother to live with him. She had never asked him nor spoken to him about this but she took a stand and decided to leave the family house and shift with him to the other end of Allahabad in Naini. The brother- in –law’s family tried to persuade her to stay back but  her decision was final and she stood by it against all odds. For some years she continued to stay with my father, her son. My dad was in his 30s and still a bachelor so the ire was not just for the mother but for the son too. He had past the marriageable age and that was not right.

In her new abode my granny lived her life as per her wishes. She had already cut the shackles which had caged her but something was still bothering her heart. She wasn’t truly independent. She mentioned to my father that she no longer had interest in running a household and wishes to renounce everything. She went for a yatra ( a pilgrimage) and from there wrote to my father that she won’t be returning home. It was unthinkable for a woman in those times to leave her husband, her home and her only son to live on her own somewhere and pursue what she wanted but she found the true liberation she had always sought.

On her return she stopped at the outskirts of Ayodhya in an ashram though she neither followed any sect nor became a part of any religious group or followed any saint  or Guru. Her pursuit was not a religious one but a spiritual one.

She built herself a small Kutir ( a small hut ) and lived there as a sanyasin (ascetic). It was a choice she had made.

Although she lived in the Ashram compound she never took advantage of the facilities there and did all her chores including fetching water for which she walked quite a distance and went up and down the steep stairs. The Ashram staff was always eager to help but she refused unless something was totally beyond her.

She had two sarees and a few utensils which she had bought from her earnings. (she did not take a single thing from the house she left).Before leaving for the yatra she had handed over a locked truck to her sister with the instructions that it was to be given to her son’s bride or if he never married she should open and do what she pleases with the contents.

Mom tells me that the sister never even opened the trunk to look what was inside and it was only brought out when ma visited her after marriage. The key was handed over to her and ma opened the trunk. We still have some of the beautiful embroidery work and a few other things including a few ornaments of hers. A treasure we cherish. For a long time that black truck remained with us until rust ate it up.

My father often visited and supported his mother to some extent but mostly she fended for herself. On many occasions she stitched and embroidered the clothes of the idols in the temples and was paid either in cash or in the form of food which she accepted but never demanded.

She never went back to her husband or family and devoted herself to the prayers and simple living.  Members from the extended family pleaded to her many times to come back but she refused.  She had chosen her path.

Considering the kind of background she came from it is hard to imagine how she adapted herself to this lifestyle. For someone who was brought up in the lap of luxury and then married into yet another comfort zone it surely must have been an act of immense courage and strong will to live the way she did.

During her last days she fell sick but continued to look after herself. The Ashram management informed my father of her grave health and he promptly visited only to be turned back after a week’s stay. Her time to leave the body had arrived and she wanted to be on her own. Within a few days of my father’s leaving she passed away peacefully and was cremated by the Ashram people as per her wishes It was then my father was informed to come and collect her meagre belongings and wind up the place.

I never met my paternal grandmother nor did my mother but my father and all the other relatives from his family speak very highly of her and with great affection.

She was a woman of substance. Many people who knew her thought that she was extremely headstrong and got what she wanted to be done at all costs but most of the times these things were positive in nature. Some even thought she was unlike her two other sisters and this very headstrong, obstinate nature of hers led to the drift between her and my grandfather but then women were always condemned for speaking out their mind. Whatever the case, she never took anything from anyone and lived the way she wanted to.

While she stepped out to pursue her way of life my maternal grandmother chose to stay  within the family structure and bring the change from there. It was mainly because of the different cultural and socio-economic environments I believe. There were no similarities between the two except that they chose not to adhere to what was imposed on them. Perhaps if I go to my ancestral home and find out more about my paternal grandmother some more facets of her life will open up.

Both women refused to confirm to the usual set of norms dished out to them, both found a way to nip them and keep the future generations free from the tangles of that skewed system. Both women had a ‘sun inside them’ as people who knew them remarked. It was mainly a flame lit from the inside out that radiated in their remarkable persona.

When I look at the lives led by mom and me I see a pattern, I see where we are coming from, our struggles, our abilty to deal with the hardships or the failure to face them, our non-conformist outlook and the rebellous nature. I see that in my children too. There is a flow of latent energy that has helped us shape our lives in a certain way. This strong energy has come all the way from these women I believe. I also feel that this generation of women had much more inner resolve and strength than the next two generations. I wonder what the reason is.

I had been wanting to write about them since a long time but there is so much more to their lives that I can describe.

Often when I am faced with some life changing decision I try to seek some solution  by thinking about them.  Today we give so much importance to education and financial independence but here are these women for whom these things were secondary.

Can a woman in today’s time truly liberate herself of the age old bondages or was it easier in those times?  How much has our society changed in this span of time? Has it become any better for women? Is the so called ‘modern woman’ truly liberated?  There are many questions that come to mind as I write. I also think what step my paternal grandma would have taken if she had not chosen the spiritual path. Were there any other choices for her? Are there  any for us unless we are economically sound? Does social stature affect the perspective and the choices made? How far have we come today?

As the world celebrate women’s day today I think of women who are marginalized, who are struggling everyday for a life of dignity, fighting for daily bread and butter, fighting misogyny, fighting for equal rights, safety and security, fighting the psychological fear, struggling just to exist peacefully, respectfully in a world which still treats them as commodities if not anything worse.

It is an uphill task for us.  It is an everyday struggle.  To live, to breathe, to be.

A Gift of Discernment – For A Better World


I believe that Parenthood teaches selflessness, to love and respect your kids unconditionally. Parents teach the children to be independent and rejoice in their blossoming. Both my sons are adults now and when I look back I think all I ever taught them was to shed everything that hindered their growth as human beings and accept themselves as and who they are. This covered almost everything that needed to be said.  As a mother I believed that what I could teach by example I could not by words.

My parents taught me the value of discernment and take independent decisions and that is exactly what I instilled in my boys. To be discerning without being judgmental. It was an uphill task in the kind of environment they were growing up in. To keep their minds from being polluted by  age-old rituals, customs and doctrines was an everyday struggle but I stood my grounds and made sure the boys learned to use their minds and not follow what the adults in the family or in the social milieu shoved down their throat. Since early years both the boys were encouraged to travel, explore, learn from the way people lived. To have a hunger for experiencing life at different levels. Independently. It was a challenge they had to undertake to refine themselves, to shun the comfort zone. To survive in all sorts of conditions. Build immunity, sensitivity, compassion towards life in all its forms. To value life and engage with it with an open mind and a student heart. I believed that exposure would enhance the personality and it did. Most of the times the ordinary things, the experimentation, the willingness to ask question does extraordinary things to children’s psyche. It teaches them important skills and to look beyond what is right in front of them.

I knew the importance of a dialogue, conversations, questioning, airing the differences fearlessly and with a trust that they will not be judged or reprehended. Freedom to converse without inhibition or fear helped them form their own opinions and choose what was right. That they could speak up their mind was largely due to the trust we shared.  It is a friendship that we share even now.  Once you rise above the relationship and treat the children simply as fellow human beings the approach to life changes. They become confident, curiosity helps them to expands their horizons inwardly as well as outwardly and a foundation for critical thinking is laid.

My boys had a privilege to experience two very different perspectives on ‘how to live a life’. A liberal, freethinking one from their maternal side and an orthodox, ritualistic one from the other. I think it helped them form their own set of values for life. They also learned from my limitations and sufferings. It made them a champion for women’s rights. Another major aspect was to make them aware of themselves so that they accept themselves as and who they were. I remember one of my sons asking me how I would react if he told me one day that he was gay or bisexual. I said it was his life and his sexual orientation or the way he is biologically. There was nothing to ‘react’. It is what it is. He asked if I would accept it. I replied that the question of acceptance doesn’t arise because it is ultimately His Life not mine. The fact that I would be by his side if needed was enough to make him comfortable with his choices I guess. I belive and taught them that unless you love yourself as who you are you can not love others nor others can love you. Loving oneself is an important lesson in life. To value the life we are given and live it well. Brief as it is.

The knowledge that I neither considered or treated the boys as my extension nor tied them to my apron strings helped them and me to lead a normal guilt free life in which we had mutual respect for each other, learned from each other and grew up together. Children are keen observers and often make decisions based on their understanding of life. To help them in this process all that is needed is a slight nudge. They have an agenda of her own. Suddenly one saw that the role of a mother as imagined or perhaps, vaguely understood could be questioned. Please! Can I not live my own life? Do I have to answer for each little thing I do? I am disgusted with this refrain “it is for your own good”. I know what it means and I can take care of myself – thank you! There is much heartbreaking pain and avoidable conflict. An uneasy kind of friendship develops as the teens are about to end, and one hopes that some understanding and maturity comes along to make life a little less rough – not for the daughter or son alone but also for the mother too. It is phase that strengthens the bonds without turning them into a noose. All one has to do is understand where they are coming from and help them deal with it if required. Unnecessary involvement in their daily struggles irks them at times.

I feel children who do not carry the burden of ‘teaching’ turn out to be better adults. I have seen around me the all engulfing apron strings, the controller moms who invade the very fabric of their son’s life till the core and leave it tattered. Mothers who just do not know where to draw the line. The worse thing a mother can do is to smother the child with ‘love” stunting their personalities. I cut the umbilical cord for my sanity and for the betterment of my children. They were loved and cared for but never became the primary focus of my passion and preoccupation. For the children to grown up without any mental, emotional, sexual dysfunction it is essential not to suffocate them. Being a free-spirited person myself it wasn’t difficult to instill it in my boys.

Growing up with them has been a wonder filled experience. Still is. I know I am the most unconventional mom but I love just the way it is. Now, I am looking at my life afresh, from their perspective, sharing a more mature friendship which began from the  time I conceived them. A beautiful detached attachment. Motherhood has made me a better person and to sum it all in one sentence I would say, “Let your children be. You can’t teach a sapling how to grow; you can only give it all it needs, sit back and watch.” In doing so you are not just making them good citizens but most importantly better human beings; and in the end, that is all that matters. This post is written for the #MomsforaBetterWorld Project

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Monday Memories 15 – The Phoenix Rising


This is a different memory post. It is about rising from ashes. Letting go, reclaiming your rebel self, not settling for anything  that hindered my evolution as a woman. This is about defining my worth ,taking control and saying – FUCK.THAT. SHIT. I am the author of my life and I decide which path to take or not take. A discussion with some friends prompted me to write this. All lives are not full of exciting adventures.

There are lives which resemble a lonely boat tied to the post conversing with its shadow and looking out into the vast blue ocean , yearning to escape.  Mine was such a life.  Until I decided to leave the comfort zone that meant being ted to the silken chains and trust me it is hard to take total control. Many people prefer to drift through the BS that surrounds them just for the sheer comfort of not having any responsibilities. Be a puppet , dance the dance and shrug your shoulders, curl up. Do nothing. Conjure up some very solid reasons for doing so, one of them being not looking into one’s own eyes.  Don’t rebel  because rebelling means pain, agony, loneliness and hard work. Rebelling means confronting oneself before anyone else. Reclaiming oneself. Do what you always did. It is easy. Say what you always said. Never go beyond the known. So many of us do it.

I lived that life so I know. Don’t ask for the reasons for I do not wish to go there but I put my dreams and desires in a pretty little jar, closed the lid and kept it in a vault.

Sometimes when the shadows stretched long and thin and a slight breeze nudged me I would set free my mind and think what it would be to throw open that lid and let those dreams breathe. How would they smell when brought out into sparkling sunlight. It took me many years to realize my mistake of handing over the pen to others to write my story and that day I decided to break free.  It is not easy. We are not birds and do not have wings , we are women living in a society that tells us to bow down and stay tied to the post.

I am writing this to share how I began to write. It was my first step to claim myself. I had never opened myself to the world and it made me nervous to step out and expose. It is like being nude. If you are not comfortable in your own nakedness then you can’t be comfortable at all. Simple as that.

I was born against the wishes of death. Life had snatched me from it and put me on my feet not to sit around in a little box of velvety thorns but to get out and do my own thing.

Writing helped me expand my horizons , to get connected to people with similar passion for life. It helped me bleed out the pain, hurt, It helped me release old scripts, reject old plots, say goodbye to those characters in my life story who had done nothing but scarred  it, to erase, edit, chop out those bits that did not fit. It began to fill my lungs with the oxygenated air of freedom and self-worth.  After all this there came the time to write the ending. There is nothing more impossibly difficult than ending for it means snapping off with one clean cut all that is not you. It is a heartache and many times the voice from the little velvet box will pull you to come into its folds but that’s where courage lies. It is a phoenix rising. Death and birth, fuck up and bliss, heartache and joy all at once. We have to go through the annihilation to emerge again – victorious. Once you have cleared everything that did not serve you can bring in all that is yours, all that has been already yours just not claimed till now. It is a home coming of  the self.

To begin anew, afresh on a clean slate. It is a drudgery, a painful uphill ride, Alone.  I was lucky to find  friends who constantly stood by me like a rock and along with the patient love and care kicked my butt when the need arose. They helped me polish my dark side. Helped me break my mental barriers. They had my permission to do so and frankly they would have done it without my permission too. It is actually I permission one gives to oneself. To be totally in the hands of the sensei.  That is the way for the student. There is no other way.

You have to be uncomfortably grounded to start again. It starts from the bottom, from the scratch always. You have to release the past to move ahead. The lesser the baggage the easier the journey.

It’s been four years since I began to do serious writing. exposed myself completely, shed all inhibitions and surrendered myself to vulnerability of life. It has been worth every courageous risk. The changes were evident and they shook the world around me. The rope that tied me to the post began to loosen and break  with the strain and strength of my desire. It gave away finally two years back.

It was the night of storm and suddenly I found myself being tossed into the open waters but by this time I was prepared. The right thing to do on a stormy night is to lie still till it passes and the day breaks. These are the testing hours and if you survive those the ocean is yours for ever. These  times are life altering.  It takes courage to start clean to let the slate remain empty for sometime and not rush into filling it with the familiar. It takes immense strength to step into the unknown, to push yourself over the edge, to leave things behind that may have at one time been the only source of your reason to be. It is like the cutting of the umbilical  cord.

To detach completely so that you can carve new potentials. I am proud of my evolution. I am proud of my mentors, guides, friends who gave me rock solid support just enough to get going.  Always around in the shadows somewhere watching me chart my path.

Nature teaches us about our fragility and our strengths. There is no better teacher than the universe.

I learned that it is not about just staying in the light or seeking it ,, it is also about owning our dark, befriending it, polishing it, making it shine. You got to love your shadow that is the only way to be complete. Unless we learn to accept and be at ease with our grief, pain and destruction there can never be a movement.  I am grateful to the universe for the storms in my life big and small. They brought me to the shore or else I would have been drifting aimlessly in the ocean or crashed into pieces on some forlorn island and the purpose would have been lost for good. Meeting the darkness, facing the shit storms, taming and getting better of fears, insecurities, illusions, limitations (many of them self-created)  is all it takes to forge the path ahead. Never deny, suppress your dark side. Get into conversation with it.  You can never step into the light if you have not walked through the dark.

Shit happens . Move on. Don’t settle for less than what you deserve.

You lose some you win some. That is life. Write . Write your own story and keep the pen in your hand. Always.

I know this is not a usual memory  post but the time has come to grow new leaves, to flower and claim my place under the sun. I shed the old leaves, I bared myself to the harsh winter just for this spring. It is mine and am gonna make the best of it.

Memories will always be there , Good and bad. Imagined and real.  The trick is to never lose sight of he ” tip of the cold mountain” as my friend and teacher Kris says.

Onward we go.  Each ending is a new beginning. Each rejection a step closer to acceptance. We attract what we give. That is the law of attraction and the universe recognizes it. It worked for me , it will work for you.  Launch forth your heart. Create, co – create, stay vulnerable.

You are a woman. Sexy , beautiful, intelligent and totally awesome. Recognize it and take control before you get swallowed by others perception of you. Fuck everything Be yourself.  The strength of your desire will bring you what is yours and much more. Be pen and receptive and let me tell you this is not a discourse in some ‘New Age Teaching’ it is first hand experience.  Go get your shit. It is out there waiting for you.

I want to thank my readers, my mentors, my friends and each one you who contributed and continues to contribute to my life in one way or the other. Look for those who need you and be there for them. We all need each other. Never still your voice , never give up the student heart. Never limit yourself.  At least try not to. I am trying too. Join me.

On Being A Mother And A Woman , In That Order


“If you don’t like where you are in life, there comes a point when you must give up the part of you that’s keeping you back.” –Dr. Sonya Friedman Best friends- mother and son Kid 2 embarked on a new adventure in his life today. It gives me immense pride to see my little cherub begin his college life. Till kids are in school we usually consider them as kiddos and then in a blink of an eye  they grow up.  Since last few years I saw the handsome lad mature into a responsible, thinking young man. Something that happened too quickly in the case of my first-born. The kid grew up too soon. That’s another story most of you know by now. It is hard to be a mother and harder  to be a woman at the same time. Why am I reversing the order? Because that is how I want you to look at it for now. I had thought I will never bring up this subject again but things don’t always go the way you want them to go.

Once a female child is born, she  immediately sides into the role assigned to her by the society – of a daughter, sister, wife, mother so on and so forth. The first robe of role-playing that the baby girl is wrapped in grows with her infant body, taking her through the long tedious  journey into womanhood. Somewhere she shrinks into nothingness and all one can see is the role she is playing at a particular stage in her life. Am I being too bitter and judgmental? Maybe, but this is how I see an average woman’s life especially in my country. So what happens when this infant begins to acquire a mind of her own, when her body begins to stir  and revolt under all those layers of responsibilities etc? What happens when she finds she has a voice? What happens when at some point of time in her life she throws away those cumbersome layers that draped her individuality and breaks free? She is condemned for life. She is called names. She is looked down upon and  society begins to foam at mouth and picks up weapons of filth to fling at her. Thinking for oneself is not acceptable. How can a woman think for herself? Who is she anyway? Some women disagree and step out of their “boundaries” their “line of control” irrespective of  the repercussions that would follow. Some “adjust” and ” compromise” for various reasons and stay confined within the four walls of their “home”.  Consumed by the fire that burns in them.

In a society where maternal love is revered it is difficult to digest the fact that a mother can walk out of  a bad marriage leaving her children behind. Men do it all the time but women are judged harshly. They are called “cold-blooded” “inadequate” “shameless”. How can a mother leave her children? It is sacrilegious. Taboo. “What kind of mother are you?” Someone asked when I said my boys stay with their father and I have been away from them since last two years. “You abandoned them?” Pat came another question and by this time I was beginning to feel guilty again for the umpteenth time since I crossed that threshold of the house I lived in with my kids, husband and in-laws.

“No, I did not abandon them. (The word is very upsetting ) I see them regularly, talk to them almost daily. They come and stay over at my place. We are closer than ever before.. I think so..” my voice began to fail me here. Leaving your marriage is the biggest challenge one faces in life. For twenty years I stayed in an unfulfilled marriage not knowing which way to go. I was economically dependent and had no confidence to break away and start all over again. The boys were small and needed me. I wanted to stay with them, watch them grow, give them all the love and support they needed from a parent, be their friend, be there when they needed me. I did that as best I could but then something snapped within one day. I had to take the hardest decision of my life. To stay in the marriage which had lost its meaning or walk away. Choice 2 meant leaving the boys behind. At that moment I did what I felt was right. I left. I broke the news to my sons (15&19 at that time) and hoped they would understand. I believed they did. convinced myself. They put up a brave front and stood side by side with me but the sound of their hearts crushing into trillions of pieces shot through me like a comet leaving me throbbing with unsaid hurt and a permanent feeling of  guilt. Still somehow I could not bring them to stay with me nor could I go to live with them. We had to part to discover each other. The fact that I did not ever feel guilty enough to reverse my decision made things worse. In the eyes of others it was “cruel” in plain and simple words. I often talked with my boys about it and knew how difficult it was for them to show support for my action when inside they were hurting. No child can be happy in such circumstances but I often wonder if they were growing up as happy kids in the kind of environment they were living in. What changed by my leaving? The house was same, people were same, it was same shit they were facing anyway and now without my support. It was worse or was it? Only they can tell.

I have heard people whisper “All that fight for dignity and respectful living is fine and dandy but how could she do this? I could never leave my babies at any cost.” Well, it is what it is. I left at a time I believed they would understand my action. I am sure they did or they would not have had anything to do with me. The fact that we are still together no matter where we are speaks volumes. Some day I would want to know honestly what went through their minds but till then i am not assuming. There are times when I ache for togetherness. It is a lonely battle one has to fight if one chooses to break the norms. I began to start afresh, learned to be financially independent, though still legally married and still dependent on my mom and brother as I stay in their home, I am finally able to choose what I want to do with my life , with myself. Sometimes it feels like a bigger trap , more space but still a sand box. It is fine till the time I play inside it, stepping out isn’t an option but for now I am good with it. At least I am breathing without ventilator.

It is unfortunate and very tragic how the course of events in one’s life can affect children. They do bounce back and begin to live a normal life but somewhere the heart longs for the times spent together. It is the same with parents. I won’t say its just the mothers who go through this, fathers too suffer. I told myself over and over that kids need love and support and don’t want someone to fight their battles that they do on their own. They chart their own paths. One just needs to be there to encourage and give them that opportunity to grow and expand their horizons. It doesn’t matter if that’s done living together or elsewhere. I have been there for my boys no matter what  and whenever they needed me but today somehow the deluge was too much to contain. Caught between rock and hard surface I sat here in my room getting updated on the progress of how things were shaping up as Kid 2 prepared to leave to other city to join the college. An important mile stone in his life. I wasn’t there in the last two important years of his school life and the fact that I could not give him a proper hug and wish him luck by physically being there broke me completely. Some emotions are private and I cried my heart out into the pillow. For the first time I longed for two strong arms around me. A shoulder to keep my head on and just pour it all out. We weren’t engineered for being lonely. It is tough at times especially when you are mushy and a sucker for love.

The sun is about to set in my city and soon the night will come bringing another rush of memories. Memories of all that I lost and found in my struggle to juggle various roles as a woman and somewhere I would stand and watch myself , the “me” that is now and wonder was it worth it ? I don’t know what the answer will be today but most of the day it is “YES”. Even with this burden of gratitude I am carrying of being “taken back in the fold of my maternal home”. Even with the knowledge that I owe my “independence – economical and otherwise” to someone without whom it would have been a different story all together. Even though it is a bumpy, uphill task to live day-to-day and struggle to keep my voice strong It is Worth every bit of it. I will miss our weekly meetings, fun and laughter, cooking especially for him, hanging out in favorite joints but we will be connected none the less. he didn’t meet as often as Kid 1 but his absence will be strongly felt.

This is the second time the brothers are being separated. Earlier it was when I had to send Kid 1 to he boarding school. Another hard decision I would have preferred not to take. I know they will miss each other more than anything. One day each one has to take their own path and go in different directions, the hearts say connected none the less. I know my boys will understand and not judge me harshly. I know they will treat the women in their lives and for that matter any woman anywhere with the respect they deserve. I know things will not stay the same.  I know that wherever we go we will never be far away. The love and friendship we share will strengthen with time and we will always be able to float above the so-called ” social norms and code of conduct”. I wish my boy all the very best in life and success in the path he chosen. I am there for him always in any way he wants. I have a lot to say to the elder one and some day we will sit down , just the two of us, and talk to each other as two friends should but till then I just want to say I am a very proud and happy mother. Thank you for being in my live and enriching it. You guys are the best friends I have .

Stay strong , Stay Focused. Love you. please excuse the typos and random flow of thoughts.   Republished on BellBajao Blog 

IndiBloggers Take Pledge to Ring The Bell – A Breakthrough Initiative


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On Woman’s Day I attended an event organised by Breakthrough a global human right organisation and IndiBlogger, the largest community of Indian bloggers. Breakthrough launched the #RingTheBell (Bell bajao) campaign  in 2008 .

The event for this year which was formally launched at British Council urges men to intervene and take a pledge to end violence against women with their Global campaign of  ‘One Million Men and One Million promises to end all forms of violence against women’.

Artists, NGOs, bloggers, entrepreneurs and people from all walks of life gathered to end #VAW  in whatever possible. Around 150 indibloggers participated as part of #indichange and renewed their pledge. I always thought we should have a “Bloggers writing for change” group and this initiative gives us a platform to join our voices against any kind of violence against women and children.

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I asked someone ” Were the men ever “gentle” ?” I have a problem with this poster. I think men are more sensitive to women’s issues now than ever before and yes, exceptions are always there and have been in the past too. The lady told me it is about  extending hands towards men who have that “gentle” side but just need a little nudge. Sonali rightly said that we should teach the girls not to laugh at the boys who cry. It is just about being sensitive to each other as humans beyond gender or  anything else.

“We need to tell our boys that they CAN cry.”

That brings me to other controversial statement. “Hang the rapists.” I am against capital punishment but do believe in strict law enforcement, sensitization, severe punishments even reforming the accused serving the sentences but taking a life whatever the case is something i do not agree with.The system need overhauling including the prisons. It is easier said than done but in any case my vote will always be against capital punishment. Sometime you need to forgive to stop the cycle. This is the sign of a civilized society. Why do we lose that humane touch and not give a chance to those perpetrators serving the sentences in jails of redeeming and actually doing something good with the rest of their lives if they have deep remorse and bring the change within. Is it not we want? A change from within in every man and woman in our society? Many won’t agree and have counter points so we can discuss  it later.

  Violence is not just physical, the other kinds – emotional and mental is more deep-rooted and seldom talked about for the lack of “evidence”. I have been there and know how difficult it is to take that one step in direction of finding yourself and reclaiming your dignity by stepping out of  relationship or a situation. The price sometimes is extremely high. Most of the time for many women it is not even possible. A deeper dialogue and engaging men to find new solutions and making them take the ownership of doing their bit to act against any kind of #VAW is a step I appreciate. I hope the campaign does not stay to the cities and reaches our villages and small towns too.

It was a thought-provoking evening with panel discussions based on two themes

1 Forms of responses & encouragement – social , legal and leadership taken by women

2 Portrayal of women in films, TV  and advertising

It was an enthralling experience to listen to listen to some of the women I admire Indira Jaisingh, Advaita Kala, Sonali Khan, , Priya Paul. Some of the other women panelists came from rural areas where they are doing groundbreaking work. They included Rahima Khatun and Pushpa Balmiki.

The men included Ryan Mendonca, Rajan Anandan who promised to who promises to invest in startups led by women, Rahul Bose and our very own Anoop Johnson from indiBlogger.

Topics like Objectification. Commodification. Hypersexuality, redefining ‘macho”, stereotyping in media, harassment of women on internet and many other important issues were discussed.

Some quotes from the speakers:

“People always say, we bring up our daughters like our sons.’ Why not bring up your sons like your daughters?” Advaita Kala

 “There can be no gender justice without the involvement of men,” he said. “The challenge is, how do we get men to stop seeing this as a ‘women’s issue’? We’ve completely ignored a ready constituency of men – every victim of rape, molestation and abuse has an angry father, a confused husband, a shamed brother. We can reach out to these men, counsel them, and turn them into the greatest gender warriors in this battle.” Rahul Bose 

“Boys don’t need to play with guns, there’s no need for guns in our lives. Patriarchy in staunchly patriarchal cultures reflects in the push for capital punishment, in an eye for an eye. Cultures that have moved past patriarchy have given up capital punishment, like some of the Scandinavian countries. So we must teach our men to give power, secede power, not assume it. Boys should be accustomed to telling their sisters, you stay out till 2am, I’ll come home at 1. This will form the basis of a unconditional change that can make the world a safer place for everybody.” Rahul Bose

“Women are not getting 33%reservation in parliament because there they will not be able to put us down.” Rahima

We had some brilliant video streaming of people working hard to bring the change at grassroot levels. I loved this quote from a woman activist.

Manzilen unko milti hain

 jinke sapno main jaan hoti hai

Sirf pankh hone se kuch nahin hota

 hoslon se udaan hoti hai

Performances by Swarathma , a folk- rock band from Bangalore. Sensitivity about the burning issues of our time and the power of good music can go a long way in touching human psyche.  Do we hear the sounds of change? I wish I had recorded some part of the electrifying performance.   Do listen to their music on You Tube. Their song on child sexual abuse ‘Ghum’ was heart wrenching.

Listening to Mahabanoo-Modi-Kotwal was something very close to heart and as a writer, as a woman it touched some deep chord inside. It was really a privilege. I would love to connect with her sometime. I loved the poem by Eve Ensler that she read out. Her readings from Vagina Monologue was thought provoking.

“Main Aazad hun. Aazad hun aur behad sexy . Koi problem hai ?”

kotwal

Thank you for letting me use this brilliant Photograph  IHM  . Do visit her awesome blog.

As more and more people pledged their support by ringing the bell the time came for the special guest to bewitch the gathering with her music. Watching Anoushka Shankar live on stage brought back fond memories of listening to her father. She has the same heartwarming smile and way of communicating with her team of musicians , same brilliance as she magically moves her fingers to produce the finest of Indian classical music. The raagas she chose to play were excellent.  The evening air was filled with the gorgeous music and her presence. It was simply breathtaking. She too extended her support to the cause. Some people question the role of  celebrities at such events but here was a woman who has been there done that just like me, you and many of us trying t make a difference and it takes courage to speak.. immense courage.

It is a feeling of pride  to be associated with IndiBlogger‘s  initiative #IndiChange and I thank each member of the IndiBlogger team for their unconditional support to me as woman, as a blogger. When you are rebelling against a system, defying age-old norms and breaking barriers every support counts. It made my struggle easier. I think we  as invited bloggers did not get time to express our point of views which would have been excellent because we are the voice of the internet and every voice counts. The new initiative  IndiChange is about “Harnessing the collective power of blogging to fight the evil.”

I hope more and more people Ring The Bell and there comes a time when we are able to completely wipe out VAW from the roots.

Let us aim to get 1 million men to pledge support through ‘Breakthough’ from 8th March 2013 to 8th March 2014. Spread the word and join the action.  

Here are some photographs of the event.

You can read some of my other related posts HERE 

The Things That Make Me Different Are The Things That Make Me


Thank you for recognizing that 

 You are precious.

together forever

So am I

˙·٠•●♥♥Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ♥♥ Happy Woman’s Day ˙·٠•●♥♥Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ♥♥

Quote- A.A.Milne

Here is a song I love. 

I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I’ll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can’t take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me

(Lyrics)

The Song Bird


Someone asked me,”Should a blog be used to rant about personal issues? Is it alright to expose your vulnerable side to the entire world?  Is it in good taste to bare your heart’s innermost feelings in front of  everyone? One can write about so many other things then why whine, rave and rant on a blog and why not use a pillow instead to cry your heart out? There will be hundreds who will offer you sympathy but that’s all BS. Actually no one cares a hoot.”

I listened patiently and said,”I don’t do it often and I don’t do it for sympathy. That is the last thing I want from somebody. Sympathy and pity. I write for no particular reason. Not everyone reads my meltdowns and those who do, maybe it helps them overcome theirs. Who knows? ”

Obviously she and I did not see eye to eye on this like many other things. So, if you think personal outbursts are not your reading material, move on. For, this is going to be one such post.

Sometimes one goes through this deluge of “what ifs and whys, If only and I wish” and seeks answers to questions which are better not raised. Questions which burn like embers in a dying fire. If you stir it you might start a wild fire. Uncontrollable and Unstoppable.

Your heart gets filled to the brim with this deluge and overflows on the blog. I think it is cathartic in more than one ways.

It makes me restless to realize that there is no escape to freedom. There isn’t a thing called ‘freedom.” It is always a caged reality. The cage gets bigger and better than the previous one but the walls begin to rise magically the moment you want to step out and not just the walls , the roof and the floor begin to close in till you choke and gasp for breath and surrender to “what is”.

It’s a woman’s life. A caged song bird.

“You always think as if  the entire world is out to get you and is conspiring against you.” She said. (It is strange when women talk about women’s issues in this fashion. Why am I surprised anyway? )

I think it is because at times I feel it.

Not the entire world maybe but then my world is very small. It is a world within a world and in this world are people who don’t give a damn about what I go through but are ready to make snide remarks, pass judgement, show all kind of indifference camouflaged as love, care, support and what not. It is an art. Not all posses this skill.

How does one feel to leave behind young children  in a personal quest for dignified living?  Mind you it is very different from “empty nest syndrome”  and ‘one day kids will grow up and do their own things and go their own way” thing. It is a living, pulsating, raw hurt which eats you away bit by bit. You try to reason with your self  but fail. I always said, “I have given my boys roots and wings”, never knew it’s not them but I , who will fly away leaving them to fend for themselves. Leaving, in search of myself.

Did I find “myself” ?

“No” and “Yes”.

“No”, because there is a lot that is concealed. There is deeper play of shadows that I do not understand at times. A door opens and closes behind me. I forge my way through the unknown only to discover a wall , a trap or again a door, sometimes just a window or a crack. The search continues.

“Yes” , because I managed to cut out most of the weeds which were blocking my way. I bled and bruised myself but finally found myself at the edge of a new beginning. Another challenge but certainly not as suffocating as the previous one

Some prisons have no bars. Some cages are imaginary. Some others we build around us unknowingly or knowingly because we are used to certain comfort zones.

I sometimes wonder who has got who locked in the cage. I just might be free, on the other side of bars. Looking in. Remembering my time within the cage. The feeling sweeping through me whispering to me that I am still there when I am not.

Have you heard the song of the caged bird? Do you find it different from the one who is free?

One day when I woke up I saw I had grown new wings. They seemed so unfamiliar and yet they were part of it. I was scared to spread them lest I lose an illusion. Instead I wrapped them around me and found comfort in the new-found warmth but wings are meant for flying. They throbbed with exciting energy sending sparks into my listless soul to make use of them as I should.

With the break of new dawn I decided to take a plunge into the valley of unknown. Either to sink or to rise.

The cage suddenly didn’t seem to be there. Was I living an illusion or just a shattered one? I wondered.

I looked around at the crumbs , the bowl of water now empty and turned upside down. I looked at the blue sky , slowly spread my wings, flapped them, took a deep breath and folded them back. I wasn’t ready. Then the wind began to blow. It picked up the momentum and I could feel my cage sway with it. Scared of this wind of change I buried my head in my breast but with one shove I found myself at the edge of the window. Perched precariously. Now there was no turning back. I leaped on the back of the wind and dipped my wings in brilliant sunlight and claimed the sky which was truly mine but the storm raged in insane fury and rain lashed like whip of bare skin. Bewildered and panicked by the raging storm, blinded by the dark rain I plunged and rose with the tempest fighting the forces beyond me, trusting my wings to keep me afloat. Fear gripping me from within, a tight fist beneath my breast. Caught in the whirling skirts of winds I circled and circled and longed for the comfort of the cage I had left. I scanned the murky unknown, shadowy in parts brightly lit in parts, a plethora of possibilities that could take me anywhere.

Startled by the fire bolt that swept the sky with lurid glow I screamed and was shocked to hear my own voice, stilled for so long. If I could scream in fear I could sing in joy. I began to hum and the words came back to me. Muted words buried in some deep crevices of my heart. In the midst of rolling thunder and chaos I had found my song. I began to sing and I don’t know when and how I glided out of the storm into a blaze of color — oranges, pearly pinks, vibrant purples, molten gold and when I looked down I saw deep green mountains and rivers coppery with sunset.

Then , at that moment I realized , “Deep in the heart of winter, there lay within me an invincible spring.”

I realized that the cage though real was also imagined. I had built it myself.  It was wherever I went and no matter where I would run, I just ended up running into myself. If you stay within the patterns and conformity you carry the cage with you. I broke those patterns and reclaimed myself, my freedom.

Songbird

This post is especially written for a songbird who lives in the Pyrenees.

On Being A Woman – Year End Post


It has been over a month now since I wrote anything here. I am not really in right frame of mind. Anger and pain has made me numb. Excuse me for this rambling and just ignore the errors for now.

kuch alfaz ab bhi seene me hain uljhe

kuch girahen abhi bhi khulni hain baki

hain sawal kuch jinke dhoondhne hain jawab

hain jawab jinhe ab bhi hai sawalon ki latash

Sometimes I feel my life is like an exquisitely embroidered shawl. Richly embroidered in vibrant hues which people see and appreciate but it is I who feels the inconvenient knots and tangled threads of its inside.  When anyone says “I understand how you feel” I say “No you don’t”, you possibly can’t imagine how tough it is to be a woman in this country, to struggle each day, to fight for survival. To live here is an act of bravery and then you see what ultimately happens to the brave hearts who dare to dream of living a life on their terms. What are these terms? you will ask.

 

The terms are – Dignity, honor , equality in all spheres of life, a right to LIVE as a fellow human being.

 

” Ha!, you say, don’t talk about these philosophical  terms that feminists quote. You have all that you need –  security, food, shelter, money, a husband to” look after” you, what else do you want? What is this about dignity and crap? Your dignity is within the four walls of this house. It is in your hand to preserve and protect it. Don’t listen to these so-called “committed/progressive women” these “feminists from women’s Organisations” they will try to lead you astray, they will break your home and fill your head with shitty ideas that will only take wrong decisions.  Dress”modestly” . It is because of these “dented, painted disco going women” that all these cases of rape and molestation happen.Stay within your boundaries, follow traditions and norms set by society for their women, know your duties and follow the moral code. If you do all this then only you can give good values to your children. God has been kind to you and given you two boys. Thank God for not burdening you with a daughter. Don’t talk to the neighbors, make only a few friends (although we don’t see the need of it) and mind you they should not be men. You are a married woman and your commitment is only towards your husband, children and in-laws. Your parents? Their son will look after them, it is his job not yours. Now you are part of this family and nothing else matters. Remember that silence and patience, tolerance and abiding to the wishes of your husband is the utmost priority in your life even above your own self for that self is also now His and not yours anymore.

Do you get what I am saying ?”

 

“Well,  yes I do see it. I followed it like an idiot for a major part of my life and screwed it. Now I intend to trash your “Codes for an Indian Woman” and chart my path make my own rules, take my own decisions, Live My Life.”

 

“What? Then you are not a good wife, daughter, DIL, and mother, you are not even a good woman. See, this is what happens when women are let loose. When they gain access to public spaces and get exposed to things like Internet. This is what corrupted you. Now your head is filled with all those lofty notions of independent living and all the crap about women’s rights. Mark my words, you will suffer, realize your mistake within no time and come back on your knees.”

 

***

“If that is what you think, Shame On You.  I do not wish to be labelled as a “Good woman” by Your Standards. I will sell myself if I have to and live under the open sky if push comes to shove but I will not give in now and will not come back to this prison with invisible bars and barbed web of rules designed to keep me in hold all through my life, that’s a promise.”

2011 saw emergence of a new Me.

Many women are not living their dreams because they are living their fears.

 

Isolation, restriction, guilt, humiliation, denial, continuous controlling and criticism and  lack of empathy, love, companionship, shattering of a dream of ” a life long relationship based on mutual respect” breaks them. Emotional, mental tortured is hard to explain due to lack of  ” solid evidence” . 
Emotional Abuse comes silently most of the times camouflaged as “love, betterment, moral duty, guilt, emotional blackmail, and marital rape. Silence helps it breed and dig its claws deeper.
In our country ‘thinking’ for oneself is not encouraged. It’s always conformity & herd mentality. The  moment a woman begins to voice her thoughts she is condemned, ridiculed & told to shut up. If she rebels , her condition is even worse.
Does that mean we keep suffering ?
NO.
 Trust me it is better to raise your voice and make your life worthy than suffer and reinforce the fact that women can be used as objects and treated like an old newspaper.
Two years have passed since I cut those silken chains and  moved out to rediscover myself as a woman , as a person, as a human being. I had to pay the price. I had to leave my boys behind.
“What kind of mother is she? So insensitive and unconcerned, so selfish.”  I still hear it but in hushed voices.
Emergence of new woman who can defy everything that binds her and yet be happy is a painful, uphill task.
Today when I sit and look back I know I was privileged. I had friends who stood by me like a rock, I had patronage to be economically independent in some way after a gap of 22 years. I had a family to go back to though it was a halfhearted acceptance.
It is easy to say what took you so long? It is easy to say ” Hang in there, everything will be fine”, it is easy to sympathize but it takes immense courage to hold the hand of someone who is defying and rebelling against the system. I was privileged in more than one ways to have people with such strength.
I owe it to them as much as I owe it to myself .
 If anyone thinks it is selfish to think about oneself, to dream, to have desires then so be it.
I am selfish. I can’t deny the love I am supposed to give myself. It would be utterly dishonest to do so and if I am dishonest to myself how will I ever be honest to others?
I believed and hoped my boys understood. They stood by me.
They did not have a choice.
They said nothing.
It is tough to be separated in such manner. The guilt ate into the fiber of my being  day and night. It still does. But I had to make a choice – To live or to exist. I chose the first.
I have a lot to thank for, lot of people to offer my gratitude for helping me be myself but the battle is not won yet. Even after two years I   have one foot in the past and one in present. Sometimes I see myself at the periphery of a void at others I feel absolutely thrilled by what I have achieved in last one year. I have been able to break many mental barriers. It has been a productive year in many ways but still something is amiss. I have not been able to completely shake off the layers that hide the real me stirring and quivering underneath in want of  release. A lot remains entangled and knotted not just due to the rotten system we are part of but also because of my own failing to regain the confidence and courage. I am still a sucker of emotions, still vulnerable to the core, still seeking approval when I shouldn’t.
I took the step in direction of change but it seems like a move from a smaller prison to a larger one. A little more space to breathe and move about but still confined. It makes me question my decision. I lose my footing and begin to slip back. It scares me to venture into a society where every moment women are violated, sometimes so brutally.
Physical rape is just one aspect of VAW, the society we live in and are part of strips the female of their species  of a dignified life from the time she is conceived. Some live through the horror of it till they cough last and some are spared that trauma by getting  murdered in the womb itself.  There is only a small percentage that breathes the free air and lives as desire.
As we step into another year my thoughts are with all the women who are facing a challenge to free themselves of the chains that bind them, who are daring to break the silence despite of the risks involved, who are struggling to make a place for themselves  within the culture of violent subjugation and male dominated power structure around which everything revolves and in which women die many times over every day. Most of the times unheard, unsung. There voices stilled. I am thinking about the lack of a support system for those who have the spark to stand up for their rights and fight against the system.
I am not just thinking of women’s rights and gender violence but also about  gay rights, racism, casteism and coexistence which doesn’t exist in our society. I am thinking of equal opportunities, paid employment for women ( just 14.5 %paid employment as compared to men speaks volumes about the structure of our society. 2 million women lost their jobs in last five years), basic education,  basic hygiene and medical facilities. I am thinking of children and the crimes against them. Earlier too there have been catalyst who have shown harsh light on the stinking rotten interiors of our society. Earlier too there have been movements against every damn issue which is shoved under the carpet, How many more ? ? How many wake up calls, How many lives cut short before the change finally occurs?
Will there ever be one single day when a woman will feel safe in this country and breathe easy? When her security and self-respect will not be ground to dust? Will we ever be rid of our sexist culture? Unfortunately when I ask these questions the city that comes to mind is the city in which I have lived for more than forty years – the national capital Delhi.  Not a single moment of my life I have felt secure here. Fear has been a constant companion since I began to move out in public spaces. Fear of those so-called “protectors”. It started when I joined school and continues till now.
As I write this last post of this year I am wondering what lies ahead for the women of India, for me as an individual.  I know it will take a lot of effort and time to completely overhaul the mindset of people to bring some much-needed positive changes but I can begin with myself and my life. It is a rough path that I have chosen but am not giving up. Ever.
Here are two brilliant articles for you to read and ponder upon as I take your leave.
He says among other things,” Men abuse women in every society, but few males do it with as much impunity, violence and regularity as the Indian male.”
(TRUST ME IT IS TRUE)
And
The problem is us  by zigzactly
I have not been regular with my posts but I know you will understand. In a struggle to find my footing I have to sometimes give priority to other important issues that I am dealing with. Thank you for supporting me in all good and bad times and for encouraging me by reading and commenting. I appreciate it very much.
Do something constructive in the coming year.
Have the moral courage to Defy what in Unjust. Don’t be a performer.
You can view all the Previous Entries about being a woman and other social issues HERE 

GBE2 Week #64 : Hidden – A veiled Life


Her fate was sealed the moment she was born. The Chador that wrapped her, grew with her infant body. Layer after layer it hid her slow painful journey into womanhood, chained forever to her home and hearth,  by norms of society and religion. She was born to serve and submit.. Serve  and submit to the omnipresent men of her clan. In silence.

She was one of the few who survived birth but her voice was stilled for life.  The muffled cries of her infant sister dying a forced slow death still woke her up in the middle of nights. Unlike the so called emancipated, literate, liberated urban women, her life was tied by invisible ropes that rubbed against her soft flesh and left wounds that scarred her being.

She ceased to be human the moment she “came of age”. The menstrual blood brought with it emotional and physical abandonment. It also brought a sudden realization of turning into a “woman” who had, a body “to be kept hidden”, tongue which was just a purposeless mass of flesh, heart which would in long run become a vault for unmet dreams and desires and a mind which was considered “non-existent” and which only worked behind a camouflaged screen of darkness.

Suddenly she shrunk under the chador which had taken monstrous proportion since her infancy days. Her life was no longer hers.  A marionette whose strings were pulled and pushed by the men in her household and extended family.  Shrouded in mystery of her gender, modesty, pleasure, shame, pain and drudgery she carried her body through the lonely barbed web of rules designed to keep her in hold all through her life.

She was still in better position than her aunt, barely a few years older than her and a widow, who had to continuously protect her “unguarded, dangerous” body till she is lowered into her grave safely, a daunting task in a society of vultures ready to pounce on any slice of flesh that they can lay their eyes and hands on.

Deep buried and hidden under layers her body and voice stirred and quivered in want of release but never reached the climax. Considered unfit for any function but marriage, childbearing, housekeeping her entire being came out from the hidden depths during the dark recesses past the midnight silence.  Lying next to a snoring satisfied husband or alone, she  freely roamed around the courtyard and beyond the threshold into the unnamed, unknown lanes and streets like a alley cat.

Suddenly the landmines erected by society to prevent her from deviating from specified gender roles forgot to explode as she stepped on the prohibited terrain.

Not swathed in black from head to toe in the age old dirty chador that hung near the main door, she set the woman in her free. Reclaiming herself. Night after night.

In those intimate hours with herself she would try and familiarize with the contours of her body, feeling that fervent rush which knew no outlet in her forsaken life. Many times she would slip into the veranda, dressed in nothing but a thin duppata, which made her a bit comfortable with herself, throw her bare arms in the air and watch the night sky with two bright starry eyes, letting the breeze flirt with her.

Imagination would thrown open the doors and windows which usually remained bolted. Walls that had risen brick by brick around her segregating and secluding her would collapse in a heap, making her vulnerable and alive. She would create and recreate the stories told in the midst of giggles and laughter by her city cousins.

Before the first light of dawn, hidden in the safety of the darkness she would dare to live a life she imagined. Strange that the very darkness that engulfed her in daytime became her saviour at night.

This post is written for GBE2 WEEK #64 (8-5-12 to 8-11-12): Hidden

Inspired by Tamil writer Salma’s book and Kamla Das( one of my many muses)

Breathless – GBE 2 Week #62


Little rivulets streamed down the nape of her neck as she stepped out of shower and reached for the fresh lavender fragrant bathrobe. Usually she would hurriedly pat dry herself, get into some clothes and start her usual routine but today something made her linger. Absently she ran her slender fingers over the soft plush fabric smoothing out the nonexistent creases and remembering how he had looked at her the other day. His eyes pools of longing.

Friction of her wet thighs started a fire that exploded in her body like a rocker flare. She shifted uncomfortably, surprised by her hunger and as she turned she caught sight of herself in the long mirror and then, she saw herself  from his eyes.

It was long since she had really seen herself  in nude. Little prisms of water quivering on her smooth flesh, her prominent collar bones and the taut angular muscular neck, ripe full breasts, the curve of her belly, the supple soft folds of her body now glowing in the sunset colours of her beauty, she felt the heart of her desire throb with longing between her legs.

She was at an age where she had begun to regret staying faithful to a man who had never really loved her. For years her soul dwelled in an unknown body of  a woman she did not associate with, an empty bottle thrown in a corner by some drunkard.

But now, as she stood there gazing at herself,  inflamed by the urgency of a choice between a last hope of an exotic experience or a final resignation. Drenched in a blend of magic and mayhem, need and disruption, she began to question the course her life had chosen long ago. For the first time in her solitary, confined life she saw in herself a possibility and a potential of corruption that left her breathless.

This post is written for WEEK #62 (7-22-12 to 7-28-12): Breathless