When Can You Be Sure?

“They are young now, and in love. He meets her family over dinner. Later she takes him up the stairs into her room. They can’t stop laughing, and roll all over her bed. He has brought her a song, not a lame song shared by others. They listen to it together; lying on her bed, he taps his fingers to the rhythm, she stands with her hand on his knee.
She sat in the car and watched him flung his wedding ring into the bushes. She waited for him; he got into the car and slammed the door. The next moment he gets out and runs into the bushes to search for the ring. She helps him. Even in the throes of despair when their love was ready to topple over into unseen depths and never recover, they have this moment of frantic search for the remnant of earlier vows.
They are strangers. He came from a broken home, questioned the need to utilize potential and had an open heart. She came from a family whose shards were glued for the sake of appearance, jumped from one bed to another in search of love and believed in her potential. He can’t get her out of his mind. She reluctantly indulges his wooing. They end up tap dancing and singing goofy songs. He tells her on the subway‘Let’s be a family’. She comes home, shuts the door, lies down and waits for the feeling to sink in. A shotgun wedding follows; a baby is in the offing. Their story starts five years later.
He teaches their daughter to eat breakfast like a leopard; and reminds his wife to wear seat-belts. They are monogamous. They hold each other in grief. They make efforts. She plays along to his whimsies. But when he tries to kiss her in the shower, she turns her face away. She cries over a dead dog and so much more. One day they let unequal ambitions and achievements creep in and grow roots.
He is forced to walk away.”
When can you be sure? When can you put your feet up and relax? Will love ever be enough? Why leave? Why stay? How long will hope triumph? Do you have the courage to let go? Do you have the courage to get the one you love? Will it survive?
Unanswered yet.

Smorgasbord of Rituals

Habit is not mere subjugation, it is a tender tie: when one remembers habit it seems to have been happiness.
–Elizabeth Bowen
Often inadvertent actions slip into unknowing uniformity and turn rituals, but these everyday rituals define us, comfort us and bring a certain order to our lives. I’m not the paragon of self-discipline, and I lack a structured life. Yet certain rituals have osmosed into my life, and remained.
Coffee and Crosswords
I nearly barfed in my mouth when I first tasted jasmine tea served in the lilliputian cups by a stand-in-Chinese waiter; but the taste (or the lack of it) grew on me and this aromatic concoction is on my table every morning now. It’s a part of my morning ritual which includes the following:
  1. Fumbling under my pillow for my phone to check for any messages, hoping for some earth-shattering good news only to find BSNL/Pizza Hut/Tata Photon spamming my inbox.
  2. Two minutes of stupor as I struggle with the decision of acquiring a little more sleep, and as testified by my family this is the most dangerous time of the day to approach me. Civility is clouded by sleep and primitive instincts of violence are sharp.
  3. An unnaturally long walk (or so it seems) to the sink to brush and floss and being startled every time by my the sight of my hair that could nest an Emu.
  4. Drinking jasmine tea (and this time in a cup made for adequately sized humans) in a desperate attempt to replace the caffeine in my veins.
  5. Sitting cross-legged on the divan in the verandah, leafing through the morning newspaper to check the headlines and the crossword, and inhaling lungfuls of recommended daily intake of fresh air.
  6. Dragging my reluctant feet to the study desk where tattered MCQ books lay awaiting me.
 This routine has subtle variations once in a while to include coffee; and on the days I’m charged up about fitness (usually brought about by reading a new issue of Prevention Magazine) it includes an early morning swim/a walk/half an hour on the stationary cycle which on other days serve as a clothes hanger.
Assault of My Eyes
I don’t eat carrots, or spinach. And I read ALL the time. My hawk-eyed parents make sure I study enough hours in preparation for that elusive AIPGE seat. Then I read the books on my ‘to read’ list just about every where; on the pot, while I ‘inhale’ my lunch without taking my eyes off the book, on my way to the gym (on my way back from the gym I usually lay motionless and breathless on the back seat of my car), while waiting in a queue, while waiting for perpetually running late friends (I’m sure they say the same thing about me), at dinner as my parents threaten to snatch the damn book away and in bed before I drift off to sleep (in a ‘dontiya do’ position, which only Assamese readers will understand!).  Once a month I switch off my phone, shut my door, put on a pair of comfortable pajamas, assemble a variety of snacks, get in bed and spend the day in a marathon reading session. But my eyes have miraculously survived this assault so far and been at a respectable -0.25D all these years (I made the ever-obliging and surprisingly mild-mannered ophthalmology post graduate trainees check my vision quite often during my internship).
Notebook Porn or Life’s Witness
I have a notebook fetish. I hoard them, especially the tiny ones with faded yellow pages. I keep a journal even though I am erratic in maintaining it and absolutely love the diaries from ‘Rubber Band’, with their unassuming black cover and smooth white pages with rounded corners. There are doodles, poems, even limericks and declarations of love and of despise interspersed among the mundane details of my day. Every night I furtively glance around for spies lurking behind curtains and sneak out my diary from its hiding place to jot down a brutally honest account of all that I feel, which would lead me to trouble in the courteous world.
Get Me Tokyo!
Recently the armchair traveller in me has been harboring a fascination for Japan and try to watch at least one of the following shows on NHK World every week: “At home with Venetia in Kyoto”, “Takeshi’s Art Beat”, “Somewhere Street”, “Cool Japan” or “Tokyo Eye”. I watch a movie every weekend, mostly world cinema, courtesy of the heaven-sent torrents. I will watch “The Red Violin” tomorrow.
The Secret Life of Monica Geller
Every fortnight I go through an obsessive compulsive cleaning spree that is almost meditative. I neatly fold clothes in my wardrobe and arrange them according to colour, I air the books in my library and the shoes in my closet and clean out disk space and back up the files on my laptop. This particular ritual is equivalent to a spa visit and rejuvenates me.
Of Talking to God And Not Telling My Therapist About It
I’m neither an atheist nor overtly religious. I rarely visit temples, and send my reluctant mother as my proxy to any religious ceremony. I have grown up watching my parents take their wet slippers off after bath, stand in front of the tiny ‘mandir’ at our home, light up a few incense sticks, bow their heads and pray with a devotion so pure that awed me even as a child as did the ritual’s unfailing regularity. I try to replicate such ‘proper’ prayers only before examinations and they are shamelessly need-based. But I have an informal talk with an unspecific and omnipresent ‘God’ daily while lying in the dark and awaiting sleep. I relate the events of the day and point out (for future consideration) how things could have been better, express gratitude for all the good things in my life-acquired ones than those given unasked-and repeated reminders to make sure that the coming day goes without any mishaps for my near and dear ones. I carry a tiny Ganesha idol in my bag everywhere I go. That’s all the religion I have.
The Rest
  • Being the sole custodian of birthdays in the extended family and undertaking the task of wishing them every year.
  • Saving up for winter, the season of books fairs.
  • Playing cards with my parents on rainy evenings and listening to Pa’s uproarious anecdotes.
  • Late night phone calls with my best friend (she does the calling up, I can’t afford hour long international calls) to share the comical indifference of our parents to the idea of marrying off their daughters who will always be 20 year old in their minds.
  • Making perfectly round and spicy omelettes on the rare occasions when I lose my way and end up in the kitchen.
  • Writing in stolen pockets of time.
  • Putting up a Christmas tree (remnant of a missionary school education and overdose of Christmas movies) every year.
  • Packing my suitcase two days before a trip and staring at the clock in a vain attempt to make it move faster by sheer will.
What are the rituals that govern your life?

My Autumn: Cottony skies, Ghibli magic, Banned Books, Lemon Cake, Pasta, Phase 3, Basho, Earthquake and Empty Bank

I would always be partial to November, as it gave me to the world and mostly vice versa.  September comes a close second, autumn subtly coloring up my life.
I got a new job. I am not ecstatic about it. It’s a government job (the mere sound of which nearly mars all possibilities of excitement) at a remote corner of Assam. But it’s preferable to studying at home the whole day till my exams in January. It’s just the right pace, 5 hours a day; the puzzle piece that fits into the jigsaw of my exam preparation and the solitude I seek. The place is so remote it’s like the 1920s.  A car passing by on the dusty road becomes the discussion of the day at the market. The people are laid back and “adda” is the widely practiced local sport. Only solace is the unsullied green fields, the trees, cottony skies, the dew-laden mornings; and a pristine solitude.
 September introduced me to Studio Ghibli movies. My breath often forms a solid lump of joy in my chest, as I watch and relish idyllic visuals, marvel at imaginations, and relieve my childhood. I cling to these movies like an oasis of pure, stark joy. I watch them alone on evenings, in my room, on my bed. ‘Grave of the Fireflies’, ‘Whisper of the Heart’, ‘Only Yesterday’, ‘Arrietty’, ‘Howl’s Movng Castle’, ‘Kiki’s delivery Service’, ‘Princess Mononkone’, ‘My neighbor Tortoro’, ‘My neighbours-The Yamadas’, ‘Ponyo’ and ‘Spirited Away’. I don’t rush through them, as I usually do with things that interest me. I am slowly savoring each visual, each word and each feeling that it arouses in me.

Being jobless for a month and half, had a weird effect on me. I went on a spending spree knowing fully well my dwindling finances. I added the color purple to my wardrobe, and made Flipkart.com rich by a dozen books. I have an upcoming exam and can’t afford to indulge in the luxury of reading a dozen novels. But I hoard them. My mother has banned nine of these books from my life till January. Her threat is a real one, a new lock on my library evidence of her resolution. She doesn’t trust me when it comes to a few things in life, and reading novels stealthily tops the list. Many a flashlight had been angrily flung to the floor and sacrificed during my childhood, when my mother discovered it aiding a new novel to keep me awake beyond 3 am. I am 25, I have few bank accounts, I can drive, I can finally cross roads during rush hour, I can eat alone in restaurants, I am a doctor, I can call myself almost an adult; but I dare not defy my mother’s rules when an exam looms in the near horizon. So, the books are banned. Not the MCQ books though.
 My mother is overall a kind woman and I’m her first-born; so she let me choose three novels to read during the three months till January. My mind went into a tizzy, trying to decide which books to choose from the dozen new ones. I chose The naïve and the sentimental novelist” by Orhan Pamuk, “The particular sadness of lemon cake” by Aimee Bender and “Oxford anthology of Writings from North-east India”. I’ve started reading the Aimee Bender book. Beautiful writing. I devote pockets of time throughout the day to it without upsetting my study schedule and most importantly, my mother. I’ve read only a hundred pages till now. It’s about a nine year old girl who can taste in food the emotions of the people who cook it. It agitates her routine life, when she can taste a sad hollowness in her cheerful mother’s lemon cake. The knowledge of facades people erect lurches her forward from her complacent childhood. Aimee Bender’s words are brilliant and effortless; conjuring up images from a nine year old’s perspective. I am looking forward to reading more of it.
 I am a disaster in the kitchen, and so less bothered about my lack of culinary skills, that I stupidly flaunt it. I had a panic attack once when I was asked to boil eggs, because the duration of boiling was as unfathomable to me as the mysteries of life and death. When I was in a hostel, I was a mere bystander when other girls chopped vegetables, measured oil, marinated with spices and cooked delicious dishes that I shamelessly ate. My mother shudders to think what I would cook for my husband after marriage. Maggi noodles and cornflakes, quips my aunt. Then a month ago I read Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I fell in love with Italy. The food in the book personified and seduced me. Indian meditation and Balinese life balance intrigued me too. But Italy won. Not just the country and the language, even the food. I downloaded apps on my phone to learn Italian verbs, listened to the soundtrack of ‘La Dolce Vita’, and ate Italian food at restaurants. This phase lasted a fortnight. It mellowed down after that, but my ‘Italy’ hangover did the unthinkable. It made me venture into unknown territory within my own home, the kitchen. I cooked. Pastas, frittatas, and a variety of soups. As I skinned and seeded tomatoes, and whiffed the herbs in the soup, I FINALLY discovered the “joy” in cooking. It wasn’t finger-licking good, but after a few mishaps, I can now cook some decent Pasta. My mother thanked her stars at this small start. ‘All hope isn’t lost’.
July saw me falling in love, that went unrequited and September found me making peace with it. It’s Phase 3. After Phase 1 of dazed existence, and Phase 2 of sleepless nights, constant turbulence of thoughts, and brooding about the same person every day; this is a cool, refreshing gulp of air. It has cleansed and calmed me, and has brought back some much needed focus and stability to my life. Getting a grip on my thoughts had been a topsy-turvy and unpleasant ride, but time has worked its magic again. Relief. 
 I also discovered Basho’s Haiku poems in the past month; another delightful discovery this autumn. It appealed to me like no other poetry ever did. I watched “Winter Days”, a short anime movie about visuals from Basho’s haiku poems. I basked in his words. I made a clumsy attempt at writing a few Haiku poems myself too, which are on this blog here and here.
And to round it all up, there had been a 6.8 earthquake on Sunday that literally shook the life out of me for the briefest of moments. It has resulted in a sad loss of life and property in idyllic Sikkim and neighboring areas; not to mention the emotional trauma, fear and alarm that it has caused in the whole of India. I will always remember though that at the precise moment when the ground beneath me shook, I sprouted legs that could run as fast as the wind. I, who am outpaced by my eight year old cousin on long walks, glided downstairs from my second floor flat with my hard drive, phone and folder of school and college certificates in ten seconds flat. I salute my inner runner.
My autumn has just begun…

Sita Sings The Blues

I watched the movie online a couple of days back. And absolutely loved it. You can catch Nina Paley’s “Sita sings the blueshere. It’s a brilliant animated version of the Indian epic Ramayana which runs parallel to a modern love story. It has been described as the “greatest break-up story every told”! It uses the jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw to chronicle the events of Ramayana, keeping in focus the relationship of Ram and Sita. It uses three shadow narrators (my favorite characters in the movie) to depict the tale and their hilarious narration wil surely delight you. The animation varies from frame to frame in three completely different settings of art. It’s one of the best works I’ve ever seen. Witty and pithy narrative, fantastic animation, good songs and above all a awesome depiction of the Grand epic Ramayana and the plight of Sita is sure to delight many a movie buff.

Why did I choose to mention this movie? March 8th. Women’s Day. MTV India ran a poll on whether there should  be a special day to celebrate the achievements of women. 55% said “yes”, 45% said “there shouldn’t be a specific day to celebrate the achievements of women, every day is Women’s Day” That’s all very good, but honestly do you really think women have got the respect and recognition they deserve in society? And should we even strive for acknowledgement from men for every achievement of ours? We all know the answer in our hearts. I’ve written earlier about the significance of being a girl. In the movie, issues such as Ram asking Sita to prove her purity, despite her unwavering devotion and love for him and the sorrows she suffers silently because of his decision to abandon her when she was pregnant. Through all the turmoils in her life, she unquestioningly obeyed him, loved him, worshiped him. But she didn’t get the respect and love she deserved in the end. Sounds familiar? The film-maker draws parallel to her own love story in the movie. And think about it, don’t you know someone with a similar predicament? The story of Sita is still relevant in today’s world and many women can relate to her at some point or the other. Watch the movie. Highly recommended.

The tagline of the Cosmopolitan female is “fun, fearless female“. May I just add “Fantabulous” to it! If I wait and think about the wonderful women I’ve known in my entire life, I feel so proud to be a woman. Words won’t be enough to describe their full importance in my life, and I won’t even attempt to do so. I just want to tell these fabulous females that I feel blessed to have known them.

1.Ma– for being the epitome of selfless love, for bringing me to this world, for every tear you shed when I was hurt, for being my biggest fan in everything I do, for always making me feel so secure and loved, for bearing my stupid tantrums and never judging me, for loving me just the way I am, for giving a wonderful childhood…for everything. For my existence in this world. I’m eternally indebted to you. And not just a wonderful mother, but the most wonderful woman I’ve ever known.

2.My sister– Few words to describe you; “You’re my life

3.My wacky aunt “Kuni” and even wackier cousins- Priyanka, Sangeeta, Ankita, Bonani, Pompee, Dimpee, Manali, Juku ba, Bu ba, Piya and my baby, Pooja. Juku Ba, I’m so so proud of you the way you’ve battled with the unexpected setback in your life. I pray that you get well soon.

4.The other females in our family- my aunts, my grandmother, my bhabhis. Each one, an uniquely extraordinary great woman. Especially you Pepe!

5.My daily dose of vitamins, my soul sisters- Angana and Aparoopa, my best friends. Two amazing women- the perfect examples of fun, fearless and freaking fabulous females!I love you.

6.Other close friends, with whom I have at some point or the other in my life have shared some wonderful times together. I cherish your friendship. Devi, Bandana, Jyotilekha, Kaveri, Chandamita, Pallabi T, Pallabi P, Supanta, Mousumi, Ruma, Amrita, Daisy Ba.

7. My teachers- Anita Ma’am, Deepti Ma’am, Srivastava Ma’am, Gayatri Ma’am, Manjula Ma’am. Thanks for guiding me at each step.

8. And how can I forget my fellow bloggers. Each one of you so awesomely talented, so wonderfully witty…I eagerly wait every day to read your blogs; I’ve smiled with you, cried with you, laughed till it hurt with you, and even fretted over your work problems with you. I could relate to your experiences. I’m inspired by your thoughts, your lives. I think you are oh-so-amazing! And even though most of the bloggers haven’t met each other, I can surely say each one of us are bound together by shared emotions, shared experiences and it is such an wonderful feeling. Keep writing those brilliant blogs, you’ve one big fan here. I would specially like to mention my favorite blogs: Anita, Lost on the street, Crowscious, Prerna, ShahanaIndi, Anuja, Aoife, E, Ashley and Corinne.

Happy Women’s Day!Cartloads of love and hugs.