Wasting my day

The first thing that someone usually asks when they meet you is, how are you? This is usually followed by – what are you doing lately ? Increasingly, I find that this is a difficult question to respond to. Questions such as why are you so busy and what do you do for a living also fall under this category. Because the truth is by the standards of the world I have been doing nothing. Why? Because almost all my days (with the exception of a few) fall under the non-remunerative slot. And so in today’s times when we have spent so much time, money, and sometimes effort, on gaining socially valuable education degrees, the very act of not earning or not working seems like a bad choice for many. So in response I am forced to either say that I am a writer (because I still do write) or that I am a housewife. But the former immediately makes people view me as someone special and the latter gets me looks of such pity or disgust that I have refrained from using it lately. The thing I have understood is that – if you are not doing something that earns you money people quickly dismiss you and assume you are wasting your day.

Wasting your day… How many of us live our life filled with the need to make every moment worthwhile; make every moment momentous, and every second move towards a purpose or a goal. Our culture promotes the notion of
work = worth. And most of us have absorbed this as a truth. I know friends who are scared at the idea of leaving work because 1. they believe money is needed and 2. They have studied so much that they believe they need to work.

But lately after walking on the path, I have changed quite a few notions related to this. I have chosen to no longer work for a living. I have chosen to have a life instead, and do work whenever it pleases me. It dawned on me, last week, that it had been 4 years since I quit active journalism and I have absolutely no regrets. The year before I quit was the best year of my career and yet it brought me the greatest amount of stress and emptiness than ever. Why? Because I had not wasted my time. I was too busy trying to capture it and frame it with my accolades of success.

And so I decided to change my life and do the very things that bring me peace instead. Music, dance, reading, lying down staring at the sky- the things the people usually associate with wasting time, I realized are the very things that bring you joy. As human beings deep down we all pursue only one thing- happiness, and work rarely equals to happiness for most. And so off-late all I do is waste my time doing what feeds my soul and I find that the universe plans my life is such a way that my stomach is fed too.

I waste my time in photography, gardening, reading, learning new energy healing techniques, practicing what I learn, playing with my son, creating art, cooking and keeping home. And I find, I am leading a fuller, more meaningful life than many, many people I know. After all we have such less time on earth and what better thing can I do with it than make it flow in a way that adds joy to my life.

This is not to say that I advocate people make the choices I have or quit their jobs. But I do hope that someday people will be able to stop, breathe a little deeper and let go of their need to dam, race against, or defeat time. What we believe is wasting our time may in the end just save our lives instead. So whenever someone asks me what I do, I have decided to just smile and say nothing. Another seeker on the path recently posted this on his blog, “when someone asks me what I do, I say – Nothing. I stay at ‘om’.” And that is exactly what I do off-late 🙂

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Rising from silence

I have been angry all week. I have been unwell this entire week. My brain is busy trying to reconcile with the innumerable rapes it reads about and ignores in the news everyday. My heart is busy trying to tell me that it cannot rage indefinitely against eve-teasing, rape and molestation. But all I want to do is sob or vent my anger on someone. All I want to do is believe that it will end.

I thought I had put it behind, but I cannot forget the coconut water vendor who entered my building, waiting for me in the stairways and groped by breast as I was returning to school. I cannot forget another man who tried to do the same thing, in the same location, a few months after. For years afterward, I ran up the stairs of my own building afraid I would encounter something similar. I cannot forget the boy who worked at the newspaper stand which delivered the newspaper to my house. For months, often in the night when I was sleeping alone in the living room, the tiny slot in the front-door from which the letters were dropped would open and someone would peep inside. The first time I saw it, I thought I imagined things. The next time it happened I was scared. I felt unsafe, violated in my own home. My grandma and Dad refused to believe me initially. Everyone was sure I was imaging things. It happened for months on end, till one day I asked some college friends to keep watch at night. They followed the person who came out of my building and told me who it was. Then it began to happen during the day. One day as soon as I saw the letter-slot open, I walked to the door opened it and saw someone run upstairs. I told my dad and he believed me. He found the boy crouching in the upper floor and yelled at him. But it continued. I would have nightmares, wake up scared. One day I covered the letter-slot from inside with a piece of cardboard . The peeping-tom eventually gave up but my nightmares never went away. Even now suddenly they reappear sometimes.

I cannot forgive the boy who as I walked down a deserted road at 6.30 in the morning for college, walked in front of me and groped my breasts. Nor can I forgive the men who have tried to feel me up in the bus nor the perverted masturbating nude man sitting inside a van who opened the door just as I and my friend passed by so we could see him. Don’t even get me started about the college boys who thought I was someone easy and available just because I spoke to boys and believed in dating.

Of all the wounds, the one that hurts the most is that inflicted by family. I cannot forgive my uncle who tried to kiss an adult me. I pushed him away, and he claimed he was always hugging his son and how even his son said kids our age don’t like it. He fumbled for words to cover his tracks but my mind flashed as I remembered how he would casually place his hands on my thigh when I wore shorts. I struggled with that silence for months knowing it would hurt my dad and family. When I did it to tell my patriarchal grandma ( who has cursed, been judgmental and treated me as a ‘girl’ child since birth), she blamed my modernism and clothes for her son’s behaviour.

For years I believed that these incidents were partly my fault. That as a woman who lives in a perverted world, you have to protect yourself. That as scarring as it was, being felt-up is part and parcel of being a girl. But now my mind screams and asks why should it be normal when it doesn’t feel normal. This isn’t life. Normal is not about a man thinking it is o.k. to touch a stranger’s body. It is not normal to treat a girl like she is responsible for everything that happens to her. Clothes don’t cause rape, a man’s mind causes it. Molestation happens when a man uses his might with a woman he knows is weaker. Such incidents happen because we live in a world where a woman is taught to live in silence because she is taught by her family that talking about such incidents disrupts their honour.

But today, I don’t want to be silent. I want things to change. I am happy with the mass public awakening in cities. But I am still afraid because I know things like rape, molestation, incest will continue in the small towns and big cities alike, because of men who are titillated by raunchy movie stars and woman who continue to be silent. I am afraid because I know people will continue to suppress their truths. As someone who has been eve-teased by local policemen, I am not confident better policing is the only solution. This movement needs to leave cities and move to all small towns. It needs to go to schools where children are taught openly about sex and anatomies, about respecting differences. This movement needs to find ways to address curiosity, provide outlets to vent frustrations, nip perversion in the bud, support women, apprehend criminals, enable social reforms if we as women are to live more freely. Till then all I can do is rise from my silence, speak and write about this, and try to raise my son to be someone who does not crack sexist jokes, does not eve-tease  and respects women.

Describe your family, the american way

It is only in the US that you will be forced to think about what kind of family you are and define it. While filling a form, the options included adoptive parents, single parent, interracial, LBGT, Grandparent caretaker, Parents with custody of children, Allergies, Have special needs child(ren), Have twins/multiples, Vegetarian/vegan
Halal and Kosher.

With so many options, I was actually confused for a second. My child was mine, but if my in-laws came and took care of him when they come visit, what would I be then? In the end, I decided I was a vegetarian parent and the parent with legal custody. It was a gentle reminder of the year ahead .

Who are you?

Time goes so slowly when you live in another person’s mind. Everything takes on a different meaning, is coloured a different shade. Reality is blurred because you are not seeing through your eyes. That’s what happens if you live your entire life through other people’s viewpoint. Spend the days and nights doing things right, doing things that will make them happy, make them feel proud of you, make them think of you as someone who is good-natured, adjusting, beautiful inside out , etc etc, making them feel that you put your home and family before yourself. Because that’s what a good woman is supposed to do. Be her parent’s reflection, be her in-laws reflection, be her husband’s reflection, till nothing of her remains.

But what about inside? Are you proud of who you are? Do you like what you see inside you? What is inside you? Who is the real you? Is you the person who runs a good home and does the daily chores and at the same time manages to have an identity apart from the one you have as a wife and mother or are you only a career woman. What if you look inside and discover you want neither or want a combination of both or simply don’t want to be anything.

What if the you is something that evolves constantly and so what you would really want to do changes very often. And so it makes you feel something different everyday. And that’s why you are sad inside. Because though inside is in constant motion, externally you continually try and define yourself, label yourself for the world. You don the roles, the world most easily understands and is comfortable with. To avoid questions, you silence the soul. To avoid conflicts you forget your own voice, listening only to the voice of others. And then you begin to live a life that is not yours. Only because you have forgotten to listen to your own heart. Forgotten to sing your own song.

Today can you pause and ask yourself who am I?

Marriage mayhem

The whole episode with Shrija, the daughter of South Indian superstar Chiranjeevi, got on my nerves. I felt that she could not have chosen a worse way to humiliate her family. Then a couple of days later she was on TV, stating that her family had kept her under house arrest for a year and felt threatened by them. Her relatives stated shock at her behaviour and then announced their support for her.Since then, society has gone bonkers debating their family issue. Some called her a fool and expressed grief for the family. Others lauded her courage and blamed the family for not bringing her up right. But what right does a layman have to comment on a situation they know little about?
But, yes, society speaks and that’s where the problem lies.

I know two friends who chose to leave home and get married. One while she was still studying, and another who was a successful professional. Both marriages ended in divorce and terrible emotional scars. The second friend is someone very close to my heart. I have seen and experienced the trauma she and her family underwent. To the family the experience was something that tested their faith and sapped up all their strength. But the pain caused by the so called friends and society around, who chose to give their opinion to them, was and is the worst injury.

Society deemed her a worthless daughter and termed her parents as bad ones, who did not even raise the child right. I see the consequences of society’s words even today on the family, rendering them incapable of making the best decisions today; just because the fear of others. So who has really caused more harm, the girl, her parents or a society that assumes the moral role of deciding what is right by passing judgements?

I see my friend struggle even today. The knowledge of the pain her parent’s experienced haunts her still. The knowledge of the shame society imposed on her parents, hurts her more. What really is the society’s contribution to making their lives happier? None.

No one helped them see that she had made a bad choice of partner and had understood what relationships are in the process. Her parents helped her overcome it and helped their daughter re-make a life for herself. But the focus is still on shame, regret and parent’s disappointment. Thats what the world around has made it about.

So many youngsters continue in bad marriages they have chosen for themselves. All in an attempt to prove their decisions right. Very rarely do marriages that begin at that age, last long and friends of the same age cannot really help. At 19 the reality that a marriage is little about love and all about managing practical day to day living, problems and expectations, doesn’t sink in. Marriage is about working for 8 hours a day so you can buy groceries, hire a maid, paying utility bills, and then about saving for a house, children, their education and if some money is left then, go eat out, buy electronic gadgets and clothes. And when you come home from work, marriage is about cooking, picking up the clothes, folding the washed ones, putting away the washed stuff, cleaning rooms and bathrooms, dusting the house and many such chores. Then come children and family and a dozen other tasks. Love is just the glue that helps two people do all this together.

Why is it that though youngsters grow up seeing our parents do all this, such things escape our head when we are in love. At that age we haven’t gathered enough experiences to formulate our main needs as people and our values. Growing up we are not part of what it takes to fun a family and so we don’t even simple awareness of the reality that is life. Parents simple aim to protect children and children pay no attention. But the world watches all this patiently and comments when it gets the chance.

But as youngsters grow older they understand the decisions they once made. The knowledge of our past actions weighs heavily on us, if we are not taught that mistakes however grave are a part of the growing up process. Someone I know said it so correctly recently, ‘We live in a world where our children’s value system is being constantly challenged.’ Parents need to know that they are not responsible for their children’s action. Shielding them from their mistakes is not something they can do. Instil values in them throughout childhood and know that those values will be realised by your children when they grow up. Don’t expect to see that when they are growing up. Growing up is a process that involves bad choices no matter how grave those choices are. And in today’s world a wrong choice of life partner isn’t the end of the all things right in you or your child. Life will become better, it always does.

The world youngsters dwell in is so different from the world of the adults. You both can find a middle path. But what that path is, only the parents and children can decide. But if the child decides to head a way where you are sure it will stumble, all you can do is give it and hand and help it up. Deal with the pain together. Don’t add to each other’s pain. And mostly decide between yourself what the experience means and has taught you all. Don’t let the world impose its lessons on you.