Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Marry a guy who loves his mother

I am at an age when most of my friends are getting married. Since everyone has their own parameters for choosing the 'right' partner, and most are extremely secretive about their alliances, I have never really tried to intervene or advise anyone. After all, it is the single most important decision that one makes, even more important than deciding a career I believe. To us Indians, this decision acquires utmost importance because we generally think that once married, there is no way out of that alliance, unless extreme circumstances force us to. And no matter what kind of marriage you have, love or arranged, it remains the biggest gamble of your life. No matter how carefully you choose a partner, you can never predict whether your marriage will be a happy one or not.

In all this, if someone were to ask me the one advice that I have to give, it will be this -

Marry a guy who loves his mother.

Controversial? Why would any independent, strong headed woman want to listen to advice like this? But trust me, I have good reason to say this. There is a cliched hindi saying 'Sab kuchh badal jaata hai, par insaan ki fitrat nahi badalti' (Everything can change, except human nature). And this is exactly why I give this advice.

A mother is a man's first exposure to womanhood and unconditional love. It is the purest form of love that exists. In time, most men will grow up with whatever life has to offer and develop complex personalities, which evolves as life changes. But, what doesn't change is his perception of motherly love and his response to it.

So, when you are courting or in a serious relationship, be aware of how he treats his mother, how he talks about her, and his own feelings towards her. Does he stand up for her when he feels she's being mistreated? Does it bother him when she is sick? Does he carry her bag if he feels it's too heavy? Does he talk to her with respect and love and expect you to do the same? Or is he full of complaints? Indifferent to her needs? Does he take her for granted and thinks it's his right to be loved and not love back in return?

For every man, his mother is his first love. He's the one woman he can go to the end of earth for if needed.  If he loves and cares for his mom, there's a great chance he has grown up respecting women and appreciating what they do for the family. Which in turn means, that there's a great chance that he will respect and appreciate you too. Care for you when you are sick, hold your bag when it's heavy. But, if he doesn't love his mom enough, there is no way any other woman is getting treated any better. You could come covered in diamonds, be the perfect woman God could create, but still will never get the affection, care or respect you wanted from him. You know why, because everything can change, except human nature. 

This same principle applies to various other aspects of our personalities. If you get married to someone expecting that 'you' can change that person, forget it. True, both the partners will have to make adjustments and compromises, they will mature with age, and make changes to their lifestyle, but nothing - not even true love - can change the fundamental personality of anyone. So, if there is something that bothers you grossly, or is in conflict with your principles and character, walk out while you have the chance. For example, if you get to know that your blue eyed boyfriend has been cheating on you, dump him. Right then. Unless you're OK with a philandering spouse (I'm made to believe there is a class of women who is OK with it. I obviously, don't belong to that category). You have absolutely no reason to believe that a person who has strayed once will not do it again. It's in his nature. And if you think getting married is a passport to faithfulness, you couldn't be more wrong. Marriage only makes men more complacent. If he couldn't keep your trust before, it will only get worse after marriage.

Of course, if you are blindly in love, or have already decided your partner, none of this matters to you. No matter how well intentioned advice you may get, you will ultimately do what you feel is right at that point of time.

Each one of us is destined to face our share of ups and downs. If something has to go wrong, it will. But it doesn't hurt to be aware. So, if you are looking for a partner, keep your eyes, ears and heart open. Not just to how you are being treated and made to feel, but also how those around your prospective partner are. If you are still in doubt, make sure you meet his friends. They will give you a fair idea of the kind of people he likes to be around. They are a window to his own personality, aspirations and expectations in life. They will give you an idea of what lies in store for you.

Because, like I said before, 'Sab kuchh badal jaata hai, par insaan ki fitrat nahi badalti' ...

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Life, God and Karma

Since the time a child is born, it is told that it must do good, and good will come back. Honesty is the best policy. Love all, never harm anyone, treat everyone equally, do some charity, live selflessly. All this and more of the benefits of ‘good karma’ are wired into our system by our parents, teachers and religious/spiritual leaders. God too is brought into the picture. The ever-forgiving, all-loving, omniscient and omnipresent God suddenly becomes angry and wrathful if we do something that our religion or elders don’t endorse. Whatever it is that our elders wish us to learn and do, they teach us by instilling in us the fear of God(s), the policeman and destiny. I’m sure that’s how superstition was born. Some parent told his gullible kid that it was inauspicious to walk under a ladder (lest the child get hurt), and the ladder has been bringing us bad luck ever since.

As children, we tend to live in a world of idealism. We look at ourselves and everyone around us through these glasses of ‘goodness’ that we have been made to wear. We are quick to classify something or someone as good or bad based on how we have been brought up. What counts as being desirable and undesirable in our family, our culture and religion. We question the corrupt politician, the philandering neighbour, the cheating classmate, the uncle who paid a bribe, the cousin who likes to drink, the aunty who lies through her teeth – they are all bad people. We want to change the world and how it functions.

But then, we grow up and face the world ourselves. Away from the protection of our family and the matronly teachers at school. Life happens. We get hit by the reality. Idealism takes a beating. Confusion, denial, pain ensues. All those good things we were taught seem to fail. We get hurt and bitten. We face adversity. There is anger and cynicism. Some of us learn the conniving ways of the world and move on to the bad side. It is what we see as necessary to survive and win. Most of us though, still retain the goodness in us, but learn some skills to survive. We have moved from absolute idealism to relative idealism, and just enough meanness to survive the harsh reality. A very few of us remain untouched and carry our innocence wherever we go. Whatever we may become, eventually, the anger moves over to acceptance and we make peace with how the world functions. Some cynicism yeah, but it’s OK. That’s how it is. Whatever.

I have myself reached a stage when very few things surprise me. I still get awed or angry, but I hardly get surprised. Life is more of a grey area than black or white. We live on a spectrum. All of us have shades. This acceptance has led me to forgive, love, tolerate and accept most people the way they are. People once hated don’t seem that bad anymore, and those on a pedestal may have come down a notch. It is human to be imperfect. So why not rejoice in the imperfection than to be miserable looking for perfection?

When you reach this stage of acceptance, you also begin to have deeper revelations.  You understand that you are exactly where you need to be right now. You might be going through trials and tribulations, or you might be on top of the world, whatever stage you are at, it is exactly where you should be.

When we are suffering and in pain, we tend to ask God, ‘why me?’, but trust me, God knows what he is doing. He knows what is good for us. And it all fits with his great plan.

Whenever we are faced with adversity and survive it, we emerge stronger and wiser. We have learnt valuable life lessons that will help us succeed when faced with similar or more challenging situations. Some adversity will also instill in us humility, which will make us agreeable to those around us. The trick is to hold on and not break. Have faith. That God has it planned. That this too shall pass, and something better will emerge. When we embrace adversity with such attitude, we will be able to see opportunity where others see hopelessness, and use it to our advantage. We will emerge winners. Forge meaning and build identity.

Just. Have. Faith.

And, this is an atheist talking to you. Throughout my formative years, and adolescence, I had questioned the existence of God. I was loath to pray, or agree that there was someone else who controlled our destiny. (I still don’t endorse the concept of religion. More wars have been fought over religion than anything else. The only good thing it does is teach people to pray, and have an anchor in the tough times). But life does strange things. If it could make me a staunch believer, I’m sure that miracles too happen.

But then, if God has it planned, what does Karma do for us? That is a question I’m still trying to answer. Whatever you do comes back to you, life comes back full circle – or does it?

I have seen that the good, noble, kind-hearted souls feel every pain that the world inflicts on them. They may know that something is bad for them, but they will still do it if it helps someone else. Even the most intelligent of their lot gets taken for a ride because their goodness forces them to be nice. Their conscience stops them from letting their guard down and living it up. It is as if they were born to suffer.

The bad people on the other hand - those who deceive, plot and plan, exploit others, hurt them – they are so thick skinned that nothing affects them. They make money using unscrupulous means, flout all norms of society, womanize, drink it up and live it up. Even ill health seems to be scared of them. They don’t seem to have a conscience that would prick them. It is as if they were born to enjoy.

So, isn't it counter-intuitive - If you are good, you suffer, and if you are bad, you enjoy life??

Or is it that the bad people did something in their previous birth to be enjoying now (another debatable topic – rebirth)? If that is so, aren't they ruining it in this one? So the cycle of life continues – you do good and suffer – then you do bad and enjoy – then repeat – born, die, born, die…

And if it is the God’s will that one must do bad things, maybe that is the right thing for that person. He/she is maintaining the balance of good and evil on Earth. So, then, why would God punish anyone if everyone is doing everything as per God’s will? Whether good or bad. Why bother trying to be good if you were meant to be bad? Why all the schooling, teaching and preaching that exalts virtue?

I guess I have you as confused as I am about this issue. So let’s leave it at that. I would really appreciate your views on this though.

As my quest for the answers of life continues, you can expect me to write more about my confusions and insights. Someday, I hope to have found my answers, and evolved into a being of higher consciousness.

Until then, I hope I have managed to bore you thoroughly with my lecture, and confused you enough to spoil your midweek. If I have - well then – mischief managed :)

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Baggage of Memory

"The world is a tragedy for those who feel, and a comedy for those who think" - This poem is dedicated to all the feelers out there, who have learnt valuable lessons from what life has taught. Yeah yeah, I know I sound too filmy, but what's life without a little drama? So here goes -

The Baggage of Memory

Much I tried, I tried to forget,
The hands of the man who had lifted my dress,
Had made me feel dirty and scream in pain,
As I kicked and thrashed and tried to refrain,
From breaking my trust, from hurting me more,
I was three years old, and he was a guard at my school door,
The man I had thought was my friend and protector,
Left me with a lesson I would always remember,
Never would I ever trust another male outsider,
To become my friend, or love or advisor.

Much I tried, I tried to forget,
The tears of my mother after the fiery tempest,
Never did my parents ever did get along,
The love seemed to have died, the spark was long gone.
When I saw other parents walking arm in arm,
Loving their children, and each other so disarmed,
I longed for the love to flow everywhere,
Come to me, catch my parents unaware,
Convinced that marriage was only a strife,
I found solace in the imaginary, in dreams about life,
I thought that I will spend my whole life alone,
Live it on my terms, reach horizons unknown.

Oh, how I wish, these lessons I hadn’t learnt,
I would be blissful and at peace, with experience unearned,
Innocent, like a child, I would have loved everyone,
Ignorant and happy, trusted everyone,
The world would have seemed a place more promising,
If I didn’t have the memory of such hatred and deceiving,
True, it is said, a stranger can’t give you pain,
Like someone you deeply love, your trust who has gained,
This baggage of memory I wish we didn’t carry,
Live each moment, if our past we could bury,
Have five second memory, like a gold fish,
Be happy swimming in a bowl, all my life how I wish!

Monday, 5 May 2014

An open letter to my educated Muslim friends

My dear educated Muslim friends,

Why are you so quiet? Yes you – the educated Muslim? Why do you let your extremist counterparts create such fear, distrust and misunderstanding about your religion? Why? Why is it so difficult for you to speak up? Support your girls? Dispel myths about Islam? Help your community progress? It’s all very nice of you to ‘like’ pictures of Allah and praying kids on Facebook, but why do I never see you supporting a cause? What stops you?

This letter comes in the wake of the kidnapping of over 200 young Nigerian girls from a boarding school, reportedly by a radical Islamic group Boko Haram, that opposes western education, particularly education of women, who they believe are meant to stay at home and raise children. These ambitious young women, if not rescued, might end up working as sex slaves for militants, sold for less than $12 each.

But it’s not this incident alone that causes me to question you. I have had this question for very long now. Why is it that Taliban is allowed to grow, and proliferate and terrorise your youth? Thank God Malala is still alive, and fighting for her cause. But why do you allow such atrocities to happen?  Why were women’s faces disfigured for wearing make-up? Why is education such a bane? Why is progress seen as a threat? Why do Muslim nations have terrorist camps? Why do these states protect and hide militants like Bin-Laden? Why is there no outrage among you when extremists carry out such heinous crimes and violations of basic human rights? Does your blood not boil? Don’t you want to protect your children, your sisters, your mothers?

It’s no secret that the whole world fears and distrusts the Muslim community. Ask any parent, and they will say, ‘marry anyone but a Muslim’. Why do you let this happen to your community?

I was brought up in a Sikh household, schooled in a Convent, and married in a Hindu household. I have grown up with a very high tolerance and acceptance of people of all the religions, caste, colour and kinds. Some of my best friends have been Muslims. And all of them, mostly girls, have gone on to complete Masters, PhD’s and medical studies. You guys are awesome. Your etiquette, your language, manners, food, spirituality, everything is impeccable. I find it hard to believe that a religion that has such polite, gentle and nice people could preach so much violence.

It is out of this great concern for you that I write this letter. I have grown up believing that all religions teach us the same thing. Being human, just and fair. That we must do good, and love everyone. And that’s the only path to salvation. And I believe that Islam must do the same - please tell me if I’m wrong.

You are educated. And your education empowers you. Please use this power. Read the Holy Quran yourself. Understand. Teach it to the others. Preach the message of love that you carry in your hearts. Educate your girls. Empower them. Emancipate them. Stop the consanguineous marriages, the polygamy, the exploitation of young girls. Dress modestly, but don’t bind your women. Don’t punish them for wanting to look good. Bring healthcare to your people’s doorstep. Dispel the myth and superstition that abounds your community. Build schools. Teach science, math, philosophy, arts, music, technology. Chuck the jihadists. And the clerics who preach hatred.

Please build the trust that the world has lost in you. You are responsible for the progress of your community, not the extremist that kills thousands after being brainwashed. The onus lies on you – the educated Muslim.

Yours sincerely,

A concerned friend

Friday, 2 May 2014

Is that funny or frustrating?

Have you ever tried watching an English sitcom on mute in India? Even the most serious show becomes absolutely hilarious - thanks to the censored words replaced with something less offensive to suit the Indian sensibilities. Common words, used even the most harmlessly, get replaced, which makes for some very amusing reading. Imagine what our everyday conversations would be like if they got edited like that.

You go to your friend’s baby shower and you have the following conversation. Italicized words are substitutions of their ‘offensive’ versions-

You – ‘Hey sweetie! Congratulations to the mom to be! So, how you doing?’
Friend – ‘Great ya, if only I could sleep at night!’                     
You – ‘Oh crap! That’s too bad, but it will only get worse. All the best! So do you know if it’s a boy or girl?’
Friend – ‘Not at all! Don’t you know pre-natal ***-determination is banned in India? But it would have helped to know, I would have gotten the right clothes.’
You – ‘You know that harlot Neena got it done in the US when she went to stay with her brother.’
Friend – ‘But she had a normal delivery you know. It must have hurt like inferno’
You – ‘Can’t believe even a ***t like her could chestfeed her baby’
Friend - ‘Well, you never know, motherhood is a life changing experience’
You – ‘That calls for a toast!  Rears up!’

If that reads funny, imagine watching a curse – word loaded movie like ‘The Departed’. It is either hilariously substituted or frustratingly bleeped out. You can’t even ‘try’ to enjoy it. So watching a late night movie while others are sleeping will only turn out to be more of a headache than entertainment.

I wish the TV channels would do the subtitles more sensibly than mindlessly substituting words even where not required. That would definitely make TV watching more fun.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Living Legend

Roger Federer is my hero. There is no other player (except Sachin Tendulkar) who commands more respect from me. And that comes not just from the fact that he is a legendary tennis player.

In a cricket obsessed nation, ours was a home of tennis lovers, thanks to dad. Every Federer match was an event not be missed. He was an artist in action. Absolutely class apart. The effortless ease with which he hit his shots, the graceful singlehanded backhands, his poise, his elegance. Even when two sets down, he looked unperturbed.  He knew he could clinch it. And that's what made him special. His confidence and self - belief.

He is not beefed up or super strong physically. But it's his mind that defines him. The sheer brilliance of his game - so intelligent - and superior mental strength. That's what won matches for him. That took him to beat and create tennis records, going down in history as the biggest tennis legend so far.

And that's the one thing that has changed in the last couple of years. Maybe his focus is now more on family, or he has let his critics make him believe that he is too old to play now. Whatever the case may be, I don't see that poise anymore. He gives up at some point. He thinks he will lose. And he does. That's unfortunate. Because he is still Federer, and he still has all it takes to clinch those titles. I just get so heartbroken. I still can't bring myself to see him lose to Djokovic (especially to Djokovic) or to Wawrinka. Sigh. I still hope that his inner strength will rise, and he will be number one again. That he will keep playing and entertaining us with such stylish tennis, an art that is all but lost these days.

And that's not where it ends. I respect him deeply for one more thing. Despite his blue-blooded looks and his legendary status, he has never been involved in a controversy. He has stayed true to his wife Mirka for fourteen long years, since they started dating, and I hope they will be together forever. Deep respect. He makes my belief stronger that true manhood is not about how many 'birds' you can catch, but despite having the ability to do so, choosing to be with your queen forever.

It's difficult not to be in awe of a person who stands for everything legendary. Like Sheldon Cooper says,  'minstrels will write songs about him'. And no matter who is reigning, for me, this era of tennis will always be defined by Roger Federer.

Roger Federer - my hero.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Kaisa bulawa aya hai?

Cricket in India is not a sport, it’s a religion. Popular cricketers are Gods of the nation, and India-Pakistan matches are undeclared national holidays. Winning the World Cup is akin to salvation. Prayers are offered and fasts are kept to ensure India’s victory. Cricket is the pulse of the nation. Not even a war can bring the kind of patriotic fervour that cricket can. And therein lies the beauty of the game.

Personally, I’ve never been a huge cricket fan. It goes on for too long, and there’s not enough excitement when batsmen are going tuk-tuk taking single runs. But even I’m not immune to the patriotism that this game generates. It is impossible not to do a ‘yahoo’ or chant ‘India! India!’ when our beloved Dhoni hits a winning stroke.

And that precisely is my problem with the Indian Premier League. Why should I or anyone waste their time watching a format that’s nothing but a business model? Hell, I don’t even know which team to support! Ideally I should be supporting the Delhi team. But when Kohli plays for Bangalore and Gambhir for Kolkata, and Delhi team has not one reputed Delhiite playing for it, where is the enthusiasm? The Sri-Lankan player who the men folk were colourfully cursing yesterday now plays in the same team that Sachin Tendulkar captained! Such a farce!

‘Blasphemy!’, I scream. The sacred game has been violated. Cricket is being played not for the game or the nation but for the money. The numerous scandals surrounding the format are witness to this. And on top of that, the channel broadcasting it has the audacity to use the phrase ‘Chalo bulawa aya hai!’, reserved for the revered Vaishno ma.

Kaise bulawa hai yeh? I would rather watch some B-grade Hindi movie than waste my time on this mercenary nonsense. I wish more people would wake up to this reality and do something worthwhile instead of watching the IPLT20 just for the heck of it!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Some Chardonnay please!

Let me start with a disclaimer. I’m not a drunkard. I can’t have a beer without feeling severely bloated or stomach a red wine without getting a migraine. You will never catch me drunk at a party trying to walk in a straight line… But Chardonnay… Oh dear! There’s something about it that makes me crave for it unapologetically. It tastes great, goes with various kinds of food and gives you just the right amount of high – you can giggle your way to home without losing sense of time and place (or drunk dialling an ex).

Funny, my first ever blog post should be about alcohol. Tells you a lot about hidden personalities doesn’t it? Who would have imagined, that the simple, kurti clad research scholar would have a love affair with wine, but, oh well…

My most recent escapade with wine happened when SK came calling. Oh she’s one hell of a friend. You can talk to her about anything without being judged, and she will pamper you and cajole you and totally spoil you with her love (even pay your bills if you are short on cash, because she has such a big heart). And she’s an absolute foodie. If you are with her, you are assured of an endless supply of good food and she will travel the world with you for fulfilling that craving.

A date was set. SK was in town. And just in time for lunch! So what do we do? Pick up our favourite buddy AD, and go to the nearest fine dine restaurant just across the road. While ordering some vegetarian Chinese food, we come across the drinks section. Well, it’s still afternoon, and we have to get back to work, but she’s the best company to enjoy a drink… So, chardonnay it is!!

What followed were probably the two best hours I’d had in a long long time. Started with remembering our quirkiest B.Tech teachers and laughing our heart out with the funny things they used to do… Ah! Those were the times… Sigh… Followed by a lecture to SK on love, life and marriage, when everyone conceded that wine provided me with some deep insights on life that I must immediately pen down and share with the world… Ended with us laughing hysterically at the thought of how we’re going to find her the prince charming to settle down with (details are too scandalous to be shared online).

For those two hours, life was good. No deadlines, no research, no theses, no heartbreak, no family tension, nothing. It was just us, our jokes and our giggles. What’s there not to like? No one was harmed in the process and we were deposited back safely to work and then home. Just harmless fun.

So, ‘Waiter! Can I have some chardonnay please?’.

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