What made you sad today?

Thursdays it was. Library period is what they called it.  They would remove their shoes outside.  The library was as small as a regular classroom. Yet, for her it was a fortune. Which book should she pick? She had all the options in the world! Aisle after aisle. Shelf after shelf. The smell of old books. Some bookmarks left as it is. Some pages torn.  Some drawings made.  The library card where she would put her name. And read the names of everyone else who checked it our before her. The Enid Blyton Books..

Then there would be the book sale, announced well in advance.  She was not supposed to carry any money to school. But for the book fair she would be allowed. She loved reading those abridged classics. The beautiful pictures on the covers. The blurb on the back.  The smell of new books.  It did not matter whether the book was old or new. Whether she borrowed from the library or bought from the fair.  The books unleashed a different world.  A world of dreams. A world of knowledge.

Today, it makes her sad that she will never smell those books again.

The rainy season would start. Monsoon as they would call it.  Her mother would pick her up from school. Sometimes, they would not find an auto or rickshaw. So they would have to walk home.   In the rain. And keechad.  Cars would pass by.  There would be a splash.  Mostly on the red skirt. But sometimes on the crisp, ironed white shirt too. The dirt on the road. The smell of the rain. She would love to make a puddle.   She would jump at each step as her mother would try to drag her to walk properly. Dogs, cows, people, cars, cycles all moved in the rain. 

Today, It makes her sad that she will never make that puddle again.

Summer vacation would start. Her cousins would arrive.  Her father had purchased a video game for her. It had two games. Shoot the duck with a gun. And Mario. They would take turns to play. How cool it was, that she was the only girl in the neighborhood who had the game. Would her Mario survive the dragons at the end of the fourth level?  Thank you Mario but our princess is in another castle – The screen would read.  Would her Mario find his princess at the end of the eighth world? Would she and her brother be able to play simultaneously as Mario and Luigi?

Today, It makes her sad that her Mario will never meet the Princess again.

Little joys were so simple to achieve then..  She thought when she grew up there would be something so much bigger. Better. Bigger happiness! Little did she know….

It was not until she became an adult that she realized:

Happiness comes at a very heavy price!

जीने के लिए सोचा ही नहीं
दर्द संभालने होंगे
मुस्कुराये तो मुस्कुराने के
क़र्ज़ उतारने होंगे

 

 

Beauty And The Beast Within

The cute child

“Bachche Chacha Nehru se pyaar karte the! Chacha Nehru khoobsurat the. Bachche har khoobsurat cheez se pyaar karte hain!”

I listened, admiring my beautiful Hindi teacher reading out a chapter on Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.  The teacher was very fond of me. “You look like a doll!” She would say. I would blush.

An attractive teacher talking about a charismatic personality.  A reasonably cute looking child listening intently.  The beautiful atmosphere was interrupted as a girl in shabby clothes and slippers walked in along with our class teacher.  Her hair was brown, with knots, lacking any kind of nourishment.  Her complexion was dull.  She looked dazed as if she woke up on another planet. Her skirt looked more like a lehenga reaching her calf, matched with a miserable, baggy, shirt. It must be her father’s, I thought.

“This is Champa. She would be joining your class today.” The teacher said hurriedly. “Let her sit next to the class monitor for few weeks till we assign her another place. Meghna, you sit next to Komal for now.  Tanvi, Champa will be sitting next to you.  Please help her with the books, uniform etc.”

I was horrified! Champa’s admission was part of a reach out program, wherein a child from a nearby slum would be selected for education free of cost.  Some of us had heard about this proposal. We had no idea it would be implemented. I had no idea it would affect me. Directly!

The next few days were difficult for me.  But how difficult was it for Champa to fit in? Kids made fun of her brutally.  They asked her if she ever showered.   There was an outbreak of lice soon after she joined. She was alleged to be the origin. Guilty until proven innocent. She bought chapati or chuda for lunch.  She ate alone. She was different.

I was conscious of my behavior at school. I was never mean to her. But deep down I found her repulsive. I hated sitting next to her.

One day, after lunch I was playing with friends. Tag. Then on the Merry Go Around. The first bell rang as an indication to us to go back to our classrooms. As I was running, I felt a weird sensation. Within a few seconds even before I realized, I had vomited. In front of everyone.

There was some vomit on my perfectly ironed white shirt. And probably some drool on my face.

One teacher commented, “Such a big girl! Cannot even control herself!! Don’t you know there is a toilet?”

Some kids laughed. Others said “Ewww” and moved away in disgust.

I had tears in my eyes.  As I made the walk of shame towards the washroom, someone held my hand.  I turned in surprise.

There she was. Champa.  As expressionless as ever.  But holding me tight and safe. She held my hand and helped me clean up. She did not say a word. But stayed with me throughout.

Few days later, she stopped coming to school.  She disappeared as abruptly as she had appeared. Some people said that parents had complained about the reach out program. Others said the management felt it was not working out. Some said her parents had decided that studies would not do her any good. Nobody knew for sure.  I never saw her again.

The ugly duckling

Few years later, my father got transferred to the United States. I was a teenager by now studying in a junior high school at New York City. One of the poshest cities in the world. With people from all over the world.  All races.  There were blonde beauties. And Hispanic beauties. And Asian beauties. Girls my age had voluptuous bodies.  My breasts had refused to show up. My buttocks were also equally flat. I wore glasses. And braces.  I had round chipmunk cheeks. I was one of the shortest people in the class.

Kids were at the age where they bully. My school was no exception.  Some desi kids like me who did not fit in were told ‘You stink’  to our faces.  Some would express reluctance to sit next to us. While walking home, there was this once particularly big guy from a senior grade who would scream at me every day, ‘You are UGLY!!!’  just in case I had forgotten.

For the first time in life I felt what it feels like to feel inferior. In every way. I felt like I was at the absolute lowest strata of society.  Being popular, being liked by the opposite sex, getting proposals on Valentine’s Day could only be a dream. I would be grateful if the day passed without any major humiliation.

Is this how Champa felt..?

I became quiet.  I was still a very good student. Being intelligent was my pride.  The few people who got to know me said I was a ‘very nice girl’.  I had few friends.  But they would all vouch for me.

A transformation

Another few years passed.  I was back in India.  I blossomed late. But I finally blossomed. I looked much better in college and in my 20’s. I was now on the better-looking side. This ‘above average’ spectrum had its own set of issues. Women felt jealous and made mean comments, totally unwarranted.  Random people thought that if a girl  is  into her looks and puts on makeup it means she is dumb and shallow. I got attention from boys who were not at all serious and I had to deal with their obnoxious attitude at feeling rejected.  Some people found me arrogant when it fact I was just an introvert.

Was this still better than being on the other side of beauty…?

I have been on different sides of ‘beauty’ at different phases of life. Here are my thoughts:

Lessons learnt

Beauty is never isolated. It is not just about the shape of your eyes or the symmetry of your face. It is about what is considered acceptable.  It is a combination of other related factors such as social, financial, racial privileges. Someone who has features from another part of the world may be different therefore considered not good looking. People who have more money have access to fashion and cosmetology and end up looking the best possible versions of themselves.

When you HATE what you see in the mirror, nothing else matters much.  Most of the times you do not see what is truly there, but what others have told you about yourself.  You see your insecurities. For someone it is a big nose.  For someone it could a dark skin-tone.  For someone it is the weight. And it takes years, and years to become comfortable with it.  I used to pray regularly as a child, having studied in a convent school. The last wish in my prayers (after well-being and health of parents and sibling) was ‘God, please make me pretty!’ Like most kids, my prayer was memorized.   Even today, at 31, when I am distressed and start praying, this ‘wish’ repeats in my mind involuntarily in the sequence.

 When a lot of people find many different ways of telling you that you do not look good, you give up on your looks completely. You deliberately decide not to put in any effort.  Loose clothes, pony tail, no make-up- Beauty becomes a game one that we choose not to play. You cannot lose when you are not playing, can you?

Champa’s face haunts me still

We may have been treated badly. But that is no excuse for how we treat others. A lesson I learnt from Champa.  A lesson I would like to convey to young people. Hang in there. There are people who will see you for your inner beauty.  But first you need to see it.  Be kind to others. And yourself.  The people we like to talk to, hold on to ultimately are the ones who are pleasant and positive. We also need to become that person first.

A happy face looks beautiful and is a culmination of peace with self and others.

Author’s Note

This article has been written for a contest organized by Women’s Web for the Naturals Salon.

I believe every woman has TRUE BEAUTY within her in all the roles she plays. For over 18 years across 650 plus salons across the country, Naturals has been helping the Beautiful Indian Woman get more Beautiful.

Today Naturals Salutes the Beautiful Indian Woman.

Presenting Naturals TRUE BEAUTY… http://bit.ly/naturalsOF 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I Realised That The Festivities I Cribbed About Were About Celebration & Family

When I Realised That The Festivities I Cribbed About Were About Celebration & Family

When I was a kid I waited eagerly for festivals. More people in the house, pichkari, pathaka, new clothes, cousins, sweets, fun, laughter. What was not to like about it?

But as I grew up, I started hearing things which made me cringe..

Leave Everything And Vanish?

When I was about 14, I had watched a television series on Sony called Hubahu starring Sandhya Mridul. She played the role of identical twin sisters. One sister, Aditi lived in India. She was a homemaker married to a college professor with a son. She lived a boring, stable life. The other sister, Ananya was very glamourous. She lived in some foreign country. Wikipedia says Bangkok although I do not remember.. This sister is single, rich, has a luxurious lifestyle  and a wannabe boyfriend. The sister in India lives a stable live with her husband and kid. One day they both decide to switch places for a week. (They are identical).  Due to some unavoidable circumstances, they end up continuing in their switched lives for some more time. At the end, they realize they like their new life better. They end up continuing like that.

When I had watched this show at that age I had thought how could the woman with a family just leave everything. She had a husband! A kid! I had also found nothing with her life that was so bad that she just gave it up.  I was so judgmental…

Aditi used to wake up every morning with a jump as her alarm rang. She would rush to get her kid ready. The rest of the day would be lost in household work…Cribbing. Stressing. And cribbing some more. And stressing some more..

When I was studying in the U.S.,  in eighth grade or ninth grade, in one of the class discussions the teacher had asked what are some of the reasons for depression. One girl had raised her hand and said ‘monotony’.  No it was not those last few residual answers where all obvious answers such as loss of a loved one, loss of job, divorce, break-up was consumed. It was one of the first few answers.

“That’s right”, The teacher had replied. “Getting up every day, same time, same routine with nothing interesting to look forward to in life can be depressing for some people.”

I had found this very odd.  To me, it was not a valid cause. What else is everybody supposed to do every single day anyway, I had thought.  I guess I was too dumb…

I guess I wake up the same way as Aditi does.  Every morning with panic.  Thinking I have missed the alarm. I will be late to work.. I will get scolded…  The maid would have knocked on the door and left… I will have to do the work…I will be even more late to work…  And there is a deadline…Not only will I go to work late but leave from work late too… House work. And office work…

Maybe it is everybody’s fantasy to just leave our current life… Leave everything and vanish… Aditi just got the opportunity…

Image source

 

 

 

 

Movies, Music and Nostalgia…

I watched Gold yesterday. I wish I could review the movie….

I usually do not watch a night show during the week days because I have to get up early thanks to work. But yesterday, I ended up watching the night show as there was only one show in the nearby theater and the whole family had planned to go. With the trailers and the non-smoking advertisements, these night shows easily start by 10 pm.

At home, 10 pm is the time when I mercilessly switch off television, irrespective of how engaging our current Netflix show is, and tell my husband it is time to “shut down”.

This is followed by scrubbing the kitchen slabs and gas stove…

Anyway, coming back to yesterday, here I was at 10 pm daring to watch a night show along with my family.  During the first half of the movie, I tried unsuccessfully to keep my eyes open. From whatever little I managed to watch, Amit Sadh looked good, and I found Mouni Roy’s character annoying.

After interval, I was completely asleep. I even had a dream which involved the movie.  Now, I am even more confused as to what was part of the movie, and what was part of my dream. Hubby tried his best to keep me awake by pulling my leg every time Mouni appeared on screen – “This angry wife is just like you.” But in vain. I was too sleepy to even react to him. However, in between, I would wake up and ask him,

Who is in the semi final?”

“Did the final match start yet?” 

I sounded a lot like my grandmother who does not pay any attention to TV serials but keeps disturbing everybody else who is watching intently by asking what is going on.

By the end of the movie, blissfully asleep I had forgotten where I was.  When people started getting up for the national anthem, I tried to reach my tummy to remove my seat belt, thinking I am in a flight.  Then I woke up, realizing that I am in a theater.  This awareness that I was not in an aircraft  gave me a strange sense of satisfaction because I thought at least I don’t have to travel…

This incident reminded me of the first time I had fallen asleep in the theater as a kid. I am sure I would have fallen asleep as a baby many times but this is the first time that I could remember. It was a charity show of the movie, Maachis. My parents and sister had loved the movie and the “crowd”. Those were the days of single screen theatres and not multiplexes. Families took balcony seats. There would be whistling, screaming, dancing, clapping and what not going on in the front. But being a charity show, the tickets were very expensive. Being a small town, half of the town was present and my parents and sister had spent the time before the start of the movie in socializing with acquaintances / friends they were bumping into.

I don’t think I ever watched Maachis properly after growing up.  Whenever, somebody mentions Maachis, I have a very faint memory of lots of people waiting outside the cinema hall for the movie to start. But it is a good, uplifting feeling (contrary to the serious subject of the movie).

In a recent road trip to a hill station I kept playing songs from the 90’s like Latka dikha diya tumne, Muqabla, Taal se Taal mila etc. My niece was also traveling with me and in an attempt to match up to her I had downloaded some English songs too. Since I am not up to date with anything other than Bollywood, my list started with Shape of You, and ended with Cheap Thrills. Thankfully, she had requested me to download song new songs (which I had no idea about).

I realized that our generation still knows songs from the 60’s 70’s etc but the next generation does not know any songs from the 80’s,90’s.

But why did these songs make me so happy? 

Probably because of the way they make me feel…

It is the association with songs / movies that make us like them years later.

Associations. Memories. And the games our mind plays with them…

That was then. Gold for me will always be the first movie I watched after my wedding, in which I fell asleep!

 

A day Of Haircut With Salon Bullies!

I went to the beauty parlour yesterday to get a haircut. Just a haircut. Nothing more.  After calling five salons where the “senior stylist” and “creative consultants” were charging a bomb I decided to go to the salon I used to visit regularly. Now, I moved so this is quite far from my new place. Nonetheless, I thought I may go for a long drive with husband. This was theoretically a good idea as it was raining and hubby was playing nice 90’s songs on Bluetooth. Yes songs like Aafreen Aafreen, and Muqala Muqabla Laila o Laila make me very very happy.  Was happily singing alone those songs until I came across  this gentleman.

There is a motorcycle also tied on top of the roof of the car.  This person thinks  it is okay to drive like this on the highway in the rain.  Anyway, moving on…

So I reached the parlour. Now the stylist came to take a look at my hair. I told him I need a haircut.

“Madam, your hair has breakage.  Go for smoothening.

“I have already  got smoothening done twice!! My hair has become very thin! I don’t want smoothening!  See how much hairfall has happened! Just a haircut please”.

“Hair fall not because of smoothening Madam. You are not maintaining!”

“I am using the same professional shampoo and conditioner you made me buy last time.”

“Well madam, your smoothened hair is fine.  It is so smooth. It is your fresh hair that is growing that is curly.” He lifted a strand of my hair. Magically at that moment the end of the hair strand stood still, and the little hair he was holding pulled itself out obediently. “See Madam. Problem with your original hair growing back. Not with smoothened hair”.

“But if you smoothen you will smoothen the entire hair right?  You will not selectively smoothen the hair that has just started growing?”

Yes madam. It will all become smooth and silky”

“I don’t want smoothening. I want a haircut. Please do the best you can with it, some layers to create volume”.

“At least get hair spa madam.”

I got convinced for the hair spa. Now a different guy started doing the hair spa. He had overheard my conversation with the previous hair stylist.

Madam, which shampoo are you using?”

“Matrix”

“Which one?” He gave me two options. One started with Bio something.

“I don’t remember.  I usually buy the Orange one , if it is not available, white one”.

Madam, you should not buy the white one. It is for dandruff. You do not have dandruff.”

“These shampoos are not available in all supermarkets.  Whatever is available, I take”.

“White one is also good Madam.  But you should use this one.”

He picked up another bottle.  I looked at the price and told him I did not want it. So he decided to go back to convincing me on smoothening.

“There is an offer going on Madam. 50 percent off.”

“Even if you do it for free, I don’t want it.”

I guess that did it. He did not mention smoothening again.

“Madam your hair has become frizzy. You don’t use hair oil?”

“I do. Just did oil massage yesterday.” I replied proudly.

“Which one?”

“Parachute coconut oil.”

“Do you heat it?”

“I do not heat it.  But when I get a massage from a beautician, she usually heats it.”

“You should not heat it madam!”

“Actually you guys had told me to NEVER put oil after getting smoothening. But I still do.”

“That is right Madam. You should not use oil.”

I wanted to ask him why he asked me about oil in the first place, that too the brand and heating and minute details.

Now we were off to the hair cut.  The only thing I had asked him to do was to do a cut that would fake some volume.  Given my thin hair, this was quite a challenge. Nonetheless he did a decent job and was pleased with his work.

In an attempt to fool me, he backcombed my hair and lifted half of it in a puff while bringing the rest of it in the front from my side.  He told me how versatile my new hair cut was as I could try this hairdo too.

I wondered when  would I use this hairstyle…..Retro Bollywood party?

Then he removed the puff and put my hair back to normal.  He did a centre parting showing me the layers. He was happy with himself and said that it has added volume. I asked him to bring a mirror and show me from the back.

There was no hair in the back, because he had taken all the hair in the front to fake the volume! I looked at him. He took  the entire hair backwards to show me the shape from the back. Now I had no hair in the front. Just the first layer which was making me look like an ape.

He realized what he had done and moved the entire hair to the front again.

“Thank you” I said.

I was somewhat proud of myself for not getting convinced for a smoothening again. This was a day after refusing to get upper lip done.  Maybe I should start a fashion blog. But my blog will be about how to say no to makeup and hair bullies!!

Image source

 

 

Awesome Fathers And Average Husbands

Some 25 years ago: Daily routine

The landline would ring sharp at 7 pm. I would run to the phone.

Me: Hello

Dad:  Hello!! Mummy se poocho kuch lana hai kya?

Me: Mummy Papa ka phone hai! Kuch lana hai!

Mom: Nahi.

Me yelling at the top of my voice even though  my mother would be at a very audible distance: Nahiii

Dad: Ok beta.

Me: Bye Papa. See you soon.

Sometimes my mom would take the phone and tell my dad what to bring. Most of the times he already knew what to get and the call was just a formality.  But he used to get something or the other. No I am not talking about groceries or necessary supplies. He would get doughnuts, pastries, cream rolls, all good things that would light up my face. Whenever he would come home from office I would run to him and cling like a monkey knowing that there would be some surprise for us.

And he continues to do that.  He would go for a walk and end up bringing jalebi and samosa for my mother. My sister is married now, and my niece will turn 10 soon. Still, dad continues to be the Santa Claus who will get us surprises – clothes, shoes, gadgets you name it.

My mother never has to answer that question, ‘Kuch lana hai?’

I remember I used to go to my best friend, Priyanka’shouse as a kid. Her father also was very affectionate like my father. Her mother would cook nice food for us and then Uncle would take us for ice-cream. Those days nobody kept ice cream at home because power cuts would ruin it all. Ice- cream parlous were not that popular yet in small towns. Some random shops like stationery shops kept ice -cream  as a side business! But the easiest way to get ice-cream was to just drive on the road until you find some hawker .

After having lunch at my friend’s place her dad would ask if we want anything more. My friend and I would giggle. I was too shy to ask because I was a well-mannered child and I knew that I cannot ask other people’s parents to buy me stuff. But Uncle also knew and my friend also knew and I also knew that our routine would not be complete without ice-cream. ‘Something is missing’, Uncle would say. Then he would take us both on his scooter until we would hear the familiar scream from a distance. “KAAWAALEETEEEEE”.

We never had to ask Uncle.

The same friend is married now. Before marriage she used to feel she had the best boyfriend. Now things are very different. She called me the other day.

“Tanvi! I ran out of salt yesterday! I asked Aditya to get it. He came back without it! He said he forgot!  When I told him, how will I  make dinner without salt, he said I always ask last minute. I should buy extra and keep. How much am I supposed to remember!! He can also keep track, right!”

“Yes. He can. He should!”

“What are you up to? Want to meet today?”

“Today I have to go buy running shoes! Papa has been saying that the ones I use are not good enough and will give me leg ache. Need more cushioning. I told him It is fine. He has done some research online and wants to buy that for me.”

“I am having back-pain since two months. Aditya keeps saying it is all in your head!! Everybody who works on laptop has back ache! Aise thode hi na hota hai!”

“Are I will come with you to the doctor. Book an appointment.”

“I know you will. But he should na! Remember when I had got sick in 5th grade? Daddy had taken me to three doctors just to rule out typhoid?”

“Haha! Yes I remember that. He wanted a third, fourth opinion!”

“That time we never thought na Tanvi, these things cost money. I used to tell Daddy why are you making me take all these tests again! ……..

Aditya would have said what is the need! These hospitals are a scam. Don’t waste money!”

“Aaj itna gussa kyun aa raha hai Aditya pe!”

“I don’t know why I am so angry. Just that you know… how Daddy used to care for us. We never realized then na….”

I had to cut the call soon. I went shopping and bought running shoes.  My dad also insisted that my mother buys new ones. Now unlike our generation which never has enough clothes my mother is someone who will always say she doesn’t need anything! She looked at the sneakers’ price and insisted that her current shoes are pretty good. My dad started explaining to her how she should buy  shoes which are good for her ankles . While he was trying to convince her and getting all technical about pressure etc, I paid which made my dad upset because he wanted to buy the shoes for me. He then bought two T shirts and track pants for me as he said there should be new clothes to go with the new shoes!

I came back home and called Priyanka. I knew she was upset. This time she didn’t say much. We both just talked about how much our dads care for us.  It is not just about spending money to buy us stuff. But about identifying a need – My daughter  needs this. Or maybe she doesn’t need it. But it would be better for her to have it. How can I make her life easier? How can I bring a smile to her face? How can I make her happy? Do husbands / boyfriends care so much? Maybe they do but sometimes they will weigh the cost. Or they are too lazy to drive. Or they feel we are adults anyway, and we want equality plus pampering! Plus we cannot cook like their moms! Yet we expect so much from them! How unfair.

Relax boyfriends / husbands. This is not something we talk about .

It is just a feeling.

 

Image source

 

 

Who Took Away My Confidence?

Dear Tanvi,

Would you be interested in moderating a panel discussion? We would be discussing how women are enjoying outdoor spaces.

Me?

Moderating?

I felt a slight fluttering in my stomach. I drank some water.

____________________________________________

At the age of 5 – Somewhere in a convent school in Patna

Mother looks at her daughter’s quiz answer sheet. 8/10. Match the following.

Question – Something to keep you dry in the rain

Answer written by the little girl: Ren cot.

It is marked wrong.

Mother: Beta, here you had to match the description in the left side with the options on the right side. Rain coat was not in the options. It was umbrella.

Little girl: Ma’am forgot to put ren cot. That is why I wrote it.

Mother: This was not Fill in the blanks. This was matching. Read the question properly.

Little girl: Maybe Ma’am does not have ren cot. Now she knows.

At the age of 9 – Same school in Patna

State level debate competition

And the winner is Tanvi Sinha….

The mother and the father are beaming, clicking pictures.

At the age of 11 – Same school in Patna

Teacher: Tanvi, we are recommending your name for representing our school at the Interschool Quiz competition, Manthan. It will be aired on local television after two weeks.

Girl: Ma’am! On  TV! If I don’t do well, everyone will make fun of me!

Teacher: Opportunity is knocking at your door. And you are saying no? You think we are asking all the students? We are asking only the toppers. You must go Tanvi. Prepare well. Give it your best shot.

The girl was terrified at the thought of failing on television. She backed out.

At the age of 13 – Junior high school in New York City

The teenager raises her hand to answer a question. She has just started talking. There is a giggle. Someone mocks her accent.

Teacher: Let her talk. Than Vee, go ahead.

The teenager becomes quiet.

It was not worth going through this humiliation. She decided never to raise her hand again.

At the age of 15- PTA Meeting. Creative writing class. High school in New York city

The father is dressed in a black suit and tie. Mother is wearing trousers and a blazer. They are at their formal best. They enter with  their gawky teenage daughter.

Teacher: Oh Tanvi is a gift! She is awesome. She has great story telling skills. She is logical with her thoughts, and articulates her thoughts very well. Her grammar is perfect. I just have one area of improvement for her.

Teenager replies meekly with a smile: Class participation!

Teacher: Yes! I would like you to participate more in the class discussions. You never say a word! And when I read your assignments, I am mesmerized. Imagine if you would say all of that in class!

Teenager: Yes. I know. I can write very well. But when I talk I feel conscious.

Teacher: Don’t be. With your intelligence, you cannot say anything wrong.

At the age of 23 – Mumbai at home

Click here to see the CA Final Results. Enter Registration number.

FAIL

As tears streamed down her cheeks, she wondered.

I was never the beautiful one.

I was never the popular one.

All I was ever, was the intelligent one.

I am not even that anymore?

Who am I?

She passed the exam a year later.

At the age of 24.. At an official training. Banquet hall of a 5 star hotel

She is sitting in the last round table. She is not making any eye contact with the trainer, afraid he may ask a question.  At the same time she is nodding, pretending to listen.

This is so boring. He mugged up all this stuff! What if I had to be the trainer? Nah.. they would never ask me. Imagine if the training was about something I knew. Or something I was good at. Then I would be the star. But what am I  good at…… There has got to be something… Think…think. Yeah. Bollywood! If there was a Bollywood training I could totally take it… One session could be on songs. With a quiz. Guess the movie from the song. I could also do a session on Bollywood relationships. Guess – Who was Riya Sen’s grandmother…
Name three sister duos from Bollywood. Yeah… I would totally rock it.

Same age. A random office lunch

Someone made a joke. Everybody laughed. The woman barely listened. She is lost in her thoughts as always.

“Tanvi did not laugh.” – Guy 1.

“She did not understand the joke.” – Someone else

“Don’t talk like that. She will get angry.” – Someone else.

“Is she angry? I can’t tell! She is so expressionless!!! Tanvi make an angry face!”

He has a hearty laugh.

At the age of 26. She qualified as a CA 2 years ago. Working in a reputed firm. Year-end appraisal.

Four people are looking at her like hawks in a conference room. One by one they start talking. About how she has not achieved the goals. How she is good for nothing. How she is a big, miserable failure.

She listens. In the beginning she tries to defend herself. But then she gives up.  She wants them to stop talking. But no. They want to make sure it is CLEAR to her, point by point. Every word is a dagger. It pierces through her heart, her soul and her being.

Don’t start crying here. Be dignified. At least control yourself till you reach the washroom.

Present day.

Who took away her confidence?

Was it those bullying kids?

Was it failure in a professional exam which is known to be so difficult?

Was it people from work?

From a little girl who was confident even when she was wrong, she had grown up to be a nervous woman who felt she was wrong even when she was right. Who gave the right to every person to take away her confidence. Who trusted others’ belief of who she was, more than who she knew she was.

____________________________________________

She read the email again.

Dear Tanvi,

Would you be interested in moderating a panel discussion? We would be discussing how women are enjoying outdoor spaces

Opportunity is knocking at your door. She remembered her elementary school teacher’s words.

With your intelligence, you would never say anything wrong. She remembered her high school teacher’s words.

Yes. She typed. Send.

Beyond the doors. Bangalore. March 9th, 2018

I reached the venue. A little nervous. A little unsure of myself. But super excited.

A woman with the sweetest face and the most contagious smile was talking.  She was not trying to inspire anyone. She was talking logically. She was talking about herself and her experiences. Smooth, natural flow of thought. She was just being herself. But the audience was mesmerized. And so was I.

Somebody asked her how come she is so positive all the time? Does she think about dark clouds?

“Why should I think of the dark clouds when I can think about the light clouds. This is me!” – She said flashing that beautiful, confident, ravishing smile matter-of-factly.

She was Dhanya Ravi.

I was overwhelmed with emotion. That one line uplifted my spirits.

This is me…..

 I am Tanvi. I  get nervous when I have to speak in public. My stomach hurts. My palms get sweaty. I tremble. This is me!

I say Umm and You know after every word. This is me!

I will roll my tongue over my teeth, while I am still talking to you to check if my lipstick has spread over my teeth. This is me!

I may mess up this discussion. But it is okay. This is me!

I had a great session. Enjoyed every moment of it. Loved talking to such accomplished women. The smiles, the nods, and the claps from the audience gave me a high.

Who gave me back my confidence?

Dhanya Ma’am, you have written in your profile, ‘All good things come in a small package.”

But let me tell you this Ma’am. You are not small.

You are bigger that our insecurities and our egos.

You are bigger than our inner demons and inner battles that we struggle with every day.

You are bigger than our shallow concerns and problems which actually do not matter, but we are too full of ourselves to believe it.

You are bigger than all of us who love feeling like victims, the moment the smallest thing goes wrong in life.

You are bigger than the people who try to make others feel small just so that they can feel big.

You are bigger than any person I have ever met in my life.

I love you Ma’am. You have made me wiser. In one day!  I have gained my confidence back after years.  I promise myself that I will never let anybody take away my confidence again.

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Kitchen: The Permanent Residence Of So Many Women We Know..

Yesterday I came across something in my News feed that infuriated me:

A restaurant named ‘Second wife restaurant’. Quoting from their website:

“Second Wife is one of the fastest growing food tech companies in Bangalore. For great food and good times. Second Wife cooks like your wife and may be better than your wife also. Experience our taste and quality of our food a wide range of vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies with distinct aroma and flavour achieved by carefully blending a host of spices and condiments.”

Assumption : Sole purpose of a woman is to cook for her husband!!

Men, if you want warm, home-cooked food spend some money and get a cook!! Not a wife.

Women of this generation probably manage to get some help. If not someone who cooks all meals, then maybe some one who helps in chopping, slicing, dough making extra.

But what about the generation of our mothers? How much of their time have they spent in the kitchen?

My mother loves cooking. She is awesome at it too. I have tried to keep cooks unsuccessfully. Sometimes, she doesn’t like their hygiene, or taste, or timing. She stands in the kitchen throughout while the cook works directing her. She says if she is standing in the kitchen, observing and instructing a cook, might as well do it herself!  She also says that the time she spends waiting for her, she can be done by then. Also, even with a cook, most nice things which she would prefer to cook herself!

I on the other hand, can let go completely. Being a lazy person, I can comfortably sit and do nothing, while the cook does her job. As long as she washes her hands, washes vegetables, rice properly I am okay with compromising on the taste. Because in return, I get my time! And it is worth it! I would rather spend that time reading, writing, jogging, gymming, watching Netflix or even doing nothing!

I cook once in six months / three months. When there are guests over. Or when I try out a new recipe from the internet. When I have the time. When I have nothing better to do.  No matter how well I cook, or how great it turns out the maximum that can happen is someone will eat well and say, “Very nice!”

To do it every day, from scratch, for a lifetime is just too much!. Whether you can afford help but you still choose to cook (or even if you don’t have an option) it is something that you do all the time with a  lot of time and effort!! 

I remember having a barbecue party at my cousin’s place in Singapore. We had ordered some continental chicken appetizer. My mother and aunt had mixed their Indian spices along with that chicken and managed to make an awesome biryani out of it on a very short notice!

Once biryani was served, we started eating without even bothering to say that it was good! We, however had not failed to applaud the men who had set up the barbecue! After some time, when my Bhabhi started eating after feeding her kid, she said how nice the biryani  was.  My aunt said “Oh thank God! No one was saying anything I was wondering how it came out. I was looking at Tanu’s face, when she took the first bite..”

Sometimes my mother tries a new recipe, spends an awful lot of time on it and gives it to me in my tiffin I love it. I think of texting her but I forget because I am busy at work. Sometimes even once I reach home I forgot to say anything. Sometimes I remember only when she asks. The amount of effort and time that goes in procuring the supplies, planning, cooking! Oh God! And thankless children don’t even remember to acknowledge!

Men often say things like “Mera bhi credit hai, mutton main laaya, wash kiya etc” or some variation of that. And we find it cute also. Lazy, annual cooks like me get a lot of attention for their one time special recipe!

But the ones who do it, all the time it is really a VERY difficult thing to do on a daily basis, for a lifetime! Nobody will say to you everyday that the roti, chawal, daal, was good.

I know the post started out bashing the expectation that women should cook. But let me end it with gratitude for the ones who do it every day of their life! Thank you, mom, aunts, grand moms, sister, cousins and everyone else who does it! I am sure you are not thanked enough!!

 

 

 

 

Would You Choose Passion Over Stability?

I keep hearing the story of an older family friend.

He must be in his 80’s now. He has never been married. As per the legend, he used to be a handsome man in his youth. Romantic. Desirable. Rumour has it that he looked just like like Rajesh Khanna.

He wanted a “love marriage.” Whenever any “ladki walas” came home for a rishta, he would pretend to limp. Or something else.  He was filmy. He was very clear that he would not compromise on his partner.

Years went by. The perfect one never came along. There were some rumours of an alleged brief fling with another lady who also never married.  He remained single.

He is currently in an old age home. His siblings’ children do visit him. His story has been passed on to my generation by parents as an example of what happens when you are too dreamy! You end up alone!

“You marry while you can!” is what elders tell us. Or even older cousins who married someone without falling in love. I do not want to make this post about arranged marriage vs love marriage. I have written enough about it.

Would you marry someone who are not even attracted to, or have a connection with because he can provide you a stable life?

Or would you marry someone with whom you have a spark yet you are unsure of stability in the future?

What if you don’t even have the second option yet. Would you wait? Or would you go ahead with a secured life?

We have not seen the future. Someone who seems stable today may not be so in the future. So what are you left with then?

And if you marry for “love”, then well if the love doesn’t last?

Can chemistry be developed over time?

But should it be so forced? Isn’t it easier when you already have it?

Elders love to say “You should marry someone who likes you. Not someone who you like.” I think only Indian elders say this!! Is it too much to ask that BOTH should like each other?

I remember talking to a friend of mine who is older than me. She is also a practising counselor. One of the girls was complaining that she was being pressurized for an arranged marriage. But she did not find the guys her parents were seeing for her interesting. But the guy she was seeing was not interested in marrying her. My counselor friend said to her, “You are looking for a man who can be a friend, plus you should have chemistry, plus commitment, all in one person!”

“Well, isn’t that what a relationship is supposed to be?” I immediately jumped to her rescue.

Ideally yes. But it may not happen. You have to pick what matters most to you.”

The answer is never so simple. People who have been married will tell you what matters. Or even what is missing.

Just a thought. A random one.

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