Friday, April 30, 2010

The glass is half full!!

When I was walking down home from my friend's place yesterday, it was raining here. Well, this IS England and it rains here quite often and at anytime of the day!! It might be sunny one minute and start raining the next! There have been times in January when there has been sun shining brightly at 10:00 am and then, it was snowing at 11:00 am!! So, the weather is unpredictable and there is not much to say about it.

This used to be one of the things that used to piss me off so much initially! When I had come here, it had just started to get dark earlier and in general, it was autumn and therefore, things were beginning to get colder. It used to depress me so much. And, it just kept getting worse! The sun started setting at 3:30 pm at one point of time and it was so difficult to work without the daylight, with it being so cold and all! However, I digress. What I'm trying to say is that I hate the rain and the wet, especially here, where it's cold.

But last night, when I was coming back, I did not feel any of the negativeness I used to feel earlier. It was raining and I was cold and wet. But all I thought was that it could be worse. Now is spring, days are longer and relatively warmer. It could have been much worse. WOULD have been much worse, in winter. And I realised, that this is the positiveness one needs to get on with life, to really LIVE it! The philosophy of "The glass is always half full rather than half empty" will get you through with most of your bad patches in life. So, I have decided that if I have to spend more winters here, I can think of how I'm not on any of the poles, where I'd not see the sun for 6 whole months or how I'm enjoying a white Christmas and there is so much jollity and festivity around me instead of thinking of the cold and depression. Instead of thinking how much it rains, I'll take pleasure in simple things, like reading a book in the park whenever I get the chance or thinking how it wouldn't be so beautiful, green and flowers blooming everywhere if it didn't rain as much as it does!

After all, a rainbow appears ONLY when there is both, sun AND rain! :)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Granny, Crochet and Memories

Last evening, I went out with a knitting group to learn the basics of crochet. It is not because I am super interested in knitting or crocheting. It was because I feel a deeper bond with my granny when I think of crochet. This is also my way of trying to absolve myself of the guilt I've felt after her death....a catharsis, of grief, mourning and guilt.

My nan used to do lots and lots of crocheting. She had stacks of handkerchief laces, table cloths, wall hangings, cushion covers, bedsheets and other pretty things made by her. She had beautiful crochet design books and would always keep a look-out for new designs in the newspaper and on the TV programmes. She was always interested in crocheting and knitting but this immense interest and activity grew only after she became bed-ridden, about 7-8 years before her death. Before that, she used to be always active, on her toes to go out shopping, do the cooking, do small buisnesses, stitch and a host of activities. But, one day, suddenly, she had a splitting ache in her knees from her arthritis and could no longer walk without aid or without pain. And thence, she was bed-ridden forever. That is what brought her closer to her precious crochet more than anything else. That was the only thing she could find solace in for a very long time. That's the time when she created most of her things. She also tried (completely in vain) to teach me the same. Probably she wanted to make sure that God forbid, if I ever land up in the same situation as her, I shouldn't be bored or not know what to do with my life. It was also her way of getting closer to me. But, I never moved beyond the first three chain stitches. I was just being obnoxious and adolescent by refusing to even try. 

Gradually, as time passes, her limbs became stiffer, especially during the winters and she couldn't even knit as much as she used to in the past few years. I think it broke her heart but I don't have any evidence to support it. She would still read newspapers, watch TV and talk about latest designs and how much the crochet tops and dresses are in fashion. Then, in the last few months, her limbs totally froze. She had to be hospitalized a couple times and basically, we all knew that we didn't have much time with her. But, I, instead of trying to spend more time with her, drew inwards in front of her and therefore, more distant from her. I could not bear to look at her like this and didn't know what to do. So, I kept my distance and avoided her instead of facing my demons. This, I can say, is my singular biggest regret in my life. When she needed me, when I had the time to spend with her and show her that I love and care, I didn't. I skirted my responsibilities and ran away instead.

Today, I realise how stupid I was, but it's too late now! Even I had read countless emails about how we should make an effort and keep in touch with people we love but never gave a second thought to it, never thought this could and would happen to me. But it did, and with dangerous results: a life long guilt. That is the reason I decided to try my hand at crocheting when I saw the forum of the knitting group in the neighbourhood. Crochet is the one thing I have most memories of regarding granny. And I intend to try my level best to excel at it and keep it close to my heart forever. Nan, i know you know this but I regret not saying it to you often enough: I love you.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Daughter who HAD to be Prodigal

Yesterday, my parents went out to see a Gujrati play called Dikri No. 1 (loose translation: The Best Daughter) and they narrated the story to me today. They absolutely loved the play!! Because apparently the actors and the dialogues were great! However, when you only listen to the story, it seems a fairly normal subject from the 80's and a very patriarchal story. Basically, there is this girl, whose parents love her to bits and when they recieve a marriage proposal for her from their best friend for his son, they agree and she gets married even though she wanted to study more and get a Masters degree. Not the parents' fault as even the girl did not object to the match. However, as soon as the couple returns from the honeymoon, the father-in-law starts treating this girl, whom he has know since childhood, as a "daughter-in-law" rather than a "daughter". She has now become the honour of the family and has to completely change her life style to suit her new family and their household. Yet, she doesn't complain! She goes from wearing jeans to wearing saris, from being non-jain and eating potatoes to being jain and from being a college student to being a house wife in ONE day. And by one day, I mean one day, like overnight! And that's what the play is all about - how the daughter proves herself to be adept at Buisness, finishes her education, handles the father-in-law's illness and his traditions, encourages her husband to fulfil his dreams AND NEVER letting any of these "extra" things get in the way of her "real" duty: managing the household responsibilities. She does all of this without complaining. So, finally the father-in-law realises how unfair he was to both, his son and his daughter-in-law and lets them govern their own lives. So, the daughter goes on to finish her education and handle the buisness and the son goes on to become a musician, not participating in the family buisness. The only difference between the two: the daughter has to look after the household responsibilities first and only then, attend to buisness responsibilities! I don't want to take anything away from the play since it is supposed to be very good. But, in my opinion, the inherent ideology is so wrong!!

I'm not going to state the obvious problems in the plot and rally the feminist cause here. But I am simply amazed that a play in 2010 can be based on such a theme. I thought we have pretty much come to a time when it is taken for granted that girls have a decent education and they have a right to put it to use. I was quite disturbed by the thought that people feel the need to make such plays, for whatever reason! Do we still consider that a woman's "real" place is in the kitchen, managing the household and looking after the family? And what was the play trying to do? As most people would percieve it, was it really trying to promote the rights of the women to an education and a life of their choice? Wasn't it simply trying to re-confirm the patriarchal ideology?

There are such examples EVERYWHERE around us!! I can't help but notice how much everything stresses on women's place being in the house, a "good" girl is the one who doesn't open her mouth, doesn't express her wishes and instead puts her family's wishes before her own, most importantly, doesn't have any sexual desires apart from those that will fulfil her husband's wishes etc etc etc! Popular Culture is ripe with examples of chauvinist ideas! There is this gujrati gazal, (which I really like but not for it's content), sung by Manhar Udhas, Juvo Lila College Ma Jayi Rahi Che. One of the stazas say:

ના સુરમો ના કાજળ ના પાઉડર ના લાલી
છતાં એની રંગત છે સૌ માં નિરાળી 
બધી ફેશનેબલ સખીઓ ની વચ્ચે 
છે સાદાઈ માં એની જાહોજલાલી 
Loose Translation: She doesn't have any make-up on but still she is the most beautiful one from amongst all her "fashionable" friends. 

Obviously the "simple" one is placed above the "fashionable" ones as the implication is that if she is simple, she will be "traditional", thus, accomplying with the patriarchal norms. It has such beautiful music and lyrics but the ideology spoils it for me again! The society still has these structures, which even after the feminists have been rallying their cause for about a 100 years, have not changed! I keep feeling that I will one day cave in to the pressure as well, simply because I'm surrounded by it, all the time! I am so tired of flagging up this cause all the time and explaining everyone why I believe in it, coz they can simply not wrap their heads around the idea! Some people I know, my close friends, shake off the responsibility by saying "Yea, we are orthodox and this is how we think." They accept that women have the right to make their choices but refuse to acknowledge that they are the ones who form the society, the same society that accepts only those women who give in to its pressures. In this case, how will "equality" be established? People will keep excusing it by saying, "We don't think women are inferior or not equal to men. We just think they are different and have different roles in life." Give the woman the choice to decide what she wants to do, for God's sake! I am tired now! People, please understand, as a human being, I have the right to wear what I want, eat and drink what I want, do what I want in my life, choose my friends and my partner(s) in my life and so, stop making me feel guilty for doing any of this!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Friends for life!

"I went to the country for hiking!! It was so beautiful man, I can't even describe!! I absolutely fell in love with that town!!"
"Have you put up the pictures on Facebook?"
"Yea, you can check them out!! It was such an amazing day!!"
"Ok, hold on, will just check....ooh!! It looks great, wow!!!!!!!!"
"Hey, you were looking at so-and-so picture, weren't you?"
"Yeaa!! How did you know?!!"

This was a skype-conversation between my two best friends (Let's call them Sun and Moon, shall we? You know, I'm the Star and together, we are the Celestial Goddesses Trio! :D :P) and I, a few months ago, when I had been in England only for a month. These are the two people for whom I can give up my deepest desires and an e-mail from whom can cheer up the worst and the bluest of my days. We all know each other so well, we just have to hear the intonation of a sentence or see the flicker of an expression and we know exactly what the other is thinking! Here, I had both! There was no way I wouldn't know which picture she was looking at...

I talked to the two of them again today and we exchanged news from each of our time zones. Life takes you on such a roller coaster, you have to sometimes let go of people you love so much. And even though (like my parents would LOVE reminding me) communication is so easy today, the joy of being physically present to share somebody's life and of being able to hug them whenever you feel like is so different! So, we have to make do with virtual contact, whether we like it and want it or not....

After I finished talking to them, I was just thinking of how many such close friends I've had in my life. I realised I ALWAYS had someone or the other who used to be very close to me. But, in due course of time, we move apart and then, the friendship dwindles and is never the same again! I had a friend in school, who moved away and not just physically but also emotionally; then a couple others, who went to different colleges and chose different fields of study and even though we pretend to be close today, if I die tomorrow, they'll probably not realise for another couple of months at least! And the one that hurts a bit is the friend who moved to another country for a few years and came back completely changed! Even though she is still great friends with me and loves me, she is not the same any more. It is probably my own fault that I am not being able to accept her as she is. After all, people change over time. It is completely and totally justified and valid that you change your opinions with your experiences! But, there is still a but in this relationship for me! The one that hurts the most is somebody who claims that you are the best friend he will ever have but there is never any news from his side - no email, no call, not even a short 2-line message informing that he is alive and well (or not)! Well, it's not just his claim but truth - in the past! We used to be great buddies and extremely close friends! But, suddenly, one summer, he didn't want to be as close any more and I have still not figured out what went wrong - even after more than 2 years! I don't want to be egoistical and claim that it is all their fault that they didn't keep in touch with me...I probably must have done this to people who move lower down the ladder of priorities sometimes. And I didn't even realise it. Because if I realised I'm hurting someone, I'd try my level best to avoid doing it!! It's not a blame game....I am just trying to figure out what I wanted out of my friends, what I gave them back for it, did I do any justice to our relationship and other things like that...

Most likely, its all about growing up! All these years, we are growing up, still trying to figure out our own selves. And so, you change, the friends change, you probably don't have any more common grounds or one matures earlier than the other. And therefore, the friends you make when you are in college are probably much closer to you than the others before them. Because, by then, you are either growing up together and finding yourselves together or you are more or less the person you will be for quite a few years to come. Well, hopefully, at least!!! :P It does make a difference when you are exploring yourselves together. When your discovery of any aspect of your identity is linked with that of another person, you can't think of that aspect without your friend! You become one entity - together in this and probably a lot other things as well...

It is probably because of these reflections and previous friendships which have dwindled down to nothing that I want to hold on to these people in my life so tightly that they never slip away like the others did!! There are two people on this earth in front of whom I can lay my heart bare and who can guess what I'm feeling like and who will not judge me for doing that. I can absolutely not afford to lose them!! Their presence and importance in my life transcends words and there is so much between us that one blog or even a 100 will not be enough to encompass it all!

I probably said ZERO substantial thing in this post. But, I wanted to dedicate this return to blogging by dedicating my first post to my best friends in the world! I love you two, my Sun and Moon!