Tag Archive | Ramblings

Happiness

Growing up with Mother Goose and Old MacDonald ( I went to nursery school in an era when the Happy Meal serving MacD was yet to appear on the urban landscape) poetry recitation class was a series of rhymes being churned out one after another beginning with a tea pot that poured tea out and reaching a crescendo with the entire kindergarten group clapping their hands in unison to the beat of When you are Happy and You Know It.

This summer I walked into a book store  in Mussoorie to find a hardbound green pocket book by Ruskin Bond entitled Little Book of  Happiness. Placed on my bedside now the book runs like a thread of tiny quotes on happiness in Bond’s inimitable style.

“Happiness is as elusive as a butterfly, and you must never pursue it. If you stay very still, it may come and settle on your hand. But only briefly. Savour those moments, for they will not come in your way very often.”
Ruskin Bond

When I think of it, happiness is not that elusive once you start to savour the brief moments.

The bliss and warmth of sleeping in the mellow winter sun

the hint of cardamom and ginger as you wrap your fingers over your morning cup of tea

freshly washed sheets when you slip in between the covers

a walk in the mountains through the mist with the mountain breeze on your face and the whisper of pines in your ears

20160417_142500

a good book to curl up with on a rainy afternoon  

the Dachshunds flopping by my side after an exhausting evening of chasing each other and then nuzzling for comfort

a plate of exquisitely spiced fragrant home made biryani laced with saffron and the love that maa put into it

memories 

the first litchis of the season

long conversations with old friends the kind that stretch late into the night and you end up wondering where the time went

finding that perfect moment and capturing it in a photograph

an old song with a haunting melody

fresh blooms in the garden 

20160221_171703-1

 

Life for me has been about seizing happiness from between the moments of trial and tears by snatching these little joys – savouring them ,holding on to the after taste even when the moments have gone by.  As Pema Chodron said,” Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts. Each time we drop our complaints and allow everyday good fortune to inspire us, we enter the warrior’s world “

Of course there are the other moments as well…when I overcome the nagging fears of the unknown , the worries ,the gnawing knots in the stomach and go beyond them – the tiny successes that come when you jump off that cliff of constant fear and slowly inch towards the dream that you carved out for yourself. For it is only when you quit folding yourself into a pre-conceived shape – when you get out of the amniotic sac of comfort while knowing that perhaps sometimes things take a little while to fall into their own- it is when you celebrate the tiny highs that you can get past the inevitable lows.  Of course one can never have eternal happy- the proverbial roller coaster of life shows you the  dizzy euphoric highs and the crummy miserable lows. But eventually when the calendar flips, if you keep the zest for life,if you can grab joy in the small moments, maybe occasionally even clap your hands and stamp your feet as the rhyme went-  that is when you can find happiness.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

blogpost-wow-I-am-happy-when-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Why I am not a son to my parents?

“So you don’t have a brother or a sister?”

If I had a penny for each time I have shrugged my shoulders , shuffled my feet and blown bubbles through a straw into the Gold Spot bottle in my hand, at this question as a child I would have been able to buy personal chalet in Switzerland by now.

As every Army brat worth his/her father’s CSD card will tell you,childhood is about being on the move constantly and consequently making newer friends and smiling at and wishing newer adults. Conversations with adults is a sine qua non if you grow up with your father in the army. Social events, people coming over to welcome you (well-your parents actually) to the new place are commonplace. If you spent a greater part of your childhood in a cantonment you probably have had your head petted a number of times by an avuncular officer and his wife while answering the umpteen questions on “which class-which school-favourite subject and favourite game”. In my case this questionnaire would dissolve at  a defiant”I AM AN ONLY CHILD” reply.

Officers’ wives at the army ladies’ club would pause between scratching out their “two little ducks ; twenty twos” on the  perforated pink and yellow tambola tickets look down their patiently powdered noses at me and then questioningly at my mother as she sipped her drink and looked for her “any line” without a hint of concern at the apparent vacuum in her world. Some older women were more direct in voicing their concern. “you don’t have another child? No  son? Aren’t you planning on doing something about it?”

My parents, my mother in particular was largely unperturbed by the barrage of questions, suggestions and advice that came her way regarding the discernible “lacuna ” in her life created by the presence of only one child-and that too a girl.There was an inherent problem here in the eyes of all the well-meaning people-not only was the family a little incomplete-the greatest void here was the absence of  a son.At times the persistent prying by the ladies would make me get cranky and teary eyed by the time we got home. My mother however, would dismiss all the suggestions of “you-must-have-another-child-but-a-s0n-is-a-must” with a pointed “she is all we need”

As I grew older and was fortunate enough to do well academically and in a competitive exam that enabled me to get into the government, the well-meaning advice to my parents grew into an understanding” oh-it’s-wonderful-your-daughter-has-done-so-well-now-she-is-just-like-the-son-you-never-had”remark. I have often wondered why most people I meet tend to use a son as a benchmark for anything that a child should be.

They love their daughter just like a son.

Their daughter is awesome, they’ve never needed a son.

There is something fundamentally odious about this comparison. Have you ever heard it said for a boy who is an only child- his parents treated him like the daughter they never had?! Laughable isn’t it?

My parents thankfully chose to bring me up without putting me into the pigeon-hole that often comes pre-built for daughters in this country.There were no pink sheets and pink frocks when I was born. Nor was I clothed in blue to be a stand-in for a son who was not there. Instead there were mauve and orange sheets and frills and lace and a kaleidoscope of colours.  In fact my mother chose to dress me in every single colour in the palette. Sunshine yellows, soothing lavender, fuscia pinks, baby blues,creams, whites- my wardrobe was a testimony to all hues and vibrant shades that would make the Asian Paints shade card wince with a feeling of inadequacy. My toy shelf was the same. Cabbage patch dolls and bunny rabbits fought for space with dinky cars and battery operated airplanes. Once when my father arrived home with a set of toy cars for me he was severely admonished by my mother for spoiling me and replied that a friend had been buying toy cars for his son’s birthday so dad had decided to do the same-although my birthday was a few months away. I played with dolls and kitchen sets just as much as I did with lego sets ,board games and doctor sets. Knees were meant to be scraped and holidays were about running races with friends in the morning , cycling in the evening and putting the dolls to bed at night. There were no clear lines between what was meant for the “boys” and what was territorially mine. Friends included boys who also liked playing with my dolls and then  start a spirited game of cricket which ended with everybody aiming the ball at each others shins.

There were no references to what”good girls” do and what normal behaviour for a girl was. What was important was being well-behaved and a good human being. At a social event when her sons cheekily swore and yelled back at their mother as she admonished them for something; the exasperated mother despaired the fact that her son were a little “boisterous”. I  recall her congratulating my mother for having a well-behaved daughter . The praise was peppered with a disclaimer, “girls are not as wild as boys- you are lucky-boys just refuse to listen to parents”. It smacked of an unpalatable explanation for the boys completely obnoxious behaviour. My mother who listened politely and followed it up with “it has nothing to do with her being a girl,I would expect any child of mine to do the same”

Thankfully my parents did not treat me like the son they never had. I am and always have been the daughter they doted on, pampered and were proud of.

I am often asked if I have to work harder to prove myself in a career which is largely male-dominated. My reply is always,”harder than what”. The underlying premise behind this seemingly innocuous statement is the rather loaded stereotype that being a girl places on me, of not being competent enough to get a job done well. Is it possible to be a good officer despite being a girl? Does one need to be more masculine to be taken seriously in organisations that are dominated by men? Do emotions like sensitivity or empathy get taken as a given when the manager/leader is a woman? I don’t think I have all the answers but I have realised in my workplace that there is no point being defensive about my gender. I work for the government. I worked long hours in difficult circumstances and not because I am trying to act or be like a man, but because the professional exigencies of my career call upon me to do so.

During my tenure as District Collector I recall an event when  a group of angry men and women had marched into the water supply office and thrown a pile of bangles at a rather bemused official claiming that he was incapable of resolving their water supply problem. This is actually a common affliction in India. “Chudiyan pehan lo“( go wear bangles) a euphemism for incompetence . After showering the glass bangles on the official, the group came to me as District Collector and requested me to ensure regular water supply in their area. As I wrote out the order for them, the bangles on my own wrist jingled and I pointed out to them the irony of the situation, I was sorting out the water supply problem for them, despite wearing bangles myself!

(Needless to say in the district there were no further attempts at berating officers by throwing bangles at them)

There is much talk of girls equalling the boys, out doing them perhaps, of stereotypes in the media and in our lives , of the tough times girls face in their workplace and out of it. I too am one to post and retweet any and everything on gender equality. In the midst of all that noise I sometimes pause to think and say a mental thank you to my parents for allowing me to be their daughter and not a stand-in or replacement for someone who was never there.

 

 

Moments and Memories

A song on the radio has the ability to take me to a moments years back. A memory of a crush long forgotten.  A road trip taken. A time in life when you were fretting about some matter that now seems trivial.A fragrance in a mall of freshly of brewed coffee, a wiff of cologne, the smell of rain on parched soil, of fallen neem leaves after a thunderstorm have the ability to evoke so  many thoughts, so many memories. Moments lived and forgotten, only to emerge years later from the deep relics of the mind where they lay buried under a pile of stress and worries about work and sundry everyday chores.

What is life if not an amalgam of experiences gained through moments lived, persons known, met, lost and forgotten, places travelled and lived in. It is funny though how we grow through several experiences without even realising how they enrich us, carve out our thoughts , our behaviour, sometimes learning from events,errors of judgement,sometimes stumbling through moments and places , adding a line on the face, some crows feet , a layer under the chin here , a scar left from a pimple there, some grey hair peeping out, a layer of fat gained .

DSC_0201

As we grow some people and faces fade away newer ones take their place. Worries that I have fretted about, tossed in bed at nights over look so insignificant now but they have added to what makes me me. Sometimes a song here , a smell there, a photograph clicked , a book in a bookshelf, a road re-travelled bring them all back as one travels on the roads of life.

In the end as Buddha said, “In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”( Well maybe not Buddha but this is a quote that I find often on the internet and simply love)

Life is all about the memories made of thousands of moments that I feel I live and hold onto, sometimes forget only to be reminded through a song here or a sound there. Its about the story that one builds ,along with the bends in the road, the stumbling blocks,the detours, the milestones , the coffee breaks, the achievements ,the friends held onto and the ones lost, the smiles gained , the frowns and the tears.Its about being able to live your own story, your own way along with your own choices and your own experiences. A story you can be proud of. As Nora Ephron said, “above all,be the heroine of your life, not the victim”