When Poetry Heals

Six years! I can hardly believe it’s been six years since that fateful day. The doctor’s face is a blur. I just remember he had a beard. The clock was huge with a yellow and gold rim; the numbers large and the time was two forty a.m.. Of course that was not the time on the death certificate. But that was the time I knew my husband had gone. And as if it was because I could not cry, the heavens did it for me. It just poured. Suddenly and swiftly.

Healing after the death of a loved one is difficult and at times it seems almost impossible. Sometimes it seems that for every step you take forward, you slide two steps backward. There are days when you don’t want to live at all. You wish you were dead too. And then suddenly one day, you forget to be sad for a few minutes. Maybe you smile at that little baby who is looking at you. Or you just enjoy the wind on your face. And then you actually get up one morning in a good mood, ready to face the day. It doesn’t matter that the next whole week you are miserable. You have these sporadic days of happiness thrown in among the misery. And before you know it you start picking up the threads of your life again.

And sometimes, there are angels to help you heal: Family, friends; in  unexpected ways.  I have found healing in the poetry of my friends and there is one poem that I must share with you. This is a poem written by my dear friend, Jayesh Ramaiya. He and his wife Kalpana write absolutely awesome poems.  This particular one is my favourite and for some reason when I read it today, it soothed my soul .

कारवाँ के साथ कुछ गुब्बारे जुड़ जाते है

बदलती हर राह पर वे साथ ही मूड जाते है

खुश मिजाज है वे अपनी ही धून में चलते है

गांठ मत ढीली करना वह शोख कंही उड़ जाते है
कारवाँ के साथ कुछ गुब्बारे जुड़ जाते है

 

यादों के खंजर सीने में चुभते है

साथ बिताये हुवे पल आँसुओंमे भीगते है

जहाँ जा रहें है वे साथ ले जाते नहीं

चाहे जितना बुलाओ लौटकर आते नहीं
कारवाँ के साथ कुछ गुब्बारे जुड़ जाते है

 

अगले पड़ाव पर नये गुब्बारे मिल जायेंगे

फिर नये नये रंग हम सबको लुभायेंगे

जुड़ जायेगी नये मोतियों की लड़ियाँ

फिर नये शायराना गीत हम गाते है
कारवाँ के साथ कुछ गुब्बारे जुड़ जाते है

 

अब साथ रहेने की कसमें जाग जाती है

क्षितिज में एक तसबीर उभर आती है

फिर दूर कोई गुब्बारा नज़र आता है

और नये रास्ते हमे बुलाते है
कारवाँ के साथ कुछ गुब्बारे जुड़ जाते है

– जयकल्प –

 

 

Courage to be me #1 Mamma Mia

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As women, we are always taught to compromise, to give in, to adjust. And we do that so well. We give in to our parents, we give in to our husbands, we give in to our kids. We compromise and adjust so well, that at times we forget who we were to begin with.

And that has been happening with me too. But recently I’ve started becoming aware of the fact that the life I’ve been living has to a large extent been to please others, or at least to make sure that others were not uncomfortable around me, even it meant masking who I really am. A lot of the time I did this just to keep the peace or because I was too tired to fight anymore.

But now there seems to be a restlessness to find the real me again. I thought it would be easy. But old habits die hard and it’s not easy to rock the boat.  In this series of posts I will be writing about my attempts in my journey to try and be myself again. It called “The courage to be me” and the first in the post is “Mamma Mia” which talks about how as mothers we allow our kids to dictate our lives.

Mamma Mia!

A couple of months ago, I watched the movie Mamma Mia for the first time.  I was alone at home with a bottle of beer for company. It was one of those occasions when I was completely at ease with myself and my aloneness. What a perfect night to watch a movie like Mamma Mia!

And I loved it! I hooted, and yelled and drooled and sighed all through it!

I could so relate to the kind of friendship that Donna (Meryl  Streep) has with her friends Rosie and Tanya (Julie Walters and Christine Baranski). Today when I meet my gang of girls, the conversation flows pretty much in the same way. We all let our hair down and the talk does get centered around our sex life or the lack of it.  That is part and parcel of being friends for ever so long. You are so comfortable talking about stuff like this with them.

And the songs! Abba! Oh I grew up on them! They were around when I had my first crush; they were around when I fell in love; they were playing the night Jerry and I first kissed!  I learnt to dance to their numbers and I’ve sung their songs to my kids when they were babes. So when Pierce Brosnan  aka Sam Carmichael sings to Donna, I almost swooned!

That night I was not a mother. I was just a woman. Just me! Just Sunita!

A couple of weeks ago, they aired the movie once more, and I was prepared to enjoy it all over again. Only this time my daughter was at home and she said, “What a crappy movie! How can you enjoy this stuff!” And instinctively I started wondering if I was wrong and if the movie was indeed not as good as I thought it was. I started questioning my judgement.

This is something I have noticed myself doing a lot as I’ve started getting older. I’ve started losing faith in myself. I’ve started relying more and more on the judgement of my daughters. I want to be like them. I want to like what they like. Maybe it has something to do with the oft heard exclamation, “Mom! Don’t embarrass me!”

How many of us do this? As mothers we give in to our kids in so many ways. We give up cooking dishes that we like if our kids don’t like them. As our kids grow older, we give into their ideas of how the house should be done up and even what we should wear. (Mom! Are you really going to wear that!)

I actually started telling her what I liked about the movie and then… Pierce Brosnan started singing SOS. (Yes, he actually sings the song himself) And the utter sexiness of the man and his voice was too much! How could anything like that ever be crap! If it was, it was crap I loved! I suddenly realised I didn’t have to justify my likes or dislikes to anybody, certainly not to my children!

I was an adult and had my own life which was made up of so many experiences of which they had no idea at all. And they have no right to judge me or to shame me on trivial things like this.  More importantly, “I” do not need to be ashamed of my choices. If I choose to salivate over Pierce Brosnan singing Abba songs, that is my choice. It doesn’t affect anyone else in the least bit. I don’t need to be ashamed of it.

If I want to eat lady fingers or pineapple raita, I will make it once in a while. If the kids don’t like it, it’s okay. (I will deliberately not hear that, “why did you make pineapple raita? You know I don’t like it!”) They can eat the other stuff that is there. If I want pink curtains in my room, I will have them. If you don’t like them, don’t enter my room. I have decided that I am no longer living my life to please others. It’s my life, not theirs!

Strangely, life has actually become easier after this. The other day my daughter started to say something about a book I was reading and then said, “But I suppose you like to read different stuff. So it’s okay”   Yes. It takes a bit getting used to but it is definitely worth taking the courage to be myself!

That Awww Moment!

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There is a stray dog that lives in the compound of our society. I have nicknamed him, Old General. He is one ugly dog. Once upon a time he must have been a handsome fellow.  But now he is mangy and his eyes are full of pus. He walks with a limp and his ear is torn and bleeding. He can’t even lift his leg to pee.

Yet, he is the undoubted leader of the stray dogs in the building. They are a pack of four. And woe betide any other dog who dares to enter the compound. The two pet dogs in the complex had better watch out.  There is a clear demarcation, a line we cannot allow our pets to cross without a leash. This is our “illaka” and that is theirs.  Or rather that is Old General’s “illaka”.

He growls at everybody. The kids are terrified of him. Their parents are terrified of him. The watchmen are terrified of him. But for some reason, whenever I see him, I just want to salute him. Every day, he fights all odds to defend his territory. In spite of everything, he is still undisputed King.

Last week, my dog Muffin, unfortunately slipped off her leash and ran into forbidden territory. In a flash, Old General was after her, followed by his faithful followers and before I could reach Muffin, they managed to corner her.  Luckily, her part husky genes saved her by way of her extra thick fur coat.

But, long after Muffin was safe home and I had stopped trembling I could still hear Old General whining in agony. I went down to check on him and found that he was much more ill than I had realised, and that the short sprint had taken a toll on him.

I was too scared to touch him myself, so I called up a contact I knew in PAL (Pet Owners and Animal Lovers, Thane) and Dr. Viveka Vatwani arrived to check him up.

What I saw was a miracle. I had warned her that he was ferocious, but she shrugged my warning aside and went in search of him. She sat down next to him and she didn’t even seem to mind the fact that he was so mangy or maggoty. She just kept talking to him calmly and checking his leg and ears.  And to my utter astonishment he actually let her pet him, whimpering like a pup, wagging his maggot ridden tail as fast as he could, licking her hand. It was as if he could sense the love and responded to it.

She asked the assistant to get him into the ambulance but it seemed he didn’t want to go. And suddenly all of his gang came and stood between him and the catcher, barking their heads off, refusing to let him take away their beloved leader.

All I could do was stand there with tears flowing down my cheeks and my heart going “AWWWW!”

That was love at so many levels!

When was the last time your heart went AWWW? When did something touch you and all you could do was feel the love, the beauty of the moment?

Do share your experience in the comments.

Religion: Binding or Blinding?

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August, September, October, the season of festivals in India! Almost every religion will have celebrated at least one festival in these months, Raksha bandhan, Ganpati, Mother Mary’s birthday, Pateti, Onam, Id…

The child in me rejoices. I love the joy, the colour, the excitement, the food, the general feeling of “all is well!” that comes with every festival. But the cynical adult in me shakes her head at the Ganesh mandals and the posts about preparations for the Mount Mary feast.

Even though I have given up organised religion, (well that is a story for another time) I’ve always been fascinated by our need for religion and the hold it has over us. And watching people at all the festivities these past few weeks has made me realise that more than anything, it is the need to connect that pulls us to religion.

Today, more than ever religion is becoming a bigger and stronger force. More and more people are turning to it because we are getting more and more alienated from each other. “The aloneness in the midst of everyone” can be overwhelming and when you go to church or the temple or the mosque, there is this feeling of belonging while still having your space. It satisfies some need in your soul. You don’t feel so alone any anymore.

And then there are the festivals designed by religion to bring people together. Whether it is Raksha bandhan, getting brother and sister to spend a day in each other’s company, reminiscing about childhood pranks, reconnecting, forgiving, loving, or community get-togethers where everyone participates in the dahi handi in the society premises or takes part in the various cultural programmes organised during Ganpati.

A typical conversation at a Ganpati programme goes something like this:

smile

smile back

Hi

Hi

I see you in the lift some time. You are the lady who owns the dog no?

Yes. You have a daughter no? I see you taking her to school. Which flat are you in?

I am in 202. And you?

I live in 306. What is your name?

Ankita . And you?

Sunita. Nice to meet you.

And that is how you connect and make friends.

I watch it all, I even participate and yet I sadly shake my head at the flip side of this need. It becomes so big that it overpowers us. And like everything that we come to depend on too much, it can be used against us, because while it binds us, it also blinds us.

The recent flaunting of the Supreme Court order during the occasion of dahi handi by the political big wigs is a case in point. When leaders play with the safety of people using religion to get them to blindly break rules, it is a sad day for any country.

Last week a school in Juhu had taken the initiative of asking people to donate books and stationery instead of fruit when they came for darshan of the Ganesh idol at the school premises. These would then be distributed to deserving students. The idea caught on like wild fire with many other people requesting visitors to their homes to do likewise. So far so good.

Then enters a serpent in the form of a Whatsapp message that I received, saying that this was a ploy by the Church to destroy Hindu traditions. When I confronted the person who had sent me the message and asked her why she was spreading such poison which was so not true, she replied that she was sorry and that she had not read the whole message before forwarding it blindly.

The whole incident just made me wonder how many messages we just forward blindly without taking the time to read or understand what the consequence of such a message is.

A “perceived” threat against “my” religion has to be fought against even if it means that the poor children of my religion are deprived of something they need.

A priest in the church I used to attend was put in charge of the youth. He was a great favourite and I felt he was really forward in his thinking, till one day he said, ” We have to create a programme to make our youth realise that homosexuality just cannot be tolerated.”

I wanted to ask him what happened to what Jesus asked us to do when he said, “Love one another as I love you! This is the only commandment I give unto you!”? How is creating intolerance fostering love? And because this priest is so popular with the youth and so charismatic, he is probably going to sway so many young minds towards the path of hate.

Yes, as I watch everything around happening in the name of religion, I wonder is it binding or is it blinding?