Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Room and the Door

Every morning, I sit in a chair and look out.

In front of me is the unmade bed, the work table in a slight disarray, my open laptop, the books, the bed side lamps, the water bottles next to the bed, sometimes the still sleeping forms of my family. 

In the middle of this, like a frame that has just been unveiled, is the door with its glass panes opening out to the balcony and the skies. The world outside.

This is what I looked at, stare at , as I sip my tea.

The frame and what lies beyond it balances so well, in spite of its contrast, to what is inside the room.

It tells me that it is fine to step out everyday.
To make the most of opportunities.
To touch lives.
To make that difference.
To own half the sky.

And that what empowers me, embraces me to do this every single day, is what lies inside the room.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Don't you worry about me, I will always come out on top.

Was walking down the aisle of a bookshop yesterday when a book caught my eye.
Made me stop in my tracks.
It was as if time had stopped and transported me back thirty five years.
To the high ceiling-ed, white walled library my sister and I would go to, with my father every Sunday.

The book is a child's read.
Pippi Longstocking.
About an orphaned girl who is so strong that she can lift a horse.
And lives alone in an old big house.
And cooks pancakes and walks backwards because she hates turning back.

The girl who looks up through the peephole in the sky and tells her dead mom- Don't you worry about me, I will always come out on top.

I had borrowed this book from Digboi Club library when I was not yet ten.
Had buried my nose in it till late night.
Read every page.
Read them again.
Then told mum the story.
Mum read it too.

Mum and I felt sad about Pippi Longstocking.
And were mighty proud of her as well.
Mum told me- Poppy, you must always come out on top.

Mum's no longer there.
Nor is Dad.
In a way, I feel like Pippi.
I am strong.
I hate turning back.
And I like telling mum each night not to worry.
That I will come out on top.

I bought the book for my little girl.
Watching her read it as I write this.
Blessing her, hoping that she always comes out on top, and is strong enough to lift any burden in the world.

Just like Pippi Longstocking.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Banana Leaf Meals

Weddings , Shradhhas ( funeral ceremonies) and all religious occasions in Assam meant meals being served on a banana leaf.

Whenever we had such occasions at my grandparents' house, one of the boys working as a day time hand would walk in, actually almost trot in a rhythmic step, with bundles of large banana leaves on his shoulder.

The leaves would be slit down the middle and each half would be further spilt into three or four squares. These squares were then washed well and stacked in the store room for the next day, to be used as plates for guests.

The guests would sit in rows on benches , with long narrow tables in front of them. One of the many young men serving the food would place the leaves in front of the guests as other men walked in with steel buckets ladling out steaming rice, dal, mutton, fish, vegetables. the gravy would flow down the ridges in the banana leaf and we would wipe them with our closed fists, before they drained out of the leaf onto the table.

The other make shift plates were actually boat shaped, made out of the stems of the banana plant. They were called Khols in Assamese. These boat like plates were used for serving flattened rice, curd, molasses, bananas, sweets.

The leaves or boats would then be piled together in huge baskets and buried in a large pit- the compost heap, there to be recycled naturally back into earth.

This morning, I was remembering the old days and the meals we had off the banana leaf and stem plates.

Seems a little primitive, when I see the well made paper plates, foil covered take aways today.

And yet, those meals were one of the most delicious I have ever had.

The guests, the family, the food cooked with love, the banana plants flourishing in the backyards, patiently giving us food and means to eat together, live together, celebrate together... all of these added up to the simple yet happy lives we led back then.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

One rainy June in Bombay

Woke up to see the sky break with thunder.
On any other day, it would have been another Bombay monsoon day and I would have been struck by its  beauty.
That day was different.
The raging skies seemed to threaten me. 
Provoke me.

Locked the door of Eldora, Hiranandani Gardens for the last time.
It was a place of my dreams.
But I knew that dreams could take different turns at times.

The drive to the airport was a struggle to keep my smile on my lips.
A four and a half year old Zoya eagerly looking out of the window, for a plane ride.
My sister, Sumi, staring blankly, thoughts racing through her head.
I knew she was missing my mum.
I was too.
My help, Lipi, fiddling with her Nokia.

And the skies raged on.
Almost my ally now.
Wiping away the city I loved as  we drove on.

The coffee at Cafe Coffee Day at the airport.
The waiting for the boarding to be announced.
The flight in the rain.

And then we landed.
Four women.
To our new lives.

To hope.
And a new beginning.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” 
― Haruki Murakami

Yes.. we are never the same person when we come out of a storm... we are better, stronger, happier.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Whisper of Goodness

Like many others, like everyone actually, I hear a voice inside me.
A voice that  says don't worry.
A voice that also says that maybe someone out there is an enemy to be watched.
Sometimes this causes me worry. I start thinking. Planning for eventualities.
And then realise that this was just a demon in my head.

There are definitely both a Demon voice and a Good Voice playing a Chinese whisper inside us.
Like my father in law says, The Mahabharata is nothing but a war inside each of us.
Between the good and the not so good.
Between the right and not so right.

The challenge is, how do we know whether the voice we hear is that of our own fears, the demons, or the voice that comes from the soul and we should listen to.

Both sound confident.
And similar.

But from my experience, the demons in our mind makes us comfortable.
They do not challenge my thinking. Rather, they play on my thoughts.

The Good Voice however, challenges me.
Chides me at times.
Taunts me to get out of my blanket of fear and insecurities.

So unlike what we would like to believe, The Good Voice is quite a task master.
Strict. Firm.No nonsense.
And is loving only once we are calm and confident , and have overcome our fears.

The more we train ourselves to listen to this, the louder and stronger this resonates inside us.
Maybe one day, it will resonate so strong that the demons will be silenced.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Being Firm means Driving responsibility.

One of my distant relatives had a showdown at a family get- together one day.
After being pulled up for lawbreaking and being a menace to society.
A hot headed 25 year old.
Who stood with his arms folded and legs apart in front of the family patriarch.
What he said struck me.
He asked the patriarch  his father, "How come you never stopped me from doing this when I was young? All I got from you then was love and forgiveness".

We do such a disservice to the young as leaders .
Whenever the words "strict" , " discipline" firmness" come up in conversations, both official and unofficial, there are naysayers who term these as constraints.
Freedom Blockers.
Words that breed negativity.
Anti -motivation.

Till we push our definition of freedom and free will to such an extent that lives are cut short ruthlessly.
Or Souls maimed for life.

What answer do we have, when these stare at us  in our face?

There is no answer, really.
Because we have decided to be liberal, shut our eyes, senses and sensibilities to all forms of indiscipline and law breaking around us.
Because we are free, after all.

Leaders. Whether we are leading a family, an office or a nation.
Let us not be blinded by a false sense of democracy, which reeks of indiscipline and lawlessness.
No one can be happy with this in the long run.
Those same people we were liberal about will ask us- why didn't you show us the path?

Being firm  means driving responsibility.
It means creating a sense of fear of the aftermath which all of us need to feel.
It means  punishment for actions, so that we learn.

Only then can we be responsible.
More importantly, only then can we be effective as  leaders.
And create a society where respect  and trust come to life again.

Monday, October 15, 2012

It's Worth a Wait

Pujas bring back memories of waiting.
Waiting for our set of new clothes.
We never had as many as our dear bengali neighbors- ma said we also get new clothes for Bihu so....
And then we would go to Tinsukia- the shopping hub- or Dibrugarh- my grand mom's place- and buy our allotted two dresses.
The wait was so worth it. The trials, the last minute tucking ins if required, the new shoes to go with it.

Same with our birthdays. Once we left Digboi and moved to the citylife of Guwahati, birthdays meant a special treat in a restaurant. We would spend weeks planning where to go. Chinese? Mughlai?
The specialness would make the wait worth it.

There was no concept of weekend getaways or short breaks.
Holidays meant proper planning for that one trip my father planned.
There was frenzied cost cutting at home before and after the trip.

Even simple food treats were about waiting- that Cadbury's bar, the canned tin of fruit cocktail from Club Store, chicken cutlets from Mouchak Sweets in Guwahati and the Chicket patties from Exotic Bakery.....

Today, thanks to both technology and affordability, things come to us at the drop of a hat, or plastic.
I ordered a churidar set for my daughter last evening- was delivered to office this morning.
Chocolate is a snack not a treat.
Holidays are simply "breaks".

We email. No more waiting for the letters  and the postman.
We call and Skype. No more quarterly visits home to mum and dad. After all, we are in touch, right?
We download a movie and watch it at home- why plan and go with our popcorn regularly to the nearby theatre?
We don't even wait with bated breath for that favourite TV program. We just record it. And watch it at our won leisure time.

In all of this, the great thing is that we just don't need to wait.
Time is at a premium.

But sometimes I miss the wait.
Waiting made me anticipate.
Waiting made the experience more precious.
Waiting was part of the journey of thrill and excitement.

Maybe sometimes, it is still worth the wait.