Monday 14 December 2015

The Inner voice.

When the world seems devoid of life and colour,
When the leaves are awash in the first shower
After the clouds have melted and moved over,
When the cowardly wind has fled to run for cover;
Or when the sun is out to prove his mighty power
When the bees have retreated into their bower,
Is when I perceive your presence, like a latent lover...

You flourish within me, like a blooming flower,
Or loom above me like a flaming tower;
You tear my soul, when my feelings are sour,
You are my lovely devil, with a fiery glower;
You are my watch-dog, every waking hour,
For you are my soul-mate, my conscience, my hidden power...


Sunday 2 August 2015

Yaariyaan : The Crossroads of Friendship

Zindagi mein kitne chaubaarein hain...

Aksar naye dor mein 
Kuch aise heere mil jaate hain,
Jo hamein hasne ka matlab sikhaate hain,
Jeene ki vajah samjhaate hain,
Rone ki vajah dilaate hain, 
Dil ke kareeb ho jaate hain,
Aksar humse bichadke duur bhee chale jaate hain,
Par dil ke lapeton ki gehraayee mein,
Hamesha ke liye reh jaate hain...

Meelon ke zindagi ki safar mein
Apne pehchaan chod jaate hain, 
Humein aage jaane ki himmat dilaate hain,
Humein khudse pyaar karna sikhaate hain,
Aur zindagi ke mushkil pannon mein,
Hamesha mehkee phool banke reh jaate hain...

Zindagi mein kitne chaubaarein hain...



Life has so many crossroads...

Many a time new threads of friendship

Allow us to meet some diamonds,
Who teach us the meaning of laughter,
Who show us the reason to live,
Who give us a cause to cry,
Become close to our hearts,
Many times they part from us to go afar too,
But remain deep within the folds of our hearts forever...

In the miles of the difficult journey called life,
They leave their niche
Give us the strength to move forward,
Teach us to love our own selves,
And on the difficult pages of our lives,
They remain as fragrant blooms forever...

Life has so many crossroads...



Monday 15 June 2015

Complexity of complexion: The Indian Psyche

One of the most annoying ‘requirements’ one sees in Indian matrimonial columns is the word ‘fair’ girl/boy. Why is the Indian sub-continent so obsessed with the colour white?
            A few years ago, I’d been to my daughter’s PTM at her previous school. Soon after we reached home after a good many tiresome hours, my daughter, who’d been rather quiet on our journey back home, burst out:
            “Mummy, my friend told me, ‘Your mother is black and ugly!’”
            After I got over the initial shock, it got me thinking how easy it was for the current generation to easily emulate the warped mental acclimatization received within their family circles, as well as society in general.
            The problem perhaps lies in the deep-rooted cultural conditioning, courtesy the decades of British rule.
            Chubby cheeks, dimpled chin,
            Rosy lips, teeth within;
            Curly hair, VERY FAIR,
            Eyes are blue, lovely too,
            Teacher’s pet, is that you?
            What can one expect when our toddlers are regularly taught such rhymes in the garb of language education? Words that iterate on impressionable young minds that only a fair girl with blue eyes no less (a la-Aishwarya Rai), with a dimple to boot, is liked and petted by her teachers? Not to mention the fact that most of these sweet toddlers are blessed with the classic Indian complexion (which is called ‘wheatish’ in our country). And, ‘Wheatish’ is a term that the English dictionary/thesaurus in Microsoft word does not recognise...poor Indian populace. How ironic!
            Mirror, Mirror on the wall,
            Who’s the FAIREST of them all?
            Everyone recognises the famous lines, for who doesn’t know the lovely Snow White? I used to love ‘Snow White and the seven dwarfs’, as a child, until the adult me realised the hidden racism it entailed. I mean, ‘Snow White’, to depict a pretty girl? And a step-mother who turns evil because of her darker colouring? What better way to impress upon little children that black equals bad and white equals good! To think that the British blatantly encouraged such racist monstrosities in their stories and we Indians simply lapped it all up as part of our education system, and we still do, till date. Do we really need such rhymes/stories to teach our children the International language? How did we let our education infuse such ideas so deep into our cultural framework? It’s about time Indians stopped giving such glowing tributes to the British, especially their colour. Isn’t that what true independence is all about?
            A dry cleaner’s place near my residence calls themselves ‘Snow white cleaners’ and I somewhat agree that the name is aptly suitable to show off their cleansing skills. I now know that any woman who’s as ‘white as snow’ would appear rather ghastly. After all, white is associated with ghosts and apparitions too.
           Most dark skinned girls, (including me) have heard varied versions of these oxymoronic statements:
            “If you had been fair, you would have been ‘very beautiful’...”
            “You have great features, if only you had been fair...”
            “You are so ‘black’, don’t wear this, it won’t suit you...”
            “You shouldn’t wear such bright colours, they suit only fair people...”
            “That shade of lipstick/nail polish looks better on fair skinned girls, ma’am...”
            To all the people who want to offer such enlightening ‘feedback’, thank you very much, but no thanks!
            And of course, the worst ‘compliment’ every dark skinned girl receives is: She is very beautiful, despite being dark.
            I’ve never dared to say this to anyone outright before, but it’s about time someone put things in perspective. So, today, my reaction to any of the above ‘compliments’ would be:
            “Excuse me! What do you mean? I am beautiful BECAUSE I AM DARK, thank you.”
            The worst part is, most people don’t even realise that some of the above are NOT compliments, like they believe. Complimenting others is an art; people need to ensure that they learn the same before making degrading comments such as these.
            Does fairness really imply beauty? Why then do some of these ‘fairies’ need layers of make-up/beauty treatments to hide or alter their flawed features? Why then do so many of them flock to the chemists to buy umpteen creams and lotions to whiten their skin tone some more? Does it really make a difference in their lives in the long run? Or is it just the confidence boost that one gets after a long session at the parlour? Not to mention all the men who have joined the bandwagon on the inevitable journey to fairness (meaning handsomeness), courtesy our superstars endorsing the very same creams. Whatever happened to the good old term ‘Tall, DARK and handsome’? Guys, give yourselves a break, you deserve it. I’m not even going to mention ‘Inner beauty’ now, that’s a good topic for another day...
            It was interesting to read an interview of an eminent film personality, who disclosed how some of the formerly dark Bollywood beauties have now turned several shades fairer, owing to sheer pressure to remain afloat in the demanding industry. This disclosure was uttered in the same breath after lauding the likes of Kangna Renaut, who refused to feature in a highly lucrative fairness cream advertisement.
            For many years through my childhood, I recall that my mom had to contend with unsolicited advice from numerous concerned people to ‘make’ her only daughter fair.
            “Make her apply so-and-so fairness cream twice every day, or else she won’t get a guy...”
            And I never ceased to be amazed when I saw some of my ‘milky white’ counterparts religiously bleach their faces, to become ‘more fair’. What chance did the dark ones have then, to ‘land’ those elusive guys? I’d like to believe that at least some, if not all men, aren’t as dumb or silly as they are made out to be, despite the clich├ęd statements about how they only choose the so-called light-skinned, brainless beauties over the smart thinking women...
            Is ‘landing’ a guy the sole aim in life for a girl? How about some useful advice like ‘Teach her to be a good person, build her confidence and character, have a fruitful career, etc’? Obviously, these do not feature high on the list of priorities for a girl now, do they? What people don’t realise that every time they offer such ‘advice’, they eat away a little more at the girl’s confidence and self-worth, which may have been low to begin with, given the way society treats her.
            One of my friends from Norway expressed her amazement at the Indian obsession with skin colour. She said that it was the first thing that she noticed in India: the ads on TV, the creams flooding the market and the mentality of the people, who praised her flawless complexion.
            “We work so hard sun-bathing to get the Indian kinda tan, and you guys work so hard to get rid of it,” she laughed.
            Every time a child is born in India, the first feature the parents notice is the skin colour. In fact, many mums-to-be consume food that promises to lighten the unborn child’s colour. We see umpteen instances where comparisons are made between siblings of different colouring. Perhaps it would be prudent for the parents to try and avoid situations such as these, when the darker child is allowed to feel less beautiful/talented/desirable for no fault of hers. After all, would the stars twinkle half as much if the night sky wasn’t so obligingly black? If wearing black makes one look slim; if black nail art is so cool; if colouring one’s hair black removes years from one’s age...why is black an undesirable skin colour? 

Picture Courtesy:

Sunday 17 May 2015

The girl child: a blessing, not burden

I am a mother. Period. I should mention that I have two lovely daughters. And I have never regretted it. Why should I?

I had always wanted daughters. Every time I read about another murder of an infant girl in the media, I cringe and lament the ignorance of people. Well, small wonder then that a famous so-called superstar got off after killing a footpath dweller...after all, what can one expect in a country that boasts of regular murders of little girl babies?

A few years ago, I used to live under the misguided impression that only the uneducated and underprivileged members of Indian society indulged in such horrific acts. That was until I read an eye-opening article in the newspapers about the gender disparity among off-spring of doctors in our very own cosmopolitan Bangalore. How was it possible that nature had somehow ensured that our elite medical practitioners only gave birth to sons? It can’t be a co-incidence that they have the best access to ultrasound scanning (and additional procedures), legal or otherwise, than everybody else. Stinks, right?

I was further disgusted when an engineer friend of mine actually contemplated an abortion after her scan confirmed a girl-child, to please her in-laws.

“Why should I bring another girl into this cruel world?” she asked.

“For the same reason your own mother didn’t kill YOU before you were born, woman!” I replied.

I had foolishly believed that the educated classes were somehow beyond the brain-washing tactics of unscrupulous relatives. I am now resignedly immune to the myriad coloured sacred threads that many of my ‘educated’ friends sport before they conceive, not to mention the special holy places they visit, to ensure the birth of the all-important family heir, the ‘vanshodaarak’...
          I clearly remember the birth of my first blessing. Everyone was overjoyed. And I never faced any ‘questions’ or ‘innuendos’ regarding her birth, which led me to believe that I was somehow beyond the ‘boy’ craze that plagued many of my acquaintances. It was only when my second child was born that I noticed the subtle (and not so subtle) expressions. The incongruous looks of pity. The foolish ‘Oh, another girl’ comments. The shameless and absolutely appalling questions of whether we were trying for a boy the next time round! I still regret not telling these people to mind their own business; after all, having a child is a very personal matter, something that seems to evade the mindsets of most people in our society. The sad part is I still hear them. Two daughters? Oh!
         And my reaction to all those mommies with high-handed, smug expressions on their faces is: “Two sons? No daughter? You don’t even know what you are missing...Oh, poor you!”  I admit I immensely enjoy the shock and wistful looks they then reward me with.
         Recently, a relative of mine, a supposedly well meaning lady, advised my younger angel to ‘pray for a baby brother’. I was chagrined and revolted at the gross insensitivity of her words. Doesn’t that imply to my daughters that a boy is what her parents actually want? I informed the lady in question that I have no intention whatsoever of having another baby, least of all a boy. I further iterated that I had prayed for and preferred daughters, always. She in turn argued that I’d have no one to ‘look after me’ when I was old. I reminded her that she didn’t either (despite having two sons, who have duly settled abroad). I’d rather not be a ‘football’ in my ripe old years, thank you very much! Not to mention the adjustment issues I’d have to struggle with, when his wife takes over my home...thank God for small mercies.
        After all, how many parents have blissful lives being shuttled between their male offspring? And how many have the good fortune of being the unwelcome ‘burdens’ on their daughter-in-laws? How many countless aged people have relied on their daughters more than their sons for emotional solace and loving care? We have all been privy to innumerable such instances. And yet, very few of us have the courage to put people in place when they give us such unsolicited sound bytes.
        An affluent family we know has four daughters, their fifth child being a son. They were probably rather persistent in their efforts to have a boy. It couldn’t be a co-incidence that the daughters are enrolled in normal (meaning inexpensive) schools, while the son studies in a very well-known and expensive E-Techno school for Engineers and Doctors. Why does ‘Paaraya Dhan’, need a good education, if at all?
       Another old man I chanced upon advised me about our culture that demanded a son to light my funeral pyre lest I miss my rightful place in heaven. I duly informed him that I choose to live in present heaven with my daughters than worry about where I land up after I’ve lost life itself. Doesn’t matter if I end up in hell for saying this...Will people ever see the obvious?

       I do not have an answer to the various queries about how we’d manage the various ‘future expenses’ that our daughters invariably ‘require’. I have no clue whether or not we’d be expected to shell out abominable amounts of dowry, to buy a worthy son-in-law for each of them. All I know that I have been very lucky to have been blessed with two most wonderful beings, who made me a mother.

      And while I’m in no danger of winning the ‘mom-of-the-year’ award, I shall do everything within my power and principles to ensure that they have a good life, society notwithstanding. Most importantly, my daughters already know that they mean a lot more to their parents than any son would ever have.

Picture courtesy: