BETWEEN JOBS

I’ve been meaning for some

Time to tell you this –

That I’m out of a job,

That I’ve been dismissed.

I don’t know why –

I don’t know what I did

To so much piss them off.

Do you think I should cry?

Why, oh, why? The days

Were merely crawling by.

I’d too much to do,

And nothing to heal

My wounded soul;

Felt nothing but pity

For my ill-used skills.

Now, at least, I can read up books,

Look for jobs, crack interviews,

Turn down the steam, learn driving,

Write down stuff or try new looks.

Life has been very boring –

I’m only thirty something;

Maybe I can try something new –

Adventure favours only a select few.

I don’t know what’s going on

Inside your head at all –

You’ve been still as a rag doll.

You’re staring at me, looking foolish,

You don’t look happy, but let me finish.

You think this is hard on you;

But, hey, it’s awkward for me too.

If you can’t bear to stay,

Feel free to walk away.

I can take care of my burden –

Just don’t come back all of a sudden;

And we can move on with our lives,

Even give each other high fives.

If we meet on the street,

Don’t beat a hasty retreat.

This phase isn’t here for ever.

So long, then, dear Hoover.

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Fear

People, closed spaces, crowds, helplessness, losing people, losing jobs, loving too much or too little, reptiles, insects and worms – these are some of the things I’m afraid of. I’m around thirty years old, give or take a couple of years, an editor by profession and out-and-out modern in my approach to life. I’m outdoorsy, love shopping, eating out, travelling, cooking, music, books, perfumes, watches, dresses, shoes and so much more. I’m a woman, normal in every respect, who takes life, work and relationships seriously; I’m a woman who cries when hurt and bleeds when cut. I’m a theist, a believer in good and therefore, I also believe in the presence of evil and in ghosts and demons and the rest as manifestations of that evil. I realize, every moment, that I’m human and that I, therefore, have human failings – fear is one of those failings. I face as much of it as the next person and I have my own ways of dealing with it, so that I can keep moving forward, past my fears, fighting them instead of giving in to them and coming to a standstill.

Once upon a time, not very long ago, fear used to rule my every action, every thought even, until I was so deep in my own darkness that I used to contemplate about killing myself and putting an end to the suffering. This lasted until I realized that nobody could help me unless I picked myself up and out of the darkness I was in. I also realized that the more you try to shun fear, to avoid it or deny its existence, the greater is its hold over you. So I learnt to acknowledge my fears to myself and others, in spite of the fact that people have laughed at my fears, loudly and often. I realized that bravery lies, not in being unafraid and therefore, foolish, but in acknowledging fear as being real and in being wary of the object of your fear. Once I realized this, the rest wasn’t easy; but I knew that I could scale this mountain, slowly but steadily. Overcoming fear is like climbing a never-ending staircase – one step at a time, placing one foot in front of the other and climbing upwards. And fear doesn’t hamper my day-to-day life anymore.

I’m not at all ashamed to admit that my greatest fear is of people – not reptiles or worms or insects or darkness, ghosts, height and so on, but people. I’ve been bullied, abused, ignored, duped, cheated, ill-treated, threatened – by people. Yet I still go out every day and socialize with people for three reasons – I need to face my fear instead of running away from it; I’ve realized that experience is a better weapon than ignorance, and that not all people are bad – if I’m alive and thriving today, it’s because I’ve been helped by a lot of good people. The scars from the past, however, are a constant reminder that not everybody can be trusted and therefore, I need to be wary at all times and never let my guard down. The most painful experiences have nearly always come from the closest quarters – people who I thought of as family or friends. And these experiences have led to  the realization that fear is closer home than we realize.

It is sometimes hard to get back to normal even after the trigger or object that causes fear is removed. The effect of fear might extend from a couple of hours to a couple of years, maybe even longer depending on how potent the fear is. Fear is often related to past incidents – the past, here, might refer to the recent past or a more distant past. Many of us find that we tend to forget various incidents with time. However, the memories of such incidents, especially the bad, fear-inducing ones are never entirely erased; they are hidden from sight by the gathering dust of time, but they are often awake in our sub-conscious. Therefore, we often find ourselves unreasonable fearful of certain things or even certain people. This is where the saying ‘A burnt child dreads the fire’ inevitably comes to mind.

So, the question is, how does one free oneself of the paralyzing effects of one’s fears and continue with one’s day to day life? I’ve realized from my personal experiences that we can only be truly and completely free of fear when we realize that we are trapped by our fears in a spot from where there is no going back and the only act left is to move forward, face our fears and keep moving past them. The image that can be associated with overcoming our fears would be that of a ship in a gale, the sailors trying their utmost to save the ship from being wrecked because there’s nothing else to do. Life is the ship that we try to steer in the stormy seas of time, and no matter how dark the sky, how high the waves or how strong the gale, all that we can do is to hang on and try to survive. This is fearlessness or bravery, in my opinion – the act of not giving up, no matter what; the act of realizing that if we don’t master our fears, they will master us and destroy us; and that the act of facing our fears and moving forward past them, putting one foot in front of the other and climbing from the darkness into the light is a monumental one. Once we realize these things, the rest is definitely not easy; but, the realization and acknowledgement of our fears is the first step that we need to take in order to conquer our fears and live life as it should be lived; besides, it also shows us the path out of a miserable existence. Some day we might even come to know that our constant battle against fear has helped somebody else face his or her demons. That would certainly be something to look forward to, wouldn’t it?

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A page from THE DIARY OF AN IGNORED WOMAN

 

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Dear Diary,

Today, for the n-th time I’ve felt lonely. Left alone in a wide, wide world while the rest of the world is busy shaping up, decorating and re-decorating their own tiny worlds-within-worlds. Everybody is busy; everybody is uppermost in somebody else’s thoughts; everybody has some significance; everybody but me. This has happened often enough before – when I’ve felt insignificant, hugely underrated, purposefully, mercilessly ignored; but just because something has become a habitual part of one’s life; it doesn’t become bearable or inconsequential, does it? True, I’ve stopped asking, “Why does it always have to me?”; instead, I now ask, “Why are the most sensitive, caring and loving people always left alone during their darkest, most difficult phases of loneliness?” For, let’s face it – everybody needs attention. It’s an elemental need to feel wanted and cared for. Some people – and these people are often the ones that have the most empathy – need it more than others. I, personally, find nothing criminal in somebody’s wanting to be the centre of somebody else’s attention; and who cares whether you call it self-pity or attention seeking or blah-blah, when I feel lonely and ignored? It’s hard enough to be physically distanced from your loved ones; but it becomes unbearable when emotional distance is added to it. Ask me how I feel when I’m at my loneliest? I feel as if the walls are growing larger and coming closer by the moment, intending to crush the life out of my frail frame. I feel as if I’ve entered the darkness of an endless tunnel, and no matter how much I try to find my way out of it and into the light, no matter which direction I take, I just seem to be moving around in the darkness in circles and coming into painful contact with the cold, creepy walls sometimes. I feel like the lone survivor in a post-apocalyptic sordid world, and all I want to do is kill myself, just so I wouldn’t have to keep on breathing alone.

There now, I’ve finally succeeded in putting it into words – the fact that I am afraid of being left alone, that I fear emotional distance more than the physical one. And since you and I are having a heart-to-heart tonight, let me tell you something else. Do you know why I’m extra-nice to people and treat them as if every last one of them deserves my love and attention? It’s because I’m the most selfish creature on the planet. Selfless love? I don’t know what you mean by the term. I love because I’ve a lot of love to give and a greater, never-ending need to receive love in return, so that I can give some more. I love watching romantic comedies because I love happy endings; I share in the joys and tears of those fictional characters and purge myself; and I absolutely do not like tragedies, because they make me feel helplessly and sadly lonely. But here I’ve digressed; as I was saying, I love people, because I harbour a secret hope in my heart that may be, just may be, some day, I won’t have to shed tears in secret and feel lonely and ignored any more; that some day, when I’m crying my heart out, of an evening, and somebody suddenly knocks at my door, I will no longer have to run and wash my face hurriedly and check in the mirror if my eyes look red and puffy, before pulling up a ghastly half-smile that says, “I’m cool and all’s well with the world” and opening the door; that some day, when I feel sad, I won’t have to feel lonely, because I’ll have the rare privilege of having somebody’s arm around me, dear diary.

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REPUBLIC DAY

January twenty-sixteen –

And we’re busy preparing

For another Republic Day.

Tiny tricolors hang,

Jubilant, from glittering

Strings that have been

Stretched taut from pillars

To posts or even the bare

Skeletons of trees that shiver

Along the wintry road.

Festoons flutter madly

In the cut-throat wind.

Amid loud song and music

We’re quite satisfied

To join our voices in

An unanimous roar of

Raucous celebration that

Nearly hides our dismay,

While dirty politics, crime,

Dishonesty and terrorism

Still hold sway.

It’s yet another Republic Day.

 

 

 

Heartbreak – 2

Ever since I lost him, I have never failed to remember him every single day. Like I said, I returned to normal, if this state could be called normal; I started talking again, then I resumed smiling, and finally I got back my laughter, too, but not without paying a price: hundreds and thousands of times, in the act of smiling, I’ve only been able to give a weak grimace, for even this simple act, reminds me of him. More importantly, for the rest of the first eighteen years of my life, I never again had the courage to make friends. So I remained aloof, and let everybody around me think that I was an arrogant pest, and I didn’t feel like doing anything to dispel the illusion. For I still had my memories of him. I won’t deny that I tried falling in love, if only to drown my sorrow somewhere, a couple of times, but my heart wasn’t just into the thing. As I grew into a young girl, many of the other girls started going out with their boyfriends, boys who were students of his school (his school and mine were the two best schools in our city; both were convents, his was a “boys only” and mine was a girls’ school; and the liaison between the students of these two schools was an accepted thing, from before I was even born), and all their stories, only helped aggravate my pain and deepen the sense of loss. So I cocooned myself in loneliness, and while others fear it, I’ve had it as a comforter. It was not until I left home, to continue my studies in another place, that I again made friends. And in each of them, I tried to find some part of him, just to convince myself that those few months, so many years ago, hadn’t been just a drawn-out dream. Of course, I met with failure, because no two persons can be the same, as I came to realize later. But this realization didn’t help me much; I continued with my futile attempts, and with every failure, I grew more taciturn and determined. That was the start of the second phase of loss. I dived head-long into studies and hobbies, leaving hardly any time for anything else. I put a stop to outings, parties, picnics, romantic movies and books, even music; in short, everything… even to sports, after a few unwanted incidents, when, in every little instance of cheating, I only saw somebody trying to cheat me out of my happiness. So I reasoned with my blinded-by-loss self, that by giving up sports, I was robbing everybody around me of their opportunity to hurt me. Much later, because I started missing the activity of sports, I tried to compensate in other ways, by going in for action movies and suspense-thrillers. I also came to realize that my tears had dried themselves, somewhere along the way, and that no amount of hurt, could now wring tears from my eyes. From then on, I started writing: to give vent to the unshed tears, and to revive his memories, inside me, I started writing love-poems, prose, satire; anything that made me feel a bit better. Writing fast turned into a fever, and I would, more often than not, be found scribbling in note-books or sheets of stray paper, in-between lectures, during practicals, at dawn, in the middle of the night, or right through the long summer day or the bitterly cold winter night. My roommates soon got tired of that, and there were regular and bitter fights, and still I fought to write, because writing made me want to live again.

One other thing happened during this time. As is usual in our time, our entire batch of girls became very intimate with our male fellow-students. I had some few such friends of my own. But having been burnt once, I dreaded the fire. So whenever any of them tried to express an interest in me, I made sure that I drove him off, with my sardonic smile and my dry excuses, but, above all, using my arrogant exterior, which I diligently nurtured, so as to keep my vulnerable self safe. And so, the number of my friends dwindled some, but those that stayed, I was glad to notice, had accepted me as I was then. And I would absolutely agree with you, if any of you were to tell me, that not all men hurt, that they are often much more than nice, that it means the world to some of them if they can bring a smile to your face; but no reason was good enough to persuade me to try again, maybe because I wasn’t ready to test my fortune again.

Fast-forward some years, during which my life went through no discernible change. And I was 26 years old. My parents had been trying to find a good match for me for the past couple of years, but to no avail, as I wasn’t interested, and I had been showering them with all kinds of bizarre excuses for declining the proposals. Another lesser reason might have been that, this thing entailed making compromises. And I was not ready to do that. I was ready to be alone for the rest of my life, nursing my bruised soul, than make compromises to try to be happy. I had watched so many other women around me doing that, and I never did find out whether or how that made life better, because when I looked into their eyes, I could still read the pain there. Meanwhile, I was once again into romantic movies and books, I had resumed singing, but what was most interesting to me, I had started noticing people, looking into their faces long and hard, trying to see whether, in one of them, I wouldn’t suddenly discover him. Because I still hoped, and in all these years, I hadn’t been able to give up. So my vigils continued, more intense than before.

And, then, I saw him. A look-alike of A, who called himself Pari, an IITan, who had been to the University of Wharton, an immensely talented young-man, not much older than me, whose accomplishments were fit to drive anybody insane. He was a killer guy, I’ll give him that. And no wonder, I fell for him. He so reminded me of A, that unknown to myself, I attached myself to him. Quite prematurely, as it turned out to be, I started dreaming of a happy life, with a family of my own. I felt as if all my years of prayer, had not gone in vain; that there was hope for me yet. Of course, I had forgotten that I still had my unusual lack of good fortune to reckon on. It so happened, that, when I expressed my interest, it met with the most supreme kind of indifference that anyone can conceive. Not even an answer in the negative reached me, past that wall of indifference. And how I hated being spurned! No wonder, I took it uncommonly ill. But I am being only honest, when I say that I tried hard to not take it in that manner, or when I say that I still regret doing so. And so, that was the last lesson on relationships that I allowed life to teach me.

I never, ever, gave love another chance. I had been badly hurt. And I decided to end it forever- this vulnerability which was nothing more than a liability. And, worse still, was the realization, that this last loss had poisoned me: that I was no more in danger of falling into darkness once more, for I had well and truly escaped; but that, now, I was the darkness; that now, I had the power to wreak havoc; that, if I so wished, I could suck up all the happiness and light from the people around me, lock it up in a box and drown it in the darkness inside me, and lose the key somewhere. I was more afraid than I’d ever been before. I started going out, each time praying that I wouldn’t have somebody’s blood on me, or that I wouldn’t rip the smile off somebody’s face. For the entirety of the time that this lasted, I was in a fever of fear, feeling like a person who was being haunted by an evil spirit.

I still cannot imagine how I overcame this stage, and settled into a kind of normal pattern of things and events. I don’t mean to say that all is well now. Far from it. The darkness is still there inside, boiling; but reined in. So the poison hasn’t affected anyone else, yet. But if I had to make a guess about what it was, that brought a part of me back, bruised and half-alive, and at the same time helped stop the darkness from spreading and taking control outside, I would hazard saying that, it was the memory of a very short-lived happiness, an even shorter love-story, and a boy, whose image had been etched into my heart since for ever, from my childhood, eons ago.

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ON HYPOCRISY

HYPOCRISY DESTROYS
HYPOCRISY DESTROYS

In a very recent issue of a popular magazine, I came across an article describing a rare but hilarious incident. A bride-to-be had refused to marry the would-be groom after he failed a basic maths test. It’s apparently a funny incident, but it couldn’t very well have felt like fun to the bride herself. She absolutely refused to have to do anything at all with somebody who couldn’t solve a sum that was easy enough for a child studying in Standard I.

This is not an uncommon problem in the country. While a majority of the women are well-qualified, a large portion of the male population has already started falling short of an equal level of qualification. As a result, a prospective bride’s dream of getting a perfect match for herself, has already suffered a huge set-back. In fact, a recent survey has stated that the present scenario is expected to worsen by 2025, resulting in at least a third of the women population having to compromise on the very important aspect of marriage – equality. As far as I can see, the situation is already bleak enough.

Why is the educational qualification of a prospective groom so important to women? Is it not enough that he has a job, can provide for the needs of his family and provide shelter? These are questions that need answering. The answer is no. It is not enough that a man has a job and can provide for his family. Just as every man dreams of certain qualities like beauty, good cooking skills, a well-paid job and so on in his wife, so does a woman. A woman’s dreams are no less important than those of a man. Dreams and the hope of realizing them are what keep us going; therefore, it is of the utmost importance that we strive to provide an environment that’s conducive to chasing dreams. The least a woman can expect from her husband is understanding and a stimulating conversation; how can her expectations be fulfilled if a man is only just qualified enough to retain a job? Education is the only thing that can improve a person’s ability to understand and relate to other people and keep jealousy, depression, inferiority complex as well as a sense of unfulfillment out of a life-long relationship. A marriage needs much more than just financial security; why else do so many of them end in divorce? The sense of being equals is what makes a bond strong, not the compromising on essentials. When a relationship starts with a compromise, it doesn’t promise much stability in any case. One compromise leads to another and before long, one partner starts feeling cheated. No wonder that person would want out of such an unfair situation.

Coming back to the incident of the groom who flunked in Maths, isn’t it surprising that the bride and her family had been kept in the dark regarding the educational qualification, rather the lack of it, of the groom? And this is just one of the many incidents of this kind. How can these people have such a mentality and how can they hope to get away with such fraudulent practices? Isn’t this proof enough of the hypocrisy that is practised by our society? That, while the groom and his family gets to choose a bride from the creme de la creme in any given situation, rejecting and indeed insulting, prospective brides and their families on such flimsy grounds as beauty, figure, colour of skin, size of dowry, superstition and so on, when in fact these women are well-qualified and often hold positions of responsibility, the same choice of being choosy while selecting a partner is not available to most women?

It is time that we started questioning whether some of these age-old superstitions and practices shouldn’t be changed. They do not belong in a modern society afterall. We are so proud of all the progress we have made over the years; is it not wrong then that our mindset hasn’t undergone much progress, so much so that we never think twice before acting like the hypocrites that we are? We expect others to be honest when we ourselves are still not ready for the truth. Are colour of skin, caste, physical beauty or the lack of it, size of dowry offered or whether it is offered at all and superstitious beliefs so much more important than a woman’s education or her inner beauty, that she has to face rejection time and again just because she falls short of the former? We harp on and on about self- respect and treating others with respect; what, then, happens to that sense of respect when we hanker after somebody else’s money? Where goes this respect when we treat perfectly capable women and their families with such disrespect? And do we still dare to wonder why our society and its values are deteriorating when the answer is just an introspection away?

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WOMEN IN INDIA : A REALITY-CHECK

Indhuja vs India’s Daughter : Should women in India celebrate their ‘freedom’ or is there a need for a reality-check? How does Indian society still view its women? Read more to find out for yourself!

India’s Daughter  Indhuja’s Matrimonial Blog

Quite recently, two things have gone viral over the internet – one, the extraordinary matrimonial website of Indhuja, a 24-year-old girl and the other, the India’s Daughter documentary by Leslee Udwin. Both have come as a shock to the Indian society, but for very different reasons. While Indhuja’s matrimonial site is hilarious as well as inspiring due to her blatant honesty in declaring that she is, in no way, a perfect “marriage material” and that she has her own demands regarding a prospective groom, Udwin’s documentary has once again shocked the Indian public into realizing that even in this very modern age, the position of women in India, in the eyes of a substantial part of the population, hasn’t improved much since the dark ages. So should women in India rejoice and be hopeful after witnessing Indhuja’s courage in speaking her mind or should they actually go in for a reality-check regarding how Indian society still views women?

Speaking for myself, I’d prefer going in for a rapid reality-check. For where I come from, things are pretty dark for women. The key-word here is “compromise”. No sooner is a girl born into a family than she is indoctrinated in the concept of compromise. All her life, she’s expected to compromise on every single thing that is essential for a fulfilling life, for the sake of somebody else – father, brothers, husband, in-laws, son. The list is endless. She can have no demands and make none; and nobody is expected to give something up for her sake. She has to cater to the needs of everybody else before she can cater to her own, and once she has done that, she has to go in for some more self-sacrifice. If she has a brother that needs to be taken care of, she has to sacrifice her childhood to become his  guardian angel. Her family is not too well-off financially, so her brothers go to expensive, English-medium, private schools, while she goes to a government school. Why? Because she doesn’t need a job as she’ll eventually be married off to somebody, while her brothers need jobs as they are the future bread-earners of the family. Often, while her brothers go in for higher education, she has to give everything up in favour of learning household chores, so that she can become the perfect ‘marriage-material’. I feel very uncomfortable saying that while I give up a job and go in for some advanced course, as and when I like, for my personal benefit, many of my friends were interested in getting a good education or a well-paid job only in order to marry well. Most of them have given up their jobs after marriage. I also feel quite embarrassed to mention that the rest of my friends, who are still unmarried, are deeply depressed because as time passes, their families find it more and more difficult to get proper grooms for them. I’m not really surprised that none of them have ever considered living alone and having a life of their own. I know of one instance where the girl discovered that her prospective husband was addicted to drinks and cigarettes, and when she mentioned it to her family, her mother explained that if she didn’t compromise on stuff of this kind, she would end up living as a spinster. Any girl who has specific demands regarding her prospective husband, is to be steered clear of; otherwise she might end up corrupting other innocent girls. Girls, here, have to compromise on their food-habits as well, for fear of being a disgrace to their families. There are myriad other examples of compromise in a girl’s daily life, and one blog is too small to accommodate them all. The worst thing about this entire scenario is that today’s girls are tomorrow’s mothers, and the concept of making compromises is steadily carried forward by our women, from one generation to the next.

Leslee Udwin’s India’s Daughter has shocked our people; I wonder, though, whether the shock is due to the fact that the Supreme Court and the Government have banned it in India, or is it because of the fact that it features the views of the lowliest of criminals regarding how a rape-victim should react to sexual assault. I also wonder, on this Women’s Day, whether, in spite of Indhuja’s courageous revelation of her true self, her extraordinary website is enough to make women in India feel jubilant, forward and safe.