Orc(he)s(tra)

The heart appears to have its own orchestra,
like the beating of drums when it is hopelessly infatuated,
or the melancholy of a violin when a lover moves away

Even in solitude, there’s the airy notes of a flute
the toots of a trumpet in jubilation,
the gentle strumming of a sitar in a loved one’s embrace

Heart is the masterful conductor, lending its own symphonies,
beautiful and unrestrained.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Number Nine

Kismat was born a month early, as if she was in a hurry to accomplish all the things she had set out to do.
Her mother, Sita, was just visiting the clinic for a regular checkup when the nurse told her she was going into labor. The entire delivery took under an hour.

At the time of her birth, baby Kismat was blessed with a thick, black mane; the mark of a lioness.
And in a world that was continually intimidated by the happiness of a woman, Kismat would come to find her unique roar – a laugh that was both hearty and loud.

Baby Kismat was underweight and had some yellowness in her skin which wore off as she gained sustenance on her mother’s milk.

No matter how hard anyone tried, the mere act of being born meant causing tremendous pain to someone who was inextricably tied to you. But for the rest of her life, Kismat tried to cause as little discomfort to those she loved.
The ways in which she would grow up to develop an even temper, a ruminative mind, and a benevolent heart; she was most certainly like her father, Ajay.
In fact, she was through and through Ajay’s bitiya.
This is not to say that she did not love her mother or that she didn’t imbibe any traits from her; just that Kismat’s affinity for Ajay was ineffaceable.

Ajay and Sita had to quickly come up with a name for the sake of keeping hospital records so for the time being they named her Minni, as it fit well with her brother’s nickname, Mannu. The name really had no significance. This was true of her other relatives who were known by Pappu, Guddi, and variations of such syllables, till death do them part.

The grandma was fondly known as Badi ammi (elder mother). A bold and strong-headed woman, she was never hesitant to speak her mind and told Ajay to feel fortunate that he was already blessed with a son beforehand.  She was certain that since her daughter-in-law had picked two red bangles during the post-marriage festivities, she was guaranteed to receive two grandsons.
When Badi ammi held little Kismat in her arms for the first time, Kismat gave, what appeared to be, a glimpse of a smile. If you try to mask uneasiness with a smile, you might come up with the same constipated look. Though Ammi would always favor her grandson, she planted a kiss on the baby cheeks, accepting one of the few defeats of her devout beliefs with Kismat’s arrival in this world.
It was Ammi who named her granddaughter Kismat, meaning ‘destiny’ for she had an inkling that this little girl would not only change her own fate, but she had the power to change the fates of those around her too.

When Kismat was only three years old, she suffered a slight cut below her right eyebrow from an accident which luckily spared her eyes. Her father mentioned the accident to Kismat once, but she forgot about it and just grew to assume that the cut came as a package with her other birthmarks.

Besides the long mane, Kismat was born with two distinct black spots called ‘til’, one located on her chin and another one near the bottom of her right breast.
As Kismat grew older, her aunts used to tell her that having a ‘til’ on your face is a symbol of beauty. That theory sounded as comforting as saying that having a ‘til’ near your breast makes you kind-hearted. A few years later, another ‘til’ formed on the right side of her nose which gave the appearance of a nose-ring.
And then another one, on her back.
And one more on her left leg. This was turning into a game of connect-the-dots.
The same aunts also suggested, in jest, that since she had more tils on the left side of her body, she would be blessed with a daughter in her married life. Kismat quickly disregarded such theories about freckle sized dots.

By the time she was a teenager, there were a total of nine tils on various parts of her body.
The number nine was, coincidentally, very symbolic of her being.
The year of her birth was such that if one added up all the digits up to a single digit, it would produce the number nine.
The day of her birth had the same story.
The number, nine, as Kismat would come to realize, held a powerful significance over the course of her life.

~

Six months after little Kismat’s arrival, Karma was born in a maternity clinic in the city of Kochi. After spending a few hours under observation, both mother and baby arrived home without further incident.
Baby Karma was too young to fathom anything at that point in her life but her life held many surprises. She would be the first in her family to journey to a foreign land. And one day, her parents would arrange her marriage to a complete stranger. But her decision to agree to the arranged union would be wholly colored by her love for her mother, Lakshmi.

Within a year, Karma gained a healthy weight, while Kismat remained considerably thin. It seemed as if Karma was already taking strength from Kismat that would prove to be instrumental down the road.

On the day of Karma’s homecoming, her countenance was one to remember. With both eyebrows arched in intent, and lips pursed, it seemed as if baby Karma was deep in thought. Either that, or she had just smelled something pungent; perhaps it was the aroma of curry leaves and fruit pickles that filled her house.

Her parents lovingly gave her the nickname, Rama, for it rhymed with Karma and borrowed all its letters from her name. But more importantly, it paid reverence to the deity Ram.

Baby Rama was loved by all who played with her. Many relatives who graced their home would immediately start pointing out similarities between the baby and her parents; their responses depending greatly on which side of the family they were from. It was a guessing game using subtle clues that were only discernible to the person that made the connection.
“She has your nose Surya!”
“Look at her smile. She will grow up to be just like her mother.”

In her first few months, there was this stillness about her that made Surya and Lakshmi worry whether their daughter’s faculties were in place. Karma’s grandma, Jyotimala, attributed Karma’s quiet nature to her husband, Ram Sankara Iyer, who had peacefully passed away in their native village at ripe age of eighty.

The nickname, Rama, was also in fitting memory of Ram Iyer, Jyotimala thought.
“Even he would act like this all the time – very quiet and reserved. I think he has taken a new life in our little Rama. A reincarnation of his spirit.”

Although Jyotimala meant well, she was always found to be speaking of a superstition here and there, likely imbibed from a saint she followed in her prime. She would preach odd beliefs with the intent to maintain peace and rid evil at home but more often than not, they created more worry.
“Surya, why are you clipping your nails today?! It is Tuesday. You know that we do not use any sharp device on Tuesday.”
“And make sure you don’t wash your hair on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”
“Absolutely no carrots or potatoes to be cooked on Saturday and Sunday! Anything growing under the ground will attract negative spirits to our family.”

“No meat on Thursdays!” 

No day of the week was spared.
Initially, Surya and Lakshmi didn’t give much thought to Jyotimala’s mystical thoughts. But after their youngest daughter, Sati, nearly succumbed to a bout of typhoid at age two, they started adhering to Jyotimala’s requests, thinking it was bettering their destiny.

On one occasion, Lakshmi was leaving to run some errands when Jyotimala proclaimed, “Lakshmi, don’t look at the sky today. It’s going to be a full moon. A bad omen.”  A friend greeted Lakshmi near the bazaar, and Lakshmi, who had pulled the pallu of her sari over her head, whispered a hurried response and sprinted home.

Karma’s quiet demeanor and beaming face would make other mothers envious of what she was fed that she had such a peaceful aura about her. However, as soon as she commenced school, she changed into a vivacious spirit, dismissing Jyotimala’s first supposition about harboring her late husband’s spirit.

But this was only a start for Karma who would dispel beliefs and choose a life of reason. Karma would excel academically; her wit winning her scholarships and admirers down the road.
But those successes would not prepare her for a loss, so tremendous, that it would completely puncture her mind. And in her darkest hour, on the battlefield of her warring thoughts, she would meet the soul who would change everything she knew.

Every moment, there were thousands of other babies being born with their unique fates intact.
But Kismat and Karma would evince that destiny and actions do not supersede one another, but are ever leveled in their power to alter the course of our lives.

This is an excerpt from my book titled ‘Kismat and Karma.’
The eBook is now available on Amazon at the link below. Thank you for reading 🙂

 

 

 

Posted in Health & Nature, Imagination, India, Life, Short Stories, Soul, spirituality, Strength of a Woman, Uncategorized, United States, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Pendulum Motion of Mommyhood – Toddler Diaries

Giving birth is like taking the biggest poop of your life. Speaking of poop, my toddler yells “mumma” the moment I step into the washroom for my morning rituals and keeps knocking until I don’t come out. If this isn’t effective bladder control, I don’t know what is. My husband has grown accustomed to my mismatched clothing and seldom-combed hair, though this was the case before I had the baby too.

At six months, my daughter learned how to press her palms together and do “Namaste” (as we fondly call ‘Jai Jai’). It’s a simple greeting that essentially conveys a powerful message – “I acknowledge the divine in you.”  

In her daily walks to the park, she loves doing “Jai Jai” to passersby, but most importantly to the house-helps, watchman, and the old man who collects garbage from our colony. Those folks are the reason why we are able to live so comfortably in our homes.
The first time the garbage pickup man saw my daughter greeting him, he was taken aback, for he’s not accustomed to being accorded with such respect by the residents he routinely serves. A smile formed on his wrinkled face and he blessed her with his palm facing her. My daughter may be too tiny to fathom the meaning behind such gestures, but she is big enough to regard everyone in equal measure; a concept most grownups still seem to grapple with.

My daughter’s keenness to Indian mores doesn’t end here. Every morning, she accompanies her father and Dada in the puja room for their morning prayer. They light a cotton wick inside a brass diya and take the blessings of the array of god and goddess idols by touching their feet.
These puja sessions have inspired her to touch the feet of any photo or figurine that appears to depict the million or so manifestations of Hindu deities. At times, she goes the extra mile by taking blessings from a Laughing Buddha, tea-lights on diffusers, and oddly shaped paperweights that appear to be shivalings in peoples’ homes.

We teach her new words and gestures, but she doesn’t cease to surprise me with something new every now and then. In my room, I keep a photo of my late father. When my daughter first pointed to the man in the frame, I told her that’s her ‘Nana.’ She gently touched the photo and then her forehead, as if she were taking the blessings of her late grandfather. Even today, she points to her ‘Nana’ and takes his ‘aashirwad’, as if she has some kind of a yesteryear bond with him. 

Of course, there are moments when she absorbs more than we hoped for. Our family cook, whom Meera lovingly calls “kaka” once shooed a barking dog by yelling “Hatt” in her presence. My toddler has extrapolated that into her everyday vocabulary. So the next time you try to come in the way of her playtime at the swings, or stop her from snacking on her papa’s aloo bhujiya or her mother’s dark chocolate, she will mumble “Hatt” to you.

My daughter, in all her preserved innocence, has an uncanny way of refreshing my perspective of the world. She is awed by things that seem most ordinary to us, like rain, planes moving in the sky, and even the mini shopping mall that is the offerings of books, balloons, and toys by roadside sellers at every red light. Each day, she rummages through my drawer for packets of bindi, some of which find their way on her forehead and some on random cabinet doors and walls. Aunties who hold her at parties often reach home to find that their bindi is missing.

By her mere presence, she is able to uplift the mood of any home she visits. She plays connect-the-dots with the black ‘tils’ on my face, and gives me kisses despite the many postpartum zits that pop up on my cheeks, reminding me that my imperfections are meaningless to her. 

In the one hour that she sleeps during the day, I aim to accomplish many tasks, but ultimately spend it on listening to music that requires the least mental stimulation (por ejemplo: Lambergini and Move to Miami). When she’s asleep, I let her be surrounded by noise because this is India; where sabziwallas and doodhwalas come strolling into your lane in wee hours of the morning, and strays bark till late, and the bell rings plenty times a day, for a guest, dhobi, or an employed delivery boy.
I try to be 
discreet when she is playing in another room, but she still manages to detect my location more accurately than any roaming satellite, and comes clinging onto my leg like the cute little zombie she is.

On the nights I want to write stories such as these, I entrust my hubby with the task of putting her to sleep, and the spouse dozes off to his own lullaby even before the offspring finishes her first yawn.
And like a true cinematic thriller, I reach the bed and my daughter is nowhere to be found. 
A muffled giggle reveals that little human is hiding close by, ready to say ‘boo’ much like how I scare her during the day.
Every night, I ask Alexa to play “If I Were a Boy” which has become her favorite bedtime song. Of all the Baby Mozart and Rockabye Baby lullabies, it is ultimately Beyonce who puts her to sleep. (though I’m still disappointed by the lady who empowered us with “I can find another you in a minute” in Irreplaceable, yet chooses to stay with a cheating Jay-Z. Ah, I digress.)

When folks ask me about my latest taste in music, I tell them about “Skidamarink” and how I can rap to the extended lyrics of “Jack and Jill.” (p.s. whoever wrote the ‘Mr Muffet Man’ song was one creative genius. Do check out the lyrics.)

Who lives on Drury lane ? Yes we know the muffin man. Who lives on Drury lane.

Motherhood isn’t always rewarding. Sometimes, the only gift you’ll bag are the ones under your eyes. In my sixteen months of being a mother, I have come to terms with the nature of my full-time employment, wherein my daughter is the boss, overtime is a joke, and leave is seldom granted.

Regardless of what our occupations may be, we can only try to find balance in the pendulum motion of our gloomy and bloomy life experiences.
As for me, in those carefree moments of the pendulum motion of the park swing, as I hold my daughter close, her heart beating close to mine, I am at peace.

And as I endeavor to teach her new things, she has already taught me so much.
Namaste.

IMG_2214

 

Posted in India, Love, marriage, Motherhood, Reading, Self-empowerment, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Havan & Heavan

Bhatt Uncle had eaten more than his share of pooris for breakfast and his wife’s anaar daana pills did little to contain his flatulence. Seema Aunty expelled her own fuel of criticisms about the choice of clothing of the others in attendance.

A few stepped out to smoke, even though the havan had consumed most of the oxygen within a comfortable radius of the house. The rest of the aunts and uncles chatted along in different batches that would closely resemble formidable cliques in school.

Anand did not fashion talking to most of them so he plastered a smile on his face to survive. His mother, Urvashi, was resting in bed during the entire ceremony.
The pandit, who was reading his shlokhas from his latest Samsung Galaxy phone, kept muttering them with increasing pace towards the end of the havan.

The puja was held as a last means resort to cure Urvashi’s debilitating condition.

Anand kept picturing her in healthier times with every proclamation of a god or goddess that was to be repeated by him at the request of the panditji. This signified that the named God was invited to bless their home, from Rama to Parvati and her better half Shiva, and not to forget the lower rung deities that would be typically worshiped as incarnations of the more popular ones.

When the doctors had declared their limitations of science to treat her, Anand relied on the remnants of faith and hope still beating his heart.
He could recall a prayer or two, but he wasn’t an ardent follower of God by any means.
The concept of a supernatural force taking care of mankind from above is strangely soothing for those who admit their defeat to rationality.

A week after the ceremony, Urvashi collapsed on the floor. Blood test and body scan results at the hospital demonstrated that recovery was unlikely.

On the third day of her stay, Urvashi regained partial consciousness and touched Anand’s head with affection. He knew how badly she wanted to live. She had expressed that desire one too many times.
To see his kids grow old.
To make more meals for him with her own hands; the same hands that were connected to multiple machines for nutrition and pumping blood.
She tried opening her mouth to talk, but no words came out. Her pupils were dilated, as if her eyes wanted to convey something that her lips could not.
He comforted her face and whispered, “I know Ma. I know.”

The time on his watch read 11:11.
Like a fool, he made his wish again. The nurse advised him then that visiting hours were over. It ached his heart to leave her alone, but he was a puppet in this game of fate.
Urvashi struggled to inhale the few breaths she had left.

Anand began to recite every prayer that the panditji had advised him for his mother’s condition. It is amazing how desperation can turn a man of science into a faith-monger.
He was willing to travel to every holy saint and heavenly spot that alleged promises of a miracle.
“I just have to do another few chants. I know you will be all better any second. Hold on Ma,” he thought to himself.
He had just completed the penultimate chanting when the doctors rushed in.
Anand was elated to see that her eyes were completely open.

Amazed that the miracle finally occurred, he looked at the doctors for similar countenances of glee. Instead, they requested him to leave as they prepared her for immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
The monitor refused to show any signs of a heartbeat.

Anand was watching from afar.
The nurses called him back in.  He moved forward and simply closed her eyes that were still staring at the blank wall.

Relatives gathered again in a similar fashion as in the time of the havans, the futility of which was now evident in the traces of soot clinging on to his home walls.

“Look beta, such is destiny. We do not know what happened in Urvashi’s past life,” Bhatt Uncle said with a hint of satisfaction on preaching his belief system.
“What do you mean Uncle?”
“Beta, I just meant that she may have some bad karma….”
Anand began to chuckle as this man, whose own past was riddled with gambling and spousal abuse, was lecturing him about karma.

“Don’t worry. We are still alive to help you. God has put us here to take care of you.”
Jai/Hare/Wahe/Holy (insert God name here).
“Uncle, it doesn’t matter how much longer you live than my mother. You will never match the legacy of charity and virtue she left behind.”

“Arey, what kind of upbringing do these kids have now-a-days?! Is this the kind of respect we get as elders!” Bhatt Uncle fumed.
Anand had already made peace with his last statement and quietly walked away.

Anand remained alone for a few weeks to heal from the trauma. He ate his meals in silence, but he did not hold his sense of taste as captive as he did in the States.
The house-help prepared every meal from scratch, a significant change from the take-outs and packaged meals he was accustomed to in the past.
All that freshness of food did some good for his spirit too.

Finally, he made the leap to dial an old friend.
And only one friend – Sanjana.

She replied to his Whatsapp message the moment he sent it. He did not mention his recent loss and simply asked if they could meet over a cup of tea.

Her presence was just as calming as their days of studying together in school. When he finally disclosed the demise of his mother, Sanjana reacted with the kind of empathy he sorely needed.

“I know how much you loved her Anand. You tried your best.”
“I still don’t get it Sanjana. She thought as positively as she could. I really thought the Universe listens to that kind of stuff.”

“I think you need to forgive the Universe as much as you need to forgive yourself.”
“Yeah, maybe the Universe doesn’t actually bother about us as much as we thought it did,” Anand added despondently.
“Why do you think that?”
“Oh c’mon Sanjana! The Universe doesn’t owe anyone a favor.”

Sanjana placed her hand on his back to comfort him.
“I knew that Alchemist book was nothing but gibberish,” she added to cheer him up.
He finally showed a hint of a smile.
“You know what I realize now?”
“I’m all ears Anand.”
“I think we all try to find too much meaning out of everything. Today, a bunch of ants got killed by the accidental stepping of my foot, but the Universe could have done something to prevent such a massacre. But that didn’t happen. Perhaps the only understanding that concerns us is that there is no profound meaning to be realized. Life just comes and goes.”
“You do realize you are going to put a lot of self-proclaimed Godmen out of business.”
They both let out a hearty chuckle.

Anand and Sanjana met again over more such dates. They had the uncanny ability to guess each other thoughts without thinking them through.

It was relieving for him to share his sufferings without having the courage to reveal them.
“I didn’t have too much faith in this God system before and I have completely deserted the belief now,” Anand stated nonchalantly.
“The mind is a tricky thing to tame Anand. Faith can help in that department.”
“Is Sanjana, the committed atheist, condoning religion now?”
“All I’m saying is that it works for some and doesn’t work for others. Unless of course some holy fella starts telling me how I’m doomed to go to hell for wearing this skirt and drinking some wine.”
“Skirts suit you….I mean you look nice… in everything.”
She caught him blushing and pecked him on the cheek, just as spontaneously as his response.

A month later, Sanjana was taking an auto to Anand’s new apartment in Delhi when she saw him heading towards the Mata Mandir that was located around the block.

He emerged from the temple with a tilak on his forehead and a thali of prasad to feed the local beggars.
Urvashi used to do the same.
Surprised to see him in this avatar, she did not utter a word.
He did not respond either.
Seconds later, they both erupted in laughter.

“So Mr. Anand has finally caved in, has he?”
But Anand could not stop laughing.
She hugged him with as much love as she could beget.
The laughter ceased, and she could feel his warm tears rolling down the back of her kameez.

havan blog image

Posted in India, Love, Meditation, Morality, New Delhi, Peace, Self-empowerment, Short Stories, Soul, spirituality, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some Humorous Confessions of a Newly Made Indian Mother

When we are young, we are invariably asked what we would like to become when we grow up. Responses can range anywhere from Musk inspired engineer to Chawla inspired astronaut.

My hubby, I presume, responded with  – “I want to become a papa.”

IMG_9358

While fatherhood was a pretty straightforward lifelong aspiration for the hubby, motherhood has been somewhat of an ineffable experience for me. It continues to evolve every part of my being, whilst adding layer upon layer of bags under my eyes from the many nights of sleep deprivation.

Physically and emotionally, it has been nothing short of a stunning symphony; with the second trimester serving as the reprieving interlude, the laboring childbirth as the peak crescendo, accompanied by the moments of undulating sonatas (not to be misconstrued with “sannata” – (i.e extreme silence in Hindi), of which there was hardly any).

One of most underrated pleasures of motherhood is coming home to your baby’s toothless smiles, whose innocence heals every wear and tear of your heart; not to mention the huge advantage of farting in public and blaming your baby for it (gotten away with this on multiple occasions).  

The revelation took place one fine day in January when I had a slight implantation bleeding and the hubby whipped out a pregnancy test faster than Sagar Ratna serves you extra sambhar. The test was negative on the first go. A minute later, hubby walked into the room with more gay abandon than Mary Poppins on opioids. He was holding the test with a faint line forming to the first one.

We waited another week before disclosing the news to our closest family members, who immediately looked at me with equal measure of joy and apprehension; the latter on the belief that I needed to be preserved like a delicate porcelain doll. Of course, that is a highly unrealistic expectation given the pot-holed nature of Delhi roads. The greatest irony was having to finish my scans at a women’s hospital, only to be greeted by a crater shaped “gadda” at the exit.  

I had my first ultrasound at week 6, roughly around the time when the nausea commenced. It is amazing how a little cashew shaped creature with a humongous heartbeat (>140 bpm) can invoke so much unconditional love in a human. The most memorable moment of my pregnancy, strangely enough, was when I was on my fifth bout of throwing up in a day. My hubby, who was helping me stand, looked at me with the most sympathetic eyes and said, “I think one kid is enough for us.” This is the same man who secretly aspires for a cricket team of a family. Luckily, my gynae prescribed me a wonderful medication that allowed me to work without looking like an inebriated mess.

vimp1gz

By the end of my first trimester, my nausea subsided and my chest and gluteus maximus showed signs of inflation that would make JLo and Pamela Anderson proud. (Please note that these are short-lived assets that are expected to restore to their usual levels post-delivery)

when-she-lost-track-time

Trips to the Doc

Some favorite moments of my pregnancy took place during my meetings with the gynae who fondly called me “Madhubala” even though I hadn’t waxed for weeks, mostly to boost my self-confidence. Along with her team, we couldn’t have been in better hands (literally). Though her visiting fees were a bit much (in line with the diamond solitaires on her fingers and ears), I would refer her to any lady in a heartbeat.

At every check-up, she would conclude by stating, “you can continue having sex” and for this, her gaze would solely focus on my husband. Now anyone that has interacted with my hubby knows he seldom conveys any lustful desire or drooling, unless there is a plate of Qureshi’s butter chicken in front of him. But I guess my gynae had a special means of gauging his primal desires than I ever did. It took great effort to control my laughter each time she said this.

Even though we couldn’t know about the gender of our offspring because of some very wretched people in India, we did try some scientifically approved techniques to guess the gender — like dangling my engagement ring on a thread and checking for its rotation near the belly (worked like a charm in Hum Saath Saath Hain).

whut

Boy or girl, there was one thing we were certain about as Indian parents – hairiness. In fact, we’ve already set aside a FD for potential laser sessions.  

The holy (crap what have I gotten myself into) trinity — Trimesters

My second trimester was a time of varying mood swings, the recipient of which would almost always be my husband since he was primary reason for my impregnated state. There were valid reasons for the moodiness too, such as the back aches and being advised to sleep on only one side, whilst the hubby comfortably snored on his tummy. 

There is an actual psychological phenomenon known as “Couvade Syndrome” wherein the spouse feels similar symptoms of nausea and weight gain as the wife. During the second trimester, I gorged on all kinds of desserts and pizzas and still could not reach the desired weight gain, while my hubby was gaining extra kilos and complained of queasiness. These moments made me forget who was pregnant between us.      

Towards the third trimester, I started experiencing the extraordinary phenomenon of my baby’s movements. It started as small butterflies fluttering below my bellybutton and evolved into full rattling of the tummy from one side to other, particularly when the hubby whispered sweet songs near my belly. At times, I could feel a little hand or foot pushing outwards which was easily visible on my tummy – an experience like no other.

Judgement Day

You think moving from adolescence into adulthood is a rite of passage? That a few measly pimples and hairy underarms and a Rani Mukherjee type cracking of the voice is tough to beat?
Try having contractions every minute for the last twenty-four hours and trying every mofo (pun intended) pranayama to get through to the next contraction, only to be told by your doc that you’ve barely dilated 3 cm and are expected to have nearly six more hours of these labor pains to get to necessary 10 cm before you can actually go into active labor! Phew!

Now, I don’t mean to instill fear into any expecting mothers. Childbirth is a serious rite of passage for a woman and there are great medical offerings today that aid the entire process to help a woman deliver safely.
I had a normal delivery, but I can’t say that mine was a textbook example of ease, wherein I was giving birth in a natural lagoon with my doula gently caressing my back whilst rubbing natural lavender oils on my back. I opted for the epidural to gain some rest in order to ready myself for the active labor stage. Squats and swimming played a very important role in prepping my body for the delivery process and I encourage all expecting mothers to consult with their gynae on the modes of exercise recommended for them.
In retrospect, I could have done more squats in my 3rd trimester to reduce the pre-active labor period stage but as life often teaches you, there are plenty factors out of your control (for e.g. my actual gynae was out of the country and I delivered my baby with a completely new doc).
Even though my baby was born 3 weeks early, I delivered her full term. My grandmother once narrated how she gave birth to my father in the village with no medical equipment and just a midwife who could handle only the very basic of emergencies by employing desi “nuskes.” And then granny was back working on the fields the same week. Or the case of my Nani who was toiling throughout her first pregnancy and delivered her son in a makeshift tent. Salute to such ladies!

Now I ain’t Kate Middleton who needs to step out and wave at bunch of random folk like an inflatable tube man, but most woman look like an inebriated mess from the lack of sleep and immense fatigue after giving birth.
Once the baby was out and the post-operative medicines kicked in, I shivered for a straight hour like a naked rishi on Franz Josef glacier. Even 5 blankets did nothing to calm my tits. Speaking of tits, my bevy of nurses walked in an hour later and showed me the little human I created from one night of no protection, and immediately urged me to breastfeed her. At that moment, I didn’t have the emotional comprehension to talk, let alone start latching a tiny life onto my breast. But this is precisely what motherhood is. I imagine it like being on the other side of a discus throwing competition, with every hurling of the object as another new, unprecedented development in your face. 

It is true that sleep is forsaken since the day you go into labor, and you must rest in the intermittent moments of the baby’s power naps. I’ve nearly broken my back from months of exclusive breastfeeding but I’m so grateful for India’s six months of maternity leave that I don’t even mind being a Hunchback.

Overthinking is also a common ailment for first-time mothers, particularly in the department of overtly sterilizing and purifying your baby’s environment, only to realize she has been licking a rattle toy that’s been dropped umpteen times on the floor and inhaling air that has made Delhites lungs as charred as the kebabs we so relish on Pandara road.

68a0ce78-b90e-4ea2-9399-6cbbbbdb15b6

Cavear mater- you will be fatigued from unwarranted advice of whether your breastmilk is “enough” and how a baby’s gas/cold/crying is somehow indirectly related to the mother’s doings. Granted you need vital rest for the weeks following childbirth as the effects of the hormone relaxin haven’t fully left your system; but don’t sweat about eating foods that you love. All newborns will be gassy and there is no conclusive study that states that a mother eating her fix of black bean burrito has managed to transform into the wind energy from a baby’s bottom. Also, please don’t cave into following crazy vegan moms who swear by a plant based diet. Enjoy your period of bellyhood and satiate all your unique cravings. We’re humans, not grasshoppers!

Last but not the least, becoming a mother does not imply that one forgets the identity of the woman; that she has needs and hopes that extend beyond the sacrificial life she has to so graciously accept. Post-partum depression is more common that we can imagine and a mother must step outside the realm of her daily routine to know that there is more to life than just the motherly stereotypes we have helped create.

In short, pregnancy is one of the few experiences of life where you can’t necessarily just go with the flow (period joke ftw!) but you eventually learn to appreciate the wonder that is a woman’s body.

To all my family, friends, colleagues and even random people who went out of their way to make me feel comfortable during my pregnancy – thank you!

And to all mothers, fathers, grannies, grandpas and guardians who invest their hearts and souls into raising another life – may we celebrate each day as our own.

Posted in Childbirth, Comedy, Humor, India, Kids, Love, Motherhood, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Labor of Love

Life can be a drudgery; stumbling in and out of a time loop, wherein only dreams provide solace,
But then I found you; the loop ceasing intermittently with your warm and tender gaze.

The stolen kisses and brief exchanges,
The magnanimity of your heart that can’t be measured in token words,
The simplicity of your approach to everything that, oft, stems from love
In this all, I have discovered a sense of completeness I remain indebted to deserve.

I may belabor on the minute, and borrow from your steady patience
Even then, you manage to placate me with your mere presence; for many, an aberration

Dearest hubby, in you, I have preserved a bit of my heart and all of my soul
Keep it guarded in your deepest chamber, for your heart is made of gold.

3P2A8300 (1280x853)

Posted in India, Love, marriage, Poetry, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

One year down, saath janam to go! – Cheenus’ 1st Anniversary

My husband and I are poles apart.

His dressing sense is impeccable, with his accessories perfectly matching his wardrobe. I barely manage to comb my hair every day and expect it to take the tangled avatar of a cannabis loving devotee in the coming years.

shiva follower

He is a phone person and can chat at any hour. I cringe at the sight of a phone call, as evident in this cartoon.

introvert

I seldom call people back, unless it’s for work or I’ve been specifically asked to do so by the spouse almighty.

He is not much of a reader, and obliges to read my blogs, majorly because I can give him offspring. I aim to read a few books in a year and finish reading an entire article by the time he has conquered the first paragraph.

Otherwise having a significant social circle, today, he is reticent to meet new people. As for me, I have a limited circle of those whom I call close, but do well to find commonalities with babies or ‘budhe’ alike.

We have literally been poles apart too, with much of my 20s spent in the US and his in India.

Our first meeting took place in a French class in 9th grade. Over the course of learning to write meaningless French postcards without any emphasis on actually speaking la langue francais, we became friends. In reality, he claims he was infatuated with the front bencher girl who often had morning goo stuck on her eyes (ahem, me).

sachi school.jpg
Us in 2007 (comment written by hubby) 🙂

Despite such a romantic start, we remained friends for the remainder of the school years, not conversing beyond studies and grades. We briefly met on my visit to India over freshman year vacations, wherein he attempted to convey his infatuation. I was dumbstruck by the sheer number of kilos he lost in one year of hostel life.

10400986_28529641882_2418_n

I, being the socially awkward mess that I am, could not comprehend the subtle hints of his love even then. We even watched “Jaane Ne Tu Ya Jaane Ya” together with a friend, and that ironically, remained the theme of our relationship.

 
We gathered some momentum when I reached out to him years later. He finally confessed and by then, we had matured enough to understand that this is love.

Not the mushy kind they drown you with in poorly written novels and scripts, but the kind that just exists because we both chose each other, with all our goodness and darkness intact. My father, as strict as he was in department of love, had even preserved all the Birthday and Greeting cards Achint had mailed to me in the States.

FullSizeRender (4)

Despite what he says, I must admit I am the more fortunate one.

In this one year of our married life, boy have we become a little more of each other.

I’ve learned to groom myself better and match his cleanliness by organizing my closet and indulging in the occasional facial to remove blackheads, an activity reminding me that one can vicariously visit hell.

I’ve learned to pick up calls, and (gasp!) call loved ones to check up on them, especially after the hubby has incentivized by baking cake.

He, on the other hand, has developed a decent reading habit and finished a novel in a week, in the same moments I was still youtubing a Kangana Ranaut video.

Moreover, he had found kindness in his heart to give me company when I am dancing alone at a function, and encouraging my loony dance videos on Instagram.

I’d be honest in saying that I was apprehensive of marrying a man whose favorite movies include “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani” and “Aisha” and letting those cinematic choices sink into the genes of our future generations.

But, such is the uniqueness of marriage. You choose to love this person, with all their flaws intact, and adopt him/her into your life. Your fondness grows with time, from attraction to a general feeling of friendship and finally ending with siblinghood (basis what couples with 25+ years of marriage tell me!)  

In this one year of our married life, we have had our share of arguments, with one being so terrible that both of us felt intense pains during the silent treatment. This went on for a few hours until we finally caved and checked each other’s blood pressure to make sure our stupid fight hadn’t hemorrhaged our vital organs.  

3P2A8245

We’ve also shared some of the most fluffy (ode to Minions movie) moments of togetherness, not necessarily on vacations, but even in the simple comfort of our routinely lives.

As we celebrate our 1st anniversary, with my white to black hair ratio going out of proportion, and his face not ageing a day since he turned 16, I am excited and also a bit nervous by the prospects of where life takes us. Loved ones almost certainly pass away and one has to be mentally prepared for the most joyous and/or most tragic of outcomes.

To have the freedom to voice our anger and grief in the moments we are burdened by them and express our love in the chances we don’t forsakenly regret; all of this has been instrumental in making this mangalsutra, maang-tika infused matrimony work, thereby paying reverence to the court document that has declared us to be husband and wife.

A happy 1st year anniversary to us!
Love Cheeni and Cheenu.

Posted in Humor, India, Laughter, Life, marriage, New Delhi, New York City, Peace, spirituality, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

A Bloody Good Flick! – Rangoon Review

Of the many releases this year, let us first explore the recent hits.
Raees was SRK’s baby, with Mahira Khan’s presence not exceeding beyond his romantic sequences and delivery of a baby boy.

Kaabil was Hrithik Roshan’s comeback film, helmed by his daddy, wherein he utilizes the prowess of his senses, other than that of sight, to take revenge on his wife’s rapists. Yami Gautam is, once again, reduced to a simpering damsel in distress with less screen space than a grandeur set in a Bhansali film.

Lastly, Jolly LLB 2 is Akshay Kumar’s renewed attempt at Mr. Goody Two Shoes, with meaty court dialogues. His wife, Huma Qureshi, is seen drinking away bhang in a Holi song sequence, or whiskey at home, or at best, emoting away from the sidelines of the court audience.

What makes actresses choose such roles? Perhaps, they are simply satisfied being cast alongside a Khan, Kumar or the likes. Or perhaps, there is still a sincere dearth of good scripts coming their way.

Now let’s come to Rangoon.

Kangana is the stand-out performer, amidst seasoned stars like Shahid and Saif.

julia
This is not to say that Bhardwaj has showcased the heroes any less. In fact, all 3 of them have significant parts to play, in the film, and also within the complexity of each other’s lives.

As Kangana stated in Johar’s chat show, her relationship with Saif is towards one end of the spectrum of possessive and controlling, whereas her relationship with Shahid is on the other end of empowering and free, almost Sufi-like in nature.

All three of them were a class act, and one cannot imagine anyone else in their shoes.

But Kangana’s character stole the show. As Miss Julia of 1940’s, she is reminiscent of Fearless Nadia of Hunterwali fame. The darling of her audience, Julia has a feisty spirit that could only be unearthed by her romantic encountering with Nawab (Shahid) in the jungles of Rangoon. An untouchable by birth, and bought by Rusi (Saif) from her mother as a street performer named Jwala Devi, she has had a tumultuous past. But that doesn’t stop her from single-handedly saving Nawab from a moving train and recovering the Maharaja’s priceless sword for INA’s cause. She nabs bad guys just as well as she nabs her inner demons.

To portray a character, so authentically, that you laugh when she dances silly in front of Japanese soldiers, and cry when she digs a grave for her makeup man in the pouring rain, is brilliance personified.

Rangoon is Bhardwaj’s dream of casting a love triangle amid war, and he has weaved that magical world beautifully, albeit flawed in few parts, especially the unusual ending.

The muddy kiss between Nawab and Julia, and her sword exchange with the suave Rusi are some hitherto seen before moments between a leading lady and actor in Indian cinema.

Bloody hell, I’d say Rangoon is a legacy for the cinegoers and makers to come.

Posted in Bollywood, Box office, Feminism, Love, Movie Reviews, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Goodness Grief

charlie

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a scene from FRIENDS that particularly touches a chord. Phoebe is convinced that a lost cat has taken on the spirit of her deceased mother. As silly as the premise is, Phoebe is undeterred and Ross is hell-bent on convincing her of the contrary. This becomes a clash of the emotional versus the rational. When he is done lecturing her, Phoebe asks him a simple question – “Ross, how many parents have you lost?”
Embarrassedly, he answers – “None.”
“Well then you don’t know what it feels like when one of them comes back, do you?”
This elicits laughter from the audience and I realized in that instance that not everyone will “get” Phoebe. Her quirkiness perhaps, but not the masked grief of her character.

travel


Up until the detection of my father’s illness, I would have stated with confidence that I am living with no regrets; a life of italicized sayings that are oft embedded in travel sites, with picturesque photos.

But that is no longer the case.

I have many regrets, and I shall be buried with them all.
Regret of not researching enough alternative therapies to save my father; regret of him not being able to see me as a bride; regret of not doing enough.

When pilgrims visit a holy site, they wish for varied fulfillments – prosperity, health, everlasting happiness. Statistics and science become secondary in the realm of faith.

Pushing hoards of folks to get a glimpse of a deity’s manifestation/bejeweled idol guarantees nothing; still, faith permeates in the heart and soul of every visitor, who treads for hours and even days to get a glimpse. It’s a stunning motivation, at least, for the heart and mind.

Up until the detection of my father’s illness, I prayed for my family’s well-being.
After the detection, I prayed for his recovery.
After he departed, I stopped wishing altogether.

Brief about Grief

Many of us experience sorrow in the routinely passing of our lives. Then there are some for whom grief becomes embedded in our DNA*. We encounter it, time and time again, in uncanny moments that evoke it, be it a framed family photo, or conversations that seem too dull without the presence of those who departed.
Grief, then, becomes the connector for us select few; continually reminding us that while we appear to be the same on the outside, we have changed, rather, evolved into wholly new individuals. 

Relief

Admission of our regrets and acceptance of grief is a relieving exercise. More than that, it can propel us to persevere ahead, wherein our grief, serves not as a hindrance, but as a motivation. 

Take the case of the admirable Dorris Francis, India’s Traffic Queen. In 2009, Ms Francis and her daughter, Nikki, were travelling in an autorickshaw when a speeding car hit them. Nikki passed away from her injuries. 
“She died, I survived. I wish traffic was managed better that day,” she told the BBC. Since then she had been selflessly managing the traffic in the same spot in Ghaziabad day after day. Unfortunately, she has recently been diagnosed with cancer and well-wishers on crowd-funding site, Milaap, are successfully raising funds for her treatment. (I encourage you all to donate!)

My most recent regret was the wastage of food on my wedding day. Especially food that could have been donated. Now, I can recommend start-ups like Feeding India org, whose kind volunteers pick up leftover food after an event and donate it to those in need.
You may select other charities of your choice (check for Charity Navigator ratings) and donate as you deem fit.
My personal favorite is Sunitha Krishnan’s anti-trafficking unit Prajwala (safely donate via their Global Giving page). The braveheart Sunita was a victim of gangrape in her teens, which served as the impetus for her notable mission to rescue, protect, and rehabilitate girls and women from the horrors of sex trafficking. Out of Prajwala’s 200 employees, 70% are survivors themselves.

Gratitude in Grief

Grief is valid for all those who experience it and processing it is personal to every individual. The more you compare one another’s grief, the less you understand.
Pitying of strangers does no more good than applying band-aid over band-aid.

But this does not imply that we become stagnant in our grief. In fact, I’m more grateful for things today, that I could hitherto imagine before.fullsizerender-3

 

 

Gratitude for my mother’s practice and setting up own her Homeopathy clinic.

 

 

 

img_9326

 

 

Gratitude for the man who may not always “get” my grief, yet his love heals in more ways than he can imagine.

 

 

 

So all you grieving souls – welcome to our group.
May this journey of everlasting evolvement continue…till my next blog 🙂

A short poem to end this note-

Grieving is akin to wearing an Invisibility Cloak.
A mind dancing to other’s tunes in the midst of merry folk.

In a world that is routinely bitten by news of delight and doom,
Free yourself of buried sorrows and the regrets that can’t be exhumed.

*This is not to be mistaken with depression, which is a more serious concern
Posted in India, Love, marriage, Morality, New Delhi, Peace, Poetry, spirituality, Strength of a Woman, Uncategorized, Writing | 5 Comments

Befikre is So Bakwaas, I Dare You to Watch It

befikre.pngMy husband and I met in French class, and decided to watch Befikre, assuming this movie would transport us to scenic Paris. 
It did, except in the more cringeworthy way possible.

Several couples left the theater at interval itself. We stayed put, thinking Aditya Chopra can’t commit this level of injustice.  

If there is ever a human embodiment of a sperm, it is Ranveer Singh. This embodiment transcends from his reel life portrayal onto his real life antics as well. Vaani Kapoor has nailed the la langue francais, but the movie focuses so heavily on her kissing, than actually speaking any significant lines.

It’s amazing how Ranveer, who is shown winning a chicken wings eating competition, starts swaying to Nashe Si Chadh Gayi in the next frame. Because anaar dana churana! He’s from Karol Bagh, so he occasionally does Pairi Pauna with Vaani’s parents in Paris, who by the way, look as dumbfounded throughout the film as we did.

Vaani is French by birth and that is the only explanation for the way she is — disoriented and keenly attracted to the Karol Bagh cartoon. In the end scene, she has a brief, perhaps the only, heart-to-heart moment with her mother. The scene is captured with Vaani cooking a parantha in Picardy (dafuq!), re-emphasizing that Yash Raj films have some weird fascination with the dish (recall “gobhi ke paranthas” in Mujhse Dosti Karoge).

My favorite part of the movie is when there is a seductive dance-off between the lead pair, under the guise of the “sangeet” night at a beautiful chateaux in Picardy. These two actors continue their charade of Ishq Shava type grinding, which would be okay, except their respective (to-be) spouses, one an investment banker and the other a blonde chick, are happily clapping and wooing them on. Are you effin serious? Sure, Parisians may ooze romance from their elysees, but c’mon, they aren’t numb to other human emotions.  

The movie is so banal, so absurd, so utterly atrocious, that it makes you want to say sorry to all those watching the movie with you. The 2nd worst film I’ve had the courage to see, since Love Story 2050.

A moment of silence of for all those who suffered. Be-ware.

Posted in Bollywood, Comedy, India, Movie Reviews, Uncategorized | 2 Comments