Thursday, August 28, 2014

No one's Conspiring

I hate to say this, my friend;
I hate to break your bubble:
But I see your dangerous hope,
I sense your deadly expectation...

There is no universe conspiring,
There's no miracle in the making;
Your hardwork sometimes pays,
But mostly, much of it doesn't.

You see, the way it works-
The universe has much to do,
It has crowds to take care of:
Others appeal to it like you.

You get it, it's human too!
(I know that's ridiculous.)
Friend, you know what I mean.
They sometimes call it Chaos.

The universe cannot conspire
To give everything everyone wants;
If it gives you yours, then
Someone else is denied theirs.

So it's just fine, your optimism,
If you're prepared to wait forever:
Your chance may or not come
In this life, or it may never.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

SuperMoms and SuperWives

"Breakfast main kya loge?" asks the mother.
And from different parts of the house emerge shouts of "Dosa!" "Upma!" "Rava Idli!" "Vada!"
The mother cheerfully springs a few pairs of imaginary hands and sets to work, and within no time, all these yummy breakfast items are ready on the table. (Not to mention the chutneys that go with vada, sambar that goes with the dosa and whatever it is that goes with upma.) Did I mention that the mother is smiling all the time?

I can't speak for all mothers, but I know that many bristle at this advertisement. (In defense of the ad, it does convey that these easy-to-make breakfast items are very easy to make.)

There is another breakfast ad featuring the gorgeous Madhuri Dixit. While we all love the way she looks (we so missed her all these years!) when she works out with her family, I (we?) can't help but wonder, how can a mother be so stress-free? How on earth does she look so refreshed? Does she have no worries or has she learnt to get past (rid of) them? Did she not have to work late last night? Does she have no deadlines today? Isn't her boss sitting on her head? Are her children so perfect that they get up and work out so well with family without whining and have a "healthy" breakfast without grumbling? Do they do their homeworks on time by themselves and help their mother keep the house clean? Do they (Heaven forbid) do their own laundry? And does her husband behave and do as he is told? What in the world is she so excited about? (Is she high on something? Does yoga or meditation keep her so happy? The string of questions keeps on going long after Madhuri and her entourage have vanished.)

Oh, come on, it is an ad, you say. There is no truth or sense or fact in it. Just watch and forget. Buy their product, if you like.

But this does give wrong ideas to people - that mothers are or ought to be like these moms in the TV. (We already know the power of ads.)

Have you noticed that the mothers in the ads know everything? (Except for that one mother who is surprised when the doctor talks about oral hygiene. Cavities? she asks, as though she is hearing it for the first time.)

I must mention another ad featuring Rahul Bose in which his wife lazily says "I will make tea in a while" - 'lazily' being the key word. I can't explain how relieved that makes me feel.

Mothers try to convince themselves that they are not supermoms, and that they can only do what they can. But with this type of competition (people like Madhuri, for God's sake!) they have to at least pretend to be 90% super. I am not saying there are no supermoms. I know a few (though they do not know it themselves. They almost kill themselves managing everything and are happy when they do it.) But the pressure it puts on the rest of us is considerable. It takes all my willpower to convince myself every day that "there are things I can do, and there are things I can't. For the latter, I have to seek help without considering it a weakness or a failure. For the former, I should be proud of myself." It is by no means easy. I have to go through this self-convincing routine for a long time; it is an effort in itself. I can't explain how many times I had to face the caustic response when I said "I do not enjoy cooking". The listener immediately assumes that I starve my family. (How can a mother say such a horrid thing??)

Someone recently told me that all comedy shows, movies and TV shows invariably have at least one wife who makes her husband's life miserable. There: you see her nagging him, finding fault with everything he does, shouting at him, jealous about him, never supporting him - that you feel so sorry for the poor, wretched man. "There must be some truth in it." How many scenes do you see where the situation is reversed (except when the husband is the main, evil villain of the story)?

So we struggle to not "nag" even though a worry has been gnawing at our hearts for days or weeks that we need help with. We try not to complain, even though we feel we deserve a little more support or compassion. We try not to shout even though the splitting headache on top of everything is making us to. In the end, the whole thing accumulates and piles up and causes a suffocation that transforms into an atomb bomb that is merely biding its time. (And then comes Madhuri with her family dance and all hell breaks loose.)

What we see is what we believe. Our systems are tuned that way - if that's how it is on TV, it must be true, in general. We subconsciously arrive at the conclusion that we are so incomplete, incompetent, inconsiderate, below-average. There must be something wrong with me if I cannot be at least half of what those mothers are. I must be so nasty and evil if I am at least a fraction like those nagging wives. If I am not a failure already, my plane is definitely headed there.

So what do we do to find some steady patch of earth to stand on? We pretend that we are supermoms and perfect wives like the ones on TV. It is a survival tactic. Darwin must have written about it.

To all those who will say "it is better to be yourself", my answer would be, "It is much easier and safer to pretend otherwise. It is heartbreak either way, but at least when you pretend, you don't make it to the family gossip."

Monday, August 18, 2014


The cage is open; but the bird does not flee:
She's bound by reasons that seem strange to me.

Torn is her heart as she peers at the sky;
Mountains and meadows invite her to fly.

No one nor nothing compells her to stay;
Why does she dither, why not fly away?

The trees and the rains, the wind of her dreams;
The temptation fails to entice her, it seems.

If she spreads her wings, she'll never be free:
The burden along will she have to carry.

A lump in her throat, in her thoughts as she wades,
Her choice is made; in her eyes the light fades.

What her heart yearns for, she cannot choose;
What she's been granted, she cannot lose.

She takes a step back, she closes the door;
She won't look again; be tempted no more.

Her faith in herself - therein her strength lies;
She's content; though some call it... sacrifice.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Who will remember?

In one of the recent episodes of House M.D., a homeless old man dying of lung cancer comes to the hospital but refuses treatment, saying that he wants to die suffering. Dr Cameron, as can be expected, is appalled at the suggestion, but the old man explains that it is the only way someone will remember him.

Take a deep breath.
Isn't that what we are all afraid of? That we will leave this world and no one will remember us the next day? Maybe, a few friends or family might remember for a few days, if we are lucky. If we have been kind, some more people might sigh at the mention of our name. But mostly our actions have slipped past, escaping everyone's notice. We have not exactly been creating history all this while or doing a huge service to mankind. Throughout our lives, most of us walk on, crossing each personal hurdle that comes, making no significant dent of our own anywhere, (though each of our achievements are astronomical to us) and the chances are high that we vanish as easily as a shooting star and there is not even a ripple or smoke trail to mark our passing. The people whom we lost and remember are still only a shadow in our own minds; an occasional memory of an ache that diminishes with time, but nothing more. Why should it be any different with us?

We can't stand that feeling, can we? We have lived, smiled, suffered, endured, made a few others happy, and we've been kind, hardworking, dedicated, sincere, and everything, but we did not make any remarkable memory anywhere? Let alone history, we are not even going to make it to the local newspaper? No one will remember us?

What can be more disappointing than that? If we realise that our existence is not going to matter, are we going to consciously or unconsciously make any change in the way we live? Are we going to make an effort to create a dent or rewrite history so that we're not forgotten? Or are we content to just remaining as we are, insignificant, unimportant, except in the lives of a handful?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

... and Punishment

He came to me today,
Resigned and ready to die:
There was nothing to say;
I knew it was good-bye.

I saw them in his eyes:
The suffering and the pain;
He'll have to travel miles
Till he was free again.

When my roots were shaken,
My life itself pulled down,
His shoulder he had given,
So that I could go on.

He came to me one day;
I saw him as my saviour.
He fell to knees to say:
'Know that I am a murderer'.

He'd axed two lives down!
One was friend to me...
The news was over town,
But none knew it was he.

He left me fearful, speechless,
A raging storm in mind:
A man who took two lives,
Could he be so kind?

Though, but for this deed,
His life was till then spotless;
He was free from greed;
How could one be flawless!

Callous, unkind, brutal
Men always get away;
I could not see him cruel,
Try as though I may...

Regrets he had none, on
account of what he did;
The action and the reason,
Were, in his eyes, valid.

So I vowed to follow him
Where this would lead us,
Until he found his freedom
I'll pursue his footsteps.

And when he left today
Uncertain of his fate;
There was, I knew, a way,
But long have I to wait...

(Based on the novel Crime and Punishment.)