Thursday, June 29, 2006

Snapshots from her life

She was born first, a couple of minutes before her brother was born, healthier and the bigger of the twins. She survived. Her brother did not. She always felt guilty about holding on to life while her brother could not.

She grows into a beautiful baby. She has her mother's smile. And she hardly ever cries. She is the apple of her Dad's eye.

She is 6 years old. She starts going to school. She has a lot of friends. They play in the yard during lunch break. She is a fast learner and she can't wait to tell her Mom all the new things she learnt in class that day.

She is 10 years old. She tops her class in her final exams. Her Dad buys her a wrist-watch that she proudly wears to school the next day. She swims and paints and learns classical music in her spare time.

She is 15 years old. She dreams of becoming a doctor like her cousin. She looks at herself in the mirror everyday to see if she is as beautiful as her Mom. She has her first crush on a guy who lives a couple of houses down the road from her. She watches him from her window.

She is 20 years old. She is in love with a guy from her class in Medical school. They study together and prep each other for the upcoming test. She decides to be a Pediatrician. She loves little babies.

She is 27 years old. She is getting married. She couldn't be happier. Her Dad cries when she leaves for her in-laws.

She is 35 years old. She is a successful doctor. Her husband is a surgeon. They have an apartment in Jodhpur Park not too far from where she grew up. She has two kids, a girl aged 4 and a baby boy who will be 1 next month.

She is 47 years old. She watches with joy her children growing. Seems like yesterday that they were born and now they are all grown. Her daughter tells her about her boyfriend, a guy she met at the club. She worries a little and wants to meet him at some point. Her son wants to be a tennis star.

She is 56 years old. She is at the airport to see her daughter and son-in-law off as they leave for the US. Her son is studying to be a doctor.

She is 70 years old. She has three grandchildren, two from her daughter and one from her son. She hardly ever sees them as they all live abroad. She has retired and spends her time reading. They decide to buy a place in the country where she can spend time tending to a garden. She is still as much in love with her husband as she was 50 years back.

She feels fulfilled.

She wishes she can go on experiencing life. The way she has been. But she can't. Because she had to live her entire life in one brief moment as she lay on the hospital bed dying from hepatic failure. She was only 15.

AM passed away 6 years back on this date. But her memory lives on, as fresh as ever. I wish she had a chance to live her life. One that held so much promise.

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Wonderful read

Here's a link for a very nicely written story. Do read it.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Matchmaking and more

Like I said I had to write up a new post to keep people from reading about my weirdness. I was reading this post and wanted to comment, but realized that I had so much to say regarding this matter that it warranted a separate post by itself.

Wikipedia defines marriage as "a committed relationship between or among individuals, recognized by civil authority and/or bound by the religious beliefs of the participants." Arranged marriage is the same except when dictated by parents, family and social pressure. One of the most frequent questions I get from my US based friends and co-workers is whether as a girl raised in India I had to go through an arranged marriage. And they seem quite surprised when I tell them that I never had to face any kind of pressure from my family when I decided to get married. And honestly I don't entirely blame them. Even in a time when India is poised at the helm of a global economy with so much new information and interest in the country, its culture and traditions, there are still questions in people's minds about "elephants" and strange "Hindoo" practices. It probably seems unreal for them to accept that coming from India I may have had a childhood and upbringing that is not so dissimilar to what they had in the US. And yes when it comes to making choices and taking decisions about my own life I do have the freedom to do what I think best.

It seems to me that more and more people from the Indian subcontinent are taking their own decisions when it come to tying the knot. Most of my friends and cousins have had the so called "love marriage" where they were allowed to decide on who they would marry and spend their life with. When I look at the generation that preceeded mine I can count on my fingers the number of couples I personally know who were allowed to marry person's of their own choice and still be left with fingers to spare. On the same hand. And if I look at the generation that preceeded that......well, some things are better left alone. So honestly yes, things have come a long way from what they had been a few decades back. And yes, society is learning to accept and even embrace the "love marriage" concept.

But inspite of all the changes there are still certain taboos. For example things like caste and religion. When my great-grandfather was getting married, his family not only made sure the bride would be from a traditional bengali brahmin family but also that she had to be part of the "kulin" section which allowed him to marry into the same strata of social heirarchy. Decades down the line when my cousins and I were getting into the marriageable age, no one really cared much for what caste we were marrying into as long as we ended up marrying a decent person. But I know people who have met with resistence from family because of caste issues which still mean a great deal to a lot of families. Religion again is a whole different ballgame. I know a handful of people who have married outside of their religion and each one of them have had a hard time getting their family to accept the fact.

As I said most people I know are taking their own decisions for marriage these days. The key word here is "most'. What happens to the ones that are unable to find their mate? B has a cousin who is about 26 years old, finished her Masters degree and teaching in a college. Her parents have been trying to find her a groom for the last couple of years. Unfortunately it appears all the good men folk have been taken during their academic years and the ones that keep coming up are total jerks. Like the one who declared that he had a large family and required a certain amount of dowry. Or the one who refused to let her work once she got married. Or the one who had a history of mental illness. Whats irks me to no end is this endless search for a groom is leaving such a debilitating effect on the poor girl. She is pretty, she is smart, and she is a genuinely nice individual. She would make a wonderful wife for anyone. Yet, she is paraded in her finest to anyone who wishes to "see" her, made to sing so that some weirdo can judge whether she can sing him a lullaby when he goes to bed, bring in a tray of refreshments so her potential in laws can visualize her in the kitchen, show off her artwork and needlework and handcrafted items so people can say whether she is good with her hands. I guess the only thing that she is unable to show her future husband and in laws is whether she is good in bed. Which judging from the men that are stopping by I would imagine was the only thing that they care about. And everytime a family stops by and passes judgement it leaves the girl with her self-esteem a notch lower and feeling less wanted than ever before. And it makes me want to throw up. I ask her parents as to how they can do this to their own daughter and why they let her be humiliated publicly. And they say to me that their hands are tied and society dictates that their daughter should be married off by a certain age and as legal guardians this is the best they can do.

So what is it about a "certain age" that society feels should be binding when it comes to getting married? I remember getting my first marriage proposal when I was fifteen. Some "friend" of my Dad suddenly decided that I would be the perfect wife for his seventeen year old son and wanted to make sure that he "booked" me in advance by having us engaged. Needless to say my parents were shocked at the idea and turned him down on the grounds that it was way too early to be thinking about my marriage and they would let me decide when the time was right. The strange thing was both me and the other guy were still in school and people were already thinking about marriage! All through college I have been faced with situations where people have tried to set up alliances. Any social gathering is fair game. Especially weddings and Pujas. They are the holy ground for people to single out prospective brides and grooms and figure out who they are, what family and caste they belong to and try and set up some sort of connection to get the ball rolling. Two months before I got married I was at a friend's wedding when a rather enthusiastic lady came up to my Mom and introduced herself as Mrs so-and-so. She went on to say that she had found me very attractive and having found out that I had just completed medical school she thought I would be an ideal bride for her nephew who was a doctor. Before we could say a single word she added her nephew had finished his FRCS and was returning to India to set up his own practice and needed a wife who would understand the call of his profession and therefore it would be good if she was a doctor too. However the family was not too keen on a careeristic woman because she would not take care of the family and would I be okay with not pursuing any post-graduation but staying at home. I almost thought that I was having a nightmare. First of all here's this woman who we had not ever seen or heard of until like two minutes back. Then she was standing there trying to set up an alliance with someone I had no clue about. And most importantly she had the audacity to propose the most ridiculous offer I could imagine. Could this woman be for real? Before I could say anything my Mom told her that I was getting married in less than two months and wheeled me away from the woman. I was almost on the verge of asking her how she proposed to find such woman for her nephew. Till this date I wonder whether that family found a suitable bride for the guy, someone who would be so enthralled by the offer of being his wife that she would be more than willing to stay at home and give up her career.

This is turning out to be one of the longest posts I've done and I think I shouldn't torture anyone who has had the patience to read so far, anymore. My whole point was not trying to say that arranged marriages are bad and don't work. That is generalizing. There are probably more examples of people in arranged marriages who have held on than people who had love marriages and broke up. But that would probably be due to other reasons. Expectations for one. People who fell in love and got married have a certain amount of expectation from their partner as opposed to an arranged marriage where you go in blindfolded not knowing what to expect. And when a partner falls short of expectations that's when things start looking a little rough. Another reason why arranged marriages in the past fared so well was because women were dependant on their husbands and the family. With more women working and financial independence comes self-esteem and the knowledge that one can get out and still survive. In today's world I guess that point would be evened out.

I am not passing judgement on anyone here but personally I would never go the "arranged" route. I feel the whole procedure of the "arrangement" is demeaning to the girl and her family. People should be encouraged to take decisions about their own lives and allowed to live with their decisions. And if it happens to be a mistake, then what the only have your ownself to blame.

Update: Found this really nicely written post on the matter and couldn't help but link it here.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Tag me weird

Dreamcatcher tagged me a while back and I have been procrastinating in doing this post. First because I don't like tags (and therefore will refrain from tagging anyone) and secondly because I did not want people to find out how weird I really am. But I'm going to go ahead and honor her request.

"The Rules:-- Post six weird facts/habits about yourself.- At the bottom name the six people you will tag next.- Leave them a comment to let them know they've been tagged and to read your blog."

First, I have a weird way of walking on the sidewalk by always stepping within the squares and avoid putting my foot down on the junction of two squares. If I have to step on one of those lines I always try to give my other foot the same treatment by making sure my next foot lands on a line.

Second, I have a certain order in the way I arrange things around me. For example I have a spice rack in my kitchen, one of those that turn around and have holes with bottles stuck in them on each of four sides. Well my bottles always have to be in alphabetical order and the label has to read the right side up. So whenever I'm looking for something I know exactly where to find it. If someone messes it up I get very upset and have to put it back the way it is meant to be right away!

Third, I talk and walk around in my sleep. And sometimes that lands in embarrassing situations. Like once we were staying over at a friend's place and I walked out of our bedroom in the middle of the night, went to the living room where our friend and some others were sitting and chatting over drinks and told them that it was late and they should go to bed. The weird thing was I was fast asleep and unaware of what I was saying or doing and our friend found it most puzzling as to why I should suddenly take it upon myself to put them to bed!

Fourth, I have flexible joints and ligaments. For example I can bend my wrist inwards to make my thumb touch the inner side of the wrist. Freaks people out.

Fifth, I read really fast. I always read entire sentences at a time which makes me read books very fast. Okay, that's not so weird. Agreed. But I'm running out of things to say about myself here.

Last, I cannot sleep with a pillow under my head. I used to fluff up my pillow and place in the center and then sleep diagonally across the bed with my head on one corner of the bed and my feet in the opposite corner, the pillow untouched.

Okay that does it. Now I have to write up another post real soon so that not too many people read this post :)
And like I said, no tags....unless you are dying to do one.

Edit point no. 5: When I re-read the post I suddenly realized my fifth point does not really classify as "weird". Therefore will add a new weird trait for no. five.
Fifth, I started sucking my thumb as a baby and continued to do so right upto when I was in class 8 (talk about insecurities)! No matter how much I was scolded, how much my Mom tried to put bitters on my thumb so that I would refrain from sucking on it, I persisted right into my teen years. And then, just like that......I stopped.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Do I make you proud?

You'd think seven weeks would be enough time to say the things you want to say. Sadly, it still falls short. There are so many things that I wanted to tell you, so much I wanted to share, and yet as the time draws near for you to leave, I find it increasingly difficult to find a way of letting out those bottled up emotions, those pent up feelings.

There are times in my life when things happen. And I want to rush up to you and tell you every little detail, every boring bit, in excruciating detail. But I can't. Because you are not here. And I tell myself that I will store the memory. And when I see you next I will let it all out. Everything. How I felt and how I missed not having you here at my side. And I have imaginary conversations with you. I imagine what you'd say to me and how you would react. And then time goes by. And I see you after all these years. And all those stored memories, all the bottled up feelings want to come out in a rush. And the thoughts trip over each other in their mad scramble to be let out of my mind. And everything is a confused mess. And I stand there just looking at you wanting you to know how much I miss having you in my life. Our lives. And the words remain unspoken, trapped within my mind, trying to fight it out. And you never know.

All my life I just wanted you to be proud of me. I've tried to be the best I could. Because you have taught me to aim high. And even as you pack your bags to leave, I feel like I have not done enough. Haven't said the things I should have, spent as much time as I wanted to, given as much joy as I could have. But I am grateful for having you here with me for the past few weeks. You'll never know how much it means to me to have parents like you.

I love you Mom and Dad.....have a safe trip home.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

And today's special is........

I had chowmein for lunch today. My Mom made it. Just like the old days when she would prepare lunch for me everyday. For years and years. All through school and college. I would always take lunch from home. And unlike some girls in school who got thick slices of bread with a layer of butter, hard-boiled egg drizzled with salt and pepper and a slightly soft, spotty banana in their "tiffin box" (that's what we used to call our lunch box), my Mom always made sure I had the most delicious meals in mine. My Mom's a perfectionist. And she believed that I needed to eat well to survive the long hours outside home. And since I was a picky eater she always prepared lunch the way I liked it with things I enjoyed eating. I know what you are thinking. Yes, I was a pampered kid. Which meant I never opened my tiffin box to find a cold mound of Maggi that had taken the shape of the box and needed to be sliced into pieces with a knife!

The flip-side of having gourmet lunch was everybody in school was aware of the contents of my tiffin box. Which made a whole bunch of them flock to my side to partake of the meal. And that doesn't mean during lunch break. That meant as soon as the first class would be over. In the interval between departure of one teacher and arrival of the next I'd have some already hungry girls checking into my tiffin box and quickly devouring my ham sandwiches. Which meant by the time we would have the official lunch break (some four classes down the line) I would have a near empty tiffin box with very little food for myself. And the sad part about this whole ritual was that I could never eat the tiffin these other people brought with them because I really couldn't bring myself to eating slices of bread or cold Maggi. It came to a point when one of my class-mates in LH stopped bringing lunch because she would gorge on everyone else's lunch and have her fill. When my Mom started finding out about the misdirected food trail she started providing me with lunch enough to feed four people. But alas, I'd still be holding an empty tiffin box at lunch break. Because no matter how much food I'd carry with me, it would never be enough to feed an army of hungry school girls.

So I spent my entire school life with very little to eat for lunch inspite of carrying an extremely large tiffin box brimming with all kinds of goodies. By the time I went to college I realized it was sort of uncool to carry a large tiffin box with food while the others would be enjoying all the forbidden delights of the college canteen. So I convinced my Mom that we did not have a proper lunch break and we had to eat in the canteen when we managed to find time. Mom was skeptical but I think she understood my need to grow out of the tiffin box. Those were the years when I learnt to enjoy greasy dimer devil, super jhhaal chowmein and gorom cha. So gone were the days of lugging around my tiffin box.

And now after all these years I get to eat Maayer haate banano chowmein (chowmein made by my Mom) for lunch. And I get to eat all of it. By myself. I savored every bit of it and licked the box clean. Gosh it felt good!

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

What the devil!

In light of all the buzz about today's date and news on women who have induced labor early to avoid having a baby born today, this is probably the most unreal of them all.

"As your demon child willfully pushes and kicks, causing your lady hole to dilate to the size of a drainage pipe, keep your knees locked together at all times. "
Lady hole....WTF!

"This will give your demanding child a wonderful, early lesson that he can't always have his way. "
Life lessons even before you are born!

"The most reliable method known to Creation Science to get a mother to go instantly into labor is to jump in front of her when she least expects it and scare the dickens out of her."
That's what we do every time we get a post-dated pregnancy.

"make sure that the child is kept in a chicken cage on the hospital floor, and that there are at least two full grown hogs within four feet of the cage at all times. "
All hospitals will be christened zoos henceforth....

" the so-called "taint" (the disagreeable area between the genitals and the anus) is where demons are most likely to post messages for each other."
Why don't they just sms each other?

"Our laboratory and research center will pay $18 a pound (17 cents a pound for mixed race infants) for any child under the age of 6-months. "
Mixing races can cost you dear!

And while you are at it read the ads on the sidebar..... "accept Christ and get a free playstation 2"!


Thursday, June 01, 2006

When God Closes a Door, Somewhere He Opens a Window

I guess He does. Except sometimes it is hard to see beyond the closed door. And we go banging our heads on it. And end up getting hurt with a bump on the head. And still being stuck behind the closed door.

But if we just look around we may see the light coming through the window. And while it may not be the way we wanted to go, it still might be more refreshing than being stuck in a dark room.

Since I've been staring at the closed door for way too long decided to have a peek through my window and here's what I see:

Meeting my parents after all these years and sapping up all the attention and love.


Getting my paper published before all the other competition got theirs out.

Discovering my thesis is being sold on which has dubiously given me the distinction of being an author.

Being able to take time off every weekend to go on holidays, from the mountains to the beach.

Being able to spend a lot of time with my nephew and niece who are absolutely adorable and becoming their favorite aunt.

Being able to see beyond the closed door....and seeing the window that is bringing light into my life.