Category Archives: Essays

Articles & posts about life in general & motherhood in particular

Career Choices for Children

Are children ready to make career choices when they are in tenth grade? At fifteen, my daughter was at a crossroads in her life. She had to decide whether to pursue further studies in Science, Commerce or Arts. Read the rest of my article in the Hindu here.

Olympic Hopes

This article was written after the 2016 Rio Olympics.

I’m watching two women play a game of badminton on the television. Not just any game – but the women’s finals at the Rio Olympics. My chirping phone makes me aware that millions across the world are also watching the match. It’s a close contest between PV Sindhu from India and Carolina Marin from Spain. I find myself holding my breath every time Sindhu loses a point and doing a mental jig whenever she scores. Finally, the game ends with the gold medal won by Carolina Marin. Despite my initial disappointment, pride fills me to see Sindhu on the victory stand.

It has been several weeks since this game but I still remember those nail-biting moments when I watched the two players battle for the gold. All the media outlets in India featured the Olympics front and center when the games were underway. The nation watched with bated breath, to see if any Indian made it to the finals. Every time a hopeful athlete left the fray it felt as if the entire nation sighed. Soon it was down to three women – a badminton player, a golfer, and a wrestler, that the nation pinned its hopes on.   

Did we ever wonder how these Olympic hopefuls even made it this far? Being an athlete in India has never been easy. And being a woman athlete is twice as hard. They’ve struggled to get access to good facilities and money to make ends meet. Sometimes their challenges have been worse than their male counterparts.

They’ve had to ignore the questions and belittling comments of neighbours, relatives, and their communities. How inappropriate it was for women to be in the gym or at the track. How will they ever get married? They’ve had to ignore the leery glances of men who stared at their legs when they ran against the wind or lifted weights. Many of our women athletes like the boxers, wrestlers, and track & field are from rural areas and poor backgrounds. They have had little or no financial backing. Their burning desire to succeed and the support of coaches and family was what had gotten them to Rio. Every athlete who has participated in any Olympics from the Indian subcontinent is undeniably a hero. One who deserved a medal for their sheer grit to have gotten thus far.

As the results of every game were declared during the Rio Olympics we wondered what had gone wrong. Why were the Indian athletes not winning? We discussed, dissected and apportioned blame. When a well-known writer tweeted about how the participants returned home empty-handed, thousands of voices rose in protest against the insensitivity of the tweet. But why wasn’t there enough being done to help these participants with their training and preparation?

One athlete revealed how she had to travel in the economy class while the sports officials traveled in business class. Even as the barely-rested athlete got on the field a few hours after arriving in Rio, the officials were busy hitting the beaches. This time, both mainstream and social media did make a hue and cry about our priorities.

What have been the lessons garnered after the Rio Olympics? Asking questions while a good start is just that. Raised voices need to translate into real action on the ground. Let us each start in our hometowns – pick a sport, get to know who the officials are, and begin asking them what they are doing to help our athletes now. Perhaps in Tokyo 2020 we will see a different India.

A worried mom wails – DH

There’s never a dull moment at home and when there’s a flight to catch, the drama continues all the way to the airport. When DH published my article today my loved ones alternated between laughing and crying over my plight. Do click here to read the article.

Letting Go Is Hard

When someone breaks your heart, or when your beloved pet dies, or when your child leaves home for college (like mine did), how do you let go?

Click here to read my speech on letting go.

3 Tips To Marital Bliss

As I prepared my Toastmaster Speech on”3 Tips to Marital Bliss”, I realized what a challenge it was to make people laugh. But I must have done something right. My fellow Toastmasters loved my speech, I got a ribbon for Best Speaker and the best part is that the spouse is still talking to me. Amen. To read my speech click here.

The relevance of Indian epics

As a child growing up in India, I had the luxury of reading and listening to stories from Indian epics such as Mahabharatha and Ramayana. My mother and other relatives would narrate stories which had me alternating between righteous indignation and deep compassion over the plight of assorted characters in both the epics. As a teen I would often wonder why it was important to read such epics which did not seem to have any relevance in today’s world. Recently I stumbled upon this interpretation of the Mahabharatha on why it is an important read for all of us now.

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Source: Anonymous from the Internet

‘Sanjay was finally there at Kurukshetra, the ground where the great war of Mahabharata took place. It was said in the texts that eighty percent of the fighting male population of the civilization was wiped out in the eighteen days of the war. He looked around and wondered if the war really happened if the ground beneath him had soaked all that blood, if the great Pandavas and Krishna stood where he stood.

“You will never know the truth about that !” said an aging soft voice.

Sanjay turned around to find an old man in saffron robes appearing out of a column of dust.

“I know you are here to find out about the Kurukshetra war, but you cannot know about that war till you know what the real war is about.” the old man said enigmatically.

“What do you mean ?”

Sanjay instantly knew that he was in the presence of someone who knew more about the war than any living person he had ever met.
“The Mahabharata is an Epic, a ballad, perhaps a reality but definitely a philosophy.” The old man smiled luring Sanjay into more questions.

“Can you tell me what the philosophy is then ?”Sanjay requested.
Sure. “Here goes,” began the Old man.

“The Pandavas are nothing but your five senses, sight, smell, taste, touch and sound and do you know what the Kauravas are ?”he asked narrowing his eyes.

Sanjay shook his head.

“The Kauravas are the hundred vices that attack your senses every day but you can fight them and do you know how?”

Sanjay shook his head again.
“When Krishna rides your chariot!”
The old man smiled brighter and Sanjay gasped at that gem of insight.

“Krishna is your inner voice, your soul, your guiding light and if you let your life in his hands you have nothing to worry.”

Sanjay was stupefied but came around quickly with another question. “Then why are Dronacharya and Bhishma fighting for the Kauravas, if they are vices?”

The old man nodded, saddened at the question.

“It just means that as you grow up your perception of your elders changes. The elders who you thought were perfect in your growing up years may turn out to be not all that perfect. They have faults. And one day you will have to decide if they are for your good or your bad. Then you may also realize that you may have to fight them for the good. It is the hardest part of growing up and that is why the Geeta is important.”

Sanjay slumped down on the ground, not because he was tired but because he could understand and was struck by the enormity of it all.

“What about Karna?” he whispered.

“Ah!” said the old man. “You have saved the best for last. Karna is the brother to your senses, he is desire, he is a part of you but stands with the vices. He feels wronged and makes excuses for being with the vices as your desire does all the time.

Does your desire not give you excuses to embrace vices?”

Sanjay nodded silently. He looked at the ground, consumed with a million thoughts, trying to put everything together and then when he looked up the old man was gone.

He seemed to have disappeared in the column of dust leaving behind the great philosophy of life.’

 

Graying matters

There is only one cure for gray hair. It was invented by a Frenchman. It is called the guillotine.”  P.G.Wodehouse

The first few strands hardly created a ripple. Then came the next wave. It caught my friend’s attention as she kept giving me discreet glances during our customary walk. “You still have time – you don’t need to do anything now!” she said. I stared at her perplexed. What was she talking about? What on earth was I supposed to do or not do?

When my hair started graying my friends in the club started hounding me. At every party, they would discuss my apathy to camouflaging the gray strands.” My friend’s explanation caught me by surprise. I’d heard of peer pressure in schools, even colleges but this was certainly a first. Middle-aged women needing to color their hair in order to belong! My friend succumbed to the call of her sorority sisters. But when her husband too joined the fray by dyeing his hair jet black (a knee jerk reaction from male drumming circles) I threw my hands up in despair. What was happening to everybody around me?

Once the idea was planted in my head, I found myself paying more attention to everyone’s crowning glory. “Is there something on my hair?” my neighbor asked me belligerently when she noticed my eyes remain glued above her forehead. How could I tell her the real reason? I was having a hard time reconciling with her new black mane.

Unfortunately the disease had spread to my own family. My aunt whom I had always admired for her three-tiered look had become a brunette. Now I knew what a midlife crisis was. But the final straw was when I met my cousin after nearly a decade. When the fifty year old preened over her cascading black hair, I was impressed. “What brand do you use for colouring?” I blurted out. When she indignantly broke into a long-winded monologue about good genes and how hair dyes had never figured in her life, I seethed with jealousy.

I had to get away but little did I suspect that my usual refuge, the beauty parlour, would also offer no solace. “Madam, why are you not doing something?” the beautician would wail and moan dispiritedly, her sense of aesthetics greatly offended. Instead of plucking my eyebrows, she was busy clucking over the hair on my head. The sight of my gray strands brought her to the verge of tears.

“Why don’t you just take the plunge? What’s stopping you?” my friends asked. “What if I get a skin rash?” I retorted. “And if I start, there would be no end to it. I’ve got enough on my plate.” I thought I had put the whole thing behind me till I got an early birthday gift. The sender’s name was missing. My heart pounding with excitement I tore open the brightly coloured package. When I saw the bottle of hair dye I burst out laughing!

This article first appeared in the Sunday Herald.