Category Archives: Essays

Articles & posts about life in general & motherhood in particular

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.

The Sound of Silence

The things we think about, brood on, dwell on, and exult over influence our life in a thousand ways. When we can actually choose the direction of our thoughts instead of just letting them run along the grooves of conditioned thinking, we become the masters of our own lives. Eknath Easwaran

In the still of the night the beast comes alive. It persists, annoys and tears my insides till it wakes me up from my deep slumber. Then the battle between woman and beast begins with the latter winning each time. The hacking sounds that follow has my husband turning towards me in consternation. There’s a pained look on his face as he watches me cough incessantly. The mug of warm water and lozenges lying on the bedside table near me are also a mute witness to my suffering. I look around the dark room and hear the faint whispers of the night. The momentary silence between the coughing bouts are comforting.

For more than a week now I’d been laid up with a viral infection. Sore throat, fever, cold and cough appeared in rapid succession like unwelcome guests at a party. The good news was that the first three moved onto fresher pastures before the first course of the dinner was over. The bad news was that the last one continued to linger even after the desert.

“Rest your vocal chords!” The doctor’s advice kept ringing in my ears. Easier said than done. Even if I did want to talk, I simply couldn’t. That’s when I began to appreciate the sounds around me.The pigeons cooing in my balcony while leaving their mark on the floor as they flew away. The shrieks of my neighbor’s little Jedis playing with their toy light sabers outside my apartment door in the common area. The guffaws of old men from the laughter club waking up the entire building at the crack of dawn as they huddled on the lawns outside. I also began to savor the quiet that appeared at odd intervals. Silence. Silence was an old friend of mine.

I grew up in a home which was mostly quiet. My father was a taciturn man while my mother was a busy housewife who didn’t have the time to chat. I was happy to be left alone in my world of books and music. Years later when I got married into a large family, I was surrounded by women who had a compulsive need to talk and an equally perverse desire to make me listen to them. I had an irrational desire to speak my mind at times but often the words were stuck in my throat. Silence. Now the same friend became a pesky thing that I wanted to shove out the door.

“You’ve started speaking a lot more!” My aged uncle remarked when he met me after twenty years. I was pondering aloud on the happy partnership between silence and meditation to him when he made the observation. Was I more talkative than before? I wondered. Yet my daughters refrained from answering that question when I asked them. Their feeble answer was a tad regretful. “We can never shout out Earth-calling-mom!” 

It needed a temporary illness to make me recall my old friend. Silence. A friend that I had somehow forgotten along the way.

Poetic License

Musicians are sometimes asked to present concerts on a certain theme. The concert could be based on compositions of one particular composer or a God or even an event. Poets too are asked to complete a verse or even a poem using a particular word or a phrase.

While reading a book on Sanskrit poems, I stumbled upon this wonderful poem (author unknown) that made me laugh out loud. Here is the English translation of the poem.

A certain maid at Rama’s coronation,

Befuddled by the wine of celebration,

Dropped a gold jug, which down the staircase rang:

Tum-tumty-tum-tum-ta-ta-tumty-tang.

Moving on I came across this poem by Bhartrhari where he talks about the relationship between a couple.

In former days we’d both agree

That you were me, and I was you.

What has now happened to us two,

That you are you, and I am me?

I was reminded of another poem by Khahlil Gibran on marriage where he holds a different viewpoint.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.