On cleanliness, godliness and the like.

This post is going to be full of opinions, thoughts, you name it. On things that matter to me, but in ways different from how I see it matter to other people.

Over the past few days, I have been  trying to teach a few prayers to my three year old daughter. I have been showing her how to light incense, light a lamp and pray. It is true that my faith has been shakey of late. I have questioned many rituals and still do. Yet, I  want her to receive this faith ( even if pretended) for now. As a gift. I have my reasons for this.

The very first one being that rituals provide a template for the study of spirituality. They help you adhere to an idea, a concept. It is a form of meditation.

The second reason builds on this first concept. If you don’t learn a structure, what will you test or break? Like how Tagore says, without restraining the two ends of a string in your veenai,there is no music.

“I have on my table a violin string. It is free to move in any direction I like. If I twist one end, it responds; it is free.
But it is not free to sing. So I take it and fix it into my violin. I bind it and when it is bound, it is free for the first time to sing.” (TAGORE)

Indeed, how will my child learn to  sing with the joy of faith if I don’t provide her the framework to do so? To lead her a little into the realms of the soul, not as a religious person, but as someone who constantly searches her own self, someone who seeks a bigger goal, a farther star. I believe it is faith, not love, that makes the world go round.

Wouldn’t my own wavering faith pose problems? Yes, but nothing that cannot be resolved without an honest chat . Who knows, it might get me started on a entirely different spiritual journey altogether.

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We live in a sprawling house with loads of greenery, visiting birds and enormous amounts of sunlight.  Time and again, people who visit comment on that and then almost on the same visit say,

“Oh, it is a nice house but way too much maintenance. It is especially difficult with a young kid, like yours!”

I smile it off for it probably means our house is not clean enough by their standards, but it also makes we wonder. What exactly is ‘maintenance’?

Is it a shining, spotless floor? Will a clean, scrubbed floor not do?

Is it a dust-free shelf? Will a shelf with well-loved books, read, re-read and savoured not make the mark?

Is it a cobweb free ceiling?  Will a corner in an unobtrusive corner of your home with the most intricate spider  web fail to amaze you?

Is it a pet free bedroom? Would you fail to understand the warmth of a four legged one in the dark of the night, despite all the hair?

I remember visiting grandparents, aunts and relatives as a kid. I have seen moss on their bathroom walls, earthworms in their courtyard, dust covered objects flung into an unused room, scorpions in unused shelves and of course, cobwebs in places that were unused. Surprisingly, none of those aunts or relatives ever apologised for any of this nor was it considered a lack of “maintenance”.

I am not advocating a slovenly existence, far from that. I  appreciate freshly laundered sheets and a clean smelling bathroom as much as the next person.  But I  do wonder if  our standards have been increasing over the years, and might slowly pass over into the realm of the “unrealistic “. The ‘hubs’ of a home need regular cleaning,  like the kitchen, bathrooms and the bedrooms. The other areas,not so much, in my opinion.

Call me a slob but a few (or many) cobwebs or a dusty storeroom don’t make me feel less of a homemaker.  What fun is a home with no creatures to observe or no junk to explore?

 

On how little I have learned…

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We all have those days. Those days of utter hopelessness and desolation. Where a lot of ‘revelations’ shower upon you. This weekend was full of moments of such angst.

I was thinking of how I never learned to play any role that was expected of me in life. Barring childhood, which most of us scamper through mindlessly anyway, I have never been able to just “be”. The most acutely devastating phase of this kind of ennui was after I got married. I just didn’t know how to be a “wife”. I still don’t. I have no clue what goes into the making of a wife. I do things my way and hope to be understood. Thankfully, I have been blessed with a husband who is sensitive enough to my quirks. In another marriage, I would have lost steam a long time ago.

Like I saying, I was plagued the whole weekend with thoughts of how I haven’t understood the role of a mother either. I do not know why I seek to learn what is expected of me! It is silly and important to me, all at once. I know how easy it is to lose oneself in roles like these. At the same time, I feel lost without the rough framework of what motherhood is ‘supposed to be’.I realized I had no clue of this one either. I feel extremely jealous of those who seem to have it all figured out. I wondered how I had spent nine years of my married life with nary an opinion on how a home should be kept, or how a curry needed to be made or what philosophy I needed to adopt for raising my daughter. I am just so clueless that it scares me. Shouldn’t I know a little by now?

I have just been acting upon one whimsical idea after other. I cannot tell you what a daughter or a daughter-in-law needs to do; I cannot tell you how I feel as a “wife”. I don’t know how to be a “mother.” I feel so rudderless.

Sometimes, I think, my only best friend is Time. Who, like a river, flows over all my wounds and insecurities and gives me the gift of perspective, over and over again.

P.S : This might be a post full of ramblings, but it is definitely not  a sad one. It is one that is most reflective of the true ‘me’ and we all come in different types, don’t we?

 

I want…

fly

Some days, I want and I want;

A little of this and a little of that, 

Never too sure, but never too much. 

 

The names slip away

the words are garbled

but I want and I want.

 

A bucket of sunshine

or a mug of the waves,

or some dew to rub into my hair. 

 

I want and I want

all the love I can find and 

a few romances to spice up my day. 

 

I know my dishes are undone

My baby’s crying and I am thirty-two;

But I want and I want.

 

And I want and I want…..

 

 

 

An affair with….

Tristesse.

Pathos.

Yes, you got that right. I am in love with a certain way that sadness makes me feel. I remember being very impressed with the title o a book by Françoise Sagan, “Bonjour , tristesse” : Hello, Sadness. Something that I would love to say.

I did not sprout this seed of melancholy on a whim. It has been cultivated over the years and been watered diligently, too. I often imagined how I would react if my parents or siblings died and cried for hours. I read and re-read sad poems, letting the sadness engulf my soul. I would think of less than fortunate people around me and let it make my heart heavy. I could cite many more incidents where I was one with an emotion that, for most people, seems destructive and self – defeating.

I did try to reflect upon it. On why I could always the melancholic strain in everything : was it my way of escaping the world? Or a means to be philosophical? I did fall off the bandwagon many a time, succumbing to self-pity, the very ugly cousin to sadness,  but I always pulled myself together.

Like most people obsessed with sadness,  I laughed a lot. I tried to deny the sad feelings I had on an everyday basis.  I tried to be happy go lucky,  I tried to “spread smiles wherever I go” , as the saying goes. What it actually did was to inhibit me, for I was basically denying my very existence. The sadness was so much a part of me that living became difficult.

At times friends would find me in grief and try to help – “Cheer up! Look on the bright side.” Of course! Sadness or melancholy is not pessimism, just like happiness is not optimism! The former is a feeling, the latter an attitude! I would smile and reply, “Of course..”

As I grow older, I am more at peace with this. I am trying not to deny myself and accept it as who I am.

Yes I still wish upon rainbows and lick dew off leaves.

I like to tell children about fairies and magic.

I  always believe the best is yet to come and tomorrow will surely be better than yesterday.

I enjoy comedies and funny videos and guffaw like a monkey.

Yet…and yet…

My heart will always be heavy….

Perspectives…

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While you chose to worry about a few gray strands in your hair, somewhere in the world a river is slowly graying itself to death : filled with filth from your homes and from our souls;

While you demand for gold and fanfare at your son’s wedding, somewhere in your country, a whole family weeps because they gave birth to a girl.

While you ground your child for not standing first in the class, somewhere in your city, a mother of a child with special needs is moving mountains just to hear her child call her “Amma”;

And while you berate yourself for all the perceived imperfections in your body, somewhere in your soul, a sliver of joy melts away…..

Into oblivion.

 

Image courtesy : Google search, no copyright infringement intended.

 

A love like no other.. (Blogathon Post Seventeen)

She was a hard core feminist,a non-committal homosexual and undisputably,one of the greatest writers that ever lived.
He was a writer too,who also dabbled with philosophy to such penetrating depths that it left his readers gasping.. and a self-claimed womaniser.
But then,they met.
And recognised in each other a little of their own selves.And an extreme compatibility in thought.A journey through the clouds,an intellectual union,sparks flew-that was how it was when they spoke to each other.
But the intellect is never satisfied.
Being the womaniser that he was,he could never commit himself.And she didn’t mind.It is not everyday that you find a companion who can match your intellectual frequencies and push you to greater heights.
He moved around with the pretty ladies in France,while she continued to stack skeletons in her closet.
All through this,they remained scrupulously honest with each other,telling each other every minute detail of their unglamorous affairs and dirty scandals,in letters that only two writers would appreciate.
And yet,they were in love with each other.
Totally.
All the while making more mistakes than the rest of the population put together.Atleast that’s what it seems.

And this love story appeals to me.It represents an ideal that I might never find.There are no standards here,whatsoever.They were probably people with double standards,for all you know.
Because they frequently lied to each other under the masquerade of honesty.He was a chauvinist,she was a feminist wimp.
But it clicked.
Because their minds met.

That was the story of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre,two of the greatest writers in France.

A trip down memory lane…

Like this post I wrote a few weeks ago, winter is one of my favourite seasons. I love the other seasons equally, but just that the physical proximity of the cold makes me wax eloquent about the wonders of this season. After a story on monsoon memories I read in a magazine for children, (I wonder when I will ever outgrow that :reading juvenile stuff!), I felt like writing a winter diary.. my memories of winter. Come to think of it, a memory is very much like your job. It can be nourishing, yet like your work when you do not take the weekends off, it can take a toll on your state of mind.
My earliest memory of winter would be my sixth birthday. I went to school and distributed the customary 50 paise candies and basked in all the attention I received. I wore a red sleeveless frock that smelled like new clothes and did not reach my knees. My uncle promised me a cake(they were a luxury in my family-birthdays meant a new dress, candies for friends and a visit to the temple. No fanfare, no parties.) I remember waiting the entire evening. The cake never came. Disappointed, I went to bed, only to be woken up at 11:30 PM. Groggy and shivering in the cold, I blew the candles and cut the cake which was placed on the window-sill. I do not remember how the cake tasted, but I got the cake and that’s what counts!
The next memory of winter was in college, of fetes and celebrations throughout the month. I would wake up very early each morning(say 3 AM) to study for my exams and go back to bed by around 5 AM. I would snooze to wake up to the intro music on Vividha Bharathi at 5:45 AM and thoroughly enjoy the Tiruppavai and all the lovely kritis after. A cup of coffee and the radio on a winter morning, need I add how divine that feels!
After I got married, for the first time in my life, I decorated the Christmas tree. I was so excited! We went shopping for decorations and Santa and packed little gifts in shiny paper and placed them under the tree. It was all so magical. Neighbours poured in to watch in surprise at this crazy couple, who, just a couple of months ago, had put up a very traditional golu.Children played around the whole day around the tree, all from the neighbourhood. With our dogs and fish, it was all total chaos, yet one of the best times of our life.
So there! It was fun writing this post. Thank you, Zai Whitaker , for the wonderful idea. You are a wonderful writer and I can only imagine how much children enjoy your writing!

Writing…


A few weeks ago, I attended a workshop on Writing Skills at the Alliance Française. It was aimed to improve our skills in French, but I am surprised at how it has freed up my mind, and the surge of ideas that I now have.
We have all been there. We, as in, those who love writing. People whose childhood memories include a secluded corner of the terrace, a tree or a pet for company, paper and pencil.
Who as little children, believed that books were indeed the best presents available and painstakingly ‘made’books, filling every page with our own poems, our reflections about the world around us, translating the language of our inner selves into comprehensible text.
All was well until the day we met every writer’s nightmare : Block. Try as we might, the words would just not get written. Nights of frustration, days full of futile observations, our journals empty of jots. It’s scary. Whether or not I get published, writing is a cathartic process for me. I need it just like I need my everyday cup of coffee, or even my daily shower, on a more mundane note. I have lived as a shadow of the real me, just because I couldn’t write. Maybe there is a right moment for things to happen.
Like this workshop I attended. Let me summarize the activities we did.
* An uncensored first draft-just write, continuously for fifteen minutes on anything that you like. Some of us created marvels just by writing on how we could think of nothing to write about!
* Make a poem with the key points of what you’ve just written in this form:
W
WW
WWW
WWWW
W, where W is a word.
* Rewrite your story/text with this poem as base. You’ll see a remarkable difference in the quality of your writing. Trust me on this!
* Pick random pictures and write a story of this format :
A hero-Describe him.
His first problem.
His second problem
A crisis in his life.
Someone who comes to his aid.
All’s well.
The first draft of this activity purges out all the clichés in your head and you’ll see how awesome the second draft is!You can write a ‘diamond’poem to sum up your story,
M
MM
MMM
MM
M
So there! If you follow them sincerely, you’ll find your passion for writing come back. Promise. It did for me.Now I just can’t seem to stop writing! 🙂