Why I love doing the dishes.

A few years ago, I took a quiz ( I know, I am that crazy personality quiz freak ) named, ” Which Greek Goddess are you?” The answer in front of my eyes, asking to be shared, was puzzling. I was a mix of Persephone and Hestia. Persephone, I totally understand : I have a depressive, neurotic personality. But Hestia? The Goddess of Hearth and Home? I did not have a single domestic bone in my body. This is what this site says about Hestia,

” Hestia, as keeper of the hearth, goes about her tasks in a calm, centered, focused manner – whether she is sweeping or doing laundry, she is fully engaged, focusing on her task at hand–like a meditation–and not at all concerned about the clock or what she will be doing next. She experiences a timeless calm in the midst of her immediate tasks. ” 

Ha, indeed. I wondered if these quizzes were a joke, which in all probability, they are. Who wants to identify themselves with a Greek Goddess anyway? However, I was still intrigued. Did I deny my domestic instincts because they would be considered uncool? Perhaps, I feared coming across as a “normal ” person?

I thought some more. No, I was not some organisation freak or a germaphobe or a person who believed “women should stay at home”. I hate cleaning  or cooking, not with a purple passion, but enough to not do some of them for days together. I would rather waste time watching mindless videos on cleaning than actually clean something. I zone out into nostalgia and “what-ifs” in the midst of a major cleaning spree.  Why then, was I a “keeper of the hearth”?

Later, as I did the dishes, the answer did come to me. Normally when I wash the dishes, I have a wave of thoughts that sweep over my soul. It is usually the same wave. I start out feeling thankful that I have food to eat and the energy to make it. Then I revel in how  the specks of food and stains disappear, just like our everyday troubles do, with a little soul-scrubbing. I then wander off into some poetic thoughts as the dishes get shinier and shinier. Towards the end, I break off into a song.

Sometimes, I also process uncomfortable thoughts somewhere in between and scrub a little more than necessary. The physical act of scrubbing brings me peace. Finally, everything is clean and I am more at peace. No, my problems did not disappear by magic. But my heart does feel lighter and I know that, tomorrow, the dishes will get dirty again. Just life Life.  I will have to clean again. Both literally and metaphorically.

I realised, this is why I am a Hestia. Not because I keep a perfect home or that I am a clean freak. It is because  the woman in me “experiences a timeless calm in the midst of her immediate tasks.” It is because, despite my messy home and chaotic surroundings, I do derive a lot of pleasure from making it better. The final product means less to me than the process itself.

Organising the books means endless hours spent reminiscing about the times gone by and thinking of people who are associated with certain books.

Rearranging the clothes in the shelves means an afternoon that is spent in warmth and fragrance and the colours of  our second skin.

Washing the windows is a different perspective to seeing the world around us.

To make it clearer, I do not always approach housework with this attitude. In fact, I rarely do. I leave things lying around or undone. But when I finally get around to doing them, this is how I feel, and this is what truly represents peace to me.

Indeed, I do have a  Hestia within me.

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On the wings of Time…

Many eons ago, humans and Gods lived together. It was a time of abundance and joy. Thirst or hunger were unknown and the slightest flicker of a desire was fulfilled. Into this world of bounty tiptoed Love in her chariot of flowers and myrrh, not to forget her gifts of passion and lust. 

With Love visiting them, the humans and Gods were put in a state of disarray. Suddenly, desires were not crystal clear as before. Their minds were often in the throes of passion, love and lust to think  without pause. They were like leaves on waves, tossed about mercilessly. 

For the first time in history, a conference was called. Humans and Gods and animals and plants and insects and birds – they wondered how they could address this strange yet seemingly unsurmountable problem. Love was an extremely powerful force and they couldn’t stand up to her. They had never seen someone like her.

Love attended the conference in her robe of jasmine flowers and lotus leaves. She heard them speak and listened.  And then, she listened some more.  Finally,  she told them they had a choice. 

A choice?

Yes, she said , in her strong, clear voice. It can help you stay calm and yet seat me on your mantle, worshipped with incense and doused in perfume.  

Time is the choice, she continued.  You have been living a timeless existence. But just a little distance away, unknown to any of you, lies the eternal dark. A darkness that can be transcended only by me. An obscure land wherein lies the most beautiful thing in the world : death. When life can begin again.  Where we can begin, again and again. And that is my choice.

You can live timelessly without me . Or you can choose to step over into the dark, where time can heal and soothe your soul. Over this wondrous thing called Time, you can become one with me and we can flow seamlessly over time (again), beginning again and yet again. It is your chance to be as powerful  as I am. The creatures of the world were perplexed. Love spoke again, 

When you choose Time, you also choose me for but a short while. For I cannot fly but on her arms. And my charms are powerless before her magnetic, radiant smile.  

It is decided then, said everyone.  We, the creatures of the universe, choose Time. We welcome her into our world.

And that is how Time, Death and therefore Life, came to be.

(This story has been submitted to the Bluebell Books Short Story Slam  at :

http://bluebellbooks.blogspot.com/2016/07/short-story-slam-week-49-july-21-august.html)

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?

 

VeKuSaMo

Ve Ku Sa Mo is a frequent event in our largely canine, mildly human, tiny household. It’s a state that has followed us across homes, cities and time. We have tried to prevent it from happening, but the tugs of this powerful phenomenon never let go.

What is Ve Ku Sa Mo? No, it has nothing to do with NaMo or politics. It is not a Japanese cuss word, either. A new parenting philosophy, perhaps? Now that, I cannot say!

Ve Ku Sa Mo is an abbreviated version of a tamil expression ( there are versions in many other languages too!) : Vecha Kudumi, Saracha Mottai! Basically, it means you do everything  or you do nothing. Sounds familiar?  Welcome aboard!

I wanted to  post about this today as I  am currently in the “saracha mottai” phase, as in the “do nothing” phase . I have no idea how one does a little every day.  I spent the past four weeks cleaning up our home like a maniac and cooking in a frenzy. Here’s all that I made. Drool and enjoy.

Circle 1 : Irani Samosas

Circle 2 : Whole Wheat jim-jammy Nankhatai.

Circle 3 : Peanut-Jaggery Chikki

Hmmm, wonder why I don’t have nine circles, considering all the fire (not particularly hellish, but delish!)  I waded through in making these!

This does not include, of course, the puffed amaranth breakfast cereal that I hit upon or the yummy peppery crackers I made last evening! Also to be added are the non culinary areas of “ativrishti”, viz, the decluttering of the basement, the organization of the pantry and general mental cleaning overall. Oh, I  forget the two whole days I spent on work not related to the house.

And now… you can guess where I am right now.

Just to keep you in the loop (I am very familiar with corporate jargon, you see? Makes me more professional, I am told!) , my “saracha mottai”phase started yesterday. God save my home and my family!

P.S : It’s possibly “lunatic”, don’t you think, all this waxing and waning?

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?

 

A Thousand Splendid Suns…

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I read Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner ten years ago, as a girl. I enjoyed the depth of his writing, but felt that it lacked style. The story was gripping and the writing was brutally honest, but there was a little something that I felt was lacking. It is difficult to explain without coming across as presumptuous. Today, a decade hence, the Afghan born doctor cum writer crawls back into my (grown up) heart all over again, with A Thousand Splendid Suns.

The book touches upon Afghanistan, fresh from its upheaval of monarchy and takes us through its journey of war, Soviet occupation and finally, the dark regime of the Taliban. When Mariam’s mother gives her lesson for life at the beginning of the story, little do we realize how much impact those few words have over not only Mariam’s life, but also Laila’s (the other protagonist) :

“Only one skill. And it’s this : tahamul. Endure.”

Mariam’s life is made up of one difficult situation after another, one pain after another. The reader’s heart feels her pain but just like her, is helpless. You almost endure it all over again. And again. Suddenly I think of these lines from The Kite Runner : When tumblr_mcdbhoF9671riifgzo1_500

You know that what Mariam really wants is to escape it all, like in those lines above, but she is trapped into her life, that husband, that country and her mother’s curse : to endure. When you think of women like her, who are still battling reality in patriarchal societies all over the world, your heart is sure to bleed and suddenly, your own life feels like an enormous luxury.

The descriptions of Herat and Kaboul evoke very strong feelings about the places and country. The Boudhas of Bamiyan, the minarets of Herat and the night life in Kaboul stay etched in your mind long after you have closed the book. It is the city of Kaboul that is behind the title, too.

Kaboul

Beautiful, isn’t it? As a person who gives away her soul to certain places and cities, I could totally identify with it.

If Mariam’s curse was to endure, Laila’s was to wait. Waiting for love, waiting for clouds to pass, waiting for times to change.

“Of all the hardships a person had to face, none was more punishing than the simple act of waiting.”

While Laila’s story can retain some hope, Mariam’s is devoid of any. Probably the story of many women in Afghanistan and in many other societies as well. Khaled Hosseini’s might touch upon aspects of politics or history but the central story is always that of these two women, stuck together by kismet, born into a world and a time that was cruel to its women. The book is poetic and poignant, very hard to put down once begun. It is an extremely heart-wrenching tale of life, that goes on, despite all odds.

“Each snowflake was a sigh heard by an aggrieved woman somewhere in the world. All the sighs drifted up the sky, gathered into clouds, then broke into tiny pieces that fell silently on the people below. As a reminder of how women suffer, how quietly we endure all that falls upon us.” 

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….

A city, A song..

I have never lived without music. As a child, I woke up to my Amma singing krithis right from dawn until she finished cooking, packing our lunches and finally pushed us out of the door. My Appa’s prayers were always sung, never spoken (he even wanted to become a playback singer after retirement!). A power cut in the evening would mean long, delicious hours of singing (we would fight for our turns, and you can imagine how long those power cuts were!) Navaratri or New Year’s. my brother would be more than willing to bring out his mridangam and play for me. We played the roles of budding singer and aspiring accompanist with aplomb.  I often played cassettes over and over again to ” learn” the songs.

It is probably no surprise that I had a song for each person I knew. Of course, I had to like them and know them well. Every time I saw them, I would be reminded of the song I had matched them to. The matching had no apparent logic, yet, it made sense. Last evening, while returning home from work, I wondered if I could do it for the cities I have lived in. So, here goes :

Hyderabad-  The city I was born in… One that will always tug at my heartstrings, despite the changes over the years. Here’s to you, dear, dear Hyderabad.

Bangalore- The city that keeps me learning, at every step. This song reminds me of what it is at heart, despite the mad buzz and the frightening traffic; soothing and welcoming.

Delhi – One of the most beautiful cities I been to and lived in. The planning, the architecture, the very European feel to some of its markets, I love a lot of things about this city. Every time I think of Delhi, I think of this song, the cafe at the Alliance Francaise and the long chats with friends and of course, Mad Angles!

Coimbatore – The city I married into, one with a very special charm of its own. It almost does not belong to any state, standing apart in its beauty and old world appeal. This is for you, dear Coimbatore.

Chennai – I have never lived in this city, but I keep going there often to meet family and other engagements. The relationship I share is formal, to say the very least.  Yet, I have a song for it. A very energetic, happy and uplifting song.

Hope you liked listening to the songs! Wishing you a beautiful Tuesday evening! ( Something about songs and play lists turns me into an RJ :P)