Month: May 2019

LoveRules @40

Urmi was looking out of her bedroom window, sipping coffee. This was her favourite part of the day when the fading daylight brushes past night, soft darkness envelopes the world. Today being a Saturday, she had the luxury of enjoying the enigmatic twilight hours. Urmi hadn’t switched on the lights yet, she was enjoying the soft kiss of semi-darkness. In the quiet of the evening, her mind kept wandering back to her breakfast with Manju masi and her alarm on learning that Urmi has turned 42 this year. “And you are still single? Who will marry you now, some sad divorcee? What about children?”, Urmi was amused by her exclamation. Manju masi kept shaking her head as if Urmi has been hit by some grave misfortune. “You are pretty enough, why couldn’t you find a husband,” she said again pouring Urmi her second cup of tea. “I am happy on my own Manju masi,” said Urmi smiling trying to put an end to the discussion. Next Manju masi would try to pair her with all the single men in 40s she could think of, and Urmi dreaded that. She knew it was futile trying to tell her that she wasn’t looking for a husband, it’s smarter to change the topic.

She took out the saree that her mom had sent for Manju Masi as her birthday gift, Dhakai jamdani purchased from the weavers. Urmi’s mom and Manu masi grew up together, they were best of friends. While her mom got married soon after college, Manju Masi having suddenly lost her dad was burdened with the responsibility of her family. She took up a job in a school for the sake of her younger siblings. Once they grew up and got married, Manju Masi was left all alone. She was almost 40 by then, too late for her to get married in those days. A few decades back 40s was almost the end of all good things in life, definitely the end of love and romance. Urmi’s mom had always stayed in touch with Manju Masi, she often lamented the fact that her selfish siblings didn’t bother to help her find a husband. 

Image courtesy doplr.com

As Urmi looked at Manju Masi she felt sorry for the lonely life that she has been leading for the last 30 years. She felt fortunate to be living in a time when she could script a bold new story in her 40s. While Manju Masi and her likes were termed as spinsters in their 40s (middle-aged single women with no prospect of marriage), Urmi, on the other hand, has never felt more desirable. Some years back, she did struggle with the fact that she was nearing 40 and her love life was going nowhere. The constant reminders from her mom and aunts that her biological clock was ticking didn’t really help. Finally, she told her mom firmly that she couldn’t get married just for the sake of getting married and having children was not be all and end all of a girl’s life. Liberated from the constant pressure of marriage and motherhood, she walked confidently into her 40s – happy, successful and brimming with confidence. The world has started embracing the change and lauding the new-found self-assurance of the 40s. Urmi learned to ignore those who didn’t, they didn’t really bother her.

“Look at me Urmi. Living alone for all these years has not been easy,” lamented Manju masi. Urmi wasn’t sure how to tell her she didn’t feel alone; she was quite happy and content with her life. Male attention has never been a problem for Urmi. When she was young, she has loved in earnest and broken her heart more than once. Love was more platonic then, holding hands, a few kisses at the most.  Looking back, she sometimes wishes she was bolder then but those few stealthy kisses had their own charm. She remembers her first love that was meant to last forever. For when we are young, we believe in one true love and when that ends it hurts like hell. She has been hurt, lonely and sad. There were times when she would be gripped with fear and anxiety that she would probably be all alone for the rest of her life. In her quest for the perfect man, she made so many mistakes.

But the 40s were strangely liberating. They liberated her from the quest of marriage and motherhood. She was confident enough to pursue bold relationships, she could enjoy sex and intimacy without moral compunctions. She realized it was possible to have a beautiful relationship where marriage was not the prerequisite. With years, Urmi has gained the maturity and the poise to be in a relationship in her own terms without bothering about the societal norms. She has learned to love herself and value her space and privacy. She did feel lucky to have come across a man who complements her, be there for her while respecting each other’s space.

Relationships at each stage have their own set of challenges. In her 40s it was more about accepting each other and respecting each other for the way they are. Romance is more mature now, it’s more about enjoying the companionship, without unnecessarily fretting about the future. Surer of herself, Urmi knows she can deal with the future as it comes along.

Fashion Forward and Backward

Fashion rules our lives or it did at some point. We have gone out of our way to be ‘fashionable’. Be it clothes, shoes, handbags or mannerisms, we were quick to follow and adopt the latest trends. Sometimes it was more peer pressure, more about ‘fitting in’ or ‘scoring over’ your friends and acquaintances. I am sure most of us have felt the ‘burden of fashion’ at some time in our lives. We have followed the fashion magazines closely to know about the upcoming trends, colours of the seasons etc. and built our wardrobes accordingly.

For instance, I was quite fashion conscious during my college days and early years of my working life. That was the time when I finally broke free from the vigils of my mother and took complete control over my wardrobe. Unlike now, our moms had a say on what should and shouldn’t be worn till we were in our late teens. Fortunately for me, my mom had a great sense of style and ensured that her daughters were well-dressed. Of course, I didn’t realize it that then and would endlessly fight with her to dress my way.

Those were the days of denims and knotted shirts, dhoti pants and parallels. We saw anarkalis come and go. First, there were pencil heels, then there were platforms. Big junky earrings were very in. We were naïve enough to think that fashion as we see it has been created just for us. I would stare at my mother in disbelief whenever she would say that she had worn a similar shirt or kurtas during her college days. “Fashion repeats itself,” my mother would say. “Don’t be so quick to change your wardrobe. You should dress as per your taste and style,” she would add. It took me years to understand those words.

One day, short tight kurtas that ruled in the sixties, with Asha Parekh and her ilk making them fashionable, suddenly became the most aspired outfit. I had just started working then. I remember rushing to buy a few of those after getting my salary. “The sixties are back,” smiled my mother. The short tight kurtas ruled for a while before they gave in again to the long kurtas. I have seen many a come backs since then. For instance, the dhoti pants and parallels that were such a rage during our college days are back with a bang. Anarkalis have been back and ruling for a while. I almost regret discarding my outfits moment they went out of fashion. If I had my parallels and dhoti pants now, I could just rehash them!

After a while, of course, I started following fashion at my own pace. It’s more about comfort and convenience now, about what appeals to me. But I do curiously watch the ever-changing fashion. It is interesting to see how fashion moves forward and backward, of Retro making a comeback, ethnic and traditional wear going up the chart. For me, tradition never goes out of fashion, I prefer to spend on traditional sarees rather than a new style that may rule for just for the season, before making a come back after decades. I feel so much more comfortable making an appearance in a saree, or in a traditional attire, rather than fretting over the ever-transient fashion!

Digitally DisConnected!

It’s a bold new world! Everything is within our reach. We have thousands of friends and followers from across the globe thanks to FB, Instagram, snapchat and similar social media platforms. We can chat for hours with friends, classmates or family sitting in different corners of the world on WhatsApp groups. Courtesy free video calls the sense of alienation owing to distance or geographical barrier has been almost eliminated. I can talk to my cousin in Hong Kong or my best friend in France, see what they are wearing or comment on their new hairstyles whenever I want (different time zone is the only challenge that we need to work around). No more long waits for a letter from a far-off land, no more worrying over huge telephone bills. And that’s not all, be it a new job, a new home or a perfect match you can find it all online. With these amazing digital platforms, we can make the world dance to our tune!

We are so dazed by the sudden onslaught of digital technology that we sometimes don’t have time for a real face-to-face conversation. According to a survey by Common Sense, a children’s and media advocacy organization, texting is the favorite mode of communication for US teens. And the lure of Netflix, smartphones and social media is so strong that young Brits are losing their libido, according to a new study.  And here comes the real shocker – a Malaysian teen committing suicide after conducting an Instagram poll, an overwhelming 69% prompted her to choose death.

We often hear or read about young girls or women being cheated or raped by lovers they found online. Recently, news of an affluent woman in her 50s being murdered by a man who she befriended on a certain dating app startled us. Sometimes we also come across men who have been taken for a ride of these platforms. We shake our heads upon reading such news, sometimes pass judgemental remarks, “How could she be so stupid/desperate?” “Dating at this age? She deserved it.” But a closer look will reveal that the problem is far deeper!

Image courtesy actonline.org

Social media is great, but overuse of these platforms is leading to psychological complications and mental health issues. Posting too many pictures on social media is leading to Narcissism. Social media anxiety disorder is impacting our relations and mental health. We so often come across annoying friends or relatives who can’t finish a sentence without checking their phones. Sometimes people conduct an entire conversation with their eyes on the phone or on the screen of their tablet. Yes, loss of eye contact, that’s another victim of the digital age. Eye contact or facial expression that is the key to connecting with another person, understanding what she/he is actually trying to communicate. With over-dependence on social media we are losing out on these personal nuances, and unwittingly building a hi-tech virtual and sometimes illusionary world around us. We are constantly connected with our virtual friends; we have no time to talk to our real ones. Sitting in the same room or lying on the same bed next to each other we are more concerned about the likes and thumbs up on social media platforms. We keep posting pictures of perfect family vacations, romantic holidays without realizing that we haven’t had a proper conversation with our family members or partners in months. We are so busy maintaining the virtual charade that we often don’t realize that our real world may be falling apart.  And ironically enough, we don’t really care about friends and followers on Facebook or Instagram, it’s all about putting up a better show!

By the time we realize that, haunted by self-induced isolation and loneliness we again seek refuge in social media, forgetting social media platforms are only the means and not the end. Loneliness makes us vulnerable; loneliness can make us do strange things. No wonder there are schemers, pranksters and sometimes dangerous criminals lurking in our supposedly perfect virtual world, luring us with their false identities and promises.

While Jack Ma’s 669 has got thumbs down is social media for being lewd, I would say sex is the key to happy conjugal relationships. It’s time we wake up to the real – physical intimacy, eye contact, a real face-to-face conversation!

Thank you, Ma!

Mother’s Day! No, it’s not just a marketing gimmick. It’s celebrated across cultures, across countries to honour Mothers, motherhood, maternal bonds since ages. Modern Mother’s Day, founded by Ann Reeves Jarvis  in US in 1908, is celebrated in many countries including India, on the second Sunday of May. Unfortunately, along the way Mother’s Day has become a commercial affair, marketers playing on our emotions and maybe our guilt of often taking our mothers for granted.

Me & Ma 1

When I was asked to write on Mother’s Day I fumbled. My first thoughts were “What can you write about Mothers that has already not been written about?” “Mothers are part of who we are, do we really need a day to celebrate Mothers and motherhood?” I also remembered I snapped at my Mother last week when she complained I don’t call her often, “Ma I just have too much to do, stop nagging.” “Why can’t she be reasonable?” I thought to myself, quite forgetting how much she has given up to ensure we have a proper upbringing. Even now, just one word, one loving request and she will turn into a fairy god mother to fulfill our wishes. We clung to her when we were young, she fed us, groomed us, taught us fly. The day our wings were strong enough we broke free and claimed our independence, our space. She reveled in our success, but we forgot the empty nest that we left behind. This Mother’s Day let’s remember and celebrate the nest that our Mothers so lovingly build for us. The nest that has everything we may ask for, nothing is ever wanting.

The sleepy, laid back town Agartala where I spent my childhood years, didn’t have much to offer then, but Ma ensured nothing was ever lacking for her daughters. She would toil for hours in the kitchen to make us our favourite dosa, chole bhature or chowmin. Agartala didn’t have good restaurants then. Every afternoon, once she was done with the household chores, she would sit with her sewing machine and stitch us trendy frocks and dresses. “My girls were the best dressed girls in Agartala,” she still says with lot of pride. I remember as a teenager I would find fault with every dress she would stitch; her designs were never good enough.

While she granted our little wishes, she was also a strict disciplinarian. Tantrums and unreasonable demands were never tolerated. In those days Chitrahaar and weekend films on Doordarshan were the most awaited programs. We were never allowed to watch Chitrahaar (that was study time), films only occasionally. I hated those rules and regulations then, but I thank her now for teaching me the value of discipline.

Me & Ma 2

Though I endlessly argued with her about the designs and patterns, when I stepped out of Agartala in clothes stitched by Ma I was considered a fashionable and well-dressed girl. She taught me to groom myself, imbibed her sense of style in me. Thanks to her, I could fly out confidently from the comfort of her nest, never once did I feel out of place in any part of the world. And when I stood on my own, built my own nest, she was the happiest, urging me to go for my dreams. She never once rued her empty nest or her loneliness.

So much has changed in the last few decades, but fortunately for us Mothers remain the same. Selfless, loving and giving Mothers, who can be fiercely protective when it comes to their children! While my Mother used to juggle her household responsibilities and limited resources to ensure her daughters had the best of everything, I see my friends juggling with their demanding careers and social obligations for the sake of their children. Knowing full well they will fly out of her nest one day, Mothers teach their children to soar, to reach for the stars.

Thank you, Ma, for giving me wings!

Butterfly, butterfly…

The other day, on my morning walk, I met my long-lost friend
A white butterfly with a black dot on each wing, flitting from flower to flower
I stopped, looked at her and smiled. “Where have you been for so long?” I wondered
The butterfly paused too for a while, she heard me, or so I thought
But as I walked gently towards her to take a closer look, she fluttered and glided away
“Oh, come back, I missed you so,” but off she flew, away from the manicured shrubs of my society’s park

bloom-blossom-butterfly-158617
Image courtesy hepl.lib.in.us Every morning I seek her, but she’s nowhere to be found Butterfly, her friends’ dragonfly, grasshopper and honeybee, who would buzz around my garden when I was a little girl Flitting from flower to flower, moving from leaves to leaves, what a delight to watch Sometimes they would dart into my room through the open window humming a tune of love For them the flowers bloomed and yielded honey, for them the earth blossomed The little girl in me flourished happily in their company Then one day I had to leave my childhood garden and my friends behind. The joy of exploring the world, the sorrow of leaving my little garden behind. “I will be back soon,” I assured my winged friends as I bid them goodbye But the world and its many wonders had me captivated. Like a sailor drawn to a siren’s song, I moved on and on. The glitzy concrete cities beckoned me, the tall skyscrapers created an illusion of success and achievement. The little garden and my winged friends were soon forgotten, like sweet nothings that catch your fancy for a while. The garden in my concrete high rise is all so meticulously planned and organized, that allows no flitting and fluttering of butterflies, honeybees, grasshoppers or dragonflies One morning I chanced upon her again, my sweet childhood friend, butterfly. “Where are my other friends, dragonfly, grasshopper and honeybee?” She froze for a while, then off she flew far, far away. "That’s rude, I am hurt, that’s no way to treat an old friend. “Friend? Really?” I suddenly heard the buzzing bee over my head". “Where were you when they were destroying our garden and killing your winged friends?”

To the fabulous 40s

One day, before I knew it, I was 40. I had dreaded that day once. Turning 40 is the official declaration of waning youth, or so I vainly thought in my early twenties – just stepped out of college, managed to get a job, new-found independence, many friends, budding romance, when the world seemed perfect. Forget 40s, even 30s seemed jaded then. In my youthful insolence, in my urgency to achieve everything before I was too ‘old’ I was rushing through life, never stopping, never looking back. I did enjoy every bit of it, though in the haste of youth I made so many silly mistakes, wrong choices, broke my heart several times. At times I would be angry that the perfect life that I had meticulously planned wasn’t turning out to be so perfect.

Sumana40s

And then, when I turned 40 something strange happened. Though the first flush of youth may have faded and there are a few streaks of grey, I felt wonderful. Life seemed perfect regardless its many imperfections. I didn’t feel older, instead I feel more confident, beautiful and happier. Unlike my younger years, I don’t much care for makeup anymore, my trips to beauty parlours are becoming less and less frequent. I don’t fret over fashion anymore. My younger self and her obsession with fashion amuses me, scanning the fashion magazines, rushing to crowded Sarojini Nagar market to grab the export rejects. To be well turned out in fashionable western attire in limited resources was the challenge then. Anything less was considered ‘aunty’ or behenji’. Indian outfits were an absolute no, no.

Not that I am badly turned out now, or don’t care for care for good clothes. In fact, I spend more on clothes and jewelry less guided by fashion trends and more by my taste. I can walk into a pub or a bar in sari or a salwar kameez, I can wear a dress or a skirt to a family do. I have suddenly started caring less and less about people’s opinion and more and more about myself. Uncomfortable questions don’t annoy me anymore, I can handle them with a smile. I choose my battles carefully and my arguments even more carefully. You can have the last word; I have a life to lead.

At times I do stop to look back fondly at the years gone by. 40s have lent me the maturity to understand and appreciate what I may have left behind, carelessly tossed aside. I am equally optimistic about what is to come. I often look forward to the days filled with sweet nothingness like Charles Lamb’s “The Superannuated Man”, the essay in which he brilliantly paints the picture of his eagerly awaited retired life. I do wait for those days when I would have all the time in the world to walk the hills, to sit on the beach, sip a cup of coffee leisurely, read a book, write a poem or do whatever I please.

I am in no rush; I take life at my own pace as far as possible. “40s are the new 20s,” so I often hear. I would say 40s are better than 20s. As a friend of mine said, “40s are great! I so wish I had the wisdom of 40s in my 20s.”