Month: June 2021

Simple things, so complex

An image of my Dadu and Didun (maternal grandparents) engraved in my memory – Didun in the kitchen cooking a special meal for us while Dadu is looking over. When the dish is almost done, she takes out a spoonful from the pot and gives it to Dadu to taste. “A little salt and a dash of sugar maybe,” would be Dadu’s response after savouring the gravy, sometimes rolling it in his tongue like a wine taster. Didun was a great cook. She would delight us every day with some delicacy and she trusted Dadu’s palate who would always get the balance of salt and sugar right, so her grandkids could have the perfect meal. Good food was a big part of all the fun we had at Dadur bari (maternal grandparents’ place). 

Later when I started cooking, I realized that the right balance of salt and sugar was what mattered the most, the other spices just added to it! Like the right amount of water sunlight that a plant needs, something I realized when I started gardening.

Posing with flowers, not mine though

In my early days with plants, I was obsessed with fertilizers. A mali, who taking advantage of my naivety convinced me fertilizers would make my plants lush green and bloom, would come every fortnight to fertilize them. I would overwater the plants as well at times. It’s no surprise most of those plants succumbed to over-fertilization, suffocated by too much attention. But thankfully I didn’t give up gardening. I fired the mali and started reading and talking to people who are into gardening. I am more hands-on now, planting and pruning plants on my own. And I soon realized all that matters is the right amount of water and sunlight.

Periwinkles are thirsty plants that bloom in the sun. Same with the pretty nine o’ clocks, though they don’t care that much for water. But keep these plants in the shade they will droop and stop flowering. Peace lily on the other hand needs light but not sun, needs water but just the right amount, not too much, not too less. And the worst part is that it droops if the water is too much or too little, the edges of the leaves turn brown. So, it takes a while figure whether you are watering in right. I love the more generous jades and the money plants that can survive with or without water for days. Getting the water right is most important, sunlight you figure soon enough and place your plants accordingly – indoor, outdoor, the balcony that gets more sun or the balcony that gets less.

Periwinkles & the surprise lily

Another thing about gardening is the surprise element. Sometimes a bloom delights you when you are least expecting and sometimes like my peace lily, no matter what you do flowers don’t appear. The plant is too young, I was told by a friend. It should bloom next year. I do hope so. 

Often, I feel cooking a great meal or making the garden bloom is like our life. It takes us a while to figure that it’s the simple things that matter the most. We keep attending to the futile excesses, shower our love and attention on the wrong people, focus too much on the frills. Last year I have realized that the wardrobe which I have built so painstakingly is of little use. My shoes are lying listlessly in the closet, and I wish I never spent money on jewellery. My favourite attire is comfortable pyjama, tea shirts and a chappal. All I care about is getting up healthy every morning and knowing that my loved ones are doing well. Well, I do wish I was wiser, but wisdom comes at a price!

Stallion Tales

I have a penchant for betting on the wrong horse. Each time I place a bet, it feels so right. ‘Yes, this is the one for me, he will ride with me to the land of dreams. Together we will build a world so enchanted that all woes will melt away. With the magic of our love, we will face all adversities no matter how tough. We will be there for each other and nothing will matter,’ so I thought when I encountered the young & sprightly horse on my way to the college.

The horse ambled on eagerly for a while. There was so much happiness in his gaze and energy in his gait, quite a stallion he was. I was sure that we were moving towards the happy land, where we would love each other forever. But one day the horse stopped. I pulled his main, but he shook his head and refused to budge. ‘Oh come, the land of happiness is not too far,’ I pleaded with all my love. He looked into my eyes, ‘Oh girl I don’t want to go to the magical realm of happiness with you. I was just enjoying the walk.’ ‘But you seemed so happy, and looked so eager,’ I asked puzzled. ‘I do enjoy your company, but did I ever tell you that I would walk with you to the happy land of ever after?’ asked my dear horse, sounding all confused. ‘I am sorry if I hurt your feelings,’ he said calmly and walked away.

With a heavy heart, I sat on the rampart that defined the path leading to the land of happily ever after, or so I thought. My legs felt like lead, I couldn’t walk for a while. I cried like a little girl who craved for the moon and was denied. ‘But I only wanted to make him so happy, the happiest horse that lived on this planet. Why couldn’t he see that, was my love not good enough?’ I wailed. Finally, I wiped my eyes dry, urged my heavy legs to walk along. ‘We will find the right horse,’ I told my wretched heart.

And sure enough, in the corner of the lane stood a horse nice and strong. He looked at me and smiled happily as if he was waiting for me eagerly. My heart jumped in joy; my feet felt light as a feather as I ran to him. The miseries of lost love were soon forgotten. We walked happily for a while; he would walk away now then but come back to me again. ‘Oh, he’s a free spirit, but he’s my horse nonetheless,’ I nodded happily, turning a deaf ear to all apprehensions.

One day as we walked along, my handsome horse after talking about this and that, told me that he didn’t believe in the realm happiness or happily ever after. I looked at him in daze, as if my worst fears were coming true. ‘But I can walk along with you, but no promises of ever after. Let’s enjoy the walk and leave things uncomplicated,’ he said as he fondly grazed my arm. ‘So be it, being happy in the moment is all that mattered,’ or I told myself. Happy we were for a while. My horse would wander away for days and come back whenever it pleased him, my questions irked him, he would just brush them off.

Distraught by his frequent vanishing act, one day I decided to venture into a different terrain and walk away from him. He was upset, ‘we were doing just fine.’ ‘No, you were doing fine, while I was only pretending to be fine. Too scared of losing you, of being alone, I was clinging on to the shreds of love and affection that you would carelessly toss my way whenever it pleased you. I can’t fool myself any longer, I will take a different path from here on.’

My heart bled, my legs were heavy, but this time I wiped away my tears, held my head high and walked away. ‘I will find my own happy land, I don’t need another horse,’ I told myself. I walked for miles and entered the happy land. The chirping birds and the blooming flower healed my heart. My happy feet pranced again like a little girl. ‘Ah, here I am, and I don’t need a stallion,’ sang my heart as I walked to the coffee shop.

There, at the door of the coffee shop stood a horse, a handsome stallion. He looked at me with eager eyes. ‘Care for a coffee,’ he asked. It’s just a cup of coffee I thought and walked with him to the coffee ship. Soon I was enamoured by his charm and decided to walk along with this fine horse to the land unknown. The horse was hesitant initially, but his gait gained confidence with time. There were hurdles on the way, but together we walked on. ‘I love you so much, like I have never loved anyone before,’ said my horse making my heart flutter with joy. Dizzy with love I rode along, ‘Finally, I find my horse,’ I cried out in joy.

But one day, my handsome stallion shook me off his back and rode away. The sudden fall stunned me, broke my heart into million pieces. Numbed, I sat by the road and stared blankly at my many shattered dreams and promises, and pieces of my once so happy heart. As I pulled myself up and started picking up the fragments, the horse walked back and stood next to me wearing a brooding melancholic look. Angrily I looked at him, picked up the biggest piece of my disappointment and flung it at him. He shuddered and then held my hand gently and said in a sad soft voice, “It’s not just you, I broke my heart too. Amongst these pieces scattered are my dreams, my hopes, my despair, my love for you, and the dark pieces of my fears and uncertainties. Let’s pick up the pieces together and string a tale of love and its many woes. We know not where the road leads us, let’s figure as we walk along!”

Bachelor Girl

Conversation with my neighbour on a lockdown morning:

“Hello, ma’am, ma’am.” I was watering the plants. As I turned, I saw my neighbour from the balcony downstairs waving at me. I don’t really know him though I occasionally see him in the common area.

“I just heard one family on your floor has tested COVID positive. What are you doing?” he asked looking very concerned. “What can I do? I am just staying indoors,” I replied.

“Myself Amit Kumar (name changed). I work for an IT Company. I have tried talking to you earlier also but you stay reserved.” Then after giving me an account of his job and family and asking me what I do he suddenly popped the question, “And marriage?” “I am not married,” I said. “Oh! Nahi hua,” he exclaimed or replied. Though irritated, I just smiled at him and walked in, muttering to myself now you know why I “stay reserved.”

That’s usually how people react when they learn I am not married. It used to irritate the hell out of me earlier, I try not to react anymore. Somehow, there’s something sad about an unmarried girl. No matter how well you’re doing if you are not married there must be something wrong. While an unmarried man or a bachelor is sought after, footloose and fancy-free, the same is not true of his female counterpart. We often hear the term ‘eligible bachelor’. Our own Rahul Gandhi and Salman Khan, well in their 50s, are still ‘eligible bachelors.’

Unmarried women or spinsters on the other hand are pictured as ‘old maids’, sad, lonely women. There’s nothing attractive or desirable about a spinster. While a ‘confirmed bachelor’ is not married by choice and therefore elusive and attractive, a spinster is pictured as a plain woman who couldn’t find herself a husband and therefore to be pitied. Though the likes of Sushmita Sen and Tabu and so many other women we know have defied the perception, most people still find it difficult to believe that women could be unmarried by choice. 

I somehow can’t get this incident that took place quite a few years back out of my head. One of our distant aunts’ visiting handed over a big packet gift-wrapped packet to my married cousin saying, “This is for your home.” Handing over a small packet to me she said, “This is for your half home.” “Why half home?” I protested, “My house is bigger than his.” “But since you are not married it’s half home,” she replied. I was stunned. Sitting before was a woman who works in a good position, has travelled all over and has chosen not to get married, quite a bold decision in those times. Yet she considers my home incomplete because I am not married. “You are not married either,” I finally said. “So, mine is half home as well,” she replied with a smile.

To counter the negative connotations of spinster the term bachelorette was coined to describe women who are single by choice. Later “Bachelorette” was famously or infamously the term used to refer to female contestants on the old The Dating Game TV show and, more recently, The Bachelorette. The term thus became associated with young ‘eligible’ bachelor girls.

While a bachelor continues to be eligible well into their 40s, for bachelorettes or bachelor girls it’s a different story. If you haven’t found your mate by the time you are 30, your ‘eligibility’ seems to wane. I can’t think of a female counterpart for Rhett Butler or Mr Rochester, the rakish middle-aged bachelors who won over the young female protagonists (Scarlett O Hara and Jane Eyre). 

Thankfully, there’s a growing number of people who have started thinking differently. There are so many women now, not just celebrities, who are happily unmarried. 

Fub with friends

One evening as I walked in a little late to meet my girlfriends for a drink, ‘There was so much to do today,’ I complained. ‘I have to do everything on my own (unlike you girls who have husbands),’ “What’s your problem?” came the prompt reply. “You are financially independent. You can do whatever you want without having to bother about a husband or kids,” said my girls looking at me enviously. “Grass is always greener on the other side,” I said smiling back at them happily. 

Being on your own can be challenging at times but it’s certainly very satisfying and liberating. It also doesn’t mean that you have never been in love or will not be in love. It only means you are confident enough to go on with your life the way you please, without bothering about any tag or perception.