Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The big hype over retaining the maiden name or taking the husband's name after marriage

Well, as always this entry is prompted by a newspaper article that I came across a few days ago. The article was about a prominent woman who married the second time and took her husband's name. The woman in concern is often seen as a power wielding one in the male boardroom. She posseses a steel spirit and a never yielding attitude which makes her male counterparts shudder. Hmmm. So much as way of introduction. What made the piece interesting was the debate it stirred. The matter of argument: Why a woman who wielded such power should take on her husband's name and not retain her maiden name. When so many things happen across the world to different communities, I wonder why this paper had specifically chosen this item to fill a quarter of space. Does it really matter whether one chooses to retain their maiden name or take another name? Well, it is the person's own discretion. If the woman had been known by her own name and the very sounding of her name oozed power, then its not the name alone but the image of her personality that comes to mind along with her name. On a lighter vein, maybe the woman in concern was bored by the same sound of the surname and thus changed it to that of her new husband's.

While doing Feminist Studies in College, as students, we found it very appealing when we came across the debate of retaining our maiden names after marriage. We were convinced and swore that we will never let go of our identity after marriage. We even discussed these fiery ideas with our then boyfriends who found it rather amusing that things as these were part of the syllabus. So far so good. Now as a mature adult I wonder about all these things. I think whether one's identity is restricted to the name alone. Maybe feminists will tell me that why allow the man to take over your name. Valid point but then to prove our self worth and value, should we retain our maiden names alone. I think its the grit, strength and the ability to handle things sensibly that will prove our self worth. Maybe the name has a lot to it. I agree but then gauging a woman by her surname is a bit too much. I have seen many women who have taken their husband's name and yet have etched their name in the milestones of everyday life. I have also seen women who after divorce have retained their husband's name for various reasons.

Maybe names matter but then a newspaper devoting space for that kind of debate is absolutely atrocious.

Shakespeare says it all through Juliet in ROMEO AND JULIET:

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

Friday, 26 June 2009

Waking up to the news of Jackon's death

Today morning was about to be just another 'normal' day but when my sister rushed to wake me up, I realised that there was something to this day. She was aghast when she said, "Susan, Michael Jackson is dead." Did I hear right? Half sleepy and half awake, the news rendered me totally wide awake. I WAS SHOCKED! I WAS SAD! Growing up with his songs, dancing to his tunes on MTV, I could not believe that he was no more. Certain things are strange with me: I feel very sad - at the demise of any literary person I have read and loved, any artist whose works I have admired, any political leader with whom many images are stored. It seems that a dear part of me has sunk in and fallen apart. It was the same hearing of Jackson's death. To be honest, I did not enjoy Jackson's genre of music nor liked him after his various operations but something snapped within me.

As children, if it was break dance, it had to be Michael Jackson; If anyone danced wildly, we would exclaim, "Do you think you are Michael Jackson?" If there was any programme in school, it had to be MJ's songs. Unconsconsciously he had become part of our growing up vocabulary. During those days, we would talk about his plastic surgery and be astounded that someone could actually change their jawbone. His various fiascos during his life have always been read with interest and concern. While watching the BBC this evening, a close friend of MJ remarked: He was a very lonely man. I wondered. The man who almost had everything - fame, talent, money, and the stuff everyone dreams of having. Why was he lonely? Could not he handle the things that he had? Didn't he have someone to love and care? Was there not a single person who could pat him on the back and say, "Hey, I'm there for you. Don't worry." I can only wonder without knowing the answers.

Close relatives and lawyers believe that the doctors were giving him over doses of steroids to boost his immunity for the forthcoming comeback concerts in London. But then they are speculations.

Death unites mankind. Be it rich, poor, wise, foolish - all face death but then the manner of death matters. MJ started off well, atleast that was what was projected, but his end was disastrous. His body's autopsy will take six to eight weeks, say the doctors. "Artists are mad people" is the common saying. Its true but then at what cost. Decisions and choices we make destine our existence. One wrong choice and the consequences are unalterable. I cannot make a value judgement on Michael Jackson but then it got me thinking: What kind of choices are we making? Do we think of the consequences of our choices? We better be aware of whatever we think, say and do.

Neruda, Pablo -- Personal Reflections

Neruda, the Chilean poet and political activist, has a way with expressing intimate thoughts. His poems always seem as if they splash the emotions of the inner self through the medium of words. Reading his poems can never be a continous process. The poems have to be taken in line by line and word by word. Added to that, if the reader is anything like me, a dreamer of the highest order, then every poem has something from the pages of the past to think on.

I must mention the lovely movie "Il Postino" (The Postman), the 1994 Italian film directed by Michael Radford. The film tells a story in which the real life Pablo Neruda forms a relationship with a simple postman who learns to love poetry. The film has lovely stills, music and fabulous acting by almost all of them. The film has various awards and credits to its name. A story told from the heart which touches and strikes a chord.

Finally a lovely poem of Neruda's (I had a slight difficulty in choosing a poem of Neruda's but then this one made me linger longer and thats why I chose this one):

If You Forget Me - Neruda, Pablo

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

Thursday, 25 June 2009


Last night was terrible. There were so many 'if' questions that kept flashing through the crevices of my mind. I almost started all my thoughts with an 'if.' I wondered if it was indeed a useful idea to indulge myself in such a process. The mind alas does not look for the reasons, it just keeps grinding the same thoughts over and over. This morning, as I woke up, the 'if' questions resurfaced. They prodded, teased, irritated and finally left me in a state where anger and blame constantly played around. I was angry at every thing and person that crossed my way.

So many 'if' questions bog us down in the journey of life. Its not that we cannot overcome them but the strength lies in allowing the 'ifs' to have their way while we observe the process. Being an observer from outside towards the inside is something which one has to cultivate. Its difficult! It needs practice! It does not happen overnight!

Perhaps certain 'if' questions niggled Rudyard Kipling's mind which led him to write the poem, 'If.'


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

--Rudyard Kipling

Thursday, 18 June 2009


Home is a word that we come across quite frequently in our everyday routine. The computer has a 'home' page, websites have 'home' which signify the first page of the site where primary information is given and ofcourse the 'home' which is the place where we stay, feel comfort and warmth and come back after a hard day's work. But what makes the 'home'? This is a question that has been niggling my thoughts for quite some time. Home for the exiles, the displaced and the refugess take on a very emotional note. Home for the students who are away in foreign lands is a fond memory comprising of mamma's cooking and the familiar TV making its regular noise. Home for the animals is their natural habitat where they are free and have plenty of food.

But what does the word mean? Is it the place where we stay in the present or a place that we were born or a place wherever we can find comfort and security. The word 'home' has come to mean different things in today's context where idioms like 'home away from home' have become very commonplace. If we are born in India and settled in Africa -- what is our home? India? Africa? If the answer is India then are we familiar with its geography and topography? If the answer is Africa, then how legitimate is that.

The concept of 'Here There Everywhere' somehow seems very shallow as it establishes being lost without being rooted. But what is being rooted in this century where migration has become the norm. Can we migrate and yet be rooted by becoming familiar with the landscape that we are part of. This is what the bioregionalists assert.

What is our home? What do we consider as our home? Do we ever stop to think of all these different aspects of the simple word that has become an overused part of our daily vocabulary?

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Rishi Valley in me

Taking on from the post I had posted earlier - People, places and memories, I write this post about a place that is etched within my being. It could be an exaggeration to say that a part of me is there in that place too. A sylvan valley, 16 kilometers from Madanapalle, a small town in rural Andhra Pradesh. A lovely place 2,500 kilometers above sea level. A residential school where I taught and eventually learned so many things. The trees tell stories, the roads lead to stories, the mountains stiocally stand witness to the many stories there and above all I tell many stories about the place.

Rishi Valley stands witness to the time of my life where I left home for the first time. Two years over there led me through a myriad of experiences. The classes under trees, the food in the noisy dining hall, the prep supervisions where I ended up chatting with students, the hikes, the excursions and above all the lovely time I shared with the many individuals there - They all remain life's best portions served in abundance.

Places happen to people with a purpose and vice versa and it cannot be truer in my case. The two years spent there were an integral part in my cup of life. I laughed, cried, angered, loved, cursed, blessed, and many more expressions filled the days I spent there. The cool cool nights of December, the star gazing on winter nights, the bird watching on Sundays - the memories can be coerced without any persuasion.

A place which remains in me and I in her.

After reading the piece "A touching innocence"


The article quickly brings to mind different aspects - Anne Frank, her diary, the cherry tree and the nazi regime.

Reading the article this Sunday morning was refreshing in many ways: One, it brought back memories of the book which one enjoyed as a young reader. Two, the writer had chosen lovely passages from the book to describe the young Anne's sensibilties.
Even though, I had read the book in my early 20s, it struck a chord with me. The deep human insights of the young Anne were way beyond her age and conditions. The dark and claustrophobic warehouse is definely not a place from where one can imagine thoughts as that of Anne's could flow. Her observation of the human predicament, her sensitivity and the developing of her personality is unravelled in the book.

The writer, Indu Balachandran has indeed chosen renditions from the book that can bring about the personality of the author, Anne. Sample this:

"It is the silence that frightens me . . . and I am scared to death we shall be discovered. We have to whisper and tread lightly, otherwise the people in the warehouse might hear us." 11th July, 1944

"I've learned one thing: you only really get to know a person after a fight. Only then can you judge their true character!" September 28, 1942

"Dear Kitty, I don't want to live in vain. I want to be useful to people, even those I've never met. I want to go on living even after my death . . . Yours, Anne."

The last excerpt is something that touched me and true to that Anne lives on and continues inspiring generations of people across ages to fight, dream and move on with life.

P.S: Please do read the article. The link is provided in the beginning of this post.

Be inspired. Dream. Courage and passion always.


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