Thursday, 21 March 2013

When reality cracks memories . . .

A memory is best when it remains a memory. If one tries to imagine a place and the way it looked like in the memory and hence revisit, then one is in for a rude jolt. Bombay is one such memory for me. My formative years were spent there and after we left, we never visited the place again. Every time when Mumbai is mentioned in the news, my ears perk up and my mind is alerted. It's an involuntary response. To relive those memories and travel back in time, I picked up Suketu Mehta's Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found. I have not yet completed the book but I'm half-way through it but believe me, Mehta does everything in his power to shake me from my reverie of my childhood Bombay. Though in the initial pages of the book, he dwells on memory, he later drifts into a rigmarole of how everything functions and works in Bombay.

I think that he has taken upon himself the mission to rip open the city to me and tell me, "Well, Susan, here is your beloved Bombay . . . with ugly sores and bleeding wounds which are raw and untreated by any tincture." I must confess (ah, this word reminds me of those dozen Confession pages on Facebook!) that though I enjoy reading about the hitherto unknown or relatively lesser known aspects of Bombay, I have to force myself not to alter the Bombay of my memories. I know that change is a constant is a done-to-death cliched saying but that doesn't stop the essence of the meaning and what I have to say, right? So I say it - Change happens but memories don't change.

I tend to think that in a way it's good that I haven't visited Bombay after we left. Perhaps I am spared from the shock of finding something else in the name of Bombay rather than what I knew and liked. But all this doesn't stop me from harbouring a keen desire to go and visit Bombay and spending time walking the roads that led to my school and enjoying vada pav in Juhu beach.

Mehta is a wonderful writer. He deftly paints a realistic picture of the dream city. I don't blame him for puncturing my memories. I am still to complete the book and I fervently hope that here and there in the book, I will find references to the city of my memories. Maybe Mehta will dwell in his memories at the same time providing me with my own special memories. 

Reality and memories don't match.

After coming to Goa, I feel that I'm dwelling a lot on memories. After all, this wee place is close to Bombay and the language that is spoken here was the language that I grew up hearing. 

Let me shake myself off from the reverie and get back to my reality - as of now, reading the remainder of Mehta's book!

Leaving you with an excerpt from Mehta's book:

I left Bombay in 1977 and came back twenty-one years later, when it had grown up to become Mumbai. Twenty-one years: enough time for a human being to be born, get an education, be eligible to drink, get married, drive, vote, go to war, and kill a man. In all that time, I hadn’t lost my accent. I speak like a Bombay boy; it is how I am identified in Kanpur and Kansas. “Where’re you from?” Searching for an answer—in Paris, in London, in Manhattan—I always fall back on “Bombay.” Somewhere, buried beneath the wreck of its current condition—one of urban catastrophe—is the city that has a tight claim on my heart, a beautiful city by the sea, an island-state of hope in a very old country. I went back to look for that city with a simple question: Can you go home again? In the looking, I found the cities within me.

So, are your realities and memories connected or disjoint like mine?

Postscript: All images used in this post belong to Sachindev PS, my friend and photographer. His images can be found here. You can also check out his Flickr stream here.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Up, up and away . . .

It's not an exaggeration if I proclaim myself as an Airport's child. I was born in an Airport colony with the sound of aeroplanes taking off and landing and my amma pointing out to the skies and feeding me mashed rice and potatoes. I was never a fussy eater says amma and obviously when one is shown the skies for small electronic birds, one would be awed beyond one's senses and something as trivial as food would become an enjoyable exercise. I grew up in another Airport colony looking at planes high above and loving the twinkling lights that were often mistaken for stars. Inspite of having lived and laughed in Airport colonies, I never had the experience of travelling in an airplane until recently. Aeroplanes and travel belonged to the rich and affluent but not for middle-class citizens like our family. The urge to look down on the earth was a very strong one and why not. After all the words, 'Airport' and 'flights' were common parlance in our house, our neighbour's house and everyone with whom we socialised and prayed.

So, sitting inside of an airplane was an eternal dream. When airplanes were shown on the Telly, I watched greedily and travelled in a fantasy flight to a land that was as fantastic as they showed in the pictures. When someone asked, what's you favourite dream, we would be quick to answer: To sit in an airplane and fly away. It seemed magical to think that one day we would have lots of money to be able to fly in an airplane. Friends whose parents were businessmen had the privilege of travelling to exotic locations like Hong Kong and Sri Lanka. We would be quite happy to listen to their stories while at the same time wishing that our parents could also afford such trips. The dreams soaked us so much that we soon grew up, fell in love and forgot all about planes. What mattered was the object of our affections and infatuations.

And then one day, I was given the wonderful opportunity to go to Belfast, N. Ireland as an exchange student. More than going to Belfast, I was eager to fly in an airplane. I was 29. For 28 years, being an Airport's child, I had never flown. When the plane took off from Chennai's Airport, tears fell down my cheeks. I was overwhelmed and speechless that I didn't even feel the need to wipe the tears off. I let them fall. My first flight was to the UK and a long distance flight. After that first flight, I've had many opportunities to fly and every time the flight takes off (the best feeling), I remember the urge that I used to have in my childhood to fly in an airplane.

                                                           I believe I can Fly - R. Kelly

These days it's not a big deal to fly. Everyone flies - children, young adults, old people and when I see them, I wonder about those days when we were children and waited for 28 long years before I could fly away.

My grandfather is almost 85 and has worked in the Airport all his life until his retirement. He hasn't flown. I doubt whether he will ever be able to fly as he is bed-ridden and frail. I wonder whether he also had the same dream when he was in close proximity to a plane but never had the opportunity to fly in one.

And the cherry on the cake is that even today I live next to an Airport and every day my ear drums take a toll as the jets from the naval base fly in and around our campus practicing various moves. When my husband and I sight a plane far off in the skies, we play a game of predicting what airline would the approaching flight belong to. It is a thrilling game to look up above and keep looking till the airplane flies beyond us. We smile at our attempts and soon there is another plane approaching. We continue our guessing game . . .

Image 1: Internet

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Pray, tell me the antonym of housewife/homemaker

In vain, I have been trying to come up with a logical antonym for housewife/homemaker. While many find the the term housewife derogatory, the term homemaker is no less. Both terms mean the same anyway albeit the term homemaker can refer to a stay-at-home husband as well. Well, now to the post's main concern. What is the suitable antonym for housewife/homemaker?

While one can easily say that the opposite of housewife is working woman, I don't find that convincing. Well, let's try to make some word operations. The term housewife can be split into house and wife. Right? Of course, yes. Now how do we base the opposites here. Do we see the term as one single word or two words. If we split the words, then what could possibly be the opposite of house -- non-house? homeless? I can't answer this one. Now for the wife part! If the opposite of wife is husband, then the antonym should be 'househusband.' Now I haven't seen many use this term. But let's think logically. If housewife refers to an individual who is at home and takes care of everything that includes the home - children, cooking, cleaning, husband and so on, then the opposite of that should be an individual who works outside the home thus being free from every work at home. Now, does that happen at all? A working woman is a person who works at home and also outside of the home.

Well, there are certain words which cannot have an opposite for it is illogical. I tend to think that the word, 'housewife' itself is illogical. Okay, you find the word 'homemaker' sensible. Then what is its antonym? Homebreaker? Well, there are homebreakers but the opposite of homemaker is not homebreaker. For that matter, even the husband is a homemaker. In fact, he earns for the upliftment of the home and hence he also has an equal share in the making of a home. Out of curiosity, I checked with our friendly Wiki and here's what it has to say, "Homemaking is a mainly American term for the management of a home, otherwise known as housework, housekeeping, or household management . . . [It is also] a gender-neutral term for a housewife or a househusband." Well, I'm nodding my disapproval and reading further and the various related aspects of the term fail to convince me.

A word should be coined taking into consideration the different dimensions of its association - logically and semantically. If you ask me how to then distinguish between a working and non-working status, I will be at a loss for I can't think of A word to describe a woman who works at home and also outside of home and also a woman who works only at home. Work is work, outside and inside of home.

Readers, I would be curious and happy to know if you can coin better words instead of housewife and homemaker.

Sometimes a single term can pack our entire lives into a compartment.We need better terms and definitions.

Did I make sense at all? Just asking.

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet
Image 3: Internet

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Relaxation has a new definition

Writing academic essays can be quite taxing and often one needs a break which is short, does not involve getting up from one's seat and also quite colourful. Since most of my papers are written during the night, after 10 pm or so, I don't see much when I look outside the window from my sitting position. Facebook was one such break for me but sometimes the overpowering pictures and messages that are done-to-death tire me. Now I have found another unique way of giving myself power-breaks.

I window-shop the online jewellery sites. Surprised? Here's how I do it.

Being a sucker for silver and ethnic jewellery, I have 'liked' many jewellery pages on Facebook. Most often these pages lead to a website which has many designs on one page and so one doesn't have to click to go to the next design. Simply scrolling will do the work.

I open four to five tabs at the same time. In the first break, I lustily look at the designs. I drool, yearn, one finger waiting to hit the comment and type - "Please book this one for me," until reality in a tiny voice says, "Already you bought three sets this month. Better get back to work." I chide that tiny voice and get back not without glancing a furtive look which means, "I will come back later" (in a whisper).

The writing resumes.

An hour and a half passes.

This time it's another online site which sells wonderful handmade pieces. The same process begins again. I remember the tiny voice that warned me earlier. I promise myself not to give in to the lust of the eyes for there begins everything. Eve started it all. She looked at the beautiful fruit, lusted for it and egged on by the vile serpent ate the forbidden fruit. Eve had only the fruit to combat unlike women like me who have to battle out so many distractions on a daily basis. I know that I sound extremely urban and a hungry consumer of online goods when I talk of my paltry temptations but only those who have experienced it know the intensity of what I'm talking about.

Slowly and steadily, I treat my wee breaks as only breaks to satisfy my curiosity of the cute wares. Period. No buying and no giving in till the next month.

My online revelry continues . . .

What's your online temptation story esp in relation to online shopping?

Images: Vinod VV Photography

Postscript: All images used in this post belongs to Vinod Velayudhan, a photographer who records beautiful moments and delivers precious memories. Visit his site to view his pictures. 

Friday, 8 March 2013

An un-woman post on Women's Day

My domestic just left. I was wondering whether to ask her to leave without doing any work as today was International Women's Day and she deserves her worth of salt. But if I ask her to leave, I will have to do all the work and I was not ready for that. And, yesterday the domestic didn't turn up piling a lot of work. Truth to be told, I don't much like doing household chores. I do them if there is no choice and I sometimes surprise myself by doing lot of work. But today I was simply not up to it. The help completed her work and left. Women's day or not, she has to work to feed her family. She has no one writing posts for her and stringing words to acknowledge the multiple juggling of roles that she plays - mother, wife, domestic help, casual labourer in the Guest house and so on.

This week saw many posts on Women's day. I read and reread many posts written by men for this special day. Reading some posts, I wondered, "Will I ever be the kind of woman they write about?" They wrote about caring, serving and never tiring efforts by mothers. Are mothers made this way? Let me be specific - Can I function that way. Caring is something that I have to force myself to do. It doesn't come naturally to me. Even if someone is sick, I can sit beside them. But after a point, I get plain bored. I can cook and see to it that their demands are met but sighing and fretting, I don't and can't do. But then I wonder --- Will I have to do all that when I beget a child? I might but I would also like to add that if I bring a child into this world, then the child should not associate love, care and warmth only from the mother. The child should see the father as well as the mother function in different roles. I don't want my child (children) to fix roles for specific gender. He/she should be able to see the father slogging in the kitchen, the mother reading newspaper in the morning and so on. Roles as these are etched in the mind of the young and as they grow up they demand and seek those roles in their adult life.

Another point that I noticed in many posts was how women adapt themselves to a married life almost within a week or two in the new setup. Is there a choice, I ask. A woman has to adapt herself by any means for she is fed an overdose of advises from all and sundry - "That's your house hereafter." I can never reconcile with that. How can the concept of own's home can be changed so quickly. And it's always the new bride who wakes up early to prepare coffee/tea for everyone at home. This business of getting up early and trying to do the house work -- I can never manage. I have seen that if one does something in the initial years of marriage then one is doomed to behave the same way throughout one's period of existence in that house. The bottom line: Don't set high expectations in the formative years of marriage. Ah, I forgot to add, if one does not get up before the sun, then one is called lazy and that the parents haven't 'taught' the girl to be responsible. Well, if the son can't wake up, then why should the daughter-in-law wake up. This getting up early business is the pride of many women - Not for me.

By attributing certain characteristics to women, it has so happened that women by default think that one has to live up to the expectations and hence forget what it means to live a life without any hassles of getting up in the morning, doing boring housework and sitting up with someone who has fever. One day, I casually asked my mother, "Didn't you miss your home after getting married?" She replied, "I didn't know anything like that." I was left wondering. I again prodded, "How was life after marriage?" She was lost. Well, she just was. That day I realised something very important. Women are always identified by their roles - mother, sister, daughter, spouse but that's not all that is there to her. She is an individual who inwardly fights the soft and tender attributes to her but still goes on performing those ascribed roles because if she rebelled, the 'bad' name is for the family. But there are others who go beyond the ascribed roles and turn deaf to the pseudo trappings of what the others assign for her.

I want my child to see me beyond the roles that are usually attributed for a mother!

I want my child to see my husband and I as mothers and fathers - roles effectively managed by both of us.

I want my child to not know the difference between woman chores and man chores.

A happy women's day to me and my ilk.

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

6-Word Memoir

I am glad to be participating in a blog hop, 6-Word Memoir, initiated by Blogplicity, one of my favourite blogging groups on Facebook. In this tag, one writes one's memoir in 6 words. Can you imagine just 6 words!

This tag was passed to me by Martha J. M. Orlando, whose blog Meditations of my Heart has always enabled me to reflect and ponder about many things in my everyday life. You can find her 6-word Memoir here in her alternate blog titled Moments and Musings.

My 6-word Memoir


I now pass the tag to Privy Trifles who blogs at Memoirs of Me. Privy Trifles is a sensitive blogger who has a kind and tender soul.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Show me your friend . . . err . . . Facebook wall and I will tell you who you are!

The generation of my parents always insisted on bringing our friends home for they thought that by seeing our friends, they can gauge their son's or daughter's character/personality traits. Well, the old adage still holds good for by seeing the friends, one can definitely try to assess an individual but going a step ahead, it would be relevant if the adage would slightly be rephrased as, 'Show me your Facebook wall and I will tell you who you are!"

Now, for the personality traits going by the Facebook page:

1. The social activist: This person posts any message that talks about the society, government, rallies, protests and policies. The wall is covered with placards that cry for justice and harmony among the various citizens.

2. The humourist: The individual who collects humourous messages and posters from the internet and posts them in his/her Facebook page. People like this diffuse humour into our daily routine making us smile.

3. The sucker for quotes: (Me included). The sucker for quotes thinks that it's her/his responsibility to make people think and hence posts quotes from various sources. I don't know whether it actually makes people think but it definitely gathers many 'likes.'

4. The bland walled person: The Facebook wall of this person has nothing much to offer except for various assorted messages where the person was tagged by someone else. There is nothing much to take back home from this wall.

5. Aesthetics and the Artie: The wall of this individual is filled with pictures of flowers and cute babies' posters. The wall is so sickeningly cute that one doesn't feel like visiting that page after some time.

6. Positivity oozing page: This sort of a page is increasing by the day and many people have become the modern day Facebook positive-energy distributors. The page will have many positive messages that can be applicable for any situation like broken heart, unfulfilled dreams, death of a loved one, betrayal and so on.

7. The current affairs wall: This wall has messages of the latest budget and how it is helpful for x sector, etc. If one has a friend whose wall is filled with current affairs then one can bid adieu to the news channels and newspapers!

8. The INDIA wall: Now this is a bit tricky as this wall is a mixture of many of the above mentioned things albeit with the tag India. For example, there might be a baby's pictures with quotes of Lokmanya Tilak or a statistics that shows India is the second best . . . . or that our Prime-minister has the most number of pages in his CV.

9. The astrology wall: Need I explain?

10. The religious fanatic wall: Ditto to India wall but here the India is replaced with specific religion.

I have a fair estimation of almost most of my connections on Facebook through this wall strategy but some cannot be slotted into any compartments for they are the right mixture of everything. No overdose there.

So, do you find this slotting interesting?

 Show me your wall . . .


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