Thursday, March 8, 2018

International Women's Day 2018

It's important to celebrate today.

I, perhaps had one of the best Women's Day of my life today. In an obscure corner of Gurgaon, i met four girls, 15-19 years of age. All of them showstoppers, breaking stereotypes and challenging norms, of every kind, gender, region, religion, education, caste, body shapes and what have you to pursue their dreams of livelihood and independence. They reminded me yet again, why we do, what we do. They also reminded, that we need to do more, and it is not enough.

They reminded me again of the privilege i have, of birth, upbringing, education, caste. They reminded me, i succeed in my life mostly because of the support i have. They will succeed, despite that. They reminded me through their fire why it is important to keep the embers glowing to set up new fires.

On the other side, i also had , like many of you, a bombardment of WhatsApp messages stating how women are blah and bluh and bleh. If we aren't born with it, it isn't a prerogative of women. If women have motherhood, fathers have fatherhood. If men can be ruthless, women can be brutal. The only difference, between men and women, is a biological one. Sorry to break the bubble, but Mary Kom can box the life out of most men. And if Mary Kom can, most women can , yes, with practice. So don't dare say women are soft and kind. Reminds me of one of my first acts of rebel, when one of my school seniors told me women don't have a "jigar". The senior still has some scars from then. Important today for women to question when they do something, is it because they themselves like it or they do it because the world desires them to be a certain way. The lines get blurred along the way of cultural conditioning and normalisation of tacit stereotypes and sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference. What women want. Yes, important to ask that question.

Which also makes me want to reiterate, that the discourse on gender, cannot be had, without a conversation on men and masculinity. the way women are "desired" to be and the way men are "supposed" to be. This is important because it impacts the way men and women behave with the world and themselves, be it families, societies or work places. Because while women suffer, men suffer too. All men,even the bicep bulging, take-care-of-everyone, never-cry men, are human first, and they too have feelings, that are never acknowledged, and results in violence and abuse, and skewed way of looking at and responding to women. Men who rape women (and men and trans) because it gives them that sense of power. Men who beat women and men , as it springs from their notion of power, control and entitlement. Men , who tell you women are great because they sacrifice and are kind because it validates their manhood. Men who tell you , based on feelings , mind you, not evidence, that women are softer with people at work. Men who tell you, why hire women, when they are emotional and get pregnant or are immoral when divorced and separated - unaware or willfully ignorant that women are more productive at workplaces. Men who sush women and allow men to speak, because they cannot take a viewpoint of a "woman". Men (and women) who tell you not to laugh to loud (like surpanakha? ) . (Where is the difference you say? Ask, how many times have you judged a man for being divorced, fat, thin, loud , etc etc).

There is a reason to celebrate. There is an urgency to respond. Women are here despite of the culture, stereotypes, challenges, hurdles. Now, they have to be equal contributors to change, and there is no way , but to enable them to do it. We need to decide if we want to contribute to it or stand by as they march ahead, because March ahead, they will. So everyone, each of you, the men and women and the others , a happy Women's Day!

I end with one of the tweets that i have loved today and absolutely believe in .

@shailjapatel (Via Twitter)
Read women. Cite women. Credit women. Teach women. Publish women. Present women. Acknowledge women. Award women. Amplify women. Hire women. Support women. Promote women. Hear women. Believe women. Follow women. Pay women. Pay women. Pay women.

PS :

1. the girls i met are from this amazing organisation called navgurukul. check them out at :
2. the motherhood and fatherhood statement is attributed to my friend and colleague, the feminist man that inspires all of us, Masood Akhtar Shaikh.

3. Shailja Patel is an amazing Kenyan writer, who continues to inspire with her words

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Finding Self..

Do you ever find yourself? Is that search ever done?

I don't know. But i have been having this aching need to go on a pilgrimage. The personal kind. In my head , i see myself, packing a backpack, walking barefoot, all alone. Walking the roads to mountains and rivers and seas. Of meeting strangers and getting lost.

For a while at least.

I want to find myself, away from the frameworks and words people want to mould you into. You are "this" and you are "that". A "great" and the "worst". Who decides? What is their paradigm to judge? Just the minutes they spent? A word they hear. A fleeting glimpse they have. Like an optical illusion. Or a mental one.  Someone made me believe that perception is a reality. And i believe it. Just that's it the reality for the one who holds the perception. Not of the one being judged.

If you feel invested enough, work on that perception, build bridges, communicate. But what if you don't care? You don't value that person who holds that perception. While some people are making loud observations about you, and sweeping judgements, you have already mentally shown the person your middle finger and shut the door. Sorry, that's where i am. After the twenty odd psychometrics, i know some things in me are standard, and some things quite at odds and contradictory. Analysis tells me, psychometrics are most times bull. Theories, still to be proven. Generalisations are general and not specific. Each tells you the result with multiple caveats.  And i'm thinking, how can i be so predictable? I need to change. Do something different, something crazy. Maybe fail sometimes. Why do i carry the world like atlas?

Yes, i need my pilgrimage. As Mr Hardy would say, far away from the maddening crowds. 

Never to forget.

How true. And how difficult.

Each of these short sentences is lifetime of work, commitment, practice and persistence. It is so easy not to love. Not to want to be loved anymore. To start feeling too significant in everything. To get used to the violence. To be boggled down by sadness. To be ok with shoddiness. To complicate simple things and vice versa. To confuse power with strength. To look away and not want to understand. And forget things, and moments and people.

Specially the last one. I keep forgetting. I always have. Some times, moments come back in flashes, and i wonder if it is a figment of my imagination, or if it really happened. I wonder why i remember the things i do. How and why certain memories are triggered more often than others. I also wonder on how lucky i am. To have had the privileges and moments i have had. To have had the opportunities of exposure to cultures, geographies, languages, places, people, work and relationships. Things that seemed to be the most difficult growing up, now seem like things that made me who i am.

No, it's not easy to remember. And it's hard not to want to forget.

The last few years have been really difficult, and the one crawling by right now, has been a trial. I have been pushed to a brink and silence at many fronts. Many times, i have questioned my sense of right and wrong. Does this come with growing old, or have i become more introspective than earlier? My ability to not judge has also been tested this year. When earlier, i could let go, this year, i have been a bit irritated , quietly so, and i have wondered why. I have questioned myself if i am right in being ok with someone's lack of initiative, or sensitivity, or just plain complacence. I question my role in creating that. Am i making people around me complacent? Am i not leading them right? Is it really my responsibility to lead? can i just follow. people have called me patient, mellow, quiet, words that i would never associate with myself earlier. Now they have become a part of me? I wonder why, i wonder how? Weird, these flow of words. i digress as usual. Or maybe it relates to love. The ability to love. To accept. To reject. The ability to be loved. Not the need. the ability. Of being. Of just being. As i am. And allowing love to happen. Not fight to be loved.

Which brings me to the violence. The violence that simmers.The violence that erupts. the violence that is building all around. But that is another post. No, i will never get used to that violence. Yes, another post later. the link between disparity, differences and violence. The imbalance that threatens to tip.

Am i complicating the simple? But when is all this simple? Work. personal life, relationships, emotions, processes, chaos.

Yes, in all the action and work, the fights and challenges, sometimes, it is easier to forget. It's easy to want not to remember. And as i look back , i realise many points, when i shouldn't have looked away, i should have put up a fight, when i shouldn't have kept silent. It is important. very important. I want a bit of my feistiness back. Diplomacy is gradually becoming a habit, which maybe  a good thing, but sometimes, i also need my impulsiveness, my anger to just be there. I like the evolution, but i'm not yet ready to let go of that me. So, a reminder, not to ever forget.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

And the heart craves to be wet..

One day, i want to live close to water.

As i get older, i have come to realize i have some deep unexplainable relationship with water. I love the sound of water, the feel of water and even just the visuals of water. It triggers something deep within me .  It doesn't matter if it is a river, a sea, rains or even just the shower in the bathroom. I wish there was a word for that feeling, when all your senses are united, that of smell, the visual, the feel and you can sense everything together, in unison.

When you are young, you tend to latch on to whoever you are admiring at that point , to build many of your likes and dislikes, including the seasons. When i was young- winter it was, my "assumed" favorite season.  In the past decade i have realized and now completely accept, nothing makes me happier than monsoons. While in school, when it rained, i would make excuses to dash through the rain. My favorite time of the year was when we played in the rains- running and skidding through the mud, winning,  the last thing on the mind. As i grew up and started working, my fascination with the rains, the first drops probably scandalized people. I would turn it into a ritual of soaking in every bit i could. Get drenched, taste the first rains, inhale deep into my last pores the smell of rains as they hit the parched soil. That smell, oh that smell. The headiness of a drug. So yes, i would get drenched. It started with the excuse of first rains and graduated to awesome rains, to pouring rains and every year the number of times i would show up completely drenched was alarming, but yes, i couldn't resist the pull of monsoons. As i would drive  into the jungles of my beautiful keonjhar, i would roll down the windows and feel the rain. I can't explain it in words, but even if i close my eyes and you put me in a time machine and transport me to a jungle, i would be able to tell you exactly what time of the monsoon it is. The jungles have a distinct smell at every phase, the early, mid and the end of monsoons. The trees- the huge sal trees, Sisu (Rosewood,shisham), kendu(tendu), panasa (Jackfruit), Ammba (Mango), Jamu (Jamun), Arjuna (Arjun), Kusuma ( Bakul, Mimusops elengi), Piasaala (Kino), Gamhari (Gamar), Nageswara (rose chestnut), Gulmohar, palasa (Palash, Flame of forest), simili (Silk Cotton)..they all smell different at different points and it's a different kind of heady. But i digress again.

Yes, rains. The beginning of rains , the flurry of activities when farmers worship the mother earth in Odisha and start start tilling. The standing farms of green as far as your eyes can see..i can probably write a book, just on monsoons... i did not realise when monsoons had over taken my life and when i became entwined with it. When i was  younger , i could keep a pouch of soil in bag and taste it time to time. As that dry soil touched my tongue , it reminded me of rains. My mother would be really worried why i saved soil in different pouches at different places. I would tell her, i am collecting soil. Which was true- from different places, different smells of rain. I used to be fascinated , Still am,  by soil.. the varieties, the way they behave, respond , to seasons, to vegetation. How one type would be suitable for certain plants, how another would not allow it to take root.. my experimentations still continue, in the tiny balconies.

Even when monsoon reaches its peak and people can't wait for the rains to stop, i still continue being fascinated- just staring at the rain, the deep dark green of the plants, the grass and weeds snaking through every bit they can. I think, no other season intrigues, engages and uplifts me like rains.

I probably formally acknowledged my love for the first time when i moved to Mumbai. The sultriness of summer and the rains following close at heels. You just can't stop smiling when rains come in to mumbai, into the roads, the trains, the offices, your house and into your life in large pelting drops. And besides the stinky clothes that never dry, i don't think i have anything to complain.

I know this has become more about the monsoons, but my fascination with water  goes beyond just rains. To rivers and seas. The sound of water flowing, cutting through all barriers and trying again and again, to take the shape given to it and continue creating it's own. The giver of life and life itself.  The tiny little stream at Gonasika turns into this huge baitarani, the few drops at Gangotri turn into the mighty Ganga, across the world, the thousands of streams to the five oceans.. the lakes and the seas.. The sound of the calm river and sea, softly paddling the shores. The angry river and sea in high tide and storm, crashing against the shores- but always moving, always alive.

In activities in workshops, sometimes they ask you, what thing in nature you resemble. I have given this so much thought- and have realized, i am water, a river, taking shape, breaking shape, calm and wild, learning and growing, gathering memories and images - in search still, moving..

Yes, i want to live by water one day. To be alive.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

chaos is good

the strewn boxes
the idea of perfection in my head

a broken lamp
an upturned table
the notion of perfect corner
a journey

the decision of left and right
not right
a little left
more left
oh damn!

the stains of fresh paint
the splinters from carved wood
what was
what is
a dream

the broken connection
erratic network
the burst of clarity in thought

a wrong switch
a fuse bulb
natural light streaming through

chaos is good

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Movement and Change

We have finally moved into our new house. It still has a long way to go to become a home. And i wonder if it ever will.

It is amazing (and tiring)  , this constancy of change in my life.

All these words that are ready to be written some day , when i have some respite, some quietude, just never seems to happen. I move from one disruptive change to another, in professional and personal space. And every time i feel normalcy would return i am shaken yet again.

I haven't minded it so much i the past. One would think, almost welcomed it. But now, i'm getting tired and would love for things to settle down a bit. Being tired seems to have become my life sentence recently. I wonder if i should go to the doctor. Just in case it isn't just mental tiredness.

In change, one of the things you do while adjusting to change is introspect and observe. You understand a bit f the change and also the context of change. How change impacts people and how people (as well as spaces) respond and adjust to change. If you looked objectively, one of the things that happens, beyond the physical space being changed is the rise of a new order, a new regime almost. As usual , i struggle with the questions that keep coming up. One of the standard ones that i hear in my head are related to power.  Having studied and worked on issues of power and violence for a long time now, it is strange to see if played out, almost in slow motion, every day. It is fascinating and revolting at the same time. The very things people in power say they want to change and how they gain power and become corrupt centers of power would be funny, if it wasn't so shameful.

I had written about this earlier. But repeating them again in this context. When violence and violation is done by mistake it has scope to be corrected, to be changed, But when it is done , with complete understanding , by people who have intelligence and power- it is a corruption of a kind that cannot be easily changed, or forgiven. The repercussions are also huge and consequences have to be borne by both the innocent and the culprits.

I know, i speak in abstracts here. the point being, it's happening in the US, in India, in governments, non-governments as well as little home spaces. It is happening in religions, in politics, in communities and families.

At the end of the day, every thing is about power, or lack of power. And hence why everything is political. And personal.

More of this later. The cartons need to be unpacked. A new order needs to be created. Some normalcy needs to be restored. All the while with Caesar barking away. Sigh.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The burden of my own words

This year, i decided to break my own tradition of writing an year end post and making a wish list for next year. For one, it seems to be the same routine every year and then, i just couldn't make myself write anything. In the past few years, i have stopped writing regularly and i am having to push myself to abide by my own ghost in the past to keep writing, to not allow my words to dry out. But if your heart isn't in it, the brain can only churn out words that have limited meaning and no feel.Strange mood to be in a new year. 

The good thing was being home.

There is something about home. 

about being with family. 

about snuggling your feet together under one blanket 

and talking about random things, 
there's something about Päpä's hyperactivity 

to ensure we get a hundred star treatment always, 
there's something about being stuffed till your head 

and still make space for what mom makes for you, 

there's something about waking up whenever you want to 

and going off to sleep mid sentence 
and then waking up to see multiple snoozing heads around, 

there is something about seeing little ones grow young 

and the old ones older,
there is something about hearing old fights melt away in the kitchen 

and smiling silently in happiness,

there's something about being carefree,
something about getting your hair oiled 

and back scrubbed in the winter sun, 

there's something about visiting your old hangouts, 
accidentally meeting people on the road 
and counting their age lines and wrinkles in the happiest smiles, 
there's something about losing some old landmarks, 
there's something about seeing new ones come up, 

there's something about reminiscing about the past, 
there's something about reliving your life.. 
there's something about home..

Friday, October 16, 2015

Friends and Friendships

Some things hit you when you are least prepared and leave you stunned. 

We were visiting some "new" friends a few days back. I say new  and i say friends because they have come into my life recently, i see and feel a definite connect, a similarity in thoughts and experiences  to some extent but most of all having the feeling that i can talk freely, with the trust that you will have an objective point of view, with least regard for social norms and etiquette of diplomacy and subtlety. Having never been subtle or diplomatic, it's such a great feeling to meet someone who is the similar in approach- and hence probably the difference of opinion does not matter so much. Anyways i digress. Coming back to the point, we started talking about friends at work and friends in general.  I heard her say that she loved Delhi as most of her friends were here and that it provided her with the right mix of aware people, of intellectuals, etc and these people came  from varied backgrounds., some were from work, some from college and school. And we spoke about our favorite and not so favourite cities, the people and friendships. How cities probably end up defining people and vice-versa.

The very next day, i read an article on the time we spend at work and if it is possible to have friends at workplace. 

These two things accidentally put me in a situation where i am forced to think about my friends and my definition of friendships. I remember a time when i thought i had many many friends. There were so many, so many lives that were a part of mine and i was  a part of theirs. It was almost interwoven. Everything that happened to us- seemed to happen to all of us together as we all were influenced by it some way or the other. Maybe , what influenced us then were biding in nature by virtue of being collective experiences, we learnt from each other, spoke to each other. Or may be our worlds were so small, both in size and length that everything became hoarding of stories and memories even if it was stealing moments from someone else's experiences, as if we had been there ourselves. In some ways, we were. We fought, we made up, we fought some more- but nothing ever gave us the indication (though the books we read told us growing up wasn't fun) that we would be a part of the grown up, adult world where friends and friendships and different meanings and that those set that were the world then would become so insignificant eventually. I wonder what i would have done if i knew, if i believed it would all be insignificant, or at least so not" best friends forever" . Would i have behaved differently? Would i have been indifferent?

Moving on, today , i find it so so difficult to make friends. Many times when there seem to be friendships of some sort, they seem to fizzle out eventually. Some become friends despite my wanting to keep everyone away- from strictly acquaintances and colleagues to someone i can talk to, share with. I blame myself- that maybe i don't invest enough, don't give enough, maybe a defense mechanism of finding and losing- but at the end of the day, i do want to have good friends. Don't i?

And that brings me down to the bottomline- who do i define as a friend? That feeling of nostalgia when i speak to my school friends (the first ones to qualify that word), or that part of recognition of mutual likes and thoughts, or is it sharing and trusting (But that comes much later, doesn't it?). Yeah, it seems complex when i want to write about something really simple. How do we make friends? Who do we keep as friends? Do i regret that some people i thought were important aren't in touch anymore? A pang, yes. Devastation- no. I know we have each moved on in our lives and grown up to be very different people.

That is a thought, isn't it? Maybe, we are meant to move on, to become different people. I know some people who feel guilty of change, of becoming new people. Maybe a reason they shy away? Now that i think about it, maybe that is one of the causes with some. I remember some people looking at me with incredulity saying they can't believe i said something today that i would have never said before.  They say i have changed , like almost an accusation. But i can deal with it. I had a certain value system that i have moved from- they no longer remain values for me, and i am comfortable with them. I believe i am meant to change as i should. As i explore the outside world, i dig in deep inside for things i want to believe it, question my own thoughts and values and judgements and change as per my understanding and perception of both these inner and outer worlds . I am definitely not apologetic for that. 

But maybe some are. And i understand that as well.  I don't judge them. I would still be friends , at least i would like to, because only then i would understand a different point of view, a different way of the world. I do not believe we need to like and feel the same things to be friends. In fact today a handful that i have left are so so different in thoughts, geographies, perceptions that it seems surprising in theory that we could be friends at all. And probably those are the friends i look for. The ones who understand that it's ok to be different, it ok to change, to evolve. Ones that are honest to themselves and others. Those that do not hide behind ambiguity of unsaid things. Ones who look beyond .

And i continue to question , in the meanwhile, my role in moving away or falling apart with so many people who i thought were friends or who definitely had a potential.

To my friends and friendships.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Chivalry, Chauvanism and other things.

Two things bring up this post, amongst others.

I usually take the aisle seat in a plane, helps me stretch my legs and walk about, should i want to , without disturbing the co-passengers. As is usual in India, as soon as the wheels hit the tarmac, people open their seat belts and are ready to jump out . My neighbor , one on the middle seat , seemed to be in a bigger hurry than usual. He stepped on me and i offered to make space once the flight had stopped taxiing. And i did. As i waited patiently for him and his father to alight  who were without a regard for other people, i saw a couple on the other side of the aisle . The man was physically showing concern for the safety of his wife by guarding her body with his own, cocooning her. The wife seemed to be grateful. as i stood waiting , i scrolled down my emails and social media- more by habit that real interest- and the first thing on the timeline was this :

Got me thinking seriously about a couple of things. Firstly, how men behave or have been conditioned to behave with women, and how that behavior varies from a woman you are related to and a stranger.  This is a general debate and i let you to think about it in depth and have your own interpretation and analysis.

The second one was more personal and hence i would like to delve into it a little bit further. i am a feminist. i wonder if that is a difficult thing to live with. I have a husband who is also a feminist- a fact that is probably at the base of why we are still married. My husband is  feminist in thought but still to traverse the action part and i think i make it very difficult for him  to breathe even at times. I goad him, rile him and simple issues become feminist debates. From simple things like why when both work, housework still remains a female dominion to large discussions on perceptions, moralities and stereotypes. When i saw that couple, i wondered about my own reaction. Would i be as coy and demure as that girl? what a joke, right? i would look at my husband with every bit of sarcasm and tell him to protect the society through his actions than creating a physical wall to protect me. And it would lead to another argument or not. The point being, for men who are taught to communicate to women in that particular way, of being protectors, the hunting gathering men, what happens when roles change and evolve? How do men then express their care to feminist women like me? Same men who have been conditioned to never show the emotional side, be strong, be pillars and the bleh. Must be difficult. I am sure it is.

But i guess it's a struggle that this generation of men will also have to learn to live with. These are the men who made a conscious choice to be different, to be married to strong women with a mind and heart of their own, who refuse to be tied down by stereotypes. And i think, we will find our ways to express our love for each other, that is not opening the doors (for the other), except when it is to a new thought.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Turning Thirty Five

life has indeed come  a long way. long long way in a cycle. every year i reach my birthday , i do a standard introspection exercise and see three standard things. Awe of things that have happened in the past year that i have had a hand in, things i wanted to do and couldn't and some things that never change. every year.

now that this year is another important milestone, i have a list in no particular order till the next milestone (the 40th?)which may fall in either three categories above at that point.

- have  a baby
- climb the everest
- write that stupid book that been in my head the past 20 years
- get fit (sigh!)
- get another furry mad child as caezii
-  not grow up
- grow up a little
- get that passport stamped and the jinx broken
- do something nice for the family
- fall in love (if possible with the same man again and again)
- unclutter and go minimalist
- hoard more sarees
- go bald

and obviously the misc.

Happy Birthday to me! see you on the other side after a week long party to usher in the thirty fifth!

Saturday, May 2, 2015


the book i started still to be finished
the words still to be written
sometimes words fail
sometimes i fail

but i get up
to write and make sense of the confusion
sometimes i just let others scribble
let others inspire

i pick up to finish 
that book i started months back
reading the previous few pages
from the bookmark
and then give up

i hold the brush
and brush away the cobwebs
but the illustrations are still not done
my palette is full
the colours not yet right

i leave behind the unfinished post
the unfinished painting
an unfinished thought
a conversation is left hanging

tomorrow i shall complete it
yes tomorrow.


somewhere an inch moved
a beautiful world lays in ruins
lost lives under rubbles
a child, a man, a woman
a calf, a pup, a kitten

history that had been created over centuries
lies in heap in present
wiped away from future
in a flash of a second

the petulant children
continue to live in complacence
unbothered about the ruin
they probably caused
they shudder for a second
thank their stars
it wasn't them
and move on

angry nature
crushed a country
lashes it over and over
with tears of anguish
people living under the make shift houses
wince in her fury

but hope still lives
strength still lives
in the pained eyes
in the new crops
lush green
in the background

Saturday, March 28, 2015

For love of poetry and other things

कभी वापस आऊं
तो दरवाज़े पर तुम मिलो
उस शायरी की तरह
जो कुछ मौकों पर
वापस आ  जाती है लबों पर

तुम भी यही सोचते हो ना ?

पता नहीं साल कहाँ जाते हैं
कहाँ जाते हैं ख़्वाब
बस लम्हे होते हैं
फ़िर उन लम्हों की यादें

फिर धीरे धीरे लम्हें नहीं बनते
हर लम्हा हम कहीं खो जो जाते हैं
राहों में , दफ्तर में , टीवी में, पेपर में
लम्हे नहीं बना पाते जिसके ख्वाब बुने थे

रिवाज़ों को तोड़ने की फ़िराक़ है आज
लम्हों को बना लें
अब तुम आओ  तो दरवाज़े पर मिलूंगी
सिज़र के साथ