A QUESTION THAT KEPT ME AWAKE

Just another day, another page from mother-daughter diaries: A few days back I was having a regular “to/before bed” conversation with my daughter, who was as usual raring to go with her canon of questions. From her “Why, Who, What, When, and How” kitty she pulled out a gem that set my mind on a quest for I was unable to provide her with a convincing answer. And before I could answer her, she slept but I couldn’t stop thinking. Introspection ensued. Her question was “What is the most important thing in this world?”

The world is going in a loop – needs once fulfilled are replaced by wants, and once wants are also satiated heart wanders to new avenues to spread its wings, to know, to explore, to get, and the cycle continues. This is how we witnessed advancements in human history, be it territorial expansions of kingdoms or the technological amelioration that we are enjoying. Lives (perhaps lifestyles) have definitely been improved. Now let’s focus on an analogy: Imagine the world to be an airplane propelled by the fuel of desires, and dreams to perch higher and higher, scaling new altitudes of success with every flight. What would happen to the aircraft if the coolant is missing, if the fuel is adulterated with impurities or if it doesn’t have a ground to land on? The fire ignited to provide an elevation might devour the entire structure, isn’t it? Coolant here is satiation and content. Impurity is greed that when mixed with the fuel of dreams/desires can clog the entire machinery dooming the flight. Peace is the runway that every flight needs when it lands on its wheels of love and compassion utilizing the shock absorbers of realization, enlightenment, and wisdom. Well, that might seem to be quite a convoluted explanation. I shifted my focus to a handful of examples from human history:

  1. Before King Ashoka of the Mauryan Empire became Ashoka the great and he resorting to Buddhism, spreading the message of peace all over he was like any other tyrant king whose purpose was to conquer and amass strength. It was after the Kalinga war, the massacre rendered by his own army shook him to the core and he retracted from his old ways and accepted Buddhism to trend the path of peace.
  2. Before England was one country, there was a long trail of blood and gore where innumerable innocent lives were sacrificed to ever-rising flames of power hunger and ego. It was Alfred the Great (King of the West Saxons from 871 to c. 886 ) who had nurtured a vision of unifying the war marred land and establishing peace so that lives could thrive and prosper in every manner. Ironically blood was the price that was paid but nonetheless in the end after many decades his dream did come true (Athelstan, grandson of King Alfred was the first king of unified land called England).
  3. European Union is a great example of modern history where different countries agreed to set aside their bitter rivalries, and make amendments for the larger betterment of people suffering the aftermath of world war. The EU was originally created with the aim of ending the frequent and bloody wars between neighbours, which culminated in the Second World War. The Schuman Declaration, which encouraged the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community, laid the foundation for the European Union as we know it today (source: Google)

These are a few examples from medieval and modern history where the world has to finally resort to peace for the longevity, and prosperity of human beings.

Is the peace absolute or just a pact? The ground of peace has been purchased at a hefty price of numerous sacrifices, amendments and clauses, and a mutual understanding/ respect of territories and boundaries. And the fear of breach begets flexing muscle power in a bid to maintain the status quo. The recent example (in my petty knowledge) of Indo-China border tension speaks volumes about the price that nations have to pay for attaining peace. In my hindsight, I believe it’s more of a pact and order that the world is following to avoid disarray and disaccord. The bliss of absolute peace is still at bay.

Fulcrums to the Peace that we need: Compassion, satiation, actions motivated and guided righteously, and enlightenment – these are the fulcrums to leverage the peace in every human being and thereon at a macro level. I understand that this statement is quite a beaten one over and over but a truth that we deliberately or otherwise ignore. A petty example: We casually body shame or mock people for their weaknesses under the pretext of lighter note fun. We have no idea and literally don’t care about the negative impact we possibly could create on the other person’s mind, what havoc such a mockery is capable of creating in the longer run, and how it messes with the sanity of one’s mind. We avoid and hate “crime” that is punishable under a law that is documented. And those that are not, we make our souls obscure to nature’s unwritten law of embracing the differences. With oppressed, raging, and conflicting souls, where is the peace?

The whole night I spent introspecting if my answer is right if peace is indeed the most important thing the world needs right now? In the morning I asked my daughter if she has an answer to her question from the last night, and she smiled as she said “Yes I know the most important thing in this world – “You & Me”. And that kept me thinking again….

MY JOURNEY FROM BONJOUR AND MERCI AND BEYOND

Je parle Anglais?” which translates to “I speak English” but the question here is why there is a question mark if this is a plain statement. Well, to answer that I must take a few steps back into the past when I was a newcomer to the city of Brussels and the French language was more alien to me than my relationship with it now.

It all began in the year 2009. Thanks to the extremely busy schedules of my husband back in those days (there were times when he used to leave home at 7:45 AM and won’t see it back till 3 AM the next morning, I was left at the mercy of television and internet connection to spend my days. But for how long. Slowly I started despising my loneliness, the damp and gloomy weather of the city where the sun won’t greet people for days together added to my woes. Calm Sundays where the city would come to a halt made me miss India very much. That’s where I decided I must take things in my hands rather than just sitting back and cursing and sulking.

I began with a small walk in the direction of my nose (a subtle way of saying that I am pretty bad at remembering routes, have to literally register landmarks strongly lest I would get lost). It was a good walk of around 40 minutes and of course a good change for me. But what made me sweat profusely wasn’t the walk but the fact that I was unable to open the main door of the building where I used to reside. I believe the mechanism was somewhat different (anyways let’s not get into the practical details). I stood there for quite some time now, unable to open the door before I finally decided to seek help from someone. The first thing that came into my mind was what if the person whom I will request for help isn’t convinced with the situation that I am narrating, in short, what if he thinks I am an imposter trying to break into some random house. And to make the matters worse I didn’t know how to converse in French. But I had to seek help. I stopped someone who was crossing the street, and greeted him with the only word I knew back then in French “Bonjour“, he smiled and waited for the reason why he was stopped by a stranger. I gestured at the door and showed him the keys and continued in English. I was about to break into tears anytime now. He seemed to have understood and helped me get into the house. There was another incident where a heavily pregnant me was suddenly very low on sugar and was about to collapse with my groceries. A lady who was passing by stopped to check on me. I couldn’t explain myself but then it seemed she didn’t need my words anymore, she took out a juice from the groceries I was carrying and opened it for me, made me sit comfortably, and left me only after I was feeling a bit better. All I could say was “Merci” (another staple word in my french vocabulary then).

These and many other petty incidents made me realize the importance of the ability to converse in the local language. I narrated the entire episode to my husband. He said to start the conversation with “Je parle Anglais” but I misunderstood the word “Je” for “You” in English (Tu & Vous are used for addressing the same). Here starts the fun. I did my little work at home on petty words and went out confidently. I used to start my conversation with the sentence I mentioned above with a tone and expression of a question mark and now writing this piece I realize how puzzled I left people then. They definitely might have thought “okay good for you if you speak English, why bother us“. But the moment they heard me speaking, in fact struggling to strike and start a conversation they would start speaking (their tryst with English) in a way to take the conversation forward. That’s how I made friends with the supermarket staff around the house. I realized if I put an effort to learn a particular language that would show my intent – intent to mingle, intent to converse. Apart from making day-to-day life easy, I believe putting efforts to learn the language of the land you reside in is a small token of respect and gratitude.

Now after nearly 12 years, I am able to converse less hesitantly, and more confidently. On a personal level over the years I understood a conversation is more about getting a grip on the emotion people are sending across to each other. And for everything else, there’s a smartphone and google translator that’s always handy. (***Note: back in 2009 I didn’t have that help outside the IP range of my home:))

GROWING UP… DAUGHTER-MOTHER DIARIES

“Mom I have a doubt,” said my 6 years old daughter. “What’s it dear?” I asked, to be only left stumped by her question. “Why papa loves you when your face is full of spots?”. I am not even exaggerating, those were really her words. And I don’t blame her for she is growing up with fairy tales where the princess is all fair and flawless. I can understand with the kind of exposure kids of this generation have the kind of questions they might ask seem to be too soon, too early, and to be honest too much too. I wanted to give her a reason, perhaps a lecture on what true love (ironically beyond the gamut of reasoning) means but considering her age my explanation would be “Too much” for her to comprehend.

I simply asked, “Don’t you love me with all these blemishes on my face?”. And she didn’t budge as she said “I love you, Mama, you are the best” and she gave me a kiss as she hurried to get into the school before the final bell rang. Perhaps one day I will be able to provide a better explanation to satiate her query.

Raising kids (generation alpha) as my dear friend @sizzlybizzly (Rajnandini) has explained in her article OF SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, could really be a tight rope walk. Explaining them to react and behave differently in apparently similar-looking situations is quite a task. For instance, as a family with a reasonably comfortable life, I encourage my daughter to help the poor and needy and that seems to be well embedded in her thoughts. But on the other hand, I also warn her against falling for tricks of people who pretend to be needy to avoid sweating it out. And reasoning (explaining how to and why to differentiate) such situations in my personal capacity prove to be difficult ones given the fact that my daughter is a bit impatient. The moment I start dissecting the matter for clarity she says “I don’t understand what are you saying” or worse “enough Mama, not now, just play with me”.

As a parent, I want to clarify every doubt that dwells in my child’s brain. Sometimes I have substantial corroboration to my answers that I can give her instantly, for example why plucking fruit from the tree isn’t the same thing as butchering a goat, when both are done to serve the same purpose – to fill up a hungry stomach. Sometimes I am at a loss of my reasoning abilities altogether. Like why the letter U hasn’t been pronounced the same way in “Put”, and “But” because I never questioned it (maybe my friend @theextraaaamile, Savio has an answer to this 😃). And then there are moments I have reasons to support my reaction/responses but as I mentioned earlier they could be too complicated for a child to comprehend. For example, when I tell my daughter to be social & adjustable to and under different circumstances, and be independent (not seeking validation from others) at the same time. That’s a tough call as I have to hand out her reasons sans ambiguity of any sort.

All said and done I have realized that in the process of parenting I am growing up too. My role as a parent is a reason enough to be a better version of myself every day. With so many sources of information and influence around, kids surely need a security filter, a cushion to rely on. And that’s where the power of reasoning comes in handy. Valid the reasons are, better the chances of nurturing mature minds. It’s really important that doubts of any nature shouldn’t be squashed away under the pretext of “nothing concerning you”, especially when we impart the knowledge of DOs and DON’Ts to shape their personalities and ideologies.

My journey with the extra “administrative” responsibility of Reasoning has just begun as my daughter has just started questioning. I should be better prepared for the bazooka of questions blazing at me, she hasn’t even scratched the surface yet and there’s an ocean to dive in.

WHEN OUR PATHS CROSSED

After eight years of marriage, Saanvi visited Delhi which once was her turf. She grew up there. That city for her is a bundle of memories – good, bad, enjoyable, precious, sad, unbearable – quite a complex concoction that she treasured. After her marriage, she moved away from the city so does her family.

Now after eight years an unusual business brought her back to the city. As she landed in the city, she was caught by the whip of air of the city, “how much I missed you” she sighed and headed for the hotel. As the taxi traversed through the lanes of the city, her thoughts wandered along with the wheels. Her eyes feasted on the street food, her senses were bamboozled by the color and fervor of the city, the ears were enjoying the concert of the noise of all-around. With all the sensory overloads she reached her hotel. That day passed in resting.

The next day after she was done with the day’s business she decided to indulge herself in some exquisite Delhi shopping. As she was loitering in the lanes of famous local markets, she felt as if someone called her name. She turned around but couldn’t find a familiar face in the hustle and bustle of the market. She strode forward and within a few seconds she heard her name once again “Hey Saanvi!” She turned again to confirm if it was real or if she was hallucinating something. But to her surprise (rather a shock) she wasn’t. It was Amit, her Ex.

Hi Amit, how are you? Long time” Saanvi greeted cordially but the awkwardness was written all over her face. She never imagined she would have to face him again in her life. In heart of her heart, she always prayed that she doesn’t have to encounter him. “Yes, Saanvi, it has been 8 years. Where were you? It seemed you completely disappeared after your marriage. What happened, did you decide to sever the ties completely with your old friends? Itne bure nahi hain hum (we aren’t that bad)” and he laughed heartily. They decided to sit in a nearby restaurant to catch up.

Saanvi was still wasn’t at ease. Amit realized that and without beating around the bush he confronted her “what’s the matter? You don’t seem to be alright. I see you are upset with this unexpected meeting as if you never wanted this to happen. Am I right?” Amit paused a bit to give Saanvi a chance to explain herself.

“You are right as usual, I never wanted to see you again. The reason being I am burdened by the huge baggage of guilt that I have been carrying throughout these years. Do you remember that day when you proposed to me? I was happy but my happiness was short-lived. When I reached home the biggest shock of my life was awaiting me, a marriage proposal. My father’s health, his reputation, and everything else were at stake. I tried to open up my heart to him but couldn’t. I had to accept my fate. You were upset when I broke this news to you. We cried together and that was the last time when I saw you. I carried on with my duties and responsibilities as a daughter, a wife, a daughter-in-law, a mother but the guilt never left my heart. The guilt of not giving our relationship a chance, the guilt of leaving you in misery made me weak to pray that I never have to face you. My life is comfortable but there are moments when the thought that it could have been different with you often crosses my mind. And there isn’t a single day when I never apologized to you in my heart. Would you ever be able to forgive me and let me put off this guilt?” She paused.

Amit patiently heard this and at the end, he smiled “so you needed the courage to face me? Are you serious? See, there are many things in life that we direly need and want and our relationship is one among them. I never dreamt of anything or anyone else so dearly in my life other than you. It’s true but just the way you compromised with your fate so did I. I loved you so there was no place for any anger to foster there. Of course, it took years to take a forward leap but I did. And anyways I am not a saint, I too got married and this is my world now“. With a hint of wit in his tone, he showed his family photograph to Saanvi. His gesture calmed her down, her smile was more natural now. She sensed relief.

The serious conversation finally got diverted to a lighter tone as old friends would have. The cheque was paid and before leaving Amit reminded on thing to Saanvi “Our relationship might be broken but not finished, not every relationship needs a name or gets a closure. It might be broken but it is beautiful, isn’t it?”

***Note: Based on a true story

THREE SISTERS LED THE WAY

It’s a story of the reunion of a man with his daughters. A man had three daughters from whom he got separated. He was leading a miserable life, until one day when the three girls reached his house and asked for shelter, as they were tired of playing. As it was dark outside the man decided to let the three little girls halt in his house.

The darkness was so terrible and threatening. The darkness was an invitation for the robbers to intrude into the boundaries of the house. They slowly started digging the foundation of the house. Their purpose was to crash the house and loot. As the walls trembled in that dark night, so was the man. This is not new to him. All his life he was under constant attack of burglars in the veil of night. He lurked in the darkest corner of the house to save himself. The three sisters were sleeping in the corner where he hid. He tucked himself into a shell, hoping that the violent blows to his house and self recede somehow.

As the man was consumed by his struggle, one of the three sisters woke up due to the commotion inside and out of the house. She saw the man struggling, she rose to help him. She peeped from the window, she could see some light in the distance. Also, she saw how exercise to weaken the security that man had was being carried out. She had a plan in her mind “If I could take this man to that point I will be able to save him”. She tried to pick him up, but the weight of the man was crushing her. She gave a call to her elder sister and immediately she grabbed the other hand of the man. He slowly picked himself up with the help of the sisters and made an advancement towards the door to get out of the darkness surrounding him.

But the saga of fear was still not over for the man. His feet were stumbling over the hurdles placed across his path in a bid to stop him from reaching the light. As the sisters held the man and they were occupied, they called their eldest and strongest sister. She came, fought, and conquered the plunderers, paving a way for the man to make a safe exit from the darkness. The fight wasn’t easy. The attackers kept coming back to attack the man from different sides, the other sisters were slowly crumbling under the fatigue of carrying the man. But the one who was fighting was nowhere close to extinguishing or exiting. She was gaining impetus as she was blowing away her counterparts and a part of her energy she was transmitting to her sisters too. It was a long night before they finally made it.

With the help of the three sisters, that man reached his destination. When he reached the enlightened spot he recognized his estranged daughters and embraced them. He vowed to never ever part from them as they released him from the haunted place he was dwelling in. And they happily lived ever after in the land where the sun never sets in.

End Credits (cast of the story):

Sisters: Youngest Sister – Will; Second Sister – Action; Eldest (strongest) Sister – Knowledge

Man: The Human Soul

Weight: Self-doubt

Thieves: Vices like greed, lust, anger, hate, etc.

Hurdles: negativity and pessimism in the form of harsh comments, blame game.

Light/ Enlightened spot: The happy space where the mind is in total control of its actions and not affected by the actions of the villains surrounding.

Moral of the story: It takes the three sisters of Will, Action, and Knowledge to accompany a man (figuratively) to cross the hurdles of vicious backlashes and the fear of failure.

EMOTIONS ARE MY TURF

Think about the constant smile on your face when you see or read a good light-hearted romance. Imagine the tears that refuse to get restrained in your eyes when you read a heart-wrenching story. Have you ever experienced that extreme anger towards a fictitious character that’s vile and nefarious? I am sure you must have. I sensed that feeling, quite strongly when I read “Pride and Prejudice”. I rooted for the central characters of Elizabeth and Darcy. Be it fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, biography, autobiography, whatever the content is, the impact would be hollow if the readers are unable to feel or connect with the underlying emotions of the characters they are reading about. In my opinion, Emotions form the core of every story. And me in the capacity of a writer love to spell emotions. My sole purpose in writing every single piece of article or a story is to connect and communicate and I am sure every writer would agree with me. Vocabulary, the flow of the language, style of writing – these parameters can be for a moment overlooked if the emotions carry and create the intended impact as desired by the writer.

In the light of the importance that rightly conveyed emotions have in the context of writing, emotional genre (if it can be called so) is my personal favourite. Romance and Drama usually fall into this genre (they are the sub-genres). Everyone might not be able to connect to the core idea of science fiction, everyone might not be able to understand the rhythm of poetry, horror may not be able to please the faint-hearted but emotions are omnipresent. Love, happiness, anger, grief, greed, lust, hate – no one is untouched by them. Thus when they come across stories that rekindle the feeling of having been a witness to one or more aforementioned emotions, make them pause and think, make them involved with the characters they read, and sometimes even identify themselves with those characters, the readers would love to invest in those stories (time and otherwise). And as a reader who has gone through the same myriad of emotions while reading, I would love to invest my time and soul as a writer in evoking the same thoughts.

My Style Of Writing: Keeping an eye on what’s transpiring all-around, digging in examples from real-life experiences – this is what I try to incorporate in my stories (because I believe that I am not an odd one out on this planet, so my experiences will definitely resonate with many others too in one way or the other and it will ruffle their emotions). My job is done as a writer (I feel elated whenever I get a comment notification and it reads “I have experienced it myself“). Every time such comments made me realize that “Emotions are my turf“.

BETWEEN THE JOURNEY AND THE DESTINATION

A road through the rocks and rocky terrain by Kalpana Vogeti

Marooned amidst the desert of nothingness,
surrounded by the mountains of despair,
the traveler’s intellect summoned him the ultimatum.
“Your journey has come to an end,
take this cloak of melancholy and drape yourself,
let the crown of failure adorn you
as you put a halt to your momentum”.

Saddled by the burden of his dereliction,
the traveler turned into the sediment of brunt hopes
whose dreams dissipated and poured down stony eyes
touching his parched lips,
He was exhausted and slipped into a deep slumber,
believing it to be the end of his ordeals.
But soon his thirst beseeched him
to look out for a potion to sip.

He rose from the heap of his molten & mangled desires
to quench his thirst and reinstate his trudge.
In the darkness of ignorance, he sensed fear Again,
fear of losing- not life but existence,
He ran incessantly, tearing apart the clutter of notions
that chained and suffocated his soul for a long time.
He reached an untrodden path, with a panting breath
he had to choose between quitting and deliverance.

He stared at the path,
cut through the rigid rocks of pessimism,
it gleamed in the light of knowledge and was enticing him
to pick up his crutches of will and action and recommence his stride,
He held his trembling heart and spoke to his upset intellect
“let me try one more time, let me search for the victory,
I might not reach my destination, but let me glide through
this journey with a sense of pride.”

************************************

Did the traveler reach his destination? Did he fall into the potholes of vices? Did the bondages of self-doubt imprison him again? Was he able to quench his thirst? Was his thirst solely his materialistic desire or it was a dawn of realization? Questions still need an answer but nevertheless, this story is about the road that initiated the journey!!!!