Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Bringing home a pet for your kids

Growing up, I always wanted a pet. But our constantly changing cities deterred my parents from letting us have one. So, when I got married, I was ecstatic to move into my new home with my husband and his Indy (Indian stray) boy, Whitey. We did not know how old Whitey was, but we estimated him to be about 7 or 8 years old. He was a hefty thing, and had a really loud and scary bark!

It took time for Whitey and me to become friends. Standing in the way, apart from his scary persona and fearful stories of his past was my personal fear of dogs. That's right, I always wanted one of my own, but I was scared of approaching and petting them. But that is a thing of the past. Now I can walk up to any dog, pet or stray, one who is keen to meet humans, and make friends with them. Looking back, I attribute my fears to my lack of understanding of dogs and their behaviour.

I remember the first few months, I was scared to pet him on the head if my husband was not home. If I left the room at night, he would mildly growl at me to remind me he was still protecting his pack (read my husband) and territory (read our room). If it was not for my husband teaching me how to react to these situations I probably would not have been able to get Whitey to welcome me into his pack and had the chance to experience the abundant love and loyalty he had to offer.

Many a times it is just the ignorance of fear from parents that lead to children growing up scared of animals. Most of the people I know who are comfortable around dogs, predominantly have had the opportunity to interact with many dogs since their childhood. They become good at sensing behaviours and can understand the subtle messages that dogs give out when they are uncomfortable with certain behaviours. That is the trick to living and playing with dogs in harmony.

Although some children are natural with animals, good habits on how to behave around pets can be easily inculcated and learnt over time with an understanding of their behaviours and likes and dislikes. I hope that when I have children, they have the opportunity to be around animals of all kinds and are able to nurture habits that teach them to be not just responsible and compassionate with humans but with animals alike.

Having pets has its benefits for children too. Let me list out just a few of them for you.

1. Lets start by talking about the health of children. Contrary to common belief, research shows it that children who grow up with pets from infancy have a higher chance of having healthier childhoods, lower occurrence of infections and lower dependence on antibiotics. Even dogs that spend a large amount of their time outdoors in the dirt help improve your child's immunity, making them more robust and healthy in the long run.

2. Children who have pets at home are more compassionate and empathic in nature. Pets at home teach children to be more caring and sensitive to the needs of their pets and helps create a bond between the two that is often irreplaceable.

3. There is a huge amount of responsibility that comes with being a pet parent. I can personally vouch for that from the experience of now raising two pups, and living with three dogs. And although I do not have children to compare it to yet, looking around at the young mothers around me, I believe the magnitude of the responsibility is no less. Children in homes with pets often share this responsibility with their parents willingly. Such children grow up more involved in caring for their pets, be it taking the pets for a walk, feeding them or even caring for them when they are sick. They understand the needs and requirements of the pets, and are often more than keen to participate in tasks that involve taking care of their pets.

4. A pet adds a fair amount of exercise to ones daily routine. The walking and playing with pets, engaging them in fruitful family time and tiring them to keep them happy, relaxed and peaceful, it all takes a lot of energy. This is something not everyone realises till they get the pet home. Outdoor activities and productive play sessions with pets helps keep children healthy.

5. Children who grow up with pets have been found to be more connected and attached to their families. Spending more time together as a family is a done deal for a home with pets. My dogs are restless and keep pacing the house till they have both my husband and me in one room. It gives them a sense of security that their pack (read family) is safe when everyone is together. Thus, spending family time together interacting with pets, outdoor activities involving pets and being together in tough times, it all comes within the purview of owing a pet.

6. The hardest part of having pets is that usually their lives are far shorter than our own. That means children often have to bear the burden of losing a pet. Although a tough time, losing a dear pet teaches children to learn to cope with loss, a useful learning that will help them in future too.

The advantages of bringing up children in homes that have pets are numerous, and I have only listed the most blatant and obvious ones to me.

It is also important here for me to point here that it is the responsibility of the parents to make sure both the child and the pet are safe and comfortable in the environment they are living in. Children and pets should always be taught acceptable and unacceptable behaviour with each other. Interactions between the two should always be supervised, at least until children are old enough to responsibly handle themselves and the pets on their own. Precautions are necessary, but by no means should that come in the way of you all being a happy family.

For those of you considering pet parenthood, I recommend researching. Learn about what it involves bringing a pet home, the work, the responsibility, what you might have to give up, what extra work will there be (and believe me there is lots!). And if you feel you are not up for it at this stage, with young kids and so much work already, hold on, wait for the time that it feels right, when you are ready! Make an informed decision and not an impulsive one, and trust me, you will not regret it. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

A Lost Friendship

Sometimes life is a constant battle with nostalgia of a time that can't be real again! Memories still linger and remind me of our secrets and laughter together. That was a time we were carefree and happy, unaware of the sad twists and turns that destiny had in store for us in the future.

There are bitter sweet memories of us. Walking hand in hand, off to our most cherished place on the basketball court. Sitting and watching our friends play. Learning lifelong lessons, ones that would help us on and off the court. I still think of the times of us sharing and caring, innocently loving, I still think of the times I silently prayed things would last a lifetime. I still treasure the little gifts that we exchanged with our meagre pocket moneys. We dreamed so many dreams for us, of our lives and of changing the world for the better. The dreams have been modified with realities and although life is not exactly as we planned it to be, I hope yours is close enough to your dreams. I hope that life is still keeping your gorgeous smile on your face.

Today, it is not the memories that hurt.. but the realisation that there shall be no more. For in the short time I spent with you, I formed a bond so strong that the threads of it still hold strong to this day. Today I am scared to form others like them, for fearing of losing them again. The pain never subsides. The reasons for why we lost this beautiful friendship is still unknown to me. But I ponder over them no longer.

It has been over a decade that we were as in my memories. Since then life has changed completely for both of us. We are no longer the young girls with dreams in our eyes and fire in our bellies, taking on the world around us. I know not what your life is like. Only what little I hear from others and the social media stalking that I do quietly, to know you are well and happy. Your recent blogs have helped me learn more of your life and I am happy to see you have a beautiful life filled with people who love and care for you, and many more who admire and encourage you. 

I love you, quietly, without anyone's knowledge of how important you still are to me. Even I know not why! Maybe because you made me a better person, and still continue to do. I will always quietly turn to you for guidance, and I will always follow the little things I learnt from you. For it is you who taught me patience and it is you taught me immense compassion. You are the one who taught me to listen and it is from you that I also learnt to speak for myself. Your kind heart and honest words taught me that I did not need to be someone else to be accepted, and you taught me to accept myself. You are a powerful woman today, and for me you will always be. I am proud of you and want to tell you that you will always hold a piece of my heart. I will always say my silent prayers for you!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Invasion of Privacy

A recent article I read about the well meaning neighbourhood aunties who feel it is their rightful duty to advise young couples on the right time to have children got me thinking. I am well familiar with these nosey neighbours and have had my share of uncomfortable conversations. Not so recently married and still without an issue, I am often rudely and directly reminded of my perceived purpose of existence. Many a people from the reliable house help to the well wishing aunty from next door remind me how I need a child to be complete. Some have even directly told me that I need to have a child for my grandmother-in-law would need a companion to play with in her 90's. The irony of which is that grandmom was one of the first people who warned me against such advise. She had laughed and told me a year after my marriage that there would be lots of family, friends and acquaintances who would advise me to start a family now and that I must pay no heed to them. In her view, honeymoon babies were a thing of the past. Today, a woman needed to be educated, independent, successful and mature before she could take on the responsibility of a child. She believes, and often reminds me, that I need to be complete and content inside before I can nurture a child and teach him all that is to learn in this world. Today's world requires a knowledgable mother, one who knows her place in this jungle, for without knowing and living this, she might not be equipped to bring up a child to take on what they might encounter in his life.

In all this nosey business, what bothers me is this sense of rightfulness and intrusiveness these people have in the lives of others, especially those younger than them. Come to think of it it is not merely a matter of people but one that is deeply ingrained in our society. "Well meaning" people think it is alright to talk to and talk about other people if they have what they believe is their best interest at heart.

From asking a person their age or salary, to discussing marriage and child planning no topic is left personal to an individual anymore. I have heard innumerable uncomfortable conversations like those exemplified below, which not only leave me wondering about how some people think it is alright to give unsolicited advise if their intentions are well meaning.

To a successful working 20 something your girl -
Aunty - "Are you married?"
Girl - "No"
Aunty - "How old are you?"
Girl - "26"
Aunty - "Then when do you plan to get married? This is the right age to settle down. If you delay too much everything from children to retirement plans will get delayed"

To a soon to be mother (hence referred to as STBM) - "
Aunty - "You look big, you must be due soon"
STBM - "Yes the due date is in 2 weeks"
Aunty - "Really! That is good. I am glad you planned to have a child within a year after marriage, unlike these other girls living here, married much before you and yet to plan a family"
STBM - "We did not really plan it, it just happened. We were hoping to wait some more time, but destiny had other plans"
Aunty - "It is all good. You will know later in age how it was a blessing. But tell me, the baby does not seem to have come down enough to be ready to come out in 2 weeks. Are you sure it is 2 weeks?"
STBM - "Yes, my doctor has rechecked. She has also advised lots of walks and some special diets to help"
Aunty - "That is all fine, but I would suggest taking household suggestions from the local midwife. They see many such cases daily, they know how to deal with these issues without much trouble. I will ask her to drop by at your place today itself."

To a young independent working girl -
Uncle - "I saw a lot of cartons coming into your home yesterday. Are you shifting?"
Girl - "Yes uncle. By the month end"
Uncle - "Oh, it is sad to see you go. But then we rarely ever saw you. You both work long hours"
Girl - "Yes. We have demanding jobs and long hours. We are only home in the mornings and nights"
Uncle - "I know how it is with you younger lot today. But you must ask your husband to be home at an earlier hour. He usually comes very late, sometimes I have seen him return even around midnight. Tell him it is not safe to let you be alone this late at night alone. The world is not a safe place today, unlike in our times"

The conversations were all had with the best of intentions and often the advise was genuine. What I find difficult to fathom is the comfort with which these people asked these personal queries to simple acquaintances. I would shudder to have some of these conversations even with friends and relatives, for fear of them being too personal.

In earlier times, when people had deeper and longer lasting relationships with their neighbours I suppose such conversations seemed fine. Neighbours were like family and were part of all the celebrations and sorrows with each other. But with the changing times today, where we do not have time to talk to our family and friends, let alone neighbours, I do not think those close relationships exist for many of us. Today, there are conversations we sometimes don't have the time to and at other times choose not to have even with our closest friends and relatives. Thus, it is extremely uncomfortable to have random people ask such personal questions.

It is not welcome when people we whom seldom meet and even more rarely speak to discuss our personal issues. We feel that our plans, our space and our life are for us. And if we would like your advise we would ourselves approach you for it. Discussing us with others and then coming to us and advising on how we must lead our life is not welcome. Not because we do not appreciate your concern, but because it makes us uncomfortable and sometimes even insecure to know that you are keeping an eye on us and our lives.

Thus, it is my humble request, please let our space and our issues remain personal to us. Please do not invade it without permission.

Friday, 9 October 2015

My biggest fear came true!

It was a tough decision to make, and I often felt selfish for wanting it as much as I did, for only 2 years had passed since mom had her mastectomy. But what helped was the support and encouragement that I got from her. She seemed more excited about the whole thing than me. She would spend hours researching the university, the city, it's weather, foods to try, places to see, things one might need to carry while living abroad, you name it, she had researched it! I think she wanted this for me more than I wanted it for myself. And that made the decision easier. So, I accepted the offer and packed my bags, ready to leave!

Mom has always been my role model, my rock. She is the kind of woman who never shed a tear. Through the toughest of life's battles, she fought on without a worry. Through the course of her treatment, she was the one who kept the whole family strong and functioning. To her, it was a simple process, to cross one bridge at a time. There was no point sitting and worrying, brooding, wondering, blaming. This is what it was, and it needed to be dealt with. That was that!

As I started my new life and tried to settle in, Mom was the one whom I turned to for all advise. Anything I needed to do, any step I needed to take, she was my go-to person to consult! We would Skype daily initially. She would hear my experiences, she would want to know about the university, my work, my friends, the city, it's history, what I ate, how it tasted. Come to think of it, she lived those experiences through my narratives! And slowly this became habit. We became much closer in that year apart than all those many years together. We would share our days through Skype and give each other constant advise and criticism. We stopped keeping secrets, or so I thought. Then, as one of my dearest friends came visiting, I found things a little amiss at home. The usual routine that we had gotten used to didn't seem to fit. I was curious and asked a lot of question.

Initially, Mom kept telling me that since I was busy traveling the country with my friend, it was me imagining things. But, Mom, who had been extremely convincing at fibbing to us most of our childhood days (mostly for our own good) was somehow not being that convincing this time. So I probed further, and then some more. And lo, the truth comes out. Mom had been making regular trips to the oncologist again. It seems her medication post mastectomy had now resulted in initial signs of cervical and endometrial cancer.

Having one of my closest friends around to confide in was extremely helpful. They helped me deal and cope with the initial shock of the news. They helped me process the information at my own pace and talk my heart out! They even got all the medical advise they could find on the issue passed on to me and my parents so we knew the details. The initial reaction that I had to this situation was to do what I did best, research about it. Knowing always helped me. As the statistics showed, mom was the ideal candidate for these side effects for the medicine - more than 50 years in age, post menopausal, breast cancer survivor. Once the details settled in, and I had researched some more and discussed with the experts I knew, we concluded what the further course of action that should be advised by the physician. Luckily for us all, mom's condition was caught well in time and the doctor, as we had hoped, decided to change the medication.

Mind you, the new medication was not without its side effects, but this time we were prepared. We knew the signs to look out for. And most importantly, we were together keeping an eye out now! But, in all this commotion, the most profound effect that this second round of doctor's visits and diagnosis had on me was something I did not expect. With all my education and research in this field, I had thought that even if I were away, I would be able to deal with whatever was thrown at me with regards to mom's illness or it's possible relapse. But what I did not prepare for was all the secrets and hiding.

I now understand Mom why mom tried to keep me from worrying. And I respect her decision to do it. We have had many a discussion where we have agreed to disagree on whether what happened was right or wrong! But this secret keeping had left me worrying even more! All I could think of was how or why would they keep it from me? What is something more serious happens and no one tells me? What if by the time I know it is too late? What if I could have helped, if only they told me? All these doubts and fears just kept growing and growing in me.

And despite the fact that I knew that I was being irrational on some of them, I could no longer think about this anxiety I was staying with for the rest of my stay abroad. After numerous talks where I tried to tell, request and even order them to not let this kind of situation to arise again, I wasn't convinced they would tell me all, if ever needed. Taking my folks with me back to that country was not an option. They were sure they wouldn't leave their comfortable settled life here and come there to me. They were happy and content here. They would be happy to visit me when I wished, but that was as much as I would get. So, as soon as I finished my course, I packed my bags and came back home, where I could be part of it all, with no more secrets and no more of my fears! 5 years down, my mom is 8 years cancer free!

But I still sometimes wonder about the life that I left behind.. What if I stayed and studied further? Where would my research be? What would my career look like? Would I be happy there? Would I have learnt to deal with these fears better with time? What am I missing out on? My career is not even remotely on the same path as I had once dreamed. And sometimes I feel disheartened for I feel I have lost my path and cannot seem to find it back. I look often at avenues that interest me for alternative careers that might fulfil me from within. But the search has been long and tiring and the results disheartening till now. Yet somewhere deep down, I have the solace of knowing that I am here where it feels right. I am close to what matters the most to me. And my fears, which still keep rising from time to time to help me reconcile with my decisions, are easy to put to rest at the end of the day. I continue to work hard to make another career for myself. I can try make peace with what I achieve here. Heck, I can even achieve more than I could have there in the right time and with the right effort. But I am happy being close to Mom. I am happy being home!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Kanyadaan - Giving away a daughter

"Kanyadaan" literally translating to "donating a girl or maiden" is an integral part of the Indian marriage ceremony. It is the handing over of the rights and duties of a girl by her parents to the groom and his family. Wikipedia describes it as the "gift of a maiden or a virgin". It is a highly valued custom. One through which the parents of the bride are believed to be relieved of their worldly sins. As per Indian customs, the groom is a form of Lord Vishnu, and thus, presenting him with their most cherished gift is seen as a matter of great honour for the bride's parents. (Of course, one can hardly miss the irony, looking at the number of cases of female infanticide this country has!)

Actually, in almost all cultures, giving away of the bride by the father is an intrinsic part of a wedding. Although, I would like to naively believe it has originated from the special bond that all daughters have with their parents, especially fathers, I know it has its roots in the patriarchal systems from times gone by.

"Giving" the bride away makes me think of her as a possession or commodity. It implies ownership. In the bygone era, it meant the transferring the bride from the custody of the father to that of the husband, when not an instant could the woman be without the headship and protection of a man! But that was in times when women had fewer rights and even less exposure. I highly question the relevance of this custom in our modern times.

Not just the treating of the bride as an object, but also handing her and her responsibilities over to someone for life is something I feel strongly against. How can the beginning of a marriage, an equal partnership, where the couple promises to love and care for each other and help each other through life's ups and downs, begin with only one taking the responsibility of the other? Is it not the responsibility of the wife to care for and nurture the husband too? Is she not taking on responsibility for his happiness and good health? Not just him, but his family as well! Then why do we not see a "Putradaan" as part of the tradition?

What I find even more astonishing is the belief that one's parents forfeit all rights and responsibilities towards one's daughter once she is given off to the groom. Can parents really ever do that? More so, why must they? 20 years or more of bringing up this beautiful child, teaching her all that she knows, caring for her, worrying, the sleepless nights because of her, and just like that, she "belongs" to someone else? She is a part of another family, leaving this one behind?

I am not against traditions, and I can lead myself to believe that this is merely a part of historical customs. But there are many who take this custom literally and extremely seriously. And many girls, spend their whole life being told that they will one day belong to their husbands. One day they must get married and become part of another house and family. That they are "paraya dhan" (someone else's wealth). From childhood she is made to understand that one day she will be given away to the right man who can successfully take on her responsibility. With the beginning of a new life, she will have a different surname, and in some cases even a new name, to mark the beginning of her new life, and the past one would have little meaning to her. And in all this, we have taken away from her identity!

Instead we must be equipping our daughters with the strength and freedom to be their own individuals. To stand and support their husbands in all their tasks. To be complete in their own right, rather than objects that need to be taken care of! I say, teach your girls that they are one day going to be equal partners in a loving marriage. They will have equal responsibility in building a successful household and family. They will have equal ownership of their life together. Most importantly, they are going to have equal say and opportunities in their married life and not be just their husband's possession, commodity or responsibility!

Monday, 6 April 2015

Forgotten Love

She was the apple of her parent's eye. A polite, shy, soft-spoken girl whose only friends were her novels and painting brushes. One could find her spending most of her free time in a world of her own, and the only mirror to her special world were her paintings, which always seemed as complex and difficult to interpret, as their creator.

So when she finished college and started working freelance as an artist, her parents thought it was time to find a prince charming for their beautiful little Diya, the light of their lives. However heartbreaking the thought, they always knew that one day they had to give their little princess away to the right young man, one who would treat her as specially, if not more, than her parents. That was their dream for their little girl.

And thus the hunt began. As was common in their community, relatives were informed to find the right match for Diya. Her parents, Rajan and Kavita, gave relatives a brief of what they hoped for in a son-in-law, each time emphasising how gentle and delicate Diya is, and to find a match suitably. And thus begun the long excruciating calls from distant relatives who thought they had the right boy for Diya. Many potentials were discussed, from Doctors, to Engineers, to Investment Bankers. Boys staying in London, New York, Sydney, Cape Town etc. But not seemed right to Diya's father, for he could not fathom sending his little girl so far away. He hoped that a loving, caring and sensible match could be found in Chennai itself.

One day, while out for a meeting with an advertising firm for a campaign for his company, Rajan was introduced to a young, bright, energetic young man named Atul. As Atul presented the planned ad campaign to everyone, he radiated confidence and brilliance. After the meeting, as he was personally introduced to Rajan as the brains behind the campaign by the head of the advertising agency. As Rajan heard the young man's credentials and his achievements at such a young age, he was considerably impressed. As the whole team proceeded for lunch, Rajan got a chance to speak to Atul alone. He asked Atul about his family, background, career plans and somewhat discreetly, his marital status.

As he drove home that evening, Rajan could not help but smile to himself. He was happy to have come across a young man who was in his mind a perfect match for Diya. And his manners assured Rajan that he could in no way hurt or harm his daughter. He reached home and spoke his mind to Kavita, who was also overjoyed at her husband's description. Only one that had crossed both the parent's minds, one that was somewhat minor to them, but would create a furore in their family. Atul was a Punjabi boy, while Diya and her family were devout Iyers. There was no way that the elders of the family would agree to such a match. But they were sure, that if Diya agree to the match, they would take talks forward with Atul and his family. The first thing was to check with their little girl, without whose consent, they were unwilling to take any steps in this case.

That evening, after dinner, Kavita walked into Diya's room to find her engrossed in one of her old classic novels. Since her mother checked on her often at night, before going to bed, she thought it no different than other days. But Kavita did not just peep in the door, but slowly made her way to Diya's bedside and seated herself on a chair there. Then she slowly broached the topic of Diya's marriage to her. Accustomed to relatives discussing this topic a little too often lately, Diya listened, paying little attention to the details, till she heard her mother say "we think he is a great match." She put her book away, sat up straight and looked at her mother questioningly. Kavita, who knew her daughter inside out, knew the look. She held Diya's hands in hers and repeated all the details about Atul that Rajan had spoken of. Then she asked Diya if she would like her father to discuss the details further with Atul's family? Diya consented. Although trusting of her parent's decisions, was left curious about this young man who seemed to have impressed her father so much. So, she did what most of us from the internet age did, googled the young man. As his picture came up on a well known social networking website, Diya smiled to herself. He was indeed as handsome as her father had described. Then she looked up about him education, his interests and hobbies. Surprisingly, everything seemed perfect. From reading, to appreciating art, to describing himself as a quiet, thoughtful introvert, Diya thought her father seemed to have found her the perfect man.

As the days proceeded, Rajan increased his interaction with Atul, sometimes even calling him home on the pretext of discussing the ad campaign. Whenever he came, Kavita went out of the way to make the best of snacks and took every chance to sit with the men, during breaks in their discussions, to learn more about Atul. It seemed Atul too had become comfortable. But each time Diya entered the room, Atul seemed very self conscious. He would never speak more than a polite hello. He would dig his head in his work. So after weeks of working from home, on and off, Rajan thought it was time to get things in motion. That evening, as Atul came, Rajan took him to the garden and broached the topic that had been on his mind since the first time he interacted with Atul. He openly spoke of his desires with the young lad, his hopes for his daughter's future and his fears. As he looked expectantly at Atul for a reaction, the boy, although shocked, politely touched his feet, and asked for permission to discuss the details with his family, for without their consent he would not make such an important commitment.

That evening was a tense one at Diya's home, but with the morning light, came good news from Atul's end, asking for Rajan to visit his home with his family to meet Atul's parents. After much deliberation, discussion and argument at Rajan's family home, he was finally able to convince the elders of his family that he truly believed that Atul was the right man for his daughter. He had made up his mind, and only hoped for the blessings of the elders for his daughter.

That evening the families met, and all seemed to be perfect. Diya was welcomed with open arms into the home, and everyone raved about her simplicity, expressive eyes and most importantly, her soft nature. They valued all the things that Rajan held dear about his daughter. All his fears slowly kept slipping away. He was now getting more and more comfortable about letting go of his little girl into this home. There would be times she would find it tough, being from completely different cultures, but he was sure his daughter would have a lovely boy like Atul on her side, to help her through the way.

Atul loved Diya unconditionally. He valued her. He always spoke highly of her to his family and friend, how she adjusted brilliantly and won everyone's hearts. Diya did more for his family than he himself. Atul was sure Diya knew how much he cared for and valued her, and that she was his princess, just like he had promised her father she would be the day he married her.

But her truth was different. Diya too loved Atul immensely, and she knew he was not one who would show his love openly to her. She could not remember the last time he told her he loved her, or kissed her. Despite that she was sure of his love for her. What she was not so sure was if he valued or respected her the same way. It was not that he hurt her ever intentionally. It were his habits that raised these questions for Diya. Atul usually worked long hours. He loved his work and usually had little time for Diya. One home, he went straight to his room and just watched TV. There were times he did not even acknowledge her on his way in, and if she tried to speak, he would ask her to wait since he was either thinking something or writing a text or email to someone on his phone. And when he did speak to her, it was only when there was work. There were times she felt he was rude to her from morning to evening. It was not that he did it intentionally, it was his way of talking at home since he was young, but to her this was completely new and unacceptable. She could not fathom how he could either snap at her or raise his voice to her while they were alone and sometimes even in front of others. But he never hit her. Not once did he harm her physically, and rarely even intentionally through his words. But he still managed to hurt her a lot by all his actions. For she felt uncared for and disrespected.

One evening, when she had rehearsed the conversation in her mind a number of times, Diya sat down next to Atul, as he watched TV, and in passing mentioned her woes to him. He paid little attention at first, and just acknowledged her on and off. Then when her talking distracted his TV watching, he finally turned to her and told her to stop nagging him. Slightly taken aback at the choice of words, since Diya rarely ever spoke her heart to anyone, she walked away with tears streaming down her eyes. As Atul followed her and sat her down to reason with her on why it was wrong of her to start badgering him after a long tough day at work, Diya felt she was maybe being too emotional.

That night, many questions kept her awake. Since she knew how much she meant to Atul and how much he loved her, why was she so unhappy? Was love not enough for her happiness? After all Atul did so much for her, met all her desires and fancies. Why was she feeling so unhappy and empty in her life? If he loved her, did it not mean he respected her too? He spoke highly of her to the world, so what if he vent out his frustrations by raising his voice at her when they were alone? Was it OK to put up with it? Why did it feel wrong? Why did she not feel like the Princess within, the way dad and Atul told her she was?

That night she thought she would turn to something she had let go since her marriage, her painting. Through the night she painted, and in her art, she expressed all her anguish, concern, worries, desires and concerns. The piece was complete by the time Atul woke in the morning, and as he walked into the living room, looking for Diya, he felt her tempest through the canvas. In that one moment, he realised how much the conversation from last night meant to Diya. He just thought it to be one of those nagging things some wives are famous for, but now he knew it was time for change. It was time to really remind himself, and more importantly Diya, that she truly was his Princess. And from that day on, he resolved to tell her more often that he loved her, and to cherish the time they shared together.

But at that very instant Atul realised that the time for showing his love had long passed, for Diya lay there motionless on the sofa, peaceful, free from all her worries and pain. He hugged her tight and kissed her hard, for he wanted her to know that he did really love her!

Thursday, 26 March 2015

"Move over sun and give me some sky, I’ve got some wings and I’m ready to fly"

As I walk my way to Malone's Irish Bar, sleepy and tired, I somehow feel a sense of relief at my first dissertation submission for the session. It has been 3 months already since I came to this enchanting city.. 3 months full of new experiences and diverse emotions.. Meeting some of the most interesting mix of people.. I still remember it like it was yesterday that I walked out of the airport, the chilling cold breeze lifted my spirits with the excitement of the year to come.. A warm smile on my lips...

Winter has set in.. 3 pm and it is dark already.. As I come to the entrance of the Meadows I suddenly halt.. there is a sense of anxiety that overpowers me.. I am familiar with this feeling but have not felt it since I arrived in this city.. I wonder why there is this shiver in my spine.. and suddenly the quiet loneliness fills me up..
My brain has already set in action the reactions to this anxiety.. all my senses are heightened.. my heartbeat is racing.. I keep looking over my shoulders.. and as soon as someone comes close.. my body flexes.. It is my brain's automatic self-defense mechanism.. a result of my years of trying to protect myself from the cat calls, stares, light brushes, groping.. the list is endless..

But I wonder, do I really need it here??

As I slowly cross the dark quiet path.. people cross me from all directions.. oblivious to the fear that has grappled me.. I cross a young couple, much in love.. and as they smile at me.. I wonder again if my fears are unwarranted.. I have already experienced many a times how different this city is from things back home.. people here care to look out for you even though you are a stranger.. they try to protect you and advise you..

As I head close to my destination I see cars and huge crowds of university students out for a fun evening at the end of the term.. I slowly start to relax..

Although the automatic response to dark nights and lonely stretches may take a while to curb.. this city I now call home has given me true independence.. As I walk down to the entrance of Malone's I am not scared or anxious anymore.. cautious yes (probably some habits take longer than others to overcome).. But I realize.. I am free.. the kind of free I had never known earlier.. where I am not at guard at all times.. where I am not protecting myself from everyone around me.. where I can walk free no matter what time of day or night.. and experience the beauty of my city rather than looking over my shoulder every other second..

At last.. I am free to explore and experience this amazing city I have fallen in love with..