A hole in my heart

Yesterday, I plugged a hole in my heart that I didn’t realize existed. Or at least that I didn’t realize ‘still existed’.

As a painfully  shy girl in a hostel full of happy boisterous girls I had only a few friends. D was one of the closest. We were inseparable. Sharing the complexities of our ten-year old worlds with each other. For some reason, I hardly remember now,  we fell apart. All attempts at reconciliations failed. After we graduated from high school, and moved our separate ways our paths never crossed.

Till yesterday!

I caught a glimpse of her in a crowded place. Even with the changes that twenty-five years bring, I recognized her instantly. I thought she caught my eye too but I couldn’t be sure. Did she recognize me? Could she still carry the grudge? The reason had been so silly to begin with. But I was in doubt. I was scared of being snubbed. Worse, I was scared of flaring up the antagonism again.

I held back as she disappeared into the crowd.

But the memories flooded my head and my heart. I discovered that even though all the great friends I found and kept through  subsequent years filled my life and my world with love and friendship. D’s space still remained. Unknown even to me, the twelve-year-old girl in me still missed her old ‘best friend’.

Should I go looking for her in the crowd. Where would I find her? What would I say? Had I lost her again? Suddenly, reconnecting with D became crucial. It became important to speak to her. Even if she snubbed me, I had to give it a try.

I scanned the crowds again and caught a glimpse of her. “D”, I called out. With my heart in my mouth. She turned around. This was the moment of reckoning. How would she react?

As D turned, I could see the spark of recognition in her eyes. And then her face broke into a grin.

It wasn’t even awkward. We just jumped into a conversation. We exchanged notes on our adult lives.   And we looked at each other. The way only old friends can. Seeing behind the carefully groomed adult faces the little girls that we once were.

I am not sure what awaits for us in the future. Maybe we will grow to be best friends again. Maybe we will realize that we have grown too differently to be bosom buddies ever again. Who knows? And who cares?

Right now I am just happy that I fixed the hole in my heart. I got closure. And that’s important.

Do you have a friend you’ve fallen out with, never to speak again? Do you think about him/her? If a chance presented itself would you reach out?

Celebrations that end…..

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 33; the thirty-third edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The theme for the month is ‘Celebrations’

The young lady, lay prostate on the narrow table-type bed. Her nylon saree sticking to her sweaty skin in the heavy summer heat. A ceiling fan whirred noisily in the room. I watched her anxiously. She looked back at me, in a way that said “Don’t worry about me, I am OK!”

I couldn’t help worrying about her though. She could not be more than 19 or 20 years old. Her name was ‘Mahua‘. Short and petite like most of the tribal women I had seen around here. Mahua looked malnourished, and not at all like the full-figured, almost round pregnant women I had seen back home.  She had walked 20 kms in the summer heat to reach this little hospital setup that Dr. Rani and Abhay Bang ran. Mahua had been experiencing intense labor pains since the last three hours. And though she had every reason to be scared and apprehensive, she maintained a stoic silence. There was a quiet dignity about her .

This was the first time I was going to attend an actual delivery. I had been watching Rani tai attending to the patients in her clinic since the last ten days. Today Rani tai had graciously allowed me to  assist her in conducting Mahua’s delivery. Rani tai, spoke  with Mahua in the local dialect, that I didn’t quite understand. But it was obvious that her words were warm and friendly, because Mahua was soon lying down comfortably on the delivery table. Rani tai then gave her assistant some instructions and showed me how to time the contractions. She then left to attend to her lengthy line of patients.

Each time a contraction came, Mahua’s body convulsed! her face contorted in pain. But she did not utter a single cry of pain.  Soon the contractions became longer and started coming faster.  From one convulsion to another, Mahua now seemed to be in a constant state of pain. Still, the assistant maintained that the baby was nowhere near crowning right now. I wondered if Mahua’s frail body could take this much torture?  To give myself something to  do. so as to avoid panicking.  I wet a napkin and ran it over Mahua’s  dry lips. Hoping it will give her some relief. She smiled at me graciously.

“Relax !” I wanted to tell her. “You don’t have to worry about  the others around you right now. Just focus on yourself. Shout, vent, get angry if you wish to, scream, let us know you are in pain”.

I had heard my aunts speak of child-birth. It was the most painful process of a woman’s life! they said.  On a scale of 1 to 10 they rated the pain of childbirth  at 20! “It felt like your very insides were being squeezed and shifted about to make space for the child” said one. The other,   a gentle woman who hardly ever uttered a loud word recounts, somewhat sheepishly, about the way she had constantly shouted and had almost hit the nurse when the pain during her prolonged delivery had became unbearable.

I almost wished the lady would hit me now. Anything would be better than helplessly watching her go through this silently. As the pains came sooner, Rani tai returned.

When I had asked Rani tai, if I could watch a delivery. She had been unsure.  Laughingly she recounted to me the story of  a city girl like me who had ended up fainting herself, as the  baby crowned! Leaving Rani tai to tend to both – the patient and her! I had assured Rani tai,  I was made of sterner stuff. Now with the delivery about to begin, both Rani tai and the girl looked at me with concern. Did I see them exchange a ” Is this girl upto watching this” look? My god! Mahua herself  was barely my age, if she could give birth, I could at least watch! I straightened up , so I would look taller and tried my best to look calm and in control. Wetting more napkins, I applied them to the girl’s forehead and palms. Hoping the sensation would distract her from her pain and give her some relief from the heat.

As the baby started crowning. I tightened my grip on Mahua’s hands. She dug her nails into my palms. Where was her husband? or her mother? or mother in law? shouldn’t someone be here by her side right now? I wondered.

I asked her if she would like me to call anyone. No she nodded , not having the energy to speak. Rani tai indicated to  me there was some trouble and she would need to cut a little bit. “Cut” The word itself scared me!Surely, now the girl will  cry!

Rani tai explained to Mahua,l what needed to be done. Then proceeded to give a precise cut. The girl lying beneath me took in a sharp breath! her hands were clammy where she held me. Still Mahua didn’t scream. Not even a whimper.

The baby came, Rani tai held it to me. I was mesmerized! The feeling of holding a new life in my hands was too profound to be written in words. Time stood still for a second in the labour room. Next moment, we  all burst into smiles. Mahua looked relieved and closed her eyes for a second. I lay the baby  next to her. On seeing her baby lie next to her, Mahua smiled, a wide toothy smile!

Just then, there was a knock at the door. As I opened the door, a middle-aged woman stepped in . She strode purposefully towards Mahua. With one deft hand she uncovered the baby, took one look at the new-born baby girl. And walked out, without uttering a word. I looked questioningly at Mahua. She quickly turned her face  away from me. But not before I saw a tear roll down her eye.

The girl who had not whimpered during the six-hour ordeal was broken by ‘silence’. The celebrations had ended, before they had begun!

This is a story from my own life. As a final year student of MSW (Masters in Social Work) I had chosen to work at SEARCH. SEARCH, in Gadhchiroli Maharshtra is an NGO run by Dr. Abhay Bang and his very dedicated wife Dr. Rani Bang. It works in an extremely poor  naxalite prone  tribal area. It attempts to provide high quality health care including reproductive and child care, besides many educational and empowering services to the poor tribal women and men living in the surrounding villages. Dr Rani Bang and Dr Abhay Bang are two of the most inspiring and humble human beings I have ever had the good fortune to meet.

Tai : A term used for an older woman/ aunt affectionately

Mahua: The name of a popular tree in this tribal belt. The flowers of this tree are used to brew a local liquor.

The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. Introduced By: SIS, Participation Count:4

Reported Missing from WordPress! A tale Of Over enthusiastic children and busy Moms

Those of you who are kind enough to read me regularly know that I have been MIA lately.

To the uninitiated ‘MIA’  means missing in action – Strong words you say?

Well maybe! But that’s how I feel

I often come across bloggers who are not being regular on their blogs – Many of them complain of hitting a block – A Writer’s Block – I envy that, it means they have been writing long and often enough to have run out of things to say!

And then there are others who have started full-time college again! (Kudos to that).

There are those who are having their books published and are obviously a bit busy – What with all the preparations needed for the upcoming book release and the numerous talks, I suppose.

Then there are those who have a full-time job, where the new boss is acting up and piling their desks sky-high with files! My sympathies to the last.  (May the boss be transferred soon so you may retreat  behind your computer pretending to work while lining up posts to be freshly pressed instead!)

But none of these noble reasons are the reason for my forced absenteeism from your in-boxes.

The reason I am missing from WordPress  is because

I have over enthusiastic kids!!!

Ya! You heard me!

I can hear the “tut tuts”. I know it’s not fashionable to speak against your kids. That its politically incorrect to point a finger at one’s children! It’s definitely not okay to blame them for your failures!

AND YET I DO IT!

Children! It’s your fault, I don’t get any time to blog!

There I said it! Loud and Clear! Feel better already!

Before the WP forum against “Parents who rant about their children” descends on me Let me put up some hard evidence.

Some of you may know,  I have two children – M, My daughter is now Eight and K, my son is six.

M is an avid artist and a novice keyboard player K a budding percussionist! And a persistent tennis player!  Between school work, music and tennis classes life is always busy.

And yet I can safely say we didn’t know what “busy” meant till we encountered, last week.

image courtesy chickenwingscomics.com2011-10-18-cw0536

Last week, was the GRAND MOM of all the busy weeks we have had – EVER!

It all began with an innocuous announcement by M last Tuesday. As I picked her from school.  “Mom Meehu is participating in a dance competition.” Let me interject here and fill in that Meehu is a good friend of M. She is a talented dancer! What you would call a gifted dancer! And it makes perfect sense for her to indulge her passion!

“That’s nice!” I replied somewhat absent-mindedly!

“I want to too” – now that got me attention. M has never shown much interest in dancing. There have been a few attempts here and there. At family weddings or in summer camps but never too much interest! “You do?”  “Yes” she said determinedly!

“But there is hardly any time left to practice. You can’t enter a dance competition with two days worth of practice!” I said in what I hoped, was my most reasonable tone. Or at least the most reasonable tone that one can adopt while thinking about the long hours required to put together a costume, find a dance teacher, select a song, pick and drop for practices while maintaining a balance with school work and my own household and office chores.  “Mom are you trying to discourage me?”

That worked better than any argument that M could have made. Frantic calls were made, a dance teacher was found and M and I were ensconced for the rest of the evening in the dance teacher’s  care. M practicing, very sincerely I must say. And me, trying to organize the dress. Three days whizzed by! Old ‘lehengas’ were retrieved and adjusted for size, matching bangles were bought. Friends were approached for jewellery and props were arranged. The evening of the dance competition found us both at the venue. M, all dressed up to dazzle  in a gorgeous ‘lehenga’, and me armed with  two large bags (to battle any costume emergencies we may face)  and an even larger camera determined to capture every precious moment.

All dressed for the dance

The night before the competition, while reading M, a story, as is our routine, I had tried somewhat clumsily to impart some acquired wisdom about competitions. “M, you know right! That I am proud of you. No matter how you do in the competition” M just sighed and spoke in the placating tone she reserves for her younger brother usually “Mumma, don’t worry I am participating because I want to participate, not to get a prize” Good enough!

“Should we leave?” I asked M after her dance was done. The dance had gone off without a hitch. M had managed to remember every step and had shown great confidence onstage. She had done well, actually very well,. But she was no ‘natural’ and she had not been ‘dancing’ since the day she was born!

“Of course not mum, let’s wait till the prizes” . But you may not get any, I wanted to say. Thankfully I managed to bite that back. Prizes were announced and Meehu stood first. Two of M’s close friends came second and third. I sneaked a look searchingly at the little girl sitting beside me for signs of disappointment. I wasn’t sure whether M would remember her own mature dictates. Surely I would not blame her if she got caught in the excitement of it all and felt let down when she got no prize. But M was happily clapping and cheering her friends! Bravo! I felt like saying! I don’t care who gets the trophy for dancing, the trophy for “putting yourself out there” belongs to you M!

As we got into our car,  tired and hungry. I was contented. Yes it had been tedious and tiring and had required a lot of adroit juggling but the lesson had been worth it! For both – M and Me. I was ready to go home and crash. But that was not to be. As we sat down to dinner M beamed. “Mum tomorrow is the drawing competition. K and I will participate! I am good at drawing. I always get a prize!” That was true; she often did do well at drawing. But that may not hold true tomorrow! I began to say something, to the effect of prizes and what they mean or don’t mean in fact! But saw her eager face and decided to let it go.

My little girl is growing up! She figured it out today. I am sure she will figure it out tomorrow too! All she needs is a little practice! And no matter how busy I am I won’t deny her that.

This is what our week looked like:

The WEEK this week

And just as I get ready to publish this M’s teacher calls. She has been selected to represent her school in a quiz competition in Delhi! Will I be willing to prepare her and escort her for the same? Of course I will!!! The blog can wait for now! My daughter has too many new waters to test! And lessons to learn and so does her mom!

lehengas – a traditional long skirt worn for Rajasthani folk dance.

To Mam with Love!

Back in school, I was shy and timid. A mouse!   My classmates ignored me. I sat alone in my corner bubbled in a cocoon, not wishing to be heard. Preferably not even be seen. An invisibility cloak was the thing topmost on my list of “Things I Desire”. I needn’t have bothered! I was for all practical purposes already  “Invisible”. My teachers didn’t know I existed.

Then, walked in Mam Kuhad. She taught us English in class 6th. I must have been 11 yrs. She was a wonderful teacher. I was a bright student (if a tongueless one) and I enjoyed the way she brought alive the legends. Shakespeare, Keats, Wordsworth, Wilde. One day she set us an assignment! We were to write our own story using  a few opening lines that she’d given us. . I don’t recall the exact lines but they had a ‘frog’ somewhere.  The assignment in itself was exciting. But to me, what happened later was remarkable!

She made me read my work to the class and commended me. The  story that I’d written was nothing spectacular. Just a variation of a commonly told tale. I don’t think she made me read it, that summer afternoon,  to the 40 barely interested girls,  because my work was too great to lie unrevealed. Rather, I think it was her way of saying  she knew I existed. That what I had to say mattered.

I would like to say that my life changed drastically after that. That I went from being a quiet nobody to the center of attention, surrounded by giggling girls. But  I would be lying! The difference her action  made was more subtle. I began to enjoy my lessons more.  I started to put in more efforts in my assignments. I started to see, that outshining in my academics was a way of extracting myself from this nameless-ness, I had plunged myself in. And eventually I did!

I don’t even know if Mam Kuhad, knows of the difference she has made in my life. Or of the countless more that she must have met and taught in her years as a teacher.  Cause I never gathered the courage to tell her. And that is my point. The reason for this trip down memory lane. Teachers are often not aware of the power they have over their student’s lives, their psyches and personalities. With a small little gesture they can change the course of young lives. Make or break them.  Most of the teachers I have had are smarter and more sincere than the local business tycoons or petty politicians I see around me. Being a teacher in India is not a very lucrative job. And yet they do it! With joy and dedication! And me and millions like me are eternally grateful! Thank-you dear teachers for everything! In student speak “You Rock!”

Do you have any “Special Teacher” memory, you’d like to share?

September 5th is celebrated as Teachers day in India.  I had written this post same time last year. Thought it was worth re-posting :)

Poet unknown

PS: A happy coincidence associated with this post, that I would like to share with all of you. As I said here, one of my biggest regrets was, that I had never been able to tell Mam Kuhad of the special way she had touched my life. One day, about 7 months back, I got a friend request from her on facebook. It unraveled, that a student of hers had read this post. Though he didn’t know me, or exactly which Mam Kuhad I was writing about. He correctly assumed it was meant for her and forwarded her a link! The power of assumptions and internet :)

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Sometimes even the best intentions are not enough

Today I will talk about a hurt. A hurt that I have refrained from speaking about, though its been uppermost in my mind. A while back someone walked into my life. Someone , Lets call her K. The person was hurt and scarred. Angry with the world and disappointed with its ways. Lonely and lost! Or at least that is what it seemed to me!

Now I’ve lived a tough childhood. Lonely and lost! I gained my life when a few kind souls extended their hands in friendship to me. I know the power of friendship, the strength of positive relationships, the beauty of having someone to just talk with. I know the difference the small gestures can make, to a troubled person’s life.

I also know how few people make those gesture. How few of them reach out. How difficult it is to find someone who will walk that extra step and show concern. Most people when faced with a person who’s having a difficult time just avert their eyes and move on with their lives. Unwilling or hesitant to reach out.

Anyway, having experienced it first hand, I try to reach out. I am comfortable asking people how they are really feeling and whether everything is okay in their lives? I did the same with K and was bestowed with K’s trust. I took K under my wing, so to speak. Over time it became usual for us to converse about all matters – personal, career and family. With time  I began to consider K as a close friend., who would be a part of my family and our lives for years to come.

But this was not to be. For reasons still not known to me K began to first worry about me and then doubt me. Nothing I said or did was right anymore. Everything I did was looked upon, with suspicion. I was accused of  everything from a bad family background, to low morals to alleged attempt to sabotage K‘s career.

I had an idea that K had a troubled past. That there had been people there who had done K wrong. Now I began to doubt whether that was entirely true. Maybe, those ‘wrongs and hurts’ were imagined and created too. In which case, I reasoned, I should stand by K even more. A disturbed person needs even more support and can be pardoned more indiscretions.

I tried hard to explain, to K, that none of the accusations were true. Some of the allegations were so outlandish, they did not even make practical sense. I tried to reason that none of the accusations had any base and seemed  more like figments of imagination of a troubled mind than anything real. I fought hard to clear K‘s doubts. Very hard to save our friendship. Very hard to  hold on.

Sometimes people are their own worst enemies. Sometimes behaviors are self-destructive. And while one knows its best to move away after a point it’s very difficult to move away and stand as a bystander when someone you care about is destroying their lives. Literally banging their head against the wall. My family and friends tried to console me. Explaining, that by saying the stuff that K was saying.  K was ruining her own reputation rather than mine. I suppose that was meant to comfort me. But it only made matters worse for me. Cause the idea of K ruining her reputation was in no way soothing. Actually, it was even more disconcerting!

No matter how hard I tried, K‘s doubts wouldn’t go. No matter how much I clarified, newer and even more outlandish allegations were pushed on me. K was going underwater and if I held on any longer I would be pulled in too.  And along with me, my wonderful family. I had to stop. I had to wrench myself away. I had to make a break.

It was one of the most difficult thing I have done in my adult life. There are many times I still wonder if there was anything more I could have done? Any other way I could have helped? Where had I gone wrong?

The answers elude me.

But this much I know. Everyday I send out a silent prayer. A prayer for K. I imagine that prayer engulfing K, shielding K  like an armor. Providing strength,  healing hurts (imagined or otherwise) and bestowing a feeling of well-being.

Somewhere in my heart I have a vague hope that someday K will wake up and realize the truth about me. Someday I will be a friend again! But I also have the nagging doubt, that it may just be a fanciful wish of a hopeless idealist!

In which case Goodbye K! Goodbye and God bless!

I could never be your enemy. Only wish you’d let me continue to be a friend!

Letting Go
image from promoremixes.blogspot.com

Have you ever had to let go of a friend? Why? Was it a little bit  difficult/ very difficult/  torturous?

Travel theme: Sunset – A photo essay

The setting sun at coorg

Tell me O wise one!

Is there anything as sublime

as breath taking as

the sight of the setting sun?

Sunset at the sand dunes near Khimsar, Rajasthan

Each time the sun goes down

on this beautiful golden desert town
fervently to the sky they raise their hands

sending a million prayers up
For peace, prosperity and mercy

on their barren yellow land

Khimsar, Rajasthan

The night fairy beckons

the day monster’s gone

Bathed in glow I wait

For twilight’s melodious song

Sunset at Andamans

Dark clouds

part your heavy veil
grant me
one last long look of this  vale

Andamas

The one whose pallet holds

so many shades of gold

Can you even fathom

what his soul may behold

Andamans

Bereft of hues

still splendid

the incandescent sun

takes leave

Andamans

As my darling we part

give me a last lingering touch

The morning we will begin anew

our never ending love

Goa

‘My Sun’ it never leaves me

His bright chatter fills every moment of my day

The setting sun doesn’t perturb me

I  listen rapturously to what ‘My Sun’ has to say

The theme at Where’s my backpack?‘ this week was Sunset. I have a million pictures of the sunset. Its one of those things of nature I can never get enough of. These are the few I picked from my old photographs. Hope you enjoy them!

Waiting for One more!!!

This one is for all the bloggers over there. I don’t know about you? But blogging has been an incredible journey for me. It started very tentatively. Like a young bride not entirely sure about her position in her new husband’s family.  I was unsure, almost shy about writing.

I have always written – since forever. Mostly, on tissue papers!!! Are you rolling your eyes!   “Tissue papers???” sounds strange, I know. Can I say in my defense that my husband and I run two restaurants and a cafe. Tissue papers are  easily available. And quite nice to write on, really! As long as you don’t insist on using a fountain pen.  Now, fancy fountain pens have never been my things. I am more of a use and throw ball point, ‘no fuss’ kind of a person. So, tissue papers worked just fine, for me!

The bigger issue was, that these square pieces of white flimsy absorbent papers that carried the imprint of my creative expressions carefully scribbled upon with ball points. Almost always landed in the dustbins. Unread by anyone but me! And I am not entirely sure whether that counts? I mean if you read your own stuff are you the reader? or the writer? – Complicated? huh!

Forgive me,  if I go a bit slowly over this. You see, I like to put  events, in the proper sequence, as  they happen. Don’t you always hate it? When authors jump between two or three decades. Going back and forth, without a care for the reader. Always leaves me in a bit of a tizzy!

So to put this in a timeline. In January, 2011, I  had been to the Literature Festival at Jaipur.   I live in a small town and its  a rare opportunity for me to get to see, meet, and listen to so many great poets and authors together. Writers who sit by my bedside, accompany me on holidays and long train journeys! People, I admire! I got inspired (Who wouldn’t?) and I promised myself that by the time I am back next year I would start writing, a bit more formally! The year went by – March , April, May, June ….. August , September.  I hadn’t yet fulfilled my  resolution!

Then something happened, something that left me feeling misunderstood, used and taken advantage of. Writing has always been the outlet for me. To express stuff that I can’t actually verbalize, cause I am too deferrent, timid or shy.  I decided to take the plunge. Killing two birds with a stone, ‘Just another wake-up calll’  (JAWC) was born. I didn’t give much thought to what I will call it or how it would look? Frankly I wasn’t writing to be read. Only to write in a way that didn’t land up in dustbins.

I am a ‘tech idiot’! I didn’t know about communities or followers or pinging or links!  I am ashamed to say that the initial posts were not even categorized or tagged. I used to read other blogs. But was too shy to comment. Not really believing that these beautifully creative bloggers cared at all for my opinion or comments.

Imagine my surprise when fellow bloggers started to find me. ‘Likes’ and comments fell in my mailbox encouraging me to continue writing.  Getting the  first follower was heady! I went to his profile and checked everything about him. Slowly  as the new bride became familiar with her surroundings, she opened up. A tentative hello here, A shy comment there, Soon I was in the middle of my own small community. I began to find bloggers, I liked to read and follow. JAWC too began to gather its own followers. 10 , 20, 30, 50….. I learned that every follower brought another pat on the back. Every award more encouragement and a drive to write even better.

you have a new follower! image courtesy i.techmadly.com

Then came last Sunday when JAWC got its 97th follower. I realized with a jolt, We are close to a milestone! There are bloggers, even in my own community who have 500+ or  1000+ even more followers.  I know to them 100 may seem like nothing!  But for me, whose journey began so humbly, 100 seems like  a magic number.

The magic number that still eludes me! Over the course of the week,  I’ve been watching closely. The Growth post got me a couple of  new followers. Welcome Sudhanshu and chabelyvalera. 

And now we are standing at this precarious position waiting for the 100th! Who will that be? (While writing this post, an idea occurred to me! why not give our elusive 100th follower something – a little gift? A dedicated post maybe? Or an honorable mention? ) But  would that be fair? Bribing our way to the 100th ? So we nobly refrained!

But, this we say – Whoever it he/she is, we want them to know that they will be special to JAWC and me … Always!

(Hey! that’s not a bribe!) – A bit of emotional blackmailing maybe! But not really a bribe!

Ciao! for now. Hopefully by the time we meet again, JAWC would have reached  the magic number :)

What have been your blogging milestones? How did you feel just prior to getting there?

 Five Things to do with your children this ‘Rakhi’

Rakhi 2005

Rakhi 2005 (Photo credit: Über Times)

Today  is Rakhi, Or Raksha bandhan. India is a land of festivals. We have one for every day of the year and then some to spare. But that’s what makes India such a wonderful place to grow up in. Here we celebrate everything – harvesting cycles, seasons, God‘s birthdays ( Honestly!!!) , relationships! Raksha bandhan is the festival for brothers and sisters.
For the benefit of those not familiar with India and its customs. On this day sisters tie their brothers a “Rakhi” – something like a friendship band ,  seeking their protection. The brothers give them a gift as a token of their love and affection and promise to look after them and protect them always. In the traditional Indian context this practice made a lot of sense. Women did not have access to power – economic, physical or social and needed a male to protect their interest. Kingdoms were broken or made on the threads of a ‘rakhi’. One did not have to be born of the same parents to be tied in this platonic bond. A girl could tie a ‘rakhi’ to any man they thought worthy to be their brother. Once the bond was made, it was honoured  forever. Indian mythology and history is studded with shining examples of the strength of the bond between such brothers and sisters.
As a child, I was a great fan of Rakhi. It meant being with  cousins, delicious food, and tons of gifts. A large part of Rakhi was the process of making them. A month or more before rakhi, the girls hostel where I studied would come alive. The softest silk threads in impossibly beautiful colors were bought. Rakhi cords were made with these. There were complex techniques and every year even more intricate designs were discovered. Everywhere one looked , girls in twos or alone braiding/ plaiting/ beating, or working their magic on these silkenthreads. Embellishments for the ‘rakhis’ – Beads, dried leaves, feathers, shells, ribbons would be bought, collected,exchanged, stuck upon and opinions sought. Making ‘rakhis’ was not only an art but a religion.

With time though like other festivals, ‘rakhi’ too got commercialized. The feelings were  the same but the personal touch was lost. These days ‘rakhi’ means going to the market and selecting  a ‘rakhi’   that fits one’s budget and aesthetic sense.  Very much like buying a dress! Most ‘rakhis’  in fact come from China! I can only imagine what the Chinese men/ women making those ‘rakhis’ think about them. Definitely not the happy thought we thought about our brothers while making ours.
1 This rakhi instead of going to the market and purchasing the latest fad driven’ rakhi’ of “doremon”  or some other similar Chinese cartoon.  We decided to get creative and make our own ‘ rakhis’. Sadly the silken threads are no longer available. Driven out from the market by (you guessed it) the plastic lit up ‘rakhis’ with ‘made in china’ tags. So we improvised. Using pop up  stickers, satin ribbons, cut outs from old cards and beads etc. from old ‘rakhis’. We created our own ‘rakhis’. A little puppy ‘rakhi’ for the four year old brother who loves puppies, a beaded bracelet for the seven year cousin who loves dressing up. My  daughter indulged her creativity and we got some beautiful personalized ‘rakhis’ and two beaming proud kids.
2. Traditionally ‘Rakhi’ was tied by a sister to a brother seeking protection and care. The brother promised protection and also as the “giver” bestowed gifts on her. In changed circumstances of our home where we attempt to raise both our daughter and son similarly we have changed the rules.  They both tie ‘rakhis’ to each other and they both give and recieve gifts. I hope my daughter will grow up to be as able to look after her brother. And that they will both provide protection, love and care to each other.
3. This year we encouraged our children to fund their own gifts. M, our daughter has just turned eight and K our son is six. A good time we  figured to teach the lesson of finance. The piggy bank was brought out and broken. Treasures divided equally so each child could buy the other a gift, with their own money. The kids were dazzled that all the coins they had carelessly fling into such a handsome sum and that it was theirs to spend. A better lesson in the habit of small saving could not be given.
We also let them decide what they would get for each other. They chose two toy shops they wished to go to, to pick their gifts.  I ferried them around. And was pleasantly surprised with the remarkable thoughtfulness and restrain they displayed. For the first time, M  didn’t head directly towards the dolls and k spent long enough time looking at novels!  That his sister simply adores.  I was proud at the maturity with which they conducted themselves. Carefully checking labels for prices, doing the maths. Trying to make up their minds what the other would enjoy more.  When K came to me To ask for an extra thirty rupees so his sister could also have the skipping rope she wanted .  I was only too ready to oblige my little ‘magi’.
4. In our home My sister in laws had started this lovely practice of making the dessert for ‘rakhi’ themselves. No Indian festival is complete without a sweet. We’ve decided to adopt this beautiful gesture. Today both K and M are cooking little surprises for each other. I hope to raise not only a daughter who can protect and provide but a son who can cook and feed.
 Its easy to shun a festival for being steeped in  chauvinism and smack of gender bias. But its infinitely more satisfying to adapt the festival to suit newer values , modern scenarios and create something awesome and new. So that while our children don’t miss out on all the fun of festivals they also don’t fall prey to old “messages” about gender rules and acceptable social roles
What is your favorite festival? Have you adapted any old customs to better suit your own modern views. What was your experience?
In case you are wondering why this post has got links to wikipedia pages on god, silken, chinese cartoon etc. ? I wish to clarify the links were unintended. I just don’t know how to deactivate them. Some silly wordpress issue that I cant seem to get my head around. Bear with me till I figure it out!

Weekly photo challenge : “inside”

Don’t put the Blame on me ….

my insides hurt

they pain

and cramp

and ache

and strain

the memory

of what you did

I was

six

just  a child

and I loved you wild

with you

I felt

safe

protected

cared for.

but that touch

was that justified?

this must be

the way its done

loving

and caring

and protecting.

yet it felt so wrong

this secret

we kept

from the

world all along

it rested heavy

on my little heart

when realization dawned

the hurt

humiliation

anger

and guilt

immense guilt

almost made my insides spill

had I brought it on?

Could I?

Did I?

Should I?

share the blame

of your unrestrained lust

your brutality

your sneakiness

your  shame

yes I did share your secret

but

the  crime wasn’t mine

already

Its scars I  bear

the wounds

so deep

they will always be there

my tormentor

at least now

let me be

don’t

please don’t

try to

put the

blame on me ….

 

other entries in this weeks challenge

 

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Taking a walk down memory lane …..

I look at the clock. Its 7:35. “If we don’t leave home in 5 we will be late for school” I shout. The children come hurriedly. K tucking his t-shirt in his barely fitting shorts. “Need to get him a new pair”, I make a mental note to myself in the ever-growing “to do” list. And then comes M. Her shoulder length hair a mess. “What? Your hair is still not combed” I shout. No! she shouts back even more loudly. Realizing this won’t work. I attempt a calmer approach.  “Sit on the chair, I will make it” And then begins the  inevitable struggle. I brush, ‘un-knot’, detangle. She squirms, grimaces and wriggles.   ” I think we should get your hair cut short”, I say

“Ma, you remember what happened when dad did last time” she retorts!!!

I do!!! It was too precious to forget. This is  something I wrote about it back then  Welcome back Rubberbands.... Today M and I are  taking a trip down memory lane.  Care to join us.

Do you have any favorite  posts that treasure memories of your children as they were/are growing up? Aren’t you glad you wrote them, when you did? Do you go back to them often?