Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ek choti si kahani...

“Oh my God, what’s this?” my domestic help let out a squeal as she entered the balcony to sweep it. The balcony was filled with all kinds of debris because my neighbors upstairs were renovating their house. “You tell them to clean up the place, I will only sweep it, am not throwing it out,” my domestic help said decisively. Being a Tamilian in Delhi is not a very easy thing, especially if Hindi isn’t exactly at your disposal, even if you had studied it with √©lan and even won a scholarship for scoring high marks! Well, I did all this in Tamil Nadu, where one emotion that unites ALL Tamilians irrespective of their class or caste is the raw hatred they feel towards Hindi! Incidentally, my accountant at one of my workplaces in Chennai refused to smile at me the moment he saw that I had studied Hindi in school! Boy, it is one of those things in life where you don’t have a choice! Mom and dad in their dreams of seeing their daughters in ‘comfortable’ central government jobs put us in Hindi sections despite the smirks from all and sundry!

Anyway, my help had decided that I must definitely talk to the neighbor, and I started composing my lines in chaste text book Hindi. I decided that I must be my polite best even if the neighbor irritates me, which delhities do so well. Actually, am not exaggerating. If you are a single woman, a tamilian, dark, smart, and have a go-getter attitude with friends visiting you in cars, cycles, and autos, you have had it from the neighbors, even if you are living in a south Delhi apartment. Well, I don’t say that evry one in delhi is like this, but even sane, good people behave differently if you fit in the above description. Anyway, as I was rehearsing my lines near the sink, my eyes fell on the bathroom window! It was gone! Yes, the glass was completely smashed. The sight set me on fire, all my tamilian passion fueled the fires, a strange mix of tamilian pride and feministic anger surfaced and my chaste Hindi was in no time replaced with some choicest expletives from Tamil, Hindi and English. I rushed upstairs, taking two steps at a time and banged the door of the ‘over-smart’ North Indian neighbor. A 16-year-old guy opened the door and moved away to hold a doggie away from me. Of course, the doggie did mellow down the anger, but I was in no way prepared to face what happened next.

A middle-aged woman entered the room and greeted me with one of most beautiful smiles I have seen. I melted at the very sight and gasped for breath and words, forgetting all the rehearsed lines. I looked at the doggie for inspiration, he nodded. Taking that as some sort of divine intervention, I quietly explained to the neighbor about the broken glass and the debris on my balcony. She cheerfully said, “beta, aap nahi rehate ho nah, isiliye hum saaf nahi kar sake.” (Daughter, you are not here during the day dear, that why we are not able to clean it.) Then, I mumbled about the broken glass, which she accepted to fix soon, and then she enquired if I had had breakfast and that I must come to her place often and have food and even chat with her. I just looked at her wide eyed, smiled and hoping some of her cheer and love will rub off on me. I hadn’t understood till that moment the price of a smile…it is truly invaluable. It was such a beautiful start for my day, I continued to smile at every one and even wish people…a smile can make all the difference to you and people around, only if you choose to do it more often.

Keep smiling always…

with lots of smile....signing off...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Understanding the meaning and quality of space

A discussion with a colleague about space got me started on this whole debate of space…the need for it and occasionally, its denial or even nonexistence for the uninitiated. Let’s start from the basics…when exactly do we understand the concept of space, aka, individual space versus community/shared spaces. In India, having an individual space is a luxury, whereas in the developed countries it is a fundamental rightJ why is it a luxury, and in some cases, considered a curse, in India? One obvious reason of course is the paucity of space, what with just single families owning acres and acres of prime property at the heart of the city. The poor of course are left to ‘share’ the leftover space, besides the leftover food of the rich and the mighty.

I have heard many a lament about nuclear families, the dying of the unnecessarily glorified joint family systems, the importance of family dinners every single day, even if people of the family come home at different times! But, practically speaking, aren’t nuclear families more workable? Is it really necessary to indulge in mollycoddling with one’s extended family members every day? Don’t family dinners every day bring in their share of problems? I mean, when I am working on an important deliverable at work or when I have this irresistible urge to have a MacD dinner, should I numb my feelings and revel in the joys of a family dinner? With changing lifestyles, food habits, preferences, and even waking hours, shouldn’t the society and the family remold itself?

I believe, to satisfy one’s needs, we have created structured institutions that have brought in their own share of problems that have no simple solutions. I see structures, such as the ones in which women definitely moving into the husband’s house with proper markers of marriage, giving up careers to tend the parents-in-law, men working hard to earn an extra buck to give the son the best so that the son in turn will support his old parents, make people to share a compulsive space at the cost of the realization of conscious choices. However, with industrialization and globalization, one is constantly faced with choices! Ten years back, I didn’t even know that I had a choice about the kind of clothes I could wear! Extrapolating the idea, a lot of us didn’t know, or rather still don’t know, that we had a choice about our beliefs, our religion, our clothes, our identity, our profession, our partners, and our food habits! But, today, the world I see has changed so much that I cannot exist without being conscious of the choices before me and making informed choices! I can no longer be without exercising my free will. And, when I exercise my free will, I am at loggerheads with structures that have failed to change with the time!

I do not advocate for the ‘going away’ of the family, but I definitely advocate the need for the people who make up the family to meaningfully relate to the trends of the world. An interesting example is choosing one’s partners. Today’s world presents one with a multitude of opportunities and scenarios where you need to make quick and correct decisions, whose consequences you are ready to face. Sometimes, you even plan to mitigate the risks! We make such foolproof plans that will simply not go haywire. However, when a girl and a boy like each other, the biggest opposition seems to come from the ‘seemingly caring’ families! In such a scenario, isn’t the family playing a detrimental role in building an individual’s confidence in one’s choices? Especially, when the individual is supposed to be making choices every single minute? Does this point bring us back to the question of space? Can today’s family adjust to the needs of the changing life and accommodate everything with positivity and love? I find it hilarious when people say they love their children, but hate their childrens’ choices! In such cases, I find the family redundant and pointless! In such cases, the family contributes to shrinking an individual than in building one. How can families, which are fonts of love and emotional bonding, be reduced to places where an individual’s ability to express and live is smothered in the name of duty, caste, religion, and tradition? How does one assert one’s space, more because if I don’t start asserting my space at home, I can assert it no where else?

I believe, that to become a developed nation in the true sense of the word, we need to understand the essential difference between individual space and community space, love and control, emotions and values, care and helplessness, and individual choice and a prescriptive lifestyle. We need to share our resources not our mental spaces, we need to share love not our individual minds, we need to share our food not our food habits…

To be continued…after more enlightenment;)

Destination Sikkim - Till we meet again

On the third day, we went to the Sikkim Himalayan Zoo. It was day of little rain and much mist. The walk into the zoo was surreal because o...