Saturday, 3 December 2016

A Back-to-the-Roots Experience: The Dadhikar Fort

Just like that he popped this question, “any plans for this weekend??” I said “not really, but I just want to go somewhere..take a break.. disconnect from everything!” Hardly had I known that I would be taken by surprise, not by his plan but by the place he has in mind!!

The Dadhikar Fort in Alwar, Rajasthan turned out to be a blessing in disguise, a terrific place to unwind and relax. I have to admit I don’t get euphoria every now and then, but the kind of feeling that gripped me when I first stepped my foot on its entrance is something I won’t ever forget!

It took us roughly 2-1/2 hours to reach the fort by road from Delhi and thanks to the GPS, it was a fairly smooth and traffic free drive with the exception of the last few kilometers of rough stretch through a village leading to the fort, quite a kick to my adventurous soul.

As we reached the fort, I was simply jumping inside, as what lay ahead of and around me was sheer beauty. The fort sits right at the center of the splendiferous skirting of the Aravalis. The gigantic main entrance, the décor and that first feeling when you stand and breathe in the surroundings while check-in formalities are being done, it is all so beautiful!

I could feel the crude, tranquil atmosphere taking over me as we headed to our room, Kalanjar, pathways surrounded by the fragrant Plumeria (Champa) trees and colorful Bougainvillea, treat to the concrete-sick eyes. Our folksy room took us back in time while did provide the privileges of modern amenities like mini fridge, AC, rain shower. Thanks heavens, there was no TV or wi-fi and we spent some real time connecting with nature and with each other. The entire resort was quite airy and light with a number of places to curl up with a book, grab a cup of coffee and soak in the beauty of the Aravalis!

After a quick freshening up, briskly we headed to the restaurant. Food is served buffet style here, but we were a little late for that so we had a waiter at our disposal, one of Team Dadhikar’s several niceties. The food was served in the trademark big Rajasthani thalis, filled with authentic regional flavors and surprisingly was super-duper hit with the always-drooling-for-junk kids!

All fueled up, we left to explore the fort. Running after the kids on those inviting stairs, reaching the terrace was a remarkable sight with a bunch of people flying kites and several others screaming and clapping, the splendor of the place coming to a greater high at this height. I just couldn’t control falling in love with the rusticity omnipresent in the fort.

It wasn’t a surprise seeing crews of cameramen and photographers shooting for pre-wedding shoots and for magazines, the picturesque fort turns out to be a hot destination.

High tea awaited us in the outer part of the fort with a captivating sunset view to witness. It was a warm evening, at a place not crowded much, but still people with friends, kids and couples cozying up. Jangal mein Mangal sort of feeling!

There was a cultural show later in the evening. Only a handful of people were present. It was neither crowded nor secluded. The show wasn’t something that I hadn’t seen earlier but the way the guests were made to participate in the dances and entertained did make it extra special giving it all a personalized touch. And yeah, kids did get awestruck by their fire and balancing antics. Came out to be a night of revelry!

Dinner time! We headed off to the restaurant with the hunger clock ticking badly. Again a lovely spread was laid out at dinner, nothing being repeated. Kids loved having pasta while we again gave in to the delectable Rajasthani flavors. Though not much of an ice-cream enthusiast, I simply loved all the flavors and yes they were all made in-house.

Next morning, as planned we both left for an early morning walk around the fort while the kids were asleep. It was an unforgettable experience with the mesmerizing views, cool fresh air brushing past the skin and the magnificence of nature where you discover how small your identity is and how overwhelming and overpowering nature can be. There is so much more to life than the business of the routine zindagi, instantly making you realize that there is something larger than life throbbing inside of you, what an immense blessing it is to be alive!

Just when all these thoughts were crossing my mind, we walked past our car in the parking area and then suddenly he walked a few steps backwards with horror on his face as if seen a ghost or something, pulling me back to the physical world, there was a pool of engine oil under the car, flowing downhill..!!! Lo beta.. ho gaya happy birthday!! Mechanic kahan milega.. Aur aayo jungle mein..!!!!

Much to our surprise, the staff turned out to be very helpful in a situation like this where they took it on themselves to get the car fixed, it’s another thing that our till-now-smooth trip came to a halt and my guy had to accompany the vehicle to the workstation, stranding us at the fort, err… rather he was the one to get stranded ;)

Our trip to Abhaneri stepwell and Sariska wildlife sanctuary as planned got stalled. But that’s life, nothing goes as planned! It was quite a vexing situation but we tried to be a good sport and take it in stride.

A little dim on our spirits, we went ahead for breakfast, there were families with kids to newlyweds to a group of boys looking forward to an adventurous trek in the hills. The sight that I loved the most was of a group of ladies in their 70s having that all girls time together. It was a delight watching them eating and chitchatting, going sightseeing, again reassuring that age is just a number, one should have the right kind of attitude to live it!

Afterwards, kids went on a photography spree around the fort, played carom board and hide and seek taking full advantage of the place where within a few meters a staircase goes up to the terrace while few others down to the basement. It was a pleasure watching them play happily in the outdoors, for once I didn’t have to play referee!

We had to check out because they had a pre-booked-houseful, no doubt it was weekend. At the reception, I came across Mr. Ram Kaushik, founder of the fort, busy taking details from the staff. Just while exchanging greetings, he asks me if our car has been fixed yet leaving me stunned! How the hell does he know about the car or for the matter of fact that it belonged to me!! Leaving me to my own synthesis how closely he is involved in the affairs of the fort and especially involving the guests. Do you expect an owner of a resort to do that kind of a thing??!! I was speechless and touched. Later on, I was informed that the lunch was on the house for us!

Meanwhile, I got quite intrigued and was lucky enough to have a word with Mr. Kaushik and what I learnt about him and his life is a story full of inspiration and determination.

The Dadhikar Fort stands as an epitome of courage of an ordinary man with an extraordinary approach towards life. The place, remnants of the royal property, was bought and brought to life by Mr. Kaushik himself, the visionary behind the idea of The Dadhikar Fort. A post graduate in Hotel Management, he has formerly been associated with Neemrana Group for 18 long years which shows in the way he has managed the entire place complying with all the functions of a luxury hotel and what has made me write this is somewhere connected with this man’s humble attitude and his involvement coupled with an observant eye in the daily activities of the resort.

He has been the architect and designer for the fort himself. He surveyed and researched almost 100 odd forts to get the intricacies right, bringing the essence of an authentic fort to Dadhikar, with an idea to recreate the aura of the old times.

It hadn’t been an easy path for him, breaking the social obstacles which always turn a normal man down from realizing his big dreams. He used to visit the place through the jungle on a motorbike. There was no electricity or even a road to reach the site. Getting all the required resources at the point of construction and convincing the construction workers to work in a place untamed like that was quiet a task too. His family and especially his wife stood by him putting everything possible in realizing his dream. In fact, the fort turns out to be quite instrumental in creating rural employment, lighting up the lives of the nearby villages.

Whoa! Looks like a Bollywood story, isn’t it!!?? With the car now back, we left around 3 pm for Delhi. Vijay Mandir was an enthralling sight on the way out to highway. Siliserh lake and everything else in Alwar, laters baby!

The little time we spent there left me with so many feelings and emotions that I revel in reliving it in my mind time and again as often as I please! Nature has that effect on me and I guess on every human being which makes one think, reflect back, purify and I think it is very important for all of us to take a break from our daily routines to connect with ourselves and our lives in a better way.

Just a weekend had been a really short time! Heading towards Delhi felt like moving away from a cozy den, as if some part of me had been left behind. Well, I am surely going to go back and figure out what it was!!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Dear Zindagi! A Letter to My Life..

Dear Zindagi..

It is 5th November. I turn 34. 34! I believe that age is just a number, but then it also means a little more time has been spent from what I have been allotted! I so want you to stay with me for long as it turns out that I have learnt just recently how to live you and I want to make most out of you and the fact that you do end and unpredictably so scares me. You have always amazed me. You do that all the time.

Once upon a time I failed to understand you. I cursed you. Now that little bit of wisdom that you have gifted me with, I have come to understand what you are all about. Now, I thank you. I love you.

As I grow older, I do get worried that my share of living is diminishing day by day but I also appreciate the fact that with age you have given me the ability to discover your true beauty.

You know what Zindagi, I have always complained about the fact that you have been unfair to me, because no matter what I planned for, you always had something else in mind for me. I have hated you. You heard me right. I have hated you! When you took my father away from me. No matter how in many more ways I now appreciate you but this stab is going to stay in my heart always. You have no idea how my ears long for his voice to call my name, how badly I long for one hug from him. You have been so cruel! So ruthless!

But now I know, you are beautiful too! That’s the way you are..

You have given me the strength to fight the odds, courage to stand up for myself, ability to forgive, made me capable of giving love and above all your greatest gift to me is Realization!

You have made me discover my inner self. What I am. What I stand for. You have given me the vision to identify beauty and miracles in little things around me. You have been kind enough to let me realize the things that really matter and eventually realizing that those things aren’t actually things. Somewhere I read “there is a purpose for everything that happens in your life.” Now I know exactly what it means. Positive experiences give you happiness and negative.. lessons. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.

Dear Zindagi, you won’t see any more complaints coming from me. You have taught me to be thankful for what I have rather grieve for what I don’t. How beautifully this Persian poet, Saadi, has summarized one of your intricacies “I cried when I had no shoes until I saw a man without legs!”

Our lives are full of blessings, sometimes we just don’t know how to value them. Now I just count mine and thank you for all the priceless things you have blessed me with. Every morning as I wake up I feel fortunate that I am able to breathe, walk, smile..

I now know what to do with you. LIVE. Live every single moment. Because Passing is your another name. As in the words of Adlai E Stevenson, “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

What I have come to understand of you is that you are all about fighting back, dedication, motivation, perseverance, believing, having faith. You are full of pains and gains, joys and sorrows, beginnings and ends, celebrations and remorse, rewards and challenges. One has to live you, experience you. You are really short and that’s what makes you invaluable.

Dear Zindagi, you have also been the Best Teacher. As I reflect back, I realize I wouldn’t have been what I am today hadn’t you thrown those tough times my way. You have your own ways of making us better as a person which we often don’t understand. Like a joystick, first you break to only let us shine! What I am today is all because of you and I am really happy and proud of my new self.

I have also learned through this journey so far is that sometimes it’s okay not to think, not to imagine or to plan. Sometimes it’s okay to go with the flow while putting best of our efforts and hard work and have faith that everything will work out for the best.

I have already spent almost one-third of my time living others’ lives. What others would think, would they approve of it, thinking about all the what-ifs’. But I do that no longer. I no longer seek approval from others. I fight for what matters to me, no matter what. I follow my heart. I live for myself. I do what makes me happy. And all this ease eventually makes my soul happy. Please be the guiding star and take me where my happiness lies.

There is no better way to live than make yours the way you want it!

With Love,

Your Courageous Child

                "I am writing a letter to life for the #DearZindagi activity at BlogAdda."

Friday, 14 October 2016

The Parent Child Saga: Twist in the Tale

Picture this: After hours of interactive games and rides in a certain kids’ zone, rounds of pizzas and ice-creams, the elder one is still whining for another something when we are heading to the car park. Irked and annoyed, I yell at her. She immediately takes a U-turn, tears in her eyes and joins her father who is walking a few steps behind us accompanied by our little man. I instantly feel sorry. Sorry for what I did to the happy state of my kid. But I was tired and overwhelmed, so I yelled, I justify. Okay, acceptable. But she was tired too, she whined. Not accepted by me, a parent!

In the quiet of the night I am left with some moments to reflect, to reflect back on how in certain situations involving the children I reacted with a conditioned mind, with a preconceived notion. If only I had had a neutral view of the situation, I would have been equipped to manage the situation better. I think. I regret. I learn. Better equipped to manage the flow of children’s emotions and my own.

When I said sorry today to her where my emotions had gone unchecked, I found myself receiving more love and respect from my children. I stood more connected to them. Apologizing for my wrongdoing, neutralizing the age and position factor, I modeled for them how to be courageous enough to admit your mistakes and say sorry!

I feel we new-age parents have more responsibility as compared to what our parents had had as we all happen to live in nuclear settings. Earlier the grandparents and other members of the family had crucial roles to play in such situations and in building children’s emotional foundation. But now the entire onus is on parents and more so on us mothers if I may say so.

We live in a world full of mental and social pressures. And children’s needs, particularly emotional ones, are not given much importance. Children need a patient and compassionate listening to their outbursts and feelings of tumult. Punishments, yelling being the least needed while we end up doing the very thing more often.

Children though little but still have real identities. Like adults they feel hunger and thirst, likewise they also need to vent out their feelings of anger and frustration like us adults. What best we can do for them in such situations is to give them a patient ear and a shoulder to cry on. Yes, CRY!

Because crying is perfectly normal! If somebody stamps on your foot, you let out a scream. If somebody stamps your mind, you scream, you cry. Crying has always been stigmatized as weak and unmanly for boys and sensitive and dramatic for girls whereas in stark contrast it is a sign of an individual strong enough to accept his or her emotions and express them freely showing lesser concern for social expectations. I see crying as a means to offload stress before it breaks you!! Well, it does work for me even though my better half doesn’t approve of it. However, it doesn’t make me feel weak in any way although does help in letting my pain out, making me feel light, with a clearer state of mind, accepting my situation better and getting back up a stronger person!

And today when I write this, I discover why women are emotionally strong beings than their male counterparts. “Don’t cry like a girl” is self-explanatory and hence proves our theorem. So next time my children cry and especially my son, I am going to accept it as a normal human phenomenon.

Children are fragile not only physically but mentally as well, lesser equipped to manage their emotions. The negative emotions, if we may say so, are as integral a part of a whole individual as positive ones. If I shun or shame the child for her negative emotions, I am putting her whole identity at risk. They are the saplings which need a lot of care unlike the grownup trees.

If I couldn’t help taking my angst out at my daughter in public, it isn’t fair on my part to expect her to be well behaved and conform to social standards at all times. It is unreasonable of parents to expect the little ones to control and manage their emotions on their own. I identify it as my role, as an adult and as a parent, to not only control my emotional state but to validate their experience and help them come out of their state of outburst.

Children learn from a very young age that saying ‘shut up’ is meant as an insult if not intended in a funny way. The last person who should be insulting a child is their parent. But there are times when I want to shut all that noise out and scream ‘shut up!’, fairly easy for me. Again patience check! Instead I try making them familiar with the situation that why I don’t want noise at the moment maybe because I have a headache or I had a long day and I want some quiet. And of course they do get some time off and on for screaming, yelling and messing around!

With the birth of our first child, a mother was also born, eager to learn effective ways to nurture a child. One thing that I have learned is not to scold a child when there is an audience. This is as humiliating for a child as for an adult. Of course there are certain decencies they have to maintain when there are people around but if they happen to do something by mistake, let the situation go and make them understand the importance of good behavior later on.

I don’t want my children to be scared of me. I would rather have them respect me. According to Pam Leo, a human development scholar, “The level of cooperation parents get from their children is usually equal to the level of connection children feel with their parents.” These words stayed with me and I shifted my focus on making my communication and connection with the children so strong that they do it out of care and love for me and not out of fear of punishment. If my kids do something for me out of care, love and respect, I stand winner as a parent. 

In certain interactions with the kids, I ask myself whether my words will strengthen or weaken my connection with them. If the answer is weaken. I pause and think again. If the words have already been spoken, I apologize and move forward in a way that restores our connection. I perform a mental check and ask myself if I would speak to a close friend the way I am about to speak to my child. If the answer is no, I pause, take a deep breath and rephrase what I want to say.

There are certain family acceptable naughty things that my children do and say at home but once in public they know what they can and cannot do.

How we see them, they see themselves. Their image of self is formed in our seeing. Can it get more connected, more divine! That is the importance of being a parent..

Friday, 23 September 2016

“Happily Ever After” After Children

Once upon a time, this is how I recall, there used to be this kick ass-couple, well excuse my French, always on the go, fresh, lively, energetic, in-the-moment people who did whatever it took to make each other happy, the cheerful companions. Backpacking for a trip on an hour’s notice, watching movies, having friends come over every now and then, sleepovers and of course work but  enjoying their youth and freedom was everything there life was all about.

Then Life moved on. They were blessed with a baby, their world filled with this new found love and joy. The euphoria of having a baby is so strong that it overshadows everything else in one’s life and the very person is put at the second best who made this baby possible in the first place, all the time and energies consumed by this little miraculous being. Bestowing with their intoxicating charm, babies also mean more work, more stress, less time and lesser energy. Then very gracefully the doting couple and their marriage are put on the back burner. They take their relationship for granted thinking it is strong enough to withstand any challenge, not knowing that this most important relationship can be the most fragile one where absence of proper attention can have devastating consequences.

They seemed to be doing a fairly decent job adapting to the lifestyle around the baby. The baby, now toddler started going to playschool and the trained adult minds got the better of them and they started brainstorming for the second child.

And it was only after the second they realized they had started drifting apart. They had been living like strangers for long under one roof with two adorable kids, the only thing common between them. Everything started and ended with kids in mind and just kids everywhere. She became the caregiver and He became the bread earner, doing everything possible they could to give them the best. Their sole purpose of Life. Our sole purpose of Life!

The little cracks when not tended to can turn into colossal chasms and that’s what happened with us. It took us a while to realize that our relationship with each other was as important, if not more, as with the kids. There was a void. Looking at each other, we smiled less, appreciated less. That companionship, that connection lost somewhere.

Then one day giving everything a thought, the intricacies of Life storming in my mind, I asked myself if this was the sole purpose of marriage. If it was, then I felt quite incapable of taking it to the very end. I felt incomplete and lonely in spite of having an adorable family. Something not on the right track, something which needed attention and I had no clue what.

And then just a general conversation with a very dear friend gave me a jolt making me realize what I had been missing. I had missed Living with the guy I got married to all these years in spite of being together under one roof. That was the day I made myself a promise. Not letting this relationship being overshadowed by anything else, worldly or otherwise!

Having had the diagnosis made, we both started working on its course of treatment and now here we stand, tall and proud, with all the vital stats within their normal limits and relationship immune for life!

Once babies happen, they become the center of our universe and raising them, no doubt, a tedious task, but what I later came to realize as a parent was that for them parents are their world. There is nothing better for them than the joy of having a set of happy parents. Keeping the very fact in mind and to revive our own bond as partners, we started nurturing our relationship with the same intensity as we did with our kids.

Ours is just a decade long relationship. I have seen couples splitting even after spending longer, as much as 20 years together. There must be something very deep, very infuriating and offensive that goes into making such hard and ruthless decisions. After all, putting a beloved family, nurtured painstakingly with love and care, at stake is not an easy affair. The rocky terrains can catch us unawares anytime, just right after the bend on the seemingly smooth path. It is that time when our faith and trust in each other is tested. And sometimes we consciously have to put efforts in making that connection right. In rough times, instead of fighting and blaming, hold on to each other more, forgive each other more. We are all humans and in difficult times may act or behave unexpectedly. No matter how serious the issue is, don’t give up easily. Putting your egos aside, talk, try finding a solution to the problem, to overcome it no matter how grave it is.

Be that little grass, firmly rooted, steady and unhurt even in the storms. But for that one needs to be rooted, rooted very strongly. So stock up on that trust and bond with your partner as much as you can and from the very beginning because that is one thing you will need in the face of whirlwinds.

A lot of soul searching and experiences, both positive and negative, have made me learn a few lessons of Life which I am sure would help me stay in my marriage happily united.

Communication has always paved the way to solve a lot of issues and often communication of love, joy, anger and doubt is not given its fair share once there are kids running around the house. The two of us made it a point to let each other know about even the little things happening in our lives even if we had to make a phone call and talk and this really worked in our case as somehow we were left with very little time for ourselves given the pressures of our lives.

Getting weighed down by the endless responsibilities that come with raising kids, we often reminisce the past when life was less complex. Comparing the freedom we used to have before we became parents led to nothing than mental strain. Accepting that life is not going to be the same again after children helped us in adapting and thus truly absorbing the happiness and magic that came in the form of children. And no wonder we all four have become the partners in crime, the youngest one being the deadliest!!

Not taking either the person or his contribution for granted and appreciating each other was another thing we adhered to. After all appreciation, little gestures of love and care, saying thank you never harmed anyone. Letting your partner know about your love reinforces that although things have changed between you two but only for the better. Reminding ourselves of the earlier days let it be through recreating an event, a surprise note or a late night-out did rekindle the sparks! The twinkle in his eye at my unexpected visit at his workplace and the same reflected in mine was all just so worth it!

One thing of note is to set your emotions free. I accepted my negative emotions with the same grace as I would a compliment. I started sharing my feelings of anger, loneliness, frustration and insecurity with my husband. This further helped build understanding between the two of us. Storing them inside never worked for us and always led to an explosion. “So say it, say it loud! Accept and let go!” is the mantra followed in our home now, whether it’s me, him or either of the monkeys!

Cleaning, groceries, laundry, repairs do wait a little longer now at our place, with the not-so-prim-and-proper house. We have started overlooking all the chaos as it is inevitable and do not strive to control it all the time which makes us more relaxed eventually. The walls in our house now boast of scribbles and doodles in every color possible. When these little creatures fly out the window to make their own lives, there won’t be anyone to mess everything around. So we are making a lot of memories to cherish with the two sugarplum candies we have as there will be forever to make that house look up-to-date. And yes, we do CREATE TIME for ourselves and have made spending some quality time with each other a HIGH PRIORITY! 

Friday, 26 August 2016

Dedicated to My Husband!

Ten years of knowing each other. I know him. I love him. I know him inside out. Better than he does himself. An ultra caring, sincere, practical, not-so romantic guy (though I would have loved had the word ‘romantic’ been without the ‘not-so’!).

It has been a different kind of life, a different kind of relationship with him, a little unusual. Not exactly what I had dreamt of. But it has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Sometimes, it takes years to realize how God and his diligent teacher, Life, have planned things out for you, their lesson plan always ready in an unusual way.

An introvert metro girl meets the effervescent small town boy. Very different people from very different backgrounds! It is destiny that we met and hit it off despite being so distinct. I think we appreciated in each other what we were not. I loved listening to him while he loved talking, nonstop! Me being a die-hard romantic and there he stands on the other end of the line. While I am a bibliomaniac, he can doze off even at the sight of a book. He is a fashion capsule while I am quite laidback. He loves to cook while I appreciate being at the other side of the table. We, the stark contrast! I wonder what keeps us bound together!

He is a friend, companion, mentor, critic, motivator, my support system. Too many roles fitted into one. But sometimes does play a nutcase as well.

I love the fact that he is always there for me like a rock. He has made me appreciate life from an angle I never knew existed. He has made me a stronger person by every means. I simply adore the fact that he has accepted my flaws as if they don’t exist. I never knew that at some point in my life I would feel a void unless I told a guy about the activities of my day.

Nobody is perfect. In fact, perfect is a subjective word. Everyone has his own perception of perfect. You don’t have to be doing all the things altogether. Each and every one of us has some shortcomings. Accepting things the way they are puts you at ease. A lot ease. So chill out buddy and stop playing James Bond!

Just be a little more expressive and vocal. You are everything a woman can dream of. How sufficing it is to know that you are there, for me, always!! Maybe I have said this more than once here, but that is actually how I feel.

I have seen the best and the worst of you. And I choose to stay, forever!

PS: I Love You!

Monday, 15 August 2016

Fair vs Dark, The Battle Goes On


Just when I was finalizing this write-up, I realized it is being published on Independence Day. Independence. Setting free. Physically, it has been seventy years. Mentally, a long way to go. A long way for a country obsessed with fair skin.

Why fair is considered better in India? We associate fair skin with beauty. Dusky or dark skin, which we are naturally blessed with, is seen lowly in this part of our world when the other half is dying to get a tanned skin. Bizarre!

Till date, a fair girl is deemed more eligible for marriage. It is so deep rooted in our society that most of the times it fails to see beyond the skin color. We might be literate but not educated for education liberates us from our prejudices. I say so because no matter how qualified we are, we show that still there is a long way for us to go before awareness percolates down to every strata of our society in its true sense.

What made me write about this issue is when I evidenced a child falling prey to this ugly trait of our society. Children with dark skin are bullied and are made to feel awful about themselves by their peers. A 5 year old refusing to go to school unless she is made to look fairer, read – beautiful and acceptable, using makeup! It is difficult to gauge the amount of pain this little child is going through, wounded self respect and confidence. Affronted by peers, little ones again, for color is beyond comprehension!! I wonder what kind of educated parents and families in today’s times these children hail from. Definitely children cannot be blamed for this. It is their families and parents who sow such discriminating ideology and hostility in these tender minds. India is developing in so many ways but what about its people. Somehow we are stuck somewhere, minds harnessed back to the colonial times.

Do not make your own children’s life miserable by planting such racist ideas. What difference their acquired thinking would do to others’ lives is another story. It is no worse than planting weeds and worms in your own crop!  Promoting fair and devaluing dark skin is not less synonymous to living with an ingrown disease. I am not fair. Have never wanted to be. I was blessed to have a bunch of friends to whom color did not matter and it never featured as a topic of discussion in the family as well.

God forbid but just think what would people, for whom color, beauty and appearance are the most important parameters, do if something happens which might change their appearance? Would not they be shattered? What would give them strength at that time to fight the odds of life? It is the teaching that they have got as to what is more important in life. Their strength, individuality, their will and determination, hard work, feeling confident about themselves irrespective of their looks is what will help sail them through!

Most of the times, we do not even realize how we indirectly promote fair and devalue dark in our homes, schools, colleges, work places. Subconsciously, we say things in front of our kids which makes them associate fair skin with beauty. Mocking others for physical attributes is not what a responsible and sincere parent would want to teach. We all should exercise wisdom while discussing sensitive issues when children are an audience.

Just recently, I was having a walk in the evening with a friend of mine, a beautiful person inside and out, always there to help, a kind one would love to hang out with – who happens to have a dusky complexion. She was upset that she is time and again cursed by her in-laws for her color and more so that her son has also got her dusky tone instead of his father’s fair! Does the color of a person actually matter? Isn’t it like I have two eyes, two hands and two legs, you have two eyes, two hands and two legs. Shape and size varies and so does the bloody color! Isn’t it that simple?!

This is for all those people who think fair is superior. What do you think about APJ Abdul Kalam, Vanessa Williams, Serena Williams, A.R. Rehman, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Shakira or Mohammad Ali? Pink-tinted, huh? What makes these insanely successful, powerful DARK people known worldwide? It is their hard work, talent, perseverance, strength and their attitude towards life!

Feel free to be glad of your child’s white skin but teach them to respect others as well regardless of their color. Don’t become a contributor in tarnishing a child’s confidence and self respect for life. Adults can handle this though they are also not free of its effects but here we are talking about little innocent children whose identities are bruised for life!

There is one more aspect to this, responsible advertising. There are a number of companies selling fairness creams in the name of making one fair and beautiful! The problem is not with the creams or their sellers, but yes the way they are marketed is discriminating and demeaning. Most of the TV commercials emphasize the fact that the fairer the skin, the more successful you are. They portray a dark person as depressed, unsuccessful, under confident, ignored by others and soon after applying the cream becomes fair and as a consequence successful, attractive and is loved and respected by others.

Two fold side effects of these advertisements:

Effect on a dark person watching this commercial –
1.  I have lesser worth than a fair skin one.
2.  I must become fair to be happy, successful and be socially acceptable.

Effect on a fair person –
1.  I am superior because I am fair and the darker ones are inferior.
2.  I have all the rights to make the dark people feel inferior.

These corporate houses do owe some contribution towards the society. Creating any kind of discrimination among the people and making them feel humiliated is least expected of them. These fairness creams have been successful in India because they know how powerful a concept fair skin is in our culture. Hindustan Unilever’s Fair and Lovely is sold in thirty countries across the globe with their major customer base, no prizes for guessing, Indian community! How obsessed we are with fair skin!

There is a lesson to be learnt from Ghana. It has banned all the fairness products effective from August this year claiming they contain bleaching agents such as hydroquinone, mercury and clobetasol causing cancer and several other toxicities throughout the body, already banned in Japan, Europe, US, Australia and Canada. I wish India followed suit!

Hypocrisy – we are setting benchmarks! When we adore Baal Gopal, worship Krishna, Shiva and Kali Ma and find dark-skinned individual not beautiful. There is so much literature in our culture, old and new that represents dark skin as something that is sensual and beautiful, also the case with mythology and art, then why such obsession with white. Remember the clichéd ‘tall, dark and handsome’? Why this bias more so against women?

Dark, fair, dusky, wheatish are mere descriptive words, defining one’s physical attributes, not associated with assessing beauty in anyway. What is not fair is discrimination.

Things are changing for sure. And people as well. But a lot has to be done. We have to do it. In our minds. Indian skin is beautiful, the way it is. Feel beautiful the way you are. You are the one of a kind creation of the Almighty. You have to realize that you are blessed with something unique like no other. And he made nobody perfect. Just stop comparing and complaining. Try to find miracles in small things. Celebrate this little word called Life!!

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Who Owns My Jewelry, Certainly Not Me!

 This little word, jewelry, gives me so many thoughts – diamonds, I so love them, I am in awe of them like every other woman on planet Earth! Jewelry -- what about the loads of oversized gold sets that I received at my wedding? It again puts my mind to work. Given I am not drawn to such things, how about if I sell these and get something I like with the money?! How about an off-road? Surely something to die for!!

Jewelry is a matter of personal choice and preference, reflection of an individual's personality. Being a minimalist, my jewelry routine usually consists of two rings, an engagement ring and another dainty one on the other hand and watches, no necklaces or earrings. I do wear studs on and off. I wonder where does that all heavy stuff fit in my life? Nowhere! I have worn them not more than twice or thrice in my entire married life. What would I do with all the chunky sets that have been tucked away in the safety of the bank lockers?  

I would have loved being given a choice or at least asked if I really wanted to have those. But you know what, I myself had no clue that all that loads of money invested in those oversized yellow and white metals would be of no value to me. Because it is not me who owns it, it is my bank safe that really owns it!! Can’t agree more that it has just been a waste of money, well, at least from my point of view!

Oh Lord! If only had I known this earlier! But hey, could have I been able to alter anything? Absolutely no chance, because of our age-old big fat Indian weddings and the social stigma attached to it. It is all connected to the social status of the families involved rather than the functionality and utility of it.

There is a big request I want to make especially to all the Indian parents worldwide that before investing such huge amounts of money, the hard-earned money, in things like jewelry for your children, please make sure they are actually going to use it. Ask if they desire or dream of something else that matters to them that needs funding. Would not that be a huge help to them? Or if you have to splurge on jewelry itself, do that on the kind of jewelry they would actually wear, not on something to be bequeathed, to pass from one generation to another.

Given a choice now I would happily get all that cashed and buy a sports car for myself (I am a car freak!) or would go on a month long Europe trip with my travel crazy husband! Do I sound like I am born with some kind of an anomaly?!

But it is not a cakewalk. I know it is my jewelry but I am not the owner in its true sense. It seems to be more of an investment thing in our investment portfolio. Like the other homely things, we all own it jointly.

Dear parents, can we just let go of the antediluvian customs? I fail to understand why we have to follow everything blind-folded? For the sake of society? Can’t we just do things that suit us more with some variations here and there?

I believe we should keep modifying rules and regulations, customs and traditions with the changing times to live a happier and soothing life. Isn’t that living all about?

Let us take note from Charles Darwin’s Evolution Theory. We, Homo sapiens, have evolved from apes. Had not we, we would still have been apes. If us humans, animals and birds can evolve over time, then why not our customs? Aren’t they too becoming obsolete? Why are we so tied to them?

Having said that, I also believe that customs and traditions are what keep us rooted to our culture and we should not forget our origin and where we belong to but at the same time the same customs and traditions sometimes restrict us from being ourselves, injecting complexities in our lives. It is us who have created them. It is us who abide by them and it is us who need to modify them. Do give it a thought ladies and gentlemen and let us strive to make our lives happier, easier and simpler!

Friday, 10 June 2016

Is That Break From Work Really Needed

It has been nine years but it feels like just the other day when I got married. It has been a terrific journey so far. From being a carefree girl to being a mother of two, that’s quite a transformation I have gone through.

Sometimes when I just sit back and wonder what have I done in all these years, what have I done to myself, what has happened to my once blooming career, what have I earned in all these years, have I wasted all these years not working ??!! There is a voice inside my head saying ‘Don’t worry my dear, you have not lost anything. You have earned a beautiful family!!’

I was in two minds. It was a difficult decision to make, but I had to. I reasoned with myself. Why have I given birth to this child, just to complete the family or to be taken care of by maids? Doesn’t she owe the very best of my time? Who doesn’t need a mother? A mother is the most precious possession a child can ever have (don’t we all turn to our mothers even as adults in face of any difficulty), then why am I thinking of robbing her of it? A mother is the most important part of a child’s initial years. I wanted to be there in my children’s foundation years. I wanted them to be emotionally safe and secure, generous and compassionate human beings and not turn into harsh, self-centered adults. If one wants to turn a blind eye towards it all, one can, but yes, a child’s initial years do play a major role in forming their personalities, future potential and attitude towards life. Moreover, I wanted to live their childhood, give them lots of love and attention with no conditions attached; for it is short enough, once it is gone, it is gone forever. And what am I bothering about? Work? I did not prefer to live under constant pressure between maintaining a healthy lifestyle, giving time to kids and performing well at work. I thought I could re-establish my career once my kids were a little grown up. I could always chase my dreams, pursue my interests and work and earn but the same would not be true with respect to nurturing a family.

It is then that I realized that life always gives you choices and few years back I made my choice. Getting married at 24, planning family pretty soon and deciding to give my full time to them, refusing to leave them to maids or crèches, putting my financial independence at stake, all were the choices I made.

Raising a family is an emotionally and physically challenging job and I can say that only after having experienced it. Now at 33, I wonder what kind of energy I had at that time. Carrying both of them, waking up nights, chasing them, feeding them seems a fairly difficult task. Even the thought of it all gives me goosebumps. I don’t feel as energetic as I used to be. I guess there is a right time for everything. Losing my father to age in my adolescent years, how I wished we could spend some more years together, why he didn’t have us earlier in his life and a lot many things difficult to enlist left me to do a lot of synthesis. It’s the family that’s all one wants in the end which no amount of money or other worldly achievements can fulfill.

Two adorable kids and a beautiful family to look back on, the warmth and giggles, bonding which we all share with each other, I know, is going to survive through the thick and thin of life! Taking a break has been worth it! It has all been worth it!

Just a cross check, would this all have been possible had I been a full-time working mom. The answer is No! Probably, I would not have had a second child. The values, the bonding, the emotional security that the kids now have would not have been there. Today, I am a content and guilt-free mother! This feeling would not have been there. I won't have to live with the feeling of guilt haunting me for the rest of my life!

Basically, it depends on one’s priority. If you want a glistening career, go for it but do weigh the pros and cons beforehand so that you don’t have to regret later as you know there are no free lunches in life, you pick one you lose one!