Resurfacing

I’m just writing to be back in this blogging space that I miss right now. It’s been so long that I feel like Tom Hanks on the island that is my blog.

It’s been so long that wordpress has gone and changed it’s interface which I’m now having trouble with.

My 2 year Fellowship is nearly at its end. I’ve got to say these 2 years have been pretty pivotal and life-defining. It’s not just my experiences in the classroom, it’s also everything else thrown into the crockpot of life in Mumbai.

I’m up past 4am writing cover letters for jobs I’m applying to, but if I could write a cover letter for a vacation that I really want it would be the most convincing. Because a vacation is what I really want. 2-3 months tops.

A vacation sans worries of student achievement (or lack thereof), sans worries of the clothes that are getting too tight for me and my diminishing bank balance, sans talk of marriage, sans career worries. A vacation to just be; to look back on these 2 years and who I’ve become and then dream a little before I throw myself into my next venture.

Here’s where some very well-intentioned close ones are going to ask me “What is that next venture??” Or they’ll tell me a weekend would be enough to do all that reflection, or that career opportunities aren’t waiting around for me to come back from a vacation.

Orrr they’ll tell me that my next venture should be marriage..and maybe a baby? “No. No beta, no vacation. Take husband, make baby. Settle down.”

What’s the hurry, world?

It’s funny that my biological clock ticks loudest in everybody else’s ears but mine.

And that’s all that I have to say tonight. I probably should sleep before I face my class of 45 energetic 8 year olds. The more tired I am, the more unpleasantly eventful the day tends to be. God has his ways of trying me. There are many things my mum says I’ll only understand when I have kids. But I think being a teacher has made me understand how tiring it is to stay cooped up in the house with kids all day.  Ha. It makes sense. That’s actually the reason why a lot of my stay-at-home mums send their kids to school. Free government school education and supplies. AND a free day-time baby-sitter..who stupidly stayed up all night before school.

 

Two roads diverged in a wood..

..and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

~”The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost 

Today’s Daily Prompt is about Taking Chances.

Until this year, I’d have a hard time picking a significant instance of taking a chance on something, but this year, for me, is the year of taking chances.

I go from being an engineer to a school teacher, with my career after 2 years still unplanned. 

I move from comfy, good-weather Bangalore where family is, to Mumbai which has been presented to me as a stinky, crowded, dengue-ridden, flood-prone city. 🙂  But the nay-sayers haven’t managed to deter me. No. I’m pushing on – excited and happy (and maybe a little bit naive). I chose Mumbai, I chose my adventure. I’m pretty sure I won’t regret it. You know why? Cos I’ve heard more ÏloveMumbai than Ilove<insert any other Indian city>. I’m going to take them Mumbai-lovers at their word and discover it for myself.

I’m stalling marriage. No, I don’t have a guy down on one knee asking me for my hand..Oh wait. I have about 6 in line right now..on a matrimonial site. 

The reason why I put that under ‘taking chances’ is because that’s what it’s seen as by the traditionalists in my Indian family. I’m 24- the age at which there’s a very high demand for girls like me. The older I get, the demand goes down in the marriage market. I know. I sound like a commodity. This has both made my stomach turn. and made me laugh. Don’t get me wrong, my parents don’t see me as commodity..but those are the rules of the arranged marriage game. Your daughter has the best chances of winning herself a prize-groom if she (or rather- her parents) plays her hand in her early 20s. 

It’s no surprise that I love some dialogues in the Pixar movie Brave. For those who aren’t familiar with the story line- the film tells the story of a princess named Merida who, determined to make her own way in life, defies an age-old custom, causing chaos in the kingdom by expressing the desire to not be betrothed.

The headstrong daughter  ©Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The headstrong daughter
©Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

This dialogue between Merida and her mum, Queen Elinor, is a pretty accurate reflection of what it’s like to be me right now.

Princess Merida: I don’t want my life to be over. I want my freedom!
Queen Elinor: But are you willing to pay the price your freedom will cost?
Princess Merida: I’m not doing any of this to hurt you!
Queen Elinor: If you could just try to see what I do, I do out of love.
Princess Merida: But it’s my life! I’m just not ready!

The anxious parents ©Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The anxious parents
©Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

And this is the part that made me  happy cos I was imagining my parents saying this to me. 🙂 

Princess Merida: And so, there is the matter of my betrothal. I decided to do what’s right, and…
[as she looks around the room she notices her mother in the background trying to stop her]
Princess Merida: : And…and break tradition.
[she looks over at her mother who is miming what Merida should say]
Princess Merida: : My mother, the queen, feels…uh, in her heart, that I…that we be free to…write our own story. Follow our hearts, and find love in our time

🙂

And I end this post with Princess Merida’s closing narration:

“There are those who say fate is something beyond our command, that destiny is not our own, but I know better. Our fate lives within us, you only have to be brave enough to see it.” 

An Ode to Working Mothers

“We passed by this Flower Hmong woman working in the field with her baby bundled on her back. Women in the villages seem to do the same physical work as men, but with extra loads on their back women’s work seems to be more challenging.” – TravelingSolemates.com

 

I worked for over 2 years in a corporate company as a software engineer. In my last year, one of my good friends at work was a young mother. On so many occasions I’d feel so bad for her because of how difficult her day seemed, and yet she’d never complain, she’d never say she was tired, and she’d always go the extra mile to do all the work she was assigned (even the unfair amounts that should’ve been assigned to someone else).

Now, I don’t consider myself a poet or anything..but on Mother’s Day last year, I wrote a poem for all the mothers who worked with me, and it was inspired by this friend of mine. I thought maybe I’ll post this poem here on Mother’s Day and then I realised Mother’s Day fell on different days in different parts of the world..AND THEN I realised mothers deserve to be celebrated everyday..so I’m going ahead and posting that poem today 🙂

 

An Ode to Working-Mothers – by Sara Pulickal

She’s up in the morning
before anybody else
Fighting tiredness and sleep
She leaves the comfort of her bed.
She’s got an hour before the baby is up
So much to do
Before she catches her bus
There’s a house to clean
A baby to bathe
her husband’s breakfast
and then lunch to make.
In the middle of it all
She sends up a prayer
not just for her husband and child
but for assistance in this race against time.

She finally makes it
She catches her bus
And she reaches the office,
looking like any one of us.
She’s a daughter, she’s a wife
But look closer- she is more
We don’t realise she’s on full-time mother-mode
She worries about her baby, but stays focused on her code*
code that stares back at her from her computer’s screen
Reminding her of the deadline that’s so hard to meet.
She’ll crack jokes and she’ll be your friend
But inside she’s just waiting for her work-day to end
But even that doesn’t bring her to-do list to it’s end
Cos there’s a long journey back home and some more chores before bed
But her world lights up when she’s back with her child
It’s the only high she enjoys in this roller-coaster ride
Just thinking of her day can drive you insane
But she’s driven by love, love that makes her rise above her pain.

To all these women who are mothers
That demographic in our workplace, so significantly above the others,
We celebrate you today for being the women that you are
Women who do more than they should
Women with the strength that only comes with motherhood
For the blood sweat and tears- that it takes to live your life
For the hours away from your baby and from your role as a wife
For your company, your laughter and all that you share
We’re ever so grateful, we want you to know we care
We wish you the best,
peace, happiness and whenever possible- some rest:)

We pray you have the strength to face all that comes your way,
And with all our love we wish you
a Happy Mother’s Day!

*I..and the mothers worked in IT (well those mothers are still working there, I’m not. Alleluia 🙂 )  , so almost all our work revolves around code, i,e computer programming language, that’s as technical as I care to get.. aand that’s me trying to explain ‘code’ to people who might not get what code is. And maybe that was unnecessary, but never mind.

A baby on her back, a woman works in her field in Matuli, a village in northern Malawi. Copyright: Paul Jeffrey.

Poetry that doesn’t challenge my brain

I’m expressive, but I’m a lazy expresser.

My go-to mode of expression is drawing. I can talk about a whole day in pictures and in my head, it seems more effortless than wording out the experience..like I did here> an outing with the family when in Kerala.

But, as I’ve realized, drawing takes more time than typing out my story..which is why I end up posting writing more than drawings on this blog.

Recently, I’ve begun to accept that poetry is a very beautiful form of expression. I don’t usually have the patience for poetry- Poetry is beautiful, I know..but it requires some patience or a fancy brain to unwrap all that flowery, abstract language and find the meaning inside. I’ll just take a fortune-cookie, thank you.  But then there’s this blank verse kinda poetry that’s pretty much like regular writing and lacking excessive floweriness- that I love, especially when the words seem to be exactly what I’ve been feeling.  Oh it reminds me of Spoken Word. I’d love to be able to express my way through spoken word too!

I’ll stop here for this post, and end with a beautiful poem I found on googling. Go on! I promise you it’s worth the read.

Comes the dawn – by Veronica A. Shoffstall

After a while you learn
the subtle difference between
holding a hand and chaining a soul

and you learn
that love doesn’t mean leaning
and company doesn’t always mean security.

And you begin to learn
that kisses aren’t contracts
and presents aren’t promises

and you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and your eyes ahead
with the grace of woman, not the grief of a child

and you learn
to build all your roads on today
because tomorrow’s ground is
too uncertain for plans
and futures have a way of falling down
in mid-flight.

After a while you learn
that even sunshine burns
if you get too much

so you plant your own garden
and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone
to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure
you really are strong
you really do have worth
and you learn
and you learn
with every goodbye, you learn…

This post was written in response to today’s Daily Prompt.

When the black sheep dreams

For the past 7..almost 8 years, I’ve been doing as instructed by my parents. Not because I’m an obedient little girl, but because I never managed to convince them that I was sure I’d make my way to success following my plan. Because I was always scared they knew better. But if my growing discontent was any indication, it was time I took the exit on the parent-highway and go where I knew I must.

“We may place blame, give reasons, and even have excuses; but in the end, it is an act of cowardice to not follow your dreams.”
~ Steve Maraboli

tube slides waterpark

 

Finally, I’m here- I’m no more an engineer, and I’m getting onto a career-path that’s sort of a tube-slide-
I know I’ll like the ride, but at this point I’m not sure where I’ll end up. As a kid tube-slides in waterparks scared me shitless cos when inside, there’s no saying when my face would hit the water and I couldn’t swim or be prepared enough to hold my breath before going under. But right now- in this analogy, it excites me..cos I’m sure I can swim wherever the slide spits me out. Call that naivete or over-confidence if you want, but I think it’s what motivational speakers call “belief in yourself” and it’s giving me enough courage to get in.

 

“Leaving what feels secure behind and following the beckoning of our hearts doesn’t always end as we expect or hope. We may even fail. But here’s the payoff: it can also be amazing and wonderful and immensely satisfying.”
~ Steve Goodier

I’ve got people asking me to reconsider my decision because I’m not headed down a conventional road- people at work, strangers on the bus,friends and of course, family. It’s not that I’ve made a stupid choice, I’ve just not made a conventional safe choice. 2 years down this road I’ll be 26 going on 27, have less money in the bank and no wedding-ring on my finger (very important in the Indian context).

There are a couple of times when I’ve wished I liked being an engineer, that I liked the climb up the corporate ladder, that the husband-finding via matrimonial sites appealed to me- just because it’d mean giving my parents an easier time. All their friends seem to have easy daughters, and they got me. I’d wish my dreams were aligned with what my parents wanted- but that’s like wishing hamburgers and ice-cream were health-foods. So then I’d sulk and be an itsy-bit jealous of those easy-daughters cos they found happiness and simultaneously made their parents happy.
But then I’d realise I’d rather be me, than the ‘easier daughter’ me.

“I shall cease to be useful as soon as I cease to be myself.”
~Mahatma Gandhi

‘Easier-me’ would be coding in a corporate company, and coyly Skyping with a parent-picked fiance. It makes me miserable to just picture ‘easier-me’. That me would always wonder about the life that could’ve been. Aspiring to someone else’s definition of happiness for myself will never make me happy.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. ”
~ Steve Jobs

I realise now that I’ll never meet everyone’s expectations, and someone’s always bound to be disappointed. While that’s a pity, that’s OK. It’s a bigger pity if I never meet my expectations of myself.

I realise that there might not always be encouragement, I might get a whiff of fear even in the boldest of moments, my ducks might not all be in a row, there might be failure, but I should still push on, cos this journey is mine and I chart the course I will take.

(Wow. Make me President already.)

SO, even if people are afraid I’ll fall on my face, I’m sticking my neck out and trusting this good feeling I have, trusting all these people who’ve been so quote-worthy, and trusting God.
I don’t want to just save face, I want to FLY out the other end of this tube-slide.

Splashtown-Water-Park1

 

A Peeping-Tom armed with sticks and stones

Disclaimer– The thoughts and opinions expressed below are solely my own..and maybe those of some million Indians. I don’t intend to offend anyone..but if I do..Oh well. 

I’m a 24 year old Indian girl living in an Indian society. I’m not the only one who’s got a bone to pick with the Indian Society- talk to almost anyone of my generation, and you’ll find they agree with me on this.

Whenever we desire to do something that isn’t the norm in our society, we’re asked to reconsider and some of us our forced to stop thinking along those lines anymore FOR FEAR OF WHAT OUR SOCIETY WILL THINK OF US.

Let me try and help you understand this a little better:

When I speak of the “Indian Society” I’m referring to other Indians in our neighborhood, in our extended family: aunts & uncles. their extended family that know our family, parents’ cousins- first,second and third cousins, our extended family’s neighbors..it could go on for a bit more and this is not an exaggeration.

After years of being subject to our Society’s bullying,  most of us Indians are conditioned to run through a certain thought process before we decide to do or not do something that could pose a problem.

For example-

-If I decide to take a lift on a guy-friend’s bike, there could be consequences. (not of the road-accident variety, Society rarely gives a crap about that.)

Thought #1- My neighbor-aunty (Every Indian woman who’s our mum’s age or older is called “Aunty”. She needn’t be related.), or her husband might see me behind the guy on his bike and assume the guy is my boyfriend – which makes me a girl of loose morals, OR that the bike-guy is one among the many guys I go around with -which again makes me a girl of loose morals.

Thought #2- Now, in the opinion of neighbor-aunty and all those she managed to get this hot bit of news to, I am a promiscuous girl. Oh dear.

Thought #3- Word gets around to my parents and they’ll worry- even if they don’t give a crap about neighbor-aunty. Because when the time comes for my parents to find me a husband- a nice Indian boy from a good family and all that, the word around town will be that my parents’ daughter is a promiscuous girl.

Thought #4- Now, which nice Indian boy from a good family..no, which parents of a nice Indian boy will choose me for a daughter-in-law and wife for their son? Ohh woe to my parents. Our daughter will die an old maid..she’ll be all alone and lonely. Oh she’ll never know the joy of having kids.

 

And since neighbor-aunty is always hungrily watching out her window, there will be consequences

-If my body isn’t covered exactly as much as neighbor-aunty deems appropriate

Thought #1- Aunty be like Hai Rabba! How much skin she is showingg! and when this bit of news gets around to her friends I’ll probably be less covered in her story than I was to begin with.

Also, Aunty will inform the world that if I get raped it’s all on me. I should’ve worn the dupatta before I left home, or gone swimming in a burqini, or chosen trackpants over shorts for my evening jog. But no, my parents’ daughter has chosen to go dangle a bone in front of all them rapist dogs.

Repeat Thought #2,#3,#4  aaandd

Ohh woe to my parents. Our daughter will die an old maid..she’ll be all alone and lonely. Oh she’ll never know the joy of having kids.

That reminds of another scenario:

-If I decide to stay unmarried, there will be consequences.

The society will speculate on my love-life. They can paint my love-life to be more exciting than I could’ve ever imagined it to be. According to them-

I am married, but not to a “nice Indian boy”..maybe to a firang or something, and my parents don’t know how to handle breaking the news to the Society,

OR I’m in a live-in relationship, with no care for the institution of marriage,

OR I’m not married because I’m actually a lesbian OR have a mental illness,

OR I’m not married because duh..I’m a promiscuous girl who’s ruined all chances of finding a nice Indian boy on a matrimonial site.

Arranged marriages are not a bad thing, but a lot of arranged marriages are a result of parents succumbing to peer pressure. Often parents are blamed for pressurizing their children into marriages, but more blame is to be laid on the Society breathing down the parents’ neck telling them they’ve failed as parents the more their daughter’s marriage is delayed.

Similarly, I’ll also have to take the flak

– If I don’t have kids a year after marriage

– If I’m gay

– If I’m seen having a drink with my friends

I could go on..but, you get the picture. Everything I do is my Society’s business. They don’t understand what it means to stay out of it, or to give someone the benefit of the doubt. I think if you told Society to Be Kind and Considerate, it would fall on deaf ears- ears that would otherwise perk up at the softest whisper of gossip.

Many Indians I know have had life-decisions made more to satisfy Society than their own happiness. Some of them got lucky and are reasonably happy (or at least that’s what it looks like on the outside) and some of them suffer for it.

Our Society can be a bitch and a bully.

Our parents can be tough and stand up to society, but it can still be mental agony to be subjected to the non-stop commentary of a society that appoints itself judge and jury of everyone’s life. Eventually and hopefully, our parents will tune them out. Maybe tuning society out will make them fall silent, withdraw and our lives will be a-okay.

There’s a LOT wrong with India right now. A lot of the blame is on the goverment and the corrupt or inept politicians. Sure, there’s a lot they must to do make India a better country, but everything the government can do will still not change the ugliness of our society.

Log kya kahenge translates to "What will people say"

Log kya kahenge translates to “What will people say”

I don’t want to ditch my country in an effort to escape the bully that is Society, but I don’t blame those who want to. Then again, I think the problem with society is flawed human nature, and not just our blind adherence to Indian culture and tradition. So I’m sure every society will has some ugly in them, but right now I can only speak about what I see here in India.

It’s hard to imagine the situation changing. All one can say is “The change begins with you.” It really does. Everyone should just shut up about what you saw someone do, or heard someone say. Everyone should just wish well for their neighbor and help them out when they’re in trying circumstances instead of watching from the outside, speculating and gossiping. You form part of someone else’s Society. Go show them we as a Society can be better, can be kind.

And for goodness’ sake, don’t give a crap about what Society whispers or screams behind your back. Society doesn’t care what happens to you. They’ll hound you till you build a house, and maybe applaud you when you’re done, but when that house you built under pressure, with the desire to please Society- crashes down on you, Society will snicker and taunt and leave you crying in the mess that is your life.

Count on your intelligence, on the friends and family that are rooting for your happiness, on your inner-strength, and on God to get you through life.

And hope and pray that one day we’ll have a society we’re happy to be part of.

 

This was written in response to the Daily Prompt – that asks bloggers to write about what drives us crazy, and while I usually hesitate to write about topics that mentally exhaust me, today I gave it a shot- Because this matters. Because I’ve come to the point where I’m becoming more and more aware of how my society affects the lives of so many around me. 

This train has left the Techie-station

March 28th 2014 – my last day as an engineer. That is actually my first dream come true. I always knew I didn’t want to be an engineer, and now finally I’m not.

If you’re wondering why I got a degree in engineering in the first place, this is all you need to know : Indian parents tend to make their kids either engineers or doctors..and once that is done, the kids try and do what they really want to do..with much parental apprehension and/or disapproval.

 

freedom-17371-1920x1200

But when that Last Day came, I didn’t feel the expected flood of relief and joy. I am supremely glad I don’t have to code anymore, or try to summon an interest in techological advancements or business solutions, but it did not feel like escaping prison. And I think this is because in my second year as engineer, life changed drastically from what it used to be in the first year- which is when I pictured my office to be the joy-sucker of my life.
So, the life-changing difference between my first and second year? People at work who turned into friends. People made all the difference. I went from being the loner-girl who spent her free-time in office reading Norman Vincent Peale’s ‘Power of Positive Thinking’ (No kidding.I’d hide the cover of the book so that people wouldn’t assume (rightly) that I hated being in office so much that I needed the book to survive.) to the girl who had so many people she liked to hang out with at work that she had to schedule time for each of them in her work-day.

And so, I guess now it’s no surprise why my last day at work didn’t feel like an escape from prison. It’s sort of like the Stockholm syndrome. An IT company got me in it’s grip and intended to make my life miserable, but I met people in it that made me begin to enjoy my time in the company.
Now, instead of ecstatically fleeing my IT life, I find myself walking away with a sense of peace and contentment, glad for the good memories made.

And I am really, really happy I’ve quit IT. But more than happiness on quitting IT, I’m happy because of what I’m about to do next. I’m happy because there are doors of opportunities waiting to be opened. I’m happy because I’m finally on my way.

Freedom Sculpture

Freedom Sculpture in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
-How it feels to leave a job that holds you back-