Monday, January 27, 2014


I am lately hearing my mom say, a lot more than often, that having a man in the house makes a major difference. Though I'd rather beg to differ, it does leave me thinking. 

In all these years the only thing that I have heard my mom say was that she found herself one day, with 2 rupees and a 1.5 year old on hand. It was right after the monsoons in Mumbai and there were almost no groceries. It seems at that time, they had habit of clearing out the entire kitchen right after the monsoons and buy everything afresh. I have had random people asking me why my father left us. I tried asking him myself to which he said "some things in life don't have answers". There was a point in time when I was in despair. But then I realize in retrospect that as long as my (maternal) grandfather was alive, I really didn't worry too much, nor did I have a care in the world. I was quite the happy child, except for the occasional scolding I'd get from my mother about working harder. 

Mom always said she had the most blissful married life. And that my father was one of the most soft-spoken genteel men she'd ever known. He was classy, good looking. And that he was a tremendous singer who sincerely believed he'd never get anywhere. Maybe that was his destiny. 

The day I started singing Ghazals my mom wrote to my father asking him to spend time with me and when he did visit us, my landlady happened to mention that he seems like a man who has returned home from office in the morning. "It doesnt seem like you have been apart for 10 years... Ennadhu idhu Bathma" she asked. Mom never had the answer. My father apparently remarked in court that she'd have had a glorious life if she had married anyone else and that it was her misfortune that she married him. God knows what he meant by that. 

I haven't heard one complaint about him from my mother. Or one complaint against my mother from my father, the few times I was forced to meet him because my mom told me so. I made my resentment very clear. I'd go into a shell. I briefly went to his house where he lived, with their father, his brother and his family.. and ran back home as soon as I could thinking my mother would never take me back home because she believed I would have a more comfortable life living with my father. 

I met him two more times. Once when I went to receive the All India Radio gold medal for Ghazals, to which my mother requested my father to take me, all the way to Jammu, since "I have seen you grow as a singer.. he has not had that joy, he deserves to be there since he is your father". I didn't talk much to him. Except when I wanted to eat or drink or sleep. We went to Vaishno devi, where I lost him on the hill. I found him after a very long two hours. I went crying, asking how to find my father. And then I saw him sauntering toward me, hands in his pockets, smiling and coolly asked me, "Where were you?". We got back to Delhi. I called my mother's friends. And asked them to pick me up from the station. I refused to go back to Chennai with my father thereafter. My mom's friends had to pick me up, they were highly embarrassed and finally my mom came to pick me up from Delhi.

I met him once again, at my mother's behest, as my father's father was 96+ and was ailing and that it was my duty to go meet him as there is a "soul relationship". After his monologue for an hour about music he left me with a solid piece of advice. "Artists should not marry and I advise you too, to not marry". He then turned over to the other side and went to sleep. He lived on for 5 more years, God bless his soul. But I never understood him. Nor did I understand the entire circumstances. 

Our neighbours in Mumbai apparently told my grandmom that it was definitely 'voodoo' And my grandmom and mom believed how can anything go wrong in a house where Vishnu Sahasranama is recited? (my grandmom told me this once, when she was randomly saying a lot of thing.. apparently there were anonmyous letters that would land up at home, one every other day, with kumkum or strange drawings and curses which would say 'your child will die.. you will die..' and things like that. We still have those inland letters. They never found out who sent those letters. All the stress during her pregnancy took a toll on my mom.. mine was a very difficult birth. She didn't recuperate fast either, post the C-Section.)

Well, things did go wrong. And there are never going to be any explanations. I now have sudden relative-claims from my paternal side. Which I refuse to acknowledge. I don't think anyone bothered how I was clothed, what I ate, how I was educated. And I truly understand the battered old saying, "how success is relative - more the success, more the relatives." Not that I am really close to relatives from my maternal side either. We chose to stay away, lest someone think/fear that we'd ask them for help.

Would we have lived in better houses, had better landlords if I'd had a father around? Perhaps.

Had a better life itself? Perhaps.

Would people who worked with me treat me better if they dealt with a 'father' than a 'mother'? Maybe (Though I don't really have any complaints. I somehow believe that those who have issues having a professional dialogue with my mother must have something slightly weird going on, especially event organizers)

But yes there are several times that I feel that my mother was shortchanged. In some cases, so was I. And I really don't know if it had to anything do with having a father around. Though many people said that is a reason.
Actually I know other women too treated divorcees differently in the 90-s. I had a friend whose mother was genuinely mean to single women.

However mom says hers was a 'kaarana' kalyanam. A marriage that had to happen because I was supposed to be born. She came to terms with things as they were.

As a child my forehead used to be a multi-color space. Neighbours would make fun of me. Sindhoor (from a hanuman temple), vibhooti, sandalwood paste, kunkum and all that. God knows how I fit it all in. But I did. I loved doing that. I loved the concept of devotion and faith. And now, I am questioning all that. I am questioning God and the 'divine plan' and 'divine games'. I sometimes feel like telling God, if you want to play, go and play somewhere else and stop bothering me. Maybe tell him off like how sometimes, Calvin's parents tell him off.

Each day, hour in and hour out, is a learning experience. And that's all there is to it. 

My mom said I used to say each night before sleeping "Parda bandh!" and say "Parda Khol" each time I woke up. I guess I was wiser as a 4 year old. This entire life is a drama. :)

There was a time when my blood was on a constant boil, because I sought answers. Why? Why? Why? I'd storm about in my mind. And weep in despair. And then I came to know that neither life, nor people, nor time give us the answers we seek.

To you, the reader, all that I wish you now, is happiness that radiates from your very being. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Listening and etc.

Of late, I have been hearing and listening to a lot of things. And observing people and their listening styles.
There are some who listen and as they are listening to you they have thoughts running in their head - a mental reaction to everything you are saying, passing either judgments or answering them in their head, which some of us can perceive at some level, which is perhaps why we think some people are busy listening to their own voice in their head than listening to us. 
There are those who listen and interrupt you every once in a while finishing your sentences for you. 
There are those who pretend to listen but actually don't care a damn about what you are saying ;)
There are those who have listened to you but are way off the mark from the actual meaning of the words you utter or your intentions.
And then there are some who listen to you silently. Taking it all in, all that you are saying and intending. The verbal and the non-verbal. Without judging, without interrupting even in their minds. Letting you speak whatever is on your mind and offer an opinion if they are asked. Because they are blessed with the wisdom to differentiate between a rant and consulting for advice. 
And I strive to take lessons, as usual, from observation. 
One of the first things that I learned as an RJ while I trained all of two days under Niladri Bose was this. When you interview someone, do your homework. And listen to every word. Listen sincerely. Don't formulate your next question in your head and think about how intelligent you can be while they are talking. People know when we are not listening.
Perhaps one day, I can evolve to be the perfect person that I wish to be in my mind's eye. Someone who's extremely perceptive, wise (not just intelligent), deep, achieving a stillness of the mind and to someday achieve this state of inner peace that radiates and touches the people around me. 
I am able to sense this peculiarity in some people whose mind is constantly in motion, constantly mildly agitated at some level. 
And I wish with all my heart that I be that person who is at peace, within and without. And perhaps that day, my music would take up a different dimension.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

And another learning

In the recent past, maybe because of somehow getting to discuss domestic drudgery and related ideas, somehow discussing house-help came up. 
Now, like some of us unfortunate ones know, finding the right drivers/househelp must be a thing of destiny or pure luck.
I met a colleague, who happened to mention that she had ended up cleaning and maintaining her independent house, plus taking care of kids, cooking for the husband and family all by herself for years. And she is one of the sweetest, most soft spoken people I have ever met. She happened to joke saying that this must also be written in our horoscopes or there must be a 'kattam' which pertains to finding the right househelp. I couldn't but help laugh along. 

For the longest time, i.e. after the lady who used to work in our family since my grandfathers time retired, we have hardly needed people to help us clean. We never employed a cook. Somehow, mom was never keen as it didn't make sense with us eating out often. And I guess for cooks, it is boring to cook for 2 people with a measly appetite. Also, being a vegetarian isn't cool for many cooks in the market.

We recently were able to employ a really sweet girl who worked for us for a short while - that is, until she brought in a "Swamiji" into our house, un-announced during Diwali. These saamiyaar types we have an allergy for. She somehow thought, as single women, we required divine help. As respectfully as we could, we sent him on his way after small-talk and had to show her the door literally. 

Interestingly, I have come to know how our employing househelp/not employing them, how long they stay is a judge of character. I came across one such profound theory of how someone we knew was supposedly not nice because some maids didn't stay to work with them for too long. That's when I realized all over again, that many in the world are so jobless that they'd be busy figuring out how someone is all about based on their maids. Now why would anyone even keep a tab on the maids of some other house, especially when they are people who they don't even know? Beats me. 

Anyway talking of those who have worked with us, I remember Jeeva-mma, from my childhood, when we'd just come down to Chennai from Mumbai. I was falling sick a lot, my mother was having severe slip-disc issues, and she took to us, nursing us to health, cooking for us and even bringing her kith and kin for help, when she thought we required it. One birthday was a party with my mom, grandparents, an aunt, cousins and the entire Jeeva's family. Even after we moved out from the area, for years did I keep going back to meet her, we still do. Her daughter had become a professional photographer and she even shot a portfolio of me several years ago. 

Our 'iron' man is the same for the past 18 years. We have shifted out from the area we once lived in, but mom or I drive 20 kms to give him the clothes and take the ones that are ironed other week or so.

Somehow, there are some people who are special. There have been people in my family who continued to work with us even after their children settled into white collar jobs, purely out of love. And I'd rather drive 20 kilometers to get my clothes ironed by a gentleman who'd always been doing it for me rather than give it to someone new, who also, can't really hold a candle to anna's outstanding ironing.

To you, I wish that you find the right people to employ who'll help you along whenever you require them. May they be sincere in their work and not bring you weird saamiyar types ;)