Friday, August 16, 2013

Go play.

I am almost 25 (not there yet!) and I am nowhere close to becoming a parent, but I want to pen down my thoughts about parenting and being parents, before I get blinded by the overwhelming experience of having a child. I think having a child changes you in ways that you can never imagine- that is a clichéd line, but clichés are so true! So before I get ‘converted’ into Motherhood, I want to record all my thoughts and feelings looking at it from a distant unbiased platform. As soon as I have a child, I know, I will be allured by the antics of the little one, to even consider any of the opinions I am going to write down here. But, I want to remember what is in my mind right now, so that I can look back at it in the future. Perhaps, derive something out of this ‘gyaan’ of a naïve 24 year old.

What I am going to write now, is like an open letter to all parents, from a child’s perspective. And I write this at a juncture of my life, when I have experienced both sides of it- being a child, and being an adult (having looked at things from a parent's perspective). Having an adorable niece also contributes into this ‘holistic’ experience.

Being a parent is the toughest job description on earth. Being a good parent is even more difficult. I look at life as a game, there are so many characters, and every phase of life is a ‘level’, and difficulty level at each stage keeps on increasing. So while you do need to keep collecting ‘points’, another important part of this game is to keep going forward, without dying. Protecting yourself from the beasts that show up in the game. There are always life lines / weapons / potions (depending upon how lucky you are in life) but at the end of it all, you have to keep moving forward. If you want to collect all the points that show up on the way, you will never move forward. Ofcourse, you will move forward, but slowly. Who wins in the end? The one who has collected maximum points. Instead of collecting all of them in every level, keep going up the ladder, experience all the levels and collect points on the way. You would have more points ultimately. Aren’t the points of higher value in higher levels?

Now, when you have a baby, your life game reboots. You start all over again. You remember all the obstacles, all the beasts. You know where the potion is hidden, you know which one is a deceptive potion, you know where to collect the weapons from. You are excited coz you have done it all. And now you want to ‘guide’ your baby so that he doesn’t make mistakes. But you know what? When the game was rebooted, there were a lot of ‘app updates’ . . . it is not exactly the same game anymore. Ofcourse, the pattern is same. But it is ‘new and improved’. So while you are telling your baby how to play his game, there are a lot of points he is missing on- the points that are hidden somewhere else. Yes, there might be some beasts there, but he has weapons and potions, right? So when you guide him to the path that you had taken, grabbing all those golden, silver, platinum points, trying to score the highest score, you are making him miss the new nuggets that are added in the game.

Let him play his game!

Now, that sounds easy. But I understand it isn’t. What scares me at this moment about being a parent is having this huge responsibility of how that person who, by the way, looks like you and sometimes acts like you, turns out to become. I don’t know how I am turning out to be, and whether I am doing it right, taking responsibility of somebody else’s life . . . is way out of the league. And that is where, everything gets messed up. The need, the paranoia of doing it right. ‘The right upbringing’. That is the burden under which all parents mess up their life. They try to hold themselves accountable for everything their kid does. They want to be perfect and raise perfect kids.

But now, being a child, let me tell you one thing, very honestly. You can never be perfect parents. However you try to be ‘friendly’, ‘open minded’, ‘liberal’ . . . your kids are always going to be unhappy with you. They will have grievances and qualms, irrespective of whether you gave in to all their demands, or were strict and a disciplinarian. But in the middle of all this, there will be spurts of unexpected joys (that will melt your heart, you will be in a spell, but don’t be fooled), mostly during the early stages of their life. After that, it is downhill, believe me, until they become old enough to become parents themselves. Oh and all the sacrifices you make is part of the job description of this thankless job. The retirement plan, may be sweet (there is hope!) if you have done your job well. Wait for the fruits.

So what I want to remind myself here, before I become a parent, is that being a parent is really difficult. Don’t stop playing your game. Their game is part of your game. Like Inception. Dream within a dream. Haha. While your life revolves around them, I understand, don’t stop playing your game. That is the only advice I want to give my older self, when I become a parent. Be scared, be worried, be concerned, but play your game and let them play theirs. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013


It was last year that I finally got my passport made to see my baby niece for the very first time, in Muscat. That was my first ‘international’ trip. Little did I know that 2012 was going to be all about travelling. I landed a job which involved a lot of travelling within India, with additional ‘training’ tenure in Shanghai.

My first day of new job was supposed to be in Shanghai. Needless to say, my parents were paranoid. They have no idea about the industry I work in. I had, myself, not heard of this firm before. But it came through someone reliable, and they made an offer that I could not refuse. All was going great in my existing job, I was up for a promotion. But on the day of my appraisal I told my boss that I wanted to leave. He tried hard to make me stay, but I had already made up my mind by then. Shanghai was calling. I was way too excited. I have never counted my blessings more.

So I was all packed, ready for the adventure. The day I landed in Shanghai, it was raining heavily. Someone from office had come to pick me up at the airport. It was my first. To have someone stand holding a placard with my name on it.

I knew I would have ‘language barrier’, but I have lived across so many cities in India, each with its own language- how bad could it be? I was in for a treat. My driver, the only person I could talk to in the two hour long drive from airport to downtown, could not understand English. I had asked for a simcard to the HR, so that I could inform my folks when I reached. The driver gave me the simcard, but it did not work. I tried using my TATA photon+ on my laptop, but of course, it did not work either. I tried talking to him in sign language, all he managed was to laugh. That was his standard reply to whatever I said or asked. He laughed and continued to drive. It was kinda creepy, but I had no option but to sit back and take in the city vibe.

Finally we arrived somewhere, the driver parked the big SUV, got down, kept down my luggage as I crawled out of the car to help him with my huge suitcase (especially bought for Shanghai trip, ah!) only to turn around and see that he has disappeared. I laughed. There I was standing with my suitcase under the rain, and my driver had run away, without saying a goodbye? Haha, I laughed a little more. Just then another man, walked up to me and started pulling my suitcase and giving me an umbrella. He was mumbling something. . .of which I understood the word ‘apartment’. He started walking away. I followed him, hoping he was not stealing my suitcase.

Mr. Liu was a nice man. He spoke broken English, but we managed somehow. I was given this beautiful service apartment on the 18th floor. The view from the balcony was fascinating for my little heart. All the skyscrapers and Chinese looking building. And ofcourse, 18th floor. Losing patience with a thousand questions in my mind, I asked Liu to fix ‘internet’ on my laptop (I was so glad the word internet is understood universally!). What then started was an adorable hilarious conversation between me and Mr. Liu through Google Translate. I thanked the wonders of technology. I had no money, as I couldn’t get it converted. Mr. Liu gave me 50 RMB to buy dinner. I sent emails to everybody who had to know that I had reached / arrived in Shanghai safely.

And that is how I was introduced to Shanghai. Initially I was to stay in Shanghai for 3 months continuously, but due to work and other stuff, the three months were spread across 6 months. So I was alternating between Shanghai and Gurgaon every other month. And that I think was a lot more fun, than staying for 3 months at a go.

I was a lot more social in Shanghai than I have ever been in India. I was always up to something – trying all kinds of cuisines, meeting friends over drinks (that’s too much for the homely Indian myself :P), going for music concert, visiting art galleries, travelling to water towns, visiting this Chinese sex museum, shopping (!!), bargaining hard with the Chinese, getting lost on my way home, travelling in metro and helping other ‘Indian looking lost people’ with directions, sampling all the local Chinese beers, gorging on pork and beef, learning to say a few words in Mandarin, mastering chopsticks. . . I had a great time in Shanghai.

There are so many teeny tiny things / observations that I remember and miss about Shanghai now. I thought I will keep a record of all that, just so that I never forget, but it is so difficult to pen down every little thing.

I miss the ramp walk of men and women walking out of the subway every morning. Everybody there is so stylish. I felt like a troll, in front of them. And at my workplace, in the first week, I was so taken aback with the ‘politeness’ and quiet in the office. I came from a loud advertising agency which had blaring music playing all the time, people screaming at each other from one corner of the room to another, people pulling your leg, playing pranks, people arguing with each other, bitching about the clients, sulking about how life sucked, making plans for the weekend, staying late in office. . . you get the drift. And here I was, in this quiet hall where there were more than twenty five people and an eerie silence. Everybody was plugged in, listening to their individual music; the only sound audible was that of people typing on their laptops, and infrequent murmurs. (Though I must add that the office was very tastefully designed, crazy and wacko). So as a person, I am not even very loud. Back home, I am the quiet one. And if I felt like that, you can imagine. . . I had to keep my expressions in check. Initially I felt so awkward being all excited, talking about something in my typical animated way, only to notice that other voices were a hundred decibels lower. But I got used to it. Others also opened up to my candour, and I got along with everyone really well.

I have so many stories to tell about how it was living in Shanghai, but I don’t like long blog posts, so I am going to stop right here. Perhaps, I could write in small instalments. Fancy a part II ? In fact, I feel a little embarrassed sometimes talking about my stay in Shanghai. It just sounds so annoyingly corny, starting every other story with – “Oh you know when I was in Shanghai……” So even when something does remind me of Shanghai, I don’t say anything. I just smile to myself and think about it fondly.

Enough said. Let me leave you with a few pictures from my first trip to Shanghai.

Fete De La Musique in Shanghai
 The authentic Kung Pao Chicken
 Swings in my swanky office
 Shanghai skyline at the Bund
 Some Jazz bar we went to
The first view from my balcony

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How blind does love need to be? (Movie review: Chitrangada)

Never change yourself for anybody, especially after you have fallen in love with each other. I have seen and experienced that immediately after people start seeing each other (or get married), they change. They like to become more ‘loveable’, they try to be things that their partner will like, also expecting that their partner will change for them. This is what they call ‘compromise’ – o you can’t have it your way all the time! And people change in the process. Sometimes, losing themselves. Sometimes, becoming a projection of who their partner wants them to be. I had read somewhere that we never love a person, we fall in love with the image of that person in our mind. And if you keep changing yourself, compromising, doing things that you don’t want to do- you lose your truth, who you are inside; and when you lose touch with yourself, you fall out of love. Unless you love yourself, you cannot accept love from others. The amusing thing, the irony actually, is that when you do change yourself in bits and pieces, ultimately changing yourself completely- the person who had fallen in love with you would not recognize you anymore. And he will fall out of love too.

I recently watched the movie, Chitrangada by Rituparno Ghosh, which triggered a lot of these thoughts. In that movie, Rudra is homosexual (in India homosexuality is a taboo, not accepted by society, considered a loss of dignity if you go against the ‘law of nature’), who decides to get his gender changed in order to feel accepted by the society, to be with his boyfriend, Partho, and rear a child together, coz Partho is fond of kids. Being vulnerably blind-in-love, Rudra decides to go ahead with the procedure, in spite of Partho saying that he loves him just the way he is and doesn’t want him to change anything. But Rudra is blindly in love, right? And he wants to feel the femininity that is bubbling inside him. So he goes against the society, the norms, breaks his parents’ heart (being the only child, only son, parents feel devastated to see their khokhon taking such a bold irreversible step) and listens to his heart, rationalizing his decision. What is love that doesn’t sacrifice? You would do anything, if it makes your relationship stronger, right? Even if it means losing yourself? Well, so what happens after Rudra goes through the initial surgeries? To cut the long story short, Partho leaves him. Partho says that he didn’t want 'Rudie' to change for him. Why did he? Partho also goes on to say that if he wanted to be with a woman, he could go to a real woman, not a synthetic one like Rudra. He in fact, tells him that he is seeing another girl (a common friend of the two!). So after Rudra went all the way to make the relationship work, Partho didn’t just cheat on him, leave him but also changed his sexual orientation?

That my dear friends, is called being blind in love. Don’t try to make something work so much that you lose yourself in the process. You must keep in touch with yourself, instead of being so solely dependent on your ‘significant other’ for completing you. Your partner does not need to complete you, he/she should complement you.

Coming back to the movie, I was absolutely stunned by the performances. All the characters, right from Rituparno Ghosh playing Rudra to Jishu Sengupta playing Partho, to the supporting cast of the parents, the counselor. . .the surge of emotions in everybody’s performance was impeccable. And although, everyone may not relate to the plot literally, the strong emotions of love and compassion are so universal, that you will feel each of the characters and their state of mind. And everything is expressed so metaphorically, which is what makes it so subliminal and beautiful. Every step, every dialogue, every action is symbolic of expressions so much deeper than what they look at the surface.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Ask . Be vulnerable .

How difficult is it to ask? To ask for what you want. To ask what you want to know. To ask for help. To ask for more. By asking, you open a window. Through this window, either a strong wind can gush in and create a storm, making you feel disheveled  or it could be a comforting breeze or a beam of warm sunshine that will make you feel at home, more than you ever were. Asking makes us vulnerable. It is an emotional risk. And you may get hurt after all. All you need to ask yourself is whether it is worth getting hurt. Would you rather not have it at all, or take the risk of being trampled over?

By being vulnerable you can understand whether it is worth the risk. You keep yourself spread open to be devoured, to be exploited. Is that foolish, being vulnerable? But isn’t vulnerability the only truth? Everybody hides. Everybody wants to be bullet proof. Deep inside, under the layers of confidence, there is always a speck of unsure uncertain being. And what happens when you let someone unlayer you? It is a common grievance- You don’t understand me. But for anybody to understand you, you need to be vulnerable. Show them who you are. With all your imperfections. You need courage to be vulnerable. You need courage to show that you are not perfect. That your life is not perfect. You need to know that you are only human. Humans make mistakes. We were born to be imperfect. And it is these tiny imperfections that make you an individual. It is that raw vulnerability that is so attractive. Being raw, and not being pasted with the glitter of the environment around. The glitter needs to come from within.

When you are a child, you have no qualms about asking coz that is how you see things. You ask for it, either you get it or you don’t. And if you still want it, you ask again. And again. You show how badly you want it. But as you grow up, you stop asking. You don’t want to look desperate. ‘I can do without it, what is the big deal’- you try to ‘grow up’. How difficult was it to ask your parents that you wanted to hear a story? How difficult was it to ask that you wanted another serving of that ice-cream? How difficult was it to ask that you wanted a bicycle for your birthday? How difficult was it to ask that you wanted to play for another hour? It was not. But as you grow up you feel that asking makes you look lesser. It is almost an obligation. It is almost like you are begging. But it is not. When you can ask for something, giving out your naked vulnerable self, you establish a connection. An emotional connection. That shows how much you want something. That you are ready to forget who you are, and ask without being scared of being trampled over. When you asked your parents that you wanted a bicycle for your birthday, you were more than certain that it won’t happen. But you go right ahead and ask. Why? Coz you are not afraid of putting yourself out there, with all your hopes, all your needs, all your desires. 

I have always been the kind who had problems asking for something I wanted. I wanted people to read my mind, to understand what I needed at that moment. So much so, and my family would nod their heads in agreement, I would have trouble asking for food if I was hungry. If somebody asked me if I wanted another slice, I would say no, coz I didn't want to seem greedy or whatever, even if I was hungry and in my own home! So yes, asking doesn't come easy to me. But I have learnt in the past couple of years, that 'asking' takes you a long way. More than anything, it clears your head. . .without wondering, what if I had asked?