When you are pampered silly

TCG’s mother is here for a few months and we are being spoiled royally. Routine seems like a vacation and weekends seem like one big party. Evenings are filled with healthy banter and our tummies with delicious food that she dishes out each day. Gone are the days when I had to think all day long what to cook for dinner. TCG and I go to work and by the time we come back, everything is taken care of. House is dusted and looks spic and span, meals are cooked, and lunch boxes packed. What bliss! We haven’t seen laundry pile up in weeks. It gets done magically before we even get a chance to think about it. Not just that, it gets ironed and stacked neatly in the place where it belongs. This must be every working person’s dream. Having nothing to worry about in the evenings, after a long day’s work. We just plop ourselves on the couch, put our feet up on the ottoman, and RELAX. It feels like such an indulgence and undeniably gives us a guilt trip.

We have told her several times not to busy herself in kitchen, not to go around cleaning after us, not to stress, and just sit back and relax; she is on a vacation after all. But she likes being active and there is nothing much for her to do by herself when we are at work.  So she busies herself with household chores. TCG and I feel terrible about her doing everything for us (although she does that of her own accord). So we have worked out a pattern and reached a mutual agreement as a family. My MIL cooks Monday through Thursday. And TCG (my very own dishwasher) does the dishes, while I plop my feet up on the table, bark orders at him (Ramu, kaam theek se karo, plate theek se saaf karo nai toh tankhwa se kaat lungi ) and scroll mindlessly through the world wide web. Friday through Sundays, I bring out my apron and don my cooking hat, while my dishwasher continues with his designated job and MIL gets to plop her feet up on the table and command what she’d like to eat.

TCG and I have lived by ourselves for the better part of last year, in a new city with hardly any friends to socialize with. So it feels awesomely great to have another human for company. We look forward to our evenings with her, where we talk on a variety of subjects ranging from politics to culture to science, and society over steaming cups of coffee. She is well read, intelligent and aware about current affairs, so it is always refreshing to know her views and thoughts. My mother-in-law is very affable and easy to get along with. She is sociable and makes friends easily. I have hardly had any settling-in issues, thanks to her loving and accommodating nature. She has a strong character and is driven by her convictions. She is rational and reasonable in her arguments. What amazes me the most is her flexibility. She is ever ready to try out anything new, be it food, or adventure. It is not easy to try and like all kinds of exotic food at 52 that you have never eaten before. She does it effortlessly, and willingly. Her energy and enthusiasm is infectious and it warms my heart to see someone enjoying life to bits. (Does it read like essays we used to write back in school? :P)

TCG and I used up all our leaves in December for my BIL’s wedding. But we are trying to make most of the weekends and public holidays. We have been showing her around every chance we get, albeit a little sporadic. Last month, the three of us took off on a road drive through North Island in New Zealand and had a whale of a time. We covered quite a few places in 4 days, stayed in a cute, little Bach by the lake, went on nature trails, soaked up some sun, struck few things off the to-do-adventure list and had loads of fun. On weekends, we pack off a picnic and go visiting nearby markets, beaches, cool places in the city and botanical gardens around Wellington. We have a big trip planned to South Island during Easter (3 weeks to go yay) and are looking forward to it with growing excitement with every passing day. This is a first for me as well, so I am very excited. But if TCG’s account of these places and those thousands of unreal photographs is anything to go by, we are in for a big, big treat. New Zealand is breathtakingly beautiful. Have I said that lately?

My MIL is here till the first week of June. It is going to get extremely lonely without her. Every day spent is one day less, and it saddens us to think that she will be gone soon. She has pampered us silly and getting back to ‘life’ is going to be super challenging. What I will miss the most about her is not the comfort and order she has brought in to our lives, but the cheerful and smiling face that greets us everyday we get home.

 

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Beyond love-themed movies

It was a Friday evening. We couldn’t wait to wrap up our work quickly and get back home. And because it was Friday, it meant ‘the dinner feast’ night. It meant whipping up a fancy treat for us. Why? Because it is Friday. We like to be a little indulgent on Fridays. Why? *Rolls eyes* Because it is Friday. And because we feel the happiest on Fridays in anticipation of the two-day holiday.

The weekend was upon us. A relaxed and a lazy Saturday on the cards. We rushed through our dinner feast and wrapped up the kitchen quickly. We will realise later that we shouldn’t have. We had decided to watch ‘Highway’ and had been looking forward to it since morning. TCG and I had read some reviews, reviews that were highly polarized. Now we all know that never judge a movie by its reviews, but we can’t deny that the reviews at least help us eliminate out the ones that are absolute crap. So, some said it had a good premise, some said it didn’t quite succeed in making the cut. Some said that it is the kind of movie, where you know that the director is trying to attempt something new, something unconventional, but ‘that trying to show something different’ effort continuously shows on screen. We felt like just going in to the movie with an open mind and giving Imtiaz Ali a fair chance to make his point, for the sake of his previous good work.

*Highway movie – Spoiler alert*

The first hour or so was not that bad, because you are waiting for the interesting part to come. The story is building up and so is your excitement, hoping that there would be something different to see. You want to see why the director has cast such an odd leading pair. Randeep Hooda kidnaps Alia Bhat (don’t even remember their names in the movie) and takes her away to some place mysterious. There are fleeting eye contacts between them, and you are hoping against hope for this not to turn in to a love story. The plot becomes somewhat questionable when the kidnapee (if there is such a word) doesn’t take the golden chance she has to escape when the patrolling police stop the truck she is being transported in. You wonder why? She might not have had a very happy life before the whole kidnapping episode, but that still doesn’t explain why she would want to hang around with her kidnappers and not take that chance to be free.

You try to digest this, thinking she might have her reasons to do that. But then all of sudden, she spills her guts out to her kidnapper. Out of nowhere, she starts telling him the story of her childhood horror. You wonder why? What triggered this? Shouldn’t her natural reaction to her kidnapper be that of anger and mistrust? You question why she would tell such personal things to a not just a stranger, but her kidnapper. What is she expecting from a person who is wrong to begin with? Sympathy? If you put yourself in that situation even for a second, would you feel angry and revolted at the thought of being kidnapped or would you feel chirpy and start confiding in him? She has been kidnapped only a couple of days ago and it is not like there is any emotional bond between them for her to make such personal revelations.

Alia feels liberated, probably because of her troubled past. She was kidnapped in front of her beau, and he didn’t do much except give her an inopportune I-told-you-so comment. So you understand that she has lost complete faith in her family; her uncle, her mother and even her beau. But opposite of losing trust in family doesn’t mean putting trust in a complete stranger, a kidnapper. There are whole range of colours between black and white. At this point, your rational mind just doesn’t agree with her actions. What is she thinking? Is she thinking two wrongs will make a right? And the thought that keeps hammering your mind constantly is why would you want to open up and bond with your kidnapper?

The plot takes a serious nosedive when she falls in love with him, sings songs and starts dancing to English music, much to the entertainment of the other fellow kidnapper. The shift in her mood from that initial bout of fright to feeling a sudden sense of elation and liberation in captivity feels unreal. And this is where we stopped watching. We couldn’t take it anymore.

You see a movie like ‘12 years a slave’ and then you see ‘Highway’, you can’t help but compare. Soloman Northup in ‘12 years a slave’ is also held captive, leading a life of slavery and drudgery beyond imagination.  But like Highway, you don’t see a sudden absurd transition of emotions from one extreme to another. Unlike Highway, he doesn’t go from being ‘very very angry’ to being ‘happy’ just because he feels that there might never be a free life for him now, so might as well be happy here. He is patient. He never loses his focus and he is forever looking for a chance to freedom for 12 years. 12 years is a long time for your goals to fizzle out, to accept your fate, to lose steam, to not get angered anymore, or to even want to be free again. But he is hopeful and he hasn’t made his peace with slavery. He certainly doesn’t fall in love with anyone during that time. Because, love is not necessarily a part of every story. At least not the man-woman, hero-heroine kind of love. George Clooney and Sandra Bullock were the lead pair in Gravity. But can you imagine them to be romantically linked in the movie? NO, right?

Can’t we get this simple thing drilled tightly into our minds? When will commercial Bollywood movies stop making the ‘hero’ and ‘heroine’ fall in love in every single movie even if it feels forced, unwanted and unreal? When will we grow tired of love-themed movies? When will we explore newer subjects?

My thoughts on this movie may be prejudiced, and I may not be entirely right about my observations because we never made it to the end. I don’t know what happened next and how the story unfolded. The movie ended for me here.

I wish we hadn’t rushed through our Friday evening feast.

 

Daddy’s little girl

A few days ago, while at a friend’s house, I was a witness to a beautiful father-daughter relationship being played out in front of me. This friend is a new father. And needless to say, his 7 month old cherubic daughter is the apple of his eyes. The new mother said that he can’t bear to see his daughter cry. When they take her to the doctor for the vaccines and injections, his eye well up when his daughter lets out a sharp cry at the poke of needle. In the short time that we were there, I saw him playing with her, gently stroking her head, rocking her, comforting her, singing to her, feeding her and even talking to her. I was choked with emotions and transported back to my childhood days; reminiscing the little wonderful, moments that I spent with my father.

How lovely a father-daughter relationship is, isn’t it?

Like father, like daughter

Like father, like daughter

What I find truly fascinating is how naturally the new parents are able to process this whole set of new, complicated emotions that comes with being a parent. How naturally fathers start doting on their daughters! How these seemingly tough men, who have hitherto always shied away from sharing their emotions, become so gullible when it comes to their daughters! How he discovers a whole new side to him when it comes to his daughter! How he becomes a puppet in his daughter’s hands! How he would do anything to hear her little giggles or to see her jumping with joy! How disturbed he feels when she looks sad! How vulnerable and sad he feels when she is sick! How protective he feels when she steps out in the real world! And likewise, the biggest grief in a daughter’s life would be to see her father cry.

“A daughter is a day brightener and a heart warmer.”

I am sure parents love their children dearly, irrespective of their gender. But there is something just so beautiful about a father-daughter relationship. It is extra special. Why most daughters, including me, even look like their fathers!

No matter how old she gets, she always remains her daddy’s little girl.

I love you dad. I couldn’t have had a better dad. (Things I am grateful for: Reason #24)

I cried at the wedding not because mom cried. I cried because YOU cried.

The reason why daughters love their dad the most is that there is at least one man in the world who will never hurt her.

Top ten ways to beat the seasonal mood swings

Sun plays a very, very important role in our overall wellbeing. I am not saying anything new, am I? Everyone knows this.

But this taken-for-granted-sun has really made its point. And how well! Till very recently, I did not really understand how sun influences our personal and mental well-being and how much can it really affect our mood.

The full force of its power has recently dawned upon me. NZ is in midst of a full blown winter.  This means we have very short days here and very long nights right now. For the past couple of weeks, sun has been rising at 7.45am (OMG, can you believe that?) and sets at 4.57pm. On most days, its gloomy, rainy and windy. Sun just gives us a formal guest appearnace once in a while and behaves like a celebrity who walks into a party late, knows his worth, charms everyone and leaves just as quickly.

I am observing how depressing this can get. Not getting enough day light can seriously affect moods. When I wake up at 7, it is so dark, that I have to summon every little speck of power within me to leave the warm comfort of bed, and step into yet another cold, gloomy day. When I leave office at 5.15pm, it is so dark that it seems like 8pm. Ya. So basically, my exposure to sun is now limited to the weekends only, provided that sun decides to come out on a weekend. If it also decides to take a weekend off, it gets extremely dull and can also get quite depressing.

With this, comes a crushing realization of just how powerful nature is. And how paradoxical life is! And how it makes you want things you do not have! When I was in India, I used to rant about how hot summers got. And now when I am in NZ,  how much I crave for some sun and light. I really need a Vitamin D fix. Urgently.

There have been studies on this unique condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. People with SAD, seem to have depressive mood spells in autum and winter. I am not getting into the whole scientific part of SAD. Am just saying that what so many people are experiencing is not baseless.

But lets take charge of this and do small things to keep black mood at bay. Let us not let it affect us so much. It’s all in our mind, and we can control this.

Top ten ways to beat the seasonal mood swings:

  1. Try to be upbeat, and not have lingering, depressing thoughts. Stay happy. Train your mind to think happy thoughts.
  2. Surround yourself with postive people and people who love to laugh. You definitely do not need negative, overly critical, unreasonably judgemental, and people who constantly find reasons to complain. You need more positive aura around you.
  3. Listen to your favourite fast music. Your favourite peppy number. Have a go-to playlist for such days or listen to your favourite song in loop. Whichever way you like really.
  4. Steer clear of sad, depressing songs.
  5. Call, talk, meet, skype with your family and excahnge good conversations. It really lighthens the mood.
  6. EAT CHOCOLATE.
  7. Ease up on coffee and eat your favourite food.
  8. Watch classics and funny movies.
  9. Develop a hobby. If you already have one, lose yourself in it.
  10. And you may want to use more white lights at home as opposed to dim, yellow lights.

EAT CHOCOLATE.

EAT CHOCOLATE.

EAT CHOCOLATE.

That old fashioned love

These days saying “I love You” is as common as saying hello. Look around you to know what I mean. How easily people say those three magical words.

I think a lot of people are using the words ‘love’ and ‘like’ interchangeably. It’s not common for high school girls and boys to be in “love” with someone. They easily fall in love, and at the slightest quarrel, fight or argument, they fall out of love and break-up. By the time they have passed college, they have fallen in and out of love at least five or six times. Isn’t love supposed to be ageless, a classic?

In this world of instant gratification, instant communication, instant food, instant money, instant, early and easily available sex everyone is super impatient. No one wants to wait. By the age of 12-13, girls and boys in schools start to feel complex-ed if they don’t already have a boy/girlfriend. They are impatient to wait for the right one to come by at right time. By the age of 15-16, they start keeping a score of how many girls they are doing and how many have they already done. By the age of 20, they have seen it all. They have been in and out of love several times, some have married, some have had kid/s and by 22-23 when they ideally should have begun dating, they are fighting legal battles and filing divorces. No wonder, the whole love thing has left a bitter taste and led them to believe that there isn’t such a thing.

Unfortunately, morals have hit an all time low. Love is confused with sex. Your desirability quotient is judged by your virginity. If you are still a virgin at 20 or 22, then there has got to be something wrong with you.

I personally think that this whole thinking is flawed. The peer pressure on the Western society to ‘do’ it as soon as they are in high school, to start relations so early in life when your little mind is incapable of knowing what you will want 8 years down the line has led to so many complicated relationships around us. Obviously what you think is right and perfect as a teenager doesn’t seem so correct when you become an adult, does it? No wonder then the divorce rate in these countries is more than 50%. Because marriage is no longer for keeps. It’s as easy to opt out of marriage as easy it is to get in. Then what’s wrong with a country like India, which is a little conservative, where sex outside marriage is still considered a taboo for a majority. But at least, people are willing to wait it out before they are adults. At least marriages in India don’t fall apart so easily.

I am not sitting on a moral horse and saying sex outside marriage is bad or anything. That is for each person to think for himself and decide depending upon his beliefs. And in today’s world where urban people put off marriage till late 20s, it’s impossible to think that they wouldn’t have had any sex before that. But the moot point is, what is the need to start so early…at 13/14? Why are kids impatient to be become adults? Why can’t they wait till the time is right and save themselves serious relationship issues?

And even for adults…what is love actually? How can we have 5 serious relations in 5 years and claim to be in love with all? Then there is something definitely wrong with our definition of love, isn’t it? Why don’t we wait for the right person to come along? Why are we eager to pledge out love to any “single” person that crosses our path?

What IS love then?

Love takes its time. It grows eventually. When it happens, it hits you exactly where it should. It makes you want to take extra effort to make your relationship work; it makes you want to give your best rather than just think about receiving. It is unconditional. It makes you love someone with their irritating habits. It won’t change even if people change. Because people are bound to change a little every passing year. So when you love someone you love them exactly as they are, without expecting them to change, and exactly how they will be in the future. You will love them even if they become someone you don’t agree with.

And I feel love by itself is nothing. It’s just a summation of a lot of other wonderful feelings like friendship, understanding,sacrifice, respect, communication, laughter, trust, attraction, companionship and belief.

So don’t rush into saying “I love You” to anyone and everyone, keep it for that special one, say only when you are absolutely convinced it is love. And when you are absolutely convinced about it, the words will make their way to your lips. You will feel like you have to get them out and let the person know. But wait till that kind of urgency and compulsion to confess grips you.

Let’s not steal the thunder from those three words, let it have that special effect on the person who hears them. And that will happen only when we wait for the right time and the right person and use those words only sparingly.

Let’s bring meaning back to those three words!! Let’s bring back the old fashioned love.

Behind every successful woman

There is an old Thai saying, “A man is the foreleg of the elephant and the woman the hind leg,” which on translation also means that behind every successful man is a woman.  Yes, we have been hearing this forever now. But what about a successful woman? Who backs up a successful woman?

Not surprisingly, behind every successful woman is also a man…her father, her friend, or her husband. A man who lets her lead, a man who lets her live her dreams, a man who is secured about her position in his life, a man who doesn’t tie her down, a man who understands that she is as alive as he is, that she has her own dreams, priorities and aspirations…and most importantly a man who is so secured and self assured about his own position in her life that he doesn’t feel the need to control or tame her to feel more like a man. He doesn’t need to impose on her to feel the false sense of power. Won’t you agree?

Look at any successful woman around you. No, you don’t have to go too far and look at the intimidating pin-striped-suit wearing women CEOs and MDs. Just look around you; at ordinary woman. Women, who have come a long way from where they started. Yes, those women who work hard to be successful in their own little way, in their own private lives, in their own little careers; be it their business or a job.

Would this have been possible if her father had never let her dream, learn or have thoughts of her own? Would this have been possible if her husband would have discouraged her from working, not believed in her talents and not really thought that she can add value and make a difference?

And just so we are on the topic, let me also add that just allowing your woman to work is not enough. First of all, “I let my wife work,” itself is such a negative sentence.  Who are you to ‘let’ her work? It’s her right anyway.

A man who really wants her wife to work:

  • Lets her decide which career she wants to pursue and not limit her options.
    For eg: I am ok if you work in a bank.  It is a very safe place to work. But working as an art director on a film set??? NO way, that is not possible. That is not safe.

    Meh….now what is that? Please let her decide where she wants to work. Show some trust in her. She is not a child, she can protect herself. You can’t limit her options and lay down few that you think are safe. Please don’t impose on her …let her decide. Because if you are being rigid about where she can work and where she can’t, then again you aren’t being any different from your orthodox forefathers. And if you are being so rigid, then please don’t take that burden of being cool, urban and open-minded husband also. You don’t deserve it.  It’s one thing to worry about her safety and another thing to restrict her mobility in the name of safety.
  • Shares her household responsibilities
    For eg: Dear, why isn’t the dinner ready ?I told you that you can only work if you can manage both home and work without slipping behind on home front, didn’t I?

    Whoa…seems like you are doing her a favour by letting her work. Then I request again please don’t take that pressure of being cool and modern just because you are allowing her to work. Because your behavior, attitude and actions haven’t changed a bit. You are still hung up on your old ways.  Just like you, she has had a hard day at work too. She is human and she can get tired too. Shouldn’t you be helping her in the kitchen instead of just bossing around and barking orders?

  • Understands that her career can also be demanding
    For eg: Have you seen the time? It’s 11 pm. Just because I let you work, doesn’t mean that you come home this late. Our kids and home are a big mess, do you have any idea? 

    No, no, no…I am not exaggerating. I have seen families who behave that way. May be not in the first world countries to that extent, but this sure does happen in many developing countries. Just like you, she has deadlines, she has to deal with work pressure too. She has to face office politics too. Just like you, she can have a longer working day than usual too. If you were truly supporting her career and her progress, you would understand this and probably keep a bowl of hot soup ready when she returns. She would be grateful to know that you love her, support her career, and understand its challenges…you love her and you are concerned about her meals and her health. That is called support.

  • Doesn’t let his family or parents ridicule her career 

    There are still many countries where the extended family also lives together, where the elders (especially men) mock the careers of the ladies, belittle them and ridicule their contribution. In such cases, its up to that good husband who has let his wife work, to also stand up for her in front of his whole family and show trust and confidence in her.

I am not trying to portray men in negative light here. If you thought that even for a second then you totally missed the point, didn’t you? In fact, I am saying that behind every woman who shines bright at her work place, is a wonderful man who loves her, who shares household responsibilities with her, who supports her even if that means going against the whole family, who truly lets her progress rather than just let her have a false sense of satisfaction by only letting her work somewhere he chose. Behind successful woman is that man who keeps his ego at bay, who is not intimidated or bothered even if his wife earns more than him, who is proud of her if she does, who is proud of her even if she doesn’t, who respects her passion and energy, who supports her initiatives in every way possible, who is willing to relocate if she is having a better career between the two rather than ask her to quit.

This blog is for all men in my life …father, brother, friends and now TCG who have supported me no matter what, who have let me have wings, who have stood by me fiercely…even in the face of adversity.

Without support of all you wonderful men, this would never have been possible. I wouldn’t be what I am today. Because you trust me, have faith in me; believe in my abilities, I am able to be more productive at work. And I don’t have to worry about being scolded at or being barked at once I get home. And I am really thankful and grateful for this. (Things I am grateful for: Reason # 4)