What’s so funny!

Usually there are two versions of a husband. The one at home, wants a neat and clean house, loves to hold a commanding post in the household and wants to be loved and respected for bringing food to the table. And the other one is a poor, victimised soul who suffers daily in the hands of his wife. The latter version usually exists in social gatherings and wats app jokes!!!

There are jokes on how a wife spends all the husband’s money, or how a wife takes all the decision of the house and is always angry and how the husband is always scared of her wrath..!! There are also jokes on how husbands are useless because they weren’t well taught by their mothers!! 

I know a joke is supposed to be taken with a pinch of salt. To most of the people I know, these jokes are hilarious. But it bothers me at some level. I think it degrades a holy bond between a man and a woman and it reeks of sexism. 

I am not a staunch feminist. I respect the role played by a man and a woman in the society. I believe people should deserve adulation only on the basis of their roles played and not due to their gender. Some people who fear criticism, express their feelings when it feels acceptable to do so, in a way that is easily disguised –  by joking about it freely. The jokes that were meant to disguise such thoughts, soon become a perception based on some random personality trait !!

On the other hand, I have seen some husbands, who financially support their wives to complete their education or set up a new business and have immense appreciation for what they do. Respect is a two way street. But many of us often forget that.

A situation can be funny, but a cheap laughter by stereotyping the spouse, is not something I appreciate. They say behind every joke is a sliver of truth. Such jokes, draw attention to the faults and failures of our partners. Being playful is different than being hateful.

Ladies and Gentlemen, lets not play the victim card for fun! Humour is risky for sure. But lets make jokes on the politicians instead !!

“Namaste Laxmi Aunty”

In an independent age we are living in, we usually talk about how all forms of labour contribute to the welfare of the society. 

In many western countries, the dignity of labour is well recognised. Students do not mind in earning money by working as food delivery boy or waiters at a restaurant. Much of the domestic work like cooking food is done by the members of the family. However, in countries like India, many middle-class families have house hold help. There are benefits for sure, but comes with a slight implication when we look at the society as whole.

My son was five, when he very innocently said to me,

“Mummy I want to be a driver of a garbage truck when I grow up”.

I had a hearty laughter. But I realised it was the right time to teach him about dignity of labour. I answered with a very serious tone,

“Well they have to wake up really early and work very hard. Do you think, you can work that hard?”

He thought for a while and said,

“Ok mummy, I will try and wake up early from tomorrow.” 

That day, I instilled in him the respect for that garbage collector. 

You will become a watchman when you grow up.”  is very common thing that parents usually say to their children when they don’t study. As soon as a child hears this, the foundation of discrimination is laid. Guarding a building is now an inferior job, in his young impressionable mind. As parents can’t we put forward a better argument? Well part of the answer, surely is unending, so we never achieve that satisfying sense of right form of parenting.

We often use a tone with that washing lady when that shiny glass bowl is chipped or with the sun darkened gardener when the garden isn’t clean enough. Well look around, there might be a child listening and this behaviour can become a legacy.

Many of us try and give the left over party food to our household help. I encourage my son to keep the food neatly in respective containers and pack it in neat cloth bags and hand over the pack to the maid. I refrain from using the word left over, I emphasise on the word ‘sharing’. He enjoys picking up his toys and books to give away to my maid’s children. I let him decide what should be given away. It gives him a sense of giving to the less privileged. And while giving, I make sure, he understands that its his moral responsibility and he is not doing a favour.

I have maids in my house who frequently interact with my son and try to pamper him too. He is not allowed to instruct her about anything. The words like ‘please’ and ‘kindly’ puts the same message across in a more respectable way. So instead of a command, it sounds like a request.

I have many friends and family who have a live in maid. The protocol is to greet their household help after greeting the family members with the same smile and humility. Slightly torn shoes are first repaired and then given to the maid.

Who decides which work is better And who deserves respect? Isn’t an honest job enough? Dignity of labor is a thing of the past. It is deteriorating with the increasing size of posh houses and fancy cars. No one should be treated with any less respect just because of the work they do. We can’t change the past, when the caste systems were made and discrimination was part of the society. Times have changed and so should the parenting, for a better tomorrow.

My Sweetest Child

I was never the kind of girl, who would stop in the middle of a mall to play with babies. I refrained from being around those little chubby beings who usually ended up getting a lot of attention for just being themselves. I was too scared to even hold one.

A big part in me, changed when I found out there was a life growing inside of me. While growing up, I had to beat my brains out to maintain the rat’s nest growing on my head and ensure the nail paint stays well within its boundary. “What kind of a mother will I be?” I would imagine and feel sorry for my future daughter with messy ponytails. I often had nightmares. But thankfully, I was blessed with a son. And soon I realised it comes with additional responsibilities!!

As the maternal instincts started to kick in, I made a mission to learn new things in those nine months. I learnt cooking and read tons of articles about babies and child psychology. During those nine months, many women rubbed my growing round belly and threw in some great, not so great advices. It often sounded like, “If you do ….. your child will grow up like mine.”. Most of the times, my brains would go “ok!! I don’t like your children.” I was confused all the time.

Society looks with disdain on moms who don’t do everything perfectly. After the child is born, for most of the women its a dark, lonely, scary, and uncertain time. And of course the guilt creeps in when the journey is a little far from perfect ! 

I was given a big fat ‘F’ in this course called motherhood because my son was a little skinny (not underweight) and wasn’t fair (he had a wheatish complexion).

It went on till my son began to understand the words. I would fill with rage when few so called ‘cultured’ women, spoke about my son’s appearance in front of him.

Then I decided to take things in my hands. I never answered back to them. Instead I started telling my son stories of Nelson Mandela and racism. I engrained in his mind the concept of unconditional love and respect. I taught him the importance of good heart and an open mind over a superficial appearance.

My Sweetest Child !!

Once, over the dinner table, there was a comment passed by an elder about a woman looking older than her age. Jokes were made and after reaching home, my six year old son asked me, “Mummy, was that the correct way to talk about some ones appearance? I think that was very rude.”, I was proud. I knew I had done something right.

All the labels and grade, I was put in, suddenly disappeared and I hugged him very tight. He is naughty and does pick up fights in school. He is a regular boy and I let him be. He can become brutally honest sometimes. Well, I am working on that.

Since then, there have been numerous occasions where my son took me by surprise. Another incident took place when my friend came home with her daughter. She wanted to leave early, when I insisted her to stay a little longer she said, “My husband is going to yell at me if I am late”. After she left, my son said, “Durga maa (a Hindu Goddess) is going to be very upset with her husband”. He remembered the stories I would tell him about how women should be respected and their place in the society. He respects the fact that I work and appreciates me for my achievements. I never shy away from apologising to him when I do something wrong. So he is never afraid to tell the truth.

We cannot protect our children all the time. They will come across such atrocities at every turn as they grow up. I tell him stories about lot of different concepts. It does take time to frame the right words but in the end it is worth it.  I refrain from using adjectives like pretty, fair or slim. I don’t read him books where women are only pretty and men are only strong. I teach him to assess more and judge less.

I cannot change the world, but I can groom a boy to become a man with wisdom and do my part as a mother. 

Cookie Memories

To unwind, after numerous attempts to achieve the sales target, my team and I would go for chai and poha in the late afternoon. On an usual afternoon, we stepped out of the office building to find a new place set up just outside the premises.  ‘Shivis’ read the brand new board. The beautiful paintings on the lilac walls were so inviting. The place looked expensive but, we wanted to give it a try.

After all, how much a plate of poha could cost!” We thought to ourselves.

We entered and ordered our normal snack. Poha and a cutting chai !! We saw a middle aged man with a huge head full of dark hair reading a book at the cash counter. I couldn’t help notice the lines on his face. It seemed like, each line, spoke a different story of his days, sang a different song of his victory. I squinted to see the title of the book, “The Wealth of Nations”. I remembered reading the book in college.
I went up to speak to him. “Hello” I said.
He replied with a smile, “Hi.. How may I help?”.

His voice was heavy and his speech had a slight accent. “I love the book you are reading.” I said. 

“Oh its my favourite too. I love the author’s outlook about the modern economics. It makes sense even in today’s world.” We ended up having a very long chat about our favourite books and movies.
This man is a delight.” I thought to myself.

Days went by, ‘Vishal Bhaiya’ and I became great pals. He was once married to his high school sweetheart named Shivani. He opened this place for the love of his wife. But the marriage didn’t last for more than 6 years.

My friends found our friendship to be bizarre because of the age difference. From my experience I can say one thing for sure, friendships with older and younger people help broaden your perspective. From elders, you will always get great advices, because more likely than not – they’ve already experienced them.

We would have our meals together. To my surprise, he was a wonderful chef. He learnt baking in his 20’s. He baked the best chocolate fudge cupcake, I ever tasted. He taught me how to bake cookies and he ate my half burnt cookies with the same zeal. I knew I was evolving personally and emotionally.

Many times, I saw him popping colourful pills from a box. I never thought of inquiring about it. Once after lunch, I just blurted the words,

“Are those multivitamins to keep you younger”, followed by a hysterical laughter.    

“Oh! these, are just to keep me alive a little longer”, he said with a wide grin on his pale face.

 I couldn’t really process that information. My laughter turned to a distraught expression. 

“I have been wanting to tell you this from a long time now”, as he started to speak, I knew I didn’t want to hear the words that followed. 

“I am HIV positive”. 

My heart stopped and I found myself rooted to my chair. I found out that he had come to terms with his imminent death. His calm and cool look, concealed his pain and the fact he was shunned by his friends and family after the virus was detected. His grieving wife, left when she could not handle the pressure of being married to an HIV patient.

Stigma of this virus has its own pathway; it starts with labelling, separation, status loss, and ends up in discrimination. To see the HIV stigma flaunt itself in the mainstream – after so much effort, and so many years dedicated to overcoming it – is depressing indeed. People are facing social ostracism, while many are increasingly facing the situation with fortitude and courage.The virus turned off his immunity but the society, made him immune to love and care. But one thing I know for sure, the kindness that resided in his heart, made him forgive everyone. 

Death of a friend is like losing a limb. The pain and the anguish goes away after a while, but the feeling of loss still lingers forever. Sometimes, it feels like you’ll never get over the grief. It can feel all-encompassing. It’s funny to think, that best friends attend each other’s birthday, anniversary but never the funeral. 

Sometime friends separate due to job priorities, family etc. But when they see each other after a long time, the conversations start right, where you left the last time. For true friendships, the connection isn’t very difficult to reset. 

My friend left me behind. In my case, I wish I could unpause the silence. I looked for him in the crowded places. I knew it was impossible, but grief, is never governed by logic. The misery often takes away the happy memories, but is it worth it? I needed closure. It took some time but I, came up with a copping mechanism. I cherished every memory of his, I celebrate his birthday every year since then and I tried to become more like him. The scar he left behind is deep and so was the bond we shared.

But I will always carry his love and all that he taught me in my heart. How lucky am I to have someone, who make goodbyes so hard!!

A Soldier’s Agony

For an unemployed boy from a  poor family, it isn’t about ‘having a career’ or having a five year plan. It is about getting a job that pays well. The Indian Army provides such an opportunity to young men, who need not be highly educated but should be physically fit.

No soldier was ever born a patriot. The training they go through completely changes their outlook. The boys become stronger and focused men. This manhood exposes the fissure between philosophy and the truth. The cracks in this masonry of reality gets filled with the grout of love for the nation first, then the fellow men and lastly his own life. 

A boy who was raised with love is now in a war. The tourniquet is dripping red and fatigue in every inch of his body. This deracinated being, is now emotionally detached. He possesses the raw power to face the danger with grace, to follow every command and protect the motherland. He has to kill. He has to serve. And if at all he survives, has to feed his family back home. A soldier never kills a man, he eliminates a possible threat to his nation.

To honour these men, there are dedicated monuments, movies and many printed pages. Very often some candle marches are organised too.

Then what? What next?

The soldier climbs down the mountains where he once sprawled from exhaustion, to the society we call our homes. He finds people of his country fighting and arguing over issues like religion, language and caste.

My father adorned stars and our national emblem on his shoulders. I have not stayed in one place for more than 2 years. I have spent my childhood in more than 8 states with all different languages. My mother has collected handicrafts from all over the country and her recipe book has recipes for mutton rogan josh to vangi bhaat, from dhokla to rosogolla and the Assamese dish, fish tenge. In the process, it didn’t make sense to love just one state, speak just one language and embrace just one culture.

But, today when I attend the parties where the polished educated lot, sit with their champagne glasses, I am judged more than often for not knowing the local language and a few call me an outsider. Am I an outsider in the country for which my father went to the battlefield?

I have an eight years old son. He knows about the Bhagwan Gita, the Holy Quran and a little about Jesus and Guru Nanak ji too. I wish he grows in society where he is not questioned about his caste or what language he speaks. I wish he is celebrated for his kindness and not his financial status. I don’t want him to go to a foreign university because I want to be sure that opportunities are present in my country. For freedom of opportunity is the foundation for all other freedoms. 

Many warriors have bled to keep our country safe. But if our thoughts don’t change, every soldier who died ; died for nothing. Every sacrifices made are in vain. Mothers lost their sons for whom? For us, who are too busy vandalising the country’s property in the name of religion. Let’s make a nation where we are able to live happily and prosper together because we belong together. Let’s make the world of that limbless soldier or that war widow a better place and making their sacrifice worth it.

ALTRUISM

A prairie dog whistles to warn others of a hawk attack, so the hawk swoops straight down to eat the whistler. A mommy bear protects her cubs from predators risking her own life. This is an example of a concept that seems to be working against natural selection, called altruism.

Altruistic acts are considered acts of self-sacrifice, and therefore, they are generally regarded as the opposite of self-interested acts. In other words, its opposite of being selfish. 

I first came across this word, ‘altruism’ while reading a book called, “The Virtue Of Selfishness” by Ayn Rand. Although I didn’t  agree to most of her philosophies when I read the book ten years back, today, few do make sense. Whatever the moralists can disagree about, they will agree on few arguments I am putting forward.

Why is it that a son, who shifts to a different country to pursue his dreams, becomes the one who ‘abandoned’ his parents? Why is an ideal mother is always pictured as the one who has stays home and sacrifices her career to nurture her family? Why is a father considered great when he spends only on his family and not himself.

People’s moral judgments are often driven by emotion and like the emotions, well that changes a lot.. with convenience !! Aristotle, did not consider ethics and values to be an exact science. He based the ethics on observations and consequences of the choices we make.

Ethics is a code of values that guide a man’s choices. There are always alternatives to choose from. When the motivation to make a choice is  based on self interest, it is usually termed as ‘selfishness’.

The girl, renounces her parent’s house and title because she has accepted that as a moral duty. She believes that that is what she is supposed to do. The boy, chose his goals to exist as a productive being. The mother, stepped out of the house, with a heart full of love for her child. The father wished to have a life, according to his taste. All those choices did not make them selfish, because the choice was made under the guidance of reason that don’t clash with the greater good.

People try and live two lives. One is a mock version where they try to please others, want a huge gang of followers and friends. Later in life, comes a time where they learn to value themselves and their relationships. They finally identify that in order to give more to the world they need to have more inside of them–knowledge, experience, insight, love, wealth etc. And the more they look after themselves, the more they can contribute to the world.

To untangle this moral dilemma I believe that self-love is simply forgiving yourself for the past, being present and grateful for who you are today, and being optimistic for your future. The past choices should be considered a lesson and less of a regret.

Defining Your ‘COOL’

“Being Cool is being your own self,not doing something that someone else is telling you to do.”

I read this quote in a magazine long back. Yes, the time when social media and meme culture did not exist and hence the magazines. I belong to the time where we loved Bryan Adam’s summers, Shakira’s hips never lied and Enrique was our ‘hero’. We listened to sad and broken women singing barely comprehensible words about flashlights and feeling their way around in the dark. Then there were these quintessential bad boys with jeans so low, their behinds would advertise their underwear brand. And of course, the accompanying finger show was cemented as a part of our cultural lexicon.  All that because everyone wanted to be cool.

The most popular teens weren’t usually the ones with well adjusted personalities, kind natures, and sensible life goals. They were the ones partying too much and making others feel bad about themselves. Adolescence can mean facing the emotional challenges of adults for the first time. Due to higher testosterone, they use their prefrontal cortex to rein in their emotions. Then there is a pea sized insula, tucked away in the cerebral cortex, which is partly responsible for all the seemingly disparate things because it facilitates our concept of self-awareness, the awareness of our bodies and emotions and the desire. It lights up when they are compelled to accept any changes around them. It gives them a high when, they are famous (even infamous) or are loved by their peers and when juniors look up to them. At that age, they love to imagine that they are in control. But more often than not…the changing chemical composition of their brains control them.   

There was an incident that took place when I was in high school. My parents and I were invited by a family, whose son was a senior in my school. I met his parents and his grandmother. My first instinct was to touch the grandmother’s feet, because that’s what my parents have taught me all my life. The next day, I was the laughing stock of the school because touching the feet of elders wasn’t cool unless you were trying to impress the boy!!! This shook the very core of my belief. Very soon, I was termed a ‘nerd’ and ‘behenji’ in the school. I felt miserable for a while. When I look back to the time, I realise, there were just a few children, who liked being rude and others some how appreciated it and tried to emulate the same kind of behaviour. 

The world is full of disappointments, and sometimes people let you down. You can’t just run away. But still, many of us are permanently scarred by the experiences of our adolescence. There are little girls whom I know were bullied for their speech and avoided school for a long time. Just think of all the people you see on social media desperately trying to come across as the most popular. I have come across some college children, who gang up against smaller groups of students who speak a different language or belong to a different state and, find it very cool because it somehow makes them feel superior.

Vulnerability isn’t the opposite of strength. It’s a necessary part. We have to force ourselves to open up, to expose ourselves and stand up for the right. Some people are bullied for being dark skinned or being overweight, judged for not having a sense of humour etc. What is cool and what is uncool, is a perception of our mind. Too often, people stand by and do nothing for the people who suffer and I think, it’s time we change that. I have often heard people say “This is how it is”  or “Who cares?”. It has become easy for everyone to accept and succumb to despair and readily accept what is wrong. Since when is it OK to be rude or OK to laugh at someone for their problems? It only becomes “not ok” when it happens to themselves.. Why? Just because, “Kyunki main meri favourite hoon?”. 

For many, there comes a tumultuous time when their appearance,emotions, failure become such a bane of their existence. Let such talks stop.. Let’s be kind.. Let’s love more, appreciate more and accept more. Because there are no insults that are bizzarrely hilarious.

Because It Was You.. Part 3

After Mukul left, the room was painfully silent except for the sound of my beating heart. He left me with words that kept wandering in my head. In the weekend, with not much to do at home, I kept thinking about the last few weeks of knowing him, spending time with him and figuring out this guy, who was so adamant to reboot my heart. We never spent any time alone. Every evening our little gang would go to the park and sit on the those wet muddy benches and just talk. Looking at the bamboo trees shining in the evening glow, we all had chai, served by a withered and ragged woman, in her rusty kettle with a half broken spout. She could scare all the notorious children in the park. Those little spaces in time created by teatime rituals were filled with conversation about our lives, dreams and ambitions.

Anger is the mother of all sins. It not only eats away the real you, but effects the people around us too. I was angry. I was angry all the time. I was angry at God, angry at him for breaking my heart and most of all, I was angry at myself. Now, I was not a “typical girl” if there even is such a thing. I loved myself. Sure, there were things I wanted to improve, but I didn’t have a problem with what my body looked like or my personality. I was focused. But then I found myself lost in a long trench. I would ask myself, “For a guy?”. It did take time, but then I was prepared to cautiously pull myself up.

Sunday afternoon, I had a very good time with my family. I kept playing scenes in my head about the next day. I envisioned myself making an impassioned speech to Mukul about how my emotions were messy and I had tucked it in the bottom like my least favourite shirt. I had no idea, the rack, was soon going to stumble. I also thought of the speech I would give Varun when I see him in Pune. I wanted to tell him, that he was not going to get away with stumbling over my pride and crushing my spirits. For a long time, after the fight, he asked for my forgiveness.

There is no calendar to define an old end or to mark a new beginning. There are big or small events that give us hope. What’s more important is that, we should stop looking for our beginnings and happy endings. We usually let go. But amid all the crap, there are certain things that are worth holding on to. I remembered one beautiful evening, as we walked through the park with our Chai, a light drizzle began to fall. I pulled out an umbrella from my bag and Mukul pulled up his hood and hunched his shoulders. The cream coloured hood was stained with Chai and his brylcreemed hair was a mess. But he still looked flawless with all the gentleness in his eyes. We all walked to kaku’s cafe to finish our daily dose of chit chats. “ Do you ever wonder why things have to turn out the way they do?” He suddenly asked gave a big smile and answered his own question before I could say anything. “Because its all destined. It was destiny, that I found you.” Was I so naive to understand his feelings that day !! I cannot adequately describe the intensity of what I was feeling at that moment.

Next morning, I was all prepared to talk to him. I needed a reason. I needed a sign that things will be okay! I just needed something to happen. As I reached work, it was all a big mess. There was no time to sit and talk. The event was in 15 days and everyone were working day and night. So was Mukul. I saw the excitement in his face. This project could make or break his career. I only had 8 more days to get all my work done before leaving for Pune. Mukul was mostly out meeting the sponsors and I was stuck at my desk, busy writing speeches for everyone. But a few times we crossed path and when he saw me, I blushed like an idiot. I don’t know if actually things were this crazy, or I just made it to seem that way. I was scared. May be this was the sign. Two days left for me to go to Mumbai and Pune, and yet there was no talk. After careful consideration and many sleepless nights, here’s what I decided to do.., I called Varun. He picked up the call and said “Hi”, with a dandy voice. Few months back, all my calls went unanswered because apparently he was always in the library.

I said, very firmly, “I am coming to Mumbai in three days for a meeting”. There was a complete silence for a while. “Can we meet?” , I could sense an inquisitiveness in his voice. “Sure” I said. “I have to leave for Pune, as soon as I land in Mumbai. The first meeting is scheduled in Pune.” I informed him my plans and I made sure he knew, there was not much time in my hand. He interrupted me saying, “I will be there in the Mumbai airport. We can travel to Pune together. We can talk in the bus. I can get all the college forms you wanted.” I agreed to the plan and I kept the phone down.

The last morning before leaving, I saw Mukul through the glass door of the conference room. He looked better than I remembered and I remembered him a lot in the last few days. He was sitting alone so I went in. I gathered all the courage my heart could possibly hold and said, “I am leaving tomorrow evening”. He looked up straight into my eyes and there was no talking. He got up and walked towards me. I wanted to tell him my thoughts, but the sound of his voice suddenly silenced the emotions inside me. “You are not going anywhere. This is where you belong..!.” He held my hands close to his chest. “I know you are scared. Listen to your heart. This is a small battle, before you go in, better decide how much you’re willing to lose. Go there, take your time and I promise you will always find me next to you.” Well, he lied.. Eventually, he did leave me alone, even after I won the battle. I lost him to an illness and the void still exists.

PART 4… Coming On August 20. Stay tuned!!

Because It Was You.. Part 2

“Once you choose HOPE, everything seems possible”

I have always been ambitious. I tried my hand at everything. But writing, held a special place in my heart. My father encouraged me at every point possible. In the summer of 2006, I got an unpaid internship in a fashion magazine as an assistant of a senior journalist. Although fashion was the last thing I was ever interested in, it seemed like an amazing opportunity. My first day, I was much before time. As I walked through those long corridors of this office, I couldn’t stop looking at those huge modern art paintings hung along the walls with a very fancy ‘M’ scrawled at the left bottom corner. It was like the colours rebelled and changed hues every day, every moment, but they sparkled with an emotion I could barely understand.

Amidst this artistic and full of fashion drama, I remember feeling confident but clueless at the same time in first few weeks. As the days passed by, I learnt a great deal and made amazing friends. I didn’t think of him in last few weeks. My work was a best escape from all of my emotions and by now, I knew how to limit his presence. I knew he was doing ok in Pune. At least I was..

One of the days, I came in for work early. “Oh! Is this is the one?” I heard a laughter followed by these words, that annoyed me a little. I turned around to look. There he was, a tall dark haired guy sitting on the reception desk and surrounded with my friends wearing baggy low waist jeans and dirty looking sneakers. I realised they were discussing about the intern who didn’t know about Rituparna Sengupta, a famous Bengali Actress of that time. Yes, it was me.

As he walked towards me, my gaze was pinned to his widening eyes, curious as to how many tints of brown he could identify. “Hi. Welcome to this place. I am Mukul.” I smiled and introduced myself. “Aren’t you too young to work. Don’t you have a life, or friends!” He asked. “I like my life, I love to learn new things. What is so wrong about it”. For a long time he said nothing. He kept as still as a stone. When at last he began to speak, it sounded almost as though he were singing, “Ok. Lets go for chai”.

My friends and I went to this small newly renovated cafe across the road. The walls looked old inspite of the fresh coat of lilac paint. Every table, spoke of love, with all the scratches it had borne over the years. ‘Manju loves Rohit’, ‘Rana is the King’ were few I remember. The place had a very good vibe, just for the people happy in love. For me, it screamed of utter non sense.

The owner was sitting at one of the tables, with his tea and a newspaper. He could yell at his employees all the while reading the newspaper and also, complain about the flooding of Kolkata roads. I noticed his face, dirt seemed so worked into him, that the lines of his face were like some Chinese letters. A man of such bizarre appearance. A small head with a Nike cap, a skimpy little checked shirt with corduroy pants. This man was six feet tall, incredibly thin and had a jeering look on his face.

Suddenly Mukul grabbed my hand saying“ What are you waiting for?” and took me to one of the tables, the gang always sat on. They ordered their chai and ordered for me too. I don’t like chai . I never had. But when he handed me my cup and looked into my eyes while I tried it, it was the best thing I’d ever tasted. My hand still tingled where he grabbed it. We were a group of five on that table. Though I couldn’t follow most of the conversation, I now knew, Mukul was the interior decorator of the office and worked as a freelance photographer. I then realised it was him, the ‘M’ in all the paintings. But I was too proud to admit then, that I liked the paintings. He kept bragging about an exhibition that went really well in Hyderabad.

He had a smile of amused friendliness and pleasure which could arouse feelings of warmth, and something more, in many women. After the chai session got over, we were about to leave and suddenly the owner, whom everyone addressed as kaku, came and sat next to us. I was the unfamiliar face, so he kept his chit chat to a minimum, like there was so much I wasn’t supposed to know.

After that, was a series of long chai breaks, lunch in every Chinese restaurant on the street and lot of crappy chit chat. We five had become a happy gang. There was no sadness in my heart no memories to haunt me anymore. The evenings were particularly great. After work, we all would go for long walks till it was absolutely dark and time for us to return home. By now, we all knew each other’s past.

We usually refer to our exes as monsters, but Mukul had a very different point of view. “If a man, cant acknowledge your presence, better to let him go. But don’t call your relationship a mistake. You were part of it. You felt good then. You felt loved at least once.” His words made me think and calm my mind. He walked around with his thoughtful brown eyes and wisdom that could make everyone feel bad about themselves. I started feeling sorry when i was around him, even though I didn’t do anything wrong.

Two months had passed working here, I was involved in writing few good articles. I had started earning stipend too. The next big project was to cover an AIDS awareness programme. Mukul was assigned to cover the event and also some ground research for article to be published in the magazine. This was the first time I actually saw him working so closely. He was passionate about so many things. He would always say, “Passion can be about anything, music, God, art. But I feel sorry for people who didn’t feel strongly about anything.” It did make sense to me.

Who knows when a story begins or ends. You can look back into a moment and just realise that it wasn’t the beginning, but a result of what you did much before that. Because now, there was this moment when fate intersected with my daily happy life, setting in motion a sequence of events whose outcome I could never have foreseen. During a meeting, regarding the event, my boss handed me an envelope and left. I opened it with so much excitement. There I was holding an air ticket to go to Mumbai and Pune, for an event. This was the only way, my boss could find to reward me for my hard work. I had to leave in 10 days.

Mukul could read my face from across the room. He knew something wasn’t right. “I don’t want to go”, I said as he sat next to me. “Why?” He asked.

“I would want to meet him, and I don’t want to”. My throat began to tighten again. There was a calmness in his face. “You go, meet him. Clarify and leave the broken pieces there and come back for me.”

“For me?” I thought to myself as we silently walked out of the room. Mukul’s heart was where all his power resided. He was full of love and kindness. He would tease me till I wanted to leave and then suddenly, he would hold my hands and made me feel like the most beautiful woman there is. There was no chai that evening. He left early and I didn’t hear from him that weekend. His words didn’t make sense for a long time. As I recalled the moments, we spent in last two months in my mind, it all made sense.

Find Out More About him On 12th August.

Is that your goodbye !!

Every now and then, comes a storm. The trees get uprooted, the windows are shattered, roofs are blown off, the birds lose their home and we are left in darkness. Bad things happen !! We have to move past it. We need to leave it behind, sooner the better. Or else, it is going to eat away at you and stop you from moving forward.

A failed business, unsatisfied parents and a broken relationship are basic triggers that have made a few people lift a blade and mark their body with a scar. In my profession, I get a chance to interact with lot of young minds. I usually love these moments because I learn about the human psyche. However, hearing about the suicide attempts by an intelligent, promising young girl, set a gray tone I couldn’t shake. She expressed a continued “sense of loneliness,” and some days suicidal.

Suicide in teens is usually correlated with factors such as depression; anxiety; school pressures and exposure to violence, trauma, mass media and cyberbullying. Even television has been suggested as an influencing factor. After the release Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, a show about a teenage girl who commits suicide and leaves behind the 13 reasons she did it, Hannah Baker was a name I heard a lot in the usual chit chat in between my class sessions. Since I wasn’t aware of the show, one day I intervened in a very serious conversation happening within some students about it. When I heard about the theme of the show, I was taken aback. Not because I found the theme atrocious, but because my teenage students were actually justifying the reasons of the suicide. One said to me, “Ma’am, she didn’t have a choice. You have to see it to understand”.

I didn’t utter a word. I read the plot of the show online. I did feel sorry about Hannah Baker, but I certainly did not find my Hero in her. Not somebody I would look upto. May be I would copy her hairstyle. Life gives you 1300 reasons to give up. We struggle and moan. We end up hurting ourselves with the fear within us.

I was slut shamed in college, was made fun of because of my frizzy hair, was body shamed by relatives in a family gathering and failed in my catering business. It ripped me apart for a long time. After a while, I remember not worrying.

Hope is recurrent thing for me. No matter what happens it will creep in back into my life and give me a reason. It feels good to get rid of things. I feel powerful to strip down all that crap to first survive, and then, thrive. I love to try harder when the barriers are a little higher and the odds are low.

After all the destruction that has happened and the winds have hushed, the rain has stopped, the sun will still come to give you hope. You will have your silent moments to pick up the broken pieces after which, you will emerge stronger than ever.