The Maiden Flight…..(part-I)

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Sudha was constantly staring into the mirror. Tears had welled up in her eyes and she was fed up of the daily taunts directed towards her by her own blood. She was an ace in household chores but had to really struggle in studies. On one hand she was compared with her younger sister Megha, who was excellent in academics, and on the other hand she stood no chance in front of her youngest brother, owing to gender inequality prevalent in their society. Sudha often used to feel dejected and felt like a caged bird, who was desperate to fly freely. A bird that was unfortunately caged in her own home, by her own kith and kin. She was increasingly growing sceptical and had little faith in her own wings.

The time finally came for her maiden flight. “We have seen a boy for you. He works in a bank and his family is going to visit us this Sunday”, Sudha’s mother Lakshmi broke the news.

Sudha tried to conceal her delight and continued watering the plants. She was happy that finally she would be free and would have a home of her own in true sense. It didn’t matter to her who the boy was, how he looked, how much he earned; she was only interested in getting far away from her present circumstances.

Vikram’s family was sitting in the drawing room, and Sudha clad in a traditional benarasi saree,  arrived holding a tray. Her attire and jewellery were only augmenting her natural beauty and no one could take their eyes off her. So the deal was struck and Sudha also said yes without too much of a delay. It was a win-win proposition for everyone. For Vikram, it was a jackpot to have a trophy wife, for Sudha it meant her freedom, for Sudha’s parents it was one burden lessened and for Vikram’s parents it was a full-proof insurance for their old-age.

Wedding bells rang soon and Sudha was on cloud nine after getting so much importance, which she was not accustomed to. She was the new darling daughter-in-law and had a doting husband ready to attend to her every call and tantrums. Days seemed to be passing briskly and little did she know about what lay ahead.

Gradually life returned back to its normal pace and one year had passed since marriage. Sudha was still happy that at least her contribution was valued, even though the pressure to start a family was day by day mounting. Unfortunately, she belonged to the strata of the society where the value of the woman was ascertained from her ability to produce off-springs. Vikram kept his mouth conveniently shut and soon Sudha had to give in to the rising pressure.

Saloni, their first child arrived and then the mouths were shut for couple of years. Again the tongues started wagging for producing the heir of the family. Sudha was once again distraught and the familiar pain, which she had left behind, was again pacing towards her at full speed. Her identity was reduced to nothing more than a child-bearing machine, which had no consciousness of its own to decide its future course.

She conceived again but destiny had strange designs for her. It was a still-birth this time and her world came crashing down. She had invested nine months of her life in that pregnancy; nine months of love, pain, hope and labour had all gone in vain. Her womb was empty and so was her soul. She longed for peace, a respite from the drudgery. The thought of Saloni was her only consolation and gave her the glimmer of hope to continue. Such was the travesty of fate that she felt nothing less than a puppet, whose cords were being mercilessly plucked by her own blood relations. Same blood, same colour and that had given her myriad experiences.

She had not even come to terms with her loss and again she was being persuaded to follow the path of agony. Did she have any choice? She conceived once again, only to get mocked by fate, this time too. This time it was an early miscarriage. She was physically drained out to the very core, yet the verbal abuse and taunts of her new family were not helping the matter either.

Her mind was about to explode, as she could no longer bear to live like an animal. Once again she felt like the old caged bird whose wings were now clipped. She had nowhere to go now, no dream to cling to, no hope to hold on to. Her whole life had been nothing but a mirage, an illusion, which she resolutely followed, till the last ounce of energy was left in her. The freedom which she had dreamed for was no less than the “Mareecha”, the golden deer of Ramayana, merely an illusion.

Amidst this whirl of emotions, she finally made up her mind one day. She closed the door, climbed up the stool and tightened the noose around her neck. The moment she was about to kick the stool away, she was startled by the frantic knocks on the door. “Mumma, mumma….where are you?” Saloni was screaming.

……..to be continued

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Handle With Care-Relationships!

build-relationshipsSo finally I dialled the number and the bell rang. While the bell was ringing, I was still unsure about my decision. A voice deep inside was asking me, “Why me always?” Amidst this confusion the phone was picked up from the other side.
“Hello, is it Neelima?” I asked.
“Yes, this is Neelima. Who’s this?” a voice answered from the other side.
“Neelima, Suhaani this side” I exclaimed with excitement. All of a sudden, the line seemed to have gone dead and there was absolute silence from the other side.
“Yes Suhaani. How are you?” Neelima asked hesitatingly, as if lost in some sort of dilemma.
“I am fine dear. It’s your birthday today and I want to make a new start. There will always be a time for clarifications later, but today let’s just talk about all the good things” I said.
“I also missed you all this while” Neelima replied in her old effervescent tone.
Sounds familiar?
Communication indeed is the key to better relationships, but somehow it gets thrown out of the window when time comes to practically implement the theory. People, who used to mean the world to us, are lost into oblivion as life progresses forward. But one can’t deny all the heartache this moving on entails. We do miss them in good times and also when life is passing through a rough patch. Then what stops us from taking the first step, to revisit those by-lanes of past, where once laughter used to echo and joy used to bloom? We know for sure, that place is going to be our safe haven in this otherwise strange world but still we resist the temptation.
The ugly truth of society is, that today everyone is dealing with their own insecurities and we never attempt to delve deeper into people. We are so much stuck with judging people, that all the love is lost in the process. If we Judge, we can’t love; and if we love, then we can’t judge. Imagine if a dear one has to constantly pass the acid test of portraying his/her best behaviour, then where is the scope left for him/her to remain human. Believe me; this pressure to be at one’s best can kill anyone.
Why do we need relationships for?
To settle a score?
To prove a point?
Don’t we need them to cherish the basic camaraderie, which only perhaps a human is capable of?
The reason why relationships go sour is that our expectations kill those relationships. We want a person to behave in a certain manner all the time and the moment the behaviour deviates from the expectation, the feelings also change. First feelings change from our side and then they are just reciprocated. Then we get stuck in the vicious loop of reciprocation of what we had never intended it to be, right from the outset. So more than the behaviour of the person, what we think about that behaviour, determines the fate of that relationship. Our mind creates endless thoughts about a particular person and the thought which appeals us the most, at a particular point of time, becomes our assumed reality. This is the reason that sometimes we regret saying certain things, but a moving arrow and spoken words are known to have caused more damage to the world than anything else.
Ok, accepted that such things may happen, but why do we fail to communicate the reason behind our changed feelings, especially when we value the relationship so much? It just takes a visit or even a call to explain yourself and chances are that the other person will tell you a tale, that will make you curse yourself for severing the ties for a non-existent issue.
Imagine our relationship with our mother; howsoever badly we may have fought, but after some time everything goes back to normalcy. The reason is-our mind is conditioned to believe that mother has our best interests in her heart. We never doubt her intentions, and so we develop the most unbreakable bond with our mothers.
I have made this a rule for myself, that if at all a relationship really matters to me at a deeper level; then I tell my ego to shut up and sit in the corner. I am not ashamed in making that first call or visit, if I sincerely miss a loved one. So far, my experience has been very satisfying, as every time I am embraced with open arms. True feelings never go unnoticed, as they speak through the crinkling of the eyes, through the open laughter of the heart. Often, I have realized, it’s not only me who suffer, but the other person also suffers equally, if not more.
If she didn’t come, then she might have got stuck. If he didn’t call, then it might have really skipped his mind. If she was harsh, then perhaps she must have been hurt. Very often, we are not generous enough to give the benefit of doubt to others, and at the same time, never fail to doubt intentions of others.
It’s ok to lose sometimes, even if you stand a chance to win. Before jumping into an argument, always decide, what matters you the most- the relationship or the argument? Inherently, we all are same and we all are good only in different proportions. We all need to be loved, respected and cared for. We have similar aspirations from life and similar insecurities. Everyone is fighting a battle of his own. If only we can see a loved one more closely and see beyond what meets the eye, then half of the problems will be solved.

It Takes More Than A Child, To Complete A Relationship. My Reflections!

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It’s been a little over 10 years, since we first met. How we met? We didn’t actually, as it was a virtual meeting over some mobile app. How that casual chat transformed into a lifelong commitment, is a long story, may be for some other time. Point is, that the cupid struck and we got hitched. I hail from Delhi and he is from Ahmedabad. Perhaps, it was destined that our paths would cross, at the right moment, at the right place. So I became his long distance girlfriend. Me and Sahil are stark opposites of each other. Where on one hand, he is detail oriented, then I am the one who likes to flow with the flow. He believes in execution of things, I believe in first dreaming about them. He is ruled by logic and I am ruled by emotions. But still we chose each other. We were dissuaded by friends, but no logic seemed to work. Probably, that’s why love is called blind.  I think we chose each other for compatibility of our thoughts and basic values. He proposed to me without even meeting; and I accepted. Today, when I think about it, I shudder at the level of his audacity, and at my own gullibility.

It remained a long distance affair for three years, with a brief period of face to face courtship, for about six months. So, I am not sure whether to call myself a girlfriend of three years or of six months. The beauty of a long distance relationship is mesmerizing. There is so much you hold and carry in your heart, that a single phone call in a day can’t suffice. Remember, I am talking about a time, when phone calls were not dirt cheap. I eventually started maintaining a journal, wherein I captured all my feelings, messages and every trivia pertaining to us. People ask us often, how we could love each other, without physical presence. We argue that physical presence is required only when the connection is not deep enough. Most of us, believe in god. Though we haven’t ever seen him, but still we can sense the connection. If you are intuitive enough, then the same thing is true, for the matters of heart as well. I believe if a relationship can stand the test of time, then it is ready to stand any storm, which can come in one’s way. It always came naturally to us, we never had to put any effort to make it going, it was spontaneous, as if, it was being guided by our instincts. I wouldn’t say that we never yearned for proximity, but the separation always sweetened the joy of our brief meetings, something we cherish, even today.

We finally got married after three years. But as luck would have it, we were again separated by our calling. We spent almost two years in different cities, due to professional commitments. The best part about a long distance relationship is that you never feel old. Every random outing seems like a date and you yearn to learn more about your partner, despite knowing the most. Finally, we decided to draw the line somewhere and did whatever it takes, to be together. Though, we are now together, still we are trying to catch up on the lost time, and savor each other’s company even more.

Today, we are proud parents of a three year old. Much has transpired between these intermittent phases of physical and virtual transition. Parenthood doesn’t sway us completely, for we know that it just complements our relationship and doesn’t complete it. The child should only be an extension of one’s personality, and not the limitation. There is still more to life than just being a father and a mother. The couple in us, needs to remain alive always. How we accomplish that? Well, we try to keep the dialogue going on between us, amidst our busy schedules. Even if that means taking out an hour or two from our sleep quota, then be it. We explore our mutual interests together, talk about anything and everything, and still go on dates together. There are occasional flare ups, but who doesn’t have them? We make it a point, to yell and shout at each other, to let the negative emotions flow out of our existence. It ensures that, at the end of it, we are left with nothing against each other, except cleansed feelings.

The thumb rule is, if you still like to talk to your partner, the way it used to be when it all began, then definitely the relationship is on the right track. Trust and communication are the key ingredients for any lasting relationship. So far, these have been the hallmark of our journey. Also, we don’t expect much from one another, except companionship. There are matters, where we decide together, but we try not to influence each other’s individual choices. Companionship is not about “one body, two souls”, but it’s about having separate bodies with separate souls. We accept that we are two different individuals and respect each other’s free-will. The aim of our relationship is not to change each other but to mitigate our differences and live in harmony.

Trapped

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There I lay awake, after just being woken up from the most amazing sleep I ever had. Years of working hard was bound to take its toll on a life, a life less-lived. A life, which blossomed like a rainbow in the initial years, under the warmth and affection of my dear mother. It all started from unrestrained laughter, then school, then college and finally I got settled. I soon had a family of my own. Neelima, my wife, was seven years younger to me and was everything I ever wanted in a wife. She was mature, much beyond her years. Perhaps, the years of restrained upbringing had transformed her into a woman of strength and had given her a unique sober demeanour, which is deemed fit to be a part of Indian households. Days went by and soon parenthood knocked on our door. We were blessed with twins, a girl and a boy.

In the excitement of giving them the best names, we passed away four months and finally decided upon Radhika and Arjun, much to the dismay of our relatives, who found them to be quite run-of-the-mill. Our joy knew no bounds, on watching them grow from infancy to toddlerhood. Our life was progressing, very much in a set determined pattern, the way it is for everyone. The initial revelry of marriage and parenthood had started to fade away, and was being gradually replaced by the struggle to thrive and survive. In a race to procure the best of everything, life had been slipping away slowly. Better part of my married life and for a significant part of my children’s teenage years, I was away from them. I was busy making a life for them, realising little about the fragility of life and its transient nature. Love also has a track of its own. Love, ignored for long, transforms into anger. The years of anger and resentment soon give way to indifference. I saw it all happening, right in front of my eyes, for I had become the recipient of this indifference by my own family. Neelima’s initial attempts at cajoling me were soon turned into quick-witted sneers, and finally she was forced to find different pursuits to invest her time and energy. Children also, once they reached their teens, were completely immersed in their own world and I really had no complaints then.

Day after day when I reached home, I was welcomed by its eerie silence. Most of the times, they were either asleep or were away. Neelima had joined a social service club, and had a wide social circle of her own. Charities, fund collections and social functions were now her way of life. I had also happily reconciled with this new life and spent time with my pipe and rounds of liquor.

It was a usual day and an early winter morning for me. Years of practice had instilled in me, a strange knack of doing things mechanically, in the shortest possible time. My routine work used to be immaculate – the hair perfectly combed, the trousers perfectly creased and a clean shave with no cuts. But that day was unusual, for it had a strange smell of gloom. It really took quite a struggle for me, to get out of my cosy quilt. My bed tea was lying morose on the side table, for all its vapours had dissipated into the surroundings. The clock showed 5:30 AM and I had been late by exactly half an hour. The angst and frustration took over me, and I hurried towards the bathroom. My head had been aching severely but little did I care at that moment. The meeting with the client was scheduled at 8 AM and I couldn’t afford to be late. A myriad of images jostled through my mind and made me uneasy. I hurried through the daily chores and got a big cut from my shaving razor. Oddly enough, my dexterity that day was going for a toss. I somehow managed to get done with the shower and changed into a crisp business suit. Something was amiss – and it was an effort to drag myself out – but I couldn’t zero down on it. Neelima was, as usual, busy in the kitchen and yelled “Breakfast is ready”. Her customary morning yelling, laced with frustration, was enough to get me back to my senses. On the breakfast table, I mindlessly plodded through the screaming, yelling and laughing faces of my family and finally drove to work. Some goodbyes are forever, but scarcely ever do we realise when they come…

Sitting inside the conference room, the necktie was feeling like a noose and I was hyperventilating. Gasping for breath, I opened my laptop for the presentation. I started to present, but the words coming out of my mouth were incomprehensible gibberish. My last memory of vision is, going through an array of blurry images, amalgamating into a fusion of colours. I fell to the ground and everything thereafter was complete darkness, like a trance.

I would have been rushed to a hospital, which was to become my abode for months to come. So I was there, at the hospital, lying on a bed, in a vegetative state. I had just woken up from a long sleep. I knew that I had woken up but no one else could hear me. Though I had woken up but I couldn’t open up my eyes, move my limbs or utter a word. I could hear people around me, Neelima, Arjun, Radhika, my relatives and the hospital staff. What I initially mistook to be a sleep paralysis, turned out to be a nightmare. I heard doctors talking in their medical language and realisation struck me like a bolt, for I had suffered a stroke. I had been sleeping for over a month and the fact that I had woken up was not known to anyone. I was trapped within my own body and the same body which used to augment my spirit had become my limitation. The moment I tried hard to break loose, the very next moment I was forced back to dive deep into the darkest recesses of my mind. Having become the prisoner of one’s own mind and body could be a dreadful thing. It is difficult to control the remaining senses, when you have lost control over the others. I could hear, feel and smell but I couldn’t see, touch and respond.

Every morning, the nurse used to bring choicest of sweet smelling flowers, whose hues I longed so much to see. Colours were now a distant memory and I had to strain myself too much, to cling on to their memories. The lunch Neelima brought for Arjun, who had been waiting by my bedside, evoked countless memories. All these were the things that we take so much for granted. Life is so much easier for one who has never smelt or for one who has never seen. Once you have experienced them, and then you are bereft of some gifts, it’s only then that one comes to appreciate their significance. Very often, I felt droplets of tears on my body, which I could later make out to be of my wife’s. What a trauma this has been for her. Once I heard her say, “Wish we had more time together”. Her words filled me with an inescapable sense of remorse and gratitude towards her at the same time. Given the kind of life I had given her, I was hardly expecting such soothing words. I felt a strange longing surging through me, a longing to belong to my family, to my kith and kin. All of them had been the recipients of my neglect, when I was so busy in making a living for ourselves. Making a living, which probably I will never get to witness! Radhika often touched my feet and said, “Papa, please wake up”. If only I had realized the value of their childhood, then things could have been so different. Arjun, who used to be least interested in me, would spend hours waiting by my bedside. I wish we all had spent more time together, but not in the inhospitable environs of a hospital! I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop. A time, where it all started. A time, when I was still a gawky young man, and knew how to live and laugh. I wish I could unlearn the vicious things which made my mind “worldly wise” and turned me into a rat. A rat, who tried to run a race too fast, oblivious to the fact that at the end of the day, a rat is just a rat – even if it wins.

So here I lie awake now, trapped in my body, with my soul shackled, with many a thought which will most probably die with me. Thoughts, which had the potential to become actions. Actions, which could have changed my world – our world – for the better. Probably destiny has other plans for me. Here I lie awake now, to decay and disintegrate – bit by bit, in my own web. The web, I myself had spun bit by bit, ever so deftly. I have no other option now but to wait, perhaps forever.