May 23, 2016

Every College Has A Pancham #CanteenChronicles


www.nabanitadhar.in

Every college has it. Every college needs it. None is ever complete without it. A place which is more than what it is. A place without which a college is never really a college. Yes, not an exaggeration this. A place where most stories in the campus often begin, are discussed and sometimes even end. 

Which or what is this place?

The canteen.

Yes, the canteen but not quite. The canteen but not the proper or designated college canteen.

What?

The hangout which is every bit what it is, a hangout and has nothing to do with food really, even though that's what it is primarily open for. The hangout where the quality of food and hygiene might actually qualify it for the opposite of a michelin star. But still a place more frequented than one with three.

A canteen, an eatery, a dhabha, call it what you wish, it is known by several names. A place right at the entrance of a college or near about. 



A place more about relationships, friendships, bonds than food.

We had one too. It was called Pancham. Yes, it looked every bit the kind of place you should avoid unless you really wanted the stomach bug. But that did nothing to deter the scores of students, year after year, crossing its threshold.


www.nabanitadhar.in


An open area with a makeshift roof, wooden tables and benches, not the most hygienic of kitchens but one which served food most students would swear by. A hotbed of everything that happened on the campus.

It was THE PLACE to be, well, at least for the boys. Whether it was the tea, those hot samosas or chats, they swore by it. Ours being mostly a college full of conservative professors, the girls weren't really found there but that didn't deter us from sourcing our samosas from there. But it was never about the food really.

It was the place to be after bunking a class. It was the place to be in between classes. It was the place to be after class. It was the place to be at all times.

It was the place where serious discussions happened over a half plate (samosa and chaat) and a special chai.

It was the place to be before campus selections and after. Like I said before, it was the PLACE to be.

If you liked a girl, it was the place you would wait for her. Yes, even if just for a glimpse. If you liked a boy, nine out of ten times you would spot him there.

It was the place where seniors and juniors got together. It was the place where legs were pulled and dates were fixed on behalf of the other. It was the place where serious discussions happened over a half plate (samosa and chaat) and a special chai.

At that time, I used to think it was only something that was integral to our college. But boy, was I wrong?

Around a month back while on one of my journeys, I happened to pass a stretch full of Engineering and Medical Colleges and that's when I realised it.

I realised no matter how old or new, good or bad, well built or in shambles a college is, it always has that dhabha kind of canteen. It is almost always near the vicinity of the main gate and is the perfect vantage point for everything in that college. No college was, is or can ever be complete without one.

Every college has a Pancham, so tell me about yours.

***



May 17, 2016

#ViewFromMyWindow - How Do You See A Woman?



From times immemorial, much before you and I were even born, the worth of a woman, her value, has been attached to her ability to give birth. Her standing in society, in her family, has always been linked to things like her being married or not and then if she's a mother or not.

This rot is so deep seeded that even if a woman ends up inventing the cure of Cancer or discovering life on Mars, her worth would still depend on her being a mother. Yes, that's how this society thinks and perceives women. But what's even more unfortunate is many women end up believing the same as well.


If you are fed a lie at every step, there'll come a moment when that'll start being true for you. 

A few weeks ago I was tagged on Facebook by some of my friends to take part in the Motherhood Dare. It was a harmless thing going on in social media actually. Women were sharing pictures of themselves with their kids, sharing with friends basically, just like you and I share photos of a holiday, graduation or a wedding. Harmless really without any conniving subtext. At least, I'd like to think so.


Everything has two sides. Sometimes more.

There was another side to this too, just like everything else. Some chose to take offence. Something along the lines of, isn't being a woman daring enough? Or, why flash your happiness around when other women might be going through some really hard times? Again, something which is not unwarranted.

But if both sides were right in feeling what they were, why were the sides so different? In fact, why were there two sides at all in the first place?

I'll tell you.

I actually thought about this a lot. I thought about why women sharing pictures with their children was being construed as mean and hurtful. The answer, my friends, wasn't really surprising.

The answer, my friends, lay in an entity responsible for a lot of our troubles.

Society. 


Yes, society.

It is the society which has pitted one woman against another. It has created a gap on the ludicrous ground of haves and have-nots. It has created a demarcation which in reality shouldn't exist and doesn't exist.


Stop seeing your worth in the eyes of others unless it is through a mirror.

I have seen friends break down from the pressure of becoming mothers. Not only that, I have seen them have physiological issues because somewhere our mental and emotional state is linked to our physical health too.

Somewhere they have been made to believe that being a mother is everything there is to a woman.

I just want to tell them that's not true. 

Don't let society tell you what your worth depends on. First of all, motherhood has nothing to do with being a complete woman. Not marriage, not motherhood or any other condition that the society might lay down upon you.


Every woman is complete and her essence has got nothing to do with her reproductive abilities.

Be a mother if you want to be a mother, when you want to be a mother.

I have also had friends who wanted to become parents but it wasn't working out. While that can be painful and tough, the pain was multiplied a thousand times by the people around with their incessant questions and raised eyebrows. A personal battle was made a spectacle because respecting privacy isn't our second nature.

I think motherhood is beautiful. Tough, tough, tough through and through but certainly beautiful. But as a woman you need to decide if it is for you.

If the answer is yes, then there are many ways to be a mother. I'm not trying to patronise here. I'm just sad to see so many beautiful and great women putting so much pressure on themselves. I just want to say let it be only about you and not what people say or think.

And those who don't want to be mothers, don't let the whys make you feel bad. You don't need to prove anything to anyone. Neither of us does.

Being a woman ain't easy. Don't let the society's parameters determine your self-worth. Be responsible for your own happiness. I know I try to work on it every day.

Actually, feel what you want to not what others want you to. Be happy or sad, cry or sing at your own will. Life's hard as it is why get boggled down by borrowed weight?

And yes, don't let social media be the judge of how happy or perfect someone's life is as opposed to yours. Actually, just don't compare. You never know what goes on in their lives for everyone has their own battles. So, definitely, don't let something on social media make you feel bad. It ain't easy but like my husband says, it ain't hard either.

Much love.
From one Woman to another.



May 13, 2016

The Swing


Credit: Sanch Vee


Everything looks just the same. Just how it was a few summers ago. Time seems to have stood still ever since.

The trees, those shrubs by the seesaw, still green. Pristine. Flowers, so many of them, all bright. This burst of colors still hits you as you pass through the gates. Red, yellow, orange, purple, pink and white, all at once. All together, all still beautiful.

This playground reverberates with innocence today just like it did back then. Children running around, playing, crying, talking. The sounds still so sweet and full of promise. Faces full of joy. And at every few steps; mothers, nannies and sometimes fathers too, stand, keeping a watchful eye on their children. And then those couples in love, spending some precious moments together. A playground full of memories this, full of warmth and love.

I can't believe it still feels the same today, that you are here with me.

It might as well be so actually. It might as well be that you and I have been here all along. Never left. Never.

Your laughter, as I pushed you on the swing, still soothes my ears. I can still hear you in this lovely enclosure. Yes, I can.

The swing. Yes, where is that swing you so loved? Where?

Oh, there it is. Just the same. I can still take a whiff of your scent if I stand next to it, you know?

Molly's swing they called it, for you never allowed anyone near it in your presence. Yes, even ignoring those stares from the children's mothers. Well, looks like in your absence too, it continues to be Molly's swing. Your swing.

I can't help but look for you. My eyes wander in search of your familiar face. Your long curly tresses, your dimpled cheeks, and your endearing smile. I love you so much that without you, days are just minutes waiting to pass. Empty and meaningless minutes. An endless wait to see you again. Be with you. Again.

Who would have known, eh Molly? Who would have known that I could fall so hopelessly in love? Those moments with you, especially in this very park surrounded by innocence and joy, were my happiest.

I wish you didn't have to go. I wish we could have stayed here forever, You and I. I wish time had really stood still. Maybe it has for me. I wish it had for you too.

I wish you had never grown up, that you had never left the nest for college.

Oh my darling daughter, I wish you were still a baby. I wish you were here with me.

I know it's very selfish of me to say or even think so but I'm helpless against my heart. I miss you. Never realized how all the time passed by so soon. When did you grow up, love? When did you grow up, chicken?

Remember that summer afternoon, you and I had come to the park for a stroll? Remember? 

You in your blue dress and pink ribbons on your pigtails. Your smile from that day, as I pushed you on that swing, is still so vivid in my mind. Etched in my heart and soul really. A smile that reached your eyes and spread to everyone else around you. I can still hear the music in your laughter from that day. So close, almost within my reach. So in the present. Eternal.

Don't ever lose that smile, my darling. Don't ever, no matter what. But if you do, yes, if you do and need to find it again, I will be right here waiting for you by your swing. Your mother will be right by your swing, my dear.

***



May 10, 2016

#MommyTalks - Will I Be A Good Mother?




I had been trying to put her to sleep. Walking, singing and rocking her. But to no avail. Fifteen minutes. Twenty minutes. Forty minutes. One hour and still no sleep in her eyes. I couldn't keep her on the bed or the crib either because she just wouldn't stay there. One of those days when she was restless hence I became restless. Then my restlessness kept on increasing hers. A ripple effect. Cranky baby to a cranky mom and all the way around it went.

Tired. No, completely exhausted and out of my last drop of patience, I finally put her on the bed and started crying. She was too. For a moment there, I just felt blank and lost. A deep sense of helplessness engulfed me and I felt like there was nothing more left in my life anymore.

Her cries shook me from my momentary reverie and I looked at her scared face. God, I loved her more than I have anyone in my life. And I let my frustration take over me. My child just wanted to be wrapped in my arms on a day when she was not completely comfortable. My child. My small baby just wanted me and I phased out. Lost my grip on things.

The very next moment I picked her up, pushed my fears to the side and caressed her, hugged her the best I could. She fell asleep soon thereafter. But it also left me with these questions staring straight at my face. Again.


Will I be a good mother?Am I a good mother? Will my need to be ME stop me from being the best mother I possibly can to my child?Is love for my baby enough to be a good mother?What about patience and complete selflessness?

The answers didn't come easily though and left me depressed and confused about my life ahead as an individual. In fact, I'm still looking for these answers.

Motherhood ain't easy, I tell you this. It's hard as hard can be and you are never off duty. As a mother, as a parent, you need to always be ready for the next thing your baby, you child, needs.

I had this fear of the kind of mother I would be even during my pregnancy. Honestly, my impatience is one of the reasons why this doubt often crept up, then and even now.

There are days when I'm bitter because everyone else's life seems unchanged while mine seems to have turned completely upside down. It's not fair but that's how it is. For me and for all the mothers out there.


Sometimes I feel angry too. But at whom, I don't know?

There are days when it's relevantly easy too. Most days are actually like that. Easy, manageable and I can still to do the things I want to. But then there are days when I don't find any time whatsoever. And then I move into a spiral of self-pity where I feel angry for not being able to be carefree anymore. And that's when this question pops up in my mind like a venomous snake raising its head.

Will I be a good mother? Will I?


***



May 5, 2016

The Girl At The Airport




If you look closely, you'll see all kinds of people at the airport. The loud ones. Those quiet ones. Some happy, some excited. Most looking forward to their destination. Some lost in spite of knowing where they are headed. Newly married couples, so much in love. Those that have been together for years, moving in synchronized motion without the need to speak. A father-daughter duo, the father showing the daughter the ways of the world. Some rushing for important meetings full of possibilities while others, shoulders slouched as if carrying the entire burden of the world. Such striking similarities yet such vast differences. A microcosm of the world.

There are also the ones traveling alone, friendly and always looking to strike up a conversation. But again, there are some who prefer to be left in their own world. Sitting in a coffee shop, boarding pass in hand and reading a book. Looking up only when the coffee is served or when their flight is announced. Those that find peace and solace in being lost in their own world, in being with themselves. An island in the sea of humans, cut off from all the noise. She was just one of those. A quiet beauty just one of the many at the airport but not really. She was just a girl at the airport, Maya.

Dressed in a beige skirt and yellow top, she sat near her boarding gate reading 'The Girl On The Train'. Engrossed in Rachel's life as the girl on the train, Maya wasn't even aware that an infant was crying in the seat next to her's. She was even oblivious to the couple arguing on the seat behind her. It was as if she had taken that book and jumped into a rabbit hole. Her very own wonderland.

On her way to her cousin's wedding, Maya had finally taken a break from work. At 29, she had a good job, a wonderful family and some great friends. Just out of a horrible relationship which had drained her as much physically as mentally, she was now looking forward to being single. She had had enough of boyfriends who were more like babies in the guise of grown men.

My babysitting days are over! That's what she told herself. Books, travel and family, that's all she would care about.

Five seats away from Maya, he sat annoyed by the crying baby and miffed at the arguing couple whose voices kept rising.

I need some coffee! Or, maybe even a beer! Ashish thought as he picked up his knapsack and made his way to the coffee shop.

He was on his way home, reluctantly, to meet another girl his mother had managed to shortlist. No amount of pleading helped. His mother wanted to hear none of his reasons. He was 32 after all, more than ready for marriage according to her. Who marries for love, she quipped every time Ashish begged her to stop looking. You love after you marry was what she believed and wanted him to too.

This would be the last time he thought. He was flying to Norway for work for a duration of two years. He just needed to get through this time and this marriage monkey would be off his back for at least that duration. How could he marry without first falling in love?

He would know. Yes, he would know when she walks into his life. The one. No there would be no violins or rain. It would be simple yet special. The woman whom he would give a second look, who would capture his thoughts, first briefly than forever. Someone who would be ordinary yet extraordinary. His very own extraordinary. He would know.

Sipping his coffee, he smiled thinking how his sister would have pulled his legs for being so hopelessly romantic. But that was who he was. He was happy too to have been selected for that assignment. That would take him away from all the arranged marriage hullabaloo, buy him some time. With that thought in mind, his eyes scanned the airport.

So many people under one roof. So many lives intersecting, knowingly and unknowingly. Lost in his coffee and thoughts, he suddenly stopped. A girl in a yellow t-shirt struck his eyes, seated near the same gate from where his flight was about to board. There was something about her, something earthy and very alluring.

Seated in the crowd, she seemed to be in a bubble of her own. Sitting in the middle of her noisy neighbors, she seemed unperturbed. There was something very calming about her.

His eyes moved away from her just for a moment before wandering back. He couldn't help himself from observing her. Lost in her book she seemed to have an aura of tranquility in this midday mayhem at the airport. There was something special in the way she was oblivious to everything but the book in her hand.

Is she the one?

With that thought reverberating in his mind, Ashish picked up his coffee and found himself walking towards her. It was as if he was in a trance, swept away by the magic of this girl at the airport, and all that mattered that moment was that he spoke to her. Maybe, she was indeed the one.



May 2, 2016

View From My Window : School Girl



www.nabanitadhar.in


If not thought through, something seemingly harmless, even right, might be the very beginning of something wrong for the future.


What do you see in this photo?

I see a school girl, a young school girl, slowly being burdened in the guise of a school uniform. The first of many burdens, I should add. I see a school girl dressed a certain way to hide the society's impotence, it's inability in ensuring that she remains safe irrespective of her attire. I see a school girl draped in mekhela on account of her body changing naturally. I see a girl being made to believe that nothing untoward would happen to her if she's covered from head to toe. Of course, we all know that is not true.

But what do you see?

My mom wore a saree to school 8th standard onwards. That was the rule in every school back then. I think. At least, where my mom grew up. I'm talking about the 70s here. A girl being asked to transition from wearing a skirt to a saree as she grew visibly was perhaps not scrutinized under a lens back then. Right or wrong, I don't know.

When it was my turn to go to school, there was nothing like this, though. No such rule. At least in the few schools in Shillong. This is about the 90s and very early 2000s that I'm talking about. 

I never had to switch to a saree or a salwar suit just because I hit puberty or had a growth spurt. I was just another student. I wasn't specifically made to feel that I needed to suddenly dress a different way on account of my biology. 

And maybe because of that, today, I find dressing young school going girls in saree, well how do I put it? Not quite right, perhaps.

Before you draw any conclusions, I must add that I have nothing against the saree. And also, I don't think dressing children in saree when they go to school has anything to do with our culture. Thus, I'm not questioning that either.

I just want the school girl to be a school girl. She should be uninhabited and unshackled. Certainly not be made to believe that how she is perceived depends on her attire.


I never had to switch to a saree or a salwar suit just because I hit puberty or had a growth spurt. Tweet this.

Why dress her different all of a sudden?

What gets my goat is this unfair perception and implementation. The sad reality that this is being done to prevent untoward incidents with girls. Or, to put it blatantly, to not entice boys or men. Yes, there's where my whole problem with it lies. It is a primitive thought process which seems to be pro-perpetrator more than anything else. Shielding those who might do wrong instead of who might be wronged. Instead of teaching boys and men to keep their libido in check, we, in the guise of culture, are placing the onus on girls. Very, very young girls, I should add. And I hate that. Don't you?

A school girl is so impressionable, so delicate that we need to be very, very careful with the message we send her. And why only a girl? What message are we sending to those boys who are her classmates? They are equally young and impressionable, aren't they?

Are we telling those young boys that the girls have something that needs to be hidden? And if not hidden, there's something wrong? That the girl is, for lack of a better phrase, asking for it? Are we saying that standards for judging a boy and a girl are different right from the start?

God, I hope not.

Something is not quite right with this approach. It sends out the wrong message with severe repercussions for the future. Very severe indeed.

What do you think?


***



April 25, 2016

View From My Window - Small Town Life #MondayMusings





Sometimes the view may not be much but brings with it a treasure trove of memories.


It was raining very, very heavily that day in Guwahati. As I looked out from my mom's balcony, a cloudy city greeted me. And it took me in a downwards sprial, into the memory lane.


Growing up in Shillong, Meghalaya, this was the weather almost throughout the year. Chilly, wet, inviting green, beautiful in every way. Then the lightning, almost like a guardian warding off evil. Almost like a dragon protecting this town nestled in the hills, keeping the bad out and the good in. A quaint little hill station, my home for 18 long years.


Today, lost in the hustle and bustle of city life, saying that I miss it would be the understatement of the century. But I'm still going to say it.


I miss Shillong terribly.


I miss the person I was there. Untainted by all that is wrong with the world. Innocent, trusting. Naïve, perhaps. But I do miss living there.



Sometimes I actually wonder how life would have been if I never left. Sometimes I wonder if moving out of there was any good for my soul. While looking for opportunities, comforts and connectivity, sometimes I wonder if pace and serenity were what I lost in the bargain.

While undoubtedly I have gained so much, there are some important things that I had to leave behind. Can't have it all, can I?

I love Bangalore. I do. No two ways about it and I also get very annoyed when anyone tells me I'm an outsider. It's a city in my country so it's as much mine as it is someone else's who has been born and brought up there. I just hate it when people stoop to that level. They lose my respect. But I digress.

Point is, today Bangalore is my present and future. It is my home. But I do miss and reminisce about Shillong. Often.

I think a part of me is still there, walking it's streets and basking in the winter sun. A part of me is still walking through the meandering paths leading to the cottage I grew up in and the corridors of my school, sneaking out, bunking classes in junior college. I can still close my eyes and take a whiff of Shillong. So real and almost within my reach. I can almost hold it, if I want to.

Maybe it happens to all, the place you grow up never really gets detached from you. An invisible pull remains. Should remain. What are we if not connected to our roots?

What is it that I miss?

The simplicity of life in Shillong. The small town feel where you know almost every other person. And they know you too. The pace of life which actually allows relationships to grow. Where neighbors actually know each other. The gift of time for having a life. The freedom of not having to squeeze life in weekends. These are things that I wish I still had. These are the things I remember fondly.

I think a part of me also wishes to be closer to my roots. But what can you do? I can either have a career or not have one, if the choice lies between a city and Shillong. Not something I like but that's the truth.

Growing up we always wished to fly out of the nest. It couldn't have been sooner. That's how much we wanted to explore the world and see places. Grow, basically. But now that we are here, living a life that we perhaps dreamt of, in a city of our choice, we want to go back again. Strange, isn't it?

What about you? Do you miss the small town life too? Does your heart not crave the peace and quiet?




Linking to #MondayMusings




April 22, 2016

#FridayReflections - A Letter To You






You.

Yes, you.

Will you sit down and listen to me for a while. Just a short while. It won't take long. I promise.

How have you been?

These past few months have been quite life changing for you. Haven't they? Kind of challenging and overwhelming too?

Ofcourse, you knew this was on the cards. But being ready or prepared for something is not the same as living it. Ain't that right?

I know you have been doing the best you can. Surprising your own self at times, stretching your physical limits. Feeling a bit frustrated on occasions and then being full of guilt for actually letting yourself be so.

Well, here's what I wish to tell you. Just a few words you need to hear.

It's okay to be overwhelmed at times. You are tired, exhausted beyond the point you ever were before. So, you are allowed to be angry. Frustrated too. Don't be too harsh on yourself. Let things be. The release could actually benefit you.

You have also been thinking about the opportunities you missed out on in the last year or so. You don't want to but it's natural to feel that way. Again, don't beat yourself about it. You are human. It's only natural to feel bad when you miss out on something. But keep looking at the bigger picture. You know nothing really compares to it. No opportunity that has come so far even measures up to what you hold in your hands. That smile as you read this, says it all. Doesn't it?

What you should know and remember as well  is that you don't have to be perfect every walking moment of every day. You just need to be you. Just breathe and give yourself a break.

Cut yourself some slack. You can't do everything at the same time. If the house is in a mess, let it be so for a while. Dusting one day a week won't kill you. Nor will letting the clothes hang on the clothesline a little while longer. The kitchen doesn't need to be spotless all the time too. And please, you have a wonderful family who are ready to step in whenever you let them. So let them. Please.

Maybe it's time to see the beauty in the chaos.

Be happy. Be you.


Yours sincerely,
You.

Write Tribe


Linking this to #FridayReflections hosted by Writetribe and Sanch of Living My Imperfect Life.

Of the prompts available, I chose to write a few words that I needed to hear.

Prompts for this week - 22 April :

1. If you could do something that you have never done before, what would it be? Why do you want to do it?

2. Write the words you need to hear.

3. Write a list of your top 11 travel tips.

4. Try your hand at writing a piece of fiction.

5. What do you love about life right now?