The Name Game

My brother removed  ‘Singh’ from his name and I removed ‘Jyot’  from my first name many years ago. We took our decisions independently and at different times. I don’t have any regrets but now after nearly a decade of formally cutting short my name I do feel bad. Feel bad for making changes to a possibly colourful story behind the keeping of my name (of which I am unaware!)

I realized recently that a lot goes into naming a child. From what I understand about my name was that my late paternal grandmother kept it. She was one dominating force in her time. I can visualize everyone keeping mum, including my folks, when she must have held me in my arms for the first time and said my name. And that was it. No ifs. No buts. Simarjyot it was. Did my parents like it? I don’t know. They accepted it …maybe happily, as it was taken for granted then.

About ten years ago I met a woman whose little boy was called Siddhant but she kept addressing him with some another long name which I can’t even remember now. It didn’t even sound like a nick name like Sid, Siddhu, Golu, Molu etc. Soon she told me that Siddhant was the name of her choice and the other was of her mother-in-law’s choice. Since they didn’t want to disappoint her, they stuck to both the names! Talk about the child and identity issues! And more than that it explained the battle of the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law.

A friend of mine who is expecting her first child soon and her husband have decided upon the names for both girl and a boy. The dilemma? They have not shared it with their respective parents yet and don’t know what their reactions will be. The names, when I was told, could make ones ears point up. Lovely names though. There was this whole one long conversation I had with her over the phone a few days ago when she just fretted upon this issue. She only calmed down when she ended up telling the chosen names the next morning to her mother-in-law. It didn’t turn out to be a big deal as much as she vexed a night before. And I know she will be only completely satisfied once the names are registered after the baby’s birth.

Another close friend happily told us the name of his baby boy a few years ago only to tell us later that it had been changed and then changed again. Too many people were involved in suggesting the name of his child. So much so that he gave up in the end. It was perhaps another battle of the in-laws. I never asked him so who was it that suggested this name. Too personal matter.

The politics that goes into naming the babies especially in a society like ours where despite most of us living out of the joint family setup still feel out of decency and our upbringing to involve our elders in matters such as this is grave.

Besides the domestic politics, there is a deep analysis too that some do in naming their babies. A friend’s friend has refused to keep his daughter’s name Sita because he would not like to associate his daughter with Queen Sita of Hindu mythology, Ramayana who underwent miseries all her life despite being a pious queen and an avatar of Goddess Lakshmi. Who would have thought that the name Sita would be also deliberated upon! If such is the case then none would name their babies from folks and mythology be it for their  little girl or a boy as our mythical heroes and heroines underwent enough trepidation in life. Just name any one top of your head. Lord Rama? Being evicted from his own house followed by 14 years of exile and then a hard battle fought with Ravana! Ganesha? Had his head chopped by his daddy just for listening to his mummy? Draupadi, ofcourse is a no-no. She was humiliated way too much. Karna, the tragic hero whose life started tragically and ended in one too despite being a good soul through out.  Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, who waited for him most of her life while he travelled the world.

I wonder what the children of Hollywood celebrities think when they are named Apple, North (with a surname West), Dusty Rose, Shiloh etc. Maybe not any different from the rest of us as they have always been called that. Or they are trained to take on the burdens of being a celebrity right from their birth!

So for all those who think that they could have been named something else or like me shorten their names, or choose to be called by another name instead of the rightful one, think again.  Let us not be an anticlimactic factor to our very own story/process that went into keeping our names. 🙂

 

(image courtesy: https://a.dilcdn.com/bl/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2010/06/nametag1.jpg)

 

Hail Sisterhood!

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When I look at my little niece and nephew sometimes on video-chats I know they are in for a fabulous childhood together. Something that they will realize later. I have the fondest of childhood memories with my brother who is a year younger than me. However, as years go by and life makes us take different paths, I see around me that siblings of same sex bond better as time goes by and they are able to transform this doting filial relationship to something much better – a lifelong friendship.

It could be a mere hypothesis and I don’t have the stats to support me but when I see such sets of siblings – same sex versus different I am more than certain. My cousins, two of my best friends and the best example at home – my mum support my hypothesis strongly! Mum’s younger sister, my darling aunt lives many miles away from us yet I see the two of them talking, confessing, gossiping, sharing just about everything with each other over the phone every day. Sometimes I see mum brooding over my aunt’s antics but she nevertheless jumps to take her call when it happens. And it is just not a sister thing! I have seen brothers too gelling stronger with each other.

A few months before, my cousin was over at our place with my same darling aunt. His uber-cool elder brother, who studies down South, had been cribbing to his mom to get him a posh laptop to which she had strictly put her foot down. Only a few months ago he had lost his expensive mobile phone. His quieter younger brother, while talking to me as we took a stroll to the shops nearby, said that he would ensure that his mum bought his brother that laptop. And he sure did! A few weeks later I saw the elder cousin flashing his laptop on Snapchat! And to come to think of it, these brothers were daily at loggerheads with each other as little boys and the elder one was an absolute bully!

As time flows and childhood gives way to adulthood you can relate better – physiologically and even psychologically with your own sex and if you have a same-sex sibling that’s a cherry on the cake!

As the world is shrinking everyday owing to the technological advancements happening at a rapid pace, communication with my brother is on a decline. We both have FaceTime on our Iphone but we barely talk and even when we do, it is mostly cursory. And if the talk does get long, it is simply because I end up talking (and enjoying) more with his cherubim-like kids and my sister-in-law than him!  No regrets here and I know we are there for each other. Just a thought really! 🙂

 

(collage on top: From Facebook archives  (L to R and Top to bottom): –  J, Ritz n I (2015), Bitty n I (2012 ) and Div, I and Shrab (2010??)

Life’s Little Miseries

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Like my mum says, I am jinxed when it comes to maintaining a mobile phone. She reminds me how even before the era of the smartphones begun, my dainty red flip phone plopped into the cooker filled with water! So two years ago after my third smartphone conked off making me fret, it didn’t deter me from switching my brand loyalty and buying a sleeker and a prettier phone. And two days back, it went crashing on the floor bang on its face. The screen smashed with its epicentre being the top left corner.

After forcing myself to feel bad (I would have genuinely felt so if it had stopped functioning) I looked at the newly smashed screen. It looked beautiful. It was like a piece of an intricate art. The branches and off-shoots of a tree spreading from the top left all the way to the centre of the screen. I loved looking at it. And those little mists between the cracks looked like leaves. I touched it and felt proud somehow of owning it.

And then it made me think – of small daily tragedies that we encounter every single day of our lives. No, not the big ones. I will never belittle those big tragedies. Just the small ones, like my phone. It is a part of us. Little miseries. Be it your family or friend you talk to and it is usually about the cold war with the boss, the skirmishes with that pestilential colleague at work, the non-committed boyfriend, the indifferent husband, the snooty daughter-in-law, the absentee maid and the list goes on. The everyday sob stories. Yes, you do have happy stories too but they are only squeezed in-between the unhappy ones.

And then you have the thinkers, self-motivating authors and their ilk telling us how it is essential to keep negativity at bay! Well, if we do, then we will all be aloof! We are complaining every single day of our lives and we are enjoying it somehow. We have adapted ourselves to it: unhappy things that don’t make us unhappy any longer. It is just there.

I bet you will be taken to a shrink if you are found to be too happy happy. It is too good to be true. I recall how a usually happy friend of mine was recounting a few months ago about another friend of hers who was having a distressful married life. The only way to make her friend open up to her was by talking somewhat forcefully about her own married life…those little troubled bits. And that way the friend of hers poured her heart out. It is a give and take. You tell a sob story to get one (and plenty) in return and vice versa. And this way you remain in the social circle as well. I had once nothing to share about my in-laws like my other two friends since I had no in-laws! And it seemed as if I was as good as invisible for them till the end of the get-together. Perhaps, I should have started off talking about my issues as a single woman instead of just bobbing my head like a duck listening to their marital woos!

Life’s little miseries. Like my broken phone. They just start to look beautiful.

(image:  a dead butterfly clicked some months ago in Gurgaon)

At Our Disposal

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Disposing of two things are not easy where I live. It is painful to see these two lying about on the streets, in the park and in other public places.  While one is considered holy the other is a taboo.  The very fact that I am bringing these two things under one umbrella could be considered sacrilegious by many.

So these two things are: used/broken idols (holy) and used sanitary towels (unholy). The former is purposely kept, under a holy tree while the latter I happened to see when I saw two stray dogs dig them out from the public bin in search of food, and many times even after that.

So what are the holy idols, that once adorned the little temples in the houses of many, lying in dust under the trees in the public?  I fail to understand the way many people dispose of the idols when they are done with them or when they are broken. Idols which are mostly made of stones are breakable and they do break. It is considered wrong to keep a broken idol at home (and why would you keep something broken anyway?), hence one has to dispose it off. But where? You certainly can’t even think of throwing them in the bin. That is an absolute profanity. Some people, including my mother, take it to a local temple and keep it under the tree there. What the local priest does with it is something I don’t know. Some people go miles to a water body and submerge it.  Immersion of any thing in River Yamuna has, as I noticed a month ago, become a concern for the local government as there is a warning board prohibiting one from throwing anything in it. So where do you then dispose the broken/used idols ? As I have been noticing for many years, the best spot is under a holy tree – a peepal tree usually, never mind where the tree is- it could be on the corner of the road, in a public park, outside a temple or just anywhere.  So a nice, eclectic collection of idols had been lying under the peepal tree inside my local park where I jog every morning. Nobody had touched them, mostly out of superstition or fear of being reproached by someone, for a long time till one fine morning recently, the park gardener, who must be an octogenarian and looks as if he can’t be bothered by the worldly issues and havoc one little thing/action can create, transferred the idols from the ground to the bench which is just outside the park. The bench still is under the same peepal tree as the tree happens to be just at the entrance of the park.  I continue to see the idols every morning seated on the bench. The same idols to which we all genuflected to when they were respectfully placed in our houses. Now we just walk past them. (See picture above).

Moving onto the sanitary towels now. For many years I have faced this trouble on a monthly basis on how to dispose of the used towels. It was easy in the girls’ hostel where I spent 5 tormenting years as a teenager. The administration took care of the disposal. All we had to do was dispose it of in the bins. It was only after I had left the hostel and started to live with my parents that I realised it was a big problem. No wonder you have big notes in the ladies’ toilets in public places warning you to not to flush the pad in the bin as it would only block it. So I never tried flushing it. It was an embarrassing subject to be even discussed with my mum. I remember taking the used towels wrapped in the newspaper and throwing them sometimes over the wall (ours was a corner house then) or even in the public bins when I made sure that no one was looking around. But this was more than a decade ago. As a middle-aged woman I have become smarter now, at least that’s what I think thought I still have to dispose them of using some discretion.

Only recently I realised that this continues to be a social problem even now and in many other houses too including in my area – a somewhat plush locality. Many stray dogs, birds, monkeys and even peacocks look inside the lid-less public bins for food regularly. A particular green bin in the corner of our next lane is quite a mess. So the other morning while on my way to  jog I happened to notice two stray dogs fighting over something. On a closer look, it was a used sanitary towel that they had dug out from the bin. It looked as if they had found some treasure! They had a good time tearing it apart and fighting over it while the other used sanitary towels, from the same common bag, lay near the bin. The fact that you have to get out of our house to throw them in a public bin means we haven’t made much progress socially.

Another time, while I happened to visit my father some years ago in a different city (and when I didn’t think on this subject then) I noticed a used towel thrown (three days continuously) from one of the floors of the building  to the ground floor. I used to look up but to no avail. So this girl/lady found this method of disposal as an easier option. Just throw it down from the bathroom window! With hundreds of people living in the building who would know who has thrown it! In all likelihood, it could be another young girl or a lady, educated yes as I would imagine all to be living there, but shy to discuss this topic at home and with men around. I am glad that some sort of revolution is taking place in the country and in the world, where the subject of menstruation is being openly talked about.

My solution: an openly designated space/box for each in the areas we live where we can respectfully and with no embarrassment dispose them off.

ignorance is bliss

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(pic courtesy: https://agapegeek.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/ignorance-is-bliss.jpg)

So what do you do when you have to undergo a medical treatment, and that too the mother of all treatments and you have good two weeks to prep yourself? Yes, you prepare your body as you know it won’t be the same, at least for sometime. You also prepare yourself mentally, which is the most difficult of all. Yup, diet, exercise, visits to the doctor and try to do all those things that you would do in your daily routine. But what you should never never do is Google. Google, the synonym of all the search engines on the Internet, is best kept away in such situations.

Google and all the search engines are a blessing but in other times. They are indeed very handy and save you the trouble of physically going to someplace else to get the information. But medical information on any subject should have restricted rights. Alternative therapies are okay. They are more like home remedies!

Like in the good old days, you should be happy with your doctor’s advise (even if the doctors now are not like the ones in the good old days! It is a commercial world now!) and do as he says. The research should get over after you have researched upon the doctor! Leave the rest on him.

There is no end to googling. One search page leads to another and then another. And before you even know you are nowhere near the main subject you began at. And if you happen to come across a big word you know you are next looking for it! So, my relative, who is otherwise a tough-nut-to-crack kind of person, is now getting jitters, which he explains as preparing himself for the ultimate! His research has told him exactly how many doses of radiation he should be getting every time! In fact he calculated it himself! For someone who had no idea about any medicine until a few weeks ago now tried negotiating (much to doctor’s invisible ire) the amount of radiation dose he should be getting every time. Not just the doses, he also knows about the upcoming monstrous and inevitable side effects. Those side effects that we knew were monstrous enough from the doctor’s mouth but now know, courtesy Google, exactly what the monster looks like in detail.

Ignorance is indeed bliss but now that we have gone past the ignorance stage it is best to get our weapons ready to face the monster with all our might!

 

You are not welcome!

 

despicable-me-2_612x380_0                                                                        (image courtesy: http://www.ew.com)

 

There are two types of guests: the ones that get invited and the ones that get themselves invited. And these two types are either the ones that just come over for a meal/cup of tea and exchange pleasantries before they wind up and the ones that decide to stay over for days. The last lot really ruffle my feathers and unfortunately, they top the category of (unwanted) guests at our place. We get a plethora of them possibly for two reasons: 1) we live in the national capital region which acts as a first port of call for most of our guests and 2) my parents have never said or can ever say the word NO (and I can’t say NO to my parents!)

Other than my woe that my room of all the three rooms gets to be the ‘chosen’ one as it is the ‘guest-friendliest’ of all, I get even more riled that these guests who repeatedly come over to our place know very well that they are using my room and that we don’t have a spare room and yet they are unashamed.  All they say at the time of their departure is a ‘thank you’; two glorious words (the other being ‘sorry’) that we got in legacy post-colonization and which we use so mindlessly and unsparingly.

These guests, most of them, emigrated to the West (developed nations) where the currency is stronger than the Indian rupees which means higher purchasing power, especially when you travel to East, like India. Proverbially, they should be making hay while the sun shines! Even a stay in a sumptuous five or a six-star hotel here will work out reasonable for them with the foreign exchange rate. The current tariff in a four star hotel is around 6,000 rupees per night which when converted to USD is 93 and GBP is 60. OK, this can be expensive if you are staying for more than a night but this is a grand example. Lets take an economical example. There are plenty of government-approved and reputed guesthouses too (with thousands of reviews on travel websites) where you can stay at a starting tariff of barely 2,000 rupees for a night (equivalent to 31 USD and 20 GBP) and also get added services like free wi-fi, international TV channels and even breakfast! Is this not a better option then? You get your privacy and give others their much-needed privacy too.

I travel abroad with my family and we always look at good deals on hotels and local journeys on the Internet being fully aware that we have a weak currency and the fact that we have modest income. We have never bothered our friends and relatives who happen to live there.

Perhaps my non-resident relatives and family (as I can’t say on behalf of all the non-resident Indians but I do know of more who are alike) can’t imagine that they have to shell out a penny on what they possibly don’t treat it as their holiday trip. Holidays for them are in Dubai, Singapore, Mauritius or even Goa here in India where I am sure they open their wallets without any hitch. They travel to India on a purpose which is usually property-related, family functions, mandatory holy trips or visiting an ailing relative. So it all comes down to money-saving tactics. These are the same people who left for the West to make money and what all stories we had heard of them (maintaining big bungalows with sprawling gardens and driving expensive cars). Their mentality, unfortunately, didn’t grow along with their riches. And yes, these are the same guests who go back to their adopted worlds and tell their peers over a pint of beer about their encounters with lizards and cockroaches back home.

Honestly, I rather have these reptiles and pests as my guests than these uninvited and ungrateful human lot. At least these mute species mind their own business and not ask me to leave my room which is rightfully mine…all the time!