Courtesy Calls – A perception

Is it essential to pay visit to someone who is recovering from sickness or an accident in a hospital when you know that you can’t go and that the ‘someone’ is being taken good care of? Someone with whom you have a relationship that goes beyond social obligations. You know the person will understand. And if they don’t happen to understand, as I learnt last month, you know that they were never close to you! An eye-opener moment!

Not one, but many such hospital-related moments occurred in the last one year which eventually, to be precise last month, made me change my perception completely.

Episode 1:

My father underwent a leg surgery early last year, followed by tongue surgery in August and then radiotherapy in October which meant he had to stay and also make many visits to the hospital. I happened to be with him in the last two where the tongue surgery and the radiotherapy took place in the city I live. Mum flew to be with him in the first one – the city where he works.

In all these three times, my brother, who lives in the UK, couldn’t fly down. He had in fact met all of us back home barely a month before my father was diagnosed with carcinoma in August. I kept thinking in my head, why is he not flying down immediately after hearing this shocking news! And over the weeks, the thought persisted in my head, why can he still not come? Should he not be coming? Is this how a son should be? I was a bundle of nerves then and overlooked the practical side. While I was trying to play a dutiful daughter by giving company to my father, my brother was calling up his sources and finding the doctors and hospitals that were best for my father – keeping distance, his age and every logistics in mind. He was doing the spade work. Convincing my thick-skinned father on why he should be getting treated in an ABC hospital and not XYZ is a task.  In fact he got everything lined up and kept me on my toes too by making me coordinate with the doctors.

Episode 2:

A few months ago my friend was relating a marital dispute between her sister and her husband and how the sister was upset that the husband didn’t stay back in the hospital at nights when their child was hospitalised. The emotional side of her had overpowered the practical side, just like me. The husband was working all day long so that the child could get the treatment in the best of hospitals! It was not as if he was partying while the wife stayed the nights in the hospitals.

Episode 3:

Last month when I was in Goa for a few days, a friend happened to visit me. He called me one afternoon telling me that he fell off a bike while riding it. Though he had escaped with minor scratches he was in the hospital getting himself checked. After asking if he wanted any help to which he refused, we decided to catch up later in the day which never happened. And when I did see him the next day, he was all upset. He was in no mood to talk and in that half an hour we had become absolute strangers. A decade long friendship was over in no time. We haven’t talked since.

I had to be on both the sides of the fence (hospital in this case – as an expected visitor and expecting visitors) to finally understand that formalities such as courtesy calls are meant for acquaintances and distance relatives. A relationship with a person goes beyond such calls.

My brother’s love for our father and vice versa would not grow any less. So would the love of my friend’s sister’s husband toward their child and vice versa.

As far as the episode with my friend is concerned, it is such a pity that it took us a decade to realize that our friendship was superficial. It didn’t transcend beyond social norms. Sigh!

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Draupadi – the name and the shame

 

My mum while recalling her kindergarten years yesterday,  in particular an episode on how the little tots like her were peculiarly punished, she happened to mention the nursery teacher’s name which was a bit strange. However, what was even stranger was the name of the nursery teacher’s sister – Draupadi.

In the nearly four decades of my life with a good proportion of it being spent in three all girls’ school across the Indian states, I have not heard any girl with the name Draupadi.  For those not familiar with Indian epic and mythology and hence with the name Draupadi, it is of a queen from Mahabharta who went on to marry not one, but five brothers. She didn’t marry them out of choice but out of a situation on which she had no control on. She was pre-destined to marry the five valiant princes who later on went on to fight their 100 evil step brothers and reclaim their lost kingdom. So what is wrong with her name? There was nothing evil about her. She was a good daughter, sister, wife and queen. So what shrugs people, including me, from hearing someone named Draupadi? It is the story attached to her. When you think of her, you think of a woman with five husbands which of course means, sleeping with five men (sowhat if it was lawful) and of course we relate her with another disastrous episode from the epic: ‘cheer haran’ – i.e. being disrobed and that too in the royal court after her up-righteous  husbands (though human and filled with faults and we happily name our boys after them) lose her in gambling to their step brothers!  So for no fault of hers and despite having a ‘good’ character she is looked down upon with shame. How typical and in modern lines of getting raped and then having to feel ashamed about it. This is how it was centuries ago and sadly, continues to remain so even now! And then we talk about advancements. Advancements that have occurred only in science and technology. Ever heard of moral advancements?

Mythologies around the world are filled with characters with a dubious biography. But sadly Draupadi got chastened for no fault of hers! Luckily for Sita, she was a mere suspect and she passed the purity test! So we have millions of Sita around us. Suspects score better than victims.

I will be lying if I say that I will not be getting ideas if I come across someone named Draupadi. Deep-rooted myths and culture. Whatever I understand of it. Sad but true.

 

(pic courtesy: https://rrgwrites.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/women-of-india.jpeg)

 

In defence of Friendzone

So if you have been friendzoned you will in all likelihood be jeered at or frowned upon by friends. The Internet has articles giving tips on how you can avoid being friendzoned. It is a derogatory word and I seem to wonder why.

Firstly, for those still unfamiliar with the term Friendzone and are too lazy to Google, it simply means a one-sided love/sexual feeling with a member of opposite sex who considers you just as a friend.

The term Friendzone may have been coined in the recent years but the situation has existed forever.  There has been more than one time that I have flatly refused to go beyond platonic with a few dear friends of mine. No, I didn’t look down upon them then or even now. Rather it was the fear of losing them which was greater than any other ephemeral feeling. I can proudly say that all of those platonic friends continue to remain my very good friends even decades later. The bond has only become stronger. And for those few that skipped entering the friendzone, I really don’t know where they are today and frankly, I can’t be bothered.  I remember then shedding tears (and yeah, my wears!) for them then. Over the years it has made me simply laugh at my past follies.  Those ephemeral relationships gave me only headaches and heartaches.

It is awkward dealing with a Friendzoned friend as you are not stupid to not know what is going on with him/her. After much time (hoping that it will be understood), I usually bring the awkward topic up to break the ice. It is not easy. The emotions are running high from one end. There are those deeply rooted ideas that need to be dissected and discarded. It ironically jeopardizes my relationship temporarily with them but I know I will eventually make them see my point.

I don’t see why all relationships, especially with a very good friend should have a need to culminate into having sex or ‘blossom into love’. Are we too tired to have a variety of people in our lives that can fulfil our various needs? Why are we lazy and hope that this one friend can handle all our emotional, physical and other needs?

Nothing wrong in being friendzoned, really!

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(image courtesy: http://www.davidwygant.com/wp-content/uploads/635723523920520029683466699_Friendzone.png)

 

Complimentary yours!

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Is it an individual instinct or a cultural attitude or our submissiveness due to prolonged imperialism that we find ourselves unable to resist from taking things that are offered to us at no cost or those things whose proprietorship is ambiguous?

On my recent flight to Goa which coincided with the week of  our most boisterous and colour-smearing festival of the year, Holi, there were a bunch of activities organised by the flight operators before the flight took off. All the passengers had a tikka applied on their forehead as they got in as a sign of welcome followed by the ground crew members dancing on mashed Bollywood dance tracks in the aisle. The only time when no passenger seemed to mind the flight being delayed!  Bura na maano, holi hai! a popular phrase rightly used for this festival: Don’t mind, it is Holi!

So when the dust finally settled and most people like me stopped waiting for the Holi sweet-dish, Gujiya (which I absolutely detest but would have not said NO if I was offered!), to be served, the flight took off.  I happened to notice that some flight seats had a small piece of brightly coloured satin cloth, placed on top of it. Some were yellow, some pink, and green like the one before me. The first thought that flashed in my head: is this for us to keep? I shrugged that thought off my head and settled in my seat. No sooner had I done it I noticed a middle-aged man sitting diagonally across bend down to pick up something. It was a pink satin cloth. He folded it into two and raised his left hip a bit to stuff it into his trousers pocket. He didn’t do this stealthily. It was as if it belonged to him. What would he do with it? It served no utility purpose. It couldn’t be used as a handkerchief because of its silky material. Neither his grand/children would take a fancy for it! Nevertheless, it now belonged to him and that was it all about. As soon as I alighted the flight, I happened to notice many more people holding on to these pieces of cloths and the air crew in the spirit of bura na maano holi hai, didn’t say anything! It was really meant to be only serving the purpose of decoration during festival times.

It is okay for children’s eyes to light up when they see a public space filled up with balloons. They want one or maybe more than one for themselves. But this urge doesn’t stop at childhood..the ones that I see around me in public usually. Somewhere deep down I wanted that piece of shiny cloth for myself too and if  I would have got it along I wouldn’t have known what to do with it!

More at a personal level and during the same Goa holiday, I was in for a surprise when I realised that the breakfast in our package was complimentary! It wasn’t mentioned anywhere. So what would have otherwise been three days of sensible ordering and eating turned out to be just the opposite! Nothing was spared from the list mentioned in the complimentary breakfast menu! It wasn’t the usual eat-as-much-as-you-like buffet.

Certainly there is no such thing as free lunch. If you get complimentary services, you know you have paid for it. But misusing the complimentary services! One should see many customers, including me, going mad in front of a buffet! Considering that I belong to a well-to-do family!

So instead of thanking for the 24-7 water cooler that was placed at the foot of our floor in our hotel which saved us from buying dozens of bottles of mineral water I wished there was free wifi too!

At least I didn’t pick up the satin cloth! There is a room for improvement. And hopefully, along with me there will be many more whose mindset will change.

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(The in-flight Holi dance video: http://zeenews.india.com/news/india/spicejet-holi-video-is-out-fun-unlimited-watch_1868596.html)

(image courtesy: http://theemon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Giving-Away-Freebies-1024×450.png)

Likeminded, with one and many

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Is it possible to be likeminded with one in some respects and likeminded with the other in other respects? I am reminded of Queen Draupadi from the ancient Indian mythology, who in a boon had asked for fourteen qualities to be in her prospective husband and in return she was married off to five brothers who happened to have those qualities collectively!  This is not about spouses (as I am pretty pleased with my single status quo) but about likemindedness in one individual or one group. Finding that someone with similar tastes, likings and opinions is very unlikely or rare.

Some variegated type of people who I met in different times and who are from different walks of life ended up being my very close friends. They all fulfil one (or maybe more) of my many likeminded-ness.

If A is outright gregarious, B is downright a happy-at-home mommy. And I just happen to find myself at ease with all of them. Conversations flow smoothly. There is no need of role-playing with either. I am myself. Yet they are all so different from each other. It is no wonder then that they disapprove my other set of friends and tell me their mind about the other without any hesitation. Thanks to Facebook for that– the only networking place where all my darlings are under one roof (I shudder at the thought of having them together in the real world for I can visualize many unhappy, bored faces) where photos and check-ins keeps everyone about the others updated. My school friends do know about my college friends and office friends and vice versa. Some of them have even happened to work in the same place.

If the type of friends determines your personality then mine must be indeed chaotic! If at one moment I am happily being a pillion-rider on a friend’s newly-purchased Harley Davidson with blaring dead metal on, then the next moment I am gladly hearing marital woes of another! If one is a Shylock when dealing with money the other has his wallet ever ready for any cause! They are chalk and cheese yet they are my buddies…friends not likeminded for one other but hand-in-glove for me!

Perhaps, they also fulfil another role: of keeping me in check and balance. I am not getting a dose of just one personality that can inflict upon me inadvertently! When I get down the Harley Davidson I know that on another day there is another darling friend to ride me safely back home in his second-hand scooter after a nice movie!

5 husbands, I do not know! Likeminded friends, galore!

(image courtesy:  http://www.gertrudehawkchocolates.com/resource/image/product/xlarge/5D44460D-E6FF-144A-0F3FF4CEF52ABC01.jpg)

Poor Poorer Poorest

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A few weeks ago, I, along with a benevolent friend of mine and my daughter were driving down the streets of my locality in search of 15 poor people to whom we could donate a blanket each. It is freezing cold at this time of the year in the capital region and I was in a charitable mood – not just to donate some loose change to the beggars like the other times, but something which I know would be useful. So a phone call to my ever-so-helpful friend culminated my somewhat generous thought into reality in a matter of two days. He said his usual, “ho jaayega” (it will be done) and so it had.

So here he was one evening after work in his car with colourful blankets stacked in his hatchback. My daughter and I hopped into the car and then started our journey. It was not easy. Despite having poor people all around us it was difficult to work out who was really “needy”. The time and day were also not apt. You find many beggars sitting outside the temples early mornings and evenings and on particular auspicious days of the week when they know the maximum number of devotees would turn up to the temple. So we went about looking for them on not a Tuesday or a Saturday and around the lean time of 4 pm. We began by going to a temple on the hillside by my house but couldn’t find any one there so moved on further. We crossed many streets and then spotted a poor woman with a baby sitting by the road selling some goods. I could see a twinkle in her eyes as she saw us stop the car and donate the blanket. And then we stopped by another temple and distributed eight more blankets to the beggars sitting outside.

Then it made us realize that donating the remaining six blankets was a Herculean task. My daughter kept fretting sitting at the backseat with having nothing to do. It was strange to be surrounded by so many poor people around us yet we were not able to find the ‘right’ people. You walk out of the house and you find the poor everywhere but finding the poorest (maybe I was looking for the homeless) was not easy. How do we figure out that this poor man is the poorest? An auto rickshaw driver is less poor than the manual rickshaw driver and may not need a mere blanket. I know of a particular auto rickshaw driver in my area who also has motorbike and by no mean looks in need of a blanket. But what about others I do not know of? And this is where ‘looks’ came in. And looks, rightly said so, can be deceptive. As it so happened on the same day.

We have 2 cobblers in our area and I donated to only one. I do feel bad now as I retrospect. After all, they both do the same kind of job and have the same kind of set up – a makeshift thatch on the corner of the roads. So why did I differentiate? While one cobbler is dressed up well the other is not. I felt uneasy offering a blanket to the well-dressed one. Would it not hurt his self -respect? His pride? So did it go against him to be respectfully dressed up despite being poor? Perhaps. We donated blankets to those who ‘looked’ very poor but what about those who are poor but don’t look or choose to look poor. So should the poor look poor to get some charity? Why do we have to be charitable to the able-bodied beggars who just sit outside the temples and not to those who get up and work and try to get some wage?

So in my quest for the poorest of the poor, I learnt how wrong I have been and going forward, I would look beyond the looks.

(image courtesy: http://www.mncc.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Web_handsopen.jpg)

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.