When you have so much more…

The more I think about it, the more I wonder…How would it feel, knowing that you are not allowed to?

OK, then let me start from the beginning.

wine

There was a time last month when we had guests drop in rather frequently for dinner. I found myself hosting three get-togethers within less than three weeks, I think. Fortunately I had help with the preparations since my exams were right round the corner. Though I prefer to cook for parties myself, having someone to peel, chop, grate, crush, mince, dice, julienne and such-like paraphernalia is a blessing. But something has been bothering me recently about those memories – how would it feel to handle meat, exotic vegetables, imported fruits and quantities of expensive ingredients, when you know you cannot afford them in your own home?

Even though we are not regular party-throwers, my insistence on a wholesome diet means that I often buy foods that ever-rising inflation places out of the reach of many families, like that of my help. So perhaps one day, searching for a spice, she comes across bottles stocked with dry fruits like cashews, walnuts and almonds. Or she may find herself cooking an amount of goat meat enough to feed a party of 15; Or she is washing up even she feels heady with the aroma of saffron-infused basmati pulao that I have just taken down from the gas range – what can possibly go on in her mind when her own children may not have had such stuff on their table for many many months. Then there is the  boiling of chicken, daily, twice a day for my dog!

Indeed, my train of thought began ranging further. How does it feel for a poorly paid accountant to  handle vast sums of money – especially in cash – when his own child may be suffering from lack of expensive medical treatment. Or perhaps for a night-shift nurse in a hospital  caring for patients when her own mother is old and alone at home, with nobody to pick her up if she stumbles in the dark room and falls.

depression-3297810_960_720.jpg

Such morbid thoughts, you say…but just think, once, how much we take for granted!

Advertisements

Back To School

Let me get this straight

“You mean you are actually – willingly – doing this?”

8314929977_28fd740070_b
Back to Studies

My daughter’s incredulity would’ve been funny had the scene been playing out on the TV screen, like in a Man with a Plan type of family comedy series where teens perpetually talk to parents with an arched eyebrow.

“Why should it be so strange that I might want to do a course?” I tried to keep my equanimity even as I felt fine tendrils of self-doubt uncurling in my heart.

“Who would want to voluntarily study, take an exam, go through this —?!” the last word was quite expressive of the hatred that kids have for exams.

As you may have guessed by now – this mini inter-generational drama was all about my signing up for a college course.  I had a sneaking suspicion my teen daughter’s reaction was actually resentment at the possibility of not having me at her beck and call for a few months the following year when I would be in the thick of my studies. But over the next few weeks my suspicions evaporated. I found her actually happy that she had a co-sufferer now and eventually my darling even began taking on the much-despised pet-related chores off my shoulders.

The rest of the family was just relieved I had found something to plug my intermittent whining about the absence of a ‘proper’ career.

Outside, my revelation was generally met with varying degrees of interest – from an off-hand “oh really” in the middle of a rambling description of shopping in Dubai’s Gold Souk to real concern that I might be subjecting my brain cells to more than it could bear at this age. Two reactions stand out in my memory – one:

“Really – But why? What possible good can any course do now – will you even make enough to cover course fees?”

And the second was, of course, what started it all:

“I see…if you are so interested in the subject, maybe you should go ahead with it – just find a way.”

Hendrick_van_Balen_-_Minerva_and_the_Nine_Muses_-_WGA1225
Minerva and the Nine Muses by Hendrick Van Balen – Minerva is the Greek Goddess of Wisdom

Some words, uttered by someone, in a moment of pure congruence – you never know where it can lead you.

 

Worry Woes – 3 Wily Ways To Fix Them

Dog’s appetite

no career

maid’s holiday

exam questions

garden weeds

daughter’s college fees

varicose veins

blueberry cheesecake

saree blouse designs

scratch on the car

party over the weekend

friend’s promotion

 

Can you guess what these are?

That’s right ! items buzzing in my overcrowded brain accompanied by much hand-wringing every day – leading to ridiculous waste of my time, mental energy and head space. So what do I do – here are 3 quick worry shooters that i have personally found helpful. And believe me, coming from a chronic worrier like yours truly, that’s saying something.

images
The Worry Bogey

Focus on the friendly 5

Simply focus on your 5 senses – what you see, hear, smell, taste and feel around you. And before long you will actually begin to enjoy the exercise. Like the warm envelope of a soft dressing gown straight out of a cold shower. Or the day-long bird chirrups around my Nilgiris home which I hardly paid attention to – or was thankful for – till i arrived in Kolkata in the peak of summer. In fact for me the faint earthy smell of a dog is truly comforting and i want to get as much of it now before her 11-12 years are up. Keeping your mind on the feast of senses works wonders to keep worries at bay. The catch is of course, that it takes practice before you get to see results. It is only too easy for chronic worriers to lapse back into picking mind warts. Indeed even unpleasant sensations can help you to keep off niggling worries – right now just as i started worrying about the dismal readership of my blog, I immediately shifted my mind to my uncomfortable writing posture. and well, it helped me to go on.

Ditch Products – For experiences

OK there goes my chance of finding sponsors for my blog – but really, retail therapy is one of the unhealthiest ways to deal with chronic worry. Buying something gives you a just a momentary mood spike but you can be sure the euphoria will wear away sooner than later. Even worse, if like me, you cannot afford unnecessary purchases, rest assured you have added another item – credit card bills – to your already long list of worries. Instead try and acquire experiences – like baking a batch of cookies, playing with your pet, calling your Mom, listening to rock music at an un-neighbourly volume!

download (1)

Fix a time

Chronic worriers may find it helpful to actually schedule worry. Sounds counterproductive, right – if not outright bizarre. But keeping aside a fixed time for worry will help you tell yourself, “ Hey, its OK – if worrying means so much to you, let’s find a time when you can worry without interruption. But then don’t do it at other times – deal?” And trust me, most of the time you’ll find yourself agreeing.

download (12)
Look for help

Finally, take care of yourself. If you find your worries getting out of hand – like interfering with your appetite, sleep or straying to thoughts of self-harm – get out and look for professional help. Life is the best gift of all – and nothing, absolutely nothing is worth damaging it.

But ending with a widely-loved quote on worry by, who else, Mark Twain:

“I have spent most of my life worrying about things that have never happened”

Agree??

Lasagna Lessons

A One-act play on human nature!

Yes, that is what unfolded last evening at the dinner table. At the heart of it all was the bubbling casserole of lasagna that I placed with quiet triumph. And my lesson at the end of the day was that there are roughly 4 types of human reactions to your success.

20180507_071306.jpg

Be damned with faint praise

“Oh my! So you made lasagna today. Hmmm…very nice. Reminds me of Aunt Mildred and her amazing Sunday brunches. The table would positively groan under the weight of all those courses. And her lasagnas of course were the creamiest, tastiest ever!”. For such people, no matter how great your achievement, how much effort and time you have put into it – you are never good enough…

Focus on faults

If you were wondering how to respond to such high praise for Aunt Mildred at your dinner table, save the bother. This reaction would not even take the trouble of coming up with an unflattering comparison but cut straight to the faults. “Hmmm tastes good but maybe you can go a little easy on the salt next time? Don’t worry dear, you’ll get there. Eventually.”

The Royal Ignore

Did you really mess it up? You look for confirmation from another guest. Nothing. Not a word about your efforts. Instead conversation flows, “I told Susan to take that sorry excuse of a presentation and shove it up her…” You look at the big spoonfuls of lasagna she is shovelling in her mouth and wait for a response, “…Would you believe her nerve? And all this right in front of me, in my office!”. Yes. You do believe. That some people can have minds that are so small, so petty that a word of praise for another’s success can actually threaten their entire existence.

Pure Joy

Finally, you get the reaction that celebrates all those hours of effort. A broad grin that makes the eyes dance. Ecstatic groans that rise all the way from a satiated alimentary tract. “Mmmm…best lasagna ever…” By then you don’t need to hear any more. You are half-way through your own dinner.

And you know exactly how Success tastes !

 

 

October on my mind…

A week after its release, I finally managed to watch October – a finely-nuanced Hindi movie about love, loss and waiting for both. Director Shoojit Sircar sets it in Delhi – that rare Indian metro city where autumn is properly felt as a season and not just a transit between the humid summers and cool December. The title appropriately evokes the themes of near-death, near-love in the backdrop of near-winter.

11l06rs002
October mornings in Delhi. Photo courtesy: DNA India

But this is not a movie review.

This is more about thoughts on what, ultimately, makes Life worth living? Having someone to love? Like a 21-year old daughter in coma who cannot even say ‘Ma’ but for whom the mother spends nights in the hospital and days earning the money needed to keep the life-support machines running.

Or maybe being loved by someone makes the real difference – like by the young man who daily checks her urine output and is the one to jumpstart the healing process by bringing her favourite flowers to smell.

Flower_&_flower_buds_I_IMG_2257.jpg
October flowers – Shiuli

Perhaps it is those young interns who are actually right – having found the balance between practicality, carrying on with the business of living and still concerned enough about their hospitalized friend to shell out precious cash for her medicines and cover for the guy who wants to be there.

One might even wonder if the cantankerous uncle – who never stops whining about ballooning hospital bills and the prospect of lifelong paralysis – is nearer to the brutal truth of what physical and mental faculties actually define a quality life. Much as we would want him to shut up.

Who knows who is right, what is right ? Scriptwriter Juhi Chaturvedi does not leave us with easy answers. The movie and its questions linger long after the closing credits – much like the faint fragrance of Shiuli – the delicate, short-lived flower of October mornings.

Today Tell Your Story

 

“IF A STORY IS WITHIN YOU, IT HAS TO COME OUT”

-William Faulkner

How important is it to tell your own story?

love-pen-bed-drinking

Human lives are densely interwoven with stories – we are born as the result of intersection of two people’s stories, grow up listening to tales, acquire morals, warnings, inspiration through them and inevitably construct our own narratives – replete with sub-plots, twists and turns, climaxes and temporary resolutions till another complication begins to take shape. In fact I think our stories do not even die with us – they might figure as a prologue in our children’s or sub-plots in other people’s stories and anything else that we leave behind as a legacy.

And who best to tell your story than you?

A few days back our book club met to discuss Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief. Remember Liesel, and her inexplicable tendency of swiping a book wherever she comes across one? Even though in the beginning of the novel she cannot read ! Eventually Liesel moves beyond “collecting” books – she learns to read and most importantly, write. The act of writing her own story saves her –  metaphorically, as it imbues her life experiences with meaning and optimism and then literally in the end as she falls asleep in the basement while writing her book and thus escapes the bombing which wipes out her foster family.

And yet not all personal narratives need be positive. The theory of narrative therapy as propounded by Michael White and David Epston, points out how problem-saturated life stories can lead to unhappiness, worry, anxiety and such psychological issues. The way ahead lies in re-interpreting, re-framing negative events and episodes to construct a positive narrative and looking for “unique moments” or opportunities to bring about beneficial changes.

Writing your story can be cathartic when emotions and feelings are raging inside you, can give coherence when you can’t make sense of your life and finally closure, when you need to get over episodes or people to be able to move on. Finally, as one of my favourite poets, Maya Angelou says,

mayaangelou1-2x.jpg
Image Courtesy: Brainyquote.com

 

For my Daughter – On her Birthday…

It took me a while but eventually I found it !

The perfect poem for my daughter on her birthday

Titled “The Writer” and written by Richard Wilbur, the poem is a visual and finely-pitched exploration of a parent’s thoughts as he/she wishes strength and perseverance for the daughter to fight, learn and fly.

pexels-photo-127968.jpeg

THE WRITER

In her room at the prow of the house

Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,

My daughter is writing a story.

daughter

I pause in the stairwell, hearing

From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys

Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

 

Young as she is, the stuff

Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:

I wish her a lucky passage.

 

But now it is she who pauses,

As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.

A stillness greatens, in which

 

The whole house seems to be thinking,

And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor

Of strokes, and again is silent.

 

I remember the dazed starling

Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;

How we stole in, lifted a sash

 

And retreated, not to affright it;

And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,

We watched the sleek, wild, dark

 

And iridescent creature

Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove

To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

 

And wait then, humped and bloody,

For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits

Rose when, suddenly sure,

 

It lifted off from a chair-back,

Beating a smooth course for the right window

And clearing the sill of the world.

 

It is always a matter, my darling,

Of life or death, as I had forgotten.  I wish

What I wished you before, but harder.

(From New and Collected Poems, published by Harcourt Brace, 1988. Copyright © 1969 by Richard Wilbur. All rights reserved)

Many thanks to this page at poetry.org where I found a collection of evocative poems on daughters – the love, joy, youthfulness and hope they bring into their parents’ lives, the strength that they display through life’s challenges but also their differences with parents which eventually mark them out as individuals in their own right.