Let’s Lose

Let’s lose today, yet again or maybe for the first time. I highly doubt it’s the first time, but I am positive it won’t be the last. Don’t lose your courage, your degree, your accomplishments, your self esteem, your personality, your flaws, no, instead, let’s lose to a word. Beautiful.

Let’s lose to “beautiful”.  A word, like so many before that has become a constraint we cling to and a reason for false joy. It’s a word that has seeped so firmly into our being that it has robbed us of ourselves. It’s a word that we hide behind and a reason we reject. It’s a feat we aspire to achieve and a state we wish to live in.

Let’s lose to it. Let us, today, give up and succumb to endlessness of the word and be the way we are: flawed. Forget the imperfection of the thighs and the nose and the ears or the eyes, instead focus on the perfection of the mind, soul and body. Not ‘beautiful’ body, but a healthy, happy body. Not a ‘beautiful’ face but a happy, smiling face.

Beautiful is nothing but a false sense of being, a figment of our imagination, an idea of worth. An idea so abstract and so fluid, that it’s taken years to perfect and yet remains imperfect.  So today let’s embrace this loss. I have no substitute for this loss, I have no mosaic of ‘beauty’ to replace this master. I have only an idea of a world without this word. An idea where ‘fat’, ‘skinny’, ‘fair’, ‘dark’ all cease to be held against a hypothetical standard and instead flourish in their own amazing uniqueness, an idea where every individual is truly the master of their reflection and happy in their uniqueness.

I urge you embark on this journey. Where, who you are, what you stand for, what you don’t stand for, what you’ve done, what you’ve accomplished, what you have defeated, what you’ve learnt, and what you’ve given back is more important than how you ‘think’ you look. For beauty isn’t an inborn idea, it’s a process, a concept that is constructively and systematically drilled into our minds and souls and our being.

So today, let’s lose. For in this loss, there is only a lifelong victory.

Stranger Danger?

You’re sitting at a café when a stranger approaches you. This person asks what your name is, and, for some reason, you reply. The stranger nods, “I’ve been looking for you.” What happens next?

She looks preoccupied as she continues to stare at me. For a split second, I contemplate and debate running away from her. She seems ‘normal’. Your average Jane Doe really. Shorts and a tank with toms. Her hair is brown and curly and her freckled are peeking from behind her foundation. But I am fixated. Too scared to move and too shocked to run. 

She looks at me, cocks her head to the side, winks and gestures me to follow. She hasn’t moved a step, she is staring at me. I can see myself stand up and and one snappy comment later, I walk away from here. But in reality I just sit staring at her wondering how she got such an amazing tan. She widens her eyes and points to the road, in no way hiding her impatience. I stand up begin to gather my stuff, pay the bill and prepare to walk.  I stand waiting for her and she just stares at me, looking at me like I was looney.

I stare at her, yet again. Something’s weird. I keep looking and the more I look, the more familiar she seems. Suddenly, I feel stupid. Ugh,  did it again, AGAIN. Seriously I have issues.  By now my body is relaxed and I stare at her newly done eyebrows, tan and brown hair.  I am partly amused and partly ashamed. 

“Mom’s waiting, Miss Sheeeeeeeeeeila.” She says mocking me, calling me the one name I despise. “Let’s go. I don’t have all day.”

Resigned and embarrassed I sigh as my sister pushes me out of her way. 

No Pain, No Gain?

Do you agree with Jane Fonda’s favorite exercise motto, “no pain, no gain?” Is it impossible to attain greatness without considerable hardship?

I often wondered what life would be if everything were served on a silver platter? If everyone, no matter how hardworking, no matter his/her/their perseverance, was served on a silver platter. I thought long enough and realized that the silver would tarnish.

Whatever a person achieves even if, by luck, he/she/they must work towards maintaining it, battling human intent, battling nature’s motivation and then finally overcoming their own limitations. I firmly believe, no pain, no gain. That to gain, we often feel some form of pain. Mental, physical, emotional pain. Sometimes, some pain is harsher and harder, and some not so much, however, pain is involved. Doctors, lawyers, artists, photographers, mothers, fathers, all face various types if pain. The pain of patience, of focus, of commitment, of lack of time, the pain of limitations, of freedom. 

Impossible, I don’t know really. For everyone measures main differently. If choosing between family and work is painful, then maybe greatness is impossible without pain. If focusing is difficult, then maybe it’s impossible to attain greatness without pain. If, however, my pain, is not someone else’s definition of pain, then maybe for them greatness is possible without pain. 

Anyway, what do you think? Leave me a comment. 

Dear 13/14 Year Old Self

Dear 13/14 year old self

Calm down. You feel ugly, you have braces, you’re too skinny, you have an opinion about everything, you know that you bound by too many rules and maybe once every week (or more) you wish you’d grow up faster. Now you’re ‘lucky’ you don’t have a pretty older sister so you need not worry about that, but everyday in school you see pretty 16,17 year olds, in their best version of the proverbial beauty and wonder why you don’t grow up already.

Well stop. You will grow up. You already are. Everyday, you get one day closer to getting older. And that, this growth of your body, your face, your thoughts, your expectations will only continue to expand day in and day out. You will be taller, prettier, smarter, sexier. You will grow up.

But you can never stop growing, nor revert back to your middle school. You can never turn back time and appreciate what school has to offer to the weird brace laden, fringe infested teenager if all you focus on is growing up. The experiences, the foolishness, the capacity to goof up is one thing that is constantly pitted against time. You will grow up. You will be given responsibility, you will have all the make up you want, you will have that wardrobe that you covet so badly, sheepishly stare at and yet deny,  you will be ‘prettier’ than your awkward teens, but with each passing year, your ability to make mistakes will lessen, your goofiness will be challenged and your very essence of a carefree individual will be shaken. People might tell you otherwise but those dreamers are yet to change themselves, let alone society.

I know, you do worry about grades, and the world around you, the issues the world faces, I know you worry and plan and scheme as to how to change the world and what your contribution in the world will be and you dream and you aspire. I know that you are not ‘shallow’, nor incapable,  but I also know that every time you look into the mirror, you see something off. Beauty, however you define it, is going to be a major theme in your life, one that consumes you, enrages you, satisfies you, angers you, prods you, but most of all, one that challenges you, constantly. And know that you are neither the first, nor the last girl (or boy, for boys struggle with their own impossible standards)  to face these issues and feel that way.

In fact, as you get older, the pressure will build and so will the expectations. It’s nothing you can’t tackle, you’re already way stronger than you know.  But today let ‘cute’ be enough for you. Let the Famous Fives still be cool. Let respect still matter,  be proud of the girl you are, stop worrying about the woman you’ll be. Start enjoying and appreciating the individual you are. Live life through the eyes of an unknown. Don’t let ‘crazy’, ‘weird’, ‘hot’, or ‘sexy’ be your only focus. To put it crudely but honestly, you are, just another body, but also remember that in essence, you are an entire world to be cherished, loved, respected, rejoiced and don’t let your perceived lack of beauty (however you define it) ever stall you.

Dear 13/14 year old self, you will grow up, but you can never go back.

Much love,

Your prettier, decidedly sexier, 20 year old self

My Secret Tunnel

You’ve been given the ability to build a magical tunnel that will quickly and secretly connect your home with the location of your choice — anywhere on Earth. Where’s the other end of your tunnel?

If I had the power, no, pardon me, the magical  power to build a tunnel that connects to anywhere in the world, I would most certainly expect mankind  to have progressed enough, with or without magic to have the ability to live underwater in little water friendly globes that not only are ocean friendly but also have the ability to be invisible and odorless to carnivorous ocean dwellers.

I would without a doubt, want my tunnel to connect to the bed of the Indian Ocean. Why? Well I’ve never been there and I doubt I ever will go there and so my imagination and my limited knowledge of the ocean and it’s lifestyle are all that can travel. Even in doing so, I cannot even begin to fathom all the wonders that persist so deep into the earth and so far from human disturbance.

It would be my mid day get away, and my secret escape (because I can clearly get there in a matter of minutes since my tunnel will be technologically advanced enough to do so). So every time I have had enough of this mean, green, blue, weird world, I shall escape into the darkness, swiftly and comfortably, go to my underwater house, which would light up by self illuminating sea creatures and read or write on water paper with a sea weed.  I’ll be sure to not be too loud because who knows, maybe my neighbors are doing the same. And then once I’m fed up of being alone, and the darkness of the sea and it’s beauty, I shall resurface.

To The Righteous Men In My Life

Thank you.

Night or day, rain or shine, Mondays or Fridays, even holidays, yesterday and today, you’ve held my hand and kept me strong. As a father, brother, best friend, uncle, or cousin, you have constantly encouraged me, motivated me and shown me the life, you knew was to be ‘truly’ living.

To my father, who, though born in a society where women were merely associations, has risen so graciously above and beyond society’s chains and has loved me, respected me, encouraged me, and motivated me, (not merely ‘allowed me’) to do my best. Thank you for hugging me tight and letting me cry but never once telling me that  I was weak. Thank you for being firm in your upbringing and trust when the other fathers were questioning their daughters, for teaching me exactly what you taught my brother. Thank you, for being so beyond your years that even today, I turn to you for advice and support, fearless and confident, even if I’m in the wrong .  Thank you for letting me find my voice, loud and clear, for letting my laugh resonate and echo through and from the room walls without hesitating or controlling or telling me to stop because other  men, boys and women were judging.

To my brother, whose words I cling onto as I should to my holy book, who taught me to be true to myself irrespective of what the world (the cruel high school world, for example) thought, for being my sole confidante and my biggest fan, for showing me that girls are only as limited as their imagination allows them to be, for helping me become a better woman and embrace it with pride. Thank you, for being the only one who told me to be myself, my loud, giggly, impulsive, crazy self, to be who I wanted to be irrespective of where I was or who I was with.

Thank you to my cousins, best friends, friends, and, rakhi brothers, who have constantly protected me, not because I was weak, but because some of our world values a man over a woman, all the while teaching me to be strong. To all of you, for respecting my choices, and appreciating me when you knew I needed it the most. Thank you not because you need, or asked for it, but because you saw me an equal much before I did.

Thank you to all of you who make an effort to respect women everywhere, who despite petty jokes and perverted thoughts, never stared if my bra strap showed and instead glared at those who did. Thank you for encouraging me and my emotions and seeing me as strong as you, even when I cried and you didn’t. Thank you, to all the righteous men in my life, who have shown me what it truly is like to be respected and loved and for knowingly or unknowingly becoming the reason for my fight against ‘that’ selected part of society, for you have shown me, what every girl, daughter, sister, friend, but most of all, how every woman, deserves to be treated.

Thank you.

 

My Religion and It’s Men

I walk, clutching onto my books, alternating between a sheepish glance upwards and a nervous glance downwards and I walk like I don’t belong there. I just keep walking until I reach a crossroad, in my mind, where I know I need to stop and face it. My bare head, flowing hair, sleeveless shirt, all a supposed disregard to the religion I was born in and chose to follow.
It wasn’t my religion or my god that forbade me from my chosen forms expression, speech, and art, but in fact its men that did. My religion, like most other, if not all, implores me to be a worthy human being, pure in thought and intention and generous in nature and attitude. It taught me to be daring, within reason, to be outspoken,  if righteous and to be scared of no one but the lord himself, for he is the creator, but the men, the mere mortals who chose to interpret his will, who have by birth or choice or maybe even deceit chosen to be His messengers tell me otherwise.
They look at my bare hands and try to convince me to be ‘pure’. They look right into my eyes and ask me to look away. They measure my ‘purity’ by the number of times I blink away; they approve of me when I cover my head in any way. The women too, follow in the suits of these men. They adore them, maybe, dislike them possibly, revere them, perhaps but follow them nonetheless. The women walk up to me and teach me virtues of a kind, they take my hand and with a gentle touch, a sweet tone and threatening tales, beseech me to change my ways. To take a path that lead to eternal heaven. When I don’t budge and my sleeves don’t return, they come back to me with a promise of love, of devotion, of kindness and of course, of heaven. And when I smile and decline, they rudely turn, the love, the kindness, the gentle touch have been replaced and I, declared me a lost cause and an influence, to be at best, tolerated.
Not all men, of course, neither all women. The men and women of knowledge, smile at me with a genuine smile. Some teach, some follow, some condone. People of knowledge, of the sciences, the arts, history and the law, often teach me the ways of my world, of the god I follow, of the principles he laid down.
I absorb them all only to blurt them out, confused, at best, at the dinner table at home. Concerned by the knowledge, worried by my sleeves, I’m quizzing my god and my minds dizzy. Is my God so petty that he’ll punish me for my choice? Is he so insecure that he’ll abandon my faith in another being? Is he so small that rituals not virtues could send me to hell?
I’m received with a smile and tender hand, I’m reassured that my God, a God, the God, is all but one. His forms may differ but his love won’t falter. That my skin won’t matter, and my virtues weighed, that merely prayer won’t guarantee a place in his heart. I’m also told, with a sigh and a frown, that men seek power, and authority so bitter that if need be, God will be their weapon. Not all men, I’m warned, and that I’m told, is my task at hand.
To believe my god but pick his true messengers. To follow my heart, but fulfill my destiny, to survive for myself but to live for others. To not just be human, to be a conscientious, kind, generous human. And that I’m told is my only task and that is what my God, a God, the God will judge me on.
Image by: Rana Ossama

The Destined Rain

Prompt: “It was sunny when you left home, so you didn’t take an umbrella. An hour later, you’re caught in a torrential downpour. You run into the first store you can find — it happens to be a dark, slightly shabby antique store, full of old artifacts, books, and dust. The shop’s ancient proprietor walks out of the back room to greet you.”What happens next?

I looked around the dusty store, a little disgusted, a little ashamed. The new money in me was proclaiming everything fake, yet the Indian roots in me were battling to see his face. I looked at him and smiled, maybe a little fake, maybe a little scared. I was, after all, a woman alone in a small dusty store claiming to sell souls hidden within its stores.

He spoke a native tongue which I couldn’t understand. I think he sensed my fear, for he moved back two steps, shaming me to the bones. I quickly defended my thoughts and began to look around as the rain was seeping into the earth, renewing it with every drop.

“Chai peenge?” (would you like some tea?) he asked in broken Hindi. I nodded gratefully and instantly conflicted, what if. But I remained calm and among the dust began to find someone, anyone, who spoke to me. The store was split in the middle by a long high table smothered, not carelessly, with millions of key chains, lamps, glasses and vases. The walls had rows and rows of wooden shelves desperate to look important, but I kept looking out for the rain to tame and when it didn’t , I finally resigned to the rain and bored, I began looking at the books in the shelves. They had been cleaned, the attempt was clear, and so was its failure.

The proprietor came back with a small cup of perfectly colored beige brown black milk tea. Giving it to me he stared at me for a minute. A full, uncomfortable, slow minute and suddenly turned around and went into the back room. Confirming in my mind that age was degrading him, I got to my tea, sipping it slowly and tastefully. I marveled at the fact that despite coming to this lane year and year, I never once stepped in. My mother, when she had been alive, used to frequent these lanes as if they provided the rice our meals consisted of. How come I never came here?  Another glance at the chandelier above me raining dust on my cotton blouse silenced my queries as I brushed off the settling specks sending them into violent twirls mid air.

The man returned clutching 2 books. His eyes were teary and his hands shivering. The rain was slowing down and my relief building. He walked up to me and gave me the books.

I frantically shook my head with eyes wide but he wouldn’t listen. He opened the first book and thrust it in my weirdly placed hands. It was a letter. Curious, I read it. It was my mother’s handwriting. The entire book consisted of letters she had written to my biological father. He had died when I was barely 3 and my mum when I was 7. I stared at the book and my throat started clumping up, my knees were weak and my hands were quivering. I looked up at him with grateful unspoken tears. He gave me both the books and blessed me before I stumbled out of this store, turning back every few meters till I could see it no more.

I went back the next day, with a million concerns and bag full of cash to at least pay him for the books, his family greeted me in all white, an indicator that he had died.

My soul was shaken. In one day I had found and lost again.

Why had it rained? How did it rain in the brutal summer? How did he know? What all did he know? These questions keep me up 20 years later. The only consolation I have are books full of letters of people whose souls are now all I have.

The Ad Revolution – Airtel

Indian Cinema, India’s new age folklore is replete with tales of men in power who marry women in power only to disown them later as their bruised egos cannot handle such a strong wife. India sitcoms are, of course, no less. Every woman is expected to have just one goal in life: to want to get married and to have that has her prime responsibility and expectation. Her career takes a back seat unless she is a devious, ‘modern’, man-hating machines who is eventually ‘cured’ by a man who loves her and teaches her the ‘true’ value of life and proceeds to her to marry and joyously spring forth another generation of  mindless patriarchs.

Any sitcom today will proudly take you through the suited, working men and ‘suited’ (salwar kameez, or sarrees) house bound women. Another variation, that Indian sitcom cannot do without is that of falling in love with your boss. The proverbial ‘abla naari’ applies for a job and then falls in love with her boss etc etc. Point being that the man always has the upper hand.

So naturally advertisements mirrors this trend and incorporated it in some form into everything from tea to clothes to even cars. Today however, I saw an amazing ad that could possibly be one of my favorites this year. It not only reflects the growing change in our country’s young adults and their attitudes but also manages to portray a beautiful relationship between a man and his female boss who also happens to be his wife. It shows a growing trend of women leaders who aren’t afraid to allocate tasks, and take firm action all while juggling a home, marriage and a job. And more importantly, it shows the man, as accepting and maybe for the first time ever, as non egotistical, whose manliness isn’t defined by who he works under.  My words cannot do justice as to how beautifully and subtly, emotions are shown, expressed and ultimately brought to life in this one minute advertisement.

Airtel is hitting all the right notes with this advertisement.

Don’t believe me?

See it yourself.

 

Sania Mirza- An Individual, Maybe?

The television won’t stop screaming about how Sania Mirza is or is not Indian. Our minister has made his stand rather clear when he says “Sania is Pakistan’s daughter in law”. Some people have ‘supported’ Sania Mirza and claimed that she is ‘India’s daughter’. The battle rages on but I am stunned as I see something a lot of people, educated people missed.

Is that all she is? An entity? An association? A daughter or a daughter-in-law? Is she not an entire being in herself? How sickening is our patriarchy, and how much power does it exert over us that we forget to see her as an individual and see her instead as a link. Born, brought up and excelled in India, her marriage changed all of that. Now she is only a wife or daughter in law? Is that all women are reduced to? Is that all they should aspire towards? Being content as a daughter or a mother or a wife or a daughter in law? Who she married, why she married, is simply her prerogative but no, we have made it our business. Why? Because we can. Because our society promotes such intense patriarchy that she isn’t even being deemed “Indian” it is only, either “India’s daughter” or “Pakistan’s daughter-in-law”.

She was the first Indian player to win a WTA Tour title, became the third Indian to win a grand Slam, was named in one of the ’50 Heros of Asia’ and in 2010, he economic times named her one of the “33 women who made India proud” but suddenly none of that matters. Her marriage to a man of her choice (which left Indians flabbergasted and angry) is now the only criteria.

Is that going to be the fate of women who are strong enough to exert their choices? Is that what we are teaching our young aspiring girls to work towards? This needs to stop. Women are NOT merely associations. They are individuals first. And that is what should count. Who she is and what she has achieved, not who she married and this change needs to start with Sania Mirza, an individual first, a daughter later.