Monday, June 18, 2007

I Believe in Angels...

As Abba sang, "If you see the wonder of a fairy tale.... makes you take the future even if you fail. I believe in angels, something good in everything I see..."

The child in me still believes in fairy tales. Cinderella and Rapunzel were not happy till the end of the tale, were they? They had cruel witches and horrible curses till Prince Charming rode along to rescue them. But the modern Cinderella that I like to see myself as, no longer believes in the Prince Charming part. No knight rescues damsels in distress these days.... damsels need to learn to rescue themselves. But just as Cinderella had her fairy God Mother and friendly little mice, Snow White had her friendly little dwarfs, and the Little Mermaid had Sebastian, the lobster, the ones to truly help these little damsels out of their distress, I like to believe in little angels. If you think about it, the knights/princes have only kissed and danced with these princesses in the name of breaking curses!

I watched an old episode of 'Ally McBeal' where a stock broker was fired as he was deemed mentally unstable for believing in seeing a unicorn. A person seeing something that others couldn't and believing in something that others normally wouldn't are prone to being judged as schizophrenic, and with good reason many times. But as the lawyers argued, religious beliefs are based on supernatural occurrences. If one claims to see Santa Claus or Krishna, he is revered, but when one claims to see unicorns or centaurs they are jeered. A nice example of hypocrisy.

Anyway the point I was trying to make is that, sometimes relying on the child inside of us lightens any situation we need to face. As a child, our hopes were alive and ever optimistic. Everything I saw as a child had a sparkle of imagination and magic to it. The gross frogs in the garden were seen as princes under curses, the nagging teachers were imagined as witches who would vanish when water was poured over them, my new shoes were thought of as Dorothy's shoes waiting to be clicked to transport to a different land, the loud noisy train turned into a magical rattling box.... adding a little pixie dust to everything around made the world so surreal and different. It makes us see the little angel that got out of Pandora's box - Hope.

Why lose that child inside me, when it helps me see the world through tinted glasses? Borrowing Abba's lines,
"I have a dream, a fantasy.... to help me through reality. And my destination, makes it worth the while. Pushing through the darkness, still another mile. "

What did I lose?

I search and I search,
Eyes dry and red,
Mind racing and churning,
Hope rising and falling,
To find that which I lost...

I know I miss it,
I know I want it,
I know it's somewhere here,
I know my hands will spread far,
To find that which I lost...

I remember the feeling,
I remember the memories,
I remember the thoughts,
I remember the dangers that arise,
To find that which I lost...

Famished and weary,
Overwrought with fear and pain,
Thinning down with dwindling hopes,
I ask myself over and over,
What did I have, for me to have lost?

The Cliff-hangers

When we were kids (i.e, till the age of 18), life had hardly begun. We were carefully cocooned in our little safety zones, that little did we imagine life could get worse than preparing for mind numbing exams and putting up with crazy professors.

Back in those days (sigh), I remember a very popular question that people would throw at you, at the pretext of keeping you entertained during those long train and bus journeys to and from college (which was situated at the heart of nowhere). Such questions were termed as 'mokkai' by many , including me. An example of such a 'mokkai' , "Imagine that your mom, dad, sister, brother and friend are all hanging from the edge of a cliff. You have the power to rescue only one... just one! Whom would you pick?" When such questions were thrown at me, I would imagine throwing the brainy quizzer down a cliff, with a haughty smirk, "What a stupid question! Like there is ever going to be such a situation! And what is the point of this ramble, really? BTW, I have no brother or sister!"

But a few years later, I've come to realize,  a sad realization at that, that such situations do present themselves in life. The cliff is nothing but a metaphor. Life demands hard choices and try as we might, we can only pick one.... letting go of others. An average Indian woman with orthodox upbringing looks down a cliff with a bunch of people/things hanging from it.... mother, father, career, potential life partner, etc. And as the inventor of this game decided, you cannot save everybody/everything.

It's unfortunate that generation gap poses a huge rift between parents and children. These complications are somehow more acute to women than men. I fail to understand the panic attack that parents face in the name of getting their daughters 'settled'. Some girls eternally fret that they will be turning 25 soon, their reason being, "My mom says girls lose their beauty and charm after 25... after 25 it gets increasingly hard to find men". 25 seems to be a dreadful turning point in the lives of single women. The focus is to somehow get married before that age strikes you.... even if that marriage be devoid of love. "Love! What in the name of God has it got to do with weddings?!" - parents howl.... and that's how the rift starts.

The other day, I was asked by a frantic friend, "Hey, when is it too late for a woman to have kids? 30, 35? Hope its 35! I want at least two." So there we go, lets add a couple of potential babies hanging from the cliff too, shall we? Somehow there are far too many pressures-- coming from a traditional setting, the need to please parents is a major priority, but this conflicts with the fact that most of us believe in marriages to be born out of love, and not out of horoscopes and castes. As women, we need to stay beautiful till we get married, find a partner by 25 (whom we truly love AND our parents truly love), try to establish a career that not only satisfies us, but also satisfies our parents, and is 'compatible' with the career of our potential life partner, buy a house, a car too, and have kids by 30. Nice template ain't it?

As hard as we strive NOT to follow the template, we invariably are made to feel guilty and fail in one or more aspects... resulting in the metaphorical cliff, forcing us to make the toughest choices. We need to let go of something that we equally value in our life, in order to gain something. Reminds me of one of those dreadful 'Holocaust' stories... a woman being asked by a Nazi soldier, which child of hers she was willing to sacrifice to save the other. Although our situations are never as cruel, they are painful enough to make us realize that we can't get everything in life.

And the cliff scenario is recursive. Each one of those cliffhangers in one's cliff has a situation of their own... their own cliff with me as one of their cliff hangers. As agonizing it is to watch oneself being let down, it is equally excruciating for the 'rescuer' to make that decision. Is it ok to let go of the cliff to save ourselves the pain, or is it just cowardice to do so? For better or for worse, I can live with the fact that I chose to let go of something, than go through the rejection of being let down.... or is that just an excuse to cover up insecurity?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Eternal joy of Parenthood...

Parenthood is one of the most fulfilling experiences... a wonderful galore of emotions of love and pain, and a lifetime full of rich memories. But it's never easy to let go of a child on its own journey to explore life... young ones leaving the nest is not taken lightly by mamas and papas.

We remember the times when our parents were our universe....their warmth and affection were all that we wanted. But we humans, unfortunately evolve over time.... our thoughts, our views, our attitudes go through a gradation of transformation, leaving our poor parents baffled and disappointed. Generation gap as they say, only seems to grow with every passing year. Parents never want to let go of the joy of parenting...and children seem to suffocate from it when they feel they have outgrown.

I am not a parent yet, but I am close to one now... I am parenting a fish. My dear little Bubbles. When the eerie, heavy feeling sinks at the pit of my stomach as I leave him at my friend's house before I head out for a vacation, I remember how my mother would have felt seeing me take off. As I repeatedly remind my friend how to feed him, I see glimpses of my mother over-protecting me. When I dream of Bubbles dying and drowning (a fish drowning!), and keep calling my friend to check on him, I realize how my mother goes through paranoia about me and ends up getting yelled by me. When I worry myself sick over his infection and his pale ill face, I realize how my parents would have felt hearing I was sick in another continent. A little fish made me realize the parent in me... and made me realize what parenting is.

But you see, contrary to us human children getting all the more rebellious with time, pets turn all the more loyal and obedient to us with the passage of time. Bubbles eats what I feed, with never a word of complaint, he comes where I go, doesn't argue with me on when his water needs to be changed, what plants he will have in his home, where his tank is to be kept... and which female buddy he can have (once he gets well). Bubbles doesn't disappoint me in anyway... unless of course he dies after all the mammoth effort I have been expending to keep him alive.

Pets like him are ideal for parents who never want to let go of parenting. And such dedicated loving parents deserve the reciprocation of a faithful, sincere being. No matter how you treat them, they always come running to you with no word of complaint. The term 'unconditional' love is truly applicable to pets. No wonder people get so attached to pets, and many in western lands prefer pets over babies :).

So the next time you see an old man inviting you to the birthday party of his little puppy, don't judge him, don't smirk or laugh at the idiocy of it.... realize that both the old man and the puppy deserve the party more than any one of us. The next time I meet my parents, I'm going to gift them a pet... so they can experience the eternal joy of parenthood. They truly deserve it...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Are there 'Female-Friendly' Jars?

The kitchen is supposed to be one place where females should normally have no difficulty surviving by themselves, or is it true? We all come to this phase when we start pondering on how independent we really are. Is it true that I can live by myself with no dependency on anyone?? And of course, the mid-20 crisis looms in front of me, haunting me day and night with the question, "Do I really need a man?"

With mood swings becoming part of my core trait, I was near to tears with anger, frustration and a bruised ego that I couldn't even open a blasted jar of pasta sauce, with the spaghetti almost done and my stomach having the sensation of a little dragon roaring and fuming inside. Why not make your own sauce.... I was out of tomatoes. Why not get some tomatoes... the store is 15 minutes away. Why not use another sauce.... the other jar is impossible to open as well. Why not eat something else like bread.... the jar of marionberry spread has been sitting on the counter painfully reminding me that I have been trying to open it for a month now... the jar of jalapeƱo spread cries the same woe. Why are jars so damn female unfriendly?!!!

As an engineer and as a normal being, I've tried alllll possible methods. Twist and turn, run under hot water for ages and tilt upside down, then twist and turn, bang the head against the counter, twist the lid with a knife to release the air.... but no!! None would work. My able and efficient room mate who has always been my aid in such times, failed too... crying that her palms were bruised.

Knowing nobody in our apartment complex , we cradled the three jars in our arms and walked across the street, in search of three Indian men to aid us. On the way, we were contemplating on a back up plan... what if they aren't home? May be ask those men BBQing for help, in return for a kiss from my hot roommate?? Randomly knock on somebody's doors, two poor Indian girls with jars in their arms? But thank heavens, one of them was home and we dumped the jars on him.

He tried twisting and turning.... his face puffing and his arms trembling with the pressure, but no it wouldn't budge. He ran it under hot hot water and banged with all his might on the counter, but no it wouldn't come. I felt sorry for him... I don't understand much about men. But I do know their egos get bruised easily... especially with two girls watching them as they struggle with opening a jar. I interjected, feeling very bad and asked him to give up... "you know we should return this... this is sealed far too tight. I even tried twisting the lid with a knife to release the air, but it's so tightly jammed". At this, a bulb seemed to glow above his head, "It's air sealed! Of course!" Saying so, he took a knife and with all his fury jammed it on top of the lid, punching a triumphant hole that hissed out air and popped the lid.

You see, the 'brain' is always mightier... he was a true PhD candidate :). I also feel much better. Of course I can punch holes to open jars... that's within my capacity, and for now I can surely call myself independent... that is till the time I find a spider in the bath tub. Hmm.... it gets tricky to define 'independent'.