Sunday, September 30, 2012

Maid out of India

Image - courtesy Google

Imagine a woman who can cook a seven course meal with a beatific smile plastered on her face! She breaks into an aria when her kid comes back home in soiled clothes. Cleaning utensils is her lifelong passion. She scours and scrubs from morn to noon and still manages to look like a million bucks and dance like Kareena Kapoor. Her occasional back pain is taken care of by MOOV massaged lovingly by the husband. Next morning she’s up at five – lovingly rolling out mooli paranthas for her family.

We don’t want to be that woman, we want that woman. So much, that we are willing to change our sexual preferences, make her our own and live happily ever after. But don’t we all know such a woman is more a fantasy of an ad maker who is pimping the all new healthy cooking oil made from soybean?

In reality women hate housework and will do anything to avoid it. Why! we are even willing to go to work and put up with a boss whose evil machinations will put even a Shakti Kapoor to shame.

In fact, I suspect most married women go to office either to avoid their MIL’s or mind numbingly boring chores. I mean, who in their right mind would prefer spending this gift called life, grating cabbage, stewing lentils and cleaning cobwebs while hanging precariously from a stool!

Had Marie Curie been more interested in baking rather than flirting with danger in her lab, would she ever have discovered Radium? Had a certain Mrs Gandhi been more focussed on perfecting the recipe for Spaghetti Bolognese, it would have been impossible for her to promote her son and remote control an entire nation!

The truth is household chores are the greatest obstacle between a woman and greatness. I have a deep suspicion that they were created to prevent us from contemplating on the truths and falsities of life.

Little wonder, behind every successful and happy man is a hardworking woman and behind every successful and happy woman is a hardworking maid.

In India we have the luxury of being a true blue Memsahib. Delve on the true purpose of life while Maria takes care of our hyper active kids who need a new activity every 20 minutes. Come home to a clean house, cooked meals after a hectic day at the mall. In the evening, as we run on the treadmill, we wonder aloud why we are still putting on so much weight.

An Indian woman’s biggest fear is being deserted by her maid. In fact, if given a choice she’ll readily choose her housemaid over her husband. Yes, we love her that much.

I was preparing myself to live out my worst nightmare when we were about to move to a foreign land across seven seas. The first two weeks were terrible – of having to cook and clean. It didn’t help that I’m blessed with a vision that can spot even the minutest speck of dust/hair on the carpet and floors. I would often accuse my husband of shedding too much hair. I was missing the luxury of home delivery. As I walked long distances lugging heavy bags of groceries, fearing that my arms will come out their sockets, any minute, I would do a quick re-enactment in my head, imagining myself writhing in agony, trying to make a phone call help using my toe nails.

Coming home dead-tired and famished only to realize there was no warm meal waiting for me. Cooking with unfamiliar ingredients, alien looking knobs, spending one hour trying to figure how to make the exhaust work! One balmy afternoon, it reached a crescendo and I burst into tears.

From a desi Mem, I had now become a videshi maid.

It’s been a month of my maid-less existence. Time for me is a luxury now. But strangely I’ve never felt better. Back home my moods were dictated by their tantrums, my routine governed by their schedule. From morning to noon I was running in and out of the house, to make sure I was home to open the door for my helps. My idea of a bad morning was the cleaning lady taking the day off. I would turn a blind eye to chipped glasses, non-stick pans scrubbed clean off their coating, oversalted curries, runny daal, all for the sake of my peace of mind. What’s more I was constantly making up excuses on their behalf. Her husband beats her up every weekend, so what if she broke the new tea-pot. She’s a cook, not a Masterchef contestant!

It was as if I had become a slave to the convenience of having a help.

Now, I work hard, cuss harder as I manage the house. But you know what, I am eating what I like and not what my cook is capable of preparing. I can walk out of the house anytime to meet my brand new friends, explore the city on my own, walk on the riverfront, the wind blowing through my sparse hair , walk in to the bank and scream – David! Where’s my credit card!

In Gurgaon, all I needed to do was make a phone call.

Does it mean I’m championing the cause of slavery to household tasks? Absolutely not. It’s about knowing that happiness should not be a slave to an orderly house. Believing that a pile of dirty dishes can wait a few more hours so that the husband can clean them when he gets back …

It’s about working on a state of mind that won’t let a dirty house mess with it.

If Lord Buddha had to keep the house clean, chop vegetables and throw the garbage, he wouldn’t have had the time to escape to the forest to seek enlightenment under the Bodhgaya tree and invent a new religion!

So, why should I let laundry come between greatness and me?
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Friday, September 14, 2012

Happiness is an elusive bitch.

The human mind works in mysterious ways. It constantly yearns for things that will make it happy. And when it finally gets what it wants, the mind moves on to the next best thing. When we are home, we yearn to travel. When we travel, we yearn for the familiarity of our bed. When we are young, we hanker for the One to settle down with and spend the rest of our lives, happily ever after. In the happily -ever -after phase, we want to be untethered to experience the life we gave up at the altar of love.

There’s something very unromantic about possession. The hunt is always more exciting than the kill. As long as it adorns a show-window, somebody else’s arms, is on somebody else’s bed – our heart desires and obsesses over it. Life becomes a series of ifs. If I get this promotion, I will have a better sense of self-worth. If I get that woman, I will truly be happy. If I get that dress, I will look beautiful. But it doesn’t work that way, does it! Your mind continues looking for excuses to be content and happiness continues to be an elusive bitch.

The woman of your dreams turns out to be an attention seeking shrew who leaves you drained with her constant demands. That promotion turns out be a nightmare and you realize you don’t have time for your family anymore.

Familiarity turns even the most beautiful into the ordinary. What looked like the Garden of Eden from a distance turns out to be just a grassy patch with a lone apple tree.

We start taking the splendour, the excitement for granted. The euphoria of getting what you always wanted lasts a few months before we start getting used to it.

Getting used to, is the worst thing that can happen to us. Taking her kindness, his unflinching friendship, her love for granted. Sadly, the only time we realize how much it meant to us is when we are about to lose it.

The thought of letting go brings out the worst in us. We cling, we claw, we threaten, we beg, we dissolve into tears. We become pathetic versions of ourselves.

Isn’t it why, happiness lies only in the past and future, while the present is just a chore to be dispensed with! We realize the magic of the moment, only when we consign it to our memories. Nostalgia is a seductive mistress. It’s tough to let go of her.

No wonder, happiness continues to elude us. It’s because we make a habit of it and then start complaining of boredom. Happiness is not a milestone to be covered. It’s savouring what we have been blessed with.

The truth is, there is no ideal man, love or life –it’s what we make of what we get.

Ideal is a state of mind and not material things.

To a Sklylark: “We look before and after, and pine for what is not; our sincerest laughter with some pain is fraught” - Shelley
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Friday, September 7, 2012

Confessions of Social Media Addict

My guest post as Blogadda's Premium blogger. Posting it for all who have yet to read it.....

When Sheila joined Facebook, it was confirmed what she had suspected all along –she was beautiful. One never gets tired of hearing the truth. So, she started uploading a new profile picture every week. Gosh! You still look the same, Hellow gorgeous, Hey beautifool, wanna be freinds? Life had never looked this good. In fact, her side profile with her tongue sticking out got her 105 likes. That night she started accusingly at her husband and said –do you have any idea, how lucky you are?

Her status updates were another story. From initiating debates on plight of women in Afghanistan, to ungrateful maids, to the rotting state of the economy, to sharing images of deformed babies to feed the starving in Ethiopia –Sheila was now feeling like the prettier version of Oprah. Realizing that her quick wit and superior intellect needed a bigger platform, she started a blog.

Pen is mightier than the sword, outrage is stronger than nonchalance.

Sheila was the centre of a universe she had created,just like a toddler is for her parents. Look at me Mommeee, I am flying! 26 ½ people called me brilliant. Ain’t I awesome, Ma! Her little achievements, sob stories and rants had an audience spanning continents. Thrashing sentiments out of her keyboard, brandishing her opinions, she was out to change the world.

She made a grand entry to the Twitter world. Mayawati sent an e-hathi to welcome her, Mamata demanded a roll-back, Abhishek Manu Sanghvi invited her to his cottage for an in-depth discussion about her career, Meira Kumar asked her to “baith jaiye, shant ho jaiye”. But Sheila knew, in reality they were quaking in their boots with fear. She, the queen of satire, who could nip ballooning egos in the bud, destroy careers by writing secret diaries on behalf of celebrities and tweet the meanest jokes at their expense. Being funny was never this fun. Outraging in 140 characters had never felt this good. Newspapers were falling over each other to publish her tweets. Sheila Sharma was now India famous in Gobargaon.

Outraging in 140 characters had never felt this good.

To read further, click here

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A-musing gets a new life

I am writing from Brisbane, my new home for the next few years. Home has suddenly become an ambiguous term. My pen hovers uncertainly over the permanent address box. With permanence taking a long break, transience has become my reality.

The day we were moving out, our press-wala asks me – I heard you are leaving. Are you going back to your own desh?

A Bengali with no roots in West Bengal, I grew up in Delhi and spent the last eight years of my life in Gurgaon. The NCR is my desh and I’m now in videsh, feeling like an “Englishman in New York”. Taking in the unfamiliar faces and accents, straining to hear sounds of laughter, eyes caressing the beautiful river that runs through the city, hugging myself to keep warm as we take a midnight stroll without fear stalking our minds, a little worried that our streamlined, unchaotic existence in Brisbane will rob me off my inspiration to churn out satire....That I’ll no longer be able to work myself into an angered frenzy, spewing venom in the naive hope that my angst will miraculously change the world.

My organized mind feeds on the chaos that surrounds me.

The last few months, I have constantly been beseeched by the same question – so, how does it feel to be moving out? And my reaction was always the same. Silence. Because I had no words to describe the swirl of muddled up feelings. Of being unmoored from familiarity, anticipating alienation and loneliness, yet excited about a new innings in my life.

We never tire of complaining about the monotony of routine, but when change stares at us in the face, we are filled with confusion. Will I be able to make new friends? What if I don’t like it there! And most importantly, will I be inspired enough to write!

My blog is part of my life. I’d hate to let go of it so easily.

So, you will all have to put up with my transition, my mood swings as I search for a new identity.

We spent our Saturday with a lovely couple, their two dogs and a lazy cat, at their country home. Their house is a happy clutter, the kitchen counters overflowing with culinary experiments. They are grandparents but their sense of adventure is still intact. They grow their own fruits, vegetables, nuts and herbs, spending hours under the sun tending to them. Taking off for hikes with their pets and coexist happily with the wildlife that surrounds them. A kangaroo hopping past their gardens is everyday business for them. Gigantic spiders often take a pee break in their bathrooms.

It made me yearn for a life I’d be too scared to live.

It also made me realize that you have to let go to savour life that cannot be controlled.

P.S The Aussies can’t seem to get my name right. Suddenly I have become Swami Agnivesh’s favourite drink – Pee.
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