Category Archives: Short Stories

The First Word

Compliments of the season dear readers. It’s the season to be jolly so here’s a light story inspired by a beautiful friend and her precocious precious little daughter. Wishing you all lots of laughter in your life with each passing moment….

To,

The Editor,

The Washington Post.

 

Dear Editor,

I am an almost four-year-old boy, a genius, and have recently come to face a baffling situation. If you could pose my dilemma to your readers, I hope one of them would be able to ascertain the reason behind the perplexing behavior of my parents over the past few hours.

Let me introduce myself. I am Deep Damodar, also known as ‘Duke the Wiz.’  I play four musical instruments, the piano, the ukulele, the tabla and the flute. Several videos of mine playing Indian as well as Western classical melodies on these instruments have gone viral on social media. I am sure you must have seen them too. I also have a penchant for Math and jigsaw puzzles. I first put together a 1000-piece puzzle at eighteen months. Amma had just started to work on this puzzle, which was a picture of a litter of Labrador puppies. I love dogs and I was fascinated by the way the shapes fit in together. As I saw her struggle to find the right pieces, I took over from her and completed the puzzle in under two hours. Amma (mother) was nice enough to step aside. You see, I work best alone. I have completed hundreds of complex puzzles, since then. Most of them customized by Hasbro just for me.

Until recently, my parents have been extremely encouraging and proud of all that I have achieved. They have made sure I have received continued tutelage from the best music teachers and gurus in the world viz. Pandit Zakir Hussain, Yanni and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. Each time I mastered a raga or a symphony, they celebrated it with the world by uploading my performances on YouTube. Appa,(father) recently, got Puzz 3D to make a 18,000-piece model of the Taj Mahal, just for me to tinker with. He created an Instagram account to post all my completed puzzle works. They have always been a step ahead in providing me with challenges which is amazing because as I have never asked them about what I need or want. As you may know, I do not speak. Or did not until this morning when I uttered my first word.

Not that I could not or did not know how to talk. I just did not feel the need to. My parents made sure we were clothed and there was always delicious food on the table. Amma is a very good cook. And I was always provided with a new challenge to keep my mind stimulated. To me, talking seemed like a waste of time. There was always so much more fun stuff to do.

Yesterday, though I realized how sad Amma was when I overheard her say tell grandma how heartbroken she was that she may never hear my voice. Amma is a passionate singer. Yesterday, in her conversation she divulged that her dream was to pass on her knowledege of Carnatic music to her children. I love Amma deeply and only want to make her proud. So, I made up my mind to finally break my silence.

I visualized Amma do a happy dance and gleefully tell her family and friends about it.  Ah! How I wanted to see her happy! Probably a clip of me finally talking would go viral too. My first word had to be grand!

I dwelled on what should be my first word. Should I take the name of Lord Ganesha as Amma always invoked his blessings before starting something new? Or should I say ‘Amma?’ As I wrestled in my mind on which one would make a legendary entry into the world of speech, I felt my hands tingle and my throat tickle. My eyes fluttered too. I was very excited knowing how excited mom would be. Maybe, she would whip up my favorite dessert, gulabjamuns, too. Then it occurred to me I had to be careful, if I took her by surprise she would fall off the chair she was sitting on and hurt herself. I would have to say something in context to what we were doing to not startle her too much. My entry had to be subtly grandiose.

Amma was with my 6-year-old sister, Diya, helping her with her language arts homework on the kitchen table. I sat next to them working on a Sudoku and eating cereal. Unlike me, Diya struggled with academics. They were completing her worksheet for rhyming words. Ah! If I came up with a rhyming word that Diya struggled with, my entry would be smooth, just like Amma’s movie idol, Rajni Sir.

I waited with bated breath for the right moment. I felt my heart pounding hard as Mom and Diya went through the list of words.

“Cat – Mat

Sat – Rat

Hot – Pot

Fan – Ran

Boy – Toy

Jet – Net

Man- Can

Sit – Hit

Bun -Run.

Good job Diya, Four letter words now”

I perked up. This was surely something Diya would falter with. ‘Ahem’ I cleared the tickle in my throat, not wanting to sound like a squeaky toy when the time came.

 

“Bank – Tank

Pack – Lack

Wish – Fish

Duck – …”

This was my chance! Diya did not know the answer! “F***” I proudly said.

Mom did not respond. Why? Maybe I was too soft?

“F***!” this time I made sure I was loud. Also, it was a popular word if President Drumpf used it so often in his tweet this morning.

I waited eagerly for the fanfare. But Amma shut the book and walked away. “Let’s work on this later Diya” she said her voice trembling. There was none of the pomp I had hoped for. No gulab jamuns either. Amma locked herself in her bedroom for the rest of the day. I could hear her soft sobs. Appa later announced that that I did not have to go to school today. Something is terribly wrong, I know it. Why else would this big achievement of mine be hushed up?

Sir, could you please throw light on why my parents behaved the way they did?

 

Sincerely,

Deep “Duke” Damodar.

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Encounter With Mamta Singh – Part 2 (The Other Side of the Coin)

The gentle evening breeze caressed her cheeks as Mamta sat in the balcony of her eighth-floor apartment, overlooking the Arabian Sea. This was the time of the day she relished the most, a time when she had the house all to herself. Her son, Sumit, was at his swim practice and her husband, Subodh, at the gym. The maids had left for the day.  The breathtaking sunset, the sea breeze and a cup of steaming masala chai was all she had for company. Today the chai seemed extra special though. The nostalgia of meeting a bosom pal had swirled into the warmth of the chai sharpening its spice.

What a pleasant surprise it had been! Bumping into an old friend. Mamta chuckled softly as she recalled the school days when the two friends had bonded, especially that dreadful day in the eighth grade when she had scored a zero on her math exam. A duck!  The anxiety of solving the Math paper had been so strong that she had completely blanked out. V had comforted her throughout the evening and helped her prepare for the next one. For the next two years since that day, Mamta had spent every evening before a Math exam at V’s house. After the X grade board examinations, the two friends had pursued different fields of interest and lost touch with each other.

Mamta had since come a long way from the anxiety ridden girl she once was. Now she was a manager at a multinational company. She loved her job and her life. She often sat in the mellow glow of the sunset, her heart basked in gratitude.  She could not have asked the One Above for any more. As the foamy waves lashed against the shores and receded back into the sea in front of her, her thoughts receded deep into the oceanic past, to the day it all began.

 

15 years ago

 

Mamta twitched nervously as she sat outside the principal, Mrs. Seth’s office, in her son’s school, waiting to be summoned, a crumpled note in her hand. The piece of paper, just a day old was worn out from the number of times she had folded and unfolded it, reading over the same words repeatedly while trying to get a cognizance of why it had been addressed specifically to her. Normally, teachers in the school addressed the notes to both parents of the child but this one had clearly stated that she be present to meet with the principal.

What had Sumit done wrong she wondered? Why did Subodh not have to be here? If Sumit had misbehaved, the note would have been addressed to both parents.  Or was it her, had she not been a good mother? Had he complained to the teachers about the time she had lost her temper and smacked his behind? Or had they noticed the day when, in the rush of the morning hours, she had accidentally switched Sumit and Subodh’s lunch boxes. Poor child had ended up with a tummy ache after eating a spicy roti roll with sprouts instead of his jam and butter sandwich. Or was it because she had turned in the permission slip for the field trip late?

Fortunately, before she could come up another plausible reason Mrs. Seth beckoned her into her chamber.

“Come on in Mrs. Singh, have a seat. How are you this morning?” Mrs. Seth smiled at her, peering over her glasses. The gigantic desk, the crisp pleated pallo of her saree, the firmness in her voice all gave Mrs. Seth an aura of reverence that engulfed Mamta’s meekness completely. She felt like a tiny rabbit trapped in a lion’s snare.

“I’m… I’m fine, thank you.” She stuttered weakly.

“Let me get straight to the point Mrs. Singh.”

Mamta felt her heart thump in her chest.

“The reason you are here… the other day at recess Sumit was sitting all by himself while the other kids jumped around and played. He looked sad, so I walked up to him and asked him what the matter was. He told me he was sad because you were too. He said you cried every night, maybe because he was not a good boy.

What is the matter, Mrs. Singh? Is Sumit right to say you cry every night? I do not mean to intrude but you know, a child can thrive in school only if things are well at home. It breaks my heart to see a five-year-old carry the weight of his Mother’s emotions on himself. Is there any way we can help?” Mrs. Seth asked gently.

The genuine concern in her voice touched a chord in Mamta. Tears welled up in her eyes. Not only was she sad but now jaws of guilt pierced their fangs into her heart too. How could she have let her emotions affect her child?

“I..I…don’t know what to do. Nothing I do is ever right” she said in between snifles. “The rotis are not round, the idlis are too flat, the dal is either too watery or salty. Nothing I make is good enough for Maa.

If Sumit does not eat, she says I don’t know how to feed him. Some days if he eats a second bowl of rice she says I will make him fat. If the child watches TV she says I am spoiling him yet she herself lets him watch all those dreadful TV serials she’s addicted to. If I make him study she says I am pushing him. I never seem to do anything right.” By this time, her sniffles had turned into sobs. “And Subodh is always traveling,”

“Mrs. Singh? Mamta? Can I call you Mamta?” asked Mrs. Seth tenderly. This could well have been her own daughter.

Mamta nodded admist the bawls.

“Mamta, I presume you are talking about your mother-in-law?”

This time Mamta nodded vigorously.

“My dear… you need to get a few facts straight. If you think you are only as good as the rotis you make or the bhajiyas you fry, then you are so wrong. You cannot live your life according to another’s expectation of you. If you do that, you will always fall short and spend the rest of your life trying to be a good daughter-in-law, a good wife, a good mother…so many roles, so many different expectations. In the process, you are bound to lose yourself. What if you indeed made the world’s best round rotis but your mother-in-law took a penchant for square ones? Trying to be a perfect daughter-in-law is like trying to reach for the pot of gold at the other end of the rainbow. You can never reach it.

It’s funny though. In our culture, we often wonder if the bride will adjust to her new family but the truth is often it is the groom’s family who are not ready to open their hearts to adjust and welcome another into their home.

Now, of course, I am not saying that you shy away from your responsibility of taking care of your aging in-laws but do it the with your essence, the way you can do it not always the way she wants it.

And its’ very important that you take time for yourself every day Mamta. To do something you enjoy. Maa is old and with age comes rigidity. Accept it and move on. Take her less seriously and yourself more seriously. Its’ very important for a mother to be happy Mamta. You see, children are very perceptive. They may not understand a situation but they can certainly feel the emotions. You are not helping your child by staying home and being miserable.”

“What can I do? Who will give me job, Mrs. Seth? I was never good at studies. I scrapped through school and college so my parents got me married early and I am not good at this either!” Mamta was sobbing uncontrollably.

“Who says you need a job to be happy? There must be some activities you enjoy. Maybe dancing or music? Embroidery? Did you have a hobby growing up?”

Mamta gazed at the wall to her right. The tears in her eyes blurred her vision, the sadness in her heart blurred her clarity of thought. The emptiness in her gaze was suggestive of a spirit dulled, lost in the maze of life.

Silence ensued. She finally spoke, “I used to enjoy painting as a child.”

“There you go! Just take a few minutes every day to paint. For those few minutes let it be just you and the canvas. That will go a long way in bringing you joy. Baby steps, my dear. Just do this and see how things change. And yes, remember it takes a village to raise a child. Its ok to ask for help. You cannot do it alone.”

 

Fifteen years ago, that was the day her journey began. That conversation in Mrs. Seth’s office sparkled clearly in her memory just as the sea waters sparkled in the soft glow of the moonlight, under the canopy of the night sky. The turn of events since then had only been pleasant. Mamta took Mrs. Seth’s advice very seriously. Every afternoon she poured her emotions on canvas and the results were brilliant jewels of art.

One fine day Mamta while emailing pictures of her works of art to a friend accidentally typed in neenarai@gmail instead of Neena.rai@gmail. What followed was serendipity. Prompt came a reply in her inbox,

“Dear Mamta,

Not sure if these pictures were intended for my viewing but I love them. I run a designer boutique in South Bombay and am currently looking for an artist to paint on silk fabric for my clients. Kindly get in touch if you are interested.

Kind regards,

Neena Rai.”

Mamta got in touch with her and very soon she was designing and painting beautiful works of art on sarees and dupattas for Neena’s clients. Neena encouraged Mamta to go back to school to do a part time masters in management. One thing led to another and brought Mamta to where she was today.

Everything Mrs. Seth said was so true. Mamta’s mother-in-law had passed away a few years ago but even in her last few moments she had a lot to complain about, the food being insipid was just one of them. Mamta had become more accepting and sympathetic towards her condition and did not let her mother-in-law’s sharp tongue affect her. She learnt that her son enjoyed swimming and both parents encouraged Sumit to pursue his passion. He soon swam for one of the best clubs in the country.

The doorbell rang to break Mamta out of her reverie. Once again, all she could say to the One above was Thank You for sending a couple of angels into her life.

Thus, ends the story of two childhood friends. Both on very different journeys who found joy in the belief that miracles happen to those who allow it.

Vidya

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A Woman’s World

She scrolled through the congratulatory messages that poured in from all over world  on her Samsung 74 , as she lay in bed that night. Her victorious spirit soared as if on a tequila high. Years of labor had finally borne fruit today, International Women’s day 2024. Congress had finally passed the ‘Equal pay for Equal work’ bill, one that she worked so resolutely on.As she looked back on her journey to this day, she realized that at many times along the way when she had clung on to her purpose by just a single strand of hope, it was also the wonderful men in her life- her father, her husband, her brother, her son, her friends and her colleagues along with her squad of women friends who had lent her ropes of support to keep her going along on the arduous climb uphill. They cherished her and it was this love that made her want to be an better woman, a better person each day.This victory belonged as much to them as it did to the wonderful women all over the world. This realization called for a tweet, she decided.

@realPC Victory on #InternationalWomensDay  is as much for supportive men as much as for women.Thank you all.

‘Eh! Pretty lame tweet.’ She would have to reword it. So hard to condense the cascading gratitude she felt into 140 characters. Twitter was certainly not invented by a woman.

As she struggled to come up with the perfect amalgamation of brevity and emotion she could not help but dwell on the fact that in our fight for equality how easily some of the goodness in the world was overshadowed  by the bad. Though there were vast areas of the world, where extensive work needed to be done to bring women up to par with their male counterparts; war ravaged and poverty stricken regions where the identity of a women was limited to their role played in satisfying the male hunger for food and sex and in rubbing the lamp of the masculine spirit so that it gave birth to an over sized genie of the male ego; yet it was also true that there were societies in the world where extraordinary women were raised to magnificence by their fathers and supported to excellence by their partners.

Why at this very instance there were fathers  who worried about their daughter’s future and safety, fathers who sat up late to make sure that when their daughter’s walked in past curfew time, the young girls knew that someone was watching over them who cared enough to discipline them, fathers who proudly announced their daughters’ achievements on social media, who drove miles just to make sure their daughters in college were doing fine, husbands who drove their daughter’s to soccer games and sat through ballet recitals because their wives were at work, who proudly tweeted of their daughter’s achievements, who showed up for their little one’s Christmas recital even though she just was just a prop on stage to lend their support- the list can be long . She thought of the time when her husband had lovingly tended to his mother when his mother was ill or the countless times ¥∗earlier when her own son had helped her out with making dinner. These men deserved to be admired. They did after all succeed in breaking the shackles that confined the epitome of manhood to being just breadwinners and stepping up to do their part in raising children.Hopefully , being appreciative of them would lead to emulation of behavior in those echelons of society where equality was so skewed.

Ah! she would have to reword her tweet to send a concise yet powerful message.Knowing she had billions of followers, she could change minds and hearts with her words.

‘@realPC Historic breakthrough for women today on #Internationalwomensday. would not be possible without the unflinching support of so many men who worked to see this bill passed…. ‘

‘Gawd- more than 140 characters. This was hard. Maybe colleges needed to add Twitter 101  to their Creative Writing departments.

She turned on the television to take her mind off her unsuccessful attempts at tweeting. Pretty ironical that on one of the most successful days of her life, shes till  felt a slight twinge of failure.

Images of beaming women from all over the world flashed on the screen making her feel like her soaring self again. She thought about the same day, years earlier when women had protested the world over to make this dream into a reality.There had been so much of unrest and angst back then. Their angst had fueled her drive to make this issue one of the key points on her agenda. Today’s victory certainly made these women feel they got their due, yet would it succeed in bridging the divisiveness in society? Could we blame the dismal state of affairs in the world just on inequality between genders? As women, we formed a half of humanity so how responsible were we in the decline of ethos of mankind.Were women on the same page on various issues that plagued society? Not really. She remembered her own mother’s essay on’ Dowry and Abuse in India’.In so many instances there were mothers-in-law who had equal responsibility in abusing their daughters-in-law.In corporate workplaces the world over, it was not just men who tried to bring you down, there were other women too.Women sometimes did not support each other or each other’s choices enough. She had given up a successful law practice to be a stay at home mom for a few years and then later made her foray into politics. In both instances it was her mother-in-law who had chided her. The first time because she had felt sorry for her son who would have to be the sole earning member and the second time because she had felt her grandchildren would be neglected!

She remembered the time her friend Julia, a celebrity, had waved to the paparazzi and fans from her hospital room a day after undergoing a life threatening surgery. There was one particular reporter who wrote about Julia’s unkempt hair and that reporter was a woman!. How shallow to focus on petty matters like appearance when the reporter could have chosen to glorify the fierce battle Julia fought so bravely.

In her own life, she remembered the times when she had run for office when other women had passed snide remarks on the way she had looked. She had a fiery spirit but was not physically well endowed. Some women had been pretty relentless in their comments about her appearance, that made her feel she was not good enough..Color of the skin mattered as much to women as it did to men. Even though there would be no more protests to fight for equal pay, there would continue to be little typhoons in our hearts as long as we battled other women- mothers-in-law v/s daughters-in-law, stay at home moms v/s career moms, planned parenthood v/s pro life supporters, red v/s blue. If women accepted one another without judgement, they could be the strongest pillars of strength in each other’s lives. She was fortunate enough to have friends with whom she could be completely at ease and fall back on in times of need. It is impossible to agree on all issues yet we need to make space in our hearts for other women who are different from us and we need to give them space in their lives to be themselves, respect them for it. Black,white, brown, yellow, tall, short, fat,thin we are all equal in the eyes of God.As women, we each need to step up to our own power, take responsibility for it and be humbled by the power of another. Every woman has a right to choose and should not be judged by the choices she makes. No change would come about if we continued to see ourselves just as weak victims of male oppression and not forces of change..

Sigh! That was  a subject for another tweet. First she had to finish the one on gratitude.Maybe some amazing words would come to her in the wee hours of the morning that she could tweet about in all caps. Twitter was a fun trend started by her predecessor that she intended to continue.She could try to bring about change one tweet at a time. After all, she was the 46th President of the United States.

-Vidya.

Dedicated to the biggest cheerleaders of my writing, my father and my father-in-law. Thank you!

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Election 2016

We are at the finish line of this historic race, my friends. With agonizing impatience I watch the gap narrow between the two front runners as they both gain momentum. It’s unreal I say yet ‘In Godspeed’ I wish for the one I hope will make a difference.  The sad truth is I root for one not because they embody every value I stand for but because they are a little less likely to destroy the vision of hope I have created for our children. In unison with the crowd, my heart cries ‘CHANGE’ though in the very same breath and in unison again with the throngs, my mind wonders ‘What have we come to?’

I stop cheering and glance at the young lady standing next to me. She smiles nervously and through the nervousness gives me a glimpse of the heaviness her heart carries. She is a young mother of three and for reasons beyond her control, she must abort her unborn fetus. Her heart knows this is what is best but she is afraid, in turmoil as she hears constant screams of ‘Murderer’ from people who do not live her life. She wishes they could just leave her be. I reach out my hand to hold hers.

To my other side, I see a frail old man. His eyes tell me the story of a hardworking man of color who has had to battle prejudice and racism in his young days. He is proud of the way he has built his life. The battles did not scar his integrity at all but fears for his future dent his pride. His integrity cannot pay off his medical bills. Rising premiums and deductibles have weakened this once strong man. I give him my other hand and he responds by tightly holding mine.

I watch as this respectable senior in turn offers his hand to the young boy next to him. A young spirited soul who cares deeply about the world. He struggles to his place here though because of his orientation.

‘Do not judge’ he pleads repeatedly. ‘I feel pain and joy just as everyone else. I am just like you.’

The strength of my hand gives the young woman next to me the courage to reach out to another- a war hero and seeker of the Islamic faith. ‘I love this country just as much as you do’ his convincing eyes say. ‘I have fought to keep its’ beautiful people safe and its’ ideals high. At the battlegrounds, I have prayed to Allah to infuse me with the strength to make this great country proud of me. My faith makes me a better soldier.’

As the human chain grows, the cheers fade. A realization dawns that in the warmth of another’s heart we have already found what we were looking for. It does not matter who wins the race. Change does not happen when the people we elect wish it. It only happens when each of our hearts make space to accept another very different from us. When we cease to blame and judge and choose to live and let live we choose cohesiveness over divisiveness. It truly does not matter whom we vote for unless we make the shift within. Tomorrow morning when we wake up dear friends, if we ignite the candle of acceptance in our hearts we have already chosen hope.

-Vidya.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Language of the Heart

Dedicated to a generation of moms whose babies know the letter ‘ i ‘ before they understand the alphabet.

 

Every heart speaks a language and the heart of every mother understands and speaks the language of every heart in the family. The needs of the heart- its language change in every stage in life yet a woman quickly adapts and becomes adept at what her loved ones seek. Her heart knows and provides. That is why a woman’s  heart feels joy and  pain even before her loved ones do. It beats in sync with theirs.Yet a woman’s journey is always lonely. None can understand the beautiful amalgamation of turmoil her heart carries.

 

The  Language of the Heart

A solitary tear glistened on the screen of the iPad Rumi held in her hands. She gently put the iPad away on her night stand for she knew the swollen clouds of sadness that swept her heart would not be easily quelled. It was a good thing she did for pretty soon, the torrent of tears that streamed down her cheek matched the heavy downpour of rain outside the window of her bedroom.

Rumi was tough, not one to be disheartened or ruffled easily. She was seasoned to handle stormy times. After all, she lived in a house where teenage, middle age and old age co existed.

‘Why do you weep, my heart?’, she searched for answers within. The response she received was muffled under a thick blanket of gloomy silence. Her mind embarrassed at this display of weakness went back to the proceedings of the evening. It was after dinner that she had begun to feel her spirit sag. Yet, she could not recall anything that anyone in her family- her children, husband or in-laws had said to hurt her.

In fact she had been quite pleased that every member of the family had been present for dinner that day, for a change.  All activities and games for the kids had been cancelled due to the storm, the cable TV service was disrupted and the internet was down. They even sat down for dinner at the dining table today instead of in front of the television. As Rumi eagerly chatted about the interesting facts she had learned on the online courses she was taking, she soon realized that neither her teenage children, nor the adults were interested. They seemed distant. They would much rather listen to iTunes, Cam Newton, Anderson Cooper or Penny she thought begrudgingly. Well, at least no one’s arguing she consoled herself. Though her heart knew this was not the way it was supposed to be. There was no connect, the togetherness seemed awkward, forced.

Rumi reflected on the times, not too long ago, when smart phones, Netflix and wireless technology had not yet made its way into their house. Dinner times were much more noisy and also much more work. She had to feed the kids, cut their rotis into little pieces, distract them into eating their veggies as she sung for them, clean up their spills and wipe down the little munchkins as sometimes they ate with all their limbs. It was then- when their questions never ended and with wide eyes and curious minds as they learnt their numbers while counting their peas or learnt the sounds that animals make as she mooed and bleated her way into making them eat their carrots – that her heart felt alive. Simply because they were present in the moment with her.

Rumi had always known these delightful baby days would not last, that their growing up years were bound to be a frenzy with school, sports, activities, homework and social commitments, that the teenage years were bound to be turbulent with the raging hormones. That she was prepared for. What she did not realize was how soon technology would consume their lives. She had always thought that dinner time would continue, maybe they would argue more and listen less yet they would always gather around the table where she would learn about their lives,their newfound dreams and their zest to make a mark in the world. Hopefully the children would clean up after themselves and in fact help clean up with her. What she didn’t realize was dinner time as she had imagined it to be, would be non existent. Between their homework schedule, prime time television, Pokemon, texting and Netflix members would eat as and when it suited them or even if they did eat together, their minds would be elsewhere. What they heard would be sounds of the television, not the voices of each other’s hearts.

These days her kids would rather ask google than ask her. Her husband  would probably be more aware of a friend’s emotions than hers because the friend chose to announce it on social media. Sadly though, that this was the state in every house. Wherever she went, restaurants, malls or airports people spent all the spare time checking their messages and emails. They were more in tune with people 5000 miles away rather than with the person next to them. How could there ever be togetherness when everyone was so distant and lost in their own smart phone worlds. Every one with a smart phone knew it the minute Hillary stumbled at the 9/11 ceremony that she had. What value did that mundane fact add to the quality of one’s life? Yet people continued to fill up their lives with these such frivolous details. How often did people these days notice their neighbors in the community stumble or take time out to find out how they were doing?  Why, her kids didn’t even know many of the neighbors around.  We have reached a time when free wi-fi is one of the most endearing features of a place. When dinner for two also includes the 572 friends on your Facebook profile. The only time one stepped out of this world of internet ‘Maya’ was when on a day like today the technology was totally down. And then when they did, they didn’t know how to enjoy it. For unfortunately, the human heart can connect and speak another’s language only when it is in the present moment. The language of technology has muted the language of the human heart.That is why in an ever so populous world people feel lonely, anxious and depressed.

That night  Rumi cried as the clouds of loneliness engulfed her heart. She realized her heart yearned to hear the familiar voice of a loved one’s heart yet in a house full of people, all it heard was deafening silence.

-Vidya.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And the Oscar goes to…

   This fairy tale post is dedicated to my dad whose unwavering affection and my son whose unwavering adulation give me the zeal to put in my best efforts in everything I do…. 

 

 

 

                                 T’was the night of the Oscars

                                  Stars on the ground

                                  Radiant in celluloid splendor

                                  Sashaying the red carpet

                                  Surreal sparkle…

                                  Was it night? Was it Day?

                                  Nay…

                                  T’was just the Oscars   

 

 

“To present the Oscar for the best actor in a leading role, I call upon a pioneer in the world of cinema the one and only Vinnie G…” announced the anchor for the awards ceremony as the beloved Vinnie stepped onto the grandiose stage and into the limelight. The deep respect, the awe for this remarkable lady imprinted in the hearts of the audience was palpable in the applause that filled the air.

Vanajalakshmi Gandapalli popularly known as Vinnie G was an actress with the  Midas touch. Any film that she had chosen to work on, whether it was acting, script writing or directing, had seen phenomenal success at the box office. Not only had her films been commercially viable, they had also been thought provoking inspirational tales that succeeded in touching the hearts of millions with powerful storytelling. It was a guarantee that watching one of her movies would  make one feel joyful and in love with the world. She had, through cinema, unleashed an era of oneness and hope.

Vinnie smiled as she looked into the teleprompter and read out the nominations for the prestigious category of awards. Clearly, Hollywood had come a long way in the ten years since she had been a recipient in the same category of awards. Today the names of the highly talented nominees belonged to actors of varied races and color. And in a category that was not even ‘Best foreign film!’

In the split second that Vinnie had, before she announced the winner she couldn’t help but notice the skin tone of the audience in the room. It was as colorful as the shimmering gowns of the ladies. The stoic diversity as abundant as the suits in black. She felt pride for having paved the way for this rich amalgamation of cultures in an industry that just a decade ago had been labelled as being devoid of color…supremely monochromatic.

She remembered the moment she had stood in the very same spot, teary eyed, in emotional shock when she had held the prestigious statuette for the first time. Numbed by the joy of fulfilling her dream, her acceptance speech had been slurry and garbled. She was the first person of her ethnicity to receive the award and since then she had inspired dreamers and believers all over the world to follow suit.

As the world waited with bated breath Vinnie started to open the golden envelope that had the name of the winner. Even a movie buff in distant Japan got a sense of the sweaty hands, racing hearts, knotted guts and keen anticipation of the talented nominees.

“And the Oscar goes to….MY DAD!” she said in a funny twist of events even before looking at the name of the winner printed inside the envelope.

“Whaaat-was this some kind of a cruel joke” thought people. A few giggles erupted in the room as some thought this was her way of abating the tension in the air. After all increased diversity had also increased the competitiveness of the times. The world watched spellbound as Vinnie continued to speak…

“I have been heralded as the beacon of change, as a trend setter in my field. The reason I could accomplish what I have is because of my belief in myself, in my ability to make a difference in the world.

I grew up as an average child of first generation hard working parents of Indian origin. Unlike other kids of my descent I struggled in school. I was not a math whiz, I profusely disliked Kumon, I was not particularly good at sports or ballet and I fumbled with musical instruments. In those tender years I was lost and unsure of myself. The only thing I was absolutely sure of was Daddy’s love for me. As a parent myself now, I know how hard it is to watch your child struggle. Yet Daddy never showed it. He was happy as long as I tried. Every time I entered the room his face would light up. Being around him, his warmth was my security blanket. I didn’t have to be an A+ student or do anything to prove my worthiness to him. The look in his eyes clearly stated I was perfect just the way I was…I was enough.

A father’s validation goes a long way in building a young girl’s esteem. Daddy believed in me. So I started to believe in myself too.

I still remember one day as we sat watching the Presidential debate on TV where candidates debated on whether to make America great again or whole again, as if they were two different things. As I pondered aloud on the dismal state of affairs in the country and the gloom in the world Daddy said “It just takes one great mind to bring about change and that could very well be you.”

Daddy is a man of few words. I remembered every word of what he said. That day I found my purpose.

In high school I joined theatre with the intention of having an extra-curricular activity to add onto my college application. That’s where I found my true passion.

By then the reassurance of Daddy’s love had given me the strength to look at anyone in the eye-be they a foot taller, skin a lot lighter or eyes bluer than the deep sea –to look into their eyes with conviction and say I was just as good as they were. There was no mindless chatter in my head that worried whether I was good enough or if I fit in. In my heart I knew that I already belonged in the circle of Daddy’s love.

Today I am what I am because of that gentle force in my life-my father’s love. I am what I am because of the zillions of times daddy’s eyes sparkled to say I was enough.

And as I look around in the room today I am truly proud of the progress we’ve made and can’t help but think that Daddy had a role to play in it.”

 Vinnie paused and took a deep breath. The audience watched in rapt attention. Her spontaneous speech had thrown off the timing of the ceremony. Even though the orchestra had been instructed to play loud if celebrities on stage over shot their timing, they had let her speak without interruption. After all she was yet to had to announce the name of the winner.

“And the Oscar for best actor in a lead role also goes to Abuya Iwa for her performance in Letters that Dream.”

The standing ovation that ensued the proclamation was as much for Abuya’s stellar performance as it was for a stellar father, the honorable Mr. Gandapalli.

And that night the moon smiled as she softly shone her light on daddies all over who held their precious babies closer to their hearts to let them know they were enough.

 

 

-Vidya.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Martyr

                                             

Of the multitude of roles that a woman plays in her lifetime, why is martyr the one she most often wears on her sleeve?

This post is dedicated to my beautiful friends in Chicago who helped me keep my sanity during those crazy sleep deprived baby days.

The Martyr

Seema looked around the house and took a deep breath. Was this the very place she had spent hours cleaning yesterday? The dirty socks lying beside the couch, unfolded segments of the newspaper, a bowl of half eaten oatmeal and a tea stained mug on the side table, skylander figures strewn in front of the TV, the wii-u gamepad flung on the carpet, the crayons and papers on the center table, a jacket thrown on the couch was evidence enough that she was raising a husband and kids who were messy. Was she the only one in the house who cared about tidying up? As she picked up the clutter and made her way to the kitchen with the bowl and mug she was met with a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. Gosh! This job never ended. To top it all today was Thursday. The day that she had signed up for the bake sale at her kids’ school. The day she had to drive her Dad for the senior citizens meet at the local library. The day her daughter had her piano class and son his tennis lesson and also conveniently the day her husband had his men’s night golf.

  As she mentally tried to fit in cooking a healthy dinner and the baking in between running the errands the sight of the kitchen rag right next to the sink reminded her of the three rounds of laundry that had to be done. Tears filled her eyes. She was overwhelmed as she thought of the envy she had felt moments ago when she had met her neighbor, Dahlia at the bus stop. Dahlia worked full time and her kids were the same age as Seema’s yet Dahlia looked so in control of her life. Dressed in crisp formals, puppy dog in tow she had filled in Seema on her most recent business trip to Paris. Seema couldn’t help but compare her own sloppy sweat pants look to Dahlia’s well-groomed one. An indication of Seema’s sloppy life and Dahlia’s fantastic one.

This wasn’t supposed the way it turned out, Seema thought ruefully. She had always wanted kids but in her dreams she had always pictured herself to be a yummy mummy, one of those women who never age, have oodles of energy to play with the kids, be a master chef, maintain a spectacular house and run a home business at the same time. All this while doing yoga, writing and taking part in half-marathons. It wasn’t supposed to be the struggle it was right now. All she did was cook, cook and cook, clean, clean, and clean and drive the monkey babies around. Her days were a frenzy of never ending chores and yelling at her family to keep things going. It seemed like she was the only one to whom having a great family life mattered. To her dad, her husband and her kids everything she said and did seemed trivial. They didn’t care that she put in a lot of time and effort to try and make a variety of well balanced meals to nourish her family or took the responsibility to make sure the kids were spending their time in activities that stimulated them physically and mentally. They didn’t value the fact that they had clean clothes in their closet most of the time. They took her for granted. Or maybe, she just wasn’t skilled at being a homemaker. Every morning her house looked like a hurricane had rampaged it and every evening there was at least one person who complained about the dinner.  What was she doing with her life? Everything seemed to be spiraling downward into a black hole whose walls echoed time and again that maybe she was not good enough. She even stayed from social media these days because pictures of smiling families, overachieving genius kids and the poetic words that doting husbands wrote for their wonderful wives on anniversaries only endorsed her feeling that she wasn’t doing a very good job of nurturing her family. Before she knew it, teardrops mixed with dishwashing liquid was what she was using to get those pots and pans squeaky clean.

She had barely managed to brush aside the tears when the doorbell rang. Twice! Mrs. Lalitha’s signature style. Seema was in no mood to entertain the elderly lady. She was annoying and nosey. She asked far too many questions probably to get a hint of what was happening in Seema’s life. And her timing was impeccable. She always came when things were a mess or if one of the kids was throwing a tantrum or if something was baking in the oven. Each time she got a flavorful slice either of the cake or Seema’s life.

 Unfortunately for Seema, Lalitha had all the time in the world to hang out. She was a widow who lived with her single son, a photojournalist who often travelled. Her other kids had moved out and started lives of their own. In her heart Seema grudgingly felt that Lalitha probably judged her and secretly enjoyed watching the lousy way that Seema handled her life. Maybe that’s why she came often and without prior intimation.

Well, today that would not happen. She would not open the door. Seema hid in the walk in pantry with her cup of coffee lest the old lady came snooping around the back door whose beautiful French windows gave a clear view of the kitchen. Fortunately, Dad had gone for his 5 mile morning walk or else he would have opened the door.

 “Lalitha is lonely and just needs a little of your attention. You will not understand that feeling now.” he had said the last time.

 “Not attention, but information!” Seema had barked back.    

As she hid in the pantry her imaginative mind began to wander. A day in the life of Lalitha –what would it be like? What would it be like to wake up in the morning and only think about yourself? Seema smiled at that thought. Just one bowl in the sink, just one set of clothes in the hamper and all the time in the world to meditate, read, write, do yoga and go on leisurely walks. And then what? Ah, of course, she would twirl and twirl about in that spotless house. And as she danced away in that fictitious perfect space her heart slowly sank as if being weighed down heavily by the deafening silence. She could live that perfect life for a little while maybe but to wake up day after day to that silence? No pitter patter of agile feet, no chitter chatter of shrill innocent voices, nobody to discuss the political circus with and nobody to snuggle into bed with…the emptiness of it all hit. And she realized Lalitha didn’t come over to judge her, she came around to feel the chaos, the true richness of a full house. ­

 For the first time in months Seema felt gratitude in her heart for the way things were. Until now she was thinking from a place of lack. She constantly compared herself and her family to others, whined and complained about the chores and put herself down. Like a martyr or a sacrificial lamb who had to give up her life so that others could enjoy theirs. Such utter nonsense! She was in fact blessed. It was just a matter of perspective. If she thought from a place of abundance in her mind, she would have realized that the people she loved and took care of made her life worth living. The list of never ending chores and the messes just symbolized the togetherness of a busy family. They had plenty to eat hence the dishes. They had plenty to wear hence the laundry. Three active kids hence the chauffeuring. When her heart got a glimpse of the inevitability of the kids leaving she wished to hold on to the present for a little while longer. The moments they shared now were precious. 

And as Seema went about doing the chores with renewed energy she was reminded of the words she had seen on a plaque in her Aunt’s house when she was young.

                                              “Although you’ll find our house a mess

                                                Come in, sit down, converse

                                                It doesn’t always look like this

                                                 Some days it’s even worse.”

 

She smiled as her own mind inspired by its recent a-ha moment conjured up the next four lines

                                                The mess is just a sign

                                                 We are busy being happy

                                                  For we are blessed with more than we ask

                                                 By the benevolent Almighty.

 

 That day it was Seema who dropped in at Lalitha’s house with a giant slice of fudge cake before going to the bake sale. After all the elderly lady had definitely proven the fact that people come into your life for a reason. Thanks to her, Seema’s kids would remember their mother not as the whiny one who went through hell to raise the kids but as the one who joyously cherished the wondrous challenges of motherhood.

                                                                                                                                                                      

-Vidya. 

 Inspired  by my elderly neighbor and dear friend -a young mom.

                                              

 

 

 

 

 

  

                                             

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