Wednesday, July 17, 2013

In the final analysis...

छोटी बाते, छोटी, छोटी बातों की हैं यादे बड़ी...

When I was still a casement tunic-ed, long-plaited, school-girl, Bua, Papa’s only sister passed away during the festival of Diwali. I don’t remember if it was on the same day or before. A kind of silence fell over the household for the short while that my parents must have reminisced or planned things. Then, Papa asked me to come along to the market to buy some things.  Just as we were starting back, I saw my best friend with her cousins having ice creams standing in the colonnaded New Market, laughing and enjoying themselves. On seeing me, she called out cheerily and when I hesitated, Papa waved back to her equally cheerily. I was awkward. I rushed to tell her that my Bua had passed away. She tried to change her expression of merriment into something more appropriate. Just as we left, very gently, Papa said, “You needn't have told them. They were so happy.”

That Diwali evening, I was tentative. I had been so looking forward to wearing my new clothes, I still remember the soft, white muslin of the gypsy skirt, each of its layers lace-trimmed and the pink flower-print top. I don’t know how it was conveyed but it was conveyed to us that we could wear the new clothes and go out with friends, only, there would be no fire crackers or lighting at home. All evening I saw Papa receiving guests, accepting their wishes, wishing them back. I saw him sitting on that chair in the yellow light of the drawing room of a dark house with no Diwali diyas or fairy lights. Bua was his only sister. How he must have wrestled with his grief so it did not mar the joy of others. 

It was an invaluable lesson.

Why should we wear our sorrow like a veil that must not slip from our heads? It is two months since Mummy passed on. And I have not mourned her as the world would wish me to. Life has to go on. For her sake. For everything that made her happy, and proud. I have celebrated her in my own way. Keeping the kitchen fires burning, for one. Till two days before she went to hospital, Mummy was, as usual, animatedly discussing recipes, watching Food-Food as on a loop all day. I have made more pastas, pulaos, cakes and curries in the last two months than in two years. It has been therapeutic. 

We've remembered all the wonderful things she did and was and we’ve had haircuts, shopped, eaten out, watched movies, had people over, visited friends, facebooked, liked and lol-ed. I still reach out for the phone several times a day to call her. Mornings feel strange without her familiar voice on phone – everything from what was had for breakfast to what some friend wore or did not, was discussed (for mum clothes shopping came a close second, after cooking). My greatest champion, Mummy was always there for me as for all of us, in sickness and in our littlest accomplishments. 

Whenever the going gets tough, magically, a friend or relative calls or visits. They have us in their thoughts. Feels wonderful and I am grateful for this support. Yet why do I hold it against those that did not call/visit/ write? This, I still have to learn. Then I see Papa, squinting an eye and tilting his head in a ‘let it go’. I’ll try.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Breaking moulds

You are here: Home » Supplements » Sunday Herald » Breaking moulds July 14, 2013 :

Social stereotyping on the basis of gender, culture, caste, class or profession not only leads to discrimination, but also limits possibilities. However, for every stereotypical thought that stops us from doing what we want to, there is a glowing example of someone who has debunked it to succeed in life, writes Shefali Tripathi Mehta.

I was visiting a neighbour when their house-help came to ask for a two-day leave and the lady promptly told her to send her daughter to fill in. Puzzled, I wondered why the child should stand in for the mother. Was it because hers was an unskilled, menial job? Or because the maid belonged to a lower social class and was expected to oblige? The maid, anyway, replied that it would not be possible as the daughter had college to attend. Later, when I ran into the maid again, I learnt that her daughter was studying engineering. My neighbour’s naiveté is pardonable if we consider that we are a society that is constantly judging people by their social standing and on other regressive standards.

You can read the complete article here