29 December 2008

Choosing your life partner

A couple of incidents happened last week that triggered this chain of thought inside me. I realize that this topic, especially my treatment of it, could upset some people. My only defense is that my intention is not to be judgmental; I am only thinking aloud.

'Arranged marriage' is a very commonly accepted way of finding one's spouse in India. Most of my peers have found their life partners by this process. The concept is that the prospective life partner is introduced by relatives, friends, marriage bureaus or social networking sites, etc. The prospective bride and groom then meet to determine whether they are 'right' for each other. The meetings have evolved over the times - where people used to meet in their homes earlier, nowadays they talk over the phone first, or webchat, or the guy and girl meet by themselves over a cup of coffee.

While some folks are lucky to 'click' in the first meeting itself, less unfortunate ones have to undergo several such iterations. It becomes difficult to 'reject' someone without some valid reason - as one does not want to hurt family or friends' sensibilities. This has led people to come up with several 'criteria' for selection. If someone does not fit into the criteria, then one feels justified in rejecting that person.

And what are the criteria - age, height, weight, complexion, caste, degree of education, compensation, horoscope match etc. It is a known fact that girls mature faster than boys. While this is mostly true, in today's world with so much exposure, even guys mature quickly. Infact, the sad fact is that the entire younger generation is maturing too fast, losing their innocence too early. Height is something that will matter only in photographs. Weight is definitely a matter of preference, but in today's age of diet and gymnasium culture, not unchangeable. Degree in education guaranteed job security in earlier days, it does not anymore. At one time compensation in the IT field was considered top of the line; in the next few years I doubt it will remain so. Divorces have happened where horoscopes had matched perfectly. Caste and family background can give some assurance that relations between bride and in-laws will be good; they still cannot guarantee that the wedded couple are compatible with each other.

Most of the above criteria are numbers or measurable quantities. Does true compatibility really depend on numbers? Having been married for several years now, I can say with conviction that it does NOT. Infact, people are constantly changing. So are their preferences - a person may start drinking or eating non-veg after marriage and vice versa. We live in a non-conformist era where girls marry boys younger than themselves and get along well with them. We have seen marriages that have survived economic or political upheaval, religious bias and even unforeseen success or failure.

Why then do we rely on these inaccurate criteria? What is it that can guarantee that a marriage between 2 people will work? The simple answer to this is that, as with life, there is no guarantee for marriage. The concept of marriage was originally founded out of the need to build a secure nourishing ground for children, and thereby, the society. Now, since the need is different, the concept needs to evolve too. In this age of nuclear families, with people settling far away from their native places, the need is to find a partner who can anchor you in the turbulent sea of life. One who can be a constant witness to your life, an unconditional companion and a personal champion. One needs to be open to the fact that such a partner may not be found in the first attempt itself; it may need more than one attempts(at marriage).

Where did these criteria come from? Frankly, they came from our parents or elders. They applied the same criteria when they got married. Some parents have now left it to their children to find their own life partners. They have realized that their complete disassociation with changing times render them inadequate to choose life partners for their children anymore. They cannot identify with or foresee the challenges faced by the younger generation and hence their own experiences in marriage are no more the guiding light for their children in this modern and fast- paced era. The younger generation has not realized this unfortunately and still stick to the tried and tested methods of choosing their mates.

While I agree that there should be a criteria for selection, it should be more relevant to the times and to ourselves. For eg., I knew that I will not be to able to respect a mate who is dishonest, or less intelligent than me. All I thought was can I see myself happy with this person 20 years down the line, when both of us have lost our looks and are ailing in some way or the other. IMHO, thinking about one's priorities in life and deciding on which ones are uncompromisable is the best criteria for choosing a life partner. Looks, education, compensation; even love and passion, are all transient. What lasts are the character traits and values that one is born and/or brought up with. In some cases, a person may not be willing to compromise on looks - it is a definite preference. Its fine for that person, it need not be a criteria for everyone else though. And finding a life partner is only half the battle won; the challenge is in becoming the right partner for your mate. Believe me, the latter is more confounding a quest than the former!

This year I learned...

Year 2008 has been an eventful year of my life. I learned quite a few lessons of life in this year - some of them are personal and some are more generic.

Even when the seemingly most important people depart, life goes on. No one is indispensable.

Writing is the passion of my life and I should spend more time on this gift.

Friends are the the best investment of life. Though the returns from this investment are not immediate, they are longer lasting and bring far more happiness!

I finally figured out the purpose of my life (I hope!). I've been put on this earth to ease other peoples' miseries. The tool I've been given for this are my communication skills. I shall try my best to use this gift judiciously.

Though we make foolproof plans for our future; God has a way of overriding them.

There is no need to face life's miseries alone. God cannot be everywhere at once, hence He made family and friends.

Sharing one's pain halves it, whereas sharing one's happiness doubles it.

Human beings are resilient creatures. They can bounce back from almost anything and go on with life.

Hatred and resentment are the heaviest burdens to carry. Travel light in life by letting go of these.

It does not matter what or how much you know. Who you know matters most.

People may not remember your words or actions, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

As you sow, so you shall reap.

Do not focus on the reward, focus on the action. The reward will come automatically.

It is more difficult to bite your words than to give the most powerful/convincing argument.

If you don't respect yourself, no one else will. On a similar note, no one can make you feel miserable without your consent - not even God.

At the end of life it does not matter how much you earned or what your designation was. What matters is how many people genuinely cried for you at your funeral.

27 December 2008

Konkan trip

Last weekend we'd been to Konkan (Ladghar-Dapoli) with some friends. We started in the afternoon as one of the friends had a wedding to attend in the morning. The objective was to reach Dapoli by 7:30pm. However, as usual, we started late - around 2:30 pm.

We drove down in two cars. I was one of the two drivers of the first batch. It was fun driving down upto Wai. We made speedy and broke for tea there. We changed drivers after that. The ghats began after that and the subsequent drivers had it tough battling through the hairpin curves in the setting sun. Once it got dark, our progress was slow. We finally stopped to have some snacks around 7:30 as everyone was feeling hungry. After the snacks everyone felt rejuvenated. The last hour of the journey was scary as we had to drive through a narrow winding lane toward our resort in pitch-black darkness. There was no shoulder on the road to move to in case a vehicle came from the opposite direction. By the grace of God, we made it to our resort in one piece.

Dinner at the resort was welcome though late. Post dinner we got refreshed in our respective cottages and then assembled at one cottage for some games. We had each got a Secret Santa gift for someone in the group. After a round of guessing, we exchanged the gifts. There were lots of wondorous exclaimations and it certainly brought out the Christmas spirit. We then played a game proposed by me. In it, each of us had to throw out a word or sentence as a cryptic clue to the rest. The word or sentence indirectly pointed to one of us in the group and others had to guess that. Once everyone warmed up to the game, I confessed that I'd invented the game just then :) Everyone loved it. We played it for quite some time, before everyone started yawning. We called it a day.

Next morning, some of our friends complained of uninvited guests in their cottages - rats. An apple had teeth-marks that clinched the deal. Everyone vowed to keep nothing open or on the floor. We then went for a walk along the beach which was right opposite our resort. We played frisbee until hunger pangs got us. After a sumptuous breakfast, we went to take baths in our cottages. We started for Kadyavarcha Ganapati at 11 am. Its a temple located at the top of the hill, which is adjacent to the sea coast. The drive was simply breath-taking. We stopped at many vista points and took pictures. The temple itself was quite a simple place. After that we drove to another resort - Aryavart for lunch. The veg buffet was delicious and all of us felt drowsy after the hearty meal. We had to literally drag some of our friends who were lolling in the hammocks.

Back at the resort everyone wanted to hit the beach before sunset. I chose to take a brief nap first though. We played more games at the beach in the evening and broke for some piping hot pakodas and tea. Gossip and chat session followed that. Dinner had mouth-watering fried fish and solkadhi. Post dinner we played a game called Taboo. Its a fun game where there are cards with a word which the denner has to enact and his team members have to guess. The caveat is that there are 5 words that are taboo and should not be used while enacting. There is a time limit in which the denner has to enact as many words as possible and points are given based on that. There is negative marking in case one cannot enact the word or makes mistakes. The time constraint introduced pressure in the game that made it more interesting. There were some tense moments when the game got really competitive, but it was all in fun.

The next morning we had arranged to go on the boat to watch dolphins. We left around 8 am in the morning. The sea was rough and we got drenched by the waves even before starting out. The boatman took us to an area of the sea frequented by dolphins. They cut the boat engine and we had to exercise patience while keeping an alert eye for the playful dolphins. Everytime someone saw a movement in the water, or on the horizon, there were shouts of triumph. It was exhilarating to watch the dolphins leaping and hopping in the water. At one point, one of our boatmen fell into the water while manouvering the boat. We had to go back and fetch him. I actually thought that it had been a feat to attract the attention of the dolphins, but it turned out to be a genuine fall afterall!

We were all ravenous by the time we got back to the bank(no, it was NOT the dolphins that made us hungry!) A hearty meal of konkan pancakes with chutney awaited us. We had decided to take it easy for the day and we literally lazed around in the courtyard of the resort. Inspiration hit me again - I guess the bracing sea air accelerated the functioning of my brain. A la 'Friends' style, I proposed that one of our friends should come up with a list of trivia questions for 2 teams about each of us. It was to test how much did we really know about ourselves. While this friend got busy with this task, we played another round of Taboo. Once the former game was ready, we played that. It was interesting to know how much we knew about each other and to learn whatever we had not known. After that we played yet another of my games - third degree. One person said a word, his neighbor had to say the first thing that came to mind related to that word and so on. No word should be repeated. This too gave an insight to people's thought process and their outlook or bias toward life.

The gamethon was interrupted only when lunch was announced. After lunch, everyone broke for some rest and refreshments (none of us had bathed till then!) Evening saw us at the beach again. Frisbee, walks and lots of chatting. We wanted to have chat, but none of us had carried any money:( We played Antakshari at the sea-side. Once it got cold outside, we resumed the games in the cottage. This time we played a variation of Dumbcharades - the Moods round, proposed by none other than yours truly. We would enact words related to emotions, with our hands tied and without speaking. Soon, everyone warmed up to this game. We went on playing this till dinner was announced. Everyone's acting skills; especially facial expressions, were taxed to the limit in this game. There were some risque emotions to be enacted that elicited sniggers and blushes. Post dinner too, by common consent, we continued with this game until everyone had exhausted their repertoire of emotions.

On our last morning at the resort, everyone was reluctant to leave, such was our bonding over the last few days. We kept putting off our departure as late as we could. We finally left around 11. We stopped at Mahabaleshwar around 2 pm for lunch and games. We first had strawberries and cream and some chat and then played carnival games such as shooting the balloons, board hockey etc. We won a lot of chocolates at this. We finally had lunch at Mapro garden around 3 pm. We started for Pune around 4. I drove one of the cars for the last lap of the journey over the Pasarni ghat and then right upto Pune where we all split for our respective homes.

Elongated power outages, an irritatingly noisy group that tested the limits of our patience, the nuisance of rats, a finicky dog who rejected most of our offerings and broken bathroom plumbing that resulted in change of rooms, were the only blights on the peaceful horizon of our trip. To say that this was a memorable trip would be an understatement. It was not just a trip but perhaps the beginning of a new and lasting relationship. We shared so much about each other and enjoyed a rare rapport throughout the trip. Konkan is a beautiful place with sprawling coconut & banana trees, verdant valleys and scenic highways. But as they say, its not the place that makes a journey memorable, its the company!

16 December 2008

Black and White

Yesterday, we attended a show titled 'Black and White' at the famous Bal Gandharva theatre in the city. It was a charity event hosted for the organization - Aadhar, a support group working for the education of deaf and mute children.

The show composed of local singers singing old Hindi melodies from the black and white films era. The set and costumes of the singers were all in variations of black, gray and white. While the singers sang the melodies, the original song's visual was shown in the backdrop. There was a Master of Ceremony, who performed an excellent job of taking the audience through the various songs. He kept the audience entertained through his repertoire of a variety of expressions - both facial as well as verbal.

The singers did ample justice to the legendary singers such as Rafi, Kishore, Mukesh, Lata, Asha, Geeta Dutt etc. They swayed and mimed to the songs of an earlier era during rendition of the songs. In doing so, they walked the fine line between looking ridiculous in the out-of-style costumes & get up and getting into the skin of the characters on whom the song was originally picturized.

It was like being transported into a different- much older and simpler - India. It felt wonderful to watch the old songs on the big screen and made one wonder how far we have come in Hindi cinema these days. Though we are technologically sound, our actors are better dancers and look spiffy in almost any clothing; the old ones had their own charm. Their beauty and acting did not come out of boxes or textbooks - they were true artists and natural in their expressions and style. They were the pioneers who set many precedents in Indian cinema. They were later copied by artists of future generations be they writers, singers, actors or directors.

There is an altogether different charm in watching things in black and white. Things appear clean and sanitized. Emotion, action and dialogue appears restrained and it is left to the imagination of the audience to amplify their intensity or take them at face value. In between sharing trivia regarding the old movies and artists, the MC made a few pithy comments about the quality of the artists, films and even the audience of that time. He said that people wanted characters that were either good(hero/heroine) or bad(villian/vamp) or comedians. Hence the characters too were black and white in that era with almost no scope for gray shades that are so close to reality. It was a time when people went to watch movies in order to escape into a more idealistic, virtual world.

It was a time when movies had evolved from plays which were mostly musicals. Hence the earlier movies had more songs and there was such an emphasis on good lyrics and melody. Did you know that the first talkie Hindi movie - Alam Ara- had 50 songs? It was lovely to see a much younger and handsome Dharamendra and Mala Sinha crooning to my favorite number - 'Aapki nazron ne samjha pyaar ke kabil mujhe'! And other songs like 'Mana janab ne pukara nahin', 'Ude jab jab zulfen teri', 'Wo bhuli dastan, lo phir yaad aa gayi', 'Haal kaisa hai janab ka', 'E malik, tere bande hum', 'Waqt ne kiya, kya haseen sitam', 'Na jao saiyyan, chhuda ke baiyyan', etc.

All in all, it was a fun evening, passed in the company of like-minded friends. Apart from the fact that my hubby could not keep from praising the gorgeous Madhubala, I had a great time:) I left with the resolution to watch at least half the movies whose songs I'd listened to. My only regret - they did not play any of Sadhna's songs. Would have loved to hear 'Bahut shukriya, badi meherbani...', 'Tera mera pyar amar' and 'Tujhe jeevan ki dor se baandh liya hai'. Also songs from movies such as Anupama, Khamoshi, Hum Dono, Tere ghar ke saamne, Jab Pyar Kisise hota hai, Dil Apna-Preet Parayi were conspicuous by their absence.

06 December 2008

Another year younger

I turned a year younger yesterday. 'Younger'?? you may well ask. Its true really. I hadn't felt this young and exuberant even when I was in college. Besides age is all in the mind they say. What does youth stand for really - youthful looks, enthusiasm and the joie de vivre? By this reasoning, I definitely feel younger than I've ever done before. Reverse-aging is what my hubby calls it.

My birthday is one day in the year, when all the people whom I hold dear, and who care for me, never fail to remind me of it. From 12 am in the morning till 10 pm in the night, my phone keeps ringing with calls and text messages. Its one day in the year, when you wish that someone would call you up...and they do! Its wonderful to be thought of so much on this beautiful day. Every passing year adds at least a couple more people to this growing number.

I'm not much into expecting gifts or surprises for birthdays (though I love to gift other people). Its enough if people remember the day and think of me. I myself have a photographic memory for dates and seldom forget to wish others on their birthdays, anniversaries or other special occasions. Hence, it really means a lot when others reciprocate. Most people, I've found, are shy at expressing their fondness or love into words. But on such days, it comes across in the warmth of their greetings, the wealth of sincerity in their wishes, the depth of feeling they put into gifts or flowers, the competitive spirit they get into when they ask me - was I the first one to wish you?

Thank you, all my lovely friends and family, for making my day special for me this year too!

03 December 2008

The hate brigade

While mulling over the most recent terrorist attack in India, I came to a sudden realization. People of my generation have seen the most upheaval in the last 2 decades. Blessed was our parents’ generation – all they had to worry about was how to put the next meal on the table, which schools/colleges to send their children to, marrying off their sons/daughters to a good family, praying for death before old age renders them house- bound etc. At least, they didn’t have to face the prospect of being turned out of their jobs or cancer or AIDs. At least they didn't have to fear being held as hostages on planes, ships or in 5-star hotels. At least they didn’t have to cross their fingers for getting to live to old age without falling victim to a stray bullet, bomb or landmine.

We heard about the 1993 blasts in Mumbai local train. We were mute witnesses when the Twin Towers were brought down. We were around to see and hear about the Godhra incident and subsequent carnage in Gujarat. We witnessed the longest running US-Iraq war, the dissension between Israel-Palestine, the debacle of Afghanistan.

Then, in this year itself, we gobbled up the news of bomb blasts in Islamabad, Bengaluru, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Guwahati, Malegaon. Each time we called up our friends and/or family in these cities to check that they are safe. And just when the whole world witnessed the paradigm shift in the world’s most powerful nation’s leadership, we witnessed the horrific massacre of 26/11 at Mumbai on our television screens.

The reasons/causes for all of the above – racism, religious intolerance, envy, HATRED.

I’ve been following the news on television, lapping up the newspapers and read almost anything I come across on email, or the net, regarding the latest siege at Mumbai. I will not even try to analyze what I feel about it – horror, anger, shame, helplessness, terror, and uncertainty - does not even come close. But one thing that is coming across in all the print is the rising hatred. This insistence of “not forgetting” this time round, not taking this lying down, threats of imminent war against a certain nation, the demand for political heads to roll, an increased emphasis on action – aren’t we all propagating this saga of hatred and violence all over again?

I recently finished reading Chetan Bhagat’s “Three mistakes of my life”. In it, there is an interesting statement made by a mother to her son – “Many times we get hurt in life, mostly by people who are most dear to us. But that does not mean that we hold on to that hurt and chop off the relationship itself.” In the movie – “Mumbai meri jaan”, Paresh Rawal’s character says something truly insightful – “If someone slaps your cheek, and you slap his cheek back, and he does the same…and so on…this chain of hatred will never end. It will just keep growing and growing to such proportions which neither the first person nor the second person will have intended it to take.”

My heart bleeds for my nation; I am deeply sympathetic to all those who suffered. I feel hurt and defiled by the recent attack. I want to punish those who did this. But I do NOT wish to perpetuate this hatred so that my children have to go through what my generation has faced. We need to disperse this hate brigade in our quest for retribution.

Agreed, action is the mandate of the hour. But proper introspection and planning are essential to execute it toward achieving security and peace for our nation and the world.

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