Music, Smile and Chewing Gum

Sunday morning was the busiest time of the week. People came in from eight in the morning. Chicken had to be weighed, fish had to be sorted and mutton had to be cleaned. Dressed in his black pants which he folded till his knees and the white ‘AFIDAS’ t-shirt, Kishore knew he would hardly get time to breathe.  He was just twenty five, but already knew every nuance of running a meat and fish shop.  Khan Saab ensured that Kishore and the other two boys who worked for him did their job well. On bad days, there would be unending profanities coming out of his betel stained mouth, and on good days, he would give them carefully weighed three hundred grams of meat or fish in a black polythene cover.

Lunch would be as late as four in the evening. And that is why he kept his pocket loaded with chewing gum on all days. With every bite, the juices from the gum filled his stomach, killing his hunger and the monotony of chopping, cutting, cleaning and billing. The other thing that kept him going was music. He plugged his earphones and as soon as Kishore Da’s yodelling began, his namesake would get transported into a world far far away. His hands would work swiftly on the sharp knife and the big wooden chopping board, but his heart and soul would be amidst green mountains, the not-so-overbearing yellow sun and the cool breeze of his small village in Shillong. Kishore never noticed his customers laughing at him, listening to his loud singing. He would be blissfully unaware of his displaced chords, and the questionable lyrics. He never heard Khan Saab mouthing through his paan, ‘Pata nahin itna khush kyo rahta hain?’  Music, Smile and Chewing Gum: they never left Kishore’s mouth.

Business had been good today, which meant instead of six, he would be able to leave by five. Khan Saab deftly handed over the black polythene cover and rode away in his old, noisy scooter.

Kishore started to walk towards his home. Music in his ears and on his lips, a rhythmic movement in his legs and a faint smile as he chewed the last chewing gum of the day. The blaring horns, the rushing vehicles and barking dogs did not bother him.

As soon as he reached home, he walked up to his wife and sang, ‘‘Mere sapno ki rani kab aaogi tum……’  Kajal did not respond. She never did.

‘Aaj mutton fry aur soup. Theek hain?’ He whistled and kept the mutton on the kitchen slab.

Soon the house filled with a delicious aroma of mutton getting slowly cooked in an array of spices, ginger, garlic and onions. Just the way his mother made back home.

‘Yeh shaam mastani….’ He hummed and tasted the soup. Spicy! Just the way Kajal liked it.

He served the soup in a bowl and went near Kajal. She looked at him, and tried to lift her hand. It refused to budged. Kishore placed a towel around her chest and poured a spoonful of soup in her mouth. She clumsily drank it, spilling half of it on the towel. A tear drop escaped Kajal’s eye; a glistening validation of the remorse she felt, of the last one year, of the terrible haunting day when she lost her ability to walk or feel anything below her neck.  Kishore swiftly cleaned the tear and the soup.

‘Radha aunty aayi thi? Roti aur doodh diya?’ Kishore’s eyes went over at the table where the left over milk and roti was kept. He reminded himself to gift Radha aunty a red saree on her birthday. She took good care of Kajal when he was away at work.

Kishore ate his dinner sitting right next to Kajal. There was nothing much to do at home. He had sold off the TV, radio and his guitar for Kajal’s treatment.

There was no place for sadness or the unending questions that sprung time and again from his neighbours and family. Love had taken over all the vacant spaces. The hollowness of despair had been replaced with the warmth of selfless affection. She was his Rani and he, her Raja.

He laid down next to her, his arm across her body, patting her softly and humming to himself. ‘Dil kya karen, jab kisi ko kisi se pyaar ho jaye…..’


The path beyond Board Exam results.

Must have been a weekday in May 1998, I don’t remember well. What I remember is the feeling of despair, hopelessness and failure. It was the day my 12th board exam results were declared. My 10th board results were brilliant, by that, I am sure everyone expected me to ace 12th board exams as well. But things didn’t go that way. Today I can think of many reasons, but at that time none mattered. There were two things I wanted to do. One, scream my lungs out and shout, “This is not me. I am not THIS. I am more and beyond. Don’t judge me on the basis of this.” Two, I wanted to vanish. Poof! Just like that. Somewhere far and never come back. Or come back when everyone had a smile on their faces.

But I didn’t do any of the two. All I did was cry and have an abysmally heavy feeling in the centre of my chest. I never knew the answer to the perennial question which was asked to me innumerable times, “How did you score low? What happened?” “72%, really! How did you get this kind of a score?” I remember sitting and staring out the window or the wall for hours and avoiding. Avoiding my parents, their faces, their disappointment and the terrible feeling that refused to go off my mind. I knew I was a good student, I had always been an above average student, hardworking and sincere. But my 12th grade score proved otherwise.

What followed next was everyone taking decisions for me. Everyone telling me what to do. I knew deep inside why. They felt I was incapable to taking decisions, or finding a path for myself, or of knowing my strengths and skills because I had scored 72%.

Today, 20 years down the line, I know two things. One, my scores did not matter. I had nothing to do with the 72%. I was much more and beyond. It’s when I interacted with many of my classmates through social media quite a few years down the line, I realised that their marks which were below or similar to mine DID NOT define them in anyway (that day or today). Each of them ultimately did well in their lives. Yes, even the ones who scored in 60s or 50s. Two, I wish the social factors around me (at that time) had fathomed this truth and supported me better. I know where my father came from. He was a self made man totally built on academics. For him, academics made or broke a person. So when his one and only child scored low, it devastated him. But as I saw him break, I broke a lot more within me.

Cut to present. Cell phones are ringing in most homes, discussions are happening. Counselors are busy. If your family is one where your child has scored well in 10th or 12th board exams, then you would not probably feel what I am trying to say here. But if there is a child in your home right now, who is quieter and (without you realising) very scared, its a wake up call. It’s time for you to evolve along with your child.

There are questions you must ask yourself and your child. The only two people who should talking is you and your child. No one else. If there is one emotion that should be running in your household right now is Calmness. No, don’t say, its not easy. Because you are the adult here. Go back to the day you held your child for the first time. The day when you said, “I will take care of you, no matter what.” This is the ‘no matter what’ moment. So stand up for your child.

If you don’t know which questions to ask, let me give you a few pointers.

  1. What is that my child loves or is good at?
  2. Is my dreams and his/her dreams different?
  3. Have I missed on seeing some signs which were obvious?
  4. I may be a doctor, or an engineer or a lawyer, but could my child be something else.
  5. Are the family values different from that of my child’s?

Who you should be talking to other than your child?

  1. A counselor who can guide and lead you both.
  2. A family member or a friend who is an inspiration not because of his or her academic score but because of his/her skills and perseverance.

With the above two in sync, trust me, path will be clearer, options will be easier and decisions will be happier. And smile, for the sake of your child. The world is brutal and rough. You have given birth to a life (not a trophy) and it is your responsibility to be the wind beneath their wings. Help him or her come back to a warm home filled with cushions all around.

That is exactly why you are the adult and he/she, your child.


Goa: Books, Brain and Babe

The last I stepped out of my home city to study was in 2001. Just by writing that, I realise how many eons away that sounds!

Anyone who knows me well, will also know that I am a student for life and never shy away from unlearning and learning something new. Did you read the word unlearning twice? If you did, good job! We will come back to this word some time later in another post of mine.

So when I told my family that I was keen on getting myself certified in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), they all just raised their heads a tad bit and went back to their business. Hello! And then I announced.

‘I am thinking of going to Goa for this course.’ Four heads turned with their mouths wide open, but for different reasons.

‘You are just lying. I know you are going there to have fun with friends.’ That was my son.

‘You will go without me, is it? How bad!!’ That was my daughter.

‘Is this course not available in Bangalore?’ My mother. AND…

‘Let’s talk logistics.’ My self proclaimed better half.

No, I am not lying. I am going to study.

Six days will go like this, and I snapped my fingers.

No, I want to be trained only under Dr. David Lincoln. He does not train in Bangalore.

And yeah, come let’s talk logistics. And I went ahead booked my flight, and sent out mails for accommodation.

The next two months that followed, I kept hearing many things like,

I still think you are lying. Tell me, is Suhasini Aunty coming along?

What if I feel like seeing you? But what will you get for me?

Why can’t you just read about it or order some books on it, like the zillion things you keep reading about?

Na na…better half didn’t speak much, and I think it was because I kept talking about NLP day and night. Tch tch.

Then I started getting calls from my mom’s sis.

Goa is not safe. You shouldn’t go alone.

When that failed, it became

What kind of clothes are you packing? Will you have company? Will you have a room-mate? A guy or a girl..haaaa!

What was up with all these people? I mean. I have lived in a hostel for two years in another city. No one bothered. I wondered.

That is when a dear friend pointed out. You see, your value has increased. Then you were just a girl. Now you are a mother, a wife, a daughter-in-law and so on.

So basically what she meant was it was absolutely fine for a 21 year old to go alone anywhere, have any room-mate, wear the clothes she wanted, and it’s assumed that she will be safe even if she is alone. But, all this changes when you are 37. Someone please explain the logic, I say. But I think it made sense…or did it? Oh just leave it.

The day arrived and I packed my bags (All my bags are packed by Aerosmith played in the back of my mind, except I was going to Goa and not the space.)

I stepped out of the plane and kept my foot out in the soil of Goa waiting to feel LIBERATED, but what I felt was the humidity. Gosh! Can I please have my Bangalore back? I should have just read the books and got my bit of enlightenment.

I said a few inappropriate words in my head and got inside the cab.

‘Bhaiyya, AC on kar do.’ I rolled up the window of the car and instructed the driver.

‘Madam, the AC is on.’ I just rolled my eyes and huffed and puffed.

I reached my abode for the next six days. Thankfully this time, the AC was on and I realised it was on.

I sat on the bed. Too hard.

I laid on the bed. Too narrow. How will I throw my legs around and sleep?

I drank the water. Too soft, too hard. Tastes funny. Smells funnier.

I went into the washroom. What’s that smell? Is there a lizard somewhere lurking around?

And then it struck me. I felt lonely. There was no one around me. I missed everyone back at home. I called home and heard my daughter sniffing. F! This was a bad idea.

Then someone said, ‘Are you Subha?’ I turned around and saw a warm lady in her 40s with a bright smile. She was a practising theatre artist from Pune.

By evening, a nurse from Ratnagiri joined us. Then a corporate trainer from Mumbai, another from Bhopal. A 57 year young guy joined us soon and also a senior officer from the Army. An entrepreneur came along and also another budding trainer. The house slowly filled up, and my heart filled up even more listening to their stories. The wall of inhibition fell and I climbed down the Train of Judgement.

Days passed by. I was not just learning in the classroom, but also at the beach side restaurant where we spoke over drinks and starters, while watching the sunset as we poured our hearts, the Saturday market where we shopped, and during the long chats well into the night. Oh yeah, not to forget when we were chased by street dogs (which BTW are many in Goa) during our morning walk. We sincerely stopped the morning walks from the next day. We had after all left our families behind and come. Talking about family, the sniffing reduced from the other side of the phone. My son knew I was, after all, not lying because he asked me whether I was eating on time, slept well and was the course tough?

Like always, I clicked pictures of the setting sun against the vastness of the sea. I watched the horizon, as it split into the hues of orange, grey and blue. The sea reminded me how small I am, just a dot in this universe and that’s exactly why I should continue exploring my whole life.

The day I was returning, I hugged each one and knew I had made a few more soul connections. I sincerely wish that I collaborate with a few of them sometime in the future. As much as I loved every moment in Goa, I looked forward to reaching Namma Benguluru. I came to Bangalore a new person.

I felt this new-found love for my home, my family and guess what…I think I fell in love with myself all over again. Yeah, just like the movies.