Saturday, February 27, 2010


Usha has been kind enough to bestow the kreativ blogger award to me. I am overwhelmed Usha. My rants and rambling monologues are considered kreativ?? Should they be? Well, I suppose so since it is Usha who is saying it. Thank you Usha for the award.

Now the difficult part of sharing seven little known facts about me……….

Difficult because my blog is more of an autobiography and I’ve already shared much of what I feel or do in my posts. So I have to come out with seven secrets that were till now safely stored in my mind.

As a child I loved reading books and it did not matter whether I begged, borrowed or stole them. I remember borrowing a book from a lending library close to a friend’s house and misplacing it. The man charged an anna per day for it and my bill was literally increasing by the day. The friend would pester me in school and I’d promise to get it the next day. I’d conveniently ‘forget’ to get the book the following day. This went on for a week and the friend’s mother landed at our place since the librarian had approached her. My mother had actually put it away while cleaning the house so she returned the book and paid the money. In our days this was a very serious offence and I was properly admonished for borrowing the book without her permission and not telling her about it right away. These days children easily ask for huge amounts as spending money and parents don’t even keep track of where the money is spent. It was not so when I was growing up. Every penny spent had to be accounted for.

I must be the only person who literally cried to leave the boarding school – no, not after my school finals but while returning home for my vacations. It is quite another thing that I would also cry to leave home once vacations were over. On the last day of my hostel life in Tiruchy, six of us close friends spent the night together and wept our hearts out knowing that we would perhaps never meet again. I met only one of them 2 years after I passed out but I really value their friendship till date. We had a great time together.

My results speak of an intelligent mind. But I know better. I always had someone very sincere to study with. This person would not be a very close friend of mine but as in the case of Angammal during my undergrad course, would take it upon themselves to wake me up in the morning or set targets to complete and practically force me to study. During my M.Sc. it was Poonam and the prodding of my husband helped me complete Ph.D apart from the encouragement he gave me during my Masters. So I should be actually giving a good percentage of my marks to them. In fact Angammal’s wake up call on her way to the bathroom at 4;45 IN THE MORNING had benefited our entire block in the hostel and during my combined study sessions at Poonam’s place I was treated to delicious Gujrathi food every afternoon for 7 to 8 months. Thank you Angammal and Poonam I’ll remember you always. I have so much to thank my husband for that he may get puffed up and burst. So I’d rather not tell him anything.

An interesting incident should be enough to explain how much I was pampered by my in laws. We were traveling to Chennai in 1981. The children were young and the journey was long. My father in law who was also traveling with us was helping me manage the children. A fellow passenger pointed out my FIL to my husband who was filling water at Vizag station and said –“Your father in law wants you to get some biscuits for the children. My husband had a tough time convincing him that he was the son and I was the daughter in law. I must be the only daughter in law whose mother in law would encourage her to stand up for her rights as the lady of the house. Thank you amma! I’ll always remember your support during the initial years of my life in Jamshedpur.

I really don’t know how I managed to cook for the family and reach my workplace at seven in the morning by public transport during the early days of my career because I am generally accused of being slow. Those days I did not have a mixer, grinder or a refrigerator. The children were young and the oldest among them had not yet turned 7. If as a slow coach I could achieve so much what would I have done had I been super fast! And my husband may make coffee now. During those days he could not help with cooking or dicing vegetables unlike his younger brother who would pitch in when there were visitors or it was getting late for my co – sister to leave home.

I haven’t yet learnt to say “No” and end up offering my time and energy, sometimes money too to totally undeserving people. My husband likes to blame me though he is no better. My argument is that ‘just on account of a few why punish the majority who are genuine’. I really cannot do much about this. I am like that only.

Finally, I’d give anything up to gain a few inches of height. I am in total admiration of tall people. Again I’d do anything to shed a few pounds. There has been a slow but steady increase in my weight. I was 39 kilos at the time of my marriage and am now 62/63. Why my body hoards food I cannot understand. And to top it I walk at least 5 kilometers on most mornings.

Well, these are seven things about me not very interesting or special but they are part of my nature and will probably remain so. Now to tag seven others and award them as kreativ bloggers………… and here I go!

Vishesh: you wouldn’t believe that a teenager could write such deep felt poetry. I haven’t read him for a while now. But they are a treat whenever I do.

Tys on ice: where has he vanished? He makes you think and laugh at the same time.

Preethi’s chronicle: first time I am tagging her. But her account of little V makes an interesting read.

Smitha: Her entry for the IWD contest is really worth reading. Her Jamshedpur connection makes me biased in her favor.

Smi: She has the courage to offer to adopt me for a mother in law. She may not have read this post of mine!

Gauri: of tiny tid bits. Her abhayisms make one remember the times when my own children were young. Writes very well.

Renu: whose anubhooti discusses every relevant aspect of life.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Abusive relationships (Contd.)

In my previous post I had asked “What makes a woman put up with an abusive relationship? Is it love alone or is there a fear factor involved? Is divorce a solution?”

I think not. Not unless a strong will to confront the abuser is involved as the following example illustrates.

If J married a man of her choice, G had an arranged marriage. Her husband was a bank manager and they were married after their horoscopes were duly matched and declared very compatible. G was a small town girl and in awe of life in a metro when she accompanied her husband to New Delhi. Three months after her marriage her mother came to Delhi to invite the couple to come over to Ajmer to celebrate the first Deepavali after marriage. She saw the girl cooking in aluminum vessels and was surprised to hear that her husband had rented a bank locker to put away all the steel ware and other costly items given to her at the time of her marriage. The mother being worldly wise and experienced realized that the girl was being taken for a ride and began investigating her son in law’s credentials. The truth was bitter. The son in law was victim to every bad habit one could think of and had sold off not only her jewelry and silver ware but also her costly saris and steel ware. He was heavily into debt and drew only a fourth of his salary. When negotiations with his family failed, the mother insisted on a divorce and the court granted it within a year. The family moved to interior Tamilnadu.

As luck would have it G’s mother died in an accident soon after the divorce came through. Her father was a mild mannered person who had let his wife handle things. G’s husband took advantage of the situation and began to pester them again. He would visit them from time to time and ask for money. He had been dismissed from his bank job and found sadistic pleasure in torturing G and her father. He would buy stuff from the local store on credit and the shop owner would come to their doorstep to ask for money. He would pop up from nowhere when she went out and snatch her purse and take out whatever money she had managed to earn by coaching school children. The father could take it no more and died soon after. Her younger brother, who had faced the loss of both parents even before he finished college, took up a job and soon married a colleague and G had absolutely no one to turn to. Someone suggested that the local church needed someone to sweep and swab the place and would give the person food and shelter in the convent as well as a nominal remuneration. Would she be interested in working for them? She felt that it was the best option available and agreed to work there although the church insisted on conversion. Religion had no relevance to a woman in her position and anyone who could shelter her from the abusive husband was Almighty personified as far as she was concerned. Relatives and their so-called well wishers criticize G but do they have a right to do so? What kind of protection does a woman like her have under the circumstances? She is a distant relative of mine. I had suggested that she come over to Jamshedpur. Our town, being far from her native place in Tamilnadu, would perhaps be beyond the reach of her husband. She was good at sewing ladies and children’s garments and I could get orders for her from my college. She could stay at our place for the first few months and move out later once she established herself. Her sister and aunt vetoed the idea saying that it was too far away from their place and should she face any problem it would be difficult for them to attend to her. However, I am glad she found a safe haven in a convent. This was perhaps the best solution.

Take the case of Sa whose marriage to her colleague KS came as a surprise to anyone who knew the two of them. She was a convent educated, brilliant girl from an affluent background with a promising future and had taken up a job in a primary school just to keep herself occupied. She was preparing for competitive exams and hoped to make it to the administrative service or a nationalized bank. KS, on the other hand was an average student from a middle class background and would be happy to see his temporary job in the school regularized. That theirs was a mismatch was evident to all but the couple concerned. Sa’s parents were merely informed that they were getting married in court and they could act as witnesses to the marriage if they so wished. Unable to let down their daughter, they followed her to court and later to their house with a whole lot of household goods and stuff. With time they became fond of their son in law and he reciprocated in good measure. Sa got a job in a reputed bank and left her job in the school. Soon a crack in the seemingly good relationship between them began to show. The couple had a son who was growing very fond of his father. Sa then decided that she would divorce KS before further damage was done and their son began to miss his father. The world blamed Sa and declared her head strong and willful. Her parent’s plea fell on deaf ears. She had decided to divorce her husband of 5 years and that was the end to the story of their marriage. No questions were asked or answered. One later heard different versions of their failed marriage but nothing was confirmed or denied. But today we know that KS was into drugs and alcohol and also had a weakness for women and it was only fair that Sa withdrew herself from his life keeping her son’s future in mind. If she had gotten into a messy relationship she was smart enough to come out of it. She was certainly not going to let the world decide for her. I do not know for sure if their relationship was an abusive one. I, for one felt that Sa had perhaps pre-empted an unsavory situation before much damage was done.

I stand by my claim that an abusive relationship cannot be addressed by anyone except the concerned persons and that too not unless one wants to. It requires a lot if inner strength to stand up against an abusive partner. Divorce too cannot offer protection as G’s case indicates nor can relatives or friends - much as they may want to. It is for the person concerned to decide what the best option would be under the given circumstances.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Abusive relationships.

I've been tagged by Suranga to participate in the International women's day contest held by Indus Ladies.
Please click on the graphic on the left for details.

The following is my entry under the category:"Relationship Issues". Happy reading.

Abusive relationships

Any relationship is difficult to define but an abusive one between a man and woman has baffled those who view it from outside. What is it that allows a woman to remain in an abusive relationship is difficult to explain let alone justify.

J was the first born to affluent parents. Her father was a practicing lawyer and her mother was a home - maker. As a child she was a little charm and everyone would want to carry her around. She studied in a reputed school in town and though not a bright spark she was not a dull head either. She was an average student who managed to pass in all subjects. She was however inclined towards cultural activities and regularly participated in music contests and the like. Seeing her interest in learning formal music her parents engaged a tutor to teach her Hindustani classical music. It was then that trouble began.

To cut a long story short she eloped with her music teacher when she was barely 16 only to realize that he was not the prince charming that she took him to be. He was addicted to alcohol and barely earned enough to make ends meet. She was around 18 years of age when her daughter was born and things became worse. Being regularly beaten up for money from her parents she would have no option but to approach them just to save herself. Her parents urged her to leave him and come home with her daughter and to pursue her studies. She initially resisted the idea of leaving her husband but finally relented. She was enrolled in a local college which though not the best was close to her home. She had by now lost her self - confidence as well as self esteem and was a mere shadow of her former self. She however managed to pass the first and second year of her degree course when her husband came begging for forgiveness. He pleaded with her, claimed that he loved her dearly and would commit suicide if she did not agree to accompany him to their house. He promised to look after her and their daughter. Her parents said that she was free to go with him if she wanted to but not before finishing college and obtaining a degree. There was a tussle between her head and heart and the latter won. She went away with him a second time without wishing her parents goodbye.

The beatings and abuse that had earlier become part of her life resumed and the husband had now become a drug abuser as well. He actually needed money to buy drugs and what better way to obtain it than to beat up his wife and sending her crawling to her parents for it! This time around he had acquired a mistress who added fuel to the fire by regularly complaining about her to the husband who in his drunken stupor would beat her up with even more vehemence. She had no option but to approach her parents once again who were wise enough to insist on a divorce as conditional to her being allowed to return to them. The girl is back and after a break of three years plans to finish college and take up a job. However, the possibility of her ex husband influencing her and luring her back cannot be ruled out.

What makes a woman put up with an abusive relationship? Is it love alone or is there a fear factor involved? Is divorce a solution?

Education and financial independence can address the problem to some extent but the real solution comes from within. One cannot compromise on one’s dignity and self respect. Loving a person immensely is fine but allowing him/her to take advantage of the situation and abuse one is quite another matter. The line between compromise and adjustment is thin but it is there all the same. One just needs to identify it.

I tag Usha, Eve's lung and apu and invite them to participate in the IWD contest.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Intuitions and premonitions

Do you believe in premonitions? I think I do. I had mentioned about Dr. N.K. Singh, the founder of our college, in an earlier post. This year he wanted to celebrate Saraswati Pooja on Basant Panchami day in the premises of his school for the first time since he took charge. He invited practically everyone he knew as well as those who had contributed to the school in any way. He personally invited a good number of his former colleagues and associates. I was also an invitee. We were treated to a delicious ‘Khichri bhog’ and entertained to a music competition by his students. The teachers and other staff members were like a close knit family and I was reminded of the times when we’d have a similar get together in our college premises. That was long back when our founder principal was alive and the same family spirit prevailed in our college too. ‘Sir’ as we fondly call Dr. N.K. Singh was not in excellent health since he was recuperating after some health setbacks but he was in excellent spirits. We met him personally to enquire after his health and he in turn made fond enquiries about our well - being. He particularly remembered the dal prepared by my colleague’s mother who had treated him to excellent home food long back when her husband was alive and he was a frequent visitor to their place.

“No one prepares dal quite they way you do. It simply does not taste the same.” He said.

“No problem” said the lady. “You can come over anytime. I’ll have it ready for you”.

“I’ll definitely come over once the weather gets warmer” he said.

Those present wanted to know what was so special about the dal she prepared. He replied that he really did not know but it had neither spices nor flavoring agents but tasted very good. There was magic in her hands. Someone joked that in that case we all would like to taste her preparation!

Somehow all this kind of disturbed me. On my way back I remarked that it appeared as if Dr. N. K. Singh wanted to meet his old friends and other well wishers in person and used the Saraswati puja get together as an excuse. I wondered aloud if he had some pre monition about his not being well enough to celebrate another Saraswati puja.

Fifteen days later he passed away. His body was brought to our college and we gathered to give him a tearful farewell. We feel orphaned. But that is not my point. I wonder if he understood that his days were numbered or was it just chance that we got together on Saraswati puja day?

Mrs. Sinha was our neighbor for more than 13 years and was very fond of my children. She had a soft corner for my son and would take him to her house from the time he was a month old. He grew up calling her husband uncle papaji. She’d look after him when I went to work and he hadn’t started regular school. They shifted to another part of the town and Rahul soon forgot them but she hadn’t. She would enquire after him whenever we met and when he visited her after finishing college she hardly recognized him. To her, he was the small boy in his pre – teens whose toys she would store in her almirah when other children bullied him or the little boy who would cuddle by her side on hot summer afternoons to listen to a story. She would be fiercely possessive about his belongings and regularly complain to me about how innocent he was and how other boys took advantage of his generosity.

In the early February of 2006 she died. We had returned to Jamshedpur on the very day after spending a week at Ooty and Coonoor. Rahul had come to India he had arranged for the trip to celebrate my birthday. I had studied in Coonoor and we visited my old school. It was as if she waited for Rahul to arrive before breathing her last. Mr. Sinha remarked that she loved him like a son and had perhaps beckoned him to stand alongside her son at the cremation. She had earlier expressed her desire to accompany us on our trip when she heard that Rahul was landing at Chennai and we planned to leave for Ooty from there. It was only due to her indifferent health condition that I was reluctant to take her along.

The logical side of my brain tells me that these were chance incidences. But could both be just co – incidences? They say that all of us emit vibes and one feels connected due to them. The sixth sense sometimes works overtime we have an intuition of things to come. My sister recalls how she felt the urge to enquire after my ailing mother and rang up at around 10 at night. My mother had gone to bed but on hearing that it was my sister who was calling, she got up and spoke to her. She died in her sleep that very night.

There is a lot about brain chemistry that we do not know. However, it is not unusual for one to feel connected to or repelled by a complete stranger. An organization called ‘vazhga valamudan’ advises people to send positive vibes to all known and unknown people. They finally ask us to wish our enemies, if we have any, well. The idea behind is that positive feelings and good will to all is beneficial not only to the person who receives it. It does wonders to the person who sends it. I always wish that a person who is hell bent on making life miserable for me should become the president of USA or prime minister of India. They should reach dizzy height and never look down so that I may lead a peaceful life.

“Vazhga Valamudan”! This can roughly be translated as “May you prosper”. I say this to one and all of you!

Monday, February 01, 2010

On Parenting............

There are times when I feel glad that my role as a parent has taken a back seat and I no longer have to worry about my children’s education or career. I’ve done my bit and can afford to play computer games while listening to carnatic music. Parenting rules seem to have changed drastically and what applies to one set of parents need not work in the case of others. Was it so earlier, I wonder? The Hindustan Times devoted a full page on parenting techniques and has my head reeling. Are my daughters who are currently raising kids having it tough or is this the scenario in Asian countries I wonder. Somehow the pressure in India seems endemic and self-imposed.

When I was growing up our mothers were there to see to it that we sat with our books for an hour or two before dinner and once dinner was ready we packed up and no one bothered if our home - work was half done or undone. Teaching us was the teacher’s job and they really put their heart and soul into it and drilled and filled our minds with the basics of each subject so much so even the average and below average students had a fair grasp of the subject. The school did not interview parents or bothered if the parents were qualified enough to teach their children. Teachers praised or punished the children according to their performance and it was usually taken as part of school life.

These day teachers are scared to say anything to an errant student. For all you know the child may run away or jump into the nearest water body and the teacher would be blamed. Are parents in a better position? I am afraid not. They fall flat at the child’s feet and give in to every whim. The explanation is that their parents lacked the means and could not afford to indulge them. But by God’s grace they are better placed and of what use was money if the child’s demands could not be fulfilled? The child grows up believing that he/she has a right to make atrocious demands and cannot take ‘no’ for an answer. Psychologists say that suicide rates among teenagers are on the rise. Like teachers, parents too are scared to impose rules on their children. The slightest rebuke or an occasional corrective measure cannot be handled by children and they feel depressed over issues that those of my generation would have ignored or accepted as idiosyncrasies of the previous generation. We would have had mimicry sessions and laughed our lungs out in private but certainly did not contemplate drastic measures like running away from home or committing suicide. We faced stiff competition even at home and grew up to be a tough lot.

Having said this do I have any solutions to offer? I do.

Parents should be able to draw a line and not try to fulfill every demand of the child even if they have the means. This leads to unhealthy competition in society that is detrimental to its progress.

Every household should have certain rules that have to be obeyed however distasteful it may be to growing children. They may sulk and pout but will understand in the long run.

Parents and teachers should interact and communicate regularly since both have a role in shaping a child’s life. Their role should be complementary and positive.

Children should be allowed to grow at their own pace and to indulge in hobbies of their own interest and choice. Appreciation of the child’s sincere effort even if it does not translate into top ranking levels would go a long way in boosting a child’s confidence.

However much one loves his/her child it should be made clear to the child that there can be no compromise on responsible behavior and basic etiquette. Regular and open communication helps and the child should be allowed to give his/her side of the story in case of unacceptable behavior.

Lastly, the child should be made to understand that there are several other children who are less privileged but they do not give up easily. Rather they work harder to reach the goal that those better off achieve easily. When I say less privileged I mean financial, physical as well as mental setbacks.

However, as I mentioned in my last post, each situation is unique and every parent/child equation different. Becoming a parent is easy but being one is not. You may ask if I practised what I now preach. I had it easy because I lacked the means. It is tough on the current generation of parents who have to make hard decisions. Good luck to each one of you and God bless your families.