Search

richasmukherjee.com

love, laughter, pain, joy, life and its lessons, one word at a time

Tag

Life

Why I’m glad I failed every new year resolution!

 

picWhat is recurrent, changes shapes, rarely comes to life and almost always leads to regrets? Yes, you know what I’m talking about.

New year resolutions have had an unnerving effect on me through life. And I can safely say that I’ve possibly lived up to 1 or 2 of the long list of promises. With that track record, I should ideally be ashamed of myself, but you know what? I brazenly confess that this year I am happy that I’ve failed so miserably. Because now I am wiser.
Human beings are fascinating creatures and have mastered the art of infusing doubt and fear into the most harmless and positive things.
Jan 1st: You decided to lead a healthy life, change your bad food habits, eat only fruits through most of the day.
Jan 2nd: Oh my gawd! That jalebi looks divine. I’ve eaten so many fruits. One can’t hurt.
Jan 3rd: I didn’t exercise today, and I ate 2 samosas. (Palpitations and sweating)
Jan 4th: I hate my life, I am so stressed, I’ll always be fat. This year is looking terrible already!
Look what you just did there? 4 precious days were wasted stressing and the end result was the year being labeled as a waste. Think of ways in which you can improve the success rate and not start your precious year with a nervous breakdown. And give your self more time and achievable goals. You aren’t running a race and don’t need to post your completion time! My personal mantra this year is to sloooooooow down.
I realise that by doing this I am contesting the popular trend of doing everything ‘fast’ and ‘quickly’ but what can I say, that’s the new me.
I will stop looking at my watch so often: Have you counted the number of times in a day you stare at your watch? Sometimes I feel I’ve done this even while getting intimate. That’s terrible right? Only because I’m so habituated (On second thoughts my husband would have appreciated another relevant example)We are always on the clock, timing ourselves, jumping ahead to figure out the next task.  It’s great to be organised but it’s a fact that if your mind is always on the go, it will lose steam at some point. This year, I will not try to conquer time, but walk along with it peacefully.
I will sit and do nothing sometimes: Ever tried this? I love sitting quietly and observing everything in my immediate environment. From birds to bees to odd human beings. It is relaxing and rejuvenating. Somewhat like a ‘kapalbhati’ for the stressed mind. But during my New Years break, sitting by the sea I had an epiphany. Why on earth don’t I make time to do nothing in my daily life? Why was this reserved for holidays? Doesn’t It feel great, to take a break, take a deep breath and have no to-do list in your hand? Try it! Being useless never felt this good!
I will take my time eating my food: I recently read about how a lady on a road trip in the hills, stopped the car by an apple orchard and ate an apple for 5 minutes. That for the first time in her life, because she was chewing slowly and carefully, taking her time, she truly enjoyed the apple and had never eaten anything tastier. Made me think about all our express food sessions at home or at work or on-the-go. My daughter has heard me saying ‘Eat Quickly!’ so often, that I really thank god those weren’t her first words or that she didn’t think it was her mother’s name! I wouldn’t blame her. Action point? Mindful eating, enjoying every bite and its been proven that in this way your body will even receive and absorb it better, leading to a healthier you.
I will take a long shower as often as I can: Do I really need to explain this? Everything I do in the bathroom is on fast forward because I usually have my daughter banging on the door and asking me to come out. That’s also the maid’s favourite time to approach me with all her queries and for all the people in the world to call me. But I will take the time to start my day right. Even if it means getting up a little bit earlier than everyone else. If your day starts calm, chances are you won’t end it off yelling at someone. And a long hot shower works miracles anyway doesn’t it?
I will stop and talk to people: A few years ago, at a club in Kolkata, as I went about chasing after my daughter armed with a spoonful of food, a lady randomly walked up to our table and proceeded to chat endlessly, while we made our disdainful faces with ‘how bored is she’ stupid big city attitude on our shoulders. Though I wished she had spoken just a little lesser than she did, it was such a refreshing chat. I find myself avoiding conversations, because it is too exacting. But chatting is good. Because it opens up your mind, lightens up the mood and feels great because after all we are social creatures. Today I started talking to my Uber cab guy and it turned out that he was a superb singer and from the city I was born in. I walked out with a beautiful song in my head and my heart felt lighter.
I will use my phone less: This is such a common plague that it needs no further explanation. Everything in moderation is great but one of the biggest problems I have
is that it distracts me from my writing, work, and I am aware that my daughter is watching me like a hawk all the time. It’s unnerving! Hard to do but give it a shot.
You’ll be amazed at how much time you can create by just switching off from time to time. (I have a sneaky suspicion that I am about to fail embarassingly at this resolution!)
This list might seem a bit simplistic but that’s what we need most in our lives according to me. Simplicity. No relay races, no frantic dashing, no chaotic plans. But an honest awareness and acceptance of things around us. Most importantly, to figure out an acceptable speed to live your own life by, even if you get left behind a little. See? I even wrote this post late, well into the new year and I’m doing just fine!

Queen of hearts

Ma

An ethereal beauty beyond words
Why must you conform to worldly standards of which we have become slaves
Vanity can come from a place of pride 
Beyond a face, beyond skin, beyond the usual trappings
Let the hair fall away, your brilliance is enough
Let the skin peel away, what lies beneath is even better
Let amorphous shapes that your body takes become continents of discovery and wonder
Let not your beauty be eclipsed 
For when you are bare, you are beautiful beyond compare…
These are words I wrote for my mother when she was propped up in her hospital bed with a wan smile on her face. A smile that never left her. Through the rigour of years, through the hardships of sustaining a large family, through vicissitudes of life and economics, there was always a smile to spare. Writing for this piece made me reminisce about the true beauty of my own mother. Its easy to write about your mother most would think. But this decision is not based on mere anthropology. It is because she is most definitely one of the most inspirational, resilient, positive and beautiful people that I’ve had the good fortune to encounter so closely in my life.
For a person who had such affluent beginnings, she never grudged being married into a humble family. A kathak performer, a sangeet visharad, a science and maths gold medalist was assigned to the kitchen and brickbats from her new family but she never complained. When my sisters and I were much older, we learnt of what all she had endured with silence. Again, none of this information was volunteered by her. She never played the victim card. Not once. Through tragedies, ill health and suffering. Her entire life was dedicated to her family, not just the army of four children and the beloved husband but anyone who ever came to her door. Whether it was long lost relatives, beggars, house help, donation seekers, it didn’t matter. No one left with empty hands or  hearts. I often wonder how she managed to be a mother, the coolest granny, a wife, a best friend and confidant when she was navigating through various roles of an electrician, plumber, handyman, world class chef and finance wizard, identities that her keen and scientific mind had sought out to keep her interests alive.
But for someone with such immense zest for life, life had other plans. Unbeknownst to us, there were silent killers eating away at her insides. While her angelic face continued to glow with love and compassion, her diseased body was rotting on the inside. Despite our best efforts, the hospital became her second home for many years. But through it all, the smile stayed, a shaking hand always ready to stick a thumb up in the air, to fool us into thinking she wasn’t suffering. I’ve never in my life seen anyone with a bald head, shrivelled skin and fractured limbs look so radiant and peaceful. For it came from a place of immense strength and real beauty, from deep within. For she refused to give in and smiled till the time she closed her eyes forever. When I held her hand for the last time, I still remember my sister had painted her nails in the ICU. An odd, bright red, to cheer her up. Frankly speaking she didn’t need the varnish. For in that shrivelled body lay the strongest and most beautiful woman, the saviour of a thousand lives, a soul that gave more than it ever took, a beauty beyond compare.

I believe every woman has TRUE BEAUTY within her in all the roles she plays. For over 18 years across 650 plus salons across the country, Naturals has been helping the Beautiful Indian Woman get more Beautiful.

Today Naturals Salutes the Beautiful Indian Woman.

Presenting Naturals TRUE BEAUTY… http://bit.ly/naturalsOF 

An itch to remember

EE

 

Word count: 597

I have never prescribed to the popular theory of the ‘onset of weariness’ with respect to your spouse as the years go by. All the jokes about the ‘7 year itch’ and ‘Shaadi ka laddoo’ etc elicited a few appropriate and perfunctory titters at best, but their meaning was pretty much lost on me. Why? Because when you fall in love with your best friend, your soul mate, your brother from another mother, your 4 am friend, your gossipy girlfriend, all rolled into one and marry them, it leaves very little space for complaints about spending too many years with them. There, I’ve placed a cliche of my own before you now, possibly as soggy as the Parle- G biscuit you dunked into your tea this morning but I really am being sincere. No matter how much we fight over the most inane things, call each other names like children despite being parents and drive each other up the wall, that love, that oozey gooey brownie kind of love that sticks to the roof of your mouth always lingers.

Of-course being so in love with your hubby doesn’t solve many other worldly issues such as gifts. Yes they are a token, yes, you keep giving each other things through the year so how does one day matter etc but who doesn’t love finding the perfect gift. Seeing a flicker of surprise, happiness and appreciation is something every gifter craves innit?! I was one of this tribe, sitting on the eve of our 7th year of marriage (yes, the ironical significance of this ‘itchy’ year is not lost on me) wondering what on earth I could buy my husband that would make his day truly special. There was a romantic dinner planned but what else could I buy to bombard him with my love?!

Like a possessed Juliet, I made some time and ran to the mall and a few stand alone stores, sifting through everything from practical to romantic gifts, from chaddis, to perfumes to watches to desperate measures like spa vouchers. It was all done and dusted (well, except the spa vouchers of course) nothing appealed to me and after 4 hours of driving myself nuts I was sitting dejected, at a coffee shop, lost and licking my wounds of defeat.

My mind was wandering but my anxious social media seeking fingers went from one post to another till I landed up staring at a poem. ‘I carry your heart’ by E E Cummings. I sat at that coffee shop for a long time, savouring every word, feeling happy and nostalgic and melancholy and grateful, all at once. That poem took me through my own journey, making me remember how we had we met, how we fought to be with each other, how we had made so many precious memories together and how we would make so many more in the years to come. On that eve of our anniversary, I sat in that coffee shop and had a pre-celebration all of my own. Of-course, once I pulled myself out of my trance, I rushed to a late night service where I printed this poem out and gifted it to my husband over our special anniversary dinner. That is the thing about words. They made the stoic, warrior-hearted husband’s eyes moisten up and reach for my hand and he held on to it through dinner. That poem and that evening are still emblazoned in my memory. The day I found those words. Rather, the day that they found me.

THIS POST IS WRITTEN FOR NOVEMBERSCHILD IN ASSOCIATION WITH KALAMPEDIA – QUEST FOR KNOWLEDGE”

Giving back. One word at a time..

IMG_3582

 

I have always struggled in one respect for as long as I can remember. How can I help someone else in need? We were raised on a steady diet of compassion and giving back. Even as a child I remember my mother dipping into her hiding places (often the strangest ones from grain canisters to under the mattress to a big wad in a worn silver box in her cupboard.) All saved for a rainy day but when there are four children milling around the house, rainy days are often around the corner. Even amidst the steady depletion of these treasures and day to day expenses, there was always enough food for whoever came to the house, delivery boys, maids, needy neighbors, visits from my fathers colleagues with their gigantic families in towe, kids coming to collect their errant balls. My father always had enough kind words for whoever he bumped into and it continues to this day. From sweepers on the streets, to shopkeepers, to attendants at clinics, to liftmen and security guards who everyone passes by as they blend into the world, invisible. He is a great listener as well and he always told me that at times the greatest service you can render to humanity is just to be a good listener. We are surrounded by people, daily, who are going through so much, who feel lost, who are miserable. They have no one to turn to. The joy you will give to someone by just lending a few minutes of your time will be visible on their faces. That should be the reward. Compassion was also ingrained within us in the way we were taught to treat each other within the family. Of-course four girls will always find a reason to be uncouth, fight, pull hair and beat each other up, but we saw with the passage of time that all that we had seen while growing up, without ever being preached into it, was naturally imbibed and became an integral part of us.

Of-course I have always tried to be kind whenever an opportunity presents itself but in this busy, insular world, even these opportunities have to be dug out I feel sometimes. Isn’t it then easy to just keep donating online, or give money to beggars or find some such way to appease your need to be kind and good. Each to his own. I don’t judge as this is a very personal action but I certainly was not happy as I was unable to make a visible difference in anyone’s lives, to add value to someone’s existence even in a small way. It rankled inside. Till one day I decided to take my father’s advice and listen. I was on a call with a temporary maid in our society who had finished her tenure with me and was seeking another job. I was trying to guide her towards a prospective employer in the other building and she was so uneducated that she wasn’t able to remember a name, a building number, any of the details. So she asked her son to call me later to note them down. A small incident but it got me thinking about the scores of women I had met within this compound itself who were struggling to either sign their names, fill a form, open a bank account, struggling with a bill as they couldn’t do basic math and were lacking basic language proficiency. It just struck me then and there that i could help them and it made my heart dance! Finally I had found a need gap that I could try and fill.

I had to start with a name. Even if for no one else but myself. To excite and instill a sense of ownership, I came up with a name. My ‘Bai-lingual’ classes! (I stuck with it despite a lot of jokes from my husband) Now I am no teacher. And what was on offer was very basic math and language proficiency. But I had to learn how to teach! So I started reading about teaching aids, pulled out my daughters stock of slates and alphabets and books as she looked at me strangely and started preparing myself. Then came the price of benevolence, time! Where was I to find time for this noble activity between work, home, a young daughter and my writing schedule? I decided to take an hour out each week to begin with and then let that slot evolve as per their requirements and their work. the biggest hurdle though was the recruitment. My proposal was met with suspicious looks (where they possibly thought I was mad or a drug dealer) and ‘How much will you charge?’, ‘ I am too old for this’, ‘I have things to do at home’, ‘My family will laugh at me,’ , ‘I don’t have time.’ All of this made me realize that it was a bigger stigma for them to opt for education at this stage of their lives rather than being coined illiterate. It was a sort of battle for their rights vs their mental and societal attitudes.

I can’t say it’s been easy. I’ve managed to finally recruit two helpers. 4 more have been on-boarded. And I am hoping this army will grow as I learn with them. It’s strange but I feel like a jilted lover when someone promises and doesn’t show up! But what thrilled me the most the other evening was when I passed by my daughter playing downstairs, while walking to my kickboxing class. She was busy recruiting two maids who had come down to the playground with their respective wards, telling them eagerly to come home. ‘My momma is very nice. She doesn’t get angry. She will teach you with my class things!’ As tears pricked my eyes, I smiled wide! At 4 years of age, compassion and caring for others was making a home in her little heart. This is the additional reward. To let my child see the importance and happiness of giving back. In however small a way. For there is no greater joy.

Every change begins with a small step, whether it’s a change within your family, or the whole country! India’s hero, Padman, had its digital premiere on ZEE5, on 11th May. Don’t miss this inspiring true-life story, only on ZEE5. Download the app and subscribe now. For every subscription, ZEE5 will donate Rs. 5 towards the personal hygiene needs of underprivileged women.

silver hair Valentines

The biggest and most genuine love stories can sometimes be found in one’s own backyard. I have found one tucked away in a corner of my home and heart. No, I have no salacious details or a scandalous story. This simple heartwarming tale is about a 75 year old man and a 70 year old woman, who could not be separated by distance, grief, needles, pain, suffering or wrinkles. Their bond, much like the heavily advertised Fevicol one on TV, has stood the test of time and troubles to emerge unbreakable.

For as long as I can remember, they have been inseparable. There were many ‘typicals’ in their past. A typical arranged marriage, a typical dramatic and torturous mother in law, a typical life full of four children. But while growing up, we never felt like we had an average life, nothing typical about it. We always felt special and well taken care of, primarily because we saw the love and bonding between our parents which cemented our foundations with comfort, confidence and trust. And mind you, this was never the expressive or overtly evident kind of love. there was no hugging or kissing or hand holding or date nights, which the current generation views as obvious hallmarks of a healthy marriage or relationship. But it was clear to all of us. Everytime their eyes were searching for each other when troubles came knocking, the way our mother used to hang off the balcony every evening at 6:30 pm, waiting for him to appear around the corner, how she carefully ironed all his handkerchiefs and rolled up all he would need the next morning, the way they stayed up nights, together, for years, trying to ease away our pain and suffering, remembering how lost they looked whenever either one was traveling alone, how she would wake up at 4am to pack fresh parathas when he was leaving for a tour. It might seem that she was busy making all the valuable contributions while he was just wafting around. But despite being in a full time and very important government job, our father managed to fulfill all his duties and shower us with all the love we needed.

Years have passed. We all are married and grown up with our own children. But in the last few years, I have seen a more evident and feverish sort of love emerge between our very own Romeo and Juliet, bordering on reverential. And the tables have turned. After years of silently working and slogging away as the core of this family, my mother’s wheels are now a bit rusted, her pace has slackened and she has almost come to a standstill by the side of the road, literally run over by an onslaught of diseases. And the unsuspecting, unassuming Romeo has emerged as the hero. The setting of this love story has changed as well. Even the props are different. There are multicolored medicine boxes, tubes, wires, injections, walkers, sticks and everything that could unhinge the strongest hearts. But his trembling hands are firm when she needs to hold on. His false teeth are always ready to widen into a cheery smile everytime her tears start flowing. There are cobwebs in both their minds but he fights much harder so he can be clear and steer her through her everyday challenges. This humbling and debilitating ‘new normal’ rips our hearts out on days when we are feeling weak in our resolve but every other time, it makes us proud and melancholy. For we secretly pray for a similar love story in our own lives. Hoping that when the world chugs on around us and we slow down, there will always be one set of feet, slowing down with us, with a silent promise that we will never walk alone.

the art of being fine

I guess I’m fine

I’m always fine

When your warm hand slipped out of mine after an entire life of holding on and became cold, when I didn’t want to live anymore, they told me, don’t be like this

You’ll be fine soon they said, so I was fine

I think it’s been so long since you’ve gone that I should feel fine all the time. But to be honest, everything feels lacking, a bit sub-par

I eat all the same things we used to but all of it tastes a little bit different you know, like its missing some salt

When I look up at the sky, I sometimes see your face in an odd shaped cloud floating by. That does make me feel better for a while

No matter how many times I make your side of the bed, it never seems right. I think I mess it up myself, just so that it can look like you’ve slept in it

I try to keep myself busy but ever so often, silly things, little things flood my head with you,

A smile I see yours in, someone slurping tea like you did, a nervous hand tapping a table that used to drive me insane

Once I had to berate myself quite severely, when I saw your rusted razor and I cried for days

Don’t worry I’m better now

I have to feel better don’t I? There’s no choice

I try and go for long walks but lately I’ve been forgetting the way back home so I try not going too far

I go to parties but I feel even lonelier sitting all by myself in a corner of the room

I can understand. I don’t blame them. I don’t hear too well and have nothing much to talk about either

So you see? I’m living my life. It’s not much of a life without you, but I live it.

I always lay out an extra plate for you, every-day. It looks empty, just as I feel inside, but I know that one day we will hold hands again

And then I shall truly, truly be fine

I want my money back

I would feel cheated for my money.

If I had paid good money, to buy silence.

Post purchase dissonance for sure.

I would rip open the package it was delivered in, but gently, aren’t all wrapping papers engineered to shout and crackle?

I would expect a whole day’s worth of deafening silence but I’d be in for a shock.

The early morning solace, pounded by the unrelenting waves of unfinished conversations playing back from last night.

The quiet coffee lull, shattered by the newspaper screeching its warnings about the world gone mad.

A long run up the hill, without a soul in sight, would fill my head with the noise of aborted work and the instructions I never uttered.

No one plays cassettes or tapes anymore but there is a broken down tape recorder in my head that is always powered up and replaying memories and songs I have long muted.

Try stuffing your ears with cotton and your head with reverberate with the echoes of your own thoughts.

That fellow commuter,listening to music on his earphones, will still, egged on by an incensed sense of politeness, murmur pleasantries while craving his own quietude.

Makes me wonder if it’s more polite to be quiet than to break someone’s quiet.

Did you know that even the sun sets with a slight thud? Everyone’s a talker I tell you.

And don’t even get me started about bedtime orchestras.

Those crickets are my sworn enemies.

If I was really delivered that package, I would send it right back!

Perspective

image
When is too much enough?
From the time we are born, it’s a steady diet of superstitions.
Don’t laugh too much, or you will end the day crying.
That’s too much happiness. Don’t jinx it.
I’ve had too much good luck, I’m in for a downward slide for sure.
Is it that we are scared of utter happiness?
Or is it just second nature to doubt normalcy and stability.
Why must our hearts be gripped with weary predictions of doom,
When it’s just so much easier to be happy and carefree?
Does an empty house with bare walls make you pine for what was?
Or does the resident laughter, the memories, the echoes that ricochet off the ceilings, rebound into your heart and light it up like a Christmas tree?
You can’t stop the sun from setting, the lights from dimming, the darkness from descending every night.
But what you can do, is welcome the rising sun with a smile, and tell yourself, that whichever side of the bed you get off, your glass will be half full every day of your life.

Little lessons

image

It felt like a day that should be forgotten, quickly.
Nothing made sense.
I looked at a wall, and upon this vast canvas I painted and projected all my contemplation.
Then suddenly you crawled into my lap. I hugged you and breathed in your tiny soft curls.
I will never forget that smell.
It was a heady mixture of baby powder, happiness, innocence, trust, joy and peace.
It carried me away on a cloud.
I was weightless, drifting, with your tiny trusting fingers wrapped around mine.
You gurgled and burped. This amused you so much that you toppled over laughing.
When was the last time I had embarrassed and entertained myself this way?
Back on the ground you crawled over everything that came your way, never losing that smile.
I wish I had thought of your resolve and tenacity when I needed it recently.
When you wrapped your tiny finger around mine, I knew I had to trust in my instincts as well.
For all the fancy schools and colleges and miles upon miles of books,
Some of life’s simplest lessons can be carried in the tiniest hands, you just need to know where to look.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑