My Dad

Punctual, frank and honest are words that I would use to describe my dad. For as far back as I can go, I only remember him as being a person who believed in values and lived by it. Family, near, far and extended; everyone meant a lot to him and he tried to instill the same values in my brother and me.
My earliest memory of him is walking to and back from office on the long road everyday. The road was one long, flat tar road and about a couple of miles one way. So I remember waiting in the evenings by our house trying to see if my dad is on his way home. As soon as I saw him, I would run inside to tell my mom. Then as he got closer home, I would run towards him to carry his lunch bag home. I would hold his long fingers and walk home with him, chattering away endlessly. This was pretty much my daily routine.

Growing up, my dad made sure that my brother and I would make values our priority. We had to be honest no matter what, we always had to try our best and to always be frank and speak our mind. There was always a tussle about the speaking the mind part! Somewhere along the road I realized that, maybe it’s not such a good idea to speak my mind always. So I often found myself trying to put a lid on my mouth. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I didn’t!

Although my dad was away for work at different parts of the country, he still made up for his absence by spending quality time with us when he was home. I remember the evenings filled with carrom or ludo or the few magic tricks he knew that he would keep repeating. I was always his carrom partner against my mom and brother. Some evenings he would walk me to the club where I played with my friends or rented books from the library. It was evenings like these that were special in so many ways, filled with talks, laughter and joy.

As far as my dad was concerned, I was his little princess and he treated me like one too. I don’t even remember getting yelled at by my dad. I have seldom seen him get angry but when he did, I felt pity for the person who was in the firing range. He never yelled but somehow he would convey that he was disappointed and I could visibly see the person wilt under his glare. So I made sure, never to give him an opportunity to even be remotely displeased with me.

Today, I am married and live far away but whenever I go back home, I become the little princess all over again. He still pampers me in ways only he knows how. He cuts fruits for me into little neat bite sized pieces, puts a fork in it and forces me to eat it. He gets me a fresh coconut for me to stay hydrated everyday. He dials peoples numbers and asks me to say hello to them, making it look like I called them on my own and get loads of brownie points from them for being affectionate. He packs and unpacks my suitcases. He goes to remote shops to find me that little snack that I used to eat and like as a kid.  He just does so many things and they all come so naturally to him!

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I indeed feel special. He is the best dad in the whole wide world. Happy birthday daddy!

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Review: Two States

Is love enough to start off a happy life? Or better said in the ancient Hindi proverb “Jab miya biwi raazi tho kya karega kaazi!” (If the bride and groom agree then what can anyone do to stop them) Well the ‘kaazi’ plays a very important role in this movie 😉

 

This is the tag line the movie rests itself on. It is a movie that a south Asian audience can particularly appreciate because, we know…that just love between a boy and a girl is not enough! Chetan Bhagat’s semi-autobiographical story of how he tried to bridge the cultural divide between two families, as he sets out to marry his college sweetheart is the basic premise of the movie.

The movie reiterates how a south Asian marriage is not just a marriage between individuals but a marriage between families. It’s important for a bride’s parents to like the groom, vice versa and for the respective families to like each other too. The south Asian parents wield too much power in making the right choice for their sons or daughters and when this power is threatened in the form of the kids making their own decisions, it is taken as a defiance of authority.

The male protagonist Krish(Arjun Kapoor) and his counterpart Ananya(Alia Bhatt) too break away from the mold of arranged marriages and make a choice of being with each other. Only problem is that he is a Punjabi and she a Madrasi. So the two worlds collide, along with the people, feelings, customs, traditions and culture. Both do their part in bringing the worlds together but it’s not an easy task. The most endearing moment in the movie is Krish making his ‘intent-to-wed’ pitch to Ananya’s family in a restaurant. Very original! The movie exposes the various differences in cultures very neatly without stereotyping it too much or hurting the sentiments of any particular community. The message is sent across in a subtle and comedic manner that’s not so hard to accept.

The movie by itself, reminds you of the previous movie from the same production (Dharma productions) house ‘Hansee toh phansee’. The emotions in the movie are same and you do get a sense of Déjà vu as the reel unrolls. The editing slacks in some places, especially in the mid-parts of the first and second half. One would be tempted to press the fast forward button if it was being watched on DVD at home. The songs don’t add much to the movie and in some places seem like a distraction. Some go unnoticeable as they are played in the background. The most endearing song is the one picturized on Revathy for many reasons and you need to watch it to feel it! The story though seems under developed in certain parts, especially the track between Krish and his dad, or the problems between the Malhotra couple itself. There are quite a few loose strings in the screenplay.

About the cast, Arjun seems more like a brooding south Indian than a bubbling Punjabi, so the stereotype fails right there, especially since Alia is depicted as a fair, bubbly and strong girl. Arjun looks depressed and somber all through the movie. Alia walks away with all the accolades for her performance. The power performances of the movie also come from the parents of the bride and the groom. Amrita Singh particularly rocks it in a super ‘Mard’ role!

In a nutshell, the movie is like a yo-yo. Some good parts but just when you think its going good, the story turns bland and seems never ending and when you get too fidgety, it picks up and engrosses you again. Definitely worth a watch in a home theater but nothing more than that. You won’t be bored but it is not something that would stay with you after the credits start rolling.

The movie does leave you in two states of mind….like it? or not??!!

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Conversations With Myself: Staying calm and focused

We were on our way to a weekend retreat, away in the mountains, far away from the hustle-bustle of a city life. A weekend to be spent discovering myself, meditating and connecting with the inner me. I was excited to be spending some time with like-minded individuals and learning more from experienced and learned individuals. There were many things I took away from the retreat. One that stuck to me and which I want to talk about here is the Eight Powers. The Eight Powers we need to exercise to restore calm and finding internal focus. These eight powers are like shields or soldiers that stand before us and can protect us from pain. Who and what are these powers?

  1. Power to withdraw:  Sometimes you just need to withdraw into your shell and protect yourself. Like a turtle! There is nothing wrong in going there. Go ahead and withdraw attention from the world around you. Be an introvert. Reflect.  Stop. Put the phone down. Withdraw within yourself and create the silence. Give the inner you some time to reflect and come out stronger.
  2. Power to pack up: It is having the ability to control your mind, intellect and your memories. Having the strength to let go of the past and the power to be open to a new way… a better way. Pack up all the good things you need and discard the rest. You don’t need that baggage.
  3. Power to tolerate:  Give yourself the power to not be affected by external and internal events and when needed to respond to those events positively. Try not to take in the negativity. Thoughts and feelings are your own creation; they exist only because of your mind. So be a detached observer. Tolerate what happens around you. Change is constant so the pain that exists now, will be gone in a moment.
  4. Power to cooperate: Trying to see someone’s highest qualities of character and not their weakness are an act of cooperation. It allows one to give without depleting your own energy. You are strong and you know it. You are good and you feel it. There is no need to desire praise from someone else, because your soul is independent and certain of his/her own worth. You don’t need to be validated by another.
  5. Power of discernment: To have the ability to discriminate from real to false. This can come only from being detached from the senses. Like a diamond merchant you should be able to pick out the one real diamond among hundreds of fake shiny ones, you should be able to discern the real truth.
  6. Power of judgment: Be the judge for yourself. You and only you know truth.  So make right decisions and stick to them. Be honest. Honest to yourself, within yourself and for yourself. Don’t be afraid to talk to yourself. The inner you is your friend and will tell you the truth…always.
  7. Power to face: You have the power to emerge courageous and honest such that nothing is too fearsome to handle. Your soul has done inner work to become powerful. So face the issue. Face yourself. Don’t hide and don’t run. You can face it!
  8. Power to accommodate: A power that emerges whenever a situation becomes awkward or difficult and shows the way to set things right and to be flexible. Create a space for those difficult people and issues. You have the power to sort it out.

It was an amazing experience to give so much importance to myself, almost to the point of feeling selfish and narcissistic. But then, that is the right way to begin. You are in this world not to fix someone else’s problems, not to create world peace, but to just make yourself a better person. Help yourself, change yourself and focus just on yourself. Now if everyone could just do that, wouldn’t the world be peaceful anyways??!!

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Amma: Birth to forever

 Happy birthday Amma!

Amma – a word that has many variations, tones, and inflections. Every experience has a pitch, every emotion has a tone and whenever I call, she is always there! Amma as I call her; my mom, my mother, the lady who has always been my strength for as long as I can remember. I can very well call her the “Iron Lady” of our house.

My earliest memory of my mom is probably when I must’ve been 3-4 years old. This is like a picture stuck in the photo album of my memories. I always remember her cooking for many people and spending most of her time in the kitchen. So my memory also comes from there. I remember lying on her lap, while she sat on the floor rolling rotis for the family. I was a very clingy kid and could always be seen hanging on to her arms or sari. And that’s how I grew up…literally on her!

My mom has done so much for my brother and me growing up that we can’t even imagine what direction our life might have taken, if not for her smartness and determination. Although she herself never went to college, she was very clear that my brother and I should get every opportunity possible to succeed in life. She read books, listened to news, spoke to people and armed herself with knowledge, just to make sure we stayed ahead of everyone else. I remember learning from her as much as I did from school. The foundation laid during my growing up years was all because of her perseverance.

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Academics were not as important to her as character building. She believed in all around development. Besides school work, I also had to be good in dance, music, sports, art, needle work, tailoring, fashion, cooking, etc and etc. You name it and she made time for me to learn it all. I remember sitting on the verandah outside our house as she taught me how to sing devotional songs and slokas. The biggest gift she gave me was the ability to learn, a curiosity to discover and today nothing seems challenging…anything is possible. She was always busy with housework but somehow she made time for us. The evenings were spent playing games, telling stories or singing songs. She was my best friend growing up.

As I moved into higher grades, my friendship with her grew. There was nothing I couldn’t talk to her about. Given the time period and society we came from, she was a very broad-minded and forward thinking person. She was way ahead of her peers in her thoughts and ideas. She seemed to be from my generation. While some of my friends had to lie or hide things from their parents, we were always having open discussions about boys or girls in our school. She never objected to me wearing shorts or skirts or tanks like other parents but then in the same breath she also taught me that every outfit has a time and a place. So for example when there were guests or grandparents visiting our house, she didn’t have to remind me to get into my conservative outfits. I was also comfortable enough to brings boys from my class home, she would in fact encourage me to bring them home instead of hanging out outside home and would make tea and pakodas for them! In retrospect, I feel it was a very smart move on her part because this way, I was always within eyesight and she was constantly aware of who I was with. She gave us enough freedom to create our own identity but at the same time, she also managed to keep a tight rein on us at all times. The trick was that we never felt too restricted and I still don’t know how she managed it.

One of the things I am very thankful for was for the amount of trust she placed in us. We could do no wrong. Period. It was this trust in us probably that made sure that we never crossed those invisible lines. Don’t get me wrong, that we never made any mistakes. We did… the kind that we learn from, not the kind that could never be undone. We got royally beaten too for those mistakes but each spanking was a lesson learned. One of the episodes I remember to this day is my Engineering trip. My dad was away on projects to some forsaken remote place and he was able to visit us only for a few days every few months. So running the house was on my mom’s shoulders. During my third year of engineering all students were planning a south India trip. Of course I was excited and wanted to go but I was pretty sure she wouldn’t send me. Anyways, I wanted to try, so I went ahead armed with my friends, behind me and my most whiny voice I could come up with. It took a few days of cajoling but she agreed!! She actually did! This was about a 4 nights-5 day trip and I kept getting nightmares that she would find some major reason why I shouldn’t go and make me cancel the trip. Well the trip date came and off I went without a hitch. She was all smiles letting me go and all smiles when I got back too. I am still amazed that a conservative lady, let her 20 yr old daughter go on a five-day trip with her friends. I did mention it was a co-ed trip right? It was the most memorable trip and again a place where many memories were created.

It was the blind trust she had on us I guess that made sure we never broke it. There were many opportunities during college especially, wherein I could have strayed; many a temptations but her invisible presence held me back everywhere. She was at times like a hawk watching my every move and the moves of anyone who tried to move close to me. At times she was a tigress, protecting me from all danger, at times a teacher and mostly a friend. I remember an episode, which ended in a stinging slap but taught me how to put boundaries around me. I was in college at that time and my neighbor had come home to talk to me. My mom was in the kitchen doing work. He came to ask me something, my back was to the wall and he had stepped close to talk to me. I was uncomfortable but I just stood there talking to him. Minutes later he left and out came my mom from the kitchen and before I knew what was happening, I got slapped right across my cheek! She yelled at me for allowing him to get into my personal space while talking to me. She told me that I have to stand up for myself and not allow anyone into my personal space if I don’t like it. That was the last time I let someone get into my space without my permission. There are many such memorable lessons that impacted me and made me who I am today.

And then the time came for me to leave everyone behind and move on with my married life. I carried with me all of her advice, her teachings and her experiences. I went on to have kids of my own and tried to instill the same values in them that my mom instilled in me. I gave them the freedom to flourish and yet put that invisible fence around them, which they would not try to cross. I am very proud of my kids today and I’m happy that I was able to achieve some part of what I wanted to do as a mom myself.

So today on her birthday, I want to tell her how special she is and how amazing she is.

Without her, I would not be who I am today.