Friday, October 16, 2015

Where do we belong?

My parents hail from a beautiful beach place on the Goa - Karnataka border called Karwar. It is a divine place with very simple people and of course a lot of fish and coastal fruits. By this connection, my mother tongue is Konkani and I have that coastal spirit within me.

My father came to Pune for a better livelihood. My sister and me were born and brought up in Pune. Pune, a free spirited city which has its own rich cultural heritage and of course the rude businessman as many would say. As I was growing up in Pune, our foods started having a Maharashtrian tinge with sabudana khichdi, vegetables prepared with peanuts and usage of kala masala to some extent. We still had our fish curry and vegetables with coconut, but for our school lunch tiffins we essentially had poli bhaji (chapati and vegetable) which was so much influenced by Pune. It is how I picked up Marathi and there was one more language added to my kitty. 

For more than 25 odd years of my life, I thought I belonged to Pune. I thought the mandai vegetable market, the small town bazaar called tulshibaug, the hep F.C Road, the cosmopolitan Camp and my homely Kothrud area defined me. I thought the small scale vegetable vendors sitting on Paud Road is where I belonged, I thought the tiny mom and pop grocery store just outside my building is where I belonged, I thought the Ganesh Bhel which is a famous chatt centre line is where I belong. It was imbibed in me that I belonged here in Pune until....

I got married and was packed away to a Bengali family. This was a phase in my life where I started learning the Bengali language. I am not an expert in the language but I can converse today quite fluently with Bengalis. Also, I understand what they say even if sometimes I may not be able to reply to them in Bengali.  I started blending in the Bengali tinge with slowly and steadily liking the bland river fish and learning Bengali cuisine and rituals. Getting used to mustard pastes and mustard oil was what took a little longer. I have come so far today being a Bengali that it is me who reminds my husband about Bengali New Year and Durga Pujo dates. This was the first time I started questioning to myself "Where do I really belong?"

I was trying to find answer to this question and we shifted to Chennai for Sujoy's work and yet again I was caught in the dilemma. I hated Chennai to the core because of my inability to understand Tamil and the unavailability of authentic butter chicken. But somewhere inside, I thought I belonged to Chennai too. Mainly because of the beaches and the loving nature of the people around me. I got excellent folks at my work place who really welcomed me with open arms. It is very difficult to work in the Human Resource field if you do not know the local language. And yet I was there at Qualcomm Chennai making my mark and being loved and cared. Our landlord might have been a little bossy but he was a fatherly figure giving us advice and of course scolding us on our mistakes. As I was just trying to figure out about my belonging and then.....

The BIG transformation. We came to the US. The initial 6 months were a horrible nightmare and I was so sure that I didn't belong here. It took time for me to settle down and last 2 years have been very eventful and fruitful. And I now think I belong here to some extent. I belong to a culture where good work is appreciated and praised, I belong to the small circle of my good friends away from home, I belong to the Papa Johns and Pizza Huts, I belong to Chipotle, I belong to the library here, I belong to the vast horizons and clear blue skies, I belong to the evening walks I take without fail. 

But you know what? Over the past few days I realised that I was looking at the question in a wrong way till now. Why do I have to belong to a place? Why should a place define who I am? It will definitely influence my personality but will it really define my real self? 

I think I belong to myself!

I think the person that I have become today, I belong to myself. I belong to my positive nature, I belong to my spiritual side, I belong to my rooted to my family attitude, I belong to my open to new ideas perspective, I belong to my obsessive instructions to others compulsion, I belong to my fight against wrong sword, I belong to my self created by me over all these years! I simply belong to myself :)

So where do you belong?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Expectations Hurt!

Last 2 weeks have been a roller coaster ride for me with emotional turmoil and some very difficult unanswered questions. All of this converted into 2 days of emotional imbalance and today I am a little better and trying to put things in perspective. Trying to see if I can get answers atleast now.

The very foremost question is  - Are all of us so entangled in our lives that we do not get even 10 minutes to talk with people whom we call 'friends'? Distances might be vast, time zones might be varied but with technology everything has become so plausible. And even then, we just go on with our lives without taking out even 10 minutes to talk with our so called friends. If our friends call us, we do not answer and we do not even call back or drop a message conveying the reason for not being able to talk. I do not believe in having friends where there is no communication. Communication is important, it is the heart and soul of any relationship. Without which, the relation has little value. Talk it out is my mantra. But yet, some people do not have time for me in friendships. 
Expecting a 10 minutes talk from your dear friend hurts!

The second question - Is it so difficult for people to appreciate a good thing? Forget appreciating, people are jealous if you are doing good in life. They will try and bring you down. No one knows, what all a spouse on dependant visa goes through. Every day is a battle, waking up and thinking - what today? And yet, I keep myself sane with so many constructive activities. I could have wiled away my time watching stupid hindi soaps with girl friends. But no, I took a different path. I am not asking anyone to praise my perpetual struggle to do something meaningful in life. But atleast don't smirk and say, "What is the use of all of this, you anyways are not getting paid for it."
Expecting others to be sensitive hurts!

The third question - Is a small piece of information so expensive that you are unwilling to render it? I have experienced this time and again. No one wants to give any information because they think that this piece of information will help someone to progress in life. Minute information like a singing class whereabouts, an HR contact, a course detail or even for that matter a food recipe. Are we so narrow minded that we do not want to give a small piece of information due to our insecurities. I believe if a person is destined to know something, he/she will get that information from one channel or the other. Of course holding off information will delay the process, but never the less it will reach the destination. 
Expecting others to provide information hurts!

I am not saying I am flawless or perfect. I am not saying I do not err. I am not saying I am not guilty of a few things mentioned above. But today I atleast acknowledge my mistakes, I know what are my flaws and I am working towards improving them. I have learnt my life lessons. 

Amidst all the emotional chaos of unfulfilled expectations, deep inside I know this phase will pass too. It makes me realize the blessings in my life - the friends who are still with me, the strangers who helped and people who always motivate me.

The last question still haunts  - Is it so difficult to be a good human being?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Reigniting Life’s Motor

The fountain in front of my apartment has stopped working and the water in the manmade lake is still and calm. As I look into my reflection in the steady water, I go back to those moments in my life where the motor of my life’s waterfall too was broken and it seemed life had come to a standstill.

I was probably 6 years old, sitting alone at my home and peeking through my window at my friends playing below. They were so engrossed in their play of hide and seek that no one even seemed to be missing me. And me, I could not go out to play because I had this stupid chicken pox and thus was grounded at home by Mother Nature. My mom was pacifying me from the kitchen reassuring me that I will be able to join my friends soon. I was not sad that I was not being able to play, but at that tender age too - I was hurt deep within that none of my friends even subtly hinted or expressed that they missed me. They were having a great time sans me. The chicken pox seemed to have opened my eyes and life seemed to have come at a standstill for a moment.
And yet, my chicken pox got cured and I forgave my friends for their betrayal and joined them to play the next game of hide and seek.

I was in the 6th grade maybe and there was a heinous crime committed in my locality. A family was butchered by thugs just to get some money and jewels. The kids in that family studied in my school though I did not know them personally. We had a few minutes silence during our school assembly that day praying for the deceased family. I came home that day and just started crying incoherently. I cried till tears dried and my eyes puffed. My father kept on asking me what is wrong and yet I just could not tell him what exactly was wrong. I skipped school for 3 days. Everything was dark around and life seemed to have come to a standstill for a moment.
And yet, on the 4th day I could not take the darkness anymore and went to school leaving behind the blood and ash memories of the incident.

I was in my Senior High School. The seniors had picked up a few juniors from the class and had asked them to make a queue. Unfortunately, I was one of them. The seniors were having some fun at our expenses. Just then one of them commented, "It seems this girl isn't being fed properly at home, look at her popping collar bones." I was thin then, I am thin now. With this comment hurting like a scorpion sting, I was made to eat a piece of cake without touching it with my hands. I closed my eyes in shame and the time seemed to have come to a standstill then.
And yet, I did not let those nasty comments on my thin frame lose my confidence nor did I eat the cake as per the seniors’ instructions. I rebelled instead.

I was newly married and was at my new home. There was a lot of chaos going on with regards to the rituals of welcoming the new bride into the family. I was overwhelmed with the plethora of instructions being thrown at me. And at one moment, I did a grave mistake by not abiding to one of the ritual rules. The chaos was making me cringe with elderly women crying foul based on their beliefs. ‘Something unholy will happen to my husband and me’, was being echoed in my ears. I somehow mentally blocked out all the commotion, the time seemed to have come to a standstill for me.
And yet, I politely told the elderly that my husband and I will face the unholy.

And yet, I realized it is ‘me’ who has to reignite the motor of my life’s waterfall to ensure that the standstill moments are left behind. It is ‘me’ who is responsible for bringing the swing and motion back to my life. It has to be 'me' and no one else.