Saturday, July 31, 2010

Forty Blues

June 19th 2010---You must be wondering what is special about this date. All Congress Party people will remember June 19th since it is Rahul Gandhi's birthday. Yes I was also born on the same day. Till this year all my birthdays were welcomed by me with enthusiasm and happiness. First time this year I felt that the day should not have come. Reason behind was that I turned 40. I was in my parent's place on that day. As usual my parents were the first to wish me early in the morning. I had to wake my children to get their wishes. My better half called me and wished me saying "Happy Birthday Old Lady". I retaliated to him saying that if I was old then he who was older to me was also an old man. The day went off as usual with phone calls reminding me that I was 40 years old. We spent the evening in my sister's house. My brother in law had gotten me a cake with the number 40 on it.....adding fuel to the fire. My girl gave me a card saying "Though you are 40 you are not a "paatti"(paatti in tamil means grandma). My niece gave me a card saying,"Though you are 40 you are a smarty". My son who couldn't write any such rhyming words filled up the card with the number 40 ,written at least 40 times. Though I was trying to forget that I was stepping into my middle age everyone around me were buzzing the same number into my ears. Other than to my parents to everyone else my age was visible. Why is 40 such a threatening age????

"Don't ask a man about his salary and a woman about her age" ......this is universally true. Till 39 you are not reluctant to admit what your age is. But when you strike 40 there is a slight pause when somebody asks about your age. You don't want to be classified into the middle age group. Physically, emotionally I am undergoing a lot of changes all of a sudden. When I complain to my dad about all my physical pain he says after 40 you cannot expect to live without any pain. Coming to the physical change first, I feel I am getting tired faster these days. I am taking extra half hour to finish the work which I used to complete in one hour. Is this because of the physical tiredness or because my mind is pre-occupied with something always? I usually love to go out , shop, and have fun. These days I feel it is better to stay at home indoors rather than go out. I started liking my loneliness. This doesn't mean I am depressed though the word depression is used quite often by me these days. I want to do things in my own pace and convenience. I used to love ice-creams and pastries. Even now my taste buds want to relish on them but my digestive system is not on par with my taste buds.

The major hit is on my sleeping pattern. 7 hours of sleep is a rare occurrence. Though I know 8 hours of sleep is vital for everyone, still I come up with some excuse everyday . My husband says ,"after we all go why don't you sleep during the day?" A valid point but the problem is if I sleep during the day then my sleep in the night gets totally screwed up. If I were a film director I could shoot a full movie every night with my lengthy dreams. Is this because I think a lot ?? I want to keep myself fit and healthy. For this I know exercise is the only way. I keep encouraging myself to exercise everyday but here again I come up with excuses. Anyways excuses and advice are always free of cost. When I see youngsters jog and go to the gym I get motivated but it stops just with the motivation. No further steps taken ahead. I cannot jog along with them --my pace is slow now. I don't want to accompany them to the gym either because I get demotivated when I realize the truth that I cannot workout for more than 45 minutes (including the breaks taken) while they workout for one and half hours. My age speaks through my body.

Emotionally also there are a lot of changes. You seek for attention. Since the children are somewhat ?? independent you feel nobody comes to you for anything other than food and clean up work. Since I am 24/7 home-maker I feel my whole life is like "Kitchen is my Tirupathy and my husband is my God".(don't let your imagination fly too high) . You expect your husband to spend at least ten minutes in a day alone with you without the nagging of the children. The conversation should solely be centered around you. Contrary to your expectations every husband's world is centered around the laptop. My daughter asked me "how come mama you married papa ,who looks like he has tied the knot around the laptop? Off late I feel the conversation between my husband and me centers only about our children. Other than that we don't have anything to talk in common. May be we are getting bored with each others' company????.(my husband must be very happy when he comes to know that I have understood the truth). Or that we don't have any topic of common interest.

I usually tell my friends that as we get older and when the kids move out we should have an arrangement in such a way that all men should live in hostel and all women in one. We should meet on weekends. Then there will be less expectations and more love. And most of my friends accept this brilliant idea of mine. Off late I hardly take any steps to build up any new friendship other than maintaining the existing ones. When your children are young and small you are able to make friends with anybody easily. Then, the priority is based on your children's needs. When they are grown up and have their own choice of friends you become too selective. You are reluctant to get closer to anyone. To strike a common cord with someone becomes very difficult. As we grow older I feel we become more egoistical. We draw a circle around us and are very very selective in letting new people inside.

These days when I see my daughter who is in her teens I feel like going back to that age. I wish to dress up like her so that I would look young. But the irony is that the clothes look hip and I look old. Your mind frame refuses to accept the truth that you cannot look young just by wearing ultra modern clothes. Even when I wear a fashionable ear-ring my daughter comes up and tells me "mama u better change it. You look childish." They want us to look like mama not like their sister at the same time fashionable aslo. But when we give them a piece of advice which they don't want to accept then they come up with "generation gap theory."

My mind goes faster than my body. Though I pretend to look young and act young my actions and reactions to the happenings around me are always in respect to my age. As you get older they say your mind should also mature. You should be able to accept things easily. My temper gets triggered very easily. But I have learnt to blame it on my hormonal changes. I realize my tolerance level with the kids is also deteriorating. Is this because they don't listen to me or that I am not COOL as they say. I don't want them to be behind me calling me "mama,mama" all the time. I expect them to be like robots and follow my instructions when I say something---(most of the time I call myself a machine, who does the same monotonous routine). No one understands my pains and expectations. Quite often I think that whether I am there or not it is the same for everyone in my family. My presence is not indispensible anymore. I think a lot about the day when my children will all fnish their studies and settle in their life.(though I haven't settled in a place yet). I need a time machine to go forward. I want to be free of all responsibilities.

I don't understand how cleanliness and age are related. As you grow older you should be able to compromise on many things. For me I am not able to compromise on the cleanliness. I have become a cleanliness freak. When I was in my sister's house I started cleaning up her closets. She insisted that I should take rest at least when I was there. Seeing me doing the cleaning work with so much involvement she told me that I could start a cleaning agency. This is how you get rewarded when you try to help voluntarily? "Wash your hands with soap, leave the bathrooms clean, clean up your room" these are my everyday slokas recited (in fact screaming) to all the members of my family. The effect is that they get very angry . But don't ever imagine that since they get angry they will follow my instructions. No not at all. I keep screaming without anyone to heed to my words. They all look at me as if something is wrong with me. I am always the odd one out. To them I am like "who is the black sheep?"

All of a sudden life seems to be toooo boring. I feel like I have nothing to do. Nothing exciting . It is the monotonous way of life. My mind keeps insisting that I should do something productive and be recognized. But what is it I don't know. All these years I haven't worked Now if I wish to start a career who is going to offer me a job? First of all I don't know what my expectations are. What is it I am looking for? What do I really want to do? One day I feel like working next day I feel it is better to stay at home and take care of the family. I feel without me even a single molecule in the house won't move--what kind of self confidence? My children want me to work. But they don't want to do anything on their own. I know that I cannot cope up with external as well as internal pressure. Hence I chose to stay at home. The very thought of going out and then coming back and doing the household chores tires me mentally. My husband suggested that I should go for some music lessons to divert myself from all kinds of unwanted thinking. But I think that instead of me going for some class I can join my children in some extra class. Why waste money unnecessarily on myself ,who is at home. I am losing my self confidence slowly.

I wonder how some people can watch tv for hours together. I don't have the patience to watch tv for hours. I need some kind of noise in the house just to make myself feel that someone else is also in the house. So I switch on the radio or tv. I watch very selective movies. I remember those days when I used to be addicted to TV. TV was so magnetic. Even when it was switched off I would just see my reflection on the screen. Now the fascination has gone. To while away the time how long can one watch tv or read books or browse the computer? I don't want to go out, I don't want to meet anyone new , I don't want to go for any class, I don't want to cook and clean, or read books or watch tv, then what is it I want to do ? I am searching for an answer for my search! I am not very phylosophical to say that I am searching for my inner- self or that I am trying to find out who I am, why I came into this Earth , or what is the purpose of my life ? I know that I am an ordinary human being who is going through a tough phase in life--midage crisis.

One thing I feel nice is to talk about nostalgic memories. I wish to meet up with my old friends. When we are in our twenties we don't bother to meet up with our college or school friends. But when you reach your middle age you want to have a get together with your old folks. You want to know how they look, how they are, how is their family and you want to share those old sweet memories. Though the present life is also equally valuable you always tend to value high the things which are out of reach or far away. This present will also become a past. Still the memories which are attached to our childhood and college days are much more interesting. They always stand close to our heart.. When you meet your old friends there is no comparison of age, you still feel young. We all will fall under the same category and we feel like sailing in the same boat. Our children will be more or less of the same age. So we have common things to discuss about. Nothing like talking about the good old days.

All these years I have been outside India. Now I feel that I should spend time with my parents who are getting old. When I think about my age automatically I think about them. That gives a sense of explainable ,uncomfortable pain at the bottom of my heart. I feel that it is high time I give back the love I owe them. All these years my life has been centered around my family. There is a sense of guilt that I haven't done enough for my parents. It is how I reciprocate to my parents that my children are going to do to me in future. By middle age you feel that you have to settle in a place. You wish to have your own house and settle there. This feeling gives you a sense of security. There is nothing like a place to call your own. Once you are settled in a place you don't want to move. Your comfort zone is fixed within that territory. Physically also it is not that easy to keep moving from place to place after certain age. It tires you out. Also,emotionally you develop an attachment to the place you have lived for long. All the enthusiasm for adventure starts to decline from 40. You are ready to take any kind of risk till 35. After that you start loosing interest in venturing into new things in life. Your life is centered only around your children. All you think about is their comfort, their well-being, their studies etc. All the decisions taken thereafter centres around the children's likes and dislikes.

The only place I feel peaceful is the temple. I can spend long hours inside a temple. I can sit mind-blank. It rejuvanates me. To pamper myself I do go out every week and buy something for myself. That thrill lasts only for two days. Then again the routine questioning of what do I do now? Why is life so boring? What can I do? Should I start working or not ? Should I study something? What have I done all these years of my married life? the indefinite questions echo in my ears continuously. I know I have to sail through this storm just like every other woman. This is the second chapter of my life and I pray God that he should help me trail along this path with ease. I am longing for not a life of luxury but a self-- contended life. I wish the same for all the women who are going through this crisis. Hand in hand we can walk with hope and strength.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Crooked Path.......

Guess you would have come across the news about the fake certificates produced by students for admission into Engineering and Medical Colleges. Almost 500 students have obtained fake marksheets by paying bribe. What is the value for real hard work? Already due to the reservation quota many deserving students are affected. Students who are supposed to be the pillars of our future India are culprits right in the bud. When such disgraceful act is carried on in the Education Department how can we expect our future generation to be genuine engineers and doctors?

All the guys involved in this should be punished severely. It has been brought to light this year. Think about the number of such students who have gotten admisson in the previous years. Will the government dig into the matter and punish even those students who already got admission through fake certs? Education is not only a tool for earning money. It is a tool to refine a person. Being educated doesn't mean just obtaining a degree. It means moulding one's character too.When the first step taken to pursue education itself is a crooked step how will the following steps be straight?

I am shocked to hear that over ambitious parents who wanted their children to become engineers and doctors through some means have really put their children's lives at stake . Now that their marksheets have been seized they cannot get into any college. What is their future going to be? Will they be asked to write the examination again? Or will their answer sheets be reviewed and the real mark sheets be given to them? In case they have to rewrite the exam when is that going to be? Or Will they be barred from future education? What kind of punishment are they going to get? If a case is being filed how long is it going to take for the judgement? Will the government speed up the investigation Or will it be just like any other case--"judgement pending". At the end of the day, the lives of those who sought a crooked path is going to be crooked too.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Toilet Training"

After a break of almost two months I started to scribble again. I had been to India for a month. It was a hectic holiday. I went with my kids to my native Tanjore. I was there for a month and I had a chance to attend right from birth to funeral. I was sooo busy. My kids got soooo bored because "they had nothing to do". It was not their territory. Out of all the complaints they had , the most repeated one was "India is dirty", "People shit over in all places." "People in India need to be toilet trained"---this is my son's suggestion.

I was trying to defend my mother country when they told it was boring, no friends, no entertainment etc. etc. etc. But when they complained about the cleanliness I couldn't defend my country in anyways. I wondered how I had managed to live there for so many years closing my eyes to all this. After having lived outside India for 14 years I am not able to tolerate the sight of public places being used as toilets. I don't wish my kids to grow up in such an environment. By God's grace I have been having an alternative--to live outside. But how about the people who are living there. Are they not aware of the problem? They are but they have no other choice. Even in schools there is no proper toilet facility. Even if they have toilets no water. Children naturally learn the "water the trees" habit. Since they get used to urinate under the trees when young, they don't feel ashamed to do it when they grow old.

Indians as such are known for being shy. When compared to other parts of the world we are the ones who cover our body fully(I know --"gone are those days ") but when it comes to "toilet training" we are "free birds--shameless." (We are democratic) We are from a country where when a baby is born we try our best not to use diapers because it will affect the baby's skin. We take extra care to wash the nappy cloth and dry them in hot sun . But as we grow older why are we not bothered about the hygiene?

I happened to travel from Tanjore to Chennai by train. When the train was approaching Chennai it was early morning. I wanted to feel the fresh air and enjoy the sun rise. I went and stood near the door. Even the word "disgusting" cannot explain how I felt when I stood there. There were people of all ages using the area near the railway tracks as toilets. They were shamelessly sitting there and waving their hands. I couldn't stand the scene. I went and sat in my seat. I was not able to open the windows even. The stench was sooooo bad and nauseating. Streets, sidewalks, platforms, outside the compound walls of houses, offices everywhere you can see tracks of urine. You feel your sandals should be disinfected once you get home. This is the scene in every part of the country. Be it a state capital, city,town, village anything. Public places are used as toilets without any hesitation.

Is it because we are not educated about this in schools? All school books teach about hygiene. Then why is this happening in India? When we ask people they say there are no public toilets available. Even if they are available there is no water. Ok agreed. But this cannot justify their actions. Can't a grownup learn to control the nature's call? Won't a person feel shameful to use the public places as toilets in front of others? It is so embarrassing for the passersby to witness such scenes. We have to close our eyes ,nose and mouth when we cross such scenes and places. I feel using the public places as toilets is a barbaric act. Are we not civilized? We call our culture to be thousands of years old. Does this mean that even this habit is thousand years old that we cant change? WE have moved from bullock carts to rockets. But we have not changed this disgraceful habit. It doesnt' matter whether the person is educated or uneducated he feels free to answer the nature's call in public. When a minister happens to visit a place then all the main streets (only) through which his car will pass will be cleaned and sprayed with disinfectant and bleaching powder. Irrespective of the fact that he doesn't even bother to get down on those streets. May be because his car tires shouldn't get dirty??

"Toilet training" should be taught to all from young age. It is not only they are polluting the places but also spreading so many infectious diseases because of this. When it rains all human waste from streets get mixed up with the rain water and runs through streets . They mix up with the drinking water sources thus causing cholera and diahorreah. Tapeworms , ringworms get into our body easily. Children who play in the sand get infected easily. People should be made to understand about personal hygiene. The government must strictly pass a law prohibiting the use of public places as toilets. I saw a few boards outside some compounds which said , "ONLY DOGS URINATE HERE." Still the places were sprayed.

People should be taught to feel ashamed to use public places as toilets. They should be taught to keep themselves and the surroundings clean. When the environment is clean you feel nice and good . Already we have so many industrial wastes, hospital wastes, factory wastes, polluting our land. Human waste adds fuel to the already existing cause of so many unnamed diseases . When wealth is lost something is lost but when health is lost everything is lost. Right from villages to cities people must be educated about how to avoid being a public nuisance .

These days people from India go on vacation to various parts of the world. When they return to India they proudly speak about the cleanliness of other countries. They say the streets are so clean that you can even spread a leaf and eat food . But when it comes to our own country why is it they don't bother to keep it clean. People who have lived abroad for a few years despise going back to India because of this reason. I have spoken to many of my friends and most of them are concerned about this issue. Especially when you go with your children you expect a cleaner environment. Cleanliness is the major problem which doesn't allow many NRI's to return to India. It is not enough that we appreciate other countries but we should contribute from our side to keep our country clean. The government should work harder to completely wipe out this perennial problem.

In India people are becoming more and more affluent with a growing economy. Malls have sprung up like mushrooms, infrastructure is improving, cars are crawling like worms, restaurants,hotels are being built on everyday basis to cater the needs of the public. People want to be westernized in all walks of life. But they are not able to come out of this basic tendency. A friend of us has a non-profitable organization through which he provides toilet facilities in his village in West Bengal. Facilities can be provided but people should come forward to use them. We are striding towards an economically free India hoping we will become a super power in another 15 years. Along with these if this problem is also taken care then we can soar high. Hope my dreams of cleaner streets and platforms will come true one day. Then our children will love to play in our homeland without hesitation.