January 29, 2010

Hazaron Kwaishe Aisi

Couldn't resist trying this translation out. Was drawn in by the first line and hence this ludicrous attempt (No poison pens please!):

Desires flood my heart, each stealing my breath away...
And with each escaped wish, they grow more within...

Tales that abound of Eden scorning Adam
Fade when they face my forlorn separation from you

As if love distinguished between life and death!
I live every dying breath, unwavering eyes locked on your furtive glances

Heavens forbid that you disarrange your sacred veil!
Lest they too hide my beloved's face!

A world separates the preacher from drunken merriment;
Yet I (Ghalib) chanced upon him by the tavern

hazaaron Khvaahishen aisii ki har Khvaaish pe dam nikale
bahut nikale mere armaaN lekin phir bhii kam nikale

nikalanaa Khuld se aadam kaa sunate aaye hain lekin
bahut beaabaruu hokar tere kuuche se ham nikale

muhabbat men nahiin hai farq jiine aur marane kaa
usii ko dekh kar jiite hain jis kaafir pe dam nikale

Khudaa ke vaaste pardaa na kaabe se uThaa zaalim
Kahiin aisaa na ho yaaN bhii vahii kaafir sanam nikale

KahaaN maiKhaane ka daravaazaa 'Ghalib' aur kahaaN vaaiz
par itanaa jaanate hain kal vo jaataa thaa ke ham nikale

k (who is a great big fan of shayaris and ghazals and Jagjit Singh and stuff) and I brain-stormed this afternoon to figure out the meaning of the verses. But several of them could be interpreted in various ways. I still can't tie the last two lines to the song. What does he mean when he comments on the preacher at the bar? Is the preacher Ghalib himself? Perhaps he thought he was above such merriment but met himself (lured into) and walking out of it?

And the lines preceding that -- whom is he talking to? Who should not lift the veil? Some lady he meets? I assumed he met a woman with a veil on her face and requests that her veil not be lifted lest it hide the face of the woman he loves but cannot get...

January 28, 2010

Little RS.

What is the deal with my memory? The only solid memory I have of my early childhood (defined as 0-5 years) is my Tamil teacher at Bain school holding my notebook up to the class, "Enna muthu mutha ezhudirukaa parunga!" (Handwriting like neat pearls...) and then behind the notebook she gives me one of her trademark looks and whispers, "Note cover podu!" (Wrap your notebook with cover! You know...that brown paper cover and label?)

And that's it -- the sum total of my earlier memories. What is wrong with me?!!!! My bro, L~ can remember what he cooed when he was 6 months old (Ok, that's an exaggeration but really he remembers EVERYTHING!), my mom remembers stuff clearly from when she was five years old, dad remembers swimming in the village pond and all that good stuff from his childhood. Why am I the odd one out?

I wonder if it's like some sort of weird first child genetic defect but that theory fails since my eldest perimma has an awesome memory too. I don't really know if my dad's elder brother has a good memory but I am willing to bet he does and anyway this genetic stuff comes from the mom's side mostly right (You gotta assume some stuff to prove a theory!)?

My next memory is of being extremely traumatized when we shifted to Bangalore. I would cry for days looking at the Kannada speaking newscaster and miss our dear old Shobana Ravi. I remember this really old Kannada cook/maid we had who was there more for company than any real work! I remember my cousins turning up at B'lore to spend the summer vacation with us.

And then my next memory is my Kannada teacher "helping me out" in a class test which made me feel extremely uncomfortable and she helped me out because she is also my tuition teacher. She taught her son and me together. That was when I was say 10 years old.

I remember feeling thrilled when dad announced we would be moving back to Madras! I remember mom helping me out with my Tamil Bharatiyar essay (I insisted on taking Tamil as my third language) and I remember I came first in Tamil -- yay!

So anyway, back to the original topic -- what is the deal with my head? Where are all the older thoughts and images? Is my head doing some sanity garbage collecting stuff to prevent overloading? Maybe I am thinking too many thoughts and there's only so much your brain can hold alongside memories. Do thoughts and memories actually compete for brain space? Maybe all that theory about us using like a 0.00056 % of our actual brain capacity is not applicable in my case -- where #thoughts increase exponentially with time. In any case, I am quite upset about the whole deal. It's like I lived a whole life, ok a whole 10-15% of my life without my knowledge. Was I a happy child? Who were the people around me? What actually happened?

So yeah. If you knew me when I was anywhere between 0 - 10, please do tell me. What was I like? Did I love popsicles just like r~? Was I mischievous? Charming? Obnoxious? Pretty? Mom tells me a bunch of stories about how I was as a kid but that's not really a first person account, you know? So, I reckon, if I get a sum-total of all my childhood stories from people, I can get an over-all picture of who I was as a little person.

For now, going to be in angst until next birth.

January 23, 2010

100 stories for Haiti

If you love to write and want to help for a good cause, do check out 100 stories for Haiti, the deadline is January 27. My entry went in today.

All the proceeds from the e-book sales goes towards the Red Cross. For more details and where to buy the book, see 100 stories for Haiti

January 21, 2010

The road to independence.

Sometimes, I think I am in the wrong place. I suppose I could attribute this to my laziness too but I won't do that. Instead, I'll proceed assuming I am right.

"This" is a place that values independence and privacy. That's great, extremely cool especially when you want to tune out the blah..blahs of well-meaning people who want to improve your lives. But then, unlike k, I never really had much of a problem with "well meaning advice" from folks. I like to ask people for their opinions and even if they happen to offer it when I didn't ask for it, it's not too much of a big deal (Unless of course, you are living with me and forcing me to follow your advice which doesn't happen often anyway).

But, "this" is also a place where they expect you to drive alone to the grocery store when it's freezing outside and you are an octogenarian! Ok, I admit. India also is not full of youngsters rushing out to do the shopping for their aging grandparents. But, at least in India, you can afford it (Yes, there are poor people in India, really really poor people but this post is not about them) and it's not so cold (Ok fine, silly point, I can move to Florida but I won't, so there!)

"This" is a place where a mom drives her few weeks old baby alone for a doctor's appointment (No comforting grandma in the backseat regaling the child with stories of "When your mom was little..." or cute Tamil baby songs). The baby is probably screaming in the back facing car-seat and the mom has no option but to drive. There are moms that do that here and look competent and unfrazzled. Not me! I don't think I have it in me to take Radhika alone to a doc's appointment (at least when she was little and she would do those scary, purple-faced, breathless cries!)

And then there are the small things -- the devil of the matter! The whole DIY culture! I just am not a part of it! I find it hard to take the trash outside -- no, not because I am lazy but because it's icy outside, the trash is heavy and it has to be lifted outside to dump. Not an easy task for a muscle-challenged woman like me! Then, there are the regular household maintenance stuff -- a leaky faucet, an un-mowed lawn, an un-caulked hole leaking cold air, a broken storm door; a million small worries that can't be fixed by me! Yes, I can take a wood-working course and I can learn to repair the faucet but it's tedious and tiresome and I just don't have the energy to learn that and then attempt to fix it or even to nag k for the nth time get it done. I can call Benjamin Franklin each time to fix the flush but that costs a nice $150!

And then there are the weird unknown places to drive to -- for doctor's appointments, for your children's classes, for stuff to buy! I am not a big fan of driving but I manage pretty decently somehow except when one of these adventure routes crop up and then I have lost all ability to navigate and drive! Add a baby in this mix and I am one lost and dependent woman. I mean, I can't just park by the side when I am driving on New Circle road and wave down the nearest dude to ask for directions while Rads sits happily talking to herself in the back-seat (Ha haa!), can I? Seriously, where are the affordable auto rickshaws when you need them? (Yes admittedly, they do take their shares of U-turns and Rs.200 over the meter but they take you where you need to go and in the end that's all matters.)

It's like the more I make myself independent -- learn to drive, learn to drive with Rads (Yes, big difference!), learn to hang a photo frame(!), the more they creep up all around me and the more dependent I seem to become!

So, I'll say it. I like being an independent woman in some respects. That's a highly qualified declaration. If being an independent woman here means to seal your garage so your bedroom right above it doesn't feel like it's in Iceland then no, I really don't want to be that woman spending 3 hours with pink foam, sticking it patiently to the garage shutter (which incidentally is what k did). If being independent means wearing rugged overalls and roaming around with a heavy hammer and a set of 18 different screws, nope, not me. I know where the turn-off valve is for our water supply and there ends my knowledge of faucet problems!

I can give birth, take care of baby, code, cook, clean the house, dance and write but there ends my level of independence. In that respect, I suppose I am a traditional Indian woman, aren't I? The million other things that this place expects an independent woman to do, I can't or really just don't want to. So, am I just a h4 visa :p?

January 03, 2010

House wife? Home maker? SAHM and all that.

My friend, b~, tells me I like to go around in circles, analyzing and re-analyzing an issue ad nauseum (Well, he didn't use those words exactly but in essence this is what he meant). I suppose my life goes in circles sometimes where a relevant issue keeps occupying mental space and rising up to the occasion to shine every now and then and going back to oblivion (like r2i). The current issue being whether I want to be an SAHM.

Unlike in France or in Australia or even India (6 months maternity leave I hear), America has deigned that 6 weeks is all a mom needs to bond and nurture her child before bounding back to work in a size-6 outfit refreshed and re-energized from her nice long break. Ok fine, sarcasm doesn't lend itself to my writing but you get my point?

What's the big deal? Give up your job and quit whining, you want to say. But, you are nice too and probably won't say this to my face but this probably crosses your mind while you wonder how to phrase it all nicely. Somehow, that decision is not easy. There is the house with the mortgage, the parents back in India, the child's college education to cover, emergency funds and America's obsession -- the retirement funds. Even if you can manage to ignore the financial aspect of the choice, consider the woman who decides to stay back home to bring up her child. Does society treat her as it treats a working woman? "Oh, she is just a house wife" has probably improved to "She is a SAHM" but come on! Stay-at-home-mom? Work-your-ass-off-mom is more like it. I stayed back six months at home (unpaid of course), so I know what an SAHM does. Like I read somewhere, it's the most under-valued job in the world and probably the only job which inspite of being immensely challenging has no perks -- no vacation, no recognition; I won't add no-money to that list because the satisfaction that a mom gets by staying back and taking care of her kid at home cannot ever be matched by $$.

But assume, you did go back to work like me, now there is the whole relative grading at work to consider. Obviously, no business is going to give you high marks for taking time off for baby. And so you got to work your way up the ladder again (if you so choose to do) and convince your boss that yes, this brain somehow can manage to hold much more than just baby-thoughts. Thank you. I wonder how woman executives reached where they did? What suffered, I wonder...the child? The marriage? Her health? Because you know...something's gotta give!

And so, I had my argument points ready and thus armed, I confronted k. But I am no match when it comes to crunching numbers with him and so forty-five minutes later with my head reeling with facts and figures about expenses and risks, I admited defeat, at least for the present.

And so the nanny interviews continue...and I suppose I am an SAWM for now (because seriously, compared to parenting, anyone can dish out a few kilobytes of code. No offense meant -- And I say that because long back in another world, I lost a friend because I argued with her when she said, "My mom is just a house wife, what does she know?" to which I suppose I should not have responded, "Just because you are doing your Ph.d doesn't mean..." or maybe that was the right thing to say because that's exactly what I thought...whatever, old stories, old lessons).
© Ramya Sethuraman, All Rights Reserved.