IS IT A GOOD DAY TODAY?

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Hmmmmmm…..

How would you ordinarily answer that question? Well, if you ask me, my first determining factor would be as to whether its a weekday or the weekend. The second relevant factor would be if I had planned something interesting for that day or whether there was a possibility of meeting up with family/friends ( the kinds you never get tired of meeting). So, life before marriage wasn’t complicated at all.

Lekin, Kintu, Parantu, life changes after marriage, for better or for worse. It changes more so, if you come from a completely different background. Having grown up in a fairly traditional (though liberal and progressive) Indian family and having spent a fair bit of time with my grandparents, I was used to some amount of ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking about what generally influences the course of life. Whether it was a black cat that suddenly appeared from thin air and halted our progress (waiting for another person/car to cross the path of the cat) or not leaving in a particular direction on long travels, on certain days. However, never did I ever find the people around me discounting their free will completely or for an extremely prolonged period of time, in the name of these ‘external’ factors. Factors, which determine how your day will be. Factors such as the position of the stars, planets (and perhaps their moons and satellites too, lord only knows!)  and their ‘alleged’ affair/interaction with certain expensive semi-precious stones you wear, the colours you wear on particular days, the music you listen to, the food you eat or don’t eat (in the name of a fast) are all supposedly factors which determine how your day will be, and in the long term, the quality of your life! Surprised???

Well, so was I. Take something as small as dressing up in particular colours on certain days. ‘Grah kat ta hai’ says mother-in-law. It all seemed quite ‘different’ to me. I was used to dressing up in colours depending on how I felt like dressing up. Choosing clothes or rather mixing and matching my clothes used to be like an exercise in ‘Art’ itself. Like painting a canvas in different colours and ultimately, a pleasurable combination, which was new, arty and cool used to make me happy and thereby give me a good start to the day! Take the alternate approach to that. If Tuesday is a day when I can only wear red and Wednesday a day for greens, it didn’t matter how I felt. I would end up wearing the same ‘prescribed’ colours on particular days. Almost in a robotic fashion (because sometimes, you have some colour clothes in limited numbers and other colours in abundance). Anyways, unlearning what you are used to and learning something that you don’t really believe in, is challenging. Even if it is something small. Also, because, its no fun. The only fun thing about it is that you end up being colour coordinated with your other ‘believing’ family members, who enthusiastically don yellow on a Thursday. So, it was only after I found myself being the odd man out on several occasions (after having commented without realising that everyone was colour coordinated only because they were all following the colour code for the day) that I started thinking in that manner. I would refer to the list I had finally made after consulting my mother-in-law regarding the colour coding for each day and then proceed to select my outfit. However, old habits die hard. I don’t think I mastered this art at any point. But atleast I was making the effort 😉

Moving on to stones – well, I dislike wearing stones to influence my life. I believe that problems can be solved by dealing with them and not shying away from responsibilities or owning up to your mistakes/faults and always being good to people (though i am not sure how much good the last factor does to that person, in light of recent experiences). Stone rings remind me of that opening scene from ‘Mr India’ jahan Mogambo Khush Hua! And, I am no Amrish Puri or Ms Hawa Hawai for that matter. I didn’t think wearing an emerald ring would improve things with the ‘Absent Husband’ (well, he makes an entry in this blog finally but I am sure, he won’t stay even in this virtual space for too long!) or for that matter chanting a particular mantra or shloka. However, I had learnt that the larger cause of building trust with AH was possibly worth giving up on such small beliefs of not saddling stones on my fingers.

Again, what was an auspicious day for ‘Chulha Chhuna’ or cooking for the first time in the household kitchen, thereby allowing the ‘Naiki Dulhin’ to freely use the kitchen thereafter at any point in time? I would say, any day was equally good. But one must pay heed to what the family pandit says about these things (after all, we have only survived through some many generations on this planet due to their advice!!!). So a suitable day was identified. The ‘Naiki Dulhin’ nervously (yet confidently) entered the kitchen, to cook her first dish in that family kitchen, which was going to be ‘Halwa’! The head chef was standing right next to me and giving me tips  – the most important being, ‘Add more ghee – it will be tasty’! Then keep turning it, ensuring it doesn’t stick to the vessel. Garnish with elaichi, kaju and kishmish and Voila! Its ready to be served. I was happy with my effort. I was wishing that AH had been around to motivate me and take videos/photos of this momentous occasion!!! Alas, he was only too busy catching a nap and later said that I should have woken him up.

The Halwa was served as Prasad that day. An enthusiastic staff member complimented the Naiki Dulhin on her newfound culinary skills. Should I be thrilled?

It was, indeed, a good day. Maybe the pandit was right and thats why my halwa turned out to be perfect 😉

Anyways, all good things come to an end. The halwa found its way into our tummies. Everyone was happy. In hindsight, more than the stars or the moon position, if only the AH had been present while I was cooking. Maybe I wasn’t wearing the right colour on that particular day!!! 😉

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The Art of Temple Running through Life!

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Here’s the deal – I never really understood why people enjoy playing ‘Temple Run’ until i really got started on the game. It took me around 10 – 12 runs to get completely hooked to the game and mid-way through it, I realised that Life is pretty much about the same as playing Temple Run.

Keep running and moving forward when you are in trouble and keep the following basic rules in mind:

1. Run away from the demons who want to eat you for a snack.
2. Always focus on your path lest you shall detract.
3. You will face several obstacles – trees, fire, overhead obstacles; try and avoid what is not good for you.
4. Collect the coins on the way – but again don’t lose focus. When you get the magnet, the coins will come to you anyways.
5. Sometimes, you just keep running from the demons, without knowing where you are heading. But survival is the only motive in the end.

The good times will come. Maybe you may want to change the game after some time, and the scene and scenery will change automatically. But atleast, this one just teaches me to keep running when in troubled times.

 

Newfound Perspective: On Relationships

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Being the ‘Nouveau Dulhin’ gave me newfound perspective: on relationships.

Yes, it made me realize how much potential there is in a relationship (and at the same time rendering me completely vulnerable). The vulnerability can be perceived as helpful in building a strong relationship since it helps one in shedding his/her individuality temporarily so as to become a part of the collective ‘us’, where both persons ultimately emerge as stronger and perhaps, better individuals, having benefitted from the beauty and insight of the relationship. However, sometimes, relationships don’t work. No matter how hard ‘one’ works on them or how much ‘one’ wants things to work out. The key really lies in how much you are in sync with the other person, how vulnerable the other person is wiling to be, to be ‘in the relationship’, to  live in that moment with you, and to be only with you, in that moment. For nothing else really exists and matters – even if, only for that moment and when you are in that moment.

A few days back, I watched a movie during a flight  – ‘Bombay Talkies’ and somehow really liked it. It was just very human. Again, showed various aspects of relationships. Was mesmerized by the beautiful song ‘Ajeeb Dastan Hai Yeh’ and especially the following lines:

Mubarakein tumhe ke tum

Kisi ke noor ho gaye 

Kisi ke itne paas ho

Ke sab se door ho gaye

How aptly the beauty and potential of a relationship has been captured in words. Being an optimist, I can only see these as beautiful lines, which carry with them the promise of a beautiful relationship. And its strange that I never really paid too much attention to the lyrics of most songs till quite some time back. Its not that I ignored the lyrics, but its just that, I would always listen to the song as a complete whole (if that makes sense). And, simply enjoy that song, in that mood or moment. I guess its not for nothing that they say ‘When you’re happy, you enjoy the music, when you’re sad, you understand the lyrics‘….

The Nouveau Dulhin

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So, here’s the deal. I was used to being called by my name (or some form of it). Hence, being referred to as the ‘Dulhin’ or ‘Naiki Dulhin’ (to avoid being confused with my mother-in-law, who was still referred to as ‘Dulhinji’ by the household staff and as ‘Dulhin’ by the elder family members) was something I was still digesting. Frankly, its not such an uncommon thing in many households in India, for the daughter-in-law to be referred to as ‘Dulhin’ (which literally means a ‘bride’). In fact, my grandmother still refers to my aunt as ‘Dulhin’, even though she has now been married for more than 40 years! Somehow, when it came to me, it felt different.

To provide a cultural context, in a traditional Indian home like the one that I was now a part of, being the ‘Dulhin’ was a ‘role’, that came with its own set of expectations, a long list of ‘do’s and dont’s’ (a list that I had not been briefed on and did not even know ever existed). In fact, for the first few days after my marriage, I could not even step outside my room till I had worn a Sari (a skill that I had not yet mastered and for which I was given a special assistant) and covered my head with a pallu. I assumed that these were important traditions because several relatives were still around and it would be quite outrageous for the ‘Naiki Dulhin’ to be seen without the pallu on her head. Practically, this did translate into restrictions on my freedom of movement and the ability to simply ‘be’. This was just not what I was used to. Somewhere, it bothered me. It went against the core of who I was. I treated this as a very temporary phase in my life and happily ignored the feeling that had crept inside me on the very first few days after my marriage. After all, I thought to myself, these were very small ‘adjustments’ and it didn’t really matter in the larger scheme of things as long as there was love and respect (which I assumed there would be).

What I did not foresee, and maybe even ignored in my naivety, was that in trying to fulfill all these roles, I was transforming into someone totally different. The individual that was me was slowly chipping away without realising. I tried to enjoy the ‘old time charm’ of it all, and did not question several traditions.

This blog is about my experiences as the ‘Nouveau Dulhin’, the expectations that came along with it (which are so far fetched and unreal in today’s day and age), how I tried to live up to them and in the end, the perspective being the ‘Nouveau Dulhin’ left me with. About life, about relationships, about marriage, about the manner in which women are perceived and treated in Indian society and the need to empower women in their daily life. So that they can just be. Be the wonderful individuals that they are, get the respect they deserve on a day to day basis and raise loving families that centre around love, respect, values and not blind faith, traditions and patriarchy.