Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I dont know what to do?

There is something called 'dharamsankat' in Hindi. A simpler word is 'duvidha'. Yet another is 'pashopesh'. All Hindi, the last one urdu.

In English we call it 'dilemma'. Simpler english calls it 'iffy'. OMG! I dont know what to do?

All these words define our life at some point of time. It is iffy for a few moments, we are in a dilemma for some hours, we have duvidha for some months, years... forever?

Well..... I have seen it varies from individual to individual. Indecision is not a genetically acquired trait, it is developed during coherence. During the time we are growing up. When we are forming our conduct codes- around that time we are also imbibing values which help us think straight. And be decisive. Unless it is a choice between the devil and the deep sea- then you have the right to be iffy!

It is commonly believed that we grow up too soon... in fact as soon as we are born we start growing up. And iffy starts to take hold. The older you grow, the more iffy you become. As a child you single mindedly want a chocolate. As you grow older, you start wondering if you really want that chocolate or if that energy bar is better for you? What if you have the Pizza, or what if you have the stir fry broccoli? Pizza or broccoli? Broccoli or pizza? What if I try drugs? Do I tell mother about my latest boyfriend? Will she shout? Believe me, the iffiness doesnt stop dogging us- it stays with us till kingdom come.More often than not, we decide its going to be pizza....and there are lots of things we do that we dont tell mom.

Some of us are more iffy than others! Some of us are confused. Yet others just walk around with blinkers. And why do we become like this? If we are not born like this, as I have so emphatically stated, then do we become so?

Wait a while, "khoy saa khoo".... we will find out when we have done with the various "duvidhas".

Let me try and tell you a story to explain another kind of dilemma- the dilemma that arises out of doubt.Will it? Wont it?

There was this little girl who would sit under a tree all day, with maple leaves in her hand.She would close her eyes and pick out one maple leaf at a time, and whisper, "will he?" "wont he?" alternately. She would throw away each maple leaf and when she ran out on them, she would just get up and pick some more, go back to her place under the tree and start her chant again. In school too, every free period she had was devoted to this- weekends she had no other work. She was eight. Can you guess what she was doing? I thought she had read too many Betty and Veronica comics where the two girls were perpetually wondering which boy loved whom! But she was too young for that?

I am sure you too have read all those "Archie comics" featuring "Riverdale High". It used to be food for growing up. We loved them and those little red hearts floating around the comic blurbs, and if I get my hands on one even now, I am glued to it. My children however, like to read "Tintin and Asterix" and maybe "Charlie Brown" too. Things have changed. Sadly and happily, both. The growing years have become more real, less dreamy. More practical, less emotional.Humor is wit, not slapstick!

Oh, and this is a digression. So we were talking about this little eight year old girl.

Then she grew up and soon was sixteen. Her habit of this "will he?" "wont he?" ritual stuck to her. She would still sit under the tree and close her eyes and keep on tossing one maple leaf and saying "will he?" then toss another and say "wont he?" After school, she would go home, have her solitary lunch and then sit in her patio and play the game again. When her mother would wake up from her siesta, she would find this girl tossing maple leaves and whispering. The mother would scold, and this 16 year old would just go to her room and pretend to read a book. She was sixteen- can you guess what she was thinking about?

One day, as she was just going on 21, her whispers changed. The maple leaves were the same, and she did close her eyes, but she whispered, "will I?" and then "wont I?"Clearly her priorities were changing; but her time under the tree was the same, and her introverted demeanour was also the same. Soon she was to be leaving for higher studies and then there would be no mother or father to scold and bring her back to reality. But she was still wondering about something, which is why she was always doing the maple leaves thing.

And at 40, she was still doing it. Will he? Wont he? Will she? Wont she? Will I? Wont I? By now, she had a family and her son and daughter were teenagers already. Her husband was a successful lawyer and they lived in style. But the maple leaves? They continued. When she could not find maple leaves, she used straw, grass, toothpicks, whatever.

And now I come to my point- how many of us go through life doing this?

How many of us have done this since childhood? And why?

I do believe, this habit starts young.

By the way, allow me a small digression here too. The 8 year old girl's name is Melanie- I name her so, because in my favorite novel "Gone with the Wind" written by Margaret Mitchell, there is a girl called Melanie. If you have read the book, you will know her character. For those who havent, she was very pretty, very popular with the boys, not much liked by the girls because she was so feminine, very weak willed and the whining type. She proved herself strong when all the world went to war and her husband was also away fighting. She went out and helped her war ravaged country with great dignity.But she was always whining. That novel has had such a lasting impression on my mind; I was probably 14 when I read it for the first time, and since then I have re read it at least four times more. I can read it again now. Melanie has a heart shaped face; I now associate all heart shaped faces with indecisive minds and hearts of gold. And I love those bold flashing green eyes that belonged to Scarlett, the lead protagonist of the novel, who was the most stubborn girl in the entire novel. But she knew her mind, and believed in herself.She got what she wanted.

So, at eight years, the little girl was wondering whether her father would get her a chocolate when he came home from work; at 16 she was playing her game with the maple leaves just to divine whether she would meet the boy she had a secret crush on. At 21, she was still wondering whether she would be allowed to go to college in another town. And at 40, she is wondering about so many things; husband, children, parents, in laws, friends, relatives, workplace, maids, suppliers, all. She kills herself fretting about her son doing drugs; she worries herself sick about her maid not reporting to work; she goes crazy thinking about her daughter dating and not telling her... oh my god, she is a wreck!

This is actually causing so much stress. We are always wondering; we are always not sure. So we are always sweating, if-fing, but-ting, getting nowhere.

In the name of sanity, can we teach our children (and sometimes our adults too) to know their minds? Their ifs and buts would become that much less. And our tensions too would decrease significantly. Maybe they would not listen to us all the time, which might pain us... no parent likes to be overruled.

But lets think about the oh-so-legal term, "benefit of doubt..."

We are not always right, and there is not one right and not one wrong; so whats the harm in giving a long rope after explaining the pros and cons? Dont you think its a good way of getting them to think straight? And to move towards their goal, faster?

Detaching them from what 'I the mom' thinks is right, and moving them to what they think is right? Basis whatever they have learnt from 'I the mom' ? I, for one, feel proudest when my child makes a decision on his own and its a sound one. It may not be what I want, but if its good for him, I am sure its good for me. At times, I do know that he or she has taken a wrong call. Then I step in to rationalize and buffer the impact. The communication channels are open between us, so its easy for the children to come to me and say, "hey mom, I need help. I dont know what to do!"

You now know why we had to wonder about the pizza vs the broccoli? Because we were not sure whats good for us.

Suggest we teach our children whats good for them, and then send them out in this big round world. My heart says if they know what they want, they will seldom go wrong.

Suggest we also figure out our lives and learn what is required to make it happen, rather than waiting for the maid and the dhobi.

Why whine? Why if? Why not "why not?"

Help yourself to useful information, take things as they come, apply your knowledge and make decisions, hand over the traits to your offspring. Let them thrive. Grow. Decide. Achieve.They see you, they learn.

And then sing my favorite song "que sera, sera, whatever will be will be."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

when i was just a little girl....

then life was simpler.....
I believed in people. When I smiled at them, it was one genuine smile. When I got angry, it was a real tantrum that I threw. There is nothing about my childhood that I would like to change..... except one thing. Why did it not go on forever?

Today, when I bite back scathing replies and rude rejoinders, I hate myself. When I am polite while cursing under my breath with people I dislike, I want to cry.

When I was small, my views were not colored by who I was and where I belonged; I was a princess and thought like one- behaved like one. I did not have the time to get into nitty-gritties about who did what to whom, what went wrong and why I should think like everyone else does; all these were trifles against my bigger agenda which always reminded me to
enjoy my life and live it up
do not give if I dont like to, but then do not take away either
dont get carried away by momentous events- look at the trend long term
help when required, but do not impose
trust but do not take for granted
believe things when they happen; there are actually no prizes for guessing
love but do not smother
..... and I was happy.

Then soon I grew up.
I learnt to read between the lines; at times even learnt to not read the obvious!
It was so easy to misunderstand everyone else- only I was right, and everyone else was all wrong.
I started getting upset by trifling incidents- if someone did better than I did, I felt bad
If I was not the best dressed girl at any party, I felt low.
It was easier to believe the bad about other people than the good.
I was happier slandering than praising.

And in the process I learnt to be another self- the more balanced, but more artificial girl whom everyone would like and accept.
Life became so complex; I started feeling tired. where am I headed?
Yes, even today, I ask myself, 'where am I headed?'

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The flood and I

I have never waited like this for anything or anyone ever in my life. With such anticipation and such dread.

Let me tell you where I am coming from.

All around me I see Thailand flooding like never before. I am still dry. If flooding in my area of residence can save someone from more agony and trouble, then I would be happy to receive the floods. If, by not coming to where I am, it helps the country to maintain stability and ensure supplies to the areas already affected, then so be it. But I do not feel comfortable just sitting in my dry and well stocked home while the others take one day at a time and go hungry and homeless. Men, women, children all.

Its just that the uncertainty around me and the travails of people affected by the floods prompts me to wonder again and again, "are they coming, the floods?

Two weeks ago the shelves at Supermarkets were depleted of SKUs. There was shortage of drinking water. Even our apartment management was rationing cases of water per day. I presume everyone was rushing around just buying mindlessly and the suppliers got left behind somewhere along the way, with their replenishments. Ironically, the water first inundated the industrial areas which border Bangkok on the periphery, and so many of them had to close down, creating temporary scarcity of esentials. Then we saw what the global fraternity can do- supplies started coming in and supplementing wherever the internal systems could not keep pace. The small blip in availability was over. Essentials can be had anytime.

Today the shops around where we live are again stocked well enough in the face of a crisis like the one we are going through- I had gone out this morning. But when the water fills up around our buildings and on the roads, then how are we going to go and buy what we need? So we continue to replenish whatever we are eating up from our stocks. Who knows when the flood will arrive and take us all unawares?

We received, and are still receiving so many calls from people we know asking us to go stay with them till the situation improves. These callers are mostly friends; love you friends. Family, its ok. Everything's gonna be alrightee. From that distance, it looks worse than it is.

There have been videos and stock shots and everything to tell us whats happening. But does the water listen to anyone? It charts its own course. I am a novice at science. I speak with my heart, not my knowledge here.

While deep in my heart, I feel at peace, I still am worried for those who are suffering.I feel peace because I know that we shall overcome, albeit at some cost. The other good learning is that for a while at least, we will be thankful to be alive; the next thought is that we will not be complacent and take things for granted, again, at least for a while. I worry for those impacted because its been quite a few weeks and endurance levels are breaking down. How much can anyone suffer? I see the pictures of elders and infants and feel so guilty- I wish it was me and not them.....

I want to do something positive; and the most positive thing I can do right now is carry on as usual. Do my work, help out at least one person a day and think positive. Yes, it is intelligent to prepare for an exigency, but foolish and destructive to overdo it. I also want to reserve my energies for the aftermath- when life starts returning to normal, there will be so much to do- disease control, rehabilitation and reconstruction of inundated areas, resettlement agenda, starting afresh. I will, most willingly be a part of getting back to normal again. I am just waiting for it. Looking forward.

People are evacuating. Good, its that much less pressure on the infrastructure and the essentials. All of those who are going out, guys we wish you a quick return under safer circumstances.