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Mother, writer and daydreamer. Also chocoholic and chick-flick lover. But mainly mommy. To two boys, at that! When not escorting my Elder One (EO) to karate class, I'm trying to get in as many cuddles as possible from my Younger One (YO). And when not doing either, I'm hard-at-work trying to maintain a steady relationship with my laptop. And as for the Man I Married (MIM), well, let’s just put it this way – even though we share a bedroom, our most meaningful conversations are held over the cell-phone!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

This Brotherly Love

Today was a lovely day. I finally got to take my boys, the MIM, my MIL, Maa-Janani and the Bro out for lunch to a cafe that I'd been wanting to for quite a while now. Beautiful day, beautiful place, beautiful people. My people.

Rain clouds in the sky. Drizzle and green. The start of Rath Yatra too. Such a perfect day.

Then the EO does something that makes me unhappy and terribly sad. I don't tell, but I don't mince words in telling him about my disappointment. And I cry. All this in the car as the boys, the MIM and I are going to a friend's temple to pull the Rath. To make matters worse, the EO has a history test tomorrow and he fumbled miserably while answering my questions.

We come back home. My pressure has plummeted. I somehow help the YO get his stuff together for school the next day and then lie down. The EO sits down for a relatively late night of studying. At bedtime, the YO comes and lies down next to me since his brother is studying in their room. 

It's dark. My phone goes 'zing'. There's a message. As I read it, the light from my phone spills onto my little son, who is lying on his back, his eyes closed, his hands folded in prayer. "What are you doing?" I ask.

"I'm praying to God so that dada does well in his test."

I added my little prayer to his. God, please protect their love for each other. 

Home Sweet Home

After a four-days-and-three-nights stay in Bombay, I came home to my boys on Friday. They were there, at the airport, all three of them -- the MIM, the EO and the YO. Breathless with excitement to see me. I saw them as I pushed my trolley over to the conveyor belt where our baggage was being off-loaded; my little one sitting in his father's shoulders...

I hurried to get my luggage so that I could hurry in back to them. Having caught a glimpse if me, my YO was extremely impatient. Standing next to him, bobbing up-and-down with excitement, my EO. The moment they saw me walk out the gates, they ran over to me, the little one through a maze if legs which he deftly manoeuvred as if on a football field. He threw himself into my arms and I picked him up and held him close while the EO wrapped his arms around me. We stood in this huddle of love, a mother and her two sons, on the middle of the airport exit path, with weary travellers passing us by in their urgency to get home or to a hotel, not caring a whit about what anyone thought. 

Heaven, for me, is without a doubt, in my sons' arms, where the love I feel is purer than mountain air.
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A friend of the MIM's sent him some old snaps if ours, taken in Bombay just before we got married. We showed them to the boys and this is what the EO had to say:

"In this photograph, Baba makes Hrithik Roshan look like dung and Mamma makes Angelina Jolie look like pee!"

I'm gonna try and remember this every time I look in the mirror.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Of ‘Kashmir ki Kali’ and ‘Midnight in Paris’

Of the different degrees and shades of CSA that I faced, the part that has left the worst taste in the mouth is that fact that all three of the perpetrators were known to the family, known to me. And that is of course the most horrifying fact about CSA – that in 50% of the cases, the victim has been abused by a person that s/he knew and believed s/he could trust.

This was the case with me.

I wrote about the abuse I faced the very first year that CSAAM started. The problem that I have now, is living with some peripheral memories – how does one survive those? For example, the uncle who abused me was a great fan of Hindi film music of the 50’s and ‘60’s. At home, his radio would constantly be blaring out songs of Manna De, Lata Mangeshkar, Mohd. Rafi, Asha Bhonsle and Mukesh. Songs from movies like ‘Kashmir ki Kali’, ‘Teesri Manzil’, ‘Shagird’ and ‘Mere Sanam’. He would talk constantly about the songs, the movies, the singers, music directors, actors and actresses.

My love for the songs of the Golden Age of Hindi film music comes from my abuser. And there is a part of me that hates me intensely for it.

How does one move past that?

I don’t know. I wish I did. That is my struggle now. Not the memories of abuse...they are my scars of horror. Not the forgiving of myself...because I KNOW it was NOT my fault. Not the forgiving of my abusers...because I won’t and I don’t think I am a bad person because of it.

My struggle is, how can I love some of the things in my life that are so intrinsically linked to my abuser?
I think this issue of mine can also be linked to the greater debate of, “Can One Segregate an Artist’s Crimes from his Art?” Can one look at a man’s art and regard it as an entity separate from its creator?  Is it possible to separate the artist from his art?

There are many men out there, well-known, brilliant men who have written brilliant books, made brilliant movies, created brilliant music, but who are monsters with unforgivable pasts. Lewis Carroll was rumoured to have a predilection for little girls; it is a well-documented fact that he liked photographing them, often in the nude. Many have suggested that his fondness for his muse for ‘Alice’ was far from normal...it was obsessive, perverted. Science-fiction author, Arthur C Clark was said to have sexually molested young boys in Sri Lanka. Then there’s Michael Jackson. Oscar winner Roman Polanski comes immediately to mind. In more recent times, another Oscar winner’s name crops up...Woody Allen.

Yes, I know some of the above mentioned cases haven’t been established. Some are just very, VERY strong rumours, with an air of “hush-hush but public knowledge” about them. But they all make you wonder. After all, can there be any smoke without fire?

Yes, I know some of the above mentioned cases haven’t been established. Some are just very, VERY strong rumours, with an air of “hush-hush but public knowledge” about them. But they all make you wonder. After all, can there be any smoke without fire?

And there are more names. Unfortunately.

But...and it’s a huge, BIG ‘BUT’, their work is lauded, celebrated...awarded. We all grew up dancing to ‘Thriller’ and ‘Beat It’. Many of us have cried while watching ‘The Pianist.’ Often, we find ourselves searching for rabbit holes to fall into, so that we can discover our own Wonderlands. I wanted to take the next plane to Barcelona after watching ‘Vicky, Christina and Barcelona.’ And ‘Midnight in Paris’ as well as ‘Blue Jasmine’ are on my Must-Watch list.

But after reading Dyaln Farrow’s letter...I don’t know. I just don’t know. Is Woody Allen guilty? Again, I don’t know. But the letter...the details...the abuse. Cringe-worthy! And so...I don’t know.

When a Michael Jackson number comes up on my iPod, do I change it? No, I don’t. The songs are uploaded by me, I haven’t even erased them. Just like I haven’t erased any old, Hindi film songs from my iPod either. In fact, I keep adding to them.

And I desperately want to see ‘Midnight in Paris’ and I just can’t stop hating myself a little for it.


That Time of the Year Again: April CSAAM

Dear Friends,
It is that time of the year again. To poke the dragon. That time of the year when we, a team of people, gear up and talk about that topic which is taboo but which should not be; that topic which is only whispered about, hastily, fearfully, but about which we should be making a loud, deafening din; that topic which many people believe to be an urban legend but is a frightening reality on a depressingly large scale . ‘That topic’ is Child Sexual Abuse.
April 2014 is around the corner, and we are ready to spread the word in our fourth year of CSAAM. Once again, just as we have been doing for the last three years, we talk across social media, via Facebook, twitter and blogs about the menace that is CSA . All through the month of April.
This menace must stop spreading. Children must be made to feel safe. Parents need to know how to talk to their children. Survivors must know that they are not alone. We cannot do all this alone and we count on your support and participation.
Partnering us in our efforts this year will be organisations working in this field like Arpan, Tulir, Human Rights Watch as well as online initiatives like Blogadda and Womens Web. You will see personal testimonials, expert advice, twitter chats, information sources, resources, workshops, an iPhone app and lots and lots of blog posts across the blogosphere.
We understand confronting this issue is quite uncomfortable. But we also know silence is not a solution. We need to talk our minds out. We need to act. We need to support.
If you would like to post on your blogs, do send us a tentative date, so that we can schedule your post. If you would like to participate in a twitterthon, do let us know. Even forwarding this email to anyone you think might be interested in participating and contributing would be very helpful.
If you would like to add to the discussion or know somebody else who would, please note that we welcome entries:
mailed to csa.awareness.april@gmail.com OR
posted as FB notes and linked to Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month Page OR
posted on your own blog with the badge and linked to the main blog OR
posted on your own blog with the badge and linked to the main blog OR linked or posted on Twitter tagged twitter.com/CSAAwareness OR
linked or posted on Twitter tagged twitter.com/CSAAwareness OR
Anonymous contributions are accepted and requests for anonymity will of course be honoured.
You can also support us by simply adding our logo of the initiative to your blog’s sidebar. Grab the code below to do sohttp://csaawarenessmonth.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/batch-code-txt-2013.docx
Please remember to send a mail with all necessary links or just your input to csa.awareness.april@gmail.com so that we can track your contribution and make sure that it is not inadvertently lost or missed out.
Some guidelines
Please precede the title of your post with CSAAM April 2014. Then add a hyphen and your title.
Please insert the badge html in your post. If you carry it on your sidebar for the entire month of April too part from just within your post, we would be honoured.
If you refer to sources for information kindly italicise that part of your post which is taken from the source and provide the link to the original source in a bracket.
And finally please avoid graphic descriptions of the abuse. Stay as factual as possible if you’re doing first person accounts.
We need all your help to make this month a success, and are counting on your support.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Warm regards,
CSAAM Team

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sex Ed: The Saga Continues...

A while back, the EO and I were watching "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara." He was loving it for a number of reasons, such as the songs, the fact that it was based and shot in Spain and he loves all things Spanish (and Japanese, but that's besides the point), the plot-line of going on three daring adventures with one's friends, the camaraderie between the friends, and so on and so forth.

I was loving it primarily for one reason and one reason alone and that reason is named Hrithik. Sigh... Yes, yes, his hair was coloured all wrong in the movie, but have you seen the man dance, people? Have you? He is pure, unadulterated, wild, joyful sex. That's what he is. Sex.

Anyway, so we're watching and loving the movie. My son is being his normal self and asking me hundreds of questions when we're suddenly at that song sequence, "Der Lagi Lejin" and there's a three second visual of Hrithik & Katrina spooning in bed and of course the EO noticed. Now I know what you're going to say...yes, yes, there was a scene earlier in the movie between Farhan (my other love, just btw) and random Spanish chic, but the remote was in my hand at that time and I was able to skip it...not so lucky this time round and besides it was such a blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene -- the only problem was that my boy didn't blink just then. Sigh. Whatchyu gonna do?

Anyway, so he looks at me, shakes his head, rolls his eyes and asks, "Sex"? As nonchalantly as I possibly can, though I feel as if I have been punched hard in the guts, I simply say, "Yes."

Some more head-shaking and eye-rolling happens and then he informs me, very, very seriously, "Mamma, we're not going to tell bhai about all this stuff ever, ok? He doesn't need to know, alright? Even when he's a hundred, ok? Ok?" And while I'm mulling over what to say and trying to form a single, coherent sentence to say, it suddenly dawns on him, "Ooooh! But how will he have children, naa? Hmmm... Ok. We'll tell him a few days before the wedding. Ok? Ok!"

Oh boy! My boy! 

If only it were ok, my over-protective, little, big boy. I still can't wrap my head around the fact that YOU know this!! If only it were ok. If only.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Of Calligraphy and Calvin

The boys are unofficially on term break now. While I'm pretty much allowing them to do what they want, I have, however, insisted that they both do two pages of handwriting EVERYDAY -- one in English and one in Bangla. This is because,
a) their handwriting sucks,
b) gives the gadgets in the house a break,
c) it gives them something to do, and
d) it keeps them out of my hair.

I was wrong about (d). Soooo wrong.

Anyway, the EO is sitting and writing a script...the sequel to "Kickass" is you please, and he wants me to send it to Hollywood. Not satisfied enough with his screenwriterly ambitions, I still point out that he needs to write properly as the original purpose behind the exercise is good penmanship. After all, who needs to foster creativity when one's handwriting can conquer the world, am I right? And besides, our schools are doing such a brilliant job in the first place, no? (snigger-snigger-sob) So my son gives out a long, deep sigh, one that would do any long-suffering writer proud, and says, "Nothing spoils fun more than when it leads to building character."

I stopped in my tracks, turned around and asked him to repeat it. He did. Clearly and precisely. "Nothing spoils fun more than when it leads to building character." It sounded vaguely familiar so I asked him where he'd got it from. "Calvin and Hobbes", he smiled.

Wonderful! Just what I needed, my boy quoting Calvin. Possibly modelling himself in his image too! *shudder*

And then he started singing, "Another Brick in the Wall" at the top of his voice.
*gulp-gulp-shudder-gulp*

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Movie Time With the Brats

This evening, the EO was watching "The Artist." With a lot of interest and a lot of curiosity. As is his nature, he asked about 545 questions during the 100 minute movie... Sigh...

I like this, though. The fact that after watching something like "Shaolin Soccer" on repeat for the last three days, the boy sits down to watch a classy movie like "The Artist." It's the same reason that while I may cringe at the EO's love for these crass, ugly, new Bollywood numbers, he adores Beethoven and Rabindrasangeet and Queen and Sufi... It's the same with his reading habits. While he loves the Wimpy Kid series, still reads Geronimo Stilton, he's also into Tintin and Asterix and Shakespeare (abridged) and Satyajit Ray.

And that is important. The fact that we expose our children to every genre. They will pick and choose their favouites and have a more well-rounded, balanced appreciation of art, literature, films, theatre and what-have-you.
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While watching "The Artist", the conversation suddenly turned to beauty spots. The EO asked me if they are always drawn on and I said no, that usually people are born with them, and so saying, I showed them the one on my chin. Then the conversation turned to birthmarks and both the boys launched into a frenzied search for beauty spots and birthmarks upon their person. The EO tiumphantly declared that he'd found a beauty spot and was content. The YO had been born with quite a prominent birthmark, but it has started to fade over the last few years. Unable to find a suitable replacement he suddenly beams and exclaims, eyes a-twinkling, "I know! I know what my birthmark ijj! Everybody sayjj I'm cute, right? So that's my birthmark! I'm cute!"

Oh baby! He certainly is, more than he can imagine! And just like it's his birthmark to be cute, it's my birth right to squoosh and squish him to my heart's delight!
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After 'The Artist', 'Ratatouille' starts playing and the boys and I continue watching for a while. There's a scene when Remy's running on the beams in the attics trying to discover where he is and that blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene plays out...the one of an arguing French couple. Through the hole in the ceiling that Remy runs past, we see the angry couple standing face to face, the woman is holding a gun, Remy passes on, we see nothing but our friendly little rat running and then we hear a gunshot; startled, Remy turns back to the hole, and we see the man holding the woman's hand, the gun must have gone off in a struggle and the couple stare into each other's eyes for a few seconds before falling onto each other's lips and sucking face. It sounds longer than it really is, the whole scene does play out in a few seconds flat and it really is blink, wink, sneeze and you'll miss it.

But of course my boy's do none of the above and they see the whole scene and the EO shakes his head and turns his attention to the iPad on his lap, his cheeks turning red, while the YO giggles and whispers something in his big brother's ear. I pounce on him and ask him what's so funny. He shakes his head. I ask again. He shakes his head again when big brother jumps in to save little brother.

EO: It's nothing Mamma. Just the French doing what they usually do.
M4: Whaaaat?? And what makes you such an expert on the French and their habits? (Was he wrong? He'd got the stereotype down pat!)
EO: Oh come on Mamma, the whole Europe is...you know...romanta! (Totally making up this word to give it a European sounding flavour)
YO: (pipes in to add weightage to his brother's words) Yesh! Mamma, thish time on de Eiffle Tower, Dada saw two French people kissing for ONE HOUR!
EO: (a little irritated by his brother's exaggeration) Nooo!! Not one hour! For five minutes! If it was for one hour, then you can't breathe!

I am genuinely concerned about where he's getting all his info from and forming his own conclusions!