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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!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Father's Day, 2010

This Sunday was Father’s Day. June 20th, 2010.

Father’s Day.

This Sunday also marked five months of my Baba’s passing. Exactly five months. To the day.

At first, I thought it was a cruel, cosmic joke. Maybe the heavens really enjoyed seeing me weep till my heart was dry, wait for it to replenish and then weep again and again and again till my eyes were swollen shut.

Friends sent me warmth, kindness, words of love and wisdom. It helped...greatly.

When the rage of tears finally abated and I sat wearily by myself, curled into a ball in the bean-bag, looking at the green trees framed against a cloudy, grey sky, I let myself feel again.

From the time he went to the hospital and continuing, Baba has woven some kind of magic with and around certain calendar dates. There are messages intricately linked with those dates. I keep telling myself that it is his gift to me, to us, but mostly me, to tell me that he’s fine, he’s ok and he’s still here with me.

I have always believed that when it is a person’s time to go, he will go. The date and time have already been pre-ordained and there’s nothing that we can physically do about it. We may rant and rave and scream till our hearts, lungs and vocal chords burst at the unfairness and injustice of it all, but that can never change anything. No matter how untimely the passing may seem, it was time.

And it was my father’s time. I know that, I believe that, I just can’t accept that. Logically knowing and understandingly accepting are two different things altogether.

And I also believe that when a person dies, they go to an infinitely better place; the best place. I don’t believe too much in rebirth, but I do believe in heaven. Actually, let me rephrase that. I don’t believe that the rebirth is instantaneous. I believe s/he goes to heaven for a year, to be able to look after his/her family and also to be able to indulge in all his/her favourite past-times till it’s time for the soul to enter a new body. And that’s where my father is right now. In heaven...healed, healthy and whole; drinking his favourite tea, listening to endless sessions of classical music and finally learning the truth about his idol, the man my father literally worshipped while he was alive, Netaji Subash Chandra Bose.

It’s we who are left behind who are consumed with guilt, grief and endless questions that will never be answered.

Did my father have any regrets? Did he know at any point in time that he was not going to make it? Did he ever feel pain? Was there ever a point when he just couldn’t stand it anymore?

And of course the all important, burning one – did he know, did he have even the slightest idea just how much I loved him? With all my heart?

I have the answer to that one and it’s all linked to the dates on the calendar.

December 31st, 2009. The day I came home from the hospital to find my contributor’s copy of “Chicken Soup for the Indian Armed Forces Soul” waiting for me. Also, the date of my father’s operation. There was a point when his heart started fluctuating on the table, but he didn’t die. I now think it’s because he didn’t want me to associate New Year’s Eve with his passing. He knew me well, my father. He knew that if he left on this day, I would never celebrate another New Year’s Eve with family and friends again. And that’s why he held on till...

January 20th, 2010. Saraswati Puja. If there were two things my father held above all else, it was education and music. He himself had three degrees but he was never fully satisfied with them. He was in awe of anyone who studied ‘difficult’ subjects and who did PhD’s. And music! Oh music was his all-consuming obsession. It actually seemed appropriate for him to pass away on Her day.
It’s funny; no matter how faithful we are to God in our day to day life; no matter what our religious convictions and beliefs; even non-beliefs, for that matter; we all become our most religious selves when we see our loved ones suffering. Those last few days, when my father developed one complication after another and when we could see him shrinking before our very eyes, I think I called out to every God and Goddess in our pantheon. I made innumerable mannats and promises to All of Them...except Maa Saraswati. I don’t know why I didn’t call out to Her. And even though She called one of Her most dedicated devotees to Her side on Her special day, a day dedicated to Her in worship, prayer and song; I bear Her no grudge. I am not angry with Her. It’s as if She didn’t let me down; instead it was Her way of telling me, “I’ll look after him from now on.” As for the Others, I am still not on ‘speaking’ or rather praying terms with Them. Yet.

January 23rd, 2010. Netaji Subash Chandra’s birth anniversary. Also the fourth day after my father’s passing or the ‘chautha’, the day when a married daughter conducts a puja for her parent’s departed soul. Yes, on the day of his idol’s birth anniversary, I gave jol (paani/water) to my father’s soul.

January 30th, 2010. Maghi Purnimaa. A day so auspicious in the Hindu calendar that many homes and temples all over the country were having Satya Narayan pujas and havans. There was a havan in my parent’s home too, that morning. The one where my ‘baby’ brother gave jol to our father’s soul. After all, it was the 11th day after my father passed away; the day Bengali Brahmin families conduct pujas for their dear departed.

The significance of these dates have not escaped us. Everyone around us also told us what a good and pure soul my father had, for its journey to take place on such holy and highly significant dates.

I agree.

But I still didn’t need my father to pass away to know what a good soul he was.

And it hasn’t stopped there.

Since my father passed away, he’s been sending me all sorts of signs that he’s still with me. I think he knows how much I loved him; warts, faults and all, and he’s trying to tell me he loves me back. And his blessings, somehow or the other, always seem to find me on the 20th of the month.

“Chicken Soup for the Indian Romantic Soul” had already hit the bookstores, weeks in advance. I hadn’t received my contributor copies, until...that’s right, February 20th, 2010.

In the meanwhile, I got a lovely offer...a dream come true; to compile and edit two of “Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul’s” forthcoming titles. A few phone-calls, many e-mails and some contract signing later, I got my cheques on...April 20th, 2010.

Which brings me back to Father’s Day, 2010. It fell on June 20th. Exactly five months after my beloved, beloved Baba passed away. And now I know it wasn’t the fates mocking me. It was my father hugging me and calling my name to tell me that he’s still here; he’s still around, looking out for me and after me.

And I know he will. For the next few months at least. I know he will be hovering over us making sure we are ok and fine and whole again. Until it’s time for him to live once more.

In fact, I even know the date my father’s spirit will leave his final kiss on my forehead before he parts for good, leaving his memories and blessings behind.

It will be next year. Not on January 20th, 2011. I know my father well enough now, to believe that it will have to be a special, significant date.

It will be during next year’s Saraswati Puja; a day of worship and blessings. A day that will be forever and inexorably linked with my father from now on.

And according to the lunar calendar, next year's Saraswati Puja falls on February 8th, 2011.

Also my 10th wedding anniversary.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

All For the Flag

This morning, I witnessed something beautiful. It was a moment from last night's Brazil vs. Korea FIFA 2010 match. The MIM told me about it and I immediately youtubed it.

I watched dewy-eyed as Korean striker, Jong Tae-se fought and failed to hold back his tears at the start of the match when the band played the Korean national anthem. I don't think anyone who saw that could possibly remain unmoved.

His emotional downpour during the anthem immediately became one of my favourite moments of FIFA 2010. I don't know if anything will be able to top that...

Yes, yes...I am woman, hear me roar, see me weep...

But all said and done, it was a heart-touching moment on so many levels. To see such raw emotion on display, and from someone who is 'supposed to be' all alpha-male, is always a powerful yet humbling experience. Not to mention over-whelming. This man must have dreamt about this moment ever since he was in school playing in the dusty fields with his friends. He must have skinned his knees a gazillion times, maybe even broken his nose and a few bones some countless times. Dirty shirts and socks that made his mom scream in frustration; inter-school and local club tournaments where he may have sometimes soared and triumphed or tripped and crashed; kicking that ball an inch closer to his dream with every match.

And then, on June 15th, 2010, there he was. Right in the middle of his dream. Except, it was all true. It was a reality. We were in the midst of that dream coming true for him and to see him embrace it in the way he did, was almost to be a part of it; on the fringes in a voyeuristic way perhaps, but part of it we were, helplessly entwined.

The other thing that always gets me choked up is seeing such an overt display of national pride. It's no secret that I love my India, even though on paper I do not belong to Her. But I am a part of Her. And She is a huge part of me.

That's why, when anyone shows Her or Her symbols, raiment and accessories the slightest bit of disrespect, my blood begins to boil.

Like to the National Anthem, for example.

I have to say, right at the beginning, that I don't approve of the national anthem being played in theatres. It's a beautiful song and the piece that is played is inspired. But the theatre is not the place for it. I must say I appreciate the thought that went behind it, but I still feel that the cinema hall is an inappropriate place to stir up nationalistic pride. You have people trying to shush crying babies and excited kids, juggling trays of ice-laden cold drinks, hot coffee and tubs overflowing with popcorn. You can forgive them for being distracted, but the anthem is the anthem. And to be honest, once the first bars of the anthem start, these tired and stressed out parents will grab their kids, stand where they are, clutch onto dangerously wobbly and over-loaded trays and desperately wish for the next few minutes to speed on by. But they show respect. What is going on in their minds is a different conversation altogether.

But it gets distressing and upsetting to pick out a verbal duel with the set of nonchalant 'cool' dudes who sit there smirking away, munching their popcorn while others stand around them and sing.

I've always tried to remain true to my beliefs. Hypocrisy turns me off. So I've taught the EO all about respecting the national anthem; not just his own, but any and every, single one in this world. It's about respect. It's about peace and brotherhood. It's about what's right.

Before going to Singapore for our holiday, I took the boys to see "Shrek 4." There were four people sitting down when the anthem started playing, a scruffy, unwashed, hippie, blond, back-packing couple and a pair whose facial features led me to believe that they belonged to the North East.

My six-year-old son, having learnt to respect the National Anthem and Flag without question; having picked up the Sense-of-Outrage gene from me; and even before I could deliver my looks to kill and swoop down on the unworthies, started to head towards the sitters saying "Excuse me!"

I grabbed him by the scruff of his shirt collar and he turned to look at me, bewilderment and confusion writ large in his eyes, "But Mamma, they're sitting for the nashnul anthum!" I reassured him that I was going to tell them, he was just a little boy after all and they probably would not appreciate it.

I first turned to the foreigners. "Excuse me", I said coldly, "but would you mind standing please? This is our national anthem playing." They looked at me, took two seconds to decide whether to stand or not, and finally did.

I next turned my attention to the pair from the Seven Sisters (I dislike the term 'chinks'). I looked at them and said, puzzled, "Excuse me?" And they looked back at me. I said, "It's the national anthem." The look they gave me was a challenging one that said, "So?" And I said, exasperatedly, "So please stand." They had these wry smiles on their faces that were hard to define. I almost thought that maybe they weren't going to stand after all, but a few seconds, they did.

I went back to join my sons and my mother. I sang along loudly but my mind was swirling with uneasy thoughts. The blond guy looked back at me a couple of times and I was rather perplexed with their attitude. I would totally stand for their country's anthem, why couldn't they stand for ours? And didn't they get a clue that a country's national anthem was playing when the notice flashed in huge letters across the screen and everyone around them stood up?

And as for my North-East sisters, maybe they were making a political statement. Did I goad them into doing something that they did not believe in?

That day I was really confused by my actions.

But in my son's eyes, I had done the right thing. I walked the talk.

And I had also preserved the honour and integrity of my country's anthem.

Or had I?

I had tears in my eyes that day as I stood up singing our country's anthem in a darkened theatre hall.

But they were not of the same weight and value as Jong Tae-se's.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Just Because

Yes, I am writing. Yes, I am travelling. Yes, I am singing, reading, watching movies and eating chocolates. Yes, I did Jaipur and Singapore and had a blast doing them too.

Yes, I am breathing.

And yes. I am still crying myself to sleep every night.

And I guess that's why, we sometimes need to do things, 'just because'.

I went to see "Sex and the City -2" yesterday and on me were two of the three la-di-dah, branded, designer names I own. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am more boho chicca than haute couture diva. But yesterday, I carried my new, white Espirit bag (courtesy SIL) and wore my fabulous, new Guess shoes (courtesy recent trip to Singapore) to last evening's show of "Sex and the City - 2".

Just because.

P.S. Movie review : Good time-pass. Horrible clothes. A nice evening out with the girls.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

June 6th, 2010

...would have been my parents 37th anniversary. mother is now minus a husband. I can't think of anything lonelier or sadder.