A podcast entry😬😬🤓
House! in the excitement of work and travel to
other people’s houses with their interesting improvements
we thought of you often and spoke of your coziness
in winter your courage in wind and fire
airy rooms in humid summer how you nestle in spring
into the leaves and flowers of the hawthorn and the sage green
leaves of the Russian olive tree House! you were not forgotten (Grace Paley)
The netizens flooded social media with couple pics last week. On September 23rd , 2020 #couplechallenge trended on Twitter with couples posting pictures of togetherness. The roots of the challenge are largely unknown. Anyway along with the sudden rush of couple pics online, many troll groups started posting witty trolls and memes. One of those read, ‘What challenge is there in posting a pic with your husband/wife? Post one with somebody else’s and call it a challenge”. The singles too decided not to sit idle. They retorted to the entire challenge with funny memes. Some singles even posted photoshopped pictures with their favorite celebrities. Two days ago the police requested netizens to be cautious about participating in the challenge as many complaints were being forwarded. The cybercriminals were misusing the couple photos which were posted.
One could not help but notice a social division making itself evident. Maybe one which is almost similar to the barriers erected on the basis of economic disparity. Here was a world divided itself into married/single. At the same time, beneath the surface of the pictures which floated online and the memes which expressed the ‘hurt’ sentiments of the singles, a critical eye cannot help but wonder if all that was posted online was entirely honest. Or was it just an idea which triggered a sudden couple-selfie contest where each contestant was trying to look the best and win the appreciation of the world wide audience? Quite similar to asking if all the couples who jumped into posting photos were happy, is the question if all the singles were really disheartened that they could not pose with a heartthrob. Under the umbrella terms ‘married’ and ‘single’ , we forget the other colours of the rainbow.
Inside and outside all relationships, you face the tough question, “Is this your choice?” A friend of mine close to forty told me that she had to let one of her ‘concerned’ neighbours know that she had not stopped looking out for a match. “Who said forty is too old to get married?”, she laughed. My friend was not in pain that she was forty and unmarried. She does not get worked up when attending the baptism of her classmate’s third child. She was still looking out for possibilities of a long term friendship. “I don’t understand why everybody wants to label me as an unmarried, single, old lady for life! I am only forty.”, she said.
One of my friends shared her story with me sometime ago. She decided to say goodbye to her husband after five years of trying to adjust and co-operate with the blind belief every day that tomorrow would be a better day in their married life. But since it was costing the happiness of both the partners they decided to part ways. A divorcee for two years and a single parent raising her child, she told me, ” Life is beautiful”! I was surprised. I asked her, “Really?” She smiled and said, “Yes, I get up every day and move into each task I jotted down the previous day with the unending faith in life. My life has changed. I won’t say I am cent percent happy. But I feel I am more responsible for myself, and that I am capable of living in the dark days.” Here is a woman who really smiles beyond challenges.
Beneath the pictures of happy couples online, marital rape is on the rise. There are several cases pending in our country dealing with violence inflicted on partners and children. There are many who look at their family pics posted online and wish that they could smile for real in life too. The internet offers us a space for exhibition . And we use it well. There are also families and couples, friends and relatives who prefer not to adorn their twitter/fb walls with pics, but rather nurture their private spaces at home with love. There are single men and women who live and love the way they are, with no grudges or jealousy towards the lovebirds. There are people who post couple pics even without knowing about such a viral challenge. There are those who are more worried about earning their daily wages to feed their family, than about a photo online. There are strong men and women who love and labour without even a single picture to record their struggles. There are people who have chosen celibacy willingly and stick on to it without complaints. There are many other shades too in the spectrum of relationships. There are people who live a more fruitful life beyond the screen. They challenge themselves each day to take one more step, without any hashtags to follow.
Choosing it the hard way: please let me be!😊
‘Creativity is an act of defiance’ – Twyla Tharp (The Creative Habit)
“…to stand up for human goodness means weathering a storm of ridicule. You’ll be called naive. Obtuse. Any weakness in your reasoning will be mercilessly exposed. Basically it is easier to be a cynic” -Rutger Bregman (Humankind)
I have been reading the above books for a few days now. As I flipped through the pages by Tharp, I could not help but connect her comment to the present times. It has been many months since our globe saw the first Covid case. Nobody knows when this may end. Or if at all this phase may end. On the one hand we talk about self-isolation or social distancing and on the other we try to behave as if everything was back to normal. One thing about humanity in general is its capacity to move on. And I think we have beautifully embarked on this project of looking forward. This doesn’t mean that we should forget the past. Yes, we must learn from our yesterday, and look forward. Quite often we do both, but forget to live in the present. We worry too much about a future post-Covid, and we regret even more about not being more cautious and proactive in controlling the spread of Corona virus. We forget what today presented us- a day to live.
A day to look outside your window and see the flowers blooming, bees buzzing, sparrows twittering and the world moving at its own pace. A day to smile at your neighbour or wave at the policeman who makes it a point to control the traffic well on the road outside your workplace or give a thumbs up to the five year old who painted a tree in colors of his/her choice or call an elderly person over phone and encourage him/her. A day to appreciate the effort of another person, no matter how small it is.We consider these acts to be insignificant because we compare these to the current news. And the news propagated on media- online and print- rarely celebrates acts of these kinds as major headlines. What do we feed ourselves every morning and night? The statistics of Covid cases which will cause even greater pressure on you than the possibilities of being infected by the virus. You might ask me, so you think we should stop listening to the news ? I am not advocating ignorance, dear friend. All that I am asking you is to stop worrying and start believing. It is true that we are in a sinking boat. But who knows, what if we discover the skill of swimming once in the waters? How can you be so sure that you do not have the ability to wade in the waters, when you haven’t even dipped your feet in, but only watched it from the deck?
Yes. It is a pity state. The schools are closed. The financial perks are cut. The old are asked to stay indoors. The number of deaths are on the rise. Still, life is not still. You and I wake up every morning to the bright sun outside. Even if you believe that it is the clarion call of the dark days ahead, why go down complaining, arguing and wailing? Why not laugh at the world and go down the history smiling?
Start a journal. Write what you feel. Add a pinch of positivity to every negative entry. The world is neither for the optimists nor for the pessimists. It is neither for the romantics nor the realists. It is for those who are ready to accept, live in the present and move on. If you are in the rut blaming the world, the system and the virus forever, I doubt if your tomorrow will be better than today.
I believe being positive is an act of defiance today. Staying alive and happy defy the universal rule of the present times to stay in fear and lament the death of a ‘glorious’ past. Climbing over my own bouts of pessimism, I tried paneer-egg Momos and tomato mayonnaise.🤓 Munching on one of those, let me congratulate the humankind for what it has been doing so far. Yes, we have all erred. But I hope for a tomorrow to correct ourselves. I hope for a day more to smile with love at the green grass which fights its way up the interlock tiles.
I know that you would call me childish and ignorant about the reality outside. You might say that I am a fool to close my eyes to the looming darkness outside the cocoon. Friend, all that I was asking you was to put down the newspaper, turn off your TV(at least when you eat), stop browsing for numbers and facts on deaths and cases, and spend at least a few minutes laughing at yourself. Or share a joke with someone on the line, watch a video which brings a smile on your lips, read a comic or a print booster of any kind today. Listen to your favourite songs. Hum a tune. Dance. Learn a skill. There’s enough on the internet which can supply you with something constructive. You might call me the most ‘naive’ person alive. No problem. The wide world can accomodate people like me too, I guess. I still choose to believe that we shall overcome!🐚
When you find a connection between your land’s product and another land’s dish, you feel that somewhere you have crossed the liminal space. Not into philosophising. Dont worry!😬🤓 Thanks to youtube. 😀 Banana stalks metamorphosed into cutlets, soup and lasagna🤓😋. Super tasty, especially the soup.
Try it out. 👍
Bible has been my constant companion from a very young age. It is not merely a religious text which defines my spirituality and perspectives, but I have always found the stories and secrets of the text mesmerize me each time I go through those. Many times I have imagined myself to be one those characters in the stories, parading the travails of the biblical history. One of the verses which struck me when I was small, “In the beginning was the Word; and the Word was with God”. Since the Word is personified as the divine and manifested in the divine act as a character in the text, I have been always haunted by the power of words. More than people’s actions, their words have either constructed or destroyed me.
Words are powerful enough to etch your path or build a barricade to your dreams. Those words which metamorphose into actions can either help in developing a person or pulling one down. Some words are so powerful that they revisit you in your dreams. You remember and associate those words to people whom you see in the dreams. There are early dawns when I have woken up with a smile, and remembered the dream in which someone I loved said empowering words. Many nights I have slept peacefully listening to those who constantly support, online and offline. In times of distress there have been people who extended verbal support which helped me to move on.
There have also been very disappointing times when a problem crept in because of a misplaced word. I remember how I spent a sleepless night because of a verbal dual with somebody I loved. I dropped a dream project of mine when all I received was verbal displeasure from others. Life was made difficult for a friend of mine when I made scathing remarks on his behaviour, though it was meant for proactive reasons. I am no saint in spite of valuing and worshiping the Word, both spoken, written and communicated in all ways possible.
Last day a very close confidant asked me in a very straight and polite manner, not to share anything personal or depressing with him these days. It seems it is a common feeling these days. It is getting difficult to get hold on oneself when news- personal and social- keep reflecting only the crises across the globe. Taking cue from the conversation with my friend and others who have been lately mentioning the impact of words in their lives , I remind myself now that generally our lives are word-built. Almost all the reality is more word-ly than worldly! From Thitch Nhat Hanh I learnt that deep breathing can help in and out an argument. From Joseph Murphy I have taken that my words reflect my subconscious. From Zacher I have learnt that silence is also a powerful language. From Kallen Pokkudan I understand that words can define your identity. Fr Boby Jose has taught me how words can effectively convey the emotions of a woman, and how Christ himself manifested more in the womanly act of breaking the bread, than in any of his miracles. These trying days, I try my best to keep feeding my conscious and the subconscious the positive, so that while conversing I give the other person only what is constructive and not oppressing.
I have learn this from the many relationships which were lost on the way, and a few thriving ones which I cherish- The moment you know that your words are turning venomous, skip the argument, and continue later when the heat inside you and the anxiety grappling the other person had cooled down. Remind yourself that to win in life does not mean to win with words. Letting go and moving on is the prime factor in life and especially in conversations. Your friend/ opponent has his/her own versions of the story you tell him/her. Respect that, as much as you respect your standpoint. Sometimes, you may be wrong. Accept that gracefully. Be open to the changes around you, and when somebody adds something to alleviate the pain of your ignorance, accommodate that too. Stop saying that your version is the first and the best. No, you are only one of the many millions of creatures in the world.
I think we should be more careful these days, as we are all depending on the e-world immensely to co-ordinate and collaborate. E-language is tricky. You speak without being bothered about the faces on the other side. On gmeets and zoom we face people who have switched off their audio and video, either due to lack of interest or to save data. Please be cautious of what and how you speak and write online. It can hit hard, and you won’t even realise the intensity of the impact! Remember, the Word is you, and it manifests in you. More than any atomic energy , you can kill or build a world.
One of those spaces which always intimidated me was the kitchen. From the sizzling sounds of a seething pan to the whistles of the cooker to the roaring mixi-grinder, those objects which peopled the stage called ‘kitchen’ always sent goosebumps down my spine. It was a world which I seldom lingered in, unless it was such a ‘terrible’ and unavoidable necessity🙀.
As a child I remember watching my Amma steaming my favourite kozhikkatta, baking cakes and cupcakes of different flavours and shapes, sprinkling powdered spices in the pulav. I relished every dish she made, and so did I gobble down the halwa my paternal grandmother made, the variety of pickles which my maternal grandfather made, the biriyani which my maternal grandmother cooked and the caramel pudding which my father was specialised in. 😋Maybe I was too much spoilt by all the ‘cooks’ in the family that I seldom stepped into the kitchen. 😅Now that she is about to turn four, my daughter has started asking me a few questions on cooking. For instance, “Amma , why do onions turn brown in pan? Amma, what is unniyappam made of? Amma, where does wheat flour come from? ” Hmm.. I could answer a few of such queries, and the rest I googled.😎 Of course! While I googled I chanced to come across a few recipes which I was sure would help any mother win the heart of a three and a half year old. I started experimenting with the spices, vegetables, fruits and grains my mother did once upon a time. Initially I found it difficult to stand in the cooking space, practically sweating down every inch of my body. Phew! But I remember what my daughter said when I first baked her a cake. She said, “Amma, this is yummy like Ammachi’s cake”. The kiss she planted on my cheeks was as good as any other reward I could ever get as an amateur in the field. Ha! Then the researcher in me started burrowing deeply into recipes, articles, books, youtube videos and e-materials on goodies and snacks to satiate and keep children below five years healthy. Meanwhile, I understood that I can feed the adults too provided I know their preferences and let them also understand that their preferences need not be always met in spite of the food turning out well. 😎Easy! Another thing about cooking is that once you get to know the basics you can start experimenting. I put in ginger, jeera, curry leaves, lemon and kanthari in passion fruit smoothie. It turned out well. Trust me. Last day somebody gave us a couple of egg fruits which metamorphosed into mini pizzas in the evening. Try mango dosas.👍Passion fruit plus mango chammanthi is the best! Butter the boiled eggs and stuff in cutlets. Your family will love ypu for that. Rava can bloom into perfect wrappings for veggies to fruits. All the vegetables which I would like to feed my child go into stuffed pan cakes and soups of varied flavours. Her cravings for sweet lead to layered fruits in refrigerated pudding. And that is quite comforting than buying her Munch and eclairs from shops.😄💩
My husband was surprised to find me devoting time equally between reading and cooking, the first one being my all time passion. I think that cooking is an art which all people, irrespective of gender should engage in. There is a special bond which develops in relationship and friendship when you cook together. Just like reading together, something else we do at home. While cooking together you talk with each other. I love my daughter for helping me break eggs while baking. I am still bad at chopping, but my husband does that part well! This does not mean that I cook all the time. I cook when there is a need to satisfy the heart and stomach. And I am no pro in the same. Still, I must say that it is a pleasure to watch my family eat what I cook. Sometimes it turns out a bit bad. But then you can always re-do it, or promise the family to try better the next time. It is all about learning to accept , appreciate and forgive. And when it is a combined effort, nobody points the finger at you🙊 I enjoy cooking alone , especially special dishes and snacks. It gives me some time to do other things parallel too. It is a pleasure to listen to a lecture on Cultural Studies, E-Poetics and other theoretical stands while stirring the soup, or grating a carrot. I love to cook playing music in the background. I listen to poems by Neruda or Dickinson while I layer my biscuit pudding. Cooking and experimenting with cooking has become an easier way to get connected with everything else I like to do.
This too shall pass!
The past two months reported one after the other suicides in Kerala. From dearth of booze to being caught for copying in the exam, one after another the Malayali conscience was assaulted by how their co-travellers of varying ages resorted to pulling down the curtains all by themselves.
Depression kills, and so do all that we instigate as society, as family and prestige into the mindset of a vulnerable population, enroute to a changed world, post-covid. We depend too much on one of the factors which boost our energy-physically or emotionally. We tune our moods , emotions, health and wealth in accordance with that one controlling factor which rules our life. Sometimes it might be an addictive substance which rules your health and wealth. Else it might be a person to whom you are attached like hell! It maybe an idea- especially when it is based on social norms of approval/ disapproval. Whatever it is or whoever it be, we forget to remind ourselves the principles of our transient life.
One, nothing is permanent. 🍂Relations, objects, ideologies are all subject to change. People will die naturally day and leave you forever; that’s life cycle. Or they may even die in your life, even before they turn into dust or ashes. Remind yourself that the wheel has to move on. Ideas keep changing all the time – and so do fashion, lifestyles and norms. Objects are subjected to either refreshing or perishing principles in life. Let them be.
Two, dont ever compare yourself with your neighbour.🌚🌝 It is not going to work out. Life has offered you a stale bread; it is not your fault. I wont say that it is nobody’s fault. But in the quest to find and analyse whose fault or error it is, please dont forget to live. Sometimes life reaches out to give you a hug-once in a while; please don’t miss it out in your rush to end everything.⌚
To all out there, I know that you are going through a phase which hurts terribly. But please stay. It is not time to give up. It is not yet time to leave. Life is more than what you see inside the cocoon. Fly, at least for a day, and when night settles down by itself, let it embrace you with love. Till then keep fluttering your wings. Your movement counts. Haven’t you heard about the butterfly effect? Your flutter can cause winds and storms all across the globe. You are an integral part of the web of life. Sometimes, when you stay low it can appease a forest fire. That doesn’t mean that you should stay down forever. Tomorrow will present a brighter hue on your rainbow.
Cling on to the rock. All through the ages people have lived through even worse climes. You can. You will. Just stay. Don’t leave. Not yet! 💕
Parenting Unlocked 🏺
I started teaching soon after I completed my Post Graduation. Thank God thatI have taught self-financing students, IELTS aspirants and regular students in college. My work time has always been scheduled from a particular AM to a particular PM every day. Home/college were two separate spaces till lockdown.
Never in my life had I imagined that I would have to take virtual classes on poetry, prose and theory. I was making PPTs , recording audios and videos, juggling with all the e-tutoring accessories like Google Meet, Google Classroom, Zoom , OBS, and attending webinars on online classes, e-tools. I was using my data plan to exhausting levels, eating into my mobile phone and laptop to a point when they were over-heated, all the while staying in the comfort zones of my house. I was ‘working from home’. I had thought that happened only in IT sectors. No, I corrected myself. E-teaching was also part of the IT. So I am an e-teacher now.🍙
As this drama was unfolding on one side, another one was being staged on the other side of the neo-teaching clime at home. My three and a half year old was finding spaces for herself, without any access to her ‘public’ life which included Montessori. She wanted me to play the dual role- as her mother and as her Montessori classmate/students(yes, she was always the teacher🙄😏). Initially I found this hazardous. I was supposed to login for a class at 11.30 AM for the PG students when the little one wanted me to play hide and seek with her. She started getting restless when I decided to stick on to my class schedule. I was supposed to manage my child when I get back home and my students when I was in college. But here was a new phase in which I was managing them together in a single space. 🏠Finally, I decided to talk to her about ‘online classes’ and how important it was for her Amma to be an e-teacher now. Very patiently, she listened to many of the jargons which I tried to dilute in a language she can understand. At the end of it she asked me, “When will you be free to play with me?” . That question made me fix a schedule. And she was happy that I spent more fruitful time with her than I used to, by making her cards, helping her paint egg shells, trying to make a pouch book and reading to her stories , become her ‘disciplined’ student, provided she lets me free for a couple of hours in the morning. Now, I am not advocating e-teaching here. But I started seeing motherhood in a new light during lockdown days. I started realising that I was dealing with my child not as a puppet, but as a person. She was growing up? But what about me? Was I developing as a mother? Earlier she used to be at the receiving end of my commands, but now I started seeing her as a partner in all that I do. 🎏We were sharing the same space for work and play. She made me coffee in between my e-classes one day and quietly passed it to me from the side, without ‘disturbing” the class. I couldn’t resist muting my microphone for a minute and thanking her for the coffee she made with her kitchen set. ☕I started looking out for ways to entertain a restless child under lockdown and tried to make my time with her as much fruitful as possible.
Lockdown unlocked another side to my parenting . It helped me realise that my child’s needs and spaces are as important as anybody else’s. Now when I get back home after college, I know that she awaits my return and wants me to help her mould the clay, play the ball, sit on the steps and admire her cycling or help her colour her picture book.🎈 ⛹️Before, I had been trying to go ultra fast in an ultra modern world.🤹 I was side-lining the most important person whom the divine powers had entrusted me with. Work is work, be it at work space or at home. And I try to give it cent percent. At the same time, I need to take as much an effort in parenting too.
Lockdown taught me that my daughter needs me, as much as I need her. Yes , I know the statistics. Work from home is not easy for a mother. It takes all your patience. Still, at the end of the day I feel my child close her eyes and sleep happily, and not after a bedtime tantrum. One night she told me, “Amma I love you a lot. You are a lot better to be with these days”.🙈🙉🙊Well, can there be a more honest critic than your own child!😂 And let me tell you, I also got time to complete all my pending portions of syllabus, organised a series of webinars for students , started a blog and was not simply trying to cocoon myself as a ‘divine’ mother. 🤓 Sorry, I have no intention of getting myself venerated as the ‘best mother in the world’. I prefer not to. But I do enjoy in being better in what ever roles I have chosen to play in life. And most importantly, at night I was also happier than I was before. 🖤
If somebody throws me a question as to what I learnt from lockdown in 2020 I would say that I learnt that each day you need to grow as a parent. Parenting is not static, and can never be done online.🍭
Your mind decides where you go.
(An audio which I did on World Mental Health Day) 🐚
A Short Review on Three Books .