STOP-OVER ‘n RE-START

Cycling, Re-cycling

The morning painted three different shades of trees for me. One was blooming yellow, fingers painted red, pointing to the skies. Another one had strewn the roads with yellow petals, as if offering a flower-carpet welcome to all the wayfarers, including the ones who would stomp on the fallen dreams. The third one, had raised its arms up, as if trying to pierce the heavens. Naked it stood, swaying slightly, in the wind.
I found all the three in me. The blooming , the offering and the barren. The blooming days never foresee those nights when people walk away. You let them, shedding your petals, one by one. And finally when they storm out, your arms raise to the unseen powers and await the flowers, all over again. No wonder they say, it is a cycle. Just keep pedalling, folks!! ⏰🚲

On Sara’s
The flood of online and offline reviews were spoilers enough for Sara’s. Yet, I decided to watch the movie as I did not want to miss out Sunny Wayne and Anna Ben playing major roles in a seemingly promising script. Sara’s argues for women’s reproductive rights, the importance of carefully deciding on parenthood and the necessity of getting prepared for the life-long phase, once chosen. It gives enough material to think through the choices we make in life. I agree that a couple should carefully choose and decide when to have a baby, and how many they would love to and are capable enough to bring up. I also believe that young people need to be prepared well before venturing into parenthood, as it requires immense patience and love to nurture human beings. I also agree that they can choose not to have babies, as parenting is not the primary goal of a relationship. All that said, these are a few observations on my part.

  1. I guess a brief note on feminism is necessary here as it is a label which is, as usual , just a passing comment in the movie. The 20th C. Second Wave Feminism, which was largely based on a white-middle class-Western ideology, emphasised on the reproductive rights of women. It was a time when contraceptives and abortion rights were discussed, debated and emphasised in public. Women became more aware of their bodies and their rights over bodies. The Third Wave was more explicit on the same. It was inclusive of women who chose to give birth and believed in not insisting on control of fertility, but rather the necessity to choose. Thus they fought for maternity leave rights, support for single mothers, and also for rights of mothers bringing up special children. After Sara’s , I would encourage the viewers to re-think on rights and responsibilities. As much as a woman has rights over her body to say NO to pregnancy, that much has another to embrace mothering. Sara’s argue for a change in our mind-set to accept women who choose not to become mothers. At the same time we must be mindful of (many a time) the lack of a responsible system to support women who choose to have babies and at the same time strive ahead in their career. We know mothers who have sacrificed their health so as to maintain a balance between work and home. Instead of blaming them, criticise the lack of support systems which does not offer provisions for mothers to go to work with clear minds and lively spirits. Many times a mother is forced to toil from day to dusk in the kitchen and her workspace, with little space to stretch her legs. And many women are forced to quit their jobs.
  2. I believe that the decision to have/not to have babies is not to be made on any emotional outbursts. The young man is quite frustrated with baby-sitting his sister’s children, and on the spur of the moment decides not to have a child after marriage. Such an emotional decision will waver after a couple of years for sure. And there is no point in blaming him here. Sara is ambitious and she has an aim. Her decision stands strong because she wants to leave her name for the posterity to remember in her art, as she mentions. But the husband, apart from his bitter-sweet experiences at taking caring of two children for a month, is more fearful than being less convinced about his prospective parenting abilities. Or in other words, the movie doesn’t address the husband’s changing attitude towards parenting, and its reason. And Sara cannot really point her finger at him for the same, as she is equally incapable of convincing him otherwise.
  3. I guess one of serious flaws in the movie is the portrayal of the couple who have decided on not having children. Sara’s aversion to children is shown explicitly on screen. Jeevan’s impatience with the young ones also stands out. I don’t think all couples who decide on not having children behave irresponsibly when other children are around. In my experience, they are open to receiving children at their homes and like to play with them. Their decision is not to have children of themselves, and not to remain child-haters. I guess a movie which claims to break stereotypes, makes a serious stereotypical reinforcement.
  4. Choices and decisions are not stagnant. Those might change and require revision over the years. The partners must be open to discussing and revising their options, as and when time rolls by. It is always in giving and taking respect that any relationship survives. On matters of differences of opinion the partners should sit down and discuss , before venturing to a counsellor. Such a scene is amiss in the movie, and it seems the doctor barges in and makes the decision for them.

Hope these are not more spoilers for those who have not watched the movie yet. The question remains if the script would have been better if the other characters were also equally round and developing as Sara’s. This is not a write up for/against Sara’s. I appreciate the work behind the screen. But at the same time, the ends remain loose in many places and might even unthread the tapestry woven. I strongly support people who have adopted children, especially single women, and who raise them with immeasurable love. I respect people who have carefully decided not to marry at all, but contribute significantly to the world in many ways. I respect men and women who want children. I equally respect men and women who do not want to raise babies. I respect transpersons who love children to the core. I appreciate mothers who chose to give birth and have included their family in their career-growth.I do understand the pain of childless couple who have been yearning for a baby for years together. I also admire those who over the years have accepted that they won’t have children for themselves and have embraced life. I respect those who have to take firm decision alone over their body rights. I respect humanity which is based on kindness, and makes right choices and take right decisions. I conclude by re-iterating that people come in all shades, and so do choices and decisions.

Re-climbing Bethany roads…
I hadn’t pre-planned a walk up the hill yesterday. But the cloudy sky brought back school-memories, and I let my heart overtake. Those June days, when we sat inside the classrooms half-listening to the rains outside and half-listening to the teachers; those days when we played pranks upon one another (phew, I remember picking paper bits to small pencils from my curly bunch of hair during break time), and always laughed, especially at ourselves; those days when a samosa was equally divided among five; those basketball days when we shouted ‘ East/West, Girideepam is the best!’; our dear teachers who balanced discipline and love on a single rod; those assembly lines which even under scorching sun, we braved; those youth festival days where Pallavas, Mauryas, Guptas and Cholas showed their best and won numerous accolades; those days when each task was met with a fervour which surpassed the mettle of mountain climbers; those autograph books, photos and tour memories which stay green and fresh during dark days of the present.
The campus has been re-structured and made anew. It looks different from what it was in the 90’s. I walk straight to the KG section. I close my eyes and savour the wind on my cheeks. Fourteen years in one school. That is a gift unparalleled!

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Those human-scented flowers…

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Without and without bindhis...

An 18-year-old girl who was left on the streets with her 6-month-old baby after being abandoned by her husband and family has become sub inspector at Varkala police station here. A true model of will power and confidence, Kanjiramkulam native Anie Siva built her life within 14 years”.

https://english.mathrubhumi.com/news/good-news/18-yr-old-abandoned-with-baby-becomes-si-of-varkala-after-14-years-1.5784468?fbclid=IwAR1p3lIN_AHC_d0LO4_Su5eOS2jR6nBc01R9VLypIs2_D4Ml1omwuBsvir8

She could have given up easily, but chose not to. This lady officer’s story should not go unnoticed. Thrown on the streets with a baby in her arms, Anie realized that giving up was not an option when life beckoned. Selling essential items door to door, helping vendors at festivals and finding time to complete her education and supporting herself and her baby, she reached where she is today. Hats off to Anie Siva who braved the insults and proved to the world in fourteen years that dreams and action help one stride many miles without a pause. With and without a bindhi, women’s stories continues !👏🏼👏🏼

To the most Literate State

Vismaya V Nair, a 24-year-old woman, was found dead on Monday morning at the house of her husband’s family in Sasthamnada near Sasthamkotta in Kollam district. Her death came two days after she sent messages to her cousin telling him that her husband had brutally beaten her many times over a car that was given as part of her dowry. Vismaya, a final year Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery student, got married to S Kiran Kumar, an official at the Motor Vehicle Department, in March 2020. (https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/young-kerala-woman-found-dead-days-after-sharing-pics-injuries-abusive-husband-151023)

The Wife (2017), directed by Bjorn L Runge, starring Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce, talks about the kind of ‘soft abuse’ faced by many wives. What made me think twice was that for the wife there was always a way out, which she chose not to. She chose not to expose her husband who was slaving her intellectually, and reaping the harvest, including the Nobel. Of course, I find the ambivalence surrounding the relationship between the husband and wife is enigmatic even towards the end of the movie. But ‘love’ turns out to be almost always blind till the last breath. I was irritated not because the soft abuse had happened, but because it happened in a marital life shared by two people who are educated and well-read. That was alarming, and more shameful!

Vismaya was a final year medical student and her husband works with the Government. Both are well educated people from the land of literacy, Kerala. The State is the most literate in the country, according to NSO Survey. Just a minute! What good does education do for our girls and boys today? Do they know how to share space(s) inside a school, college, shop, train, bus, and let alone a house? Do we teach them Physics, Chemistry, English , Malayalam, Hindi, History and Botany to abuse each other physically and verbally, inflict wounds on themselves and leave not a single mark for history to look back and learn from? And what about the parents? Where are we pushing our children to? Moon? Mars!? If a parent feels irresponsible enough to pack off a daughter in kilos of gold, elder siblings feel like pacifying their younger sister and hushing her pains using the Malayali cliche “Potte mole..saaram illa..ingane okkeya..”, our State will see an increase in the number of victims, rather than survivors who receive justice, let alone a complete annihilation of victimization. This is a plea to the system of education in the most literate state in India. Please teach our children to respect and love each other. Please teach them that violence is not the way to win over a crisis. Please teach them that money is not the measuring rod for any successful relationship. Please teach them that a peaceful life is more valuable that a six figure salary or a BMW car. Please teach them that it is illegal to exchange humans for gold. Please teach them that marriage is not mandatory, and is a choice. Please tell them that the choice must be made carefully, not to please the parents or the society, but to live together in harmony. Teach them that it is painful to die everyday inch by inch, and that there is always a choice to walk out of abuse. Please teach them that mistakes can be corrected, and there is life ahead, even after a fall. Please teach them more Life and less Alphabet and Numbers.

Vismaya is one of the many women in our land who have burnt in shame. There are many wives out there who deal with soft and hard abuse in marriage. Some for two years, some ten years, some for thirty and some even until the day they breathe their last. Silence in the face of abuse is not the way out. Abuse is violence. Justice is the containment of violence. How do we stop abuse? We stop it right where it starts, right at homes. Nip it in the bud. Let us live and let live.

Semiya Upma : Recollections

I tasted semiya upma for the first time, when I was a second year
M A English student at Baselius College, almost thirteen years ago. My tongue savoured every bit of it, and my greedy belly wanted more. So for a second time, bunking a session on Aristotle’s Poetics, I ran to Viji Varghese Eapen and Susan George ‘s home, one evening.😁 They were staying at Chalukunnu then. Yes, it was through Kochamma that I was introduced to her special semiya upma, flavoured with love and laughter. ❣ Heart and stomach full, I returned home. The next day I was summoned by the teacher who took the hour. I sheepishly lowered my eyes to the ground and apologized. I remember the entire episode each time I make semiya upma😅 It never tastes like Susan Kochamma’s. But with each thread of it I catch a whiff of those good old days! 🥰🍂

Cathartic Bottling!

Eight years old, I was sent to a drawing class at Kasturbai Social Welfare Centre, Kanjikuzhy, during summer vacation. To be honest, I did not appreciate it much. But, I went for my mother’s sake. Well in 2020, for my daughter’s sake, I poured a few colours over chart paper and bottles. She, like any other preschooler, loves to play with colours. I found out that I can keep her still for an hour or so, when there are different shades of bottles and a few brushes, on the floor. Almost a year ago, I painted a bottle and a few broken egg shells to the delight of my then three year old daughter. Over the months, I could feel colours wash all over me. I am not an artist. Painting ‘beautifully’ is not my cup of tea, but painting is equal to a cup of tea, these days. The cathartic effect cannot be dodged. Yesterday, I sat with my daughter who is more colour-conscious than I am, to paint a bottle so as to house a money plant. It was drizzling slightly outside. The breeze gently kissed our foreheads. The money-plants breathed life into the emptiness of bottles. I closed my eyes and breathed in the scent of the scene. To all out there, trying to fill in these locked-down days with extra creative hours, cheers!

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When the storm rages…

I started scribbling on my blog (nmjs.in titled Mizhi) at the onset of Covid 19. It was never meant to be a daily affair. I wrote now and then whenever a random thought struck me. Writing is healing for me. And I was finding my medicine. Never did I anticipate that a year later I will be looking within and re-checking with myself, if I should maintain the site for another year. I spent a few moments yesterday contemplating on the different turns life took in 2020., for myself, for my friends, family and the world at large. The hot air rushed in through the window, slightly ruffling the curtains. The chimes did not jingle at all. I sat frozen after I received the sad news that a dear little one in our family had succumbed to Covid. I must admit that I felt many emotions seeping in- anger, pity, sorrow, apathy. Through all the sicknesses and surge in the number of deaths across our land, with masks on our faces, sanitizer in one hand, gloves on our palms, drinking warm water, gargling salt water, inhaling turmeric steam, safe social distancing, vaccination drive, exercises, healthy lifestyle and what not! we are still wading in the pandemic waters. 2020 seems not to be the only year, as many of us had expected; but it was just a spark which ignited a forest fire, which no one knows will recede when!

If there was one thing which I have never stopped doing all over the years it is reading. Through wind, sun and rain, I keep my eyes glued to the printed words. After a few teary minutes, I hauled myself to my book shelf and pulled out a couple of books. I read those one after the other, for an hour. Though a few sentences unfriended me, many of those did embrace me warmly. I would like to share a few of those lines here:

Reconciliation with the body can take many forms; it is not necessarily evasive or rationalistic to say that healing may also be about reconciliation with or in a body that is not going to ‘get better’ physically in the straightforward sense. There are reconciliations and liberations that will happen within a situation which, physically, may not change much- which is what so many learn through ministry with the terminally ill, or with those who live with long-standing, continuing disabilities. We know that there maybe a healing in such circumstances that has to do with a new capacity to inhabit the body, a freedom within a body which maybe dying, mortal, limited, afflicted, in all kinds of ways. .. Because we have intelligence and love and imagination, our living in our environment is an evolving story, not just a given fact. (Rowan Williams)

…the day the desert tree blossoms/is the feasting day for the fowls of the air/ The evil fowls and the good fowls/The owner of the earth covers them in his cloth/promised them/when he holds the promise/Thirst shall not kill them/so the world changes/rain comes after the drought/the yam festival after the sewing time./ Do not lose heart,/have arms, we have shields ( Kofi Awoonor)

At night I received a text message from the grieving father- My angel is in the safest abode.

Then I knew, no matter what, Life has won, and will! Trust, hope, love. These are the impossible, but the necessities of the hour.

Skydiving in Faith

Mathews George

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