Tuesday, June 30, 2009

7 Wrong Reasons for Getting Married

My views on marriage are documented. While I think marriage as a legally or socially recognised relationship is redundant, marriage does make life easier for committed heterosexual couples, at least in India, and, I suspect, in most countries. (And that's the reason why I am married myself.)

Despite my cynical views on marriage, I often find myself taking the commitment of marriage very seriously. This is partly due to the fact that marriage carries exit costs (both in terms of legal and social repurcussions in case of a separation) and much more because of my belief that one's partner should be one's closest, dearest and most trusted friend. I would never advise you to stay in a marriage (or in any relationship for that matter) that you are unhappy in. The other side of the coin is I would ask you to be very careful while deciding whether to get married and not to enter into the relationship if you have the slightest doubt.

So here's my views on what are the wrong reasons for getting hitched.

Please don't get married because:
  • You are getting older. Marriage doesn't come with a use-before date.
  • You need sex. Get a lover. Better yet, learn to help yourself. And have some one-night stands.
  • Your relatives want you to get married. No, not even if they are hinting that your parents (or grandparents) are not getting younger or healthier and you should have a wedding while they're still around to see it. If you have to, buy a huge doll and stage a fake wedding so your parents can have fun.
  • You have younger siblings. Well, let them get married first. There's no law, I assure you.
  • You are lonely. Make friends. You can't expect your parents to keep doing everything for you. Seriously, this is a skill you should have picked up in kindergarten. (And if you find this difficult, you definitely aren't ready to take on marriage.)
  • You want to have children. (Seriously? Do you know how much work kids are? Oh well, okay.) Adopt a kid. If you need your own genes, have a kid with another single child-hungry friend and share custody. What if you do get married and then realise the two of you can't have children together?
  • You have been with your partner a long time. Have you ever heard of sunk costs? It doesn't matter how much time or effort you've put into your relationship. All that matters is whether the relationship is of value to you today.
So what are the right reasons for getting married? To my mind, there's just one: if you want to overwhelmingly be with someone else, if you want to spend most of every day with them, for the foreseeable future. (Better still, if you are already spending most of your time with them and want to make it easier to keep doing so.)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

On "Jane Eyre"

Jane Eyre evokes conflicting emotions. One one hand is the book's somewhat feminist heroine. On the other, she seems happy with less than what she deserves.

Read what I think about this classic at my post on Indian Blog World. And do tell me what you think.

Friday, June 26, 2009

On "Arzee the Dwarf"

I approached "Arzee the Dwarf" with some trepidation. I have long admired the author, and I liked him when I met him, and I really wanted to like the book. Yet books are tricky things, and readers are even more unpredictable, so I was trying not to expect too much.

Which is partly why I am so amazed at how much I liked the book.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My (Really) Short Story: Penne

...is up now at Indian Blog World. Go read. And leave a comment to tell me what you think of it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Fantasy

I am dreaming about giving up everything and moving to Goa.

I want to live near the sea, in one room with a bathroom and a small kitchen. A bed to sleep in. A table and chair, if possible. The laptop.

We will have little money, of course. We’ll sell off the house and car – and get nothing out of it after paying off the home loan. But how much money do you need to live?

We will cook spare meals. We’ll go to the beach every morning, swim in the ocean, walk on the sand. I will sit in the shade and write, while he sleeps. We will come back when the sun is high up in the heavens, and have lunch. It will be too hot to do anything by then, and of course we won’t be able to afford an AC, so we’ll sleep. We’ll get up in the early evening, before the sun sets, and race to the beach to catch the last rays on the water. We’ll frolic and get wet again. Then sit on the beach sipping tea and letting the wind dry us out, while the stars turn on one by one.

We will hold hands and look at the sea, and talk. There is always so much to talk about. There will be peace, away from the noise and the never-ending race of the city.

And I will write again, and the Guy, perhaps, will get bored and go home. By the time I finally gather up my laptop and walk home, it will have grown quiet. But I won’t be afraid, because I walk down this path every day, and everyone around here knows me.

I will go home to a dimly-lit room, and the Guy will be working on dinner. I will put my arms around him and he will push me away so that he can concentrate.

And then we’ll eat, from one plate, sitting side by side on the bed. Our food will be simple, but lovely. We’ll wash the dishes and then go to bed and make love.

This we will do for many days, maybe a year. I will earn a little, maybe, through freelance writing projects, maybe by sharing my experiences in Goa with the world.

I am not quite sure what the Guy will do in all this while. He will get bored of reading and lazing around. He will take up some kind of work, perhaps. He might open a vegetarian eatery – he loves cooking. He might just work for a few hours at someone else’s. He might take up a more regular job at the nearest town. I can’t quite imagine him happy in any of these roles, and I feel a bit selfish imagining him there, in my dream.

But tomorrow I must go back to my nine-hours-a-day five-days-a-week job, and I don’t know whether it’s made more bearable, or less so, because of this fantasy.

(Written a few months ago)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

In Which We Meet Chandrahas Choudhury

I was really excited about Chandrahas Choudhury's book reading. I was excited for many reasons, one being that I have read Chandrahas' blog for years; another being that last time I saw him, I thought he was cute.

As it often does when I have things to do, it rained. Hard. I sat by the window and hoped the rain would stop in time for us to leave for the reading. Miraculously, it did. The Guy wasn't feeling too well, but offered to drive me there nonetheless. We left in what should have been plenty of time.

We were only a few kilometres away from our home when I realised I needed to pee. There was nothing to be done then (except go back, which we didn't want to do), so we went forward. Traffic was heavy and almost still in places due to the recently ceased rain, and it took us half hour longer to reach our destination than it should have. By the time we reached, the Guy also needed to pee.

We reached around a quarter of an hour late. The Guy obligingly dropped me off and went to park the car. I went in and found Chandrahas talking about the book. I crept onto a seat. The Guy found me there some minutes later.

Frankly, I don't much like the idea of readings for a new book - I want to enter a new book with little idea of what it's going to be like. Readings and discussions on the book make more sense, I feel, after I've read it. As it is I've learned too much about the story already before actually starting on the book.

After the reading, we got to talk to Chandrahas and get his autograph (which of course, was the whole point and the reason why I was there, in case you were wondering after the previous paragraph). He was really sweet and stood chatting to us for some time. He even (pretended to?) like one of the Guy's impromptu one-liners and claimed he would quote it. ([We like fiction because] "there's so much non-fiction around us anyway", if you must know.) Chandrahas then proceeded to recommend a book to us.

We said our byes and moved out of the queue, me clutching the book with Chandrahas' autograph on it. We looked for the book Chandrahas had recommended (Middleman by Sankar) and decided to take that too.

And then, finally, after around two hours, we went to the loo (no, not together; not even at the same time, because one of us had to hold the books).

It will tell you how excited I was that I didn't have the desire or the patience to look around the bookstore. (Me! Bookstores are my favourite place to hang out in!) We paid and left. We saw Chandrahas leaving in a car outside and waved goodbye.

Mercenary girl that I am, I found myself wondering whether a first edition of Arzee the Dwarf autographed by the author might be worth a fortune someday.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Wish Fulfilled

One of the images I had cherished in my mind when I decided to quit work was of me sitting in the balcony or by the window, watching the rain pour.

Today, I get my wish.

Later, I will worry about the ickiness and the mud and the difficulty of getting laundry to dry, about how the Guy will get home and about me being stranded at home.

But for now, all I want to do is revel in how beautiful the rain is. And how lovely it is to be in my home, looking out of the window.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More Thoughts On Dowry

A comment on this post made me want to spell out who I think is responsible for dowry harassment, that is, a woman's husband or in-laws harassing her for dowry up to the point that they kill her or she kills herself.

First, of course, the parents and/or other relatives of the groom, who make the dowry demands. Shame on them for placing a monetary value on their son as a husband and then putting him up for sale. For trying to take advantage of a woman's inferior position in our society. For trying to fleece the woman whom they should think of as a daughter.

But the one who is most directly responsible for the crime is the husband. He is to blame for asking his wife's parents to pay him for marrying her, for putting his own services as a husband up for sale. For committing such a crime against someone with whom he is entering into what should be the closest, most supportive relationship.

Every woman should also take responsibility for herself, and refuse to be a victim. It's sad that educated, urban women (who should be less vulnerable) also face such harassment. Why give in to the first demand for dowry? Why marry a person who asks for money as a condition to marrying you? When there are so many cases of dowry harassment, why put your life and sanity at risk and marry someone who asks for dowry? Why not take your life in your own hands and refuse to give in to pressure from parents or society?

But in cases where the victim dies (either kills herself or gets killed), I would blame her parents most of all. Invariably in such cases (from all I've read), the parents give in to the first demand for dowry. After the wedding is over, the groom's family makes more demands. How can someone get their daughter married to a man who demands dowry? Have they not heard of any of the many other dowry harassment cases that get reported (apart from presumably many that are not), of women getting beaten or burnt for dowry? How can they trust their daughter's life to someone like that?

More importantly, what do they do once the harassment starts? How does it get to such a pass that the daughter feels like she has no way out and kills herself? (Or the torture heaped on her increases until it becomes certain that she isn't going to bring more money and she is killed?) Is it not the parents' fault if she can't feel that she could return to them and ask for help when things go wrong? Is it not the parents' fault for persuading her to live with her husband and/or in-laws and saying "everything will be fine"?

If they can come up after her death to allege torture by her husband and in-laws, why did they do nothing while she was alive?

In an arranged marriage, the husband and the in-laws are relative strangers. Their asking for dowry and harassing the bride is a serious crime. But how can parents abandon their daughter and refuse to help, even though they know she is being tortured and harassed?

Which is why I think dowry will not cease until parents value daughters as much as sons, until the love they have for their daughters outweighs their concern about their status in society, until a divorced daughter ceases to be a source of shame.

The Most Fucked-up Article I Have Read Recently

... and that's saying a lot.

So wives and girlfriends need to "beware of the maid" because a well-known actor raped his. How much worse can you get at blaming the victim? Maybe the fact that the alleged rapist is a popular and good-looking actor and the victim is just a domestic help has something to do with this?

Way to go, Kalpana Sharma and the Times of India. I don't have enough words to express my disgust.

Added later: And of course men don't fall in love with maids: they only want "headless, harmless women" to "explore".

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

On Some Car and Bike Ads

Have you seen the Honda Jazz ad? The man puts a cactus in his car so he can gift his girlfriend the flower growing on it, and then they leave the plant by the roadside. What are they trying to say? Let's spoil the environment for fun? Let's go burn more oil?

Oh, but maybe I'm being too serious here, and there's a joke I didn't get.*

On the subject of ads, I hate most car and bike ads. They are full of machoist posturing and usually imply that the right bike will help you 'get the girls'. But there have been two two-wheeler ads lately that I love.

The first one is of Hero Honda Passion Pro. It builds a story around one benefit: the bike starts easily. They do talk about 'style' in the voiceover, though. Lovely jingle, too.

The other one is for TVS Scooty Streak. Aimed at women, it's funny and empowering. It's a nice dig at all the other bike commercials that have women wanting to ride pillion to demonstrate the attractiveness of the bike.

I'm glad Hero Honda came up with a good ad for once. TVS Scooty, though, has been using Sania Mirza very well, I think!

*The tagline is "Why so serious?"

Monday, June 15, 2009

How Feminism Unveils Romance

Anyone who's even an infrequent reader of this blog knows that sexism and misogyny make my blood boil. You may also know that I grew up in Assam.

Now while I won't say that the Assamese are the most liberal or just community, there is one form of misogyny that they don't practice - dowry. People do gift furniture and jewellery to their daughters when they get married, but there are very rarely any demands or even expectations, and no exchange of money. So I learned of dowry first through movies, and as so much else in Bollywood films, I thought the phenomenon was largely exaggerated and must definitely not be practised by educated people any longer.

Cut to my bschool. I'm talking to a male "friend". For some reason we speak of dowry, and he (let's call him Deepak) says he expects to get some. I am shocked and probably need some time to find words to chastise him. He defends himself, explaining that his parents had spent so much money on his education, so they should get some repayment for it. I am flabbergasted, and I argue with him for some time, to no avail. I fume for days afterwards.

We had a subject called 'Social Marketing'. We are discussing spreading awareness of social issues in class, and I speak up. I mention that a friend is intent on taking dowry: how do I convince him to change his mind? (Deepak is not in the same class.)

The class has a discussion, though I don't get much concrete help. I don't mention Deepak's name in class, but I do mention it to at least one friend outside class.

Now my friend "Sneha" and another friend meet Deepak one evening a day or two later. Sneha's friend confronts Deepak on his dowry aspirations. A heated debate ensues. Deepak presents the same 'return on investment' argument he had made to me earlier, and the other young man responds somewhere on the lines of, "So your parents produced you so they could earn off you? How many more such investments have they made?"

At this point Sneha steps in as peacemaker and after Deepak leaves, criticises her friend for getting too personal. Soon after, she tells me about it.

I am extremely pleased that I am not the only one who fights lost causes. And I am glad that this other guy who spoke up against Deepak is someone I admire and respect.

I remembered this incident a couple of days ago. And I was struck at the fact that of all the 150 people in our class, there were just two people who confronted Deepak. Two people who were friends, but who hadn't spoken on this matter to each other. It seemed oddly fatalistic.

You see, the other person who confronted Deepak was the Guy.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Way to Stop Crime Against Women

has been discovered by Ms Meeta Jamal, principal of Dayanand Girls' College in Kanpur.
"Girls who choose to wear jeans will be expelled from the college," Meeta Jamal, principal of the Dayanand girls' college in Kanpur city told AFP. "This is the only way to stop crime against women."
That's an idea that is brilliant in its simplicity. All we have to do is stop wearing jeans, and crime against women will come to a halt. No more rapes, by strangers or relatives or partners. No more strangers or relatives trying to cop a feel of a girl who they trust is too scared to fight back. No more wife-burning due to dowry issues. No domestic violence against women. No lewd whistles or catcalls.

Feminists, what have you been doing all these years, trying to take back the night and make the world a safer place? Just tell all women to stop wearing jeans.

I wasn't wearing jeans the first time I was harassed by a stranger. I was in a school uniform, sitting in a bus on my way to school. I must have been about twelve.

I was harassed nearly every day on public buses, and I was too scared, too ashamed to speak out. I felt it was somehow my fault.

Stop making us feel it's our fault. It's not a woman's fault if she is harassed. It's not the victim's responsibility to top crime.

If you are outraged too, send an email to contact@dayanandgirlspgcollege.org. (Hattip: Alankrita). Here's what I wrote:


The Principal

DG College, Kanpur

Dear Madam,

I am appalled that you are banning students from wearing jeans in college under threat of expulsion. And this, you think, is the way to stop harassment against women? By blaming women themselves for being somehow responsible for the harassment? Do you think women in salwar kameezes, in sarees, are not harassed? It is deeply disappointing to hear such statements from the principal of a women's college. I wish instead, that you would encourage your students to be confident and intelligent individuals, standing up to harassment and discrimination.

And please, place the blame for crime on criminals, not on the victims.

Best regards,

Please send them a line. Let's use what little power we have - our minds, our keyboards.

(You are welcome to copy my email above if you don't have time to write out one, just drop me a line in the comments.)

Friday, June 12, 2009

That's What We Think of Romantic Comedies!

I tell the Guy last night, "Hey, today I actually watched a romantic comedy that wasn't horrible. The guy wasn't a jerk and the women weren't complete idiots."

"It can't have done well at the box office, then. I have never heard of it anyway."

Is there a cure for the man's cynicism?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Happiness Is Made Up of Little Things

This afternoon, we are making our way back from the doctor's. (I have always hated going to doctors, but this guy is fantastic. The first question he asks, even before he takes a proper look at me - well, actually, the second, the first is on the lines of "What's the matter with you this time?" - is "Have you been travelling?")

Anyway, we're nearing our flat and the Guy stops outside a store and goes in to buy some juice for me. A cab comes and stops right next to our car (even though this is a wide road with no other vehicle in sight) and the people inside wave and talk to someone in the store. I'm listening to music and trying not to pass out so I don't pay much attention. The Guy comes back trying to hold back a smile.

"What's up?" I ask him. He signals that he'll tell me later. As we drive off, he tells me it was the Noisy Neighbours in the car - going off on what we hope is a long vacation. I hadn't realised it was them because we know them by their voices, not by their faces, and our car windows are apparently better insulated than our house ones.

Well, I've been home since then, and I tell you, it's been peaceful.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


I have been off having some. 

I was to go to a small town in Madhya Pradesh last weekend to attend a friend's wedding. We had planned the trip about three months ago, but I wasn't sure if I would be able to go, given my indifferent health lately. So when Friday afternoon dawned and I was all packed and ready, I was very excited to finally be off!

I walked to the balcony to water my two poor nearly dried up plants and noticed dark clouds on the horizon. "It looks like rain," I told the Guy. 

In another hour, he was driving me to the railway station. Storm clouds covered the sky. And then the rains came. Hard and fast, with the wind blowing the raindrops this way and that, and making it difficult to drive. Water began to fill up the streets, and traffic stalled. We spent about fifteen minutes in a 200 km distance by and within the station.

Inside the station, the long line of cars moved a few feet every few minutes. When I judged we were near enough, I jumped out, got my bag from the back seat and rushed off, waving the Guy a quick goodbye. I managed to get in rather wet, but not much the worse for the adventure. I found my friend and we bought sandwiches for dinner before boarding the train. 

Some of the other adventures I've had on this trip:
  • Stayed in a crummy hotel that charged us 800 for an AC room. (No wonder we saw no other guests except people from the wedding party.) The first room we found ourselves in that the two of us women were to share, I saw a mouse peeking down at us from the top of the cupboard. While we made a speedy exit to the facing room that our male travelling companion had occupied, he tried to get the hotel staff to move it out... Getting little response, he made some effort himself, with little success. We decided to move to another, smaller room. But if there was a mouse there, it didn't make its presence felt.
  • Ate the most delicious - though rich and spicy - food at the wedding. I don't usually like spicy food (to be honest, this wasn't really hot), but it was a welcome change. 
  • Spent two days in a small town with little to do - the heat doing a great job of discouraging us from stepping out. That is an adventure for a city slicker like me!
  • Saw the bride - a sassy urban woman, reluctantly wearing a pallu over her head as had been dictated by the in-laws. Not a nice adventure, this one. 
  • Helped the bride make up! Yeah, me, who still can't put on lip liner straight. The bride decided at the last minute not to use a professional make up person or hair stylist, so the bunch of her female friends had a great time experimenting on her. It helped, of course, that she has marvellous glowing skin. The bride delightedly informed us the next day that the wedding photographer had praised the make up. 
  • The wedding was like a mela, the grounds lit up and decorated beautifully and rapidly filling with people, especially around all the food stalls. Within a few minutes though, we saw the ground covered with litter. A guest would finish their portion, and ignoring the strategically placed bins, "remove their hands from under the utensil", as a friend put it. Hardly everyone even made the effort of throwing the used utensils a little out of the way. So we found ourselves walking on a carpet of trash, and I was wishing I hadn't worn my nice sari and my best sandals. 
  • The wedding was on Saturday night, and our train was on Sunday evening. So a hotel employee knocked roughly on our door at eight in the morning and asked us to vacate our rooms. So we spent the rest of the day, seven of us in one hotel room, as it was too hot to go out except for breakfast and lunch.
  • Our train was three hours late. We sat there in the station with nothing to do and too tired even to talk, longing to be back home.
  • The train came and we had two minutes to jump on. We found our berths and also found that there was no space to place the three small bags among the three of us. We managed to arrange our luggage somehow, and asked a guy to remove his bags from one of our berths. The young man demurred, and our friend explained that we had had a difficult time already with waiting on the station for so long. The female half of the couple piped up to say they had had to wait too. I wonder how she felt that gave them the right to keep their luggage on our berth. Anyway, the man removed their luggage, we ate some biscuits for dinner and went to bed. In the morning there were two extra people in our area (as people were sharing berths) and it was altogether an uncomfortable journey. One of us had pledged at the station not to travel by train again - I merely pledged not to travel three-tier.
  • We finally reached our destination nearly four hours late. I got home and promptly fell sick. I think that's enough adventures for a long time!

Friday, June 05, 2009

How Does It Feel When Your Father Dies? (II)

You had known for some time
that your father would die.
All you had hoped for
Was a chance to say goodbye.
And you had that. Lucky you.

Then why is it so hard?
You go back to your familiar life
To friends and exams... but
You cannot get rid
Of that weight in your chest.
And you seem to have forgotten how to smile.

Were you strong?
Or so weak that it took all your strength
To live through this
Leaving you little for crying or sharing your grief.
You being yourself
Could not have dealt with it any other way. 

You sit to fill up an exam form.
It asks for 'Father's Name'.
You are numb and then you cry.
Do you write 'Late' before his name?
You wonder.

You knew your father was going to die.
You had lived away from him for some time.
You did not see eye to eye.
So why could you not forget
And be normal again?

But you were 'normal', some felt.
You were hurt when a friend asked
about celebrating your birthday
a week - a week! - after his death.

But another friend pointed out
You weren't showing your grief
How were others to know you were mourning?
It was your fault, she seemed to imply
That you were brave.
That you felt your grief was private.

You talk to your mother
Trying to comfort her.
No one seems to reach out to you
To realise you might need comfort
Might need to cry your heart out.

But other friends try to help
By not letting you be alone.
By trying to make you laugh.
By finding things for you to do.
You take an interest in life again
In presentations and classes.

But the grief doesn't go away.
You cry in solitude sometimes,
sometimes into a friendly shoulder - 
but rarely, for you have to be strong - 
till many months have passed.

More than a year later, you have nightmares
that leave you shaking
and make you afraid to sleep.
You find it difficult to celebrate your birthday
couched as the day is between the anniversaries
of your father's death and birth.

You talk to your mother
aching for her loneliness,
Feeling guilty that you aren't with her.
You help her make decisions:
Your father had always made them
Who would you turn to for advice now?

It takes a toll on you
The being strong for your mother's sake
And for yours. 
For who would support you if you broke down?
You wish later that you could have grieved properly then
It might have saved you 
Some of the many hours of anguish
Of solitary bitter tears
Of feeling all alone. 

You go with your mother, once
To perform the last ritual for him - 
To immerse his ashes in the 'holy waters'.
You brave the greed of the priests;
You hold his ashes and fragments of bone in your hand
Before consigning them to the river.
Your hand tingles for days afterwards.

How does it feel to not have a father?
Always, not quite whole, less than normal.
People ask, who do not know,
Why is your father not here?
Or what did he do at so-and-so?
And at first, each time the grief pinches anew.
And you struggle to answer, and to not  cry.

When the grief ebbs away, there's embarassment.
You don't have a father.
And you don't want the person to feel sorry for asking.
So you smile, and say it's okay.
And realise it is true.
It is okay now.
The wound has healed, though the scar remains
And hurts when you rub it.
You are not whole, but you are strong.

Part 1 here.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

How Does It Feel When Your Father Dies? (I)

Suddenly, the person who was so much a part of your life isn't there.
He has gone away, leaving his body behind.
You gently close his eyes - the last thing you'll do for him.
And you look at your mother sobbing bitterly.

This should come as a relief. 
He was in pain for so long.
Your mother was wearing herself thin caring for him.
She hadn't had a good night's sleep in months. 
But you can feel nothing - no tears come. 
Just a dead weight in your chest.

You hold your mother as she cries. 
You look around at her brother, your sister, the few people there.
And see the looks of shock, of disbelief, of awkwardness.
Feel your mother's sobs.
And realise this is your burden now.
That you, the youngest, have to grow up.

You make calls. Your mother tells you who to call.
But you also make one call for yourself.
To the one friend you have in town. 
The one person who can give you the strength that you so desperately need.
You send two SMSes. 
To a friend and a boyfriend in Delhi.
Saying you won't be able to catch your flight today. 
Then you go back to your mother's side.

Your cousin arrives - capable, practical.
He shoos the women out of the room. 
You were hoping he would bring relief.
He knows what to do.
But he will not take your weeping mother off your hands.
And let you go off alone to grieve.

In some time they bring your father out
What is left of him. 
Lay him out carefully on the living room floor.
Dressed up and peaceful.
You sit by him, the three women.
Touch him for what little time is left.

The house fills with people. 
Relatives, friends, neighbours.
Elder sisters of your father. 
One who is heartbroken to see her little brother dead.
One who explains that they took longer getting here
because they decided to have lunch first.
After all, one can't have lunch in a house of death.

Cousins arrive and try to comfort their aunt. 
You hold one's legs as soon as she gets near - 
Seated on the ground as you are - 
And cry. The tears bring little relief. 

She comes, your friend. 
There are too many people for her to get near, to comfort you.
But that she's there seems enough, for now. 
You are not left alone to face this strange new world
Where your father, who had ruled your lives
Does not exist.

It is time to take him away. 
They wonder who will perform the last rites.
It's a tragedy, though they don't say it
for a man to die without a son.
Your mother speaks up decisively.
Your sister will do what's needed.
As your father had wanted.

They ask you if you want to go.
You refuse. Your place is with your mother.
But when your mother also asks
You realise you cannot face it.
You cannot see him being burned to ashes.
You will hide behind your mother's aanchal.

You touch his feet one last time. 
Aware of the audience to what should be private.
They lift him.
And your mother rushes forward
Crying dementedly like a widowed bride
Sobbing that they cannot take him away.
You hold her back.

The house is quieter now. Just some women left behind.
One cousin helpfully observes,
Now that your sister is doing this for your father
You can do the same for your mother
when her time comes.
You are too numb to reply.

You take your mother into your room
Because she cannot face being in the room she shared with her husband.
More women follow. Someone talks of tea.
A cousin helpfully goes out to get some.
You cannot cook in a house of death. 

Just one of the many things you cannot do
In the days following.
Eat cooked food, 
Sleep or sit anywhere except on the ground,
Comb your hair.
Your mother follows everything,
Afraid of being accused of not doing enough for her husband.

But that day you don't think of all that.
But of your mother, and one woman by her
Talking of food and of her dead brother
As if nothing was wrong.
You ask an older cousin for help in shooing everyone out of the room
So your mother can rest.
You have never been polite or conventional,
But you are doing today what your mother or your father would do:
You are being the head of the family
Now that there is no head.

You hold your mother, talk to her gently.
There can be no sleep
But there might be some relief.

Someone comes. It's a friend you had called
When your father had seemed worse.
It seems ages ago.
Anger surges within you
Why come so late?
Did he think your father would wait?
Why had he said, a few days ago,
Call me if you need help.
What help had he come to render?
But you are polite.He leaves. 
And is surprised when you are cold thereafter.

You finally get to talk to your friend alone.
There is not much to say.
You know she understands.
She always did. When he was ill,
she would show her concern
Unlike all the others who acted like they did not know.
Who did not come to visit. Who pretended nothing was wrong.
All the others who were not friends.

Your friend tells you she was in pain
But she never uttered a word 
Did not let it show on her face all these hours
Because you needed her there. 

I have previously posted on remembering my father.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Mad House

There is many a momma
Who is a little mad,
But there's just one Mad Momma
And just one OA-dad.

There is a noisy little Brat
Who'll charm you out of your wits;
A Bean who now talks oh so pat:
They love each other to bits.

The MM is blogging a rant,
The OA watching the new TV,
The Bean is chasing an ant,
And the Brat runs around all the three.

That's the Mad House and those that in it dwell:
How do I know? That I never shall tell!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A Thought on Animal Cruelty

Why is it that we have laws against cruelty to animals that do not extend to killing them for food or for their skins?

Isn't that equivalent to prohibiting abuse or assault of people, but not cannibalism or the wearing of bags and shoes made of human skin?

(I am wondering, not condemning. I do wear leather, though not without a twinge at my conscience.)

Edited on 3 June 2009: Also, in respect to breeding animals for food being cruel, read this.