Author: Behind the Wooden Door

The Bane of the Womb

The Bane of the Womb

Yet another dinner table conversation in our home:

‘But he spoke to me first, Amma,’ my five-year-old quips. I retort with my usual advice, warning her of the probable adversaries. ‘This will be the last time you speak to a stranger,’ I warn her. As I say this, there isn’t a speck of guilt within me that I am inculcating hatred in the little mind. I am aware that instilling panic is the last duty of a responsible mother.

Like many other mothers in my part of the world, I have no choice. Bringing a girl child into a misogynistic and pessimistic world and trying to protect her is no mean task. To activate the subdued fear alarm in mind, there is some incident you read, way too often.

Can they overcome?

Every time I read about the atrocities meted to the little girls, my thoughts are always with the mother. Can anything on earth be more horrendous than to see your child face barbarity and yet feel helpless about it? How ludicrous is it to let the law take its own course in this age of extreme malfeasance and extortion?

The young victim might need a lifetime to therapy to rise above the maltreatment. The mother is doomed to live in the shadow of fear. Speaking of therapy, we are aware of the acute shortage of shrinks in our country.

What gives him the courage?

What makes a man think that he could assault a woman (be it a random passerby or kin) and walk away with it? What gives an offender the audacity to cause agony to a woman or a child and cause mental and physical distress? Have we as a society become deplorable and hideous?

What makes a man think that the opposite sex is but a puppet in his hands? This is not a scenario just on the streets; it is prevalent in the vast majority of Indian homes. Why should the woman of the house stay immune to exploitation, injustice and your offensive jeers?

Is chauvinism a piece of wisdom passed on for generations since the late Vedic age? Or was it acquired enlightenment post the Victorian times?  Despite laws and amendments, why is inequality woven into the fabric of our being?

Is Safety of women a myth?

Will women’s safety be brushed aside as a myth? What if the ripples of change spread steadily? What if they lead to rebellion? What if the collective consciousness of the XX bearers result in a revolt? Can we teach our girls to stand-up? Will our biased society let them stand firm on their feet?

Should the caregivers of the girl children live in angst? Will our voices be heard? Will there be an advancement regarding equality? Can the confined minds undergo metamorphosis?

Will our rights be safeguarded? Or should we camouflage ourselves in the bovine skin to protect our dignity?…..

Just a humble lament of a mother raising a daughter.

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A Reverie and Memories of Her

A Reverie and Memories of Her

Eighty years is a long time to live. As he sat on the cane chair reminiscing his achievements in the last two decades and the turmoil he faced in the recent past, all he wanted was to enter the dark tunnel and find that bright light. At least, that is how those who had near death experiences described the journey.

Memoir

Nostalgia is a dangerous thing. It can evoke the kind of feelings that are hard to construe. He felt her presence in the thick, frosty air he breathed. With the density of her memories and the oxygen almost choking him, how he wished they succeeded.

Like earlier times, it was difficult to bury her vision and thoughts deep within and focus on the task at hand. There was no task, no errands to run and nothing to supervise. He tried to take a walk and reached for his shawl. The paleness of the soft fabric reminded him of her touch.

When the mind’s eye refuses to shut

It was only a vague memory, yet it has haunted him all his life. He remembers the sound of hooves that night and the way he and his siblings were whisked away to her father’s house. He recalls every moment of that fateful sundown hour- her partly opened eyes, the mild curve of her lips and the way she held his hand.

He was carried away shortly, and he never saw her again. Or, did he?

He always dwelled upon her thoughts and sometimes found solace in conjuring up those visions buried deep within the subconscious spirit.

Her dark brown eyes and the way they lit up every time she laughed- which was too often. Her pale pink, Caucasian- like complexion, her soft curls, the tenderness of her touch, her chiseled chin and broad jawline- he was surprised by the mind’s ability to recapture every single detail.

While he looked at the hill eastwards, images of her fetching water in the mud pot conjure up. The whole house was alive in her presence. She would tell him and the siblings endless tales of the woods, spirits, and Gods. Those tales were not fixed in his mind, but the vivid movement of her eyes and her spirited talk were.

In all these years as a father, entrepreneur, and grandfather, every time he felt he was falling into an abyss, it was the feel of her warm embrace that cheered him up. His favorite memory was the walks to the nearby stream, her firm grasp and the way her arm tightened around his wrist every time they stepped into the ankle-deep water.  The vision of both their feet beneath the crystal clear bubbles was still lucid.

Pie in the sky

It was almost near, he could feel it. But all he longed for was those piggy-back rides, the herbal scent of her hair, a place on her lap, the feel of her strong grasp, to rest on her shoulders and to call her Amma (Mother) one last time. Just One Last Time.

A Tot Gives a Lesson in Perseverance

A Tot Gives a Lesson in Perseverance

It was a warm and sultry monsoon morning in Chennai. A sleepy suburban locality abundant in precious flora was bustling with vehicles, the numbers far too many for a Sunday morning. A Sports event attracted the sudden hustle.

This event was not a regular one. The oldest participant in the event was not more than five years old, and the youngest was barely three. After the regular inauguration and performances, it was time for the races. The competitions were carefully crafted so that they are appropriate for the tiny feet and do not harm the developing muscle.

This contest was one with a difference. There was no podium wins, and the winners were not announced. Every child went home a winner. It was just another regular event until little Miss.N stepped on the track for her race.

Like every other child, the four-year old N couldn’t contain her excitement when she was made to stand at the start of the 30-meter track. With dark hair curling close to her jawbone, a cherubic face and a radiant smile, she was a sight to behold.

Once they were motioned to start, N and her friends hurriedly dragged a coconut with the help of a hula hoop across the track. They had to walk backward, pulling the coconut all the way to the finish line. There was anxiety in the air, but these tots were determined.

It was not a simple task considering the undulating terrain, the muddy track, and the penetrating heat. Some kids finished the race in a few minutes, and some took longer. When all of the others had completed, N had barely moved ten meters from the start.

What followed next is something all those who witnessed it would remember for a lifetime. N entirely focused on the coconut and the hoop, dragged the nut very carefully so as to not let it slip away.

As the cheers grew louder, N was more determined. Not once did she lift her head to look how far she has come nor did she look around to assess the distance left. Slowly and steadily, ignorant of the blaring music and the resounding cries of encouragement, she moved towards the finish line, her valor rising with every step.

It took her close to 11 minutes to reach the other end of the 30-meter track. As she halted at the end, (carefully watched over by her teachers), the 400 odd spectators gathered at the venue rose to their feet.

With her head held high and flushed cheeks, clinging on to her mentor, N walked back to the rest area. As she walked, the thundering applause grew louder and so did the whistles creating a melodious cacophony. While some eyes turned moist, others stared in awe.

Every onlooker assembled there witnessed a tale of diligence and persistence in that short span of time. A four-year-old taught the others well ahead of her in The Race of Life what it means to stay focused, resolute, and tenacious. In the end what matters the most is that you have a purpose and finish the race with dignity.

“The Child’s way of doing things has been for us an inexhaustible fountain of revelations” – Maria Montessori

 

                              If I were a Pious and a Passionate Hindu….

   Devotion is an often misconceived notion. This misinterpretation is more complex when one is religiously passionate. If I were one of those extremely zealous Hindus, this is what I would identify with.

If I were a devout Hindu:

  • I would exhibit tolerance, for that is the very essence of my religion.

Hinduism is an age old religion that has survived the destruction of the ages and the ravages of the centuries. Like every other ancient religion, it inculcates truth as the ultimate goal of this journey on earth. How does one share this journey with numerous other living souls? It is through the practice of tolerance/ resilience.

It means that as a constantly evolving species, humans have the willingness to accept the meaningful existence of other religions, opinions, disagreements, and behavior-which also includes food choices.

  • I look upon all creatures equally; none are less dear to me and none more dear.

                                                                                             Bhagavad Gita 9.29

If I were a zealot flaunting my religion with utmost pride, I would remember the above words from the holy text and understand that in the presence of the Supreme light, every living organism is one. I would bear in mind that as per the teachings, the soul travels from one living form to another and my time in this physical form is but limited.

I would also remember that among my fellow humans there is none superior and there is no person who is of less importance whatever caste, creed or race he may be.

  • I would believe in the Freedom of Expression

I would comprehend the two forms of expression namely: Swatantrata (freedom of expression) and Swachandata (the freedom of unruly expression) and embrace the former. I would believe that every individual has the rights to express- through music, dance and through the various forms of art. I will not let my ego get offended when my thoughts are not in unison with the views and opinions of others (artists).

  • Yatra naaryasto poojyantay, ramantay tatra devata

(Where women are honored, there the Gods are pleased)

Manusmriti 3/56

If I had the ardent love for my religion, I would summon into my mind, time and again; that women are the opposite sex and in no way inferior. I would also bear in mind that a collective vibration of disdain can devastate a thousand low vibrations and I would refrain from adding to the contributing force to bring about that disdain.

 

In conclusion, one of my favorite Vachanaas ( a form of poetry) by Basavanna, a poet, a sincere reformer and an honorable statesman:

“What is the use of your learning and erudition?

Where is the proof of your claim to be high born?

You are a blacksmith if you heat,

You are a washerman if you beat,

A weaver if you lay the warp,

A brahmin if you read the scriptures.

Is anyone in this world born through the ear?

Therefore, whoever realizes the divine nature is high born.”

-Basavanna, Vacana 589

The Feminine Gender- An Anecdote

The Feminine Gender- An Anecdote

‘Mamma, please open up,’ she cried. She stood right outside the nest that was once hers. ‘What is the matter, dear?’ comes the reply. ‘I am exhausted, mamma. I feel my wings are beginning to weaken. I doubt my capabilities. I want to return here, to feel safe and joyful all over again. I would never have flown if I knew I was to live by myself’. A long silence follows. She knows she has to leave.

‘Mamma, oh mamma’ she sounds baffled. ‘How do I choose the right mate? They all do their best to impress. How do I find the right him to raise my kids? I need some time to think. Please let me in, for a night mother, please’, she pleads. The noise of the strong winds is all she hears, and into the dark, she flies.

‘Mother dear, I brave the heat and winds, rain and fog from dawn to dusk to build a home. It has been several days now. There seems to be no end. Will I ever get to finish in time? Please open up, just for today’. She knows what is to follow. She flies back to the place she will soon call her home.

‘Mamma dearest; with open eyelids I stand guard, protecting the yellow eye, through darkness and light. It has been days since I left home. My anxiety escalates every passing day, what if I fail? What if a predator nears? Please come with me just until dawn’. Solicitude hits the mind, and she takes flight.

‘Mamma most beloved, over the hills and far beyond I fly for a few morsels to feed the tiny mouths. In peace, they lie, but I have forgotten to feed myself. Can you feed me just for today?’ She intended to solicit sympathy, but her attempts go in vain. She realizes she is now a protector herself.

‘Sweet mother, they fear; they fall; they are anxious. I tend to their wounds all night.  It pains to see the scars on the tiny bodies. The heart never wants them to learn flying. The spirits are high and the heart bursts with pride, but melancholy hits at the thought of an empty nest. Can I hold onto you just for tonight?’ All she hears is the sound of a distant cry. She returns to her soon-to-be empty abode.

“My precious mother, how do I control my emotions?” she sobs. ‘I was tired of teaching and tending. Now that they have gone, I feel lost. The home is empty, and so is the heart. There is no love around. Relief, I thought I would have, but what a paradox. The dawn seems to have no purpose. Will I ever survive mamma?’ She knew what is to follow, but her heart longed for some consolation.

She is about to take flight when the overly familiar loving voice interrupts “Darling baby, when you play the role of a nurturer and protector, doubts frequently appear. But these apprehensions should seldom break you. Remember, you are beyond fear, and the only hindrance on your path is the lack of confidence. Hold onto the strength you had, when you first flew from here. As long as we breathe, we all need mothers, but when you play that role yourself, you have to put up a courageous face. You are anything but ordinary, baby.  Go now, it is your turn to face anxious questions.”

‘But mother dear, can you pamper me just for tonight? Who else can I ask for?’ The sound of the dark is all she hears.

The Merry Islanders and their Canaan

chimney-island-richard-de-wolfeIslands and their inhabitants have a charm of their own. Parting ways with the mainland did not just help the farming thrive; it had a benefice effect on the humanness too. Islanders are a content and a harmonious lot finding tranquil in their piece of land- that kind of serenity that is contagious to every sapiens that sets foot there.

Look into their faces, and they flash the most benevolent of smiles. Over the ages, they have stayed away from the bug called stress and have developed a strong immunity to it. Life is laid back there; perhaps it has to do with the lazy oceans that spread the calm. The kind of serenity that is innate to the beds of the sea.

The people are probably unruffled like the waters, the low crime rates here being a testament to that. How often do we read about acts of horrendous crime on the islands? Almost never.

A heavenly retreat for those seeking refuge, an island/isle/ islet- no matter what you call, offers much more than solace for those who can connect to it. A land of enchantment for the adventurous, an Arcadia for those seeking tranquility- an island has yet another synonym- The Elysium (the place where celestial beings live)

An Ode to My First Teacher

An Ode to My First Teacher

There once lived an old man. He was tall, fair and handsome. His warm smile and the sparkle in his eyes instantly lit up even the most somber of people. He looked frail, even from my early memories. He is my first teacher.

There once lived an old man. He taught for a living. I learnt my first rhymes and songs from him. I also learnt about animals and birds, plants and flowers. He taught me my manners and disciplined me. Most importantly, he taught me the power of a prayer. He is my first teacher.

There once lived an old man. He was an epitome of selflessness. Kindness and compassion were always visible in his eyes, always; until the moment they shut permanently. Every living soul he encountered was treated with atmost respect. ‘There is a God within each one of us’ he would say. He is my first teacher.

There once lived an old man who read to me on most evenings. Many a cold evenings were spent in the warmth of his embrace. Those evenings are the fondest memories from my childhood and it is in that cozy room of his, that I learnt many a life’s lesson. I was special to him. He is my first teacher.

There once lived an old man who braved Parkinsons and wobbly limbs to pay me regular visits in my boarding school. ‘I am proud of you’ he would say, after a short meeting with the head of my alma mater. He is my first teacher.

There once lived an old man who turned out to be my biggest mentor through my adolescence. ‘Remember no matter the height of the tide, your strength will help you sail through’, he would say. I looked onto him as my role-model. He is my first teacher.

There once lived an old man, who always reminded me to stand by my ideals. ‘You are a woman; people are never going let you grow. You will be expected to do things beyond your competence. Don’t give in. You are precious. When you believe in something, stand up for it’, he once advised, shortly after I entered college.  He was my philosopher who was far liberal for his times. He is my first teacher.

There once lived an old man whose intellect slowly deteriorated as days progressed erasing the memories of his life completely lived. Through the many bouts of forgetfulness, his lessons deluged. ‘You all are not here to live in another man’s shadow. No man on earth is worthy of a woman’s sacrifice’, he once mumbled to a group of his descendants. He is my first teacher.

There once lived an old man who breathed his last with the infectious smile still on his lips. However, he failed to fathom his memories would forever haunt his youngest and favorite grand-daughter. He is my first teacher and forever will remain my demigod.