Being MOM

Thirty years ago, when someone asked me what do I want to be when I grow up, my innocent answer would me, “I want to grow up to be a mother”. People would laugh at my innocence. As I grew in age, my ambition, however, did not change and I rather answered to the same question in a society acceptable fashion; consciously hiding my real ambition deep in my heart, because I understood as young as then, that the job called Mom cannot be understood and appreciated by all.

The job description of this three lettered word is not easy. It encompasses almost all jobs in the world. One has to be a nanny, a cook, a teacher, an artist, a story creator, a PR manager, a psychologist, an athlete, an engineer and also a doctor. Such an extensive and vibrant role. Every day is a challenge, every day one has to make a new strategy. Every day is trying and every day is rewarding. The payments may look just few hug and kisses, but over the years; though these income reduces, the fixed deposits made in the early years of parenting gives all Moms a good reward to leave their life contentedly.

Back to my story, my daughter was born twelve years ago and it has been such an awesome journey for me. A tiny little bundle she was, soft and timid. The feeling that I could bring a life into this world and will help her grow into a beautiful human being was the most fulfilling of all the different feelings I had in my life. When she was small, all her problems had only one solution; my feed. Bad dream, my feed; feeling lonely, my feed; tired, my feed. As she grew, her problems too grew; but I could always end up with the perfect solution for her. Over the years, that physical bond between us has changed to an emotional bond.

Motherhood is a continuous learning process and I am a hard worker. As a twelve-year-old mother, I am learning to give her freedom, teaching my little fledgling to open her wings, trying to prepare her for the flight and the heights she would soar.

When I look back at my this 12-years old journey, I feel that I have accomplished much more than I have accomplished in any job that I had done. I have successfully balanced both my work life as well as led an equally successful Mom life. I have managed to efficiently handle all crucial days, both within my family and work family and have always navigated them to the safe water. I have been inspiration to many women at my workplace to start a family, as the inner happiness that one gets from parenthood, radiates and shine every aspect of our life. Success at job is one meager example. I have inspired my daughter that no matter what career path she chooses, the ultimate soul-path is through motherhood and she has to be one. A good mother is just not attending to her baby’s current needs, she is also shaping a future, citizen of a country.

 

Book Review- Mahabharata, Management and You

Stories are such beautiful things that keep us engaged and entertained for hours and leave a deep imprint on our soul, which defines our character. India is a land of stories, and epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata form the base of our religious belief. We often read them and draw lessons from them, which has an enriching effects on our life.

Very recently I heard an audiobook called Mahabharata, Management and You by a budding writer and HR Leader Amitrajit Ghosh. The book has precincts in Mahabharata. Unlike many other books, it just doesn’t bombard us with the knowledge from the epic, but it presents the epic in new light and tries to make it relevant in 21st century.

The book, Mahabharata, Management and You, is a handbook on leadership and presents six different leadership styles through his six characters, namely Arjuna, Dronacharya, Duryodhana, Karna, Draupadi and Krishna. Each chapter journey through the life of a character and highlight their achievements and failures. Towards the end of every chapter there is a questionnaire, which Amitrajit has called Barometer, for the audience. One has to fill-in and that presents an index of their leadership style vis-à-vis that character. The Barometer clearly indicates your strength and weaknesses, areas you need to improve, qualities you need to harness etc.

The audiobook has a running time of less than 60 minutes, which I believe is a good timing as its neither short that the essence is lost nor long that people get bored and drift away. Amitrajit has used simple narrative style to take his audience through the book. Since, we all have read and watched Mahabharata, this new take is both delightful and bold. We travel with him through the course of the history and learn from their mistakes and admire their virtue. From the first chapter itself the book inspires us to correct our leadership style and absorb the qualities of our favorite character to climb the carrier ladder and become an asset for the team on which everyone can bank on.

Unlike many handbooks on management and leadership, this book is not boring as the author has used tell-a-tale style of writing. The book has no jargons, which makes it easily understandable by people across all segments. The narrative of the audiobook is very clear and flows gently, which doesn’t require one to pause and hear again.

Excellent work. I would rate this book 4/5 Stars. I got my copy from Amazon.in. You can also get one from Nilgries outlet.

On The Path To Self Destruction

Every other day, we read about one or the heinous crimes and this throws me into a state of shock? Has humanity, the most wonderful senses of all, vanished from the face of the earth? Have we returned to just our animal self? If the answer is yes, then it poses a question – WHY? Why has our society become like this? Why are morals so low now? We as a nation are aspiring to become an educated country in the near future, then why are we forgetting to be civilized?

Well, no one can have an accurate estimation of the cause of this fall in human behavior, but if I am allowed to guess, then I would suggest that the new system of education is one to be blamed.

 My kid studies in one the most prestigious schools of our city. She is doing great in studies and many other activities. One day I happened to be in the school for some activity, and I realized that children do not wish teachers who do not teach them. They walked past teachers even without acknowledging them. My child was no exception. Later when I spoke to her, she said that they do not need to wish people who are not associated with them. Her this statement gave me something to think about. It didn’t take me long to figure out that she was wrong. Her education system is wrong.

 If people from all walks of life are ranked, then teachers would be placed at the highest order as they are the people who shape the future of any country. The day a society stops respecting teachers, they start digging their own grave.

 These days’ teachers are not supposed to scold children as scolding or punishment would throw them into a state of trauma. I would just want someone from my generation to answer a simple question- were we not punished for our misdoings in school? Did we go into trauma? Are we all suffering from depression? Have we all become lunatic? If the answer is no, then why do we fear for our children?

 We should let our children free and no interfere with school staff. If they are scolding or punishing, it means they are taking notice of some folly in our children, which they don’t want them to repeat. In India, we say that we get angry with the one, whom we love the most. So, by prohibiting one to get cross with our children, we are preventing that natural flow of love and care.

 I was a very very naughty child and almost everyday I got punished. I used to make silly mistake and my marks were deducted. I was criticized for my hand writing and now as an adult, I have overcome all my follies. If I were not scolded, I wouldn’t have aspired to improve myself. My poor handwriting would have been my identity. I would not have learnt to work hard. I would have never learnt to respect schedules and deadlines. I would not have learnt to cope up with pressures of life and broken under it.

 My only worry is that human have stopped respecting human. If they see any crime taking place, they ignore and tend to walk past it. If we stop teaching our children to respect teachers, elders and friends, they are automatically learning to not respect anyone. That day is not far, when our children will stop respecting us even. There will be similar laws in our country that parents cannot scold children. Is this the way we are preparing them? Holding their hands and helping them cross bridge after bridge and when they eventually face problems, then what would be our approach? Blame the system. March on the roads. Protest. I don’t think that is the path that we would like to walk.

 The need of the hour is to teach our children to respect people around them. To look at other human being beyond their value or place in their life. It is sad that tigers are on the verge of extinction, but it is sadder that love has already become extinct. People are marching on the roads to prevent cows from getting slaughtered. I have never heard of a group who walk on the roads and put up a fight for the sake of a girl’s honor. It is upto us to teach our children, and whatever we teach them today is going to shape the future of the world- at macro level and family-at micro level.

 

Suppressed Anger

 

Today is my 40th wedding anniversary. As with any other special day, today also I expect to meet my husband, Imran. This has become a kind of a ritual, as Imran visits me at my grave on every special day, to lessen his suppressed guilt, while I sleeping on the other side of this marble witness his weakest side, which he has always hidden from the world, himself included. I am Hussaina Khan, née Afridi, and this is my story of suppressed anger.

July 17, 1977 was not any ordinary day for me. It was the day when for the first time in fifteen years I had given myself permission to believe in happy endings or shall I say – a happy beginning. Any normal 23 years old girl would not be as surprised and excited for her marriage, as I was, because for past fifteen years I have only seen shock, terror and sympathy in other people’s eyes, but now for the first time I met someone, who had only love for me in his eyes. I was unsure, was that love for me or for the girl with beautiful eyes in burqa. The mystery was dense and the suspense was killing me.

My father and mother were the most radical people of their time. The moment my Dad saw me for the first time, he fell in love with me. The matron said that I was the most beautiful baby she had seen in her life. So beautiful was I that my parents named me Hussaina and promised me that they would never have another child as fairy children needed special care and attention.

But, as the time progressed, they realized that I was no fairy, but a devil in disguise. An extremely naughty and accident prone child I was that my parents began living in the shadow of fear for my safety. When I was just eight years old, their worst fear came true. While playing cricket with other kids in the street, I was chasing a ball and ran towards the main road, oblivious of the fast moving vehicles. Then, I don’t know what happened next, but when I next opened my eyes, the calendar had gone forward by a month and legs were in deep cast and my face completely bandaged. In spite of inscrutable pain, I did not lose my humor to the accident. I was looking like a mummy. This comment released a fresh batch of tears and laughter (I guess it was their first in the past many days) from my parents. While my mother continued with the crying, my Dad took to himself to explain me the gravity of the situation. He began preparing me, to meet my new self, hiding behind those bandages. From his tone I could make out that this NEW me is not going to be as good as the OLD me.

Over the next few days, my bandages were changed and every time I swallowed something, I could taste blood. I was a terrified 8-year-old kid, who just wanted to return home, a place she knew that would keep her safe. After postponing my mirror meeting ceremony for ages, my Dad gingerly handed over a mirror to me; and I felt unconscious. How could I become someone like this? Nothing, except for my eyes, were like angelic Hussiana I used to be. I saw an ugly girl, with rotten teeth and gums staring at me. I cried a lot that day. My parents were one with me in my sorrow. My mother’s warnings kept chiming in my ears, Allah gives punishment to disobedient children. And my punishment was going to be a permanent agony.

After another few days, I was strong enough to go to school, but I opposed. I didn’t want people to laugh at me. However, my father managed to convince me. He told me that if humans had only face values, then wise, wrinkled-faced old would be first to get killed. The basis of any civilization is human values, knowledge, creativity; beauty doesn’t count. His words charged me like how a moth gets charged and pulled to the light, when it very well knows that light means death, but a death worthy of dying for as before dying, its eyes and soul are filled with light, divine light. Similarly, I knew that school meant a torture for me, but an agony I need to endure so that my soul gets filled me knowledge and wisdom.

As anticipated, my first day at school was horrible. Teachers had already prepared the kids about me, so I didn’t face horror in them, but a more detestable feeling, sympathy in their eyes. In spite of continuous urging, no child was ready to sit with me, as if I was some plague. I knew I was paying price for disobedience and I didn’t want to raise the bar for punishment, so I listened to my parents and continued with my schooling. Since no one played with me anymore, I busied myself in books. Teachers were kind and they would let me sit with them in my free periods and this helped me to get additional knowledge, both in academics and also in human values. Over the next nine years of my school life, I have been the best in academics and school rewarded me with scholarship for my Engineering.

Not many women entered the coveted world of Engineering, and the numbers were even more discouraging in the Electrical Engineering department. However, I loved it. The whole atmosphere was charged up and I felt alive and hopes of endless possibilities began booming in my bosom. I was a topper in my stream and was sent for a six-months training program to New Delhi at Bharat Electricals Limited to get a hands-on-knowledge on practical Electrical Engineering. The best six months of my life. I made friends for the first time in many years. They did not judge me on my looks, rather they saw only the beautiful mind. Working alongside geniuses in the field of electrical engineering, I felt my knowledge increasing and a desire gave birth to do something worthwhile for the society, so that when I meet my maker he can forgive me.

On my return journey home, I saw sitting opposite an irresistibly handsome boy. He took fancy of my eyes and hands and started making small talks. I was polite and embarrassed. I knew he was not judging me by my brains but by beauty, which I no longer had. With every passing minute, I felt more and more uncomfortable. I just wanted to jump off the moving train and save both of us from embarrassment. But, to my horror, he followed me up till my home.

He had moved into a house in my neighborhood. I never wore burqa to my college, and every day while leaving home I would see him staring towards my house. I would blush and run away. This continued for a little while and a small hope of love made house in my heart. I disillusioned myself that may be he is a real man, who cares less for look. That small blip of hope grew into a mansion when my parents told me that he wanted to marry me and would love to exchange vows the very next day. I was in cloud nine. My knight in shining armor had finally come to pull me out of this life of punishment. I began counting hours. July 17, my liberation day.

But the bubble burst even before it could take a flight. I can never forget Imran’s horrified expression when he first saw me. He didn’t utter a single word, and left me. As soon as he left the room, my parents walked in. They tried to console me, saying that Imran would return before morning. But, I knew that there would be no tomorrow. Early next day, I got ready for college. I still had a final semester to pass before I could realize my dream, the dream that required my brain, not beauty. My parents argued with me, urged me to stay back. But, I had to leave because I need to bring some distance between yesterday and today. I had to go somewhere and cry, I had an ailing heart to soothe.

Over the next few months I poured every ounce of energy to pass my exam. I didn’t give myself a moment’s free time, for the fear that my heart would start thinking about Imran. I hated him, cursed him. I wanted him to burn in same hell, in which I was burning. It gave me little peace when I saw same hatred in my parents’ eyes. Now, our focus was my career. I was topper again and my college had offered me a job of reader. My parents too insisted that I take this job, as they were growing old and needed me.

Then one day, I received a note from my father. It just had two lines, “Return home now. Imran is here.”. But, sometimes words carry much more meaning than they are actually intended for. I could see the plea in their words. I returned home and my mother met me at the door and told me not to be bold and do anything stupid that I’ll regret later. This was the second accident of my life, and I gone back into coma, and this time, never to return. All those past months I thought that I could only be mad at Imran, but the anger I felt for him was nothing in comparison to the resentment I felt for my parents then. I was in terrible rage.

When I walked into my room, my parents left us to discuss things. My blood boiled further. How could they leave me with this beast? But, when I looked at him, I felt sorry for him. Handsome, he surely was, but his gentleman like attribute were more pronounced then. He had the option to divorce me and continue with his life, but he chose to respect those vows. He came back, if not for me, then for a woman’s honor. I couldn’t help, but started respecting him. I could sense his unease whenever he looked at me, so I covered my face. As if this was something he wanted to tell me all evening. He was at once at ease and asked me if I could choose the lifestyle of hiding my face, then I can stay with him. Even though I was a modern girl, but such deep was my anger for my parents at that instant, that I agreed to his ‘terms and conditions’, just to irk my parents.

I just didn’t give up my freedom to face the world, I also gave up on my career. In my anger I realized that I have hurt myself the most. I have compromised with all my dreams just to punish my parents. This shattered me from inside. I started hating myself. Such deep was my anger that to punish myself, I shunned all contacts with the outside world. I had busied myself with children and taking care of the house. Imran’s career soared to new heights every day and this made him more and more busy. I allowed myself to get lost in my domestic affairs.

On many occasions, I felt Imran wanted to tell me something. I too wanted to tell him so many things. But, most importantly, I wanted to tell him, that I have forgiven him. Rather, I was never angry with him. I have always respected him, for what he did for his wife of few hours. But, neither did he get the courage, nor I received any encouragement. My deepest desire was that he should face me and look at me without parda and talk. Talk until all that is in his heart comes out and he feels liberated. But, we both were in our own islands, challenged by our own fights. His against his guilt and mine against my resentment towards my parents and life. We always postponed our communication until tomorrow. Then one day, there was no more tomorrow. I had a nervous breakdown and died within few days.

Now, I rest without any parda, with my head towards Mecca and see Imran sitting by my side. He has been saying sorry to me for past 15 years and I have told him innumerable times that I was never angry with him. But, he can’t listen to me. My heart breaks to see him in tears and spilling words. Words that tells me of his deepest regret, his moments of joy, his sorrow, his loneliness. Yes, his loneliness. My death didn’t bring it upon him, but my marriage did. My anger and his guilt brought loneliness in our life. All our life we lived together, but alone.

When Life Becomes Suitcase

I am Aradhana. Well, my name is not just name, but it has a literal significance to my being. I was born to my parents after 14 long years of prayers, medication and advices of all. So, when I was born, the name Aradhana, meaning prayer, was most fitting. Eldest among three siblings, I was a carefree young girl. I was arrogant, proud and knew I had the authority to get things done not just by my younger siblings, but also by my parents and their parents. I was the boss of the family, and everyone else made efforts to just remain on my good side.

In spite of having two more children, my parents had a special reservation for me. My needs, no matter how silly, were always given priorities. I used to throw tantrums and my parents complied to those. This special treatment reserved for me made my other two brothers and sister jealous of me. They hated me and this made me even more happy. Now, when after 70 years I look back, I feel that I used to create a drama just to get that ‘we hate you’ expression from them and that just made me feel more proud of the fact that I was the one who changed the fate of my parents.

I grew up into a beautiful girl. A beautiful girl with head full of attitude was a lethal combination and boys in my class would do anything just to remain in my close proximity. Then one day I found someone who was my equal. Sitting in one corner of the class was Anmol. Quiet and reserved, he was someone I was staring. If I say I immediately fell head over heels for him, then it won’t be exageration. He was over 6feet tall, well-built and slightly dusky, a combination that made him the most desirable boy in the class. Now, for the first time I felt the need to be on the good side of someone.

It took me months to get acquainted to him and then another few months to become friends and then no time to become his lover. On our 25th wedding anniversary, in front of all friends and family he confessed that he was in love with me from the first moment he saw me, but he knew how strong headed I was, so he avoided me as a beautiful but good for nothing girl. However, he was surprised to see that how easily I dropped my ego to just to become his. That had won his heart and changed my entire life.

Falling in love with Anmol was the easiest thing, but what followed next consumed all my energy. Toughest thing for me was to share this news with my parents. I still remember how I broke the news, well it was not in the fashion in which I intended. My over jealous sister just to tarnish my image suddenly told my parents that I was hanging around with one boy and plan to elope with him. My parents were crestfallen. My father went into an immediate shock mode and didn’t talk to me. My mother, typical of Indian mothers, took the crying route. I clearly remember that evening and it stills pull up the hair on my back. In their grief, my parents didn’t even turn-on the lights in the house. Blanketed in complete dark, my mother’s muffled sobs were the only sign that life had still not eluded me and I have to face this day. There was no cooking that day. My sister and brother took shelter in some corner and didn’t approach any of us for the fear of receiving the wrath of my mistake.

After what it seemed like eternity, I went to my father and asked why is he not happy for me. Anmol was a topper and was sure to get a good job. He loved me and all of this qualifies him to be a good husband for me. My father’s answer baffled me. Anmol was not the problem; the problem was that I took the right from him to decide what was right for me for the first time in his life. He said all his life he tried to get me the best. Best clothes, best food. Best because he thought what he chose was better than all the other thing. He had similar aspirations for my marriage too. But, I surprised him for throwing a boy on him and expect him to accept him as the best. He felt unsure that for the most important thing in his life, his opinion did not matter. He felt broken from the core.

Over the next few months I tried everything I could do to convince him. I brought Anmol home, my friends too vouched for him being a good husband material, but nothing could persuade him. My mother had somehow accepted it, but my father’s decision remained unchanged, and so did my resolve to marry Anmol. After a year I told my father with absolute finality about my decision to marry Anmol in December and if he wants then he could give me away to him in the wedding. This was the last card, and I played it and succeeded. My father did partake in my wedding, but only in physical form. His loving soul was missing. I thought that once he sees me happy, he will laugh at his own inanity for delaying my happiness. But, so profound was his grief that he did not survive another day after my wedding to see my happy marriage. This fact still clouds all my happiness.

Anmol was the eldest among 11 brothers and sisters. Before marriage, I used to think that being the eldest there also, I would continue to remain a boss and this time, I will have an even larger number of followers. Sadly, the game was completely different here. Being eldest sister-in-law, they looked up to me as a replacement for their parents. They would expect me to resolve their every problem, ranging from sudden craving to studies to emotional guidance. Initially confused and uncertain, but within no time, I became a perfect daughter-in-law. The pride in Anmol’s eyes was evident. I was the trophy he carried everywhere.

His job required a lot of travelling and therefore my in-laws insisted I stay with him. That was how I started building my own private paradise with Anmol. We started off our life in a small rented one-room house. We practically had nothing on us. We bought everything together. Our bed, curtains, utensils. Just the basic then. Slowly, our possessions kept growing, and with the arrival of our eldest son, life became busier and I became more contend. Occasionally, when my mother or my brother and sister would visit me, they would be surprised to see this new Aradhana. Someone really capable to caring for others. All their life, they had seen be as an adamant girl, this new me surprised them and they thought that I must be really unhappy and I am adjusting just to keep this marriage working. Such deep were their prejudice, that didn’t see that this new form radiated my complete happiness. My happiness of being a good wife and mother of two bony sons. I was their joy-maker.

Anmol’s job kept him on his toes. He travelled around the world. After every long trip, he would bring back a souvenir. Once when I was pregnant with our second child, Anmol got an offer to travel to Persian. We had a big fight about this. I needed him here in India, but he didn’t take much notice to my anger and went there; leaving me hanging for an answer. He returned on the day I delivered our second son. I was angry with him for leaving me alone to deal with all the problems, while he was capturing new territories. But the anger melted away as soon as I reached home. I saw a beautiful red rug and a card saying sorry. I realized all the sacrifices, all the nights Anmol must have had gone to bed without food, just to buy me that perfect welcome home present. The carpet was the living reminder of his love for me over his needs.

Over the next twenty years, we collected, preserved and built not just souvenirs, but memories. Our elder one got married and had a beautiful daughter. The younger one was still in college, when Anmol decided that we had enough now to survive our life and decided to have an early retirement.

One evening our younger son brought home his girlfriend and said he wanted to marry her immediately as she was pregnant with his baby. Uncertain we were, but we had to take decision. The honor of a girl was at stake; and we accepted her with open arms. Along with my grown up son, his wife and baby too were now our sole responsibility. They were still at college and needed to settle down. Sooner than we had expected our savings started evaporating and it didn’t take long for us to have empty passbooks. This led my younger son to compromise with his studies and take up a menial job. For the first time I realized how difficult it is for the parents to see their dreams for the children shatter in front of their eyes. I now had a full understanding of the pain my father suffered.

Within few years, the younger one too got well settled and moved to the US with his family. It was a huge blow. For the last five years, the little girl was the fulcrum of our life and suddenly that cushion had been pulled from us. We were alone and life seemed a bundle of tasks, which we had to accomplish on a day to day basis.

Then one day, Anmol had a massive cardiac arrest and he left the world to rest in peace forever. My sons flew down to be with me for few days, but they had to go back. That emptiness I felt within, I had no one to share that with. The longing I had for the children and their children, I had no way to overcome that. My sons visited me every few months, but the frequency kept increasing. Then one day both of them came together and announced that I must wind up my living arrangement here and move with them. I could take turns to stay with them. Few months with elder one and then few with the younger one.

A part of me was thankful for they had come to pull me out of this boredom. But, most of me was sad as they had asked me to pack all essential and important things and give away the others. Now, how can anyone decide what is important for me. My entire house was important for me. Every brick has a memory attached. How do I decide what to take or what to leave behind? The dining table? The day it was bought my elder son was so happy that he slept on it in the night. It was around that table we took our most crucial decisions, laughed at each other, I satisfied the needs of the family. Or should I leave behind the Persian Rug, which everyday reminds me how much Anmol loved me. Starting with the dinner set to Corning Vase, everything had some memories attached to it. Only memories, my sons argued. They neither understood the physical need of those things in my life, nor did they have any place for those things in their homes. I was left crestfallen. Either die alone in the company of souvenirs or die in the arms of sons. Greedy woman I was, I settled for the second option.

Reluctantly, I packed all my ‘essentials’ in a suitcase. Few jewelries, clothes, medicines and our albums. The albums that had frozen all those glorious moments of my life. The album that still has our family smiling and sitting together on our Persian Rug. It has pictures of all are good days and bad days. Now, this album is the most important possession of my life and I hide it from others in the depths of my suitcase. When young, I never knew my life would one day become a suitcase.

 

 

Suppressed Guilt

The nation is basking in the glory of several successful attempts made by our India to claim a little space within the unending universe and reach unknown territories, which until few years ago was believed to be a playground for other countries, not India. A group of headstrong scientists have just proved us wrong and the entire nation is happy to be proven wrong. Chandrayaan1, Chandrayaan2 and Mars Orbiter are few key successes made by our country that has changed the views of global citizens about India’s space-study capabilities. All these achievements have been made possible by unrelenting efforts of various scientists, like Imran Khan.

As the idiom goes, a fruit laden tree always bends down, so is the case with a knowledge laden man and Imran Khan absolutely proves this idiom correct. An eminent scientist and recipient of several awards, Imran Khan is a humble scientist. A double engineer in Electronic and Mechanical Engineering, Imran was a bright student and was a delight to teachers for his unquenchable thirst for knowledge. His inquisitiveness landed him a job in Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology and from there to ISRO. What he did there is now a part of the golden history of our country.

People know him as a scientist, as a mentor and a doting father, but no one has ever met his wife. People have seen him with his beautiful daughters (who are also young scientists), but no one has ever met his wife. A select few who were lucky have met her on very very rare occasions, only saw her beautiful eyes, as she always hid herself behind a veil. Is her immense beauty the reason that this established scientist felt insecure about his wife and kept her hidden from the world? This is the only dark area in his life, which we would like to explore.

When we asked Imran about her, he took a deep breath and with lot of calm in his voice began his story.

I first met my wife in a train from New Delhi to Aligarh. I was a young engineer then and had begun my career and was very much looking for a wife, whom I had mentally conceptualized as someone who would be epitome of beauty. Since my parents were dead long ago, and I had no siblings; I considered finding a good wife my sole responsibility and all my relatives complied to this wish of mine. She was sitting on a seat facing me. In spite of having a burqa, her slim figure could not be missed and even more appealing were the pair of eyes. Big, clean and full of light as if those eyes were also in search of knowledge (just like mime). She was an Electrical Engineering student in a college, which was now my alma-mater. No, she didn’t tell me. I guessed it from the book she was reading and the trunk she was carrying. Her name written in neat block letters, Hussaina Afridi. I loved the sound of her name and started dreaming up my future life with her. All throughout the journey, I tried to talk to her, introduced myself, but she replied in not-so-happy tone and sometimes pretended to have not heard me at all. This further augmented her case as a suitable wife.

When the train started pulling in Aligarh, she looked relieved and seemed almost ready to jump off the moving train just to be rid of me. As for me, I felt that if I lose her, I would lose the purpose of my life. And, I don’t know why, it was quite an out of character thing for me, but I chased her. She got into a rickshaw, and I hailed another and asked him to follow her. Angry, worried and suspicious of my action, she quickly got down and disappeared behind the closed green doors of her house. I stayed rooted there, smiling to myself for having won the game. She happened to be neighbor of my Aunt.

Although I returned home to my uncle, I had developed a special attachment to this particular Aunt since that day and started frequenting her house. After few days, I developed a little ease with her family, I started dropping little hint about my expectations from my prospective wife : like she should be an engineer, preferably from Aligarh as having the wife from this city would give me a good reason to frequent all my relatives. But, it seemed that they had intellect so low that they could not figure out that I was hinting at their neighbor’s daughter.

After several failed attempts, one day I clearly told my Aunt to inquire their neighbor for their daughter. She laughed, “ ‘Hussaina’, our Hussaina in the whole world. Have you ever met her? You can get a better wife.” But, I was determined and they reluctantly carried forward my proposal to her parents. Her Mom and Dad came to my place immediately and thanked me. I really felt embarrassed and thanked Allah for his generosity. Since I had to return to work, I requested for an immediate wedding and sent a telegram to my office that I would return after a week, with my wife.

Wedding took place the very next evening in a small family function. And then came the night which I had dreamed several times, in the past few hours. I was allowed into her room, which was very beautifully decorated. On one edge of the bed she was sitting in her green bridal dress. Her head covered in a veil. In the dim light of the room, she seemed like a Goddess who has just descended upon earth. My heart, which since early that day was beating fast, seemed now would just leap out of my body. Little shy, little apprehensive I reached in front of her. And then …

I suddenly felt dizzy. The real meaning behind my Aunt’s surprised tone on the mention of name Hussaina, misty eyes of her parents and giggles of my relatives – was now dawning on me. Hussaina was the ugliest women I have met in my life. An irregular shape of her face, rotten teeth. In my 25 years of life, I had never seen anyone uglier than her. Suddenly my world contracted and my lungs started screaming for some air. I left the room and started walking, where I don’t know, but surely distancing myself from my new wife. I don’t know how did I manage to reach railway station, but I found myself in a train back to my work-city. And the train was now helping me to create a distance between me and my wife. I was in a shock. Paralyzed by my own broken desires that I didn’t think for a moment about the girl or the family, I left behind.

Before I realized I was back at my desk working and this surprised everyone. Many came to congratulate me, but returned even before saying hello. All the waking hours I spent at work. Trying to substitute work as a pain remedy, but no ailment was possible. My conscience kept pricking me for failing as a human being who had disgraced two families. I kept arguing, rearguing and arguing again with myself to excuse me, but my conscience would not stop at that. In six months’ time, my conscience convinced me that what I had done was wrong and I must immediately rectify my mistake. I must return to my wife and give her the honor she deserves. After all, it was not her mistake. It was I who had been in a daze.

After six months, I returned to Aligarh and apologized to my in-laws for my reckless behavior. To my surprise they did not complain and said that they would send a word to Hussaina to return home early from work. Having won Gold Medal in her year, she was appointed a Reader in her college. The moment Hussaina entered my room, I looked at her and started doubting my own good intention and wanted to run away again. It seemed, she read my mind and quickly hid her face with the dupatta she was wearing, just leaving her eyes open to look at me and tell me her side of the story.

I became such a selfish man at the instance, that I offered her a place in my house in exchange of her career, in exchange of a life of freedom, in exchange of financial independence and in exchange of her right to live without parda in front of me. To my biggest surprise, she complied to all my odd requests and packed her things immediately to come with me.

Later in the life, Allah blessed me with two beautiful daughters, for whom I had decided that they will live a parda-free life, so that even if they are not beautiful, they must not disillusion someone like me and spoil their lives. For me, my work and my daughters were my life. My wife, an exceptional student, just busied herself with household chores and made the upbringing of her daughters her sole purpose in life. Whenever, a guest would come, she would use these girls as a medium of communication. People would appreciate our beautiful house and tasty food, but could never meet my wife to thank her for her hospitality.

Years rolled on and I got more and more busy with my work. Every time I looked at my wife, looked at the arrangement between us, I felt like tearing her mask and pulling her into an argument. I wanted her to scream at me for spoiling her life and career. But, I was only met by a calm and polite woman. I always wanted to apologize to her, but could never muster courage. And then five years ago, Allah took her away and I lost my chance to apologize and gain inner peace. I hate myself for being a useless husband. Now I visit her grave every few days to apologize, and I just receive a grave silence from her. May Allah rest her soul in peace.

 

WIFE: The Joy Makers

unhappy-wife

In Hindu Shastra it is believed that there is no greater sacrifice than sacrificing your daughter; I mean Kanyadaan. Well, this doesn’t mean slaying your daughter to appease some God, but what actually happens on the name of society, her honor and of course her happiness is no better than murder. Murder of her dreams and her ambitions.

In Indian society, when a girl is born the young parents are both happy and sad, as one day they will have to part ways with that little bundle of joy. No care and no expense is spared while she is raised. She is given the best education possible, so that she can become (only) financially independent. She is taught n-number of extra-curricular activities which can help her to shape her personality. And then the day comes when Daddy’s sweetheart becomes a Wife and her life changes. (Men, from here might find it one sided and unfair, but this is a girl’s side of the story, and definitely one sided)

As goes the custom in our country, the girl bids farewell to her family and joins a new family, for whom she at that point of time has neither a positive nor a negative opinion. It’s the events that would follow in the next few days that will allow her to brand her in laws from bad to tolerable to good.

Girls are very young when they get married, and in most cases few years younger than their own husbands. However, this doesn’t qualify her to be treated with a little ease and shown any humanity. She is expected to be an obedient girl, who would do all household chores, with a dexterity of someone who has been playing this role for ages. No matter what her educational background was, but she is always expected to know all the stuff and if she cannot perform, a sarcastic remark on her upbringing is always in waiting.

Upto some extent I believe, that in addition to studies, everyone should have some basic knowledge of everything; the basic life skills. But, what I fail to understand is that why hopes are only pinned to the girls. Why can’t boys’ parents too teach them those life skills? I fail to understand the idea behind the upbringing of boys that they can study, hang-out with friends, play; and then one day his parents will get a girl for them who will fix their life and take care of their every need, so that they can continue to be that small child.

Until the time a girl is married off, parents take a great care of their daughters. They take care of her diet, looks and academics. Very much like boys, a girl too has her academic goals to achieve, she is also motivated to become an accomplished professional. Simultaneously, she is also made to realize that in not too distant future she would be married off to some carefree lad, and so she must work hard on life-skills to lure that idiot. Why this added responsibility of learning to cook and sew for some unknown? But, this is how it is.

Marriage is a total disappointment for girls. Firstly, she is into a new environment and doesn’t know what to talk, when to talk and whom to talk to. Secondly, she is under so much pressure to prove that she is the right girl for the family and she is good at everything. A tantrum-throwing lazy daughter gears up herself for the big challenge and quickly tries to learn everything as per the customs/traditions of her new family.

And then comes the role of the husband, who too doesn’t make life easier for their young wives. I really have to bow down to their low intellect that they cannot sense the discomforts of their wives. They have such a low intelligence that they cannot understand the torture his wife is bearing on the hands of his family. I presume that they too subscribe to that school of thought that wives should know everything and should act like an improvised maid.

The torture for the wives, just do not end here. She is a subject for all kinds of jibes and puns and when with friends, the husbands play their victim card so well, as if wives are real torture. It’s a trend to crack jokes on wives. That’s the coolest thing. The poor lady, is not even allowed to show her actual emotions and just has to take everything in a lighter mood, just to keep everything moving, without friction.

A working woman’s life is no less than a torture. The hours she is at home, she has to be a complete homemaker. She is not allowed to cook a quick-fix meal every day. She is not allowed to leave the home untidy; and laundries, housekeeping and children are her solo responsibility. But, when she is in the office, she is expected to work no less than the men. But, while at work a constant battle goes on in her head that she cannot let down the people she is working for, both in the office and at home. According to some survey, it was found that most women do not do overtime and leave as soon as their shift gets over. Now, this attracts venomous arrows on her capability and sarcasm that she gives more priority to home. But, can a single man say that any lady leaves the premises without attaining the level of work expected of her. And, then what is wrong in leaving for home on time. Well, unlike men, she is not rushing home to laze on the couch. She is going there to become a provider for another set of people. If men are able to achieve more, then there is definitely a very hardworking wife working behind the scene and covering all the gaps that the ambitious man is creating on the domestic front.

A home-stay wife too has a tough role to play. She is imagined to be someone who is free all 24 hours and just sits and watches TV. All the things she does for her family, is just a thankless job and when someone asks a man what does your wife do, they say, She is a homemaker.

My idea or my definition for a wife is different. Working or not, a woman has a serious task of spreading joy in her hand. She spreads joy through the meals she puts together, she spreads joy through the house she maintains, she spreads joys through the children she raises, she spreads joy through the care she takes of all her relatives, she spreads joy by inviting friends over, she spreads joy when she tries to celebrate minor happy occasions as a gala event, she makes joy when she cooks something that can give joy to other. So, I would call that all women are JOYMAKERS. Stay at home or working, doesn’t matter.

Extended happy family standing in the park.

Until 1991, India was a closed economy and everything from buying a house to a vehicle required lot of commitment and patience and this in a way shaped the character of the Indians. Overnight, with the change in the economic polies of India, this age old habit of Indian too witnessed a stern change.

 

Indians for ages have wished for sons as sons were just not the bearers of the family names, but were also their fixed deposit schemes, which one could encash in old age. The structure of the homes generally used to be husband, wife, their children and the parents of the man. Families were marked with lot of love, laughter and noise (though not always pleasing, yet offered a feeling of comfort).

 

But, this comfort was suddenly taken for old couples of today. With the opening of economy, the other world was wide-open now for the young boys and girls. New opportunities, which shone beyond the seven seas was waiting to be exploited, New fledging few away to distant, unknown world and left behind an empty nest and an emptiness.

 

This new trend was a shock to this new generation of senior citizens, as they had never seen or heard anything like this. Suddenly, life brought them on a crossroads, where either they could be selfish and choose their security and happiness; or be selfless and choose their children’s happiness. Most parents chose the second path.

 

Now, something that used to be home earlier transforms itself into a waiting room. In the initial few years, the wait is for celebrating festivals with their children. However, within few years, the frequency of their visit witnesses a steep fall. Then at next level, parents wait to see their children at the time of any medical emergencies. And finally, the wait is for the death to come and free them of this soul-less life.

 

Fledging flew and made themselves a new nest, throwing themselves onto a moral crossroad of choosing between their parents and their (new) family. With no mal-intention in their heart, but the pressure from work and their own spouse and children give little options to one; and returning home for vacations becomes a luxury, far too expensive to afford.

 

Some children, unable to cope up with this emotional fight, decide to move their parents with them. For the parents it’s like uprooting an old tree and planting it again. But, the roots of old trees refuse to grow in new soil and die fast. Same things happen to the old couples too. Some even try to barter their personal time with loads of pocket money and expensive gifts for their parents. But, love is a commodity that cannot be traded.

 

But then what is the way out? Do elderlies really need to suffer loneliness? My answer would be no. The first thing to do is accept the change and look beyond your children. Do not shun your friends, rather meet your friends often. Join clubs, have kitty parties, have walk groups. Even if it feels like a hard work initially to make new friends, just do it as like you there are many other people who are unable to cope up with the situation. Watch movies with friends, try and laugh with friends. It would just not help you to pass time, but would have a very positive effect on your health.

 

Your health should become your priority. Do everything in your capacity to remain healthy. Eat well, exercise regularly, meet your doctors for regular check-ups and never avoid medicines.

 

While raising the little ones, all parents sacrifice a lot and have given weightage to their children’s need over others. I feel old age is a time to time to start life all over again. To feel free again and rediscover those hobbies that have died their natural death. Start living, learn something new.

 

Visit your children, but not as a guest, but as a Santa of the house. Set up a routine with your new family. Most importantly, treat your children as grown-up adults, who know exactly what they are doing and give them the confidence that in spite of being far from them, you will continue to remain that support on to which they can still fall back.

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Until 1991, India was a closed economy and everything from buying a house to a vehicle required lot of commitment and patience and this in a way shaped the character of the Indians. Overnight, with…

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