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Monday, July 14, 2014

Cyber abuse and the hidden agenda

With the advent of social media, the world has changed its perception of communication. What once used to be a methodical manner of interaction, with due respect, proper salutation, ethics  of writing, who you are addressing,  the relationship  between the writer and addressee, whether formal, social or plain official etc., has now made way for a changed mood, new age style, careless dropping of words, regardless of repercussions. The old era has long past gone. Conventional communication giving way to free speech, freedom of expression seeking refuge in anonymity. The so called social reform and progression has encouraged innumerable cyber bullies and cyber harassment among other negative attitudes.

Children  subjected to bullying often  end up with severe depression or turn into introverts, for fear of facing the bullies if they socialize. Adults many times are subjected to stalking  and harassment depending on how successful or popular they happen to be.

Understanding the psyche of the bully isn't difficult. Often these people fall into the category of 'losers' They could either be school/college dropouts or adults who have failed in their personal or professional and social lives. Wherever you choose to categorise them, one thing  definite is the availability of time at their disposal. Their single minded obsession of finding targets to torment and then go after them shows that they have little else to do in life. Anybody spending more than an hour on social media any time of day/night obviously has a lot of free time. When the mind gets idle the devil begins to play.

Venting frustration under the refuge of anonymity  is easy. The bully thinks he isn't answerable to anyone, revels in either a fake or concocted identity, impersonating as someone else. The victim ironically, happens to be the reverse, someone who has little time for such extravagance, using the social media either to catch up with friends or a stress buster, is most often, not aware of hidden enemies and lurking dangers. That he is being stalked, his every move and behavior noticed and most often imitated, comes to light only after the damage is done. By which time, it could be too late.

Beware of people who are extra nice. Fake niceness is like an epidemic. You almost feel like screaming "your artifice  shows, stop being nice, get real" Being extra gushy, mushy, eager to please are all part of trying to create an artificial larger than life image about oneself, all with a hidden agenda to appear smart and sought after, the grandiose amassing a momentum to gather supporters for sympathy.

 Having identified the problem, how does one deal with harassment? On social networking sites one could resort to blocking the person, place them under restricted category. But that isn't enough, because of various visibility options available on the Internet and search engines, nothing is completely private. Is the answer then quitting, in order to  rid oneself of the menace once and for all, out of our lives, out of the system? I, for one wouldn't advocate quitting. Out of personal experience, I say this : DONT QUIT. By doing so, you are giving your enemy a sense of victory and motivating him to repeat the crime with someone else. Believe me, this is exactly what they do. They don't have one single victim and do not rest once their single point of mission is accomplished. They will soon forget the first victim and identify or latch on to a new one who they think needs to again go away from their vicinity, once they realise a person makes them insecure. They will provoke and abuse, using the same language and methodology to harass you. They foolishly assume that by eradicating one victim after another on their social scene, they can emerge as victors, feeling  a sense of power once somebody buckles under pressure. You have as much a right to be a part of your own social network as someone else. Deal with these abusers differently. Now that you have more or less identified their action plans and mode of attack, you know how to handle them. Your defiance is something they don't expect. Once they sense this, be prepared for a role reversal. The Wolf himself playing the lamb and crying 'Wolf'. They start playing the victim card to perfection. Trying to project 'you' as the offender and place themselves as the victim. More so, if you have reacted in a moment of haste or anger or retorted to one of their antics, they seize the opportunity. Since they already know how a victim behaves under pressure, they place themselves in that role and try to accumulate  as much sympathy and support  as they can, by trying to paint a black picture about you. This is another tactic to make you feel small, bad and even guilty, in order to eradicate you from their arena. After playing the sympathy card to perfection, they wait for your reaction and those of their sympathizers. Once that is garnered, at times you will have a whole army trolling you. Again, DONT QUIT. They will resort to ugly, filthy language and indulge in personal attacks. Never mind, you know that isn't  the real 'you' and it is the result of a psychotic mind playing havoc. You must understand that these perpetrators are not normal, most need psychological help and they are giving vent to their frustration. Hence their words MUST NOT get you down. If the pressure becomes too much to handle, seek help. Report with all the proof at your disposal to the authorities, police, website administrators, whoever it may be. The offender needs to realise that he isn't going to have it easy all the time, that he cannot repeat the offense with every victim. This can be done if you are sure of the offender's identity. Most hide under masks, at the most you may find a name, which may or may not be genuine. The point is, every offence can be tracked so don't be afraid to report if you have the proof.

What  then, is a permanent solution to this menace? Nothing, as of now. You need to be alert, keep yourself abreast of any situation, reduce interaction with strangers and never waste an opportunity to report an offender, more so if it is one playing under  anonymity . For the next generation though, like all other lessons in life, they need to learn young. Cyber etiquette should be made mandatory as a part of grooming, growing up. A sense of responsibility needs to be instilled along with the seriousness of accountability to be established. You must own responsibility for what you write. Cyber space is no different from the real world. YOU are the same person, how you behave online reflects the kind of personality you are and your character offline.

Finally, what is this piece doing on a Relationship Blog? Trying to establish a link between the silent enemy and the victim. I do hope this instills some faith and confidence in those of you who have been traumatized by bullies, you are not alone and don't allow yourself to feel guilty for somebody else's actions. Enjoy your time on social networking sites by being prudent, alert, smart and wary of any dangers lurking over your shoulders. Be smart, be happy! And always remember, Winners never quit!



Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The true spirit of Valentine

It is that time of the year, when love is in the air. Literally! The sounds of birds chirping  are sweeter, spring has arrived, fresh virgin blooms encompassing the last drops of dew for the season. You tend to smile wistfully at the passing thought of a loved one, moonlit nights seem to make the world  surreal. In short, everything seems magical. Its no wonder then, that a day in mid February was chosen to celebrate love. The color red never got more brighter, more sought after. That's the fantasy, now on to reality.

Romantic love is not the only love which needs expression. Look around and you will find so many little abandoned children, the differently abled angels feeling lost and lonely, hopeful, trapped tears in their wistful eyes. A tender touch,  a warm reassurance will go a long way in giving them hope. A hope to live for tomorrow, a faith in mankind. The sick and elderly need as much attention. There are several who have no family or friends to be by their side in their sunset years. They long for company to communicate with somebody, anybody. Spending half an hour of quality time will not only rid a soul of loneliness, it will bring you inner peace and joy a tremendous satisfaction which again spurs you on to repeat the enriching experience.

Love is no love without sharing. If you are among the blessed, give away a part of what you may not need. Instead of piling up and catching fungi in your cupboard, it may help someone who may need decent clothes, but may not be able to afford, may be too embarrassed to ask. Share with the less fortunate. Your reward is the expression in their eyes. You will feel the joy within your soul.

Another way to spread joy is to reduce hate. If you dislike someone or something, try and forget about the issue. Put it in the background, its not important to you. Don't waste precious energy fanning hate campaigns and pressing charges against people who you know nothing about or even if you do, understand that you were not placed here to pass judgment or measure somebody's character from your point of view. Whoever  said that your views were 'right' anyway? Let go of bitterness, hatred, frustration. Negative emotions wont do you any good in any case. At the end of it all, when sanity surfaces, you will hate yourself for having stooped so low in your own eyes. You do want to look into the mirror and see a clear image and happy reflection don't  you? Cleanse your soul today. Rid your self of baggage. By not spreading hate, you are doing mankind justice, you spread peace.

As for romantic love, it is an important part of the very essence of living. To say that you don't need love means you are lying. Everyone wants to be loved, to feel that surge of joy in being accepted and cherished by someone special. If you truly love someone it shouldn't matter if there is no reciprocation. You are expressing yourself without expecting anything in return. Love is no barter, it is meant to be given. Do not allow egos to build a barrier. Once a wall is built it becomes exceedingly difficult to break it down. With time a misunderstanding can only get worse and bridging gaps may never happen. Communicate, express in whatever manner you may wish. Keeping your feelings bottled up inside  is a waste of time. Opportunities once lost will never return. There is no place for egos in a love relationship. You are not competing with someone to climb the corporate ladder. You are giving your heart and soul to the person to be one with him/her. Organize your priorities and give more than you receive. There is immense joy in giving.

And finally, if you have found your soul mate, wish you all the happiness ahead. Hang on to those precious moments. Keep the faith and trust. Loyalty has to be a part of the bond. Without loyalty the relationship is hollow, something so superficial and momentary. Keep suspicion and harsh speech at bay. These two ills can break a sensitive heart. Words once spoken cannot be retrieved. Even in moments of great anger, stay aloft and don't vent your frustration on the one you love. It isn't always your loved one's fault that you had a bad day. Be understanding, caring and loving. You don't lose a thing.

Having said all this, if you ask me to define love, I really wouldn't know what to say! Though it is the most debated and discussed subject, love has to be experienced deep within your soul, a connection established between two people, you can only feel it. Love is in the air, it is here to stay. Enjoy your life, you have just one lifetime with you. Celebrate true feelings this Season!

Begin today and keep it going. Love isn't something to be celebrated for one day and sent to the shelf for the remaining part of the year. It is meant to grow and get deeper and more meaningful with each passing day!


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Reverse Brain Drain

The latest manifesto to have caught on is the concept of 'Reverse Brain Drain' Before getting into the  specifics of such a possibility, it would do us a lot of good, to analyse why there was brain drain in the first place. Having introspected, perhaps the circumstances, lack of opportunities and various obstacles faced by the youth, could have inspired many to study and make their careers overseas.

Now, to label them unpatriotic is a case of sour grapes, most often, yet some hardcore self proclaimed seasonal patriots would indulge in cribbing and holding parents accountable for not 'educating' their wards adequately about the benefits and loyalty to their Motherland. Really? The advent of the social media has information travelling at lightning speed, in fact much faster than a parent who waits and watches  'TV News' would know. Information is given to parents by their wards over Skype before the next bulletin. So who's ignorant here? Coming to the crux of the matter, the 'brains' overseas get a first hand information of everything that is happening, and are aghast, appalled and afraid. Of vicious hate propaganda, venom and frustration built up inside. Of the violence anger generates and dangerous consequences of mob rule.  Anger is present everywhere, you follow the traffic rules, have a dozen behind you cursing, (like following rules is a crime) standing in line and waiting for your turn, is unthinkable. Survival of the fittest rules supreme. Just barge in and elbow your way to the front.  Respecting and making way for senior citizens and disabled, 'not happening, I don't have the time'. You want to spend an evening out at a Lounge bar, dress appropriately, but a nagging fear of moral policing lurks all the time. Use public transport, be prepared for jeers and leers. Staying out late, rape is inevitable. You look different  in front of  others in your State, racism is rampant. Everything ultimately is YOUR  fault. And who are the ones propagating these crimes? The youth most often. So, instead of standing on a high pedestal selling dreams to the gullible youth, isn't it a bounden duty of our leaders to first inculcate a level of tolerance, inspire people to live in harmony, teach them the benefits of co-existence, create a platform where everyone has their own right  to live their lives and then build an edifice of dreams for a progressive India? When you have hordes listening to you in awe, treating your word as the gospel truth, this is way too easy. A leader's word will be followed, but how many have really inspired the youth? Every manifesto is heavily laden with their own personal agendas and of course jibes and digs at the Opposition. Invariably, there is a "follow the leader principle," which filters down to the lowest level inculcating a different mindset  conditioned to build up a hate for the opposition, with severe disastrous consequences. And then, the protests, political dharnas, riots, communalism would again break free, life comes full circle, once every decade.

Now pan the camera to the NRI, ask him what he feels about a normal day in these circumstances. Mind you, he might have been born here, but having lived his formative years away, he has no clue about the fast paced changes and frustrations developing each moment.  Overseas, they live their lives in a sweet cocoon, the only stress being to deliver before deadlines at work, traffic back up, driving on a snowy day and sweating it out if 'nanny' has an off day. 'Is that stress' ?, you would ask. Exactly my point. Pitch them in a metro scenario in India, a month to spend with relatives at a wedding. You would know the frustration and pains they take to keep pace with Modern India. 'Oh! So high handed, wasn't he educated here' is a common refrain. Yes, indeed but what have you given him in return? He keeps himself update with the happenings back home. So according to some, an NRI is expected to return home to look after his aged parents, not for his progress or his contribution to the nation. Why don't we Indians learn to cut the umbilical cord at the right time and give children their space, choice of career and a right to live their lives the way they want to? Must a child be saddled with a guilt conscience if he lives abroad? Everyone of us is going to age, and have some ailment over a period of  time. Just because we chose to be beside our parents ( again opportunites were not manifold for the previous generation) must we project an injured fa├žade each time a child aspires to live his dreams? We as a nation need to grow up, look beyond at the world outside, take a few leaves, learn, practice the policy of 'Live and let live'. Then perhaps, we could begin to build a dream for the 'returning Indians'. Promise them peace and dignity first. Then hope.

Finally, why is this piece finding its way in a 'Relationship' Blog? Simple. The art of practising tolerance, living in harmony and learning to respect other fellow human beings, is the answer.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Tainted Vs. Painted

So much has already been said in the media, newspapers,TV Channels, through neighbours, friends etc.,on the subject of rape, that there is no point in dwelling on repetition here! I was wondering what the root cause of all this is! It is most certainly the mind set of the Indian male and his lopsided thinking!

Why do Indian men immediately jump to conclusions if women barely ask for their fundamental rights? Is it insecurity that the forte which they have been holding for centuries is going to crumble very soon? That their manhood is put to test? Manhood? Really? I would rather label these so called 'opinion makers' as cowards. By no means are women interested in starting gender wars or competing with men. We are pretty happy to be 'all woman' and feminine. Not many women would want to be in the shoes of Indian men, I assure you. I admit, it is unfair to generalise because the mindset of a larger percentage is wayward and outdated, like an antique rusted clock, barely sounding the gong at hourly intervals, they do come across as stale tapes wanting to be rewound, playing the same old music again and again. It jars on the ears and our system! Yes, our men are still living in the era of cassettes and tapes. Simply backward. What they really mean is, even if women want to take to the streets in protest of an agonising injustice, they need to first seek the permission of men? Dress appropriately. And what may I ask is 'appropriate'? Who are these men to define what appropriate is? When most of them have docile wives tucked away in their kitchens and they are busy gallavanting around town with 'hep' (sic!) girlfriends who are dressed inappropriately? Double standards? Understatement!Outdated thinking coming from a so called 'progressive' nation!

Indian society is clearly divided into medieval India and progressive India. While you have the youth, with the advent of globalisation, having become fairly progressive thinkers, supporting and standing side by side with women on any cause affecting society, be it a man, woman or child that is hurt, you have another section of vicious, opinionated chauvinists making sexist remarks at women, that too, in the midst of already burning and raging controversies. Why dont men, yes Indian men understand the following basic facts?

* When a woman goes out to protest or participate in an event for a cause, she has every right to do so as a citizen of this country.

* If a man can enjoy the benefits of travelling by metro trains, hanging out with friends at midnight, travel by public buses,goes clubbing, pubbing, watching movies and enjoying his freedom, well, every woman also has a right to do so.

* Aren't women paying their taxes, contributing to the household income, sharing responsibilities and also multi tasking? If you men want her to do all this, you jolly well let her have her space and right to lead her life the way she wants.

* If men can walk around in shorts and sleeveless Ts, what's wrong if women dress they way they want to? What is the role of moral policing in a progressive nation? On one hand we want to compete with the West ( really, that's pathetic) on the other, men want to dominate under the pretext of wanting to preserve our cultural heritage and not allow women their basic rights? Can the confused, self professed 'saints' ( Oh! Yes we have seen a lot of 'virtues' of so called 'godmen' )decide what exactly is their priority?

* All that today's woman wants is complete abolition of double standards and restoration of a woman's dignity, allow her to live her life like a citizen of free India. She is NOT going to be bound by the fetters of male chauvinism any more. If you men don't change, society will soon change your mindset for you!

* And yes,we want responsible, mature leaders with courage to change the system, amend the laws own responsibility and fix accountablity when things go wrong. Any prospective leaders out there? I dont see any!And please! Stop making frivolous, juvenile remarks about women being painted and dented! When their own senses are demented and they are tainted, they have no right to pass judgment using imbecile brains!I have many a time walked out of polling booths in disgust! Whom does one vote for? The ballot paper has candidates who are woefully short of having any leadership qualities and we are compelled to choose our 'leaders' out of them! A fix between the devil and the deep sea!

* Finally, a plea to all mothers! Unless you lead the way and teach your sons right from wrong and make them understand that all women are to be respected, their mindsets will not change easily. YOU need to drill this into their psyche at a very young age!Society can only be reformed when change begins at home. When a mother corrects her errant son at adolescence that women are not objects of fancy, that he cannot grope, pass lewd remarks or paw every woman he fancies. If every mother makes a conscious effort to inculcate a sense of discipline and teach her child to look upon all women with respect, then perhaps, yes perhaps in the next 50 years we could be on par with other civilized societies with lesser gender discrimination.

I know, many men reading this would label it as 'feminist' or 'female chauvinism' a new term doing the rounds, by the way! Misters! rest your opinions. We are not interested in your judgements, since you too are citizens like any one of us, and if you can enjoy certain privileges in peace, so can we! That is all,we ask for!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Childhood Lost

(This is purely a work of fiction and bears no resemblance to any person living or dead)

It turned out to be a cold rainy morning. The rain was coming down, roads were wet, dark cloudy skies did not add much to the mood which was already apprehensive, a silent nagging fear, since the outcome of the verdict today would decide the fate of an innocent 10 year old. A life changing event would occur in a couple of hours from now.

I choked on my coffee as I recalled the scene revealing itself before my eyes. Four painful years had passed. Nina was a beautiful six year old girl, long waist length brown hair, big beautiful eyes, dimpled cheeks and a cherubic round face, an innocent expression in those fluid eyes, a smile always playing on her lips. She had waved to me that evening, a happy tinkling laugh signalling to me, that she was out for her evening games. I waved back in a quick reflex action. Her smile was too contagious to ignore. That was the last day I ever saw her smile.

An hour later I took the longer route by the woods on my evening walk, though it was nearing sunset, some intuition told me to move ahead faster, I almost started running when I heard muffled screams inside the thickly shrubbed groves. I stopped in my tracks, not knowing whether to continue walking or invade the thick growth and figure out who it was. What if it turned out to be a couple, how awkward that would be. I almost walked ahead when I heard muffled cries of "Help"..I decided to rush in, found a tall 6 footer, black cloak around him, denim jeans, a mask on his face ruthlessly pinning Nina to the ground . I stood rooted to the spot. on seeing me, he picked her up right over his head, took out a knife and slashed her across the face and threw her down. She lay unconscious, bleeding profusely. I expected him to attack me, but he turned on his heels, let out a loud sadistic guffaw and vanished into the twilight. I panicked but had to do something. I picked up Nina in my arms, rushed for help and got her to a hospital.Repeated calls to her home yielded no response. I had to give my statement as sole withness to the proceedings. This was a trauma I would never wish even on my sworn enemy.

Medical reports confirmed that Nina was raped repeatedly. She was in a state of shock and her life was hanging in a balance. She lived in my neighbourhood with her step mother, having lost her father just the previous year. Her step mom was a reckless, irresponsible woman, arrested a couple of times for drug abuse. Despite this background, Nina was an intelligent student, good at sports and always shone in extra curricular activities. She was the ideal teacher's pet in school and very popular too.

I was running from pillar to post trying to sort out innumerable police enquiries,lawyers, her hospitalisation,Bills, her school, calls from friends, relatives, putting my own life on hold. I had to do it, not because I was the only witness, but because I loved Nina as my own and if I didn't help her, I knew no one would. Not even her mother who remained indifferent, almost as if it was my entire responsibility for having rescued her daughter that night! After weeks of building up immense pressure, media coverage, political involvement and continous visits to the police, I found a ray of hope. The culprit was arrested 3 months after the crime. Then came the trial. Visits to the court, interrogations, cross examination and half way through the proceedings, the case took a dramatic turn, the defense counsel almost trying to prove the culprit innocent.

The last three years had taken a toll on me. My personal life was in shambles. I had broken off my engagement because my fiancee had failed to understand the extent of my involvement. He asked me to help out but not to get involved. Help out? Whom? A six year old who was violated and put to shame for no fault of hers? How could she handle the future with an indifferent mother who was high on liquor and drugs all the time, a woman who changed her boyfriends faster than her clothes, men who eyed this little girl after knowing what happened with her? As if she was prey to their merciless lust? I could stand it no longer. I put my foot down and told Nina's mother to either allow her to live with me till the verdict was through or put her into foster care. Somehow, I had expected moral support from my fiancee, not indifference. His decision to break off helped me view the entire relationship with open eyes. His utter selfishness and chauvinism would perhaps have surfaced later in my life, when it was too late?

Nina's mother reluctantly agreed for Nina to live with me. This brought fresh problems. The men in her mother's life began hounding me. Something told me that the culprit was one among them. I was proved right, though it took a long time for Nina to confirm this and record it in court. All this while, Nina transformed from child to a grown up girl. From the innocent child she was growing into a recluse, her wistful eyes welling up in tears often. She stopped schooling, did not want to meet any friends, felt ashamed, started blaming herself for everything. Her only happiness revolved around me. She felt secure and comforted in my presence. I tried to spend every evening with her, counselling, listening to music, reading, watching movies, anything to take her mind away from her past. But, I have never seen her smile. Not even once in these last four years. I see only pain, a lost vacant look most of the time. Any simple outing that we have is in fear. Always looking over our shoulders to see if some disguised enemy is behind us. How long can this go on? I did have my sister help me for a year and a half, but Nina's dependence on me is scary. She simply refuses to let me out of her sight. My personal life has gone downhill. I no longer meet friends, socialise or go out on holidays. Whose fault is it? My destiny for being dragged into this situation or her step mom's fault for being irresponsible? Or the fact that they have no other relatives or friends wanting to pitch in with moral support? I dont know.

All that I now want is justice. Corporal punishment for the animal who did this to us. I say us, because Nina and I are one now. Inseparable. They say that blood is thicker than water. I dont think so. My bond with Nina is built on a foundation of shared pain and sorrow, an understanding deeper and stronger than the umblical cord. No one can severe it! What hurts her, kills me and what troubles me puts fear into her.

What will the Judge's verdict be? Will justice prevail? Will it replace innocence lost? Will she regain her lost childhood? Have a joyous youth? Are wishes granted? Prayers answered? Do miracles happen? Will I live long enough to comfort, protect, soothe and love her? Will I be able to forget this trauma and pick up the threads of my own life? Or will Nina and I remain the lone survivors who lived but merely continued to exist for each other?

I have no answers to any of these questions!If any of you find any answers, please pray, not for me, but for the innocent Nina!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

When egos clash

It was a quarter past ten. Sid was yet to return. Another cold dinner, late night, early morning schedule leaving me to cope with lonliness. The rains were coming down fast and furious, the dark night seemed like a deja Vu; though I loathed rewinding my memory, circumstances compelled the clock backwards by a quarter of a century.

It was a similar scenario I had been in, waiting for Avinash to return, just to share a few moments of togetherness. That fateful night when the skies had opened the flood gates, torrents came down as if they would swallow the earth, I had rushed to the front door to let a dripping wet Avinash in, surprised to find his friend Jay with him. The three of us sat through a silent dinner, Avinash preoccupied with his office files and papers whilst eating. Poor Jay! Tried to make light of a heavily pregnant silent situation, little knowing it was almost a ritual in our so called home. Jay’s attempts to laugh, joke, tease, cajole and eventually praise me for whatever culinary skills he found fascinating seemed to have evoked the monster in Avinash. To this day, I cannot recall how the conversation steered to a friendly battle of wit & humour between Jay and me, an innocent banter which laid the foundation for an insecure couple’s battle . All I remember is the loud crashing of the glass water jug on the dining table, accusations, a violent hatred towards a childhood pal and sickening insinuations at me. No amount of explanations helped. Avinash was like an unleashed tiger on the prowl, determined to tear his prey to pieces that night.

A three hour argument yielded no results. Jay left. A shattered man bruised by words which stung, embarrassed by the turn of events and silently regretting his decision to share a meal with us. I was exhausted and found no reason to justify or defend myself. The door barely shut behind Jay, when Avinash yelled at me to leave the house. We had innumerable arguments in the past, spent weeks of silence living under the same roof, with Avinash always waiting for me to apologise and beg forgiveness, even though the fault most often was his, yet, never had either of us asked the other to leave nor had we ever spoken about a split. I looked at him incredulously, didn’t answer for fear of provoking another argument and walked up to our room. He yelled at me again like a mad man, threatening to throw me out if I did not quit with dignity. The tone in his voice made me decide my fate. He meant what he said. I picked up 3 yr old Sid who was fast asleep, packed a few baby essentials, struggling with my emotions almost tempted to seek pardon, while common sense warned me not to. I left. He slammed the door shut, insensitive to his own son’s predicament. I had been forced to walk out of my home on a rainy night, well past midnight, with a 3 yr old in my arms, not knowing where to go, what to do all because I could not and did not seek pardon for a crime that I had not committed!I had unknowingly become a victim of jealousy, of a fierce competition between the two which dated back to their childhood, youth, jobs, status, everything! That was the last time I saw Avinash.

God had blessed my son and me with Angels in the form of friends and family; people who saw us through that frightful night and many years after that. Avinash made no attempts to reconcile, waiting for me to make the move! For the first time in my life I refused to compromise on my self respect to save my marriage. It was not worth it. Jay felt responsible and for some weird reason offered to take care of me and Sid! I did not want anything to do with Avinash or his friends and family. Though I never saw Jay again, I learnt that Avinash had severed ties with his friend as well! Well, why wouldn’t he? When his ego came first, even before the welfare of his own son.

The loud buzz of the doorbell stirred me out of my reverie! Sid was home, happiness returned! I felt a sense of pride each time I saw him, a successful Corporate Manager, efficient, hard working, famous at the young age of 28. My dreams of seeing him married, bringing Sheetal as a member of our family would soon materialize.
I failed to notice that Sid looked tired & withdrawn, dismissing it as fatigue. Just as we were seated for dinner, his cell phone rang. The expression on his face changed, the lines on his brow deepened, his face was flushed with anger, jaws taut as he picked up the phone. It so reminded me of his father, after so many years I was witnessing this emotion. I sat stunned as I heard him speak. He raved & ranted and only when he firmly told the person at the other end that he was calling off his wedding unless ‘she’ apologized, did I realize that he was talking to Sheetal’s mother. That got me and I gave Sid a piece of my mind telling him not to behave like his father. Which was my undoing! I had no business to compare two individuals, though they were father and son! If Sid was egotistic, it was genetic. I had to accept it and stop interfering in his life.

The thought had barely dawned on me before Sid in no uncertain terms said he wanted to lead his life on his terms and that he would move out in a week’s time, leaving all assets and the house to me .I did not want assets, I wanted people, a family! Where had I gone wrong? Would life have been less complicated if I had apologized to Avinash just fed his ego and played second fiddle? Did I err in raising Sid on my own? Is self respect that important in a relationship, in a marriage? Or is compromise the best solution? What’s the difference between ego and self respect anyway ? A thin dividing line? I don’t know!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Homeward Bound

Bags were packed, locked, weighed and ready. Online check-in was completed, Boarding Pass printed. Except the final Good-byes, she was all set to leave. It had been her idea to arrange an informal get-together at a Restaurant for a final beer with friends. Everyone was present, except him.

Sonia was getting restless, just an hour to go and she had around 20 minutes drive to reach the airport. Half an hour went past, still no sign. The ominous dark clouds gathering overhead ready to explode into a fierce downpour, did nothing much to brighten the situation. Well, it was foolish on her part to even faintly expect him to be there. He was an extremely busy man, probably involved in one of his numerous assignments or guest lectures, maybe a seminar, Conference, could be ill health,the weather, anything. He had thousands of students graduating and leaving every year,what was so special about her exit anyway and the University was a good one hours drive from the place she had chosen and his home was even further away! So!! Or, he just did not want to be present. Simple. But her innermost voice refused to believe that he did not want to be around. Or was he uneasy with goodbyes? In any case she had a good 12 to 14 hours on her flight back home, to analyse the 'ifs' and 'buts' of an imaginary cause.

Tim was a faculty at her University. He taught Finance but not her batch. She had attended one single guest seminar of his, remained spell bound for the 4 hours that he occupied the podium, overawed by his analytical skills and life was never the same again. She was so attentive, participating eagerly and by the end of the day, he seemed impressed with her and after its conclusion, gave her inputs about her subjects, career and next course of action she should take. Needless to say, Sania appeared like any other girl her age would. Floored by compliments from someone she idolised and was completely bowled over by his intellect and humane characteristics. She made it a point to read most of his research papers and kept herself abreast of what he was doing. The rumour of his relocation to a different County sent her into a mild panic, short of being hysterical. And for the first time she fared poorly in her papers. She did run into him a couple of times, having short conversations within the campus and on one occasion even discussed her other literary pursuits, without touching on academics.

With the last ten minutes left to bid her final round of farewell, hugs, tears, exchange of numbers, it dawned on her that she would never see most of these people again and would be leaving the country for good. As she hugged her last friend, her emotions gave way, burying her face in her shoulers she tried to get a hold over herself. As she looked up amidst tears, she found herself looking into hazel brown eyes and a familiar voice asking her "can I drop you to the airport? Sorry I got late!" So he did make it after all.

Suddenly, she seemed in a hurry to leave, yet once seated wished the drive would go on forever or a breakdown, anything to delay her departure. The conversation between them appeared strained, mono syllabic answers and before she realised it, they were at the gate. She alighted, aware that these were the last few moments, as parking beyond a few minutes was not done and the clouds were threatening to burst.

" I dont know what to say, Sania, though there is much I would have liked to convey. I have this little book for you with a few notes made here and there, a couple of bookmarks and underlined quotes. Maybe, if you read between the lines, you would know", with that he handed her a volume of her favourite poems, held her hands and said "Goodbye and Take Care. You know where to reach me if you wish"

She flipped open a page which was marked. A poem by Pablo Neruda

If You Forget Me

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine

She was rendered speechless, but had to say something, since she knew by intuition what he meant "I wish you well Tim, but feel we shouldn't have waited this long"

He tried to smile, knowing the impossibility of such a union. Culturally poles apart, demographically long distance, biologically he was a good 15 years her senior. Yet, an invisible bond tied them together, making words useless, when a communication of their souls seemed stronger.

" I am sorry, I did not get anything for you, I mean, I wish I had thought of a gift or something, but you will always remain very dear to me" she was struggling with her emotions.

" take care dear" was all he could manage to say without choking, as they looked at each other in final farewell.

Cloudburst. The raindrops had begun to fall. They were both thankful to the rains which managed to camouflage their tears.

P. S. Some relationships are not meant to be but happen, while some others are meant to be, but never happen!