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Friday, 16 February 2018

Journey of a Girl to a Woman

A few days after my November blogathon, a WhatsApp message popped up from an unknown number. A lady introduced herself as Dheepak Narasimhan's cousin's wife and said that inspired by what he had written for my blog, she too wanted to share something. 

Intrigued, I asked her to send it across, and she promptly did so. It turned out to be an amazing account of, as she titled it herself, the journey of a girl to a woman. In today's times, when we find relationships heading for a split at the tiniest disagreement, it is worth pondering over and adopting what Gayathri Srivathsan spells out as her life lessons....

I was a very normal girl with lots of dreams and ambitions, from a pakka middle class family traditional in outlook but modern in their thoughts. Life started changing for me when I began working part time in the evening during my college days. I was a HR trainee in a hospital and those years helped me gain a lot of experience.

After college, I got an IT job and life was happier. I was supporting my parents and was doing well professionally too. But all this was short lived… one day, while returning home from work at midnight, my cab met with an accident and I got a spinal fracture. When I finally recovered, I couldn't sit for more than an hour and so, had to resign my job. I took a break and was checking higher studies options.

At this time, a matrimonial alliance came from a close family friend of almost two generations. My family was enthusiastic, but with a lot of hesitation, I said ok because a thousand questions were ringing in my mind, with the predominant one being, “I m only 21, if I get married now what about my ambitions, my career?”

We had a chat on Facebook before meeting each other. He says he was sure I would be his wife - maybe he had some strong intuitions. For me, he was good and nice and fit my category of being tall (silly, right?) but there was one other thing that made me love him. My husband was working in IT Industry in Chennai then and making a huge amount of money but later, cleared the bank exams and now we live in a village called Ariyakudi near Karaikudi and he earns very less, but he wanted to take care of his parents and not leave them alone ....

I made the move from Chennai to an agrahaaram where people are more conservative but also genuine and trustworthy. I began working as a teacher but had to leave the job when I got pregnant. That happiness was short lived and we lost the child and that was the biggest nightmare. Through all of this, my husband was my pillar of support along with both my families...Everytime I felt hurt by what people said, he helped me discriminate between good and bad, just like one teaches a child.

When I conceived again, I came to Chennai because the medical facilities in Ariyakudi were minimal. We were away from each other, and my pregnancy hormones were taking a toll on me. My mom-in-law was the very serious kind and so, talking to my husband for even a few minutes was a very tough job. Things started getting so bad and I was so frustrated that I even thought of separating from my husband.

That was when we sat down together and spoke and I understood that breaking a relationship was not a solution. We started to change ourselves in small ways. Since then, we are really a happy family. I live with my in-laws under the same roof. We fight, we have misunderstandings but we can't stay without each other. It's wonderful to be in a joint family.

My father in law is such a wonderful and the most affectionate person I have ever seen. He starts crying if I have pain. It’s been two years since my mom in law passed away and there’s this huge vacuum because she was truly another mother to me.

Athai (my father in law’s sister) who lives with us is one strong woman and I want to be as determined as her. She guides me about how to do things right.

My husband has been there always for me, and I’ll be there for him no matter what. Rithvik, my son, our bundle of joy and happiness, is teaching us to be more responsible and enjoy life.

Finally my mom, dad, sis and brother – whatever I am today is because of them. They are my rocks with their teachings and guidance.

To all couples who say, “We never have fights,” please understand that there is nothing wrong in a fight or having a misunderstanding provided you use it to understand the other person better . It's not a big deal to hold your hands while walking a path of roses but if you can survive a storm without letting go of each other, then your relationship is worth it.

Adjusting to something or someone doesn't really mean you are losing; instead, you’re gaining a lot of things. Marriage or a kid can never stop you from achieving things if you really have the determination and will power.

If we like a person, even the bad things they do look good to us. At the same time, when we don't like a person, even the genuine things they do sound wrong. Let us stop being judgmental and our lives will improve. Nobody is perfect. Look at people beyond their imperfections and just see how happy your life turns.

Seriously, my life turned upside down after I realized these truths.

Life is how you perceive – it is like a mirror. You show happiness and it gives you back the same and vice versa. So enjoy life and have fun!

Gayathri Srivathsan

Friday, 9 February 2018

Face your fear to overcome it

At the end of my November blogathon, I intended to continue sharing the stories of real-life heroes who had written to me about their life experiences. However, there were other things that took precedence and so, I had put this feature on hold.

Here’s one such story from my husband’s cousin Hema Venkatesh. Before I share what she wrote to me, a small glossary for those who don’t get Tamil

Manni : Sister-in-law…brother’s wife
Akka: Elder sister
Kannu: Term of say “dear” in English
Chithi: Aunt … in this case, father’s younger brother’s wife
Anna: Elder brother

Over to Hema....

Hello, Manni...

I am going to describe about a decision which changed my life. I studied in Tamil medium till my 12th standard. I and my twin sister Usha had decided to study, but my twin sister wanted to continue in Tamil medium. I was a little bit confused whether to change medium or not. If I changed, maybe my percentage would become low. After my 12th standard, I got a job because I took Secretarial group as my course in 12th standard.

A day before my 12th standard result, Geetha Akka, my cousin who lives in Bangalore, came to Salem and told me to take in English medium. She also told me, “No matter how much you score in your degree, you will get knowledge. And I am sure you will get marks, Kannu. If, for some reason, you don’t get this time, next time you will surely get.”

That became my inspiration and I took B.Com. English medium.

Geetha Akka also told me that when she was in 10th standard, my father had told her to take English medium. So, she was giving same advice now to me. I am proud to say my father became her inspiration and Geetha Akka became my inspiration....

And to the astonishment of all, I passed B.Com. in my first attempt itself with 78%. Some days later, Indrani Chithi and Suresh Anna came to Salem. That time Suresh Anna very proudly said to me, "Great, took English medium confidently and along with your job, you also passed ... Really great!" Geetha Akka had also accompanied them and she told me, “Superb Hema! You overcame your inferiority and scored very good marks.”

I was really happy that day. I considered this as my achievement and I was very glad that I had overcome my inferiority complex. From that day till now I have never felt low about myself. Thanks to Geetha Akka, I learned this important lesson that is still helping in my life.

Now, Hema is a dynamic, go-getter who dabbles in many things. She is a great networker, the admin of our family WhatsApp group (and around 7 other groups, too I believe), plays matchmaker for the young men and women of marriageable age in the family, is the life of any family get-together and also finds time to spend on creating beautiful Tanjore paintings and writing Tamil poetry and participating in her area temple activities regularly.

This story that she has shared reveals the secret behind her chutzpah.

If you understand the spirit in which she’s written this, you will realize that it’s not about the fact that she succeeded in English medium…rather, it’s the attitude of accepting advice, taking challenges head-on and persevering for long enough to win over her fears.

Even as I prepared to post this on the blog, I felt, yet again, a sense of immense gratitude, to have been parachuted (by marriage) into a family like this where the members stand by each other, with love and affection, always encouraging and helping each other …

Saturday, 3 February 2018

When age is more than a number....

I’m a little apprehensive. I’ve never done this before. Will I be able to say the right things? Will we be able to connect or wait in unspoken misery for the hour to be up?

15 elderly women in front of me. Curious? Impassive?

I begin tentatively, “Namaskaraa.” They chorus the same back. Good. I continue, telling them my name, and how I’ve come there through the organization called Youth for Seva. I ask them to tell me their names, and anything else they want to share.

They begin, saying their names. When I say, “What else,” they say, “Nothing.” Have I blown it, I wonder.

“Tell me your age and where you’re from,” I say.

Some of them do. Suddenly, I wonder if it will be hurtful asking them that question, and consult the warden. She’s surprisingly ambiguous, saying she doesn’t know….later, I realize the reason – she’s relatively new to them, too…

Next I ask about their daily routine. Some go for a walk, everyone does some little exercise, some read, some recite stotras, a lot of time is spent lying down because of weak backs that have given up after years of serving husbands and kids… unspoken sentiment hovers in the air, but I tiptoe around it because I don’t want to bring up hurt so early into the interaction.

At my urging, one lady sings. “Allah tero naam, Ishwar tero naam.” Then they say the warden sings well, and she obliges with a song on Lord Manjunatha. Someone reminisces and remembers it’s from a movie, and was sung by Pandhri Bai. They don’t make songs like them anymore, the women sigh. Another woman and her friend sing “Krishna nee beganey baaro…”

We talk of many things – how gadgets have made life easier for women today, how they struggled in their times with large joint families and having to do all housework manually, how they didn’t get much of an education, how it’s good that girls are getting more educated today, but also, getting more difficult to please and unwilling to adjust………..

On the verge of tears, one lady makes a comment about how they’re now just waiting for their time on earth to come to an end without causing trouble to anyone…..

Now they want me to sing. I sing a bhajan, and get them to repeat after me. They tell me it’s taught by their yoga teacher too, who hadn’t come today….one lady says it’s good they didn’t miss it.

One lady asks me questions about my family. Her neighbor tries to hush her up, but I say it’s ok…and satisfy her curiosity…

In the middle, we’re joined by a young girl who cooks for everyone, and a staff member who takes care of everyone’s needs. Their camaraderie is quite obvious.

The one hour I promised is almost up. I ask them what we should do for next time. They say, “You’re the one who knows more than us. You decide.” I say, “No…this time is for YOU, so tell me what YOU would like to do.”

Finally, we agree that each one of them will present something – jokes, or songs, or bhajans, or a story. The discussion veers to what story, and I ask oh-so-gently, if they would like to share their life story. NO!! comes the strong, almost unanimous response. We find that thinking back to it makes us hurt, they explain. We struggle to try not to think of it…so…NO!! Sounds fair to me….

To pull them away from that emotion, I talk of cooking, and how they must have done a lot of cooking. They nod happily. So I ask if next time, all of them would be willing to share their recipes for the dish they cooked best. YES!! They chorus…

Once again, we go over the ‘Homework’ they have to do. Then, all too soon, it’s time for me to say goodbye. With a promise to come again after 15 days, I turn to leave. The warden smiles at me and says, “Thank you so much, Madam. See, they’re so happy now…in this one hour, they’ve been engrossed in something outside of their routine and their pain…..”

I almost tell her I’ll come in a week itself, but sanity prevails….my time is not yet entirely my own…I have other commitments to fulfill, too….

As I walk to my home from Aashraya Old Age Home, I’m filled with a bitter-sweet emotion I can’t really describe…