Hungry, Dirty, Cold and Loved….

Usually the conversation starts with, “where are you from?”

“Pune”

“..Meaning Mumbai, right?”

My imagination zooms back to the two monster-cities that are growing cancerously, almost into each other, Sigh, “Uh, yeah, close enough…”

“Are you here for a holiday?”

I definitely do not look like a jolly tourist, not with frizzed hair and smears of gober on my ragged cloths, “No. I work here.”

“What work?”

“I build”

“What is there in the hills to build?!” accompanied with laughter.

I silently look out for the direly awaited, late night bus to show up.

“Who are you travelling with?”

I feel like saying, “With myself” but I am not hungry or nasty today, so I say “Nobody.”

“How much do you get paid?”

“Nothing, so far… But with time, there will be something.” now really trying to sound polite.

“Are you from an NGO?”

“No.”

“…then?”

“I work for an Architect.”

A long awkward pause, while I do my best to ignore that top to toe scrutiny….

“…married?!”

“No.”

“How old are you?”

“Um… 27…”

I can almost catch them sigh this time, oh…there is no hope after all…

Mostly by end of this question they classify me solidly into some category and start feeling comfortable….almost sympathetic! Then the rapid fire round takes a turn into checking my ancestry up….

Often my skills at shamelessly sleeping through any bus journey save me from this endless interview. And with time I have learned that albeit strangers, most of them are simply good natured and curious about this strange woman travelling alone at night. Their questions, too probing and unnecessarily personal, actually harm me in no way, but might open a new world of possibilities that they have never even considered…. I have seen some of these random interviewers drift into a silent musing, trying to relate with me… mostly, they shrug the thought out with an anxious jerk and fall back into their comfortable, sympathetic zone!

But yes, I admit, there was a time when I used to fire up and fume inside, being judged by strangers like that… Once an over-smart, ten-year old looking me up and down, had asked his mother, “Is this how a spinster looks like?!” I had felt a jumble of emotions varying from violent rage to careless laughter and then, squirmy pity….

This is not about questioning the conventions… or rebelling for or against anything… that activist in me knows that there are far graver things than facebook relationship status, to fight against.

Relationships and their social contexts have become far too controversial and debatable issues lately, for poor me to even dare writing upon.

Do I wish to be in a relationship with anyone or not? If yes, then with whom and why?

To start with, does a relationship (let us call it matrimony, if it comforts) truly complete my life?

For those who bother to raise such questions, these are too personal choices to generalize broadly into socially acceptable frameworks that we live within…. This is about those who silently choose to live their lives by their own rules, without preaching others to do the same… without setting out to destroy the very fabric of our faiths and subsequent comforts.

With time, now I have come to a point where life has started weaving into a beautiful, melodic rhythm of its own. Although delightfully unpredictable like a dance sequence, life has continued to gift me with moments of grace, beauty, warm affection and lasting friendships…. It has brought me to believe that any day that has not been driven by the utmost love for life, is not lived at all.

Life of this 27, single woman, travelling architect is full and satisfying…. Filled with immense questions and challenges sometimes beyond her strength! There is color, glamour, beauty and humor along with mistakes, blunders, failures and massive goof ups!

They have said that I am wasting my life, that I am taking all the wrong decisions…. They have said that this path that I am choosing goes nowhere…. And I promise, this nowhere is so much more beautiful than anywhere! Through this chaotic, rattling bus journey of life, my closest ones have always stood by my silly decisions….

My exceptionally cool-headed father with his flawlessly practical advice, offered only when asked for…expecting me to make truthful and honest choices in life, and nothing more, in return of all the emotional and financial investments he has continued to make…

Friends of family and families of my friends, who have unexpectedly risen to help, guide and shelter me in the worst hours of life….

Teachers who have patiently watched me fumble over the easiest of lessons!

My best buddies who have watched me fall and get back to my feet… taught me to use phones and tracked my crazy travel itineraries… laughed at me and lightened up my gloomy moods!

Silent admirers who have defended and protected me, from a distance, without hurting my independent spirit….

I have always known how much courage it has cost them all to watch me struggle. I know how uncomfortable they have felt late at night, in their comfortable beds, when they knew I traveled, hungry, dirty and cold out there….

For me, they represent love like nothing and no one else…. They give me strength and hope for the great times…. many beautiful futures that we will be building together….

Along with women of exceptional courage and character, many of them are men of varying backgrounds and age groups. They have loved me in their own ways…. Accepted my fussing, hangry, eccentric way of loving them! And they have never offered me a humiliating choice that most women are often offered, sometimes subtly, sometimes openly, between being an object and being everything else. And at every moment, if there was such a choice, they have laughed and nodded, as I chose wholeheartedly and in complete consciousness, to remain hungry, dirty, cold and loved as I am!

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Man, Woman and Love…

About the same old topic…. Topic that mankind has been thinking about since its birth…. Love, man and woman, their mutual coexistence…. And everything else that follows…
For centuries people have thought, written, played and sung about this thing called love…. And yet it remains out of grasp….

The moment there is duality, there has to be strong attraction and repulsion inherent in the system….. Man and woman, being such complicated halves of one whole self that their coexistence would be, without any doubt, a mystery like no other… attraction to become one complete presence and repulsion to retain the individual presences.

They say a man and woman cannot be friends, there enters love to spoil it all….. But is that not ridiculous thing to expect?! There are two contradictions in this one single statement….. One, why is friendship not valued as love? Two, man and woman are dual poles of the same humanity, they are bound to love each other…. Why does that have to spoil anything?

But this is all theoretical discussion of course, inside we all know that here, love refers to a very sexual, reproduction intending, and instinctive animal desire, which is only one tiny aspect of a huge big complex idea of love.

This is like the story of an elephant and the blind men….. We all encounter very unique aspect of that one big huge love and assume it to be the one and only love. Generally speaking, owing to the natural tendencies, men and women see almost opposite aspects of love…. They “expect” accordingly different responses from each other… but actually none of them is right about love. Love is all about overcoming that inherent miscommunication. Love is about learning the whole concept of what really the elephant is!

Woman sees love in every relation… she finds the very imagination of it so very satisfying that she hardly cares to check the reality, which may not be as rosy as she thinks… Of course here I refer to woman as gender expressed in any form. Man does not see love like she does, at least not naturally. For him, it is a sport, a conquest…. There is possession and power involved…. And there is sexual aspect of love so very dominant…..

But it would be unjust to denounce men to the level of an animal. Time and again, men have shown courage and vulnerability of crossing their inbuilt idea of love. They have evolved in so many invisible ways. Maybe it was living in thousands of years of family structure that has started to change men….

They are becoming sensitive like a woman is…. They are starting to feel the other aspects of love…. For a long time human psychology has believed children to be woman’s natural responsibility, that men have no instinctive parental feeling. But years and years of fatherhood seems to have rubbed off on them! Observe closely, there are so many men around us who feel complete with fatherhood. They want it; crave it as much as woman craves motherhood. This was not how nature made them. They picked it up with time….  Man became father…..

Of course, slow as they are by nature, they have taken long time learning it… and still seem to fight with the change more often than they should! This is a good change, guys…. It is okay to be vulnerable to women just as she is vulnerable to you… We are growing up together…see?!

We are not going to have wars anymore, fights anymore, if men learn to be vulnerable, to love… as a father…. Yes, they need not become a copy of motherhood! It will be as sick and shallow as women competing men in fights and smoke….!

And woman is changing too along his side. Woman, who was tied down in centuries of pregnancy, is now free… free to learn, to create, to express herself in ways other than raising children…. She’s learning about the world as men built it for years…. She is raising questions, making changes, taking her part in reshaping the world….

A very beautiful future is ahead of us, though only as one of the many possibilities…. But, my god! Look at the utopia we could build together if man and woman become a bit of each other and overcome the stupid miscommunication….

We call it only one of many possibilities because there is an ugly side of this evolution. By another law of nature, there is resistance wherever there is “change”. We watch women going overboard to claim their freedom and losing womanhood in the process! What are we seeking liberation from?! From our own mental block possibly…. Definitely not from womanhood, since it is the most wonderful thing about existing as a woman! Similarly men too are resisting the change. Sudden violent increases in the rape accounts are nothing but a way to protest against their own evolution! It is not women they are defying…though they are hurting her in the process of it.

Some people claim that this resistance is product of family based social system. Yes it is. But that does not really mean we have to discard the whole thing. We have lived with this system for generations, gotten used to it…and grown with it. Just as we picked up some bad habits, we have also learned a few good things…. Let us not ruin it all. Instead, it is possible to move on with whatever we have in hand….

We do not need revolution when we have evolution possible to us! Let us just behave ourselves…. Be little more aware…little more forgiving…little more complimenting….. Let us get rid of centuries of vengefulness in our instincts… We have moved on, way ahead of savageness of that kind. We can respect friendship, since we feel it so strongly…. We can stop being so authoritarian, so possessive. We can learn about love in more open perspective…. Respect the other gender too. Try to ease their complexes sometimes. Help them to understand too!
Let us not go back…. Because there is such a wonderful world awaiting us! And we all agree, that we are basically very, very wonderful people, aren’t we?!

Three Mad Woman…

I lived in central part of the old city at that time….in a congested, cozy neighborhood…where everyone knows everyone, with all their past histories and extended families too….

There was a mad woman….roaming out on roads…with no house…no shelter…..no whereabouts of any sort…. She was mentally disturbed beyond repair…She was unkempt but a very beautiful woman. Fair, tall and with a proud erect posture…she used to walk with grace not conceivable to any ordinary woman….her cloths were torn and patched…but she wore them well….there was an air of dignity around her…. her stark white hair were tangled but she kept them rolled in…what used to be an elegant roll.

Even through those disoriented eyes I always saw a glint of energy…..

In crowds of dead hearted men and women living lives equivalent to rats breeding in dingy holes….she looked like a ray of undaunted hope… though she was labeled a hopeless case, and I was warned to run home whenever she entered our lane…

People teased her…..and she used to get angry…lose her mind….she looked like a lost doe in the middle of hunters…..so helpless…. Those dignified elegant eyes used to shed tears…it wasn’t pain though…..it was anger…pure hot anger pouring down from her heart….

But in such old rickety neighborhoods people are very closely knitted to each other…. She had a few well-wishers too…..who saved her from those scavenging beast like men…..

I remember an old lady, who used to sit in the parlour of her house, watching the street, while her fingers ran on a rosary, singing god’s name….. She used to call this mad woman in her quivering voice….to come and sit with her for a minute or two…. I have seen the mad woman sipping tea with the old lady…..like a married daughter had come to her maiden home….to chat with her mother…. Those old cataract eyes showered her with love! They did not care about her mental disorders, did not care about the dangerous anger of the mad mind….they only knew simple innocent love!

That day the old lady called out to me while I played on the road, in front of her parlour… we never used to talk much…but she often gave me a sweet from a glittering jewelled box on her shelf. That was all the communication that was needed between us. In return she would get a hard unsmiling stare of five year old me! I hardly smiled at anyone…..but still the old lady knew that I appreciated her sweet very much…and that I liked her wrinkled toothless smile more than the sweet! But our custom of wordless speech was broken one day…. The lady told me to sit with her….on the clean daubed parlour floor of hers…. And I sat silently…we were at ease….homely….

She suddenly spoke to me…. A conversation that had started in her mind I guess….

It was the story of the mad woman….told to me without asking for it…..

A story that stayed buried in my heart….forgotten for all these years….

“Once upon a time….the mad woman was not mad….she was an only daughter of her parents, and only sister of her brother. The family was respectable middleclass household….known for a generous hand and kind heart. The daughter so beautiful was also a girl of good “samskara”, a well- behaved intelligent kid, she was delight to all…..

In her teens she met a boy who liked her very much…..pursued her till she too fell in love with him…..

A silent love story was taking shape in that neighborhood….where everyone watched it….and smiled naughtily! Love is a wonderful power that binds two hearts together….”

I was watching the old lady….her eyes were lost in the rosy memories of past!

She kept continuing the story though…

“Of course a long family drama took place as a prelude to that legendary love marriage! But the girl was not just well educated but also wise…..she took us elders of the neighbourhood to her parents…. Our eyes had seen so many seasons…..we knew that this man who loved her so much was the right partner for her… he wasn’t as educated as she was….he was not of her cast…..but you see, once in a while god makes a match like that…to show the real fabric of love to entire world!”

The old lady winked at me with a childlike laughter as her shaky voice narrated on….

“so finally the marriage was agreed upon…..

The bride was ready in a traditional red outfit….clad in jewellery from head to foot….yet she glowed in a light that was coming from a lovely smile of hers!

What a marriage it was! Whole lane was decorated with flower streamers! not just her house….! There was music and sweetmeats and kids danced around in the crowd…..

And who knows whose jealous ill gaze fell on her….. Police took away the groom, under the crime of murder of a well known industrialist in the city….

Everyone was aghast…. He never looked like a murder to me… I always thought he wouldn’t even hurt a fly!”

The old lady was still resolving the puzzle of human mind while telling me the story…

“Who knows what happened of that boy….nobody saw him after that night….. this girl went mad slowly….waiting for his return….. her family took care of her for a while…tried many psychiatrists…but she was not cured…. After few years, her brother got married. I always told his father that the girl was not right for him….but he did not listen to me….. He said, with your consent I agreed to marry my daughter…and see what happened of her…. I need no more suggestion from you” Right he was….

I could do nothing…but watch the family going to pieces in front of my eyes…. The new bride that entered the house changed not just the furniture, but the soul of that house….

Now the parents are sent to an old age home. The brother and his wife have put a fat lock on the door….they now stay abroad. And this girl….roams around in the lane….coping with her own lost mind….”

“Was it destiny….was it the law of karma….who knows what ruled the whim of that almighty?!”

“I am past age of a hundred now…. I am watching his world sitting right here in this parlour that he gave me….. I have fulfilled the role I was given responsibility of…. Now all I look forward to is the tryst with the almighty god himself!”

She remained silent now…..

The old lady was a simple common neighbourhood granny….who was talking to one tiny me…. She never doubted if I understood her well…. Or may be she did not care that much?!

I remember her parlour growing dark…as the twilight faded off the sky…..a skinny wrinkled old lady sitting with another skinny five year old… and then there was the mad woman in the story….sitting next to me…. And I was not going to run home because she was here….

We were three generations….three women of different age and time….three people marked as mad somewhat! We were in one time and space gathered together fetched from three different worlds…. We were wise….carefree….and unaware of the world of other humans that bustled in front of that parlour….