Monday, September 30, 2013

Do you suffer from 'good news' syndrome?

Questions – I like them. I like questioning and I like being questioned. But, there is one question that I loathe. There is one question that I wish that nobody asked me. There is one question that is posed to every married couple in our country. Yes, you guessed it right! The one that I have named as the ‘good news’ question is what that I face with so much awkwardness. But why should I be embarrassed? It’s because I’m 26, I have been married for seven years and I haven’t planned for a baby yet. It might absolutely sound simple or even trivial to a person, who is busy with his or her own life. But it might look like a crime to many, who think that it’s the sole responsibility of a woman to become a mother. And that thought is what that I try to set straight with this piece!

A couple of years ago, my mother went through a minor surgery and my father was admitted in the same hospital at the same time to treat his broken leg. My father’s colleagues visited them. While we casually spoke about many irrelevant things in the hospital, one of the visitors nonchalantly asked me, “How is your husband?” I replied politely. The man then rubbed me the wrong way. “Do you have kids?”, he asked. My response was negative. He then shamelessly asked, “Why? When would you tell us the good news?” What did he expect me to tell him? I was taken aback by his audacity to ask such a sensitive question to a woman, whom he didn’t even know well. I chose to ignore the question. But why would anyone cause such a rude shock? So, that was one case!

Then come my Facebook well-wishers, to add insult to injury. There are few friends on my friends’ list, who ‘like’ my posts or chat with me, when a film of Rajinikanth releases. Such is the rarity! Or there are people, who wouldn’t exchange pleasantries when I bump into them. But, those are the ones, who act like major extroverts in the virtual world. They catch hold of me on Facebook and I detest those rare occasions, when they try to build conversations unwarrantedly. I always wonder how insensitively people can begin a chat. The webtroverts say ‘Hi’, ‘how are you?’, ‘How is life?’ and tada! They jump the gun! ‘When are you going to give us good news?’ Now what should I tell these people, who don’t share a bit of my life? What should be my response to those, who pretend to don the hats of sympathisers, but end up being gossip-mongers? I ‘like’ babies’ pictures on Facebook and these people openly comment, “Oh, you like this baby? You should have one.” How! How could people go down to that level!

Tamil films and serials don’t seem to stereotype people. People, by nature, seem to become blind while following few customs. One of my aunts, who might come across as a Tamil-soap mamiyar, comes home for an occasion. We chat away to glory, talk about Tom Dick and Harry and finally, she chooses to ask how I like my job. I go on with my monologue for few minutes before she stops me impatiently. Then she chagrins me with the ‘good news’ question. She says, “What’s the use of working like this when you don’t have a child? You have to have a kid. There is nothing more enjoyable than motherhood. If you like what you are doing, when will you have time for all that?”

Phew! I should also write a couple of lines about some bestest friends, who show their TLC through the question, "When will I become an aunt? When will I become an uncle?" Bloody, these friends of mine are old enough that even a teenager can call them aunts / uncles. :) And again, they try to play the role of a gynaecologist to shove their half-baked medical knowledge on me. "Don't push it too long. You might not be able to have a baby at all later!" Now who wants such free advice when this world already has narrow-minded gynaecologists galore. (That's a different story. I will write a blog about doctors, who still belong to stone-age) Finally, the worst thing about friends, who persuade me, is they all believe that my husband and I don't give a damn about life and we end up spending all our money on curd rice, icecream and cigarettes, so they have to take up the onus of 'reforming' us! :P

I always struggle to assimilate the fact that those who don’t know anything about me, who don’t even know my husband’s full name, who are unaware of my lifestyle, who don’t bother to pay heed to my ambitions, who don’t give a damn about my financial conditions, choose to force-feed me with their futile and uncalled-for suggestions.

Yes, I clearly understand that parenthood is beautiful. But, why is it that people refuse to accept that some might choose to bask in its warmth and some might choose to go with the flow of life. So, why would anybody who would want to sound sensible, discuss such a private theme quite casually? Why doesn’t it occur to people that it’s indecent to discuss others' personal lives? When a couple takes some time to move to their next phase of life, they have to be given that space to contemplate and decide. A couple, who are married for a long time and who doesn’t have a child, in my opinion, should not be pitied and the assumption that they have some medical challenges, should be eliminated. Just because a woman postpones or skips motherhood, her choice doesn’t make her less feminine nor does she become an object of ridicule and so should be the case for a man!

Life seems to be quite eventful and it’s already filled with myriad of challenges. At the same time, there seems to be a million things that fascinate and many more things add value to this precious life. One should appreciate that having an issue is certainly not the prime focus of life or the only source of happiness for some. All that anybody would expect from society is less intrusion and more openness towards others’ opinions and decisions! So, the next time, when you see me striking a pretty pose with a baby, please don’t ask me the ‘good news’ question. :) Because, I will make you read this painful blog again. :)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

There is life in the darkest places inside us

Even before you read this blog, please forgive the cynic and the pessimist in me, who have chosen to surface after ages. You may move on to read what has made me whimper today.

Every day, on my way to work, I see many homeless people. I see many, who suffer from senility. I see many, who are differently abled. I see many, who start their day, with a hope that, at least, today is going to be a better day. I see many ambulances squeaking its way through the sea of vehicles. I see many road accidents. I see many men beating up their wives. I see many patients and impassive-faced relatives waiting for eternity in hospitals. So, don’t I see happy faces at all? Of course, I do. But, humans tend to remember the dark faces that translate emotions seamlessly, don’t they? And it happens quite naturally. You don’t need words to explain those feelings, but those voiceless emotions scar your hearts for life. Out of all the moving images that I encounter every day, there are few faces that make my heart grow heavy. Those faces create a lump in my throat, which I find hard to swallow. And those are the faces of those stray dogs that have no clue of why they were born, the innocent eyes of cattle at the butchers’ stalls and the sad faces of the cooped chickens.

Humans suffer. Animals suffer. But, involuntarily, my heart goes out for animals. But that doesn’t mean that I am ruthless towards humans. My love for animals is truly unconditional. I was even told by a friend once, that he found my thought-process absurd. I agreed with him. But, at the end of the day, this is ‘me’. I’m not the one, who would sadistically enjoy when humans are in trouble. But my heart bleeds for the animals that are in predicaments. Let’s put it that way.

Some of my most-wonderfully-started days have been grayed by the sight of a dog’s carcass that’s smashed by vehicles on the roads. All that I could do for the animals that suffer meaningless death was to pray that they should never have such a pitiful birth, phone up the corporation to clear the carcass, talk to empathetic people and ruminate for a while. Is there anything within my capacity that I can do  to avert such accidents? The answer is negative. But, all that I intend to do is to be kind to animals. Not just dogs, cows or cats; but every animal that I meet. From smiling at them to feeding the strays, I am determined to do my wee bit to help them. Will that help? I really don’t know. But for the nonce, helping them is the least possible way that seems to give me the much needed peace.

So, whenever I meet an animal, (let’s say a dog) I smile at it, say ‘Hello’, shake hands, talk to it for a while and feed it. Many find it endearing and many more find it ridiculous to smile at an animal and exchange pleasantries. But I totally believe that animals reciprocate all that I do to them. So the smallest displease in their face creates an amplified distress for me. And through Facebook, I learn that I’m not alone and what I’m doing is not lunacy.

One such person, with whom I travel on similar lines, is popular photographer Martin Usborne. If you haven’t seen his ‘The silence of dogs in cars’, please visit his website http://www.martinusborne.com/ to see 41 heart shattering pictures of dogs that are left in cars and his moving description about the project.

Martin Usborne wrote,“I was once left in a car at a young age. I don’t know when or where or for how long, possibly at the age of four, perhaps outside a supermarket, probably for fifteen minutes only. The details don’t matter. The point is that I wondered if anyone would come back. The fear I felt was strong: in a child’s mind it is possible to be alone forever. Around the same age I began to feel a deep affinity with animals – in particular their plight at the hands of humans. I saw a TV documentary that included footage of a dog being put in a plastic bag and being kicked. What appalled me most was that the dog could not speak back. I should say that I was a well-loved child and never abandoned and yet it is clear that both these experiences arose from the same place deep inside me: a fear of being alone and unheard. When I started this project I knew the photos would be dark. In a sense, I was attempting to go back inside my car, to re-experience what I couldn’t bear as a child. What I didn’t expect was to see so many subtle reactions by the dogs: some sad, some expectant, some angry, some dejected. It was as if upon opening up a box of grey-coloured pencils I was surprised to see so many shades inside. There is life in the darkest places inside us.”

After seeing his pictures and reading his write-up, I realised that I am not alone. All the sadness that I see on the faces of those strays, cattle and the pets that are ill-treated by humans piques many and those voiceless emotions are the ones that cause depression. The animals that suffer at the hands of humans are the ones that need to be salvaged.

As I scroll the disturbing pictures captured by Martin Usborne, I think of a handful of strays, that I feed on the road, Inji, Juju and an unnamed dog. As I see the photographs that convey immense emotions, I think of late Brownie and Whitie, that I used to feed. As I think of the dark world where those animals are lost, I think of my neighbour’s pet, Buddy, who is perennially locked up in a small space and waiting to taste freedom. As I realise that I share Martin’s perspective, I think of all the animals that are being eaten and all the animals that are being tormented.

I see their expressive faces that say a thousand words. I see a world of sadness in those lustrous eyes. I see a pinch of hope in the way they look at me. I see them yearn to spend more time with me. I hear them whisper ‘Take me home’. But all that I can do is capture their beautiful faces, close my eyes, keep their images in a virtual safe and lose myself in their dark world!