Tuesday, December 20, 2016

My dad is my hero. So what is my mom?

Yeah, I totally adored my dad for he was so perfect. He was like a leader, so commanding and authoritative, so punctual and perfect in everything he did. For me then a ‘hero’ was majorly the way a 'man' was portrayed in movies and my dad played the role really well. He was brave, he was earning well, his word was law and I knew he had the guts and physical strength to beat down the bad guys who troubled his daughters! During my college days, he took the decision for us (me and my sister) and we just followed him without any doubts. He wasn't very friendly or approachable most of the time but that didn’t bother us much. We were happy that he cared for us so much that he always gave us the best. Not to mention we sisters had an amazing childhood. 

So what was the heroin doing then?

Dancing around the trees? No, she was dancing to other’s tunes.

Mom was a bank employee. She joined and retired as a clerk so nothing amazed us compared to our dad who joined as a Project Engineer and retired as an Director of the same organisation. Mom never had much say at home and she was either cooking or running around for the laundry, groceries and veggies. We ‘used’ her to seek permission from dad for school and college tours, to sign report cards and when we weren’t sure if dad’s mood was ok for us to go and chat with him. Yes, dad was like a school principal and mom was like the class leader :)

My mom who excelled in her studies became a banker, a profession she loved. Soon after her marriage, she had to support her in-laws as a bunch forgetting/ disowning her parents, brothers and sisters, who according to the Indian custom become outsiders overnight. Again the society demanded her to prove that she is a woman only if she can bear kids (Note - one wouldn’t be enough, you have to prove twice) She almost died when she delivered my sister who was an obese child. Who cared ! She did her duty as an Indian wife and Indian daughter-in-law. Soon after she recovered she had to rush back to work. I still remember my sister being a very clingy child. Once when she was left at a day care, she was holding the gate crying all day refusing to go inside. When we went to pick her up in the evening she was sleeping holding the gate railing !! The in-laws bunch whom my mom strived to support were nowhere around then for help. Most of the days when mom left for work her eyes were moist and I would hold my sister tight along with an ‘aayah’ to stop her and let my mom go to work. My mom wasn’t my hero then.

When we grew up, mom’s responsibilities grew too. She had added responsibility of taking care of our exam scores. If we scored less, she was questioned. Dad was a workaholic and he was busy building his career. Of course we as a family benefited too but my mom who wanted to join civil services had to let her dreams go, only to bring us up. She sacrificed her dreams and career for us and most Indian mothers were obliged to do it. My mom wasn’t my hero then.

Very little did we understand her struggles then that we complained for serving only hot steaming ‘idlis’ for break fast everyday, when she hardly had time to cook for us. Most of the days she was late to work and we neither offered her a helping hand nor bothered that she was late to work. We just ignored her problems. She gave us freedom to explore things on our own, she encouraged us to try different hobbies, supported and stood by us irrespective of our mistakes. She was like a friend to us that we were comfortable sharing everything with her. My mom wasn’t my hero then.

What changed after my marriage?

My dad was still my hero and I was sure no guy could take that place ever in my life. Surprisingly a couple of years after I was married, the life I had dreamt of [In brief - a happily ever after story] was totally different from what I was facing. I understood life really late. 

When I was married and stepped into a new family which wasn’t as crowded as what my mom had to face I still felt extremely uncomfortable. My place was just an hours drive from my mom's place and still I felt lonely. Now my place becomes my mom's place and some stranger's place becomes mine !! Everything was different and difficult. Adapting myself to the new place, people, habits and just everything made me feel I am losing myself. I had this responsibility of getting up early, try new dishes in the kitchen to please my mother-in-law, look fresh and good most of the time and all these were too much for me to handle and I only yelled at mom for not preparing me for this. She would just smile and ignore. I too had to ‘prove’ the society that I can bear a child and the pressure was bothering me too much. Though I was not at all prepared I had to do what was expected from me as a newly married Indian woman. I was only crying when my test results read ‘positive’ and everyone around me were celebrating. 

The truth sinked in and my life wasn’t only about me anymore. I couldn’t give up my career for my 3 months old daughter, I complained. Work-Life balance was the toughest test I had to undergo. I stood small near my mom for the first time ! I understood that my mom was the one holding us all together as a family, she was running around to accomplish her goals and ours too. She shouldered the responsibility of all the family members, including dad. She had to play multiple roles but she never complained.

I have never seen her crying or very worried. When she had to be tough she stood strong like a rock all alone !! She never sought any help or support. She just gave her best, ignoring what life gave her in return. She was really bold. Embarrassments and humiliations didn’t stop her at all. I knew she wouldn’t beat up the bad guys who came our way but she taught us to identify the bad guys and stay away. 

In the wide spread land full of huge rough rocks like the society full of male chauvinism and gender stereotypes, she made her hold on the ground strong like the small tiny stones that gets buried inside the soil. She didn’t get lost but made her hold really strong.

My mom isn’t my hero even now. My dad is still my hero but my mom is a warrior ! I didn’t want to be a hero anymore, I wanted to be a warrior. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Cyclone Vardah - Hits Harder !!

Chennai during the month of December seems to be a night mare ! Consecutively for the second time Chennai has faced yet another natural calamity - Cyclone Vardah, followed by the floods in Chennai last December (2015). 

Having faced the floods previously and predicting the cyclone well in advance the city was ready with all precautionary measures. People were warned not to leave homes, schools and colleges declared holiday and even office goers were advised to work from home ! Weather reports scared us as the winds would lash at a speed of 100 km/hr and it was sure that we will lose power, mobile signals by then.

Dec 12, 2016 - Around 11 AM the winds were blowing unusually bringing some moderate rains. We tried our best to capture these just from our balcony and terrace but the winds were so strong that we couldn’t stand still. I was literally shivering due to the chilling winds that I ran inside my house and shut the door. Around 1.30 PM is when the cyclone was expected to touch the peak - 100 km/hr speed and it did ! The howling sound was even more scary and the winds were pushing down all the trees outside. Our’s neighbour’s tree uprooted and fell on their car shed, crashing their Honda City flat. The corporation help lines weren't reachable and while we were still trying to reach for help we lose our signals completely. Nothing could be done by then and they were locked inside their house. No power, no water and no mobile network - we totally lost connection with the outside world. As it gets darker as early as 5.30 PM, the winds slowed down a bit but the rains didn't stop. It was pitch dark outside and we had nothing to do and couldn’t move out of the house yet. We just managed with our fully charged phones and laptops for light. The water stored would help us till morning, so I went to bed expecting the power to be back soon.

Dec 13,2016 - I got up a bit early and rushed out only to see a totally devastated neighbourhood !! We live in a gated community (a micro city in itself) that is green - full of trees and plants. Almost 50% of the trees were uprooted and 25% of the people’s car shed was crashed under a tree. I took a stroll all the way and another neighbour had lost a car too that got stuck under a huge tree ! All of a sudden it looked like there was too much of light coming in and yes all these trees on the ground exposed us to a painfully sunny morning. At about 7.30 AM, people got working in cutting down the trees and paving way for those who were stuck inside their homes. Power and phone signals haven’t been resumed yet. We decided to go out and see the condition outside our community. People with generators and power back ups were updating us on how the city was hit with the cyclone. The newspapers shared few scary pictures too - a huge bus that toppled during the winds, a car that was parked toppled over the road barricade, a couple of people who just escaped from a falling tree ! I was looking all over the papers with crossed fingers to not see any death count. Unfortunately, it reported a death count of 3 already !! It also read that the power will be resumed by evening. We reached the main road around 11 AM, our phone signals were fluctuating. I tried calling the close family and friends to check if they were all fine. A few of them still weren’t reachable. The power wasn’t back yet and the signals too !

Dec 14, 2016 - It was the second day after the cyclone and situation remains the same. Schools haven’t reopened yet and we are still worried about water supply. ATMs and the card swiping machines aren’t working anywhere. Sadly, this demonitisation have restricted the cash flow big time and the cash in hand would only last another day !!

Our house help turns up today and her story is even more saddening. Her 18 yr old nephew who is physically challenged had to be carried and shifted in the heavy winds to her house as the boy’s house was filled with rain water. She said their roof flew away due to the lashing winds. She sounded totally help less saying it hasn’t been even an year since they fixed the damage caused by the floods. I asked if she would need some cash and I could see a sigh of relief on her face. Only then I remembered I don’t have much cash in hand. I apologised to her shamelessly.

Dec 15, 2016 - We are getting water supply for few hrs in the morning every day and we rush to finish our work by then. Power and phone signals are yet to resume. We again drove till the main road to see the condition of the city. The cut down trees were still lying on the pavements and are yet to be cleared. People have started going to work though. We parked our cars wherever we got signals and called our family and friends and shared the status. 

  • Intermittent electricity was supplied only to a (main) part of the city, when the news said 50% of the city got the power back. 
  • News read that the city is all set for the usual routine and the schools will reopen today. I found it totally stupid as all the 4 schools in and around my house still remains closed. The trees are yet to be cleared and power yet to be resumed ! The schools were seeking volunteers to deal with all that. When I checked with friends in other parts of the city, they shared the same grief.

For once I felt that news channels and the government are blind.

The city has never taken so much time to recover, in spite of all rescue teams who arrived well in advance. Last year it was really quick ! 

The lost greenery has to be replaced. The corporation workers and volunteers who worked day and night to clear the roads have to be recognised. We, shouldering a bit more of responsibilities and promising a better ecosystem to the next gen, have a long way to go !!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

What a little girl taught me?

We often learn lessons from other's life but what this little girl taught me are lessons for life !

Let me share a little about her here,

This little girl was the second child in the family, after her elder brother. Her dad passed away when she was just 2 yrs old. She didn't have the luxury to live with her mom too, who relocated looking for jobs to support her family. 

A childhood without my parents is something I could never imagine ! I couldn't have started my life with such a challenge.

She taught me to be independent. She taught me that one can be independent even at a very young age.  

This little girl was really smart and witty that she scored good ranks in her school and was the class topper. She was an all rounder, that she excelled in sports, arts and studies as well. When she finished her schooling she was given the 'Best Outgoing Student' award !!

She taught me "Irrespective of what life gives you, you should give your best".

This little girl who passed out of the girls high school with scholarships to achieve her dream of becoming a lawyer, remained to be just a dream ! She had to choose a career suggested by her mom to help the financial crisis in the family. 

At the age of 16, all I was worried about was my home work, how to convince my dad and get a bicycle and probably about the guy whom I had a crush on !

She taught me to be prepared and face the unexpected with a broad smile.

This little girl was pushed to deal with a patriarchal society at a very young age. She fought, she gave her best and she did succeed. She became famous at a very young age.

She taught me to deal with life boldly. She taught me that it is sometimes ok to let go your passion and you can still shine like a star if you work really hard.

This little girl's mom passed away when she was 22. With no support, at a very young age she fought all the odds in life. She fell in love with her colleague(if I can say that way) but she couldn't build a legally acceptable relationship with him. The only way she could be with her man is by following the career path he chose. Later in her life she admits that her personal life was a failure and probably if her mom was around, it could have been better. She says though she didn't have a 'perfect' personal life, she would be a mother some day.

She taught me it is ok to be a failure. She taught me that you need lots of guts to accept your failures in life ! She taught me not to get stuck with your failures but to move on and explore what the world has got for you !!

The career path she chose wasn't again easy for a women. She didn't budge. She pushed herself to play the game where she knew she was all alone. Her man dies when she was still in her 30s !! She didn't give up the career. She was not accepted by the men around her, she was humiliated and that didn't stop her. She challenged those, that she would come back as a boss.

She taught me that personal loss and humiliations shouldn't put you down. She taught me to be brave, take an oath and put them to shame who humiliate you.  

She returned as the boss ! Success and failure didn't bother her much anymore. Even in her 40s and 50s, life had a lot of surprises for her. She faced everything with a charm and tackled all the challenges with absolutely no one's support. She put all men under her feet, who once humiliated her. She fought patriarchy like a feminist. 

She taught me to surprise life, when life tries to shock you. She taught me to fight harder. She taught me to face all challenges in life even after I attain success. She taught me to be a boss always.

During her final years, she stood tall and strong, not physically but as a leader, a woman leader ! She shocks the world with her demise all of a sudden ! What she couldn't see is millions of people who cried for her. She didn't have true friends, a good family, parents, spouse or even children. She stood all alone, only until her death ! She dies as a mother.  

She is the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Dr.J. Jayalalithaa.

She taught me to be bold.
She taught me to be fear less.
She taught me to be a true leader. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Chennai Floods - December 2015

December 4, 2016

December is a very important month in my calendar for various reasons..

1.Usually, It is something that marks the completion of one successful year 

Well, that means a lot ! We would have fought a battle, would have had many memorable moments, met new people, made new friends, achieved something new and all those memories rush into my mind by December. Also this is the time of the year I set new goals for the upcoming year. I step in to the new year with a lot of positivity, hopes and dreams.

2. Two important occasions in the family - my dad's birthday and my wedding anniversary comes up in the first week of December. I never fail to celebrate the presence of both the men in my life.

3. Chennai Floods !

Last year the same time, my city Chennai was flooded. It was a huge natural disaster the city had ever faced. 

From my narrowed view, we lost power for more than 24 hrs and the telephone landlines didn't work too. We had arranged for a huge family gathering as it was Dad's 60th Birthday and we only managed to do 10% of what we planned. The photographers didn't turn up ! Only very few of the family and friends were there and another 10% reached by evening. We had to cancel the hotel party hall reservations and call each and every single person (whenever we got signals) and inform about the cancellations. I was terribly upset as I had high hopes and plans to surprise my parents on this occasion. All flights were cancelled and my sister had to stay back in the country for two more weeks. 

When the reality hit ! 

Slowly, one after the other, friends and relatives called us back to tell us why they couldn't make it. Power resumed after 2 full days and the news channels were telecasting the devastated city, Chennai ! I couldn't recognise even my neighbourhood. My personal loss was nothing when compared to what the city was going through at that moment. We were are all dumbstruck and were totally lost looking at the pathetic condition of the city.

Not very late (the very next day), people started giving out helping hands. It just started with 2-3 people and the network grew really huge within few hours. I was getting calls from people seeking food and people who were making food in bulk for the needy. When all the roads were blocked and the only way you possibly reach even the next street is by walk, these guys were picking up the bare necessities like food, water, clothing and walked in the gutter to deliver it wherever possible. 

These real life heroes include my friends, acquaintances turned friends (after the floods), school mates (whom I even failed to recognise), college mates (in the neighbouring states) and total strangers. Every single person dedicated their time and effort selflessly to help the people. Never in my life I had felt so comfortable talking to strangers around me. All I could see in their eyes were sorrow, compassion and undying spirit to gear up the city.

Some memories that I would like to register here 
  • A little girl bitten by some poisonous insect was rescued to the nearby hospital on time by a total stranger and she was saved from death ! All this while this was the kind of story I watched only in the movies !
  • A small scale businessman (volunteer) developed severe skin disease that spread all over his body, while rescuing a to-be mother at Madhuravoyal. She was stuck in her home as the roads were filled with shoulder-level dirty water. The mother and the new-born were safe at the hospital while this young chap is still dealing with the skin allergy, even after an year !!
  • A young cop at Amjikarai signal was guiding and helping female volunteers who were struggling to manage huge crowd fighting for the the food supplies. He made sure he either accompanied us to the crowded places or redirected us to the less crowded places which was much safer for the volunteers. We were glad we met a good cop in real life unlike the ones the Indian movies have majorly portrayed so far.
  • There were no rich-poor difference for once! Everyone joined hands selflessly to save lives, to feed hungry souls and help the victims in all ways possible.
  • Men and young guys without a bit of hesitation were distributing sanitary napkins, women's inner wear to all those who lost their homes and were stranded on the streets.
  • Random people (I still don't know how they got my contact number) even from Hyderabad and Bangalore were willing to transfer funds to my account to help the needy !! While I am still shocked at their gesture they apologised for not being able to be physically present at the flooded areas and help us.
  • Last but not the least, the city saw more volunteers than victims history has ever seen !!

Little did I mention here as the post is getting really lengthy. Even after one year, I am still in awe ! 

The below words made my watsapp status then ;)

"Humanity Does Exist"   

♥ Aarthi ♥