Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Looking back at childhood

Nostalgia comes in various forms. Sometimes it's a gradual and lovely stroll down the memory lane. This usually happens when you are pouring over old photo albums, or meeting a childhood friend after awhile or reminiscing growing up with your siblings or cousins.

At other times nostalgia has a fucking weird way of smacking you right out of nowhere. I was sitting by my condo poolside today and saw some little girls play with a skipping rope. I did not realize kids these days still skipped rope. And suddenly I had this gush of memories engulf me. I immediately picked my phone and messaged my closest childhood friend who I have not seen or spoken to in last five years.

And when she said that she misses me and I replied that I think of her very often too, I started tearing up. Now as crying alone by the pool side with an empty glass of wine on the table was simply not an option, I decided to pen my nostalgic thoughts. And of course by 'pen' I mean fly my fingers on the iPad touch screen keyboard.

For God knows what reason we played on the staircase on the third floor of our building. I lived on the 4th floor of the B wing of Dakshina Park and two of my best friends lived on the 3rd. We each got our toys to the staircase which comprised of tea sets, miniature kitchen utensils, adhoc dolls (we never grew up with gorgeous Barbies and their fancy accessories) and other random stuff like beads, mums old costume jewelry, etc. It was a weird ensemble of toys and knick-knacks, but we knew better than to ask for more. Our parents did not given into our demands as easily as we do nowadays. Yet we were content. Almost blissful.

We rode bikes, they were rusty and most of the time borrowed. We played games like sankli, kho-kho and lagori (which iPad auto corrects to algorithm). I was never the sporty one, but my friend Monika always made sure I was picked in her team so I would not feel left out. We played till the sun went down and the moon came up and our mums yelled from the windows for us to come up for dinner. 

As we grew up we went for walks to the beach or around the building. We sat on the 'tanky' (water tank) and gossiped about everyone who walked by. And when we wanted some privacy we went up to our secret spot on the terrace- by far still one of my most favorite places in the whole wide world.

We ate street food everyday during the holidays- roadside sandwich, bhel puri, dosa with suspicious looking white chutney. But we could never tell our mums that we would skip dinner. 

During summer holidays we went swimming at Juhu gym and ate chicken club sandwich after. We would the leisurely walk back but never go home. We would get end up in another friends house and simply continue playing, chatting, giggling. 

Our parents didn't keep tabs on us. As long as we were home by 8 pm, there were no questions. A minute later and it would be completely a different conversation.

Friends covered each other's back. No matter what. "Yes Aunty, she was with me all the time" was recited in utmost sincerity, even though the friend in question was actually holding hands with the boy from the next building for the past one hour. 

We grew up with one channel on TV and one TV in the house. We learnt to share. 

There was one phone line for the longest time. We learnt to exchange hellos with our parents and siblings friends.

Family dinner meant eating with the family. On the same table. And usually a friend who decided to stay as her mum was not home or just because she fancied mums dahi vadas. We learnt to open our homes to others.

Picnics meant an entourage of 8 or 10 Marutis and Fiats and food enough to feed an army. My favorite picnic food till date is aloo-puri. We learnt to accommodate each other's preferences.

Movies were watched in big groups in front of a small TV. We got chips and Thums up when mums were in a good mood. We learnt to bond over the frivolous. 

Holi meant the whole building would get together and have fun. We learnt to party! 

Diwali meant visiting pretty much every relative alive and each house in the building. We learnt to give our time to others. 

Friends siblings were treated like your siblings, unless they were of the opposite gender, appropriate number of years older and you had a crush on them. We learnt to protect and be protected. 

They were times when rainy season meant paper boats and summer days meant kala ghatta golas. When joys were sought in the little and shared with many. When life was lived in carefree abandon. Where the biggest worry was...well there were no big worries. When laughter filled the air and loved filled the senses. When you cared enough that when decades later you missed your childhood friends, you knew they have been missing you right back! 

It's ironic that we better understand the value of the childhood we've had only when we are older. Because when we were growing up, we never gave a seconds thought to growing old. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Complete. Delete.

Two to tango

Good things come in pairs they say. Oreos and milk. Coffee and cake. Sun and sea. Movies and popcorn. Sunglasses and hats. No one actually says 'sunglasses and hat', but they are two of my favorite accessories which I think look fantastic together. 

Since childhood we have been introduced to pairs. Mum and Dad. King and Queen. Princess and Knight. In fact most Hindu Gods are a team too- Shiva and Parvati. Ram and Seeta. Krishna and Radha*. The concept of a pair is deeply ingrained in our psyche. 

I had tears rolling down my cheeks when I heard Tom Cruise mouth "You complete me" to Renée Zellweger in Jerry Maguire. I thought they are one of most romantic words ever. To find someone with whom you feel complete. Without whom you are merely a part of your true self. Someone who fills up the missing bits in you.

It's a beautiful, romantic concept is it not?

Now flip this over.

After removing the rose tinted glasses, you realize that this basically means that for a major part of your life (or may be even all your life) you will be incomplete. Either you will be looking for your soulmate. Or you may be with someone who smothers instead of completes you. 

So you are going through your life, being only half of yourself. You are unable to enjoy experiences fully, as you are merely a part of your whole self. And you can start really living your life fully, only after you have found the proverbial better half.

It's an insane, messed up concept is it not? 

To believe, or not to believe, that's the question

Recently many of my lifelong beliefs are being challenged. By knowledge. By intellect. Sometimes by simple logic.

It's said its difficult to find happiness within ourselves. And it's impossible to find it outside. So if happiness resides in us, and we can reach down and discover it, why would we need anyone outside to complete us? 

Worth a thought isn't it?

 I feel like I have lived a whole lifetime in this last few years

I faced challenges I thought I would never need to deal with. I experienced pleasures I never thought existed. Friends I had known for over a decade turned away and did not stand by me when I needed them most. People who had not even been in my life before then, are my closest friends now.

There were times I thought I could not go any further. There were moments when I felt at the top of the world. There were occasions when I cried myself to sleep for days at a stretch. There were times when joy would simply not leave my side. 

In each of these firsts and every high and low moment, I felt whole. I did not need anyone to complete me. Yes there were times when I wished I could share the exhilarations. Or have some take away some of my worries.  But it was a temporary feeling. It came. It taunted me. I dwelt on it for while, sometimes more than necessary. But ultimately, that feeling went away. 

Leaving me alone...yet complete...

No one needs anyone to complete them. If you feel you are not a whole person, look inwards  and find the missing bits. Because rest assured, if you can't fill those gaps, no one else will be able to either. 

Life will always be a mixed bag. We all get what we deserve- the good and the bad. We just need to keep looking forward and moving ahead. One foot before the other. While keeping our eyes and heart open and savouring every moment that comes our way.

So whether you have a Valentine or you are alone, try and be complete by yourself. It not easy to go against what rom-coms teach us, but we sure can try! And today is day as good as any. 

* Krishna and Radha are purported to have the eternal, everlasting love. However they were never married. Krishna was married to Rukhmani and Radha to Anay. It's amazing how a culture which actively promotes marriages, actually worships the embodiment of true love...outside the  realms of marriage.