Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The last post of the year!!!

There is a poem that I first read when I was in college and fell in love with..I cud relate to some of the lines in it but not all though I knew it was true thru and thru.There was a time when reading some of my favourite poems cud soothe me and bring back a sense of calm.Today as I was trying to put into words what I learnt in the last one year, for some reason I remembered that poem and when I read it again,it was exactly what I had learnt in the past year.

I've learned -
that your life can be changed
in a matter of hours
by people who don't even know you.

I've learned
that you cannot make someone love you.
All you can do is
be someone who can be loved.
The rest is up to them.

I've learned -
that no matter how much I care,
some people just don't care back.

I've learned -
that it takes years to build up trust,
and only seconds to destroy it.

I've learned -
that it's not what you have in your life
but who you have in your life that counts.

I've learned -
that you can get by on charm
for about fifteen minutes.
After that, you'd better know something.

I've learned -
that you shouldn't compare
yourself to the best others can do
but to the best you can do.

I've learned -
that it's not what happens to people
that's important. It's what they do about it.

I've learned -
that you can do something in an instant
that will give you heartache for life.

I've learned -
that no matter how thin you slice it,
there are always two sides.

I've learned -
that it's taking me a long time
to become the person I want to be.

I've learned -
that it's a lot easier
to react than it is to think.

I've learned -
that you should always leave
loved ones withloving words.
It may be the last time you see them.

I've learned -
that you can keep going
long after you think you can't.

I've learned -
that we are responsible for what we do,
no matter how we feel.

I've learned -
that either you control your attitude
or it controls you.

I've learned -
that regardless of how hot and steamy
a relationship is at first,
the passion fades and there had better be
something else to take its place.

I've learned -
that heroes are the people
who do what has to be done
when it needs to be done,
regardless of the consequences.

I've learned -
that learning to forgive takes practice.

I've learned -
that there are people who love you dearly,
but just don't know how to show it.

I've learned -
that money is a lousy way of keeping score.

I've learned -
that my best friend and I can do anything
or nothing and have the best time.

I've learned -
that sometimes the people you expect
to kick you when you're down
will be the ones to help you get back up.

I've learned -
that sometimes when I'm angry
I have the right to be angry,
but that doesn't give me
the right to be cruel.

I've learned -
that true friendship continues to grow,
even over the longest distance.
Same goes for true love.

I've learned -
that just because someone doesn't love you
the way you want them to doesn't mean
they don't love you with all they have.

I've learned -
that maturity has more to do with
what types of experiences you've had
and what you've learned from them
and less to do with how many
birthdays you've celebrated.

I've learned
that heroes are the people who do
what has to be done
regardless of the consequences.

I've learned _
that you should never tell a child
their dreams are unlikely or outlandish.
Few things are more humiliating, and
what a tragedy it would be
if they believed it.

I've learned -
that no matter how good a friend is,
they're going to hurt you
every once in a while
and you must forgive them for that.

I've learned -
that it isn't always enough
to be forgiven by others.
Sometimes you have to learn
to forgive yourself.

I've learned -
that no matter how bad
your heart is broken
the world doesn't stop for your grief.

I've learned -
that our background and circumstances
may have influenced who we are,
but we are responsible for who we become.

I've learned -
that just because two people argue,
it doesn't mean they don't love each other
And just because they don't argue,
it doesn't mean they do.

I've learned -
that sometimes you have to put
the individual ahead of their actions.

I've learned -
that we don't have to change friends
if we understand that friends change.

I've learned -
that you shouldn't be so
eager to find out a secret.
It could change your life forever.

I've learned -
that two people can look
at the exact same thing
and see something totally different.

I've learned -
that there are many ways of falling
and staying in love.

I've learned -
that no matter the consequences,
those who are honest with themselves
get farther in life.

I've learned -
that even when you think
you have no more to give,
when a friend cries out to you,
you will find the strength to help.

I've learned -
that the paradigm we live in
is not all that is offered to us.

I've learned -
that credentials on the wall
do not make you a decent human being.

I've learned -
that the people you care most about in life
are taken from you too soon.

I've learned -
that although the word "love"
can have many different meanings,
it loses value when overly used.

I've learned -
that it's hard to determine
where to draw the line
between being nice and
not hurting people's feelings
and standing up for what you believe

That’s what I have learnt. All through this roller coaster of a year.I don’t know if I wud have changed anything I said or did thru the year.In fact even if I knew ,I don’t know how I wud have changed it

There is something magical abt the beginning of a new year.Overnight ur yesterday seems far away,a year behind.Overnight memories seem rosier and the bitter parts soften to just being rough bumps on a generally happy road.Just when I thought am too old for the fizz and pop of a New year’s beginning,past the age of earnestly thinking up resolutions which 9 on 10 are never followed thru, I get caught up and find myself writing this post.So here’s a postie toast to the fast vanishing 2008 and 2009 looming ahead.

A friend asked me to describe 2008 and he was more amused than me when I said the first thing that popped into my mind.Hurricane.Call it the influence of too many natural catastrophes in US.But the only other word I cud come up with was Earthquake.Coming back to my hurricane ,I guess I have been buffeted abt relentlessly through ups and downs thru this year.Just when I thot that I was in the clear,I wud be pulled back into storm,tossed from one side to another,battered and bruised and then thrown to one side.I normally am a pretty balanced cheerful soul who rarely got Monday blues or any other blues for that matter,but this year saw a record number of mood swings with one very confused frustrated soul who spent more time growling like a bear with a sore head than I can ever remember.Really.More often than not ,I went from being “I-am-capable” to “I-cant-handle-this”.It was suffocating at times and frustrating at others.From being a happy-go-lucky soul,I swung dangerously close to becoming a control freak.I kept watching for things to go wrong.From being a die hard optimist,I found myself trapped several times in the narrow outlook of a pessimist.My belief in people took a beating.More so my belief in me.Its been a tuf year.But I like to think of it as God’s way of tempering me.
I don’t mean to say that the year has been a bad one.There have been beautiful moments,funny ones and weird ones.After years of believing that I wudnt find a man who cud tolerate me enuf to live with me and that I wudnt tolerate anything less,I married Anup who has managed to survive almost a year with me (20 days to our first anniversary)and doesn’t look like is gonna give up any time soon.My little bro graduated,got the 4th rank in the University(I hate being a nag,Bunny,but really,I wudnt have minded if u had got that Gold medal.In fact I wud have settled for the silver one too.Well…atleast piggyhoolear didn’t get it though that really is no consolation,mind u) and is working in a God forsaken place far away from home.Really!!!Surat is really too far away from home.When someone delicately pointed out that am in US of A which is technically half way across the globe from home,I snapped at him “That’s not the point.He is too small (just over 6 feet) to stay so far from home.” I fell in love with half a dozen crafts and spent the better part of the year wishing for Santa to bring me 6 pairs of hands so that I cud spend time on my “crafty”.I fell in love with cooking .Really,mama,stop laughing.I shall confess that I totally love cooking and trying out new dishes,especially now that I have my personal guinea pig.(yeah.I mean the DH.Who else?)I became friends with a lovely girl across the globe and really Revs,Mujhe tujhme rab dikhta hai.(Don’t forget ki tune Mamta Kulkarni ki kasam khai hai.Chuckle!).I saw my first snow and experienced my first earthquake.For the first time in my life I gained some weight that has stuck with me.And for the first time in my life I have consciously tried to eat healthy.I have learned that 8 hrs at work is more than enuf and that the boss wont have a heart attack if I say no.That even if he does,it doesn’t matter cos working more than 8 hrs at the pace I do wud be enuf to give me a heart attack and kill me by the time I reach my boss’s age.I have managed to have painted toenails all thru the year.:-) And I also figured out a way to sit in a certain way so that I can see them when I paint them and don’t topple over.Owing to the dry dry dry climate ,I have spent more time this year looking after myself than I have all my life.

Its not been good all thru.I saw sides of people I wud rather not have, been blamed for things Idid not do,been judged by people who barely know me,been stretched beyond my limits ,made some really tuf choices and in general had a lot of mud slung on me.I have stumbled,fallen,crawled and staggered this entire year.I have been shocked,outraged,hurt and struggled with myself.I have learnt that I cannot brush off some people simply cos I want to.There were times when I lost my sense of humour for days together…I learnt a lot of things which in hindsight seem to have brought more definite sense of what or who I am.The good part of all that is that I have not broken. But the credit for that goes to people I love most in my life .
But now,am ready to move on.I wont be leaving all that happened in the last one year behind.I will be carrying some of it with me.Some of the things that I learnt…Some of the things that I realized….
This New year brings with it a lot more changes .We will be going back to India.I don’t pray that life be peaceful. I just pray that I keep a firm hold on my sense of humour. And as for my resolutions,I want to keep up with my crafting and make sure that I don’t spend more than 8 hrs at work…Like one lady said “I go to office so that I don’t have to spend all my time staring at the 4 walls of my house.I work cos I love dressing in nice clothes and meeting people and talking to them.I do what I can in those 8 hrs.If someone says something abt that being less,well,I cant help it”. I want to keep it all simple the way I did before…Not let anyone or anything clutter my life.I need to focus on what is important to me and do what feels right to me irrespective of what anyone thinks. I don’t need everyone to like me and if someone doesn’t that does not make me a bad person.I shud not let someone’s opinion of me matter so much that it clouds my perspective.I believe that at heart I am a decent human being.I don’t know if I am a good daughter,sister or wife.But I know that I have tried my best and that will suffice for me.And if nothing else,I know I have made my loved ones happy thru one small deed or the other.And that is enuf to keep me going.That and that alone is my talisman for the new year.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Am ashamed but I’ll admit...

2 mails from 2 different friends in the past 2 days.One an Indian and one an American.They both have something in common.I have not met either of them.I know them only thru the mails I exchange with them.Even more common,is that they both mentioned the Mumbai terrorist attacks.My Indian friend, reacted the way any Indian wud,with anger and fury.While my American friend ,who is an army veteran sent me a very unexpected mail.

//Hi, Anu,

I've been thinking of you a lot these past days.

I can't tell you how sorry I am, how guilty I feel, and what kind of depressing days I went through during the horrible, senseless event in Mumbai.

Just can't help shaking the guilt, the US and the allies have a LOT to do with the Muslim rage, and, unfortunately, many innocent Indians paid with their lives ...

Can't even tell you, how sorry I feel, how depressed I was for days, and I don't even know, what could be done for the grieving families. I don't even know, if humans can do anything about this, this is all in God's hands now.

I was just sitting in front of the TV, watching the events take place, just switching between CNN and the FOX news channel, and the reports coming through these two from Indian TV. //

I was shocked.I was really shocked by his mail.In all these days I am yet to see one article,one news channel or even one blog blame America for the carnage.It had not even occurred to me to even relate US to the terror attacks in India.And I was stunned by the sadness of this man I had never met.I don’t claim that Americans are better than most or that they don’t have their own “strategies”.The point is not if America is to blame or not.But how many Indians wud think to take the blame on ourselves?How many of us feel guilty for what happened in our country?We are all angry.Oh yeah…we are united on that atleast.We are quick to blame.We blame Pakistan.We blame muslims.We start riots and kill our own countrymen just for being Muslim by religion.We blame the politicians and blame the country’s intelligence.Oh yeah…and we blame God.We dont even let poor God out of this.We blame everybody.We are good at that.Its everybody’s fault but not ours.

We play the blame game by writing blogs,letters to the editor ,send messages to the news channels and trust me,all this bullshit serves no purpose but to calm ur own conscience.To not think and to not see the obvious.To convince ourselves that we have done our part.I must have read umpteen blogs and articles all belting the same tune.Its the government,the terrorist,the security,Pakistan everybody but us.Everybody but the common man.Do u expect me to believe that there was no one inside the country who helped those terrorists?Such a large scale operation was carried out without inside information?That the maniacs got a layout of those huge mammoth hotels without inside help?That no citizen had an inkling of this?Or rather no person who is an Indian by birth knew abt this?Of course,they did.To call that person a citizen wud be to degrade all those officers who died in that carnage,the army men who died in the kargil war and many other long forgotten heroes.Why blame Pakistan or the terrorists?Why send lists of terrorists to Pakistan government when within our own country live men and women who wud help the terrorists without a twinge of conscience?Do we have lists of those people?Everything in our country is on sale.Everything.Its just a matter of the highest price that can be offered.

You can tell me that its poverty that drives these people to commit such heinous acts of treason.Is it?Really?Whom are we fooling?And even if it is,is that even an excuse?Why shud we shut these terrorists in jails?So that some more of them can walk into our country ,kill some more people and demand that we set the captured terrorists free?Why,for that matter shud we shut anyone in jail who is convicted of committing murder,rape or any other act of physical violence in a jail? Why keep them alive?Why shud an entire nation of people pay up a part of their hard earned money as taxes just to feed these losers in the jail?For the sake of human rights? What happened to the rights of their victims?It doesn’t matter cos they are dead and we care more abt the living?And what abt the rights of any future victims?That doesn’t count either,does it?

The politicians are to be blamed.Who put them there?We don’t choose the best political party to become our government .We choose better one of all the evils.And then we blame them.Gah!!!In India ,anyone who is 18 years and above is eligible to vote.I am 26 years old and I don’t even have a voters ID.I have simply not bothered to vote. I was too busy getting an education and a career. Besides ,who is going to stand in the sun for hrs to cast a silly vote when its not going to make a difference? I will tell u why I have not voted. All the political parties that exist in India have come into power one time or the other and has anything changed?Oh yeah.So we built Nuclear weapons under one Government and set up Chandrayaan under another but we still have not managed to prevent terrorists from attacking our country. That’s one task which no government seems manages to accomplish.isnt it?But we still always manage to have a government that eats away at the hard earned money of the masses and which scrambles around with explanations for the angry upset people when something like the Mumbai attack happens.Thats one thing which all the governments have in common even though they are different in that Vajpayee is an old doddering gentleman and Sonia Gandhi is a snooty nosed diva. Wow!These days we don’t even blink when we read abt corruption charges against any politician or official.We have got used to it. In the book Maximum City (by Suketu Mehta) an election candidate ,when asked why she does not visit the posh localities of Mumbai for canvassing, replies cheerfully, “The rich don’t come down from their apartments to vote”.Only the people from the slums vote.And I suspect its not just the rich who don’t vote.I bet that it’s the educated people who don’t vote.Cos we read enuf news in the papers to believe that our one vote will not matter.So either u don’t vote or u choose the party which seems to be less corrupt of the bunch.Yeah.That is a logical solution ,isnt it?I don’t vote cos when we find out that the Government we have is a terrible one,I can say that I did not put them there.Yeah dudes,its not my fault at all but its ur fault if u voted for them.U are to be blamed for being dumb enuf to stand for hrs in the line to vote for that party.As for me,well,see,am smart enuf to realize that either way its not gonna matter and I may as well save myself the trouble.

And am no better than those people who helped those terrorists get in cos I did not do my part to keep my country safe.I did not take up the responsibility to do what I cud have done.I preferred not to care.My mom sent me a forward last week.

// Did you know that there is a system in our constitution, as per the 1969 act, in section "49-O" that a person can go to the polling booth, confirm his identity, get his finger marked and convey to the presiding election officer that he doesn't want to vote anyone!

Yes such a feature is available, but obviously these seemingly notorious leaders have never disclosed it. This is called "49-O".

Why should you go and say "I VOTE NOBODY"... because, in a ward, if a candidate wins, say by 123 votes, and that particular ward has received "49-O" votes more than 123, then that polling will be cancelled and will have to be re-polled. Not only that, but the candidature of the contestants will be removed and they cannot contest the re-polling, since people had already expressed their decision on them. This would bring fear into parties and hence look for genuine candidates for their parties for election. This would change the way, of our whole political system... it is seemingly surprising why the election commission has not revealed such a feature to the public....

Please spread this news to as many as you know... Seems to be a wonderful weapon against corrupt parties in India... show your power, expressing your desire not to vote for anybody, is even more powerful than voting... so don't miss your chance. So either vote, or vote not to vote (vote 49-O) and pass this info on...

"Please forward this mail to as many as possible, so that we, the people of India , can really use this power to save our nation". Use your voting right for a better INDIA . //

No.I did not know .But it’s not because notorious leaders hid this from me or because nobody forwarded it to me for the last 8 years. Its cos I did not care enuf to look up if there was any such option which I cud use to act responsibly for my country. It wud have taken me ten minutes of reading on the internet to find this.And I have not even thought to do so.I have spent countless hours on the internet but not a minute to look this up. Its because of people like me that the India I love has gone to the dogs.Its my fault. Though it may not seem so, I love my country with a passion and truly believe in the culture and tradition that is so much a part of India.In the past 18 months that I have lived in US,there has not been a day when I stepped out of home without sporting a bindi on my forehead, worn a bright colourful Salwar Kameez without relishing the fact that it marked me as an Indian and nodded my head in pride when someone asked me if I was an Indian.I have taken care so that I do not spoil the name of my country in anyway by my acts or behaviour. There has never been a time when I heard the term NRI being used as the derogatory abbreviation for a Non Reliable Indian by smug resident Indians and not cringed. But I was a non reliable Indian when I lived in India cos I never acted responsibly for my country when nothing more was required of me but vote. I did not choose to do it as I am sure many other reliable resident Indians have not. Am I the future of India??????

Talking abt the future of India takes me back a couple of years to a Diwali which I spent with my parents in Bangalore. We were at a shop and my brother was trying on clothes in the fitting room.I was sitting in the crowded shop on a stool and talking to one cute little boy who must have been no more than 4 yrs old.The kid was so cute that there were total strangers around us smiling at the sight of a tall female squatting on a low stool so that she cud be the same height as the 4 year old. He was well dressed in expensive clothes and spoke English fluently. After wishing me a happy diwali,the second thing the child asked me was “Are u a Muslim?” .I was shocked that a 4 year old wud ask me,a total stranger,such a question.His parents appeared to be nowhere in sight.I laughed and said I am an Indian.And asked him why he asked me that. I naively thought the child wud answer something abt Diwali being a hindu festival, when the little horror proclaimed loudly “Muslims are dirty.”. Its one of the few occasions in my life when I have been frozen with shock. All of a sudden I realized that nearly half of the people who had been smiling at the picture we made were muslims.My first instinct was fear as I half expected someone to come up with a sword and swipe the kid’s head off right in front of my eyes.With shock and sadness I glanced at the muslim man’s back whose smiling eye I had caught a couple of min back.I wondered if he had heard and I hoped fervently he hadn’t not out of fear but out of worry that one more muslim wud feel like an outsider in his own country.I shushed the little boy weakly , swallowed hard and said in a firm voice that we are all Indians and that he shud never think that way while he continued “My mom says they don’t bathe”..I struggled to explain that there was nothing dirty abt muslims without telling the kid that his mom was the dirty one for teaching her 4 year old such stuff.It maybe just an excuse to get her kid to bathe but honestly do u have to bring religion into that? That was the first time I got a sense of what caused all the communal riots in India.I wondered what they taught him in school. When I was his age,I was taught that all Indians are my brothers and sisters.His smiling mom came up 5 minutes later and wished me happy diwali and left the shop with the boy.I wondered if she asked him what my religion was.I wondered if the little boy asked his little classmates the same question before sharing his midday snack with them.So that is what the future of India looks like. Who is responsible for that little child’s viewpoint? The politicians? The media? The terrorists? Or his educated parents?

It all comes down to a matter of choice Its not abt whether we are a nuclear power or if we launched Chandrayaan, though I will not deny that I was bloated with pride on both occasions. Its not abt Pakistan or the politicians or the media or the rich or America’s strategy for that matter. My friend’s mail is enuf for me to believe that its not the entire country that is wrong. There are people who abhor violence no matter where it occurs. Here I have met Pakistanis, Russians, Chinese and Bangladeshis who are glad that am Indian cos it makes me their “Neighbour”.Chuckle.It’s not Pakistan’s responsibility to protect our country. Besides, with the state they are in, they can barely protect themselves and solve their internal problems, forget ours. Its abt the choices we make.Some souls like the terrorists and our countrymen who helped them are guilty of choosing crime.Some souls like the little boy’s mom chose to be prejudiced and to pass on the prejudice to her innocent little kid without even considering that if he makes a remark like that in public, it cud cost him his life, forget abt his future.

I have tried not to write this post cos it has been so very painful. I have been depressed abt this for so long.
Maybe its time we stopped the blame game. Maybe its time we started doing something ourselves. My friend said only God can do something abt this. But then God helps those who help themselves. And please,lets quit blaming God.He did not split us up into Hindus ,Muslims,Hindustan or Pakistan and neither did He tell us to get ourselves an excuse of a government.Am ashamed but I’ll admit that am also responsible for the state of my country.