Posted by: herword | September 18, 2009

Small things that add up to a big celebration

WHAT are you doing to make the festival season special for your family? It was a seemingly innocuous question but the response was vehement: “I am so busy trying to cope with my day-to-day routine and do the balancing act between my work and home that I can barely get my breath back. It is like being hurled from one chore to another, one situation to another… to even mention a special meal and make an effort to do a bit extra is enough to raise my hackles as well as blood pressure.” This is what a friend had to say in response to my query. One can understand her impatience with any effort to suggest that she should inconvenience herself. How that festival becomes special for the family is something that only a woman’s touch can guarantee. And in this rat race, while we can have more money, goods and fancy gadgets and gizmos but what about that personal touch that can make a festival memorable and give children something to cherish long after? Why must it be celebrated like goods off a conveyor belt by the same blaring Punjabi pop and the same kind of rich food? Forever on a short fuse, meeting expectations and performing varied chores, with the shortage of time comes the homemaker’s incredibly short temper. Trying to fulfill her duties and meet the more mundane needs, a woman even forgets that others, especially the children, are looking to her for fulfillment of their emotional needs. In fact, we are so busy being achievers that the nurturers within us have taken a back-seat. No wonder there is impatience with even a bit of extra work, resentment even at the thought of entertaining guests. All thoughts of going that extra mile to make a special meal are bound to go flying out of the window. Fast foods and takeaways make the lifestyle as plastic as the money we wield. It is the women who transmit traditions and customs and pass them on to the children. No wonder the sounds, aroma and tastes associated with each festival linger in the recesses of the mind. But it’s well worth trying to practice stepping out of what one is required to do and do something as a pleasurable activity. Wait as you see the magic of the nurturing touch! “I tried to make an effort to cook something special when I heard my daughter wistfully mention how her friend was lucky to have a mom who, despite the fact that she was a busy doctor made a special meal once a fortnight because that was her way of saying, “I care for you.” Another neighbour revealed how a cranky, rebel-without-a-pause, teenager actually became amiable and even mumbled greetings, something that was a rarity, when his mother decided to treat the entire gang of friends, before Divali, to aloo-puri made with her own hands. “I would always sit in judgement on him and berate him for wasting his time by hanging out aimlessly with his good-for-nothing cronies. Once they all came over home and I really looked after them, they didn’t seem half as rowdy. Besides, the change in his behaviour was so dramatic that I happily go ahead and entertain them more often. It’s well worth it.” It is this lack of nurturing that is reflected in the hostility, aggression and rising levels of dissonant behaviour, feels an elderly family friend. It does not need a sociologist or a psychologist to tell us that lack of a personal touch creates behavioural problems. Where is the time to apply the healing touch and reach out only through actions? It is just a matter of prioritising time. Do we not take time out for the formal do with the boss? It is just that children are not so intrusive as to demand that we involve them in our routine and actually pay attention to their emotional needs. It is never too late for actions that are symbolic of the love and which, when they transmit that love, bring about a warm glow around the heart. Why is it that we rely so much on goods and goodies off the shelf? Would it not be better, on the contrary, to pour a part of oneself into what we gift or do for our friends and family. Why is it that we might buy the best from the market and pay through our noses for things that we feel might bring happiness to our friends and children? We buy the best but do not give of ourselves. Sometimes, it pays more to give a little of yourselves in a memorable gesture. I remember the hand-knit sweaters gifted to children by a family friend or the walnut cake baked by a doting aunt. How these gifts won hands down over more expensive, custom- made, off-the-conveyor-belt gifts! Why? Because there are many like the ones bought from the shop whereas, the one you make yourself or with your own hands bears the stamp of uniqueness and individuality, that is, you give a part of yourself and send out the signal that you have actually taken time off and made a special effort to put that person first and actually do something for him/her. And who doesn’t like being given priority or to come first? The reason that children are hooked on to the soaps that celebrate the rituals and traditional modes of performing various social occasions is due to the fact that they love the family bonhomie, customs and colour that is a contrast to the rather sedate lives that they lead with both parents running against time. Even if yours is a nuclear family, it is never to late to make the festival memorable for your family by taking special care to go that extra mile. How to make the festival special Start an activity that is unique to your family and do it year after year. You can make a dish along with your spouse or kids or decorate the house etc. Slot something for each festival. Do take some time out to explain the rituals associated with each festival to the children. Make it come alive for them by narrating interesting stories from myths, folktales, scriptures and legends. Festivals are not only about buying gifts, clothes and commodities, they are also occasions to give charity and inculcate the spirit of fellowship. Make it a point to teach children to give with their own hands to all those who work for you—the domestic help, gardner, dhobhi, cook etc. especially their children. Let them learn to see all children are as fortunate and have the same kind of opportunities as they are lucky to have. Some sensitisation is important to see that they do not have a cocooned existence. Involve the children in painting diyas, making cards or rangoli or even paper lamps. snack, with your hands.

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Posted by: herword | September 15, 2009

Women who don’t scream to be heard

IT is not only the ones who are all thunder and brimstone who make their point. What of the countless women who adopt different survival strategies and continue to laugh and carry on their life’s journey without making any strident pronouncements or being overtly militant. In the din of declarations of identity and self-discovery, their contributions are often glossed over.

The tag of the ever-suffering Bhartiya nari, and its attendant image of a doormat who lumps each insult and rebuke without a demur, sticks. Is there no half way between the ones who mince no words and those who suffer silently?

If you look around, you will observe how most women who negotiate their way through life and relationships with an admirable stoicism peppered with tact and gentleness often go unnoticed. The ones who speak loudly hog all the attention and the limelight while the silent ones are the quiet sentinels who carry their individual cross with grace and courage.

I remember the petite housewife who lived in the neighbourhood and the grit she showed in the manner with which she took on her alcoholic husband. She never raved or ranted to friends or checked him publicly but managed to persuade him to join a de-addiction centre by discreetly requesting his boss for intervention. “If I had reacted with retaliation or vengeance, I might not have been able to salvage my home or the impasse would have continued and my husband’s health would have suffered.” Contrary to what the textbook feminists might say, real life requires mustering of more dexterity and diplomacy than one can imagine. How many times does one have to grin and bear and gloss over the unpalatable words or actions of all whom we are thrown into contact with?

A friend to whom almost everyone she knew turned for advice and solace was not an archetypical rebel. She was extremely gentle and had a soothing manner. Neither did she proclaim her courage of convictions from the rooftop, nor did she unfurl the flag of defiance and brandish it about as a marker of her identity. It was her resilience and inner strength that saw her through the troughs and peaks of life’s journey and this is what everyone admired about her. The most staunch individualist that I knew was another friend who made no fiery speeches or pronouncements. It is often the woman who has no ego hassles or does not repeatedly reiterate her resolve to “do it my way…is the only way”, who looks for solutions. She alone gives herself the flexibility to navigate through relationships. The steely strength is reflected in the manner in which these women manage to achieve whatever they set out to without much fuss or ruffling feathers.

By refusing to be drawn into verbal duels and slanging matches or score debating points, a tremendous amount of energy is conserved, which can be channelled towards more positive ends. A graceful 70-year-old grandma had once commented: “Do whatever you have to do but do so without showing such terrible manners! Think independently, act firmly and decide whatever you want to do but do it without creating a shindy. You can make waves without sounding like a hailstorm.”

A pretty youngster straight out of college showed admirable grit while tackling her male colleagues who heckled and taunted her to begin with. She did not cry “dam you wolves” or raise an alarm or rush to an extremely sympathetic boss who was willing to go to any length to make her feel comfortable. She handled the situation with the right dose of humour, indifference and hard work. Very soon, the same colleagues, who had been mocking at her, were full of praise for her ability to work and deal with people and not brandish the badge of gender to get even with them.

Similarly, there are many who wear their gender like a crown instead of a cross. They do not detail the woes of womanhood or play to the gallery by bringing their bedrooms into the drawingrooms. Discretion and a reluctance to bare the sacred core to all and sundry can lend a woman a dignity that will always stand her in good stead through peaks and troughs. Why must offence always be the best means of defence? The ones who placate, mend fences and adapt always seem to be overshadowed by the bold, articulate and ruthless ones. While it is the healing power of the so-called shadowy figures that sustains relationships, they are relegated to the backwaters as we acclaim and applaud the rebels without a pause.

Besides, it is often those who are mild yet flexible, with a tremendous strength of character and inner courage, who can deal with situations and people with an open-minded attitude.

Perhaps they are not bound by the idea of freedom and so shackled by the desire to break free that they cramp others and themselves. So those quiet, meek and mild souls may not inherit an emancipated universe but they do give it a legacy of love, laughter and understanding . These women may never grab headlines as women of substance and style or be written about for being savvy ‘n’ sassy but their footnote-like existence is scripted with the non-erasable ink of tact, gentle firmness and silent resilience.

Posted by: herword | September 13, 2009

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