Abba. My only grandparent.

Abba was the only grandparent I ever knew. And he never felt inadequate.

My first memories of Abba are of his Karakuli, and his soft hands. The mark on his forehead developed over the years by prostrating in namaaz. As a husband, as a parent, as a brother and as a grandparent, Abba had seen the worse side of life far too many times. Having lost a spouse, a child, a grandchild, and more, Abba took it all in his stride, remaining the solid and sturdy head of the family. With so much going on with him emotionally, it was no surprise, that he spent his days talking to imaginary people and arguing with them. Every single time I passed by his overflowing little shop, he would be busy arguing, using his hands to make a point to some imaginary person in front of him. And I would just stop and stand there until he would notice me, smile and spread his arms wide enough to hug me. Then came the deal. I would either get a candy out of the coconut candy jar or I would be given one rupee and sent off to fetch something for myself. Most times, nadermonjis from the very famous street-food vendor in the alleys of Downtown Srinagar. As a kid, I’d feel embarrassed to purchase something for so little an amount. And as if almost sensing my hesitation, he would tell me, “Daepzes Noor Saeban suznas”. And I would run off with the one rupee locked away in the palm of my hand, to buy stuff with the rewarding knowledge of being Noor Sahab’s granddaughter. Because that was the kind of respect he commanded everywhere. Having Noor Sahab’s name equipped you with a strange sense of privilege that could get you anything in the world.

My mother tells me, that back when none of us children were born, the entire community of the area would come to my grandfather for basically every problem ranging from domestic disputes to health scares, from ghostbusting to matchmaking. From asking him to pronounce sentences on how thieves were to be dealt with, to valuing his opinion on the quality of tea, spices and cloth. People came to him with all sorts of questions. He was the wisest person they knew. He was the wisest person I knew.

On every Eid, as I made my way to hug him and greet him, he would take out a fifty rupees note from his pocket. Holding the note straight, he would tell me that I was supposed to give half of it to my sister. I would reluctantly take it, but he sure did always follow up with my sister. He was very smart that way.
On cold winter nights, as children, we would all huddle around him, and he would tell us Kashmiri fables, legends and folk tales. We would creep out when he told us about the Dev that ate children up and giggle endlessly when he told us how the children got rid of the Dev.

Abba was a very sharp-witted man. Although he only had a little formal education in English, there were moments, when he would randomly start talking in impeccable English, and shock us all beyond measure. We would be both startled and impressed.

Abba would scold us. We’d hide. He would say “peyi rasser” which means may hot boiling water fall on you. And we would giggle because we knew he meant that as a term of endearment rather than anything else.

Abba would know how to mend everything. Make everything look as good as new.
In his last years, when he no more went outside, he would evaluate our shopping skills by asking us the price of things we’d got from the market. We’d very conveniently reduce the price to half and then quote it, and he’d still shake his head and say, “yi chu droug, variyah droug”.
Abba was a smart shopper. He would buy top quality stuff at half the rate and also deliver a lecture on selling skills to the shopkeeper as a bonus.
Walking with him, hand in hand, through the lanes and bylanes of Downtown meant walking with a celebrity. When people looked at him, you could see the respect and admiration they had for him and it made you feel like a star too.

The way he said “Ba-Khoda” or “Kalaamullah’s pathh” still rings in my ears every time I think of him.

It’s been 6 years since Abba left us. I’m yet to meet a man so wise, so loving and so right. I know he’s probably looking down on us all, shaking his head at our shopping skills and health statuses. Yes, we could do a lot better with him here. We know it more than him.

Abba. I dreamed of him today. It was as if I was literally seeing him after six years. I asked him if he recognized me. He paused for a little while but then smiled and said he did.

Here’s to Abba. The coolest grandfather and the kindest and wisest human I’ve ever known.

We miss you ❤

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Will we ever be happy?

I’ve been hearing the term “millennial” for quite a while now. Somehow I always thought this didn’t include my age group because millennial would mean people born in and around the millennium (Duh?!) But I am wrong. By a long shot. It does include me. I contribute to the madness too.

Author and consultant, Simon Sinek in a recent video that has since gone viral, describes the millennial generation (people born in and after 1984) as lazy, narcissistic, entitled and self-interested. He fears that this increasing group of people can never really feel true joy in their lives. Their life will at best be, fine. It’ll pass.

I go back to a recent conversation I had with one of my friends. His father has been serving in the government for over 25 years now and I asked him, “What do you think your father would’ve wanted to grow up to be when he was little?” He seemed rather amused and responded with, “I don’t know. I should ask him. Maybe a footballer.” He didn’t ask. He didn’t need to. Both of us knew that our parents would have answers to that question. Amusingly ambitious. What struck me as odd though was the fact that, most of our parents ended up doing entirely different stuff and yet they never complained about how their jobs sucked or how they were going to quit soon. They weren’t necessarily head over heels with what they did, but they stuck to it. Because they had made a commitment to it. Yes, also because choices were limited back then.

Having a choice is a luxury. And luxuries are supposed to make you feel happier. More comfortable. Why aren’t we happy then? Why are our parents, who have possibly never even heard of the term “job satisfaction” more satisfied and content in their jobs than we’ll ever be? What drove them to go to work to exactly the same place every single day for over 30…40 years and do the exact same stuff every day without complaining? How did they form such long lasting relationships with their co-workers that they became family friends and remained so forever?  How they were so patient all these years and never had a bad day at work which they brought home with them? How come did they never have any sleepless nights because of work related stress?

So. Is it true? Are we never really going to be happy like they were? The answer to that is probably yes. Do we agree with it? No not really, we are the more evolved generation which is cooler, has all the right gadgets, is quick and sorted and we know so much. Know SO MUCH. Yes, we do know quite a lot about everything. More than our parents did anyway. But are we happy? Are we content? Wise? Ouch.

Brings me back to what Simon Sinek accused us of being. Lazy. Entitled. Self-interested. And narcissistic.

Are we? All four and more?

Let’s talk entitled. We finish school, we pick a subject we like, and we go to college. In college and universities alike we’re taught of theoretical concepts that sound too good to be true. Knowing how things work and people behave or the other way round, makes us feel powerful. It makes us believe we have answers to questions the world doesn’t know yet. That’s where the problem starts. We begin to feel the world owes us something. It owes us an acknowledgment for knowing stuff and it owes us a job where we can use all of these concepts we learned and make the world a better place. Bingo!

But the world doesn’t owe you anything. It never promised you a job, leave alone a 25th-floor glass office where you could have pace back and forth and take decisions. It didn’t. It’s you who has to get there (if you want to) on your own. Yeah, you may be amazing and special and hugely talented, but nope, the world still doesn’t owe you anything. It’s all you. Running. Slogging. Falling down. Turning back. But never giving up. You have to stop feeling the world owes you happiness and contentment. It owes you nothing.

Okay, lazy much? Yes. All of us want to change the world. But where are we? Probably sitting on our beanbags! We wake up, eat breakfast, go to work, come back, order food, and we’re so exhausted. Flashback to 10 years ago, my mother woke up at 5 in the morning, finished all the housework, went to work, came back, more housework, cooked cleaned washed, and slept peacefully. Imagine being able to do all that? And without multivitamins? Wow. We are sloths, typing away on our phones and taking pictures and dreaming that one day, we will change the world. We will. For greater health risks maybe. But just about that. We have got to get up and do something instead of only tweeting about it. (And since we all look for validation in the no. of Retweets we get, THAT’S NOT CALLED MAKING AN IMPACT FYI)

Self-Interested. Are we? Wait. Let me take a picture first.

Impatient. We are so used to instant gratification that we want everything and we want it now! We need something. We order it online. We don’t even have to move. Our parents have given us better lives than the ones they had. But do we look at that as an advantage?

I remember my mother telling me how she was the 5th of 6 siblings and by the time a textbook got PASSED to her for her use in a particular grade; it had practically lost half its pages. Not advocating that, because let’s face it, times have changed and so has social status and incomes. So why not live a little better. But the problem with this scenario is not looking at what we have as a privilege but as a birthright. When we are used to getting things that easily, we lose the virtue of patience. Of learning to wait. That may not be a problem when you want things because you could just order them online, but is when it comes to relationships and job fulfillment. We get a new job and BOOM, as the one-week excitement starts to subside, we start to feel like we are bored already. Like there’s no excitement left. Same goes for relationships.

What we don’t understand is that it’s not as easy as ordering stuff online. You can’t Amazon everything (I mean you can, just not people and skill sets!)

And jobs and relationships cannot always be wonderful and magical. Sometimes they are not. But do you just toss them in one corner and move to the next? No, you don’t. You cannot expect a relationship to always make your world go round. Likewise, you cannot expect your job to be exciting and all adventure ALL THE TIME. It doesn’t work that way. What you can do though is stay put, through both the good times and the bad.

Now I’m the last person to advocate staying in a relationship or a job that sucks the living soul out of you. But having said that, don’t also expect it to be full of wonders all the time. It’ll make your life a lot easier. Learn to not expect too much anyway. You’ll always be surprised!

I just realized that this has become a self-help book. No one likes those. And no one follows them anyway (NOT EVEN CHICKEN SOUP DON’T LIE).

But the good thing is you don’t have to. You can just sit there on the beanbag and order food.

Or you can reflect. Or do both. But let’s order Pizza first.

#ANoteToMyFortySomethingSelf

 

I write this not for who I am today.

I write this for the future me. The one who’ll be bogged down by how hard life is, the endless and excruciating choices it’ll have to make some day.

The me who will think that’s it’s okay to give up on your dreams, who won’t dream of doing new things every day, the one who’ll deem it okay to settle for mediocrity.

The me who will compromise on the things that I would never change a stand on. The me who won’t remember having a bucket list, the one who won’t have any.

The me who will change, when asked to, who will change only because I don’t fit someone’s ideal. The me who will give in.

The me who will doubt itself. The me who won’t believe in the invincible power of self.

The me who won’t be the most important person in the world to myself.

 

I write this because the future me will probably be okay with all of that. Today I’m not. And I don’t ever want to be.

Part of me documenting this, is actually the need to have something to look back at. Solid written proof! I have, over the years, realized that we do change, and we conveniently label it, “for the better” or sometimes we don’t even realize that we have. We feel like this is how we’ve always been. Sometimes, even out rightly refusing to acknowledge that we have, and finally settling on how we’ve just evolved. Or improved.

While I don’t deny the inevitable nature of change, I do have a problem with it when it changes who you are. The way you feel about yourself. How important you are to yourself and also all the things that you once wanted to do.

 

I don’t believe that wisdom comes with age; experience does, but not wisdom. So I may be twenty something today, and probably at forty something look back at me, and say God, I was so foolish and young.

So, I write this, so that I don’t believe my forty something self.

So that my forty something self knows that maybe I didn’t know a lot of things back then, but I was the smartest, coolest, and the most wonderful version of me. So that it looks back at this and remembers.

I was beautiful, because I knew I was, and not because anybody told me I was. I hated make up, hating nothing about my own self.

I had an indestructible self belief; I believed there was nothing I couldn’t do. I never settled. I never became a different person because I was asked to.

No one could put me down, or even pin me down.

I dreamt of the impossible. I dreamt every day, every waking second too.

I loved myself; my narcissistic unapologetic self.

I did not need anyone to make me happy. I respected myself, more than anything else in the world.

I believed it was okay to be happy for random people when something nice happened to them and deeply sad when something bad did.

I was afraid of spiders maybe, but never afraid of the bigger battles in life.

I was careful, but never cynical.

I laughed, more than I cried. I spoke more than I listened to.

I trusted everything and everyone. I was never biased. Curious, but never judgmental.

I thought too much, but acted mostly on pure impulse.

I was unpredictable.

And yes. Not to forget.

Apart from my mother, I was my only hero.

 

My forty something self, here’s to you.

Don’t be boring.

Be me.

The Pilgrimage. Coelho.

The first symptom of the process of our killing our dreams is the lack of time. The busiest people I have known in my life always have time enough to do everything. Those who do nothing are always tired and pay no attention to the little amount of work they are required to do. They complain constantly that the day is too short. The truth is, they are afraid to fight the Good Fight.
The second symptom of the death of our dreams lies in our certainties. Because we don’t want to see life as a grand adventure, we begin to think of ourselves as wise and fair and correct in asking so little of life. We look beyond the walls of our day-to-day existence, and we hear the sound of lances breaking, we smell the dust and the sweat, and we see the great defeats and the fire in the eyes of the warriors. But we never see the delight, the immense delight in the hearts of those who are engaged in the battle. For them, neither victory nor defeat is important; what’s important is only that they are fighting the Good Fight.
And, finally, the third symptom of the passing of our dreams is peace. Life becomes a Sunday afternoon; we ask for nothing grand, and we cease to demand anything more than we are willing to give. In that state, we think of ourselves as being mature; we put aside the fantasies of our youth, and we seek personal and professional achievement. We are surprised when people our age say that they still want this or that out of life. But really, deep in our hearts, we know that what has happened is that we have renounced the battle for our dreams – we have refused to fight the Good Fight.
When we renounce our dreams and find peace, we go through a short period of tranquility. But the dead dreams begin to rot within us and to infect our entire being.
We become cruel to those around us, and then we begin to direct this cruelty against ourselves. That’s when illnesses and psychoses arise. What we sought to avoid in combat – disappointment and defeat – come upon us because of our cowardice.
And one day, the dead, spoiled dreams make it difficult to breathe, and we actually seek death. It’s death that frees us from our certainties, from our work, and from that terrible peace of our Sunday afternoons.

Who caused the sehlaab?

On the intervening night of 6th and 7th September, Kashmir witnessed the worst natural catastrophe to have ever hit it. Thousands were left scarred for a lifetime.

But what followed the, everyone coming to sense and connecting euphoria, was another type of frenzy. The blame game.

From the ostensible railway track, to the incompetent government, to music concerts, to beauty parlours, to cloud bursts, to missionary schools,to dog birthday parties, to jeans wearing girls, to lavish weddings.
Nothing was spared.

Every room, every house, every shop,and every road became a courthouse convicting various people.
The infamous uptown-downtown pseudo-vendetta got a new dimension. This time, for the first time in years, the downtowners proclaimed triumph.
No one got tired of discussing the floods.

But as much as we Kashmiris collectively like to become the Mayan gods of judgement, all the time, one wonders where did we learn our lessons.

We chose to dissect the probable causes more than we chose to learn.
Scientifically, as well as spiritually.

At the cost of this becoming a preachy sermon, something that we Kashmiris excel at equally, I don’t want to go down the line of telling people what we should’ve learnt. And what lessons we should’ve taken from it.
Instead, let’s just all for once take our own individual lessons. Blame our own selves.
Maybe it happened because I was wrong?! In my conduct as a human being or towards the environment?!

If we stop blaming everyone else, and just introspect what we as individuals could’ve done better, could do better, we’d probably get closure. Sooner.

And isn’t that what we always seek?

O womaniya. How have you been?

 

Earlier this week, or perhaps last week, Mom made a very profound statement while we were having breakfast. The conversation was basically revolving around Kashmiri weddings, the hype, and the follow up: The marriage.
So while touching upon the area of the expectations everyone has from a daughter-in-law, Mom, visibly emotional from all the discussion, said, “Asli chunne korren kahn pannun garrai aasaan” [ A girl, does not have a home. Period].

 She went on to elaborate and said that, right from the time that she is old enough to make sense of stuff, they keep telling her that, “czhe chui voparr garre gassun” [ You have to go live in a stranger’s house]. Then on her wedding day she gets told, “Wein chui yohai czhe garre” meaning that, this, her in-laws place, is her actual home. As she settles into married life, she realizes that she is constantly torn between the two places, not knowing what to call home.

 

We wrapped up the discussion when the clock struck 8 am and got busy with our everyday lives. The usual stuff. The statement however, remained with me. It still is. It made me think.

We are at a point, where the condition of women around us, is being questioned, vehemently and repeatedly. The Delhi gang rape shook me, like every other person who heard about it. I cried a little. All I could think of was this young girl, exactly my age, who just wanted to have a normal life. Like me. Like perhaps every other girl.

Maybe she wanted to be in the papers, one day. Like me. All those practice interviews I gave out as a kid, hoping to replicate it for real someday. And there she was, in the papers. All the papers. Even international ones. And yet, in a way, no one could ever imagine themselves to be. What was her fault? Wanting to be normal?

I hear of the way women are treated. I realize how I am treated. Men don’t take us seriously. Like if I say something in class, and my interpretation doesn’t match with what the boys think, I am bound to hear stuff like, “aapko asli pata hi nahi hai.”  And these are my friends. People I hang out with. Knowingly, unknowingly, men generally react in a manner which if pondered upon, stinks of sexism and prejudice. I am not generalizing. I have also met men, who have been quite the opposite. I’m glad we have those. But mostly, I come across male teachers and friends, who think we are not to be taken seriously. Worse, some even pretend, we don’t exist.

 I have a small personal example to share.

In the first week, at the Business School, they asked us to elect a class representative, someone who would act as a link between the faculty and the students. The Director, however made it clear, that for equal representation purposes, we needed two. One from each gender. So, two class representatives. He however, went on to add, that the guy would OBVIOUSLY have more responsibilities than the girl, because we wouldn’t want a girl to do all the rough work. Call me whatever, I thought this made complete sense. A class representative has to meet up with people till late in the evening, like whenever they need him. And, we live in a place, where if the girl turns up home, after 7 pm, everyone she passes by, in the neighborhood, looks at her like she has suddenly grown monkey ears. So, yes, it did make sense to me.

Okay, so elections happened. One of the guys became the class representative. And I was elected as the female one. Unopposed. (Like a boss!) So there.

 But that’s not my point.

Funny thing is, that over these past three months, I have suddenly, from being called, the class representative, gone on to be called, the deputy CR!
If I don’t think about it, it’s no big deal. Only that, it actually is.
When I noticed this change in nomenclature, I wondered how exactly did this happen. That’s when I realized, it was my male counterpart and his group of friends, who had come up with this term. Nice guys and everything. But I noticed it was they, who always referred to me as the deputy. This and a couple of incidents, more. And there it was. The  writing on the wall.

I fail to understand why would someone react that way. I mean why is it so hard for a fine, well read guy to have a girl at the same position as his? What’s the insecurity?! What?

 

As a woman, I have never felt helpless. NEVER. But lately, I have begun to realize that men consider women to be a little below themselves, in terms of both mental and physical capacities. “Tumko cricket khelna aata hai? Tumko basketball bi khelna aata hai?” are casual remarks made by the most finest men, but the surprise element in the remarks, makes all the difference.
What some men don’t understand is that men and women differ in terms of physical strengths. Of course, they do. But that doesn’t mean that one has to be above or below the other. Because men and women are different, very different creatures.

Most men think that if a woman is a X, they are 2X( in any random attribute). That’s where all the trouble starts. What these men fail to understand is that, if a woman is a X, they cannot be any degree of X. They CANNOT be. They can be Y, Z or any other Godamn alphabet other than X. Because we are different. TWO DIFFERENT ENTITIES. Hence, no mathematical operations/ comparisons possible, whatsoever. It’s basic common sense. Why not understand?

 

Male chauvinism, putting down women, “showing them their place” may be denounced by every single man out there. But truth is, apart from some exceptions, men are still programmed to think like that. They may do it in a small casual way as the CR incident, or in the most brutal manner, like the Delhi incident. Small or big, it’s there. Very much there. Runs in our bloodstream. And not just men, most women also think the same way. I mean c’mon, when a girl is born into a family, it’s the women folk, who cry buckets. “Kyun ji? Beti hui hai”.Women are also programmed to consider men as a superior entity. Women do think that way. And the ones who don’t are very conveniently branded as feminists.

We live in a society, where girls may be encouraged to become Indra Nooyi, Chanda Kocharr and the likes, but “banani to end pe rotiyan hi hain.”
The propensity of the double standards, that exist in our society, shocks me. Mostly, into silence.

 

I go back to what my mother said, about girls, and their lives. She isn’t a pessimist. She has experienced it. She tells me this with a hope that my life is better than her’s, but also with a note of caution, that if doesn’t turn out better, that’s how it is.  That’s how it’s always been.

 She is  a mother. She’s worried. And I get it. I totally do. But as I think about all the sufferings, all the pain that a woman has to go through, just because she is a woman..

..suddenly, the grief of the women folk, when a baby girl is born into the family, the disappointment,
somehow, ironically, makes sense to me.

Maybe, they cry because they don’t want anyone to have the same life. The life of a woman. Maybe.

 

I don’t feel victimized, I am my own hero. I know how to fight for my equal place in this world. I don’t think I need a man to rectify my existence.I have always been his way. The question is, how have you been?

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