Is it Normal?

It was dark, she left office late before the long weekend so that she can have some time to prepare for the upcoming holiday trip. The roads were never this dark at this hour of the night, she thought, but today it seemed dreary. She checked her watch again, it was only 8PM but somehow it made her fear.

Janhavi, a girl in her early thirties, slender, tall, wearing a pair of sleek spectacles and a nice suit for the ethnic wear day at office walked alone in the desolated street of Bangalore to reach home. She walked with a panicking heart but a strong face and stronger demeanor towards the bus stop unable to get a cab, as had been almost always the case in the part of the city where she lived. She worked in the IT sector in support domain, which meant late hours and shift jobs, she had chosen Hoodi considering the office distance that she needed to travel on a daily basis but the sad part is unavailability of cab services there. She had to stay late to finish some work which would have otherwise meant for her to come once during the long weekend as it couldn’t be postponed; and, well, she had a personal life apart from work so to speak!

In the desolated street with a panicked heart she couldn’t muster the courage to wait, so, she took one of the non-ac buses to commute as early as possible. As soon as she hopped on to the bus, she felt a touch, unwanted, not quite pleasant, random touch on her shoulder! Her heart thumped, she looked at the man, who was looking outside and brushed it off, maybe it’s just because of the movement of the bus. There came another touch, a rub on her leg, she looked at the man, feeling uncomfortable, shifted her position. She could see another man coming in between trying to save her and happily and luckily she took rescue. A thought came to her mind, lest her nightmares of dread would come true!

Her stop came and she reached home safely. But her mind and heart didn’t feel right. She went over the events she went through over the last one hour.

Why it is that the man came to save her but not put a slap on the face of the abusive person? Why did she not take the step herself? Was she afraid if she will get adequate support or not? Maybe, she had nightmares even worse? Maybe, we have started making it a normal thing; for women to be molested, because that’s what usually happens and men to protect, because that’s what they do? This Durgapuja, I leave you with this thought! While Durga maa is to come again next year, maybe we can make the earth a better place by then? Let’s not take long time goals, we have already taken long; don’t you think?

Five things to know about Mahalaya

Mahalaya, a day when the schools used to have a holiday in childhood, when we used to stay idle and chill for the day is much more than just a holiday. It is the day of the new moon in the month of Ashwina, the sixth month in the Hindu calendar. While this day is often said to be the day of Shraddha observation or pinda-daan to our ancestors, there are a few things that are observed continually for the entire first fortnight until the new moon. (This fortnight is called “apara pakshya”)

The Karta / the person who offers the shraddha to the ancestors, in Hindu traditions this is usually the eldest son of the house, (this is done by one of the sons, if the eldest doesn’t, then younger ones can)

  1. can’t shave in this fortnight
  2. can’t eat outside his house i.e. he is to eat the food cooked in the kitchen of their house only (along with his wife)
  3. The offerings are done for seven generations along with the Karta’s maternal uncle and maternal grandfather; while usually the norm of all such observations are restricted to the side of the father Mahalaya intends to bring in mother on board.
  4. The offerings happen on the same Hindu day as that of the death of the father/mother of the Karta and not on the day of the new moon for all.
  5. This offering is done by all irrespective of whether they make the individual Shraddha or not.

While I talk about this, it’s interesting to see how Shraddha/ Pinda daan, which happens every year on the same day as the demise of the deceased (it’s believed one year on earth is one day in the after-life), often tends to respect the mother and sister of the Karta, whereas it puts his wife in the end priority. The son/husband of the daughter/sister is deemed to be the most esteemed guest of this occasion. The maternal side of the Karta i.e. his mother’s parents are well respected and offered homage yet his wife can’t offer tribute to her parents on this occasion.

While it does give us some satisfaction on the belongingness of the women in their parental house, it also gives us food for thought on the respect of the lady, who leaves her house and weds in yours losing all rights to pay homage to her ancestors the same way you do. While her sons and husband are well respected, she as a being is nowhere in the picture to be seen.

Leaving you all with this thought this Mahalaya; maybe it’s time to put some thoughts to our beliefs?

Sand, that She is!

Lying scattered and dispersed wherever you see,

Nothing can hold her not even the roots of the tree,

But she becomes stable only at the touch of the sea;

To flow with her mood she is always free!

With the water in the ocean she can flow,

Even letting the wind over it to blow,

The force of gravity over her, earth is allowed to show,

Trying to clutch her the trees of casuarinas do grow!

She is sand, the creature of eternal freedom,

Nothing can bind her, no king or no kingdom,

She loves to behave in a manner too random,

Following her instincts stands being distinctly handsome.

On the shore of the sea, to anchor the ship,

Otherwise resists too little allowing things to slip,

Resisting the resistance not confined to the grip,

Accepts any impression she’s given to keep!

Values imbibed, too difficult to cultivate,

Destruction needs less than a moment to aggravate,

Stable mind becomes unstable as if seeking a chance to deviate,

The arts on sand perishes not allowing to renovate.

Accessible to everyone but belongs to none.

Wet in the dew of winter but dry in the sun.

Soluble in nothing immiscible that she is born,

Glowing with all brightness, she never becomes dull or worn.

Five Things Every Mother should Do!

Just be a mother like Karmabai was to Lord Jagannath, imperfection is beautiful!

Motherhood, as they say, completes a woman! I don’t agree with that, but that’s a matter for another time. I felt this urge of writing this piece because of what I felt and if you are a mother, I just want to give a shout out to you. Cheers to your spirit!

If you are a mother;

  1. You are still an individual with your needs, don’t forget yourself while loving your child.
  2. You can be angry at times, you have a lot on your plate, don’t beat yourself up.
  3. Don’t get into that vicious loop of “Am I good enough a mother?”, be it the society or your kid (who is after all another human being) will never be 100% satisfied even if you give your 200%.
  4. Don’t let the guilt of working cripple you. Remember, a baby’s arrival should never constrain you from achieving something else. The “choice” of working is yours to make, don’t let it be an outcome of any pressure.
  5. Most importantly, you are a great mother in whatever you are doing, don’t beat yourself up. It’s okay. All is well.

This reminds me of a folk tale related to Lord Jagannath. He has been quite a naughty boy for his mothers, everyone knows Krishna and his nuances. Without delving into the details, let me take you to the folklore. There was an old lady named Karmabai living in Puri. She was a devotee and loved the lord like her son. She wished to feed khichdi (A dish of the eastern India (in other parts of India it’s made differently), which is a mix of rice, green gram and various vegetables with ginger, bay leaf etc. with ghee) to the Lord. So, he went to her and asked to be served Khichdi everyday bowing to the wish of his devotee. She used to make it without bathing, like her regular chore and serve him with a lot of love. She was just a mother, imperfect yet beautiful and the most lovable. A priest (Some places mention this as neighbours and some mention as a sage/priest) came to know of this and suggested her to finish all her chores and make khichdi as she is making it for the Lord Jagannath, like a form of worship. In case of you as a mother, these suggestions flow in daily for you to be perfect at being one, while all it actually needs is loads and loads of love.

The next day, she did as suggested, and failed to meet the time, Jagannath had to hurry back to the temple.** Karmabai was sad and guilty as she couldn’t clean his face properly, she was confused. In the race of being a perfect mother, she became unsatisfied.

The point is, until the time that Karmabai was a mother and took care of him as her son irrespective of her imperfections, the Lord didn’t have to rush but the moment she started to deal with it as something that needs to be a polished job, everything became rushed and she couldn’t clean his face like she used to. Love is beautiful when it’s raw, when it’s pure and flows from your heart. No love is purer than a mother’s love!

Likewise, when you become a mother, there will be suggestions that will flow in, but do what’s best as a mother. Do what best you can. It’s okay if you feel overwhelmed, it’s only natural, but don’t try to get everything perfect as per the societal standards and burden yourself in the process. Don’t let anything come in the way of your love. Let loose. Live it.

No mother is perfect, but for their child, every mother is the greatest.

** When he reached the temple that day, he had the fragments of food stuck to his mouth. Upon asked by the temple priests, he told them everything about Karmabai. Later when she died, the offering of Khichdi as the morning-bhog started at the temple.)

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Women, Olympics, and Indian Society

Tokyo-2020 Olympics is one to remember for the millennials. The kind of vigor expressed by our sportspersons is commendable and gives us hope in the days to come. There has been a lot of positive vibes coupled with hope present in the country at the moment. Wish, if we could have celebrated without categorizing, scrutinizing, comparing but hoping to improve even further!

Indian women rocked in the Olympics-2020 at Tokyo along with Indian men. The less appreciated fact in all the celebration is how we look at the gender roles. While I agree and am very much an advocate of how girls/women should be given all sorts of opportunities, no gender becomes greater by demeaning the other. While Indian women did great and so did the results show, Indian men also must have had their shares of the toil and efforts. While after the hockey team’s win the tom-tom of the gender biases have stagnated a little, the point to note is results are not in our control but effort is, any sportsperson who goes to Olympics dedicates his/her lifestyle and life towards it. Moreover, women/men can’t be great by demeaning the other gender as had been the case which we continue to fight today. Let’s develop a culture where both go hand-in-hand.

Woman empowerment is not to be defined by the patriarchal standards but is the freedom of women to choose while having choices/opportunities. It’s a basic thing and not at the mercy of the society to offer, which is how it’s being perceived.

She can choose to do the house chores while having a choice of getting a job and career growth, she can choose whichever profession she would like, be it acting, be it sports or anything in any other field. A good actor is as important to the society as a good sportswoman or a good president.

It’s imperative to look at them as people, as human beings and not just women.

When the internet floods with images of the medalists at the Olympics vs the Bollywood female actors saying which one of them is woman empowerment, it’s both. But these images also are the mirror of where we are as a civilization.

When a woman stands, she doesn’t just stand for herself but an entire clan.

This is because years of atrocity and oppression is now getting washed off. These are baby steps, there are still millions of girls who get sold, traded, abandoned, killed, raped, molested and what not. But these are the pioneers to show the society a path.

An environment of holistic support and safety is what the society needs. Just like if someone asks you how much you earn is not enough and you should earn more or your profession is not what the country needs but someone else’s, how would you feel?

As a society, let’s be a little more empathetic, can we?

Congratulations to all the sportsmen and sportswomen who took the challenges on their stride and flared very very well in the Olympics Tokyo-2020.

Beyond Gender!

My sight is linked to clapping and begging;

Law says, I would be a criminal;

Society says I am anti-social;

Language says, I don’t belong;

Look beyond and you would find, I’m just another human being.

Look beyond my attire,

Help me not be a criminal,

I want to study and grow and be one among you;

Just a little human, with a lot of humanity,

Don’t make me hate the world, on my sight, don’t set a pyre!

If language fails, don’t let emotions fail us,

Let’s connect with signs if not words;

Let’s connect through souls, if not bodies;

I urge you, oh mankind;

Rise above pride, don’t make everything a farce as bogus!

Diversity, a trademark of inclusivity;

I say, why did it arise in the first place?

Why can’t we be a little more considerate?

Why was this discrimination rooted in us so deep?

Let’s just be humans for some time now, socializing with individual identity!

Rathyatra – Green Room

Ever heard of God, who falls sick, quarantines himself and then recovers to take a stroll?

Well, That’s Lord Jagannath for you. Residing in the holy city of Puri, Odisha; he feels no different than the regular human beings, he falls sick, gets on arguments with his wife Maa Laxmi and conciliates her by offering Rasagola, the famous sweet for many reasons.

Rathyatra or the car festival of Lord Jagannath is known for many things, here is the tale behind the screen.

The work for Rathyatra starts in Akshya Tritiya, a festival core to Odisha’s agrarian economy. The farmers worship Goddess Earth with coconut water, plough her and put seeds in her womb; while the carpenters start making the Rath/Car. (People in other parts of the country buy gold to celebrate this.)

On the full-moon day of Jyestha, the second month of Summer, he takes a shower with one hundred and eight containers of scented water along with his brother and sister. Following which he catches fever and gets quarantined for fifteen days, closed in a chamber, taking medicines (Phuluri tela- a herbal oil) and rest.

The folk fare of Odisha relates this to the season change from Summer to monsoon, which makes people vulnerable towards fever during this time. It is also believed that, on the bathing day of the Lord, there would definitely be rains.

After the quarantine, he gets bored and gets out to visit his devotees in the open on the 17th day of the next month, (the first month of Rainy season) and further to his maternal aunt’s house to eat a special odia cake, popularly known as “podapitha”. (Just like we are waiting for this quarantine to be over for so long now, wink). Before this visit, he prepares like we all do, gets ready with clothes and ornaments and the festivity is known by the name of “Naba Jaubana Darshana” (Seeing the deity in a new look). This is to ensure his gold ornaments are kept safely inside the temple and he’s well covered to face the masses, if you have ever seen the masses in Rath yatra, you can relate to the “getting ready to face it”!

While the Lord takes the stroll with his brother and sister, his wife stays behind. After five days of Jagannath being gone, Maa Laxmi leaves the temple and goes to destroy his car in anger. The anger of a wife being left behind; God does give a shout out for his devotees to be careful of any such nuances in life. Next time you leave your wife for a bachelor party, be careful of the havoc that awaits!

After coming back home, he stays outside of the temple on the twenty sixth day of the month, dressed in all gold ornaments, popularly known as his Sunabesa, where even the ghosts and souls are given enough drinks to be calm. Just the way humans do posts on social media to get in touch with their friends before they talk to their spouses and go home at the end.

After catching-up with his devotees, he reaches his temple, post a lot of merriment with his siblings, bachelor’s fun after all, to find the door of the temple doesn’t get opened for him while his siblings are taken in with due respect. He now coaxes her for leaving her behind and all it takes is a few words of love and few pieces of rasagola, an odia sweet. Women don’t need a lot of things to be cajoled; or is it?

Well, lucky husband that he is!

Lord Jagannath is the closest to human beings in all His rituals. The specialty in Him is that He carries out all his chores just like mankind with flaws and imperfections while He’s worshipped as God.

Humanizing Gods and divinizing humans?

On that note, Happy Rathyatra.

Rakshya Bandhan – The Odia Way

Once again, bringing you another story from the Lord Jagannath; the God who sleeps for a month to take his tiredness out and swings in a swing further to make merry!

After returning from the stroll of Rathyatra, he gets tired, just like you and I do; and retires to his bed for a month; from the full moon day of Ashadha, the first month of rains to almost the full moon day of Shravana, the second month of the rains.

Once he gets up, he goes to play in the swing; popularly known as Jhulana. This is where I realized, why are Odia people so particular in their life style choices. You will find the shops in Odisha closed from almost 12:30PM to 4:30PM, people are prone to taking a nap after their lunch. It was only after leaving Odisha that I realized, it’s not a regular practice across India.

Coming to God and his humanly ways, further to his play in the swings, he celebrates the birthday of his elder brother, Balabhadra, on the full moon day of Shravana month. The festival is popularly known as Rakshya vandhan across India, observed as the festival of brotherhood, where a sister ties a rakhi to her brother and gets an oath of protection in return. This festival however, has a good twist in the culture of Odisha, being an agrarian state, the traditions are very much inter-linked with agriculture. This festival is observed to worship the bullocks. After the ploughing of the soil in the rainy season, they get dirty and tired after the toilsome work. So, this is a festival celebrating them, congratulating and thanking them on their efforts for the survival of mankind. In this festival, they are given a good bath, their feet are washed with coconut water, forehead decorated with the holy sandalwood paste with sindur, (a red colored powder, used for all celebrations and the symbol of marriage in the Hindu culture) they are offered with flower garlands and given a special khichdi and odia cakes for a feast.

Also, the people who serve them (In the houses, where help are appointed to take care of the cattle), are offered new clothes and a good feast. While it’s known as Rakhsya Vandhan across India, for the people of Odisha it’s Gamha Purnima.

A culture of thankfulness, celebrating the small achievements and focusing on the basics is that of Odisha. And with everything, Odias enjoy lots of good food and an afternoon nap.

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