Becoming Her

I am worthy. I am enough. These are some positive reinforcements that I do for myself every day. From not sharing my stories because of what people would think, to not being ashamed of my tears, it has been a long journey of self-acceptance and self-love. It doesn’t matter anymore if people assume my tendencies as narcissistic but I’ve joined millions of women who have led the way.

It is not easy to transform, ignore the dishonest comments, and the constant contradictions but I am very grateful to those that gave care so I can blossom, that inner voice that kept my psychological buoyancy, and the repeated signs that my life means a lot mkrr. Some have had it harder than I did. And I hope I can be that for those who need me, exactly like I had those crown jewels that were there in my hours of need.

There were people who I realized were not as well-wishing when I was congratulated for personal mishaps and very recently for not dying of suicide (albeit in bad taste). And how my concern for my elderly mother is often a cheap target of abuse. But in any circumstance, I have become that seed; when people try to bury, I simply flourish. This is true for not just me, but everyone who is fighting battles that are not visible to the naked eye. I just seem to be that dot of survival where some others asseverate positivity.

Since I am writing this to celebrate a certain success of life and existence, I have to stop and impose on you, where I began to where I am today. From a era of body shaming, and wounds to my wisdom, to an epoch of grit, it has been a voyage. Who knows what the destination looks like but this path is nothing less than nirvana. I always wondered why some women like my mother and girl friends epitomize zen despite the mayhem caused to their mind and soul. I hope to be them some day.

How is any woman supposed to overcome gender bias, discrimination or violence when their own are shoving them off course. And how will I stop sounding like a broken record, mostly unforgiving and insanely forgetting about the injustice that perpetuates. When women fail to uplift their own tribe, what are we going to achieve by smashing patriarchy? If we don’t overcome this native intolerance, the path forward is going to be most painful.

I don’t know what it’s like to be anything else. In between all of the opinions and the formidable, there is one thing that matters; “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” This is my once. A masterstroke. It is never the same, with ups, downs and sometimes falling on my face. Nevertheless, “I am proud of the woman I am today, because I went through one hell of a time becoming her.” Hope you become too. Everyone deserves a “Becoming Her.”

International Women’s Day 2021

International Women’s Day 2021 #ChoosetoChallenge

American Telugu Association ATA

Sunday March 3rd 1030am to 430pm EST.

“The most important thing one woman can do for another is expand her sense of actual possibilities.” And everyone who gathered today did exactly that and more.

There is nothing more gratifying than a large group of like minded people who want to serve. For decades, I had avoided Telugu cultural organizations for assuming I am a misfit. But, not anymore.

Hear the best of best, Shobha Raju ma’am, Sudha Murthy ma’am and other celebrated women virtuoso share inspiring remarks. I am at 4:15.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=knrPJid4ox4

#choosetochallenge #IWD2021

Lost in Love

I hope to honor you with all my admiration

So the moments we gather are infinite quotation

Life may never bring us together

And we may just be birds with broken feather

But there is better hope that we walk on paths

That are free of all droughts

Holding our fissured hands together

To create a universe where there’s no ache

Because there isn’t much at stake

What matters is when we are truly awake

Free from all the wounds and humiliation

May be we just have to think of carnation

Or imagine that boundless happiness

Without having to be in life’s deep mess

It might be that state of our mind

Where we are lost in love that is blind

Senseless Superstitions

I’m often asked why I don’t write in third person which is writing from an outsider point of view, and or by using second person, where I am arbitrarily writing about a ‘you’ and ‘yours’, instead of vilifying my ‘aunts’, ‘uncles’ or ‘cousins’ or ‘relatives’ etc. For those who know me well, I am a poet first. But writing poetry has never been a coachable moment for anyone simply because for those that I want to teach, I give the impression of suffering from insanity or melancholy. After all, poets are disheartened people. And I had languished decades writing paramount poetry of my life devoid of ‘moving the needle’. On 28th December, 2014, I made the audacious makeover to write prose. And boy oh boy, what a difference it made.

Out came all those “When asked who’s the thief, started sweating bullets.” Never in seven years of writing in ‘first person’, had I never felt any repentance just because of the fact that I was not mendacious. If I were, I am sure my conscience would be bruised beyond recognition. Till today, I am proud to have abundant bravado to transcribe my actuality. I genuinely hope that this vigor shall last till I rest in peace. In pursuit of such truth, I desire to share in extreme authenticity that, “Sometimes painful things can teach us lessons that we didn’t think we needed to know.” And those that have been in the practice of demeaning other resilient individuals would stop in their tracks one of these days.

My memory has been my worst enemy. It is not easy to live with remembrances since when I couldn’t speak properly. At 14 months, I was effortlessly rattling sensible sentences and had the intellectual capacity of an adult. When I was in third grade, my grandmother, mother’s mother was caught in between the punting responsibilities of her brood. Sadly, besides my mother, none had the soul to raise a parent. But that one time, out of shame of disregarding their mother, two of her sons had decided to keep her in one of their homes for a few weeks. By rule of thumb the sons bear responsibility of the ageing parents but they had successfully created an exception to a tradition.

She requested my parents that she return to our place immediately. While she was there her elder son’s mother-in-law had verbally abused her. At our home, the four of us, my father, mother, grandmother and I were like the exemplary close-knit family. There was not a day when we didn’t show our love and respect for each other. It was quite a jolt for the three of us that my grandmother had to endure the darkest time of her life. While her transportation was yet to take place, her elder son’s son had visited us. I remember that I used to look forward to his visit as a kid. I feel fortunate that he still remains one of the few who is yet to insult me.

I don’t know what came of me but I couldn’t stop campaigning how conforming to certain forceful traditions is wrong such as keeping my grandmother against her wish in their home. I was also determined to ensure he would take my ruckus back to his parents and his mother’s mother. Although I admit, for that age, it was wrong on my part to display the choicest of bad words. I never did that ever again in my life. When my grandmother passed away, the same woman told my mother that my grandmother became a drifting wicked ghost. And that she had to put out food in front of their home and call that ‘spirit’ a ‘whore’ for it to go away. As Bertrand Russell had rightly said, “Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty.” Perhaps, their fear stemmed from their previous abuse meted to my grandmother, and haunted them to take refuge in senseless superstitions.

Another that I can get over, is how my half-brother literally ‘stole’ my father’s dead body to bury him per ‘their’ customs. My father had thoughtfully instructed my mother and I to ditch that practice and cremate instead. Until then, I did not realize that many Hindu families who orthodoxly incinerate the lifeless, still do bury. Even though I will never have closure with my father’s demise, I still feel unacceptably disheartened for not having fulfilled his last demand. Since, I have piled on such experiences to the roll of my unforgiving manners. As time passed, I have begun to recognize that superstitions are indicators of weak minds.

My mother reminds me of how alone she felt after my father passed. Not because there was a great void because of absence. It was how she was treated – like a societal discard. She was not subject to the widow superstitions but there was none that treated the humanely. Those languished in the get-togethers at my home before and parcel copious take-outs, did not bat an eyelash to not only waste the food prepared in his honor but also not host her. It was not just the superstition that she was a new widow and considered inauspicious but stabs from the resented minds. For several of those, attempts of humanizing through poems was not enough.

There are many more I will continue to point out. This is my way of eradicating senseless superstitions through direct writing. It is my appeal to whoever reads, that it is not my aim to be endlessly negative or express my incapability to ‘move on’ or ‘forgive and forget’ or harp on the past. If these delusions continue to hold our humanity in ways leading to toxic behaviors, or linger to serve as prologues to intimidating fear from past relationships, or unease resulting from opinions, we would never progress as communities or as families. My goal is to change the bigotry that has been embossed as a convention without equitable reason.

Investing in the Future

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to judge a PURE Thinkers Public Speaking Competition along with two other prominent professionals. The topic was, “Stereotyping of Women and why it is wrong.” I am still in awe of the boys and girls who participated. It is amazing to see that at that young age, they exhibited more courage, vulnerability and maturity than some adults would. Their call for action, the attention to detail, the importance of statistics to drive towards betterment, personal struggles, perceptions – they touched it all.

When I volunteer my time towards these activities, more than anything else, it feels like I’ve served a larger purpose in life. I live my dreams through these kids. And it is assuring to know that our future is going to be safe amongst most compassionate, responsible, and trust worthy future leaders of the world. As Charlotte Sophia Kasl said, “Whether or not you have children yourself, you are a parent to the next generation. If we can only stop thinking of children as individual property and think of them as the next generation, then we can realize we all have a role to play.”

When I see organizations like PUREOnline investing in the future, it makes me want to do more. PURE is “People For Urban and Rural Education promises to be the bridge connecting individuals, groups, organizations with the urgent needs of the world’s Children. PURE pledges to facilitate sustainable empowerment through quality education with complete transparency and accountability to the sponsors.” It is worth devoting time and resources to causes like PURE no matter how little it may be. I am definitely a better person than I was the day before.

#quotidianblessing #educationforall http://www.pureonline.org

The Age Factor

I have had the toughest times going through the arranged marriage practices. When I look back now, I wished I had more fun doing blind, speed and regular dates on steroids. Perhaps just for that time, exclusiveness went out the door. I had no time for tenured dating for having already been slotted into the ticking ‘time bomb’ age bracket. Nonetheless, I had my share of stories, but this particular one is not about me. Also, by the time I was on an undertaking to find myself a husband, the matchmaking process had become the leading business in the contemporary matrimonial realm.

Somewhere on the other side of the world, many that I knew, all of who are way older than I am, were also in the same quest like I was. The only difference was that they had flawlessly become proficient at the knack of deceit, not in a manner of swindling money from gullible brides/grooms or in the form of wedding gifts but in very creative ways. The end goal was modest – to secure themselves a preeminent and most eligible significant other. And I get it. That is what everyone desires. Some even had unsuccessful engagements and marriages. We would only assume that the second, third or fourth time around, the parents and brood, would be humble enough to accept someone who has been through similar circumstances.

The first person in this story had two unsuccessful engagements and an unsuccessful marriage. But, for the fourth attempt they still wanted a ‘fresh’ bride which is the finest paraphrase of a virgin. Maybe, they forgot that they are not ‘fresh’ after all. Those broken relationships took a decade of their life and they found themselves in the market again and again. However, their age remained the same, no matter what. If they were 26 years when they first entered the ‘scene’, even after 10 years they would still be 26. And you were in awe watching, ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’?

‘The age factor’ has over the years become an obsession. The logarithm is that wider the age gap, the more ‘fresh’ they are. Fortunately for them, there were overzealous parents that wanted to just give away their daughters to anything that walks. It is another thing if the spouses got into the relationship knowingly that they have that kind of a generational variance. To this day, I don’t think their spouses have ever figured or stumbled on their partner’s actual age. The second story is even more bizarre. These parents wanted their son’s bride to be a decade and half younger than the older daughter-in-law. That compelled them to adjust the age of their second son too. Not sure how birth certificates got wrought after they became adults – but by some means that mysteriously transpired too.

Another story is of an only daughter, whose marriage story is not that bad but the poor son-in-law does not know that his wife is three years older than he is. Not that it is a taboo where older women cannot marry younger men, but why not make it an accepted practice than snitching around with deception. I don’t know what the issue is but despite being the younger than all these fine ladies and gentlemen, I’ve heard that some have become younger than I’d ever be many times. In fact, one particular guy’s wife who found out the age discrepancy has used it as paramount ammunition to destroy their family. It is a common booster for people celebrating milestone birthdays – that thirty is the new twenty; forty is the new thirty; Fifty is the new forty and so on but for some – “Old age is always fifteen years older than they are.”

Valentine’s Gifts

We’ve been married nearly a decade and half. It takes a lot from both of us to be not just tolerating each other but trying hard not to kill. Me more than him. And I am not one of those who is able to say that what I have with my husband cannot be expressed in words. I definitely can in so many words that won’t seem pleasant to many ears. Since it is Valentine’s day, I might as well share how blissful it has been putting up with each other’s idiocies. I’m sure something’s working just fine in our marriage.

He calls it an internet marriage and I call it arranged marriage. That is the only thing we seem to agree upon – not call ours a love marriage. Not sure what perception we give, but a visiting second cousin asked me to my face in my own place, if I was willingly staying in my marriage. It is another story that he can’t seem to remember any birthday, wedding anniversary, or when we first met or what I wore to our first rendezvous. Nope, I ain’t calling that a date.

My husband does have a doe-eye when he is one beer down but I think he generally has that twinkle agnostic of the gender of who ever is in front of him at that time. Now, how could I ever prove to anyone what kind of love we truly have for each other is when we barely whisper sweet nothings in each other’s ears or exude public display of affection. But I can say with great conviction that out marriage is definitely bound by the thoughtful ‘gifts’ we give each other. February 14th, being one of them.

I’ve never given my husband any gifts that are useful just for him. The most romantic I’ve done is mention his name in my books as thank you. But we’ve always bought stuff useful for the home and both of us. For example, he will build computers making sure we have terabytes of virtual real estate whether I use it or not and I clean his desk much to his yelp and give him boxes of lysol wipes. Never did we ever gage the value of the gifts we gave other. It is always the thought that counts.

Ahead of this year’s Valentine’s day, my husband brought me two things of the same kind. And was mighty proud for what he thought was the best of gifts. He also brought them in my favorite florescent and rustic colors. Their texture was exactly how I’ve always wanted and most effective in their use. Also, he ensured that they were easy on my hands. If that is not what takes for an amazing marriage, I am not sure what is truer than true anymore.

What makes our marriage work is the epitome of weirdness of our gifts. No, they are not exotic flowers or branded clothes but a pledge for a forever clean home. A pair of brooms. “We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness–and call it love–true love.” ~ Robert Fulgham. By the way, I got flowers too after I kept saying, “Happy Valentine’s Day” each time I used the brooms, which is many times more than any man can withstand.

Real Existence

In obscure search for your soul
I set on a vonage into the world
Who knows what’s in store
When a reason to live awaits
Those that hurt are left behind
Duty to menage forgotten in time
Blame clouded many great minds
Some did an ode to the vixen too
Who knows what came upon
As I walked into that real existence
It was never a choice to die
Because I chose to live for you….