Saranga Dariya

Before you read what I have to write, you must know that I speak the Telugu dialect from Telangana. And for virtue of being raised in Hyderabad, my spoken Telugu is an amalgamation of Urdu, the convent English from school education, and of course my mother tongue, ‘the’ Telangana Telugu. My parents were born and raised in remote villages in Warangal district. Our family is a typical representative of rural way of life. We never made any effort to exude any popular dialect sophistication and my mother says I am still a poster child for our indigenous dialect.

When Shekar Kammula’s song “Saranga Dariya” was released I was excited for his continuous undertakings to depict and glorify Telangana. Lyrics and music seem to have invaded households and resulted in gazillion covers and dance videos of some amazing dancers (not the actress) gyrating to energetic moves. I have not stopped tapping since it has been released a month ago.

Even though this particular song was an adaptation of folklore, the lyricist took creative liberties to make it palatable for urban and commercial taste. In his interviews he mentioned that upper class lyricists and singers leave their ‘signatures’ unlike God who does not leave his signature on his creations. And that folk songs are up for grabs by anyone. Hence this particular song was readily distorted and destroyed based on his whim and fancy. That is exactly why perhaps the lyricist chose to retain some parts of the original song for which I am particularly very grateful. Not.

There are few instances where words have been truncated into forced rhyme. In some instances it seemed that the lyricist is objectifying the folds of the waist of a woman. Upon more thought I was in awe of his true machismo serenading the curves of pleasant sized women. In another stanza, he writes about strumming a ‘Sarangi’ without strings (indicating a girl) and forcing on her too. Just glad that the girl in his lyrics turns into a cannon. But again, why is he assuming that a girl should or could be forced or coarsed into something? Wonder if we should have more femlae lyricists who can find similar finer folds on the male body and objectify. Too bad we don’t have many in that part of the world which screams discrimination and gender inequity.

In the original song which was obviously not copywrited and sung by someone at a music competition where lyricist was a judge. It seems like he was reminded of the same song he heard when he was a child from his mother while it was passed onto the singer from her grandmother. And shocking that he waited ten year to ‘adapt’ and rewrite it. Glad that the original singer wrote to the Director to get credit where due and I hope she did get what she deserved.

What bothers me is that the original song had lyrics in tribute to an honorable woman who is known for her virtues and courage not just the beauty and definitely not the curves of her body or folds of her waist. Village women like my grandmother who worked hard in the fields, wore ‘raike’ or the blouses with knots. The yegenta is the Telangana melody for the color, magenta. There is a certain pride in such legacy and language which people like me are proud to be born into. And I have least tolerance for those that commercialize a piece of history.

You might wonder why I am perturbed now when such instances may have happened many times. I was hesitant to be a buzz killer. And, I never paid attention until I stumbled upon the original which epitomized vigor and soul that the jingle, twerks, grand picturization of the movie song and even a gracious actress may never do justice. This write-up is not about feminism or man-hounding but it is about preserving our culture; whether it is from the intrinsic parts of Telangana, Andhra or Rayalaseema or any language or it’s dialect. It is about, not corrupting age-old language sensibilities that only the creators have the right to amend.

(Posting the original song so you can appreciate and give it the same love as the movie song.)

#quotidianblessing #language #Telugu #Telangana

Conceal

Often called a waste or barren land
Worthless without a child or two
If you just see a sweet, smiling face
How would you know what they go through?
It is not a curse of the Gods
Perhaps just a matter of good luck
Time ticks by and it’s still the same
What can you ever say that’s awestruck?
Science has progressed just like the mind
While you make it all a big deal and tattle
Not aware of what it is like to be this
Who can feel the deep within battle?
Each time the needle pokes your skin
With no end in sight and the bloody oozes
Besides what is fed for your curiosity
Would you know the scars and bruises?
The deprivation is not easy either
Waiting through the emptiness and silence
Be cautiously optimistic is what’s told
When is it the right time for defiance?
Kindness may not come for some
But all we pray for is some blessings
There is nothing that we won’t do
To put an end to the hurt and sins
Adopt, await or surrogate say well-wishers
Only the heart knows what it really feels
Decisions bigger than any emotions
Why would you expose what they conceal?

This is my story battling with secondary infertility. Judge me all you want but it is not by choice, neither is it genetic nor because of being on the pill or sacrificing precious time for career. I am just one of the many. There is not much data out there and even fewer that empathize. Adoption is often provided as a favorite solution but it’s not for all. It may not define us, but we still try. Insurance sucks too to the most part no matter how good the job is. I still get jitters running into few people at social gatherings who read my palm to just tell me how my husband and I won’t be parents. If someone you know is struggling with primary or secondary infertility, support them. And if you can’t support them, just don’t say anything. A friend told me once, “There is a child in your life, one way or the other.” The time will come!!

I AM A BROWN GIRL

I am a brown girl
Unwanted from the start
If not for brave mothers
I’d be flushed in the toilet
Or slaughtered in honor
But I live despite the odds
There is nothing that favors
Yet, I keep defying all norms
Back where I come from
Lust and bigotry rule the roost
All my life I struggle to break
Those ruffian glass ceilings
Not knowing where I belong
But following my gut
With hope that I am worth
Then I’m married off
Either in a trade or of will
Still doesn’t mean much
As I continue to merely exist
No matter what I achieve
It’s beneath a man
When opportunity strikes
And I travel to far away lands
Dreams in my eyes
Holding my head up high
Sashaying into equality
Alas, it is the same here
Personality penalties galore
Social inequity all over
Glass cliffs give me the edge
Risking my life’s harmony
Told subtly I don’t deserve
Because my sisters need more
Confidence is called arrogance
Hard work goes unrecognized
Don’t know what turns the tables
Well, my turn may never come
Until I land below the red line
Which I perhaps never will
Born to take the roads
That’ve never been taken
Time will never be right
So, I will make it right now
Come what may
Future belongs to me
No matter what holds
Proud of who I’ve become
Honored how far I’ve come
To stand tall on my feet
Making my own destiny

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 are narcissistic but I’ve joined millions of women like me who are leading 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 me care when I needed to blossom, gave me that inner voice to keep my psychological buoyancy, and gave the repeated signs that my life means a lot more than what some reduced it to. Some have had it harder than I did. And I hope I can be that support for those who need me, exactly like I had those that were there in my hours of need.

We are surrounded by people that are not well-wishers. I realized that when someone congratulated me for a pregnancy I had miscarried despite knowing that mishap had occurred and very recently the same person mocked me for not dying of suicide. And my concern for my elderly mother is often a cheap target of abuse. But in any circumstance, I have become that seed that when people try to bury becomes a sapling. This is true not just for me, but anyone who is fighting battles that are not visible to the naked eye. I just seem to be that dot of survival along with those who ascertain positivity.

When I write these lessons learned in my life it is mostly to celebrate success of life and existence. And sometimes I have to impose on you, to see the growth from where I began to where I am today. From an era of body shaming, and wounds to my wisdom, to an epoch of grit, it has been a wonderful voyage. Who knows what the destination looks like but this path has been nothing less than nirvana. I always wondered why some women like my mother and girlfriends epitomize zen despite the mayhem caused to their mind and soul. I hope to be them some day soon. Their nonchalance is admirable.

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, or mostly unforgiving and never forgetting about the injustice that perpetuates to strong women. 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