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Musings : #19

Power. And the sense of being powerful are two of the most utopian imaginations that makind has ever envisaged. Power gives us a tyrannical sense of authority and vice versa. For some that authority can be unworldly and blissful too. Then building upon the jurisdiction that we are vested upon, we begin our reign, much in solitude, much in omnipotence. We don’t think of the others. We don’t care the way others would think. We subjugate our foes in a sadistic manner. And the ones we are jealous of shall face the same. But can a powerful be jealous? Can the one who has won be envious of another? Is this omnipotence? Can this be called winning at all?

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12th of July was not much of a red letter day (except of course it is your birthday); but for the rest of us, it’s just another day and for me, it’s just my date night. Which, I decided to make special by actually dressing up, masking my face with make-up and attempting to bewitch my boyfriend. So I put on a little blue dress, matched it with a pair of star shaped earrings and a pair of blue wedges. To top it up, I applied light make-up: just some kohl, pink lipstick and brushed my cheeks with some foundation. Yet to successfully lower my spirits, my boyfriend didn’t even react (not that I wasn’t acclimatized to the reactionless, non-romantic charm of that guy whom I had hand-picked to be with). But that day, I had dressed up. And if not a “Wow! You look beautiful”, the least I was expecting him to say was “You look different”- thus proving that he had noticed, thus providing ample testimony to the fact that he still did care and most importantly, thus making me believe that I was beautiful.

Now do you get what I’ve been trying to say? If not, then let me explain further: the next morning, after a night of feeling hopeless about my looks and finally deciding to do away with my blue dress, a friend of mine complimented: “You looked good in that blue dress”. That was the “apple to my pie, straw to my berry”. And I’m keeping that dress!

‘I do look good after all’, was my first thought, even before I smiled a heartfelt thank you.

But that is not the way I looked any other day nor was I comfortable wearing the kohl (I couldn’t rub my eyes for the next three hours). I was just trying to fit in the utopian definition of beautiful. Make up is every girl’s birthright and I in no way am against it. But the question here is, are the ones who don’t choose to look fair, pluck eyebrows, and straighten hair ugly? Or maybe it is just us who have defined beauty as having perfect eyes, nose and lips. And it is also us who go out of our ways to get that approval from others despite knowing the fact that what others say doesn’t matter as long as I feel the same from within. Even the most gorgeous person might feel ugly from within. And even the one with a big mole over her lips may walk with her head held high emanating a beautiful aura.

Dear girls, we are all beautiful- with or without face paint, we are beautiful- keep this at the back of your mind- even while you nod to others kudos or denigration. We don’t need others to approve of our magnificence. We are beautiful being just us. As long as we can brighten up our surroundings and lighten up others, we are beautiful. Now if of course, plastic defines the very aura of being beautiful, then we all can be that, if we choose to be.

So next time you wear a dress and no one comments, don’t be disheartened: you’re beautiful.

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People say: “The best way to predict a future is to create it”. I probably knew it back then when I was a three year old. And henceforth, I tried and created as many avenues for me as possible: so that my future prediction would be just as easy (I do hope that you guys don’t mistake me to be some kind of a future predicting kid prodigy for I’m still confused with what I’ve become and what I’d still want to become). But back then probably I knew that ointments, balms and creams would later form an integral part of my life.

I used to be a pampered, covered –in- rose- petals kind of a delicate child. Cough and cold were my two “go-to” diseases. I would get affected by either at least 13 times in 12 months.

“That’s a common problem”, my pediatrician would say, “It is allowing her immune system to grow better”

My immune system was fighting- that much I realized later, but whether it was improving or not is a query that still persists.

And of course, if cough and cold decided to take a month off, to still make my day worse, I would either trip and scar my knees or probably just bang my head on the edge of a table and grow a globular swelling on my forehead.  Hence grew my obsession with band aids. But that’s a different story altogether. Right now I’m more focused on another similar episode of fever with cold.

It was the month of July, a week after my second birthday. I was down with a 100F. Maybe because I knew the enchanted upshots of antipyretics or because I was too reluctant to fuss, I was an obedient patient who would gulp down her dose of Paracetamol without my mom dad having to shove the syrup in my mouth. But for some reasons, I did not take my medicine that day.

A friend of dad’s showed up in the evening. While my parents chatted with our guest, my nanny dressed me up in an orange coloured, embroidered cotton kurta and pyjamas. She then carried me to the living room and placed me on the dining table which was at the far end of the room. That was her “ninja technique” of eavesdropping any conversation: she would make me sit there like I was some rare magnum-opus and pretend to play with me while I played with myself and she had her ears (not eyes) more towards the end where the sofas were placed and the guests sat.

We carried out the same tradition that day. But what she did not notice was that instead of playing with my yellow teddy bear, I held a tub of Vicks and was now opening the lid. She was reluctant. She let me play on my own, while she drowned in the extracts of the juicy topics that the guests were discussing. Sometimes, she would place her hand on my forehead, yet she did not notice that I was smearing the Vapourub on my body, part by part starting with the neck. By the time the guests were brought over to the dining area for dinner, I had already emptied the entire bottle and my body now ponged of menthol.

The bottle being empty, I had nothing more to play with so I dozed off. The next morning, I was covered in sweat with the oily kurta sticking to my body. My whole body reeked like those medicinal cough syrups. But my fever was gone. There was no sign of cough or cold. It was as if the fever never occurred. Mom and dad were shocked. But I wasn’t. I just got a new toy to play with: Vicks Vaporub. Who cared if it magically made my fever go away overnight?                  

Till today, this serendipity of mine rouses the same amount of laughter as it did back then. On the other hand, I wonder how I didn’t end up smearing the ointment on my eyes or gulping it down like a syrup. That would have been another piece of idiocy  to laugh at.

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In a kindergarten school, you will find varieties of kids: to one class will fall the notorious mischief makers, another will include the hyperactive extroverts who would always talk their opinions loud in the class and a third class which would accommodate a rather smaller crowd of kids who would look around and observe things in silence, who would shout their views  in their childlike brains and would actually be omnipresent without actually giving a slightest hint of their omnipresence; a rare class to which people like me would fall- the introverts.

As a kid, I was an introvert; and not the kind of introverts who would post “#iamanintrovert” on social media shouting out loud to the world of them being introverts, but the kind which by law fitted the definition of being “a shy, reticent person”, the kind which chose to sit alone watching the other children run around and play. Back then, I didn’t know if being that much of an outcast was much of an issue. Even now, I’m not sure if being an introvert is cool or a stigma; there would be one opinion less in the world and it, in no way would endanger the world of being turned upside down.

I had just this one friend who would, be it rain or shine, stay with me, as we walked around haunting the playgrounds like ghosts. She too was more or less like me: soft spoken, monosyllabled opinions. Introverts understood introverts, like two peas in a pod. We were inseparable. As the other kids played, we sat under the trees, sometimes talking, sometimes just chewing candies- two introverts made for each other.

Then, one fine day, she decided to play with her elder sister, two years senior to us. She invited me to join her too. I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea: two kindergarten students with a bunch of grade two hooligans. But needless to say, I had this one friend (one of the many side effects of being an introvert) so I reluctantly followed her.

The game was called “Catch the thief”, as simple game of one girl (the thief) being chased by a bunch of other girls (the police) – like a cat and mouse chase. With some kind of cross paper scissor done, my friend was chosen as the thief and I with the bunch of seniors was a police. The game began. I ran with the others, trying to match my steps with them. Imagine a cat running along with a crowd of lions. My dear introvert friend ran as hard as she could, with her little feet flapping along the floor. But can a cat outrun a pride of lions? One of the seniors caught hold of her pinafore. Another went after and blocked her front. I tried to run fast too and I did, I was close when I felt a sudden lateral drift and a bash from behind.

The next few seconds went in daze: I lay flat, pressed on the floor- as I felt a heavy weight get off my body, I struggled to get up- the first thing I saw was another senior tumbled sideways from my body, her mouth wide gaped- someone scream, cried- the nurse rushed toward me, pulled me up and pressed my nose with her thumb- every single student in the hallway gazed at me- she carried me to the sick room- still pressing my nose, she washed my face-and as she removed her thumb, there was blood, all over it- she bandaged the wounds on my knees. And only after she handed me a glass of water did I realize it was me screaming, crying. The water tasted metal, not just the glass of water that I drank but also the rivulets that dripped down my face, into my mouth. Something was bleeding. But what?

I missed the first class after break, lying on the sick bed. Later I was just an hour before school got over was I taken to my class. I was asked to sit back with my head titled behind, resting on my bag.

Dad was horrified to find me in a white shirt that was now vermillion from the collar.

Only at home did I come to know that I had broken my nose. That day was probably a turning point in my cosmetics. I had a nose with a deviation to the right. The nasal septum deviation, later blessed me with more problems of rhinitis and inferior turbinate hypertrophy.

I guess it was a part of growing up. A traumatic part, but still a part of my kid- life.

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I have never been a good dancer- to the public- I don’t dance. Even so, I do at home when I’m alone and my phone is playing my favorite song.

To the outside world, I dare not tap my feet as the music grooves. But secretly when I’m all by myself and there’s no one around to witness, I move my hips like Shakira.

But that’s me now (I’m quite embarrassed to accept the truth). What I’m about to tell you is one of the many queer incidents of my childhood which involves me, dancing and dhoti.

Bihu is a traditional festival of Assam which beyond the bars of religion, is more of a festival including dancing, singing and gift taking (vice-versa). Bihu dance is a popular form of dance which in the erstwhile Assam was performed in open fields- it being more or less of a singing duel between the male and the female dancers. While the females dressed themselves up in the colourful, embroidered floral Muga Mekhela-chadar, the males donned dhoti and Muga jackets.

For those of you wondering what dhoti is, it’s just a piece of white cloth, which when draped skillfully around your waist and legs, forms a kind of loose trouser which successfully protects your dignity…most of the times.

I studied in an all-girls school. So, due to the unavailability of boys, the rough and tough, tom-boys were picked up to play masculine roles in dramas and dances. Owing to my boy’s cut hair, I too had to once bear the baton and be a boy-dancer; that too in our Bihu festivities. Which obliquely implied me wearing dhoti, raising my hands in the air, partially flexing my hip and smiling at the beautiful girls flirtatiously. I was just a third grader then. And in my company were girls from first to tenth grade.

The next day, we had our quarterly exams in the morning and hence were instructed to bring along with us our costumes which we would eventually wear once our exams got over and the festivities started. However an overzealous friend of mine probably heard only the “costumes” part and hence, the next morning, she was seen, all clad in ochre and white, ready to dance any time soon.

Our exams got over and while we were all busy draping the white piece of cotton linen over our groin, the other girl was busy, sampling spraying her clothes with deodorant; while I on the other hand tied as many pins as possible to tighten the dhoti and finally sealing the upper part with a Gamosa.

And then the dance started off. We were supposed to dance as long as the Principal himself got tired of dancing and walked on the stage to conclude the program.

Fifteen minutes into dancing, the others around me pretty much forgot that we were dressed trans our gender and our wardrobes could malfunction any time soon. Especially that overzealous girl who would not stop shaking her hips, and her hands moved in sync with the music. On the other hand, my hips were more cautious of what was covering it.

The song tuned into a more upbeat one, more people chimed in to join the dance and as we kept jiggling our legs, the friend standing beside me all of a sudden crouched down, holding something. I looked at her. She was gathering something around her. And before I could realize, she stood up holding a piece of white, fidgeting with her dhoti. Maybe it was my conscience or something, for immediately I jumped right in front of her, covering as she draped it up, once again.

But for some reasons, she decided to quit for she pulled me by my dhoti, dragging me out, into the backstage. As she did that, I prayed, hoping against hope that my dhoti would not meet with the same fate. Once out of people’s eyes, I grimaced at her. She let go of me, changed herself into a pair of trousers and I sighed as I watched the principal walk up to the mic and conclude the dance show.

I sat there, thanking my stars and my pins for not letting me meet with the same fate while at the back of my mind, I decided: Next time, I shall dance only after knowing the costume for it.     

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Happy Holi 2019

Holi is the festival of colours, which despite having the mythological victory- of- good-over-evil connection, is now more reputed as the festival of fun, joy and rain-dancing.

As a kid, it was my favorite festivity which would begin with me waking up in the morning; carefully taking out the coloured powders which me and dad would have raided from the roadside markets the previous evening; getting dressed up in a white frock and walking about with my neighborhood buddy splashing colours on anyone who would catch our glimpse. Before frolicking around, I and my friend would both be served a special flavoured milk and ladoos. Then we were allowed to run about till noon.

Fifteen years later, I am reminded of an incident which was obliquely related to Holi and was a total fiasco on my part.

It was a Sunday morning. Back then, when I had just started schooling, I had no idea when my school was closed and when it was open. All that mattered to me was that somedays, I would be woken early in the morning and other days I would be allowed to sleep till late.

I sat with my father watching the morning news headlines- I had the least idea what the reporter read on the television screen- but then I heard that lady in black utter “holi”day.

‘What did she say?’ I asked my dad.

‘Holiday’ he replied.  For some reasons, my mind decided to listen to only “holi” of “holiday”. I was aghast. Today was Holi and I was kept in the dark. We did not even go shopping for colours yesterday evening. It was already ten, only two hours till our curfew.   

‘Today is holi! Where are my colours?’ I hollered. In vain did my parents try to explain that it was just a Sunday for in the end, me and my determination of a four year old was unshakable.

And hence it was, my self-made off-season Holi in the scorching summer of May.

I ran out with bags full of the remnant colours of the last ‘actual’ holi. That obviously followed me being mad at mom and dad for not enlightening me with the upcoming holi owing to which I was devoid of any new colours. I was lucky enough to have watched the morning news which edified me with the “holi”day.

I waited in my garden, sprinkling some gulal on the bushes. An hour passed by. There was no sign of anyone, let alone my next door neighbor who could be seen gulping down a glass of milk in his front porch.

Milk- that special ‘Holi’ milk.

I waved at him. He waved back with a grin.

Come over, I gestured.

Why?, he maimed back.

I threw a handful of red powder in the air, hoping he would realize that it was already noon and we were missing out on a lot of pranks.

He looked at me quizzical.

Come over here with your water gun and bag of colours, I signaled.

He waved his palm at me, went in and came out, still wearing a black T-shirt, with no water gun.

I grimaced at him,

‘What’s up?’ he asked.

Holi Hai!!!’ I smeared his face with a multitude of colours and he yelled back,

‘What holi? Today is not holi?’

His words had no effect on me, just like my mom or dads. This time I attacked him with my water gun.

He tried his best to explain that it was just a Sunday and no ‘Holi’ but in vain. My mom happened to pass by. She knew I had gone too far. Therefore, she pulled me in, right in front of dad’s eyes, ran out and apologized to my dear neighbor then came inside to give me a good dressing down.

That was a really important day in my life for that was the day I realized that “holiday” and “Holi” are literally two different words and a mix-up could be fatal. Otherwise, every other holiday would have been my festival of colours.

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We are already in the mid of December, gearing up for the two remaining festivities of the year: Christmas and New Year’s Eve, both of which will be the swan song of 2018. And the gusto of the people can be very well witnessed from the way the city has been lit up for the two year ending celebrations. Fairy lights hanging from atop the apartments and buildings adorning the concrete manors which no matter how gigantically built would otherwise rarely grasp anyone’s attention. Christmas trees prettify the entrance of malls, decorated with shimmering streamers, stars and Christmas cheer. Beneath this would be cardboard boxes wrapped in gift papers which, even though empty or just kept for show would capture the eyes of many children. Pastry shops would begin displaying their Yule Logs and cupcakes.
And, if we are lucky enough, we may even spot Santa. Our beloved Father Christmas, Santa Claus has been a childhood fascination of almost every one of us. The jolly, pot-bellied, white-bearded man who obliquely was responsible for magically transforming mischievous kids into angels during the month of Christmas. As a toddler, most of us have prayed wholeheartedly to Santa hoping for him to grant us our desired gifts. Some of us have probably even stuck a sock out from our beds anticipating some Christmas cheer. Many of us got surprises in the morning. As a child, Christmas was all about chocolates, cakes, gifts and joy. In those days of ignorance, when we had fairly little idea of peace, it was a joyous celebration during our winter vacations. We would hope against hope for all our wishes to come true that angelic night.
As a kid, I remember decorating a guava tree with pebbles stuffed in coloured paper. To finish up my masterpiece, I would hang a fairy light over it and the entire tree would liven up in the evening. And the next morning I would wake up to find packets of chips and chocolates hanging from the tree branches. That’s how my Santa would bless me with (Of course I did find out the identity of who ‘he’ or rather, ‘they’ were, later).
But those were before digitalisation took place. Even now in the days of #Christmas #Celebration, I do hope to see kids decorating Christmas trees in their gardens with full energy, lighting candles to mark the birth of Jesus Christ. In this age of internet and having the world in the grasp of your palms, let us hope that the purity of our kids is left untouched and they still believe in the fatherly figure Santa who would bring gifts to them only when they listen to their mammas and play good. Let’s not deprive the kids of this generation with that sense of surprise that this festival boasts of. Rather than the showbiz on social media, let’s truly evoke the blessings of the almighty as the year ends. After all, Christmas is all about celebrating innocence, peace and unity.

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