Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Skirting the Gray Areas

                                         Grey hair - stock photo         
                                                      Courtesy Shutterstock

      " Ma! How can you do this to me!"
     That was my teen hollering in shock after a little talk we had. Before you jump to conclusions and think of this as another one of those teenage battles, let me make it clear, that is not the case. I was not snooping on her oh-so-long! telephonic conversations. Well I admit I parked myself on the bed with a book, after all the phone was in MY room! And it had nothing to do with me casually glancing at her Whatsapp threads in her friends chat group. In her presence. I don't believe in doing anything behind people's back. Any way what was her 'dp' doing on MY phone?( Whatever 'dp' stands for'...)

    Space. The point that I am trying to make is that of  'space', as in MY space. The experts and counselors will wax eloquently of how adolescents need theirs. That they develop this need to take their own decisions and live with them. That a gentle guidance is all they need to check their impulsive behaviour. Bottom line is when the 'teens' talk keep your eyes and ears open but your mouth shut.And when their mothers talk they can keep their eyes and ears shut but their mouths open. There, I've digressed. I am not talking about 'teen' issues here. I am attempting to coherently put together MY issues. Even the matter within my cerebrum refuses to recognise ME as an individual. And to help it to focus on ME, I've decided to type the personal pronoun in the upper case.

    Having explained that, I bring MYSELF to focus on what I intended to capture in this post in the first place. So, this little conversation that elicited the over the top response, was about MY decision pertaining to MY few strands of hair growing reluctantly from MY scalp threatening to fall off at the slightest pretext. My decision had nothing to do with her mane or it's consequences on her growth as an individual.You don't think so? There, I knew you would be sympathetic towards the next generation and so the transcript is ready. The conversation went like this:

   " You know Ma, I saw Rhea's mother yesterday. She had come to pick Rhea after school. She was so pretty and young!" reported young missy Whatsapping her friends with My phone, a couple of hours after spending six full hours with them at school.
    That casual observation reminded me of my mother's casual remarks punctuated with a sigh, twenty six years back.
   " Sharmani's daughter, Matu is such a darling. She is good in her studies and in the evening waters their plants and makes hot tea and snacks for her mother!"  Been there and seen that, young lady. You don't follow your granny's footsteps and brow beat Me.
    " Well, Rhea's mother must be one of those lucky lot who must be making regular visits to the parlour with  just a few servants to do the needful back home..."
  The words came out before I could swallow them.
   " I was just saying it. Why are you feeling offended?" she said looking deeper into the phone.
    " Offended? Why should I be offended? I am happy to be Me. Anyway, just to let you know  I've decided to stop hennaing my hair from now on"
    " Hmmm...Good!You could try the INOA. I've heard it is good. Even Charu's mother swears by it" nodding as though Charu's mother was the last word in these matters.
    " No. I mean, I no longer want to colour my hair. I've had enough of this circus"  said I feeling like a defiant teenager aware of a role reversal taking place.
   " You mean, you want to walk around with those gray hair showing..." she looked up incredulously from MY phone putting her Whatsapping on hold.
   " Yessss missy! Finally I shall be free of this burden of sitting for three hours with that muck on my head!"
   " But they are not few. They are many, Ma!"
   "So? I don't mind them. They are here to stay and flourish. I already feel liberated by it's mere thought!" I said closing my eyes and savouring MY impending future of glory. That's when she hollered.
   " MA! How can you do this to me!"
   " You?What have you got to do with this?"
   " It has everything to do with me. What will people say? Ma, I am just thirteen!"
    It took me a few minutes to understand her issue with MY decision.
   " Oh that! You are afraid people will snigger at my looks which in turn may embarrass you? So go tell them that's how your mother looks" I said gleefully.
   " Or better still tell them your mom married at an old age and that your father married a much older woman!"
  This liberated feeling let a giggle escape that turned into a guffaw.I was loving this. Young missy couldn't believe what she was hearing. She gave up on me and went back to her, sorry, MY phone.

     And so I went around attending to my chores, errands, chauffeuring, chaperoning duties with the gray making it's appearance, emboldened by the leverage it received from MY decision, breaking out from the darker shades. I felt free and if I may use the word 'cool' till my mother made her annual visit.

   " Errr...Is every thing alright? You look hassled and well... ahem...matured."
   " I am perfectly fine, Ma. What made you think so? I can polish of this plate of momos without batting an eyelid. The security guard at the gate seven floors below can still hear me yell at the kids..."
    " Your gray hair is showing."
   " Yes, and I am letting them 'show' themselves"
   There we go again. To save you from the agony of going through it a second time I will jump to the concluding part.
  " I am in my forties Ma. Forty two to be precise. There I've said it. If my hair is graying so be it."
  " Well, if you are graying your hair I cannot go around with mine in black..."
  I looked at her fully comprehending her predicament.
  " You can always tell people I reacted to some aspirins or maybe a cough syrup that turned MY hair gray..."
  " Are you sure? What about our son-in-law? He looks, well...younger..."
  " Good for him."
  A pause. A long pause...
   "No, you are right. I've always been tired of tinting my hair. I should also let them show their true co.lours. In fact...sometimes... I've been thinking of chopping them short too!" she said wistfully.
  " So what's stopping you?"
 " I don't know how will I look at this age..."
 " You won't know till you have tried it. And besides if you don't like it they can always grow back."
 "Hmmm... but how will I go for a wedding in my finest mekhela sador without the khupa at my nape?"
 " Will the wedding of ABC stop if you go in your finest mekhela sador without the khupa at your nape?"

   Black, auburn, brown, burgundy,coffee, blue tint etc etc - That's one choice lesser I've to make in this world full of difficult multiple options. Like a late blooming adolescent I've wrenched My space to take My decision without a thought for it's repercussions.While the growing breed of unclejis and auntyjis in the neighbourhood park rub their knuckles off in their desperate attempt to turn their whites into blacks, I welcome each gray as a laurel earned. After all there has to be some substance when I mouth " yeh baal dhoop mein safed nahin hue hai..."    To cut a long story short,  I have embraced the gray areas that I had been skirting around for a while. And if the gray strands on the scalp camouflage the absence of the gray matter within who is complaining! :)




Friday, 7 February 2014

A Letter From A Chinki


Dear People Of Mainland

     Let's have a heart to heart talk. Honestly and sincerely unless you want to continue living in a vicious environment where each act of aggression provokes retaliation. This is not going to let anyone exist peacefully let alone co-exist amicably. 

   So what is it about  us that intimidates you? What is it that puts the fear of such magnitude that it compels you to take an offensive? Is it merely our 'different looks' or our liberal upbringing and culture that benumbs you with shock that there could be a possibility of a society where boys and girls are treated equally? That it challenges your sole chauvinistic prerogative? Or our 'looks' remind you of those ruthless raiders across the mountains ages ago and whose fear is ingrained in you?

    We are a people who have always been gentle and content, for our land and forests had given us enough. Down the ages we have never really had to till the land like most of you have had to struggle with the impregnable soil and harsh climate. Is this frustration and fear so deep rooted  in you that it brings out the aggressor  to see a 'threat' where there is none? Of an 'outsider' appearing to take your share. No, seriously I am trying to understand the cause of your vitriolic attacks on us because there has to be solution. 

    It is human instinct to be wary of strangers. Granted. But does it justify your pathetically juvenile prank of tying the leash around a girl's boot? So you got the kicks watching those helpless girls screaming their guts out with terror while you guffawed on the sides? Have you tried the same stunt on yourself ? How many Nidos have you ridiculed, taunted and then beaten them into submission or worse still, death? How many Reingamphys are yet to be molested, raped and killed before you understand that they are all humans just like the your mas and behens? But is there any point in recalling these horrendous incidents? I guess not, for you don't leave alone a Nirbhaya or the Dutch tourist and the countless others who forever live in the dark constricting shadows of your lust.

    Let me tell you why the Reingamphys and Nidos come out of their once content regions. It is for the very same reason that your ancestors pitched their tent here in Delhi many years ago. For a better livelihood. The Nidos. Reingamphys and the women like those, to whose boots you tied that damn leash with a dog at the end of it, have stepped out because there are no more opportunities and growth in their regions. Because they also aspire for and deserve a chance to a better life. Because there are not many decent educational and professional education institutes that can nurture their dreams. And also there are not many industries and employment opportunities that can provide for a decent life.

       Is it our fault that the Center decided to have the best of everything in the Mainland? The beleaguered people of this region are caught between a militancy gone awry, formidable military and corrupt politicians. Decades of insurgency that took its roots from the Center's apathy to the region's issues which are peculiar and bear no resemblance to those of the mainland, have left the people disillusioned.

   Do you know what AFSPA is? Have you ever lived in an atmosphere of fear and scrutiny 24x7 for the last 56 years? Do you know what it means to pass through manned barricades day in and day out to reach your own home? How could a mother sleep fitfully at night after a hard day's work knowing anyone can barge into her home to take her son or daughter away for "questioning"? Many times never to return. Do you know what it takes to breathe the air of this draconian, out-dated law that the British brought up to squash the Quit India Movement? It has no place in a democracy.

   And I am not blaming the Armed Forces. How can I, having seen the other side of the fence too? They did not bring the AFSPA into existence. They follow orders that come from the top.  Or else India would have been another Pakistan.They are the favourite punching bags or heroes whenever there is a natural or an internal crisis. But the stories of rape, violation of modesty, assault and plain simple gunning down abounds. Despite all this, we do send our boys and men into the Forces just like you do to guard the nation. But has the nation or it's people stood by us? They don't even know us. Majority of them still believes we live in forests and bamboo houses with wild beast for company, if not in China and Burma. Not that we mind living in these eco-friendly abodes. It is just that the inference drawn thereafter is laced with contempt and derision.

   Tossed between all this, is the youth of our region. Their mothers have fought many bitter battles relentlessly to salvage the next generation from being misguided and spiraling into the abyss of despair. Have you heard of the Meira Paibee or the Naga Mother's Association or Manipur Women Gun Survivor Network? You must listen to their heart rending stories. It is a mother's anguish and fear forming a gritty resolution to take the shaping of the future in her hands. Can you feel this painful desperation? It is the same as your mother's when she sees you being dragged away (maybe she never saw this happening to you), going wayward or not given a deserving chance and being wasted. It is the hope of a better future that drives these young men and women away from their homes.

    And it is these young men and women, sons and daughters whose dreams you trample upon and whose body you violate. Only because they are different from you.

   Can you, once and for all understand and get it in you that Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim are a part of India? Delhi belongs to all. We have as much right to it as you do. So stop this singling out and violence once and for all.

                                                                                                          A Proud Chinki