The story of us…to be continued

I’m still bathing in the afterglow of a memorable weekend spent in the company of dear friends and family, celebrating our marriage.  For me, it was a celebration of something much more precious – our relationship. After all, we’ve been best friends for twelve years and married for nine. So, what’s the big deal, many of you may wonder. It is a big deal to me. Especially in a world where more time is spent updating our Facebook status than working on real relationships. And especially in a world where having a huge number of Facebook ‘friends’ is more fashionable than ‘relationships’.

Why? Because any relationship worth its salt requires hard work. There are no shortcuts, no ‘buttons’ to click that will tell you what to do next, no three-minute guides to success. You got to figure it out for yourself and you’ve got to make it count.

So, when I look at us, I can’t help but feel a wee bit overwhelmed. Where did all the years go? The memories of our marriage day are still fresh. The smell of fresh earth after the rain (yes, the rain Gods had decided to shower us with blessings and I happily took it as an auspicious sign), of jasmine in my hair, my red sari that I wore in traditional Bengali style, my husband looking the quintessential Assamese in his creamy white pat (pronounced ‘paat’) silk dhoti-kurta; both of us equally nervous as we walked around the sacred pyre. I still remember staring deeply into the fierce flames, the priest’s chants a pleasant drone in the background when my husband gently slipped his hand in mine and held on tightly. I felt reassured; I was not alone in this.

And so the journey began. Nine years, and countless moments later, it has been quite a journey. Yes, we’ve had our moments. The bad, and the good. We’ve fought, we’ve raved and argued to the point of sheer exasperation (hmm, those are the times when I’ve actually forgotten why I loved the man in the first place!). In retrospect, none of it really mattered, except that we came back stronger maybe. What stayed were the good times; like the time we bought our house, or made our first documentary, or got that promotion, or even better, had our son.

For my part, I think some days we learned to just let go, and other days we learned to hold on.  Some days were spent in considerable silence, while others in pleasant, mindless chatter. There have been times when my husband has made me want to be a better person; and then, there have been times when I have just wanted to bang my head against the wall (or bang whatever I can get my hands on! )

What’s made this bittersweet journey possible is two things. One, the ability to constantly stimulate each other’s minds, our thoughts and feelings. Of late, it’s been uncanny how often we’ve been able to read each other’s minds…scary yes, but comforting nonetheless. Two, is my firm belief that after I’ve peeled away the layers, somewhere at the very core of our relationship is a simple, uncomplicated, honest-to-goodness friendship.  I try to never lose sight of that!

And till we have that, the journey ahead should be just as amazing.  I’ll toast to that!

Are we raising a generation of sissies?

Are we mollycoddling our kids? Are we raising a generation of sissies? I seem to be running into these questions everywhere I look. I won’t deny it: The first one has been plaguing me almost every single day of my mommy hood; as I am sure it has bothered many others of my kind. In fact, this parenting debate is almost cyclic (not to mention endless which is why I choose not to enter it though I have a ready reckoner for it – you’ll find it at the end of the blog); with each generation lamenting on how pampered (or not) their progeny is! My parents never miss an opportunity to chide me when they see me ‘pampering’ my toddler (Gosh! Are you still feeding him? Why, by the age of three you could eat an entire meal by yourself. Or, he goes to an air-conditioned school? What! You never even had an air-conditioner at home till you were sixteen!) Hmm. Well, hold your horses folks. The second question had me equally worried. After all, the millennials are the ‘I, me, myself generation’. Cut me some slack, or rather, cut our kids some slack. There is no reason to get paranoid. There is one thing we all seem to be missing out. It’s called evolution.

So what if my son goes to an air-conditioned school? He was after all, born in an ‘air-conditioned’ hospital, sleeps in an ‘air-conditioned’ room and rides in an ‘air-conditioned’ car, and what the heck, even plays in an ‘air-conditioned’ mall! He was born in an air-conditioned world – that is his environment. Just as my generation was born to a world of air-coolers (desert coolers, as they are popularly called). Yes, I know there is this whole debate of what will it do to his immunity, but I’m not worried. We adapted to air-coolers (and we were not worse off for it). He will adapt to his ‘air-conditioned’ world. And as far as feeding him is concerned, well, that is something I love to indulge in (he can eat by himself and is a pretty independent three-year-old otherwise) as that is the only time I can get his undivided attention and talk to him about his day.

Now, coming back to the point….My generation was born in pre-liberalization times.  My parents and grandparents’ generations (the baby boomers) were still reeling from the affects of the world wars. Austerity was the need of the hour. It was only in the late eighties and nineties that liberalization and a fast growing great Indian middle class catapulted the Indian economy to new heights.  The nineties and the new millennium saw consumerism in all its fine glory; and our kids are reaping the benefits of that growth.  So yes, they are inundated with an ‘excess’ of everything, even options. (I can almost hear my mother’s voice scolding me as I write this…we never had options, you had few but kids today have too many! They are spoilt for choice….) Alright, they do have plenty of choices today; like other things that is good or bad, depends on how you choose to look at it. I choose to look at the good.  It’s made them better decision makers; they are smarter, wiser, sharper, more focused and definitely know their mind. And because they have options, they are sticking around. (Unlike my generation, also known as Generation X, or the baby boomers, who chose to immigrate westward in search of ‘better options’.  In fact, when I became a Facebook member, I was surprised to find almost sixty percent of my schoolmates settled in foreign lands!) They are compassionate, willing to make a difference and ready to take chances. That takes guts.  I know many young kids around me who have quit high-paying jobs (or simply not taken one) to work with the underprivileged, or in the rural heartlands or simply follow their dreams.  (According to Fortune Magazine ‘fifty-four percent of America’s millennials either want to start a business or have already started one and 46% of Gen-Y wants to start a business in the next five years, while 35% of Gen-X and only 21% of baby boomers do.)

So, we must be doing something right, even if it means a little bit of pampering.  Love, as I know it, never hurt anyone.  (With my three-year-old, it works wonders; not yelling or ranting but love and gentle reasoning.)  Kids today, much like the generations before them, will face their own challenges; they will face fear, know pain and heartbreak and loss.  And they will cope, I am sure of it. Love will only make the journey easier.

My ready reckoner:

Respected Teacher,

My son will have to learn I know that all men are not just, all men are not true.

But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero;

that for every selfish politician, there is a dedicated leader.

Teach him that for every enemy there is a friend.

 It will take time, I know; but teach him, if you can, that a dollar earned is far more valuable than five found.

 Teach him to learn to lose and also to enjoy winning.

 Steer him away from envy, if you can.

Teach him the secret of quiet laughter. Let him learn early that the bullies are the easiest to tick.

Teach him, if you can, the wonder of books.. but also give him quiet time to ponder over the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, and flowers on a green hillside.

In school teach him it is far more honourable to fail than to cheat.

Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if every one tells him they are wrong.

Teach him to be gentle with gentle people and tough with the tough.

Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when every one is getting on the bandwagon.

Teach him to listen to all men but teach him also to filter all he hears on a screen of truth and take only the good that comes through.

Teach him, if you can, how to laugh when he is sad. Teach him there is no shame in tears. Teach him to scoff at cynics and to beware of too much sweetness.

Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest bidders; but never to put a price tag on his heart and soul.

Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob… and to stand and fight if he thinks he’s right.

Treat him gently; but do not cuddle him because only the test of fire makes fine steel.

Let him have the courage to be impatient, let him have the patience to be brave. Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself because then he will always have sublime faith in mankind. 

This is a big order; but see what you can do. He is such a fine little fellow, my son.

Abraham Lincoln’s Letter to his son’s teacher.

Hey man, sing me a song…

It’s a hot, hot summer morning. There is a strange stillness in the air; an uneasy calm. Despite the lazy rhythm of the morning, I feel an inexplicable restlessness in me.  A restlessness that is becoming hard to shake off, even harder to fathom. I just couldn’t put a finger on it. Maybe it is the mind-numbing heat. Maybe it’s the fact that I am suffering a writer’s block. Or maybe it is just one of those days (I’m sure we all have them).

Midday. The sun shows no mercy. I am just about to resign myself to a state of utter languidness when I hear it. The faint, yet unmistakable, strumming of a guitar.  And the sweet, sweet sound of music. Ah, I closed my eyes, and let it seduce me. As I strain to hear the words, I can already feel the edginess easing. That is just what I needed perhaps. Or rather, longed for desperately. In fact, it is after a long, long time that I had heard a song (new, that is) that had managed to stir my senses, just about.  It is what inspired me to pen this blog.

Music has always been the chicken soup for my soul. (as I am sure it is for most people) From the soothing lullabies of my infancy, to the cacophonic sounds of my youth, music was always an intrinsic part of life. I consider myself lucky to have been born at a time when the songs of the previous decades (50s and 60s) were still young and carried well over to the next generation. I (and most of my generation) was only too happy to borrow from my parents, and even my grandparents, come to think of it! Then, came the sixties and seventies with music that just “played into our lives”. Songs/albums that you could “carry with you till you died”.  In the words of Elton John, “In the 60s and 70s, you could buy 12 albums a week that were all classics.” There was something magical about that. And then there were the anthems. Almost each generation had one. A song that defined who they were, and was truly their own. Songs that made you sit up and look at the world around you, or the one within. Songs that made you happy, or sad.   Songs that acquired cult status and became classics in their own way.

Interestingly, the Rolling Stone magazine’s latest compilation of the Top 100 Best Selling Albums of all time (if at all indicative) does feature these very songs/albums. Curiously, the newest album on the list is perhaps U2’s Achtung Baby (1991)! So, does that mean that the past two decades (almost one generation) has not produced a single song/album worthy enough to be given cult status? Are we so devoid of inspiration? Or is there is nothing to talk about: no stories to tell, no pain to share, no heartbreaks to get over, no love to find, no wars to win, no causes to rebel for? I find that hard to believe.

As I look at my toddler son – happily tapping his feet to Bob Marley’s Is This Love – with much amusement, I really hope this generation, (for their own sake), finds their song soon. That they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. Till then, they can borrow one of ours.

I leave you with this song by Slice called Five for Fighting:

There was a time a long, long time ago

Chevys and levees played on the radio

No cell phones, just 20,000 lights

Swaying on a Saturday night alright

Can you imagine that slice of time

Rock and roll was young

People stood in line

To hear music that played into their lives

That you could carry till the day you die

Hey man, sing me a song

When we were everyone

We were more than just a slice of American Pie

Have you read my blog today?

300 million little USA’s

Your doorstep is just a click away

We’ll get together one of these days…