If not now, when? If not here, where?  – 3

(Please read the previous two posts to get the background)

Let me apologise for the long delay in getting this post out. Even though most of you were not sitting at the edge of your seats desperately waiting for this post, I still apologise.

So sliding back to skiing…

On Monday, following my third Ski Saturday, after Rajiv and kids went off to tackle the outside world, I got down to tackling my inside world. Here, my armchair needs a special mention. This is my most favourite place to sit in the entire home and this is where I relax, recharge and sometimes get little sparks of enlightenment, especially after a few sips of C2H5OH.

I sat down with my tea (that’s my morning drink, not the other one) and began pondering about my stints, or should I say ‘stunts’ at the Ski slopes. If my family and friends were to associate one word with me, majority of them would associate me with energy or passion. Well, I didn’t actually conduct a survey or anything like that. This is just hearsay… as in, they say and I hear. However, on the slopes I was completely devoid of this energy and passion that is an inherent part of my being. My fear of height, slopes and speed, in all their glorious permutations and combinations, sucked out all this energy and passion out of me, leaving me high and dry, or rather, high and wet.

After this awareness, which was hardly a rocket science, I began exploring ways to get on top of it, at least conceptually to begin with. Here comes the great “Guru Google”. Sometimes I wonder that if today God wanted to understand the inexplicable behaviour of His own two-legged creation on earth, He would most definitely try out google, just to reconfirm His theory of where He went wrong…. phew, I got all my “H”s right!

After going through a gamut of exhausting literature, I finally came across this fantastic book called “Inner Skiing” by Tim Gallwey and Robert Kriegel (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1318881.Inner_Skiing). This book changed me overnight and I am not kidding. I do not say this about too many non-fiction books (simply because I haven’t read too many of them), but what would have probably taken me atleast two ski seasons to get over my fear, this book did in just a week, and that too right in the cozy comfort of my home, without lifting a finger (except to turn pages on kindle).

“Inner Skiing” gently untangled my thinking, caught in the web of fear, slowly, one knot at a time.

This book was not only full of meaningful explanations, examples and reasons of why someone like me was not able to make any progress in skiing, but it also had tips, tricks and tools to help me overcome them. For someone like me who is driven by logical analysis, this worked wonders. I would definitely and highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn skiing, or any other sport for that matter.

According to Inner Skiing, the reason that we don’t perform well is not that we don’t have the ability, but because we somehow interfere with it.

I have tried to highlight at the end of the post the basic concept that formed the core of this book, by picking up relevant texts from the book to make it clearer.

CAUTION: Due to the seriousness of the text, some of you may suffer unbearable jaw ache due to non-stop yawning or intensive pain in the neck due to constantly falling asleep in sitting posture. Nonetheless, I would still recommend you to have some painkiller ready and give it a go.

So, basically what Inner Skiing says is that there are two ‘Selfs’ within us.

Self 1 is the ego mind that wants to be in control all the time. It is the mind that is never quiet and is doing all the talking, judging, worrying and self-doubting. Self 1 thinks it knows the best and continuously instructs, criticises and doubts our capabilities.

On the slopes, Self 1 is the inner voice that keeps yelling:

“Bend your knees, stupid!

“That was a lousy turn. You didn’t edge enough.”

“You’ll never learn”

“You are too uncoordinated for this sport”

“This slope is too steep for you”

 

 

Self 2, on the other hand, is our physical body with all its inherent potential that is actually doing all the work. It is the basic intelligence that includes the central nervous system, the brain and other parts of our sensory apparatus we don’t even know about.  Self 2 learns by discovery…by actually ‘doing’ rather than by ‘thinking of doing’. It lets experience be the guide. It senses and observes, constantly picking up information and making appropriate adjustments in its actions and direction.

A baby, when he first attempts to walk, falls. But when he falls, his body absorbs all the details of the fall. Without any pre-conceived judgements or notions, his Self 2 automatically adjusts the next step he takes, making it longer or shorter, straightening the position of the head to correct for imbalance. As his body continues to receive more detailed information with each succeeding step, it is able to refine the new movement. Only because his Self 1 is quiet, is his Self 2 able to feel all these subtle sensations, and only then does any learning take place.

So in a nutshell, the only way to learn is to quieten Self 1, to be present, have complete confidence in Self 2 and let Self 2 do its job. 

*******

So my friends, that’s what I did the next Saturday. I became more present. Instead of thinking that I might fall before actually falling, I quietened my Self 1 and just skied. I fell when I fell, not before that, and definitely not in my mind. And as I became more present and mindful, I gave my Self 2 the chance that it deserved, to absorb the experiences of my movements and falls. Automatically, without my knowledge, my body began correcting and adjusting itself to this new way of motion. And for the first time, I truly began to enjoy skiing with all its ups and downs. So much so that some of my group mates began noticing the significant leap of improvement in my skiing and in my attitude.

What happened to the fear of the slopes? It got reduced, but it was still very much there…it just took another form. Instead of looking at the slopes with fear, I began looking at it as a challenge. And thus I crossed that thin line to join on the other side, the rest of my fellow learners, who looked at skiing as an activity filled with fun, excitement and accomplishment.

Cherry on the icing on the cake… I won the gold medal in the final race in the beginner’s group.

Enough said!

A Note to the Teacher

ACHTUNG!!! ACHTUNG!!!

As you would have noticed, this post is a deviation from the “If Not Now…” series. 

In the last couple of weeks, I have rediscovered the joy of writing letters. Of course these letters were written in the form of an email, but without any of the shortcuts that are so typical of the electronic medium. The letter that I am sharing below is something I wrote yesterday after attending the “Curriculum Morning” at school.

To give you all some background… In India, my sons studied in The Shriram Millennium School in Noida. It is one of the top schools in Noida, with a good mix of academics and extra-curricular activities. In Munich, my children go to an International school. The International Baccalaureate system gives tremendous emphasis on holistic learning based on Inquiry, Action and Reflection, where children are compulsorily required to take a lot of ownership. According to me, it is one of the best ways of making children learn and to prepare them for the future. My younger son, Aahaan, who is in Grade 3 has made tremendous progress under this teaching method. However, I felt that my elder son Tanay, who has always been one of the top performers in all his classes in India,  took the easy route in the IB school, since there are no exams (till grade 7) and not much academic pressure vis-a-vis Indian schools. I wrote this letter to communicate this concern to the Deputy Principal.

********

Dear Mr XXXXX,

Thank you for the information and clarifications provided in today’s MYP2 Curriculum evening. I am glad that in terms of shared values, the school, and both Rajiv and I, are mostly on the same page.

Today, I had raised a concern regarding motivating children to do better. You had very rightly pointed out the importance of ‘Intrinsic Motivation’ as compared to ‘External Motivation”. Belonging to the generation of “Rat-racers”, and experiencing the brunt of achieving a finite dose of success with infinite dose of stress, I can not agree more, that putting undue pressure on children to perform academically is not the right way of moulding them for the future.

However, I also believe that being content in life has nothing to do with being mediocre. One can be content and still be the best. As new borns and toddlers teach us everyday, each individual has an ability to be better than their previous selves. The keyword being “their previous selves” and not “others”. And I think this is the key difference between a rat-race and real growth.    

But the question is that amidst so many distractions, how do we ensure that children are intrinsically motivated to better themselves. How can we as teachers and parents ensure that they experience the joy of travelling this path of continuous evolution, where each step results in Self motivation to take the next higher step.

I can only talk about my son Tanay (Grade 7C). My worry for him is not about his grades, but the fact that I am seeing him slowly getting comfortable with Mediocrity. I know what he is capable of, but seeing him settle for half of what he is capable of is what concerns me. It’s as if he has lost self motivation and drive to do his best, and is becoming content with a half-hearted effort.

I DO NOT want more tests or homework to push him. What I would really like for him is that he realises his own potential and makes an honest effort to achieve that.

While we as parents continue to encourage him (and sometimes push him because of frustration), I would really like the support of school in this endeavour.

Looking forward to hearing your views, suggestions, action and ideas on this.

Thank you and Best Regards,

Asmita Rajiv   

***********

The reason I am sharing this letter is because I think, irrespective of the kind of schools, many of us, parents, find ourselves in similar situation. In case you share this boat with me, please feel free to use the above letter in order to share your concerns with your respective school.

Bis Bald.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen,

Asmita Rajiv 

If not now, when? If not here, where? – 2

(Please read the previous post to get the background)

So, there I was, walking towards my ski instructor, well adorned with my paraphernalia and embellished by the fall that had hurt my self confidence more than my limbs. He took us to a beginners area to teach us the basics. It was a rather flat area where for the first time ever I put on my skis and felt my feet losing their power over movement. The ski instructor demonstrated to us how to practice walking, sliding, jumping and braking. A non-beginner might dismiss this off like one shrugs off specks of dandruff from their collars. But neither was the snow anywhere close to dandruff and nor was I anywhere close to a non-beginner.

So to me, it seemed like a never-ending series of unattainable tasks. How unattainable you ask? Extremely, I say. When we were practicing walking, I was sliding and falling; when we were practicing sliding, I was only falling and when we were practicing braking, I would continue sliding till my fall broke my motion. Oh and I forgot about jumping…are you kidding me, as if I would even try something like that!

Long story short, I just could not get myself to do a simple act of moving a few meters without going down. I was more horizontal than vertical. I loved the snow so much that all I wanted to do was to lay down in its cold loving embrace. But my instructor wouldn’t let me. He would keep urging me to go on. In his heavily German accented English, he would have a lot of useful tips for my other better group mates. But for me, he had only a few things to say:

“Asmeeeta !!! Get up!”

“Asmeeeeeeta !!! Don’t be so stiff, loosen up!”

“Asmeeeeeeeeta!!! Don’t lean back!”

“Asmeeeeeeeeeeta!!! Look where you are going!”

You guessed it right…each sentence brought a higher level of concern and with it, a greater level of exasperation. My moves and falls were so rhythmic and coordinated, that together, they were orchestrating a dance of their own. I think a keen observer could have predicted my next fall based on the number of steps I took forward. While it was a no brainer and an effortless task for me to fall down, but getting up from the snow was a different ball game altogether. How should I explain getting up after the fall….Hmmm, I don’t know…I never climbed Mount Everest before!

After about two and a half hours of frustration (mind you, only mine and my instructor’s…others were doing just fine), we had our lunch break. It was such a relief. It was as if a thirsty person in the Sahara desert gets a chilled Weißbier, or a geek lost in the middle of nowhere gets a free wifi.

Second half was no better than the first, only this time, we went to an actual slope. Two of our group mates were promoted to the higher level group. Since ours was the beginner’s group, they could not send me back to any lower group. Well, there was a beginner’s kids group, but they were so much better than me! So the instructor and the rest of the group mates were stuck with me. I don’t think my group mates minded me though. They were really sweet and nice, and moreover, looking at how I was doing, they must have been feeling really really proud of themselves.

The next three Saturdays were more or less a carbon copy of each other, give or take a few. I made some progress, but nothing worth mentioning. There were a couple of facts that I learned about myself:

  1. Me and frictionless surfaces don’t go together
  2. Me, frictionless surfaces and slopes were my worst nightmare ever
  3. Me, frictionless surfaces, slopes and speed were any alchemist’s worst nightmare ever

Then there was this T-bar. To put mildly, I absolutely, decisively, conclusively, unconditionally, hated it, detested it, loathed it, despised it and abhorred it. It’s a disgrace to the skiing community, if not to the entire human race. I fail to comprehend how these developed countries still continue to have such ancient means of transportation, and that too after charging us so much money for skiing.

I think I should just stop ranting now and explain what a T-bar is. Simply put, it is an inverted T-shaped lift bar that takes the skier up the hill. To get on to it, one has to precisely position oneself with skies positioned parallel, one has to stand with knees slightly bent and as the T-bar approaches, hold onto it and lean against it gently without putting too much weight or sit on it and simply let it pull you upwards. OMG, for me that’s too many things to remember. To cut a long story short, I simply lost count of how many times I fell from the T-bar.

Every time I fell, the entire ski lift would be stopped for safety reasons, so that I could safely get out of the way to prevent any further injuries to myself. To save me from the embarrassment, sometimes, there were other people too who fell down from the T-bar. But they were mostly small children. And that didn’t really help boost my ego. But to be honest, I was so desperate that I did try to take solace from the small children falling off the T-bars.

At this point of time, many of you might be thinking that I am the typical drama queen incarnate and that I am some empress of exaggeration. But nothing could be farther from the truth. What I wrote above really happened… all of it.

 

I remember on one of the Saturdays, we were skiing down a slope that was a bit steeper than the usual. Half-way on the slope, I was so paralysed with fear that I used all my might to stop myself from sliding down. In spite of my instructor’s constant encouragement to let go, I refused to budge even a centimeter. It was as if my skis were stuck to the snow. I just could not move. I was petrified. My entire body became like a rock in an awkward tilted position. I still remember how every muscle and bone in my body hurt. But my fear of sliding down the slope uncontrollably was so great, that I could not move an inch.

And then I decided, enough was enough. I somehow gathered courage to remove my skis, left them there and just sat down on the slope. I said out aloud “f*** it”and I sat down on the snow. And as I sat down, my body felt numb and all I could hear was my heart beat racing.

How did I eventually get down the slope, you ask? Well, after I got control of my being, I took some deep breaths and then I finally decided to have fun. I slid down the slope on my bottoms like a child. And boy, that was fun. Other skiers watched me in amusement, but I didn’t care. I was having so much fun. And after I reached the bottom, I laid down on my back and made snow angels !!! I was so happy and relieved !

That night when I returned home, I told myself that something needs to be different. Being raised in a middle-class Indian family, quitting after paying money was simply not an option. So the only choice I had was to get better at skiing, not just falling. And better I became.

From that Sunday till the next Saturday, I changed. It was as if I was not the same person anymore. And the next Saturday, when I stepped out of the bus into the Austrian Alps, for the first time in my skiing life, I knew that I was going to have fun. And boy, did I have some fun!!!

You guessed it…to know more, you wait more!

If not now, when? If not here, where? – 1

Yes, that has been my mantra and guiding force since I began comfortably (for most parts) settling down in Munich. Also, having entered into the fourth decade might have played an important role in my embracing this philosophy. Like I said, Munich has been my tryst with challenging my mental blocks and pushing my boundaries. And it began with skiing.

When I first read the school information about their ski training, I was very sure to enrol both my children into it. But I never thought of trying it out myself. Then my dear friend Preeti Kulkarni, who had also moved to Munich from India around the same time as me, suggested that I should give it a try. She had skied a few times before and suggested that it would be more fun if both the families did it together. Having set foot on a snow capped mountain only once or twice in my life time, let alone going on the ski slopes, my clueless ignorant self had absolutely no idea what skiing entailed. Had I even a slightest inkling about what it demands, I probably would not have been so fast in committing to it. They don’t say ‘ignorance is bliss’ for nothing.

Beautiful landscape on the way

So this journey, which for me was nothing less than a nerve wrecking battle with the almighty gravity, began with the most fun activity… shopping. Even though I could not understand why everything needed to be thick, heavy and most uncomfortable, I was curious and enamoured by the fuss of it all.

We had committed seven Saturdays to skiing, and as is the law of nature, it began with the first Saturday. We woke up at 4 am, got ready, packed some sandwiches, carried all our equipment which had already started to feel like a ton to me, went to Stanberg station and boarded the bus to go to the beautiful snow capped mountains of Austria. There were two buses for the kids and two for the parents. One of the parent’s buses in particular was especially a rocking one….literally, and I am neither kidding nor exaggerating. The bus journey was so much fun.

The Rocking Bus!

We met several other parents, most of whom were pro at skiing. I remember how keenly I listened to their stories. They were using jargons that I had never heard before and were describing their past adventures and especially mis adventures in greater detail. Looking at my awe-filled, clueless, curious and nervous face, many of them told me that it’s going to be ok and I will enjoy my first day tremendously. Ya Right!

As the destination approached, everyone began wearing their ski boots…easy peasy, one would say. I had tried my boots on a few days ago, so how difficult could it be. Ahem, I realised that my feet and the boots were not the best of pals. First of all I could not distinguish the right boot from the left, then my feet refused to go inside the boots…they just refused, they simply said NO. My right ankle hated the boot so much that it threw a tantrum and threatened to have a ligament injury if I forced it into the shoe. Somehow I stuffed them in, but then the boots refused to buckle.They didn’t want anything to do with my feet either and they just refused to buckle, they simply said NO. Finally, Rajiv came to my rescue and  the deed finally got done. All this in the narrow leg space of the bus with the bus moving. Then came on the helmet. Thankfully, it liked my head and created no fuss.

Armed with ski costume, boots, helmet and gloves, I was ready to go, mind you, ready to go, not rearing to go. Each step in the ski boots was heavy and rigid and my full attention was on ensuring how not to fall on the second one. I actually felt like an Astronaut. It was as if we were all getting out of the bus to go on a space mission! I don’t want to exaggerate here, but I think Astronauts have it a little easy….you see, at least they don’t have to fight the gravity. The have to fight the lack of it, which is another story…their story, not mine.

My son, Tanay

And so there I was, struggling to carry my poles and skis (man, they are heavy), struggling to put one step ahead of the other, struggling to keep myself upright on snow, struggling to ensure that my skis don’t bang into someone’s head, struggling to ensure that my head doesn’t bang on their skis (which would have most likely been on account of my fault not theres). Yes, struggling seemed to be the running theme of the day. And I didn’t enjoy it a bit.

As I was moving towards the ski instructor, I had only one thought in my mind…is it worth it?

And as I saw all the children and adults moving about with their gears with the ease of a skilful navigator, I wondered…will I ever be able to do that?

And as I had my first fall while walking towards my instructor, I worried…will I quit?

But no, I didn’t…else I probably wouldn’t be writing about it.

So stay tuned for the rest of the (mis)adventure.

Back from “Blogethargy”

Ah-choo!!! Ah-choo!!!

Yes, I had caught the virus of blogging lethargy. My immune system must have been really weak to have caught the virus so early on; and by early I mean after writing four posts!   

Its not that I have not been writing all this while. I have penned down several poems and have been writing a lot on my iPhone notes. But the ‘blogethargy‘ virus had found a nice cozy home (read expansive mansion) inside my bloodstream, and despite the nudges and jolts from my conscience and from my husband, I speedily surrendered to the inertia. Talk about oxymorons!

Then one fine day in Barcelona where I had gone to exhibit my paintings, I lost my iPhone. I did manage to magically recover all my writings, but that incident was like a strong antibiotic shot for my virus. Ahem, did I mention that this happened in December 2016? Yes, eight months ago! As they say “old viruses die hard”. I truly believe that everything is a process, yes, even the split second decisions of our lives. Except that in this case my split second was eight months long.

Nonetheless, what is important is that I have finally decided to commit to being a “regular” blogger. As you might have noticed, I am keeping it a little vague here. Well, it’s so that I can come to my own defence when my commitment is judged at a gunpoint! It’s called self-preservation you know.

As many of you know, since my last post I have moved to Munich with my family, and in these last two years Munich has given me so much more than I had expected.

My time so far in Munich has been my stint as an explorer. What have I explored? I have explored the obscure, unknown but mostly hidden territories within myself. And boy, there were some! I have unlearned some, re-learned some and often done both in that order.

I pushed myself beyond my comfort zone as a part of many of these unlearning and re-learning pursuits, and this has caused me to suffer embarrassment, pain, hurt, guilt and sometimes self-imposed ridicule, but I enjoyed every bit of it. Each of these small leaps deserve a mention, and mention I will, in my subsequent blogs.

Munich has given me so many of my “Firsts”. Each giving me a sense of amour propre, exhilaration and most importantly a sense of liberation. I realised that these tiny, and apparently insignificant, liberations are enough to unshackle the mind from its own captivity…slowly, one knot at a time.

I am energised and looking forward to sharing more with you…after all I am a  recovering Blogethargic !

 

The Crisscross Panic

They embrace tightly, my tired face2014-11-10 13.54.53_01
Caressing gently, like never-ending vines
Cropping from every nook and corner
They hold me together, safe in their twines

They seem to be actually, quite fond of me
But I ignore them, like a forbidden curse
And when they tell me, to smile at life
I am worried, that it will make them worse

They reach to me with an aching soul
With teary eyes and broken heart
It’s me who gave them life, they say
It’s me who’s now tearing them apart

They beg me to look, in the pit of the pile
Of my present, and of the past I had lived
They say I’ll find the knots of their world
Clinging to the threads, of the quilt I had weaved

I looked deep down and saw some of them
Wiping away my tears as I cried
Some were holding the reins of my anger
And some were cheering in my moments of pride

Some were etched, from my smiles and my laughter
Some took birth like my babies, from labour pain
And some gave me company, as I waited for my children
To return home safely, as I always worried in vain

Wherever I went, in the lanes of my history
I saw their nurturing hands with myself
These lines that I had so abandoned in the past
Were the lines that I had created myself

These wrinkles and marks that cover my body
Are telling my stories of glory and pain
They deserve to be cherished like precious trophies
Instead I demeaned their existence in shame

————————————————————————————————-

A few days ago I came across an article which talked about increasing obsession of women with wrinkles and stretch marks, especially among those who are either reaching or have crossed the fourth decade. So far, I haven’t seen or heard any of my friends belonging to this age group, stress over the deep etchings on their faces. I think this lot of women, including myself, is too preoccupied with so many other things that wrinkles are the last thing we worry about. Lucky us, I guess!!!

Each individual has his or her own priorities in life, often dictated by the culture, upbringing, profession we are in, etc etc. But increasingly, either because of peer pressure or due to the pressure from the beauty giants, erasing wrinkles from one’s face has become one of the top concerns and obsession. Women world over are going to various extents to have a face and body devoid of any wrinkles or stretch marks.

This made me wonder…

  • If the pressure of physically looking good is removed from our lives, would we still make the same choices?

  • Can we make a serious attempt to see the journey of our lives in these wrinkles, and make peace with them? Or is too hypothetical?

  • Can all of us, as a human society, re-define the physical beauty, and by this I don’t mean a saint like philosophical and difficult to believe definition, that is impractical to internalize in this day and age; but an age appropriate version of physical beauty that embraces what is gifted to us by nature with each passing year. A definition that accepts the presence of wrinkles as a sign of wisdom that each of us accumulates as a result of our sorrows, joys, ambitions, triumphs, stress, anger, hurt, guilt, pain and all the other emotions that we go through in our lives.

  • Will it be ever possible to cherish these lines and give them the credit that they deserve? Surely, each of these lines has a story to tell. Can we objectively associate these wrinkles with events in our life or an emotional manifestation, that could have been responsible for their birth? Can we treat these wrinkles as a photo album of our past?

I guess none of the above would make any difference if we desperately want to cling on to our younger physical selves. We need to really start accepting and embracing our current physical and mental self, without judging it from a preconceived criteria of what classifies as a beauty, and how we are supposed to look, feel and behave irrespective of our age, growth and circumstances. Again, is it a hypothetical scenario?

Can we really get over this crisscross panic that may actually result in more of the same crisscrosses that we so desperately want to avoid?

Can’t wait to hear your views.

Yes, No or Maybe…

A few days back both my sons (9 and 6 years old) returned from school and announced that they have taken a pledge of not bursting crackers on Diwali. They had a very serious and ‘we mean business’ look in their eyes. Last year too my elder son kept his word in spite of many temptations from friends and relatives. It’s a commendable achievement and I salute them. But the best part was that they didn’t stop at that. They decided to start a “No Crackers Club” in our apartment. Along with two more friends, they set out for a door to door campaign and got signatures of several residents! I am so proud of these kids. It’s moments like these when I realize that as parents we are doing at least some things right.

20141020_183747

Everyone is aware of the ill effects of bursting crackers… air pollution, noise pollution, child labour that goes into its manufacturing, amount of garbage it generates, accidents, fire incidents, etc. etc. etc. But this post is not about elaborating on these already known facts, but to simply ask a few questions. So here goes:

  1. Why do we still turn blind eyes and deaf ears to all the ill effects? Are we waiting for some kind of a legal ban to make changes? Have we become such an insensitive society that for the sake of momentary pleasure, we justify all the negatives by a one-liner, “Oh come on! this is only for a day and comes once a year?”
  2. I understand that celebrating Diwali the way we do is deeply ingrained in the fiber of our society, but for the larger good, why can’t we make small sacrifices?
  3. Why do we want the whole light and sound package and not be satisfied with the Laxmi Puja, sweets and the lights?
  4. Can’t we just keep all that hard earned money on the road and put them on fire?
  5. If smoking in public places is banned, shouldn’t bursting crackers be banned too as they are equally harmful if not more
  6. Why not organize a music concert with a great laser show instead, at least the noise would be pleasant to the ears.
  7. And finally, if a child can say no to crackers, why can’t we?

So what’s it going to be for you….Yes, No or Maybe?

Playing to the crowd? No Thanks!

_DSC1279_01

At Rotterdam International Art Fair- Oct, 2014

Art-wise, this has been a good year for me. I had two solo shows, two international exhibitions and sold seven paintings (Yes, I can’t believe it either!!!). So after a relatively busy year, it was time for a well deserved vacation, which I must say, turned out to be a rather long one (19 days), and as if that was not enough, was later extended by 7 more days. No, who says I am complaining! But then, one bright, sunny and breezy morning, that age old saying which compares life with something round, like a wheel or a cycle, came true. I would not forget that day because it was the same day when my heart and my brain had a huge argument, which ended with my squishy-mushy heart giving in. My tough & obnoxious brain quickly took advantage of the opportunity and promptly sent a broadcast that the holidays are officially over. Sigh! yeh dil really maange more, na?

The only thing that helped me to shoo away the sulking feeling was the restless nervous ache to start working on my new series of paintings. And that’s what I love about being an artist. It can give me the same thrill without the pressure of corporate deadlines.

You all must be wondering how all this is related to the topic of this post. Well, you got me wondering too. To be honest, the above written text is not directly related to the original topic. Come to think of it, it’s not indirectly related either. Sorry. It’s just that the beetles & the bugs of my brain are fluttering around like no one’s business. But now I will come straight to the point. Promise!

So yesterday, after the house was empty of its permanent and temporary noisy inhabitants, by whom I mean my husband, children, cook and cleaning maid, I finally took the hat out of my cupboard and wore it. My thinking hat of course! Don’t tell me you didn’t guess that one! Those of you who have visited my exhibitions or heard me talk about my paintings know that majority of my art-time goes into thinking about the concept and idea behind the painting. And therefore, the mention of the hat is directly related to the topic, in case you were wondering. See I am not going to let the beetles & bugs loose again. A promise is a promise. BTW, since these beetles & the bugs are an inseparable part of me and would be mentioned time and again, I propose we give them a name. How about ‘Poochies’!

_DSC1910_01So coming back to the point, as I was looking at some previously jotted ideas, I remembered what a gallery owner once told me in an art fair. He said that what I was doing was different (I think he was being extremely polite) and may not sell, so instead I should paint something for which the market is readily available.

Hang on…. let’s leave the intellectual and philosophical blah, blah, blah of ‘doing what one truly believes in’, aside for a moment. This gentleman who has been in this business for a long time was obviously speaking from an experience that had not only earned him his livelihood, but had also made several artists successful.

But alas, before I could even delve on the first words of his advice, the Poochies, being the pests that they are, quickly presented before me a laundry list of reasons to look the other way. And that’s what I did. I am sure all of you on several occasions in your lives, have been there, done that._DSC1724_01

As for me, my reason for not taking the advice was not some Deepak Chopra kind of reason that I am in the art world with a mission to bring about a revolutionary change (though often I secretly imagine that with a tiara on my head!). It was simply that the most important factor that made me choose this unknown and unfamiliar territory was the belief that it would give me complete freedom to express what I want to and how I want to. So if I don’t use this opportunity to convey my thoughts to the audience, I might as well be doing something else. And so I continued doing what I do, creating art works that means a lot to me and fortunately for my viewers.

But honestly, I don’t deserve any applause, not even a slight pat on the back. Really, I mean it. This decision was a relatively easy call for me. This was hardly any ‘do or die’ situation for me. Would I have done the same thing if my livelihood depended on it? Hmmm…wonder why the Poochies are silent all of a sudden!!! But nonetheless, each right decision, however tiny or however easy, is important in the broader scheme of things. It’s always about one right step at a time, right? I give my Poochies that. So coming back to the topic…

“Playing to the crowd”…No Thanks !!!

Karva Chauth Analyzed … Yet Again

It’s the day of Karva Chauth and I too have my own private ritual. This ritual is not a one day affair but starts a week before the festival and ends when everyone finally satiates their aching and grumbling stomachs and peacefully goes to sleep. If you haven’t already cracked my cryptic clues and guessed my ritual, here it is: every year, without fail, I question the importance and relevance of this festival!

I can almost hear you saying, “Bah!, what’s new?  This has become an annual past time of an increasing number of women.” Well, in that case I am happy to join the bandwagon.

 I remember the times when in my younger days, my need to question and argue about this issue was so unbearably uncontrollable, that the opinions would come flying out of my mouth like several Ussain Bolts simultaneously running a hundred meter sprint. These conversations (to put it extremely mildly) were held with my female friends who had been religiously celebrating this festival for several years. It used to be quite an engaging match of ping-pong, which often momentarily ended up with several physical manifestations such as tremors all over the body and increased pulse rates. Of course, as mature adults (this time not putting it mildly), we would quickly change the topic and move on to discussing other mundane issues where all of us were one hundred percent on the same side.

If I were to gather and concretize all my opinions and viewpoints about Karva Chauth into one single concern it would be this:

Consciously and subconsciously, this festival symbolizes and emphasizes the deeply engrained belief that it’s the man of the house, and only him, who is important, deserving, superior and worthy enough to be put up on a pedestal.

Many of us choose to ignore or deny this fact and justify these rituals as harmless traditions reminiscent of our rich cultural heritage. I beg to differ (to again put it mildly).

Many justify that their husbands too keep a fast on Karva Chauth. Well, that’s a great gesture. But then it’s just that…a gesture in order to give their wives company and to morally support them to perform their religious duty as a wife. Fair enough, but personally I won’t count this as a reciprocating act of camaraderie unless the husbands too do the whole nine yards.

A number of women in urban India celebrate Karva Chauth mainly because of the fun and enjoyment of once again dressing up like a bride and the importance and the attention that they are showered upon by everyone in the family. That’s a good enough reason to celebrate, but do we really have to put our husbands on a podium for experiencing the euphoria?

If you ask me, just the fact that a woman gives birth to a baby qualifies her to take the place on a pedestal…and if it’s a natural delivery, atleast once every month.

On a more serious note, many of us are aware of Subliminal Advertising. It’s a trick advertisers use to promote their products by putting hidden messages or figures in their ads and flashing it for less than a second, thereby targeting the subconscious minds of consumers without their knowledge. Regular exposure to these subliminal messages eventually drives the consumers to buy that product. I consider it as unethical, manipulative and deceptive, as it’s done intentionally, with an ulterior motive and by keeping the person in the dark.

My worry is that by carrying out and celebrating rituals that project men as the superior species and putting them on pedestals, we unknowingly spread biased and derogatory subliminal messages to our kids that would subtly but unmistakably form firm impressions on their young minds.

Imagine a young boy who has grown up thinking that he is superior like his father, grandfather and uncles, stands up and proclaims that only he and not his sister should get the best and the gooiest part of the chocolava cake, because he believes with all sincerity that as a boy he is more deserving than his sister. That’s a scary picture. But what is scarier is that the sister doesn’t stand up and objects, because obviously the subliminal messaging has worked on her too.

Am I being too melodramatic? May be, maybe not. But for the sake of a better, equitable and tolerant society, isn’t it our duty as thinking citizens to seriously question the relevance of some of these customs and traditions and discard them or improvise upon them.

Why can’t we start new festivals that are more meaningful and relevant to our times, that can strengthen social bonding by bringing together people across religion, caste, gender and marital status?

It’s a noble gesture to fast and pray for someone’s safety and longevity. But if this gesture is done for the right reasons and for the right persons, irrespective of their gender, it would be more meaningful and satisfying. If there’s someone who definitely needs our prayers for safety and longevity, it’s without doubt, our soldiers, who put their lives on the line on a daily basis. It will be a humble gesture to the sacrifices they make so that we can enjoy the freedom of our mundane chores without any fear.

Breaking News: Karva Chauth is being celebrated throughout our country by men and women alike for the safety and well-being of our soldier.

How’s that for a change!