Diaries of a traveller

Recently I was on a holiday to Kenya. My 9 day trip was packed from day 1. Visiting different places each day & many long game drives. I had planned for night flight back home with the hope to catch on good sleep & wake up fresh in my home country.

The flight had two columns with 3 seats each side. We were at the second row. The take-off happened quick & it is only when the first infant started wailing did I realise that in just 3 rows consisting of 18 seats there were 8 children aged below 5. (yes I actually counted) Maybe it was holiday time & everyone was going home to meet their grandparents. I felt sorry for the moms who had to pacify their wailing child. Felt relieved that I had crossed that phase in life as I looked at my young man peacefully watching the movie ‘Superman’ as the flight took off.

Soon it was time to sleep & here began my ordeal. The flight per say was very comfortable. It’s the co passengers that I forgot to take into account. The first row of 6 seats, 3 each separated by an aisle was occupied by a single family. One man, two women and 3 children all related or maybe close friends. They obviously forgot that there were other passengers on board. Because they kept ALL the reading lights on through the night. While the two little boys slept peacefully under the bright light that was used as a makeshift night light, the 3rd infant just decided to play all night long under papa’s supervision. This gave the young moms their most required me time. Sitting on the centre seat on either side of the aisles, they started off on some family gossip in a local language that I very well understand. Chatter chatter chatter through the 6 hours we were in air making sure that I know exactly which Aunt said what and which sister in law wore/ate what.

Soon the lights came on and the pilot made an announcement that we had entered Mumbai & would land in 30 minutes. I started hearing sounds like that on a cell phone. Being completely sleep deprived, I thought I was hallucinating, when I saw the lady in front of me actually turn on her phone and check messages while we were still flying. It took 20 minutes to descend and touch ground after that. While the flight was still taxiing at good speed, our family (by now I felt like I was a part of them as I knew so much) got up, opened the overhead cabins, got out their luggage & then with all hand baggage and children in tow, started moving towards the exit. The aircraft was yet to stop. (It is unfortunate that they didn’t know how to open the door, or else I’m sure they would’ve jumped off too. It would have done the world some good.) The cabin crew were still buckled up like all the other passengers, waiting for the plane to halt.

For now, this is the travel lesson I learnt: ALWAYS carry earplugs and eye masks when on an overnight flight.

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Marriages are made for Men!

Story of Urban India..

There was a generation where women were not allowed to be educated. Marriages really worked well then, because the rules were set by the men. Women were completely dependent on their man for money, so in turn they took care of all other responsibilities. There was a balance. It did not mean that work distribution was based on ability. Marriage just followed set rules & it worked. Women were accepting & the Men were a happy lot.

Then came a generation where education was provided to all, but preference of higher/better education was reserved for the men in the house. So we saw women who passed school or college but could never do more. The women of this generation realised that the rules didn’t favour them. They realised the value of financial independence. Marriages still worked, but there was an unrest. Both men & women were confused.

After this came our generation. We were raised as equals. Studied as much, worked & earned the same as the men. Now we expect roles to be defined as per capabilities and not pre-set rules. We don’t depend on men for money. We need them in our lives, but they don’t have a specific role to play. Marriage now, is more of a collaboration. Women have their source of income, friends & a neat list of ‘what I want from life & my man’. While the men are still confused!

This is the generation that has seen maximum divorces. The generation that is raising children who are questioning the system of marriage itself. In the generation to come, many would choose to remain single.

So when we look back, we see that marriages worked perfectly as long as we followed the men’s rules. And started getting shaky as soon as women began questioning them. I have seen several marriages break in the recent time. What I found common was that, while most women chose to live alone, in almost all cases, the men chose to remarry. This is just a general observation. But it also got me wondering whether Marriages are made for men?

Celebrating 60!

It was his mother’s 60th birthday that week. There was a small family get together coordinated by her loving son that included all relatives. A big table full of people, laughing & dining. Two chairs lie vacant & she thought how those could have seated her & her son. The stranger she married & lived with, had gone to visit his parents earlier that day. It was meant to be a routine visit. Nothing about a family get together was mentioned.

She was a part of a family group on social media where this photo was uploaded. His entire family including all relatives except them both were present. They never commented on each other’s post on the group, this was a protocol that they maintained. But from a string of chats, she gathered that this was a sudden plan that just fell in place. Something did not fit. She knew him & his parents too well.

None of his extended family had a clue about the real status of their marriage. Most assumed that theirs was a regular ‘happy family’. It had to be a planned party that he and his parents intended to keep her out of. Masking it as an impromptu plan would keep away people from questioning them about her absence. It was a way to remind her that she did not belong. For the first time she wasn’t really hurt by their behaviour.

Until then, it was just a lazy weekend without him around. She spent the whole day alone at home with her son. Cleaning the house, baking a cake with him & cooking his favourite meal, just being his mom. She spent her extra time discussing various topics of his interest like science and sports; making sure she filled in all the gaps & played the role of his father as well. As always.

Now, her mind wandered back to the various times when she would drop everything & run after the stranger she married, like a lost puppy. Completely uninvited, but with the hope of spending some time together, to feel a sense of belonging & with the hope of being accepted. How he would always walk away from her, keep her out of his plans, not introduce her to anyone, just leave her abandoned, to fend for herself. And how each time, she would try to keep a brave smiling face & deal with it all, pretending that everything was perfect, just the way it was meant to be. All those years flashed by quickly like an old movie. Tears rolled down her cheeks that she wasn’t really aware of. All the times that she had trusted & was let down. Nothing had changed & nothing would.

The sadness, hurt and tears, did not belong to this incident though. Nothing really mattered anymore. She no longer held any expectations from him or his parents. It was just a reminder to her to walk out & that too soon..

Love, Sex Aur Dhoka

It was the year of the millennium. Everybody had their plans for the big evening. The person she loved was not a party animal & she was sure he wouldn’t ask her out. They were still just good friends, she was still hoping he loved her back the way she did. So when a casual conversation with another friend resulted in a date for New years, she didn’t think twice before saying yes. She knew he was just a friend and had planned to spend the evening together as two single people with no better plans. It was a fun night and after several drinks, she talked to him about the man she loved and desired to spend her life with.

Sixteen years later they were still in touch. In these years, both had settled respectively into marriage & family & had moved to different cities for their career. He called her occasionally to talk to her. And they met not more than 6 times over the years. They didn’t need to be constantly in touch & instantly connected from where they left the previous time. It was a friendship they shared at a different level. As soon as he got to know about the problems her marriage, he flew down to her city to meet her. That was the last time they met. Six months later, today she got a message, ‘in your city for work, call when free’. She liked meeting him, it always ended up in them doing something very different, something that they would always remember & talk about. He believed in creating such special moments. They never had a photo together, but each time they met was etched in their memories forever.

She looked forward to meeting him today. It was the first time they would meet for dinner. Another first as always. They met up early for a drink, at the five star room where he was put up & were to leave for a popular club later for dinner. Conversations flowed freely with the drinks. The laughter & chatting continued through the evening as they caught up on the six months gone by.

He always made her feel special & subtly flirted with her. But she was too preoccupied to ever notice what she meant to him. Today, for the first time she had heard him out as he spoke about his feelings for her & was really moved. He had never touched her in these years, but tonight when he kissed her, it seemed like the most natural thing to do. He held her close & kissed her gently. She had been too strong for too long & was really exhausted with life. And here was a guy whom she had known so well and been such good friends with, who longed for her. She was too numb to think about right or wrong & just wanted to be held close the way he did. Sixteen years of waiting poured out in the most passionate way for him. And for the first time she felt what it was to be loved. He kissed her on her lips, caressed her neck and nibbled on her ear while talking to her. He held her close and then kissed her over & over again, never crossing the line or making her uncomfortable. She didn’t know whether it was the loneliness or the feeling of silent revenge (towards the stranger she had married) or a latent desire in her that she never even knew existed or just plain acceptance of this platonic relationship. But she enjoyed herself like never before. She was high but not drunk. Everything seemed right & she just wanted to live & enjoy the moment as it unfolded upon her. As always, another memory had been created with him tonight.

Later that night when she went back home & quietly slipped into bed right next to the stranger she had married, she knew her life had changed, yet again!

You’ve got a mail!

So, it was another ordinary day. She was busy with insignificant thoughts like what to wear, what to cook, whether to move out or continue to live with the stranger she married… While the former two were simple, the third one got her confused as always. Bored of the train of thoughts that took her nowhere, she decided to seek escape in social media. A platform that often bored her for being fake. But today would be different. She had a new message. It was from someone unknown, never heard the name before. It said , ‘Hi! Do you plan to run the Goa Marathon next month?’ It was normal for people to connect to her on running related issues. She had another life, that as a runner. She could’ve assumed, this was someone who needed help with some logistics; travel, stay, collection of the running bib or any other matter. But it couldn’t be. She had two accounts on the social media & this one, she never used for any running related  coordination. She had managed to carefully partition her life. She maintained a different account for that part of her life where she was a helpful, well connected runner & motivator. This part was where she was the really happy, confident, beautiful & carefree mother , friend & a family person. Cautiously, she replied with just, ‘yes’. She was ready to close and move on to something else, when suddenly this name turned online & she received her next message. Something that would change a lot for her in the time to come. ‘ok, see you there then. But promise, no hugs this time’

Seriously! Who was this? He didn’t need any help & then what about hugs? Not a person to forget things too soon, curiosity got the better of her. She clicked on the unknown name & a photo suddenly looked back at her. Here was a face she had seen on the running tracks before. A few cordial hellos had been exchanged earlier. He was from another city she knew. But what about hugs?? So the next message got sent. ‘what is this about hugs? What am I missing?’ An awkward silence followed, then a lengthy message. ‘ last year I was so excited after my good run, I hugged you at the finish. Felt stupid doing that as we don’t even know each other. Had been looking for you ever since, to apologise. So here is my sincere sorry for reacting that way.’ So here was a guy, who spent a year trying to find out her name & track her down for an incident so insignificant that she didn’t even remember! Sweaty hugs after a good run are not that uncommon. She was not the one to give or get them usually, but it surely wasn’t something she would make a big deal of. This guy was either a stalker or a really sincere & honest person. She decided to go with the latter & responded. ‘Apologies accepted. Touched that you took the trouble to track me down just to get things cleared. Funny that I had forgotten the whole incident until just now. Thanks to this, I will remember it for a long time to come 😀 cheers!’

A new friendship had blossomed at the most unlikely situation.

Somewhere in her real world, outside the beautifully painted social media account in which life looked perfect, things began to look different. A hope started to emerge. Maybe there was a life waiting for her outside these four walls, away from the stranger whom she lived with. Maybe she needed to give herself another chance!

 

On a break

Separated but still together!

How painful is that? Living in the same house that you once built together. Nothing here belongs to me, I live like a visitor but with the man I married. Still coexisting somehow. If there was one memory for every minute I have spent with him, how many memories would I have for each day? For the 18 years that I have known him? How can anyone erase such a large & intense part of their life? How can one ‘move on’?

I decided to put each memory aside little by little. Take each day as it comes. While doing so I realised that the good ones are the ones that hurt me the most, which break me into pieces, making it very difficult for me to get back into the present.

So I decided never to let that happen. I decided to look ahead at what I want, rather than to look behind to see what I’m leaving behind. It’s not easy & I have some really bad days. But in this process, I realised that writing is taking me back to the zone where I don’t want to enter. I don’t want to stop writing, but I want to first take control of my emotions. That’s why the hiatus.

AdiC, touched by your concern. Posting this just for you. 🙂

When my emotions got Misdirected

The biggest current blockbuster is probably Bajrangi Bhaijaan. I had heard so much about this movie that I wanted to watch it at any cost. Most people confessed to have walked out teary eyed, girls and boys, men & women alike. So when I did not cry, I wondered if I was emotionally dead. I did like the movie though. The movie is about a little 6 year old girl who is yet to start to speak (delayed speech). She gets left behind in a different country just as her train chugs across the border, separating her from her mother. Unable to speak, she ends up following a man who is forced to care of her much against his religious beliefs. Her charm & innocent ways transforms him slowly as he accepts her for who she is & reaches her back home safely to her parents. The movie is about this journey & is high on emotion, drama, action, comedy & everything else that one could ask for. It very subtly teaches us to be tolerant towards all religions without being too preachy. But still there were two things that distracted me from what I had gone to watch & left me more emotional than the movie itself.

One

I happen to be a movie buff & believe that this is not something that you do alone. I love watching & then discussing about the movie. Knowing exactly how much this means to me, the stranger I married, NEVER took me for a movie for about 10 years of our marriage. He was never short of excuses & blamed me for expecting him to accompany me. He expected me to go & watch it alone knowing how much I feel against it. Sometimes I would go with friends, but soon I gave up the effort. Then for the past 2-3 years he started to take me out, but then made sure not to utter a single word throughout, right from when we would leave the house till when we got back or the next morning. Making it seem to be a punishment or favour rather than a form of entertainment. The silence was so killing during these many weekends that we went out together, that I finally felt it was better to be alone than with a stranger I know sit beside me.

This friendship day i decided to spend it alone with myself. Not because i dont have friends, but i chose to have it this way. Yesterday, for the first time, I went alone to watch a movie. It was my little step towards a life that I now know I have to lead alone. It was really liberating. I was as expressive as I wished to be, without being judged. Slowly, he has won another small battle. With his passive aggressive ways, he has managed to push me to do what he really wanted all along. Another victory for him & learning for me. This left me highly emotional, as I was reminded of what my future might be like from now on.

Two

There was an elderly couple seated beside me. They were as old as my parents & very well dressed. During the interval, I went & bought myself some popcorn. As I sat munching on & waiting for the movie to resume, I heard the lady tell her husband that even she wished to have some. So the elderly gentleman went to buy a tub, but returned in couple of minutes empty handed. He then told her softly, that the cost of a small tub was Rs 170/- There was an awkward silence followed by what seemed like acceptance and then more silence. The movie had started by then, but my focus was on the couple. Should I offer them mine? Should I just go and buy them one tub? Would it appear rude? Would it hurt them more? They were well dressed & appeared affluent. Were they dressed in their best? Were they living off their children’s income & on a tight budget? Or did they have their own pension, but not enough to spend too much? Maybe the husband was just miserly & the lady had to put up with his ways. I could never tell & felt intrusive to do something myself. It felt sad that even at this age they had to sacrifice their little pleasures of life. Now, that left me more emotional than the movie.

But the movie is worth watching atleast once.

5 Things My Marriage Taught Me

  1. Trust

I am the kind of person who trusts anyone very easily. I am extremely honest & expressive. Since I always communicate my feelings to those around me, be it my friends, family or even bosses /colleagues at work, I assume they would do the same in return. It is but natural that I had maximum faith in the family I got married into.

My marriage taught me to differentiate between different kinds of people. It showed me that just because I trust everyone does not mean that they live up to it. No one can change their basic nature, so while I continue to trust, I don’t get hurt anymore when I am let down.

This journey in the wrong road has made me more self-reliant.

  1. Loneliness

My biggest fear in life was that I would end up lonely. I saw marriage as an investment purely for companionship for my later years. Today I realise that I have put my crucial years in a place where I can expect no returns.

These years have taught me that it is better to be alone than be lonely in a house full of people. I have learned to live alone. Have pursued so many interests that can keep me busy till I die. I don’t really need people anymore, definitely not the ones who don’t like to have me around. I have conquered my biggest fear.

I have learnt to enjoy my own company.

  1. Abuse

An abuse is an abuse no matter in which form. Silent treatment is not acceptable behaviour. Emotional manipulation cannot be determined or controlled. During my CA days we had a subject on audit where they taught us the difference between fraud and error. Error is a mistake that happens unknowingly, it can be rectified & improved. But Fraud on the other hand is intentional. It is very difficult to detect unless someone is really looking out for it. Emotional abuse/manipulation is as good as fraud. As long as you trust, you have no reason to believe that you are being manipulated and a subject of abuse. Only when you look with the intention of finding out the reason for your frustrations do you realise that you are being abused. This neither makes you stupid or the abuse acceptable.

It has taken me a really long time, but finally I have learnt to respect myself & my feelings. If something makes me uncomfortable, it is not my fault. The person causing the discomfort is to be blamed equally. Shifting of part blame on your partner relieves you of a lot of burden. After all, forgiveness is an inside job of accepting an apology you never received.

I have learnt to let go.

  1. Parents

Parents are forever. No matter what changes in your life, how many relationship status’ you go through, your parents remain your parents. They are your creators & always mean you good. (Many might disagree here) My parents were never thrilled with my choice of husband, but they stood by me through my decision. Blame my upbringing or naivety, I always had more faith in the family I got married into. So whenever they pointed my mistakes (it happened all the time no matter what I did), I believed they were right & tried to make amends. It took me almost 13 years of married life to realise that they were not always right. But even today, it’s my parents who stand by me. I choose to not go back to them, but to either stay in this relationship & survive or move on independently.

This marriage has taught me that nothing is more precious than your relationship with your parents. They are always right & you are never really alone as long as you have them.

Love & trust your parents. Many times they understand you more than you expect them to.

  1. Never give up

Not everything in life turns out the way we intend. Many times what happens in our life, depends on other people & not all situations are in our control. It’s ok to change our course and start afresh or with a different perspective. That is not giving up, it is moving on. There is no failure until we have actually given up. If saving my marriage was the objective, then yes, I might have failed. But if being happy was my objective & I chose marriage as a means to do so, then no, I haven’t failed yet. I will just choose another means to get what I want.

Marriage has taught me to accept bad situations also as a part of life & not take it too personally. It never is always your fault.

Marriage has taught me to value myself more.

The Maniac Runner

My day started when the alarm blared to a horrendous tone (even the sweetest music can sound bad if that’s the one waking you up from your Sunday morning sleep). Cursing myself for pursuing running as a hobby, I went on to make some fresh coffee to actually wake me up. (I was moving around like a zombie until then). The thought of a pleasant rainy day, picturesque surroundings & awesome company is what really made me get out of bed.

My strong cuppa followed by a sandwich infused some energy into me & off I went to join the rest of the group. We reached the location chosen for our run that day at about 6 AM. The weather was just perfect with strong cool breeze blowing & the sun nowhere in sight. Each of us started our own respective runs. I did’nt go with any plan, but let my body & my mood do the talking. Ended up doing a very Forrest Gump-ish run. I had no idea about the distance, pace or time I intended to run. I had no reason for running. I just ran because I felt like and at the pace that my feet agreed to carry me forward. I kept running till I thought I had enough, then, I turned back to go the start. (where the group had assembled)

Run 3
Endlessly long roads inviting for a run

I was on foot for more than one and a half hours when suddenly the winds grew stronger, the clouds grew darker. With just open land in all four directions, I could see the rains fast approaching. I kept running & the rains caught on with me within a minute or so, completely soaking me in its cool showers. The drops hits hard on my skin & it felt better than what any Jacuzzi could offer. The pure water was so sweet. I was now running with my arms stretched out looking upward to the sky & keeping my mouth slightly open, trying to take in as much rain as possible. Few villagers wearing plastic ponchos & running to find shelter in an otherwise open place, stopped to look at me with bewilderment. This was the best cool down I have ever experienced after a run.

A run in heaven
A run in heaven

I love Mumbai, I love Monsoon & I love running. Managed to cover a distance of about 14.5 kms (about 9 mi) in 1 hour 50 mins including a warm up & cool down walk of about 1.6 kms (1 mi). Happy week ahead!

When your world comes crumbling down

My world was really small, filled with people I loved the most. Trusted the most. Had faith in, more than any God. The person I married & his parents. Accepted them for who they were, with all their flaws & expected the same in return. Sounds simple, right? One by one, they lost hope in me, without any reason whatsoever. As if it was planned. No reasons given.

When I open my eyes & look around, I see many people. My friends, family & my colleagues, who have been patiently waiting for me with complete belief, knowing the person I am. They know I am right just because it is me. No questions asked. But still I ignored them all this while, trying to please the people who didn’t even bother to look back & left me alone.

18 years of togetherness needs to be erased slowly, part by part, little by little. While I stand alone in the middle of nowhere, it feels like everything around me is crumbling & turning to dust. I want to run, but don’t know where to go. Every direction I turn to seems unexplored & new. Could lead to heaven or an inferno. Should I move or stay?

Life as I see it today.