I want to apologize for my
burden of wrong To your ears where my penitence does belong I lingered in vain, the gray swiftly took hold Now my contrition will stifle mute and untold
It is too late now and you don’t even know me Again, you urge me to call your kids and family Little amused, little astounded you skeptically stare As I try to get your attention without stirring scare
Like a stranger, you introduce yourself and ask my name Oh, the one you gave me, I still carry the same! I keep on trying to say- I am sorry, father But you insist ceaselessly that I stay for dinner
Earlier, I failed to muster the courage and word And feared that it might feel a little too absurd Should’ve tried harder and sooner to turn myself over Instead
of forever yearning and smoldering for closure
In my humble opinion, the career garb that a person adorns for
life is governed by three elements—the time or era one grows up in, the encompassing
culture and personal strengths. I grew up in a time when science and math were
the spotlight subjects on the stage—the heroes, while language and other arts
languished in anonymity as supporting cast. A student who could not excel in math and
science was regarded as a heinous derelict. An average student stood at tines of a fork, that lead to either Engineering or Medical Science and I was no exception to the rule.
I knew I had to pick one though neither resonated in my heartbeat.
Next element that paints your destiny is the culture you
inhale. I grew up in a small town, known for its renowned engineering college
and little else. Private coaching centers for admission tests flocked the town like
rain mushrooms, all promising to churn up engineers under their tutelage. Engineering
was blended in the air like hydrogen in water, utterly inseparable. It entered
our nostrils, lodged into our lungs and then pulsated through our veins. I succumbed
to that ingredient of my breath and so did most of my friends.
It’s time to ponder about the third element-personal
strength and choice.Being academically strong can never hurt anyone. Acing all
subjects at school is an accolade, not an impediment by any imagination.
Teachers are proud of versatile students and parents earn bragging rights for
their lives. In my case, versatility and excelling in a multitude of areas
actually muddled my path. I was the only student in my school that passed with
distinction in all five subjects-English, Hindi, math, science and social
studies. Too many spices brewing inside of me masked my true essence. I was a
conundrum to myself, a rudderless ship that just drifted with the wind. In my
heart of hearts, I was smitten by English language, enthralled by the rivulets of
words, literature and poetry. I was drawn to the written word like a bee to
nectar, a moth to light. My parents could not afford books outside of the
curriculum, so I took little sips from the small pool of the school library to
quench my thirst. I pored over newspapers and devoured every word, without choking
or spitting. I read my elder sister’s English textbooks for stories—and sheer ecstasy
that brought me. But my love was ambiguous and uncharted, with no lucid path or
destination. My parents had humble means but an unwavering faith in education to
challenge and mold life to betterment. I and my siblings did not have shiny new
shoes every year but we always had the books/notebooks we needed. I knew I had to chart
out a career, muster a job which compensated well—and literature, as enticing
and soothing as it was, was not a step towards that goal. If I did not fare well
in other subjects, I would have married literature,my only suitor,but
I had other graces, so I never whispered my love to a soul and doused the flame
An Electronics Engineer, I was destined to be. Years down, I
am an IT professional with a respectable job that pays my bills and keeps me
afloat. I am grateful to Almighty for the blessings I have and I cannot ask for
more. I am still a voracious reader who can chew words in any shape or form—printed
ads, descriptions of entrees in restaurant menus, ingredients of packaged foods,
Tolstoy’s novels, Keats poetry and Dickinson's essays. But I confess,at times, even after multiple readings
of some passages and poetry at controlled, variegated paces, I fail to grasp
the finer meaning the author or poet is alluding to. I ache to understand the nuances
of Frost’s, Keats’ and Eliot’s poetry. I want to imbibe the hidden meaning
of Shakespeare’s lines.
I always wanted to study literature and poetry and I still
do. Once the business of life ebbs a little and I have hours to fill, I wish I
can take a degree/diploma course. Who knows, I might be grayest student in the
class, maybe grayer than the teacher, but I have no inhibitions about that. At
least,I have none today, as I bring my closeted ex to light.
“You have to register for a donor kidney right away”,’Dr.Garg
at Apollo Hospitals, Delhi had told Priti last month. He had been treating Ajay’s
deteriorating kidney condition, which was on a steady decline, for the past one
year. The only viable option to save Ajay’s life was a transplant surgery. Priti
had immediately signed the necessary documents that put them on a waitlist for
Luckily after 3 days of registration, Priti received a call
from Apollo, Chennai about a healthy kidney of an accident victim being available.
She had to make that journey with Ajay to Chennai right away amidst Rahul’s,
their son’s, class XII board exams. A nebula of fear and uncertainty captured
her mind but she did not demur at all. She was the rock of the family at this
time of tribulation. She placidly announced to Rahul and her mother-in-law that
kidney transplant was the most common and statistically the safest organ transplant.
Then, she nonchalantly packed without wasting a minute, asked Rahul to study
hard and listen to his grandmother in her absence, said a silent prayer in her
heart and lead Ajay’s frail arm into the cab for the airport.
Ajay was operated the same evening by a team of the most
competent surgeons at Apollo, Chennai. Priti had called her brother, Rohit, from
Bangalore for moral support and sundry needs. She submitted her husband to the
surgeons with a kiss on the forehead and after three protracted hours of prayer
and hope, the doctors assured them that the surgery was successful and Ajay
would be able to return to Delhi in two weeks. A week after the surgery, he
would be discharged from the hospital, but they would need to stay in Chennai
for another week to facilitate checkups.
Ajay was on the conspicuous path to recovery as Priti could
notice the color returning to his pale face and light reclaiming his eyes. The
doctors were satisfied with his recovery and jocularly assured Priti that her
husband was “good as new”. She had rented a small one-bedroom apartment close
to the hospital for Ajay to convalesce in for a week before heading back to
Delhi. She thanked God every waking second for Ajay’s renewed life. At home
front, Rahul reported he was acing his exams and waiting anxiously for them to
Two weeks after surgery had flown by amidst cooking
nutritious food for Ajay and taking him for hospital visits. Their tickets for
Delhi were booked for the next day afternoon 3PM.Priti had the bags packed, all
the medicine prescriptions, and discharge files methodically organized. That night,
she had called Rahul to wish him luck for the Physics exam in the morning and
then they slept dreaming of the next night in their sweet home.
Suddenly,at 4AM in the morning, she felt Ajay shaking her
vigorously. Light sleeper that she was, Priti immediately flicked on the light
which revealed Ajay convulsing uncontrollably and sweating profusely. She tried
to stop his body’s involuntary movement but the tremors shook her hands off. She
frantically called the hospital for an ambulance. Ajay’s convulsions had dwindled a
little; Priti assured him that help was on the way. Ajay stared unblinkingly
into her eyes and clasped her hand tightly, digging his nails into her skin. The
next second, his hand went limp and his eyes turned vacuous. Priti could see
life draining away her husband’s body but she could not speak or shriek or
admonish it to stay. She desperately pressed and pushed at his heart for any
little movement. The ambulance and paramedics arrived and tried restoring his
heartbeat, but his soul was already sky bound. One of the young attendants
shook his head and held her hand, without looking into her eyes. At that
instant the rock in her melted like wax and she broke down into his arms.
Slowly dawn crept up and she could hear the birds chirping welcome. The
paramedics had left with Ajay’s body. She cursed the sun for rising, the birds
for chirping when her life was at a halt. How could universe be indifferent to
her loss to still keep running the well-oiled machinery? She called her brother,Rohit, who hopped on the next flight to Chennai. She instructed him not to call Rahul yet. It was his Physics exam that day and she would not have a bee whisper
the news to him that day.
Eventually, she signed the papers necessary for transporting
Ajay to Delhi, surprised she could still sign! Rohit would take care of any other
arrangements necessary, so she decided to head back to Delhi as planned. Weighed
down by a thousand rocks in heart, she somehow made it to the airport and the
airplane. The ride to the airport and the check-in happened in a trance of
disbelief! The reality of Ajay’s death was fleeting on and off,just not sinking to her bone. Was
she really leaving without Ajay? Soon as she took her seat, the emptiness of
the seat next to her dug its fangs into her soul! Her eyelids started trickling
at the sight of the unoccupied blue upholstery and she was amazed at the oceans
she held inside her.
Her heart flew to Rahul;she looked at the seat and played in her mind the scene when
she would reveal the news to Rahul. Should she hold him to her chest and start
crying? Should she hold his hand tight and quickly say it? Should she first ask
him about his exams and then tell some lie about Ajay’s return? Whatever and
however she thought, nothing seemed right about the situation at all. She had
lost her husband of 20 years and she could not protect her son from this
avalanche of grief. As a mother she could be the mountain to shield Rahul from
harsh winds, the tigress to attack a predator—but she was powerless against God’s
plans. She felt helpless and alone.
As the flight attendant approached Priti with beverages, she
requested the girl to sit in the seat next to her saying—“I hate sitting next
to an empty seat. Please sit by me and hold me!” The young girl with coiffured
hair was bewildered, but one look at the woman’s swollen eyes, she complied.
USA has never had a woman president. India has had a woman
Prime Minister and President.
Why is it then that Indian women slave with the household
chores while women in the USA share the burden with spouses? Why do equality
and freedom which come easily to the upper strata of Indian society fail to percolate
to the lives of every single Indian. Why does a man, who worships Goddesses Durga
and Kaali, not hesitate to rebuke his wife if dinner is not ready on time? Why
are we a nation of double standard bigots who fervently worship cow as mother, open
doors for Goddess Lakshmi on Diwali and also nonchalantly abort human female
We, as a society, blindly follow age old doctrines without
questioning their relevance in modern times. The tethering of woman to home and
hearth in archaic times was based on division of work. The man of the house
worked outside to earn money for grain, which the woman transformed into edible
bread. The woman took care of work inside the perimeter of the house, which
included washing clothes, cooking, cleaning and raising children. It was a neat
arrangement which worked efficiently for ages, but it also etched ‘DAILY CHORES’
in permanent ink on the foreheads of the species called ‘WOMEN’.
As times changed, girls started getting education and seeking
jobs outside their homes. They walked shoulder to shoulder with men in the
universal fight for earning money. They started becoming teachers, doctors, and
lawyers and later ventured into brawnier jobs like police, pilots and
firefighters. They soared higher in the sprawling firmament of unprecedented opportunities
but could not fade the ink that wrote ‘DAILY CHORES’ on their souls. Eventually,
they started wearing two heavy hats on their fragile heads-homemakers and
breadwinners! The jobs outside home were bone-crushingly demanding and the responsibilities
at home were perpetually polarized to always point towards them.
While the husband laid his feet up on the coffee table to watch
TV in the evening, the wife hurriedly fetched a cup of tea for him after loading the
washing machine with kids sports clothes, soiled after the game. As the machine
works on the clothes, she kneads the dough and chops vegetable for curry. As she submits
onions and tomatoes from blender to the pan, the washing machine beeps and beckons her. So,
she simmers the stove and rushes to hang the clothes on the balcony to dry. Alas,
to her consternation, the curry had started to smell burnt and she has to quickly
think of an alternative daal, with sweat and exhaustion running down her hair
Was their justice in the world? Was there a God looking at
His daughters being pulverized under the wheel of life while the sons just
watched callously? The truth is that God in these criminal times is working
overtime to uproot sin and Satan; so, the duty to eradicate gender oppression rests
on each one of us. We cannot just keep on ingesting the futile traditions and
passing the same fodder to our kids. We have to pluck out the rocks tied to the
wings of our girls if we want them to fly free in the sky.
Every woman and man
has to participate in this revolution of sharing the load between genders. We
have to struggle for freedom of our women if we want happiness in our families
and prosperity in our country.
These are simple steps in our daily lives that
can bring a sea change in society and inculcate the habit of sharing the load in the next generation:
-Stop the tradition of the girl-to-be-married bringing trays
loaded with tea and snacks for the boy’s family when they come to meet the girl’s
family .Let the girl’s father and brothers partake in this display of hospitality.
This will send an immutable signal to the visiting family that women are not
expected to be the tray-bearers in the family.
-Teach every child, boy or girl, to do their own laundry
soon as they reach the reach the age of ten. Encourage them to leave dirty
clothes in the laundry basket when they turn five. It’s a known fact that
daughters of the US president do their own laundry albeit they have the White
House full of attendants. Carrying their own weight and that of their clothes
is a lesson to be taught to each child early on in life.
-Hang two cooking aprons ‘His’ and ‘Her’ in the kitchen
always. The husband and wife should alternately slip on their aprons when
cooking/serving dinner to the family. In this era of internet, all recipes are
available on YouTube, so the excuse of not-knowing-how-to-cook is not valid
anymore. The man should get up to fetch salt, pickle or anything else missing
from the table. This simple routine is a life lesson which cannot be explained adequately
in any book or journal.
-Hang a chart for the weekly chores in the kitchen dividing
all the tasks equally between husband and wife. The tasks should rotate each
week to break the monotony and boredom. If wife is cooking dinner, then husband
must finish laundry that week.
-Ask every family member to make their bed before leaving
for school/work. This habit formed in the childhood makes adults autonomous and
confident in their lives. They will never wait for a wife or mother to smooth out their slept-in blankets and sheets. Also, a neatly made bed fills the house
with a positive vibe.
-Do not discriminate between toys for girls and boys. Do not
buy toys like ‘Kitchen sets’ and play ovens for daughters. This silently
imprints on their nascent minds the duties they are supposed to fulfill in their
lives and also prepares the boys of what to expect from sisters and wives.
-Prepare daughters for life, and not marriage. Encourage girls
to dream big and facilitate their path towards realization of their dreams. Confront
and avoid relatives who always pester your daughter to be domestic and docile
to serve her husband’s family. A woman’s destiny is not marriage and bearing
-Watch news snippets and movies with the family where a
woman plays a central role as a professional doctor, pilot, scientist or police
officer. Interestingly, in an experiment conducted by a research group, some
6-8 year olds were asked to draw a pilot and a police officer and all of them
drew a strong, muscular man in a uniform. We have to break that stereotype in
our children’s minds—so our girls know that they can be anything and our boys
expect them to.
-Treat every woman with respect and equality. Children of
today see the world through the eyes of their parents. Their beliefs and
convictions are undeniably molded by us. Let us live what we preach because example
is any day stronger that precept. Actions speak louder than words and always
Let each one us of be the torch-bearer for the future
generation, so that their lives glitter with luminescence that God designed for
all of us .Let us partake in God’s plan of equality for men and women for our
own benefit—to make our worship and reverence to Him meaningful and genuine.
Prerna is the iconic businesswoman of today. Having
graduated five years ago from IIM Ahmedabad, she is the Head Marketing –Asia
Pacific for a monumental multinational company, which has tens of prestigious brands
under its umbrella. She is a young achiever and a role model for young
ambitious girls in the country. She is also interviewed and quoted in leading
magazines and journals.
Prerna is a feminist and a staunch protagonist of women
rights and gender equality. In many interviews, she urged girls to never give
up education and to never compromise between career and marriage. Three years
ago she had married Rohan, a handsome, ambitious Marketing Director she met at
a conference in London.She had just fallen for Rohan, who had virtually swept her
off her feet by his intellect and charm. The prudent and pragmatic Prerna was
head over heels in love and agreed to marry Rohan soon as he proposed. But they
had not thought about having children and raising a family together yet. They
were both immensely busy in their highflying meetings and business commitments.
She did not pay attention for a month when she missed her
period and the month after, jaws of fear gripped her tight. This could not be
happening to her! Rohan was out travelling so she went and saw the doctor and to
her dismay, her worst dreams took the shape of reality and stood in front of
her like an invincible demon. Yes, she was pregnant! Someone just pulled the
ground from under her feet and she frantically called Rohan and started blaming
him for the predicament she was in. Rohan tried to console her that together
they could work a way out.
Both of them discussed when Rohan was back and agreed to get
the fetus aborted before it was too late. There was absolutely no place and
time for a baby in their bustled lives. Then they sought opinions from their
parents and both their parents were overjoyed at the news of a grandchild. They
offered to take care of the baby while Rohan and Prerna could tend to their
careers. After much contemplation, Prerna decided to carry forward her
Everybody said she would feel maternal once the baby started
kicking, but she never did. She was annoyed and embarrassed that her peers in
meetings would see the kicks. She blamed Rohan when bouts of nausea hit her.
She canceled international travel towards the last trimester and worried about
what repercussions that would have on her career. She could not wait for the
baby to emerge and hand it over to her mother, so she could head back to work.
Eventually, nine months passed and one morning, Prerna went
into labor. Each contraction lacerated and stabbed her and she admonished herself
aloud for letting herself in this pathetic condition and not opting to
terminate the pregnancy. After eight long hours of excruciating pain and
exhaustion, she heard the baby cry and heard someone say, “It’s a girl”. She
saw the baby’s bloodied face, puckered and distorted with crying as the nurse
took her out. She was too exhausted to think and just shut her eyes in relief
that the ordeal had passed.
When she woke up, the nurse handed Prerna her daughter—a
bundle of pink in a matching soft blanket. Prerna lifted the tiny face to her
face and the baby took out her tongue to touch Prerna’ s cheek. That wet touch
of the tiny feather-like tongue sent electricity down Prerna’s spine and she
shook as if touched by a naked high voltage wire. Before she knew, unbridled
tears started rolling down her cheeks as if a dam was let open. A whirlpool of conferences,
foreign delegates and brochures swam before her eyes as unfamiliar entities
.All her life’s achievements floated in front of her in a surreal blur as she
held her daughter in front of her eyes. That moment she felt that her unmoored
boat had found its anchor and it lay in the innocent black eyes of this little angel—her
That first touch of her daughter transformed the relentless
and competitive businesswoman to a mother, as gentle as spring wind and as
fierce as a lioness. She was ready to give up the world and herself for this little
being. She was ready to cross fires, traverse deserts and climb mountains to nurture
and raise her child. All her bitterness, regret and exhaustion of nine months melted
away and left the space for love to fill—the love which started with the touch,
reached each nerve and cell of her body and which she felt engulfing her. She
was lost in the ocean of her own love as she pressed the bundle to her chest.
She was changed forever. And she thanked
the Almighty profusely for this unique gift of love.