Madras…

When I was a kid, Chennai was called Madras. It seems like an eternity since I used the word. I hear so much of Chennai these days that I almost forget how much I resisted the name change when it first came about. The Chennai I remember was a Chennai before the flyover days. These days, all over the city, you either see flyovers, or you see flyovers being constructed. TTK Road, GN Chetty Road, Kathipara…name it, and you have flyovers! What the hell? The beloved city of my childhood is gradually disappearing under a maze of flyovers, grade separators and bridges. So much so that, the original bridges across the Cooum and the Adyar are incidental today!

This morning, fighting morning peak hour traffic on Nelson Manickam Road, childhood memories came flooding back. I remembered how this, now-chaotic, nearly impossible-to-navigate artery was once frequented only by the odd autorikshaw and an occasional 15C. Oh! How can I forget? 15C was a bus route that can only be described as capricious. There was just one bus that plied, back in the early 90s, between Loyola College and Broadway. Yes. You read that right. Exactly one bus. It was supposed to arrive every 3 hours. But, it only arrived when you never needed it. It would arrive, when you were waiting for any bus other than 15C! The driver somehow seemed to have mastered the art of driving a perfectly empty bus even in the most crowded hours of the day. There were days, when tired of waiting for the damned thing, I would take an alternative bus, get off a couple of stops before Mehta Nagar, and walk the length of the road (a good 2 kms) to get home. All this, in the mid-afternoon heat, because school was over at 3, and I was invariably on the road around 3:30.

I remember the days, when armed with a heavy school bag, an empty lunch box and an equally empty water bottle; I would trudge home, wishing I would catch that elusive 15C at least the next day! I remember how taking an autorikshaw back home was such an earth-shattering decision, because using up my weekly dole of 20 rupees would mean I wouldn’t have money to eat samosas in the tiny school canteen! Today, the dilemma I faced over whether or not to take an auto is laughable, to put it mildly.

Snapping back to the present, I suddenly realized that the Madras of old has disappeared as irretrievably as the Amrutha of my childhood. I haven’t stepped into a bus in months, or even years now. The last time I did take a bus from T Nagar, I was so thrilled that it almost felt like I was reliving a part of my childhood. I called practically every close friend to tell them I was taking a bus! Nor do I think or pause before I flag down the nearest auto, at times when my bike is unavailable. There is so much today that I take for granted that I so cherished when I was 11. This reminds me how much people change. How much something can mean to us at one point, and how meaningless it becomes a few years later. That samosas in the canteen, the auto rides, the empty roads, all of them seem like things of the past. It seems today that I lived those times in a dream, or maybe in another lifetime. The city of my birth and childhood has changed beyond recognition.

That said, change is the only thing that’s eternal. I loved Madras then. I love Chennai now. I have lived in a city as beautiful as Paris for two years, and yet, nothing can beat the warmth I feel in Chennai. I don’t know why, but I will probably never be able to get this comfortable with any other city in the world. Maybe because this is home?

Of bloggy birthdays, adieus and au revoirs…

Where do I start? What do I say? I typed out words on Microsoft Word three times, and deleted them three times. Because, I don’t know where and how to start. October 16, three years ago, I put down my first words on a blog. It was then called something else, hosted somewhere else. Not once, did I imagine that this would become such an important part of my life. I never imagined that I would reveal so much of myself online, to complete strangers. Nor did I imagine, I would find so many people who think and feel like I do. The journey started three years ago, and doesn’t look like it will end any time soon. Belated happy birthday to my baby, my very precious writing space…a space of my own…as it was once called.

Speaking of journeys ending, I have something to say. To someone who’s been in my life for barely 10 months, but whom I will never forget in all the years to come. To J, who will know this is about her if she is reading it. So will a lot of other people, if they know both of us. On Friday, before she left, she said adieu. I didn’t think much of it then. On my way back home, I reflected. Is it really adieu? Or is it simply au revoir? Is it really that easy to say adieu and leave, as if nothing happened? As if that part of your life doesn’t exist? I think not. It’s always only au revoir.

Never goodbye; just…until we meet again! Because, I have learnt, that life always comes a full circle. That what goes around always comes around. Because people never really leave. They just go away temporarily, only to come back when you least expect it. As a poet (please let me know who, if you know) puts it,

“Ab ke hum bichde to shayad kabhi khwaabon mein milen,
jis tarah sukhe hue phool kitaabon mein milen.”

This is true for practically anybody we meet. Friends, colleagues, ex, even those we meet at a railway station or on a train. We never know when or how we might run into them again. So what if I won’t meet J at office again? So what if that part of the journey of her life is ending. It is, after all, a matter of time before our paths cross again. The time taken might be a day, two days, a year or ten years. But, our paths will cross. While we wait, I just want to say this to her. It was great knowing you. I know we will stay in touch, but I will still miss you. No…scratch that! We will miss you, speaking as I am on behalf of many others who know her too, but aren’t jobless enough to write blogs! I know I will. So, J! Until we meet again! Au revoir!

Nervousness…

…is all I can feel in the pit of my stomach. Don’t ask me why and about what I am nervous. If I knew it, I wouldn’t be writing this. I have mentioned somewhere before that I seem to share some sort of psychic connection with Julie. Read this post, and you’ll know why. I’ve felt this way for almost two weeks now. As Julie puts it, as if I have accidentally left my inner peace somewhere. I ignored it at the outset, thinking it would go away if I pretended it wasn’t there. But, you know how problems are. They have a nasty habit of resurfacing just when you think they have disappeared for good. I’ve been strangely buoyant since morning. I knew, when I was feeling euphoric, that this nervousness would be back before long. In the midst of all the work, the problems, the developments, and the breaks, somewhere out there, I am still nervous. Those butterflies in my stomach are refusing to settle.

There is a sense of unease about the way I feel right now. As if I am going to write an exam tomorrow. As if I am flying abroad for the first time. As if I am waiting to hear about my admission into Sciences Po. As if I am waiting to find out if I can afford to study abroad. All this, and more. I feel like I am waiting for something more important than any of these things rolled into one. I don’t know why. Sigh! Sometimes, life keeps you waiting rather long. So long that you wonder if it’s worth waiting any more. You can convince yourself, if you knew what you were waiting for. But, in my case, I don’t even know that! I don’t know why am so tense, uneasy and nervous. Why? Why, my lord, why?

Life’s answers…

I got a nice forwarded text message. Yes, I am using the words nice and forwarded in the same sentence! But wait, this one was really nice. It goes like this,

“Life answers you in three ways. It says yes, and gives you what you want. It says wait, and gives you something better. It says no, and gives you the best you can have!”

Sounds nice, isn’t it? But then, it’s so difficult to take no for an answer. I am human, just like everyone else. Sometimes, when life says no to me, I get frustrated. So frustrated that I wonder if I deserve anything at all in life! Like this morning. My long-awaited vacation of exactly four days got cancelled. Again! For the fourth time. The reasons behind the cancellation were beyond my control, or D’s for that matter, who was supposed to come along. But, my first reaction was…WTF? Then, I was frustrated, upset, depressed. Then, I saw D getting even more upset and depressed. I snapped back and told him it was ok. That we would compensate some other time. That there was always a second chance. This morning, I was back to feeling depressed and upset.

Post-lunch, I decided enough was enough. I wasn’t going to waste the whole day regretting something so totally out of my control anyway. That said, it was not easy. Why do we find it so difficult to take disappointment? Why is so tough for us to take no for an answer. This is, after all, a vacation. A vacation I can take anytime later. A vacation wherein I was supposed to go only to Bangalore, all of 5 hours away. Then why was I feeling so depressed? So frustrated? What is the point?

Maybe because we pin so many hopes on that one event, one possibility, one person, or one happening? Maybe we should learn to take that no and life would be that much better. Huh? I don’t know! Honestly, I wish I had the emotional maturity to take that no. I know I lack it. But don’t we all at some point? Life once said yes to me. It gave me what I wanted. Then, I realized I deserved better. Then, it said wait. I am still waiting. Now, it’s said no. I wonder what best it’s going to give me!

Feminism…with a bit of religion and atheism thrown in!

This post is an outcome of conversations with many people. Added to this, is the fact that I just started reading “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins. Dawkins’ atheism and my already firm convictions on feminism are making me pensive.

My conversation with a friend (let’s call him SK for convenience’s sake) was the start of my reflections. He was appreciative of the fact that I am a feminist, and don’t hesitate to be called one. Yes, I am. Not the bra-burning, man-hating feminist, but if feminism is about equality of opportunity irrespective of gender, if it is about being free to choose what you want to do, then I am a feminist. His questions set me thinking.  Why am I a feminist? First, because I see that there is injustice. Injustice in the way the world treats women. I see double standards. I see that what is sauce for the goose is not sauce of the gander. And this, my dear readers, violates my sense of justice. As I said sometime earlier, I can ignore, or choose to fight. I choose to fight because ignoring would mean silent acceptance.

SK is an atheist. At least, he calls himself one. I would prefer to call him a rationalist who doesn’t see the rationale behind religion. Indeed, there is absolutely no rationale behind matters of faith. He said he saw religion as the major stumbling block to the emancipation of women. Do I agree? I honestly don’t know. It is true that practically every major religion discriminates against women. But then, I have a problem with the word in itself. Religion is made, nurtured, organized and promoted by men. I don’t use the word men as a generic term for human being. I mean it as a term to denote the male of the species. Most religions are male-friendly because they were invented by men. Women are often incidental in the making of a religion. In fact, their existence is a bit of an inconvenience, conflicting often with the concept of God the Father. So, it’s pretty normal that they be discriminated against and be treated like second class citizens.

That brings us to the fundamental question. Since we know that all is not well with religion, and that it is often used to justify oppression, do we shut up? Do we sit back in quiet acceptance in the name of faith? I think not. Don’t get me wrong. I am a believer. I’ve always been. But, my God is not an old man sitting somewhere up there and controlling my every action. My God does not discriminate against me because I was born female. My God is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to be doing much about the rampant injustice we see. Maybe he wants us to sit up and take things into our own hands! Isn’t it time we did just that?