Category Archives: A to Z Challenge

Short Story : She did it

Her eyes shone feverishly, she kept checking the time on her watch. She was waiting. Waiting for the phone to ring. It was about time. She should have reached by now. Why did the phone not ring? Her anxiety broiled inside her, yet she was a picture of serenity. No one could have guessed, seeing her sitting there, in the hotel’s café sipping her morning tea. Thoughts raced through her mind. She could picture the scene vividly after all, she had created it.

The maid would have reached by now. She would have opened the house. We have given her the extra key. I hope she hasn’t forgotten it at home. Gosh, why is this taking so long. Knowing Sid would be sleeping and wouldn’t wake up she would not bother to ring the bell. Did she have to go back home to get the key. No, no that mustn’t be, it would disrupt her best laid plans. Months of planning would go to moot.

By now she’d have made his tea and should have knocked on their bedroom door, “Chai is ready, Bhaiya,” and entered to find him. Amrita could picture the scene, what she would see, the blood on the sheets, Sid lying on his back, arms splayed out, with his throat slit, just as she had left him last night, dead! So very dead!

Almost a year and half of planning, putting all the pieces together, tying up the loose ends! She’d be free now!

No, not yet! She reminded herself. She had to play the grieving widow for a while.

“Where was Shimoli?” she thought impatiently, she needed someone to be with her when she got the call. To be credible witness to her shock! On the other hand it was good she was a little late. The call hadn’t come in yet. There was definitely something wrong.

“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” apologized a visibly flustered Shimoli, “woke up late and everything just went downhill from there. Hope you weren’t waiting too long? Have you ordered anything?”

Amrita quickly smiled at her friend and colleague at the Mumbai office, a picture of calm, hiding the turmoil in her heart. She was an actress par excellence, she had Sid to thank for that.

“No worries. I was waiting for you, what will you have?” asked Amrita.

Just then she heard her phone ring, it was their home landline number.

“Just a sec, got to take this one” she said rolling her eyes, “It’s the ritual maid call, wanting to know what to prepare for Sid’s breakfast!”

“Yes, Kashi Bai,” said Amrita.

“Hello Amrita, this is Girish,” she heard the voice of her neighbor on the floor above theirs, “Where are you?”

“I’m in Mumbai, Girish, for work, been here since Monday. Is everything okay? Where’s Kaishi Bai?” asked Amrita looking genuinely perplexed.

“Are you alone? Is someone with you?” he asked again.

“No, I’m with a friend,” she replied, “What’s the matter, Girish?”

“I’m sorry Amrita, there’s some bad news. Sid’s been hurt, you need to come back immediately!” he said.

“Hurt! How? What’s happened?”

“It’s bad Amrita!” he said, “Can I speak to your friend?”

“Yes, sure,” said Amrita and handed the phone to a confused Shimoli.

“Oh my God!” gasped Shimoli after listening to Girish for a few minutes.

She put down the phone and looked at Amrita and tried to hide the horror in her eyes.

“I’ll arrange a cab to take us to Pune immediately!” Shimoli said.

Amrita let Shimoli take over the arrangements. She called their Boss, Apeksha out of earshot from Amrita, all the while sneaking anxious glances at her.

It took all of Amrita’s self-control to appear confused and dazed and let Shimoli treat her like something fragile, something that would easily break.

On reaching her Condo in Pune, Amrita rushed up to find the cops and her neighbors Girish and his wife Kanika, the maid Kashi Bai was slumped in a corner of the living room. And her brother-in-law disoriented sitting on the sofa with his head in his hands and blood on his shoeless feet.

“Where’s Sid?” she asked fearfully.

“Oh! Amrita!” Kanika engulfed her in her ample bosom, “You poor girl, how are you going to take it!” she sobbed.

“Sid’s been murdered in your own home, in your bed!” said Girish softly, as if the softness of tone would mitigate the shock of his words.

“How is that possible,” Amrita shouted, looking at the cops. She tried to rush towards her bedroom but, Kanika held her back.

“Don’t go in there, believe me, you don’t want to go in there!” she cautioned.

The cops questioned her about where she had been and why. In the meanwhile, Sid’s parents had arrived from Jaipur. Amrita let her father-in-law take control; play acting the shocked and bereaved wife to the hilt.

Later Amrita congratulated herself, “I should get an award for my acting abilities,” she thought. But then it came naturally to her, didn’t it, after all she’d been doing it for years. Sid had made her the actress she was today.

Siddharth had seen Amrita at his close friend’s wedding, who was her cousin. He had told his parents who had sent out feelers through common acquaintances. Her parents had been quite excited, they couldn’t believe their luck. A software engineer with TCS and working on a project in New Jersey, he was a huge catch for the daughter of a small garment shop retailer in Saharanpur. A meeting of the families had been arranged.

Amrita was vivacious and fun loving, a brilliant artist though not very good in academics. She had given her mother many sleepless nights worrying over the scraps she would get into, going out with friends to movies and parties that too with boys, a total no-no in a conservative city like theirs.

“No one wants a fast girl as their daughter-in-law,” she had warned Amrita to appear demure like her other cousins in front of Sid’s family.

Amrita at twenty-one couldn’t wait to get out of sleepy, stifling and conservative Saharanpur. USA was like a dream come true. She had to make sure his family liked her. That’s when the acting had begun. She had played her part convincingly. Sid and his family had gone back happy with the deal that had been brokered the perfect Indian bride and enough dowry, after all the parents had put their life savings into their son.

As Sid only had fifteen days left to return, the wedding was put together quickly, with barely any time for the young people to get to know each other. They left for Jaipur to stay with his parents till his return to the US. If Saharanpur had been backward and boring, living with Sid’s parents was archaic; she had to wear a saree all the time with her head covered all day long. Smile for all the relatives that trooped in to ‘see’ the new bride and bear their humiliating inspection. She was pretty, thank God, for that, but was too tall according to one Aunt and too thin for another. How will she bear healthy children said another, her hips are to narrow.

“It’s only till we get to the US,” she thought to herself, “Just a matter of a few days.”

Her Father-in-law though had a different take.

“If you take her with you now she’ll never learn the ways of our family, Sid. Leave her here for a few months,” Amrita overheard him.

Sid had left and she was alone with them. She had to be the perfect daughter-in-law, cooking and serving the family and eating after everyone had finished. She had acted and pretended to be ok with everything, holding her tongue at every comment thrown her way and cried into her pillow at night. The day her mother-in-law had hurled her bowl of daal on her face because she had forgotten to put enough salt in it, was one of the worst, she’d only gotten through it all reminding herself that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Only a little time and then she’d be out of here in another country, away from them. With Sid life would be different, she consoled herself.

After six months of hell she was finally on her way, to the US. Looking forward to a brighter future with Sid, who would be a progressive male, after all he had lived in the US for three years. The first few weeks were heady and romantic and she loved being there.

Till the first fight they had. Over her wanting to buy a dress and go dancing. He’d thrown a fit, shouting and screaming at her and then storming out of the house. After that, had come days of cold and silent treatment. With no one to talk to, a scared Amrita had begged and pleaded till he finally came around. She had assumed that this was a just one off incident…till it recurred again…and again…and again…at the smallest of pretexts, anything that angered Sid.

It wasn’t all bad though, a happy Sid was generous. Buying her expensive gifts designer bags, jewellery, etc. It was easier to act, to keep him calm.

Sixteen years and two children later, moving from one place to another the acting had continued…The mild and docile wife, who did not react to his moods, to his temper tantrums, his throwing things at her. The dutiful daughter-in-law, their treating her like a servant, their nagging and interference, Sid’s sending money to them regularly. To the world including her own family her life was perfect, for Amrita didn’t believe in airing her dirty linen. And even if she did, who could do anything for her. She was after all an Indian woman, her own parents would tell her to adjust.

Two things helped her to survive, her sketching and her voracious appetite for fiction, where she could escape into another life.

They had moved to Mumbai five years ago. Sid had invited his Boss with his wife for dinner. Over conversation Sid had boasted of Amrita’s drawing abilities and her sketch pads were pulled out. Mrs. Boss, Apeksha owned a design firm and was super impressed with Amrita’s work, offering to hire her as a freelancer. Amrita had looked at Sid, who was now stuck between the devil and the deep sea, he couldn’t offend his boss and also needed to appear a progressive male acquiesced then and couldn’t retract later.

Two years ago they had moved to Pune for another of Sid’s projects. He as always under the influence of his father decided to send the kids, Samar and Saksham to hostel at Mayo College, too much of shifting schools is not good for them declared her father-in-law. Her opinion was not even sought. Broken hearted at losing her boys Amrita still did not react. She had become very good at acting.

Amrita travelled once every two months to Mumbai for meetings with Apeksha. She was now earning good money and that was the only reason Sid let her continue, after all she was adding to the family kitty. It was on one of her trips, travelling to Mumbai that the thought of freedom had come to her. Divorce was out of the question, she would lose her boys. Besides, she didn’t want to give up the life style she was accustomed to, the luxuries. Why should she? She’d endured a lot over the years with him.

As the longing for freedom began to take root in her, the idea of doing away with Sid became stronger every day. Till there was nothing else that she could think of.

Then she began to plan.

Reading fictional murder mysteries had given her a lot of ideas to start with. She needed to get away with it. She was smart about it, she secretly bought a laptop and hid it from Sid. She would research at coffee shops and café’s with free Wi-Fi.

It’s interesting what one can find on the internet, if you’re looking.

Step 1. She read, you need a perfect weapon. A knife, she decided easily obtainable. Never interested in Biology in school she now studied the human anatomy for hours, to find its vulnerabilities. Did you know that once the carotid artery is severed a person can bleed to death in twelve seconds? When Sid made love to her she felt the pulse, the throbbing of the blood pulsating inside it and imagined slashing it.

Step 2. Decide the location. At home. While she was supposed to be on a trip to Mumbai. She studied train and bus schedules to and from Mumbai for days. In India no one checks your ID while buying a ticket for a bus journey. But taking a bus dead of the night by a lone woman was fraught with its own risks. She bought clothes from the street sellers outside the railway station, two caps, shirts and pants and two pairs of canvas shoes. Being slim and tall she could easily pass off as an average height man, and makeup did the rest. A successful trail run revealed their condo’s lax security and one flat per floor tied into her plans perfectly.

Step 3. Find an alibi. Amrita for years had not been close to anyone, she didn’t make friends easily since her marriage. Now she needed one. On her next visit to the Mumbai office she struck up a conversation with Shimoli and developed a ritual of her dropping her off to her hotel after work and meeting her for breakfast at the café in the hotel. Always footing the bill.

Step 4. Find another suspect. This proved to be the most difficult. Luck seemed to be with her as that too fell into her lap neatly. Sid had the first falling out with his father over his younger brother, Avinash who had a drinking problem and could not hold down a job. After depleting all their father’s hard earned money on one hair brained business scheme after another, he wanted twenty-five lakhs to invest in a franchise. There were rows upon rows between both the brothers and their father trying to convince Sid, who refused to give money to his wastrel brother.

Step 5. Find a way to link her suspect to the murder. Three months ago on their annual Diwali trip to Jaipur, she collected hair from Avinash’s hairbrush. She also developed a rapport with him and started to talk to him regularly, telling Sid she was trying to make him see the error in his ways.

Step 6. Find a place to trash all the evidence that could point to her. There are literally hundreds of places in India where one can dump things. And if valuable like a laptop, they will conveniently disappear without a trace. She had wiped out its memory and dumped it in a dustbin on the roadside weeks before.

Step 7. Put all the pawns in place. Amrita left for Mumbai and called Avinash from a pay phone. She told him that Sid was beginning to see reason and was ready to talk asking him to reach Pune by Thursday. Sid she knew was a creature of habit, he would arrive late from office having had dinner and by then Avinash, a sponge, would be sozzeled. Disgusted the teetotaler Sid would ask his brother to sleep it off and talk to him in the morning.

Step 8. The final act. All had worked to plan she had entered home in the dead of night and heard Avinash snoring in the guest room. Sid a heavy sleeper, wouldn’t wake up even if the house was burning, was fast asleep. She closed the door and snuck up to him on the bed from her side slashing his neck in one swift swipe with the knife. She watched as the blood drained out of his body and the life out of his eyes. She then dropped Avinash’s hair around the room. She quickly changed into the other set of clothes she had purchased exiting as swiftly as she had entered throwing the blood stained clothes in three different garbage bins at the bus stations on the way and chucking the fresh ones out on a corner of the dirty Mumbai streets took care of the last of the evidence. She was back in her hotel room before dawn broke.

Step 9. The curtain call. All she had to do now was watch the cops put all the pieces of the puzzle together. They wouldn’t find the murder weapon though… she had wiped it and thrown it out of the window on the highway between Pune and Mumbai while the bus had rolled.

“Freedom,” she thought, “Just a matter of a few more days.”

 

River

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River

Her mother tried to stop her

but with never a backward glance,

River bounded out of home,

she was a torrent of youthful haze.

With the cool mountain breeze blowing,

her cascading hair streaming.

The warm sunshine on her face,

her collected skirts swinging,

her anklet bells ringing.

Leaping over boulders and

dancing over glens,

picking her playmates along the way.

She at long last slowed down,

to listen,

the temple bells a-pealing.

She stepped into the edifice and

watched the Purohits

with their burning lamps.

Swaying she stood, lulled

gently into a hypnotic laze.

They adorned her with petals,

they bathed her with milk and

smeared her with ashes.

The multitude crowded around her,

touching,

seeking.

She looked on confounded.

What was this that they expected?

She knew not, she cared not.

Her journey was not to be interrupted,

she broke away from their embrace.

She ran with abandon,

they chased her to no avail.

Angered and arrogant.

They bound her.

They choked her.

Their hold a noose around her.

She struggled.

She strived.

Some of her survived.

A lot more cast away.

She reached the end of her journey.

Beggared and

battered she stood,

To question her creator,

on a game so iniquitous.

Q That Wrote Itself

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Q has stumped me, since finishing the post on P, I’ve been in writer’s no man land. It isn’t as if there are no words that begin with Q, or there was a paucity of thoughts for those words, there are many words that have great potential. Since I’m no quitter I have to write and get to the end of this challenge. As I agonized on what to write the thought came to me to let the post write itself. So like you at this point of time I have no idea what’s coming next.

Looking for inspiration in my much thumbed copy of the ‘Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and Proverbs’ in Q, of course I found this quote interesting, so I will begin here.

“A quotation is what a speaker wants to say – unlike a soundbite which is all that an interviewer allows you to say.” –Tony Benn 1925

If you will look at the date above again it says 1925 and here we thought that the problem was invented by our generation. When I did some freelance writing for India Today (once upon a time) I met the actress Nandita Das for an interview, she had earlier, politely (that’s her style others were more brash about it) given me a 15 minute window as she told me she was rather busy (she should be, I remember thinking at that time, after all she is one of the most talented actresses of our time. My opinion others may have another.) I reached her place early to not underutilize even a moment of this small window. Since I was so in awe of her and her acting acumen I had not prepared any standard questions, looking at her rather extensive bookrack I asked her about her interest in books and she began. The 15 minutes turned into 3 hours where we talked on varied topics. A time before cellphones and other social media interruptions that is one of the best memories that I have of my short lived career as a freelance features writer. While wrapping up she asked me a question, “Are you new to writing?” I was to say the least perplexed and then anxious that I’d made some serious faux pas, hesitantly I confirmed that I was. What she said next was rather heartening, “I thought so, other journos come with answers already decided in their heads that they expect me to give. It was nice talking to you.” When I watch Indian news channels today I totally get what she meant then. Here’s a picture that a friend shared on a social media group I played with it a bit and changed it to symbolize what our news channels look like these days.

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To the next Q word. I am often confounded by the lack of ability of some people to stand in one, that is in a queue. You will see parallel human lines beginning to form in front of ticket windows, cash registers, at places of worship, at hospitals, bus stops, railway stations till it all resembles a mob rather. On roads one person stops at a crossing and you will soon have cars zipping in from all sides blocking the parallel lane for oncoming traffic. Common courtesies and rules be damned I need to get ahead seems to be the attitude that drives such behavior. Everyone is in a hurry to get somewhere quickly. Is it because we are so busy? Or because we are running late? Or because we are too impatient? Whatever the reason be, the same people when forced to do so do manage quite effectively when barricades are put into place at roads and temples. Some may argue that this is a malady of the uneducated but I’ve seen the affluent and educated also ‘cross the line’ as often.

I think I’m going to stop here now at 657 words this post has written itself. Now to worry about the next letter of the Alphabet – R, my focus shifts to you.

Punjabiyat

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Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

 

Hailing from the ‘land of the five waters,’ I am a proud Punjabi. The post today is a tribute to my heritage and my culture.

As I began writing this I did some digging, it is amazing what I learned even today about the land of my forefathers. Punjab has a rich history beginning at the Indus Valley Civilization (3300 BC) one the earliest in human history. The land was referred to as the Sapt Sindhu in the Vedas which chronicle the socio-cultural lifestyle of the people of this region. The Rigveda alludes to a battle fought on the banks of the river Ravi ‘The Battle of Ten Kings’ the place that the battle was fought later became the site of the ancient city of Harappa, and the kingdom established here came to be called ‘Bharata.’ Buddhist texts talk of Gandhara and Kamboja (two of the sixteen great kingdoms) believed to have comprised the upper Indus regions including Kashmir, eastern Afghanistan and most of the western Punjab which is now part of Pakistan. Alexander we all read in our primary school history defeated King Puru (Porus) but what is lesser known was that the battle with Puru demoralized the Greek advance as vast numbers of Greek soldiers were killed by Puru’s elephants and valiant warriors. The Greeks turned back from what is now modern day Jalandhar. Punjab’s timeline shows the glorious rules of Chandergupt Maurya, Kanishka, Srigupt, Harshvardhan, and Mahraja Ranjit Singh.

The lands of my ancestors has always been at the crossroads of Asian history and has seen the invasions of the Persians, Greeks, Huns, Turks, Afghans, Mongols and then the Mughals. All using it as the entry way to plunder the wealth that the ‘Golden Bird’ was so famous for. With the excesses of the British the land bled and partition tore it asunder. The largest mass migration and retributive genocide in human history resulted from this and is a blight on the History of both India and Pakistan. Despite the many invasions and many millennia of adversities what no one could take away from Punjab was the indomitable spirit of its people. The never say die, tireless and open-minded folk who to many come across as brash and bold, we had to be for how else could we survive.

We are the most tolerant of people, the birthplace of Sikhism and Islamic reform movement Ahmadiyya all faiths have found home here throughout history. Punjabis are Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, Christians and all ideologies are welcome here in one of the richest cultures dating back to antiquity. The scope of our culture is vast and fine minds that have brought poetry, philosophy, spirituality, Sufism, architecture, dance, music, food and cuisine, languages, traditions and values to the world we have in abundance and then some more

Honest labor and work, sewa and community service are the tenets that define us and make us what we are. If Leonardo da Vinci had drawn the Vitruvian Man based on a true blood Punjabi he would not have encircled it rather he would replace the square with a heart, for a Punjabi is all heart. We are generous to a fault and will open our homes to those that ask and even those that will never ask. You will be family from the moment we pull you into our circle, we will hug you and let you know that you’re loved whether you want to know or not.

We have our quirks and are extremely proud of them all. We love our whisky, our butter chicken, our ghee laden paranthas and our paneer tikka even on a pizza. In the blink of an eye we will down a Limca to ‘digest’ our calorie laden repast.  Vegetarianism confounds us most and we can be affronted by anyone daring to serve us ‘ghasphus’ (grass and leaves.) If you say you do not ‘drink’ we look at you perplexed and make it our personal mission to tempt you into the land of spirits. So out we will come, full guns blaring with single malts and Blue Labels, these according to us no one can resist. Try it once like the imp we insist.

Gregarious, glittery and loud we love to celebrate, parties, weddings anything that needs celebrating. Punjabis in the house and then just watch the magic happen. We love to dress up bright and shiny, and no self-respecting Punjaban will ever repeat an outfit (heaven forbid) and the men will carry off the shervani in colors that will dazzle. Jewelry is big and bold, no delicate baubles for us we love our sparkling beauties and couldn’t be bothered with symbolism. We love our dance and despite our girth we will do the ‘bhangra’ energetically, the ‘gidda’ gracefully. We will sing soulfully and sinfully ruin a melody, we will be the life of every party. Warm and full of beans nothing delights us more than love and laughter. We love swearing and will lovingly call our sons ‘ullu da patha’ (son of an owl) strangely to us it means you are a fool while in western culture an owl is a wise bird. Our other swear words though interesting may not pass the censors and so I shall refrain from them for the sake of propriety.

We love a good jest and can take one on ourselves, a comeback a rejoinder that will rest assured not be any less. We are a proud people who can take a lot and love a lot but test us to a limit for history has proven that we will never, never bend.

Ode to Sisturzzz

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Technically an ode is a lyrical poem usually expressing a strong feeling of love or respect for something. Since I’m not a poet and am lyrically incompetent I’m going to take some liberties with the word. The feelings of course are what matters at the end of the day and technicalities can be set aside for the sake of creativity.

So this is my Ode to Sisturzzz.

That cousin whom I grew up with who is of my blood yet more a friend than a sister ever could be. The stories that we shared, the childhood games that we played and the nightmares that our mothers we gave with our antics and bold revelry. The gossip that we traded and with laughter we shredded. My total antithesis, the grace and the fashion sense beyond compare. The girl who knew every outfit that Sridevi wore in wore in Chandni and would quiz the clueless me so lost in the pages of my books. She took it upon herself to pull me out of the latest bestseller that I found myself engrossed in and made me acknowledge the world as it went by. A friendship that is my oldest and like wine has just gotten better with age.

That friend who is not of my blood yet is my soul sister. Who completes my sentences and knows all the dark corners of my heart. With whom I dare to be myself for she never judges and always encourages. Laughs at all my jokes and loves all my leg pulling. We share a name yet are distinct as can be. When I laugh and giggle like a schoolgirl, my kids know that it is her on the other line without even asking. No matter how serious life gets she’s that one person I can be truly stupid with. She’s shared my life’s most difficult moments also and been a rock by my side, knowing just the right thing to say pulling me out from the abyss that threatened me and mine. A friend like her is impossible to find and I am glad I have her in my life, my best friend and soul sister.

Then the little sister who grows up looking up to you, admiring you, copying you and making you feel like a titan. She grows up and you find that she has become a remarkable person who inspires you more than you ever did her. With the patience of a saint and a heart that’s pure gold she brings sunshine into your life. She sings the loudest, dancing the longest at your triumphs and cries the hardest at your losses. The one person in your life who no matter what, will love and be loved for she is the little sister every big sister dreams of having.

NO, Not an Easy Word to Say

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A friend, relative or co-worker makes an unreasonable or for that matter a reasonable demand and even though all your brain cells are screaming at decibels that bats can hear, you hear the word ‘Yes’ pop out your mouth. If that’s you then you suffer from the malady called ‘wanting to please.’ You want to shove the yes back from wherever it popped out from your addled sense of being a do-gooder, but it’s too late and you are committed.

Those who suffer with this sickness, render themselves incapable of saying ‘No’ when they should. There are many predicaments that they find themselves in thanks to not using this small word that is only two letters and should be the easiest to utter, right? Wrong, for it is a small word loaded with heavy ramifications. You suffer the guilt of letting down, hurting or angering someone.

My better half was riddled with this disease early in our marriage. To my consternation he would by Wednesday have committed to at least 3 lunches and 4 dinners for the weekend. Now I wouldn’t mind hopping from one lunch to another on a Saturday and then again a leisurely one on Sunday and I could also do two dinners on Saturday but two on Sunday would be a bit of a stretch the next day being a working one. Where the telling of this tale becomes a tad bit complicated is that ‘I’ was the one who was expected to provide the lunches and the dinners all on the same Saturday. Now stretching myself really and I mean really thin I could pull off the cooking and the baking, I am pretty competent in that department even though I do say so myself. Learning from one Saturday when I did try to make it work the problem besides my exhausted self was that the guests would be so diverse, making the afternoon and then the evening not only tedious but rather very awkward as well. Following that one disaster, on Fridays when enlightened by well-meaning friends or relatives calling to confirm that they would indeed be coming to enjoy my well put together parties, I had to do the nasty task of uninviting at least a few. People would call him up, invite themselves over and he just couldn’t say NO. You can imagine the kind of rows that we would have over the issue till he resolved the situation to his own liking. Still unable to say ‘No’ he would tell people ‘I’ll ask her to call you back.’ That is when I discovered I too suffered from the same malady. He only had to tell me that so and so called and I would start hyperventilating about returning the call. Then I would further go and call up so and so and hear how long it had been since we last caught up (2 weekends back) and how I was such a great host and blah, blah, blah. Needless to say I would be slaving away in a hot kitchen on my well-earned Saturday. The only wise thing I did was I did not call up the other so and so who would have also called. I always wondered if I was the last of the hosts in my ‘small’ world since I was never invited anywhere.

At work too the same inability to say No landed me with extra work that the co-worker so sweetly asked me to help her with. In my head would be the thought “Oh really, and I have all the time in the world and nowhere to go but do your bit of the task also.” And the mouth would open and out popped the dreaded, “Yes, sure you go ahead and take care, let me know if I can do any more.” The brain would later berate me, “Seriously? Offering more help!!”

There are many more incidents far too many that cannot be shared so publically else I will lose the few friends I have left. This made us realize that the inability to say No cost both of us many difficulties due to our prioritizing other people’s needs before ours. Learning the hard way we made some rules that once implemented did result in uttering the No a lot simpler. Here are some, one will do at a time but in extreme cases I’ve needed to pull out all stops and use all at once too.

  1. Take a deep breath when a request is made, helps buy time and lets you think before you put your own head in the noose. Think about your Priorities – committing to this person will take away time that you need to spend with my family.
  2. Ask questions about what is being asked, pretend you are looking for more clarity which discourages some.
  3. Distract with rambling about the different tasks that you have on that day and how you may be able to fit their ask into the calendar but you’re not sure when, you’ll try and blah, blah, blah.
  4. Don’t begin by saying sorry, be polite but firm. It’s a good thing to be nice but remember there’s a difference in being nice and being a pushover.
  5. Be honest. 99% of the time it works.
  6. Then there are some sweetly persistent people who will just reason with everything you say and try to wheedle a yes out of you. Cut the phone and switch it off. Later you can say you dropped your phone from the balcony and it shattered into a million pieces. Don’t have a balcony? The tub or even the bog will do to destroy the phone. No one is coming to check if that actually happened.

Whatever you need to do to say this very difficult word remember that, By saying yes when you need to say No, you cripple the most important relationship in your life: the relationship between you and you. – Nea Joy

My Gita by Devdutt Pattanaik

 

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One of my posts had to be about a book sooner or later, a voracious reader cannot but help herself. Books for me have been my friends, teachers, philosophers and guides. I love the written word and wouldn’t know where to turn to if I lost them, my faithful companions.

Why ‘My Gita’? I grew up listening to the stories of the Ramayana and Mahabharata retold by my loving Grandmother and then by TV series. The Gita is a name I grew up with, my Grandmother would give us advice saying this is written in the Gita and so forth but its contents were somehow obscure and continued to be a mystery to me. I have picked up ‘The Gita’ translated into English by various writers many times and tried to read it not getting beyond a few pages before leaving it. I could not relate to the language or the writer’s viewpoint in most cases. Probably because I was not looking to read the Gita to ‘find God’ but to understand the wisdom that I felt it had to offer. My search ended when a friend suggested that we read ‘My Gita’ by Devdutt Pattanaik for one of our Book Club reads.

I thought that maybe this way I would endure to read the Gita and tick it off my bucket list. Endure I did not, for I was hooked to the writing style immediately. He begins by explaining for calling it ‘My Gita’ and I discovered that he put into words exactly why I wanted to read it for so long. I too wanted to approach it like Arjuna, with curiosity, to understand. In my Grandmother’s tone as she spoke of the Gita I could always detect a note of self-realization which I found in Devdutt’s explanation “Krishna speaks of brahma-nirvana as an expansion of the mind.” He then explores the history of the Gita, even though you may feel that you know it I urge you not to skip over this portion there surely will be information you would have not known earlier.

Some of the truths that I have understood from the reading of ‘My Gita’ are that God lives in all of us, “that helps us cope with our own fears that disconnect us from society.” When we understand this we do not look for comfort from materialism thus we do not cling to them out of moha and when we learn to let go we attain moksha. “The God of Hinduism is no judge. Hence Krishna gives no commandments in the Gita.” A benevolent God that understands rather than judges, guides rather than moralizes. Standing on judgment on others and situations only limits us by obstructing our worldview. Being judgmental does not let the mind expand, how often we let our prejudices cloud our vision limiting our own spiritual growth. When we are blinded by moha living in fear and insecurity like the blind king. The fear of validation, the fear of not knowing our purpose on earth makes us derive our value from the property that we possess, the designations that we hold. Blindness on Dhritarashtra’s part is not so much physical blindness or “absence of sight as the absence of empathy.” The Devas and Asuras continue to struggle and fight as opposing forces rather than living in harmony as Vishnu intended them to in order to achieve the potential that we are capable of. These two opposing forces are within each one of us and when we do not reconcile them we only disrupt our own equilibrium, “The heroes of one plot turn out to be villains of other plots.”

“Rebirth takes away the sense of urgency and the quest for perfection.” This was probably the most important learning for me. We go through our childhood competing, striving to be the best. When there is only one lifetime to be concerned about the thought of achievement becomes paramount. The Hindu theory of rebirth makes the rat race irrelevant, why then do we make ourselves miserable trying to over achieve?

Having read ‘My Gita’ I have not understood it in its entirety but then I’m not supposed to “It is only in modern times, with a printed book in hand, that we want to read The Gita cover to cover, chapter by chapter, verse to verse and hope to work our way through to a climax of resolutions in one go. When we attempt to do so, we are disappointed.” The Gita was never supposed to be read in one sitting, it was supposed to be read again and again, it was to be understood part by part and that is the learning I have taken from “My Gita.’ I will read it many more times and discover myself in the process.

to be continued…