Tag Archives: family

Upending the Beaten Path in a Motorhome

 

To explore is as basic a need for humans as to breathe. The world and all its horizons having been explored and splattered across Facebook and Instagram, awoke in us the need to do our exploring a tad differently. If you have fond memories of childhood engrossed in the wondrous world of Enid Blyton, you would recall the Caravans that added to the allure of them. So, we decided to embark on our much anticipated discovery of Scotland ensconced in what could only be called a home with a motor and therefore a Motorhome. dsc_5766Having booked one from Desh, procured the necessary insurances to go for it and watched enough You-tube videos to have a false sense of bravado at the enterprise; My Spouse (who shall henceforth be lovingly referred to as The Man), two teens and I landed in Glasgow ready for a dash of adventure in a monster which can carry and sleep 6 adults or children within its caravanous hold.

I must amend my narrative to point out that, while the parents were bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to experience the Lowlands and the Highlands, the two disgruntled teens were not. They would rather have experienced Scotland via warm rooms in comfy Hotels vis-à-vis life experienced outdoorsy with toilets that required to be emptied out like chamber pots.

After a bit John’s (our helpful instructor at Atlas Motorhome & Campervan Hires) lilting Scots accent became familiar we finally understood the myriad workings of the interior of the van. It seemed daunting to remember so many details till he shared the written guide on everything that we could carry, I breathed a sigh of relief and promptly stopped concentrating.

Soon, excited and not in the little bit perturbed we set out and got our first learning that it might not be as easy as we had thought. With a well equipped kitchen the Motorhome carried there was a noisy issue for the crockery and other kitchen equipment rattled loud as the van meandered out through the cobbled streets of Glasgow onto the Motorway towards Edinburgh. To understand the full scope of the sounds, I can use no better expression than the one used by the Man, who soon would christen the rig a Haryana Roadways Bus! There would be many more learning along the way as we spent seven nights in our home literally on the move.

The first thing is size. Motorhomes are big. Really big. Ours was a monster that comfortably housed a not so slim couple with their five and half foot plus teenage kids. Delightfully called a Premier Motorhome – 2-6 Berth with a rear lounge or realistically the Rollerteam 746 can be a comfortable nest to explore the outdoors.  However, driving it is not as easy even though the vehicle is only two feet larger than an ordinary car. Judging the extra length while driving and reversing it as well as finding parking near cities is problematic. To top it all the wind speeds in Scotland can rattle the most confident of drivers, which The Man certainly is. Nevertheless the locations you can spend your holiday literally in the lap of Mother Nature make up for the ruts along the way.

Do look out for the next piece on Motorhoming:

https://vasudhachandnagulati.com/2019/01/04/breath-taking-locations-to-motorhome/

 

The Noteworthy Bridegroom

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Photo Credits : Namish Gulati

I must clarify before you read on, this is not a post on demonetisation even though the title  may be a trifle misleading in the present times where the note is more worthy.

At a much younger cousin’s wedding recently a thought struck that has stayed in my mind, growing bigger by the day. This thought has nagged and niggled away at my peace. I must enunciate this now or I shall lose more sleep over as thoughts the fiends that they are, only strike me when I’m comfortably ensconced in my warm blanket half way here and the other half in la-la-land.

It struck at the ‘sehra bandi’ ceremony, the cousin as you would have guessed by now was the bridegroom. Dressed in a golden shervani and safa, the dear fellow was radiant (now that’s generally a commendation reserved for the bride from whom I’m borrowing it for just this occasion, and as I know her to be a rather sporting sort I’m confident she will not mind.) So while participating with all seriousness in the ceremony where the sisters of the bridegroom tie the sehra on his safa (now it’s a known fact that the sisters of the bridegroom don’t really get too much footage at a wedding, so we take our relatively small roles quite seriously.) In our community, the sehra is composed of two parts a silver mukut and a veil made of flowers that is tied over the mukut. This particular mukut that was tied by the sisters has a unique history which will need another post to do it proper justice.

So now back to the thought that crept into my mind as I helped tie his  sehra was how much we hear, read, talk about the bride’s shringaar. We go into raptures describing to the bride her stunning clothes and accessories. From the bindi gracing her forehead to the ring sparkling on her toe, from the gajras perfuming her hair to the chunnari framing her beauty. From the lehngas twinkle to her payals tinkle, poetry has been written, songs have been sung, paintings have replicated the gorgeousness of the bride and the loveliness of her emotions. We cannot stop complimenting her on her happy glow. And we continue to congratulate her as she embarks on her journey towards love, towards a new life.

But, as for the poor bridegroom, he is rarely given the same consideration. Ribald jokes, loss of freedom, being tied to the yoke, a noose scarfing his neck are the only things the poor fellow is thrown in the way of attention. As he laughs letting slide the jokes and expendable dissuasion, the chappie camouflages his gladness effectively. Why does this happen, I question? The two are beginning a journey together, are they not? I wonder at this discrimination!

Discrimination! One would question that word. Women are discriminated against, not men some would say. Yet, I stand by discrimination. I really do feel sorry for the poor sod, who’s the bridegroom for he must hide behind his manliness and is not allowed to emote. Is he fearful of ridicule? Or is it because it’s the done thing? Whatever the reason that’s a quandary for me, that goes unanswered. The woman on the threshold of her wedding day is encouraged to be starry eyed, to express her hopes for a happy days full of love, whereas the man is made anxious with thoughts heavy pressing down on him. We allow the woman soft feelings to nurture on the other hand we don’t permit the man any display of  his.

They do, you know, have those soft feelings but hide them under brashness and bravado. You can see through the screens that they shadow behind, you just need to watch out for the signs. So, the next time you see the young boy who to the despair of his mother has never woken before the evening after a night of reveling with his friends, is up and ready for an early morning wedding puja. Or you witness the eagerness of the young man, who has never been on time for anything in his life, the first to turn up for his sehra bandi don’t be slack-jawed in surprise.

And while we are doing that let us also when telling the bride that she looks beautiful and ethereal praise the bridegroom letting him know that he looks handsome and regal.  We women will continue to hog the limelight with our embellished lehngas or sarees or suits and gorgeous jewelry, let’s pause to consider that the man does so only once, on this day, his wedding day. So, just let us take our eyes off the young lady for one brief moment and look upon this dazzling young man, donned in his magnificent brocade sherwani, hosting a symbolic pearl mala around his neck. Let’s gaze in admiration at the elegant kamarbandh encircling his waist where a sword within a bejeweled scabbard is jauntily fixed. Stop for a bit to appreciate his elegant dupatta and his stately jutis. Stare a little while with wonder at the embellished safa he proudly wears on his head onto which the mukut is affixed by loving sisters, proclaiming to all that he is the bridegroom and it is the happiest day of his life. And let us bless with hearts kind, as he sits astride the ceremonial horse with the confidence of a king, back straight in all his splendor while his sehra hides his joyful glow from any evil eye. Get together and applaud as he travels the last mile to bring love, companionship and happiness home. Allow him this day to express his pleasure just like my cousin did as he danced on the carriage that carried him to his equally and now I shall share the word with her ‘radiant’ bride as their long-held dream was on the threshold of coming true.

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Photo Credit: Richa Pandey Wadhwa

 

 

 

Empty Platitudes

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Recently a very dear friend suffered a huge setback. Her father had been confined to bed for many years, now her mother who had been the primary caregiver for her dad suffered a stroke. My friend, an only child, rushed to her hometown to be with her infirm parents. In her own home, many, many miles away, was a teenage son studying in the 12th Grade and a husband who has a job that necessitates a lot of travel.

There she was torn by love at both ends. Her parents, both confined to bed, on one and her husband and child on the other.  A supporting spouse and a mature child helped her cope with the situation, so she turned her attention to where it was needed most.  In the early days, I was unable to speak to her she was handling a lot and for obvious reasons needed to concentrate her energies on the constantly developing situation in front of her.

My friend is a vibrant person, whenever we spoke we have only laughed be it the mundane or the difficult she has always managed to look at things from a quirky point of view. My thoughts were with her constantly, worrying and wondering how she would cope.  Life had suddenly thrown her a curve ball the like of which I had never heard of. Caring for one ageing and infirm parent is tough enough; she had two to take care of at the same time.  I was in my teens when my ageing Grandmother had been confined to the bed for five years and I had seen what my parents went through in those tough times. So yes, I worried and wondered and worried some more for this friend whose spirit through thick and thin has always laughed and made me laugh along with her.

I worried when I thought of her taking decisions that would determine the course of her parents’ healthcare. Are any of us ever prepared to take such decisions? I worried about her support mechanism. Who was there standing besides her helping? From the outside everyone can advise, but she was the one ultimately who would live with the consequences.

I wondered if people were calling her telling her to be brave. To be resilient in the face of adversity. To take it one day at a time. Some would say you have the strength you just need to find it. Others would tell her that its karma and she has a part to play. Some old school folk, I knew would try to encourage by saying she was ‘blessed’ to be paying back the debt that is owed to parents. Telling her that this was the greatest duty and that she was noble soul for having undertaken it.  I put myself in her shoes and another thought started to trouble me, would I want to hear all this?

In a flash the answer came No!!

Why do we mouth such tired expressions to people going through difficult times. How do such phrases help anyone? Does it encourage them or are we assuaging our guilt for not being able to do more? These are questions to which I have no answers. But, what is very clear to me is the fact that a person dealing with a tough situation does not want to hear mere platitudes from me, they want me to just listen to them. Can I not do that thinking of their needs rather than my own?

A few days later after having got her life under control as it were, we finally spoke. The first thing she said to me was, “Babe, make me laugh!” That was what she needed and I did just that!

Later I also listened when she shared the pain that she was in, the conflicting emotions that she goes through every day. Watching her parents in that state. Her child and her husband far away in a home that she hasn’t been able to go back to since the fateful day that her mother collapsed.  Every day she wakes up to a choice that was not hers, but she made it. A lot has happened in these days and I will need another post to express the myriad emotions that she has shared and I have felt with her.

Gender Bender

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Two conversations are to be credited with for today’s post. The first this morning was a rather serious one and the second later in the day lighthearted and fun. I will share the second first.

This afternoon, I met up with a group of fabulous neighbors, who share my passion for reading and constitute one of my two book clubs (the other being equally amazing.) After we dissected ‘The Sense of an Ending’ and found our own closure to Julian Barnes’ Man Booker Prize 2011 winning novel, that almost all of us began by hating and then while discussing all changed our opinion of, well again almost all. The discussion then veered off to the craziness of parenting, we laughed at our foibles and our successes. Till one mother of a 3 year old shared her worry that her daughter hates wearing dresses so much that at parties she would pout and sulk if taken in a dress. “She only wants to wear jeans and her circle of influence is only male, she only ever plays with boys,” the mother shared. Now before all the feminists get their knickers in a twist, let me set the record straight the mother who said this has broken far many gender stereotypes than you could even think of. She like every mother is concerned that she is doing right by her child. Some other mothers and I too shared with her that there is nothing to worry, all our girls were the same. My almost teen daughter hates wearing dresses, skirts, and any attire feminine, if it were not for her shoulder length hair and love for nail art she would easily pass off for a boy, so ‘tom-boyish’ is she. Pretty princesses are passé, make way for the girls of today, who are pretty kickass (pun intended.)

Some of us women and I will stress on some, straddle both worlds with complete confidence. We follow our dreams working in any field that we want to and are successful at it. We multitask and can maintain a work-life balance that is the envy of the men in our lives. We dress as we please and travel where the wanderlust takes us. When we sit at home to nurture, we do it on our terms and with complete conviction. A friend of mine who works with large groups of Graduate students once told me that in his fifteen years he has seen girls evolving in confidence far more rapidly than the boys he teaches. He said that he worried for the boys and the kind of men they would become.

This brings me to my first conversation of the day, with someone who is very precious to me. I caught him on a day that was even in at the beginning of it was proving to be yet another in a series of stressful ones. I may ruffle some feathers here, but then I’m a self-proclaimed bad feminist. While we women are breaking the shackles that centuries of gender stereotyping made us wear, the men are struggling stuck under the yoke of theirs. While we endorse a girl’s right to be a ‘tomboy’ and find her wings and soar, the boy that wants to play with a doll is frowned upon and it would send his parents into a tizzy of anxiety if he ever asked to wear a dress. The expectations on men today sometimes to me appears harsh. He continues to be (in most cases) the primary bread winner, he continues to be expected to be emotionally the stronger one, to be tough, to be protective and to defend himself. Then why is it so wrong that he should want to come home to an atmosphere of love and support after a tough day and unwind with the love and laughter of his family rather than come home to an angry parent or a spouse waiting with their own expectations weighing heavily against him? I’ve made my own share of demands, yet I have learned from my mistakes and what they cost.

Some women would say that after centuries of dominance they deserve it. I pose this question to them, should the sins of the father be held against his son? While we celebrate our emancipation let’s also have some compassion for our men, only then can we hope for true gender equality.