Marks do matter.

Yes, marks do matter. In most of the cases. At most of the places. For most of the people.

Of course, there are outliers who make it big despite not having a big score on their report card. But the numbers are far few and between. And there is a reason why they are outliers. Because, fortunately or unfortunately, as a norm, marks do matter.

Education system is the very foundation of any society. However flawed, it is that system which determines that linearity, progression and development of a student. At least in the formal education space.

I can only speak for myself, but, I can speak for myself with full authority. And whatever little I have achieved till now – professionally AND academically – it is all because of the marks. Be it at the school level, graduation, or post-graduation. Or competitive entrance exams, for that matter. Nobody told me marks don’t matter. Or they do. As a matter of fact, it was never a question. At the end of the day, it is the theory of evolution. And to survive and secure a spot for yourself in the race, you have no choice but to stay ahead of the pack.

My 10th standard board marks may not matter today, at five years of work experience post a PG degree, but that doesn’t mean that we forget the importance of those marks in the scheme of things. Admit it or not, but 10th standard marks determine the subjects you end up choosing for the higher secondary school. And in my case, they ended up changing the course of my life. I wanted to study science, but could not because of the inadequate score. I had to take up commerce as a consolation prize (that’s another story that I ended up loving it!), which I absolutely hated at that point. Moving forward, 12th standard marks determine the choice of college AND choice of subjects. And so on and so forth.

I’m all for not putting pressure on our kids and letting them thrive. But this whole brouhaha that marks don’t matter is taking it too far. We have to be realistic. How many dropouts have you seen succeeding in the regular course of life? And the ones who do, do not ‘because’ they dropped out/ scored less marks. But they succeed despite dropping out/ scoring less marks. Unfortunately, there are only limited spots for success, and the chances are, someone much better, brighter, and determined is already fighting for that spot, reducing the odds for your success.

So let’s not be delusional. Let’s not make our kids live in delusion. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and the kids should see it for what it is. And if they are okay with the repercussions of scoring less marks and being left behind in the race, let THEM make that choice. As for the most of the world, marks do matter. Like it or not.

Lying in hospital, dying of nothing.

Paraathas with white makkhan float in front of your eyes. Friends want to send you cookies. You crave for hearty pizzas. The fridge calls out to you with its alluring contents. Colleagues decide to go out on team lunches. All this and more, when you are being put on a strict liquid diet. Because one of your wisdom teeth decided to have a clingy threesome with your jawbone and the lingual nerve. And it doesn’t help matters when your well-qualified and experienced surgeon takes over three hours to perform that surgery, while announcing that usually this kind of problem gets extracted (yes, they talk in dental puns!) in an hour at the most AND this is the most complicated case he’s ever handled in his career spanning more than a dozen years.

You have barely just gasped, thinking it’s all over at last, and the surgeon comes over to have a talk. He tells you to not speak. He prohibits you from opening your mouth. He instructs you about the stitches. He warns you about the possible long-term sensory complications. And he does so while you’re reeling from disorientation, brought about by a heady mix of local anesthesia in your mouth and painkillers in your body. While telling you all this, he’s also trying to keep you from passing out. And he uses baby talk for that. You want to tell him that you HATE baby talk. But you fall into a slumber instead. He tries to bring you back to reality. He asks you if you feel alright. Telling him otherwise is too much of an effort, so you just nod and let him think whatever he wants to think. He asks you if you can see alright. You stare blankly into nothingness, and nod again. He reprimands you (still baby talking) for lying to him. You give him that look. He tries to read your pulse. You drop your hand on the floor. He takes it in his hand. And tells you that the worst is behind you and everything is fine. He assures you that you’re a brave girl. You chuckle in disagreement.

He tells you to let go.

And then it happens. You feel your eyes burn and a floodgate opens, tears rolling down your cheeks. You try to fight them back. While telling yourself that it’s okay to cry. But you don’t know what are you crying over. You hear a faint voice calming you down. You still don’t know what’s happening. The only thing you know is that you feel lighter than the air, just moments before you find yourself engulfed in a comforting darkness. You know you’re not here. And that doesn’t scare you. Not anymore. You stay there till you can remember. That moment lasts longer than an eternity. Before you’re brought back here by a sharp pricking sensation. You see the fear in the surgeon’s eyes when you open yours. You smile. You tell him that you’re okay. He relaxes. And says that he knows you are.

Moments later, he announces that it’s time for him to leave. And he repeats the instructions while on his way out. You pretend to hear. But paraathas with white makkhan float in front of your eyes.

The Badge of Motherhood

Thank you, mom.

This post about the lady who sacrificed her sleep for you will make your eyes moist.

13 ways in which your mother is a superwoman.

To that woman in your life for whom you’ll always be ‘mera baccha’.

How many times have you seen articles titled like these, floating all over your social media feeds, shared by friends, posted by strangers and endorsed by celebrities? I, for one, have lost count. Call it my cynicism, but every time I see an article with a subject line glorifying the motherhood, it fills me with a sense of deep disgust. Disgust at the way we eulogize and celebrate the sacrifices a woman makes (or rather, has to make) as a mother. Disgust at the identity (or the lack of it) that a woman is conferred with post-delivering a child. Disgust at how easily women embrace this badge of honour. Disgust at the benchmarks of love, affection and sacrifices it sets for other women. Disgust at the convenience it allows the kids, to pay back their mother.

Share an article, acknowledge what she did, pay your gratitude, and that’s it! You’re now absolved of all the guilt that you may ever have felt, for all that your mother has done for you. But what exactly does it do? Oh well, you may tell me that a mother needs nothing, but only a little acknowledgement (sprinkled with gratitude) of all that she’s done for her kids. Your mother may get fooled by this argument, but not me. I just refuse to believe that a mother does it all willingly, happily and ever so cheerfully. I think a mother does what she does for her kid(s) because thinks it is her duty to do so. The seeds of patriarchy are so deeply rooted in our collective psyches, that it seems all so natural. But is this really so?

Does a woman just forget to live for herself the moment she gives birth to (or brings home – in cases of adoption) a child? What is it in the composition of the word mother that forces her to live up to the stereotypes? Is it the fear of non-conformity?

In my understanding, it is yet another case of Individual vs. Society. As individuals and in particular, mothers don’t give up their lives for the kids willingly. While as society and in general, mothers are the quintessential sacrificial beings, who will go all out – even at the cost of letting go of their own being – for the kids.

And hence, these formal announcements of gratitude disgust me. Because more than an acknowledgement of the sacrifices a mother makes, they reek of the subtle reinforcement of the ‘ideals’ and stereotype that a mother is supposed to live up to. In a twisted manner, they remind a woman of all that she’s supposed to be and do, as a mother. Notwithstanding her own identity, desires and ideas of raising a kid.

I don’t know what’s the solution to this. Or if this is even a problem in the first place. But what I would love to see some semblance in this world of acknowledgement and gratitude. Maybe we don’t need to put her on a pedestal, treating her like a mythical goddess. A mother is a real, living being – occupying the same cosmos as you, so maybe it’s about time that we started treating her as one. And we definitely don’t need to ascribe to her the sole identity of a mother – ignoring her existence as a woman, as an individual. But more than anything else, I’d love to see mothers acknowledging the unwillingness to make all those sacrifices in the name of motherhood. I would love to see them as humans, not superhumans that they are made out to be.

Love. And then some.

Lately, I’ve not been writing. And I’ve not been writing not because I don’t have things to write about, but because I think I don’t have time to write. But that’s bullshit. We all know that time is never a constraint when the task at hand is important enough. So that’s the thing, I’ve been ignoring writing in pursuit of seemingly more important stuff.

Something happened this morning, which made me go, “Oh, I should write that down!”. And then I realized, I have not written something in so long, so how to just pick up the pieces and start? But that’s exactly how, you just pick up the pieces, and start.

Do you believe in love? Not just the romantic-doe-eyed-abused-by-Hollywood-and-Bollywood-alike-oh-that’s-so-cheesy-who-talks-about-forevers-and-beyond-and-happily-ever-after-but-maybe-such-a-thing-does-exist-and-I-am-not-made-for-it-but-someday-it-will-come-to-me kind of love, but love as a universal feeling. Love as a unifying force, love as kindness, love as concern, love as regret, love as what makes your world a happier place – love as just that, love. Do you believe in it? I can’t say I don’t. And not after what happened this morning.

A man just threw a bagful of biscuits around the pack of dogs that I was feeding. And my heart just sank. In that split-second, I felt stupid and insecure. I felt scared that the puppies I thought I had befriended – the puppies I was trying to discipline, by having them wait for their turn till the others finish and letting them eat only when they were being fed, not like a bunch of rowdies that they will eventually turn into, I felt scared that these babies will now abandon me, given that better food awaits them, which they can hog on unabashed. In that split-second, I also told myself that it was silly, to expect loyalty and love from a bunch of stray dogs who don’t owe you anything. I told myself that it’s alright for them to abandon you and turn to that big pile of food. And then suddenly it struck me, while I was busy consoling myself for the impending love lost, the dogs were still sitting in line patiently, still eating out of my hands when it was their turn, sitting looking at me with their gleaming eyes – despite the big fat pile of food lying just next to them.

That was the time I believed in love. Pure, unadulterated love. Love that speaks through the eyes. Love that sees beyond the obvious. Love that understands without words. Love that makes the world – my world – a happier place. Love as just that, love.

So, do you believe in love?

The One Who Walked Away

It’s not about him. It’s about me.

And the moment I realized that, I owned the pain. Like my own. Guarding it fiercely from the world.

“You protested when I said that the purpose of life is to be happy. YOU wanted to experience the plethora of emotions, ranging from longing to ecstasy to sadness to deadness. So, here you are.”

“In life, there are some things which you cannot understand. So, you shouldn’t even try to. Just think that you were to go through this.”

“You will never know his reasons. Only your reactions. Manage them well.”

“You would have kept looking for a sign, and there would be none. Because sometimes, things just happen. And you are not supposed to know why or how. You are just supposed to live through it.”

“Know that you did the right thing. And rest, you don’t anyway have a control over.”

“What he did was his Karma. How you take it is yours.”

“Don’t beat yourself up for giving love a chance.”

5 events that made me a stronger person in 2013.

So the birthday month is here again. The last year has been a roller-coaster ride, with many events helping me become a stronger person than I was earlier. Five of them which had the most impact on me are listed below, in chronological order:

  1. Getting back with an ex. Always a great idea. Reassures you of the decision-taking ability. And leaves no scope of regrets and what-ifs. If it had to work out, it would have worked out in the first go. But good to be sure. No hang-ups or remorse that “oh, maybe I didn’t try enough!”. Also, a wonderful reminder of what you don’t want in your life!
  2. Playing a bridesmaid. From sneaking the groom in the bride’s room before the ceremonies to playing the gatekeeper; from taking care of bride’s outfits to holding her hands while mehendi is being applied; from feeding the bride to dancing non-stop; from distinguishing the buas from the chachis to demanding shagun from the groom; from weeping inadvertently at the bidaai to making sure bride’s mum doesn’t shed many tears – it’s all just so much fun. And the fact that you can’t feel your legs at the end of it only makes you appreciate the hard work that went in making of the fun.
  3. Losing a loved one. Jimmy taught me to love. Before he came into my life, I hadn’t experienced the pure emotion of affection for a nobody. He arrived, and things changed. He would sleep beside me, wake me up with his soft nudges, motivate me to be fit by demanding a brisk walk every morning, eat from my hands, wait outside the washroom lest I disappear, hug me silly on my return from classes, ride on my Activa with me, cry when my bags were being packed, stop eating when I was away, wait in the balcony when he knew my visit was due, spread his silky hair all over my wardrobe and be characteristically himself. But he gave in to a fatal lung infection, and we had to put him down. I will always remember him as my green-eyed lover boy, teaching me to be generous and selfless in giving love and affection.
  4. Facing death. And having the narrowest escape. Enough has been said about it, won’t repeat it here. But undoubtedly, the most scary, scarring and life-changing experience I’ve had till date.
  5. Moving back in with parents. After almost six years of being on my own. Too early to comment on it, as I’m still coming to terms with it. But can very easily say, it’s difficult. Too damn difficult to cohabit with folks, when you’re used to a resounding solitude.

A Note From The Universe

In the middle of a rant-y, cranky and generally pissed off mood, I got this note from the universe:

Behind your greatest fear, Neha, lies your greatest gift.

And your greatest gift will be the example you become.

 

You’re welcome,

The Universe

 

And I have been smiling now. :) Thank you, Universe!