The Domestic Censor

I think it was some time in the early 90’s. The song would begin to play on TV, in the then ubiquitous Doordarshan, with a rather cocky chorus of “kuk kuk kuk kuk…,” and my father would immediately rush to the knob on the side of the screen. To change channels. This happened always, without fail, when my brother and me were in front of the TV. And every time I would be disappointed at not being able to watch Madhuri’s thumkas and expressions. Even Nina Gupta’s, for that matter. But who could say a word against appa. Those were not movements for children to watch, or lyrics for kids to hear, he said. Poor him, the more he tried to shield his children from the trash the content in TV was increasingly becoming (in his eyes, and that, in the 90’s), the less he was able to withstand their onslaught. What with DD Metro coming into the picture, that flamboyant, colorful cousin of the dull and serious Doordarshan, our exposure to cheesy, saucy, raunchy songs from Bollywood and Kollywood only kept increasing.

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Courtesy: Google Image Search

I remember the time when Criminal was released. 1995. The Superhit Muquablas and other countdown shows would play that lovely song “Tum Mile, Dil Khile”. Ah, how lusciously sensuous Nagarjuna and Manisha looked together, standing on a dock by a riverside, romancing into the setting sun. Alas! It was not for us to enjoy romance at that age. Whenever the song was aired, my father would jump into action. Now he had devised a new method. He would change the color settings of the TV so that it went completely black. So we could hear the song, for the lead singers had sung it so well (and probably he thought we were old enough to listen to it), but watching was prohibited. With Nagarjuna caressing Manisha with such sensuality, we certainly did not expect Appa to let us enjoy the song with him. Enjoy we did though, furtively watching it when he and mom were out for work.

As the quotient of sensuality and sleaze kept steadily increasing in Indian songs, my father eventually relented. We had begun watching “Oorvasi Oorvasi”, “Mukkala Muqabla”, “Kadhal Rojave”, all in front of him. No more hiding. Although, we were aware of his grumbles and mumbles behind us, we learned not to take them too much to heart. After all, he was a parent. And parents had their own fears. But we were also growing up, and we knew what we were doing.

It was at the turn of the century, when I was preparing for my board exams, that I got hooked on the MTV. And boy, the songs that they played! I instantly fell in love with a lot of boys there – from Backstreet, Boyzone, Ricky Martin, Savage Garden, Ronan Keating. And not to mention the girls – Britney, Jennifer Lopez, Celine Dion, Madonna. My oh my! However, I wouldn’t dare watch some of these songs in front of my parents, yet. In fact, I wouldn’t dare watch any of them in front of them. I was supposed to be studying after returning from school, or during those study holidays. Yet my days were never complete without a 2 hour dose of MTV every day. My brother had become a huge cartoon fan by then, and would lap off Swat Cats, Ghostbusters and Dexter with great enthusiasm. He did not care much for the music, nor I for the cartoons (although, having to watch them day in and day out with the sibling made both of us eventually like both). We both had an arrangement. As soon as we returned from school, he would spend an hour with his cartoons. Then the remote would come to me, for my music. And then, just about half an hour before mom would return from office, we would tidy up, wash up, put on the lights, light the lamps in puja room and play some “good cd” in our player – like Vishnu Sahasranamam or Kanda Shashti Kavacham. And yes, without fail, put TV on Discovery Channel or Animal Planet before turning it off. If dad or mom decided to investigate what we had been watching and pressed on the ‘Last Channel’ button, they would be happy thinking their kids were such science buffs. Smart we were, eh!

As I entered college my interest in English music went stale. I did not get time to watch more MTV, and MTV too decided to take a route away from music, and I become quite enamored by the local music scene, thanks to my college gang. No, not classical or traditional Tamil music, but ‘local’ music, the ‘Machi, mamu’ kind. Tamil hero Vikram became my biggest favorite, and his songs, my anthem. Not to mention Suriya. By the time I started working, my attention had turned a bit backwards, to Illayaraja and SPB. A long list of favorites, both old and new, English, Hindi and Tamil, were my constant companions, to and from work, and even at the workplace. Appa had stopped his shielding act for good. He realized maybe, that it was no good, and instead started enjoying the songs and videos with me.

Now why have I recounted my ‘music loving history’ out of the blue? Its because, now “Blue hai pani pani…”. For the past 3-4 years, I had almost completely stopped watching song videos, for they had become either too sleazy or too local for my taste (largely, not all). And for the reason that with an infant, I hardly found time, and in the time I found, I chose to read or write or watch an English movie. So when Sid suddenly started singing Lungi danch, lungi danch, I was surprised and amused. Not shocked, yet. But shock has come, all too soon. My son is singing and dancing to Pani Pani, Gandi Baat, Battameez Dil, and the like. I didn’t bother much at first, but off late, he demands I show him the Pani Pani video on You Tube. And with all the women dancing with almost nothing on, I squirm and shift in my seat every time the song plays. I now realize how Appa must have felt. Still, I try to reason, we did turn out all right, so will the kid, won’t he? I don’t know the answer to that yet, and till the time I can help it, I will try distracting him with something else, every time he demands watching those bikini clad women waltzing on the beach. Or maybe, switch off the computer screen, a la Appa?

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Courtesy: Google Image Search

A Battle of Nerves

Look at her, the way she is sitting, as if nothing happened. Playing with the phone, my phone! And that too when I am crying here. HOW DARE SHE! Ammaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

No. No use. She just looked up and went back to staring at the screen of the phone. I run towards her and try to claw away the phone. Give me, it’s mine. My hands thrash all about her, but she lifts the phone above her head, out of my reach. Cunning she is eh, I tell you. GIVE ME, I have work to do on it!

She manages to get away from me, and puts away the phone on a ledge way out of my reach. Such a scheming mind. And who would have thought her capable of all this, when she whispers I Love You in my ear every night. She is supposed to love me. She is supposed to give me what I ask. Still, she doesn’t. Why? Does she not really love me? Ammmmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

She lets out a deep sigh. Her patience is on the edge, I know. Any moment now, her hand might rise, and fall thundering on my back. Don’t hit me… I look at her with wide eyes. Are you going to hit me?

No, she doesn’t. She only takes another deep breath and calls my name in a low voice. Phew! Bach gaya! But no, how can she deny me what I asked! I should get what I want. Ammmmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

She comes near me and looks at me in the eye. Look, she says very very softly, and I have to lower my voice so that I can hear her. I told you we will go out in the evening. It is too hot now. If you want me to take you out later you have to stop crying now. She says all this, very very slowly, as if she is trying not to shout. Her fingers are massaging her forehead. My crying must be giving her one helluva headache. Poor woman. My eyes fall on the top of that ledge. My phoooonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnneeeeeeeeeeeee.

She shakes her head and goes to the kitchen. Unscrewing the cap of a bottle, she gulps almost half the water it held. Waittt Waitt… My water… I want waterrrrrrrrrrr… she picks up a glass from the trolley, fills it half and hands it to me. All, with no words, no expression on her face. What is she thinking. Is she going to cry? Is she going to shout? Will she scold me? Am I not her dear one? She can’t possibly hate me, can she?

My lips must have made a ‘bumpety’ shape, for her face has softened now. She calls it a pout. And my pout always softens her. She is opening her arms, and asking me to come to her. There is a small smile peeping out of her chapped but still beautiful lips. Ah, hasee tho phasee. Now all I have to do is maintain the bumpety for just a while longer. Not too long, that will spoil the trick. Just long enough for her to forget her anger.

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Courtest: Google Images

I go near her, wiping my tears with the back of my hand. The bumpety is sure hard to maintain when you are not really sad, no? Sweety pie, she calls me, and hoists me on her lap. I close my eyes as her hands gently wipe away my tears. I put my head to her chest to listen to the drum beats there. The beats seem to call out, Sidhu, Sidhu, and somehow, that is very relaxing to hear. my arms go around her, although not completely. She is still too big and I am too small.Her fingers caress my cheek, as the last remnants of my wails escape my lungs as wisps. She has slowly started to rock me. My eyes are becoming heavy. I don’t want to sleep yet, but her smell is so lovely that I can’t pull myself away. I don’t want to. She loves me, no doubt about that. And I love her too. My sweet mother, my amma… zzzzz….

This post was written for Project 365 program at We Post Daily. The prompt for today was “Write about the last disagreement you had with a friend or family member – from their perspective….”.

Equipping Kids For The Big Bad World

It is every parent’s nightmare. They wait in fear for the day their child will come home sullen and hesitatingly tell them about an uncle or an aunty (why not?) who made them feel dirty. They pray every day that such a day never comes. As children grow, it is inevitable that they have to head out into the world, out of their parent’s protective embrace and supervision. They go to school, in the school buses or auto-rickshaws, go to day care, go to play in the garden, are taken by some schools for field trips. In all these forays outside home, the children need to be equipped with information and awareness about how to fend for themselves. If someone does approach them with wrong intentions, the children must be able to protect themselves and not feel guilty about it. And the onus lies on us parents to teach them how they can do it.

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(Image Courtesy: Omojuwa.com)

Read on here to know more about how parents can equip their children to deal with the prowling wolves around us.

To The Phoenix in You

The year was 2008. I was chatting with my teammate, the only other girl in the team. She was married and recently had donned the avatar of a mommy. I was single and increasingly becoming the cause of my parents’ depression for they were not able to find a suitable ‘suitor’ for me. That’s another story altogether. Anyway, my friend was ranting about her domestic problems, and I was, for most part, trying to be a sympathetic listener. She was ruing the fact that life after marriage doesn’t leave too much space for things like romance, individual space etc. I looked at her incredulously and asked, “Why should these things disappear from someone’s life after marriage?” For which she replied, “Well, as the responsibilities on you mount, you tend to find lesser and lesser time for yourself.” I shook my head in disbelief and retorted, “Why, though I am single, I still take up responsibilities in my parental home. I am still accountable to them. But that doesn’t make me any less happy. And I am sure the same will be the case after marriage too.” I was pretty sure she was exaggerating. For her part, my friend only smiled a knowing smile and said, “You will not understand now. When you get married and get a family of your own, then you will realize.”

I remember this particular exchange because I had become exasperated with a couple of my girl friends saying the same thing to me, “You will not understand now.” I could not comprehend then what was it that I was not understanding and how could life be different after marriage. Now, three and a half years into marital life, of which two and a half as a mother, I am beginning to see what my friend meant.

Life has changed so drastically after marriage and motherhood that I could not have imagined it in the wildest of my dreams. I sometimes look at my pictures from before marriage, trekking with my friends, dining out with colleagues, and feel as if they were all in some previous birth. Like I said on one of my moody days to my husband, I feel like I am just a shadow of my previous self.

I had a lucrative career which I gave up for the sake of my son. Now, sitting at home, writing this and that when I am able to snatch time in between taking care of him and the domestic chores, I sometimes feel cut out from the world. I have lost touch with most of my old friends, except for the occasional hi, how are you, on Facebook or G Chat. Most of my time gets consumed in running behind my kiddo to get him to eat, bathe or do potty. Sometimes the only things that seem to occupy my mind are the menu for the next day, the provisions to be bought, or the chores to be completed. I think longingly about visiting the parlor, but procrastinate as something of higher priority keeps popping up.

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At such times, I remember how it used to be before marriage, and let out a sigh. I am now able to see what my friend meant when she talked about family responsibilities. Before marriage, I did take up responsibilities at home, but I was essentially free to do things for myself. I could go and watch a movie anytime I liked, hang out with friends whenever I liked, and splurge on myself whenever I felt like it. Now, however, a lot of pre-conditions have to be handled before I can do any of that. Watching a movie is completely ruled out unless there is someone at home who can take care of kiddo or with whom kiddo will comfortably spend time. I have not met my friends, in like eons. I have made new friends though, but they are mostly other mommies and the only conversation that goes on between us is mommy-talk. And splurging, well the budget always looms ominously over the head!

Some days my kiddo sticks to me like glue. He throws tantrums for every small thing. Every single task in taking care of him becomes a mountainous effort. On such days, I feel as if someone has squeezed all the juice out of me. Sometimes tears well up in my eyes due to self sympathy. I am filled with self doubt and zero motivation. On such days my friend’s face comes to my mind. She, and many other women like us, would also have felt so drained out and exhausted. Still, we keep going on and on. We squeeze out motivation from nowhere, and march ahead with dogged determination to make the lives of those who love us comfortable.

I remember my mother, who, for nearly twenty to twenty-five years, did everything for us, every single day. Despite the blues she might have felt, the ups and downs of her mood. Rain or shine, every single morning she would get up to cook, clean, get us ready and rush to her work. She worked tirelessly from morning to night. I have always wished to be like her, but only now, when I am actually doing it, do I realize what a Herculean task she was doing. And to be doing it non-stop for twenty-five years! I love you mom!

Maybe, that is why God chose women to be mothers. For women have that physical and mental stamina to go through all this and still smile. They have the ability to give up their individual desires for the ones they love, make sacrifices which most men are reluctant to make. He thought us as capable, that is why He chose us for this important task. Maybe, it is this inner strength that makes me cuddle up to my son no matter how difficult he has been, and praise him when he helps me clear the mess he created during his tantrums. I laud myself for this strength, bring a confident smile on my face, and embrace my responsibilities with happiness.

 

This post first appeared in Parentous, in March, 2013.