[L] Look, there is magic in your life #AtoZChallenge

See that little bird sitting on the fence in your garden?
it just blew a cool and calm wave of magic into your little world ,
because birds only visit your garden if they find in it a safe friend.

See your child smiling at you adoringly, with her two front teeth missing?
she has infused little fistfuls of magic into your heart,soul and your whole being
because a child’s guileless heart knows whom to adore.

See your house help doing her best to make your life easy?
she has sung a sacred hymn of magic for you and your home
because trust and devotion from a person weathered by life; is precious.

See the rays of the sun filtering in through the windows?
they have sprinkled a glowing shower of warm magic in your home,
because warmth that is natural, finds it’s way into your veins, and turns into a life force.

Look around and you will find magic everywhere
it is present in every little nook and cranny of the jungle that is your life
you just need to see through the eyes of your soul; and you will find it.

© April 2018 Sapna Dhyani

[K] Karwa Chauth 2017. The year I gave up on fasting #AtoZChallenge

I got married in 2004 , but started celebrating Karwachauth only two years later. I did attempt to observe the fast and indeed stayed hungry till the evening ( both the times ), but gave up on the idea after the evening. Both the times , I was away from home, in a strange setup, and couldn’t really follow it through. The third time, though, I could finally “complete” the fast as my husband insisted on us observing it! Serving in a field area, and perhaps feeling the pangs of separation, it was he who reminded me that Karwachauth was approaching. ( He, who had once forced me to eat when I attempted to fast on a Thursday) . I was expecting my first child and was at my parents’ place at that time. Fresh love, intensified by distance, made me declare valiantly to my mother “I will be fasting on Karwachauth this year!” Valiantly, because everyone in my family knew that hunger and I were not the best of friends. In fact, once, after being goaded by our family pandit for quite a few years, I gave in and started “fasting” on Thursdays; couldn’t last for more than a couple of months,though. Throughout the day, I would torture everyone around me , giving them “weakness” looks. After I had gorged on Besan laddoos, milk, sweetened paranthas at night, I would go through the food sections of various magazines and show my mother the delicacies that I wanted to eat the next day. Just dreaming about them made me survive the nights. So you get the drift? That I am not a “fasty” kind of a person.

Coming back to my first Karwachauth, the day saw me devouring milk and fruits through the hours. The circumstances helped, as I was an expectant mother and couldn’t possibly remain hungry. But my husband, he didn’t even have a drop of water the whole day! Surely, that’s the kind of love that inspires poetry ( He will kill me for writing this here). And now, after thirteen years of marriage; he comes back home from his office, eats his lunch, burps, and says “Hey, have you eaten? I didn’t see you eat.” Then, he looks at me innocently when I give him looks that could kill.

I am a garhwali, and garhwalis don’t celebrate Karwachauth. But my mother did, despite the fact that Dad hated her fasts as he believed that fasting had messed up with her health. Though even she would eat fruits and drink milk through the day. She would remind me every year to buy a Karwa, dress properly and perform the pooja in a proper manner. But for me, it was more a celebration than a ritual. I would dread her phone calls the entire day, because she would enquire whether I had read the katha and bought all the necessary items for the pooja. A confession here- I never read the katha , because once as a kid, when I had read it out to my mother, I had found it totally unbelievable.

So, my husband and I continued with our celebrations for a few more years as we were living together in a peace station. We either went to a restaurant or ordered in. Really, when I look back now, it seems to me that we were enjoying the special fasting food more than anything else. Then he went away on a field posting and my fasting became even more customized. I would quickly light a diya and pray, in t-shirt and pajamas; and would call out to my house help in a “weak” voice, to quickly provide some food and save me ( on the verge of dying of hunger). The hubby, bless him, would somehow manage to give a call from far flung mountains and together, we would “look” at the moon and eat. He was definitely better at fasting than me, no doubt about that.

Now, the Karwachauth of 2017 :-

Me: Karwachauth is approaching.
Hubby : But you have to take medicines. You are definitely not staying hungry.

Me : But it’s “our” celebration !
Hubby : We will definitely celebrate. We will eat poori, aloo and kheer at night.

Me : But how can we just stop fasting?
Hubby : “Fasting”, did you say? When did we do that? All I remember is the “Eating”.

Me : To tell you the truth, I was never convinced about the regressive idea behind the festival.
Hubby : But you have to touch my feet in reverence, you never did do that. That will make me believe that you look up to me.

Me : Only when you touch my feet too. I too, like being looked up to!
Husband : So, it’s decided then. We are not fasting. Bring on the Pooris!

And so, a chapter in our lives closed this year. We are officially “off” Karwachauth . But we still celebrated. We ate. We smiled and laughed. We pulled each other’s leg and teased each other. I know that he will fight the devil to bring me back from hell, if need be. And I will do the same for him. Hey! isn’t that the essence of the festival? Maybe we did observe the “fast” after all!

© April 2018 Sapna Dhyani

 

[H] Hey girl, since when did you learn to… #AtoZChallenge

Smile

and greet the guests at your door
beckoning them inside
when just a minute back
you were lying in your bed
crying your eyes out

Rise

and leave your bed in the morning
living your everyday routine
when just a night back
you had resolved to yourself to change your ” everyday ” mundane

Love

and devote your entire being
worshipping “him” and the home
when just a day back
you were shown your place
in “his” life and “his” home

Act

and show the world
that all is well in your eutopia
when just a heartbeat back
You died a million deaths
in trying to “smile”, “rise” and “love”

© April 2018 Sapna Dhyani

[F] Being Forty #AtoZChallenge

The year that went by has been my fortieth on this planet. When the birthday came, it was like all other birthdays. I didn’t feel any earth shattering change or any moment of epiphany, revealing the mysteries of life. It came and went. I turned forty. That was about it. Nothing else. Was I supposed to feel any different? Was it a kind of a milestone for me? Should I have felt any different ? Because I didn’t.

Going by numerous womens’ magazines, I should have felt panicky. The magazines and the many advertisements within the pages scream at us that forty is a big landmark in our lives, specially womens’ lives. Forty is when wrinkles start creeping in on you like scary zombies closing in you. Forty is when the skin starts to sag. Forty is when the face changes. When your physique changes. When everything that was once pert, changes, and in not a good way. In short, you are told that forty is when “YOU”start to sag! Phew! Sounds like life is over at forty. Specifically for women. Because youth, a woman’s all encompassing jewel, is gone.

If any of the men who are reading these lines is shaking his head and sneering , finding the topic frivolous; then please open any women’s magazine, and start flipping through the pages. “How to look younger” is the undercurrent that is passing through the pages. Did you feel it? The current? Well, this current electrocutes the female mind, sending it neurotic messages about desperately trying to look younger than one’s age. The current tells the female mind that she is past her prime and everything will go downhill from now on. There. The purpose of the advertisements and the articles has been achieved. It has been drilled into her mind that her boyfriend/husband will lose interest in her and start looking elsewhere if she doesn’t purchase the wonder creams and the various elixirs to look younger. The poor ol’ girl has been robbed of her happiness and joy, and has become almost obsessed with ageing. Sad.

If we look back, this enormous pressure to look younger was not there till about twenty five years ago. The economic liberalisation was initiated in 1991. Then came the onslaught of Satellite television. Almost behind it’s footsteps came the cosmetic giants, and the Indian market was swamped by foreign products. For a few consecutive years, we won the crowns for Miss Universe, Miss World, Miss Asia Pacific and many other such titles. Ever wondered why? And thereafter, gradually the emphasis on appearances and looks increased. It’s a booming “good looks” industry now, with an over emphasis on the desire to stop ageing. Unhealthy.

Coming back to my entering the roaring forties. As I said earlier, the concept of it being any kind of a life altering milestone, failed to make an impression on me. Admittedly, I have moved on to the heavier side of the scales. After all the serious talk in the paragraphs above, I want to lighten the atmosphere. You are welcome to eavesdrop on a conversation I had with my better half the other day.

Me : I look bloated.
Him : It’s because of the medicines that you are taking nowadays for the slipped disc.
Me : Right now, I am the heaviest that I have ever been.
Him : Come on! You look absolutely fine .
Me : It’s all because of you.
Him : What did I do now?
Me: You were on leave from office and we ate stuffed paranthas daily for breakfast, for twenty days.
Him : Eat and enjoy all this food till we can, in good health.
Me : But I am not used to being this “HEALTHY”.
Him : It just means there is more of you.

Awwww…On a lighter note, now you know why the entry into the forties failed to make any kind of impact on me, whatsoever.

But isn’t it about time now that we started questioning this obsession with age and looks? If one stays healthy enough to enjoy life, all stages and ages are fine. Let’s shift our collective focus from ” Looking younger ” to ” Gaining good health “.  Here’s hoping that all the forty plus women out there stop obsessing about looking younger. To the ladies out there who ask others “What’s your age? “- How about asking ” What’s your health status? ”

[D] Two deaths. A resolve steeled. #AtoZChallenge

My mother passed away in February 2015, after being struck by cancer for a third and final time. Buried in grief, I found myself questioning her soul, “Why didn’t you just live for yourself, after a certain point in your life?”. A couple of years before she moved on to another world, I sensed in her a listlessness, as if she wanted to unburden herself. She told me one day, “I want to sit with someone and just pour my heart out to him/her”. And though she would talk to me about everything, I understood that what she really needed was an anonymous listener. Someone who wasn’t related or known to her. It’s much easier opening up to strangers, isn’t it? Someone who will not judge and will just listen. I think most people experience this after a certain age_ a desire to narrate the story of their life to someone who listens and understands. She passed away, after a painful and prolonged battle with the dreaded disease, aged 63. When you lose someone who is so close to you, your whole perspective changes. You start to realize the meaninglessness of so many practices in your life. It dawns upon you that the nature of life is transient and your time too, is limited. I found myself making a resolve for life- To not waste my time on anything or anyone , not worthy enough.

Three days back; on the 18th of August, 2016, another soul passed away. She was the wife of the Commandant of the small cantonment that I live in. I met her for the first time only two months back and it was a short association. But we met many times after that first meeting at her home. We would meet at private gatherings, official parties, meets for social work and at the various parties that she threw at her beautiful home. The most lively person that I had met so far; she was all smiles and laughs with a zest for life. The term “Joie de vivre” has been coined for people like her. Warm, large hearted, with a larger laugh, she was a force to reckon with. And then suddenly, she was diagnosed with lukaemia. She left for treatment on the 1st of August and told her family that she would be back in no time. We all prayed for her on her 50th birthday on the 12th of August and everyone was certain that she would be back. Then on the 18th, the news of her demise arrived. Everyone was shell shocked and life for all of us came to a standstill for the next three days. All of us went to her home and waited for her family to arrive with “her”. When they arrived, our dearly loved “Ms. Kabindra” had a different identity. She had changed from “Babita” or “Ms. Kabindra”, to the “BODY”. Yes, this is how everyone refers to the departed. I looked around at the garden that she was so fond of, her much loved plants, flowers, her beautifully and lovingly done up home and her pet dogs. I looked at her distraught husband; who is known to be a man of few words and who perhaps delves into the social niceties because of her. I looked at her children; a son aged 22 years and a daughter aged 17 years. They were being brave for their father, exhibiting a maturity beyond their young years. There was a deathly silence in the whole house, as if nobody could come to terms with her sudden departure. When they took her away, the life went away from her home too.

She, who had a thousand more dreams for her children ; she who wanted a pahari bride for her son; she who talked incessantly of her daughter; she who knew how to fully live her life; she who brought life into whichever room that she walked in; she who was a no-holds-barred person; she who had so much of unfinished business to attend to; and she who had so much of life in her heart- had it snatched away. Who knows how many regrets she had , when she was on the ventilator. Who knows how many times she thought ” If only! “. And who knows that, when the Day of Reckoning arrives for us, how many “If only” moments we will have. The resolve that I had made after my mother moved on, has only been steeled some more. The resolve to not have too many moments of “If only” on my Day of Reckoning.

After all , who knows how much more time we have.

© April 2018 Sapna Dhyani