Desi Lives: Jiyo Life Moments on Hold
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Most religions emphasize on conducting one’s daily life in a manner that it will influence one’s other worldly future. The human life basically appears as a tool to attain that future position in the heaven (if there is one) on the Day of Judgment, parlok (may be it is only in India and Nepal side of the sky) or nirvana, the Enlightenment or the ultimate merger of human soul into the divine. All conducts during the life time are geared towards this goal of attaining a position in the other world that most of us are not even sure of.
This carrot of reserved position in the other world acts as means of social control, it is a way of keeping ever burgeoning population on track and protecting those with little or no power in everyday life. Desi folk culture is full of idioms and phrases like I have to show my face to God, I can’t take it with me so I don’t want to attach my self to what ever material possession it is, only good name goes with you rest every thing stays here, even Alexander the Great left with nothing on and on… As if one needs an excuse (rather brownie points with God :) ) to be honest or kind. I wonder is it not possible to be honest and kind on one’s own volition.
Advocating restrain on seeking gratification is a means of social control so is emphasis on patience to enjoy the fruit of hard labor at an opportune time. This is future orientation so deeply imbedded in Desi psyche, every thing revolves around unknown future while present is missed out. As a kid I was repeatedly told to study and work hard instead of eye balling Chitrahaar or Sunday movie on DD . This incentive worked wonders on 13-14 me. I would religiously finish my homework and chores. Brother and I were told to polish the family name with good grades and good careers (no discrimination here).
Then all of a sudden I started hearing things all around, “No, you can’t do that, do it when you get married.” Be it wearing make up, skirts or going to movies. I am not alone many young women have heard that in their life time. All of a sudden the home I was born and raised in became alien to me and the one I did not know even if it existed became locus of my actions and conduct. Amu, Atiya, Rinky and many other friends share similar experiences.
In late 80s I was about 15 when I watched Nalini Singh’s Hello Zindagi on DD. In one episode she documented broken promises, where married women disclosed how their lives were controlled and manipulated by natal and conjugal kin. A woman spoke from the dark to be anonymous how she was assured she could continue her education after marriage but was forced to quit after marriage. Another told how her dance career was terminated by her in-laws even when it was the condition of marriage that she’ll continue her dance practice and career. Now even her parents were silent on it, they said it is up to her in-laws. Yet another woman’s word stuck in my head she said, “In parent’s house my parents said we won’t allow you to wear skirts or go to movies. Do it in your home. Now I am here my MIL says we won’t allow this do it in your home. I want to know where my home is.” I have never heard or seen such restrictions imposed on men their lives continue and women’s lives are put on hold in a wait of unknown golden future that no one is sure of.
It was then I decided to do what I had to do. I wore long skirts but never asked parents if I could go to movies with girlfriends. Basically I traded skirts for movies. I left home for hostel at 19. Lived a full life never did anything that I would not do if I were at home. An invisible fence erected on my own volition guided my steps. In a way my life was lot fuller than peers. Many of us suffered from dysmenorrhoea, all of us were told by different doctors it will get better after marriage, if not marriage then definitely after childbirth. Wao, again our female lives were on hold for that cure-all called “marriage, a package deal came with babies” (even if you wanted or not). I saw other women in the hostel getting engaged and married more arranged than love marriages because in the later men were peers so not yet settled in careers. There was this whole thing about coupledom. After six years I too was sold to this idea.
I now I pined to enjoy things with someone special that I was yet to meet. Unlike 50s, 60s, and 70s unmarried women in 90s did not wear Sarees in every day life other than on special occasions. Saree all of a sudden became a national attire of married women. I would go places for conferences; mom would give me extra money to buy sarees that I would like to for my wedding. I bought hand woven Sambhalpuris, Bomkais, Passapali, Ikat, Venkatgiri, Narayan Peth, Pattu, Kanchipuram, Bandhani, Lehriya Mothada,, Maheshwari you name it I had it in my collection. Sarees safely rested in mom’s Godrej and I changed folds every few months to avoid disintegration of silk, in a hope of that special day and happily ever after when I’ll enjoy wearing them.
Few years later I met someone and soon I went to Osmania for a course. Our class went to Golkonda Fort to enjoy sound and light show but my heart longed for him as if I had put my senses on hold. I did not want to enjoy anything with out him. I was in Agra I refused to see Taj because I wanted to see it with him. As our courtship prolonged I started missing out on everyday pleasures I could not go out with girls because I was waiting for him to arrive after his class. My total focus was on his career so that we could set a date. Now I realize there is too much hype about “that special someone” who’ll fulfill all your emotional needs and “that special day” that will set everything right there after.
Came that special day minus happily ever after, the man had huge complex that my wearing sarees made “him” look older. He wanted to preserve his boyhood where as I was a full fledged woman with a household to manage. Those sarees kept resting in those beautiful gift wraps and we parted ways not so happily ever after… When my turn came the game was over I felt cheated and robbed of a dream. So much for that future that I awaited so long… I am not alone Khamoshi, Mehak and many more desi women are picking the pieces of their lives they had put on hold…
We were still married one morning I woke up in the hospital, I was hit by a car. He filed for divorce. On the hospital bed it dawned on me I can put my life on hold for none I just got a second chance. I had to relearn to walk, dress up, read and write but now I definitely did not have to relearn how not to put my life on hold. I decided to enjoy every moment of my life. S took me to a Banff but now I was stuck in my past. I had no clear memory but my body yarned for him I thought if we could have made it work we could have enjoyed our first snow together. S said, “You think that drama queen would have left this trip worth remembering.” Then I recalled, I had no happy memories from any outing not even from the happiest place on the earth so I reluctantly returned to present.
We are creatures of habit and this “golden future’ awaiting us is surely beaten into our desi psychi by our desi culture. I returned to school in between rehabs and again I lost track of beauty in my life. I became an ever busy grad who did not even have time to smell the roses on her way to work. One fine afternoon I was walking through the soccer field it appeared not green but gleaming silver. I stopped for a minute and went down on my knees I exclaimed. Oh my, it is the new grass sprouting from the seeds. Tears ran down my eyes, Oh my! What a joy to see life, what a blessing to have sight and my knees that could bend once again. I was telling passers by about my discovery, most were puzzled .
This joy did not last long I went on a ropes course and within a week my bad leg started hurting. We had hard time in establishing a diagnosis because I had hardware in my leg. From crutches I went on to wheelchair and then to walker but I still went to summer Solstice and enjoyed every minute. Five months and still no relief, I became sad and irritable. One day my Spiritual dad asked why I was so unhappy and what will make me happy. I was shocked, I said, “You know my leg is not healing and the pain is impacting quality of my life that is making me unhappy and I’ll be happy if the pain is gone.” To this his response was, “What if it never heals and you have to live rest of your life in pain are you going to stay unhappy for rest of your life?” It felt very insensitive I even felt hurt but then I meditated on his words I realized it made sense. I could not put my life on hold I could not let my physical or emotional pain hold my happiness as a mortgage. Within two weeks I was camping and climbed Mount Julian with my single point cane.
Three months later I had another surgery. The day after sutures were removed I was on the cruise ship. Few more health debacles but my life has not been hold for a minute. My faith keeps growing stronger by day. I attempt to live in grace with kindness and compassion.
I go dancing, camping, boogie boarding, hiking, on ropes courses. I’m in and out of rehabs, my bucket list is still long I am working on it. If someone comes along they are welcome join me on my adventures but I’m in no mood to stop or slow down for them.
I can’t fianancially afford to go to Bali or Sydney at this time but I can afford to celebrate what I have. I can smell the flowers, tell strangers on the streets, I liked their shirt or shoes… I can give hugs to homeless people on the streets because I needed one when I was homeless…
My life is nothing great it is a movie I have decided to script and direct with the help of my producer All Mighty.
Claim your life don’t let others define you define your self. :)
If she can play by her life then why can’t I if I can do it there is no reason you can’t. Give it a shot unhold your life and make every moment a jiyo life moment…
 I don’t have Baluchari and Paithani because he promised to buy them for me.
 Sum, my friend missed his sweetheart so he did not enjoy it either. They too parted ways due to family pressure.
 I never saw Taj because he wanted to take his mom along for honey moon. So we never went for a honeymoon .
 A white Sikh Family nursed me back to health after my accident. So they are my spiritual parents.
 My spiritual family treated me to this cruise.