Monthly Archives: March 2015

The boy who cried She-Wolf

She-wolf suckles Romulus and Remus.jpg

Photo credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitoline_Wolf

He:
6am

Sometimes you know that the end is near. It’s in your guts. In the mind. In the signs the universe throws your way. I know it’s going to be today

Your body has a way of telling you. If you listen closely. Like the sharp stabbing pain in my chest last week. The doctor in the Emergency Room said it was just gas and sent me home. Doctors ! …they only know so much. All the devices at the hospital couldn’t measure my sense of dread; the certainty of my instinct.

7:30 am

As I’m driving my son to school I feel that I may not see him again. That it was going to be our last ride.  I wish it’s just my imagination and that it’s nothing. Maybe it is nothing. I feel a little hope and I smile a little at my son as I say goodbye.

8:00 am

I’m at work catching up on email when boss walks in to my office saying, “we need to get working on a succession plan for all senior leaders. Here’s your template …I need you to identify your successor  by end of day”.

This is no coincidence. The signs are getting stronger…more direct.

5:30pm:

I check the life insurance policies and designate nominees in my financial accounts. I wish I had written a proper will. I didn’t want to waste my last few hours on legality.

So, I decide to go home early in time to have dinner with my family.

6:30 pm:

My wife has cooked up a storm. She has been  on this healthy eating spree and feeding us all kinds of vegetables for years now. The food is lip smacking good. For an hour I forget my impending end and enjoy the food and the company of my family.

7:30 pm
The whole family has settled in the living room. Should I tell her now? Prepare her ? What will she do when I’m gone? Is there enough money to coast through college ?

I sit brooding with my laptop while the family laughs at the jokes in a sitcom.

10:00pm

It’s time for bed. The lights are off and I wonder if I should tell her now. By the time I make up my mind she is asleep. I “spoon” with her and close my eyes.

4:30am

I must have fallen asleep immediately.  I’m awaken by Nature calling me with a solid knock.  I have to answer it. I answer and reach for the toilet paper. I see the sure sign now. I know now that all the previous signs are right. The sliver of doubt that I may be imagining all this is gone replaced with cold hard facts . Indisputable facts. The end is very near.

4:37am

I am back in bed and my wife stirs and asks if everything is all right. I hesitate …had to tell her now …I didn’t know how to tell her.

“I feel afraid like something bad is going to happen”, I say easing into the topic.

She turns around and puts a hand on my chest stroking me and says, ” Must be a bad dream. Everything will be fine. Go back to sleep.”

I say softly ,” there was blood in my stools . A lot ”

Her hand froze on my chest. Suddenly she turned away from me snuggled into the comforter and said , ” Go back to sleep. It’s just the beets we had for dinner”.

Epilogue
She:
4:38 am

Another  perfect early morning sleep ruined.  Another evening watching him brood. 10 years is a long time to put up with his morbid moods and wasted Emergency room vists. All the healthy cooking of colourful vegetables to improve his health… all a waste! Enough is enough.  Tomorrow I will get the arsenic. It’s time I  get to sleep undisturbed.

He:
6am the next day

Sometimes you know that the end is near. It’s in your guts. In your mind. In the signs the universe throws your way…..

Photo credit: From website – https://suite.io/denise-larson/5bv028b

On the Road often travelled ….to the library

I was drawn to this book by the catchy title and book cover at the library. Yes, I judge books by it’s cover, too.
 
When I don’t judge the book by it’s cover, which is most times, I read the blurb/synopsis to decide if I want to explore it further. If the blurb does not convince me fully, I randomly read pages to see the author’s writing style to decide if I want to take the book home and spend precious and finite time on it.
 
“Why such selectivity, hesitation?”, you may ask and say , “Its just a book. Especially when borrowing from a library there is no material investment. Just put it down if you don’t like it”. That’s because of my almost obsessive compulsive need to finish a book that I bring home and start to read. When I start a book, I treat it like a promise I made to the author, that I will listen/read to the end and hear him/her out fully. A promise that no one can or does enforce, except me.
 
This quirky trait of mine has led to moments , where I curse my commitment to an author I have never seen(and may never see)  and soul-searching wondering what stops me from putting the book down….and moments where I am glad that I stuck to the end without which I would have missed that gem of a book.
 
In that way, this book “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His years of Pilgrimage” by Japanese author “Haruki Murakami” tested my commitment at times but didn’t disappoint me at the end. The story is about the loss of friendship , especially one from the formative years before adulthood, and the impact on one’s psyche. It’s about the passage of time that shows how it changes us in many ways and doesn’t change us in other ways.
 
A personal anecdote … my husband has the habit of asking me while I’m immersed in a book, interrupting me mid-flow in reading , “How is the book? Is it really good. You are so engrossed”. I don’t know if it’s Murphy’s law or something…he always seems to pick those moments while my commitment is being tested.
 
It maybe Murphy’s law or maybe that’s because I have branched off from the road often travelled and been pushing myself to read a variety of genres and authors of different ethnicity and other boundaries. A conscious decision to stay out of my comfort/pleasure zone of reading that I find myself testing my resolve nowadays, all the time. And that leads me to the next book by Noble Prize for Literature winner (in 2014) Patrick Modiano: “Missing Person” translated from French to English by Daniel Weissbort.
 
 
This book by Modiano makes me crave a book club group to sit down and discuss. To ensure that I understood the author…and to see what I missed…hear what others explain. The story is about an amnesiac who is trying to discover his true identity in post war France. The perfect plot for a good thriller/mystery/novel where you expect a climatic end …but wonder as you get to the end of the book if some pages where ripped off at the end , denying you the chance to get closure.
I wondered why the author got a Nobel prize in Literature and if the Nobel judges where in a Amsterdam ‘coffee shop’ when they made the decision…. And then it sinks in a day or two later when your sub-conscious, your better half of your brain, processes it…the author wants to evoke the same sense of drifting and non-closure that the main character is dealing with….We become the protagonist losing ourselves in the fog. Very clever indeed!
 
The author doesn’t explicitly tell us about the scars that the Nazi occupation has left on France with the gory details and the heart break of its victims and spectators…but it’s there in the backdrop ..in the words unspoken. Just enough references to the time line of the events that we fill in the details from our memory of history. The book seems like an allegory for the amnesia of an entire population that survived the Nazi occupation who either chose to forget or are afraid to remember. Again very subtly clever.The Nobel prize for literature grantor/judges did know what they were doing!
 
All that darkness from the above books..maybe I should delve into something lighter. Grey maybe….according to this author there are about 50 shades of them. I’m talking about the best selling book by E.L. James of the ’50 Shades of Grey Trilogy. I read the first of the Trilogy. I had to if I wanted to understand what buzz was all about. 
 
This series is about a handsome ultra rich young man meeting a not very attractive woman and they have apple pie a lot. On almost every page they have apple pie ,sometimes while sitting , while standing ,while trapezing under a circus tent, sometimes with a spoon , at times with a fork, several times right after eating one whole pie and washing the dirty dishes they start having apple pie all over again. Only twist the man asks the woman to sign a contract that she will have apple pie with him whenever and where ever and however he wants. (‘Having apple pie’ is an euphemism here ….and if you think I exaggerate read the book!)
 
And then I started the second one: Fifty shades darker. To see what else can be written on the story. Now this is one book, I returned to the library half-read. Well I skipped to the end and read the last chapter. I may have missed reading about 20 to 30 orga…sorry pages but I’m sure I got the gist of the story. If you are wondering why I broke my promise to the author I assure you it’s not because I don’t like apple pie.
 
Its because I couldn’t stand the subliminal message that the book sent …that all women want in life is a handsome , rich and young guy who:
– showers them with gifts somehow divining what exactly she likes and wants..
– protects them from nefarious characters ,
– is vulnerable , needs her emotionally and pursues her with religious fervour
…yes the list goes on…
-has a dead mother who is not a saint
-has an adopted mother and father who adore his choice of bride  and are so grateful to her for choosing their adopted billionaire son.
– wants to marry her and live happily ever after faithfully.
Wait I forgot ..
-an ex girl friend who is so evil that the devil will look like an angel in comparison.
One more..
– who bosses over her.
How could I not mention this last detail …
a man having an unending supply of apple pie.
 
If all men were like the hero of this story until they die then Pfizer (the pharma company) would go bankrupt (the little blue pill they make gets them billions in revenue).
 
Somehow continuing to read the book was like breaking my unarticulated promise to those millions of women before me ,who worked hard for what women really need: respect , equality, to be able to have an education, have a career , to innovate and compete in this world , to stand on their own two feet head held high….and be recognized for their accomplishments… The promise that their efforts and sacrifice would not be in vain. The book helped me realize how the ridiculous ‘wants’ of some women and the stereotypes that they propagate jeopardises the ‘needs’ of women.
 
Maybe I also put the book down because it held up a mirror to show that I’m guilty of at least wanting some of those listed ‘wants’….I will leave it to you to guess what those are…

Note:

I was inspired to write about the books I read by a fellow blogger who holds an “around the world reading challenge” where we need to write about at least 6 books by authors across the globe. Her blog and those who post their book reviews on her site provides a lot of suggestions for good books. Here’s the link to those interested:

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Photo credits: All the pictures of the book covers were taken from Amazon.com. Not sure who exactly it’s copyrighted to here..let’s say safely that it’s copyrighted by the respective authors.

There’s music in the heart

PHOTO PROMPT ©David Stewart

They met every Friday evening in the Park’s Gazebo.

They have been playing music together for 55 years. Their music was keeping them together and alive.

They played their instruments like there was no tomorrow.

“I think I may have been out of tune today”, said the violinist.

“You were perfect. We all sounded perfect together”, said the cellist.

The Cellist entered his assisted living facility. He told the nurse purposefully walking towards him,

“We made beautiful music today, as always! The violinist was especially exquisite”.

She smiled indulgently. She didn’t have the heart to tell him that he forgot his hearing aid, again.

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The above 100 word story is written in response to the 100 word photo challenge posted by Rochelle Wisoff-Field each week. Photo prompt ©David Stewart

From Raptors to Mascots….

image

4th grade students from a New Hampshire school had drafted a bill to name the red-tailed hawk the official state raptor. They visited the state assembly  as part of a lesson on how a bill becomes a law. They wanted a civics lesson and instead they got several lessons on the cold, harsh realities of politics , freedom of speech and abortion!

Their bill was crushed. That’s fine. That was part of their lesson on the democratic process. The lesson that they were not prepared for came when Rep. Warren Groen, a Republican from Rochester said,

“[The red-tailed hawk] grasps [its prey] with its talons then uses its razor sharp beak to basically tear it apart limb by limb, and I guess the shame about making this a state bird is it would serve as a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood.”

Why? Why tie this vote about red tailed hawks to abortion/women’s reproductive rights?

If Planned Parenthood needs a mascot based on the merits of how a living creature treats its prey….it should pick us humans as the mascot….the ones at the top of the food chain. We not only tear apart our prey (cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, tuna etc.) limb by limb with sharp tools we also dredge it in  bread crumbs and fry it in boiling oil.

Bills about Red-tailed hawks are frivolous, a waste of precious time as one lawmaker says…..She’s right…What we need instead is a bill that proposes that no man or woman should ever be allowed to vote on any woman’s right to choose what happens with her body.

It’s time to stop the lawmaker’s tug of war on a woman’s uterus and for everyone to mind their own business.

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Photo credits: The picture of the Uterus is from healthtap.com and the tug of war is from http://www.teachengineering.org

The drop

© Copyright - Rachel Bjerke

I existed. Why? What am I part of?  I never knew.

I looked around me.

We all existed. Why? What are we part of? We never knew.

Some of us disappeared.

How? Where to? We never knew.

Until the day I met him.

His touch transformed me.

I lost my form. I rose.

I saw all that I could be. The possibilities were endless.

Snow, Ice, mist….

Anything but a drop of stagnant water in an abandoned fountain that I was ,all my life.

I dropped. That was my last memory.

I existed. Why?

I vaguely remembered something about possibilities.

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The above 100 word Allegorical story/Poem is written in response to the 100 word photo challenge posted by Rochelle Wisoff-Field each week. Photo prompt  © Copyright – Rachel Bjerke.

Happy Belated Anniversary!

Last week was my parents 44th wedding anniversary. We didn’t celebrate it for a simple reason that my father is no longer alive.

When I reflect on my parent’s 28 years of  marriage I realize that theirs was a unique and beautiful one. They made it seem so simple and so natural that I was lulled into thinking marriage is a great game where both parties -bride and groom , husband and wife – are winners, equal partners.

Their marriage was a dance where they twirled and intertwined  into one entity to meet life and it’s adversities; and where they separated and showed their individuality , complimenting each other. They balanced the scale of yin and yang; not necessarily sticking to gender stereotypes. They respected and trusted each other despite their sometimes diametrically opposite principles.

His warmth
Her embrace
Their love for us
His reason
Her emotion
Their common sense
His principles
Her motivations
Their hard work
His empathy
Her sympathy
Their compassion
Her self-confidence
His humility
Their presence
His anger
Her calm
Their patience
His sacrifice
Her sacrifice

Their love for each other

That was my parent’s marriage …a symmetrical poem -where there was room for He and She and Them – the perfect nest for us children.

They each had their strengths and played them to the best of their abilities. The adverse life events they could control they tried their best to control; gave all they had to control….but there were too many that wasn’t within their control. They stuck together in it all…until death did them part.

In some societies a marriage’s success is measured by the longevity of cohabitation and  success of the offspring compared to a certain social group ; the wealth that they have amassed or social status of the husband and/or wife. Sometimes the success is measured in the height one spouse scales in their career and the other one is assumed to be behind the success. This is all the world can see and measure.

We can only intuit the dynamics of the marriage by observing the spouse’s interactions with each other. By the spark in their eyes or lack thereof, when they look at each other; Or whether they look at each other at all.  By how they speak to each other or about each other; Or if one is allowed to speak at all.

No one sees or measures that which goes on within four walls nor what goes on within the four valves (in the heart) of each person: the true marriage. No one can measure the value of a quiet evening playing chess together enjoying each other’s company. No one can measure the value of a spouse sharing without ego filters  the day’s events and the emotion it invoked: some times laughter , some times pain. No one can measure the value of intimacy. No one can measure the value of knowing that your spouse tears open their heart and pries open the lid to their soul just for you! And even more ,knowing that you can do the same without any fear of judgement.

In all those immeasurable ways, my parents had a successful marriage. That’s my observation as one who stood close to those 4 walls and those 8 beating valves.

It’s a shame that marriage anniversaries are not celebrated after the death of one spouse; especially such successful ones. Maybe its time to change that trend. Maybe its time to send a note or call and say to your one living parent….

“Your life together,
the way you lived it,
will always be my anchor
on stormy seas.
Happy Anniversary!”

The bridge to no where

Frost on a stump. Sandra Crook.

He told grandpa what he wanted for his 10th birthday.

“A bridge! Why?”, grandpa laughed.

That laugh froze the words in his mouth: “I love the big tree. Playing on it’s branches  makes me feel loved and secure, like being in my mother’s womb”.

Anyway, who spoke of feelings? “Only girls do that!” he remembered father saying often. So he just shrugged feigning nonchalance.

On his birthday he ran out to the meadow and saw the new bridge. His excitement turned to tears. Grandpa had cut his favourite tree to build the wood bridge.

He never once crossed that bridge.

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The above 100 word story is written in response to the 100 word photo challenge posted by Rochelle Wisoff-Field each week. Photo prompt  by Sandra Crook.

India is not alone

The blog, tweets and comments  defending Indian’s government ban on the BBC documentary ‘India’s daughter’ makes one claim: “The rest of the world , even so called developed nations, are no better when it comes to women’s right and safety. Solve your problems first before pointing fingers at me”.
It’s a very valid claim. If you google “TOP 10 countries with highest rape”, you will find that India is wedged between US and UK who lead and trail India respectively. If you take India’s huge population in comparison to the population of UK and US the statistics would paint a much brighter picture of India. But lets not forget that the incidence in India is less than the rest of the world due to a significant population  guarding its women like ‘flowers’ and under-reporting.
Rape and misogyny is not just an Indian problem. Governments, Feminists and gender equality proponents all have a huge challenge on their hands throughout the world as shown in this WHO info-graphic:
The supporters of the ban use the above statistics and are responding:
“I know my house is dirty….you don’t have a right to point it out because your house is equally dirty”
A mature response from the Indian government should be like one or more of the below, instead of a ban on a documentary:
1) A call for Collaboration:
“Thanks for pointing it. By the way you too seem to have the same issues. Why don’t we work together to solve this to make the whole world a better place”
2) A chance to lead the world:
“I’m going to do these following steps to fix the problem <list the steps>. You also may want to implement the same in your country’
3) Offer help:
“I thank you for your concern for the welfare of our society. Let us know how we can also help you”
Here’s a compilation of misogynistic pubic statements made by prominent US citizens that rival  our world famous Indian defence lawyers: ML Sharma and AK Singh
The fact remains that the US government did not ban the above post or any such videos in the media.
I commend the actions of the Indian bar council that has issued notices to the two defence lawyers for their misogynistic remarks in the documentary “India’s Daughter”.
It’s great to see a portion of India taking positive action! Its time to lead the world in meaningful change.

“Je suis India’s daughter” – Indian goverment stop defaming your daughter

India’s home minister has threatened action against the BBC, after it aired a film in the UK featuring an interview with an Indian rapist on death row.

The video that I managed to watch before it was taken down in Youtube shows the story of the victim’s meaningful life , the sorrow of her parents on losing her in this horrific way and the abject poverty and harsh environment that bred her killers. It shows the deep rooted bias against women ,in the psyche  of a portion the Indian society and passive acceptance of this bias in the remaining portion of the Indian society ,that facilitated this crime. It shows the massive response from another portion of the society – mainly women’s group and students – that banded together with unprecedented efficiency and demanded quick justice.

Here’s the link to the documentary..if its still working:

Now more than 2 years after this incident and uprising , when everyone has returned to their normal lives, without much meaningful change to prevent such incidents or stricter laws for rape (the frequency of which hasn’t abated), comes this documentary. And it gets banned in India. 6 men took Jyothi Singh’s (the victim)  right to her body , her intestines and her life. Now the Indian government has taken her right after death- the right to have her death become a meaningful one.

I will never understand the reasons that the Indian government has for this ban. I only know that the reasons, if any, are not pro-women. If they are concerned that this video will portray India and its criminal politicians in bad light, then they should focus on removing the bad elements ,not remove the spotlight.  The government cries that this documentary defames India. They are wrong; they are the ones defaming their daughter; our daughter; by banning this.

We need the debate that showing of this documentary will open up. We need the mirror that this documentary holds to a portion of our society so people can recognize themselves, the part they play and then…effect positive Change !

I keep emphasizing “a portion of our society” so that we all understand that there is another portion of the Indian society that is doing all the right things. But that ‘good’ portion needs to grow in size and infiltrate and influence the government.

There needs to be stricter laws, swifter justice for sexually based crimes against women in India to prevent these gang rapes in the short term.

For long term and lasting change, there needs to be education for boys and girls equally; education mandated and available easily to all children of all economic strata; with campaigns to remove the gender bias deeply rooted in the society.

The Indian government is working on ways it can ban this video outside India. My request to the international community is this… You all said “Je Suis Charlie”….Please now say “Je Suis India’s daughter”.

I love Alpha Males !

My baby – my first born son -an alpha male-  makes my day…..everyday.
Every morning , my baby ,now a teen,  wakes  up to go to school on time without any prodding to complete his daily routine. He prepares his own breakfast( Peanut butter/jelly sandwich or a bowl of cold cereal), eats leaving little to no mess on the counter, puts the plate/bowl in the sink. When I make him an omelette later in the morning, he says “Thank You Amma”…..Everyday ,with an genuine sincere sense of gratitude; making eye contact. Every time, with a gentleness that has become the source of my strength. Everyday he lives his life with that compassion , dignity, respect to fellow (female) humans  and self sufficiency despite not having  role model to mimic or reinforce that respectful and gracious behaviour. That ‘bad nurture’ cannot suppress ‘good nature’ fills me with hope for the future .
And then comes the rest of the family, the “pretend alpha males”, looking strangely at the cup of cereal soaking in milk  just the way they want it, waiting on the counter missing a spoon or the bread without its crust cut off. A mild expression of surprise and annoyance ,and suppressed aggression masked in a thin veil of civility, precedes the question: “where is the spoon”..”can you cut out that crust”. As I drop whatever it is that I am  doing and walk across the kitchen , to fetch the spoon that sits within an arms length of the said “pretend alpha male’, I draw from that earlier “Thank you” the strength to give that spoon ,to those role model deprived, and walk away…… Hoping that one day they would learn from my first born son how to be a true ‘alpha human male’!