A year when our children knew life differently
To be etched in their memory,
Perhaps without the pandemic
A taste of life we would not have known
As parents, we tried our best
To foster a spirit of trust, faith and strength
To counter the air of fear and uncertainty
We made efforts to help them see
The silver lining in the darkest of clouds
To transform the lockdown into a time to heal the unseen wounds.
To cherish the flexibility and the slow pace,
Of living life beyond the normal race
Going back to the basics and simplicity
Plain home-cooked meals,
Shopping for bare necessities
`Less is more’ was on full score
No alarms to jolt us up
Savouring ‘no-rush’ breakfasts
The joy of changing into pjs after the morning shower
Basking in the sun during the lunch hour
Laughing out loud way past the bedtime with vigour
The sun-soaked energy still steady in its power
No frantic rush to book and plan holidays,
Sitting back to watch old movies together instead
Away from peer pressure, competition and the chase
Away from plush constructs
Into the safety of nature and open space
Meeting friends and family, yes, on screen
But like never before we have seen or been
Choosing connection over triviality,
Compassion over pettiness,
Love over fear
Picking new possibilities which were lost in time
Taking care of ourselves, we learnt, is not a crime
The valour of the frontline crew knew no bounds
They became family for those fighting for life
Clapping for the NHS and painted rainbows we held
Little gestures to thank the caring hands which toiled
As we hurt from losing loved ones,
Missed our life we once had,
and wondered what more would unfold,
We sank into what matters most
These were moments so precious
To be etched in their memory and ours
The earth breathed
We may have after all,
Taken a few steps to heal the unseen wounds.
A microbe. And that’s what it took to bring the human species down to a lockdown. We have been thrown into the COVID-19 pandemic, something this generation had never experienced in this magnitude before. Normal life as we knew it is suspended indefinitely. The whole of humanity is in this together without any exceptions of caste, creed, religion, colour, race, political orientation, sexual orientation- one and all in a way which we witness only in movies. The image of a gigantic UFO towering over the earth fills my vision. I only wish the world came together not under such dire circumstances but in a manner which was more pleasant. We were not prepared to handle this crisis and it’s almost like taking one day at a time but also having to plan and prepare for the next several weeks. Tesco yesterday breathed panic. It was the morning after the government announced of indefinite school closure. I had run out of milk and came home without one. The milk aisles in Tesco and Co-op were empty. I didn’t have the time to search elsewhere as I needed to get back to start my work-from-home day.
Later in the day after I picked my girls up from school, the girls and I sat in the car on my driveway. Lots of pressing questions poured out from their bewildered minds which couldn’t wait: When will it be over? How long will schools remain closed? Will school not open before summer? Is Friday going to be the last day of my year 6? Now that the France trip is cancelled, will the France trip take place next year? How will I finish my GSCE curriculum? What will happen to work experience placement? I answered them one by one as we entered the house and followed the ‘after school’ routine. I tried my best to not dampen their spirits yet be honest: a skill parents have to learn to use almost every day yet never quite master it!
My answer to one of their questions threw them off guard and me too. The curious minds of children are always undermined. Often than not I put myself in their minefield and by then it’s already too late to reverse my steps. The mine explodes. They asked, “Did you ever have to go through this kind of situation when you were growing up Mamma?”. I thought hard and then I said, “Maybe not exactly like this but we also had a situation when our schools closed down for a year and everyone had to stay indoors for days, weeks and months together during curfews”. I had to explain what curfews and blackouts meant. I had to explain to their horror-stricken faces how people were assaulted, killed, abused because of their ethnic origin. “Did anybody you knew got killed?” they asked. “Yes. Our neighbour” I said. Our neighbour, a humble man with a family of two little kids, sold pakoras in his roadside makeshift shop. They were aghast to know that their dad’s youngest uncle was also pulled out from his shop and beaten up so badly that he had to be admitted in critical care and only barely survived. Their eyes widened with terror when I said that their dad and I were attacked in a street by a group of boys with knifes hidden in their leather jackets and how we narrowly escaped.
“But why Mamma? Were you not in your home country? In India?”
I said I was in my home country, but we were the second generation of Hindu Bengali refugees from Bangladesh living in a place belonging to the ‘tribals’ and where, we the ‘non-tribals’ were not accepted. I had to explain in short, our complicated history starting from Bengal partition which made my grandparents homeless and flee their homeland which is now Bangladesh and cross over to Shillong, the capital of the state of Meghalaya in North East India. And how even being in India they and their progeny were not safe and still are not. I told them how as we were growing up in Shillong we were subject to discrimination, called derogatory terms like “dkhar” meaning ‘outsiders’ lost the rights to purchase land or property amongst the other covert and overt animosity. I told them how Bengali families after the 1979, 1987 and 1990s unrest in Shillong had to again flee for their lives and go elsewhere. They understood the reason why my parents, their grandparents sold their house in Shillong and now live in Kolkata. As I spoke, my words got bolder with the raw emotions making their way in. I told them that they are the fourth generation of the ‘homeless’, or the ‘displaced’ Bengalis. We are the demographical truth of being the migrants. We are the political truth of being the ousted. We are the social truth of being the unwanted. We are the emotional truth of longing to have a place to call ‘home’.
My girls were shocked to hear all that I said. They exclaimed, “That sounds like terrorism!” and accused with concern in their eyes, “but why didn’t you ever tell us about all this?”. The look on their faces reflected confusion and amusement when they remarked, “How are you able to say all the horrific things you went through so calmly without any emotions just like how people tell a story from a movie or about something that have happened to others?”. They went on: How do we not know about it? How does the rest of the world not know about it? We know about the Holocaust, we know about Vietnam war, world wars and even if one person is killed in America or in the UK the whole world comes to know! How did the rest of India not know about the years and years of crime against a whole population? Why did India not do anything about it? Why didn’t any one fight for justice? Why did you not talk about it, Mamma?
The disbelief in the eyes of my girls pierced the steel wall in me. A stoic wall which we Bengalis in Shillong had built perhaps to cope against what we went through. We, who never voiced out or even thought we had a choice to voice out. We were living in a well of fear, surviving day to day placidly until we could get out of Shillong and get back our self-respect. When we left Shillong, we left behind the responsibility of standing up against the wrongs done unto us, the wrongs done against humanity arising out of narrow racial or ethnic insecurities. We were tired. We left to find safety and security never to look back to those dark times which haunts us in our memories and nightmares. In many, including me who grew up in the perpetual fear of being persecuted on racial grounds, those dark times have left a permenent imprint on us as PTSD and we live with it.
The questions to me from my girls disturbed me even under England’s dark overcast sky of a possible Coronavirus apocalypse, some twenty years and eight thousand miles away from my Shillong time and space coordinates. Even under the shadow of this health calamity looming over the human race, their words echoed in my ears, “You should talk about it, Mamma. You should tell the untold stories”.
Nature demands respect. Else we find ourselves beaten fighting an invincible force. Nature is not only the oceans, stars, mountains, forests, animals or the air we breathe. We often diminish the fact that we humans are at the very core of nature. Possessing intellect may make us unique but by no means it makes us transcend nature. We are and will always be governed by the rhythms and beats of the universe. Man and woman were born out of the universe’s wisdom with unique attributes. The differences in the attributes should not be the reason for prejudice. Rather, those differences ought to be celebrated so we can experience the joys of duality in this world.
And that brings us to understand the question: what do women want? The answer is less elusive than we think it to be if only we focus our attention to nature and get cues from it. Nature created women as hard-core romantics. They like the softer side of life. That’s ingrained in their biological make-up. Women desire to be chased, wooed in unimaginable ways, paid attention to, little nothings to be whispered into her ears, brought flowers to, told that she’s the world’s most beautiful woman to you and that she’s your world. She needs to be courted. That’s in her genes. And dear men, that’s where you come into the scene. To court her and sweep her off her feet. That’s what mother nature had planned for you and her. Primarily, to ensure that you and she procreate to play your role in preserving the human species over generations and generations. However, procreation or not, that equation of nature is there to stay.
Now, you do that perfectly when you are first courting her. That’s why she’s with you in the first place. You got her with your biologically driven ways matched with your human creative potential to combine novel and good old ways to weave the fairy tale for her. You mostly get that all right until there. Problem stirs up when you get lazy. When you think, “Well alright, I got her, so let’s get on with business as usual”. That’s how you sabotage it all, my friend. You defy biology and that’s when her interest in you wanes. The ‘bio-romanticism’ in her is very much awake. It needs to be fed and watered adequately. That’s your role in this evolutionary web of life and any impoverished feed from you will make her flee.
She’s the wooed and you are the wooer. Keep that in mind. That basic mechanism of life hasn’t changed since primeval times and that’s what we will pass on in our genes. Men are born to pursue women. That’s how the animals, fishes, birds and insects get their mate. Are we humans any different? We are only different in so much as getting lazy and still expecting kindness in return! Your other male brethren from the animal kingdom keep working at this aspect every time to win over their ladies. They put on their alpha male pompous display, even bordering on being outrageous. Some suitors scream their guts out and do the serenade, some spread widest their extravagant plumage creating optical illusions, some do the snazzy manakin dance, and some Romeos even give their lives for it! What potentially kills our human males, is their romantic complacency and running out of air. What you don’t realise is that your women are endowed with human genes. She has memory, remember. And intellect. And she gets bored. So instead of doing a one-time sprinter like the male tarantula, you need to run the human marathon spaced with attractive sprints and stunts. Yes, pull up your sleeves and bring out the Don Juan in you if you want to keep your woman!
Last but not the least, like every sound advice comes with a caveat, this one does too: even your best of wheedle may fall flat if she’s not interested. Who said life was meant to be easy!
Shower moments are phenomenal. It’s the time when I leave the world behind, shut everything out and step into my exclusive space. Without any adornment. All naked. Un-self-conscious. I turn on the knob and then the magic happens. That candid and intimate space feels extraordinary everytime. Can you imagine one of the precious elements of nature, the water, is pouring mad over me? Cascading over my body, touching every bit of me. It’s like an interplay of two lovers! The water, ever so gently kisses me, pouring out over me like crazy and bountiful love. My body responding to the wetness and my skin soaking in and welcoming the element into my world. My muscles let go of the tension and unwind to soak in the pure sensations. Noises of my thoughts are calmed giving way to feelings. The deep embedded emotions are stirred and released. They rise up one by one like bubbles and meet me. My dimension expands to include my spirit, my faith, my trust, my love. It travels the ether defying reason of the mind. I feel engulfed with the presence of myself, a wise old self which has been there for eternity. It’s powerful. I feel that aspect of myself which I hide under many layers. I feel heady with the endless possibilities of my life I see at that moment. I escape and float away into the magical and expansive landscape to experience the panorama of what I really am. That’s what lovers are supposed to do to each other, isn’t it? Ignite and empower the other through touch. Under the shower I become. I happen. All at the same time. My inner voice finally speaks! Ah showerscape!