Jessie’s Choice

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“Avunga enna verukaradha vida nee enna verukaradhu dhaan better nu nenaikaren”

Yes- I made a choice- something that a heroine would never make.

I started off as the girl of everyone’s dreams- smart, beautiful, confident and at the same time traditional. Demure in my immaculately draped sarees, respecting my family’s choices, well –educated and well- employed.  I was openly conflicted about my feelings for Karthik- not the typical hate-turned-love battle but more along the lines of indifference-turned- to- skepticism- turned-to-love kind of battle.

I tried to friend-zone him, but something about that earnest, relentless chase made me give in. He was a great guy and of course opposites attract but how far does that attraction go? Was it worth shutting my parents and my brother out of my life because they don’t get along well with him? Would I be able to survive fighting my demons when he chases his dreams?

So- I made the choice. I married Abraham, moved to New York and I really have no regrets. You may think Karthik made me his muse, but I know that the pain inspires him more. His movie made me cry- just like any other bittersweet love story would. I want him to move on, get married and have a great life but he likes the pain so I cannot let it guilt me. He will always be part of the unspoken past and a distant memory.

The world can call me unfaithful and weak but I made this choice- not for them, not even for my parents but for myself.

“Kadalinil meenaga irunthaval naan 
Unakkena karai thaandi vanthaval thaan 
Thudithirunthen karaiyinile
Thirumbivitten en kadalidame”


For the jodi post Sheetal Mary and I picked the female point of view in lost love as our theme. Check out her post atSheetal Scribbles

This post is written for the ‘love theme’ contest by The Chennai Bloggers Club in association with Woodooz and Indian Superheroes

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Kabali- a slow addiction

Sixth consecutive day of Kabali songs..

This man- Santhosh Narayanan- he never fails to surprise me.

Yes- this album is not like the other Super Star albums we have heard. I do admit that my first reaction was disappointment. I don’t know what I was expecting- but this simply was not it. Once that weird expectation of what the norm was dropped, I was pretty awe-struck by this album.

Santhosh Narayanan is no Rahman and definitely not Raja. He doesn’t dazzle me at the first note, doesn’t make me wonder if he is God. He is human- and very refreshingly so. He makes music that holds a strange sense of familiarity yet the right dose of mystery and surprise that makes songs endearing. I say endearing because he does appeal to Ameya as well. She hums “Ka ka ka po” all day and it has topped her charts for a while now. There is something about the singers he uses, the lyricists he treats as equal partners and the earthiness of his music that is so appealing to me. I love his quirkiness and was quite worried that he was losing it when I heard 36 vayathinile songs. I was almost panicking that commercial cinema was destroying this mad hatter’s creativity but he managed to get some of that crazy back with Ka Ka Ka Po and Iraivi which made Kabali just the right amount of fun.

I find myself removed from the works of Rahman (and the few odd works of Raja) these days. Achcham Enbathu Madamayada had me smile just a tiny bit but it did not draw me inside or play in my head all day. However, Maya Nadhi keeps popping up in my head as I question if it is as good as Kodaiyila Mazhaipola (Cuckoo) or if Vaanam Paarthen has a bit of Sundari Kannaal Oru Seithi in it (a friend mentioned that and I keep arguing with myself about it). Veera Thurandhara nearly got me a speeding ticket. I can’t wait to see what Santhosh Narayanan is up to next.

After me comes the flood

The rain lashed against the window while the screen lit up the dark room.

He took a deep breath and clicked on “Done”

“Uploading…..3%”

He felt giddy- must be the adrenalin rush. She had always made him feel giddy- with happiness, love and lust but this time it was different. It was the release of unadulterated anger through vengeance. She would regret not taking his threat seriously. He hated how calm she sounded when she cut the call. He wanted to see her disintegrate when she realized that his threat was not empty. He wanted to destroy her completely.

“Uploading…..16%”

He wondered what changed her. It seemed like she had morphed into a different being. Was it because of her new job? Or was it because of her new set of friends? He never trusted them from the beginning. He had asked her to stay away from them and thought no more about it when she complied. He had his doubts when she started spending less time with him- but going through her emails did not raise any red flags. Had she guessed that he knew her password? Or that he regularly checked her email? Was that why she changed her password yesterday?

“Uploading…..30%”

Maybe it wasn’t her friends but her parents. He had always felt uncomfortable around them. Her family was a constant reminder of everything his family lacked. She had never told them explicitly about him but he was sure they knew. His mother had warned about how they would try to take her away from him.

“Uploading…..52%”

His mom was the only person who understood him fully. How could have he been stupid enough to think that she meant to him as much as his mother did? He knew his mother had her doubts about his relationship but she had extended her full support. Would she approve what he was about to do? He would make her understand and even if she didn’t, she would support him. Life was always unfair to her so she would know how he felt.

“Uploading…..63%”

But what would his father’s reaction be? Would he instinctively reach out for his belt? He was usually distant and could only express one emotion- anger. Maybe he would hold on to his stoic mask and pretend to not be a part of this. A part of him wanted his father to react violently because that was the only way they connected.

“Uploading…..75%”

The wind had picked up and the rain pounded on the window harder. His thoughts wandered back to her. Was she working late again? She did not seem worried about the fact that rapes are rampant. When he explained the dangers of working late, she had casually shot back that she enjoyed the challenge of working directly with her on-site client and that she was being cautious to avoid any mishaps. Her new job paid very well- a lot more he was getting paid. He would have made her quit working when they got married. She was smart- no doubt- but she didn’t need a job to prove that. The expensive treats and gifts were the not-so-subtle reminders of his professional failure and they drove him crazy. Yet she had kept them coming.

“Uploading…..79%”

Would he be able to remove her completely from his system? He didn’t know if he could do that. Till today he had been sure that she could never stay away from him. “Maybe what we need is a break”- her words had made him explode. He had never realized that he had so much venom in him. This was never meant to happen. What if she had just wanted a break and had not meant to break up with him? He thought what they had was the real thing- it was true love. True love doesn’t ask for breaks. She had to pay for breaking his heart.

“Uploading…..85%”

He had the sudden urge to see her. What if they had talked in person rather than on phone? Would have the outcome been different? They were together all the time when they worked in the same place. Maybe she had moved on a while ago but it took him all this time to realize. Hate engulfed his thoughts again and crushed the creeping tenderness. He smiled. His revenge would be complete in just a few seconds.

“Uploading…..97%”

Sparks flew from the transformer outside the window. The wheeze of his computer stopped abruptly and his monitor turned black. The rain continued to lash against the window with an occasional rumble of thunder.

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“Après moi, le déluge” translated “after me comes the floods” is a set phrase used to describe or criticize the attitude of someone who acts irresponsibly, without worrying on the consequences that his/her acts could have.

Holy Matrimony!- CBC TABLOG 2015

This post is a part of the blog tag in The Chennai Bloggers Club with the theme Chennai- A Blend of the traditional and modern.  I was tagged by Sahithya Sridhar whose post is available at http://sahisridhar.blogspot.in/2015/01/chennai-blend-of-traditional-and-modern_18.html

Chennai is a very special- it is not home but it is the next best thing! It is quite literally my pugundhaveedu. I have perpetually been fascinated by Chennai and the feeling I get when the Rockfort Express draws into Egmore Station or the plane kisses the ground in Meenambakkam can only be compared to the breathless rush you felt when you were a teenager and caught a glimpse of your crush. Here goes my post-

He has a distinctive sense of style- dress shirts to work, t-shirts to play, polos to party and baniyan at home.

She can rock a kanjeevaram for traditional day or the stunning strapless dress for a night of dancing.

M.S. Subbulakshmi and Eminem hang out together in his iPod.

She hums an Ilayaraja song in the shower and Adele moves her heart on a lonely evening.

He prefers Italian for lunch, chaat in the evenings but nothing tastes better than thayir sadham for dinner.

She grabs a goli soda from annachi’s shop or a cosmo at the lounge to quench her thirst.

Their families expressed mutual interest through TamilMatrimony.com and their horoscopes had all 10 poruthams. They dated for 6 months after that and he got down on one knee.

He got her a Michael Kors handbag for a special evening and gets malligapoo to make any evening special.

She takes him to Parthasarthy temple for an archanai and a salsa class on their anniversary.

Him and Her, they make up the soul of Chennai- where the traditional and modern are entwined in a surprising but solid matrimony- each needing the other to survive and thrive!

I tag Mahesh Lakshmanan whose soul-searching journey is reflected in his blog https://teerthadanam.wordpress.com/  to continue this fun task of writing about Chennai.

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Judge me not!

I have been in hibernation for about a year trying to grow a little feisty human inside me and now that she is in our world, I realized that if I try to stop writing till I get more “me” time, I might have to wait another 21 years 😉 I didn’t have to think too hard to come up with a topic either since the past 10 months were the beginning of an adventure like no other- motherhood! No- this is not a warm post on how wonderful being a mom is (of course, its wonderful!) or how difficult it is (lack of sleep can make you homicidal at times) but just a casual observation about the constant judging woman undergoes during this process. It would be funny to note that people think that any choice you make is wrong or not good enough and unfortunately the frequency of judgmental comments doesn’t let you embrace the humor in the situation.

The geek in me wanted to do a flowchart for this- maybe that is for another day!

Pre-pregnancy:

Have a kid immediately after marriage- “Couldn’t they at least wait to get to know each other! They just got at it right away!”

Decide to have a kid any time later- “When are they going to give us some good news? They keep delaying!”

Decide not to have a kid- “Such selfish people! Maybe their marriage is in trouble? Maybe she is infertile?” (note: Yes, it is always the female who is considered infertile)

During pregnancy:

If you gain weight: “Oh wow! You took the phrase eating-for-two too literally”

If you don’t gain weight: “Don’t try to diet when you are pregnant- you are harming that baby” (I got this comment so many times when I was on a medically recommended diet due to gestational diabetes. Hard enough not being able to eat anything I liked but having to deal with people who would try to tell me I was already a bad mom and try to force stuff that could potentially harm my unborn child was even tougher)

If you find out the baby’s gender: “Why do you have to find out? Surprises are always the best”

If you don’t find out and decide to wait: “Come on- with all this technology, why do you still have to wait and pretend to be in stone-age?”

If you wear clothes that accentuate your bump: “Why is she trying to attract attention?”

If you wear clothes that hide your bump: “Why is she hiding her pregnancy?”

Post-pregnancy:

If you have had a Cesarean: “Don’t know what sin she committed in her previous lives- had to undergo surgery!”

Don’t rejoice if you have a normal delivery- you  will still be judged

If you choose to have anesthesia: “Why would you go against nature? Birthing pain is a beautiful thing!”

If you choose not to: “Masochist!”

If you choose not to breast feed: “You are a selfish mom! Cruel and coldhearted!”

If you choose to breastfeed: “How archaic and painful! How will you manage in public” and ofcourse “The baby is too skinny! Are you starving him/her” (Formula fed babies are chubbier compared to breast fed babies)

If you choose to breastfeed in public- you face terrible comments and deal with creeps.

If you choose to be a stay-at-home mom: “Lazy woman.. Just wants to chill and be a financial burden!”

If you choose to go back to work: “How does she have the heart to leave her child and run behind money!”

As I mentioned in the beginning- nothing you do will ever be right or good enough- even a simple choice of sharing or not sharing your child’s picture on social media will be judged. So just go ahead and do whatever you feel like doing! If you are lucky and have a supportive partner/family, then enjoy that support and block the others.  Attempting to please everyone is just a black hole that you should never get sucked into. And next time you try judging another woman, think about everything you went through. That will make you shut up automatically.

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The conversation

 

“Where…am…”

“Really? Does the conversation have to start with this question? It’s so cliché! Let me guess your next question- Who am I? I’m disappointed!”

“Hold it smarty pants. You look and talk just like me. You must be my conscience or something like that- right?”

“Not bad. This sounds more like the girl I know. By the way, you should blame yourself for me looking exactly like you. That is so unimaginative and movie-like!”

“Stop the small talk. I know you are here for some kind of moral lecture because that’s what the conscience usually does. Why don’t you come straight to the point? I don’t have all day”

“Hmm.. Let us not call this a moral lecture but a friendly conversation which you don’t have a choice to avoid. You have some time before you regain consciousness and till then you stay right here. How classy of you to pass out after a few drinks! Oh wait, this is your first time drinking isn’t it..”

“If you are expecting some sort of an apology- you are not going to get it. I am an adult and it is my choice to drink. I am just having a good time so why should I regret that?”

“I don’t have any problems with you drinking. Just that you should have known when to stop- and that would be right before you started giggling uncontrollably. Veena is going to kill you if you throw up on her couch!”

“Naah.. she is too busy with Ravi in the kitchen. She will have greater things to worry about in the morning.”

“Well, what about your plans now? How do you think you are going to get back to your room?”

“Nitin will take care of me. He asked me to let loose and have fun remember?”

“You trust him a lot sweetie. A lot more than you trust yourself. Why is that?”

“Aww.. I sense a tinge of jealousy there. Well, I love him. So what is wrong with me trusting him so much?”

“Interesting- and why do you love him?”

“He was the first and only guy to think I am beautiful. He could gone out with anyone, but he chose me. He is so romantic and sweet. So why would I not love him?”

“Is that why you let him kiss you today even when you were not comfortable getting physical?”

“Well, he is my boyfriend and we have been going out for a while.. so this is natural..”

“Oh really..?”

“Alright- let me be honest. The experience wasn’t even remotely close to the expectations I had for my first kiss. Apart from my discomfort getting physical, his breath smells horrible! I hope I get used to it someday.”

“Tch tch.. tell me more about what you don’t like about Nitin”

“Where are you going with this?”

“Look.. I don’t really have any ulterior motives. I am your conscience remember? Just wanted to hear your story fully. If you don’t want to say anything, we can stare at each other till you become conscious.”

“I’m sorry. Where were we? Yeah- so the things I don’t like about him.. Hmmm.. He is a little bossy, sometimes a lot. Can’t blame him though because that’s how his family is. His dad is really dominating and his mom plays the victim perfectly. He wants to be different though and he really tries hard.”

“You play the victim quite perfectly as well. You cried all night after he forbade you from hanging out with your friends because he felt that they were bad influence. Didn’t have the guts to stand up for the people you liked.”

“Listen, you have to make some compromises in a relationship. I do miss my friends but we would have just ended up in a huge argument if I had said anything that day. I don’t like making him angry”

“Aha! Compromises! So what compromises has he made for you so far?

“Love is not a barter system.”

“Screw your thoughts on ideal love and look at this objectively. Do you want to be the one who makes sacrifices all your life? Today you gave up your friends. Slowly you will give up your individuality. You will become a door mat, hating yourself and him for driving you to that point. Is that what you want out of life?”

“So what do you want me to do now? We have been going out for about a year now. I cannot break up with him. What will people say?”

“Hold your horses! I was hoping for something on the lines of you guys having a heart-to-heart conversation. But since you jumped so quickly to breaking up with him- isn’t that what YOU really want?”

“You are putting me in a corner now. Listen, I am very comfortable where I am. How does that sound for an answer?”

“That sounds pathetic. Comfortable doesn’t mean happy because you obviously are not. It’s scary to move away from a life you are used to but I suggest you think really hard about the next steps. He is pushing you to marry him isn’t he? And you don’t look ready at all! So think about it before you say yes.”

“Yeah yeah.. I will.. Is the lecture done?”

“You are one stubborn <expletive>”

“That I am. Anything else you want to add?”

“Well yes. You really wouldn’t like where Nitin’s hands are right now.”

“WHAT?!”

“Time for you to wake up and figure it out. It was a good chat and I have a feeling that we will be talking to each other soon. Next time don’t bother with all these tequila shots to reach me!” 

Story-A-Week Prompt.. and my maiden attempt

A writing community that I am a part of (WRIMO India for Nanowrimo Indian authors) started a bi-weekly prompt driven short story exercise.

This is my first attempt based on the very beautiful picture prompt:

“Wipe the crumbs off your face and don’t stuff the peanuts into your mouth. You are no longer a child!” Valli gingerly wiped her mouth with her small arms and sauntered behind her mother. “Hurry up! We need to get to the temple. The performance will start very soon!” Valli picked up her pace. She did not want to miss any event in the Maangudi temple fair especially her most favorite event- Sarasaambal’s performance. This would be the last time she would enjoy the fair with her family.

Four months ago, Valli’s uncle had suggested that she was old enough to get married and that had triggered a rigorous groom hunt. Since her father was the village head of Villampatti, they had a line of rich and illustrious suitors lined up for Valli.

One day, her mother woke her up much earlier than usual. The eleven-year-old had no clue what was going on when her mother decked her up in the finest clothes and jewels. She was thrilled to wear the new peacock blue saree. Valli was ecstatic when her mother said that she would be asked to sing and dance when the guests arrive. She was a very talented singer and dancer but until that day her mother had not encouraged her to perform in front of anyone. On the contrary, when Valli sang as she played with her dolls, her mother had reprimanded her to keep her voice low lest an elder would hear her. “Girls need to be like shadows”, she had said, “You should never be heard or seen by anyone unless it is necessary.”

Valli had been appalled by her mother’s words but it dawned on her that the womenfolk in her house were exactly like her mother had described. They rarely talked in the presence of elders or men and moved around the house very quietly. They never went out unaccompanied. Her mother, who was extremely good at singing, only sang lullabies in a hushed tone. When Valli questioned her mother on why they were taught music and dance if they cannot sing out loud or dance in the house, her mother had replied that there would be a day when the music and dance would be put to use and then it should be forgotten.

“She sings and dances like an angel. Look at her, she hasn’t even broken a sweat!”. Valli beamed as the important-looking lady in the crowd complimented her. Others looked pleased and her parents looked extremely happy. “She is young and strong. I think she would make a good wife to my son, manage our household and bear us healthy grandchildren. We can have the betrothal in Maangudi temple after the annual fair as our family elders and relatives would be there.”

The smile on Valli’s face vanished as she realized what happened. She had been so caught up in the joy of performing that she had not thought about the reason for her mother letting her sing and dance. This was the day her mother had spoken about and her worst fears were confirmed when her mother said, “You are a very lucky girl Valli. The very first groom who came to see you is ready to marry you. Thankfully you don’t have to perform before anyone again. From now on, you have to learn all the household chores and I will also teach you how to be a good wife. The groom’s family is very powerful and reputed.  They would expect you to be an ideal daughter-in-law. So don’t let our family down!”

Since that day, her mother had not let play or even peek outside the house. Every day she would help her mother with cooking, cleaning and patiently listen to the lectures her mother and grandmother gave on how to behave after marriage. Despite being completely exhausted, Valli would invent a reason to slip into the garden in her backyard. Hidden behind the large jackfruit tree, she would sing and dance as quietly as possible. She had not realized how painful it would be for her to stop music and dance until that point.

“Oh look! Sarasambaal is ready to dance.” Valli’s attention shifted from her depressing thoughts to the graceful woman on stage. She looked radiant and happy, like a golden deer in the wilderness. Many years ago, when Valli had asked her mother who that beautiful lady was, her mother had explained, “Sarasambaal is the temple daasi, my dear. Women like her as said to be married to the Lord himself. That is why she sings and dances in front of Lord Shiva every day. Once every ten years, the ceremony of picking the temple daasi’s successor would occur. After her performance, the daasi would cast a garland into the crowd. The person on whom the garland falls should send an unmarried, young girl from his or her family to the temple to be trained as the successor and continue this tradition.”

Valli watched as Sarasaambal skillfully narrated the story of Princess Meenakshi’s wedding to Lord Sundareshwar through song and dance. The beauty of the performance  only made her more depressed. She wondered why Princess Meenakshi was so thrilled to get married when marriage only meant losing the freedom to be yourself and do the things you love.

The performance ended and the priest handed Sarasambaal a garland. “Has it been ten years already? I wonder if anyone could be as talented and beautiful as Sarasambaal. I am curious to see who the successor is”, her father said. Her mother nodded in agreement. Sarasambaal cast the garland into the crowd.

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“To the childless king Malayadhwaja Pandiyan, a beautiful child was born..” The crowd grew quiet as the daasi began her song. “Who is that beautiful lady Amma? Is she a goddess?”, a child asked and the mother explained, “No my dear, Valli is the temple daasi…”