When I was a child, I used to read many poems in the text books ending with ‘Anonymous’ (as credit). So, in my little mind, Anonymous was the most prolific poet in this whole wide world. And for some odd reasons, Anonymous was ‘HE’ not ‘SHE’ (well, gender conditioning begins early in life.) I used to dream of growing up to be ‘Anonymous’. Till one day, I discovered the truth behind Anonymous. And there died my desire to be … Anonymous
(I have many daughters across cities, continents without giving birth to one. You don’t have to be a biological mother to share love, warmth, knowledge and kindness. On International Women’s Day, I am sharing a note I wrote to Simrita, my niece who turned 18 on February 15, 2019. She is as precious to my heart as many young girls finding their way in this world. This note is personal yet universal. Like love. So, here it goes.)
February 4 is World Cancer Day.
I have spent six years of my adult life in caring for two cancer patients (my mother and my husband’s sister). I have lost both of them to this dreaded C. Caring for them, loving them and watching them putting up a brave show have been life-changing. Far more substantial than what I learnt in JNU, India’s premier university. What are the lessons actually?
- Health is wealth.
- Family is fundamental. If you are lucky, your family members are your angels. More so when the going gets tough.
- Money is important. Money enables you to have choices.
- Small is beautiful. So, there is immense beauty in taking a shower by yourself, standing in front of the mirror and putting on your lipstick, enjoying a cup of tea or cooking a simple meal of dal, rice and egg curry.
- Physical pain can make you feel naked. It can be really soul-destroying.
- Ordinary can be extra-ordinary if you know how to be mindful.
- Hospitals can be terribly lonely even when they are crowded.
- Enjoy the present moment. You don’t know how one biopsy test can change your life’s narrative.
- Be gentle. There’s no substitute to being gentle. When you are gentle within yourself, you are a better care-giver.
- Looking after a cancer patient makes you erase irrelevant elements from life (This will happen if you listen to the truth within yourself). Somehow you start appreciating a sense of minimalism. Over the years, I have developed an aversion for anything in excess.
- It helps when you have solid friends standing by you. Having a conversation always makes things lighter. Never say ‘No’ to a good session of laughing. And to a large extent, friends are outsiders to the situation. So, they can give you a better perspective. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
- It’s very necessary to refill one’s inner self even as you are spending days and nights looking after a person. It could be a walk, conversations, a nice meal, good book, music, a new hair-cut, looking at the sky or just soaking in the Art of Being. You give better when you have something to give. For that you need to replenish your own self.
- Be kind to yourself. Some days, you will feel as if you are losing the battle. Some days you will feel the warmth of sunshine. Don’t run away from feelings. If you want to cry, go ahead. Tears can make you feel lighter. Don’t feel ashamed. It’s fine to be vulnerable.
- No matter how dark the night is, the morning will always break. And there are chances that you might feel a little better.
- One day, you will be larger than your experiences. Till then, be open and compassionate.
I had just walked into the coffee shop of a five star hotel in Ahmedabad. I settled down on my chair and put this purse on the table. Then I saw the young woman who worked in the coffee shop rushing towards my table.
“Did you go to Bhutan?” (She asked)
“No, I didn’t go. My friend got this gift for me from Bhutan.”
“You know, I am from Bhutan. I am so happy to look at this purse. It reminds me of my home, parents, my brother. Right now, I feel as if I am there and enjoying the cool air, the mountains.”
“You must go to Bhutan. Bhutan will love you and you will love Bhutan. Please let me know before you go,” she told in the same breath.
In less than five minutes, I felt she travelled from Ahmedabad to Bhutan.
We exchanged mobile numbers and she really took care of us that evening. With her charming smile and grace.
Home is a feeling. Home is not just about physical space. And you never know, when and where home will pop up and make you happy. And at the same time leave you with a sense of longing for home.
I am yet to make that promised trip to Bhutan. I will definitely go there for Tara’s sake if not anything else. For the time being, a slice of her home is always travelling with me in my handbag.
What can be more precious than home?
It’s bit tiring as people keep on telling me, “Oh my God, you have got grey hair. Why are you not coloring your hair?”
Well, I am very comfortable with my grey hair. The grey hair tells the story of a rich, textured life I have lived. I can’t color my experiences. I have to take them as they are/were. It is all part of an organic process.
I dread spending hours in the salon for coloring my hair. I had streaked my hair seven years back as I wanted to have fun with my hair. It was a long long process which was quite expensive too. I am not here to make a statement. If I feel like having those purple streaks to match my purple lipstick sometime in the future then probably I will do that.
But why do people are so worried about other people’s grey hair? They should be more worried about climate change, mindless consumerism and the like. Not someone’s grey hair.
Looking at celebrity wedding pictures on instagram can be quite exhausting (after the initial euphoria)– emotionally and physically. And more so when you are a journalist even though you are far away from Lake Como and it’s unlikely that in your lifetime you will ever be there. Deepika-Ranveer, Priyanka-Nick have been the flavour of the wedding season. I think, funny man (though I really find it difficult to laugh at his jokes) Kapil Sharma’s wedding coverage is little low on publicity quotient. Never mind, it’s all part of showbiz. Some will get more than others.
But Priyanka-Nick’s wedding has unleashed the inner energy of some frustrated, negative souls in this country. And unfortunately, this breed includes some journalists too (my fraternity). What do you do to people who give comments like the following?
- Ha ha… let us see how long this marriage lasts (Even if it breaks, neither Priyanka/Nick are coming to you idiots for solace. And you must be a jerk to have this kind of vicious mindset)
- Nick does not even put his arms around Priyanka (Anyways, he is not going to put his arms around you… so what’s exactly your problem?)
- Nick’s 10 years younger than Priyanka… too much of an age gap. These kind of marriages don’t work. Didn’t you see it earlier in Ashton Kutcher-Demi Moore marriage? (Very sad that Priyanka didn’t consider this )
- Priyanka has no Hollywood career (Anyways, she is not looking for a newspaper job in India)
- Let us make a list of people who will attend Priyanka’s Mumbai reception (when the official date is yet to be announced) and then dismissing the list telling that no big star will be there. (Hello, are you real?)
And then another moronic question: ‘Why didn’t Ranbir Kapoor go for Deepika-Ranveer’s reception?”
The list goes on. These are the people who have an opinion on anything and everything — right from politics, economy, cricket, cinema to food. They are the ones who give lengthy monologues on what should be Virat Kohli’s strategy in Australia. Never mind, they have never picked up a cricket bat in their life.
The more I hear these kind of conversations, the more I feel the need for grace. You can buy anything in today’s world but you can’t buy grace, empathy and elegance.