Friday, November 1, 2019

Living A Life Free From Regrets

Living A Life Free From Regrets

"Aye zindagi gale laga le
Humne bhi tere har ik gham ko
Gale se lagaya hai, hai na!"

(O life, embrace me.
See, I too have embraced every sorrow of yours, haven't I?")

Dear Life,
It has been more than three decades of our togetherness. So many crests, so many troughs, so many days, so many nights, so many years- you and I have gone through so much. It's you and only you who have been witness to my every success, my every failure, my every joy and my every sorrow.

So, after all these years of trials and tribulations, you may ask me whether I hold any regrets. But no dear, I don't really regret any of my decisions in life. Do you know why? It's simply because of the fact that I never let anyone take any decisions on my behalf. So be it my career choice or my personal choices- I have courage enough to own my journey this far.

I know that this journey has not been smooth for me. In fact, this journey gave me lot of heartaches and pain to face. What else can you expect it to be when I got separated even before turning thirty, got legally divorced in my early thirties and have been a single mother since then? People frowned at my decision. After all, most marriages in our country survive just on the basis of one-sided compromise of our women-folk. And who isn't familiar with the problem of abusive in-laws? Still, majority of women choose to 'compromise', for the sake of well-being of their children, for the sake of appeasing our patriarchal society, for the sake of keeping the sindoor on their forehead intact. Because any alternative to this seems fraught with danger. It can jeopardise their children's future or the social status they enjoy by virtue of being 'married'. But I always gave a damn to what society thinks. And I always wanted to realize the full potential of life, with little regrets. 

You know what, there were times when I just wished you to start using lubricants. Otherwise, the road seemed too bumpy. But neither were you supposed to use lubricants, nor was I supposed to feel less pain. But I never ever regret my decision to end my marriage. It lacked bliss. And I always search for that elusive thing called 'happiness' in life. Whenever I make any decision, be it related to my career or my personal life, I just ask myself one question, "Will it make me happy?" If the answer is yes, I go for it. If it is in negative, I never pursue it, however difficult it may be in short-term.
Today as I am penning this letter, I am crooning those lines from one of my favourite songs,
"Zindagi tere gham ne humein rishtey naye samjhaye
Mile jo humein dhoop mein mile chaanv ke thande saaye."

("The sorrows of life have taught me new relationships,
I found the comforts of shade under the bright scorching sun.")
How true is this! Happiness stagnates us, whereas grief makes us evolve into better, more matured version of ourselves. Today when I look back to my own younger self, I smile at her naivetè. Had you not given me my share of pain, I would have probably remained the same naive girl forever. It's because of that pain alone that I am a stronger person now. And I am firm in my conviction that no matter how difficult life gets in future, I wouldn't meltdown easily. 

Do you know, what are the things that I value most in life? The answer is self-respect and independence. And I am grateful to you dear life, for giving me the opportunity to keep both intact. I was fortunate enough to receive good education which enabled me to be financially independent. In retrospect, I think that gave me the strength to take some of the most difficult decisions in life- decisions which most women of my country lack the courage to take. I consider myself lucky in that respect. At least, I have the means to live life on my own terms, to live a life free from regrets.

Last but not the least, you dear life have been wonderful so far. You made me meet some fabulous persons and make some wonderful friends through this journey who have stood by me through thick and thin. You not just gave me pain, but also gave me extra servings of some good staffs. And I look forward to making many more memorable moments with you- moments to cherish for a lifetime without any regrets.

With love,
Forever-yours-and-only-yours,
Swagata.



This post was published first in Momspresso. Click here to read.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

My Journey of Single Parenting

 single parent

Single parenting is not an easy job. Like so many other jobs in the world, it is difficult. But then, nobody ever promised that life would be easy and we would always walk on a bed of roses, without encountering any thorns.
My journey as a single mother began when my son was just one and a half years old. But in the true sense, I have been mothering him singly since the day he was born. I was going through a very turbulent phase of my life at that time. There was no bliss in my marriage and finally, one and half years after his birth, his parents got separated. So I was not a single mother by choice, but circumstances forced me to be one. And I have never held any regrets for that.

"Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair.", wrote Andrew Solomon in his bestselling book "The Noonday Demon: An Anatomy of Depression". We who have gone through the bitter stage of breaking a marriage know very well how depressing this experience can be. Every heartbreak is painful. But this is especially true in case of marriages. We all start our marital life with a lot of expectations, with the hope of finding love, trust and companionship throughout our lives. So when it breaks midway, all it leaves behind is depression. In my case, coping with this phase became a lot easier because at least I had my son- someone to love and cherish for the rest of my life. So even a life without a partner seemed less terrible. A life which still had some purpose left- to raise another human being carved out of my own flesh and blood.

Since I have been a single mother for more than five years, I think I can share some of my experience here. During all these years, I am taking all the decisions regarding him alone. Right from which school he would attend to which paediatrician he would visit- I have been responsible for everything.

Most schools now-a-days are accommodative of single parents. I indicated in the school admission form itself that I was a single parent. On the day of parents' interview, I attended the interview alone. I still vividly remember the day. All other 'normal' parents were interviewed before me. Another single mother, who was a widow, was interviewed just before me. I was the last in the queue. On that day, sitting in a cold chair outside the principal's office on that cold December morning, how I wished I had a partner like everybody else, who would be equally interested in my son's well-being. Or sometimes, when planning for a vacation trip with my child, how I wished we were a normal family- a family consisting of both the parents and the child. Then perhaps we would have planned for the trip together.

The hardest part of single parenting is, perhaps, making peace with your past. Each time my son was required to make a family tree or a family photograph, I had to explain to him that unlike the families depicted in his text-book, his family lacks a father figure. Each time he got curious about his father and assumed his grandfather from his mother's side as his father or took a visiting male relative as his father, I had to make him understand that unlike his friends fathers, his father does not live with us. This is hard to understand for a child, especially given the fact that there is a depiction of perfectly blissful families in commercial ads, cartoons, school textbooks, or children's storybooks. We are oblivious of the presence of other alternative kind of families, like single parent families. 

Sometime back, I came across an article on internet about "empty nest syndrome" and how it affects single parents especially. This made me contemplate on my own future reality. It's a known fact that my boy will grow up soon and he'll leave his mother one day to find his own place in the world. Of course, we mothers also want to see our sons as independent human beings. But this takes us to the inevitable conclusion- what will the mother bird do once her chicks learn to fly on their own and leave the nest she has built so lovingly? She'll feel lonely, no doubt. These feelings of loneliness will probably be exacerbated in the absence of a partner. But lets face the reality: there's no way out for us. So I make a conscious effort to have my own social circle, nurture my own passion for reading and writing, so that when the time comes, I suddenly don't find myself out of job all of a sudden. When you don't have anybody to give your love and attention, be it your partner or children, don't consider your life lacks love. "Love is a state of Being. Your love is not outside; it is deep within you. You can never lose it, and it cannot leave you.", wrote Eckhart Tolle.

Lastly, when life gets too overwhelming, or emotions seem too out-of-control, just silently utter this prayer:
"God grants me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference."

This post titled "5 Lessons I Learnt On My Journey As A Single Parent" has been published on Women's Web as a Featured Post. Featured Posts are a careful selection of highly relevant and interesting posts picked up by the editor's of Women's Web each day. To read the full story, Click here.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Book Review: City Of Nine Gates

City Of Nine Gates (City Trilogy #1)City Of Nine Gates by Pankaj Rajput

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


"An atheistic millionaire is forced to find and help his long lost friend achieve self-realization in a mystical 'City of Nine Gates' known only to the Gods and the wisest sages of the Advait and the Sankhya."

These lines from the back-cover of the book intrigued me to start reading this book. I thought it to be a blend of mythology with a modern story line, just like the books written by the likes of Ashwin Sanghi. But what awaited for me was a pleasant surprise. This book deals with a totally different subject-matter.

We all encounter lot of hardships and difficulties in life, which force us to ask, "Why me?" In this book, the author has tried to answer that question which has troubled mankind since eternity. He has woven a tale through which he has tried to elucidate the spiritual, supreme truth. He has attempted to make it accessible to common readers who may lack any prior knowledge of Hindu spiritualism. Basically, it combines the teachings of the Bhagavad Geeta and other Hindu religious scriptures and tries to enlighten the readers with their teachings with the help of a story. I'd like to share some of my favorite quotes from the book:

"Happiness normally brings complacency and makes us think that the goal of life is achieved. That's a sweet trap. Celebrate happiness as much as you cried in a time of adversity. But never deviate from the path to Moksha. Treat happiness as a phase of preparation for liberation- just like dejection is but a phase."

"Pain is the alarm!..... This most abhorred of all emotions is the key to the path of Moksha. It is only pain that cuts-off one's attachment to happiness, sadness, liking, disliking and the rest of the dualities of this mortal material world."

"Everyone in this world is alone and hence needs to be with someone. But there are those rare ones who stay alone as they never feel lonely and hence never need the company of others. Such rare ones who prefer seclusion and are devoted to God are most dear to him."

There are some minor editing mistakes at some places. Considering this to be the first edition, such mistakes are inevitable. The language is simple. The story is not fast-paced. So if you are looking for a gripping story-line, this may not be the ideal book for you. This is the kind of book to savour slowly, allowing yourself time enough for the teachings to sink in. If you have a spiritual bent of mind, you'll surely like this book. I myself am a regular reader of the Bhagavad Gita. So I found the author's way of telling the deeper truths of life through a story quite fascinating. Go for it if you want to explore the deeper meaning and purpose of life.



View all my reviews


City of Nine Gates - Pankaj Rajput

Monday, September 2, 2019

Movie Review: Mukherjee Dar Bou

mukherjee dar bou

Meet Shobharani and Aditi, the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law pair. They live in the same flat and they both have one common identity: Mrs. Mukherjee. Like any typical MIL-DIL pair, both of them dislike each other. It may sound clichèd, like those typical soap-operas where MILs always conspire against their DILs and the DILs, in turn, hate their MILs. But the movie "Mukherjee Dar Bou" ("Wife of Mr. Mukherjee") offers a fresh perspective  on this clichèd topic. This movie is the debut film of Director Pritha Chakraborty. She has raised our expectation high in her debut film itself by making a movie  on a contemporary, relevant, relatable issue and make the audience think anew on the topic which has become clichèd.

The Plot

The plot revolves around the daily lives of Shobharani and Aditi, the MIL and the DIL.  Aditi is a typical housewife, whose life revolves around Saswata Mukherjee, her husband, and Ichchhe, her little daughter. After the death of her father-in-law, her mother-in-law grows increasingly hostile towards her. She starts finding faults in her every work, rummages her cupboard in her absence, starts throwing things in fit of rage and so on. Unable to tolerate any more, Aditi fixes an appointment with Dr. Aratrika Bhattacharya, a prominent Psychologist. The plot, which seemed clichèd till now, takes an interesting turn. Aratrika counsels both Aditi and her mother-in-law and helps them see the other person's point of view. We, the audience, also learn that just because a mother-in-law meted out injustice to her newly wed daughter-in-law, it's wrong to vilify her. She is a product of our patriarchal society- which has taught her to behave that way. It's always difficult for a woman to go ahead in her life, because in each step of climbing up, women are pitted against one another by this very society. That's why Aditi's mother-in-law hides carefully each of Aditi's job appointment letters which comes by post. Aratrika's counselling sessions improve their relationship significantly. The movie ends with Shabharani's Women's Day speech. Shobha, who always dreamt of performing on-stage since childhood but was never allowed, gave her debut speech on stage on the occasion of Women's Day. She said that her grandmother used to tell her that women are like pitchers. Any dent in that pitcher make it flawed. Now, what's a dent? A dent is her grandmother's wish to get educated or her childhood wish to catch tadpoles from pond like her brothers, wishes forbidden and frowned upon by a patriarchal society. The wishes never fructify. Instead, the women fill other women's lives with all the emptiness of their own lives. Like Shabha hid Aditi's job appointment letters. They have been granted only two things by society which they cling to: A house and an identity of being Mrs. X, Y or Z. On that special occasion of Women's Day, Shobha decided to give names to themselves: She, Shobharani and her daughter-in-law, Aditi. Not just Mrs. Mukherjee anymore. The audience gives them a standing ovation.

The Review

We are all accustomed to the popular saas-bahu soap operas, where the mother-in-law is the quintessential villain. The innocent daughter-in-law is always at the receiving end of all her evil plans. But this movie is a welcome relief from that familiar drama. Here Aditi, the educated, modern daughter-in-law, instead of suffering silently, tries to find a solution of this all-too-familiar problem. She consults a psychiatrist. And here the movie takes a turn. Alongwith Aditi, the audience also learns that the root-cause of the problem is not the evil mother-in-law herself, but the patriarchal society which makes the groom's mother behave rudely towards the bride. All women can relate to the characters of Aditi and her mother-in-law.
Both Koneenica Banerjee and Anashua Majumdar give stellar performances as the DIL-MIL duo. Biswanath Basu is the perfect Mr. Mukherjee- the middle-class, chauvinistic Bengali bhodrolok who is a product of a patriarchal upbringing. Rituparna Sengupta portrays the character of the psychiatrist convincingly. All the songs are appropriate. I specially liked the song "Khachar Pakhi", when Aditi advises the neighbourhood woman, played by Aparajita Auddy, to come out of an abusive marriage. It's strange how many women continue suffering in abusive marriages, because it's the easy way out. The song captures this irony very well.

'Boner pakhi bole, "Akash ghono nil, kono badha nahi tar.

Khachar pakhi bole, "Khachati poripati, kemone dhaka charidhar." '

(Free bird describes, " Deep blue is the sky, no hitch whatsoever."

Cage bird replies, "Look how clear is my enclosure.")
These lines resonated strongly with me.

Overall, this film is a must-watch, especially for the women audience.

This post titled "A Relief From The Typical Saas-Bahu Drama Is Mukherjee Dar Bou" has been published on Women's Web as a Featured Post. Featured Posts are a careful selection of highly relevant and interesting posts picked up by the editor's of Women's Web each day. To read the full story, Click here.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Insomniac


As the dark envelops the earth like a pall of gloom,
I stay wide awake in my room,
Tossing and turning in the bed,
I wait for the sleep to come to my aid.
But sleep remains aloof,
Ever elusive,
No matter how much I cajole it
To descend on my drooping eyelids.
Instead I drift into a fitful slumber,
Only to get awake by a lurid nightmare.
Slowly the darkness fades away,
And the first rays of sun lights up the horizon;
I silently pray for serenity to return
And all turbulence to be gone.

The Evening Musing


An imminent April evening,
The afternoon tea, a dusty city road-
And your hand on mine,
I left those far behind in time.



Here the ruddy glow of sun lingers long,
Before giving way to a calm twilight;
Like the after-taste of a passionate kiss-
That lingers long on taste-buds after it's finished.



Now all my evenings are dull and vapid,
Colored by the grey quotidian monotony;
A solitary moon hangs here-
Among an ocean of twinkling stars.



Unbidden, the night comes-
Dark, sultry, humid April nights;
The solitary moon shines night-long,
As it has been shining since eons.

Diamond Harbour Diaries - 1



The Hooghly River at Diamond Harbour, West Bengal, India

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