Happy 9th, Baby!

Another year, and probably the toughest one you’ve had to face, yet. You continue to amaze me with your sheer grit and your love, Harshitha, and Amma couldn’t be more prouder of you.

You’ve learnt to cycle, on your own, without training wheels – you come home with bruises that you brush off and torn pants. You never come back home with your clothes unsmudged and it amazes me you’ve come this far. From a child who’d be scared of the dirt to willingly embracing it like your sibling. I swear I can hear the washing machine groan when I walk up to it with your load. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Continue to be as wild as you are.

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Your compassion is growing in leaps and bounds. From fostering pigeons to ladybugs, we’re doing it all, and your willingness to share your home and heart with absolutely anybody and anything surprises me to no end. Having to say no to another one of your demands to take a bedraggled puppy/kitten/worm home breaks my heart sometimes, but it does make it swell in silent pride too.

We had a lovely party for you this year. Kavi Aunty told a story for you and all your friends and there was cotton candy and pasta and even a puppet show that had everyone screaming. And of all the pictures that I took at the party last night, this is the one that stayed with me. You, with Shyama, your BFF. Who weaved you a pretty little bracelet and wrapped it in glitter paper and proceeded to explain why she’d rather make something for you instead of buying it. I hope you remember her when you read this. But if you don’t, talk to me – I’ll tell you stories of sleepovers with her and choco-chip pancakes and warm blankets and books.

 

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Happy Birthday, darling child – may you always, always find happiness in the little things in life.

 

Of missing someone…

July and August of every year are very difficult for me. People who are close to me know how susceptible I am to losing my shi* during these days and handle me with kid gloves.(Thank you, by the way, you know who you are) These months are super important for two reasons – one month took away what I held the most important, and then the next gave me something that I will always, always be thankful for.

In the span of a year, I had Harshitha and I’d lost my mother.  To people who’ve never lost a parent, it’s unfathomable to think of something like that. But I know, it is inevitable. I have made my peace with the fact that I’ll never have a mother to cry my heart out to, but the fact that hurts the most is that Harshitha won’t be ever able to experience the incredible, mad, gut-wrenching love that my mother could display.

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When I say mad, I say it in the most affectionate way, but actually, mean the dictionary version of it – I’ve seen her fight people thrice her size when it came to protecting us – and I’ve seen her challenge every norm that society had thrust upon her, while fighting her own battles – and managing to raise two children, while at it.

From travelling without tickets, without a return date or a particular destination in mind, to being the mother who’d hide my school uniform and turn all the clocks in the house an hour backwards the day I had picnics (Yes, I know!) because that was the only way she’d get me to not go, being my mother’s daughter probably has been the most adventurous, maddening and invigorating thing that has ever happened to me.

I miss the madness more than anything else, Amma – normalcy is overrated.

P.S. I hope they have chai up there, wherever you are.

Of consent, and the sheer disrespect of it.

con·sent

(kən-sĕnt′)

intr.v.con·sent·ed, con·sent·ing, con·sents

1. To give assent, as to the proposal of another; agree: consent to medical treatment; consent to going on a business trip; consent to see someone on short notice.
Consent – a word that has so many misinterpretations it is not funny. Consent? That’s easy to understand you’d think! Right?
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Image Courtesy : National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Wrong – if the world actually understood or even tried to have an understanding of consent, the rates of sexual abuse, assault and rape would have dropped dramatically. Did you know 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience sexual assault in their lifetime?

Although I’d like to not have ever faced it – I have, on multiple levels, seen it happen at close quarters, to me, and friends. I could tell you stories of being eighteen and in a strange city, scared sh*tless because some man couldn’t stop following me to the hostel – because I’d asked him for the time, of all things, that man took friendly banter as consent.

Or I could tell you of the friend, who’d only accepted a lift from a male colleague, who ended being felt up – because she sat in the front seat. I kid you not, when confronted – all that creep had to say was – “But she sat in the front with me, after asking for a lift.” Here, sitting in the front seat became “consent.”

Or the time another was harassed, with threatening phone calls, love letters in blood, and messages, and maligning Facebook posts from a jilted ex, right until her wedding day, and even after. Like the picture says, consent means asking every time. Just because she liked you in the past, doesn’t mean she has given you consent for the rest of your life.

Do we really not understand that consent to touch a woman is only when she explicitly says so?

Ever since I’ve been technically “single”, I’ve faced multiple instances where people assume that my friendliness or general camaraderie is consent in some form. Thankfully, every instance is a learning lesson to be more safe-guarded the next time, but when will we actually understand that a no means just that – A fucking NO?

Of vacations and breaking down doors…

Yes, now that I have piqued your interest, I finally went on a 2 day vacation, for the first time in a year, and for the first time as a single mother. And to tell you it was incredible would be the understatement of the century.  We actually drove down to Shimoga, a place that has won my heart, both in terms of hospitality  and the food.

Murphy had to of course work his hardest, and then it started off with Mischief having motion sickness and throwing up all over my jacket, but the driver was super sweet and helped me clean up and start off again without even a single protest – it was his own car but he chose to look beyond. Murphy- 0, Lakshmi – 1.

It was the most funnest thing getting there, picknicking along the way in someone’s farm for breakfast and lunch, Mischief running amok around with H, chasing butterflies and dragonflies in the grass. And finally, after taking eight hours for what should have been a five hour road trip – blame my innumerable chai breaks, we finally reached this beautiful home stay called River View, which was the only place we could find that would allow dogs.

Most places that touted to be “pet-friendly” provide you a cage to put your pet in. How that is pet friendly is beyond my understanding. But the owners of this place were kind enough to keep a bed and food ready for Mischief, in our room by the time we arrived. And finally, leaving her inside our room, we locked up and drove out to town for dinner.  Cut to about an hour and a half later, I come back and tried opening the door, which wouldn’t open even after being unlocked. Thinking the lock must be faulty, I called the staff to help – when we finally discovered what the problem was. Mischief, living up to her name, had actually latched herself inside, playing with the handle on the other side – and there was no way to open the door except to break it open.

My heart skipped a beat, thinking of all that would ensue, including me having to convince the owner about the decision and I mentally started having the conversation in my head, but I didn’t have to – he made the decision himself, asking me not to worry. But that was the not the best part – his whole family, including his daughter and his grandson, came to help calm me and little H down, who was already sobbing her heart out, scared and helpless. They held my hand and talked me through what would happen – and then eventually, an excruciating 45 minutes later, the door was broken open and Mischief had the most heartwarming reunion with her sister.

The kindness of people is what touches my heart the most – and even the neighbours in the resort were super nice too, not complaining even a bit about the loud banging on a Saturday night, but came out and tried to help too – young boys on a holiday, willing to lend a helping hand.

After the adventurous night, we went to sleep after having dinner at the river-side with moonlight giving us company, and almost fell asleep outside. And then the next morning, we had breakfast and chai by the river, on old style picnic benches – and I swear to God, chai never tasted better in my life.

 

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And I finally managed to tear myself from the view and get dressed to go to an Elephant Sanctuary where I heard you could bathe elephants.  I’ve always been fascinated by these gentle giants but the books I’ve been reading lately, have increased the respect I have for them by a hundred fold. Elephant mothers and the way they treat their calves, is something that truly touched my heart. If you were pregnant for 22 months, you’d put your heart and soul on the line too, I guess, but the sheer love you see an elephant baby experience in a herd is mind-blowing. The whole herd makes it their life-mission to protect the baby for the next two years after it is born, following every move, listening to every little trumpet. I’d be a brilliant elephant I think, if I were ever reborn as one, I have the memory skill down anyways 🙂

And then I met Kiran, and fell in love head over heels all over again. Gentle, graceful and beautiful eyes – what is there not to love?

 

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And here’s Kiran again, after having sprayed my face with water from the lake. Yes, that happened. Have you ever tried bathing an elephant? You should – it is truly the most calming thing in the world.

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The grin on my face says it all 😀

Never have I felt this sense of freedom than I did on this trip – and I am forever grateful for it.

 

 

Of flying and other things…

Most people who know me, know my proficiency at acting totally gawaar-like or for the lack of a better word, country bumpkin when it comes to things like big cars, celebrities and the other such high-flying things. I cannot help it. There are still jokes about me staring agape at Manish Malhotra, for a good five minutes, mind you, no words coming out of my mouth when I saw him in a five-star hotel in Bombay, when I was eighteen. Or the time, just a couple of years ago – I spotted a red Lamborghini – and I forgot to cross the road, a friend had to drag me across, and later give me a giggly hug, because my response to her screaming was – “But it was the first time I saw a Lambhorgini!” You get the picture.

As usual, I digress – so when it comes to flying in a plane, the first time I ever flew was for our honeymoon – a naive child-bride of 21. I swear my face was glued to the window the whole time, I was beyond enthralled. And the best part is, I still am. It’s been a good 12 years since that day, but I still ask for the window seat, when given a choice and even fight with H for it. Flying is something that I still haven’t come to in terms with, in my head. Everything, from the rumbly take-off when I see buildings and houses become tinier and tinier and then disappear into nothingness, making up stories about who live in them, the sheer fluffiness of the clouds and the blue skies, I can never get enough of that view. And no matter what happens, I hope to God I never lose this sense of awe and weightlessness that I feel when the plane takes off. I’d much rather be the country bumpkin than a person who’s jaded to see the beauty in the small, tiny things, any day.