Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Silence kills

Silence kills...
Ask the morose man in the library.
Ask the couple with no conversation,
Ask the girl alienated by her friends,
Ask the boy who stares at his video game.

Silence kills...
The family who lost their only child,
The star-crossed lovers punished by fate,
The survivor waiting for the doctor's diagnosis,
The child who senses disappointment in his parents' silence.

Silence is golden; is it really though?
Not when it is a punishment,
Not when it reeks of resentment,
Not when it is a sign of emotions pent,
Not when your life is a crescent;

If only...
Silence, you could anxiety,
Differences, fate, hate, 
Judgement, anger, melancholy, 
Then fear, you wouldn't silence.

And a true companion you will find,
In lows and highs,
Holding a mirror to your soul,
A Silence that will usher in solitude,
Serene, tranquil and gratifying!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Moms, milestones and memories!

Everyday, when I look at my baby girl, several things come to my mind, which I wish I could tell her. I could say those out loud, but they wouldn't mean anything but a babble to her :) So, I thought of penning them down not just for her, but as a memory of these wonderful times for me.

1. Thanks for bringing this beautiful title of 'Mom' to me - There wouldn't be a me, without a you! I wouldn't have enjoyed all these precious moments without you to make them so treasure-worthy. On a side note, thanks for helping me see this new and unexplored side to your father; his personality just changes once you are with him :)

2. 'I love you' is just not enough of a phrase to describe the way I feel about you, the way you make me feel when I have you in my arms. I feel tired, but happy all the time; I can't wait for you to sleep so I can get some sleep, but all I do is soak in your innocence as you sleep; I keep saying that I want some time for my self, but all I do in that time is to go through your pictures and videos. Someday, maybe you could come up with a word that would suffice these feelings! 

3. I grow with you - It's not just you who is achieving milestones; every day you grow, you teach me a new lesson too. A lesson in patience, a lesson in compassion, a lesson about perseverance (when you keep standing up just to fall the next minute, but stand again the very next second).

4. The way you make me feel - When you look up at me with those big, black eyes, and focus with undivided attention, just to break into a smile after you realize it's your mom, I feel like there is nothing else that matters in this world. You make me feel wanted and loved all at the same time!

5. I need you as much as you need me -You are my source of happiness and pride. I find my pleasure in your little achievements, and I need you, to feel grounded, when I lose sight of what life is about. You make me enjoy the present and not worry about the future. 

6. I absolutely love that you have a personality of your own - Who knew such tiny lives could have their own wills and desires. You have your own way of enjoying your time, I just can't make you do anything. (I hope even in the future, I can let you be you, and don't stifle you with stereotypes). If you don't want to play with toys, and just want to sit on the floor singing your heart out, you do that! I love that everyday is a new challenge for you and you love making your days colorful with new activities everyday. One day you just sit there clapping your hands in happiness, and on other days, you want to jump up and down like there is no stopping you; no matter what, you are just full of smiles and energy.
7. I just don't like sharing you - Even if it is just with your father!!! I had you just to me, for a long time, so it bothers me sometimes to have so many people to vie for your attention! And I know this is just the beginning; you are going to have a mind of your own and an independent life, with lots of people I would have to share you with. But that's okay; that is why I am trying to make the most of this 'Just you and me' time :)

8. Nobody told me doing laundry could be so exciting - As much of a chore it is, I enjoy doing your laundry and folding up those tiny booties, adorable little onesies that say cute things like 'Mommy and me', 'Cute as a button', and the likes. It just reminds me how tiny you are and takes me to a happy place with unicorns and butterflies.
P.S. Of course, there are those laundry loads after a diaper leak, that I just want to put off ;)

9. Since we are on the topic of clothes,I need to tell you how much it breaks my heart, every time you grow out of a pair of shoes or your sleep suits. It keeps reminding me that soon you won't fit in my arms and that is a very scary thought. 

10. I am new at this and I make mistakes, but you still come to me for comfort - It is just so endearing that even though I might not understand your baby language all the time, even though I make mistakes understanding your needs; you come back to me with all your love and trust. All I can think of then, is that we are in for a long journey together and I might make lots of mistakes; but I hope you will always trust in me and never forget that I am your biggest cheerleader; everything I do comes from my love for you.

11. You have brought us so many gifts; the gift of hope, the gift of love, the gift of space (our new home), the gift of family and friends and most important, the gift of such a bubbly package of joy as you! I only hope that we can count our blessings and make you as happy as you make us!

12. And finally, my heart sinks to even think about it, but I know it's inevitable. There are going to be times of heartbreak, disappointments and failure; and I cannot prevent that from happening. All I want you to know is that I will always be there for you to fall back on. I would give anything to protect you from all the darkness, but if I cannot, I will be there to show you the light!

P.S. All pictures are copyright of Amruta Marwah. Any reuse, duplication or reproduction of these pictures will be a violation of the copyright law.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Rejected without Prejudice!

The wind blowing her scarf, she stood there soaking in the sights and sounds of this alien country. A country she had been fighting a silent battle with. It had been so many years, such a long time; time that had been expected to heal wounds, help make fresh memories miraculously. And memories had been built in all those years, there was fervor to see each other, almost the kind of excitement a child has before he sees Santa Claus; excitement for a future, to relive the waltz of shared memories. 

Shailendra and Pooja were meeting after a huge gap, a time span that had given them a lot of time to ponder over the seemingly short 5 years of their lives. The five years that they had spent together, the time that had been a roller-coaster ride, resplendent with all the hues of life. Pooja and Shailendra were the poster couple of modern India, in times where India was represented by the IT world. They had worked in a huge IT company, where everybody was trying to climb up the ladder. They were living in an era where software engineers were among the best paid in India and it was a welcome change. That era marked the change of tides for India, an India where most families had been middle class suddenly had their children earning much more then they had ever started with. And these young graduates were thrilled to be able to possess the buying power their parents had acquired after years of struggle.

Such were the times Pooja and Shailendra were living in. And like all others, they wanted to make money, save money and achieve every dream possible. All these ambitions came at a cost, the cost of working hard without a thought to personal lives. Even though these companies paid graduates well, striding ahead only came with setting yourself apart from the rest of the herd. It was this shared ambition, the shared agony of dreams that brought Pooja and Shailendra together. Both would work long hours, take up difficult projects and yet find time to smile about the little things in life. It had almost become routine for them to catch up after work to get a bite to eat and bond over common enemies, like the project manager. Soon, they had moved on to be more than friends. Shailendra and Pooja were not the head-over-heels, love at first sight couple. They were the kind who tried to find logic in love. They were the new practical generation, or so they thought.

As soon as they realized the compatibility was a little more than common sense, they decided to stick together for the long haul. Friends were informed, parents were introduced and things started moving in the ‘happily ever after’ direction. But, for one catch; Shailendra had decided he wanted to achieve much more in life than slog for a software company. He wanted to gain experience and learn the ways of the world. He had applied to MBA schools across the world; If he decided to join any of these schools, what would happen to this relationship? Was an 8-month relationship strong enough to endure the pressure of a 2-year gap? Pooja and Shailendra had spoken about this many times, and although Pooja was apprehensive about it, Shailendra assured her that things would work out. 

After ample reassuring for both sets of parents, Shailendra left for the “Land of Opportunities”, leaving behind a doubtful Pooja. “You have to make sure you keep in touch, you can’t just use distance as an excuse”, muttered Pooja. “Don’t you worry, we are mature, sensible adults, we will sail through. And it is just a matter of two years”, responded Shailendra. As Shailendra left, Pooja knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but the determination in Shailendra’s eyes brought her confidence. 

Pooja moved to a new job; working in the same office without Shailendra around made it difficult for her in some ways. And the work was getting monotonous too. Shailendra found life as a student more challenging than he had imagined. Even with the challenges of time difference, they made time for each other and would fill each other in on the details of their day. The first few days passed smoothly. There was a lot of understanding for each other, all the patience in the world, and of course, the wonderful memories to reminisce about. The first few years of any relationship are the most blissful, people ride high on the novelty of the relationship, people are willing to make compromises and people are optimistic. Pooja and Shailendra were no different, they were putting in efforts to make maximum time for each other, they were putting each other above themselves, and they were already making compromises. But, what people don’t realize is that the sooner you start making compromises, the faster you become bitter about those. 

And then the inevitable happened. The distance started building a barrier, a barrier not because of lack of love, but because of the run-of-the-mill things of life. The busier they became in their lives, their work, the tougher it became to find time for each other. And all the technology in the world does not help, when you actually don’t have any common ground. But the hope of meeting each other soon kept them going. “I will be done soon, and then everything will be like before”, Shailendra reiterated to Pooja. “But, it has been too long, Shail. I need to see you, I really miss you, being around you, talking to you. Couldn’t you possibly find more time for me?”, Pooja said disappointedly. “We had known this all along, so why are you getting disturbed by it? It will be fine, it is just a matter of a few days. We can do this”, chimed Shailendra.

And so, they started planning for the future, of better days to come ahead. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and soon it was time for Shailendra to graduate. Pooja did not want to miss this proud moment, a moment that testified for all their sacrifices and compromises, a moment that defined the hard work both of them had put in, a moment for which their relationship had taken the beating, and a moment that would lead them to a better tomorrow. She watched the ceremony on a video call; nobody was happier than Pooja, she had sent out a congratulatory package for Shailendra to enjoy at his graduation party.  It was flowers and his absolute favorite apple pie. It was past midnight in India, but he had to call her. “Oh thanks a ton, Pooja… You are the best, a guy could ask for. You have been so patient all along, you have been a rock, getting me through this challenge. I could not have done it without you and yet, you are the one celebrating me”, said Shailendra to Pooja. “Hey don’t get me wrong! It is our relationship that I was celebrating”, Pooja replied with a giggle. “Oh really??? Like I don’t know you. I just don’t know what I would do without you. You keep my life interesting. You are the sugar and spice of my life. I just can’t wait to see you”, said Shailendra in excited tones. “I know, me too, and yes, flattery won’t do; I am expecting lots of wonderful gifts for all that you put me through”. “Oh yes Ma’m, I am well aware of that”, Shailendra said. It was moments like these that had kept their love alive and given it strength to bear the strains of a long distance relationship.

The plan had always been for Shailendra to work for a few years to repay the student loan, marry Pooja, and decide where to go from there. So, the next step for Shailendra was to find a job. Once he found a job, he would be able to go back to India for a vacation. He was on a student visa, and if he left the country without securing a job, he would not be able to come back. So, wait he did, for the perfect job. And waited Pooja too, for another trial in their relation. The job search brought with it another set of stressors. The frustration of not being able to find a good job, worth the degree, the disappointment at not being able to go back to India, the bursting of the bubble of a great life in America, all took their toll on Shailendra. And he gradually turned into a different person. He wasn’t sure of anything anymore. 

But Pooja stood by him at all times, assuring him of his worth, rationalizing with him to settle for a decent job for now. “You can always find a better job later. You know how it is with our field, it is so easy to make a switch. What is important right now is to move to the next step”, Pooja explained. “It is so easy, right. Like I am not trying, and yes, I won’t settle for less. You are just saying this because all you care about is me coming back. You don’t care about my job, my dreams…..”, snapped a beaten down Shailendra. There was silence, and then Pooja spoke, “I thought they were our dreams….”

At that point, both of them knew their relationship was moving into dangerous waters. And a buoy would have to be put in soon, to keep it afloat. Pooja prayed and prayed for Shailendra to face reality and be practical. Not that she did not understand his position; he expected returns for his sacrifices. What Shailendra couldn’t see was the fact that he was sacrificing much more in the process. 

Eventually, he did find a job, but a man who is not happy with himself can never make anyone else happy. Shailendra was a changed man now. And so changed the relation. Pooja was running out of her patient streak too. All she wanted was to see him and revive their relation. She knew what was transpiring was dangerous for their relation. So, she decided it was time for her to make amends. Pooja made a suggestion, “Shail, what do you say? It is obviously difficult for you to take a vacation. Maybe, it would be better if I made a trip to America. You don’t have to worry about the million things, and we don’t have to keep waiting….”. “That is actually not a bad idea. It would work out great. You are a genius, Pooja! Lets make this work!” said Shailendra. 

Thus, started the process of Pooja’s attempt to cross seven seas for her love. In great spirits, she got the documents ready and set out for her visa interview. And then, when she was expecting it least, came another blow. She had been denied the visa for “inexplicable reasons”. For anyone, who has applied for a US visa, this wasn’t a new term. You can be denied the right to visit another country for any and every reason under the sun. And worse, the embassy was not answerable to you. But this was Pooja’s first time, and standing there in the middle of the room, she did not know what had hit her. She walked out in a daze, not knowing what to do next. As she spoke to Shailendra, she decided to apply for the US visa again. She tried once more and was denied again, “Rejected without prejudice” stamped across her application.

Both Pooja and Shailendra were tired, they were running out of steam and the fights would just not stop. When people are frustrated, they vent out on their closest person. And nothing hurts a relation more than that. Especially, when you don’t get to experience the physical proximity, that meaningful look in the eyes, the comforting touch, and just that visual sense of the moment. Although their arguments would be about wanting to be with each other, nonetheless they were arguments and bitter ones that brought with them all the pent-up frustration from the past 3 and a half years.

And one day, Shailendra just couldn’t take it anymore. He decided this was physically and emotionally draining for both of them. “Pooja, there is no longer any love here, we just hurt each other and make our lives miserable. I don’t think there is enough love to last us through this test of time. Maybe, we should move on…” Shailendra put forth hesitantly. “No, no, I don’t understand what you are saying. Who doesn’t fight, and all our fights are about being with each other, so both of us want the same thing, to be together”, Pooja said defensively. “But, the fact is we are not together, and there doesn’t seem to be any chance of that changing soon”, Shailendra added.

“Shail, I do believe things would be different, if I was there, right next to you. Please understand, we have been patient all along, don’t give up now!”, muttered Pooja in a desperate attempt to reclaim what she soon seemed to be losing.

But, Shailendra was so bogged down by the numerous failed attempts to put a stop to these fights they would have. Arguments over not making enough time for each other, the frustration of physically not being there for each other. It was never going to be a bed of roses, but it had now become almost impossible to pick out the thorns without pricking each other’s hearts.

Yet, Pooja exclaimed, “Please, I have to see you once!”. “What do you expect me to do, hitchhike on a ship? I cannot, I simply cannot come back right now, and I don’t have the strength to wait for the day I can”, screamed Shailendra.

All these events were playing through their minds, making them dizzy that chilly October morning. Pooja and Shailendra were finally meeting each other, she had finally made it across. Her long standing wish had come true, she was here, for closure! That summer afternoon 11 years ago, Shailendra had called it off, was the beginning to the end of their relationship. There were bitter, angry, remorseful arguments after that conversation, interspersed with futile attempts to resuscitate their love. But, nothing worked; the damage was done and there was no aid in sight for their bruised relation. Parents were consulted, and Pooja and Shailendra were advised to move on. And move on, they did, battered and bruised, helpless and hopeless. And then they realized, it is easier to break ties when there is no love, when you leave a person in hatred, in anger, in vengeance. But, when you see there is love, just not the right stage for it, it becomes unimaginably challenging to sever those silken threads. 

But, remember Pooja and Shailendra had the practical kind of love. So, they made the right choice for each other; above all they wanted to see the other person happy. And this relation was just not what was making either of them happy. Today Pooja was here, but only on a temporary dependent visa with her husband. And she did not want to lose this chance to close that major chapter of her life with dignity and grace. She wanted to be happy and remorse-free. “It was never us, Shail…. Umm, Shailendra! It was the situation. We are good people, we had true love. But love doesn’t necessarily culminate in marriage. There are all sorts of love….”, started Pooja. “And ours was the kind, where we hurt each other?”, said Shailendra quizzically. “You still don’t get it, do you? It was the lessons from our relation that led us to find happiness, made us responsible, mature spouses today”. “But how is that fair? We go through turbulent times, so that our partners can have perfect spouses. If it was us, who survived through it, it should have been us who got to celebrate it”, said Shailendra angrily. “I know, I know… I am just glad that we nipped it at the right time. We were turning into monsters”, added Pooja with a smile. Shailendra laughed hard, and said, “Wow, I must say you are quite the ray of sunshine, where is that coming from?”. “That tends to happen when you are advocating for families torn apart by immigration laws. They need hope, not the depressing statistics of tight-lipped immigration authorities”, Pooja said with passion. 

“So, what, you are a lawyer now?”. 
“No, just using my experience to counsel families. I told you there were all kinds of love. And I found my new love in making sure no one goes through what we did”. 

“And what about us, what do we share?”, said Shailendra as their eyes met, eyes that had the sorrow of a painful past. They knew things didn't always work out as expected, whether you give them time or not. It is almost like every event in your life has a mind of its own;  a mind that leads you to your destiny. And there were no two people who knew this better than Shailendra and Pooja. They might have been seeing each other after almost a decade, but they were perfectly familiar with the whims of time. They knew how it felt to be helpless at the hands of time and distance. They knew perfectly well how the dimensions of life changed with time and distance. They had witnessed the unwilling dance to the rhythm of time. And they had experienced the strongest of people fall prey to this unexpected predator.

Pooja broke the trail of thoughts, silently adding,“Friendship, a history, and life lessons, that’s what we share.  And that kind of bond doesn’t break easily, there are no obligations, nothing there that cannot deal with despicable laws and roadblocks”. With or without prejudice, bonds and memories are not something that can be rejected by embassies, a relation might be broken, but if the ties are strong enough, a new relation builds on the old one; a bond that cannot be ‘rejected without prejudice’.

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