Mother’s Day

 

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Yesterday I woke up to Mother’s Day. As much as I might try to romanticise it, the awareness of this all important day was not brought home to me by my dear sonny waking me up with a bottle of wine and some flowers but by the media – old and new.
Suddenly there were mothers all over the place…in the newspapers, shopping malls, eating joints not to mention the virtual world…. Facebook statuses, whatsapp pictures and messages, instagram. Seeing everyone singing praises of their mothers, thanking them etc. I was suddenly consumed by guilt. By and large we (my brother and myself that is) have always ignored our mother, a legacy duly carried on by my dear son. So while my son decided that the best way to celebrate mother’s day was by taking him to a movie and feeding him at his favourite fast food joint , I thought of at least wishing my mom, who would be totally clueless about this whole hullabaloo in any case.
Dutifully I called her at 8 in the morning. ..no response. Again I called at 9. Still no response. I dropped a couple of messages but still no reply. So it continued for the rest of the day. My brother was as clueless about her whereabouts even though they live under the same roof. The totally spaced out mental space that my brother lives in makes others pretty much redundant to his scheme of things. That is until one day when he’ll wake up and smother you with all love and affection only to disappear again. My dad had no idea either which I didn’t expect him to in any case. After over 40 years of marriage one is rather happy to have misplaced one’s spouse I guess . Despite my mother’s unfathomable claims of being busy all day how could she be so busy,  I just couldn’t get.
It was finally at 8 in the evening when we were on way to “celebrate” as per my son’s wishes that I finally got to talk to her. By then all mother’s day love and affection had taken a beating and all that I did was to yell at her for disappearing so. ” The best way to celebrate huh ? ” , I asked her, ” Fall off the grid with a bottle of wine?” Used to being harangued by us so , she gave no answers about her being M-I-A all day long but continued to laugh and giggle. And that really did make me wonder. ..did she actually think that the best way to celebrate was to take off away from the brats with some liquor ? Genius! ! Why didn’t I think of that ?
Whether she actually did do that or not, I really don’t know. But that she had a good day is what matters. Motherhood in any case something that we as mothers need to celebrate for ourselves . The children didn’t ask to be born. ..it was we who either consciously decided to, or well just became mothers. Either way motherhood is a life long commitment. As my favourite Elizabeth Gilbert puts it in “Eat Pray Love”, it’s like having a permanent tattoo on your face. So you might as well be very sure about it. And even if you weren’t so sure, once you are a mother, you are so for your entire life-like it or lump it.
Best way to celebrate ? To each his own but for me it is to thank these lovely imps we have for children rather than them thanking us- Children who allowed us to explore and discover hitherto unknown aspects of ourselves. So yes, my mom taking off (with or without liquor) on her own is as much of celebration as me watching “Captain America-Civil War” with my little one. The two mothers are in different phases of motherhood, each to be cherished and enjoyed, neither to be undervalued.

So here’s to all the fabulous mothers and all that they are, and the children who make them so. May each day and each moment be as much of a celebration as this special day!

Not my circus. Not my monkeys.

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I recently read this proverb on the Fb page of Elizabeth Gilbert and although I have heard this saying before and often pondered over it, coming from her, it made me sit back and think about it all over again. This is what she says-

“Not my circus, not my monkeys” — a beautiful and witty way to say, “Those problems simply do not belong to me.”

(I also love imagining the context in which you would say this — watching a completely deranged monkey disrupt a completely disorderly circus…all the while, you just sit there calmly eating your cotton candy…)

So let it go, dear ones. Walk away.

We all have plenty to take care of, as it is, managing our own circus, our own monkeys…”

No matter what the detractors say, but whenever I pick up Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love”, it always makes sense to me, helps me find my feet in troubled times, strangely becoming synonymous with my own quests- quest for balance, for peace … for life. (Read more about it here) Coming from the author of one of my favourite works, I had to give this saying more than a fleeting thought.

Life itself is nothing if not a circus, and surrounded as we all are by monkeys of all shapes and sizes, some real and some of our own imagination, choosing one’s monkeys and the circus seems like a good idea. The only problem, as I see it, is not simply choosing your circus, but more importantly, realising that you are in a circus to begin with. Most of us get so accustomed to the rigmarole of life with its tin pot tragedies and comedies, that we are simply unable to step back from the situation and see it for what it really is- a circus. In fact this circus becomes synonymous with life- be it the politics of workplace, of the extended Indian family or of the humble kitty party, a back stabbing friend, quarrel with the spouse, disagreement with children- all this constitutes life for most of us. The ability to see this as mere externals and not allowing them to take over one’s sensibilities is indeed a tough call, requiring greater inner awareness and growth than most of us are capable of.

Yet, there comes a time when one’s peace matters more than anything else; when this so called life of ours, with all its trivial pursuits and disagreements really doesn’t seem worth sapping oneself of all energy- physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and psychological. And that, my dear friends, is the point when one needs to walk away. Yes, it is difficult to walk away from life in totality. A wise friend once told me to choose my battles- to pick and choose what things, if any, were worth fighting for, worth getting upset over, worth brooding over, worth losing your night’s sleep over. What one can set right, please do. As for the rest? Just let go.

The desire to become the ringmaster, to bring some sort of semblance of order to all pervasive chaos, is indeed compelling. Whether it is motivated by a desire to prove your point, to show that you were right after all or by any noble (or base) motive is immaterial. What matters is the price you pay for it- your own sanity. And that isn’t worth sacrificing at any cost. So choose your battles, choose your circus and choose your monkeys very wisely. Most of all, choose to tame the monkey mind that is the seat of all chaos. As for the rest- let it go; walk away.

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Eat Pray Love….Live

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What prompted me to pick up this book was the a reference to Julia Roberts on the cover. That the “Pretty Woman” was starring in the movie rendition of this  apparent international bestseller made the book seem a lot more attractive than it would have otherwise. Faced with the prospect of a boring three hour train run from Delhi to Chandigarh ahead of me, I picked it up at the railway station. Ironically, later on when I did watch the movie, I could not sit through it without getting fidgety in my seat, Roberts or no Roberts. This turned out to be one of those cases where in the book vs movie conflict, the book won hands down, at least for me . That is not to say that the book has not faced enough flak for being nothing but a self indulgent outpouring of a egotistical writer- basically a chick lit masquerading as a travel cum spiritual sojourn. Forget any real or immediate crisis, spiritual, emotional or psychological, it lays bare not Gilbert’s soul or journey of self discovery but is a pseudo spiritual travelogue at best it is often alleged.

My reply, not a defence of the book, but a matter of fact statement is – so what if it is self indulgent ? As long as it meets the criterion of being a readable, entertaining piece that reaches out to you at some level, even if it’s not an honest baring of the soul or a journey in self discovery, so be it. We are clearly not looking at anything that will go down the annals of Literature as a masterpiece. In this age of instant gratifications and use and throw consumerism, it fares better than many other “bestsellers” in the market. Let us for a while try to forget that it is an autobiographical piece, and try to approach it as a work of fiction instead. In any case the whole question of “impersonality” of the author, in any work and not only biographies, has been the subject matter of much critical debate since time immemorial. If Gilbert’s quest, apart from making a good read, makes you think about your own life and the need for meaning therein, it’s well worth the money.

At the very onset Gilbert explains how the book works. Divided into three sections, it has 108 tales like the beads of a “japa mala”. The three sections correspond to the three countries she visited in this 1 year of self discovery- Italy, India and Indonesia corresponding to Eat, Pray and Love sections of the book respectively . The spiritual leanings of the author, and that the book is rooted in Indian philosophy, becomes apparent at the very onset where Gilbert not only talks of the book being structured like a “japa mala” but also thanks her Guru who is never named but is known to be Gurumayi Chidvilasananda.

As the 1st section Italy unfolds we are told about Gilbert’s nasty divorce and equally scarring rebound romance that brought her on the brink of a psychological breakdown thereby prompting this year long sabbatical. Italy, her 1st stop, is a life devoted to pleasure of the senses- not of the carnal nature but simply those catering to the taste buds. It is there that she learns “bel far niente”- the beauty of doing nothing. From her hectic goal oriented life always aimed at reaching somewhere and achieving something, this discovery is nothing short of revolutionary. This learning to let go of things, learning to make peace with the past, with her increased waist, appreciating “dolce vita”, the sweet life, sets the tone for the next section- Pray.

Meditation it is often said, throws up your worst fears, dreams and desires- it opens up the innermost recesses of your mind that you didn’t even know existed. While Italy gave the semblance of order returning to her hitherto battered existence, India presents aspects of the “monkey mind” that Gilbert was not prepared for. Anyone who has dabbled in meditation, for any reason- spiritual, psychological- can fully sympathise and empathise with Gilbert and her attempts at meditation. Instead of being wrapped up in Divine Communion not only does she flinch from her daily meditations, her “talk” with her “mind” as she sits for these daily trysts make for a hilarious and true to life reading. But she persists and that alone is the key to success. Dedication, perseverance- mind settles, meditation flows and answers come. Thoughts, feelings, arguments- “It all goes away. Eventually everything goes away” until one day you are face to face with your Self and can say-“Congratulations to meet you”!

If there is any part of the book that just doesn’t work, at least for me, it’s the third part- Love against the backdrop of Indonesia. Meant to strike a balance between a life devoted to senses and that devoted to prayer, it does neither. All we see is Gilbert, in true chick lit style, now fully healed and recuperated, falling in love and walking away into the sunset so to speak. Even the toothless medicine man whom she had expressed her desire in the beginning of having a “lasting experience of God” fails to make an impression. Her initial quest – “how to live in (this) world and enjoy its delights, but also devote myself to God”- answer to which this 3rd section was to provide seems to have been lost in the face of new found life and love. Yes she does “feel different” even in her “underpants” but that’s about it.

Throughout the book the casual, chatty tone and idiom carries the reader along on this rollercoaster ride of self discovery. No the book does not give you any final answers on finding a whole, balanced life. May be that is the point of it all- that there can be no universal answers or one size fits all solutions. Be it a life of the senses or a life of meditation, we all have to find our own answers, our own balance. “Eat Pray Love” may not be the way to live for many- either as a collection of these three activities or individually in whatsoever order and the book does not propose them as such. All that it does exhort you to do is to “Live”- find your life, your balance and truly live it. If reading such a book is a part of the kind of life you want, then it’s well worth a read otherwise not.