Black

I recently chanced upon the topic of getting judged based on one’s skin-tone, starting at a tender age. Every time I heard comments on those lines, I used to cringe a little inside. It is very real in our society and it was heartwarming to see fellow moms doing an awesome job trying to change that mindset with our next generation. It got me thinking on how this color was perceived earlier, and how we got misled into believing a darker skin-tone is anything lesser for a human being! A little poem dedicated to those who faced it, hoping it brings a smile and a little sunshine to their beautiful being!

Black is kindness
when the dark sky opens up it’s bounty as rain to the parched ground!

Black is strength
in the shiny stallion that races against the lashing wind!

Black is boldness
for that single dot that stands out against a background of white!

Black is peace
when life takes a pause in the stillness of the night!

Black is divinity
for the sculptor’s chisel that moulds God’s form onto granite!

Black is mystic
for every Gopika who dances to Krishna’s flute!

Black is beauty
in form and character of Draupati, the princess born out of soot!

Black is warmth
to the baby growing in it’s mother’s womb!

Black is love
in the kajal tika a mom puts from her eyes on her baby’s cheeks!

Black is vastness
of space that holds within it, everything big and small

Black is the unknown, the un-manifest, the incomprehensible;
Black is the very color of God!

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Give Yourself Time!

There she was, as an egg
on a lush mulberry leaf.
Holding strong against the winds;
gripping against the lashing rains.
Look at her resilience, they wondered!

Into a lovely green caterpillar,
she hatched, with numerous legs.
As she inched, she devoured every bit
of food that her tiny mouth could bite!
We see a lot of potential in her, they thundered!

Then she did what she was born to do;
She weaved around herself, a coccoon.
And for not hours but days together,
she just refused to move.
They couldn’t believe their sight!
Numerous questions revealed their plight!

Is that all you are capable of, now?
What do you do inside all day?
It’s a pity, all that energy, all that promise
should totally go to a waste!

An utter disappointment she was,
failing to meet their standards of Gold!
Alas, she failed to rise
to be worthy of anybody’s praise!

And then one day the cocoon withered,
she remained green no more.
She had lost her shape and her legs
that she flaunted not so long ago.

But now she had vibrant colorful wings.
She soared to the sky, her ties to the ground broken!
And then there was their complete silence;
An ultimate tribute to her life and her transformation!

Dedicated to every mom who found motherhood transformative, especially to those who worked hard in early years to carve an identity only to leave it all behind for their loved ones, struggling with a loss of identity and receding into their cocoon, fighting loneliness, self doubts and societal expectations.

Hold on girl, worry not about loss
of your earlier color or limbs,
for you are busy right now
growing a colorful pair of wings!

Happy Mother’s Day!

A pilgrimage of a lifetime!

In all these years of my life, there are a few times I would end up climbing the hills of Tirupati, one of which was with my then 1.5 year old daughter. To visit the temple and see the God is the ultimate aim. But to walk the mountain up is something else altogether. The toil just marinates you to make the final result so much more sweeter and unforgettable. There are vans and buses plying the winding roads with loads of people enjoying the valley view and fresh air from the hill. I have been on them many times too. Why would one choose to walk? That people chose earlier is may be because they did not have the roads and facilities, but why now? I understand and sometimes think those who walk are much more blessed to get that experience. The length of time you spend out there is transformative. When I zip through the roads to see the God, hence shortening the time, puts me through this process quickly and takes me out of it too. My exposure to the raw nature, the mountain breeze, the bustling life around is cut off, and my muscles and mind are not exercised. The number of minutes I think of the God and the chances to think are reduced drastically. I know, I only think of Him when I’m in need and that need is taken off, you see. Chances of tapping into the deeper reserves of mental and physical capability is diminished. So, when I reach the Golden door of the shrine to see the God, I have done all the “rituals” except the walk up the mountain and I do get His darshan and I do feel blessed but it may not be a complete experience.

So, this was one of the times we were walking up the mountain, as per our prayers, carrying her on my hip. Nope, she would not let me put her on a baby carrier. I was panting and quickly running out of breadth every 100 steps. My body was not at the top shape to take over this physical activity. I see beside me, a lot of other devotees walking, crossing me quickly. From some as young as 3 to as old as 75 or 80. Walking whichever way they could, to cross those steps and reach up, inching closer to the summit. I was profusely sweating and it made my little one uncomfortable as much as myself. The sun shone on my face as I walked, making my already difficult journey even harder. I got some water and fresh lime soda at the stalls on the side that popped up a few times on the way. They helped a bit but ultimately, I had not gotten a good foundation and could see that I was struggling. Time is passing and my aim is to reach the top before it gets late into the night – really cold and breezy and with a baby-toddler, I always wanted to play it safe. She would get rotated between my husband, my cousin and my brother, but she was not interested in going up without riding on me! “Oh God, why do you test me like this?”, I asked everytime I ended up lifting her to walk after a brief respite. She was too young to walk the steps and crawling was a No-No! I keep asking, “how many more steps to go” until the person answering would become disinterested! I would slump down on the side of one of the steps, my trembling legs refusing to push anymore… my baby oblivious to all this, staring at the people and the mountain wide-eyed. I prayed to Him to lift me up just a little, would he? I desperately need a hand here… please!! I can’t do this anymore, I doubt. Then after catching a few breadths, I am back on my way, with her in tow. With God’s picture in my mind, my ultimate goal, I focus hard on the result, to reach there not too late, blurring out the immediate inconveniences and challenges. This taps in a strange energy from deep within me, to carry on, despite the struggles, and doubts and the challenges. “Govinda Goovindaa!” I hear from people around, cheering up and refocusing my wandering, tired mind. The steps get a little spring in them, as I cover a few more before drifting away in exhaustion. I tell His name a few times, to get myself align back on my task. All this, my baby is watching and absorbing. I didn’t think she got the struggle part and the chanting part for encouragement and ultimately work it through to the goal. It’s too complex for her tiny mind, I thought. We reach the final fleet of steps called the Shin-Knot. It is named aptly so because it is a series of very short and tall steps that really challenge you. Half way through them, all my prayers, my focus, my chanting, my last bit of energy are all drained and my body and mind both are at a point where I just could not move. If I rested, I may lose the momentum and may not push forward, I worried. But nope. Not another step. I stayed there perched on one of the steps, with my baby on my lap, my family too catching a breadth when I send out a silent prayer, “Oh God, I would need a miracle to cross this now!”. And he sends exactly that my way! My baby, who I thought till now, was just someone too young to get these complex ideas of goals and struggles and pushing through and motivations, who I thought was just looking at people walking by as some sort of play, lifted herself from my lap, crawling step by step shouting “Golu…Golu…” her way of saying “Govinda” looking back as if calling us and for a second, our faces lighted up, a fresh breadth of air energized my body and I was following her for a few steps before resuming to lift her and walk to reach the gates. Yes, we made it! We made it!!

This experience is so much similar to my parenting journey as a mom, I feel. It is exhausting and miraculous in it’s own way. It makes you reach for your innermost reserves from time to time, transforming the person you are and the capabilities you thought you had… pushing you to a whole new plane of experience and existence. That embodiment of strength I see and experience when around my own mom and grandmother I used to wonder, where they got it from! It’s from that pilgrimage of a lifetime!!

Career Chat

It was career/ college week in her school. I was excited to see all the events planned around this theme everyday of this week. Parent volunteers offered to share with kids, their college and career experience and everyday I would hear her share them with interest. Its wonderful that elementary kids are getting exposed to the concept of work and to get prepared for college in order to achieve that, right from this age. “Which job should I choose to do when I grow up, mom?”, she goes into deep thought.

“What is a job?” I ask. It’s something you do to earn. Ouch, by that definition, I am totally jobless :p! So, that’s like you put in some effort for a specific time period and you get paid for that. You basically are converting your time into money. Ya.. I want to earn a lot so I don’t have to think so much when spending.

Does a job need to be decided based on how much you are paid doing it? Do you need to be doing a job all your life? How much money do you really need? Tough questions, lets see where we get to at the end of this. As always, I hit the basis and started our brainstorming from there.

Why do you need to work? Do you need to? Yes, if you need to earn. You need money to satisfy your needs and wants. Whose needs? Your’s and your dependents- your family. Ok, what are these needs? We figured there could be 3 types of needs. One is survival needs – food, clothing and shelter. Next is essential needs to keep you going and comfortable. The third level is luxury needs that adds more comfort but can be cut off without much affect. If having a small second-hand car that runs without creating trouble is an essential need, then having a brand new high end car is luxury. It feels great but does not help you additionally, we conclude.

OK now, why do people get paid differently? Like, a CEO of a company earns so much more than a clerk at that company. They both have 24 hours at their disposal. That surely means there is no straight relation between time and money? Like the harder and longer you do the same work, the more you should earn? So what changed? Hmm.. They are doing different kinds of jobs…? Ah yes, it is in the value they create. The value that a CEO is able to create with his time is much more than a clerk. A CEO creates jobs for so many people but a clerk solves a small part of the company’s need. Hence the money they get is based on the value they generate. The basis of working is not to earn money but to create value for people around you. Like solving their problems or making their life a bit easier or making them feel a little better. So, what problem are you interested in solving?

Instead of thinking which career is the best in terms of money or “cool in other’s eyes”, see what you would love doing. How would you like to bring your interests, individuality and unique skills to create value for people around you that brings happiness to others and satisfaction to yourself. That is the question to be answered when you want to decide on your career. How would I know what I like? Think what keeps you in the flow, what makes your heart sing and make you forget time when you are into it. That should be the base of your career. Explore and learn about yourself. You can change anything, anytime. It is your life. Life means possibilities. Don’t know how much of this she got, but I liked the way it ended!

Raindrops, You And I

raindropsjpg

 

 

 

 

Raindrops, you and I
Dropping down from the sky
All so pure, all the same
Bearing neither form nor name!

We reach the ground
One fine day;
Where ever we fall
It’s the destiny, we call!

We pick up colors and smells;
We take shapes and forms.
Everything that is bound
Are acquired on the ground

Drops on trees look green
Those in the ocean taste salty.
Drops on flowers smell sweet
Drops on bees think honey is a treat!

These drops, once so pure,
can’t be imagined so anymore;
Tangled and embroiled with everything else
Isn’t that the essence of this journey called life?

All these separations still
can’t prevent these drops from joining at will!
They join to form puddles and lakes,
Streams, rivers and Oceans too.

Then the drops change form,
Rising up to the heaven or sky;
Forming clouds floating by
To wait until they descend once again!

Getting back on track

What is the one most challenging part of a fitness journey? Finding time to exercise? No. Muscle burn during and after a workout session? Nope. These are definitely pain points but not the factor that puts you off your fitness track.

It is the ability to bounce back to where we left off every time we are thrown off board. This is especially true when we are in the early stages and are struggling with on and off days. When we are off track, we just assume this is not for us and we totally quit. Even worse is the fear of failure. I realized recently that when we are on track, we feel so anxious to stay on track that we become so rigid with our lives. We struggle every bit to fight life whose very nature is change. Sometimes this affects not just us, but everyone around us too. The solution is to accept this reality and to develop the art of seamlessly lifting ourselves when we sink and diving down when we seem to float up. Just like in swimming, the ideal place for you is the middle zone, completely submerged inside the water, where we can surge ahead and cover real distance. But you do need to come up for a gasp of air now and then.

Getting fit is boring. Yeah, I said it. I do try to keep variety to reduce the boring factor but it still is not so exciting once you get used to it. You just repeat it day after day, and over time, you simply get fit. But it is not so “simple”, is it? Life happens. We get sick or pull a muscle. We get busy with work. Extended family visits us or we go on vacation. Happiness or sadness, we end up binging on comfort foods and our fitness goals fly out of our mind’s window. Once off track, we struggle to get back. The task of looking back and thinking of the uphill struggle to get to the point where we left off itself feels huge. And if we repeat this more often than not, we think everything is lost.  What is the point, we say to ourselves. “I always end up doing this. I’m hopeless. Fitness is not for me. May be I am doing more damage by trying than not.”

Relax! Fitness can be easy when you work it into a routine, a habit. Habit formation has three discrete steps. First, comes the trigger. A condition that pushes you to action. My energy slumps in the evening or my painfully tight muscles when I wake up – I desperately need an energy boost to cover the last part of my day or need to stretch to get myself to face the day. This feeling of pain or dullness is my cue! Now comes my workout session to the rescue. I train myself to automatically hit the mat. We are successfully in the second step of action. Then, our objective is to make this action part a no-brainer. No decision making or scrambling for supplies at this moment or all momentum is lost. Plan and prepare in advance and execute. Definite plan, like monday is yoga, tuesday running or wednesday 20 minutes and thursday 30 mins and so on are some examples. You could also decide what to do depending on how you feel that day, once you get in tune with your body. Work a plan that is meaningful to your lifestyle, your needs and your constraints. Because it is your body, your journey. The third part is a definite result. How do you feel at the end of the workout. Relaxed, calm, light, sweaty, hungry, jumpy, happy, fresh, centered within your body, lesser pain than before, more flexible than when you started… observe and register these feelings every single day. This is what you earned through sweat and hard work, so relish every bit of it.

I read somewhere that exercise is 30% and diet is 70%. May be. But it does not work for me that way. I could never control my diet. The more I try to control, the more it spirals out. That is because I know when I lie to myself! I can’t convince myself not to eat that cookie or the cake when I’m drooling within. But instead when I exercise and feel good, I don’t really need that comfort from food. Once the need is eliminated, I find that the battle is half won. Second, I really know how I feel when I eat a nutritious vs comfort food and what it does to my next workout session. I feel lumpy and heavy and I end up struggling to finish my session. I register this feeling as well. It becomes easy for me to say no because that’s again the truth from within me. It becomes an intuitive decision rather than a struggle of will. But it is easier said than done. I find that emotions play a greater role in my food choices. I need to have routines to improve the happiness quotient like gratitude journal, connecting with friends and family, carving out time for an activity I enjoy and so on. And the time to dissipate the negatives through meditation or calming down, speaking out and the like.

Slow but sure and steady steps are more important than acting fast and ending up crashed midway. Forget micro-managing and look at the big picture for fitness is a process not a result. If you mess up, the one thing you would not want to do is to beat yourself up emotionally, give up and stand at the refrigerator door late night for one more serving of that cake. You may be just starting to walk. But it’s important to keep walking, pick yourself up every time you fall and march ahead. And one day, you will be sprinting like a pro! Oh, and the very next day you may need to fix your walking again, but that is how life goes…

 

Valor

I grew up hearing about this legend every now and then. “Once a Tamil woman drove a tiger away using a winnow.” Of course, as a kid I did not think much of this “story in a nutshell” that was passed down generation to generation and invoked to demonstrate courage or questioning a lack of it. But as I heard it recently, I started having questions. Was a hand woven winnow such a tough weapon or the tiger was more like a cuddly little fellow? Who is she and what really happened? why do we not know her name at the least? Here is a little imagination as an attempt to answer these questions!

Lets travel back in time, a few hundred years from now, to a tiny place in what is now called the state of Tamil Nadu, in the southern part of India. A small mountain rises above the green Earth and kisses the fluffy white clouds. It’s slopes are thickly carpeted with lush green trees, plants and ferns on all sides. The dense forest all around are sacred home to a few hundred life forms. Birds, animals, fishes, butterflies, insects… so much variety, so much color, so much commotion! And still a sense of tranquility transcends them all. A small hut settlement, a total of ten to fifteen houses, is seen a few hundred feet from the foot of this hill. A cool breeze brushes our faces, travels past and gently plucks the fingers of the coconut tree leaves lined up majestically row after row, as if a professionally trained hand is playing harp. The combined orchestra from the songs of the birds caresses our heart. The clouds form groups, stopping and gossiping, breathing in all this beauty down below and then slowly move on.

We reach a house in the middle of this small village, with a mango tree covering the porch. Under the mango tree, there is a woman sitting and winnowing chaff from rice grains. She is holding a hand-woven winnow, widely used for this purpose even to this day. One look at her and we could say she is the daughter of this Mother Nature! She sits there as an embodiment of all this prosperity, elegance and beauty. Inside the house, her six month old baby is blissfully asleep in a hammock made out of her soft cotton wedding sari. Her luscious thick hair coiled with jasmine flowers gently curls up and dozes off over her smooth shoulder. Soaking up all this sweetness surrounding her, she reflexively hums a tune. Her husband is returning home this evening, the very thought of which fills her eyes with dreams. A faint smile spreads on her lips and she quickly buries her blush in the dimples of her cheeks. She forgets herself for a few minutes, and some more.

The gentle breeze turns faster, harder. Mother Nature’s beautiful soft face tightens up in a flash. The songs of the birds are now turned into shrieks. She peels her attention off of the rhythmic movement of the winnow and looks up. She feels a hard ball sinking into her lower abdomen. Her throat dries up and she has to forcefully swallow the saliva. She tries to find the reason for this rapid change. She scans every direction for clues. That moment, the very moment when her mind grasps the object of her quest, her breath freezes. Every strand of her body hair stands up on high alert and her eyes enlarge showing the full glory of her iris. Longingly she turns towards her tiny bundle of joy, sleeping inside, oblivious to all this perplexity.

In the periphery she feels a shadow move and her eyes dart towards that direction. It is right there, standing at the gates. It’s body shining like gold under the mid-morning sun with scars of darkness slapped as stripes all over. It’s strong and powerful legs step one after the other and move towards her, reverberating with arrogance and a strange sense of possession over her. With every passing split-second, her heartbeat races higher and higher until she could hardly feel the air move through her lungs. She is frightened and starts questioning all the protective fences that she trusted till this day. The almighty God that protects her from every trouble big and small, her dearest husband with whom she exchanged vows of safety for life, the disciplined life in an orderly society where everyone looks out for one another. How did she end up all alone? She called to her Savior Goddess, Ellaiamma, the Goddess with red eyes and eighteen hands, whom her entire village worships every new moon day, praying to fight off all evil spirits. “Ellaiamma, how did your heart agree to let me, your beloved daughter, get into this terrifying situation?”, her heart pleaded. “All the neighbors have gone to fields for work. Will they be able to hear me if I shout?”, she thought. But she could rarely find her breath, let alone her voice. “What will happen to my baby?”, she panicked.

Her eyes clouded with confusion and fear, she stood there pitifully in front of the approaching tiger. “If I beg in front of this demon, if I fall at it’s feet, will it leave me?” she started thinking in one last attempt to find a way out. By then the tiger had moved in close enough and began to spring on it’s prey. Trying to run away she moved aside slightly, reflexively bringing the winnow to cover her face. The tiger’s aim slipped and she ended up getting scratched in her arms and legs. She could not bear the assault from a 600 pound tiger and rolled on the ground curling up a few feet away. Her sun-kissed bronze limbs were bathed in blood that trickled on the ground causing Mother Earth’s face to turn red. All this woke the baby up and sensing the tension around, it began to cry hysterically.

Tiger heard and turned towards the house. Sensing this, her body tightened up. Pain and anger fueled her strength and her breath seethed like a volcano. “My house, my child. How dare you step in here?”, her heart erupted with fury. She put her right palm on the ground and in one push leapt to her feet. With a new understanding of herself she picked up the loose end of the sari and wound it up tightly around her waist. She collected her long hair and knotted it into a bun. She looked straight up, a dark strand of hair fell across her face reminding the tiger that she too is no less than a tigress in her own right. “Before you touch my child, you need to walk past me!” This very thought lifted her spirits and positioned her like a mighty mountain between the tiger and her baby. The dust from the scuffle had not settled yet but she was already up. Sensing her challenge, the tiger let out a loud roar. The sound echoed in the mountain and reached the villagers. It sent chills into their bones. They quickly remembered her and her baby and hurried to her defense.

She stood there unperturbed. The roar did not move even the strand of hair that ran across her face, let alone her heart. She turned her red eyes and locked it on the tiger. The tiger got confused. Is this the same woman who looked so pitiful a few moments ago, it wondered. It turned once again towards the crying baby inside her home. “Hey!” she let out a loud cry from the depths of her lower abdomen where life surrenders to take form. Every life form that heard this sound, submitted their obedience. The tiger hesitated for a moment and took it’s front leg half way back. This moment was right for her to launch her first assault. She moved swiftly like an arrow shot from a trained archer’s bow, splitting the dust laden air, picking up the winnow that lay on her left side along the way, collected all her mortal strength and landed on the tiger’s head with one mighty blow. The tiger went dizzy but quickly sprung back to it’s legs. It attacked her once again with rage. She held the tiger’s front paws with her bare hands and stopped it right on it’s tracks. She saw the demon eye to eye, her muscles curdling up on her arms, thighs and abs. She was that Savior Goddess now for her baby. Her body chiseled by years of hard-work is matched in strength by nothing less than the diamond. These fences, she realized, are not to save her, but she is there to maintain these for the order of her society.

The tiger, that was used to display of it’s strength all it’s life, was surprised by this resistance. It could not get a grasp of the situation that is turning out to be. It thought her strength will go only to a certain point and once she got tired, victory will be easy. It still had the picture of that weak woman slumped on the ground on it’s mind. But it had grossly underestimated her will power. Every time it assaulted, she fell. She stood up. She attacked. Again. And again. And again. At one point the tiger got tired and she got the lead. She pushed though her last ounce of strength and hit the tiger with her hands, still holding on to the winnow that was a mere rag now and the tiger started backing down. By now the villagers had reached her home and were stunned by the fierceness of the fight. The tiger seeing itself in clear disadvantage ran back to the jungle saving it’s life. The villagers erupted with cheers and applause and hailed her name. There was celebration of her bravery all around. She panted and cooled down for a quick few minutes and then raised her hand. They became quiet. She tossed the tattered winnow down and began speaking. “No, not my name. Say that a Tamil woman drove a tiger with a mere winnow!” She knew well that if her story was associated with a name, she will be a legend but then her victory will be all her’s. She wanted every mother, sister and daughter to be a part of her story, her victory. Her weakness, her assumptions, her struggles and her strengths are all common to her kind, Womankind and Mankind. She realized that a woman is not a mere person but a society. She sacrificed her name to uplift her society then and for generations to come.

So, go girl… feed thy body, mind and soul. Nourish the tigress within and live a majestic life. For, when you encounter a tiger in your own life someday, be prepared to unleash that tigress in you!

 

வீரத்திருமகள்

ஒரு சிரிய மலை. மலைச்சரிவு முழுவதும் அடர்ந்த மரங்கள். மரங்களாய் அடர்ந்த காட்டுப் பகுதியில் பல நூரு ஜீவராசிகள். பறவைக் கூட்டங்கள், விலங்குகள், மீன்கள் என அத்துனை வளம். மலையின் அடிவாரத்தில் சின்னதாய் ஓர் அழ‌கான கிராமம். பத்துப் பதினைந்து வீடுகள் இருக்கும். சில்லென்று வீசும் காற்று அங்கிருந்த தென்னைமர‌ ஓலைகளை அழகாய் மீட்டியது. பறவைகளின் இசை நெஞ்சை இதமாய் வருட‌, மேகக் கூட்டம் இந்த அழகையெல்லாம் நின்று நிதானமாய் ரசித்தபடியே கடந்து சென்றது.

அந்த கிராமத்தில் ஒரு வீடு. வீட்டு முற்றத்தில் ஒரு மாமரம். மரத்தடியில் ஒரு பெண் அமர்ந்து அரிசி புடைத்துக் கொண்டிருந்தாள். இந்த இயற்கை அன்னையின் வாரிசு இவளே என சொல்லும் அளவிற்கு இத்தனை அழகிற்கும் மொத்த உருவாய் வீற்றிருந்தாள். வீட்டின் உள்ளே ஒரு சீலைத் தொட்டிலில் தன் ஆறு மாதமேயான செல்லக் குழந்தை ரம்மியமாய் உரங்கிக் கொண்டிருந்தது. கனத்த கருங்குழல் சுருண்டு தன் தோளின்மேல் மய்யல் கொள்ள இயற்கையின் இனிமையில் தன்னை மறந்து உள்ளம் இசைக்கும் பாட்டை அவள் குரல் ரீங்காரம் போட்டது. தன் கண‌வன் அன்று இரவு ஊர் திரும்புகிறான் என்ற எண்ணமே அவள் விழிகளில் கனவுகளை நிறைத்தது. ஒரு மெல்லிய‌ புண்ணகை அவள் இதழோரத்தில் தோன்ற அவள் கண்ணக் குழிகளில் தன் வெட்கத்தைப் புதைத்தாள். சில மணித்துளிகள் தன்னை மறந்தாள்.

காற்றின் வேகம் மாறியது. ரகமும் மாறியது. இயற்கை அன்னையின் கோல முகம் திடீரென அடர்ந்தது. கீதம் பாடிய பறவைகள் அலறல் எழுப்பின. கையில் இருக்கும் முரதின் சீரான ஆட்டத்தில் இருந்து தன் கவன‌த்தைப் பெயர்த்தெடுத்தாள். அவள் அடிவயிற்றில் இருக்கம் தோன்றியது. தொண்டை வறண்டு போக எச்சிலை வலிந்து விழுங்கினாள். தன்னைச் சுற்றிலும் மாற்றம் ஏன் எனக் கண்டறிய முயற்சித்தாள். அவள் கருகரு விழிகள் நாற்புறமும் தடயங்களைத் தேடின. அந்த நொடி, அவள் தேடலின் விடை அவள் அறிவிற்கு எட்டிய அந்த நொடி, அவள் மூச்சு உறைந்தது! உடற்முழுவதும் புல்லறித்துப் போய் விழிகள் விரிந்தன. இத்தனை கலவரத்தையும் அரியாது இன்னும் அமைதியான உரக்கதில் ஆழ்ந்திருந்த தன் குழந்தையை நோக்கி ஏக்கமாய் ஒரு முறை பார்த்தாள்.

அவள் விழியோரத்தில் ஒரு உருவம் அசைய மின்னலாய் அவள் விழிகள் அந்தப் பக்கம் பாய்ந்தன. அவள் வீட்டு வாசலில் அது நின்றுகொண்டிருந்தது. மதிய வெயிலில் அதன் உடல் தங்கமாய் மின்ன, இருளின் நிறத்தை தன்மீது பட்டை பட்டையாக அப்பிக்கொண்டிருந்தது. வலிமை வாய்ந்த கால்களை ஒன்றன் பின் ஒன்றாக வைத்து மிகுந்த‌ ஆணவத்தோடும் உரிமையோடும் அவளை நோக்கி நெருங்கியது. தன்னை அது நெருங்க நெருங்க தன் இதயத் துடிப்பு ஏரிக்கொண்டே போவதை அவள் உணர்ந்தாள். இந்த ஒரு கணம், தன்னை காக்கும் என நம்பிய கடவுள், கணவன், கட்டுப்பாடுள்ள சமூக வாழ்க்கை என அனைத்து வேலிகளும் எங்கே என அவள் பதறினாள். “எல்லையம்மா! உன் பிள்ளையை எப்படி இந்த இக்கட்டில் விட்டுவிட மனம் வந்தது உனக்கு?” எனக் குமுறினாள். அண்டை அயல் வீட்டார் எல்லாம் வயலுக்கு சென்றுவிட்டார்களே, கத்தினால் கேட்குமா என சிந்தித்தாள். இனி தன் பச்சிளம் குழந்தையின் கதி என்ன எனத் திகைத்தாள்.

குழப்பமும் பயமும் அவள் கண்களை முழுவதுமாய் மரைக்க, பரிதாபமாய் அந்தப் புலியின் முன்னால் நின்றுகொண்டிருந்தாள். கடைசியாக தன் கைகளைக் கூப்பி மன்றாடினால் ஒரு வேளை அது விட்டுவிடுமோ என என்னும் முன் தன் இறையை நோக்கிப் புலி பாய்ந்தது. திரும்பி ஓட முயன்றுகொண்டே தன்னிச்சையாக தன் கையில் உள்ள முறத்தால் தன் முகத்தை மறைத்தாள். பாய்ந்த புலியின் குறி சற்றே விலகி அவள் கை கால்களில் தன் கூரிய நகத்தால் கீரியது. புலியின் அடி தாங்க மாட்டாமல் சுருண்டு விழுந்தாள். காயங்க‌ளில் இருந்து பெருகிய குருதி பூமித்தாயை முகம் சிவக்கச்செய்தது. அவள் விழுந்த அதிர்ச்சியில் தூங்கிய குழந்தை விழித்தெழ, வீர் எனக் குரல் எழுப்பியது.

குழந்தையின் அழுகையை கேட்டு புலி வீட்டுப் பக்கம் நோக்கி நகர, தன் குழந்தை ஆபத்தில் இருப்பதை கண்டு உடலில் புது முருக்கு ஏர உணர்ந்தாள். வலியும் கோபமும் அவள் உடலிற்கு வலிமை கூட்டியது. “என் வீடு, என் குழந்தை. என்ன ஆணவம் இருந்தால் இங்கே வர நீ துணிவாய்” அவள் உள்ளம் சீரியது. தன் வலது கையை பூமியில் பதித்து தன்னை மீண்டும் கண்டறிந்தவளாய் எழுந்தாள். கலைந்த தன் சேலையை இருக்கிக் கட்டினாள். அவிழ்ந்த தன் கூந்தலை வாரி முடிந்தாள். நிமிர்ந்தாள். “என் பிள்ளையை நெருங்க நீ என்னை முதலில் கடக்க வேண்டும்” என்ற எண்ணம் அவளை அந்தப் புலிக்கும் தன் பிள்ளைக்கும் நடுவில் ஒரு மலையாய் உயர்த்தியது. புழுதிபரக்க அவள் நின்றிருப்பதை பார்த்து அந்த புலி உருமியது. உருமல் சப்தம் வேலை செய்யும் கிராம மக்கள் செவிகளில் விழ, அனைவரும் உரைந்தார்கள், அவள் தனியே இருப்பதை நினைத்து விரைந்தார்கள்.

ஆனால் அவள் அசையவில்லை. உள்ளத்தை விடுங்கள், அவள் தலையில் இருந்து சரிந்து விழும் ஒற்றை முடி கூட சலனப்படவில்லை. கோபம் அவள் கண்களில் கொப்புளிக்க கணைகளாய் தன் கண்களை அந்தப் புலியை நோக்கி நிருத்தினாள். சற்றுமுன் பயந்து சரிந்த பெண்ணா இவள் என அந்தப் புலி குழம்பியது. அழும் குழந்தையை நோக்கி மீண்டும் பார்த்தது. “ஏய்!” உயிர் ஜனிக்கும் தன் அடிவயிற்றின் ஆழத்தில் இருந்து அவள் உரக்கக் கத்தினாள். உயிர்கள் அனைத்தும் அந்தக் குரல் கேட்டு அடங்கின‌! முன் வைத்த புலியின் கால் ஒருகணம் பின்வாங்க, அந்த நொடிப்பொழுது போதுமாய் இருந்தது அவளுக்கு! தன் கெண்டைக்கால்களின் வலிமையால் மின்னலாய் அந்த புலியை நோக்கிப் பாய்ந்தாள். தன் இடப்புரம் விழுந்து கிடந்த‌ முரத்தை ஒரு கையால் எடுத்துக்கொண்டே காற்றில் பறக்கும் கணைபோல் தன் உடல் சுழன்று செல்ல‌, புலியின் தலையை நோக்கி தன் மொத்த வலிமையையும் திரட்டி இடியாய் விழுந்தாள். புலி சற்று தடுமாறியது. சீற்றத்துடன் அவள் மேல் மீண்டும் தாக்க, தன் இரு கைகளால் அந்தப் புலியை நிறுத்தினாள். சிறு வயது முதல் காடு மலைகளில் லாவகமாய் ஓடி விளையாடிய கால்கள், வெயிலில் சுட்ட மண் போல் இறுகிய‌ தோள்கள், கடின உழைப்பால் பட்டை தீட்டப்பட்ட வைரம் போல் உர‌ம் பாய்ந்த உடல்! பெண்மை என்றால் மென்மை என்று ஏமாந்து விடாதீர், அவள் புலிகளை பெற்றுக்கொடுக்கும் பெண்புலி… வேலிகள் அவளின் கட்டுப்பாட்டிற்கு இல்லை; அவள் கட்டிக்காப்பதற்காக அமைந்தவை!

வலிமை மட்டுமே பழகிப்போன புலிக்கு ஒன்றும் புரியவில்லை. தன் முழு எடையையும் கொண்டு போராடிப் பார்த்தது அந்தப் புலி. அவள் தசைகளில் வலிமை இருந்தாலும், அது ஒரு எல்லை வரை தான் என நினைத்தது. ஆனால் அவள் உள்ளத்தில் இருந்த வலிமையை அப்புலியால் அசைக்க‌ முடியவில்லை! எத்துணை முறை விழுந்து புரண்டாலும் அவள் மீண்டும் எழுந்தாள். தாக்கினாள். ஒரு கட்டத்திற்குப் பிறகு புலி சளைத்து விட, தன் கையில் உள்ள முறத்தால் அடித்து விறட்டினாள். அதற்குள் ஊர் மக்களும் கூடிவிட, தான் வந்த வழியே தப்பிது ஓடியது அந்தப் புலி!

அன்று முதல் புலியை முறத்தால் அடிது விறட்டினாள் ஒரு தமிழ்ப் பெண் என்று மக்கள் வழக்கில் அவள் நிலைத்தாள். நிலைத்தது ஒரு பெண்ணின் வலிமை, அவள் உள்ளத்தின் உறுதி, தாய்மையின் காக்கும் உணர்ச்சி!

Update:

You can find the English version of this story/ post here.

Sugar Coated

I caught this one on Netflix. I haven’t been able to catch documentaries for a long time now, especially after K. So I decided to indulge in something meaningful this time. Here are some takeaways…

Sugar is not empty calories, it is toxic calories. The increased consumption of sugar by humans have resulted in the non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and so on, also called lifestyle diseases. Not all calories are made equal, and hence metabolized equally by our body. When our body has a overload of sugar, like when we eat dessert, the fructose needs to be processed by our liver which then feels overwhelmed and converts the sugar to fat thus contributing to weight gain.

Sugar is dangerous when consumed beyond a limit. That limit is set by World Health Organization to 5% for children and for adults 10% of daily total energy intake. That comes to 25g of sugar at 5%. Now, approximately 4.2g is equal to 1 teaspoon. So, that makes it 6 teaspoon of free sugar per person a day.

Sugar is hidden in MOST of the packaged foods. Even bread contains sugar- my package says it is less than 1 g per slice not 0g. I consider myself to follow a normally healthy lifestyle. I cook all my meals and use ketchup, syrups, sauce in moderation. So, how did my sugar intake add up for today?

  • Organic tomato Ketchup 4g in 1 tblsp
  • Coffee 12 g
  • Brownie 24g
  • Honey as I have cold : 1 tbsp 16g
  • Total = 56g =  14 tsp.

Whoa… that is more than twice the recommendation!! Add to this any snack for evening time that is just not under my control yet.

Dry fruits need a special mention. When they package dry fruit, seems they dip it in sugar syrup and then package to increase the weight to maximize the profit. So it is not ordinary dried fruit but sweetened dry fruit. Sugar is so rampant in packaging because it is cheap for it’s weight and makes the food palatable. Especially the low fat version where the food tastes so bad they add sugar to make it tasty.

“No Added Sugar” on the front of the cover does not mean it contains no sugar. Sugar in ingredients list also comes in so many different names. We need to read the nutrition information at the back for the actual grams of sugar per serving. This is especially true for fruit juice, fruit jelly, fruit snacks that are for kids. While it is OK to indulge in them on occasion, regular eating damages dental and over all health.

Once our tongue gets used to a specific quantity of sugar or salt or spice, that taste does not stand out. To make it sweeter, we tend to increase the quantity of sugar automatically or go for larger quantities to get to the same experience. This works in favor of food industry as the consumer tends to finish up the product quickly and return for more.

Sugar through whole fruits, whole foods is fine. The fiber in whole foods fills us up quickly and we don’t consume dangerous quantities plus we get to have the nutrients that our body needs for daily function and repair.

So the bottom line is, we need to be more watchful of the limit on sugar intake per day. This limit, though it looks adequate, can easily be surpassed by the sugar we consume without notice though packaged foods.

 

 

The Island

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Lets go to this place
that is not too far, yet much forgotten;
This island for one
where other than you, there is none.

You are no mother or father
nor daughter, sister, uncle or a son;
Except for your one single self
You are in no other relation.

You have nothing to possess
nothing to show off to the world.
Everything there is, everything you need
just to be used and left behind.

No big house, no posh car, no shiny shoes
no branded clothes, no accessories either.
Not even banks to tally your net worth;
All in abundance, but nothing your own.

Not even a mirror
to admire your face or features
Nobody with whom you have the need to compare
You are the one and only there,
not even an audience to cheer!

Stripping off all these distractions,
you are left with your core – 
the values, principles and meaning, 
things that matter to you the most!

This person, in this stillness
when have you met him or her?
Gender too, does it really matter?
How friendly is he to you and you to him?

Other’s thoughts, words and actions fade into a low hum;
what you think of others too is no more than tides on the distant shore.
Now just within you, with you and by yourself,
soak in every drop of this magnificient silence!

Valuing this self and treating him with kindness
and planning a frequent little retreat together 
will keep you strong and grounded on shifting sands
and when riding the tide of time!