You are so beautiful to me.

You are so beautiful to me.

We don’t need to travel far to find a woman we perceive beautiful. Mine was staying with me at my very home – my grandmother. She was the woman of ancient India, but had the soul of the woman of tomorrow. Beauty in it’s true form, not seen, only felt.

All women are heros. Some women get the limelight doing the unusual, but majority lead their usual life in unusually heroic manner.

When I was probably nine or ten, my Dadi (GrandMa) and I were waiting for someone in our Ambassador car parked outside Allahabad station. It was a humid day and our face dripped sweat, while Greatest Hits by Lata Mangeskar played in a creaky audio player. Unaffected by heat, she had a calm face as Lata’s mellifluous voice poured into her ears. At that point, she said something I never forgot, “Lata is such a legend..Kash main bhi kuch hoti!” That was the first time I realized that she was highly ambitious for a woman of that era! For our generation and even preceding one, it’s not uncommon to idealize somebody or desire to have more qualities than what we’re endowed with, but it’s bizarre for our grandmothers’ generation. I thought females back then were content with domestic chores but she broke all traditional knots and took interest in music, reading literature, biographies and human psychology.

Often while doing her hair, I used to make two plats and say giggling, “Tum Lata didi ki tarah ga nahi sakti, but do plats toh bana hi sakti ho na Dadi.” Her name justified her physique, standing at 5”7’ and having broad shoulders, she was so a ‘Shail’ (meaning: Mountain). Not only was she tall, but so were her hands—long and skinny—which mostly were at work with a yarn of wool and knitting needles. Since childhood, I have mostly worn sweaters knitted by her; I’m a proud owner of her work (woollens), in a variety of patterns and colors, which beat any designer woollen any day. Aunties from my neighbourhood used to get hold of me to see her exquisitely convoluted work, as I walked in my colony, in pride, flaunting my grandmother’s talent. Not only she did her masters in knitting, but had great enthusiasm for books, movies, sitcoms, cooking and making pickles.

She had a habit of taking a nap only after reading a part of Hindi literature and was extremely meticulous about the writers she followed; only books of artistic merit could be a part of her private library. Munshi Prem Chandra, Jai Shankar Prasad, Shivani and Vimal Mitra to list a few! We all have a book, which we have read multiple times and yet it intoxicates us with a bracing tonic every time we lay our hands on it, that was ‘Begam Meri Vishwas’ for her. After finding her engrossed in that book at several times in many years, I asked “So title ka matlab hai – My wife is my faith? She laughed and said “Hat pagli, ye ek aise ladki ki kahani hai jo waqt chaltey teen dharmo mein dhalti hia, and uske saath uske naam badltey hia – Begam (Muslim), Meri (read Mary; Christian) aur Vishwas (Hindu).” Made me feel either I’m too dumb or the writer too smart.

Not only did her traits mesmerize me but so did her dressing sense. For me, she was a Bengalan beauty – had long black hair, wore vivid sindoor and the biggest ‘shilpa’ bindi. She mostly wore sleeveless blouse, which made her my fashion idol. Unlike most grandparents, mine are very adaptable when it comes to apparels. No matter what I wore (slim fit jeans, skirts, short tops) I wasn’t judged and was always appreciated. She called my younger sister and me her own Karishma-Kareena (my husband still rolls with laughter at this). In her eyes, her granddaughters were the prettiest girls in any gathering(s). “Arey hato Uma(my mother), Saumya ki shaadi ke liye bahut khoobsurut ladka dhundhge.”, was her patented line.

As one can guess, I was very close to her and enamoured with her charm. She was my guardian angel when it came to television. As both of us were addicted to the idiot box, I used her as my alibi. “Papa main thodi na dekh rahi thi serial, wo toh Dadi dekh rahi thi, toh main bhi bathie gayi.” She had a timetable of serials, and was never tired of sitting in one pose watching them. It was fun to see her cursing and reviling people of artificial land, “Itni makkaar aurat hai ye Kamolika(vamp), chudail!

Not only did she name me Saumya, but treated me like that too. I was always aware of her biased love towards me; no matter what I did, she did not stop channeling her relentless love towards me.

When you have strong women to look up to, you don’t have a choice but to be raised strong. Babies come as a blank paper from heaven, and the guardians scribble on them with their sexist ink. She set an example for me. She never made me befriend cooking over studies. She never went by the conventional theory of “khana nahi banana seekhogi toh sasuraal jaake kya karogi?”
I remember her lines, “Tomorrow you may you receive life as you perceived it to be. You may fail and fall, and then your education will give her that hold you need to stand in this world again. Make it your biggest asset.” She knew me, before I discovered myself.

Five years back, she left us, but in a strange way I feel more close to her than ever! Earlier she had a defined place, now she’s everywhere. I feel her, sense her, smell her, and see her. Contrary to the belief, death does not take someone away from you, but, in a very unique way, brings a person much closer to you. You’ll think about the person in a way you never thought before, you’ll talk about him/her at every chance you get to do so.

She was a woman of substance, who lived her life ordinarily. But like I said at the start, for some women usual is unusually heroic. Its high time we define beauty correctly.

I believe every woman has TRUE BEAUTY within her in all the roles she plays. For over 18 years across 650 plus salons across the country, Naturals has been helping the Beautiful Indian Woman get more Beautiful.

Today Naturals Salutes the Beautiful Indian Woman.

Presenting Naturals TRUE BEAUTY… 


I am Fire, He is Water.

I am Fire, He is Water.

Marriage is a complicated infrastructure. There is no specific recipe to it, you craft your own and add salt and sugar, when required, swaad-anusaar. It’s a literature which is read by many but interpreted differently. I too, am learning on job and although I am no expert on the matter, here’s my excerpt of our matrimony. 

When Shahzeel and I did “all in” and signed off in the court, we were clueless of our venture. We had apprehensions and to be honest, I did not expect this wedlock to last for even a year. So you can say when I moved into my marriage, I was mentally prepared for it to fall apart.

Well, all reasons conspired against us. We belong to predominantly different faiths and are paramount diverse in nature, upbringing, philosophy and outlook. What have glued us over the years are love and mutual respect. Love should not be read as romance. The charisma of romance is bound to fade in the initial years but the content of having each-other’s company made us come so far. Shahzeel and I never forgot what we went through to become one and the days we live together now were a distant dream at some point. Gratitude never left our corner. We survived those excruciating moments then, to make them memories today.

They say marriage is about compromise, I say marriage is about acceptance – a ‘happy’ acceptance. Have we made compromises for one another? Of course!

The difference is we never felt compromised when we made one. We knew this is how it is. We did not question, we knew what we were offered. You make a thousand compromises for your parents and children and you don’t utter a word. Why? Because it’s your own blood! Then why does it change with the spouse? The word unconditional is not exclusive for blood relations. You make one when you want to and for whom you want to. It’s about how much you “WANT” the other person and are considerate about his/her feelings.

The idea of marriage scares the sanest of minds. It is a gamble! Well in our case, we did not get a chance to get cold feet. We were on the run in a court with those very feet. We ran into marriage, before the realization of being married, ran by us. We had been friends for eight years and signing legal papers did not change us – the core remained intact. We sustained our friendship, with much more visibility (staying together 24*7) and responsibility, towards us – Saumya and Shahzeel – and families involved. And yes it’s true, you don’t marry the person, you marry into a family. And definitely I have my own set of differences with the in-laws. Having a perfect family is a myth, but accepting them is a reality and provides solace. You abide some, and you stand for some. Kuch apne liye, kuch apno ke liye.

Oh how much we have evolved with time! When you meet someone as young as 17, you don’t have much understanding of the relationship, forget marriage. At that age your hormones run a joke on you. It took almost a decade of matrimony and a decade and a half of companionship to discern and foster the change we made in ourselves – as humans, as life partners and most importantly, as parents. But again, we did not demand the change in each-other. We accepted and acclimated with change that time brought to us. Changes are acceptable when not demanded. It should come from within you, not from yours.  I learnt this very early in my marriage.

I was a complete virgin when it came to cooking. I had a natural dislike for it and it did not change over the years.  Somehow we sustained the initial four months of our marriage with a cook. With the commencement of fifth, we left for the United States. Now everything rested on our shoulders. H1 gave him the liberty to work, while H4 made me restricted to homely chores. Somehow we knew we had to operate as a team, H irrespective. I am a cleanliness freak, and OCD doesn’t make it easier on me. I quickly mastered at cleaning, dish washing, and chopping, but cooking made me shudder.  I expected the day to arrive when he would ask me to learn to cook. To my surprise, he happily undertook cooking under his wing. I was a happy bride and then the partner in me woke up. He didn’t need to ask me, he made me learn through his persistent sealed lips. Most people learn to cook from their parents; I learnt it from my husband. The thing to remember is – he taught me when I asked him. He never forced me, as he knew he married a defiant-pampered-girl. That’s partnership – the idea is to build a strong team, the one which runs a home and scores a home run.

No, I still dislike cooking, but yes, I don’t hate it anymore. Progress much? 

Another realization which dawned early upon us was ‘inclusion’.  In December 2009, post the wedlock; I left my work at Delhi to join him in Hyderabad, which was his base location. Leaving financial independence was not easy, especially when I knew our alliance could have taken any turn. Uncertainty crawled inside me but I kept my faith. And then on December 31, 2009 certainty overwhelmed qualm. As the world turned to another year, he turned to me and said, “Hey! OUR salary arrived.”

That line touched me and I kept looking at him, while he kept his eyes glued at his cell phone and scrolled further down for the bank statement. That’s him – conveying one liner making big impacts. I had nothing to do with his salary but he counted me in it. It was his way of letting me know everything we will build from now on, will be “ours”. Since then I have been a homemaker and a corporate employee, earned in INR and in GBP, brought home more or less, but whatever was there was ours. It did not matter if he got ‘x’ and I got ‘y’, at the end we got home ‘x+y’. That’s how our home finances work and that’s how we make each other a part of ‘us’. He still uses, “Hamara”, “Ours”, “Apna” in words and more so, in actions. I don’t need assurance, but it’s always great to be included.

When you make an intelligent investment and years later it ripes for you at the most needed hour, you have nothing else but to be grateful. He is that investment for me and as I am getting older I can’t help but send a “hi-five” to that 17 year-old naïve Saumya to have made the right choice. He was only and completely my select then and I banked on him when no one banked their faith in us. We felt hurt and alone when people in our closed quarters did not stand by us when we made the biggest decision of our lives. They had their reasons, we had ours. We have come a long way garnering acceptance from people who really matter to us.

In our marriage we were the only two pillars who supported the roof of our house. We struggled with basics till we fashioned us bigger and better. We believed in us and so now whatever little or big we have is our own faith that has compounded. When you get married at your own will, your will becomes your biggest asset. It’s your dedication and determination that can make a relationship work.

Shahzeel likes to keep things low key; I am always high on emotions. I am fire, won’t think twice before speaking my mind. He is water, calmer; more respectful towards others’ feelings. We are two metals who when merged will stand apart with their distinctive feature, but will make a stronger, tougher alloy. Nothing about us comes on the same page; except that we wanted to be with each other. In the world today seeking perfection, we fit together, wonderfully imperfect.

Shahzeel performs namaz five times a day and started observing rozas at the age of ten. I witness his persistence at  fasting 30 days a year. I have seen him under weather, with work load delivering a project and a muqammal roza. I, on the other hand, believe in karma. I am spiritual but definitely not religious. We are two distinctive personalities who have learnt from each-other, not become like the other.

Of all the things that I adore about him, the best is the way he treats elders, including my parents. I remember the day we got married he made me promise, “I don’t expect much from you. Just think of my parents like your own. Won’t be easy, but will only be harder if you don’t try. I promise to do the same.”

I remember how edgy I acted right after child birth. My mother came to us to help me and I usually ended up having an argument with her.

“Your mother is doing a favour on us by taking care of our child. She did her bit by raising her children. What she is doing now is a favour, not her duty.” he tried to explain.
“But, I did not say anything wrong?” I reasoned.
Lehza. Lehze pe dhyaan diya karo. It changes everything. Ma-baap galat bhi ho sun lo, unhone tumhari bahut suni hogi.”
The generation today believes in reasoning with their guardians which is fine, but he is traditional. Even when he shares his difference of opinion, he will never be disrespectful.

His priorities in life are quite sorted. I have evolved with time, while he is still a deep-rooted ‘desi’ at heart.

He teaches me persistence. He teaches me faith. He taught me how a strong child comes out of a broken marriage. He teaches me he doesn’t need to be a woman to nurture his family, specifically younger brothers. May be it is his faith, but I know he is drafting into a better human with each passing day. He teaches me maturity. He teaches me manners. Finally, he teaches me humanity, something which is hard to find today.

I am happy that I married a person I can look up to, someone to take utmost pride in. 

As you may have guessed, I have invested considerably in my relationship.  And even when the path posed a threat, I decided to invest further in my investment. But somehow, I feel HE believed in us, so even when the odds were low, we made it.

Back then, I took a year to say “I love you” to him and I thought I staggered. In retrospect, I said it in a jiffy. I took so much time to live those words.   

We are not a star couple but in my own milky way, we shine brighter than all. Our daughter is a hybrid of two extremes and she demonstrates it time and again.

Shahzeel, being who he is, may choose never to speak to our daughter about us. I, on the other hand, will wait for the day she will understand the depth of marriage via us, her creators. I would like her to fall in love, get hurt and carry on, till she finds the best for her. Falling in love is a gamble, a pain, but till date it’s the best feeling I have experienced. And finally when you do meet them, keep them and never let them go. It won’t be sunny all the time. There will be hailstorm but if your “bond” prevails you will sail through. You are blessed with a family, but you choose the “öne”- the right one – and start your own family. Thanks to Shahzeel, I gave birth to one but became a mother to three beautiful babies.

That’s what marriage did to us. It made us one extended family. Love, perseverance and most importantly, open mind rewards you with better surroundings, vibrations and blessings.  Diwali was always mine, but Eid became mine too. Sabudana khichdi was always mine, but biryani became mine too. Open mind was always mine, open hearts became mine too.

The focal point of our marriage was never about how aesthetic the language was.  It was about the sentences we made. It was about the paragraphs we created, it was about the story we unfolded. I hope a day will come when our offspring will draft a story with her pen, her ink, her voice and her perspective – to a better future!






Health Tales | 800 grams of threat

Uncertainty. It’s around you, surrounds you, you sense it and eventually learn to cope up with it. Life is no Mary Poppins and change is the only constant in the world; everything else is up in the air. Being uncertain makes us feel lost at times, but the idea is to breathe, plan, pray and keep progressing. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel and if it is still dark, you learn how to shine in the dark.

In April this year, our family train took a trip of the tunnel and it travelled more than a month to find that light.

On April 05, Papa thought of getting his usual blood work done. He went for the same and to the surprise, the doctor suggested him something he was not prepared for.

“Can you please get your chest X-ray done?”

My father perplexed and reluctant, abided. Need I say, how lucky we are that the doctor suggested so. Sometimes HE himself comes in the disguise of a human to make us aware of the situation.

My father went to get the x-ray done and it was not until hearing the questions of the radiologist that he was alarmed.

“Do you have difficulty in breathing?”, popped one.

“No.” the calm sea in which my father was residing was disturbed.

“Do you feel any pain near the chest area?”, came another.

“No.” By now he was anxious.

Once the radiologist surfaced from questioning, my father wanted to dive into some.

“What is it?”, he asked getting a grip on his racing heartbeat.

“A tumour. Right next to your heart. Please get it tested urgently for more details.”

Without any further delay, Papa got hospitalized. Soon a sample was withdrawn from the tumour and was sent for a detailed biopsy. Those ten days, when we waited for the results, were horrendous. The waiting game takes a toll on the players involved.

Meanwhile, the family and the extended family were informed. Everyone was startled and prayers started flowing from every part of the world. There are times when a human feels so weak and helpless that he realizes how small he is in the big scheme of life. We all are spiritual on some level but somehow spirituality in its true form rises in times of need.

We need to realize it’s only time which is running and in the time of crisis, we need to slow down, kneel down before HIM and seek HIS blessings. When you beg and cry in front of him, you feel his presence around you, inside you. That’s the power of connectivity. Now imagine a whole family kneeling and praying – that’s the power of collectivity.

Ten exceedingly long days crawled and the tumour was identified as benign thymoma(non-cancerous). I, in Hyderabad, was on a video call with my younger sister in San Francisco when the medical reports came over email. I remember how she closed her eyes in gratitude before spelling out, “Benign hai”. We exchanged the look siblings do when they are sailing in the same boat. Miles apart, we speak the same language; after all, it was our father in question.

Every human being has its own way of handling stress, especially in matters relating to health. I am a person who is practical in life. I keep every possibility open. So when I came to know about the tumour, I promptly analyzed every possible outcome that we might have had to encounter and also the course of actions in those scenarios. On the contrary, my sister is a complete believer. I won’t call her in a state of denial so much as being positive, who feels “sab achha hoga.”

It’s difficult when two individuals who are poles apart in rationality and spirituality talk. Our outlook differed but our end desires completely met. I kept quiet on this subject and hardly spoke with anyone as in times of distress the less you talk the more it benefits. Everyone has unsolicited advice, suggestions, and questions and when you are feeling low, all you want is not being poked on that subject.

Even though the tumour was not malignant, it had to be disconnected from my father’s chest as soon as possible. He was carrying a huge threat, 800 grams of threat. In a short span of 15 days, all was done at a lightning speed. Dates were fixed and on April 27, this year, my father underwent a major surgery at Max Saket, Delhi. He was hospitalized for a good ten days. The removal of 800 grams of tumour took six hours of operation, an expert panel of doctors and surgeons, a lot of blood and courage and much more prayers from all parts of the globe. Papa was lucky to survive the tumour. The memoir left are 35 stitches that are strategically placed from his left armpit to his nipple. One of his ribs a phrenic nerve were compromised owing to the location of the tumour in his body. It will take time for him to recover fully, but as of now, he is healthy and healing.

I will repeat – Papa is blessed to survive, knock on wood. Life is so uncertain that you can’t do much when it lays its rules. You just have to play by those. You don’t have a choice. Do you?

Luck and blessings not only hold true for survival but also for a united family. We are lucky that we have a strong connected family who rises in the times of need. There were family members who did not blink an eye to stand next to Papa in the time of crisis. Family members who travelled to Delhi to be there for an extended period, family members who abandoned sleep laying on the hospital room floor and the waiting room, family members who donated blood to meet the hospital requirements, family members who went out of their way to organize appointments in a short span with one of the best surgeons in the country, family members who opened their homes and heart for him, today and always. Above all, my father has my mother. Papa is a rationale person; Mummy is an emotional human being. But in times like this, she becomes the rock who pulls us out of any hopeless situation, time and again.

As for us, the sisters, we act as the support system, the reassuring factors, the abstract cure, which asked our maker, our father, to have faith. Because in the end, that is what a family does. Our parents taught us well and now we practice our upbringing.

Right after delivering my daughter in 2014, I had troubles walking. Due to the improper stitching done post normal delivery, I felt a gravitational force acting on the lower half of my body. I visited several gynecologists in Kolkata (where my folks resided then) who told me there was nothing to worry about and it will recover with time.

There was one who even suggested “Don’t worry. The err will be rectified after another delivery.”

I knew I did not intend the second time, so when even after three months of delivery I could not walk properly, I got massively depressed. New mothers are much more prone to such emotions. One fine day, when I came home after another doctors’ meet, I found my father seated in the hall. After a quick chat, I confessed in him, “I don’t think I will ever walk the way I used to. This uncomfortable feeling is here to stay.”

Hardly had I known that not my problem but his words were there to stay.

He looked straight at me and said, “You had a whole human being come out of you. A human body can endure any sort of pain. Childbirth is a natural phenomenon. Just give it some time.”

In a month the kegel exercises kicked in and got me out of dire straight but what pumped me to believe in my health recovery were those golden lines. That’s the power of parents!

Parents make you believe in you like no one else. When things start to fall apart, they will catch you while falling. “Haan Beta, ho jayega. Phir se koshish karo.” A child may not succeed but the parents want him/her to try – for them, for their belief in their akin.

Maa-Baap kahi nahi jaatey. They are in you, by you, with you, for you. Unka bass nahi chalta ki apne bachhon ko kya de dein. Two weeks back my Macbook died and I decided to buy a new one. The moment I mentioned that to my parents, my father spoke from the other end, “Mera le lo Saumya. It has a great processor, good storage. It’s Dell Inspiron 2016 model. What will I do with such an expensive laptop? I just read news on that, I can buy another cheaper model for that purpose.”

I was left in tears by the time I disconnected the call. Turning to my husband I said, “Parents don’t even think twice na? When it comes to their children, they can donate very drop of their blood.”

It’s not about a laptop, it’s about providing for their children, even when those children have their children. They will be parents till their last breath as usse zyada achha unhe kuch aata hi nahi, aur ye bachhon ke liye unka dil hai jo samajh pata nahi.

When I heard the news about my father’s health, I was taken aback but not shattered. I believed in good because of all the valuable life rules my parents taught me, one is belief. Believing in me. Believing in the good around me. As for the rest, we have prayers – connective and collective.

My wishes and prayers for everyone out there who are fighting the evil that has made them or their loved ones a hostage. Even when there is uncertainty, believe in yourself – either you will conquer it or you will learn to live with it.

Uncertainty is here to stay. The idea is to learn how to deal with life’s curveballs. You may feel low, lost, and depressed but that’s okay; it simply means you are living.




Life finds a way.

So last week I took my bachas to experience The Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. The excitement that overtook me over the weekend, when I got the tickets booked, was similar to what I had experienced when my school had taken me for Jurassic Park in 1994 (the first out of the five installments). I remember how colossal it was back then. After all, this franchise still remains one of the finest sci-fiction movies, which made us believe in the unbelievable. The movie took us to the world of dinosaurs, giving us the perfect message of not messing with the nature.

Jurassic Park brought dinosaurs to life in the most terrifying, primitive, and awe-inspiring way. It called out to the child in me, and all over the world. I and many others in my class then got the bag packs, the water bottles (it was just the starting era of collectables) with all kind of dinosaurs on them. It was a sensation, absolutely amazing. That movie stayed with me, in me, and stands the test of time.

And I swear, every time they say, “Welcome to Jurassic Park/World”, I feel the welcome in its utmost glory. I become a part of the expedited world, the unimaginable, the undiscoverable. As that electric car entered the park gates, I parked my bottoms on the edge of my seat. I was right there, all set to explore, what the makers had in store for us. That enthusiasm is a little hard to put in words and my children are marked by the same fervor.

So when the fifth installment arrived this year, I knew it was time for my six and four year olds to absorb those magnificent creatures the way they are meant to be – on the big screen. My little ones roared louder than the T. rex, every time it came on screen. They kept asking me, which were the good dinosaurs (herbivorous) and which were the bad ones (carnivores). There were two bathroom trips at the most crucial stages of the film. Well it’s a dinosaur film, every second was crucial, if you ask me. I had to run to two different washrooms for the Gents and the Ladies, and sprint with them like a crazy lady.

Even when I stood outside the Gents toilet waiting for my boy, I could hear the signature theme of Jurassic Park. No, it was not playing at that instance in the movie hall. While waiting, I had laid my eyes on the movie placard placed next to the washroom and the orchestra took over my ears. That’s what classics do – they take you and make you reflect on them, even at the most unexpected times. Well, the music score – how powerful, how soulful. Hitting at the right spot, it escalates and then drops. A piece of sheer brilliance – the national anthem of the dinosaurs.

By now you must have realized I am all about movies. I relish them (not all of them, only the ones I connect with) and like I said, I become a part of their world. I guess that is the mere way to savor a great movie or a good book. You need to be in character, because once you become that, you derive that feel. I, as a writer, need the feelings to jump and take control over my fingers, which make way to press the black buttons to give the shape in black letters, which you are reading right now. Writing, reading, movies need a soul, much like the horror movies.

I always feel that children are the best way to relive your childhood. You love telling them stories from your bachpan and they love to listen, more than you think. I did. I thoroughly enjoyed my grandfather’s “ek anna” and Indian railway stories, my grandmother’s love for cinema and Lata Mangeshkar. I still remember the time my father made my sister (Sonam) and myself watch Do Aakhen Barah Haath. It’s a 1957 movie by the renowned Marathi filmmaker V. Shantaram. It’s a classic on humanistic psychology in its true color – black and white, so was the movie. Sonam and I cried inconsolably as the movie ended. Well, she always cried, even when the villain died. She demanded a happy ending, where the villain learns from his mistakes and redeems himself/herself. Aah, the perfect world!

What I am today is partially because of what I have witnessed and absorbed as a child. Your genes help you, be you. Your interests often sprout from your folks, your gene pool. There is a reason I love movies the way I do. It was always a part of my childhood. Then there is an aspect, which you develop by yourself. As an adult I started researching on movies before I watched them and then I read about them in detail once I have watched them – the history of the actors, their characters, writing, development of plot, filming, I wanted to know every tiny detail. The inquisitive researcher in me always came to play.

Now that I have mini versions of myself, I find it fascinating how they get equally excited for a movie that interests them. But then they have their take away too. I learnt that the other day while heading towards the end of Jurassic World.

As the movie was about to end, there is one particular scene where the Indoraptor traps the male lead. That’s when Bryce Dallas (the female lead) rises with her laser gun pointed at the dinosaur. The fire in her eyes unblemished even as rain poured hard on them. She was no damsel in distress. Instead she was a total kickass. At that moment my almost four year daughter said with an impulse reaction, “Mummy Devsena aa gayi. Jai Mahishmati!” Her voice was on fire and everyone (including the strangers next to us) laughed out hard.

There is a big takeaway from this incident. Every time Mysha comes across fierce woman who are self made, strong and independent she knows there is Devsena within them. My daughter has seen Bahubali ‘n’ times, and every time it is for Devsena – someone she aspires to be.

Also, like I said before, there is something you pass on to your children and there is so much you gain from them. Universal pictures may have created larger than life Jurassic Park/World but Rajmouli created a crowd-pleasing movie on an epic scale. It’s our very own and there is so much to learn from every character. Both my husband and I come from UP, but my daughter has the Telangana spirit (her birth place), and she makes sure to be a “Devsena” forever!

Cheers to more movies, memories and nostalgia. There is so much to look forward to and the mother in me is all aboard.



















Knowing the Unknown: Ramadan

As a kid, all Eid meant to me was a lot of non-vegetarian food at Junaid uncle’s house. He was a dear friend to my father, residing in a flat right above ours. Like a tradition, we used to go their place on Eid for dinner and aunty used to be ready with all the delicacies you would expect in a Muslim home.  Mind you, not everyone was invited for this dinner; others in the colony used to meet the Ahmed family to wish them and were only entertained with dahi bhalla and meethi seviyan, much to their dismay. It was only the Srivastavas who were called for dinner year after year, because of the close friendship between the men of the two families.

I remember while walking to the room for dinner, I used to cross their kitchen and see huge taamba utensils (big enough to cook a full grown man), and tonnes of mutton and biryani to feed our mohalla. I would think, “Oh God! How much can they cook and eat?

Now, I sense, God must actually have been looking down at my younger self and saying, “My dear child, just wait for some more years.” Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t cook and definitely not the way Junaid aunty or my mother-in-law can. My only claim to fame was eight years back in the US, our first Eid together as a couple. Shahzeel – my husband – being the only Muslim in our circle, him and I hosted a lunch and I cooked for 18 hours straight a day before Eid, just to make him feel little less homesick.

The success of the Eid gala was made evident not by the hours put in cooking, but by the content look on the faces of invitees. Also, I mentioned to them that there won’t be another party at Jawed-Srivastava’s for at least a year, as I was dead tired from all the cooking.

This year marks my ninth Eid with Shahzeel, and hence ninth Ramadan. To be honest, when I saw him go through this the very first time, I found it highly eccentric. In my defence, I was not raised in a Muslim household or amidst Muslim traditions. But over the period of time, his spunky spirit spoke to this cynical side of me, helping me see the exquisite part of this long-lived tradition.

Shahzeel is one of the biggest foodies I know of, may be the biggest. I am not exaggerating when I say this; you can actually control his mood through food. When this man enters home and smells bhuna murga or any non-vegetarian item, his face lights up like a five-year-old entering Disney World. And if he smells aloo gobi or green veggies (which he refers to as ‘ghaas phoosh’), it’s like the same kid learning that it’s Disneyland Paris and not Florida. In other words, disappointment.

And so, it amazes me when this bon vivant refrains from food and beverages for a stretch of 12-18 hours a day for 30 days straight. I know it’s a matter of practice and you eventually acclimate, but from what I have learnt it’s all about faith in yourself (willpower) and your God. Day one is the most difficult of the lot, when this ‘tea-man’ (his love for the beverage is legendary) skips his cup of morning tea and goes without food or drinks until the sun makes its peace with Earth. Eventually, the days start getting easier and the person starts getting stronger – physically and more importantly, mentally. But yes, it’s not easy, saying not as an observer but as a performer. With famished eyes and parched lips, I kept my first roza eight years back to accompany him. I remember asking him then, “How do you manage this? What keeps you going?

His confident answer still echoes in my ears: “For 11 months, your creator gives you the liberty to do things your way, and in return you only have to give a month. I think I can do that bit!” He keeps his belief system so guarded and secured that it is impervious to the battering of doubts. Many of us question our faith because of the unfortunate incident(s) that occur in our lives, but in his case it made him closer to Allah. My husband had the most troubled childhood I know of, yet, his faith in Allah stayed intact. If possible, it grew stronger.

It’s not that I have not seen people paying gratitude to God before, but his way of thinking and performing his righteous rituals never fails to amaze me. I believed Eid was a day of celebration, rich food, family get-togethers, and Eidi. And that it is, but now I know it’s more about Ramadan that leads to Eid, which is about perseverance, dedication, humility and submission to God.

So far, this has been my understanding of Ramadan, and I’m still on the learning curve. Coming from one religion and to be married into another, makes you wiser – if you have an open heart, and more so, an open mind. I may be the odd one out there but then I love what I am and where I am. Being different always has its own perks!


Falling in love with you (2/2)

April 26, 2003

Destiny. Decision. Two words chiseled to make my story. It was the moment of my decision that destined me to an antithetical journey. But I am glad it did, as my journey was incommensurable and so is my journal. This was the day, which led me to hardships, commitment and a family.

With the end of second year examinations the collage gates closed upon us. It meant no access to first hand conversations with the man who had started becoming my inner self. Phone calls started getting fatter than ever.

Lately I had been so absorbed in this relationship that the whole ball of wax in my life was melting. Unfortunately, I wasn’t even aware what I was ticking off. My folks could make out something was unusual about me but they still had to figure out what it was. Only one who knew that I was drifting away was my younger sister. She could sense that the time that was once ours was now been spent on the phone. There is a paradox existence of sibling relationship. You are happy for your sister’s happiness but you can’t let go of something that was yours.

With my mother out to run some errands, I was expecting his call any moment now. My younger sibling came to my room while I was seated near the phone, waiting.

“You are addicted to that thing”, she complained.

“The phone. I know.” I knew this was coming.

“No, what is on the phone. The phone is just a medium.” She explained, rather companied in detail.

“What do you want me to say? I like talking to him.” I laid it down in naive words.

“How much? I mean you’re on phone the moment Mummy steps out; you are on phone when she sleeps, when she is not watching you. Your relationship has taken you away from us, from our time, from..” she was cut short as the phone rang and flashed his home number.

I looked at her who had already started to walk out of the room.

I wanted to talk to her but it was not an appropriate time. She would have not understood me. Nobody would have. I was in love with someone I did not have the prospect of being with, and in my world we were not supposed to run after a taboo and unattainable dream.

“Hi”, I said picking the receiver.

“You sound upset?”, he sensed from my tone.

“No. Nothing.” I said, thinking, that even if she would not understand, I needed to talk to my sister first.

“Can I call you in a few minutes?” I checked.

“Sure you are okay?” He was rather concerned.

“I need time. I seriously do.” I disconnected the call.

I did not wait for him to respond and kept the phone down. I found her in another room, listening to music.

“What is the matter with you?” I asked.

“What is the matter with you?” She questioned back with an estrangement in her voice.

“Why does me talking to him bother you so much? I am with you all the time. I don’t need specific hours to talk to you, but with him, I can only talk in a limited time frame. You know it, yet”

“Yet what? It does not mean you can hang over the phone all the time.” she interrupted me mid way.

“All the time? Why do you keep saying that?” I raised my voice.

“Because it is so”, she escalated her voice, annoyed.

“I seriously don’t have time for this. I am going back to talk to him. We will discuss this further once I’m done with the call.”

“And when will that be? Before you speak – the answer is never.”

“Listen” I wanted to explain but I gave up. “Forget it.”

“No. You forget it, rather, you forget him. What do you think? This will last? I don’t think so.” Her voice sounded threatening “This phone saga won’t last long and when it does end, you will be done. Incase you want to save your grace, end it now, before it meets a brutal end.”

I walked out of the room but her words kept haunting me. “Will it end, seriously?” My head kept shouting.

Now what? What if I can’t talk to him? What will happen?

That thought in itself savagely tore me apart. There comes a time when you become so dependent on a person, that you seal him in your heart and build walls with additional fences. I knew what he meant to me, even though he was clueless about it. Well, in just another call, the dynamics of our relationship was about to change.

He called shortly and I was right there to take that call. No sooner had I picked up the phone, than I whispered – “What if we can’t talk from tomorrow?”

After two seconds of silence he said, “What makes you say so?”

I couldn’t answer. My head was preoccupied by what my younger sister had told me.

“Will you say something?” he sounded strained. In the act of composing me, his voice razed.

“I was talking to my sister and she thinks our relationship might end soon.”

“She must be saying so to trouble you. Don’t freak out. Keep your calm”, he assured me.

“How can I keep calm? Do you know what this means? This means no us, no phone, no talks. It will all come to an end.” I was shivering at the very thought.

“It will not end. You are unnecessarily alarmed. I repeat – stay calm.” he kept his shirt on.

“Don’t say that word. You aren’t in my shoes. You don’t know how much I am into this relationship.” I chocked.

“I don’t know? I sit at home all day waiting for a missed call. I have given up friends and my social life. My family talks about me being locked up in a room all day talking to some girl. My friends have started treating me like a stranger because lately I have been acting the same with them. I have given preference to you over any other thing. Of course, I don’t know ”

Wow! That was one long paragraph from the man who often responds to my sentences with a single “Hmmm”.

“They know you talk to a girl?” that was the only line I duped to focus on. I did not want him to admit his feelings towards me once again. I was done dodging them.

“Yes. They aren’t lame. You are growing thin-skin about this.”, he said

“No, I’m not. But I am getting serious about us. I shouldn’t have come this far and I know I should not feel what I am feeling for you, but I do and I am fed up of keeping it all in.”

“Hey.”, he said softly. He did realize I was on the verge of pouring it all out.

Sometimes all you need is a small word in the right tone, at the right time, to unleash your true self. Feelings you couldn’t acknowledge and deliver come to surface. Denial eventually made its peace with this dialect.

“It’s not that I am not aware how addicted I am to this phone, or to the one behind this phone. Yes!! I know it’s you. It’s you who I want to be with and talk to and when not you then I think about you. I have never felt this way before and if this is the state in which a person says I am in love then I want to say it – Yes! I am in love. I’m in love with you.” I was gripped by emotions by the time I finished.

Strangely, he did not respond. I thought he will with the customary – I love you too, but to my disbelief he said, “Call you in sometime.”

What? Now he backs out? Great going! Now that I am out in the open and ready to accept what it really is, he is going away? I was stupid to say it.

My thoughts were interrupted by his call. A zillion thoughts crossed my mind as to what stood for me on the other side of the phone.

I received the call and thankfully he took over the conversation. “I thought this day would never come. I love you, longer than you know. I wish I could see you now.”

The call ended on a happy note. How an emotion triggers you to do the unthinkable? Every time I wanted to unload my feelings towards him, I met a halt. Words failed me. I failed myself. I did not want to commit, as I knew how complex things would be. There was no logic. But when does the heart understand logic? It just feels and processes and tries to negotiate with your mind. No matter how headstrong you are, feelings take control of you. In the attempt of saving our relationship, in the fear of losing him, the words in my heart got loose.

The decision was made and now I was destined to make my way.


Fly high baby! You are ready, but I may never be.

So my daughter graduated Nursery in March this year. To tell you about this day I need to back up a year when she graduated from Playgroup- the felicitous day when she was introduced to the stage. With a graduation coat sitting comfortably on her shoulders and a cap securely placed on her head, she was just a perfect sight. She had been enthusiastic about the graduation song for a month before her performance and was thorough with her recitals. As parents we hogged the front seats and were very anxious to see her set foot on the stage and so she did. The honoring ceremony went smoothly but as the performance song played and she was made to stand with other tiny dots, her eyes met mine.

The 2.5 year old then hung her head low, refused to look at the audience and tried to hold her emotions covered. Only half way through the song, she had enough, hence the preschooler employed the most exploited tool of social communication – she bawled like a baby. I had to stop recording her, take her off the stage and hold her in my arms till the end of the ceremony.

With these memories of her major buck fever, we covered a full year and pretty soon we were standing at the end of another academic year. So came another graduation ceremony.

“Oh man! She will be taken in control by stage fright, yet again.” were my thoughts just as the day advanced.

We, the more prepared human beings – the parents – knew what we had to do this time. We had to take the last seats, record her from a distance, act like a spy and prepare her with all the pep talks. “Beta, rona nahi. You will do good.” In this whole process we forgot a tiny aspect – change. She had changed in a year and demanded us to change as well. That day, change in perception is what the little one taught us, the adults.

On the particular day as we came in prepared to dodge her eyes, she prepared herself to meet the eyes. She stood there tall, proud, elated and above all – confident. She surprised me with the last attribute, the most unexpected one.

Birthing a SAHM with her in 2014, I have been there for anything and everything she does . And I mean everything – her late nights, her early mornings, her poop fiascos, her tantrums, her insecurities, her ailing period, her wailing period. You name it; I was there for her. I accompanied her for her every move and trick, which provided me the certainty that I knew it all, and I know her well. So you can imagine the stupefaction on my face when she stood there and “did not snivel”. Instead she was buoyant, composed and gave me an assuring look when she located me in that crowd.

“Mummy relax”, said her big black eyes. Somehow that look made me more apprehensive and curious of her proceedings. What was she up to?

And then she took over the stage and the audience. What’s stage fright? That was an old story. This time she performed – standing right in the center.

That moment your baby takes the stage, no matter how big or small she is, it’s euphoric. I found it hard to blink for a second when she performed, as she looked a different person to me then. She is growing up and picking up traits from the outer world. She is trying to make it on her own and I could have not been more proud. As my eyes drifted to the cheering crowd of parents, my eyes met with the man who parents my girl with me.

“Shahzeel, we are doing it right”, said a parent in me to the other. We are first time parents and are clueless and vulnerable as any other guardian.

The look we gave each other said out loud that we came together to build this one. You see when my husband and I met at a tender age of 17, we had no idea we will make something so beautiful more than a decade later. Now that she is there in person, we feel blessed that we set our hearts on each other back in 2002, so that one-day we make a body who is our collective walking soul.

When she stands on that stage she takes my heart away. No matter how dippy she looks, how meager an act she puts up, I feel the earth below me move. I don’t know how many performances would she participate in , however no matter how they turn out to be, she will always find us standing right in front of her. Holding hands and looking at her the way we do now because she is our baby – the one we believe in.

It’s just that it’s hard for me to grasp her matured behavior over the years. I still remember her first day to school on November 16, 2016. It was a big day for her and a bigger one for us. I accompanied her full time in school that day. As I sat in pre-school with her on day one, I sensed her panic, anxiety and the attempt to find comfort in an alien environment. She kept looking at me, making sure I don’t leave the room, and I had to keep telling her with a gesture – mumma toh yehi hai!

I remember how she tried to copy the rhyme steps from her teachers. The protective mother in me kept checking other children. Who was trying to be friends with her? Who is she sharing her tiffin with? The asinine mother in me was also happy to find her taller than other kids in her class. “She can take them down incase she gets in a fight”, I said to Mysha’s mother. Well, don’t judge. I don’t want her to be a bully but she should be ready to take them, if required.

That was her first get away from her own kingdom – her home. I remember how scared she was and honestly, so was I. It was hard to let go. I kept thinking how she would manage during those three hours at school. I knew then that a day will come she will learn to be without me, playing with other kids, but the question was – when would I learn? Oh yes, I am a mother so the answer is – “I will never learn to be without her, caring for her and thinking about her every second of my existence.” She does not know the world, but I have seen most of it and like any parent, I want my girl to be untouched by any negativity.

She is growing up and as the days pass, I will make my presence scarce, till she learns to stand for herself. It’s like making her walk, step-by-step. Only this time she will not be running towards her parents who will hold her, even if they fall in the process. This time she will be marching towards an unfamiliar world, which she needs to get a hold of, fall and get up again.

Not even four, yet on her nursery graduation I saw a part of her wings that she is ready to explore. The question is how to address the mother in me who tugs her heartstrings when she says, “Fly high baby. You are ready, but I may never be.”