There Is A Sita, Kaikeyi and Urmila In All Of Us

I recently read the book The Forest of Enchantments by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, and I was truly enchanted and loved it. 

It is another version of the Ramayana, Sita’s version… also known as Sitayana. As soon as I read about the book I was fascinated, as till now I had really never thought that a different version of the Ramayana could exist. It gives us an insight into the life of Sita, right from her birth to when she gives up on her life as a final act of rebellion against patriarchy. I loved reading the book, found it truly enchanting and I couldn’t tear myself away from it.

The part of the story where it is postulated that Sita is the daughter of Ravan had me most intrigued and glued. It suggests that Sita was actually the firstborn of Ravan and Mandodari, but his astrologers had predicted that his firstborn would cause the destruction of his entire lineage. Hence, Ravan ordered that the child be killed immediately. However, Mandodari could not see that happen and bribed the Asura to leave her in some distant land. Thousands of kilometers away in Mithila, Raja Janak found baby Sita and accepted her as a boon from the gods. Mandodari recognized Sita as her long lost daughter when she saw her in Lanka after Ravan had kidnapped her. But she was too scared to share her secret, though she tried to make Sita’s life comfortable and save her from Ravan to the best of her abilities. Mandodari’s character is complex, wise, maternal and never shown before.

We have all heard the Ramayana many, many times but here, the Voice of Sita, clear and strong, reaches deep in your heart and stays there. Sita is every woman in one woman. She has all the human emotions and failings, she falls prey to jealousy, despair, anger, lust, and compassion. She is not just revered as an incarnation of Devi, as the perfect wife, daughter in law and mother but rather as a strong character who has her opinions, thoughts, and wishes.

Sita is not just a dutiful, submissive wife as mythology makes us believe, she is a thinker and questions society and its rules. She argues with her mother why Mithila cannot be ruled by a woman and only a man. She objects to the horrific mutilation of Suparnarakha, and considers it as unnecessary and a show of superiority by the brothers Ram and Lakshman.

Sita’s agnipariksha has been held in history as the highest ideal in the virtue of her being pativrata. But in Sita’s version, it is more of a fiery protest against a very public humiliation. The second time when she is asked to publicly prove her chastity, her refusal and asking the earth to subsume her is the biggest act of rebellion against patriarchy. She questions Ram publicly in court, that why does she not deserve the justice that other men and women in Ayodhya get, and then gives up her life and her role as wife and mother.

The novel is not just about Sita but also explains the other female characters who are otherwise ignored. Urmila, whose great sacrifices go unnoticed, Mandodari, written off like a demon, Suparnarakha, wronged by two men, and the ambiguity unseen earlier in Kaikeyi’s evil ministrations. The women characters say ” Write our story too, for always we’ve been pushed into corners, trivialized, misunderstood, blamed, forgotten or maligned and used as cautionary tales .”I just loved this statement. I read it several times and couldn’t get over how beautifully it conveyed what all women have felt at some point or the other, be it the in the Ramayana in the Treta Yug or in the twenty-first century. Sita comes across as a dutiful but bold daughter, protective sister, skilled healer, loving yet strong-willed wife, sensual lover, strong mother, nurturing, helpful, a thinker. She is a feminist and yet knows when to concede, mindful and empathetic. There is a little bit of Sita and for that matter of Urmila, Mandodari and Kaikeyi in all of us.

My Mummy Does Nothing !!

My 3 year old is with his grandmother and as I am going down the stairs I hear them talking.

They seem to be in the middle of a discussion about the family. He is saying: ” My Papa is good but he comes from office so late, he works so hard.” This is followed by a question from Dadi, and what does Mama do? ” Mama doesn’t do anything the whole day, she is just at home, sleeping and watching TV.” This elicits a big laugh from Dadi and the joke and thinking behind it gains strength.

Standing in the background, I hear this and am a little taken aback by his statement as well as my mother in law’s acceptance and reaction to it. Maybe he meant it as a joke, cause he knows it will make her laugh, I try to console myself. This joke is one which has been often repeated in our house, but every time it makes me unsettled. 

Even after a few hours I cannot shake off the feeling of unease. Is this really the perception our kids have of their mothers ? Do all kids think that if you are ‘just at home’, you really do nothing the whole day. Is our work so invisible? As home makers our kids see us at home the whole day taking care of them and the house, and to them it doesn’t seem like any specialised or genuine labor. 

And when the father comes home late in the evening in Indian households a big fuss is made. The mother in law will ask you must be so tired, what will you eat, the wife will tell the kids not to bother the father because he works so hard. And so of course, the notion that gets strengthened in the child’s head is that my father works so hard but my mother doesn’t really do much because she is home the whole day.

India is still a country where majority of the women do not have formal jobs and are homemakers. And truth be told, a vast percentage of the husbands and their families would prefer the women of their home to stay just there, and prioritize themselves and their kids over their careers. If women’s careers are not seen as financially essential for the family, then it is seen as her whim and fancy and not as something she needs and wants to do. 

Most housewives run around the whole day, and mentally and physically exhaust themselves to keep the family happy and comfortable in every way, though this labor is camouflaged and seldom acknowledged.The work of a home maker is so multifaceted and diverse in nature from taking care of the physical, mental, emotional, financial, societal needs of the family members to maintaining and organizing the house, the staff and so on , and even then it is unrecognized and undervalued.

Why not then the families, especially the husbands, show more respect and recognition for all that a wife and mother does, acknowledge and appreciate in front of their parents and children their wives role in furthering the well being of the family.

As a whole there needs to be shift in perspective in the Indian society to respect and value what a woman does to ensure that her family functions in a healthy and positive manner. And no kid should be allowed to hold the notion that their mother does nothing. It is the responsibility of the father and the mother herself, to ingrain this realisation early on that the mothers work in the house is equally important and fruitful and also she had the opportunity to work but she might have given it up for the family. Many of us have left successful jobs and promising career opportunities to be with the children and the family, this is not a sacrifice but a conscious choice. Please do not make us feel bad or lacking in worth because of this choice. 

What Women Want !!

Even Google gives up on this question.. but too much of a fuss has been made on what women want. Every day there are hundreds of jokes on Watsapp, Facebook about women in general and wives, in particular.

What do we really want ? Well the sky and everything under it , truth be told but also that being said, we are happier with much less.

Talking specifically of relationships since these are generally the focus of debate, what do women really want. A loving, caring , trustworthy husband who is demonstrative of his love and lavish in his affections is what most women dream of. If he is handsome, successful and funny then clearly you have hit the jackpot. But really we are content with a husband who loves us, tries to understand us even if he fully never can and gives us his support . We do not have a never ending list of traits and qualifications we desire in our ideal husband, that is just a myth.

So why then did women get this reputation of being impossible to understand and hence, please. I have heard most of my male friends complaining at some point or other, how their wives or

girlfriends give them such a hard time over trivial issues, how they create unnecessary drama, and are just impossible to please. Won’t all men love the power of hearing women’s thoughts just like Mel Gibson in the movie What Women Want.

Did some women ruin everyone else’s reputation or do all of us show these traits .. Is the guys assumption that women can never be understood true or has it just become an urban legend. Well the mystery continues.

How did we get this reputation that men can never really understand women. The hidden contributing factor here, in my opinion, is communication or lack of it . Most women, me included expect men especially our husband’s to understand much much more than what we are saying, to understand the subtle nuances of how we are saying it , and most importantly all that we are not saying. We expect them to read our hand gestures, head tilts, eye rolling and sarcastic smiles.

A simple okay is never really simple. I can say okay in ten different tones , which can have TWENTY different meanings. A simple I am fine can never really mean that you are fine, and do as you wish is really a subtle threat that you dare not. When I say you decide , it generally means you should know what decision I would like you to take.

So are all us at least, partly responsible for creating and maintaining this assumption that women’s minds are a great, black, deep well of mystery and intrigue. 

And another thought strikes me, are we maybe subconsciously fascinated by this intrigue, this challenge of keeping our partners on their toes. Do we find the unpredictability alluring ? Are simple conversations boring ? Well life certainly would be dull, if I gave clear indications as to what I wanted, and they were dutifully carried out by my loving husband. What would I have to complain about and where would he find the opportunity to woo and win me over ? 

Now the question remains do we want to solve these mysteries and become simple and easy to please or do we want to maintain the mystery and intrigue  in the relationship ?

How I Met Your Father (to tell or not to tell !!)

Some stories leave you wondering whether they should be told or not… especially to the kids, or at least told in a PG censored version. Still, I would want them to know how it all really started. Seems I have been watching too much of the Star World series ‘How I Met Your Mother’.

So, I met my husband, exactly 11 years back. The how, when, where are not exactly unusual, but out of character and unusual for me, or should I say us. The ‘where’ is fairly common at my best friend’s birthday party. ‘How’ that party went is amazing, and is still a surreal part for me. I was introduced to this guy by my best friend, who she was in college with. We were the early ones there and kept standing at the bar and chatting. Random bantering with a slightly flirtatious overtone was keeping us busy. We were lost to the world and would end back on our spot after briefly and half-heartedly talking to other people in the party.

It was crazy, addictive and something I hadn’t felt in a really long time, if ever. The hours stretched on, conversations became deeper but the intrigue remained. We shifted outside to talk without the loud music, without thinking or realizing our hands became entwined and talk became whispers leaning into each other.  We were lost to the world and oblivious to the glances and stares of the people around us.

Even after 11 years, the feelings, the sensations, and thoughts remain etched on my mind. I close my eyes, and I can still clearly see us leaning into each other, whispering, holding hands and everyone else a blurry background. I had been in a relationship earlier but never felt this deep, intense attraction.

The party ended and with much reluctance and many promises to call and keep in touch. A goodnight message on the way back made my heart skip and promised many more things.

Over time, messages became calls which became meetings, and the attraction deepened into something more deeper and long-lasting, which we then made into a lifelong commitment. The initial years filled with excitement, can’t wait to see each other moments were replaced by deep love, commitment, and trust.

We dated for two years and got married nine years back, and have been blessed with a fairly smooth journey. We have had wonderful times, shared fabulous experiences, had two beautiful kids, celebrated many moments big and small but the memory of that night still brings a smile on my face and a tingle in my heart. The memory of that first meeting still holds a very special and beautiful place in my heart. 

Though I am still in two minds if I want to tell my daughter that I met her father at a party, drinking and dancing the night away 😉

Would love to hear others’ stories and experiences 🙂

How To Keep Your Skin Amazing Even in the Monsoon

I love monsoons, I love rain and the smell of wet earth and hot tea,the fried stuff that we hog on in the rains.

But one thing I don’t like is how my skin looks and feels in the monsoon, dull and breaking out into acne. After doing a lot of research, I have found a lot of easy, tried and tested methods which can keep our skin glowing and nourished in the monsoon.

Cleansing, toning and moisturizing : stick to your basic routine, wash your face at least 2-3 times with a mild cleanser. Follow it with a non alcoholic toner. Do not skip on moisturizer even if the weather seems hot and sticky. Shift to a water or gel based moisturizer if you have oily or combination skin.

Do not forget sunscreen even if it is cloudy : even if it is cloudy, the sun still emits UV rays, that cause wrinkles and pigmentation. So never skip on a high SPF sunscreen.

Exfoliation : is even more important in the monsoon to prevent buildup from causing acne or rashes and remove dead skin cells.

Try using hot or warm water instead of cold water : try using hot water while washing your face, this helps in dissolving the oil and grime from your face.

Hydration : the humid weather causes excess sweating, which leads to lack of moisture and thus, dead and lifeless skin. Drink at least 8 glasses of water to keep skin hydrated and supple.

Wash your hair more regularly : shampoo and condition more regularly as excessive humidity makes it easy for dirt and grime to stick onto the scalp.

Waterproof makeup : use waterproof , gel based lighter makeup to prevent smudges and blotchiness, and also clogging of pores.

Regular waxing and mani pedi sessions : rains and humidity increase chances of infections especially around nails and overgrown hair. Waxing and mani pedi help remove dead skin and dirt, and keep skin smooth and healthy.

These easy to use methods are very effective, and help in maintaining healthy, glowing skin and hair. HAPPY MONSOONS !!

Good Wives Don’t Cheat or Do They ?!?

Good Wives Don't Cheat Or Do They?

I know its an old movie. I know extramarital affair is an old subject. I know they are fairly common. I know it’s been discussed to death. Yet the topic attracts intrigue and a lot of judgments.

So when the movie Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna released in 2006, I was a 20-year-old naive college-going girl. The movie struck a chord with me and I really felt it was an honest and realistic depiction of how life and marriages can be, even if the presentation was filmy and a little overdone.

At that time, I saw the movie with my parents who wrote it off as filmy and rubbish. Their main argument was that if a wife, that is Rani Mukerji has such an amazing and devoted husband, she would never, ever cheat on him or fall for anyone else. And similarly, what did Shah Rukh really have to complain about, he had a beautiful, successful, loving wife. My father said no, this is not how life is, good married women, don’t fall in love with random men. And followed it up with the universal parental statement, you are still a kid, what do you know.

Last weekend I happened to see the movie again. Almost fifteen years from that time, ten of which I have been married, I still felt that yes, it can happen to anyone. You can fall in love with someone outside your marriage, whether you follow up on it or nor is a completely different matter. Wives who have great, loving husbands may not necessarily be in love with their husbands. They might care for and be devoted to their husbands but in love with them, maybe not. And I am not even talking about the partners who feel that over time they have fallen out of love with their spouses.

And there are phases in every marriage which are not so great, or boring or tough or frustrating, it cannot always be smooth, fun, happy and satisfying. Boredom rots most marriages in my opinion. It is during these phases that a person is most vulnerable. This is true for both husbands and wives, it can happen very genuinely that you develop feelings for a new person. The excitement, the attention, the newness can be flattering for anyone, but whether they act on it depends on so many other things.

This brings me to a very important and insightful point shown in the movie. When Rani Mukerji and Shah Rukh confess to their affair, the first question that the wife (Preity Zinta ) asks the husband is that are you in love with her? And the first question that the husband ( Abhishek Bachchan ) asks his wife is that did you sleep with him?

This is the crucial and universal difference between men and women. Women attach more importance to emotional infidelity, while men define cheating primarily as physical infidelity. Wives might find it easier to forgive physical indiscretions but might not be able to forgive if the husband has genuine feelings for someone else. While for the husband, a wife physically cheating on him can be the end-all of the relationship.

Our views on these and many more things in life and relationships change as we grow older and maybe, wiser. Would love to hear others’ views on fidelity, infidelity and the likes.

The New Superfood You Should Know About

The new amazing superfood taking the world by storm is MORINGA, also referred to as the Miracle Moringa.

The multi-purpose Moringa tree is mostly found on the foothills of the Himalayas but also grows in other parts of Asia, Africa, and South America.

This green herb is commonly used in South Indian meals and has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties (it is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory) and health benefits.

Moringa has a green, earthy taste similar to spinach and matcha.

Moringa powder can be taken dry by swallowing with a glass of water. It can also be mixed in food and drinks like smoothies or shakes or sprinkled over salads, yogurt, hummus, etc. Or you can just take a moringa capsule.

The top benefits of Moringa are :

Gives you youthful and nourished skin

Moringa has the highest antioxidant levels of any food, six times that of goji berries and matcha tea. These are essential for protecting, repairing and preventing cell damage and minimizing skin aging. 

Dry moringa powder is also used for curing skin infections and sores.

Gives you shinier, thicker hair

Moringa contains all the essential amino acids that help in the formation of keratin protein needed for longer, healthier hair.

Reduces tiredness and gives instant energy

Moringa powder contains high doses of mineral sand vitamins like Vitamin A, iron and magnesium. It is ideal for treating anemia and fighting tiredness and fatigue.A green smoothie with moringa in the morning can keep you energized all day.

Boosts immunity

One super benefit of moringa is that it has super immunity boosting powers because of the very high contents of iron and vitamin A.

Preventing and treating cancer

Moringa extract has been researched extensively and seen to have properties that can prevent cancer. It contains Niazimicin, which suppresses the development of cancer cells.

Treating stomach issues

Moringa extract can help in dealing with stomach problems like constipation, gastric issues, and ulcers. It’s high Vitamin B and fiber content helps in digestion.

Helps in treating diabetes

Moringa helps to reduce the amount of glucose in the blood, as well as sugar and protein in the blood and can be used to keep diabetes in check.

Fights insomnia

Moringa contains amino acid Tryptophan, that is essential for the production of the neurotransmitter Serotonin and the sleep cycle regulating hormone Melatonin, and can work wonders for giving you a good nights sleep.

Makes you feel happier

It stimulates the feel-good hormones in the brain and acts as a mood enhancer, and also in the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders.

Do try moringa in any form and share your experiences. I have just started taking it can’t wait for my skin and hair to look younger and healthier and feel better overall.