Ten years ago today.

Ten years ago at this time I was on the phone with a very close friend and at that moment I had no idea I would end up marrying him. I could hear my mother’s groans over the din of the TV and our “low-tone” midnight conversation. I ignored the nurse when she told me there was no pulse. She seemed like an amateur. I walked up to bed around 4 a.m. I could still hear my mom’s groans. I couldn’t sleep. I closed my eyes and tried to mask out the sounds of everything nocturnal and then there was my mom. I tried to imagine what she was going through and I drifted off into a fitful sleep. Every night had been an almost-sleepless night since the first week of January.

My door was flung open by my boisterous father. He was always strangely vociferous in the morning or it could have been me thinking “morning” people had far too much energy the minute they sensed the break of dawn.

“Get out!” he commanded, tactlessly.
“What? No!” I muttered and turned the other side. “Go away! I need to sleep.”
“Sleep? You need to get out of bed and call the doctor. That bloody nurse can’t find a pulse!” my father had raised his voice a few decibels.
“She didn’t find a pulse last night either,” I blurted, making no attempt to wake up completely or get out of bed. Definitely not before eight in the morning.
“Are you or are you not getting out of bed?” my father demanded.
“Fine,” I muttered. “I’m awake already, though if you must know, I barely slept. Thank you for asking.”

Not bothering to change out of my ridiculously short shorts and faded tee shirt I stumbled out of bed.

“You’re not getting out of your room like that!” my father pointed out. “There are people downstairs.”

There goes my morning mug of coffee and I’m supposed to live through the day!  I finally go down. My brother had left for work. He had resumed work after a month’s break. A few family friends had already gathered around my mother’s bed. The nurse had left. A neighbour had checked mom’s pulse and found nothing. It was evident we needed a doctor. I called her doctor and a few minutes after I put the receiver down the bell rang. The doctor had gotten to our place in record time. No, but it wasn’t him. It was a family friend who was also a doctor. She asked me if everything was alright and I told her that there was no pulse. She rushed in and checked mom’s pulse and shook her head. She asked me where my brother was and told me to call him back.

“Any moment now,” she said in a low voice.

I nodded not knowing what to reply. I called my brother and told him to come home. We sat by mom’s side, my parents’ closest friends had gathered around. My dad walked out of the room, my mom called out his name and that was the last thing she said. My brother fell silent, my dad broke down and there were all those arrangements to make, family to be informed, friends and neighbours. There was no time to think but to do. I sat there making phone call after phone call, funeral arrangements. When I called my best friend’s father he just knew. Together we sorted out what had to be done. I had kept everything ready weeks before not knowing what my mental state would be when the time finally came.

Fortunately for me, a couple of my neighbours (who are also good friends) did the night vigil with me. We sat together til almost 5 a.m. and then they left. I had one hour before dawn. My eyes were heavy with sleep. I was exhausted. I finally went to bed at 6 only to be woken up in an hour. Remembering my mom forcing us to promise we wouldn’t wear black at all and definitely not throughout the year, I chose white. My mom had left a string of instructions for this day.

“Do not cry. Make sure no one cries. I want them to celebrate my life and not cry because I’m dead.”
“Do not wear black. Do not mourn. Do not do the one year of wearing black. People don’t need to see you in black. You mourn in your heart.”
“Make sure no one cries at my funeral. I don’t want to see sad faces there. Tell them to smile for me.”
“Comfort my family and friends especially my best friends. You have to be strong. Your dad and brother will need you to be strong. You were always the strong one in the family. Always feisty. No tears today, only laughter.” If you knew my mom you will actually picture her saying these things to me and you’ll be smiling thinking of how jovial she was. How she spun a party into action. How she and my dad would always be the first people on the dance floor and they danced like no one else existed. My mom always had a wicked-in-a-mischievous-way glint in her eye that made me feel there was always a joke or prank waiting to pop up at odd times. There were times when she was emotional and there were times when she would lose her temper. There were even moments when she walked away from certain friends. That side of mom was always a shock because she would tolerate a lot. Mom took a long time to get angry but when she lost her temper there was no turning back.

The entire day passed with people crying on my shoulder and telling me to be brave. I snuck a few moments alone in my favourite place in the garden where I knew no one would come looking for me. I sat in solitude, feeling numb inside. I had not eaten since breakfast the previous day or perhaps lunch before that. Life was about to change forever.

It was then time for the funeral. My mother’s words playing and replaying in my mind. “Don’t cry. You are the strong one. Don’t wear black. Don’t mourn. Laugh and be happy. Celebrate my life.” It was tough not to cry. I did break down at one point and almost hysterically. One of my best friends pulled me away from everyone and took me towards the cemetery where we were supposed to be heading. I started dreading the sound of the coffin as it hit the ground. That always made my skin crawl. I gritted my teeth and forced a friend to give me a drag from his cigarette. It was at this point that I broke a promise to a very dear friend. The look on his face but I just needed that drag “to calm my nerves”.

The burial was finally over. People had queued to wish us. I was standing in between my father and brother. People decided to chat with my father, my brother and I were waiting our turn. We discreetly cracked a few jokes among ourselves to keep the tension at bay so we could maintain the calm exterior. I could picture my mom giggling and nudging us. She had a knack of defusing serious situations, sending the involved people into splits of laughter. Nothing was done in disrespect. Nothing was said in disrespect. People who knew my mom well, knew I kept my promise and made sure there were no tears from my side. I looked around for familiar faces and I was happy to see my close friends and family.

We were home. A few people came over. We were all a little relaxed but I knew the journey henceforth would be long and tough but what I didn’t know was just how tough. Mom never told me maintaining a home and keeping house was one of the toughest things I’d have to do. She never said cooking was harder than it looks (baking still remains the fun thing). She never said how difficult it would be to get my wedding dress, shoes and accessories together without her by my side. She never said the family would fall apart. There were so many things she never said and yet there were so many things she did say and a lot of it has come true over the past ten years.

I remember every word of my last conversation with my mom. It was about my husband. My mom pointed out that I was in love with him and told me that if he was the man I choose to spend my life with then we already have her blessings. That’s ten years for us too with mom’s blessings. She adored him. He was perfect in her eyes. She’d have replaced her daughter with him if she had a choice. My mom never got fed up telling me how perfect a man like my husband would be in my life and how “in shape” I would get and how all my “princess” ways would be forced to disappear.

It has not been an easy decade but then it could have been far worse than it was. I’m grateful to be alive, healthy and happy. My riches may not be monetary but I look at my husband, his family, my friends, my pets, my life, my job, my writing, my music and I feel like a millionaire!!! As my mom used to say “Life is what we make of it!”

In search of Rani

A week ago, our building dog, Rani, disappeared rather mysteriously and quite suddenly. My husband and I have been looking all over for her. We went to her regular places to see if she was around but we have not been able to find her. We asked some of our neighbours and they were just as clueless as we were. The watchman from the building next door informed us that the local shelter might have picked her up. We had been meaning to check out the shelter the past few days but work kept getting in the way.

Today we finally managed to get a little free time after three back to back meetings. The shelter was still open. We rushed to see if she was there. We were greeted with a volley of barks. They sounded rather aggressive. I didn’t know whether I wanted to retreat or proceed. Thinking about our building dog I chose to walk in. I stepped in through the gate rather cautiously as to not let the dogs think I was a threat. The moment I walked through I was surrounded by a pack of dogs, from pint size to extra large. The alpha male decided I was a friend and soon I had the lot of them capering around my feet. I looked down and much to my amusement there was a dark gray cat who, apparently, is the don of the group.

One of the girl volunteers led me to the area where all the dogs who were rescued over the past week were kept. My heart grew heavy as I slowly scanning every ivory dog in the cages, desperately looking for Rani. The girl looked at me with a raised eyebrow. I shook my head sadly. No, she wasn’t here. Days turned to weeks. No dog could mysteriously disappear and that too a healthy, medium sized dog.

One night I dreamt she returned and she was sitting in her usual spot below our window, barking to tell of us she was home. I sprung out of bed and ran to the window. I threw back the curtains. It was close to dawn but there was no sign of Rani. I could have sworn I heard her. Almost in tears I returned to bed. Was it her way of saying “goodbye” reminding me about the rainbow bridge? Was it just me missing her insanely? I missed the company to the bus stop, the supermarket, to the end of the fields with the other dogs. Those brown eyes looking up at me lovingly while I put a bowl of food down.

Today I saw her bedding, an old bed sheet I had put down for her because of the cold nights. That ivory dog, who refused to befriend me until I started putting food down. The misanthropic dog. The dog who slowly started trusting me enough to let me gently pat her head. The dog who followed me everywhere the minute I left the building. The dog who saved my dogs twice. The ivory dog we called ours. If I was any younger I’d probably think she could have been abducted by aliens. I need closure. I need to know where she is. Those soft light brown eyes with a very penetrating look as though she was looking right through you into your soul. I miss her.

I wish someone had the heart and took her home and making sure she’s comfortable in the autumn of her life. Someone is giving her the love we gave her. Someone is patting her reassuringly. I just hope that wherever she is, even if it’s past the Rainbow Bridge, she’s fine and happy. I’m still hoping she comes home to us.

…and this is how they cheat us!

It all began in 2009 and what could have been resolved in a blink of an eye and a signature, turned out to be one painful journey full of correspondence and arguments that fell on blind ears and deaf eyes. A journey full of frustration and harassment. A journey that has not ended when it should have ended before it began.

It was the time of month when all the bills come pouring in and our money goes pouring out. The electricity bill was stuck carelessly in our meter box. I went to get it and what I got was a heart attack. I felt as though time had stood still and it might as well have. Our electricity bill was 1,80,000 and what’s even more shocking was that it was a month’s bill. I almost fainted there. I raced up to our second floor, 80 square meter apartment, two steps at a time, grabbed my glasses and perched them carelessly on my nose. Perhaps I had read the figure wrong and it was 1,800. I counted the zeroes. There were two extra ones. Looked like someone was a little too generous with the zeroes. I got my then-fiance-now-husband to double check the figures and he confirmed the two extra zeroes. Now what?

The next move was to figure out the next move. I had never faced a problem like this one before. Our bill did take a jump from the regular 1200 to 7000 but that was in November. I got the Electricity Department to change it. They refused to get it down to 1200 so I ended up paying 5000. The following month’s bill was 12000. I had to go fight again. We were now in 2009. I got the legendary 1,80,000. So I went to the sub-station to get it rectified. The A.E. of the area, Mr. A. P. John told me I had to pay the entire amount because I was running a factory in my too-small-to-swing-a-cat-in apartment. His stupidity stunned me and left me dumbfounded. This is a government employee! I wondered if I heard right or whether my hearing was failing me just like my eyesight did when I saw the extra 0′s in the bill. “Factory?” I echoed the last word of his sentence. “What factory could I possibly run in a humble 80 square meter place? Maybe my dogs have a secret puppy mill I am not aware of. Please come over after your work hours and show me this factory that’s located in my apartment. I will give you tea and even throw in some cake.” He glared at me and repeated I had a factory in my home. Yes, it was evident we were having a merry-go-round conversation. “Who else can I talk to and explain that this bill needs to be changed?” I tried my best to keep calm through this nonsense. “The billing department!” he replied, grudgingly. It was clear that this was going to be a long, strange trip to rectifying the bill. “I’ll go there and have a word with them.” I said, controlling my temper. I turned abruptly and walked out of his office.

We headed to the billing department. I requested them to change the bill. I asked them how come we got such a high bill and they admitted their new software was not efficient and a lot of people had the same issues. They added that they would not change the bill unless the A.E. (Assistant Engineer) of Taleigao signed a letter stating they needed to change it. I had to return to the man. Grudgingly, I went back to him and asked him as nicely as possible to change the bill down to the average amount. He refused and I had to argue with him for a while. Finally he signed requesting the bill be brought down to 60,000. Really? A one month bill of 1,80,000 be brought down to 60,000? That would be equivalent to a five year bill, taking in consideration we pay 1,000 a month. Now where do I find those money trees again? This was getting above and beyond absurd. I didn’t know whether I wanted to laugh or cry.

The J.E. (Junior Engineer) was sent to inspect our meter and declared that our bill should not exceed 1500 and that too with using all the appliances in our humble abode. We had already established that point, my question was when were the Electricity Department employees going to figure that one out? The J.E. wrote in his note that the bill should be made less. No one seemed to listen. Everytime I went to pay my monthly bill they would ask me to clear the entire amount saying they would investigate the matter and then reimburse us accordingly. I requested them to let me pay the monthly bills while they carry out their “investigations” and I would pay them if they were right. They refused. I did not pay, instead I wrote them a letter every month asking them to reduce our bill.

Months went to years. In between there were some disconnections. We had to go to them and tell them to reconnect. They would take a sum from us and we would get our connection back which was always followed by some more letters. The interest started mounting and yet no one was willing to help. We decided to approach a couple of ministers. The electricity department was asked to neglect the large bill and start us from a 0 balance since it was their fault. The only thing that happened was we got told we could pay half the sum. I bargained them down to 5,000. More time lapsed. The second time around I got them down to 15,000 and finally last year we were forced to pay a sum of 40,000. So far we had now paid a total of 60,000 and some more letters stating I had paid under duress and requesting them to make adjustments and to reimburse us. Nothing was done. Nothing was looked into.

Now at the present time. Our electricity was disconnected for the nth time. I rushed to the department. Fortunately I met a friend who advised me to meet the main man. Following his advice I went to meet the said person rather skeptically, expecting some more earfuls and nasty judgmental comments. I entered his office rather timidly and stated my case after naming the friend who had sent me to him. I was shocked at the warm reception. He gave me a patient and fair hearing, then made a few calls and demanded that our issue be settled that day.  He wanted to know why it took them five years to resolve a wrong bill. He admitted that the new software they had tried to implement in 2009 was unreliable and a lot of people had the same problem we did.

Finally I had a meeting with the executive engineer and the truth was unveiled. Apparently, our dogs have been sitting by our meter (without our knowledge, of course) and not allowing the linesmen to take correct readings every month (bad dogs!), hence the erratic bills (poor us!). This was backed by the A.E. of the sub-station who emphatically stated that our dogs sat by the meter box. For a moment I was confused. My dogs? Sitting and guarding in the same sentence? Those lazy beasts? I wanted to lose my head and slam my freakishly small fist on his desk, instead I surprised myself by throwing back my head and laughing out loud. That was the absurdest thing I had ever heard in all my life! My dogs guarding the meter box? Those three idiots? Wow! I finally took a deep breath and looked at the Executives seated before me, with raised eyebrows. “They are lying!” I said, trying to keep serious through this absurdity. I was then barraged with questions. “Where do you live?” “Do you have dogs?” “How many dogs do you have?” “Are they inside the house or out?” “Where do they normally sit?” “Do they sit by the meter box?” “What is by the meter box?” “Who lives with you?” “Do you live in a bungalow?” They had a problem believing I lived in an apartment with my husband. It was obvious that two of us could not have run up a bill of 10,000 a month, leave alone run up a bill of 1,80,000.

A yelling match followed. Finally I challenged them to come to my place and inspect the area and let me know which dogs sat by the meter box. They told me that if the problem was from their end they would waive off the entire amount and let us start from 0 and pay the regular monthly bills. They also added that they would give us fair compensation and adjust the amount of money already paid to them. They told us to pay an additional 15,000 “under duress”. Now that was becoming a rude joke. I paid 5,000 “under duress”, I paid 15,000 “under duress” and 40,000 “under duress” but no adjustments were made against the money. Being realistic, 60,000 is a huge sum for anyone to shell out especially someone who is struggling to make ends meet and to stay afloat, financially considering the not-so-recent events (another story for another time) not forgetting having to start life on a 0 balance. Starting from scratch to face this, another huge financial blow. I wondered what everyone else facing similar problems did. Did they take loans to clear big amounts or were they like me, writing letter after letter, month after month?

They were at our place in that evening just as promised, to see the wonderful dogs that guarded the meter box and to inspect our meter. They discovered that there were no dogs who barred the way to the meter and our meter was not working. Once again they admitted their folly and said they would waive everything. They even apologized for the inconvenience caused. I told them that our meter was declared “perfect” last year by their own people and this surprised the Executives.

My husband and I were baffled. We went through the bills of the previous years and discovered that our meter reading had not changed at all except for January. The linesmen were putting down whatever they felt like and lied to the people in charge. After having received clear confirmation that it was entirely the electricity department’s folly we cancelled the cheque of the added 15,000 and wrote a letter explaining why. The reason was simple. We were not at fault and there was no reason why we should pay any more money.

Today, I received a letter stating that I had to pay the remaining 53,000 in a week’s time, accumulation of “interest”. Really? Is that another cheap trick to extort 1,13,000 from us? This would cover the 1,00,000 we have been trying to settle. How many of us fight back wrong billing issues? How many of us just pay these insane amount just because we can? How many of us allow them to harass us and force us to pay by threatening to disconnect the power? I’m in the right and there’s no way I should have to pay for something that is clearly not my fault. After knowing and even admitting the mistakes were all from their end we should be given a heavy compensation and our money back. Yes, I’m dreaming! I’m dreading another long drawn out battle for justice. Five years is a long time to be fighting for a bill rectification.

I also discovered that the electricity department is not linked to the Consumer Forum. They have a separate “Grievance Cell”. Judging by the way the past five years have gone, it’s quite evident in whose favour the hearings will go (definitely not ours!) I sincerely hope I can get justice and that I’m not stuck on this carousel for another five years.

The only reason I am making this public is not for attention but to create an awareness of the battles regular people have to plod through. Sometimes, losing battles like these. Where is the justice, if at all there’s any? Are we destined to be taken for rides like this? Harassed to pay huge amounts for something that is not our fault? When will we fight back? When will we realize that enough is enough? How long do we have to wait before the madness ends?  How are ordinary people like me going to manage to pay such exorbitant bills?  Who will hear the laments of the people and step forward and take action? We can’t keep shelling out insane amounts and then barely have our heads above water. People who have the power to right these wrongs merely sit back and look the other way. Looks like the world is in dire need of Superman to come fight battles like these.

Reconnect, rekindle, reunion (of sorts).

I finally took the long overdue plunge and decided to get connected through WhatsApp. Fortunately my Nokia C3 supports it. Almost immediately I got added to my classmates from my early school years. My husband went to town cracking jokes about what we would remember but I guess those Wonder Years really struck a chord in all our hearts. I goaded my classmates into setting up a meeting an quite forcefully, might I add, I set a date. Now there was no turning back. Within a week of having decided where and when to meet we swung into action, hunting for numbers and people we have not been in touch with. We got in touch with whoever we could think of. By the time the mid-week came around we had confirmations and negations. We had a number!!! A definite number and a couple of maybe’s. Taking into consideration that our batch is quite dispersed considering two to three decades had passed by and the date was fairly last minute, we did have a decent number.

The day dawned! We were finally meeting. Some of us have not been in touch for a little over three decades. Yes, I was nervous. I have come a long way since school and I knew I definitely was not who I was back then. I was worried my classmates wouldn’t like me, we wouldn’t get along, we’d probably be sitting in awkward silence. All sorts of pessimistic thoughts raised through my mind, giving me cold feet. At one stage I almost cancelled going. The next big step was what to wear. Do I go in my usual haphazard tomboy look or do I go as feminine as possible, well groomed hair, well accessorized and definitely neatly turned out? I decided to go feminine. What blouse? What shoes? What earrings? Do I have nail polish that matches the blouse? Then back again to  “What blouse?” I chose a pink cotton blouse, black corduroys, white shoes, white earrings, a black sling bag. A faint hint of lipstick and a smudge proof eyeliner. Pink is so not my colour and I can’t carry it off but hey! I have nothing to lose. I spent the entire week planning and unplanning my look.

So we met! Everyone was on time. I reckon we were all nervous. Sharp 12 p.m. we were walking to our reserved table. A couple of us clocked in a little later. When we greeted each other it was as though time and distance never existed. We just picked up from our school years, exchanging jokes and memories, talking about our favourite teachers and how they touched our hearts, the few teachers we hated and we still try to avoid til date. We reminisced, with fondness, about a teacher we were privileged to have as our class teacher for two consecutive years. We wondered if she remembered us with the same love we remembered her. We were her first batch, the first batch she ever taught. Now a grandmother but she doesn’t look a day older than when she first walked into our classroom, as pretty as a picture, straight, long, shiny tresses cascading all the way down her back, not a strand was out of place. Thirty years later and our teacher still looks just as pretty as we remembered her.

The food and drinks were the last things on our mind, the main criteria was to cram thirty years into a nutshell and exchange stories of what went on in our lives from then to now. Excitement and laughter rang through the restaurant as though we were the only people there. For once I think we could be excused, it’s not very often that you get to reforge old bonds. The afternoon came to and end and we said our “let’s-meet-again-soon”s over handshakes and promises to make our little rendezvous more frequent.

These are the little things in life which make you smile. Snippets of memories that have almost been buried with the passage of time. Bonds formed over classroom punishments or games on the playground. We were a close knit bunch and stuck together. We played together, shared tiffin-box snacks, exchanged stories, we made everyday fun. Life was so much simpler then and it’s nice to see everyone has come a long way from our childhood years. At least we have some wonderful memories to carry with us through the rest of our lives.

Being fat!

I’ve been meaning to write about this for quite a while now but never really got down to it. I’ve always been skinny all my life so the past 6 years has been quite a tough adjustment, especially the transition from S to L skipping M completely.

As a writer I would try to imagine what it would be like to be fat, what goes on in the mind of the well endowed and now; my curiosity has been killed. Exactly six years and 2 months ago I was put on strong steroids to control asthma attacks. My lungs had gotten so weak they almost failed to handle the endless hours of wheezing and long bouts of coughing. I was upset to be on steroids again. I thought I’d cheat and skip meals so I wouldn’t gain weight while on steroids but that didn’t work out. I bloated up like a hot air balloon. I couldn’t recognize myself in the mirror and worse still I couldn’t get myself to look into a mirror or step on a weighing scale. My self esteem and self confidence dropped so low it went underground. I avoided meeting people. When I happened to meet people I knew I’d be greeted with exclamations of “Oh my God! You’re fat!” to which I would reply “Hallo to you too! I’m fine, thanks for asking!” Some would ask me if I had been unwell and I would have to launch into a boring explanation.

My friends would call me out to meet them and I would think of a million excuses why I shouldn’t go and finally I would just end up saying “I can’t meet you, I’m fat now and I just don’t like getting out of the house.” Then they would say “Oh come now, surely you aren’t that fat. You’re embellishing more than you should.” I would reply saying “I am not exaggerating. I really am fat now and I not only that, I am overweight.” I would concede and meet them only to hear them say “Okay you’re right, you are fat.” Gee thanks! and you thought I was pulling a fast one. When I did go out I’d avoid places I knew I would bump into people I knew.

As time passed I started getting used to being “chubby” and soon I didn’t care about how I looked. I’d walk out with confidence, I’d ignore the stares and most importantly I learnt what my mom had been trying to tell me constantly “Beauty should come from within. Your outer appearance will change. Looks can vanish in a blink of an eye but be a good person inside and you will automatically look beautiful on the outside.” I launched into an endless journey of self improvement, doing my best to be someone I could be proud to know. I reached out to people who needed help, I did my best to go out of my way to be nice to people and I tried to be as likable as possible. My self confidence slowly crept back, I could walk out of the house with my head held high and I always had a bunch of “I’m so fat…” jokes handy. I discovered I could make fun of my overweight and make my friends laugh. Soon it wasn’t an issue at all.

Now I know that no matter what you look on the outside, you just need to be a good person inside and the inner glow will show. Looks do fade with time but a good heart will create good memories that will last forever. I pursued my dream of learning Karate and I even got my yellow belt. To me that was a huge achievement. The classes not only boosted my confidence but also trained my reflexes. I felt a little happier with myself.

Now, extremely reluctantly I have started eating healthier and lesser portions. I quit meat and now I try to avoid wheat and wheat products as much as possible. I still cannot say no to chocolates and I will not say no to chocolates. I don’t mind giving up everything else if I have to but not chocolates, however I don’t eat chocolates as often as I would. Once or twice a month is okay sometimes a little more often when I feel depressed.

When people ask me how much I weigh I just say “I don’t know. I’m too scared to stand on the weighing scale in case it starts screaming “one at a time”. Everytime I look in the mirror I wonder how many times I must have eaten the “slim” me.

At least I know now, how an overweight person feels like, what goes through his mind, especially someone who has spent all of their life being thin. It’s easier to empathize instead of just look down at them. I never thought I would be overweight. I was blessed with a high metabolic rate. I could eat as much as I wanted to without worrying about getting fat and now I worry about not getting thin but I’m a little happy I’ve come down one size so I reckon there’s a little hope of getting close to my original size with the help of a healthy(ish) diet and exercise.

So what if you’re a little overweight? Just hold your head high and walk with confidence because in the end it doesn’t matter what the outside looks like, it’s what’s inside that really counts. Go out there and dare to be you!

Integrity is so hard to come by.

I am what I am and no matter what people say about me doesn’t make me any less of an individual. You know what they say, even dogs bark when they don’t know someone. Sometimes it’s so easy to sit behind your computer screen and judge someone. It’s so easy to call someone names just because they do not share the same beliefs or opinions as you do. How easy is it to admit that you admire the person and you’re too scared to be like the person? Too frightened to stand up for what you believe in so you label anyone who isn’t like you, as “bad”.

It shocks me how many people talk behind people’s backs and yet have the audacity to go dine with the person and fraternize with the person like they were best friends. Now this is something I can never do. I have always been known for my sarcasm, my sharp tongue and my extremely blunt, thoughtless ways (yes I am blessed with an extremely charming personality). I tell my friends that if it is in my head it is out of my mouth. People who know me really well or even well enough will know that I do not socialize with people I do not like. I am what I am but fake is definitely not on my list of character traits.

It’s so easy to judge someone because they were honest and bold enough to be who they are and stand up for what they believe in and yet it is so tough to be judged when it comes to your turn to be on the receiving end. I don’t have to tell my friends who or what I am. They probably know it already because they chose to stick around and enjoy the ride. I don’t care much about what people have to say about me especially if I don’t care about those people.

I should be really used to people talking nonsense about me and to a very large extent, I am. It no longer bothers me what they have to say about me, in fact I quite like to hear about it for a laugh. It becomes more and more evident that they want to be like me but they are too afraid. I pity these kind of people. They’ll never really live. They’ll always be bothered about the other person and forget about their own happiness.

Please don’t judge me on my beliefs but judge me on my actions and deeds. Very recently I was judged on my religious sentiments because I decided to stand up for something I did not approve of. I got called some nasty names and the entire scenario was twisted and turned into something very ugly. I realized that people are just too scared to stand up and fight for what’s right or what’s supposed to be right and they prefer hiding behind this facade to get on everyone’s good side to the extent of being hypocrites.

How many of us dare to be ourselves, dare to be different and most importantly dare to stand up for what we believe in? I learnt and I keep learning that the more you dare to be different and be you, the more people will hate you because they can’t be like you. Don’t let such things deter you from sticking to everything you believe in.

Sometimes I feel like screaming…

Growing up, I was a very quiet child. I was either sitting in a corner and reading or wrapped up quite blissfully in my daydreams a bazillion light years from earth. I would sneak books to school so I could read during interval or during class. I was talkative with a select few, like my neighbours. We would meet on the playground. I would be forced to go outdoors for a couple of hours. I would always be bullied or teased. I would take all that in silence which made things worse because no one knew when to stop. I wouldn’t cry or complain or reveal my weakness.

As I grew up I learnt how to stand up for myself and fight back, I learnt to stand by what I believed in, reach out to the downtrodden, ward off bullies from the weaker kids and most importantly I learnt how to stand my ground. I learnt how to humbly apologize when I was in the wrong, I unabashedly would admit my mistakes and bluntly tell people off if I saw they were doing something wrong. I grew up to be ruthless, I spoke my mind which was more often misunderstood than anything else but that didn’t stop me from being me.

Life dealt some pretty hard blows, tested and tried me, took me over the edge, threw me off the cliff and everytime I would bounce back tougher and meaner. I still had not learnt to walk away. As mean as I could get or as blunt as I could be I was still softhearted. I still gave people endless chances to walk all over me. As a child my grandfather would keep telling me to stand up for what I believed in and not to feel bad if I had to walk away if there was nothing more I could do there. He would keep saying walking away did not mean I was weak it just meant that I was tired of all the bü££$h!t around me. He was a man of honour and I was privileged to have him teach me all I know through the formative years of my life. He crammed in as much as possible within those eleven years.

After a very recent event I know that sometimes it is important to keep your dignity intact and just walk away. People will act like idiots but that doesn’t mean you need to be a part of that. It won’t mean you’re weak if you decide that enough is enough. If people can insult you publicly and twist things you say to make you look like a bad person then you are in the wrong company. If people respect you then there would be no name calling and mudslinging. If you can’t have a mature, sane discussion with someone then you know you’re in the wrong place and it’s time to “get-of-there” o’clock.

We live in a world where men and women are equals. Women may not be able to do a lot of things men can and men definitely can’t do a lot of the things women can, so there’s a balance. If a man feels he is superior to woman and can talk down to her then he is not worth an iota of your respect. It’s best to leave him in his warped sense of thinking and move away as quickly as possible. Just because a topic of discussion might be disagreeable to someone it gives them no reason or more importantly, no excuse to name call. It’s not like we’re in the kindergarten. Voice your distaste in a dignified manner before things get ugly and keep the respect you strove so hard to earn, intact. No one likes people who start name calling just because they cannot hold a debate with calm, maturity. Seriously, the lengths at which some people go to never fail to amaze and amuse me. Point out flaws and people lose their minds and yet they are the first ones to point faults in everyone and everything else.

Mind you, gossip is gossip only when it’s hearsay. When experiences are involved then it is no longer categorized as tittle-tattle.  Just because you may not believe it does not mean it did not happen and that the person is lying. Walk away if you don’t want to believe it and do that without name calling and finding trivial faults in the person. I honestly cannot fathom how adults can indulge in name calling. I can understand it when children on the playground do it but adults? Really? As someone said “In a debate, do not resort to derogating or raising your voice, just improve your arguments.”