The resilience of everyday things

When I sit in the balcony of our house, I see one older woman in the building diagonally opposite to us. She is going on about her daily work , her details visible only when she comes near the window. Folding plastic bags neatly into a small rectangle and keeping it under the bed so it flattens out, watering the single but splendidly fresh plant in the window, sorting through sprouted pulses looking for a stone or an un-sprouted grain, folding and storing newspapers in the corner of the window, storing some more documents in plastic bags , neatly compressed to save space in a Mumbai apartment. Her rhythmic movements and her quiet, self assured way is a great accompaniment to my morning cup of chai. And the pair of sparrows who seem to have adopted me as their guardian. They are okay with me sitting in the balcony while they go on picking seeds from the bird feeder, removing the outer cover and chewing on the seed. My two companions before the world around me gets active and starts buzzing around.

Since the coronavirus threat started in our country, we asked Akshay’s 84 year old grandmother Tara ajji, to come and live with us till this all clears away. She wakes up much before anyone else does and sleeps much later. As you grow older, you tend to need very little sleep she tells us when we are amazed at finding her awake all the time. She is always busy around the house. Making tea, making chapatis, cleaning and sorting the vegetables, cleaning bottles and jars with such intense care , they must be feeling rather loved. In our super fast life of consumption, we don’t care about these things that much anymore. We are a use and throw culture, lack of time, easy availability of fancier items. Use cups till the bottom corners get so stained that we replace them. Use hand towels for a while and once they get worn out , throw them away or convert them to rags. But not for the women of Tara ajji’s generation. She spends several minutes per cup ensuring each and every inaccessible ring is cleaned till it is spotless.

I remember my paternal grandmother go through similar activities when I used to go stay at her house. She would put on the radio _vividbharati_ at 6 am and start her chores. Boiling the milk, making tea, making breakfast, rolling the chapatis, combing her long hair and tightly fixing it into a bun.

These daily rituals, routine mundane activities which need to be done every single day are the real crux of life. They lend a certainty and order inside the home, inside our head so that the big wide world broadcasted into our homes via news channels and social media can stay out and not disturb our peace.

I also remember my uncle, my mama, getting the bags of milk every morning and washing them with a spray of detergent water and then washing it again under running water before it went into the fridge. We also do it now in the covid19 times, but we used to be more careless earlier under the guise of building immunity.

What would we do without these rituals that separate the day into morning noon and night?

When my son was a baby, we used to have an elaborate night time schedule of winding down. Taking a shower, drinking a cup of milk, reading a quiet story, asking each other questions about the day and then he would finally snuggle into me and go to sleep.

We still do more or less the same things at night, but I have to reluctantly pull him from the world of fantasies in his head and then he sleeps in his own bed while continuing to ask questions about Star Wars or Jurassic Park, which I know nothing about. He seems to be closer to his dad than me now, because dad is the cooler one, a Jedi with a lightsaber.

I am thankful for these little things I get to witness especially when the pace of life has slowed down and we are all looking inwards.

Is it too mundane? Too ordinary?

It’s essential. No matter what, the sun also rises and sets everyday, the plants continue to grow and birds continue to forage for food.

And human? We continue to do all these things and more. Day in and day out.

What would be life without it?

Xoxo,

Rutvika

The one life we have..

IMG_6237This week before my birthday is the week of existential crisis for me every year. A time of taking stock and always feeling inadequate, not enough. Not doing enough, not planning enough and just simply not being enough. On most other weeks, I have my head firmly on my shoulders, but as my mental Earth is about to complete one more round around the sun, everything suddenly seems out of focus, dizzy and inundating.

The brunt of it is faced with severe force by the husband and a few friends who I fight with or cry on their shoulders or simultaneously both at times. It is also a time when unfulfilled desires which are brushed under the carpet come forth again, with vengeance. You wanted to write a book, didn’t you? Wake up, you are going to be 33 and time is running out. Or did you always think you wanted 2 kids? Uh oh, may be not. Clock is ticking, perhaps you will die as a mother of one and never have a daughter.

Things which make me want to get up and create or procreate or go to sleep for the rest of the week. Its always a dichotomy between two extremes. I can either make a book or a baby. In all probability next year I will be at the same place, same time, turning 34 without having created either.

Perhaps what I need to learn in this year of life is to be alone with  myself, complete within me. Not look at external factors for validation but look within self for the fulfilment that I crave. Par yeh hain kya andar ? Dekhu kidhar ? A well wisher told me to start meditation , another one asked me to write the journal with happy thoughts. Be mindful and try to live a meaningful life. But saala ye sab ek moh maaya hain and hum sab iske shikaar hain.

As a child I loved birthdays, my parents would call a small group of friends from our society and there would be Monginis cake-cutting and some idli chutney or home made Batata-vadas. A new dress was donned, presents were had and in general it was a time of cheer.

Then came the strange early-teen years where I would want the guy I am crushing on to notice me and come say something to me on my birthday, but that didn’t happen. I was very nerdy and the first-bencher types.

Then there was a brief spell of my very early 20s when the world felt this charming thing I had in my control. Education was happening as per plan, I was dating guys who adored me and lavished me with attention. It was a time of roses and chocolates. Even the early years after getting married at 24 were birthdays filled with surprises. Because husband and you are both trying to impress each other and trying to find out what exactly works.

I distinctly remember, I was 28 when I started feeling it’s all downhill from here. All major milestones in life have been met and now it’s just existing. There are wonderful moments in this existence and I feel very productive and fulfilled at work and engaged in family life, but every once in a while it starts feeling pointless, unnecessary. Like, why are we doing all this? Why are we born? Who made us? Why is humanity existing? This feels like a play mankind is acting, but who is the narrator? And the viewers? Why do we wake up every morning and do all these things and make up all the technology just to end up worrying about global warming?!

I have no answers to this and I have read a decent amount of philosophy to know that no one does. Neither Socrates, not Aristotle nor Plato. I am not hopeful that I will find any answers either, but perhaps, dear God, send me some rays of hope, some light which shows me the pathway to why I am on this earth. What do you want me to do with this one life that I have?

I hope it’s something worthwhile and we are not just carbon atoms colliding into each other in different forms

I hope my life matters to someone, something, I leave it a bit better than it would have been in my absence.

One good thing of having a child is, no matter how purposeless or futile you feel, the child will alway think you are the most amazing that has happened on earth. For now, I will hold on to my 4 years olds’ belief of life and go on.

Cheers,

Rutvika

P.S : Check out this if you want to know how inconsequential we are, Tiny Glowing Screens

Connected. For now.

Building blocks for a connected future.

Every week or 10 days, Arjun needs “alone time” with me. One part of the weekend when its just him and me. No one else. He is also aware that he needs it and often tells me that its time we get some alone time. It is most often peppered with him telling his dad that I love you too, but this is me and momma alone time so we can’t take you out with us. He is very well behaved when it’s just him and me. No tantrums, no difference of opinions. We are totally in sync with each other. Our minds operate as one. 

This Saturday we went to the Byculla zoo followed by an event about the origins of Mumbai at Bhau Daji Lad museum. Weekend mornings are the best time to go into our crowded city. Most folks are still at their homes waking up and getting ready and we were at the Humboldt centre with penguins. Watching them do the penguins dance to brush off water from the feathers. Arjun wanted to touch them and kiss them which couldn’t be done, but he was happy to hug the dusty plastic penguin at the entrance. ‘Its good for immunity’ I think in my head and brush it off. 

I invariably thought I would have two, but this modern life and work and personal aspirations made us realise that we can have time and mental bandwidth for only one child. So its always a painful reminder that I will never again have a suckling baby, or a blabbering 2 year old. It makes me cherish the days of this 4 year old a lot more, and mobile phones help us document every little aspect of his being, but I am aware that this is a once in a lifetime kind of opportunity. 

My brother and I always competed for my mom’s attention. When we would lie down with her on her either side, it still mattered which side she kept her head turned towards. So we would stay up to monitor that she is constantly looking at the ceiling and not on any one side, a testament to her loving us equally. With Arjun, its just him and I snuggle into him while he snuggles into me and these baby moments I am soon going to lose forever once he grows up and starts thinking, “oh momma stop kissing me all the time”, or further down the road when kids start feeling that momma is the most ridiculous person on earth, someone who is so old school she doesn’t know a thing about been a shiny teenager. We have all been through it, it’s almost a rite of passage, thinking how smarter we are than our obsolete parents. I am aware about it, it makes me crumple, but I also want him to be so smart and sassy but I wish he takes kindness from his father. I wasn’t so kind to my mom growing up. 

Ketki, my best friend and my shrink since we were twelve, long before we had even heard of this term or even thought that some people may need to go to someone to pay them to talk to them, we are always dissecting each other’s thoughts and beliefs, prodding and questioning our source of discomfort and finding ways to soothe each other and self on a continuous basis. Our parenting styles are different, our circumstances are different, she is a manager at a hot-shot MNC and I am running our traditional family business, but we have grown from the same soil. We are equally invested in our children’s well being and want them to be self-reliant when they grow up, in all aspects, but especially emotionally. We often wonder how our choices as a parent are ruining our kids. And 20 years later when they are sitting and drinking with their friends on a Saturday night, what will they talk about their parents? About us the humans in this flesh, the ones who are going all out on a limb trying to be the best versions of parents they ever know.

But this deliberation of what would be Arjun’s narrative of his mom when he grows up also makes me be a better person. As a 4 year old he worships his mom, he thinks mom and dad are the most powerful and kind people in the whole world. And I know how that’s not true. I am bossy most times, I can be mean and demanding, but under the scrutiny of these tiny little eyes, I try to be gentler. He picks up phrases we use and stuff we say and replicates them while talking to his stuff toys. I often find him kissing my forehead exactly like I kiss his or his father kisses mine, and I also see him reprimand his toys for not cleaning the mess they have left behind. Its heartwarming but a constant reminder that my actions are being emulated here, I better be a better person.

I hope I turn out to be a better person and I hope he always remembers that I tried.

Xoxo,

Rutvika

 

Who are you? Who am I? I am no one. I am everyone.

Arjun and RC in the sun

A close friend recently asked me, “Who are you?” My first impulse was to say, “What?? What do you mean by who am I?” I am Rutvika, a mother, a businesswoman, a Chartered Accountant blah blah blah. But my friend kept looking into my eyes, searching for something, and I mentally took a step back. I couldn’t answer her then, but this question crops up in my head often now. While doing the most complicated things at work to the most mundane things at home, the question comes and stands before me.

I am a soul. Living this life, enjoying its ups and downs, taking risks, falling committedly in love with people, with things, with ideas; nourishing itself to keep faith in the way things are so as to come back again once this body gives up. These 70-80 years of my life are just a tiny blip in the journey of the soul. 

By now, half of you must have stopped reading, this topic is voodoo. But those of you who are still reading, hear me out.

As a little girl, when the concept of universe was first introduced in school, I was taken aback. All these planets, the sun, the moon, the billion other stars are so huge and have been existing for so long, that a rational non-spiritual mind cannot fathom it. It felt beyond the grasp of reality. The earth is spinning and I can’t feel it? These rocks , rivers, mountains have been here since centuries, our entire existence is merely a moment in their life. We are so inconsequential that we are nothing. And still see how much we take our life seriously. As if it matters.

It doesn’t. Not to the universe.

Everything will go on, whether you are there or you are not there. Whether I exist or I don’t, life will go on. 

But this soul here, he is been living forever. Residing in my body, before that someone else’s and after me in someone else. It feels, it knows. It guides. 

People say babies often remember things which happened in past lives. Arjun used to and still says stuff which couldn’t have possibly happened in this life. Sure, it can be his imagination, but he knows something which is bigger than his 3 year existence on this planet. When we were in Rishikesh on a holiday, he told me that he was bitten by a snake many years back. Or when he was 2, he would go to a corner of the house and say Rukmini-devi is standing here. He wouldn’t let us go near that spot. 

My grandmother, like most Hindus, believes in this stuff of rebirth and souls transcending lives. But most of these people are aiming for “moksha” or avoidance of rebirth. I don’t feel that though. I feel I want to learn as much in this life as much is possible to lead a gracious next life. We live in a world of extremities. On one hand we don’t mind spending several thousand rupees on a two-day holiday, but on the other hand there are people we know who live on a meagre 50 rupees a day. All these kinds of things exist. All the wars, the betrayals, the blood shed, the famines, the joyous moments, births, marriages, victories big and small, all of these are etched into our souls. The black and white, all the grey between, the rainbows and the green of the trees, its been here and you have witnessed it before, in another body, by the same soul.

So who am I ?

I am no one. And I am everyone who has been. I am everyone who will be.

Your father may be reborn as your great-granddaughter. And she will know you. You will know her. We all know each other, and so this question is rhetoric. You and me are same. We are the universe, we are nothing and everything at the same time. 

So now get back to your day, your life, your journey and do good. Be gracious, our soul is going to live on for centuries. 

Cheers,

Rutvika

A renewed fresh perspective

A fresh perspective

A wonderful thing happened to me last week. Two things actually. I got to meet / talk to some of my closest friends and it led to conversations which I was in dire need of. Secondly, I started reading a book that I had read as a teenager. And I see the world and myself in a new light, which used to shine within me when I was a young girl.

Since some time now I have felt like getting in touch with the people who knew me while I was growing up, in my teens and early 20s. And asking them one question. “Was I always such a worrier?”

I am much more confident now, I can be assertive on issues that matter to me, but I am so worried all the time. Worried about the company, the employee who has resigned, worried about the child, about someone dying, about hairloss, Modi-ji’s policies and everything under the sun. I want to know if this was how I used to be or is this something I have picked up along the way? Because as far as I remember, I used to be a fun person. Easy to break into spontaneous laughter and always ready to smile. Now I feel as if I am a tightly strung ball of wool with frayed edges and threads coming out which I am constantly trying to tuck in. The softness, the laughter is hard to come by now.

But not in this week that went by. Two of my best friends from school made me laugh so much that my sides hurt. The restaurant was almost about to throw us out because of the ruckus we were creating. We remembered how we would crackle on silly jokes in school and leap across the room to give a high-five and laugh uncontrollably. Both of them confided that they are as much worried now about everything as I am and perhaps its just this growing up business that sucks. One of them, the chirpiest girl I’ve known said that she hates talking now. Everything feels fake. But that night we talked. We convinced each other that this is a phase and it shall pass. We must keep reminding each other of who we were and of who we are deep within.

Another friend assured me on WhatsApp that I was always “optimistic and looked at the world amidst chaos like you always found the needle in the proverbial haystack”. These words were a balm to me. Chaos is everywhere, why had I forgotten to find my needle of peace?

A little bit of peace was found in Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist. I was 18 years old when the book came out and it stunned me. I had a purchased a pirated copy somewhere on the street shops of Mumbai, it was missing a few pages, but the message was alive. The words were magical. I dreamt of going to a dessert after reading it. I am reading that one again, from a fresh perspective. It’s a simple book which tells you to believe in chances, in the soul of the world. Of having faith in Maktub, ‘that what is written’. People believe in God, some believe in science, some others in holy men and women. I started believing in destiny. It’s all already written. So many things could have happened if something else had worked out or if something hadn’t worked out. We would be entirely different people if just one thing in life had changed tracks. But this is where we are, for better or worse, this is what is written for us. Now this doesn’t mean we stop working hard towards what we believe in, but its always “Karma kar, phal ki chinta na kar”. Dont worry about something that didn’t happen exactly as you thought it would, but what happened is the best for you. I also know it can get difficult to believe this in times of despair, but I assure you that once you are out of the tunnel, you will see the magic that went through you.

In this glitzy age, more things come to you than you can digest. Fancy places, ground breaking concepts and songs that you can’t make a word of.  It’s like spinning all the time and you can only see everything in a blur.

But I am slowly bringing back things which I cherished and savoured 10 years back. Arjun and I dance to the tune of ‘Chhaiyya chhaiyya’ and those wonderful 90s songs. I have made vow to meet and talk to my old friends more often now. To read my journals from that time and start believing again that “everything happens for the good”.

May you too hear the language of your soul.

Love,

Rutvika