Scars are good!

Scars are good. Even better are those that get deep involving pain and bless the bearer with tenacity and perseverance. A well-led life has gone through the crests and troughs of life. A life that’s awash with unexpected predicaments and evolved a winner passing many priceless heat tests can relish the real fun in life, the joy that’s above and beyond cash flows and back-scratching.

It was exactly eight years ago we had had a burglary that filled me with trauma and made me spill hot boiling oil on my calf that gave me nearly third-degree burns. I feel that was the culmination of my depression from suffering. The suffering resulted from a constant conflict between hard work and luck, fate and destiny, and rupture and rapture. That accident resulting in the unfolding of many shocking events was the pinnacle of my combats. Then on, I feel I’m invincible. That physical scar still helps me deal with any emotional scar gracefully.

Coming back to that December incident when my younger one was a months baby, the older one was not even 5, was a life lesson. Doing maths between time and distance, we ruled out visits by family  Friends who were frequent weekend- stayers at ours announced they wouldn’t come over to help my husband, who was struggling with visits to the burns unit at the local hospital where my months baby wasn’t allowed. They never came back to us to date—one of many examples of good riddance.

Right then, the angel who imbibed confidence and infused life back into me stepped in. That friendship burnt the ambiguity in me if I had to change myself to suit the selfish people around or hang on there for the right time and right people.  

Then on, no looking back. I feel I can see beyond the masks that people wear. Yet, I feel amused and blessed when people use my time and emotions in the name of friendships and relations. That’s where some lives start and stop. I made an oath not to change myself; should I change, I let those precious people who define ‘life in life’ bringing the contentment through spirituality slip through!

Yes, I am a proud owner of certain precious friendships that don’t expect me to scratch their backs, nor extend me any party invites that are put forth based on people’s financial status and glossy outlooks. They accept me as I am! They introduced me to the concept of humanism. At this juncture, how can I not express my gratitude to my parents who raised us (me and my sister) on moral grounds! I should also not ignore my husband’s acceptance of my ideologies and give me a free hand to inculcate these values and principles in my children. Pray, I, along with these other precious friends, stand tall with these time-tested values! This chosen path may leave us with scars, but they are worthy.

Scars are beautiful. A life that hasn’t experienced those isn’t complete. A life marked with scars helps one see the simple joys of life, teaches one to be happy for others, be part of other’s pains, and allows one to weave human relations. How one deals with scars defines that life.

If scars force one to be self-centered, then one hasn’t learnt the art of living.
Scars that guide one’s life to be empathetic are a blessing to the world.
Lucky lives remain oblivious to scars, but those are empty lives.
Those who never experienced scars yet, are benevolent are the angels. 

My scars help me be a simple human being. All I have is a great family, friends, and angels who lift me.
Trust me when I say scars are good.   

People like myself…

Eeshwar Chandra Vidyasagar smiled, “It is clear, the dinner invitation is to the clothes I am wearing and not to me. Therefore, I’m feeding them.”  – from a story, I learnt as a kid where importance is given to the appearances, not to the people or the values they hold!

In this modern, global world, keeping any future requirements in mind, some maintain a cordial relationship in the name of friendship. But do those friends value me or like me? (Maybe neither!) But this has been the most intriguing question of my life at this juncture more than ever! This dilemma doesn’t mean I have free time to create ripples in my own life, but people around me, who I assume as close, push me to my limits. I accept every challenge thrown at me and use that to build a stronger myself. But I need to remember that I’m also a mere human being. I genuinely believe in amicable parting than holding onto bitter relations for ‘courtesy’ sake. This thought is a task for me, as I truly value every association and value every person I meet. I respect them for being themselves. I don’t pigeonhole people. So, how do I get to the bottom of any relation? I only analyse to see if we have something in common to have a hearty chat. I don’t understand why people make it challenging for me to be myself?

What is myself? Like any other emotional fool (Only a similar will know what I mean), I try beyond my ability to keep everyone around me happy. My utmost priority is to make sure no one is hurt- not only by me, but by anyone, and to maintain a comfortable, positive front. But it’s hard to keep up with the folly of others, whose aim is to draw their unwanted conclusions, judging me with their little narrow minds and taking a stab at my pleasing personality.

For many, value is money; success means having a hefty bank balance! I have both but at a limited level, just about enough to spend my time contently sitting in my lounge with my family. Do what I ought to as a mother! Use that precious time in educating my children about ‘good manners, and the real values of life’. I have both the time and patience to do that.  But when my principles are labelled dated, and I still believe in them, I feel the ruffle. But I know some people are champions of my thoughts. Hence, my fight gains momentum. I’m not giving up!

Women with similar principles will go through this inherent struggle at some point in their lives. For women who can carve their careers, many factors have been in their support. For a woman, also a wife and a mother, those factors must fall in place. Else, priorities change. It’s all about priorities, not necessarily the worth of a person that alone builds a career.

For those who take my silence as an easy target to their uncontrolled klazomania, it’s my modest upbringing that’s giving people another chance to be in my life. When I respect people, I expect that back; but modern times and arrogant lifestyles make them take a stab at my principles in a way that speaks volumes of their lack of the same.

Let’s not even talk about those who speak when they want to for their benefit, leaving people like me baffled. With these encounters, most of the time, I’m a reactive specimen! I’m their friend when they include me as one. But, I supply the agony aunt in me based on the demand. My goal is to make them happy, not necessarily my involvement in the later stages of their comfortable lives.

I consider my life invaluable and highly respectable, the same way I see everyone’s. I hope people realise this before it’s too late. It’s hard to find people like myself.

Treat yourself the way you want others to treat you -read this somewhere—very interesting, and also the need of the hour.

 I do come across people like me, myself, and it’s to that gain, I’m still me, myself, though the day-to-day life is challenging. 

To my teachers and the teacher in me!

**Healthy dosage of self-esteem**

As they say, charity starts from home; when the topic is my teachers, it ought to begin from my grandparents to my parents, school & college teachers, and everyone who taught me a lesson with love or otherwise.

September 5 marks the birth anniversary of Sree Sarvepalli Radhakrishna garu, an Indian teacher who became the second Indian president. In India, we celebrate Teacher’s Day on this day. As Teacher’s Day in India. In 1992, that laid the foundation for me to recognise I have teaching skills too. Teacher’s Day gave our school’s senior students ( call it 10th class/grade/year, whatever) a chance to be teachers for that day. I don’t remember how it landed in my lap, but I acted as one of our favourites -Karuna teacher and taught Maths to our immediate juniors. I, along with another friend, won the ‘ best acting teacher’ awards. The best compliment was that one of the students understood the concepts of ‘Sets/Venn diagrams and functions’ much better when I taught.

My dad, a professor with a passion for teaching, has built an excellent legacy molding many students; my mum, a teacher, gave up on her dreams for us; my sister taught statistics to undergrads for a brief period. At this juncture, I have to mention my maternal granddad, who initially taught me proper letter-writing and drafting for debates and essay writings.  This mentoring left strong imprints on my little brain to be a disciplinarian and a perfectionist in anything I attempt. Until I left India, I also tutored little kids around my house who couldn’t afford private tutors, which helped them pass their primary school tests. This pure exchange of knowledge is close to divinity which my whole family has been practising. I bow to my parents for guiding me to have those beautiful, priceless experiences. Another beautiful concept which I reiterate in many of my posts was the ‘vaaralabbay,’ the culture of feeding a financially challenged student a day a week. My parents followed that for a couple of decades at least, and we had many students who would come to have dinners on certain days of the week for as long as they pursued education. Education indeed is valuable and a gift to have.

I have a special reverence for some special teachers in my life and respect for all the teachers who taught me. I took every teacher seriously, showed respect, obeyed rules, and been their favourite too. These are the principles instilled by my dad, Dr. Ayalasomayajula Gopalarao, a disciplinarian to the core, an author, and a former member of the Official Language Commission of India. He is a gold medal winner for the Best Ph.D. Thesis award and Best Professor award recognised by Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma, who served as the Governor of  Andhra Pradesh and was the ninth President of India.  

I bow to all my school teachers, my Bharatnatyam/ dance master,  my English, organic chemistry, and biology lecturers at college, and marketing gurus at university. Every teacher has time for all students’ needs. I am blessed to meet my 10th class teacher on Facebook, who, despite a 25-year gap, noticed that I have a flair for writing, which led me to this blog. Thank you, Radha Rukmini teacher.

Now, I teach at eVidyaloka, a not-for-profit organization that focuses on transforming the educational landscape of rural India. This teaching is an eye-opener for my kids and me, who may use an electronic device with high-speed internet 24*7 to play games or use it as a dictionary. Those residential students use one laptop for about 22 of them with internet run through a telephone landline plus random power outages. With Covid and lockdowns, those students use their parents’ smartphones for an hour a day for learning before the latter goes for daily jobs, and also, we can hear each other only when the internet is stable. I have to thank my brother-in-law, who introduced me to this, and he, himself, is a volunteer teacher at this organization. 

At this juncture, I also have to thank my children for giving me a multitude of opportunities to learn and teach. It came to me as a surprise when I was asked to teach simple Indian cooking to 5-7-year-olds in a school while in England, to be a mentor at US schools. The trust I get from my mentees boosts my energy and helps build my mothering skills. Coming back to my kids, my son sets his own rules, and my daughter a disciplinarian. My son has changed my take on things and helping me better myself, whilst my daughter reforms my traditional thinking subconsciously.

Thanks to my best critique, my husband, it’s a privilege to share life with a sage person.

Last but not least, a special mention to my friends who are teachers and my teachers who are my friends now!

Happy Teacher’s Day!

The fights they fought, the paths they laid

It’s heartwarming to be able to honour labour day in the heart of a capitalist country. We can find lots of literature on the origin and why it’s not on May 1st here. But, the minimum wage policy, minimum hours of work per day, maternity & paternity leaves, the dignity of labour, were something I have experienced while in the UK, and I still can hear them here. Though the terms are not the same in the US, to commemorate a day for workers strengthens me. As Shakespeare says, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”!

I bow to the great souls behind the mass movements, the strikes, the sacrifices that they made, and the fights they fought to change our fate for good. Let’s not touch the subject of equal pay for both genders now.

Yes, based on the duration women work while pregnant, they can earn up to nine months of maternity leave, and a six-week paid holiday is a common norm in the UK. Now don’t let that smile fade away if you are in that part of the world.

Though born in a country where ‘dignity of labour’ is just a decorative phrase, I am fortunate enough to be nurtured by parents who have always kept their housemaids close to their hearts and treated them with warmth. I respect people based on the values they share than the degrees they hold.

Though labour day has become synonymous with consumerism (thanks to labour day sales), let’s remind ourselves of its origin, be it Mayday or the first Monday in September. Let’s grab a chance to think of those tireless labour who work in mines, roads, or deserts under the scorching sun, who go fishing in tornadoes, and those who work in the snow. Let’s thank our mail carriers, let’s honour those ground workers who make this world a cleaner and safer place.

Memoirs

Dating back to my early teen years, I could passionately recollect how supported were all my hopes and aspirations by my very conspicuous vigour and vibrancy. And, I presumed I was in charge of my life, and happiness seemed granted. Books, along with loving, caring family and friends, were my companions. Though waking up early to birds chirping was thrilling. Those street vendors knocking on our doors with fresh, organic, non-GMO veggies felt disturbing, and the paperboy hurling the newspaper sounded interfering. The postman’s appearance intruded into my private space as my dad would receive a dozen letters every day. An emotional reminiscence made me feel touched as I have had the best childhood. Now, stuck in a motor jungle, the hyped communications can be coded- a gentle horn is a hello, and a bighorn is for anger.

Generally speaking, people are associated with their car numbers, and everyone has a busy daily schedule. In this part of the world, big parties hosting a minimum of fifty families over weekends is the norm. Greeting every guest  is not even the basis of social get-togethers. Tracing back those street vendors’ affectionate smug in my search for healthy foods in shopping malls where plastic cards do all the exchanges, and organic food is far and beyond my reach. Forget Non-GMO’s. The postman wouldn’t be knocking on my door anymore, but letters, well, primarily sales and marketing flyers, and our monthly bills are left in a box at bay.  

Back then, physical handwritten letters were part of exchanging warmth and birthday wishes among cousins and classmates who lived farther or moved places. I moved to England with my husband in 2004. Until then, all those twenty-five years of my early life were spent in a small historical, cultural town, Vizianagaram. Hailing from a small town which was the home town for us since my great grand parents time, every year, I look forward to my town!  After nearly 14 years of my marriage, I still get homesick; I still have the foreigner-feeling wherever I am.  My roots are firm, so are my experiences. My best friend, my maternal granddad, regretted it when telephones became part of every household. “If it’s a handwritten letter, I will cherish reading my letters whenever I want to, whenever I yearn for that person. These phone wishes take away my happy memories, my best time pass and make me long for my grandkids more”, in his exact words.

My granddad was eager to learn about e-mails in 1999, but he didn’t live longer to try that ‘e’spect. I miss my granddad, who was my movie partner, my walking partner, my guide, and my stress-buster, my wall. I never understood his agony about the newly forming nuclear families then and the repercussions. His usage of cloth bags to reduce plastic/paper wastage; his willingness to walk any number of miles to stay fit and be able to say hello to his friends and work colleagues on the way. His philosophy towards vasudaika kutumbam- the whole world as one family – most of his life he had been a great host and rarely a guest. I miss my grandparents’ unconditional love, my grandmum’s innocence, my granddad’s willingness to accept whatever was thrown at him, with a smile on his face though it caused pain to his heart. I was part of the latter emotion, his agony once, and I bury my head in disgust when that thought surfaces in my memory. They taught me the importance of relations in life, and hence I try and maintain one-to-one relationships with everyone I meet and get to know. I try my best to be an agony aunt to any in need. Many forget me in their happy times. I was back-stabbed many times. Yet,  I trained myself not to change my core.  I am not that weak that any negativity around me could change me.

              I have realised “Life” is in charge of me. Lots have changed, but there are affections beneath all these hustle, bustles.  Fortunately, the world around me is very sane, and definitely, love will dominate hatred.. I am incredibly fortunate to have some friends, our extended family, who have the hearts of gold and have the Midas touch. Luckily, we all share the same principles. Love begets love.