My Mother’s Daughter

 14.05.2017

By Deepika Divekar Panicker. 

mothers-day-lion-6 Photo by Joanne Macgonagle (c) http://conservationcubclub.com/2012/05/happy-mothers-day-to-lions-tigers-house-cats-and-humans/mothers-day-lion-6/

This story takes off from my teenage, which, I occasionally realize, has been a long time ago. Those were the best of the times and the worst of the times. I was a rebel without a cause and my mother generally bore the maximum impact of the exploding teenage hormones.  She was either my best friend or Satan, and there was nothing in between. Now, my mother is well known in the family circle for her legendary patience but there were days I would see her struggling to bring about the taming of the shrew.

Don’t get the wrong impression, Dear Readers, my mother is no ‘abala nari’. From the day she told me that it would be either me or a dog that would be cared for in the house till today when she looks with skepticism at my plans to buy a bigger car than a house (asking me if I would be staying in the car and moving around like a gypsy), my mother has hardly ever let me get the better of her.

She and I traded fire daily over one disputed territory.. our respective choice of outfits. She would fire a salvo (not to say this is entirely in the past) that my newest clothes looked a decade old and were more than a few inches short and I would retaliate by calling her choice of sarees (cottons in summers, silks in winters) old fashioned and stuffy. 

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  Photo by Sashwati Bora

However, amidst all the madness that would ensue in the household frequently, there is one particular image from those days that is firmly imprinted on my mind. While I would be at the dining table complaining  about being too busy to even iron my clothes, Mom would be making breakfast, packing her lunch and dad’s, instructing the help about my grandfather’s medicines and  piling on her legal files, all in a perfectly starched and neatly pinned up cotton saree. Her Sarees, much like their intricate motifs, wove themselves into memories of comfort and confidence, their pastel colors gently exuding principles and compassion.

Mom has never been the one to spend time in front of the mirror. She has always put it down to a lack of skill in that department, though I suspect it was more about never making herself a priority. But what I wouldn’t admit back then, Dear Readers, is that the days that I saw my mother leave for work, composed and assured in her perfect draped saree, I wanted to steal all of those sarees and much of that personality.

Now, adulthood is like an emergency procedure to set you straight, don’t you think Dear Readers? It’s a sudden (and not so happy) realization that your parents were right and the world, in fact, does not run according to you. I outgrew the proverbial cocoon and family, work, money are the main causes in this ex-rebel’s life now.

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Photo by Chaitanya Vikas Ghanta @Drishyanvesh Photography

Balancing marriage, a thirty year old child (henceforth referred to as the “Husband”)  and some very difficult clients has brought a tolerable amount of patience and confidence my way. Like something that happens to most people after a few knocks in life, I have grown closer to my mother than ever before. That, however, doesn’t stop mommy dearest from smirking at me every time we watch the Sridevi starrer English- Vinglish together. She sighs dramatically and pretends to be like the much taken-for-granted Sridevi.  I, of course, can’t help rolling my eyes at her.

So here’s confessing a secret on behalf of all brats (apologies for taking this liberty). Moms, each time you wear the perfect outfit, cook a lip smacking meal or  negotiate a cracking deal (or do all of them together), please know that we either want to be like you or want to end up with someone like you, we just might not know or admit it yet. You have raised the bar of womanhood.   

As about the old bone of contention (read : clothes) between me and mine ; much to her vindication, today, being married to an army officer, the Saree (along with that personality, I would like to think) has become my second skin. I even wear one for most of the workshops I conduct. Just before stepping out the door, when I take a deep breath and adjust my pinned up ‘pallu’, a composed confidence steals over me. There is not much that can go wrong, I tell myself. I am, after all, my mother’s daughter.

‘Coursemate hai’

11.05.2017

By Saswati Bora.

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Photo by Shruti Sharma.

This story goes back to when I was completely new into the army fold. After my first wedding ceremony in Assam, we flew to Pune for a second and this time a Marathi ceremony.  Since I wasn’t married according to Marathi customs, I couldn’t stay with my husband yet. Everyone agreed (not that anyone thought of asking the bride and the groom) that I will stay with my aunt and uncle who had come with me to Pune till the ceremony was over. While we were boarding, husband gets a call. Some VIP was visiting and so, the guest rooms that were supposed to be ours had to be cancelled. I was worried, naturally. We were there at the airport, supposed to reach Pune at 4 a.m. with no place to stay. Husband, however, was nonchalant. He did his thing, called a few people and by the end of the flight, he had it figured out. We were staying at his friend’s house in the cantonment for a week (The couple were not even staying in their house at the time). Now, this confused me a little.

“So, they offered us a place to stay, just like that?” I ask the husband.

“Yes”

“And they are staying in the house?”

“No.”

Let me remind you here, Dear Readers, that we were complete strangers to the husband’s friend and his wife. And being someone who till then firmly belonged to the big, bad “civil” (a fauji term for anything that’s not fauji) world, a world where I would tiptoe around asking something as simple as hitching a ride with someone, everything that was transpiring was a tad baffling.

“But why would they give us their house? I mean, who does that?” I pestered again.

“Kyun? Coursemate hai.” Husband says, in a matter of fact tone. Like it’s the most natural thing in the world, to open one’s house for three strangers.

What I would soon learn is that the phrase, “Coursemate hai” is a reasonable explanation for anything among the men and women in the army. No favour is too much. Someone needs the car for a day? Done. Someone needs to be dropped at the airport? Done. Visit an injured friend every time you are in the city? Of course. And these are only the most basic, the tangible examples. In these two years, I have not seen a single person hesitate and always it’s just a matter of a phone call or even a text message. I would wonder sometimes. Was it because they stay away from their families and have only each other to lean on that makes these people’s hearts grow ten times bigger? What are these men and women even made of?  People who are brave and simple and with a generosity of spirit that I had never seen before. (You might think that I have rose- tinted glasses on, Dear Readers. However, I know and understand certain criticisms levelled against this institution. In fact, I have had things to criticize about the army too. Also, I am not someone who indulges in or appreciates jingoistic nationalism. But all said and done, I have to say that the army has my heart.)

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Photo by Shruti Sharma.

 

But I digress. To go back to my original story of the two people who showed me before anyone else what it means to be a part of the army family. After a week of staying at their place, I didn’t know how to say thank you. Sometimes words encompass everything and at other times, they even fall short of holding a simple emotion – of gratitude. I didn’t know what my note should say, so I didn’t write one. A gift did not cut it either. But since then, I have told this story to anyone who would listen, always with a silent note of gratitude.

So, my first blog post is my inelegant attempt to say thank you. Thank you for showing

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Photo by Abhilash Panicker. 

rather than telling me about the big and warm and generous heart of the army. Thank you for helping me enter into this world with an important lesson of kindness. Thank you because later when we asked a coursemate and his pregnant wife to stay at our place when we were away, we had a great example to follow. Thank you to the two strangers who are now friends. Thank you, Deepika and Abhilash.

 

Two women and a handful of words!

Great stories happen to those who can tell them, was the hope we carried in our hearts all through childhood and teenage. Eventually, we realized, great stories happen to those who can live them.2017-05-09-PHOTO-00001621

So who is this “we” you ask? We are two bibliophiles, Deepika Divekar-Panicker and Sashwati Bora who became friends over a shared love of words, opinions and a cuppa (tea for one, coffee for the other). Not to mention, the bond that forms between two proud army wives living through long-distance relationships.

Though we’ve met a total of about 3 times, our social media shenanigans and then the more personal chats soon told us that each of us harbored a special love for stories. Spinning stories comes to us also because of our respective professions (one of the many since we have recently discovered that we are Janes of many trades).

A self- proclaimed quotes-hanger, feminist and fictionista, Sashwati packs a punch in the FullSizeRenderlit and editorial department, with books being her bread and butter and more importantly, tea. Deepika, on the other hand, is a lawyer by day, moonlights as a Book-woman, and knows for a fact that words and stories can get you into and out of some serious trouble.

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So here we are, two women with our two cents on life, love and a glass or two of Chardonnay. We are quirky, curious and a tad bit crazy. Our stories might amuse you or provoke, you might roll your eyes or you might grin from ear to ear! We will write about how we feel, what we think and why we do.

So bring out your wine glasses, make do with tea cups or even steel tumblers. But keep the flimsy paper cups away. Because papercupsarenotforchardonnay!

Love,

Deepika

May 9, 2017