Mar 23, 2015

'Just as I am'

The other day, I was furiously hunting for caption  for my presentation on the college Women’s Cell when I overheard a bunch of my male colleagues talking about being an ‘ideal man’ for girls.  One colleague said, “You just have to accept them just the way they are. Just let them be however they want to be. After all, every woman wants a man who accepts them just as they are!!”

I was up to my neck with work for the upcoming program but curiosity got the best of me. And without me realizing it, that old thinking cap flew out of nowhere and snugly fits itself into my well groomed-formal- Monday-hair. Statistics and the inspirational speeches on International Women’s Day flew out of the window as four words kept plaguing my mind. JUST AS I AM.

If you ask any girl about her ideal man, there is one line which you must always brace yourself to hear. “Someone who accepts me just as I am”

I don’t beg to differ and I’m no rebel without a cause. But need I wash my dirty linen in public and stress on the fact that I failed (humiliatingly so!) on a relationship (of five years) with a person who accepts me ‘just as I am’?

I was once the starry-eyed girl who dreamt of finding a man who accepts me ‘just as I am’. But after the relationship headed for a doom, I buried that girl on wounded knees. Burying her was the best decision I have made in my life.

Looking back, I never fully blamed the failure of our relationship on him because the ‘just as I am’ me wasn't someone you would want to spend the rest of your life with. The ‘just as I am’ me was an 'unnegotiably' proud individual inflicted with the disease of self-righteousness. Even I would never settle for the ‘just as I am’ me. ‘Just as I am’ refuses to compromise, refuses to budge or walk in the other person’s shoes. ‘Just as I am’ refuses to grow up or change for the better because she believes that she is already the best just as she is. Pride never allows progress with ‘just as I am’. 'Just as I am' is an island. She's not fit for a relationship. 

It takes a fatal heartbreak and hitting rockbottom to make me realize that I never want to spent the rest of my life with someone who accepts me ‘just as I am’. Because ‘just as I am’ me has never been matured enough, responsible enough and selfless enough to be a half of a whole.

I told myself, if I ever fall in love again, I would fall for someone who inspires the ‘best I can be’; someone who will work with me to grow into a better, responsible and a more matured person.

I don’t remember falling ‘head over heels’ in love with my husband. In fact, I don’t remember ‘falling’ ever. I do remember growing in love with him. In fact, we still are, every day. Each new day rises with a tiny new reason for me to love him.

My husband deserves my best. He doesn't deserve a stagnant person who’s hell bent on being accepted ‘just as she is’.  My husband deserves a selfless wife whose attitude and world is not limited to her ‘queendom’.

I am not perfect ‘just as i am’. I know I’ll never be; yet I can still work on changing myself for the better. ‘Best I can be’ accepts that change because she is selfless and matured and is strong enough to bend with the wind. I’d be ‘best i can be’ anyday.

‘Best I can be’ is selfless while ‘Just as I am’ is self centric.
‘Best I can be’ makes a better half while ‘Just as I am’ makes a bitter half.

So I turned to my colleagues and bluntly told them so. In my opinion, an ideal man is someone who inspires the ‘best I can be’ in any girl rather than someone who accepts the ‘just as I am’ girl.

They all look at me.
Flabbergasted .

A second of eerie silence.

Then all of them started speaking at the same time.
“But it doesn’t always work that way”
“You really think so???”
“But you have always been the weird one with the weird outlook!!”
“Dang! I should’ve married you instead!”

I went back to my laptop. Smug. Nose in the air.

I took the last comment as a compliment.

Who would you be or who would you choose? 

Jan 12, 2015

Six Months: A Love Story

It all started on an icy Delhi morning in January a couple of years ago. I was up all night praying on the hostel rooftop, my blanket firmly wrapped around me. My life, at that instant, was in a deep turmoil. It had been a year after I went through a deep heartbreak and mourning the death of a relationship that I invested my heart and soul upon. After a year, the mourning still couldn't stop and I still didn't have the strength to pick up my pieces and get on my feet. I had given up entirely on relationships and it was that morning that I announced my plans to my God. My prayers were personal and quiet; a deep cry from the depths of a broken soul to her Maker. It was at that moment when God spoke to me through Genesis 24; a Promise that God gave me when my skies were dark and gray. I buried the Promise in my heart while I was staunch on living my whole life as a single woman. 

June, Last year. Seventeen months after God gave me the Promise. I was waiting for my turn at a job interview at a small town, 5 hours away from home. My life had changed rapidly during the past year. I packed up my bags and left the city I called home for seven years. I moved back with my family and spend a year seeking the Lord on what was supposed to be my next step. I believed God called me for this job – a teaching job in a college run by the church. My heart has always been for the unreached and I’ve set my heart to go on a full time mission. But for what reason did God call me for this job, I didn’t know; I’ve always loved teaching, yet why this town and this college I didn’t know. The pay isn’t great, I didn’t have family in this town and my dad was against me moving away from home, yet again. In fact, the previous evening, I reached Lunglei with a backpack, a phone number of the parents of an old college friend and a hope soaring in my heart that God will lead my way. I sat quietly looking around at the other candidates, some confident and some looking pale and nervous. I prayed quietly, reassuring myself that nothing will stand in my way if God leads it. There I was, stepping out in blind faith.

I met the man who would be my husband that evening.

An old friend, knowing I was in town, paid me a visit and he brought his friend along. Not because he wanted to introduce us, but because he didn’t have a ride! If you expect sparks to fly or a very clich├ęd “Love at first sight”, you’d be deeply disappointed. The only thing I remembered about him was that he was tall and he wore spects. We however exchanged phone numbers out of cordiality and never used it or even tried. I left for home the next day after I got rejected for the job. My dad was happy while my pride was hurt. I’ve never taken rejection lightly and quietly prepared myself for the next move, still not understanding why I would get rejected when I was so sure that it was God himself who led me to that place.

The tall person I met in Lunglei was the very last thing on my mind.

Two weeks later, on a rainy Sunday morning, I received a phone call from a person who politely told me that the Committee had decided to open a new post for the very same job I applied for and that they wanted me to fill the post. God made a way when there seems to be no way. 

The very next day, I received yet another phone call from the tall person nervously telling me that God told him during his quiet time the previous night that I am going to be his wife....


I flew into rage.

In my anger, told my cousin that I’d reject the job and that I’d never move to Lunglei. I remember my exact words, “The guts he has. We met once and he had the nerves to say such things to me. If what he said is really true, then God will speak to me too. I will never never never be another case of ‘gospel-blackmail’ ”. In fact, mentally I cancelled all my plans. Committing myself to another relationship is the very last thing on my mind. I’ve already accepted the fact that I will be single and spend my days somewhere in a mission field.

However during my quiet time two days later, God renewed the Promise that I buried in my heart a year ago. Genesis 24 came alive. It was our very own story. At that moment, I knew I was Rebekah – an answer to a servant’s prayer. 

However, God gave me a choice.

Then they said,” Let’s call the girl and ask her about it.” So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?” Genesis 24:57

I stepped out in faith.

This time, it was my turn to make a phone call.

I moved to Lunglei, joined work and he took me to meet his family. By late October, we were planning a wedding. Both our families couldn’t be more contented. We met in June, we married in December. And we both knew without God we would never make a whole. In fact, I believe, this is and will forever be our biggest strength. Friends often ask me if I've ever doubted him. After all, I knew him for only six months. God created my husband, He made him and He knew him before the beginning of time. Just like He knew me. And God, in all His wisdom, presented a man before me and spoke to both of us. Who am I to say otherwise??? 

Now, we are making a home in a little white house on a hill; facing challenges together everyday. We are both imperfect humans. He has had his past and I have mine. And it’s hardly anything to be proud of. But we both believe we can overcome our past demons with God on our side.

Like I’ve said, I arrived in Lunglei six months ago believing I heard God’s voice. My bank account was on minimum balance and I had no one to call my own. Today, I have a husband, a home, a family, a job and I’ve made this town my home.

Two weeks before our wedding, my cousin called me up and asked what he’s like. I described him as best as I could.

 She squealed with delight “U Sen, he literally ticked off your list.”
“List? What list?”
“The list you made back in college on the qualities you wanted for a partner. I remember you used to pray about it”

I froze.

He.Did. Tick.Out.the.List.

Allow God to write your story. Most importantly, you love story. 

Believe me, He’s a better Author than you ever will be.

Aug 13, 2014

From Lunglei, With Love

She smiled at me.

Her eyes were brown and a lot darker than her uniform. Her pigtails were mismatched and she was perched on the back of a scooter with her brother behind her. Her cheeks were ruddy pink and when she smiled, her eyes were suddenly transformed into little slits of crescents.

Little did I know that a smile of an unknown child would make my day!

It was my usual walk - just a five minute uphill walk to college. However that day I was tired… I haven’t slept well in weeks and my sinusitis haven’t been showing mercy. I burnt my hand badly while cooking that morning and things in the family haven’t been the best with the news of an old aunt’s demise in Aizawl a few hours before sunrise. Yet, little did I know that the smile of a little schoolgirl at Falkawn Crossing would make my day. I smiled to myself as I walked up towards college.

It’s been a month since I’ve moved to Lunglei, a little sleepy town down south. After exactly 11 months at home, I am yet on the move again.I got a job offer from this Christian college and here I am now in Lunglei, lodging with the family of my best friend in college (who now lives in Bhutan) and sprinting on my way to work each morning.

I love my job.  My students have a way of getting through to this heart and I am so eager to go to work each morning. My colleagues are wonderful to work with.  If I’m not taking class, I’d bein the library catching up on readings or conversing in the faculty room with my co-workers, powdering my oily nose or dancing before the faculty room’s huge mirror which makes my Barbie-like figure look like a fat-mama joke! (Heh!! I’m kidding! I have a fat mama-like figure anyway! :D )

Me being me :  Fooling around with a skit prop for College Fresher's day!! 

There are so many things I love about this town. I can’t mention them all. But the fact it’s just five hours away from home and that traffic is minimal in this town adds up to it. If I ever get homesick, I can just hop into a cab and go home for a weekend. But I’ve never resorted to such an act just as yet.

The weather in this town is as unpredictable as my mood. It’ll be all bright and sunny in the mornings and then suddenly, it gets dark and rainy in the evenings. Sometimes the fog here at Lunglei gets me all gloomy, once it starts covering the hills. But most of the time, I’m thankful that I no longer live in the scorching heat of the Capital. It’s a bit too humid to my liking at times and the weather here at Lunglei has been very hard on my skin, my sinus and my bronchi. Why!! I’ve just been diagnosed with allergic bronchitis yesterday!!  But nonetheless, it’s good for my heart and my soul. Leitlangpui is indeed a ‘Mount of Transfiguration’ for my physical and emotional being. I am so at peace here despite my pimples refusing to show mercy!!

The view from the our Faculty Room. I lodge somewhere down there!
But love dawns!!

I am seeing someone again... after two and a half years of refusing to go out on a single date. There were times when friends and family would try to convince me to meet someone. I would bluntly refuse saying that I am not ready. After failing miserably in a five year long relationship, I’ve become a cynic to the matters of the heart. Though I’ve told myself a number of times that failure, no matter how huge it may be, should not maim me or leave me an emotional cripple. I guess I never really convinced myself... until I met him. He’s an imperfect person… a broken person (to be more precise!!) and we would never complete each other without our “Third Cord” which somehow makes it all the more better. The good thing about us is that we share the same dreams, the same goals and we speak the same heart language! Let’s just say, the best thing about us is Jesus Christ.

God is good.

A year ago, I was scorching in the heat of the Capital; house- sitting for a friend’s family for the summer; still licking the wounds of a broken heart and listening to music whose lyrics sound more foreign than Greek and Latin to me.

A year later, here I am in Lunglei, thinking of ways to invent a special umbrella which would keep me dry from the windy rain; planting squash and pumpkin in the kitchen garden; singing in a choir led by my all-time-favourite Mizo Gospel composer; wearing boots in August (because it’s actually cold enough) and meeting new people every day.

And when things don’t go too well, little delights appear!!! Like the brown-eyed girl with that smile! God is good!!

So here’s a bright ‘Hello’ after going off radar for a long time.

New Beginnings are beautiful. Indeed!!

From Lunglei, With Love.

May 19, 2014

Against the Norm: Dreaming in Colours!

We are related by marriage. A very recent one. Her blood married my blood. She is a nice, soft spoken lady. She wouldn’t even hurt a fly. We were just on a visit to her house when she started “Why don’t you write one of these MPSC exams? You are a very smart girl. I’m sure you’d get through it with flying colours.” Since she was genuinely being nice, I decided to be nice to her too. So I smiled my sweetest, nod my head repetitively and tuned out her voice in my head.

Exactly three hours later, I was with my cousin, curled up in a sofa, balancing my three week-old niece on my knees, and sipping on a cup of green tea. She was folding blankets when out of the blue, she started “Sen, why don’t you appear in one of these MPSC exams? It’s so much better than what you’re planning on doing now”.
She is my cousin.
I grew up with her; fought with her, laughed and cried with her. I lost sleep over the last three weeks, smelling of breast milk, baby vomit and baby poop taking care of her newborn. Heck! I even let her pop my shoulder pimples (TMI much??) She’s the closest thing I’ll ever have to a sister and I know she can handle my worst. So I let the wave wash over me.

“Go write the exam if you’re so keen on it”
How can I? I have three kids already. And I’m not as smart as you are
“Well, thank you but then, go ask your husband”
He IS writing the exam
“Well, good for you”
I was quiet, sipping on my green tea. Being the big sister that she is, she sensed my inner frown.
Well, Sen, I’m only saying that because I care about you
“Thank you very much. But in the future, please do not care for me in such a way”
I know I was rude. She mumbled to herself

You’re so stubborn
I smirked. Silence.
“I’m just saying you should take the exam. You don’t have to take the job if you don’t want to
Then all hell broke loose.
“ 'If I don’t want?', then how about this? I don’t want to sit for the exam and I don’t want the job. And I don’t know why I am having this conversation with you. You have a husband and three kids you can bully regarding career choices, why me?”
I got up laying the baby back in her crib. She stirred but didn’t wake up. My cousin glared at me.
“I’m going home. And I’m not spending the night here. Be alone with your baby for a night and ponder over what you say in the wee hours of the morning when the baby wakes you up for a diaper change” I stormed out sulking as if I’m the most misunderstood person in the world. Drama Queen much?!! I know it’s only a matter of a few hours before I rush back into their home to kiss my niece and her squishy cheeks.

I am just so sick of such questions or arguments that I even resorted to airing out my frustrations on my social networking profile. The responses are hilarious, by the way. And I believe it’s safe to say that I’m not the only one in our generation who goes through this! Hallelujah… I’m not alone!

There’s exactly one thing that our Mizo parents and their generation are obsessed about, regarding career choices. “To be an IAS officer” or “To be an MCS officer”.  And children who get good grades in school are somehow lulled into that career choice. And not many make it that far!! Hats off to all those who make it through. It’s a highly respected job, deemed by society and will definitely give you a very comfortable life… financially. I'm not against the career in general. 

But I don’t think there anything wrong with me when I say I don’t want such a job or any desk-job in general. The nature of the job just doesn’t entice me. Of course, it’ll have its perks. But I don’t want to give signatures and move files from one table to another for a living.

I know what I want.
I want to teach. It’s in my blood, I must say, with a high school teacher as a mother and a grandfather who retired as a primary school teacher. People who have influenced me in my life have mostly been my teachers and I grew up admiring teachers both at home and at school. Besides, teaching gives me a deep sense of satisfaction, self-respect and self-gratification – a sense of feeling that I’m not wasting away my time and that I’m genuinely helping some young person open their mind and eyes to the world and the mysteries that comes with it. I knew my years as a Sunday school teacher were not wasted when my kids cried and held on to me when I was to relocate. That was something worth cherishing. I know that taking up a career as a teacher won’t be as financially lucrative as that of a govt. officer, but isn’t this my life? Am I not supposed to make my own choices? Good or bad. And suffer the consequences if I make a bad choice?

Going for overseas missions have always, always been in my heart. For the past decade, I’ve always suppressed that passion because I’ve had other priorities. But now, I believe, I’ve set my priorities right. I’m going back to my first love and my passion. J.  I’ve talked to my dad about it a year ago and surprisingly, he supported me. And recently whenever I talk to aunts or cousins about it, no matter how ‘church-going’ or ‘mission-minded’ they may be, the questions and comments always came back to square one...

“What about getting married? Aren’t you dating anyone? Wait, I have to introduce you to this young man….”
“So this means you’ll end up marrying someone from outside the community?”
“But then you’ll have to leave home and Aizawl and your Dad?”
“Are you sure? Don’t take sudden decisions. You can serve God here in the local church too”

For a thoroughly impatient person like me, it can get very frustrating!! I do respect marriage and I wholly believe in it. So much that I’m definitely not getting married just because I’m scared of being alone or because everyone I know is getting married. (Which reminds me – a cousin and a close friend are getting married on the same Thursday on different towns. DILEMMA!!) I have way too much ego and am way too stubborn for that! I’ll never settle for anything (or anyone) less than God’s best! And if I’m wrong, allow me to bleed and suffer the consequences when I’m old, poor and grey and all alone with no offspring to care for me!

As a Mizo woman, I know that life as a married woman in our society would be more respected, deemed and more accepted than that of an unmarried woman; but don’t you dare tell me that an unmarried woman is incomplete. My completion is in Christ and not in a husband!! (There I go again! Yeah! **gives oneself a mental high-five** I just couldn’t resist it! :)  :)  )

The Psalmist said “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years…” (Psalms 90:10). On another far end, Chetan Bhagat  once said  If we are lucky, we may last another 50 years. And 50 years is just 2,500 weekends” Wait how old am I again?? I don’t even have 1200 weekends left if I live to be fifty. And I’m a few years shy of half my life if I live to be 70.

Even if the Psalms or Chetan Bhagat fail to make a point to you, I don’t believe I need to clarify on the uncertainty of life itself or how long it's gonna last. Well if I do, then I suggest you take a humbling walk in your local graveyard one fine evening, to see at what age people die with what reasons. In other words, life is too short. Life is too short to waste it away on a job you hate. It’s too short to fritter it away denying yourself your passion and it’s definitely too short to waste it away trying to please other people and hurting yourself in the process. Remember Dr. Suess’s famous “Those who mind won’t matter, and those who matter won’t mind”. I have just one life to live. And I have no intention of living out the unfulfilled dreams of my parents or aunts or spend my years attempting to please all those people who never really mattered anyway. I have a team that I do listen to… the team of my head, my heart and the word of God.

So here I am again, after a 1500 word count... I believe I am created with this head and heart and all the things that happened in my past, be it good or bad, have helped shaped me into the person I am today. And this person, today, have dreams… so many dreams. Some never see the light of day, some got shattered along the way and some are just being born or taking shape.

But I dream in colours.

I find no sin in being different or refusing to conform to a norm. I’m no heretic for dreaming in impossibly bright vivid colours. I’m blessed with these colours and I refuse to let anyone tone down them down or paint them otherwise... 

May 7, 2014

Rainy Days and Untold Stories

I’ve always loved rainy days… especially when I don’t have to go to work or venture out.

I fell in love with steaming mugs of black coffee by foggy windows. It only gets better when your hair is still wet from the shower and you are wrapped in a fluffy blanket. Oh how I loved rainy days!

There was a time in my life when the rain inspired me. Back in Delhi, when it rains I either dance or write. Yep!! I have a ritual whenever monsoon hits the capital - A rain-dance on the hostel rooftops until I catch a bad cold. Whenever the sound of rain hits the scorching courtyard, I’d run outside to smell the freshly-showered wet earth – one of the most pleasant smells in the world.

Or I’d write.
Rain would always bring out the storyteller in me. Stories about past, life and love would silently be hummed from my fingertips to the keyboard in Font Calibri(Body) size 11. Sitting next to a foggy window with a steaming cup of coffee (or green tea on occasional health conscious days), words would flow, tunes would suddenly arise in my head and untold stories would be told.

But those were days of long ago…

I woke up to rain this morning as I snuggled up in my blanket. (Yes! I wear blankets in May! The perks of living in a hill station.) After my usual hour with my Maker with a bible on my knee, I sat at my couch near the window wishing that I’d not waste the rain. It’s too cold for a rain-dance, and choir competition’s coming up, so I can’t afford to catch a cold. So I took out my notebook wishing some untold story would materialize.
It didn’t.

So I guess I zoned out for a good hour until my nephew knocked on my door to tell me that brunch was served. Yep! I wasted the whole morning zoning out!

Mornings like this makes me realize how just 8 months and a change of location have changed me. I hardly write or find the time to write. I hardly have time to listen to myself or my thoughts!

Church and social activities take so much of my time that sometimes I can’t find the time to catch up with my nieces. I can forget about having an ‘alone time’ to reflect on my own!! Believe it or not! I am free only on Friday evenings but even Fridays are often taken away by meetings. Other nights are taken by church services, compulsory choir practices and whatnots. I hope I am not disrespecting or insulting the church or anyone when I say that church activities have taken a toll on my personal relationship with God… sadly, for the worse!! I am just so busy and tired from all the running around that sometimes I can’t find the time to spend with my Maker, talking to Him or just listening to Him!

And I am thoroughly ashamed to say that there are days when I don’t even crave for my time with my Maker anymore. It’s like, you are in a relationship with someone you don’t make the time for, that slowly you realized you are accustomed and sadly, comfortable living your everydays without that person. I don’t want to be in such a relationship with my Jewish Carpenter!! I have no one to blame but myself! I’m definitely not trying hard enough!! I have to make changes!!

Sometimes Mizo Christianity disappoints me! A lot! A couple of weeks ago, we had a Retreat for the Pastorate Choir. (I know, I know… only 8 months in Aizawl and already a member of the Pastorate Choir? I still ask the question myself!) It embarrasses me to no end that hardly any of the members have a regular quiet time, my own self included. I wonder, with the ridiculously little time we spent with our Maker, how can we sing ‘in the Spirit’ or expect our light to shine?!! We hardly have ‘light’ or take time to light our feeble little candle to begin with!!

A work colleague once asked me if I know a certain someone from my church –  a very active member of the Youth and also a member of a renown denominational choir in Aizawl. Then he added “Down South, we know him as Zual-Nam-Nileng-a, Zual-zu-heh-a, Zual-‘thih-ka-ngam’-a (Yep! I changed the name for privacy reasons). Now when I see him on TV with his choir, I can’t help but judge. I’m a bad person. Ain’t I??” I didn’t have an answer. I probably never will…

We have been deceived thoroughly!! And we still allow ourselves to be deceived. We judge a book by its cover over and over again that we don’t know how else to view a book! What's worse, we weigh ourselves with the pathetic scale of that same 'book cover logic' that we are so contented as long as we wear our best on Sunday services. And I say again, we have been deceived!! Thoroughly so!!

I’ve always loved rainy days… especially when I don’t have to go to work or venture out.

I’ve always loved rainy days because rainy days bring out the storyteller in me. The rain, today, sadly brings out a story of frustration, of masks worn and the lack of depth and authenticity in our church and in our Faith.

But there are two sides to every story.

And this is just my side of the story.

What’s your story?