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?