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Tying the Knot— Weddings and Marriages

Spark Word.World.Wisdom July 2011

05 July 2011

Spark—July 2011: The Team

Contributors: Anupama Krishnakumar Jai Chabria Jeevanjyoti Chakraborty Maheswaran Sathiamoorthy

Dear Reader, ‘Tying the Knot—Weddings and Marriages’! Yes, we are all about this interesting topic— one that we can never tire of discussing, this month! We discuss all the fanfare that comes with a wedding and the different aspects of marriage as an institution! And this month’s special is our ‘Voices of the Month’! For the first time ever in Spark, we feature a cartoonist, a photographer and an artist! Yes, their work beautifully projects our theme for this month!

Sandhya Ramachandran

Just get going and catch all the wonderful contributions in the edition. Don’t forget to let us know what you thought of this issue of Spark. Mail us at

Swetha Ramachandran

Vani Viswanathan

We will see you next month with yet another interesting edition!

Meera Sundararajan Parth Pandya Ramya Shankar

Yayaati Joshi Voices of the Month: Maniyarasan Rajendran

Till then, goodbye and God bless!

Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad


Usha Shantharam

Spark Editorial Team

Concept, Editing, Design: Anupama Krishnakumar Vani Viswanathan

Coverpage pictures: Dilip Muralidharan, NJ


Letter to a Miss Special Unknown by Jeevanjyoti Chakraborty The Witnesses by Parth Pandya Marriage Positive! - Cartoons by Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad Of Weddings and Pomposity by Ramya Shankar Forever Marriages—The Journey Together by Jai Chabria Capturing Wedding Moments—Interview with Maniyarasan Rajendran Great Expectations by Meera Sundararajan Sakhi by Anupama Krishnakumar The Bride—Paintings by Usha Shantharam What Sisters are for! by Vani Viswanathan Battling the Wedding Boredom by Swetha Ramachandran The Joy of Togetherness by Maheswaran Sathiamoorthy A Conversation with Lady Fortuna by Yayaati Joshi

Letter to a Miss Special Unknown Fiction by Jeevanjyoti Chakraborty

What happens when a wife discovers a love letter that her husband had written long ago? Jeevanjyoti Chakraborty unravels the emotions and the strange truth of a marriage through a story.

“What is this? What is the meaning of this? After all these years... I have to see this... I can’t believe you would keep this from me...” Asha’s voice had turned that familiar hoarse that always indicated with portentous infallibility that she was clearly and presently agitated. But the agitation and the aggression had an added quality this time, something which the target of her latest invective – Satya, her husband, just could not recognise. He had seen her tired, frustrated, irritated. He had learnt to handle her irrational fears. He had grown accustomed to her compulsive need to “portray” her family – their family – as the unrealistic epitome of textbook decency as if the rest of the world – more so their immediate neighbours – were the constant judges of a never-ending reality show capturing each and every moment of their family. But this was different from all that. There was a grievous foreboding in that confused bunch of angry words beyond those everyday cosmetic anxieties. So Satya did what every man learns to do, in the face of blinding bewilderment, courtesy the rites of passage from boyhood to manhood – he played it cool. Nonchalantly and with that cultured steady voice, Satya asked his wife, “What’s wrong? What’s the meaning of what? What are you talking about?” “Don’t pretend you don’t know what this is... tell me you don’t recognize this letter ... or whatever fragment is left of it... I know it is your writing... go on ... have a look at it... tell me!” Satya had halfexpected this escalation of agitation. But the ominous-looking scrap in Asha’s extended hand caught him off-guard. No matter what it was going to reveal itself to be, that limp, yellowing delicate relic was, in all its raw reality, a hard unmistakable justification of his wife’s ire. Asha had drawn the lines of battle, and that ancient-looking “letter” was challenging Satya to face the truth. Still, valiantly displaying the cool facade while every fibre of his body willed him on to wrench it from his wife with a nervous frenzy, Satya gently took the “letter”. Half a glance later, his heart, at once, leapt with chivalrous joy. Another half a glance later, old friend Experience eclipsed that glorious light of relief, and his heart sank. He then understood that strange quality in Asha’s voice. It was of sad betrayal. The cool facade melted away as he stood silently, shivering with cold sweat, his eyes transfixed on his own writing and his thoughts far, far away. This was a new kind of battle. And he had no idea how to wage this. And retreat – so unexceptionally injurious to ego but effective in hopeless situations - was not even an option here. He would have to fight this one out. The harbinger of this strange turn of events – that innocuous looking scrap, was a torn out page from a diary. The broken corner still showed the year. It was from twelve years ago. Three years before Satya had married Asha. It was a love letter. A different kind of love letter that was addressed to his future wife – whoever she turned out to be;

for Satya had not even met Asha then! At that particular stage of his life, he had felt the fresh excitement brewed up by his parents and responsible relatives as they discussed his marriage arrangements with increasing regularity. The image of that still unknown girl he would, one day, start living the rest of his life with ... seemed very fancifully romantic. Until one day, buoyed by the delicate passion of recently discovered romanticism, he decided to pen a love letter to his would-be wife. To rationalize this strange act, he told himself that this would be the only chance he would ever have of actually writing a love letter – after all, every boy should write at least one in his lifetime! Plus, how wonderfully surprising and romantic it would be when he actually showed this to his wife later in that magical married life he would be entering soon. What better gift could he give to that special girl who was waiting for him in the future! Ah... the romance of his youth... that mysterious, innocent love. This was the stuff of movies – he backed himself. And he penned that letter pouring into it, for her – his future wife – his heart and soul; surrendering himself to her love, and promising to honour and protect her. He had indeed fallen in love with his future wife. She just didn’t know it yet! He tore away those three pages and put them in his “Important stuff” box. And, then, like so many romantic escapades of childhood whose foibles extend in no small measure to one’s youth, he forgot about that letter. Reality had caught up with him. And when he married Asha, three years later, those three pages of youthful chivalry lay waiting in vacant despair of their forgotten magic. In the mean time, “Important stuff” had gotten to be more than a boxful which led to their strategic division into two boxes, the partition being swiftly executed with little care to spare. For, Time and Life had ensured that ‘just-Nostalgic’ supplanted ‘Important’ and the stuff therein got shoved back into the dusty corners of past relevance. Yet, when treated with contempt, the past carries enough potency to lie waiting with vengeful agony at some corner of the future. And that is exactly what happened. What should have come as a purely delightful surprise to Asha, had, instead, jolted their steady, uneventful life into unwanted agitation. The partition of that once-important stuff into two separate boxes had separated the three pages of Satya’s letter. The first two went into one box while the last fragment, the inanimate protagonist of our strange story, went into the other. What Asha found was this last fragment. With all the anxiety and irrational irritancy of his wife that Satya could not wish away, he just could not hold her unreasonably culpable for the anger and betrayal she felt when she read these last words of his in that “love letter”: “... many nights, I have dreamt of you and held you in my arms. Sang to the stars and danced with you on fragrant rivers of Eden. You build a paradise around me. I have felt I can conquer all sadness and gloom with you by my side. You are my Muse and my strength. Just be by my side. Always and always.

Yours to be and forever, Satya” It was obvious to Satya that, in his wife’s eyes, this looked like a love letter to some girl he had been with before their marriage. Even if she was kind enough to understand his romantic attachments before he met her, it was clearly unacceptable that he had conveniently forgotten to mention this mysterious “Muse” of his all these years. That, despite those protestations of honesty and open truthfulness, he would keep this away from Asha was evident proof that this Muse of his was not yet a thing of the past. Thanks to his careless memory, this magical thing he had so carefully concocted in a heady evening of romantic passion 12 years ago, had come back to cast its evil spell. Whatever it was, an innocent letter no longer it was. Satya knew Asha deserved an explanation. Probably not. For what she really needed... even more importantly, what he really needed were those first two pages of his sullied innocence. Asha had stood silent all this while —seething with bruised trust, wishing this had never happened. The stark silence of Satya with his cold sweat threw her heart into agonizing turmoil. Say something ... anything... she wanted her fears to be wrong. Yet, how could they be? For here was hard evidence that her husband was no common bore, this was a Satya she had never seen, he had never waxed eloquent even during the honeymoon period. Why couldn’t Asha be his Muse? Didn’t he feel any of that chivalrous himself with her? Or, was it her that had killed the old romantic Satya? The pain of his silence was unbearable. “So... what is it? Care to explain?” Satya could just barely manage a “Yes.” Then slowly, gingerly, he told her of that letter he had written long ago hoping that Asha could find the barest smidgen of truth in what appeared, even to him, the most incredible story. He knew housewife Asha to be better than a gullible simpleton. Asha, for her part, did not mind the story ... she desperately needed something to believe in. At least, here, Satya was giving her something that she, even with all the hardened reasoning she had built in her arsenal, could not logically deny. “So, where are those two pages?” “Umm... I think I have to call Ma. She had put away those boxes.” So the drama moved on from the minds of this couple to the physical act of fishing out two relics from another generation. Just two pages of paper on which depended trust, love, honour and respect. Their son came home to distraught parents. Enquiries elicited grave “Not now”s. Everyone seemed purposefully intent on recovering some long lost treasure, which to the eight-year-old seemed something exciting. Of course, that resulted in lunch being served late which, however, was not so exciting. Finally, with the excite-

ment of lost-at-sea crewmen, came the desperate “Ahoy”. It was Satya who found those golden folios tucked away, safer than he had actually anticipated... As Asha sat down to read what promised to be the vindication of that delightful-if-indeed-true story of her husband, Satya heard a barely audible sigh ... He immediately knew that Asha had read his first line: “My Dearest Future Wife,”... his innocence would, after all, remain unsullied. In the mind of Asha, however, another battle cry had taken seed by the time she finished reading again – with covert joy this time – that ominous third page... “So, what happened to that old you? Did I do something ... And if indeed I am your Muse... why can’t you make me feel like one? I mean this is ridiculous... I have heard people growing in love... you just went dry... ” Satya, relieved and amused at this whole joke that his own past self had managed to pull on him, now lovingly gazed at the woman venting the nervous release of her own anxiety through a venomous earful. Then he sensed an almost imperceptible crack in her voice. And, finally that familiar glisten in her eyes. And then the most magical thing happened. That plump face brought on by age and inattentive care to maintaining a “girlish beauty” started melting away. The double chin disappeared. The random streaks vanished. He took a step forward and she turned and looked away. Her battle cry was a muffled choke now. He touched her. That old touch he hadn’t used in ages. That touch which a woman allows only to him with whom she feels the safest and the most at home with. The last vestiges of years of hard family life dissolved away between them. He turned her with a gentle firmness and took her in his arms while precious streams carried away her own guilt at all the suspicion and bitterness she had felt. As she found herself uncontrollably melting into him, she clutched his shirt. Finally, she directly looked at his face, and with the same magic that Satya had moments ago rediscovered his young wife, she saw that young Satya once again. The love letter had, after all, kept its promise of magic. It had managed to unite two lovers who with all the bickering, the dryness and the boredom of traditional, routine, passionless family life, never knew that they had always been in love! A strangely warm and childishly pure love. That had been there always and always, and was to be forever.

The Witnesses Poetry by Parth Pandya The sweeper signals a revival Of activities at the hall; he quickly clears the entrance of the previous night’s debris.

The mendicants line up outside their torn clothes highlighting the contrast between revelry and misery.

These familiar players take guard outside, as new faces fulfill the time-worn roles inside.

The bride, obsessed with her make-up The groom, repeating sholkas he doesn’t understand The parents, too stressed to realize what’s happening The elders, brimming with a false sense of importance The priest, speeding it all up to run to his next assignment The photographer, directing the proceedings with a lit baton The guests, living up to social compulsions piled on over the years.

From the hungry pack outside that watches with constant cynicism, a little disheveled head runs afoul.

Through a dusty, tinted window, she watches the rituals with wide eyes, dreaming to someday have a grand pretense of her own.

Picture by patrix99

Marriage Positive! Come on, stop cribbing about marriage and look at these cartoons. Really, married life can be so much fun! Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad ‘s cartoon strips are sure to leave you laughing away! Oormila is one of our ‘Voices of the Month’.

“Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad is an artist and a writer. She is also an occasional pianist and also does art commissions for private collectors as well as corporates. She is a full-time mom who manages to paint, grabbing snippets of free time. Oormila's cartoon strips are drawn from everyday conversations and situations her family faces. You will be sure to identify with them! To see more of Oormila's work and follow her updates, visit her Facebook page.�

All cartoons Š Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad, 2011

Of Weddings and Pomposity Non-fiction by Ramya Shankar Traditional TamBrahm weddings are a stylish affair these days, what with everything appearing choreographed. In fact, down South, marriages are absorbing many North Indian traditions including Mehndi. Ramya Shankar discusses the new face of TamBrahm weddings. Facebook and Twitter are probably the two major social windows to my life in the U.S. Come summer, my news feed is filled with event invites to a dozen weddings, mass photo uploads of aforementioned events and status messages verbose with praises for the spouse. Since my social life has been reduced to these Facebook and Twitter updates, I spend enormous amounts of time gawking (read stalking) at friends’ photos on Facebook. The once lanky girl with the oiled hair effortlessly works a smart Posh Spice bob and wears designer labels. The pimple-faced, sacred-ash smeared boy sports a curly mane large enough to house half a dozen sparrows. He is almost certain to sport a tattoo on his arm. Of course, it would be the run-of-the-mill sun or some profound Chinese symbol that nobody (including him) knows what it means. He sports a stiff white poonal, which in the future, would most likely be neatly tucked away in the closet. The typical TamBrahm wedding has always been about a lot of smoke generation, teary-eyed’ness (partially attributed to the smoke), prostrating, sacred-ash smearing, hand-shaking and most importantly, feeding the same 600 odd people three times a day for three days. Amidst all this drama, silk -clad aunties tactfully find opportune moments to campaign for their NRI sons.

However, the TamBrahm wedding scene has changed a lot over the years. Ceremonies are no longer the solemn occasions that they used to be. Nowadays, people try too hard to add their personal touch to every little detail of the wedding and are willing to go to any extent to make the event as ostentatious as possible. So much so that the entire event feels less ritualistic and more choreographed. Families are now more open to the concept of Mehndi, Sangeet and Cocktail parties as opposed to making the groom ride in a rickety red convertible car along with half a dozen wailing kids during the Jaanavasam. The Kalyana Mandapam (Wedding Venue) concept seems to have revolutionized as well. The venues with their flowing fabrics and soft lighting now look like an elaborate set straight out of a Shankar-directed song sequence. Light music during the reception is no longer considered cool. In fact, it represents cheap taste in music. The trend now is to rope in good-looking playback singers who sing contemporary classical songs and on request, their film tracks as well. The more fashionable families do DJs especially when alcohol shares the space. Events of the latter kind usually culminate in orgies. Buffet options are chosen over elai sapaadu fundamentally to come across as stylish. How exactly are you supposed to eat that 40 item menu with a paper plate in your hand among 599 other people stepping on your feet? Also, I don’t understand what it is with TamBrahms obsessing over North Indian cuisine. Dinner menus are heavily dominated by poorly-made northern delicacies by our South Indian chefs. From the watery tomato soup to several varieties of ice cream and fruit salad, the dinner menu has officially diversified. The bride and groom wear ethnic designer labels for the reception and no longer do the clichéd ‘groom's hand on bride's shoulder while she sits on a chair’ pose. Wedding photographs now reflect scenes out of a Yash Raj movie. DSLRs zoom in on the mangalsutra (which would be hung next to the sacred thread in the future, for all you know!), intertwined fingers of the newlyweds and the backless blouse of the bride with the cheeky butterfly tattoo peeking out. Leaving hair untied is no longer

Picture by Trilok Rangan

objected to by grandmothers and random aunties with dyed hair. Navel showing and skimpy blouse donning, however, are still considered a sin. The bride and groom’s coolness quotient is often judged by the number of foreigner friends who attend the wedding. Culture has indeed undergone a change and there has begun a strange adulteration of traditions. Yet, sometimes, certain things boil down to an individual’s choice. It could be all about having a loud pompous celebration to unite with their soul mate or doing just the same in a quiet, happy ritual. Ultimately, it’s just a question of doing what is real fun and what gives you genuine happiness!

Picture by Anupama Krishnakumar

Forever Marriages—The Journey Together Photography by Jai Chabria

Remaining unique yet inseparable like light and darkness...

Working magic together like the leaf and its colour...

Cooking simple joys...

Awakening the magic of sharing...

Joining hands through adversity...

Understanding without speech...

Letting the silent colours of personality bloom...

Savouring the moments of waiting...

Turning a cross into a plus...

Giving each other wings with no strings attached...

Recognising it as a sacred space for divine play...

Revelling in new adventures into the vast unknown...

Capturing Wedding Moments In an interview to Spark, Maniyarasan Rajendran, photographer, gets talking about wedding photography and what fascinates him about it. And of course, we showcase some of the wedding photographs he has clicked as well! Maniyarasan is one of our ‘Voices of the Month’. Interview by Sandhya Ramachandran.

“Maniyarasan Rajendran works as an Associate Faculty in the Photography Design Discipline at the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad. He is also passionate about wedding photography. Maniyarasan made it to the Top-6 finalists for the „Wedding Photographer of the Year‟ award issued by Kodak and Better Photography, in 2010 and 2011. He was also one of the Top -20 finalists for Emerging Photographers, TOTO Funds Arts, Bangalore, in 2010 and 2011.”

Art has always had a bizarre way of choosing its followers. Seldom does artistic ability ever pursue a singular path. Over meandering planes, somewhere it leaves seeds of inspiration for the visionaries to pick. Something similar must have happened to Maniyarasan Rajendran. Somewhere amidst the brick and concrete of his architectural studies at SPA, New Delhi, he found the lens calling. He flirted with it for a while — beginning what was to develop as a passion for architectural heritage documentation. Soon, he embraced his love for the camera full time, through a Post Graduation in Photography Design from the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, in collaboration with University for the Creative Arts, Farnham, United Kingdom. While Maniyarasan’s photography was being showcased in many an exhibition around the country, his stint with wedding photography began quite accidentally. A friend’s marriage during his masters in NID, made him to look at weddings in new light : as prospective documentary stories! He started off then on his first wedding assignment, hoping to pick up a few tricks. The ‘tricks’ turned out to be quite extraordinary, with him making it to the Top-6 finalists for the ‘Wedding Photographer of the Year’ award issued by Kodak and Better Photography, for two consecutive years. He was also one of the Top-20 finalists for Emerging Photographers, TOTO Funds Arts, Bangalore, for two consecutive years. Today, with more than 25 weddings-worth memories behind and working as an Associate Faculty, Photography Design Discipline, NID Ahmedabad, Maniyarasan Rajendran gets talking to Spark about wedding photography and what fascinates him about it.

Some wedding photographs by Maniyarasan Rajendran

From a time when it was a studio affair, to a time where it has become as much a part of the proceeding as the bride and groom, wedding photography has had dramatically different styles. Traditional, Contemporary, Photojournalistic or Fashion-based wedding photography — which is your style? What do you think are the merits and demerits of your style? Honestly, I don’t believe in one particular style of wedding photography, or giving it a particular name. Nor do I consciously intend to follow the masters of this genre. I go for a shoot with an empty mind and without any fixed notions. But after shooting a number of weddings, I have realised, I turn my shutter towards the simpler moments in a wedding. At times, I manage to get hold of a shot of those nervous moments of anticipation or I gravitate towards that smile-without-any-reservation. Simply put, to me, it is the emotion behind the moment that matters. At the same time, I also try to avoid taking these shots just for the sake of it. In terms of style in the technique I use, I have shot all the weddings so far in the light available, without any kind of external source. I believe that the light available at the weddings need to be an inherent part of the wedding photographs. I wouldn't want to kill the natural light with flashy lights!

Capturing the ‘smiling without any reservation’ in two different forms! Photographs : Maniyarasan Rajendran

An Indian wedding is no simple affair. It is not just between two people, but rather, a marriage of two families! How do you balance the requirements of the bride and groom side? I never balance them! One can only try to balance, but it seldom happens. It is better to be biased than balanced. This gives a greater scope in expressing one side of the story at least. In any case, these days, both the sides appoint their respective photographers, and most of the times, I am a 'Third Photographer'. As you said, it is not a wedding of two people, but a wedding of two families. The context in which these two families came together throws enough challenges and in turn, creates opportunities.

What exactly, apart from the ritualistic moments, do you look out to capture? As I said, I never consciously look to capture. I just try to become a part of the wedding with my camera, silently observing what happens around me. My camera always keeps me alert and my eyes keep wandering for meaning than just moments.

You also do a lot of architectural photography. Technically speaking, how does your approach change between both? The approach in fact remains the same. I look at everything as an architect: in plan, elevation, perspective, etc. I can perceive anything as spaces with forms in it, by virtue of five years of my education. I merely try to compose them within the given circumstances. In weddings, the forms are people. Looking at it this way helps me analyse situations rationally than emotionally. For example, if I miss a moment, I don't panic. That is the worst enemy to wedding photography, since panic can prevent further such moments from being captured. When you are confident enough of your own ability, you know, there is another moment waiting. Technically, the approach to wedding photography is different. I have the sophistication to use smaller apertures, longer shutter and tripods, most of the times.

In weddings, the forms are people! Photographs : Maniyarasan Rajendran

In times where yesterday’s technology is outdated today, what basic equipment and lenses would you suggest to an aspiring wedding photographer to purchase? I would never discard the importance of the techniques of photography. At the same time, I would never stress too much on its importance, either! I would always advise any aspiring wedding photographer to possess the willingness to enjoy a wedding, before purchasing anything. Instead of suggesting something, I can tell you about the equipments I use. Since I don't use flash, I carry a full frame digital SLR body with at least 3 block/fixed lenses (a wide, a normal & a tele) with a maximum available aperture. I do juggle among the lenses with enough care, according to the situations.

Wedding photography, after a point of time, may become repetitive in nature, predictable in terms of the ritualistic and emotional moments. Do you think you can constantly innovate in this genre of photography? If yes, how? I approach every wedding individually. I enter it with an open mind, without any plans, as I already said. Besides, I hardly shoot those typically posed, bride & groom, or the stand-and-pose family shots. It took me a couple of weddings to prove myself, and now I can let the clients know what can be expected of me. I give myself enough space to look around and keep thinking constantly. Working alone gives me enough freedom too. Hence, I am free of any pressures or constraints, and I make sure I experience the joy of the wedding with a camera in hand. And as they say, no wedding in India can ever become predictable, even if it has the same sequence of rituals and emotions being played out over and again!

Experiencing the joys of weddings with a camera in hand! Photographs : Maniyarasan Rajendran

Great Expectations Non-fiction by Meera Sundararajan What are the expectations from a married woman in India? Meera Sundararajan discusses the way married women and their responsibilities have been perceived over the years. Things have changed a bit, but there’s still a long way to go, she says. Read on.

‘Sowbhagyawati Bhava’ or ‘May you be married’ is the oft repeated blessings for women and girls. In fact, marriage is something that girls in India are familiar with right from the time they are children. Financial planning for families revolves as much around a daughter’s marriage as buying a house or sending children to college does. As a girl grows into a woman, the parental frenzy to get her married increases. Many women themselves feel the pressure when peers start getting married and crossing over into the land of ‘married women’, hoping to ‘live happily ever after’. But the question is how happy is the ‘ever after’? A woman’s expectation from a marriage is different for every generation. In my mother’s time, a girl wanted to get married into a family which did not burden her with too many difficult family members or too much of work. These expectations came at a time when joint families were the norm and couples considered it their duty to be sons and daughters-in-law first, before being man and wife. Any display of closeness or affection between the couple, especially in the presence of elders, was frowned upon. Of course, women were expected to ‘obey’ the in-laws, husband and all elders. Giving birth to a male child was seen as a way of upgrading her status in the family hierarchy. Good culinary skills and ability to negotiate her way through the different relationships diplomatically were considered assets. Nobody really cared about what she wanted as long as she was able to deal effectively with what others wanted. I once asked my mother what her favourite dish was. She found it difficult to answer this, though she

rattled off the list of what the rest of us like to eat. When I persisted on knowing what her favourite food was, she closed the discussion by stating that her favourites were those dishes she found easiest to cook! It had never occurred to me till then that my mother, who I considered the best cook in the world, may actually find cooking a drudgery! Over the years, our society has changed and so have some of the expectations from women in a marriage. It seems to appear, superficially at least, that education is an important accomplishment that society looks for in a woman in marriage. But somehow, marriage still remains an institution mediated by power – with men holding most of it. If we look at the matrimonial columns in all leading newspapers, we can come across words like ‘fair, beautiful, domestically trained’ to describe the qualities expected of prospective brides. Over the years, other qualifications have crept in – for instance, being in the IT sector seems to be a desirable one, so is working in a public sector bank, or holding a H1B visa status in the U.S. The preference for the IT sector is probably more in South India because it is perceived as a ‘respectable’ knowledge industry that pays very highly with opportunities for that ultimate cross over across the seas into the land of ’milk and honey’ – the United States of America! Public sector banks are preferred again by more traditional families as they are seen to be offering job security and regular timings. To my understanding, it appears that many families want a bride who is employed in the best paying sector so that more income comes into the household. They also want someone who is good looking and understands the traditional expectations of her. So what is it that is new? How much has all this education and employment changed married life for the average Indian woman?

It does seem a bit unfair to me that we do not easily accept the fact that with increasing education and external exposure, a woman’s expectations from marriage and her partner might also have undergone some change. Today, a woman’s skills are showcased on a wider canvas. She also has more confidence to take decisions. But those age-old expectations from her still linger. If there is a need to take a day off because a child is ill or some relatives have shown up unexpectedly, it is still expected of the wife to do it. For women, it is a very difficult time. While we grow as individuals excelling in our career, we also face the frustration of not being able to realize our full potential as we take breaks for maternity, give up lucrative promotions because it means relocation. After a while, we wonder whose life it is that we are living – ours or that of

our mothers? The point is that our mothers never had these contradictions to deal with in the first place! Over the years, with increasing ‘nuclearisation’ of families, we find that the social support system that joint families provided is breaking down. This calls for greater need for a husband and wife to shoulder responsibilities jointly as also to interact and invest in the relationship. These ‘relationship nurturing’ skills are something that are fast becoming obsolete. With nearly eight hours of the day being spent by most couples outside the home with others, their ability to interact with each other and stay connected probably becomes somewhat of a challenge. My own analysis is that in many marriages, couples drift apart mainly because of this. From the woman’s perspective, I can say that women often relate better to a male colleague not only because they may spend more time with him than with the husband but the fact that the terms of the relationship are more egalitarian than that of a marriage which has nuanced elements of power lodged within it. This is particularly so with women who have had limited interactions with the opposite sex prior to their marriage. For a society like ours where marriages are more like business deals and mergers between families, the role of a relationships manager has always fallen on women. The question is, do we want to be that? For instance, I would rather not have anything to do with a relative who is rude to me than just pander to him/her because of their ‘in-law’ status. Some husbands understand that while many do not. There is also what I call the new external influence in our lives in the form of the media. We see these advertisements where there are beautiful women who manage careers, children, in-laws and keep a great house. These also serve to reinforce the stereotypes that women have to shoulder the innumerable responsibilities of a marriage. We women strive to live such lives, working ourselves into a schizophrenic existence! Somewhere along the way, the institution of marriage in our country needs to evolve to factor these changes in. I see some of it happening already, but it will probably take its time. Until then, women will continue to be expert acrobats walking that tight rope called marriage, balancing what we are with what we are expected to be.

Sakhi Poetry by Anupama Krishnakumar Turquoise, Green, Yellow and Red Pastel shades too add to the spread. Zaris that shimmer and silk that flows Dhotis are there, but none too close!

Glittering earrings and jingling bangles Dazzling silk skirts with glittering spangles. Flowers that laugh out as a riot of colours Happiness, happiness it seems is all ours!

How pretty, very pretty, they all say I keep hearing it all through the day. Lady in pink, with diamonds to please People swarm around me like busy bees.

Oh, Sakhi, oh Sakhi, my cousins tease I bite my lip and say, oh please.. Yet they don’t care much to listen And now, my eyes begin to glisten.

I look down at my mehndi-ed hands And feel his gaze from where he stands. I hide my eyes behind the veil of my curls My heart pounds as this love story unfurls.

Yes, yes, you’re in love, my heart sings I feel giddy with joy that this thought brings. In a moment, I feel a hand on my shoulder Oh, could it be him, I shiver and shudder.

What’s the matter with you, my darling? It’s my dear grandfather who’s asking. I heave a sigh and complain they’re teasing In a fleeting second, I catch him smiling.

Now, come on, get moving, the old man says And we all run up, while I’m still in a daze. Sakhi, come here, I hear my mother call I walk up with trinkets, anklets, jasmine and all.

I revel in the joys of a beautiful wedding Running, meeting, talking, laughing, Pretending to not see and still seeing Stealing glimpses, smiling and dreaming.

While joy and laughter fill the spaces Anxiety soon crawls up our faces. For here’s the moment we all waited for Suddenly silence comes knocking from far.

And the moment her man weds my sister The barricades break open and there is a tear. Slowly, steadily running down my face Rolling down my cheek it gathers pace.

Through watery eyes I catch him again This time looking at me straight and plain. ‘Brush away your tears,’ he signals to me And throws a smile that I so love to see.

My dear cousins who said, am next To say this I no more need a pretext , I will soon jump and sing and say Look I found my love and it’s here to stay.

The Bride Paintings by Usha Shantharam, a Bangalorebased artist. Usha is one of our ‘Voices of the Month’.

“Usha Shantharam is a


based in Bangalore. She paints in oils, acrylics, water colours, pen and ink and various other mediums. Her paintings may be categorised as



style. The subject matter is always realism, based on day-to-day real life moments and experiences, as Usha believes that painting from real life is the truest form of expression. Find more about Usha's work at her blog.�

Bangles, Flowers and Silk Saree—The Bridal Attire. Bridal Wear- 36"x24" - acrylic on canvas. Painting by Usha Shantharam

The Beautiful Bride—with a smile of pristine happiness. Portrait of an Indian Bride - 12"x16" acrylic on canvas. Painting by Usha Shantharam

What Sisters are for! Fiction by Vani Viswanathan Madhu, a teenaged wise owl, played an important role in altering the course of her sister's life (for the better, of course) - or so she claims. Vani Viswanathan pens a story based on what happened, as narrated by smart alec Madhu, ridden with her parallels to Mani Ratnam movies.

It was a momentous day – a day of tremendous activity and energy in the household. Mother was in animated talk with her sisters in the kitchen; father was having one agitated conversation after another on his mobile phone; grandfather was in desperate prayer while my grandmother was boring my younger cousins with the story of her marriage for the umpteenth time. I was busy picking a salwar kameez set to wear, and my sister, the star of the day, was sitting in a corner of the room, slouched and sulking, clutching her mobile phone. It was a momentous day – sister was about to be checked out as a potential bride by a party as large as the one in my house. Parents of the man who might be my brother-in-law had been in touch with my parents for the last few months, and had pounced when he was coming to India from the U.S. for a visa-related procedure, and the whole evening was decided upon in a flash. As a college student, I was incredibly excited; as a 25-year-old, my sister was least amused. I walked up to Minu and put my arm around her, and felt her taking deep breaths to calm herself down while her heart was hammering wildly in anxiety. I knew why. For the last nearly-two years, she had been seeing a boy. A Christian boy, I knew. “What do I do, Madhu?” I shrugged in reply. I really didn’t know what to tell her, but I felt really bad for her, I swear. She was usually smart, but I don’t know what made her choose to date a Christian boy and to think of bringing him into our family – a traditional upper middle class Brahmin family. No bad comments about the boy himself, I must clarify – he was a genuinely pleasant boy (I’d met him twice and he’d bought me my favourite brownie both times) that my family would have loved to have acquaintance with – not a familial relationship though, I knew. I know these things – my mother says I’m the more sensible one in the family, and I agree – and I knew that while Minu could try to convince our parents for a hundred other things, she would be pushing her luck to try to get this through. Her heartbeat had eased and back to normal, and I kept stroking her hair to calm her down further. She suddenly jerked up, hitting my chin in the process; I let out a yowl of pain. “I have an idea, Madhu!” she exclaimed jubilantly. I looked at her quizzically, and then sat up straight. This demanded some attention. “I’ll meet this U.S. dude today, talk to him and all that, and then tell him about my life story and ask him to please tell everyone he doesn’t like me, so we don’t have to get married, and I can slowly break the news to father and mother about Christian boy.”

I reacted almost immediately. Three things, I told her. What made her think the U.S. dude would agree to this? This sounded too much like a scene straight out of a Mani Ratnam movie. If it went like the scene in Mouna Ragam, he would still say yes and my family would try to persuade her into getting married. If it went like the scene in Alaipayuthey, her bags would be packed and she and the bags would be thrown out of the house. If it went like the scene in Roja, he would come and ask to marry me (I distinctly remember gulping in fear as I mentioned this to her). Finally, he could tell his family (who would eventually blabber to mine) about her life story, and then an apocalypse would follow. Minu didn’t bother listening to me at all. The crowd from the U.S. dude’s house arrived, all resplendent in shiny silk sarees, men’s bald heads glistening, the dude himself extremely uncomfortable. I knew what he was thinking. He was from the U.S. – he deserved a little more respect to his NRI status, a little less cacophony and embarrassment – the whole world seemed interested in getting him married. Half an hour of useless talk ensued, when everything ranging from the price of onions to the price of a paid seat in my college had been discussed (with my grandfather proudly interjecting that I had got in all by myself, completely through merit) and sweets and savoury had been distributed (with my grandmother shamelessly lying that my sister had made the ribbon pakoda, although it was I who had squeezed the damned ribbons of dough into the hot, hot oil, and Latha atthai who had fried them to perfection). I was wondering why in this day and age people were still bent on convincing prospective grooms and in-laws that their daughters could cook well. Surely

the men of today know what girls might and might not know? Sometimes people just don’t think. Anyway, let me get back to the story. After this half hour of chatter, the families let my sister and the dude to go on a walk around the complex. After giving them about 10 to 15 minutes, I went to the balcony to spy on them. Around three minutes later, I could see them emerge from around the corner. Minu was talking, turning the tassles on her dupatta endlessly. Like Revathi did in Mouna Ragam in a similar setting. Minu was being stupid, and telling the dude about the Christian boy, I knew it. Some 20 minutes later, they came back up. In the meantime, the two families were somewhat convinced that the two liked each other. The two fathers were in discussion about wedding halls, while my mother told his mother about the jewellery they would be giving her. I sat in the corner, wishing they knew of the bomb that was about to be dropped on their collective heads. I was right. Dude came in with an agitated face, wiping his sweaty face with a handkerchief. I felt bad for him. I’d tried imagining how I’d feel if a girl whom I’d thought of marrying suddenly told me to tell a large gathering of people that he didn’t like her. Sister on the other hand, was grinning in relief. She caught my eye. I turned my head in disapproval.

It was too much like the scene in Roja. I inched sideways and hid myself behind the bulk of my aunts, not wanting to be seen, and thereby avoiding a situation like in Roja that I’d outlined earlier. Dude went back to the chair he was sitting on before speaking to my sister. The crowd gathered in our reasonably large living room was quiet. I wantonly dropped a pin and could hear it, I swear. Then someone from his side of the family asked him to say something. Tensions were running high in my head, sister’s and of course, his. He leaned forward and whispered something in his father’s ear. The expression on his father’s face turned from one of expectation to utter alarm. He whispered something in his wife’s ear, whose face changed the same way. He then spoke in hushed voices to my father (for it’s a little weird to whisper into the ears of a stranger). The expression on father’s face turned from happiness to surprise to one of absolute anger as his eyes landed on my sister. “Very well,” he said in a while. He thanked the guests, who saw the dude’s parents leave with no word or explanation, and were thus compelled to leave in an orderly fashion, although one aunt couldn’t handle her curiosity and asked “But what on earth happened?!” We didn’t hear the reply, although I saw dude’s mother rush to her side and tell her something. A few minutes later, the news had spread, and finally reached my ears. Dude had been an absolute idiot and told his parents about the Christian boy (I gasped. The point number three I’d told Minu!!). I thought it was an unnecessary and thoughtless thing to do. Why did he have to bring up Christian boy when the only point he had to make was that there was no marriage happening here? I know I’ve already said this in this story, but sometimes people don’t think at all, I tell you. My aunts stood in silence, taking in the latest scandal in the family. My mother was outraged, and her lips were drawn in a thin, straight line. Minu looked as pale as a ghost. I knew she was cursing her own thoughtlessness and probably cursing the dude so much I worried for his safety as they drove home. Father cleared his throat. “So who is this Christian boy?” Minu explained. About how she’d met the boy, how they’d fallen in love, how even I’d met him (at which moment I chipped in with a helpful bit about how nice he was, but mother soon asked me to shut up). The story lasted half an hour, with only Minu talking through stunned silence, and the crowd dispersed after that, as father left the room abruptly after Minu finished talking. That night, Minu and I lay on our bed wondering what was going to happen. Father’s silence throughout the session had shocked me, and I told her that this might, just might mean some good news. She wasn’t encouraged, she was plain terrified. I could hear father and mother talking in loud whispers in the next room. When I woke up the next morning, I knew something had changed overnight in the household – the spirit in the house was just different. I ran to find Minu even without brushing my teeth, found her in the balcony and as soon as she saw me, she hugged me and we did a little ridden-with-affection sisterly jig of celebration. Father had agreed to meet Christian boy and speak to his parents. Reading all this, you’re probably thinking I’ll tell you about a wedding like in Chetan Bhagat’s Two States, where Christian boy wore a veshti and married my sister Tamil Brahmin style, and where Minu wore a white saree (and father was in a suit, mother in a saree *what else!+ and me in a pretty dress) for a church wedding. That’s where you are wrong. Minu had made a mistake liking Christian boy.

The problem wasn’t with our family – or his, for that matter. They surprisingly got along as well as cotton and glue. The problem wasn’t even quite with Christian boy. It was with Minu. Some two months after our parents had met his, somehow convinced each other of getting the two married, Minu fought with Christian boy. Over a petty issue that she refused to tell us about. My parents cajoled and pleaded, but she refused to budge. They called his parents, and a similar story came out from that side as well. It went on like this for two weeks, leaving me extremely distracted during a crucial period of my studies, my third semester exams. After two weeks, we’d all given up. Minu wouldn’t marry Christian boy, and the worst part was we all didn’t know why. It’s been three years since. Minu eventually went to the U.S. to do her Masters, met a boy there that my parents asked her to meet since the family was good and horoscopes matched, the two hit it off reasonably well, and got married in a wedding where there was only one kind of ceremony – our usual Iyengar style – and there were no hilarious episodes involving the guy’s veshti. Oh well, whatever works. They’re happily married now – at least so far, I think (the wedding only happened six months back). But I personally am convinced this U.S. dude is much better than the one we’d met three years back; Minu does remind me from time to time about my important role in leading her life this way to happiness, but I shrug it off – what are sisters for, I tell her.

Picture by Will Montague

Battling the Wedding Boredom Non-fiction by Swetha Ramachandran We h ave a ll atte us bo nded red o at lea ut of st one h ow s o u r wits he ke wedd . Sweth ep s h ing th gives e at ha a Ram rself o us an s had a c c c i h n u a teres pied a on e t ndran ting s ends t tells u suc tudy to me s of som h wedding et. s, and e of t he ch aract ers

Weddings are generally meant to be those happy gatherings where you catch up with your childhood friends and cheek-pinching relatives; when everybody around is bursting with joy and enthusiasm, when there isn’t one dull moment. Time for a reality check! Weddings are not always the most enjoyable occasions, those are times when you are scrutinized with scanner eyes from all directions; where everything about you from your looks to your temperament is examined and critiqued within five minutes, when you wish the earth could just swallow you up or that you owned an invisibility cloak! And the situation is worse still, when you are compelled to attend the wedding of some aunt’s sister-in-law or a family friend’s niece! So what can you do when, in spite of coming up with a million intelligent, ingenious reasons, you end up in a wedding that you never intended to go to? How do you while away those seemingly never-ending three hours? Weddings are fairly similar to page 3 parties, where everybody wants to show off and gain attention in their own way. So to begin with, the best thing to do would be to observe people. As soon as you delve into this job, you realize that it indeed takes ‘all kinds of people to make this world’. There are so many categories when it comes to people and the ones most often seen in weddings can be mainly classified into Nosey Parkers,

the Braggarts and the Asset Displayers. The Nosey Parkers - They require no searching at all! Within ten minutes of entering a wedding hall, you can find a Nosey Parker making his/her way towards you, wanting to know everything about you, beginning with the ‘How are you related to the couple’ to the ‘Where do your cousin’s in-laws live’. And after the initial round of questioning they act like they have known you for ages. No wonder, as they already know half your life history! The Braggarts - They need no introduction. All they can talk about is their first-rankbagging kids, their well-furnished homes, their brand new car, their vacation… the list is endless! Even if you try to counter-brag, they somehow tactically turn the conversation towards themselves! So if you end up with a Braggart, all you can do to escape their clutches is to pretend you have some important errand to run or start conversations with somebody else. But if that other person also turns out to be a Braggart, well, tough luck! The Asset Displayers - Here comes yet another set of people who are very easy to spot. They are indeed mobile jewellery shops, displaying an array of bangles, necklaces, rings, anything and everything that could be worn. They truly define the word ‘eye-catching’. Generally, they are not people to be feared as they do not pry into others’ affairs and are content in merely showing off what they own. But sometimes there occurs a worse combination of traits and an Asset Displayer turns out to be a Braggart too. In such cases the ears and eyes are bound to be tortured. So look out for such people and keep away! Whilst most of the people fit into these categories, there are some that need to be classified under ‘miscellaneous’. Here it is a mixed bag; you have the annoyingly loud kids that use you as poles for their running-and-catching games, the perfectionists that have a problem with everything, from the arrangement of flowers in the decoration to the colour of the chairs, and the match makers, who are out there trying to ruin lives! Although these categories of people starkly differ from one another, there is a universal uniting factor to everybody who attends a wedding. And that includes some of the standard dialogues and exclamations they make! The first, most common exclamation would be the ‘Oh how much you have grown’, a dialogue that keeps haunting you in every wedding from when you are twelve till you are twenty; one that is bound to get on your nerves irrespective of the frequency and number of times! (Come on, growing up is a natural process and they better stop exaggerating it!)

Next in line would be the ‘When did you become this talkative!’ Of course, not everybody would be bombarded with this question. But for those who unfortunately and unknowingly remained silent when they were a kid, (don’t ask me how they expect kids to have had ‘conversations’ with them) this question sure is a blood boiler! And there is one last dialogue that has been repeated over and over again in every wedding that has ever been held in the history of the world and that is ‘We shall surely keep in touch.’ Everybody who has uttered this dialogue to that long lost relative would know the truth behind it. Of course, for a few days after the wedding, phone calls are made, picassa web albums shared, even postal addresses exchanged! But days pass by and the interest in staying in touch wanes away. And many months later, in another wedding, the same dialogue’s uttered, the entire process is repeated and the ‘long lost relatives’ are back in their coveted post, once again! Be it the Nosey Parker or the Braggart, the Asset Displayer or the clichéd dialogue deliverer, their common, characteristic trait is their persistence. They don’t stop their prodding until they are satisfied with your reply, they will wait until you pay attention to their every word when they brag and will ensure that you have made a note of their jewellery from top to toe! So the question now is if you can ever successfully manage to dodge those prying questions, disappear from those microscopic eyes and drive away those clichéd questions. Unfortunately, there exists no standard or secret formula which relieves one from the clutches of these people. Rather, with experience and practice one can try understanding their personality, learn about their weaknesses and deduce their own modus operandi to escape their wrath! The general polite nod, patient look on the face and appropriate words uttered from time to time, would do the trick. And if nothing else works, there is always your trusted cell phone that can rescue you. But all said and done, if not for them, marriages would be back to being dull and boring for those innumerable ‘forced-to-attend-wedding sufferers’!

The Joy of Togetherness Charcoal Sketch by Maheswaran Sathiamoorthy

A Conversation with Lady Fortuna—Fiction by Yayaati Joshi A man who always thinks that he hasn't got what he deserved lands up having a conversation with Lady Fortuna. While he rattles on about how from childhood to marriage, he has never received the best although he deserved it, Lady Fortuna points to the culprit and the most undesirable human quality that can mar happiness — the man's arrogance or ego. Here is a story by Yayaati Joshi that shows how someone’s nature or attitude can get formed at a very young age and can go on to even disturb what could have been a good marriage. A discussion on human nature as a big influence at any point in one’s life, including marriage, emerges in this interesting story.

Happiness eluded him. Success came to him in bits and pieces. Frustrated and disheartened, he sought the help of Lady Fortuna. The following conversation ensued: Lady Fortuna: I don’t usually entertain such requests, I am very busy making and breaking the fortunes of everyone. It appears that you are dissatisfied with what I have done to you. You should not expect me to be fair; it is against my nature. However, in an unprecedented manner, I have personally come to meet someone. What is it that you want? Man: Firstly, I thank you for coming to meet me. I have led an unhappy life. I haven’t been a bad person, then why did you have to make my life so miserable? Ever since I was born, you have disappointed me, and if that wasn’t enough, you always kept me in the company of happier people. Why? Lady Fortuna: Well, well, well! Let’s take a look at how things began. It’s been so long! And have I been so unfair to you? Do you remember the first time you realised that I existed? You were eight years old, a somewhat shy child, but bright nevertheless. You had to participate in a swimming competition in school. You lost, and well, I expected it! Such a young boy isn’t expected to be competitive. But that pang of jealousy you suffered surprised me. You really wanted to win the first prize, didn’t you? If I wanted, you could have won easily. In fact, had I realised that you would have a heartburn, to do this day, you would have won it. Man: I realised and acknowledged your existence. I just didn’t know what to call you. As I grew older, you kept playing games with me, didn’t you? I had been a rather sharp chap, I tried so hard to be the school topper, but why would you let my rival have the title? And if that wasn’t enough, the only girl I was infatuated with, fell for him, not me! Why? Wasn’t I a decent person? Lady Fortuna: The less said about your infatuation, the better! Infatuation, yes that’s what you would call it! I guess it is too much to expect of a man to own up to the fact that he has uncontrollable carnal urges. Your arrogant nature would have made the girl unhappy, and anyway, at the age of 16, do you really expect to ‘fall in love’? You were pompous about your academic achievements; you ‘flaunted’ you marks all the time. To you, relationship with

with that girl was an opportunity to display your achievements, not a meaningful emotional pursuit. Once when you were asked to help another student in your class with an assignment, you refused point blank. You said that you had no patience for underperformers. How do you think the girl would have reacted to that? How would she feel comfortable with a person with no empathy? You worked hard, and got credit for it. After all, weren’t your grades good? Being the second best is not such a bad thing after all… Man: (interrupting in a dismayed tone) How could I accept the ‘second best’ tag? The taboo of being anything less than ‘perfect’ is so distressing. I wanted to be the best so that I could impress the girl. And I was just as good as him. I really deserved her. Yes, there are sexual urges, and yes at times they are uncontrollable, so what? Does that denigrate my emotion? Let’s forget that. What about college? Didn’t I deserve a better job, based on my grades? Wasn’t I well prepared to shoulder the responsibility of an employee? And what did I get? A mediocre job! I was a subordinate to those who weren’t as educated as I was. Why such iniquity? Fine, I understand the importance of hierarchy, but I deserved a promotion. I deserved an increment. I put my heart and soul into the job. I left everything. I gave up all my hobbies, all trivial pursuits. I felt so discouraged to see that I wasn’t earning as much as other people; people who weren’t half as capable as I was. My self image was so poor. It still is. I wanted to be the best. I had the ambition to be at the top… Lady Fortuna: (interrupting) ‘Want’ is the perhaps the most delusional desires of all. You must understand that the easiest way to disappoint yourself is to have expectations, either from others or from yourself − worst of all, from me. You weren’t the only one who wasn’t being paid as much as he ‘deserved’. There are people who are jobless, and some of them are more capable than you are. See, all you talk about is money! If your ambition was to be the best, you should have aimed for excellence, not for financial gains. It wasn’t your desire to be the best that stopped me from be-

stowing happiness to you − it was your ego. Your arrogance – the way you discount your superiors’ experience and the way you always consider yourself more capable than everyone around you - offended me. Although I shouldn’t have done that, I did consider getting you promoted. But your disdain for me and for my far-reaching powers was unpardonable. It was almost as if you wanted to subvert my importance. Not that I particularly seek retribution, but it was important for me to make you realise your limitations. I still ensured, betraying my instincts to be mean, that you live a comparatively better life, and yet, you complain! Man: Ah, a “comparatively better life”! What about my marriage? I couldn’t get a good looking wife. Now isn’t that a basic expectation? My parents arranged my marriage. I got married to a girl I had barely met. Yes, she is a devoted housewife, but I would have preferred a wife who works and contributes towards the family expenditure. She is a good cook, but that doesn’t cut it. I would have wanted my wife to be a career woman. This girl I got married to is so common! She has no aims in life. She wants to spend the rest of her life as a parasite, watching television and cooking food, living her life on my hard-earned money. Isn’t that shameful? Surely a person with one iota of self-respect would want to fend for himself. Now, how can I make her understand this? Being her husband, I am supposed to take care of her, but how can I do that when I don’t respect her? If not for me, for her sake you could have ensured that she has some achievements in life, apart from having the distinction of watching television for more that six hours a day for the last two years. When I was getting married, all my friends and relatives made me believe that she would be the perfect match for me. And the marriage has turned out to be a disaster. No, there aren’t any fights. There is dissatisfaction − in its purest form. Dissatisfaction that stares at me, and mocks at me, all the time! Do you realise how ashamed I feel when I take her to an office party? Amidst all the smart women, she looks like a simpering commoner. Knowing that I wasn’t satisfied with my job, you could have at least ‘given’ me a smarter wife…

Lady Fortuna: Little had I known that you would dislike your wife so much. The women you compare her with are the ones who you hate. You can’t stand the sight of your colleagues’ wives. Your ego, as always, stops you from appreciating their achievements. If your wife would have been a working ‘career woman’, you would have, at a subconscious level, competed with her. Your jealousy would have made you so bitter that your worst enemy would have been your wife. You consider women weaker and less competent than men. You attribute a woman’s accomplishment to her alleged compromising nature. In short, you are a male chauvinist. A devoted housewife, for you, is an aimless woman. Do you know, while you slog for your promotions at work, she prays that you have a brighter career? Do you know how dedicated she is as a housewife? Your house, in her absence, looks filthier than a pigsty. While you are at work, brandishing your male ego, as a reminder of your insecurities, who do you think wishes for your well being? Your wife! It is shameful that you feel dissatisfied. This feeling that you have been persecuted is a figment of your own imagination. I have done the best that I should have done for you. Life is not meant to be a bed of roses. And you, with all your intellect, should have understood that. It is foolish of you to blame me for your miseries. They are too few to be whined about. I am known for my mood swings, and once in a while, I do something that creates a ‘rags to riches’ story. However, I have been fair to you. You need to think of all the good things that have happened to you. Your continuous complaining has deprived you of the simple joys of life. If you persist in believing that I have been unfair to you, I will not do much to change that opinion. You are as happy as you want to be. It is time for me to leave. Do not expect me to come again; it has been a waste of time… Saying this, Lady Fortuna disappeared. The man stood by the window. A gust of wind ruffled his hair. For once, he thought for a while. Reflections that caused a stir in him. Suddenly, he felt as if someone was tiptoeing behind him. He turned around to find his wife with a smile on her face. His wife held his hand. He looked at her, his eyes somewhat watery, his face somewhat apologetic. He lowered his head and brought his lips close to her ears. A few words were muttered. The wife’s eyes sparkled. Her face lit up. Her enthused body was embraced by the man, as she unruffled her husband’s hair. A beginning, perhaps, to better times.

THE TEAM Anupama Krishnakumar loves Physics and English and sort of managed to get degrees in both - studying Engineering and then Journalism. Yet, as she discovered a few years ago, it is the written word that delights her soul and so here she is, doing what she loves to do - spinning tales for her small audience and for her little son, bringing together a lovely team of creative people and spearheading Spark. She loves books, music, notebooks and colour pens and truly admires simplicity in anything! Tomatoes send her into a delightful tizzy, be it in soup or rasam or ketchup or atop a pizza!

Sandhya Ramachandran is an aspiring filmmaker from the National Institute of Design who believes that globe-trotting might just help her find the meaning she is so desperately searching for, in life. When she is not talking philosophy, doodling or writing, she is spinning some airy dreams.

Meera Sundararajan works for what she calls the "change marketing" sector, otherwise known as the NGO sector. She has been "selling change" for nearly two decades now. Like most Indian women, she enjoys multiple identities - wife, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law, aunt; but unfortunately, none of these roles run true to type! She speaks five Indian languages fluently and also exhibits the sub-regional eccentricities that go with these languages. she loves reading and inflicting on others what she writes.

Jai Chabria is one amongst a rare tribe of media-shy media professionals. When faced with a camera, he prefers to shock the photographer by running right round behind it. He is one of those who believe in their right to remain undiscovered and undescribed in any manner. This might shock him for, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then this hunter just got hunted and got captured in nineteen thousand.

Vani Viswanathan is often lost in her world of books and A R Rahman, churning out lines in her head or humming a song. Her world is one of frivolity, optimism, quietude and general chilled-ness, where there is always place for outbursts of laughter, bouts of silence, chocolate, ice cream and lots of books and endless iTunes playlists from all over the world. Vani was a Public Relations consultant in Singapore and decided enough is enough with the struggle to find veggie food everyday, and returned to India after seven long years away.

Ramya Shankar is a graduate student in the U.S., currently wrapping up her Masters in Computer & Information Sciences. An adventurous person by nature, she loves to try new food, work-out, bake and express her thoughts through her honest words. Always effervescent, she is sure to light up a room with her big smile.

THE TEAM Fantasies, wild imagination, dreams, poetry, creative flashes, randomness, philosophy, silence, blahness; a little pinch of everything maketh Swetha Ramachandran. All that it takes to get her quirked up and enthusiastic is a dosage of good books, music or movies! With just two semesters away from being conferred with an undergraduate degree in Advanced Zoology and Biotechnology, she has now started spinning dreams about her specialization in genetics. So all you guys who want to make yourselves a clone, better get to know her!

Yayaati Joshi is a man with simple tastes and intense beliefs. Contrary to the bling associated with the capital city, he prefers the company of close friends, an engaging book or an Alfred Hitchcock movie. His placid demeanour is often mistaken for reticence; Yayaati is a self- proclaimed loner, whose recent pursuits include his foray as a budding writer.

Parth Pandya is a passionate Tendulkar fan, diligent minion of the ‘evil empire’, persistent writer, selfconfessed Hindi movie geek, avid quizzer, awesome husband (for lack of a better adjective) and a thrilled father of a precocious two-year-old boy. He grew up in Mumbai and spent the last 11 years really growing up in the U.S. and is always looking to brighten up his day through good coffee and great puns.

Jeevanjyoti Chakraborty is doing his PhD at IIT Kharagpur in Microfluidics and Nanofluidics, specifically theoretical Electrokinetics, after obtaining an Integrated Degree of B.Tech and M.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from the same place in 2009. Jeevan believes that in science and technology, it takes a lifetime of effort and discipline to be really creative within the rules, and genius to bend those or form new ones. As a welcome break from that discipline, he finds that in literature, creativity comes with ease and with the immediate gratification of momentary inspiration. Even in this paradise of carefree thoughts, he loves the wacky and the improbable. He adores delightful twists, clever word-plays and ideas which turn conventional wisdom on its head.

Maheswaran Sathiamoorthy graduated with a B.Tech degree from IIT Kharagpur and is currently a graduate student at the University of Southern California. His interests include counting bokehs and taking out of focus shots. He also likes being unpredictable, random and enjoys coffee and 0000FF sky, He is so interesting that his friends eat popcorn while talking to him!

Pictures wthout credits have been taken from Google Images

Spark - July 2011 Issue  

July 2011 Issue of Spark