Her conversations with the Ocean

I am sipping tea, and we’re standing between Mumbai and Vadodara, somewhere on the highway. Everyone’s sleeping in the bus, after all, it’s 3 AM and we’re tired after a long day, an exhaustive performance, so much travel, and a workshop on ‘voice and speech’. We travelled by bus, a team of 10 people, to a festival which was competitive in nature. We came back with a merit and few words of appreciation. An experience to remember.

With 2 nights of constant travel, the driver needed rest. We halted. I stepped out. Behind me came one of my youngest team mates, ‘you know, paranormal activity happens between 3:00 AM and 4:00 AM’ he said. “Is it?” I inquired curfc423c07-032b-4240-bf74-bdedc28957a3iously, with a smile. Another colleague got down and joined me for tea, “It’s 3:30 AM” I smiled, “eerie time to be awake huh?”;  “Perhaps!” said the 15 year old.  “But we have the moon with us! The light will help.” said my colleague, and we looked up to the sky. Interestingly mesmerizing, was the view of the moon. We stood in silence, sipping tea and drawing inferences. I could hear the ocean, distant. I could also hear the winds, in conversation.

Theatre is like an ocean” my colleague had said in the workshop, where the mentor asked us why we do theatre. Theatre is like a ocean. “Why would you say that?” I ask him now, in an afterthought. He says, “It’s beyond the purview of our common sight.”  “You may read a dailogue and simply speak it out, but the depths that lie in each word, need a lot more of reading between the lines, flowing between the lines to really comprehend.” He says, in a matter of fact manner.

I knew, I always knew it is beyond.

In fact, in one of my childhood poems I had a line about my dreams (theatre), it ended on the sentence, ‘I know it calls me far beyond, than where I walk to it.”

In this journey, it called me beyond my limits, my language, my identity, my perspectives, my belief systems, and my spirituality too.

Something like Love.

We begin our journeys in love with a certain belief system. With a certain expectation. With a certain idea. For some it’s traditional, for some it’s free spirit – but ultimately, it is a belief system. And when that doesn’t work, we either feel rejected or we feel dejected. Isn’t it?

For one thing, I have always been liberal, generous, and spontaneous. I have been loving, and caring too. I have centred my life, around love. I have made it a priority too. And still I find myself, disappointed in some ways. Though, happy in some too.

Happy because I centred my life around love, but it wasn’t one love.

Yes! As disturbing, ironical, disgraceful as that may sound – it wasn’t one love. I centred my life around love for my people and love for my work. I centred my life around my romance with a person and with an idea.

In most cases, the ideas survived, the person taught me something more about life and left. The disappointment isn’t so much in leaving, as much as how the goodbyes happen.  This song perfectly defines it, ‘Mana ke hum yaar nahi”, where she says “raaste mein jab milo toh, hath milane ruk jana.” Effectively, yes, we aren’t friends anymore but can we still greet eachother on the crossroads of life? In respect of our past. Let’s begin with believing that we were right people, just different in opinion and expectations; is it possible to achieve this each time we are disappointed in people?

And perhaps that’s where my disappointment lies. In the love that despises, rejects, turns away and disowns. Like you never existed. Like life, goes on, like it never mattered and it never counted. Do we really need to be heartless to be strong? Do we have to be free from emotions to be brave?alia-bhatt_640x480_71478076956

But then, even as these questions persists, the answers lie in the second love. More often than not, I found that these encounters smooth out, that people do come back in one way or the other. It’s rare that someone who mattered too much to you, walked out and you never saw or heard of them again. Even in death, one will certainly walk to the funeral of the other. I especially like that scene in the movie, Dear Zindagi, the last scene, when Kyra makes her film and at the premiere, are each of her past flames. Putting their past behind them and respecting that journey, you seem them cheer her on.alia-bhatt-4

And you can see, what has set her free! It wasn’t another ‘shoulder’; it wasn’t another person, but her romance with life, her love for her work.

Yes, there was a Shahrukh Khan in Dear Zindagi too.

A special friend, a special bond that helped her find her calling, her ‘second love’ (her work), but it didn’t take away anything from her own journey. The interaction helped her define her own ways and routes, and in the end, that’s what we need to strive for.

“It’s 4 AM” says my 15 year old friend, “What are you thinking so much?”

52ee4aff-022a-4e0d-9adb-1135969d185b
Applause Vadodara at BHAVAI 2017, Mumbai

“Nothing” I reply, “just about our Play!”  The play, Kundalu by Makarand Musale, was about 3 characters: “A” who is stuck in his circle and strongly believes that life is meant to be lived in limits, “B” who is trying to understand the limits while being curious about the horizons beyond and “C” who has lived a life of explorations, beyond the questions, followed the heart, respected the struggles and cherished the journey.

“Ah! You were thinking about the end right? Which path did B chose? The life of security or the life of discovery!” he asks excitedly.

Our play din’t have an end, and left it to the imagination of the audience, which path to take.

“Whichever way you go, just don’t get stuck in the same circle” adds my colleague, as the three of us walk back to the bus.06068cfb-e9ff-421e-b53c-b597dd75f5e1

I smile on the inference, it’s ultimately about growing, becoming better, stronger, wiser and closer to the  self, and not make the same mistakes.  It’s about breaking the limits – the circles, the loops that twine our thoughts, confuse our actions and end up limiting our journey. Like the performing the play, Kundalu, taught us.

Taking it a little further…

Don’t get into the loops that chain you. Set yourself free.

Continue to love, though you can love differently.

Let there be romances,

Just make sure there are two 😉

One with the person

And one with you!

 

As I get back into the bus, I can hear the ocean call me. They are both my love and my friendship. My passion, my theatre, my romance as well as my companion, my listener and my lyric.

She as1ked the ocean,

“What do you see?”

He said “I see footsteps,

And a long journey”.2

She asked the ocean,

what is sunset?

He smiled, it’s the beginning,

for a new day you must rest.

She asked the ocean, “where do you head?3

Will I see you again or is this an end?”

He returned in response, as a gentle touch, as a wave,

“You can see me when you want, I am right where you left.”

4

She asked the ocean,

“What language do you speak?”

He answered in a riddle,

“Ask your heart what it seeks.”

‘S5he asked the ocean,

“what is love and what is friendship?”

He answered with comfort,

“that my waves merge in deepness is love,

and that is return is friendship”

~ Apsra

And let me leave you with the song that I mentioned earlier, and while you hear it, please pen down your thoughts in the comments or write to me at apsara.iyengar@gmail.com.

Lots of love, always!

Apsara

 

Why Aarfa is a Winner in Sultan

There’s a thin line between ‘woman empowerment’ and blindly writing off a woman for making a choice that’s not ‘ambitious’ enough. I think that’s where the Firstpost blog on
Sultan gets it wrong, in context of Aarfa.

Sultan-Salman-Khan-Anushka-Sharma-Trailer-Poster-Images3
While Anushka’s character, Aarfa, steps down from a competition to be a mother – it’s a choice she makes. It’s a sacrifice she makes not just for her husband but also weighing what she wants in life.
She has achieved, she has won and now she wants to be a mother. What’s wrong in that?
Writing off a character like that to be sexist is a hugely disparaging statement to thousands of women across India who would do that any day! But what’s empowering about Aarfa is that she doesn’t give up being a “sportsperson”, continues to train and continues to teach.
Being a feminist myself (and feminism is equal rights) I would have reacted to something sexist very strongly, but for me, Aarfa is a winner. She knows exactly what she is doing and where she is life. She is not docile or coy or dominated. She tells her husband on the face that she made a sacrifice and demands him to make one for their sake. She’s outspoken, not defeated and woman who lives by her terms and has the courage to hold her ground and dismiss the man she loves when he’s wrong. And that does take courage.
Sultan by himself maybe sexist. The way he takes her sacrifice for granted, the way he becomes arrogant, the way he forgets his people. But the film in no way endorses it. On the contrary, the film answers to the sexism with Aarfa’s perspective and actions. 
Let’s face it … that’s how we are in love.
All those who have been in love, sometime or the other know. All those in marriages or relationships know it. Sometimes, you want to put the wishes of the one you love ahead of yourself. And so the best relationships are those where both the partners make that ‘equal’ contribution.
And so, if at a point a woman wants to be mom, what’s wrong? How can we look down upon something like that? that’s like going anti-family, anti-men and making another set of rules for women – where she doesn’t even have the right to make her own personal choices! That’s the problem of our society… we judge the woman. Always! No matter what she does.
Some times when we move on in life, our dreams change. Yes, it’s difficult sometimes to accept that what you wanted yesterday… you don’t want today… even after chasing it with all your might! It’s coming of age that’s important and so it can be hard sometimes to accept the truth. For me, Aarfa is wise enough to know.Ranbir-Kapoor-in-Yeh-Jawaani-Hai-Deewani-480x640
When Ranbir’s character in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani decides to give up his dream job to be with the girl he loves, we applaud his journey. But when a woman decides to step down to be a mother, we write her off as “weak” or “dominated” or “Stereotypes”. How unfair we are!
I won’t say Sultan is a brilliant film and I won’t say I endorse Salman’s idiocy. But, I won’t take away from the film what it has right.
I love how Anushka isn’t a broken person, I love how the intent of the film is to show the transformation of the protagonist’s heart, I love how they fight the battle “within”, I love how she says:
“We are sportsperson. We don’t give up.” I love how both of them come back to action after their journey as individuals.
For me Sultan is a feel good film, an Aarfa is certainly beautiful!

Anushka does 100% justice to character. (And she’s just as old as me :/ Damn 😀 🙂 ) Rooting for her, watch it for her!aarfa

Do Not Fall in Love with Such a Man

Don’t fall in love with a guy who kisses you on the forehead. Do not fall in love with a guy who inspires you to be more than who you are.

Who tells you on your face that you are wrong but still continues to love you. Don’t fall in love with a guy who will answer your call even at 12 in the night and make sure that you are okay.

Do not fall in love with a guy who simply accepts your life, friends and friendships and never questions you on them. Do not fall in love with a guy who can be Romeo and come down just to see you and nothing else. Do not fall in love with a guy with whom you CAN have long conversations – that are non romantic. Do not fall in love with a guy who listens and who shares his dreams with you and seeks your opinion on matters that concern him. Do not fall in love with a guy who is transparent.

Don’t even think of falling in love with a guy who lets you hold his hand and also holds yours and walks forward, as he realizes his and you realize your dreams…. because when you fall in love with a man of such character, irrespective of whether he stays in love with you or not, irrespective of whether life takes you apart or not, you will never come back and be the same. You will struggle to be completely and entirely independent because his love will have changed you.  Either you keep him forever, or do not fall in love with such a man at all.

~ Apsara Iyengar

Inspired from Martha Rivera-Garrido – http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/3246253-don-t-fall-in-love-with-a-woman-who-reads-a – Do not fall in love with a woman

 

Do Not Fall in Love with a Man - Apsara Iyengar

 

Let’s Play: Us Against Us

As I stepped out of office and looked at my watch, I realized it was just 6 p.m. Yes, when you run your own work space as well as struggle to keep up with stage, rehearsals and socializing, you realize that 6 p.m. is relatively early.

But as I walked down from my first floor office, I realized that the greatest problem is not that there is “no time” but that I barely – care to – take out that time that I so dearly and desperately desire.

For instance, when was the last time I blogged? I wondered as I got into my car and began to drive.  For months now, it had nagged me. While I wrote for my clients, plays for my theatre group and letters to my associates, I hadn’t written a word on Half a Cup of Tea. It especially hit me when I walked out of a recent meeting where this client needed voice-overs and scripts. As I discussed various samples of my writing and walked out, I realized that I hadn’t even mentioned my blog.

I remembered a conversation with my mother as a child, when I used to write my personal Diary very regularly. She had said, “You write so much now, because you have time. As you grow up, you can’t expect to write down your entire life. You’ll lose touch with this exercise for sure.”

I don’t know in what context that came, but I remember it hit me then and I sort of made a secret resolve that no matter what di, I’ll keep in touch with you! (Di being my Diary) And fast – forward now, 15 years ahead, and my mom’s prediction was coming true.

My first resort in a situation like this, when I am almost low is to call my friends. And after a series of them not being free or answering the phone (like it always happens), I end up calling my best one again. “I am coming to pick you up”, I say. “What? But I am just getting out from office. On the way home!”

“Stay where you ARE!” I order, even as I wonder where that authority comes from.

“Alright, alright!” he says, puzzled at my urgency.

There was urgency. There are sometimes those moments of realization that are best not ignored. Sometimes your heart is trying to tell you something and the clutter of ‘everything else’ hides it away. An honest confession would be that I have been ignoring that voice for very long; seeking that inspiration that is so hard to find. In the search to be inspired ‘that much’ again, I was starting to quieten the voice inside. And hence, the lesser number of blogs, the lesser connection with self.

By the time I reached my friend, I had almost screamed at a guy driving on the wrong side while almost knocking down a woman who was trying to go straight on a U-Turn. I could hear her sreaming on the outside of the window before driving away. The signal turned green.

“What’s the matter he said”, as he got into the car, placing his luggage in the back seat. This friend carries a guitar to office, so he can strum it when he has a moment and steal a second from life.

“I haven’t written for ages,” I begin to grumble. “I am feeling sad that I haven’t spent as much time doing things I love. I mean, I love my business and I love theatre, but still. I feel like there is that extra spark I am lacking. Some vibe. Some inspiration. Something.”

“Hmm.” He said.

“And it’s making me sad. I don’t see inspiration anymore. The way I looked at the world has changed. I feel like I am living a mundane life of a non – working, married woman form the 80s, who spends all her time in family duties. The only difference is, I don’t spend all my time in family duties and I am not married either.”

“Who stops you from what you are doing?” he asks.

“My self.” I reply. “I stop myself.”

And that’s another box in my face. It is Us against Us.

Sometimes I wish I could just go back to school and re-live the youthful aspirations. Where do those aspirations disappear after a time? Or is it just me?

“Can you stop beating yourself so much?” he asked. Men, do have a very short span of attention when it comes to grumbling women after all. I check myself.

“Apsara, everyone grows up.” He says. “We have no responsibilities as children. So, we are bound to have uninhibited aspirations. But as we grow up, we’re bound to have more to do, more to work on, more responsibilities. SO, it’s just fine. Don’t stress so much!”

I am driving silently when I recollect a recent session at the TED talks, that I had had the opportunity to host. Vikram Sridhar, a professional storyteller had said, “ Once upon a time, someone told us stories they want to hear. Everything that you know today Is a story someone told you.” The story about the rabbit and the tortoise, the story of the cunning jackal, the story of the crow and the pot of water….. to story of Prince – and – princess, India and Pakistan, Diwali and Holi, Marriage and Relationships. Everything that we have been told is a story someone wanted to pass on.

And as he closed the session he said, “So please, tell the stories that the future will carry and the stories that will make the world a better place.”

We write the stories that we want to tell the future.

While there are many things that aren’t immediately in our control – like falling in love, perpetual success, immediate fortunes and untroubled relationships; there are some things that are in our control – observing beauty around us, perpetual attempts to rise, perseverance to build and sincerity towards the people in our lives. And most importantly, a little bit of self love.

May be, a little more of self love than we think is required.

And just as the thought crossed my mind, I noticed the winds blowing fast and smooth. The trees were waving and the farms were swaying. I rolled down the glasses and the wind touched us in the car. And just as I turned I noticed a tree on the right a rock – seat right below it, just as though it were out of a children’s story book.

“Sach!” I said. “Check that out! Let’s go.”

I stopped the car and both of us hopped out like little teenagers. The wind was blowing. The evening was just setting in. The air had a fragrance which you just couldn’t miss. The magnificence engulfed.

“Wait” he said, “I have something that will make this moment awesome.” He pulled out the guitar.

And there in the middle of nowhere, an aimless drive on a rare early day from work, had led us to this “Story Tree”. We rushed over to the stones under the tree to see who could get there first.

He won of course, the athlete in him.

And within seconds, he was playing music and it was like nature was singing the chorus. I can’t say definitely what song he played or what lyrics he sang. For me… The tree, the winds, the music … just became a chance romance with the universe. I walked straight past the tree, straight into the fields.  The grass touched my feet. I walked bare foot. And as I turned around, I saw one of the most beautiful instances ever.

Let's write the stories we want to Live.
Let’s write the stories we want to Live.

The moon was up, the sun was setting. A group of young boys were making their ‘play list’ request.

Let's write the stories we want to Live.
Silent moments, when Life brings inspiration.

They watched in awe as my friend played the guitar. They talked cheerfully about their village, their school and the games they played.

And I told myself then, if this could not inspire me to write, what could?

As the kids carried on with their plan to go ‘cycling’, my friend put down the guitar, content that something so beautiful and meaningful had been experienced.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! For kidnapping me and bringing me here Aps.” He said. “Let me get you Tea. That’s the only thing left to make this evening perfect.” As he moved ahead to bring us the cutting – chai, I pulled out my diary and began to write. I began to write, once again.

And in the end, Amen to Us winning against Us, always.

p.s. Please go out and do something you have been longing to do for ages. I am telling you, today is the best day to do it 😉

Love, Apsara

The Story Tree Moment. Living a small story....
The Story Tree Moment. Living a small story….

27 and Single – Coping with ‘Bidai’ of your Male friends.

It’s 10.30 p.m. and my friends call me, “Hey! We’re coming to pick you. Tea treat!”

“Sure! What’s the occasion?” I ask.

And my question is answered as I get into the car and we start talking.

“That’s like an arranged marriage turning into a love story?” I conclude, after hearing a detailed version of how a friend fell in love with the girl he went to see for an arranged marriage. We all rejoice but only before one strange interaction.

Someone comments, “But you know what! We just can’t meet like this once we’re married.” The girls look at each other. “Sure” we say, marriage does shift priorities. It’s obvious to be busy and occupied once married.

But strangely the conversation shifts gears and all of a sudden the guys are talking about all the permissible limits of our friendships as though friendship with women is more like a drug – not allowed post marriage. I start to feel a little uncomfortable.

After all, weren’t these the same guys we grew up with? Can we so easily over look the many years of school or college or work – the various walks from where we women, know the men in our lives – and simply accept an instruction to tone down our warmth and affections?

The weather is suddenly more chilly. Someone brings us all Tea and we hold the cups in hand to re-construct warmth on a chilly December, winter evening.

One of the guys, once again starts to speak of an “All guys trip”

The girls look at eachother as they animatedly make plans.

“Hello!” we say, “aren’t we a part of the plans?”

“But once we (the guys) are married, we won’t get a chance to travel together and have fun. You girls should understand.”

And instantly I feel two things.

  1. With the men getting married, they want us to know that they can’t really be ‘friends’ with the girls, the way they were before.
  2. With the men getting married, they don’t want the girls to be a part of the plans, trips, get-togethers they’re planning, somewhat in preparation for a married life ahead.

And the ‘dost-dost-na-raha’ feeling stares in the face.

I am reminded of the feeling I had in 2010, which led to the inception of Half A Cup of Tea with the blogpost, “All About Being a Girl“. Yes, I felt that same strong urge to write.

I am close to 27 now and my standards of finding a partner, are high. I must first fall in love and be convinced enough to marry. But that’s my personal life and my choice.

Being a single woman or a woman not married yet, does not mean  that we’re likely of pinning intangible expectations on people we know!

My friendship with the men in my life is irrespective of their commitment or marital status. And that’s simply because – friendship is different and romantic love, different.

This film is a classic example of friendship, I tell you!
This film is a classic example of friendship, I tell you!

And then again, we do love the people in our lives, don’t we? And how do you express the love and affection you feel for people, when they aren’t birth – siblings? Like I love my sister. I give her a hug. I love my friend, I give him or her a hug. Aren’t friends, to some extent, close to siblings?

Friends are the people we grow old with. Sure, we have spouses and partners and cousins – but friends are peers. And so, should a change in relationship status reflect upon your associations with others?

Being a feminist, and someone who has forever lived in a male-world, I somehow always surpass gender in my associations. Sure I have learnt of “ways of men” and I know of a language that I may never speak, but I accept them the way they are and see no difference in my friendship extended to men.

The discussions on a guys-only-vacation start to ensue once again: On chats, groups, meet-ups and once again I find myself revolting to the very idea.

I think we as women, understand. We understand other women. We understand that women would like their men to be committed and ask me on any day, and that is exactly what I will advocate to any guy friend in my life.

But, when your friendship dates back in years and months, knowing eachother as individuals, growing professionally, personally and emotionally – then must gender come in the way at all?

One of the girls chirps in, “Apsara, you know what! We’re all going to be the same before and after marriage, it’s the guys who are going to change. Bidai ladkon ki ho rahi hai.” (We’re giving away the guys in marriage. )

I do totally respect and understand that friendship always has to be two ways – if the guys don’t want to keep it, it’s not going to exist.

And that again raises two points:

  1. What are the ethics of friendship if it is “okay” now and “not okay” after being committed?Ally Committed to Future Concept

If that’s the case, then one must not encourage anything that cannot be explained to our future partners.

There is this strange scene I remember from one of my favorite TV series: Ally Mc Beal, Where she talks to her roommate saying “I feel a sense of commitment to my future partner, even before I have met him”.  All though the statement is weird, it does ring a sense of truth.

  1. Does the guy have a say or not?

I remember having this discussion with a girl-friend once and she said “I think he would need to put his foot down and tell both the women that they matter and they better cope with the fact that they hold different but significant value in his life. I think…. That’s a step the guy needs to take, make and walk.”

And that brings me back to my disappointment with society! Yes…. now the matter has escalated and I ask a greater question: despite so many years that we have come as a society, we still face these challenges of perception.

I remember my early twenties, where an over intrusive admirer had a problem with every male individual in my life. He was almost a stalker and he called me once, while I was meeting a friend.

Stalker: Where are you?Hypothesis: The Thinking Girl.

Girl: Umm xyz place.

Stalker: What are you doing there?

Girl: Umm discussing work with abc.

Stalker: How can you be at xyz with a guy?

Girl: <blank>

Stalker: I am coming there.

Girl: <blank>

Stalker arrives.

Stalker: Why are you here?

Girl: <No answer because the stalker deserves no explanation>

Girl <in the head> : Because my friends are the ones who have stood by me through years of test and times of struggle, they have shared my joys and offered a hand – in love and friendship. And HENCE – I am here.

And perhaps I am too ambitious to expect the same answer from all the men in my life.

To expect that they place our friendship at the same degree, level and stature as I do – as women do in general – without the gender coming in the way

Of course we have our own little things – the girls night outs, conversations and to-do lists. And the guys certainly have a lot more of that – the guys parties, the bike rides at 2 am and other things – which the girls are not a part of. And that is fine.

The Guy Things!            The Girl Things!

But what stings a bit, slightly, is the idea … of letting go, in advance…. For reasons that are best unsaid. That’s what pricks!

And that takes me back to the ideas of Love that I have frequently discussed in the past years – love must happen, we must grow and evolve. We should be open to idea of Love and in a similar way, in friendship with gender differences, we should be open to idea of letting go.

Yes, I am open to the idea of letting go – just as I am open to the idea of falling in love or living single based on circumstances. If the men in our lives have women who are not comfortable with us, then the possibilities of friendship taking a backseat arises. (I am talking about people not having time. That’s fine. My best friends I haven’t spoken to in ages but I know the friendship stands) But if the women respect eachother and role of friendship in the lives of their men – would a healthy, beautiful relationship, friendship and extended family not be possible?

It strangely gives me a feeling of women being typecast – I am telling, that’s not true. The woman you love will never be insecure if you love her enough.

It all depends on the way WE conduct our relationships.

I am taking the liberty of quoting another friend’s girlfriend here. (A story very close to my heart and couple whose kids I am going to spoil :p)

My friend had stopped talking to me over certain misconceptions. And my repeated requests to understand the problem had failed. Eventually, after months of void, I received a letter from him reviving our friendship. It was his partner who has encouraged him to do so.

In a private conversation with her one day, when I thanked her for being understanding and considerate in encouraging my friendship with her partner, despite barely knowing me as a person, she said – I could see what an inspiring companionship you both shared. And I must respect that. Had I had friends who were male and had I shared similar rapport with them, would I not expect my boyfriend to understand and accept the friendships?

She moved me with her beautiful words because I know how much that friendship mattered to me.

On another day, I was to make a movie with a very dear friend. We’d once been founding members of a youth group, today we were meeting once again over a common goal. I desperately wanted to make the film and once he read the script, he loved it. We began work but repeatedly faced hurdles.

On one anxious day, I came across content that had striking resemblance to my piece of writing. I panicked and frantically tried to reach my friend over facebook chat. When I couldn’t get his response, I created a group chat adding his girlfriend and whining about the unexpected situation.

Within seconds she replied – Dear Apsara, relax and have faith in your work. I am sure the two of you are very talented and are going to do a remarkable job with the film. You must remain composed, irrespective of the fact that certain situations aren’t in our hands. I am sure when you make the film, it will be unbeatable. Trust me, it’s a very strong act.

The film is yet to be made, but what filled my heart with even more optimism was the fact that my friend’s girlfriend turned out to be the most mature 😀 handling both of us and encouraging a positive perspective and action plan.

These women, individuals in themselves, understand.

These women, us women, we understand: and that’s where women are beautiful.

On the threshold of 27, I see so many of my girlfriends married and many turned mothers – they are busy – raising their husbands and children (:p) BUT, I still haven’t lost them. Yes, we cried on the wedding day…. And we did all that drama for the women…. But strangely, and painfully, seems like it’s the MEN we’re bidding goodbyes to.

As we finish off with tea and head back home, I remain silent.

While the men prepare for marriage, it’s not that the single-women-friends are waiting to cling on and ‘be the same’. For the single, individual, even moderately ambitious woman,  we are NOT dependant on men and we will certainly NOT intrude on married life spaces. That I must receive the disclaimers, saddens! A little bit of my heart breaks there…. And the tea is JUST not enough.

I make myself a cup of tea and call a friend – I tell him I am disappointed.

He laughs. He asks me:

If you were committed, would you really want to hang out with your group as much, plan trips of travel with your friends and do things without your spouse or partner?

And I answer with puzzlement, “Why wouldn’t I?”

Perhaps my expectations from life are far too ambitious – but yes, if and when I am committed, I would

In memory of the first post "All about being a Girl" where I used a pic like this!
In memory of the first post “All about being a Girl” where I used a pic like this!

expect my partner to understand the associations in my life – the ones that have molded me and made me, Me. I will expect him to have his friendships and let me have mine. I would love for the circles to mix and blend and make one huge, harmonious family – but even if that does not happen, I doubt I’ll trade one set of relationships for another. I think the beauty and the challenge lies in balance and understanding.

Perhaps it’s a long shot for me, but for my married and committed friends, I pray that you keep your Friends and give each other space and freedom in relationship.

I pray that it be only responsibilities, physical distance, and life passions that possibly distance us – and not social limits of bias and sad presumptions that already fragment our society!

Write to me and let me know what you think:)

With Love,
Apsara

apsara.iyengar@gmail.com

4 Things About Girls and Guys and a Little Realization

Really wanted to type this out yesterday afternoon; doing it before the moment completely disappears. #GirlsAndGuys

I was working with a few teenagers yesterday, the mid teens. Confident, expressive; the girl has the same naive, optimistic enthusiasm as I did as a young girl. The guys are silent, they have the smirk; typically boyish. They all speak when asked, they communicate, they all come forward and express.

conversations with the 'younger' mind
conversations with the ‘younger’ mind

On one question, the girl answers. I can almost hear myself speaking.
I resist getting carried away and ask the boys, “That’s how a girl would think. I have been working for so long, but I still hear the guys comment on my thoughts and drive it home that – ladkiyan aise he hoti hai (girls are just like that) I want to know your thoughts.” The guys dint seem to take my word too seriously, the girl related and said “yes! I so agree! :D”
The guy spoke, sharing his thoughts. And then the other added.

I realized a few things yesterday..

One:
Girls believe. I guess it’s just there in our basic set up! We’re naive, we’re optimistic, we’re hopeful. And we aspire and we make our aspirations true. That’s how we achieve whatever we achieve. That’s the way we succeed.

We might never really know the world in its harsh terms; because we don’t look at it like that. We look at it believing that it’s beautiful, and, what is not right, can be fixed; and we attempt and make our journey.

Two:
Boys have a more practical approach. They don’t show too much emotion. They want to make a difference too, but they’d try to understand what people would respond to. They will try to understand ‘what’ the path ahead could be like and based on their own understanding, they will take their steps. They look beyond; they predict the hurdles and then walk. They aspire and they succeed; on the way they look at life.

Three:
To a large extent, we are who we were in our teenage. The core remains.
I didn’t feel much different from the people they were. I am a good number of years older, but I could relate. I could recollect my days and see that I was indeed, one of them. I was just like the girl. I had just the same equation with the people around me.

Four:
I perhaps, should NOT have made the comment on ‘Girls and Guys’; because what I saw there was something very obvious and precious too.

There was no discrimination.
Yes, I did make that comment. But I looked at them and realized I was wrong.

Men and women are different but they do share an honest relationship and a harmonious co-existence. It is there. I just loved the vibes I got from the teenagers. They accept each other.

More importantly, they respect each other.

It’s there in the upbringing; it’s there in the schooling, it’s there in the culture.

The elders in the room hand me my cup of tea.
I am sipping it as I hear them speak some more.

I am thinking how thankful I feel to them, for bringing me back to myself; in some ways.

One day, many years back, I graduated from school and stepped into the ‘world’ being an individual like them. One day, many years back, I was a person of these realities. One day, many years ago, I accepted myself the way I am and only strived to be better.

I had never faced discrimination.
But as an adult, I feel differently. I work in various circles owing to the ‘multiple areas of work’ that I indulge in.

I find myself, many a times, amongst men, who look at women ‘just as women’.

I used to cringe, I used to argue, but I was quickly labeled as “woman empowerment leader”.

Then I began to accept them, THIS discrimination as it is.

In accepting discrimination, I have accepted ‘them’, but become distant from myself.

Because there are two schools of thought:
One that looks at individuals and the other that looks at ‘men and women’.

If I accept the ‘men and women’ ideology, any woman will always be a misfit.
What is needed is not a focus on ‘women’, but a focus on individuality.

For the past few months, I have felt suffocated; and only my work has kept me going.
For weeks I think this thought has nagged me. But I wasn’t able to figure out, until I met the young adults yesterday.

If it wasn’t for close friends, my business partner and the theatre that I love, I think I wouldn’t have remained sane. And please note; I never discussed this with them. They kept me sane through conversations and connections that were beyond these thoughts, beyond this discrimination.

It never happened to me before, but then, ‘never’ always has a beginning.
For weeks I have heard women being humored, I have myself been termed ‘dumb’ for speaking up on things that matter to me or for sharing my interests, I have been labeled ‘blocked’ when I have had a different set of opinions than those proposed to me.

And I have constantly felt suffocated – for the very fact that I was NOT blocked to these ‘suggestions’. I was open to them. And being so ‘reachable’ has only made me more vulnerable to hurt and abuse.

As I sip the cup of tea, I say, “Criticism is fine. But only as long as it is constructive.”
And everyone in the room looks at me, wondering what I’d just said.
I just smile and add a few sentences to make my statement seem coherent. I get up to leave and profusely let the kids know that I enjoyed interacting with them.

As I reach my car, I see a text on my phone.
The previous night I had opened up to a friend about the way I was feeling; a series of mixed experiences and emotions. This morning, she added an after – thought to our conversation. She said:
You can NOT allow this. Because the more you let it happen to you, the more you will de-value yourself.  Disrespect cannot have consent.

I reverse the car and start driving back home. Disrespect cannot have consent.

I wonder when I began to need such words to heal disillusionment. Something tugs at the cords of my heart; sometimes we silence ourselves for the relationships we value. But are they worth it at the cost of our self-esteem? But I take a breath of relief in realizing I still have the sixteen year old alive in me. And a sign of relief, that I can still write. So what if this is the first ‘real’ post since December :p So what if it’s taken me 7 months to be able to write? So what if some time has passed?  I still hope to make it. And I will revive that naïve, and innocent enthusiasm to do so.

..when gender doesn't come in the way of smiles
..when gender doesn’t come in the way of smiles

Sharing here, a picture with my friends from a group trip we did a while ago. They would perhaps kill me for sharing such a picture where we all look crazy 😀 but… I think the emotion is significant. 

So… if you’re reading this post, and if you liked what you’ve read here, please get in touch 🙂

Drop a comment or send me a mail or connect with me on twitter or facebook. I will feel encouraged and much more alive.

Thank you for reading,
With love and wishes for healing anything that plunges at the cords of your heart,
Tumhari
Apsara

That Stranger is Your Friend – Virtual Relationships

My best friend shifted to America two years back. I mentally prepared myself to “let her go” … perhaps, time and space would just drift us apart. But contrary to my expectation, in past 5 years of my life – everything changed – but my relationship with her; it only became stronger.
As I am thinking about this, I recieve a call from my 22 year old “adopted son” and we have a 2 hour discussion on ‘work and strategy’. He was an intern for the organization I work with and we shared a very formal relationship, until the day he left for the States for higher studies. Who would have thought we’d share a common ambition, ever after that?

Woman Looking at Reflection

And right now, I am making a farewell “gift” for one another close friend, who is migrating abroad. That sets me thinking about this post.

My friends are “far” closer, despite being far – because of this virtual opportunity. Because there are these things called – e-mail, facebook, skype and whatsapp and many other things that technology has gifted us.
And then I make another objective observation – I do have a great number of virtual friends. These are people you’ve  met in the not-very-regular manner and they’ve still become your friends. But how honest are virtual friendships?
Forever, we find ourselves debating on “How good is it?” Is it safe to be out in the open? Is it safe to reveal everything about yourself? Is it safe to accessible?

I remember a speech by the fantastic woman, Sheryl Sandberg. While talking of Facebook, she said something like – this is the era where people define their own identity. It’s no longer the clandestine chat rooms of the late 90s and early years of the 21st century, it’s now about the person behind the screen.

I relate to this feeling just like the guinea pig on the experiment table 😛 No.. seriously!
I mean… there was this time when I wasn’t even on Facebook. My work in Radio, demanded that I keep abreast with things around and hence, I made my facebook and twitter account. Twitter became more of use to me while I worked as a music journalist and gradually, I adopted the platforms to enter my life.

I remember the first time I put up a status, just some random thought, and I got some instant likes. I thought “Wow! Why should these people be bothered about what I write?” and many months later, in a discussion with my sister, she said, “well! May be your updates get attention because they are honest, have life and something for the reader.”

I hadn’t even realized it. (Of course, that’s my motto now, for this blog – The reader should have something in it – to take home!) But as I shed my inhibitions, and began to open up, I found great deal of people on the network responding to things I said or did.

My work further propelled me to reach out to a larger audience of people, and I found myself in an all new arena – it’s not just the shows I do anymore, it’s the people I come across and the friendships I’ve developed over the years.

Twitter went from being a research domain, to a space where I just say absolutely anything. And Facebook went from being personal, to a space where I could put up posters and request attention and support for things that needed to be reached out.

And this is the turning point.

If you don’t have a cup of tea in your hand right now, then go make yourself one:D And then come back to read. [Also Like the page on facebook.com/alwaysovertea – because I LOVE to listen! You must connect.]

facebook.com/alwaysovertea
Half a cup of Tea

Now come back and I have some great perspectives to share:D

Now here it is: Two things as always.

Actually – 3. First and foremost – the awesome people, the people you love – your married sister, your mom and dad back home, your niece and nephews, your cousins – all those lovely people from your life – who aren’t exactly where you live; those people who mean the world to you but you as they say, you can’t have everything at the same time. So here – the phones, the internet, the emails and Facebook help us to live those relationships in an all new way. It’s lovely in a way (except when you have stalking relatives who form an opinion on everything you’re doing :p In that case, it’s a little tedious, I admit ;))

Now the two things:

  1. That stranger is Your friend – connecting with like-minded people anywhere in the world!
  2. The New era of Love stories 😀

I am now going to share what I pride in – I have been able to find real people in the virtual world.

polls_anime_friends_fav763461_1412_842143_answer_7_xlarge

These are people who you’ve never met and yet, you connect. They connect through similar or dissimilar thoughts, the connect through the mind and the heart. And the strangest part is that, I feel a “universal” love for all of them! 😀

I mean.. who said it’s weird to love someone you’ve not met? Dude! On the other side of the screen, is a person just like you – A real person, with real feelings and real emotions. A person who is genuine, who shares your interest to converse and  that stranger is your friend.

And from that point of “universal” love, I am suddenly struck by the “What if?” question 😀
What if you find Love, romance virtually? What if you fall in love with someone you’ve not met?

I asked my friends the question, and they thought i was quite mad 😛

But think about it this way – do you remember the era in the past? the era that talked of rich love stories? The times when people lived far apart, waiting for spouses to return from war or work or travel – and STILL remained in love? That era that our grandparents knew of – loving someone in manner which did not necessarily require a physical presence 24*7 ….

The thought gave me shivers.
We know of awesome couples who’ve met through matrimonial ads in the papers, in just the past decade. Fast forward to today, matrimonial sites have brought people together. So now, that brings me to the question of – virtual love stories.

Is it then not possible to find true friendships and possibly, romances – virtually?
I try to weave a story in my mind – a virtual friend – an author, shared this concept of “55 fiction” where stories with a punch line are told in just 55 words. I try it.

images

She re-reads his letter a fifth time and then picks up the phone.
She sends him a text: “I think I am in Love …”
He answers with a question“…In Love with me?”
“No” She replies, “In love with the perception of You, that I have.”
He smiles. And she smiles. In their own worlds.

And as I revel in the awesome story I just weaved, I see this other friend online.
A friend I met on twitter, randomly discussing some random #Hashtag.
I say: Heya! How u!:):) Good?
And he replies: Like never before!

And somehow that livens up that second, so tremendously!rainroad1 I have never talked to him, never met him, and have absolutely nothing in common (except that he writes just as

beautifully as the posts on Half a cup of Tea ;))
All I know is that – he’s a real person, with just about similar challenges as anyone in “our real world” would face, he writes the same exams, goes to the same college as many of our friends, he works in a company where your friend works …

He is a stranger, but…. he’s your friend 🙂

There’s one more thing that’s playing on my mind as I write this post.

A few weeks ago, I had some differences with a virtual friend. We were so close, that I was almost working alongside him, despite the fact that we’ve never really met! Now, in the real world, I am sure I’d have been able to placate; but in virtual world? Virtual networks? How do you do that? That’s when I realized that that is one of the biggest limitations in the virtual world. It’s not just a battle between two people, it’s a battle between two people along with the delete button, power switch and disconnect option! 😛 You might just feel some relationships are so terribly real, some friendships so extraordinary…. but then….

And just as a ponder the questions of “How real I am”, I see  a beautiful e-mail from a woman who tells me, she loved my blogs. And we discuss life briefly. Over the weeks we exchange a few e-mails, and develop a friendship and there I realize, I am a real person in the virtual world as well!:) I am real!

Ah. Finally! So we all do find our own “identity” on the web!

Stranger - 1

Our generation is definitely going to know love and friendships like never before; there once was a time when people probably had to be silent not having found “like minded” people and times and stories, where people would actually NOT have found love, had they not come online (Shadi.com) for instance.
So yes … what we have today, is tremendous.

Besides the people I’ve mentioned above, there are so many other ways in which people touch our lives – and it’s not always the regular way of connecting! A person I met on the bus, went on to make it a point to be present for my first ever Play and got me a souvenir from Dubai! Or my friend’s girlfriend from another city, whom I’ve never met – yet, connect so instantly.

I am sure, you must be having such stories too!:) A friend’s friend, now your friend? A person who you met at a concert, ended up staying in touch? Someone who you met on the train, went on to become a crush? 😛

All I want to say is that, trust this space…. because on the other side is a real person and like I said, our generation is going to know friendships like never before! it’s Tremendous!

And the most important part of my “tremendous” experience is my best friend, whose birthday it happens to be today. (Umm no.. it doesn’t “happen to be today” – it is :p And I’m very thoughtfully posting it on the 7th of December  by USA times :p)

I could have written a post on how beautiful our relationship is, how she has seen me through everything in my life, how my whole life is in the e-mails we’ve exchanged, how time has made us stronger … and loads of personal stuff. But I din’t do that… because this post is not about telling you HOW special such a friendship is. It’s about coaxing you to look into your life and think of the awesome friends you have – And then you shall know HOW I feel about Anne.
And I shall now dedicate this post to her!

Just like they dedicate books? Novels? … well, here’s a blog-dedication! : )

182605_181992965170684_5950304_n

Happy Birthday darling!
Well, who said Long distance doesn’t work?!! 😉

I’m going to close with saying – That stranger friend……. Exists!  

p.s. doesn’t matter when you read this blog, if you liked it, drop a comment. And, I’d feel super nice if you also wish Anne happy birthday.. Yay! Thanks! 😀

Happy Mother’s Day

I wish I could do more for you,

I wish I could do something at least;

For all the trouble I’ve given you,

I wish I could do something indeed!

 

For all those times I have crossed you,

For all those times when I’ve been ill,

For all those times I’ve kept you awake

I wish I could do something indeed!

 

For all the dreams you must have seen

For all those that I did not fulfill,

For all those times that you deserved more,

I wish I could do something indeed!

 

For all those times you’ve smiled,

For those little things that make you happy,

For the frivolous anger that so easily disappears,

I wish I could do something indeed!

 

For all the times you’ve worked so hard,

For all the times you’ve kept yourself aside,

For all the times being unnoticed,

I wish I could do something indeed!

 

For all those times when you’ve scolded me,

With the best interest at heart,

For all those times when you’ve tried to understand,

Keeping differences apart;

For all the freedom you’ve given me,

And the way you’ve brought me up,

For seeing me through failure time and again,

And still not giving up;

For all the times you’ve been worried

And the times with not much hope,

For all the times you’ve been a mother

And the times you’ve held us together,

For little blames you take instead

And the times you forgive and forget;

For every little extra you’ve done,

I wish I could return,

As selfish as this may sound,

On your birthday,

I wish I can bring you something more

I wish for goodness and for peace

And that Somehow, someday;

I wish I manage to do for you, something at least indeed.

So yes! It is Mom’s birthday today and I’ve left everything aside JUST to write a post dedicated to her. Somehow, it seems like the toughest thing to do. Sometime back, in a random conversation with Mom over tea, she looked into my screen and said, “Is that a book?”. I said, “It’s just ideas listed. More like an index…. Yeah, it could possibly be a book!” She said, “Nice! So, write it for my birthday”. I said, “Okay :D” That way I’ll do something productive!

But no … I didn’t write the book. – Owing to my hyper active, more social, poorly organized, totally unscheduled and highly unplanned life, and extraordinary skill to come up with excuses, I haven’t written a word past that day. So yes, the book is far from written. But in the bid of even mentally trying to write it, I realized – that’s the only thing my mom EVER asked me to do for her.

And so, when I haven’t written any book, I thought let me at least write a post. And I’ve been struggling since morning – because I have absolutely NO clue where to start!

The point is that, we really aren’t those mushy – people straight out of Bollywood or Television. We don’t worship our mothers. We don’t wake up admiring them. We don’t keep them on any pedestal.

In fact, we just accept their presence.

And the worst situation is when you think you’re better than your parents. I think most teenagers go through that phase (or I am the most hopeless child a parent could have) where you think you know better. When you want things and you THINK you can get them. When you don’t realize that some things in life aren’t in your control. It’s only when life humbles you down, that you look around and observe the lives of people around you.

Until I was 19, I thought I could do and achieve everything I wanted, without even a proper direction (yes, I can greatly blame the education system for that. In another thread may be!). I still am pretty much ambitious, but back then, I thought I could do it on my own.

It’s only when life humbles you down, that you realize that the people around you matter so much. Until 19, you haven’t’ seen life. The journey begins after that.

I aspired, I failed. I tried again, and I failed. At each point I would turn back to realize that it’s indeed my family, that’s been there. I remember this conversation with mom; I asked her, “Mom, I don’t have the vigor in me anymore. I am not that vivacious, charming, confident, strong. I think I am just failing” and Mom would say, “You still have it in you. The way you fight with me, you still are as sharp as you were at 12! So, you do have it in you still.”

I asked mom, “Does everyone have to face so many ups and downs?” and she said, “No! Some people have a smooth life and simpler problems to deal with.” And then I ask, “how come you don’t give up on me?” and she says, “I don’t know how to.”

I remember the days before entrance results, when my mom has been praying hard for me. I remember days she has fasted for our family. I remember days she’s given up things for us all. And I remember saying, “Mom don’t do that” and she shouting at me and asking me to shut up. I remember being hurt by people, and my family defending me throughout.

I think we all have this phase in life (Teenage and early twenties) when it’s all about “having your own life”. Back then came a time when I didn’t like festivities (New Years Day, Friendships Day, Christmas, Diwali) because I dint matter enough to the people who mattered to me and festivities only meant a huge confusion on WHO to hang out with. And in a bid to keep away from the crowds of changing people and friendships, I realized that it was my family that remained unchanged. I think more so, as you grow older, you get closer to your families because you realize that your equations with the world outside may keep changing, but with the people who love you by default, it should only get stronger! 

So what I am getting to is that, Mom’s birthday has just become a reason for me to thank her, my family and to realize all these things about life! 😛 Happy Birthday Mom! Your the best…. 🙂

And yes, you can accuse me of ‘thinking too much’…  😛 My Mom’s definitely going to kill me for this post 😀  But that’s okay 😉 That’s it for now. Do write in and share your thoughts! And Do like the page – Half A Cup Of Tea

And I don’t know WHY I feel like hearing this song. But somehow feels like this. So, here adding the song: 

THAT Thing about Expectations

The thing about expectations is that, people don’t like it. 

You don’t like expecting things from others and they don’t like that you expect things that they can’t fulfill. 

You don’t like them expecting things from you and you don’t like the burden of their “expectation”. 

For instance, people say “You shouldn’t keep expectations”, blaming the person who owns the expectations. But the point is that, as long as people remain humane, they’ll continue to have emotions and as long as emotions exist, there will be expectations. But, in this world that’s so virtual, understanding valid expectations is only going to become all the more complex. Of course, not all kinds of expectations are valid (take a Bollywood scene where the heroine wants the hero to jump off a cliff for her. No, we are not talking about such expectations. We are talking about little daily life expectations.)

There is no rule book that says, “This is what you HAVE to tell your friend. And this is what you must NOT”. There is no rule book about how to behave or conduct your relationships. They all rest on emotions and hence, expectations. Expectations are just as true as commitments and they happen without words. Yes, even commitment happens without words. You commit to people, you commit friendships, even before you know it consciously because the bonds that we form with each other, happen without any declarations. Think back about your best friends, did you declare ever, “From today YOU are my best friend”? Or did you just realize one day, over a cup of Tea or perhaps, over a discussion of woes, or perhaps with age, that you’ve really been there for each other and that, indeed; YOU and your best friend, are best friends. 

Relationships are things we realize. Connections happen and they happen all the time. It’s all about how we want to take it forward. We can determine the direction and that’s about all we can control. Everything else is real. Feelings, emotions, expectations and commitments – they happen and they aren’t wrong.

So, if you are one of those people who’ve felt, “Hey. She should have told me this.” And then shun it off saying, “Hmm… it’s okay… kuch commit toh nahi kiya tha” (Hmm.. we hadn’t committed anything to each other, so I better leave the thought ignored), then it’s time to realize, it is okay.

It’s okay to expect from people who are close to you.

It’s okay to demand their attention.

It’s okay to tell them about your expectation and talk about it.

It’s okay to explain to them, that some expectations happen without words, and that, they should understand what your feelings are.

However, if there is an awkward void and you don’t know how to deal with it, lie low. If you have expectations from someone, and you think it’s too insignificant to the other person, don’t drag the matter. Bring it up once, talk it out. If the “talking” doesn’t happen or doesn’t work, then let go. This is the “virtual” age. You will meet loads of people, and you will pass loads of people. With the way we all connect now a days, we are bound to find many, many real people around us; many real connections which just may become stronger. And as they get stronger, we need to flexible in two ways:

1. Understanding that expectations will happen. And if, the other person doesn’t seem to be in a position to fulfill the expectations, let go of the expectation. Keep a healthy space and a balanced relationship. 

2. Respecting the other person’s expectation. Understand, that from all the interactions that you have with people, there will be expectations. You have to weigh the expectations against the importance of the person in your life and the relevance and feasibility of the expectation; and then take your decision on fulfilling it. But in either case, respect the expectation. 

So that thing about expectations? THAT thing they say You must not keep?

Well, that’s not right. You may keep your expectations; just understand, acknowledge and respect them.

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