As fair as Milk

As fair as milk, I have heard them in awe
A little plump but that doesn’t matter
Her skin looks of an Apsara descended
Husband a lucky fellow, that’s all her standing

I with my leftover fate will have to settle
For who is going to marry a dark colour
Use sandalwood, keep away from sun
Maybe give up life to lessen their burden

I looked in the mirror for the longest time
Tried everything to look Divine
The colour did not rub off, nor did it lighten
But my skin, heart, soul hurt with unimaginable passion

I am sorry I am a disappointment
Gave society two big sorrows
Dared to be a womb that too sallow
I accepted my plight and got on my way

Down the street met gorgeous forces
Dark, fair and all colours in between
Rejoicing their power and beauty
Owning their wombs, they rise like the sun

I ask society to look deep within,
Its hollow, archaic, unnatural whims
Find better arguments to keep us down
We are breaking this mould, do be careful now.

In conversation with the Womb

I ask the womb when did she become a mother?
Were she one, while combing her dolls hair
Giving her a bath with utmost care.
Singing lullabies and finding Dolly a match
Everything revolved around her shoes and socks

Teenage years alienated you from the body
Suddenly motherhood was a dirty little secret
No open discussion on a life changing milestone
Need to protect your virtue was now society’s passion
Did the physical pain, shame, sniggers make you ‘feminine?’

You grew up with ambitions to realise your worth
Its a bodily phenomenon for survival of the species
Not every womb that bleeds wants to fulfil that duty
The patriarchy won’t have it, the womb is their property
The body is entrusted with mere safekeeping

Tell me now womb, did you ever have a choice?
She holds the little love with her innocent eyes
Her little womb has life of its own, as a mother you know it
Were you made to hold, love and nurture?
Could you be just a divine hollow space with a choice?

Conversations that matter

What conversation did you have with your inner child today?

Braving Scars

This poem is inspired by the book Shakti Rising by Kavitha M. Chinnaiyan. Its about accepting the light and the dark together to find love, peace and inner harmony. The art work in the poem reflects the same. Hope you enjoy reading and listening to it.

I wasn’t good enough

We need to find love within.

I remember trying hard to make people who I loved, to love me back, the way I wanted them to. Family and friends. The truth is we can only find love outside when we feel it within.

Make you journey count.

Healing the Inner Child – for beginners

I am so kicked about the illustration in the background. I am not an artist, by any means, but my inner child asked me to draw it anyway. So, I did!

A thousand factors impact our lives, influencing and carving a mark on it, as time goes by. Growing up we are dependent on others and most of our behaviour is learned through direct or indirect observations. Our trials, victories, heart aches, needs all are bundled up inside us that makes us more reactive in our approach to life, than responsive.

A powerful tool and one of the most essential ways to get it touch with your inner being is working in our inner child.

Through meditation, guided meditations, or being aware of the reason of your reactions we can tune into the unfulfilled needs of the inner child and give it the love and support it deserves.

Start by –

1. Listening to the inner child with an empathetic ear

2. Acknowledge her pain

3. Tell her when she reacts or is afraid, that she is safe.

These few steps will bring up a lot of emotions to the surface. Its like purging your life of unfulfilled emotional baggage that you might not be even aware of. Accept, forgive and let go. Assure your inner child that it was the past, and now we are in it together.

Do you work on connecting with your inner child?

Mindfulness and Meditation

When was the last time you truly connected to yourself? Where the chaos and the noise of the outside world drowned into a peaceful lull. You can feel your body from within, its rigour, pain, and energy. A sense of gratitude takes over, after all, there’s so much to beauty to experience.

I would want to stay for as long as I can in a state of peaceful bliss but it doesn’t happen all that often. A focussed meditation is not for everyone. It takes serious commitment and is very intense. If you are keen on exploring connecting to your higher self and taking out time for meditation seems impossible, try Mindfulness to begin with.

What is Mindfulness? I am heavily going to quote ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness’ by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh for this piece because its the simplest yet the most effective book written to understand and practice Mindfulness, according to me. I recommend that you read this little gem. I assure you there are no heavy philosophical and spiritual discourses that might give you a migraine. Mindfulness is simply “keeping one’s consciousness alive to the present reality.”

Mindful is no easy feat, in fact, mindfulness in everyday life requires as much commitment as a sitting and focussed meditative practice. I recommend it over a sitting practice to start with because –

1. we can incorporate it anytime we need to.

2. With continued practice mindfulness becomes easier to recall and experience.

3. We are more present and conscious to the moment

4. Is very effective if one is trying to be more responsive than reactive.

5. It’s more evident in practice, so the application in a situation would encourage one to go deeper into the practice.

6. Makes you aware of your thought patterns while going about your everyday life.

There are many other benefits to Mindfulness. If you are embarking on your meditative journey, the easiest points of bringing awareness into your body through the technique of Mindfulness are –

1. Using Breath as a tool

In ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness’ by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh he explains “Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again. Breathe in lightly a fairly long breath, conscious of the fact that you are inhaling a deep breath. Now breathe out all the breath in your lungs, remaining conscious the whole time of the exhalation.”

2. Making everyday activities Mindful

Thich Nhat Hanh explains that every activity we carry out should be done with awareness. If we are in a hurry to finish the chores like washing dishes, it means “that you are incapable of living during the time you are washing the dishes”. When you are washing the dishes or carrying out any work be aware of it and give it importance.

3. Creating space between thoughts

This is a lazy persons cheat hack that I learnt from a workshop I attended about being Present in the moment. When you want to give your thought a break, pause and reflect but there’s constant turmoil, ask yourself, what is it that I am going to think next? What would be my next thought?

When we put the attention and mindfulness on our active brain, it feels it’s been put in a spotlight and you create a little window between thoughts. It’s easier to be more mindful of the next activity you take on thereafter.

Mindfulness is a great way to examine your thought patterns. My advice would be to take it easy. Focusing on a task as mundane as washing dishes is not a party in the backyard, when there are a hundred other things to take care of. I began my mindfulness journey by bringing my attention back whenever I recalled the tool, which was not that often at the beginning. The key is to be gentle with yourself, keep reminding to check in with the breath, and try to find joy in whatever you are doing. If watering plants, don’t rush the process, listen to the water quenching the thirst of the life that gives us life. Reflect on the beauty of the leaves of the plant, the texture of the soil, how your breath is relaxed because this brings joy to you. Breathe.

Covid and the collateral beauty

At the onset of Covid, we began our day with a sense of drudgery. Watching the news, following the alarming increase in the number of cases world over, powerful leaders at their knees, saw thousands of migrant workers broken in spirit, many starved to death. The economies around the world plummeted, unemployment rampant. We carried on with what we could, trying to make sense of what was happening around, realising we as a race are so frail, without power.

Covid has its entourage of consequences that we have to deal with, mental health being one of them. I have been looking at what meaning we can derive from this suffering.

Victor E. Frankl, in his beautiful book, Man’s Search for Meaning, explains “What is demanded of man is not, as some existential philosophers teach, to endure the meaninglessness of life, but rather to bear his incapacity to grasp its unconditional meaningfulness in rational terms.” Suffering like happiness is a part of life. We often ask ourselves, others and in our prayers, ‘Why do we suffer?’ It’s a question that can find resolution in philosophical, spiritual or religious understanding, but never in concrete terms, but yet, it remains a fact based on collective and individual experiences. If we do try to apprehend meaning out of our suffering in a rational way and try to apply our derived message by giving it some direction, to help ourselves and others, our suffering would hold to have some logic to it.

In the movie Collateral Damage (starring Will Smith in the lead, got terrible reviews) a mourning father retreats from life and is angry with God. Spoiler alter – God sends him angels who try to make him see the collateral beauty of pain and suffering. You only get to know the angels are not humans toward the end, but that’s besides the point. I am not talking about angels descending on Earth and God answering all our prayers, but about the movie that makes us want to live a more purposeful life even after losing a child. (I have goosebumps and a nasty uneasiness just writing about it. The cast is brilliant, give me Helen Mirren in any role and I am all senses in)

Away from our super fast paced lives, sheltered somewhat from the societal expectations of being a superhero in a human costume, I have certainly felt a change in me. I have looked deeper, and have formed a more meaningful connection with myself and with my family. I craved space from my children, who I felt demanded too much of my time and energy, I missed the time for myself when they were in school. Six months into lockdown, I look forward to them going out and enjoy the fresh air and space to run around and just be messy kids outdoors, but I no longer crave a space between them and I, that would turn me into a restless mother, and sometimes even a frustrated ill tempered one (well frustrated and tempered, sometimes, Covid didn’t turn me into a saint, yet!) We have learnt to live together with a renewed respect of each other’s being. They have accepted their mum needs alone time, is a mild case of OCD and I have accepted that they like to be all over me all the time and have no interest in keeping a clean house. That’s just how is it. It’s a messy, most of the time feel good situation, without the need to keep up with any pretences. Temper tantrums are taken care of by lending an empathetic ear by both parties (children and parents) the by-product of which is to realise that our engines are running fast and are hot, and we now give each other time to calm down. We read a lot of books together, make up stories and play board games. Sometimes we admit to one another that we are bored or upset and just need to be grumpy.

I started reading again, realised I hate multitasking and love cooking, joined a few workshops online that I always wanted to do, have been watching documentaries, listening to audiobooks, doing a lot of home chores, learnt to roll sushi! Looked for what really brings me down and keep my distance from it. My relationship with my husband has gone through tremendous changes too. We are more honest of our expectations of each other and voice it out more often, than letting it simmer with our high and mighty egos intact (usually mine more than his). Now that I am writing this, maybe I did need this break. This time away from the world, yet, understanding how important true connections are. How important gratitude is.

I long to be with my family in Delhi, I want to hug my parents and tell them I love them, sit with my siblings and nieces and nephews and laugh over desserts and shawarmas late into the night. I don’t know when we will be taking that trip but I speak to them more often than I did on the phone. Being an ignorant consumer doesn’t interest me now, I am more aware of the choices I make. I am more accepting of myself, just being in my body and connecting to a higher self, not certain if I’ll cross that threshold but there is some more clarity. I am certain we are nearing an oncoming revolution, this time it won’t be of land, property, greed, power or fragile egos but of morality.

Maybe the universe is giving us a chance to look within and really evaluate what’s happening around, Earth is better off without a parasite called homo sapien, the other elements say, but we have been given an opportunity to find our roots again. We have no power, it’s an illusion. Accepting what is and living our reality with a higher sense of purpose is then the collateral beauty of suffering.

Sharing a few quotes from Eckhart Tolle, one of the most influential spiritual leaders of our times. He explains that the only way to be alive is to live the present moment well, with awareness and in connection with our inner Being. Highly recommend to start with his book The Power of Now, if you are interested in reading his work.

“If you cannot accept what is outside, then accept what is inside.”

Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.

Sunshine, on the worst possible day!

I was having the worst day possible. Everything was going wrong.

I had skipped college three days in a row to accommodate the urgencies. This is so far back in time, that I don’t recall what was going horribly wrong. There is a faint memory of stress and of not feeling good about myself.

I remember my phone ringing, and on the other end, an acquaintance I had just made in college speak the words that will always liven me up.

The person on the other end said, ‘Hey! How are you? Hope you are doing well, you haven’t been coming to college and everything seems dull. There’s no Sunshine.’

He was the sweetest, kindest person, quite shy, but such a gentleman. The next day in college we acknowledged each other with big happy smiles.

I am not in touch with him, never became friends, we would speak sometimes about assignments and exams, he always had a pleasant calm aura around him. On the last day of college we said our goodbyes, and again he had the kindest words to say.

His words have always stayed with me. They encourage me when I am low and they put a smile on my face. They are some of my words of reassurance now, that graciously put my self doubts at ease.

I keep compliments that come from a genuine heart in my memory. They help drown the negative noise out.

Words have such power. They have a life of their own. They can soothe the soul, ignite passion, or when used without care break one’s spirit. Words – use with caution, use with love. They can lift someone’s morale long after you have said them.

I often wonder if I have said something that’s made someone’s life a little happier or their day a bit brighter.
What’s been your favourite compliment? Do you give thoughtful ones to people?

Letter to my 20-year-old self

Dear Manika,

Have I told you how amazing you are?
Sorry, for not telling you this, when you needed to hear it the most. But, here we are a decade and a half later, doing just fine.

I remember you having doubts about how life will work out, if it is going to go according to the ‘plan’. You will soon realize planning should be restricted to booking tickets in advance for travel, the next day to-do list, and chalking out a flexible blueprint of your ultimate goals. Anything above that and the naïve belief in its consequent fruition, is destiny having the last laugh.

Many curve balls will be thrown at us, some you will handle well, many will be a total miss, and a few will leave you broken. You will get back up, fight back, and get what you really want. It never gets easy, but you get better at the game by accepting life and its many layers. Relax, take focused and consistent baby steps, listen to your intuition.

You made life altering decisions that decade. Married, moved to Mumbai, invested in new relationships, a few worked some did not, made plans on a whim, decided to have a baby, had two just before turning 30, fought tooth and nail to get what you really wanted.

Through all of it the struggle was real, and you dealt with it, magnificently. You are my hero, an imperfect perfect mess and I love you. Hope that is enough validation you seek. I say it not for you to get over certain insecurities but, with all the gratitude and truth in my heart. You are honest and righteous, that has not changed.

We have evolved in so many ways, our core values have transformed with awareness and understanding, worldly yet from a very personal almost eccentric point of view. I will not give away too much, and let you discover it as you grow older and wiser.

Leaving you with some answers to the challenges that will come along the way. Head up and humor intact, always.

  1. Relationships change everyday. Our decisions and circumstances shape them. Put in effort but do not dwell on their outcome. The meaningful ones are right here with us.
  2. Spend time with yourself, tune into your wonder, the constant negative one way conversation is doing more damage than good.
  3. Appreciate the people who are making a difference in your life, they seek validation too.
  4. Don’t give up on gardening, you do enjoy it. Carry on growing greens and micro greens.
  5. Party!!! No lazy days. In 30’s you want to dig a burrow in bed and binge watch Netflix. Netflix? yeah, it is like cable, with awesome content.
  6. Workout! get that dream body you always wanted. Later will not happen, and after the twin pregnancy the hormones and body will have a mind of their own! Think Jell-o. Yeah, it ain’t pretty.
  7. Become consistent, finish what you start. You will not have spare time later.
  8. Meditate, journal, eat clean, take care of your body and stop procrastinating. Do it now!
  9. Travel. The trips you make before having children are for you. Traveling as a family, that is a different ball game, where you never get the ball.
  10. Focus on your career. Start investing and saving. It seems too early now but, this is the time when expenses are at their bare minimum.
  11. Become conscious of the environment, start with sustainable practices, stop impulsive shopping, save!
  12. Work on accepting, understanding and appreciating yourself than thinking about others. Build confidence which will come when you appreciate yourself for the person you are. Work on finding your values and letting others have theirs, even when they have nothing in common with you.
  13. Find the people you feel positive around. You have a very strong intuition, listen to it. Let go of the toxic relationships. We will take time to understand Siddharth, but he is your pillar of strength.
  14. You have this idea of being honest, you believe in being transparent. Honesty is good, stick to that, but never be a predictable chapter in someone’s life. Nobody wants to see someones dark vulnerable side. Be open, but never broken in front of ANYBODY. Seek professional help instead.
  15. Faith. A kind and valued self. Family. The rest will come and go.
  16. Read, read, read!!!

We have been together all our lives but often neglected each other, fought, hated ourselves, misunderstood, judged, and have been so unkind to each other. We owe to the little girl who had magical dreams, had such fire to do things her way. We need to take care of her, together. She has the answers I seek now, and the void you feel inside. You will meet faith and He will guide you to connect to yourself.

Our girl, I met her whilst meditating recently. She looked lost, hurt and angry. I asked her forgiveness, gave her a hug and told her that she is the bravest little girl we ever met, she is loved, valued and good. She curled up in my arms and apologized for not doing enough. For letting certain things happen to her. I assured her, she did stupendously. We sat in the punishment corner she was in and asked her to be everything she wants to be, fearlessly.

I promised her we are all grown up now, she is safe and we will always have her back. We are in it together. She needs to heal and I ask you, my 20-year-old misguided slightly superficial self , to start looking inside. There is nothing outside that holds real meaning if it is not coming from a place of love and respect. You may want to be places, have friends on every continent, have the universe admire but, if that little girl is not happy, we might as well be sleeping through it all.

Love every bit of you, the light and the darkness.
Yours Sincerely
Manika

P.S – sending you a list of stocks you need to invest in and praying for time travel so you get my letters.