Viking at heart

In honour of the upcoming International Day of the Girl Child on 11th October 2016, I will have a series of blog posts celebrating my kind.

Celebrating her. Post #2 of 5

I raise my hypothetical hat to all the women that have stayed true to their inner voices, followed their dreams and fought for what they believe in.

When a woman so desires, she has the courage of a lion and the heart of a viking!

Palmira, at age 40 was flung into the role of mother, father, confidant and photographer. She was suddenly the only one to bring home the bacon. 7 young ones (from 6 months to 17 years) were fatherless overnight and she had to step up. She put aside her grieving heart and took to the lens- in the 1960s when a woman was far from welcome in what was then an almost exclusive men’s world. Irrespective of how little she had, there was always enough for a hungry stranger or a cousin in need. More than 40 years later, Palmira finally bade farewell to a teary family and a lifetime of good deeds. She left behind a legacy of love and photography.

Sara (name changed) a senior Syrian anesthesiologist had had enough back home. She took the toughest decision of her life and left behind a husband and two young ones. The refugee route was a sure shot goodbye to security, family and peace. Yet, the end of the road promised a far brighter future. Out set Sara on foot, by boat, by road and 4 months later, she entered Germany. The passion this doctor puts into her work is unbelievable. However, she admits that even in her most peaceful moments her mind is a raging beast, torn between two worlds. Sara must ace the difficult medical exams in German, land a job and only then can she hope to finally reunite the broken pieces of her heart.

Veena (name changed)  went through a horrifying marriage and domestic abuse. A woman of many talents, she studied law, taught in a school and opened her own beauty parlour. Life deserved to be pretty- inside and out. She used her creativity to finance a project for destitute women.  Through Veena, rape and abuse victims get justice, rehabilitation and a new chance at a better life. Today her organization has grown and helped thousands of troubled women. After a second marriage went sour, Veena didn’t lose heart. She found peace in her work.  Collecting shells at the beach and taking long drives in her car always did her wonders. At 71, she is a whirlwind of energy and looks not a day over 50.

Despite all they went through, I am sure these women had the power to simply put their feet up at the end of the day and say, “I am a warrior and I believe in me.”

Their secret? Rumi knew it centuries ago, “Wherever you are and whatever you do, be in love.”

I am honoured to be Veena’s friend, Sara’s german class colleague and Palmira’s granddaughter.

#sheisprecious #internationaldayofthegirlchild

 

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BENEATH THE SURFACE

Ladies, this one is for you. Cheers to us not just on this 8th day of March, but always! Every single waking, dreaming, breathing moment for time immemorial. 

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BENEATH THE SURFACE

Just beneath
Not out of reach
Smeared over
You may not see

Beauty and grace
I do project
Feminity flows
A shy façade

Winds billow
As does my soul
Look deeper
You’ll hear my song

I am she
A haunting tune
An obsessive love
But always covered over

Angelic child
Cheating student
Doting wife
Another’s mistress

Not a clue
From this face
Vermillion on my head
My eyes see red

Bound by tradition
The choice not mine
Hushed tones
Silenced desires

Ornamentally gorgeous
Draped in silk
You must be blind
If you can’t see the filth

Why shackle
What’s meant to be free?
I may be a woman
But I’m also “me”

An explorer
Ardent giver
Wildly passionate
Let me be

Judge me not
Should I exchange
Profession for vocation
Marriage for love

Just beneath
Not out of reach
My spirit rebels
There’s a raging beast

Sun-kissed dreams
My canvas
My colours
I call the strokes

I am both
She and He
Mother Earth
And Zeus the feared

Unleashing my demons
Prepare ye the feast
Heaven and Hell will dine
My worlds will meet

-Nicola.

This is an old piece of poetry I wrote in awe of the inspiring ladies I’ve encountered. I can never get enough of the You-Go-Girl!- sentiment. It empowers me every single time. I’m curious as to what emotions/thoughts/ideas/critique my poem brings out in you. The comments section is waiting with arms open wide…. 😉

MY INCONVENIENT MARRIAGE

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Picking up from where I left off last time; I’m curious to know which of the four you picked as my likely bed-mate. Take a guess if you haven’t already….

I come from quite a traditional, loving, Roman-Catholic, Indian background. Despite my conventional upbringing, my close friends always knew that the person I chose to live my life with, would have to be someone mighty unconventional. When exposed to the multi-faceted personality traits I possess; any insane (not a typo) human being is bound to be driven even more insane. I appear smart, elegant, calm and poised. And that I am. But what most people don’t know, is that there’s a raging storm beneath… of ideas, travel plans, art, emotions, imagined emotions, and I’m quite certain, a great deal of crazy.

My freaky wavelengths matched one other that fateful night and that’s how I ended up, deliriously happy, in this very inconvenient marriage. I said yes to the German. PS- that sounded like all four companions asked; but no they didn’t. And the German had the sense to romance me silly, shine a diamond in my face and ask while on another train four years later. I had to say yes.

There I go, off-tracking again. Let me explain inconvenient to you. Don’t get me wrong, there is no sorrow, no tales of woe in this description but one big herculean load of inconvenience. It’s become a running gag between us that the easiest thing in our relationship was falling in love. All the rest…

To begin with, there was two of everything intruding into our budding relationship: countries, culture, language, religion, food tastes, time zones and the biggest demon of all- bureaucracy.

All because two people in love wanted to legally endorse their relationship and live together, ugly paperwork reared its frenzied head. Germany wanted to prove I wasn’t an Indian marrying their son just to have a shot at a better life. (Read: work and stay permission and unrestricted access to Schengen countries). And so in the months that followed, the paper piled high and our pockets sunk lower. There we were awaiting German Government approval to say we could get married and I had no ulterior motives. Imagine that! I didn’t know I was on the edge of the pan, about to be pushed into the fire.

A representative of the German consulate showed up unannounced at my door-step and conducted his own little investigation-involving my parents, neighbours and hand-written letters- to ensure I wasn’t already married. My sleepy neighbours were roused from their sacred afternoon siesta and with IDs in hand, they came to the aid of their unmarried-girl-next-door. As if the indignity of this wasn’t enough, I had to endure embarrassing tales from the neighbours about my childhood; in the presence of Mr-I-Represent-the-German-Consulate-Do-Not-Mess-With-Me.

Several months later, after our documents were tired of playing ping-pong between Hamburg and Delhi; I was called to a final interview in Mumbai. All the lady had to do, was check my papers and either approve or disapprove. But no, she felt obliged to subject me to detailed questions of how, when and where we met; all the while cross-checking travel dates on both our passports. And then I was fingerprinted. The number of times I had to remind myself I wasn’t a criminal: countless.

My linguistic abilities were also put to test as a pre-requisite for my German Marriage Visa (yes, something like that exists!). I needed to pass a German Language A1 exam. Try learning German in Goa which at the time had no formal course, working two jobs and training the fiancée in Indian tradition! I’m kidding about the last part.

I’ve always wanted to be married in Church and my now husband doesn’t have a religion. Do the math. Catholic girl, no religion boy. I’m going to spare you the gory details of the church approval and pre-marriage course. Let’s just leave it at difficult. (I’m saying this through clenched teeth.)

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Over the four years it took us to sort through the sea of differences and celebrate them along the way, I was always struck by how integral technology had become to our relationship. I felt like I had a new body part: a screen, sometimes in plural. We had a go at every obscure App available. After one too many virtual dates, your nerves get frayed and all you long for is to meet each other on a Friday evening, being able to touch, smell the coffee, devour the Bhel Puri or Bratwurst and to do so regularly. Not every couple of months. Finally, we now have that reality and its sheer bliss to have an actual date with no screens presiding.

There’s a lot you miss out when in a long distance relationship but an equal amount you learn about each other: patience levels when your internet connection drops 15 times in one call. How tame or wild your temper is when you’re apart for seven agonizing months. Your ability at understanding the spirit of a message and not only the letter, because when you have a native German speaker communicating in English, there’s a lot that’s lost in translation. We’ve somersaulted down that tricky slope a million times. I’ve only just begun speaking German more fluently and I already told my colleague to have fun at an event he explained and I understood as a choir practice. Turns out he was singing at a funeral.

As a mixed couple, our biggest decision was in which country to begin. My husband is quite the travel enthusiast himself, having a dozen countries he’s visited and two he’d lived in besides Germany: India and Slovakia. He was originally on an internship program to China and a week before he could leave, things fell through and India was his only option. Despite weeping protests from his mother he took it. The rest is history. Her fears of her son falling prey to some exotic force came true: Me!

My parents were suspiciously happy and supportive when I told them I was dating a German. Something had to be amiss, but they didn’t let on. Not until Kay asked them for my hand in marriage and they said yes. Once the ring was on my finger, their questions came out in anxious gasps: WHAT DO YOU MEAN HE HAS NO RELIGION? What will you write on paper? What about the kids? How do you know it will work out? He’s German and not a football fan?

Eventually both sets of parents came around and their acceptance far exceeded our expectations. The first time they met however was close to a mini disaster as there was no common language. Three bottles of wine saved the day as I quietly made sure every glass was brimming. Soon enough there were tears and laughter and photos and presents. My parents were talking German and Kay’s replied in English (or so they all thought). Believe me, it is a blessing they don’t have words to communicate. Just faces, hands and feet.

Our inconvenient marriage was born after we had two surreal weddings in Germany and Goa, complete with a Polterabend (German tradition of smashing porcelain for luck) and a Roce (Indian tradition of bathing the couple in coconut milk). More about this in the future…

Hamburg came out at the top in our country selection and here’s where we are before we jump to another country. It is bursting with history and we live in a multi-cultural district called St Georg. The vibe here is such an erratic and non-judgmental one, it inspires me every day. A Portuguese church, prostitutes, Turkish restaurants, gay bars, Afghani shops, petite coffee shops, druggies, an English theater, a Kinder-garden and gifted street musicians happily co-exist. My favorite is a drummer who regularly whacks the life out his drums at the main train station, producing some intoxicating tunes that the crowds can’t help but dance to.

Being in a mixed relationship is as exciting as it is challenging. Each day holds something new for us to learn as a couple and it is rare if it isn’t inconvenient. I have a German language B1 exam next week and Kay is mastering the German tax system that is much kinder to married couples.

Our tastes in food are such that our breakfast table often has sausages, cheese, coconut milk, chapatti, dhal and baguette all at the same time. People have the most questions about the food we eat. “Is it German or Indian?” Do you eat spicy or bland?” “Do you fight over food?”

We tell them that it’s never one or the other, it’s never yours over mine. It’s a compromise, a meeting half-way between. A blend of two or more tastes.  And that’s how I like to think our relationship works. A coming together of very inconvenient factors, stripped of their inconvenience by the big ‘L’, the four letter force we share.

On that note, Auf Wiedersehen, and May the Force be with you!

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