Hope : They Learn. They Evolve. They Relate.

The other day I was trying to feed milk to my two and a half year old girl. She has been on bottles since birth and I am in the process of getting her to hold her glass of milk. The weaning process is really slow, and the transition phase tests your patience each time.

That particular evening, I was prepared to get through this transaction. I gave her a small glass filled with bournvita milk (just the way she likes it). She refused. I urged politely but she had the same attitude.

I had had an extremely hard day and at 7PM I was not ready to take any nonsense. Her persistence nudged my temper but I took a deep breath and thought of an alternative. Post realizing that the glass won’t do the trick, I transferred the milk in her pink sippy. She drinks water in it every day, and has been her favorite possession for the last six months. As the milk was not the problem, the carrier was, so the sippy should have done the trick, but alas, I was wrong.

She took a sip, and then forgot about it. I kept asking her over and over again, but I guess she was in no mood of listening. She pushed me on the edge and counting till 10 was not effective to soothe my rising temper. She pulled the last straw when she laid that sippy on my grey couch and gave it a big white stain.

The cleanliness paranoid and a disciplined mother in me could not entertain and absorb this trait of hers. Before I could open my mouth to yell, my hand had made its way.

The contact of my hand with her flesh echoed through the walls. My snow white had a burning red cheek and Niagara Falls came running out of her big black eyes. She cried and cried some more, and asked to be held. No matter what I do, I am still her mother, her comfort zone. At this age, she is fond of me even when I hurt her as bad.

Why is it that you loose on those moments of hesitation before you raise your hand, and once you have crossed the bridge, all you feel is guilt, remorse and wrong, very wrong.

“I shouldn’t have”, “How could I?”, “Look at her hugging me even after this.” , cried my head, but that ship had sailed. It always does.

Moments after soothing her, I retired to my bedroom, and reflected on my deed and felt exceedingly miserable. In the spur of the moment, I held my head up, and slapped myself as hard I could, to feel that pain. There was no rationale behind my act; I guess I was just finding ways to dodge guilt. My skinny fingers had a deep impact on my face and the burning sensation filled my skin and jawline. I tasted my own medicine, and it was more bitter than I could fathom. I was just about to rub my cheek that I heard the grief stricken howl of my tiny one. She must have followed me, without me noticing her.

She yelled whist crying, “Mummy ko nahi. Please.”She felt my pain, and I was in pain to witness that. I took her in my arms and hugged her so tight.

She looked at my cheek and started kissing it whist healing it with her angelic touch. Suddenly I felt no physical pain; it was long gone. All I felt was the pain that mothers feel – it’s a heartache minced with emotions.

My tiny little girl felt my agony more than hers. That realization made me feel bad and good at the same time. Bad as I wasn’t more patient with her and good, well, because little Mysha is already becoming the daughter I want her to be. She has already started to feel her mother’s pain and taking care of her, in her own way!

As a parent, I promised myself that I wouldn’t have high expectations from her. Expectations often lead to failure, and I don’t want to be disheartened. But this incident made me warm, and gave me hope. Maybe I am doing something great as a guardian. Mysha is turning compassionate and can relate to me, when needed.

That night I went to sleep, like I always do – hugging my girl.  As warm tears flowed from my eyes, thinking of the happenings of that evening, Mysha tapped my cheek in a gentle manner saying– Mummy lub you. Toh jao.

And we did have a good night sleep.

P.S. : I’m not endorsing any parenting technique. I am ‘just a mother’ and learning from my own experience(s). 

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Inside Story: “Why Did You Leave Your Job?”

Judgment. We all do it somehow and we all come under the radar.  NO matter how hard you tell yourself that you won’t be affected by it, you do!

My first company selected me when I was 22 years of age. It was a gold mine offer for someone who had slaved throughout her academic cycle to make it to the next class. Having being selected along with the cream of our MBA college, placed an invisible tiara on my head. That first salary got good green papers in my bank account, and in the next three years they increased multifold. Then came the biggest decision of my life – I got myself married to my better half, who by the way, belongs to a different faith.

I was questioned for my decision by several people for the usual – are you sure you want to marry him? But then I was also questioned for something, which felt unusual, or the least of my concern at that hour.

“Saumya, it’s a great job and they pay you well . You sure you wanna quit?” asked my real good friend Archana.

She could not believe I was quitting my job to marry and move to another city and I could not believe she had that question in her head. I was finally going to marry someone I was with for 8 years then, and I knew that my happiness lay there. Job was not something that made me one tenth as happy or satisfied.

I got married and quit, and moved to Hyderabad and then to the USA. For the next two years, I was a homemaker and then we moved to London. Unlike USA, I had a working visa in England and I could look for a job, if not get one. After giving interviews for a week, I was hired by a London based technology company on a contract for four months. It was a fun filled stint, where I learnt and they paid in pounds, which made me pay for our trips to Belgium and Netherlands. More than providing me a great pay, this placement offered me a morale boost. When you take a good break from work, your self-esteem and confidence goes for a toss. You are out of touch of the corporate world, and that is, at times, a deal breaker.

As the contract ended, I did an internship with a startup who was looking into new domestic energy storage proposition. Whilst doing so, I started interviewing with Deloitte Hyderabad as we were supposed to move back to the Nizam city.  I came to India with a job in hand and continued with it till I delivered Mysha. I went to work till July 09, 2014 and from the very next day at 8:43 AM, I became a full-day provider and umbrella for Mysha. She is till date the most complex project I delivered and she hardly gives me easy deadlines.

Leaving my job just came naturally to me, after six months of my maternity leave. Neither of the two set of parents were staying with us, and I wanted to raise my daughter with the best company she could get. So with Mysha, I gave birth to a stay at home mother (SAHM).

It’s been two and a half years and I am still raising my girl. In this period I have evolved, sustained, and learnt, a lot. Raising a human being is what being human is about.  The whole process is a challenge, which makes one scared, and vulnerable, but one learns. I am blessed to be a part of her growing up, to be available for every call of hers. Yes, it is frustrating, challenging, taxing and infuriating and even drives you over the edge at times, but then who told you raising a child will come easy?

Even though I have a blessed happy marriage, run a successful home, am a good mother, yet every now and then a question comes my way – “Why did you leave your job?”

At the time of getting married, I left work to focus on my married life. I wanted to work on my relationship and now am in the eighth year of a blissful inter-faith marriage. After having a child the question “Why did you leave your job” sounds more bizarre as the answer as simple as  “I left work to take care of my girl” cannot be understood by many, even after my explaining them so. Yes there are many women who handle both work and home. I have respect for them and their decision, but then why is a mother questioned when she quits work, by choice. A female knows herself and her home dynamics the best. You can strike a balance between work and upbringing of a child, you can focus on work more and raise a child with the help of nanny/daycare/other suited options, or you can completely focus your time and energy on raising your child. While there is no denying that the first two options are great, but so is the third one – the most conventional one.

My husband and I have the simple understanding of dividing work and giving it 100%, rather than taking a portion of all chores. The reason he does well at work is because I am here to look after our child and our home. I act as a back end support so that he puts his best foot forward, stress free. There are ways to do it but this way works the best for us. As said before, it’s conventional and most (too much “best”) suited to us.  Probably the reason I don’t feel the itch to join the race of corporate world is because I never looked at his career graph as his alone and find happiness in what he attains. I am not in competition with him. I mean how can I? We are a team – in which he is not he, without me.

Anyone who has acted as a mother, or stayed near one can easily know that the to-do list with a child is endless. At office I at least got a tea break, at home I don’t get a hot sip of tea without my 2 year old’s permission. This choice wasn’t easy and definitely not better than working, but we made it because we wanted to do so at that hour.

The reason a mother keeps working are also many and completely relatable. Some work to keep their career alive as they have worked hard to secure that position. Some work because dual income has become a necessity to run house holds these days, while for some working is the art of living. Every person has a different baggage and so is their decision.

I believe if you are talented and qualified, you will earn a job when you try. When you don’t make it, you try harder. It may be a step down from your preceding profile, but then that’s the choice you make peace with. SAHM or a working one, both have an occupation, just the definition of occupation if different.

Mom shaming is a shame and comes from every corner, including your own circle. When you are judged for leaving your professional degree and taking care of your child, it hurts. I know it shouldn’t matter but at times it does. You don’t know what her story is and so you don’t have the right to run to conclusions. She can be anyone she wants to be – a professional,  a juggler, an attainer or just a ‘mother’. It’s about choice. Let her make hers and let her live it, without judgement, if you may!

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The People. The Perception.

February 04, 2017: July was the month I shifted to my current accommodation in Hyderabad. I have still to learn about people residing in this 55 apartment building. I see mothers with their children gathered downstairs at late evening, but with God’s grace, as he makes home in time, we like to spend time within us. I smile and nod when I get to see them here and there but still don’t know their names. A part of me tells me that they know me more than I know about them.
Forward to current scenario. Shahzeel has been super busy this week and today he was supposed to come in at 10PM. I made an attempt to take Mysha downstairs as a child her age will not spend much time at home, looking at just one face.
As I entered the radar of social circle of mothers, there were talks I could sense but not listen. I was a newbie. Anyhow I did what I was there for. I told Mysha to go and play with other kids. She refused and sat next to me holding her ball tight.
Then a friendly hand came towards me with  “Hi! I am Ankita.”
“Saumya”, I smiled and gave my hand in hers.
Suna aap UP se hai“, she sat close to me.
“Yes. Aap?”
“MP” she said somewhat excited.
“Awesome! I miss talking in hindi to someone. Shoot!” I realized that I have delivered a sentence in English again and switched, “Hindi mein baat karna acha laga.” We giggled.
It was two states meeting their soul language – Hindi.
“Come I will introduce her to others kids.”, she said.
Ankita called those sweat ridden children and they all shook their hands with Mysha and left.
As she stood up to leave she said, “Bye Saumya. Keep coming downstairs with your little one. She will mix with other kids and will not feel the need to hold on to you.”
“Yeah, I think I should…for her.” I felt warm with her hospitality.
“Great. Bye.”, she said again and waved to my girl, “Bye Aisha”
“Mysha.” I smiled. “M as in mango”, I checked politely.
“Oh okay. Wohi main sochu. Aisha toh vaisa naam hai na.” she paused and I knew what word she fought to say.
Vaisa na..muslim types.” she completed in a condescending tone.
I gave a smile as the balance in the world had been restored.
A part of me wanted to embarrass her right away, “Yeah. Meet my daughter – Mysha Jawed” but that won’t be fun.
I am waiting for the next meet. Who knew hanging out with mothers can be so much fun?
I can’t label what I felt at that hour. I am used to it by now and I feel no need to explain.The whole ideology is very plain to explain which children will get, adults won’t!
We all are objecting a President of a super nation for his certain ban but have we uplifted that ban from our head and heart?
I learn each day and these acts make me realize how different my life is from others. Who needs a boring life anyway? Its only these kind of conversation(s) which makes you learned. They won’t learn, so you start to – on both ends.
I had to share. Just had to. Have a great day people!!
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Day 1 at Preschool

November 16, 2016: Mysha started her pre school today. Its a big step for her and a bigger one for us. I went to work till July 09, 2014 and from the very next day at 8:43 AM, I became a full-day provider and umbrella for Mysha. She is till date the most complex project I delivered and she hardly gives me easy deadlines. As I sat in pre-school with her today I sensed her panic, anxiety and attempt to find comfort in an alien environment. She kept looking at me, making sure I don’t leave the room, and I had to keep telling her with a gesture – mumma toh yehi hai!

As she tried to copy rhyme steps of her teachers..the protective mother in me kept checking other kids. Who is trying to be friends with her? Who she is sharing her tiffin with? Mother in me was also happy to see that she is taller than other kids in her class and can take them down incase she gets in a fight. Well, don’t judge. I don’t want her to a bully but she should be ready to take them, if required.

This is the first get away for her from her own kingdom – her home. She was scared and so am I. Its hard to let go, knowing that soon she will be school for those 3 hours while I will be home hoping she is doing fine. Soon she might learn to be without me, playing with other kids, but when will I learn? She does not know the world, but I have seen it all and like any parent, want my girl to be untouched by any.

We managed to be there for 2 hours and in coming days I will make my presence scarce, till she learns to stand for herself. Its like making her walk…step-by-step. Only this time she will not be running towards her parents (who will hold her), but to an unfamiliar world, which she needs to take a hold of.

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Missed Call: New Zealand

It all started in October 2015.

In 2015, my home in Hyderabad (Hyd) hosted a lot of family members. It felt amazing and refreshing. As Diwali started to get closer on calendars, my spirit rose higher and was all set to make my footprints on Kanpur soil. Being a SAHM, I figured not having a job meant I could make an early approach to my homeland, and hence booked my flight tickets for September 19, my birthday. The plan to invest time with both sides of families for birthday, Bakraeid, and Diwali in one go sounded awesome. Shahzeel, on the other hand, had to make an exit from his Kanpuriya land soon after Bakraeid, in September end. He had a job which made him return to the pavilion (Hyd) again.

I was supposed to fly out of Kanpur, post Diwali in mid November. October was coming to an end, and so was my shopping in Kanpur, in permissible airline weight limit. Now that domestic flights allow only 15 kgs in check-in, I shop only for much needed items, which aren’t available in Nizam city. As a ritual Shahzeel called me after 10PM (Mysha’s sleeping time) one night.

“Hey! Did you get your tickets done for Diwali? It will get expensive every second now.” I believe in answering calls with straightforward questions.
Shahzeel was supposed to come to Kanpur yet again so that the family could get together for the biggest festival of the year.
“Yes, I am coming to Kanpur in the next 10 days. BTW, you always wanted to visit that hobbit land, right?”
“What? Hobbit land? You mean…..New Zealand(NZ)?”
“So there’s a company named Farmlands in Christchurch (CC). It’s a reputed cooperative and is looking for a CRM consultant. They interviewed me over several rounds in the last 15 days and have made an offer today. You game for it?” That’s Shahzeel. He informs when he’s through with the transaction.
A part of my mind started wandering in lush green surroundings, walking on glaciers and even picturing Mysha posing with cattle. It all looked so calm down under. As one side of my brain drew extremely picturesque landscapes, the other side took no time sketching me doing dishes, laundry and cooking. I have done these before in the States and the UK, but having a child makes these chores 10 times more taxing.
“Summy? Kya hua? Bolo.” he waited long enough for me to reply.
“If you think the offer is good and has a change that you wanted in your job profile, then let’s go for it. Yes, I am a little scared if that’s what you want to judge, but then till the time we won’t plunge, water will always be dark and deep.” I gave my yes for the new adventure.

In the next few days, Shahzeel learnt more about Farmlands, and CC (the city we were relocating to), while I read and researched about the place too. CC is situated on the South Islands of NZ and is a home to dramatic mountain scenery. As a child I always dreamt of staying in a place where mountains meet ocean and now I was getting to live that dream.

In November Shahzeel arrived in Kanpur for Diwali and we informed the families on both sides about the NZ proposition. As parents, they respected our professional decision. It was hard for them to adjust to the idea of us staying that far, but they soon acclimated.

1Diwali 2015, Kanpur

Once we celebrated Diwali as one big family, (with Sonam and Revant coming over from the States) Mysha, Shahzeel and I headed to Hyderabad to file for NZ visa. Farmlands informed Shahzeel that they expected the employee to apply for his own visa, which would be reimbursed by the company later. After a minor resentment, Shahzeel agreed. After learning about the paperwork of the visa process over the Internet, we concluded that it was for the best if we hired a consultant, as a professional knows this job the best. It would cost us additionally, but when it comes to passport and visas, one wants things to be done correctly and wisely. We searched for an authorized consultant, who could get Shahzeel’s visa first, followed by Mysha and mine.

As we were certain about picking up the NZ offer, Shahzeel put down his papers in Accenture in November, quite definite that his visa will be in his hands before his last working date (January end). Accenture gave him the platform and learning he dreamt of when he joined the organization in January 2013. After earning the position of an Assistant Manager (AM) in October 2015, it was time he looked for a better role, and NZ just came his way.

As a prerequisite, we got our full medical check-up done in a hospital approved by New Zealand Immigration. It is a step-by-step procedure where they run medical tests on you divided into five broad brackets. After investing good four hours, donating four tests tubes’ full of warm blood (Shahzeel and mine), and spending a whooping amount, we were bailed to return home. NZ is one of the countries that are very thorough about medical checks so that no disease enters their jurisdiction. After the painful slog at the hospital with a toddler, we gave a sigh of relief; our job there was done. The panel physicians would submit our medical information electronically to the NZ Embassy.

Meanwhile our consultant compiled all paperwork he needed to file Shahzeel’s visa, and put it all together on the application website. Medicals were done. Visa was filed. Now we waited for the approval so that we could pack our bags from Hyderabad and let our extended family and friends know about the update. Then came a call from our consultant that offered us the first roadblock. The day was December 6th, 2015.

“What? Wrong visa category? How can you apply my visa in a category I’m not eligible to apply in? I can’t believe you made such a blunder. The only reason I relied on you to do the paperwork was because I felt you’re a professional, and everything will be done in an orderly fashion.” Shahzeel channeled his anger in low-pitched words.
“Sorry Sir, I promise it will done correctly this time.” urged the consultant.
“I am running out of time. My last working day in my current company is February 02 and soon the Embassy closes for Christmas break. This gives me a time frame of three weeks only to receive my visa. I’ll be needing the whole of January to wrap up my home and apply for my wife and child’s visa before I fly to NZ.” Shahzeel pressed his point hard.
“It will be done faster than you think Mr. Jawed. They have all your data; only visa type has to be changed. We have the edge. Trust me.”

Trust or no trust, we did not have an option. When December 24 arrived with no sign of the visa, we knew we had to wait till the Embassy becomes operational in January 2016. The waiting process, when the whole world bid goodbye to 2015, we bid farewell to that year by spending time with my side of family in Shillong. Those five days our minds were off visa, medicals, and notice period.

2Christmas Break 2015, Shillong

As 2016 started, so did our race against time. As we were still waiting to hear on the visa front, other panic started to roll up our sleeves. With the surety of visa arrival, we had planned to leave Hyd by mid January. Shameel, Shahzeel’s youngest brother’s wedding date was fixed on February 07 and we were supposed to pack our bags before that.

Every day got us a new faith, with increasing likelihood for the phone to ring and get us information on our application being processed. The sun came up with an expectation, and went down with a hope for the next day. When you apply for a visa via a consultant, only he has the right to talk to the Embassy on your behalf.
“Jawed, I’m where you are. I have no idea why is it taking so long. When I call the Embassy they just say that your application is in process. You know I’ll call you as soon as I hear from them. Have patience Sir. I know it’s hard, but what can we do?”

In just few more days we knew what we couldn’t do more – wait to pack. Ideally we would have packed once the visa had arrived but we were running out of days. It was already January 20th and I had to leave for my hometown Kanpur to prepare for my brother-in-law’s wedding. My dad’s 32 years’ of job tenure was coming to end in January end, and I wanted to be a part of it as well.

In just a week we sold everything we owned in Hyderabad and got majority of our boxes parceled to Kanpur. On January 26th Mysha and I travelled to Kanpur, unaware that with the celebration of the Constitution of India being put to practice, my residential constitution for next 5 months were laid down.

3Packing our home in Hyderabad, January 25, 2016

Shahzeel came after four days, wrapping up all that was left in Hyderabad. Kanpur welcomed us with cold weather in January end, but the warmth you receive staying at your parents’ nest makes it your best abode. With dad’s wonderful retirement party, January came to end with no traces of visa, what-so-ever! On professional end also, we ran out of days, as Shahzeel’s last day at work arrived. With immense regret and contemplation, he took his papers back. His consultant urged him not to withdraw his papers, as the prior was sure that visa would arrive shortly. Our thought was, what’s the surety now? With one amongst us working, having a toddler, and an EMI of our new house in Hyd, we needed security. We already took the risk of moving to another country, but sitting without a job to get a visa approve was beyond our budget.

4Amreen-Shameel’s reception, February 2016, Kanpur.

We were little low, but were soon uplifted with the joyous wave of Shameel’s wedding. Till mid February we were flowing in the ocean of ceremonies, until it all ended and we came ashore to the fact that Shahzeel had to move to Hyderabad again. He had been a good resource to Accenture and so the company was happy to have him back. On the flip side since October last year, he had hardly performed and lost time, thanks to the NZ opportunity. Now that we did not have a home in Hyd, he started to put up with our dear friends in town – Rahul and Rakhi. The couple is generous enough to provide us a roof, whenever we need one.

The thought of moving back to Hyd was killing me. I mean here I was mentally envisioning my new life in a country down under and I just couldn’t come to peace with the fact that due to visa turbulence, I might have to go back to basics. To the same Hyderabad, to the same eating joints, to the same lifestyle. I, as a person hate monotonous living style. I like to experiment; I look forward to new places. Somehow I made my heart reconcile with practical details, and just when I did, his visa arrived! We applied for it in the beginning of November and in the end of February, a little less than good four months, we received that daunting visa.

“OK Summy, visa is here. Are you still on board with the NZ plan, or you want to call it quits?” Shahzeel checked with me during one of our late night calls. He was still in Hyd while I was in Kanpur.
“I guess we are good to go, but then it’s absolutely your call. After all, it’s your professional graph. I will bank on your decision.” I said. I believe one knows what’s best for one. I trust my man, especially when it comes to his career decisions.
“You know the issue now, right?” he said lightly.
“Yes! I do”, I chimed.

Lately our life had been decked with issues. Now that he withdrew his resignation from Accenture (on the very last day of his notice period, I want to mention that again), his visa came. In order to pursue NZ, he had to put down papers in Accenture AGAIN! Serve three months notice period AGAIN! But what if Farmlands was not ready to wait for another three months for Shahzeel, AGAIN? So, the very next day he drafted an email to Farmlands, stating his current scenario. He mentioned that even if he resigns in Accenture that day, his joining in Farmlands, will be delayed by three months (notice period). Farmlands gave a green signal, though they urged if somehow Shahzeel’s notice period could be cut short and he could join their team in a shorter span than three months.

So just after a month of picking his papers, Shahzeel resigned, yet again. There was a little questioning at Accenture, but he managed. How lucky was that firm to have him, I wonder. With the advent of notice period, Shahzeel flew to Kanpur for good in mid March. He planned to work from Kanpur in his notice period and fly to NZ from Kanpur. He had his visa, he had a job offer in the NZ, he had a notice period to serve and fly out of India.

As his visa was such a tough and educative ride for us, we wanted to apply for Mysha and my visa before he relocated to NZ. What if anything went wrong with our visa and Shahzeel and I were stuck in separate countries? Oh! Then came another speed brake. Right when we were compiling papers for Mysha and my visas, we realized that our medicals had expired. It had a timeline of three months and it had been four months since Mysha and mine were done. Yes, you’re thinking right, we got the tests done again! But that too didn’t come that easy. These medical tests are done only in big cities, but as all 2.5 of us were putting up at Kanpur that time, we went to Delhi in March end to donate blood and time, again.

“You better deserve this New Zealand!” I thought to myself looking at the test tubes filled with my blood in a hospital in Delhi. We stayed in Delhi for two days, putting up at my Bua- Phoophaji’s home. It was the last time that I saw my Uncle, as he said his goodbye to this world in April this year. While coming back from Delhi, we took a stopover at Aligarh for the weekend, where the newly wed Shameel and Amreen put up. These small visits with family were the only fuel that sustained our maniac visa hurdles.

6.pngAligarh, March 2016

With the advent of fourth month of the year, Mysha and my visas were filed. I applied for the work visa, as I wanted to explore what NZ could offer me. So far the offerings were bleak, but I wanted to keep my hopes up. It finally felt we were back on track. Track, which would make us fly to the country closest to Antarctica. Despite been blocked by so many bumps, we maneuvered our way for the destination. We really wanted to go, until that phone call.

April 15th Shahzeel’s phone rang with +64 (NZ ISD code) yet again.

“Hi”, said Shahzeel.
“Hi Shahzeel, This is Jorit. Hope you’re doing well.” Jorit is a senior person in Farmlands.
“Hi Jorit. I’m good. All set on the visa front. Just about to get my tickets booked for Christchurch.”
“Yeah. Listen Shahzeel, there is an unfortunate news. Farmlands has a new CTO, and with him comes new set of policies. One of it is that we aren’t hiring anymore. We really wanted to honor our commitment to you, but CRM projects are put on hold, as of now, which means the role offered to you is withdrawn.” Jorit continued in slow regretful tone.
It took few seconds for Shahzeel to collect his thoughts.
“I don’t know how to react? Everything at my side is packed. God knows I have put in all I had, from my end. Its been six months since the offer was made, and now after putting in my papers twice in the current firm, you folks have revoked the offer?” Shahzeel’s voice escalated with his heartbeat.
“I know what you have come through and I appreciate your commitment; it’s just unfortunate. Trust me, I have done everything I could possibly do from my end, but I can’t meddle with the company’s policy. Please don’t lose hope, I will do what I can.” With this Jorit ended the call and the offer from Farmlands.

It took Shahzeel some time to sink into the pool of information he was flooded into. Once he did, he resorted to something, which always gives him inner peace and stamina – he performed namaz. After holding hands with the spiritual world, he came face-to-face with reality and passed on the information.

“What? Revoked? That’s insane. We have come so far with this. Offer came in October, you filed your visa in November, which took full four months and landed in our hands in February. Mysha and I had to undergo medicals again in Delhi, 4 days back we filled for her and my visas. We have sold everything we possessed in Hyderabad. You have resigned twice in Accenture. All my boxes are lying at my parents’ place, here in Kanpur. Your suitcases are packed to fly to NZ, and you tell me you aren’t going?” I just had to quote and stress each line. It may be a line in writing, but in action it was a much more painful and demanding task.

“Summy calm down. I know it’s huge, but this is what it is. We’ll figure it out. I trust Allah, he always has plans.” said Shahzeel, the believer.

There was a huge crash of plans and I could not pull myself from the debris. To add to our distress, Mysha and my visas came over in just a weeks’ time. What should we have done with them then? Destiny was acting spiteful.

Meanwhile Shahzeel started looking for other opportunities. He had 40 days before his second set of notice period ended. He was sure he did not want to be part of Accenture and honestly, we didn’t expect the company to rehire him, given the man left them twice in last six months. I was very disheartened with the proceedings, but Shahzeel was still composed. When I checked what made him stay grounded, he said – “Allah ne hi karaya tha, Allah hi karwayega. Kal kuch nahi tha tab bhi nikal aaye, aaj toh bahut kuch hai.” He said the last 5 words while looking at Aaraaf and Mysha. I trusted him and bigger HIM and in just few days things started to unfold.

Our ship had hit the rock bottom and it was then that it started rising. As Farmlands couldn’t hire Shahzeel due to their company policy being changed, they recommended him to one of its IT partner – a company named Fusion5 –, which was looking for CRM Consultants at that hour. In the attempt to look for options, Shahzeel got an interview fixed with PowerObjects. PowerObjects is a US-based company providing Microsoft CRM Dynamics services, acquired by HCL last October. Next two weeks were jam packed with interviews and as destiny might like it, he nailed them both! From having none, he now had two lucrative offers. One was to take us to a new adventure in Fusion5 in an unknown country; the other was to take us back to Hyderabad with HCL. After few insane non-ending discussions, interpretations, pros and cons’ list made, he picked HCL, the known devil over an unknown angel. HCL offered him a role of a lifetime. PowerObjects aims at forming its own team and Shahzeel will be responsible for that in India. He has to design a framework, a team, and the whole foundation has to be built. Now it’s on him where he takes it; he makes it or breaks it. In a corporate structure, you need to invest minimum 2-3 year to be promoted from an AM to a Manager and he covered it in precisely 6 months. His prayers worked for us, have always worked.

To mark the end of the job search we took a break from the Kanpur heat and rushed to the city of seven lakes. I have been to Nainital before, but this trip was more about the journey than the destination. Shahzeel’s whole khandaan – his uncles, aunts, their kids and kids’ kids were a part of it. 48 people (including kids); 420 kms; 8 cars. We had a full building of furnished apartments booked for our people. We cooked together, ate together, chatted through entire nights; something every family khandaan should do!

11.pngGoofing around on the streets of Nainital, May 2016

So in June, with ongoing Ramzaan, we started a new life in the city we call our second home. Everything we packed in January this year and parceled to Kanpur came back to the same city. When I was in the cab on my way to Hyderabad airport on January 26, I didn’t blink my eye for a second. I thought it was my last rendezvous with the Nizam city and I wanted to capture all of it. I was pretty confident I was leaving this city for good. Now siting in Hyderabad once again, I know its God way to letting me know that we only roll the dice, rub it hard and maneuver our fist for a hard six, but will it be a one or a six, only HE decides.

From February to May, while he was busy with interviews, offers and company searches, I got a better role to serve. Given my dad retired in January end, my parents had to relocate from their current government residence to their own place. That is when the interior designer in me got to surface. I was just lucky to be in Kanpur to help my parents, and it took me four months to do the interiors. From some abrupt visits to the new place in February, to daily 2-3 hours’ investment in May, the home making preoccupied my time. Everyday I searched for what could be done, and then executed the best possible decor, which would fit our budget and the space at home. The act of negotiating and getting the job done by a contractor, carpenter, electrician, plumber was cumbersome, but once every detail I planned came together, I felt it was time well spent and job well done.

8.pngSeveral snapshots of my parent’s home, Kanpur

Every thing has a reason and mostly that reason is unknown to us. Luckily, in this scenario I know the reason behind this fiasco. We underwent all this trouble to fly to New Zealand and finally when it came; we backed out, holding on to a better offer in Hyderabad. I spent five months at home (in Kanpur) at a stretch, something I have missed out on, since I moved out of my home for further studies in 2005. I got to help my parents draft their home, a place they will settle for the rest of their lives. This is something which makes me immensely happy and little proud. I got a chance to serve my grandfather for a number of days, who visited Kanpur from Allahabad (my ancestral home) time-to-time. Taking care of him and Mysha at the same point was like raising two kids simultaneously. During his stay, when I sat next to him, he held my hands several times and said nothing with misty eyes. He said better than I could ever say. I was blessed to get a chance to spend time with him. Above all, Aaraaf and Mysha made the best of their sibling time and bonded together. There is nothing more beautiful than to watch the two of them holding hands.

12.pngSnippets of sibling love in last six months, Kanpur

Now I am back to Hyderabad, and have settled my 8th home in the last 6.5 years of wedlock. Shifting and home making has become a part of me. I look forward to new opportunities, array of memories and seeking new adventures in the same city. As for New Zealand, the traveller in me will never unbuckle those running shoes. I have mentally dreamt and learnt so much about the place that I know I will visit to witness and explore that. I will, Inshallah I will. God has plans. He never gifts what we feel looks good; he delivers what is good for us. For now, its goodbye from Hyderabad. Until next time. To a better place and a greater adventure!

10.pngOur new abode in Hyderabad.

 

 

Remembrance

We lost him. We tried, but we lost.

In 2012, when my grandmother passed away, I made my peace with it thinking she was aged. But on this April 24th when I lost my Uncle (Phuphaji), I felt cheated. He was only 64, active to the extent that he would put teens to shame; an ex defense officer who had fitness in his blood. He was discovered with ILD (Interstitial Lung Disease) and the disease took over him much sooner than we could act and cure.

My paternal side has a small, close-knit family, where everyone is very fond of each other. My father, the eldest, has a younger sister and a brother. All three siblings get scared off easily. Stressing and panicking are their production defects. The three strong pillars of our family came from other families’ homes, i.e. Phuphaji, Mummy and Chachi. These people made our family much stronger with their bold-at-heart behavior. If Mummy and Chachi are iron-rods, then Phuphaji was the central pillar who held it all, much like this picture.

Phuphaji.jpg

Coming from a middle class family based in Lucknow, he excelled in Air Force as Wing Commander and later as a CTO for multinationals like Airtel and Nokia, till he retired four years back. He was a self-made man, who pushed his children to excel in life and also shaped my Bua’s teaching career. Bua got married at a young age of 19, and her groom was the best gift her parents had presented her till date. To quote Bua, she was delirious to get married, as marriage meant permit to movie halls, something her own parents didn’t allow. Theatre was just the beginning, as in 38 years of wedlock, they travelled almost the entire world.

Phuphaji’s benevolent nature made him gel with each family member very well. I did not know how much I loved him till the time he was gone. When I left Kanpur to pursue higher education in Delhi, my Bua and Phuphaji(settled in Noida) acted as my local guardians. I used to visit them on alternate weekends. Two years later, after completing my MBA, I earned my first job in Noida and started putting up with them. It was comfortable for me, and my parents were at peace. As Bua’s own kids had left their Noida nest to shape their careers in other cities and I had left my ghosla back in Kanpur, we three (Bua, Phuphaji and myself) offered each other company and family time. This got me much closer to them. In my five years stay I learnt how different he is from other uncles who join a family (Jijaji, Mausaji).

Unlike the arrogant damaad in our Indian society, Phuphaji was a doting son-in-law. Bua is bound to love Saumya, Sonam, Vansh and Vani, as we are her own brothers’ children, but it was unreal to see Phuphaji shower so much affection on us. Damaad is our country gathers respect as they take care (moronic notion) of one’s girl, but to garner love, one does not take away their girl, but becomes a SON. He said that beautifully via his actions.

He treated me like his own daughter, portrayed beautifully in the following anecdote. In the year 2009, when things were much heated between me and my parents, due to my messy love life, Phuphaji had a one-to-one chat with me. He took me by my hand to the balcony of J-140, Sector 25 (his house). We sat there for 40 minutes where he shared his personal, known and dealt experiences of inter-religion marriages. Not once did the man urge me not to marry my (to-be) better half, but he wanted me to make an informed decision. Like my parents, he too felt that I was too naive to handle the traits of a Muslim house, and I can’t blame him for that. Every parent wants his child to be guarded, and I was biggest baby with invisible crib (read guarded) of my parents, you can imagine.

By the end of the year, when he understood the intensity of my relationship with Shahzeel, and our persistence to be together, he was the first adult to give us a green signal from my family. He trusted my faith in my marriage.

In December 2009 I got married and relocated to Hyderabad. Two months later, Phuphaji came to Hyderabad on an official trip. In his tedious travel schedule, he squeezed time to visit us. At that time, Shahzeel and I were putting up in a basic apartment having minimal amenities. Located on the fourth floor, that building had no lift. In the years that I spent at Phuphaji’s home, my Bua and he treated me with exquisite food, made rich with love. That day I, an amateur cook, requested my Hyderabadi help to prepare biryani. As expected, the food was a mess, home decor was basic, and above all, I was nervous. When someone marries by their own will, and have a family member come over for the very first time, one is anxious, nervous, even dehydrated. Everything comes under the radar, and one wants to put their best foot forward.

As he ate soggy biryani served in simple steel plates, he looked at us and said whilst smiling, “You guys have done a good job with the house. I am so happy to be here.” All my stress melted, as if someone had poured an ice cold water on that itchy heartburn. That’s the thing about him – he made people love themselves with his uplifting statements. Since then, many have visited us and we have fashioned ourselves, a little bigger and better, but he was the first to appreciate us, when things were less and just getting started. The start is always the toughest, especially in relationships.

The lasts are horrid if you know it’s the last. When I visited Noida in March this year, I knew that this might be the last time I was seeing him. He was getting sicker and thinner and medical science has no cure for this disease. When I hugged him before leaving, I bid him good-bye with a line – “I’ll see you soon”. I knew I was lying but now it was my turn to say an uplifting statement. He had tears in his eyes, maybe, he also knew like me, that I was lying. Who knew better that his body was falling apart?

Now he’s at peace. He battled his illness well and like a fauji is expected to deliver. Stamina that intense is hard to deliver when you are fighting for each breath.

My family picture is getting smaller. I am blessed to be a mother of two beautiful children, but people whose children I am, are getting lesser in number. Dadi went ceasing the heart of this house and Phuphaji took the soul with him. Earlier, every year, we all used to catch up at my ancestral home in Allahabad for summer vacations. I still remember the time, we all used to sit together on chattai (as bed would fall short), and eat khichdi and achaar happily. Two drops of khus blended well with water in air cooler, an aroma that built my childhood. Those small rooms with people everywhere is what family was made of. Money was limited, but happiness knew no bounds. Over time, God has blessed us with everything. We have bigger homes, air-conditioning everywhere, but gradually the people to enjoy with are reducing. If only I could rewind, relive, replay it. Unlike life and time, running at their full speed, I want to slow down and live today, with family, like God intended it to be!

10868115_709398339168225_1714884300052361720_n.jpg

 

First hero: Papa!

When I was ten years old, my family and I visited Sachdeva Uncle’s place. He had a fancy double storey home in central Kanpur, thanks to his CA profile. Everything adorning his house was quite exquisite which timid Srivastava sisters looked at with awe. As my parents got engrossed chatting with Sachdevas, their 8 year old boy invited us two to his room upstairs. We looked at our parents who nodded. Holding hands, we climbed up the stairs and entered his child fantasy room. We had just begun to gaze at his toys that he pinpointed to his new belonging – a digital piano from Casio(Casio). The way it was placed neatly and appropriately on a table showed us how expensive and unique that gadget was then. My eyes touched its black body whist its shiny white keys unlocked my heart. It was love at first sight. I looked at Sonam standing behind me, and knew she has fallen for it too. We sisters spoke best unspoken. It was our own language. He asked us to play it but we gently declined. Our parents had taught us well.
While returning to our home on our prestigious Priya scooter all Sonam and I could talk about was the Casio. We didn’t want it to be ours as we knew our limits. Ours was a middle class family who had set budget and we knew our lines, but desires could cross borders. We went to our bed that night with content. We saw a Casio.
The very next evening a man rang our doorbell. He came to deliver something. It was wrapped in a newspaper which I thought was a mosquito repellent. No sooner had my mother unwrapped it, than I realized what it was. It was a socket charger of a Casio and then he handed us the dream product itself. He added a line – Sanjay Sir ne bheja hai. That’s papa!
Dad made our unleashed desires a reality. He could read how badly we wanted a Casio, even when not once did we mention we needed one. God only knows how many happy-sad tunes Sonam and I played on that Casio. We played with it and treated it as our supreme gift. It’s not the only time my father got us a gift, but this incident is engraved in my heart. That day I felt proud as I could own something that Sachdeva’s Uncle son could. As a kid it meant a lot to me then.
Last month my dad got retired. He served the Income Tax Department for 32 years. My dad aspired to be an IFS, but settled to serve IRS. I have always seen Papa go to work. Right from the time he commuted on his Priya scooter to Maruti Zen, to a pooled Government Ambassador  to the time he got his separate neeli batti car as an ACIT. It took time for me to realize the importance of his job in our lives. The look on people’s face when they learnt that my Dad was working in Income Tax Department was precious. As I grew I learnt more about the aura and perks of being a Government officer. The term‘sarkaari naukari’ made more sense. It made me more proud that my dad had such an esteemed job.
My father is a reserved person. Things he loves is to read (a lot), catch on news and sports, listen to Lata and Rafi, eat, sleep and spend time with his family. These traits are a legacy passed down to him by my grandmother. His normal days used to comprise coming home after work, sit reading a Clive Cussler or Robin Cook, while my mother filled him with the day’s proceedings and us two sisters sat in the next room, studying preferably.
Papa took his responsibilities rather seriously. He has been a great provider and I don’t remember a time where money was a hassle. He never made us realise how hard he worked to provide us with what we needed, but  he always made sure to mention how necessary it is to attain education. He pushed me every time I wanted to let go off the academic ladder. Even after learning about my relationship with a man of different belief, he never made me quit my studies to get married, an advice given by some relatives. In his words “Saumya may take a wrong decision in life but by taking her away from education, I will make a worse decision. Tomorrow the man she wants to spend her life with may not turn out to be gold, then her education will give her that hold she needs to stand in this world again.” He knew me, before I discovered myself.
As a child I felt my father was too rude. I felt all he did was to check me. ‘Study harder Saumya’, ‘Little effort now will earn great rewards for future’, ‘No one will support you if you can’t support yourself’ were some of his favourite lines. It took time for me to understand and then act on each of those golden phrase. My mother nurtured me, but my father groomed me. He prepared me for the future, a bright future. I believe I am a very strong person and I can profoundly say that behind every strong daughter, there is a stronger father. He believed in me and so this post comes from a person who used to struggle for basic passing marks in English language. My English teacher said I lacked expressing power, if only she could read me now.
Now that my father got retired I feel how different his life will be. I was glad I was in Kanpur to witness the heroic day my dad last went officially to work. He went as a routine and came as a humble person too, just with lots of garlands and bouquets. Even on that day, I never sensed pride in him, when all his family felt was immense gratitude and pride of course. Wish I can give my Papa at least 10 percent of what he has given us. I have started realizing the worst fear of being an adult – your parents start getting old. Hard to accept, harder to overlook.
I guess all I can give him at this hour is my time. Seeing Mysha and him bond makes me feel extremely content. Grand kids do bring out a side in individuals that their own kids did not. Papa has lived his ‘providing’ term so fine, we can’t even come close. Now it’s our turn, how and what needs to be done, only time will decide. I did not know how to be a mother, yet somehow I managed and sustained. Now it’s time to be a better daughter. How? That’s a question most kids need to figure out. God will give us strength.