I am a Woman

I grew up in a country where palm lined beaches and backwaters along with the beautiful misty hills earned it a title ‘God’s own country’, Kerala. A place with 100% literacy where my hair colour, choice of clothing and not having children after 4 years of marriage concerns the general public much more than my basic right as an individual, as a woman. Although Kerala is much more liberal compared to other parts of India, its still a patriarchal society where women and men have different set of rules.

I spent 2 weeks in Kerala last month and I came across different types of men who stood out to me during my trip.

1. A man who is terminal, who has fear in his eyes, who had made a lot of wrong choices in his days pushing people away yet the love he has, love he had, connects all those near and dear to him.
2. A man who has no fear in his eyes, who is making a lot of wrong choices by drinking and smoking everyday and withering away bit by bit.
3. A man who followed 3 girls (2 of which under aged) back from church, in the dark, and parked his fancy bike in a dark corner and started helping himself and said obscene things.
4. A 17 year old young man (who was meant to accompany the girls on the way back from church) who ended up blaming it on the way the girls looked and behaved upon hearing the incident involving the man from point 3.
5. A 33 year old professional man who married his college girlfriend and has a child with but somehow thought it was OK to behave inappropriately towards his 15 year old cousin-in-law after having couple of drinks

Some of these men I’m related to by blood, one is a stranger who decided that he had the right to be ‘himself’ when in the dark and thus violate the rights of others (of women!), latter is someone who is married to someone dear to me. All these men have something in common. Choice. They all have a choice or had a choice. A choice to be yourself, a choice that may or may not cause (or have caused) harm to yourself, your family members or strangers. A choice I or the majority of the women don’t have.

I am a woman. A woman with rights, with skills, with desires and ambitions. Being able to walk anywhere without fearing anyone or without a male family member accompanying and not getting harassed is not my pride, my ambition or my arrogance, it is my right. My basic human right. But I’m denied that right. And when I do voice my dissatisfaction with that, I’m ‘sushed’ from left and right by own kind, the females.

After effect? Immense amount of anger built up for the innate inability to not do anything to those who misused their choice. You get affected by the incidents; angry for not having a choice to react, for not having a voice. But then out of nowhere, it occurred to me, I’m demanding a choice and a voice from others, from strangers and not from myself. I may not have the innate inability to react to others misusing their choice and my right, but I do have the choice and right to react in a way that does not give them any more power. Mulling over what had happened and being affected by someone’s perversion is still giving power to the perpetrator. The days where the woman gets sexually abused in the Indian movies and her life is distraught till a good Samaritan guy decides to ‘give her a life’ is over. Its not needed any more. Reason? She is a woman.

I am too.
I am a woman who made the choice to spend time with the man who may not have a lot of time. The reason for my visit.
I am a woman who feels angry when a man turns to alcohol or other substances and do not tap into his inner emotional strength,
I am a woman who said ‘F you you a******, go F your Fing mother’ when I caught a stranger masturbating in the dark,
I am a woman who said ‘Blame it on the way a girl walks or dresses, not the way a man behaves inappropriately’ to the 17 year old who blamed her for ‘looking nice’,
I am a woman who used careful words to the 33 year old man to let him know that he is not invincible,
I am a woman who knows a man no 6, who lets the woman be a woman, a real man. I married him.

I am also a woman who chose to focus on the above points and nothing else or no one else. I have rights. I have choices. I do not give men any power or control. I fixate on my choice, not their wrong choices. I am a woman.

Backpacking across Asia part 1

Its been a week since we left home in UK seeking snippet views of a few handpicked countries in Asia that we have always fantasized about. Having covered 3 countries so far, living out of a backpack weighing 6.9kg or our inablity to verbally communicate were not the major challenges we encountered; the hardest challenge yet for me has been keeping up with the intensity of the experiences and the ‘moments’ each countries offer. For a person whose biggest insecurity is her memories, I find myself desperately trying to capture every corner of the places we visit through cameras and retrospectively record every feeling in my travel journal.

When planning our trip or hearing ‘this is once in a lifetime opportunity’ from family and friends when they eventually found out, I held my ground and kept my emotions in check. ‘My lack of enthusiasm’ may have confused a few but it wasn’t that I wasn’t enthused about the trip but rather my superstitious or anxious self took the better of me about not wanting to ‘jinx’ the trip (I know!) as it indeed was going to be a once-in-a-life-time trip.

When we go high and low looking for authentic places in each country, meet more kind people than unkind people on the way, indulge in delicious and sometimes unusual local delicacies; I find myself bargaining with time to give me one more second. Just one more second to soak it all in. But time is fair but unfair as some say. So I don’t get one more second. All I get is a camera to take pictures, a pen to write down the experiences and the heart to take in as much as I can.

The Japanese have a tradition that when they finish work, they go to the exit door, turn around and bow their head for a few seconds with utmost respect showing gratitude for their job. And Chinese believe that every person they meet are the ones they are destined to meet to bring something to their lives. As I enter each country, I will be on the lookout to meet kind faces that I’m destined to meet and as I exit, I will remember to bow my head in respect to say ‘thanks for this once in a life time opportunity’.

Can ‘Saibol’ fix the Kerala floods?

T & C-1

The resilience I’m blessed with or the deep appreciation I have for nature and its beauty probably stems from the first 10 years I spent in the most amazing place called Alappuzha. With her seductive backwaters, lagoons and canals, and plenty of other picturesque features no wonder Lord Curzon called Alappuzha the “Venice of the East”.

Our family, belonging to a middle-class Christian family, was settled in a place called ‘Chungom’. Our house overlooked our paddy fields and canals. I proudly bear the scars of my childhood – from climbing trees and falling repeatedly, running the fields bare-feet with friends during summer,and by getting stomped on by a vast amount of people during ‘Mullakkal Chireppu’ (local carnival) . My fathers pure passion for ‘vallam kali’ (Nehru Trophy Boat Race) and competing in the Nehru Trophy as a captain of their boat for one too many years also meant that Nehru trophy, ‘kuttanadan punchayille’ song, the competitiveness and the innate resilience from constantly losing the first place (Sorry daddy!) are all well inherited by me and my sisters.

There was one other thing that was a constant companion during these 10 years- ‘Saibol cream’. House built near acres of paddy fields meant that, during monsoon seasons fields flooded, and in no time, the water would be inside our houses. Us kids loved it- swimming and “trying” to catch fish, why would we mind it?!.

Even though we ‘loved’ it, every morning when you had to get out of bed or go to the bathroom, it took sheer amount of will power and a good couple of minutes before putting the feet down in the cold water. And at night, it itched like there’s no tomorrow.

We grew up with our Ammachi (grandmother) during these years. Shed be walking in the water all day running the house and at night, her toes would be itchy with all the bacteria and she would rub ‘Saibol’ in between her toes.

I experienced this for 10 years..my Ammachi may be for over 60 years after marrying into a family from Alappuzha in her early 20’s. She was accustomed to floods and water and stayed fearless…till this monsoon season. After fleeing her house, going to her oldest daughters and then to her youngest (due to her oldest daughters house being also flooded), at the age of 88, I heard fear in my Ammachis voice for the first time and I could do absolutely nothing about it.

My family house was rebuilt 10 years ago so high from the ground that they never had water inside the house for over a decade. Water still went inside. It was over knee high of my uncle who is 6 ft high. He had to abandon the house, sell all their much beloved animals who were their family members and take rescue.

Now the mentioning of the class again, this is a middle class family who were able to have their house built appropriately according to the area. Now, for those who were unable to afford that..I will leave it up to you to imagine where their house is now apart from pointing out the obvious that ‘Kuttanadu’, a part of Alappuzha, rich with culture, characteristics and Love is pretty much gone. If you were to visit a house is Kuttanadu or Alappuzha..you wouldn’t have gone back home without a full stomach and may be some ‘tharavu curry’ to take back with you.

And if you know anything about a Kerala curry, you know that its a perfect blend and balance of spices and ingredients that just makes the most amazing curry- an imbalance of any one ingredient can cause trouble for instance, chilli or salt.

In the past few days, people have been extremely kind, generous and helpful in Kerala and outside Kerala. Regardless of cultural, geographical, relihious or scoial boundaries, people came together, like a perfect mix. From a kind Sikh individual from Perth, Australia who raised £1000 to School and University students who have given up whatever little they had in order to save Kerala, I have enough to restore my faith in humanity.

And the next time you eat a tharavu curry from Alappuzha (and I any other delicious kerala curry as I dont eat duck), I hope you and I both be reminded of how all the perfect incredients came together and made a good curry during this crisis (if you know, you know).

One thing people of Kuttanadu, Alappuzha and Kerala are good at is working hard. Like them, I along with my fellow British Malayali youth, we will commit to raising even more funds, to help rebuild our homeland, Kerala, as I think ‘Saibol’ cream is just not going to be enough to able to fix the damages of this flood.

https://www.gofundme.com/sy6kg-kerala-flood-relief-fund

Fighting social injustice in my dream

I struggled a little bit to get out of bed this morning. Why you ask? Oh its just because I was up saving lives in my dreams last night.

Dreams are a funny lil thang. They offer you entertainment, moral lessons, creepy feelings and sometimes leave you with feeling rather bewildered. This certainly was the case for me this morning with my dream from last night.

So…….. Myself, my 2 sisters, and someone else (might have been my cousin) were at a family/family friends’ house party that was right beside our house. We were all high school children and had an exam the next day (😐). In the tiny room that we were hanging out there was another girl who was of a similar age to us. She dressed differently and looked different from us. She had a scarf over head with some jewellery covering her forehead. One of my crew members got talking to her and learnt that she was from some part of Africa. The girl was taken away from her home and was forced to become someones bride. Her ‘prospective groom’ was somewhere in the house, a face that she might have never seen before and a man probably born atleat 15 or 20 years before she did.

When I got up to leave the house party and go back to my house (to do the revision I am sure :/), one of my crew members asked me ‘why dont you take ‘her’ with you as well?’

Nothing was said. We thought of well devised plans to sneak her out of the house through the back way without any adults seeing us. And we did. With great difficulty ofcourse (mainly because of her anklets that were really noisy). We gave her a big tub of celebrations for the road (that definitely would be plenty to last till Africa!). This took all night apparently and we ended up getting back home at 8ish the next morning (missing the exam ofcourse!).

We look over to the house next to us where the party was held and see that the celebrations lid was lying on the ground. We go into the house, and see our father standing in the hall way. I say to him that the exam was hard and walk away. He suspects nothing. Next thing I know, my middle sister who is not as talented as i am in lying or being sneaky says to him that she heard his friends new child bride got away with a tub of celebrations last night! 😑. He looks bewildered.

We go to our room. And i say we need to come up with our responses to this and learn the same thing so we wont say anything different to the adults.

Fast forward to the climax (or slow forward); its the 16th century where me and my sisters were dressed in white and head all shaven traveling in a vehicle to the house where the party was held. We were being punished because we were women who did something horrible?! 😑

They open the door and let us in. We see the girl we tried to rescue standing there. She got caught half way. They lock the door behind us. She smiles at us. And l smile back thinking dyamnnn we gonna have a goòd time here!!!.

Conclusion:

1. Child marriage, exams, illtreatment towards women- Not acceptable to Archana Mathew.

2. Archana Mathew’s dreams should be made into movies and nominated for Oscar.

The End.

For real.

Much dreaded day of the year!

A much dreaded day is coming up for me. My birthday. A day that causes stress in me, my family and friends. This year though, instead of getting gifts, cards, messages and money, I decided to do something different. Below here are some of the causes that I believe in. It would mean the world to me, and make my day and my life so special if you can do any of these for me. Please do message me (privately) if you are able to do any of these, or your own thing if you’d like, and I will cherish that in my life forever.
Bring a box of chocolate to the local ambulance, fire station, A&E (or police station if you dare!)
Give motivational books, posters or materials to the local youth hostel near you. Alternatively, send me a donation for buying these things or send these things to me and I will personally deliver them to the local youth hostel that I work in.
Homeless people- 1, Give a fiver or tenner to a homeless person. 2, Create a care package with snacks, sandwiches, toiletries etc and give it to 5 homeless people. 3, Get to know a homeless person, get to know his/her circumstances and get him a sandwich of his choice for 4 weeks.
Donate money or clothes to your local Barnardos charity for children (or any children’s charity of your choice)
A donation for the older people’s cafe (LinkLiving)that I volunteer at (I will specify what the money will be used for later on).
Help elderly with their shopping.
Ask a shop assistant how his or her day has been.
If you have a grandparent who lives near you or with you, give him/her a hug and a kiss.
Leave a compliment under a young girls profile picture of herself.
Leave a note on your rubbish bin for the man/woman who collects your rubbish thanking them for their service.
Finally, if you are religious, say a little prayer for me to be always grateful for the life I have and blessings I have in life. And for my catholic friends and relatives, may be light a little candle or say a decade of rosary/divine mercy chaplet for me?
Thank you
I will be sure to have the best birthday this year!

Lets put the world back together, piece by piece

In the days that are filled with pain,
In the world that is filled with negativity,
Lest we forget,
Evil cant fight evil
Evil wont fight evil

Lets put the world back together,
Piece by piece

Spread a little positivity
Smile at someone,
Wave at a stranger,
Feed the homeless, or give a fiver
Open the door for elderly,
Help a mother with her shopping bags
Do your bit.

Lets put the world back together,
Piece by piece.

Wedding day speech on wedding anniversary

Came across this speech I wrote for my wedding reception but never got to read it out due to your usual wedding-receptiony-never-go-things-as-planned stuff. Thought I’d post this here, on the 1st anniversary of our wedding so that I can look back on this and actually praise myself for writing a good damn speech.

‘I’m standing here in front of you tonight mainly because I wasn’t really given a choice. ‘People are making an effort to celebrate your special love for each other, so its only fair that you put an effort and show them why your love is special’.

Some of yous know that I have a deep love for philosophy and use philosophy and metaphors to learn about life. Even though most of yous don’t know this about us, the beginning of mine and sterry’s meeting was of a philosophical one.

I was going back to Scotland after my October holidays, being all sad and weary on the stenaline bus. Off comes the hero with a shoulder bag on one hand and an apple core on the other. Sitting in the ferry, looking out of the window and embracing my philosophical side, I asked Sterry a thought provoking question. “what do you see out of the window”. The reply I got left me in pure amazement. Ive heard a lot of philiosphical explanations and thoughts in my life, but what I heard from him that day has to be the one that will always get me through life. Taking a deep breath, looking out of the window, he said “ I see doses and sambar”. Love at first sight guys love at first sight.

Everyone will have that one person in life who will bring out the best in that person. Sterry is that person for me. Couple of months past this coincidental yet enlightening journey, he asked me to join him for a coffee on a cold January morning. Now I’ve never been on a “coffee” with a person” like that, so I did not know what to expect. I mean I had a lot of guy friends but I never had a coffee with anyone, so naturally I was nervous about meeting an opposite gender for a coffee. Don’t really remember much of our conversation but what I do remember most and will remember for potentially the rest of my life is how he commented about my eyebrows. So the conversation went like this “whoever did your eyebrows, did not do a good job. They aren’t equal.” I stayed silent I went home and looked into the mirror, closely examined my eyebrows, and the only thing I could think of was I cannot believe I spent a whole of 10 minutes doing my eyebrows for this guy!! But because of this incident, I learnt the art of mastering my eyebrows and it’s all thanks to his honest feedback. Told you he’s brought the best in me.

We’ve been through some good times and bad times. Good times that make your love even more special and bad times that make your love grow stronger tests your relationship. I’d like to share a bad time I faced in our relationship recently, I hope it’s not too personal. So last week, I went through a real trial and temptation. Hardest time of our marriage. Last week, Sterry had a cold. A cold that resulted in severe amount of snoring. Snoring that kept me awake, snoring that made me poke him several times, snoring that made me look up on Google how to get used to snoring, snoring that made me do a lot of unusual things. Long story short, after what it seemed like the longest and toughest two of hours of my life, the storm calmed down, literally and it taught me a biggest lesson in marriage. There will always be loud snoring in marriages that will cause some sleepless nights, but if your love is stronger than the snoring, you will always surpass all the snoring in the marriage.

In all seriousness, regardless of the hard core feminist in me, who did not favour marriage, I found a not too bad guy, thanks to my mother’s constant prayers, candles, and intervention. Like everyone, I had my insecurities about relationships and marriage. But honestly speaking, the 6 years with him brought out a woman in me who can be stronger with her man, confident in herself and her abilities, gives me the courage to go on in life, inspires me or pushes me to work hard and teaches me to be patient.

When my mum phoned me last month, out of nowhere she asked me you’re really happy aren’t you achu, n I said ‘yeah’, ‘I am actually’. It’s often difficult for a human being to feel content in life in this day and age. But tonight, standing here in front of all you close family and friends, some missing, I can honestly say that I’m content in life. I am happy that I have a dad who gives me the ‘go ahead’ signal on life and dreams, I’m honoured to have a mother who has given me her compassionate side and sacrificed the life for us; sisters who are the most amazing people in my life; bestest friends who are more than I deserve, and in-laws who has made me one of them the minute they met me. Thank you to all you guys for being part of our lives, for helping us get here. We hope you can stay with us as we continue the journey of happily ever after life.’

Happy 21st Baby girl

 

When she was born, I don’t remember how she looked like
Nor do I remember the first time I saw her,
or the first time I held her in my arms.
I do however remember the first word (or one of the first words) she said,
And how chubby she looked.

Living miles apart from each other,
She was a holiday treat for us older sisters.
She walked funny and talked funny
But then again, what was I to know, I was only 5

Fast forward three years, she came to live with us.
A crying baby who missed the grandmother who looked after her all those years.
Since then, she became my possession, a personal project.
And my little person.

Ammachi carried her everywhere and fed her things
I didn’t mind at all.
After school, we rushed home to see her playing in the front garden.
It was an unusual but soon becoming a pleasing sight for us older sisters.

Soon enough, she started going to school.
To our school.
A tiny body in a tiny  cream blouse and a brown coloured frilled frock
With side parted hair and rather short fringe,
She was a fragile little thing lost in Carmel Academy’s school uniform.

Being always subjected to change, and having no one she can trust,
She cried.
Every time she felt scared.

It was 4 pm, and I wasn’t done with my exam
I went up to my teacher to ask her permission to go out for 5 minutes
Luckily, she allowed

I got out of the exam hall to find her
And I did.
Waiting under the big mango tree, weeping.
She looked so weak and fragile,
The 8 year old me felt crumbled
And the sight never faded in my mind till this day.

Birthdays, anniversaries and other  occassions, we celebrated them all.
Hide and seeks, House, and other myriad games, we played them all.
I grew up, Anji grew up, and she grew up with us.
Life kept on bringing us and her changes, a lot and lot of changes.

One of these changes left us in Belfast one fine morning.
She started going to the nearby primary school, St Josephs.
Mummy was so worried about  her that she went to the school at lunch time to check up on her.
She’d already made her first friend, and apparently shared her lunch with her new friend?

Fast forward few years, She joined us in our high school
Again, side parted hair, with no fringe this time, thank goodness
In a grey jumper, tie, blazer, skirt and tights,
A nerdy little first year Indian kid I saw

Being a green blazer myself, a so called ‘cool’ 6th year,
I avoided her every time she walked past me with her friends
and enthusiastically waved at me.

Then one day, I hear her speak at the school assembly
About how Christmas used to be in India

And saw her holding up an umbrella for a short guy,
from my health and social care class.

Again, time kept moving forward.
And it took me to  Scotland for Uni
And Anji to Liverpool
We came back home with plus ones.

Life hasn’t always been mild on her
It brought changes after changes into her life
But she didn’t crumble
In fact,
The fragile girl with the awful side fringe kept toughening up
Without anyone else beside her.

And today, she stands as a strong, independent woman,
With a mind that does not waver easily, annoying for some, especially me.
A family that is well proud of her
A best friend who dots her
Brother in-laws who fight for her attention and approval.

All these years, all these events and all these changes,
Left her to become an amazing young adult
However,
She is still  my possession and my personal project.

And forever my little person.

Happy 21st baby

Time and change

Before you know, it will be time to say good bye to 2016. How are the years flying, I still have no idea! Whilst every hour, every month and year is slipping away from your grip without your consent, I refused to believe that a part of me is leaving with time. Truth is though, whether I admit it or not, I’m getting old . So is everything and everyone else around me. We are changing, physically and emotionally, everyday.

My sisters have grown up and entering different phases in their lives;my parents are getting old even if i refuse to acknowledge any signs; my other-half is growing into a family man, my friends are getting married,having babies, getting separated  or moving away; and my grand parents, well i’m just grateful for every extra day that they get to see!

Change is inevitable! And it scares me, like everyone else!  Whilst I’m still stuck in the past, thinking of the ‘good-old’ times, time is moving forward and it is bringing in loads and loads of changes in everyone and everything. I’ve got two choices: a, be stuck in the past and be bitter about change; b, move forward with time.

I choose the latter, not with a lot of enthusiasm but with pain. I will move forward, taking my memories along with me and not losing track of the things that I were. I will also be reminded of the story of the eagle that transformed itself rather painfully when time plays it tricks on me.

I do my own thing; sometimes I regret it, sometimes I don’t!

8 long months, so much has happened. Quit my job, decided to live with parents and sisters for three months before getting hitched, got hitched, moved to Edinburgh, started the new journey as a ‘wife’, decided to try out a new career path and now in search of ‘success’.

But what I do need to remember is that the key to success is trying, knowing that you have tried, admitting that you have tried, being content with your trials, taking breaks, saying ‘thank you’s and appreciating the opportunity to try.

 

Here’s to endless trying!