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.

Woman

Amsterdam
An infamous city with an uncompromising beauty and characteristics.
Picturesque canals,
touching history
and mesmerising architecture.
Her extraordinary beauty and her seductive characteristics-
Resemblance of a quirky, confident yet humble woman uncanny.
Woman.
While entrapped in Amsterdam’s beauty,
the very same word kept circling my mind.
Woman.
A visit to Anne Frank’s secret annexe of 2 years
entrenched me with the feeling that
The most powerful weapon for a woman is her Voice
A walk down the lane where her body does all the talking
Made me think that her body perhaps is more acknowledged than her voice.
It may (or may not) be her Choice that led her go behind the glass doors
A choice that young Anne frank certainly did not have.
But as I walked and locked eyes with the young women behind the glass doors
sharing a half smile, longing for one in return
and mentally offering apologies for being on the other side,
watching them like animals behind cages,
I also wondered,
As a woman,
would it be my voice or my choice of selfie that would be more appealing to one’s eyes.

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.

I had a dream

So I had a dream lastnight.

And unlike Martin Luther king, I dreamt about travelling to space along with my husband on a banana boat. 

Now, to get yourself going, you just have to get thrown up in the air (no trouble!). So the journey is long and tricky and it takes days to travel through the dark empty sky on a banana boat. But we presevere. And at one point, i look up and see trillions of stars up above. I look at my husband and say ‘Im so grateful that you are here’. And the next thing we know is that we are starting to float in the air. Gravitys lost (!). Loving every moment of it till the moment is finished and we are back on earth in a dark shady corner. 

A lady in white coat (insert wtf*) tells us my parents were in the space ahead of us and they will be around looking for us. We decide to get ourselves back up in the air on the banana boat lets not forget. Off we go again. Same journey. Same outcome.

After a few times, we end up indulging in a lot of rather unusual but apparently necessary rituals to get ourselves back up in the air. This involves a horse biting someones looong bundle of hair and then me taking the hair bundle off its mouth, circling it and throwing it up in the air(insert wtf* x 2).

‘Are you getting up?’ I hear the voice of my space voyage partner at 6am and my space journey comes to an end.

I will never know what happened after i threw the hair in the air but lets just hope that we ended up in space and reunited with my parents.

The end.

‘You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you will join us

And the world will be as one’

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!

Life Motto Revelations

It’s often difficult to take new steps in life. I’ve been dying to get myself back into dance this year. It was getting to the stage where it was shameful to think, never mind say to someone, that I once used to do some dancing. I lack confidence on the dance floor and find it easier to just say ‘I suck at dance’ and just do my usual chicken dancing. But today, I went for my first dance lesson. I was rather anxious to go there, dance, meet new people etc.  Life motto No 1: ‘If the thought of doing something makes you nervous, do exactly just that.’ I did just that and I’m glad I did.

Now the dancing lesson was intense and I somehow managed bits n bobs. It did not improve my dancing or confidence right away, and I don’t know if it ever will (although I’m hoping it will otherwise world will be a darker place with my chicken dance!). What it did do was make me reiterate my life motto no 2: ‘be what you want to be’ and implement it. I did just that and I’m glad I did.

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

Inspiration

Inspiration. An unusual guest to come by and knock on my door. I went to bed last night hoping and dreaming of a productive day today, and setting myself agendas. All plans were destroyed when I opened my eyes this morning at 09:53. I lied in bed for another half an hour scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat over and over again. I hopelessly look up inspirational movies in the hope that some movie would get me going. Did not work. I type in ‘inspirational videos’ on youtube. Something comes up, I indulge in it for 3 minutes, some guy talking about setting himself a 5 million target and achieving it in 5 years. Inspirational. Well done him. But what I want now is to get out bed, something worth more than 5 million dollars. And thats when it hits me. The inspiration I’m seeking for all long is right here, lying in bed, looking for inspiration. Ironic.

I immediately get up, have some breakfast, get changed and get my cycle out. I go for 30 mins cycling in the near by scenic route.

On my way, I see an older couple on their walk, two young girls sitting on a bench who seem to be in a deep conversation, a family with 3 young children and a dog, a man on his walk. I look around, see the lake, the trees, the leaves that have fallen, and I think to myself: the inspiration I always look for does not lie within YouTube or any movies. That inspiration is me, in me. The inspiration that gets me out of bed, and gets me to see the real beauty of the nature and of human beings.

Seeing that inspiration, believing in that inspiration and choosing that inspiration is difficult. Extremely difficult. But I hope when I look up inspirational videos or movies next time, I think of this experience and choose to see and believe the inspiration that I have within me.

The Power of Procrastination

I was set out on a mission to be productive, So I step away from my work and procrastinate by deleting emails our of my inbox, naturally. I come across some old emails from my sisters and husband and think to myself, there is a reason why I enjoy life so much. I have the best of the best in my life.

______________________________________________________________

Hope you are doing well in work.. tough times, hard times , funny times … jus wanted to say i love you …. hope u r getting excited to move in to the new house … the girl  who lived on her own and proved herself that she can be what ever she wants to be…. the one who can live with out any man cause women are strong , the one who found her prince and holding on to him, the one who is the oldest in the family  but still the baby of the parents, the one who held her sisters closer even after heavy rains 🙂 

 

the person who u r gonna be, the dreams u r gonna have, places to see , people to see 🙂 

 above all i love you .. may the music inspire you 🙂  

  was listening to this though u might like it 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55885Qnt7Ps

 love Anji 🙂

________________________________________________________________
 Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2014 21:30:04 +0000
Subject: RE:
From: AB Junior
To:AB senior 
Thanks ach. How  are you?
Your penpal appu Smiling face with smiling eyes
From: “AB senior”
Sent: 29 October 2014 21:23
To: “AB Junior
Subject: RE:

np appi, i’m ok
i’m on a mission to find 100 things i like about myself

 your pen pal
achu
 Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2014 21:30:04 +0000
Subject: RE:
From: AB Junior
To:AB senior 
I like that you like to do these things
I like that you’re really weird
 I like that I am your sister
I like that you are the oldest but you act like the youngest at times
 I like that you’re so old school, like a granny
I like that you’re such a social media conscious person- deleting all your personal photos of instagram,  who does that?
I like your style of writing in your blogs
Finally, I like that I love you
 Eughh I think I am goin to be sick from the cheesiness overload.
From: “AB Senior”
Sent: 29 October 2014 21:51
To: AB junior 
Subject: RE:
awwwwww you love me you love me 
I need more though
 From: “AB Junior”
Sent: 29 October 2014 21:23
To: “AB senior”
Subject: RE:
 Pfft you’re so needy! Nooooooo 
_________________________________________________________________


Hey baby,

I am in seemati now. I’m watching a father and mother buying their son clothes for his wedding. Somehow, I am smiling, because the mother reminds me of my own. She is strong, very very vocal, and just scolded her husband for the vastness and roundness of his belly.

But her love for the family, her attitude when she is sitting on the sofa pulling her rank and her double checking if she forgot something when they were leaving made me realise that marriages are born in heaven, but they live on earth. I guess that everything starts with puppy love after which we discover sincerity, honesty, beauty and faith in each other.

I know my flaws, and I know yours. I know that you accept yourself for who you are. I do too. For who you are, for what you do and for what you make me become. My idea of a marriage is us picking strawberries, fighting and making up, being different from each other and a million other things but together.

I will always love you