At her brother’s wedding

My mother all decked up for her brother’s wedding, is trying to handle her rather stubborn child (me of of course…the other one was angelic ). To be fair, I was asked to pose much more than I wanted to, so most of the fit throwing happened due to that. On the left looking at the misbehaviour is my Masi who is a doctor.


Sunit my Masi’s son, has been sending these gems from his Mum’s collection. In the first picture my Nani can be seen cutting a cake with Gautam ( My Masi’s elder son). On the left is Lily Masi (Rameena Sehgal) and next to her beaming, is my Nana. On the right side the elder sisters and their children. In the corner is my mother clapping and I think that’s me on the table and the woman on the left with her head covered is most probably Pabiji- our Nani, my Grandfather’s first wife.

In the one below, are my Mum and Lily Masi with their first borns- Gautam and I, who are just a few months apart. Apparently, when they were both pregnant with the two of us, they went gallivanting in autos through the pothole filled lanes of Jammu.

As my Bp shoots up uncontrollably, a friend questions what is hassling me this much. ‘After all you were praying for her suffering to not get prolonged ( as I do each time my Mum or anyone I love is in the hospital) and you can’t be this hassled by your mum’s side, what is it?’ he asks. ‘They call each other (these siblings) from the other side, the closer they are, the lesser the chances of them surviving without one another’ thinks SC.

‘Nothing…I don’t feel like talking,’ says SB as she tries to calm SC down.

Kindred Souls

‘Good morning’, I say to the person whose hand clings to mine, like a child’s. She smiles, gives me a casual salute and falls asleep again. I stare at her wondering how I’m going to carry on with the bluff, that we are on vacation, as the Mumbai sun seeps into the room.

The World and reality are rather harsh; for the overly sensitive to navigate through existence, even harder. In any case, old age takes away everything we have gotten accustomed to- health, family, friends- all of our worldly possessions. When you’re not ‘normal’ earlier than you can imagine. As people go on with their existence, these people get left behind- just confined to their homes, with no one in particular to converse with. Of course conversations with them are haphazard and nonsensical but whose to say how much sense most conversations make.

From a bunch of eight, two turned out to be a bit off the regular chart. Apparently, their father’s sister was a little different. Needless to say, they are kindred spirits. Other than her sister and her darling dog, my Mum has never felt protective about anyone. I wonder how she’s going to react when she sees her sister in the ICU.

An Ode To The Mother

This year I skipped the usual format for celebrating women’s day because we were all busy at the first public display of Women by Photowalli Gaadee.

This year’s exhibit is an ode to the one who has made me…look at the cutie in the picture…my Mommy. As the show will be on till the 22nd and I will be busy so bare with the irregularity of posts. I find my attention swaying from this to the other, at the moment.

It’s been an interesting exercise, up until now, an experiment if you please, on varied levels. A social experiment- as I hate this part of being a photographer, conversing with other humans. Also an experiment to gauge reactions, which I usually don’t give a rat’s ass about. Since, this project is a concoction of photography and about sending out a social message, one wants to observe the reaction of the viewer. So, let’s see how that goes.


Last night, I went out to celebrate New Year’s Eve (I am going to sleep today) with the Anonymous Aunty and as we went chin chin, I went ‘what a year it has been!’ And what a year it has been, indeed. A year of -learning, of validation, of gratitude, of bucket loads of endurance!

Do you believe in destiny? In a pre-determined plan? In astrology-the guessing game? I, myself am not much of a believer of anything, actually! The only thing I believe is I don’t know (even when I do, it’s my all time favourite reply). But this year after spending an enormous amount of time on the road, I am turning into one.

You know, many moons ago, a few months before my brother passed over to the other side, he went to an astrologer. He was crazy about a girl, whose parents thought he wasn’t ‘well settled’ and like a lot of girls, we all know, she did not want to go against her parents. Needless, to say, our Majnu, was very tortured. So, he tried everything to get over her. Started seeing someone else ( nicer and more attractive), went into therapy, went to Malaysia to work but you know how that God forsaken useless organ works, it just wants what it wants. Ironically, his time of death (given by the hospital) and the last call he made to the love of his life, are a minute apart.

Anyway, he went to an astrologer with my Mum and when this person made his chart and mine, he wanted to meet me. At that time, I was in Pushkar and was young enough, to discard everything as rubbish. I didn’t go. His chart said there would be a death in the family before the end of January. He passed away on the 29th of Jan!

Four years later, I went to the same person and he said to me, ‘you were the only one who could have saved, him!’ Now, I am no God but the guilt of that and being at the boy’s house ( fast asleep), who was recovering from a major accident, the night my brother passed away , would have forever burdened my soul. But the no of times I got saved in those 54 days, where I was just a fraction of a second away from being hit by a truck or a bus, the number of accidents I saw on the road, just being on that trip itself, where the money appeared from to keep me moving, makes me suspect what is meant to be, will be!

That astrological chart, my brother got made for me, states that the years 2014-2017, would be some of the most trying years of my life. They were horrendous. It states from a person who is driven by emotions, I will turn into someone very practical. Sounds about right and the only person who will be able to ‘control’ me, will be my husband. Oh, hell no! Hatho ki lakeeren din bar din, badal rahee he! So, who the hell knows what all of it means! Where are we coming from and where are we going to, will forever remain a mystery to me.

Through, the lows of the previous years, I tried to learn forgiveness. But this year, I also learnt before letting new or old people back into my life, I also need to watch two things. Watch carefully, who claps when you soar and who gloats at your failures. That will just save lots of heartache. Forgive but don’t be foolish.

Other than this priceless lesson, there have been plenty. ‘ Karma doesn’t work on the whims and fancies of your reputation.’ Has this year validated me or what! I will refrain from getting into how, out of respect for all parties concerned. But let’s just say, you can lie to the whole world and it’s mother but what goes around definitely comes around! Jo karo ge, vo bharo ge!

I come from a family, where all my sisters are better educated, better looking, better human beings than I am.When I look at their lives, I wonder how our stories turned out so different and I know more than ever, it’s because of my Mother. My Mum, hasn’t taught me anything, that a woman should traditionally learn- cooking, taking care of the house and least of all playing second fiddle to a man. There are plenty of women out there, who have had the guts to fight the age all traditions and not play the conventional roles, their mothers played. But in my case, being like my Mum, teaches me to be myself. That’s a tremendous advantage. Though, it’s like having a child rather than being one, which comes with it’s own challenges and frustrations, the lesson is to appreciate her more as a human being.

An important one has been learning how to channel the angst. A yoga teacher told me when I was little, I should stop eating non vegetarian food, I have ‘too much garmi’. Before your mind goes into overdrive, he did’nt mean what you think he meant. My teachers over the years went on to call it my, ‘mental energy’ and my ‘ excessive passion’. I just call it my Mother’s genes. But whatever this surge of energy is, which takes me up and down various roller coasters, at a time, on the downside turns me into a masochist. On the upside, up until very recently, I have been unable to channel to my advantage. But I am learning and it is slowly becoming an asset more than a liability. If transformed correctly, it could turn into ‘Chardee Kala’- a state of positivity that Sikhs are expected to be in.

One of my student’s recently broke down in class, for being yelled at by her parents. ‘But Ma’am they have never said anything to me!’, she said as she wiped her tears. It’s not the first time a student has cried in front of me. Like all teachers will tell you that is the most important part of our job, to be someone they can talk to. But this just took me aback. ‘My God, how hard it’s going to be for her to get used to life,’ I thought. I remember, in that moment thanking my Mum and Dad, for all the beatings I got. It toughened me up, enormously! Our irregular, not so normal, childhoods are a blessing!

Other than the question, ‘ aap ka dharam kyaa he?’, on the road I was also asked by most of the older people I met, why I wasn’t married and then given a lecture about it. Usually, if my relatives or friend’s ask me, the standard reply is, ‘ I want a hot, 18 year old boy.’ Trust me most people just don’t say anything after that. A friend’s Mum had a funny rebuttal, ‘ beta ye to matrimonial valo ko nahin, placement valo ko bolna padega.’ Of course boys are never told that.

My relationship with men, has become like smoking. I quit both a few years ago and if I sometimes, engage with either, the next day, I realise why I quit. Men are like cigarettes, highly addictive and injurious to my health. But nevertheless, I did find the answer to the question,’ but at least tell us what kind of a man are you looking for?’ I’m sure, if you’re single, you’ve been asked that. ‘ Doesn’t it make you wonder if it’s a man or a McDonald’s meal, you’re ordering? ‘I would like a large with extra mayo!’

But I shit you not, I gave it a serious thought. This is what I came up with-‘Fearless, Fuckable and Fun.’ Doesn’t matter if he is poor or rich, unattractive or good looking, a Gavaar or well educated, I can work with all of the above. But someone who is entertaining, isn’t an imitation of most and someone who likes everything I don’t (sports, science, maths). Superficially- Age is no barrier but would prefer someone much younger or much older, would prefer someone taller ( for procreation). Most of all, someone who is not the least bit intimated by my aggression and who would take on the World for what he believes! Try giving this on Jeevan Saathi.

Over 16,700 kms of driving through this country, a total of 66 days spent on the road and one incredibly long drive from Raipur to Delhi ( by 7 a.m I fell asleep and almost drove into a tree), later, I realise it’s an incredible life and I am so blessed to be able to do what I want, when I want to. Every less fortunate person, I meet on the road makes me realize I lucked out. Gratitude, gratitude and more gratitude, is the biggest lesson.

Living with the unusual

5 a.m and 8 nights later, the Mother refuses to sleep despite all the medications she is given to get some shuteye. The Doctor may discharge her in the morning (which might be a fallacy, since I have been hearing that for the past 4 days) and that is causing the anxiety. She loves hospitals and has been making practically an annual pilgrimage, since I was nine.

Some days, which are more frequent now, I get fed up. I realise how politically incorrect that statement is but some days I want to lock myself up in a room, scream till my voice gets hoarse, cry till my eyes turn red and break things till my head stops to throb. The pressures of dealing with a father who starts drinking at 11a.m and a Mother who has been unwell for more than three decades has of course taken a toll on my health. My BP starts to fluctuate, I have more and more anxiety attacks and I know my own sanity hangs by a loose thread. The only thing that keeps me going is a memory of a far off place. Sitting by the Dal Lake, driving through the Western Ghats…sitting with a camel trader in Pushkar, reaching Kanyakumari. The advantages of escapism, my dear.

The trouble with being in a complicated situation is not just the situation itself but the pressure that society puts on you. I’m quite adamant so I don’t give in that easy. But it’s another way in which people judge and try to imprison you.

I have an aunt who is of a similar disposition as my Mother. She has two sons-the elder one, more attached to the mother is a lot like me, has one foot on each boat ( of sanity and insanity). The younger one is very successful. He has spent the majority of his grown up years away from his family and now lives in a different city and has a wonderful life. I am not trying to give you the pros and cons of living with or near your parents, here. But this what people say about them. About the older one, ‘ he does’nt do anything’, ‘ what is wrong with him’ blah, blah , blah. About the younger one, it is ‘how can he be so selfish?’, ‘why couldn’t he at least live in the same city as his parents?’.,.blah, blah, blah. Now, pray tell, what are they supposed to do?

A lady I interviewed many years ago, Merry, told me that she faced the same kind of judgements. Her son, was diagnosed with autism, more than two decades ago. When you meet her, her positivity will surprise you. She is not just someone’s wife, she is not just the mother of an autistic child. She is a woman who has fought for her child rights as well as her own rights- to live a well balanced, happy life. She works, she travels, she chills out and of course she takes care of her son.

A couple of weeks ago, as I lay alone without an attendant on my hospital bed, I got a lecture from the hospital staff about getting married.’You need someone who will think about you’, said the lady from the front office who came to pay me a visit. Now, tell me how fair is it to get another person involved? I think it would be quite sadistic and terribly selfish on my part. Though, there are a number of people who think I am so selfish that I dare to go away when I want despite the fact that my Mother is unwell and I heard so much rubbish, including someone fabricating a story about my Father being unwell, to get me back from my K2K trip. But this getting married to make my life easier, ain’t my cup of tea.

Love and all


Deepika Kochar

Since it’s our second anniversary and this is a special edition, I’m ditching the chronologic format of this section for this month. I share with you the images of the actual wedding. As an attempt to fathom the phenomena called love. Just a quick background-  A while before the marriage ceremony took place in front of the whole wide world; Mom and Dad had already secretly tied the knot  (the four pheras around the Granth sahib and all) on the insistence of my Mother. You see, my maternal side is hugely obsessed with looks and they didn’t approve of my Dad because they thought he wasn’t good enough. So Mommy darling, convinced my Father that this was the only way to get their approval. And that’s exactly how it played out. First, the siblings got to know and then the parents. Eventually, My Mom married the man she’s still obsessed with after 37 years of marriage. This is the reason why Dad says that the ‘aashiz mizaaj’ trait, of his children came from their Mother.

An Ode To My Mother’s Mother -Pabiji



My Maternal grandfather had two wives. The older one bore him one daughter and the younger one- five daughters and three sons. My mother was the daughter of the second wife. In every story there is a central figure around whom the plot revolves. But it’s the characters that stand on the sidelines, complimenting the central figure, who allow the plot to move forward. In my mother’s family it was Pabiji, my  Grandfather’s first wife, who kept everything going.

You hear stories of women who make extraordinary sacrifices for the men they love, who epitomize everything maternal. Pabiji, was an exemplary woman. There’s a reason she chronologically precedes my mother’s biological mother and this it-

My mother, the youngest daughter was the seventh child my Maternal Grandmother bore. Just a short while after her birth, my Grandmother, as was in common in the 1950’s, was on her way to have her Eighth child. Pabiji, took care of My Mother as her own. When Mom was in school, the teacher asked her to get a paper signed from her Mother. ”But my Mother is illiterate”, replied my Mother. Up until that moment she was unaware of who her biological mother was. The educated one was!

Pabiji, spent her life taking care of her Husband’s children. When they were young she nurtured them..when they grew older she loved them, like her own. When my Brother was to be born, it was Pabiji, who came to take care of my pregnant mother. Though, Pabiji wasn’t my Mother’s Biological Mother…I will always remember her as that.

Photograph Contributed by Ataminder Singh Bhasin

The Parents-Gurdial Singh Chhabra.


My Mother’s Father- Gurdial Singh Chhabra

Gurdial Singh Chhabra

Gurdial Singh Chhabra, Akhnoor Road, Jammu. J&K.

Contributed by Ataminder Singh Bhasin (Neeru Bhaiya).

Text By Ataminder Singh Bhasin- He was our Maternal Grandfather. Born at Jehlum town (now in Pakistan) in 1910. His father was Sardar Malik Singh jee Chhabra and mother was Bhag Sudhi, fondly called Be-jee. He got his higher education at Govt. College Lahore. The entire family migrated to East Punjab during partition of India in 1947. Sardar saheb chose to settle down at Jammu, which was a good market then for their ancestral trade of timber. His elder brother Sardar Mehar Singh jee lived at Chandigarh, Younger ones Sardar Inderjeet Singh jee settled down at Bombay and his youngest brother Sardar Zorawar Singh jee lived with him at Jammu.
Sardar Gurdial Singh jee left us forever in 1982.

The Family Saga


Posing with a friend next to a haystack.

The lives of all family members are entwined, together… though, in each family the central figure varies. At times it’s the Patriarch of the family and others a strong woman- the Matriarch who holds the family together. The story of my family’s life revolves around my Mother.This is an album of Mother’s life.

A Tribute On Her 60th

There are infinite aspects, the word ‘mother’ conjures up in our psyche. The first few memories which are evoked are of the personal- The natural mother, female relatives like the grandmother, the step-mother and the mother-in-law. Other than these obvious evocations, the word educes images of the figurative, the infinite, the natural and the divine.


This primary relationship, is considered by most psychologists to be the bedrock of the individual psyche. The mother complex of the son is a term we are all familiar with.  It was probably 2005 or maybe ’06, when I read Carl Jung’s theory on the ‘Mother complex of the daughter.’ I can’t recall how much I understood about the hypertrophy of the maternal element, the overdevelopment of the Eros, the identity with the mother or the resistance to the mother. What I do remember is feeling half normal, after reading it. It was only then, I realized that irrespective of how ‘abnormal’, my family setup may have seemed to me as a child, under the surface there lay a generality and a shared commonality with other families and other daughters.


The rest of it, I have only started to understand years, later. I will at some point share Jung’s views. But this is not an exercise to understand my psyche or flaunt my views on yours. A few years, a senior photographer, who was working on a lovely portrait series on Mothers and Daughters, asked if I would like to be a part of it.  I wriggled out of the process. I couldn’t explain to him why. Only recently, when another photographer friend asked to interview my Mom, I realized that though, one has been fairly open about one’s life, there are some aspects of it which are far too complex, to just put out there and they would have to be dealt with delicately.


We recently ran a campaign on this blog and almost all the women had such glorious things to write about their mothers. I can’t say those things. I can’t even say I loved my mother as a little girl! She was so unlike every one else, not just because she was unwell but because she was like a force of nature. At times placid and calm like still waters or a gentle drizzle on your wind shield, slightly blurring your vision and in the next moment thunderous and violent, like a hurricane. Yet, in her moments of lucidity, oh so charming and hilarious.


I can’t paint you a picture of my mother, without her looking like a poor victim of circumstance or a really unpleasant person. Neither, of which would be true. Yes, I can’t tell you stories of exemplary maternal sacrifices. I don’t have any memories of my mother fussing over me, stuffing my mouth with delicious home cooked meals… teaching me how to grow up to be a lady. I remember my Mother, zipping her way through Delhi streets in her Maruti, racing with whoever dared to. I have visions of a woman with impeccable taste and confidence-wearing mini skirts and backless blouses. I recall someone, who was always generous to a fault… a person who lived without any concept about her ‘station in life’. Her monthly dates- visiting cinemas and parlours- with the domestic help, blurred her children’s view of what was considered to be the norm. I remember someone, who had a keen understanding of human behaviour, yet no coping mechanism to deal with it- a person who was just too intelligent (as her Shrink’s put it) and too sensitive. I have memories of a woman who loved and hated life- both at the same time. Someone who gave my first alcoholic drink, told me about sex… someone who made me laugh and oh how much she made me cry.


I can’t tell you all that my Mother is because I sometimes see her through the frightened eyes of a 9 year old child, perpetually afraid her Mother might die the next day and at others through the skewed vision of a cynical, 35 year old daughter, whose tired of the tendencies. When I stop seeing her through a daughter’s eyes, without projecting my expectations on her, I see a woman with a misplaced Child Ego State, whose gone through life wanting to be mothered. Someone, whose done unpleasant things, so that she could get the attention she deserved.


I see a person whose lost most of the people she loved-son, siblings, parents-every four to five years someone passes away- and survived. A woman who has legendary survival instincts and a will and stubbournness that would put most people to shame. My Mother is a melting pot of dichotomous values- she can be so good in one moment and not so great so quick- it can make your head spin. I see someone who loves expensive things, yet doesn’t care for money. I see a woman who was like to a sister to her son, whose still like a love sick teenager around her husband and has always been a friend to her daughter. I see a woman who dances with the help and playfully chases her husband around the house with a glass a water, in her hand, threatening to chuck it at him.  I see a person who has retained an innocence that’s impossible to find.


There are many aspects the word, ‘Mother’ conjures up. My mother may not be like your Mom, or the next person’s. As a little girl, I wished she was. But as a grown woman, I realize that there are many people who come from regular families and still feel unloved.  There’s a special way in which my Mom loves- with her whole being- senselessly, generously and obsessively and how we were loved! My mother may not be like most women but she sure is one of a kind!

My Mother’s Heart.

There it was, this wilted away skin…

Showcasing years of painful memories.

They stared right at me those big lumps of torn figments…

Once, they had been creamy luscious skin.

Bitter sweet smiles

Parched soul,

Suppressed tears filled in her two containers…

Oozing through the pores of her skin.

Hardened mounts, longing to be seen

Longing to be touched.

Peeling away the layers of joyless years

I found a thing made with her nurturing milk.

In a bed of burnt skin, beating away gloriously,

lay-My Mother’s Heart.

9th April ’04

11.00 p.m

Saadiya Kochar