My Friend, Celine! A Women’s Day Special!

It was in 2003 that we first met. Two young girls had just turned twenty, (technically) in their first job, in this awesome five-star property in New Delhi. We didn’t join the same day though. I welcomed Celine in the department with a very subtle handshake & my usual & not-so-believable nod. We started working in same shifts, she would ask me questions & I helped her & vice-versa. Being new at the job, being new as employees, we hardly had any interaction on a personal level. We would talk about processes, our department, the other departments, our future, short-term or long-term goals, the places we came from, more so, because we both belonged to the same category of human race, the dreamers. I still have her dreamy face, looking at the ceiling but beyond, fresh in my head. But in a second she would definitely have something new to ask or discuss & then back to a deeper thought. The day would end & we would depart or if we worked late, we would probably share the same cab back home. Sharing the cab, sitting in exhausted, we would converse through Hindi music which helped us recover from a long & tiring day. A sentence or two would just be enough for a conversation. Yeah, the dreamers!

I somehow struggle to recollect when did we say good-bye to each other or did we say it at all? Did I resign first then she followed or was it her who took the exit first? Nope, I don’t remember that at all. I never had her mobile or any contact details with me & of course, Facebook had not yet arrived. But when it did arrive, I took my own sweet time to join in as I was bit by the anti-social-networking bug. Really? Is that what you call socializing? and many more ugly thoughts & judgments crossed my mind. Well, laugh all you want!

So I forgot about her, totally. She never crossed my mind & then eventually I joined Facebook, we bumped into each other. I was married, I was a mum by then & she was in a relationship.  We were cordial, very warm & extremely happy for each other for the spaces we belonged. But the moment we started interacting, I realized that woman hasn’t changed at all, nothing had changed, the chirp, the tickle, the pickle, the elegance, the pride, the confidence, the dignity, the responsibility & the dreams in fact were 10 times greater. And I, wanted to know her more.

I started my blog last year with Females as my inspiration. It was in April that I thought of calling her once & having a little chit-chat about life & where both of us stand now, more so, to write about her. To my surprise, the girl was getting married the next month and was juggling everything around her. I did call & told her to take it easy, also that I won’t be able to make it to the wedding as my sister herself was on her way to be a bride soon. The idea was put to rest for a while. I’ll be honest, I thought may be it was not such a great idea after all, may be it was not meant to be. I’ll apologize.

But the way Celine is, just a week before the wedding she was helping, protesting and standing up for Loitam Richard‘s murder case. A guy she didn’t know personally but since he was from the same community as hers, she felt the need to do whatever she could in her capacity. Why? Why would she do that? So I started the chase again.

We spoke, a couple of times but never had the amount of peace around to get to some serious chatting. Well, we managed. I had told her that it won’t take more than 10 minutes & to my surprise, we spoke for about 2 hours. And now I need to apologize to her for putting this post on hold. I got busy with a number of things & one of which is my shift in career.

Celine is from the warrior tribe called Naga tribe and was born & raised in North East, Manipur, the side of the country which is often ignored when it comes to development & recognition but Celine has a great bond with that land. She grew in a well to do family, her father was the Chairman of the Autonomous District Council & had a lot of political influence. Her mother, who she was extremely close to died of cancer. Celine, while talking about her, gave me personal details about the kind of human being she was. She mentioned she wasn’t educated but had an intelligent mind & an excellent IQ. She had a very strong will, mind & body. She understood the unspoken, she was eager to learn new things, she was determined to do whatever she could to make sure all her children got education despite of her being born in the 50’s where a girl child going to school was unknown and almost a taboo. She allowed her daughters to wear western cloths like shorts and sleeveless at home but would request them to cover up when going out because of the conservative society they live in. The most striking thing which Celine remembers is the time when her mother said on her dying bed, “When I die, no matter what, God forbid but if in future you and your sisters are unable to complete your education because of financial reasons, go back to our village, sell the grains from the granary, you will earn, save the money & finish your education, no matter what”. In my opinion, that shows character.

She took me back to September 11, 2001 when asked about the most unforgettable moment spent with her mother. Celine was sitting next to her while she laid fighting for cancer at their home. She narrated every bit to her, all the pictures, the news lines, the panic, the shouting, the exits, the attack, everything. The emotional bond & the affection between the two of them grew stronger looking at the horrendous images on TV on 9/11.

Celine was undoubtedly very close to her mother & to me perhaps she was the special one too. She looked after the ailing mother in her last days. A woman who could not move a muscle, could obviously not even eat food with her own hands, turned to her special daughter for everything. Celine became her pillar & she would lean on her whenever there was a need, even a small one. The daughter was struggling, for someone who was amazingly mature but had never seen this side of life so closely, it started to break her but not even once did she complain. The mother on the other hand started sensing her burden. One night, while Celine was deep asleep, she heard a noise, she saw her mother struggle to get up to use the loo. She shouted, got angry & asked why she couldn’t wake her up. The mother then mentioned, it’s enough, that’s enough, I can’t give you more pain, you are through & so am I, please make one last promise that no matter what, you will look after your younger sister & finish your education.  Leaving a huge impact on Celine, she died.

I knew she was close to her as she more than often has left prayers for her on Facebook just when she was about to sleep or may be the first thing in the morning. I noticed.

Many chapters were kept undisclosed in her life but one would often get a glimpse of her hidden emotions on Facebook statuses. Those updates always triggered me, it made me a social-networking-stalker in a sense. ‘LOL’.

Celine talks passionately about Manipur. Being ignored by the government & rest of the country, the youth however, is taking strong steps in order to preserve & serve the state in the best possible way. It’s the youth which believes in moving on, which believes in creating possibilities in and around the state, the youth which breaks the norms & the barriers to come & lead from the front. The state being divided in to various tribes & sub-tribes have youth clubs all over, presidents & secretaries. They come together, join hands to raise funds, to do social work even if that means cleaning the drainage for monsoons on their off days. Celine, who left the place some years back is a part of a Naga community in Karnataka. She shares a great bond with that land & dreams of  North-East region taken seriously by not only the government but the people across the country. Most of the students step out & come to cities like Delhi or Mumbai to do better in life, but unfortunately, they are often mistreated, eve-teased & are looked down upon. One of the prominent reasons is perhaps their appearance, but she asks, a South Indian doesn’t match a North Indian too, then why brand just the North Eastern? Only because they follow peace, they lack aggression & simply put, they have better things to focus on.

The home she grew up in had 5 children. I didn’t know that until I checked with her. She talks happily about everyone, they seem to be doing just fine in their lives. She proudly mentioned about her younger sister who is a research scholar at a well-known university, it reminds her of the promise she made to her mother years ago. Now, she talks of her eldest brother & the voice shook, she started taking time, more pauses & fillers were hampering our smooth conversation & I could understand as he is no more. He was an addict & died young. The entire family tried their best to give him all the support  They somehow minimized the conversation during his last days due to a meaningless fight. She had gone back home. & while coming back from her home to work in the city, moments before she entered her car, the brother enters & hands over the diary  & says, “you can do it!” & she chokes. A couple of days later, he was in heaven.

She is one of those people who believes in her religion & stands by it. She’s spiritual too

Celine, the voice that giggles at silly things, the character that can send shivers to many bodies, the charm that can melt many hearts, the smile that never leaves you has had a huge impact on me on many levels. Some of the things I relate to with her would below which forced me write about her & make this post a sort of dedication to the kind of females I admire on every level are:

  1. Facebook addiction.
  2. Patience level.
  3. Give respect & get respect.
  4. Get crap & give crap.
  5. Love surprises.
  6. We do social service in our own little ways but hardly share it publicly.
  7. Love for family & the values.
  8. Spirituality.
  9. Make weird & funny faces.
  10. Down to earth behavior vs. kick-ass attitude.

And then, there are plenty.

The small & simple things in life hold matchless importance in her life. If you ask her what she would like from life in the next five years, she’d say: A Kkd & more time with husband. By the way, did I say her husband is a serving officer in the Indian Army & they spend most of the time craving for each other’s company (Awww!), yes, she is that kind of girl. Saying that she’s also one of those girls who never got herself checked for Cervical Cancer, just like most of us, including myself. She would rather listen to some Sufi music & experiment with food, eh? Being a Visual Merchandiser, her work demands travel & that has taken a toll on her body and isn’t that something we all need to focus at, once in a while may be? Me too.

Also, while we are extremely emotionally stirred with what happened in Delhi recently, it reminded me of a thing that I asked her over the phone. The question was, “What’s your message to the rapists?”. She had her reply ready, instantly she said, “Think, just think, this is not something you want to do, think!” And I guess that’s what she has, it’s a gift, to see beyond things. It’s special that way. How many of us would actually, in the given situation, have that kind of mind state? It takes great deal of zeal & zest to come out & talk your heart out.

The story of this girl doesn’t end here, there are in fact way too many things that I can share about her but may be at some other point, in years to come. Where she comes from, how the circumstances were & are, I guess Celine has come a long way. She has aims but more than everything, she has what it takes to be successful in every walk of life. She’s just a good balance which needs very less help, a very good balance.

Sharing some of her posts from FB:

My Dad gave me a warm farewell yesterday…Many had tears in their eyes….After days of rain and storm,the sky cleared and the wind stopped just before the ceremony,the food was perfect and so many well wishers came from far and near to bless me…..Signs of my late mother and Late brother John’s blessing were everywhere…..feel so blessed to have such wonderful people around me…thank u Jesus!!…

Loooong time ago when i first came to the big city,I was always complimented as being ‘HONEST’ and I use to think ‘am i?’ because i didn’t know what dishonesty means and hence the difference between honesty and dishonesty…..but 10yrs down the line,today I realize I was a BLAADY PHOOL! Hehehehe! Good Morning people!

People have all kinds of pre-conceived notions about me being a Naga,a North Eastern but they can never understand the pride I take in myself for being one and Iam so very proud about the fact that the FIRST theft in my village happened ONLY a month back,we still don’t use locks in our homes,the doors are to keep animals away……..HAH!!!!! RAPE is a far cry and you people think we are lesser human beings? Shame one you!!

My Last New Year resolution was to plan and lose weight in 2012..I did a thorough planning,which took time but finally I think I’m ready to launch my plan in 2013…hehehe! 😛

I will just leave this with one thought: That I am proud of her. I am someone who will always have tremendous amount of respect for her. She’s that one person you need or want when life throws tantrums at you & all you want to do is, kick life back!

PS: She’s like a Moroccan Spice flavor candle & she has gone nuts after reading this line!

PPS: Link to her Social Group, Khiuke!

PPPS: I wrote this blog in a very friendly manner, the way I would tell her stories to a friend may be. Again, that’s what she has, a gift of putting things & people at ease. So, thank you, my friend, Celine!

Have a brilliant Women’s day, like the rest of the 364!

About Neha Mendiratta Khullar

Photographer learning photography. Age: 29 From Mumbai, India. Blogger. Gardener. Singer out-of-practice. Sketcher out-of-practice. Dancer never-out-of-practice. Overtly Optimistic. Passionate Creativity Lover. Irregular Chef. Excellent Host. Not Your ‘Best’ Friend. Quick Learner. Movie Buff. Mush Queen. Family Gal. Lazy Wife. Crazy Mommy. Highly Observant. Respect First, Age Later. Respect First, Love Later. Heart First, Head Later. Day Dreamer, NO, ‘A Dreamer’. Won’t follow your rules. Don’t follow mine. Oh! I have none. FREEDOM. Never Jealous. Not my Trait. Most Loyal. My Trait. Love Giving Surprises. As secured as one can be. Favorite Number: 9 Intuitive Like No Other. Can See Your soul. Opinionated. Mostly Silent but my Head is not. Mostly Detached. Hyperactive Head at Night. Swear by work ethics but with a pinch of fun. My best work comes at the last-minute. Loading….loading…loading…please look up after some time for more.
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