Sunday, December 27, 2009

How will it be?

Today is a quiet day. The kind when the weather ( cool dark winter), the occasion ( the Xmas weekend), and the place, all sort of conspire to be calm and placid, even boring. The boys are in their rooms doing what they do and the dogs seem hard put to find something to bark at.It all makes for a lot of mind wandering and random thoughts. It has now begun to sink in... that my first born will be off to a far far away college. For the last ten days I am seeing signs of it everyday. Till now they were signs that made me happy and proud. After all, not everyone who wants to can get into the college of their choice.. Yet now, I understand that I will not see him every weekend, or even every month... I will just see him about twice year.. hopefully !

Years ago I had read a line which has stayed with me all through my motherhood years.. "We teach children to walk and talk, so we can tell them to shut up and sit down" and when they do shut up and sit somewhere , we miss all the motion and the noise! Humans never leave things be, do they?!

Monday, December 21, 2009

MIT daze!

I know I have been missing in action for a while now... But now I have some wonderful news to tell the world. My son Sidhant will be going to MIT in the fall next year for his under grad. After a lot of 'will he?, won't he?'.. looks like he is!!

We got to know at 9pm eastern time, on 16th of this month! He was accepted in the early action pool at MIT!! It was one of those wonderful, almost surreal moments of life. You feel humbled because you know that it is not hard work or good grades alone. I think there is luck, blessings, good wishes... everything !

So he is almost on the threshold of adulthood and ready to fly! Wish him luck!!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lessons from the unlettered

Call her Chand bi. It would not matter what her name is, because her story also does not seem to matter. There is no one clamouring to hear what she says or follow what she does. Even her life seems just 'by the way'. At least that is what her family seems to think. Her husband , a drunk son of a drunk mother, has always vented all his frustrations on her through physical, mental and emotional abuse. Her mother-in-law could be straight from an Ekta Kapoor serial. How do I know this? She is my domestic help and though she rarely complains, it is hard to miss the signs of abuse over the last four years. I have tried to intervene, but she would always prevent me by saying that her husband was a good man. She insists that it was the drink that made him do it.

A couple of years ago the husband got work in Dubai and with the promise of plenty, left her fending for herself, her three boys and the mother-in-law. On reaching there, he learnt that the money was a lot less than promised and would procure a lot less than he imagined. This meant that Chand has had to rely on her own wages. Her work as a domestic help gets her about Rs. 3000/- a month. Not really a lot in the expensive city of Pune. To the Roti, Kapda you can add the constant illnesses that haunt the family. Again, not a very out of the ordinary story.

Recently her grandmother passed away, leaving her a small room in Mumbai. Happy for her, I even gently teased her about becoming a land lady. Just the other day, she took off without information, (which is really irritating- one of my standard requests to my help is that they should please inform me when they disappear). A couple of days later when she turned up, all set to take her to task, I just asked her why she had not come. "Mein Mumbai gayi thi, didi. I had to go to Mumbai as my uncles are creating problems with the room my grandmother left me." Curious, I asked her what had happened. Turned out that the uncles felt it was their right to own the little room and had been harassing her sister who in turn, cried on Chand's shoulder. " I hope you told them that it is yours now" I said. "Nahin, didi, I have a home", she said referring to the little shanty her family lived in here in Pune. "I do not need another home. I was planning to make it over to my uncles anyway, but was waiting for my husband. Anyway, I did it now. I am sorry for my uninformed Chutti."

Yes, I did fell very petty at that point. Here was a woman who had a very rough life from losing her parents as a child to a violent marriage, and the only thing that comes to her as a windfall, the easy way, she gave away... just like that. There are those who would argue that women are so used to giving in and suffering, that this is just another example. What struck me was the serenity and grace that she gave. Never having been schooled, she was just learning the alphabet on my insistence. Her wisdom though was beyond the grasp of many. There was no doubt in her mind that it was the only thing to do.

There is no doubt in my mind that she is one of the true givers. A couple of days ago, she wanted to buy some fruits on her way back from work as her children wanted to have some to break the 'roza' fast. I offered her some to save her the hassle on a tiring day. She gracefully declined. That the underprivileged are on the take and out to get whatever they can, is a common refrain. Something like this stops and makes you think.

Her life may never make the headlines and it may not matter to any one, but when the headlines are hogged by the rich and famous unwilling to give an inch to their own (self 'RELIANCE' means something entirely different to them), it may be time to look beyond the headlines!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Teachers Day

Teachers make a very big difference in our lives. Remember the three 'R's? Reading, (w)Riting, and (A)Rithmetic. But that is not all they do. A good teacher can make you and help you reach your full potential and vice -versa. I always did show respect for teachers (my parents would have it no other way), but like everyone else at that age, took them for granted, thought that I'd be well rid of the 'tyrants'. Little realising that this tyranny was the best thing that I would be subjected to. I have not had a chance to revisit my school, or even the city where I went to school, but find myself thinking about my teachers with growing respect.

The movie clips here are about two real life teachers who have made a great difference. On teachers day, I thought that it would be a fitting post.

The first clip is from the movie 'Freedom Writers' , about a teacher who against all odds and at great personal inconvenience, ends up inspiring a group of children whom the world has given up on. It has Oscar winning actress Hillary Swank as the teacher.

Tourettes Syndrome is a little known condition that causes the person suffering from it to make involuntary sounds and even shout out obscenities. It causes uncontrollable twitches and shakes. This singles out the sufferer and many times disrupts normal life. Real life teacher Brad Cohen has the Tourettes syndrome. His childhood dream was to be a teacher who recognised that it was okay to be different and teach children that they can be whatever they choose to be. The movie takes us down the rough road Brad travels and his journey to his dream.

Our own 'Taare Zammen Par' is also a movie that demonstrates the power of a good teacher. I have not put up any clips as the chances are that we have all caught the movie at some point or another. Also, it is not about any real 'real life' person.

All three movies are worth at least one viewing. More power to such teachers! Wishing all the teachers a very happy teachers day!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lemon lessons

"Kharab Jhale, didi. These lemons you brought yesterday are not good" she said. "The rest of the bhaji is good. Why did you pick these up?" asked my domestic help, as she examined the week's supply of the vegetables I had brought home. Not in the mood for a cross examination regarding any lemons, I tried to brush her off with a comment about them being okay and just to use them.

"It has to be okay when we do it" she said. Startled to hear what seemed a bit like an accusation, I looked at her enquiringly. " Yesterday my son asked me who would be punishing me", she continued in a seemingly random fashion. Resigning myself to her obvious need for conversation, I obligingly asked her why her son, age 9, wanted her punished. " The other day I had given him Rs.10 for a hair cut and he lost it. I was very angry with him and shouted at him for his carelessness" she answered. As I began convincing her that she had done the right thing by chastising him, she continued, "Last evening I lost almost my entire month's wages, because I stuffed the money into my purse in a hurry. All the money fell out on my way home. I did look for it again by retracing my path again, but it was gone. When I mentioned this to my son, he reminded me that I had scolded him for losing Rs.10 and asked me who would scold me now! That is why I said that it has to be okay when we do it. When someone else does the same thing, we get upset and tell them all about why they are wrong and how they can make amends. I am sure they feel as bad when they make a mistake, as we do about our mistake", she concluded.

Recalling the number of times I have picked holes in my husband's shopping efforts ( he generally brings home what the grocer gives him, instead of picking and choosing), I must say that she was right. This does not mean that I will become saintly from now on and never get upset with other's mistakes. I am certain that the young hero of this episode will continue receiving chastisement from his mom. Yet, he got us all to examine our actions at least fleetingly.

The lemons may not have been good, but the lesson was!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Why lie?

She is a close relative.. close enough for me not to name names. She called last Sunday evening and asked me for a telephone number of a taxi service I use. "So, planning a trip?", I asked , scrolling through the numbers. "Nooo Yaar, I just realized that I do not have the number and my mom will need it next month."

After I gave her the number we moved on to other topics like family and festivals and ended the conversation. Today, I just got to know through someone else that she and her mother had made a trip to Mumbai last Monday. Just the day after she took the number from me. What I do not understand is the need to lie.

We are contemporaries and it was not as if I was going to prevent her from going anywhere. You may argue that it was never my business in the first place. I agree. The question was more conversational than anything else. So, why lie?

I know we all don masks at different points in life. At times the circumstances demand it. sometimes it is the person. Occasionally because the truth is not palatable or may hurt. But compulsive lying, for no reason? It is really irritating. More so because trust is very fragile and hard to re-establish. Why risk lying to family?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Green visitor

What is green and black, moves fast, is hard to catch and creates a flutter when spotted? No, it is not a new character from a Rakesh Roshan Movie. Yes, I know that 'Quickgun Murugan' could be a close guess, but Murugan is more multi - coloured than my visitor.

It looked like another 'blah' Friday afternoon, when my help, who was finishing up with the dishes, spotted this little wriggly string that moved away when she squirted it with water. Closer examination revealed that it was a small sssnake! Being a village woman, (she spouts theories that humans are more poisonous than snakes and it is sometimes the snake who dies. Then again, she may be closer to the divine truth than I know!!) she did not panic, but called out to me. After the initial excitement of having a real live snake on the premises subsided, we called the local pest control services, who also double as the animal help services here.

The next few minutes were rather thrilling. Knowing little about the snake and it's venom, we all hung over the balcony railing to try and make sure we kept track of the wriggly thing. ( see how the swine flu got away because the government did not keep track) As we watched, it made it's way through a patch of 'Alu' leaves and vanished below a decaying yellowed one. The experts came in all prepared with their high tech equipment. Turns out, all they need is a clean, green, empty, plastic ..hold your breath.. soda bottle. Quickly, efficiently and with disappointing tameness, they coaxed the small snake.. about a foot or a bit more, just half an inch thick.. into the bottle and went their way. Relax, I too asked them what they do with the snake. We are fortunate to have a snake park in pune that takes all such snakes... they also release the harmless ones into the great big outdoors, far from the madding crowd. So, looks like our visitor will be enjoying the facilities at the park, before he is released. What really deflated the excitement was that he was a harmless little fellow. So much for braving a snake attack!!

Btw, I learnt that there are many superstitions associated with snakes. They range from omens of good luck, great harvest for farmers, death, loss of power, loss of wealth, bad luck et al. To think that all the snake was looking for, was a meal!

In all the excitement I forgot to take any pictures, but am posting a picture of the famed "Alu" thicket. The snake was green, with dark bands. I believe he was a 'Trinket'.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stolen flowers

For God’s sake!

I see them every morning. I am on my morning walk when I see them going around with their little plastic bags. I know they are ...errrr..pinching something. Some of them look faintly embarrassed, but mostly they are extremely nonchalant about the whole thing. Even the guards standing around do not deter them. Their reasoning – it is for God’s sake. What do they pinch? They take something that belongs to everyone. It is nature’s bounty that is meant to bring joy to all who see it. They steal flowers that grow within plucking distance. It does not matter whether the flowers are blooming in a public space like a garden or spilling over a private wall. If the flower is within reach, it is nipped off and put into the bag. Size, colour, fragrance, no bar! I am talking of the flowers that get offered to God. In fact, the more beautiful the bloom, the faster it disappears into the bag.

These individuals seem to believe in the free market philosophy, especially if the blooms happen to be in some public garden or common area. . The concept of ‘public property’ is completely lost on these people and should you ever broach the issue at a public place, they look astonished and even get offended and aggressive. Tell them that they could be hurting the plants and they are quick to say ‘mere ek ke todne se kya hoga’ implying that just one person cannot destroy the garden. They seem pained that you should stop them from making an offering to god, as if the phrase ‘Bhagwan ke liye’ meaning ‘it is for God’ should absolve them of all wrongs. Belligerently they enquire “Tumhara hai kya?” (Is it yours?). Some even offer you a part of the spoils in the belief that you are just feeling cheated about not getting the flowers yourself! Should you catch them in the act outside your private garden, they offer a weak smile along with explanations like ‘you could not have reached it from inside anyway’ or ‘you can spare one, after all it is going to God’ or ‘you too will get a share of the blessings’.

In large Indian cities most people consider themselves fortunate just to have a roof over their heads. Most of us do not have the luxury to look at the aesthetic value of the surroundings we hope to set up home in. It is very likely that the view from the window is just another building with the washing hung out to dry. It could as well be the train tracks or the corner grocery store. Given the way things are, I consider myself lucky to be living in a place which has well maintained gardens and public areas. In fact, this is one of the marketing USP highlighted to those who choose to live here. Yet, some the very same people who have bought homes based on all this are the ones who denude the plants. Dressed in track suits and walking shoes, armed with little bags, they begin the onslaught early in the morning. They are the very people who can tell you in detail about the beauty of the clean and pretty streets of Singapore they visited recently. They wax eloquent about the beautiful wild flowers that border the freeways in the USA. They discuss the beautifully maintained gardens in London. Raise the issue of the flowers in the local garden and they look surprised that you are unable to understand that their deep piety overrides petty concerns like beauty.

Plucking a few flowers may seem like a very insignificant issue, but in this world where the daily grind causes so much stress to everyone, a thing of beauty like a garden or even a few lovely flowers do bring a lot of joy. They often break some branches and trample on others in an effort to reach the best blooms. The gardens end up looking bare and maimed. Apart from doing away with the emotional advantage of surrounding oneself with a little beauty, even the practical benefits of having a few plants capable of cleaning up our air are diminished if not destroyed. It also sends out the messages that it is okay to take what is not ours and destroy pubic property while doing so.

I do not know how it works in other cities, but in the city of Pune, we can have flowers delivered to our doorstep at the crack of dawn. These flowers are specifically meant for ‘Pooja’. The best part is that they can be availed for as little as Rs.5 or Rs. 10 a day. This service also provides some employment. All those who want to invoke God’s blessings may do well to subscribe to this service.I hope that this Ganesh festival, people will be more careful. After all, shouldn’t you be offering what is actually yours, what you have some part of your earnings or energy on, in the first place? Especially if you believe that God created everything??

P.S. All the flowers in this post bloomed in my garden this week!!!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


In these times of the swine flu and terrorism stories, today The Times of India, carried a wonderful story. It was about a 83 year old retired teacher, Soballapuram V Venkataraman, and his students. In times when the teacher and the taught both regard their relationship as a professional one involving the exchange of money and time, it was truly heartening to know that there are those who understand the value of a good teacher.

The teacher who used to teach Tamil and inspire countless students was left with a pitiful pension of Rs. 9,000/ and the responsibilities of an aged wife and a widowed daughter. When a couple of his old students visited him a couple of years ago, they were shocked to discover him in a leaky rented home. Galvanised into action they decided to build a home for him. Around 250 of the school's alumni got together and have built a house for their inspiring teacher. They plan to hand it over to him on teacher's day next month. All the teacher did was do his job with sincerity and devotion, expecting nothing in return.

Restores faith in the ideal of good things come to good people! May there be many more teachers and students like this.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lost Generation

I came across this video the other day ... Found it interesting and thought others might too......

I would like to believe that the next gen is anything but lost. They are very aware and will make a difference. Apart from other things, this video is a great demo of how the meanings change, depending on the order of the words. Use them with care!!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Jai ho!

Ganesh Chaturthi is upon us. In Maharashtra, it means a no holds barred, all out celebration.

This year, the swine flu is expected to dampen some of the exuberance, but you cannot keep a good celebration down, especially when it brings the society together on faith issues. Last evening, the markets were abuzz and the colourful items on sale created a festive atmosphere all over.

I was out to buy some essentials and got caught in the rush. In fact, it is a rush in more ways than one. The crowds do overwhelm you and carry you in a wave. There is no going back or against the crowd. You cannot cut through or across. All you can do is inch your Way through the bustle of humanity on their vehicles and move slowly in the same direction. You might, if you are lucky, make it in the general vicinity of where you hoped to be, or get carried away further. The crowds are like the eddying waters of a river in spate, with flotsam sometimes joining the water and some finding it's way to the bank.

In all this though, there is another rush. The one you feel when you see that nothing can keep people away from making the most of the joy such celebrations bring into their lives. They are all obviously experiencing the rush that devout faith brings. They have no qualms about braving the swine flu or the recession or the drought that promises to send prices sky high. Some of the more cautious spoke through masks and handkerchiefs on their faces. Yet, the happiness glowed through even the covered faces. It was as if they were encased in a bubble of faith that the virus could not penetrate. While my prayers are very private and I do not understand the faith that drives hordes to one spot and community prayers in the thick of humanity, I have to appreciate the faith I witnessed. It is easy to be blase and dismiss all the mingling as foolhardy and an invitation to disaster. There is no denying that the enthusiasm is invigorating and infectious. It is also a tribute to the human spirit that tries to normalise life under all circumstances.

Pune's Famous Dagduseth Ganapati

So, bolo, Ganapati bappa morya!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The art of gift giving

Recently I was invited to a wedding. My 'bai' or the household help was getting her daughter married and so invited me . She was very excited about presenting the invitation card to me. She also told me that she had invited three other women from the neighbourhood and we could all come together.

It was decided between the four of us that we would go together and the gift would be a combined one. This way we could either get her something really nice or give her the money which would be a nice lump sum. Since she had been working for all of us for over three years, I assumed that a month's wages would be a good amount to begin with. The first of the women I mentioned it to did not sound too enthusiastic, but she did not reject it out of hand either. As per the plan we met the next day to decide on the specifics at one of the homes. After the usual 'chai- nashta' which included some special 'katchoris', ("filled with dry fruits, you know") we got down to the nitty gritty of what and who would get the gift. "I know you said it should be a month's wages, but don't you think that's too much?" The other two were also nodding along and since they all seemed to be in agreement, I cut it down to half. Even that was shot down and then one of them suggested a figure that seemed a joke. Or so I thought at first, but when she explained how we were already paying the 'badli' or the stand in and added the inconvenience of attending the wedding and the price of petrol in it, I realized that she was serious. Here was a person who was always wearing the latest clothes, who dropped over a thousand rupees on the tickets alone, just to catch the latest movie at the local multiplex. She was feeding us Katchoris with dry fruits and was always boasting about the expensive gifts she gave and received (dena padta hai, achaha nahin lagta,na) and she was suddenly tight fisted. What was worse, she had calculated everything to the point of saying "in logon ke liye yeh theek hai, yeh hi standard bhi toh hota hai" meaning that 'this is good enough for these people, it is the standard'.

HERE IS MY QUESTION, why do we compete to give expensive gifts to those who need less of them and give less to those who need it more? The house help's daughter needs that money and can use it far more effectively than the neighbour whom you impress by feeding expensive dry fruits. It is truly ironical, but we tend to give expensive gifts to people who have no need for them, while giving less to those who really need it. It probably stems from the need for validation. It could also be the ' log kya kehenge?' or what will people say syndrome. It could be the need to feel on par with the receiver.

What ever it is, you see it happening all the time. In fact, doesn't the famous fable of Sudama and Krishna illustrate this very thought? The thought that you need to have more to meet someone who has it all, and coversely less for those who have less!

Monday, August 17, 2009

What Indian are you?

This happened to me when I was in fifth grade in school. I had just moved from Kerala, where I was living with my grand parents to Jaipur, to be with my parents. I did not know a word of Hindi, and was thrown , head first into the curriculum of Rajasthan board, where Hindi was almost the first language. In order to gain some mastery over the language, my parents sent me to a friend's home where I would develop and practice my skills. I remember, one young neighbour there asking me what my 'surname' was. Not familiar with the term, I just shrugged it off. The reason I remember the incident clearly is because not only did I feel foolish, not knowing something she so obviously expected me to know, I also did not know why it was so important.

Later on, I learnt that the surname or the last name, was something that while connecting you to one community, weakened your ties with others. Some said, "oh, so you are from our side!" while others just contented themselves with "but you do not look like One" as if it was a difference of species. As I grew up, so did my knowledge of names and identities and sadly, I can decipher some of the linguistic differences. Yet even now, I am fortunate enough not to know the caste differences.

We are so good at dividing the world up into races and countries even though we talk of globalisation and the shrinking distances. There are those who want to maintain the distances. We all meet them ever so often. The people who slot you into a specific place, based solely on your name. They slot you as Bengali, Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati and so on.. They also attribute certain qualities and behavior to you based on that.

"Aap Bengali hain?", meaning 'are you a bengali?' is a question I often get asked. I also get asked whether I am Assamese, Hindi, Punjabi, tamilian and so on... People who feel that they can tell where a person is from, very often get thrown by my not so familiar name and are unable to slot me neatly. I also get asked about my religion, which is again a way to neatly compartmentalise a person. I enjoy the 'ukdi cha modak' as much as the christmas cake or, the 'onam sadhya' as much as the 'gujiya', the 'puran poli' as much as the 'pongal'.

Yes, I do understand that comfort zone you have with some one from the same background. I too feel happy when I meet someone who has studied at my Alma mater, or who has lived in the same place that I did. There is a sense of camaraderie that links you to the other. Yet, to make that one of the first questions to ask of a co-passenger or some one you meet casually at a party? Also, mostly I am asked if I am a 'keralite' by some one who has never lived in 'Kerala'. The person who wants to know if I am a Punjabi, has never lived anywhere near Punjab. So it is more to ascertain that you are not one of 'them' rather than to include you, that the question is put. (That neat slot, remember?)

Having lived in different places, I am fortunately, not limited by languages and am ever willing to learn different customs and traditions. I am proud of my heritage and feel that our heritage gets accentuated by the similarity in different traditions.I believe that languages are just tools of communication. The emotions and thoughts that are communicated are the same, all over. I was born in free India and want no labels that limit me.

Monday, August 10, 2009

This Swine flew

Over heard at a local store - "Bhaiyya, yeh koi doosre colour mein nahin hain?" which loosely translates to "Is this available in any other colour?" If you think that this is a conversation about an item of clothing or a regular accessory, you would be wrong. This in fact, is the latest item sported by the locals of Pune, thanks to the place being the swine flu capital of India. This is the MASK. Just like the mask in the movie "THE MASK" (obviously) granted special powers to the wearer, the locals here are hoping that their mask, available for Rs. ten to Rs. Three hundred, will give them the special power of keeping the swine flu at bay. Some being the fashionistas that they are, want to accessorise the mask with their outfits, hence the question on the colours.

That the swine flu is something no one has a real handle on, is pretty obvious now. It spares some and takes others with virulence. It is quite amazing that in the middle of all the chaos, confusion and tragedy, some have spotted a marketing opportunity. The mask are selling like the proverbial hot cakes at almost every street corner. Like the tickets of a hit movie that is house full, there are even black marketeers who are hiking up the prices ( Simple economic law of supply and demand!) I have seen the same mask sold at a difference of forty five rupees, within a few feet of each other.

If this is not enough to convince you about how you can work on people's insecurities, here is another --- brilliant sales man or opportunist, you decide. Yesterday, I received a text message which read something to this effect "Good morning friends, all day doctors ,news say that if your immune system is strong ,you can prevent swine flu. so what is the way out...something that has got 4 basic ingredients...immune booster, basic nutrition, system regulator, toxin cleanser..all these 4 together in xxxxxx, the king of herbs, do not wait for the h1n1, to come. Tomorrow it could be h2n22, like the police in the Hindi movies who come at the end. Act your and your children's lives. consume xxxx......" and so on, ending with a 'happy to help' sign off.

No prizes for guessing, the person is in the herbal supplement business. The message was in textese ( lot of short forms) . Is fear not a primal emotion that keeps us on our toes? Right now there are thousands of people in Pune who are willing to pay any price to stay healthy and avoid the latest threat on the horizon -the swine flu. This was almost a match made in heaven, and many business gurus would probably admire the wonderful marketing ploy, adroitly disguised as a desire to help. Proves that even in times of fear there are other emotions at work as well.

Masks in colours, maybe with sequins and mirror work, herbal supplements.. who knows what is next? Who ever said, "we are continually faced with brilliant opportunities, disguised as insoluble problems", probably saw this coming.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

a thousand words....

A picture is worth a thousand words....

Any comments?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Log Aaj Kal

Last night we went for a movie. We are not major movie buffs, so this counts for something. In fact, it counts as a family time. So it is more about the popcorn, the sandwiches and the nachos than the film itself. We start out with some of the stuff and then supplement it during the intermission. This time, all anyone wanted midway, was a bottle of water. J, my husband, got us the bottle, we complained about how long the interval seemed and then about how the film dragged in the latter half.

By the time the film got over, it was almost eleven in the night and as we reached the car J realised that his wallet was not on him. The money in the wallet warranted little panic, but the cards were all there too. Off we rushed to the theatre again, all the while wondering about the damage that must have accrued on the cards. Stories about how people had maxed out cards within minutes of finding them, raced through our minds.

They wouldn't let us get into the screening area, and directed us to the security instead. J, narrated how he was missing a wallet and got ready for for a long discussion about how where and why they did not, could not have found it, when the person asked for his name. Armed with the name, 'Ek minute sir, mein dekhta hoon' , he said. Much to our delight he produced the wallet and a photocopy of J's id card (from the wallet), and asked him to sign for the wallet after checking it's contents.

Less than ten minutes of discovering that the wallet was missing, we were on our way home. Today, aaj kal, when we constantly crib about the declining morals and falling standards, this was an eye opener. It also made me realize how cynical we have all become. It took the log, the people at BIG cinemas, previously called Gold Ad Labs, to bring this home.

I do not have much to say about love aaj kal, but I can vouch for the log aaj kal!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Open season!!

OK, So I stand corrected (and how!!). The Supreme court ruled that 'A husband and his relatives cannot be prosecuted for "cruelty" towards wife merely because the mother-in-law or other family members had kicked her or for that matter threatened her with divorce.'

So please put back the Champagne bottles to the deepest recesses and cut all the celebrations. (Previous post). I would have thought that kicking any one amounted to cruelty. I even include animals in that. The people sitting in the Supreme court are supposed to have a highly trained and evolved sense of justice. So how can they be so oblivious to something that is obvious to any lay person? This is like declaring open season on the helpless and the hapless. It puts the battle for gender equality back in the dark ages when women were considered on par with cattle and other property. Now the physically Strong can pick on anyone with impunity. May be things like ragging in colleges and bullying in schools will also rise. After all, if it is not cruelty coming from a family member, why should others hold them selves back? In the times when we talk of human rights and animal rights, this is truly appalling. To think that it comes from the SUPREME court!!

Gender equality

Break out the champagne, the law is truly impartial when it comes to the genders. At least so it seems. One of the accused in the blast of Zaveri bazaar and Gateway of India, on august 2003, thought that she would be spared the death penalty just because she is a woman. The death penalty may not be the anwer, but why only for the woman? Did she think she was a gentle killer? Did her acts not lead to the death of many? So, why did she expect to be spared? How can any one plot such terrible things in cold blood and then expect compassion? The Syed couple have the dubious distinction of being the first to get a death sentence together. Allegedly, Fehmida's first thought was that her children would be orphans. While my heart goes out to the innocent kids, did she think of the children who might be orphaned when she planned the terror act? I am not convinced that the death penalty solves all the problems as it may be just the trigger for growing the next crop of terrorism. That said, justice should have no gender bias.

I believe that gender equality means exactly what it says; that every one is equal. I believe that any thing else is affirmative discrimination. So while you may not agree with everything the courts have to say, at least they seem to have this one. If you do the crime, you do the time....

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Whose choice is it anyway?

This was mailed to me, but I think it it needs to be somewhere more open, so I am putting it up...

Young King Arthur was ambushed and imprisoned by the monarch of a neighboring kingdom. The monarch could have killed him but was moved by Arthur's youth and ideals. So, the monarch offered him his freedom, as long as he could answer a very difficult question. Arthur would have a year to figure out the answer and, if after a year, he still had no answer, he would be put to death.The question?... .What do women really want? Such a question would perplex even the most knowledgeable man, and to young Arthur, it seemed an impossible query. But, since it was better than death, he accepted the monarch's proposition to have an answer by year's end.He returned to his kingdom and began to poll everyone: the princess, the priests, the wise men and even the court jester. He spoke with everyone, but no one could give him a satisfactory answer. Many people advised him to consult the old witch, for only she would have the answer.But the price would be high; as the witch was famous throughout the kingdom for the exorbitant prices she charged.The last day of the year arrived and Arthur had no choice but to talk to the witch. She agreed to answer the question, but he would have to agree to her price first.
The old witch wanted to marry Sir Lancelot, the most noble of the Knights of the Round Table and Arthur's closest friend!Young Arthur was horrified. She was hunchbacked and hideous, had only one tooth, smelled like sewage, made obscene noises, etc. He had never encountered such a repugnant creature in all his life.He refused to force his friend to marry her and endure such a terrible burden; but Lancelot, learning of the proposal, spoke with Arthur..He said nothing was too big of a sacrifice compared to Arthur's life and the preservation of the Round Table.Hence, a wedding was proclaimed and the witch answered Arthur's question thus:What a woman really wants, she answered..... is to be in charge of her own life.

Everyone in the kingdom instantly knew that the witch had uttered a great truth and that Arthur's life would be spared.And so it was, the neighboring monarch granted Arthur his freedom and Lancelot and the witch had a wonderful wedding.The honeymoon hour approached and Lancelot, steeling himself for a horrific experience, entered the bedroom. But, what a sight awaited him. The most beautiful woman he had ever seen lay before him on the bed. The astounded Lancelot asked what had happened.The beauty replied that since he had been so kind to her when she appeared as a witch, she would henceforth, be her horrible deformed self only half the time and the beautiful maiden the other half.Which would he prefer? Beautiful during the day....or night?

Lancelot pondered the predicament. During the day, a beautiful woman to show off to his friends, but at night, in the privacy of his castle, an old witch? Or, would he prefer having a hideous witch during the day, but by night, a beautiful woman for him to enjoy wondrous intimate moments?

What would YOU do?
What Lancelot chose is below. BUT....make YOUR choice before you scroll down below. OKAY?

Noble Lancelot said that he would allow HER to make the choice herself.
Upon hearing this, she announced that she would be beautiful all the time because he had respected her enough to let her be in charge of her own life.Now....what is the moral to this story?

The moral is......If you don't let a woman have her own way....Things are going to get ugly !!!!
You better believe it!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The friendly neighbourhood

Recently, I met someone who is building a new home. They will be residing on the ground floor, while the top floor will be occupied by a friend. "So we can have some companionship when we grow old" she said. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea. As more and more people have fewer children, you are sort of deprived of the larger extended families of yore. My children for instance have only one cousin on my side.

Also, as more and more of us move out of our home towns and drift across the country or even the world, we are not living very close to family. Even if you never moved out of home, the chances of your children living anywhere near you are increasingly remote. Friends are people who share your sensibilities and likely know your quirks. As you age and need to have people who care and share, it would be good to have like minded people.

After all, isn't it a good idea if you can turn friends into neighbours, instead of trying to turn your neighbours into friends?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

For matrimonial purposes

A cousin's daughter is at that age.. you know, the age when the mother starts getting the feeling that she may be stuck holding her baby. The age is different for different moms, but once their daughters cross that invisible line they start dredging their memories for any near and dear ones who may have crossed that line and still got plucked from the family tree.

So guess who called me from the blue? OK, the not so know what I mean! I told her that I had crossed the ripe old age of, hold your breath, twenty six when I found Mr. Right. That was considered practically geriatric those days (ok, I fess up eighteen yrs ago). In fact I remember my uncles exhorting my mother to bring me to the bosom of the community and let me be seen there. To my mom's query about what would happen to my work, they just went 'pshaw'! emphatically, signifying that it did not matter. It's another thing that we never did anything of the sort .

Seems though, this young girl is over that hump..ooops! Should have increased my age when I told her. Last heard, she is looking around further in the family branches to find older fruit. Funny, how you need validation in things like this, even as you repeat frantically 'Marriages are made in heaven'.


Think you'll not remember a loved one's special day? Never fear! You can get your organiser to remind you. Don't have one? Use the cell phone. Not good enough? Then there is the laptop, at work, at home... No matter where you are and what time it is, there is a way to remember with technology.

These days something or another is beeping, honking, flashing,vibrating... basically drawing attention to something that needs to be done. It could be as prosaic as a meeting at the office, as romantic as buying chocolates for a loved one, or as important as an appointment with the doctor.

In fact, it's got me wondering... would anyone remember anyone sans these reminders? OK, so that may be a bit harsh. I guess people have been remembering special days from time immemorial. Why, long before any of these gadgets were there, my grandmother told me that her mom never forgot her birthday. I believe it was the day it rained very heavily and a coconut fell on her uncle's head. The good thing about this was, we could take our pick of rainy days to celebrate my grand mom's birthday. But I digress.... to come back to the beeping, honking et al, I know of people who within minutes of meeting you, will jot down your number and b'day in their trusty little 'ring thing'.

This birthday, some friends called me a couple of days early and some a few days late and one even forgot till we spoke about it in a random conversation a few days later. But those are the ones I know for sure remembered my b'day. OK, so some may have recalled the day without any electronic prompting. Here I must say that there is nothing wrong with some helpful prompting. The thing though, sometimes you are not sure, you know the person well enough for them to remember or even care. BTW, I thank each and everyone for calling me, who ever, how ever, what ever prompted them.

So just what is my issue here? Well I just hope we are not reduced to picking up chocolates only when reminded, sending a preset text message at a beep and sending an e-greeting from a pre - programmed computer. Mostly, I feel deprived of a chance to celebrate a birthday every time it rains!!!!


With the prices of fruits and vegetables these days, more and more people are choosing to display them instead of eating them. If you do not believe me, take a look.......

I told you so!!!

Then there are some of us who are too creatively challenged to do it anywhere else except here!!!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Do you know your child?

I am convinced that most of us would not know our children if it were not for their appearances. I for one, would not recognise my teen and tween. The child who answers me by nods and shakes of his head, with a shrug thrown in for emphasis, recently came home with a report card that waxed eloquent about his communication skills. Getting him to say a few words at home, needs more preparation than pulling out teeth. If you ask him what he wants for food, he shrugs. The offer for seconds at the dining table is rebutted with a shake of the head. Enquire about his day at school and you will see the familiar shrug. Push him for details and you will get a pained 'nothing happened'. I sometimes wonder why we spend so much on a school where nothing happens.

As for the teenager, he has elevated non communication to an art form. He seems to hibernate in his room and his style would impress a bear. The first two summons for dinner elicit no response, the third one may get you a muffled 'coming'. Fifteen minutes later, the fourth angry summons will get you a double 'coming, coming'. It will be a full ten more minutes before you see him. A mumbled sorry is all that you get by way of explanation. The very same child was voted in almost unanimously, by teachers and peers alike, as the Head boy of his school. At the investiture ceremony, all I heard was how helpful, articulate and attentive he is. I am sure the teachers were puzzled by my strange expression of pride mingled with perplexity.

I would have continued in that uncomprehending haze, except that a friend called the other day and complained about her impeccably behaved (as far as I know) son and his ways at home. Then it dawned on me. We do not know our children. Others seem to!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dealing with bad news

I just heard that the thirty year old son of a very dear person has Cancer of the stomach. Just about a month ago he was talking about his plans to invest in a new place of his own. A handsome young man, he turns heads where ever he goes. Blessed with a happy-go-lucky disposition, he brings a smile to your face with his comments and observations.

I am aware that Cancer is no longer regarded as the threat it once used to be. New Cures and treatment are more effective and efficient than ever. In fact, a friend who was recently diagnosed with breast Cancer was talking about the strides in the past three years. She too is very brave. Her diagnosis itself was a blow, but close as she is to me in age, it was somehow different. This young man is two thirds my age and somehow I do not know what to say to him or his parents.

With my friends,I think you can say something as you can imagine what you'd like said to you. Being the parent of an afflicted person must be about the worst situation to be in. We all want to protect our children from all the hardships of life. We want to set things right. We want the best for them. I know you can be encouraging and keep the spirits up, yet inside you must be the most frustrated by your helplessness. I know he will be fine soon and beat the Cancer. Yet, for now what do you say to a parent in this situation? I write all this as I do not know whom to talk to and what to say. I just cannot keep it all within either.

I only hope they know that we are all with them till I find the words and the courage and tell them myself.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Special day

My birthday this year fell on a weekday. This meant getting up at the crack of dawn (OK, five in the morning) and getting sleepy kids out of bed, stuffing their reluctant faces with some nutrition, getting them into the uniform, helping them locate last minute stuff and then reaching the bus stop on time. Then there is the dog food to be soaked, the washing machine to be started (in case the electricity fails later) and then on to the walk. First a round with the dogs and then one on our own. A stop at the in-laws on the way back and a few minutes of chatting. Reach home, feed the finicky dogs and get the breakfast. A shower and run for the one hour yoga class. All this gets done by ten in the morning.

The rest of the day is more of a 'play it by ear' sort of thing, with lunch and tea and dinner, with the doggie walks and dinners are thrown in. Randomly there are visitors and the door bell rings. Sometimes I have to make sure I put the dogs out of the way. There is also the mandatory yelling at the kids ( do they ever come when you call them for a meal?). Generally though there is a more laid back approach.

On special days though..birthdays, anniversaries etc, the extended family is here for the celebrations, which means putting on a meal. That was my birthday plan. So when a friend called to wish me and asked me what was special that day, all I could think of was a rainbow I had seen during my walk. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was special. It was not very ordinary. It was not every day, just rains could not ensure one and they do not last long. At this point, we hardly rip open the gifts ( though I do appreciate the love, care and thought that has gone into it). So, apart from all the calls, messages and greetings, it was the rainbow that made the day so special.

Maybe age adds to your wisdom. At least, I could appreciate the special nature of such a beautiful, natural occurrence!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Whale or mermaid?

Recently, somewhere in France, a poster featuring a young, thin and tanned woman appeared in the window of a gym. It said:


A woman, whose physical characteristics did not match those of the woman on the poster, responded publicly to the question posed by the gym.

To Whom It May Concern:

Whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, sea lions, curious humans). They have an active sex life, they get pregnant and have adorable baby whales. They have a wonderful time with dolphins stuffing themselves with shrimp. They play and swim in the seas, seeing wonderful places like Patagonia, the Barren Sea and the coral reefs of Polynesia. Whales are wonderful singers and have even recorded CDs. They are incredible creatures and virtually have no predators other than humans. They are loved, protected and admired by almost everyone in the world.

Mermaids don't exist. If they did exist, they would be lining up outside the offices of Argentinean psychoanalysts due to identity crisis. Fish or human? They don't have a sex life because they kill men who get close to them not to mention how could they have sex? Therefore they don't have kids either. Not to mention who wants to get close to a girl who smells like a fish store?

The choice is perfectly clear to me; I want to be a whale.

P.S. We are in an age when media puts into our heads the idea that only skinny people are beautiful, but I prefer to enjoy an ice cream with my kids, a good dinner with a man who makes me shiver and a coffee with my friends. With time we gain weight because we accumulate so much information and wisdom in our heads that when there is no more room it distributes out to the rest of our bodies. So we aren't heavy, we are enormously cultured, educated and happy. Beginning today, when I look at my butt in the mirror, I will think, Good gosh, look how smart I am........

I truly loved this email a friend sent me. Actually anyone who sends you this is a friend. We spend so much time thinking about our weight and if we do not, we are expected to anyway.

I love ELEPHANTS too!!!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Meeting friends

Today would have been just another day, had a friend of mine not called yesterday. She doesn't live here anymore or rather splits her time between this place and her home abroad. She has been here for a month but we have been unable to meet up ( I know, I know, I am a terrible friend). At first we wanted to meet up with the entire family and some others we know. Then we decided to do it with just our own families. You'd think that matching the schedules of eight people, a couple of dogs and a cat should be not that hard, right? With just the weekends open, thanks to school and early wake up calls, we couldn't even do that.
So yesterday when we spoke ( oh, that was also after playing some phone tag!) we figured that we would meet up. So we did.
When you are is a set rut or a holding pattern, you never realize how fun it is to break away. Once you do, you always feel you should do it more often. We all have stressful hectic lives. As the sandwich generation, life is sometimes getting smothered between the two generation slices, with little irritants liberally slathered on. At least occasionally we must all try and slip away from it all. Keeps you smiling. It did, for me!

PS. The bonus was discovering that one is not the only one dealing with strange children, crazy neighbours and impossible relatives!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Nice to read

Been too busy reading to be able to write much. most of the blogs I come across while browsing have been obviously written by young thing. As a woman over forty (there is that figure again)I find that the content and even the language rather , well for the want of a word, different. I mean, I enjoy the blog and all but there are times when I feel like I want to identify or get validation from what is being said. The other day,I stumbled on this blog and found very good writing, well presented and very much to my taste. So I am now a regular visitor..thus the reading. For any one interested is the site to check.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Absolute Justice

So now Kasab has confessed. After all the overwhelming evidence against him, we still had to have a trial because we wanted to be fair and just. More importantly, we wanted to APPEAR fair and just!. Even now, despite the confession, the trial may still go on for a while I believe. Sometimes I think that things go too far. I pride myself on the democracy and freedom that exists in our country. Yet I wonder why we need an expensive trial despite fact that Kasab had such a mountain of evidence against him.

Just what is justice? Just today, the highest court in the country ruled that a mentally challenged rape victim could give birth. I know that there are no easy answers, but allowing someone who cannot manage her own life, safety and security (which led to the rape in the first place) to have a child? Her caregivers tried to argue against it.

How can she ensure a good life to this new life? What if the child is a girl who falls into the hands of a monster similar to the one who raped her mother even before she is old enough to know the facts of life? Where can we draw the line on competent parenting? I am not advocating that the society or the government be given absolute right over free will. Nor am I of the opinion that 'big brother ' knows best. So what are the options?

Why should the trial with Kasab be continued when the money saved can be used for other things? Will we allow an actual nine year old to have a baby just because she feels so? If not, why is it just to allow a nineteen year old rape victim with the mental age of nine to have a baby? Does anyone have the answers?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fear is the key?

I was waiting at the school bus stop the other day. A young mother with a small child was trying to feed him some food (yes, at the stop) and I heard her say in exasperation "You better eat your food or that aunty will take you away". As a bystander, I had absolutely no intention of doing any such thing, but the child who had been smiling at me, eyed me suspiciously and took a bite of the food in question.

"You better take this medicine or you'll have to go to the doctor." "If you do not behave that uncle/aunt will take you away." "Eat you food or the garbage man will take you." These are common threats we dole out to our children. This is so typical of Indian parents. I speak as one myself.

In fact the most common threat I've heard (when I was young, particularly) was "wait till your father comes home" almost as if the father were an ogre and this threat should strike terror in our hearts. Hardly the base to an open , honest, communicative relationship.(and then they complained that we never told them anything)

Disciplining children is a very difficult job, but are we not pushing the problem to another time when we proffer such threats? What happens if we have to take the child to the doctor at any point (maybe for a life saving vaccine)? The child is likely to be terrified and most uncooperative. Creating a lifetime of fear and dislike is hardly positive, even if it takes the heat off temporarily. Who knows where fears grow!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What are you afraid of?

She admits it. It is a big problem. Touch wood! She can still ride her trusty scooter and move about. When she visits her birth place she uses the public bus service. She still prefers to travel by train and prefers to make her own reservations. Post retirement, (age 67 now) she chose not to continue in her primary area of competence , teaching Maths, and works with an association for the blind.

She keeps in touch with her core competence by helping any students who may need it, but not be able to afford help and also by sponsoring the schooling needs of one child every year. Her philosophy being "every little bit helps and we should do what we can".

If you think this picture of Independence has no issues, well, you would be wrong. Living by herself (even though she could live with her children and she admits there is no problem in that) poses an issue. No, no, It has nothing to do with fear of being robbed or hurt. It has nothing to do with managing daily chores too.

Her real fear is "Should I bolt the door from inside at night?". Yes, I know. It may sound silly, but she feels it may be simpler to keep it on latch to enable her family to let themselves in, in case she never wakes up. Sounds irrational? Hard to believe that a woman so strong seems to have such a trivial concern? Who knows? Look within. We all have fears that seem silly. Like fears of being cheated. Fears of being snubbed. Fears of looking less wealthy, smart, pretty ! Why else do we not trust our help, try to stay within our comfort zones and pretend to others? We boast of the recent trip abroad or the expensive piece of jewellery we just bought. We pretend to appreciate books and films that are critically acclaimed. We fear not fitting in. Fear being the odd ones out and so on....Think about it and you'll see.

At least her fear is a practical one. So what are you afraid of?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Where the mind is without fear

We can debate on anything. We need not know a thing about it. Look at the debate on section 377. So what is it and what does the judgement say? It matters not at all. We have had public, private, local and national debates on it. Open the newspaper and that is a headline. Switch on the TV and all you hear is section 377, gay, lesbian, homosexuals etc.

How many have actually understood what exactly all the debate is about? I have not read any judgement. But then, I do not need a judgement to tell me that what happens between two CONSENTING ADULTS is their business.

So why are we debating so much? We seem worried that this will bring about a depraved society. As if sexual preference/ orientation is contagious. Something that we can catch from another, just by exposure. There are many arguments being bandied around. The most popular oft repeated one being that we need not copy the west. Some one even argued that 'they ' would make pre-marital sex legal next! I was not aware that it was illegal in the first place. I thought it had to do more with morality and social sensibilities. From what I understand, all this judgement does is stop homosexuals from being dubbed criminals. It does not foster or encourage sexuality.

Also, are we not proud Indians who love to claim this poem and poet, Rabindranath Tagore?

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow
domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the
dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought
and action--
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

If we truly wish to live by the sentiment in the poem, we do have to let all sort of thoughts find their ground. As for debating, well, it is a good thing, but hopefully armed with better understanding and more informed minds.

Friday, July 10, 2009

For funerals and a wedding

Do you know who Shree Dasari is? Well, you will, soon enough. After all did you know who Jade Goody was, till a couple of years ago? And while you may have heard of Shilpa Shetty, you never heard of her more till she was racially 'bullied' in a reality show. Mrs Jaya Bachchan has called Rakhee Sawant a celebrity without a cause on the Karan Johar show. Yet even a channel with the letters NDTV in their name promote her liberally and we can OD on 'all that you never wanted to know, and never asked' about Rakhee! (One of the promos appeared to have men walking over hot coals for a chance to marry her!)

Whoever said that everyone will get their fifteen minutes of fame, never realized how much money they will make out of that fifteen minutes of fame or how long drawn those fifteen minutes will be. A line that says it eloquently goes 'earlier you had to be special to be famous, now you just have to be famous to be special'

It does not seem to matter what you are (in)famous for. Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and their ilk have more attitude and bad behaviour than talent to their credit. We know more about the long and short of Brittany Spears' marriages than her music . Brangelina seem to be making more money selling the rights to their baby pictures than for their movies.

Even dying can earn you a fortune. It appears that there is a resurgence of Micheal Jackson's music and it is selling like hot cakes after his sudden demise. In recent times, this is the most he has been in the news. They are even anticipating that all this will wipe out the millions of dollars of debt he was in. Every channel telecast the funeral and the ones with the most extensive, exclusive coverage and juiciest sound bites from 'friends and family' is reaping the benefits of popularity and TRPs.

It doesn't seem to matter what you do, you can reveal your deepest darkest secrets or those of your best friend, You can kill an endangered animal or indulge in racial abuse, you can expose skin, or cry sexual abuse, you can get married, have babies, or even die.. and you can make money for it. Who knew it better than Jade goody, who made a fortune by abusing, apologising, falling in love, getting married and dying, all by age twenty seven. Who knows, Shree Dasari, allegedly the current abusee (sounds better than 'victim of racial abuse'), may use his fame even better.When you have your fifteen minutes of fame, you better be savvy enough to use them wisely!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A wing and a prayer

In the last few days three stories that caught my attention have a connecting thread running through them, though they are very different. Babli the little girl , who needed a liver transplant (and a miracle) to survive. Her short life was a saga of how hopes soared and plunged on the roller coaster of emotions, finally ending in a tragic way. There was the Yemeni airliner crash in which about a hundred and fifty people died. What was really miraculous was that one of the passengers, a teenager survived! Micheal Jackson's death was another shocking event. All the money and fame came to naught and could not save his life.. Three stories with unexpected endings.

Babli's mom initially did not have the money or hope .when it all seemed to all miraculously come together, neither the money or the hope or the prayers helped. Who knows what emotions, hopes and prayers went through the minds of those who were on the plane that crashed. Did the survivor think that she would make it and be the only one? Did she pray? Did she ever lose hope as she clung to the debris? What of Micheal Jackson? Did he know that he was dying? Did he wonder why he could not get help despite his immense fame and fortune? Did he pray or did he have no time for that?

I believe in the power of prayer, in the power of positive thinking. Yet I wonder why the collective prayers of all those who read about Babli ,did not work. Why was there only one survivor of that crash? How did she survive so miraculously? Or for that matter, must the Jews not have prayed at the concentration camps? Why are some prayers answered? The answers are hopefully out there somewhere? Then again, maybe like some prayers, some questions too are unanswered.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Countdown to the microwave minute in life

I was waiting in front of the microwave, waiting for the one minute to get over, so I could move on to the next task, when it struck me. This was one minute of my finite life that I was wishing would move fastand get over. This was one minute that I was spending just staring at a machine, waiting for it to end. This was one minute that would never be back and all I wanted was for it to be over. When I think of all the minutes I have spent over the last few years, waiting impatiently at this very machine, I realize that they do add up.

How often have you waited at a traffic signal which tells you that the next green light is in x number of seconds? Very likely, you had a frown on your face and were tapping the wheel, willing the x seconds to flash away. Mind you, not just for the light to turn green, not for the opposing traffic to stop (a tall order these days, in any large city) but for the seconds to countdown to zero.

Our countdown to zero begins the day we are born and without any realization of what lies beyond, we are impatient for it to go faster and faster. We cannot wait to grow up , we cannot wait for our children to grow up. We cannot wait for the workday to end, we cannot wait for the weekend to start. We rush to board the plane and wish the journey would end fast. We want to move on to the next task on the list.

In this countdown, I have often missed the sights and sounds that go along. In this hurry to get things over with, I think we forget how important it is to savour the present. After all , life is a collection of many many minutes. It makes no sense to wish them away!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Name game

They have called it an engineering marvel, a new age sculpture, a short cut (ok, so not every one is blessed with imagination). What they cannot agree on though , is what to 'call' it!
The bridge has not even been open for twenty four hours and there is already a controversy about it. ( Actually, I should be happy it took at least that long before the controversy came up) Some want to name it after Rajiv Gandhi, while others want to name it after Veer Savarkar. This is a beautiful futuristic looking piece of engineering, which will cut the commute drastically. Instead of appreciating it, admiring it and making the best possible use of it, we create a controversy.

Whether the bridge is called by this name or that, it will still do the same, and be the same for the commuters. 'A rose by any other name ..' and all that. Humans can find a problem in anything... maybe because controversy draws attention. It is also the easiest and most sure-fire way to get attention. ( How many can identify Rakhee Sawant at a glance?)

As for Shakespeare's contention of 'what's in a name' , well, there is a lot of mileage to be gained from the controversy you stir up and in this day and age, who doesn't want their fifteen minutes of fame!!

Water water

The papers are full of it. It has even made it to national TV channels . The rains are delayed. The reservoirs have water just for another couple of weeks. I read about it. I see the urgency in the news report. That is where it stops.

On my morning walk today, I counted about eight cars that were being washed clean. This, at about seven in the morning. As the office hour approaches, I am sure there will be many more shiny cars, bouncing the glare off one another in the fast lane. We all seem to believe that we live on islands, impervious to what affects others. How else can we explain the fact that we just splash the cars around us with gallons of water, while the house help next door lugs home water from distances after standing in long lines, just so she can cook a meal? Not that she herself is above all the waste... the tap's on as she does the dishes, the Ganges does not flow as fast and furious as the water for washing clothes and so on. The philosophy seems to be 'Have water, will waste'

While living in the moment may be a great way to a happy life, it is hardly the philosophy to a healthy planet. When asked what the third world war was going to be about, someone said that it would be for WATER. Seems to me, unless we wage a private war on waste of resources, we are not very far from that war!

As for those shiny cars, a bucket works equally well....all it needs is just a bit more attention to detail.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Siblings, no rivalry!

"We do not say such mean things to each other. We play nice" The we in question here were two little children, age ages, nine and seven. They both wanted to play something, couldn't agree and ended up telling each other to 'shut up, stupid'. Not really the crime of the century, I would say. But then again, what do I know?

I am not a trained psychologist, nor am I a very new age, politically correct, sensitive mother. I mean, mother yes, but not the other parts. I too have read quite a few books and visited sites on 'how to', 'what to', 'when to' on bringing up children. I have also read 'coral island' and 'Lord of the flies'. The only thing that really works though is common sense though- for me anyway. But then coming back to what do I know... well, I do know my own childhood. I do know that my brother (and only sibling, three yrs my junior) had major fights. We yelled at each other (that was the least of it) we called each other names ( nothing really vile and mostly to do with a deficiency in intellect 'idiot, moron,stupid' were perennial). I have wept and he has stormed away. We both have threatened each other with dire consequences and (probably, to our parents secret delight with the peace and quiet, not spoken to each other on occasion).

Today, we are both in our forties and have a great big laugh most of the times we meet. Very often, it is about the crazy things we said and did in our childhood. I know for sure that he will be there when and if I need him. As for the so called mean things we said to each other, I cannot even remember what they were, leave alone them leaving eternal scars on my psyche.

I definitely do not have all the answers and can blame all the grey and thinning of my hair on my children and their antics. Yet, I am sure that even they know, that calling the other stupid does not make him so. After all, is it not important to teach children that they are what they think and not what others call them?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hurrah! Haroun's home

Mudhol's move to mountain.. OK, so that is not the best alliteration ever, but I guess when you are happy and feeling a glow of satisfaction, bad alliteration is excused. The mudhol hound who has been the subject of some of my previous posts is finally home. And what a home it is! Far from the city hubbub, on a beautiful hillside. A home that spells peace and relaxation, happiness and love. How could I tell? Well, I caught a glimpse of all that (and some) in the brief visit while I was there. A glimpse of Haroun's new home and humans

Ever get the feeling that something is just right? Haroun's humans have always wanted a mudhol and came close to getting one a few times, but somehow, it never happened. This time everything just fell into place, like the pieces of a jigsaw. As for me, when a beautiful creature like Haroun, finds a loving home, it's a great high. Just like people in the movies thank their director and their cat, I have my own list..all those who responded and did their bit to spread the word, despite their busy lives (and some of them did not even know me).
Of course, his unique blend of innocence and trust had got to me and it will take me a couple of days to get over the urge to go look out of the window, just to ensure he is doing fine.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The mother of the bride feels...

They called and said they would arrive at 4.30 in the evening. Tea time! Seemed appropriate. Haven't countless alliances been decided at tea time? The families meet, traditionally at the girls home (OK, so we had broken the gender barrier) over some 'tea and snacks' and decide on the fate of some lives. The photo seeing had happened up front and generally the basic facts were known to both parties. It had come about with the help of a friend who lived overseas, who knew both parties and what we were looking for.

Though I had mentioned the slight limp and the fact that we did not know the exact details of birth or even the birth date, I had given them the approximate age and all what I thought mattered. Not for me the dressing up of the facts or false (but pleasant) information. Since it was the matter of lifetime commitment, I preferred brutal honesty to any window dressing.

By 4.45, I was a mass of nerves. I could not decide whether I should call them on the pretext of checking on the directions to our place. By 4.55, I couldn't wait anymore and I made the call. She apologised and said that they had got delayed getting out and should be here in about 20 mins.

True to their word, they were at my gate and after the initial greetings, rather than prolong the uncertainty, I took them to see him. One look at him, and it was clear that they came, they saw and he conquered.... their hearts.

I may never know how the mother of a would be bride feels as the 'boys side' comes for the traditional "dekkho" (bride selection), but I have some idea. When they decided to take two year old Haroun into their family fold of one dog and one cat, I felt relieved that he would be getting a home where he would be secure and loved. After how he had been found wandering (read posts 'Majestic Mudhol' and "rescue dog" ) I knew that Haroun had finally come home.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A matter of time

My twelve year old came home from school one day and stated that all the rough work he does, has to happen on waste paper. 'Waste paper' turned out to be paper which has already been printed on one side and rejected for some reason. Instead of throwing it, the teacher had told them to staple it in small sheaves and use that for all the calculations and other rough work they need to do. Pleased that he could do something so tangible for the environment, he badgered me for some. On learning that I had none right then, his face fell and then brightened when I told him that I would ask his father to get some from work.

It seemed eerily similar to another childhood, never mind the generation gap. The reactions were diametrically different though. I remember when I was twelve, my father would often tell us to do the exact same thing and we would be mortified at what our friends would say. We would argue with him about how we could afford fresh paper and how it seemed 'cheap' to reuse paper. Funny, what seemed so 'cheap' yesterday, appears so 'classy', so smart now.

My father is no more and will never know that his idea would be considered so laudable today. Who knows how many such ideas are waiting to be resurrected? How many ideas that seemed irrelevant then, seem vital today? Only time will tell!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Birthday charity

The monarchs of yore did it. The rich and the famous do it. It was only a matter of time before it caught on. It seems like a gracious , generous gesture; maybe it is! No one can argue that giving to the less fortunate is a wonderful thing. Giving on a special day of your life.. well, special!

The easy fix these days - you go to an orphanage, organise a meal for the kids there, cut a cake while they sing the happy birthday song, eat, and be back home. The orphanages are also ready, as they present you with a bill for that meal. Sounds like a good thing to do, right?

Here is a question though - how do those kids feel, when they watch the birthday prince/ princess, cut a cake and distribute largess and go back to their own world? Whom are we trying to bring cheer to?

Visiting children, once a year, is hardly likely to build a bond, establish empathy or make a connection. If you are trying to demonstrate the cause of the lesser fortunate, you have probably succeeded. You ensure that your child feels lucky that she has her ivory tower she can retreat to. As for the other children, this prince/ princess is just a stranger, who comes in beautiful birthday clothes, cuts a lovely cake, and then vanishes into the outside world. All the things that they can only dream of. Maybe, they wonder if it will be ever their turn. Maybe, they long to be able to give extravagantly for once, instead of having to take - in humility and abject gratitude. Maybe they wish to say "not sandwiches again!" . After all, friends do speak their minds! Objects of pity or butts of charity are expected to accept with grace.

Maybe, this seems too strong an opinion, but I think one should spend one's birthday in the company of loved ones. As for those who we think need charity, they need the charity of spirit, time spent with them, love shared with them, all on a regular basis. More than an act, once -in- a- way slave to the conscience, charity has to be a feeling, an emotion that prompts everyday behaviour.

As for the once a year, birthday charity, somethings are best left to the kings of yore.

Walking the talk

She cleans her everyday vessels with shikakai powder. For her hair, she uses soap nuts and shikakai. Her laundry is clean, with the help of a little bio degradable ball. No detergents for her. ‘Environment’, ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘conservation’ are not just words that she likes to use…... she lives them. What impressed me is that S (lets call her that) takes the trouble beyond the standard ‘let us not use plastic bags’.( very important, but I am told we have to move beyond that)

It’s not about just the environment (that is just the latest buzz), we talk about corruption, but give some money to the havaldar, when we are parked wrongly. We talk about honesty, but lie to the boss, claiming an emergency when there is none, just for some time off. We talk about recycling garbage to save the world, but think nothing of using poison sprays at the first hum of a mosquito or the buzz of a fly. We talk of racism as we buy creams to lighten our skin and advertise for ‘fair brides’.

Admittedly, it is difficult to do away with every bit of wrong in the world, but trying to go that extra mile is what makes the difference. There are some among us who try harder, fight more and longer. As for me, I am almost inspired to follow S’s example. When? As soon as I can convince my household help that shikakai is better than her favourite washing soap!

P.S. Well, I did say it’s much easier to say things, than live them!!!
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