Sunday, December 26, 2010

Globe trotting!!

Imagine an 18 year old travelling transatlantic alone for the first time. All excited about being with the family and friends for the holidays. He loads up the gifts which he has bought from his first ever earnings. He reaches the airport well in advance  and is the first one at the counter..... only to be told that he cannot travel that day!!!! The oversight is from the travel agent/ tourist site which guaranteed him that he would not need a visa for transiting through that airport. The reality is that there are two different terminals which require him to get out of the airport and go through the city for which he would need a Visa.

All alone at the airport, he does the only thing he can do.. call home in India. So at 2.30 AM the parents are startled out of their sleep to hear him saying that he cannot come. Can anything be more disappointing on Christmas day? The father logs on to the Internet and the mother brews some tea in anticipation of the long night ahead. The travel agent with the 1-800 number responds, but repeats the same thing over and over like one who has her lines down, too pat. "We are sorry, but as his documentation is not complete, he cannot travel today. We will give you a credit of 75% of the money and he can travel when his documentation is complete" . Really? But are you not the same people who  repeated assurances that no Visa was needed for transit in the first place?. Also, who will give credit on the DISAPPOINTMENT we are all experiencing, never mind the credit on the 25% of the money!!

 After more than an hour of being on hold and listening to the parroted statement, it seems like the only option is to cancel the reservation, take the sacred 75% and run to the next available ticket. Which would mean a last minute astronomically expensive ticket with some weird routing ( even via the moon maybe, astronomically being the operative word.. do they need visas for that?) as the holidays are on and the airplanes are full.

Maybe it was the Christmas spirit on the day of well..... Christmas, or it was the beseeching eyes or the disappointed look in the eyes of the 18 year old , but he was put on "Stand by" for another route,on a completely different carrier transiting through another country altogether, where he needed no Visa. Of course, it also meant arriving into a completely different city more than 800 kms away from the destination of choice, but being Indian, relatives and friends abound in every corner. But wait! "Stand by"" means just that! You wait all checked in at the gate, looking like the homeless person  who wants to gatecrash the party of rich celebrities. You wait for everyone to go in and take their seats and IF there is a seat to spare ( like leftovers) you will be accommodated. Any port in a storm and any straw while drowning.... he held on. The wait punctuated by calls back and forth to anxious parents and travel agents.

Good things come to those who stand and wait, especially on Christmas day, seemed like. So he was let into the party along with the celebrities. So what if he was now going through a very different airport, to a destination that was neither close to nor convenient to his intended one. So what if it meant skillful juggling and rearranging some more travel plans and dragging relatives, reluctant or otherwise, to meet him at the unfamiliar place at god forsaken hours like 4.30 in the morning.

 Welcome to  global  travel. You want to go one place and to reach there you traverse more places than you care to name (and are too tired to name or care) The world is shrinking they say. Add the extra hours spent on the plane just gathering more jet lag and it definitely seems to be the opposite. The information age does give you data at your fingertips, but it is not neccesarily the correct/complete information.Welcome to a networked world. But all said and done thanks to some kind, old fashioned human machinations, you land somewhere in the vicinity of what you intended.

Now all that is to be sorted out is the mere 800 kms distance, but for someone whose first trip as an adult began with a firm shove off the intended flight, this must seem a minor detail. Let  the HOLIDAYS begin!!

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

Friday, December 24, 2010

FrIends Forever???

 Watching a rerun of friends the other day, I  realized why the sitcom was so popular. This episode has a friend of Monica and Phoebe letting it out that Phoebe was, at one time, trying to cut Monica out of her friends. When Monica asks her why, Phoebe tell her that she was, "controlling, compulsive and shrill". "But I am still all those things", shrills Monica. "But you are also generous, kind and scrappy" says Phoebe.

To me that conversation epitomises what friendship is all about. You may not like some of what your friend is / does, but you love them for the good qualities that matter more. There are things That matter in the long run and overshadow the smaller irritants that we may notice at first.

The younger you are, the more the superficial matters, but an adult you love your friends for the qualities that will never change, no matter how much their appearance changes.  Very young friendships are mostly about convenience. You play with someone and you are friends. Of course you have your preferred friends, but as you are dependent on adults to take you places and decide what is 'good company' , it does not really count.

 As teenagers, which is probably the earliest you take your own decisions about who is your friend and who is not, it is the first impressions. Maybe looks and confidence and how cool the person is, probably gadgets he/she owns.By the time you get to college, you are more sure about what you like in a person as you have tried and tested many relationships. You have bared your heart and have had confidences broken. You have shared secrets and even let some out . You have discovered your own self.. your style, your esteem, your confidence.

College is all about serious experimentation. You do know somewhat, who you'd like to share all the adventures with. The ones you want to follow or assist in their adventures. You do not tell tales and even if you disagree, you never tell the establishment. These are the friends you get into hairy situations like going for a trek and not having any money at the end to pay for the bus fare. These are the friends who share your dreams of making it big and the ones to who can bring you down to earth with one word that punctures that dream. The ones you share that forbidden drink and then some, wake up with hangovers knowing that  no one will really hold you to all your drunken ramblings.The ones who play cupid and lookout for any 'pyaar ke dushman'.They are fiercely loyal and equally  anti-establishment (meaning the older generation).

These friends are the ones you end up staying in touch with for a very long time. It does seem to fade a bit just as soon as you enter the work place as everyone gets busy with real life issues, like careers, spouses and children. However the chances are they will still support you via the stray conversations over the phone ( and now the Internet) It is from these people you begin to learn discernment. You learn to look beyond the obvious . Remember the friend who let slip that you did not do very well in the chemistry test even before you were ready to tell your parents. Even though you wanted to kick her at that point, you remembered how she had loaned you her best earrings, so you could look good for your latest crush.

You make friends all along the way but you make less as you go along. It may be the pressure at work or the stress of sleepless nights due to a newborn's crying, it could be the long commute to work and shopping for the vegetables that leave you little time to explore new relationships. It becomes even more important to cherish and nurture the relationships that already exist. With maturity comes the realisation that you have flaws that can be irritating if not worse. If there are those who can tolerate them, you too have to tolerate a few yourself.  Friendships become more than just chemistry and partying.

With maturity you learn to examine friends as individuals rather than just a support system. You can admire one for the way for the caring father he has become, another for the way she deals with difficult in-laws, yet another for his patience with his juniors and someone for her expert juggling of career and family responsibilities.

One thing I know for sure is that time is teaching me to look at things in more detail and get a better overall view ( dos that even make sense?). Like Phoebe in friends, I may on occasion be tempted to sit in judgement and dismiss the actions of others, I am  also aware that I should take a second look and think of all that I find positive.

Everyone, even you and I, deserve a second chance and the only one to give it to us, are FRIENDS!

 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Happiness on hold

Sometimes we do not see things even when they are staring us in the face. Happiness for instance!. We do not recognise it because we are too busy chasing some elusive concept that we have heard about or read about. We savour the anticipation of what will be instead of revelling in the present moment, looking for that perfect something, forgetting that happiness is not about everything being perfect.

I remember a movie from long long ago...it seems like eons.. called 'Grihapravesh'. It had Sharmila Tagore and Sanjiv Kumar in the lead along with Sarika. ( I did say it was from long ago !) Sharmila is a housewife whose one aim is to have a house of her own. It is an obsession to the extent that she neglects repairing the rental home and even herself. She is constantly talking of the house she plans to have when she has enough money. The husband, Sanjiv Kumar is so bored with her obsession and the fact that she cannot look beyond it, strays with a colleague, younger and interesting, Sarika. He tells her how his wife neglects herself and him in the process. The girl buys it and responds to his overtures. When he wife comes to know about this,she asks the husband to get the girlfriend over. Puzzled at her strange reaction, he agrees to do so.

 Almost overnight, the wife has her house painted, set right and beautified. She also takes some pains with her appearance. When the girlfriend comes over, she is surprised to see a home and wife at variance with what he has described. The husband too is stunned at the makeover and you can see the rekindling of the interest for his wife.  For the wife who had been chasing a phantom of owning a home, it is homecoming to the concept of living life in the moment, grabbing life with both hands and holding on to all that is precious.

Today I read a news item about a housewife who was murdered at home for no apparent reason. The 36 yer old leaves behind a 14 yr old son and a husband. I was just wondering what the last memories about her ere. Did she smile at her son this morning as he left for school or did she exhort him to study harder? Did she wave at her husband   before he left for work or did she crib about his mother? I hope they all have good memories of her. I hope she did not reserve all her love for some later special occasion that will never come. Women especially, (being one, I should know) often save the good things for special occasions. The best cutlery, the best crockery, the best sari,... partly because we love surprises and being made to feel special. Yet when I read such things, I wish we all could treat each moment as special. We can always enjoy those extra special moments too, as and when they dawn.

For now how about looking the moment in its face and going for that happiness makeover.. a la  Sharmila in 'Grihapravesh'?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gender stereotypes

One of the recent serials on TV shows a woman alone, bringing up her four children, running a business and looking after her family and business with great gumption. She faces the barbs of her neighbours and even drives her tempo to deliver her 'khakras' (a savoury snack). Good going I thought, showing a woman in a slightly different light from the usual 'saas- bahu' fare.

I still think it is not too bad except that though she talks of sending her daughter to medical school, every time there is a household chore, she tells the daughter. While I have no issues with young girls learning about house work and doing it when needed, I think boys too should be adept at household chores. These days it is a good idea for everyone to know a little bit of everything. So if girls can drive their families around and change the light bulb when needed, boys should be able to lay tables, do the laundry and cook some basic things. It would be wonderful if this could be taught when young, but at least by the time they leave college, they should have some skills.

Having said this, my sons are not exactly skilled at these things, but then I see my older one, age 18 dealing with some stuff now. Also attitude wise, they have no mental blocks about such things. I wish our serials would also keep such nuances in mind. It would go a long way in changing our mindset.!

Floor cleaners and spectacles

 A friend's daughter travels the world and brings home all kind of potions, lotions and beauty aids for her. Not the very beauty conscious kind, she had no real preferences. The other day while washing her hair, she picked up one at random and when she opened it, smelled "neem". Thinking of all the herbal products on the market, she applied some on her hair. The lack of lather did not really bother her, and she just put some more which seemed to seep into her scalp. Shrugging at the seemingly large quantities of shampoo needed, she poured a liberal dose on to her head and felt a burning sensation. Puzzled, she decided grabbed her reading glasses and read "Floor cleaner" on the label. She has sworn to keep her glasses with her at all times!

By the way, her head looks clean and shiny!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Does She make me look fat?

My husband is convinced that what has never happened to him in his youth will happen now. Thanks to me. He is convinced that he will get smacked by some indignant woman or her jealous husband...all because of me. When ever we pass a woman who seems like she could be my size, I ask him.. Do I look like her? The first few times, my husband thought I was hoping to find my doppelganger ( lookalike) but after many years of marriage, he has begun to correctly interpret it as  " Am I as fat?"  And even if he is not looking in that direction, he is forced to look at the woman in question! More often than not I do not get a straight answer, so the question seems a futile one. Yet I cannot resist asking that question.

  What about the mirrors in your home, you ask. Well, I can never see myself from all angles in a mirror.. definitely not in the way that I can see others. There is also photographs, you say. But you see, I am told that the camera adds pounds to you in a picture and for a person whom even every gram counts ( not when going into the mouth though :(!, it is hard to reconcile those pounds. Also with pictures, I am often tempted to blame it all on the camera. So to get some perspective, that question I ask is very important.

For all those men who get thrown off with this question, let me tell you, we women ask this question hoping to be told that we are not as fat. We crave that reassurance, which is why you'll never see us asking this question when we see some one like Aishwarya Rai or her ilk. One friend confessed that she makes sure she picks women who leave no room for doubt, as she does not want to confuse her husband. "Even then he takes his own time answering and even replies with a shrug on occasion", she says dejectedly

I am not sure if men can identify with this eternal question, but if you have ever wanted to say the three words that will send your woman into transports of joy and make her your slave for life, just answer the question with an emphatic  "No, you're not!"

Friday, December 3, 2010

What answers do we have?

 She came late for work again and just as I was about to tell her off, I noticed the swollen face. The right side looked like someone had thrown a rock at it. I asked her what happened, only to hear the familiar story. The good for nothing husband had rained blows last night. Just because she told him not to pick a fight with the neighbours.

He came back just a month ago a defeated man. He had gone to Dubai where he hoped to make some money and fulfill the family's material aspirations. Turned out that his Visa  was for him to work as a mason, a skill he did not have. This was the visa for which he had paid Rs.1.25 lakhs, that he had begged and borrowed. He even got the money from his wife's employers and anyone , all of who are queuing outside his home and harassing her!

She was happy to see him go for more than one reason. The money would be welcome as they were subsisting on her earnings. He disdained to work for the last couple of months as he was destined for bigger things in Dubai. She was also relieved because it would mean less fights with the neighbours and beatings for the children. He would let go with anything including the bamboo lathis and the planks lying around.

If this seems like an art film or a movie a la 'Slumdog millionaire' let me assure you that it is the truth and nothing but the truth. I have tried more than once to get her to stand up for herself. She sheds tears, refuses to go to the people who can help in any way and always hopes that it will be better as soon as he apologises.... till he beats her up the next time.

I do know that domestic abuse is a big problem the world over. In this case she has no parents to go back to. Her siblings will not really support her.The neighbours in her basti are too busy or jaded and see it too often to intervene. I live too far to reach her immediately. She does not want to complain as he will be out in a day or two and then things will be worse for her. No one can assume life long responsibility for her. I encourage her to educate her children and  she has just recently learnt to read and write, and even though I keep a steady refrain about her rights and how she should not put up with abuse, it is hard for her to break the shackles of  propriety, shame and society. 

It frustrates me and makes me feel inadequate and I keep urging her to get out before he kills or maims her and her three children. I just hope she does.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NEWS with a view

I would have thought that with all the scams, politics (or is that one and the same?), gold medals etc, the newspapers would be infact too full to have any space  for lesser stuff. I obviously do not know the media. One story(?) that caught my attention and held it ( mostly because I could not believe I was reading the headline) was that of Yana Gupta and her errr..wardrobe malfunction. For those who might have missed this tidbit in their quest for real news, it was the front page , almost a quarter of it, talking about how she had got caught on camera without her unmentionables. Then again, it was most mentionable, as the headlines loudly proclaimed 'I am the no panty girl'. Now, I do know that the little extra bit that comes with the regular Times of India every day is more like Masala times than anything newsy, but still.... never thought I'd see this and more importantly in such cheerful terms almost lauding her for being "sporting". I am not a prude (and my children will support me on this), but I think I can do without such NEWS.

The other bit of news (well, sort of ) came to me via email and it was a story that is worth sharing. I am sure we have probably heard about it and read about it before but such stories are worth repeating as they leave a pleasant feeling behind, make you want to do something too. It is simply called "hole-in-the-wall", a concept initiated by Dr. Sugata Mitra, who just put a computer in a wall adjoining a slum area and gave free access to the people around. The children came to it in hordes and learnt how to use it by themselves.No matter how it started and what prompted it, it was a great idea to give children who otherwise may not have it, access  to computers.

No matter how many times I read about stuff like 'hole-in-the-wall'  it seems a great idea and wonderful news that people are getting access to information and technology. Is the other news item really news? I am sure the world can and will survive very well if we hear less about a model/ starlet/ celebrity(??) not wearing something. They make news for that reason anyway. Can we have a little less of that??

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Exchange Value

Give in the old, and take new ones .. happens all the time these days.. Exchange offers.. Tv,cars, cooking ranges, Pressure cookers,... and Parents!. Yes, you read right.. parents as in mom and dad, Janmdatas.. If it were not enough to see Rakhi Sawant going thru the coy motions of choosing her 'life partner' (even after marriage,celebrity partnerships fall prey to so many breaks,  it is advisable to keep them open ended) and see Rahul Mahajan pick his bride and eventually be accused of violence by the blushing bride, you could see Sara, an inmate of the big boss house pick and marry her partner on the show, now you can change another partnership.. the one you are born into.. your parents!

 BIG SWITCH, a show on UTV bindass, which attempts to give parents and children a taste of what the otehr half deal with... bratty kids for parents, chosen by the children who feel that parents complain too much and tough parents  for kids used to easy lives. The idea ostensibly is to give all the participants (and the viewers) a different view of life, different from what they are used to ..

As a popular ad says, 'Next is what?'!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Give and Take

This is a phrase we have all heard all our lives...  "give and take". It has been reiterated in every language that we can understand. It is a good thing too. Life goes better if there is some 'give and take'. We teach our children to share and give. But what is it that we really want them to do?  When we talk of giving is it not in the larger scope of giving to the lesser fortunate, to the world.... to be generous?

But is it absolutely important to balance out every favour, every little gift and every little phrase? I do not know how it goes with you, but every time I give something to someone, I feel that they can't wait to return it. No, no, not the same thing, but in kind. Try it. Give someone a signature dish  and the next day or the day after.. you'll get some dish they made. They borrow a cup of sugar and not only return that but add some fruit to it so they do not feel obligated.

Sometimes it is difficult to keep track where in the cycle one is. They give, you return, they give more and you give back.. till you forget where you are in the cycle. Who has the upper hand? Are you the one who has taken more or given more? Who has given you and whom have you given to? Did you dine at their place or should they be dining at yours? Did they call you or is it your turn to make that call? Did you get the compliment ( not that I mind) because you said something nice? It makes the head spin!!

I am not very good at accounting. So why do I, you may ask. Well, I learnt that if the opposite number is good at this egalitarian give and take, you better be good at balancing the scales too. If not you may be the one branded as the selfish taker.

I admit, not everyone I know is so gift aware. The close friends do not seem to mind one way or another, but in a world that neighbours and locals can get to you faster than any far flung family, you do have to get along with those around you. No one wants to be obligated and returning a container empty is an absolute 'no no'.

So should I wait for someone to read my post, or is it my turn to read another's??!  :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Stereotype Damage

Not withstanding the progressive step by the judiciary on the status of gay/ lesbian relationships, the popular opinion may never change. Thanks to the portrayal of such relationships and the people in them on TV and Cinema. Case at hand being a serial called "Baat Hamari Pakki Hai" on Sony. The Serial recently had the lead character called Shravan claiming , under a hypnotic spell, that he was in love with Pappuu, another character. The absurdity is crowned by the adverse reactions of the family, who scream things like "Tumne khandaan ka naam dubo diya" ( you have ruined the family name) , " Aaj tak is khaandaan nein aisa nahin hua" ( this has never happened in this family before) and many such derogatory and regressive lines. In fact whole episodes( more than one) are devoted to this theme with this kind of dialogue. The hero protests his ' innocence' ( really?) and berates himself on such deviant( really, really?) behaviour with lines like' no wonder my father and brother want to turn me out of the house'.




How can a show so regressive be on air? Why are the producers producing it, the actors ready to play these roles and the channel air it? It sets back the clock with the viewers. Any hard won victory in the courts will be forgotten and same sex love will be termed deviant in the court of popular opinion. Do we really need this in the name of comedy and raising the TRPs??

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Age no bar

My mother -in-law called was recently invited to a 'satsang', literally translated meaning 'company of the virtuous'. Since it was a neighbour, she was surprised to know that I had no invitation to the same . She went and on her return told me that the hosts did not invite me as 'uski umar nahin hui hai na', meaning 'she is not at that age yet'. I am not into satsangs, but then, neither is my mother-in-law. So is this age discrimination? Just like we are always ready to take the word of an adult over a child, or think that adults know more than the children who question them.

We get upset when we do not see age appropriate behaviour. A sixty year old is not sitting and reading a religious text, when a child openly rebels against some tradition he sees no sense in.. a sixty eight year old travelling around the world for pleasure...


What is age appropriate behaviour? Going to kindergarten at age three plus, starting college at eighteen, getting a job within five to six years of that, getting married, having children, retiring from work at sixty and so on.... while these are very broad expectations, we have more minute details that we expect to follow. Mothers have to give up the last morsel of their food if their child likes it. Youngsters are expected to touch the feet of elders, daughters -in-law should adopt the traditions and customs of the husbands family overnight. Sons in law should be treated with kid gloves .. the list is endless.

A lady I know lives on her own while her son and his family live just half a kilometre away with his mother in law.. and the world and it's uncle is really concerned about why his mother is living on her own! After all it is her right to live with the son. Never mind the fact that this independent lady wants to be on her own. She is able and works as a volunteer for a good cause. She has friends who accompany her to movies, lunches and dinners, picnics and even excursions and trips overseas. "Yet one of the most common questions put to me is why I do not live with my son and daughter-in-law. They look disappointed or sceptical when I assure them that there is no problem .. it's just choice.. till I can manage. I guess I am not following the standard expectations.I would have been unhappy had I given in to standard expectations. I am expected to live with my son, go to temples and read holy books. I could do all these, but why should I limit myself to these?"

'Satsang' or dance party, why should age be the deciding factor? As they say, age is just a number and as for expectations of others.. the less we worry about them, the happier we will be!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Rapunzel complex

I wonder if Rapunzel, who let down her hair for the prince and lived happily ever after, was ever tempted to cut her hair. Now that she had escaped from her lonely tower and settled into wedded bliss (since I assume that 'living in' was probably not an option in fairy tales, but that should be the subject of another post) with age and greying. Imagine having to color hair that long!! By the time you did the tips, the roots would probably be ready for the next round. If she were fond of the low maintenance life, she must have cut it, or at least thought about it and turned it over in her mind.

I am not very patient with all that needs to be done for beauty. Which means that the world has to like me or leave me just the way I am. This also means that while I think about getting that great haircut often, I have worn my hair long for most of my adult life. Yes, long is less work... because you can let it dry any which way, you can have it go a couple of days without worrying about style, you can just bundle it up or braid it when you have no time for a quick shampoo before a party. I know people think that long hair is difficult to manage, but if like me, you do not worry about the grey (recently a friend of mine commented that it was all the grey matter inside, spilling out. Going by the amount of grey and that theory, I should have none inside the head by now) then, long hair is simple to manage. Let me point out the ways..
1. No regular haircuts needed to keep the look intact.
2. You sweep it up roughly and then pin it with one of the umpteen clips available in the market these days.
3. No styling post washing.
4. No setting needed.
and so on .. the benefits are many .. and to top it people think you take so much care, to which you can nod and take credit. So you can make sheer laziness look like lot of effort (love that part).

I am told that middle age means that you feel like shorter (read more here) hair.. so far I have resisted the urge and my inertia has helped.... who knows what Rapunzel did?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Clinton lost the WHAT??!

Where do you search for it? Is there a lost and found for nuclear buttons....OK, so it was not a button, but the authentication codes.. same difference.
Bill Clinton, a two time president of the US of A, misplaced ' THE' codes.

So for all of us harried people, lesser mortals so to speak, there is a lesson in there. To never get harried.. So what if you misplace your car keys, or the doctor's prescription, the TV remote, or your cell phone, your spectacles.. after all it is not affecting the future of humanity the way of a nuclear bomb!

Come to think of it, maybe if it had stayed lost, the threat of nuclear war can not be brandished at the drop of a hat. What's so bad about that??

Thursday, October 21, 2010

She stands and waits..

....so she may do something other than what he wishes. Thirteen years ago when they got married, he coaxed her into giving up her job, promising her a glamorous life style, better opportunities and a safer place to nurture a family. She quit and moved. Then there were the children and given that as a merchant mariner he was away for long periods, it made sense to not have a full time job.. the kids and home would be better with her full focus, is it not?.... he asked her.

She agreed, though she thought that she could manage, but he was right... after all the kids were young. The kids started school and she broached the issue again.. Didn't they need help with their homework? and what of the after school activities.. they needed someone to ferry them, right? It sort of seemed to make sense, though she dreamt of what she would do when they were a little older and started full time school.

It was the right time now, she thought and promised her friend part time assistance with an NGO which helped young children read and write. No, he shook his head.. my parents visit often and my mom will get bored when she is at home alone, especially when I am away....... but what about me, sitting alone for the past thirteen years.. she wanted to scream.

I am there to take care of you, sweetheart.. why do you need to work? you just enjoy the spoils of my global trips .. you are so pretty.. just stay that way... he said.

Edited to add- A friend read this post and said suggested I make a story out of this episode that happened at my yoga class. The incident so far is as was narrated by the lady in question. So what would you do if you were living in urban India today, were educated and equipped with more facets than just the maternal instinct (which most women are, even if they choose to prioritise according to circumstances)?

Here is a bit of fiction for this ending...

Can I go to the beauty salon? she asked..... of course, you must.. just pamper yourself, he said indulgently. As she pulled out of the driveway, she smiled in anticipation.. she was meeting 'him' .. Don't you worry.. I shall be pampered. I only wish I had begun this long ago ...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Creatures of habit

Unseasonal rains... Pune has been seeing some of those for the past few days... never mind my friends who swear it is because I bought a few umbrellas on the off season clearance... :) This means that every evening the skies just open up and then the deluge. And deluge it is, mostly for a short time during which the roads are flooded and anyone on them is drenched to the skin. The greenery looks lush and beautiful after,but I digress.
Every evening, without fail, we walk our dogs ... or they walk us. We are as used to the walk as they are and the routine never varies. Grab the keys, shout for the dogs (who are hovering around us around walk time anyway and are out the door way before us), lock the door, grab the leash, grab a dog each and set off...
Imagine a scenario where the clouds look ominous and you hope to finish walking two big , walk addicted dogs before it pours. So last evening, when the clouds gathered, beautiful, heavy and threatening all at the same time, my husband just rushed around getting the windows shut and the place in order ( We live in a bunglow) before the walk. As he rushed around, he called out to the dogs and me (in that order) and grabbed the keys to the door. He was out the door and locked the place and grabbed the leash, all in super hero time. Very impressive... The dogs too rushed around joyously, impatiently... one next to me and the other inside the house... Super hero had locked up the very dog he was to walk! And so engrossed was he in the routine, he did not realize it initially.. When I got my dog, the vet told me that they do well on routine as they are creatures of habit. So used are we to their habits, we are becoming creatures of habit ourselves... I hope the day when we have to walk without the dogs is far away, but for now, I saw an expression on my husband's face that reminded me of another animal.. sheep..

So, here is the question, can you walk the dog, if the dog is missing? :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Just for the asking....

Book stores... one of my favourite places to be. Today I was at one and as usual ended up with more books ( eleven, to be exact) than I should have, at one go. The books are not really the subject of this post. While I was at the billing counter, the person put them in bright bags ( which I like for the small trivia that they have on them, but which I dislike for being plastic.. I am not militant about environmental issues, but I try not to add to the mess...)

Knowing that it will be just one more bag waiting at home to be put to good use, I asked the person why they do not have paper bags . "You want paper bag, ma'am?" he asked and pulled out some paper bags made out of newspaper. They had a label that proclaimed that the eco friendly bags were made by the Nirmalya trust, which helps the physically challenged.

So sometimes, all you have to do is ask!

P.S.I was surprised to see the brown paper bags that Big Bazaar is bagging it's veggies in, when I visited recently after a long gap.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Untamed

I occasionally take on projects that are neither popular or easy. Saving strays does not make me very popular with my neighbors.. they do not say anything specific to me, but as we cross paths while on a walk or at the local store, I will hear things like, 'those strays are really making a mess' or ' couldn't sleep last night because those strays barked thru the night'.
Over the past few years I have developed a thick skin and just let those bounce off me, and pretend to understand their issues. Actually, I do sort of understand their issues, I have no love for dirty streets or sleep deprivation myself. Yet, what can those strays do?

There are no easy answers. the long term solution is to spay/ neuter them( admittedly, not easy) or stop taking up all the space as if it belongs to us humans alone .Even if we do want all the space, we can at least be gracious and compassionate about it. Let them live without pain and without being hounded all the time. ( ironic that we are the ones 'HOUNDING' them)

Anyhow, to came back to the reason for this post, I now have a small black dog that I feed and sort of take care of.( I use that term loosely, because he just flinches away even when I try to pet him.. I suppose humanity flinging stones and swinging sticks at you will make you suspicious) So now to treat his wounds, I am feeding him a steroid wrapped in a piece of food and then just fling the haldi in the general direction of his wound. Some of it sticks and most of it falls on the ground... oh well.. I am hoping I will get him to accept me and then try and find him a home.. hope the powers that be are on my side. My own dogs will be happy to see him go as they know that they are sharing the attention now.

I just hope he does not stay untamed for too long..

Monday, March 1, 2010

What's with a name?

One of the most things that most would be parents agonise over is a name for their bundle of joy. We want it to be different, uncommon, unusual, trendy and so on. We scour the web, we ask almost everyone we meet, we read books, et al.

But you can tell that this craze for unusual names has gone out of control. How, you ask?

Why would you name your child Ateet, meaning the past. then there is Vasana, signifying lust. ( Or is that some sort of confessional thing? !!) The names on the hindi TV serials are probably showing the way.. so you have a Vansh meaning the race/clan, Sandhi, which was something I dreaded when learning sanskrit at school, Nami, which is ..well, very dampening... Then again, each to his own, I suppose, but would you not want your child to be the future rather than the Ateet ?

Of course, you could always remind how fruitful your life is, and name your child Apple - a la Gwyneth Paltrow!
Just a thought...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mothers

Watching him in the two minute dance sequence transported her.... ever since the doctors had told her at his birth that he would never walk or talk, she had been just imagining such a moment. She watched mesmerised, her son, on the stage, a part of the brightly dressed group of children, all swaying to some music. Her eyes teared up at the normalcy of the scene in front of her.All the gruelling sessions of therapy and her constant repetitive effort had not been lost.She Took some quick pictures to mail to her parents and her in-laws. Not everyone was always in step with one another, but 'the best show on earth' as far as the parents are concerned, she thought. After all, who could resist the spectacle of their child on such a platform. She felt bad that it was over. There was always next year!

There was so much pending work and with her son at his annual day function, it meant that she could go home later than usual. The maid could also leave at her normal time and she would not call every few minutes to whine about never going home on time. She felt a small guilty niggle. She had promised him she would come and see the small two minute performance, but with over 250 sets of parents, he would not be able to tell..... she had arranged for a friend to pick him up and would tell him that she had to run out for a meeting after his performance. She could just tell him how much she enjoyed the show and even offer that he could snuggle up with mom and dad for the night as a reward.. That with the pizza for dinner and the ice cream for dessert would do the trick. He was too young to suspect anything. There was always next year!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Are we regressing?

A younger man fearlessly courting an older educated woman, a lecturer, no less, openly. A show that allegedly talks about the problems of child marriage (It even has a moral that appears at the end of each episode). A young woman crusading against female infanticide.. Just the images that warm the cockles of our progressive hearts. But cut to a few months later and the lecturer is waiting for the young man to masterfully fill her 'maang' (hair parting) with the sindoor in a temple ceremony before looking beatifically happy. So what happened to the image of the independent young woman? She got lost in the quest for the TRPs. The Child bride whose sister- in -law, a child bride too delivers a baby boy and everyone is happy that it is a boy! There is not even lip service to the dangers to becoming a mom so young. The young woman crusading against female infanticide falls hopelessly, irrevocably in love with the chief villain's son and forgets all about the poor infants, concentrating her energy on the hero who was stringing her along just for his mom's benefit. She turns into a house maid, forgetting all about her education and looks longingly at the very man who betrayed her. So much for liberation. All these shows claim to be on the side of the woman and are supposedly different from the regressive Saas- bahu shows. Really??

It is not just women alone who are the brunt of superstition, a recently started show has a the heroine appealing to a snake, 'Naag', to consume milk and leave them alone....and the wonder is that the snake goes against the laws of nature and does just that. You can expect a lot more snake charmers this 'Naag Panchmi' forcefully dipping poor snakes into milk, just to earn a quick buck. The least we can do is leave the poor animals to live with the laws of nature!! Looks like mankind is lost to the TV screen!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why?

I was at a birthday party for a thirteen year old when my mother called. Instead of her standard greeting she asked me where I was and whether we were all ok. Rather surprised, I assured her that we were and then asked her why she had asked. "There has been a bomb blast in Pune at German bakery" she said. It took the zing out of the party but the adults there speculated that it must be just a cylinder or some such. Three frantic 'are you ok?' calls and some web searches later, we had all accepted that this was a 'first' we did not want for Pune.

Then again, no one wants this, but it still happened. This one was just too close. It was 'Home'. The city we all love and crib about. The great education, the culture, traffic, the polllution, we talk about all those with passion. Now this. I discovered one thing last night though.. people fall silent when it is so close. They seem to introspect. Maybe they think of the times they were at the site and wonder 'what if?'. And yet though they look inward, they also look out for others. I got two offers of escort for my car ( I was a woman alone) and that was reassuring. Reassuring to know that while there are those who do inhuman acts, there are also those who show humanity and concern. As long as the latter outnumber the former, there will be hope. On this Valentines day, all I ask for is that hope.

Party Pooper

My son has a birthday coming up and we have been making lists and talking about the food and generally doing everything that soon to be thirteen year olds do around their birthdays. Last night, back from a birthday party, he was full of ideas and I coaxed him to bed. Just as he was nodding off, he suddenly perked up and said "Amma, I am telling all my friends to leave their cell phones at home." Mildly curious at this strange and seemingly undue dislike for cell phones, I prompted him to explain. " You know Amma, today we did not have much fun. Most of the kids had cell phones with blue-tooth and they just sit exchanging games and stuff on the phone. The worst part is they do not even play those games. We can do such stuff anytime, but when so many of us meet at one place, it would be great to play outside. I want to play on my birthday. Not be stuck to some phone. So I am banning cell phones" he declared.

Social scientists have been shouting themselves hoarse about how technology is making us progressively anti social, but here was the proof from the mouth of a young child. He might or might not get away with the ban because his friends are not old enough to take offense. Imagine though, what fun we could have if we did the same. I know of concerts, conversations and even funerals that are interrupted by the teeny cell phone. Dare we follow a young one's example the next time??

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Catch them young!

It came up during a random conversation with my twelve, almost thirteen, year old son. I was attempting to get him into bed to sleep and he was trying to prolong the wake time! He said ' Amma, VI and DA (two boys in his class) are going for classes'. Not overly surprised, as tuitions are quite the norm even in seventh grade, I responded with a 'So? just go to sleep'. ' Amma, they are going for classes so they can join the IIT coaching at the same place next year'.

Now he had my attention. The children in question were bouncy twelve year olds, in grade seven. My first brush with the IIT/ medical entrance coaching was when my older son, now seventeen, was in class eight. An anxious mom had shared the information that there were children who had enrolled for the all important classes, while she and I were just ostensibly just twiddling our thumbs. For a brief while I had even examined and entertained the concept of sending a child to preparatory classes for five years just so he could enter a four year degree program (After all, I did not want to be the only irresponsible parent, who cost her children the best opportunity of their life). I discarded the idea when it struck me that the child (even if he made it to the desired college) would have spent less time earning a degree than he would trying to get in... seemed a bit skewed to me, but then that is just my personal opinion.

Now here was something new... in the five years since the first brush, they were catching them even younger!! Now you had to be coached to be coached to get the engineering / medical coaching!!

Obviously, I am behind the times, because when I mentioned this to a friend, she gave me another twist.. There are separate coaching classes that ensure that you get into the professional coaching classes that coach you for college. I do realize that the word 'Coach' has occurred far too many times in this space. Talk to any parent though, and the conversation is smothered with the word.

So here is the question... just where will it stop? There will soon be classes from the fifth grade, then the third and then nursery! The baby Einstein products ( quite the rage a while ago) are allegedly not doing too well in the west these days as they did not make much difference.. .. maybe we should share this idea with the world and it may become a best seller..... So what if a child of twelve committed suicide just this week in Mumbai, because he failed in a class exam? So what if we read about such suicides in the papers almost everyday? After all it is the survival of the fittest.. and if this means only those who can take the incredible pressure so be it. Just catch them young. The younger the better!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A wonderful new year to all!!

A friend recently shared this lovely poem with me..
It says it all so beautifully.. it has been penned by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. ....


The Year
WHAT can be said in New Year rhymes,
That's not been said a thousand times?
The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.
We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.
We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.
We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our prides, we sheet our dead.
We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that's the burden of a year.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox... I don't think it can be said in a better way...
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