Friday, December 4, 2009

The lost colours

A few days back as I was researching on Benarasi Sarees for my other blog, the mind wandered to the days when my mother's wardrobe was filled with colour. the blues and yellows, the reds and pinks seemed so natural, so taken for granted.

And then the day when we lost the only man in both our lives came to mind. The early morning hour when the last, laboured breath was taken and the pain finally erased from his face, the last shred of hope erased from ours. what followed that day is sepia toned and dogeared in my mind, a natural dam against a furious storm. The image that, is stark and clear, however, is that of my mother, rigid, alone, and devoid of all colour, apart from the red of her eyes.

Nobody told her to alienate the colours, She was not forced into whites, and yet the society which she had grown up in, which was imbibed in her did not allow her to think any other way. The idle days that followed, which were devoid of the punctual nursing routine, saw her rigid frame lying still for hours at end on her side of the bed.

On the 13th day of dad's passing away, she gave away all her sarees to who ever wanted to keep them for the sake of memories, the rest were given away to maids and the numerous helps who worked in the house of mourning.

So many years have passed since then, I have held my sorrow in me, but my life has moved on. The material things in my life did not change with the passing away of my dad, but for my mother and so many like her, the loss of the husband is not just a painful stab in the heart, there is a physical change that follows, at every step the society puts a reminder that she is a widow, in case one fine day she forgets!! The colours vanish, so does jewellery, there are restrictions on what she can eat, where she can go. There is nobody who is monitoring, there is nobody who will question, its just the cognitive morality that has seeped into the system, that is forbidding.

As a daughter I could have taken the initiative, I could have persuaded her not to shy away from colours, but her rigidity and my non confronting nature came in the way. It rips my heart each time I go into a shop and tell the shopkeeper to show sarees without red and maroon borders, He invariably shows me a white saree with a black border, he smiles a sad and understanding smile, and I leave the shop.

I am not a feminist, but I cannot let any man rule what I wear. I have never worn sindoor in my life. Bindis are also a rarity with me. I have no fascination for jewellery or for anything that declares me married. Its not that I want to project myself as unmarried, its just that like a marriage certificate all these physical declarations seem like bondage to me, they clip my wings, they take away my identity. They are dependent not on love but on norms. Sati might have been abolished, but the sneer on the face of society for widows is still there.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Putting the right foot forward

The last post was an expression of my angst and fury. And this one is an expression of the fact that I still believe in humanity(male and female). Each time we put the right foot ahead of the left and form a step, we are actually taking a decision to move ahead, to cross barriers and borders, to take a plunge into the unknown, to discover and to live whatever comes in our way. Each morning before the tiny step we are renewing our ethereal faith, we are renewing our trusts in people and in God.
A few days back these images were mailed to me by Suraj. It is a chain mail and many of you would have already seen them. But I will still go ahead and use this platform to share these lovely images and message that each of them carry.
They renewed my faith and made me see beyond myself. Hope they light a spark in your lives too. For the ease of reading I am retyping the message below each image.

Stand up against racial discrimination. Stop Racism

Get out of a destructive relationship when there is still time

Children learn fast. DOn't fight at home

Do not neglect the Girl Child

Adopt!! You never know who you will bring home.

Think before wasting food.

Protect your child. Abusers are usually people your child trusts!

Is this what your child surfs on the World Wide Web??

Drive safe! Better late than never!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tell me what you feel..

Like my blog, I have been neglecting a lot of things that are close to my heart lately. I have been putting it all to the back burner, saying the same lines repeatedly,"Next weekend, when there's a bit more time.." I must have said this a dozen times over the last couple of weeks, to my kids, to myself, to my friends.. only to realise just a while back, that time does not come, I have to create it!!

Talking of realisations, I have suddenly realised that men like trash!! Am I seeing raised eyebrows? Am I seeing a few eyes getting closer to their computer screens? Or am I seeing,"DUH!!! what did you think?" expressions!! Hahahah, but really, I have always prided myself, to the point of being egoistic that I was attractive to men because of my wit, of my intellect, and to an extent, because of my nature!! But believe me that's not what men want..MEN LIKE TRASH!!!

By trash I mean, women who throw themselves over anything male(had a better way of saying it but, my daughter reads the being careful with my language here), by trash I mean women who are constantly on the prowl, making overtures, making moves, being vampish, being dumb and being damsels in a perpetual state of undress as well as distress. And believe you me - all men, starting from tramps to technocrats like that!!

Another realisation is that offices are a hub of politics. It was so 13 years back when I started working, it is so, even now! The faxes and the software could have changed but the people have not. It's either a power game or a blame game, and in between all this and the numerable coffee breaks, if there is time, some work ends up happening.

Just a few realisations and their announcements at the cost of sounding naive, biased, judgemental, frigid or all of the above!!

Lets hear what each one of you gotta say!!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Our world

"Remember how we watched three Uttam Kumar classics back to back that Saptami night? which year was it? Remember..Rintu was in college I think, it must be '96. And what about the saree shopping we did together on the gariahat roads? remember the crowd, and the phuchka breaks we kept taking. That year Pujo was the best, we were all together, the pandals, the dhunochi naach, the aaroti..."

It is at such moments when I see mamma go all nostalgic about her past, that I realize what a completely different life we bengali children lead here in Muscat. The set of kids that I mix with and also some others whom I see around have our own little culture, and we follow it to the core. Uttam kumar could be missing, and we might not have fond memories of gariahat road, but this post will give you all a peek into our culture.

When we, pre-teens and teens meet each other at the Bengali parties, that we are dragged to, or at pujas and other such social functions, do we greet each other like our counterparts in Calcutta? do we say, "Ki re kemon achish?" No!! we dont, we usually say "hey" and give a hi5 or just smile and say, "You alright?" The irony is not here, the irony is in the fact that in the same breath we greet our elders in proper unaccented bengali, we continue to eat bengali food without the slightest knowledge of its name or recipe, we continue to respond to the queer pet names we carry, and we continue to live in the little cultural domain that we have created in a faraway shore quite naturally.

We have no idea how great Soumitra Chaterjee was as an actor, or how beautiful Suchitra Sen. We think Mithun is a loser and feel bengali black and white flicks are a bore, we hardly know anything about Tagore, and yet we dance to his songs and even sing a few for social dos, we get the steps right, we get the tunes right, the lyrics, written using the English alphabets are easily memorized, we even manage the expressions, but we remain passionless about his emotions, we remain aloof to his sentiments. His essence is lost in us.

We buy clothes whenever we want or feel like, there is no excitement about new clothes during the festive season, we live typical NRI lives and yet return home on time to report the day's events in Bengali to our parents, our lives are a paradox that even we cannot explain, and yet we live it without any difficulty in this small world of the Bengali kids in Muscat.

This was a break I took between my exam studies. If my brother can become a hit here..why not me?? c'mon guys, I gave you a thought to ponder upon..let the comments flow in.

with love

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The house and the mango tree...

What is a house after all? It is just walls and a few windows, a front and a back porch, a garage, a terrace, a few doors, and some people who call it home. Isn't it? Or is there something we missed?

May be we missed the small room up the stairway which had a rickety cot and a tiny bulb that hung over that cot. This room saw not only idle afternoons of tea and chit chats, but probably also saw some serious studying being done late at nights, probably it also saw the first kiss exchanged by an amorous and nervous young boy, and maybe it saw tears of rejection as well as joy. Today if we were to ask its long forgotten, cobwebbed and cracked walls to speak, maybe we would see a lot of important and not so important truths emerge.

What about the Huge Mango tree behind the house? The one that was used as a landmark. Many kids, many generations climbed its branches, planted by the grand old man who designed and built each room, each wall of this house, in memory of his eternal love. The tree, seasoned and weathered, has stood proud the test of all times. Did anybody know the simple story behind this planting? Did they know that the grand old man had once loved a woman deeply. The tree was planted as a sapling to grow with their growing love, so that one day they could point it to their grandchildren and say,"This is how huge our love is!!" They never got the chance to culminate the love, but the tree stood as a loving symbol of all that was beautiful once upon a time.

Then of course there is the inner courtyard. The humdrum of daily life, the washing of clothes and utensils, the tulsi at the centre, the diya that burnt each night only to fade with the rising of the sun. The lounging chair that was always kept here with an adjacent table with the day's newspaper and a glass of water. It was on this chair that the grand old man breathed his last at the age of 92.

The terrace, was the most romantic of places, this house saw. All the children of the grand old man got married here. Under the canopy of the stars and the brilliance of the moon, the sons had chanted their vows, pledging life long loyalty and love to their brides. What does it matter now that some loyalties were betrayed down the line, love was often compromised in the passing of the years. But on the day the sons brought home their wives, the terrace was the witness to the first exchange of shy glances, of the hope of a future to be built in this house. It was also the witness down the line to the wobbling feet of the kids born, of songs being sung on stormy nights, of lullabies cooed to drowsy ears, of drying clothes in winter afternoons, of sun soaking pickles, of naughty years and drinking bouts.

The house with its walls and doors, with its front and back porch, with its cobweb and ruined plaster is to be broken down. In it's place will emerge a multi-storeyed apartment. A functional and modern place with amenities that are required, with easy maintenance and upkeep, free form the mildew of the past. The decision has been reached, the sons have agreed. Its just a matter of time before the mango tree is cut down, before the existence of the room on the terrace, the inner courtyard, and the terrace itself crumbles down to the touch of a bulldozer.

We move with times, from the ashes of the old, rises the new. There is nothing unsightly about all this, there is no fight, there are no differences, its for the ease of all and the betterment of the future generation. Just that I needed to tell the tale of a house that was designed by a grand old man, brick by brick, the tale of a love that did not see the light of the day and yet weathered the storms of the night.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Seven Today

He is seven today. seven years he's been teaching me, changing me, loving me. Getting me to think like him, to understand him, to accept him, yes seven years is a short time..but he is trying and so am I. There is no goal apart from enjoying the journey.

If I have sat with him teaching him phonetics, he has in turn taught me that everything in life cannot be pushed, there is a time for things to fall in place, it took him a little longer than his peers to grasp words, to read, to write. I shouted, I cried, I ran up the wall time and again..but he was not ready yet. And then one day..he just read a story book to me, just like that! I have no photographic record of that moment, but I think I just jumped up and down the bed hugging him to me. He was 6 then.

He took to maths like a pro. There is always a star that he proudly shows on every page of this subject notebook. He still at times writes his 7 the other way round, but his mental grasp of arithmetic has helped me many times at the counters of the super markets. he is quick to point out the change due, and how much easier it would be for me to buy him a kinder egg rather than count the change.

He is forgetful with names, with dates, with the lyrics of his prayers and school songs, but he can play a tune from start to finish. He can swim like a fish and somersault like a dolphin. He is spooked terribly by ghosts. He is fond of barbies and race cars. He loves the outdoors and cannot sit still for more than a minute. He is expressive, he is naughty, he is my bond- Seven today.

lets see the years that went by..

There are highs, lows, major road blocks, soaring moments, and moments when I want to pull out whatever hair is left on my head..but I have to admit there is never a dull moment with my boy around! Happy Birthday Soumya!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Thin Fakir from India...

The other day my daugher asked me, "Maa, what did Gandhiji give the Indians?" Feeling proud that she should ask me this question, I was making a mental list of all the things we, as a nation have, because of him and many who followed his blueprint in those formative years. Seeing me take so much of time, I guess she lost her patience and came up with the answer herself," He gave us a holiday every year on the 2nd of October!" She smiled and went away, My jaws dropped and I was left feeling sad. I know shes just a kid and we have all gone through these jokes, but it was just not fair. Each time I read his biography, each time I see the film made by Attenborough, I choke up at this small man and his immense courage, the way he stood tall, the power of his gaze, the sharpness of his wit, the charm, the childlike jubiliance. he, like many who strive to create a difference, was a controversial figure. There have been people who have opposed his views, in his lifetime and also after it. His views on partition, his non violence approach, many have said he taught us the concept of 'strikes' and 'bandhs'.

Yes, he did introduce us to these weapons, but at that time we used it against the British, and today it has become a blunt weapon, becuause we have pushed it far too much, we have used it for all sundry purposes and more, so its lost its effect and brought in vices of its own, so is Gandhiji to be blamed for this wrong usage?

There are many known and unknown facets to his life, today in dedication to him, I would like to share this day of his life with you all..

When most of India was looking at the glittering lights of Delhi on the midnight of 14th August 1947, awaiting the dawn. Glittering lights, loud slogans and a poetic assertion of Late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who said: "At the stroke of the midnight hour when the world sleeps India will awake to life and freedom and a soul of a nation long suppressed will find utterance." There was darkness in Calcutta. Gandhi was agonized. A few weeks prior to Independence Day of 1947, an emissary of Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel was sent to Gandhi at Calcutta, who was working for peace and harmony among the Hindus and Muslims. The emissary reached at midnight. He said: "I have brought an important letter for you from Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel." "Have you taken your food?", asked Gandhi. When the emissary said " No", Gandhi served him food. And after food, Gandhi opened the letter from Nehru and Patel. They had written: "Bapu you are the father of the nation. 15th August 1947, will be the first Independence Day and we want you to come to Delhi to give us the blessings." Gandhi said: " How stupid!. When Bengal is burning, Hindus and Muslims are killing each other and I hear the cries of their agony in the darkness of Calcutta, how can I go to Delhi with the glittering lights?" These were the heart-rending words of Gandhi. He said "I have to live here for the establishment of peace in Bengal and if need be, I have to give up my life for ensuring that there is harmony and peace." The emissary started for his return journey in the morning. It was a moving sight, full of human touch. Gandhi gave the emissary a sendoff. He was standing below a tree. A dry leaf fell from the tree. Gandhi picked it up and put it on his palm and said: " My friend, you are going back to Delhi. What gift can Gandhi give to Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel? I am a man without power and wealth. Give this dry leaf to Nehru and Patel, as my first Independence day gift." And when he was saying this, tears came from the eyes of the emissary. And with a sense of humour Gandhi said: " How great is God? He did not want Gandhi to send that dry leaf. He made it wet. It is glistening with laughter. Carry this leaf as a gift full of your tears." That was Gandhi's human touch.

I hope kids today and from the generations to come can understand his philosophy and his strength before applauding him for giving us all a holiday on the 2nd of October, every year. I havent had the chance of speaking to my daughter after the joke, but will do so one of these days, if not they, who will spread his message to the whole world now, that he is so long gone.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pujo days

The Pujo days are passing in a frenzy of people, of culinary delights, of sharing, of getting ready and reaching the pandal(temporary temples built for the days of the Pujo with a life size clay model of the Goddess Durga) for the anjali(prayers chanted in sanskrit for the Goddess) followed by scalding hot khichuri bhog,
the queue for which is actually the penance part, if you consider the temperatures here now, hovering around 44 degrees, with at least a minimum of 30 people ahead of you, Your sins are definitely getting paid for here. The temple precincts do not allow footwear so we just about barely stand, most of us, me included are continuously doing a jig to help keep the feet in minimal contact to the burning marble floor, and inspite of this there is laughter every where, not much of spirituality beyond the anjali though.. its only then that we bow our heads and concentrate on the mantras, once that is through and the flowers we held in our hands have trajectorily reached the feet of the Goddess, we are back to watching who's wearing what, how deep are the blouses this year, or how wide, what's the latest in jewelery and who adorns the biggest shades, yah I know.. it sounds terrible when I put it down in words.. but believe me its great fun, its bonding too, when a group of us stand jiggling our burning feet, waiting for our turn to reach the end of the queue for the bhog. Entertainment is also found in the stream of announcements on the mike saying things like "Many of you have not yet paid the annual membership fees, please reach us at the main gate counter and pay your subscription', there are also announcements like,"Children please refrain from refills of the bhog, there are many waiting', the children I notice are really not very keen on the bhog anyways, they just want to go back to the air condition of their homes, its just the pull of their parents that has dragged most of these kids from school and brought them to the temple in the crazy heat of the afternoon. These announcements never go without a loud rejoinder, which is most of the times taken in good spirit. A lot of laughter, a bit of bitching, seeing new faces and missing ones that have left, is usually the synopsis of Durga Pujo days of an expat like me.

Away from home, I can hear the bells and the dhak only when I call up and my mother in law holds the mobile out for the dhaki's beat to travel all the way from Jhargram to Muscat, the beat makes my son dance and it brings to my mind the house, the people, the joy of those five days, the phone is snatched at times by a family member, urging us to return, to be there for the pujo, saying repeatedly that very few hands to work, the elders are really getting old again before a response the phone is filled with the aaroti mantra and the dhak beats the clanging of the cymbal and the mood just sets in like every passing year that I have stayed away from Jhargram, its a mix of sweet nostalgia, of pride, of belonging and of being away from it all.

Its Maha Ashtami today, the most looked upon day of the Pujo, the best Saree, the best jewellery, the best food, the best of everything is saved for this day, itsthe day when the Goddess is worshipped with 108 diyas and garlanded with 108 lotus flowers, for me this day, the Goddess comes to life, when I look at her eyes, I can feel her looking right back at mine, and the difference between time and space suddenly ceases.

Take a look at this video to get the feel of the Durga aaroti

Thursday, September 17, 2009

When the Goddess comes home..

A huge house, adorned with pillars. Blue wooden shutters charmingly interrupting the vastness of the white walls. A garden that is resplendent with flowers and foliage, a sky that is an unspoilt blue, the clouds white and fluffy, the laughter of girls, the tinkling of trinkets as feet run from one room to another followed by gentle admonishing of the elders, a perfect setting for spending the upcoming Durga Pujo.

The inner courtyard is being washed, the veranda surrounding it opens to various rooms, at the moment all occupied by family that gathers every year during Pujo, the uncles the aunts, the children who have grown from snot flowing, rib showing, naked boys and girls into responsible young adults, still carrying their peculiar childhood names though. They are cousins together for a week of homecoming. The small kitchen adjoining the courtyard is busy since the early hours of dawn. Meals are being prepared, tea is being made, vegetables fresh and green lying in careless abandon, there are aunts with their easy gaiety sorting and cutting them, placing the cut vegetables in big copper vessels filled with water, instructions flow as to what is to be made for lunch, a special request for a particular dish, anecdotes remembered, easy banter, laughter flowing from the kitchen into the courtyard to merge with the excited voices of the sons of the house, brothers gathered from all over the world for a week of homecoming.

Trays of tea and biscuits, men ranging from the age of 30 to 60 or more, in white cotton pyjamas and plain shirts, sitting around reading a newspaper, one of them humming in a soft but audible voice the tune of a favorite Rabindrasangeet that they had all learnt as kids.Each doing his own stuff, an easy silence with a palpable bond. This is the house where they grew up, where they studied and taught each other, The house where they married and brought their wives, the house that saw their children, the house that saw the deaths of their parents, the house they decided to keep coming back to every year for Pujo.

The two storeyed house has a room on the terrace. A favourite haunt of all the cousins. As kids they ran to this room after their crimes, none of the elders had the stamina to follow them up there, so they felt safe, since those early days this room has become a part of them, a confidante, a fellow conspirator, it has listened quietly to them talk about their plans of stealing pickles from the kitchen cabinets, about the jaunts to the pond to float a few paper boats while the elders nap, it has smiled silently at the mention of their boyfriends, it has listened to them discuss career options, it has been an island of calm in an otherwise chaotic house. Apart from Minoti di (the maid) none of the elders come here. The room opens to a huge terrace overlooking a pond full of water lillies and a field beyond. Standing here you can see the rail tracks and as children the count of how many trains went past was an interesting game, now though the trains still pass , they are usually overlooked, the water lillies are in focus more now. The boys come up here for a smoke or two, Minoti di takes care of the cigarette packets lying in the room, she doesn't have to be told anything, she knows these kids since they were born, shes almost as old as the house, the living arm of it.

Today is very special, the mothers are all fasting, the courtyard looks beautiful with the alpona(designs made on the floor with a paste of rice flour and water), the goddess is coming home today, It is shoshti (the first day of Durga Pujo). As kids the cousins eyed the fresh narus(small balls made with freshly grated coconuts and jaggery) that were made on this day, now as young men they are busy adorning the Goddess with jewellery, and the girls..well they have to think about their jewelleries right? This is the only time of the year they deck themselves up in beautiful muslin and antique gold jewellery, narus will have to wait. There is a spring in the step today, a roar in the air, Pujo has begun. The dhakis have come, the dhunuchis (a smoking mixtures of camphor, incense, tinder and coconut husk) are ready, the purohit is here, the brothers are still in their white cotton pyjamas and plain shirts, their wives in beautiful sarees of white and red look so perfectly mismatched to them, but its always been like this, the young girls are a sight to behold and the young boys busy with what they say is their 'barir pujo'!

I can so easily lose myself in this house, this is a very common picture to all Bengali families who have had Durga Pujo in their own homes, the days take flight, the nights full of chit chat, the early morning gathering of flowers, the 5am baths, the naividyas and the proshad, the chandan(sandalwood paste) and the bel pata(bel patra are the leaves of the wood apple tree offered for Pujas), the sudden sighting of a good looking bloke, the unconscious re arranging of the hair, the nudging, the teases, the smiles..its all a part of each one of us, isn't it? And when we bid adieu to the Goddess after those 5 days, we bid adieu to all this as well, like her, we go back to our daily grind, with the faith that "asche bochor abaar hobe!" Yes, we will get back again next year and every year following that!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Faxes, awards et al..

What does a slow and sluggish and a bit of a dimwit female on the wrong side of 30 do when she's offered a job? She says "Naah, I am to comfortable to do a job at this old age. what about my late mornings? what about my chats with Aparna? what about my blogging?and most importantly what about the money that this same industry didnt pay me when I worked the last time for them?" And that's what I said "Naah, not interested" and went back to the hot romance I was reading.

The offer is good though (if it does materialize at the end of the month into cash). Hours are good too, just the mornings, and the work is editorial which is damn good, coz I love to write and research on stuff, so I turn around for a bit on the bed and do some head scratching, and think about the kids, who come home only by 2:00 in the afternoon, I do some nail biting too and then finally get up and call my friend. There's a green signal from him, and then there is a"way to go" from Aparna, and suddenly I am quite upbeat about the whole thing, I actually go and get a head massage and a facial done..whoa!!

So I am in office the first day, it feels good to be working after a gap of more than 13 years. Yes it does, the boss comes around and says there's a package enhancement for you, just have to help with some admin work as well(alarm bells start to blare real loud now, I can also see the warning reds and the skull signs). This is how the conversation goes

Boss: "Hey welcome on board."

Me: "Thank you"

Boss: "You are in a lucky frame, your package has been enhanced, you would just have to do a bit of admin work as well."

Me : (alarm bells are blaring)"Admin work!! I am not sure, not at all sure!"

Boss: "Hey don't put a tag of admin per se, see its a start up company, we are just doing everything ourselves as of now, Its not a big outfit, there's hardly any admin work apart from some filing and correspondence, am sure you will be able to do it just fine."

Me: "I am very disorganized(read I am a mess)"

Boss: "We are there to help each other"

Me: "I cant stay a minute beyond 12:30"

Boss: "Yah yah yah I know, you have made that perfectly clear"

Me: "Okay lets do it then"(am having a bad frown during this entire conversation)

So I go to my workstation, start the PC and am ready to roll. Here I am comfortable, this is my core competence(hmm the lingo is coming back!) I make a time sheet and start my work for the upcoming annual publication. All goes fine till....

Boss: "Here are a few letter I have written, you will have to coordinate a bit so that we can meet these guys the coming week and have the interviews ready. Just fax them all before leaving today."

Me: "eeeeeeeeow"( fax sounds like such a male thing. And like all males I have to chk it out first.)

I go over to the Hp fax-copier-scanner object lying so very elegantly in the corner. Looks devilishly innocent. Nothing like the fax machine I knew 13 years back. I hate technology and the way things get updated/outdated here. The manual is in french(heaven knows why?) Being a female and so always ready to ask for directions I ask the boss how to fax, he is as clueless as me.. he always had somebody to do it for him he says. Hahahah he's so mistaken about me. So I take a look at the manual again, it shows a glass and for the life of me I cannot see a bloody glass anywhere on that machine. So this is a conversation I am having on the phone to help me use the fax

Me: "Hi! are you free right now? I need you to guide me through this fax machine, I have to send a couple of faxes"

He: "Okay, so you see a fax machine in front of you"(must have said God forbid!!)

Me: "Yah, I see that"(cursing my luck and swallowing my pride)

He: "You have to put the letterhead face down and allign it to the glass surface to the bottom left corner, are you able to do that?"

Me: (Thinking where the hell is the glass?)saying,"umm hmm ok"

He: "Dial the number now"

Me: "Where is the glass?"( A deeper gulp and a bigger chunk of the pride goes down)

He: "What?"

Me: "The glass.."

He: "OHOHOH..the glass, there's a hinge from where the machine lifts up there's a glass inside"(I can see the smirk so clearly now)

Me: (admiring the devil of a machine and looking from where to tear it apart so that the glass is finally visible)

Wonder of wonders, like the magical cave of Ali Baba and the 40 thieves the machine comes apart to bare a polished glass surface to me, Its actually a wow moment for me, and I take a deep breath and cherish this. After that its fairly simple and the faxes get sent. Eureka!! there's no end to learning is there? Even at my old age huh!!

So amidst the major core competence of writing and the minor pitfalls of admin work, the job has completed 2 weeks and must say I am quite enjoying it. There are wow moments almost everyday, there are busy friends who stop in their tracks to reach out and help, there are the kids who look proud that their momma is working like most of their friend's moms, there's a part of me feeling like a kid and a part of me that's wondering deeply about all the people who find time to be online from work, to chat and blog to do so many things and still work!! That's way beyond the comprehensive powers of a dimwit over 30, lazy and sluggish female who is happy to have sent her faxes well! But inspiring never the less...

So am passing on a few awards that I got recently to people who multitask from office and do it successfully!

To Nona, Ramesh, Kavi and Spike I pass on the Inspiration award

To Sakshi, SJ, Rush and Deeps and another Deeps I pass on the Zombie chicken award

The Zombie Chicken Award

The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken – excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words.

All of you are free to pass it on at your convenience, there are no set rules from me..have fun !!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Death is never final part II

Days passed, just the way they do. There was work, there was the usual inter office chit chat, and the evenings in the studio. Everything was the same apart from the incessant tug at her heartstrings for reasons Priya was not willing to accept. Since that day, Arun had not returned to her office, and yet every time the door opened, her gaze wandered from her files, every time she saw a well dressed man of around 6 ft walking on the streets, her pulse quickened. She was surprised that the realistic and practical capricorn in her had taken flight to a realm of fantasy that was totally unknown territory. She did not know her path, she did not have a clue as to how she could possibly deal with her feelings for a guy she had seen only for a few minutes. This was unreal, and yet she enjoyed her fantasies of him walking in once again, repeating the lunch offer..

Life has its own set of rules, the rules we cannot decipher, but looking back the dots can be connected to form a perfectly clear picture. The days of summer were merging into unexpected drizzles, The Gulmohars had given way to the greens of freshly washed leaves, of small puddles on the streets, of little children in raincoats, of hot teas and pakodas. On one such day, Priya saw Arun again. She could never miss that face, the face she had etched in her mind since that breezy summer day. She was elated to see him, and yet her nature did not allow her to take any initiative. She decided to walk to where he was standing alone at a kiosk drinking tea from a kulhad, Linens she noticed, white, so impractical for the season and yet the most beautiful apparition. Casually leaning on his parked bike, Arun in his white linens made her heart flutter like the paper boats in the puddles. Trying very hard to control the upsurge, Priya walked past Arun. "Hey there!" he said. She made a mental note to add his tenor to her list as she turned to face him. Trying to deny recognition and failing miserably, she managed a smile. "How about some tea?" was the question asked, Throwing caution to the wind, probably for the first time in her life, Priya replied,"How about a ride on your bike?"

The days that followed were a collage of unbridled hues. Validating the connection Arun had felt on the first day and Priya acknowledged now. The colours of their romance matching the oils in her mother's studio - vibrant, delicious and out of the world. There was not a place in town that did not witness the growing love between these two. They met each others parents. Arun and Priya's mom bonded from the day they met each other. They were both kindled spirits, souls that were barely attached to a physical presence almost bursting at the seams. Arun's parents welcomed Priya into their lives. They were happy that Arun had chosen such a bright and goal oriented girl for a partner. Things were blissful. There were moments when priya was enveloped in her dread of relationships, when a part of her could not trust Arun, when she felt she was headed towards disaster. These moments though far apart did emerge and the only solace was also provided by Arun. Talking to him at odd hours of the night calmed her, renewed her new born faith in men. Knowing that he was available for her 24*7, to meet her moods and assuage her fears strengthened Priya as nothing had ever done before. She emerged a stronger person, a calmer spirit. She said 'thank you' with a smile when an unknown person complimented her looks. She was changing before her own eyes.

Priya's mom's health had been failing slowly. the doctors did not come up with a diagnosis, but they were not giving much hope. The lady of course was undaunted. She carried on with a vigour that was getting harder to harness. Priya asked her one evening if she would be pleased to see Priya married. Not a woman to impose her desires on her daughter, she said marriage did not count, she knew that Priya was safe with Arun and that was all that mattered to her. Priya wanted her mother's active participation in her marriage. She wanted to treasure the moments in snaps and videos. She just had her mother for family. She spoke to Arun about this. they both knew that every passing day was taking a bit away from the woman Priya loved the most in this world. They decided on a date in the early winter months for the wedding.

The wedding date just a few months away, everyone got busy with the preparations. the days were getting shorter and Priya's mother's health was taking a serious down turn. Yet she shopped for her daughter's finery with the enthusiasm of a child. Priya had blind faith in her mother's choice, so she left her at it and followed her with a camera clicking away the emotions so clearly marked on that vibrant, fading face. The practical side of Priya knew that time was short, very soon she would have to say goodbye to the lady who had given her life. She found her strength in Arun to cope with this lurking tragedy. She hid her tears behind her camera as she shot the smiles of her mother.

Life prepares you for some tragedies and swirls the others on your face when you least expect it. It was an ordinary evening. Priya was reading a book to her mother, when the call came. The call was from a Bangalore hospital. They were asking for Priya. Arun was in Bangalore on an official trip. But the call was not making any sense. there was a lot of static on the line, and they kept repeating the word ICU so many times that Priya slammed the phone down with all her might. The call came again, immediately, the ring like impending doom rattled her nerves. She felt a wave of nausea take over. Unable to understand what was going on, Priya's mother took the call. After a few minutes on the phone She took Priya in her arms and quietly held her, as her daughter shook and retched uncontrollably. There was a bell ringing somewhere. Arun's parents were shown in by the maid. They had come to share the grief of losing their son with the two people who loved him equally. This was a loss no one was prepared for. The young man, so full of life, to be married shortly, the shoulder whom Priya had banked on to shed tears for the impending loss of her mother was suddenly unavailable, just like that, like a harsh stroke of black on the oils of her mother, destiny had played its wand again.

There were no words, no thoughts, no hope of saying anything any more. Leaving her mother and Arun's parents in the hall, Priya went up to her room. walking in a daze, calling his cell time and again only to hear 'cloud9' playing. She hallucinated that any moment the song would be cut short by the familiar tenor of Arun saying,"Hey Love, everything alright?" She felt her knees buckling under her, she felt that wave of nausea again and she fell in a heap on the floor of her room. She woke up with a splitting headache and sense of weightlessness. In a state of confusion and delirium, walking on the threshold of insanity, she found herself slitting her veins and the pool of blood that formed on the floor helped her focus on her present loss. As she saw the pool widen, her mind cleared. The house was quiet and dark, everything seemed unreasonably normal. She could feel the soft breath of the sleeping house, and in that moment of calm she could see Arun. Arun was her calm, the man she trusted, the man she loved beyond her own limits. Arun was there sitting at the edge of her bed as she lay in her own pool of blood. She wanted to reach him, she wanted him to take her in his arms and say its a bad dream, but none happened, there was a chasm between them that could not be bridged, and yet he was there just a hands length away. She was too tired to talk to him, to ask him what happened? to ask him if he was scared when his time came so unexpectedly for him. There were so many questions on her mind and she was so drained. She just kept focusing on that face, on that figure sitting on the edge of her bed. it was then that Arun spoke, or she thought he did. "I love you Priya, always focus on that. Never doubt it. This is not a breach of trust, I did not plan on leaving you. You must believe. I will meet you again on this side of the chasm when its time. Till then.. I will be in your smiles, though difficult they will come through. You have me Priya in life as well as in death."

There was an eerie calm in the light blue room. The monitors beeping at regular intervals, the crisp sheets that tucked her in on a high bed. She looked around to see a few nurses and her mother. She blinked and she heard her mother saying something faintly. She could not get the words, she could not make sense of anything, she drifted back to sleep. the next time she awoke, things were clearer. Arun's parents were by her bed. His father stroking her head, saying how glad he was that she is ok, that he couldn't bear to lose everything at his age. It struck her again, the finality of Arun's death, it was not a nightmare after all, it was real. She felt the stab of the pain as she looked at her wrist and saw the bandage, and then she remembered Arun as he was sitting on the edge of her bed. She remembered his words, she looked at his parents, who had aged considerably in the last couple of days, they looked frail and yet their concern was Priya. In those few minutes, she decided to live. To live till it was time to meet Arun again.

The recovery was smooth and in a couple of days Priya was back home. The recent string of incidents had taken their toll on her mother and she was in a stupor most of the time. The times when she seemed focused, Priya talked to her about life after death. She told her about how happy and at peace Arun looked. She held her mother's hands and told her how pain free and illuminated life is when the soul is free. Her mother knew all of this, and yet she listened in awe to her practical, distraught daughter. She tried to make sense of what she saw in her stupor, she saw Arun too, she saw his hand reaching out for her, and then again she saw Priya preparing her for the journey.

It was on a cold morning in January that Priya's mother breathed her last. Priya and Arun's parents were with her throughout. There were tears, but Priya was not inconsolable. She knew, she had to live till it was time for Arun to reach out for her again. The coming months saw her shift to Arun's parent's flat. She lived with them and it was a very natural progression for her. Seasons changed, and slowly Priya found her foothold. She adopted a baby girl and her canvas was coloured again by the pastels of a child's smile.

The End

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Death is never final...

An entry for the story competition started by ZB.

It was summer. The gulmohar tree just outside her window was laden with vibrant orange blossoms. the morning, shades brighter by their colour. Priya was late getting up today, so her usual luxury of a few minutes to herself with a hot cuppa had to be skipped. Hurriedly she dressed. The blossoms in mind, she chose an outfit in muted orange silk. She was aware of her beauty but not carried away by it. She knew that her long and soft tresses of mahogany made heads turn, she knew that her hazel eyes and earthy complexion never went unnoticed. Her figure was full and her gait naturally graceful. Yes, she was aware of it all, but it didn't really matter to her, she brushed away compliments at times casually, at times with a degree of annoyance.

Work was her life, she was focused, she was determined and more importantly, she was good at it. She had inherited her looks from her dad, but her indomitable spirit and focus was that of her mom. Her mom, who had brought her up single handedly, who had worked two shifts, so that Priya could never feel the lack of luxuries. Her mother was the face of joy, a life that lived to the brim, that looked sorrow in the eye and crushed it by the balls, a life that was inspiration to Priya. Her memories of her dad were like old photographs, dusty and sepia toned, the edges tattered, the smiles forgotten, they just existed in a part of her brain, like a lot of useless things that need to be thrown away someday, too insignificant.

Today she did not have the time to ponder on such facts, she quickly kissed her mom goodbye and almost ran to the lift. Her day had started on a hurried but good footing. The boss came to her desk and approved her plans for the coming segment. Not only that, she was also praised for her innovative ideas. With lingering traces of a smile she looked up to see a young and well dressed man standing in front of her. "Arun", he said his name was. Arun had some queries which were addressed and cleared by her in a quick and efficient manner, which was her trademark. In spite of herself, she noticed that Arun had a very well groomed appearance, he was quite tall, definitely above 6 ft, his hairstyle was neat and his face aquiline. A conservative style of dressing and a polite demeanor. Quite an eye candy she thought as she saw him leave.

Maybe it was the breezy summer day, the flush of youth, Cupid's arrow, or any such excuse, but Arun could not erase the face behind the counter from his mind. The aloof smile, the bright eyes, the soft halo of hair that lined her face, the way she spoke, her soft , well modulated voice, in sharp contrast to her brisk manner. Images floated in and out of his mind's eye like waves licking a meandering shoreline. At lunch time the next day he was again at Priya's office. He was not a man to beat around the bush, not a man of many words either, he was straight and he was implacable. Yes, she was indeed beautiful. Today she was in beige, the colour enhancing the depth of her eyes. There was no recognition in them however, he noticed. The face that had conquered his dreams had apparently not given him a second thought. It did not matter of course!! Everybody need not believe in love at first sight. Arun's steps did not falter as he walked towards her. There was neither flamboyance nor plea in his voice or words. The voice was confident, the words were clear. "I came here with a query yesterday, and I am back today to take you out for lunch and get better acquainted with you. I hope you have no pressing engagements". Priya had heard lots of pick up lines, but never such an honest one. She vaguely recollected the face, her eyes noticed once again the careful dressing and the neat hair. For an unknown reason she felt angry. She could not show temper, as his words did not beget that, neither could she act offended, because she was not. She was probably for the first time at a loss of the right thing to say. She saw no reason not to go for lunch with this man, he was handsome, he was well groomed and very polite. And yet..why should she? What for?..just because he asked? She had learnt to say her 'Nos' very early in life, she never minced words and drew very good boundaries. "No, I am sorry" said Priya, "I don't see any reason to go out with you, please excuse me, I have work to do." Polite, firm, and final. A slap would have shown better prospects thought Arun.

He could so clearly see what she could not, at least not yet! There were things that defied explanation and logic. There were things that were meant to be. Smiling to himself he turned to leave her office. Priya's evenings were made by her mother. The small studio in the ground floor of their building was her mother's haven, she made pottery, ceramic ware and quite a few oils, the place was like the woman..spirited, vibrant, and non fussy. Priya loved being there and see her mother work. It rejuvenated her. Today she kept the incident of Arun to herself, used to telling everything to her mom, she was surprised at her own reticence. There was something about the guy, something genuine that had the capacity to filter through her years of mistrust of the male species. Given a chance, he would sweep her off all her notions of love and betrayal. And that was what scared her.

"Somethings on your mind Priya..spill it out", said her mother still turned towards her canvas. "Nothing really Ma, just some guy who wanted to take me out for lunch." Priya didn't have to say it, her mother knew that lunch had not happened. Why was it so difficult for Priya to get into a relationship, this was not the first time she had been asked out, throughout her college years good boys had made a bee string for her, and each of them were nipped in the bud. They had talked about it in the past, and each time Priya had said the same line,"Mom if you can be on your own, why can't I?No guy can supplement my life in any way..I don't need a man." The discussions had always ended with those lines, but this time it seemed different. Maybe for the first time a man had actually found the crevice in the wall that Priya had built around her heart. Prying was not her nature so she went back to her strokes and Priya was left alone with the thoughts of the well dressed man with an easy smile and neat hair. A sudden urge to see that smile again coursed through her mind, she decided it was a good smile, she was shocked at her own thoughts and yet had seemingly no control over them, like winged creatures they took flight travelling from his face to his hair to his tie and she even remembered how neat his nails were. Lost in these thoughts, she left the studio and went up to her room. Had there been a mirror, Priya would be surprised to see herself blushing.

to be continued...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Don't I love Tags!!

Hey Guys,

I am Soumya, you can call me that's the name I prefer, it goes perfectly with my personality. I am here to do the tag that mom was supposed to take up ages ago. She was tagged by numerounity. But being the way she is, she suddenly started hyperventilating about tags and awards and how over whelmed she felt, and also how depressed. I don't think any of it is true though, I think she's just run out of ideas, or she's just plain lazy, or its a combination of both. But she can't possibly say that to me now, can she? So before she goes into one of her crabby moods and sulks the day off, I thought I would oblige and be the man, and help her out of her predicament. Well, its not all about her, I too was just waiting to lay my hands on her blog, and this tag sure looks interesting.

I love to travel, unlike her who's just too obviously rooted. I like TV a lot(you see I just have that and an hour on the computer..I am sure she would have told you all about how bad I am at reading, and sitting still, and all that). She has probably lived in more places than me, she keeps ranting about how uprooted she felt each time she moved, but I like to be on the move, I would love to go and live in all kinds of places, pssst my sister is just like her, too much of inertia in the both of them!! I have a huge list of favourite foods too, am not married so mamma's food is not the best for me yet!! I have a long long time to think about death, so that list is also a bit far fetched, but still would attempt. And movies wow!! There is a bunch of movies I can watch time and again.

So guys, it is my pleasure to be doing this tag on her behalf. And I can just about see the beginnings of a smile forming on her lips. The hug and the kiss will follow soon. She is nutty and has terrible mood swings, and all of that stuff that I don't understand.. but all in all shes one hell of a mom!!

Lets rock Guys!! here's my list of fours..

Four places you have lived

  1. Pune, India: I was born there in 2002. I started my life in that city, my first of everything is there, and am glad the house is still retained with all the firsts nicely recorded in a collage just above my bed. The first smile, the first steps, and a whole lot of such silly get the idea don't you?
  2. Muscat, Oman: I still remember the day I was hauled into that flight along with mom and sis. I was a pain and she didn't quite know what to do to make me stop howling. She was as it is, drained off with all that luggage and all the passport and visa formalities, and those tears that flowed endlessly as she left the Mumbai airport for an unknown shore. My sister was all quiet and trying her best to help out.. she is such a 'people pleaser'. I would have loved her a bit more had she joined me in that bawling session. It would have been so much more fun!! I started school here, and learnt to ride my bike here and I learnt to swim here and play the keyboard.. so lots of firsts here as well though no collage, they don't have the enthusiasm any more, I think.
  3. Calcutta, India: See guys, I am too young to have lived in more places, and what with my mom taking a stand of not moving anymore, so I have theoretically just lived in Pune and Muscat. But my winter vacations are always in Calcutta, so its in this list. I love this city, its dirty, and people scream, and there are cows and dogs on the road, there are men selling very interesting stuff in a nice sing song voice in the afternoons. When the entire house is napping, I love to stand on the window sill and call out to them, they even come and give me their stuff, a lollipop, an ice lolly, a toy car sometimes, they laugh a lot and they don't ask for money, I think they take it from my grandma later. I love the puddles and the fishes in the market, I love my walk with my grandfather to the temple every evening. I love the delicious snacks my granny makes, unlike my mom who keeps stuffing cornflakes into my mouth day in and day out. I love Calcutta, I am the king there.
  4. I think I will come back to this later in my life..
Four TV shows you love to watch
If you insist on four..I will comply, but there are so many shows that I love to watch, I love to switch channels the moment I see my sister enjoying a show, I love to listen to the songs of the latest films, I love to do the 'phatak' dance from the film kaminey, while channel V shows it..and I watch tom & Jerry when dad is home!I love to switch channels just for the heck of it, and especially if I know that its annoying my sister..
  1. Shinchan and Marukochan : My mom wants me to watch backyard science and MAD..phew!!let the guy have some fun!!
  2. Ben Ten series: I love the gadgets this guy has, I am so impressed!!
  3. Popeye the sailor : For his muscles and the pipe.
  4. Krishna and Bheema : Are my favourites too, as I can relate with the stories I have heard about them.
Four places you have been on vacation

WOW!! I love everything about vacations, including the flight, however long. The food served, the toys given, the videos played. I just love the flights. Vacations also mean no studies, they mean seeing a new place, they mean lots of ice creams and pizzas and stuff like that, basically lots of food which is not made by mom.

  1. London: I watched the lion King on broad way and was blown over by it. I will always remember London as the city of broad way, and also the wax museum with Shahrukh khan.
  2. Egypt: I loved our guide there, his name was Ramses and he was a lot of fun, he danced and sang and said many stories about the pharaohs and the Gods of Egypt. I wasn't thrilled by the ruins that seemed to move my mom so much, could not understand her fascination for the wrecked temples and pillars, but I loved the cruise over the Nile. I drove a horse carriage in Egypt and made sure that my sister clicked a picture while I was driving it!
  3. Dubai: I love this city. Its my kind of place, its active, its glamorous, its fun and its hep. fast cars and shiny buildings. The best being the water park called Wild wadi, I could spend a lot of days in that park. By the way, my sister liked the museum.. you are getting the point aren't you?
  4. Switzerland: Mom has ranted about the place here I can see, so wont go into railways and waste disposal..why does she think of stuff like that? When there is snowfall to talk about and cows with bells and gelatos and cakes, and breads that are so soft they melt in your mouth..there's lindt and there's spriglis, there's chocolate everywhere and lakes and swans and so much else, there's the exciting rope ways too and the pretty stores selling cute dolls. I love dolls period!!

Four of your favorite foods:

Whatever she might have told you, my mom is not a good cook. I love her very much but I would rather, she didn't go to the kitchen unless to make her coffee. We had a cook for a while, that was a great thing! But now he is not there and I am back to eating regular, boring my list of favourites is quite limitless. I will control and keep them to four here

  1. Burgers: I love McDonalds for their Maharaja Mac and the fries and the coke. Nothing can be more satiating.
  2. Ice creams and fudges: I love the scoops to be mixed and the toppings added right as per my choice and in front of me, I try and make it so wacky that my sister cannot share it with me, I get to have the entire thing by myself.
  3. Chicken: In all varieties, except the stew mom makes at home.
  4. Rice: I love a plate of hot steaming rice with a dollop of butter on it, a hard boiled egg and a potato all mushy. that's one dish my mom makes frequently, she does it because its so easy and quick. However she positions it as a treat for us. ok ok am not complaining, I love this dish!!

Four places you would rather be:

  1. I would rather be home than at school.
  2. I would rather be at a park than indoors.
  3. I would rather be in the pool than studying.
  4. I would rather be at my friend's house than in my singing class.
Thats the best I can think of right now.

Four movies you can see over and over again:

I love to watch all kinds of movies. I am not allowed to that's a different matter, but I try my best to watch as many as possible.

  1. All Govinda movies for his dance and his expressions.
  2. High School Musical all the parts, I admit I fought with my sister when she got that home from the library instead of a Pokemon that I was crying out for, but I caught on to the movie, I love the songs and I love the dresses and the girls. My friends don't know that I watch these movies, they tend to tease me saying I like girly stuff, and my sister at times when she is wicked, blackmails me about this. Nobody lets a poor guy be!!
  3. Spider man I love Parker. He is my hero.
  4. Harry Potter for the magic!!

Four things u hope to do before you die:

Thats a bit too far for me, but I have dreams, ever changing dreams..

  1. I want to own a bike!
  2. I want to fly a fighter plane!
  3. I want to walk the ramp as a designer!
  4. I want to own a red sports car!

I had a lot of fun doing this guys, hope you all have the patience to read through this. please keep the comments coming. Theyswing my mom's mood favourably. I might have ranted about her a bit.. but end of the day.. I just plain love her!

Will see you all again someday, maybe when mom's a bit tied up(read out of ideas)!! Rock on guys! Adieu!!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The joy of weekends!!

As a kid, Friday was the most awaited day for me. Two art periods, One Mass P.T, one singing period and the rest quickly finished. End of the day, end of the week! The ride home was a joyride in its truest sense. The afternoon was spent making soap bubbles with a straw or bouncing the lone ball in the veranda, all the while spinning tales to myself, incessant dreams, unlimited horizons. There was nothing better than a Friday evening, it brought home tickets to a movie! Saturday was about tidying up the room in the morning after a nice breakfast of luchi torkari(puri/bhaji) followed by a walk to the library at the end of the street for a few comics and a thick book. the afternoon was spent sprawled on the bed or floor with this book, till dad was free to sit with me and all my school work of the week gone by. Homework done, doubts cleared, sums solved and I was free to go out to play. There was Rupal of course and our bikes, there was a play ground and a few other kids, and we played everything from 'house-house ' to 'catch me if you can'. Sunday was market day, this was my mother's favourite day of the week. She loves the market even today, and I have never liked it one bit, even now grocery and vegetable shopping is a necessary evil for me. So as my mom bent over the fresh veggies and fish and all those sneeze inducing spices, Baba and I sat in the parking lot, a safe, sneeze free distance away from the frenzied bazaar, talking about nothing important. Those ordinary Sunday afternoons spent talking unnecessary things are the most vivid images in my mind till date. Sunday evening was about gearing up for the week to follow, it was about polishing the shoes and ironing the uniform, packing the bag and sleeping early. Computers and video games were unheard of and Television was not a passion yet. Weekends meant outdoors, they meant friends, they meant books , and they meant a lot of time with Baba. I did not comprehend the word 'boring' then.

Now, weekends mean sleeping in late. waking up with a bored look. fighting over the remote control, some precious thoughts from the daughter as to why we cant have two TVs, like most of her friends do. There is some lecture from me on sundry topics and on the idiot box, which is promptly ignored by the daughter and vehemently responded to by the son, who in turn talks about his deprived life. A boy his age without play station or even a gameboy, he goes on till he feels the point is drilled in till the far end of my brain. A book glued to her face my daughter manages to eat what is put in front of her. My boy, happy with the end of lecture and his full control over the remote, eats too. Attempts at conversation are groggily responded to in monosyllables or largely ignored. There is no outdoors apart from the club swimming pool for them. There are malls and indoor games, there is coke and popcorn. There are endless phone calls, there are sentences that begin and end with the word 'boring'. There is a lot of solitary activity like sketching or playing the keyboard, there is also the usual homework and the crafts and the projects that need to be done. There are a few cuddles too and a few laughs, there is the phone call from the grandparents, that till now is more heartfelt than customary. I am sure kids today enjoy their weekends too, just that the perception of enjoyment has changed.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Honour thy freedom!!

I have never been able to dance to any body's tune! I am a bad dancer (leave that apart), but even figuratively, I cant make myself dance to any body's tune. As a child when I was ordered to do something my mind plummeted me in the opposite direction. Its like a reflex.. The moment I am told to do something, I don't want to do it. I think most of us are like that. We hate being ordered around, bossed around. But not many of us realise the value of this freedom. I don't. I feel its my right. Do you?

India might have many ills, but its strongest virtue is that it lets us be just as we are. We praise other nations, we leave India and settle abroad, we joke about our leaders, we rally, we march, we don't have to send our boys to the army at the age of 21, they are free to go to the USA or wherever they please. We have free press, A Tianamen Square does not happen in India. That's freedom, I think. Weather or not we honour that freedom is a different story. Read on friends and feel as proud as I do of our beautiful homeland...

(A Repost)

I had no idea that there was a panel that judged National Anthems..but something like that does exist, and its in the headlines these days that the Indian National Anthem has been judged the best. As Indians we are all proud of this fact..but am sure we don't need a panel to tell this to us. I might not be an authority on National Anthems but I can say without a doubt in my mind that each time the first notes of Jana Gana Mana float through the air, every Indian's heart soars with love, respect, pride and bonding to the motherland, such is the beauty of the composition. As a child it was just a song that had to be sung at the beginning of each day in the school assembly..we, most of the times never got the words right..but the tune even then kept us glued to the spot.

Now as I see my children singing it along with their peers, I often wonder do they feel what we felt while we sang the anthem? Does their heart surge with pride at the ebb and tide of each note? Do they picture the beauty of each state as visualized by the poet? Can they see the lofty peaks, the beautiful rivers, the bounty of nature..or do they just see a land which has lost its way? Ravaged by internal wars and terrorism, ever changing heads of state, Corruption and immoral politics, underpaid masses, record breaking inflation rates, a land which even their parents have given up on!!

We travel abroad and take our kids to the Swiss Alps for the summers, The USA, and The UK fight with The South East Asian countries for enlisting themselves into our travel plans..but as parents we never somehow plan a trip to Kaziranga, or say the temples of the south, we even keep the Taj Mahal on the back burner..saying.."Ohh we can do that any day" But does that day ever come? Definitely our children are citizens of the world..they need exposure, they need to know the different cultures all around the globe..but before that don't they need to know their country better? why not take them to Gujarat and show them how Amul revolutionized the milk industry? Why don't we give them a chance of being proud of their heritage by showing them the robust farms of Punjab..Why don't we have the courage to take them to Kashmir and show them that this land is worth protecting with your life!! Each soldier standing in attention at the LOC definitely deserves a salute form each of our kids.

Left to the news channels all they will ever hear about our country is negativity, its up to us, their parents, to point out the beauty of a nation that's still too young to be given up on.. Let them feel the splendour of our nation, to be able to feel proud of the National Anthem, to be able to relate to it, to willingly stand up in salute to a song they sing everyday at the beginning of an assembly.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Menacing Malady

A well to do family. Parents and two kids. One boy and one girl. A metropolitan city. Good school. Swimming at a posh club each evening. Various other activities to keep fit and busy.

One morning the little girl complains of a slight fever with headache. The Mother worries about the ongoing swine flu cases. She is taken to the best paediatrician in town by late morning. The doctor offers cal pol and advices rest for a couple of days.

Mother: "That's it? No test for the flu? There are so many cases in town, it's spreading like wild fire, lets do the test, she has fever, she's just come back from a holiday, she has headache, lets do the test."

Doctor: "We don't have the kit! we don't have the medicines either, its available only with the ministry of health. Wait for a couple of days, let's see what symptoms she develops, as of now its just fever, don't worry, give her cal pol three times a day."

Mother: "Can I take her to the Ministry for a test then?"

Doctor: "No, they have their own system based on a flow chart that they are following, they won't test unless referred."

A helpless feeling. Stories of the 14 year old from Pune who succumbed to this disease causing havoc in the mind. What if we get late? How long to wait? why is there no way out, why is the testing kit not available to all clinics? Endless questions. The day goes by with the mild fever and headache staying. News comes in from various sources of a lot more cases being detected in the city, many from the same school, from the same school bus even. The helpline numbers for H1N1 cases are called, only to be met with the 'on hold' music.

The second day dawns. The fever is less. By afternoon the fever has completely gone, just the slight headache remains. The little girl is getting bored at home. She calls up her friends, who are also in the same boat, suffering from fever and body aches, unable to attend school, missing out on portions covered and also on the lively chit chats. The small boy keeps going to school, though reluctantly.

The third days also passes without fever. Parents are breathing easy now. The girl is studying at home, the little boy is angry that he doesn't have the flu and so he has to go to school, while his sister can be at home. A call from the school, the teacher informing that the little boy has high fever. He needs to be collected from the school immediately. Panic rises, the throat is dry. A rush to the school, there are other similar parents collecting their wards who are red with fever. The little boy smiling mischievously through his bloodshot eyes. The mother hugs him to her and carries him to the clinic.

Mother: "Please refer this case, the fever is so high, he is too small to talk about other symptoms."

Doctor: "Lets see how he responds to these medicines, a lot of ordinary flu cases also happening, people are panicking unnecessarily. Bring him back to me after 36 hours, he should be fine by then. Its the heat, temperatures are soaring. How is his sister?"

Mother: "She does not have fever since the last 2 days, just a slight headache."

Doctor: "OK"

The little boy is brought home. He is asleep by the time he reaches home. The daughter has in the meantime vomited two times. She complains of stomach cramps and slight breathlessness. There is no support of relatives, just friends to count on... The boy is left home in the supervision of a neighbour, while the daughter is again rushed to the clinic.

Mother: "Now what? are we supposed to wait till she dies for the test? or can we do it now?"

Doctor: "She is showing the symptoms, don't worry, let me call up the ministry"

The Ministry of health takes long to reach. A thousand forms follow. the little boy is also brought to get tested. Queues and red tape make the wait frustrating to say the least. Numerous parents with kids in tow, waiting for the test. Money might get the best doctors, but in this case its proving so useless. Nothing seems to be working. the officials chat, smile, crack jokes, they have their tea, they have their masks, while the family waits... and waits some more, with children who are burning with fever.

Finally the turn comes, both the kids get tested, both the results are positive. The appointment has to be made with the doctor in the ministry who alone has the medicine that can cure the kids. The mother is on the verge of tears, the father is silent. the kids still burning. The appointment is for later that evening, masks are provided for the parents and the kids. The little girl has rashes now and is slightly delusional, the little boy making friends with other boys, unmindful of the seriousness.

They say its late for the little girl, she cannot be taken home. She has to be admitted to the ICU. How late? why late? we came to the doctor the first day itself? what now? The parents mind get tizzy with fear and worry, the despair is too much to bear. the little girl is being taken to the ICU, the father is strong no more, he breaks down and starts abusing the authorities, the mother just cries, the little boy is scared into silence.

Its been two days now. The little girl is still in the ICU. The little boy recovering with medicines at home. he misses his sister and wishes to go to school.

Again, a fiction but based on the frustrating situation that I along with many parents are facing to get their kids tested in private clinics for Swine Flu. Why is the kit not available with our regular doctors? Its said its treatable when medicines start within 48 hours, then why the wait?