Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Annoyance tag!!

This is a tag that I am picking up from blog buddy Zillionbig. Ten things that annoy me. A few posts ago I had blabbered about not being able to express anger, so it took me a while to pep myself up to write this tag, after all anger and annoyance are entirely two different things right? Here goes..

  1. Persistent door bell in the morning. I am not at all a morning person. I like to go back to sleep immediately after I have seen the kids off to school, the hubby usually sees himself out. The morning tiffins and backpacks are organised in a zombie like state by me and the kids know that this is not the time to talk to mamma, they just get on with their acts and my younger one even says a sweet little ,"go back to sleep mamma" from his school bus. So after the house is empty and tranquil and I am peacefully dozing off for another couple of hours, I get really annoyed if the bell or the land phone rings.
  2. Coffee not made as per my taste. I like my coffee really bitter and dark. The first thing I have after I get up is that mug of stimulant. As long as I am at home and making my own coffee the cause for annoyance does not arise, but I get annoyed when I am offered a mug of sweetened milk with a sprinkling of coffee grains by certain hosts. Its really annoying, this is a drink I relish and it just doesn't go down my throat if made milky and sweet. So usually even when I am visiting, I make my own coffee, courtesies be damned!!
  3. Clutter. I hate clutter in my house. All the rooms have to be tidy and things that are being used have to be put back to their original places. This is a standing rule. Anyone disobeying this annoys me. I don't mind kids playing and building tents with blankets on the bedroom floor, and taking out all the barbies and making them ramp walk to whistles and claps. But when time's up, time is really up and they know the drill. Things have to get back to their places pronto!!
  4. Sweaty shirts hanging on doors. This has been a long cause of tiffs between me and my husband. I have till date not been able to change his habit of coming back from work and hanging his shirt on the bedroom door. I fail to understand the logic behind this annoying act. It drives me insane to say the least. There is a series of pegs that have been specially drilled in the work area for this very purpose, but the bedroom door still remains the hot favourite.
  5. Wet bathroom floors. I am finicky about bathrooms, be it my house or a hotel or anywhere else, I insist on a neat and tidy bathroom. My kids have this trait too, so they don't have to be told to tidy up the bathroom after they have used it. Doesn't take a lot. But my insistence on neat and clean toilets, annoys my husband when we are travelling. "How much time in the day are you planning to spend in there? The location of the hotel is important, not the toilet tiles for Gods sake,." But I silently stand my ground and refuse to use a washroom that's not clean and dry.
  6. No books. Being in a situation where I have no books at my disposal to read. Not that I read everyday, but its such a bliss to have a few unread books on my night stand. I feel very uncomfortable if this is not the case.

Beyond the above points there are certain traits that I find annoying in general. I am sure I have many traits that others find extremely annoying, but am not apologising here for those, they can blog it if they want.

  1. Selfish and petty behaviour. I have seen water being mixed into milk and offered to the elderly. This has ashamed me like nothing else. I have felt guilty of being a mute witness.
  2. Forgetting the roots. So many people leave their home lands in search of a livelihood, I have too. But my heart still beats for India. NR Is who change their names, as well as accents, who cannot drink anything but sparkling mineral water on their trips back home, who complain about the lousy weather and the stinking poverty annoy me.
  3. Falling in love at the drop of a hat. Every generation has such people. Its just not about today's youth. Love is possibly an ego satisfying trip for them, or they have no clue as to the meaning of.."love is not altered when it alterations find..". I have never tried to understand their psychology, they have just annoyed me with their tales of misplaced triumphs.
  4. Inability to accept gifts with pleasure. Why do these people grow up so fast? Why cannot they understand there is a pleasure in giving gifts. Why become so rigid and say no to gifts which are an expression of love? Have never understood and will never try to.

That was it folks, a mixed bag. I pass on this tag to:

Ramesh for your impressive wit

Kishore for your way with words that impress me every time

Balachandran for your maturity and experience

Amrit for your stroke of genius

Amith for the depth of your feelings

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Slice of heaven...

There is a kind of magic in the Bangla word 'mamabari' (the house of maternal grandparents). For me they conjure up images of a bygone era, filled with fun and food.

Every year during the summer holidays, I took the train from wherever I stayed to Calcutta (which was the penance part), and then from there, another overnight train took me to my 'mamabari' in Patna.

As the train slowly rumbled towards Patna Junction, I would try hard to screen the platform for the familiar figure of either one of my three mamas(maternal uncles). Being the eldest grandchild and for quite a long time, the sole grandchild of that family, I was a prized possession. Those were days of transistors and cricket commentary, and I would soon spot my mama standing with a transistor to the ear, looking at the compartment numbers passing by. Travel was by ordinary sleeper class, and hence the open window would glee fully carry my shout to him and everybody else on the platform. "Mama moni.. we are here, come on we are here, come fast, get us.."

My excitement could barely be with held as my mama walked in to the compartment and took me up in his lap, while the coolie handled the luggage and my mom asked after the well being of my grandparents. My days of paradise always thus began. Days where I was to rule, where everything would revolve around me. For every child such a place of pure indulgence is a must and I was extremely lucky to have it.

The house with its courtyard and gardens, carefully nurtured by my dadu(Grandfather), the guava tree that saw me on its branches for many an idyllic afternoon, the kitchen cabinet with its net door, hoards of pickles and chutneys, specially made by Didima(Grandma), the beds that I jumped on, the cats that I befriended , were all symbols of love and being wanted. That house and everybody there made me come alive with joy each summer holiday.

Mornings. I would sit in front of my dadu's bicycle and go shopping for the days fish and vegetables. It felt great to be asked, "what fish would you like to have for lunch today?" On return from the market, I would sit on Dadu's lap and would have a breakfast of luchi torkari(puris/Indian bread and sabji/vegetable) followed by kalojaam(Gulabjamun/Indian sweet). Pure bliss. More so because mom was always busy with my mashis(maternal aunts)and hence she did not scrutinize my plate at any of the meal times. Didima always came with a spoonful of sugar by the time I had reached my last luchi, the timing was always right, I wonder now how she managed?

Till the time for my bath I was free to do as I please. Most days I would play with my youngest mama who was still in high school then. Games included carrom, ludo, marbles and scrabble. This was followed by Didima coming to get me for my bath. The most exciting part of the day - as there was not just one but a series of bathrooms and all outside the main house. The bathrooms and the toilets stood in a line at the backyard of the house. Sitting on a pidi(a flat low stool), in the sun, I would be rubbed with oil and my hair would be brushed off its tangles. This time of the day, when I had my Didima to me was a precious time. I can still see her like she was then. So beautiful in her white and red bordered saree, her head always covered, her eyes always full of love and the the enchanting smell of pan and zarda that surrounded her. She always had a story on her lips.

The Lunch was always a lavish affair. I along with my Dadu and my three mamas sat at the dining table in the kitchen. I still remember in every detail, how the food was served. Big shining plates would be laid in front of us, with a perfect mound of rice very neatly placed. There would be a little ghee and always a bit of crunchy 'neem begun'( a bitter appetizer). This was followed by a dal and a bhaja(some vegetable, usually poatato, or bringal deep fried), and then the torkari(vegetable cooked in a gravy) and the maach(fish), ending with chatni(chutney) and doi(youghurt). Those were days when nobody seemed concerned about heart problems and weight gain. The amount of physical activity that was done ensured a fit and healthy body.

An image that I cherish even today, is that of sleeping with my Didima on her four poster bed, under a wheezing ceiling fan. She, telling me mythological stories and her fingers caressing my hair and soothing me to a peaceful sleep. The days, now are so fraught with unnecessary tensions and complexities that most nights I lie awake for no particular reason, feeling tired and drained and yet devoid of slumber, it is at such times, that I go to my childhood days on that bed with my Didima, and the memory of that simple room, so full of warmth and love, lulls me to sleep.

The house that once was so full of fun and joy, has over the years lost its occupants one by one to the greater world. My mamas are now settled in different cities in and outside India, with grown up kids of their own. My mashis, likewise have gone away with their husbands. Dadu has long back left us on his solitary journey. The only person who remains as the custodian of my childhood paradise is my Didima. She is bent with age and can hardly see properly, but the unmistakable beauty and love in those eyes still bring a sense of peace to me like nothing else can.

We all need a disciplined upbringing to fit in society, But the indulgence of a mamabari is what makes us each a king!!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Personal demons..

A lot of things happened over the last two weeks. Shiney Ahuja (My personal Greek God) raped his maid(I cannot get over this, really!!). India could not even enter the T20 semis. Obama swatted a fly. A lot of people, I personally know, were retrenched in Muscat. Summer vacations officially started in schools. And amidst all this fervent activity, I woke up one morning to find a painful lump in my body. Needless to say all the other attention grabbing headlines just dwindled like an inward spiral through my mind and the lump occupied pride of place.

It was too early to speak out. Early, because I had yet to consult my personal genii.."Google" regarding this, and only then, armoured with a diagnosis as well as a prognosis would I open my mouth. So gently feeling the lump, and taking deep breaths to help evade the panic attacks, I made the morning breakfast.

As soon as I had my escape, I went to the computer, got to the Google screen and typed in as key words - " lump, painful, red" within a fraction of a second, the screen was flooded with sites talking about various cancers. There were listings on cysts and abscesses too, but I gave no importance to those. Cancer is an obsessive word for me and this time I actually had a lump to show for all my fears. further detailed keywords gave further remorseless verdicts.

My condition cannot be explained in words. It will suffice to say that I started hyperventilating. Every few minutes I went to the mirror to check out further aggravation, came back to google some more, went completely into hibernation with the kid's albums and shed a few lonely tears as well. The one friend with whom I could have talked about it was out of town and my cousin was fighting her own demons.

Not a bite went down my throat. Evening saw me headed towards my doctor's chambers. Hubby alongside, absolutely insignificant. What did he know of cancer? All his family ever had was high cholesterol! My family was a different story altogether, name a cancer and we got it!! Finally my name was called and the pleasant smile on the doctor's face was not returned by me. Did not even wish her a good evening. Just plonked myself in front of her and rattled it all. Interspersing every few words with the word Cancer. My voice breaking, my palms sweaty and my mind dizzy with anxiety.

The doctor examined me and smiled. "Its nothing to worry about," she said. "Its just a sub cutaneous abscess". Saying this she patted me and prescribed antibiotics for a week. My husband immediately gave me a look that was supposed to make me feel guilty of having dragged him to the clinic from the all important office, just for a prescription of antibiotics. I returned the look with a smile that said.. nothings been cured yet!!

I did take the antibiotics, researched on abscesses till the wee hours of the dawn, tried to make a connection between cancer and abscess. The stress levels continued to soar, as the antibiotics failed to show any effect on the lump. It grew and the pain increased and a lot of other things including my psyche got hampered.

Four days passed and I was again at the clinic, with a morbid thud in my chest and a reeling brain, I entered the doctor's chamber and insisted on a scan. Again was met by an indulgent smile and another examination. "It just needs to be incised and drained, the antibiotics are not working , so better get it incised, I will refer a surgeon." I almost choked saying, "Please don't hide from me, tell me , it is cancer isn't it?" " No it isn't try not to fret ok." smiled the doctor. The surgeon was referred. The hubby opened his cell to see available dates, I said, "Today, I don't care if the president of the company sacks you for not being available, I have to get it done today." He knew, further discussion was pointless.

Evening came and I was in front of the surgeon, insisting on not going back until the lump was out. Things happened at a fairly fast rate from then, the husband tinkering with his cell, the kids asking whether I will be back alive, the nurses carrying out regulatory tests, the anaesthesist asking for allergies and false tooth. I, grabbing hold of the surgeon and insisting on a biopsy. The surgeon just smiling.

Finally at 9:00 pm I was in the OT. Before passing out the last conversation I had was about cancer and with the anaesthesist. When I regained my sense, I saw just about 15 minutes had passed, and I was drowsy as hell and was being shifted from a stretcher to a bed in the recovery room. The surgeon called my name and the only thing I could say was, "Do a biopsy!"

At 12:30 am that night I came back home. Son was offering to be a very good boy, the daughter was asking whether it hurt, I was being fed chips by one and muffins by the other. My heart was deliriously happy. For the moment I was cured of my nightmare, For the moment I was healthy and devoid of cancer, It was just an abscess after all. The dressings continued and the reports came in giving me a clean chit. Both me and my cousin had won our demons for the time being. we breathed easy till another day when another demon strikes. We got back to joking at our gene pool, and we got back to blogging. We got back to life!!

I know, many of you might not be able to empathise with this write up. But believe me, if the gene pool is the kind I have, fear becomes second nature!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How do you express ANGER??

"Don't you get angry?" Many a times I have been asked this by many a people I have known. Of course I get angry, I mean who doesn't? I am sure even Shri Shri Ravi Shankar of AoL does get angry sometimes. In my case what confounds people is my lack of expression. I cannot for God knows what dumbfounded reason express my anger. I cannot shout or yell or scream or rant, rave, hit..nothing. All I can do is clam up!

At times I would so like to go and have a good fight. A proper battle of words where all the venom is spewed out. But nothing of that sort happens. What happens is withdrawal from the issue. If a thing or action is making me angry, I can easily withdraw from that place or situation. If the source of anger is closer home, then I just silently stand my ground. Do my daily grind and retire with a somewhat heavy and cluttered heart. But come what may I cannot express my anger in words. Neither can I fight. Hubby feels like he is fighting with a wall, my cousin feels its a 'single child syndrome'. my mom says, "shes the silent kinds", my kids just love this part of me and I just keep trying to put my anger into proper words!!

Anger is a strange emotion for me, I cannot hold on to it for more than a few hours at the most. It just melts away. At times when provoked into a fight, I cannot remember the points that would give me the upper hand, so I stall for thoughts and words and its a miserable situation. A vivid imagination makes me see myself penning my anger and handing out chits in response to a verbal duel..that makes me laugh and I forget the anger.Yes, very strange but very true.

Then again I think what if I had a similar problem expressing my joy, my love, my praise. what then? What if I was inhibited in saying I love you? What if I stalled for words when i had to cheer up my closest friend? and had to write chits to comfort my kids? what then? Its just be it!! I can deal with that.

Would like to know though what kind of anger expressions do you all have?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The hands that rise in prayer..

A few months back we got a new neighbour. A Syrian couple with two cute boys. They settled down quietly in the flat adjoining ours. The kids of the apartment did try to pull the new boys in to their games, but did not succeed. The boys always smiled but refused to play, remaining watchful and distant. Kids being what they are soon forgot about the two boys who always held their beautiful mother's hands and stood watching the games.

I, being a bit introverted, in person, did not reach out either. I stood at times talking and laughing with the other moms, watching the boys at their games, and she stood as well. So beautiful, so regal, so distant, a few feet away from me. Neither taking the initial step to bridge the gap.

One particular evening I decided to go ahead and talk to her. While we stood in our regular group and chatted, I saw her come quietly and take her usual place in the compound of the apartment, her two boys by her side. I excused myself from my group and went to her. Her beauty, that so far I had admired only from a distance, made me gasp. I am used to the Arabian beauties, but this lady had an unmistakable aura about her. We shook hands and introduced our selves. She politely introduced her boys to me. Beyond that she did not speak nor enquire about anything. I welcomed her to come and join the group telling her that her English was perfect and she would not face a communication problem. It was then that she looked at me with eyes that spelt a million sorrows. Those limpid pools of grey blue eyes seemed to communicate poignancy that did not require any language skill to be understood.

I literally took a step back, Looked at her again. She was still there. But now she was composed and regal once again. The momentary lift of her veil had come down to hide her sorrows from probing eyes. I did not probe further. I came back to my place and did a lot of trivial things, but all through the evening her eyes stayed with me.

Later that night the watchman of our apartment came to collect his wages. On opening the door to him, he said," Madam your neighbour is beating his wife again. Can you hear her cry? See there, again..can you hear him shout?" From the hallway of the apartment the anguished cries for mercy came distinctly to my ears, and so did the sounds of harsh, loud and painful blows. The pain in those eyes, the defeat of spirit and the bonded existence became clear to me. At that moment I desperately wanted to reach out to her, and in that same moment I also realised her staunch need for privacy. The thin veil of pride that she wore each evening would come crumbling down, by my intervention. I let her pride remain, and closed my door. I looked at my husband and kids, and felt the anguish in the adjacent house separated by a lone wall and a society that permits a man to beat his woman without shame, without guilt and without repentance. The hands that rise in prayer 5 times each day also rise to beat another human being, a mother, a wife.

I also realised, maybe for the first time, the sheer physical power a man has, and felt thankful that the men I know have never been tempted to use it in this way.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The city that flows in my veins..

A city I feared as a child. hated as a teenager, and understood as an adult.

Having always lived in small and peaceful cities, Calcutta was a nightmare to me. My fears gripped me as soon as the train pulled into Howrah station. It felt as if the hungry, desperate maddening rush at the platforms would gulp me down and I would choke and drown in its boiling belly. I clung to my mother's Saree for dear life till we were inside a taxi. Even then, I dared not look outside the window. My parents pointed out various sights of the city to me, but all I did was just slide down the seat slowly. The loud voices of the people all around, the beggars, the barely clothed mad woman hitting on our taxi window smiling a toothless, sinister smile, the street fights, the long rallies with men and women shouting slogans and waving red flags were too much for me. We usually went to Calcutta for 15 days in the summer months and then we would head to Patna where my maternal grandparents lived.

Those 15 days seemed like eternity to me. More so because the moment we set foot in this city, Baba was transformed. I almost became secondary to him. He was always going somewhere or the other. He was rejuvenated here. I guess I also saw Calcutta as my competitor. Not that he did not ask me to go along with him, but I was too scared to travel in that city and preferred to remain at home. I counted days when we would catch the train to Patna. I sulked and clammed up and remained an unfriendly and snobbish little girl to my relatives in that city.

Whether I liked Calcutta or not, did not matter at all, as every year the trips continued. By the time I reached my teens, I got used to the mobs at the stations and on the roads. I also got used to the dirt and the stark poverty. I resented the narrow lanes which had me, a rickshaw, a diseased dog and a skinny cat and at times even a cow together at one single point in time, with just me being the uncomfortable one. I walked the roads worrying that a running bus would at any moment spray the immensely dirty sewerage water, that had logged the streets onto me. My skin crawled each time a beggar sitting on the footpath would touch me and ask for food or money. I could never shoo them away, neither offer them anything, but the faces haunted me at nights.

The city dwarfed me. I remained an outsider who marked each day on the calender waiting for the 15 days to get over. I often heard Baba say, "you can't escape loving this city, someday you will understand its spirit, that day you will never be able to say no to Calcutta. This city lives, it has a life." I just about managed to bear the comment and hurriedly got into my train for Patna. leaving him behind in the city of his rejuvenation. As the train moved out slowly, his wave would be my focal point and I would deliberately make myself feel that the horrendous and bad mannered crowd of Calcutta was enveloping my Baba and taking him away. Even then I knew it was a silly thing for me to think, but such was the hatred for the city.

As fate would have it, as an adult, I had to come and live in this very city. There was no Baba now, but his love for the city made me take my first step towards getting to understand it. I had just started my career. The office and the home being on either ends of the city, ensured that I travel the entire length of this city twice everyday. The crowded buses gave me anxiety attacks to begin with, and yet my ears perked up at the wit of the people. The trademark one liners and repartees of the bangali were scattered like gems every where. Till then I had thought wit belonged to the elite. As days passed, warmth was added to the wit. I came across the genuine warmth that this city has. The only city probably in our country that has time to stop and give a detailed direction route to a complete stranger, that too on a scrap of paper. The only city where a phuchka walah will look at a kid and ask if she would like to take home some phuchkas for her old grandma. who probably is too old to come all the way, adding that he would give it for free. the city with its theaters and book shops was something I was discovering for the first time.

The second hand bookstores that abound here were my paradise. At any given excuse, I would head for them. Spending hours here and being offered cha(tea) and a stool to sit so that i can peacefully browse through their treasure. Not only this, the stall owners were extremely knowledgeable about their products and were happy to discuss authors and books at length without even once giving the impression that I needed to make a purchase. It was always a smiling "come again" that they said as I left their stall.

The Red road with its beautiful greens and the majestic Victoria Memorial soothed the tiredness out of my eyes. The old world charm of The Esplanade and the Chowringee made me reluctantly fall in love with the city. Park street with its lights and happy bustling people made me proud I belonged here. The various homes of Mother Teresa humbled me. The city of trams and the first metro, the city of cobbled streets and horse mounted traffic police, the city that napped in the afternoons and had about 3 bandhs each month, the city with dreams washed in the Ganges and the city of indefatigable spirit. I still hated the station, but had started loving the rest. This was a city that would never leave me alone, it would walk towards me and poke me, nudge me, share with me its troubles and encourage me to do the same. This city can never be indifferent, and neither could I.

I just took a tiny step towards it and Calcutta in turn embraced me for life!!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Through my eyes..

He was a lot of things to a lot of people. To me he was Baba. Never could call him anything else. My earliest memories of him are those of him taking me to school everyday. Hand in hand we went admiring flowers and turning each cloud into a particular character. The walk to the school always felt too short.

As I grew up, he was my playmate, my riding horse, my mannequin, my patient, my student, my confidant. My childhood days were filled to the brim by his jokes and by his songs.

As an adolescent, I shared his dreams. His vivid imagery brought many an illusive and abstract notion to perfect form. His laughter was my joy. He accepted my limited talent in the subject of his choice- Mathematics. I never realised for a very long time that as my private tutor, I had the most sought after professor of Engineering at one of the most reputed colleges of our country. He always came down to my level and made maths tolerable for me.

His romanticism, love of books and people, craze for films, adda, unbelievably child like joy at spooking me and my cousins in the dark, passion for football and rabindrasangeet, his story telling, his enthusiastic praise, all find an echo in me today. So does his contentment and peace.

An ambulance on the roads blaring away always scared me stiff, till the day he said ,"An ambulance takes the critical to the hospital in a jiffy so that they can get well and return home". My perspective towards the white van changed that day. I learnt, amongst a lot of things the pleasure of laughing with others rather than at others from him. I also learnt how to hide silly tears while watching a tearjerker and mushy Hindi film!! Yes, the trick was simple, to get out of the room just a few seconds before the film ended, I do it every time, works like magic!!

I loved him and everything associated with him. But it was short lived, maybe even if I had a complete life time it would still be short. I also understand that for every child, the pain of losing a parent is heart wrenching. I saw the suffering till it was unbearable. Eventually I prayed for his release, I let him go to a cloud we had booked for him. 16 years have passed today since I bid farewell, and yet the oozing wound stays just below the skin.

Life has moved on, and has brought many a pleasure in its course. But in every moment of utter joy, I miss his presence. I wish he had seen my kids, I wish he had played with them. Today as my kids joined their hands in silent prayer before his picture, I believed it reached the solitary cloud that still looks out for me over the desert sky.