Friday, May 27, 2016

Nasty Monday!

Shaken to the bone by phone alarm’s raucuous call
I pull out my hand languidly from the soft blanket
Meaning to throw the demon fatally against the wall
My brain promptly wakes up-“Don’t do it, you’ll regret”

Sleepily pour paste on my husband’s toothbrush
Drag my reluctant somnolent bones to the shower
Why does breezy weekend always pass me in a rush?
And leave me servile to the mighty Monday’s power?

Grab my coffee and my seemingly rock-filled purse
Shoot out the door straight like a hustled bumblebee
Lest I yield and kneel down to the rapidly growing urge
of curling up in the warm bed and sleeping till three!

As I amble up the millions of steps to my floor at work
An uneasy feeling fills me, a dull ache starting in my head
My right shoulder feels unusually light and berserk
No! I had left my darned laptop plugged in by my bed!

Head hung low; I enter my boss’s office to confess
“Ah! A laptop is like an appendage”, he says no more
Evil Monday continues to dig and feed on my mess
And with stinging indignation, I start the drive home.

I find the lazy laptop dozing serenely by my bed
“Meeting moved to eleven”, beeps my boss’s text
I look with lust at the pillow sunken to fit my head
And head back to work, the very moment next!!

‘This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The touch of transformation

Scribbled hurriedly and got selected! 

Prerna is the iconic businesswoman of today. Having graduated five years ago from IIM Ahmedabad, she is the Head Marketing –Asia Pacific for a monumental multinational company, which has tens of prestigious brands under its umbrella. She is a young achiever and a role model for young ambitious girls in the country. She is also interviewed and quoted in leading magazines and journals.

Prerna is a feminist and a staunch protagonist of women rights and gender equality. In many interviews, she urged girls to never give up education and to never compromise between career and marriage. Three years ago she had married Rohan, a handsome, ambitious Marketing Director she met at a conference in London.She had just fallen for Rohan, who had virtually swept her off her feet by his intellect and charm. The prudent and pragmatic Prerna was head over heels in love and agreed to marry Rohan soon as he proposed. But they had not thought about having children and raising a family together yet. They were both immensely busy in their highflying meetings and business commitments.

She did not pay attention for a month when she missed her period and the month after, jaws of fear gripped her tight. This could not be happening to her! Rohan was out travelling so she went and saw the doctor and to her dismay, her worst dreams took the shape of reality and stood in front of her like an invincible demon. Yes, she was pregnant! Someone just pulled the ground from under her feet and she frantically called Rohan and started blaming him for the predicament she was in. Rohan tried to console her that together they could work a way out.

Both of them discussed when Rohan was back and agreed to get the fetus aborted before it was too late. There was absolutely no place and time for a baby in their bustled lives. Then they sought opinions from their parents and both their parents were overjoyed at the news of a grandchild. They offered to take care of the baby while Rohan and Prerna could tend to their careers. After much contemplation, Prerna decided to carry forward her pregnancy.

Everybody said she would feel maternal once the baby started kicking, but she never did. She was annoyed and embarrassed that her peers in meetings would see the kicks. She blamed Rohan when bouts of nausea hit her. She canceled international travel towards the last trimester and worried about what repercussions that would have on her career. She could not wait for the baby to emerge and hand it over to her mother, so she could head back to work.

Eventually, nine months passed and one morning, Prerna went into labor. Each contraction lacerated and stabbed her and she admonished herself aloud for letting herself in this pathetic condition and not opting to terminate the pregnancy. After eight long hours of excruciating pain and exhaustion, she heard the baby cry and heard someone say, “It’s a girl”. She saw the baby’s bloodied face, puckered and distorted with crying as the nurse took her out. She was too exhausted to think and just shut her eyes in relief that the ordeal had passed.

When she woke up, the nurse handed Prerna her daughter—a bundle of pink in a matching soft blanket. Prerna lifted the tiny face to her face and the baby took out her tongue to touch Prerna’ s cheek. That wet touch of the tiny feather-like tongue sent electricity down Prerna’s spine and she shook as if touched by a naked high voltage wire. Before she knew, unbridled tears started rolling down her cheeks as if a dam was let open. A whirlpool of conferences, foreign delegates and brochures swam before her eyes as unfamiliar entities .All her life’s achievements floated in front of her in a surreal blur as she held her daughter in front of her eyes. That moment she felt that her unmoored boat had found its anchor and it lay in the innocent black eyes of this little angel—her daughter.

That first touch of her daughter transformed the relentless and competitive businesswoman to a mother, as gentle as spring wind and as fierce as a lioness. She was ready to give up the world and herself for this little being. She was ready to cross fires, traverse deserts and climb mountains to nurture and raise her child. All her bitterness, regret and exhaustion of nine months melted away and left the space for love to fill—the love which started with the touch, reached each nerve and cell of her body and which she felt engulfing her. She was lost in the ocean of her own love as she pressed the bundle to her chest.

She was changed forever. And she thanked the Almighty profusely for this unique gift of love.   

‘This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Love you,ma

I just know my cords will quiver
Eyes flood with gratitude
Voice swell heavy with tears
Simply futile to say ‘I love you’

You would smell the speck
Hear the slightest waver
Feel the pulse in my neck
The twinge in my demeanor

And you would start the crusade
Negotiate, barter with the creator
Praying and fasting long, I’m afraid
to bring back the smile of your daughter.

So, write her a sonnet, my heart whispers

And meekly comply my servile fingers.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Sun shines on the righteous

Sun shines on the righteous,
after taking a long pause,
having spent its warmth,
on the wicked and the infamous.

The wind wiped away their dwelling
as they prayed at the church.
And abodes of those didn’t flutter,
who spent the night gambling.

The children of the honest do perish,
starving for stale bread and water.
The tables of those who cut throats are laden
with cakes and plums they do not cherish.

Bent by the pain, the pure one often ponders
Should I detour my path some?
But the righteous soul once again kneels down in prayer-
Waiting for the sun to do its wonders.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Under the golden arches

“Mom, can we do a drive thru at MacDonald’s? I am super hungry!”, urged Ishaan when I was driving him for his Taekwondo class Thursday evening.

Panic invaded me,my fingers froze on the steering for a fraction of a second, I took a deep breath and replied-“But I have never done that, not sure I can do it!”

“What’s the big deal mom, just drive up the microphone and I will place the order”, he said in the final tone of someone having resolved a conflict.

“What do you mean? I can talk, it’s not about speaking”, I retorted with a hint of the budding indignation inside me.

So, Ishaan thinks I have trouble communicating in English? Maybe, somewhere in his mind is etched the image of the hapless immigrant mom from India (in the movie “English Vinglish’) who struggles to order a coffee at Starbucks and ends up being scorned at and insulted by the Starbucks staff. He corrects my pronunciations at times and I seek his help comprehending some slangs that I have never been exposed to but that does that justify his finding congruence between the English-Vinglish mom and me.

Anyways, my hesitation did not stem for my language deficiency but from my diminutive physical dimensions. When you are the size of a hobbit living in a land of regulars, you have to think about a lot of things! I have a sprawling heart but my arms fail to measure up to it. What if my arms don’t meet the hands of the generous person doling out the lucrative food packages and sugar-high drinks? What if I drive into the wondrous wall with windows that quickly quell hunger while trying to extend my arms? Then I would have to fish out my insurance card from the bundle of ancient, redundant ones and report the damage and have to get the car fixed after swallowing the magnanimous lecture by the husband.

Startlingly awakened from the bitter ordeal, I took the path of sermon-sulk, which we practice adeptly many times a day. I sermonize about healthy habits and healthy eating. He sulks.Eventually after a few curve balls from my pubescent son, I conceded to his right to be spoiled as a single child. Somewhere in an obscure alley in my brain, I have this thought that I have deprived him of a sibling, so I need to make up for that!

With all my courage, I decided to take on the formidable golden arches that cave for none. I approached the microphone and rattled off the order of Filet Fish burger and fries with surety and aplomb. Ishaan’s awestruck eyes met this first little success. Then I slowly drove to the payment window; MacD’s hands met mine and I presented my credit card without having to lift my bottom from my seat! Then I floated into the next window under a the spell of exhilaration,where my oblivious partner handed me the steaming package; again his arm and mine traversed the distance like they were made for this moment in life. And it was done!!The mind battle was conquered.

That day, I had successfully checked off one item from the litany of “Things everyone else can do”. Probably, now I am eligible for citizenship?

And I was handed one fry as a reward by my new admirer and I can say that the fried tuber of my labor was crispier than ever!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Starting over

Why don't you write anymore? A question by my dear family and friends, which I evade all the time because that leads me to ask a question to myself-"Why don't I write anymore? "I have no plausible explanation, no deep-rooted reason, just a tall shrug that reaches my earlobes- and that just isn't enough. I have abandoned my blog like a child gone incorrigibly astray and its certainly unfair to treat a loved one like that.

Beginning of this year I thought (don't read RESOLUTION) of forcing my fingers to think again. But I could not start in January because it was so cold! How can someone write with cold, frigid hands? Come spring, I will thaw down and pick up the pen.And this year spring is surprisingly so early-I'm seeing plants blossoming pink and vernal leaves sprouting in Mid-March. Even the hibernating amphibians in the marsh outside my home have started croaking with life and vigor. Now its time for my lazy fingers to move-I have slathered them with moisturizing creams every night, all winter, so they don't start creaking and whining at the first sentence.

Work? Don't I deserve time to unwind and relax and sit in front of the TV, maybe follow the elections, after work?.But a wise voice, that belongs to me, says no matter how much I watch the coverage, Trump will not mend his ways and Bernie is almost gone anyways.The quest for seeking wisdom in current affairs is an inane excuse for not blogging and I should drop the façade.

Ishaan?How can I neglect his studies-his homework, projects and assignments. That story seems dubious and questionable too because his studies are now at an echelon above my meager knowledge. I have to google a majority of topics he seeks help on. Sometimes I google in front of him and sometimes clandestinely just to flaunt my pseudo intellect.

Food? I have to cook dinner to prevent starvation in this house. Again, I have a husband who has a natural flair for cooking! If both of us were to follow the same recipe verbatim, he would not only follow it but serve it with his distinct cherry-on-top and my replica would sadly beg for a semblance to the original. A task should always be assigned to one who's does it best.Talk sweet. Delegate.

Husband?Thrives on food and Netflix.I already have designed an autotrophic plan for the food part. And I pay the Netflix monthly fee to myself out of his radar.That is my petty fee for happiness!

Sisters?Don't I have to be connected with them on WhatsApp?No-they say,just write something.They don't need me to disturb their slumber, so I can write when its night back home.I just now realized that the cause for dormancy was just Mr Newton's first law and my sisters are the relentless force that have jerked the strings of this marionette into action.

The gossamer mask of excuses has blown away; all the curtains I could hide behind are lying ripped. Hence, I will make a full-hearted effort to resuscitate this baby of mine.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A slice of heaven

For my littlest niece,Eva:

Sweet little baby,
You smell of something alien-
Transparency, purity, innocence.
A fragment of the soul of the maker
I can breathe in forever,your essence.

Sweet little baby,
Made of fresh peaches and cream
Wonder what’s in your mind
And what is the sight
That makes you smile in your dream

Sweet little baby,
Your arrival makes me, a pauper
Suddenly full and sate-
Like a slice of heaven pie
Served warm on my plate!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sun is a messenger

Every morning I look out the window to see if there is a hint of pink/red in the sky; if the sun is coming out bright or is it being obscured by the winter grey. Given the low temperatures, the winter day would still be cold for me but the presence of sunlight holds a special significance to me- it’s a consolation, a sign from the universe that conveys the wellbeing of my family, thousand of miles away from me.

My retired parents live in a small town in the northern part of India where the months of December, January, and February are extremely cold, and their house, like most of the Indian houses, does not have central convection heating in all rooms. They do have a electric portable heater to provide warmth in the bedroom, but since the demand for electricity is more than the supply in winter, there are frequent power cuts and they just have to hide under blankets to keep warm.

The only source of light and heat my parents and others can rely on is the Godsend sun. Every night as fog starts to descend to the roof of their house, my mother has just one earnest prayer-God, please let there be sun tomorrow. Sun is the center around which their day revolves. It is the fuel feeding the engine of their daily routine.

Soon as the sun is out, their life gets a kick start- my mother would pull out chairs for herself and my father and visiting neighbors to sit in the porch. My parents would enjoy a hot cup of tea together, their hearts filled with joy and gratitude. Slowly, as the warmth sets in, my father would take off his woolen hat and thick sweater and socks and stretch his limbs out in the sun, letting them breathe and soak the sun.

The neighborhood instantly comes alive with first rays of the sun and people start getting out of their abodes and walking on the street, meeting and greeting each other. One elderly gentleman would come and sit with my father and they would talk for hours about how many days till they visit the bank for their monthly pension or about politics and places- the same topics being discussed endless times. This social connection, this small talk, for the retired men is possible only if the sun is out.

My mother would arrange her chores, sequencing and multitasking multiple things around the hours of sunlight. First of all she would keep her jars of vegetable pickles that she is preparing out in the sun, otherwise they grow fungus and get spoiled. She would the pull out her sewing machine and start repairing clothes/pillow covers or she would lovingly start sewing an outfit for one of her grandkids.

After sometime, she would start lunch preparations- shelling the green peas or chopping the spinach on her small table, out in the sun. And she would soak the legumes in water and keep it in the sunlight so that they can be cooked in half the time. She would then run the laundry enthusiastically because the clothes would dry the same day by sunset, unlike days without sun when it takes 2-3 days for clothes to dry.

Soon enough, street vendors start flocking the street, one by one, shouting out loud to sell their goods, which could range from onions/potatoes to baked goods and from dishtowels to blankets .My mother and another neighbor would stop a vendor and examine the merchandise critically and bargain vigorously until the man gives up and leaves without agreement, only to return back to sell at the ladies’ price.

These humdrum activities and hustle bustle continues in their lives until late afternoon when the sunrays begin to recede and everyone seeks recluse inside their homes.

Although with the oceans and deserts and mountains and time zones stretching between my parents, and me, still when I see the sun, this visual of their daily life under the sun comes crystal clear to me and I am content and thankful that they are safe and happy.

Days that I don’t see the sun, it casts a pall of gloom -my day goes on but this distant worry gnaws my insides that my parents’ life is at a hard stop that day and they are sitting huddled close to the heater, silently praying for the appearance of the golden sunlight the next day.

I feel that the sun is the universal messenger from God, communicating the wellbeing of my loved ones to me; uniting me with them, and making me believe that life is good.

I believe in the warmth and light of the sun and how it holds life together for all of us.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The sweater

Soothing like the sun's first rays
Smelling of the land beyond the bays

Enveloping within it your sure touch
It keeps me warm till the next ferry
Even if the winds decide to tarry

Pink and genuine like a rosy finch's feather
An armor against the gloom and weather
Woven with the yarn of love and prayer
is the sweater knit by my mother

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Be gone 2014!

It’s December and I am extremely thankful that this year is about to be over. People around me are rattling how fast the year flew by, but I believe that this year, unlike all others, has made the presence and weight of each day imposed on me in a very unacceptable way.

The year has made sure that the worst of my imaginations came true; it snatched away smiles from those I love; it left ravines of unfathomed depth; it etched permanent grief on faces; it made sure that we are not able to say-Everything’s going to be alright because it will not be. Yes, we will still wake up and get up because the sun comes up- we will eat because our stomachs growl, we will breathe as long as we get oxygen, but the shadow of grief will never fade from our souls and will accompany us wherever we go.

The only thing that hurts more than getting hurt is seeing our loved ones hurt and knowing that we cannot alleviate their pain, by any word or action of ours. Yes, we have read that pain makes you stronger but who needs to be strong? We are and we want to be vulnerable humans and not be transformed into rocks.

I don’t strongly believe in superstition but this year has brought death and illness and doom to my family and I want to believe that the damage is done. Please let there be nothing more in store for us. Let the New Year kick start the restart and recovery process for all of us and 2014-don’t you dare extend your ugly tentacles into 2015.

Just be gone already!

Friday, August 03, 2012

Some things never lose their charm

A spontaneous hug from your child without having to ask for one.

Getting calls from your family and friends when its not your birthday.

Finding a long lost thing unexpectedly.

Knowing that you are in someone’s prayers.

Waking up on a weekend and realizing you can sleep in.

Eating Pakore with chaai on a rainy day.

Watching the bright sun high above the clouds in a flight when its grey and overcast on the ground.

Seeing an old friend pop up on facebook.

The crawling of sand from under your feet at the beach.

Watching the yellow and orange hues of sunset.

 A baby’s hand clutching your finger tight.

 Your plants growing a fresh light green leaf.

Leaning on a welcoming shoulder when watching a movie.

The house smelling of food someone else cooked when you return home from work.

Listening to Jagjit Singh's ghazals without interruption.

Having a good book waiting for you at your bedside at night.

Getting hits and comments on your blog.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tech handicap

My mom could not switch on her own TV till the time she was an empty nester- everytime she asked one of her resident birds to do it for her until they flew away. Then finally, I don’t know she mastered the process of switching the TV on, using the remote and flipping the channels. The same applied to using the new mixer/grinder. She would be so scared of pressing the buttons to grind/puree her masalas and tomatoes as if the jar would somehow explode on her.She would wait for somebody to come and do it for her, no matter how long her meals are delayed for that.I taught her a thousand times but she would still not do it.

When she got her cellphone, it was as if that small device dictated all her attention. If that commander rings, she would drop anything she was doing to attend to it.It was more like a wailing baby to her who would pass out if left crying for a second. Mom, you don’t have to do that you know, you can check who called you and call them right back. Eventually she mastered the cellphone and I suggested buying a newer model  for her and she put her foot down, referring to all the time she had invested in learning to use this one.

And today I shamefully admit of not being able to switch my TV on. It is just so complicated- cable ON,TV ON, change SOURCE etc etc that I lose my  salt-grain sized patience and yell for Ishaan to come and switch it ON.What mom, you cant even do that?But then he looks at my flaming eyes and demonstrates for the zillionth time the whole process.That  moment makes him feel so intelligent and tech-savvy and indispensable.

 As if the TV wasn’t a load of woe enough for burying me, P shows all of his little pea-sized care for me by buying smart things for me – smart car loaded with GPS,parking assistant, auto wipers  that freak me out by ghost-starting themselves at a single raindrop and everything  else I don’t use and operate; the smart phone whose intelligence bugs me so much that I might break it someday. And then Ishaan tells me every day –mom here’s a cool phone app you’ll love and I give him a stare that reaches his bone marrow and he shuts up mid-sentence. And on top of it-the ignorant me demands from P why he did not buy a car charger for my phone and he says – “Madam, your car has a plug-in for that.” 
That made me feel like an old day looking for her glasses when they are still perched up on her head.

And how can I forget the macbook he gifted to me on my birthday!!It makes me feel like going to a computer basics class where they teach copy-paste because ctrl-C, ctrl-V don’t work on it. There’s no left-click,right-click and there’s no scroll bar!!

There’s only so much I can learn and this gadget requires unlearning which is not my forte.

Also I believe that every woman does become her mother and I am in an advanced stage of metamorphosis.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cant shop with(out) them!!

Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.
Can’t shop with them, can’t shop without them!!

 To the husband community-wife loves to shop, you don’t. Wife loves to look around and ponder and mentally mix-and-match the items-under-consideration with her existing wardrobe and then select and then try things on before buying. That - stretches your patience and endurance beyond the realm of elasticity because you are a rational person who believes in three simple steps- pick, pay and get out!!

 You want me to buy what the mannequins are wearing so we don’t spend your precious time looking but you don’t realize that that’s the newest arrival with the hottest price and I would wait for it to be not-so-new and available at a lukewarm price so that I can buy two things for the price of one. Your answer to this color or that is always- take both, they’re both good and if you do pick one color, it’s almost always the exact hue that I have. Whatever style I pick looks worn-out or not-worth-it to you. When I try clothes on, you microscopically find flaws with all of them-whats special about this, this is so beat-up etc etc.

 Whenever I insist on going to a store which has a SALE going on, you expertly say that it’s a scam. If I spend more than 15 minutes in a store, your belly starts growling and your blood glucose levels falls to a point where we have to rush to a restaurant for instant resuscitation.

 At times, I like to go all by myself and go around shopping and hopping but then I need you to reach out that appealing stuff in the higher shelves or I need you to bug the salesperson for the color/size I want. Sometimes I secretly want you to talk me out of buying some stuff.

 Plus, I want you to hold the umbrella while I store hop when its raining outside. I need you to find the closest parking spot when its snowing.

 And I need you to carry my shopping bags because remember- you are the strong one!

 Is that too much to ask for?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Birthday tremors

So-my big,strong hubby could not take the tsunamic pressure of my birthday and started shaking and trembling like a leaf.
And no one can blame me bcoz I didnt even get a chance to throw my weight around and make any majestic demands.

We got him to the emergency room to get him fixed before he collapsed on us but big machinery takes big time and effort to get back on track.He's pretty solid and reliable mostly,but chooses to malfunction at the wrongest time.

It was my day to enjoy and relax and be pampered,when he's sound asleep,probably in the 7th level of dreams while I sit by his bedside admiring the clarity and pitch of his snores,with Ishaan nudging me sheepishly and whispering- "He's snoring in front of the pretty nurses,this is so embarassing!!"
Happy birthday to me.....

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Parenting Challenge 2011

"Mama, I am doing really good on the math challenge.You think I could be among the top 100 in the country or the best in my school"- Ishaan said, on the first day of the American Math Challenge, when I was driving him home, in the evening.
"Of course not,you are not that smart.Its a two-day event,so others will catch up to you by tomorrow." - I said.
"If you think I'm not smart,why don’t you teach me." – Ishaan
"I can only teach you but I can’t get into your head when you are doing the problems,I can't stop your hand that time when you are making the mistakes."- I said.
"You never trust me to do good.", he said with a tearful voice and slammed the car door shut with the loudest bang I've ever heard.

And thank God, I did not enter his head at the time of the challenge for he finshed 26th out of hundreds of thousands of students who participated from all over the country and the first in his school.
He is in the Hall of Fame of American Math Challenge 2011 for being among the top 100!!
And I enter the infamous Parenting Hall of Disgrace!!

Can somebody lend me a leaf of their parenting book please or better still email/Fedex me the entire book!!

Friday, August 05, 2011

Mangoes and Rooh-afza

What are we, but memories – of places visited, people met, and times relished or languished- of laughter shared or sneaked, tears shed or swallowed- of sunshine and rain and fog. Memories provide the muscle and tendon that holds together the bare bones of our existence.

Each season brings back its own unique sweet and sour reminiscences. My favorite summer memories are of Indian mangoes and rooh-afza.

Mangoes were a big deal in summer – starting from buying to devouring.There was a plethora of choices to pick from – langda,dussehri,chausa,totapari and their smell was the best indicator of how sweet and delicious they would be.Then, there was the timing of the day you hit the fruit-mandi to buy them – if you go toward the end of the day, the vendors slashed the prices on the residual stock, so you got more for your money.

The mangoes had to be soaked in a bucket of water to wash away any chemicals used to ripen them.I’m not sure if its a myth or fact but eating mangoes without soaking them in water would cause boils and blisters on skin,which were rampant in summer.

Then, came the crucial decision-how you want to eat them.The options were – to slice it with a knife or to just suck the flesh and juice in it by taking off its top.Each of them was a totally different experience- the civilized way was of picking each slice and scrape away all the flesh with the teeth.Cleaning the center pit was another enjoyable task, you had to consume every trace of the flesh by combing the hair of the seed carefully with your teeth.Could not afford to waste the tiniest bit of it!!The other option involved sucking the mango top by turning the mango round and round with your hands till the pulp was loosened from the skin and then devour the heavenly juice mixed with pulp.

Also the summer storms and the hot afternoon winds would shake the trees in the neighborhood causing them to magnanimously shed the ripe/raw mangoes and the kids would go around collecting the booty, looking under the bushes and leaves- a truly rewarding scavenger hunt. Seriously, who ever cared or even thought about the slaps of hot wind , dust,sweat, sunburns, UV rays or skin cancer??

The raw mangoes had their own charm and usage.They could be ground into chutney or cooked with daal or vegetables or slaughtered to make the annual pickle aam-ka-achaar in big jars which would last one whole year.And oh the aroma of that variety of achaars – the regular achaar, the hing achaar and the sweet one with vinegar!

Rooh-afza means something that refreshes the soul and it was the only cold drink known at that time, besides lassi and lemonade.The Coca-Cola/Thumbs-ups were too expensive and arrogant and involved returning the glass bottles after consuming the content.So, that was strictly on a very special occasion or a very special guest basis.

Roof afza is the dark red sugary syrup concentrate that you can add to ice and water to make a refreshing drink.Or you could add it to cold milk and ice to make a pretty pink sweaty glass of bliss. But you had to be careful keeping the outside of the bottle clean for the ants loved to cling to it and savor the tiniest drop hanging under the lid.

Then, ice was a prized possession too!There were no ice-makers in the fridge,we just had two aluminium ice trays with slots in them to form ice cubes.Those trays had to be refilled with water each time the ice was consumed.So, what if we just used the ice and the next batch is in the process of freezing and a guest rings the doorbell?There was no way a guest could leave without having roof-afza!!So, we the kids, used to run to the neighbors to borrow a tray of ice and the beauty of it was that the neighbors were always expected to be home, any time of the day.Where would they go anyway?

After a few years, the drink rasna was introduced and the fridge ice trays were made in plastic instead of aluminium and after several years, Pepsi/cokes were available in plastic bottles, which you didn’t have to return to the shopkeeper.

But ,a cold beverage still means rooh-afza as a hot beverage means tea to millions of Indians. It provides relief and succor to the parched soul of India.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Boys without names

I love reading Indian authors as it physically transports me to the country I grew up in. I can relate to the roads, the people, the culture, the odor, the food, the heartbeat of that land better than I could relate to any other place on Earth.

Last month I came across this book ‘Boys without Names’ by Kashmira Sheth.The story is about a kid whose family moves from a village to Mumbai, in search of a better life.But the big city leads him into a trap and he ends up being locked up in a small, dingy room with 5-6 other kids, who are forced to work on making beaded picture frames under the most inhuman conditions by a tyrannical master.They are fed just enough to keep their hearts pumping. They are not allowed to reveal their names or even talk to each other. They are never let out of the cage and are deprived of fresh air, sunlight, rain and open sky. Any small deviation from obedience or expectation is punished by insolent beatings.

This story brought my heart to my mouth. Any parent, whenever they hear of atrocities against children is thankful that their child is safe and silently prays that this never happens to their child.

Since this novel was just a story, it is allowed to have a happy ending. In this case, our protagonist, the village boy could read and write. So he wrote out a message to a shopkeeper to whose shop he was sent to by the master for a one-time errand. And the shopkeeper took action and brought police to raid this sweatshop. And thus these kids were rescued and reunited with their families. It brought tears of joy to my eyes.

But only yesterday, I read on about Moin.Here was the real-life version of that book.Moin was the name in Boys Without names.And alas, this was not a story. This is life and life is not penned by an author, or directed by a movie director, who is hopeful and triumphant. Life is cold, cruel and ruthless and poor Moin could not escape it. He was mercilessly beaten to death by the master of the bindi factory.

Did no one know what’s going on in the bindi factories? Sure, somebody knew but the way we are, we can be blind and deaf as long as nothing touches our lives. There are so many evils going around us that we just don’t want to have anything to do with others evil business. We just try to lead straight lives where we don’t hurt others and protect ourselves from being in harm’s way.

And we all know Moin because he is all over the press but there would be so many others whose lives are just as worthless and unnoticeable as the peanut shells which are crushed and ground under anybody’s feet.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Whatsoever you do....

Its time to give back whatever little way you can,in this New Year.
Let’s try to do something for someone in need, somewhere.

These are the lyrics of the prayer song that blasted out of the loudspeakers at my school during morning assembly.This has been ringing in my mind for sometime now.

Its simple but very meaningful:

Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.
When I was hungry, you gave me to eat;
When I was thirsty, you gave me to drink.
Now enter into the home of My Father.

Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.
When I was homeless, you opened your door;
When I was naked, you gave me your coat.
Now enter into the home of My Father.

Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.
When I was weary, you helped me find rest.
When I was anxious, you calmed all my fears.
Now enter into the home of My Father.

Wish everybody a ver happy 2011!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bardaasht is the word!!

While I was in India, we were going in a cab and it was a little hot inside the car, so I asked the driver to switch on the AC.
Bardaasht karna seekho’, my mom snapped.So, the AC wasn’t switched on and just getting rid of the sweater fixed the problem.

But that bardaasht (tolerance) stuck in my mind. Aren’t tolerance and adjustment two of the most significant yarns that weave the fabric we are made of? Being born and raised in India means being exposed to the ground realities of life and learning to live with them. I believe that’s one of the things that make us the survivors.

And the course of time, having lived in the pampered, protected environment for long is eroding the steel our guts are made of. Living in heated/cooled homes and offices, having our bottoms warmed up in heated car seats is taking a toll on that resistance, that strength we had.

We endure and we persist in difficult situations.Isn’t that one of the reasons we are the most sought-after and the relied -upon workers. Our upbringing is why we have a lion’s heart in our lamb’s frames.

We are the ones who rode our bicycles without helmets and knee pads and nursed our bruises and cuts ourselves, if at all, without the tetanus shots.We are the ones who sweated the hot July summer nights with no power and no breeze. We were always the walking feasts for mosquitoes and flies and did we get rashes and bumps-NO!!We were cohabitants with roaches and lizards and mice for a major part of our lives. We drank before water started to be bottled or milk started to be pasteurized.

We adjusted with passengers in the non-AC general compartment.We drank from the taps and devoured the imlis and raw mangoes from the neighborhood trees.We adjusted with sleeping in the midst of distant relatives in crowded wedding parties ;often sharing the blankets with them too! We adjusted to the sweats and odors, not to forget that we didn’t have exhausts in the restrooms.

We take care of our dead until they leave for their final destination. We know that death and dead bodies are real and we can deal with it.We don’t ship our dead to funeral homes and have unknown people prep them and even break their bones if needed to fit the casket.We hug and we mourn and we pray for them and not just dress up in our best creased suits to offer handshakes and eat the goodies.

Unlike the fragile people in offices, who plug their nostrils with cotton as they can’t tolerate a colleague’s cologne that is not even adjacent to them, but sitting cubes away from them?Collegaues' cell phone ring tones gives them migraines. Small work tensions cause them to pop sleeping pills at night.

The omnipresent sanitizers and the disinfectant wipes cannot uproot the virus /flu and the allergies, however hard they may try.The posturepedic mattresses and the ergonomic chairs don’t diminish the need for pain relievers and chiropractors.

Our tolerance goes a long way in making our relationships last and grow stronger. We don’t divorce the person we took vows with just because we can’t tolerate their snores and farts.We don’t bid goodbye just because he/she didn’t smile and honey me when I got home from work.

I do love the comforts of life and I am thankful for them but I am glad I have experienced the tougher life that would sound strange and incomprehendable to many. I am lucky to have seen both the faces of the coin.

Every experience has some learning, some insight that contributes to the evolution of a person -YOU.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Just do it!!

So, Ishaan and my shoe sizes are just the same now!!At eight years of age, he is upto my ears now! Thanks to his dad’s genes, I am soon gonna have two towers walking around the house and I’m gonna have one more pair of giant shoes to curse and trip and fall on!!

I have the tiniest feet in the world…which is by the way a sign of beauty!!!Did you know in ancient China, girls were forced to bind their feet up in layers of cloth to contain them , to stop them from growing bigger. And the Chinese men used to look at the girls feet- the smaller the feet, the more marriageable she was.

Thanks to my mom’s genes, I didn’t have to tie them, but they just didn’t grow beyond size 5, except that I wasn’t born in China in the 1800s.

Coming back to the home setting, Ishaan tried on my dark blue canvas shoes and they fit him perfectly. And these shoes are not gender-biased….they are the perfect unisex shoes.

Dad: So, Ishaan you don’t need to buy new shoes as you can wear mama’s.
Ishaan: But mama doesn’t have Nikes??

So, we did buy him Nikes and I am eyeing them and waiting for an opportunity to sneak into them next time I go for my solitary walks.And I have no hych against wearing kids' shoes because kids aisle is where I shop for adult-looking kids' shoes!

And he did wear my blue canvas shoes to his summer camp and kids do notice things!! His friends complimented him on my shoes. And the simple and naïve kid that he his, he told them – These are my mom’s shoes.
Damage done.
I told him – Ishaan, don’t tell your friends these are your mom’s shoes. They’ll laugh at you because that’s what kids your age do.
But why do I have to lie about this?
Remember what Nike says -Just do it!!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Life's getting me

How can such petty things hold the center stage of life- there's not a single potato left in the kitchen, the coffeemaker is leaking gallons of water, much more than it can hold. Have to buy a new one ASAP!!

Why can't I leave the trivia behind and focus on larger issues or think about I don't know - inflation,recession,oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, or the Mayan prediction for 2012?????

Or 180 degrees turn -at least think about making it an easier journey for those who live with do they even put up with me, forever holding shields and armors in preparation for an attack!!!!

Love or tolerance or empathy?????

Sounds funny, but it isn't!!

He says,hi,whats up
Just waiting to blow up.
He says, meet at lunch?
No sir,thanks a bunch.
He says, how about a movie?
You both go,just let me be.
He says, a cup of hot coffee?
Not even if you make it for me.
He says, lets go for a walk?
If you promise not to talk.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Comfort Food

Friends and family are urging me to post something…it’s been ages!!Well, life is just zipping past, with the same old - going to work, getting back, cooking dinner, reading something and sleeping to wake up to a new morning with the same old things lined up.

In that case, I do need to write something!

Out of the whole monotony, cooking is something which has something worth writing.(Work, I will never talk about once I leave the premises!!)Because there’s this whole process of taking mental stock of inventory and leftovers, thinking of something delicious and innovative if possible, and then materializing the whole plan and waiting for the resulting success or fiasco.

With work being increasingly demanding for both of us, sporadically for me, but constantly for him, a fulfilling and comforting dinner provides some solace.And I find great satisfaction and comfort in burning hot rice.

Here’s what I cooked yesterday and actually managed to take a picture of!!
It was hot,spicy curried potato-tomato sabzi with coconut-milk zeera rice and homemade yogurt. The spice of the sabzi went very well with the mild coconut milk flavored rice.And the yogurt seasoned with salt and fresh zeera-powder provided the cooling factor to the hot summer evening.

India is so rich in cuisines and flavors that a little fusion of North with South, just a little twist here and there, yields gastronomical results! I added some coconut milk while cooking zeera rice and it raised it to a new worshippable dimension, altogether!It made the rice aromatic,flavorful and soft enough to just melt in the mouth!!And I added some yogurt to the aloo tamatar sabzi which gave it a rich,creamy texture!!!

The new taste got a thumbs up from me and both my clients.Something I am going to try again, definitely!!

Friday, June 25, 2010

It doesn’t matter!

When you look at life in the rearview mirror, you see so many tears, worry lines and sleepless nights caused by things that don’t matter any more and you find yourself thinking – Why did I waste so much time and energy on those trivial things. Those things that were of paramount importance at that time and your life depended on them are faded and erased, already!

When you look in the side mirrors, a faster car shakes you for just a moment, but its past before you know it. So, the key is to let the faster ones go and not let them waver your hand at the wheel.

Umpteen things that you fret and worry about mend themselves. What if it happens? Eventually, it does not happen!

Why are we stuck in the vicious circle of insignificant worries, apprehensions?
And if life’s all about learning from mistakes, why am I not learning?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Venus vs. Mars

"Men are incapable of growth, change and progress. For men self improvement ends at toilet training."
(Source: Gerard Butler starrer movie ‘The Ugly Truth’ ,on why a woman should not waste her life trying to change the man.)

"Women are Angels...And when someone breaks their wings...they simply continue to fly....on a broomstick..."
(Source: A forwarded e-mail by some bewitched man!)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Love you,friends

The phone rang at 10 in the night.....let it be, whoever it is,I’ll get back to them,tomorrow. I was under the covers, drugged by anti-allergy medicines and deep asleep. Then, it rang again. So,someone really needs to talk to me!
And here was someone,calling me and asking me to guess who she was!!And this voice, was so familiar,so close that I could touch it,this voice that sounded like I talked to her everyday, was my dear school friend Roli’s. Yes, Roli,with the infectious laughter and the never-ending spunk and spirit.
How happy, I was to hear you talk after all these years,almost eternity.It brought back my childhood, my school to me....the starched saris of the K3 teachers(Kapoor,Kohli,Ketkar),the aroma of the lunchboxes, the whites of the P.T. shoes, the maroon of the blazer, the exhausts from the army school bus, the moral science of the sisters,the morning assemblies,the march pasts and all!!
And I so wish, I’d known before, that you were in this country and we could have met.And I so envy you both,Sumita and you,the two from our 5-girl gang,that you could meet up and chat and laugh, only if, for a small time.
And,thanks Sumita for calling me up and that’s the best call I got woken up by, in a long,long time.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ah,the connections

Everything in the universe, dead or alive, ordinary or transcendental, serene or rambunctious is linked to a bigger system. Nothing in the world is standalone or a detached entity. The purpose of each tiny little block is to complete the jigsaw puzzle, knowingly or unknowingly, by will or by force.

And if any piece is missing or doesn’t fit anymore, it causes commotion and confusion and hurt.The human mind seeks solace in continuance of the old, although how much ever on tries to tell the other that change is the only thing permanent and change is the law of nature.

Every time I go back home to my hometown, I hope to see the same picture, the one I have etched and nurtured in my mind since I was a child. That picture gives me the feeling of coming back to where I left and the assurance that 'All is well'. But each time I go back home, there’s a gaping hole somewhere,which can never be filled, staring at your face, which reminds you of the divine intervention and the ultimate reality of death. And although I know that life runs it own course and your presence doesn’t stop the wheel from turning, still there’s that stab of guilt saying-'Look what happened when you were away'. But besides the family and friendship bond, which needs each member, hale and hearty, straight from that spectacle that I hold of them, there is also the link,that connection to distant people, objects and places.

I never knew that the shopkeeper in that kirana shop, which I don’t even go to ,was a part of my picture.Everytime I went to our little market, I saw him, grinning with his teeth bare all the time, nodding at customers or scribbling down and adding up each person’s total bill. But his presence there told me that life is still the same. And the old doctor, the Hakeem, who always sat in his clinic on the rug, with knees bent, and glancing at the street from not through his glasses, but from above them, he had been there forever. The fact that he wasn’t there this time, I wanted to somehow stop the time or slow it down from running so fast. Or that sugarcane juice waala, thriving by his small cart, by the side of the bridge. Or that chaatwaala. Or that school, I never studied in it or visited. But it was a landmark, a permanent fixture. And it being demolished for giving place to another big building, caused an ache somewhere in left of the ribcage.

Things, places and people which unknowingly have crept in your mind, have carved out a niche for themselves, which is there as long as you live.

Memory is the ache, for which, there is no cure.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

V-day showdown

I have to write this while I still have it top on my mind.So,today is V-day and I personally don't believe in one day to show your love to your loved ones.But P does what he feels like,don't know out of ritual or peer pressure or whatever may be the reason.

So,he got me a rose and a card - the regular,sugary ones that say To my wife.....etc.As I opened the card, it played a song which said 'You are so beautiful...'.It does feel good and I was flattered and fluttery but I told him that this was a lie and you don't really mean it.
Pat came the answer, "No,I mean from the inside.You know, looks are not that important, its the inner beauty of the person thats important".

Gosh, am I such a haggard, who has to be lectured on the beauty of heart and soul!!Wish I lived on the 12th floor of an apartment complex, so I could open the window and jump out and flay my innards out to display how beautiful they are!!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Fruity Resolution

“You look so weak and tired!!Your face has lost all its glow and look drained out”, these were some of the compliments I received from my sisters this time I was back home. Sisters are the mirror you avoid seeing might fool yourself but nothing misses the eyes of the sisters.

My eating habits which are very poor were brought into light.I would snack on a bag of chips rather than bite into an apple. The problem is like I like hot, salty and spicy food and fruits don’t qualify.I drink a lot of tea and coffee,but its been ages since I drank a cup of milk!So,they told me to focus on natural foods and not processed ones, the number one contender being apples,pears,oranges.

So,this year I have been buying a lot of fruits and trying to eat some everyday.Here’s the fruit bowl which is full upto the brim,reflecting my commitment.

But here’s the cake I baked and we sat down to eat it while watching a movie at night and the two lonely humble pieces left in the morning speak a lot about how ruthlessly we devoured their companions.

So,my darling sisters and mom,I can’t promise to give up my favorite unhealthy foods but I promise to include some healthy things too,as a routine.
And I am thankful to God for all the love and care my sisters shower on me.

Speaking of apples and oranges, here’s a joke:
Sir: What is difference between Orange and Apple?
Student: Color of Orange is ORANGE, but color of Apple is not APPLE

Friday, January 29, 2010

Confirmed Tickets

Ever rolled up your sleeves upto the shoulder to defend your stand in public, and then realized that you were the one who was wrong and then you had to suck your words back in?Thank God I didn’t have to do it yet but here’s a funny and embarrassing incident, which leaves you thinking, what if it was me, it could have happened to me.

This time in India we had to take two long 14-hour long journeys after so many years and it was so much fun. Gulping down endless cups of tea/coffee with samosa/kachori/pakode /pohe on different platforms made it a culinary experience as well. Also when others open their packed meals,diffusing the aromas of parathas/pooris/achaar, you forget all manners and etiquettes and are forced to peek into their plates to ogle at what they are eating.And when finally people retire to sleep in their berths,there are the distinct,individual trains of snoring,which eventually lull you to sleep.

Coming to the story, as we boarded the train to Delhi,there was some commotion in the bogey.Since we had a lot of luggage to deal with,which wouldn’t fit under our berths, P had to ask people to move their bags a little bit here and there and they were all very nice people, happy to adjust.While on a train,the keywords are bhaisahab and adjust.
Koi nahin bhaisahab,adjust kar lenge.
So,after getting settled there was still half an hour for the train to leave,time to take off the shoes and put your feet up.

Then the argument rang loud and clear to all who were present.Two people were allotted the same berth for the long journey. One was an elderly gentleman, the uncleji,who claimed to be traveling by the same train for 30 years and there was no way he would get down and or be moved to a different seat.Also he had bought the confirmed ticket on tatkal reservation,so he had paid a premium price, which was another reason why he wouldn’t budge.

The other was a young man who had another confirmed ticket.He was also irked by the situation and kept blaming the reservation software.Everything is computerized,still they make such huge mistakes!
Who do they get to write the damn software?

And the onlookers would nod understandingly and narrate incidents when similar thing happened to their relatives/friends.And everyone gave the assurance that once the TTE is there,it will get resolved.

The uncleji kept demanding to see the young man’s ticket to check if was confirmed and not waitlisted/RAC,but he wouldn’t oblige.Finally someone suggested to look at the reservation chart.Turned out that the uncleji’s name was there and again he was on a high.The young man tried to calm him down but then he also lost his temper and marched out to look for the TTE.(There were still 15 mins for the train to leave.)

After 5 mins the young man came inside running,pulled out his bag from under the berth and started running madly toward the door.What happened,uncleji asked.
Meri ticket 6th ki hai ,aaj to 5th hai”is all he could say before disappearing into the crowd at the platform.

All is well that ends well but we had to endure uncleji’s long lecture on how careless,absent-minded and disrespectful, the young are these days!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Manzil na de, chiraag na de, honsla to de

Soot, dust and cobwebs galore! This is the shabby state of my blog and that’s the reason I didn’t look at it for so long, just delaying to look at its sorry state. Well, you cannot write if you want to write; it just has to come to you. Its just like love,it catches you unaware!

And I had a lot of time on my hands in the last days. And I spent a lot of it browsing and exploring each shelf of the library, reading the newspaper at Starbucks, walking all around our community,nagging him 24*7, cooking, cleaning the house of course, shopping a lot, volunteering at school, educating Ishaan to boredom, listening to Jagjit and Chitra, watching a lot of meaningful movies, some of them -great foreign language movies. I just cannot not mention the movie ‘Children of heaven’, a Persian or Iranian movie, I got from the library and it’s a must watch.

I know a lot about the elderly of the country, now.I see them walking slowly with their walking aids to the grocery stores,reaching out to the shelves with trembling hands and wobbly heads. I see them lining up outside the library at 9:45 AM, waiting for it to open at 10.One elderly gentleman was with a toddler grandchild, waiting for the doors to open, when the child said-'Grandpa, don’t you have the keys'?

Learning never ends. I mean, whats a woman who can’t shop for herself and others, who is so indecisive that she always needs a nod and a stamp of approval from the hubby before buying anything. Its just the habits, which take a long time to build and a longer time to break. And if you can’t get where you want to, if you’re dependent on someone to drive you always, you might consider getting yourself a wheelchair. So, I’ve been out, shopping and exploring, all on my own. And while driving, I’ve taken wrong exits, I’ve gone West instead of East, North instead of South, but I won’t forget those wrongs for a long time, now. I’ve locked myself outside the car, with the engine still running. Each mishap has a purpose and that is to avoid letting it happen again.

I don’t know the purpose and context of this post, but I have Jagjit’s 'Manzil na de,chiraag na de' playing on youtube and it just made me write. And I’m linking it here for all to listen and relate.

With the holiday cheer and lights, gifts and wishes, may the coming year be the harbinger of happiness and hope. May this year herald the beginning of a year full of smiles and health and prosperity.