Friday, December 31, 2010

Shifting Priorities

Thus ends my second year of blogging. When I flip through the posts like I used to once upon a time with my personal diary, I feel it's more or less like looking at old photographs - you remember exactly what you felt when you smiled and struck a pose, when you sighed and wrote a line. They bring back the sweetness, the bitterness, the pain, the pleasure, the madness, the anguish, the euphoria, but without affecting you any more: many of them have become milder over time. You've recorded the good things in life, indeed shouted from the rooftops; hid the lows between the lines because you don't want people to really know or don't consider it important for them to; though you suspect that some day you would want to secretly peep at them. So you write them all down in your own way - regardless of whether or not the reader comprehends them - because you're used to writing and it's your only mode of expression.

The year is in the process of giving way to a younger one, bowing to the applauding audience (also to the ones raising their fists at it) at the end of a show that included marriages, fearsome sicknesses, achievements, new arrivals, farewells, crises, loss, satisfaction, displeasure, conflicts, betrayal, the whole drama that constitutes a Bollywood masala, and on a larger scale, scams, games, leaks and other matters of scant importance.

December caught me off guard, with the sudden appearance of unfinished chores all over the place and pangs after pangs of guilt for wasted time, though deep inside, when I really bring myself to look at it, the wasted time was not wasted at all - they often turned out to be precious memories to treasure.

For a moment, I pull myself back to three or four years ago. I try to convince the younger Me as to where I will be at the dusk of 2010. I see myself shake my head and reply, "No way!! Impossible!" But then, there was also a time when I thought marriage, motherhood, and other certainties of life were impossible as well.

The highlight of this year had been Shifting Priorities. What I considered important kept running hither and thither, my heart butterflying after it, with my targets trailing behind like a thread caught in the wings. I sincerely hope the wandering priorities find their home in the coming year, as I have grown rather tired of the efforts. The sputtering motorcycle is exhausted. Age and Life have caught up sooner than expected! There is no running away from them, not any more.

What am I talking about?
The year had been kind. The people have been kinder. The circumstances couldn't have been better. And Gravity, bless Gravity, has been pulling harder, especially at the corners of my lips.

So let's clink the glasses and usher in the New Year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tele-Annoyance Unlimited

"Hello?"
"Good Afternoon, Sir."

"Sir? Sir? Do I sound like 'Sir' to you?"
"Sorry, Madam."

"That's more like it! Now tell me, how can I assist you?"
"Madam, I am Uma calling from Tele-Annoyance Unlimited Incorporated Privated Limited..."

"What in the world is that?"
"We're an insurance-based credit card company...blah blah blah..."

"Uh."
"Er... would you be interested, Madam?"

"God Forbid. No, not in the least. Thank Heavens I'm not."
"Okay..."

"Can I offer you an advice? An unsolicited, unasked advice, for your own well-being?"
"Madam?"

"Probably someone is paying you to make these calls, but just in case you want anyone to be really or even remotely interested in this thing you're talking about... don't call them at 3PM. There is the remotest, unlikeliest possibility that they're taking a nap and your poor self will be exposed to the most vilest and foulest language on Earth."
"Sorry, Madam."

"Ah, you get the point. There, that's a good girl. Bye!" Click.

*

"Yaaawwww--ello--wnn?"
"Hello? Is this the house of Mr.-?"

"It certainly is."
"Can I please speak to him?"

"Ah, sorry, sweet lady. The darn guy's gone to office. I'm his wife. Can I pass on some lovely message from you?"
"Madam, I am Neha calling from H##C Bank, this is regarding a car loan..."

"Ah, the dumbo hasn't paid his EMI, eh?"
"No, I mean, I just wanted to ask if he would be interested in taking another car loan..."

"Another? You have no idea, this hubby of mine, he rarely remembers to pay his installments for the existing loan. They nearly confiscated our car the last time. Hey, maybe you can help me. Do you think you can give us some loan using which we can close the current loan? Hmmm?"
"Madam, our..."

"I hope we don't have to pay you back, since you're so nicely calling us up and offering a loan?"
"Sorry, Madam...."

"No? Then why in the world are you wasting my time, eh?"
Click.

"Heh heh."

*

"Hello?"
"Hello Madam, I am calling from Tele-Annoyance Unlimited... Can I speak to you for a minute?"

"Well, considering that you're already speaking, I am ready to risk the remaining precious fifty seconds of my life."
"As you're our valued customer, blah blah blah.. esteemed customer.. blah blah blah.... we're offering you blah blah blah... totally free of cost!"

Snore. "Is that all?"
"Yes Madam, would you be interested?"

"No. Nah. Nada. Curious, isn't it...?"
"Madam??"

"... That 'No' is the same in so many languages?"
"Err... Madam, yes of course... Does that mean..?"

"Wait! Let me make a deal with you."
"Deal, Madam?"

"Shhh... " (whispering) "I will share the contact numbers of my three managers and their managers. If you like, a couple of my colleagues too, the nastiest ones, mind you. In return, will you shift-delete my number from your records?"
"Madam!"

"No? I thought so. Thanks. Bye." Click.

*

"Hello?"
"Yawwwwwwnnnnn."

"Hello?"
"I'm here, I'm here. This has better be good."

"Madam, I'm calling from S@#$%% Bank, this is regarding credit card..blah blah blah."
"No, no, so kind of you, but thanks, not interested."

"Okay, Sorry Madam..."
"Oh, wait!"

"Yes Madam?"
"You said you're calling from S@#$%% Bank? But I am in no way related to that bank. I do not have an account there, so how did you get my number?"

"Oh, from our database, Madam."
"But how did it get into your database?" (Smiling) "I never interacted with your bank in my life."

"Er...we have our methods, Madam."
"Like? For example?"

"Err... I cannot divulge them, Madam..."
"Oh how unkind! We're talking about my phone number here," (Smiling) "Don't you think I am entitled to know? I am just soooo curious!"

"Errr.... we get these numbers from Airtel*, Madam."
"Airtel? My service provider?"

"Yes Madam." (Smiling) "Is that all, Madam?"
"It certainly is not all, Girl. Airtel, huh? Is that how it is? I am going to sue them for selling my phone numbers to cr@p sellers without my permission!"

Click.


* True story
** All are based on real incidents

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What's the hurry?

The aircraft touches down on the smooth tarmac close to the sea. A gentle voice announces the arrival at Thiruvananthapuram International Airport.

Click, click, click... The seat-belts begin to come off, even as the voice continues to advise, "All passengers are requested to remain seated, with their seat-belts fastened, and keep electronic equipments switched off until the aircraft comes to a standstill and the seat-belt sign is switched off... "

The click, click, click continues, followed by a jugalbandhi of  music from different cellphones being switched on.

The voice goes on, this time with a shred of tiredness and resignation, "You're now allowed to switch your cellphones on."

The five-year-old looks up at the seat-belt sign that is glowing as the plane slowly glides to a halt and asks, "Why do those people take the seat-belt off? See? The sign is still on."

His mother replies just loud enough for the other passengers to hear, "Uh.... they must be used to jumping off moving trains..."


*

The bride stretches her neck forward and blushes.The Nadaswaram rises to a crescendo as the groom passes the yellow string around her neck. His sister, waiting right behind the bride, helps him tie the knot. The visitors in the front row throw handfuls of flowers at them. A man hiding behind the curtain pulls a clandestine rope and the pot hanging right above the couple overturns, showering them and everyone in the vicinity with flower petals. 

The bride and groom rise from their seats, garland each other, and her father places her hand on the groom's, in a symbolic Kanyadaan

For the back-benchers, this is the cue to rise from their own seats and rush and push towards the hall where lunch is served, unmindful of the fact that the bride and groom have not even stepped down from the stage.

A non-Malayali, watching the exodus, asks, alarmed, "What happened? Where are they all off to??"

"Oh, don't worry," mutters the bride's sister, pretending not to notice the rush at the door to the lunch-hall, "they must have skipped their breakfast for the sake of the sadya..."


Monday, December 20, 2010

Pickle

I wish there was pickle.

The rice is bland, the curry that was plopped on it seems as though it was held under a tap, the clump of vegetable placed on the side of the plate, tasteless.

Last night I again dreamt of dipping my finger into a generous helping of lemon pickle, the salty, spicy, mouth-watery kind someone used to make long ago, and licking it, and squirming with pleasure at the sting that set my tongue aflame. The dream returns every other night.

The day they made sambar, the fragrance flowed to me across chasms of hunger pangs. But the moment they plopped it on my rice, I knew, it was as dead as every curry they plop on it day after day, year after year.

The sweets they serve on special days I no longer wish to taste, and never was there a special day when they served pickle.

The gardens are dull and colourless, a few stumps grown here and there by people who had no love for them, ploughed up by those whose hearts were not in it. Weeds would never overgrow this lifeless garden, nor would roses. Leaves would show a sick green, never the fresh lively colour they display elsewhere. The plants would wither without blossoming, stunted in their growth by unfriendly hands that knew no gentleness.  The planting, the ploughing, the watering, were part of the exercise, the punishment.

Fresh air never found the door to this place, nor did it seek it. Forever, if I am let out, my body would carry the damp prison smell. Even the wind that blows on my trips to the court are contaminated by the walls of the room and the windows of the police van.

They, as always, push my case and me aside with a wave of the hand. Another hearing, another day. They argue with each other on my life and death, I need not talk unless spoken to. They debate on whether I am this or I am that. My felony I can hardly recall. Maybe there was one, maybe there were many. I shake my head. I lost interest in the farce long ago. When I look out the window, I see that the shrubs there don't flower either.

There never was a line between sanity and insanity. The sane ones said there was. The insane ones never cared.

When I asked for pickle one day, I was told, "You're sentenced to death. What use do you have of pickle? Pray for clemency, instead."

Another day, another year, they told me I am serving a life sentence.

The craving for pickle makes my stomach turn. My tastebuds are dead through lack of exercise.

By the end of the sentence, a spot of pickle on my tongue would be a shot of cyanide.
A word I utter would burst my throat.
A puff of fresh air would slash my skin.
A touch of a loving hand would break my heart.

Within these gray walls, life and death are mere sentences, short, straightforward, without the beauty of metaphors, without a sparkle of colour...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ashwatthama

For many of us, the reading and re-reading of stories from the Epics in Amar Chitra Katha or other children's magazines / books constituted a major part of our childhood, that even today the images of the characters from those books are fresh in mind. Little did I know at the time that the gyan will come in handy while raising a child who drops everything and comes running if I promise to tell him a story. The more we read or narrate, the more we're convinced that the human race, for all its technological advances, has in reality not progressed far from where it was thousands of years ago. We can draw parallels from each daily encounter to an instance from the Epics.

Yesterday when one of my friends told me a troubling incident involving her son and his teacher, I was so reminded of an incident from Ashwatthama's childhood. I did not tell her, naturally, because the thought would have distressed her more...

I searched for the story in the Net, but apart from brief references here and there (where the narration was good) and a few badly written ones (that I did not want to copy from), I could not find the exact version I was looking for. I write it here in my own words, having borrowed thoughts from the sites I searched, as well as from my memory. If the facts appear distorted, please feel free to correct me.


Ashwatthama was the son of Drona and Kripi. Drona, who later became the Guru of the Pandavas and Kauravas, was very poor, so poor that he and his wife were unable to obtain cow's milk to feed their son. Ashwatthama, who had seen his friends drink milk, longed to taste it. One day, his so-called friends mixed rice flour with water and gave it to him, saying that it was milk. Ashwatthama, delighted, began to drink it, declaring that he has finally tasted cow's milk, unaware that his friends were laughing at him.
Drona was very hurt and humiliated.



If you do not know or have forgotten the role played by Ashwatthama and how he was cursed into an immortal life, I suggest you begin with the Wikipedia link for a summary. He is a character with many shades.
The kind of person I dream of writing about.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Caught unawares... again!

December has this habit of advancing steadily and stealthily, catching me unawares, every year. Oh yes, I do not pretend to not notice its arrival - how can I not? But its essence, the meaning, the implications, evade me till I observe the burst of discussions all around me about 'Christmas Shopping' or 'New Year' or 'Holiday season'; which is when it dawns on me that the year that was a new-born just a little while ago, is already old and breathing its last.

It makes me nervous. I don't even know why. As if something precious is slipping from my hands before I could enjoy it to my heart's content. As if one more leaf is turned in the yellowing book of my days. As if I had been given a year's time to do a set of important tasks and I am nowhere close to their termination. As if someone is at the door, hand outstretched for the results, whereas I, quickly wiping my soiled hands on my apron, find myself totally unprepared and alarmed, look around frantically to see if I can fix something up to fool the visitor and end up doing nothing but gape. One would expect me to improve over time, that next December would find me better prepared, displaying better results, demonstrating more confidence and composure when the knock at the door heralds the arrival of the New Year. All in vain.
I finally am convinced that this is how it is going to be, every year.

Yet, yet... ironically, it is also the time of Hope. All the distress and disappointments carried over from weeks and weeks of unrewarded efforts, stand poised for the dawn of the fresh year, awaiting a long pending realisation of dreams. Whatever the New Year brings, every December, there is still Hope of better days to come, as long as there are dreams to keep us going.
Every year, that will remain unchanged as well.


Post inspired by Divya's The many moods of December.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The capital and small of Friendship

There is something about Facebook that does not seem right.
Maybe something that the creators did not intend, nor imagine will get out of hand. After all, most inventions are made with the best intentions.
Or maybe, everything is perfectly right, it is just me.

When I gave in to popular demand ( actually only one or two friends made the suggestion, but 'popular demand' has such a nice ring to it ) and created my Facebook account a year ago, I did not have the slightest inkling of what I was getting into. I was actively into Twitter those days, but in Twitter, there is a certain distance in the closeness, and a closeness in the distance ( the way I perceive and peruse it ).

Initially of course, my only Friends in FB were those who I grew up with, or spent my college days with, or some of my grown-up days with. People whom I knew decades ago, and from whom I'd protected myself all these years, popped up with Friendship requests. It did not seem polite to decline them so I accepted many. Not all. No, there was no way I would let some of them into my 'Friends' list ( with the capital 'F' ), at least as per the definition of 'Friends' that I still hold on to. The world has long ago modified the definition of the word - the boundaries of 'Friendship' are becoming vaguer with each passing day - and the word has only a remote resemblance to its original self. Everyone who passes you on the corridor without a glance, let alone a smile, is your 'Friend' in Facebook. The CEO of your organisation who doesn't even know you by sight, is your Friend in Facebook. The Friends of your Friends ( real or Facebooked ) are your Friends in Facebook. All of which sound pretty okay. When someone important ( like the CEO ) posts something clever on Facebook, some of the 'Friends' feel it is their duty to 'Like' it or pass some flattering comment ( after all, their appraisals must be at stake ). That goes on in your timeline, but you just raise your eyebrows or give a knowing grin or shrug, and push it out of mind.

What alarms me is the fearful invasion of privacy ( and the lack of concern ) most people exhibit on their network. I perhaps should not be, prepared as I was for this sort of thing. *Kind of.* And it makes me feel quite old. Once my Friends' list grew beyond the borders of known friends and acquaintances, I removed all my personal stuff, including pictures, from my account. Sorry, but I still value my privacy - whatever I can salvage out of it. I still can't help it if someone decides to splash a picture I would rather restrict to my personal network and tag it with my name, or write on my wall about things I consider private, but as far as possible I want my Facebook account to be protected.

I should not expect everyone to be that stingy about their privacy but aren't there some pictures and updates that should be kept within their friend ( with the small 'f' ) circles, and not splashed to the entire community? Some of the wall messages that come up on my timeline are quite personal, they almost sound like one of the letters we used to write a decade or so ago ( can they not use the private 'message' option in Facebook? ). More alarming is to find some snaps or updates that reveal an unknown ( and unexpected ) side of a person. No, really, I can do without that knowledge. Remember the time when we were afraid to post our pictures anywhere in cyber space for fear of someone doing mischief? I belong to that era, and am not ashamed to say that I have not come very far. So it makes me feel awkward to find pictures shared irresponsibly ( and I am not talking of a few harmless family snaps ). Even worse are comments that people post on others' status messages that borders on, or spills over to, rude, often not giving a damn that the words are there for all to see. I have a few 'Friends' who are so obsessed with the number of Friends they have on Facebook that they often quote it as a proof of something ( "I am so well-connected" or to that effect ), I don't even know what. I am also told that some even play politics in FB, often taking sides with one and making another look ( and feel ) bad.

Yes, I do respect others' networking preferences, which is why I don't post this comment there: "No, it ain't cool, dude. Grow up. The message you wished to convey has been grossly distorted by the time it hit the timeline." 

On Twitter, I do expect cr@p to appear, given some of the profiles we follow, and sifting through it all is part of the specification. But isn't Facebook different? Shielding myself against what I consider a breach of privacy involved waddling in a huge set of Options and Settings, but since I believe it to be important, I did waste a lot of time in the waddling.

I am not saying that Facebook does not have its benefits ( otherwise I would not be still into it ). For example, it was almost surreal to find someone I used to know twenty+ years ago, absolutely not recognising him, and getting awed at his achievements ( and feeling very proud ). Finding old friends, promoting oneself, sharing, caring, conversing, raking old memories, are still beautiful, as long as they don't unnecessarily overlap between unconnected groups.

If you're going to tell me "all this is the beauty of it," let's agree to disagree.
And so life goes on.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Snake and Ladder

One of the gifts that my newly-turned five-year-old got for his birthday was a Snake-and-Ladder board. It's his first board game, seeing which, I decided that a child like him, who prefers outdoor games, will not be interested in it. I thought I will have to put it away for a while.


But, as usual, he did not take much time to prove me wrong. He took to it immediately. In fact, the very evening after the birthday party, we sat up late, howling over the board as our coins climbed up a ladder or slid down a snake. Almost one month later, he still comes to me daily, sits at my feet while I am having my food or tapping away at the computer or even when I am half way through my afternoon nap, and hands me a coin (usually the pink one - because "Girls like pink") and starts the game. 

It's been ages since I played Snake-and-Ladder. Remember the board that has Ludo on the other side? This one is quite similar except that instead of the dull, unimaginative snakes of my days, these ones are quite adorable, with large eyes and mischievous gaze, that I look forward to being swallowed by them. My son does not exactly share my love for them, and the first few days he got quite upset when one of them gobbled up his coin. And - for the first time in my life - I was getting hold of ladders wherever I went! Some privileges of being a Mom.

Once he got the hang of it, playing with him became quite fun. He would find all sorts of techniques to reach the ladder. He would throw the die three times if required, or turn it around and count the dots on each side till he gets the number he wants (which would take him to the bottom of the ladder). All in full view, no furtive tricks here. And if by chance I keep climbing up jubilantly and he gets left behind? Scowling, he would find the snake closest to me, preferably the longest one in the neighbourhood, and push my pauvre pink coin down its throat. I am not allowed to laugh when his coin goes sliding down the snake, though we both howl with glee when mine does. As for me, the moment the die throws up a number that will take one of us to the snake's mouth, I will start laughing, endangering the fate of the game itself. My punishment for that offence (if the victim is his coin) is to find myself back at the starting point. I ain't virtue personified, myself, so sometimes I get upset at the cheating and stop the game.

Sometimes we find each other on the same box. Then his coin generously gives a kiss to mine, and snuggles close. Then, when I move forward, he tries to throw the same number so that he can stay with me.

His generosity knows no bounds when after all these kalla kalis, he reaches 100. Immediately he would take my coin (who, after being subject to insults, kisses and forcible shoving down snakes' throats, is now a pathetic pink wreck) and place it on 100 as well: "Amma also won!"

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Futility of Attachments

When Abhimanyu, the valiant son of Arjuna, died in the Mahabharata war, Arjuna was overcome with grief. He decided to stop the war. Lord Krsna tried His best to convince Arjuna to stop grieving unnecessarily but it was all in vain. Finally, in order to show the impermanence of all worldly relationships, He took Arjuna to heaven. There Arjuna saw Abhimanyu enjoying the pleasures of heaven. Arjuna ran to Abhimanyu and embraced him. Abhimanyu was surprised and asked Arjuna "Who are you?" Arjuna told him that he was Abhimanyu's father. Abhimanyu replied that he had had millions of births and in exactly which birth was Arjuna his father? Clearly Abhimanyu remembered nothing about his past birth and relationships. Arjuna saw the futility of attachments in this world. He had seen the proof that all worldly bonds are unreal.

Taken from this site.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A unique language

One day in office, during lunch which all eleven of us were having together, my Malayali colleague and I started chattering in our mother tongue. Those of us who shared a common language (there were also Kannadigas, Tamilians, Andhraites etc. in the team) had this habit of slipping into our own language now and then, and none of the others would mind. If it was something everyone should hear, the medium was, of course, English (rather than Hindi, which some didn't follow well). After a while a Tamilian, who was sitting next to me, asked, "Why do you guys use your names in the conversation? Don't you have a word for 'you' in Malayalam?" My 'compatriot' and I grinned at each other. Sure enough, our conversations (directly translated from Malayalam) sounded like this:
"Did Joe go to the party last night?"
"No, did Jeena go?"
"I didn't either. Did Joe stay late in office?"
...

One would have thought we were talking of people who were nowhere in the vicinity - nah, we were asking about each other. It's not that there are no words for 'you' in Malayalam, the problem was elsewhere. Like most Indian languages, Malayalam too has two ways of saying 'you' - the word that you use with buddies, nee ('tum' in Hindi) and the more respectful one that we use with elders, ningal or thangal ('aap' in Hindi). Nee was too familiar a form; my colleague and I were close, but not close enough to call each other 'nee'. Ningal or thangal were too formal, we didn't use those either. The most courteous and favoured and easy (safe?) way (at least, in my part of Kerala - others may differ, I do not intend to spark a debate) to speak was to use the other person's name. I haven't heard this kind of third-person usage in any other language - and I have had a brush with more than a handful of them. It may be too far-fetched to call Malayalam a really unique language (or maybe not) - even considering that the name, Malayalam, is a palindrome - but it sure does have its own weird, interesting and rare styles of speech. But I don't intend to digress.

The third-person usage is fine, more or less, as long as the correct phrases come into play when we switch to English or Hindi. However, recently I happened to listen to a Malayali speaking to a Kannadiga in English, and because of the direct translation, this is how it went.
"If I do this part, Auntie can take care of the rest, no?" ('Auntie' was the elderly Kannadiga lady.) "I will finish this and call Auntie."
Of course, Auntie understood that she was being referred, so there were no issues.

When I speak to a child, I refer to myself as Auntie (or whatever s/he should call me) instead of saying 'I'. "Auntie is feeling cold, so Auntie is wearing a sweater. Why aren't you wearing one?"

To be frank, this is the exact sentence I spoke to a four-year-old today morning, that triggered the series of thoughts behind this post.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dr.Yawn

The patient and his parents were already waiting for half an hour. The father walked around the lounge, trying to ground some of his restlessness. Forty-five minutes past the time of appointment, the doctor walked in, a picture of leisure, peeped into another door, and started talking to someone inside.

The patient looked the doctor up and down. Stylish short kurta, yellow salwar, duppatta casually thrown over her shoulder, she looked everything but a doctor. After her gesturing-and-discussions session was over, she strolled into her own room, beckoning to the woman outside to start sending in the patients, and took her place. The patient and his parents flocked in after her.

She was gazing into her laptop. "I'm so terribly sorry," she said in her best smile, "I lost my mobile handset at the clinic, that's why I am late." She launched into an explanation of how and where she lost it, who could possibly have taken it, whether the closed-circuit camera might have caught the theft, etc. Her listeners nodded in understanding.

"Anyway," she continued, with a glance at her laptop, "Nikhil, isn't it?"
The patient and his parents beamed. She remembered his name! It was almost four weeks since they came last. How nice of her to remember. Recalling that the last time she did not ask them to sit down, they made themselves comfortable.

Her subsequent questions wiped the smiles off their faces. "So what is the problem? Have I seen you before?"

Trying to conceal the setback, they proceeded to acquaint her on  the details of their last visit, when -
Ring!
She lifted the receiver and started elaborating on the loss of her phone. The visitors waited patiently till she completed, and continued the story.
Yawn. "Oh ok, so that was how it was. You have taken the medicines I prescribed? Did you observe any changes?"
Ring!
A repeat of story-telling process over the phone. Then, yawwwwwwnnnn. "Ah, where were we?"
The yawwnnn was contagious. The mother stifled one before it broke out. Dad stifled a grimace.
"I'll prescribe one more - " Yawwwnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!  "- tablet and syrup.... "
The patient kept his eyes wide open so that he would not miss it when the doctor eventually collapsed over the prescription in her deepest slumber. He wasn't sure where the pen was leading her.

To his disappointment, nothing untoward happened except a few more wide open interjections before the patient and family left her to her yawns.

As they left, Dad said to wife and son, "I almost stomped out the door every time she opened her mouth... "

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The life of a child is tough, because...

... if you're the youngest among your buddies, the bigger ones bully you

... if you have a toy/cycle/scooter that no one else has, everyone will want a turn, and you almost never get to play with it

... if you're the only girl in a boys' world, they make sure you feel isolated and ignored

... if you're a girl and the youngest of the lot, they make fun of you saying "you're a baby" and "you're a girl" till you cry

... if you're the bully of the group, the others don't like you

... if, by some unlucky chance, you manage to get into a debate with one of the 'big' boys, you lose without a fight, naturally, because for one thing, your frightened arguments are feeble and unimpressive, for another, Mothers sympathetically disbelieve everything you say and side with the angelic-faced ten-year-olds

... if you're the leader who decides who plays with who, you invite the wrath of Mothers whose children you don't play with

... if you're one among a group of three, the two others always side against you and make you feel left out

... when you want to play, Mother calls you to sleep

... when you want to sleep, Mother says it's time for school

... when you want to do colouring, Mother says it's time for homework

... when you want snacks, Mother says it's time for dinner

...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thought Waves?

Mr.B from the floor above came on Wednesday evening to hand me the key to his house. The woman who cleans the house will come tomorrow morning at half past nine, he said. He was leaving for his hometown, and wanted the house cleaned before he was back. This was the first time he was leaving the key with me. He would tell her to collect it from me.

The next morning at a quarter to nine, as I was getting the five-year-old ready for school, all of a sudden I remembered that Mr.B's housemaid will be coming for the key. I looked at the clock and figured that I have ample time to see the child off to school and return, before she comes.

The thought had barely crossed my mind when the son asked, "When is Mr.B's maid coming?"
Surprised that he thought of it just as I did, I replied: "After you go to school."

"Then I can't see her!"
"It's okay, you can see her another day."

The sentence was just out of my mouth when there was a knock at the door (the darn door bell isn't fixed yet!). It was she, forty-five minutes before time.

Her arrival, my thoughts and my son's question, all occurring together - a strange coincidence?
I prefer to think there was a thought sync.

She must have been entering the apartment gates, at a quarter to nine, thinking of Mr.B's advice to take the key from me, and recollecting my house number...
... when the thought suddenly hit me that she will be coming, and I began wondering if I will be back before she comes...
... when my son wondered out of the blue whether he can see her...


Do these kinds of coincidences happen to everyone?

Friday, November 26, 2010

National Juice

My five-year-old's inquisitiveness knows no bounds. There are times when I painstakingly explain the rainbow to the eager and wide-eyed child, there are times when I am at a loss to explain why Lord Brahma did not offer one of his four heads when Ganesha lost his (he just can't get over the fact that the small elephant had to lose his beautiful head in order to save Lord Shiva's son). And there are also times when our conversation wanders off into nonsense - and neither of us is bothered!

Apologies in advance for any set of emotions that the following conversation may evoke in your mind.


He asked for Coca-Cola and I set half a glass of the beverage before him.
"Is this black coffee?" he asked.
"No, it's Coca-Cola."

He took a sip. As he savoured it, I could tell that he was deep in thought, as if trying to place something. After a while he said, "What do we call the Tiger... not the King, but something else..."
"The King is the Lion of course, not the Tiger."

"What do we call the Tiger?"
"The National Animal?"

"Ah! Yes! Is Coca-Cola the National Juice?"
I burst out laughing. "Oh, no, I don't think so. I don't think there is such a thing as a National Juice."

"National Animal is Tiger, National Bird is Peacock, what other National is there?"
"Err... National Anthem?"

"Okay. So what is the National Juice?"
"I guess it must be Lemon Juice."

"So which country's National Juice is Coca-Cola?"
No more skirting of the question. "America, I suppose."

"Coca-Cola is the National Juice of America?"
"Mmm-Hmm."

"Which country's National Juice is water?"
"Ahhh.. Water? It is not a National Juice. It is an International Juice."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Trust

Remember the perfect, amazing, super software you recently obtained which you believe to be God's reply to all your prayers? How it can do everything you want it to do, and more?
Except that ...
... every time you open a Visual Studio project in parallel, your PC grumbles like the ancient fan in your father's room?
You tell yourself it does not matter that the super-awesome software consumes all the RAM the poor PC is capable of squeezing out. The solution is at hand: while the cool, new software is running, just don't open any other application which requires a large amount of memory. Simple!

Amazing how most of our problems are solved by 'adjustment'.

Like the problem of trusting someone. First you trust them with your eyes closed. You believe that if you're good to folk, they have no option but to be good back to you too. Then one day you suspect that they're gnawing at the firm foundation you'd carefully built up. Once the grain of doubt is planted, there is no looking back. Worse, one day you get an evidence that they were misusing your trust all along.

More often that not, you are not even aware that there is something called trust between you and another, till it breaks. You've just not perceived it in those terms till then. Normally, it isn't easy for trust to shatter - it often tries to save itself by cushioning the fall. But the nastier the fall, the worse it crumbles.

The Adjustment Factor steps in then. You realise that they had been taking you for a ride or two. Nonetheless, you hesitate before dropping the final bombshell. For one thing, you can't muster enough courage - you fear a confrontation may destroy forever what were mere cracks. Your baseless assumption is that the cracks could be glued together. For another, breaking apart means you no longer will have access to a lot of things that made your life convenient. You choose to be prudent. I will adjust a little. After all, good things do come at a price.

The ones that lied.
The ones that stole.
The ones that cheated.
The ones that pretended.

Little by little, you stop trusting people. Once bitten,...


You close your eyes. You bite your lips. You pretend it never happened.
You wish you hadn't seen it or known it - there was peace in ignorance.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Bird with clipped wings...

As far as I know, this story has no relation to anything or anyone living. 

But whether it has any connection to an entity that once existed...? Quite likely, I dare say.

And oh, yes, this story is taken from the Ramayana. In case you had any doubts. 



In the Hindu epic Ramayana, Jatayu (Sanskrit: जटायू Jatāyū, Tamil: Chatayu, Thai: Sadayu, Malay: Jentayu or Chentayu) is the son of Aruna and nephew of Garuda. A demi-god who has the form of a vulture, he was an old friend of Dasharatha (Rama's father). He tries to rescue Sita from Ravana when Ravana is on his way to Lanka after kidnapping Sita. Jatayu fought valiantly with Ravana, but as Jatayu was very old Ravana soon got the better of him. As Rama and Lakshmana chanced upon the stricken and dying Jatayu in their search for Sita, he informs them of the fight between him and Ravana and the direction in which Ravana had gone (i.e., south).

While Jataayu was wounded and laying on the ground when Lord Rama arrived, Lord Rama sensed the end result and decided that Jatayu get moksha. Lord Rama hit an arrow in the ground so as to call all seven sacred rivers, called teertha. Six rivers' waters arrived, one river water failing to obey Lord Rama's call. Since Lord Rama was himself an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, He forced the Gaya teertha to arrive at the spot. Finally Jatayu was given the waters of seven rivers and He attained moksha.


The above text is taken from Wikipedia

Monday, November 22, 2010

If you dread it, you'll love it

I confess I dreaded it. To say I was terrified would not be too far off the mark. Twenty-five screaming children running amok in my house?! I tried my best to avoid it. But my motherly heart would not let me see the disappointment in my son's eyes. After all, he had been waiting for this day for months.

Till last year he did not know the essence of birthdays - that there was a relation between growing a year older and the noisy fun called birthday parties. The connection was made early this year. From then on he began asking quite regularly, "Will all my friends come to my home for my birthday?"

At first I gave non-committal replies. Soon I was forced to change it to a firm "Yes", though it was followed by a silent groan. By then I knew I had to give in. I decided that I just wanted to get it over with. Somehow.

As the day approached, I made a list of things to do: arrangements to be made, items to be purchased, children to invite. Hey - that's when the fun began. For my son, it was just a matter of 'waiting for his birthday party'. For me, it was the whole excitement of 'making it happen'.

Birthday Cake courtesy Sweet Chariot

Having the children over was funn-er (is there such a word?) than I imagined. I was not in the least worried about the place becoming a mess - in fact, when it was over I was quite surprised to see the room more or less tidy.

Did the children enjoy it as much as we did? Ah, there is no way I can answer that, but the way they made noise during the party ('the louder the merrier'?) and played with their gifts the whole weekend, I believe they did.

My son found himself overshadowed by the older children present, and chose to stay silent, quite unlike his usual self. As soon as the party was over, however, he got his own little crowd together and began playing.

So, as I was saying, the more you dread something, the better - because it can only turn out to be much better than in your wildest nightmares!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Passage of Time..

Time often hides its wrinkled face 
Behind the thread of nights and days:
We fail to behold the quiet passage, 
till one day we are stopped short 
by a sight that plunges us to the past...


The sight that does plunge me every now and then to the past is that of the clothes-line that holds my son's t-shirts, shorts and pants and I remember the seventeen pint-sized cloth diapers that used to adorn it, daily...

I remember the time when he did not know one letter of the alphabet from another, one language from the other, and today he clubs syllables together, reads sentences, speaks Malayalam, English, and a spatter of Hindi and Kannada as required...

Every day I learn things I never knew about him...

*

... A couple of weeks ago, when I went to fetch him from his four-year-old friend's house right next door to us ("Play-time is overrrrrrr"), I saw that he was rubbing his forehead, with a weird expression on his face. I looked at the 4yo's Dad who had opened the door for me.
The gentleman said in a bewildered tone, "He hit his head on the edge of the table, and began rubbing it with water. I have no idea why he did that."
My smile was wide. "Oh, otherwise it will bulge," I said and took my son home. 
Maybe what we're doing is right, after all. The little fella seems to have learnt how to take care of himself, even if his Mamma is not around.

*

... On Children's Day, the women in our apartment arranged a few games and activities for the children. All of us - women and children - got together and had a lot of fun. When it was over, one of the ladies called all the kids together to take a snap. It would be so nice to look at it a few years later! Suddenly I realised that my little monkey was not in the group. I requested the photographer Mom to hold it for a second and started calling his name. Getting no response, I gestured to her to go on and take the pic, while I wandered off in search of him.
As expected, I found him at the apartment gate. "Whatcha-doing-here-we-were-taking-pictures-I-was-calling-you..."
"I went to touch the cow," he said, pointing to the road.
"Cow? What cow?" True enough, there were a couple grazing across the road. I looked daggers at the security guard. "Did he cross the road to get near to the cow?"
"I went with him," replied the man. And he continued, "Yeh sabse alag hai. He doesn't always want to play with the others. He hangs around here and wants to see cow, doggies and so on. He is different."

*

... The day we travelled back from Trivandrum, the lady who stood right behind us in the queue, who was smiling at his non-stop chatter and infinite questions (to some of which I had to answer, "Hush, I will tell you later"), suddenly asked, "Is he in school at Trivandrum?"
"No," I said, "In Bangalore."
She said, "He speaks Malayalam so fluently and easily that I thought he must be doing his schooling in Kerala..."

*

My son turns five today.
I look at my smart little man, who never ceases to amaze me, even when he is at his mischief-est, un-listening-est, doing-everything-i-disapprove-est and absolutely uncontrollable-est.


Related Posts:
My son turns four
Proud Mamma Brags
Do you know the answers?
Nothing escapes his keen senses

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's okay...

... to find your living room in chaos when you wake up in the morning, because it means your five-year-old was having a good time with his toy friends just before sleep

... to leave your unwashed laundry in the baskets and the washed ones in a pile waiting to be folded, because it means you were inspired to write a beautiful story or two

... to miss going out to work, because it means you're lucky enough to be at home when your child returns from school, to be available at all his functions in school, to be near him to hug him when he cries and to take him out for a walk when he needs

... to find the kitchen unclean after last night's dinner, because it means you got to sleep early for once

... to be envious of your neighbour's always-clean house despite that she has two children and a full-day job, because all people are not alike, all kids are not alike, and all houses are not alike

... to find that your house becomes a mess again ten minutes after the maid cleans up, because it means your child is having fun cutting newspapers into shapes or mixing water colours on the floor or moulding clay into animals, and wiping his soiled hand all over the place, with a twinkle in his eyes that you love to see

... to be jealous of someone, because most often there will be something about you that they are jealous of, too

... to be referred to as a 'house-wife', because it means that your home is your topmost priority

... to be at home all day and meet people only through text messages, phone calls and social networking sites, because it means you don't have to face the accusing glances and slicing words of your juniors, peers and superiors every time you leave office at nine or ten in the night

... to lose your heart over things you'll never have, because if you don't have dreams and fantasies, life becomes downright dull

... to feel alone and lonely now and then, because it means you don't have to daily endure the smug looks of colleagues you are condemned to work with

... to have unexpected visitors when the house is at the messiest, though you have to push the toys and papers aside to make room for them, and endure their disapproving glances with an embarrassed smile, because it means you were playing and laughing with your child just before they came

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Overheard...

"Hello?"
"Hello Sir. Good morning Sir."

"Ah. Good Morning."
"Good morning Sir Good morning. You called me? The line got disconnected Sir. I was just about to answer your call and it beeped and got disconnected."

"Yes, I called to ask a favour-"
"Of course Sir anything please tell me Sir."

"Next weekend I need to travel to Kerala; Cochin to be exact. Can you arrange a ticket for me?"
"Air ticket Sir?"

"No, train will do. First or second class, A/C."
"Yes of course Sir. First or second class is better. Third class is quite inconvenient, suffocating and stuffy, really, heh heh."

"Is there any travel agent you might know...?"
"Oh yes Sir, there is someone I know yes there is. In fact we contact him for all our official travels, you know, from office. Very good fellow. Actually, heh heh, I call him up for my personal travels too, ha ha.."

"Good. But do you think tickets will be available, this being holiday season..."
"Well of course Sir it may be difficult but I am sure he will be able to pull a few strings here and there, Sir, it will be no problem at all, I think."

"Indeed. Could you please check with him-"
"Oh yes Sir of course Sir, I will check with him first thing today Sir, and I will call you back, Sir."

"Thank you."
"Oh no trouble at all Sir. It's a privilege, really. Absolutely no problem Sir."

"Yeah.. okay. Bye."
"Bye Sir. Bye Sir."

Click.
"Why in the world does he call me up whenever he needs to travel? Am I his travel agent, huh?"


[Indivine]

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In the meantime...

... I have been writing stories and talking about people, places and other thingies, generally playing with words and stepping back once in a while to admire the effect. As the Alter-Ego bloke warned me the other day, unless I announce from tree tops (roof tops?) that I pretend to know the art of holding a pen, no one will ever even think of the possibility.

My faithful readers, (Are you there? Hello? Anybody home?) please hop over to this link at the Mag, and do let me know what you think of the stuff I made up - Do they make any sense at all?! Don't forget to come back here and let me know your thoughts, because The Mag sometimes takes a while to approve comments, and unless they do, I don't get to read them.

Tell me, should I trash the rest of the unpublished stuff hogging my PC and my work table?

Ah... I see you leave one by one. I'll be right here when you're back.
Why don't you leave your sandals here, so you don't have to take them off at the door of The Mag.

Let me now wait for the brickbats...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Are you one of these?

Wakey, wakey sleepy heads!
Half past five in the morning.
Over half the apartment is snoring, the other half has just begun to stir.
You - tall, handsome, health-conscious, owner of the coolest car on the road, every woman's dream husband - are ready to hit the gym. Because you're up, it does not matter if the others are asleep. Amazingly alert and full of energy, you rev up your engine, approach the closed apartment gates à la Schumacher and ... Blast the horn, startling the life out of the faint-hearted.

*
Lame, Lamer, Lamest
You're envious of her blog. You've been envious ever since you first chanced upon her blog three-four years ago. You're envious because you can't write as well as she does. And she was only twenty or twenty-one when you first fell in jealousy with her! Then one day you spit out the venom that's been poisoning your heart for years: you post an anonymous comment at her latest, well-written, imaginative blog that it is a "lame, lame" piece of iSht. You leave a beautifully coined anagram of your name that you're sure no one can unearth. You pat yourself on the back at the clever trick. You are relieved, the great big piece of lead has finally been taken off your chest.

You go back to your social networking profile and update your Bio: "Live and let live."

*
Nothing better to do
Her grammar is perfect, her vocabulary well-developed, her language impeccable. She loves writing but limits herself to extensive and well-written Facebook status messages. They include updates on her family, her take on the world, her thoughts. All in one or two lines.

Whenever you login to FB, you see at least one of her messages and a few comments/replies below them from her friends. You have no idea why these messages or their frequency irritate you, but they do.

One day you find her on chat and ask her if only to embarrass her, "What's this daily Facebook update thing? Have you nothing better to do, haha?"

*
Blog-wrath
You're irritated with the guy who blasts the horn before sunrise. 
You're irritated at the one who posts offensive comments at blogs.
You're irritated by the so-called friend who cannot appreciate someone's social networking preferences and tries to belittle her.

You know you cannot do much without entering into a verbal exchange over something that doesn't directly involve you.

You ponder over them, try to ignore and suppress the emotions that surface, failing which, decide to blog about them because the blog is all yours.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Vibhuti Yoga

I am the Self, O Gudakesha, abiding in the hearts of all beings. Of all beings I am the beginning, middle and end.

Of the Adityas I am Vishnu; of lights the radiant sun, of the Maruts I am Marici; of heavenly bodies I am the moon.

Of the Vedas I am the Sama Veda; of the gods I am Indra. Of the senses I am the mind, and of the living beings I am consciousness.

Of the Rudras I am Sankara, of the Yaksas I am Kubera. Of the Vasus I am Agni and of mountains I am Meru.

Of priests, O Partha, know me to be the chief, Brhaspati. Of military commanders I am Skanda; of bodies of water I am the ocean.

Of the great sages I am Bhrgu; of utterances the syngle syllable (Om); of sacrifices I am japa; of that which is immovable I am the Himalayas.

Of trees I am the Ashvattha; of the godly seers I am Narada; of Gandharvas I am Citraratha; of the siddhas I am Kapila.

Of horses know me as Uccaihsrava, born of the nectar of immortality. Of lordly elephants, Airavata, and of men, the king.

Of weapons I am the thunderbolt; of cows, the wish-fulfilling Kamadhenu. Of progenitors I am Kamadeva, and of serpents I am Vasuki.

Of nagas I am Ananta; of aquatics, Varuna. Of the ancestors I am Aryama, and of those who punish and reward I am Yama.

Of demons I am Prahlada; of calculators I am time. Of animals I am the lion, and of birds, Garuda.

Of purifiers I am the wind; of warriors I am Rama; of fish I am the shark; of rivers I am the Ganges.

O Arjuna, of creations I am the beginning, middle and end; of knowledge I am knowledge of the Supreme Self; among speakers I am words that are unbiased and in pursuit of the truth.

Of letters I am the first (Akaar), and of compound words I am the dual. I alone am endless and the universal dispenser, facing in all directions.

I am death, destroyer of all; I am the source of all things yet to be. Of women I am fame, prosperity, speech, memory, intelligence, fortitude and forbearance.

Of the Vedic hymns I am Brhatsama; of meters, Gayatri; of months, Margasirsa; of seasons, flower-bearing spring.

Of cheaters I am gambling, and influence among the influential. I am victory, effort and the goodness of the good.

Of Vrsnis I am Vasudeva; of the Pandavas Dhananjaya(Arjuna); of the wise I am Vyasa; of poets, Usana.

Of punishers I am the rod of chastisement; of victors I am the guidance they follow. Of secret things I am silence and of the wise I am wisdom. 

Further more, O Arjuna, I am the seed of all existence. There is nothing moving or unmoving that can exist without me.

O conqueror of enemies, there is no end to my divine manifestation. What I have told you is merely an indication of the extent of my opulence.



Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 10: VibhutiYoga
(The above text has been taken from 'The Bhagavad Gita' translation in English published by the House of Nightingale)

Read more here.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Weirdo called Memory

Isn't memory a weird, strange thing? It adorns multiple guises like an actor: sometimes it is a razor, sometimes it is smoke, sometimes it is a blank white sheet, and sometimes it is graffiti.

Sometimes you forget names and places you knew so well, yet...

...every time you hear the mention of a place, you remember your first crush
...every time you hear or speak of a hospital, you remember your little sister was born there be it twenty-five years ago
...every time you talk of school you remember a girl you'd rather forget
...every time you yearn for the road, you remember Wander-thirst, poem that beckons from high school

And East and West the Wander-Thirst that will not let me be;
It works in me like madness, dear, to bid me say goodbye,
For the seas call, and the stars call, and oh! The call of the sky!



Now the darn ol' memory has gone wandering off again...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010

Annoying Questions

One of the advantages of staying away from hometown is that you're less likely to run into people who have seen you grow up, who remember what fashion sense (or the lack of it) you had two hundred years ago, who mocked you at a wedding when you were fifteen because you chose to wear an ordinary cotton salwar ("Didn't you find anything better to wear?") instead of bedecking yourself for the event and who believe it's their duty to remind you every time that your tastes were so dry and pathetic and different. 

The chances of bumping into them in your yearly visits to hometown are pretty slim. Moreover, you're now better equipped to handle them: you are armed with defense weapons and protective shields before you even plan the trip! But there are always some of them around every nook and corner, if not the ones from the past, there will be some from the present, who manage to demolish your prospects of happiness for the entire visit. They never tire of asking annoying questions or offering unsolicited advices. Even the few good folk you encounter fail to salvage anything from the rubble.

Here are some of the questions and suggestions with the replies they deserve to hear. Nasty, I know. But that's all I can do - blog about it.


You're so thin! Don't you eat anything?
You have no idea. My Mother is a horrid woman who doesn't give me any food. I have to work part-time for the money to buy myself something. With the studies and everything, you know how tough it can get.


My God, your son is so thin! Doesn't he eat anything?
Actually I hate cooking, so I let him starve most of the time. It's okay, he is getting used to it so well.


What! You lose your patience if your son doesn't fall asleep even at the end of two-three hours? You should never be impatient. You should tell him a thousand and one stories, sing two thousand five hundred songs even if it takes you six hours. By then any child will sleep. But don't ever get angry.
Oh, these days I tie him to the bed at sleep time and gag him so he lies still. That way he falls asleep very easily, haha. No trouble at all. You should also try it on your child.


If your son prefers not to waste time on food, there is this great, simple, effective method. Walk after him, like about twenty five times around the house and wherever else he wanders off to, and by the end of three hours and a half he would have eaten five idlis!
Brilliant idea. Why didn't I think of it before! I only have to wake him, the five year old, old enough to eat by himself, at four in the morning so that we can have a jolly ride around the apartment with his breakfast before school, and when he is back it is only a matter of another three hours for his lunch, and another three hours around the apartment at night for his dinner. Wow.


Oh, do you know cooking?!
Not really, but please don't tell anyone. I sneak in something from the hotel through the back door when no one's looking and present them as if I made them. My family doesn't know, the poor fools.


... the Q&A to be continued...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

In which I get Educated about Promoting the Self

The Alter-Ego chooses that moment to step out, in a foggy, shapeless smoke originating somewhere between the keyboard and me.
I start. "Who? What?"
It tut-tuts disapprovingly. "Have you forgotten me already?" Its voice, deeper than ever, always reminds me of George Clooney.
I heave a sigh of relief. "It's you. Don't change your looks so often. I get really terrified, being submerged in writing a horror story and all that."

Its jaw drops. "Horror story! Of all the..." I wish it would go away, it really creeps me out. "Try something comic, for a change," it says with a melancholy look. "But what's the use?"
"What do you mean?" I hate its superior-than-thou attitude. I almost don't want to know what it means.

"The writing is just a little corner of a wide world you know nothing about. There's a huge cloud of thingies you need to learn."
"Like what?" I hate, hate its tone. I know what I am doing and what I need to do. I hate the preaching.
"Self-promo, girl, self-promo."
"Self what?"

It snorts. "You're unbelievable. Don't you want people to come flocking to you and pull each other apart to get your attention? In other words, what do you do to promote your writing?"
"Oh, that. I do it so well. I post links to my Twitter and Facebook profiles. And oh yes! I almost forgot," I add with a nervous grin, "I am a member of Indiblogger community too."

It sniffs. Too loudly to my liking. "You mean you don't send countless mails to your contacts, friends, acquaintances, almost-acquaintances, ex-colleagues, neighbours, clients, passers-by and people who don't even exist about the articles, stories and blogs you write?"
"No... but I have a few links given in the 'About Me' page of my blog. I even have a 'My Links' page! Not to speak of one entire page dedicated to My Book!"
"Do you honestly think people are dying to know about you that they visit your 'About Me' page?"
"Aren't they? You're saying what I do isn't enough?"

A-Ego rolls its eyes.
I remain defiantly unconvinced. "Why? Why should I do anything more?"
"Because," it slipped into the tone of a patient teacher explaining to a child, "other writers are surging ahead. They are going to snatch the trophy before you even get started from here."
"Really?" I look around to see writers zoom past. "Then I must do something. Tell me what I can do."
"You should scream it from the rooftops."
"I am afraid someone might hear."

"How pathetic can you get. To give you credit, you do climb to the rooftop," I beam at this, "but all you do is whisper." The beam wipes itself out. "You pause at each plant on your way, pick up the fallen flowers, smell them, ponder over them, and stroll when you should be screaming, shouting, yelling and racing ahead."
"I like that, I mean picking the flowers and enjoying the fragrance... that's how I like to be."
"DUH." It hear it mumble as it straightens, "I think I am wasting my time." It makes one last attempt. "Why don't you, at least, post these links to your social networking sites several times over the week, instead of just once in your lifetime? Send a mail to a few people when you write something worth reading? Haven't you seen people do that?"
"Won't my friends call me a spammer?"
Its shoulders droop. "There. I can't explain any more. I am exhausted. Some day you will realise how right I was."

Are all alter-egos this snobby, snorty and sniffy?

"Let me tell you something else," it says in a tone that's no longer mild. "If this goes on, I may leave you. Like, forever."
"Ha," I finally get the upperhand, "you can't do that. You're my alter-ego. MY alter-ego."

It makes a sound like a forlorn sigh but its eyes gleam with mirth. "You can never say. One of these days, if I get a better offer, I may..."
This time it's my jaw that drops. The shapeless smoke begins to fade with a chuckle that reverberates long after it vanishes.

Snorty, sniffy, superior or not, I really think the fella has a point...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thematic Photographic - Savour

I thought I will not be posting anything for Carmi's Thematic Photographic Challenge this week. After all, there weren't any delicious-looking photographs lying around. Moreover, the pictures posted by others cover almost all the possible shades on the Savour spectrum - there was nothing I could cook up (umm.. literally) that would add something new to it.

Then came Sunday.

Veg Pulao

Monday, October 25, 2010

Of Blogs and Writing

There was a time, not too deep inside the trash can of my memory, when I began each of my working days with a spot of activities that had no relation to the work I was doing. I would take about half an hour every morning to "settle down." This half hour was devoted to luxuries like a cup of tea, catching up with friends, and... something I looked forward to every day: reading blogs. My favourite blogs were listed in my blogroll, and every morning it was a delight to see a few of them updated. There were some others which did not make it to my blogroll at the time, but were interesting nevertheless and would make for a read on a rainy day.

What a mix of reading they made! The bloggers, who hailed from India to Canada to Australia to the US, wrote about their passions, their professions, news in their part of the world and things I knew nothing of. I followed them for the wonderful way they demonstrated their points of view. Each had a unique style: the way they wrote, the words they used, the photographs they posted, even the fonts they chose and the way their blogs were laid out. For me, every read was a learning. I would pick up a phrase that was beautiful, a word that was new or forgotten, a thought that was inspiring, a piece of news that was fresh, a perspective that was fascinating, a memory that was pleasant, a picture that was captivating, a skill that was enviable, a comic that was hilarious or an idea that was thought-provoking. It was the writing, most of the time, that took me back to them, I could see no other reason for my returning to blogs that spoke about things I had no clue on. I would devour them, sometimes over and over again because I knew there was something I could take back from them.

As time passed, more blogs were added to my blogroll. Some were removed because they, seemingly abandoned for months by their authors, sedimented at the bottom of my blogroll.

Though the attention I pay these blogs has now come down - I may not visit daily - the fascination with them remains. I still read and ponder over them, delight in them and learn from them, like a child with a new toy.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Proud Mamma brags

A few days ago my almost-five-year-old, who has been taught at school to read single-syllable words, read the following, slowly, taking his time with each syllable, adding them together and coming up with excellent results:
Simba
Zebra
Parker
Excalibur

His grandparents were delighted, I was proud.

And thus we have merrily sailed into the term-2 of school. Whew, Sigh, Wow and all that, and then some.
He has now mastered the upper and lower case English alphabet with minimal confusion (he now only confuses 'b' with 'd'.)
In Mathematics, he has learnt to count till 100 (though at times he falls back to 30 after 69 and this goes on in an infinite loop till someone nudges him out of it). He also distinguishes which number among two is greater. He knows how to spell the numbers (in words) till ten, except 'eight', which is slightly confusing anyway.
Once the English confusion was out of the way, he began to attempt Hindi. He has been taught from 'अ' to 'अ:' but still forgets some of them. His teacher isn't worried, she says "let's give him some time." Fine by me!


Thus speaketh a Mother who had posted this blog exactly an year ago, trying to hide her terror between the lines of the post. So much has changed since then. A year ago, I thought it impossible for a child to read three-letter English words, even at the end of Kindergarten. The least I wanted was for my son to properly identify the alphabet. I would not have believed it, had you told me that today he would read simple sentences like:
This is a car.
These are eggs.
The fat man in the van has a fan.


Oooooh I am loving it, watching him piece together the syllables and read the sentences, with the triumphant expression of pronouncing a verdict.


Still months away from completing KG, he amazes me when he says that the greater-than symbol ('>') is a crocodile who likes to eat the larger number. He doesn't get the symbol wrong even once as he ponders over the numbers on either side and draws the sign between them, the crocodile's mouth open towards the larger number. He also knows what '=' means.


He spells and writes his name, and a few months ago he declared that 'cycle' was spelt as 'SKL.' Can't blame him - I have no clue why 'cycle' in reality has such an unbecoming spelling. He looks at the word 'clever' and says it should be read as 'clay-ware'. I have no objection whatsoever! He has his phonics right, something the people who made up these words apparently didn't have.


He was not exposed to English before he started school, so it's a delight to hear him speak the language to his non-Malayali friends, though the grammar is not too perfect. Even his toys sometimes speak English: the other day, I overheard his clay dinosaur tell his other clay friends, "Let's go and eat somebody!"

Do I look starry-eyed? Can I be excused?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Freedom at Midnight

Yellowed pages ready to tear at the slightest provocation.

A carefully scribbled signature of a person who had just started owning books and marking them to show ownership.

A date written beneath the signature, possibly that of purchase: 25/6/87

The story of a slice of history that needs to be re-read time and again.

Cool breeze on a warm afternoon.
The book slips from my hand as my eyes droop.
The papers flutter and close, stopping at the title page.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

As the Games leaves for Glasgow...

... all I can think of saying is, "Whew".

After what happened just days before the Commonwealth Games was scheduled to start, after enduring so much of shame to last a lifetime, reaching even to the point of having foreigners blast the entire Nation on its account while we could do nothing but hang our heads in embarrassment, athletes pulling out, organisers threatening to call the event off etc., it was no surprise that every single Indian had his or her fingers crossed on the day of the opening - our only prayer had been, God, let it happen without any glitches, we don't ask for a world class event, we don't ask for a lot of medals, just let it start and end without any more mistakes.

A wave of relief spread across the country prior to the Games when Field Hockey Canada posted these pictures on their Facebook profile, followed by Team Wales and others. Our Army stepped in to fix the footbridge that had collapsed. Things went on in a war footing and yes, we managed to save ourselves by a hair's breadth.

Unlucky I was to miss the grand opening ceremony, and had to be content with reading text messages about the magnificent programs and watching highlights a day later on youtube. The relief and pride were evident in the messages I received from my friends.

The few complaints that trickled in as the Games were underway were of no concern - after all, those happen everywhere that an event of this magnitude takes place.


My relief at an event well done slowly gives way to Gratitude...

... to everyone involved, who dropped everything and rushed to clear the Nation's image when all some of us could do was writhe in shame.

... to everyone, here and abroad, who placed their trust in us, and came forward to show their support in spite of everything, through their presence, their encouraging words and every little gesture. I have no words to describe how much we appreciate it.

... to people like my friend Nikhil, who held steadfast in their belief that 'everything will fall into place in the end' even when the rest of us screamed in fury.

Thank you, Delhi.
Thank you for adjusting your lifestyle so that the Games could take place without hassles.
Thank you for being uncomplaining about all the hardships you had to endure in the name of security and other reasons related to the Games.
Thank you for Booing those who deserved to be booed, and cheering our friends and rivals alike.
Thank you for giving our visitors a good time.
Thank you, Delhi, for making all of us proud.

(Mr.Kalmadi has thanked all the others involved in a detailed narration that lasted almost as long as the rest of the closing ceremony did, so I do not list them here... )

Go Glasgow!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Do you have any answers?

The questions have lost some of their beauty and innocence because of my crude translation...

1. Why is it that boy lions have long hair and girl lions don't have any hair, whereas it is the other way round in people?

2. Why is Ganesha's head the same colour as his body? Shouldn't it have the colour of an elephant?

3. What did the little elephant's Mother do when the Gods took away her child's head to attach with Ganesha's body? (God, I swear I never thought of that!)

4. If Z is spelled as 'Z-E-D' and B is spelled as 'B-I', what is the spelling of A?

5. Where does the cow get all the milk from?

6. This one's a gem. He was watching Walt Disney's 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'. When the handsome Prince comes upon Snow White suddenly, she runs inside, alarmed. When I explained that the girl ran away because she was surprised and scared, the simple and straightforward question comes: "Why did she run? Why didn't she just ask him, 'Who are you?'"

7. - "How many Gods are there in this World?"
    - "I don't know. A lot."
    - "Tell me how many!"
    - "Ten thousand and one."
    - "Ok. Now tell me their names."

8. "What will happen if we eat the Moon? Will we become the Moon?"

9. (Don't ask what made me explain tides and waves to an almost-five-year-old, but I did, and this was the result:)
"Why is the Moon pulling at all the water in the ocean? Is she trying to drink it?"
"If the Earth wasn't pulling it back, would all the water fly up to the sky?"

10. Hearing me call both my Mother and my Mother-in-law as 'Amma', he asks me, "How come you have two Ammas? I have only one. I want two Ammas as well!"


PS: Can anyone help me with the answers?


[Promote on Indivine]

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Mangalore take-off

No one can enter or leave the mountain-top airport at Mangalore without being affected by a string of emotions.

As we climb to the airport by road, we brace ourselves for an awesome view during take off. But not for a moment can we forget the price that Awesomeness often comes at; the tragedies and dangers that the table-top runway conceals.

The small aircraft seems to take a deep breath before its jittery, noisy, unsteady lunge across the runway for the lift off.

As the plane ascents, the terrifying gorge comes to view where a small human error in judgement had claimed lives just months ago. There is no sign to remind us of it, in case we do need reminding - the remnants of the disaster have long been swallowed by the ravine. Only a vague uneasiness remains in the viewers' searching eyes. Yet, if for a moment we're willing to forget the tragedy, we can allow ourselves to take in the breathtaking view as the aeroplane makes a turn above the cliff and heads towards its destination.

As we complete the turn and proceed on our way, I look back at the receding gorge, surrounded by green mountains, calm and ominous, now resembling ant-hills with a dash of pale green sprayed at the top, and could not but heave a sigh of relief that we're leaving it behind to its unpleasant memories, and say a quiet prayer that there occur no more errors - human or divine - and that it holds no more tragedies on its lap.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Waiting for Spring

A few...
... dashed memories
... foiled wishes
... scattered dreams...

Winter followed Autumn, and soon came Summer. There was yet no sign of Spring.

He would walk the street, jacket pulled over his shoulder, seeing everything but taking nothing in. The newspapers screamed out the changing face of the world. He would look around, searching the crowd for a well-known face. Strangers they were, and they always will be. They spoke languages he knew but bore no significance to him. They talked, shouted, bargained, fought. He paid no heed to his surroundings. He scanned the sky for a sign, the earth for a path.

The Fall... of Snow, of Leaves, of Rain.
Heat. Lightning. Thunder.

There were always signs, there were always roads. But none were intended for him.

He stopped.
It was smooth, beautiful, soft and luring. He glided towards it without knowing why. Without even asking himself why. It was beckoning him, as it did many others.
They flocked towards it. He followed.

He was way too into it when he snapped awake.
Quicksand. Everywhere.
And they were all sinking into it, watching each other disappear.

Not that it mattered. He would not want to escape.
Not as long as Spring refused to arrive.

The flowers that withered would never bloom again.
The leaves that fell would never be green again.
The trees that were skeletons would never be covered again.
The rivers that dried up would never see floods again.

And still, Spring evaded the streets.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Father ...

He engineered Independence.
He lived by the principles he advocated.
He led the country in a relentless fight - by redefining the word 'fight'.
He brought the British to their knees.
He gave his life to do it.

He was the only answer to India's greatest problem. Then, and since.
No one before or after has been able to bring the nation together by sheer force of will.
He gave new meaning to Sacrifice.

When his followers were required to prove they were worthy of him, they failed him. "Everyone cannot be a Mahatma," they claimed. They split the country and tore his heart.

Perhaps only time that he lost the battle with his own.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Little Bouts of Happiness

Sunday. Early morning. Fresh. Tea.

Newspapers - the pages that never contain depressing news.
Scent of breakfast - and yes, someone else working in the kitchen!

Delicious, breaking of the fast.
Kids playing outside.

Checking for mails, reading blogs and following other sites of interest.
Writing.

Being Lazy. Idle.
A warm bath. Long. Relaxing. With no child yelling at the door.

Aroma of lunch - cooked by someone else.
A sumptuous meal.

Story-telling time for the child, before his nap.
An interesting read and an afternoon nap. As long as I like.
Tea delivered to my hands when I wake up.
Watching the sky settle down for the night. Cool Breeze.

A drive in the evening. A movie. Family time.
Dinner. Ha, yes, without my stepping into the kitchen. Can even be a takeaway.

Writing. Reading. More me time.
Snuggle under the blankets. Narrate another story for the four-year-old. Watch him fall asleep.

Other precious little things that complete the list.
Bliss!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

To Kill a MockingBird

Sharing my most favourite passage from Harper Lee's To Kill a Mocking Bird. If you haven't read it (or seen the film), you possibly would not connect. If you have, you'll know what I mean.

*

I looked behind me. To the left of the brown door was a long shuttered window. I walked to it, stood in front of it, and turned around. In daylight, I thought, you could see to the postoffice corner.

Daylight… in my mind, the night faded. It was daytime and the neighborhood was busy. Miss Stephanie Crawford crossed the street to tell the latest to Miss Rachel. Miss Maudie bent over her azaleas. It was summertime, and two children scampered down the sidewalk toward a man approaching in the distance. The man waved, and the children raced each other to him.

It was still summertime, and the children came closer. A boy trudged down the sidewalk dragging a fishingpole behind him. A man stood waiting with his hands on his hips. Summertime, and his children played in the front yard with their friend, enacting a strange little drama of their own invention.

It was fall, and his children fought on the sidewalk in front of Mrs. Dubose’s. The boy helped his sister to her feet, and they made their way home. Fall, and his children trotted to and fro around the corner, the day’s woes and triumphs on their faces. They stopped at an oak tree, delighted, puzzled, apprehensive.

Winter, and his children shivered at the front gate, silhouetted against a blazing house. Winter, and a man walked into the street, dropped his glasses, and shot a dog.

Summer, and he watched his children’s heart break. Autumn again, and Boo’s children needed him.

Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.

The street lights were fuzzy from the fine rain that was falling. As I made my way home, I felt very old, but when I looked at the tip of my nose I could see fine misty beads, but looking cross-eyed made me dizzy so I quit. As I made my way home, I thought what a thing to tell Jem tomorrow. He’d be so mad he missed it he wouldn’t speak to me for days. As I made my way home, I thought Jem and I would get grown but there wasn’t much else left for us to learn, except possibly algebra.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It runs in our veins...

Today the plumber came to take a look at my leaking kitchen tap and the leaky flush. If he didn't do anything today, the overhead tank would empty itself through my house within a few hours. The connection to the flush could be closed but nothing could be done about the kitchen tap. I told him to fix it quickly. He gave me a list of things to be purchased, which he would take care of, of course. I only need to pay him. A person who knew better saw the list and told me, "There is no need to change the kitchen tap, a change of washer should suffice." Sensing the urgency of the situation and my obvious ignorance, the plumber was hoping to make an extra buck.

If he, an ordinary, local plumber, can easily make a few rupees by fooling unsuspecting customers now and then, what of people who get to play with crores of International money? Is it any surprise that their eyes turn yellow at the sight of all the 'wealth'?

Today we are on the verge of yet another National Shame. The Commonwealth Games, whether  it gets called off or not, would remain one of the greatest disgraces of recent times. 'One of the greatest', I said. Naturally there will be more to follow. But why drag people from other countries into it? We should stop looking International, and limit ourselves to national and regional levels of corruption and mud-slinging. After all, why do we have to get foreigners to point their fingers at us? We can manage very well ourselves, thank you, the bribery, the callousness, the pointing fingers, the terrorism, the whole bunch of them. We are a great nation where all kinds of people co-exist. And how.

I was never a keen follower of the Commonwealth Games. I admit I had to google to know which countries are part of the Commonwealth of Nations. The only interest I had this year was because it was going to take place in India. I was proud of it too. Will it be anywhere close to the dazzling FIFA World Cup that Africa had hosted, I wondered. I bought a couple of T-shirts that had sketches of the CWG on them, to show my pride. With 12 more days to go for the Commonwealth Games to begin, here is the status (from the pages of NDTV):

Athletes pull out
Commonwealth Games Village is filthy
Foot over-bridge collapses


Why is it that so much of corruption and irresponsibility exist in the entire hierarchy of our country? How and when did it start? Who is responsible? Are there other countries who are worse than us - or at least just like us? These questions do not matter. The fact is that It exists. And that it will continue to exist. It cannot be changed, as long as people can get away with it - with the help of more bribing. To borrow a thought from my blogger friend Mike, a group is indeed judged by the few who misuse. There can be never be a Nayak. If there ever is one who takes a step forward, he is immediately shot down - as shown by the recent political martyrs, who had to quit, confessing that this really isn't their cup of tea. Why would anyone want to sully themselves, their families and ruin their single, short lives?


People of other Nations, please note. Do us a favour. Do not bring any more events to our country. We can't handle them. If in a million years, we change, we will come crawling on our knees and beg. You can look at us then. Till then, please leave us to wade in our miseries. Don't show the kindness of calling us a great nation - we really aren't. Don't even think of helping us - because we are very capable of managing quite well by ourselves. It has become our lifestyle. We're a developing nation. But please don't ask what we're developing into.


I normally restrict my blog to the small world immediately around me, though I read, think and worry about the bigger picture a great deal. The whole nation has something to say about the topic, what more can I add? Why put myself - and my land and my people - in a bad light? The truth may be that we never were in a better light. We just pretended we were. We thought we could still get away with these because we have a few thousand years of history.

Today the frustration and bitterness spill across the threshold. And when I am frustrated, I write.


Continue, my countrymen. Continue peeing around the streets and living your life happily ever after with someone else' money. Don't change one iota.
After all, who's going to stop you?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Body language

I observe people. Hopefully without being too obvious about it*.
When they are unaware of the scrutiny, their actions, gestures and looks speak volumes.


Restaurant. 
A person having a meal with his family, beckons for mosaru (dahi / curd). As he waits, his hands play with the rice and he digs a hole in his rice to receive the mosaru, his eyes constantly on the man with the mosaru. The latter approaches and offers mosaru to the others at the table. The man fiddling with his rice sits straight, his eyes on the mosaru falling on the other's rice, ready for his turn.


Hospital.
The sliding doors part. A woman walks in, and stops short. Her first visit - from the way she looks around, probably searching for a board or an arrow to guide her. At first she does not notice the people walking past. She fumbles with her handbag, as if to locate her mobile. Failing to find a board, her eyes glide over the faces around her and settle on the person in blue uniform. She approaches him and asks something. The man turns and points to the corridor.


Apartment.
The fifteen-year old tosses her long hair back as she walks - apparently very proud of it and aware of admiring eyes around her. Her chin is raised. She stops before her Maths teacher. The teacher enquires with a smile about her exams. She answers in her loud voice, her posture defiant, though her words are friendly. The teacher's body language spells Gentleness. The girl's spells Arrogance.


Home.
The child ignores his father's advice and throws the toy to the floor, with a chuckle. Father stops and turns slowly around. The boy's smile vanishes and he takes a small step backward, shoulders hunched, arms ready to protect himself against the torrent.


Café.
Four people sit around a table. Two are foreigners. The two desis could be software engineers - from their attire, the tag around their neck and their attitudes. One of the foreigners probably asked a question. The desi explains why 'Ruby on Rails' is called 'Ruby on Rails'. The foreigners lean forward, so as not to miss a word in the Indian accent. The desi girl listens, her eyes darting back and forth between the speaker and the listeners. She knows what he is talking about, she wants to see the reaction and ensure that the explanation is clear to the listeners. If they look confused, she would like to insert a word or two to clarify.


*If someone was observing me whilst these surveillances were going on, they would have thought: Woman at the table with a cup of coffee before her. Eyes travelling between the people at the next table(s) and her coffee. Pretending to be looking elsewhere. Apparently waiting for someone. Taking an idle sip now and then. Asking for more coffee. Recording the gestures and actions of the people - probably to write down in her blog, later.