Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Traumatised by Hon'ble Shri Raj Thackeray



There were signs but I didn't realise how seriously affected my little 5 year old has been by Mr Raj Thackeray's actions.

His anti-North Indian rhetoric hadn't filtered down to our young ones for obvious reasons. I mean, we do discuss politics at home, but this was way below 'dirty politics' and deserved no mention at the Dining Table for sure. Why kill your appetite over such despicable and simply pathetic individuals?

But then, one day in early November, my children learnt the name Raj Thackeray. Their school picnics were cancelled one morning owing to incidences of bus burning and stone pelting in Pune, although for the umpteenth time since Thackeray began his tirade, for the first time for my children who took prompt notice of him.

As my son stormed back, despatched home by the class teacher, with the picnic goodies untouched in his bag, unhappy over the cancellation, he exclaimed loudly, "Mama, my picnic has been cancelled because Raj Thackeray is burning buses."

Clearly, the teachers may have been discussing the ramifications of taking the children for a picnic while 'buses' in the city 'burned' due to 'Raj Thackeray', the little one it seems, only picked the key words!

The cancellation of his picnic was related to everyone. Calls were made to the grandparents in far off Kerala to tell them why the picnic was cancelled. "Raj Thackeray is burning buses" became a common refrain for my heart broken kids until the picnic was eventually planned after a fortnight.

In the mean time, his older sister had shown him photographs of the notorious gentleman!

The second time we heard the name was during the terror attack in Mumbai on 26/11 as we sat glued to the laptop watching the proceedings LIVE on NDTV.

Anger gave way to consternation and shock. One evening over dinner, the hubby said, "I wonder where Raj Thackeray is now. Will he or his men come to the aid of Mumbai?"

While I nodded my head, a small voice exclaimed, "Papa, Raj Thackeray cannot come to help Mumbai. He is busy burning buses na..."

We laughed over what seemed funny to us, but the little fellow was in no mood for humour as his eyes remained glued to the screen watching the scenes of devastation.

The third time I heard the reference to Raj Thackeray has actually left me stumped.

We were taking a short beach vacation with friends. After long hours of splashing in the water, he came back to the shore. We sat together and started making sand castles when he startled me with, "Mama, I saw Raj Thackeray."

"Hmmm... Really? Where was he?"

"He was in the water, playing with the ball."

I recalled a guy playing with a ball quite close to us in the water. I must admit, the resemblance was a bit uncanny... But....

"Mama, he forgot his glasses at home."

BOING!!!! Yup...the man I saw was not wearing glasses!

My son seems to have been traumatised by Mr Raj Thackeray himself. What am I to do? Any words of advise?



Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thoughts about Life


I am quite certain all of us have our wonderful tales and memories of college.

Those magical years, when as I recall now, it seems as though all we did was dream a lot, had loads of fun, drinking (fake) 'Espresso' coffee in the college canteen, sharing plates of Bread Pakoras, or Idli Sambhar or Dosas, or eating the Chhole Chaat outside the gate or breaking necks over assignments in the Library...or participating in College Fests...or simply watching Fests...

A time when no dream seemed unachievable, when the sky seemed to be the only limit, when flights of fancy were almost real...where Cinderella or Snow White could've been one of us...

We were young, we were pretty, we were smart, we were strong, we were bold, we were in control...we were almost invincible... Our inhibitions, if any were invisible... 

And what would this story be without FRIENDS. Yes...perhaps like the bond between Ross and Chandler..or Monica and Rachel, sweet, lightly competetive... We were always there for eachother...holding eachother up as we 'survived' Chaucer, Milton and Austen...

15 years have gone by and so much water has flown under the bridge.. So many of us are married, have children, careers..have chosen paths we never thought we would...lived moments we never imagined we would, lived a life far far different from the dreams of those nineteen year old minds

A and S are buddies from that time... I can still cry at their travails and exult in their triumphs.... 

A is going through the roughest patch ever. Whenever I listen to her, I am reminded of that carefree young girl, who would endlessly flirt with handsome guys in Nirulas as we'd sit waiting for our Pizzas, the Editor of our College Magazine, a girl so talented, so creative...she could write a meaningful deep poem about a cow! 

And then I wonder...at God's wierd sense of jurisprudence...that a gal who could have won the Booker Prize a long time ago, lost it all to an early marriage and a unhappy one at that. Today, through her sheer grit she has managed to retain a full time career and has become the Dep Editor of a leading lifestyle magazine...but her battles are far from over. 

And then there's S... She ran away from us for a long time...and fought her battles alone in an alien country. She has emerged glorious in love and is getting married soon.... and I am certain I will cry on that day. Happiness can be overwhelming and when you know somebody deserves it, the heart tends to beat a little faster and the tears just come tumbling down.

Happy endings belong in Fairy Tales. And yet, sometimes, He strikes a balance... 

As we begin the year 2009, here's wishing A and S the best of all that life can offer... May God grant one a great new beginning and the other, the courage to make a new beginning. 

Amen!



Saturday, November 1, 2008


I may be at the receiving end

Suddenly

 

I, the tormentor

thus far immune

to the hurt and anguish I

caused

 

now feel

trepidation and

anxiety;

utter anarchy

 

Denied truths

Lies

uttered in moments of

desperation and nervousness

creep over, hauntingly

 

Caught in a trap

There is no freedom

this time.

No window of

opportune misconduct

or staggering verbosity

To deny

Disclaim

Refuse

Cover-up

the obvious

 

“What goes

around

comes

around”

they say

wisdom that dares

emotions

 

the proverbial

circle of life

360 degree turn

Karma....


Saturday, October 25, 2008

When memories come calling


Barath lost a dear friend at a young age. Reading his post was like experiencing a flash flood of memories rewinding themselves into my over-crowded, over worked, exhausted and weary brain.

But the memories were real. Like it happened yesterday.


A dear friend. A buddy.

Someone who never knew

How to say ‘NO’ to me

 

Those bike rides in the gullies of North Delhi

Or the four lane outer circle of CP

Cups of coffee at the IIT canteen (‘thaka hua’)

that I would compare to my ‘happening’ college canteen

And he would only smile serenely

Or garma garam chai at some roadside dhaba

at 4 am (or was it 5????)

After a nite of long partying with my crazy friends

(at some disco where we’d use him and his friends

“For entry purposes only”;

and dance the night away in wild abandon, flirting

with other men unabashedly)

While he would diligently escort us back

on bone chilling winter nights

I would be his pillion; (he always wanted me to….) 

to our barsaati, waving goodbye at the gate

never asking to be let in

 

He was the first buddy I made

Having had a sheltered ‘convent-strictly-girls’ upbringing

I was surprised that we could be ‘friends’

A real friend who did

not expect more…not need more

unlike some of the other ‘boys’ I’d known then

 

He was special, to me, to my friends

We could pull his 6 ft 3 inches long frame

and he’d still just smile and blush sometimes

 

He was always especially nice to me….

My room mate noticed, but I was blind somehow

because I’d fallen in love….with another man;

His senior…..

 

I didn’t see…the love and longing

the jealousy and the discomfort

Didn’t understand his feelings…..

As I basked in the glory of an over powering love and a

madness I never knew I was capable of

 

I left him broken hearted

said his friends angrily (wondering why I’d called)

as I beseeched them frantically on the phone,

tears streaming down my face

to tell me how he could die

so young, at 24

 

Those long nights of endless, ceaseless crying

the tears, the agony, the pain, the hysteria, the torment

Nothing

Nothing brought him back to me

Nothing eased the pain

 

No phone call, no letters, not a word

He left me nothing but the guilt of knowing that

he died a broken hearted man

 

14 years have gone by

I wonder if he knows

that I cared too…and that I would do

anything

for one day with him

to make my peace

 

And I know, in my heart

he will not say ‘NO’

just as he never could…


 

Friday, October 24, 2008

COMMAND AND DEMAND: AN OPEN LETTER FROM A CIVILIAN


I received the following as a Forward from a friend. It espouses the cause of the Armed Forces, the only ignored community of our great Nation. It superbly expresses the anger we feel. 



The Editor, The Indian Express 

Dear Sir,

COMMAND AND DEMAND: AN OPEN LETTER FROM A CIVILIAN

I write with reference to the article 'Chain of command, demand' by Shekhar Gupta ( Ind Exp 4th. Oct 2008).  Mr. Gupta has not only castigated the chiefs but also predicted dire consequences for them. Not difficult when your courage can bask in the knowledge that the armed forces cannot respond because of the various Acts. Fortunately, I also don't have to worry about these laws. Gupta has forgotten important issues and aspects of the whole affair. The present chiefs have less than 18 months to go. In 2010 you will have a brand new trio. If the chiefs were to go by what Gupta has implicitly suggested, three scenarios emerge.

Scenario 1: In the Golf Club at the 6th Hole (recall it is the 6th. Pay Commission). Says one chief to the others - what do we do now? The other says- arre bhai chodo na, ki farak pendha. We are out in 18 months and then we would be looking forward to becoming Governors/Ambassado rs etc. Let's sign on the dotted line. No one will remember this after one year.    

Scenario 2: Same place. The chiefs say - Hey, we are a democratic country remember? So why not conduct a poll through Indian Express by email/sms. All officers and men will vote on – should we accept the 6th PC or not? One lucky officer and one lucky jawan will get a prize – not being posted to Siachen at all. After all, being a democratic government, Raksha Mantriji will congratulate us. See how they keep on saying – people supreme, people supreme. So for us, officers and soldiers supreme, no?

Scenario 3: The chiefs accept the proposals so as to maintain discipline and supremacy of the civilian government, but resign to register their protests. Sounds corny, but do you like it?

What would 'General' Gupta choose?  Let us know. With reasons. Yes, the whole affair has been mishandled. But by whom? By the Defence Minister who was probably acting on the advice of his Defence Secretary. So let Antony start by booting his Defence Secretary out. But he can't.. As you have rightly stated a more powerful government and a defence minister who knows the difference between a human butt and that of a rifle may pounce on the services. But there also has to be an army then. Will we have an army in 5-10 years?  Why is the armed forces pay always in dispute? Because the establishment mafia which includes netas, land owners, owners of assets and media want the country to be defended as cheaply as possible with the lives of other people's children. How many of these categories have their progeny in the forces?  If MPs can decide their emoluments and civil servants theirs, why can't the armed forces do so directly with the political leadership?  Why not make the Defence Ministry independent with its own budget like the Railway Ministry. We the people would contribute what it wants and we will pay only the difference to the Consolidated Fund (or is it Fraud) of India .

  

You have hit below the belt by stating that the present chiefs are not a patch on Thimayya, Maneckshaw, Lal, Sunderji, Tahiliani et al. But time and fate are great balancers – the army got the chiefs needed to deal with stalwarts like Patel, Krishna Menon, Indira Gandhi and Jagjivan Ram. Recall how Lt. Gen Thakur Nathu Singh asked Nehru how much experience he had as PM when the latter wanted Britishers to continue for 15 years after independence because Indian Generals did not have experience. That's why Indian Express also had a Ramnath Goenka during the emergency. Today, even a Major (sorry for the pun), let alone a General, is more than sufficient. We have a Defence Minister who will not last 10 minutes in a debate with a Powell or a Rumsfeld. The Chinese Defence Minister will eat him raw in less than a minute. Read the recent book by a former Expressman, Arun Shourie – Are We Deceiving Ourselves Again – of how an outstanding soldier – Mao - made Nehru look like a boy scout on his first camp. Even after 45 years the Henderson-Brookes Report has not been released.

In 1963, moving the first no-confidence motion after the Chinese debacle, Acharya Kripalani said 'I hope the Defence Minister can defend himself better than he has defended the nation.'  Today, for the sake of the country I hope we can get one who can defend the nation and understands the blood group OG.  Then he will have no necessity of defending himself. Has any babu spent 40% of his career in non-family stations? What happened to the grandiose plans of George Fernandes to send his secretaries to Siachen for a few days?   Look at how your own comrades of the Fifth Column have dealt with the subject. For every article in favour of the armed forces, there are ten favouring the netas and babus. Not surprising since the armed forces do not give you licences etc. Look at the insipid and inane polls your paper carries – 'Is Naveen Patnaik ineffective' or 'Is the Tata-Singur affair harmful to West Bengal '?  Perhaps the next important questions will be – 'Is the Ranbir-Deepika couple more romantic than the Saif-Kareena one' or 'whether Ganguly should be dropped'?  How about one which asks – Shouldn't our soldiers be paid more than our netas, babus and police?  Lastly, don't forget that the Chiefs are only fighting for scales from 2007, while the army has been short-changed from around 1957. So who is going to make up for those 50 years – Indian Express?

There are stated and unstated hints and fears that the armed forces have become too big for their boots. This morbid fear is because hardly any neta  has ever served in the forces. Assuming that the country is worth taking over, they already have. They have been forced to wear big boots.  They are fighting on the borders, fighting insurgency (police work) within the borders, handling floods, earthquakes, tsunamis (all civil work) and very soon will be asked to help in finishing the stadiums for the Commonwealth Games and even win medals. Where do you think the bands and mass parades/drills are going to come from? They run some of the best schools, best medical college (AFMC) and the best engineering colleges (one in Pune for their children and also the CME). Each of their institutions, from NDA to IMA to DSSC to AWC to NDC, not to mention HAWS and CIWS, is world class. Their cantonments have always been like Singapore , ie better than Shanghai . Last but not least, their daughters dominate Bollywood and beauty contests. Unfortunately the law does not allow them to get into media or they will beat you there also. They are effectively in charge without sitting in Rashtrapathi Bhavan or Race Course Road because the other arms of state have proved to be totally inept as epitomised by the Home Secretary who said on TV that he is learning and getting his on-the-job-training from every bomb blast. Perhaps the fees are being paid by the lives of the aam aadmis.

Gupta's article states that it is of national interest. I fully agree. I therefore reserve my right to send my response to the three HQs, the media and such other parties who are interested in national affairs. The present chiefs may not be Thimayyas or Maneckshaws, but let us see whether Gupta is a Ramnath Goenka, even when we don't have an emergency. Let's see whether this article is printed, even in a sanitized form.  

Yours faithfully, 
T.R.RAMASWAMI

The Indian Express may not have carried this letter, but the entire community is in agreement with his views. Kudos Mr Ramaswami!


Monday, October 20, 2008



It was an innocent gesture that has left me wondering on the whys and hows of human nature.

On Sunday I was driving down a busy street to get to a Star Hotel where I was meeting the F&B Manager for a food feature I am writing for TOI these days. Before that I was to meet a friend and colleague at a bridge which flows over the famous Mula River in Pune (which is center point for both of us and where we have met several times to exchange documents/CDs and the like - work related stuff).

At a traffic signal, a gentleman on a motorbike asks me for directions to a certain landmark Mall. I explain it to him and as the light turns 'green' head my way, which is incidentally in the same direction!

At the next traffic signal, he stands a couple of vehicles to my left and gesticulates. I can see his destination and point it out to him. After the signal turns 'green' I speed off on my way.

After I park my car at the foot of the bridge and wait for my friend to turn up, the biker knocks on my window. 

Conversation ensues.

He thought I wanted him to follow me and so he does. He seems mighty embarassed that he did not understand the directions I gave him. I smile out of sheer politeness because I cannot (obviously) agree to his foolishness. (I mean, couldn't he read the sign boards screaming in bold RED?)

Nevertheless he introduces himself as the Manager of a Bank and gives me his VC. Again, out of sheer politeness I give him mine.

But wait. It is not just politeness. Ever since I have begun networking extensively for my newspaper stories, I have realised the value of passing on your VC to somebody. One day, I struck up a conversation with a complete stranger as the punctured tyre of my car was being repaired and exchanged VCs with him as well.

To cut a long story short, in a matter of one hour I received a long SMS from him, praising my direction giving abilities (How lame can one get!!!) with an invitation for coffee.

I sent him a curt reply asking him not to message me again.

Today he called me apologising for the message. I was curt again.

Something tells me he won't back off. 

I experienced something close to a stalking when a guy I'd interviewed for a job a few years ago started messaging me day in and day out, getting lewd and threatening all at once (if I didn't give him the job). For weeks I suffered until one day, my husband called him and promised to gather the Military Police (We were in the Indian Navy then) and have his limbs broken if he didn't stop messaging me.

I am feeling the same fear again. 

Harish has been guiding me on how to handle him if he dares call again. Else he will come to my rescue as he always has (in cinemas when men try to nudge or shove into parts of your body, in crowded places when men leer at you only because you are a woman, on public transportation...and the list seems endless......) 

I am also wondering why it takes the husband, father or brother to scare such people off. Why can't they take a "NO" from a woman as seriously?

Why won't they just LET US BE????????



Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pictures




I'm not much of a photographer but here are some pictures I've clicked over the past few months.



At Purandar Fort, Pune, Maharashtra



This lady bug wasn't very photogenic. After several attempts, caught it in the right frame!


'Govt of TATA India' - Clicked this picture while driving. 


A houseboat in the merry waters of the Vembanad Lake, Kerala


Houseboat crossing a little habited island


Just found this scene very soothing


Outskirts of Alibaug, Maharashtra


Corridor in the Aga Khan Palace, Pune


Harish prompted me to take this gorgeous picture


Through the verdure - At Empress Gardens, Pune


Perhaps my best. Taken on the Mumbai-Pune Express Highway


GPO Pune



Monday, October 6, 2008

Death of a dream



A dream died a silent death this afternoon

It was meant to happen.
Life was going too fast, too smooth
something had to break the momentum 
of happiness and contentment

Or was it inertia?
Was it complacency?
Was I content basking in today?
So satisfied that I did not think of tomorrow?

A dream died
And took with it
a chunk of me;
my optimism and faith
my vision of the future 
my hopes for tomorrow

A dream is dead
forever.


Thursday, October 2, 2008



An email I received this morning that has instilled a sense of purposefulness and reason in what I was pursuing simply as my "passion".

Dear Madam Ritu,

Thanks a lot for sending me "DNA" paper very promptly.

I really appreciate your spirit, personally driving all the way to Dapodi, to meet me though I am observing "Moun Vrat" to know the facts and figures of the case study.

As an experinced journalist, you had correctly drawn the real cream out of my feelings and emotions regarding my spouse's illness episode.

Your Article as published in the paper is very elabrote,informative and is an eye opener to the not only insurance and TPA Agents, but also to the public who are being haunted.In your article you have slashed them blue and red for the systems short comings.

I am so happy about the article and nothing can stop me without thanking the editor of DNA for selecting and publishing such an use ful article in the interest of public.

Best Regards,
K.H.Rao
This is the same family I'd mentioned in my post Dard ki nai paribhasha
The article in question can be read here on Page 6. 
Can there be stronger words of encouragement and appreciation?


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sometimes LOVE just ain't enough



I thought he would care. And I know he did. For a while. 

But we are back to square one again and I'm in a quandry. I've shed tears that I now know were in vain. I am heart broken no doubt. I am also so worried. What in the world can I do now? I've exhausted the best 'shastra' I had in my kitty and it did not work. 

This rambling does deserve a background...and here it is:

My hubby smokes. A lot. There was a time when he would contain his ciggarettes to three or four a day. These days, I've lost track because he refuses to tell me how many. But I know its a lot because a few years ago he used to buy 'singles' and now he buys a pack.

I am worried. I always have been. Initially I laid down many ground rules to discourage it such as turning our home into a 'No Smoking' zone. Ever since he turned the balcony into an 'adda' I thought asking him not to smoke there would contain it. No such luck! He now goes to the Parking lot to smoke. Going down three flights of stairs is no mean task, but he is willing to devote that much time to the activity.

I've watched him smoke. He is never in a hurry. He actually 'enjoys' it. It is like meditation for him and that worries me more.

I grew up watching my brave mother struggle with hospitals, cardiologists and all the stress that goes with it, since the day my dad, a smoker, first went to a hospital with a heart attack when I was barely 11. Dad still smokes, despite his Bypass surgery! 

I spent a great deal of my growing years attending to relatives in hospitals (dad, gran' dad, gran'ma) so hospitals don't really scare me. What upsets me is the trauma the family goes through, waiting outside ICUs, getting snippets of information from Doctors who consider you incompetent to understand the scope of the problem so you never really know what is happening, being at the complete mercy of the hospital staff....and managing your emotions, your children etc.

I consider my mother to be the bravest person I know because I have witnessed her struggle as dad lay covered by tubes, handling our school routines and the home.

So when I saw that my hubby's smoking had gone up a lot, I thought I would adopt the 'black mail' method since all my pleading, reasoning, nagging, threatening over the past decade or so had fallen to deaf years. 

I did what I could do best. I am a hypertensive and my daily pill is the sole reason I pull through a hectic day. Without it I experience severe symptoms of a rise in the Blood Pressure. 

Since I forget to take it everyday, he is in the habit of reminding me. One day I revealed that I'd given it up....until he quit smoking. He was aghast and pleaded with me but I was adamant. For over two weeks I suffered the headaches, swollen ankles, water retention etc. 

I was hoping he would stop this lethal addiction. 

He did not smoke for about a week and promised me that this would be the norm.  

Three days later, the ciggarette is in his pocket again. 

This song by Patti Smith - Sometimes love just ain't enough - reflects the feelings of my heart

But there's a danger in loving somebody too much,
and it's sad when you know it's your heart you can't trust.
There's a reason why people don't stay where they are.
Baby, sometimes, love just aint enough.

Now, I could never change you
I don't want to blame you.
Baby, you don't have to take the fall.
Yes, I may have hurt you, but I did not desert you.
Maybe I just want to have it all.

It makes a sound like thunder
it makes me feel like rain.
And like a fool who will never see the truth,
I keep thinking something's gonna change.


Am I really the fool? Or is love really not enough?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Happy Teacher’s Day wishes


Recently I started teaching at a Mass communication Institute at Pune.

After my first guest lecture, (which turned out to be a roaring success…apparently the students gave me an excellent feedback), I was inspired to join the Institute as a Guest Lecturer taking an important subject called Media Management.

Today was my second class.

I took two sessions back to back and was dog tired by the time I was done. My mood was elevated as the class dispersed and I stood gathering my belongings from the table….and almost every student in class came up to me and wished me “Happy Teacher’s Day Ma’am”….

I was elated! I know that the feedback for this session will be as good as the first one.

Reached home and as we picked the children from their day-care in the evening, my daughter gave me a card for ‘Teacher’s Day’.

Surprised? So was I!

And this what her colourful hand-made card said:

I love mom because she is a writer and a college teacher. You are the best mom and teacher. All the teachers shout at me for nothing, but you are only a teacher who doesn’t shout for anything.

I love you very very much. Please never leave me and support me always.

A poem for you –

Roses are red

Violets are blue

But nobody has a mom like you.

Her brother gave me a card too. 

Oorja's Card

Abhir's Card

Please forgive me if I am gloating today. I think I earned it!!!


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Dard ki nai paribhasha - A new definition for PAIN

Sometimes you meet people who inspire you to lead a better life than you’ve lived so far..to find ways and means of giving back to society, in the smallest manner possible.

Sometimes you meet people who shock you with their radical thinking or lifestyle, or bewitch you with their ability to ‘live their dream life’ every single moment, or cross the barriers of gender and distance and become friends you’d want to cherish.

Sometimes you meet people who have incredible pain in their lives; pain that makes you count your blessings and look inwardly, scanning every pore of your own being with a microscope to check if you have the right ever EVER be in a position to judge another.

Last evening I met one such family. I got their reference for a Medical Insurance story I am doing for DNA, Pune Edition. Needless to say they were an aggrieved party, cheated at the hands of an Insurance company, until the court gave them a respite.

But that’s not what this is about.

The gentleman I was to speak to was on a ‘moun vrata’ (a vow of silence) taken for 4 months. For 4 long months he would speak not a word, just communicate through writing and gesticulations.

But that’s not what this is about either.

After I ‘interviewed’ him (basically asked him the questions and then peeped into his note pad to see his replies) and was having a lovely cup of tea made by his wife, I heard someone call out “amma, amma” from an inside room.

The lady promptly got up and was soon helping a disabled man walk out. It was clear that he had trouble walking even with the walking stick he had.

After she sat him down she disclosed, “He is my second son. He has an incurable disease.”

As she went on to relate the ordeal of the young man, she further disclosed that her ‘older’ son was also afflicted with the same disease. While the younger one had symptoms since birth, the older one was afflicted after the age of 28.

I researched and found this about the condition.


Cerebellar Ataxia - It is an umbrella term for disorders of the nervous system which cause unsteadiness and a lack of co-ordination

· Its name comes from the word cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance and co-ordination


· There are genetic forms of the disease. In addition, some cerebellar ataxias can be caused by brain injury, viral infections or tumours


· However, in some cases it is not known what causes the condition


· It is a progressive disorder. And, while it is not fatal in itself, it can place unbearable stress upon the heart


· Cerebellar ataxia can develop at any age


· It is a very rare disorder without a cure


· However, the disease normally develops very slowly, and it can take years for a person's condition to change


· Walking can become increasingly difficult, and it may eventually become necessary to use a wheelchair


· People with the condition can become incontinent

· Other symptoms can include difficulties with swallowing and slurred speech

· Sight and hearing can be affected. In rare cases, they can be lost altogether

· However, intellectual faculties are not affected

I sat there trying to gulp down the hot cup of tea that suddenly seemed too hot and stubbornly refused to cool down, tongue tied and so at a loss for appropriate words.

The description reminded me of Muscular Dystrophy and I know two people afflicted with it, bravely trying to lead a normal life. I took a guess that this condition must be genetic too. The father wrote on a sheet on his scratch pad, words that I will never forget “No cure any where in the world. No medicine. No stone is unturned – medical, spiritual. It is a very rare disease. Our bad luck. Things cannot be cured have to be endured.”


The vow of silence he has taken is a prayer for his children.

Through the course of my interactions with people, I have seen underprivileged children struggle for existence, their survival dependent on the mercy of others, I have witnessed people going beyond their call of duty and listen to the voice inside their hearts, I have seen angels….

And yet, when I am struck with ‘pain’ I forget all the things I’ve experienced, all the people I’ve known.

What is pain? The going away of a loved one for prolonged durations, their absences, lack of luxuries, unsatiated never ending desires, losing a loved one, letting them go….?

NO. What I saw on the faces of the parents was PAIN.

How ridiculous my own experience of pain seems in the light of their tragedy?

As I was leaving, he gave me a laminated picture of Sai Baba of Shirdi to keep in my wallet (to bring you luck, he wrote). I, a complete non-believer, have it safely tucked in. Somehow I hope that his act of affection (wishing me luck) towards a complete stranger brings HIM good luck. For that, I’d be willing to keep any insignia anywhere, anyone proposes...if it removes their PAIN.



Monday, August 25, 2008

Our perspectives differ-just a bit!!!


One evening Abhir sat doing his home-work. He was writing "mat". He is learning to write independently, without 100% supervision (because that is what I trained Oorja also to do. I think its necessary to teach them to manage home work on their own). Anyways, I come back about 15 minutes later and saw half a page filled neatly with "tam" "tam" "tam".

A few days ago, he wrote "one" neatly in a mirror image in his Math note book.

As a little girl about the same age, Oorja used to do the same. I know that its a phase and they eventually grow out of it. What I wasn't expecting last evening, was this:

Abhir writing Math again, "What comes in-between" 13 __ 15
He wrote 13 41 15.
I asked him "What comes after 13 and before 15?"
He replied, "14."
"Thats correct," I said. "What have you written?" pointing to his book.
"14" came the prompt reply.
I tried another tact. "What is fourteen?"
He said, "One four fourteen."
"What have you written?" again pointing to his book.
"14."
"No beta, you've written four one forty one."
He looked at it carefully for a few minutes and said, "No mama. You can't see it properly. It is one four fourteen!"

A matter of perspective would you say? At age 5, I believe it is!


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mommy chatter


As I doubled over doing my ab crunches in the gym this morning, I marvelled at the dedication of a young man I have seen come to the gym every single morning. I reach the gym between 5:20 am and 5:30 am and have always seen this guy land before me. Once we happened to leave the gym together and I realised that he comes on a bicycle every morning and lives quite far from the gym. Last I heard him speaking to another regular, mentioning that he goes to work at about 930 or so.

This morning I was struck by the thought that the guy, who takes off with me on most days, probably reaches home around 7:45 or so…and perhaps either has a wife to look after the other chores such as tiffin cooking and packing, running a round of washing in the machine, tidying up the place etc etc…or lives with his parents or is a bachelor. Under all the circumstances, “Lucky guy” I thought.

“How I would love to live that life of carelessness and leisure; of having nothing more to do when I get back home from a fulfilling work out than enjoying a steaming cup of coffee with the cart load of newspapers we subscribe to; or simply spend fifteen minutes meditating; or jump starting the professional activities of the day….”

What I do on a typical day is rush home after the work out. At sharp 7 am I’m out and drive like a maniac to get home in 4-6 minutes flat. Because, I have to help hubby get the kids ready, make the ‘compulsory-in-school’ pigtails for daughter and hopefully have them out and in time to get their rick to school at 7:40.

This sometimes involves getting the son out of bed at 7:15 am and getting him ready in time to make it to the rick deadline! All this when hubby is the sweetest soul who manages their tiffin and gets them out of bed, (at least the older one) no mean task I assure you!

After the kids go, it’s the usual mundane household chores that need attending, leaving me, on most days with enough time to glance at the newspaper with longing eyes.

And mind you, all of this happens on GOOD days.

On bad days when hubby is out of town, I turn into the local superwoman who also has a gym routine she needs to move further up the clock…make it 5:10 am out of home. But that’s ok ‘coz she’d rather die without it!!!!

So imagine my surprise, while all through the one hour work out I envied the presumably ‘carefree’ life of the gym regular (I hope his day goes well today), drove home like a maniac and walked in at 6:40 am, hoping to find one in bed and one in the loo (courtesy the alarm I set for her), when I found my little darlings decked in the uniform!!!!

I stood frozen. Did they take ‘short cuts’? Like avoiding a bath? Or even brushing their teeth?

“No” both squealed, “We woke up early maa.”

The morning was like a dream come true. I had enough time to make their tiffin, feed them a relaxed breakfast, listen to their unending chatter and make two leisurely pigtails…. I even dropped them off to school, a rare treat for them since we live close to the school, as a bonus for making my day!

They’ve promised me that I would never have to struggle with them anymore. They even want me to take their dad to the gym in the morning!!!


I'd like to tell them that I am so thrilled that they made the effort to ease things for me, even if this were the first and the last time ever. This would qualify as the best surprise I have ever had!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Abort or not


The picture made it to the front page of newspapers. A heart broken expectant mother, weeping as her husband consoles her.

After Niketa and Haresh Mehta's petition to abort their unborn child at 26 weeks was turned down by the Bombay High Court, the debate rages. Should parents have the right to get rid of a life…that at 26 weeks is a little individual?

At 26 weeks, the foetus, around 12 inches from head to toe, and weighing about 450-600 grams, has a normal amount of muscle on the legs and arms and exhibits a whole range of typical baby behaviour and moods, including scratching, smiling, crying, hiccuping and sucking.

It jumps in response to loud sounds and even reacts to bright light aimed at the uterus, indicating optic nerve function. Studies indicate that the foetus can respond to touch at this stage.Developmental neurobiologists say that at 26 weeks, the foetus can feel pain. If the foetus is aborted at this stage, it may feel pain.

How then, can a mother, who harbours the life within her, even imagine wanting to abort the child?

The debate is that the baby “may be” born with a congenital heart problem that will not only decrease the quality of the baby’s life but will also put immense pressure on the parents, emotionally and financially.

But.

Ask couples who do not have a child for known or unknown medical reasons, those who put themselves through the repeated torture of IVF, spend lakhs of rupees trying to have a baby, is it a fair choice to abort a child that “may” be born with a defect? A child that is already more than half its way towards being born? Isn't the risk worth taking?

Is it because the pressure of ‘perfection’ is getting so deeply ingrained in our society that we cannot imagine having a ‘less-than-perfect’ child?

Or are we getting so materialistic that we are worried over a future cost the child may incur on us with respect to its medical bills that we don’t mind aborting it? What would have happened had the child had a healthy birth and developed a medical condition later on? Would the parents have disowned the child?

On the other hand, as parents, who with two perfectly normal and healthy children also succumb to the pressure of raising them, can we condemn the couple who may have to raise a baby that will never be healthy?

Whether we stand on a high moral ground and take a stand or empathise with the mother whose dream of a healthy baby has been shattered, there can be no end to this debate.

I applaud the bravery of parents who nurture, look after and above all, HOPE for their children afflicted with Down’s syndrome, autism and a host of such disabilities. It takes courage and fortitude.


Monday, July 21, 2008

The 'saala' word


The newest word on my kids' lips is 'saala'.

Thanks to songs that either prefix 'Aye Saala' (Rang De Basanti) or suffix 'Pappu can't dance saala' (Jaane Tu) the word, I am livid when they sing these songs. Try as I may, they can't be contained. My inability to restrain their ardour is quite disconcerting although quite frankly, I like these songs too.

It is getting increasingly tough to control external influences on the children. I'm in a real fix here.


Friday, July 18, 2008


Last week I was in Delhi attending a wedding when I saw him again.

I was surprised when I realised how easy it was to ignore him, and the effect he had had on me in the past. For the first time in many years, I enjoyed the occasion despite his presence.

Chatted with his wife.

Removed the hate from my heart.

Moved on.

I guess I grew up.