Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hamlet - The Clown Prince by Rajat Kapoor

Could Hamlet the great tragedy by Shakespeare ever be made funny?

Oh yes!

Hamlet - The Clown Prince staged at Nehru Memorial Hall today was outrageously hilarious. Not a spoof mind you, but a real comedy that reached out to the audience through rib tickling REAL humour, situational and contrived.

In Rajat Kapoor's masterful production, the play is staged by a company of clowns. Mind you - there is no slap stick here at all... Clowns like the ones we have seen in circuses are passe here.

These clowns have a great sense of humour, lovely singing voices, exceptional diction and of course, stupendous acting skills.

The play is muttered in a smattering of English and a gibberish that sounds a lot like Italian. It takes a few moments to separate the gibberish from words that mean something to the play but soon, we become adept at it.

The original Hamlet is virtually run through with the characters playing a few important scenes, interspersing their version of Hamlet with hilarious digressions about humanity, human life, work, children, sex etc.

I especially freaked out on the actor who played Hamlet's father, step father and his father's ghost. His version of Hakuna Matata from the Lion King, and the moonwalk were outrageously funny. Where did Rajat get such a talented bunch from???

All in all, an awesome play that made me wish I could've sat through the second show as well. However, I've promised myself I will catch it next time it's playing in my neighbourhood.

Hats off to the cast, the director and playwright. Awesome production and must watch!

Monday, November 23, 2009

blindfolded, groping through life
seeking -
to hold on to
as my boat rocks and fills with water
and I
cling on to dear life
shrouded in darkness and misery

when daylight breaks
as it always does
I can't see
I sometimes feel its warm enlivening rays
casting their rejuvenating light on me
making me hold on to that dear feeling
lest it is lost
in the madness and darkness
that threatens to envelop
every happy moment

transient and temporary
day leads to night
night leads to another day
as I oscillate between
utter despair and hope
happy today
sad tomorrow
here today
gone tomorrow?

where will this end?
will there be light at the end
of this darkness?
or darkness at the end of every light?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sibling Revelry

Travelling one evening to watch a movie, the children sat singing songs on the back seat. The radio was 'off' and the mood was peppy as the children sang an unfamiliar (to us) tune, in unison, cracking into spontaneous laughter as they ended the song.

Then, Abhir says, " Oorja didi, when you get married and go away I will miss you very much!"

This is followed by an 'Awwww' from Oorja, and hugs between the two.

Hubby and I look at each other and smile.

There are cat fights and shouting matches between the two, resulting often in crying sessions. But this display of instinctive affection and attachment has left us thinking - We are doing something right!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"I'm not an actor
I'm not a star
And I don't even have my own car
But I'm hoping so much you'll stay
That you will love me anyway......"

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A plea

Its not easy
To recognise and accept
that the love we shared
is not there anymore

The respect, the adulation
the fascination and admiration
lies buried deep
under piles of complaints
unfulfilled wishes
egoistic manipulations
unhealthy irritations
Unreachable, unrecoverable

Expectations - What you are
What you are not
What I wish you could be
What I wish we could be
- Dissatisfaction brews
simmering in the dark throes
of our souls

The connection and bond
lies severed
bleeding incessantly
revealing a gash so extreme
that the finest soothing words
fail to be medicative

Should we not end this charade?
This farcical 'happiness' ?
Who are we fooling?
Ourselves or those around us???

Take that step towards liberty my dear
For I lack the will to
do what is good for both of us..........

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Did you get us, Lord?

I usually like to involve the kids in activities that I find mundane, especially on a weekend. They spice up such activities with their energy and enthusiasm and also learn to be responsible. I get them to clean their room, put their things back where they belong etc...

Often I have had cake baking sessions that have involved not just my own two tots, but the neighbourhood children as well.

And it is a lot of fun.

Every child participates, breaking eggs, whipping the mixture, adding butter, milk etc...later, watching the cake rise in the oven. Their excitement is totally infectious! And when the cake is done, their pride is unmistakable.

Now I understand why community cooking especially during festivals was such a common and acceptable form of life in many Northern villages. It took the burden off one woman to churn up a celebratory meal, and the fun these women had, gossiping, cracking jokes, sharing secrets and bonding while working together made it worth their while.

This afternoon, I brought home a few plant cuttings from a friendly neighbour and decided to get my children to help me weed the pots in the balcony and plant each one of them.

As we planted them, we said, "Dear God please bless this plant. Let it grow to be healthy and strong." (That's also because I don't trust my 'green' thumb... They would need divine grace to survive...)

Soon we were done and 8 freshly planted saplings were ready to brave it out on their own.

As we washed our hands and feet clean, Abhir, my six year old asked me, "Mama, does God understand all languages? Even English?"


Thursday, October 8, 2009

I am against racism

One of those email forwards but one that I think should be promulgated.


1) I'm sure many of you watched the recent recording of the Oprah Winfrey Show where her guest was Tommy Hilfiger. On the show, she asked him if the statements about race he was accused of saying were true.

Statements like'...'If I'd known African-Americans, Hispanics, Jewish and Asians would buy my clothes, I WOULD NOT have made them so nice. I wish these people would *NOT* buy my clothes, as they are made for upper class white people'

His answer to Oprah was a simple 'YES', where after she immediately asked him to leave her show.

Perhaps it is time that us Asians, should desist from buying Tommy Hilfiger at all. I consciously have been avoiding it ever since his stores have ravaged our malls. Let's give him what he asked for. BOYCOTT. Would you?

2) Scene took place on a British Airways flight between Johannesburg and London. A White woman, about 50 years old, was seated next to a black man. Obviously disturbed by this, she called the air hostess.

'Madam, what is the matter,' the hostess asked.
"You obviously do not see it then?' she responded. "You placed me next to a black man. I do not agree to sit next to someone from such a repugnant group. Give me an alternative seat..'

'Be calm please,' the hostess replied. 'Almost all the places on this flight are taken. I will go to see if another place is available.' The hostess went away and then came back a few minutes later...

'Madam, just as I thought, there are no other available seats in the economy class. I spoke to the Captain and he informed me that there is a seat in the business class... All the same, we still have one place in the first class.'

Before the woman could say anything, the hostess continued: 'It is not usual for our company to permit someone from the economy class to sit in the first class. However, given the circumstances, the captain feels that it would be scandalous to make someone sit next to someone so disgusting.'

She turned to the black guy, and said, 'Therefore, Sir, if you would like to, please collect your hand luggage, a seat awaits you in first class.'

At that moment, the other passengers who were shocked by what they had just witnessed stood up and applauded.

Monday, October 5, 2009

An encounter with a celebrity

I have always liked her. The actor Lillete Dubey I mean. She has done spunky roles and her voice is enticing. Her love for theatre and the manner in which she has juggled a successful career and home is an inspiration. And she is gorgeous despite her age and has an awesome figure too.

But what I experienced last morning has me disillusioned.

I was flying back from Ahmedabad and as we sat awaiting departure call, the scheduled departure time whizzed by. Many passengers accosted the flight attendant (including me) and were told that there was a technical snag due to which we would be delayed by one hour.

Amongst the passengers was Lillette Dubey who I had previously seen lounging in the security
area. At that point, I'd
wanted to go up to her and tell her that she must bring her plays to Pune and I would help her get the necessary media exposure. But she seemed really engrossed in her handphone and I didn't have the heart to interrupt. It may have seemed an intrusion. I let her be. So did almost all other passengers in the lounge.

Anyway, she was amongst the passengers who were visibly upset that they were being delayed. Many of them had connecting flights to other cities. She wanted to get out of the security area and made the attendant chaperone her to the exit. Obviously, considering her 'celebrity' status, she was whisked away to a private lounge or office, and till we boarded the flight an hour later, she was not amongst us.

As I sat on the airplane having asked for a window seat, I watched the last of the passengers board the aircraft. For some reason, the door was not being closed and I watched the time tick by. Fearful that the technical snag had re-appeared and we would be asked to deplane, I watched as the attendants seemed to be waiting for someone or something.

After 20 minutes, the transport arrived at the foot of the aircraft and an attendant went in to get the passenger out. Dubey got off, folding a newspaper and got into the airplane after which the Captain gave instructions to 'Close and arm all doors please...'

Upon landing in Mumbai, she was the first to deplane although she did deign to travel on the same bus to the Arrival lounge.

What is it about the Bollywood fraternity that makes them think they are Lord Almighty?

Or is it us?

Do we tend to create stars out of mere mortals and place them on a pedestal?

She could have waited patiently like the rest of us. That would have made me respect her more. But she used her 'star power' or celebrity status to get a preferential treatment over all the rest of us who were flying with her (on a low cost Airline I might add).

If she had used her status to get all her co-passengers preferential treatment too, I would have been bowled over.

I don't have an issue over a 'celebrity' status. They work hard, they are in the limelight and they deserve it.

It is the 'selfishness' of this status that I resent.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Help find a boy

A Nepali man-friday in our building, (who has a very nice name - Chetan, but is called the ubiquitous 'Bahadur') has approached me, hoping that I, with my connections in newspapers will be able to get an insertion (read: Ad) for his missing son.

The 12 year old ran away almost 5 years ago, after an argument over watching TV! Yes. It does make you wonder at the injustice of it all. A child you've reared gets upset with you because you reprimand him for watching TV and the next thing you know is, he becomes one amongst India's lost children!!

My heart went out to him and I have vowed to help him out.

I tried all my contacts at the newspapers. They wanted to help but could not. Unfortunately, newspapers do not publish Missing Persons reports unless it comes from the Police Station. And this is a very old case so the cops have invariably lost interest.

The only option is to place an ad. I've been told by a reputed consultancy that placing an ad in the Classifieds section may be cheaper but won't have any impact. An independent ad (which will appear in the main pages and will be eye catching), for an insertion in two most popular Marathi newspapers for an all-Maharashtra publication will cost Rs 35,000 or so. Sticking to Maharashtra because logic says he may have gone to Mumbai - the likely destination for such lost souls.

I hope my friends, you will come forward to help him. Your contributions will help raise the money needed. I am starting with me - Rs 2500. Any contribution, however small, is welcome, as long as it is from your heart!

If you want to help, do send me an email and I will mail you the photograph of the lad and a copy of the FIR.

The risks: The ad may not have any impact since the boy has been missing too long. But I want to try. A last ditch effort perhaps.

And anyway, who am I to give up hope when the boy's father hasn't!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Both sides now

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds * that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
I've looked at clouds from both sides now

From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As ev'ry fairy tale comes real
I've looked at love that way

But now it's just another show
You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know
Don't give yourself away

I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It's love's illusions I recall
I really don't know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say "I love you" right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I've looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I've changed
Well something's lost, but something's gained
In living every day

I've looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all
I've looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all

Listen to this beautiful track by Joni Mitchell here -

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Timeliness is the keyword.

Baring your soul weeks or even months after an action of your loved one has caused you hurt is seen as "quite unnecessary..." or worse still, "raking up an issue..." when there presumably does not exist one.

This is not the "Women are from Venus" type of explanation, but in my interactions and conversations with several close women friends, I have found that this is a common phenomenon.

Women tend to buckle out of an uncomfortable situation (that may result in a shouting match, an arguement, or simply a disagreement), but the wound remains on their heart, festering and growing bio-rich by the nano second.

Call it their desire to 'forgive', 'ignore' or simply 'overlook' whatever it is that causes the dent or crease on the forehead, or maybe a sleepless night, most women just 'let it go' or 'let it be' because they want to 'maintain the peace in the house' and not 'fight or squabble' in front of the kids/in-laws, or they're just simply tired of the behaviour anyways.

But the next time the Volcano erupts, all of it just comes tumbling out; Flowing irrepressibly like the lava, smouldering hot, ready to kick-ass and burn everything in its path.... The anguish of all past actions and events bursts forth, and the 'victim' (the significant better-half, ofcourse) is once again caught in his favourite position - unawares.

He either feigns complete ignorance to all the hurt he has caused, or better still, reminds you "Why did you not tell me then? Why rake it now, after all these weeks/months...?"

As if.....

And maybe he is right. The sensitive and sentimental oafs that we are, we presume that if we let the moment pass, we may forget/forgive the hurtful episode and move on, little knowing that 'We', like the mighty pachyderm that roam this Earth, 'NEVER forget.'

Does that make us vengeful? Certainly not! But it does make us extremely vulnerable. So vulnerable that we allow ourselves to be taken for granted, day after day, until one day, we explode out of sheer frustration...only to be told that we should have raised the objection when the event occured.....

So what is the right method of dealing with this predicament? Rap the guy the minute he slips up...anywhere, holds barred? Can you imagine the chaos in households if we were to start voicing our 'real' feelings EVERY single time? Would our uber-sexual partners be able to take it?

Yes. Timeliness is everything but weighed against the possible repercussions of a retaliatory dialogue, most women I know would choose to make this mistake over and over again. Including me.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Don't they say something to the effect that means 'Fling out that relationship...that one... yes... THAT one, which saps you off your happiness, makes you feel worthless...."

On the other hand, the smarter ones advise you, "Talk. Work it out. Its the only way."

Talk? Now, let me ask you, how many times have you tried to initiate a conversation, a real heart-to-heart with your better half to a satisfactory response?? (And this quiz is not open to the newly wedded blissfully unaware of the marital pitfalls kinda couples...)

Everytime you try to have a conversation about what has caused you hurt, you are invariably shown the mirror. The finger points right back. A question is hurled back at you. Making you, thus, the perpetrator of past crimes, real and imaginary, and perhaps of several more in the future. And your partner, a victim: of life, of circumstances. Courtsey YOU.

So you walk back to the starting line each time, like an animated film being re-wound and starting once again from the part where the lion roars through the ring, but soon disappears as credits begin to roll.

Back where you started. Except this time, you hear the barrage of complaints against you. So you set down your arms and raise your defenses. "That is not what I meant. No, that is not what happened. This is the truth..."

It goes on. Unendingly immune to the cause of action, the barrage continues and leaves you ... Right... Exactly where you started from. Angry, hostile, hurt and sad all at once.

You feel the exasperation creep in like a volcano brewing in Earth's belly... A few repetitions of this ACT and the volcano erupts to an incredulous response, "What happened to you? Why are you so angry? What did I do now?"

Playing headbangers ball maybe some people's idea of a 'conversation' and method of 'sorting' it out. But it so has not worked for me. If only, it has made me angrier and upset-er (I know that isn't a word). And I know it has done my partner no good either. It is easy to make that out by the way he snorts and says, "Do you have to do this every three months?" Except that he has been living on another planet so long he has probably forgotten that you have a period once a month and not once every quarter. But thats besides the point.

It is the anger and the frustration that you find difficult to deal with. "Try meditation" say well meaning friends. "I would" you think, "as soon as I can sort out this mess...I will relax...and perhaps take to meditation... Give up the world maybe. Anything. Just wanna clear my life off this mess first...."

Divorce, seperation, or living together for the sake of the kids are all 'punishments'...

What is the answer, then? Where is the solution? Wherein lies redemption?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Here's wishing my darling doll a Happy 10th Birthday!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

An encounter at Barista

Yesterday I realised that strangers could have the ability to make a regular day truly special, if only you allowed them to.

Last evening, after covering an event, in need of a cup of cappucino, I found myself at Barista.

I walked up to the counter to place my order and came across an amicable fella. We discussed the 'change' I didn't have to give him, and when he asked me my name (to call out when my order would be ready), I felt a strange connection. When you meet people sometimes, don't you feel 'we could be friends??'...if only you could get rid of the inhibition (what will they think?)..... His eyes seemed to be talking to me....

Anyways, after a couple of minutes I received a call that had to be taken out of the cafe, and after I walked back inside, I saw my Cappucino on the table, staring at me with the face of a woman drawn with chocolate sauce!!!

Curvaceous eyebrows, large eyes, a flattish nose and a delightful smile looked back at me, while I sat dazed at his thoughfulness, contemplating awhile if I should empty the sugar sachet into the cup and dissolve the visage. The face was so pretty I didn't have the heart to do it, although eventually the aroma of the cappucino enticed me into it.

I looked around for him and met his eyes and yea...they spoke to me again... Made me feel real special!

Before I left the cafe, I walked up to him and thanked him for the special cuppa. His handshake was firm and he gave me a smile I shan't forget in a long time.

His gesture may have been a figment of my imagination, but I was smiling all the way home.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Omen

9 March, 2009

“Why are you so afraid of heights?”

The voice seems to be coming from another planet.

“No one in our family is such a sissy.”

Ah! The inevitable Rajput exhortation. To be a sissy was condemnable, especially since bravery was considered a genetic baton, passed on from one generation to another.

“Ok. I will jump” I say resignedly. You can’t exhort the bravado in a Rajput and expect them to stay mum.

It is a free fall. 150 feet. Strapped and harnessed, I feel safe. Or do I?

I take a deep breath as the hysterical ‘inner’ voice gets louder and louder. ‘This is not good Romeo. Not good for you.’

I don’t want to look down. And I don’t want to jump. But there is a queue building up behind me and the organisers are losing patience with ‘the sissy’. Uh-oh... Dad? Why is he calling me?

9 March 2009 - 5 am.

“Early mornings don’t gel with me mom. Keep me awake for nights on end, I can. Just don’t expect me to hop out of bed so early and wake up smiling.”

“Just have your coffee and get to the Airport to pick dad.”

“What a drag mom! Can’t he just take a cab home?”

“Certainly not! He will be too tired to haggle with cabbies after such a long flight Romeo. Just go.”

Romeo Singh. An unlikely name for a Rajput boy. But dad is an English professor and his love for Shakespeare ensured that my sister and I got unique names. Romeo and Ophelia. Fortunately, he didn’t name me Lear or Othello. Romeo is bad enough, but bearable.

Action taken. Mom’s happy and I love that smile on her face when she welcomes dad after a long trip. Such love birds those two!

11 am.

I suddenly feel the need to read a newspaper. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I hate the newspaper because it only covers politics and celebrity trash. Reading 16 pages of covert views is just not my idea of beginning a day. But today, the urge is almost nagging me. Ah, forget it! I will just get going now. Friends are waiting up for me. Been a fortnight since I stepped out of home....

5 pm.

“Where is Romeo? Why isn’t he home preparing for the MBA entrance?”

“He really needed a break after two straight weeks of studying. He has gone to the adventure park and should be home by 7. Ophelia is joining him straight from college too. Here have your coffee and read the newspaper in peace. Stop worrying about him.”

Youth dies in bungee jumping accident

9 March 2009 – M G Road - In a ghastly incident that highlights the lack of safety measures in the city, a youth died in a bungee jumping accident at the Adventure Park at about 530 pm today. Romeo Singh, 22, who was spending the day at the park with his friends, decided to bungee jump when they coaxed him to take on the challenge. Police say that the harness cord broke and he plunged 150 feet to his death.....

Uh –oh...Dad? Why is he calling me? “Ophelia! Can you take this call? It’s dad!” Take a deep breath Romeo. This is the day you prove that yours is the true Rajput blood.

“Ophelia, stop Romeo right now!” “Why dad?” “Just do as I say!!!”

“OH NO!!!!!!!!!!” An earth shattering scream....

“Ophelia? Ophelia? What happened? Hello? Hello? Can you hear me? Tell me what happened? Is Romeo alright? I am coming over right now..........”

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Of death and Mother's Day

The last one month have been the most harrowing for us as a family. Apart from several deaths of people we knew intimately, we also experienced the death of two loved ones, the first for my children and irreplacable losses for Harish...first his maternal gran'ma and then his mom. 

Losing mom... There can't be a pain that parallels that feeling of sadness and numbness.

For my children, this was the first grandparent they have lost. While Abhir was shaken up by the sight of the departed soul (I hate the words 'dead body'), placed carefully in a freezer with a glass top, stationed at home, it was Oorja who stumped me with her reactions.

After the death of gran'ma, I spoke to amma on the phone, offering what seemed like lame words of comfort (I mean, who/what can possibly console you when you've lost your maa). Then, Oorja came on line and said, "Gran'ma, I am very sorry to hear that your mom died. You must be very sad."

These were not words we'd taught her. The words represented her 'own feelings'. I was so proud of my child that day!

13 days later, we were travelling towards our hometown to partake in the final rites of amma. 

Cut to yesterday. Mother's Day eve.

I speak to Oorja over the phone (as she vacations with her brother at her maternal gran'ma's place) and she says, "I am feeling very sad for Papa. Tomorrow is Mother's Day and he will miss gran'ma."

"Dear God!" I respond.  Such sensitivity!

Today, she called and sang me a song, promising me a 'gift' when we meet. I am so proud and so happy...Im counting my blessings today!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

On the one hand, despair and utter hopelessness. On the other, total extinction. What should I choose?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


She hadn't moved since the previous night. Hunger it seems did not bother her. After all, she was to be a mother soon. And once the baby arrived, food would be one of the first few things she would compromise on, smiled Shalini.  

Sighing, she took another sip of Green Tea. Something she had recently discovered. Not that she liked it. She wanted to banish her caffeine addiction and a colleague suggested she try Green Tea, and that very evening, on her way home from office, she'd dropped in at the 'frequented by firangs only' supermarket to pick the tea. She'd also read somewhere that it would help in clearing the complexion. Truth or fabrication, she didn't care. She really DID need something to remove the bags under her eyes. If drinking Green Tea didn't help, she'd try placing the tea bag on her eyes she thought and smiled to herself at the mere idea.  

Peeping into the bare refrigerator, she contemplated on what she could give the young mother. What do pigeons eat anyway? There was some left over spaghetti, and rice, and some dal. Shalini scooped a bit of everything, placed it on a tissue and gingerly opened the window to place the offering on the ledge.

The pigeon seemed petrified. She tucked her winged body into the furthest corner of the ledge, uncertain at the purpose of this unwelcome intervention. Isn't it strange, thought Shalini, that I can see the fear in a pigeon's eyes, and no one can see it in mine? Am I too perceptive or is the world around me just totally blind?

She scanned through the morning paper gulping down the remnants of the pale concoction. Trash, she thought as she read that hell had broken loose in Brangelina heaven ultimately. Although she didn't really care about celebrities and their lives, she'd often marvelled at their ability to walk away.

What did they do first? Pack their clothes, like all of them? Including the sexy lingerie? Or did they pack just enough for a few days, returning later for more? How did they decide what footwear to take along? What about stuff like the expensive China…or the antique bedside table gifted to them by a dear friend? Or even the coasters that she just could not do without? Or her prized possessions, the World Book set she had paid an exhausting EMI for?

Walking away in a huff is easier when you’ve planned what you want to take with you, she thought. The first step is to KNOW what you want. In a three bedroom apartment, where every piece of furniture, wall hanging or painting, had a story to tell, deciding what is important would take a lot of deep thinking.

Perhaps, that is why I’ve failed so far, she mulled. Because I can’t make up my mind if I want to take a couple of suitcases or leave with a backpack.

And then, the bigger question, where would she go? Move into a nondescript apartment and pay prohibitive rentals? Or suffer the Paying Guest rigmarole to save precious money?

Under the shower, as she soaped her recently-waxed legs, her mind raced back to the pigeon again. I must leave her a bowl of water, she thought. The weather had turned ugly that Summer and although the eggs would hatch any day, Shalini knew that the bird would not venture away even if the heat killed her.

Picking the keys, she slung the satchel over her shoulder before she bent down to stir Karan. I’m leaving she said. Ok he responded. He’s going to have a hangover I’m sure she thought. These so-called office parties, late nights on a weekday, she sighed. He is so goddamned lucky!

An uneventful day progressed slowly. Not a single call or visitor. I am a customer care exec in a Bank and I’ve counted the minutes today, she thought wryly. Sign of the times perhaps. A career that was going nowhere and a relationship that seemed to be gathering steady momentum, downhill.

There was a time when thinking of him felt like a whiff of gentle breeze on a hot, sultry and still afternoon, refreshing yes, but also calming. Now, when she forced herself to think of the ‘good times’ she could barely smile. Lately she’d had to turn up the volume of the car stereo to distract herself, fearful of the mad thoughts that momentarily possessed her. And isn’t that all it took? A fleeting deviation to ram head-on into a speeding luxury bus…?

Photographs hung carefully under canopied lights ‘for the right effect’, covered pale white walls, showcasing images of Karan and her, laughing over a joke, watching the sunset, taking para gliding vacations and posing at numerous weddings…the perfect couple. Okay. Maybe not perfect. But near perfect.

How sad it would be to break the charade. And moreover, camouflaging her real feelings was easier than tackling the Oh-I-am-so-sorry-for-you looks. 

Troubled by her unending silences, her sister had asked her, but she’d been too reticent to say anything. Is it another woman? Does he hit you? What is the matter? Tell me Shalu, she’d begged. 

And Shalini had remained transfixed by the absurdity of her situation. None of the above, she’d have answered in response to the multiple choice barrage.

Back home that evening, she headed straight for the window and noticed that the food had gone. Satisfied, she placed a bowl of filtered drinking water for the mother to-be and stood watching the winged being for what seemed like an eternity.

Madam, I am going, called the cook, but Shalini didn’t hear.

They never found her, dead or alive. What they did find was a list of favourite articles in her handwriting and a couple of randomly noted numbers of PG accommodations near her workplace. She hadn’t visited even one of them, informed the cops. She was planning to move out. Maybe she just ran away with a lover or friend, they added, eager to close the case. They had better things to do than track a woman who did not want to be found.

Karan could not protest. There was no other ‘logical’ explanation. Maybe she did take a lover. She just wasn’t herself recently, he thought. He shook hands with the PI and thanked him for his help.

He’d have to take down all the photographs, and move her clothes to the guest room. Her sister had promised to drop by and sort through her stuff. He was too distraught to do it himself.

He walked to the window and saw the two babies, featherless yellow creatures, with the pink of their skin showing through the soft yellow hair, black beaks and frail limbs, breathing deep. My God they’re ugly, he exclaimed aloud. Just as he turned, he saw a pigeon swoop down into the nest.

She made herself at home and turned to face him. And then he saw them. Through the glass. Her eyes. Unmistakable.  

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Happy Birthday Abhir

I woke him this morning and sang Happy Birthday to him...hugging him and holding him close. He heard me and smiled. Eyes closed, he kept smiling as the Birthday song was done and I began kissing him. 

A little later he came back to me and wanted another Birthday wish. "Say Happy Birthday to me again."

An hour later, as he got ready for the day-care, another Birthday wish demand. 

And in my mind, I've been 'wishing' since the day he was born.

6 years. Another milestone.

Last year, he turned five and I heaved a sigh of relief, thinking and thanking God that his struggles were finally over. But I was mistaken. My little boy was destined to fight his way through and another battle has begun. This one is already draining us of our energy. But it can't rob us of our optimism. We are fighters, and so is he. We will fight and we will triumph.

My words to him would simply be:

Kyun is kadar hairan tu
Mausam ka hai mahmaan tu
Duniya saji, tere liye
Khud ko zara pehchan tu

Tu dhoop hai
Chan se bikhar
Tu hai nadi
O bekhabar
Beh chal kahin,
Ud chal kahin
Dil khush jahan
Teri to manzil hai wahin!

As his favourite didi Rashmi says, "Recognise the potential of your child and KEEP THE FAITH!"

Happy Birthday meri jaan!


Sunday, April 5, 2009

कभी कभी मेरे दिल मैं ख्याल आता है
की ये बदन ये निगाहें मेरी अमानत हैं
की तू मुझे चाहेगी उम्र भर यूँही 
उठेगी मेरी तरफ प्यार की नज़र यूँही
मैं जानता हूँ मैं गैर हूँ, मगर यूँही
कभी कभी मेरे दिल मैं ख्याल आता है.....

Thursday, March 26, 2009

My Vote counts Mr Thackeray

Hubby and I have enrolled into the voter's list in Pune. The procedure was a lot easier than we'd anticipated.

Now there are two more votes that will count. 

Suresh Kalmadi: We've been in Pune for just about three years and noticed that the only time you actually made your presence in this city was during the CYG. Else it seems you care two hoots about the constituency that took you to the Lok Sabha. We've seen your pictures flashed in several Page 3 dos. But seldom seen a comment or remark about the poor state of this city. What have you done for the city in these five years? Now you come back begging for votes and claim you have an action plan for Pune called Vision 2020. Where was this foresight when you were elected the last time around? Would Pune have the worst traffic in the country? Would it bear the brunt of 'no planning' and an absolutely lackadaisical attitude of the powers that be on all fronts, including civic issues and the rapid urbanisation? Would Pune have gone from Pensioner's Paradise to Paradise Lost (I take the liberty of using John Milton's famous poem)? Think about it: Do you really deserve my vote?

MNS Candidate: I am a North Indian who is a voter in Maharashtra. Now! How the hell did that happen. Fortunately for the country, the CONSTITUTION still views us as 'Indians' first! Can you get past the anti-North Indian tirade and get my Vote? Didn't think you would be interested. But mark my words when I say, "My vote counts Mr Thackeray."

D S Kulkarni: Whaaaatttt? How come? Shocking! How can Mayawati override the VERY reason BSP gained popularity since the days of Kanshi Ram? Dalit politics, caste politics...forgotten to get votes? Whatever happened to "ideology"? Tut! Tut!

Choosing someone from a cesspool of 'politicians' is going to be tough call. But I am certain that my vote will the end of the day!

Friday, March 20, 2009

All the way

When somebody loves you 
It's no good unless he loves you - all the way 
Happy to be near you 
When you need someone to cheer you - all the way 

Taller than the tallest tree is 
That's how it's got to feel 
Deeper than the deep blue sea is 
That's how deep it goes - if its real 

When somebody needs you 
It's no good unless he needs you - all the way 
Through the good or lean years 
And for all the in-between years - come what may 

Who knows where the road will lead us 
Only a fool would say 
But if you'll let me love you 
It's for sure I'm gonna love you - all the way, all the way 

No. I didn't write it. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kids grow up real fast. There are a lot of things I missed chornicling when my daughter was growing up. No blogs you see. But with my son, I've done a fair bit of memorable writing; stories I hope will bring a smile to his face when he grows up as it does mine when I read them.

Was prompted to write this post because every time we (Oorja, Abhir and I) are travelling together (minus the dad), using the restroom becomes a big issue. A few years ago, Abhir didn't understand the difference. Now he does. He stops in his tracks, be it on an airport, or a restaurant, claiming "This is a girl's toilet." He refuses to come in and do his business.

The big problem with letting him go to a gents restroom is that the urinals are too high for him and sometimes, especially in cinemas Ive been told, they do not have a closed door toilet that this little fellow can use. And frankly speaking, I am uncomfortable having a stranger help him do the job! So I just insist that he accompanies me and his sister to the ladies room.

One of my friends once remarked "Tell him to enjoy using the ladies' room while he can!" Anyway, it is a tug of war and I usually win. I know before long he will be old enough to move to the opposite door and that will be yet another 'oh he's grown up!' moment.

I can also remember very clearly the time when as a two year old he had to be taught to pee standing up. I blogged about it then and can't resist posting it here. Have fun reading!

How do you teach a little boy to pee standing up….especially if the teacher (in this case, ME) has no personal experience in the field?

It is not as easy as I’d imagined and soon found out… 

Step one: Take off the shorts.

Step two: Pull in a stool and place it right in front of the WC.

Step three: Put the bachcha on the stool facing the WC with you standing close behind him. {He may look like he is about to fall head long into it coz he has never seen the WC from this angle, and is majorly curious. So, hold on to him REAL TIGHT!}

Step four: Coo sweet words of initiation….that may go something like this, “hi lil baby, wannna pee? See how nice this big potty is? Wow…lil baby’s gonna pee in here!” 
TIP: Make it sound like a nursery rhyme coz two year olds think any activity that can be undertaken with singing is FUN.

Step five: Hold his penis. Now this is the toughest part of all. His penis is so small, you have to hold it with two fingers and will still be scared of hurting him coz YOU don’t know how much pressure on the thing is painful and how much pressure, acceptable…..

Step six: With trepidation, hold it and aim….and wait. Coz the pressure has to build up from inside…especially with my son, who has never been able to pee with the shoo and shaa sounds….

Before we can proceed to step seven, in walks the five year old sister with the elder sis gait and command. My first thought, 
why didn’t I lock the door?

Sister - “What are YOU doing mama?”
Me - “Teaching Abhir to pee.” 
Sister - “Why?” 
Me - “So he can pee like papa.”
Sister - “Papa stands and pees?”

Me - “Yes. All boys stand and pee.” 
Sister - “Oh. Can I watch?” 
Me - “Ummmm…ok.”

She leans over your left shoulder, peering into the WC, asking” mama, can I touch it?” She actually means that she just wants to help you by holding his thing for him. However, the being with the delicate apparatus senses immediate danger and in his two year old prattle shouts, "No. No didi. Mama touch,” followed by “go didi. Go….” 

A fist fight seems almost inevitable at this point.

By this time, you are out of patience coz you have been doubled over, peering into the WC and let me assure you; it is not a convivial sight at all….while you’d rather be elsewhere, doing something less strenuous on your back muscles, eyes and nose. Moreover, by this time, the muscles in your fingers are aching from holding the apparatus as lightly as possible. 

Suddenly Step seven is activated: A stream…that the two year old is thrilled at viewing and wants to shove off your (now) expert fingers to take complete control. Thankfully, by the time the jostling is over, (with hollers of “stop it Abhir” by the sis in the background), the ordeal is done with.

Step eight: Pull up the shorts and get out of the loo. Had enough of examining it from such close quarters for a day.

Ofcourse, every experience teaches you something and it is this great insight that I intend sharing through this post.

So my number one tip for moms of lil boys who have to be taught how to pee standing up: LEAVE IT TO THE DADS. 

This is one father-son activity I assure you, you will be happy to be excluded from!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Recession? Humbug!

"Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you're in control, they're in control. " - Tom Landry

There are inappropriate things people do at totally inappropriate times. Take the Holi bash of Vineet Jain, Managing Director of Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd (BCCL), publishers of the Times of India for example. Touted to be the biggest and the best bash in Delhi circuits, the photographs of this party were splashed all over TOI, even in the Pune Times. 

I am shocked.

BCCL is one company that amongst the other affected industries such as IT, has been cutting jobs left, right and centre. At the TOI Pune edition, people are being given pink slips as the management cites 'revenue falls' as a major reason. I have seen several people being given a couple of days notice to leave, amongst them people I have closely worked with over the past 18 months or so. The fear of more job cuts weighs heavy on the minds of the other staff, as performance is no longer the criteria. 

My brother who was employed with Zoom TV (a BCCL product) was given the pink slip a few days ago. 'Cost cutting' reason was cited. He has also been given less than a month's notice to look for another job. 

My brother's girl friend who was employed with was caught in a similar predicament and was given just one week to pack up and leave! This, when she was one amongst the top performers in her region. She didn't share a good rapport with the immediate boss and when he was asked to cut his team down, he simply axed her. 

It is common knowledge that some of the BCCL ventures such as are also in the red as far as revenue figures go and it is only a matter of time before more jobs are cut.

Losing a job is not simply about losing your source of income. You lose your self esteem, your confidence and your optimism when you are asked to resign because the company claims it can no longer afford to keep you on it's payrolls. In these tough recessionary times, finding another suitable opportunity is an uphill task. Meanwhile, your sense of self worth takes a battering, affecting your mental and emotional being.

How then, can Vineet Jain justify throwing such a lavish party when all the companies under his wing are chopping people's jobs to 'cut costs'? Shouldn't he set an example by cutting costs himself? Or is this 'loss of revenue' or claims of the effects of recession etc a mere garb to cut down expenses and lay people off? Does this also uphold the startling reality that employees of such companies are just coming to terms with, that the recession has hit THEM and not the bosses and owners of companies, whose lifestyle and expenses remain as they are?

Even if for a moment we assume that the man has the right to have a party for such a 'special' occasion (and yes, I am being very sarcastic here), should he splash the pictures all over the media? Isn't it a blatant subversion of the basic principles of decency?

And quite frankly, aren't all of India's corporate bigwigs, who are laying employees off as a matter of right (samjha karo bhai, recession hai), subverting procedures and contractual obligations such as mandatory notice periods etc (just because the employee will not seek redress in a court of law - who has the time or the money?) in their madness to 'cut costs' just as guilty as Jain? Aren't they victimising the employees claiming its "RECESSION"? 

"Outstanding leaders go out of the way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel." - Sam Walton

Clearly the corporate biggies of our country are not one of them.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Indian way of life

The toughest thing about living in a home thats 8-10 years old is maintenance. Having lived in 'sarkari quarters' for about 11 years of our life together, my hubby and I are used to living in a home that demands a lot of your time and attention. 

Taps leak, cupboards don't close, pests are the norm of the day and of course, walls chip. I remember my consternation one day when a chunk of our balcony ledge just broke off and flew down 8 stories! Luckily it was the middle of the afternoon and there was no one under the building. 

The saving grace to all this maintenance work was the fact that the people needed to carry them out (carpenters, electricians, plumbers, masons etc) were all a complaint away. In any fauji locality the maintenance is handled by a core group and all an officer/resident has to do is walk down to the complaint cell and make a written complaint. Their response time wasn't great and often we'd rant about how poorly they'd be equipped (once the plumber didn't have a wrench!!), or how there would always be a 'shortage' of essential spares etc. 

Nevertheless, whether we fought our way through or used the 'request' tactic, work almost always got done.  

Remember, this is also the phase when you live under severe budget constraints. So when you move into an apartment after being posted to a new city, you will wait for the maintenance group to carry out works for you, however long it takes. You simply cannot afford to get it done through an outside agency!

Out of the fauj for two and a half years and we've realised, the tough way, that these 'perks' and 'benefits' are actually priceless and quite irreplaceable. 

Today, it is impossible to find an electrician who will come home to fix things. It is too 'small' a job for them. They don't want to waste precious man hours fixing a couple of 5amp connections when they can be employed by a construction company doing contract jobs that possibly pay better. Ditto for a carpenter and plumber. 

So we are usually left high and dry when it comes to taking care of an apartment that is, as I mentioned, already over 8 years old. There are serious plumbing issues getting aggravated day by day. And even if we manage to convince someone to come work, we have to ensure that there is a substantial amount of work to make it worth his while (even if it means living with a broken table leg for months together).

Flip side, when we hear how people in Sweden or Finland manage their own repairs, it seems like a lesson worth emulating. A bit of hard work never hurt anyone but heck, do we really have it in us to take on such responsibility? Apart from stocking the home with adequate tools, we'd also have to keep spares. Would we do that? And time. Do we have the time for it? Can we ever get that independant? Will we ever get out of the Indian way of life? 

The trigger for this post is the fact that a cupboard door in the kids' room just fell off today, hanging as it was on three hinges fastened with one screw each. Oorja pulled the door open and felt it coming off, moved sideways swiftly, averting a potential and serious accident (the door is goddamn heavy!) The door crashed to the ground, and she is thankfully safe. Now the golden quetion on our minds is, when will it be fixed? 

If we are to go by our 'so far' experiences in Pune, it should take a couple of months! We could do it ourselves next weekend, but question is, would we?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

All for a charitable cause

He was articulate. A lot better than all those fumbling youngsters who ring a door bell in the middle of the afternoon, claiming to be Management Trainees representing a charitable organisation; looking for a few minutes of our precious time to update us on their good work, seeking (quite obviously) our 'help'. 

Most times I hear these people patiently, offer them a glass of water and usually end up giving them a cheque. I mentioned in a TAG previously that I cannot say NO to a charity. Me thinks this news has spread across the neighbourhood and there has been a sudden deluge of 'volunteers' seeking such 'help'. 

A few weeks ago I was forced to turn down a well meaning woman simply because she wanted me to shell out more than the 'reasonable' amount I was offering. I didn't quite like her tactic and politely asked her to leave. When she didn't, I woke hubby who was napping on a sunday afternoon, and asked him to show the good lady out. 

Anyways, here I was getting prepared to leave home on an important errand in the sweltering heat of the afternoon, when the door bell rang and there stood this...this...Greek God.

Tall, as good looking as they come...what got me was the way he spoke. Literally took my breath away. Quite simply, he has now raised the bar for such volunteers. 

Anyway, he came in and sat down and took me through the motions. Claimed he is an Engineer and does this simply as a volunteer (a ploy I didn't quite buy). Anyway, as is the norm, he got me to sign a cheque for an 'unmentionable' amount. No pressure. (I really think the charity is doing a GOOD job ;-)). I volunteered.

I wonder what it was. My present state of mind, wherein this simple interaction made me forget my burdens for a while? I have something for PYTs...?...(its wrong to classify him so, but heck he was!!) Or was it the ease with which we formed an instant connection (he is the son of an Army officer and he loves Delhi too)? Or his simple and extremely friendly manner? Or his total and absolute charm?

Ah! Who cares. The cheque should be in the Bank for clearance soon and although hubby darling is having second thoughts about it (wonder why), I am feeling a lot better than I have in the last couple of days. It was totally worth it!!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

The darkness within

The cursor blinks
and blinks and blinks
refusing to budge, move forward
It is vegetating
just sitting there
doing little else 
like me

Fingers move but words...
they're lost
they're lost too
The wandering mind 
the weary soul
go back and forth
past and present
with periodic precision
like the cursor
that just blinks
and blinks and blinks

It can't think or dream
ponder or reminiscence
desire or deviate
it just waits...
patiently, silently
waits for words
that mean something
to somebody
words that express, that speak
that light a fire
that quell the darkness
that surrender like the waterfall
that can change the world....

The to-do list grows longer 
the will goes weaker 
the darkness within overpowers
the end is not near
coz somewhere in the throes of this despair
it still waits
and blinks
and blinks and blinks....

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Is 8th March a landmark day for you?

I open the bunch of newspapers in the morning and splashed all over are International Women's Day stories. Are women safe? Do women in India have it all or is all this talk of equality etc a mere illusion? Inspiring stories of women achievers adorn the pages. Working women, non-working women, women with opinions, women with dreams.... I pour over the papers, read what some interesting and articulate women have to say.... 

Then I get up and go to the kitchen to whip up breakfast for the family. Discuss lunch plans with the hubby. He wants to take me out for a Play in the evening...there are two good ones showing in the city. But we discuss the practical difficulties (the children can't come and the plays are not meant for them; we have no one to baby sit them.) We may go out for dinner (which I am not so keen about since I want to avoid liquor and outside food for health reasons). We may just end up spending the sunday, like any other sunday: tidying up a bit, cooking a lot, checking emails, and maybe lazing in the afternoon.

So much for an International Women's Day celebration...a day that is supposed to...I don't know...light up my life, make others around me appreciate me more, make me appreciate women around me more, allow me the liberty to take time off household chores, hang out with friends???? 

But what if I can do all this and more the other 364 days a year? How can one day signify or change what I am and what people should expect out of me? How much does this ONE day matter?

Is 8th March really such a landmark day for you?

Friday, March 6, 2009

The First Born tag

I was tagged by the Indian Home Maker. I so enjoyed re-living those days.... Thank you IHM!

1. Was your first pregnancy planned?
Kinda. We'd been married almost four years and as usual, people (read relatives including both sets of parents) were starting to wonder if we were having fertility issues!!! Anyway, one long vacation we were brainwashed by my gran'ma who told us why we should have a child. On really bad days (when the kids have been too demanding) I recall her words and feel like the most patriotic citizen of our land. 

2. Were you married at the time?
I didn't wanna have a child even after before marriage it was quite unthinkable!!!

3. What were your reactions?
I felt like I was the first woman EVER to have the nausea, the cravings and the bloating (water retention). Matter of fact, I drove the hubby crazy with midnight demands for vanilla icecream with honey or some such absurd thing. I was also paranoid about the stretch marks from day 1 and despite all my precautions, I still got 'em :-(

4. Was abortion an option for you?
No. It was a well thought out, planned decision.

5. How old were you?
:-) Old enough to make maa remark that by that age she'd had me and my brother! And yet, in my mind I wasn't THAT old coz a lot of my friends were only just getting married.

6. How did you find out you were pregnant?
The usual. Morning sickness, a missed period....

7. Who did you tell first?
Hubby picked the report so technically he knew it first. The person I first called was Mom. Coz she'd been dying to have a grandchild.

8. Due date?
Was supposed to be 23 September.

9. Did you have morning sickness?
I don't throw up easily. So I was mostly nauseous, had a lot of acidity and just felt terrible in the first trimester. I was doing my Masters then and couldn't get myself to go to college each morning. 

10. What did you crave?
Icecreams. Throughout my pregnancy it was bloody hot in Visakhapatnam where we were posted then. I would crave for cold things: juices, iced tea and loads of icecreams.

11. Who/what irritated you the most?
The fact that here I was just getting used to having my body look and feel like it belonged on someone else, I'd had to contend with doing the normal, everyday things too...such as go to college, do my assignments, study for my exams, submit my dissertation etc, cook (even though H was undemanding, I had to eat too!!!), entertain once in a way and keep a good home. The pressure of all this got to me most days.

12. What was your first child's sex?
She is my darling baby doll.

13. Did you wish you had the opposite sex of what you were getting?
Gosh, never!!! For some reason, we always knew it'd be a girl. We didn't think of any boy names at all.

14. How much weight did you gain throughout the pregnancy?
12 kgs.

15. Did you have a baby shower?

16. Was it a surprise or did you know?
No baby shower.

17. Did you have any complication during the pregnancy?
She turned breech in the 37th week and the doc simply asked us to get prepared for a c-section after 2-3 weeks. I had done yoga throughout my pregnancy and placed an urgent call to my teacher (a darling elderly woman) who asked me to do a particular asana (sarvangasana or shoulder stand) for two weeks. Two weeks later, my doc was shocked to see in the ultrasound that the baby had turned! She called it a miracle :-) I call it faith.

18. Where did you give birth?
Cochin, Kerala.

19. How many hours were you in labour?
Three-four hours.

20. Who drove you to the hospital?
Was at the hospital for a routine check (we still had two weeks to go) when the water bag burst. Was wheeled in, labour was induced and in six hours (from the moment I entered the hospital), we had our bundle of joy in our arms.

21. Who watched you give birth?
The doc, nurses and the hubby.

22. Was it natural or c-section?

23. Did you take medicine to ease the pain?
Yes. I recall the doc administering me something that also made me sleep in between contractions.

24. How much did your child weigh?
2.6 kgs.

25. When was your child actually born?
330 pm IST.  H noted the time.

26. What was your reaction when the doctor announced the sex of the baby?
It was H who whispered in my ear "Its Oorja" (the name we'd long before decided.) I just smiled I remember...and as he squeezed my hand, I also felt the tears finding their way out; tears of relief...

27. What was your first reaction on seeing the baby?
As the nurse placed the bundle in the crook of my arm, I was totally zapped...emotional...happy and overjoyed...felt a medley of emotions simultaneously... 

28. Did you cry?
Yes. When mom came into the delivery room, with tears streaming down her face, and yet with a beaming smile, I cried. According to my brothers who were waiting outside the room, she cried through the hours I was inside as she heard my intermittent screams. After the baby was taken outside, the first thing she told the doc is "I want to see my daughter." My mom! Love you.

29. What did you name him/her?

30. How old is your first born today?
Old enough to fight with me and lay claim on my silver jewellery, clothes (especially skirts) and even footwear! She is nine!