Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Breathing Space

Too many young couples I have interacted with lately have used the term “breathing space” likening it to THE elusive factor in their intimate relationships. They complain that their partners do not allow them liberties to do things as they please. They lament the idea that their partners do not understand their need for “space”. “She does not let me be....”

After we were married, I smothered my husband with myself. I looked forward to spending all my time with him. I would even insist that he accompany me on our bi-monthly veggie shopping sprees. I simply wanted to be with him, reading love poems to him while the rain poured outside, cooking his favourite pasta, spending lazy sundays playing Scrabble, going on long bike rides across the rolling hills, or grabbing a late night meal at a 24 hour Coffee Shop.

I felt over powered by my love for him and I know that he felt the same way too. We rarely spent any time with friends. All we wanted was to be together. Somehow. Anyhow. Anywhere.

While he allowed me to drag him to the Cinema to catch a boring flick like An Interview with a Vampire, I tried to digest the raunchy and colourful medley of Telugu cinema. Even though he does not care for relatives and the baggage they entail, he understands why I have to be part of every ceremony we are invite to. We compromised. We adjusted.

Ultimately, if you love someone, you would be willing to surrender yourself to them; without insecurities and inhibitions; without any qualms or ego.

The Oxford Dictionary describes breathing space as “time to rest between periods of effort.” Unfortunately, in intimate relationships, one can never rest, and the effort must never cease. It’s the only way to make a relationship work.

November 2006

Friday, December 24, 2010

Parents can never get it right!

The other day my 11 year old complained.

"When I order something different in a restaurant and it doesn't taste nice you scold me for trying something new."

"And when I order Butter Chicken and Naan at a restaurant you say I should try something new!"

Ah! Parents! Bundles of contradictions.

How am I to explain to her that ordering a burger at a Vegetarian Idli-Dosa kind of place is never going to taste like McDonald's, and experimenting with a Afghani chicken or kebabs at a typical North-Indian/Mughlai restaurant is often a good change from the butter chicken and dal makhani???

At her age, we are strange and I am sure I thought my parents were...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Another Mommy ramble

Saw a cartoon the other day - an overweight man talking to his slim female partner - "Don't talk to me about eating healthy! I had a carrot once and it didn't help"

That could well be my son when he is 40! (Although I am certain he won't ever be overweight)...

Two nights ago, hubby forced a slice of carrot from the salad plate into his mouth. The fellow sat there with the piece of carrot in his mouth, refusing to chew. He didn't want to even taste carrot!

In 10 minutes, hubby went from cajoles to threats - to no avail!

Finally, after a flood of tears and sniffles, he was asked to spit the carrot and resume his dinner.

When we struggle to get this lad to eat I wonder where we went wrong.

Our daughter was a fuss pot as a child. But after she turned four and tasted the wonders that exist in this world (chicken, fish, Italian etc) she switched. She is a foodie - she not only eats almost everything that is cooked at home (including the karela, lauki and baingan), she also enjoys experimenting with cuisines and new fare.

The boy on the other hand gives us nightmares at mealtimes, often choosing to go hungry rather than eat what is being served.

Alternately, he throws tantrums for chocolate sauce/jam with rotis, cheese pizza, kurkure or some such innocuous demand that is met with an instant and almost involuntary reaction - NO!

I often tell my friends (in response to their refrain before a meal at their home - "What do your kids eat?"), "Daughter eats everything, and son eats nothing - so no problem there!"

But it IS a problem.

He is 7 but just 17 kgs...and his list of preferred food gets shorter by the day. The lad has never tasted Mango, never eaten a whole fruit after he turned two and has not enjoyed three full meals in one day in the longest time ever. He survives on air and our faith in God!

I am concerned and at the same time, confused. We can't force him, we can't educate him and we're just not able to influence him in ANY way!

My parents suggest patience. I am running out of that as well, especially when I have to buy clothes for him. His wardrobe is a stark reminder of our predicament - some of the clothes he wears are over four years old!

Friends have suggested that I should alter his routine, camouflage veggies in soups etc etc etc. There isn't a trick in the book I haven't tried.

All that is left is perhaps surgical readjustment of the brain circuits that control hunger.... A last resort that may work!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Smart @ 7

Me: "It is cold. Go wear your slippers..."

Him: Exasperated... "Yeaaaa.... I will!"

Me: Threatening... "Go wear them now...or you wait and watch!"

Him: "Ok. I will wait and watch..."


Monday, December 20, 2010

Song of birds

These days, I wake up to the sweet song of a cuckoo bird.... Some days the notes of its song are sweet and melodious and some days, relentlessly sharp and strained. Yet, I enjoy it tremendously because the song of a bird is an alien auditory treat for me.

Even as a child, I don't ever remember paying attention to the song of birds. Perhaps because I grew up in a land that is famous for one type of bird alone...the crow.... Everywhere you go in Kerala, you will hear them "caw".

As a child, I distinctly remember a crow snatching a sandwich from my hands as I stood munching in the balcony. The feel of its claws on my fingers is a sensation I remember to this day. I guess thats where my fear for birds started. I also remember my mom lamenting the assaults wreaked by crows on her drying mango slices (for that mmmmm pickle).

I am reminded of an incident from school, when I was in class VIII or IX; an incident that makes me smile to this day!

One afternoon I returned from my lunch break to find my wallet missing from my desk. Yep, at that age, I was very careless with my belongings and often misplaced my things in school. (I hope my daughter who recently joined FB is NOT reading this!)

My wallet contained the pocket money for the week. I was panic stricken and upon my friends' suggestion, decided to seek permission from the English teacher due to take her class during that period, to launch a search for my missing wallet.

The English teacher, Ms Dolores was not the most popular in the school. She was infamous for her temper and tantrums and the inconsiderate manner in which she dealt with the students.

As soon as I began the story of my missing wallet, Ms Dolores gave me that omnipresent irritated look.

"What's happened?"
"Miss, I have lost my wallet. I want to look for it. Can you excuse me from the class please?"
"Wallet? Who took your wallet?"
"I don't know Miss."
"Why don't you know?" (I could almost hear the grrrrrrrrr in her mind!)

Addressing the class, she asked, "Does anyone here know who took her wallet?"

One hand went up. In all seriousness, Satya, who always strived to live up to her name 'truth', stood up and said,"I know Miss. I saw a crow taking her wallet."

"A crow?"
"Yes Miss. A crow."
"Which crow?"

At this point, the entire classroom broke into laughter. Next thing I remember hearing voices from here n' there shouting,
"A black crow Miss."
"A crow with feathers."
"Martin Crowe."

Needless to say, Ms Dolores quickly gave me permission to look for my wallet within the school premises. Not before she made the naughty girls stand outside the class for the rest of the period!!!!!

(June 2007)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

For the sake of arguement

Conversation I often have with my younger bro as we compete with each other to fit into the same size jeans:

Him: "Haha! I STILL fit into a 32!"

Me: "So do I."

Him: "No you don't. Admit it! You are fat!"

Me: "Yes. I am. I gave birth to two children. What's your excuse?"

Him: Quiet. Dumb struck.

Me: *halo* Angelic. Smiling devilishly inside.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sixty Seconds

It is a hot summer day. The sun is blazing in all its glory. Traffic on the roads is heavy. A lethal combination; sweat, heat and the traffic…. Situation fit for angry outbursts and decreased patience. In the midst of all this, a car breaks down. You are right behind it and curse under your breath, because you will miss the green light as you try to back off from the tail end of the broken down car.

While you battle it out with the steering wheel, the driver of the broken down vehicle alights. He is old. He looks almost one hundred years old. From the passenger side, his spouse gets off. She also looks atleast a hundred years old.

They are stuck in the middle of this extremely busy intersection with a huge car, (a MUV), perspiring, wondering what to do. Cars pass them by, some honking at the interruption, some oblivious to their plight, most knowing that they need help, yet, simply driving away.

As you sit in the air-conditioned comfort of your car wondering what could be done to help them, you see a young man on a scooter race towards the zebra crossing just as the light turns red. He parks his scooter, gets off and walks towards the couple. Conversation ensues and soon the old gentleman is behind the wheel, while this young man pushes the car, deftly maneuvering it to the side of the road.

The activity takes a little over a minute. As the couple thanks him, the young man runs to his scooter and waits for the traffic signal to turn green again.

One minute of a little sweat to help someone in need. That is all it takes. One minute. Sixty seconds.

How many of us would have risen to the occasion, like the young surd did, on that hot and humid August afternoon in the heart of the Capital?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Origin of Species - out!!!!

Unwittingly, my four year old son has been getting lessons about the ‘ORIGIN of Species’.

Conversation 1, verbatim, about 6 months ago:

Dad: “Oorja, do you remember when Abhir was born in the hospital? You were the first one to hold him.”

Oorja: “Yes. He was in Mama’s tummy, right?”

Abhir: (In wonder) “I was inside Mama’s tummy?”

Conversation 2, verbatim, about 3 months ago:

Oorja: “Abhir, you were not there for my 2nd Birthday party. You were in mama’s tummy.”

Abhir: (Shocked) “I WAS IN MAMA’S TUMMY?????”

Oorja: (Matter-of-fact)”Yes.”

Abhir: “How did I come out?”

Oorja: “Hmmm… I think the doctor cut open mama’s tummy. Hai na, maa?”

Abhir: (Surprised. STUNNED.)

Conversation 3, verbatim, a few weeks ago:

Abhir: “How did I come in to your tummy, Mama?”

Mama: “God put you there.”

Abhir: “Okay. Was I a big baby or was I a small baby inside your tummy?”

Mama: “You were a small baby and you grew.”

Abhir: “But, HOW did I come in to your tummy, Mama?”

Mama: “One day I thought I wanted to have a darling little baby boy named Abhir. So I prayed to God and asked him to put ABHIR inside my tummy.”

Abhir: (Eyes popping out of his sockets) “Really? You asked God to put Abhir inside your tummy?”

Mama: “Yes darling. I did.”

Abhir: “And God gave you?”

Mama: “Yes. He did.”

Abhir: “Was it Krishna?” (the God you prayed to…?)

Mama: (Immensely relieved that the topic was changing) “Yes.”

Our daughter went through the motions after we conceived him; watching my tummy grow in size, feeling his kicks, and finally seeing HIM on an ultrasound before he was born. Somehow, we did not have to EXPLAIN it.

Even though the birds and bees conversation is a few years away, explaining to my son how he came in to our lives was serious stuff.

I only hope that we handled it well.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Girls go to college
To gain some knowledge

Boys go to Jupiter
To become more stupider"

Words of wisdom I heard my daughter repeat as she played the clapping hands game with her brother; while her brother, oblivious to the indirect reference being made to him and his kind, babbled along trying to parrot the words.

For my part, as a responsible mother I did what I should.......corrected the grammar!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Beauty or a "Beast"?

A few weeks ago, at the beauty parlour, a young girl walked in and had the following conversation with the attendant.

“I want to thread my eyebrows and upper lip. Will it hurt?”

“Is it the first time you are getting it done?”

“It will hurt a bit…”


“Don’t be scared. I will try to do it as gently as possible. Do you want to get your hands waxed too?” asked the attendant noticing that the girl had a lot of hair on her arms.

“No. My mom said only threading. I am in class VII… She said I should start waxing when I am in IXth.”

Class VII! Wow…I thought to myself. A beauty regimen at such a young age! The incident brought a flood of memories.

Following a regular beauty routine was never a very exciting prospect for me. As a teenager, I never felt compelled or pressured to resort to waxing my hands and legs, or undertake any of the beauty enhancing services available. The quarterly trips to the beauty parlour were strictly for haircuts.

I attribute the feeling of satisfaction and contentment with the way I looked to the fact that none of my girl friends were actually doing it. None of us felt that we looked inadequate with facial hair…or underarm hair. As a matter of fact, for many years I related the clean shaven underarms of my mom’s Kitty Party friends, visible through their sleeveless outfits, as something that you did after you became like them: married, with children and husbands!

How and why I succumbed to the regular beauty treatment trap is a tale in itself.

The first time I was given the feeling of inadequacy with my body hair, was when an aunt commented upon it. This aunt was a close relative and that year we had assembled for the marriage of her son, my first cousin. Along with dictating what each of us should wear at the wedding and the miscellaneous ceremonies, (so we wouldn’t end up embarrassing her in front of the “other party”), she remarked to my mom about the “hair” on my face and hands…. Sure I was taken aback! “Who the hell does she think she is”…was my first thought.

My mom, a woman who cannot be coerced into doing something she did not believe in, laughed the comment off. But the aunt pursued the matter saying that “girls in Bombay start all this really early…” (which meant that since we lived in a little town called Cochin, we were unaware of the ‘latest’ trends).

Then as it happens during all weddings…the ladies were going to the beauty parlour to fix their hair and get their faces professionally made up. I dragged along because I’d nothing better to do at home! At the parlour, my aunt remarked to the attendant about how I was 17 years old and was still not following a beauty regimen. I was embarrassed to say the least. Soon a discussion on the “small town mentality” began…and since my mom didn’t come along, I had no ally to turn to.

I don’t know why I turned to the attendant and told her that I wanted the works. Perhaps it was to spite my aunt. Perhaps it was to prove to her that ‘small town girls’ can be hep too. Perhaps the rebel within me had been shaken to attention.

Cut to this day. I am stuck with monthly trips to the parlour, whether it fits into my scheme of things or not. The sight of unkempt body hair ensures that I rush to the parlour whenever the need arises.

So when I encounter young girls willing to explore the secret of smooth hands and legs, or clean, shapely eyebrows, I am almost tempted to stop them. Because they have no idea what they are getting in to…for the rest of their lives!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity.
George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950), "The Devil's Disciple" (1901), act II

One evening while I sat enjoying a leisure cup of Mocha at a café, I spotted a young man, barely in his teens, selling cheap maps. He was dressed the way most young street vendors are; a bright pink shirt, old blue jeans two sizes too large, and blonde, streaked hair. He had been trying to catch the attention of customers at the café, through its glass panes.

He was thrilled at one enquiry made by a man in his early 40s, who, through the glass panes, inspected the map of Pune and asked him the price. He said Rs.40, which the man inside the café found too steep. He bargained and finally the deal was made at Rs 30/- a piece. The conversation took place on either side of the glass window through gestures. The man inside the café instructed the vendor to wait for five minutes while he had his coffee.

Soon this man was joined by another friend; and as it always does, a conversation over cups of coffee can just go on and on. However, this young man was waiting on the other side of the glass window, leaning against a lamppost when he could, refusing to let the man go out of his sight for fear of losing his customer. After 15 minutes of patient waiting, he tried to attract the attention of the man inside the café, to no avail. Obviously, the conversation was very captivating and the coffee, for 55 bucks a cup, truly enticing. In the meanwhile, the young man looked about him, and we made eye contact. I saw a strange sadness in his if, he was ashamed.

After 20 minutes, he was about to go, when I made eye contact with him and gestured him to come to the entrance of the café. I asked him the price of the maps, and bought four. He thanked me and added, “ghar mein bahut pareshaani hai.” Until then, I’d assumed this was going to be my good deed for the day.

But his statement left me ashamed. How can one human treat another this way? What irked me the most was that the seemingly educated and surely economically-sound man from the café made a deal and then ignored the young man as if he did not exist! Ignoring a beggar at a traffic intersection is different, but this young man was merely trying to earn a living. It just wasn’t fair!

It seems to me that the more educated we are, the more insensitive and uncaring we become. Are kindness and humanity virtues lost forever?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I started blogging soon after my son was born in 2003. I was introduced to it by a dear dear friend who watched me as I struggled with two little children; time-strapped, sleep deprived and low on morale. 

He started my first blog for me and I took it from there.

In 7 years there is a lot I have written that lies trapped in an interface I can't access anymore.

Thought I will publish some of my posts here. As I am off on a brief vacation, I thought this would also be a good way to keep my blog going. I wrote this on February 20, 2006:

Circle of Life

"Age: that period of life in which we compound for the vices that we still cherish by reviling those that we have no longer the enterprise to commit” – Ambrose Bierce

Past: “Why don’t you eat chicken? I don’t think you should make such a fuss about garlic in your food. Girls should eat everything that is cooked at home.”
Present: “I don’t know how you can consume the carcass of an animal. It is against our Hindu tradition and philosophy. And garlic? Whoa! I just can’t stand the stink.”

“Old men are children for a second time” - Aristophanes

Past: “Don’t be such a sissy. A car is a car. If you can drive a Maruti (800) then you can very well drive a Contessa.”
Present: “I just can’t drive a long car. I am unable to make the right judgment. I am so used to a Zen you know.”

“Youth is a blunder; manhood a struggle; old age a regret” – Benjamin Disraeli

Past: “Why aren’t you first in class? Can’t you work harder? How come x has better marks than you? You are simply lazy.”
Present (to his grandchild): “Oh I was such a lazy fellow in school. I hated doing my home work. My dad used to tell me that you are no good. If only I had studied! You must study. Ok?”

“Years steal
Fire from the mind as vigour from the limb;
And Life’s enchanted cup but sparkles from the brim” – George Gordon, 6th Lord Byron

Past: “Why the hell did you go to the Bank? To embarrass me? Don’t you know I hate it? If you want to get something done, just call the peon from the office. Don’t repeat it again.”
Present: “I need to withdraw some money. Can you go to the ATM and do it for me? Actually I get so confused by the instructions that people in the queue get impatient and I am embarrassed.”

I have witnessed the evolution of my father from a strict disciplinarian and task master to someone I can now relate to. However, I am also watching him grow old and lose his fortitude.

Even though I am aware that this is the circle of life, I hate to see my papa grow old.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Growing Old

The other day I went to a boutique. The owner was busy with another client and I hung around. The client was a rather well kept lady, perhaps my age or may be a tad older who was having her measurements taken for a blouse. Her teenage daughter hung around chatting on her phone. Once done she joined her mother.

The store owner, while measuring her, remarked that she seemed to have lost weight.

Immediately her daughter exclaimed, "Lost? She has put on SO much weight" a smile playing on her lips.

Oh for the arrogance of youth!

My first thought was "Been there, done that."

Second thought, "I am in the cycle of 'receiving' karmon ka phal." My own 11 year old is quick to pass such comments regardless of location or circumstance. At first I didn't know if I should curb her enthusiasm or ignore it as a phase. But instinctively I always do the latter.

Third thought, "She (the daughter) has a big butt too. Is she going to remain this thin forever???"

We have all been through it - the joy of being young that overshadows the reality of a seemingly distant future - we didn't think we'd grow old...or at least be confronted with our increasing age or girth by our own.

But as I sometimes squint to read the instructions on a strip of tablets in itsy-bitsy font, or experience a jabbing pain in my knee after I've overdone the running bit on the treadmill, the reality of it sinks in faster. 

I don't have a problem growing old at all. If any thing, I am quite happy to be progressing slowly to an age where perhaps I have a little more wisdom (gained out of making numerous mistakes) and a lot more patience with life, circumstances, people and myself.

But this incident also made me realise that I was becoming cynical and disparaging in my thought process (Thought three? That was just contemptuous!)

 Don't know if this is another sign of growing older, but I do know that this attitude needs to go. Now.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Monthly on? Go to the corner!

Its a Sunday and son's 7 year old friend E is home. We hear E inform our son: "My mother can't enter the kitchen. She's in the corner today."

Our son promptly comes running to hubby and asks him, "What does he mean, she is in a corner?"

Hubby gives him some explanation that to his 7 year old head seems reasonable. Chapter closes.

At first I am amused that women still follow this age-old and if I may add 'regressive' ritual....of staying away from chores like cooking and entering the puja room when they have their 'period,' also known as 'the monthly' by my fitness instructor, 'menstrual cycle' or simply 'menstruation' by others...

This lady is fairly young (mid to late 20s) and I do wonder why she follows this ritual. She is also an IT professional (I wonder why I thought all that education should have caused her to omit such oppressive acts from her life) who lives in a nuclear set-up without the hoopla the elderly in families usually enforce (just hubby and kid - a happy chotta parivar)... So I cannot fathom for the love of God WHY she has to follow this orthodox practice.

This practice of 'segregating' menstruating women is a centuries old practice that didn't always have a negative connotation. In Native American tradition a woman is supposed to be extremely 'powerful' during this phase. I also read an extract from an ancient Indian text that described the 'power' of women during menstruation.

The onset of this natural process became controversial enough to prohibit women from entering places of worship or the kitchen during the 7th century when the influence of Brahmins increased. The idea of impurity and pollution during menstruation was brought in by them.

Read here why this practice is discriminatory. (The page opens in IE, not Google Chrome).

Many households practised segregation. My grandmother did. My husband's grandmother did. My friend's grandmothers did too. I remember talking to friends about this (in school and other wise) and realised that most of our mothers didn't enforce it on us. They may have had to follow it but most of us were spared the ignominy.

But more than the fact that despite being a professional career oriented woman in this day and age she practices abstinence from cooking (frankly, I wish I could use that as an excuse from cooking as well) or performing puja during the phase, it was the reference of 'She is in the corner' that enraged me.

In the corner??? What the hell does that mean?

"You got your 'monthly' on - so go in the corner now..."

And why on Earth would someone want make this so obvious to a 7 year old???!!! I've been writing about how our kids are growing too fast.... This kind of 'knowledge' sharing amongst young boys just makes it tougher to draw the lines at home.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Kids say the darnest things! 2

S chatting with our son A:

S: "My grandfather died."

A: "My father's father, thatha got heart attack and went to hospital but didn't die."

They continue playing....

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pink is the new kinda lingo

I went to buy running shoes the other day as a reward for gymming success (read: inch loss that shows). At both stores (Nike and Adidas), I tried on a few pairs. When I zeroed down on a particularly comfortable pair, and asked the sales guys if they had colours, they immediately chipped in, "Yes Madam. We have pink."

I was offended - to say the least.

"I am a 'nearing her forties' woman, do I look like I would hold any fascination for the bubble gummy-sweet-sticky-candy flossy-PINK meant for teenagers????" I wanted to scream.

If anything else, pink reminds me of Barbie dolls (and I detest them - they cost an arm and a leg and look hideous unclothed, not to mention the wrong ideas those hour glass figures give young girls about 'perfect' bodies....)

And suddenly actually pink is all around. From mobiles to hand bags, pink is just everywhere.

It's not like I loathe pink. In my wardrobe amongst the whites and blacks I wear the most, are more pinks than I can count (especially Indian wear). I also wear pink lip gloss, love my Chambor pink shimmer nail paint and I love Aerosmith's song - Pink is my favourite colour!!! The gloves I wear in the gym are also pink!

But pink gym shoes?????.......... They would look something like this....

All I could say was "eeeww...."

Finally I bought me self a pair of drool worthy Nike....and yes, you guessed it right - they are not pink.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Aware at 11

From shampoo....

Mom (after having given her an anti-dandruff shampoo): "Did you wash your hair with H & S?"

Daughter: "Yes!"

Mom: "So...Is there a difference?"

Daughter: "Mom! If shampoos worked in one wash, these companies would be selling only 1 Re sachets, not big big bottles!"

Mom: "!!!!" items

Daughter notices cigarette packet in the car. Picks up. Has never seen one at such close quarters (thanks to the No Smoking rule in my house)

Says: "Mom, yeh cigarette company walle bhi kitne pagal hain na (Aren't these cigarette company guys crazy?) They've put a dirty photo on the packet and written 'Cigarette smoking is injurious to health'. After seeing this, why will anyone buy the packet??!!! They are ruining their own business..."

Mom: "!!!"

As you may have noticed, as I witness my 11 year old blossom into a person with her own thought process I almost always react the same way - !!!

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Lately we have been inundated with questions from the lad.

"What is gay?"

"If we kiss lip to lip we are gay?"

And offering us his pearls of wisdom.

"You can't be gay if you 'like' each other. You have to 'love'."

"Mama, we call this thing (pointing to his penis) center point"

"I don't have boobies. You have boobies. I have seeds"

Most of his statements are very matter of fact and though we maintain a very straight face and answer his queries best we can, we are still reeling under this sudden onslaught of information he is getting from his peers.....

At 7, is he growing up too fast or are we growing old?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

in its pure
gush, overpower
me again?
Catapult me
into the horizon,
where Heaven
meets the Earth...
Or will I
have to travel
to the end
of Time
to find it?

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Greedy Generation

I am slowly coming to the conclusion that the young generation is not Gen X or Gen Y. They're Gen G - The Greedy Generation....

When we were kids, we got new clothes and gifts twice a year - Birthdays and Diwali (Christmas or Onam for some perhaps)... It was great because we'd revel in the toy, look after it and actually play with it for more than a few hours. We also wore those 'special' clothes on special occasions - a party or temple festival or wedding.

Our parents on the other hand didn't get gifts at all. Not for occasions at least. "Weddings?" I once asked my mother and she said, "NO". Once a year her father would go to the market and buy a couple of hundred meters of white cloth that would be used to make salwar kameez and slips for the older girls, petticoats for the women, sheets for the beds, pyjamas for the boys and even kurtas for the elderly gentlemen of the family.

Similarly, a couple of hundred meters of striped cloth was used to make underpants for the boys and men. Shirts were stitched for all the boys from the same cloth and so too for the girls. Weddings were rarely occasions for spending money on clothes.

Gifts were a rarity. A sugar candy here and there, or samosas from the neighbourhood halwai when guests dropped by - thats it. She recalls playing gilli danda with her friends, climbing trees, plucking guavas or mangoes from the neighbour's tree or ganging up with cousins to catch frogs, walk along the fields etc. Toys didn't exist.

Of course! We're happy that we don't live in that age anymore (although it does sound like a LOT of fun!)

But the G Gen today needs no "occasion" for clothes or gifts it seems; they just need an excuse.

Everyday is a celebration! goes a famous ad. And the Gen G is taking the concept very very seriously.

Kids want gifts for Birthdays, and Diwali (along with the new clothes), Mother's Day, Father's Day, Sister's Day, Raksha Bandhan, Christmas, New Years and Children's Day! (I apologise if I've left out other occasions - but the ones mentioned here are most popular with my children.) The piece of cake was when my daughter wanted a gift for Holi!

The toys we buy them become 'old' in a matter of hours and the recently purchased by-all-standards-expensive clothes are worn even for the regular 'going-down-to-play' sessions.

Recently I put my foot down and declined my children a Diwali gift or a gift on Children's Day. I am the 'worst' mom around for now.

I know we've done our fair bit of spoiling them - giving into unreasonable demands just to pamper them and sometimes giving into demands to cover up the guilt of working too hard, being an absentee parent, or neglecting 'quality' time on most week days.

But sometimes we've also given into their demands because the peer pressure is too much - peer pressure from parents I mean....those parents who use SMS as a tool to remind us of how precious our daughter is (on the eve of Daughter's Day) and how we should show our love by buying her something she will appreciate!

Phew! Its tough to compete with a parent who has gifted their child something and yours comes home sulking because you didn't think Son's Day was so important!

I don't fear being at the receiving end of our kids' wrath or feelings when we deny them something. On the contrary, I believe that our children will love us because we are by and large reasonable parents who don't abuse them physically or emotionally and we do love them unconditionally...

I am certain they will love us too (especially after they've had one or two of their own when they will recognise our value - just as we did after we became parents... Yes! History does often repeat itself in this matter...)

What I really fear for are those moments of weakness and indulgence when we do give into their frivolous and unreasonable demands and often willingly even grant them the moon. I fear that we are making materialistic monsters out of them.

Long ago I read of how Sudha Murthy of Infosys fame taught her children that they could get something new if they gave something away....I wasn't inspired to try it until recently when I realised that my children have more toys than they can handle, more clothes than they wear and more demands than we can fulfill.

I made a beginning when we were moving homes and although the 11 year old could part with some stuff, the 7 year old clung on to his possessions.

And I could sense a 'generation' gap between 11 and 7!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Can I have the Super Woman Award now?

A few days ago, daughter and I were going for a haircut. It was a bright sunny morning after a spell of incessant rain, Madonna was playing on the stereo and we were generally chirpy and happy.

I had re-joined a gym after a hiatus and was also feeling wonderfully 'toned' (the reality however is far from what I was feeling)... Anyway, my daughter darling notices the slight bulges on my arms (Yes! They are muscles, visible only to the keen eye) and exclaims, "Mama, wow, you have muscles!"

"Yes, small muscles" I murmur, flexing them (inadvertently of course).

"Thank God!" she says.... "Now I feel safe with you."

So gentlefolk of the world, after having proven my utility as mom, cook, part-time cleaner, tutor, nurse and the frill-earner (working when I can get off the other responsibilities), now I am a strong contender for the Super Woman Award for also having a body capable enough to protect my children!

Can I have it already????!!!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hope rises on Independence Day

As I stood facing the National Flag this morning, I was consumed by one thought only - will our children, the generation that is evolving at a frenetic pace, seemingly too sure of themselves and therefore rashly neglectful of our 'values', ever feel the surge of love and emotion we feel when we sing the National Anthem? Will that kind of patriotism trickle down to these children who today stood watching their National Flag flutter in the gentle morning breeze?

And as we stood facing the flag in a circle I could not help but notice several parents standing with folded hands, seemingly afraid to mouth the words of the Anthem. "Maybe they've forgotten the words" I thought.

Its possible. Most of us left school uniforms and that environ two decades ago. Some of us can recall every film song sung in praise of our Motherland and every line of the profound and celebrated poem by Rabindranath Tagore that knocks us out every time we mouth the lines - "Where the mind is without fear"....!

But maybe, some have simply forgotten all of it.

"Could be amnesia", I second guessed, when I  realised that most of these upper to mid-upper class urban parents must have taken their tiny tots to watch an animation film in a multiplex at least once in their lives? And surely, they must have heard the National Anthem sung before the film? How then could they stand in such (deafening) silence with folded hands feigning amnesia?

Or was it worse than I'd imagined? Was it 'indifference'?

Indifference is the worst state of being. Indifference is debilitating. Indifference to your country, what it stands for, its ethos, its people, its National Flag/Anthem/bird/animal or what have you, is ruthlessly unpatriotic and unbecoming of any citizen who has ever sat in the air conditioned comfort of his office or drawing room and cursed the Indian 'mentality' and everything Indian, all the while, comfortably ensconced under the umbrella of Democracy.

Indifference is unacceptable.

I felt ashamed and wanted to exhort the parents (after the Anthem had ended, of course) - with the flamboyance of Manoj Kumar aka Bharat Kumar, rising up from my seat, fingers pointing at each of them, pompously reminding them of their duty as parents of these young, highly impressionable and engaging minds!

Then I glanced at the children from the corner of my eye and saw them singing the National Anthem with gusto - loud, clear and with passion. Four year olds, five year olds, seven year olds, fumbling at the difficult words but continuing undeterred, eyes never leaving the flag, hands never leaving their sides.

And I felt relieved. Hope raised its sure head again.

With or without the inculcation of values and guidelines from such parents, these children are all set to become the shining stars of our Nation. Our heroes. More power to them! Jai Hind!

PS: I am going to post this on the parents' group website of the school my son goes to, hoping to ignite a few minds, and may be spark a new controversy. Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kids say the darnest things! 1

Kids DO say the darnest things!

Scene - I am returning home after signing up at a new gym. Abhir had accompanied me as I went over to register.

Me: "Finally I can go to gym again."

Abhir: "But how can you go mama? There are so many boys there..and you will have to tell them that 'I'm married.'

Me: (Laughing uncontrollably....)

Abhir: "I will write it on a paper and give you and you can show it to them. For Hindi, you can translate and tell them "मेरी शादी हो चुकी है"

Me: (Still laughing....)

Scene - Dietitian is taking measurements soon after registration

Abhir: "Oh mama, your stomach is so big as if there is a baby inside..."

Me: (Embarrassed)

Scene - We're packed in to the car and the conversation on the back seat between Oorja and Abhir is thus

Abhir: "What is gay?"

Oorja: (Matter-of-factly) "Oh nothing! Just two boys loving each other...."

Me: !

Now I know why Bill Cosby ran his show for so many seasons!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tradition or Hidden agenda

Often when I am confronted by 'tradition' or lets say conservative values or even superstitious beliefs I wonder if we are regressing back in time or do the so-called close family members/relatives or well wishers who seek to 'open our eyes to these beliefs' and impose them on us do so to establish their agenda or superiority!

Take for instance the wedding date for my darling younger brother.

It was fixed after considerable deliberation and consultation with the decision makers - the astrologers, someone my father trusts as a guru and also bearing in mind the examination dates for the two children who will be most involved in the wedding - mine!

My brother's prospective in-laws also came over to visit my parents in Kerala and the date February 8th, 2011 was fixed mutually.

Two days later, my father got a call from one of his concerned sisters who informed him that Feb 8th (which is Basant Panchami according to the Indian calendar) was an inauspicious day for the wedding as my paternal grandfather (who we affectionately called babaji) passed away apparently on the same day way back in 1993.

Same day - i.e. Basant Panchami day. Not same date. The date was 14th Feb in 1993.

Caught in a genuine quandary my father called his guru who rubbished the claims of my aunt. He gave the go-ahead for the day. My father who trusts this gentleman more than any other living person on this Earth has however not paid heed to his advise.

As everyone around him claimed (including the bride's parents who could not vociferously deny the claims of the aunt), "The seed of doubt about the auspiciousness of this date has been sown. You must look for another date" dad set forth to seek another date.

And a new date has finally been arrived upon. 28th January.

Ask my father, who has seen the worst business disruptions and personal tragedies any man could have borne, and he says "How does it matter, 28 Jan or 8 Feb? Let's keep everyone happy."

What he knows is that the seed for this intervention was sown in my aunt's mind by one of our so-called blood relatives; a fact he can't deny but in the face of this 'doubt' he chooses to ignore it.

While all family members including my mother and brother (the groom himself) seethe at this unnecessary intervention and change, we also wonder if my grandfather's soul will be unhappy if his grandson gets married on the day he passed on, or will he be happy that his grandson chose this day to make a new, positive beginning in his life?

Questions only babaji would have been able to answer. And yet, somehow in my gut, I know what his answer would be. (Hint: The latter, definitely!)

If only his own children could face up to it and stop hiding behind the garb of traditional/conservative beliefs/faiths to impose their moral/conventional values on others.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Waiting for 2020

And yeah well you thought that during the travails of raising children you'd have to deal with potty training, food fuss, tantrums for possessions, indiscipline et al. 

And suddenly, as you groan out of bed at 5 30 something in the AM, you realise that all the above mentioned struggles pale in comparison to SCHOOL - perhaps the biggest trial of raising a child.

Lets begin with the moment your little baby has to go to a school - and I am not referring to your neighbourhood Nursery cum Day cares or Play Schools. I am referring to those imposing buildings with rows upon rows of classrooms, where your five year old will walk in with a bag full of books and a head full of trepidation (not unreasonable ofcourse), where you hope she gets a 'sound' education (now what's that!) and where she will stay till she is out of school academics (12th grade) for good.

And you don't just 'hope' she stays there, you will compel her to, after the jostling-in-line for the admission form, the insinuating 'Parent Interview', the capitation fee disguised as 'tuition' fee, the scandalous amount you shell out as quarterly fees - you may even want her to grow old in that school if need be!!

And it does not stop with the rigmarole of admissions or annual book purchase insanity. Its an everyday affair.

It starts with the gargantuan task of waking up at unearthly hours (and putting 5 year olds through the ignominy too). There was a time when sanity prevailed and an average school day began at 9 am. Today my daughter goes to a school that begins its day at 715 am. Despite the fact that we live just one km from the school her average wake up time is 545 am. Can't imagine the ungodly hour children who come from above 5 kms wake up at!

And I don't necessarily blame the school for this. 

The management wants children to reach home at a reasonable hour to avoid the glaring heat of mid afternoons as well as give them enough time to complete (mountains of) home work. And play too! Of course! "Your child needs to play at least two hours everyday" teachers and principals will almost reprimand parents who stand up at PTA's and say that the children don't get time to play.

Look at a typical school day - after getting home at 2 pm, taking a shower to get the grime of the sports period off, a quick lunch, and/or maybe even a short nap, the child goes into 5 pm. A quick snack or cup of milk later, she sits down to tackle the home work for the day. By the time she is done with her home work its almost 730, almost too dark to play outdoors. 815 dinner. 9 pm in bed. 530 something am - the circle of life begins again.

Travelling time is another problem. A lot of children I know travel any where between a half hour to one hour to school one way! With good (are there any?) schools becoming as scarce as the rainfall in Pune, parents don't mind letting their child traverse the distance all for the 'sound' education!

Homework is another area that is demanding of parents' time, attention and patience. Its what fuels the fast growing 'tuition' industry (should be granted industry status actually) and gives parents sleepless nights. It is also what leads parents to tender letters of apology to the class teacher ("for not having completed her home work due to a severe stomach ache last evening"), contents that sound like a story book formula to 'get away with it'.

Ah such levels parents have to stoop to! And really what choice do parents have! Homework is fast becoming the teacher's excuse to wriggle out of her 'home work'!

Three pages of Math problems, writing an entire essay in Hindi, collecting pictures for Science....this is the kind of work my daughter has to complete in one evening! Time to play? If she does go out to ride her favourite bicycle for a half hour or play with her friends, we know that she will go to bed in tears because the homework is still just half way through. So she does what any 10 year old diligent child will do - quit play time.

Helping write an essay, mugging spellings or solving a math problem is fine. Its still the easier part I'd say. But its when children have 'project work' that most parents wonder why they don't just quit their jobs and take over child rearing as a full-time occupation. 

Working parents have it especially hard. Like this one time I remember my daughter wanted pictures of some dance forms, famous freedom fighters and carnivorous birds on the same day, and we spent close to an hour and a punishable amount of fuel looking for them store to store. 

Why teachers cannot inform parents of an impending project requirement on a Friday is still a mystery to me. My daughter is in class VI and despite repeated written requests and pleas, she still gets project work requirement at the nth hour. 

All the anger and contempt you feel for the teacher, the school, the education system and their lack of planning is confronted by the crying child who stands helplessly shaking her head as you ask her idiotic and mindless questions, "Couldn't your teacher have remembered it two days ago?" replying, "How do I know Mama?"

Project work requirement can also be very funny. When my daughter wanted seven match boxes we bought her seven. She promptly emptied the match sticks into a drawer saying "Ma'am said to get empty match boxes." Needless to say, it has been almost two years and we are still well stocked with match sticks!

The expectations of the school don't end with the daily home work or projects, the arrival of the child 'on time' in a 'clean' uniform (polished shoes, handkerchiefs, neatly pig tailed or pony tailed hair and of course, these days the sanitizers) etc. They also expect you to give the child 'healthy' and yet tasty tiffin/snacks. "Bread, Maggie, Chips etc are not allowed" reads the school circular.

Fair enough! I agree that children should not be consuming junk food and amongst their peer, they tend to consume anything you pack in - without a murmur. But again, its the task of making the parathas, dosas, poha or some such and having it ready by 645 am is the challenge.

As parents we have another 10 years of this rigmarole. Six for my daughter, ten for my son. By 2020 we will have the liberty to sleep beyond 6 am on a weekday. 

Until then, we rise, we awaken, we cook, we scream, we cajole, we dress, we run for the bus and we triumph!

For those parents who are in the same boat - hugggssss...

For those waiting to join the bandwagon - All the best! 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Art of Missing Mails

People miss emails.

Yes! They do. Often I send out a mail to someone and then HAVE TO send them a 'saral mobile sandesh' or SMS that I've sent them a mail!

Because people very often miss the mail and SMS me indignantly, "I thought I was supposed to receive an email from you"...which leaves me wondering - It could not have gone into their Spam since we've been corresponding regularly. When I re-affirm that I have indeed mailed them, they usually get back with a sheepish response - "Oh I missed it"...

No I-mean-it apologies either because they miss my next mail too!

And some lost souls actually never see the mail at all, even after the reminder SMS. "I'm so sorry I was too busy..." or "Yaar, my Inbox is full of mail... Its so difficult to see which ones I actually want to open..."

How busy can busy be? And are you an efficient professional if you're missing work related email, out of sheer 'oversight' or a cluttered Inbox? And an excuse like this is supposed to work when most mail service providers offer you the comfort of labelling incoming mail and assigning them to different folders?

If you're being cluttered with unimportant emails/notifications, why not 'unsubscribe' or block the senders?

And most of all, if your Inbox is cluttered with unnecessary emails, why club personal and professional together?

Yeah! I know! All prudent questions that most people I know often miss mails will respond to with a "Oh may be I'm just not as efficient as you' if that is supposed to make me feel any better!

Sometimes I am tempted to forward these people an article I wrote for a tech magazine once - Email Etiquettes, followed by a SMS - Pls chk mail. And even then I know that most of them will miss it :-)

So today I doff my hat to those really busy professionals, masters in their fields who multi task effectively managing successful careers, homes, and children, (in particular the Editor of a magazine and my darling friend Aekta) who NEVER miss a mail....and who always respond (even if its just a simple sentence or phrase - Will revert).

Now that I am done with my rambling, I need to go reply to my mails...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Lady in the burqa

I take my son to a remedial class twice a week. It's what we now term a mild form of 'learning difficulty' or dyslexia. In two years, we've sort of grown out of the discomfort of talking about it. I say sort of because we do sometimes get tangled in the 'why him' 'why us' kind of totally fruitless questioning.

When we began the routine two years ago, the last half hour of his one hour class would overlap with that of another young girl who would be accompanied by her mother.

I am not the type to make conversation with someone outright. Either that person has to acknowledge my presence with a smile or eye contact or I can just simply sit around doing my own thing. Even after smiles, it can take weeks before I initiate a conversation. If they start it I can jabber my guts out almost instantly. But take the first step towards establishing cordiality? Na! Thats not me!

Anyway, so while this young girl I later learned is called Fatima went in to the room to make sense of words, her mother and I sat in the waiting room together, without exchanging so much as a glance, forget words.

I would always be carrying 'work' with me - list of calls I'd need to make, a story I could possibly work on sitting there - anything that would help me 'utilise' this time effectively. I still do that.

She, I noticed would walk in with a clutch purse that always matched her outfits, a cell phone and a magazine.

Three times a week then, I would see her walk in, take the seat near the window, look out and talk to someone on the phone. Then she would flip through the pages of the Cosmo or Femina she'd be carrying as I would sit there clacking at the keys of my lap top trying to look very very busy.

Truth is I looked at her. A lot.

She wore the most outstanding salwar kameez combinations I'd ever laid my eyes on. Pasty pink kurtas with white churidars and carefully draped dupattas of crushed cotton - she almost always wore combinations that looked 'thrown in' together... Each 'meeting' left me enamoured by what she wore and how well she carried it.

After about eight months, the remedial class moved to another locality and the timings of my son's sessions changed too. Fatima was assigned another day of the week that did not correspond with our visits. We settled into a new routine with a new set of children and mothers we would meet every week - mothers I exchange a glance with but no more!

Imagine my surprise then when I walked into his class the other day and saw Fatima sitting in the waiting room. She's grown up a bit and smiled as she recognised me.

But I didn't recognise her mom. Because she was clad in a burqa (and I must mention here, that the burqa was a pasty pink, little pink flowers printed over it with a white lace.) It was a shock to see her covered from top to toe when I'd in the past seen her in sleeveless kurtas, minus the 'cover up'.

The fashionable clutch has been replaced by a regular "jhola", and she didn't flip through a magazine as we sat together on the wooden bench. Her perfectly manicured nails have been replaced by unsightly, unkempt specks of yellow. She's upgraded her cell phone to a touch phone though, I noticed.

I was tempted to ask her about the makeover. Why has she suddenly chosen to don the burqa? What happened to her lovely manicured nails? But didn't. Even though my curiosity was threatening to burst out of my being, I contained myself since it went against my usual policy - refrain from conversation unless spoken to.

We sat there, both of us, throwing once-in-a-while sideway glances at each other. She must have noticed that I'd probably noticed the changes - the burqa in particular. But she pretended to gaze at the clouds of dampness that had formed a pattern on the white washed wall in front of us.

In one hour, the class ended and all of us collected our kids, their home works and their bags, in that order.

Out of two classes a week, Fatima shares one with my son. Recently, due to my increased work load Harish has begun taking him to these sessions more frequently than I do.

So the result is that I don't see her often.

But when I do, I do miss seeing her ensemble, hidden as it now is under the pasty-pink-printed-flowers-white-lace-burqa.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I wore
Matching earrings
All of my five
And four
Silver bangles
The pain
did not numb
my dressing sense

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Often in my line of work as a reporter, people ask me if I'm fearless.

And often I reply that I am already a martyr. I'm just waiting for the recognition!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I'm on Google

My daughter was looking for Wallpapers on Google. She did a search on me and found me..several pictures and articles I've written.

She is thrilled. She thinks I am famous.

Should I burst her bubble and reveal that it is SEO (search engine optimisation)?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A 'Perspective' Ramble

It's funny how a little something can put so much of ourselves into perspective.

For the past few days I've been suffering from repulsive mouth ulcers. Yes..eeewww... According to the doc it was a pretty bad case and for almost four days, I could not eat, drink or speak - a word. The pain was truly unbearable.

I survived day 1 of the gruesome ulcers without food or water. In the evening I had a cup of cool milk after I administered a gel that kinda numbed the area. But the gel was almost ineffective on the following days as the condition aggravated.

By day 3, I was dreaming of food. 'How nice it would be to have a thin crust pizza or a butter naan with dal makhani' my mind kept taunting me! I'd reached a pitiable state of craving for food in exactly 48 hours. What was strange to me was that for the past three months I'd been on a self imposed, restrictive diet that I was even beginning to enjoy. But 2 days of a 'compulsive' diet had virtually driven me crazy! Bottom line is I realised that I hate not having the choice "not" to eat!

The condition even took over my passion - writing!

My work depends on my yakking - if I can't speak I can't call/interview/interact with people for my newspaper stories.... A dear friend even joked, "Your dhanda must be affected coz you can't speak, right?" referring to my sense of helplessness as I sat at home, rented DVDs, watched my handphone call list pile up with 'Missed Calls'.... Again a 'compulsive' break that was wreaking havoc on my schedule and deadlines!

On day 4, I felt I could treat myself to an Idli dinner. Although I still couldn't speak, the gel was working long enough for me to gobble down a solid meal. Off I went to the nearby restaurant. I wrote - Idli parcel, no sambhar only chutney - on my handphone and showed it at the counter.

The man behind the counter instantly offered me a place to sit, not customary, because a lot of other 'parcel' people were standing around waiting in the filled-to-capacity restaurant. I realised that the staff assumed that I am disabled when the waiter who brought me my dinner chose to tap me on my shoulder to get my attention, rather than call out the token number given to me! Perhaps he assumed that I am speech and hearing impaired..

What does it feel to lose your job/career/passion when circumstances compel you? How does it feel to not be 'normal'? How does one go through life compromising with their very existence? Ulcers are not life threatening or contagious, but in four days I came this close to losing my demeanour, my sense of humour and my optimism...

I've known a few people who've lived through the worst circumstances that life could possibly offer. And they've done it with dignity. My feelings for them just moved up from mere 'empathy'...They're heroes... Hats off to them!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Grooms for sale!

I wrote this piece over four years ago...and strangely, nothing's changed in the years gone by...

Lately we have begun bride hunting for my brother, who at 29 is an eligible bachelor and in baniya parlance, a little old to find a good bride. However, we have been barraged by relatives enquiring about what kind of a girl we are seeking and since he happens to be a handsome fella, our expectation has been narrowed down to looks. Fortunately my folks are not the dowry seeking type, despite the relative reserve of my close family regarding the stand. Even though I believe that there can never be a certain criteria to find a suitable match for anyone; especially not looks or money, my opinion hardly matters since I am a small fry in this vast cesspool.

But for all my relatives, including my parents, the search for a match has to begin with a criterion. In almost each case, it happens to be the affluence of the other party and / or their ability to hold a lavish wedding. Most parents go beyond their financial capacities because of the deep rooted belief that money can go a long way in ensuring the happiness of the wedlock.

The pressure is immense on parents who have a daughter. To understand how this works it is also important to understand that I belong to a community where your status in society is largely dependent on how lavishly you marry off your daughter, if you have any. Some of my close relatives have spent anywhere between 8 million to 10 million rupees for the future happiness of their daughters. My parents were spared the pleasure of going berserk at my wedding since I zeroed in on a tamilian. Yet, as per tamilian standards we had an ostentatious wedding and as per baniya standards, just average.

Parents stoop to all sorts of levels to get the marriage under way. I have been witness to weddings where the groom has refused to marry the girl but is coaxed and coerced into the same after the bride’s father offers to cough up a few lacs more. The groom’s parents readily squash their son’s feelings for the extra dough. Groom selling at its best. Similarly, the bride’s parents coax her into marrying a man far below her caliber simply because he is rich or affluent or both.

The very same cousins are certainly not the happiest lot in the family today but “at least they are married”. Incredible but true! Daughters are married / carted off to avoid the social stigma of having an unmarried girl staying put at home. Since all the girls are brought up in a relatively regressive atmosphere where education and empowerment are not encouraged, an unhappy married girl is left to find the ways and means of adjusting in her lot.

But do such parents sleep at night, knowing that their daughter is unhappy? A question that has no clear answer.

And that’s the reason why couples, from most North Indian communities, even from affluent families are so scared of having more than one daughter. Whether one purchases a groom or adjusts with what is available, marriage these days has become a trade. It is no longer a union of two souls and two families as was believed. It is a business deal, negotiated, bargained and closed with the satisfaction of both parties. I cringe at the thought that my brother is going to be on display in the marriage market. And I can't change the mind set of the clan.

Brings me back to the point I’d iterated through my post. That one cannot bring about any changes in society merely through legislation. The Anti Dowry Act is a law in point. Despite the rampant prevalence of the practice in almost all north Indian communities, how many cases are actually reported or registered? Marginal. It is the failure of law enforcing authorities as well as the society at large.

Going by the way things are, I am skeptical about the search being undertaken by members of my large clan to find a suitable match for my brother. I just hope the girl he will eventually marry walks in to our lives without compulsion or compromise. That will be a wedding to celebrate!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Today I saw his profile on Face Book. It was in the 'You can add as a Friend' section on my page.

Stirred up a lot of uncomfortable memories. But then that was it. I felt nothing else. Guess I have ACTUALLY moved on.

Phew! I am relieved!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Tale of a Honeymoon

When it was finally decided that we would marry (and not simply start living together) with the consent of both sets of parents and the hoopla that surrounds a regular wedding, we were left with the very serious question of where we would go for our honeymoon.

To me, it seemed like a formality. Honeymoons are an extremely overrated, but necessary part of the couple acclimatization exercise I used to think. And I didn't need it because I'd known Harish for almost two years by then.

Moreover, after the wedding we were to move into a lovely beach-facing apartment in Vizag by ourselves (minus the in-laws from either side), which according to me would leave us enough time to 'honey - moon and swoon' at our convenience and leisure. I was too casual in my style to actually want to go to some far off place and spend time and energy sight seeing...if you know what I mean ;-)

All those who've been there, done that, please raise your hands - honestly!!!

But we succumbed.

And eventually decided to go to a swanky resort in Kumarakom where I'd recently spent a day enjoying the last few days of spinsterhood with my friends over a lavish buffet and loads of masti...followed by a two day stay in Munnar.

5 days in all, spread over two resorts sounded really hectic to me but Harish could not be bothered about the details since he always wanted what I wanted and as it turned out, in this case, I didn't know what I wanted. So we went with the flow.

We arrived at Kumarakom after a lovely boat ride, checked into our room, a tharavadu style duplex cottage with an open toilet and set out to enjoy THE honey moon.

We swam, we loitered about in the resort and actually went out for a sunset view boat ride too. In those days I was a very poor eater so I didn't even pay attention to or enjoy the food really... It was also the peak of the Kerala monsoon and after 24 hours of an incessant downpour, we both got tired of it. In a day and a half, we were stiff bored!

At the end of the second day, I coaxed Harish into going back to Cochin and he agreed in an instant. Firstly because (as mentioned earlier) he always wanted to do what I wanted to do, and secondly because, he was bored too.

On day three, we took a cab and landed home. Thus ended our 'honeymoon'.

My mom was concerned. "I hope you haven't had a fight?" she asked worried that we'd already begun doing what typically starts a few weeks after the honeymoon, not on the honeymoon!.. I mean fights...

We admitted that we actually got bored even though the confession didn't speak well of us - we had fought our respective families to be together, and could quite apparently not endure five days of 'togetherness'....

In retrospect, I think the pressure of "enjoying the honeymoon" got to me. I didn't want the sight seeing bit...didn't want to be part of the 'how was your honeymoon' kinda jibes either...

Fifteen years and two lovely children later, I would not mind another shot at a honey moon. I think I can handle the jibes and comments with maturity...

And this time, something tells me we won't be bored.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Shaadi ki tayyariyan

I was a very happy bride. All brides are happy...well, usually...but I was an exception to the extent that all I had cared about in the months preceding my wedding was that I was going to spend the rest of my life with this wonderful person I'd met and fallen for in an instant.

I was oblivious to the shopping sprees and hectic activity that surrounded the wedding. I had no clue what I was going to wear, what my parents were buying as gifts (for me as well as others) and what would happen on that day.

My parents took me to Mumbai to buy jewellery and I actually argued with them about not wanting to spend money on it. I reluctantly bought myself a 'lehenga' and didn't really care about the sarees or clothes that were to form part of the trousseau.

I spent all the time I had dreaming about being with this man...the nitty gritties of the wedding were just nitty gritties to me....left to the others to handle.

And I concentrated on eating papaya to get an 'internal' glow on my skin and trying to lose some weight before d-day.

I recall the wedding morning... Harish and his parents had landed up at 530 or so (in the morning mind you) to begin the ceremonies. My oblivious parents and relatives were roaming around in their night clothes when they walked in. So was I!!!

By 830 I was to get draped in a 9 yard saree for the Tam-bram ceremonies and it was at the nth hour that we realised that I had not stocked up on the customary head jewellery, hairpins to hold my step-cut hair (bedecked in flowers) in place and even enough safety pins!!!

My brothers ran helter-skelter to buy these things and chaos reigned as aunts and cousins laboured over the bride trying to dress her up! To their dismay they also discovered that ignorant of the fact that 9 yard sarees don't have falls, my mother had a fall, not stitched, but peekoed on!!!

Some of my cousins were aghast that I had chosen not to get dressed or made up by a professional on the most important day of my life...and furthermore, I hadn't even had a dress or make-up rehearsal before the auspicious day! 

All this happened even as the elders of the family insisted that we were running out of the 'mahurat' time and the groom sat outside anxiously waiting for his bride.

When I walked out, the 9 yard saree draped on me with the 'fall' visible on the outer layer, I don't know what went on in other minds, but I was totally bindaas...glad that we would finally be able to get on with the ceremony.

Fifteen years hence, I am helping my parents prepare for the weddings of my brothers. Meanwhile, I have decided what I am going to wear, what my kids will wear and to an extent how I will help Harish buy his outfits. From our clothes, to our footwear and jewellery I am working on each aspect.

Wonder what's changed in 15 years!!!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thoughts on dying

My earliest memory as a child is of sitting in the back seat in our maroon Fiat, with my chin perched on the part where the rubber beading meets the glass of the window, looking out, and trying NOT to look down at the water. I was always afraid of heights and furthermore of water.

I grew up in Cochin, a quaint town (now of course a bustling city and a strong contender for the 9th or perhaps 10th Metro of the country) made up of several small islands. To go from mainland Cochin to Ernakulam, the district headquarters, we'd traverse two bridges built across the backwaters by the British.

The first bridge, the Mattancherry bridge was constructed by Sir Bristow somewhere in 1940. By 1980's the bridge had survived way past its original expiry date.

Often we'd get stuck in traffic snarls on the bridge which had a wooden drawbridge (which could be raised from two ends with pulleys to allow big ships to pass under it - although it was never used in anybody's living memory).

Due to the age of the bridge and the load of vehicles, the bridge would sway in a ripple like manner (almost like a wave), often scaring the daylights out of visiting relatives. My parents would, very matter of factly say, "Oh this bridge can fall off any day" lamenting inaction by the local authorities in constructing a new one as we'd stand on the bridge, swaying. The irony was never lost on us.

For many years, my nightmares fed on this fear... I am in the car and the bridge breaks and we're all sliding down to our deaths... Ofcourse, many times, a super hero would come to save us, but that would depend on whether I was recently influenced by an actor or not. (OK, I admit, most often it was Rishi Kapoor!!!)

What I do recall is that in my dreams, I was never alone. I was always with my family. This is perhaps because every time my parents had this morbid discussion of the bridge breaking, my mother would always say, "I only want that when it happens, we should all be in the car together. What's the point of leaving someone behind to mourn?"

Reading about the families that perished in the Mangalore air crash recently and the agony of those left behind,  I am veering toward my mother's thought process.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The day I decided HURT is just another FOUR Letter Word

It hurt. No doubt it did. The memory of that incident that I'd been repressing all these years, as it came back to me, left me wounded. My heart broke. Again. Then I resolved and wrote the following:

The day I decided that HURT
is just another four letter word
I was liberated
from an endless cycle of
playing victim
who sobbed herself to sleep
who wished the world would stop
and listen to her woes
place a caring hand on her shoulder
kiss her fears away

I let go
Of the glint in my eyes
that screamed I am a victim
love me
care for me
pity me
LOOK at me!

Look at what he did to me
Look at how he changed my life
Look at how he altered my future
Pity pity pity!
Revenge sounded sweet too
Hate him
Indict him
Ruin him
Make him pay the price

No more!
Forgiveness may take time
But retribution and hurt
won't touch me any more
I am free....

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Childhood Memory frozen in Time!

I don't recall how old I am. But I do remember that I always loved playing on that terrace. A major part of my childhood memories revolve around the red tiled terrace that witnessed a lot of growing up too.

I run up the stairs, two at a time. I am trying to take three, but I can't. On my way down though I jump off four at a time and land on my feet. It is an achievement for me!

It is not hot today. The sun is not out. The sky is overcast as if its going to rain. I look up. Oh yes! The sky is crowded with pale clouds, not black yet that look laden with rain. I hope it rains. I love getting wet in the rain. I love it when the rain soaks my clothes, down to my undies.

Mom has placed a huge transparent jar of carrot kanji on the ledge of the terrace that overlooks Alkesh uncle's factory. It looks mouth watering. I try to shake it and watch the yellow specks of crushed mustard rise from the bottom and colour the water. I hope its ready to eat today. I know mom will send the servant to pick it up and take it home since it looks like its going to rain.

I want to play a make believe game. But I am alone. Both my brothers are downstairs at home. I have no idea what they're up to. I look up at the other side of the terrace, the elevated side that belongs to Mama. I want him, Mami and Didi to come upstairs to feel the wonderful breeze and see my new frock. I want them to call out to me so we can watch ships in the distance.

I decide to jump down to the lower level of the terrace and land on my feet again! Ha ha! I am so pleased!

I want to go under the ledge and peep into my house from the glass ventilator, but the fear of lizards is quite real. I am a little scared. But I also want to see if I can catch my mom's attention from there.

I go down and gingerly peep into our drawing room. My youngest brother is lounging on the sofa. He has just woken up from his nap. I call out for mom and he looks up and smiles. I ask him to call mom. But he doesn't speak yet so he won't be able to call her.

I crawl backwards out from the area watching my head and run to the window that opens in to Mami's house. Their dining table has morsels of food on it. They must have just had tiffin.

The thought of a crisp dosa, idli, korakattai or upma makes me hungry and I turn around, put my feet on the drain pipe to climb back on to 'our side' of the terrace. I run to Mama's terrace, reach their staircase and wade through a curtain of their washing - Mama's white veshti, Mami's green petticoat - all damp. I run down the stairs all the way and jump five steps landing with a THUD.

Mama is calling out to me, "Is that you Kukku?"

He is sitting on his lounging cane chair. "Yes Mama," I am saying.

"Come inside and have a dosai..."

Ah! Just the words I've been waiting to hear!!!!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

When children express their love

When children welcome you home with open arms, huge smiles and big hugs, you know you were missed. The card is ALWAYS the icing on the cake!

Thank you bachchas!!!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Thank you. Forever.

I chose Valentine's Day to pack a bag and go visit my ailing mom. And I didn't have to think twice.

Often I've heard my lady friends lamenting that they can't take time off from their families even for emergencies. Because their husbands can't look after the kids/home/cooking/homework etc by themselves. They feel lost without their better halves ( which I feel is an excuse to shirk responsibility).

Or have heard out anxious friends who make compulsive trips out of town due to work - "I hope he is getting the house swept everyday..."

And I.. I can go attend a wedding in Delhi for three-four days content in the knowledge that Harish will not only look after the kids and their needs, he will also look after the home, the maid, the veggie shopping - indeed everything that would constitute running an efficient household. I return to a home as clean and organised as I'd left it.

And he will do it well.

So well that the kids often miss me but not in the cranky irritated way that spells "When are you coming back? We don't want to be in charge of dad anymore!!" but in a happy way - "We miss you mom. Come back soon and get this, this and this for us!"

I have often taken off on trips that were not for business alone. I've dropped in to meet my parents or chill at a cousin's wedding - without fear, guilt or anxiety.

And I could not have done ANY of this without his love and support and the faith Harish has inspired in me for him.

I know he will hold fort even if Abhir has a fall and needs stitches on his chin while I'm in Delhi.

He will cook an excellent Saturday afternoon meal for our children and the neighbouring children who often drop by to dine with us, with enthusiasm, even as he negotiates a business deal with the Europeans while frying pooris!

He will drive them to their classes, help them with home-work and be there for them despite his own hectic schedule.

I have learned from Harish that handling a home can be easy even for a guy. All they have to do is try!

You could ask me, "Is it Dove?" And I will say, "No. Its love!"

It is love that makes him want to do things for us - our home, our kids, our lives!

This Valentine's Day I wish my girl/lady friends as much luck in love as I've had for the past 16 years.

Thank you my love. Forever.

This is for you, MAA

Multiple layers
A shade of pink in the midst
of an ocean of blue
A bed of clouds
spread out before my eyes
Lingering few suspended
in the far distance
The radiant sun shines 
on the extended wing
bidding goodbye to my world
on its way to light another
This is what Heaven must feel like
And each one of us
has their share of Heaven 
just waiting to be hugged


I'm seated in an aircraft and am looking out of the window. I'm going to meet my mom.

Dad called last night and said her blood pressure had shot up. She was hospitalised being given a drip with medication to bring the BP down. She is stable, he said.

But my mind - my mind could not stay still.

I tried sleeping but I dreamt of her. When I woke up in the morning, I'd resolved to go meet her. Come what may.

The money that would be spent, the hassle of traversing this distance - I was given feeble excuses to stop this journey.

But my aching heart could not accept the 'logic' of those words. I had to do as my heart bid me.

Before I left, Harish noticed my sadness and when he gently asked me, I almost soaked his shirt.

I am in gratitude to my mom for the rest of my life, for:
Being my pillar of strength
Fighting unending battles for me
Believing in me
Giving me the gift of life
Encouraging me to revel in the happiness of children
Being my support
Making me the headstrong, independent individual I am....

In return I perhaps never gave her much. A dose of my rebellion in my teen years, some criticism and lots of anger and sadness.

I have often told my friends that my constant and recurring nightmare has to do with the fear of losing my mom. Sometimes I feel (when I hear of friends losing their moms, or when Harish lost his) that I will probably die or want to die with her.

To me she is so precious that I would like to follow her into the next world when it happens.


School instilled in me the fear of Hell. My convent education has reinforced the idea of Satan waiting in HELL where raging fires burn to teach us humans a lesson for all our evil actions on Earth.

I know I am not perfect. I lie when needed, I am egoistic and prone to intense anger - in short, I KNOW I'm probably going to Hell. Somewhere the fear still lurks - not of dying per se, but of dying and going to hell.


With these numerous feelings I sat in the cab that took me to Bombay to catch my aircraft to Cochin.

Mid-flight when I saw the sky outside the window, after waking up from a disturbed nap, I finally felt at peace inside.

The devil had been put to rest.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

German Bakery

I never got very friendly with him. In fact I don't even know his name. But his smiling face hasn't gotten out of my head since the news of the blast in German Bakery.

He is a waiter who often cleaned up tables at the bakery. He is especially fond of Abhir.

When I walked in to the bakery last morning he wished me and ruffled Abhir's hair asking him "How are you champ?"

After the news of the blast, Abhir asked me if 'that uncle' is also dead.

This blast tonite is just too close to home.

Our favourite hangout, where my children have freaked out on the Tiramisu, Doughnuts, Mushroom Omlettes, Soya Cheese slices and the most awesome ginger-lemon tea.

But when we move beyond the obvious gastronomic attractions of this popular bakery in Pune's 'happening' Koregaon Park area, this is a shocker for us.

I am hoping that the people I have known working there are safe. My prayers with the dead and injured.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Indian Express whips the Indian Army

Has the Indian Army become the latest whipping boy for the media?

It would appear so!

This incredibly blasphemous headline appeared in the Pune Newsline supplement (dated 11 Feb 2010) of the Indian Express:

"Army officers held for clearing substandard equipment"

Read the story here...

The fact is that the corrupted officers were DGQA officials who are NOT men in uniform, but civilians who do not undergo a day's worth of the ragda the uniformed men are put through.

It is sad that a newspaper of such high credentials will stoop to such levels to make a headline!

As a journalist it saddens me to accept that this is reprehensible and totally condemnable piece of journalism.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Prez Patil in a soup. Or is she?

They're calling it a "gigantic embarrassment" - the fact that the honourable President's husband has been apparently found guilty of grabbing 2 acres of land from a hapless farmer in Amravati, Maharashtra. But isn't it more than that?

The Rashtrapati Bhavan has conveniently declined to comment on the issue merely stating that the President's husband is a private (not common though) citizen and does not enjoy any special privileges.

The immediate thoughts that arise:

1. Would the political fraternity of this country demand that the President step down "on moral grounds" as is so often demanded off others in high offices who commit similarly serious or worse crimes?

2. Will this issue be brushed under the carpet by the very capable media of our country (since it is just an order by a Sub Div Officer and c'mon, it was only 2 acres of land!!!) who conducted an extensive (and perhaps justified) campaign to bring the Sukna Land Scam accused from the Indian Army to their nadir... while there are no follow ups/investigations/campaign for the Madhu Koda scam that runs into a whopping 4000 crores (of a State like Jharkhand where the amount allegedly plundered was the budget for the State a few years ago)?

3. Accountability is at its lowest in the political arena. And that seems to have become the watch word for Y2K. You can do any damn thing and get away with it. Look at the Thackerays in Mumbai, Sharad Pawar (his gross mismanagement of sugar prices), Koda, Mayawati.....

4. Trials by media seem to have become our (the common citizen's) only path to justice. Except that the media chooses to blow up issues that mean good TRPs (trials for murder/rape/molestation victims). So in all likelihood, the honourable President's husband will get away with this. Our (ir)responsible media will condemn for a few minutes of air time, but will look the other way tomorrow.

5. I doff my hat to Bansod, the farmer who stood his ground and got his land back from the powerful first family of the country.