Thursday, September 29, 2011

Joy of Giving - Card 4 - Week 4 - Blessing. A poem by Imtiaz Dharkar

My friend Meena Nambiar shared this stark poem with us:

The skin cracks like a pod.There never is enough water.

Imagine the drip of it,
the small splash, 
echo in a tin mug,
the voice of a kindly god.

Sometimes, the sudden rush
of fortune. The municipal pipe bursts,
silver crashes to the ground
and the flow has found
a roar of tongues. From the huts,a congregation: 
every man woman
child for streets around
butts in, with pots,
brass, copper, aluminium,
plastic buckets,
frantic hands,

and naked children
screaming in the liquid sun,
their highlights polished to perfection,
flashing light,
as the blessing sings
over their small bones.

Joy of Giving - Card 4 - Pune's Water Warrior

When it comes to saving water, I cannot but share this wonderful home video created by a young 13 year old boy from Pune. He was 11 when he made this movie.

I've written many articles on him. Am reproducing one here.

12 year old Viraj Gapchoop is an achiever of the rare kind. A student, a film maker, a water prodigy and an avid photographer, Viraj may seem to wear too many hats for one so young, but his passion for each is endearing.

This young water warrior who recently entered the India Book of Records 2011 edition, has made a film on saving water through simple methods that he admits he learned at home. The filmed that was screened at the Vasundhara International Film Festival in Pune in February 2010 epitomised the young lad bathing while standing in a round plastic tub and recycling the collected water by watering plants, flushing toilets or even swabbing the home.

His passion for the subject began when as a young boy living near the banks of the gentle Pavana river he witnessed the steady desecration of the river.

“People were dumping garbage, washing clothes on its banks and all this affected him. As a young boy of three or four, he would ask his grandfather why people spoiled the river” recalls his mother Manasi fondly.

To add to his exposure, the Gapchoops are a conscious lot, saving water on a day to day basis, that is more like a way of life to them. “We turn off the tap while working in the kitchen, and recycle water from washing and bathing for many uses. Viraj grew up doing all this and also realising that this was important to save water” said his father Dinesh.

The idea of a movie came to him when he thought of spreading his message of water conservation and water recycling. He made the film at home with a handy cam and used the computer to edit it and add the audio. The film, about 12 minutes long is narrated by himself in a simple way avoiding jargons, spreading the message of water conservation.

Since he made the movie, Viraj has been honoured at several forums and continues to be reckoned with as a child prodigy and young innovator.

Simultaneously this young lad also invented a simple system that helps reduce overflows from overhead water tanks. Christened the Semi Automatic Water Pump Controller, the device can be made from scrap almost free of cost by anyone who is willing to implement the concept. 

Viraj’s invention, with its striking simplicity and cost effectiveness has found many takers. He does not sell the device and the proceeds of the contributions he receives from people who implement the concept have been given to his school Jnana Prabodhini Navnagar Vidyalaya, located at Nigdi that needed funds for social and construction activity.

In the past few months, Viraj’s water saving device has fetched the school over Rs 1.55 lacs, all as voluntary contributions!

What he developed as a Science project for his school is now also under process for registration under the Intellectual Property Rights Act.

Watch PART 1  and PART 2 of Viraj's movie and do remember to show it to the children at home and in your neighbourhood!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Joy of Giving - Card 4 - Week 4 - Water – A precious resource

My childhood friend Rekha who has been diligently following and supporting the Joy of Giving sent me this post by email, since she has taken a short sabbatical from blogging and social networking. 

Her post is reminiscent of her childhood days' struggle for water in Kerala, a land where the rain pours to kingdom come for almost 5 months in a year... Over to Rekha:

Saving water is something after my own heart. Living in rainy Kerala does not necessarily mean that’s plenty of water all around. “Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink,” holds true for West Kochi, the place I lived. Drinking or potable water was a perennial problem and I remember lugging pots from as far as the next road during extreme shortages, which were very common.

It was a unifying fact though, never mind if you lived in a huge house or a shanty, you queued up like the others for water. Thankfully, these did not go to the extremes, and since we had a bore well and a well, we did have some kind of water, even if it was not pure.

The worst shortage I came across was in Madras in 2001 when we had gone to my sister-in-law’s place. They lived in posh T. Nagar, home to all the Kollywood stars, but they had absolutely no water. And the water truck came at the earthly hour of around three or four in the morning. Water was stored in every available space, including little tumblers and mugs. And a lot of water was reused and recycled… and that’s when it hit home hard… Use water judiciously or face the consequences.

My husband too has had his share of experiences with water shortage. Palakkad has fierce summers unlike the rest of Kerala, and mostly the deep well in their village home would dry up and they too had to lug water from other places. Thankfully, they have a bore well now and the well never dries up thanks to the bountiful monsoon.

How do I try and save water? I only have bucket baths… and try not to keep the tap running on in full force while washing the vessels. I use a mug of water whenever I remember, for brushing my teeth and use minimum water while washing clothes by hand. I use the washing machine only if there is a full load, and so on and so forth.

I try to do my little bit… and will continue to do so… for who can imagine a life without water?

Joy of Giving - Card 4 - Water Saving Tips

When my son plucked the fourth card out of the pack for the Joy of Giving, I thought I would write a couple of posts about saving water. Bathing in a bucket of water is one way of saving water. There are others.

Tips for Conserving Water 

  • Verify your home is leak free. Repair dripping taps by replacing washers. It took a plumber 4 days and a few hundred phone calls to respond to my complaint of leaking taps. Such is the attitude to a 'dripping' tap in our country! May be it is time we started learning how to do some basic plumbing ourselves
  • Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Use water efficient flushes, plumbing fixtures having sensors, low flow faucet aerators which require minimum water. Box cisterns are best used to save water and the flush knob can be pushed back as soon as the WC is clear to save water
  • Turn off water while brushing teeth. Very important and to be taught especially to children
  • For shaving, use mug rather than using running water. Have seen many men do it and its a good initiative to save water
  • Close faucets while soaping and rinsing clothes/utensils. Teaching maids and then monitoring them is the toughest task
  • Keep overflow valve in the over head tanks so as not to waste water 
  • Use waste water to swab, flush, clean terraces. Easier said than done, but if we are committed to saving water we can do it
  • Don’t use running water for releasing ice from tray/washing vegetables. My aunt who as an Air Force officer's wife lived across the country, even in areas of severe water shortage, follows this practice. She takes a bowl of water when she starts chopping, and dips all vegetables in the bowl rather than wash them under running water
  • Don’t use extra detergent to wash clothes. Sometimes we think more detergent means better washed clothes. It is not so. In fact, too much detergent doesn't get rinsed off clothes easily especially if they are machine washed which typically have fixed rinse cycles. It is better to use detergent frugally
  • Don’t use running water while hand-washing clothes. Again, teaching maids and monitoring them is the toughest part
  • Operate automatic washing machine when it is fully loaded 
  • Don’t use shower/big bath tubs in bathrooms. Taking a bucket bath is hygienic. My children get showers as a treat, every other Saturday, not as a matter of right 
  • Water left over in water bottles can be used to water plants instead of being thrown away
  • Don't wash cars. Wiping them clean works just as well. In fact wet wiping the car frequently is known to rob the paint off its shine. Dry wipe 3 times and wet wipe 3 times a week
  • Don't water plants with running water. I use all the 'left over' water (from bottles, buckets etc) to water my plants
  • Use sprinklers in gardens. Sprinklers save water and distribute water evenly over larger surfaces 
  • Don’t over-water your lawns. A good rain eliminates the need watering for more than a week
  • Water lawns during early morning hours when the temperature and wind speeds are the lowest. This reduces losses from evaporation
  • Please remember water never gets "old". Don't throw good water down the drain. Use it

Monday, September 26, 2011

When I wanted to get back...

Words. Was tempted to use them today - to hurt someone; to "say it like it is"; to offer a defense to someone against their baseless allegations that meant I had to show them the mirror; to show this person that I am a better person; to prove a point...

As I typed furiously, the words that began appearing on the screen made me stop. Scathing words stared back at me and even as I made an effort to justify them I was distraught at what I was intending to do.

I wanted to prove I am a better person. And in trying to do that I was moving away from the person I am - someone who has the capacity to forgive, to reconcile, to accept what cannot be changed, to love unconditionally, to give happiness and be happy.

I did send the email. It was devoid of hatred, animosity, vulgarity and severity. Maybe the recipient couldn't care about what I'd written because there was nothing in it to grab his attention... But it is ok...

At least I shall sleep tonight!

Joy of Giving - Card 4 - Week 4

This week we have a card that is so easy to follow, any one can do it.

But first, a prelude:

Long ago, taking bath under a shower was considered a luxury. Not only because showers were considered an indulgence but because showers were considered an indulgence due to the amount of water they consumed. A bucket of water was considered enough for a clean, thorough and hygienic bath.

Somehow things changed. Homes with more advanced forms of plumbing became popular. Suddenly it was not enough to just take bath - we needed "rain shower heads" in our bathrooms to replicate the rain that poured naturally... Needless to say, water consumption increased and slowly but steadily through our patterns of water use we started depleting our natural water sources.

Did you know that a 10 minute shower can exhaust 120 liters of water from your tank (@ 12 liters per minute)? With an average of four members in a family, that is almost 500 liters of water everyday; 15000 liters of water a month; 1,82,500 liters per annum.

How can we cut down this massive water consumption without compromising on hygiene? (If I ask my kids they will gladly say "Bathe twice a week!")

Use a bucket. That's the card for this week:

To join the Joy of Giving just follow the cards. To know how it started, please click here.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Joy of Giving - Card 3 - Week 3 - Pookalam 2

25th September each year is celebrated as International Ataxia Awareness Day. Ataxia. I hadn't heard of the word until three years ago. When a chance meeting brought me face to face with Rao uncle I wrote a post about it. 

The next year we decided to get together to do something to bring an element of hope into the lives of the two young men who were struggling to even stay afloat - struggling to smile, to desire, to live. 

We thought we would take baby steps to spread awareness about Ataxia. We started a blog and it is maintained exclusively by Guru Prasad and Vivek Rao, sons of Rao uncle. Towards the same goal, last year we celebrated the Ataxia Awareness Day hoping to bring the Ataxians across Pune together.

It hasn't been easy. Needless to say, apart from the physical and mental trauma these patients go through there is also the social stigma attached to a disease no one can fully understand.

However, not one to give up, this year Rao uncle registered a NGO called Ataxia Awareness Charitable Trust (AACT) to formalise the aspirations of all Ataxians - to be able to live lives of dignity, to be able to earn a livelihood, to have a chance at 'happiness' and to build an Ashram where they can live without burdening their ageing parents or other care givers. 

We celebrated this day at their residence, and I thought what better way to spread a little extra cheer than to make a Pookalam as part of the third Joy of Giving card. Rukmini auntie was happy. Rao uncle elated. The pookalam served its purpose well. 

Again - from design to concept to implementation, the credit goes to Oorja and Abhir!

Process begins

Abhir has to disturb his sister

Sibling revelry

Painstaking creation

Helping hand

Guru and Vivek

Its ready!!!!

Do you want to spread cheer in someone's life? Do you want to revel in the happiness that you will feel when you give happiness? Then join the Joy of Giving. Click here for details ....

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Joy of Giving - Card 3 - Week 3 - Pookalam

Pookalam in front of the altar at a friend's house. From concept to design to implementation - kudos to Shivani, Oorja and Abhir!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Joy of Giving - Card 2 - Week 2 - Just Someone

The Joy of Giving just keeps reaching out...

Just Someone - Has been a reader and supporter of this blog for ever. Today he sent me his letter with a short paragraph for his parents. With his permission I am publishing both.

From Just Someone to .....

I love and respect my mother and my father immensly, always indebted to them for what they have done for me, for making me what I am, for teaching me values. However as someone who spent a major part of his childhoold alone and way, I grew not to be 'attached'. By not writing a letter to them, I am not denigrating their vital role in my life.

However I choose to write to a friend , who has been there for me till now... simple...


To a wonderful human being whose indubitable character and strength has illuminated my life.
I donot know if there is a card for ‘the person’ who has had an impact on your life. So I am writing about this friend … 

Love : You can love and accept people , welcome them into the realm of friendship without judging them in any way – a rare quality, the very reason, a serendipitous meeting  for me evolved into an unceasing blissful experience – for life – for me ( again ).

Thank you for extending a hand of friendship to a total stranger and then being a pillar of strength during the journey of life.  Even a few moments of company would swathe you with the warmth exuded by this person,  that your pains would recede and you would smile. This I know for sure is something that other friends too have experienced.

Strength : All of us go through tough times in our lives. How we react to it, how well we can get a handle on the situation decides how we move forward. I have been lucky to be in the company of someone who has shown me how to sieve out strength, to find a solution in the most enervating situations. Thank you for being there, making me believe in myself, think clearly and guiding me away from baneful decisions. Even when going through personal troubles, you would devote time to my problems and respond vicariously.

From you, I have learnt ( to try ) to be sincere and compassionate even in the smallest things that I do. ‘Don’t do something  or don’t say something if you don’t mean it ‘ are the words that I have often heard and seen being followed by this person. And yes this has helped me think, before I speak or act (though its not easy to follow always ) – even if it’s a very ‘casual’ promise about an ice cream to my kids. In profession, I have seen this person set aside personal priorities, to honor a commitment given. And if its not possible to meet an agreed deadline, then be upfront about it, totally obviating the common ploy of finding an ‘excuse’.

I have learnt from you, that speaking truth and not massaging egos , earns you respect. It takes a lot of spunk to confront ‘power’. I admire you for never backing down when your affirmations are challenged by the ‘stalwarts’ and the ‘powerful’. Never a nebulous moment in putting your thoughts across.

I can’t thank you enough for opening the minds of my kids to me. For teaching me to think like they do, for teaching me that children can always forgive you, for teaching me that ‘doing’ things for them are not enough – that I should make them emotionally connect to me, for teaching me that I should keep the promises that I make to them. You brought about a change in me, that made ( is making ) my children grow attached to me. It’s a wonderful feeling….

Your affection and warmth to the ones close to you, your concern for them , makes me that wish I could be a parent, a sibling ,a spouse and a progeny like you.

You have the witty knack of making the most simple tasks sound complex ( to make a cup of coffee – Oh I have to get up from where I am, switch on the kitchen lights, open the cupboard, locate the jar of coffee powder, wash a spoon, then wipe it dry, put the pan on the gas, measure water and pour it, wait till it boils, take out the milk from the refrigerator and warm it up, wash the cups, pour the hot water into the cups, filter the milk….. phew – I would say no thank you , I know its so difficult to make coffee , lets forget it )  and the most difficult tasks sound simple ( Oh I just have to drive a little - 80km - to collect information for the charity organization I am working for, since they don’t have anyone else to do it for them…. ). A trick I am still trying to learn from you, to be used at the opportune moments.

I can go on… but my limited writing skills are a constraint…. A mere thank you is not enough for you friend…

I close my eyes for a few seconds… the darkness that I experience then… Life would be like that without you…

Though I am good at poetry, I choose to take a shortcut and dedicate this to you… 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Joy of Giving - Card 2 - Week 2 - Agnes

Agnes, my dear dear friend has joined us in the Joy of Giving with this thank you letter to her mother. 

My dear Ma'

Today when I look back at the difficult young child, troublesome teenager and ambitious youngster that I have been the only one person I can remember who has had to put up with most of my antics, is you.

It is because of you that I became who I am today.

All the tough love that you gave (that which I did not understand then) made me a much better person, pushed me on, making me more determined than ever. Your strict disciplining had made me wish many a times to run away, but today I realize the value of that strictness, of honour, dignity and self respect.

I have even learnt from your mistakes and I hope to be better understanding, patient and forgiving towards others.
Your fiery nature and determination has driven and inspired all of us to get wherever we have. You fought and strived to give us the best of education, without your sacrifices we would have been nowhere.

Most of your life was spent, so that our future would be secure. You took care of not only of me and my siblings but also your own, supporting them in every possible way. There is no neighbour from the numerous places that we have lived at, that you have not helped. Every one regards and remembers you fondly.

You taught me to share, there was never a morsel that when down without being shared among all of us. You invented savories out of meager ingredients available at home. Our times were difficult then, but we were always happy.  Our home was filled with laughter and singing. The only fairy tales that I remember were the ones that you told us. The designer clothes that you used to painstakingly hand stitch for all of us for every birthday and Christmas were outstanding. Only that I never realized it then.

Today if I am almost a jack of all trades, a decent cook, seamstress and home maker it all comes from you. Whenever anyone appreciates or compliments me for being a wonderful hostess, more so when my mother-in-law compliments me, my pride knows no limits because I know it was your upbringing that earned me her appreciations.

You never got gifts or went for movies or parties but you made sure that no matter how tough the situation was, you held the family together. You were so selfless and put us all before yourself. 

I am grateful to you Ma’, I just can’t thank you enough...

Joy of Giving - Card 2 - Week 2 - Ritu


I am undertaking this exercise where I have to write "A letter to a parent or grandparent who had an impact on my life".

To me, the big question is - Can I write a letter to you maa without flooding the keyboard with tears (and short circuiting the ageing machine to an untimely death)? Can I express in "words" what you mean to me when "actions" also seem insufficient? Can I make you feel as special and wanted and loved and cared for and adored as you have made me feel ALL my life? Can I serve you the way you have, through the appendectomy at 15, the two child births....countless fevers and other illnesses, with patience, and love and so much warmth (that when I have to be a care-giver I can't match up to your warmth as hard as I try maa)? Can I ask for your forgiveness for saying unkind words as a rebellious teenager? Can I EVER emulate your patience with kids, yours or mine, the way you can 'explain' things without losing your cool or judging? Can I EVER love you enough in this lifetime, when I have spent 20 years fighting with you?

Sometimes when a friend loses a parent, I imagine - our home desolate, dark, sad and incomplete without you. And I can hear myself say, "If I lose maa, I will have no reason to go home to Cochin. There will be NOTHING there for me."

And that is how it has been. Home is home because of you - you, as you stand on the porch watching as the car approaches, smiling, tearing up, arms wide open as we jump into your arms, hug you, happy to be "home"... Home is lying on your sprawling king size bed, discussing politics, or watching trashy serials as you shred characters apart... Home is where the food is to-die-for, where your soft arms are cushions we lounge on... Home is where you love us, unconditionally and pamper us till we are ready to die off it... Home is where we laugh..A LOT....

Laughter. I've had SO much of it in my life, all because of you maa. And I am NOT the only one in this world who will vouch for your whacky, crazy, spur-of-the-moment comments and resulting in humour that has all of us in splits any time of the night or day. Even my kids always say, "Naani makes us laugh..."

I am recounting 3 notes I took down when Abhir was born in 2003 when you tried to keep 3 year old Oorja engaged so she would leave me alone for a few hours a day to rest and recuperate:

Oorja relating a story to Naani:

O: "One day there is a big jungle and one tiger"
N: "Nooooo. No tiger. Mujhe tiger se dar lagta hai (Im scared of tigers)"
O: "Ok ok naani. And in jungle there is a big sher, with sharp teeth"
N: "Nooooo. No big teeth. Please."
O: "Ok ok. No big teeth. Is having small sharp teeth."
N: "Nooooo. No sharp teeth please. Mujhe dar lagta hai... Having bhaunta (dull) teeth"
O: "Ok naani. Having bhaunta teeth and is very angry"
N: "Noooooo...not angry...."
O (in frustration): "Arre naani, story sunane do na...(Let me relate the story)"

Oorja - "Main Abhir ki sister hoon" conversation

O: "Main sister hoon...(I am a sister...)"
N: "Woh hospital waali? (Like the one in hospitals?)"
O: "Nahin.. sister... S I S T E R..."
N: "Sister, meri tabiyat kharab hai (Sister I am unwell)..."
O: "Achcha... (Ok)"
N: "Toh dawayi do na - aap toh sister ho... (So give me medicines; you're a Sister)"...
O: "Main Abhir ki sister hoon... (I'm Abhir's sister).."
N: "Accha? Lekin sister toh hospital main hoti hai...Please mujhe dawai do na.... (Really? But sisters are usually in hospitals.. Please give me a medicine.."
O: "Offho naani. Aap samjhti nahin ho... (Oh naani, why don't you understand?)..."

Oorja starts playing doctor-doctor with Naani after the above conversation (Oorja is nurse and Naani is the doctor)

Nurse: "Doctor.."
Doctor: "Call the first patient..."
Nurse: "Ok ... N E X T ... Naani Goyal..."
Patient doesn't turn up..
Doctor: "Where is the patient?"
Nurse: "Woh aa rahi hai.. susoo karne gayi hai... (She's coming. Has gone to pee..)"

Maa, the time I spent recuperating at home with you were the most memorable. Your love is all encompassing and even the children love you and always look forward to meeting you. Your calm way of handling them is something I still need to learn...

What I also need to learn is your funda of "no expectations" from your children. You have told me that you don not expect any child including your two sons to look after you and Papa in your old age. "I want all of you to be happy. If you have to go live in another city and make a life, so be it. If we cannot live together, so be it... Just be happy..." In the classic marwari family set up your words would be considered blasphemy... But that is who you are. You are loving, kind and ever-giving and in this life you don't want to be the cause of our unhappiness.

This rule in your life has also made you pamper us till we could take it no more. I recall vacations I have taken in Cochin, when I, the nocturnal college returnee or the newly wed I-am-missing-mom's-food-coz-I-just-realised-I-hate-cooking, would sleep at weird hours, ensconced in a heavily draped room, wake up suddenly, walk out of the room to be welcomed by a bright sunny day and the clock showing 2pm. Rubbing my eyes, I would ask you why you didn't wake me up and you'd simply smile and say, "You've come home to rest and relax. Just enjoy...and oh! Lunch is ready...." You wouldn't let me cook or help you in the kitchen reiterating that I would have to do it at my 'home' anyways...

I also love all your little quirks - the way you have a pair of reading glasses in each room of the house, including the kitchen; the way you check your mobile phone after 2 days and return my 'missed' call asking me hassled, "Beta, you called?" while I reply, "Yes maa, two days back..." and you insist, "Par mere phone main toh abhi dikhayi diya... (But my phone just showed me your calls!).."; the way you meticulously buy, wash, sun dry and then roast groceries (even jeera and coriander seeds!!!); the way you grind all the masalas at home and insist we use them too; the way you plan menus for our visits in advance (Vishal ko baby corn fritters pasand hain, Harishji ko padoke.....); the way you run around completing the chores of the day on your tiny feet and 4ft 10 inch petite frame....; the way you will buy ANYTHING (useless sets of knives, handkerchiefs, plastic boxes, utensils, books etc...) from a door-to-door salesgirl/woman just because you empathise with them ("bechari, saara din dhoop main ghoomne ke baad, ghar jaake bachchon ko bhi dekhegi, khaana banyegi...." Poor thing, after roaming the city in the sun she will have to go home and look after the kids and cook food etc...)

Your empathy for working women is endearing and the manner in which you support your daughter-in-law's career choice is commendable too (again, in the light of the marwari set up)...

This letter would be incomplete if I were to not mention the fortitude with which you have handled life's setbacks. Your hope, your zest for daily living is an inspiration. You never, through the past almost 18 years, lost your sense of humour however tough the situation may have been. Hats off to you maa!

When I think of you, just like that, in the middle of the day, I feel blessed. I have the urge to take the next flight and land up to bask in your love...

Your actions and words have impacted me in so many countless ways.... I've learned compassion, patience (although I try, I cannot be as good as you), the ability to smile in adversity, the ability to serve selflessly, the ability to fight for my rights, love unconditionally and so much much more than I can write here. I am who I am, for a large part, because of you. I love you.


Joy of Giving Week 3

It is time for the third card from the deck. Got my son to pick this one out and this is a FUN card.

What we must do:
Take pics of the rangoli we make and write our experience of undertaking this act of Joy of Giving. 

Let's spread the word and spread some cheer!

To join the Joy of Giving, please CLICK HERE or the Link on the left side of the screen....

Joy of Giving - Card 2 - Week 2 - Jae Rajesh

My friend Jae Rajesh, who, to most people we know, comes across as someone sans emotions, someone who is in control regardless of the situation. Reading this tribute that he wrote for his deceased father was a moment of revelation, not just for me, but for all our friends.... 

My father was quiet man, very hard working, but with his own human failings. His priority was his children and did all he could for them. Some of us turned out well, some not as comfortable. Till the moment of his passing, I know, he always nurtured the doubt within him, if he did enough. This is my feeble attempt to tell him he did.

Dear Achhan,
I know that this letter will pleasantly surprise you, because you are not used to being thanked for being our parent. In fact you are not used to be thanked for anything at all. In our culture, so much is taken for granted. So were you. But that does not take away your achievements of parenthood.

Father, we did not thank you for your struggles in our early years, in fact even before I was born. We did not thank you, when you had to cycle 30 kms each day to your factory and back, then after returning home make go-carts out of coconut palms and whistles out of leaves for us, enthusiasm overriding the exhaustion of the day’s work. For providing us a respected household, a strong background and a social standing that even today when I visit my place of birth, people I do not even know about (not surprising as it’s now nearly 40 years, since we left) extend me and my family courtesies that are deeply touching, to say the least.

We did not thank you, for the special tutors of music and dance for your children, for, at that age and time, you were ahead of others and believed that schooling alone was not good enough for your children and for bailing out and standing by my brothers from the numerous afflictions of school and college politics.

We did not thank you for taking the heart wrenching decision to send us to a far away metropolis while you slogged on alone, determined to give us a decent chance at education which was impossible at home due to absurdly increased political activism. I know now, what it feels to be away from the family and I know now, what you have endured for our future.

We did not thank you, for selling the house which you built, brick by brick, the envy of the neighborhood, so that you can afford to give the best of education and future to your children. And at an age when you were meant to lead a retired life of relaxation, you slogged on till your defiant body finally gave in to the ravages of old age.

And I did not thank you, for giving me character, the will and stubbornness to pursue my goals, gifting me genes that people are envious of and the ability to enjoy hard work. For accepting me as an adult much ahead of norm, respecting and standing by my rebelliousness, showing patience in understanding my arrogance and pride, having faith and confidence in me and my decisions, things which only few fathers could have accepted. For taking my side as I brought in a bride of a different faith, accepting and loving her as a daughter more than your own and teaching me in that one instance to be true to your faith regardless of the religion you practice. 

I did not thank you for a happy and normal childhood or for the few days that I could enjoy your company in my adult life, when you blended into your son’s family like a fairy tale, giving your grandsons some memories to cherish.

I did not thank you, for teaching me all this by living your life, through unspoken words and silent deeds.

I did not even thank you, as I walked with the clay pot on my left shoulder, during your final journey. 

I can feel the twinkle in your eyes and the warmth of your smile as I am writing this, now that you are in a place and position from where you can see all and understand all. I have only one thing to say to you, “Thank you, Achha! You did well!!!”

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Joy of Giving - Card 2 - Week 2 - Shalinie

My cousin sis Shalinie had written letters to both sets of grand parents in response to the Joy of Giving Week 2 card. Reading her straight-from-the-heart letters has made me want to write one to my mom too.

Dear friends,
making an attempt to recollect people who hv made a huge impact in my life and my way of saying thanx!

Writing this particular note is my 1st nd the most personal , emotionally charged up exp. for me...(ritu for u!!)
Dadu-Dadi, Nanu-Nani, what do i say...each have left an indelible mark on me..

(1) my chweet, petite, delicate Dadi or Ammaji was super indulgent, loving nd royal....regaled us with stories of plethora of hindu Gods with thier superpowers nd villainous Rakshas...oh my ..i wes transported/zapped...all the western superheros couldn'd hold a candle in front of desi heros!!!! immensely religious, i accompanied her to temples and had such fun lighting diyas!! i 2 am spritual nd love stories till date!

(2)  my Dadu was a smart, tall and a zamindar with the right attitde ..a champion tennis player...he was my 1st english teacher..v called him Baba Sahib as a mark of respect..a collector of unique articles...v would coerce him 2 show us his treasure..silver hookahs, wine holders with coolers .etc..their house was full of antiques of such beauty.....i hv inherited that taste of good things in life from him i guess!!

(3) my Nanu....a most unusual personality and as different from my Dadu as night and day.....a freedom fighter, highly patriotic... Staunch advocator of vedic way of life, yoga, pranayam at 4am nd rendering of shlokas with meanings, involved children (30 or more in vacations) in all of the above...that meant woken up even in hols!!..loved 2 take all of us to picnics did v have fun or what!!.....but he had a strong aversion to TV, movies as he felt it onnly pollutes mind ....(understand it now) nd threaten to remove cable if kids dont control their watching!!

(4) my Nani....sweet sweet sweet sweet and sweet!!!!!!
the most influential person in my life i would say....she is the most incredible, amazing person!!! completed her education after kids nd in between kids and with her kids!!!...not only did she supprt her husband in all he did but was with him all the way . Along with taking care of her kids, house ...she managed a string/ tsunami of relatives trooping in at all times of the day witha smile...a most gregarious person i still hv to find!!! She completed her doctorate in vedic studies that too in sanskrit when she was ...hold on...a Grandmother !!!
She's 2 perfect a cook..even at the age of ahem not revealing it as not polite..lets say 5th generation is on....her pickes r 2 die for...she makes th most amazing ayurvedic medicines for all who needs it ..(does all th hard work herself).. Baba Ramdev requested her to take up residence at his ashram as she has so much to offer to the society...
She educated Dalit girls....not by sitting in comforts of an office or her home....but trooped 2 thier villages on foot !!
Hang on...she's not all serious...she loooooves 2 laugh nd hv a wonderful sense of humour!!! She writes beautiful poetry/bhajans....1 every birthday of swami vivekananda...and hv a voice of an angle when she sings!!
I am truely blessed 2 hv her in my life ...she is in a gr8 way instrumental in the kind of person I am..her blessings hv been with me sooo much.....I met Amit at her house fr the 1st time nd she performed havan (namkaran) for both my sons...Amit is equally devoted 2 her as they r both kindered spirits!!

So I ensure...that I thank my grandparents my prayers for all thier love, blessings and moulding me in a big way!!!!

Phew a BiG note its turned out 2 b...but what was i 2 do ...they r all such big maharathi's!!!! )))
thier grateful nd loving granddaughter

Joy of Giving - Card 2 - Week 2 - Alka Dwivedi

My friend Alka has written about her grandfather for the Joy of Giving Week 2 card. Beautiful remembrance for a dynamic man!

My Grandfather

My earliest memories with my grandfather was of doing Maths with him. He taught me tables, calculations etc. What was remarkable? He never raised his voice or hand on me while teaching. Though he belonged to the old school of teaching but he never believed in spare the rod and spoil the child type of things. Whenever I was unable to understand any problem, he tried to teach me adopting different methods or giving real life examples. Sometimes when he had to go somewhere, he remembered the sums from our Maths book and when he came back, he usually called me and told me how to do further sums. While traveling , he used to do all the calculations of my Maths chapter in his head. I still long for such a fantastic memory and brain!!!

I know my grandfather's main subject was Sanskrit. He spoke this ancient and beautiful language fluently but he was comfortable with all the subjects. He taught me till tenth class. And his teaching method was excellent. You never feel afraid of asking questions., when he was teaching.

My grandfather had a hard childhood and adult life. He educated himself in the absence of his father. Only God knows how he was able to do that. Later on, most of his adult life; he shuffled between job and court appearances. His army of relatives had gifted him court cases. My grandfather was facing not one, two, three, ten , twenty but 67 court cases!! A lecturer of Sanskrit couldn't afford Lawyers. He presented and argued his own cases in the court and won 64 out of 67 cases registered against him. When he used to narrate these incidences, his heart was not filled up with hatred for his relatives. He just told me these things as facts of life. I know he had nerves of steel but he didn't transfer that quality to me. :-(

In the morning, we often used to fight over newspaper. Who will read it first. Of course, first my Baba used to read, then my father then.... Sometimes when Baba was reading newspaper I used to squat and scanned last page, the sports page. Whenever he spotted me doing that, he often gave the whole newspaper to me to read. My joy knew no bounds at such a grand favor.

Another thing I remember about my Babba is, he always encouraged me to ask questions and never admonished me if I went overboard sometimes. He inculcated in me the culture of debate and discussions and how to look at thing logically.

I often see old people struggling with boredom and isolation. But I have never seen my grandfather getting bored. He had something to read or he listened to the radio. We had vast space at our home. Due to my grandfather, we had most of the fruits and vegetables grown at our place. I remember mango, litchi, guava, peach, custard apple, jack-fruit, gooseberry, papaya, lemon, mulberry and amla trees in our compound. When everyone was taking a nap at afternoon, I used to sneak out and tried to climb each and every tree. If it was laden with fruits, then... :-) Due to my grandfather's efforts, I had the opportunity of having freshest salads in this word. Just before lunch, we used to dig out radish and carrots and plucked tomatoes. During winter season, my grandfather grew potatoes, peanuts and green peas. Sometimes, when we were with friends, we dug out potatoes and made Tikkis. I can guarantee, nothing can beat the taste of those Tikkis. Until, I came to a metro city, I never realized how lucky I was growing up with all the comforts of a city but environment of a village!!! I wish my kid can experience the same joy and harmony with nature.

I remember, when my grandfather died at the age of 87, I was devastated, totally shattered. I was unable to deal with the reality that it was OK. I refused to see his dead body. I never said Goodbye to him. NEVER. But he never visited me in my dreams. That is very comforting for me. It means he went away as a satisfied soul having no unfulfilled desires at that time. Right now, wherever he is, he is quite peaceful and happy.

He was the only person in the world, who loved me unconditionally. NO matter what I did or thought, he was OK with it. Grandfather is the only person in the world who claimed, “Whenever I see your face, my lifespan increases!!!” When I remember these words, I feel like the most beautiful person surviving on this earth.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Joy of Giving - Card 2 - Week 2 - Letter to my BABA

Mere pyare baba,

I still remember the day you gave me an intense talk on your relationship with my father in Gangaram Hospital in your Haryanvi/Hindi mixed tongue that I, a nineteen year old brought up in multi-cultural Kerala had taken two years to understand. Your words ring in my ears to this day, and yes, I have learned to forgive my father for not knowing how to show his love and affection to us because you didn't show your children any....

Spending every waking minute with you, whether you were in the hospital, at home in chachaji's house or in Tauru (our ancestral village) was my 'get away'. Because when I was with you I knew no one would be mean to me. Your larger-than-life presence was my security against the harsh words of my snoopy aunts and uncles.

All the time I spent in your company were meant to provide me security. But in the process our relationship grew very intense and we became extremely attached and fond of each other. I remember everything baba.

The delight with which you'd exclaim to all the (inevitably) Malayali nurses in the hospitals you'd be in and out of "Meri beti aapki bhaasha main aapse baat karegi (my daughter will speak to you in your language)" a smile dancing off your lips..., the trust with which you'd allow me to drive your huge diesel Contessa, the pride with which you praised my academic successes in front of all and sundry, the faith with which you allowed me to go on my first-ever river rafting trip at age seventeen and signed the Declaration after my father had refused to do it (claiming he didn't want me to die in the water), the emotion with which you came to my barsaati after I'd moved out of my uncle's home, pleading me to come live with you, even agreeing to send me to college everyday from the village almost 100 kms away just so I could be happy, accepting, eventually, to let me live there, alone with two strange roommates, the first girl in the entire clan to do so, without blackmailing me emotionally with the khandaan ki naak tirade I heard my own father shower me with, the way you would simply nod your head when my uncles spoke about getting me married at 19-20 (because I was too rebellious) but shushing my aunts with "Nahin. Yeh ladki padhegi aur kuch ban ke dikhayegi (No! This girl will study and make something of her life"...big words for a man whose whole life had been steeped in tradition...., the confidence with which you would turn to the doctor and ask them to talk to me about your medical condition and medication while the adults of the family would watch mutely, and as the doctor would look in surprise at this petite eighteen year old listening in rapt attention and promising to look after your medication and diet...

And it wasn't just how you were with me that made me love you and respect you. It was what I saw around me - your stature in a village where as young children cooped in the backseat of our car that would have driven us from Delhi airport to the village, the sound of "Lalaji Ram Ram" would echo till we traversed the 2 kilometer stretch to our ancestral home, a village where even after 17 years of your death, I am referred to as 'Lalaji ki pothi' (Lalaji's grand daughter), a village you built a hospital and college in, a village where you are said to have brought the revolution that allowed farmers to sell their produce to the highest bidder, a village where you wanted to die...

When we walk the corridors of the college you built ("So that no child from Tauru would have to go to another city to study like my kids did" you'd said) a few years before you left for heavenly abode, on a piece of land you'd bought for the purpose and donated the college to the State Government after it was ready, we are humbled by your purpose and the way you lived your life. We bask in the glory of your actions baba, knowing that we are no where close to being even half the person you were.

I can go on and on baba.We started late (our bonding I mean) - I don't remember much about you as a child; I only recall that you would lavish on us your affection in the only way you could - buy us Kulfis in the intense summer, let us buy 'campa' when we wanted, let us play in the office surrounded by your account books - but as I bonded with you later, your love and interest in me made me strive to become a better person, a person worthy of your adulation and love.

I didn't cry much that day - 14 February 1994 - the day you died. Somehow, I was happy that your suffering had ended. Even now, some times, I feel angry with you. I feel you abandoned me baba, left me to fend for myself in a world where no one understood me. Left me isolated and lonely. But I console myself with the knowledge that you're in a better place, wherever you are.

I miss you baba. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Joy of Giving - Card 2 - Week 2 - Rekha Baala

My friend and childhood buddy Rekha has written about her granny for the second card of the Joy of Giving. Read it here.

She has also written two extremely poignant letters to her deceased parents. But they are very emotional and she doesn't want to share them publicly.

I respect her wish and after reading them, and re-reading them several times since last evening, can only quote the following from the song, The Walk by Sawyer Brown :

Down our long dusty driveway
I didn't wan't to go
But I set out with tears in my eyes wonderin`
Daddy took me by the hand
Looked down at the school bus and his little man and said,
"Don't worry boy it will be all right"

Cause I took this walk your walking now
Boy, I've been in your shoes
You can't hold back the hands of time
It's just something you've got to do
So dry eyes I understand just what you're goin` through
Cause I took this same walk with my old man
Boy, I've been in your shoes....

Down our long dusty driveway
I set my mind to go
cuz` I was eighteen and wild and free and wonderin`
Daddy took me by the hand
Look out at the world and his grown man and said,
"Don't worry boy it will be all right"

Down our long dusty driveway
This time we both would go
Well he had grown old and gray
and his mind was a wandering
Daddy took me by the hand
Said I know where we're going
and I understand
Don't worry boy it'll be alright

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Joy of Giving - Week 1 Experience

My dear childhood buddy Rekha has written about her experience during Week 1 of Joy of Giving. I reproduce it here-

“What you say or think about others, good or bad is a mirror of yourself.” When I first heard this, it was like a knock on the head – the kind that leaves you unconscious. And when I woke up, I realised what being negative, even in the smallest way could do to you!

This was some time ago and since then; I have been trying to make a conscious effort to always look at the ‘brighter’ side of things. I also understood that when you carry the baggage of the past, it's easy to fall into the 'negative' mode, be cynical and unforgiving. But these, I understood were just 'passing clouds'  and my problems were really miniscule compared to what others around me were going through. And that, I was really blessed!

I started off with huge smiles (even at the risk of looking funny!) smiling at grumpy people in the lift and surprising them with a ‘Hello’ and ‘Have a nice day’.  If someone had a bad word to say, I’d mostly turn back and say, “God bless you!” I believe that there’s nothing Love can’t do – give it, and give it in abundance – you not only bring happiness to others but it also makes you a better person. I shut off negative conversations by delving deep into my spiritual side, reading or listing to bhajans. And yes, I could see a change, however small it was.

When Ritu came up with this exercise  last week, I was worried whether I would be able to follow it to a ‘T’. And then, I told myself that I’d go along with the flow and this was not to be another task on my ‘must-do’ list. At office, where most of the cribbing happens, my colleague and I kept each other in check whenever there was a danger of slipping. I also blocked my mind off a whole lot of negative things and stayed away from negative influences. I had nothing to contribute to a negative conversation because I had successfully blocked myself out.

At home, I refrained from shouting at Amrit (a hard task with exams going on) for different things. My voice slipped in decibel levels and I felt good about that. But I can’t say that all seven days have been perfect. I did send some ‘angry but concerned’ e-mails to a friend (though the anger was directed at myself) but in the end I sorted that out with some practical conversations with myself.

This is not just a one-week exercise… It is a continuing one... Though I believe the focus has made me a calmer person. And also, throughout the week, God has sent me many signs that He is there for me, in the many people I meet. When happiness comes in so many forms, what’s left is to just count your blessings… and be positive.