Wednesday, December 21, 2011

This business of death.



“..That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
Oh, keep the Dog far hence, that’s friend to men,
Or with his nails he’ll dig it up again!” T.S.Eliot. (The Wasteland)

Lets talk about death. And fear. And why we do not talk about these things. Although they walk hand in hand with us every day and smile back at us each time we look into the mirror. Chilling, isn’t it? The eyes that smile into your eyes also holds the cold glance of death, the haughty tilt of your head also hides a dying bent frame. For what else is death, where else is it, except with us, rising awake even as we sleep? Waiting, forever waiting, in the wings.
And it is not just our own deaths I’m talking of here. Death has an uncanny way of sneaking up on you and snaking into your routine, when you least expect it to. Relatives, friends, relatives of relatives of friends of friends, the list is endless and the duties manifold. Possibly not every one takes the business of dying with some quantum of seriousness, however, speaking for myself, possibly I was among the few who grew up learning to attend to the dead. Oh yes, the dead have to be attended to: the preparation for that final ride to the crematorium or the burial ground is a fussy matter indeed!
When we were young, my father never shielded me from death. Other relatives would look at him aghast: “too young”, and “but, she is a girl”, but my father was unperturbed by the flack he got, preferring instead to let me see things for myself, as they were. Sometimes, in my silence, I wonder, did he then maybe somehow suspect that he might not be around as I grew older or was he only ensuring I stayed strong when it was my turn to prepare him as he left on his final journey? Whatever, it does not matter. Thing is, somehow we grew up taking death as a cranky relative, not one that you particularly like or invite to tea, but one who does turn up uninvited at your doorstep now and then. For while death and misery lived nearby somewhere, so did life and love and laughter. We had no time to stop and think and worry about relatives we did not like when friends such as these surrounded us!

Which brings me to fear.

“And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”
T.S. Eliot.
One of the most enduring images of my father is of him striding in a dark room, torch in hand, striking the beam to the darkest corners, yes, even under the bed daring us to find a tiger! I was scared. We had returned from a cousin’s place where every step of the way we had been assured that if we were naughty there was a ‘joojoo’ waiting to grab us or a tiger lurking behind the curtains. Yes we had been assured that these creatures lay in wait for us even in the safety of our own homes. When I returned home to announce this newfound discovery, I'm afraid I didn't quite expect the effect I received. For one thing, my father was hopping mad! “Nonsense,” he declared and as he dragged us from one dark room to another to prove us wrong! He was adamant, “and don't let anyone tell you otherwise, he said.
I learnt the lesson that night.
We were never taught to fear creatures that existed only in story books or our imaginations, we were not taught to fear the unknown. We were taught to fear more tangible things, like the disapproval of a parent. Or the result of not trying.
And so whenever any maid or relative has tried to frighten any of my children, no matter how innocuously it may be, I have protested. But nothing frightens like fright. So when they were small, late in the night sometimes I was quietly asked questions. l realize now that all they wanted was the assurance that these creatures, these ghosts and their ilk did not exist. No, I was not as dramatic as my father but one day when my elder daughter, who at age 6 used to be very clingy shyly confessed that she was afraid that I would die, I realized things were maybe going too far. Gentle prodding revealed that someone had actually told her that I was ailing and would die. Now THAT is wholly unfair, for who does not fear the death or the loss of a loved one? And how mean and heartless would you have be to say something as traumatic as that to a child? And it took me a good year or two to convince her otherwise: gentle explaining and love were the only tools I had for the purpose.
No, I never let unknown fears unnerve me, Baba never taught us to shy away or back out. I have no sympathy when someone exclaims she is afraid of flying or of the dark or of sleeping alone at night. But that does not mean that I do not know fear, I've tasted it's metallic tang often enough, I’ve walked in it’s shadow, I’ve come out of it alive and stronger. Yet, despite all my bravado I too fear loss and death. Not my own, but that of people I love and care for. Isn’t that the most common fear going around?
I too wake up sometimes near morning, heart thumping, face wet from tears of a nightmare I dare not remember and lie awake waiting for dawn. I too am afraid. But real bravery, as they say is not the absence of fear, it’s carrying on despite it. And that’s what I try to teach my children, that’s all I really think they need to learn in life. Once you learn to face your fears and meet them head on, life takes care of the rest.
No matter what.






Thursday, November 24, 2011

A hairy story

There IS one place on earth where I feel humbled, humiliated and inferior. My usual self-confidence goes for a toss and I feel not a day older than an errant five year old. It’s the local beauty saloon. From the minute I enter, I look around me nervously. An immaculately groomed lady smiles and asks if I have an appointment. Obviously I don’t. She asks me what I would like done and I state my required objective. She sighs. It’s a very sad sigh, if sighs can be made to sound sadder than they are supposed to be. She comes out from behind her desk and smiles. “Your hair is too dry and there are split ends.. yes,yes, for you a shampoo and a hair spa would be good, pamper yourself and then we can give you a trim.” “Bu…but I shampooed in the morning, I stammer,” “Yes, yes,” she waves an immaculately manicured finger at me, “but see how your hair looks dry and lack luster, your shampoo must not be suiting your hair ….and, she looks at my hands in horror, “your nails!” she picks up my stubbly digits and disapprovingly looks at my toes which I am trying to hide under the top of the sandals. “A manicure. And a pedicure too. Don’t worry, they’ll do it all,” she peers into my face, “and are those blackheads? We have this amazing facial to remove blackheads and tans and it’ll leave your face fresh and glowing with health. Shall I schedule one of those too?”
“No, no,” I finally find my voice, “I have to go, only a trim.”
“Come on,” she puts her arm around me and draws me aside, ‘you are so busy, I know you don’t have time, but one needs pampering. Give me an hour, everything will be done.”
I look at my watch, “okay an hour.” After all, who does not want to look nice? I am whisked away upstairs. Within moments a lady is dipping my hands in soapy water and my cracked heels have been dipped in another vibrating bowl of luke warm water. I decide to settle down and enjoy it.
Only the guy at my feet has determined otherwise, after viciously scrubbing my feet he takes to scraping it, yes, SCRAPING it with a knife blade. Oh horrors, it tickles and I have to squeeze my eyes shut and use all of my will power to stop myself from squirming. The ladies (there are two, I’m in a rush, you see!) in the meantime are pulling at my fingers and have contorted them to impossible shapes, soapy water trickles around and basically I feel cloistered. Is this pampering I wonder, is this what Cleopatra felt like, when she had her milk bath? Then just when I feel like I’m getting used to all this snip, moisturize, knead business, it stops. Just like that. The bright faced attendant shoves peculiar nail paint in my face and looks most disappointed when I want a transparent colorless lacquer. She does not know that no matter what, it will not last me even one round of dish washing!
I do not bother to explain, I am busy looking at my watch and having kittens. In the meantime the phone has vibrated silently against my thigh a half dozen times and you cannot explain to an irate husband that you could not take the call because your hands were dipped in soapy suds!! I insist I have no time for a haircut, not any more, and run before I am sold yet another salon treatment which costs the earth and promises to make my hair sleek and shiny and straight. The receptionist looks disappointed as I make my clever escape after tipping the ladies and having paid through my nose for a manicure and pedicure I did not need! Back in the car, I settle into the driver’s seat, turn on the AC, chip a nail trying to pay the parking attendant without ruining the fresh nail paint and realize I still have not done what I came here to do in the first place: have a haircut!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Unclaimed corpses.

Ela clutched Alia in her arms and jumped.
The cold water almost made her forget that she was here to drown her cancer-ridden body along with that of her spastic four-year-old.
She almost forgot to hold on to Alia as the water filled her lungs and every instinct screamed survival. Almost. But she did not fail.


This is an attempt to meet a challenge: write a story in not more than 55 words, they said!!!!!!

Write a short story in exactly 55 words, no more, no less. Title not included. Tag #55word. Plz RT.

Monday, November 14, 2011

An irreverent look at: Children's Day.

Children's day never meant much to me. In school it was just another day for yet another boring trip to the planetarium, where we promptly took off our shoes, put our feet on the reclining chairs and went to sleep! Speaking strictly for myself, Chacha Nehru, with all due respect, failed to inspire me or make me feel loved. Moreover children's day was bang in the middle of our final exams, so it was just a day of respite, that "no exam tomorrow" kind of glee that only a school kid will understand!
Today's children, are, obviously, much better informed. The entertainment organised too is more refined. My daughters have a mini fete to attend in school, for which, much to my dismay, they have taken almost a year's worth of pocket money to school!
Then of course, they know all about Jawaharlal Nehru, warts, rose and all. They saw it all (yes, you guessed it!) on the net! They did not glean the information from grainy black and white images on TV or from an encyclopedia which had an overload of information and no pictures ( yup, we had one of those at home!) And whenever I asked my grandfather (he was a treasure house of information!) about Nehru, he'd lauch into a long winded story about the Indian National Congress and his (Nehru, not my grandfather) fascination with Edwina Mountbatten, I would hear all about his education in England, the fact that he was the first Prime Minister of independent India and how he hung on to Kashmir at the cost of peace and hated Jinnah and was also responsible for the partition and the pains it wrought etc etc etc. As a foot note my grandfather would add, it was his birthday on 14 November and yes, he loved children, or so they say! Hence, Children's day!!!!! Lah di dah. (BTW, after so many years, today I suddenly remember my grandfather with a lot of affection and nostalgia, it was, incidentally, his birthday, yesterday!)
Of course in school we were taught to respect and admire the gentleman (Nehru, not my grandfather!) but those are two things that, I have discovered, cannot be taught. They have to be earned. And in my humble opinion, the guy may have loved kids and had a vision and all that and he WAS the first PM of independent India, but that's it.
What they could not teach me to do is to be fascinated by his achievements, and if you ask me, save for that oft repeated midnight speech, I really do not know all that much about the man. But, yes, I have read a few books that do chronicle Nehru's fascination for Lady Mountbatten and yes, Kashmir was certainly an issue with him and history does show him to have his scheming moments but all that is so passe. So ordinary. So expected. All famous people are like that, no?
Yes, my husband would shudder if he reads this, he's very big on historical personas and the Nehru family in particular and he has been brought up to be appropriately respectful, and yes I am an ill informed nit if that's all I know of Nehru and his ilk, but lets just say I feel that rather than know about the man, its more important to instil the necessary values in our future generations. So today I sat and thought about all the difference I make to the children around me and I think I've done a pretty good job at teaching children the values of life. Why, they get those lessons from me each day, they have learned all they need to become responsible citizens of the world, only by listening to all I have to say. To wit:

TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE-"If you're going to kill each other do it outside-I just finished cleaning."

RELIGION-"You better pray that will come out of the carpet."


TIME TRAVEL-"If you don't straighten up, I'm going to kick you into the middle of next week."


LOGIC-"Because I said so, that's why."

FORESIGHT-"Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you're in an accident."

IRONY-"Keep laughing and I'll *give* you something to cry about."

OSMOSIS-"Shut your mouth and eat your supper."

CONTORTIONISM-"Will you look at the dirt on the back on your neck!"

STAMINA-"You'll sit there till all that spinach is finished."

WEATHER-"It looks as if a tornado swept through your room."

HYPOCRISY-"If I've told you once I've told you a million times-Don't Exaggerate!!!"

BEHAVIOUR MODIFICATION-"Stop acting like a nincompoop."

THE POWER OF CHOICE: "Do you want a tight slap or the peas?"

OBEDIENCE: "I did not ask you to like it, I asked you to eat it!"

RESPECT: "I am big, you are small, I can beat you up!"

THE CYCLE OF LIFE: "what comes out, goes back in. You puke and I'll feed it to you, you every last spoonful!"

ENVY-"There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don't have wonderful parents like you do."

Can you think of any more? I am sure all us moms have a few, do share. Some of the above have been gleaned from the net, some are, I believe, my very own. I realised universally all moms use them. The idea too was inspired from http://www.boardofwisdom.com/default.asp?topic=1005&listname=Parenthood, I shall add as I remember more! Or maybe I'll just ask the kids!!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Butterflies!!!!!

Hello friends. I have a confession to make: I am petrified of public speaking. I know, I know, many of you will ask how then am I in a profession where speaking is all I really do and I shrug in reply. Somehow, safely ensconced inside a Courtroom, cocooned in a world of black coats, talking about the facts of someone else’s life, I find my comfort zone. Any other kind of speech makes me nervous: butterflies flit about in my tummy and I constantly feel like I am on a roller coaster that is going down a tad too fast. For as long as I remember it has always been that way. In school, dramas or plays were fine, once I was on stage with my rehearsed lines, I was fine. But debates left my hands ice cold and impromptu speeches are just something I never did. “Just say a few words” are words I dread, they always have me diving under the table for cover! And elocution? Why, I am just about as expressive as a dead goat!
But this time, I’ve been cornered well and proper. There’s no escaping it this time; yes, I’m talking about the coming book launch this weekend. It’s so easy to write, to pen one’s thoughts on paper for the world to see. You can place your entire world in scribbles on a page, and you can fill it with lies or reality as you wish. But speaking? Reading? Talking about myself? I’m utterly tongue tied. “Just say why you wrote the book” says my coordinator…..
“It’s in the book, why don’t people just read it themselves?”
“Okay just talk about yourself.”
“All I can think is, I’m nervous, can I say that?”
“No you cannot. And nothing about being crazy either, or tactless!”
“But that’s who I am: it’s defined me all my life!”
“Don’t be idiotic, read something from the book.”
“No, no, no, I’m too shy.”
“Ha, stop being a nit!” The arguments fly back and forth, my husband has joined in on the conversation and he frowns disappointingly at me, “…be serious, tell us what you want to do!” They both turn and look at me expectantly.
“Okay,” I say, quietly, hesitatingly. “Can’t I just hide under the table?”
If murder was legal, I do believe I would be dead by now (to be honest, I actually found it quite funny)! Write down a speech they said, we will look at it. So this is what I was trying to do. Well, I’ve failed again, haven’t I?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Oh Calcutta!

Speaking for myself, I hate Calcutta in the pujas. I hate the crowds, the noise, the traffic jams, the din of the loudspeakers, the eternal shuffle-shuffle of feet all night, the bedecked people in "jeaner pant", and the pseudo intellectuals that abound. So each year I try to run away from it all, a few times I have even been successful. But yes, by and large, except during the puja madness, I do love Calcutta, (note, NOT Kolkata) and it is not something that came naturally although I was born here and the city has been my home for the better part of my life. No, this is a city that has grown on me, wrapped itself around my heart, its tentacles created by memories and nostalgia.
Yet, it wasn't always like that. As a child I quite liked the pujas, we had a family friend's place to go to and once there, the few days passed happily enough with me oblivious to the religious sentiments around me. Not being very religious by nature, or having any particular love and affection for the pujas, I never thought of coming home at the time while in college: so lazing on a hill in Pune or lying on a beach in Goa during the two days we got for Dusshera, I never even wondered what the fuss was all about. After I got married I learnt that people actually go for all night pandal-hopping and slt!!!! So I tried it once. Um, after an hour of so of jostling in crowds in the heat and dust and gazing at yet another brightly lit pandal shaped like (surprise!) a temple which you anyway saw better from the cool confines of the ac car, and pushing through endless traffic jams, and yet another Boltu and Bapi and boudis shouting "ei je, Pinku, kotahi geli?" at the top of her voice, and observing Roadside Romeos batting eyelids at Jhinchak Juliets and vice versa, I had had enough. Never again, I vowed! So nowadays even if I am stuck in Calcutta at this time of year, I hide away at home and hope I do NOT have to step out of the house for as long as it takes! But yes, the loud noise and shuffling feet and lights follow me into my bedroom and haunt my nights!
So even though I do not completely agree with all of it, today I came across this article shared by a friend on FB and thought I'd share this write up by Vir Sanghvi on Kolkata and Durga Pujas:

"What 'Pujo' means to a Bengali ?
Most modern Indian cities strive to rise above ethnicity. Tell anybody who lives in Bombay that he lives in a Maharashtrian city and he will take immediate offence. We are cosmopolitan, he will say indigenously.

Tell a Delhiwalla that his is a Punjabi city (which, in many ways, it is) and he will respond with much self-righteous nonsense about being the nation's capital, about the international composition of the city's elite etc.

And tell a Bangalorean that he lives in a Kannadiga city and you'll get lots of techno-gaff about the internet revolution and about how Bangalore is even more cosmopolitan than Bombay.

But, the only way to understand what Calcutta is about is recognize that the city is essentially Bengali. What's more, no Bengali minds you saying that.
Rather, he is proud of the fact.

Calcutta's strengths and weaknesses mirror those of the Bengali character. It has the drawbacks: the sudden passions, the cheerful chaos, the utter
contempt for mere commerce, the fiery response to the smallest provocation. And it has the strengths (actually, I think of the drawbacks as strengths in their
own way). Calcutta embodies the Bengali love of culture; the triumph of intellectualism over greed; the complete transparency of all emotions, the
disdain with which hypocrisy and insincerity are treated; the warmth of genuine humanity; and the supremacy of emotion over all other aspects of human
existence.

That's why Calcutta is not for everyone.

You want your cities clean and green; stick to Delhi. You want your cities, rich and impersonal; go to Bombay. You want them high-tech and full of draught
beer; Bangalore's your place. But if you want a city with a soul: come to Calcutta.

When I look back on the years I've spent in Calcutta - and I come back so many times each year that I often feel I've never been away - I don't
remember the things that people remember about cities.

When I think of London, I think of the vast open spaces of Hyde Park. When I think of NewYork, I think of the frenzy of Times Square.
When I think of Tokyo, I think of the bright lights of Shinjiku. And when I think of Paris, I think of the Champs Elysee.
But when I think of Calcutta, I never think of any one place. I don't focus on the greenery of the maidan, the beauty of the Victoria Memorial, the bustle
of Burra Bazar or the splendour of the new Howrah Bridge. I think of people. Because, finally, a city is more than bricks and mortars, street lights and tarred roads. A city is the sum of its people. And who can ever forget or replicate - the people of Calcutta?

When I first came to live here, I was told that the city would grow on me. What nobody told me was that the city would change my life. It was in Calcutta that I
learn't about true warmth; about simple human decency; about love and friendship; about emotions and caring; about truth and honesty. I learn't other things too. Coming from Bombay as I did, it was a revelation to live in a city where people judged each other on the things that really mattered; where they recognized that being rich did not make you a better person - in fact, it might have the opposite effect. I learn't also that if life is about more than just money, it is about the things that other cities ignore; about culture, about ideas, about art, and about passion.

In Bombay, a man with a relatively low income will salt some of it away for the day when he gets a stock market tip. In Calcutta, a man with exactly the same
income will not know the difference between a debenture and a dividend. But he will spend his money on the things that matter. Each morning, he will read at
least two newspapers and develop sharply etched views on the state of the world. Each evening, there will be fresh (ideally, fresh-water or river) fish on his
table. His children will be encouraged to learn to dance or sing. His family will appreciate the power of poetry And for him, religion and culture will be in
inextricably bound together.

Ah religion! Tell outsiders about the importance of Puja in Calcutta and they'll scoff. Don't be silly, they'll say. Puja is a religious festival. And Bengal has voted for the CPM since 1977. How can godless Bengal be so hung up on a religions festival? I never know how to explain them that to a Bengali, religion consists of much more than shouting Jai Shri Ram or pulling down somebody's mosque. It has little to do with meaningless ritual or sinister political activity.

The essence of Puja is that all the passions of Bengal converge: emotion, culture, the love of life, the warmth of being together, the joy of celebration, the pride in artistic expression and yes, the cult of the goddess. It may be about religion. But is about much more than just worship. In which other part of India would small, not particularly well-off localities, vie with each other to produce the best pandals? Where else could puja pandals go beyond religion to draw inspiration from everything else? In the years I lived in Calcutta, the pandals featured Amitabh Bachchan, Princes Diana and even Saddam Hussain! Where else would children cry with the sheer emotional power of Dashimi, upset that the Goddess had left their homes? Where else would the whole city gooseflesh when the dhakis first begin to beat their drums? Which other Indian festival - in any part of the country - is so much about food, about going from one roadside stall to another, following your nose as it trails the smells of cooking?
To understand Puja, you must understand Calcutta. And to understand Calcutta, you must understand the Bengali. It's not easy. Certainly, you can't do it till you come and live here, till you let Calcutta suffuse your being, invade your bloodstream and steal your soul. But once you have, you'll love Calcutta forever.
Wherever you go, a bit of Calcutta will go with you. I know, because it's happened to me. And every Puja, I am overcome by the magic of Bengal.
It's a feeling that'll never go away."


well, then, happy pujos, everyone, let the madness begin!!

Friday, September 9, 2011

An irreverent look at : Karma.

I hate waking up in the mornings. Yet, each day these days you will find me up at an ungodly hour (yes, even 6 o clock is ungodly as far as I’m concerned) wishing I were back in the land of Nod. Why? Karma of course. And the fact that my daughter’s not very good (read: weak) in Maths! Now my dad always used to say that the best time to do math is early in the morning while the mind is still fresh and undisturbed. So following his advise I am experimenting with my daughter in the hope of early morning mathematical enlightenment to dawn!
Of course all through my growing up years I always was told that my life would come to naught because I woke up at 5:57 am and somehow brushed my teeth and changed (no, night clothes were not allowed in the dining room!) and reached the breakfast table by 6 am with seconds to spare! My father pointedly looked at the watch, my grandfather would loudly say that now since everyone was finally at the table, could he have his tea as it was going cold, and my sister would snigger at me from across the table. You see they were all early birds and had been awake for hours: busy at their morning walks and yogas and stuff and generally doing whatever early birds do at that hour!
That is a trick I rarely duplicated after I left home. The only sunrises I have hitherto seen are when I have been awake all night, or HAD to get up for a family puja or an early morning flight! Waking up early has never had any charm: the chirping of the birds, the light peeping over the roof of the next building, these things leave me unmoved.
Which of course brings me to the other reason why I am up. Why, Karma of course. That damn bugger has been deciding my life from day one! When Karma said “clean the kid’s poo” that’s what I did, when karma said “stay home and cook” or “now you can be the cleaner” or “today you are the bloody driver ‘cos the driver is too drunk to come to work”…..guess who fell in line? I did. So this Karma fellow has me running about trying to catch my own tail all day long. Sometimes I want to kick it in the balls: “hey, this is not my life, my life is simple and carefree and I do not have to get things done, they get done by others, I’m the one who orders everyone around!” Karma grins and says nothing. One more kick in the butt and I’m racing about again…..from piles of paper work to unfinished drafts to snotty clients to harassive solicitors to whiny kids to glowering judges to a bunking part time maid to a half wit driver to TV gobbling kids, I have it all! I feel like a hyperactive cowherd most days, constantly chasing after everyone in an effort to stay in one place and hoping to hang on to what’s left of my sanity too!!!!
Anyway early morning has one advantage, save for my daughter occasionally poking me to ask yet another daft question, which I try to patiently answer, I have the quiet smell of fresh coffee and silence around me. My thoughts fall in place, the clutter clears up and suddenly I find the room in my mind is cleaner, the windows are less dirty and there’s more light coming in! Memories suddenly become more lucid too and I start to think that I am feeling calmer………until I am jolted back to reality “Ma, do I divide or multiply?”
“Obviously, if its not one, it’s the other, read the sum again!” (yes, before you ask, for me, that is a LOT of patience!)
The daughter reads the sum over, I inspect my now empty coffee cup and sigh as I turn to her with an amount of frustration in my voice. I can hear the lock turn in that clean light-filled room in my mind! Karma rubs his hands in glee, he has a long "to do" list in his hand....I'm cornered, and I know it!
Until tomorrow morning, then!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Girls, girls, girls!!!



A few weeks ago, a friend came over and she and I sat with our drinks on the balcony, savouring the soft breeze and the easy companionship which does not have to be expressed in words, a friendship that does not need to be defined or expressed in speech. Ah girlfriends! What would life be without them? For at the end of the day, only a girlfriend will understand why you are upset that the pudding has not set or why watching the advertisement with that sweet chubby kid brings a lump to your throat! You can share your angst your joy and your pain and the girlfriend will be there to help you laugh it off, giggle at what you cannot change and give a fresh perspective on who you are. They are the cornerstones of your existence they sit and listen to your ranting AND they come back for more! That’s more than one can say about most men!
Having come from an all girl’s school, I should have more than my fair share of girlfriends and yes, I guess I do. But the ones that really count are ones who do not need a reason to be my friend. One look, one glance and bingo, there they are! It does not matter that there is almost a decade between us, it does not matter that oceans divide us or that the last time I spoke to her was over a year ago on her birthday and this year I didn’t get round to calling. Who needs a reason? I can call now, meet after days or months or years and I slip back into the friendship like that old slipper you never forgot. Take for instance this school friend who left school suddenly when we were in tenth grade. She was one of my best friends and I was pretty cut up about the way she suddenly disappeared. Now, two days ago, I reconnected with after twenty-five years! I had searched for her but had given up on ever finding her. Then, lo and behold, she pops up on facebook (of course) and we chat on the phone and I can feel the years melt away, we remember the old times, the quiet times and it doesn’t really matter, that gap of a quarter of a century! Who, but another girl will understand that?
So here’s to all my girlfriends, the ones we giggled about boys with, the ones who laughed at us because we were stupid or stood by us when we were hopelessly wrong, the ones who understand that the husband is being crabby so we have to cancel that lunch appointment, the ones who know kids can be so demanding at times they won’t let you talk on the phone in peace, the ones with who nothing is taboo and you are not judged or patronized, the ones who will agree to go on a bike ride with you at two in the morning “just because’, the one who will wear a swimsuit and get into the water with you even though she does not know swimming, the one who will take the blame when your father frowns at you for being late, the one who will take responsibility for she is the teachers pet, the one you can wake up at any hour of the night by honking loudly outside her door (never mind the neighbours!), the one who will agree to go “paaaarp” in a loud voice because your bike horn is not working, the ones who will sit with you in the moonlight on the top of a hill and let you shout into the darkness and then laugh herself and you silly afterwards, the ones who insist on writing your paper for you for otherwise you are not ready and might flunk, the ones who will share their last drink and last drag with you because you’re feeling like a lost kitten, the ones who will bring you in out of the cold and make you warm again, the ones you who soothe you when you are hurting so badly you cannot think, the ones who pick up the phone and instantly know that something is wrong, the ones that laugh with you and cry with you, the ones for whom a little silence is enough, the ones for who words are not necessary.
I think about all this and then I think there is so much much much more….and then I think one thing: I am so blessed to have friends like you. Thank you everyone, you know who you are!

Monday, August 29, 2011

RIP

An Obituary printed in the London Times.....

 
Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense , who has been with us for many years.
No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.
He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
- Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
- Why the early bird gets the worm;
- Life isn't always fair;
- and maybe it was my fault.
 
Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).
 
His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place.
Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.
 
Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.
 
It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.
 
Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.
 
Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.
 
Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.
 
Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.
 
He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers;
I Know My Rights
I Want It Now
Someone Else Is To Blame
I'm A Victim
 
Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Open letter to my son.



Dear Rubic,

I would be lying if I said I loved you from the moment I saw you. It was my wedding day and you had come to my house with Ziggy and my first memory of you is of your face peering at me from behind the curtain, big eyes, uncertain and hesitant: you were just a little boy in this extensively large family that I was marrying into. But then you wormed your way into my heart, you with the shy smiles and two fingers in your mouth! I had not shaken the rice from my hair when I found you and Zim often peering out at me from behind the door, tiny faces full of curiosity, smiles instantly heartwarming. You had turned three and your sister was almost two and it did not take us long to become friends. I had entered an adult world to play adult games but you made me a child again. You happily adjusted your lives to make space for me and I learnt for the first time, what it was to have children in one’s life!
Real affection, contrary to popular belief, does not come out of thin air or at first sight, it is built with blocks of mutual love and regard and needs nurturing. I proudly say today that many unfortunate people do not get the love, respect and affection I have received from you even from their own children! And I don’t think it was only because you were a well brought up kid!
And of course we have the memories: joyrides in the Maruti van…sticking you two on the baby seats in the dicky….”when Chachi says jump”…. Swimming in Saturday Club (I’m still faster than you!)…gorging on chips and stuff….unlimited coke…..hopscotch on the terrace, those crazy running-catching games we played…you walking into our room unannounced (ask your mom about that one!)… dark-room and ‘chor-police’…..football downstairs with Isha in a sling!….getting wet in the rain….our escapade to the video parlour in pajamas!….and the Mulberry Bush thereafter!…..music blasting in the car…fighting about the front seat…”Chachee, I want a brother” when I was on my way to the nursing home for Amisha and being happy about yet another sister!….gorging on brownies…and candy…..your ‘poite’, the shaved head, those earrings we pried out of your ear…. ‘Buddhi’…. ‘upparwali’…. ‘halooom!’…..The Christmas breakfasts, the family gatherings.....the swimming pool at Puri….. the trip to Pantaloons...changing in the elevator!!!!!!!!......cockroach in the daal.....fresh lime sweet and salt...........4 pm rum n coke!.....the moonlit feast, the sound of your laughter as it echoes its way into my heart….memories too vivid and dear: too many to put down on paper, I thank you for each one of them!
My heart is full. Over the years, I have come to learn that this family is not just extra large in size but also has an extra large heart to match and you are no exception. Love you for it and for all the love and affection you pour into your sisters’ lives and the lives of your elders!
As I write this I can imagine you teasing me, “wot, you senti?” Yup. For you are the first of my children to be leaving home: unimaginable, but last night after we returned home from dinner, I lay awake for a long time, unable to sleep, initially refusing to admit that the softness in my eyes was there because I’ll miss you! But even as I know we all will miss you, I am also very happy for you. So go out there and do us proud, as I know you will!
(And farewells? Don’t be dismayed at farewells; a goodbye is necessary before people can meet again! That’s Richard Bach for you, not Chachi gyaan!)
So…. Spread your wings, fly free and unfettered, live, be happy, laugh a lot and I’m sure we’ll meet again and again in the midst of this celebration that has no end!
Love you,
Chachi

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Manic mothering!

I’ve been quiet for a while, I guess routine got to me. Routine and the skullduggery of a mundane unexciting existence! Its not that I haven’t been writing either but most of it have been words and thoughts that drummed about in my head, destined to stay unread, lost long before it got to see the light of page.
But even that’s not what’s on my mind just now. Its this mess I have made…..It's the girls, it's their childhood, it's their days when day after day they come home to prepare for yet another test, collect stuff for yet another project on a MUST DO basis. And I am on their case as soon as I am home, from the minute I see them I think I run out of patience and tolerance! Later, much later, when they are fast asleep, sometimes a wave of tenderness overcomes me and I actually have my quiet moment with them secure in the knowledge that they cannot hear me. So what a surprise it was a few nights ago to sneak onto my daughter’s bed and kiss her and say, “Goodnight, I love you” only to have her mumble “I know, I love you too Ma” back at me. Awww. Seriously. Moments like these warm the cockles of my heart, I resolve then and there that I will be more indulging and kind and give in to their chocolate cravings. But no, next morning I am back to being a harridan again, the monster mother who hounds her kids off to school! So will they look back in frustration at their childhood and find it in themselves to laugh about it or shall they wallow in dread and suffocation and curse the Gods for a traumatic time?

Well, there’s hope for me yet. The other day I found this on a friend’s FB status and promptly shared it, many of you may have seen it and/or liked it:
‘My promise to my child: I am your parent first, your friend second. I will stalk you, flip out on you, lecture you, drive you insane, be your worst nightmare & hunt you down like a bloodhound when needed because I LOVE YOU! When you understand that, I will know you are a responsible adult. You will NEVER find someone who loves, prays, cares, & worries about you more than I do.’

And this is not for just my biological kids but for ALL my kids, and my friends as well, whom I look upon as my own (yes, Rubic, you may be going off to college in a few days, but it includes you too!) (And the message, I guess, is not just from me but from everyone one of us stumbling today under the magical and mystical demands of parenthood!) AND it justifies my short temper and cloaks it with the wiliest of all human emotions: love!


I fear, in my kids memory, I shall be the repressed unpleasantness who was constantly eating their heads and had no patience with their unending wants and questions and cravings! The times I indulge them are short lived, unfortunately and even then, its full of frowns and “behave”, “sit up”, “who was that you were talking to?” I’ve tried not to, but I do it with my daughters friends too. I’m the nasty wicked witch Aunty who is always frowning, warts and all! But are the kids conned? Nope, don’t think so!

There are the days when I look at them studying and feel like saying “to hell with it, studies be damned!” But do I do it? Do I dare?
Sigh. I wish at this point I could say how casual I am and how my overpowering nonchalance takes precedence over my conscience but no. I don’t. So every evening it’s the same…I get worried and upset and tense and here I am yelling and losing my temper at them! “Stop that at once,” “get the hell out of here,” “you live by my rules or go live on the road…” these are common expressions my daughters hear everyday! So do they care, are they shuddering individuals insecure in their own homes? Am I doing permanent damage to them somewhere?
In our house there’s not a single soul who is afraid or intimidated by me. Not that I am the Hindi movie “MA” either! Try as I might, my personality is not strong enough to evoke such extreme loyalties. So the iron hand I rule with, or think I rule with, is actually play dough! My words fall on deaf ears. I’m not dull but they must think I am for there they are listening to music even when I told them to put the damn thing off (they just turn down the volume and imagine I cannot hear!)…and they don’t practice the piano or do the sums I set for them or eat the fish I said they have to eat! When they were younger I admit I let them get away with it. But now they are older, they should be more responsible. The other day I told them, “ fine, I retire. It’s your studies, your headache do what you want!” There was silence as two pairs of eyes looked at me questioningly. With a superior sniff, I retired to my room.
For the next half an hour, there was silence. Feeling victorious, I peeped in their room with the expectation that I would find two heads bent over their tables, studying. Oh no. One was shaking her bum to something playing on the ipod and the other was lying on the bed, legs in the air, playing something on the PSP. I lost it. Rat a tat a tat……sizzle, fire burn. My daughters looked at me in shock, “chill Ma, its only studies!”
Now if only my girls were little Einsteins, I wouldn’t mind. But then at the parent teacher sessions I am left squirming on my chair feeling like a fourth grader. I try nodding wisely but the teacher sees through me. Her voice drops to a whisper: “They are not studying enough.”
“Yes they are”, I whisper back, hoping no one will notice that I am not making eye contact.
The teacher sighs despairingly until I am feeling appropriately inadequate and then I am allowed to depart. I rush home that evening determined to leave an impact on my children’s studies. So what happens?
Nothing. Believe me absofucking nothing. (Have you seen the tails of the stray mongrels of the streets of Calcutta, what they call ‘leri kutta’? Well they have these long tails that coil up. The only way to get it to stay straight is to hang on to it. Let go and it coils back up like a spring. My daughters and I are like that.) For a week or so there is discipline in the house, they are studying every evening and I am diligently checking all they do, then it slackens and slowly the tail is coiled once again..we are back to our undisciplined incorrigible lifestyles and here I am playing on the computer and the girls are busy with whatever is the latest thing they are busy with!
Yikes!

Inconsistent, moody and temperamental, I seriously think I am a mothering mess!

Tell me, am I the only one?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Heads you win, tails, I lose!

Every day that I am in Court or anywhere outside the house, unfailingly, the phone rings. At least once, sometimes twice, sometimes more often. Its one of my two daughters hitting the panic buttons…breathlessly she says “Ma I am home, I got a C in geography, and I need a box of glass paints in the evening.” I look serious, I try to keep the smile in my voice as I tell them okay and I’ll discuss this when I am home and hang up. Only to have the phone ring again, “Ma, Ma, I have a history and science test tomorrow, Ma can I not have the fish?” “Ma can I have coke?” another voice pipes in! You get the drift.
Now I guess it’s my fault. When they were small, it seemed a sensible idea to have them call when they came home from school. It still is, but sometimes I cannot take the call because I am in the middle of arguments or something and then God help you, they keep calling and the damn phone is vibrating in your pocket like there is no tomorrow and you want to throw the buzzing thing out of the window but you grin and bear it. So as soon as I can, I call the girls. “Its okay, we spoke to Baba.” Grrrowl. After giving me ten missed calls!
When they were younger it was worse. Especially when they had holidays. The phone rings. Whenever it was from home I made it a point back then to drop everything and take the call. I rush out of the courtroom, the phone has stopped ringing and call back. “Ma, a voice asks me breathlessly, “can I wear the pink pants today?” Sigh.
It went on to at least eight phone calls in the seven or eight hours I was out of the house. And my husband started muttering about the phone bills. So I sat them down and explained what is an emergency. And when one should call. I called them aside and gently explained how what colour track pants they wore was not an emergency, how a “Bob the Builder” show was not an emergency and I really didn’t care that the box of chalk had fallen behind the piano.
They nod wisely and I think that is that.
So, next time I get a call, a sing song voice tells me “Ma I’m not saying this is an emergencery but can I eat the chocolate cake in the fridge?”
What do you do? What does any mother do, but tear her hair out in frustration?
Now things are comparatively better. Only I cannot always participate in my daughter’s excitement when they come home. Like yesterday, Isha returns from school and calls. She is very excited that she is one of the girls chosen to give an interview to some newspaper about some interactive session they had. She is over the moon with delight I look at the four dead pan faces of my clients staring at me and in a flat monotone I assure her that I will look into the matter and hang up before she can wail.
Later, much later, “Ma, why aren’t you happy for me? I am soooo excited.”
So I explain that I was working and of course I’m excited but I can’t actually jump for joy at my workplace where every body maintains the demeanor of a stuffed cow and I think she understands.
Today she comes home and calls. She’s got her choir badge (whatever that is) and she ‘looooves it’ and is ‘sooooo excited’, and she has no tests the whole of the next week! I look around me, there’s no one nearby. “Heyyyyyyy,” I say. “I am so excited!” I say in a sing song voice and ask her how her day was.
Silence. Then, ”Maaaa, why are you talking so much? Get back to work,” she says and hangs up!
It’s a no win situation, right?

Monday, May 2, 2011

A book

Finally, something I have dreamed of.
http://frogbooks.net/frog-books-leadstart-virgin-leaf-poolani/a-sliver-of-moonbeam/

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A few words on a current fashion trend!

I saw so many panties yesterday!!!!
But first things first. Last night we went for the KKR inaugural match at Eden Gardens.
We had tickets for the box at the stadium and went there with happy expectations of rubbing shoulders with the likes of SRK and Juhi Chawla. Predictably, they were in another box. In the second half, stuffed with snacks and cold drinks and after a lovely dinner we decided to go and sit with the mango people and sip of the atmosphere. Only this wasn’t the real mango people, after all this was the Club House so it was actually the young wannabes of Calcutta. There was of course little or no relation to the game being played on the pitch. In front of us sat a bunch of young girls who apparently must have inspired that ‘Queen’ song, “fat bottomed girls”….all were in hipsters and tiny tight t-shirts that kept riding up giving us an ample view of panties of every style, make and colour! One even said ‘sexy girl’ or something equally horrible in pink!!!! My husband was wide eyed. Only the bums were too huge, “no aesthetic value,” he insisted! I wanted to reach out and pull down some t-shirts…or hitch up some pants. During lulls in the game I made it a point to see how many more panties I could see. Red, blue even psychedelic yellow!!!! Reminded me of this time I went to the bookstore and saw this young girl squatting over a book in the corner. I was shocked to see half her bum and gently told her to go to a sofa!
Mother hen? Interfering? Old fashioned? Whatever.
Don’t they make high risers in jeans any more? I shudder to imagine my girls in outfits like that in public. And its not as if SRK or some equally delectable male was watching! This was for the entertainment, amusement and shock value of middle-aged people (like me) and the Calcutta cops! And or course it doesn’t matter if you look like the back side of a buffalo, you have to drape yourself in tight material that looks as though it’s bursting at the seams. This trend has developed in Court too, unfortunately. Tight black trousers clinging at the wrong places, short white shirt tail hanging outside an equally tight black waistcoat teamed up with shapeless chappals or sandals, with or without heels and yes, you’re a law intern!!!! Hallelujah, don’t these women have any sense? I know in the West they wear trousers no matter how fat they are, but then in the West they don’t have options like salwar kameezes dahling!
Please fat girls (unfortunately I am talking about young girls here, not one a day over 24 or so….) take a look at your backside before exposing it to the world….cover it with a t shirt or something and for God’s sake don’t go to work looking like a sixties wannabe sex siren!!!!
And this applies to all my daughters too. When your bum gets too big for those jeans, I’m going to tell you so! I don’t want the world to see your panties.
You see I’m your old fashioned mother who believes that inner wear should stay where it belongs. Inside.

Mind your own business!!!!

There’s a gigolo (lets call him X) who lives across the road, as you walk down our staircase, you can look into his bedroom, if you care to. There is a huge LED TV that dominates the wall opposite and although the rest of the house looks a ramshackle mess, one can see that the bedroom is pretty swanky. And this is no ordinary gigolo mind you, you won’t find him at street corners, he only goes on assignments for select people, I hear he is doing very well, that’s what the neighbours say and judging from his clothes and stuff, I see no reason to disbelieve them.
So today as my husband got into the car to come to court in the morning, he said “what a life, X is lying in bed at ten in the morning, watching Channel V.”
“after all he works all night, he has a tough life”.
A grimace. And a tiny hint of a smile.
My husband is getting used to me, I thought to myself, earlier, he would’ve ranted and raved and gotten on his moral high horse. But my point is simple….X is otherwise well behaved, when we run into him very very occasionally, he always speaks respectfully and nicely. Can I ask for more? Does my extremely limited interaction with him allow me to ask for more, or be judgmental about him? After all, his livelihood allows him to support his elderly widowed mother and unmarried sister… we all have our crosses to bear.
Like the friend we have, at one point of time, he was sleeping with one woman and seeing another out of town while being married to a sweet na├»ve girl who thought the sun shone out of his backside, (yes, she got a rude shock when she finally realized that the sun was no where near his ass!). My husband was visibly upset…..”your friend,” he ranted, ”immoral, unethical, dishonest….”.
“Hold it,” I said, “as far as I am concerned, it is none of my business. I’m not married to him, I do not plan to live with him….so what do I care? It’s his private life.”
My husband did not understand how I could stand it. Just like the other guy I knew who was having a torrid love affair with his wife’s own sister! Or the other lady we had occasion to run into, who wasn’t sure who the father of her son was, so her son had no less than four birth certificates, each with the name of a separate father!!!!! Or even that other married friend who sleeps with anything that moves just because its there….or the one who got upset because her husband wanted to know where she was going at 11:30 at night!!!!
Well, what can I say? Save that I have been fortunate to know all kinds of people and one reason why I do know them is because I have never been judgmental or superior. Its your life, your business. What do I care how you choose to conduct yourself or your life…as long as I don’t have to do the same? And who knows, who really knows, what the compulsions are. Ask the prostitute and she’ll tell you how she has to work to put her daughter to school. Ask the wife and she will tell you about her husband who beats her black and blue each night that he comes home drunk, ask the other woman and she will tell you how she was sexually abused by her own brother and her mother refused to believe her. I know, these are extreme cases but who wants to hear the reasons and justifications, valid or not? We have friends who I know are having affairs. Hell, I know their partners, one is a creep who makes your skin crawl, the other one is an out and bastard constantly pretending to be someone he is not, another one’s in laws are so dominating, she’s better off outside the house than in! And how does it matter to anyone else what anyone else does? Unless it’s your husband that woman is sleeping with, of course. (But even then I think I will ask my husband before I accuse the girl.)
Its so easy to sit on a high moral horse and be certain that you will never do anything wrong. That’s what most people like to do….they look at each other in alarm and whisper about so and so who did such and such….never once realizing and tomorrow they may be in those shoes. Why, I do not have so much confidence in myself. Who’s to say that tomorrow someone may not sweep me off my feet and I may be ready to leave a stable happy family to follow a dream? Would I do it? Honestly, can I say? Can anyone say what each of us go through except the person who is going through it? We hear of someone having a fling…..immediately we turn holier than thou and “concerned”….we want the dirt, we want to give our opinion, we want everyone to know that “no ya, its something I’d NEVER do”. Well, never say never dear. That apart, why not just let things be?
I hate the hypocrisy, I hate the judgments, I hate the ‘holier than thou’ lectures that are more fake than those glow-in-the-dark stars in my daughters’ bedroom …..can we have less opinions please?
Can we mind our own businesses, the world would be such a better place if we all could do each other that little favour!
And can you now go back to work and let me get back to mine?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Music and perfume...


It is strange that the mind will forget so much and yet keep alive a memory of flowers that have been dead for thirty years or more.
Garden fresh gardenias, fragrant, pristine and white.
You could not help falling in love with its delicate fragrance as it spread across the room while I played the piano and my father stood and watched, listening to what I hoped was music. Ah, but it was, he loved whatever tuneless thing we played. He always said that when he would turn old, he would lie in bed and listen to the twinkling of the piano as we played in the next room. In his dreams the piano twinkled merrily undaunted by the fact that my pianist skills were abysmal.I did not know then, that the music he heard, had nothing to do with the movement of my fingers on the keys, it came from his heart...had I known, maybe I would've paid more attention to my piano lessons!!!!!!
Baba loved music and flowers. In the garden and on our terrace, we had every kind of flower and these were not only the pretty yellows, oranges and pinks, although we had a lot of those too. The flowers of my childhood were those that assaulted your senses: there was the innocuous yellow champak, spreading its bitter sweet tang in the air, the hashnuhana, also called queen of the night as it bloomed at night with its heady and intoxicating smell; the white lotus that dared call out to the girl in me so sometimes yes, even I, would give in to its charms and weave a necklace out of its tiny stars; the night jasmine, heralding the autumn after the rains, one whiff and you knew that the air was going to go cooler and the holidays were approaching. My childhood is a cacophony of colours, sounds and smells. I used to love going for a walk in the night, the fragrances teased us into our dreams and stayed with us when we grew up, so much so that now I cannot pass a white lotus tree without being assailed by memories…….memories that tumble like snakes from a jar , memories vivid and dear. Its funny how smell plays such an important part in our lives, the smell of fresh bread, the smell of lamb roasting, the smell of wet earth, the smell of warm sun drenched skin, the smell of a cigar lingering in the night sky, the smell of golden mango blossoms and cinnamon and of course the smell of night flowers. Baba loved gardening, a passion unfortunately I did not share. He personally saw to each plant, each errant strand of ivy and spent his holidays trimming, fertilizing and loving his plants. He hated tuberoses and the smell of incense, it reminded him of death. And yes, it’s a smell even I associate with death. But we learn as we grow that death is as much a part of life as anything else....so it is with incense and tuberoses.
Have you ever swum in a pond or a lake on a golden evening when the sun was just turning into a sunny-side-up orange and a pinkish glow was beginning to take hold of the sky? You sink under the water just to cover your ears and hear the sound of silence, of stillness that has no beginning, of vacuum that has no end. And when you emerge the singing of the crickets can take hold of your senses, even as the wind blows the trees into a restless rustle. The sounds of a fire crackling on a chilly night, the quiet splash of a fish as it lazily turns in the water, the sounds of the birds calling from the thickets, the sound a lonely crow trying to claw its way into our lunch, the silence of the stars on a moonless night, these were the songs of my childhood.
Only I did not recognize the music then, I hankered for walkmans and the radio, I failed to hear the whistle of a full moon as it called from between the clouds. Now sometimes we go on a holiday and I am amazed by the luster and shimmer of these sounds, sitting on a hill in Pune, or on a terrace in Tinchuley, or on a beach in Puri the songs of the full moon fill my mind ending in a crescendo that fills the sky leaving a wail in the air. A sunset on the hills or at sea can burst like a fugue upon my senses and there is something so plainly refreshing in the golden adagio of a sunrise……….
Having appreciated these subtleties of my childhood so late in life, I am of course trying to inculcate a love for the same in my immediate family. My husband frankly thinks I am crazy; I once managed to get him to accompany me for a swim in a pond in a full moon night but he is immune to the charms of a magnolia calling in the night. Surprisingly some of it seems to have rubbed off, for last year I saw him taking impossible-to-capture pictures of the full moon as it played hide and seek between the clouds on a full moon night on his cell phone!!!! I decided not to say anything….after all there’s no point in pushing your luck. As for the girls, I drag them out of bed at odd hours, only to see a half moon galleon singing in the sky luring the stars like a ghostly siren….I wake them in the cold and tell them to just pull a blanket or they’ll miss the whiplash of the rising sun, I call them out to listen to the minuet of the summer evening, to smell the white jasmine to embrace the call of the twilight.
As I get older I realize there is so much I still have to share with them, yes I may have all the time in the world to do it but then again when you think about it, one never really has enough time. As it is, today, holidays are short, too short, often it is spent in a concrete jungle rather than a place where the briar grows dry and mottled and the owls hoot in unison with the crescent moon. And there are barely any gardens where a soul can wander free and unfettered in the shadows of the palm trees waving in the sun.
So will my daughters be able to see these, hear these and treasure the fragrances, or shall they grow to be immune to the opera around them…shall I let them be deadened by school work and studies and responsibilities or can they too enjoy the glow of a lamp quietly reflected on the water in front of them? Shall they know the joys of sleeping under the stars in the open breeze or shall they forever be lulled by the drone of an air conditioner? Shall they ever learn that once you drown out the shrill of voices and noise, there is music in your heart.....and you only have to listen?
I don’t know, but at least I will have tried.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Calcutta Police!

When ever I hear the words “Kolkata Police” an image is conjured in my mind. It’s this big fat man with a protruding belly, dressed in dirty white vaguely gesticulating with his arms. It is an amusing visual. I admit, these days you also sometimes see good looking handsome young sergeants on their bullets but those are too few and too far in between to really count. In the split second of the visual image in my mind, I also tend to think of descriptive words like corrupt, nincompoop, bribe taker all in words that are best not used here. But today here let me try to redeem the image.

Are you surprised? I am. But the other day we were returning from court, it was rather late in the evening, when the rush hour is at its peak. And “rush hour”, as we all know, is a fallacy. It should be called rush hours, because the evening session continues from about 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm each day…maybe longer, depending what part of the city you are in! My husband was driving…we were getting more than a little irritated at the endless stopping and starting and basically trying to reach home without a scratch when we were stopped at a crossing. It wasn’t a big or important crossing, just one of many on Hazra Road. We wanted to turn right. But there was no lane available as cars were jostling each other in an effort to turn the other way on the main road. The lane to our left was chockablock with cars trying to outdo each other and go first. There were cyclists and rickshaws, taxis and autos and buses that stopped to disgorge passengers. There was the hand pulled cart going the wrong way and pedestrians and cars parked on the side. An ordinary crossing, not worthy of traffic lights with typical weekday traffic. And there was a cop. One of the typical representatives of the esteemed Kolkata Police. He did not turn a hair. He smartly got cars moving, stopping one, moving another and yet another and another and did not even blink when a Superior Officer stopped his car, rolled down the window, shouted something at him and moved on. He was patient with the hand pushed cart and even the taxis on the wrong side of the road. He got them moving. He got the bus to get going, he cleared the lane to the right, and to the left, totally looked through the VIP car with the red light and then waved the traffic on. All in all it took about a minute. I turned to my husband, “ you know, given the circumstances, I think he did a terrific job!”
In the recent years, much has been written about the traffic management skills of the Kolkata Police during the Pujas. The past few years, traffic during the Pujas, which used to be horrendous, has improved greatly. The traffic keeps moving and though the going may be slow, you are not stuck in any major jams. But the Pujas are only an annual event for a few days. No one looks at the ordinary cop at every little crossing, the ones who keep the traffic moving on any given day. Like cogs in a wheel they work in unison to keep the balance, unnoticed and unappreciated. We all like to abuse them, or worse, laugh. After all as Arthur Conan Doyle said, there is nothing more unaesthetic than a policeman! But there they stay, day in, day out, rain, hail or shine doing a thankless job so we can go wherever it is we need to go. Yes, some of them are corrupt, much has been written on the corruption of cops, some are brutal and dishonest, many movies have become runaway hits on that theory alone but there are good guys too. Like in every profession. There are guys out there who are only doing their duty…so lets cut them some slack. And next time you see a seemingly helpless looking traffic cop on the road, don’t look at him with utter disrespect, he is one of the good guys who ensures you are home with your family tonight!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Idle chatter

“Hey, Mister, can I offer you a lift? I know…..you’re Geoff.
I met you at the reception last night. Of course you won’t remember me, I’m part of the large family you were introduced to………….but I know you are staying with my sister in law. You do? I’m surprised, yes, I looked very different, but this is how I look when I go to work.
You’re going to Esplanade to check out the old buildings? That’s nice, but it’s a long walk……Yes, hop in, I’m on my way to Court and you can always walk back if you feel you have the constitution for it. Make yourself comfortable, put on the seat belt…….would you like to adjust the ac settings? Please feel free to do so.
This is not a very big road, but its quite busy. Ah. You wonder why all the cars are slowing down, there’s a temple here, and a lot of people say ‘good morning’ before going on their way….there, see? That’s Kali, do you know anything about her? Uh, what, opposite? Oh that’s a new religious place they’ve made, it’s a little intimidating isn’t it, with all those saffron flags. No, no, Hinduism is a very tolerant religion; it’s only that like in every religion, we too have a bunch of fanatics running about creating the wrong impressions. Don’t worry about it, at least not here in Calcutta.
Traffic, well traffic is a bit crazy here, as you will see. It’s just that the number of cars have quadrupled over the years, every family today has two or three cars, and the variety, makes and models available today just encourage further vehicular traffic on the road. The roads themselves seem to have shrunk with the load of steadily increasing traffic and constructions for ‘tomorrows gain’. You’re lucky the route I take will not pass any construction sites, its just that now, ahead of the elections, everyone is suddenly very concerned with ambitious construction projects which seem to promise that to get from anywhere to anywhere there will be so many flyovers, that we shall never have to touch terra firma! But until then we have the pleasure of endless traffic jams, potholes and road diversions. Ah, those big yellow cars, they are taxis. Oh, you know? They are a nuisance, either way …. When they have passengers, they drive rashly only veering left or right (without a signal of course) at the mere whim of the passenger…or worse, stop suddenly without any warning. There, see what I mean? That’s only because the passenger told him to stop and the passenger obviously, is God! And see that other cab? It’s empty ……..when they have no passenger, they cruise, speeding up now and then without any warning. If they spot what they think is a prospective passenger they again slow down just as abruptly….you can mutter and curse all you want, they are unperturbed. Oh, how I love it when there is a taxi strike…it means the traffic is one third of what it is on any other day. I realize a lot of people are inconvenienced but I happily choose to ignore them!!!!! No, no, I don’t feel sorry for the common people, I’ll never make a politician! And just because we live in West Bengal does not mean we are all leftists!
Then see there, a lot of people have chauffeurs, only here we call them drivers, often they have a cell phone attached to the ear as they try to weave in from the left to take a right turn. You see? Of course in that car ahead of us has decided to disgorge some passengers in the middle of the road while this motorcycle is going to squeeze past hopefully only scratching my rear view mirror and not making a dent…..would you stick your hand out and fold it in, shit, too late ……HEY, what the hell. Well, damn you too! It’s quite a mess, isn’t it?
What is what? Ah those, yes, I see, I guess they do look a bit like cages on a cart…those are ferrying school children to and from school. Yes. I agree it’s pathetic and dangerous, it’s not that we don’t care, it’s just that not everyone can afford better and at least the children do go to school. Well, accidents do happen, everyone raises a hue and cry but then they forget and life goes on. Don’t tell me you are shocked, in a poor country like ours there are worse things that happen…at least these kids are getting an education and off the streets!!! And don’t forget, these are not street children, they come from homes where possibly both parents are struggling to make ends meet and keep up with the payments……..
Yes, yes, you’re right, this is a hospital zone, yes, well it’s supposed to be a silent area, no honking. But then here people seem to think honking is their birthright. They’d be lost without a horn, stop laughing, it’s not funny. They honk all the time… the din is unbearable. They honk to get ahead, they honk when they are angry, they honk while picking their noses, they honk when they have nothing to do, they honk because its something to do! But let it not un nerve you…..you’ll get used to the noise. Now we also have the buses that think they own the road and the lone cyclist who thinks he has the right to go the other way in one-way traffic! Yes, that’s the Victoria memorial, pretty, isn’t it? Yes, it’s open. Damn! Did you see that? That bloody matador (pardon my French!) stopped for the horse carriage….yes, we have those here too, it’s very touristy. See that guy trying to cross the road with a mere wave of the hand? Ridiculous, I tell you; it’s crazy and see that cop? Desperately trying to control the traffic with hand movements that look vaguely similar to a classical Indian dance form! Can’t blame him, in rush hour this place goes berserk!
And that’s the Race Course. It’s better you see that and not gape at that guy who slowed down, opened his door and spit a wad of paan juice on the street! If you ask me, spitting is a national pastime…….. do you feel sick? There’s water in the back somewhere. No? And of course everyone wants to go first. No one is willing to wait even a second! And they weave in an out of lanes sometimes straddling two and turn at random, one would think the lane markers on the road are only to break the monotony of the dull gray road surface!!!!
And in case this is not enough, weaving in and out we have, yes, look, the pedestrians. Pedestrians in Calcutta are a unique breed. They cross, they walk, they stop when they want, they move, they command and then they turn to show their temper. Don’t be ridiculous, you can’t expect them to walk all the way to the corner of the street when the place they want to go is just across! It is a crime to expect a pedestrian at the zebra crossing; it’s unheard of that they shall wait for the walk sign or use the pedestrian over bridge to cross over and of course its ridiculous to expect them to confine themselves to the pavement! Yes, yes, you have to swerve, curse and stop suddenly for them for often they are talking on their phones and cannot hear you or worse, listening to the radio on their headphones. Bloody nuisance I say!!!
Ah, this is Red Road……and that’s Shahid Minar on the right. Those are the football clubs on the left and that’s Eden Gardens out there. Look at all the people, there must be a rally in the afternoon, you better be back soon then, or you’ll get caught in the crowd. You like crowds….yuk, wait till you’ve lived here long enough…you’re crazier than I thought!
I turn left here, GPO is straight on……damn, did you see that stupid woman trying to run across? She’ll get herself killed! That’s the Assembly on the right…..
There, that’s the High Court, lovely old building isn’t it?
If you go to the end of that road that way you’ll be at the Governor’s house, lovely old building. And take a left, just keep going straight and you’ll be at the GPO in about 5 minutes!
What, you’re not listening, stop looking like that. This is how I park. In fact this sea of cars are all parked here like this and this is how it will stay till evening. Of course there’s a lane for cars that want to pass….. where else do you expect us to keep our cars? Go on, laugh……..Don’t look so shocked and no please don’t take pictures here, it’s embarrassing! Anyway, I’m off then, yes, yes, it was a pleasure…anytime. Catch you later!!”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Drive me crazy

My father was an old fashioned man: he believed that if you knew driving, cycling, swimming and mathematics you could sail through life with nary a hitch. So at around age three I learnt to swim (I had no choice in the matter and did not have a voice to protest but yes, I love swimming so its ok). Save for very occasional hitches, I always managed a good grade in Maths (I can’t say I hated the subject, and Baba made it fun, so it wasn’t really a chore or as scary as my friends all thought is was!). As for cycling, by age ten after a lot of cuts, scrapes and grazed knees, I mastered that art. And right after my 18th birthday, my father enrolled me at the driving school. So while my friends were studiously preparing for their Higher Secondary exams, I was also learning how to drive. At the driving school I doubt I learnt anything. Those days’ cars meant big bulky ambassadors with side shift gears. I was fairly confused between neutral and reverse and barely knew whether I was coming, going or staying in one place. I knew how to wave my hand in big circles when I had to make a left turn but thanks to my height could barely stick my hand out of the window much less wave it about like I was on a drill display! It’s a wonder I passed the driving test. My real lessons were with my dad, early in the mornings, and at the garden house. Baba insisted I had to reverse around the garden before he would even consider letting me out with the car. And I had to learn how to change a tyre as we’ll. So here I was gasping and groaning with a spare and a jack while dad sat in the shade on a chair nearby with a glass of beer in his hand and watched. I finally was considered road worthy. But it was time for me to leave for college and who wanted to go gallivanting in a fat old ambassador anyway, so I never got to put my driving skills to any real use.
The next time I came home for the summer, we had a Maruti 800. Ah, I looked at it and rubbed my hands in glee. Baba was most magnanimous, he told me not to get killed and left enough petrol credit at the local petrol pump to take me around the world twice over. And he left for the USA for my sister’s graduation. I was hesitant at first. Then I took my grandfather out shopping one early morning. He was a very irritating passenger. Here I was, wheels of my mind turning every second, working on the gears and all and desperately trying not to hit that milk man on the bicycle that stopped without warning and my grandfather unperturbed would be reading every banner we passed. ‘Whenever you thing of colour,’ he started, ‘just shut up!’ I finished. He looked at me aghast. I apologized, my grandfather said its okay but the next time I offered to take him to the bazaar he muttered that he’d rather walk!!!!
So there I was with a six-month-old car but too scared to take it out. For a while I thought about it and then I made a trip to new market in the daytime on a weekday. And returned unscathed. Ah.
After that you couldn’t stop me, I was out all the time. My poor grandparents gave up on me. More often than not, Vaishali was my guide and companion, I’d pick her up from IHM in Taratalla or from her house and we would go gallivanting. Sometimes there were others, sometimes it was just the two of us. Airport, the garden house in Maniktalla, Red Road, Park Street, the Strand, Eastern Bypass, we roamed in every nook and corner of the city. Not that I didn’t have nicks and dents, oh yes, I did. But I was undaunted. Now as I write this, memories of that crazy summer of 1990 flood my mind…that time when I neatly reversed and parked, in my neighbours driveway!!!!! The time we almost had a cyclist sitting on our bonnet, the time when I stopped the car in the middle of traffic and refused to move until one irritating guy got out of the car (his sin? he had criticized the building that housed my father’s office, Victoria House), that time we were so drunk we could not make out whether there was a cop at the traffic light hence spent a good quarter of an hour just standing there in the rain arguing with each other. Vaishali sticking her entire body out the window telling people to get a move on…she read the signs, even when there weren’t any and I drove. I’ve never before or after had such a fun navigator. We’d get home late at night and sneak out early for yet another drive….I had tasted a different kind of freedom and I loved it! The summer unfortunately, came to an end. I left before my father could return home and admire the new shape his car had taken thanks to the dents I had made. Later he told me he had expected things to be much worse .and he was just happy my hands were now set!!!!!!!
Back in college, I hankered for a bike….my father permitted a Luna. Yikes, after six months of pedaling laboriously up and down the Symbi hill and having people overtake me on foot and bitterly complaining about it in every letter to my parents, I graduated to a silver Kinetic Honda. Ah. You couldn’t stop me then, breezing around, I had tasted the wind in my face and the thrill of the road….even when I was broke I ensured there was money kept aside for petrol. Lonavla, Deccan to Camp to Aundh to Khadak Vasla and beyond, the hills were calling. Sometimes I even drove my friend’s bikes, Yamahas and KB 100s. Ah life was beautiful, wild and free. Yes I had a few spills and tumbles but nothing serious. I felt the needle point pricks of rain on my face, I must have swallowed some the flies that flew into my nose and mouth as dusk fell on the highway, I learnt to cover my hair with a scarf to keep the dust out, I learnt what it meant when the chill of dawn hit my bones when I drove too early too fast and then just couldn’t get warm for hours afterward. I learnt to drive on the highway, to throw caution to the wind and in the hours of cruising around and zipping about, my horizons widened and grew. And there’s one thing I realize today: those days can never be replicated.
Once college was over, however and I was home, the car was gone. My father had passed away and my mother had opted not to buy the car from the company. I ranted, like always, but settled down to a sedate existence. I took the bus to Court each morning digging my way into the sweaty crowd and reaching court more that a little flustered. Then was another bus ride to Chambers and another back home. One thing about public transport in Calcutta is the crowd. Although there is supposedly a separate area for ladies, more often than not you have strange men who seem to fall on you each time the bus brakes or hits a pothole. This was so much of a nuisance that I actually took to carrying a safety pin in my pocket, it proved extremely useful in getting rid of wandering body parts, intentional or otherwise! After about a year of suffering the trials of a daily commuter, I bought my first second hand car: a white Maruti 800. Life was better then, but since the petrol had to come out of my own pocket, my excursions were mostly limited to Court and Chambers. But the thrill of driving never left me. I loved the speed, the zip, the high and the independence. I still do. I’ve never had to sit around waiting for my husband to find the time to take me shopping, when I wish to take my kids for a swim I just pile them into a car and drive off, when required I can pick up the girls from school and I can go out on my own without being dependent on anyone to drop me or pick me up…….Yup, I love driving. And I love cars and bikes. Now my vehicles are a Honda city and a Zen Estillo, but I dream about my Safari Dicor, CRV and very own Ducati. True, in rush hour it doesn’t really matter for no matter what you are driving, it can be a pain, but I still would chose self drive over having the driver take me. I drive fast but I don’t think I am rash. I try to follow all the traffic rules. I do obey traffic lights and try not to flip a bird at the bastard who swerved suddenly. I mouth bad words to maintain my sanity often to the horror of my passengers. And I get where I’m going. Quickly. Or rather, as fast as the traffic will allow.
Now I try to live by the same rules for my girls. They've learnt the swimming. I'm struggling with the Maths and the cycling and when the time comes for them to drive....sure enough, they will!
And will I get angry if my car comes back in a new shape? You bet I will!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

TEN REASONS WHY i have failed as a parent!

I see other mothers and parents around me. Today’s parents are indulging and wise. Their children are always well turned out and seem to know much more about anything that I ever did. They have PSPs and cell phones and immaculate hair. Somehow, I feel like a misfit. And if you see my kids running about scruffily, I guess it’s my fault. Someone very wise (I forget who) has said that all children begin by loving their parents. Then they judge them. Sometimes, they forgive them. Keeping that in mind, here are ten reasons why I suspect I may not be forgiven.
1. I DO NOT AGREE with my girls except when they toe the line. I don’t agree with their choice of clothes, their hair, their shoes, I fail to be impressed when my girl wears my boots (yes, we’re the same foot size!) and cavorts around in a bid to be fashionable. Jeans or shorts and tees work fine most of their lives, as far as I am concerned, and I do not know what magnetizes them to those sequined pedal pushers or other silly dresses that shimmer…I do not allow kajal and lip gloss though all their friends around them are using them. When told I curtly ask them to go live with those families. Somehow I suspect they make faces, but they haven’t gone anywhere yet!
2. I DO NOT really CARE WHAT GRADES THEY GET: the other day I met my daughters at the club, I went from Court while they came in from school. They had a quick bite which consisted of fresh lime soda and a burger for one of them and a patty and a sprite for the other and I rushed them through their chocolate boats. That’s when I saw her. This lady had come with her son, he was still in school uniform, his school bag was open and his exercise books were all over the table. The mother is ambidextrous, with one hand she was inspecting each class-work while with equal efficiency with the other hand she was shoveling fried eggs down her son’s throat all the time berating him about his grades having slipped from A+ to A. I turned away shamefacedly and shooed by daughters away. Sadly, my girls are very so-so with grades; if they get a C I think that’s good enough. When they get a D I think at least its better than an E and when they get home an E, I think they at least have not failed. When they get an F, however, all hell breaks loose. My husband gets angry, I run from the room, my daughters are wailing and I am trying to look guilty. Later, much later I explain to my husband that it’s not so bad, “they will flower”, I say, he grunts in distrust, I’ve been saying that for the last five years!!!!! And sadly, my daughters have figured out that I really don’t mind what grades they get as long as they get promoted to the next class. For sure enough, in a while the crocodile tears have vanished and they are back to their normal loud selves….I think I am inflicting permanent psychological damage on them somewhere.
3. I SHARE my anger, my pain, my tears and my frustration. I do not hide in the loo and cry. I do not shelter my children from grief. When someone dies, I tell them about it, when I see something beautiful and a tear comes to my eye, I do not bravely brush it away. When I see a movie and a lump forms in my throat, I do not pretend I have a cough. I am proud of our armed forces, I am proud of our freedom fighters and our heritage. I see no reason to hide behind a wall of emotional indifference. When their beloved grand mother passed away, I insisted they come see her one last time, hug her once more. When they ask me about cremations or burials or rituals and generally awkward stuff, I do not hedge. I answer them as honestly as I can. When I’m broke, I tell them and they adjust their needs accordingly. They get my opinion, however wrong or politically incorrect it may be. I even use bad words in front of them. No, don’t look at me aghast, I believe every individual has a right to give vent to his or her feelings, especially when you are driving. The traffic gives us enough reason to go crazy, a bad word or two muttered under my breath or even louder, goes a long way in maintaining my mental balance. So the other day I heard this conversation between four children, two were my girls and two were my friend’s daughters. All four kids are age 12 to 8.
“do you know the F word?”, one asked.
“Yes, I also know the C word…..(giggle giggle)”.
“I even know five B words”, this was the youngest one!
I was relieved when the conversation ended with a lot of giggles and solemn assertions from all four that they know the words but also know they are not supposed to use them.
“not until we are very, very old,” said the youngest,
“or not until we know how to drive,” that was one of mine.
“And anyway not in front of any biggies!”
That was that.
Now what are the five B words? I can only think of three!
4. I DO NOT MONITOR what the girls watch on TV or read or listen to. Yes, I may put the volume down once in a while or scream at them to shut the damn thing off, but while they are at it, I have no clue whether that high-pitched voice is Justin Bieber or the girl next door. As my niece (she is a very responsible 16) puts it, I am too relaxed, I let them watch anything…..even movies meant for older kids. Well, I figure they’ll know it sooner or later anyway and if it isn’t on the TV they’ll know in school anyway. And “The Princess Diaries” cannot be all that more grown-up than “The Three Idiots”…so where do I draw the line? Yet, I have TATA SKY, yes, I lock certain channels, but somehow they seem to know it all anyway. I hear them animatedly discuss shows I have never even heard of with their friends and I give up. I cannot catch up with them, why even try?
5. I DO NOT KNOW the names of all the capitals of the world. When faced with a bit of text, I have to read it before I can begin to give even seemingly intelligent answers. I have forgotten entire text books that we studied as children and I do not regret it. My knowledge of current affairs is at best, vague and I have to look up the net to help them with their projects. I know people who ensured their children learnt at least a thousand words before they even got admission to school. (Do two letter words count? I always wanted to ask that parent but looking at the seriousness with which she was conducting her son, I refrained). In any event, I doubt I know a thousand words and I don’t think my daughters do either!
6. I SAY NO to parties with strange names I have never hitherto heard of, I say no to canteen money save every other Friday, I say no when they want Coke or chips or other strange fried stuff when we go to the super market and I say it to their friends too. Any friend of my daughters who has had the unfortunate experience of accompanying me when I go somewhere shopping will be able to vouch for it. I say “no”. Loudly. Once we were in Scotland and my girls (they were 4 and 5) were poking all the soft cheese which for some strange reason were kept at toddler level, I grit my teeth and muttered “no” so loudly, some old ladies almost called the cops for child abuse.
7. I DRIVE my girls up the wall, round the bend and over the hill. I tease them mercilessly, and when they think I am done, I do it again. Sometimes I am cruel, I often send them downstairs to the night guard when they do not put the lights out on time, I tell them when their tummy sticks out or they look like something the cat has dragged in. I go on till they rant and rave and cry and then finally till they can laugh at themselves. We all need laughter in our lives, and who better to start with, than yourself?
8. I DO NOT DRESS the way other mothers do. I usually arrive for their parent teacher meetings and sports and most functions in Court clothes. My daughters insist it makes me stick out like a sore thumb. When I wear jeans, the top is not trendy enough. I don’t wear elegant designer saris like the other moms. So the other day when I went for my child’s school exhibition I ensured I was draped in a sari. My daughter took one look at me tottering about in those ridiculous heels and started turning away whenever I asked something. And ask something I did, the exhibition was on River Ganga and she was standing in front of something claiming to be the Kedarnath temple. I asked her questions till her ears fell off, no she did not know much about it. Neither did I, but you get the point? When they were small I used to dread the birthday parties they were invited to. At three in the afternoon on a hot summer day, twenty or thirty toddlers ranging from age 2 months to 4 years milling about in various stages of distress and there are the perfectly manicured elegantly attired diamond sparkling mothers daintily chit-chatting in the corner. And there was I and another friend, in our crushed FabIndia kurtis which we probably had been wearing all day……trying to look innocuous! Frankly, I got bored. So that was the end of my daughters’ partying!!!! Poor deprived girls!
9. I HAVE NO CLUE. I don’t know my daughters friends mothers except a very very select few, I do not meet and greet other ladies when I go to pick them up from school, I am not part of the ladies group exchanging recipes and maid and mother-in-law horror stories outside the school gates….In fact I’m lucky if I go for their sports day and know which race they are in! More often than not, I’m clueless. So every now and then I check the starting lineup and shake my head and sit down. A friend told me the other day I was making her nervous. Can anyone imagine MY distress? All the other mothers are busy taking photographs, by the time I find my daughter in the drill display and have my Blackberry camera switched on, the drill is over and I get a sea of girls running in the other direction. A friend told me the other day that she went to one of the school batch mate’s parties and discovered that some of them were visiting their after-life. I believe some trance like state or something. They’ve already been through their past-life and are now into the next! I went into shock. Me, I’m so confused with this life I would probably get lost in my after life and never return! None of that for me!!!! No I’d rather remain clueless.
10. I FORGET to sew buttons, stitch name-tags and similar stuff. So in the morning there is often a frantic rush for safety pins or water proof marker pens. Of course I’ve forgotten where I’ve kept them and then the car is honking downstairs while I am still chewing that last bit of thread off…who remembers where the scissors are! When they were small, I often forgot to ensure they took their Tiffin boxes or water bottles. The receptionist at the Montessori took to just sighing when she saw me yet again at her desk holding two water bottles in my hands. My children are seriously deprived. But I’ve found a way around my forgetfulness…I’ve told the girls they should be independent and it is their responsibility and not mine. Somehow, since then, things are remembered. More or less. We manage, I think, or am I forgetting something?

And last but not the least; when my daughters were small, it was one of my recurring nightmares that I would not know them from another child. Anyone know what I mean? I must be a lousy mother, I agree! After all it’s not like a golden glow adorns them that only a mother can see. Have you ever been to a Montessori school at closing time? I have, a few times and watching a sea of toddlers running towards the waiting assortment of parents, maids and drivers, I always was filled with a feeling of dread…now which one is mine? I’d desperately try to remember what they had been wearing to school that day, “was it a pink t shirt, or yellow, hell it may be blue!!!!” I drew a blank. I’d look around desperately until at last one bright eyed child would run to me and that’s how it would all click into place, yes this ones mine, she’s coming home with me!!!! When I started working when my younger one was a few months old, I’d sit in office and try to recall the faces of my daughters. Well, they had two eyes and a bright smile….but would I know them from the others? A recurring nightmare…until I got my act together and now they are old enough to identify themselves and I am old enough to know better than to ask!!!!

There you go. That’s enough to hang me. For now.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

NO PENETRATION PLEASE


Now I’m frightened. I just read an article in”The Times of India”.” Draft bill allows non penetrative sex by age 12.” Yikes. What they mean, among other things, is that its perfectly all right if two children both over 12 years and under 14 indulge in consensual non penetrative sex with the idea of sexual exploration with each other. My foot! Hell, my elder daughter is 11. So in another few months after she is twelve she can tell me, “Ma I’m going to the other room to sexually explore some XYZ” and my reaction is supposed to be, “yes beta, just make sure you do not penetrate!” Are you mad? No, don’t laugh. I wonder what brought this about. In my own limited intelligence, I find this is supposed to be a Bill for the Protection of children from sexual offenses…OMG. Is this how they do it then, “yes beta, take her to your room but don’t get too excited, haan..”
What are we doing here? And what, if God forbid, one child is a trusting sweet sensitive 12 year old and the other is a well read, well informed, strapping 14, who’s going to ensure that the exploration stays under control? Are the parents supposed to watch and guide things along as well? I can just imagine a parent sitting there with a whistle in one hand screaming “time out” from time to time!!!!!!!! Isn’t there enough promiscuity in society without dragging pre teens into it? Oh some of you will laugh, it’s been going on for years, you say…in the garb of doctor-doctor games and all, but at least they maintained some level of innocence. Now you mean to say I can come home from work one day and find a strange boy in my house. “Don’t worry ma, we did not go all the way.” What am I supposed to do, smile and offer the boy a coke, or hit the roof and scream my head off?
I know, I know, in the end it’s all our upbringing and the values we teach them etc etc etc but how the hell can I be sure that the friends my daughters mix with are being taught the same values? And a twelve year old has neither the maturity nor the sense to give consent far less understand what she is getting into. And God forbid that an unsuspecting 12 year old does give consent and then emerges from the experience traumatized? 12 is no age for any child to be playing adult games….after all the laws against child marriage, we may as well just go back a few hundred years and allow them to marry then, “just don’t penetrate”…we can write it in bold letters above their bed!!!!!! So what is this Bill in aid of? Do we want more suicides, more child molestation and more rapes of minors? Instead of protecting the children, we are proposing to throw open a world of sexual diversions to them, “come, come, learn first hand”…as if the TV and the internet is not enough! What kind of perverted mind shall do this to a coy immature 12 year old? Oh, I say, let them discover sex themselves, at their own time and pace, let them learn it may be beautiful or not, let them make the discoveries when they are ready for it and with someone they may like for what that person is and not just for the “exploration” experience. Why impose it on them like its, say, Algebra? “OK so now you are 12 years old, you should know all about algebra!!!!!!”
Gosh, in this day and age when the papers are full of stories of scams and scandals, suicides and the rising prices, world cup cricket venues and mad yatras and mindless violence, can we not do something constructive to alleviate those situations? As it is, todays kids are over burdened. Like it or not, from the moment they enter school, they are part of a colossal rat race. Can’t we do something to ensure that our children stay safe, or at least as safe as they can be?
Why complicate matters further for the children?