Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pedestrian woes

A forty feet wide road. Vegetable vendors, bangle sellers, stalls hawking cheap toys from China, handkerchief sellers, ‘anything else you may not even know you need’ vendors taking up five feet on either side. Customers haggling over goods- another foot or two. Two red double-decker buses can barely pass, yet they often need to.

Does that leave any place for pedestrians? No! But the street is also the only walking route to one of the busiest stations in Bombay and has a constant stream of people going both ways. Often, even when I try to press myself to one side, the buses almost graze my body, and if there are people hanging out of them, there is no way you can avoid physical contact.

Is it any wonder that it takes me barely ten minutes to walk down to the station in the morning before the vendors set up shop, but the time is more than doubled in the evening when the shoppers are out in full force.

To say that the walk back is a minor torture is a bit of an understatement. But the only alternative is to hail a three-wheel autorickshaw, which, because of the traffic bottlenecks, would actually take up more time.

And if you think about it, I am one of the lucky people. I stay about a kilometer away from the station and have the option to walk down. People who stay further away, actually end up spending more time getting home from the station than they do on the commute between stations. Is it any wonder that according to a recent study more people walk in Bombay than they do in any other Indian city?

Urban planners have experimented with restricting many of the streets to traffic going in a single direction only. But there just aren’t enough streets to allow that to be feasible (and there is nothing more dangerous to a pedestrian than a vehicle speeding the wrong way on a one-way street).

Removing the hawkers may partially alleviate the problem, but that is a politically charged issue that few administrators are willing to take up. And even if they do, the hawkers are brought back by public demand – if the vegetable vendors are removed from the main route home, women would have to go that extra distance to buy the ingredients for their evening meal.

As a ‘glass half full’ person, I refuse to admit that there is no solution. And I have come up with one – pedestrian skywalks! And not just any skywalk– skywalks with place reserved for hawkers of every hue. When hawkers are given safe places to work from, they should not be averse to shifting. And when pedestrians find that they can do their daily shopping without the danger of being run down by a bus, they should not mind using the skywalks. With the entire width of the road being freed for vehicular transport, there should be fewer traffic snarls, so more people would have the choice to not walk home.

Skywalk above, road below. Seems such a perfect solution – the only people who really lose would be the residents of the first floor of the buildings skirting the road. When they draw the curtains open, they may just find themselves looking into the eyes of random pedestrians! But they are not a substantial vote bank, are they?

A solution so simple, I wonder why nobody has thought of it yet. Or is there a catch somewhere that I am unaware of?

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Joy of Giving

On the way back from doing the weekly grocery shopping, we parked our car for a couple of minutes so the hubby could nip down to the pharmacy. There were four kids sitting on the street just outside the window. None of them was doing anything in particular, but something about them captivated me.

“Look at those kids”, I said. “They don’t have any toys, and yet they are so cheerful.”

“They may not have toys, but they have lots of flowers”, countered my younger one.

“But they are not playing with the flowers. They are selling them.”

“Why don’t they have any toys? Did their mother throw away their toys because they were naughty?”

“They don’t have any toys because their mother doesn’t have enough money to buy them toys”, I told them. “And they don’t have TV either, nor money to buy chocolates and milkshakes.”

While the two of them digested the information, the genesis of an idea formed in my mind.

“You have so many toys that you don’t play with. Why don’t you share some of your toys with them?”

“Will they share their toys with us?”

“They don’t have any toys. How can they share something they don’t have?”

“If we give them our toys, will we get new ones?” That came from my earlier insistence that for each new toy I bought them, they would have to give up one.

“These kids have no toys, and you have so many. That is why I am asking you to share your toys with them. It has nothing to do with getting you new toys.”

Neither quite bought the idea, but I let it simmer for a bit.

The next day, I pulled out the box when I had put away all the toys that the kids had stopped playing with, and sorted the ones I thought those kids would be able to play with.

“What are you doing?” The older one was curious. The younger one didn’t bother with preliminaries, he just started picking up all the toys that I had put aside.

“Those are not for you”, I admonished. “Those are for the little kids we saw yesterday. The ones who don’t have any toys to play with.”

“But I want to play with this.”

The time to be firm had arrived. “You may want it, but those kids don’t have any toys and we are giving it to them.”

“I wouldn’t let them have it. I will snatch it away from them.”

“That’s’ not a very nice thing to do. You have so much, and those kids have so little. You have to share.”

The younger one was just not convinced, but he gave in with poor grace.

“Mamma, if I give these toys to those kids, will I become a good boy?”, piped up the the older one.

“You are already a good boy. But if you give your toys to those kids, then every time those kids play with it, they will think of you and thank you.”

“Will I then become their friend?”

“Yes, you will.”

That appealed to the younger one. “I will also go with my brother and to give the toys to the children.”

Things did not quite work out as we had planned. We did find those children, but  neither of my kids has quite learnt the art of giving (and neither did those kids know the art of receiving), so it eventually fell to me to hand the packet over to the oldest of the children and tell her that she was to share it with all the rest.

Both kids were remarkably cheerful on the way back. “Now those children have toys to play with. They don’t have to be sad any more.”

For the first time in India, we are celebrating a Joy of Giving Week, where every individual, is encouraged to give according to their ability. Though unplanned, I am happy my kids have finally experienced that joy.

Monday, September 28, 2009

What percent of your love?

“Do you have to reduce everything to numbers and percentages?” asked a colleague.
“Only what can be best expressed by reducing to numbers”, I countered. “Which is almost 100% of what I have to do around here.”
A second colleague, however, wasn’t listening. “She probably gets her family around her and tells them how many percent she loves them”, he said. “Every year, on her birthday, she’ll cut her cake into slices each of which would denote how much she loves one particular person.”
“And how do you know that?”, I asked. “Do you have spy cameras in my house?”

I could almost visualise myself cutting a birthday cake into ‘love sized’ pieces. I could here the kids arguing about which of their pieces was larger – each convinced the other was a teeny bit more – and me patiently trying to explain that the slices were differently shaped, but were exactly the same size.

Because that is how it is with the kids. Both often exasperate me almost to a point of no return. And both give me more unadulterated pleasure than one would think possible. I adore them in different ways, and show my affection quite differently. But try as I will, I will never be able to tell which of them, if either of them, I love more.

The only way I can reduce my love into percentages is by getting two identical cakes – one for the older one, one for the younger. Unbelievable as it would sound to anyone except another mother, I love them both 100%

One may be an angel, the other a demon. But can any mother ever put a percentage on her love for her children?

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Colours - Vermillion

[This is a work of fiction. The characters and situations are purely imaginary, and any resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental and unintended.

This story was inspired by a comment that Dipali left on my blog a couple of days back.]

“Durga, heat some milk for your father.” Her mother when she was five.

“Durga, you can’t go to school. Your mother needs you to mind the children.” Her father when she was ten.

“Durga, so what if he already has a wife. Do you think we can afford any better?” Her parents when she was fifteen.

“Durga, we need the money. You have to get back to work.” Her mother-in-law a week after her daughter was born.

The irony of her name was never lost on her. Why bother to name her after a Goddess, when everyone knew her fate?

Drabble(n) -
an extremely short work of fiction exactly one hundred words in length.

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 26, 2009

What holds us back

When it comes to academic excellence, I am not the most demanding of mothers. While I would love to have my kids do well in their studies, I don’t get overtly stressed when they do not, as long as I know they are doing the best they can.
But even my rather lackadaisical attitude did not quite mask the disappointment I felt when my first grader proudly displayed the 0/10 he had got in his first dictation test. I didn’t react either way, but did spend an inordinate amount of time teaching him the next set of words. After all that effort, when all he got was a 3/10, I despaired of him ever getting more than that. After all the mistakes he made were really small ones – a pair of interchanged letters, dropping a vowel, or putting in an extra one – mistakes not too easy to correct.
The next week, we still persisted with the third set of words, and he managed a 7/10, which he followed up with another 7/10, and then a third. There was a clear pattern in his tests – he always got the first six words right, then ran out of steam, and made three mistakes in the next four. The waning mental concentration was reflected in his handwriting – the first words were neatly formed, and got progressively messier, till the last words were barely legible.
That was not quite acceptable to me. I didn’t care if he made careless mistakes, but I cared that his attention span was so short. Tried making him write the words a couple of times, but to no effect.
Then, last week, quite unexpectedly, he came home with a 10/10. I could barely contain my excitement, and didn’t attempt to do so. This weeks words, too, he learnt quite effortlessly. “Mamma, I’ll get another 10/10”, he promised. But I didn’t get my hopes up.
But he did come home with yet another 10/10, and the handwriting was so neat, the teacher gave him an excellent and two stars.
Even before seeing the words for the next week, he’s informed me he is going to get full marks again. And perhaps he will – he seems to have broken the mental barrier he had imposed on himself, and there is really nothing holding him back now.
Will I be disappointed if he gets less than a 10/10 this time? Not really. I know he can do it. I know he realises the importance of doing it. And I also know that pretty soon complacency will set in, and it would take a low mark to get him to start performing on par again.
But as long as he knows he can do it, he will continue to do so.
Isn’t it the same with all of us? Most often, what holds us back is not anything external- it is merely our lack of confidence in ourself.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 25, 2009

When social good meets religion....

“How could they demean a festival by linking it to sex?” A news report about an organization that was doling out condoms at the Navratri garba festival was responsible for a friend’s tone of righteous indignation.

“But if people do use the festival as an excuse to indulge in sexual activities, isn’t it better to preach safe sex than to ignore the problem totally?” argued another friend.

“Utter rubbish. Navratri is a religious festival. It is a time of abstinence. Nobody would do such things during the festival.” My friend was quite obviously extrapolating her sexual morals on the entire teen population participating in the garba festival.”

The argued back and forth. Both had a point.

In many parts of the country, Navratri is a festival of abstinence. The truly religious have only one meal a day during the entire period. Many people fast on at least one of the nine days. And most people shun non-vegetarian food during the period. The communal dancing that takes place in the evening is a form of worship, not an extended party.
But despite its roots in religion, the garba festival, today, has become an almost commercial enterprise. Professional musicians, designer clothes, highly priced tickets to the better venues in town. To most participants, it is one long party, and yes teen pregnancies show a peak during this time.

“Maybe you are both right”, I suggested when the debate got too tedious. “The garba festival is a religious festival, not party. But how better to worship the womb than by indulging in sex?”

I am not sure if the stunned silence that greeted my statement was one of sheer disbelief, or of a point going home. During Navratri, everyone worships the earthen pot containing a lighted lamp, but few choose to remember that it is actually a symbol for the Mother Goddess. Its name says it all – garba (womb) deep (light) – the womb containing life.

Hinduism is perhaps the only mainstream religion that openly cherishes the sexual union that produces life, and yet practitioners of the religion choose to ignore it completely.

By distributing condoms, people are not sanctifying illicit sex. They are only accepting something that happens, and advocating that people take adequate precautions while indulging in it. If anything, the fact that it is seem to have moral sanction, may well make the whole act less appealing to people.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Colours of Navratri

To me it was one of those fun things you do in an organsation- during the nine days of Navratri, every working day was allocated a colour, which everyone was to come dressed in. The first of those days was ‘red day’. Since I don’t possess any appropriate office attire in the colour, I could have gone either in gym sweats or a saree. It being the festive season, I chose the latter.

On the train, the ladies standing on either side of me were in red. “They’d fit right into my office today”, the thought momentarily flitted across my mind. At the next station, half a dozen ladies boarded the train, all in red. At the terminus, I saw three women standing together in a group – all were in red. I looked around the compartment- more than half the people were in various shades of red.

This was getting almost spooky- was the entire city in red? “But it is the festive season, and red is a very popular colour”, I reasoned to myself, and shut my eyes to the colour.

The next day was ‘sky blue’ day, another colour missing from my wardrobe. I dug out a kurta I hadn’t worn for over six years, and which was three sizes too big for me. And guess what colour the lady sitting next to me on the train was in– you guessed it, sky blue! With an acute sense of déjà vous, I looked around – more than half the women and many of the men were in sky blue.

Things were getting really complicated. The entire city couldn’t be following the colour code of my organisation? I fiddled around with google, and discovered something a lifetime of living in India hadn’t taught me.

A different manifestation of the Mother Goddess is worshipped on each of the nine days of the festival, and each is associated with a different colour. Which is why, in some parts of India, women dress according to the time honoured ‘Colours of Navratri”. With organisations adopting the colour code, the practice has now gone beyond the religious and has entered the realm of a purely secular social custom.

Which perhaps explains why there was a preponderance of green when the idol of the Mother Goddess was being taken to her place of worship on Saturday.

Today is ‘yellow day’, and with every yellow saree, kurta, shirt, skirt, or scarf that I see, my heart soars. If the twenty million people of a city can come together for an activity like this, can’t they be galvanized to achieve practically anything. Isn’t the change we all need, just waiting to happen?

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The things we take for granted

“Do we have to have so many lights on all the time?”
“What’s your problem? Do you think we can’t afford the electricity bill?”
“It is not about the bill, it is about the wastage. Maharashtra is a power deficit state, in case you don’t know.”
“So what? Bombay doesn’t have power cuts does it? And even if we did have power cuts, do you think one person turning off a light makes any difference to the electricity situation?”

When it reaches that point, in the interest of domestic harmony, I withdraw with whatever grace I can muster.

But in that one statement is the root of practically every problem- does the action or inaction of one random individual make any difference in the larger scheme of things. We choose to believe they do not, and use that to justify not changing our way of doing things. But if even a small percentage of individuals care enough to do things differently, they can bring about a change.

Consider electricity supply. Power tariffs are higher in Bombay than in the rest of the state, so the power plants in Maharashtra sell electricity to the distribution companies that service the city, before feeding power into the state grid. Which enables me to keep the lights blazing even at daytime, but ensures that the rest of the state has scheduled and unscheduled power cuts for several hours a day.

The equation is simple - for every hour that I unnecessarily keep an electric bulb on, I am depriving a schoolgirl in rural Maharashtra a light to study under. When children are forced to study using candlelight, when mothers don’t have any electrical appliances in their kitchen simple because there is no electricity to run them on, when whole families go to bed soon after sunset because there is no TV to keep them up longer – isn’t it almost criminal for me to waste electricity even if I can afford the monetary cost of doing so?

Sure, the only long term solution to the power crisis in the country is to generate more electricity, and to bring down transmission and distribution losses. But in the short term, can’t every one of us make a difference, however slight, by just turning off the fans and lights that we do not need?

And will we as a nation ever realize that while festive illuminations do make the city look almost magical, by turning them off, entire villages can enjoy uninterrupted power.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Lily Flower

Many months back, I found what looked like a lily bulb in a pile of raked leaves. I had absolutely no idea how it found its way into the heap, but I picked it up and planted it in a pot that I had prepared for a plant I eventually never bought.
For more than a year, I cared for the plant, and since one flowering season passed without any action, I never realistically expected to have it bear flowers.Last week, while watering the plant, thought I saw what could have passed for a tiny bud. The next day it had grown in size, and on the third day, it was a full-fledged bud.
On Thursday morning, it showed all signs of opening up pretty soon, and by evening, there was a beautiful red lily flower.
So beautiful was it, and so unexpected, that ruling against my instincts, I brought it indoors – after all, my younger son was now a mature three and a half year old, he now knows better than to pluck flowers!
The kids went berserk seeing the flower – they had never seen anything as big, as red and as shiny in a pot in their living room. The younger one smelt it, the older one took photographs of it, I was happy I had brought the plant indoors so we could enjoy it.
There was another bud too – I wondered if it would open out before the first one wilted away.

“Mamma, that pretty flower. Now it is many pretty flowers”, lisped the younger one, thumb firmly in his mouth. I had no idea what he was talking about, but since he seemed really excited about it, I left what I was doing and went to see.

He had reduced the flower and the bud to shreds. There was nothing left on the plant except the shiny green leaves, not even the promise of another bud, much less another flower.

To say I was devastated would perhaps start to describe how I felt. More than anything else, it was the randomness of the destruction that got to me. When you nurture something for months, without any expectations, then have it cut short in the first flush of youth – few things are more distressing than that.

All weekend, I mourned the loss of the flower and the bud. And then I realized that it was not as tragic as I made it out to be. The flower had bloomed. It had been appreciated. It had brought a new dimension of beauty into our lives. Maybe being cut short in its prime was better than seeing the flower whither and die?

Easter Lily
Requiescat in Pace 
And come back again soon.

Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 21, 2009

Roadside shrines

When you have a nation of over a billion people, each with their own personal god who they want to enshrine publicly, is it any wonder that our cities are overrun with shrines?

In all my years, I have yet to encounter a single banyan tree which has not provided shade to a pantheon of deities. Any neem tree worth its girth has sacred red thread wound under it. In the older parts of Bombay, every self respecting street has at least one life-size cross which have long since ceased to be memorials to a long buried citizen, and have now taken on the aspect of a place of religious worship. And there are all those tiny roadside shrines, which look deserted on most days, and suddenly come alive with candles and fresh flowers once a week. Even our walls are covered with pictures of religious symbols, but that is a whole different story.

A skeptic may wonder why despite having an abundance of shrines, Bombay is the only major city in the world that repeatedly witnesses terror attacks. A religious zealot may argue that that the ‘other’ gods and goddesses neutralize the good that their own God does. A person like me would like to believe that it is the hope and spirit of the people that keeps the city going – the same hope and spirit that drives them to put up the shrines in the first place.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Colours - eggshell yellow

[This is a work of fiction. The characters and situations are purely imaginary, and any resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental and unintended.]

Knit one. Knit two together. Yarn forward knit one. Yarn forward knit one, knit two together…… the eggshell yellow yarn flew over the needles.
She placed the lacy knit on her tummy and tried to imagine her baby in the vest she was knitting. Would the little creature she was carrying inside her really be big enough to fit into the garment? What would her baby be like? Untrained in mothering, would she even know how to handle her child?
She panicked – was she even ready?

The baby kicked. She smiled.
She would bumble along, and do fine. Didn’t everybody?

Drabble(n) -
an extremely short work of fiction exactly one hundred words in length.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 19, 2009


This one looked fun, so I had to attempt it- 
The method:
a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd's mosaic maker.
1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your favourite celebrity?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One Word to describe you.
12. Your login name

Not sure if the collage is quite what I would have created to describe myself, but I do rather like it.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 18, 2009

Favourite girlfriend

“Mamma, you are my favourite girlfriend”, said the younger one.
“And mine also”, said the older one.
Mamma, obviously, was delighted. What more could she really ask for.

She suspected a trick. “Are you sure?”, she asked. “I may be your favourite girlfriend, but you still have to go to bed now.”
“We love you, Mamma”, said the younger one.
“And we want to go to bed with you”, said the older one.
Mamma’s day was made. What more could she ask for?

She just hopes that when another girlfriend comes into their lives, she is able to let go.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 17, 2009

JKR and the Lost Symbol

All the hype surrounding the release of Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol” makes me nostalgic for the Pottermania that would never again be.
J.K. Rowling’s first three books debuted without much fuss in India- they made it to the children’s section on select bookstores, but showed little indication of the frenzy that was soon to be. The release of the fourth book was accompanied by a lot of publicity. Within weeks of its release, pirated copies of the book were being hawked at every traffic signal – Harry Potter had arrived in India!
The release dates of Books Five and Six were tracked with much anticipation, bookstores allowed you to pre-order your copy. Many bookstores even opened early, so a reader in India could get hold of the book at exactly the same time as a reader in England.
But it was only with the Seventh and last book that the hype that surrounded a book release in England or the States came to India. Maybe it was because it was the last chance to demonstrate your alliance to Potterverse. Or maybe it was simply because even people who had never picked up a book from the Harry Potter series realized that it was not just a book but a phenomenon, and wanted to be a part of it.
It was for the first reason that I woke up earlier than I ever had so I could make my way to the store to pick up my pre-ordered copy of the book. It was the second reason that the husband gave for wanting to accompany me to the store. Somewhere along the line, my then three-year old woke up, and insisted on wearing his robe and coming along.
He was by far the youngest person in the queue outside the store, and was photographed by all the media persons covering the book release. That I refused even to surf the channels to catch a glimpse of my son says a lot for how engrossed I was in the book.

Will I do the same for Dan Brown’s latest offering?
Quite definitely not! Much as I liked both ‘Angels and Demons’ and ‘Da Vinci Code’, and would not mind reading a similar book from the same stable, I can definitely wait a few weeks till the book comes out in paperback.
With every book of JKR’s there was anticipation. What happens next? How much of the foreshadowing fructifies in this book? Does the plot go closer to where you predict it will do, or will you have to weave an entirely new set of theories? Will any of your predictions come true, or be proved baseless?
Not so with Dan Brown. You know what ‘the Lost Symbol’ will be like even before reading the book. The physically gruesome murder with a set of clues that drags Robert Langdon to the scene. The beautiful and professionally successful female relative who works closely with Robert Langdon. The expert/ insider they approach for help, but who turns out to be the instigator of all the madness. If the book doesn’t have all these elements, I would be very surprised.
Just as I would be most disappointed if the book doesn’t also have a lot of research in a particularly arcane area.
Yes, I do want to read the book, because I would love to know more about the Masons, and Dan Brown is infinitely more interesting to read than google, but I don’t want to read it so badly, that I preorder.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's Not About the Bike

The last couple of weeks have been uncharacteristically self pitying weeks for me. I dislike the post surgical restrictions placed on me - I am ashamed of having to use the lift to go up to my second floor office, I miss not being able to run, and I positively hate not being able to carry my child.

Which perhaps is why I picked up Lance Armstrong's "It's Not About the Bike. My Journey Back to Life" last week. Who doesn't know about the legendary endurance athlete, who made the Tour de France his personal fiefdom? And that after bouncing back from testicular cancer. I thought his account of how he survived cancer would help me put my little blimp into perspective.

To say that I was blown away by the book is a bit of an understatement. A more honest and more inspiring account I haven't read in a long time.

Forget the racing and the chemotherapy (neither of which can really be forgotten), he is nothing if not totally honest about everything. IV fertilization, for instance. I know people who have conceived through IV-fertilisation, but I never suspected so much pain and patience went into the whole procedure if I hadn't read what he has to say about it.

Lance Armstrong is a man of many labels - cancer survivor, sporting legend,spokesperson for cancer, cyclist par excellence. But the label  that defines the man who wrote the books is 'honest'. He is honest about his strengths, he is honest about his shortcomings. He is honest about the grind, he is honest in not treating you to the gory details of it. And in that honesty is inspiration.

A few months back, while congratulating me on finishing the Mumbai half marathon despite a bad attack of cramps, a friend passed on the quote that defines an endurance athlete " Pain is temporary. Quitting is permanent." At that time, I thought Lance Armstrong meant the physical pain of overtaxed muscles. Now I know exactly what he did mean.Life is all about staying in the race.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

When it is already broken

"The way your kids dash against the shelf, that vase is going to topple over and break any day", my mother cautioned me.
"Let it", I said. "I've already reconciled myself to the vase breaking, so when it does break, I wouldn't feel sad at all."

The vase in question is a blue ceramic one which I had, at one point of time, been rather fond of. Truth be told, I still like the vase, but knowing how boistrous my kids can get, I've put a distance between the vase and me so I wouldn't be distraught if something happens to it.

"You may not care about the vase", my mother joked. "But who is going to sweep up the pieces if the vase breaks?"
"That is the easy part", I shot back. "It would be slightly harder to find another container for my bamboo shoots."

Though I joke about it, the fact is that I am mentally reconciled to fact that sooner or later, the vase is going to be smashed. I have played out the scenario in my mind several times - me unemotionally ordering the kids out of the room before sweeping the shards into a garbage bag. In that alternative scenario, I'll place the bamboo shoots in a seldom used jug of water till such time as I am able to get an unbreakable container for them.

My mother didn't share my blase attitude.The vase has now found its way to a seldom frequented corner of the dining room. But even there, the probability of one of the kids running into the vase and breaking it is rather high.

But when you have already accepted that the vase is broken, every day additional day that it stays intact is a bonus, isn't it?

And isn't it the same with Life. The day you start accepting that things are never going to be perfect, that things that can go wrong will go wrong, isn't that the day when you stop being disappointed when things don't go your way?

Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 14, 2009

Three friends

For the last week, my mother has been sitting with my older one every evening, taking down the story that he dictates. As he's grown in confidence, 'the Storyteller' has been getting more possessive about his work, and has not been allowing her to correct either the grammer or the flow of the story.
She's not too happy with this effort, but I rather like it. His narrative technique could do with a bit of polishing, but he is two months short of his sixth birthday, and still speaks English only as a second language.

Three friends - by the Storyteller

One day there was a Lion. He was very hungry. He went to the meat shop. Afterwards he took some meat. Then the lady said, “The meat is finished. Go away, go to another meat shop.” But he didn’t know where the other meat shop was.

Then he went back to the jungle. He called one animal, and its name was Tiger. The lion said to the tiger, “then get a meat tree”. The tiger went and found a meat tree. The lion said, “I am going to eat. You also eat, Tiger.”

Then one more animal was very fast. His name was Cheetah, and cheetah was running very fast. Then the cheetah dashed the lion and tiger. Then the lion said, “Who pushed me will become our friend.” Cheetah said, “I pushed you.”

Then all three became friends.

The End
Written on 9/9/9 at 7:30 pm
I wonder if I am doing the right thing in not editing the story to suit 'my style'.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Colours - Indigo

[Every Woman has a Story. Every Story is associated with a Colour. This series explores some of those.
The photograph is intended only to set the tone for the story.]

People pitied her. They always had.

“Don’t you hate having to wear a chador whenever you step out of the house?”
She had tried explaining, but nobody ever understood that she had chosen to cover herself in public.

“It is so sad that someone so qualified is forced to cover herself!”
Didn’t people realize that in the city everyone was anonymous, even without a chador to strip them of their identity?

Tradition may have demanded it, but it was she who chose to embrace it.
Nobody touches a covered woman. Nobody ogles at her. Is anything more liberating than that?

Drabble(n) - an extremely short work of fiction exactly one hundred words in length.

This is a work of fiction. The characters and situations are purely imaginary, and any resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental and unintended.

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A glass half full

For three weeks before my surgery, and six weeks after, I have had no exercise more strenuous than an occasional walk in the park. And yet, when I climbed onto the weighing scales today, I found that I weigh 2 kilogrammes less than I did the last time I weighed myself.
My clothes tell me that even if I haven’t gained as much weight as I expected to, I haven’t lost any. I know I did not stop myself from indulging in chocolates, so the weight loss cannot be attributed to a better diet. Much as I would like to pretend otherwise, I even know that the weight loss is because of loss of muscle mass due to the forced sedentary lifestyle of the last few weeks. But whatever the reason, it is exhilarating to know that after years of trying to breach the 60 kg mark, I have finally achieved 58Kgs.

I wanted to celebrate the end of the period of enforced rest by a long jog. My stamina has, unfortunately, taken a beating, and I was forced to quit after just 20 minutes.
But a rather productive 20 minutes it was. Because of the forced sabbatical, I found I could not find the old rhythm. Which gave me the window to experiment with my stride. Maybe it will take me more than just a few weeks to get back my old form, but if in that time I am able to get used to the longer stride, I would be able to cover a lot more ground with the same level of effort – always a bonus in distance running.

All these weeks I have been getting restless because I was not able to run. I would be kidding if I pretend that I have not been slightly distressed thinking of the extra effort I would have to put in to reach my former level of fitness. But from that ‘calamity’ has come something much more precious – a better running technique.

Isn’t life like that? We get so easily disheartened when things don’t go exactly the way we want them to. But often, something much better comes out of it, which we chose to ignore. To quote the old chestnut, the same glass that is half empty is also half full.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Coffee makes it possible....

James Bond famously told one of his innumerable girls that he was an expert on giving up smoking because he had done it so often. So it was with me and caffeine.
I would start off with two cups a day. Gradually increase the consumption to three, then settle at four cups a day. A couple of weeks later, I would add one more, then another and stay there for the next few weeks. Occasionally, I would try to take control and knock it back down to two. But two weeks later, one extra cup wouldn’t hurt, and a few days after that two more wouldn’t hurt too much either.

So when I was asked to restrict caffeine, I knew I had to cut it out of my life completely. I missed my coffee, I really did. A mug of warm water was of no comfort at all when I was struggling with a deadline. I missed the process of having the coffee percolate down my filter.
Would I never again be able to spend hours at my favourite coffee shop with nothing but a laptop and a mug of steaming hot café latte for company? Wasn’t 38 too young an age to have to give up something I truly liked? Maybe just the occasional cup?
All or none, I insisted. And the day I was able to resist the aroma of freshly brewed coffee emanating from my colleague’s mug, I knew I had done it. I had gotten over my addiction.

Four weeks after I gave it up, I no longer miss my coffee. It may take me awhile to find surrogates for all the associations I have with the drink, but the caffeine kick I no longer crave.

The caption on my favourite t-shirt now takes on a new meaning, “Coffee makes it possible to get out of bed. Chocolate makes it worthwhile.”
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 10, 2009

School bag tales

He weighs 18 kilograms, but with his school bag, my almost six year old tips the scales at 21 kilograms. Despite being a weights junkie, I find the bag heavy- I don’t even want to know what word my son uses to describe it.

Mathematics workbook, Hindi workbook. English reader, Hindi reader. Class work book, home work book. Social studies text book, diary. One wonders if a kid in Grade one really needs to lug so many books to school everyday?

Even if you take the books out, the bag is heavy. Lunchbox, water bottle, pencil box, raincoat, the bag itself.

Is enough being done to reduce the burden our kids are being forced to shoulder? Or is it a nefarious plot to ensure that India is in with a chance to win the weightlifting gold at the Olympics?

And is this phenomenon restricted only to India? Maybe kids elsewhere have schools bags made of a lightweight titanium alloy?
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Disjoint sets

I always thought there were two kinds of kids - kids who read and kids who watch TV. And to my distress, my kids seemed to fall firmly in the latter category.

The fault, I knew, was mostly mine - putting cartoons on was such a convenient way of keeping them  entertained while I tried to do other stuff. Little did I then realise that giving the kids even a little bit of TV was exposing them to what threatened to be a lifelong addition.
Cartoons and Cereals soon became the norm in my household. I could try any flavour of Kelloggs cornflakes, but they would only go down with Cartoon Network providing the background music. In the evenings, books were completely ignored. But every detail of Ben-10's alien forms could be repeated in excruciating detail.

It wasn't that the kids did not have books to read. If anything, they had too many books to choose from, and in the fond hope of inculcating the reading habit in them, I kept adding to their collection.
It wasn't that the kids did not have role models who read- they live under the same roof as a self confessed book slut.
It wasn't even that I did not try to make time for their reading. Reading a story was always intended to be a part of their bedtime routine, but the effort of getting them away from the TV took so much out of me, I often had no energy left for anything else.

I finally accepted the fact that my kids were not going to grow up to be readers.
Then, the whole lot of unconnected things happened.
The older one learnt to sight read enough words to be able to pierce a story together.
The younger one fell in love with a set of slightly moralistic stories told in a lighter vein and insisted on having three of them read out every night - 'one for me, one for my brother, and one for you'.
The older one realised that some books contained information about the things he was passionate about.
The younger one discovered the joy of commenting on photographs and counting numbers.
The miracle I was hoping for happened. I had two young book lovers in the family.

Now, when they are in a mood for it, you can't seem keep the kids away from their books. I have even seen the older one reading aloud to his brother when I am not around.
The kids are still addicted to the TV, but they are equally fond of books. The two sets are not disjoint after all.

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Ever since my friend Mari blogged about how sketching giraffes has almost become her trademark, I have been doodling elephants everywhere.

Meetings that go on long past their scheduled time have now taken on a new meaning. More elephants can be found in my spiral-bound, square-line notebook than in the forests of Mudumalai.

The car window steamed up on the way to work, and before I knew it, an elephant was up there engrossed in observing the street life of Bombay.

My son wanted a star for doing his homework well. He got an elephant instead.

I sketched an elephant on the fly-page of a book I recently bought even before signing my name.

But I knew things had gone too far when I caught my elephant just before she lumbered onto a cheque.

Maybe I need to have a strict conversation with my elephant patronus and ask her to keep her sisters in check. Much as I adore pachyderms, I am not sure if I really want them to take over my life.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 7, 2009

Creative license


The God with the Head of an Elephant, and the Body of a Human.

He broke a tusk off either to use as a pen, or to fight a warrior. Whichever story you believe, he has only one tusk.

A God with a cheery disposition- one you will rarely see with a frown.

He’s never seen without his mouse- can’t move about without his vehicle, can he?

A head full of hair, because he was a rather cute boy before his head got knocked off.


Though it looks nothing like how the Elephant God is depicted in popular culture, I love my son’s representation because it is so accurate. Isn’t that at the soul of Art?
Posted by Picasa


Related Posts with Thumbnails