Sunday, January 31, 2010
She was everything I hated. I denounced her from the pulpit. Predicted eternal hell for her offspring.
She said love was not a sin, hate was. She remained unrepentant; she continued to attend my church.
She asked for me before she died.
"Father", she confessed. "You are my first-born child."
She died. I have to go on living. How?
People who live in glass houses... should not throw stones.
Drabble(n) - an extremely short work of fiction exactly one hundred words in length.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
As a nation, we do not encourage children to take up sports, and we actively discourage our girls from taking up any sport. Since she hasn't played since she was a child, even if she wants to, it would be difficult for a woman over the age of 20 to take up any organised sport. But running is the great equaliser- human beings are genetically programmed to run, and a woman taking up running at the age of 36 is in exactly the same situation as is a man of the same age taking up the sport. Men and women of similar levels of fitness and stamina return comparable timings, and the percentage of woman successfully completing a long distance race is no different from the percentage of men doing the same.
"I can't", she replied before elaborating. "Just don't have the stamina."
"Neither did I when I started out", I assured her. "But it is something that can be built up."
"Maybe", she shrugged. "But I just don't have the time."
Running, to me, is almost like meditation. It is the one time when I transcend all the roles I play - mother, wife, colleague, daughter, friend - and am just myself. It is the one time when I can let the mind wander free. The time when I can think what I want, or not think at all. Apart from all the physical benefits, running puts you in touch with yourself, and that is something all women should cherish. I just wish the fraternity of Runner Girls could grow.
[The photograph is of me running last Sunday's marathon. And yes, the percentage of women to men was was disproportionate as it appears in the photograph.]
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
A lot has happened in my country in six decades. There were the Nehruvian years when, as a leader of the Non-aligned Movement, India was a force to reckon with in the world. Then came the years when India strugged with internal and external deamons- when the vicious cycle of poverty and population sought to pull the nation under. Political upheavals, religious tension and parochialism did them bit too. And then the upturn of the last few years - where the nation has started discovering its sense of self, and has started looking for solutions rather than trying to pin the blame.
I have been lucky to be a part of the new India. An India which accepts that most institutions have failed to deliver, and which is looking for alternatives. The government machinery has failed miserably in providing primary education, but NGOs are working with government to meet that pressing need. India was once described as the land of beggars; they haven't disappeared, but many of them have morphed into small-time salesmen.
Affordable healthcare is non-existant, basic infrastructure remains a distant dream, the percantage of women in the workplace has gone up despite the lack of adequte childcare facilities rather than because of it, politics continues to be dominated by a few families. But, India, today, is an optimistic nation. A nation determined to succeed.
Even ten years back, Indians defined success as 'getting out of the country'. Today, it is possible to be proud to be an Indian in India.
Happy Birthday, Motherland.
Monday, January 25, 2010
The entire office went river rafting last week. Eight to a raft, eleven rafts in all. I barely knew the people on my raft, had worked with none of them. With a five minute orientation, and the minimum of practice, we were off. None of us had rowed before, only I knew how to swim. But we had our life jackets and helmets, and we had an instructor who had been taking teams as inexperienced as ours down rivers for almost a decade. We were in safe hands.
The river was beautiful, the banks oozed tranquility, and the occasional waves that threw the raft about gave us thrills. We were loving the experience. But paddling? That was a different issue altogether. Though all of us put our heart and soul into paddling, we were all paddling at different speeds, and kept hitting each other with the paddles. Often, our strokes were perfect, but we were doing it outside the water. We tried matching our strokes, but to no avail. I was pretty sure the raft was moving forward despite our effort, not because of it.
And then, just before we approached the first stretch of grade 3 rapids, a large wave shook the raft and knocked one of us over. He was carried away faster than the boat was moving. The instructor yelled out commands, and we obeyed. Our strokes were synchronised, we were rowing in rhythm. Even before we needed to let our collective breath out, we had reached him, and managed to pull him aboard.
After the incident, we continued to row as a team. It was as if we needed a team member to go overboard before we could become a team. Maybe that is what teamwork is all about.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
You pretend to be so self-contained. Give the impression of not caring about what people think. And yet you care desperately. Your mother’s approval means more to you than anything else.
You never let up an opportunity to fight with your brother. You want everything that he has, even the things you hate. And yet, when he gets a scolding, you get more upset than him. When he is in trouble, you fly to his rescue.
Your independence exasperates me, your affection overwhelms me. I know you expect a lot from me. Darling, I hope I never let you down.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful and brilliant? That she loved Mozart and Bach, the Beatles, and me? Once I asked her in what order, and she said "alphabetically". I don't know if considered me by my surname, in which case I would be there between Bach and the Beatles, or if she.......
Requiescat in pace
"Aren't you a good Catholic girl?""I am good, and I am a girl. Two out of three isn't bad, is it?"
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
When I signed up for the full marathon in July, I was only thinking of the distance to be covered. It was only in the week leading up to the race that I realised that most of the race would be run under the sun, which even in January can be quite merciless. Every rational part of me was telling me to back out, but I refused to listen. Which is why, today, I can proudly say I am a marathoner.
One quote sums it up perfectly - "The miracle is not that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start."
And isn't that what my New Year Resolution Word, Do, is all about?
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
"I wish there was a dislike button! Am not for the term winners and losers! Not winning does not take away anything from the achievement - which loser seems to signify! "
Monday, January 18, 2010
Sunday, January 17, 2010
“Same thing! What’s gotten into you in your old age?”
Perhaps she was mad! In her 82 years, she’d played many roles. Daughter. Granddaughter. Sister. Cousin. Niece. Friend. Sister-in-law. Aunt. Wife. Daughter-in-law. Mother. Confidant. Mother-in-law. Grandmother. Great-grandmother. Only one role eluded her- “Me”.
It took her seven hours to finish. The sidewalks were lined with people cheering her. Her great-grandchildren hugged her at the finish line.
Next year, she would attempt the full!
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Friday, January 15, 2010
Thursday, January 14, 2010
That state of bliss lasted till last month, when the status messages of most of my friends spoke about gingerbread men, gingerbread houses and even gingerbread Towers of London. One spoke about beheading a dozen of them to cope with Christmas stress, another put up pictures of what she claimed were a lopsided house. I could not bear to not jump on the bandwagon.
The internet gave me dozens of recipies. I chose one that I thought made the most sense. The kids helped with the measuring, the mixing and the kneading. It was a fun project.
It was only when I pulled out the rolling pin that I realised I did not have the one thing every recipie took for granted - a gingerbread man cutter.
Having made the dough, I improvised. Four custommade gingerbread men, two of which broke apart even before I took them off the baking dish.
To be honest, I wasn't displeased with the result. They could have turned out a lot better, but they could as well have ended up being a lot worse. They were okay as they were.
I'm definitely doing it again next year. Only need to decide whether I should invest in a gingerbread man cutter before that, or to continue the tradition I started this year.
And yes, this post should have been up a few weeks back, but I have got increasingly lazy about downloading photographs :-(
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Monday, January 11, 2010
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Some fun is going on…. just write the color of your bra in your status. Just the color, nothing else. And send this on to ONLY girls, no men …. It will be neat to see if this will spread the wings of cancer awareness. It will be fun to see how long it takes before the men will wonder why all the girls have a color in their status.
Pass it on & be sure to do your breast self-exams!
Mine was white, a colour I was almost ashamed to admit to after seeing the exotic 'shocking pinks', 'deep purples', 'leopard prints' and 'purple plaids' others had on. Three friends didn't have a colour to report and said as much. The most popular colour among my friends was the colour of the current season - purple - never knew my friends were that fashion conscious! Another made me feel good by admitting that her's 'used to be white - but alas the Chennai water. Now its sandy beach.'
Left no one guessing - the men caught on pretty fast. One 'decided to stay from facebook today. Too much colour to handle in a day', and another was 'amused to note the sudden colour-sensitivity on status updates'.
It was fun. It did tell me that I should go lingere shopping.
BUT, it also reminded me to do my breast self exam.
In October, the sister-in-law of a dear friend had to undergo a masectomy. The same month, a friend lost his wife to breast cancer. Any of us could get it. But so confident are we of our own immortality, we choose not to think about it till something reminds us of it. This fun campaign did.
Whether we love them or hate them, we are lucky to have our breasts, and not two scars where they ought to be. And even more we are lucky to be alive.
And if an irreverant campaign like this one makes us do what needs to be done, let there be many more of them.
And it is white again today- a granny white. But I am picking up a more glamourous piece on the way home today.
Painting by Simon Claridge
Friday, January 8, 2010
Thursday, January 7, 2010
An indulgent smile was my first reaction to that. I had just bought a pair or sparkly silver shoes that I had worn to work every day for the past couple of days. A collegue infomed me they looked like Cinderella's shoes, and I couldn't disagree. They definitely 'looked' like a fragile pair of shoes that one would wear to a ball. The shoes were showy, almost bordering on obstentatition, and they were definitely not 'Me'.
And yet, they were 'me', because despite their looks, the shoes were high on comfort. They were flat heeled, canvas shoes, perfect for running to catch a train, and for trudge home in. The shoes perfectly complimente my no-nonsense knapsack- only, they do not look as though they do.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
By the time I spelt out 'enjoyed' and 'ghost', I knew he was upto something. Fifteen minutes of hard work later, he showed this to me-
His first story. Not the first story he has made up (not by a long shot), but the first story that he wrote down on his own, and without prompting. I had been feeling slightly guilty about perhaps neglecting my two kids because I had been too busy penning my story. But no longer. If this is what neglect brings, neglect is what kids need!
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
The immensely talented Elspeth Antonelli uses Wordle to track if she has been using words more often than they should be used, and other things as useful as that. For me, it is pure art.
Monday, January 4, 2010
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Don't ask me why I went looking for a beggar- it is a long story. A very long story involving my mother, a partial lunar eclipse happening my moon sign and an old superstition about giving alms after an eclipse to get rid of the negative effects it has on you.
One would think that finding a beggar in Bombay would be as easy as finding a man chewing gum on the streets of New York - after all, isn't this a country where beggars find you, rather than the other way around? Not! I walked in a direction which I knew attracted the less fortunate, but after 15 minutes of looking, I didn't find a single beggar. There were men with missing limbs selling handkerchifs, there were children in rags selling vegetables, there were destitute looking women selling neem sticks. But there were no beggars! Since the donation I was wanting to make was higher than the anticipated daily income of any of those people, I could have given the money to any of them, but I could not bring myself to insult a tradesperson by giving them alms.Since my directionless searching was not yielding results, I decided to be more strategic about it. Which is the one place most people visit on New Year's Day? The temple, church, mosque or gurudwara. That was where I should be looking - there were no beggars on the streets, because they were all begging near the places of worship. The realisation came to me in a blinding flash, and I walked on air all the way to the nearest temple. No beggars. Maybe they were somewhere else. I checked out four temples, one church, and three mosques, and drew a blank at all of them. There were women selling flowers, and men selling religious amulets. But no beggars anywhere.
I was frustrated at not being able to do what I had set out to do, but even more I was mad at myself. When I did not believe the stars controlled my destiny, why did I have to believe any of the stuff about the eclipse happening against the backdrop of the zodiac sign that was in ascendent when I was born? But since so many things had gone wrong last year, I did not want to take a chance on things going wrong again. Which is why I was rushing from one place of worship to another on a cold and dark January evening when I should have been home with my family.
I finally reached a decision- I would go home and make an online donation to a charity. Even after taking away the 3% the online platform would charge for the service, and the 20% administration overheads that any non-profit would carry, most of the money would directly reach a person who needed help. That was subverting the rules a bit, but the rules were written at a time when people begged. I started walking homewards, then remembered a tiny darga tucked away in a narrow lane near the train tracks. I remembered seeing burqua clad women seeking alms there, and I did find one old lady there, in who's hands I happily pressed the money and walked away after giving her a big smile.
India does seem to be moving away from being a nation of beggars to being a nation of small entrepreneurs. And despite the weary feet, my heart sings when I think of my trials of yesterday evening.
I had blogged about this more than a year back too.