Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Boys and their toys

A five year old who doesn't just want to ride his bicycle, he wants to ride it FAST, even before the training wheels have been taken off.
Teenages sneaking out their father’s cars and driving them in fifth gear even before they’ve cleared their driving test.
Thirty somethings drawing six figure salaries spending a perfectly good weekend watching a bunch of cars go round and round the same circuit.
A mature corporate citizen introducing into already overcrowded roads a not too safe car that costs less than many high end bicycles.

What is it about boys and their automotive toys?
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Monday, March 30, 2009

On Gudi Padwa

Among all the young girls looking very uncomfortable in their nine-yard saree, she stood out because of the grace with which she carried off her everyday attire.

The music started, the girls all began to dance. You could see she wanted to join in, but she didn’t. ‘Why?’, I wondered. Though older than the rest, she seemed fit for her age. Surely it was not an arthritic back or bad knees that was keeping her from dancing.

None of that. She was encumbered with a heavy polythene bag. The moment she handed it over, she joined in all the fun.
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Sunday, March 29, 2009

My favourite day

“Sundays is my favourite day”, said my son a couple of weekends back. They hadn’t done anything too special that day– just run around the building a couple of times and played in the slightly rickety playground. What they treasured was a day when they could do as they pleased.
I did feel a teeny bit guilty- did I have to go to work? Could I not give them a day like that everyday?
But the kids who run wild everyday take it as their due. My kids value the day when they don’t have restrictions- they appreciate it more.
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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Venus shining star

“Nine children of the Sun, planets they are called.”
I was singing the song that my five-year old was taught in school to the three-year old.
“Mercury is the hottest one, Venus shining star,
Earth is the planet…..”

His glare told me that something was wrong.
“Why are you saying Venus is a star? You only told us Venus is a planet.”
Caught. In. A. Blind-Alley. No. Chance. Of. Escape.
“I’m sorry, baby. You are right Venus is a planet.”

How could I know he was processing the lyrics when he was supposed to be concentrating on the tune?

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Wednesday - the movie

‘A Wednesday’ was a movie almost everyone I met and didn’t meet said was a Must See. Finally managed to see it over the weekend, and was not disappointed.

To someone who knew the ending was unexpected, the outcome was quite predictable. But the climax was not the climatic action scene, it was what could have been a boring monologue, or worse, a harangue, but which, post-November 26, was just grim reality beautifully articulated.

I’d recommend the movie to everyone, but going by my normal track record, I was perhaps the last person who hadn’t seen it before this weekend.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bonding with the blue

Ever since my son nearly drowned, I have stayed away from the pool. Not because I fear water, but because I just couldn’t bring myself to go in. So when a friend told me she had bonded with the blue, I knew I had to make peace with Water, and do it NOW.

There were dozens of reasons not to – I was in office, I haven’t been getting enough sleep and was drowsy, my swimming costume was close to falling apart, my cap was missing – but I decided to ignore all of them, left early, changed into the threadbare costume and gingerly stepped in.

The water exactly how I remembered it – cool, inviting, friendly. My body knew exactly what to do, and the slight numbness that settled in my arms during the second lap disappeared completely by the sixth. I have never done more than a dozen laps before – today I comfortably did twenty. And when I got out, my drowsiness had vanished, and I was feeling more perky than I do after my Sunday lie-in.

I owe myself many more hours in the pool, even if it kills me to schedule them in.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spiderplants for his birthday

On my son's birthday, I went to my Nursery to pick up plants to give his classmates. Since they were learning all about plants and seeds in class, I thought the spider plant would be most appropriate.

"Do you want normal ones, or the ones which give baby plants?", the gardener asked.
"The ones that give babies", I replied immediately - that is the whole point of spiderplants, isn't it?

Three months to the day after I got the plants home, the plant flowered.

The baby plants will grow into big plants someday, but it is the memory of the flowers that I will treasure forever.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I want to be an astronaut

“I’m going to become an astronaut”, declared the older one during a lengthy discussion on the planets in the solar system. “Then I can see the rings of Saturn, and play with the mice on Io. I can paint more colours on Jupiter, and play with Pluto, the smallest one.”
“Do you want to be an astronaut too”, I asked the younger one. “There are normally two astronauts in rocket, so both of you can be one.”
“No, I don’t want to be an astronaut”, he snorted. “I want to be a rocket. Rockets have fire.”

The things they say!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Choosing happiness

My friend is a content editor by profession, and a dancer and writer by passion. She lives life to the fullest, but, she is almost scared to show people how happy she really is. Because all people choose to see is the image she projects, and they get envious.

But she is also the mother of two pre-schoolers, and for her life is the constant juggling of priorities, the frustration when things go off schedule, the sheer fatigue of constantly pushing yourself always.

She pays a high price for her happiness. Why can’t others emulate her, instead of being envious?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Magenta for bougainvilleas

“What does magenta look like?” It was the five year old.
“Something like pink and purple mixed”, I said, “let me show you.”
I took him to the bougainvillea and let him pluck a handful. He was thrilled, and even took the ‘flowers’ to school the next day.

I could have corrected him. Told him that they were not flowers, but varicoloured leaves. That flowers are actually tiny and white, and are almost invisible. But I did not. Time enough for that when he is older. For now, I’m just happy that he too loves one of my favourite plants.
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Saturday, March 21, 2009

What does my future hold, I wonder?

A young girl in a municipal school. Doing reasonably well, but not spectacularly. Father earning just enough to keep the family afloat. Mother taking on odd jobs to supplement the income. Brother about to enter college- he will get his degree come what may. She is determined to get an education, but will circumstances let her?
And after that what? A job? Marriage? Children? Juggling home and work? Running continuously just to stay in one place! Would she be able to send her daughter to a good school? Ensure a better life for her child?
Will anything change? Can it?
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Friday, March 20, 2009

Reading habit

“Both of us are voracious readers, but my eight-year old just doesn’t like books”, wailed a friend

Parents who are readers do not necessarily spawn children who read. You need to really work at it.

Today, my kids have their meals without the TV on. But to get there, I had to get them a comic of their favourite TV show and read it during mealtimes. I’d resisted that for a long time, but now I realise that was the only way to get them interested in books.

They are still not book sluts. But they may just get there.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


“Turn the piece you are holding counter-clockwise ninety degrees.”
I was greeted with stunned silence, punctuated with a few discrete sniggers. The advice that my son has been able to follow since he was four, seemed too complicated for the average adult mind.

We had been playing a team game where blindfolded people put together a picture following directions from people outside the play-area. For someone who prefers to do things herself, it was difficult to just direct. Frustrating too. Also challenging.

Hard to let go. But liberating too.

And I have a lot more respect for my son now!
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dehumanised humans

I was hugging one end of the over-bridge. She was running up at top speed, expecting everyone to get out of her path. I didn’t react in time, she collided with me, sent my book flying.
Something snapped in me. I grabbed her, demanded to know why she was not carrying a white stick to proclaim that she was blind.
She didn’t understand what the fuss was about. She had a train to catch.
“Is that your train?”, I hissed. “I’ll make sure you miss it.”
And I did.

What is it about Bombay that dehumanises us to this extent?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Scary, but...

“Who is the King of Beasts?”, asked the proud father for the third time.
“Okay, which animal swings from trees and has a long tail?”, he persisted.
“How many times do I have to tell you? Lion! Monkey!”, said the exasperated three-year old.

I recognized myself, not just in the words, but also in the voice, the intonation, the tilt of the head. Sometimes it is scary to see just how much of you your kids absorb. How many verbal and non-verbal cues they pick up. How many of your mannerisms they make their own.
Scary, but also exhilarating.

Monday, March 16, 2009

What is her name?

"What is Samarth's mother's name?", my five-year old asked me for the sixth thing in ten minutes.

"I am fed up of telling you that she is Veena Aunty", I snapped. "If you ask me one more time, see what I do to you."

A moment of silence. Then, "do you know what Samarth's mother's name is?"


"I'll tell you. She is Tabala Aunty", he grinned, daring me to contradict him.

I did not. A sense of humour is one thing I've always wished for my children to have. And I love that he is developing a quirky one.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The humble Marigold

Deep orange, bright yellow, or maroon and gold- the marigold is one flower you can never get away from in India. Markets during festivals are filled with mountains of marigold flowers waiting to be strung into garlands and torans.

And yet, it is precisely the abundance of the flower that denies it the status it deserves.

Marigolds are used in worship, but you will never see a lady wearing marigold flowers in her hair. Almost every doorway sports marigold torans, but when was the last time you saw marigold flowers arranged in a crystal vase?
Indians rarely list marigolds as a favourite flower, and yet, it is the one flower that rarely fails to evoke nostalgic memories in non-resident Indians.

A friend loves the flower so much, she has even named her house ‘Marigold’ – she dreams of growing every variety of the flower in her garden someday. I am not so ambitious. But what I love doing is helping my sons take the flower apart, sprinkle it in the soil and watch the plants germinate and grow.
The grand progeny of the flowers I used during Diwali are flowering in my garden today.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Favourite songs

“Now, the Mamma will sing their baby’s favourite song with their babies”, announced the teacher.

I was in a fix. I have no idea what my three-year old’s favourite song is. Not that we don’t sing songs together, but they are all made-up numbers set to tune by a musically challenged me.

My son saved the day by grabbing the mike and humming a song I recognized as ‘Jai Ho’.

But I wonder how people would have reacted, if we had launched into “Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars…”, or “The King of the Jungle pounces on me, R-O-A-R goes the Lion.”

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sandbag Fortress

It is the High Court building that the uniformed policeman is guarding.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009


My bag got picked today. The thief unzipped the bag, took my purse and the pouch containing my mobile phone, house keys and flashdrive, without my even being aware of it.

Onlookers managed to wrest the purse away from him, but the rest of the stuff is lost forever. It would be expensive to replace all the stuff, but would have been much worse if it had been my credit cards that were stolen.

Strangely, it is not anger I feel against the thief. It is sheer gratitude towards the people who got the rest of it back for me.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Is he helping his sister move houses? Or carrying the gear of an entire cricket team to the station? Maybe he is a luggage delivery boy ferrying stock to and from the store?
Are those bags fully loaded, or totally empty? Are they new, or have they been used?
A three-wheeler is not supposed to take more than three adult passengers- is it allowed to take so many pieces of luggage? And if one falls off, would the person accompanying them even know?
So many questions, so few answers. I just hope the vehicle is upto taking the extra load.
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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Shoes on little feet

For some strange reason, I thought shoes were meant to be worn. To keep the feet from getting dirty when you ran in the mud. To protect them from getting hurt when you stepped on something sharp.
Apparently not.
Shoes are something you slip your feet into when you step out of the house, and abandon as soon as you can. Shoes deny you the grip when you try to climb up the slidey part of a slide. They don’t let you feel the roughness of sand or the smoothness of metal.
Shoes are pretty, but not on little feet.
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Monday, March 9, 2009

The Special Child

She strolled across the stage where her schoolmates were performing. A pretty girl, immediately recognisable for the special child that she was.
Two songs later, she was easily the best dancer in her group. Others went through the motions- her body was one with the music she was dancing to!
Having tasted applause, you just couldn't keep her away. She wandered into every song, and within moments was able to pick up even the most intricate steps.

Few schools would have allowed her to ‘mess up’ the carefully choreographed show. I am proud my son’s school let her be herself.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Womans' Day

"Happy Womans' Day", said a couple of SMSes, all of which I ignored.
"Happy Womans' Day", wished a friend when we bumped into each other at the ATM. "And the same to you," I said, "for whatever it is worth."

There are several reasons why I don't get excited about Womens' Day.
For one, special days are celebrated only for the marginalised- and I definitely do not qualify. The only child of doting parents, there was nothing I lacked, and the only thing that was, perhaps, denied me because of my gender was cricket coaching, and even that I would have been provided had I asked for it. Few men in the country have grown up with as many opportunities as I have, so I definitely do not deserve a 'day' to draw attention to my plight.

For another, by celebrating one day as 'Woman' Day', is anything going to change for anyone?
Will the woman who wakes up at 5 am to prepare breakfast and lunch for her family before rushing off to a mindless job which pays for school tuition get the chance to lie-in even one day a week because of Womans' Day?
Will Womans' Day give the grandmother who has been blackmailed into caring for her grandchild so the mother can go off to work the strength to stand up and tell her children that she has earned a peaceful retirement?
Will Womans' Day provide solutions to any of the professionally qualified women who are forced to become full-time mothers because few employers are willing to look at people who do not commit their entire life to a job?
Do my maidservant, the fruit vendor, the lady begging outside a temple, the mother cooking and serving meals on the pavement, any of the women I see but do not see every day even know today is their day?

And hence, I would rather not celebrate Womans' Day.

Rather, I would want to celebrate everyday the spirit of womanhood that keeps all my sisters going even when there seems nothing to look forward to.

And nothing epitomises that spirit better than this picture of a lady who has taken such pains to dress up for something as mundane as vegetable shopping.
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Friday, March 6, 2009

Circles and more

“What is this?”, I asked the three-year-old, pointing to a slightly misshapen circle.

I couldn’t get what he said, so repeated, “What is this? A circle?”

“Igloo!”, he replied matter of factly.

If I was surprised at the answer, I tried not to show it. “And who lives in an igloo?”, I asked.

“Polar bear”, said he. Not entirely accurate, but near enough.

“And who told you about igloos?”, I asked expecting to hear he learnt it at school.

“My brother”, he replied, his tone adding the “who else” his words left out.

Oh to have a brother like that.

Luncheon of the Boating Party

I always loved the Impressionists, and though Renoir was never my favourite painter, I’ve always loved his ‘Luncheon of the Boating Party’.

So, when ‘The Burrow’ decided to pick a painting where each of us could pick a detail to write a story to, this was the first painting I thought of.

Outwardly, an idyllic scene with, happy people, if you look closely, you can almost sense the tension between the various characters.

Almost none of the people are looking directly at each other – every single one of them has a story to tell.

This month, we tell them all.
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Thursday, March 5, 2009

And what does one do?

And now, a genuine crisis.

My older one is learning about the Solar System in school, and the younger one has always been fascinated by heavenly bodies, so these days, most story sessions revolve around making up stories about planets and stars.
But today, when I was telling the kids about the small plants and the large ones, the older one wanted to talk instead about Venus, and her pretty rings.

“Venus doesn’t have rings, sweetie”, said I. “Saturn does.”
“No, Venus has rings”, he insisted.
“Venus doesn’t.” I said. “Only Saturn and Uranus do.”
“No, Venus has rings. Teacher said so.”
This time I had to put my foot down. “I am sure you misheard your teacher. But if she did tell you that Venus has rings, she is mistaken. Venus doesn’t have rings and I am prepared to tell your teacher that, and back it up with photographs.”

The exchange ended in a stalemate. He is now going to ask his father to adjudicate.
I’ll pre-warn the father, and make sure he gives the right answers.

BUT, just because a situation is controllable, doesn't mean I have to like it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Time out Joint

Vile Parle station at 9:38 am, or is it 9:32 am?

One and a half degrees of longitude must run between the two sides of the platform!
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Monday, March 2, 2009

What music would they play?

Got tagged on this forward -
This is my album cover! If you have a spare 15mins...
1 - Go to "wikipedia." Hit “random... Read More”
The first random wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.
2 - Go to "Random quotations"
The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.
3 - Go to flickr and click on “explore the last seven days”
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.
4 - Use photoshop or similar to put it all together.

Never thought it would work, but this album cover does seem rather professional, doesn't it? Is that how random music has actually becomes?

And any thoughts on the kind of music they play?
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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Commie Spiderman

Spiderman, the pizza delivery guy, dropping into Mc Donalds for a quick burger, I can understand. But what is harder to imagine is Spidey at a Communist rally - was he just observing, or had he come expecting trouble?

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