Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ocimum tenuiflorum

Judging by its popularity on urban windowsills, tulsi must be a simple plant to grow. And yet, I have been singularly unlucky.

Four times I bought the plant, four times it perished. Each time I tried rationalising – over-watering, under-watering, over-watering again. But the fourth time, even I couldn’t invent a reason, I gave up.

And then, one seed riding on the wind decided it liked my fifth floor balcony and set roots there.

I ignored it and it thrived. Perhaps it craves neglect.

And till the plant decides it doesn’t like me, I pamper my cold with tulsi chai.
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Monday, June 29, 2009

The Working Woman

During a recent workshop, I was paired off with a lady who I have known for two years without ever getting to know her. We had an hour to talk to each other. To go beyond offices dynamics and discover the real person behind the designation we normally interact with. It was a time of revelation for me.

I knew her husband was working in Dubai, and that she and her daughter lived with her in-laws. I knew 'diligence' was her middle name, and that to give her something to do was to know that it would be done on time.

What I did not know was that she did not employ a maid at home. What I barely suspected was that she got up at 4:30 every morning to clean the house, wash her clothes, and prepare breakfast and lunch. I knew she left home at 6:45 every morning, and made straight for office after dropping her daughter off at school. What I did not know was that after she got home at 8:30 in the evening, she spent an hour supervising her daughter's school work before serving dinner and washing up after that. While I might have expected her to crib about the amount of work she had to do at home, she was actually thankful that her mother in law cooked the evening meal.

I asked her when she went to bed, and she told me that she slept for 5 to 6 hours.

"How do you manage with so little sleep?", I couldn't help asking.

"I am used to it right from my college days", she said. "I used to finish morning classes, then go to office. After work, I had my shorthand and typing classes. I didn't have to cook those days, but I did do the dishes and the laundry."

After hearing her story, I felt almost guilty about seeking self actualization. I choose to drive myself to physical exhaustion because I want to remain mentally active. Many people I know wonder how and why I take on as much as I do. But here is someone doing a lot more than I could even dream of doing, and doing it not because she wants to, but because she needs to.

I wonder how many of the people I meet everyday on the train have stories similar to hers. I don't possess a hat, but if I did, I would doff it to her, and all the others like her.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Colours - Pink

[Every woman has a story. Every story has a colour. This is just one of them.]

[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.]

She never through of herself as a Pink. Neither a soft, feminine pink. Nor a hot, saucy one.

She was just She. A person, not a woman. A person who accepted others as they were. Who neither judged, nor condemned. Who had no time for battles, nor the inclination to fight. A person at peace with herself. A Pacific White!

Till those she held dear were threatened. She rose to do battle. She became Fiery Red. A lioness defending her young.

She is a Mother. White she is, but white tinged with Red. Like it or not, she is Pink.

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

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Dowdy no more

I just had to mention how dowdy the women in my younger one's school made me feel, and a whole bunch of friends swung into action.
Here are just some of the comments it got -

"Well there are people who buy $100 sweat suits... but you don't want to be them. And the women who do their hair just to drop their kids off need to get a life."

"It takes all kinds. And for the non-parlour kinds (like us), that is a world of waste. We probably look like beasts. But, what the heck, we love what we are doing..."

"Hey join the club - on the days that I do manage to go and pick up or drop Tara I feel so frumpy it is not funny ….we dont feel like real women just by visiting parlours! It takes a lil mores ubstance than that."

"…they might be going just cause they have nothing else to do ...everyone wants to be busy some way ..."

"Life after all, is not a Revlon ad :-D

But, what the heck! I for one, would def like to escape, albeit once in a whole, to being a character in a book! I like feel good movies. Feel good books. feel good foods. feel good beverages! ahem!
Then why not a feel good session! he he he he"

If I had not already gotten over being made to feel so dowdy, I would have definitely done so after hearing what my friends had to say. These are women who lead fulfilled lives, and if they go to the parlour regularly, it is to relax and rejuvenate, rather than to primp themselves up. I am in the company I would like to be in.

Strangely, while I never seem to have time to visit a parlour, if you count the time spent on physical fitness as time spent in the pursuit of physical perfection, I probably clock in more hours than the manicured crowd!


Friday, June 26, 2009

Seasons - Summer

Summer!!! Summer holidays!!!

Visiting grandparents in Madras. Making sand castles in the front yard. Weaving tiny mats out of coconut fronds. More coconut water than you ever thought you could drink.

Walking to the beach. Running away from waves. Watching crabs dive into the sand. Collecting sea shells. Hunting for pairs, rejoicing when you found a spiral one.

Warm nights tempered by the strong sea breeze. The starry sky. A story accompanying every pin-point of light.

Trips to the temple. Setting the polished brass bells pealing. Women selling flowers to wear in your hair.

Summers were always special to me.
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Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Birthday Gift

An overloaded work week, too long with too little sleep, trains more crowded than normal, slushy underfoot. I was in a really bad mood when I got home, and when the kids got into the act, I could take it no longer.

“I have had enough”, I told them without shouting. “It is my birthday today, and I have been given a gift. I have been told that I can leave the two of you and become the Mamma of two really nice, well behaved children. You will then get a new Mamma, a bad Mamma, who keeps your hands and feet tied up all day, and never lets you watch TV. Do you want that Mamma, or do you want me. If you want me, you come to me and promise you will be nice boys who listen to what I say.” I walked out of the room.

Minutes later, the older one came to me and said, “Happy Birthday, Mamma. I love you. I am sorry.”
“Thank you. But I don’t want any sorries. All I want is for you to decide if you want to keep me or if you want the other Mamma.”

A few minutes later, he was back again. “Sorry , Mamma.”
“You don’t have to be. Just discuss things with your brother and tell me if you want me or not.”

Ten minutes later, he was back again, with his drawing book.

“This is your birthday gift, Mamma. This is you”, he said pointing to the colourful figure. “And this is the two of us playing happily inside you.”

I looked up at him. His eyes were expectant, apprehensive. I hugged him tight. Told him he was the bestest child any mother could hope to have.

Sometimes a picture speaks more than all the words in the world put together.

It was the best Birthday gift that anyone could hope for.
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Still a Baby

Exactly a year back, my mother called me up around 9 am. Even before she could get a word in, I burst out crying. I could not help it.
My older one had been running very high temperature for the past three days and there seemed no cure in sight. My younger one had just started Nursery and showed no signs of wanting to settle in. I had deadlines to meet, and neither the time nor the inclination to work. I needed medicines, but had no way of getting them without dragging a sick child to the pharmacy.
I’d reached the end of my tether, and I knew that unless I got a hug from the only person who knew how to right all wrongs, I would not last the day.

I sobbed into the phone. Incoherent words expressing all the pent-up anguish. I am sure she had no idea what had brought me to the state I was in, but she knew exactly what to do. She let me cry till my tears were exhausted. She had advice on how to deal with the younger one. She did not have any other answers. But she was there, when I needed her. And that is all that mattered.

I turn 38 today. I am seven and a half years older than my mother was when she had me. And yet, I am still her baby.
For all our differences, she is the only person who I trust to kiss my wounds better. I suppose that is what being a mother is all about.

And when my kids are my age, would they need me as much as I need my mother?


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Unqualified fun

My kids have been wanting to go to Infiniti Mall for ages, and I finally gave in on Sunday.
They were visiting after a long time, so had fun. But, it was fun with a but…
There were tantrums when the younger one was not allowed into the jungle gym because he was half an inch too short. There were long faces when I made them choose between two rides instead of allowing them both. And they were a little upset that I did not let them pick up yet another Spiderman movie.
By the time I got home, I was wondering if the expedition was even worth it.

In the evening, it rained. We slipped on our raincoats and went down to play. The playground was deserted, so the kids got to ride the swings for over half an hour. They loved stretching their legs out and feeling the raindrops fall on the bare skin. They enjoyed the cool air brushing past them. I introduced them to the fresh smell the earth gives out when rainwater strikes it. We sang “Raindrops keep falling on our head”, and tried to catch the drops on our tongue.

We had much more fun than we have ever had at the Mall. Why then do the kids consider that the greatest treat?


Monday, June 22, 2009

Adenium obesum

Flowers I always knew were created not so much for the aesthetic appeal they held, but because on pollination, they produced seeds which eventually grew into new plants.

City living must, however, have made me forget this, because when I first found green pods on my adenium, my reaction was equal parts surprise and shock. The pods grew, matured, and one fine day my spare room was full of seeds that I eventually traced to the adenium pods.

I wonder how many of them, I any, will germinate.

Follow the sage...
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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Colours - Red

[Every woman has a story. Every story has a colour. This is just one of them.

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.]

She saw the most delightful pair of shoes at a shop-window. On an impulse, she walked in, put down her bulging shopping bags and asked to try them on.

They were a perfect fit. The three-inch heels less uncomfortable than they appeared.

She was crazy to desire the pair. They would not go with her clothes. Where would she wear them?

“I’ll take these,” she said firmly.

“Buying these for your granddaughter?” The shop-assistant was making polite conversation while the bill was being processed.

“No, for myself.!”Is there any reason why a 75-year old cannot wear bright red stilettos?

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

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dowdy is as dowdy does

“It was so good today”, said the mother waving her perfectly manicured fingers in the air. “I went straight to the parlour after dropping Ananya* off and got the full treatment. It was so difficult during the summer holidays - I couldn’t’ be away from home for too long and had to get my pedicure and facial done simultaneously. Maaza bhi nahin aata. You can’t even enjoy it when you are getting two things done at the same time.”

I buried my head deeper into my book to hide the eyebrows badly in need of tidying, and stole covert glances at the other mothers. Designer jeans, dresses better looking than the ones I consider my ‘best’, sweats that were made to be worn only outside the gym – was it really necessary to dress that fastidiously when all you were doing was picking up your kids from school?

What is it that drives women to spend so much time agonizing about their appearance? Why do they feel threatened and insecure if they are not the best dressed and the best groomed in any circle they find themselves in? Is their sense of self-worth so low they judge themselves by how others perceive their appearance?

I know I am an extreme. There is really no reason why I should spend as little time on my grooming as I actually do. But when the time you can spend on other things is limited, would you rather not spend it running or swimming than on having someone poke and prod you in the name of beauty? I don’t know about you, but that is the choice I have made.

And though the mothers in my son’s school do make me feel dowdy everytime I come in contact with them, I guess I am lucky that none of it affects my self-esteem for more than just a few minutes. Maybe if they were as comfortable with who they are as I am, they would not obsess so much about their appearance.

* name changed

Friday, June 19, 2009


At a recent birthday party, the moment the first strains of “Rock On” came on, my sons and all their friends got into the act. Not only were they all dancing with gay abandon, they yelled out the lyrics with gusto, and even the kids who did not know the lyrics soon caught on, and joined in.

The birthday girl and her friends, however, barely swayed to the music and couldn’t wait for the music to stop so they could disappear from the dance floor. Perhaps the lyrics did not appeal to the nine year old girls as much as they did to the younger boys, I thought.

The next song was one of those melodious numbers picturised on a pretty young thing. Same story – the younger boys all danced, the older girls did not.

I realised with a start that at nine, the girls had already discovered the need to be self conscious. The way they walked, the way they spoke, the way they dressed – they were totally aware of themselves as women or at least as budding women.

At nine, I was very much a child. I don't think I discovered fashion till I was at least five years older than they are, and I am quite sure I realised I was a woman only when I was on the threshold of twenty. And these kids are already pretty young things in the making.

If it were not so scary, it would be almost cute.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The last word

A random lady in the gym strikes up a conversation– “I have such a strange body. No matter what I do, I never sweat.”
“Yes, honestly. I am sure you find it hard to believe, but it is true.” Before I know it, a forearm is thrust under my nose. “Smell and see. Wasn’t I telling you the truth?”
Her grandchildren are probably as old as my kids, so I am forced to be polite. “Erm, yes.”
“Didn’t I tell you? That is the way it always is. I never sweat. My mother was the same way too, and so was my grandmother.” She babbled on- couldn’t see that I was just not interested?
“My husband doesn’t sweat either, nor do either of my kids.” Drenched in sweat as I was, I just didn’t want to hear any more about malfunctioning sweat glands in others.
“You know, that is because we are very good people. No matter what anyone does to us, we never wish them ill. That is why we never sweat.”
Was she insensitive or plain foolish? Couldn’t she understand what she was implying about me? I was forced to react. “I don’t know about that. Even in the Delhi winter, my younger one used to sweat while nursing. Don’t you think four weeks is too young for someone to have any thoughts, much less evil ones?”
She, however, was not having her pet theory debased. “But even at that age, his personality is in place. I am sure he has a hot temper.”
He does, but I was not going to admit it. “But if your personality is something that is pre-programmed since birth, it is not something to boast about, is it?”

I am not sure she even realised she did not have the last word.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Knowing cars

The kids are now into identifying cars. While, the older one recognizes some of the models and almost all the logos, the younger one has not graduated beyond knowing the owners of each of the cars.

“Look, Shilpa’s car!”
“No, silly. That is not Shilpa’s car.”
“It Shilpa’s car. Shilpa’s car is red.” The younger one hasn’t yet learnt to give up without a fight.
“This is a red car. But it is not Shilpa’s red car. Shilpa’s car is a full-sleeved car, not a small car.”

I had smile. ‘Full-sleeved car’ is so much more evocative than three-box car.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I only see you solving Suduko...

“This time I am the only one not staying over at the workshop”, I told the hubby conversationally.
“Why don’t you stay? I can take care of the kids for one night”, he offered generously (and slightly rashly).
“Are you sure you can manage?”, I asked, unconvinced.
“Of course. They will be eating at the Daycare wouldn’t they. It shouldn’t be too difficult.”
I thought about it for a bit.
“But the kids have school the next day. Which means you have to wake the older one up at 6:15, feed him his cornflakes, get him into his school uniform, and put him into the school bus. That shouldn’t be too hard, except the part where you have to wake him up,” I thought aloud.
“The younger one needs only to be left at Daycare, but you need to ensure that you deposit his uniform and school bag. The second day would be a bit more complicated because you would also have to fill his water bottle, and make sure his lunch box is packed.”
“You definitely would not be able to prepare their lunch boxes, but I suppose I could do two sets of three lunch boxes before I leave. But even then, you need to make sure you do not miss packing them.”
“And you’d need to check their diaries for any messages that may be sent, and take out the lunch boxes and water bottles and put them for washing. Perhaps even start the washing machine if there are too many clothes.”
“No, I don’t think you would be able to manage all of it. None of it is complicated in itself, but you can’t afford to forget any of them. If I stay over, I would only be worrying about whether everything has been done. Don’t think it is at all worth it.”
By then, the hubby had almost stopped listening. “When do you do all this?”, he asked awestruck. “I only see you solving suduko in the morning.”
“I wake up much before you do. That is the only way I can get everything done, and have a few moments to myself”, I explained. “Why else do you think I am asleep or half-asleep by the time you get home?”
Am I imagining it, or have things been a little different since?


Monday, June 15, 2009

Jasminum polyanthum

On the same day, from the same place, for the same price, I bought two chameli plants. I planted them in the same pot - exactly the same conditions of soil, sun and watering.

For the first few weeks, neither was too happy, then I got too busy to take much notice of them. The last month or two, we've been averaging 20 chameli flowers a week. Often, when I am at my computer late at night, the fragrance wafts in with the breeze to keep me company.

The other day, when I went to tie back the vines so they climb a little more neatly over the balcony grill, I noticed that one plant had disappeared completely. And the other plant had put forth enough branches for me not to have even noticed the absence.

Twins. Brought up in identical conditions. Yet one perishes, the other flourishes.

Life is strange.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Colours - Blue

[Every woman has a story. Every story has a colour. This is just one of them.

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.]

She was super excited about her new job. About the freedom and sense of purpose it promised.

Everyone thought she was crazy. Who ever quits a bulge bracket investment bank to join a non-profit?

But that week in Hawaii where she spent more time on her Blackberry than in the water had forced her to ask questions. Did she really need to become Vice President? Of what use her million dollar bonus without the time to enjoy it?

She tucked her blue plaid shirt into her favourite Levis and smiled. She knew was not going to miss her power suits.

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

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Jobs for all?

And the new government has settled in. And of course it is more of the same – did anyone seriously expect anything else? The stock market seems to be picking up, though I am not sure about the job market. Mr. Dimple Cheeks is still not a Minister, though everyone has predicted he will become Prime Minister in two years (is it just a coincidence that in two years time, he will be as old as his father was when he was thrust into the same role?).

Normally, I would have slid back into cynicism by now. But one statement of Dimple Cheeks keeps me hopeful. When accosted by a voter in Amethi, saying, “Do you remember me? I am the person you promised a job to last time you were here”, he immediately shot back “You must be confusing me with someone else. I never promise jobs. I only promise what I can deliver. To get a job you need to study and work hard.”

At least he has his pulse on one of the real problems ailing the country. Had fewer jobs been given out in the last few decades and more of them earned, we may just have been much better off.

I still hope.


Friday, June 12, 2009


I know that in a world where children are abandoned, it is almost a luxury to even worry about the fate of a single discarded teddy bear, but I still do. Had I been less worried about where the teddy had come from and what germs she may be carrying, I would definitely have brought her home.
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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Kids at work

For the last two months, my maid has been bringing her 15-year old daughter to ‘help her’. While the maid does the dishes, her daughter sweeps and mops the house.

To say her work is lousy is a bit of an understatement. Often, she even forgets basic things like turning the fan off before starting to sweep a room. As for changing the water after doing a couple of rooms – why should she when she doesn’t even dip the mop cloth in the water more than once per room?

Everytime I see her work (which thankfully, isn’t often), I am tempted to tick her off. Yet, I don’t because she is still a kid, and I feel guilty about making her work at all. Technically, it is not me that is making her work, it is her own mother, but I feel guilty all the same.

And yet, I cannot really tell the mother I do not want her working in my place, because it is the mother’s prerogative to make her work or not.

So there I am feeling guilty about making a child clean my house, gritting my teeth at her shoddy work, and feeling miserable and angry everytime my foot hits the dirty floor.

Am I glad the schools have finally reopened, and I don’t have to deal with this issue any longer. At least, I hope not – the mother could still ask her daughter to help on weekends and holidays, which are the only days when I really meet either of them.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Long red earrings

“You are looking really good today.” It was the third time that day that someone had paid me that compliment, and I had still not got used to it.
“Erm, thank you.” I always believed that feeling good was an integral part of looking good, and I definitely did not ‘feel good’ in my figure hugging red sleeveless shirt, fitted black pants and two inch long red earrings.
“Why such a tentative ‘thank you’?”, my colleague queried. “Do you not like my complimenting you?”
“That’s not the point”, I replied hastily. “It is just that the clothes I am wearing were picked out by my sons, and I am not at all sure they even go together.”
“Your sons?”
“Yes, my sons. My older one made me change twice till he was happy with what I was wearing. And just as I was stepping out, the younger one brought me these earrings to complete the outfit.”
“And I thought it was only girls who liked dressing up.”

I had no answer to that. I too thought it was only girls who were interested in clothes, but none of the 'mothers of girls' that I know have their daughters interfering with their choice of clothes as much as my two boys do.

I guess girls are too busy dressing themselves up to bother with their mothers. And I think I am relieved that I only have to go out dressed like a tart – I don’t have to fight with a daughter who wants to go out dressed like one.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Beginning of the year ritual

The beginning of the year ritual never changed.The weekend before school re-opened, my father would spread sheets of brown paper on the floor, and shuffle around my new school books till he was satisfied that the brown paper was being used optimally.
He’d cut up the sheets into the right size, and patiently cover every one of the books. I know I always tried to help, and I am sure it was more of a hindrance than not, but he always let me believe that he could not have managed without having me fold in the flaps.
The name would be neatly stamped on – purple capital letters spelling out my name on the cover, the first page and one other random page. He never got up till every one of the books was done, even if it took hours.

The cover barely stayed on for a week, but the enthusiasm with which he tackled the ritual never waned.

This weekend, I had to cover my son’s books. Life is so much easier for me. Brown paper now comes with a laminated front, in fixed sizes. Cellotape is used extensively to hold the flaps down. Labels don’t have to be homemade – I can choose between Power Ranger, Barbie and Ganesha ones. Yet, it took me over an hour to complete the task.

And I missed my father the whole time. He would have loved to help me. How he always loved to help.
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Monday, June 8, 2009

Coleus blumei

Another of those plants I am rather fond of....

Two years back, I got a couple of coleus plants home. I loved the foliage, and they seemed to love the summy ledge that they were placed on. The leaves were various shades of maroon and green, and you could spend hours just admiring the subtle colouring.

I was seriously contemplating specialising in Coleus plants - apparently, there is also a variety called Lord Voldermort that appealed to the Potter buff in me - varigated leaves have a special charm few plants can match.

And then they flowered! Tiny mauve flowers, quite insignificant compared to the magnificance of the leaves. A coleus expert told me not to encourage flowers - the coleus plant dies soon after the flowers mature, I was told.

Unfortunately, but the time the advice came, it was too late. The plants withered and faded away. Whether because of the flowering or because of the almost daily flooding the monsoons inflicted on the plants I will never know.

All I know is that I have been consistantly shying away from bringing any more coleus plants home. I am not sure I have it in me to literally nip things in the bud.
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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Colours - Green

[Every woman has a story. Every story has a colour. This is just one of them.
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.

Green were the mountains. Green were the trees. Green was the grass. Even the tank top she wore over her comfortable cargos was green.


She had been nine when she first saw the shades of green spring up on the barren rocks of the Western Ghats after the first monsoon rain. It had filled her with wonder. She returned every year to witness the miracle.

College would start in a few weeks. She had never lived away from home before.

She was apprehensive. She was excited.

Would the move be for her what the monsoons were for the mountains?

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

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Illegal kennels

Frankly, I cannot understand all the fuss being made around the 'Slumdog' kids. When their houses get razed, it makes front page news. Even otherwise sensible Indians behave as though opposing the razing is something every right thinking Indian should do. When you point out that the houses are illegal constructions which unless removed will prevent the monsoon waters from draining out, they make you feel like you are some well fed capitalist far removed from the problems of the masses.
But nothing can take away from the fact that an illegal construction is an illegal construction regardless of who occupies it, and razing them is not the wrong thing to do. A big deal is made of the fact that those houses were razed twice in six weeks - as though the municipal corporation has some particular vendetta against those two kids and their families. Do people not question why the houses came up again after the first razing, despite the fact that alternate accommodation was provided for the people?
The issue is not the 'Slumdog' kids - the issue is scarcity of affordable housing in the city of Bombay. But the very people who seem most opposed to having a solution found to that problem are the 'slumdogs'. Of the flats handed out under the slum rehabilitation scheme formulated after a prolonged protest led by an actress turned Rayja Sabha MP, more than 50% have already changed hands, and the allottees gone back to living in the slums they grew up in.
That is the core issue that needs to be tackled - unfortunately it is the sensationalism of a child actor's hens being killed that tugs the emotional heartstrings.

And why the kids should have flats awarded to them by MMRDA I fail to understand. By acting in a commercial movie made by a Westerner for a Western audience, have they really contributed to the country in any way? Sure, Danny Boyle can provide them all the flats he wants to - perhaps he can also justify it as a tax deductible expense - but providing free housing to people who unwittingly contribute to reinforcing negative stereotypes about the country is just not on. At least, I think not.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Barbie backpacks for girls

Standing at the kitchen window waiting for the water to boil, I took in the school children waiting for the bus. White shirts, blue pinafores, white headbands, pink Barbie backpacks. There were some older girls too- white t-shirts, blue skirts, white socks, pink Barbie backpacks.
Some of the backpacks the girls were carrying were large, others small. Some were fancy, others more basic. But every single backpack carried by a girl, regardless of her age, was the same shade of pink, and every one of them had either a portrait of Barbie, or a full length picture, or both.

Are the girls all forced to carry Barbie backpacks because no other are available? Or are the backpacks made for girls forced to carry pictures of Barbie because girls refuse to carry anything else. Isn’t it a bit of a chicken and egg situation?

But, why should there be separate backpacks for girls and boys. Why can’t both girls and boys carry backpacks in gender neutral colours, featuring universal cartoon characters? What is wrong with a Tom and Jerry backpack in navy blue or a Dora the Explorer one in Red? If someone makes them, I am sure at least a few mothers will buy.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

My mad mad friends

If you are known by the company you keep, I wonder what my mad, mad friends say about the kind of person I am.

I had only to post on Facebook the query my older one came up with the other day - why is a mango not called an orange - for them to get into the act.

Within moments of posting, I got my first response -
Tart - Or better yet, why is the color orange not called mango? You could just say the name orange was already taken though... Or bananas aren't called yellows... maybe it is the fact mangos have green, red and yellow outsides... they are only orange on the inside.
And I would register your sons for a philosophy program...

Even before I could respond that I would not wish my kids on any philosophy professor, another piped in -
Viola - Or we could go into the etymology... I believe that orange was actually, originally, "norange", but "a norange" became "an orange" like "a napron" became "an apron"; I think it came from the Spanish "naranj", but then again I don't speak Spanish so... erm... I'm going to shut up now. ;-)

Me - An orange is called narangi in Hindi. Now, who borrowed from whom, I wonder.

Viola - Damn, I knew I should've picked up that book about proto-Indo-European at Raven the other day... then I might actually be able to answer that one. :-P

Hart - Orange the fruit in spanish is indeed naranja (though orange the color is anaranjado-- I believe literally 'of an orange' or 'like and orange')
This is making me crave Tara's lemon, limon distinction. I'll see if I can round it up...

Okay, quoting Tara, and in response to this question:
Isn't a lemon a lame lime?
she said:... Read more
No no, no! A LIME is never lame. A lemon can be lame sometimes,but it all depends on the context. Lemon drops, for example, are extremely lame, but lemon meringues are far from being lame, especially if you add a bit of lime to them. But of course, adding lime to lemon cancels out any lameness that the lemon might have. On the other hand, adding lemons to limes can have the unfortunate effect of 'lamonizing' limes, which is, of course, quite scandalous.

Bee Ess
- Narangi could be the origin, like other words of Indian origin - Check & mate from chess were originally Sheh & Maat...but we need to find out whether oranges are a native fruit to India first... :-)

Slug - From what Wikipedia has to offer on the subject, it looks as though the word comes from Tamil and Sanskrit, so it probably is the English language that is the borrower in this case. Which is funny, since many languages (including Norwegian) call the orange a "Chinese Apple" (appelsin). And since I clearly are not interested in doing what I am ... Read moresupposed to be doing, but instead end up doing silly research on the internet, I can recommend the following link to anyone with a special interest: orange

I guess I am lucky to have such wonderful friends who keep me delightfully insane!!!

And I still don't have an answer my sons would be able to process - luckily, he's forgotten the question.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Why some kids draw but not mine

Someone I know had used as a Christmas card, a picture her five year old daughter had drawn. My son can do that too, even better, I thought. My resolve of not comparing children obviously restricted to only not telling them so.

“Why don’t you draw me a nice picture for me for Mother’s Day?”, I asked him. Maybe a picture of you and Mamma doing something together?
“I don’t’ want to.”
“Please, it would make Mamma very happy if you do.”
After a bit of coaxing and the promise of being allowed to watch Ben 10 for an extra five minutes if he did a good job, he produced something that would have been a masterpiece had the younger one done it, but which was rather pedestrian by his standards.
“Do you think this is pretty enough for me to give you an extra five minutes of Ben 10?”, I asked.
“Yes!” Since I had asked him the question, I had to accept his answer.

A few days later, I tried again.
“Will you draw a pretty picture for me.”
“I don’t know what to draw.”
“How about a picture of you and your brother playing football?”
“I don’t know how.”
“Come on, it can’t be that difficult if you try.”
Three minutes later he was done.

“My brother keeps pulling his hair, and soon he will have none. And I gave him more legs because he says he is a lion.”, he explained with a mischievous grin even before I asked him to explain.

I just gave up. I know he is capable of much better. But if this is all he wants to do, so be it.
And full marks for imagination!
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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Customer service

The kids wanted to round a visit to the Science Museum off with a strawberry milkshake. The Baristas at Shivaji Park was the natural choice. The drink arrived in a long slender glass. In his haste to get at it, the younger one knocked at the glass, it tottered, and was in a dozen pieces even before anyone could react. The tears were averted by giving him my drink.
But apologising to the waiter was harder still, specially when he brushed aside our request to put the cost of the glass on our bill.

When the bill came, we found the milkshake hadn’t even been billed.
“Why?”, asked the hubby.
“Because you did not get to enjoy the milkshake”, said the man in charge of the outlet.
“But that was our fault, not yours.”
“But, sir, you did not enjoy the milkshake. How can we charge for it.”
“If we hadn’t dropped the glass, we would have definitely enjoyed it.”
“That may be the case, but you never enjoyed the drink, so we cannot charge you for it.”

The man would not budge, and ultimately even my rather persuasive husband could not do much about it.

If this is not customer service, I don’t know what is.

And one thing is for sure. Though I prefer the coffee latte churned out by a competing chain of coffee shops, it is Barista I am going to favour from now on.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Zephyranthes citrina

Our love affair began, almost serendipitously, when this long blade of ‘grass’ took root in one of our pots. Before we could make up our mind if it was a weed or not, we were rewarded by a bright yellow flower.

The six petals in two whorls of three each proclaimed it to be a member of the lily family, but my father decided to name her ‘Buttercup’, and the name stayed.

The next flower took months coming, but since we knew what the plant was capable of, we let it stay.

The first couple of years, we got between three to four flowers a year – each eagerly anticipated and admired. Then one year, there was a profusion of flowers – close to a dozen of them tossing their bright yellow heads all at the same time.

That was also the year when we harvested seeds – none of which, unfortunately, took root at my place. The next year, thirty flowers bloomed at the same time, and I took home more seeds.

One, and only one, took root, and a solitary flower bloomed on Mothers’ Day. I am hoping there are more flowers next year.

Incidentally, though we will continue to call her Buttercup, she is actually Lily – Yellow Rain Lily, Zephyranthes citrina. And, my mother's are still the best.

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